'The tattooed guy' gears up to represent Raleigh at South by Southwest
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Raleigh, N.C. — If Raleigh's entrepreneurial community has an "Illustrated Man," it's got to be the former IBMer Justin Miller.
Colorful, funny, zany and virtually covered in tattoos, he is a whip-smart executive who is the driving force behind fast-growing WedPics, a web site that provides tools for newly weds to publish their nuptials instantaneously. Artistically, of course.
Miller also isn't reluctant to show his "tatts" when negotiating with investors and other executives.
"Nope, I'm not worried about that at all," he replies without any hesitation when asked if he's worried some corporate suit might be offended by the flamboyant body art.
"This is who I am. In all honesty," he says. "It separates me from others.
"I can't tell you how many times I've been referred to as 'you know, the tattooed guy.'"
And it's Mr. Tattoo who will be selling Raleigh as a place to live in work, using his tatts as well as entrepreneurial panache as the city's "Ambassador" to attend the South by Southwest Festival next month in Austin, Texas.
The ex-IBM art director donned a long blond wig over his thick black hair and wore a sleeveless undershirt that revealed some of the tattoos burned into his skin in recent years in winning the City of Raleigh contest? He put together a hilarious, got-to-watch 81-second YouTube video.
Miller is raring to go - but he does need some help in selling the Raleigh story.
He's going to add a new tattoo while in Austin, and he's looking for ideas about what the wearable piece of art should be. (You can find him on Twitter here: @ImJustinMiller)
"Yeah, I'm definitely stoked about the trip! It's actually my first time going to Austin and attending SXSW," says Miller.
"I know, shocker."
SXSW - A Cultural Showcase
Why a shock? Well, SXSW is one of the nation's premier festivals, and Miller is a graphics artist my training. One look at the tattoos and anyone will realize that art is something he takes quite seriously - but mixed with humor.
So who better to talk up Raleigh as a cultural and business destination that Miller?
"I will be there to help Raleigh showcase its growing startup community as well as support networks. We're leaving on March 6th in a RV from Raleigh and arrive in Austin on the 8th - staying for the week."
Raleigh sends a group annually to SXSW to raise the city's profile. Its swelling startup community and high-tech sector are putting the City of Oaks on the map of more and more entrepreneurs as well as tech stars looking for a place to shine other than the Valley, Big Apple or even Austin.
So why the new tattoo gimmick?
"The tattoo idea was something I included in the video saying that I would let the folks of Twitter/or other social media, decide my next tattoo that I'll get in Austin - something representative of the city of Raleigh," he says.
"And probably something funny," he adds with a smile.
That leaves out a City of Oaks logo.
His "Time Stamps"
Once the new tattoo is designed and (ouch) made part of his skin, Miller says it's unlikely to ever disappear.
"Remove it? Why?
"There are lasers that remove them, but I'm not into that.
"In my mind tattoos serve as time stamps - some good, some bad. It happens."
So what about the tattoo experience itself? How long? Expensive?
Tattoos take "about an hour and a half" and cost "a couple hundred dollars - depending on the artists," he says.
"Yeah, the older I get the more they hurt getting them done," Miller says.
"I've covered most of the 'easy' spots already so each new tattoo is a bit more painful."
But he promises to bear the pain for Raleigh - and a chance to add another colorful "time stamp."
WRAL Local Tech Wire Publisher and Editor Rick Smith dishes out tidbits from the local technology sector. Read more articles…
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