Category Archives: Beyond BASES

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

accenture-logo

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

The Whereabouts of Wearables

With 2014 coming to the close, this means that BASES Challenge will open January 2015 to entrepreneurs all over the world.  This year’s wearable competitors will also be eligible for the newly proposed Samsung Wearables Prize, which will award a cash total of $3,000 to the winning company. To keep up with wearables in BASES history, we’ve compiled descriptions and updates for last year’s Wearables contestants for the Product Showcase challenge:

LumosTech

LumosTech is a sleep mask that eradicates jet lag while the wearer sleeps. The mask uses light pulses to shift the wearer’s circadian rhythm

LumosTech is currently developing a companion smartphone app that tracks user data and calculates optimal time to use the mask.

Napwell

Napwell is a napping mask designed to optimize (or #naptimize) napping. The mask gradually grows brighter to simulate a sunrise, so that wearers awaken naturally from their sleep with reduced sleep inertia.

Napwell can be pre-ordered for $100, and the company is currently leading a petition to reform workplace policies that discourage napping.

Echo Labs

Echo Labs technology is designed to monitor personal health by taking physiological indictors to track four categories: fuel, hydration, rest and recovery, and aerobic performance.

Echo Labs technology is patent-pending.

Toa Performance

Toa Performance focuses on apparel made of merino wool, which has anti-bacterial properties and wicks moisture from the body in a process called evaporative cooling.

SolPatch

SolPatch is a solar battery charger in the form of a button, and charges under direct or ambient light. The button can be worn, or attached on bags.

Deimos Defense

Deimos Defense focused on creating pepper spray that connects to smartphones. When used, the spray sends pictures and current location to a list of numbers pre-determined by the user.

HomeBase

HomeBase is a wireless gadget that allows users to remotely manage files across multiple devices.

Congratulations to the above companies for their new developments, and best of luck to all upcoming contestants!

BASES Alumni Spotlight: Joshua Reeves

Former Vice President of BASES Joshua Reeves and his co-founders are three years into a sleek project shaping the landscape of payroll. Reeves and Stanford alumni, Tomer London and Edward Kim, founded ZenPayroll in 2011 and since then, have embarked on a journey to simplify payday for small businesses. Since the company’s beginnings in fall 2011, its valuation has increased to around $100 to $150 million. As of February 2014, ZenPayroll has been processing $400 million for mostly small businesses.

Managing Editor of TechCrunch Leena Rao called ZenPayroll a “disruptive company” in the niche of payroll companies such as Paychex, Intuit Payroll, and ADP.

In a TechCrunch interview, Reeves attributed ZenPayroll’s success to none other than the entrepreneurial spirit.

“For us [co-founders], we had this shared mindset. Whenever we see this problem, we’re frustrated by something, and our backgrounds are in technology, we know that we can make it better,” Reeves said.

Not only had Reeves, London, and Kim already founded start-ups before, but each had family members who owned small businesses. They realized that many businesses manage payroll on paper and spreadsheets—a complex task—and decided that perhaps they could simplify the problem through software.

Yet entrepreneurship is not just about solving a problem. It is also about rethinking a problem. For its co-founders, ZenPayroll was also about bringing back the celebration of payday. They wanted to make it more about the people, and celebrating their work because “people want their work to mean something,” Reeves said.

Keeping this personal element in mind, ZenPayroll has a minimalist design for ease of use to replace impersonal checks and balance sheets. The software uses visuals to help users understand pay stubs and places emphasis on the elegance of employee onboarding.

Internally, ZenPayroll runs on a company culture built upon six core values: ownership mentality, don’t optimize for the short term, we are all builders, go the extra mile, do what’s right, and be transparent. Because the company is meant to be the life-long project of Reeves, London, and Kim, these values are meant for long-term problem solving, and are applicable in everything from fundraising to hiring.

Like their approach to the product, the co-founders aim to create a human experience for the company. To create a community, the company relocated to San Francisco and provided a housing stipend to employees who lived close to the headquarters. To celebrate their employees, the company presents airline tickets for their one-year anniversaries. To build a team, the company hosts a semi-annual “Workation”—a five-day company vacation-slash-hackathon.

From company product to company culture, ZenPayroll aims to be both humanizing and innovative in its approach. Reeves said, “It’s really never accepting the status quo, but wanting to improve it.”

ETL with Linda Rottenberg – CEO, Endeavor Global

This week’s ETL guest, Linda Rottenberg, has been featured in forums such as the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, USA Today, The Economist, Strategy + Business, People, and the Financial Times, and has appeared on The Today Show, Good Morning America, NPR, CNBC, CNN, Fox News, and Bloomberg. She travels the country to talk to Fortune 500 companies, and serves on the Council on Foreign Relations, and the World Economic Forum. She spoke about her position as Co-Founder and CEO of Endeavor Global, and more specifically about her fascination with entrepreneurship.

Rottenberg stepped up with a spark in her eyes and immediately began with an engaging, heartfelt story. She fell in love with the individualism, rebellion, and daringness that entrepreneurship embodies, and tried to bring this excitement to Latin America. Through a spontaneous conversation with a taxi driver, Rottenberg realized that there was not even a word for “entrepreneur” in Latin America. She decided that she wanted to make an organization to search for and find these young dreamers and doers who did not even know what an “entrepreneur” is. She wanted to help creators when they felt most alone–when no one believed in them and their ideas. Taking one step towards her goal of constructing a global network geared towards innovation, Rottenberg wrote a business plan on a napkin on her kitchen table for Endeavor, a company that now thrives in twenty countries.

Endeavor “scales up the phase” of entrepreneurs by searching for people who qualify as “High-impact.” These candidates have the biggest ideas, the wildest potential, and the ability to inspire others. They become “Endeavor entrepreneurs,” and the company provides them with money, support, and mentors to help them reach their dreams.

Rottenberg then spoke about her theories of entrepreneurship and creativity: To be an entrepreneur, she said, you have to undergo the juxtaposition of choosing between embracing the safe and known, or the unsafe and unknown. When you discover your passion, there is a tension between hope and fear; she urged us to choose hope. Moreover, once you give yourself permission to be different, brace yourself for those around you to criticize your choice. She stressed that the first part of doing anything different is being misunderstood. When you try to shake up the status quo, those trying to follow it will not support your vision. She said that “If you’re not called crazy, you’re probably not thinking big enough”(alluding to her book being released this fall, Crazy is a Compliment).

Once the entrepreneur fully embraces their vision, Rottenberg encourages them to “stop planning and start doing.” Every dreamer faces setbacks, but one can only prepare themselves for those obstacles and be ready to brace the storm. Rottenberg proudly stated that turbulence is the official climate for entrepreneurs, not stability. She declared that seizing opportunity in chaos can create wonders. She then reminded us of Walt Disney, who drew Mickey Mouse on train stationary after suffering a huge setback.

To Rottenberg, entrepreneurship is not about making the next tech toy, but about transforming countries and solving problems. She gave a moving message to creators everywhere. She told us to shake up our world and never give up. She encouraged the dreamers to keep on dreaming, and to create something incredible out of the midst of chaos. After an inspiring talk, Rottenberg left us with the reminder that it is a great thing to still be a little crazy.

 

ETL with Ed Catmull – President, Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios

For our week on inspiration, what better to look to than the magic of Walt Disney and Pixar? Ed Catmull, president of Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar Animation Studios, spoke this Wednesday for the Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Seminar series hosted by BASES. Through a Q&A about his New York Times Bestseller, Creativity, Inc., Catmull discussed his career trajectory, obstacles he overcame, and his management best practices.

Catmull first spoke of his fascination with Walt Disney and his boyhood dream to work with graphics. He had no idea what path to follow to work in animation, so he spent his undergraduate education studying physics and computer science. After graduating, Catmull recognized that art and tech could coincide, so he set out to make the first computer-animated film: Toy Story. He spoke about everything from trying to save a failing company to producing “Frozen,” the most successful animated film in history.

As inspiring as Catmull’s story is, a key to his success is that he himself was open to inspiration from others. He spoke about his mentors, co-workers and colleagues such as George Lucas, Steve Jobs, and John Lasseter, in addition to stressing how trust within an organization is fundamental in order to innovate and learn from failure.

Pixar’s consistency in producing quality, high-grossing movies is impressive in the midst of an evolving film industry. Catmull reminded us that creativity is just as important to innovation as technology—by combining the two, we can create magic.

Brogramming and the women-in-tech question

Authored by: Stephany Yong – originally posted on April 23 2014 at The Stanford Daily

Why there aren’t more women in tech? The public enjoys asking this question, while the business and tech writers at Forbes love answering it with articles that often lead with the headline, “Ten Reasons Why Women…and similarly influenced op-eds about glass ceilings (with the obligatory Lean In).

I find the question about getting more women in technology an interesting and relevant one. Harvey Mudd’s President, Maria Klawe offered an explanation: “We’ve done lots of research on why young women don’t choose tech careers, and number one is they think it’s not interesting. Number two, they think they wouldn’t be good at it. Number three, they think they will be working with a number of people that they just wouldn’t feel comfortable or happy working alongside.”

Klawe’s findings are just one of many attempts to answer the women-in-tech question. Several articles cite surveys that find girls are avoiding tech careers—ostensibly because we’re shallow and afraid of the stereotype affiliations of being socially awkward, or we’re singularly focused on computers, or we’re physically unattractive. However, I find the female vanity explanation out of touch with the reality of what I’ve experienced as a female undergrad interested in pursuing a career in technology.

I want to explore the women in tech question by not mulling over the causes of the problem (i.e. that girls play with Barbies while guys play with Legos), but instead by discussing some of the things I’ve observed as a Stanford student about that very phenomenon.

Over the course of two years, I have been lucky enough to hear the stories of talented women working in many facets of tech as engineers, product managers, venture capitalists and even startup CEOs. Yet regardless of the pace or size of the talk, there is one question that someone in the crowd inevitably asks: “How’s the work-life balance, managing your priorities in your professional and personal life?” I cringe whenever I hear this. Before us is an exceptional leader who has accomplished incredible things in her career, and you’re going to shift the focus of her presentation by asking her how she’s able to “do it all”?

While I think the work-life question is a very valid one, and something I’ve definitely thought about, I cannot recall a time I have ever heard a moderator or audience member ask a man that. This question is indicative of the wary mindset women have about male-dominated industries, technology being first and foremost among them. With that in mind, I think we can avoid questions like this by celebrating women already in technology, since people naturally like to “see” themselves in a job before pursuing it.

Of course, we do have female role models such as Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg sitting in C-level suites in the Valley. However, public interest in these figures has focused on not only their professional achievements, but also their work-life balance that undeniably stems from the fact that they are women. But by emphasizing that they’re the exceptions, not the rule, this seemingly singular fascination that has turned them into icons has also inadvertently shrouded them (who I want to note are also older and farther along in their careers) in an air of unattainability.

In spite of the diversity on campus, it’s easy to decipher Stanford’s archetypical dorm room startup founder: a Caucasian (and on occasion, Asian) male engineer. With the rise of the “brogrammer,” who (usually) collaborates with male peers on projects and ventures, many VCs use what they call “pattern matching” to identify good founders; unsurprisingly, pattern matching tends to favor preexisting patterns (i.e. the male Stanford startup founder). Since venture funding is so critical to a company getting off the ground, this self-perpetuating problem of the “archetypal founder” creates a barrier to entry (that is both real and imagined) for women breaking into the Silicon Valley boys club.

The question I originally posed is easy to answer—after all, we can point to a myriad of studies, testimonials and editorials as to why people think girls are underrepresented in tech. Figuring what we should do to address the issue is a separate topic. Although there is no panacea for this problem, we engage in more meaningful, thorough discussions when we work with girls who are experiencing these issues firsthand, instead of a middle-aged magazine columnist who can only speculate.

Building off the work of organizations like Girls Who Code and she++ that encourage girls to pursue their interests in STEM fields, I think that the next proactive steps would be to celebrate female technologists working across the industry in different capacities, as opposed the Sandbergs of the world that grace the cover of Forbes. We can get more female leaders leading engineering sprints and signing term sheets by deemphasizing “brogrammer” culture, and creating an inclusive, merit-based ecosystem where women feel like they belong and have an equal stake in the Valley.

Stephany Yong is the Vice President of Branding at BASES. Contact her at syong@stanford.edu.

Stanford’s culture: Why do people start companies?

Authored by: Roneil Rumburg – originally posted on April 10, 2014 at The Stanford Daily

Much hubbub has been made recently, both here in The Stanford Daily and in other publications, over the perceived focus on vanity entrepreneurship by much of the student body at Stanford. The word “entrepreneurship” has taken on a heavily negative connotation among students here and is now often associated with the pursuit of wealth and power. And it certainly feels like more people are thinking about business ideas of their own.

But digging deeper, the motivations of students working on ideas are often more pure than people generally give them credit for. I asked a few students I know what their motivations were for pursuing businesses of their own, and there was one common thread among all of their responses: impact.

Many students argue, convincingly, that the scale of the impact they can have on the world by founding a successful company far exceeds that of any other opportunity a fresh college graduate can pursue. Wealth is certainly also a motivating factor for student entrepreneurs, but it tends to be secondary or tertiary in importance to the pursuit of impact. Common wisdom among the students I talked to was that for those motivated primarily by wealth, finance or consulting provide a much higher chance of success than founding a company. The odds are heavily stacked against anyone who strikes out on their own, as around 75 percent of VC-funded companies fail.

The widespread association between technology and entrepreneurship is a natural result of the focus on scale of impact; a small team, using little capital, can build technology products that touch the lives of many millions. WhatsApp, acquired by Facebook recently, has touched the lives of over 450 million users despite only employing 50 people, all without spending a cent on marketing. WhatsApp brought text messaging to hundreds of millions of people who wouldn’t have otherwise been able to afford it, charging only $1 per year.

But entrepreneurship and technology are not fundamentally intertwined with one another, and entrepreneurial thinking is often applied to solving social problems. For example, BASES runs a business plan competition called Social E-Challenge, which gives prize money away to three companies chosen for their potential to have a social impact. The d.school also runs classes like ME206A/B, which encourage students to explore opportunities to create social ventures. Some of the most successful companies to come out of the BASES competitions, like Kiva, have come from the Social E-Challenge program.

So why are many still opposed to the growth of entrepreneurship culture at Stanford? I had an opportunity to catch up with Matt Lopez, a senior at Stanford and writer of the op-ed I linked to at the beginning of this article, and it seems that the problem stems from the lack of support given by Stanford to students pursuing more alternative paths.

While the path out of Stanford as a computer science student is fairly well worn, and many alumni and students are available to support those who follow such a path, less support exists for those interested in other fields. Stanford promised students that they could be successful pursuing anything they were interested in, but students having trouble finding their way after graduation feel that Stanford has broken that promise. The continued growth of entrepreneurship culture is drawing more and more focus away from these alternative paths, exacerbating this problem.

But this is not an issue caused by the growth of entrepreneurship culture at Stanford. Stanford does not seem to make more resources available to engineering students than it does to students in other departments, but economic forces have given entrepreneurial engineering students significantly more options than others seem to have. The center of gravity on campus is shifting towards the engineering quad, and to even the playing field for students with alternative aspirations, Stanford will need to make more resources available to those students. How Stanford can best fix this is unclear, but the problem seems only tangentially related to entrepreneurship.

What Stanford has right now is a critical mass of students primarily interested in making an impact on the world, leaving their own “dent in the universe” however they see fit. Whether that impact comes through founding a company, charitable work, politics or any other field seems irrelevant, but Stanford should support students interested in pursuing any path they choose.

Roneil Rumburg is the Chief Operating Officer of BASES. Contact him at roneil@stanford.edu.