Author: Jeremy Terry

15 Stanford Classmates Who Could Be Your Biggest Startup Investor

A list of students who intern or work for venture funds

Working for venture funds has become a trend today. Many new startups are seen to come up all around us and who are funding them? The new generation is here to ensure the world is changed for the better and newer technologies and ideas are given a fair chance. These youngsters are ready to invest in new ventures and take a part of the earning as a share. They have various proposals with the entrepreneurs and eventually come to a win-win decision, so that both the new entrepreneur and the investor can benefit out of this partnership.

 

Why Venture Capital?

 

Here are some of the main reasons why people are getting attracted towards venture capital as an investment opportunity:

 

Opportunity

 

The opportunity is big. One can never dispute the fact that another major breakthrough like Facebook or Twitter or The Brit Method could be the result of the investment. Hence the investors today want to invest in a venture that could possibly change the world as they know it.

Low Cost

Investing in a new business is definitely cheaper than investing in a business that is already up and running. Many businesses face financial troubles after the initial few years and when one invests in this, the cost is high. also, they may not get a good deal out of it.

Big Revenue

If the venture becomes a hit, the chances for a big revenue is very high. with a low investment, when the revenue is going to be big, everyone is ready to take the plunge and grab the opportunity.

In November, The Dish Daily provided a breakdown of 21 Stanford professors who are venture capitalists.

Now, we are back with a list of students who intern or work for venture funds.

Anjney Midha (Economics and MCS), is an investment team member of First Round Capital’s Dorm Room Fund and according to his Linkedin, is also a partner at Kleiner Perkins.

Ernestine Fu (PhD and MBA), works at Alsop Louie, has graced the front cover of Forbes and has featured in Business Insider and multiple other publications. She also coleads a class in the spring called Lens of Venture Capital.

Other First Round Capital Dorm ROom Fund team members; Adam Goldberg (Stanford CS), Amanda Bradford (MBA), Neal Khosla (Stanford CS). Neal Khosla’s father is Vinod Khosla, after whom Khosla Ventures is eponymously named.

Andreessen Horowitz: Krista Thayer (MBA), Market Development; and Stephanie Zhan (CS), Deal Team.

Canvas Venture Fund: Rick Barber (CS Masters) and Nir Blumberger (MBA)

Cowboy Ventures: Daniel Liem (CS) and Ramon Flores (CS)

Natalie Luu (MatSci), Accel-KKR and Y Combinator Campus Associate.

Andre De Haes (MBA), Index Ventures.

Innovation Endeavors (cofounded by Eric Schmidt and Dror Berman in 2010): Greg Greiner and Seth Werfel (PhD Political Science).

Featured image courtesy of LendingMemo via Creative Commons license. 

Twitter, First Amendment Warrior?

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

That is the First Amendment of the United States Bill of Rights. The portion many—and now Twitter—focus on involves the freedom of speech and the press. This clause, as interpreted by countless court decisions, asserts the press as watchdog of the government and conduits of information to the public. The press has the right to critique and close scrutinize the government for the sake of transparency.

When the press takes advantage of this right, it can go both ways and more often than not, it goes south. The government can be questioned and brought out to the public to be criticized and rebuked, without being given a chance to explain or defend. This is how news articles regarding online trading sites like Infinity App scare people away as they are made to believe, they will get cheated.

Twitter could potentially fill this role as well if the U.S. government continues to restrict how transparent the social media self-expression advocate can be.

The now public site released its Transparency Report Thursday. The report, first released in 2012 and now published bi-annually, aims to highlight “trends in government requests [Twitter] receive[s] for account information … for content removal and copyright notices (both takedown notices and counter notices). The report also provides insight into whether or not [they] take action on these requests.”

Though the report cites a 66 percent rise in worldwide governmental information requests, data about U.S. requests are limited. Despite a two percent increase in U.S. government requests in just the last six months, we still don’t know much about what exactly it requested. Twitter is not able to release much information about U.S. national security requests due to current Department of Justice regulations.

That could soon change. Jeremy Kessel, Twitter’s manager of Global Legal Policy, blogged about potentially seeking legal action in order to increase the company’s transparency by releasing more information.

“We have pressed the U.S. Department of Justice to allow greater transparency, and proposed future disclosures concerning national security requests that would be more meaningful to Twitter’s users,” Kessel wrote. “We are also considering legal options we may have to seek to defend our First Amendment rights.

With national debate focusing on National Security Administration policies, we may seen an increased legal action from Twitter and other social media companies that value a free flow of information and expression.

I think such legal action could lead to a slippery slope. On the one hand, it would allow more forms of media to provide a check on the government. It could also increase self-policing of social media conduct by users. On the other hand, it could also—like the WikiLeaks situation—endanger people and information if not done with tact and caution. Though I would lead toward Twitter’s side, as a member of the media and proponent of the First Amendment in all its capacity, I’d warn, in the words of metal band Limp Bizkit: “Heavy is the head that wears the crown.”

Other companies have also begun publishing their own transparency reports. View them here.

Featured image courtesy of euthman via Creative Commons license. 

Going Yippee for Yahoo!

When I tell you Yahoo is moving in the right direction, I mean it. With the company’s recent purchase of Tumblr, C.E.O. Marissa Mayer continues to transition the ancient email provider and unmentioned search engine into a media powerhouse.

The biggest advantage of merging such existing, well known companies is that customers gain more confidence. They are aware and happy with the performance of both these companies and when they are merged, the features of one is bound to seep into the other, thus letting the customers enjoy the best of both worlds. Such advantages is what encourages people to use online platforms be it for socializing, communicating or even investing. Software like Orion Code ensure people benefit from shifting online.

Here are five (of the many) reasons Yahoo is #winning:

Marissa Mayer — How many C.E.O.’s would hire the cast of SNL to be a part of their keynote speech at a tech and gadget conference? With a rise in personality-driven brands, Yahoo is right on. Not only does Mayer attract attention because she is a female in a male-dominated space, but she does not shy away from embracing her feminine wiles. Remember her infamous Vogue spread? She is the best of both worlds.

Mouth (and eye) watering visuals — At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Yahoo announced its launch of two new vertical sites aimed at engaging an audience that is visually motivated and invariably younger and mainstream. On the Tumblr platform, Yahoo Food and Yahoo Tech pair the content focus of a news site with the image-laden emphasis of Yahoo’s other property, Flickr. This is what digital media, and invariably media as a whole, has been missing. Audiences want to be titillated intellectually, audibly and visually; Yahoo understands that.

Build it, they come — The more than 10 million unique visitors to the sites since their launch a month ago seem to be screaming that Yahoo has filled a void and reached a necessary audience. Techcrunch compares this to the reported 31 million monthly unique visitors of the entire NYT site. I’m no math major, but for a new set of sites to bring in an audience that is already one-third of an industry leader’s is bananas! Let’s hope it continues.

Google it — I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone say “Yahoo it,” when referencing the need to search Croatia’s G.D.P. or the release date for Beyonce’s new album. Google, and maybe Bing, are the go-to search engines. Though this may seem like a drawback, the virtual anonymity in the search category gives Yahoo the leeway to experiment and make mistakes. And when Google messes up—because no one is perfect—Yahoo will be there to save the day with a tested, reliable alternative.

Infinity and beyond — No one knows what is next for Yahoo. After declining to provide any projections for the year on its earnings call recently, we’re kept guessing—and that’s where Yahoo wants us. Mark my words, Yahoo is coming back with a vengeance.

Featured image courtesy of clasesdeperiodismo via Creative Common license. 

Mark Zuckerberg and the Internet of People

Silicon Valley is well-known for forward thinking especially when it comes to predicting the future of technology. Stanford President John Hennessey asked Mark Zuckerberg to do just that during their on-stage discussion a few weeks ago and to the surprise of no one, Zuckerberg provided an insightful response.

Zuckerberg has been a name everyone has become familiar with. It is like a household name because everyone has a Facebook account and everyone connects via Whatsapp. The social media platform has been revamped, thanks to this guy. The human interface is decreasing and the machines are carrying on the work, with lesser faults. Like in the trading market, one can invest via the online trading software like Orion Code, etc and this removes the need for a human trader or your interaction with one.

Zuckerberg remarked that Internet-connected devices are getting smaller and more powerful and that it was a clear trend that computers will someday be in us. Zuckerberg wasn’t just thinking about the Internet of things but the next stage of computing, which will likely be the Internet of people. Is the next step in human evolution, Homo Techiens? Perhaps Cyborgs, the Borg, and the Terminator aren’t that far into the future.

Already, much of Silicon Valley is set on the Internet of Things. On the day that Zuckerberg spoke on campus, Google bought Nest for 3.2 billion dollars. Many venture capitalists and tech companies are spending billions of dollars betting that all of our devices will become Internet-enabled and smarter. The first device was the phone. Nest then made it the thermometer and smoke detector, and a fair number of people in Silicon Valley now sport wearable devices like fitbit and the fuelband.

Zuckerberg’s view of the future is not really a prognostication because the Internet of people is already happening. Google recently announced its smart contact lens, which would monitor glucose levels in tears. People are already talking about how this might work in conjunction with the Google Glass. Additionally, companies are now working on digestible sensors in the form of pills that can track one’s internal state and adherence to medication.

Zuckerberg also discussed the rapid advances in Artificial Intelligence (A.I.). He joked about how people continue to raise the bar with A.I. and how at one point in time, people thought A.I. would have been achieved if computers could beat man in chess. Then it was whether computers can defeat man in Jeopardy trivia. Already computers are faster and better at recognizing faces and voices.

Silicon Valley embraces disruption and new technology because that typically means more money, more jobs, and more power. However, is technology once again outpacing our ability to understand its implications? Beyond simply understanding the impact of social media networks like Facebook and Snapchat, do we have the right policies in place for wearable devices like Google Glass? The rapid technological advances and A.I. development leads many casual observers to believe that the future will soon bring Internet-connected devices in people. However, before that day arrives, we need to discuss whether Homo Techiens are really preferable to Homo Sapiens.

Featured image courtesy of  Robert Scoble via Creative Commons license. 

StartX Q&A: Nightingale

Founded by MIT dropouts Delian Asparouhov and Eric Bakan, Nightingale is both an online and mobile app that offers patients and caregivers the tools to help manage health data. Nightingale’s health data tracking tools aim to improve treatment options for children with autism.

It is like how The Brit Method would track the stock market and read all the movements and invest on your behalf. With such Apps, one need not do much work. All they will have to do is download the App on to their mobile phone and initiate the process. These Apps are designed to help, manage and track all the associated data.

Asparouhov and Bakan were also Thiel Fellows. The Thiel Fellowship awards young innovators and entrepreneurs $100,000 grants over two years to skip college and focus on their research and goals.

Asparouhov spoke about his experiences throughout the company’s development.

The Dish Daily: Could you tell me a little bit about the history of Nightingale and the original idea behind the company?

Delian Asparouhov: The origin of the company was actually when I was my grandmother’s caregiver while she was being treated for breast cancer when I was a junior in high school. I started working on it more actively in January of 2013 with my co-founder, Eric Bakan, and we’ve been working together ever since.

TDD: How exactly does Nightingale track the children’s personal health data?

DA: Nightingale allows the parents, therapists and teachers of children on the autism spectrum to record behavioral data using their phone. This can mean anything from a tantrum happening to how often a tick happens throughout the day. The caregivers of these children input all of this data through our mobile app.

TDD: Have you found a lot of demand for the product among therapists and caregivers? 

DA: Yes! It’s a huge unmet need, and we already have three autism therapy programs paying to use our product.

TDD: How did the Thiel Fellowship help launch the company/idea?  Were both of you part of the 20 Under 20 Program? (And if so, could you talk a little bit about your experience with it?)

DA: Yes! I applied for the Thiel Fellowship with this idea, and I can’t imagine where I would be without it. The program has been instrumental to my personal development and Nightingale’s development. I would highly recommend that anyone under 20 fill out the application for sake of laying out your priorities in life and recommend joining the program if you are someone who learns better outside a classroom.

TDD: What have been your biggest challenges along the way as the company has developed?

DA: Learning to listen to our customers. Sometimes you want to pretend like you know a lot about the world, but, as it turns out, you don’t!

TDD: What are your hopes and plans for StartX Demo Day? 

DA: To help people understand why what we are working on is such an important problem to solve.

TDD: What are your short-term and long-term goals?

DA: Short-term: Help more kids! Long-term: Help even more kids!

TDD: Is there anything you’d like to add? 

DA: StartX rocks!

StartX Q&A: Everybody Dance Now!

As StartX’s first non-profit organization, Everybody Dance Now! aims to change lives of underserved youth through dance.  Largely youth-led, EDN! uses dance to promote both healthy lifestyles and social change among students. The organization is now operating in seven U.S. cities and has been featured on America’s Best Dance Crew.  Jackie Rotman, who founded the company at the age of 14,  spoke about her experience creating a startup at such a young age.

There are many organizations that have come up today to change the world. If you take the stock trading, there are online software like HBSwiss that does the trading for you and all you will have to do is make your initial investment. The software will watch the market like any trader and make the moves, thus reducing the work of a trader.

The Dish Daily (TDD): Could you tell me a little bit about the history of Everybody Dance Now! and the original idea behind the company?

Jackie Rotman (JR): When I was 12, I performed a hip-hop dance for teenagers with disabilities. Half way through my hip-hop duet, the music stopped working. An audience member shouted, “We want to dance!” so we invited audience members on stage to learn dance and perform for their peers.  Watching them perform showed me that dance is a powerful means for bringing people together and empowering them.

This experience inspired me to found Everybody Dance Now! at age 14 to use dance to help underserved youth build self-esteem and establish healthy lifestyles.  In my hometown of Santa Barbara, CA, 1,800 kids are at risk of joining a gang, and the average age of entering a gang is 14.  This represents a larger problem in our country—4.5 million young people have no safe place to go after school, so they fall into violence, crime, drug and alcohol abuse and other behaviors that keep them from reaching their potential.  After school programs like the arts have been shown to be a powerful solution—low-income high school students who study the arts are 2 times more likely than their peers to vote and volunteer growing up, 2.5 times more likely to pursue professional career fields and 3 times as likely to obtain a BA!  These are the benefits we’re helping make possible for kids using dance. EDN! has provided free hip-hop dance programs to more than 4,000 youth in 12 cities.  Our organization continues to be largely student-led.

TDD: What was it like founding the company at such a young age?  What were some of the difficulties/benefits?

JR: Founding a nonprofit at 14 was the best experience I had as a teenager, which I’m really grateful for.  Before starting EDN!, I was actively searching for meaning and a way of giving back. EDN! enabled me to throw myself into this vision that was outside myself, learn to be a leader, and form meaningful relationships with local leaders in youth development, policy, education, nonprofit administration and the arts – as well as students.  My whole life changed after starting the organization, as I had a purpose and a place to channel my creativity and hard work ethic.

One difficulty was balancing running a growing nonprofit that expanded from one city to five cities my junior year, with academics. Doing both at the same time was difficult, so if I were asked for advice on this, I may encourage other founders to take time off school if they’re running a company—depending on their goals.  The other challenge was leadership succession planning.

The benefit of being young when I started the company were that: 1) I had no expectations around its revenue or scaling at the very beginning, so I was able to do it out of an intrinsic passion and love; 2) I had a lot of time to devote as a high school student and could volunteer; 3) We were able to get an early start and build a strong foundation early; and 4) We could attract publicity opportunities and funding opportunities that were specific for youth-led organizations, including being featured on MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew my sophomore year at Stanford in 2010.

TDD: As the first non-profit to participate in StartX, how do you think your experience has differed from other companies?

JR: At first I felt unsure what it would be like coming into StartX as its first and only nonprofit, but the StartX community quickly dissolved any doubts or fears.  StartX founders constantly emphasized, “What you’re doing is the exact same – you have the same challenges!” We’re all dealing with meeting payroll for our companies, hiring and firing, fundraising (though nonprofits don’t deliver a financial return on investment), communicating a vision/plan/strategy, and more. Before joining StartX, while I lived in NYC, I had fewer people to relate to in my social group when it came to the challenges of entrepreneurship and start-ups.  StartX has provided me with an amazing community and sense of support, beyond it being really beneficial on more technical levels.

One funny moment was deciding which of StartX’s four “industry” groups EDN! would be in. Our options were consumer, medical, hardware, and enterprise – we picked enterprise because we provide our program to after-school programs, but StartX’s accelerator director and I both laughed at the match.

I’ve also enjoyed being a “go-to” person when someone has a social sector related question, like where to find a data set on the nonprofit sector, or who to connect with about a marketing idea related to charities and celebrities. Best of all, one StartX founder needed to volunteer for 40 hours to get a parking ticket off his record, so he’s making a phenomenal web back-end system to help EDN! to track our data!

TDD: What have been your biggest challenges along the way as the company has developed?

JR: The biggest challenge we’ve had has been making EDN! sustainable in the long term.  My senior year at Stanford, I appointed a volunteer Executive Director as my successor who was amazing, but a year later she realized she could no longer do it – balancing a national org with being a full time student is tough – and the team working with her dissolved quite suddenly.  This happened a week before I moved from Calif. to Manhattan to start my full time job at Bridgespan – the leading nonprofit consulting firm, which spun out of Bain. For close to the next year, I chaired EDN!’s Board, hired and trained a 42-year-old ED, and tried to fundraise, but it wasn’t working.  I ultimately decided to leave Bridgespan and become EDN!’s first full time Executive Director.  We’re now focused on building up our funds (we’re tripling our revenues this year), Board of Directors, and strong infrastructure to eventually hire several full time staff, so that we can be sustainable for many years to come and reach more of those 4.5 million kids in need in the US.

TDD: What are your hopes and plans for StartX Demo Day?

JR: Of the 160+ venture capitalists and community members attending, we hope to connect with advisors and connectors who can put us in touch with potential Board members and funders/resources, and support our impact.  We’ll be inviting attendees to visit our classes in East Palo Alto and get involved. I also hope the other StartX companies presenting do a great job and succeed in fundraising!

TDD: What are your short-term and long-term goals?

JR: In the short term: triple our organization’s revenues this year and more than double them the next year, so that we can do our work much more effectively.  Expand the number of students we’re serving annually from 1,500 to 3,000 in that time.  Build a strong standards-based dance and socio-emotional learning curriculum, as well as system for measuring our impact effectively.  In the long term: make EDN! a go-to provider in many cities, and a household name, making dance accessible to millions of kids throughout the United States as a positive, expressive, and healthy after-school alternative that gives kids an opportunity to build confidence that will translate into all areas of their lives.  Then, I also have a dream of taking cross-cultural service-learning programs for young people that are rooted in dance international.

TDD: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

JR: I’m just so grateful to Stanford and to StartX for the opportunity to go through the StartX program.  All of us at Stanford are blessed to have such giving mentors and peers who know the importance of paying it forward, in addition to the educational resources around us.  StartX is launching some awesome programming for the Stanford community more broadly through a spring session called OpenX, so definitely check it out!  My other shout out is that we have an EDN! chapter at Stanford as a Volunteer Student Organization – email jackie@everybodydancenow.org if you’re interested in getting involved in that chapter or our national organization.

StartX Q&A: PartMyRide

With StartX Demo Day just around the corner, The Dish Daily had the chance to speak with some of the companies that will be attending the event.  One of them is PartMyRide, an online auto parts marketplace designed to ease the process of finding quality used auto parts.  By entering your car’s year, make and model, the site generates a list of all available parts. Coming from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Stan Markuze founded the company with fellow Stanford students Michael Krug and Sebastiaan Boer.

Many people fresh from college or the industry start such companies or online software that aim to help people with their regular activities. Real time trader Hans Berger has created the software – HBSwiss, where all the trading moves are done for you and is fully automated. One need not worry about the stock market movement and need not follow it every minute with software like this.

The Dish Daily (TDD): Could you tell us a little bit about the history of PartMyRide and the original idea behind the company?

Stan Markuze (SM): I have been rebuilding cars for over a decade. Even when I was an undergraduate at Stanford (’03-’07) I would always be working on projects when I came home to visit my parents in Sacramento. I have repaired over 25 cars. Some examples include a BMW M3, Porsche 911, Toyota Prius and Ford Ranger truck. I have always had a hard time locating used original parts, so I got together with my co-founders to build a site where sellers could post parts, and buyers could request those parts. The user community began to grow organically, and we decided to improve our parts marketplace, adding more sellers and more features to make buying easier.

TDD: Have you found that there is a lot of demand for an online marketplace for used auto parts?

SM: Yes! The $27 billion used car parts industry is still largely offline, making it difficult for repair shops and hobbyists to find the parts they are looking for. Our vendors are happy because we allow them to sell their entire inventories online seamlessly. Our buyers are happy because they can buy the parts they need without having to call multiple vendors, wait on hold and waste time. They can just buy online and have the part within three days.

TDD: How will the quality of parts be assessed before they are sold?

SM: Quality is assessed in four ways: (1) Many of our sellers take multiple photos of each part; (2) We have 10 photos of most parts cars before they are dismantled; (3) Sellers write notes about the condition of each part and any defects; (4) Sellers assign a grade (A is the highest) to each part.

TDD: What were the biggest challenges as your company developed?

SM: We originally required sellers to update their inventory manually in our system, and we were able to solve this by integrating with seller inventory servers. We experimented with different monetization methods (charging vendors a monthly fee to integrate their inventory, charging vendors for successful leads), and with experimentation we decided to do a “buy now” system where customers transact on our site. We are now determining the best way to integrate our marketplace into the workflow of professional repair shops. We want them to look to us first when they need a part, and we are figuring out how best to accomplish this.

TDD: What are your hopes and plans for StartX Demo Day?

SM: We are raising a seed round to help us expand our sellers, market to professional auto repair facilities, and improve the buying experience.

TDD: What are your short-term and long-term goals?

SM: Our short term goal is to achieve a national network of suppliers and auto repair shops transacting through our marketplace. Our long term goal is to be the preferred method for used parts buyers in the auto repair industry to source the parts they need. Our vision is to have every used auto part for sale, online, with enough information to purchase instantly.

Sticks and Stones of Cyberspace

The topic of women’s safety online recently featured in a Pacific Standard Magazine article and a follow-up in The New York Times. Each story emphasized how the Internet is not a safe place for women. Below is my response.

Generally, I avoid the barrage of negative tweets or messages on forums or Reddit. I lurk in the shadows and assume gender-ambiguous names, such as LaTortuga or TheDogCisco, when posting in public forums or online gaming sites. While it is true that online harassment is prevalent in the case of female bloggers, I have found ways to minimize the effect.

I used to have a YouTube account in which I posted tutorial videos for League of Legends, a multiplayer online battle arena game; I also provided opinion pieces about the community and characters. During my sophomore year at Stanford, I took a rhetoric of social media class and decided to study my posts and responses from the League of Legends community. I even dressed up as one of the characters and created an online tutorial for a cosplay.

Most responses or comments started out positively, but my opinion pieces attracted cyberbullies. Comments on the cosplay went from harassment that was sexual in nature to responses such as “you should kill yourself.”

At first, I thought it was enough to disable comments, but I decided to block the videos altogether when responses shifted from illicit to disturbing. In the online gaming community, this is called “trolling.” Sometimes trolling goes too far.

I adjusted my opinions about cyberbullying when I discovered that a good friend of mine is a self-identified “troll.” Let’s call him Larry. Larry does not discriminate against gender, race or sexuality: “No one on the Internet is immune from cyberbullying.”This!

Larry is an archetypal man in his late twenties. He works nine to five, visits his mother regularly and plays video games. When I asked him about his motivations for trolling, he said, “Anyone who states their opinion on the Internet is subject to criticism. If you respond like a victim, you will be treated like one.”

I then asked him why he would suggest ways for a high school girl to kill herself. He told me that she created a poorly written guide for League of Legends and received a slew of criticism, then expressed a desire to kill herself. He thought she was making a martyr of herself and decided that he would “[mess] with her until it stops being fun for [him].”

Additionally, the opportunity and anonymity made the situation enticing.

When I understood his motivations, I better understood how to avoid harassment. While I still don’t consider what I did on YouTube as grounds for harassment, I now realize that the people who bullied me were likely just juvenile men who wanted attention.

I don’t take threats or harassment too seriously. I game and let the negativity slide off my back.

This discussion with him gave me enough insight into the preconceived notion that women are always the target and how a girl is safer and better off the internet. This was just another feather to the cap that controlled everything a woman did. Now I know being a girl is no less than being a man and I can do anything I want. I can play games online, upload tutorial, invest in the stock market , be it on my own or through trading software like HBSwiss, I am not going to be discriminated based on my gender.

Feature image courtesy of wuestenigel via Flickr Creative Commons license. 

When the Google Bus Stops (1/2)

“F**K OFF, GOOGLE.”

For the Google employees onboard the Google bus headed for its Mountain View headquarters, confronting that jarring message probably wasn’t the best start to their morning.

Protestors in Oakland recently attacked a Google bus, smashing a window and distributing fliers calling for a moratorium against evictions of residents in Oakland. San Francisco activists blocked an Apple bus, parading a wooden coffin bearing the words “Affordable Housing,” recently as well.

Why, when Silicon Valley tech companies celebrate the democratizing nature of technology, are their employees seen as “chums living on free 24/7 buffets who are driving up housing prices?”

The University of San Francisco recently released a poll suggesting that bread and butter issues—i.e. affordability of housing—are at the heart of the debacle.

Partly because of the recovering real estate market from the 2008 financial crisis and the tech boom in the Bay Area, the median price of a home in San Francisco topped $1 million earlier this year, while the median rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $3,250—the highest in the country. Over the past year, the Bay Area has experienced a 22 percent increase in home prices.

Young yuppies working in the tech industry that thirst for urban life are squeezing out existing residents. Between 2010 and 2013, median rent in San Francisco increased 15 percent, and 2013 saw 1,716 evictions, the majority of which included seniors and people with disabilities.

When the young yuppies with more money want a place suitable for them, they are ready to pay higher rent. These are the places occupied by people who can’t afford to match the rent these youngsters are ready to pay. As a result, the older people get evicted and are replaced by the younger, higher rent paying generation. These people earn higher salary and many even invest their money outside, like in the stock market through multiple trading software like HBSwiss, etc, where they need not worry about their money or do any work and all trading activities will be done for them.

The root of the problem doesn’t lie solely with Google, Apple or the rest of the tech industry, although they have been specifically called out in the protests.

The simplest explanation is that San Francisco’s fast growth and rapid influx of workers is causing a housing crisis, making it a victim of its own success. The real fault, I think, lies in San Francisco’s housing policies, which have not supported the surge in demand.

Thanks to restrictive zoning laws, a Byzantine permit process and a pathological culture of NIMBYism, housing supply has stalled. Over the past couple of decades, barely 1,500 new housing units per year have been built, which is half of what Seattle (a tech economy not unlike the Bay Area’s) produces in a year.

In 2011, San Francisco added only 269 housing units; in 2012, the city added more than 40,000 new jobs. Because infill development has faced active resistance in San Francisco, regional population growth has to be pushed elsewhere—to Oakland, the Brooklyn of the Bay Area.

So why are lines being drawn for a battle between techies and non-techies?

A probable answer: this is not merely about housing policy, but also about change and inequality.

Change is not a tide that lifts all boats. When it comes too quickly and with indifference to (un)fairness, resistance is to be expected. It is easy to see who will have to make way for change: the poor, the elderly, the less code-fluent, and yes, the less-white.

The manifest dissatisfaction toward tech money makes clear one thing: that the tech sector, for all the paeans it sings to egalitarianism, is not exempt from the host of inequalities we see throughout the country.

Silicon Valley is a place where “the right kind of nerdy” does well, and “the right kind” happen to be white or Asian, and male.

Part two in this series on inequality in Silicon Valley will be published tomorrow. 

Featured image courtesy of The Verge.

Facebook CEO Speaks to Stanford Audience

On Tuesday, Mark Zuckerberg sat down with Stanford’s President John Hennessy before a packed Memorial Auditorium to chat about Facebook, entrepreneurship and the future.

Zuckerberg, whose annual visits to the introductory computer science class CS106A have become a staple date for students to mark on their calendars, reiterated many of the sentiments laid out in his previous visits.

In response to Hennessy’s question of the young CEO’s initial plans for his company (founded, of course, when he was in his second year at Harvard), Mark pointed out that the birth of Facebook looked much less like the “moment-of-revelation” scenario in “The Social Network.” It was more like a slow, methodical process of garnering knowledge about computer science and tackling the issue of connectivity.

He didn’t dream of becoming a CEO so much as he did of helping the Internet meet the human need to connect with others. He recounted that at its inception, he imagined that a website like Facebook would only take off once one of the existing behemoths of the technology world decided to build it.

Now, as Facebook nears its 10th birthday, a slightly older Zuckerberg has big goals for the future. Given the huge cash reserves Facebook now sits on, he plans to direct his team toward tackling education, immigration and the proliferation of Internet access.

Increasing international access to the Internet seemed to be of special interest. Zuckerberg pointed out that only a third of the world has any access to the Internet, and that an even smaller fraction has what we in the Bay area consider standard. Comparing the goal of fully global Internet access to the Apollo mission in terms of the broadly beneficial new technologies that would be needed, he estimated that this project could be completed within 10 years and lead to immeasurable fringe innovation.

Further, he pointed repeatedly to his belief that the democratization of educational resources would be vital for the next generation. Citing his support of Code.org; his donation to the Newark, NJ school system; and his own teaching of a class on entrepreneurship at a middle school in Menlo Park, Zuckerberg made clear his belief that the spread of education would be vital as the world continues to shift to a “knowledge economy.”

His optimism and drive carried over as he addressed the students present, whom he told to find something they’re “irrationally passionate” about and pursue it intensely. Citing his own experience, he offered to students, “There’s no such thing as tackling a big problem without making mistakes.”

He even hinted that a little Mark Junior could be coming in the not-so-distant future, and answered one student’s question of whether he too should drop out of college with a laugh.

For those who are not “Mark Zuckerberg” but would like to earn some extra money apart from what the paycheck brings, one can enter the stock market. for those who are not well versed with the market, there are online trading software like HBSwiss, which will do the trading for you.

Featured image of Mark Zuckerberg courtesy of Kris Krug via Creative Commons license.