August 02, 2013
Blumberg Capital Hits Jackpot with 52x Return on HootSuite Seed Investment
Blumberg Capital has been the largest institutional shareholder in HootSuite until their August 1 Series B funding. Blumberg Capital and Hearst Ventures led the original seed round financing of HootSuite in December 2009 and a subsequent financing in 2011.
Yesterday, HootSuite announced a $165 million Series B financing, led by Insight Venture Partners with participation from Accel Partners and existing investor, OMERS Ventures.
HootSuite has pioneered the category of social media management with more than 7 million users worldwide who use its’ secure platform for social media management, marketing, customer service and selling.
Says David J. Blumberg on the deal, “this is a significant milestone and a triple win. First, our investors will receive over 52 times their investment. Second, this massive return validates our strategy of “Leading the Seed” financings in early-stage, highly promising, and innovative software companies. Third, we welcome our new co-investors as the Company grows to even greater levels of success in improving the efficiency and effectiveness of Social Media for enterprises and consumers.”
”This transaction validates a third and increasingly popular path to liquidity for early-stage investors”, said Leonard Lodish, Professor of Marketing at the Wharton School of Business. “Until recently, early-stage investors could only target two positive exit scenarios: an IPO or a sale to an acquiring company. Today, later-stage investors are eager to buy into fast growing companies such as HootSuite.”
Disclosure: I am an advisor and consultant to Blumberg Capital.
July 03, 2013
Honoring the Legendary Inventor of the Mouse...Doug Engelbart
Today, the renowned inventor of the computer mouse, Doug Engelbart, passed away at the age of 88. While he is known to be a legend among many of the technology illuminaries, he is two generations behind me and the technology world I knew in New England so his name wasn't on my radar when I first landed in Silicon Valley. That said, despite the fact that I haven't yet lived in the Bay Area for a decade, I was coincodently introduced to him within months of moving here.
You see, coming from Boston's more conservative and traditional world of tech, I didn't really know where to begin when I first moved out here, who mattered or could get me a "job." Six or seven years ago, I really didn't know that many people and so I started to "network like hell," only to realize that getting a "job" would be the last thing on my mind.
In the early days, Sylvia Paull, Ben Gross and Michael Tchong led me around a bit, John Battelle invited me to a few things, a few people I had met from Intel, Adobe and Microsoft and Oracle put me on lists, but for the most part, it was watch, listen and well....just show up everywhere. My friend Sandy Rockowitz who I knew from back east told me about the events he went to and since Sandy was the geekiest friend I knew at the time (oh how that has changed), I figured I'd start to hang out where he hung out.
It took me longer than it should have to realize that not all geeks are alike and spending my time at engineering meet-ups in Berkeley, the SV Forum and SD Forum wasn't exactly where right brain technology people hung out. BUT, they were such fabulous places to learn.
Truth be told, SD Forum was where I got my kicks in the early days and where I met some of my earliest geek friends.
They knew the lay of the land and the "language", not the venture capitalists. Doug Engelbart and those who followed his work were the kinds of folks who showed up there, so suddenly I started hearing about people like Doug Engelbart in those circles. I learned about his life as well as names that anyone under 40 or even 50 might not have heard of, like Paul Friedl, Daniel Tellep, John G. Linvill, David Hodges, Dan Maydan and others.
Soon after making California home, I got to meet the legendary Doug Engelbart at some function I can't now recall and then in 2005 at a speaker dinner I was invited to. Doug was actually at my table as was my bud Tom Foremski who wrote a wonderful write-up and tribute today about his death as well. We were both in awe at how people marveled at his accomplishments as if he was long gone and not actually hanging out with us in the room.
As Tom points out, John Markoff, and many members of the Homebrew Club, and former colleagues of his spoke about Doug's incredible influence on their work, ideas, and how he changed their lives. We learned about this man from the inside and as Tom so eloquently writes, "it seemed as if he was the Buckminster Fuller of Silicon Valley in terms of how insightful and how brilliant he was, in story after story shared by people at the event. Others compared him to Leonardo DaVinci."
It was a treasured moment and frankly, I felt as if I was (and probably was) the only right brain at the event. This of course made it even more treasured. Doug moved me in those two encounters I had with him in such a short period of time, and through the stories so many others around us shared that I decided to meet him again. Thanks to Bill Daul, the meeting happened, as I was keen to include him in a book project I was (and am still working on) about innovators in the industry who are driven by their hearts moreso than their heads.
On that memorable day two years ago (May 2011), his wife Karen led me into their Silicon Valley home and out into the back garden where we had tea and biscuits and talked. The sun was shining, the garden was beautiful and Doug wore a smile all afternoon.
The day brought me joy and snapping photos of this intelligent, creative, amusing and inspiring legend was more than just memorable. It falls into the realm of magic moments which all of us have over the course of our personal and professional lives.
His work touched my professional life and made me remember and respect the people I worked with in the speech recognition industry for so many years. They too were trying to change the way we interacted with the world in a way that would be transformative....like Doug and other technology visionaries like him. As Clint Wilder said in a Facebook comment when I posted about his death, "this is the passing of an era."
Yes, it is. It was an era of Silicon Valley that this generation won't ever truly know or understand. It was a time when these legends were changing a paradigm of all communication, not enhancing a digital one one we already have.
Legends like Doug don't build mobile games, check-in apps, quirky photo apps or another social media network. They work on things that will change the way we not just interact with the world, but see the world.
John Markoff wrote a great book entitled: What the Dormouse Said: How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry, which pointed out that Doug Engelbart didn't get the recognition he deserved, specifically for yes, the mouse, but also for timesharing, which allows many users to share the same computer. Take a look at the 1968 demo which altered the ideas of what people thought was possible. In that historical demo of the mouse, the world first saw hypertext, object addressing and dynamic file linking, as well as shared-screen collaboration involving two persons at different sites communicating over a network with audio and video interface.
I write this post in honor of him today...for the work he did, for the history and memories he created and for the lives he touched. Rest in peace Doug Engelbart, rest in peace!
Note: I shot the above photos in his backyard on that memorable day in May 2011, a little over two years ago.
June 28, 2013
Meet Startup Reykjavik, Iceland's #1 Accelerator Program
When I was in Iceland this month for Startup Iceland, an event started by serial entrepreneur Bala Kamallakharan, I had the opportunity to meet a host of locals working on start-up initiatives.
Leading up an effort within the Startup Iceland community is Kristján Freyr Kristjánsson, who is spearheading Iceland's #1 Accelelerator program: Startup Reykjavik.
Startup Reykjavik is similarly structured to TechStars but open for any type of businesses to apply. The program includes ten teams (16k at 6% across 10 weeks) and ends with an investor day on August 23, 2013. It kicked off while I was there and one of the team building exercises was to take 20 or so entrepreneurs into the interior of Iceland's natural wonderland for games and bonding. They headed to a place called Thorsmork, within the Þórsmörk Nature Reserve where they had pow-wows in volcano huts and hiked, a little different from our pizza and soda networking shindigs in Silicon Valley.
Here is an overview of the teams for this year's program:
- Mindlantis: While helping children discovering their true potential, they make high quality products based on their ideas.
- Activity Stream: They enable capture, processing, visualization and reporting of Business Activity Information - in real time - cloud based.
- Golf Pro Assistant: GolfPro Assistant is a web app designed for golf professionals to help them manage all aspects of running a golf teaching business.
- SARdrones: SARdrones develops unmanned drones and image analysis software for search and rescue purposes in barren landscapes.
- Snjohus Software: Snjóhús is a two man team, programmer and artist, working to make high quality apps.
- Silverberg: Designing and developing a measuring equipment for fitness centers, along with a software solution where users can track their progress.
Non-Tech companies (e.g. Bio-tech, Fashion, Alumnium Roller coaster, Whiskey Brewery)
- Herberia: Herberia fills the gap between unregistered natural products and medicines by manufacturing herbal medicines of the highest quality.
- Y-Z: Y-Z is an innovative fashion brand aimed at forward thinking women - classic design with avant garde flexibility.
- Zalibuna: Zalibuna will design and build a one man rollercoaster in the most traveled area of Iceland, Kambarnir.
- Þoran Distillery: The Þoran project it the brainchild of a few like-minded individuals who dream of establishing the first whisky distillery in Iceland.
They have 10 alumni teams and a database of 100 Icelandic startups they have been helping through the past years, with roughly $20 million invested so far. Below are some of the entrepreneurs who participated and are part of the startup scene, from the Hackathon, the Startup Iceland and the entrepreneurs who will be part of this year's accelerator group.
June 13, 2013
Start-Up Iceland Event Draws Iceland's President & Attracts American Thought Leaders
Hackathons are fairly common in Silicon Valley and while they're starting to pop up in pockets around the world, Iceland may not be a place that immediately comes to mind when you think of start-up geek fests.
Reykavik, Iceland's largest city and home to two thirds of its 320,000 people, recently held a Hackathon in conjunction with Start-Up Iceland, an event committed to helping local entrepreneurs build a thriving start-up ecosystem in the country.
Started by serial entrepreneur, angel investor and Greenqloud CEO Bala Kamallakharan in 2012, Start-Up Iceland has not only grown in size in just one year, but attracted top notch angel investors from the states, as well as European and American entrepreneurs and thought leaders.
TechCrunch's John Biggs presented, as did American venture capitalists Brad Burnham from Union Square Ventures and Foundry Group's Ryan McTyre and Jason Mendelson. To top that list, Iceland’s US Ambassador Luis E. Arreaga and the country's President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson thought the event was important enough to show up to address the more than 300 attendees at the beautifully designed conference center HARPA in the city center.
In true start-up conference style, the event kicked off with an UnConference led by Joshua Kaufmann and a Hackathon, held at the University of Reykjavik, where geeks gathered together to cook up some innovative ideas.
The Hackathon was free and open to students, hobbyists, professionals and frankly anyone who likes to hack on cool code and be creative.
Startup Iceland Hackathon participants were asked to create and present hacks around the central idea that the world is undergoing drastic cultural, climate and economic shifts that impact global business.
As the founding organizers mission suggests: "Strengths lie not within avoiding catastrophe but in planning and mitigating problems before they arise. We can accomplish this by understanding the needs of the business community, anticipating the hurdles and creating proactive solutions." Well said.
Above, locals present their ideas to attendees and a panel of judges and below, Seattle Angel Conference's John Sechrest moderated a session.
Below the Hackathon finalists pose with American thought leaders and entrepreneurs.
Winners and finalists receive acknowledgement on stage.
The winner of the Hackathon was GreenQloud Automated Server Balancer, which is a collection of scripts that manage and change attributes to a GreenQloud hosted server depending on the load.
Simply put, when a user's server is idle, only one system is running. Once the load gets to a specific point, a new system is activated, which allows for consistant performance across the board without wasting so much power. Lower Power usage, lower wasted dosh.
While green energy may be enviromentally friendly, it's not unlimited, so their notion is that you should only use what you need. With their approach, you can efficiently waste the least amount of power with enough performance to do what you need.The team was awarded $1,000.
Below, Bala does a fireside chat style interview with Ryan and Jason from Foundry Group.
The UnConference presented a host of great ideas, which were far more varied than what you'd find in technology hubs in the United States, largely because many of the needs and problems that locals need to solve on a Nordic Island are unique.
Some of the ideas included angel investing in Icelandic start-ups, the role of big companies in the start-up ecosystem, women's role as investors, entrepreneurs and consumers, cultural barriers between those who have money and those who don't, the value of mentoring, bootstrapping, what can be gained from a Pan-Nordic collaboration, growing Icelandic tourism through better customer service, attracting talent to Iceland and the importance of having a start-up friendly government policy.
Kudos to the Start-Up Iceland team and everyone behind the scenes who made everything happen, from the Hackathon and UnConference, to the more formal Start-Up Event at HARPA, which included a VIP dinner and the President's speech.
I first heard Iceland's President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson speak at PopTech, an annual event in Maine I've had the pleasure of attending and being involved in over the years. His presentation style is very warm and inviting and once again, he brought that quality to the stage. Below he gives a touching and inspiring talk to attendees.
The video of his talk below.
My takeaway went beyond the fact that Iceland now has a thriving and growing start-up community as demonstrated by Start-Up Iceland and the level of support for the event. Icelanders have resilience and dedication to making things work regardless of what is thrown their way.
Consider what the country went through in 2008 during their financial crisis and how as a nation, they came out the other side as committed and united, able to move forward with a team and “can-do” attitude, something every startup needs to not just survive but thrive.
The fact that Iceland is a small country can be used to their advantage. Icelanders help each other out, share and cross pollinate ideas and don't give up easily. Smaller communities in the U.S., such as Boulder and Portland also implement more of a sharing and caring mentality, something Silicon Valley could use a bit more of. As Foundry Group’s Jason Mendelson commented on a panel, “in Silicon Valley, it’s more like every man out for himself.”
We have a lot to learn from Icelanders and I felt fortunate to meet some of the early entrepreneurs who are helping to make Iceland grow and thrive as a global player in the entrepreneurial world.
May 31, 2013
All Things D 2013 Wrap: Rockets, Authentification Pills & Speech to The Future of TV
All Things D just held their 11th annual conference in Rancho Palos Verdes California this past week. Imagine a few hundred billionaire and millionaire game changers in a room at an oceanside resort, discussing the latest digital technology trends that impact a host of industries: from government, retail and consumer electronics to mobile advertising, digital TV and everything in between. It makes you wonder: Are we moving to a world that looks something like this?
Some of the trends and reccuring themes are not new this year, but they are more pressing as storage gets cheaper, bandwidth gets faster and it is becoming more common to program your home and tap into a mobile device for nearly everything we do.
How people think about things that were once a Star Trek-like discussion are now becoming reality: energy sources, Google Glass that brings virtual and augmented reality to life in more ways than one, electric versus gas powered cars, a trip to Mars if you have a bank account big enough to afford a ticket, wearable devices and how we will view what we now call TV in the next decade. And, that's just the beginning.Some of the leading CEOs and thought leaders driving change in this space were on the D stage this year, hosted by Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher.
Mary Meeker who I have tremendous respect for and think of among other things as the "Data Chick", shared her annual Internet trends. No one I know can better convey data faster with as much content as she has in a way that is comprehensable to both geeks and creatives. She somehow manages to get through to both. Here's her latest report.
Two themes which continue to come up again and again are privacy and security despite prolific users of social networks and geo-based services like Foursquare suggesting that they no longer matter.
Where else would fingers be pointed than Facebook? Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg took the stage to address those issues in the first day's morning session. A Wall Street Journal reporter asked her about "trust."
He raises the issue of snapchatting, which seems like a direct reflection of mistrust. Trust is the cornerstone of our users says Sheryl. She adds, "its critical that we are transparent in understanding how the product works. It used to be complicated and that translated to mistrust so we've made our privacy page and other sections much more visual to make it easier for the user."
She also talked about the new social world where messaging, texting and photos are continuing to explode and 'it's not going to stop.' While she wouldn't speak to any new 'product announcements,' focusing on those three areas was telling.
Unlike Mark, she's fabulous on stage. Even if you don't trust Facebook for whatever legitimate reasons, she's a great face for the company and knows how to turn that mistrust around.
Hunky Elon Musk seemed to get respect from everyone around me - the techies, entrepreneurs, CEOs and women who seemed to reference more than just his "accomplishments." For those who don't know all his accolades, he's the Co-Founder, CEO and Product Architect at Tesla Motors and CEO/CTO of Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX).
Et hem, before we get into his D stage shares, just look at those arms. Combine that with his adventurous spirit, desire to go to Mars, lofty sustainable goals and his South African accent and it's no wonder he has so many woman at "Hello."
Elon's major message, at least the recurring one was sustainability. Elon is a man who defies odds -- a bit of a quieter Tony Robbins icon, where his sense of solitude and confidence meets the resolve of a politican and the demeanor of a trusted geek. Or, something to that effect.
He says, "car manufacturers said we could never reach certain goals and we keep beating and meeting our goals, defying odds again and again. Our challenge is that we need to convince them that what we're doing is much more than the niche market Tesla is today. To convince them that electric cars are a mainstream product will require a lot more work but its work we need to do."
His tone suggested that it wasn't work he needed to do because it was best for Tesla's bottom line, but because it's the right thing for the planet.
He also announced the expansion of their supercharger network a day earlier than planned. This move is an obvious and required one to move Tesla more into the mainstream limelight. Clearly, the more people who own a Tesla, the broader the network of superchargers Tesla can support and the more superchargers there are, the more compelling it becomes to own one. If there are not enough charging stations, people won't think of purchasing one as their main car and it will remain a secondary car for those with oodles of money or who live in a city where you don't have to travel very far. Below is their expansion plan in the U.S. over the next several months.
On immigration reform, which he wanted to support, he said there was too much Kissinger-ness! He added, "what we encourage is the political system we will deserve." Hear hear. In an interview on CNBC this morning, he said he left Mark Zuckerberg's political action committee, FWD.us, "because the organization became too cynical."
He also addressed carbon and believes in having a carbon tax that will honor the right behavior and penalize the wrong behavior just like we do with alcohol and tobacco. He says, "how we collect the money is irrelevant but the government needs to be paid so we need to reallocate where that money comes in from and set up a system that condemns bad carbon behavior."
With Steve Jobs legacy still lingering and the fact that he was such an icon on the All Things D stage every year, it's no surprise that the fireside chat with Apple's CEO Tim Cook filled an hour and a half on opening night.
He avoided any commitment over rolling out a TV set, so much so that a Sony guy I talked to after hours was hissing about it. He wasn't the only one since it wasn't just Tim's reluctance to talk about an Apple TV set; he avoided discussing anything related to future product plans.
"While the company has seen modest success with Apple TV," he said (selling more than 13 million since the device debuted), "it has been less a flagship product than a sort of learning experience for the company. It’s been great for customers, but it’s also been good from a learning point of view for Apple.”
Chatter in the corridors throughout the conference was twofold: he did himself a disservice by showing up and not sharing any deep insights, which would have helped to re-ignite faith among thought leaders, partners, press, pundits and the pools of money in the audience and b) while Steve Jobs might have been able to get away with secrecy in that Apple culture and aloof kind of way, people had faith in the silence because they had faith in Steve.
While Tim claimed that Apple had a "grand vision" for TV and innovation was needed since there hasn't been much progress in the last two decades, he didn't convey much more. When Kara asked him what kind of CEO he was, he didn't answer despite a couple of attempts.
Here's one thing I think would have worked: talk about your operations and "bottom line" strength - while he's not the creative genius or stageman that Steve was (and btw, no one is), focusing on what he can and does ace, can go far. Secondly, people want to see a personality through texture, color and energy even if that energy is a quiet one.
Even if not theatrical on stage, he could show confidence and humanity (a kick-ass combination for any CEO in my humble opinion), by bringing up two or three personal examples in his own life. If he went with that approach, I am certain that if the wealthy and influential audience at D did't hang onto every word he said, anyone and everyone watching him on the live stream and the video of the interview later most certainly would. My two cents...
He also addressed wearable devices, the growth of their adoption and seeing it as a trend. Here's a video the All Things D team took that shares a few insights on Google Glass and its current value-add including Tim Cook's take. Four or five guys were wearing them at the conference, so I got a chance to test a pair out. The experience was a bit eerie and distracting, making me feel unsettled about my physical environment - in other words, I was more fixated on the potential augmented reality rewards and "digital data" within my surroundings than the person or physical object in front of me. A good thing? Perhaps I'll rephrase that. A healthy thing?
I also might add that it didn't do wonders for my otherwise stylin' dress and unless a different designer gets involved in future versions, I don't see this being a fashion add-on, at least not for women. (from one woman's viewpoint. To add to that, even Tim Cook agreed that people wear glasses because they have to and that they should reflect a person's fashion and style while being unobtrusive).
Another D speaker favorite is Twitter's CEO Dick Costolo, who I've known since his early Feedburner days. He has fabulous energy on stage and this year was no different. Personally I think his Chicago edge and humor play well in this environment. Fortune 500 CEOs who present often, TAKE NOTE: Wit Matters.
Kara who took the lead on topics addressed the news aspect of Twitter and asked whether Dick sees Twitter as a "news organization"? Interesting question since she's right, so many people, myself included, use Twitter as a source for our news, or at least catching up on trends, ideas and events. It's a curation of all three and more from my vantage point and I get to select who I read, when and how.
He says, "I see us partnering with news organizations to distribute news in real time and to help organize and sift through the noise. The beauty of the feed is that you follow who you want but you can also get an aspect of discovery in the mix. The accuracy of the signal that it delivers is remarkable -- we are seeing in the data that people are using the discovery tabs more and more. In the future, I see us surfacing discovery in a simpler way."
Simplicity was a core theme. While it's easy to keep adding more features, the challenge is in removing complexity while keeping the functionality and value-add there, something he says Jack Dorsey aces. Dick says of Jack, "he has remarkable product sensibility - he sees things in a way that no one else does and has a unique way of finding innovative things early on. He's extraordinary."
What is Twitter missing today? Simplicity, he says again. "Because of the 140 word constraint, people have created memes and language that everyone knows in the tweetoverse but newbies have to learn."
A capital investment guy asks him, "Twitter is having an extraordinary impact on the financial markets - it's a constant flow. When does government say to Twitter that you need to control it?"
Dick says that it will likely flow less from government and more from how the media laws are written in each country. They are so different depending on where you are, referencing the UK's broadcast media world as an example.
Another D favorite was Pinterest's Ben Silbermann, largely for his honesty and down-to-earth approach on stage.
He talked about how people use Pinterest today - people ask themselves: what activities should I share with my kids? What gift should I get my wife? Pinterest was started to address those needs. He says, "Collecting physical things was always a passion for me and I think what you collect says a lot about who you are.I was interested in taking things offline and putting them online."
When asked what he didn't know at the beginning and what they have learned along the way, he talked about the overlapping pins, as a way to learn about someone else or a group of people who shares similar interests as you somewhere else in the world. He says, "people who share things creates an interest graph - it gives you an intuitive and human way to discover things."
Some call Pinterest the sleeping giant although it isn't really sleeping anymore. Media in general is becoming more visual and while there have been discovery platforms over the past ten years, the timing didn't match the adoption of integrating a digital lifestyle as a normal and daily routine. Timing isn't everything but it matters more than a lot of entrepreneurs think it does.
I see this with clients all the time! Many start-up founders see, feel and taste the vision long before a consumer is ready to embrace it and often, no amount of advice will stop them from moving full speed ahead even if the market isn't quite ready for it.
Ben also talked about how their team thinks about Pinterest on a mobile device or iPad differently based on user behavior. He says, "we ask the question from your access point, 'are you on the web to browse and put collections together or are you at the supermarket accessing Pinterest through your cell phone to find a recipe with ingredients you need?"
What about Pinterest as a lead generation for brands? Your phone and tablet is always around you so it matters, he says and mobile is huge.....and growing. It begs the following questions: Is Pinterest a mobile interest graph company or will it become one? What business is Pinterest in today and in five years?
Simplicity was as core to Ben and his team as it is to Dick and his at Twitter. Says Ben, "when the average person uses Pinterest, it has to be easy-to-use and intuitive." They are taking feedback from both the partner and consumer sides.
The latest evaluation? 2.5 billion evaluation today. To that Ben says, "If Google teaches you anything, it's that small things can get big."
Dr. Regina E. Dugan, Motorola's Mobility SVP of Advanced Technology & Products was on stage with the CEO of Motorola Mobility Dennis Woodside.
Last time she was on the D stage, she was at DARPA and her personality, wit and confidence was a hit with the geeks and entrepreneurs alike. She was equally compelling the second time around.
Regina talked about some of the things they and others are working on around authentication. She showed a tattoo on her wrist, a tattoo that would ultimately authenticate everything. While it's only a prototype now, the thought of wearing one of those for authentification purposes is freakingly eerie. What scares me most is if the government or pieces of it decide that tattoos or a variation of them should become a standard, in the same way there's now a standard way of airport security and opting out is possible, but awkward and time consuming.
There's also an authentification pill and no I'm not kidding. The pill would emit an 18 bit code using your stomach acid as an electrolyte (think battery) and you'll be able to transmit that digital code repeatedly. The latter means that you'd have to take a tablet every day at least initially. If you were forced into one method of authentication, would you choose the pill or tattoo? Frankly, a button on my cell phone that matches my personal thumb print would do just fine.
Other issues the Motorola Mobility team is working on is battery life and broken phones and disruption in the mobile and TV world - who gets paid what and what becomes the new "fair" in the new digital world? What does mobile innovation look like when it is less feathered and tampered with by carriers?
Regina was proud to announce that Google Glass wearers walking around with the new Motorola phone slated to come out in August will be made in the U.S., not overseas. (70% will be assembled in Texas).
Lastly, they're kicking off a fun project this summer that will test the limit of "great new ideas." In true makerfair fashion, they are taking a van 10,000 miles over five months to universities and fairs, giving people access to tools so they can create things -- from medicine and mobile to 3D printing.
Less exciting on stage was GE's CEO Jeffrey Immelt, but then again, it's hard to compete with Regina's fabulous energy.
GE is clearly thinking about and innovating with 3D printing. He says, "the practice of 3D printing has some practical applications in the big industrial world of building jet engines." Like Musk, he and his team are thinking of big ideas, not iPhone and social media applications.
Nuance's CEO and Chairman Paul Ricci talked about the future of speech recognition. As someone who led communications efforts for Dragon -- now owned by Nuance -- I'm a sucker for any advancement in the speech world. He says, "most of what we do is service large enterprise service companies, cars and the consumer electronic industry."
Clearly, as has always been the challege with speech recognition accuracy and mainstream adoption, it's not just the literal accuracy but the understanding of what you mean: natural language processing and beyond. It continues to get better but still has a long way to go.
That said, recognition is better than it's ever been in history. I'm a user of Siri and find the accuracy remarkably good, so much so that it has become habit, unlike so many other false hopes and useless technology promises.
While B2B and enterprise remain a core part of their business and embedded speech to enable things we use everyday will continue to grow, there's still the consumer application for speech which has helped so many.
I felt a sense of pride and nostalgia when he referred to Dragon products as the only products in his lifetime which has had such a profound impact on people's lives. I too remember so many times when people walked up to me and shared stories about how Dragon's recognition software had literally changed their lives. It was a nice touch and great to hear on the afternoon of the last day.
There's always new & innovative demos shown at D and my favorite was from Max Levchin, formerly of Slide and Paypal. He showed a demo of a new fertility app called GLOW, which is a mobile app that calculates, tracks and monitors data for a woman's pregnancy, such as optimal time of month, and so on. That data can be used to assess the best time for a woman to get pregnant.
There were also demos of Fanhattan and August. Fanhattan is a cloud-based app that is attempting to aggregate video sources into a single location making it a more seamless user experience.
August uses an iPhone and Bluetooth to automatically lock and unlock the door of a home or office as you come close. When you leave, the same process will lock the door behind you. You can access the app through the web or your mobile device, where there are controls, such as digital key sharing and log data of who entered your home and when they were last there.
The app is in synch with the theme of needing to speed up and automate authentification since we are doing it more and more often every day. There's clearly a need for a solution that tackles this problem. I'm feeling a bit better about this than the Motorola authentification pill to be honest. How about you?
Below Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher bid the crowd farewell and thanked their team for yet another successful D. Other speakers not mentioned here include Walt Disney's Thomas Staggs, Box's CEO Aaron Levie, John Chambers, Barry Diller, CNN's Jeff Zucker, Anne Sweeney, I. Marlene King, Scooter Braun, Troy Carter, Guy Oseary, Google's Sundar Pichai, Steven Sinofsky from Harvard, Kazuo Hirai and the 49er's CEO Jed York.
And, a hats off to the crew I came down to D with for making the to and fro such a pleasure: Patti and Larry Magid, Gary Lauder, Shireen Piramoon, Gary Kovacs, Nat Goldhaber, Renee Blodgett. Also, a major kudos to Nat's incredible flying ability. As always, the best conversations of any conference always happen offline. Hallways, elevators, cars, planes, taxis, swimming pools and bars all count! :-)
Photo credits: Top photo of globe from intentblog.com, Sheryl Sandberg shot is a screen grab from the All Things D video from MikeIsaac's article on the All Things D site/blog, Tim Cook Shot from Asa Mathat / AllThingsD.com and all others Renee Blodgett.
May 17, 2013
5 Important Issues From 5 TEDxBerkeley Speakers: Help Us Pave the Way
As a co-curator of a TEDx event, you have a joyful honor of bringing important issues you want to see brought to the table...to the table, or in this case, a TEDx stage. Having been involved in the curation process at TEDxBerkeley for a few years now, there are speakers and writers I've met along the way who have haunted me -- positively and negatively -- the latter often provacative enough that regardless of whether it's a pretty story, you know the story must be told.
Personal issues that keep me awake at night include the ugly embrace of processed food, climate change & the implications for wildlife and the world, the growing divide between the rich and the poor, our sad state of healthcare and education, and women's inequalities. There are countless others, but there's only so much that can absorb my already noisy back channel at any given time.
At TEDxBerkeley this year, we were able to bring some of those conversations to attendees.
I have always wanted Robert Neuwirth to speak at TEDxBerkeley ever since I first heard him speak at PopTech a few years ago. He is best known for his work with squatter communities and poverty. He wrote Shadow Cities: A Billion Squatters, A New Urban World, a book describing his experiences living in squatter communities in Nairobi, Rio de Janeiro, Istanbul and Mumbai.
He brings us on a journey to West Africa and how locals came up with a creative way to source their own energy when the government couldn't.
Lagos residents use energy conservation. In his time in Lagos, he saw people get their water in large canisters not from fresh water sources or private wells. The Lagos government claims that it provides safe drinking water in sufficient quantities to its people, according to a newspaper he read on his way out of the country and yet, its far from reality. There is no real functioning water system in Lagos and other things are not efficient either. Apparently they waste N1.5 billion by leaving their computers on standby.
Kim Polese was the opening speaker for this year's theme of Catalyzing Change. In alignment with the theme, she addressed the communications gap between education providers and students. Students don't know what courses to take so they can succeed in the 21st century.
Our challenge is to preserve the excellence and transform old curriculum she says. "We face a new crisis, the skills gap, which is a crisis which is affecting everyone so we need a revolution in the teaching model, a few of which are MOOC (massive online open courses) and passive versus active participants in online open courses (small online classes) in SPOCS, Small Private Online Classes.
The revolution is not about cutting costs, it's about this new transformational learning model that is more engaged and also it allows for mass distribution to more people. Only 50% of undergraduates receive a degree in six years. Moreso than that, 55% of students need remediation.
The typical student attends multiple universities, which equates to lost dollars and time because so much of the credits don't transfer over. Often, a student takes "on average" over a year of credits they wouldn't need to take.
One idea: What if we offered and made those transfer of those credits seamless? Think about what Visa did to revolutionize the credit business, by swiping a card and it just works. If we standardize undergraduate classes so the credits can be applied as seamlessly as a Visa card is used today to pay for products and services.
The STEM gap (science, technology, engineering and math) aka rouhgly 33% of students who just felt that they weren't prepared enough is widening......in the U.S., we lag behind most developed countries.
Five out of every new jobs will be in STEM related jobs in the next decade and yet we're lagging behind countries like Singapore, France and other developing countries. If we just focused on increasing the number of STEM graduates by 10% can produce 75,000 more STEM graduates by the end of the decade, which is close to what Obama's goal is for higher education.
Women are turning away from computing, the percentage at its all time high was 34% and now its down to below 15%. The first programmers were women. During World War II, the army recruited a group of women out of the University of Pennsylvania to calculate bolistic trojectories and they called these computers women. She refers to the work of TED Prize winner Sugata Mitra.
Known for his work in education research, Sugata Mitra won $1 million TED Prize to build his School in the Cloud.
Many who keeps tabs on education will know him for his project called “Hole in the Wall”, an experiment he conducted in 1999, where Mitra and his colleagues dug a hole in a wall near an urban slum in New Delhi, installed an Internet-connected PC and walked away.
Over time, while a hidden camera filmed the area, the video showed children from the slum playing around with the computer and in the process, teaching themselves now only how to use it themselves, but sharing that knowledge with their friends.
His goal is lofty – he invited the world to embrace child-driven learning by setting up something he refers to as Self-Organized Learning Environments (SOLEs). He asked for help designing a learning lab in India, where children can “embark on intellectual adventures.”
Second in the session was Eden Full who is the Founder of Roseicollis Technologies Inc. She studied for two years at Princeton University and is currently taking gap years to work on her start-up full time after being selected for the inaugural class of the 20 Under 20 Thiel Fellowship. Named one of the 30 under 30 in Forbes’ Energy category two years in a row and Ashoka’s Youth Social Entrepreneur of the Year, Eden founded Roseicollis Technologies Inc. to take her solar panel tracking invention called the SunSaluter to developing communities and established markets that need them.
The SunSaluter won the Mashable/UN Foundation Startups for Social Good Challenge and was awarded the runner-up prize at the 2011 Postcode Lottery Green Challenge. While at Princeton, Eden initiated and curated TEDxPrincetonU. Proudly Canadian, she was born and raised in Calgary, Alberta. After coxing for the Princeton lightweight women’s team, Eden was selected to be the coxswain for the 2012 Rowing Canada’s senior women’s development team, where they won a gold medal at Holland Beker and the Remenham Challenge Cup at the Henley Royal Regatta, beating the German Olympic boat.
She shared her story about her patent-pending solar invention called SunSaluter which she has been using in East Africa. Provided extra electricity every day for one 60W panel to charge, plus not just the benefit of getting extra water but clean to people every day. She tested it out in a polit in Nyakasimbi Tanzania and thereafter with a partner in Kirindi Uganda. The goal is deploy 200+ units to 15,000+ villagers.
Curt L. Tofteland is the founder of the internationally acclaimed Shakespeare Behind Bars (SBB) program. During his 18 years of work with Shakespeare in corrections, he facilitated the SBB/KY program at the Luther Lucket Correctional Complex, producing and directing 14 Shakespeare Productions.
"It is within the silence that we discover the absence of self," he said to TEDxBerkeley audience, as he opened with lines from Shakespeare. "We arrive in this world, naked and alone and we leave this world, naked and alone; we take with us our memories and we leave behind our deeds," he says reading a story that addressed life issues such as dealing with truth and ego.
May 17, 2013 in America The Free, Client Announcements, Conference Highlights, Events, On Education, On Health, On Innovation, On Politics, On Science, On Technology, On the Future, On Women, TravelingGeeks | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
March 05, 2013
TEDActive 2013: Bubble Guns & Global Conversations on Lawns & Haystacks
As a long time TEDster, I had never been to its offshoot, an event that happens simultaneously every year called TedActive. It's essentially TED, but less expensive and less bells and whistles.
Since it is held a couple of hours from the main event, the speakers are obviously not on-site, however you do experience them through a satellite feed, which includes views of the audience, the main stage and the impact the speakers have on that audience in real time.
For years, TED has something called the 'simulcast' room, which is where you can view the talks in a separate room on a 'screen' not far from the main room.
Why some people love hanging out in the 'simulcast room' rather than the main room is that it allows them to quietly chat in the back, or type away on their keyboard if they have work to get done.
OR, if you're an A++ type who is simply too digitally connected to sit still with nothing but an old fashioned notebook among 1,000 of your "closest" friends, simulcast is the way to go.
All of TEDActive is a bit like that, except that the main room resembles TED's main simulcast room and TEDActive's additional simulcast rooms, which are even more casual, feel like a cross between a silent and creative experiment at a progressive university and an adult's playground.
In some of the rooms, there were tables with paper cut outs and magic markers if you wanted to jot down your ideas in "color" using "scraps". This year, they also had a 'banana' theme and while I still don't know what was behind it, it was oddly amusing to continuously bump into two guys who didn't know each other, yet both of their lives depended on bananas.
From bananas and spirited drinks to cut outs and designs, we moved to species and the Internet in a nano-second.
An idea was thrown out there by four respected illumaries in different fields: Diana Reiss, Peter Gabriel, Neil Gershefeld and Vint Cerf. The question was: could the internet also connect us with dolphins, apes, elephants and other highly intelligent species?
In a bold talk, the four of them came together to launch the idea of the interspecies Internet.
There was a 'creative' lab' where Andy Cavatorta set up an exhibit that combined technology, robotics and music.
In that same space, a few of us were inspired to get creative at two am, not long after a martini sipping session where we ate blueberries with M&M's and talked science fiction to young MIT types.
Did I mention that I'm a sucker for fur vests, colored lights and 3D science fiction glasses? And in case you're wondering, yes we were posing.
There was creative energy at the final pool party as well, which included wild hats, squirt guns, funky pants, and bananas of course, all set on a whole lotta grass against a beautiful mountainous desert in a place called LaQuinta you may never have heard of unless a TED Conference happened to be breezing through. Here we consumed some R&R, sunscreen and bubbly whatever.
Speaking of grass, we also had a little lawn time with TED 2013 Prize Winner Sugata Mitra. Known for his work in education research, Mitra won $1 million TED Prize to build his School in the Cloud.
He invited the world to embrace child-driven learning by setting up something he refers to as Self-Organized Learning Environments (SOLEs) and asked the TED audience for help designing a learning lab in India, where children can “embark on intellectual adventures.”
While people were expanding their creative "juices" in whatever way they could, creative "things" were in place at the lab for people to play with and take in...
Below is a fabulous woman I met by the "so done right" coffee and tea bar set up in an area called the Quad, where we gathered on haystacks and picnic tables for lunch most days. She 'wore' her commitment to eco-living and seemed to have a different name each day. If I recall, she was Cool Carol the day we exchanged TEDities.
One of the things I loved about TedActive was its combination of youthful and international energy. Below, I'm with the curator of TEDx Bordeaux Emmanuelle Roques.
With 72 countries on-site, I had 'curious' conversations, all of which had global perspectives, with folks from India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, France, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Italy, Kenya, South Africa, Australia, England, Holland, Switzerland, Japan, Korea, China, Argentina, Brazil, Iran, Chile, Colombia, Canada, Malta, Lebanon, Palestine, UAE, Turkey, Germany, Estonia, Sweden, Denmark, Scotland, Ireland, Israel, Belgium and Uganda.
And, those are only the ones that immediately popped into my head without diving into my business cards or the TED mobile app.
If that's not your thing, then the Active experience is a more laid back way to experience TED where you can still stretch your brain, discover new ideas, be inspired, get your creative juices flowing, get off the grid for five days and have 'unique' conversations that make you think differently, then give it a shot.
Personally, there is always someone I know on the main TED stage every year, often more than one, and many more people I have known, worked, played and cried with for years attend the main event. The other thing you're more likely to get at the main TED event is an overdose of "intellectual high."
Comedian Julia Sweeney had the audience in stitches as she made references to her peeps, you know, the Nobel Prize Winners, Scientists, Authors & Inventors that were part (so not) of her everyday world from TED.
Accolades and titles aside, I've never been one for labels and titles: none of them -- celeb labels, CEO labels, soup labels, hair product labels or shoe labels.
Whether you're into them or not, labels and titles are in abundance at TED, all there to expand their mind, gather new ideas, and many later find a way to contribute to something they were exposed to at the event. I must admit, if I were only a little more "label, title and accolade savvy", it would certainly make the Oscars easier to understand.
While we're on the topic of labels and great design, I'd be remiss if I didn't include a shot of some of Yu Jordy Fu's fabulous design work. I found her fascinating.
Later, a random encounter led to an interview with Upstart Business Journal's Teresa Novellino, a TED virgin, over lunch. See her article here, which takes an entrepreneurship angle. I wouldn't call myself a groupie, but I am most certainly a fan of what TED represents: spreading great ideas, innovation, inspiration and helping the world become a better place through a collective effort.
I'm also a huge fan of the in the between stuff that happens before and after all the organized formalities that events "do," to throw people together. When there's space and time and the 'tossing' is cast aside, real magic happens. Incredible dialogues happen. Life changing observations form. Relationships emerge. New initiatives are created.
And, as a result, 'collective' conversations away from your 'collective' and 'individual' conversations in your daily worlds, make you think about the world differently.
In that moment, an idea sizzles, or more importantly, an old way of thinking gets shattered which brings me to an oldie but a goodie, one of my favorite Helen Keller quotes:
"When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we don't see the one opening before us." -Helen Keller
Conversations like these remind you that there are always opportunities in front of us but so often, we're asleep and miss the silent intro.
I had another observation from hanging out with such a 'global 'tribe' over the course of five days. The early American "drive" seems to be getting replaced by more of a laissez faire attitude that no longer induces self ignition. See my write-up on Rescue America, a book released last year by Chris Salamone, that fixates on this shift.
Full of historical and philosophical references, he creates clear and specific connections between the loss of our founding values and the current challenges facing our nation. What is necessary, he suggests, is a fundamental shift back toward a national embodiment of the three primary leadership qualities that sustain all lasting human institutions: gratitude, personal responsibility, and sacrifice.
What I noticed at TedActive was how many people showed up from other parts of the world embracing all three.
The notion that the "west" knows how to lead is something Americans do incredibly well. Many are good at doing it and even more are really good at giving the perception that they're good at doing it. My grandparents and parents generations learned that there were less boundaries than the countries they left behind, and were taught that hard work and education pays off.
In other parts of the world, boundaries are overcome through great sacrifice and taking personal responsibility to change the status quo, which can come in the form of political oppression, rapes that are brushed under the table, or worse.
TED speakers and attendees from other parts of the world are great examples of where and how they embrace gratitude, personal responsibility and sacrifice in their daily lives.
Take a look at this year's Yu Jordy Fu, who is not afraid to push boundaries, incorporating "raw beauty" and "love" into her design, art and architecture.
OR, how violinist Ji-Hae Park uses her music to reach people’s hearts. "There are no boundaries,” says Ji-Hae Park on the TED2013 stage. While TED may be a lofty place to perform, she also plays at prisons, hospitals and restricted facilities. She talks about her time when she was depressed and how changing your perspective through music transformed how she viewed music but life itself.
OR, how Lakshmy Pratury with tears in her eyes, talked about the importance of keeping the Delhi rape alive, also reminding us that theres a new kind of revolution happening in India where the youth is breaking down the concept of a leader.
OR, how Hyeonseo Lee made sacrifices to get her family out of North Korea. As a woman who saw her first public execution at age 7, she endured a famine in the 1990s, one which killing an estimated million people. At the time, she didn’t have the frame of reference to understand the government repression going on around her but was later caught by the Chinese police.
Someone had accused her of being North Korean, and she was subjected to brutal tests of her ability to speak Chinese. Every year, countless North Koreans are caught in China, sent back, tortured, imprisoned, publicly executed, and now she is in Long Beach talking to thousands of people who can make a difference with their voices, blogs, connections, social media call outs and their wallets.
Then, there's the Ugandan artist & teacher Ruganzu Bruno Tusingwire, who I hung out with at TedActive. He became the first City 2.0 Award recipient of 2012 in Doha Qatar, at the TEDxSummit, which I attended last April.
Tusingwire's big idea is to use waste materials to create a movable amusement park for children living in slums of Kampala.
He is using his award to grow his community, grow an woman eco-artist loan program already supporting 15 women to develop their business ideas, and expand the amusement park from a single plane-shaped sculpture made of recycled plastic bottles into a permanent park. I loved his energy, not to mention his visible sense of sacrifice, personal responsibility and gratitude.
A few of my tweets from the week:
- Humans have made a huge hole in nature! We CAN bring back species we have killed &must repair the damage says Stewart Brand@longnow #TED2013
- .@rodneyabrooks shows off his latest #robot Baxter on the #TEDstage - http://ow.ly/i/1Ayqz #robotics #factories #China #education
- .@bonovox_ shares updates from his activist work & latest #HIVstats:Child mortality down w/7256 kids being saved each day#health #TED2013
- #Education is not about filling buckets, it's about lighting fires says Stuart Firestein! http://ow.ly/i/1ABun #TED2013 #TedActive
- Edith Widder shows #squid video: We've only explored 5% of our#oceans! http://ow.ly/i4Scx + http://ow.ly/i/1ABE1 #TED2013 #TedActive
- Brazilian @SalgadoSebasti shows his strongest B/W images at#TED2013 http://ow.ly/i/1ABSF #photography #rainforests #TedActive#eco
- Cities are living systems but #technology has always been part of "the city" asserts @SaskiaSassen at #TED2013 - #TedActive
- #Kenyan Richard Turere (13 yr old inventor) & LionLights 2save his familys cattle on TED2013 stage 2day http://bit.ly/KybBhL #TedActive
- Its not about making learning happen,its about letting it happen@sugatamitra who subscribes2 self organizing learning #educator#TED2013
- Creative ideas from @ideasandaction @mabuzeinab@justwardah @tedxyouthTbird in #PalmSprings this AM:http://ow.ly/i/1AW5L #TED2013
- Bowmaker @dongwooJANG uses bows 2explore his cultural heritage & create a metaphor for his perfect world #TED2013#TEDActive #design #Korea
- #Music is what restored my soul, changed my perspective & set me free says #violinist. Let music #heal your heart says Ji-Hai Park#TED2013
- Martin Villeneuve aka #MarsEtAvril designs the instruments inspired by a woman's body & the #photographer they both love. #TED2013
Another interesting international 'observation' was what was absent and what was wasn't. A latin band played on one of the nights and I was astonished that my partners on the dance floor were not Brazilian, Argentinian, Chilean or Peruvian, but German, French, Middle Eastern and Italian.
In fact, the Best Dancer Award for TEDActive from a 'partner perspective' goes to Mohammed Abu Zeinab from Qatar who is apparently half Palestinian and half Lebanese. Go figure...and he rocked it to Latin music of all things.
P.S. he even wore funky clothing the rest of the week.
TED reminds you that nothing in your world is really aligned the way you 'think it should be.'
It made me wonder what Wallace Stegner, Oscar Wilde, Tolstoy and Doris Lessing would make of TED talks. Would they be overwhelmed? Would they be able to make sense of the over digitized, over connected world we have created?
Someone who can make sense of it is AutoDesk's Jonathan Knowles who showed up for half of TedActive, wearing fabulous, fun and bright colored socks.
Having just migrated from PC to Mac, I was somewhat sad and somewhat ecstatic that our conversation would end up being largely tech support in nature. Two hours later, I was fully equipped with Mac tricks and tips, though I'm still far less efficient on a Mac than I was on my old trusty Lenovo.
I couldn't help but get a chuckle over one of his tweets shortly after he arrive in Palm Springs.
Lunch at #TED2013 versus Lunch at #TEDActive #maybeExaggerateAbit: pic.twitter.com/IV3PoVIG8J
Although excessive, I must admit, we did in fact have a lawn party with picnic baskets, sandwiches and cookies in 80 degree sunshine, the last time we'll likely do such a thing given that TED's new location is in Canadian Vancouver and Whistler next year.
Occasionally, you hang out with people you know and work with: below with Andrew Carton of HAPILABS.
And as always, they had a TED gift bag, which was a backpack made by Target this year. I went for the Explorer bag, which seemed appropriate given that one of my many hats is a travel editor. This of course included a stuffed elephant from World Wildlife Fund, which I named Gambia, and a gift card from Inventables (thx Zach), among umpteen other things. My pals over at TripIt also included a free year subscription and there was a GoToob Bottle from HumanGear I couldn't quite make sense of since the top didn't seem to stay on, which is a disaster for a traveler.
On the last night of TED, I headed back to Long Beach to have drinks and dinner with old friends and musician Amanda Palmer who performed this year, showed up and shared a few tunes with our intimate group, something which has become tradition for as long as I can remember. (the dinner part, not the Amanda part)
And at the end of the evening, there's always room for a little girl bonding or whatever it is we do that makes us feel feminine and human and connected and just fabulous being together. Below: former TEDPrize winner Jehane Noujaim, who is working on The Square, a film about the Egyptian Revolution, Amanda Palmer, Lakshmi Pratury, Renee Blodgett and Amy Robinson.
International flavors came out once again as Reggie Watts killed it on stage at the end of Ted Active with new sounds I hadn't heard before from him. I remain a fan!
Suddenly I found myself lifted up into the crowd and then over it, my body being passed from hands to hands....a remarkable experience especially when you realize that each set of hands are likely from a different continent.
How cool I thought as I looked beyond the crowds below me as people bumped together, swaying to the hypnotic music that extended beyond us into the lofty palms that give Palm Springs its name.
Behind me were the non-swayers sipping drinks and networking in their respective courtyard corners. In the foreground, I spotted Jill Sobule not far from the stage, and then there was Reggie performing in all his eclectic glory, surrounded by a fusion of pinks and hazy midnight hues and I wondered for a moment if it was all just a dream.
Also see some of my individual blog posts from TED 2013 this year, including:
- Four Ted Speakers Who Appeal To Our Sensory Selves
- TED2013 Prize Winner Sugata Mitra's Wish for Education: "School in the Cloud"
- Ugandan Ruganzu Bruno Tusingwire Empowers & Engages Children Through PLAY
- Jordy Fu, Creator & Artist: Create Love Through Design
- Brazilian Photographer Sebastiao Salgado Shares His Story at TED2013
- Rad Hip Gardener Ron Finley Wants to Greenify Inner City Neighborhoods
- Saskia Sassen on the Value of Imperfect & Incomplete Cities at TED2013
- Inspiration at TED2013: From Music & Healing to Endangered Species & Mobile Electric Vehicles
- Dan Pallotta: Think About a Charity's Deams, Not Their Overhead
Photo Credits: All visibly on-stage photos of speakers from the Ted Blog, the shot of Renee and Emmanuelle taken by Teresa Novellino, Yu Jordy Fu with her artwork shot from her site, all other shots by Renee Blodgett.
March 04, 2013
MBA or Not in the New Digital Age?
The Wall Street Journal has a great piece that suggests an alternative route to the traditional MBA. In other words, imagine that you have the option to go somewhere prestigious on paper, such as Harvard or Stanford for your MBA and can spend time with other go-getter types among ivy-covered buildings and high-powered faculty for a couple of years.
Yet, after you're out the door, who would a progressive CEO rather hire? the candidate who built a profitable business in two years, or the candidate who sat in lectures? They suggest that a 'smart investor' would skip the MBA candidate.
The piece suggests that what matters "exponentially more than that M.B.A. is the set of skills and accomplishments that got you into business school in the first place. What if those same students, instead of spending two years and $174,400 at Harvard Business School, took the same amount of money and invested it in themselves? How would they compare after two years? If you want a business education, the odds aren't with you, unfortunately, in business school. Professors are rewarded for publishing journal articles, not for being good teachers."
Read the original article here.
January 01, 2013
The Pain of Upgrades: Migrating from a Lenovo to a MacBook Pro
It's a Lenovo, my second over an eight year period. We all knew the day was coming.
“We” is anyone and everyone who has stopped by my office or seen me using it at an event. They'd hover over me and remark: I can’t believe how slow your machine is, yowsa – how do you get anything done?
The thing is…I've only had it for four years and it's been on its way out for half of those four.
It seems as if I grew up in a world with different standards. The thought of a piece of machinery you paid $2,500 for with all the bells and whistles dying within a few years wouldn’t be acceptable…it’s absurd and yet we've all been brainwashed into thinking it’s not.
Manufacturers and reviewers alike are both to blame for creating such a consumable world where we're constantly shelling out more money for more reliable hardware, which it should have been reliable in the first place.
My refrigerator didn't cost that much nor did the stove in my kitchen and yet both have been purring along for more than a decade. I paid $300 for a car once that lasted longer than my laptops do today and it’s likely that some old guy somewhere in Maine probably is still using it for trips to the grocery store.
When someone sees my two year old iPhone, they look at me as if I'm as outdated as the guy who’s driving that old Oldsmobile. A few friends are trying to get me to upgrade my four year old 24 inch Samsung flat screen monitor when it works perfectly fine.
Call it old fashioned wisdom of sorts, or just common sense, but who said, "if it works, don't mess with it?" Oh yeah, that was my grandfather, not Winston Churchill or Steve Jobs.
When I ask "why upgrade?" I'm told there's better pixels, faster speeds or I’m bound to have compatibility issues.
While Windows 8 is now available, consumers are forced to pay an extra $100 for Windows 7, now outdated. It's the exponential growth thing haunting my every day, the pressure of keeping up with the speed at which technology is accelerating not to mention the pressure we all have financially of trying to keep up with it all too.
Silicon Valley tells me to ‘get over it,’ and just upgrade, but Silicon Valley doesn’t live in the real world where salaries are one fifth of what they are elsewhere in the country and that’s if you aren’t one of the 20 something year olds who made an exit from a not so innovative of an app that got sold to someone with more money than brains.
eMarketer made a 2012 tablet sales prediction of 81.3 million tablets, up from 15.7 million in 2011, and Gartner estimates that sales will multiply to 54.8 million in 2011 and more than 208 million by 2014.
Forrester Research numbers have laptop sales continuing to grow from 26.4 million in 2010 to 38.9 million in 2015, however, while desktop PC sales will decline from 20.5 million in 2010 to 18.2 million in 2015. Mobile is hot and we’re all moving to smaller form factors – the trends make sense.
Take a look at research firm Canalys figures: they have vendor shipments of smartphones close to 489 million smartphones in 2011, compared to 415 million PCs. Smartphone shipments increased by 63% over the previous year, compared to 15% growth in PC shipments.
While mobile will win at the end of the day, the need for laptops and in some cases desktops isn’t going away tomorrow, although some will argue they can do nearly everything they need to on their iPad. While I use one, particularly when I travel, my efficiency on the thing is less than half what it is on a power laptop, even my poor dying Lenovo.
While many of my laptops over a decade have died a slow horrible death, some of them still turn on…..they’re just not usable. As I took a hardware account, I was shocked by the list, although I suppose I shouldn’t have been! Two HPs, a mini HP, a baby MSI wind notebook I bought for a trip to Africa, a Toshiba, an Acer, two IBM/Lenovos and a partridge in a pear tree.
The power chords are out of control because none of them are compatible with each other, even the ones made by the same manufacturer. The result? A digital me and a digital life that doesn’t make things more efficient and yet productivity is the #1 thing I need these devices to deliver me and my business.
The advancements in the last decade are remarkable. For those who argue that the Singularity isn’t on its way, they might want to pause and reflect on just how fast things are moving and that it’s more difficult than ever to keep up with the advancements being thrown our way.
Clearly I'm not a luddite and I love shiny new cool gadgets and toys as much as much as my fellow geeks; remember that next week I'm off to CES for the umpteenth year in a row.
Yet, we need to remind ourselves that technology is an enabler; it needs to enhance our lives not be a hindrance to a more fulfilling life. Dealing with technology glitches, whether that be hardware or software, is something I deal with daily and these issues increase in less than a year after purchasing a brand new laptop. Shouldn’t we demand more from the hardware manufacturers?
I’m about to switch to Mac and while the artist in me is thrilled, I worry about compatibility issues and the learning curve to get me to what people say, will be a ‘simpler life.’
That said, the decision is final. I finally made the plunge and as I write, there’s a Mac Book Pro on its way to me directly from Apple.
While there’s no question, I’m a power user, I decided not to order the ‘very top of the line’ since it offers more than I’ll need. Did I mention that the price is nearly double what I’d pay to get the ‘same specs’ in a Lenovo or an equivalent? Additionally, these beautifully designed machines are heavy, roughly 30% heavier than had I gone for the latest Lenovo or Toshiba.
While I’m eager to start my 'simpler technology life,' I have my doubts. For the Apple fan boys who claim Macs are perfect and problem-free, I’d love to know why I own five iPods and only two of them actually work. My iPhone hasn’t given me any issues so far nor has my iPad, but I haven’t put it through the ringer by loading hundreds of apps like I need to do on my laptop.
While many of you may be okay with upgrading every piece of hardware we own every two years, should you be? How thin do we need our phones to be? How many apps do we really need? How many pixels do we need? How much memory do we really need? If I hear one more person insisting that I spend an additional $500 for a solid state drive, I’m going to scream. These are the same people who will insist I upgrade to an even faster solid state drive in a year and spend $500 again.
It's no wonder we keep spending to keep this senseless pattern alive. We get dished language that goes something like this:
For the new MacBook Pro with Retina Display, it's the screen -- all 2880 x 1800 pixels of it -- that will leave others scrambling to play catch-up. Of course, to push that many pixels you need serious horsepower. And the next-gen MacBook Pro (starting at $2,199) delivers just that with a quad-core Core i7 processor, Nvidia Kepler graphics and super-fast flash memory. Did we mention the MacBook Pro is only 4.5 pounds and is nearly as thin as the Air?
Manufacturers stick together, use glossy language to woo us in and build in the same obsolescence. When the industry and consumers comply, no one can complain since they all seem to die a slow horrible death much faster than they should given how much we spend. (see blog post entitled the iPad Mini: Why Apple Thinks You're an Idiot).
But alas, a dozen blog posts from now, I’ll be on a new machine, a Mac Book Pro, and hopefully in some magical way, my technology life will be transformed for the additional $800 I'm spending.
While I’m looking forward to what the Mac Book Pro will deliver, sometimes I want to just toss all of it into the ocean, or give a little pain back to the hardware that has cost me so much value time over the years, not that I’ll ever have the courage of course. That said, it appears not everyone shares my constraint.
Also refer to two posts I wrote a year or so ago on digital personas and digital 'silence.' Here's a blog post on social media turning you into a low confidence anxiety-rich freak.
Photo credits in order of appearance: A mashup created with Webdoc, Scott Kline, CoolGizmotoys.
January 1, 2013 in America The Free, Magic Sauce Media, On Innovation, On Mobile & Wireless, On People & Life, On Technology, On the Future, TravelingGeeks, WBTW | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
December 16, 2012
Mobile Loco Brings the Best of Advertising, Geo-Location & Branding to the Mobile World
Held last week in San Francisco, the MobileLoco event merged the best of geo-location, advertising, branding and the mobile world.
Run by serial marketer Mark Evans, the event aspires to dive into the brand, advertiser and mobile convergence in the context of the Social, Local and Mobile (SoLoMo) marketplace.
The discussions revolved around what this convergence means for big brands, consumers, SMBs and the mobile and location industry.
On-stage, we heard from the likes of Andrew Mason of Groupon, Benchmark Capital's Bill Gurley, Banjo's Danien Patton and the Mobile Engineering Lead of Airbnb Andrew Vilcsak. Other voices included Bloomberg TV's Cory Johnson, Google's Don Dodge, Nextdoor's Nirav Tolia, Postmates Bastian Lehmann, Foursquare's Holger Luedorf, Micello's Ankit Agarwal and others.
Above: Andrew Mason, CEO of Groupon
Client inTooch partnered with MobileLoco so users could easily and seamlessly exchange contact and social network information on the fly. A free mobile app for iPhone and Android, attendees could network that much faster and more efficiently using the app rather than have to exchange business cards or manually add Twitter and Facebook 'handles.'
Above: Steve Brehaut, Renee Blodgett, Julien Salanon
Since geo-tagging is built in, the inTooch app tracks where connection requests are made and will link all connection requests to the location, in this case the Mobile-Loco event in San Francisco, CA. When users browse through their connections, they can see all the connections they made at Mobile-Loco.
There were other cool products there too. A group out of Japan from Daq was on-site showing off their creative iPhone and iPad IRUAL cases. I find that most cases are pretty bland, come in plain colors or are frankly too tacky. Then there are those specifically targeted to the 13-18 year old market, but what happens if you don't fall into any of those categories? I loved their designs specifically aimed at women - from soft and feminine to daring and electric.
Then, I had a demo of DigitalGlobe, who apparently did a deal with MapBox on the same day. Mapbox, which is a provider of open source solutions for designing and publishing maps via the cloud, chose DigitalGlobe as their commercial and earth imagery provider.
Users can now incorporate DigitalGlobe's high-resolution satellite imagery as their maps' base layer for added quality and rich detail. The result can be quite beautiful, especially compared to the bland offerings today.
Then I went back in time to my speech recognition and natural language processing days. I saw a nifty demo from a group who call themselves SpeakToIt. What they do? Develop talking personal assistants.
The SpeaktoIt Assistant is a virtual buddy for your smartphone that answers questions in natural language, performs tasks and notifies you of important events. The Assistant is meant to save you time and make communication with gadgets and web services easier and less stressful.
All photos by Renee Blodgett.
December 16, 2012 in America The Free, Client Announcements, Client Media Kudos, Conference Highlights, Events, Magic Sauce Media, On Geo-Location, On Mobile & Wireless, On Technology, Social Media, TravelingGeeks, WBTW, Web 2.0 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack