entrepreneurs

Advice for Entrepreneurs from Bertrand Piccard of Solar Impulse

“It is not with what we have learned that we will go further than others. It is with what we have not learned, with what we have not yet done and thought” Bertrand Piccard, Initiator, Chairman and Pilot of Solar Impulse shares in this interview.

 

Solar Impulse is a mission to fly around the world with only the power of the sun and share the message of clean and renewable energy. This is accomplished with a pioneering attitude and by leveraging the best of technology to do what has never been done before.

Piccard is no stranger to breaking records and inspiring the world. In 1999 he completed the first non-stop balloon flight around the world, setting world records for aviation’s longest flight in both distance and duration. When I asked his advice for entrepreneurs he referred to the function of balloons and then explained, “a good entrepreneur is the one who can drop his certitudes, his beliefs, all the common assumptions, to raise to other levels and catch other influences, other visions of the world, other solutions and strategies that will bring him in completely different directions.”

Piccard is not alone in this mission. Solar Impulse is also piloted by André Borschberg, Entrepreneur, Engineer and Explorer. The two are supported by an excellent team and by technology at every level, including monitoring and alerting the pilots and providing global live coverage during each leg of the mission. The Solar Impulse mission exemplifies the WorkTechWork mantra: Don’t work for technology; make technology work for you.

Learn more about Solar Impulse at www.SolarImpulse.com and follow the hashtag #FutureIsClean.

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Silicon Valley Startup Accelerators: An International Innovation Resource

Steve Hoffman, Co-Founder & CEO of San Francisco-based startup accelerator Founders Space, understands business, understands startups and understands innovation.  He recently returned from a visit to Asia that included meeting with Taiwan’s Prime Minister Mao Chi-kuo.  “Innovation isn’t confined to Silicon Valley,” Hoffman said when discussing international opportunities.  “There are talented people and a high concentration of capital here, but there is a critical mass of creativity and capital in Beijing, Taipei, Seoul and other tech hubs,” he explained.

Silicon Valley is an international innovation resource.  Governments, businesses, and research institutions throughout the world are acutely aware of and interested in the innovation that occurs in and enters global markets from Silicon Valley.  Entrepreneurs are also aware and come from all over the world to establish businesses in Silicon Valley.

Because of the nature of the connected world, entrepreneurs do not have to always be in Silicon Valley to benefit from its influence.  Entrepreneurs can come to Silicon Valley, build relationships with the local startup ecosystem, including Silicon Valley venture capitalists, and then return to their home states or countries bringing Silicon Valley influence and capital back to their teams.  Startup accelerators and incubators in Silicon Valley are becoming the common path to success for startup CEOs to accomplish these objectives.  When coming to Silicon Valley is not an option, entrepreneurs can connect to Silicon Valley startup accelerators that are expanding globally or connect to local startup ecosystems with connections to Silicon Valley.

Startup Accelerator Differentiation

Startup accelerators are beginning to differentiate in various ways.  In addition to attending events at several Silicon Valley startup accelerators, I’ve had the opportunity to work with startups in three startup accelerators, Plug and Play Technology Center, Wearable World and Founders Space.  Through those experiences it is clear each accelerator is different and has something unique to offer.

For example, most startup accelerators have a program that typically runs for around twelve weeks with events and official mentoring sessions one to three times a week and a pitch day at the end of the program.  Founders Space, in contrast, has an accelerated accelerator accomplishing the same objectives in a shorter period of time.  “Every weekday for an entire month we have people coming in to coach our entrepreneurs, to provide mentoring and to empower entrepreneurs,” said Hoffman.  “They are able to come, network, learn and accomplish their objectives in a shorter period of time, which is critical if you’re coming from overseas and only have a 3-month visa.”

Advice for Entrepreneurs

Because of the many differences between startup accelerators, the best thing an entrepreneur can do is to first determine objectives that need to be accomplished for their company while in an accelerator. This means a bit of footwork is required outlining objectives.  Spend more time deciding what you want from a startup accelerator than on what you want from your next car.

After determining objectives, find the startup accelerator that will provide the best match to those objectives.  In the search for the appropriate accelerator the decision process should extend far beyond comparing web pages.  Make time to connect either with the startup accelerator or with entrepreneurs who have participated in their programs before making a decision.

Once in Silicon Valley, review your objectives often to remain focused.  It is your responsibility to get the most out of your accelerator experience.

FootLogger: Wearable Shoe Insoles That Sync & Charge Wirelessly

Check out my latest #WearableTech piece published on WearableWorldNews by clicking here

 

Audience raises hands indicating wearable ownership/use at #KOTRA2014 Connected Self Panel September 24, 2014 in Santa Clara, CA

Audience raises hands indicating wearable ownership/use at #KOTRA2014 Connected Self Panel September 24, 2014 in Santa Clara, CA

 

WorkTechWork Founder Josh Bradshaw with 3L Labs CEO Jinwook Lee in Santa Clara, CA September 25, 2014

WorkTechWork Founder Josh Bradshaw with 3L Labs CEO Jinwook Lee in Santa Clara, CA September 25, 2014

 

 

Deep Learning

“A machine learning approach inspired by the human brain, Deep Learning is taking many industries by storm.”  Visit this link to learn more about the VLAB Deep Learning event.  The event video will be uploaded within a few weeks.  In the mean time, please check out this article by Forbes contributor Robert Hof: AI For Everyone: Startups Democratize Deep Learning So Google And Facebook Don’t Own It All

It would be an understatement to describe the VLAB event team journey as rigorous and rewarding.  The team? VLAB volunteers.  The topic? Deep.  The result? Learning…by all attendees from a superb panel. #VLABdl

A special shout out goes to the event co-chairs Jeff Stevens and Shane Gu as well as my fellow team members Adwoa Boakye, Natalia Erokhina, Priyan Guneratne, Fred Stein, Alexander van Dijk and Wolfram Willuhn.  Countless hours were spent researching, screening panelists and coordinating what seemed like a never-ending list of tasks to ultimately construct the panel that so eloquently addressed the topic for the sell-out VLAB audience.  As lead for marketing and demo exhibits, I must remind everyone it takes a team to sell out an event.  Thank you to all who answered the clarion call to action to support event marketing.

 

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Smiles in a packed crowd.

Wearables Predictions: Who to Watch for Prediction #10

Skully Helmets captured my attention in January at the VLAB Young Entrepreneurs event.  That night Marcus Weller, Skully Helmet CEO, told an amazing story about his inspiration for the worlds smartest helmet.  Following an accident where he totaled his bike when the car in front of him slammed on its brakes while he was reading a street sign, Weller had a dream where he was reliving the accident.  “But I noticed something very different,” Weller said, “I had GPS navigation kind of floating in front of me like a hologram and I watched as the car hit the brakes and I went around it.”  When internet searches returned no results for the helmet, Weller built a team and product that, among other features, incorporates location based GPS navigation into a helmet.  Location is a form of context.  The point of sharing Weller’s story is to introduce context and the final industry watch for the 10th wearable prediction.

 Josh Bradshaw with Marcus WellerJosh Bradshaw of WorkTechWork.com with Marcus Weller, Skully Helmets CEO August 14, 2014

 Prediction # 10:  Contextual awareness will be enabled by wearable device adoption and become the next big thing in marketing and customer experience.

This is the tenth and final post in a Wearable Industry Watch Series for each of the 10 Wearables Predictions.  Visit the Wearable Industry Watch Series for details.

Weller’s contextually aware helmet is one example of a person’s location context being used to generate value for the wearer.  The wearer’s experience is enriched with information.  My first introduction to technology enabled contextual awareness came through Jeff Stevens, Founder & CEO of ContextM.  Stevens rightfully demoted content from its place as king in the world of mobile marketing and claims that in mobile marketing “Context is king, and content is queen.”

How so?  Enabled by computational power and data from data warehouses, social streams and wearable devices, marketers can go beyond targeting based on generalized segmentation:  relevant messages can be sent to a person by creating a complete understanding of several different forms of a person’s context.  These include but are not limited to a person’s location, who a person is with, where a person has come from, and, with the power of predictive analytics, where the person might be going next.  (For those interested in privacy, check out Who To Watch for Prediction #9 and Small Towns and Connected-World Privacy.)

Enrich Customer Experiences With Wearable Data

Context is about more than targeted marketing based on ambient intelligence; context is also about enriching customer experiences.  Customer experiences can be enriched in many ways which means there are applications of context out there yet to be discovered in the world of wearables.  Context can also be built in such a way that a device can understand its own context as well as the context of the user.

Sensor Platforms, which was recently acquired by Audience, developed FreeMotion™ Library, a software solution that enables sensor enabled device applications to better understand both the contexts and, where possible, the intent of a user engaging with a device.  For the purposes of this discussion we can consider smart phones as wearables because of their numerous sensors (and decorative cases people use to make a statement about who they are; see Who to Watch for Prediction #7).

FreeMotion™ enabled applications can understand various device contexts such as whether the phone is in a pocket, in a hand or sitting on a flat surface.  Similar to other fitness tracking wearables and the Moves App, user contexts can be derived from sensing current motion in the device.  Combined with location or other forms of context, the device can respond differently because sitting on the sofa at home is quite a different context from sitting in a train or sitting in a meeting at work.  As sensors consume energy, a focus on resource management is also made in order to improve energy consumption on the device (learn more about energy consumption in Who to Watch for Prediction #6).

Vehicles, Wearables & Context

No one is going to wear a car, but the car is becoming contextually aware.  Vehicles are now able to detect and communicate with phones and soon will be able to interact with other wearable devices.   We can look at contextual aware cars such as Google’s self-driving car, which has to be acutely aware of its own environment, for inspiration on context with wearables.

Lane assist technologies and automatic braking such as those  demonstrated in this stunt video by Hyundai are becoming available in a number of vehicles.

Mercedez Benz is developing amazing innovations for their smart cars.  Check out this Mercedes Benz contextual car demo with Robert Scoble, Startup Liaison Officer for Rackspace

And when it comes to amazing, a return to Weller and the contextually aware smart helmet is in order.  People are willing to support contextually aware innovation.  Only a few days into an Indiegogo campaign, Weller and his team have exceeded their $250k goal for the AR-1 by an astonishing 466% with over $1.1 million raised.  I tested it out at their offices yesterday and it is better than all the hype.Josh Bradshaw with AR-1

This is the last post in the Wearable Industry Watch.  For more details click here.

Back to the 1st Prediction: Who to Watch For Prediction #1

Previous Prediction: Who to Watch for Prediction #9

Back to Wearable Technology

Wearables Predictions: Who to Watch for Prediction #1

wearables-realistic-finalThis is the first post in a Wearable Industry Watch Series for each of the 10 Wearables Predictions.  Follow this blog or Twitter handle @WorkTechWork to be notified of each part of the series. To view all predictions and links to the other parts of the series, visit the Wearable Industry Watch Series.

Here is a special thank you to all the people, especially the busy startup founders and CEOs, who have taken time to discuss wearable technology solutions with me.  Your time is much appreciated as you have shared insights into your products, your position in the market and your invaluable industry insight.  This space is full of people who are creative, intelligent and passionate which makes me quite bullish on where wearables will go over the coming decade.  I look forward to the journey with you.

photo credit: Rani Molla/GigaOM

Prediction #1:  Wearables of the future will be more than fad devices; they will satisfy customer needs.

Just because a company has a great kickstarter campaign, does not mean the product isn’t a fad adopted by the early adopter techie types.  So, first a look at companies that fall under Fad, then a look at those that satisfy as satisfying is key with this prediction.

Fad: Google Glass

Google Glass is not ready for the mass consumer as there are not a lot of use cases for when regular people in their personal lives have to get information when both hands are both full making it impossible, difficult or inconvenient to just grab a phone.  Some other indicators this is a fad are that Robert Scoble is not wearing it as often and Keith Teare has given his away.  There are meaningful uses for Glass and future generations of it in industrial contexts; however, Glass for the masses is a fad device, a ground breaking fad, but a fad nonetheless.

Fad: All Single-Purpose Wrist-Worn Fitness Trackers

It would be easy to say Nike’s Fuelband is going this route since it has cut production but I’m going to be bold and say that all wrist worn fitness trackers on the market that only track fitness activity will become fad devices within 10 years.  This includes Fitbit, NordicTrack iFit Active, Garmin Vivofit, Samsung Gear Fit, Jawbone UP, Basis and even Shine, the world’s most elegant physical activity monitor (but all is not lost for Shine, you’ll see it again in the upcoming post on prediction #7).

There are two things at play that work against wrist worn fitness trackers.  First, fitness tracking can be done on a smart phone with an app like Moves without the need for another device to remember to bring and to charge.  Moves comes at a much lower price point than a wrist band (unless you include the value of the data you’re giving up but that goes under prediction #9).   Second, other alternate wearable devices can potentially provide more accurate fitness tracking through wearables on body parts that don’t move as much as an arm (You’ll see an example of this, The Dash by Bragi, in in the upcoming post on prediction #8).

Satisfy: APX Labs

The number one company I’m watching in this space is APX Labs, whose software platform Skylight empowers workers in all kinds of business scenarios with hands-free access to real-time, task related contextual information from anywhere work can be completed.  Skylight works on several devices including Google Glass; so how can I still say Glass is a fad?  Because what APX is doing is really hardware agnostic and Glass, even in industrial instances is not the best piece of hardware to work with.  Just because early adopters in industrial use cases find Glass useful, does not make it any less of a fad device because of its inherent deficiencies, battery life being one of them.  There is a place for Glass in the annuls of technical innovation as a leader, but Glass will fade as a fad and newer, better devices will trump in the coming decade.  I’m anxious to watch what APX Labs will empower its customers to do with those devices.

Satisfy: Smart Watches

In the satisfy space I’m watching smart watches.  While time will only tell who will come out as the leader, and yes I’ll stop with the puns, these are the three I’m watching:

Samsung Gear Live

Moto 360 by Motorola

iWatch, iTime or whatever Apple names its device

One of the great features of smart watches is their integration with smart phones, which with their own set of sensors can almost be considered a wearable of their own.  People are accustomed to wearing watches to satisfy the need to tell time or to wear something fashionable.  Smart watches can satisfy these and other needs.

Satisfy: Others

Many other astute entrepreneurs are tackling the challenge of providing wearable devices that satisfy customer needs, some of which will be covered in the remainder of this industry watch series.  Do you have a wearable product that satisfies customer needs?  Tell me about it in the comments below or reach out here and lets meet up and chat.

Next Prediction: Who to Watch For Prediction #2

Back to Wearable Technology

Robotics: Technology Working for You

Robotics will create a disruption in our world similar to that of the personal computer.  This disruption is something I’m looking forward to hearing about at the upcoming VLAB event Collaborative Robots: Living Amongst Us on Thursday, May 29, 2014 (Event video now available here).

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While we are a long way from creating Rosie from The Jetsons, robots are doing more and more complex tasks and I’ll touch on some of those robots here.  First, though, I have to point out that when a robot is doing something for you, whether in industrial or personal contexts, it creates value and falls right in line with my mantra: Don’t work for technology; make technology work for you.  I’m not the only one who thinks like this; Venture capitalists are investing in robotics technologies in many areas including industrial, agricultural, medical, defense, security and personal robotics.

Grishin Robotics, a company dedicated entirely to investment in consumer robotics, invested in Double Robotics which provides an innovative solution for telepresence.  Double Robotics has several legitimate use cases, including use in schools in remote locations as implemented in Alaska’s Kodiak Island Borough School District.

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Click to Watch Video

Lux Capital is another venture capitalist with a mechanical eye for robotics.  Peter Hebert, one of the Lux Capital co-founders, will participate in the VLAB panel.  Lux Capital invested in robotics company CyPhy Works who claims “The very best way to empower people with robotic technologies is to make them accessible, reliable, and practical.” I couldn’t agree more!  CyPhy Works has created two robots, EASE, a hovering robot used for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and PARC, a self-flying robot with secure communication and high definition reconnaissance video capabilities.

While myself, a few loyal VLAB fans, some venture capitalists and all entrepreneurs whose dreams were enriched by The Jetsons have an interest in robotics, there is ongoing debate about whether robotics is affecting the labor markets.  Most of this comes from incorrectly linking the lackluster jobs market with improvements in manufacturing.  You can read more about this issue here.

Politics and economics aside, robots are doing great things and some of them are actually getting cute about it.

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Aldebaran created a friendly little robot called NAO who recognizes and communicates with you while moving around your home.  If you knock NAO over, don’t worry NAO can stand back up but watch out as you might be chided for not being careful!  NAO also has a big brother, Romeo developed by Alderbaran.

While these robots may look like toys, they can actually perform meaningful services for people, especially the disabled.  Other robotics companies are also creating robots that serve a real purpose.  Knightscope, whose robot I’ve seen rolling around the Plug and Play Tech Center in Sunnyvale, CA, aims to combine autonomous robots, predictive analytics and community engagement to reduce crime.   

Much of the development in robotics is being further enabled by standards and development frameworks.  One example is ROS, the open source Robot Operating System originally developed by the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and now under stewardship of the Open Source Robotics Foundation.

The number of robots using ROS is increasing and includes the UBR-1 created by Unbounded Robotics, a company with the mission to develop robots that are both advanced and affordable for robotics researchers.  UBR-1 is a one-armed robot cram packed with cameras, microphones, and sensors that are ROS integrated.  Melonee Wise, CEO and founder of Unbounded Robotics, will participate in the upcoming Robotics 2.o VLAB event.

The UBR-1 is one of many robots capable of doing amazing things.  Honda’s Asimo can run, jump and hop on one foot as well as open a thermos, pour a cup of juice and serve it.  Asimo even kicked a soccer ball around with US President Barak Obama.

The sporting skills of robots do not stop with soccer.  The Swiss Federal Institute Of Technology has developed a robot with an arm that can catch objects with different shapes and trajectories by reacting in less than five hundredths of a second.  I can’t even do that consistently!

I will leave to your imaginations whether or not robotic sports teams will exist in the future and simply say the future of robotics is closer than most people understand.  After kicking around the soccer ball, Asimo told President Obama, “I keep training every day so that some day in the future I can help people in their home.”  Robots lending a hand in the home sounds like technology working for you.

TrintMe: Building a Better Mouse Trap

Have you ever been interested in someone but been too shy and too afraid of damaging a friendship to want to stick your neck out there and even ask someone to meet for a cup of coffee? Social anxiety is a problem that affects some people on a deep level. With other people it can be only a fleeting issue that crops up with insecurities now and again, like when you become clumsy in the presence of someone you are attracted to. Do you make your true intentions known and take a chance at rejection or do you let life pass you by never knowing what might have been?

In the world of technology, dating sites have harnessed the power of analytics creating places for people to discover new connections but until now technology has not solved the anxiety problem associated with the fear of sharing your true intentions.

TrintMe, a Facebook integrated app, allows you to express your true intentions (or trints) to friends and second degree connections. If trints match, both friends are notified. For those with a fear of rejection who want to express friendly intentions without using the not-so-classy Bang With Friends type tools, TrintMe may offer a better mouse trap.

TrintMe founder and CEO VS Joshi whose own lost chance at a possible relationship was the inspiration for this app explained, “Social networks have created online communities. These online communities of known people need an intermediary. TrintMe is trying to be that intermediary between friends and friends-of-friends.”

TrintMe will hold a product launch Thursday, March 13 at HackerDojo. Visit trintme.eventbrite.com to RSVP for the launch event. You do not have to wait for the product launch to try TrintMe; the app prototype available in the app store for free download so you can discover for yourself if this technology can work for you. You can also follow TrintMe on Twitter @trintme.

Hooked

Entrepreneurs dream of making it big.  They have big ideas, big plans for taking over or creating their own niche in the world; some of them make it and some do not.  Nir Ayal has taken a look into human behavior to find out why some technology products are more successful than others.  I had the opportunity to hear him speak about his new book “Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products” at the most recent ZURB Soapbox.

Nir reaffirmed my belief that technology will change the future but he did it with valuable insight into habits.  Having worked as a project manager with countless technology tool implementations, I understand resistance to change and have wondered, as he has, “Why aren’t users doing the thing I want them to?”  Nir’s answer is based in habits.  He gave several examples and from a skim of his book it appears to be full of more.

I will mention one example here.  Google vs Bing.  He said that in blind tests people cannot tell the difference between search results from Google and Bing.  Yet, even though the results are the same, a quick showing of hands in the room indicated we had all formed the habit of searching via Google.   Not only is Google now a verb, it is a habit.  Part of what makes habits so interesting is that humans are creatures of habit.  We find a successful pattern and repeat.

In the world of marketing, finding the right consumer-oriented message that creates revenue-generating repeat behavior is the ultimate objective.  Marketers strive to change human behavior and the most successful changes are ones associated with habits (although with the negative connotation of the word habit this is usually termed something else like repeat purchasing).  For those out there afraid of being marketed into habits they don’t desire, there is good news: any habit can change and any bad habit can be replaced with a good habit and any good habit can be replaced by a better habit.  I look forward to experiencing habit forming technologies that make life easier; I’m hooked on technology.