Looking at Europe from Silicon Valley at Slush 2013

The fabulous Slush crew has posted a 13 minute video of my speech on how does European tech scene look from Silicon Valley these days:

If you rather prefer long form reading (and to contribute to discussion), this short version later expanded into a series of 3 blog posts :


On Bridges, Part 3: What Can Europe Give to Silicon Valley?

Bridge_drawingThis is the final post of 3 contemplating how Silicon Valley and European tech scenes could get closer to each other. The series are an expansion of a short speech I gave at Slush conference in November 2013 – video of which should be online soon. I believe this topic calls for more discussion and thinking along than 15 one-directional minutes on conference stage allowed. To get up to speed, read Part 1 and Part 2 here.

After looking at the widening gap between European and Silicon Valley tech scenes and establishing that the usual first priority, raising money from the other side might not be the most feasible way to fix this – the questions becomes: how can we build more non-financial ties between our scenes?

As US is not paying close attention I believe that the key to the solution is on the European side. And to succeed in driving this change in relationships, Europe needs a mindset shift.

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On Bridges, Part 2: Why Should Europe Care for Silicon Valley

Bridge_drawingThis post is 2nd of 3 discussing ways Silicon Valley and European tech scene could get closer to each other. The series are an expansion of a short speech I gave at Slush conference in November 2013 – video of which should be online soon. I believe this topic calls for more discussion and thinking along than 15 one-directional minutes on conference stage. As an intro, see Part 1 here.

Europe’s tech scene is buzzing. Those of us who have been on both sides can attest that the people innovating there, business models attempted and technologies applied in Europe are very much aligned with what’s happening in Silicon Valley, despite of the separation. So it would make sense to link up more, right?

As a healthy sanity check before jumping to that conclusion, let us ask: why would we need stronger ties? Looking from Europe, that is.

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On Bridges, Part 1: Realizing how Europe and Silicon Valley are drifting apart

Bridge_drawingThis post is 1st of 3 in the series aimed at discussing ways Silicon Valley and European tech scenes could contribute to and gain more from each other. The series are an expansion of a short speech I gave at Slush conference in November 2013 (video of which should be online soon) but I believe this topic is calls for more discussion and thinking along than 15 one-directional minutes on conference stage.

If you were to sit in the audience of any European tech summit these days you get soaked in action around you. Would it be TechCrunch Disrupt Europe, LeWeb, or the raising 5000-attendee rocket of the region, Slush in the November darkness of Helsinki – there is no arguing that the European startup scene is in its most bustling, vibrant shape ever.

Yet, a lot of this exciting renaissance seems still to be constrained to the Old World continent.
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Computational Social Science

I have recently been intrigued about the evolving science of social network analysis (SNA) and the potential novel yet practical applications of it in growing businesses. So the timing of the 3rd Annual Stanford Conference on Computational Social Science, hosted by IRiSS could not have been better.

Fun day with very cool thoughts, from the keynote of the superstar in the field, Duncan “small worlds” Watts to very practical insights from Facebook and Google scientists to usage of SNA on unusual datasets such as the englightement-era snail mail metadata (who was the bridging node between Voltaire and Ben Franklin?) to the intricacies of linguistic change (“aroma” getting replaced by “smell”) in beer enthusiast forums.

Some assorted notes and further reading links are below.

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Robots Remake the Workplace

Colin Angle, CEO of iRobot speaking... via a robot

Colin Angle, CEO of iRobot speaking… via a robot

Spent half a day today at legendary research hub SRI International, for Xconomy-organized robotics forum (see full agenda here), listening to an impressive lineup of industry pioneers of mass-market appealing robotics talk about their businesses. Some speakers were still physically on stage, others embodied inside telepresence robots, of course. And answering to a recurring moderator question if robots will take away human jobs with a recurring “no”.

As Steve Jurvetson (yes, we keep having these sweet Estonian reunions) put it well in the final venture capital panel: it would be absurd to think that “we should pull Excel out of organisations, because we would create more jobs when people tabulated numbers manually again.” The times they are a-changin’, and for sure not  back towards a robot-less world.

See brief notes from all the sessions (and a bunch of videos of cool commercially available robots in action!) below the fold.

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The Intersection Event 2013

Entrepreneurship panel @ The Intersection

Spent an inspiring day at The Intersection Event at Googleplex. Full agenda is here and my notes from the sessions below.

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On Tackling Really Hard Problems

It’s been almost two weeks since I attended a bunch of sessions and some social events around the annual Singularity Summit, held by Singularity Institute, this time in New York.

And for the ultrabrief context of what they are about:

The Singularity represents an “event horizon” in the predictability of human technological development past which present models of the future may cease to give reliable answers, following the creation of strong AI or the enhancement of human intelligence.

Since the flight back and on following business travel in Europe I’ve been taking 30 minutes here and an hour there with an intent to capture the thoughts the event sparked for me. Each time I’ve run into a writers block and failed to post.

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OpenForum Europe

I spoke at OpenForum Europe conference last Friday, on the topic of open internet (aka net neutrality) and Skype’s negative experiences of the lack of it, like Deutche Telekom’s recent agressive blocking of our iPhone application.

The event featured an enlighting list of speakers and I truly enjoyed most of the day. However, instead of full-scale notetaking as I’ve sometimes done before, I decided to give live tweeting a try (as @seikatsu). From one end the 140 characters don’t leave much room for analysis and force you to cut even the original thoughts. But on the other hand these notes were available to anyone in real time and even sparked some discussions right away.

Anyway, the cleaned-up full list of my tweets is below. You can see quite a bit more from other people too when you do a Twitter search for the tag #openforum. And the original presentations are online here.

  • Dinner with “father of the internet” Vint Cerf and Commissioner Vivian Reading. Lots of great things said out loud.
  • Ziga Turk: remember that the moon landing footage was as bad quality as youtube today
  • Ziga Turk: we’ve shifted investments from industrial to conceptual economy (value in meaning not function)
  • Vint Cerf: power corrupts. Powerpoint corrupts absolutely.
  • Cerf: it is absurd how we got away with opening the tcp/ip specs completely… in the middle of the cold war.
  • Cerf: proposed motto: if its not open, you can’t call it internet [service]. it is against the original design.
  • Cerf: cloud computing is where internet was in 1973. It does not exist in the sense of vocabulary for using it universally.
  • Turk: if we didn’t have the Lisbon strategy, we wouldn’t even know how much Europe is lagging behind
  • Structural issue in browser competition – you have to win the SAME users over and over again from recurring IE defaults.
  • Mitchell Baker: 30m users today guarantee you nothing, no financial success, ipo, getting bought..
  • Anthony D Williams of Wikinomics fame on stage
  • Williams: blogger.com passed cnn.com traffic already in 2006
  • Williams: P&G has 1.8m external researchers networked, on call (9000 full time internally)
  • Williams: The Guardian DataStore – open access to the facts journalists have gathered
  • Graham Taylor: a person too old to be a digital native can live happily as a digital immigrant
  • People think standards are always good. They also often slow innovation and hide vested interests.
  • Two Web Masters: Spiderman and Obama.
  • Matt Asay/Alfresco, former student of Lessig asked “why have so many European open source projects left for USA?”
  • Minueesti? RT @PaulHofheinz: If ppl dont see public institutions solving problems, they will form other orgs to seek solution.

A few more seats at ArcticEvening

As Jüri announced last week, ArcticStartup.com‘s ArcticEvening event is coming to Tallinn next Wednesday, Jan 28th, at Von Krahl. In cooperation with OpenCoffee Tallinn and Connect Estonia.

As the initially planned 100 seats filled up really quickly, the organizers increased it to 150. And at the time I’m writing this, there are some 28 still left. So sign up now, if you missed from the first batch.

I will be there sitting in a panel with Allan and Taneli Tikka from RunToShop. Looking forward to the pitches from two Estonian and two Finnish startups.