September 22, 2013
Being Human & The Power of Storytelling at the United Nations
Costa Michailidis opened the Being Human Session, the very last session of the day for TEDxUNPlaza, now in its first year, an awe-inspiring TEDx event held at the United Nations on September 16, 2013.
Michael Marantz, the first speaker is an independent director and filmmaker. After being diagnosed with cancer at the age of 21, he rediscovered a new passion for being alive, constantly looking to discover more about life, technology, and why humans do what we do.
This re-ignition in life is what continues to inspire him in his work today. He reminds us how powerful storytelling is and what powerful stories can do for people and for the world. He says, "you need others to collaborate with and to push you along your journey. Your experiences along your life journey becomes your story and that story becomes your guide."
So true. Ultimately, the most important story is the one you tell yourself since it becomes your compass in life, often one you rarely deviate from. When something out of the ordinary or uncomfortable comes up in your life, you ask yourself: does it fit into my story?
Given that Michael is also a composer, cinematographer, editor, writer, digital artist, and experiential designer, he has added perspective on how to tell more cohesive stories.
Take Away: We all have stories to tell including the one about our own lives, who we are and what we stand for in the world. The good news is that we get to create that story, not let the world define it for us. Easier said than done, however life can be like a clean white canvas waiting to be painted anew if we only decide that it is so. It's up to us to decide that it can be painted anew!
Jack Thomas Andraka is a 16 year old inventor, scientist and cancer researcher and also the recipient of the 2012 Gordon E. Moore Award, the grand prize of the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.
Jack was awarded the $75,000 Award and named in honor of the co-founder of Intel Corporation for his work in developing a new, rapid, and inexpensive method to detect an increase of a protein that indicates the presence of pancreatic, ovarian, and lung cancer during early stages when there is a higher likelihood of a cure. A child prodigy, this teenager is a genius!
He spoke about his obstacles along the way and about the issues of high costs getting access to knowledge for important articles. He says, "there's a knowledge elite. There's the knowledge middle class who have access to 10% of articles and knowledge, then there's the knowledged underclass and the impoverished class."
He reminds us that 80% of this world has no access to this information altogether and says, "we're living in a knowledge aristocracy when what we really should have is a knowledge democracy." In other words: we should all have access to the same information.
Take Away: Support the information/knowledge democracy not the information/knowledge elite or aristocracy. We should all have access to the same information and everyone should have access to knowledge. Science is not a luxury: access to date for higher learning should be a basic human right.
Corinne Woods currently serves as Director of the UN Millennium Campaign, which supports citizens’ efforts to hold their governments accountable for achieving the Millennium Development Goals and leads the outreach to citizens and stakeholders to get their voices and concerns to feed into the Post-2015 global development agenda.
"Sometimes you work with people who are smarter and younger than you," Corinne says. "The voice of the people is the voice of God," she adds. "It's not just right that we go out and tell the stories of what is going on and make sure there's action to a million people. We need to get it out to ten million people and beyond."
She asked the audience to help her understand whether they're doing the right things at the UN. In other words: how do we make sure we tell the stories of that data and ultimately make sure those people who really should be listening don't say its just madness?
Her belief is that we can unite together to transcend these obstacles. Consider Jack's passion she says referring to the 15 year old Jack Andraka who didn't know what pancreatic cancer was but then found a new way to attack pancreatic cancer: Imagine the impact we can have if we work on hard problems together.
Take Away: We can't move major obstacles, issues and problems in healthcare and our economy to a sustainable successful place alone. Only by uniting together as a community can we come up with creative and effective solutions to move things forward.
Juan José (JJ) Rendón is a Venezuelan political strategist, consultant, film director, and teacher and had us smiling fairly quickly after he entered the United Nations stage.
Considered one of the world’s political gurus, he has consulted for presidential campaigns and legislative elections in Latin America. JJ has been recognized for his defense of democracy, support for human rights, freedom, and education.
JJ shared the four things he defines as being human: sense of humor, intelligence, creativity and sex for pleasure. The latter brought a smile, especially to a non South American crowd.
He reminds us the importance of making up our own minds about issues. For example, what doctors tell you are permanent may not be permanent. What people tell you may live with for the rest of your life may not be true. As an extension of his beliefs, he recommended a collection of essays called Laughter by French philosopher Henri Bergson.
Take Away: Define your own life, don't let others do it for you. Just because an expert tells you your life will be one way becaue of a disability or a limitation, don't let their definition become your own; create your own definition and your own journey regardless of what an expert or anyone around you says. Hear Hear JJ. I'm sure Mallory Weggemann would agree.
David L. Cooperrider, Ph.D. has quite a lofty list of titles, from a Fairmount Minerals Professor of Social Entrepreneurship at the Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve University to being past Chair of the National Academy of Management’s OD Division. He has also lectured and taught at Harvard, Stanford, University of Chicago, Katholieke University in Belgium, MIT, University of Michigan, Cambridge and others.
Aside from his countless lectures and long list of accolates, David's work as Chair and Founder of the Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit is a key passion for him. The center’s core proposition is that sustainability and that every social and global issue of our day is an opportunity to ignite industry leading eco-innovation, social entrepreneurship, and new sources of value.
In other words: let's get social, let's move hope to action, let's get inspired and let's change the horrid in the world to beautiful. He pauses and reflects on the word gratitude suggesting that perhaps we don't understand the profoundness of such basic things like hope and joy or the power of hope and inspiration.
One of David's goal is to reverse the tendancy to focus on the 80% of what's wrong to the 80% of what's right. In other words: let's get the 80/20 rule reversed. We need to elevate these human strengths around the world including igniting the notion that business is a force for eradicating extreme poverty.
He says, "we need to create urgent optimism that spreads these epic meaning making kinds of stories." His vision is that we circle the planet in an appreciative kind of intelligence. In working with the Dalai Lama on an occasion, he asked him what would be his leadership design for management and business school? Dalai Lama responded after scratching his head and said: "I can't manage a thing. If I were asked to manage anything, it would end up as a mess. But I do believe that we need a radical reorientation of the preoccupation of the self to a reorientation of others, which revolves around empathy and compassion."
He talked about the role of the positive and that positive things don't come by nature. For positive things to work, we must make the effort. David ended his talk by thanking the audience for letting him "dream out loud." I love it!
Take Away: Business is a force for eradicating extreme poverty and we often forget that. By working together and creating a united optimism that gives true meaning to epic stories, we have an opportunity to change the world for the better. The world is so much about our stories - let's make them count and add compassion, empathy and a true sense of social responsibility into the mix and together, we can make a real difference.
Last up was the ever so inspiring Dr. Jess Ghannam who is a clinical professor of Psychiatry and Global Health Sciences in the School of Medicine at UCSF. His research areas include evaluating the long-term health consequences of war on displaced communities and the psychological and psychiatric effects of armed conflict on children.
He is also a consultant with the Center for Constitutional Rights, Reprieve and other international NGO’s that work with torture survivors. While Jess cares about global health across the board, he is particularly passionate about the hidden giant: mental health, which is increasing at an alarming rate worldwide.
“We Have No Choice But To Transform the Way We Think About
Global Health, Practices & Training.”
He shared a story about his first trip to Gaza when there was only one psychiatrist for 1.5 million people compared to five psychiatrists for every one person in San Francisco. Jess and his team created a Mental Health Development Diploma Program in Gaza where they trained people to go into the community and schools and work with people directly, promoting basic techniques around wellness. His work which also set up community health clinics in the Middle East to focus on developing community-based treatment programs for families in crisis have been a huge success. As a result of his efforts in Gaza, today everyone has access to mental health assistance within a twenty year period.
Although he is most known for his mental health and humanitarian work in Palestine and along the Gaza Strip, he is working on transporting this program to India and Latin America. Says Jess, “we’re seeing radical shifts in health issues around the world and they’re more chronic diseases, like heart disease, diabetes and depression and these are not things that require a pill.”
Witnessing an increasingly disconnected world and the impact that this shift has had on people’s health has led him to the work he is doing now, at home and abroad. The global challenge is how to make people more conscious and aware of the factors that have a negative impact on their health and implement things that can change the paradigm we are seeing today.
“We Need a New Model. We Need To Train Healthcare Facilitators Who Can Bring Awareness To Millions of People About How To Re-Engage With Their Families, Communities and Bodies.”
He says, “good global health means that we need to be able to relate to each other and communities in a very different way. A lot of difficulties we have globally and locally is how we are nurturing relationships. How do we manage to relate to one another? Are we doing so in a healthy way?” In other words, technology has to be treated as an enhancement and along the way, we need to be conscious about how we related to “it” on a regular basis.
Moving forward, the bulk of his work will be on the mental health effects of the disconnectedness and adverse conditions people are going through, whether its political prisoners who have been tortured or people who live in slums.
Take Away: Health & Wellness are Human Rights, Not Privileges. While technology and a digital lifestyle "overload" can add to mental illness and stress, effective use of it could be beneficial in many cases. Sharing devices and the data on those devices can lead to positive changes in people's lifestyle in many communities. It’s not that technology itself is having the negative impact on our mental health but how we relate to it. Being consciousness about how much time we spend in the digital world versus the human world will be important in keeping us, our families and our communities healthy and in balance.
Photo credits: Renee Blodgett.
September 22, 2013 in America The Free, Client Announcements, Conference Highlights, Events, On Health, On Innovation, On People & Life, On the Future, TravelingGeeks, WBTW | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Mindblowing Doer's On Resilience & Moving Ideas to Action
After a warm, amusing and enchanting performance by the ever so talented WJM Band, a rock band of 10 year old boys, Paul Katz took the TEDxUNPlaza stage on September 16 to kickstart a conversation about the third session of the event: Ideas to Action.
Entertainment industry executive, two-time Grammy nominee and social entrepreneur, Paul Katz is the founder and CEO of Commit Media.
He cited Catapult, an example of an idea moved to action in the real world. The first crowdsourcing platform dedicated to girls and women's rights, it is run by small start-up team of people hailing from design, technology, advocacy, journalism and of course the girls and women's sector.
The team's passion is driven by the fact that there's an urgent need for increased funds and engagement for girls' and women's rights and development, something which has been obvious for years to activists, advocates and everyone else working and campaigning on behalf of girls and women.
When you realize how low the stats are, your ears perk up. For example, only 6% of all funding goes to girls and women's issues. One very real example in the developing world is the use of mobile phones being used to teach Afghanistan girls to read when they can't leave the house. To-date Catapult has helped roughly 200 projects in 81 countries worldwide.
While one of Paul's key drivers is social entrepreneurship and change, he is also well known for the key role he played in building Zomba’s (later Jive) successful worldwide interests in record production and distribution, publishing, equipment rental, recording studios and producer and artist management. With more than 100 million albums sold and numerous Grammy Awards won, Zomba featured artists such as Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Backstreet Boys, and others, as well as composers whose songs were recorded by Michael Jackson, Celine Dion, Brian Adams, Barbra Streisand and more.
It was fitting that Paul was in the Ideas to Action session since he is so often called upon to speak about the intersection of entertainment and philanthropy.
Take Away: Just because you have a career in the for profit business world, whether its in entertainment or technology, it doesn't mean you can't have an impact however small in the non-profit and socially conscious world. Find your passion and tell its story, utilizing your talents and exercising your voice as often as you have an opportunity to do so.
Jim Stolze is known for his successful launch of a commercial magazine and as a co-founder of an advertising agency specializing in digital marketing. Today, he is the editor-in-chief of the largest website in The Netherlands.
While content may be a core strength, Jim has stepped above and beyond his roles on many occasions. As a senior ambassador for the TEDx program, he has organized many TEDx events and set up an organization in Doha Qatar to foster “ideas worth spreading” in the Middle East region.
He talked about a festival called Rise My Friend, which involves one million people dancing on 6 continents in the summer of 2015, all as he puts it "dancing to the same beat." To generate awareness, interest and attendees to sign up however, "the ask" is a little different.
If you volunteer 20 hours of your time, only then do you get an invitation to the festival. The idea is to raise the number of hours people spend on community work in exchange for a ticket, such as painting a school, singing to elders in an old folks home or helping pick up garbage. Once people volunteer and help a community, then they more authentically understand the value, leading to continued volunteer work without any incentive at all.
Rise My Friend will allow local communities to use an online platform to give people credits for their volunteer work, which will lead to a ticket to the festival in 2015. "Rise My Friend is so much more than a party," he says. "It is literally one million people joining hands all over the world because they love to dance and because they love to help out."
Take Away: Volunteer work matters and can make a significant difference in the world, but people don't always understand the impact they can make, nor do they take the time in their daily lives. The idea that volunteering your time allows you to be part of something bigger than yourself, while having fun with a community doing the same, is a great way to get people to "feel" the impact of helping others. I personally love this idea!
Manoj Bhargava asks with a satirical tone "what is a good idea? How do you define a good idea really? Is the idea useful and is it simple to execute? If the latter two things aren't there, then it's not a good idea. There are lots of solutions but if it's not helpful to someone or a community or accessible, then it's not a real solution." He asserts that the only good ideas are the ones that can be done easily and believes that everything should be thought of in that way.
He notes that there are three things worth investing in: technology, invention and innovation. Looking at it in the simplest of terms, innovation is something you're going to do that is useful that wasn't done yesterday. Just being simple can change everything. Look at Apple. Look at Twitter.
On invention, he asked us all to reflect on history and think of the people who have come up with the best inventions in the world. In other words, no invention has ever been made by 1,000 Ph.D.'s getting together in a room.
Manoj is an entrepreneur, philanthropist, and founder and CEO of 5-hour Energy. He realized over time that the main problem in the world was water and so, he has set out to purify water cheaper than anyone else, which he refers to as the "biggest project in the world." Without water, at least a billion people will die.
Take Away: There are a lot of ideas in the world and many may be worth doing, but if they're not simple and useful, they will have a hard time of being sustainable. Focus on ideas that can lead to something useful and change people's lives in a big way. Make your idea easy, digestable and sustainable and then, you can move that idea to action in a way that will have a huge impact on communities and individuals around the world.
Harry Kraemer says from a place of passion and conviction as he walked out onto the United Nations stage: We enter the modern world with multitasking. From his perspective as someone who drives leadership and management in the world as a Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management professor, he notices that people are driving, eating a Big Mac, shaving and texting in the car, sometimes all at the same time. He says, "we just go faster and faster."
In this race we call life, he asserts that we have we confused activity with productivity. He asks: "we're very active, but how productive are we? As leaders, it matters to define what doesn't matter and what does and start moving your values and ideas to action."
He believes that there are four key principals that make up really great leadership. I loved his list so much that I decided to list them in detail here.
- Self Reflection: Ask yourself: what are my values? What do I really stand for? What really matters? What difference to I make? What example would I like to send to the world? By slowing down, we really can separate noise from what really matters. Ask myself how do I lead people? What am I proud of today? If I lived today over again, what would I do differently? If I have tomorrow and if I'm a learning person, what would I do differently based on what I learned today. Doing so can help me me figure out what kind of impact I want to have. Taking time and making quality time differentiates real leaders. Remember that true leadership is not about control and organizational charts.
- Balanced Perspective: This is the ability to take the time to understand other sides of the story. Seek to understand before you're understood. If I'm really listening, I may hear the answer if I take the time to listen to them. Ask yourself: are you listening enough on a regular basis that the other people actually feel heard?
- Having True Self Confidence: Many of us have worked for macho people who appear to be confident but they don't have true self confidence. Step back and realize that there will always be people who are smarter, more athletic and more analytical than I am. You need to have the ability to feel comfortable with yourself and know that you will continue to learn more everyday. Having true confidence says that I'm going to get better every day. This is about surrounding yourself with people who are better than you at all the things you're not very good at and embracing it.
- Genuine Ability: Ask yourself: how did you get to where you are? The two most common responses is a combination of working hard and having a certain skill set. In addition, there are four others: luck, timing, the team and a spiritual dimension. If any of those four work for you, then you start to realize a few things. You realize and remember where you came from and keep things into perspective. In other words, tell yourself: I'm not going to read my own press clippings. If true leadership is about influencing people and understanding people and remembering that every single person matters, then we won't go a place of ego.
Take Away: Leadership has everything to with influencing people but you can't influence people if you can't influence yourself and trust yourself. By slowing down, we really can separate noise from what really matters. Be comfortable with yourself and know that you will continue to learn more everyday. Having true confidence means that I'm going to get better every day and truly listen to people along the way. Letting go of ego and making people feel truly heard and understood is a strong quality of true leadership.
Chicago-based Dean DeBiase is a serial rebooter, author, speaker and director at AKTA, DonorPath, IXchat, KINGlobal and 1871Chicago and among other initiatives, he's also the cofounder of Reboot Partners which blends entrepreneurial talent with corporations to reboot innovation and growth.
Says Dean, "if you bring together an intellectual and supportive ecosystem, the innovators and entrepreneurs will come. When united, that's when real movement and change happens."
He encouraged all of us to think about being a mentor and all it takes to be one is a little bit of passion. I think about mentorship a lot and even moreso recently since I attended a high school class reunion in New York. En route, I thought about who my mentors were growing up and who they are today.
I realized that I assigned mentors in my own head or minds eye and while they have been encouraging and motivating sources in my life, as a woman, I have never had a "formal one."
Mentors can be transformative, Connectors can really help accelerate growth, and Ambassadors are the ones who can scale the passion. Ambassadors can make sure an idea or a company has a sustainable life.
A digital thought leader and regular media guest, Dean is a co-author of the best-selling book The Big Moo with Seth Godin and Malcolm Gladwell. He is also a Silicon Valley veteran with a track record scaling emerging growth companies, starting-up new ventures and embedding entrepreneurial-grade talent into multi-national corporations.
Take Away: If you bring together an intellectual and supportive ecosystem, the innovators and entrepreneurs will come. When united, that's when real movement and change happens. Embrace this and whatever hybrid role you decide to be (mentor, visionary, ambassador or simply someone who cares) and contribute "it" to a startup or an entrepreneur's idea.
Paralympic swimmer Mallory Weggemann nearly had me in tears. Her story isn't one for the light hearted! She became paraplegic after an epidural injection to treat post-shingles back pain in 2008, a decision which turned her life upside down.
Overcoming obstacle after obstacle emotionally and physically, she is a true source for inspiration. Since then, she has demonstrated not just an outrageous amount of courage and resilience, but compassion and empathy for herself and the world around her.
Today, she has a lot to be proud of: Mallory broke many world records in the S7 classification, and won multiple gold medals at the IPC Swimming World Championships in 2009 and 2010.
She says of the moment that changed her life forever, she made a decision not to let that one incident define who she is and fight for something better. She says, "it's not the moments in life who define who we are, it's how we react to those moments in life."
She reflects on when she decided to fight back and find a happy ending in her situation. Says Mallory: "It's how we react to the moments in our lives that define who we are."
Swimming and competition was something that set her free and brought her back to life. She says, "the world I was opened up to is limitless; tt's about pushing your body to new limits regardless of your situation."
In 2012, when she participated in the London paralympics and became a paralympic gold medalist, she reflects on that time and says, "a dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality. I know that dream didn't become a reality because of myself; it was because of the supporters around me who gave me support." Here, she is referrring to her family, her friends and her community.
"When circumstance steps in and alter our course in our life, it's what do we do with that is what defines us," says Mallory. She adds: "do we allow us to paralyze us and do we allow it to define us or do we push forward and move on with our life?"
Clearly she has chosen the latter in a big way...in such an inspirational way that is life alterating to anyone listening.
So given that the theme of the conference is indeed Bravery, what is indeed BRAVE? Mallory says of bravery that it carries multiple faces and we all have the ability to be brave. "Bravery cannot be defined but it can be challenged." She encouraged everyone to live their lives with passion and with a full heart AND without judgment or fear.
Take Away: Don't let negative incidents that happen in your life define who you are as a person. It's not the moments in life who define who we are, it's how we react to those moments in life. If you think about it, everyone in this life has a disability; we all have things that will hold us back in life if we let them, but it's up to us to decide to rise above and push forward. If we have dreams, and we all have dreams, it's up to us to create them and not let obstacles however large stop us. Sometimes this is the bravest act of courage we can have in our lives.
Hear hear Mallory! Thanks to you and your bravery and resilience and to Paul, Jim, Manoj, Harry and Dean for your words of encouragement and and inspiration to moving "ideas to action."
Photo credits: Renee Blodgett except for the Olympics medal photo of Mallory which is from www. malloryweggemannusa.com.
September 05, 2013
VentureBeat's CloudBeat Brings Cloud Adoption To Next Level
Returning for it's third year, CloudBeat will cut through the hype surrounding the cloud by gathering real customers who have gone through the pain of adoption and change, and who have compelling stories to tell about the ways in which the cloud continues to transform their business. Register now with code “WeBlog” and save 25%!
Join 500 executives — with a mix of business and IT decision makers, analysts, investors, marketers, brands/retailers, and press — for a rare look at what’s really working, who’s buying what, and where the industry is going as the cloud grows up.
This year’s program features new cases from PayPal, NASA, Netflix, Pivotal, Linkedin, Disney, General Electric, IBM, Google, and Salesforce, to name a few. They’ll feature a senior IT executive from each company, talking about cloud strategy and implementation.
Pivotal CEO Paul Maritz will be speaking for the first time about the vision for his new product, Pivotal One, which he’s calling the “operating system for the cloud.”
Salesforce COO and second-in-command George Hu will also be making a rare appearance to talk about his company’s industry-leading SaaS tech.
The event will be held on September 9-10, 2013 in San Francisco at the Grand Hyatt San Francisco, 345 Stockton Street, San Francisco, CA.
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.