December 21, 2012
The Roku Box: The Perfect & Easy Way to Stream Content
Streaming. So many of us are doing it now to get our content, yet folks like my sister or friends from other parts of the world I keep in touch with through old fashioned email and yes, even sometimes social networks, don't stream. It's not their normal way of viewing or listening to content.
Roku has come up with a way to make it easy for anyone to use. Their mantra or at least one of them is: streaming made simple. With over 150,000 movies and shows instantly available, Roku delivers various titles to match your mood. Using Netflix, you can see up to 1080p HD video or TV shows through Hulu Plus. There are also hundreds of free movies from Crackle or the latest Hollywood releases on Amazon Instant Video. There’s also access to premium services like HBO GO and EPIX, available via participating providers.Roku delivers more than movies and TV shows as well. In the Roku Channel Store, you get instant access to the best selection of streaming entertainment available – over 600 channels, which includes live sports, music, photo and video sharing, games, international programming, radio, tech news, non-tech news, podcasts, cartoons and more.
They also have a great one-stop search feature, where you can find your favorite movies and TV shows all from one place – no matter if they're on Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video or Crackle. For example, you can search for a title, keyword or actor. Once you find what you’re interested in, all you have to do is select a channel it's on, and you're ready to start watching.
December 14, 2012
LeWeb's The Internet of Things: From Lightbulbs & Robots to Augmented Reality Apps & Air Quality
From a couple of hundred attendees in the first year, they had 5,000 attendees this past year alone for both their London and Paris events, London being a test, something that they plan to continue doing in the years ahead.
They attract big players like Orange, Microsoft and others and mid-tier players known in Europe and beyond, like Parrot, as well as tons of start-ups eager secure funding and entrepreneurs looking for the next big thing. It's also an incredible place to "schmooze" on the floor at the event itself as well as the umpteen after parties and events they hold in the evenings throughout the center of Paris.
I returned to San Francisco from an exhausting trip of meetings and pow-wows to hear that LeWeb was acquired by Reed MIDEM, one of the leading events organizers in the world. How that changes the format of LeWeb moving forward is yet to be seen, but more budget and marketing should 'in theory' lead to more "high-touch" events, better food and higher profile speakers. That said, it could also drive ticket prices up.
Acquisition aside, Loic and Geraldine LeMeur managed to pull off yet another fabulous event, from A-list speakers to entertainment and networking.
So, who showed up there and unveiled their latest?
Parrot's CEO Henri Seydoux, who I had an opportunity to meet several years ago when they hosted the TravelingGeeks trip I organized to Paris, was as charming as ever on the LeWeb stage in an interview with Loic LeMeur.
Within LeWeb's theme of the "Internet of Things," he made what could have been a 'faux pas' by saying that you can't reference women as things or you'll be in trouble for a long time. It didn't turn into a faux pas though at least from what I could tell, since everyone laughed -- including women. I happen to like their products and team. As an aside, rumor has it that his actress daughter played a role in the latest James Bond film. Ahh yes, the things you learn at LeWeb.
Chris Shipley ran the start-up event; the finalists were: Be-Bound, Qunb and Recommend.
Be-Bound gives you access to the Internet without wifi, aka stay connected to the web without the Web.
A stat for the taking: 3G/WIFI = 14% and 2G = 86%. These guys use the SMS layer. Their business model is using prepaid credits called B-Miles. For example, 3 Euros = 35 Be-Miles, 10E = 200 Be-Miles and so on. They'll also use advertising and couponing to drive revenue.
Their objective is to reach 3.2% of this business over the next 3 years. They said on stage, “our business is cash generating. We hope to achieve cash-even in three years.”
Qunb's platform is all about quantitative data. The idea is you can now visualize and broadcast your own data! How it works: their platform understands your data semantically so your data becomes compatible with other data so they can make sense of each other. They’re going after large corporations who are willing to understand their data and compare it so it makes sense in a meaningful way. Currently, their product is featured on the SAP marketplace.
The last finalist was Recommend, which is a platform that gives you recommendations from people you trust. There seems to be a lot of 'recommendation engines' out there, so I thought this one had the least potential from running a sustainable business in the long run vis a vis the others.
Their pitch is quality not quantity: recommendations from friends only in your network. (friends + friends of friends). They say they will succeed because it’s viral and sticky, sticky because it’s recommendations for every day things and apparently there's also notifications for extra 'value.'
Then, Team Blacksheep gave a demo - well sort of. A flying plane was let loose in the LeWeb audience. The TBS DISCOVERY frame is an upgrade for all Flamewheel F450 frames, using F450 arms and a custom TBS top and bottom plate including power distribution board. It's cool to watch and for geeks who are interested in this, apparently easy to build.
I thought that Netatmo's concept was interesting - they're offering a personal weather station for the iPod and iPad, where you can monitor weather and air quality. Says the team, "we spend 80 percent inside - our lifestyle is indoor and we have to think about indoor air quality as well as outdoor air quality." They have created a weather station to monitor inside and outdoor environments and then they send this data to the cloud.
The team showed real time data across a map of Paris where we could see weather patterns across different sections of the city. They take measurements of environment and are using crowdsourcing to bring this data to people in a way that is usable and "useful."
They think that real estate prices will rely on data like this and can impact prices and other things. The more co2 you have, the more dense your space is, which decreases the quality of your air.
Then, MG Siegler interviewed Instagram's Kevin Systrom, who's always at his polished best. I saw him a few months back in a similar "question exchange" with Sarah Lacy at one of her PandoDaily events in San Francisco.
Polished aside and interesting app or not, I still just can't get over or accept that their app could have been worth $730 million when the Facebook acquisition 'completed' back in September or ever could be. And, I'm a serious photography geek and still don't 'get it.'
Stephanie Hospital and team at Orange hosted a power girls networking bash one afternoon, which I ironically went to with Yossi Vardi, most definitely not a woman.
While it was indeed mostly women, a few male stragglers were there including French photographer Olivier Ezratty who is working on a photo exhibition of powerful women in the digital age. I'll share the latest as his work progresses. He also does a wonderful round-up of LeWeb every year, so check out his coverage here.
Speaking of Yossi, he gave a talk on things start-ups need to think about and tips of the trade. He says, "Pivoting is important because of the feedback you receive along the way, however doing more than 2 pivots is bad."
Additionally, he encouraged young entrepreneurs to network more often, always look for ways to provide value, and to try to find a funder from a mutual contact (someone you trust and someone the funder is likely to trust). He says of investors, "they need assurances and recommendations from people they trust." His main source of deal flow is through friends with credibility.
On exits, he says there's a big debate in Israel at the moment about whether early exits are good. Pros and cons, he notes. Having an early exit leaves a lot of value on the table but if you want a bigger exit, later...you obviously increase the risk because it will take more time.
I also ran into Stephanie Czerny who is one force behind the DLD Conference, held every year in Munich Germany. If you haven't been, you MUST - I keep meaning to return it was so good, if only January didn't present so many deadlines. I love these guys! Not only is the content and networking top notch, but their hearts are in the right place -- they're doing great things for the industry and world.
In the main room, we then moved into physical objects, you know, real tangible products you can feel. The team from Sphero gave a demo on stage of their robotic ball, which has mechanics and two way wireless communication.
They're using 6 axis IMu (essentially a navigation system) so they know where Sphero is going. Think of it as a robotics gaming system.
They said on stage, "We think there's a continuum where games live inside augmented reality and we're trying to mash and bridge the virtual and the real." He adds, "a system of this nature requires strong computational power and you have to build interfaces in virtual and physical world."Ubooly also wants to bridge this world, but for kids aged 4-9. CEO Carly Gloge was on the LeWeb stage showing a stuffed animal that comes to life when an iPhone is stuck inside it using voice recognition.
The "toy" suggests games to the kids in real time and gives feedback on their participation based on the phone’s accelerometer. Price point is cheap and perhaps one of the reasons, it seemed to receive positive feedback. Current going price is around $29.95.
Lockitron also got quite a bit of buzz at the event and apparently others think its cool too - they've already placed some $2.2 million in pre-orders for the device.
The device is a smartphone=controlled keyless door lock. You can reserve one with a shipping date of late May 2013 for $179.
I hung out with the HAPILABS guys who were showing off their HAPIfork, which will be unveiled at CES next month. The HAPIfork is an electronic fork that monitors your eating habits, giving you precise information about your eating schedule and alerting you with the help of indicator lights and a gentle vibration when you are eating too fast.
Below is CEO Fabrice Boutain showing off their first prototype.
The other cool thing I saw was Australian-based LIFX, a revolutionary new lightbulb that takes something that we all use in our homes, and makes it smarter and more efficient. It was launched on Kickstarter, where they raised over $1.3 million.
The LIFX lightbulb is a WiFi enabled, multi-color, energy efficient LED light bulb that you control with your iPhone or Android. How cool is that? See the below video to learn more.
I had an opportunity to meet and chat with the founder of San Francisco-based ReAllocate, who is not about launching a new social media apps or anything that will connect things to the Internet or the Internet to things.
ReAllocate is a global network of engineers, designers and entrepreneurs empowering under served communities through technology and innovation to improve quality of life. I love what they're doing!
They call themselves "ReAllocators" and they engage in digital storytelling to inspire participation, promote collaboration, and raise awareness about humanitarian causes. I hope to visit them state-side.
They supports three program areas that intertwine to create an infrastructure that supports sustainable development through education, ecosystems, equality, and economics. Learn a little bit more about what they're doing in Alaska and in Japan.
I also had fun hanging out with the UK Trade & Investment folks as well. Did I mention all the after events? It's no wonder everyone who ventures to Paris every December for LeWeb is so happily wiped out at the end of it - fois gras, French bordeaux, dark chocolate, crepes, fabulous coffee and more.
In traditional Loic and Geraldine style, they managed to nail a top notch act for the speaker dinner. Four girls in an act called ESCALA wowed the crowd with their violins and energy. See my write-up on them in We Blog the World's Music Section.
The Dublin guys also did a meet-up at a place called Delaville Cafe on Boulevard de Bonne Nouvelle. It's a place my Paris buds didn't know about, but the ambiance was great, especially for group gatherings. They too do great things for the industry between their Founders event, Dublin Web Summit and other initiatives. And, I have to admit, like the French, I have a soft spot for the Irish and I love Dublin.
Yet another successful LeWeb, an event I look forward to every December. Loic and Geraldine know how to curate an incredibly bright group of people who are working on things that will help shape technology as we know it and as a result, life as we know it.
I love the initiatives coming out of Europe and LeWeb is the best place in Europe for that global conversation that bridges what's happening on the continent and the rest of the world!!
For hoots, check out my review on UBER's launch at LeWeb (aka in Paris) last year, my LeWeb round-up from 2010, as well as a fun post from 2006 praising the food, suggesting that American conference organizers could learn a lot from their French counterparts.
December 14, 2012 in Conference Highlights, Europe, Events, On France, On Innovation, On Mobile & Wireless, On Robotics, On Technology, Social Media, Videos, WBTW, Web 2.0 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
November 05, 2012
The Singularity Understood & Misunderstood
I've been attending Singularity events since they started having them, before people really knew what singularity meant.
Frankly, most people still don't.
Outside high powered technology circles and intellectuals, singularity isn't a topic that is discussed on dates or at the dinner table, even in Silicon Valley where technology and deals are sexier than toned women in miniskirts.
According to Wikipedia, "the technological singularity is the theoretical emergence of greater-than-human superintelligence through technological means. Since the capabilities of such intelligence would be difficult for an unaided human mind to comprehend, the occurrence of a technological singularity is seen as an intellectual event horizon, beyond which events cannot be predicted or understood."
Advocates talk about an "intelligence explosion", where superintelligences design successive generations of increasingly powerful minds, AND most importantly, that they won't stop until the cognitive abilities surpass the human mind.
Whoah Nellie! That's what I said when I first read Ray Kurzweil's book, The Singularity is Near and on many occasions since being involved in "singularity circles" since then. It's a scary concept for mere mortals to comprehend, at least until you better understand the landscape.
The term was popularized by science fiction writer Vernor Vinge, who I had an opportunity to hang with at the latest Singularity Summit in San Francisco in October. He argues that artificial intelligence, human biological enhancement or brain-computer interfaces might be possible causes of the singularity.
Think of it as an era in time where civilization as we know has dramatically changed. The Singularians (yes, that's what they call themselves), believe that this era will "transcend our biological limitations and amplify our creativity."
I love that but wonder if technological singularity is the only way (or the best way) to transcend and amplify humans.
There is a group of spiritual and creative types like me who are intrigued by the singularity. We find some truth to it and while some of it sounds attractive and appealing, there's a whole subsection of the singularity world that takes me back to "Whoah Nellie" again and again.
When you sit on the right brain side of the fence for most of your life, you find yourself arguing (oops, debating) with scientists and technologists about all the issues that are often left out of the discussion, like emotions, love and feeling. Oh yeah, and intuition, something women have notoriously 'owned' because we're so damn good at it.
One could argue that in this new era, things like emotion and love will be transformed also, so how we view matters of the heart will not be the same way we view them today. In other words, there's no point trying to figure out how they'll matter in this new era because everything will be transcended: our intelligence and our emotional states.
What I love about singularian culture (if there is such a thing), is the commitment to progress, technological advancement (largely for positive change) and the ongoing, intriguing debate about the future and where we're heading. And, oh btw, it's an opportunity to learn from some of the greatest minds who are pushing the needle forward today.
If you have a discussion with someone about singularity who knows what they're talking about, you shouldn't be too far along in the conversation before the phrase exponential growth comes up, a phrase referred to by Moore's Law as a logical reason why we can expect the singularity to happen sooner than some believe.
So, who's among this circle aside from respected futurist Ray Kurzweil (below) and scientist fiction writer Vernor Vinge? It's broad and growing every day.
They've even formed a university around it, whose mission is to assemble, educate and inspire a new generation of leaders who strive to understand and utilize exponentially advancing technologies to address humanity’s grand challenges.
Hans Moravec and Eliezer Yudkowsky are also cited as singularity theorists and the circle is expanding as "its" tentacles dip into other industries.
Speakers at the recent Singularity Summit included thinkers and entrepreneurs such as Julia Galef who spoke on rationality, cognition and the future, Linda Avey who addressed personal genomics, and professor Steven Pinker (below) who took us through a history of violence. (video here)
We also had an interactive dialogue with Daniel Kahneman, heard about artificial intelligence and the barrier of meaning from Melanie Mitchell, and our 'viral' future from Carl Zimmer. (below)
A quest in metaphysics was explored by Jaan Tallinn (below), Robin Hanson's topic was: A Tsunami of Life: The Extraordinary Society of Emulated Minds and Stuart Armstrong discussed how we're 'predicting' AI.
Temple Grandin who has done a lot of work with autism spoke to us about different types of thinking. There's the photorealistic visual thinker (poor in algebra), the pattern thinker (poor at music & math), the verbal mind (poor at drawing) and the auditory thinkers (who are poor at drawing). She brought up the power of bottom up thinking rather than bottom down, where you learn by specific examples. In other words, get out and discover things, citing travel as a great educator. Hear hear.
She says, "many talented, quirky and gifted students are going nowhere because they have no mentors to help them through their quirkiness." So right. While I received emotional support from my grandparents along the way (they raised me), I received more emotional support from random mentors who fell into my life path, amazing accidents in time I thought as a child.
Pinker, who took us on a journey of violence, talked about its connection to literacy. Much of his research wouldn't surprise anyone since its logical: literacy matters for a decrease in violence since it brings reason into the equation, winning over superstitious thinking.
Literacy is also a mixture of cosmopolitanism, where you increasingly consume fiction, drama, journalism and the arts.
The implication of this over time resulted in the need to redefine modernity...what culture means: our tribes, family, community and religion.
Like Kurzweil, I always love hearing Pinker speak. My brain is better off at the end of it.
So, if singularity thinking is drawing some of the best and the brightest, what's the real controversy aside from fear of the unknown, which is inevitable?
Carl H. Flygt quotes Bill Joy in a paper he wrote in 2005 on singularity theory:
“A traditional utopia is a good society and a good life involving other people,” says Bill Joy. “This techno-utopia is all about: ‘I don’t get diseases; I don’t die; I get to have better eyesight and be smarter’ and all of this. If you described this to Socrates or Plato they would laugh at you.”
But the paper goes on to say, "But Socrates or Plato would not laugh at the idea of pure conversation, which cuts off the me-talk before it can start and puts the human being directly in community with the reality of his (her) cosmic consciousness, of his (her) ontological impulses and of his (her) capacity for self-control and settlement into the higher bodies given human nature by its cosmic mereology."
I have no clue whether this paper has any credibility and note that it's also now seven years old...but, it was and is a viewpoint. Naysayer LogicPriest who calls himself an atheist, skeptic, anti-authoritarian and crazy person who likes cat and among other things, science, doesn't discount that AI isn't possible because any system of enough complexity can emerge into intelligence. He feels we may have very little to say to it however.
He writes: "we would need to emulate much of ourselves in an AI. We would need some pretend body and environment, some emulated limbic and nervous system (the brain is only PART of the nervous system, something most futurists forget). We would also need to build a completely different type of computer, one where the architecture is structurally tied to certain actions, one with DNA instructions, separate abstracted layers like our 'reptile' brain to work it's normal, computer functions and higher order processors for complex thought."
Regardless if you're an outside observer who is merely curious, a student of science, or writers like those I discovered in my search who have strong opinions on the topic, technology is accelerating with a force that's hard to deny. It is working its way into our every existence.
Consider that we use it get directions, read digital books, buy products and communicate to the outside world not to mention the people who email a loved one in the very next room rather than have a "human" conversation with them.
We use it for voting, research, asking questions on the most basic things like how to start a lawnmower or how to cook a turkey, sending photos to grandparents, watching a movie and monitoring our diets. We even use it to virtually talk to doctors about our health, consultants about our finances and teachers about our children's education. There's no end to how and where we use it or will use it in the not too distant future. Augmented reality is here and expanding.
The real question is a moral and ethical one. How conscious, present and aware are those who are building and executing the stuff that brings us into the next era, the one singularity promises is nearer than we think? What is their mission for "it" and for "us" as a species?
How will this explosion impact life as we know it? And, for women, artists, creative right brains and expressionists of the world, how will it impact things we hold so dear like love, emotion, physical relationships and our identity around spirituality?
What do you think?
Note: Twitter handles of some of the people either in this world or who talk about it from time-to-time: @raykurzweil2035 @labenz @lukeprog @laurademing @sydney_uni @ricolution @Sydney_ideas @jayrosen_nyc @biotechbusdev @elonmusk @robertwrighter @stephenfry @edge @rkurzban @temple_grandin @laurademing @lindaavey @sapinker @melmitchell1 @carlzimmer @robinhanson @wilbanks @ch402 @magicsaucemedia @noorFSiddigui
November 5, 2012 in America The Free, Conference Highlights, Events, On Innovation, On People & Life, On Robotics, On Science, On Technology, On the Future, WBTW, Web 2.0 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
September 30, 2012
MIT's Jodie Wu, an Inspiration & Force Behind Change in Tanzania
Enough people know I love Africa and the fact that I have spent time there and lived there.
Combine these known facts with her entrepreneur and technology work and it makes sense that we'd have a lot to talk about.
I also love meeting women CEOs who are an inspiration to be around and in the midst of all this background, did I mention that she's only 25?
She was a speaker this September at the event, the second year I made my way across country to Louisville Kentucky to meet interesting people who are help shaping the world.
Her company Global Cycle Solutions is a social enterprise developing bicycle attachments that improve the lives of smallholder farmers. In May 2009, as an undergraduate in mechanical engineering at MIT, she led her team to win the MIT 100K Business Plan Competition, and in August 2009, she moved to Arusha, Tanzania, to launch her company.
Her vision is to end "cycled poverty." I had an opportunity to spend time with her before and after her talk. She says, "so much money is going into foreign aid and it's not being spent effectively. The typical person just needs tools and investment in their education. If they buy it, they need it, if they don’t buy it, then it isn’t good enough.
Fair enough. Even if the technology is advanced and might work in the U.S. or Europe, if Africans don't buy the product, then it means its not solving real needs they have every day.
In Tanzania, Bernard their inventor, is creating water pumps, grinders and pedals and working on designing a better bike for Africa.
Her favorite product they're working on right now is the solar lantern. She says with a smile, "it actually bounces like a ball but it doesn’t break. The most significant thing about the light right away is that when people use it, their productivity goes up right away. People can charge their phones at their houses rather than them having to walk five kilometers just to charge their phone, which is what people are doing today."
When she was asked by someone from the audience about how they decided on price, she said that narrowing down the "right price" was difficult, because it depends on their harvest and the timing of it. In other words, $50 is not a lot but they may not have the money to buy it until their harvest comes in. They are testing the pay per use model and when they have all the money, they can opt to buy their own.
Not a boat load of MIT graduates take off for Africa to start a company. Why Tanzania? She says she asked herself after graduation, “is it really going to make me happy working to make a larger corporation richer? What I love about working in Africa, you can see the impact of your engineering immediately – there’s an immediate satisfaction."
Having lived in Africa myself, I resonate with her sense of satisfaction and the immediate reward. I also remembered such a stronger sense of gratitude and appreciation than we have in the west.
On lessons learned? The best advice she received from one of her MIT mentors was “Just do it.” She also learned that change doesn’t happen instantaneously. She thought she’d be in Tanzania for two years and then move onto other countries, but she learned that two years wasn’t realistic at all. Jodie thought that they'd break even in two years, but they’ve been there for four years and she thinks she probably has another two years before she can move her projects into other African markets.
Other great advice she received along the way is one that everyone can learn from: “if any one task is taking more than 20% of your time, delegate and outsource it.” I laughed out loud when she talked about experiences hiring: “if I don’t love you during the interview process and want to go to lunch with you next week, then I won’t love working with you.” It's so true and yet sometimes we are blinded in the interviewing process because we think of skills more than we think of synergy, at least right away.
Jodie apparently pays all of her employees through her phone. She sees so many opportunities in that area and countries like Tanzania are miles ahead. “LEDs are becoming so efficient and that could change things dramatically for Tanzania and other parts of Africa. Remember that 90% of the population is off the grid,” says Jodie.
They’ve set up a group of village ambassadors who have become their evangelists. Essentially, it’s the equivalent of a virtual sales force but it’s organic...the way it should be.
Jodie is an inspiration and it's great to see her MIT education and knowledge pouring into an eastern African country that needs it so much.
August 12, 2012
Reid Hoffman on Lessons Learned Over 20 Years
Reid Hoffman is one of my favorite entrepreneurs in the technology industry.
I was introduced to him and 'his world' when I first moved to California six or so years ago. There was even a time I was talking to LinkedIn about working with them though it now seems like it was another lifetime. Things move so quickly in Silicon Valley.
Some people decide to move west for access to technology and money, and so they can work with the smartest and brightest people in the industry'. For me, since I'm more of an artist tha a geek, a big part of it was the opportunity to work with "the smart and bright" but it was also a lifestyle and attitude decision.
Silicon Valley represented a fresher, more aggressive, dive in or die approach to business and entrepreneurship that was intoxicating after working in Boston where most company execs took a conservative and apprehensive approach more often than not, operating from a place of fear rather than opportunity.
And, given that I was in the technology industry, doing my thing here only seemed natural. People who personified the best in entrepreneurial attitude in the early days for me were people like Jeff Hawkins, Dick Costolo (he was building Feedburner at the time), and Reid Hoffman.
It was 'this mindset' that was prevalent when I moved west that Reid emphasized this past week in a fireside chat in San Francisco with Panda Daily's Sarah Lacy.
One of the things that I really like about Sarah Lacy's interview style is that she likes to be and "is" provocative and isn't afraid of 'owning it.' Men never seem to get slaughtered for this approach, but women often do, and playing in a world where Hollywood and creativity meets tech and business, I think Sarah pulls this off consistently well.
She asked him about the very analytic and organized way he approached his career. Reid took a more methodical and structured path than so many others I was inspired by at the time, something he admitted to when Lacy took us through his career and myriad of start-ups. He said he made a list of all the skills he'd need to run a company and went through acquiring them one-by-one: from Apple's eWorld project, Fujitsu and SocialNet to PayPal and LinkedIn and everything in between.
"Entrepreneurship is about jumping off a cliff," Reid says. "You have to figure out what kind of founder you are: Design, Product or Engineering? Once you know, then acquire the other skills you need to get to the next level." For him, it was product management early on in his career.
When you start out as an entrepreneur reminds Reid, "you're never going to know the right thing to do all the time." Of his PayPal days, he laughed as he referenced a Peter Thiel quote who had said "I've never learned so much in my life except between 2 and 3 years old." Adds Reid, "If you're not red lining and failing enough, you're not learning enough. Don't beat yourself up and have to succeed all the time."
Advice he shared from his start-ups and things all entrepreneurs should think about:
1. Think about how your product will evolve and plan for it.
2. Think about how and where you'll raise your next round as soon as you've finished raising your first round. If you're not, you'll die.
3. Hire people with deep expertise in areas you don't have but really need.
4. Hire really fast learners - this is more important with early stage start-ups than someone who has 20 years of experience but may not be a fast learner and can pivot with you when things go south.
5. Hire people who are smart collaborative team players. Ask yourself: can they navigate, learn and adapt quickly and shift gears when you change a strategy overnight. He referred to the fact that PayPal had so many near death experiences.
6. Find something unique and new or be first or second. A Groupon variation could work, but not a third or fourth one.
7. Three things you must have is virality, SEO and differentiators so you can build a set of products that can be built into an ecosystem.
8. You should always have a mindset of being terrified. Be paranoid, especially as a developer. (Note: he subscribes to belief that only the paranoid survive).
9. On choosing your team, go for people who share your vision and can go with you through the bad and the good times.
10. Build a team with people you simply can't 'hire.' (I LOVED THIS ONE and it is so so true).
One of the funniest and truest analogies he brought up was how much creating a team and bringing on an investor for a start-up was like a "shotgun marriage." He says with a grin, "Let's have dinner a couple of times, sign a paper and get married. Then you start running very fast, together and you all have to get along. If the alignment isn't there and you can't get along, it's not going to last."
We moved into company experience and opinions, which included both successes and failures.
In the early days of PayPal, the founders (Max Levchin, Peter Thiel, Elon Musk & Luke Nosek) had different ideas of what PayPal 'should be'. He said, "company direction changed often...we pivoted so many times, that it took us awhile to figure out what PayPal needed to be to sustain itself. Staying independent was highly risky given where we were at."
He says of Friendster, "they failed to get their team to operate well. They also had two minute load times which is essentially like saying F-U, go away."
On Tribe, he says "they got taken over by a community that was mostly Burning Man."
Of gigs he was most surprised that failed? After pondering for a bit, he said, "probably Digg because they had so many users and they had momentum."
Of products that haven't really progressed since they started? Yahoo Mail was his first answer, but then quickly added, "but maybe Marissa will fix this."
Of things which have accelerated faster than he thought they would? Twitter, which he passed up as an investor and is sorry that he had. "I couldn't understand their motivation early on," he said, but then suddently I got it, 'oh, it's a public sphere of attention gestures."
I had to laugh because it was a much geekier way of saying what I was thinking in those days "geeks with egos and ideas who needed to talk using as few words as possible with symbols that didn't make sense." Obviously Twitter has evolved into something so much broader today and rather than a platform designed by geeks for geeks, among other things, it has become a megaphones for brands.
On Zynga, he says noting that he just came from a board meeting and there were obviously things he couldn't talk about, "they have a lot of money in the bank, social gaming is an important category and matters and they have tons of users." On what he advises the team: "Don't worry about the market and what they're doing, just focus on building out your vision. The game is in front of you."
Lacy asked him if he felt that Zynga went public too early. "No, I don't think so," he says, "because it will take so long to build products and the rest of their vision out. They're going through a bit of a storm, but they have the fortitude and the team to pull through it." One of his funnier moments was when Mark Pincus asked him when games would show up on LinkedIn. "His answer? "Never," he said with a laugh. "It's not our business."
Then, there's the Facebook IPO. Reid says, "they decided they could increase their offering and when you do an IPO, you need to create a positive outlook for the future."
On LinkedIn and their IPO, he says, "we decided to go with the New York Stock Exchange, because we felt that it aligned better with our own brand."
Lacy asked him if he felt that Groupon went public too early?
"It's easy to get sidetracked and distracted with an IPO," he says. "They need to focus on building out new products....and when you have to deal with so much marketing and press, it is easy to get defocused, rather than concentrating on the things that you need to do to make your product better. They mishandled some of the things around the IPO and got distracted, but I think the relationships they have with merchants is better than people think." Like his remarks about Zynga, he adds, "the game is still in front of them."
On whether they should have taken the Google deal. "I'm always bullish...I think it's better to go long."
What about now and in the future? He says he wants to work on things that make a difference in the world. As for what that means to him? While Reid isn't Pierre Omidyar or Tony Tsieh in that he hasn't spend a chunk of his life in a business that honors and invests in businesses for social good, making a difference is what inspires him more than making money. Hear hear.
He serves on the boards of Do Something (an organization for young people taking action), The Weekend to be Named Later, Kiva.org, Mozilla and Endeavor Global an international non-profit development organization that finds and supports high-impact entrepreneurs in emerging markets.
Reid - thanks for sharing your inspiring words of wisdom and lessons learned.
April 29, 2012
TEDxSummit in Qatar's Doha Brings Together Nearly 100 Cultures to Accelerate Change & Meaning
I recently came back from Doha Qatar, where I attended a week-long event exclusively for TEDx organizers.
The first TEDxSummit was hosted by the Doha Film Institute at the Katara Cultural Center aka the Katara Valley of Cultures. The "village" is a bit like a sprawling outdoor convention center that houses an ampitheatre, tents and domes where you can see live concerts and events.
Katara was born out of a long held vision to position the State of Qatar as a cultural lighthouse of art if you will, highlighting the best of theatre, literature, music and visual art in the Middle East. It sits along the water, so you can watch boats sail by and a sunrise in the early evening off in the distance while you take in your event, whether it be performing arts or meetings, or in our case, a mishmash of both.
Before arriving, I wasn't sure what to expect, from the kinds of content they'd choose to why Qatar and what is Qatar? Refer to my numerous posts on Qatar including a write-up on the Arab Museum of Modern Art, images of the impressive Museum of Islamic Art, a display of work from renowned Chinese artist Cai Guo Qiang and the over-the-top Murakami Ego exhibit.
What is Qatar is probably the most mind blowing takeaway from the event as you'll see from my write-ups. At first, it didn't make sense why we were having an event in such a remote place, a country barely known to so many and yet, after returning from the Summit, the location makes perfect sense.
Given that the Summit attracted TEDsters from nearly a hundred countries around the world, it is in fact a fairly central location, though obviously a longer haul for those of us on the American west coast. And, given the diversity of the attendees, Qatar, which rather than having hundreds of years of history and cultural references, really only started to make its marks a few decades ago.
In other words, its a country in search of an identity as demonstrated by the volume of new immigrants pouring in to tap into Qatar's exploding economic growth...less a land of local Qataris and more a land of transplants from Jordan, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Lebanon, the list goes on.
And, let's not forget other stats: 75% of those living in Doha and surrounding area are expats/foreign nationals. Doha is preparing for its growing global interest; the city is about as modern as it gets with highrises going up faster than Las Vegas hotels in its prime.
The other reason Qatar makes sense as a location, is that so few of us in the west know "enough" about the Middle East, particularly the complexities of Islam and the culture that goes along with it. Understanding Qatar helps you understand the rest of the region.
Through greater understanding comes compassion, empathy, tolerance, gratitude and a willingness to not just expand your horizons and knowledge base, but reach out and help in whatever way makes sense. This, by the way, is integral to what TED at its core is about.
And so, we all embarked on soil that is new, yet old, to discuss ways we can help each other, sharing best practices, what works and what doesn't.
Some of the sessions included: How to Write About Your Speakers, Sponsorships, Keeping Your Event Sustainable, Social Media Strategies, Building Salons, Blogging, Making Change with Corporate Events, Capturing Great Photo Content, Planning, Stage & Production Tips, Branding, Livestreaming, Working with Tight Budgets and more.
Clearly it made sense for teams from specific regions to pow-wow with each other. Wwe had breakout sessions in large tents in the middle of the desert broken out by parts of the world, i.e., Eastern Europe, Australia, Central America and in the states, it was broken down even further (northern California, Midwest and so on).
Below are ketchnotes of one of the TEDxSummit sessions from C. Todd Lombardo, organizer of TEDxSomerville in the greater Boston area.
While meeting by region helps each group share resources, and even space for meetings, its amazing how much you can learn from organizers in parts of the world that have nothing in common with your own. This is separate of course from what you learned from locals who happened to be hanging out or 'working the event' -- in the middle of the desert.
For example, storytelling on stage is very different at a small event in West Africa, yet what is so natural in a village is often missing from a large TEDx stage that may resort to Powerpoint and a speaker's 20 years of experience and knowledge. The opposite applies too of course; there are clearly things from larger events that small towns can use to expand their presence and brand awareness. In other words: borrow from the formal for the informal and take the informal into the formal and make magic happen by blending the best of both together.
The other surprise for me was the whole concept of "you don't know what you don't know and you don't know who you don't know." I didn't even know all the organizers in my own region (greater Bay Area), nor did I know the depth of where TEDx events had spread.
For example, while the events are largely by geography, there are a few that are connected to brands/companies, universities and other institutions. Did you know that there's a TEDxHouses of Parliament? This isn't just fascinating data - this is revolutionary. Consider the kinds of conversations they have already had and will evolve as a result of this kind of "new" organization and collaboration.
Bringing everyone together to share, collaborate and execute on ideas around the world is brilliant. Let's not forget the 'healing' and compassion that comes as a result of greater understanding, which inevitably comes from bringing such a global audience together in one place.
Well done and hats off to Bruno Giussani, Chris Anderson, Lara Stein, and the NY & Doha teams for turning another great idea into a reality.
Some of the Speaker and Presentation Highlights include:
- 'The Human Arabesque' opening night video sourced inspiration from Doha's Museum of Islamic Art. The team researched traditional arabesque patterns in a quest to incorporate regional culture to create a moving, human sculpture representing the transformative power of x.
- Futurist Juan Enriquez has always been a long time favorite of mine. He contends that science and technology are leading us rapidly towards the next "human species." See excelvm.com.
- Vinay Venkatraman, who is a founding partner at the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design, has developed an alternative vision to creating a more inclusive world through a design concept he refers to as 'Frugal Digital.'
- TED Senior Fellow Cesar Harada demonstrated a bold new design for a sailing craft with a flexible rudder -- on both ends. Called 'Protei,' the robot is designed to sense and clean up oceans.
- I loved Shereen El Fedi's talk on how bad laws fuel and good laws fight HIV. Chart after chart, example after example, she demonstrated her point. Check out their work at HIV Law Commission.
- Amit Sood wowed the crowd with an incredibly impressive demo of the Google Art Project. They have collected and curated the world's greatest art, from museums and beyond, onto the web, making it as easy to access your favorite piece of work or view art you've never heard of or are likely never to see in person. You can even search by sub-category, by typing in for example, red and Picasso for everything that Picasso did in red. There are other filters as well that could keep you glued to this site for hours if not days.
- Rives, who many of us know as a renowned poet, has given awe-inspiring performances on the TED stage before. In Doha, he took us a journey of factoids using his poetic tongue. Bouncing from site to site, we learned about some of the most trivial and not so trivial knowledge on the web, ranging from culture and politics to insects and sex.
- With passion and energy, Indian artist Raghava KK argued why everyone should have a 200-year plan.
- Rare book scholar William Noel fascinated the audience with his research. Using a particle accelerator to read ancient works, he took us on a journey from start to finish. He's a huge believer in open-source and open-data and he and his team are making their work open to others (aka the web of ancient manuscripts).
- Comedian Maz Jobrani intertwined humor with local culture and events. You have depth as a comedian when you can stand on a stage in Qatar and have Americans, Lebanese, Saudi Arabians, Qataris, Scandinavians, Japanese and Aussies all laughing at the same time. He's known for his work on the 'Axis of Evil Comedy Tour,' which traveled around the world, including the Middle East.
- National Food Security Programme chairman Fahad Bin Mohammed Al-Attiya educated me most about where Qatar was a hundred years ago versus where it is today and where's its heading. They're working on a Master Plan, using Qatar, which only has two days of water supply, as a model for sustainable, environmentally friendly agriculture in arid regions.
- Yahay Alabdeli who curates TEDxBaghdad created a lot of teary eyed attendees with his story about how he traveled back to Iraq after 34 years to create an event that pulled not just locals but others who had left Iraq but returned specifically for his event. As you can imagine, it was much more than a reunion. He went through a number of obstacles to make it happen, so it seems perfect that his event theme was: "Making the Impossible Possible."
- One of my old time favorites Hans Rosling returned to the TED stage, bringing humor to sex, religion and data once again. What was even more fascinating was having his global trends in health and economics from every country in the world presented in a place where we had representation by nearly every region in the world. All of his talks exude one of his sweetest talents - his dry humor and quirkiness. Beyond the quirkiness he shows in his professional life, which adds to the power of his talks, let's not forget that the man swallows swords for kicks in his spare time. What's not to adore about Hans? (see a video interview with Hans at the Summit here - he uses legos, rocks and humor that reveals deep insight in typical Hans-style).
Because the event was an International Summit where best practices and learning beyond "talks" were a big part of the agenda, the highlights that will inevitably be glued to people's minds and hearts include the experiencial activities.
Below is a brainstorming session in a tent set up in the desert dunes, roughly an hour and a half south of Doha.
There was dune bashing, also in the south of the country.
And, kayacking among mangroves in the north, after which we were guests in the home of a local man, who fed us well and shared some of his photos and life experiences:
A visit to the Al-Zubara Fort:
A boat tour along the water:
The incredibly breathtaking Islam Museum of Art:
Education City has representation from some of the top schools, including Carnegie Mellon University, Cornell University’s Weill Cornell Medical College, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, Northwestern University, and others, with a goal to grow Qatar's knowledge base, making it an attractive place to visit and work in the future.
Below, Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar Weill Cornell.
Below is a shot taken at one of the cafes in the Souq Waqif one night (we ended up in the Souq several evenings). Despite the fact that the Souq doesn't serve alcohol, it was a great place to hang out, socialize, shop, drink coffee and eat fabulous local food.
Desert Day in the South. Of course, it wouldn't be desert day without an opportunity to catch a ride on a camel:
A casual shot of TEDx organizers in the desert...
Then there was the late afternoon drumming session, which frankly, I can never get 'enough of...'.
A music jam session in one of the main tents - small but intimate and full of great TEDx talent:
18-year old Jordanian pianist Sima Sirriyeh, who composes her own pieces played for us on the main stage.
Opening night, they danced and sang. And then, danced and sang some more.
We took in the best of the local culture and greater Doha through visits to Souq Faqif, the Arab Museum of Modern Art, and the Cai Guo Qiang and Murakami Ego exhibitions. Also check out Doha's Centre for Media Freedom.Late nights were spent in the hotel bars where we stayed: The W and Kempinski Hotels.
- Katara Village, Fort, Boat, Landscape City Shots, Brainstorm session, Hands, Anderson, Dunes, TedxStage Shot1: Javier Junes
- Yahay Alabdeli, Cesar Harada, Inside Museum of Islamic Art: Duncan Davidson
- Group shot in dunes: taken on my camera by a TEDx-er
- North site visit for lunch, middle of desert scene, Hans sword shot from a previous event, casual desert day shot, camel close up, Souq, Maz Jobrani, opening night, drumming circle, jam session in tent after hours, Sima Sirriyeh: Renee Blodgett
- Education City Weill Cornell University shot - website.
April 29, 2012 in Arts & Creative Stuff, Books, Events, On Africa, On Education, On Health, On India, On Innovation, On People & Life, On Robotics, On Science, On Technology, On the Future, Travel, WBTW, Web 2.0 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
April 03, 2012
Zartis Leverages Social Media & Existing Employees to Mine the Best Talent
There are still plenty of opportunities to create a lucrative business in the "job" and "talent" market. Not only was LinkedIn's entry into the public market a hit last year (its IPO brought the company $352.8 million), but this BusinessWeek article (a GigaOm re-post) from last May touts numerous potential acquisition targets that might complement their business. Among those targets include Hashable, Socialware, Yammer, Indeed and BranchOut.
Sprouting from Ireland, Zartis is a new player in this space, who see the growing difficulty in hiring, particularly technical talent. Jobs boards aren’t returning great or even relevant candidates and recruitment agencies are expensive and can be time consuming.
Unemployment and economic recession issues aside, the growth of new technologies, mergers and acquisitions and start-ups with great ideas around the globe, offer tremendous new employment opportunities, but finding the right person for a position is often like finding a needle in a haystack, a very high and dense haystack.
Zartis, which is part of Enterprise Ireland, who had a major presence at SXSW last month, is an online service designed to help companies with between 5 and 500 employees to “look within” to find the talent they need through employee referrals.
They have taken a clever angle to recruit people, giving perks and incentives to those within an organization who can tap into their own networks to bring fresh new talent to the pool. The service allows a company to add a job, allocate a reward and invite its employees to promote the role to their contacts.
What's very cool about their offering is that an employee can actually tap into their personal social networks by publishing the "vacant" role to their Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook timeline. And, then they in turn get rewarded for successful outcomes.
How Employees Win:
When an employee logs into Zartis, they see the positions available and the rewards that are connected to the position. They can select a job and with one click have the message broadcast to their LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook connections.
They can also make recommendations within LinkedIn for a role based on keyword matching. The employee can then send their contact a private message telling them about the job.
When a job is distributed by an employee there is always a unique code embedded in the message which allows the company to track a job applicant back to the employee. This ensures that the referral reward is always paid to the employee.
Referral hires ensure that people work with people they like. Letting employees source new hires ensures they only recommend people that they actually like to work with which equates to longer term satisfaction for the employee and the "mate" they've brought into the company.
How Companies Win:
According to historical stats, companies already generate roughly 20% of new hires from existing employees, which is pretty good considering how much effort goes into finding new talent who isn't just a fit from a skillset perspective, but from a cultural perspective as well. Referrals from employees only increases the number of like-minded candidates, which is also a win-win from a corporate perspective.
Using Zartis, companies could actually get that employee referral number up to above 50%, which any good headhunter or HR exec will tell you, is significant. Bottom line, great people know other great people. Reliable. Honest. Ethical. Sustainable. And, existing employees are more likely to recruit others with like-minded in thinking, which means that they're more likely to be aligned with the corporate culture. Just look at how great Zappos is at recruiting and keeping people who fit within their corporate culture.
Zartis is designed to work within organizations but it also taps into the power of social media and sites that already do recruitment magic, such as LinkedIn. With the growth of employees using social media inside and outside the organization, it makes it that much easier to get a message out quickly to a wide audience.
If employees are already using social media in some capacity, throwing an incentive their way to go the extra mile to help fill positions only makes logical sense.
A company with 300 employees has theoretically 45,000 first degree connections. There will be overlap in these connections but even if you halved that number, imagine the leverage and power of all of these combined networks from all of your employees.
Another great feature from Zartis is their ability to help companies create their own careers site with a list of all their job openings and a professional application process that even works from a mobile phone. Says CEO John Dennehy, "with no knowledge of HTML, you can have an instant web page with all of your job listings. We also have it set up for mobile optimization."
Job seekers can submit their resume or LinkedIn profile which is sent to the company that is hiring. The careers site can be embedded in any website, WordPress site, or Facebook page.
Jobs can also be pushed to free job boards like Indeed.com and Twitter with one click. It's very simple to get up and running (no programming required) and they're obviously thinking about opportunities worldwide, as it can already be automatically translated into any of 11 languages.
When somebody applies for a job the hiring manager logs in to their secure site and can review all of the candidates in one place. They can add notes, send template rejection or call to interview emails, and share interview notes with colleagues.
Getting Started & Pricing:
If you want to "taste" the power of what Zartis can do, you can test it out for free. (one job posting is free and you can also get a month for free with all of their existing plans). For companies wanting more horsepower, their service is still incredibly reasonable.
To publish up to three job postings, it's only $9.95 a month and for 10 a month, it's $29.95 a month. For high growth enterprise companies with ongoing recruitment needs, it's a one time fee of $499.95 a year. When you consider what you pay a professional headhunter and other online services (often upwards of 15% of an annual salary), it's a very cost effective way to recruit new talent. Employee referrals are charged separately based on the number of employees added to the system.
Investors include AIB Seed Capital, Enterprise Ireland and SOS Ventures. Clients are global; companies using their service are based as far away as Cape Town and Kuala Lumpur, in Europe (Dublin and London) and in the U.S. with more and more customers being added every month. You can find out more about their service on their site and follow them on Twitter @zartis.
March 19, 2012
Austin's Scene & #SXSW in a Nutshell: My Summary of Sorts...
SXSW aka South-by-Southwest, the event that takes a week of my time every year in Austin, Texas, seems to get bigger and bigger every March, not to mention more global.
Refer to my blog write-up on its international diversity here.
For example, Ireland had the most number of start-ups they've ever had at SXSW (30 in total representing film and interactive).
Also in my international blog post, I covered the sheer volume of brands who had tents (Nokia, Microsoft and others), threw parties (HP, Pepsico and others...I lost track) or carted folks around town (Chevy).
On the interactive side, there was so much activity between the dozens and dozens of panels to the after parties, all of which I couldn't keep up with despite my social media apps buzzing me every ten seconds to tell me what was happening and where. Foursquare remained a popular app for check-ins and to see where your buds were - that said, the private parties were off the grid and frankly, had to be, for the intimacy of the "old SXSW" to prevail, a necessary for those of us who have been going for a decade (or more).
Speaking of Foursquare, they had a private bash where the security was so intense that a friend of mine got 'bounced' before he even made it up the stairs despite the fact that he was buds with 80% of the attendees. "Kids" (early 20-something year old geeks, marketers and wanna-bes) seemed to be clamoring to get elbow time with Dennis Crowley and get into events like this all over town and frankly, it was just not worth the fight, even the ones where I was on the VIP list, because VIP list or not, the lines and wall-to-wall rooms were still maddening.
Some late nights, I retreated to The Driskell which has become a little too crowded as well, but at the very least, you're likely to run into some industry buds who are more in the mood for a quiet drink amidst moose and deer on the wall and antiquated brass and iron statues that mesh the culture of Texas with England somewhere along the way.
The below was taken on my iPhone at some random 3 am hour in the Driskell lobby.
Other nights, after the official invitations of music, film and interactive wore me out, taking in a dive bar where you could take in some off-the-beaten path music was the way to go.
TED decided to have a 'showing' at SXSW this year (aka TED@SXSW) and blocked off a couple of hours two evenings in a row for speakers in a private room at The Driskell. The line-up included folks like TED Fellow Jose Gomez-Marquez, JP Rangaswami, Ayah Bdeir, Paul D. Miller (DJ Spooky), Ping Fu, Baratunde Thurston (who always has me in stiches), Steve Daniels and others.
Film...so many great ones! I wrote about a number of them earlier in the week, which you can scroll through in the Arts/Austin section here. So many worth listing but since I tend to cover things from a global and international perspective, a few call-outs worth noting include: Sunset Strip, The Taiwan Oyster, Bay of All Saints, Eden, The Black Balloon, Trash Dance, Wonder Women and a handful of others. (see the list of winners for 2012 here). Also see our Scottish Films overview here and Israel at SXSW here.
Songster from Mowgli, the first music-creation social fame on Facebook launched at SXSW this year. CEO Marshall Seese, Jr. came to the table with a recording artist background and says their design is with "everyone’s inner rockstar in mind."
Players follow the compelling storyline of a fledging musician working their way up through the ranks of the music industry. From playing gigs at frat houses and proms, to launching a worldwide arena tour, players can make great music, while allowing their creativity to take them through all levels of the game.
I tweeted up a storm about the on-stage love for Google+ with Vic Gundotra, which was more of an informercial than it was a fireside chat. If he used the word "amazing" one more time, I thought, even the newbies who are eating this up, would have to see through Google's sugar coating. Hey, I'm a Google+ user, not a prolific one, but I'm on the system and giving them tons of my data and creative energy just like I am to Facebook without a whole lotta benefit (yet).
I'm not saying what they're trying to do isn't useful or great online canvas for photographers to share their work or industry celebs like Guy Kawasaki and Robert Scoble to up their social status without even trying to, but for mainstream folks, it's just not there yet. (not in this cats humble opinion anyway). Just saying - I had enuf with "amazing this and amazing that" after the first 15 minutes.
Kelly Carlin performed again in a breakout room in the main convention hall and although I've seen her before and like her energy (I totally resonated with the 1970s family TV and dysfunctional family of the 1960s jokes), there was something that put me off slightly about her stint and I couldn't figure it out until near the end.
For those of you who don't know the Carlin name, she's the daughter of iconoclastic comedian George Carlin. As a one woman show, she uses storytelling, classic video footage, and family memorabilia, to chronicle over forty years of her life with her famous father.
While she's amusing and gives us countless insights into George, it f-g feels like its all about George. I'm thinking as someone who's only slightly younger than Kelly and had a lot of the same reference points, what about YOU? I'd love to hear more about YOU!
I walked away still not knowing and it was the second time I saw her perform. I just felt that using her dad as a vehicle for her 'show' and 'persona' may have perhaps run its course and what I really wanted to hear was her voice without Dad in the background (or at the very least so prevalent) so I could better learn who SHE was as an artist and more importantly, as a person.
Who didn't have an event? On the music front, B and C listers were all there, Bruce was there, Gary Vee called all wine afficiandos to a so called 'private' venue immediately next to another so called 'private' party I was at and the line was ten miles long by the time I walked outside. Really? Is that really the way to engage with folks? A great way to get SXSW publicity so from that perspective, stints like that really work, but they're far from "real" or intimate. I just wanted to say 'hey' without a thousand pushes and shoves. For the record.
The XPrize folks also held an event and it was invite only and really felt like "invite only." Not a publicity 'stunt' in any way, everyone I met was top notch and showed up because they had a vested interest or cared about the kinds of things they cared about. Quality conversations where people weren't looking at their watch or Foursquare check-ins to see where the coolest cats were hanging next next. A welcome relief.
If you're not famliar with their work, go here: their mission is to bring about radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity. Below, an XPrize team shot: (I love these guys and btw, Peter Diamandis has a new book out entitled Abundance).
My favorite part of SXSW of course is the randomness of meetings at film and music more than interactive, for at the former, there still seems to be more spontenaity, largely I think because of mutual passions rather than a race for check-ins or being 'seen' at the right party and telling the whole world about it on Foursquare, Facebook, Google+, Twitter, yadda yadda yadda.
I'm not saying that politics and social klout doesn't run rampant in the film and music world, but passion for the 'art' still stands tall.....maybe not dominant in Hollywood, but at SXSW.
As for the social bit...of course I tweet at these events. I'm in the biz - who doesn't, but the feeds at SXSW are so much about where I'm at and who I'm hanging out with than providing value. It's hard to tell the difference anymore, and sometimes I even get confused by why I do what I do on social media even when my intensions are pure. The addictive nature of it all just 'ain't all that healthy' in my opinion. I have talked about this before but can't emphasize it enough.
The blogger lounge is on the top floor where it always is, around the corner from the press lounge, which had massages this year. The blogger lounge has occasional 'acts' and social media gurus of sorts popping in and out. (a little red badge gets you into it if you're a blogger).
This was more of a 'center' in previous years, but today, less so. It doesn't mean you can't still show up and meet up with old buds, converse with folks in the biz you haven't seen in awhile or folks you still haven't met, but things are so spread out and there's so much 'more' grabbing our attention that "hanging out" in the blogger lounge seem to be few and far between.
Below: Renee Blodgett, Angel Djambazov, Liz Strauss, Hugh MacLeod
Then there are a hundred or so other folks I'll keep under the radar, except for of course Jeff Pulver & crew who co-hosted a great 140Conf party (if you haven't been to their events, check 'em out), with the textPlus folks. (never enuf time Mademoiselle Heather Meeker).
Below is a snap from the Nokia Innovation Lab, a massive tent set up a few blocks from the convention center, that housed more than fake snow as you entered.
While travel wasn't a big representation at SXSW and I was struggling to find serious foodies, some of the usual suspects were hanging about. American Airlines had a down-to-earth event with fabulous peeps (closer to town or IN town next time PLEASE :-).
To the left (lighting wasn't great) is American's head of Mobile products Phil Easter talking about their latest and demoing some nifty stuff on an iPad that we can't quite talk about yet. Exciting stuff! Other call-outs worth mentioning are Stacey Frantz (corp comm), Dawn Turner (Entertainment Marketing), and Jonathan Pierce & Jon Bird (social media & video), among a handful of others.
The photo to the right has a combination of woven yarn, paint, and wire among other materials.
While the booth was creative and the Canadians fed us French toast, strawberries and homemade maple syrup, the Irish shamrock tattoos that Enterprise Ireland dished out had to be my favorite giveaway. (Sure, I'm biased but it's the truth). A lot more fun than pens, pads, stickers, drives and balloons.
The Cool Sculping guys who were parading around town for days, tried to demonstrate that 'getting naked' can be a positive thing if you own one of their "suits."
The below very 'blurry" image of pianist Eric Lewis, a favorite 'musical' experience by TEDsters who saw him perform a few years back in Long Beach, was taken at a Mashery Party at Sandra Bullock's Austin restaurant. The "blurr" gives you an idea of his energy and personality, therefore is untouched. It's "Eric" in every way. The party was of the classier events held at SXSW this year. Well done Oren!
As always, Blumberg Capital held an incredible meet-up for their start-up companies & friends. Flow, drinks, conversation, networking was top notch. Well done to David and his team.
The below is a l'il local bar and street scene music action, albeit blurry...blurry is in some ways more 'suitable' for SXSW, despite the fact that I had my Canon 7D and 2 good lenses with me.
Two fun 'street scenes' very late at night. Or morning. Or whatever.
There was also an interesting demo on the show floor of Vinyl Recorder T-560 -- analog stereo recording on 5", 7", 10" and 12". A pricey option but for serious audiofiles, an option? The 7-560 starter set includes a stereo clutterhead fuse, heated diamond stylus, 19" main unit with RIAA encoder, groove controller and stylus heating regulation mono microscope, a lamp and all cables and adapters. The price? E3,200 (yes, that's Euros).
The week can be a bit exhausting (okay, very) even when you're not trying to race from event to event. Below is a taste of just a day and a half and a few of these bands fell off. And, all the film stuff was equally thick hanging around my neck.
As a complete aside and for kicks, refer to my insanely hard-to-follow post on "how to stay healthy" in Austin during SXSW if you have the strength to avoid all the free beer and Texas ribs.
March 19, 2012 in America The Free, Arts & Creative Stuff, Books, Client Announcements, Conference Highlights, Events, On Blogging, On Innovation, On People & Life, On Science, On Spirituality, On Technology, Reflections, Social Media, WBTW, Web 2.0 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
February 22, 2012
TEDxBerkeley 2012's Inspiring Innovation Merges Magic, BioData & Technology With Film, Oceans & Plants
Most people in my circles know what a TEDx event is but for those of you who don't, it is a local, self organized event that bring people together to share a TED-like experience, in the spirit of ideas worth spreading.
This video gives you an idea of what these non-profit events are like, which extend far beyond Berkeley. Cities around the world are organizing TEDx events, with a goal to teach, share, collaborate, educate, faciliate and grow. Ideas worth spreading means that some of these ideas can revolutionize (and have revolutionized) the world because of a new relationship or partnership that has evolved as a result of the wider distribution of these ideas and the courage and dedication of people behind making the 'magic' happen.
It's the second year I've been involved as co-curator of TEDxBerkeley, an event held at Berkeley's Zellerbach Hall every February. In attendance were well over 1,000 people from a broad range of disciplines and minds - from academic, music and science to medicine, technology and the arts.
15 ground-breaking thinkers, leaders and performers entertained and educated the audience through storytelling, performance and anecdotes from their life experiences.
Given that UC Berkeley is involved, so were some of the professors and students, including the opening act by DeCadence (pronounced dee-KAY-dence, with a capital ‘C’), a vocalist group that sports eye-catching blue and gold capes and creative dance moves at nearly every performance.
The musician in me couldn't help but call out music brilliance first and while we're on the topic of incredible voices, Charles Holt stole the stage with his storytelling and singing of "He Lives in You," my favorite Lion King number.
He had me at "go" is an understatement, largely because of his intuitive nature, the fact that he lives his life through that intuitive lense and his witty and incredibly honest stories of his mother and grandmother from the south, which will leave you crying and laughing at the same time.
From music to dance, Jodi Lomask then awed us through her dance troupe. Known for her work with an organization she founded called Capacitor 15 years ago, she works with world-renowned research scientists to create original dance works that draw attention to critical environmental issues.
I think about people I know who spend their life committed to understanding oceans and I think about the moment it was for me that I got one step closer: deep sea diving off the coast of Australia some 60 or so feet below the surface. In that world, that remarkable world, you truly understand the beauty of a world we need to cherish and preserve.
Her dancers showed us that beauty through a combination of violin, dance movements in and outside of rings in somewhat of a Cirque du Soleil style and environmental videos, all creating an outer world exerience for us to share.
One of my favorite moments of the performance is below...the intertwining of minds, hearts and bodies.
Also involved in conservation and the environment was Dr. Maria Fadiman who I had the pleasure of setting up with a new Twitter account (social media will get us all, the deep hidden voice says, lurking in the background), is a fascinating combination of geologist, comedian, nature lover and ethnobotanist, her work focuses on the relationship between people and plants.
From South Florida, her style was very informal for an academic crowd yet had people laughing as she pounced onto the stage with a machete in hand, telling one humorous story after another of her time in the jungle, the majority of her time spent in the rainforests of Latin America.
She has worked with Tibetan children in teaching them to record their own ethnobotanical traditions and is currently working on a global scale cross cultural study of people’s use of a cultural keystone species (the flora and fauna that are deemed important to the survival of a culture), and how these plants can act as larger ecosystem preservation incentives.
Digital fabrication is where you change the rules about how things are made, referencing 3D printers, showing us examples of various things which can be printed into a variety of materials, including rubber, plastic and metal.
It's amazing what can be printed on a 3D printer now...I ran into BitTorrent's Bram Cohen at SF Music Tech who showed me a very interesting 3D ring he was wearing on his finger. Additionally, imagine 3D buildings and even a 3D-printed human kidney.
We also heard about the rise of information, aka the wisdom of the crowds and the wisdom of the 'cloud.' Not only are we all becoming creators in our own way on our own personal platforms, but we're becoming curators as well.
Then, ARZU's Connie Duckworth, who took the stage in vibrant red, focused on international development sharing things learned from her work in Afghanistan. She says of the current state of international development:
- The international development industry is dysfunctional.
- Big money brings big unintended consequences.
- Hope can’t thrive in the world’s worse places.
She believes that we have an urgent call to change the structure of the international development industry, which holds in its hands the lives of billions of people at the bottom of the pyramid.
Their thinking is that somehow inherently flawed short term thinking will move into sustainable systems. Big money when not hosed in the right direction can create a lot of chaos. She asserts that its a key reason that so many people lose so much faith in their government.
She refers to another unintended consequence of big money going to the wrong places: Brain Tilt, which is when the most highly educated local people (engineers, professors, doctors), all end up working for expats in low level positions. Local smart people are working as drivers and clerks rather than working in higher level positions because they can get paid so much more in the other positions.
Connie defines the quest for peace as security. “We all see the world through our own lens of experience, so for me, success all starts with a job. This is how people start with a way to solve those basic level needs, such as the ability to eat and feed their family.” She encouraged the audience not to just sit back and want peace, but believe in it and take action.
Rather than focus on money, we wanted to focus on giving, in other words, the idea of unleashing the power of compassion capital. “Once you unleash compassion,” he says, it’s amazing what happens. “Stay focused on adding value and discovered untapped capital.”
When small acts of giftivism get connected and activated, it rekindles a gift economy. A gift culture, he says, is marked by four key shifts:
- Shift from Consumption to Contribution – Instead of asking “what can I get,” open with “What can I give?” He says if you open each door with a different question, about what can you give, it changes the entire dynamics.
- Shift from Transaction to Trust: Build synergy. He refers to Karma Kitchen, a restaurant in Berkeley, where you pay for the people ahead of you or behind you rather than for your own bill. 26,000 meals so far and people continue to pay it forward.
- Shift from Isolation to Community: it is not enough that we connect, but rather how we connect. When you serve other people together, you create a network of ‘gift ties.’
- Shift from Scarcity to Abundance: Cultivate inner transformation to arrive at enough. “There is enough for everyone’s need but not enough for everyone’s greed.”
Hear hear Nipun. From gift economies, we shifted to Gopi Kallayil from Google who talked about the power of social and a connected world, particularly during the 18 days of the Egyptian protests, showing us a video where Desmond Tutu is talking to the Dalai Lama on Google+, a clip which has now been watched 2 million times. This is a great example of how social media is driving innovation around the world.
We saw examples from Libya and Kenya to South Africa and Egypt, where during the protests, they were able to express how they really felt and more importantly, people were able to listen to those words on YouTube and other platforms. They sang, “the most important thing is our right and writing our history with our blood – if you were one of us, better not blabber and tell us to go away and leave our dream and stop saying the word “I”. In every street in my country, the sound of freedom is calling. In every street in my country, the sound of freedom is calling.” Powerful stuff.
From the vantage point of healthcare, intuition and communications, Dr. Neha Sangwan encourages everyone to be proud of yourself for "listening to yourself." Often, listening to ourself comes second to listening to opinions of others, whether they be friends and family or a doctor we're seeing for a particular issue.
She asks, "what if communication is the cure that we're missing? What is the way we talk to ourselves & whether we choose to lean into our discomfort & show up in the world? What is this is the prescription for health long before I need to write you a prescription?"
Her talk was highly emotional as she brought us a journey around the world to the Middle East, where she spoke to women, sharing with us insights she learned about their world, their pride and in turn, what we can learn from them in the western world.
A professor at Berkeley, Ken Goldberg who closed the talks, on nothing other than robots. Yes, robots...and what we can learn from them. As someone who worked in speech recognition for years and did a project for the Willow Garage guys (I love PR2 and even danced with one), I was eager to hear his insights.
Ken thinks robots can inspire us and that we have a lot to learn from them. Some of those insights from various projects over the years include: always question assumptions. It's amazing how quick we are to turn to other people's assumptions and make decisions based on them without digging deeper. Secondly, when in doubt, improvise.
I couldn't help but smile but when i realized that both of these recommendations btw are great ones for start-ups as well as for children. So is tihs one: When your path is blocked, pivot. In start-up culture, we learn to pivot a lot, something that Fortune 500 companies should pay more attention to...
Author and thought leader David Ewing Duncan focused on DATA and how do we make sense of it all?', something he thinks is an awesome achievement of humanity, for 'better or worse.'
Because of his background, he centered his talk around bio-data. He points out that today, we can get a micro-analysis of our blood work, which can tell us how just whether we have a high chance of cancer and chronic diseases, but how empathetic we are as human beings. He notes "more experiences, more tests leads to more data."
But, as so many of us know, we have so much data, that its often overwhelming, so much so we can't make sense of the data we have at our fingertips. This is David's point.
Whats needed, he asserts is a new mindset in every occupation. "Enough of all this data, what does this data actually mean?" he says. "We need a revolution in interpreting the tools and the data as well as a radical shift in resources. In other words, how do we go about testing 42,000 genetic traits?"
Clearly, we need a radical shift in resources. There's only 4% invested on translational medicine and he thinks there needs to be a reversal in resource allocation. He also pointed to trends in the future for all the students sitting in the hall: "we're going to need 500 million analysts in 6 years and we only have 100 million today." Clearly, these are the people who are going to be well versed at making sense of all that data and transforming it into something usable and most importantly, actionable by individuals.
Tapan Parikh, a Berkeley University professor brought us back into traditional technology and current trends. Tapan’s research interests include human-computer interaction (HCI), mobile computing, speech UIs and information systems for microfinance, smallholder agriculture and global health.
He showed us photographs and results of some of his work in rural areas. Of his latest projects, Tapan has been designing, developing and deploying information systems in the rural developing world – initially in India, and now also in Latin America and Africa.
Tapan and his students have started several technology companies serving rural communities and the development sector. It was inspirational to see what they have accomplished so far and to see what is possible with resources, tearing down silos, sharing among communities and better access.
What he hopes to represent is the notion of showing respect for where you come from. He says, "Pick a challenge that is important to you" (for him, it was setting up real-time video conferencing, knowledge sharing and instant messaging in India), "and stick to it." He adds, "Don't assume you know what people need for their development - let them speak up, don't act for them."
I was thrilled that Tiffany Shlain was able to join us this year as I've always been a fan of her work. She has been making films for 20 years, and some of them have hit Sundance, Tribeca, Rotterdam and others and her films have won over 36 film festival awards.
Tiffany says, "each time we were able to change the way we recorded film and show reality, we were able to change reality itself."
She showed us snippets from her most recent film: Connected: An Autoblogography About Love, Death & Technology, A Declaration of Interdependence.” Connected had its U.S. theatrical tour this past fall and is now available for people to host their own screenings.
The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts (SCA) announced earlier this month the 29 films selected for the American Film Showcase, an international cultural diplomacy initiative that brings people together worldwide through film and Connected made the list.
The movie is enlightening and sad at the same time, taking us deep into what is happening around us in a connected world and how technology is shaping and reshaping us. Bravo!! I have a love/hate relationship with technology myself -- the timing of this film couldn't be more perfect.
"Do something radical and true," she says. "We as humans should declare our human interdependence." Film projects they're working on for others are centered on life's most emotional topics: engagement, power, money, wisdom, death, inspiration, the brain and others.
Now that we're back to Entertainment, the E in TED, the last two speakers this year were performers: magician Robert Strong and violinist Lindsey Stirling.
Robert Strong is known as 'The Comedy Magician' and in watching him, it's so clear that magic is his life passion. He has performed on every major television network, in more than 40 different countries, in all 50 states, and twice at the White House.
I never paid much attention to the word magic until I renamed my own consultancy with Magic in the name. Now, I see 'magic' everywhere and am a true believer that perception is reality and that we can create any outcome we want through our own belief systems.
Lindsey Stirling, who I first saw play at Idea Festival in Kentucky last fall, is often referred to as the Hip Hop Violinist. Her passion, energy, and presence is magnetic, so much so, that you can't help but want to get up on stage and dance as she jumps around, violin and all, around you. Here's some background on her work. Let's just say that I'm a huge fan.
Check out last year's (2011) TEDxBerkeley talks on video. And a few talks from last year to get you inspired were Chip Conley on remembering that we're human in business, Anat Baniel on flexibility and vitality, Lopas Brunjes on carbon reduction, Bryan Alvarez on living organisms in our body, and Shore Slocum on spiritual awakening and awareness and how this can transform your everyday life.
February 22, 2012 in America The Free, Arts & Creative Stuff, Conference Highlights, Entertainment/Media, Europe, Events, Magic Sauce Media, Music, On Education, On Health, On Innovation, On People & Life, On Poems, Literature & Stuff, On Robotics, On Technology, On the Future, San Francisco, Social Media, WBTW, Web 2.0 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
February 03, 2012
TEDxBerkeley’s 2012 Theme “Innovation” Kicks Off Third Year at Zellerbach Hall on Feb 4
Tomorrow, Saturday, February 4, 2012, UC Berkeley will gather world leading thinkers, visionaries, creative pundits, philosophers, academics and doers to host the third TEDx Berkeley Event (a 501c3) at Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall. It's the second year I've been involved in the event and we're thrilled to have a stellar line-up of speakers once again.
The theme this year is: "Innovation." 15 ground-breaking thinkers, leaders and performers will cover a diverse number of global issues and topics, ranging from health and toxicity, politics in a new media world, robotics, machine learning, and mobile computing to the arts through life-changing film & storytelling, micro-finance, the gift-economy and “magic.”
Below is a list of the 2012 TEDxBerkeley speakers and performers. Visit the TEDxBerkeley speaker page for their detailed biographies and updates.
- Carl Bass: president and chief executive officer of Autodesk, Inc., the leader in 3D design, engineering and entertainment software.
- Connie Duckworth: founder of ARZU, Inc., a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization, and a retired Partner and Managing Director of Goldman, Sachs, & Co., where she was named the first woman sales and trading partner in the firm’s history during her 20 year career.
- DeCadence: UC Berkeley’s DeCadence (pronounced dee-KAY-dence, with a capital ‘C’) musical group is best known around the Bay Area for their one-of-a-kind quirkiness and lovable eccentricity.
- David Ewing Duncan: best-selling author of seven books published in 19 languages; he is a journalist and a television, radio and film producer and correspondent. His most recent best-selling book is Experimental Man: What one man’s body reveals about his future, your health, and our toxic world.
- Dr. Maria Fadiman: a leader who works with the human/environmental aspect of conservation, who was named one of National Geographic’s Emerging Explorers in 2006.
- Ken Goldberg: an inventor working at the intersection of art, robotics, and social media. At UC Berkeley, Ken teaches and supervises research in Robotics, Automation, and New Media.
- Charles Holt: speaker & performer, Charles has entertained sold-out audiences around the world, including The John F. Kennedy Center The Turkish-American Association in Ankara, Turkey, and Rikers Island Correctional Facility. He speaks to groups and organizations in order to empower, encourage, and uplift audiences everywhere.
- Gopi Kallayil: does marketing at Google for Google Plus and previously for the Company’s flagship advertising product, AdWords, in the Americas and Asia Pacific and for AdSense, Google’s publisher‐facing product.
- Jodi Lomask: founder of Capacitor, she has been commissioned to create original works for NASA, TED, SFO, Computers and Structures, the California Academy of Sciences, and the Salvadorian Olympic Gymnastics Team.
- Nipun Mehta: founder of ServiceSpace, an incubator of projects that works at the intersection of volunteerism, technology and gift-economy.
- Tapan Parikh: Assistant Professor at the School of Information at the University of California, Berkeley.
- Neha Sangwan, MD: an Internal Medicine physician, she is also CEO and founder of Intuitive Intelligence, and acts as a corporate communication strategist to empower healthcare practitioners, organizational leaders and corporate employees in their own self-care.
- Tiffany Shlain: honored by Newsweek as one of the “Women Shaping the 21st Century,” Tiffany is a filmmaker, founder of the Webby Awards, and cofounder of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences.
- Lindsey Stirling: a violinist for 19 years with a range that extends from classical to rock and roll. She became known as Hip Hop violinist from the America’s Got Talent contest.
- Robert Strong: the Comedy Magician has been crisscrossing the world since 1985 entertaining audiences large and small, young and old, formal and casual, and everything in between. Twice voted San Francisco’s ‘Best Comedian’, Robert has appeared in more than 40 different countries, in all 50 states, and twice at the White House.
Additionally, TEDxBerkeley has collaborated with AppBaker to release an exclusive iPhone app for the event. The app features an interactive schedule, speaker profiles, Twitter wall, and much more. TEDxBerkeley has also partnered with Livestream to provide high-quality live video of the event.
The TEDxBerkeley team includes curators Kevin Gong, a translator who has volunteered for the Global Lives Project; Renee Blodgett, founder of Magic Sauce Media, We Blog the World, a global blog network that covers every culture in the world and Magic Sauce Photography, and Jennifer Barr, VP/Operations at Northern CA Wharton Business School Club; Volunteer and Logistics Coordinator Eleanor Yang; Director of Logistics Navi Ganancial, serial volunteer and social media marketing guru; Director of Sponsorships Linda Xu; Technical Director Rocky Mullin, production volunteer for EG and TEDMED, musician & producer and Speaker Logistics Coordinator David Allen.
February 3, 2012 in America The Free, Arts & Creative Stuff, Conference Highlights, Events, Magic Sauce Media, On Education, On Innovation, On People & Life, On Technology, On the Future, San Francisco, WBTW | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack