November 02, 2012
Crowdfunding: A Conflict for VCs or a Path to Economic Recovery?
I attended an event on crowdfunding recently. Entrepreneurs are dabbling in anything and everything "crowd" lately - from attracting vendor and engineering talent to volunteers and now, funding. I've had friends test out Kickstarter which is an interesting model if you don't need a lot of cash to jumpstart your project.
It's easier to get low-level investors on board since the commitment on the part of the 'investor' is minimal (mostly zero) and there's a reward kick back. I've contributed as little as $5-50 to a Kickstarter project and did it because it was a cool idea and just wanted to help. You'd need a helluva lot of "me's" to make it worthwhile at that level but there are others who will invest $100, $1K or $10K into the pool depending in their interest and wallet size.
Other reward based crowdfunding platforms include IndieGoGo and RocketHub, all of which are operating in the new paradigm without a lot of rules and regulations, aka pre the implementation of the 506c Act.
In a conversation on crowdfunding and alternative funding for start-ups, below are two videos (Part I and Part II) that discuss the pros and cons. Note that it IS a VERY Silicon Valley viewpoint and I haven't met a whole lotta venture capitalists from major firms who want to deal with the aftermath of early investors no longer being one or two angels but being 25 random no-names instead. There are complications AND implications.
On the panel included Gerd Goete, Siemens Venture Capital, Partner, Don Ross, HealthTech Capital, Managing Director and Founder, Sand Hill Angels, Board Director and Life Science Angels, Member Carol Sands, The Angels' Forum, Managing Member, Graham Burnette, SBV Capital Partners and Red Planet Capital, General Partner and Royse Law's Roger Royse.
I didn't get the sense that VCs (or at least traditional VCs) would be in full support of coming in after crowdfunders, largely because of what's involved: complicated, too many heads at the table, dillution and more. Silicon Valley focused, their mantra was more around the traditional tools that make a startup successful in the long term: domain expertise, access to the right people, advice and coaching and the amount of due diligence that goes into a deal.
There's no question that access to the right people and being 'aligned' with the right people accelerate deal flow and increase the likelihood of a successful exit. If you're Kleiner backed, your chances of success go up regardless of what kind of "useless" app you have.
There are the notorious three risks, which include:
1. Technology Risk - do you have a kick-ass technology? (my words, not theirs?). Can it do what it says it will do? Will it live up to the promise?
2. Market Risk - is there a big enough market for your products?
3. Expansion Risk - this comes into play as you start to scale. Can you make a big enough return that is attractive for YOU and for them? (aka, your investors)
Their argument was that dozens or possibly hundreds of 'crowdsourced' investors can't help with 1, 2 or 3. That said, my argument would be that there are a ton of businesses who don't need to go through the traditional Silicon Valley funding route and while crowdfunding may not give them millions, they still may be able to find advisors for a point or two who can leapfrog them into the right 'tribe' so they can be successful without giving away the store to a traditional VC firm.
It is indeed an alternative and some business models and businesses will work and some won't.
Points for considration include: public solicitations and use of social media, advertising terms of offer being restricted to the fact that the issuer can only direct investors to a broker/funding portal, the additional costs invovled with disclosure and reporting, use of an intermediary, risk of fraud (goes up as this model expands), and the point that the VCs and angels on the panel referenced again and again: the high number of unsophisticated investors (which leads to fiduciary duties to all investors and as our Silicon Valley finance pals pointed out, all of "it" a concern for VCs for future fundraising rounds).
We learned a bit more about new guidelines under the proposed 506 regulations.
For example, it would allow for public advertising and general solicitation in Rule 506 offerings, provided that the issuer takes reasonable steps to verify that potential investors are accredited, and all investors are accredited (or the issuer reasonably believes they are) at the time of the sale of securities.
This results in all sorts of issues we haven't faced before under traditional models, including the nature and terms of the offering which are unique. Is it a low verus high investment? What are the terms? Who has a voice and doesn't? And of course bearing in mind that there will be more steps needed to verify 'accredited' status.
Proposed crowdfunding regulations are slated to be released in January 2013. Videos below in Part I and 2 of the panel (roughly 20 minutes for each video - feel free to view the whole thing or catch snippets in stages to get an overview).
The event was part of iHollywood Forum, and their new brand Angel Launch, which produces dinners, venture forums, and seminars for entertainment, Web, Internet, mobile and tech ventures and startups.
Also refer to a Forbes article on crowdfunding where they also talk about the above legislation and a bill that had full bipartisan support this year called JOBS (Jumpstart Our Business Startups) Act, which is a series of 6 bills tied together designed to make it easier for startups to gain access to capital.
Photo credit: Forbes.
October 09, 2012
TEDxFillmore: From Politics, Democracy & Jazz to Hip Hop, Eastern Europe & Burning Man
TEDxFillmore just had their event at Yoshi's along San Francisco's Fillmore Street this past week.
Director, Producer & Writer Thomas Simpson (left), was the emcee and the theme was "Passing the Baton."
While this may mean different things to different people, typically, batons are passed in relay races. The intention is to hand off the batons from one person to another while attempting to cross the line. The baton in the case of this TEDx theme is meant figuratively and can mean past to the future, old to young, young to old, teacher to student, student to teacher and so on...
The event, curated by Chris and Moki Evans brought together six speakers to a stage set up on the main floor of Yoshi's Jazz Club, a renowned music venue designed by award winning architect Mori Moto that features the best of local, national and international performance artists.The line-up included founder of The Jazz & Democracy Project Dr. Wes Watkins, Catholic Roman Catholic Priest Dr. Victoria Rue, travel writer & adventure seeker Francis Tapon, poet and arts educator Dyanna Loeb, entrepreneur Harley Sitner and poet Zienab Abdelgany. All of them interesting, all of them engaging, all of them inspirational.
"Jazz is a shared democracy, a shared experience, a shared leadership," he says. Jazz musicians improvise and from that perspective, they live on the edge nearly all the time. They trust that you'll go on a journey with them and you trust that that improvisation will just work and it almost always does.
The question of "who am I" is so paramount fo jazz musicians, just as much as the interaction with the audience is. "Who am I" he says, is what the musician shows us through his or her music. "Democracy is the same way," he exerts.
"Democracy has a certain tension, created originally by our forefathers when they set up checks and balances to keep different branches of government in place. The way jazz musicians create that tension is to listen and respond." He quotes Miles Davis who had often said, "first listen and then play." His belief is that government can learn a lot from jazz masters and that understanding jazz at its core can show us the way forward in American politics today.
He pointed to a few observations:
- New technologies in play where everything is open.
- There's a transparent government. Bear in mind that if government transparency is only about management of mistrust, then we start to face 1984 in reverse.
- Any unveiling is also veiling. Read what you will from this statement, but it's profound. Just go there in the context of his thinking.
My favorite quote all night? In America's earliest days, Black African Americans were in the shadow of the country's "light." MUSIC reflected that light says Watkins. He added, "Embedded in the music was the very core and essence of who we are."
GOD, I loved that and it made me think of a personal guru of mine Frankie Manning (now deceased though I took more than a dozen classes from him), other jazz and dance training and experiences and over the years, and I thought how true that was/is and I'm not even part of that old Jazz era where they faced anything and everything and yet the purity of that golden age Jazz culture thrived.
Watkins never made this (aka, the above) correlation to democracy and jazz but I thought of it hours later after meeting him for the first time: Flexibility and adaptability is in the heart of every American immigrant. Jazz represents 'that.' Jazz resprents 'creation' on-the-fly and innovation in the moment, I thought, and isn't that everything this country stands for (or stood for....see my book review on Rescue America: What Made This Country Great).
Then, Francis Tapon took us on a journey that started with a question about how do you evaluate your life on a scale of 1-10?
Through travel, he claims that you can move that number from perhaps a 5 or 6 or even an 8 to a ten.
Okay, so it's not easy for most of us to take off six months or even one or two months (or even weeks), particularly if we have a family we're supporting in some way shape or form. His take away is "just get out there and do it - get present with nature and the environment, even if its 48 hours...."
In other words, transformative life experiences result in just taking the chance. AKA - seize the opportunity, whether it be hours, days, weeks, months or years. We all have our own thresholds and we likely all have a handful of dreams we're not turning into reality.
BTW, while it is very un TED-like to give a book a plug, I'm actually in the process of reading Tapon's latest book: The Hidden Europe (behind the scenes of Eastern Europe).
Like Francis, I spent time backpacking through Eastern Europe in the late eighties and early nineties, a volatile and pivotal time for the region. He brings us a step further and cites cultural, language and anecdotal references throughout.
While I'm not finished with the book yet, I can't wait to plough through the cultural nuances of every Eastern country one page at a time. The reading is great so far - am loving it! From history, hiking (suck it up babe, if it ain't a 1,000 mile trail then...) and cultural insights learned to language faux pas and sexual encounters, he keeps you engaged throughout. I plan to do a book review once I have finished the delicious 736 page book.
Below is the video of his TEDx talk:
Dyanna Loeb aka Dyna*Mic is an MC, poet and arts educator who started performing with Youth Speaks in 2001.
She has shared her words and music for international audiences, at venues including the San Francisco Opera House, the Nuyorican (NYC), and Project HeartBeat Jerusalem.
What's eerily odd about listening to her is her conviction to Judiasm and yet she's kinda rapping -- poetically so -- in every number she performs.
If I didn't know she was Jewish (in advance), it would make more sense listening to her work knowing that 'she is.' (Trust me, I met her mother and meeting 'a' mom on any first encounter adds a lot of data does it not?)
After listening to several excerpts and looking at the way this woman dresses, you find yourself thinking "this doesn't add up." Stereotypes be GONE is the lesson of the day. Even when we don't have them or think we have them or think we think that we don't have them but do have them, we do. We're human after all.
Despite how talented Dyanna is (and she TRULY is btw), this juxtoposition, the one that doesn't make sense to any viewer upon first glance, is her biggest gift in my humble opinion...
Even though her poetry and songs have been featured on several releases through Youth Movement Records, where she co-founded a writing workshop for incarcerated youth in Alameda County Juvenile Hall and she has performed around the country, her work isn't nationally known...Widely so anyway.
YET, this woman has a command of poetic language in a way that tells the traditional and the untraditional stories not to mention the hopes and fears of the Jews through rap (and poetry). All of it is so deliciously unrefined while being refined, and energetic and cool at the same time.
She has toured the Pacific Northwest to perform for Amnesty International's Make Some Noise for Darfur benefit. Her first chapbook, "Birkat HaGomel: A Survivor's Blessing" was published in 2010.
A snippet below of her work:
Victoria Rue wanted to make sure we understood that women priests were not copies of 'male priests." "We're not interested in brocades," she says. "Women and 'feminine' priests are interested in understanding that it's not just about adding 'women to the mix' and calling it 'a day.'
Rue has studied liberation, feminist, and even lesbian theology. She likes to call her degree an M-Diva degree. Still, not commonplace! (not even close)
She reminds us that the female body has been put in the closet by the Roman Catholic Church for centuries and being 'proud of it' as a women' is still discouraged today. It's 2012. Women's bodies have repesented lust and sex for decades (okay, centuries) which .... she says, "must have been an embarrassment to a patriarchal God."
She continues, "Feminist patriarchal Gods don't believe in that kind of God, a kind of God that excludes. We believe in a God that embraces equality for all." Asserting that langage is a critical component in life (loved her btw), she cites example after example of phrases that support movement and ones that don't -- from historical times to present day.
Bulgarian-born Ivan Krastev 'showed up' on video only...aka, we never met the man. He humorously reminds us that the Bulargians are one of the most depressed cultures on the planet. I looked over at Francis during his talk...he smiled while I remembered stats that supported the 'same' in his Hidden Europe book. (I'm currently on Croatia, about half way through the book - meaning I finished the chapter on Bulgaria).
He started and has subsequently led a sub-community at Burning Man called "Hippo Campus."
What was refreshing was the reminder that despite how 'plugged in' we think we are, we're not all that plugged in.
In other words, we're all islands within our own micro-communities and while they may grow to be thousands in numbers, still....only a small number of people know who we are, what we do, why we're valuable and a step further, why contribute in a way to accelerate that community or group?
Harley talked about group behavior. Crikey, I live in Silicon Valley and on many levels, feel as if I know every "Burner -- aka term given to a Burning Man attendee" on the planet....AND YET, I had not hard of Hippo Campus, a community which given the talk, would appear to be infamous worldwide.
Despite the fact that its not on my radar, according to Harley, the community not only exists, but it's thriving and renowned. In the passing of baton-theme, he talked about how they consciously created 'shared experiences' as they grew in size.
KEY? Highlighting the fact that everyone has a 'unique gift' and that it's up to the community to identify each person's unique gift and to help manifest that 'gift' -- to the world.
He notes an observation that pertains to every organizational culture I know of on the planet - transitioning a personality-led culture to an organizational-led culture is really hard....more often that not, it simply fails. Lessons learned, he cites among others, these cores:
- Have No Drama.
- Have Radical Accountability.
- Identify Sexy Projects...Sexy = Helpful and Authentic. It's All in the Terminology. (I added that part).
- Fall Without Fear.
- There is no Perfect Way.
- Surface Area for Participation and Experimentation.
- AT the end of the day, Harley reminds us that "culture transcends EVERYTHING. Culture is the DNA of the organization." Hear hear.
- This couldn't be further from the truth in my own experience over the years, whether it was the size of a company like Computer Associates or Novell in its heydey or one of the umpteen start-ups I've launced over the past 15+ years.
Egyptian Zienab Abdelgany surprised and delighted me. While she grew up in Irvine and went to UC Berkeley, she has always been heavily involved in organizing the Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim and South Asian (AMEMSA) communities.
Currently, she is researching Pro-Palestine communities and effors and has been writing poetry that spans across all of these issues.
Her sweet spot? She speaks on identity and the politics of personhood.
Her energy and authenticity were wonderful. I loved her encouragement is to ask away despite how stupid and culturally ill-fitting the question may appear. Asking and being genuine and authentic in your ask regardless of what it is, is the first step.
Additionally, musicians Therese Taylor and James Whiton played. Below are the hands of Whiton as he played a follow up jazz number appropriately following Watkin's talk on "Where Jazz Meets Democracy." My title, not his, but you get the point.
Below is a group shot of 4 out of the 6 speakers, the two curators and both musical performers.
All photos credits by Renee Blodgett.
October 08, 2012
Don't Die a Slow Death in a Mountain of Business Cards: Try inTooch!
When I learn about new products or services, these are my two go to questions: would I use this today and does this solve a real problem that I've had for awhile?
When inTooch co-founder and CEO Julien Salanon gave me his pitch and suggested we work together, I was at first skeptical about their promise: to eliminate the business card problem.
While it's too early to tell since there are so many variables in this business not to mention human behavior, as a fellow entrepreneur, I couldn't help but be intrigued by his idea. And besides, Julien has one of those personalities that is impossible not to like.
He shared a story with me as we sipped tea at one of my favorite haunts in San Francisco's SOMA. Nearly ten years ago, he was at an important conference and forgot his business cards and a result, important connections were lost.
Over the last decade, he said that he tried several apps to solve this business-card issue, but none of them worked. They still don't. Don't even get me started with BUMP btw, an app that peer pressure forced me to download yet it only worked one out of ten times I tried it. And, frankly, the whole concept of crashing two phones together doesn't quite gel with me.
Julien said, "whenever I didn't have a business card or they didn't, I ended up calling the other person to leave my mobile number. And, that’s when I got the idea to enhance those natural connections with inTooch.”
While I may not call every person I meet at a conference, when I do meet someone I want to stay in touch with and we don't have a pen or card, what happens? They call me so the number is saved in my phone. What I don't have in that scenario of course is their name or email automatically, but it's a process that works in a pinch.
inTooch takes it a step further allowing you to email or call them on the fly which automatically sends a link: this link is the conduit which allows that exchange of information to happen. The beautiful part about the app and why it stands a strong chance of taking off, is that both parties don't need to have the app to work.
Intrigued that perhaps I'd soon have a client with a product I'd ACTUALLY USE, I decided to be the evil dragonness to avoid any surprises later on, so I started drilling him with questions.
What about categorization I asked? Not in the first version he said, but it's coming. What about social networks? Built in he said. What about privacy and personalization? Built in he said. Hmm, I wanted categories of course given that I have nearly 100,000 contacts in my database, but also realize that I'm not your average Nelly when it comes to contact management.
As my friend Steve said, "you're not normal, you're in the business of needing to mate with the world. In fact, you love to mate with the world." I had to laugh. He's right. I love meeting people and no one seems to come home from an event with more business cards than I do.
AND, he said, the ability to add contacts to categories is coming. They already have the ability to separate personal and business contacts.
I'm a realist. Anyone who works with early start-ups needs to be a realist. Rome wasn't build in a day and most apps when they first go to market don't have every single detail or feature you want built in in their first version. As long as the team has it on the roadmap or thinking about it, it's good enough to give it a shot. If we didn't trust that process, real innovation wouldn't happen and we wouldn't be where we are today.
Unlike so many social apps that are Web 2.0 features rather than solutions to problems, I thought to myself, "inTooch would actually take care of a huge pain point in my life."
And so, we embarked on a journey in early September. Forward wind the clock. Julien took People's Choice Award at GigaOm's Mobilize in mid-September when he pitched a panel of VCs on stage.
Then, he officially launched inTooch on the DEMO Stage on October 3 with Dave Mathews in an amusing skit that included the duo tossing 2,000 business cards into the DEMO audience as they shouted FREEDOM, FREEDOM, FREEDOM.
At one point, I thought Julien might start dancing when the music came on. OR, maybe it was one of those Halleluja moments.
Consider this: did you realize that of all the people you meet at a conference or even in a personal situation, you won't stay in touch with 85% of them? Without sounding too trite - inTooch to the rescue.
Trust me, I want to be rescued and I think most of us do. I can't keep up with the volume of contacts and there are always people to want to follow up with and just don't have the time. There are also people's contact information I'm trying to locate months later and realized I didn't have time to enter their data.
There are 4 cool features I personally love about the app:
1. The Mobile Geo-Location Piece: since I travel a lot, I often think about people (and their faces) based on 'where' I met them. Oh yeah, that was John who I met at this festival in Louisville Kentucky, or that was Jeannie something and we hung out at CES in Las Vegas. Using geo-tagging, inTooch lets you search for people by location and their photo appears as well to jog your memory. Sweet!
2. Seamless/Fast: additionally, if I don't want to call the person or they don't want me to, I can shoot them an email and the inTooch connector still works. The other cool thing is that both parties don't need the app for the exchange to happen. Obviously the process is even faster if both people DO have the app, so I'd encourage everyone to download the app. Let the seamless exchange of data begin!
3. Social Network Exchange. So many people I meet under the age of 30 either don't have a business card (even in a business setting), give me their Twitter handle or say connect with me on Facebook. (as if I'm going to remember their name or handle the next day or a week later when I'm back home).
I'm always amazed that they think I'll take the time to jot down their data with a visual queue of our conversation. It's too much work. What's great about inTooch is that you can opt to include the exchange of your social network information as well. It currently supports LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
I've known Chris Taylor from Mashable for years and for some odd reason, didn't know he was @FutureBoy on Twitter. Ever try to Google a "common name's" Twitter handle and not get so frustrated by the fifth click that you finally give up? Don't get me started on the poor search functionality within Twitter itself although I know they're improving it all the time.
4. Augmented Reality: for personal encounters, inTooch brings augmented reality to your connections, alerting you to all the things you have in common with another person (friends, places you visited, music, movies you like, social network info, check-ins, interests you share) so you can instantly engage in mutually interesting conversations.
Bottom line, it's been a fun ride so far and we're only a month into it. Free to use, the app is available now for iPhone (except iOS6) and alive and ticking for the Android as well.
Support for iOS6, other platforms and mobile devices are also coming later this year.
So, give it a try. Don't die a slow death in a mountain of business cards like poor Matt Marshall here! Everyone has their limits.
Below is a video shot by Jean Baptiste Su of their demo presentation.
October 8, 2012 in America The Free, Client Announcements, Client Media Kudos, Conference Highlights, Events, On Mobile & Wireless, On Social CRM, On Technology, Social Media, Videos, WBTW, Web 2.0 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
October 05, 2012
Ray Kurzweil on Ethics & Natural Language Processing
Kurzweil, known for his work in voice recognition, natural language processing, singularity and future predictions, I'm always curious to hear what he's going to share, especially when he moves onto the brain.
Says Ray in a response to the question of why natural language processing has taken so long to advance, "you have to take a hierarchial approach just like human language - you have to build it that way. We learn things layer by layer and we have to educate our synthetic neocortexes too."
When you start to dive deep into a discussion about synthetic neocortexes, where do you go from there, particularly when the majority of the audience are Web 2.0 and mobile geeks not scientists or researchers. Venture Beat's Matt Marshall interviewed Ray, his next to last stage interview before leaving the DEMO Conferences as producer.
Matt asked about ethics, which was a perfect segway into artificial intelligence. You can't have a discussion with Ray without artificial intelligence coming up at least once.
"Technology has always been a double edged sword," says Ray. "Just like fire has been used for good and evil, AI can be as dangerous as fire when put in the wrong hands." He reminded the audience that AI is already widely distributed however and that it's not just being used in a dark lab in some government building.
And, look how far we've come. A kid in Africa now has access to more knowledge and information than the President of the United States did 20 years ago. If that's not an example of exponential growth, I don't know what is...
See below for the interview on video. Even though it is a HD video clip, bear in mind that the sound quality may not be crisp.
October 03, 2012
8 Commerce Apps Strut Their Stuff at DEMO 2012
On the DEMO Fall 2012 stage this afternoon, eight commerce apps showed off their latest and greatest at the Hyatt Regency in Santa Clara, CA.
Invenia announced the launch of ENSAFER, an innovative cloud encryption service. Ensafer offers users of Dropbox, SkyDrive, Google Drive and alike, to encrypt their data integrated in their service of choice, with all complexity hidden. Ensafer is end-to-end encryption technology, solving an unsolved demand -- the encryption of files as you store, share and collaborate with them in the cloud. They peg themselves as "security by design."
Billing itself as the Expedia for telecom deals, WIRESURFER online marketplace provides small and medium businesses with an easy way to research telecom providers and their promotions as well as order services from national carriers for free.
They provide a map so you can click on any part of the country to find the best deals nationwide and the layout is slick and clean, so you can compare deals side-by-side. Using wiresurfer, SMBs can compare the offerings from national carriers including AT&T, CenturyLink, Comcast Business Services, EarthLink, InterCall, tw telecom, Windstream and XO Communications.
eBREVIA unveiled something they're calling the eDiligence Accelerator. The company's initial software employs natural language processing technology developed at Columbia University to assist attorneys and business professionals in analyzing, extracting information from, and summarizing legal documents.
Then we moved to fashion. Well, sort of. THREADMATCHER is a social commerce website that allows users to curate the clothes that they both own and wish into virtual closets, and get relevant recommendations by following the curation of others who share as similar style.
The team says, "ThreadMatcher provides the ultimate personalized shopping experience. To users, it's a style expansion. By following the curation of others who share a similar style, users can find out what's new at their favorite brands as well as discover other products and brands that they wouldn't have otherwise known -- all this directly from people whose style they trust."
Like I said, it doesn't mean the site is design and fashion conscious, but it does curate people with like-fashion interests. It seems like a perfect app for Silicon Valley geeks who don't have a clue how to dress.
Other apps shown in the Commerce section included Plus2 Technologies, Plutus Software, Trinity Group and Gaxsys.
August 02, 2012
Happy Birthday Steve Wozniak: Woz Celebrates His Big 62 in San Francisco
While the world at large knows his name as co-founder of Apple, today he sits as Chief Scientist at a company called Fusion-io, whose chief focus is to deliver data faster.
Their pitch of their ioMemory platform is that it accelerates databases, virtualization, cloud computing, big data, and the applications that drive our economy and our daily lives.
The team decided to throw Woz a surprise birthday party this week at Yuerba Buena Gardens in San Francisco.
The marketing folks were seen texting with his wife Janet to get ensure they had the timing right and that everyone was behind a closed door with not one party hat in sight prior to him entering the main building.
As invited guests showed up early to ensure Woz wouldn't find out, they were given noise makers, pink boas, party hats and bags of glitter to throw at him when he walked through the door.
Even after a shower, I'm still finding those damn glitter flecks on my body and my living room floor nearly 24 hours later.
Invitees included old friends, industry illuminaries, geeks, former Apple folks he worked with and a handful of press.
I ran into some people I hadn't seen in years and met new ones I didn't know existed in the "biz."
One of the first people I ran into was Fusion-io's CEO David Flynn (left) who gave kudos to Woz on stage for his dedication to the company and of course to wish him a Happy Big 62.
Old time industry pals showed up like Tim Bajarin, DEMO's Neal Silverman, Harry McCracken, Therese Poletti, and Janet Rae Dupree and other media who have been covering this industry for years such as Don Clark, Dean Takahashi, Chris Taylor, Mike Isaac, Ina Fried and a host of others.
People seemed to keep the pink boas on for most of the night -- men and women -- and people queued up to have a photo taken with Woz and his wife Janet, pink feathers and all.
The guys decided it might be fun to give Woz "the what and who" he always wanted (?) to pop out of a cake: a geek with zero social skills and less than zero protocol.
It wasn't until he started stripping in front of Woz and the crowd that we began to uhh, wonder, what next?
Woz seemed to go with the flow, which is one of the things we all love about him so much. Sure, he's brilliant and has a lot of charisma, but its his warm engaging smile and authentic way of being with pretty much anyone who approaches him that people fall in love with. In other words, he's about as real as it gets and this "real" comes through when you're around him almost immediately, whether its your first encounter with him or your twentieth.
Below is a shot of Woz with his brother Mark
Below are the two Fusion-io founders. Can you tell which one is the token geek and which one isn't?
Well renowned and charming TV personality Drew Carey showed up and while he was there because he knew Woz personally, he dealt with the fan love extremely well by posing with people all night long, including yours truly. I couldn't resist. He looks damn good, does he not? (remember, the man was born in the 1950s).
Large Woz posters filled the lobby.
And, after the burgers, stirfry chicken with noodles, potstickers and wine, they served Happy 62nd Birthday Woz cupcakes with the works so to speak.
Even though there was a DJ and drums, and the music brought back a boat load of memories from the 1970s, no one danced because frankly people at technology events never dance regardless of how much they drink. (Note: I did dance with Bill Gates once and was even interviewed by a Washington Post reporter about whether I "thought he could dance" after the fact, but I'm not sure that really counts. I think it was in Vegas although it could have been NYC - it was a LONG time ago).
Instead, we did what geeks do - talk about technology projects and analyze photos AND the cake, both of which were oozing with Steve Wozniak DNA. No, I'm not kidding. Below, Woz lifts up a "birthday present" photo for the crowd so we could all get a visual of his "framed DNA."
They replicated his DNA on a cake, not to be mistaken with the three-tiered one that the 'scary geek' popped out of earlier in the night.
A large vibrant digital screen displayed icons of people wishing Woz a Happy Birthday in whatever way they cared to express it.
Everyone who attended received 'goodie bags' which included a Woz Birthday t-shirt and a game though somehow more of those glittered sprinkles landed in my bad and I imagine I'll find them under my rugs and behind my curtains for months to come, just like the Christmas tree pine needles do after I take the thing down every January.
Happy Birthday Woz. It was a pleasure to be there to help you celebrate, together with pink feathers, glitter, cupcakes and dozens inspiring geeks. Thanks for all the things you do!
July 30, 2012
Singularity University, Women@TheFrontier & 10 Incredible Women Design the Future
The program: "Designing the Future 2012", brought together some of today's female game-changers who are designing the future and disrupting the status quo.
Women@TheFrontier's Susan Fonseca and KristinaMaria T-Gutierrez introduced inspirational women who had one heart warming story after another to share.
NASA's Yvonne Cagle also paid a sentimental tribute to astronaut Sally Ride who passed away on July 23.
Ray Kurzweil kicked things off and also closed the event in a unique appearance with his daughter Amy Kurzweil who interviewed him in fireside chat style.
Ray's son was also in attendance with a beaming smile throughout the interview as he watched father and sister chat informally in front of a few hundred people on everything from inspiration and life lessons to technology, health and the future.
Below is Women@TheFrontier founder and CEO Susan Fonseca.
A poised and graceful Kay Koplovitz took the stage with confidence, something certainly not new to her as the first woman to head a television network; she founded USANetworks under the banner of Madison Square Garden Sports in the seventies.
She is also known for founding the Sci-Fi Channel which has become a top ten rated cable network and USANetworks, which runs in 60 countries worldwide.
President Clinton also appointed Kay to chair the bipartisan National Women’s Business Council. With a success record that keeps going, she is a great reminder that persistence and tenacity pays off.
She reminded the audience that 57% of women have masters degrees and 52% of women have doctorate degrees as she threw a quote from Coca Cola CEO onto the screen who said in 2010: "The drivers of the post American world won't be led by China but led by women."
She added a quote from Hilary Clinton who had encouraged companies and individuals to "unlock potential of women by investing in girls and women" at the Global Impact Economy Forum this year.
Lakshmi Pratury, who I first met in the early days of TED, then stepped onto the stage to share her magic as a natural storyteller, using humor, authenticity and life examples in her tales on India and inspiration.
Lakshmi is the Founder of INKTalks, the INK Conference and Ixoraa Media, whose mission is to strengthen the ties between United States and India through sponsored corporate, cultural, and media events.
She says of her time spent in America, "the one thing I learned from my time in America is how to tell a story." And let's be honest, all great stories ignite emotion through shared resonance and reflection, which is something Lakshmi does so well.
She says: "what we are is who we focus on feeding and the community we build around us - it's never about us individually." Hear Hear.
Lakshmi talked on the early days of India before the economy took off, which frankly is the only India I know. My first and only visit was in 1989 and rest assured, it is a very different country today.
Says Lakshmi of the perception of India, then and now, which is one of the things that led her to start the INK Conference: "the way people describe India from inside out has always been one dimensional, so I felt we needed to bring the depth and complexity of Indian culture to the world."
The notion of diving in even if you don't have the experience, is not only a great message to all girls and women, but to every and anyone who has an idea. "Every time I say I'm going to do something without really knowing how to do it, it just happens," she says. "You always have to remember that whatever you do or embrace, you don't have to do it alone."
Like me, she is a collector of people, and says that "collecting people IS HER passion." How wonderful is that? Connecting those human dots isn't a bad way to spend your life. Extraordinary things always happen as a result, like the work she is doing in India.
Wearing bright pink/red shoes and a necklace made from a 3D printer, she connected with the audience with her own great storytelling.
Ping describes herself as an artist and a scientist whose chosen expression is business. It's in her bio and it's something she says often in her presentations.
She co-founded Geomagic, a leading US software company which pioneers 3D technologies that fundamentally change the way products are designed and manufactured around the world...from repairing vintage cars at Jay Leno's garage to preserving US treasures and digitally recreating the Statue of Liberty.
Another woman who has faced challenges and adversity, she has shown that staying close to your passion and not giving up works if you believe in what you're doing. She is known for her work with geometry processing, and computer graphics as well as her time as a writer for The China Times.
Inspirational on and off the stage, she has spent many years lecturing on such subjects as feminism, cultural criticism, and was news commentary at National Taiwan University and Taipei National University of the Arts, also serving as ambassador at large for Taiwan for a few years.
While we're on the topic of inspiration and female role models, it doesn't get much better than Amy Purdy who lost both her legs to Neisseria meningitis, a form of bacterial meningitis, at the age of 19.
As a double amputee, competitive snowboarder and spokesperson for the Challenged Athletes Foundation, she talks to people around the globe about her experience and overcoming life obstacles in order to reach your life dreams and goals, regardless of what is thrown your way.
Amy has played a runway model in a music video for Madonna, taken on a role in an independent film and has modeled for a number of photography projects.
She says to the audience, "When you face adversity and rough patches of trying to fit in, ask yourself what defines normalcy, beauty and what defines you? Embracing your uniqueness whatever that is turns your life from ordinary to extraordinary." Hear hear Amy. You were truly an inspiration to watch and meet.
Hannah Chung is the co-founder and force behind Jerry the Bear, a stuffed bear that helps children learn how to manage their diabetes. Inspired to help children, she says she is never looking back and laughs as she shows us a photo of her in a stuffed bear costume.
"I'm happy to wear a bear costume for years to come if it means making an impact on kid's lives," she tells us.
When Jerry’s eyelids close, he is showing that he is low in energy, until he is fed certain foods or given a pretend insulin injection which then boost his glucose levels. The results are shown on a little screen that is implanted into Jerry's belly.
Hannah’s father and grandparents have Type II diabetes and after her grandfather passed away from hypoglycemia, she was inspired to make a difference by helping others manage diabetes as effectively as possible.
Kudos to the Singularity University and Women@TheFrontier teams for pulling off an incredibly inspirational and moving event with a group of remarkable, dynamic women.
I look forward to future events they plan to host in other cities around the U.S.
Below is the video of Amy and Ray Kurzweil in a fireside chat:
Photo credit of Laskshmi taken in Munich: Nadine Rupp/Getty Images Europe. Hannah: From the Mccormick.northwestern.edu site. Amy Purdy and Legs: AmberB Photography. All other photos: Renee Blodgett.
January 08, 2012
Leonard Nimoy & Steve Wozniak Steal the Stage at DEMO Enterprise Disruption
I'm a long time fan of the DEMO Conferences and events and have been attending for well over a decade (since the start of their events really, but let's not date myself that much shall we?). This past week, they held an evening event called DEMO Enterprise Disruption at San Francisco's Temple Bay & Nightclub at was so well organized that it felt like a shorter version of their twice-a-year launch events. (in the states that is as they're now doing events around the world).
Not only was the event well organized with an agenda, but they had incredible food (soups, burgers, sauteeds and sushi), as well as a sake tasting station, wine, beer and cocktails. Fusion.io sponsored the event, who touts speed speed speed as their main value proposition.
They're a pioneer of a new storage memory platform that significantly improves the processing capabilities within a data center by moving process-critical, or active data closer to the CPU where it is processed. They announced breaking a billion IOPS barrier at the event (see full release here).
Also on the stage were student-run companies such as @teamitt who demoed their job app to motivate employees and @diffbot, who is combining news reading with natural language processing, machine learning and robotics.
Sococo, who develops and sells virtual environments for network-centric individuals to work and play (think: combining all forms of communication for employees to collaborate and more), originally launched at DEMO and returned to the stage to give the audience an update. Team Space is their flagship product.
Below, VentureBeat founder & DEMO producer Matt Marshall moderated a venture capital panel with Dr. Forest Baskett from NEA, Chris Schaepe of Lightspeed Venture Partners and Peter Wagner of Accel Partners.
The biggest highlight of the event however was the fact that they managed to get Star Trek hero Leonard Nimoy (aka Spock) and Steve Wozniak (now Chief Scientist for Fusion.io) on stage at the same time to have a "chat." Nimoy also gave the audience a mini-speech about some of the things he's learned over the years, including admitting to flunking Chemistry.
The more amusing part was Wozniak sharing with him the fact that you can easily download translation apps for your iPhone (among other devices) and the awareness for all of us how far away our "app" world was from his. It sounds like he may actually have a "life." :-) Below is a video short of his talk and here's a link to the follow on chat that Nimoy had with Wozniak.
January 02, 2012
A Bear's Way of Bringing in 2012!
November 02, 2011
Ireland Prime Minister Enda Kenny on Technology at #FoundersIreland's Prime Minister Enda Kenny came to the Founders event in Dublin this past week to talk about the importance of technology and Ireland's commitment to its expansion and innovation as a major contribution to a growing economy both at home and abroad.