Say what you will about IBM, they are constantly trying new ways to generate business, and their latest initiative involves helping professional sports team modernize stadium operations and update the way they interact with fans. The project is two-fold. The first part is the Sports and Entertainment Global Consortium, a group of companies coming together to drive infrastructure updates… Read More
‘Tis the season of giving, and we at The Huffington Post wanted to share a few pointers of what not to gift to your tiniest loved ones. In the video above, learn which toys the watchdog consumer group World Against Toys Causing Harm recommend steering clear from this holiday season.
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Silicon Valley, Miami, New York, Austin. These are places we typically think of when we think of startup ecosystems. On the international scale, Latin America has been a trending topic for startup news lately as well. But, there is another potential key player we may not be as familiar with.
We have heard the name in the news and on the show Shahs of Sunset. We have heard of the success stories of Iranian-Americans who have trailed successful paths in the fields of tech, engineering, medicine, journalism, business and etc. But, what about Iran today? Many of us may not have associated Iran as the next burgeoning tech and entrepreneurial hub –until now.
I recently had the opportunity to conduct a Skype interview with the founders of TechRasa, an Iranian startup media group located in Tehran. Sitting in front of my laptop across the world in the United States, I meet Iran’s millennial start-up ecosystem contributors –Hamed Jafari, MohammadReza Azali and Alireza Jozi. The self-proclaimed startup “insiders” are able to give me a glimpse into a side of Iran that even I as an Iranian-American am not too familiar with.
Below is my interview with the founders of TechRasa.
Q: How would you describe TechRasa? What inspired you and how did you begin?
HJ: In one simple sentence, TechRasa is like the TechCrunch of Iran. We saw the gap of such media in Iran. There are many successful Iranian entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley, but they have lost their connection with their home country throughout the years. The young, talented entrepreneurs in Iran always heard the names of these people on the news but never felt they could actually be in contact with them. TechRasa aims to build a bridge between the two. For now, we’re interviewing these people so both sides get to know each other better. Our plan is to organize some events in Iran and gather these people in one place. We hope that in the near future, Iran will become one of the strongest startup hubs in the region.
MA: I had some background in journalism, because I worked for one of the best financial magazines and newspapers in Iran. I tried to gather a team for working on the idea but it wasn’t successful until I was introduced to Alireza and Hamed as the co-organizers of Startup Weekend Sharif University.
AJ: Iran is like a black box. You can’t see what’s going on inside unless you go inside it. We want to break the box and expose the startup activity and entrepreneurs to the world. Iranians like myself who lived outside of Iran don’t know that there is a golden opportunity in Iran in tech startups. We want to change that.
Q: You each share an enthusiasm for startup ventures, but you come from different backgrounds. What were you each doing before joining together to form TechRasa?
HJ: I ran my first startup during the first year of college. It was a website called SkateFlee. The website was dedicated to informing young Iranians of extreme sports, especially skateboarding. I met the people at the Iran Entrepreneurship Association (IEA) and really liked what they were doing there. Those people were actually working really hard towards making big changes in Iran’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. I decided to join them and help them voluntarily in their programs. I told Alireza about them, and he came on board too. We became part of the team organizing Iran Web and Mobile festival. About two months after, me and Alireza got introduced to MohammadReza through IEA. On June 2015, we officially launched TechRasa in a weekly networking event called Hamfekr.
MA: I loved Mathematics. I’d even been accepted for the final math Olympiad competition, which was between provinces in Iran. I got my bachelor’s degree in computer engineering. In those years I worked for Farsi Translation of Harvard Business Review, Donyaye-e-Eghtesad newspaper and Tejarat Farda Magazine. My focus in the magazine was startups, so I interviewed most of the successful startups in the ecosystem. But before Techrasa, I co-organized Startup Weekend at Sharif University of Technology and managed outreach and PR of TedxKish with the help of Hamed and Alireza.
AJ: I started my first startup at the age of 16. I grew up most of my life outside of Iran -in Canada mostly. My family moved to Iran when I entered high school. At the age of 16, I founded Lirz games. I used various channels to sell gaming products and Xbox games. My mother back then was worried about my studies, so that was the reason the startup discontinued. I moved to Vienna, Austria where I was studying software engineering at the University of Technology and after that, business administration at the Vienna University of Business and Economics. My entrepreneur spirit never allowed me to sit down and study. Ultimately, I dropped out from both of my studies. When I came to Iran, I continued to perform as an advisor to two companies and was doing some community building, as I saw a responsibility. Before TechRasa, I was starting work on a startup in the oil and gas sector.
Q: How do you think Iran’s tech/startup culture is changing Iran’s image in the international community?
HJ: When it comes to building an actual product which users all across the world use, borders don’t mean anything. We are trying to make a movement in Iran and help shift the culture towards a more solid and connected world. I highly encourage everyone to visit Iran once and at least see the vibrant activities of the startup ecosystem here.
AJ: The fact that there are entrepreneurs who start startups exactly like any other entrepreneur around the world signals this image that Iran is not the crisis country you see in the news. This has also caused many of the Iranian Diaspora and foreigners active in the startup world to visit Iran and see the action themselves. I see a day where people from all across the region would see Iran as the startup hub in the region. There is no reason why that couldn’t happen given our vast talent pool and the good infrastructure Iran has.
Q: You refer to yourselves as the tech “insiders” in Tehran. What makes Iran’s tech ecosystem unique? What is the advantage of investing in Iran’s startup market?
HJ: Post-sanction Iran is the land of opportunities for investors. Due to the economic sanctions imposed on Iran in the past decades, the country was left behind in the game. But now that the doors are opening, smart investors are keeping their eyes on this market. The growth rate in an emerging country like Iran is two to three times the amount in the US and Europe.
MA: Right now, Iran is a gold mine. The number of startups in each sector is still limited so we don’t have that much competition. Right now FinTech is a hot topic here. Many local banks are supporting the entrepreneurs.
AJ: The internet penetration is the highest in the region, and Iran has the largest percentage in terms of higher education in the region. This makes Iran an ideal place to launch a startup. The ecosystem is very young, the market is untouched.
Q: Your team has helped host several local startup events and even a Ted Talk in Kish. Can you tell me a little about the TedxKish experience and any other events you are proud of?
HJ: TEDxKish was really exceptional. We also co-organized SeedStars Tehran with IEA in September. Seedstars World is a startup pitch competition from Switzerland. They go to emerging markets, find the best startups and bring them to Geneva for the final competition. The event had a huge impact for TechRasa and the teams that participated in it. We got featured in one of the most popular weekly magazines of Iran called Hamshahri Javan.
MA: Basically we were handling TEDxKish’s media and social media. This TEDx event is one of those events where many non-Iranians have attended. It was a great experience for us to talk to non-Iranians about what is going on in Iran.
Q: What have been some challenges you have faced in forming TechRasa?
AJ: One of our biggest challenges is to maintain our independency. We have rejected many investment offers because of this. Another challenge for us is to maintain our content flow and at the same time develop and grow the startup.
Q: The majority of Iran’s population is the youth. In a few words, how would you describe the average Iranian millennial?
HJ: Passionate and talented
MA: Innovative, dedicated, educated
AJ: Tech Savy, social, highly educated.
Q: What’s your favorite Iranian tech venture at the moment? Why?
HJ: I love Digikala. Few years ago, I had to search all over the city just to find an item I was looking for. That was just the beginning. Then, I had to make sure the stuff I was buying was actually legit. Today I know if I buy something from Digikala, I can rely on their customer care.
MA: Taskulu. We have many startups at this stage in Iran, but they mostly work in Ecommerce and their landscape is domestic. Taskulu is one of the frontiers in Iran’s startup ecosystem that tries to work at the international level, and they have been successful so far. Taskulu is a role based project management platform, which competes with Trello and other project management platforms.
AJ: Digikala. I admire how Digikala has grown in the past years. It’s truly an Iranian startup success. I always get a great customer experience with Digikala.
Q: What is your latest project you are working on at TechRasa? What are your hopes for TechRasa in the coming years?
AJ: We are in the planning and research stage for our first international startup event. We are thinking of holding the event in June 2016. We are also in preparation to launch TechRasa Farsi once we raise funds. We are currently in the middle of choosing and talking to investors. The community of TechRasa writers will rise to more than ten in the upcoming months.
When it comes to ambitious Millennials across the world, there is much we can learn from each other. Thank you to TechRasa for sharing your perspective with me.
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Today, I gave the keynote address at the World Wildlife Fund’s 2015 Fuller Symposium. This year’s theme, “Wired in the Wild,” explores how software is helping address some of the planet's greatest challenges. Our future successes in conservation, as in many realms, depend upon scientific inquiry, and so many of the scientific history-making breakthroughs we are seeing increasingly rely on software and data.
From complex modeling of ecosystems to 3D modeling that enables more accurate and complete measurement data, software enables us to learn more and do more. The innovative companies that make up BSA | The Software Alliance understand the importance of preserving our environment and natural resources. They are producing software and data that’s bolstering conservation efforts in truly amazing ways. Here are just a few examples I highlighted in my address:
- Intel’s “rhino chip” is a credit card-sized Galileo board attached to critically endangered black and white rhinos in Africa. It’s in a “rhino-proof case” ankle collar that has a solar panel to recharge on its own. The animals then get an RFID chip placed in their horn. Anti-poaching teams are contacted if the two pieces are disconnected – to alert people looking to catch poachers before they kill animals.
- The Mataki Project, with Microsoft Research, has developed an open source, low-cost tracking technology that comes with software tools to analyze the data gathered. Because it’s wireless-enabled, researchers can retrieve data without having to retrieve the device. It’s being used now on migratory seabirds, Bengal tigers, and pygmy sloths.
- New York’s Lake George, also known as “The Queen of the Lakes,” is a famous body of water at the base of the Adirondack Mountains. The Jefferson Project is a collaboration among IBM, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and The FUND for Lake George. The Project is deploying data to understand the ecology of large lakes, and the impact of human activity. By analyzing data captured from sensors, scientists, policy makers and environmental groups around the globe will be better able to predict how weather, contaminants, invasive species, and other threats may affect a lake’s natural environment.
- Autodesk made history when its “ReCap” reality capture and 3D scanning software enabled a team of marine scientists to capture entire segments of coral reefs and turn them into highly detailed 3D models. Earlier efforts to accurately measure were limited in that they were two-dimensional, labor intensive, and time consuming. These 3D models now enable accurate measurements and monitoring of valuable reefs. Notably, the research team in Hawaii using this new technology was able to deliver history-making results using little more than ReCap and an underwater digital camera.
- Ecologists, biologists, and environmental scientists at Microsoft Research and the United Nations Environment Programme have spent three years building the world’s first global ecosystem model. The model couples the key biological processes of all the millions of trillions of organisms on our planet to capture the structure and function of whole ecosystems, looking not just at how they vary across the world, but how can we mitigate or reverse the damages human pressures.
Today’s symposium also marked the launch of wildlabs.net, a conservation technology network. This online community is a centralized space for field-based conservationists to connect directly with technology experts to share their challenges and source new ideas for solutions. It’s initiatives like this – putting bright minds together with data and software breakthroughs – that will continue to make all the difference.
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According to INC, it’s time for Paypal to move over. Paypal has been the go-to platform for online payment, it is easy to use, widely available, and one that your clients are more likely to be familiar with as a business owner. Although INC has named Stripe the hottest thing in Money, there are many other options that business owners can consider exploring this upcoming year!
In Person Solutions
Con: Fee Structure
Dubbed Canada’s Square, Payfirma has done a really great job of leveraging mobile and internet platforms. Payfirma is a great option for the business owner who works in a shop and online, allowing you to offer your customers more options.
- Offer Your Customers multiple payment options
- Manage transactions with your device thanks to the card reader
- Manage an ecommerce store
Con: Card readers only available in US and Canada
If you are a business that offers online and in-store solutions, Square is another perfect choice for you. Square not only offers the same solutions Paypal offers, but provides you with a card reader for that works with your devices, including your Ipad, Iphone, or Android.
Did I mention you can also create your online store offering your customers more options?
Con: No Professional Invoices
With Google Wallet, you can send, receive, and pay money with the tap of a button. Still a new system, Google Wallet may be less familiar to your clients, but is a great option for the new small business owner, independent contractor, or simply a way to exchange money with friends and family.
The ability to store all of your cards, including your debit, credit, gift, and loyalty cards means you no longer have to carry all of your cards with you. Keep them safe and use your Google card to manage it all.
Perk: Offers Multiple Solutions including mobile payments
Con: Only supports 19 countries
A team favorite, Stripe’s ease of use makes it a great option for businesses of any level. There are solutions for everyone from the independent contractor to the small business owner, and beyond. Stripe not only processes transactions in over 100 currencies but accepts a variety of payment methods.
Perk: Great for Bloggers, Coaches, and other Web-Based Pros
Con: Not available in some countries including countries not supported by Paypal
Selz makes it easy to sell digital products, from streaming videos to courses, and to create and manage an online store making it a favorite for many bloggers It is a very easy platform to navigate and to establish.
- Sell anywhere, including facebook, wordpress, wix, and more.
- Customize your buy buttons and widgets
- Build Email Lists and more
These 5 payment options provide flexibility and the option to try something new as a business owner. Do you currently use any of these platforms for your business?
When WideNet first opened its doors in 2005 as a website design firm, people still hadn’t totally caught on to the benefits that websites were offering. Even in the new millennium, websites were a hard sell. Businesses, especially small businesses, weren’t quite ready to take that step into the virtual realm.
Of course, not long after our company was founded, the digital revolution picked up a lot of momentum (thanks, Smartphone), and everyone started waking up to the impact of the World Wide Web. Flash-forward 10 years later and websites are basically selling themselves.
What happened with websites is the same thing that’s happened time and time again throughout history: a new “thing” comes along that has the potential to change the very nature of how we do business but goes largely ignored (often in favor of the “traditional means” of business) until everyone realizes that this new “thing” is actually quite profitable.
And it’s happening again. Except this time, it’s apps.
Much like the early days of the Internet, many businesses have yet to recognize the potential in mobile apps. For many, apps are still widely regarded as entertainment mediums or, at best, a personal utility for shopping, banking, or keeping up with your to-do list on the go.
To be fair, a number of businesses (especially banks, large chains, and tech companies) have jumped on the app train–and to great success. (Of course, it’s not uncommon for big players in the market to start using new technology early on.) But when we talk about apps being the next big thing for businesses, we mean all businesses, small to large.
Nearly every company alive today, from the big Fortune 500’s to the mom and pop shop down the street, has a website. It’s simply a necessity in this day and age. But technology is progressing rapidly towards a mobile society. You could even argue, with plenty of source material, that we’re already fully immersed in this new frontier.
Mobile phones have evolved into portable, personal computers. You can handle nearly every aspect of your life from the palm of your hand: communication, business, finances, etc. Plus, they feed our growing need for instant gratification. Combine this with the fact that people officially spend more time on apps than watching television, and we’ve got a pretty solid case for apps in business.
So the next big question is, “How do businesses utilize apps?”
To answer, we can look at what the big chains are already doing. Companies like Hobby Lobby and Target use their apps to aid shopping, announce deals, and provide coupons to customers who’ve downloaded the app. Hotels.com lets users book hotels from their app. And the WholeFoods app provides users with great recipes and ideas for meals (using food from WholeFoods, of course).
But it can go further. With a good programmer, your options are virtually limitless. Whatever your business does, a custom app can promote it, expand it, and engage your customer base on an entirely different, and effective, level. Best of all, you have a 24/7 presence on the customer’s phone, something they’re virtually guaranteed to have with them everywhere they go. Every time they open it up, your logo and brand are right in front of them. You can’t beat that level of exposure.
Not Just for Consumers
Of course, in all the growing excitement for apps in business, no one is really talking about the OTHER use for apps: internal communication and team management.
Apps don’t have to be a selling point to your consumers in order for them to be valuable to your business–especially if you’re B2B.
Apps geared towards internal management can allow all staff or team members to stay connected on multiple fronts. Managers can create to-do lists, delegate tasks, update employees on important deadlines, manage products, and more. And since you can communicate directly to the mobile phone, these apps can help reduce breakdowns in communication, missed messages, etc.
At the end of the day, how you decide to use it is up to you. The point is that in 10 years, apps will be second nature to businesses. If they don’t totally overtake websites, they’ll be just as crucial.
Something to add? Let’s hear it! Or contact me directly. @macksnapmatt or email@example.com
Civic-minded consumers will have new incentive to frequent Starbucks, Hallmark and Nordstrom this holiday, as all three received top rankings on the Human Rights Campaign’s annual Corporate Equality Index, released on Wednesday.
Since it was first launched in 2002, the Corporate Equality Index has been used as a benchmarking tool for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) workplace equality.
The 2016 edition rated 1,024 businesses, evaluating each for domestic partner benefits, transgender-inclusive health care and public engagement with the LGBT community. This year, however, researchers updated their criteria to include requirements for those companies to have a global non-discrimination policy or code of conduct “that specifically prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity,” according to a press release.
Among those to nab a perfect score of 100 this year were Twitter, Uber and Airbnb, as well as Apple and Xerox, which have been considered leaders in advancing LGBT equality in the workplace.
Less stellar were Rite-Aid, Radio Shack and BJ’s Wholesale Club, which earned scores of 65, 40 and 25, respectively.
In a blog posted on HRC’s website, CEI co-author Deena Fidas said the results demonstrated “the great lengths major businesses go to in order to ensure equality across their operations.”
“As we celebrate these successes, we also know that we have much work ahead to create true equality — in opportunity and engagement for all LGBT people,” Fidas, who is also the director of the HRC Foundation’s Workplace Equality Program, said. “We know we can count on these business leaders as partners in taking on the challenges ahead in public policy and workforce inclusion.”
Head here to read more about the report, and check out a selection of the findings below.
Also on HuffPost:
Last week I had a long and fun Skype talk with Dan Shapiro. Dan and I met at the last Maker Faire in New York and we really hit it off. Dan is an entrepreneur, inventor, designer, software designer and all around interesting guy. I wrote a little about Dan’s new venture Glowforge here a few weeks ago. Below is an excerpt of our conversation. Enjoy.
MLN: So how are you doing, man? Congratulations on the Kickstarter campaign!
DS: Holy crap, thank you. I had no idea what we were stepping into last time we connected. It’s been wild, absolutely wild. We had our “holy crap, I hope we get this far,” we have our bottom number, then we had “in our wildest dreams, maybe we’d hit it” number, and then we had what we actually did which was like, five times that. [laughs]
MLN: Okay. So, let’s start off. Just tell me briefly who you are and what it is that you do..
DS: So I went to school for engineering and put myself through school with a DJ business, which came about because my friend and I built laser shows in our dorm room and then people said you should bring those to a party, and then people said “while you’re here, you should play some music.” So I wound up with a DJ business. I had to work at a big company, Microsoft, for five years, and toiled in the salt mines at the software industry and worked on like, Windows 98 and Windows XP – you know the ones that didn’t suck too badly. [laughs]
I co-founded a company, it was originally called Ontela; It’s now called Photobucket. It’s still cranking along. After four years, I left and started a company called Sparkbuy, which I sold to Google. I spent two years at Google and then invented the board game with my kids and thought, “Oh, I’ll put this on Kickstarter just for fun over the summer while I work on this book” and then that blew up and totally surprised me.
MLN: The Glowforge. How did that come about? Was this your idea or was this something other people had started and you joined in? I feel like you’re the man behind it, I feel. Or at least it’s perceived that way in the public.
DS: The origin story is that I had created this game Robot Turtles and it was blowing up like crazy and a bunch of people said, “Hey could you do something special?” Like, “Could you create some sort of memorable addition of this that’s really beautiful and lasting?” And a friend of mine said, “Yeah, I want that and I want the Turtles to be something that my son can like, keep in his pocket and walk around with all day.” And I thought, this is awesome! And for years I’ve been wanting to want a 3-D printer. I didn’t actually want a 3-D printer, but I wanted to want one. They seem like such a great idea. And I was like, I just need to find an excuse to need one so I can justify buying one.
DS: So this seemed like a good excuse. Everything was printing ugly plastic slowly. And, so I looked and I’m like, “this isn’t what I want to make these things out of.” So a friend of mine who worked at Boeing took me on sort of a verbal tour of the machine shop and he described each of the machines and what they could do. And I was trying to find one that would make these beautiful parts and when he got to the laser, I said “Oh, wait a minute. The Turtles have lasers. How perfect would it be if there was, like, a laser edition?” And you know, I’m partial to lasers. I did that in school, so I ordered this ridiculous $11,000 industrial carbon dioxide cutting laser direct from China. It took months to arrive. During the government shutdown, it got stuck in the port because the inspectors wouldn’t let it through and when it showed up, 770 lbs shipping weight, a forklift installed it into my garage – I have a very patient wife – she actually helped me move it in, un-box it, kind of vent it out the window. It was just utterly ludicrous.
DS: So I get it up, and I start to try to get it to work and it takes me days. And the process of configuring it involves things like, Step 1: disable all the safety interlocks. Step 2: you know, put on all the safety equipment and fire the beam into a piece of masking tape. Move the knob a little bit, put on a new piece of masking tape and burn a new hole in the masking tape and see if the hole is to the right or the left of the first hole. And I’m just staring in shocked amazement that this is so ridiculous and horrible and the software was even worse. So it took me a month to get this machine to do anything useful or interesting. And, finally I got a program to start making the parts for this deluxe version of the game.
MLN: So with this laser, it was just pretty much like this giant machine that shot a laser beam out that did just cutting, pretty much, right?
DS: Cutting and engraving, yep. So, it could draw on the material and it could cut out the material. But it was just so horrible, right? It was designed for somebody to spend, like I did, spend a month getting it to do one thing really well and then it would do I over and over again. And the part where it actually printed things was like magic, but everything else was just terrible. And so, I wound up calling a couple of friends who both were accomplished entrepreneurs and one of them was a designer. And I said, “What could you do with this?” And the other was an electrical and mechanical engineer, and I said “Could you make this not suck?” [laughs]
DS: And so we spent a summer talking to all the people who use lasers and talking about what it could do and how it could work and brainstorming all the technologies, modern technologies that we could bring to bear, because there was nothing – like, if took this ancient Chinese beast, recently made, fresh off the assembly line, but you could send it back in time to 1995 and the only thing would look weird was the USB ports on the back. Like, nothing about it was particularly advanced. And so we started saying, “What if we took all the sensors you have in an iPhone and put them in the laser? What would happen?” What if, instead of having this like, crappy little onboard computer, you had a super computer running in Google’s cloud controlling it? What if the software was, beautiful, delightful-to-use instead of this comically absurd, brutally translated nonsense? And came up with the core of the idea for what was ultimately going to become Glowforge, which has many features and capabilities that that Chinese machine doesn’t, but it’s fundamentally very similar in its construction, which is that you put in a piece of raw material and then it uses this laser beam to carve and engrave that material to create the final product.
MLN: Does the laser beam last forever? What kind of maintenance is required on that?
DS: Yeah, the tube can last about two years. It depends on how often you use it. But the rated life is typically two years. And it’s a glass tube. It actually bears resemblance to a neon sign in terms of how it’s made. It’s hand-blown by master glass blowers, believe it or not, and it’s a technology that probably most commonly used in dermatologist’s office, when they do the laser, this that, hair removal and that sort of thing, but it’s a really old technology. It’s been in industrial use since the 80s.
… it encodes data into the disc by modifying the disc with the laser light. It’s funny, the laser in the Glowforge is a 40 or 45 watt laser, which means it puts out as much heat as a 40 or 45 watt light bulb, but it packs all that heat into a spot that’s eight- one-thousands of an inch across, and so that one spot is very warm. But, people are always surprised when they take the material out of the laser, and they’re like, “Oh, it’s not going to burn me. It’s barely warm.” It’s like, yeah, it’s not that there’s that much power, it’s just packed down into this one tiny little spot and that’s where the magic happens.
MLN: It’s interesting to me that you were able to take something in its crude form – and so it’s something like $11,000 when you bought the Chinese laser just to experiment – and you were able to crunch it down to something that does so much more at a fraction of the price. And I think that’s the economic advantage. Much like the personal computer revolution. It was just the same idea, putting more microprocessors onto a chip. Can you speak on that a little bit?
DS: !t comes from those revelations in consumer electric products. So, one way to think about it is that a 3-D printer in a Glowforge and many other devices are called CNC machines. It stands for computer numerically controlled, which basically just means that they’re a robot. And in the 3d printer, the robot has a little tiny hot glue guns. That’s how a Makerbot works. And it squirts the plastic into shapes; it builds it up layer by layer. Instead of building up layers of plastic, it’s carving away and it’s removing material.
MLN: It’s a diminishing project. You know, in sculpture, there’s two ways to do something. You’re either adding something or taking something away.
DS: Yes, exactly right. It’s subtractive instead of additive, is the technical term. And so, when you think about it from that angle, there’s two ways you can build a robot. One is, you go buy a bunch of motor units and processor units and connector units and put them all together and then you go buy robot software from somebody and that’s how you go build a really inexpensive robot.
The other way is you go in and you buy really inexpensive motors and wires and you create your circuits from scratch and everything else, and then you go find a factory that can mass produce them. That costs a lot more up front to figure out the production process, but what comes out is a little cheaper and better because all the parts are exactly what you need and you’re not paying a mark-up for each component. Most of the lasers on the market are built out of these components that are really designed for other things in many cases, and so they’re buying parts from third parties and wiring them together and they’re not quite perfect for the job and then you have to pay mark-up and you have to get them all working together. Whereas, basically everything in the Glowforge is designed for it and that gives us all sorts of advantages.
I’ll give you just one really crude example, which is the Chinese laser and most lasers have somewhere on the order of five or six different air systems, like different fans, although each air system can have multiple fans that move air to do different things. So, there’s one fan on the electronics to keep it cool, there’s one fan that blows air out of the enclosure, there’s one fan that blows air out into the cut line, etc. So, there’s all this redundancy. Because we designed it from scratch, we were able to use a much smaller number of fans and less air flow to accomplish the same task or better, because we know that the electronics are where the air comes in the machines. So, the air goes over those and then it goes over the cooling fins for the tubing go out the rear. And so we’re able to use lower cost, it’s quieter, it uses less power, it’s more efficient, it’s smaller, and get better results.
MLN: Let’s talk about “angel investing”. You may remember in the article I wrote, that I said this was a revolution that was going to start on Etsy. And, I really believe that. I live in New York surrounded by art people, and many are hardly tech people. Sometimes they cross over. The Maker movement seems to embody both of them. However, I see this as something that people are going to be able to use as art in the way we use Photoshop now or the way we use something like that that has become a standard.
DS: I hope so.
MLN: The disruption of manufacturing is quite interesting to me in an economic sense. Was this something that was built into the Glowforge originally, or is this a byproduct of how the Glowforge turned out?
DS: The way it came about was when I was working with Tony and Mark, my co-founders, and a big part of what Tony and I were doing during that time was trying to figure out who uses lasers today and what they use them for. So, we went to maker spaces and we talked to the folks who were using the 3-D printers, we talked to the folks who were using the hand tools, we talked to the folks who were using the lasers, and the most interesting thing to me was the comparison between the lasers and the Makerbots. I’m saying Makerbots – the 3-D printers. The people that were using the 3-D printers, the most common title that they described their job as was “engineer.” They were disproportionately male and the thing was, almost always as a proof of concept or a prototype, or a conceptual. Then you go to the lasers. The most common title was some variation on “designer,” the average user was more likely to be female than male, and they were almost exclusively making things that were going to be used. They were going to sell them or they were going to gift them. And so the thing that almost stopped us from creating the company and the product, Glowforge, was we just weren’t interested in building a less expensive laser. We were interested in finding something that was going to change the way the world works. We weren’t quite sure what that was going to be.
MLN: How do you know?
DS: There’s been a running series of thoughts about like, “Where’s my jet pack?” And, “Why aren’t any start-ups working on jet packs? Why are they working on apps?”
MLN: [laughs] Right.
DS: So, I said this early on to my co-founders. We are really lucky and privileged in so many ways. And if we use that fortune and privilege to go build an on-demand hailing system for, you know, banana vendors, then we don’t deserve it. We should be doing something with our good fortune and with the privilege we have been granted that changes the world in some meaningful way. That take some significant risks that not just anybody could do. And so, the thing that was exciting to us was seeing – and it wasn’t obvious at first, but when we looked at this technology that seemed to hold so much promise, that saw that this was not something that was being used as a gimmick or as a one-off, as a sort of “oh, look what technology could do.” People who have better things to do with their time that fight with technology were fighting with the technology because it was so valuable, because it actually let them create things more quickly and more beautifully and with more flexibility than they’d ever been able to before. So, yeah, it was baked right into the essence that this is a way that we can change things for people and change things for the world, not just create a nifty consumer product that people would go buy each other for Christmas.
MLN: You know what really impressed me? The doll house. The doll house was like, I thought to myself, “Wow, this isn’t just an abstraction. This is the real thing.”
DS: My wife actually turned to me one day after the kids had just asked me to make a sheriff badge. And she said, “Have you noticed that the kids have asked us to create things for them more than they’re asking us to buy things for them?”
MLN: That’s fantastic.
DS: And it just hit my like a load of bricks. Like, this is something they’re going to take for granted. Of course, if you want something that doesn’t exist in your world, you just make it. Why would you? You know, of course. That’s such a very kid-centric view of the world, but it’s one that we suppress over the years.
MLN: So, let’s go back a little bit. I want you to tell me with as much hate in your voice, why you loathe the term “angel investor”? [laughs]
MLN: I love this kind of shit.
DS: So, I think that the biggest problem with investors is the pedestal that people put them on. The fact that somebody has accrued some excess dollars in their lifetime, the fact that they once invested in a startup says very little about the merit or worth of the person and their ideas. And so it frustrated me when I was pitching that I didn’t understand who these people were, or what they wanted or what was special about them because the secret answer was, there wasn’t anything really special and there were people and they all wanted different things. And, it’s a hobby; it’s not a statement of self-worth or existence to invest in startups. And that people who do that as a hobby are no different are no different from people who do other hobbies for the most part.
MLN: Wow. They sound like art collectors, you know? The modern-day Medicis. [laughs]
DS: [laughs] And some like to think of themselves that way. But as somebody who does that, I think you do, and it’s the thing you do because you happen to have been blessed with the resources to do it, and because you happen to be excited about it. But everybody does it for their own reasons. And it’s an incredibly important part of the ecosystem. There are so many great opportunities that the world has because a few wealthy individuals stepped out and made it possible. It’s like the difference between fathering a child and parenting a child.
MLN: That’s a good analogy.
DS: And I just thought of that. [laughs]
DS: Thank you. And the latter is so much more important and difficult than the former. So, I’ve done both or all four depending on how you think about it [laughs] and it’s great to invest in a company, it’s great to see what comes of it, but your role as an investor is always going to be a small one. And so, when people use these divine terms like “angel investor” and escalate that activity to a pedestal, I think it tends to glorify something that is really quite straightforward and transactional. And I am eternally fortunate that I have had the ability in my life to be able to go make those kinds of investments and contribute, but if a company that I’m a part of becomes a success, it’s sure not going to be because of my contributions as an investor anymore than a tiny bit around the margins.
MLN: “Angel” reeks of religious piety. [laughs]
MLN: I see that could be problematic.
DS: And that term, altruism. I think that’s my other problem with the term. It reeks of altruism, and while there is sometimes an altruistic motive in “angel investing”, there’s an altruistic motive in lots of jobs and I don’t think angels are any greater altruists than people who are passionate about what they do in many other fields, and there are far more noble callings than financial investing, as my friends who work in the non-profit world can attest to. And I think that bugs me a little bit, too. It’s great that people are excited about investing in start-ups. It’s great that they can make money while simultaneously helping other people create things in the world, and you know, some start-ups are good and some are bad, but on the whole, I think that creation is better than not. But, I think there’s a little bit of a pedestal there that, I hate to say this, but, we “angels” have put ourselves on that isn’t deserved and the world would be better without.
MLN: Yeah, that’s a very humanistic view. I agree with you, I mean, why not? It just makes sense. You seem to have this tremendous energy towards your projects and towards your life. What is it that inspires you and keeps you going? That’s kind of something that I ask a lot of creative people because it’s something that’s continuously fascinating to me. Some people feel quite happy with their lives, so they feel very alive, some people do a lot of drugs. I don’t know what motivates people. It’s kind of interesting, if you care to comment on how you roll.
DS: There’s this thing that happens with people’s stuff, whether it’s this funny thing I saw on the Internet, or this idea I came up with, or very rarely, this project that I created, where their faces kind of light up where the go, “Oh! That’s really amazing!” And I am a total addict for that. There’s nothing I love more than showing people something that gets them excited. This is my favorite part of parenting because my kids are the easiest audience for this in the world, the ages that they’re at. In fact, when I created Robot Turtles, part of it was that, I want to take that “Ah, ha!” moment and put it in a box that I can pull out whenever I need it, whenever I’m feeling short on inspiration and I can share with other people that they can pull out and get their “Ah, ha!” moment. I love that. And my whole career is about trying to bring more of that to the world. About taking beautiful, wonderful, delightful, amazing things whether they be software, hardware, projects or ideas, or whatever – and saying, “Look at this!” and having people go “Wow! That’s really neat!” That’s meaningful and impactful to my life in some way, so that’s every startup, that’s every activity, that’s every weekend outing with my family, that’s what gets me going.
transcribed with love by Courtney Eddington
A new report examining gender diversity in the highest echelons of business shows women are far from reaching parity in corporate boardrooms in California, one of the nation’s most progressive states.
The study, released this week by the UC Davis Graduate School of Management, finds that women hold just 12.3 percent of the highest-paid executive roles and board seats at the 400 largest public companies headquartered in the state, up less than one percent from last year.
California is home to some of the nation’s most prominent companies, including Google, Apple, Chevron, Hewlett-Packard, Wells Fargo, Oracle and Visa. It’s also one of the best states for working women. Gov. Jerry Brown (D) recently signed the nation’s toughest equal pay protections into law, requiring employers to pay women and men equally for “substantially similar” work. California has also had paid family leave policies on the books since 2002.
Of the 400 companies analyzed by UC Davis, 92 have no women at all in director or executive roles. The report found that a third of companies with no women in top roles are headquartered in Santa Clara County, home to some of Silicon Valley’s largest companies.
Just two companies have at least as many women as men on their boards and in their highest paid roles: San Francisco-based retailer Williams-Sonoma and Los Angeles real estate corporation LTC Properties.
While the overall picture for women is grim, there has been some progress: The number of companies with zero women in top roles has decreased 33 percent over the last five years. Additionally, the percentage of females in top roles has increased steadily since 2007, when just 8.8 percent of those positions were held by women.
It’s time to give more women a seat at the table at California’s top companies.
State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson
State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), who authored California’s equal pay bill, praised the report for highlighting the vast inequality women face in business.
“Recently, the new Canadian prime minister was asked why he appointed a gender-equal cabinet and he said simply, ‘Because it’s 2015.’ It’s time for corporate California to do the same,” she said in a statement. “Because it’s 2015, it’s time to give more women a seat at the table at California’s top companies. Because it’s 2015, it’s time to see California, a leader in so many areas, also take a lead in bringing women into top leadership positions in its publicly held corporations.”
While the UC Davis study focused on California-based businesses, it revealed trends that can also be seen nationwide. A report released by the nonprofit advocacy group 2020 Women on Boards found that 18.8 percent of board seats on Fortune 1000 companies are held by women. Another study released earlier this year found there are more men named John, Robert, William or James on corporate boards than there are women.
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Facebook can help friends stay connected and may even boost an individual’s self-esteem. But researchers at the University of Montreal recently found that the social network may play a role in negatively affecting teens when it comes to their stress levels.
As it turns out, having more friends isn’t always better. In a study published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, researchers found that once teens exceeded 300 friends, their levels of the stress hormone cortisol tended to be higher than teens who had fewer than 300 friends.
In the experiment, 88 participants aged 12 to 17 were asked about their Facebook use, including how often they visited the site, how many friends they had, how they promoted themselves on the network and how they supported their friends online. Cortisol samples were also collected from the adolescents four times a day for three days, and the researchers found that teens with more than 300 Facebook pals showed consistently higher levels of cortisol.
Of course, Facebook isn’t the only stress hormone-raising factor in an adolescent’s life; there’s puberty, homework and the requisite schoolyard drama in play.
“While other important external factors are also responsible, we estimated that the isolated effect of Facebook on cortisol was around 8 percent,” professor Sonia Lupien, the study’s lead author, said in a statement. ”We were able to show that beyond 300 Facebook friends, adolescents showed higher cortisol levels.”
While outside the scope of this study, it’s well documented that elevated cortisol levels can be dangerous over time. One previous study found that experiencing excessive stress as a young teen is often a predictor of depression later in adolescence.
“We did not observe depression in our participants. However, adolescents who present high stress hormone levels do not become depressed immediately; it can occur later on,” Lupien said. “Some studies have shown that it may take 11 years before the onset of severe depression in children who consistently had high cortisol levels.”
Teens who are big Facebook users tend to have narcissistic qualities and receive lower grades in school, according to previous research that assessed depressive symptoms. Experts say that talking to kids at an early age about the do’s and dont’s of social media can help minimize some adverse effects of online networks.
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