Startup Grind

Startup Grind

Name

Startup Grind

Location

Redwood City, CA

Date

February 12th to 14th

Role

Participant, Scholarship Recipient (Women Who Code)

About

The description below was taken from the conference’s website.

Around the world, hundreds of thousands of founders come together each month to attend local Startup Grind events. Every February, our Global Conference brings compelling updates from the changing panorama of the tech world – and we put it all together for 2.5 days of dynamic content and education. You will find invaluable new friendships, and hundreds of resources to help you continue to build yourself, your life and you’ll find information to grow your startup.

7,000 entrepreneurs, 250 speakers, hundreds of investors, and our team of Global Chapter Directors will join us from around the world this February. It will be our biggest and best year ever.

Global Conference

Startup Grind’s Global Conference is the event for startups everywhere. Over 7,000 entrepreneurs will meet in Silicon Valley for 2 days of sessions led by top CEOs and influencers, dynamic networking events, meetings with investors, access to invaluable resources, and more. Pre-registration will take place on Feb 12.


Attending

I had known of Startup Grind for some time now but I’m not one for attending conferences unless I can go for free so with a steep price (it’s about 700 bucks at the door, I think?), the only way I was ever going to attend is through a scholarship of some sort.

Thankfully, I’ve been part of this amazing organization - Women Who Code - for about 3 years now and I knew they gave away free tickets for big events like this.

Women Who Code | Welcome

Women Who Code (WWCode) is a global 501©(3) non-profit organization dedicated to inspiring women to excel in technology careers. We connect amazing women with other like minded amazing women around the globe who unite under one simple notion - the world of technology is much better with women in it.

So I applied for a free ticket and I got it! Huzzah! πŸ’›


Day 1 - February 13

Welcome to the 2018 Global Conference

The first day of the conference!

I don’t know anyone and my co-workers are running late so I kinda just shuffle towards the back of the second floor to try and find a seat ASAP.

The Story of Building Tesla

The first talk of the day was with a co-founder of Tesla and an executive adviser to Google Ventures.

There was some Elon Musk idolizing in this talk which wasn’t surprising but also wasn’t great to hear either.

FitBit: From Tech Startup to Global Digital Health Leader

This talk was actually pretty interesting but then it started to lose some credibility when they talked about their vision of everyone in the future not wanting to leave home without their Fitbit. I just don’t think that’s the best way to pitch it.

FitBit: From Tech Startup to Global Digital Health Leader

Quickfire Pitches

You see that lady speaking in the photo? She had the best pitch BY FAR.

Quickfire Pitches

Hindsights of Thirty Years in the Valley

This talk was one of the most engaging - Derek had some great questions and Guy provided some great answers. However, as the talk progressed and it was clear there was a marketing ploy at the end of this photo-sharing app, it got pretty boring. Either way, it was a good experience to hear Guy speak - he definitely knows how to capture an audience.

Hindsights of Thirty Years in the Valley

Break

I took a break to check out the sponsor booths. I also grabbed a donut from Intuit’s donut wall. Kudos to them for having such a great idea in the first place because donuts to me seem pretty universally enjoyed.

Donuts

Fundraising Lessons from a Unicorn

The speaker came across as very authentic which I appreciated. The slides were pretty vintage looking and should probably be updated but overall the content was interesting.

Fundraising Lessons from a Unicorn 1

Fundraising Lessons from a Unicorn 2

Fundraising Lessons from a Unicorn 3

Fundraising Lessons from a Unicorn 4

Fundraising Lessons from a Unicorn 5

Starting Google’s New AI Venture Fund

This talk was a bit dry.

Starting Google's New AI Venture Fund

This one was actually also pretty dry but unlike the previous talk, the speakers definitely seemed to be enjoying themselves.

Navigating the Fast-Changing VC Landscape

Lunch Time

I grab some veggie poke from the Go Fish Poke Bar nearby. It’s pretty amazing. I then go on to have a great discussion with this founder from Nigeria and we talk about how she wants to use blockchain to keep track of medical records for patients in Africa.

Startup Court

Startup Court

Phearmor Pitch

You see those two women pitching in the photo above? They came in, were prepared and killed it. Everyone else who pitched looked miles behind them with their lack of prep.

I was definitely checking out the dating app they pitched called Pheramor which literally uses your genes to try and find you an ideal match. My partner and I met through OKCupid so I have a lot of confidence in how apps can connect people effectively.

Good Intentions, Bad Advice: How to Keep Your Board Aligned With Your Vision

Very passionate speaker! Talks really fast so it was fun to try and keep up. I appreciated his constant sarcasm when describing relationships with all these players you deal with - VCs, board members, etc.

Independents

VCs

The Future of Investment: Fintech

This was amazing! I loved this talk. Both speakers were prepared and engaging.

The Future of Investment: Fintech

How I Did It: Building Global Teams, Products, and Businesses at Google

This came off as more promotional than anything. I didn’t really enjoy it.

How I Did It: Building Global Teams, Products, and Businesses at Google

The Cryptocurrency Revolution

The primary speaker for this talk was not great at public speaking. There were a lot of incomplete sentences formed which made it really hard to understand what he was trying to get at.

The Cryptocurrency Revolution

Quickfire Pitches (again)

Not a single women? Come on. πŸ™„οΈ

Quickfire Pitches

Making Reddit the Home of Community Online

The power of Redditors > the power of the Reddit platform?

Making Reddit the Home of Community Online

The Future of Travel Technology

The speaker didn’t seem too engaged or maybe pleased to be there but she was definitely prepared and impressed me with her knowledge of the hospitality industry.

It was also interesting to hear that Booking.com dominates a lot of the market in Europe when it comes to short-term lodging - apparently, Airbnb does not.

The Future of Travel Technology

Ambient Computing and Tech’s Role in a Changing World

Walt has since retired from Recode but wow, what an impressive fellow.

Ambient Computing and Tech's Role in a Changing World

Autonomous Vehicles and AI: Future of Transportation

I disagree with the idea that AV alone are the future of transportation - it’s not scalable. The talk felt more like a marketing ploy to me which makes sense since Reid has a direct investment in Jennifer’s company.

Autonomous Vehicles and AI: Future of Transportation


Day 2 - February 14

Real Talk: Navigating Silicon Valley as a Minority

This talk didn’t get as passionate or personal as I wanted it to but there were still some good insights shared.

Real Talk: Navigating Silicon Valley as a Minority

From Launch to The Best App of 2017 in Under One Year

What a great talk - all the answers the founder of Socratic provided were both informative and interesting. This is how the dialogues should have happened. Did not come off as a marketing ploy and the founder came across as genuine and humble. The interviewer played his role and left the speaker to do most of the talking which I appreciated as well.

From Launch to Best App of 2017 in Under One Year

Lunch

We went to the Old Spaghetti Factory nearby - good stuff!

Old Spaghetti Factory

Be Intentional: How Messaging Habits Affect Your Success as a Founder

By far, one of the most engaging talks - I didn’t understand why he was not on the main stage. The idea of your phone number as your primary form of contact made a lot of sense. Instead of having a passive audience through tons of social media platforms, being able to directly engage with them one-on-one definitely seems more effective.

Be Intentional: How Messaging Habits Affect Your Success as a Founder - 1

Be Intentional: How Messaging Habits Affect Your Success as a Founder - 2

The Power of Influence

Possibly the worst talk of the entire conference. The interviewer had a very odd vocal tone and I did not leave the talk feeling as though I learned anything relevant to entrepreneurship. I did leave the talk knowing more about Ms. Tisdale’s social media following so if that was the intention, well done.

The Power of Influence

AI is the New Electricity

Wow, this one actually surprised me - I thought I wouldn’t enjoy it at first but it was actually very informative! Despite the fact that I could not read his flawed handwriting, Dr. Ng really does know how to captivate an audience and his points really did come across quite clearly.

AI is the New Electricity

Building New Worlds: Lesson From Gaming and Enterprise Software

I was initially somewhat excited for this talk because someone from Slack was speaking.

I personally think that if Silicon Valley were a high school (so cliquey!), Slack would be the captain of the football team or some shit like that - either way everyone knows Slack is one of the “cool kids”.

And while the origin story of how Slack actually came about was pretty cool, I didn’t find the rest of the talk all that compelling.

I also didn’t appreciate a comment the interviewer made about hiring a bunch of Filipinos to do some manual work because it came across as crude.

Building New Worlds: Lesson From Gaming and Enterprise Software

Why eSports is the Next Billion-Dollar Industry

Frankly, I’m not interested in gaming (I’ve always looked at it as a waste of time) so this talk was kind of meh for me but my friend, Angela, seemed to enjoy it a lot.

I will say that Amit was one of the best interviewers of the day. I could tell he had prepared and he seemed genuinely engaged the whole time.

Why eSports is the Next Billion-Dollar Industry

I Am a 13-Year-Old Entrepreneur

I’m not sure what relevance this talk had with the rest of the conference. It came off as more of a promo/humble-brag type of talk which is fine because he’s 13 and a very impressive young individual but I feel those are best saved for other types of events.

I Am a 13-Year-Old Entrepreneur

Building and Scaling High-Performance Teams

The last official talk of the conference!

The key reminder I got from this talk is that it’s critical to be able to craft a compelling story of the problem you solve as a startup. Because if you can’t tell that story, you’re going to be less likely to be able to convince anyone to invest time, money or really anything on your idea.

Building and Scaling High-Performance Teams

I’m done!

Since that was the last major talk of the day, I decided I was done and started to head home.

My partner got me a bouquet from Edible Arrangements for Valentine’s Day so I picked it up afterward and it served as a pretty great ending to a long day.

Valentine's Day Gift


Takeaways

I noticed throughout the conference that speakers kept idolizing Elon Musk in some shape or form. He was just put on this sort of untouchable pedestal the whole time. He was also compared to Steve Jobs a lot.

This mentality of Elon Musk being this sort of amazing unicorn and being heralded as this generation’s Steve Jobs bothered me quite a bit because both Steve Jobs and Elon Musk are not the kind of people I believe should be idolized this way.

It’s already well known that Steve Jobs was a world-class asshole and would treat people under him badly for very small mistakes. Despite this and all his other personality and social shortcomings, Steve Jobs was and continues to be seen as a revolutionary within the tech industry.

Elon Musk himself told his own wife that he was the “alpha” in their relationship at their WEDDING. As a woman of color, this triggered the hell out of me. Is that really the kind of man you want to be in a relationship with - romantically or professionally? Someone who considers themselves superior and is willing to overwork his (mostly male) employees to the bone or to the point where they actually feel compelled to have to sue their own company to get paid fairly and have breaks??????

Being an asshole should not be an aspiration for anyone.

And having models like these two privileged white men in Silicon Valley is probably part of the reason we ended up with CEOs like Travis Kalanick who was willing to do anything to get ahead of the competition. And unfortunately, our piss poor example of a president only perpetuates this dismal situation.

In the US, unfortunately, there is actually very little financial incentive in creating innovative solutions that solve REAL social problems (income inequality, sexual abuse, mental health, gun control, climate change, scalable housing, and transportation infrastructure, etc).

So, in many ways, it makes sense that we’re stuck in this environment where companies are spending a shit ton of money on what I feel are less relevant issues like autonomous cars and space travel.

Elon Musk is Not the Future

Silicon Valley has no shortage of big ideas for transportation. In their vision of the future, we’ll hail driverless pods to go short distancesβ€Š- we may even be whisked into a network of underground tunnels that will supposedly get us to our destinations more quickly - and for intercity travel, we’ll switch to pods in vacuum tubes that will shoot us to our destination at 760 miles (1,220 km) per hour.

Elon Musk’s “Innovations” are Not the Futureβ€Š-β€ŠThey’re Delaying It

Tech CEOs are out for themselves, not the public good Silicon Valley has no shortage of big ideas for transportation. In their vision of the future, we’ll hail driverless pods to go short distancesβ€Š-β€Šwe may even be whisked into a network of underground tunnels that will supposedly get us to our destinations more quicklyβ€Š-β€Šand for intercity travel, we’ll switch to pods in vacuum tubes that will shoot us to our destination at 760 miles (1,220 km) per hour.

Automobile companies in the Bay Area stifled the growth of widespread public transportation for decades and now so many are stuck with some of the shittiest traffic in the US. Having AVs instead doesn’t negate the fact that we have more and more people being born every day who will need to get from one place to the other cheap and fast.

If we really think about how the ideal future looks like, the idea of cars being the most desirable mode of travel doesn’t even make sense! At some point, I think folks will realize that investing more money into infrastructure for public transportation which benefits the masses instead of the few, in fact, makes a HELLA lot more sense.

In regards to SpaceX, I’ll leave it to this Quora answer to sum up how I feel.

What’s the worst thing about Elon Musk?

Ernest W. Adams’s answer: I don’t know about flaws, exactly, but all his talk about putting a large colony on Mars is pure snake oil to excite the gullible enthusiast for space exploration. It’s great PR for SpaceX, but that’s all it is. We’ve had 100 years to put a large colony on Antarctica and…

If we want to serve the greater good, we need to first start changing our standards to who represents “greatness”. Greatness to me is not what Elon Musk and Steve Jobs embody. Greatness to me, instead, is being able to admit you’re not perfect and being able to work on an EQUAL level with others towards a meaningful cause. Greatness is not just about being inspiring, it’s also about being sustainable in your practices and moral behavior.

And once we are able to raise our standards, we can then start putting power into the next generation of diverse driven individuals who want to solve the REAL problems.

I’m talking about the real problems that are just as difficult as getting humans on Mars but can actually impact a lot of people more positively.

Ideally, the next generation to be in power recognizes these shortcomings within the all too powerful tech industry. I’m reminded of the young woman - Emma Gonzalez - who responded to the most recent of school shootings that happened right on Valentine’s Day.

Florida student to NRA and Trump: ‘We call BS’

Emma Gonzalez, a student at the Parkland, Florida high school where 17 people were left dead after a mass shooting, calls out President Trump and the NRA by name at an anti-gun rally in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

What Students Said About Guns After 14 of Their Classmates Were Killed

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - They shouted into a microphone until their voices became hoarse. They waved handmade signs. They chanted. And sometimes, in the middle of it all, they choked up. At the federal courthouse here on Saturday, students - including many of the very people who had to endure the trauma of a shooting on campus - continued to speak out about guns.

She spoke of the ineffectiveness of the current system in regards to gun control. And she spoke with such passion and vigor that it made me happy to know that there are teenagers still out there who can speak up like that.

We need the next generation to be comfortable with taking action themselves to solve these social issues at hand that affect the MAJORITY of us - the 99%. Because if we don’t, I fear we might just have to end up living on fucking Mars.