YGL Silicon Valley Summit
July 25th – 28th, 2012 – I had a lot of fun attending the Young Global Leader Silicon Valley Summit in San Francisco. The event was brilliantly organized by YGLs Lila Ibrahim (Partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers) and Heather Fleming (CEO and Co-Founder of Catapult Design).
Day One of the Summit started with a panel series on Women in Technology at the Stanford Park Hotel in Menlo Park, sponsored by Sheila Marcelo at Women Up. The first panel was “The Third Shift: Executive, Chief of House… and Everything Else” – a candid discussion about career women and moms finding balance and time for themselves. We received practical insights from Beth Axelrod (SVP, Human Resources at eBay), fellow YGL Lisa Witter (Partner & Chief Change Officer of Fenton Communication) and Katie Mitic (Director of Platform Marketing at Facebook). It was moderated by Tony Florence (General Partner at New Enterprise Associates). Here’s some advice:
On Work-Life Balance: To succeed in leadership you need peace of mind and security at home… Balance is a myth because it means equal and it’s not going to happen. Instead, think of a blend or a rhythm – allowing things to flex in and flex out… Work-life balance is not a women’s issue; it’s a family issue. Women can accidentally dis-empower the men in their lives by not including them in the conversation… Make peace with your priorities. Be clear on what matters and choose to make it work… Know what things make you high performance in different areas of your life… In our super-busy culture, it’s important to remember the basics like sleep and exercise… We need to invite humanity back into the workplace.
The second panel was “No One Reaches the Top Alone: Having and Being a Mentor.” It was a conversation about the roles mentors play, how mentors are found, great advice received, and paying it forward by mentoring others. Panelists included YGL Tan Le (Founder & CEO of Emotiv), Stephanie Tilenius (Executive-in-Residence at Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers) and Mauria Finley (Founder of Citrus Lane). It was moderated by Jeff Jordan (General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz). Some advice:
On Mentoring: A mentor can change the arc of your career or company – helping you with specific issues such as navigating raising money or simply providing a different perspective… A mentor shines light on your strengths and helps you see things you’re not admitting such as prompting you to ask yourself: “Am I making the choices that are maximizing my happiness?” …To make the sessions productive, set a goal and have structured conversations where you both prepare.
Day Two started off at the Facebook offices. They were gracious enough to host us on the morning of their first earnings report – which is a pretty big deal. It was fascinating hearing the story of the company’s growth. Despite having thousands of employees and reaching 900 million people, the Facebook philosophy inspires their people to still be bold:
Facebook Philosophy: The journey is 1% finished… Most of what we’re going to be hasn’t been built yet… Move fast and break things… We all mess up sometimes. Ask yourself: “What did we learn from that?”
From Facebook we went to Stanford University for “An Introduction to Design Thinking” workshop at the Institute of Design at Stanford. Our task was to redesign the gift-giving experience for our partner. It was a very interesting and fun process. In the end, we had to build a physical representation of our solution. It was like adult arts and crafts but with a purpose! My partner came up with a wonderful gift experience I want to give someone special in the future. It involves travel and tea…
My brother went to Stanford for college. The campus is gorgeous. We had lunch in a small garden by the Stanford Memorial Church located at the center of the campus. It was built during the American Renaissance and looks like it belongs in Venice due to its stained glass windows and Romanesque/Byzantine details. If you ever in the area, I highly recommend a visit!
One of the highlights of the Summit was building bicycles with Playworks. The organization supports learning by providing safe, healthy and inclusive play and physical activity to low-income schools at recess and throughout the entire school day. As a team-building activity, they partner with companies/groups to guide their employees/group in building bicycles. My team built five bikes and collectively our YGL group built and gave away 80. For some of the young people, this was their first bike so it was extra special seeing their excitement. The afternoon was sponsored by Silicon Valley Bank. We capped off that day with a wine tasting reception at Fogarty Winery and then a nightcap at the home of Marissa Mayer and Zach Bogue. Marissa was a long-time executive and key spokesperson for Google and was recently named president and CEO of Yahoo! She is the youngest CEO of a Fortune 500 company… certainly a woman to watch.
Day Three was just as packed. We started off with a tour of the Google campus. Google definitely looks like a fun place to work. There are visual displays all over the walls and you can walk into a Google Earth room and literally go home – the resolution is that high!
Their master engineer Babak Parviz showed us Google’s newest toy, Project Glass. A part of the Google X Lab, these glasses are pretty amazing. In essence, they are a head-mounted display that works somewhat like a smartphone allowing for interaction with the Internet via natural language voice commands (similar to the iPhone feature Siri). It has it’s own Google Android operating system software and allows you to capture audio/video. We each can become iReporters as we walk down the street. I can imagine someone climbing Mount Everest or Kilimanjaro and sharing the entire experience through their own eyes! We would just have to prevent someone from doing something really silly like trying to drive a car and surf the web at the same time!! Watch a video demonstrating Project Glass.
We had lunch at Zynga – a social gaming service which apparently has over 292 million monthly active users. Five of their games, CityVille, Zynga Poker, FarmVille, CastleVille, and Hidden Chronicles, are the most widely used game applications on Facebook. The company began trading on NASDAQ in December 2011. We had an interesting discussion about the use of social gaming in education.
While we were at Zynga, we had a mentoring session with the Bay Area Global Shapers – young leaders under 30. I was particularly intrigued by Julia Hu and her company Lark. It is an alternative to an alarm clock. There is a sleep sensor band that wakes you silently and gently. It even measures and analyzes your sleep. You can buy the Pro version and get a personal sleep coach. Check it out. Please let me know if you buy one and how you like it! I don’t have a vested interest other than my belief that Julia Hu and her team are very smart and the product provides an innovative solution for those who are sleep-deprived – or make their partner sleep-deprived!
Our last session at Zynga was with Shannon Spanhake, Deputy Innovation Officer for the City of San Francisco. It is the first position of its kind for city government. Since there is a high density of entrepreneurs in San Fran, her position – which reports to Mayor Edwin Lee’s office – is focused on enabling opportunities for them to start, stay, and grow their businesses. In April they launched ImproveSF, an online platform that connects civic challenges to community problem solvers. They have asked citizens to engage in solutions around food justice, as well as an opportunity to design a parklet (a parking spot transformed into a mini public park). They also have a very interesting Open Gov project which aims to create opportunities for the public to identify problems, create solutions, and scale these solutions into sustainable businesses. It is a very innovative way to involve communities into local government.
We closed out the formal program at the Founders Den – a shared office space and private club for experienced entrepreneurs and their friends. It’s a pretty nice space and a great hub for startups. Our special guest was former Vice President Al Gore. He is very personable and I was really impressed with his candid nature and range of knowledge. Our conversation ranged from politics and the environment (of course!) to media in the Middle East.
Our final farewell party was hosted by Ken Howery, Luke Nosekand Premal Shah in one of the most decked out bachelor pads I’ve seen. Inside the entertaining area was a lounge setting with couches and an indoor pool with a very large screen flat TV above it, as well as a full professional bar. Outside was the jacuzzi and a multitude of heat lamps since it gets pretty chilly in the evenings in San Francisco.
I didn’t stay out too late because I wanted to cap the trip off with a hike the next morning. YGL April Rinne was kind enough to lead a small group of us starting out from the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. We went along Wolf Ridge which gave us striking views of the ocean and city. It’s one of the highest points in the area. Coming down we could see the surfers on Rodeo Beach. It was absolutely gorgeous!! I could really see doing that every weekend.
All in all, the trip was tremendous. I was an early Web 1.0 tech intrapreneur at MTV Networks (In the early 90s, I founded VH1 Interactive and the VH1@Work Radio Network, worked on the launch of six digital cable networks and ran a bunch of other things for the company over a 7-year period). It has inspired me to potentially jump back into this space in a unique Power Living way. I love New York – but I must say that the level of innovation, and the beauty of the place itself, also makes San Francisco top on my list for places to live. Thanks to Dan Shine for hosting our hike kickoff at his beautiful home in the historical Presidio area and for all of the YGLs that made this particular Summit extra special!