All posts by stanfordbases

Chatting with Challenge Winners: BeeLine Reader

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BeeLine Reader (Winner of Social-E Challenge 2014)

Have you ever thought of an idea that just might work?

That’s how Nick Lum, founder and CEO of BeelineReader (Winner of Social-E Challenge 2014), came up with a way to guide your eyes while reading. Last week, I was fortunate enough to hear Nick’s story. “I had a great idea, and decided to just try it out,” he told me. By using a color gradient to guide our eyes from the end of one line of text to the beginning of another, Nick built BeelineReader to help us read more in less time.

Initially, while tossing around the idea, experts and researchers were impressed: “Oh, you must have been combining the accessory search paper from 1992 and the other paper…”

“No, I wasn’t aware of the research paper, but please, keep talking… I’d love to hear more.”

Before long, Nick’s vision became more and more real, and he learned from users that his technology was actually really helpful for people with learning disabilities or dyslexia. Although some speculators suggested that BeelineReader could “jack up the price for people who couldn’t live without it,” Nick had another vision in mind.

“My cousin and I are the equity-holders of the company, so we can decide whether we want to be solely profit-seeking or if we want to also consider the social impact of our business model.”

With this mission, Beeline Reader entered the BASES Challenge competition, where the team received lasting insight from mentors and judges. “We learned about socially beneficial enterprises,” Nick recalled “[We] didn’t have to be a nonprofit, but instead, could be a for-profit that’s beneficial — that isn’t just about as many dollars as possible.”

I was surprised to hear that before Challenge, Nick was working as a senior-associate in a corporate law form. “I was at a point in a life in which I might not otherwise do this,” he told me. “After we won BASES, I quit my job.”

Largely contributing to Nick’s decision, BASES Challenge opened many doors for BeelineReader.  “Winning was great, because we had been talking to people at the American Optometric Association (the oldest in the country with 40,000 members), and our contacts were having a little bit of a hard time.” With the credibility of “winning BASES,” the AOA was doubling down, writing articles, and spreading the word. “I talked to the chairman of the committee,” Nick informed me, “and this was the first time they ever had an unanimous vote on a committee in favor of technology.”

Today, BeelineReader is moving forward with tremendous momentum. Nick has even been talking to the Office of Accessible Education (Stanford OAE) at the Charles Schwab Education Center to make his technology available to Stanford students.

When asked about the takeaways of his journey thus far, Nick responded, “It’s really cool to see how you’re trying to solve Problem A but end up also trying to solve Problem B and C.”

As BeeLine Reader teaches us, sometimes, impact isn’t something you can plan.

By Vincent Chen

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Women in Entrepreneurship: Q&A with Julia Hartz, Cofounder, Eventbrite

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This year, BASES hosted its inaugural Women in Entrepreneurship Summit (WiE). The event took place on Saturday, April 4 at the Obendorf Event Center at the Graduate School of Business. Delivering the keynote speech was Julia Hartz, Cofounder and President of Eventbrite. During her keynote speech, Hartz shared her story on how she developed as an undergraduate to becoming one of Fortune’s Ten Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs in 2013. Along with describing her experiences, she gave young women entrepreneurs valuable advice on how to be successful in their own careers.

We had the pleasure of following-up with Hartz after the event to hear more about her experience at BASES’ inaugural WiE.

Q: What inspired you to partake in the BASES’ Women In Entrepreneurship Summit this past month, offering your own time as well as your own personal story to drive discussion regarding the current representation of women in the business world?
A: I believe that you can’t be it if you can’t see it.  So much of my inspiration comes from seeing women who are challenging themselves to be great entrepreneurs and live a full life.  I’m inspired to pay it forward in any way I can find to connect with other women who have big dreams.

Q: Many entrepreneurs share their stories widely through a variety of channels and mediums, often to very large audiences. How valuable did you consider the intimate format of the WIE summit, and how did you take advantage of such a personal interaction with entrepreneurial students.
A: I think the summit offers a very unique opportunity for entrepreneurs to meet with each other in a different forum than is commonly used. I like the accessibility this affords and the depth of targeted conversations.

Q: The Summit is designed to offer students a personal and unique opportunity to interact with female leaders in business and to walk away with greater knowledge and confidence of the business world. On your end, were you able to learn and/or notice anything from your interactions with the crowd during the Q&A portion? If so, we’d love to hear about it!
AAbsolutely! I was struck by how insightful the questions were, and I wish we had time for more.  The audience seemed incredibly engaged, which is truly rewarding as a guest.

Q: Lastly, coming away from your experience at the Summit, what is the one final message you would want to give to not only young female entrepreneurs, but also to young entrepreneurs as a whole?
A: Don’t let fear rule your decision to take the leap into entrepreneurship!

Thank you Julia Hartz. We had an incredible inaugural event and look forward to next year’s WiE.

For more opportunities to meet founders and Stanford alumni in technology, please attend our BASES Challenge Finale on Friday, May 8 at the Stanford Arrillaga Alumni Center beginning at 2 PM. For more details on BASES Challenge and Finale, visit our website here. To RSVP, go here. 

Sponsor Spotlight: A Chat With Amy Ritz, Marketing Lead at Accenture

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Accenture embodies the innovative Silicon Valley mindset as one of the world’s largest technology consulting firms, incorporating the newest technologies into its client services. As one of our BASES’s sponsors this year, we are thrilled to give Stanford students more exposure to opportunities at Accenture. With programs ranging from the Accenture Future Technology Leaders Program to internships in finance and software development, Accenture offers a wide array of options for students to learn and grow in their years at Stanford.

To learn more about Accenture’s vision, goals, and relationship with BASES, we had the opportunity to talk with Amy Ritz, Marketing Lead at Accenture.

Q: Why did Accenture want to sponsor BASES?
A: Accenture is a company with a deep investment in innovation. We believe it’s important to become an integral part of the open innovation/entrepreneurial ecosystem at Stanford.  We would like to forge lasting relationships with students who will ultimately launch startups as part of our connection to the startup community.  And of course, we would like to be a company of choice for the high caliber students looking for careers or internships in technology.

Q:  Describe your relationship with BASES over the years. How has BASES made an impact on Accenture?
A: We are only just getting to know the students at BASES, but we couldn’t be more impressed with the professionalism of the organization. We are excited to be a part of the BASES Challenge, hackathons, and other programs. The students are really inspiring, and we look forward to engaging with them.

Q: What is Accenture’s vision?
A: Accenture just released the Accenture Technology Vision 2015, our annual outlook of the technology trends that we believe will have the greatest impact on enterprises over the next three to five years. This year, we identified a 180 degree shift from the “me” economy to the “we” economy as pioneering enterprises are tapping into a broad array of other digital businesses, digital customers, and digital devices at the edge of their networks to create digital “ecosystems”. In doing so, they will shape new markets while also transforming the way we all work and live.

Q: Where do you see Accenture heading in the next few years?
A: Here in Silicon Valley at the Accenture Technology Lab, we’ll continue to remain focused on exploring new and emerging technologies that are relevant for our enterprise clients and applying them in innovative ways to address key business challenges.

We’re also focused on growing our Open Innovation program. The initiative is focused on working with top-tier accelerators, start-ups, venture capitalists, universities and corporate R&D labs, to build and bring to market innovative solutions. We serve as a vital bridge between our Global 2000 clients and this broader community, helping connect them with enterprise-relevant technology innovators while providing our consulting, technology and operations skills to help them meet their business transformation objectives.

Q: Are there any exciting projects Accenture is working on currently? Please elaborate.
A: The Accenture Technology Labs is doing work in a number of exciting areas.  We have four Strategic Innovation Initiatives which focus on long-term, disruptive areas that we believe will transform how businesses operate, engage with customers and grow. The four initiatives are:

  1. Digital Customer: Customers are increasingly using social channels and alternate community forums not only to connect, but to share insights and feedback with each other. We’re focused on how to structure the customer genome – the DNA of what every business should know about their digital customers.
  2. Digital Workforce: Digital technologies including social collaboration, mobile performance support, work-stream analytics, and intelligent decision support continue to mature. We’re working to accelerate the digital work revolution by creating a Digital Workforce Platform that will transform processes to align with the digital business and industrialize the delivery of digital workforce enablement.
  3. Industrial Internet of Things: The Industrial Internet refers to the integration of complex physical machinery with networked sensors and software. We are focused on exploring how this disruptive technology will change business models and how clients can use it to create competitive advantage and sustainable business value
  4. Intelligent Application Delivery:  As organizations push for greater operational agility, there is a sharp shift toward simpler, more modular apps. We’re working to help our clients accelerate day-to-day application development, maintenance and outsourcing activities by incorporating mass automation and imbedding intelligence through machines and support the needs of a digital business through cutting-edge application building and rapid prototyping capabilities.

Thank you Amy for speaking to us about the future vision of Accenture. We are truly excited to cultivate our partnership with Accenture, a company that is evidently forward thinking and innovative, to help Stanford students push the envelope in entrepreneurship.

By Valerie Huynh

Kathryn Gould, Co-founder of Foundation Capital: A New Opportunity When at a Crossroads

Kathryn Gould sat smiling and engaged, ready to respond to the questions posed by Mike Malone, a seasoned tech industry author and journalist. Gould, a well-known Valley entrepreneur and one of the first women venture capitalists is now enjoying semi-retirement at her country ranch home. She is the co-founder of Foundation Capital and started her career working at Oracle. It was there where she learned many of the foundational skills that would prove useful throughout her career such as how to sell. A firm believer in the idea that “chance favors the prepared mind” she was always open to opportunities.

One of these opportunities presented itself after a less than cordial encounter with Oracle founder, Larry Ellison, in which Gould was asked to leave the company. Realizing that unlike in times past, Ellison was serious, she found herself at a difficult crossroads. Rather than taking this as a setback she saw an opportunity to begin her own executive search firm, leveraging the connections she had made working at Oracle for many years. Having successfully placed thousands, she eventually decided to create Foundation Capital so that she could begin to invest in these quality people she so carefully sourced and placed.

Looking back upon her journey thus far Gould reflected upon her investment philosophy. Proudly, she recounts that rather than investing with the idea that maybe one out of every ten companies would be successful, she genuinely believed that every one of her investments was going to be a winner, and many have. It was not an easy task to found a new investment firm and required determination and hard work. Gould firmly believes, “it’s not the calls you take, it’s the calls you make.” It is this attitude that has enabled Gould to carve out an illustrious entrepreneurial career as one of the most respected and prominent women in Silicon Valley.

By Chad Kamisugi

For more information on ETL, visit our website here

Knowing How and When to Adapt: John Collison, Co-Founder of Stripe

“If you’re interested in starting a company, you don’t quite get the full picture” cautioned John Collison, a self-proclaimed start-up history geek. The problem with start-up histories is that the founders tend to “whitewash things a little bit.” With this as a starting point, Collison gave the class a candid history of the founding of Stripe.

Stripe wasn’t Collison’s first company. So how do you pick the right idea to pursue? “To spot opportunities requires you to question to how things work,” said Collison. But even the right idea can seem slow at first. Two years into Stripe’s history, they had just 50 customers. Going out of their way to take care of these early customers, Stripe began to spread by word of mouth.

As feedback flooded in from these new users, Stripe had to decide how to change to accommodate their requests and complaints. Collison explained the importance of knowing how and when to adapt. It isn’t about reaching the final form of your product as quickly as possible. Instead, it’s about following the right path all the way through.

When it came time for questions, there was an obvious one: what is it like to found a company with your brother? Collison described the benefits of working with a team that you already know how to work with. It solves the “meta issues” to collaboration and lets you focus on the task at hand. Clearly, it was a strategy that paid off for Patrick and John.

By Thomas Teisberg

For more info on ETL, please visit our website here

Women in Entrepreneurship Summit: Changing the 13% of Women-Led Startups

By Stephany Yong

I love startups.

Now before you let out a sigh and roll your eyes at just another Stanford student with startup fever, hear me out.

I remember the first time I set foot into StartX my freshman year. It was the third week of winter quarter, and I was set to meet Kyle, the founder of a startup called Pixlee, whom I had met at the BASES career fair the week before. Walking through the floor space to the room where the interview would be held, I took note of the interesting set up, with tables forming clusters of makeshift offices for the startups housed there.

It was unlike any office space I had ever seen – there were nerf gun bullets and swivel office chairs strewn across the floor, whiteboard paint walls with customer acquisition strategies half mapped out in marker. And another glaring thing – I was the only girl in the building that afternoon.

Over the next few months, I dove headfirst and worked there part time on marketing when I wasn’t in class. The experience transformed me and how I viewed myself and my work. I loved how I was making an impact, preparing sales decks, writing blog posts, and consulting with the CEO on my projects (of a 10-person company at the time but still pretty cool). Furthermore, I adopted a fascination with shipping and building things. At Pixlee, three engineers had built a service that delighted hundreds of thousands of people around the world. It inspired me to get more serious about my first computer science class, and ultimately, pursue a degree in computer science.

My first foray (if you can call it that) into entrepreneurship opened up an entirely new world to me. The environment was infectious, marked by cheeto-stained keyboards and standing desks, but more importantly, a scrappy and growth-driven mindset that made me want to improve, be sharper, and learn more about the space by asking good questions. When thrown into an unstructured setting, I was forced to find a way to add value to the team, and now it’s a skill I want to continue to improve over my career. But looking around me at StartX, I noticed how the Valley’s celebrated startup culture only featured a handful of women.

I thought back to all the remarkable women I had met at Stanford – amazing engineers, product gurus, designers, and marketers – I know that they would bring tremendous value to any startup, whether it be one they start or one they join. There are unique problems that can and should be tackled by the other half of the population, who are just as creative, strategic, and determined to solve the world’s consumer, enterprise, health, and energy problems as their male counterparts. And this is where I see the value in the BASES Women in Entrepreneurship Summit.

The summit is going to feature female founders who will lead intimate discussions with at most 15 participants about topics that they think are key discussion points: the things you should know as an entrepreneur, from splitting equity with co-founders to navigating the murky waters of defining your company’s culture and everything in between.

This naturally leads us to ask why we need a womens’ summit to begin with. And I think this statistic speaks for itself: Only 13 percent of VC deals went to women-led startups in 2013 (Pitchbook). I think this minority percentage stems less from an issue of competency or interest, but rather, starting a conversation around the unique challenges women entrepreneurs face. How do you pitch to a group of male investors and navigate any doubts they may have about the industry you are devising a solution for? How do you handle being a strong negotiator without coming across as overly aggressive? How do you build a network in a male-dominated venture capital scene? These are tough questions for anyone to address, let alone asking in front of 100 other people at one of Stanford’s several VC panel discussions and mixers throughout the year. We hope organizing groups of 15 entrepreneurial women in workshops led by female entrepreneurs will create an open and encouraging environment where women can freely ask questions, share their stories, and build meaningful relationships with one another.

I’m so glad that this spring we’re finally bringing together some of the most driven, entrepreneurial women across campus and the Valley to get to know each other and start a discussion about something that means so much to me.

We look forward to reading your applications, and can’t wait to see you in April!


Apply now at here at http://bit.ly/baseswomensummit

A Look Inside TreeHacks: Free Redbull & 124 Projects from Hack-Warriors

Written by Kameron Riley Butler

On the evening of February 28th, the opening ceremony of TreeHacks kicked off as hackers from more than 80 high schools and universities across the nation piled into CEMEX auditorium. The crows gave a warm welcome to keynote speaker Jeff Dean, and after describing his notably impressive work at Google, he left the eager hackers with a valuable inspiration: “Have fun, build something cool, and don’t stop learning, this weekend and beyond.” As the opening ceremony concluded, the hacker herd made its way back to the Arrillaga Alumni Center to embark upon the thirty-six hour endeavor that lay ahead. As the doors closed behind the last few stragglers, day one was upon us.

Day One:

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Photo Caption: The Treehacks community spares no time,diving straight into the hacking

Hackers and tinkerers from Stanford and beyond had claimed their thrones for the next three days and quickly set out to begin their masterpieces. If it was not the massive amounts of computers and hardware that was impressive, it was most definitely the plethora of food available to the 600+ coding crusaders (Seriously, unlimited free RedBull? Kind bars? Donuts? Yes please). Additionally, whether it was a cohort of students straight from The Farm or a last minute coalition of Harvard, Brown, and high school students, every group was seeping with energy and excitement. However, hacking was not the only highlight of this inaugural event. Nearly every hour, one of the 85 sponsors hosted a tech talk or workshop teaching some unmistakably valuable knowledge and tools to propel their ideas forward. It was dangerously easy to get caught up in the awe of the event with everything that the sponsors were offering (API’s, hardware for hacking, swag upon swag), however many teams were making headway by the midnight of the first night.

Day Two:

As the early morning light permeated the windows, it glistened upon the weary and worn. Those who managed to catch an inkling of rest slowly rose from their cocoons and wiped the drool from their cheeks. For the ambitious that sought rejuvenation departed to hike the Dish while the rest returned to their computers to join those most dedicated who had powered straight on through the night. Empty RedBulls rolled across the floor as the hackers climbed back into their seats, pushed away the scraps and wrappers that once contained the essentials of hacker-fuel, and dove back into their brilliant projects. The excitement and energy had sustained itself throughout the night; websites, apps, hardware hacks, and robotic devices were deep in development. As the tinkering continued, endless amounts of food came and went (The hackers were unbelievably well fed and nourished thanks to the amazing Treehacks team). Yoga and mobile workshops throughout the day gave Hackers room to stretch their limbs. As day two came to a close, the anticipation began to build as the remaining hours were ticking away.

Day 3

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Photo caption: The creators of DisTrac display their real-time disease epidemic tracker

The last morning of Treehacks brought a bittersweet feeling. It was a promise of long awaited sleep combined with the bleak disappointment that the event would all be over soon.It was the most important moment of the event as teams frantically made the finishing touches to their creations as the deadline grew nearer. As the clock reached 11:00 am, a synchronized sigh was released throughout the building, and 124 different projects were successfully submitted to be judged. At 12:00 pm, the 124 competing hacks displayed their creations to be seen by hackers and sponsors alike. The variety of projects was overwhelming and frankly, very humbling.

Projects ranged from the artistic to the ambitious: drones controlled by human gestures, 3D holographic visualizers using Microsoft’s Kinect, mood-driven music players, and so many more innovative ideas leveraging cutting edge technology. One team (MetricD) was in the process of creating an app that allowed for “an efficient way for doctors to monitor patient symptoms and recovery after surgery.” With a sleek and easy to use design, MetricD seemed to be a promising advancement in doctor-patient communication. Turn the corner and another team was engineering an interactive game that utilized the Oculus Rift to place the user in an animated world. To sum it up from its creators, it is essentially “Mazerunner meets Minecraft in the world of Oculus.”

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Photo caption: MAKKMat creators demo their smart workout mat that relays workout data directly to the user’s phone

Hacker Perspectives

Participants ranged from first-time hackers to the weekend hack-warriors, both male and female. Experienced hacker Chen Ye of Brown University (and coincidentally the Director of Design for HackatBrown) was very impressed, stating that the event was  “well run, fairly polished, and full of nice and friendly volunteers.” Chen was particularly impressed by the mentorship program offered during the event, regularly referred to as “the Uber of mentorship”. The effective mentor dispatch program made it easy for participants to receive rapid assistance on any topic, and majority of participants felt very well-supported.

Offering another perspective, Angela Kong and her team of female hackers admitted that they now “feel spoiled for future hackathons”. When asked for their opinion regarding the common gender imbalance of hackathon events, Angela and her team responded, “Being a female hacker is not a big deal. We feel very much a part of the TreeHacks community.” The TreeHacks team made a very clear initiative to shift this imbalance, and the diverse inclusivity of TreeHacks was a major step forward.

From the sponsor side, Tim Robinson and Barbara Castro of IBM were equally impressed with how interactive the students were. They were also especially excited to bring their technology to the students of all experience levels. “The event was very positive, and the students had a great energy level. We loved seeing all the sponsors come out, and we could not help notice the great cross section of students represented,” said Robinson.

First time hacker Patrick O’Grady found himself inspired by all of the innovative technology and expressed his desire to return next year. His most useful advice? “The potential of what you can create depends heavily on how sleepy you are.” So if you see someone walking around campus this week seeming a little low on energy, give them a hug to show that you understand.

TreeHacks Last Thoughts 

As the demo exo began to wind down and the top eight hacks were chosen for final judging  (Click here to read more about the top hacks of the event), it was safe to say that TreeHacks had delivered far more than promised. The record breaking event presented an endless variety of experiences for every make and model of hackers, but these experiences cannot be fully expressed in this blog. In order to truly understand the powerful environment of a hackathon, be sure to dive in next year!