Celebrating: Sweet Summer Tech Mixer

When one thinks of the summertime, they think of hot summer nights, cold drinks, rockin’ music, friends, and something sweet to top the night off. That is exactly how Tech in Motion: Silicon Valley celebrated their Sweet Summer Tech Mixer on Wednesday night at The Blackbird Tavern in downtown San Jose.

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The night was filled with techies from all over the South Bay, enjoying sweets, our signature drink the “Augmented Buzz,” and chatting about tech in Silicon Valley. Networking mixers are always a good way to get out into your community and interact with new people who have similar backgrounds and interests. Not only is it a good way to relax and mingle, but you never know what you could possibly win at one of Tech in Motions events. Our Sweet Summer Tech Mixer offered one lucky person a $50 Amazon gift card in our raffle. Congrats Joyce!

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Make sure to tune into the blog for a recap of the Tech in Motion: Silicon Valley VR event from August 20th at Microsoft. We are excited to say we hosted The Future of Virtual Reality – Tech Demo with Jaunt! If you are a techie who loves to be ahead of the curve, you may want to know just how that event went. While we can’t quite travel back in the past virtually yet, check out The Future of Virtual Reality guest post the CTO of Jaunt, Arthur van Hoff,  wrote for Tech in Motion.

If you’re interested in sponsoring one of our next Tech in Motion events, please reach out here to see how you can be involved in one of our events.

Recap: Made in DC Tech Panel

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At one of it’s biggest events to date, the D.C. chapter of Tech in Motion gathered entrepreneurs and tech aficionados alike at the infamous startup incubator, 1776, located in the heart of downtown D.C. The event that brought these groups all together? It was none other than Tech in Motion’s “Made in D.C.” panel discussion, featuring some top influencers and prominent thought-leaders from the local tech community.

As the attendees began to arrive, there was no shortage of eager and inquisitive individuals milling about the tables of Tech in Motion’s featured sponsors, Microsoft and Alarm.com. After a fun demo by Microsoft’s representative, Lisa Abdilova, on the ways to bring your travel plans to life via Bing, OneDrive, Outlook.com and Internet Explore, the panel kicked off. The panelists for the evening consisted of Ghafran Abbas, the Chief Architect at SocialRadar; Chuck Ghoorah, EVP at Cvent; Ian Lotinsky, VP of Engineering at LearnZillion; and Evan Burfield, a Co-Founder at 1776. The discussion was moderated by the Co-founder and COO of Nexercise, Greg Coleman.

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The panel detailed the trials, tribulations and successes from their personal experiences of fostering a company from the ground up in D.C., with a specific emphasis placed on tech companies. The panel kicked things off with the question, “What does D.C. have to offer compared to other tech hubs like Silicon Valley, New York or San Francisco?” The panelists unanimously agreed that D.C. is uniquely and actively looking for solutions to real, substantial quality-of-life issues in such areas as education and healthcare. The startups in D.C. focus on issues that matter, rather than coming up with the next social app like “YO” – and what’s more, the community is proud of that.

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The conversation then shifted to address common challenges that startups encounter when looking to get a foothold in the District. Evan stated that the biggest challenge he sees showing up time and time again for any startup in the community “is how fragmented D.C. traditionally is and how to overcome that”.

This fragmentation has proved a big barrier to overcome, with the result that the tech communities local to Virginia, D.C., and Maryland rarely cross paths. Individuals are very supportive of their own communities but show a surprising reluctance to venture out into each other’s spaces and connect; however, as Chuck stated, the willingness to help on another out within the community is astounding. When prompted further, Ian stated that D.C. has not “reoriented all of the available assets in D.C. to focus around this [tech] community,” which continues to perpetuate this lack of resource awareness that prevents startups from thriving.

Ghafran then navigated the discussion towards a more technical focus, expressing that the main challenge facing the tech community and startups in D.C. is a series of disconnects. Ghafran stated that the challenges he’d seen as a developer are two-fold. Many developers find it difficult to connect with non-developers and, in part as a result of this gap, many companies experience difficulty in finding the tech talent they require. Along a similar vein, one of the biggest tech challenges that Ian experienced in his career was finding entrepreneurial engineers and teaching them company culture or vice versa.

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The dialogue wrapped up with a nod towards what the future holds for the D.C. tech community. There were two trends that the panelists agreed upon as being a part of DC’s future. The first was a movement of startups geared towards topics unique to D.C. Ghafran stated that D.C.’s future lay “in healthcare, education, and government. It’s what’s unique to D.C. and [we] will see a huge engine of startups come and focus on that in the next ten years”.

The second trend was broader in nature and expanded to include not only D.C., but also the country as a whole. Currently, Silicon Valley is commonly viewed as THE place to be for technology. However, Evan argued that “while Silicon Valley has been viewed as this tech mecca, there will be a diffusion of this to different cities,” which will transition the tech community away from this mecca-mentality.

The dialogue then wrapped up with a brief Q&A section, closing out the event with a tangible buzz of excitement and inspiration in the air. Check back in next month for a recap of the next D.C. event – or just join the DC chapter to be a part of it.

The Future of Virtual Reality

1097723620Written by Arthur van Hoff, CTO at Jaunt

Virtual reality is something many people have heard of, but few have experienced. Yet trying to put it into words is, as one blogger stated, “like trying to take a picture of your favorite song.” Poised to disrupt the way we see, live and engage with the world, the fully immersing experience of VR has the potential to change the face not just of gaming or entertainment, but has implications for education, travel, healthcare, real estate, and more.

Today, you can put on VR goggles and have an immersive experience beyond your imagination – with high-definition 360-degree, 3D video and binaural audio, you can feel as though you’re in the world’s most spectacular places, on stage next to your favorite musician, or on the field cheering on your home team, even when you’re thousands of miles away.

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The truly exciting part about virtual reality is that this is just the beginning. The potential applications for this technology is something that excites us tremendously and we are continuously exploring.

Much of the content that is currently being developed for virtual reality goggles is simulated or digitally produced, along the lines of video games. At Jaunt, we’re building the full-stack technology to create cinematic VR. This includes the camera, software editing, and content production. Instead of exploring a simulated world, you can be transported to other places in the real world.

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This also means exploring new means of storytelling beyond the current capabilities of traditional film-making. We’re discovering new ways to use the technology, and it’s opening up huge new doors for writers, directors, actors, artists, and other content creators.

We shared some of what we’ve discovered and created at the Tech In Motion event this week. We enjoyed sharing the experience of cinematic VR with you and you’ll see some action photos in an event recap posted later in the month.

Tech in Motion Silicon Valley is also proud to announce their September event, Security & Technology: BYOD, Home, & Mobile {Sponsored By Microsoft & Appvance}. You can RSVP here.

arthurAbout the author: Arthur van Hoff is serial entrepreneur and was most recently CTO at Flipboard. He started his career in Silicon Valley at Sun Microsystems where he was an early developer of the Java programming language. Since then he has started several successful companies. Arthur has expertise in machine learning, big data, mobile applications, 3D printing, and computational photography. He is originally from the Netherlands and has a master’s degree in Computer Science from Strathclyde University in Glasgow.

The Future of Mobile in Boston

On Tuesday, June 17th, the Boston chapter of Tech in Motion held an exciting tech talk that was all about mobile at the Microsoft NERD Center in Cambridge. The panel included some great mobile representatives from the Boston community, including Yoni Samlan, Head of Mobile at LevelUp, Dan Bricklin, Chief Technology Officer at Alpha Software, Greg Raiz, Founder and CEO of Raizlabs and Manny Elawar, a BlackBerry Developer Evangelist.

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The evening started with some food and networking before the panel convened to to discuss the topic at hand. To kick it off, the moderator Mark Eisenberg faced the panelists with the simple, but fitting question – where does the panel see the future of mobile going?

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The entire panel was in agreement that mobile phones are everywhere and they have become a common part of the average person’s everyday life. To illustrate the impact of mobile tech, Greg prompted the audience to raise their hands if they had a smart phone – and almost everyone had a hand in the air. Greg also mentioned how if you have a great idea, mobile apps make it easier to reach an entire population. Yoni spoke about being excited about wearable technology, predicting that they will seem as normal as a smart phone in the upcoming years.

From there, our moderator dove into other topics. There was the popular question of bringing your own device to work as opposed to having one supplied by the company. Many of the panel agreed that as smartphones advance, people would prefer to work on their own device due to the comfort and convenience of it being their own, personal device.  However, there is also the complication of security when dealing with high profile companies and projects.

Greg pulled from his own personal experience to say that “it’s important that my employers have the devices that they need in order to get their jobs done; [we want] to empower them to have the choice on what device they use”.

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Our panel then went into the discussion of creating mobile apps across various platforms; with the emergence of not only smartphones, but tablets as well. Several developers have to think of ways for the apps that they are creating to be supportive over all kinds of devices. Dan Bricklin spoke highly of using HTML5 to create apps.

“If you try to program an iOS without HTML5, you have to be a really good iOS developer,” Dan said. “It’s really good at a lot of business stuff, so you can build for a lot of different platforms.”

“For every enterprise you run into, you have a different legacy system and you have to put all the pieces together, which is the hardest part,” Manny chimed in. “So when we have a solution that allows developers to bring everything together, that is a great thing.”

Things got a little heated, however, when Greg wanted to mention that HTML5 isn’t the only way to go when creating applications. It is simply up to the reference of the developer.

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At the end of the discussion, Manny reflected again on how he feels mobile is going to be shaped.

“Everything is going to be connected, and there is going to be a new definition of mobile,” Manny commented.

Mobile will be defined differently in the sense that phones will still be the most important part – but new technological advances will change the way that we connect to stationary objects that we use every day. They are what will help redefine mobile. Manny gave an example that he hopes one day when he can get into a car, connect his phone, be able to adjust things like his radio preferences or whether he wants the windows open, all based on the information given from his mobile device.

Following the panel discussion, the speakers took questions from the audience.  Inspired by what had been discussed, the audience came up with some amazing questions that sparked further conversation between the panelists. Once the official panel discussion concluded, a large number of audience members pushed their way to the front of the room to see if they could get one-on-one time with our speakers. This panel definitely left the audience thinking about the future.

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We want to send out a big thank you to all of our speakers for their participation, Mark for moderating, the NERD Center for hosting us, and our monthly sponsors Workbridge Associates and Jobspring Partners as well as Fisku and Blackberry. Please join Tech in Motion: Boston to hear about our upcoming events!

Kids, Music, and Entrepreneurship

Jon Kraft PhotoThe first time my business partner Girish Venkat pitched me the idea for Thrively, I was in the middle of working with Bill Gross at Idealab to get a company called UberMedia off the ground, and we desperately needed a CTO. Although I loved Girish’s vision, I knew I couldn’t abandon my other project, so I flipped the tables on him and recruited him to be our CTO. Girish and I worked together for over two years at Ubermedia, but eventually the pull of Thrively became too much, and we made the decision to join forces and get started building it.

The “pull” of this project was not just intellectual, but emotional. My strengths lie in the world of multidimensional analysis, slicing and dicing data, and breaking things down into their individual components so that they can be better understood. I helped to build several companies using these principles, most notably Pandora where we embarked on the Music Genome Project.  Thrively uses similar principles to match kids to activities and opportunities.  I was fascinated by the idea that by understanding children’s underlying strengths and how activities build and support those strengths, we can connect kids to the activities which can have the greatest impact.

I have spent most of my adult life working with kids in various ways. When I went to Stanford, the fall quarter – as incredible as it was – at some point felt like a trap. I felt like a gerbil in a giant, utopian habitat, but unable to escape. It was both an entirely new and intimidating social experience and a stressful and intense academic experience, and the campus was so huge and all-encompassing that I really never left. At least, I had no idea of how to do it. By the time the winter quarter hit, I knew I had to find a way off campus, and by spring, I found my outlet and my sanity coaching Little League in Palo Alto. I continued to do that for five years, and I also picked up coaching at the Stanford Area Youth Basketball League my sophomore year. I never felt trapped on campus again, because I was connected to the community in a fundamental way, through kids.

As the father of three incredible children, I am constantly amazed by the energy with which they throw themselves into their activities, and I find myself fascinated by what appeals to them in each one they love, and what makes them want to stop going to other ones. There is nothing more exciting than a child who has discovered something they’re passionate about. But it’s not always easy!

Girish’s idea for Thrively turned me on to strength-based education, and the idea that, if we built this right, we would democratize a very important element of education and personal development – that which occurs outside of school. No longer do you have to be a superhuman parent scouring the nooks and crannies of the Internet for unique opportunities that you think will inspire passion in your kids. You can simply engage with a platform that will understand your children’s strengths, connect them to the vast world of opportunity, and allow our engine – the same kind of seemingly magical and omniscient engine that allows Pandora to construct the perfect radio station – to direct you and your family to incredible opportunities you may never have discovered.

A big thank you to Jon for speaking at Tech in Motion Orange County.

About Jon Kraft

Jon Kraft is the co-founder and CEO of Thrively, a website that helps children identify their strengths, and recommends targeted extracurricular opportunities to help children build on those strengths. Jon is married, the father of 3, and in addition to starting a number of technology companies in his career (including Pandora), he has been a dedicated youth sports coach for more than 30 years.