April 01, 2014
Denting The Future With Passionate Geeks in Sun Valley Idaho
When you hear the word DENT, you might have a visual of a dental brand or maybe an auto repair company, but your mind might not automatically jump to a conference in the middle of the Idaho mountains whose goal is to shake things up across industries with technology.
Now in its second year, Steve Broback and Jason Preston are the visionaries behind this event, which aims to explore the magic and science of visionary leadership and groundbreaking success.
While so many events and conferences focus on one main track or trending idea, i.e, mobile apps, enterprise software, wearables or connected devices, DENT the Future has focused on creating an "experience" for its attendees, all centered around entrepreneurship, leadership and having "fun."
Sessions and discussions ranged from mobile development, gaming, delegation and goal setting to the art of design, crowdfunding, wearable tech, data visualization and decoding the language of glamour.
We delved into education and IPs and then onto the importance of creating support networks when building a startup, before embarking on a dialogue with Richard Douglas "Dick" Fosbury, who is one of the most influential athletes in the history of track and field.
We also heard from Chris Anderson of the CSI Centennial Observatory and the Falukner Planitarium, who shared how the current best understanding of gravity -- based on Einstein's relativity -- suggests that everything creates its own dent in the universe, however small, how this connects everyone to everything, and how the relativity of simultaneity means that we all inhabit our own unique universes.
With crowdfunding on the rise as an alternate to traditional angel and seed investment, it was no surprise to see IndieGoGo Founder & Chief Development Officer Danae Ringelmann on the stage in an inspiring fireside chat with Jeremiah Owyang.
We explored the benefits of crowdfunding and debated if the crowd is actually wiser than vetted professionals from established companies.
Says Danae Ringelmann of the value add for VCs, "we derisk the investment process, allowing them to step away from the vetting process so they can focus more on the amplification. We’re creating pre-markets from the community up and because we’re open, we don’t infiltrate the results."
She asserts that by being open, IndieGoGo can inherently be a true market testing platform. "If you’re unsuccessful at raising money, you don’t have an audience that cares. If the market doesn’t care, you can either hone your product or go back to the table and focus on features or projects that truly matter to people."
The notion is that as a true market testing platform, they democratize results, rather than corrupt them. This crowd-based approach is opposite to the corporation approach says Jeremiah, so "what can big corporations learn from a crowdfunding model like IndieGoGo?"
She says that large companies and brands are now using IndieGoGo as a market testing platform. For example, Phillips sponsored an effort where various projects went up to get feedback from the market so they could learn about what to incorporate into their products. Companies like Honda and Whole Foods are also using crowdfunding as a customer engagement and cause marketing platform. In essence, the crowd gets what they need from each other.
My favorite learned "stat"? Apparently, 47% of all successful ventures on IndieGoGo are run by women.
While Jeremiah may have shone in his bright red sneakers, Robert Scoble also did his interview with Fosbury in bright red. They weren't the only ones walking around shining like Rudolph's nose since Scott Jordan of ScotteVest gave away newer models of his fabulous jackets and most people chose "red." In other words, there was a whole lotta red happening at DENT 2014.
Virginia Postrel took us in the opposite direction, showing us how to decode glamour and where it shows up in places you'd least expect it, like the Marines. She asserts that people have a narrow idea of fashion and glamour and their images are largely made up of make up and old fashioned holiday movies.
"Glamour draws people to technology," she says. There are clearly a lot of glamorous images and ideas which shape what technology gets built and also how we use it. It's never been easier to work at the beach with your laptop and mobile phone. Even language we use in technology has a quality of glamour to it.
A few observations: rather than think about what glamour is, think about what is glamorous. I loved this distinction: glamor allows you to build your own Reality-Distortion Field.
She nailed it here: Glamour is a nonverbal persuasion, a projection of longing. There’s an audience and an object and in the interaction between that interaction, a distinctive emotion is evoked.
A lot of what glamour does is make us buy things; it focuses us on careers we choose, it makes us show up at certain places and wear certain things because of what the association means and buy things to look like celebrities we aspire to be.
From technology to Hollywood, we then dove into politics, focusing on Obama who exuded glamour by creating mystery. He was relatively unknown and people projected their hopes and dreams for the world. We saw what happens when a brand becomes a movement through all the people who supported him.
It's so true: glamour is in the audience. Whether it's funny or not, it's not how hard you’re trying; the success is whether the audience laughs or bites. We learned that glamour is an illusion that tells the truth about desire -- it is known to be false but is felt to be true. Glamour is a spell that makes us feel more magical than things really are. It contains the illusion of magic. Of escape. The illusion is the grace. Ahhh yes...Spot on Virginia!!
This is the quirkiness and magic of DENT. Just when you think you're going to get another speaker from the world of all things tech, an astronomer, an author of glamour or a designer and illustrator comes onto the stage.
Chief Freak and founder of Freak'n Genius Kyle Kesterson is another great example of the speaker mashup so well curated by Jason and Steve.
I loved Kyle's human-ness. Rather than focus on his successes, he shared his life "story", which dragged him through homelessness, numerous drop outs and years of suffering from severe depression. The discovery of artistic expression and creativity changed everything leading him through a series of wins at Giant Thinkwell, as Seattle 2.0's "Best Startup Designer", a Geekwire "Entrepreneur of the Year" nominee, a toy developer, photographer and beatboxer.
He talked about consumption, a word I love because of the complexity of the word and all that it represents. People either associate it with negative actions or positive ones depending on your orientation of the world.
Kyle asserts that there are two things that can come from consumption: Inspiration and Education. I think there are probably more, but inspiration and education are great places to start.
He reminded people that along your journey, it won't always be easy and that critics will suck the wind out of you so fast you won't know what hit you. Ask yourself: are you sucking the air out of other people’s dreams or are you contributing to making them happen? Great question!
Which person are you most of the time? How do you enable others to create, explore and let others shine?
Along your journey, you will have a story to tell and velocity will come through that communication. But, do you have a compelling story? Having a compelling story that is genuinely authentic is where you will get empathy from time and time again. You need to create more value for your listeners so that you accelerate their story not just your own. Are you inspiring and educating them, taking from them or merely a megahorn? It doesn't get more human than that...
Then, Noah Illinsky took us on a data visualization journey. Noah suggests that successful visualizations need to have the right:
- Purpose – why we are creating this?
- Content – what we are showing?
- Structure – how we position it?
- Formatting – formats, labels, fonts, etc.
The problem Noah asserts is that most people go through the process in the wrong order. It must be in this order because they stem from each other. You need to know what kinds of questions you need to answer and what actions you want to enable before you create a visualization.
Once you identify the answers, you need to think about what data you want to show and what graph (ic) you want to use to share that data. Lots of engineers start at the end rather than trying to identify what the goals are first. Engineers haven’t been trained how to go back upstream to figure out what problem they’re trying to solve. He suggests that as a team, you need to define the upstream sooner before the coding and creation begins.
Bottom line: nobody cares about your brand, they only care about whether you make them feel good. People don’t have time. The take away here was: serve your customers – purpose is everything and it dictates the deliverable. It always comes back to purpose!!
Google Comparison CEO Dan Shapiro lives and breathes the comparison shopping space.
Rather than focus on his "stuff," he discussed what does it mean to be a CEO and what they do, which is basically Hire, Inspire and Fire. The job of the CEO is to hire effectively so you can delegate effectively and the team is the single most important part of the CEO’s role.
Vision can come from a bunch of different places but it's the CEO’s connection to that vision that drives the company. The CEO must be the keeper of the strategy, which is something that he asserts, can never be delegated. Dan suggests that in fact, there are six things you can’t delegate as a CEO:
- Strategy - the CEO needs to drive that from the ground up.
- The Team - getting the right team in place is one of the most important things a CEO does.
- The Vision - it's critical that the vision comes from the leader.
- Financing - investors want to see you in action. How you negotiate your deal with them is how you will work other deals and they want to see that. Investors also want to build a relationship and a friendship with the CEO.
- Investor Relations – investors want to hear from the CEO.
- Company Culture – sometimes it's like a fungus, sometimes it's like a ferry ring. No one knows what a company culture is about or how it evolves, but whatever the culture is comes from the leader.
From astronomy, data visualization, illustration, glamour and leadership, we moved to violence with Dr. Gary Slutkin. Slutkin is a physician and epidemiologist, an innovator in violence reduction, and the founder of CureViolence, a scientifically proven, public health approach to violence reduction which uses disease control and behavior change methods.
Through their work, they've statistically demonstrated reducing shootings and killings by 41% to 73% by three extensive independently funded and independently performed studies.
Gary has a fascinating story and history -- he was recruited by the World Health Organization where he worked in over 20 countries, including leading the efforts – using behavior change methods - to reverse the AIDS epidemic in Uganda. The analogy here is that Slutkin sees violence as an infectious process, and credits his WHO training and experiences in multiple countries to informing his understanding and approach to violence and behavior change.
I was inspired by other on and off-stage discussions including Andy Grignon, Mark Anderson, Kathleen Warner, and The North Face founder Hap Klopp.
Speaking of inspiration, a great conference isn't complete without art and music and this year's musicians blew me away.
Roem Baur whose roots are in opera, has played thousands of shows in a career that spans 4 continents. He nailed it on guitar and with vocals alongside Tae Phoenix, whose 3 octave range voice made me cry on two occasions.
The other inspiration came from the humor and intellectual wit from the team at Buick. Yes, Buick. I left DENT with a much more hip view of the brand than when I arrived, so much so that I'm now dying to try out a few Buick vehicles as well as experience a much more cooly polished culture than I ever imagined. And, truth be told, their marketing and social team is smart, genuine and fun, a rare combination. Thanks for the insights Nick Richards and Phil Colley.
Of course we all know that most of the learning and engagement at an event comes from the hallway chats, the after parties, the breaks, and the other activities that 'surround' an event. What makes DENT such a standout is not just the unique and eclectic curation by Steve and Jason, but the interesting things to do in between.
Want some examples? How's this for off-the-charts?
On the two days leading up the conference, activites included an at-dawn trek where you learned about the world of wolves led by Oliver Starr, a photography walk led by the ever so endearing Kris Krug, a scavenger hunt led by Buick, a private gathering at ScotteVest CEO Scott Jordan's house where great wine was poured, a rustic mountain lodge visit where we drank more great wine by a blazing fire, skiing at Sun Valley Resort and an evening of hosted dinners where we were thrown together with interesting personalities from all walks of life.
I personally attended the SouthWest Airlines dinner, which was a perfect match given that I run an online luxury travel magazine, only to be led afterwards by local and not so local entrepreneurs to three more stops in downtown Sun Valley where we experienced more fabulous food and tons of warm Idaho hospitality. SouthWest Airlines also sponsored a nerd bird flight from Oakland to Boise where their social media guru Adam Rucker not only applauded the geeks from the front of the plane but gave away surprise $100 off coupons to everyone on the plane, not just DENT attendees. All I can say is "classy move!"
It all came together graciously through a combination of efforts and hard work -- a huge thanks to:
- Steve Broback who is personally responsible for dragging me to Idaho
- Buzz Bruggeman and Doug Rowan for pestering me to attend for the last year and a half
- Maryam Scoble for making the logistics seamless and easy and for making me smile
- Greg Randolph of Sun Valley Tourism for making sure I knew where to go, what to do and why
- Therese Magner of Sun Valley Resorts who went well above and beyond the call of duty to make sure I left the area with one thing on my mind....returning
- Shannon Allen of Knob Hill Inn for her gracious generosity
- Beryl Barnes of Zenergy for providing a place to relax and reground myself
- Wendy Muir at Globus for amazing sake and an exquisite culinary treat
And, hats off to Jack Sibbach and Therese Magner for getting me on the mountain more than once and to Therese, Ellen, Cecile and Alex for supplying me with jackets, socks, hats, gloves, glasses and gear to make sure I didn't freeze my ass off on the top.
Be sure to check out my upcoming blog posts on Sun Valley over on We Blog the World where I'll be covering two properties, a spa, two restaurants, the mountain and the culture.
While we're getting personal, it's time to meet some fellow DENTERS...
Did I mention how much fun we had?
We even hung upside down somewhere along the way. Well, a few of us did anyway!
And as always, Robert Scoble and Shel Israel signed books.
Of course, Robert reinforced that geeky and ever so adorable brand of his....oooops, that's his finger. Or is it actually the brand, or is it his....you get the idea.
Below are chief DENTERS Jason Preston and Steve Broback who deserve an applause for bringing passionate inventors and thinkers to the American wild west for a whole lotta reflection, learning and fun!
March 03, 2014
Next Generation Power Summit Kicks off on March 5
I recently agreed to participate in an online video series on social media in business called Next Generation Power Summit, produced and organized by Australian entrepreneur Rosemary Burnett.
The series will kick off March 5, 2014 and run through March 18 and the schedule of social media gurus and expert interviews are listed below.
The video interview series aims to help businesses with their online and digital strategy through advice and insights from a host of folks living it and breathing it every day. Objectives of the series are to:
- Get clear about your core message and brand
- Build a following on social media
- Attract and connect with your ideal client in the places they are hanging out.
- Turn those connections into relationships and sales
- Learn the strategies the experts have adopted themselves, to achieve ‘big business’ success.
I'm up on March 17 however there's a host of great other consultants and specialists in the line-up starting on March 5 beginning with Rosemary's kick off. Note that it is free to participate but you have to register on the main Next Generation Power Summit home page.
I'm told that this Tele-summit series is similar in approach to a Global Mentor Mastermind event. There will be the opportunity to watch the video interview replays for a limited time if you can’t make it on the launch date however you will need to register regardless to get access to the content.
January 06, 2014
Kolibree Unveils World's First Connected Electric Toothbrush
Kolibree, a company dedicated to innovative solutions to keep you healthy and smart, launched the world’s first connected electric toothbrush last night at the large renowned Unveiled Media Event in Las Vegas on the eve of the 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Unlike anything else that exists today, Kolibree’s smart toothbrush has a unique technology to analyze your brushing habits and display them on a mobile dashboard you can readily access from your phone.
Kolibree’s connected toothbrush is paired with a mobile app. You simply download the free mobile app, connect via Bluetooth and every brushing is recorded. Then, the data about how you brushed automatically synchronizes to your smartphone telling you whether you brushed long enough and reached the hard-to-reach but important parts of your teeth and gums.
With the Kolibree connected toothbrush and mobile app, you can take control of your health and teeth with easy-to-understand monitoring and scoring. You can easily share your stats with your dentist and family or choose to keep it private. Designed for families, the app works with several toothbrushes so the entire family can participate. Kolibree rewards your progress and cheers you on when you are improving, allocating points to kids to encourage them to improve their brushing habits.
The Problem Kolibree Solves: Your dentist may have told you that plaque and tartar build up can lead to losing your teeth if not monitored and acted upon fast enough. Many people don’t realize that poor dental care can also impact the overall care of your health.
While Kolibree does not proclaim to solve periodontal disease or suggest that it can keep cavities or gingivitis at bay, the better you take care of your teeth, the more likely it is that you can and will avoid serious problems.
Before Kolibree, the issue is that there has been no easy and quick way to monitor whether you’re doing an A+ job or a C- one when you brush, so how can you improve on a habit you don’t have any data about? Kolibree solves that problem, making it easier than ever.
The Kolibree connected toothbrush will be available starting in Q3 2014 but ready for pre-order starting this summer. The price of Kolibree will range from $99 to $199 depending on the model and will include a free mobile app.
Full Disclosure: I am providing consulting to Kolibree.
January 02, 2014
CES 2014: The Year of Wearables & Devices To Track Your Life?
The International Consumer Electronics Show (International CES) 2014 is around the corner once again and I'll be there in spades as always like I have over the past two decades.
The event officially runs from January 7-10 in Las Vegas Nevada however pre-events, sessions and more start as early as January 5, including the fascinating UNVEILED Event which touts a number of new innovative products and services not yet on the market. I plan to be there in spades, so watch for tweets on my observations which will include photos as much as I can. (reliable wifi willing)
Major technology innovators will be talking about their latest and greatest in a keynote series called The Tech Titans.The keynotes will be held at The Venetian, on Level 5 in the Palazzo Ballroom. From Brian Krzanich of Intel, Audi's Rupert Stadler and Sony's Kazuo Hirai to Yahoo's Marissa Mayer and Cisco's John Chambers, the crowds will inevitably pour into these massive ballrooms to learn about what they're doing and why. The Mobile Innovation keynotes at the LVCC (Las Vegas Convention Center) in N255 include John Donovan from AT&T, Qualcomm's Paul E. Jacobs, TechCrunch TV's Andrew Keen and Ericsson Group's Hans Vestberg. Twitter's CEO Dick Costolo, Salesforce's Scott Dorsey, and Ford's James D. Farley also take the stage.
I'll be there scouting out new products, services and innovations for the mobile warrior for an entire week. I will be looking for things like efficient designs, lightweight products easy for travelers to carry, useful products that help travelers connect or use services remotely (to access movies, music, photos and more), cameras, tablets, external drives, batteries (a godsend and critical for any traveler), battery chargers and alternatives, and wearables. This appears to be the year of the wearables so let's see what comes out of the show. I'll also be keen to see the explosion of where mobile meets quantified self in the areas of fitness and health -- the more we can know about what's happening with our bodies in real time, the more we can proactively take care of our health without having to solely rely on a doctor's advice, often someone who barely knows us or what's happening in our personal lives.
These devices will change the way we eat, think, sleep, exercise and yes, travel. New areas and events at CES this year which will be dedicated to the startup community include the Indiegogo Zone and UP Global LIVE Stage. The all-new Indiegogo Zone, housed within the Eureka Park TechZone, will feature hardware campaigners from around the world. The Indiegogo Zone provides an opportunity for anyone interested in learning more about crowdfunding for hardware. The UP Global LIVE Stage, sponsored by GE, will showcase the startup community, facilitate connections and provide programming in Eureka Park. The stage will feature panels with iconic entrepreneurs, leading investors, corporate executives and media. In addition to programming, UP Global will host mentor sessions and pitch competitions and provide resources and networking opportunities for exhibitors and attendees.
The second annual ShowStoppers Launch.it power session is a curated pitch event built exclusively for the young, transformative and entrepreneurial startups that exhibit in Eureka Park. Sixteen exhibitors will pitch to a panel of high profile angel/VC investors along with media, analysts and industry experts in the audience. An anchor for the startup community at CES, the 2014 Eureka Park TechZone will feature more than 200 exhibitors, 30 percent more than the 2013 CES. In partnership with UP Global, the National Science Foundation (NSF), General Electric (GE) and AT&T, Eureka Park provides a stage for new companies with technologies to market their innovation to venture capitalists, media and buyers. Eureka Park will have a French pavilion for the first time with UbiFrance bringing 11 French startups to the area. Viva La France!
Building off the success of Eureka Park, the new Eureka Park: NEXT hosts the progressing stage of Eureka Park startups. This TechZone is designed for mid-stage startups that have launched a product in the past year. In Eureka Park: NEXT, retailers, venture capitalists, manufacturers and more will discover established startups looking to expand their growth.
Floored within Eureka Park, Academia Tech focuses on the technologies coming from colleges and universities. CES also offers special networking events curated for startups and entrepreneurs like the invitation-only Entrepreneurs Reception and Tech Cocktail’s Startup Night.
This year, there will be over 3,200 exhibitors across 15 product categories.
November 23, 2013
Wearable Wonderland Charity Gala At San Francisco's Old Mint on Dec 11
Wearable Wonderland is coming to The Old Mint in San Francisco on December 11, 2013. To celebrate the act of living this holiday season, 10% of all proceeds from the Wearable Wonderland event will be donated to a local charity.
The event will be the official Stained Glass Labs Holiday Gala celebrating the emerging Wearable Technology & IOT ecosystem. This exclusive event is poised to bring together over 500 top-tier technology executives and innovators.
Wearable Wonderland will also feature over 20+ models fashioning the coolest wearable tech devices of 2013. Stained Glass Labs will award companies and devices for their notable innovations within the following categories:
- Smart Glasses
- Smart Clothing
- Smart Watches
- Smart Home
- Smart Application
- Stained Glass Labs Device of the Year
Wearable Wonderland Holiday Charity Gala
The Old Mint
88 5th Street, San Francisco, CA 94103
Tuesday December 10, 2013 from 8:00 pm-12:00 am.
November 07, 2013
GigaOm Roadmap 2013: The Intersection of Design and Experience
Before I learned that Tony Fadell was former SVP of Apple’s iPod division and had reported directly to Steve Jobs, there was a sense that he abided by the "Real Men Ship" rules and I hadn't yet read his GigaOm Roadmap profile, where he presented on stage this week in San Francisco.
GigaOm events have always been more B2B and enterprise at their core regardless of the theme and this case was no different despite the fact that the conference was atypical in many ways, almost TED-like. Taglined "The Intersection of Design and Experience", you were almost waiting for earth shattering insights from some of the best geeks, inventors, designers and visionaries in the industry.
In this case, I probably should have started with Tesla's Chief Designer Franz von Holzhausen, except I sadly missed that session, or Adobe on design or even the very cool discussion around using data to program creative spaces, which included Jennifer Magnolfi's design examples and experiences with Herman Miller and most recently, the Downtown Project in Las Vegas.
But, Tony intrigued me largely because he had a "say it like it is" personality which was refreshing and ever so beautifully arrogant at the same time. He acknowledged how easy it was to raise money now because he was a known and trusted entity because of his so many successes while reminding young 20-something year olds how much faster they could work alongside mentors and get their projects to "go" because of easy access to people compared to two decades ago. It made me want to have lunch with him, maybe even dinner.
You can't be in your forties or beyond and not disclose at some juncture that you stand by profitability and having real metrics in place to build not just a perception for a "perception sale" but a sustainable company with an inherent value-add for customers that solve real problems again and again.
Post Apple, he built an energy-efficient home near Lake Tahoe and in the process, was so frustrated with the limitations of the traditional "thermostat," he redesigned it with former Apple colleague Matt Rogers. The end result became Nest Labs, his current entity and where he spends his energy and time.
While the man has authored more than 300 patents, has a history of successes and seems to get "design" and the design process, it was his going back to basics message (rarer in Silicon Valley) that had me at "go." He spoke of magical moments, a phrase that made me think of Tony Robbins who talks about creating magical moments in life as a daily practice.
He thinks its just not just our duty to create daily magical moments for ourselves, but in that creation, the trickle effect has a significant impact on everyone and everything around you.
You create them, you don't wait for them to happen. Once in motion, they have a spiral bowling ball effect. You give (e.g, provide magic in some way shape or form) and the universe gives back in profound ways you never imagined.
Says Tony, "rethink experiences from ground up to create magical moments." Obviously in this reference, he's directly referring to product design, yet it's a way of thinking, a way of life, not a principle in a board room or behind a computer. Enuf said!
Other messages included how data and connectivity shape our world. There's a ton of Einsteins here she thinks but not a whole lot of Picassos. (Refer to the Steve Martin play Picasso at the Agile which transformed my interaction with an engineering team earlier in my career) Perhaps design is and has always been as important as the technology itself and as it becomes more prolific in our lives as time marches on, more people realize it.
In the play, both men are on the verge of an amazing idea (Einstein will publish his special theory of relativity and Picasso will paint Les Demoiselles d'Avignon) and they embark on a debate about the value of genius and talent. Who provides more value, the artist or the inventor? You can probably guess my take away on this one.
Instagram's Kevin Systrom was on their A-list of speakers, someone I've heard speak at large business conferences, technology geek fests and in a more intimate setting with Sarah Lacy and Pando Daily. I'm a passionate photographer but still haven't drunk the Instagram coolaid despite how many times I've tried.
I have an account yet never use it and when I compare Instagram to so many other "blow it out the park" examples of design genius, I'm dismayed.
Don't get me wrong - it's not as if I don't get that filtering basic photos on a smart phone isn't a good idea or sticky, but worth what Facebook paid for it? Worth the frenzy that market gave it? Worth the badge of honor that the industry labeled as a game changer? Cool is cool, but we have an industry which has crowned thy jewel as such when it really shouldn't be a jewel at all but in the cool is cool category only.
Says Tony of the service, "the filters thing created an initial wow factor so it created hope." Hope inherently comes from creating a solution that provides a new way to do something, solves a problem people have had for a long time or in this case, something that makes people feel more creative with very little effort.
Renowned designer John Maeda, who is now President of Rhode Island School of Design talked about how Moore's Law is influencing design. Connected devices and the web have fundamentally changed the world's relationship with design, but compared to other aspects of information technology, design can be much harder to quantify.
I first met and hung out with John in the early TED Conference days where he spoke about design concepts on the main stage some 12 or so years ago. I was a fan then and remain a fan today. Says John, "you don't 'do' technology, you 'do' people and the people thing and then you add technology back in." I couldn't help but want a bunch of Johns to replicate themselves in Silicon Valley.
It's basic enough but not being implemented on a grand scale today. Developers more often than not, still build for technology's sake and the human piece is an after thought, so much so that the UI is often confusing enough that mass scale adoption doesn't happen.
John spoke of empathy, one of my favorite words. "Take the empathy route," he encouraged the audience. He asserts that empathy is the grounding force of the intersection of technology, art and design. If the root of technology is in fact art then figuring out where technology, art and design collide is fundamental to understanding art.
"Design is in the details - it is all about empathy," says John. Great design is as much about taking away as it is about adding to a structure, a product, an idea or a concept. More is great when it is measured against enjoyment (we always want more of a good thing), but the concept of "more" is flipped on its head when it equates to more work or more effort.
Design balances the two and yet as we are learning, computers despite their ability to fabricate real situations and design, don't do a great job at creating that balance. Today, we want more and more technology and yet "more and more of it" doesn't necessarily serve us in the most productive way regardless of how much state-of-the-art technology we integrate into our lives.
Ten years ago, technology made things better and more useful, but when "more of it" stops being a continuous and consistent positive return, then we begin to look elsewhere, like design. Design is on the rise again because we are yearning for balance. Great design can help balance the two and re-teach (and remind) us that less is more.
Focusing less about product design (although that was part of his message) and more on creating compelling customer experiences, Square and Twitter's Jack Dorsey took the stage with GigaOm's Om Malik.
Jack spoke about simplicity (critical to great design and his work on Twitter is a great example of it) and how so many companies focus on what they do rather than the value they provide. With regard to Square, he asserts over and over again that they're not in the payments business but the e-commerce business and it's the entire e-commerce customer experience, not just a piece of it.
Offline merchants never had access to analytics before but by using Square, they can get simple data on customer behavior in real time which can dramatically change the focus and priorities of their business. "End-to-end is what its about," says Jack. "We want to make sure they focus on the human experience of their business, not the transactional piece of it."
Jack says Square's mission is to focus on the most meaningful pieces of small business, such as the daily human interaction and communications. Square essentially brings commerce to people wherever they happen to be and in this way, transactions, communications and relationships are all conducted in parts of the world that never would have been possible before.
Internally, Square is extending that attitude by showing transparency and trust with their employees, demonstrating an open and caring 'voice' inside the company's walls. Jack's philosophy is that when you keep things open, you empower employees and build trust.
Truth be told, some of the best ideas can come from employees in other departments or through random ideas they come up with at the water cooler over lunch. With trust comes new innovative ideas and it often happens randomly when you least expect it. "
"You can't schedule innovative ideas," says Jack. It's serendipity: ideas come, get formed and executed quickly and seamlessly when you gather great minds together in one place and say "go." The same applies to instilling that behavior and culture across an organization so free flowing ideas can not just see the light of day, but thrive.
Hear hear! I think entrepreneurs with like-thinking like Richard Branson and Tony Hsieh would agree.
Photo credits: Two images from Tony Fadell interview snipped from the GigaOm Roadmap video and all other photos Renee Blodgett.
October 07, 2013
Discount & Agenda For Silicon Valley's DEMO Fall 2013
DEMO Fall is coming to Silicon Valley October 15-17, 2013.
Known as the launchpad for emerging technologies and trends, they'll be unveiling 50 new technology products from the DEMO stage, across multiple verticals and industries, including mobile, enterprise, health, wearable computing, digital money, big data, the Internet of things and more.
Some of the speakers and judges include Di-Ann Eisnor from Waze, Evernote's Phil Libin, Ayr Muir from Clover Foods, Yelp's Jeremy Stoppelman, Jonathan Abrams of Nuzzel, Josh Elman from Greylock Partners, CNBC's Jon Fortt, Rock Health's Malay Gandhi, Spark Capital's Nabeel Hyatt, EchoSign's Jason Lemkin, Hilary Mason from Accel Partners, Google Ventures' Shanna TellermanBrian O'Malley from Battery Ventures, FitBit's CEO James Park and others.
You can register here at a discounted rate of $700 off the normal registration price. It will be held at the Hyatt Regency for those heading out from the East Coast, Asia or Europe. Check out the DEMO Fall 2013 agenda.
October 03, 2013
VatorSplash, Where VCs, Entrepreneurs With Cool Apps & An Industry Ecosystem Meet
I haven't had a chance to attend a VatorSplash event in awhile because of so much travel however I was in town for the latest one, held this week at San Francisco's Cafe Du Nord on Market Street.
The event, as always, was packed full of interesting speakers, including renowned investors Jed Katz, Lars Leckie, Charles Moldow, Rory O'Driscoll, Keith McCurdy, Erin Hakansson, Alan Chiu, Dave Samuel, Rick Moss, Charles Hudson, Rob Coneybeer, Howard Hartenbaum, Tony Conrad, and others.
Docusign's CEO Keith Krach keynoted on best practices and Jared Simon talked about lessons learned from their work at HotelTonight. In traditional VatorSplash style, the band Coverflow played in the basement at Cafe Du Nord following the event. With a new sound that has leapfrogged from their more well known 1980s standards, Raj Kapoor, Phil Kaplan, Ethan Beard, Prashant Fuloria, Tim Chang, Kristian Segerstrale and The Mule played through the night while the die hards danced.
Above, HotelTonight's Co-Founder and COO Jared Simon on the VatorSplash stage.
Of the companies who presented, a few call outs include The Orange Chef Company, a great new product for foodies, which focuses on the notion that eating well starts at home. With the Prep Pad and accompanying iOS app, Countertop, you’ll have insight beyond your plate. Quickly assemble meals on Prep Pad and watch as Countertop presents you real time nutritional information on your iPad or iPhone. Set your own goals, discover more about your food and gain confidence in making the right choices. They're taking pre-orders now.
SweatGuru was founded by two women and is based in San Francisco. SweatGuru is the first marketplace that brings people together around fitness classes and experiences. By allowing anyone to organize, discover, book and share fitness classes online, SweatGuru takes the work out of working out. They also help small and medium-sized fitness businesses get online and be more successful.
By offering easy-to-use tools for marketing, scheduling, payments and staying in touch with clients, SweatGuru allows fitness professionals to spend more time teaching and less time behind a desk.
TravelingSpoon is an online marketplace that connects travelers with vetted, local, and authentic food experiences -- from cooking classes to homemade meals -- in people's homes around the world.
TravelingSpoon creates an alternative to traditional restaurant experiences that allows travelers to experience local culture and cuisine on the road, providing travelers with meaningful experiences and cultural exchange. It has launched its beta in India, Thailand and Vietnam but they hope to expand to other regions later on.
In addition, they also offer in-home cooking classes as well as market tours as an extra add-on to many of the meal experiences. They say that all of their hosts have been vetted to ensure a safe and delightful culinary experience.
Kudos to Bambi and her team for always pulling off such an amazing event.
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.
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!