February 04, 2014
Smart Money Silicon Valley on February 11
Well worth checking out for investors, entrepreneurs and technologists on February 11, 2014, is Smart Money Silicon Valley, an interactive event where you can engage directly & intensely with other investors.
It is a forum to discuss cultural issues & problems associated with your particular area as regards the startup ecosystem & investment.
Smart Money Silicon Valley envisions a global community where the seeds of this investing ecosystem can be planted anywhere.
27 Investors will be speaking during the day including a Cocktail Party at end of day where you can mix with investors socially. Also recently added don't miss the BitCoin & Virtual Currencies Round Table with William Quigley, Clearstone Venture Partners; Jered Kenna, Tradehill; Steve Kirsch, Cointrust; Bill Tai, Charles River Ventures; Nick Shaek, Ribbit Capital.
February 03, 2014
TEDxBerkeley Announces Speaker & Performer Line-Up for Feb 8 Event
The fifth annual TEDx Berkeley, which will be held at Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall on Saturday February 8, 2014, will feature 20 inspiring and innovative speakers and performers who will address this year’s theme Rethink, Redefine, Recreate.
From education and healthcare to the monumental shifts we are seeing across technology, digital entertainment, sustainability, communications and the environment, the goal of this year’s event is to open up a global conversation around innovative ideas and transformations that happen when we don’t follow the status quo. The speaker and performer line-up for 2014 includes the following thought leaders and visionaries:
Kare Anderson: Kare is Say it Better Center founder, an Emmy-winning former NBC and Wall Street Journal reporter, columnist for Forbes and Huffington Post, and a translator of neuroscience research which improves how we connect and collaborate.
Nikki Borodi: Nikki is a musician, clown, aerial acrobatic, yoga instructor and artist who is in the process of writing a circus rock show to inspire people to manifest their dreams.
Vangelis Chaniotakis: Vangelis, who dreams of starting his own circus troupe, has been training on partner acrobatics since 2011 while also dabbling in hand balancing, tumbling, and static trapeze.
Brenda Chapman: Brenda was formerly a story artist at Walt Disney Feature Animation, story supervisor on The Lion King, helped launch DreamWorks Animation Studios and created, wrote and directed for Pixar Animation Studios including Golden Globe winning Brave.
Dr. Al Greene: Dr. Greene is Medical Director at HealthTap, former President of The Organic Center, founding partner of the Collaborative on Health and the Environment and his site DrGreene.com, cited by the AMA as “the pioneer physician Web site”, has received over 80 million unique users.
Roberto Hernandez: Roberto co-directed and produced a documentary film which was nominated for three Emmy Awards and won an Emmy for Outstanding Investigative Journalism as a result of the film’s success in implementing an amendment to the Mexican Constitution.
Sarah Hillware: Sarah is an outspoken advocate for young women’s health and women’s empowerment and founder and director of Girls Health Ed., a health education program for girl youth ages 8-17.
Beth Kanter: Beth is a well-established international leader in nonprofits’ use of social media and her book “The Networked Nonprofit” introduced the sector to a new way of thinking and operating in a connected world.
Guy Kawasaki: Guy is special advisor to the Motorola business unit of Google, former chief evangelist of Apple and a prolific author with 12 books under his belt.
Leslie Lang: Leslie is the Senior VP and General Counsel of Microclinic International, a global health nonprofit that is revolutionizing how chronic diseases are prevented and managed in under-resourced communities around the world.
The California Golden Overtones: The California Golden Overtones are an all-female completely student-run A Cappella group on the UC Berkeley Campus, which has been around for over 20 years.
Yonat Mayer: Yonat and her band Yonat & Her Muse have shared the stage with artists such as post rock musician Fink and singer-songwriter Foy Vance.
Ted Miguel: Ted is the Oxfam Professor of Environmental and Resource Economics and Faculty Director of the Center for Effective Global Action at the University of California, Berkeley, where his main research focus is African economic development.
Paul Rucker: Paul’s work as a visual artist, composer, and musician combines media that integrates live performance, sound, original compositions, and visual art, and incorporates human rights issues, historical research, and basic human emotions.
Carol Sanford: Carol is the Founder and CEO of The Responsible Entrepreneur Institute and author of multi-award winning, The Responsible Business: Reimagining Sustainability and Success and The Responsible Entrepreneur: Four Game Changing Business Archetypes.
Dutta Satadip: Dutta heads up Sales Support for the Americas region at Google, where he is responsible for driving operational efficiencies and customer service across a multi-billion dollar portfolio of over 100 products.
Randy Schekman: Randy is an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and a Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, where his research is focused on the process of membrane assembly, vesicular transport, and membrane fusion. Schekman won the 2013 Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology.
Tim Shields: Tim is a desert biologist who has traversed a number of miles equivalent to circumnavigating the Earth and founder of Green Light Enterprises, now Hardshell Labs, which provides solutions to how to make conservation not only meaningful but fun.
Ashley Stahl: An award-winning advocate for women in security, Ashley is Manager of the Enterprise Risk Management Center at Control Risks where she leads a team who advises companies on how to protect their personnel and assets from security threats in hostile environments around the world.
The New Orleans Manifesto: New Orleans Manifesto performs the various flavors of New Orleans Jazz with flair, funk and finesse, ranging from exciting groove oriented music to beautiful New Orleans serenades.
Marnie Webb: Marnie is a master at using new technologies to help communities achieve their goals. Currently CEO of Caravan Studios, she plays a pivotal role in shaping how the nonprofit sector uses social media. She also launched NetSquared, an evolving global experiment that empowers developers and organizers build and share innovative solutions to social challenges.
To attend this incredible event that takes over Berkeley's Zellerbach Hall at a special 25% discount, go our EventBrite page and use discount code: Renee25.
Disclosure: I am co-curator again this year and we are looking forward to an inspiring event next Saturday February 8.
January 06, 2014
KEECKER’s Smart & Connected Robot Launches at CES 2014
Paris-based KEECKER is showing off its new smart, wirefree and connected robot on the International CES 2014 show floor in Las Vegas Nevada this week. The new connected device will redefine the home entertainment and connected devices market. With a powerful video projection and 360° audio & capture system, KEECKER allows you to project movies, listen to music, browse the web, make video calls, play video games, transform the design of your home and more, all controlled through your smartphone.
Using KEECKER's innovative technology, you can transform your home with just one single device, eliminating the need for so many ”siloed” technology solutions we are forced into using today. KEECKER can project digital rich art, media, images and video anywhere as well as move around your home. Truly wirefree and mobile, KEECKER rolls alongside you using its advanced motorized wheels.
Moving beyond entertainment as we know it today, KEECKER transforms any room into an entertainment arena and any surface into a massive and immersive screen. Freed from its ”container”, content can be projected anywhere, whether its traditional entertainment, video, photos, interior design or beyond.
Equipped with a powerful video projection and 360° audio and video capture system, KEECKER allows you to project movies, listen to music, browse the web, make video calls, play video games and more.
While many devices such as computers and smartphones are solely for personal use, KEECKER enables the sharing of collective experiences at home, bringing families closer together. Interested in taking a dive into the Milky Way or bringing your children under the sea in the comfort of your own home?
Want to draw monumental artwork on your walls or create pop up interior design just for a night? Whether you want to walk through your house Skyping with a friend in Tokyo, wake up to a view of Tuscany on your bedroom wall or countless other dynamic scenarios, KEECKER can create that experience for you.
KEECKER can also be used to check home analytics (temperature, humidity, sound level, light level, CO2 level and more) and for security purposes, so you can check on your home remotely from the road. From entertainment, games, web apps and home security to interior design creation, image and sound immersion, KEECKER can transform any room using your imagination.
KEECKER makes the nightmare experience of connecting home systems to game consoles, ISP boxes and mobile devices as well as the unsightly cables and wires in every corner of the house a thing of the past.
KEECKER is 16 inches wide and 25 inches tall and is controlled via a free smartphone application (iOS, Android and Web). KEECKER’s prototypes are white with final colors to be announced at launch.
The device will come with one terabyte of local storage space, and be available to consumers in the $4,000-5,000 price range starting in Q4 2014. It will include the robot, free apps and its recharge base.
Disclosure: I provide consulting to keecker.
January 6, 2014 in America The Free, Client Announcements, Conference Highlights, Events, On Innovation, On Mobile & Wireless, On Robotics, On Technology, On the Future, TravelingGeeks | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Kolibree Unveils World's First Connected Electric Toothbrush
Kolibree, a company dedicated to innovative solutions to keep you healthy and smart, launched the world’s first connected electric toothbrush last night at the large renowned Unveiled Media Event in Las Vegas on the eve of the 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Unlike anything else that exists today, Kolibree’s smart toothbrush has a unique technology to analyze your brushing habits and display them on a mobile dashboard you can readily access from your phone.
Kolibree’s connected toothbrush is paired with a mobile app. You simply download the free mobile app, connect via Bluetooth and every brushing is recorded. Then, the data about how you brushed automatically synchronizes to your smartphone telling you whether you brushed long enough and reached the hard-to-reach but important parts of your teeth and gums.
With the Kolibree connected toothbrush and mobile app, you can take control of your health and teeth with easy-to-understand monitoring and scoring. You can easily share your stats with your dentist and family or choose to keep it private. Designed for families, the app works with several toothbrushes so the entire family can participate. Kolibree rewards your progress and cheers you on when you are improving, allocating points to kids to encourage them to improve their brushing habits.
The Problem Kolibree Solves: Your dentist may have told you that plaque and tartar build up can lead to losing your teeth if not monitored and acted upon fast enough. Many people don’t realize that poor dental care can also impact the overall care of your health.
While Kolibree does not proclaim to solve periodontal disease or suggest that it can keep cavities or gingivitis at bay, the better you take care of your teeth, the more likely it is that you can and will avoid serious problems.
Before Kolibree, the issue is that there has been no easy and quick way to monitor whether you’re doing an A+ job or a C- one when you brush, so how can you improve on a habit you don’t have any data about? Kolibree solves that problem, making it easier than ever.
The Kolibree connected toothbrush will be available starting in Q3 2014 but ready for pre-order starting this summer. The price of Kolibree will range from $99 to $199 depending on the model and will include a free mobile app.
Full Disclosure: I am providing consulting to Kolibree.
January 02, 2014
CES 2014: The Year of Wearables & Devices To Track Your Life?
The International Consumer Electronics Show (International CES) 2014 is around the corner once again and I'll be there in spades as always like I have over the past two decades.
The event officially runs from January 7-10 in Las Vegas Nevada however pre-events, sessions and more start as early as January 5, including the fascinating UNVEILED Event which touts a number of new innovative products and services not yet on the market. I plan to be there in spades, so watch for tweets on my observations which will include photos as much as I can. (reliable wifi willing)
Major technology innovators will be talking about their latest and greatest in a keynote series called The Tech Titans.The keynotes will be held at The Venetian, on Level 5 in the Palazzo Ballroom. From Brian Krzanich of Intel, Audi's Rupert Stadler and Sony's Kazuo Hirai to Yahoo's Marissa Mayer and Cisco's John Chambers, the crowds will inevitably pour into these massive ballrooms to learn about what they're doing and why. The Mobile Innovation keynotes at the LVCC (Las Vegas Convention Center) in N255 include John Donovan from AT&T, Qualcomm's Paul E. Jacobs, TechCrunch TV's Andrew Keen and Ericsson Group's Hans Vestberg. Twitter's CEO Dick Costolo, Salesforce's Scott Dorsey, and Ford's James D. Farley also take the stage.
I'll be there scouting out new products, services and innovations for the mobile warrior for an entire week. I will be looking for things like efficient designs, lightweight products easy for travelers to carry, useful products that help travelers connect or use services remotely (to access movies, music, photos and more), cameras, tablets, external drives, batteries (a godsend and critical for any traveler), battery chargers and alternatives, and wearables. This appears to be the year of the wearables so let's see what comes out of the show. I'll also be keen to see the explosion of where mobile meets quantified self in the areas of fitness and health -- the more we can know about what's happening with our bodies in real time, the more we can proactively take care of our health without having to solely rely on a doctor's advice, often someone who barely knows us or what's happening in our personal lives.
These devices will change the way we eat, think, sleep, exercise and yes, travel. New areas and events at CES this year which will be dedicated to the startup community include the Indiegogo Zone and UP Global LIVE Stage. The all-new Indiegogo Zone, housed within the Eureka Park TechZone, will feature hardware campaigners from around the world. The Indiegogo Zone provides an opportunity for anyone interested in learning more about crowdfunding for hardware. The UP Global LIVE Stage, sponsored by GE, will showcase the startup community, facilitate connections and provide programming in Eureka Park. The stage will feature panels with iconic entrepreneurs, leading investors, corporate executives and media. In addition to programming, UP Global will host mentor sessions and pitch competitions and provide resources and networking opportunities for exhibitors and attendees.
The second annual ShowStoppers Launch.it power session is a curated pitch event built exclusively for the young, transformative and entrepreneurial startups that exhibit in Eureka Park. Sixteen exhibitors will pitch to a panel of high profile angel/VC investors along with media, analysts and industry experts in the audience. An anchor for the startup community at CES, the 2014 Eureka Park TechZone will feature more than 200 exhibitors, 30 percent more than the 2013 CES. In partnership with UP Global, the National Science Foundation (NSF), General Electric (GE) and AT&T, Eureka Park provides a stage for new companies with technologies to market their innovation to venture capitalists, media and buyers. Eureka Park will have a French pavilion for the first time with UbiFrance bringing 11 French startups to the area. Viva La France!
Building off the success of Eureka Park, the new Eureka Park: NEXT hosts the progressing stage of Eureka Park startups. This TechZone is designed for mid-stage startups that have launched a product in the past year. In Eureka Park: NEXT, retailers, venture capitalists, manufacturers and more will discover established startups looking to expand their growth.
Floored within Eureka Park, Academia Tech focuses on the technologies coming from colleges and universities. CES also offers special networking events curated for startups and entrepreneurs like the invitation-only Entrepreneurs Reception and Tech Cocktail’s Startup Night.
This year, there will be over 3,200 exhibitors across 15 product categories.
December 20, 2013
Happy Holidays & Reflections on 2013!
As I began reflecting on the 2013 year, I realized it has been a watershed year for me in so many ways. What an incredible year of personal growth and professional reflection, where projects and encounters I didn't think would be diverse and creative ended up being more powerful because of what they didn't offer more than what they did. I experienced calmer and more serene waters, and re-ignited with nature in a way I haven't since childhood. As the 2013 year begins to close to an end, here are some photo highlights from the year.
Happy Holidays & A Toast To An Incredibe 2014!
December 06, 2013
Reflecting On Nelson Mandela's Life, His Impact On South Africa & The World
I write today with great sadness after learning about the passing of Nelson Mandela this week. You see, I have a long history with South Africa and every time she graced me with another memory, I was forever changed. Her imprint wasn't the kind of imprint other country destinations leave; it was if South Africa's spirit spoke to me each and every time, as if she had to teach me something larger than myself...a bit like Mandela did over the course of his lifetime...
As I reflect on Mandela's impact and his important life work, I began thinking of all the talks I have heard him give including a dramatic one in person in the 1990s, and zeroed in my own South African story, one which he influenced by his actions, his courage, his resilience and his solitude. He changed how I absorbed not just culture, politics and history, but how I viewed humanity and the world.
My story goes deep. Endure me on an important life journey for a moment, starting in a pre-Mandela world.
Apartheid was still very much in place when I lived in South Africa as a foreign exchange student in 1984, two years before the country's declared State-of-Emergency.
Being white, I was placed with a well-off English speaking white family in a ritzy Johannesburg suburb and sent to a prestigious white school. In this bubbled existence, I was meant to be protected from the waging cultural war that was brewing under the surface. We wore uniforms and lived colonial lives, with two tea breaks a day at school, private tennis lessons and trips to the stables for horseback riding. And, it was oh so very proper. Girls hung out with girls, and boys hung out with boys even at co-ed schools.
I also studied at a white Afrikaans school just outside Johannesburg. Boys played sports and marched -- remember that military service was mandatory for South Africans - my boyfriend at the time served in Namibia for two years.
Below one of my teachers from Hyde Park High School instructs a black gardener who serviced the grounds during a 'tea' break.
Meanwhile, another world existed outside Johannesburg's wealthy white suburbs. While we played crochet, ate strawberries and cream, and sipped champagne by the pool, black South Africans lived in their own neighborhoods, a far cry from the world I had begun to know. Imagine a world where life existed for your entire family in one room with nothing but a tin roof or a leaky plastic covering to protect you from the rain.
Violence was rampant and deaths occured daily in townships between black communities (many westerners don't realize that fighting happened not just between whites and blacks at the time but between local tribes who disagreed). Important movies like Cry Freedom & A Dry White Season made the world aware of the social injustice, all driven from the top.
Unfathomable stories came into the international spotlight, unveiling atrocious crimes of white police beating and killing black prisoners, many of whom didn't deserve to be arrested in the first place. Buried in a corrupt system under the guise of Apartheid, some whites turned a blind eye, while others lived in their own colonial bubble, oblivious of what was happening behind the scenes. Then, there were a few brave white souls who risked their lives to bring these heart wrenching stories to the western media and fought hard and long for equality and a united country, not one divided by color.
Outside the cities, black South Africans lived in straw huts in the rural countryside. The below shots were taken in the northern Transvaal and Swaziland in 1984.
My naivity at the time still dumbfounds me. While I may have been a smarter than average teenager, the siloed education I received in small town America limited my awareness of global politics and injustice. While it's not rocket science to understand the concept of a segregated country by color (crikey, we had our own until the 1960s), but since I had never 'lived it,' I wasn't prepared for what I witnessed. This lack of preparedness and awareness resulted in me living in a world blinded by sugar-coated glasses for the first few months. During that time, I avoided probing too deep when answers to my questions remained unanswered or even worse, were undigestable.
I used to ask questions that perhaps a ten year old might ask, such as "why does our maid live in a shack behind our house? Why can't "they" sit with us at the same table? Why can't they go into the restaurant with us? The answers of course never made any sense, nor did the sneers I received from my boss at a Sandton restaurant where I was hostess.
I'd talk to the "black" boys who cleared away the dishes and the dishwasher crew and whenever I did, I was told not to and in hindsight, they too seemed confused by communication. There were so many times I was told "not to" during my first year in South Africa, that it started to numb my understanding of what was at play on a large and deeply turbulent scale. "Not to engage with, not to play with, not to dance with, not to talk to, not to buy things for, not to give a hug to..." The list went on. And yet, my true understanding of what was happening in the early months of living there was closer to a young child's understanding, not a mature one.
I experienced different behavior when I lived with a white family on a rural farm in the Northern Transvaal, not far from the Zimbabwean border. Below, I am cooking on the grill with the oldest brother of my host family, who was one of the best hunters I had ever encountered - I once saw him kill a snake which came flying out of a tree into our window early in the morning in a nano-second. He seemed to have a unique relationship with their servants in a way I had not yet witnessed in the country's urban areas, something I would later learn would add to the puzzle of why South Africa's black and white history is so much more complex than meets the eye. No history book or novel can prepare you for the intricacies of its long and painful racial struggle.
He used to woo me with his knowledge of Zulu, Xhosa and something they referred to as Fanagalo, a pidgin (simplified language) based primarily on Zulu, with English and a little Afrikaans thrown in. It was often spoken in northern South Africa and in more rural areas, between white farmers and their black servants and staff.
In those days, people still referred to Zimbabwe as Rhodesia and many had getaways up there, so much so that we used to head over the border to waterski on Lake Kyle on weekends. (you know you're not in Kansas anymore when they tell you about the risks of crocodiles, so be sure never to fall). In Zim or Rhodie depending on who you talked to, the relationship between blacks and whites seemed milder, less hostile, less fragile and less haunting. There are a host of reasons for this but it wasn't until I crossed that border several times with my ex-husband in the 1990s did I feel the intensity of the tension the moment we were back on South African soil.
While South African tourists may most remember sipping wine on some of Stellenbosch's best vineyards or their visit to Kruger National Park, there's a whole other side to South Africa, a world where white and black South Africans worked together, tended the land, hunted and killed to eat.
Below, I am with one of my host families in the northern Transvaal after a day out in the bush, which almost always meant in those days, bringing an impala or kudo home for dinner.
I eventually learned who Mandela was, but it was only after I ventured beyond my rich white suburbs and started conversations with people who I sensed felt uncomfortable with my questions, as if I were a private investigator probing rather than an everyday civilian having a healthy dialogue. It was at this time I met some white radicals (or at least that's what some people called them) at the Wits University campus, one of South Africa's most famous universities. It was then that I discovered how deep race issues were and how close to a very dangerous edge the country was living. Little did I know how much violence was brewing and how close we were to a transformation that would not just change South Africa forever, but the world.
What would be deemed as a curious and socially active student in a free democratic country was classified as radical and dangerous in a 1970s and 1980s South Africa world. That year, I fell in love with musician Johnny Clegg and even had an opportunity to meet him and shoot one of their concerts from the edge of their stage. His music more than moved me, it transformed me from an innocent and ignorant bystander of life to a curious and caring one. If I wanted a life full of purpose and passion, I knew my life could never be one where I'd stand on the sidelines observing life, but one which involved diving with both feet even if it was sure to be a painful dive.
Above, Johnny Clegg in rare form, his passionate music echoing into a winter night on the grounds of Wits University. While he wasn't the only musician to write about this volatile time, he was a revolutionary at heart who led the way on his home soil. Steven Van Zandt's "Sun City," a song that protested the South African policy of apartheid was also instrumental as was the follow on support by such musical greats as Bruce Springsteen, Run DMC, Bonnie Raitt, Miles Davis, George Clinton, Jackson Browne and dozens more. Let's also not forget Paul Simon's "Graceland," which came out in 1986 and featured Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Their music brought South Africa's pain into our hearts and understanding in the west even if we could never begin to understand day-to-day life for people living under an Apartheid regime.
Below, locals just outside the Transkei are about to load a pick up truck with chickens, okra, tomatos and bananas.
Below, children sing at an all black school in a rural area.
To say that my experience living in the 1980s and 1990s in South Africa was diverse is an understatement. From rural farms to living with Afrikaans families in cities and towns, and then wealthy English families in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town, to breathing in the land and its wildlife on various national parks and nature reserves, I felt the pulse of a country in pain.
While today Soweto is freely traveled to and even houses a Holiday Inn, back then, it was off limits to whites and considered incredibly dangerous. That didn't stop me however and I can recall the experience as if it were yesterday. People ask me all the time: weren't you afraid?
The truth is, no I wasn't afraid. The truth is...I was greeted with warmth and generosity despite the fact that there was mass hatred of whites and an extreme number of violent incidents at the time. I realize that things could have gone south and a different set of encounters could have resulted in my not being alive to tell the story today. The same could be said for venturing into certain parts of Harlem and Detroit during their most volatile times. And yet, back then, talking to locals felt urgent somehow, even though I didn't have a clue what to do with their stories.
A few years later when I was studying and living in London, a mere stone's throw from Trafalgar Square, the home of daily South Africa protests, it felt like the most natural thing in the world to join the crowd. Times were complicated and the circles I traveled in were diverse.
Below, I was out on a bush walk with an American missionary who was stationed in southern Africa for many years. Everyone and their brother seemed to be involved in stirring up a pot, whether it was religious, political or social.
In 1990, I returned to South Africa to live, this time with my South African ex-husband. Not much had visibly changed in every day life, except there was a shift in sentiment and more importantly, laws. It was the year the then President Frederik Willem de Klerk began negotiations to end Apartheid and the official abolishing of Apartheid occurred with repeal of the last of the remaining Apartheid laws.
The result would be the country's first multi-racial democratic elections in 1994, which as we all know, was won by the African National Congress under Nelson Mandela. To this day, the vestiges of Apartheid still shape South African politics and society.
That year, we drove up and down the country a few times, and eventually made our way north to Malawi in an old fashioned boxed van manufacturered sometime a few decades earlier. Economically, nothing had yet changed for black South Africans but Mandela had become a household name.
When we weren't working in Johannesburg in the hospitality industry, we were on the road and that meant living in our van or pitching a tent when the mosquitos weren't rampant. We picked up hitchhikers along the way and made friends from around the world over the course of nearly two years.
Life couldn't be more free; no one told us who we could talk to and who we couldn't, or where we had to be or when. Below, we stopped the van along side a cliff somewhere on the Cape's Garden Route and here, we made dinner, opened a bottle of South Africa Shiraz and toasted to a new world.
If we wanted to go into a rural area or township and have a conversation, we could and we did. To say this was widely accepted just because the Apartheid veil had been legally lifted is far from a reality.
Considered as dangerous as it was in the 1970s? Absolutely. If you recall, violence soared before it leveled off and there was a tremendous amount of mistrust and cultural 'sorting' in Mandela's early days. Also remember that there were a lot of disgruntled white South Africans (in and out of the National Party -- which later became known as the New National Party) by De Klerk's radical political move.
It was a different vibe in rural areas however, particularly the bush. Life was much more simple and chatting about life around the fire at night was easy. Here, I sensed less anger and their personalities were more fluid. It doesn't mean that white hatred didn't exist but the energy was more relaxed and trusting. Below, we drink coffee late at night listening to hyaenas in the distance, an experience which always felt spiritual to me.
Below, a shot of a family we picked up in our van in 1990, who wasn't sure (at first) whether to trust us or not. Behind them, you can see our mosquito net which we slept under every night.
Below, drummers go wild in Hillbrow just outside Johannesburg's center.
In the early nineties, life was still very much segregated in the cities and the towns.
Young white South Africans (as my ex-husband, his brother and wife and our friends were) shifted their attitudes and wanted to make amends somehow. It wasn't uncommon to hear things like "we have a black friend now," or "we just did X with Z," as if to make a point that they were progressive in their thinking and not white South African racists. It wasn't their fault; after all, the country had conditioned them from childhood, a white racist government who created white racist schools and taught History the colonial way, which was from a very different textbook than the one I used when I taught in a Kenyan school a few years later.
Most of their attempts at doing the right thing, at least in our circles, came from a pure place. Those with candy colored glasses who were so brainwashed under the old regime would either take decades of reconditioning to truly understand the atrocities of the Apartheid system or never change their mind.
Yet, during that time, things were vibrant, wild and new. It was a time when the unexpected happened and the country had a chance to start over.
Around that time, I was asked to do publicity for a black musician and his white wife who needed help opening a white & black nightclub in Johannesburg, a groundbreaking and bold move for the time. They weren't interested in traditional communications and media strategies, nor exposure from CNN. For them, it was all about grassroots efforts, from educating locals to alleviating safety concerns across three generations of whites whose lives were about to change in ways they never imagined.
Meanwhile, Mandela's respect was growing with diverse supporters and new voices (both black and white) were amplifying.
There were times we'd be at a braai (equivalent of a western barbecue except they'd often grill game) in someone's backyard, see smoke bombs going off in Soweto a mile or so down the road and suddenly be brought back to reality. Sirens would follow and we knew a death had happened or two...and yet we were untouched behind our walled gardens in some white suburb with guards by the fence.
Life could also be melancholy and surreal at times. People were struggling with all the changes, many in disbelief, even those who felt it was positive for the country and had fought for decades to see an integrated South Africa.
Other times, the intensity of it all was too much. Everyone spoke of politics and violence all the time and it became all consuming. Female friends in their early twenties were carrying hand guns in their purses to be ready for attacks, whether it was walking into a fast food joint to order a burger or get petrol in their car.
While we never carried a gun, we took the rotor out of our van every time we parked it since so many vehicles were being stolen, sometimes at gun point. We often didn't stop at red lights because that's where so many hold-ups happened and white South Africans were losing not just their cars, but often their lives. Break-ins became more commonplace and would sometimes result in a death not just a theft. It became a way of life and people assimilated into a new but more violent South Africa.
We eventually left the city and headed south to Cape Town where things were less unpredictable. The reason for this lies in the fact that Cape Town had always been more integrated than the north and as a result, the environment was milder. We stopped at red lights again and started to breathe a calmer air. We also brought sandwiches and wine out to the ocean's edge and sat on the rocks at sunset, talking about politics, democracy and war, both of us so aware how different the dialogue would be had we been back in the states sharing food with friends on the Boston coast instead.
Through all of this, I wrote. For so many reading this, it's hard to imagine a time before computers, but then, I didn't have one, nor did anyone I know. It was a world without cell phones, iPads, iPods and laptops. Texting was inconceivable and if you wanted to leave a message for a colleague you were planning to meet in Tanzania in two week's time, you'd send him a note through a PO Box or leave a handwritten message on an old fashioned pin-up board in a known hotel travelers knew about.
And so, with so much uncertainty and violence in the air, I wrote. And, I wrote. And, I wrote. I filled a suitcase with notebooks.
I wrote everywhere and anywhere I could and didn't need a power chord or an Internet connection to do so.
My brother-in-law at the time loaned me a typewriter so I could process my thoughts faster since there were times my head was spinning out of control. Late at night, my mind whirled and swirled trying to make sense of the growing violence and political changes. History was in motion as Mandela was about to take the reigns.
My favorite place to write was under the stars by moonlight. There's nothing like an African sky....it made me feel closer to the earth than anywhere else I had ever spent time or lived. When you consider that southern Africa is where man began, it makes sense. I was lost in time on more than one occasion under an African sky, an experience that is now but a mere memory, but one I'd gladly relive.
After we left South Africa and returned to live in Boston, the country was never far from our reach. While we didn't have Facebook, we had friend's letters, phone calls, access to the BBC and Johannesburg newspapers that my then mother-in-law used to send us. We continued to listen to South African music, drank rooiboss tea, received packages of biltong and attended South African get togethers in New York and Boston every year. We couldn't let "her" go. She had grabbed ahold of us and made us forever hers.
We watched Mandela's progress from afar, listened to his speeches and routed him on. It wasn't until 18 years later in 2008 that I returned. A trip that was slated for three weeks turned into several months, which included an extensive drive up and down the country and along the mystical and magical Garden Route in the south.
Returning to Soweto was nothing short of surreal for me. Blacks and whites shopped in the same mall and sipped coffee at the same cafe. Below is a shot I took while relaxing against a rock on a sunny afternoon.
Prophet gave us a historical account of activities; the stories felt so far removed from the South Africa I had experienced so many moons ago...pre-Mandela.
Two brothers play together in a nearby park, both of them with smiles on their faces.
In the south, in a small village on the coast called Arniston-by-the-Sea, more seemingly happy children found me and my camera and couldn't wait to pose.
I was blown away by the positive attitude of the children, all of whom are removed by a generation from the inequality their parents and grandparents faced. They gave me a sense of hope and joy, so much so that I created a photo book on this hope. Have a look at the most precious images of what hope looks like in my book I call Post Apartheid Kids.
All this we have Nelson Mandela to thank. As CNN so eloquently put it, "word of Nelson Mandela's death spread quickly across the United States, bringing with it a mix of reverence and grief for a man who was born in South Africa but in the end belonged to the world."
His activism is a pure example of how to make a horrible wrong right. The South Africa I experienced in the 1980s and 1990s, while is full of beautiful memories and encounters with people who did make a positive difference, is an uglier South Africa than the one Mandela created over the course of his presidency.
While for many Europeans and Americans, the death of Mandela may feel akin to losing one of their own, it goes much deeper for me. Having gone to high school in South Africa, having been exposed to the rawest form of racism I had yet to experience in South Africa, having married a South African and having been transformed by its activists, its musicians, its professors, its authors and my friends, all led to a deep connection to the country, as if the country had become my own.
South Africa is imprinted not just in my memory but she is in my blood. Mandela is part of that imprint. Mandela made more than an impact on South Africa - his resilience and spirit has taught us all around the world what it means to be human and what it takes to step up to the plate and embrace humanity. I bow down and honor his life and am grateful for how he has touched me and the world at large.
May God grant you the peace and serenity you so deserve Nelson Mandela. As Obama so beautifully said in his speech, "He no longer belongs to us. He belongs to the ages."
For a beautifully reflective and heartwarming end to this tribute, listen to this heartfelt song by Johnny Clegg performed in 1999 with Nelson Mandela on stage:
Note: For those who are interested in a deeper dive into South African history, culture and tribal influences across centuries, please read one of my favorite authors Andre Brink, who I still dream of meeting over a glass of Shiraz one day. He has written countless novels and memoires, all of which I have read, however my favorites include Looking On Darkness, The Other Side of Silence, Rumors of Rain, An Intant in the Wind and A Chain of Voices. Let's just say I have read this list of novels more than once.
Photo credits: Top image of Mandela from UK Telegraph. All other images Renee Blodgett.
November 07, 2013
GigaOm Roadmap 2013: The Intersection of Design and Experience
Before I learned that Tony Fadell was former SVP of Apple’s iPod division and had reported directly to Steve Jobs, there was a sense that he abided by the "Real Men Ship" rules and I hadn't yet read his GigaOm Roadmap profile, where he presented on stage this week in San Francisco.
GigaOm events have always been more B2B and enterprise at their core regardless of the theme and this case was no different despite the fact that the conference was atypical in many ways, almost TED-like. Taglined "The Intersection of Design and Experience", you were almost waiting for earth shattering insights from some of the best geeks, inventors, designers and visionaries in the industry.
In this case, I probably should have started with Tesla's Chief Designer Franz von Holzhausen, except I sadly missed that session, or Adobe on design or even the very cool discussion around using data to program creative spaces, which included Jennifer Magnolfi's design examples and experiences with Herman Miller and most recently, the Downtown Project in Las Vegas.
But, Tony intrigued me largely because he had a "say it like it is" personality which was refreshing and ever so beautifully arrogant at the same time. He acknowledged how easy it was to raise money now because he was a known and trusted entity because of his so many successes while reminding young 20-something year olds how much faster they could work alongside mentors and get their projects to "go" because of easy access to people compared to two decades ago. It made me want to have lunch with him, maybe even dinner.
You can't be in your forties or beyond and not disclose at some juncture that you stand by profitability and having real metrics in place to build not just a perception for a "perception sale" but a sustainable company with an inherent value-add for customers that solve real problems again and again.
Post Apple, he built an energy-efficient home near Lake Tahoe and in the process, was so frustrated with the limitations of the traditional "thermostat," he redesigned it with former Apple colleague Matt Rogers. The end result became Nest Labs, his current entity and where he spends his energy and time.
While the man has authored more than 300 patents, has a history of successes and seems to get "design" and the design process, it was his going back to basics message (rarer in Silicon Valley) that had me at "go." He spoke of magical moments, a phrase that made me think of Tony Robbins who talks about creating magical moments in life as a daily practice.
He thinks its just not just our duty to create daily magical moments for ourselves, but in that creation, the trickle effect has a significant impact on everyone and everything around you.
You create them, you don't wait for them to happen. Once in motion, they have a spiral bowling ball effect. You give (e.g, provide magic in some way shape or form) and the universe gives back in profound ways you never imagined.
Says Tony, "rethink experiences from ground up to create magical moments." Obviously in this reference, he's directly referring to product design, yet it's a way of thinking, a way of life, not a principle in a board room or behind a computer. Enuf said!
Other messages included how data and connectivity shape our world. There's a ton of Einsteins here she thinks but not a whole lot of Picassos. (Refer to the Steve Martin play Picasso at the Agile which transformed my interaction with an engineering team earlier in my career) Perhaps design is and has always been as important as the technology itself and as it becomes more prolific in our lives as time marches on, more people realize it.
In the play, both men are on the verge of an amazing idea (Einstein will publish his special theory of relativity and Picasso will paint Les Demoiselles d'Avignon) and they embark on a debate about the value of genius and talent. Who provides more value, the artist or the inventor? You can probably guess my take away on this one.
Instagram's Kevin Systrom was on their A-list of speakers, someone I've heard speak at large business conferences, technology geek fests and in a more intimate setting with Sarah Lacy and Pando Daily. I'm a passionate photographer but still haven't drunk the Instagram coolaid despite how many times I've tried.
I have an account yet never use it and when I compare Instagram to so many other "blow it out the park" examples of design genius, I'm dismayed.
Don't get me wrong - it's not as if I don't get that filtering basic photos on a smart phone isn't a good idea or sticky, but worth what Facebook paid for it? Worth the frenzy that market gave it? Worth the badge of honor that the industry labeled as a game changer? Cool is cool, but we have an industry which has crowned thy jewel as such when it really shouldn't be a jewel at all but in the cool is cool category only.
Says Tony of the service, "the filters thing created an initial wow factor so it created hope." Hope inherently comes from creating a solution that provides a new way to do something, solves a problem people have had for a long time or in this case, something that makes people feel more creative with very little effort.
Renowned designer John Maeda, who is now President of Rhode Island School of Design talked about how Moore's Law is influencing design. Connected devices and the web have fundamentally changed the world's relationship with design, but compared to other aspects of information technology, design can be much harder to quantify.
I first met and hung out with John in the early TED Conference days where he spoke about design concepts on the main stage some 12 or so years ago. I was a fan then and remain a fan today. Says John, "you don't 'do' technology, you 'do' people and the people thing and then you add technology back in." I couldn't help but want a bunch of Johns to replicate themselves in Silicon Valley.
It's basic enough but not being implemented on a grand scale today. Developers more often than not, still build for technology's sake and the human piece is an after thought, so much so that the UI is often confusing enough that mass scale adoption doesn't happen.
John spoke of empathy, one of my favorite words. "Take the empathy route," he encouraged the audience. He asserts that empathy is the grounding force of the intersection of technology, art and design. If the root of technology is in fact art then figuring out where technology, art and design collide is fundamental to understanding art.
"Design is in the details - it is all about empathy," says John. Great design is as much about taking away as it is about adding to a structure, a product, an idea or a concept. More is great when it is measured against enjoyment (we always want more of a good thing), but the concept of "more" is flipped on its head when it equates to more work or more effort.
Design balances the two and yet as we are learning, computers despite their ability to fabricate real situations and design, don't do a great job at creating that balance. Today, we want more and more technology and yet "more and more of it" doesn't necessarily serve us in the most productive way regardless of how much state-of-the-art technology we integrate into our lives.
Ten years ago, technology made things better and more useful, but when "more of it" stops being a continuous and consistent positive return, then we begin to look elsewhere, like design. Design is on the rise again because we are yearning for balance. Great design can help balance the two and re-teach (and remind) us that less is more.
Focusing less about product design (although that was part of his message) and more on creating compelling customer experiences, Square and Twitter's Jack Dorsey took the stage with GigaOm's Om Malik.
Jack spoke about simplicity (critical to great design and his work on Twitter is a great example of it) and how so many companies focus on what they do rather than the value they provide. With regard to Square, he asserts over and over again that they're not in the payments business but the e-commerce business and it's the entire e-commerce customer experience, not just a piece of it.
Offline merchants never had access to analytics before but by using Square, they can get simple data on customer behavior in real time which can dramatically change the focus and priorities of their business. "End-to-end is what its about," says Jack. "We want to make sure they focus on the human experience of their business, not the transactional piece of it."
Jack says Square's mission is to focus on the most meaningful pieces of small business, such as the daily human interaction and communications. Square essentially brings commerce to people wherever they happen to be and in this way, transactions, communications and relationships are all conducted in parts of the world that never would have been possible before.
Internally, Square is extending that attitude by showing transparency and trust with their employees, demonstrating an open and caring 'voice' inside the company's walls. Jack's philosophy is that when you keep things open, you empower employees and build trust.
Truth be told, some of the best ideas can come from employees in other departments or through random ideas they come up with at the water cooler over lunch. With trust comes new innovative ideas and it often happens randomly when you least expect it. "
"You can't schedule innovative ideas," says Jack. It's serendipity: ideas come, get formed and executed quickly and seamlessly when you gather great minds together in one place and say "go." The same applies to instilling that behavior and culture across an organization so free flowing ideas can not just see the light of day, but thrive.
Hear hear! I think entrepreneurs with like-thinking like Richard Branson and Tony Hsieh would agree.
Photo credits: Two images from Tony Fadell interview snipped from the GigaOm Roadmap video and all other photos Renee Blodgett.
October 24, 2013
6th Annual Open Mobile Summit Hits San Francisco in November
The event aims to connect the most influential and innovative in converging mobile, Internet, media, electronics and commerce. At Appcelerate CEOs of the most successful app publishers on the planet share the secrets to their success building, marketing and monetizing apps.
Crème de la crème of mobile leaders will speak and moderate panels and sessions including All Things D's Walt Mossberg, Sprint's Bill Malloy, Shazam's Rich Riley, Mozilla's Mitchell Baker, AT&T's Abhi Ingle, CTO's Dave Engberg and others.
Use discount code ‘2439WBW’ to save an extra $100 from current prices.
- Wearables Hit the Streets:The age of wearable technology is here. Everything from Google Glass to smart watches and health sensors are in fashion. But how will wearable re-program mobile strategy?
- The Death of TV: Multi-screen media has traditional TV on the ropes. How is the fight for the living room playing out and which video monetization strategies are looking like Grand Slams?
- Enterprise: Mobility is “The New IT”: Productivity, distribution, device management and security. Hear how CIOs and Enterprise IT pros are addressing the challenges and capitalizing on the opportunities in the mobile enterprise space.
- The Future of Mobile Commerce: Hyper-connected consumers are a challenge for retailers in store and online. Who’s winning the multi-channel shopping spree and how are connected devices changing buying behaviour?
- Apps: The Mobile Service Marketplace. Monetizing apps is no longer limited to advertisements. Explore the service marketplace revolution and discover the next victim of the app.
- Awash in Big Data. Data, data everywhere! Find out who is positioned to harness the wealth of mobile device data to create more valuable, personalized services for consumers.
On Day 3 of The Open Mobile Summit comes Appcelerate. This is where CEOs of the hottest app businesses on the planet share the secrets to their success and how they see the landscape of mobile apps today. In one day, learn from the best in intimate workshops:
- User Experience Innovation: Understand where and how to spot behavioural trends and leverage them to increase the appeal of your app offering
- The Monetization of Apps: Hear from the App Idols as they share the most ingenious methods and practices to drive revenue from their apps
- Onwards and Upwards: Learn how to efficiently use internet marketing to trigger the viral growth curve and ride it to to the top of the app charts
October 07, 2013
Discount & Agenda For Silicon Valley's DEMO Fall 2013
DEMO Fall is coming to Silicon Valley October 15-17, 2013.
Known as the launchpad for emerging technologies and trends, they'll be unveiling 50 new technology products from the DEMO stage, across multiple verticals and industries, including mobile, enterprise, health, wearable computing, digital money, big data, the Internet of things and more.
Some of the speakers and judges include Di-Ann Eisnor from Waze, Evernote's Phil Libin, Ayr Muir from Clover Foods, Yelp's Jeremy Stoppelman, Jonathan Abrams of Nuzzel, Josh Elman from Greylock Partners, CNBC's Jon Fortt, Rock Health's Malay Gandhi, Spark Capital's Nabeel Hyatt, EchoSign's Jason Lemkin, Hilary Mason from Accel Partners, Google Ventures' Shanna TellermanBrian O'Malley from Battery Ventures, FitBit's CEO James Park and others.
You can register here at a discounted rate of $700 off the normal registration price. It will be held at the Hyatt Regency for those heading out from the East Coast, Asia or Europe. Check out the DEMO Fall 2013 agenda.