Author: Jeremy Terry

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.


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

21 Stanford Professors Who Could Be Your Biggest Startup Investor

It doesn’t take an abstract painter to realize the lines between Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurial and academic landscapes are fundamentally blurred.

Through national attention (thank you, New Yorker) and a little research, The Dish Daily has secured an extensive list of Stanford professors who either sit on prominent corporate boards or who are partners of the world’s leading venture capital firms. Considering the number of acting VCs simultaneously teaching at one of the nation’s premier institutions for entrepreneurial thinking, it’s no surprise there is such a high number of venture-backed Stanford startups (actually, the highest in the nation).

The list below illustrates the connection between Silicon Valley’s venture capital life’s blood and academia. Some observers find this to be at odds with the ethos of an academic setting, but in many ways it reflects the ultimate vision of Frederick Terman, Stanford’s School of Engineering dean from 1945 to 1953 who is widely considered to be the godfather of Silicon Valley.

Terman mentored William Hewlett and David Packard, keeping them and their eponymous company in Silicon Valley, and was a major proponent of creating a connection between the campus and the corporate world. Here’s more about each Stanford lecturer and his or her role outside of the classroom.

Stanford venture capital professors

Tom Byers is the Entrepreneurship Professorship endowed chair at the Stanford School of Engineering and is faculty director of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program. He has served on the governing board of Flywheel Ventures, Thuuz, and is the brother of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers’ founding partner Brook Byers

Michael Dearing has been with Stanford’s since 2006, co-developing and teaching courses including “Creating Infectious Action” and “Creating Mass Market Experiences.” While at eBay he created Harrison Metal in 2008 “after working closely with and investing in a few small companies.” Harrison Metal has invested in 500px, Euclid, Lumos Labs and ModCloth.

Nir Eyal is an advisor, consultant, and investor in several tech companies and is lecturer at the Business School.

Jon Feiber became a general partner at Mohr Davidow Ventures in 1991 after working for years as a vice president at Sun Microsystems. He is now a Stanford consulting associate professor.

John Glynn is both the founder and managing director of Glynn Capital Management and a lecturer at Stanford Graduate School of Business where he teaches Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital. Glynn Capital Management invested in Bonobox, Cloudera, Dropbox, Etsy, Evernote, Financial Engines, LinkedIn, Palantir, and Tumblr.

Theresia Gouw earned her MBA from Stanford and serves as a trustee for the Stanford GSB Trust. She’s the founding vice president of business development and sales at Release Software and has been responsible for several of Accel Partners’ most prominent tech investments including Trulia and Imperva.

Clint Korver is a co-founder and partner at Ulu Ventures while also being a Kauffman Fellow and a mentor at StartX. He lectures in the Management Science and Engineering departments at Stanford. Ulu Ventures has invested in Lex Machina, Loki Studios, NovoEd and SoFi.

Tom Kosnik is on the faculty of the Management Sciences and Engineering department and also an advisor to Illuminate Ventures.

Peter Levine is an instructor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and a partner at Andreessen Horowitz. Prior to A16Z he was a general partner and managing director of the Mayfield Fund. He sits on the board of Udacity, Bromium, and Github. Github is the largest Andreessen Horowitz largest investment to date.

John Lilly, formerly CEO of Mozilla, sits on the Board of Advisors at Stanford and works with both the Stanford Technology Ventures Program and StartX while also working as a partner at Greylock Partners. He has led Greylock’s investments in Dropbox, Instagram, ClearSlide and Tumblr. While a Stanford student, Lilly became a CS198 section leader and coordinator.

Trevor Loy was educated at Stanford University and currently co-lectures for MS&E 276: “Entrepreneurial Management in Finance” as an adjunct faculty instructor at Stanford Technology Ventures Program. He is a general partner at Flywheel Ventures and sits on the board of TerraEchos, Digabit, TrackVia, and AfterCollege.

Michael G. Lyons currently serves as chairman of cyber-security company Zanttz and executive chairman of CypherPath. Until 2011, he was a venture partner with Paladin Capital Group in Washington D.C., and is currently a consulting associate professor at Stanford. He also co-developed Stanford Technology Ventures Program with Tom Byers and was the founding professor of Technology Venture Formation.

Ann Miura-Ko earned her Ph.D. in Quantitative Modeling of Computer Security at Stanford. Currently a co-founding partner at FLOODGATE, she sits on the boards of Modcloth, Zimride/Lyft, Wanelo, Refinery29, Chloe and Isabel, among many others. She lectures at the School of Engineering and also at the

Joel Peterson has taught at Stanford’s GSB since 1992 and is currently the Robert L. Joss Consulting Professor of Management. He founded Peterson Partners, a private equity group, and is chairman of JetBlue Airways. He also sits on the boards of Franklin Covey, Ladder Capital Finance and Bonobos. He is also a senior advisor to Maveron, which has investedin Ebay, Groupon, Lemon Wallet, Shutterfly and Zulily.

Andy Rachleff was a general partner at Benchmark Capital until he joined the GSB to teach entrepreneurial studies. He is the CEO and co-founder of Wealthfront, which he is working on full-time after taking a leave of absence from Stanford.

Heidi Roizen is an operations partner at Draper Fisher Jurvetson while also serving as Fenwick and West Entrepreneurship Educator in the Department of Engineering at Stanford. She’s sits on the boards of TiVo, DMGT, Eventful, ShareThis, and XTime and is on the advisory boards of Springboard Enterprises and the National Center for Women in Information Technology.

Eric Schmidt, who does venture capital investment through his funds Innovation Endeavors and TomorrowVentures, is executive chairman of Google. Alongside Google co-founder Larry Page, he has presented more than two dozen Stanford Entrepreneurship Corner lectures at the GSB and lectured on strategic management for several years.

Robert Siegel, a general partner at XSeed Capital, lectures on organizational behavior at the Graduate School of Business.

Russell Siegelman “splits his time between teaching, angel investing and non-profit activities,” according to Stanford’s website. Siegelman teaches “Startup Garage,” “Product Launch,” and “Formation of New Ventures” at the GSB and for 11 years he was a Partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. He continues to mentor a number of GSB entrepreneurs.

Peter Wendell founded Sierra Ventures after a decade in sales and marketing at IBM and continues as its managing director. He teaches the popular “Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital” course at the GSB and serves on the board of managers of Living Furniture, a company founded by former Stanford students.

For those who are keen on earning more by the way of investing their hard earned money, in the stock market, HBSwiss is always there to help. However, for those who want a human interaction about the various happenings at the stock market and how to perceive the stocks, some of the above mentioned instructors may be able to help.

In the comments below please let us know if we missed any instructors who are also affiliated with Venture Capital firms.

{note: majority of information obtained from Stanford University’s website}

Stanford Entrepreneurs Collaborate at Startup Weekend

Come Friday evening, you might feel an infectious energy radiating from the Stanford Stadium Skybox. No, it’s not another heated football game – 5 p.m. marks the beginning of the second annual 54-hour Startup Weekend.

Yes we know how much more fun a football game could be for one and all. To eagerly sit in that energy packed stadium that soars as the players step in and feels the same energy and hunger for victory as their team. It is one thing to play in a game and it a whole different feeling to be an audience. When you are playing, you know what is possible and what cannot be done. But when you are an audience, everything will seem possible an you will in fact be angry with your favorite player for not passing the ball, the way you saw it in your mind.

Well, let’s come back to what is really happening at the stadium. For all those people who are keen on starting your own business ventures, for those who are keen on investing in new ventures, this could be an eye opener for you.

This annual startup weekend will be filled with people with talent, trying to take a step on their own in the big bad world. Students of the university are used to seeing themselves as a part of just that – the university. In order to get them prepared for the bigger world, this weekend will open the doors to their ideas and imaginations.

You can see a variety of new ideas, right from new products that can help you on a daily basis to online software like Fintech ltd, which can invest your money in the stocks, for you.

“This is completely a university event so it has a unique flavor,” said Andrew Scheuermann, a StartX associate and Stanford research engineer. “We try to focus on multi-departmental students and have a diverse array of ideas from students. At its core, Startup Weekend is about building a team and working collaboratively.”

StartX, STVP, GSB E-Club, AIS, SWIB, CES, SLS E-Club, Stanford Athletics are presenting the event. “We wanted to partner with [Startup Weekend] because they have a really great vision, especially their hack-a-thon/business competition with focus on customer validation,” Scheuermann said. “That is really in the spirit of the lean startup movement that is alive right now.” Startup Weekend in it’s inagural year was hosted by StartX, Stanford Technology Ventures Program and the GSB e-club.

This weekend’s Stanford Startup Weekend will kickoff with a keynote from esteemed entrepreneur Keith Rabois and will include mentor sessions, a coaching hour and a final judging evening where the 135 participants selected to attend Startup Weekend will pitch their team’s one-minute idea.

And the entire process is hosted in the Stanford Stadium Skybox. An athletic venue for a startup event may seem peculiar, but the two worlds are more compatible than some might expect. “Athletics is acknowledging entrepreneurship as the ‘other’ varsity sport at Stanford,” Scheuermann said.

This year’s Startup Weekend sponsor’s including Rackspace, Sequoia Capital,Silicon Valley Bank, Microsoft and Morrison Foerster have doubled exposure and funds to make this year’s event even bigger and better than ever.

The entrepreneurial marathon offers a unique challenge across Stanford’s campus: create an organically grown startup in three days.

“At the end of 54 hours, we hope that teams have done that lean startup method,” Scheuermann said.

In the end, it isn’t about what the judges decide following the weekend’s final competition, but how the team worked collaboratively on a new idea.

Sometimes companies form thanks to the event, but “the most important goal is to inspire students to pursue their entrepreneurial ambitions,” Scheuermann said. “Creating the next Google or Hewlett Packard in 54 hours is obviously unlikely, but laying the context for it is something that is.”

Images via Pixlee from Stanford Startup Weekend 2012.

Will Technology Continue to Destroy the Job Market?

by Chi Ling, Chan 

A jobless man wrote to The Economist several weeks ago:

“I am young and unemployed and face a lifetime on the dole. Why? This morning I collected my jobseekers allowance from my bank, where I have it paid directly into my account. I did not see a cashier, but withdrew money from a cash point. Then I went to the supermarket…I scanned the items at a self-serve till, no need for a check-out assistant. I went home, switched on my Chinese computer and applied for jobs online. I do not send letters through the post; e-mail is more convenient. I then shopped online, I rarely use local shops. Who can I blame for the lack of jobs?”

A century ago, the same question had been on the minds of a group of workers in Yorkshire, Lancashire and Nottingham. In an act of rebellion, they took it out on spinning jennies and power looms, smashing the machines that had left low-skilled, low-wage laborers without work. Posterity calls them “Luddites”, a word that is today synonymous with being an old fuddy-duddy, decidedly anti-technology and anti-progress.

In Stanford and in Silicon Valley especially, being labeled a Luddite is almost tantamount to being sent into exile. After all, who can be anti-technology in the heart of techie-paradise? Yet slapping the luddites-label on the unemployed does not make the problem go away. Being so close to Silicon Valley, we see technological progress creating a seemingly endless stream of lucrative jobs; what we don’t see, however, is how it is also eliminating other types of jobs and leaving the typical worker worse off than before.

There is no doubt that workers are increasingly being squeezed out by robots and automation. And we’re not talking only about jobs at the lowest end of the pay scale – what were once considered “middle-class” jobs are also being hollowed out as your property agent gives way to mobile applications like Airbnb and Trulia, and your baggage check-in staff at the airport are replaced by self check-in kiosks. With the advent of MOOCs, community college lecturers might in time find themselves confronting superstar lecturers who put their own necessity into question.

Today a whole class of workers are being rendered irrelevant as technologies like the Internet, big data, and artificial intelligence are automating many routine tasks. It’s not as simple as robots replacing workers – digital processes are creating new processes that enable us to do more with fewer people and making human jobs obsolete at a faster pace the skills and organizations can catch up.

Earlier when one wanted to trade in stocks, he would watch the market for days, pour over charts and discuss with fellow investors to learn about each of his options. But today? Software like HBSwiss, has automated the entire trading activity and one need not even follow the market closely, leave alone discuss about it.

Under such circumstances, the market does what it does best: it rewards whoever adds the greatest economic value captured by the price mechanism. And they are, inescapably, owners of capital and machines that bring about greater productivity and profits. With capital-based technological change comes a notable shift in income away from labor: in the US, the share of compensation in gross domestic income is at a 60-year low, and the share of middle-class income has fallen from 62% in the 1980s to 45% today. Wither the American dream – there is probably no worse time to be a worker with no special skills.

Who is to be blamed? The popular rejoinder proffered by governments all over has been uniformly disingenuous: market forces. The inexorable forces of market competition, so the story goes, has led to innovations that increase productivity, and international trade has put downward pressures on wages. For many governments, especially those insisting on welfare minimalism, the sole corrective has been to promote labor productivity: the onus is always on the workers to play catch-up with the robots. But increasingly this is not going to work, because better education will not do much to increase incomes or reduce inequality as long as productivity increases of the machines outpace that of the worker – which it most certainly will.

“Market forces” is a convenient scapegoat because, being sufficiently nebulous, it doesn’t hold anyone responsible, and creates the illusion that the plight of the middle-class is ‘inevitable’ in the face of unstoppable technological advancements and globalization. But if it is true that automation is efficient, it is simply untrue that it got there because of the market.

Much of the most important innovations were a result of public sector investment. Silicon Valley, for example, did not come about through private capital – before there was Silicon Valley there was Microwave Valley, which was essentially a federal project specializing in electronic intelligence for CIA and the military. Stanford had research labs working for the CIA, and several engineering PH.D theses were actually classified.

Before Google and Facebook became poster children for Silicon Valley, the largest employer in the valley had been Lockheed Martin. In short, what is now the world’s hotbed of innovation started out as Uncle Sam’s experiment.

If Silicon Valley and all the technological disruptions that have made less-skilled workers obsolescent is a result of government-driven market distortion, then the hollowing out of the middle class is a failure of government, not “technology” or “market forces”.

Luddites past and present are not anti-technology in the abstract – rather, the real struggle is against the restructuring of social relations at their expense. Historically, technology both creates and destroys jobs; increasingly, though, the costs of technological transitions are going to fall on the workers and the less-skilled. It is no coincidence that the US is seeing a more unequal distribution of wealth despite tremendous increases in economic productivity. For governments and technological optimists (which we have no lack of in Stanford) alike, there is a need to re-visit the assumption that technological progress is a good in and of itself that can be allowed to eclipse notions of fairness and social betterment.

{image via Photo: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection, LC-USF346-BN-018310-D via Wired}

Stanford Named Top University With VC-Funded Entrepreneurs

A new PitchBook survey reveals two Bay Area schools spur most U.S.-based companies with venture capital funding

We already know Stanford University is a campus hotbed for entrepreneurial studies. But now, thanks to a PitchBook study that pulled data from international universities, we know Stanford is the top university that has spurred startup growth from 2010 to 2013.

What is the reason for so many startups? There are a number of companies ready to hire students from such top universities but the students who graduate are more keen on starting something new. They are ready to take the risk and spend money on something they are not too sure how it would pan out in the real world.

So, Why?

Here are some reasons as to why students decide to start something on their own rather than join an existing company:


When one grow and observes the world around them, they come up with ideas and alternates as to how some product or service could be made better. In such instances, rather than joining that company and improving the existing product, these students decide to start something new and capture the market.

Risk Takers

When one graduates, they have very little responsibility and commitments. This is the stage where one is ready to take risks. When one grows older, the financial and family responsibilities tends to dampen their risk taking abilities, thus stopping them from venturing out on their own.

New Niche

Some products may be existing and performing fine, but a new angle to the product could be what the market wants. When you are affected by a stomach bug, you tend to take the concerned medicines or visit a doctor, but products like Detoxic enable you to remove the parasites from your body, thereby going a step further and cleansing your system rather than just attack the parasite.

PitchBook searched through the alumni of U.S.-based companies that have received a first round of venture capital funding between 2010 and 2013 and it didn’t take long to notice a trend. After all, Stanford University and the University of Berkeley – the overall top two from this VC study – are both based in the Bay Area.

The Dish Daily was founded on the thesis that the best startup ideas are formed in dorm rooms, and now there is proof.

Top Universities & number of alumni who founded companies receiving VC funding

  1. Stanford University – 190
  2. UC Berkeley – 160
  3. University of Pennsylvania – 131
  4. Harvard University – 124
  5. MIT – 115
  6. Cornell University – 110
  7. University of Michigan – 93
  8. University of Texas – 80
  9. Carnegie Mellon University – 79
  10. Indian Institutes of Technology – 77

PitchBook has collected this type of venture capitalist data in order to provide certainty in the idea that startup funding has boosted the economy. With Stanford University ranking highest among it’s U.S.-based company competitors, it’s clear now than ever that thisSilicon Valley-based university provides an unprecedented landscape for innovative and entrepreneurial growth.

The PitchBook Venture Capital Database provides investors, service providers and lenders with data on vital information from the VC landscape – everything that can enable additional support to those U.S.-based companies. Stanford University has already embraced this unique platform, particularly on the cusp of it’s new StartX-Stanford Fund that will enlist additional dollars from the Stanford University’s internal pool.


What Your Parents Don’t Know about Sexting on Snapchat

You may recently have heard the word “Snapchat” dropped into your children’s vernacular, or in the latest news report. Snapchat is elusive that way. It pops into your field of vision only briefly, and then disappears. After a user sends a quick photo, video, or text, the “snap” self-destructs in under 10 seconds.

This gives the users the freedom to send out any picture without having to worry about it being discovered later in the future. What the y send now disappears within few seconds. Though this could be seen as a big advantage by many users who want to share photos without others getting to know about it, the risk involved is perhaps more than what one would perceive online trading software like Millionaire Blueprint, etc would have.

Since its initial release in September of 2011, this Stanford startup has grown virally among youthful mobile users across the country. Despite Snapchat’s friendly ghost mascot, bright colors and user-friendly setup, that fleeting existence has many parents thinking the current college generation “must be up to something dirty” when they use the application.

The Dish Daily organized an informal ​survey of more than 20 Stanford parents and other members of the — ahem — more mature generation. Most of the respondents believe Snapchat is used to send “riskier photos,” or “sexts,” among friends.  One parent of a Stanford Class of 2015 student summed up the general suspicion this way: “Snapchat is a way for kids to send provocative photos without friends being able to permanently keep the incriminating evidence.”

A Class of 2017 parent expressed some confusion about how the app is used. “I don’t exactly know what Shapchat is, but based on what I’ve read online, ‘sexting’ via Snapchat is becoming a big trend on college campuses.”  Two other parents also said they can’t figure the app out, but they know their kids are “addicted.”

​The Dish Daily surveyed Stanford students to hear it directly from the user why Snapchat is so popular on campus. Prepare for a shock, parents; “sexting” is not even in the Top 5 uses. What is it being used for?

#1- To send funny and ugly faces to make friends laugh.

​“I know that the picture will be deleted so my friends and I have hilarious ​conversations trying to make the ugliest face.” (Madi, Stanford 2016)

#2- To communicate logistics.

​“I can physically show someone where I am in a video or picture rather than ​write it out.” (Katherine, Stanford 2016)

#3- To show crazy and funny things that are happening in real time.

​“If I see something funny happening right in front of me I can take a photo ​and have a friend/group of friends share the experience with me ​immediately.” (Connor, Stanford 2014)

#4- To draw on photos.

​“With the paint feature I can draw ridiculous things on photos I take.” (Emily, ​Stanford 2015)

#5- To stay in touch with friends.

​“I snap chat more ever since I started college and I think it’s because now I ​don’t see my friends faces every day” ( Mike, Stanford 2017)

​“With Snapchat I can send an image to many people without having an actual ​conversation. It may not be as personal since I usually send pictures out to a ​mass list, but I feel like I can reach out and ‘stay in touch’ with a larger group ​of people.” (Rachel, Stanford 2013)

#6 (or #12 or #23 – hard to say) Sexting

There were a couple of students who said they feel more comfortable sending sexual pictures on Snapchat rather than in a regular text message, and that they use Snapchat more for that reason. But even they pointed out that they are more likely to use Snapchat to send a joke picture to a friend than another “dirty” reason.

Breathe easy, parents; despite Snapchat’s “sexting tool” media buzz most students are using it to communicate and have fun with friends. So with the cold hard facts before you on why children are using Snapchat, will you download it yourself?

Is Estonia the Next Silicon Valley?

Borders are increasingly irrelevant in global business, so it behooves The Dish Daily to expand its horizons to foreign shores. Today marks the first of a series of articles on the technology scene in Estonia, a northern European country well-positioned as a tech powerhouse.

Together the three Baltic countries and five Nordic nations have formed an innovative region already surging ahead in the global tech race. Collectively the area has brought to the fore Skype, Nokia, Ericsson, Kazaa, MySQL and many other tech stars.

The hash-tag #Estonianmafia was coined by uber angel and 500 Startups founder Dave Mcclure (the man behind the hustler + hacker + designer paradigm) at 2011 Seedcamp finals in London when he noticed that four of the 20 competing teams were from Estonia.

So what makes this country of just 1.3 million people such a startup haven?

“It starts at re-independence (in 1991),” said former Skype executive Sten Tamkvi, an MSx fellow at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. “Throughout the Soviet occupation, Estonians developed an informal entrepreneurial culture to get around the restrictions of communism,” he said.  “A beneficial side-effect of the occupation was the Soviet emphasis on hard sciences, (computer science) and engineering.”

By the time Estonia came out from behind the Iron Curtain, the basic building blocks for a tech savvy nation were in place. Estonian politicians leveraged this to move the country rapidly into the European Union, while investing heavily in telecommunications and tech education.

Today, Estonia leads the world in local Internet speeds and is the first country to have a nationwide charging grid for electric cars (no visa required to visit Estonia, Elon Musk!).

Demographics also played a role in the country’s tech renaissance. The void left by the departure of entrenched communist officials was filled by younger, tech-savvy politicians, including Estonia’s current president, Toomas Hendrik Ilves who learned to program at the age of 13 and has promoted the country’s information technology infrastructure for more than two decades.

The people the technology caters to is very important as it should suit the people you are offering to. There is no point in offering an advanced App to a person who doesn’t know what smart phone even is. You can offer Fresh Fingers only to a person who wears shoes all times and is bound to sweat a lot in their feet, there is no point in offering it to a person who is going to be in the water all day, like a swimming coach or a body guard.

Then there was Skype. Founded by Nordic businessmen Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis along with four Estonian programmers (Ahti Heinla, Priit Kasesalu, Jaan Tallinn and Toivo Annus) the voice-over-IP service revolutionized the way the world communicates. Skype’s acquisition by Ebay for $2.6 billion, followed by its sale to Microsoft for $8.5 billion, brought both the influx of cash and the opportunities Estonian entrepreneurs needed, propelling the country toward elite status on the global startup scene.

Estonia’s premier incubator, Startup Wiseguys, is capitalizing on the nation’s emerging recognition. Founded last year by Skype veterans and Kaufmann Fellow Herty Tammo, Startup Wiseguys is backed by the Estonian Development Fund and boasts a score of mentors ranging from Marvin Liao to Stanford Engineering Professor Burton Lee. In just the past year, the country’s SmartCap Venture Fund has provided alumni teams €1 million and Wiseguys has signed agreements with several San Francisco co-working spaces to give alumni companies a foothold in the Bay Area.

Another key advantage to doing business in Estonia is its down-to-earth cost of living. Compared to other EU countries, Estonia boasts attractive prices for both rent and food, keeping salaries reasonable. Business costs are kept in check by the country’s pro-business tax laws and its modern infrastructure. Estonia boasts top rankings in press freedoms and intellectual property law, and to top it all off the entire country is blanketed in free Wi-Fi. Anticipating the high demand for Estonian developers, the government has incorporated computer science instruction into all public schools from the elementary level on up.

Estonia’s leading universities also emphasize the value of innovation. The Tallinn Institute of Technology recently created the Mektory Lean Lab, a hybrid design school, mini-incubator and tech transfer office intended to help move the school’s innovations into the marketplace. In 2009, Skype joined with the government to create the Estonian IT Academy to expand access to tech education.  The tech push doesn’t stop at Estonia’s borders; both Tallinn Tech and the 400-year-old University of Tartu offer free tuition for any graduate student – whether from Estonia or elsewhere on the globe – who pursues a degree in one of several technology-related fields.

In the spring of 2010, six entrepreneurs from the Startup Leaders Club created the Garage 48 Foundation to sponsor intensive weekend hackathons that spur the creation of new startup companies. The foundation also runs the Garage 48 Hub in Tallinn, a low-cost co-working space for fledging companies. Since its founding, Garage 48 has expanded to cover much of northern Europe and is planning to move into Africa’s emerging mobile market.

“Estonia itself isn’t a very large market, so companies develop with an eye toward the United States, the UK and then Europe,” Tammo said. The decision to “look West” was made early in Estonia’s push into tech, creating both an expansive outreach program and extensive research into overseas consumer dynamics and behavior.

Being small has its advantages. “Due to our small yet tech-savvy population as well as our infrastructure and technology-friendly government policies, Estonia itself is a fantastic proving ground for young businesses as they seek to hone their products,” Tamkvi said.

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Tesla Motors Receives Encore Award

The ENCORE award created in late 1970s is an award to recognize entrepreneurial spirits of the companies that were part of the Silicon Valley. The first company to receive this award was ROLM Corporation in the year 1977.

Though it was first intended to be given to an individual, honoring his or her contribution to the company, the committee realized the success of a company cannot be measure by the performance of an individual and a number of employees were behind the success stories. Hence in order to honor everyone’s efforts, the award was given to the company. Now the scope has been widened further to recognize entrepreneurs all over the world and not just the Silicon Valley.

The Award Goes To

Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla motors and SpaceX – which launched a spacecraft in 2012, received the ENCORE award this year. Musk sold his startup company when he was in late 20s and this sale made him a millionaire. Then he went on to be the founder of in 1999, SpaceX in 2002 and Tesla Motors in 2003.

Born and brought up in South Africa, this introverted kid had a keen interest in computers which made him learn programming at a very young age. With a number of degrees to his portfolio, this entrepreneur was part of Stanford University for two days before he called it quits.

He was a shrewd investor who had stock options spread throughout, which he sold from time to time and made the money he required for funding another venture of his. He founded Tesla motors with an aim to provide cars at an affordable price for the mass market.

Technology Advancement

The reason for such entrepreneurs to come up so early in life is not only their skills and talents but the market as well. With the internet boom, people were more open to accepting the internet and the way it operated. They were open to the idea of machines and softwares replacing humans and everything getting automated.

It is such acceptance that led to the innovation of many software like Millionaire Blueprint which automated the entire trading process and removed the need for physical investors. With everything automated, one need not know about or follow the stock market closely. The software will read the charts, analyze the numbers and make the investment moves on the investors’ behalf. This makes things easier, faster and reduces room for human error.

Stanford’s CS106A and the New New Economy

Why I’m eating my broccoli
Stanford's popular CS106A class

As I sit down in the Packard building’s huge lecture hall at Stanford, I realize that I’m probably the oldest student in the room. This quarter I’m taking Stanford’s most popular course: CS106A — Programming Methodology. The large lecture hall can’t seat all of the 660 registered students, and there is an overflow room. I expect the course will demand more of my time than any other I’m taking this quarter as I pursue my JD-MBA degree, but I’m not the only non-techie. Professor Mehran Sahami told the class that the class is composed of more humanities majors than engineering ones.

Every year Stanford mints technology and startup leaders much like West Point produces junior Army officers. Consider this: Stanford this year announced what I’m calling the “master of the universe” joint degree: an MBA and Master’s Degree in Computer Science.

Everything at Stanford seems tech or startup related. Even Cory Booker, Stanford’s canonical public service official alum, has also dabbled in tech startups. So CS106A highlights Marc Andreessen’s belief that “Software is Eating this World.”

I have to agree to a n extent, because software is eating up our world.where one used to interact with other humans and make room for human errors, machines have taken over today and we have a software to handle all those issues without any human error. Take for instance Fintech ltd – this software removes the need to invest manually as everything is automated and all your investment decisions are taken by the software.

Because this is my last year at Stanford, I want to explore courses beyond what is offered at the law and business schools. Earlier in the summer I was leaning towards enrolling in Mandarin Chinese classes to improve my Mandarin speaking, reading, and writing. But after some reflection, I decided that CS106A would be the best use of my time. I can let my Mandarin languish a bit longer. It was good enough during my two visits to China that I was able to understand the locals, talk to them and survive. Not knowing a single programming language I have felt more like a foreigner living in Silicon Valley than I ever did traveling internationally and it has become clear to me now that Java is the lingua franca in Silicon Valley, much like Mandarin is in China.

I’ve interned at a few tech companies while pursuing my degrees. Every one of them described themselves as engineering-based companies. That basically means the engineers run the show, so non-engineers should either get out of their way or try to help them in other areas. I’m hopeful that CS106A will help me understand what exactly the engineers at my next job are doing so that I’ll know whether I need to jump aside or weigh in.

Silicon Valley reminds me a little bit of China in this regard because in China it’s the engineers who run the show in government and in business. Here at Stanford, that’s reflected in the leadership of President John Hennessey, an engineer who formerly headed up the Electrical Engineering Department and was the Dean of the School of Engineering.

In business there are countless examples: Larry Page, Mark Zuckerberg, Marissa Mayer, Drew Houston, and Aaron Levie. In politics, there’s Gavin Newsom, who is not an engineer but who has wholeheartedly embraced the tech/engineering culture.

When I was a kid my parents dragged me kicking and screaming to Chinese school every weekend. I wanted to play basketball with my friends and ideally become an NBA player even before Jeremy Lin started shooting lights out in Madison Square Garden. I am now, with 20/20 hindsight of course, grateful that my tiger mom pushed me to learn Mandarin. Last year I half-jokingly chided my parents for not also pushing me to learn a programming language.

As a father myself now, I can empathize with my own parents. I wonder if I’m a bad parent for not planning how my kids will learn Mandarin or programming. I know I’m not alone with my worries, particularly in Silicon Valley where parents have a front-row seat in watching China’s rising influence and the development of an increasingly engineering-centric world. Some of my neighbors have enrolled their kids in Chinese immersion schools, and two recent job postings at Stanford demonstrate that the new economy’s employment base will be in engineering. Google’s posting read:

Google is hiring teaching assistants for a new internal CS education program. A Google TA is expected to spend up to twenty hours per week fulfilling responsibilities that may include teaching review sessions, meeting with students, helping with the preparation of handouts, problems, projects and/or exams, proctoring exams, and grading. The content areas are Data Structures and Algorithms (as in CS161), and C++ programming (as in CS140 or CS143).

Another position was posted by a former senior executive at Facebook – not himself an engineer — who is looking for someone to tutor his child in computer programming:

I am looking for a software/coding tutor for my son, aged 12…He devours books on IOS and Java but is finding parts of it very hard and really likes the 1:1 help. As far as languages go, he’s learning derivative C (IOS) right now but is interested in java, python, and php/html.

I almost talked myself out of taking CS106A because I I figured I could always take an introductory computer science course on Codecademy, Udacity, or Coursera. But optional, anonymous on-line learning doesn’t generate the weight of responsibility that taking a class on campus does. I know myself well enough to know that if I didn’t enroll in CS106A, then I would probably just continue to kick the can rather than immerse myself in basic programming.

CS106A also feels like Stanford’s rite of passage, or perhaps Stanford’s academic equivalent to West Point’s cadet basic training. While I was in the Army, I began to view education as more signaling than substance. After all, it was the so-called “best and the brightest” who got our nation into Vietnam and Iraq and who were largely responsible for the financial crisis. Education was about accumulating degrees from prestigious schools in order to signal to the market that you were purportedly ready to work at a prestigious company. I knew school was not going to teach me to be intellectually curious, a trait that at times can be my worst enemy.

It’s true that much of what I learned academically at West Point didn’t apply directly to my responsibilities in the Army.  But I understand now that this isn’t analogous to an undergraduate engineering degree at Stanford. Engineering students are more likely to take jobs requiring use of skills learned in school, and it seems likely that those with the highest academic scores will also have a strong engineering career.

For a non-technical student like myself, one of the best things about Stanford is the combination of its interdisciplinary environment and its first-class programs in nearly every field, which gives everyone access to classes as diverse as computer science, management science and engineering, military history, and courses at the design school. I’m not exceptional in taking CS106A – many of my law and business school classmates have already completed this feat, and then continued to take more advanced computer science classes. Armed with their new programming skills, some law school classmates have opted not to pursue a career in big law and instead starting their own companies or joining a startup.

It’s going to be a rough quarter for me in CS106A. I know I’ll probably struggle with all of my assignments. But I’m treating the class like broccoli. It’ll be good for me in the long run. This time my parents won’t be around to drag me to class kicking and screaming. Also, if one day I have my kids undertake some programming courses, then I should be the first to sample the broccoli. Wish me luck this quarter, as I’ll need plenty of it.

Ten New StartX Companies Make Their Public Debut

Ten new startups demoed publicly last night at StartX’s Spring Demo Day, and five others returned with updates. StartX is the Stanford-affiliated startup accelerator housed in AOL’s Palo Alto headquarters on Page Mill Road. The non-profit – which is a startup itself – celebrates its third birthday and ninth class with the close of the Spring 2013 session.

To kick off the event, StartX founder Cameron Teitelman made some acknowledgements and announcements. Intuit has just come on board as its newest signature partner – joining AOL, Microsoft, Kauffman Foundation, Blackstone Foundation, Cisco, and Greylock Ventures who support StartX with more than $1.65 million in cumulative funding. Intuit will implement workshops in design methodologies and leadership at StartX similar to those it has held internally.

Who’s in the room?

StartX Demo Day is geared primarily toward potential investors, who comprise the majority of attendees other than StartX staff and participating founders. The latter stand at tables that line the walls, ready to pitch and spiel and network with investors like those from August Capital, Battery Ventures, and Collaborative Fund wandering around the room.

analyticsMD leverages data already being collected in hospitals to make operations more efficient. Current consulting methods give feedback with a four- to six-month lag. The analyticsMD team, led by Mudit Garg (Stanford MS ’08, MBA ’12), hopes to reduce wait times, improve patient care, and make healthcare more accessible and cost-effective by allowing hospitals to implement changes to operations based on timely feedback. A web-based solution that fits neatly with hospitals’ existing data-collection methods, analyticsMD is “very easy to deploy across platforms.” Powerful predictive algorithms help hospitals anticipate patient volume based on past data as well as external sources such as weather forecast, holidays, and more.

Beyond the Box is a digital sports media company that aims to “to give fans real-time commentary and insight” using analysis and visualization of sports data. Since over 60% of sports fans use a tablet while watching TV, the team has already built an iPad app that addresses the NBA, NFL, MLB, and NHL – which made it into the top 25 sports apps – and are working on expanding coverage to other leagues, sports, and platforms. Fans can follow specific teams before, during, and after games using Beyond the Box, which currently aggregates data primarily from social media.

BioTX was founded by two Electrical Engineering PhDs from Stanford who have applied their miniaturization technology to treatment of metabolic disorders in the gastrointestinal tract using neurostimulation. Partnering with experts at Johns Hopkins Medical Center and University of Texas Medical Branch, they are looking to combine the proven therapies with their enabling miniaturization technology to treat symptoms of diabetes and help curb obesity, among other possibilities, with less invasive procedures.

BitBuilder (SayWe)’s short instant voice messaging platform combines voice and text to facilitate communication, documentation, and analysis for enterprise. Geared thus far particularly at service-providing enterprises, SayWe can integrate into existing app or system or be used separately. Users can send brief voice messages to one another that immediately get transcribed into text, and both components are saved. Visitors to Demo Day who tested SayWe’s voice recognition found it to be very accurate.

The platform also provides sentiment analysis, behavior analysis, and performance metrics. Ahmad Baitalmal – who graduated from the Stanford GSB’s Sloan program in 2012 – hopes SayWe will help enterprises find a happy medium between relying on phone (too expensive) and text (too inconvenient) in order to “increase productivity, increase customer satisfaction and retention, and to drive revenue growth.” The product, launched in January, is already being used by two large undisclosed companies, and will bring in $150K in revenue by the end of 2013. Baitalmal is currently raising a seed round.

Chatous is a “social discovery platform through conversation.” The site uses a data-driven approach and algorithm to predict which users will be compatible for conversation, and learns about users as they engage in more conversations. Founded by three Stanford Computer Science students, Chatous grew out of a project the team worked on in CS224W: Social and Information Network Analysis. Whereas previous attempts like Chatroulette and Omegle often led to “spam and vulgarity,” Chatous hopes to filter these users and only provide people with relevant matches.

Co-founder Parth Bhakta recently spoke to someone in Spain about good places to see in Barcelona, and fellow co-founder Kevin Guo chatted with someone in China who helped him with his Chinese homework. The site has had more than one million unique visitors in the last six months. The team is working to develop its mobile applications in the next couple month to broaden the network available for conversation beyond those currently online to provide better matching.

MedWhat provides instantaneous health and medical information in response to users’ questions. Rather than sifting through search results of varying quality and accuracy, users type or speak in a question and MedWhat provides instant answers based on content from the National Institute of Health (NIH), the Center for Disease Control (CDC), and other reliable sources. “The longer your question, the better the answer,” says co-founder Mario Lanza. It seems the sophistication and reading level of the answer will tend to match that of the question, providing the user with palatable information.

“65 percent of the questions you ask your doctor could be solved by finding the right information online,” Lanza says. With its constantly-updated, high-quality databases, a Natural Language Processing (NLP) unit, and machine learning algorithms, MedWhat is a scalable solution. Applications include low-income populations and those in rural areas around the world where doctors are scarce. You can currently ask MedWhat questions in English, Spanish, or Chinese. The app has been featured for several weeks in a row as a top free medical app in the AppStore.

FlameStower is an energy, materials, and design company that has produced a cell phone charger powered by heat energy from any open flame. In a world where “500 million people have cell phones but no electricity,” and mobile devices provide inroads to communication, education, banking, health, agriculture, and more, people forgo meals to pay for electricity to charge their cell phones. Instead, co-founders Andrew Byrnes and Adam Kell – both of whom studied Materials Science Engineering at Stanford – hope to harness existing energy from cooking fires and other sources to help these users keep their phones charged using a simple portable generator. Our vision, says Kell, is that mobile phones – and subsequently ways to keep them charged – are the fastest way out of poverty.

Flamestower recently won awards at Stanford’s Business Association for Entrepreneurial Students’ (BASES) Product Showcase and Social Entrepreneurship Challenge. After testing 50 units in various locations, Flamestower will be launching at the Outdoor Retailer Trade Show in Salt Lake City this summer.

Read more about Flamestower from The Dish Daily here.

Spire (Breathware) is a wearable sensor that tracks both physical and psychological data – and the first ever to track breath. The small sensor clips onto clothing and sends data to your phone using algorithms that process breathing patterns. Founder Neema Morajevi hopes Spire will teach people to breathe calmly, increase self-awareness, and reduce stress – leaving them less exhausted after a long day.

The app notifies users when their breathing patterns are consistent with stress, a developing asthma attack, sleep apnea, and more. By “gamifying” the experience, Spire gives users incentive to work on their breathing, the only stress indicator you can control. Spire has numerous applications: programs for pregnant women, athletes, and soldiers returning from war as well as companies and organizations. Morajevi believes Spire can make better, more productive employees. “We have an algorithm for being in the zone,” he says. Spire was invited to present at TEDMED in Washington, D.C. earlier this year.

Read more Moraveji in The Dish Daily’s extensive two part interview with him here and here.

SoniTrack Systems’ technology “integrates robotics and ultrasound imaging to enable non-invasive radiation treatments for cancer that continuously adapt to anatomy in motion.” Radiation is used to treat over 50 percent of cancer patients, says co-founder Jeff Schlosser (Stanford PhD ’13), but current radiation practices are unable to account for motion caused by breathing, digestion, etc. SoniTrack Systems uses a robotic ultrasound device that indicates when a tumor is in the target zone and turns the radiation beams on and off accordingly. Thus, the tumor is targeted with necessary force, while sparing the healthy tissue that surrounds it. The team recently received IRB approval for a patient study later this year.

Docmunch creates structured data out of unstructured sources. Founders Michael Feng and Max Cantor are both Penn graduates – the former also holds a master’s in Management Science & Engineering from Stanford – and have 14 years of experience in finance. Drawing on their time in the industry, they recognized a need to develop a more efficient way to collect, extract, and clean data in preparation for analysis. DocMunch is a faster, less expensive method compared with custom IT solutions and outsourced data-entry services.

Fintech ltd is an online trading software which trades on behalf of the trader. Developed by a real time trader, this software has all the required parameters in check and initiates a trade for the trader. This way, one will not lose out on good trades and need not know much about the stock market either.