Author: Jeremy Terry

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. 

Silicon Valley’s Scandalous Secret

Silicon Valley is known for its immense wealth and high cost of living, both byproducts of the area’s proclivity for innovation, technology and design. But while Silicon Valley is home to countless technology startups and the likes of Google, Yahoo and Apple, not everyone knows about the rising homeless population occupying the same zip codes as some of nation’s largest and most profitable companies.

 

Scale Of A Scandal

According to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), San Jose and Santa Clara County, the primary geographical boundaries of Silicon Valley, have the fifth-highest homeless population in the country. The city–county pair trail behind New York City, Los Angeles (city and county), Seattle/King County and San Diego (city and county), respectively.

Earlier this year, Santa Clara County released its biennial Point-in-Time Census documenting estimates of the homeless population in the county’s almost 1,290 square miles. In direct contrast to national HUD values that place homelessness at a near four percent drop since last year, county values identify an eight-percent increase over the past two years. More than 7,000 people were counted on the day the census took place, an increase of 564 from the last census (2011).

Sunnyvale, home of Yahoo, has seen an increase of more than 400 in the homeless population. In Apple’s home in Cupertino, the homeless population has more than doubled. Mountain View, the location of the Googleplex, witnessed the second-highest increase in all of Santa Clara County, behind San Jose.

The effect of Silicon Valley’s lack of genuine ethical concern for those not on its payroll has extended to San Francisco, where the technology industry booms at the expense of rising housing costs. The only thing dwindling is the city’s cornerstone diversity and “bohemian identity.”

 

Leveling The Valley

I find it peculiar that homelessness is a significant issue in Silicon Valley. One would hope the creative genius that seems to cascade from the area would spill over into financial support for life-enhancing services for perhaps the area’s most marginalized. But, of course, that would be the idealist perspective, and in an Elysium-like environment of presumable realists known for transforming ideas into realities, the focus is probably elsewhere.

As San Jose, home to eBay, considers options to mitigate the homelessness issue, one cannot but ask what the tech companies are doing to assist in their own back yards. I can only assume that the answer is nothing besides the typical, often insincere, superficially obligatory volunteerism and donation-oriented culture that plagues the privileged nationwide.

I’d like to see these extremely wealthy corporations put money into building transitional and permanent housing facilities instead of competing to erect monuments of their technological prowess in the form of campuses with volleyball courts and infinity pools. At some point, we must ask the companies to whom we give so much money, and ourselves, for sustained and tangible manifestations of their ethical capacity and supposed indebtedness to our support in their success.

With ideas of experimenting with a Silicon Valley secession floating around, the lived experience of the least of us is further muted. The rich get richer and the poor die.

This is how it works out in the stock markets too. The rich know about the stocks and the companies and get richer by investing in the right shares. While those who are not too good with stock investing, tend to lose money by making bad investments. As a result, the poor get scared to experiment with their money and the rich multiply their earnings. Now with HBSwiss – a software that can trade on your behalf, anyone and everyone can invest in stocks and earn well.

Feature photo used with permission from Peninsula Press.

Autonomous Vehicles from Mercedes-Benz, Google, Nissan by 2020

The first driverless vehicle, known as the “linrrican Wonder,” hit streets as early as 1925.

Nearly a century later, driverless vehicles have yet to gain traction among the masses. But technologies for driverless—even autonomous—vehicles are getting so close we can almost touch the ignition. This week at an event hosted by the Stanford Graduate School of Business, industry leaders in the space predicted most people will be buying autonomous vehicles by 2020.

The reason this technology is not picking up as expected is the reservation by the masses. People enjoy driving the cars and all the manufacturers have been coming up with cars and technologies to satiate this need – the need to drive the superior car, the need to drive the most comfortable car, etc.

In such a situation, when people are told, they don’t need to drive and the car will drive itself, they are skeptical. Though many see it as a welcome change as they won’t have to drive in the increasing traffic and can actually get a lot of useful work done in such traffic, many are not too keen.

It is common knowledge that human errors occur and machines can reduce those errors, hence accidents are expected or at least promised to be lesser. Machines will abide by the rules of the road as they won’t know how to over ride such commands. Similar to how trading software like HBSwiss invests and does all the trading moves for a trader based on all the calculations and equation, reducing the room for human error.

Many companies are venturing into this driverless or auto driven cars, expecting the masses to come around and start accepting this new change in the auto industry.

The latest project in this cutting-edge field is the Google self-driving car. The off-white Lexus RX450h SUV sporting Google’s name and a spinning LIDAR apparatus on top cruised onto Stanford on Nov. 21 for a panel discussion by MIT’s VLAB.

The event reminded the audience that Google isn’t alone in this space.

Thilo Koslowski, head of automotive practice at business-analytics firm Gartner, surprised the audience with his prediction that at least three companies will have autonomous vehicles on the road in the next few years.

Koslowski was one-upped by panelists—including Nissan (Marteen Sierhuis); Mercedes-Benz (Luca Delgrossi); startups Peloton (Joshua Switkes) and Induct (Corey Clothier); and venture-capital firm Khosla Ventures (Sven Strohband)—with technologies, such as steering assist and adaptive cruise control, that already enable cars and trucks to relieve humans from the responsibilities of driving.

Koslowski emphasized that autonomous-driving technologies save time and energy, making them promising from a business perspective.

“Not just the car manufacturers will make money with autonomous driving,” Koslowski said. By his predictions, today’s free cellphones may become tomorrow’s free cars, monetized by software and services. Autonomous driving will bring radically new business models and untold new opportunities for profit, the speakers echoed.

Autonomous vehicles have come a long way, particularly over the past few years. The VLAB event revealed that progress among both incumbents and entrants continues at a rapid pace.

DeltaBid Embodies Estonia Startup Culture

DeltaBid startup Estonia naysers success private sector funding startupsBuying goods and services for corporations should be modernized. But despite being a multi-billion dollar sector, the procurement industry is woefully outmoded. DeltaBid founders Erkki Brakmann, Rain Öpik, Andres Kuuse and Jan Dimitrov have set their sights on revolutionizing this most critical of supply chain functions. Graduates of Estonia’s flagship incubator Startup Wise Guys, DeltaBid have already received healthy startup and innovation grants […]

 

Estonia is a well known source for start-ups. It is more known for its tech Alumni that includes Skype, Pipedrive, Click & Grow, etc. This being one of the most transparent countries in the CEE region, is one of the least corrupted country too. It is also well known for its economic freedom which is one of the highest in the world.

This country also has a nick name – E-stonia. The reason for such a nickname is that this country is electronically so advanced that one can vote or sign documents from their house. It can all be done digitally without any glitches.

The government has also decided to approve the electronic declaration of officials’ financial interests, in order to increase the transparency and reduce the corruption in the country.

Another reason for such advancement towards the digital side is the president. He is in full support of the e-solutions’ development as he believes technology is the future and wants his country to be futuristic. He also encourages the kids of his country to study and learn programming at a very early age, so that they can master it before they are grown and be advanced when compared to kids from other areas.

Why Digital Advancement

For those who are wondering why one needs to be digitally advanced and equipped, here are a few reasons:

  • The technology is growing by the day and everything is getting digitalized. Things are shifting from paper to digital copies. Hence, one needs to be well versed in such programs to handle the new technologies that will be developed in the future.
  • When everything is digitalized, there is very little room for damage or loss of data. This is true when it comes to record keeping. When documents are signed digitally, the records are stored forever and one can get a copy of the same at anytime, by just tapping few keys. There is no need to go through dust and termites to access old files
  • People find it easier to access and store data as it can be done from their living room. One need not travel anywhere and this is very convenient for old people who cannot travel too much

With the kids learning and being well versed in such technology at an early age, the possibilities of new ideas coming up is very high, thus leading to digital development of the country at a faster rate. It is with such advancement and accepting attitude that software like Fincrowd App have been able to enter the trading world where physical trading was the norm.

 

Choosing Between a Smartphone and a Dumbphone

Smartphones in an age of networked individualism – can we survive without them?

Call me a dinosaur, if you must. I have never owned a smartphone. I still carry one of those old Nokia models that lets me text, call and nothing more.

I have heard one can do virtually anything with a smart phone today. One can not only contact people around the world with the tap of a button but a smartphone can even help you find your way around the city or even help you with your investments. There are a number of Apps and software like Fintech ltd which automates all the investment decisions, which were done by humans alone, in the past.

Why don’t you just get a smartphone so I can get hold of you anytime?,” friends have frequently entreated. Even my parents have, all with the best intentions, tried to lure me into their Whatsapp conversations. Perhaps that makes me a less-than-ideal friend and daughter, but really: I don’t want to be contactable at every instant, or be ever-present in the virtual world.

Speaking at a TED Conference this year, Sergey Brin heralded the smartphone revolution as “emasculating”.

I wouldn’t go as far, but on some levels it is hard to dispute that having the Internet on your palm affords a lot of conveniences. We now marvel at how life was possible before we had Google Maps, Facebook and the World Wide Web in our hands.

Can we really do without a smartphone today as the hyper-connected generation?

It’s not obvious that we can. We sleep with our phones, and take no ease unless we know where it is. We hold onto them like a rosary, reflexively thumbing it even as we speak. We feel our smartphones flickering in the periphery, in the middle of a lecture. In what seems like a nervous tic, we are compelled to look down on our device every couple minutes, as if there is always something very important to do or to attend to.

I still startle each time I enter an eerily silent subway with passengers all hunched over their screens, tapping away at Candy Crush, scrolling down an endless Facebook newsfeed.

What became more troubling was realizing how family gatherings have become technology parties where both adults and children sit in the same living room, eyes glued to their devices. Or at dinner parties, where people could be physically there but with heads in the technological cloud.

 We can be so alone together these days.

Sociologists say we are living in an age of networked individualism – people are not hooked on gadgets, they argue, people are just hooked on each other. We are increasingly networked as individuals in loose, fragmented networks providing on-demand succor, rather than embedded in tight-knitted groups. We can choose who we want to interact with over the network, and overcome physical constraints of the social environment we grow up in.

In the past, people lived in villages and today we live in cities. Tomorrow we live in huge server farms we call “the cloud”. For many of us – and you, reader, if you are reading this presently on your smartphone or laptop – tomorrow is already here.

There is a general sense that this represents some sort of freedom that we have never had. But for all the semblance of freedom we have gained, I can’t help wondering what we might have lost. How much of our lives are we secluding away as we divide our attention between the interminable notifications, emails and social posts that aren’t really that pressing? Is Candy Crush really that much more rewarding than, say, a serendipitous conversation with a random stranger you meet on the train? Or reading a book, for that matter? Yes, I forgot to mention how smartphones have also taken the book away from people these days.

More so than that, I think we have adopted a new lifestyle without giving enough thought to what it means to be constantly sharing aspects of our lives on our thin simulacrums online.

Does radical sharing, openness and personal transparency make us happier, or more lonely and divided? Is social networking, which smartphones have made enticingly easy, really creating more authentic identities, or entrapping us in a hive mind where groupthink leads to the cult of the amateur and an amnesia of the self? And what about the massive amounts of personal data and digital footprints we leave behind in the public-by-default, private-through-effort Internet culture we live in?

Clearly there are no easy answers to these questions, and I imagine it wouldn’t be a simple choice between having a smartphone or a dumbphone. In fact, even the choice to stay out of the virtual network is increasingly an illusion as maintaining an online presence is normalized to the point that not participating makes you unusual, even suspicious. What surprises me, though, is how rarely we even ask these questions before we adopt a lifestyle of hyper-connectivity.

I might be getting a little nostalgic here, but I do miss the days when serendipitous interactions occur in the real – not virtual – world: random discussions over a book a fellow commuter is reading, or the nod of recognition from someone noticing that we were wearing the same T-shirt. And more so than that, I miss a time when it had been easier for everyone to be fully present at a get-together, enjoying each other’s company without the distractions of a flicker or buzz on their phones.

At least for now, I am quite contented with my old Nokia, and am holding up on getting a smartphone. So, leave me a message after the tone, and I promise to call you back.

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Chi Ling, Chan is third-year Political Science student in Stanford University who writes here and there. She is contactable at chiling@stanford.edu and @callmechiling.