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).
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.
May 31, 2013
All Things D 2013 Wrap: Rockets, Authentification Pills & Speech to The Future of TV
All Things D just held their 11th annual conference in Rancho Palos Verdes California this past week. Imagine a few hundred billionaire and millionaire game changers in a room at an oceanside resort, discussing the latest digital technology trends that impact a host of industries: from government, retail and consumer electronics to mobile advertising, digital TV and everything in between. It makes you wonder: Are we moving to a world that looks something like this?
Some of the trends and reccuring themes are not new this year, but they are more pressing as storage gets cheaper, bandwidth gets faster and it is becoming more common to program your home and tap into a mobile device for nearly everything we do.
How people think about things that were once a Star Trek-like discussion are now becoming reality: energy sources, Google Glass that brings virtual and augmented reality to life in more ways than one, electric versus gas powered cars, a trip to Mars if you have a bank account big enough to afford a ticket, wearable devices and how we will view what we now call TV in the next decade. And, that's just the beginning.Some of the leading CEOs and thought leaders driving change in this space were on the D stage this year, hosted by Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher.
Mary Meeker who I have tremendous respect for and think of among other things as the "Data Chick", shared her annual Internet trends. No one I know can better convey data faster with as much content as she has in a way that is comprehensable to both geeks and creatives. She somehow manages to get through to both. Here's her latest report.
Two themes which continue to come up again and again are privacy and security despite prolific users of social networks and geo-based services like Foursquare suggesting that they no longer matter.
Where else would fingers be pointed than Facebook? Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg took the stage to address those issues in the first day's morning session. A Wall Street Journal reporter asked her about "trust."
He raises the issue of snapchatting, which seems like a direct reflection of mistrust. Trust is the cornerstone of our users says Sheryl. She adds, "its critical that we are transparent in understanding how the product works. It used to be complicated and that translated to mistrust so we've made our privacy page and other sections much more visual to make it easier for the user."
She also talked about the new social world where messaging, texting and photos are continuing to explode and 'it's not going to stop.' While she wouldn't speak to any new 'product announcements,' focusing on those three areas was telling.
Unlike Mark, she's fabulous on stage. Even if you don't trust Facebook for whatever legitimate reasons, she's a great face for the company and knows how to turn that mistrust around.
Hunky Elon Musk seemed to get respect from everyone around me - the techies, entrepreneurs, CEOs and women who seemed to reference more than just his "accomplishments." For those who don't know all his accolades, he's the Co-Founder, CEO and Product Architect at Tesla Motors and CEO/CTO of Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX).
Et hem, before we get into his D stage shares, just look at those arms. Combine that with his adventurous spirit, desire to go to Mars, lofty sustainable goals and his South African accent and it's no wonder he has so many woman at "Hello."
Elon's major message, at least the recurring one was sustainability. Elon is a man who defies odds -- a bit of a quieter Tony Robbins icon, where his sense of solitude and confidence meets the resolve of a politican and the demeanor of a trusted geek. Or, something to that effect.
He says, "car manufacturers said we could never reach certain goals and we keep beating and meeting our goals, defying odds again and again. Our challenge is that we need to convince them that what we're doing is much more than the niche market Tesla is today. To convince them that electric cars are a mainstream product will require a lot more work but its work we need to do."
His tone suggested that it wasn't work he needed to do because it was best for Tesla's bottom line, but because it's the right thing for the planet.
He also announced the expansion of their supercharger network a day earlier than planned. This move is an obvious and required one to move Tesla more into the mainstream limelight. Clearly, the more people who own a Tesla, the broader the network of superchargers Tesla can support and the more superchargers there are, the more compelling it becomes to own one. If there are not enough charging stations, people won't think of purchasing one as their main car and it will remain a secondary car for those with oodles of money or who live in a city where you don't have to travel very far. Below is their expansion plan in the U.S. over the next several months.
On immigration reform, which he wanted to support, he said there was too much Kissinger-ness! He added, "what we encourage is the political system we will deserve." Hear hear. In an interview on CNBC this morning, he said he left Mark Zuckerberg's political action committee, FWD.us, "because the organization became too cynical."
He also addressed carbon and believes in having a carbon tax that will honor the right behavior and penalize the wrong behavior just like we do with alcohol and tobacco. He says, "how we collect the money is irrelevant but the government needs to be paid so we need to reallocate where that money comes in from and set up a system that condemns bad carbon behavior."
With Steve Jobs legacy still lingering and the fact that he was such an icon on the All Things D stage every year, it's no surprise that the fireside chat with Apple's CEO Tim Cook filled an hour and a half on opening night.
He avoided any commitment over rolling out a TV set, so much so that a Sony guy I talked to after hours was hissing about it. He wasn't the only one since it wasn't just Tim's reluctance to talk about an Apple TV set; he avoided discussing anything related to future product plans.
"While the company has seen modest success with Apple TV," he said (selling more than 13 million since the device debuted), "it has been less a flagship product than a sort of learning experience for the company. It’s been great for customers, but it’s also been good from a learning point of view for Apple.”
Chatter in the corridors throughout the conference was twofold: he did himself a disservice by showing up and not sharing any deep insights, which would have helped to re-ignite faith among thought leaders, partners, press, pundits and the pools of money in the audience and b) while Steve Jobs might have been able to get away with secrecy in that Apple culture and aloof kind of way, people had faith in the silence because they had faith in Steve.
While Tim claimed that Apple had a "grand vision" for TV and innovation was needed since there hasn't been much progress in the last two decades, he didn't convey much more. When Kara asked him what kind of CEO he was, he didn't answer despite a couple of attempts.
Here's one thing I think would have worked: talk about your operations and "bottom line" strength - while he's not the creative genius or stageman that Steve was (and btw, no one is), focusing on what he can and does ace, can go far. Secondly, people want to see a personality through texture, color and energy even if that energy is a quiet one.
Even if not theatrical on stage, he could show confidence and humanity (a kick-ass combination for any CEO in my humble opinion), by bringing up two or three personal examples in his own life. If he went with that approach, I am certain that if the wealthy and influential audience at D did't hang onto every word he said, anyone and everyone watching him on the live stream and the video of the interview later most certainly would. My two cents...
He also addressed wearable devices, the growth of their adoption and seeing it as a trend. Here's a video the All Things D team took that shares a few insights on Google Glass and its current value-add including Tim Cook's take. Four or five guys were wearing them at the conference, so I got a chance to test a pair out. The experience was a bit eerie and distracting, making me feel unsettled about my physical environment - in other words, I was more fixated on the potential augmented reality rewards and "digital data" within my surroundings than the person or physical object in front of me. A good thing? Perhaps I'll rephrase that. A healthy thing?
I also might add that it didn't do wonders for my otherwise stylin' dress and unless a different designer gets involved in future versions, I don't see this being a fashion add-on, at least not for women. (from one woman's viewpoint. To add to that, even Tim Cook agreed that people wear glasses because they have to and that they should reflect a person's fashion and style while being unobtrusive).
Another D speaker favorite is Twitter's CEO Dick Costolo, who I've known since his early Feedburner days. He has fabulous energy on stage and this year was no different. Personally I think his Chicago edge and humor play well in this environment. Fortune 500 CEOs who present often, TAKE NOTE: Wit Matters.
Kara who took the lead on topics addressed the news aspect of Twitter and asked whether Dick sees Twitter as a "news organization"? Interesting question since she's right, so many people, myself included, use Twitter as a source for our news, or at least catching up on trends, ideas and events. It's a curation of all three and more from my vantage point and I get to select who I read, when and how.
He says, "I see us partnering with news organizations to distribute news in real time and to help organize and sift through the noise. The beauty of the feed is that you follow who you want but you can also get an aspect of discovery in the mix. The accuracy of the signal that it delivers is remarkable -- we are seeing in the data that people are using the discovery tabs more and more. In the future, I see us surfacing discovery in a simpler way."
Simplicity was a core theme. While it's easy to keep adding more features, the challenge is in removing complexity while keeping the functionality and value-add there, something he says Jack Dorsey aces. Dick says of Jack, "he has remarkable product sensibility - he sees things in a way that no one else does and has a unique way of finding innovative things early on. He's extraordinary."
What is Twitter missing today? Simplicity, he says again. "Because of the 140 word constraint, people have created memes and language that everyone knows in the tweetoverse but newbies have to learn."
A capital investment guy asks him, "Twitter is having an extraordinary impact on the financial markets - it's a constant flow. When does government say to Twitter that you need to control it?"
Dick says that it will likely flow less from government and more from how the media laws are written in each country. They are so different depending on where you are, referencing the UK's broadcast media world as an example.
Another D favorite was Pinterest's Ben Silbermann, largely for his honesty and down-to-earth approach on stage.
He talked about how people use Pinterest today - people ask themselves: what activities should I share with my kids? What gift should I get my wife? Pinterest was started to address those needs. He says, "Collecting physical things was always a passion for me and I think what you collect says a lot about who you are.I was interested in taking things offline and putting them online."
When asked what he didn't know at the beginning and what they have learned along the way, he talked about the overlapping pins, as a way to learn about someone else or a group of people who shares similar interests as you somewhere else in the world. He says, "people who share things creates an interest graph - it gives you an intuitive and human way to discover things."
Some call Pinterest the sleeping giant although it isn't really sleeping anymore. Media in general is becoming more visual and while there have been discovery platforms over the past ten years, the timing didn't match the adoption of integrating a digital lifestyle as a normal and daily routine. Timing isn't everything but it matters more than a lot of entrepreneurs think it does.
I see this with clients all the time! Many start-up founders see, feel and taste the vision long before a consumer is ready to embrace it and often, no amount of advice will stop them from moving full speed ahead even if the market isn't quite ready for it.
Ben also talked about how their team thinks about Pinterest on a mobile device or iPad differently based on user behavior. He says, "we ask the question from your access point, 'are you on the web to browse and put collections together or are you at the supermarket accessing Pinterest through your cell phone to find a recipe with ingredients you need?"
What about Pinterest as a lead generation for brands? Your phone and tablet is always around you so it matters, he says and mobile is huge.....and growing. It begs the following questions: Is Pinterest a mobile interest graph company or will it become one? What business is Pinterest in today and in five years?
Simplicity was as core to Ben and his team as it is to Dick and his at Twitter. Says Ben, "when the average person uses Pinterest, it has to be easy-to-use and intuitive." They are taking feedback from both the partner and consumer sides.
The latest evaluation? 2.5 billion evaluation today. To that Ben says, "If Google teaches you anything, it's that small things can get big."
Dr. Regina E. Dugan, Motorola's Mobility SVP of Advanced Technology & Products was on stage with the CEO of Motorola Mobility Dennis Woodside.
Last time she was on the D stage, she was at DARPA and her personality, wit and confidence was a hit with the geeks and entrepreneurs alike. She was equally compelling the second time around.
Regina talked about some of the things they and others are working on around authentication. She showed a tattoo on her wrist, a tattoo that would ultimately authenticate everything. While it's only a prototype now, the thought of wearing one of those for authentification purposes is freakingly eerie. What scares me most is if the government or pieces of it decide that tattoos or a variation of them should become a standard, in the same way there's now a standard way of airport security and opting out is possible, but awkward and time consuming.
There's also an authentification pill and no I'm not kidding. The pill would emit an 18 bit code using your stomach acid as an electrolyte (think battery) and you'll be able to transmit that digital code repeatedly. The latter means that you'd have to take a tablet every day at least initially. If you were forced into one method of authentication, would you choose the pill or tattoo? Frankly, a button on my cell phone that matches my personal thumb print would do just fine.
Other issues the Motorola Mobility team is working on is battery life and broken phones and disruption in the mobile and TV world - who gets paid what and what becomes the new "fair" in the new digital world? What does mobile innovation look like when it is less feathered and tampered with by carriers?
Regina was proud to announce that Google Glass wearers walking around with the new Motorola phone slated to come out in August will be made in the U.S., not overseas. (70% will be assembled in Texas).
Lastly, they're kicking off a fun project this summer that will test the limit of "great new ideas." In true makerfair fashion, they are taking a van 10,000 miles over five months to universities and fairs, giving people access to tools so they can create things -- from medicine and mobile to 3D printing.
Less exciting on stage was GE's CEO Jeffrey Immelt, but then again, it's hard to compete with Regina's fabulous energy.
GE is clearly thinking about and innovating with 3D printing. He says, "the practice of 3D printing has some practical applications in the big industrial world of building jet engines." Like Musk, he and his team are thinking of big ideas, not iPhone and social media applications.
Nuance's CEO and Chairman Paul Ricci talked about the future of speech recognition. As someone who led communications efforts for Dragon -- now owned by Nuance -- I'm a sucker for any advancement in the speech world. He says, "most of what we do is service large enterprise service companies, cars and the consumer electronic industry."
Clearly, as has always been the challege with speech recognition accuracy and mainstream adoption, it's not just the literal accuracy but the understanding of what you mean: natural language processing and beyond. It continues to get better but still has a long way to go.
That said, recognition is better than it's ever been in history. I'm a user of Siri and find the accuracy remarkably good, so much so that it has become habit, unlike so many other false hopes and useless technology promises.
While B2B and enterprise remain a core part of their business and embedded speech to enable things we use everyday will continue to grow, there's still the consumer application for speech which has helped so many.
I felt a sense of pride and nostalgia when he referred to Dragon products as the only products in his lifetime which has had such a profound impact on people's lives. I too remember so many times when people walked up to me and shared stories about how Dragon's recognition software had literally changed their lives. It was a nice touch and great to hear on the afternoon of the last day.
There's always new & innovative demos shown at D and my favorite was from Max Levchin, formerly of Slide and Paypal. He showed a demo of a new fertility app called GLOW, which is a mobile app that calculates, tracks and monitors data for a woman's pregnancy, such as optimal time of month, and so on. That data can be used to assess the best time for a woman to get pregnant.
There were also demos of Fanhattan and August. Fanhattan is a cloud-based app that is attempting to aggregate video sources into a single location making it a more seamless user experience.
August uses an iPhone and Bluetooth to automatically lock and unlock the door of a home or office as you come close. When you leave, the same process will lock the door behind you. You can access the app through the web or your mobile device, where there are controls, such as digital key sharing and log data of who entered your home and when they were last there.
The app is in synch with the theme of needing to speed up and automate authentification since we are doing it more and more often every day. There's clearly a need for a solution that tackles this problem. I'm feeling a bit better about this than the Motorola authentification pill to be honest. How about you?
Below Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher bid the crowd farewell and thanked their team for yet another successful D. Other speakers not mentioned here include Walt Disney's Thomas Staggs, Box's CEO Aaron Levie, John Chambers, Barry Diller, CNN's Jeff Zucker, Anne Sweeney, I. Marlene King, Scooter Braun, Troy Carter, Guy Oseary, Google's Sundar Pichai, Steven Sinofsky from Harvard, Kazuo Hirai and the 49er's CEO Jed York.
And, a hats off to the crew I came down to D with for making the to and fro such a pleasure: Patti and Larry Magid, Gary Lauder, Shireen Piramoon, Gary Kovacs, Nat Goldhaber, Renee Blodgett. Also, a major kudos to Nat's incredible flying ability. As always, the best conversations of any conference always happen offline. Hallways, elevators, cars, planes, taxis, swimming pools and bars all count! :-)
Photo credits: Top photo of globe from intentblog.com, Sheryl Sandberg shot is a screen grab from the All Things D video from MikeIsaac's article on the All Things D site/blog, Tim Cook Shot from Asa Mathat / AllThingsD.com and all others Renee Blodgett.
May 17, 2013
5 Important Issues From 5 TEDxBerkeley Speakers: Help Us Pave the Way
As a co-curator of a TEDx event, you have a joyful honor of bringing important issues you want to see brought to the table...to the table, or in this case, a TEDx stage. Having been involved in the curation process at TEDxBerkeley for a few years now, there are speakers and writers I've met along the way who have haunted me -- positively and negatively -- the latter often provacative enough that regardless of whether it's a pretty story, you know the story must be told.
Personal issues that keep me awake at night include the ugly embrace of processed food, climate change & the implications for wildlife and the world, the growing divide between the rich and the poor, our sad state of healthcare and education, and women's inequalities. There are countless others, but there's only so much that can absorb my already noisy back channel at any given time.
At TEDxBerkeley this year, we were able to bring some of those conversations to attendees.
I have always wanted Robert Neuwirth to speak at TEDxBerkeley ever since I first heard him speak at PopTech a few years ago. He is best known for his work with squatter communities and poverty. He wrote Shadow Cities: A Billion Squatters, A New Urban World, a book describing his experiences living in squatter communities in Nairobi, Rio de Janeiro, Istanbul and Mumbai.
He brings us on a journey to West Africa and how locals came up with a creative way to source their own energy when the government couldn't.
Lagos residents use energy conservation. In his time in Lagos, he saw people get their water in large canisters not from fresh water sources or private wells. The Lagos government claims that it provides safe drinking water in sufficient quantities to its people, according to a newspaper he read on his way out of the country and yet, its far from reality. There is no real functioning water system in Lagos and other things are not efficient either. Apparently they waste N1.5 billion by leaving their computers on standby.
Kim Polese was the opening speaker for this year's theme of Catalyzing Change. In alignment with the theme, she addressed the communications gap between education providers and students. Students don't know what courses to take so they can succeed in the 21st century.
Our challenge is to preserve the excellence and transform old curriculum she says. "We face a new crisis, the skills gap, which is a crisis which is affecting everyone so we need a revolution in the teaching model, a few of which are MOOC (massive online open courses) and passive versus active participants in online open courses (small online classes) in SPOCS, Small Private Online Classes.
The revolution is not about cutting costs, it's about this new transformational learning model that is more engaged and also it allows for mass distribution to more people. Only 50% of undergraduates receive a degree in six years. Moreso than that, 55% of students need remediation.
The typical student attends multiple universities, which equates to lost dollars and time because so much of the credits don't transfer over. Often, a student takes "on average" over a year of credits they wouldn't need to take.
One idea: What if we offered and made those transfer of those credits seamless? Think about what Visa did to revolutionize the credit business, by swiping a card and it just works. If we standardize undergraduate classes so the credits can be applied as seamlessly as a Visa card is used today to pay for products and services.
The STEM gap (science, technology, engineering and math) aka rouhgly 33% of students who just felt that they weren't prepared enough is widening......in the U.S., we lag behind most developed countries.
Five out of every new jobs will be in STEM related jobs in the next decade and yet we're lagging behind countries like Singapore, France and other developing countries. If we just focused on increasing the number of STEM graduates by 10% can produce 75,000 more STEM graduates by the end of the decade, which is close to what Obama's goal is for higher education.
Women are turning away from computing, the percentage at its all time high was 34% and now its down to below 15%. The first programmers were women. During World War II, the army recruited a group of women out of the University of Pennsylvania to calculate bolistic trojectories and they called these computers women. She refers to the work of TED Prize winner Sugata Mitra.
Known for his work in education research, Sugata Mitra won $1 million TED Prize to build his School in the Cloud.
Many who keeps tabs on education will know him for his project called “Hole in the Wall”, an experiment he conducted in 1999, where Mitra and his colleagues dug a hole in a wall near an urban slum in New Delhi, installed an Internet-connected PC and walked away.
Over time, while a hidden camera filmed the area, the video showed children from the slum playing around with the computer and in the process, teaching themselves now only how to use it themselves, but sharing that knowledge with their friends.
His goal is lofty – he invited the world to embrace child-driven learning by setting up something he refers to as Self-Organized Learning Environments (SOLEs). He asked for help designing a learning lab in India, where children can “embark on intellectual adventures.”
Second in the session was Eden Full who is the Founder of Roseicollis Technologies Inc. She studied for two years at Princeton University and is currently taking gap years to work on her start-up full time after being selected for the inaugural class of the 20 Under 20 Thiel Fellowship. Named one of the 30 under 30 in Forbes’ Energy category two years in a row and Ashoka’s Youth Social Entrepreneur of the Year, Eden founded Roseicollis Technologies Inc. to take her solar panel tracking invention called the SunSaluter to developing communities and established markets that need them.
The SunSaluter won the Mashable/UN Foundation Startups for Social Good Challenge and was awarded the runner-up prize at the 2011 Postcode Lottery Green Challenge. While at Princeton, Eden initiated and curated TEDxPrincetonU. Proudly Canadian, she was born and raised in Calgary, Alberta. After coxing for the Princeton lightweight women’s team, Eden was selected to be the coxswain for the 2012 Rowing Canada’s senior women’s development team, where they won a gold medal at Holland Beker and the Remenham Challenge Cup at the Henley Royal Regatta, beating the German Olympic boat.
She shared her story about her patent-pending solar invention called SunSaluter which she has been using in East Africa. Provided extra electricity every day for one 60W panel to charge, plus not just the benefit of getting extra water but clean to people every day. She tested it out in a polit in Nyakasimbi Tanzania and thereafter with a partner in Kirindi Uganda. The goal is deploy 200+ units to 15,000+ villagers.
Curt L. Tofteland is the founder of the internationally acclaimed Shakespeare Behind Bars (SBB) program. During his 18 years of work with Shakespeare in corrections, he facilitated the SBB/KY program at the Luther Lucket Correctional Complex, producing and directing 14 Shakespeare Productions.
"It is within the silence that we discover the absence of self," he said to TEDxBerkeley audience, as he opened with lines from Shakespeare. "We arrive in this world, naked and alone and we leave this world, naked and alone; we take with us our memories and we leave behind our deeds," he says reading a story that addressed life issues such as dealing with truth and ego.
May 17, 2013 in America The Free, Client Announcements, Conference Highlights, Events, On Education, On Health, On Innovation, On Politics, On Science, On Technology, On the Future, On Women, TravelingGeeks | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
April 20, 2013
Reflections on Community & HAPIfork's Kickstarter Campaign
I've done so many launches in my life that I'm not even sure I could count them all and yet a launch in and around crowdfunding is a relatively new experience for most of us.
Some launches alert the world that a product is shipping, that there's an IPO or a new partnership, that there are four new features than the previous version, that there's a new management hire, that the CEO is speaking on a panel, that product Z just won an award, or that an office is opening in Singapore...the list goes on. I've done them all.
Kickstarter, while not a new concept for the early adopters and technologists within my circles, my sisters who live in an East Coast small town have never heard of it nor have my friends in Florida, Minnesota and Canada. In other words, it's still a relatively new way for consumers to order a product, especially one which in many cases hasn't been built yet and there's only a basic prototype to show when the campaign goes live.
We're in day four of the HAPIfork Kickstarter campaign and plenty of press gave HAPIfork some love this week as part of the kick-off, the kind that is, that would cover this kind of announcement. The good news is that as a result of heightened media activity this week which comes on the heals of over 900+ media hits worldwide from its initial unveiling at CES in January, more and more mainstream press are intrigued and want to play with the fork.
From Dr. Oz, Good Morning America, Good Housekeeping, Penthouse and Men's Health, we've had discussions and coverage; it's a no brainer for their audience since its the kind of device mainstream consumers would want to try out just as they did when electric toothbrushes first hit the market and dentists confirmed that they can clean your teeth more comprehensively than a regular brush. In both cases, there's a "mindful component" to it.
Why wouldn't consumers reading consumer magazines want to learn about a new digital device that can help them eat better, improve their digestion and eat less, thereby consuming less calories. In an eager-to-consume everything and anything country with astonishing obesity rates, the timing of HAPIfork couldn't be better. Even ABC News was intrigued and Jay Leno and The Colbert Report gave the smart fork a call out in mid-January while NBC News Scott Budman covered it the day after Kickstarter went live.
It is precisely the kind of device that will make people think more carefully about their eating habits and suddenly, a "new pattern" of thinking and eating more mindfully kicks in. The goal is to modify "speed" behavior at the onslought and then extend into more mindful habits beyond a plate of food over a meal.
The Benefits of an Early Community:
While there are clearly other ways to get funded, Kickstarter helps to identify the early adopters and fans who really understand the inherent value of a "smart fork". Beyond a fad, people who jump on board early assume faith in a product that embraces a way of thinking that goes something like this:
"A connected fork isn't the only way to get healthy and lose weight, because at the end of the day, it's always my own decision about what I eat, when I eat and how fast I eat. While human input is a big part of leading a healthier lifestyle, I for one, could use a little help. HAPIfork can remind me, prodding me with each bite I take, to eat healthier, slower and be more mindful in the process. Most importantly, I understand this is a starting point and realize that this fork can act as a digital coach to help modify my behavior over time...and alone, is an important first step to the path of mindful eating and living."
The above mantra or statement if you like, isn't an official statement from the company...it's how I personally think about HAPIfork as an enabler of healthy habits, starting with food.
Education will be a big part of this campaign, starting with Kickstarter and well into the coming months ahead. With Kickstarter, we will see the formation of an early community who is willing to take a healthy step into that universe, one that leads to a HAPier and more fulfilling life.
Building a community isn't new, nor was it new at the birth of social media. Smart marketers have always understood that the customer is king and he/she leads the way, not the CEO. Customers aka your community is critical at the beginning of a product launch and throughout its entire lifestyle.
30 years later and I still flash a smile and feel an emotional bond when I see the Pillsbury Doughboy on TV. Great branding? You could say so, especially since I'm not their target audience. For decades, they achieved sustainable success inside their community (moms and women who bake with their products) and outside their community, people like me who have a warm and fuzzy feeling about their brand even though I'm not a user.
Regardless of what kind of product launch you're doing -- inside a crowdfunding paradigm like Kickstarter or IndieGoGo or out -- it always goes back to the customer and making them happy again and again and again. In recent years, I've seen far too many companies forget how important customer feedback is, for without them, there is no sustainable growth. There is no product. There is no company.
For HAPILABs and HAPIfork, it's the start of learning about a community that embraces the concept of happiness, mindful eating and health early on. It's been a thrilling ride to be driving the marketing and PR efforts since the prototype kick off, but as I watch the Kickstarter numbers rise hour after hour, and excitement runs up and down my spine, I remind myself that this is just the beginning. The exciting days are ahead as we learn from customers using the fork, how it has positively affected their lives.
Here's the link to the Kickstarter campaign if you are interested in supporting the campaign at whatever level - as a supporter, or simply because you can't wait to get your paws on one of these magical HAPIforks.
April 17, 2013
HAPIfork Launches Kickstarter Campaign: World's First Connected Fork Now Available for Pre-Order
For the last few months, as anyone in my circle can affirm, nothing has consumed more of my time than a magical little device called HAPIfork, referred to as the vibrating fork and also its claim to fame: the world's first connected fork.
Since our initial unveiling at CES, the world has embraced HAPIfork, eager to try this unique device aimed at helping you slow down how fast you eat.
Today, we're kicking a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the manufacturing and distribution of HAPIfork, so alas, people can finally pre-order the device which aims to transform people's relationship with food.
In January, HAPIfork was the recipient of the CES Innovations Award, Health & Wellness category and soon thereafter, the word quickly spread to over 50 countries globally culminating in hundreds of articles, blog posts, tweets, television and radio appearances as well as a fun shout out from The Colbert Report and Jay Leno.
Keeping in line with Kickstarter rewards at various funding levels, the HAPIfork will be offered as a perk for up to 2,500 people funding $89, and at the $99 level for anyone else who would like to be in the first commercial batch. In addition, the opportunity to be part of the beta testing program, receiving the HAPIfork at the earliest possible availability date, is offered at the $300 level perk. The campaign, which starts today and runs until May 31, 2013, has a fundraising target of $100,000.
HAPIfork was designed by French entrepreneur and inventor Jacques Lépine whose idea was based on research which shows that by eating slower, people can improve the way they feel, improve their digestion and lose weight.
Unlike other health related tools, the HAPIfork is inconspicuous and appropriate for out-of-home use. The smart fork also collects information for future analysis or monitoring in clinical settings. All data is transmitted to a ‘personalized online dashboard’ when the user connects their HAPIfork to their computer or mobile device making it easy to monitor eating habits and health improvement at home or on the road.
The fork will be released in three colors (blue, green and pink) and will ship to Kickstarter funders first before the general public. The product will initially go on sale in the US and EU in the fourth quarter of this year.
Bravo and a well deserved High Five to the entire HAPILABS team. We're excited to move HAPIfork closer to distribution and grateful to Kickstarter for their support to get this campaign to GO!
SO, c'mon over and support us, order a HAPIfork and start eating more slowly, transforming the way you think about food, eat food and digest food.
Onward & upward to a Healthier and HAPier place!
April 15, 2013
Fourth Annual TEDxBerkeley Event To Kick Off April 20
The fourth annual TEDx Berkeley Event (a 501c3) will kick off on Saturday, April 20, 2013 at Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall with 13 thought provoking and renowned speakers and three performers, set to tackle this year’s theme: Catalyzing Change.
This decade presents significant and global change that will impact how we use technology, how and where we work, communicate and use utilities and applications across industries, from education, mobile technology, biotech and biofuels to healthcare, government, sustainability and beyond.
Learning and sharing ideas in a way that provokes change and making the world a better place is what TED events are about. Given that Berkeley is an epicenter of innovation, inspiration and talent, it’s the perfect location for speakers and attendees alike to participate in this important global conversation.
Below is a list of the 2013 TEDxBerkeley speakers and performers:
- Chris Anderson: Chris is the co-founder and chairman of 3D Robotics, former editor of WIRED Magazine and author of The Long Tail, Free: The Future of a Radical Price and Makers: The New Industrial Revolution.
- Louann Brizendine, MD: Louann is a practicing neuropsychiatrist, a New York Times best-selling author, a professor at UCSF, founder of Women’s Mood & Hormone Clinic, and a media commentator specializing in sex differences and The Male and Female Brain.
- Mallika Chopra: As a media entrepreneur, Mallika is the founder of Intent.com, The Chopra Well, author of 100 Promises To My Baby and 100 Questions From My Child, and a notable voice in the fields of parenting, meditation and intention.
- Alexei Filippenko: Alex is a UC Berkeley Professor of Astronomy and member of both teams that discovered the accelerating expansion of the Universe, who was honored with the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics.
- Eden Full: Eden is the founder of Roseicollis Technologies and spearheaded the solar panel tracking invention called the SunSaluter.
- Dan Millman: Dan, an author of 16 books which have been translated into 29 languages, have influenced millions of lives. His most popular book, Way of the Peaceful Warrior, was adapted to film in 2006.
- Robert Neuwirth: Robert is the author of two books on alternative social and economic structures: Stealth of Nations, an up-close investigation of the value of street markets and underground trade and Shadow Cities, which looks at squatter communities as normal urban neighborhoods.
- Kim Polese – Kim serves as Chairman of social finance startup ClearStreet, was founding product manager for Java at Sun, co-founder of Marimba, CEO of SpikeSource & was named to President Obama’s Innovation Advisory Board.
- Ananya Roy: A UC Berkeley professor in City and Regional Planning and distinguished chair of Global Poverty, she authored City Requiem, Calcutta: Gender and the Politics of Poverty and Poverty Capital: Microfinance and the Making of Development.
- Karen Sokal-Gutierrez: Karen is an associate clinical professor at the University of California and Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program and School of Public Health.
- Curt Tofteland: Curt is the founder of Shakespeare Behind Bars, and has produced dozens Shakespeare Productions at correctional facilities around the US.
- Cecily Sommers: A global trends analyst who helps organizations understand and prepare for the emerging technologies, markets, and ideas shaping our world, Cecily was selected as one of Fast Company’s Fast 50 Reader’s Favorites, founded Push Institute & authored Think Like a Futurist.
- Erica Wides – As national authority on how to find, afford, cook and eat minimally processed natural food, Erica is host and co-creator of Let’s Get Real: The Cooking Show About Finding, Preparing and Eating Food on the Heritage Radio Network.
Performers include Ambiance Lights, a student group dedicated to glove lightshows, which is a style of dance that involves finger and hand manipulation with strobelights, California Golden Overtones, a UC Berkeley all-female completely student-run A Cappella group and Victoria Theodore, keyboardist, musician and background singer who was in Stevie Wonder’s band since 2007. Yaelisa is an Emmy Award-winning flamenco dancer/choreographer and the artistic director of Caminos Flamencos and The New World Flamenco Festival.
For the first time, TEDxBerkeley also falls on Cal Day, UC Berkeley’s Annual Open House. This independent TEDx event is operated under license from TED. Visit the TEDxBerkeley speaker page for more information. Mobile users can also download the AppBaker-created iPhone app for the event.
March 21, 2013
Al Gore on the Environment, Healthcare, Guns & Democracy at #SXSW
I've met Al Gore a few times now over the years and have heard him speak about a dozen times, maybe more, particularly since he became so entrenched with technology while he was in office and after the fact. It should be no surprise that he was in full form at South by Southwest (SXSW) this year on the main stage in Austin in a fireside chat with WSJ's Walt Mossberg.
Those of us who know his agenda and his passion for climate change were waiting for him to dive full force into his 'green' agenda, which he did towards the end of his talk. They started with the digital revolution, appropriate given the "Southby audience." Print media are devastated he said, which is a very old discussion in the world of social media, where SXSW is the Queen Bee conference that takes such discussions to the next level...and this one started eight or so years ago.
That said, mainstream consumers in small towns are still reading newspapers and while they all may have a cell phone, they don't necessarily all use it to get their news. He refers to the 'now' economy as a 'stalker one,' where kids are even wearing 'chips' and being tracked by governments.
"I hope this stalker economy will create a gag reaction," he said. Gore suggests that we're seeing a shift in power that is bigger than what we've seen in 500 years. He also brought up Asia and how China will quickly surpass the U.S. as the largest economic power in the world.....because of that concentration and shift of power, 93% of extra income has gone to the 1% who are in power.
He added, "that's an economic fact," and then went onto say, "while our country is in serious trouble, it doesn't mean I'm not optimistic," but in order to take that power back, he suggested that "we as a country need to TAKE democracy back." Democracy as we know it he asserted, has been hacked. Said Gore, "Our OS (operating system) for the U.S. is our constitution."
He noted that earlier in this career when he was part of the 'system,' they'd spend about 1% of their time raising money versus the 5 or so hours a day today. While modern democracy has never been perfect, the will of the people did drive policy he believes. He said, "Congress is incapable of passing any reform of any significance unless its passed through special interest groups." Mossberg referenced Shapiro's The Last Great Senate at this juncture, reaffirming just how much has changed between the mid 1960s and the 2013 Congress of today. While the world knows about his hunger to educate the world about the negative impact of global warming, it's not as if Gore wasn't convicted and passionate about a number of other topics and issues, including healthcare and the NRA.
On healthcare, he reminded us that the federal government is the biggest purchaser of medicare and medicaid and if that's the case, then "why can't government negotiate like big corporates can to bring the costs down for American citizens?" That received a huge applause from the audience, no surprise given how many of us have been and continue to be screwed by insurance company premiums, wopping high deductibles and taxes. It would be impossible for guns not come up given the random and shocking killings this year in schools, small towns and beyond, and so when it did, Gore was not shy about how he felt. He scratched his head.
"C'mon, the NRA is a complete fraud. A lot of people belong to it, I used to belong. It is financed by the gun manufacturers and the organization has puppet strings. Same thing with the Smoker's Alliance." I wish they spent more time there frankly. On overall growth, Gore suggested that we should no longer use DGP as a guide for economic policy since it doesn't take externalities into account, like a negative one such as pollution or a positive one such as investment into a city in core areas such as mental health, music, culture, education, all of which counts as an 'expense,' not an investment. "They don't take into account future benefits of that investment in a city or region," said Gore. He threw out a few stats demonstrating just how far behind the U.S. is in so many areas including social and economic growth. He said, "We have worse upward social mobility than Tunisia and Egypt. Inequality is growing in the U.S. and so much of it is because our tax code is ridiculous." Hear hear Gore, go go go, not that these kinds of pep talks ever change anything back in Washington. People I know who were Middle Class are now in a struggling Working Class and those who were Working Class are either now working 100 hour weeks destroying their family life and health or on the streets.
And. then there's a wealthy Silicon Valley which seems to be numb and oblivious to how the rest of Americans actually live and think. I know - I live there. Gore asserted that we need to find ways to communicate with other and more effectively in a way that restores democracy.
"We need to TAKE BACK AMERICAN DEMOCRACY," he said firmly to a packed room in the main SXSW auditorium. And, since he couldn't wait to get to climate change, he finally migrated there but softly starting with garbage suggesting that we toss garbage into our 'country' as if its an open sewer, filling up the 'sewer' of gaseous unhealthy waste that is equivalent to 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs.
With 53% of the country in drought, he also suggested that this shift we've been seeing is also related to global warming. Like garbage, like open sewers, like car fumes and everything else we've leaked into this environment without a care for the consequences, he threw out another alarming stat: we've seen $110 billion in climate disasters alone.
On the upside, he claimed that the investment in solar and wind is rising and the more we invest here and use it, the cheaper it will become, making it more inexpensive for us to rely on solar than coal, gas and oil over time. In order to get there however, he said that we need to reverse organizations, not people. Yes, organizations AND government Al.
Photos by Renee Blodgett.