October 03, 2013
VatorSplash, Where VCs, Entrepreneurs With Cool Apps & An Industry Ecosystem Meet
I haven't had a chance to attend a VatorSplash event in awhile because of so much travel however I was in town for the latest one, held this week at San Francisco's Cafe Du Nord on Market Street.
The event, as always, was packed full of interesting speakers, including renowned investors Jed Katz, Lars Leckie, Charles Moldow, Rory O'Driscoll, Keith McCurdy, Erin Hakansson, Alan Chiu, Dave Samuel, Rick Moss, Charles Hudson, Rob Coneybeer, Howard Hartenbaum, Tony Conrad, and others.
Docusign's CEO Keith Krach keynoted on best practices and Jared Simon talked about lessons learned from their work at HotelTonight. In traditional VatorSplash style, the band Coverflow played in the basement at Cafe Du Nord following the event. With a new sound that has leapfrogged from their more well known 1980s standards, Raj Kapoor, Phil Kaplan, Ethan Beard, Prashant Fuloria, Tim Chang, Kristian Segerstrale and The Mule played through the night while the die hards danced.
Above, HotelTonight's Co-Founder and COO Jared Simon on the VatorSplash stage.
Of the companies who presented, a few call outs include The Orange Chef Company, a great new product for foodies, which focuses on the notion that eating well starts at home. With the Prep Pad and accompanying iOS app, Countertop, you’ll have insight beyond your plate. Quickly assemble meals on Prep Pad and watch as Countertop presents you real time nutritional information on your iPad or iPhone. Set your own goals, discover more about your food and gain confidence in making the right choices. They're taking pre-orders now.
SweatGuru was founded by two women and is based in San Francisco. SweatGuru is the first marketplace that brings people together around fitness classes and experiences. By allowing anyone to organize, discover, book and share fitness classes online, SweatGuru takes the work out of working out. They also help small and medium-sized fitness businesses get online and be more successful.
By offering easy-to-use tools for marketing, scheduling, payments and staying in touch with clients, SweatGuru allows fitness professionals to spend more time teaching and less time behind a desk.
TravelingSpoon is an online marketplace that connects travelers with vetted, local, and authentic food experiences -- from cooking classes to homemade meals -- in people's homes around the world.
TravelingSpoon creates an alternative to traditional restaurant experiences that allows travelers to experience local culture and cuisine on the road, providing travelers with meaningful experiences and cultural exchange. It has launched its beta in India, Thailand and Vietnam but they hope to expand to other regions later on.
In addition, they also offer in-home cooking classes as well as market tours as an extra add-on to many of the meal experiences. They say that all of their hosts have been vetted to ensure a safe and delightful culinary experience.
Kudos to Bambi and her team for always pulling off such an amazing event.
September 24, 2013
GLAZED, An Event Dedicated To Wearables On September 30
On September 30, 2013 in San Francisco, Stained Glass Labs will kick off its first ever Glass and Wearables Platform ConferenceGLAZED! The GLAZED Conference was created to take wearables and conversations around it to the next level with a goal to help the Wearable Platform ecosystem generate billion-dollar companies.
The event is a fabulous curation of technology pioneers, founders, executives, influencers and investors. Join in the dynamic discussion September 30th in San Francisco and get tickets using promo code "glazed" for 20% off tickets.
GLAZED Conference in the Old Mint
88 5th Street, San Francisco CA 94103
Digital Fall Tech Fashion Show in the Mezzanine
444 Jessie Street, San Francisco, CA 94103
Vator's Splash Event on October 2 Showcases Ten Innovative Startups
Vator, one of the largest business networks dedicated to entrepreneurs and investors, is holding its popular Splash event on October 2 at the Cafe du Nord in San Francisco followed by one of their infamous after parties where Coverflow will jam with attendees at the bar!
The event showcases ten promising startups who have raised no more than $2M, who will present on stage in front of an audience
of some 400 attendees in the high-tech space. Past winners have raised $50-plus
million in follow-on funding and have included Thumbtack, Udemy, PokitDok,
DogVacay, and others.
Speakers include Keith Krach (CEO of DocuSign), Jared Simon (Founder, HotelTonight), Rory O'Driscoll (Scale Venture Partners), Rick Lewis (US Venture Partners), Lisa Maki (Pokitdok), Jed Katz (Javelin Venture Partners), Howard Hartenbaum (August Capital), Charles Hudson (SoftTechVC), Lars Leckie (Hummer Winblad), Jenny Fielding (BBC Worldwide), Tony Conrad (True Ventures), Rob Coneybeer (Shasta Ventures), Rick Moss (Hub Ventures), Charles Moldow (Foundation Capital), Andy Ross (Grant Thornton), Dave Samuel (Freestyle Capital), Ben Ling (Khosla Ventures), Kristian Segerstrate (Initial Capital), Ted Wang (Fenwick & West), Raj Kapoor (Mayfield), Ezra Roizen (Ackrell Capital), and Bambi Francisco (Vator).
To get discounted tickets enter promocode "magicsauce15" to get 15% off your registration. Register here: https://vatorsplash2013.eventbrite.com/.
September 22, 2013
Being Human & The Power of Storytelling at the United Nations
Costa Michailidis opened the Being Human Session, the very last session of the day for TEDxUNPlaza, now in its first year, an awe-inspiring TEDx event held at the United Nations on September 16, 2013.
Michael Marantz, the first speaker is an independent director and filmmaker. After being diagnosed with cancer at the age of 21, he rediscovered a new passion for being alive, constantly looking to discover more about life, technology, and why humans do what we do.
This re-ignition in life is what continues to inspire him in his work today. He reminds us how powerful storytelling is and what powerful stories can do for people and for the world. He says, "you need others to collaborate with and to push you along your journey. Your experiences along your life journey becomes your story and that story becomes your guide."
So true. Ultimately, the most important story is the one you tell yourself since it becomes your compass in life, often one you rarely deviate from. When something out of the ordinary or uncomfortable comes up in your life, you ask yourself: does it fit into my story?
Given that Michael is also a composer, cinematographer, editor, writer, digital artist, and experiential designer, he has added perspective on how to tell more cohesive stories.
Take Away: We all have stories to tell including the one about our own lives, who we are and what we stand for in the world. The good news is that we get to create that story, not let the world define it for us. Easier said than done, however life can be like a clean white canvas waiting to be painted anew if we only decide that it is so. It's up to us to decide that it can be painted anew!
Jack Thomas Andraka is a 16 year old inventor, scientist and cancer researcher and also the recipient of the 2012 Gordon E. Moore Award, the grand prize of the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.
Jack was awarded the $75,000 Award and named in honor of the co-founder of Intel Corporation for his work in developing a new, rapid, and inexpensive method to detect an increase of a protein that indicates the presence of pancreatic, ovarian, and lung cancer during early stages when there is a higher likelihood of a cure. A child prodigy, this teenager is a genius!
He spoke about his obstacles along the way and about the issues of high costs getting access to knowledge for important articles. He says, "there's a knowledge elite. There's the knowledge middle class who have access to 10% of articles and knowledge, then there's the knowledged underclass and the impoverished class."
He reminds us that 80% of this world has no access to this information altogether and says, "we're living in a knowledge aristocracy when what we really should have is a knowledge democracy." In other words: we should all have access to the same information.
Take Away: Support the information/knowledge democracy not the information/knowledge elite or aristocracy. We should all have access to the same information and everyone should have access to knowledge. Science is not a luxury: access to date for higher learning should be a basic human right.
Corinne Woods currently serves as Director of the UN Millennium Campaign, which supports citizens’ efforts to hold their governments accountable for achieving the Millennium Development Goals and leads the outreach to citizens and stakeholders to get their voices and concerns to feed into the Post-2015 global development agenda.
"Sometimes you work with people who are smarter and younger than you," Corinne says. "The voice of the people is the voice of God," she adds. "It's not just right that we go out and tell the stories of what is going on and make sure there's action to a million people. We need to get it out to ten million people and beyond."
She asked the audience to help her understand whether they're doing the right things at the UN. In other words: how do we make sure we tell the stories of that data and ultimately make sure those people who really should be listening don't say its just madness?
Her belief is that we can unite together to transcend these obstacles. Consider Jack's passion she says referring to the 15 year old Jack Andraka who didn't know what pancreatic cancer was but then found a new way to attack pancreatic cancer: Imagine the impact we can have if we work on hard problems together.
Take Away: We can't move major obstacles, issues and problems in healthcare and our economy to a sustainable successful place alone. Only by uniting together as a community can we come up with creative and effective solutions to move things forward.
Juan José (JJ) Rendón is a Venezuelan political strategist, consultant, film director, and teacher and had us smiling fairly quickly after he entered the United Nations stage.
Considered one of the world’s political gurus, he has consulted for presidential campaigns and legislative elections in Latin America. JJ has been recognized for his defense of democracy, support for human rights, freedom, and education.
JJ shared the four things he defines as being human: sense of humor, intelligence, creativity and sex for pleasure. The latter brought a smile, especially to a non South American crowd.
He reminds us the importance of making up our own minds about issues. For example, what doctors tell you are permanent may not be permanent. What people tell you may live with for the rest of your life may not be true. As an extension of his beliefs, he recommended a collection of essays called Laughter by French philosopher Henri Bergson.
Take Away: Define your own life, don't let others do it for you. Just because an expert tells you your life will be one way becaue of a disability or a limitation, don't let their definition become your own; create your own definition and your own journey regardless of what an expert or anyone around you says. Hear Hear JJ. I'm sure Mallory Weggemann would agree.
David L. Cooperrider, Ph.D. has quite a lofty list of titles, from a Fairmount Minerals Professor of Social Entrepreneurship at the Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve University to being past Chair of the National Academy of Management’s OD Division. He has also lectured and taught at Harvard, Stanford, University of Chicago, Katholieke University in Belgium, MIT, University of Michigan, Cambridge and others.
Aside from his countless lectures and long list of accolates, David's work as Chair and Founder of the Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit is a key passion for him. The center’s core proposition is that sustainability and that every social and global issue of our day is an opportunity to ignite industry leading eco-innovation, social entrepreneurship, and new sources of value.
In other words: let's get social, let's move hope to action, let's get inspired and let's change the horrid in the world to beautiful. He pauses and reflects on the word gratitude suggesting that perhaps we don't understand the profoundness of such basic things like hope and joy or the power of hope and inspiration.
One of David's goal is to reverse the tendancy to focus on the 80% of what's wrong to the 80% of what's right. In other words: let's get the 80/20 rule reversed. We need to elevate these human strengths around the world including igniting the notion that business is a force for eradicating extreme poverty.
He says, "we need to create urgent optimism that spreads these epic meaning making kinds of stories." His vision is that we circle the planet in an appreciative kind of intelligence. In working with the Dalai Lama on an occasion, he asked him what would be his leadership design for management and business school? Dalai Lama responded after scratching his head and said: "I can't manage a thing. If I were asked to manage anything, it would end up as a mess. But I do believe that we need a radical reorientation of the preoccupation of the self to a reorientation of others, which revolves around empathy and compassion."
He talked about the role of the positive and that positive things don't come by nature. For positive things to work, we must make the effort. David ended his talk by thanking the audience for letting him "dream out loud." I love it!
Take Away: Business is a force for eradicating extreme poverty and we often forget that. By working together and creating a united optimism that gives true meaning to epic stories, we have an opportunity to change the world for the better. The world is so much about our stories - let's make them count and add compassion, empathy and a true sense of social responsibility into the mix and together, we can make a real difference.
Last up was the ever so inspiring Dr. Jess Ghannam who is a clinical professor of Psychiatry and Global Health Sciences in the School of Medicine at UCSF. His research areas include evaluating the long-term health consequences of war on displaced communities and the psychological and psychiatric effects of armed conflict on children.
He is also a consultant with the Center for Constitutional Rights, Reprieve and other international NGO’s that work with torture survivors. While Jess cares about global health across the board, he is particularly passionate about the hidden giant: mental health, which is increasing at an alarming rate worldwide.
“We Have No Choice But To Transform the Way We Think About
Global Health, Practices & Training.”
He shared a story about his first trip to Gaza when there was only one psychiatrist for 1.5 million people compared to five psychiatrists for every one person in San Francisco. Jess and his team created a Mental Health Development Diploma Program in Gaza where they trained people to go into the community and schools and work with people directly, promoting basic techniques around wellness. His work which also set up community health clinics in the Middle East to focus on developing community-based treatment programs for families in crisis have been a huge success. As a result of his efforts in Gaza, today everyone has access to mental health assistance within a twenty year period.
Although he is most known for his mental health and humanitarian work in Palestine and along the Gaza Strip, he is working on transporting this program to India and Latin America. Says Jess, “we’re seeing radical shifts in health issues around the world and they’re more chronic diseases, like heart disease, diabetes and depression and these are not things that require a pill.”
Witnessing an increasingly disconnected world and the impact that this shift has had on people’s health has led him to the work he is doing now, at home and abroad. The global challenge is how to make people more conscious and aware of the factors that have a negative impact on their health and implement things that can change the paradigm we are seeing today.
“We Need a New Model. We Need To Train Healthcare Facilitators Who Can Bring Awareness To Millions of People About How To Re-Engage With Their Families, Communities and Bodies.”
He says, “good global health means that we need to be able to relate to each other and communities in a very different way. A lot of difficulties we have globally and locally is how we are nurturing relationships. How do we manage to relate to one another? Are we doing so in a healthy way?” In other words, technology has to be treated as an enhancement and along the way, we need to be conscious about how we related to “it” on a regular basis.
Moving forward, the bulk of his work will be on the mental health effects of the disconnectedness and adverse conditions people are going through, whether its political prisoners who have been tortured or people who live in slums.
Take Away: Health & Wellness are Human Rights, Not Privileges. While technology and a digital lifestyle "overload" can add to mental illness and stress, effective use of it could be beneficial in many cases. Sharing devices and the data on those devices can lead to positive changes in people's lifestyle in many communities. It’s not that technology itself is having the negative impact on our mental health but how we relate to it. Being consciousness about how much time we spend in the digital world versus the human world will be important in keeping us, our families and our communities healthy and in balance.
Photo credits: Renee Blodgett.
September 22, 2013 in America The Free, Client Announcements, Conference Highlights, Events, On Health, On Innovation, On People & Life, On the Future, TravelingGeeks, WBTW | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Mindblowing Doer's On Resilience & Moving Ideas to Action
After a warm, amusing and enchanting performance by the ever so talented WJM Band, a rock band of 10 year old boys, Paul Katz took the TEDxUNPlaza stage on September 16 to kickstart a conversation about the third session of the event: Ideas to Action.
Entertainment industry executive, two-time Grammy nominee and social entrepreneur, Paul Katz is the founder and CEO of Commit Media.
He cited Catapult, an example of an idea moved to action in the real world. The first crowdsourcing platform dedicated to girls and women's rights, it is run by small start-up team of people hailing from design, technology, advocacy, journalism and of course the girls and women's sector.
The team's passion is driven by the fact that there's an urgent need for increased funds and engagement for girls' and women's rights and development, something which has been obvious for years to activists, advocates and everyone else working and campaigning on behalf of girls and women.
When you realize how low the stats are, your ears perk up. For example, only 6% of all funding goes to girls and women's issues. One very real example in the developing world is the use of mobile phones being used to teach Afghanistan girls to read when they can't leave the house. To-date Catapult has helped roughly 200 projects in 81 countries worldwide.
While one of Paul's key drivers is social entrepreneurship and change, he is also well known for the key role he played in building Zomba’s (later Jive) successful worldwide interests in record production and distribution, publishing, equipment rental, recording studios and producer and artist management. With more than 100 million albums sold and numerous Grammy Awards won, Zomba featured artists such as Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Backstreet Boys, and others, as well as composers whose songs were recorded by Michael Jackson, Celine Dion, Brian Adams, Barbra Streisand and more.
It was fitting that Paul was in the Ideas to Action session since he is so often called upon to speak about the intersection of entertainment and philanthropy.
Take Away: Just because you have a career in the for profit business world, whether its in entertainment or technology, it doesn't mean you can't have an impact however small in the non-profit and socially conscious world. Find your passion and tell its story, utilizing your talents and exercising your voice as often as you have an opportunity to do so.
Jim Stolze is known for his successful launch of a commercial magazine and as a co-founder of an advertising agency specializing in digital marketing. Today, he is the editor-in-chief of the largest website in The Netherlands.
While content may be a core strength, Jim has stepped above and beyond his roles on many occasions. As a senior ambassador for the TEDx program, he has organized many TEDx events and set up an organization in Doha Qatar to foster “ideas worth spreading” in the Middle East region.
He talked about a festival called Rise My Friend, which involves one million people dancing on 6 continents in the summer of 2015, all as he puts it "dancing to the same beat." To generate awareness, interest and attendees to sign up however, "the ask" is a little different.
If you volunteer 20 hours of your time, only then do you get an invitation to the festival. The idea is to raise the number of hours people spend on community work in exchange for a ticket, such as painting a school, singing to elders in an old folks home or helping pick up garbage. Once people volunteer and help a community, then they more authentically understand the value, leading to continued volunteer work without any incentive at all.
Rise My Friend will allow local communities to use an online platform to give people credits for their volunteer work, which will lead to a ticket to the festival in 2015. "Rise My Friend is so much more than a party," he says. "It is literally one million people joining hands all over the world because they love to dance and because they love to help out."
Take Away: Volunteer work matters and can make a significant difference in the world, but people don't always understand the impact they can make, nor do they take the time in their daily lives. The idea that volunteering your time allows you to be part of something bigger than yourself, while having fun with a community doing the same, is a great way to get people to "feel" the impact of helping others. I personally love this idea!
Manoj Bhargava asks with a satirical tone "what is a good idea? How do you define a good idea really? Is the idea useful and is it simple to execute? If the latter two things aren't there, then it's not a good idea. There are lots of solutions but if it's not helpful to someone or a community or accessible, then it's not a real solution." He asserts that the only good ideas are the ones that can be done easily and believes that everything should be thought of in that way.
He notes that there are three things worth investing in: technology, invention and innovation. Looking at it in the simplest of terms, innovation is something you're going to do that is useful that wasn't done yesterday. Just being simple can change everything. Look at Apple. Look at Twitter.
On invention, he asked us all to reflect on history and think of the people who have come up with the best inventions in the world. In other words, no invention has ever been made by 1,000 Ph.D.'s getting together in a room.
Manoj is an entrepreneur, philanthropist, and founder and CEO of 5-hour Energy. He realized over time that the main problem in the world was water and so, he has set out to purify water cheaper than anyone else, which he refers to as the "biggest project in the world." Without water, at least a billion people will die.
Take Away: There are a lot of ideas in the world and many may be worth doing, but if they're not simple and useful, they will have a hard time of being sustainable. Focus on ideas that can lead to something useful and change people's lives in a big way. Make your idea easy, digestable and sustainable and then, you can move that idea to action in a way that will have a huge impact on communities and individuals around the world.
Harry Kraemer says from a place of passion and conviction as he walked out onto the United Nations stage: We enter the modern world with multitasking. From his perspective as someone who drives leadership and management in the world as a Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management professor, he notices that people are driving, eating a Big Mac, shaving and texting in the car, sometimes all at the same time. He says, "we just go faster and faster."
In this race we call life, he asserts that we have we confused activity with productivity. He asks: "we're very active, but how productive are we? As leaders, it matters to define what doesn't matter and what does and start moving your values and ideas to action."
He believes that there are four key principals that make up really great leadership. I loved his list so much that I decided to list them in detail here.
- Self Reflection: Ask yourself: what are my values? What do I really stand for? What really matters? What difference to I make? What example would I like to send to the world? By slowing down, we really can separate noise from what really matters. Ask myself how do I lead people? What am I proud of today? If I lived today over again, what would I do differently? If I have tomorrow and if I'm a learning person, what would I do differently based on what I learned today. Doing so can help me me figure out what kind of impact I want to have. Taking time and making quality time differentiates real leaders. Remember that true leadership is not about control and organizational charts.
- Balanced Perspective: This is the ability to take the time to understand other sides of the story. Seek to understand before you're understood. If I'm really listening, I may hear the answer if I take the time to listen to them. Ask yourself: are you listening enough on a regular basis that the other people actually feel heard?
- Having True Self Confidence: Many of us have worked for macho people who appear to be confident but they don't have true self confidence. Step back and realize that there will always be people who are smarter, more athletic and more analytical than I am. You need to have the ability to feel comfortable with yourself and know that you will continue to learn more everyday. Having true confidence says that I'm going to get better every day. This is about surrounding yourself with people who are better than you at all the things you're not very good at and embracing it.
- Genuine Ability: Ask yourself: how did you get to where you are? The two most common responses is a combination of working hard and having a certain skill set. In addition, there are four others: luck, timing, the team and a spiritual dimension. If any of those four work for you, then you start to realize a few things. You realize and remember where you came from and keep things into perspective. In other words, tell yourself: I'm not going to read my own press clippings. If true leadership is about influencing people and understanding people and remembering that every single person matters, then we won't go a place of ego.
Take Away: Leadership has everything to with influencing people but you can't influence people if you can't influence yourself and trust yourself. By slowing down, we really can separate noise from what really matters. Be comfortable with yourself and know that you will continue to learn more everyday. Having true confidence means that I'm going to get better every day and truly listen to people along the way. Letting go of ego and making people feel truly heard and understood is a strong quality of true leadership.
Chicago-based Dean DeBiase is a serial rebooter, author, speaker and director at AKTA, DonorPath, IXchat, KINGlobal and 1871Chicago and among other initiatives, he's also the cofounder of Reboot Partners which blends entrepreneurial talent with corporations to reboot innovation and growth.
Says Dean, "if you bring together an intellectual and supportive ecosystem, the innovators and entrepreneurs will come. When united, that's when real movement and change happens."
He encouraged all of us to think about being a mentor and all it takes to be one is a little bit of passion. I think about mentorship a lot and even moreso recently since I attended a high school class reunion in New York. En route, I thought about who my mentors were growing up and who they are today.
I realized that I assigned mentors in my own head or minds eye and while they have been encouraging and motivating sources in my life, as a woman, I have never had a "formal one."
Mentors can be transformative, Connectors can really help accelerate growth, and Ambassadors are the ones who can scale the passion. Ambassadors can make sure an idea or a company has a sustainable life.
A digital thought leader and regular media guest, Dean is a co-author of the best-selling book The Big Moo with Seth Godin and Malcolm Gladwell. He is also a Silicon Valley veteran with a track record scaling emerging growth companies, starting-up new ventures and embedding entrepreneurial-grade talent into multi-national corporations.
Take Away: If you bring together an intellectual and supportive ecosystem, the innovators and entrepreneurs will come. When united, that's when real movement and change happens. Embrace this and whatever hybrid role you decide to be (mentor, visionary, ambassador or simply someone who cares) and contribute "it" to a startup or an entrepreneur's idea.
Paralympic swimmer Mallory Weggemann nearly had me in tears. Her story isn't one for the light hearted! She became paraplegic after an epidural injection to treat post-shingles back pain in 2008, a decision which turned her life upside down.
Overcoming obstacle after obstacle emotionally and physically, she is a true source for inspiration. Since then, she has demonstrated not just an outrageous amount of courage and resilience, but compassion and empathy for herself and the world around her.
Today, she has a lot to be proud of: Mallory broke many world records in the S7 classification, and won multiple gold medals at the IPC Swimming World Championships in 2009 and 2010.
She says of the moment that changed her life forever, she made a decision not to let that one incident define who she is and fight for something better. She says, "it's not the moments in life who define who we are, it's how we react to those moments in life."
She reflects on when she decided to fight back and find a happy ending in her situation. Says Mallory: "It's how we react to the moments in our lives that define who we are."
Swimming and competition was something that set her free and brought her back to life. She says, "the world I was opened up to is limitless; tt's about pushing your body to new limits regardless of your situation."
In 2012, when she participated in the London paralympics and became a paralympic gold medalist, she reflects on that time and says, "a dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality. I know that dream didn't become a reality because of myself; it was because of the supporters around me who gave me support." Here, she is referrring to her family, her friends and her community.
"When circumstance steps in and alter our course in our life, it's what do we do with that is what defines us," says Mallory. She adds: "do we allow us to paralyze us and do we allow it to define us or do we push forward and move on with our life?"
Clearly she has chosen the latter in a big way...in such an inspirational way that is life alterating to anyone listening.
So given that the theme of the conference is indeed Bravery, what is indeed BRAVE? Mallory says of bravery that it carries multiple faces and we all have the ability to be brave. "Bravery cannot be defined but it can be challenged." She encouraged everyone to live their lives with passion and with a full heart AND without judgment or fear.
Take Away: Don't let negative incidents that happen in your life define who you are as a person. It's not the moments in life who define who we are, it's how we react to those moments in life. If you think about it, everyone in this life has a disability; we all have things that will hold us back in life if we let them, but it's up to us to decide to rise above and push forward. If we have dreams, and we all have dreams, it's up to us to create them and not let obstacles however large stop us. Sometimes this is the bravest act of courage we can have in our lives.
Hear hear Mallory! Thanks to you and your bravery and resilience and to Paul, Jim, Manoj, Harry and Dean for your words of encouragement and and inspiration to moving "ideas to action."
Photo credits: Renee Blodgett except for the Olympics medal photo of Mallory which is from www. malloryweggemannusa.com.
September 21, 2013
TEDxUNPlaza: Entrepreneurs With The Power To Change Everything
BRAVE was the theme at the TEDxUNPlaza's September 16 event at the United Nations. Up first was a moving session on Women Empowerment (check out my piece on three fabulous women who inspired me and the TEDx audience) and was followed by a session entitled Change Everything, which included accomplished leaders in business and government. Renowned investor and entrepreneur Tim Draper kicked off the session.
Tim started his talk comparing government and private sector business models. He asks, "monopolies are bad and competition is good, so why are governments all monopolies? What about competitive governments?" His suggestion is that countries should compete for us -- they should have to compete for us.
Tim's life's mission is to spread entrepreneurship and venture capital around the world, passing along ideas and stories on his journey. He shared a statement a Russian told him on the road, "markets are like parachutes, they're only good when they're open."
In the United States, he had to talk to many commissions when he started his school and the bureaucracy in this process he says slows things down. The country is made up by impersonal democracy.
Take Away: Make countries compete for you; force your country to compete for you. When that happens, the entire earth will be the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Next up was Silicon Valley based Naveen Jain who asks the audience: what makes a true entrepreneur? Are social philanthropic entrepreneurs "true" entrepreneurs?
A business which is not profitable is not a sustainable business and becoming a $10 billion dollar entrepreneur is about solving $10 billion problems. On what he calls true entrepreneurship, he says,
"when an entrepreneur dreams, he dreams big. An entrepreneur is so audacious, they come up and say to you, 'sir, I'm thinking of mining the moon so I can change humanity.' The mindset of an entrepreneur is that he truly looks at problems differently. The moment you define what a problem is, you restrict the solution you can come up with."
It's true. In so many ways, that audacious thinking and behavior gets drummed out of us on our path to adulthood. From a child, you're told the sky is the limit. When you go from here to the moon, you never pass the sky.
Take Away: When someone tells you that the sky is the limit, then you're restricted to your own imagination only. As entrepreneurs, we need to think from a place of abundance in our work and our lives, not from a place of scarcity.
Neil Jain is only 16 years old and yet has already founded Team Gen Z, a student-run group competing for the $10 MM Qualcomm Tricorder X-PRIZE competition. He is a strong believer in "youth leadership" and cites the fact that global connectivity and exponential growth in technology is making it possible for the youth of today to be the leaders of today, not tomorrow.
Team Gen Z is developing a smartphone sized device that can diagnose more than 15 common diseases using non-intrusive sensors better than a team of board certified doctors. All of the members on the team are under the age 18 and their goal is to provide easy and affordable access to healthcare diagnostics to millions around the world.
Take Away: Don't underestimate the youth. His commitment to his initiative Innovation Generation is all about spreading stories of innovative students who are truly changing the world in order to help teenagers across the country realize their true potential. And, since the youth is our future, it is up to us to not just believe in their true potential, but accelerate it.
Kay Kelley Arnold is a passionate expert in among other things, Energy Poverty and believes in changing what needs changing. Kay is an advocate for change and loves a good fight when important issues are at stake, especially social justice and environmental issues which are at the top of her list.
She manages foundation and grants programs as well as the employee volunteer programs (over 85,000 hours donated last year valued at $1.8 million) and leads a team of employees who are charged with finding solutions to the problems low income citizens face.
Kay is a fan of the Conscious Capitalism movement and subscribes to its Credo that “business is good because it creates value, it is ethical because it is based on voluntary exchange, it is noble because it can elevate our existence, and it is heroic because it lifts people out of poverty and creates prosperity. Free market capitalism is the most powerful system for social cooperation and human progress ever conceived. It is one of the most compelling ideas we humans have ever had. But we can aspire to something even greater…”
The poorest families in America pay over 12% of their annual income for their energy which is higher than any other group (more than triple). Half of the people who are food subsidies have to make a decision whether to buy food or pay for energy and avoidable illnesses happen when people can't heat their homes.
Take Away: Access to food and energy is not a luxury, but a human right. Given that the fastest growing group who are at risk families are veterans and senior citizens on fixed income, we owe them more and this has got to change. If you're going to help change something, help change something that truly matters like basic human rights which are not being met.
Dr. Vijay Vad is a physician for the professional men’s tennis circuit and specializes in minimally invasive treatments of sports injuries, spine, and arthritis.
He throws out some alarming stats that shocked many. While we all know that obesity is soaring and a significant health issue in the states, how many of us realized that obesity rates in France have doubled over the last 15 years. Obesity is a worldwide issue and particularly critical since obesity is linked to so many chronic diseases. Chronic inflammation is a serious global issue and much of that is related to stress and our diet.
He asks, "how many people truly have access to truly healthy food that isn't processed? In India, China and the United States alone, the percentage of people eating processed food full of fat and sugar is alarming.
The fact that in a country as wealthy as America, so many parents and children don't realize how much they're poisoning their bodies by processed food is heart wrenching, an issue which I personally feel needs heightened awareness worldwide and can be accelerated at a grassroots level through educated communities.
This issue is beyond changing something that matters; it's about the simple fact that if we don't change people's attitude towards food now, we'll continue to see soaring stats on heart disease, cancers, chronic mental illnesses, autism and other life shortening diseases. Read my blog post on TEDxBerkeley speakers, which includes a plea by New York based Erica Wides to "Let's Get Real" about food.
We're feeding our children processed food and sugar drinks which is going to have a huge impact on health over time and it's got to stop. In addition to eating "real food" that hasn't been chemically injected, inflammation can be lowered by doing exercise every day.
Take Away: While the human body is an amazing machine, it can't be fully optimal when we pump it with processed chemicals or when we spend more time sitting in a car or at our computers and not being active. Eat less, prioritize your diet on organic fresh food, stay away from buying products with processed ingredients and exercise daily for at least thirty minutes.
Education is not enough to prepare young people for a sustainable future asserts Mona Mourshed, who has led engagements in Asia, Europe, South America, the Middle East, and the United States, supporting school systems and vocational and higher-education institutions to improve students’ skills, their chances of finding jobs, and their day-to-day lives.
She says, "after education, what students are left with is a degree that is a piece of paper and not skills. They're left with debt and promise. They're not finding jobs and they want to be financially independent and make a positive contribution to society but are finding it hard to do in today's climate."
A few stats worth noting: one in two students don't feel that their education has prepared them for what they need to succeed in the real world. The world has created a system of unrelated events, where education happens and then employment happens but there's very little that happens between the two. Young people are falling through the cracks every day and it's much more acute for this generation than it has been in the past because things are accelerating so fast, especially in technology. She asks: "what if we could make those misconnections happen?"
In 2012, Mona led the a study to learn from more than 100 education-to-employment solutions across 25 countries from 8,000 employers, education providers, and youth in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Mexico, Brazil, Turkey, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and India. She has designed strategies to increase private-sector participation in developing vocational training programs in the Middle East and North Africa and to raise the employment numbers for vocational graduates in South America.
Take Away: Making young people more employable cannot happen without improvements in the education system itself. We have to support individuals and educational institutions that are trying to raise both teaching, academic leadership and research quality.
Polar explorer and environment leader Robert Swan blew me away. As the first person ever to have walked to the North and South poles, he now wants to do it again, but using renewable energy all the way. Swan’s unique insights and lessons learned about the environment and how to live purposely in this world have enabled him to educate and stimulate young people and business leaders from around the world. What a gift to see him on the United Nations stage last week.
He shared his journey and for those who think that walking through Arctic terrain is "macho man" stuff, he argues that it is completely the opposite: it's all about humility and compassion remembering that when you're out there in the wild, you're human and can just as easily be eaten by a polar bear as you can die from an avalanche.
As someone who was pals with the infamous Jacques Cousteau, he shared some of his advice. "Focus on one thing," Cousteau had said to him on more than one occasion. "The greatest threat to our planet is to believe that someone else will save it." Hear hear!
"All we are, are custodians of this place," adds Robert. "We owe it to ourselves to do something to make a difference and change everything."
On his first journey, he and his team arrived at the bottom of the world after 70 days on foot. To save Antarctica he realized that he needed to be more than a garbage collector and a penguin polisher.
Swan's witty British style drew the audience in...his humor endeared us to him. We laughed with him as much as we reflected on the seriousness of needing to care for the environment around us. His polished appearance on stage and passionate and inspiring ability to transform a large group of people is a stark contrast to his face when he takes on the world's toughest icy mountains and roads. He is nothing short of resilience and bravery at its best!
His passion today is about the need to wake the world up about aggressively using more renewable clean energy in the real world. He has become a renewable energy advocate with a plan to build a mobile e-base on all seven continents. They built the first station in Antarctica built only on renewable energy but wants to do this "everywhere."
Robert and his team journeyed around the world several times showing young people how renewable energy works and he makes it clear that his work is far from being done. With emphasis, he added, "stay relevant. It's very easy in our world to think we're being relevant when the dynamic may have changed and we no longer are."
Take Away: The greatest threat to our planet is to believe that someone else will save it. Electricity should be a human right and there are still places in the world without. Sit in the dark for an hour and see how it feels. We can be more efficient with electricity when we think smart and are proactive. Renewable energy matters: go solar whenever you can and make green choices whenever and wherever you can.
The hole in the ozone is fixing itself because we are starting to get the policy right. We have shown that we CAN make a difference so do what you can to contribute to the environment in small ways every day.
Photo credits: Renee Blodgett except for photo of Swan in Arctic (from Leaders for Business).
September 19, 2013
TEDxUNPlaza: 3 Women on Empowerment & Trusting In Yourself
I was involved in the first ever TEDxUNPlaza event this week in New York City, a full day TEDx event focused on the theme BRAVE with 24 speakers who inspired over 300 people at the United Nations Building.
Considering how many conferences and events I've been to over the years where there have been so few women on the main stage or on panel discussions, it was refreshing to see the very first session of the day focus on women empowerment.
While two fabulous men were also in this session: Steven Rogers, a professor at Harvard Business School and Dr. James Doty, the founder and director of the Center for Compasion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University, this post focuses on the three awe-inspiring women who moved me with their passion, commitment and perserverance this week.
New age yogini Deepika Mehta, writer and animator Brenda Chapman and healthy living educator Sarah Hillware rocked the TEDxUNPlaza stage Monday morning.
Deepika Mehta faced a severe emotional challenge when she was told she may never walk again. Today, she speaks from a place of gratitude now that she is not only walking again, but entertains people with her dancing and yoga movements.
She has also trained with some of the top Indian film stars and is one of the youngest instructors to teach at one of the most celebrated Yoga festivals in the world, The International Yoga Festival in Rishikesh at the Parmarth Niketan Ashram.
Brenda Chapman is another great model for resilience who credits her mother for giving her the courage to be where she is today. She says that young girls are trained to be passive and reactive whereas young boys are trained to be proactive. While that may be less the case today than it was twenty or more years ago, old habits are still engrained.
Role models can teach resilience she asserts. And, she says, "they can be family members, teachers, role models...they can be women, they can be men, they can be you."
Brenda has always had a passion for storytelling and movie making and ever since she was a little girl, her dream was to work at Disney. Not only did she achieve her dream, but she became the first woman to direct an animated feature for DreamWorlds Animation's The Prince of Egypt and more recently directed the Pixar film, Brave, the very theme of this TEDx event.
Like Sarah Hillware would echo later on in the session, Brenda talked about the importance of girls having role models, even if they're distant ones. She also reminded us that it's not just about the successes that result from what we learn from those role models, but failures as well. "Failures are just as important as our successes," she says.
"Inspiring by example is a key way you can pass along your inspiration," she adds. "If you can look into a little girl's eyes and let her know that you believe in her, you might just transform her life."
So true, I reflected as I thought about a few people who did that for me when I was 5, 10 and later as a teenager. Was there someone who inspired and encouraged you along the way?
My Take Away: maybe the nieces, daughters and cousins in our lives won't have to fight some of the same battles we had to fight, but there will be battles and stepping up to be a mentor can make all the difference.
Sarah Hillware started her talk with the same tone, as if she was picking up the thread from Brenda's important messages but extending the importance of mentorship to education and health awareness, which is both her strength and her passion.
Says Sarah, "when you educate a boy, you educate a person. When you educate a girl, you educate a family and a community."
Her background in health and educational systems and as founder of Girls Health Ed, she asserts that health education isn't just about physical health, its about inside out wellness. She asks: how do we translate these ideas and the energy that we have into concrete action?
Perhaps having a community base in adolescent health in schools is a key ingredient to getting things moving.
Some of her stats back this up, including the direct correlation between health, particularly mental health and school attendance. Based on her work's outcome, she focuses on three core goals: Positive Development, Individual Goal Setting and Community Inclusion.
In order for these goals to be achieveable, she believes that all interventions need to be relevant to the individual and the community depending on the challenges they face every day. For example, in the western world, standardizing a course on body image in our schools would greatly benefit women. In the developing world, a course on menstruation and menstruation management would be more relevant and therefore more beneficial.
Sarah ends with encouraging people to get behind programs and behind girls we can help in our own lives, thinking from a proactive not a reactive place. She also strongly believes we need to redirect research towards prevention. Hear hear Sarah. We couldn't agree more!
All photo credits: Renee Blodgett.
September 05, 2013
VentureBeat's CloudBeat Brings Cloud Adoption To Next Level
Returning for it's third year, CloudBeat will cut through the hype surrounding the cloud by gathering real customers who have gone through the pain of adoption and change, and who have compelling stories to tell about the ways in which the cloud continues to transform their business. Register now with code “WeBlog” and save 25%!
Join 500 executives — with a mix of business and IT decision makers, analysts, investors, marketers, brands/retailers, and press — for a rare look at what’s really working, who’s buying what, and where the industry is going as the cloud grows up.
This year’s program features new cases from PayPal, NASA, Netflix, Pivotal, Linkedin, Disney, General Electric, IBM, Google, and Salesforce, to name a few. They’ll feature a senior IT executive from each company, talking about cloud strategy and implementation.
Pivotal CEO Paul Maritz will be speaking for the first time about the vision for his new product, Pivotal One, which he’s calling the “operating system for the cloud.”
Salesforce COO and second-in-command George Hu will also be making a rare appearance to talk about his company’s industry-leading SaaS tech.
The event will be held on September 9-10, 2013 in San Francisco at the Grand Hyatt San Francisco, 345 Stockton Street, San Francisco, CA.
June 28, 2013
Meet Startup Reykjavik, Iceland's #1 Accelerator Program
When I was in Iceland this month for Startup Iceland, an event started by serial entrepreneur Bala Kamallakharan, I had the opportunity to meet a host of locals working on start-up initiatives.
Leading up an effort within the Startup Iceland community is Kristján Freyr Kristjánsson, who is spearheading Iceland's #1 Accelelerator program: Startup Reykjavik.
Startup Reykjavik is similarly structured to TechStars but open for any type of businesses to apply. The program includes ten teams (16k at 6% across 10 weeks) and ends with an investor day on August 23, 2013. It kicked off while I was there and one of the team building exercises was to take 20 or so entrepreneurs into the interior of Iceland's natural wonderland for games and bonding. They headed to a place called Thorsmork, within the Þórsmörk Nature Reserve where they had pow-wows in volcano huts and hiked, a little different from our pizza and soda networking shindigs in Silicon Valley.
Here is an overview of the teams for this year's program:
- Mindlantis: While helping children discovering their true potential, they make high quality products based on their ideas.
- Activity Stream: They enable capture, processing, visualization and reporting of Business Activity Information - in real time - cloud based.
- Golf Pro Assistant: GolfPro Assistant is a web app designed for golf professionals to help them manage all aspects of running a golf teaching business.
- SARdrones: SARdrones develops unmanned drones and image analysis software for search and rescue purposes in barren landscapes.
- Snjohus Software: Snjóhús is a two man team, programmer and artist, working to make high quality apps.
- Silverberg: Designing and developing a measuring equipment for fitness centers, along with a software solution where users can track their progress.
Non-Tech companies (e.g. Bio-tech, Fashion, Alumnium Roller coaster, Whiskey Brewery)
- Herberia: Herberia fills the gap between unregistered natural products and medicines by manufacturing herbal medicines of the highest quality.
- Y-Z: Y-Z is an innovative fashion brand aimed at forward thinking women - classic design with avant garde flexibility.
- Zalibuna: Zalibuna will design and build a one man rollercoaster in the most traveled area of Iceland, Kambarnir.
- Þoran Distillery: The Þoran project it the brainchild of a few like-minded individuals who dream of establishing the first whisky distillery in Iceland.
They have 10 alumni teams and a database of 100 Icelandic startups they have been helping through the past years, with roughly $20 million invested so far. Below are some of the entrepreneurs who participated and are part of the startup scene, from the Hackathon, the Startup Iceland and the entrepreneurs who will be part of this year's accelerator group.
June 13, 2013
Start-Up Iceland Event Draws Iceland's President & Attracts American Thought Leaders
Hackathons are fairly common in Silicon Valley and while they're starting to pop up in pockets around the world, Iceland may not be a place that immediately comes to mind when you think of start-up geek fests.
Reykavik, Iceland's largest city and home to two thirds of its 320,000 people, recently held a Hackathon in conjunction with Start-Up Iceland, an event committed to helping local entrepreneurs build a thriving start-up ecosystem in the country.
Started by serial entrepreneur, angel investor and Greenqloud CEO Bala Kamallakharan in 2012, Start-Up Iceland has not only grown in size in just one year, but attracted top notch angel investors from the states, as well as European and American entrepreneurs and thought leaders.
TechCrunch's John Biggs presented, as did American venture capitalists Brad Burnham from Union Square Ventures and Foundry Group's Ryan McTyre and Jason Mendelson. To top that list, Iceland’s US Ambassador Luis E. Arreaga and the country's President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson thought the event was important enough to show up to address the more than 300 attendees at the beautifully designed conference center HARPA in the city center.
In true start-up conference style, the event kicked off with an UnConference led by Joshua Kaufmann and a Hackathon, held at the University of Reykjavik, where geeks gathered together to cook up some innovative ideas.
The Hackathon was free and open to students, hobbyists, professionals and frankly anyone who likes to hack on cool code and be creative.
Startup Iceland Hackathon participants were asked to create and present hacks around the central idea that the world is undergoing drastic cultural, climate and economic shifts that impact global business.
As the founding organizers mission suggests: "Strengths lie not within avoiding catastrophe but in planning and mitigating problems before they arise. We can accomplish this by understanding the needs of the business community, anticipating the hurdles and creating proactive solutions." Well said.
Above, locals present their ideas to attendees and a panel of judges and below, Seattle Angel Conference's John Sechrest moderated a session.
Below the Hackathon finalists pose with American thought leaders and entrepreneurs.
Winners and finalists receive acknowledgement on stage.
The winner of the Hackathon was GreenQloud Automated Server Balancer, which is a collection of scripts that manage and change attributes to a GreenQloud hosted server depending on the load.
Simply put, when a user's server is idle, only one system is running. Once the load gets to a specific point, a new system is activated, which allows for consistant performance across the board without wasting so much power. Lower Power usage, lower wasted dosh.
While green energy may be enviromentally friendly, it's not unlimited, so their notion is that you should only use what you need. With their approach, you can efficiently waste the least amount of power with enough performance to do what you need.The team was awarded $1,000.
Below, Bala does a fireside chat style interview with Ryan and Jason from Foundry Group.
The UnConference presented a host of great ideas, which were far more varied than what you'd find in technology hubs in the United States, largely because many of the needs and problems that locals need to solve on a Nordic Island are unique.
Some of the ideas included angel investing in Icelandic start-ups, the role of big companies in the start-up ecosystem, women's role as investors, entrepreneurs and consumers, cultural barriers between those who have money and those who don't, the value of mentoring, bootstrapping, what can be gained from a Pan-Nordic collaboration, growing Icelandic tourism through better customer service, attracting talent to Iceland and the importance of having a start-up friendly government policy.
Kudos to the Start-Up Iceland team and everyone behind the scenes who made everything happen, from the Hackathon and UnConference, to the more formal Start-Up Event at HARPA, which included a VIP dinner and the President's speech.
I first heard Iceland's President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson speak at PopTech, an annual event in Maine I've had the pleasure of attending and being involved in over the years. His presentation style is very warm and inviting and once again, he brought that quality to the stage. Below he gives a touching and inspiring talk to attendees.
The video of his talk below.
My takeaway went beyond the fact that Iceland now has a thriving and growing start-up community as demonstrated by Start-Up Iceland and the level of support for the event. Icelanders have resilience and dedication to making things work regardless of what is thrown their way.
Consider what the country went through in 2008 during their financial crisis and how as a nation, they came out the other side as committed and united, able to move forward with a team and “can-do” attitude, something every startup needs to not just survive but thrive.
The fact that Iceland is a small country can be used to their advantage. Icelanders help each other out, share and cross pollinate ideas and don't give up easily. Smaller communities in the U.S., such as Boulder and Portland also implement more of a sharing and caring mentality, something Silicon Valley could use a bit more of. As Foundry Group’s Jason Mendelson commented on a panel, “in Silicon Valley, it’s more like every man out for himself.”
We have a lot to learn from Icelanders and I felt fortunate to meet some of the early entrepreneurs who are helping to make Iceland grow and thrive as a global player in the entrepreneurial world.