I love going to the AlwaysOn Innovation Summit held in Silicon Valley each summer whose marquee event is to unveil and honor the top 250 innovative technology companies of the year. Tony Perkins, the man who founded AlwaysOn after publishing the Red Herring magazine for years, created these gatherings as a way for the technology world's participants to meet, hear, speak and mingle with the industry giants along with the want to be of the technology industry. I know that in the past years at this gathering we were introduced to Napster, Twitter, and this year Google Glass. I always feel a little like Alice in Through the Looking Glass when I fall down the rabbit hole into Tony's world of tomorrow's fantasies.
The Sour Milk Attack:
Cyber security is always on the front pages of business and general news outlets, I am not just speaking about the NSA listening and reading our messages, but a way to destroy our way of life through breaches with cyber threats enough to ruin our day. Where is the danger I asked? "How many rocks make a pile" or "How much intellectual is property"? He answered. Robert Pate Vice President for Cyber Security for SAIC discussed with me before he joined the panel before lunch called Mobile Security in an Increasingly Insecure World, during a chat early in the day.
Robert stated, just imagine if just one or two of the 400 or more computer controlled spots in the Boeing Dreamliner airplane were reprogrammed virtually by a mobile device to not function correctly how deadly would that be for the passengers and plane, or bringing the reality to your kitchen. All a hacker needs to do is reprogram the IP enabled refrigerator in your home to, "Turn Off" one evening, so when you wake up for breakfast coffee all the milk in that refrigerator is sour. Remember the Tynthol scare of the 90's when the bottle were breached and poison was added, a cyber-attack in labs where medicine is created could change the formatted process and manipulate the levels in the formula and be deadly where ever the prescription was sold. He also shared that "C" level managers are well aware of the dangers; cyber theft can kill a company. I will be turning to Robert Rodriguez Chairman and founder of SINET for additional information and will report back about that interview later.
Era of the Cheap:
The morning's first panel 'Venture Capital Outlook' participant Duncan Davidson, Founder of Bullpen Capital laid out for me after the panel how the rounds of funding have shifted with the advent of other resources and paths that a startup entrepreneur can take to raise seed or angel funding for their idea. With the internet a creator can get product to market by accessing the public through social media to test an idea, sell a new product and build a following for very little cash and the family credit card, so who needs those seed guys, when with very little capital one can prove your product and go to the next rounds of investors.
Duncan shared with me in Bullpen's view that:
$ 1 million round is now A; $2.5 million is a B; $5 million is a C
All of which means, that the founder/entrepreneur can build a value to the company before going out to the general investment public and raise money. What Duncan meant, when there is proof of concept there is possibly much better valuations for those original visionaries that launch a company when product has been proven, it require selling less of the company, also that means more innovation going on with crowd funding and other financial resources available is fueling innovation. These funding avenues now open the door to more players, more ideas and faster concept growth. All very exciting events and good for the future of innovation in technology.
I also got input from Chris Fralie of First Round Capital who sees a great deal of diversity in the kinds of deals that his company is looking at. He too sees that small money might have significant traction over hard core technical deals. Especially companies whose services that are resting on platforms for delivery. Seeking the growth mirroring You Tube, Google offline and online wearable's and physical's products.
The Best Way to Influence the Future Is to INVENT IT
Meeting Thad Starner was the cherry on top of the incredible delights that Tony presented to us last week. Who is this Professor of Technology from Georgia Tech? Well he is also the Technical Lead Manager Google's Project Glass! For those of you who still play Pong; Google Glass is a wearable computer that attaches to your eyeglasses and allows the wearer to see what the computers sees and take videos of wherever you look. I have been reading about these unique devices and when I saw Thad enter the speaker's room wearing Glass I really felt I was in the future. Image having your computer on you at all time, helping you with language translation, reminding you of appointments before you even ask, light weight and flexible quite an effective marriage of technology, practicality and design. Sounds a bit like Star Trek. Dr. Spock is it?
There were other Wearables on display with their founders on the same panel as Thad. Sonny Vu of Misfit Wearables who is making diagnostic tools which attach to your clothes and give the user important and useful information about their body and its functions. Then there is Greg Kostello Founder of the company called Givit, which when it's software is married to Google Glass allows the user to edit their videos using their smart phone and Glass with the swipe of not very many strokes to produce a fairly professional video on the fly. I can see that our day to day future will be filled with these devices which are now labeled wearable computing. When the dare devil Wallenda walked on a tight robe across the grand canyon last month he was wearing a camera and wired for audio as he proceeded across the chasm. Through these amazing wearable devices, the vast audience around the globe all experienced his fear, adrenalin and when stepped on the other side we all felt the relief which accelerated our collective joy of the successful event.
Mistakes Make Things Happen:
Our afternoon delight on day two of the conference, just after lunch was a very informative key note address by Tim Draper introducing us to Draper University. What is Draper University? It was a vacant hotel building purchased by Tim then converted into a very special education opportunity focused on training technology entrepreneurs to think out of the box as they leave University and get ready to enter into the job marketplace! This is a live-in experience for a group of grad students that are then exposed to a series of workshops and challenges to round out their previous education.
They study Science Fiction, Predictive Analysis, Business Design, Marketing, Finance, Yoga, Public Speaking, Basic Survival both Urban and Rural. Teams and community building is at the core of the teaching with each group of students form a community of five to solve problems.
Tim also shared with a young Brazilian visiting the conference, "Silicon Valley is not just a place but a mindset that allows us to view the future and interact with the greatest companies in the world. What Draper University wants is to accelerate the ability in our students to understand this unique real estate we work and live in, both physically, mentally then learn to thrive in this highly charged environment." Hands on for Tim? he said " is being all in and living your life to the fullest."
It was a very full two days for me and those who attended this "highly charged" conference with informative panels, great socializing and even great food. Can't wait to see what Tony finds for us next year, to inform all of us that there is something always going on, a private peek into the future now.