Tag Archives: Silicon Valley

This Guy’s Building a Tsunami-Proof Pod in His Silicon Valley Backyard

Chris Robinson has never built a boat or even sailed, and he admits that a tidal wave is unlikely to hit Silicon Valley. But in his Palo Alto backyard, Robinson has spent the past two years building a defense against one: a 22-foot-long, 10-foot-wide, 8.5-foot-high tsunami-proof capsule made of plywood and epoxy.

After watching coverage of the Fukushima disaster and a flood-devastated Japan, Robinson started working on an escape route.

“No one is going to wear a jet pack on their back as they work in their office,” Robinson says, so he imagined a more buoyant solution—drawing inspiration from oil-derrick escape pods and a Canadian artist who constructs wooden spheres that hang in trees and double as hotel rooms.

The tsunami ball under construction.

The former Facebook and PayPal art director used Adobe Illustrator to sketch his tsunamiball plan (he asked some engineers for help calculating whether it would float). “Very early in the project it became about building this interesting object,” Robinson says. “I’m not a survivalist. I don’t even have life jackets.”

He does, however, have an emotional connection to Fukushima—he met his wife there in 1991, when he lived in Japan. “Half the places we went on dates are gone,” he says.

Robinson plans to finish the outer shell by May, then ocean-test the vessel if he can find a crane and truck big enough to haul it over to the Pacific. And if the sphere doesn’t sink, he’ll use Airbnb to rent the tsunamiball for tidal wave-safe overnights in Palo Alto.

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Silicon Valley’s Dave Goldberg died after gym accident

Dave Goldberg

The Silicon Valley entrepreneur and SurveyMonkey chief executive Dave Goldberg died of severe head trauma, according to local officials.

Mr Goldberg, 47, husband of Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg, was found lying next to a gym treadmill on Friday at a holiday resort in Mexico.

Mexican authorities have no plans for a criminal investigation.

The officials said Goldberg still had vital signs when he was discovered, but later died at a hospital.

He reportedly left his room in the resort near Nuevo Vallarta at 16:00 local time to exercise, and family members went to look for him when he failed to return.

He was found at about 18:30 in the gym, lying by a treadmill, with a blow to the lower back of his head.

It was apparent he had slipped on the treadmill and hit the machine, a spokesman for the Nayarit state prosecutor said.

A Harvard University graduate, Mr Goldberg joined SurveyMonkey in April 2009. Before that, he was a entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and technology and music industry executive.

He founded one of the first online music services, Launch Media, in 1994 and led the company until its acquisition by Yahoo in 2001.

Following the sale, Mr Goldberg became vice-president and general manager of Yahoo Music, where he led the company’s global music operations.

From 2007 until he joined SurveyMonkey in 2009, he served with venture capitalists Benchmark Capital.

Dave Goldberg, husband of Facebook exec Sheryl Sandberg, dies suddenly

Sheryl Sandberg David Goldberg
Sheryl Sandberg and Dave Goldberg, shown here at a media business conference last year, married in 2004.

Facebook announced Saturday that Silicon Valley entrepreneur Dave Goldberg, the husband of Sheryl Sandberg, died suddenly on Friday.

“We are heartbroken by this news,” a Facebook (FB, Tech30) spokesperson said in an email to CNNMoney.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg, in a Facebook post, said Goldberg died Friday evening while the couple was on vacation abroad. The cause of death was not immediately known.

Sandberg, one of the most prominent women executives in tech, flew back to the U.S. on Saturday morning, according to the post.

“Sheryl is a very strong person and knows we’re all thinking of her,” Zuckerberg wrote. “She is requesting privacy for now and will update us when she’s ready.”

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Goldberg, 47, was the CEO of SurveyMonkey. He joined the company in 2009. He had founded online music startup Launch Media, which was acquired by Yahoo in 2001.

“Dave’s genius, courage and leadership were overshadowed only by his compassion, friendship and heart,” SurveyMonkey said in a statement. “We are all heartbroken.

Goldberg and Sandberg married in 2004 and have two young children. At the time, Goldberg was vice president of Yahoo Music and Sandberg was the company’s VP of online ad sales.

Sandberg, who joined Facebook as chief operating officer in 2008, is the author of the best-selling book “Lean In.” She has since become an advocate for equality between women and men — on the job and at home — through her organization LeanIn.org and op/eds and public appearances.

Sandberg has been very vocal about the importance of her marriage. In her book, she wrote about how a “lack of spousal support” can hurt a woman’s career. “My career and marriage are inextricably intertwined,” she wrote, calling Goldberg “a true partner.”

facebook goldberg

News of Goldberg’s death drew a swift outpouring of statements from around the tech world Saturday.

Dick Costolo, the chief executive of Twitter, wrote: “Heartbreaking. One of the truly great people on the planet, Dave was of almost unimaginably remarkable character.

Goldberg’s brother, Robert, set up a memorial page on Facebook, which quickly filled up with condolences.

“We mourn his passing and remember what an amazing husband, father, brother, son and friend he was,” Robert Goldberg wrote. “No words can express the depth of loss we feel, but we want his children to learn how much he meant to all of you.”

This Infographic Reveals How Startups Make Billions

startup chart

From thousands of miles away, Silicon Valley can feel like a magic box: normal people enter and out pop billionaires. But the startup ecosystem is much like the Wizard of Oz, where, when you pull back the green curtain, there stands a man.

There’s actually a fairly systematic process behind the formation, growth and financial success of many startups. Which is not to say that it is a fool’s errand to launch a successful startup and grow it into a billion-dollar company, but only to say that it has been done, and there is a worn path and a mature ecosystem surrounding this routine.

San Francisco-based startup organization Funders and Founders generated the infographic below, breaking down the way an entrepreneur goes from idea generation through to initial public offering. The infographic is based loosely based on famous programmer and venture capitalist Paul Graham’s essay “How to Start a Startup.”

Take a look to get a clearer picture of what goes on in the big black box that is Silicon Valley. Behind the green curtain.

Silicon Valley billionaire wins US bitcoin auction

Timothy Draper, Founder and Managing Director of Draper Fisher Jurvetson, speaks at the Reuters Global Technology Summit New York in this May 21, 2009, file photo. Venture capitalist Tim Draper won the U.S. Marshals bitcoin auction earlier this week that captured about $18 million for 30,000 bitcoin, according to a statement emailed to Reuters on July 2, 2014. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/Files (UNITED STATES BUSINESS SCI TECH)

A billionaire investor who is campaigning to split California into six states and who funds entrepreneurship classes for nine-year-olds has emerged as the mystery buyer of about $18m of bitcoins auctioned by the US government.

Tim Draper, founder of the Silicon Valley venture capital group Draper Fisher Jurvetson, said he would use his stash of the virtual currency to back a venture selling bitcoin to emerging markets.

The US Marshals service, which confiscated the bitcoin when it shut down the drugs-and-guns marketplace Silk Road last year, said on Tuesday that an auction of 29,656 bitcoin had been won by a single bidder, whose identity it did not reveal.

The auction last week captivated the bitcoin community, many of whose leading entrepreneurs put in bids or arranged consortia of bidders. Supporters of the virtual currency believe it could become a viable alternative to fiat currencies or shake up the expensive and slow international payments system.

“Bitcoin frees people from trying to operate in a modern market economy with weak currencies,” Mr Draper said, in a statement revealing his victory in the auction. “Of course, no one is totally secure in holding their own country’s currency. We want to enable people to hold and trade bitcoin to secure themselves against weakening currencies.”

The billionaire venture capitalist, a strong advocate of free markets, has used his personal fortune before to back quixotic-sounding ideas that further his ideals.

He has launched a campaign to have a proposal put before California voters later this year calling for the state to be broken into six , in order to make its government more responsive.

Mr Draper blogs under the name The Riskmaster , which is also the title of a song honouring entrepreneurs that he wrote and occasionally performs. His private initiatives to promote entrepreneurship include the Draper University of Heroes in Silicon Valley.

The grandson of general William Draper, who is often described as Silicon Valley’s first venture capitalist, he is the third generation of the family to make a fortune in start-up investing. Draper Fisher Jurvetson was an earlier backer of companies including Hotmail, Baidu and Tesla Motors .

His son, Adam, runs a bitcoin start-up incubator, and the father-and-son duo are both investors in Vaurum, a bitcoin trading platform where Mr Draper’s new bitcoin will be used for liquidity in ventures aimed at emerging markets.

“We’ve been brainstorming to come up with new ways to help grow global bitcoin adoption, and what we came up with is a way to leverage our exchanges and utilise the auctioned pool of bitcoins, as well as market making strategies, to help provide liquidity in these underserved markets,” said Avish Bhama, Vaurum chief executive.

How Silicon Valley’s class war will spread

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It doesn’t take a social microscope to see that Silicon Valley—San Francisco in particular—is in the middle of a cultural upheaval. As the massive influx of tech industry employees continues to gentrify the Bay Area, city natives have taken to protesting the very existence of their city’s proudest industry due to soaring rent and cost of living expenses. When a woman had her Google Glass snatched right off her face (as well as her purse and wallet stolen while pursuing the thief), city residents were quicker to blame her, citing the punk bar she was in during the incident isn’t really “Google Glass country.”

On the other side of this class barricade, techies haven’t exactly been well-intentioned victims. Outrage spread through San Francisco when AngelHack CEO Greg Gopman posted a blisteringly tonedeaf rant on Facebook, ordering “crazy, homeless, drug dealers, dropouts, and trash” to pack up and leave “the civilized part of town.” Some of the tech industry is so disgusted by the rest of San Francisco, in fact, they’ve publically (and seriously) suggested seceding from the United States or even building their own private island nation.

Although this may seem like a local interest story—like the downturn of Detroit or the rise of gas fields in North Dakota—the tech boom in California has far-reaching repercussions for the entire economy, threatening to change the very structure of our class system.

Numbers recently released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics paint a dismal picture for those of us not blessed with tech-savvy entrepreneurship. Over the past 50 years, working class manufacturing jobs, including construction and transportation, have fallen from half the workforce to a fifth. Service jobs—everything from baristas to call centers to fast food workers—now make up over half the jobs in the US. These trends show no sign of stopping.

But high-end jobs, dubbed the “creative class,” have risen from a mere 15 percent to nearly a third of the workforce. Don’t let that moniker fool you: Win Butler of Arcade Fire is in the creative class as much as Elon Musk or Jamie Dimon. Of these three groups, the creative class will see the largest growth in employment over the next decade, and not just in California: Midwest and Southern metropolitan areas are due for the largest episodes of growth.

So more rich people is good news, right? Ask San Francisco, Brooklyn, or Washington D.C. Wherever the economy is currently striving the most, the inequality is greater. According to a recent study by the Brookings Institution, nearly all of America’s major cities have seen greater wage inequality since 2007. The worst offenders are San Francisco and Atlanta, where the top 5 percent of earners make over 15 times what the bottom 20 percent earn. In more modest urban economies, like Oklahoma City and Raleigh, that ratio falls to the top 5 percent earning a modest-by-comparison 8 times what the bottom 20 percent earn.

The rest of the story is what we see in San Francisco, where the median rent is well above $3,000. In Brooklyn, which is undergoing a tech revolution of its own, median rent has risen to $2,800 since 2012. That’s a 10 percent increase in just two years, an astonishing figure for a city whose wages can’t even keep up with inflation.

But what really separates the tech boom from previous industrial growth spurts is not only how much wealth is being earned, but precisely how little of it is creating those service class or working class jobs our country has thrived on since World War II. To give an example, WhatsApp, the messaging service recently purchased by Facebook for a staggering $19 billion, has only 55 employees. If we take Facebook’s purchase price as a valuation, that’s $345 million per employee. In comparison, Sony is worth $17.6 billion yet employs 146,300 people, coming in at a relatively paltry $120,300 per employee.

What these numbers mean is that, as the workforce becomes more digitized and more automated, even larger portions of wealth will continue to be distributed to even fewer people. Since 1979, the top 1 percent of income earners in the U.S. have seen an incredible 275 percent growth in their wages, compared to a modest 40 percent growth for the middle 60 percent of income earners. As Robert Reich, an economist and former secretary of labor for the Clinton administration, put it, “our economy cannot generate enough demand to sustain itself, and our society cannot maintain enough cohesion to keep us together.”

An economy based on a digital sphere may not be all that bad. As MIT professors Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolffson have written in their new book, The Second Machine Age, the sorts of jobs taken by Silicon Valley innovations mean even those of us at or near the bottom may be able to spend more time doing fulfilling work or even pursuing creative tasks like writing poetry or making music.

While the economy envisioned by McAfee and Brynjolffson is one where a rising tide lifts all boats, however, that is not the path San Franciscans (and the country in general) are seeing today. Instead, we’re faced with the likely offer of sweeping the floors or answering the calls of an even more privileged elite than we have now. Hardly the electric dreams the Valley sold us in the ’90s.

And like a much-beloved parasite, the tech boom will likely spread. As the BLS numbers showed, the creative class will soon start popping up in huge numbers across the country. Even small, struggling cities actively campaign for tech companies and startups to have their genesis on their street (luring them with tax breaks and subsidies). It’s a constant race to be the “Next Silicon Valley,” a title given to dozens of cities from Detroit and Austin to Bangalore and Santiago.

And what for? For an era when an undereducated poor are stuck on the subway while the demigods of technology ride in self-driving cars? For elitist CEOs to tell us where we can live in our own city? The onslaught of handsomely paid engineers and coders upon San Francisco was supposed to be the next great era of a city most people still associate with Haight-Ashbury. Instead, we’re witnessing what could be the first in a wave of cities that has fallen under the trance of Silicon Valley’s “hipness”—only to be left used, abused, and far worse off for it.

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