Tuesday 4 December 2018

Disruption round the corner?

iPod inventor — Tony Fadell bats for disruptive tech to tackle sustainability, food security and disease among other things.
Every generation has had that one technological device that shapes how that generation lives. For the teenagers of the early 2000’s, it was the iPod — the father of the 90’s Walkman. Tony Fadell, one of the inventors of this iconic piece of technology was in town recently as a part of the ninth edition of INK Conference. Fadell also is the founder of the acclaimed Nest Labs, a smart home products manufacturer, that was acquired by tech giant, Google, for a whopping $3.2 billion in 2014.
Speaking to Deccan Chronicle, Tony recalls a very key personal moment right after the iPod became major international news. “I travelled to Asia and Europe just weeks after the iPod had launched. I saw people were wearing iPod earphones. I was astonished to see that something we had just put on the market (only for sale in North America) was already being used around the world!”
Answering the question if the music industry, which witnessed a sea change with the advent of Boombox, Walkman and iPod, needs another round of disruptions, Tony has this to say, “Yes. But, I think this time it’s about live music and concerts. As a music lover, I want fans to be able to enjoy live shows and support the artists we love. I despise scalpers. The ticketing process for concerts is truly outdated, inefficient, and ready for disruption.”
Also explaining the reason why there is usually a focus on innovation of software rather than hardware, he says, “Software is much easier to make and distribute than hardware. However the only way software truly disrupts the world is when it is developed with hardware — iPod, mobile phones, iPhones, internet, self driving cars. All these products required both a hardware and software revolution to create new technology platforms.”
When asked whether he is interested in investing in Indian start-ups, Tony says there are already a few investments underway. “It has been great to visit India and we have learnt more about the rising tech scene here in Hyderabad. Future Shape is interested in technology that people don’t see and understand, but can change the world. We are striving to coach scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs to bring game-changing technology out of the lab and into our lives.”
(Written by Oishani Mojumder, originally published by Deccan Chronicle on December 4th, 2018) 

Monday 3 December 2018

World, meet Tony Fadell 2.0

In a rare interview, deep-tech godfather Tony Fadell talks going greener in 2019, the Indian tech-preneur space, and the realities of productive failure and success

A packed room of 500 — delegates, speakers, fellows, staff and volunteers all sit in total silence, engrossed in the trailer of General Magic: The Movie, ahead of Tony Fadell’s speaking session at INKtalks 2018 in Hyderabad on December 1. Tony — iPod inventor, iPhone co-inventor, Nest founder, and Principal at Future Shape — who’s featured in General Magic as a much younger Tony with thick golden locks, rubs his head, joking, “Now I’m Tony 2.0.”

We’ve seen fantastical Tonys across pop culture and technology, Stark and otherwise, but the celebrity of Tony Fadell is clearly stratospheric. It’s funny to think the man who’s been vocal about tech addiction remains one of the biggest names in technology.

In an exclusive interview , he talks about his brainchild Future Shape LLC, which isn’t your run-of-the-mill investment and advisory firm… then again, we can’t expect run-of-the-mill from Tony. Working hand-in-hand with some of the most innovative technologists and entrepreneurs, Future Shape is all about aggrandising foundational deep technology, disruptive in all the right ways — just like what was done at General Magic who were one of the biggest revolutionaries in hand-held communications devices in the early 1990s.

INK, meet iPhones
For Tony, creating the iPhone wasn’t about creating an iPhone: “The iPod in 2004, started to see how people were really starting to become all about their mobile phones. The mobile phone companies and the carriers got jealous of the iPod. They thought ‘It’s just a processor and a speaker; we got all that stuff. We can just put it on our phone. So here’s Apple finally starting to see traction as iPods were 50% of sales and we go, ‘Uh oh, these guys are going to take that away because people want to carry just one thing in their pocket.’ First we were going to put iTunes on mobile phones, working with Nokia and Motorola. It didn’t go well. That’s where it really hit all of us that we’d have to leapfrog ourselves.”

The now is green
Future Shape has invested in Modern Meadow, a biofabrication pioneer that has created a cow-free alternative to leather. So what does 2019 have in store for Future Shape? More link-ups? What about green tech? “For sure! It’s what we do at Future Shape, we invest so we can do what really matters — coach the next generation of engineers, scientists, and entrepreneurs. We are finding innovative, disruptive technologies that will not only change industries, but also change our future and quality of life,” nods Tony. “When it comes to green tech, it’s about finding entities which cater to the planet and the consumer; it has to be scalable and accessible.”

In fact, the Climate Change Act 2008, courtesy of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), is just 10 years old to the day. The bill was simple, introducing a law to compel current and future governments to cut greenhouse gases by a little bit year on year. With this in place, one can argue more technologists are given a green-friendly playground upon which to innovate and thrive, with little governmental intervention.

Tony shares that “International friendly business regulations and practices will be important for ongoing and larger growth. Even more importantly though, we need more startups who are challenging the big corporations in how they are doing things. Entrepreneurs have the opportunity to disrupt the traditional and drive a new way of thinking and doing.”

Tony adds that during the first 10 to 15 years of his career, he experienced a lot of failure, but sees failure as a key to success, explaining, “Each failure teaches you something and prepares you to create a product that people not only want, but need. And you learn a lot during this time of failure. You can’t be afraid to fail, and be so risk-adverse that you don’t think outside the box or do things differently. India is still developing its startup ecosystem. Silicon Valley is a product of 50 to 60 years. It takes a decade or two decades to replicate Silicon Valley; it takes entrepreneurs failing because that’s the way we learn.”

An INKprint on India
Hyderabad has been likened to a thriving Silicon Valley, but with its own valuable and unreplicable trademarks as Tony agrees, “What I love about entrepreneurs in India is the ties to their culture. So many of the entrepreneurs here at INK India have seen a problem unique to their community and have acted on it. To be successful, founders need to do something completely new, not copy tech already out there in attempts to bring it to their country; they need to resolve a problem that resonates with their community. Be it to do with river cleanup and waste or with infrastructure, INK India showcased these ideas and creativity that has roots in the community. My advice at the end of the day is, be authentic, show how you are solving a real problem, and be able to show actual market demand.”
Tony’s time in India has been rewarding. He’s utterly unaware of the wide-eyed glances he receives as he navigates through the crowds at INKtalks, giving a cheery hello to delegates and speakers alike. And he’s just like everyone else, especially when he adds that the previous evening, he had biryani at Shah Ghouse.

(Written by Divya Kala Bhavani. Originally published by The Hindu on December 3rd, 2018)

Talk, resolve issues

The ‘Ink 2018 Billionaires of Moments’ conference held in the city recently saw a smorgasbord of ideas from bright minds from across the country.

HYDERABAD:  The ‘Ink 2018 Billionaires of Moments’ conference held in the city recently saw a smorgasbord of ideas from bright minds from across the country. One such invigorating session was the one on the ‘MeToo’ movement, during which Dr Sister Jesme narrated her harrowing tale of sexual harassment by her superiors in the church.
The panel discussion on the topic was moderated by Vaishali Kasture, co-founder of SonderConnect, and the members were Sister Jesme, Pankaj Rai, head of strategic planning in Wells Fargo Global Capability Centre, and Antara Telang, who is a community specialist and has written widely on the subject.
The session started with the Sister Jesme’s painful story about how a priest stripped himself in front of her to show her a ‘man’, and how she too was made to strip. Realising that what she was facing was against the principles of Jesus, she quit her convent after 33 years, and have been since exhorting other victims to speak out. In a speech that received a standing ovation, she said: “If you want to see Jesus, come out in the universe. God is there in every one.”
During the panel discussion, both Sister Jesme and Antara agreed that MeToo has to become more inclusive. While Sister Jesme said that the movement should include harassed men too, Antara said: “The problem in MeToo in India is that it has not included the voices from all class and castes. It is doubly difficult for underprivileged women to speak out.”
Shifting the focus on corporate workspaces from where a lot of women have spoken up, Pankaj said: In any situation that involves power differences, the victim is supposed to retaliate, but in cases of sexual harassment, the victims are shamed. The main way out is to talk about it. We have to look at it holistically and not make it one-sided. Men need to be vocal about such issues to the women in their houses. Conversations can help address this.”
As part of the ‘Moments of Truth’ session, Hanif Kureshi of the Start India Foundation, talked about how he started a movement to transform the bare walls in cities into colourful objects of art. The project brought together artists from 20 countries who made the walls in 20 Indian cities their canvas, Hyderabad included! Their famous artwork adorns the walls of Maqta now. While David Saddington talked about the importance of talking about climate change, Jess Teutonico of the ‘We Are Family’ foundation emphasised on how the youth are the change makers in this world.
(Written by Kakoli Mukherjee. Originally published in The New Indian Express on December 3rd, 2018) 

Sunday 2 December 2018

Can #MeToo include TheyToo?

The second day of INK Conference ‘18 saw a thought provoking discussion on the #MeToo movement in India.

The ninth edition of INK Conference ‘18 is currently being held in the city Hyderabad. With a milieu of young, bright, influential minds, the conference aims to bridge the gap between actualisation and ideation of moments that went down in history.

The second day of the conference witnessed conversations about moments of doubt and truth. While the experience of every speaker stood out, what did manage to enrapture everyone’s attention owing to its national relevance was the panel discussion on the #MeToo movement.

Vaishali Kasture was the moderator of the discussion and the panel was constituted by academician Sister Jesme, Head of Strategic Planning Well Frago’s Global Capabitlity Centre, Pankaj Rai and communication specialist Antara Telang.

The discussion was preceded with Sister Jesme sharing her harrowing #MeToo experience as a nun and the need for women to speak out and find the courage within them self.

With his experience in the corporate world Pankaj Rai shared his views on how sexual harassment in workplaces can be avoided before incarceration, by simply starting a healthy dialogue between male and female co-workers.

Antara Telang made an important point that demanded quite some thought, about how the #MeToo movement has unfortunately been a upper caste, upper class elitist movement.

Due to the internet, at least in India, #MeToo has managed to alienate socially and economically backward victims. The panel unanimously agreed that despite its boom, the movement still has a long way to go in terms of inclusivity.

The panel discussion was followed by a invigorating talk by multidisciplinary artist, Hanif Kureshi who spoke about how his love for sign painting as a young child sparked his passion for art.

His brainchild, Start India, aims to bring back art from upper class urban exhibitions to the masses
and “reclaim the streets”. The session came to an end with musician and performer Navneeth Sundar’s soulful rendition of A.R. Rahman’s very famous Bombay theme!

(Originally published by Deccan Chronicle on December 2nd, 2018) 


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