Posts Tagged Silicon Valley
Posted by Darshana V. Nadkarni, Ph.D. in Hindi - Bollywood Movie Reviews-- Play Reviews-- NAATAK-- Poems-- Event Reports, Play Reviews on April 23, 2018
“How can we make user experience like flushing a toilet”, rhetorically questions Silicon Valley startup CEO, Mike Jordan (Barnaby Falls), in Anush Moorthy’s play “Unicorns”, a satire on modern era startups. It’s a perfect script to be presented without the elaborate set, costumes, or lights, to a small, intimate gathering of Silicon Valley audience. The play was performed on second stage at Mountain View Center for Performing Arts, by NAATAK company which has won for three years in a row in 2015, 2016, and 2017, the San Jose Mercury News Reader’s Choice Award, for “Best Live Theatre in Silicon Valley”.
Unicorns traces an engineer’s journey as he joins Oberherr, a high valuation startup. Paranoid Silicon Valley culture has made it imperative for Oberherr, to be extremely secretive regarding their products and offerings. In the absence of talking about their products, in order to get noticed before the big launch and the IPO, the company banks on heavy use of buzzwords. Mike often says, “at Oberherr, we imaginate, innovate, ideate”. Dressed in the style made fashionable among high achievers by Apple’s former boss, Steve Jobs, in black turtleneck and blue jeans, Mike insists, their engineers “create things from nothingness”.
The company has eliminated desks to enable free flow of thinking and interaction and employees are forbidden to talk about the company, outside its premises. And then there is a palpable omnipresence of the board (Havish Ravipati) keeping a tight focus on the impending IPO. All this paranoia and cutthroat mentality has created interesting dynamics at Oberherr. While Radhika (Tannistha Mukherjee) is highly territorial and least helpful to newbies, her accomplishments go unnoticed in supposedly “egalitarian” workplace, dominated by men. Ramanathan (Natraj Kumar) has learned to get noticed by sucking up to Mike, and Robin (Rohit Mukherjee) stays out of trouble by staying focused on his laptop. Sahil (Varghese Muthalaly) is fabulous in his role as a new engineer joining Oberherr whose fortune rises and tumbles at the blink of an eye. Sahil shares a healthy camaraderie with a fellow software engineer, Joyce (Aparna Warrier) but couldn’t explain even to his wife Priya (Preeti Bhat) about company’s products.
As seen from a few recent debacles, (one of the prominent one being Theranos) there are interesting shortcomings in the hyped up Silicon Valley startup culture. The focus on speed and short term gains, at the expense of long term vision and value-add of its offerings is often proportionately correlated with diminishing concern for people, true teamwork and quality of life. People become pawns in a system when stretching the truth isn’t just overlooked but sometimes admired, in quest for world domination and mad rush to IPOs. Unicorns by NAATAK is a fantastic spoof on the Silicon Valley startup culture. This is a not-to-miss play of this theater season in the bay area. Tickets may be available at www.naatak.com .
Posted by Darshana V. Nadkarni, Ph.D. in Big Data -Cloud -IoT-Software -Mobile -Entrepreneurship, Biotech - Medical Device - Life Science - Healthcare on March 16, 2015
With Obamacare, the discussion about national health has moved to front and center stage. But what about the status of global health; what are the opportunities and challenges? Just about a decade ago, availability of resources was the biggest problem in the arena of global health. But with the rise in public and private giving, to a large part due to unprecedented giving by Warren Buffet and Bill and Melinda Gates, the challenge has now shifted to better coordination of resources for “equitable, inclusive & sustainable solutions”. According to Council on Foreign Affairs, “for the first time in history, the world is poised to spend enormous resources to conquer the diseases of the poor”.
Kim C. Bush, director of Life Sciences Partnerships at Gates Foundation, is leading the efforts to broaden and deepen the foundation’s engagement and partnership initiatives with various healthcare industry sectors. With an objective to address the critical global health challenges with speed and effectiveness, the foundation is bringing in the industry in this dialog, in a systemic manner. The goal of the Gates foundation is to match global health priorities with the industry capabilities.
Kim Bush will be giving a keynote address at 2015 EPPIC Annual Conference, on March 28th at Santa Clara Convention Center. Entrepreneurs in life science arena, committed to solving some of the major health challenges of our times, may get big insights into where the gaps and the glaring problems are, as well as where the resources are being channeled.
Lineup of speakers on all panels at EPPIcon 2015, is very exciting, with plenty of networking opportunities thrown in. Here is a link to the preview of one of the panels on Digital Health – http://bit.ly/1EQtd5y . No doubt, connected, digital health will also play a prime role in advancing global health. Come and participate in the dialog, network with like minded professionals in Silicon Valley, and hear from key opinion leaders, angel and VC investors and other industry leaders. Early bird registration will expire at midnight today, March, 16. Register today at www.eppicglobal.org .
Also a plug for http://www.healthtechnologyforum.com 2015 annual conference on May 27 and 28 in Burlingame, CA. Early bird pricing will be effective till March, 31. Panels include Innovations for the Underserved, Resilient Communities, Population Health Management, and the conference has a dedicated focus on making a positive difference and transforming health globally. Register soon for an opportunity to hear great speakers and network with professionals committed to making a difference.
Written by Michael Golamco, “Build” is CityLights’ Executive Artistic Director, Lisa Mallette’s yet another bold venture aimed to bring thematically relevant plays to the Silicon Valley audience. Set in the heart of Silicon Valley, in Palo Alto, CA, this is a story about — what else? A startup! And what could be more hot than a video gaming company?
I am going to skip a more typical review with detailed plot description, in favor of giving you a glimpse of the future envisioned in this production. To give a little background of the plot, Kip (George Psarras) and Will (Max Tachis) had earlier conceived a brilliant game that resulted in a grand success, leading to what appears to be a milestone based buyout deal. Unlike Will, dapper and immaculate, Kip, the creative genius, with disdain for money, and for following procedures, and grave dislike for documenting details to make hand off of work easier for others, has a harder time with monetary success, fast cars, suits and board and shareholder meetings. Kip spends his days cloistered in his home mourning the loss of his late wife, and has abandoned social life, in favor of staying indoors, in his cluttered apartment, working on his next big project; only this time to give it away via open source and cloud. And who else to keep him company but an “artificially intelligent” being, an AI robot, oddly resembling his late wife Allison (Morgan Voellger).
If you think that it might be too far fetched, think again. Sometime back, IBM’s AI computer, Watson made history when it appeared on Jeopardy, the popular game show beat most of the contestants http://bit.ly/JOZmwH . Watson is a computer system, capable of answering questions posed in natural language. This is no small feat. Human language is infinitely complex. That alone makes for a huge challenge in building an artificially intelligent, interactive being. Puns, idioms, and other contextual expressions, and even the tone of voice http://bit.ly/17FvMmW and a pause at a different place in a sentence, can completely alter the meaning. In medicine, AI computer like Watson is expected learn the nuances of the language to offer complex diagnosis, and even indicate the level of confidence it has in the diagnosis offered.
In “Build”, Kip’s AI being is keenly aware of her identity “16 terabytes of data”. But she is far superior than any ordinary machine and he has built it in human avatar. The robot takes on Allison’s personality, even the loneliness Allison experienced when she was married to Kip and Kip was occupied with his gaming venture. This AI machine made out of code is incredibly smart (beats Kip in the word game they play), is intuitive and curious, and even talks about her dreams. When Will discovers Kip’s secret AI being, he is both astounded and concerned that Kip will forever stay a prisoner of his home, as long as he has the companionship offered by the robot. Along with this ulterior motive, Will also has fond memories of Allison and is mesmerized by Allison-like-robot.
This is not stuff of idle imagination. Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking and Bill Gates have all said that we should be concerned about the future of artificial intelligence. Louis Del Monte, an entrepreneur, has said that some day, machines could surpass humans and could become the most dominant species, and Hawking has said that machines could eventually “outsmart financial markets” and “out-invent human researchers”. Days may not be far when machines will fulfill the roles of companions and caregivers.
While it is challenging to imagine the future, this production is tackling the challenges of reproducing that “future” on stage. It takes the audience into the fascinating world of video gaming as Will and Kip work on deliverables, cleaning out bugs, and packet drops. Then with the help of high tech design and lighting, the audience is introduced to the AI robot. Video designer, Nick Kumamoto has worked wonders with some scattered computer screens and lighting. While AI robot appears caring and concerned, and seems to be a perfect companion, the story revolves around three human beings, one who has passed away, leaving behind memories, and two friends who struggle through their growth and transformation, to keep the ties that brought them together in the first place; gaming, innovation, and their urge to “build” something, in the heart of Silicon Valley. “Build” will be running at CityLights in San Jose, till February 22, 2015. For tickets, go to www.cltc.org
Posted by Darshana V. Nadkarni, Ph.D. in Big Data -Cloud -IoT-Software -Mobile -Entrepreneurship, Biotech - Medical Device - Life Science - Healthcare on November 20, 2014
Recently, Karl Handelsman, Founder, Codon Capital, talked about the Lean LaunchPad Entrepreneurship program, at www.bio2devicegroup.org event. Handelsman, with Allan May (Managing Director at Life Science Angels), are instructors in the Lean LaunchPad for Life Sciences program at UCSF and also will be teaching at NIH, in the future. Handelsman is the Therapeutics cohort and May is the Medical Device cohort.
It is a mistake to assume that pre-clinical programs are risky and they need to focus on easier low hanging fruit or they must take 10+ years and a billion dollars to create value, said Handelsman. We have a duty to search for the path to unlock the value of the idea as industrially relevant innovation, and there are examples of biotech startups reaching that point in 18-30 months, said Handelsman. Lean LaunchPad program teaches scientists and clinicians in startups to do a real world assessment of their idea or technology, before plunking down millions of dollars, in an idea. Entrepreneurs receive training in determining their product’s market viability, regulatory risk, potential clinical utility, and also likely financing vehicles before making big dollar investments in research, design, and manufacturing.
Entrepreneurs need good operational models that build a context of value creation, said Handelsman. Investors like value, not milestones. “Investors want to invest money and they want to hear a business case, and operational milestones don’t get you there”, stressed Handelsman.
Big things often have small beginnings and start with contributions from many small pockets. Sharing the case of a company that started with collaboration and became the behemoth, Genentech, Handelsman said, entrepreneurs need to start thinking about collaboration, not competition, and begin to look at models of collaboration that would create true value. After all, strategic alliances built the Silicon Valley and there are many diverse and creative ways of creating partnerships. Entrepreneurs need to talk with others and be really good listeners.
Successful entrepreneurs are not thoughtless risk takers, but approach problems in a disciplined way. Value creation for therapeutics begins with thoughtful consideration of who would benefit from solving a certain problem; patients, payers, insurances companies or any other entity? Once entrepreneurs can figure that out, they can go to a VC and explain the business case. Value creation, after all, is not what entrepreneurs think or believe, but an idea or concept that gets external validation from the customer. “Do not constantly worry about keeping the concept in the stealth mode, and talk to a lot of people”, advised Handelsman. VCs do not count, they are not potential customers. In the end, one could have a sexy product, but if it does not solve a pressing problem then it is not creating value. Real answers to key commercialization questions, in the case of therapeutics, lie outside the lab, and entrepreneurs need to actively engage and talk with customers, partners, regulators and so on to figure out the value of their product. Lean LaunchPad methodology therefore, helps to validate the product, before commercial strategy is considered, saving time, money, resources and in some cases, helping guide the change in the trajectory, for more meaningful outcome.
EPPIC organization was found in 1998, with a mission to promote networking, entrepreneurship, and mentoring for life science professionals. Each year, EPPIC Annual Conference provides a wonderful forum to realize this mission. EPPICon on March 29, 2014 was held at Westin, SF and began with opening remarks by Dr. Norman Winarksy, Vice President at SRI Ventures.
SRI or Stanford Research Institute was found in 1946 to help Stanford University professors make an impact in the world. It has a staff of 2500, of whom 1000 have advanced degrees and current revenue is in the range of $600M. Many revolutionary technologies like the mouse (invented by Doug Engelbart whom I had an opportunity to meet, before he passed away, when I took his picture inserted here with the first red mouse that investor Peter Gerber is holding), electronic banking, robotic surgery (which spun out as Intuitive Surgical), and SIRI to name a few, have come out of SRI. All SRI personnel are taught to identify the value proposition and work towards that goal, said Winarksy. SRI is a non-profit organization but gives 34% of royalty to the individual or the team that worked on the specific technology and that is how SRI competes with high salaries in Silicon Valley. SRI process always begins with identifying the market pain, ideally a larger market opportunity. Out of about 2000 opportunities identified, about 3-4 get funded and get about 10X return; many of the others become licensing deals and the rest die. Currently Tempo, a smart calendar is showing a lot of promise, said Winarsky. This was a great start to a day that proceeded with excellent panels, speed pitch sessions and SIG networking opportunities.
Next EPPIC event will be held on May 6 at 6pm at Cubberley Theater, 4000 Middlefield Rd, Palo Alto. Dr. Sarvajna Dwivedi, CSO at Pearl Therapeutics will talk about the entrepreneurship journey that took him and his co-founder to build from a tiny spin out, from Nektar Therapeutics, a world class multi-site organization. Pearl Therapeutics was bought by Astra Zeneca last year, for $1.15 B. To register for the event go to http://www.eppicglobal.org .
Shady Shakespeare Theater Company produces outstanding performances of the works of Shakespeare, in the park, in Silicon Valley, with a commitment to making Shakespeare accessible to people of all ages and backgrounds. It was found in 1999 by Dinna Myers, Sara Betts and Jeff Day. It is a 501 (C) 3, non profit organization and almost entirely run by volunteers. Many of the performances take place in beautiful and cozy setting at Sanborn Park, in Saratoga. Shady Shakespeare Theater Company is funded by corporate grants, philanthropic activities, fundraising, and private donations. Besides outstanding shows in the park, the organization is also involved in school outreach program to bring the excitement of live theater into the classrooms. This is done through summer Shakespeare camps for kids and teens, through modular classes that schools can choose, and through after school theater performance programs at schools.
I have seen many absolutely incredible performances by Shady Shakespeare Theater Company. Some of the memorable ones include, King Lear – http://bit.ly/MWhMPl , and Lion in Winter – http://bit.ly/17wqj2A . Romeo and Juliet is currently playing till the end of August, 2013, at Sanborn Skyline County Park in Saratoga and you can purchase tickets at www.shadyshakes.org . It is directed by Jeanie Smith and John Bernard is the Lighting Designer. Robert Campbell in the role of Romeo and Michael Camplin in the role of Mercutio are incredible. However, it is Celia Maurice as Juliet’s nurse and Briana Mitchell in the role of Juliet who carry the show. They are both simply outstanding and give completely engaging, flawless performance. Celia Maurice as modern day Juliet looks stunning. Sara Sparks and Christopher Tani are the stage managers and have done a great job, on low budget. We hope you will support Shady Shakespeare with your donation, with volunteerism, with spreading the word, and by going to watch their performances.
Quotes from Romeo & Juliet
If you love Shakespearean language as I do, with its vivid expression, rich metaphors that link the concepts, poetic free verse that makes it highly emotive and rhetorical, flowery and dramatic; if you love the sheer beauty of the language, then below is a short synopsis of Romeo & Juliet with some selected quotes.
Don’t miss this beautiful performance where “two houses both alike in dignity” clash, but young lovers from two warring houses of Montagues and Capulets, fall in love, and Juliet laments, “my only love, sprung from my only hate.” When Romeo hears her speak from her balcony, “O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?” he is readily willing to give up his name, as Juliet says the famous lines, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name, would smell as sweet.” Juliet makes Romeo swear of his faithfulness, but not “by the moon, the inconstant moon, that monthly changes in her circled orb, lest that thy love prove likewise variable,” but instead, she says, “swear by thy gracious self, which is the god of my idolatry.” Their love is so alike in the height and depth of intensity that young lovers frequently experience, including their loathing to part, “good night, good night! parting is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say good night till it be morrow.” Later, Juliet bids her nurse to get news from Romeo, but the nurse painfully tortures her by delaying sharing the news, and Juliet laments about the slowness of old folks, “old folks – many feign as they were dead; unwieldy, slow, heavy and pale as lead.” Friar Laurence ominously warns the young lovers to temper down the intensity of their passion, for “these violent delights have violent ends, therefore love moderately; long love doth so; too swift arrives as tardy as too slow.”
And then this beautiful dialogue between Romeo & Juliet, when Romeo comes to spend the night with her, after their wedding, but must leave at the crack of dawn, and tells Juliet he hears the lark, but Juliet persuading him to stay some more, says, “It was the nightingale, and not the lark, that pierced the fearful hollow of thine ear,” and Romeo responds, “Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day stands tiptoe on the misty mountain-tops”. Juliet finally acknowledges that Romeo must leave, “It is the lark that sings so out of tune, straining harsh discords and unpleasing sharps.” While leaving, Romeo assures her that they will meet again and have many years to talk about their current troubles “and all these woes shall serve for sweet discourses in our time to come.” Later when Romeo hears that Juliet is dead, he persuades the apothecary to sell him poison and the apothecary reluctantly agrees, saying “my poverty, but not my will, consents.” Romeo responds, “I pay thy poverty, and not thy will.” Don’t miss a chance to hear the beautiful language and see once again the performance of this most famous love story of all times, for “there never was a story of more woe, than this, of Juliet and her Romeo.” For tickets, go to www.shadyshakes.org
Posted by Darshana V. Nadkarni, Ph.D. in Biotech - Medical Device - Life Science - Healthcare on March 7, 2013
Mr. Michael Allen, a serial entrepreneur, (previously in executive roles at Xlumena, Metrika, and Chemtrack), and currently CEO of Vascular Designs, a targeted drug delivery company, talked about “starting a medical device company in Silicon Valley”, at www.bio2devicegroup.org .
Financing is one of the major early challenges that entrepreneurs face. While it begins with a good idea, they also need to obtain some seed financing, and they need a short 2 page summary. Their business plan should be an outline that includes some financial projections, some data about market and market need, information about regulatory path and reimbursement issues. Advocates, typically medical experts, are also needed. With these pieces in place, they would be ready to go for institutional financing and begin to meet the investors.
The VC model has changed, said Allen. Traditional VC model used to focus around a goal with very high end value, in the range of $250 M where 10’s of millions would be invested. It was built around the idea of large management teams in the early phase and a ready sales force in anticipation of the launch, that often never happens. Many VCs who adhered to this model, are out of business. The current model is to focus on a goal to achieve a moderate exit. Team is scaled in proportion to the need, sales force is maintained at small level until product and market are demonstrated. It is assumed that delays are inevitable and cash is king.
Allen talked about his experience and learnings from leading ChemTrak from seed stage to IPO exit, with 6X return. ChemTrak was a diagnostic company, with a single use diagnostic kit to measure Total and HDL cholesterol and other non-instrumented quantitative tests. He also shared lessons in leading Metrika, another diagnostic company that was sold to Bayer, with 1.5X return plus ongoing royalty deal. Metrika’s several products included A1C test, giving patients with diabetes on the spot feedback on their A1C number and e.p.t. pregnancy test. They had some good patents, but mixing electronics, optics, and chemistry was very challenging, said Allen. Allen’s next company Xlumena, is medical device company with products aimed to advance image guided endoscopic therapy. These products allow minimally invasive alternatives for diseases of the organs that surround the GI tract. Summarizing some of the learnings, Allen said, CEO is responsible for everything, no matter who makes decisions.
Allen’s current company, Vascular Designs offers a new treatment option for people suffering from life-threatening illnesses like cancer, through targeted drug delivery, as opposed to systemic approach. Through transfemoral catheter, drugs can be delivered directly into the tumor cells and block the blood supply. It allows for high concentration of drugs delivered, while at the same time, reduces systemic exposure, thus minimizing caustic side effects. This procedure can be performed as an outpatient procedure, takes only about an hour, and nothing is permanently implanted. For success of a venture, Allen stressed, it is very important to hire the right people. He discussed hiring process he follows and also emphasized the importance of spending time and writing a good job description. The talk was followed by Q&A.