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!
Note: I shot the above photos in his backyard on that memorable day in May 2011, a little over two years ago.
June 28, 2013
Meet Startup Reykjavik, Iceland's #1 Accelerator Program
When I was in Iceland this month for Startup Iceland, an event started by serial entrepreneur Bala Kamallakharan, I had the opportunity to meet a host of locals working on start-up initiatives.
Leading up an effort within the Startup Iceland community is Kristján Freyr Kristjánsson, who is spearheading Iceland's #1 Accelelerator program: Startup Reykjavik.
Startup Reykjavik is similarly structured to TechStars but open for any type of businesses to apply. The program includes ten teams (16k at 6% across 10 weeks) and ends with an investor day on August 23, 2013. It kicked off while I was there and one of the team building exercises was to take 20 or so entrepreneurs into the interior of Iceland's natural wonderland for games and bonding. They headed to a place called Thorsmork, within the Þórsmörk Nature Reserve where they had pow-wows in volcano huts and hiked, a little different from our pizza and soda networking shindigs in Silicon Valley.
Here is an overview of the teams for this year's program:
- Mindlantis: While helping children discovering their true potential, they make high quality products based on their ideas.
- Activity Stream: They enable capture, processing, visualization and reporting of Business Activity Information - in real time - cloud based.
- Golf Pro Assistant: GolfPro Assistant is a web app designed for golf professionals to help them manage all aspects of running a golf teaching business.
- SARdrones: SARdrones develops unmanned drones and image analysis software for search and rescue purposes in barren landscapes.
- Snjohus Software: Snjóhús is a two man team, programmer and artist, working to make high quality apps.
- Silverberg: Designing and developing a measuring equipment for fitness centers, along with a software solution where users can track their progress.
Non-Tech companies (e.g. Bio-tech, Fashion, Alumnium Roller coaster, Whiskey Brewery)
- Herberia: Herberia fills the gap between unregistered natural products and medicines by manufacturing herbal medicines of the highest quality.
- Y-Z: Y-Z is an innovative fashion brand aimed at forward thinking women - classic design with avant garde flexibility.
- Zalibuna: Zalibuna will design and build a one man rollercoaster in the most traveled area of Iceland, Kambarnir.
- Þoran Distillery: The Þoran project it the brainchild of a few like-minded individuals who dream of establishing the first whisky distillery in Iceland.
They have 10 alumni teams and a database of 100 Icelandic startups they have been helping through the past years, with roughly $20 million invested so far. Below are some of the entrepreneurs who participated and are part of the startup scene, from the Hackathon, the Startup Iceland and the entrepreneurs who will be part of this year's accelerator group.
June 13, 2013
Start-Up Iceland Event Draws Iceland's President & Attracts American Thought Leaders
Hackathons are fairly common in Silicon Valley and while they're starting to pop up in pockets around the world, Iceland may not be a place that immediately comes to mind when you think of start-up geek fests.
Reykavik, Iceland's largest city and home to two thirds of its 320,000 people, recently held a Hackathon in conjunction with Start-Up Iceland, an event committed to helping local entrepreneurs build a thriving start-up ecosystem in the country.
Started by serial entrepreneur, angel investor and Greenqloud CEO Bala Kamallakharan in 2012, Start-Up Iceland has not only grown in size in just one year, but attracted top notch angel investors from the states, as well as European and American entrepreneurs and thought leaders.
TechCrunch's John Biggs presented, as did American venture capitalists Brad Burnham from Union Square Ventures and Foundry Group's Ryan McTyre and Jason Mendelson. To top that list, Iceland’s US Ambassador Luis E. Arreaga and the country's President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson thought the event was important enough to show up to address the more than 300 attendees at the beautifully designed conference center HARPA in the city center.
In true start-up conference style, the event kicked off with an UnConference led by Joshua Kaufmann and a Hackathon, held at the University of Reykjavik, where geeks gathered together to cook up some innovative ideas.
The Hackathon was free and open to students, hobbyists, professionals and frankly anyone who likes to hack on cool code and be creative.
Startup Iceland Hackathon participants were asked to create and present hacks around the central idea that the world is undergoing drastic cultural, climate and economic shifts that impact global business.
As the founding organizers mission suggests: "Strengths lie not within avoiding catastrophe but in planning and mitigating problems before they arise. We can accomplish this by understanding the needs of the business community, anticipating the hurdles and creating proactive solutions." Well said.
Above, locals present their ideas to attendees and a panel of judges and below, Seattle Angel Conference's John Sechrest moderated a session.
Below the Hackathon finalists pose with American thought leaders and entrepreneurs.
Winners and finalists receive acknowledgement on stage.
The winner of the Hackathon was GreenQloud Automated Server Balancer, which is a collection of scripts that manage and change attributes to a GreenQloud hosted server depending on the load.
Simply put, when a user's server is idle, only one system is running. Once the load gets to a specific point, a new system is activated, which allows for consistant performance across the board without wasting so much power. Lower Power usage, lower wasted dosh.
While green energy may be enviromentally friendly, it's not unlimited, so their notion is that you should only use what you need. With their approach, you can efficiently waste the least amount of power with enough performance to do what you need.The team was awarded $1,000.
Below, Bala does a fireside chat style interview with Ryan and Jason from Foundry Group.
The UnConference presented a host of great ideas, which were far more varied than what you'd find in technology hubs in the United States, largely because many of the needs and problems that locals need to solve on a Nordic Island are unique.
Some of the ideas included angel investing in Icelandic start-ups, the role of big companies in the start-up ecosystem, women's role as investors, entrepreneurs and consumers, cultural barriers between those who have money and those who don't, the value of mentoring, bootstrapping, what can be gained from a Pan-Nordic collaboration, growing Icelandic tourism through better customer service, attracting talent to Iceland and the importance of having a start-up friendly government policy.
Kudos to the Start-Up Iceland team and everyone behind the scenes who made everything happen, from the Hackathon and UnConference, to the more formal Start-Up Event at HARPA, which included a VIP dinner and the President's speech.
I first heard Iceland's President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson speak at PopTech, an annual event in Maine I've had the pleasure of attending and being involved in over the years. His presentation style is very warm and inviting and once again, he brought that quality to the stage. Below he gives a touching and inspiring talk to attendees.
The video of his talk below.
My takeaway went beyond the fact that Iceland now has a thriving and growing start-up community as demonstrated by Start-Up Iceland and the level of support for the event. Icelanders have resilience and dedication to making things work regardless of what is thrown their way.
Consider what the country went through in 2008 during their financial crisis and how as a nation, they came out the other side as committed and united, able to move forward with a team and “can-do” attitude, something every startup needs to not just survive but thrive.
The fact that Iceland is a small country can be used to their advantage. Icelanders help each other out, share and cross pollinate ideas and don't give up easily. Smaller communities in the U.S., such as Boulder and Portland also implement more of a sharing and caring mentality, something Silicon Valley could use a bit more of. As Foundry Group’s Jason Mendelson commented on a panel, “in Silicon Valley, it’s more like every man out for himself.”
We have a lot to learn from Icelanders and I felt fortunate to meet some of the early entrepreneurs who are helping to make Iceland grow and thrive as a global player in the entrepreneurial world.
March 21, 2013
Al Gore on the Environment, Healthcare, Guns & Democracy at #SXSW
I've met Al Gore a few times now over the years and have heard him speak about a dozen times, maybe more, particularly since he became so entrenched with technology while he was in office and after the fact. It should be no surprise that he was in full form at South by Southwest (SXSW) this year on the main stage in Austin in a fireside chat with WSJ's Walt Mossberg.
Those of us who know his agenda and his passion for climate change were waiting for him to dive full force into his 'green' agenda, which he did towards the end of his talk. They started with the digital revolution, appropriate given the "Southby audience." Print media are devastated he said, which is a very old discussion in the world of social media, where SXSW is the Queen Bee conference that takes such discussions to the next level...and this one started eight or so years ago.
That said, mainstream consumers in small towns are still reading newspapers and while they all may have a cell phone, they don't necessarily all use it to get their news. He refers to the 'now' economy as a 'stalker one,' where kids are even wearing 'chips' and being tracked by governments.
"I hope this stalker economy will create a gag reaction," he said. Gore suggests that we're seeing a shift in power that is bigger than what we've seen in 500 years. He also brought up Asia and how China will quickly surpass the U.S. as the largest economic power in the world.....because of that concentration and shift of power, 93% of extra income has gone to the 1% who are in power.
He added, "that's an economic fact," and then went onto say, "while our country is in serious trouble, it doesn't mean I'm not optimistic," but in order to take that power back, he suggested that "we as a country need to TAKE democracy back." Democracy as we know it he asserted, has been hacked. Said Gore, "Our OS (operating system) for the U.S. is our constitution."
He noted that earlier in this career when he was part of the 'system,' they'd spend about 1% of their time raising money versus the 5 or so hours a day today. While modern democracy has never been perfect, the will of the people did drive policy he believes. He said, "Congress is incapable of passing any reform of any significance unless its passed through special interest groups." Mossberg referenced Shapiro's The Last Great Senate at this juncture, reaffirming just how much has changed between the mid 1960s and the 2013 Congress of today. While the world knows about his hunger to educate the world about the negative impact of global warming, it's not as if Gore wasn't convicted and passionate about a number of other topics and issues, including healthcare and the NRA.
On healthcare, he reminded us that the federal government is the biggest purchaser of medicare and medicaid and if that's the case, then "why can't government negotiate like big corporates can to bring the costs down for American citizens?" That received a huge applause from the audience, no surprise given how many of us have been and continue to be screwed by insurance company premiums, wopping high deductibles and taxes. It would be impossible for guns not come up given the random and shocking killings this year in schools, small towns and beyond, and so when it did, Gore was not shy about how he felt. He scratched his head.
"C'mon, the NRA is a complete fraud. A lot of people belong to it, I used to belong. It is financed by the gun manufacturers and the organization has puppet strings. Same thing with the Smoker's Alliance." I wish they spent more time there frankly. On overall growth, Gore suggested that we should no longer use DGP as a guide for economic policy since it doesn't take externalities into account, like a negative one such as pollution or a positive one such as investment into a city in core areas such as mental health, music, culture, education, all of which counts as an 'expense,' not an investment. "They don't take into account future benefits of that investment in a city or region," said Gore. He threw out a few stats demonstrating just how far behind the U.S. is in so many areas including social and economic growth. He said, "We have worse upward social mobility than Tunisia and Egypt. Inequality is growing in the U.S. and so much of it is because our tax code is ridiculous." Hear hear Gore, go go go, not that these kinds of pep talks ever change anything back in Washington. People I know who were Middle Class are now in a struggling Working Class and those who were Working Class are either now working 100 hour weeks destroying their family life and health or on the streets.
And. then there's a wealthy Silicon Valley which seems to be numb and oblivious to how the rest of Americans actually live and think. I know - I live there. Gore asserted that we need to find ways to communicate with other and more effectively in a way that restores democracy.
"We need to TAKE BACK AMERICAN DEMOCRACY," he said firmly to a packed room in the main SXSW auditorium. And, since he couldn't wait to get to climate change, he finally migrated there but softly starting with garbage suggesting that we toss garbage into our 'country' as if its an open sewer, filling up the 'sewer' of gaseous unhealthy waste that is equivalent to 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs.
With 53% of the country in drought, he also suggested that this shift we've been seeing is also related to global warming. Like garbage, like open sewers, like car fumes and everything else we've leaked into this environment without a care for the consequences, he threw out another alarming stat: we've seen $110 billion in climate disasters alone.
On the upside, he claimed that the investment in solar and wind is rising and the more we invest here and use it, the cheaper it will become, making it more inexpensive for us to rely on solar than coal, gas and oil over time. In order to get there however, he said that we need to reverse organizations, not people. Yes, organizations AND government Al.
Photos by Renee Blodgett.
March 05, 2013
TEDActive 2013: Bubble Guns & Global Conversations on Lawns & Haystacks
As a long time TEDster, I had never been to its offshoot, an event that happens simultaneously every year called TedActive. It's essentially TED, but less expensive and less bells and whistles.
Since it is held a couple of hours from the main event, the speakers are obviously not on-site, however you do experience them through a satellite feed, which includes views of the audience, the main stage and the impact the speakers have on that audience in real time.
For years, TED has something called the 'simulcast' room, which is where you can view the talks in a separate room on a 'screen' not far from the main room.
Why some people love hanging out in the 'simulcast room' rather than the main room is that it allows them to quietly chat in the back, or type away on their keyboard if they have work to get done.
OR, if you're an A++ type who is simply too digitally connected to sit still with nothing but an old fashioned notebook among 1,000 of your "closest" friends, simulcast is the way to go.
All of TEDActive is a bit like that, except that the main room resembles TED's main simulcast room and TEDActive's additional simulcast rooms, which are even more casual, feel like a cross between a silent and creative experiment at a progressive university and an adult's playground.
In some of the rooms, there were tables with paper cut outs and magic markers if you wanted to jot down your ideas in "color" using "scraps". This year, they also had a 'banana' theme and while I still don't know what was behind it, it was oddly amusing to continuously bump into two guys who didn't know each other, yet both of their lives depended on bananas.
From bananas and spirited drinks to cut outs and designs, we moved to species and the Internet in a nano-second.
An idea was thrown out there by four respected illumaries in different fields: Diana Reiss, Peter Gabriel, Neil Gershefeld and Vint Cerf. The question was: could the internet also connect us with dolphins, apes, elephants and other highly intelligent species?
In a bold talk, the four of them came together to launch the idea of the interspecies Internet.
There was a 'creative' lab' where Andy Cavatorta set up an exhibit that combined technology, robotics and music.
In that same space, a few of us were inspired to get creative at two am, not long after a martini sipping session where we ate blueberries with M&M's and talked science fiction to young MIT types.
Did I mention that I'm a sucker for fur vests, colored lights and 3D science fiction glasses? And in case you're wondering, yes we were posing.
There was creative energy at the final pool party as well, which included wild hats, squirt guns, funky pants, and bananas of course, all set on a whole lotta grass against a beautiful mountainous desert in a place called LaQuinta you may never have heard of unless a TED Conference happened to be breezing through. Here we consumed some R&R, sunscreen and bubbly whatever.
Speaking of grass, we also had a little lawn time with TED 2013 Prize Winner Sugata Mitra. Known for his work in education research, Mitra won $1 million TED Prize to build his School in the Cloud.
He invited the world to embrace child-driven learning by setting up something he refers to as Self-Organized Learning Environments (SOLEs) and asked the TED audience for help designing a learning lab in India, where children can “embark on intellectual adventures.”
While people were expanding their creative "juices" in whatever way they could, creative "things" were in place at the lab for people to play with and take in...
Below is a fabulous woman I met by the "so done right" coffee and tea bar set up in an area called the Quad, where we gathered on haystacks and picnic tables for lunch most days. She 'wore' her commitment to eco-living and seemed to have a different name each day. If I recall, she was Cool Carol the day we exchanged TEDities.
One of the things I loved about TedActive was its combination of youthful and international energy. Below, I'm with the curator of TEDx Bordeaux Emmanuelle Roques.
With 72 countries on-site, I had 'curious' conversations, all of which had global perspectives, with folks from India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, France, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Italy, Kenya, South Africa, Australia, England, Holland, Switzerland, Japan, Korea, China, Argentina, Brazil, Iran, Chile, Colombia, Canada, Malta, Lebanon, Palestine, UAE, Turkey, Germany, Estonia, Sweden, Denmark, Scotland, Ireland, Israel, Belgium and Uganda.
And, those are only the ones that immediately popped into my head without diving into my business cards or the TED mobile app.
If that's not your thing, then the Active experience is a more laid back way to experience TED where you can still stretch your brain, discover new ideas, be inspired, get your creative juices flowing, get off the grid for five days and have 'unique' conversations that make you think differently, then give it a shot.
Personally, there is always someone I know on the main TED stage every year, often more than one, and many more people I have known, worked, played and cried with for years attend the main event. The other thing you're more likely to get at the main TED event is an overdose of "intellectual high."
Comedian Julia Sweeney had the audience in stitches as she made references to her peeps, you know, the Nobel Prize Winners, Scientists, Authors & Inventors that were part (so not) of her everyday world from TED.
Accolades and titles aside, I've never been one for labels and titles: none of them -- celeb labels, CEO labels, soup labels, hair product labels or shoe labels.
Whether you're into them or not, labels and titles are in abundance at TED, all there to expand their mind, gather new ideas, and many later find a way to contribute to something they were exposed to at the event. I must admit, if I were only a little more "label, title and accolade savvy", it would certainly make the Oscars easier to understand.
While we're on the topic of labels and great design, I'd be remiss if I didn't include a shot of some of Yu Jordy Fu's fabulous design work. I found her fascinating.
Later, a random encounter led to an interview with Upstart Business Journal's Teresa Novellino, a TED virgin, over lunch. See her article here, which takes an entrepreneurship angle. I wouldn't call myself a groupie, but I am most certainly a fan of what TED represents: spreading great ideas, innovation, inspiration and helping the world become a better place through a collective effort.
I'm also a huge fan of the in the between stuff that happens before and after all the organized formalities that events "do," to throw people together. When there's space and time and the 'tossing' is cast aside, real magic happens. Incredible dialogues happen. Life changing observations form. Relationships emerge. New initiatives are created.
And, as a result, 'collective' conversations away from your 'collective' and 'individual' conversations in your daily worlds, make you think about the world differently.
In that moment, an idea sizzles, or more importantly, an old way of thinking gets shattered which brings me to an oldie but a goodie, one of my favorite Helen Keller quotes:
"When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we don't see the one opening before us." -Helen Keller
Conversations like these remind you that there are always opportunities in front of us but so often, we're asleep and miss the silent intro.
I had another observation from hanging out with such a 'global 'tribe' over the course of five days. The early American "drive" seems to be getting replaced by more of a laissez faire attitude that no longer induces self ignition. See my write-up on Rescue America, a book released last year by Chris Salamone, that fixates on this shift.
Full of historical and philosophical references, he creates clear and specific connections between the loss of our founding values and the current challenges facing our nation. What is necessary, he suggests, is a fundamental shift back toward a national embodiment of the three primary leadership qualities that sustain all lasting human institutions: gratitude, personal responsibility, and sacrifice.
What I noticed at TedActive was how many people showed up from other parts of the world embracing all three.
The notion that the "west" knows how to lead is something Americans do incredibly well. Many are good at doing it and even more are really good at giving the perception that they're good at doing it. My grandparents and parents generations learned that there were less boundaries than the countries they left behind, and were taught that hard work and education pays off.
In other parts of the world, boundaries are overcome through great sacrifice and taking personal responsibility to change the status quo, which can come in the form of political oppression, rapes that are brushed under the table, or worse.
TED speakers and attendees from other parts of the world are great examples of where and how they embrace gratitude, personal responsibility and sacrifice in their daily lives.
Take a look at this year's Yu Jordy Fu, who is not afraid to push boundaries, incorporating "raw beauty" and "love" into her design, art and architecture.
OR, how violinist Ji-Hae Park uses her music to reach people’s hearts. "There are no boundaries,” says Ji-Hae Park on the TED2013 stage. While TED may be a lofty place to perform, she also plays at prisons, hospitals and restricted facilities. She talks about her time when she was depressed and how changing your perspective through music transformed how she viewed music but life itself.
OR, how Lakshmy Pratury with tears in her eyes, talked about the importance of keeping the Delhi rape alive, also reminding us that theres a new kind of revolution happening in India where the youth is breaking down the concept of a leader.
OR, how Hyeonseo Lee made sacrifices to get her family out of North Korea. As a woman who saw her first public execution at age 7, she endured a famine in the 1990s, one which killing an estimated million people. At the time, she didn’t have the frame of reference to understand the government repression going on around her but was later caught by the Chinese police.
Someone had accused her of being North Korean, and she was subjected to brutal tests of her ability to speak Chinese. Every year, countless North Koreans are caught in China, sent back, tortured, imprisoned, publicly executed, and now she is in Long Beach talking to thousands of people who can make a difference with their voices, blogs, connections, social media call outs and their wallets.
Then, there's the Ugandan artist & teacher Ruganzu Bruno Tusingwire, who I hung out with at TedActive. He became the first City 2.0 Award recipient of 2012 in Doha Qatar, at the TEDxSummit, which I attended last April.
Tusingwire's big idea is to use waste materials to create a movable amusement park for children living in slums of Kampala.
He is using his award to grow his community, grow an woman eco-artist loan program already supporting 15 women to develop their business ideas, and expand the amusement park from a single plane-shaped sculpture made of recycled plastic bottles into a permanent park. I loved his energy, not to mention his visible sense of sacrifice, personal responsibility and gratitude.
A few of my tweets from the week:
- Humans have made a huge hole in nature! We CAN bring back species we have killed &must repair the damage says Stewart Brand@longnow #TED2013
- .@rodneyabrooks shows off his latest #robot Baxter on the #TEDstage - http://ow.ly/i/1Ayqz #robotics #factories #China #education
- .@bonovox_ shares updates from his activist work & latest #HIVstats:Child mortality down w/7256 kids being saved each day#health #TED2013
- #Education is not about filling buckets, it's about lighting fires says Stuart Firestein! http://ow.ly/i/1ABun #TED2013 #TedActive
- Edith Widder shows #squid video: We've only explored 5% of our#oceans! http://ow.ly/i4Scx + http://ow.ly/i/1ABE1 #TED2013 #TedActive
- Brazilian @SalgadoSebasti shows his strongest B/W images at#TED2013 http://ow.ly/i/1ABSF #photography #rainforests #TedActive#eco
- Cities are living systems but #technology has always been part of "the city" asserts @SaskiaSassen at #TED2013 - #TedActive
- #Kenyan Richard Turere (13 yr old inventor) & LionLights 2save his familys cattle on TED2013 stage 2day http://bit.ly/KybBhL #TedActive
- Its not about making learning happen,its about letting it happen@sugatamitra who subscribes2 self organizing learning #educator#TED2013
- Creative ideas from @ideasandaction @mabuzeinab@justwardah @tedxyouthTbird in #PalmSprings this AM:http://ow.ly/i/1AW5L #TED2013
- Bowmaker @dongwooJANG uses bows 2explore his cultural heritage & create a metaphor for his perfect world #TED2013#TEDActive #design #Korea
- #Music is what restored my soul, changed my perspective & set me free says #violinist. Let music #heal your heart says Ji-Hai Park#TED2013
- Martin Villeneuve aka #MarsEtAvril designs the instruments inspired by a woman's body & the #photographer they both love. #TED2013
Another interesting international 'observation' was what was absent and what was wasn't. A latin band played on one of the nights and I was astonished that my partners on the dance floor were not Brazilian, Argentinian, Chilean or Peruvian, but German, French, Middle Eastern and Italian.
In fact, the Best Dancer Award for TEDActive from a 'partner perspective' goes to Mohammed Abu Zeinab from Qatar who is apparently half Palestinian and half Lebanese. Go figure...and he rocked it to Latin music of all things.
P.S. he even wore funky clothing the rest of the week.
TED reminds you that nothing in your world is really aligned the way you 'think it should be.'
It made me wonder what Wallace Stegner, Oscar Wilde, Tolstoy and Doris Lessing would make of TED talks. Would they be overwhelmed? Would they be able to make sense of the over digitized, over connected world we have created?
Someone who can make sense of it is AutoDesk's Jonathan Knowles who showed up for half of TedActive, wearing fabulous, fun and bright colored socks.
Having just migrated from PC to Mac, I was somewhat sad and somewhat ecstatic that our conversation would end up being largely tech support in nature. Two hours later, I was fully equipped with Mac tricks and tips, though I'm still far less efficient on a Mac than I was on my old trusty Lenovo.
I couldn't help but get a chuckle over one of his tweets shortly after he arrive in Palm Springs.
Lunch at #TED2013 versus Lunch at #TEDActive #maybeExaggerateAbit: pic.twitter.com/IV3PoVIG8J
Although excessive, I must admit, we did in fact have a lawn party with picnic baskets, sandwiches and cookies in 80 degree sunshine, the last time we'll likely do such a thing given that TED's new location is in Canadian Vancouver and Whistler next year.
Occasionally, you hang out with people you know and work with: below with Andrew Carton of HAPILABS.
And as always, they had a TED gift bag, which was a backpack made by Target this year. I went for the Explorer bag, which seemed appropriate given that one of my many hats is a travel editor. This of course included a stuffed elephant from World Wildlife Fund, which I named Gambia, and a gift card from Inventables (thx Zach), among umpteen other things. My pals over at TripIt also included a free year subscription and there was a GoToob Bottle from HumanGear I couldn't quite make sense of since the top didn't seem to stay on, which is a disaster for a traveler.
On the last night of TED, I headed back to Long Beach to have drinks and dinner with old friends and musician Amanda Palmer who performed this year, showed up and shared a few tunes with our intimate group, something which has become tradition for as long as I can remember. (the dinner part, not the Amanda part)
And at the end of the evening, there's always room for a little girl bonding or whatever it is we do that makes us feel feminine and human and connected and just fabulous being together. Below: former TEDPrize winner Jehane Noujaim, who is working on The Square, a film about the Egyptian Revolution, Amanda Palmer, Lakshmi Pratury, Renee Blodgett and Amy Robinson.
International flavors came out once again as Reggie Watts killed it on stage at the end of Ted Active with new sounds I hadn't heard before from him. I remain a fan!
Suddenly I found myself lifted up into the crowd and then over it, my body being passed from hands to hands....a remarkable experience especially when you realize that each set of hands are likely from a different continent.
How cool I thought as I looked beyond the crowds below me as people bumped together, swaying to the hypnotic music that extended beyond us into the lofty palms that give Palm Springs its name.
Behind me were the non-swayers sipping drinks and networking in their respective courtyard corners. In the foreground, I spotted Jill Sobule not far from the stage, and then there was Reggie performing in all his eclectic glory, surrounded by a fusion of pinks and hazy midnight hues and I wondered for a moment if it was all just a dream.
Also see some of my individual blog posts from TED 2013 this year, including:
- Four Ted Speakers Who Appeal To Our Sensory Selves
- TED2013 Prize Winner Sugata Mitra's Wish for Education: "School in the Cloud"
- Ugandan Ruganzu Bruno Tusingwire Empowers & Engages Children Through PLAY
- Jordy Fu, Creator & Artist: Create Love Through Design
- Brazilian Photographer Sebastiao Salgado Shares His Story at TED2013
- Rad Hip Gardener Ron Finley Wants to Greenify Inner City Neighborhoods
- Saskia Sassen on the Value of Imperfect & Incomplete Cities at TED2013
- Inspiration at TED2013: From Music & Healing to Endangered Species & Mobile Electric Vehicles
- Dan Pallotta: Think About a Charity's Deams, Not Their Overhead
Photo Credits: All visibly on-stage photos of speakers from the Ted Blog, the shot of Renee and Emmanuelle taken by Teresa Novellino, Yu Jordy Fu with her artwork shot from her site, all other shots by Renee Blodgett.