Monthly Archives: May 2012
By Elisa Stephens and Mike Montgomery
If you haven’t noticed, the tech sector is on fire. Venture funding has led to new rounds of hiring in California, while startups are maturing into established companies, with many eyeing IPOs.
Some of today’s successful tech industry executives have taken unorthodox paths to becoming tech leaders, including dropping out of high school or college. But dropouts make up a tiny percentage of the success stories in the high tech field and beyond. It is true that young people today are light years ahead of past generations in mastering new technologies and adopting innovation. But nothing changes the fact that a 21st century economy requires a 21st century education. Bypassing post-secondary education or training in favor of jumping into the workplace is a disservice to a global society in a competitive world.
It’s concerning then that some opinion leaders are encouraging entrepreneurs to bypass a college degree. In fact, 60 Minutes recently featured PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel promoting this path. These viewpoints serve to fuel speculation that the entirety our future workforce is better served taking their skills directly to the marketplace in lieu of a college degree.
Multiple studies show that those with college degrees earn roughly $1 million more than those with a high school education. A recent Georgetown University study found that people with bachelor’s degrees make 84 percent more over a lifetime than high school graduates. These studies suggest that, despite the cost of college, graduates will more than make up for the expense over the course of their careers.
Beyond earning potential, a college degree can be a leg up in landing a job in California in the aftermath of a painful economic downturn. Companies emerging from a hiring slow-down are seeking the most qualified, prepared workers they can find. Employers can be selective, which is all the more reason to get a high quality education enriched with relevant real-world experience.
Today, CALinnovates, an advocacy group for California’s high-tech consumers, released a survey of technology employers that is good news for the 2012 class of college graduates. According to the survey, the technology community in the Bay Area believes that the economy is slowly turning around and 86 percent of survey respondents plan to hire 2012 college graduates. Fifty-five percent plan to hire more graduates than they did last year and only six percent of companies believe that economic conditions in the Bay Area will be worse in six months.
The survey reinforces the fact that high quality higher education programs are a critical to help the Bay Area to continue to anchor the innovation economy. For businesses to stay here, we need to provide them with a well-trained workforce. Companies responding to the survey drilled down further to say they are looking for job candidates with exceptional creative skills, be it graphic design capabilities, mobile app development experience, or a demonstrated innovative spirit. According to the CALinnovates’ survey, 91 percent of businesses consider creative ability valuable when evaluating who to hire.
Students hoping to seize opportunities in the Bay Area should look for post-secondary education programs that include hands-on training and real-world experiences so that they can rise to the top and hit the ground running. These creators of the future, armed with education and experience relevant to the 21st century, will be central to keeping California’s innovation economy humming.
If you run or bike while listening to music and want to keep your eyes on the road, the smartphone is your friend. An iPod is great, but it doesn’t give you the variety a smartphone offers. Today, we don’t really need to carry multiple single-use devices. Today’s smartphones incorporate many of the following standard-use items:
- Music Players
- Phone Books
Of course, not every item is necessary if you’re training for a marathon like our interviewee is here, but why carry more than one device if you’ve got to carry anything at all?
See our interview with Lauren, a marathon runner who uses her iPhone during long practice runs.
Let’s face it—we all need our smartphones. Not only are they essential for communication, but for the all the other apps that we rely on every day. Google maps to get us where we need to be, iCal for those meeting reminders, and of course Angry Birds to provide us with that much needed distraction from what we’re REALLY supposed to be doing. We wanted to find out just how attached people are to their smartphones. CALinnovates went to UCLA to ask people what they’d be willing to give up for a year before they gave up their smartphone. Here’s what they had to say:
Interview with Rick Marini, CEO, BranchOut
CALinnovates sits down with CEO Rick Marini of BranchOut. Before he founded BranchOut, Rick was the founder & CEO of SuperFan, a social entertainment platform that developed social games and Facebook apps. Before SuperFan, Rick was the Co-Founder and Chief Strategist of Tickle, one of the largest social media sites on the Internet.
Rick: I still remember playing Space Invaders and Kombat with my Dad on the Atari in 1980. Good times.
CALinnovates: Did you use any type of technology to apply to your first job? How has the process changed?
Rick: My first job out of University of New Hampshire was in 1994 and it was an on-campus interview. The only technology piece was getting a phone call to tell me I
got the job. Now, with services like BranchOut, you can identify all of your connections before a potential employer even sets foot on campus.
CALinnovates: How has innovation in the social media sphere changed your work as a tech entrepreneur?
Rick: BranchOut is an application on the Facebook Platform, so we need to move as quickly as Facebook to keep up with them. Facebook has a motto, “Move Fast and Break Things” and we operate similarly at BranchOut. We have to be extremely efficient and focus on quality as we build our product. We’re constantly trying to keep up with a fast internal speed of innovation but also with the external speed of Facebook.
CALinnovates: What is BranchOut?
Rick: BranchOut is the largest professional networking application on Facebook with more than 25 million registered users and over 400 million professional profiles. We have grown from 400,000 monthly active users in December 2011 to more than 13 million monthly active users in mid-April of this year. BranchOut allows users in more than 200 countries to leverage their Facebook friend network to find jobs, recruit talent, and strengthen relationships with professional contacts.
CALinnovates: What did you learn about people through Tickle.com that you’ve applied to BranchOut?
Rick: I learned that there are four attributes I look for: people who are intelligent, fun, have a lot of integrity, and are entrepreneurial. Those attributes were displayed by the best people at Tickle and I’ve tried to recruit talent around those qualities at BranchOut.
CALinnovates: How important is spectrum to the success of your mobile platform and what happens if the crunch becomes a reality?
Rick: We’re seeing tremendous growth from our global audience as well as from our mobile users. BranchOut’s growth in mobile has blown away my expectations. We went from nothing in November 2011 to more than 40 percent of our traffic coming from mobile in roughly 90 days. BranchOut is now tapping into Facebook’s 350 million mobile users. We have about 350,000 mobile users every day on BranchOut. We see huge growth opp in mobile so we keep up to speed on issues around spectrum allocations. But right now we’re heads down on focusing on user experience.
CALinnovates: What’s the craziest thing you ever did in college?
Rick: Senior year trip to Cancun, I went bungee jumping in Mexico. It now seems crazier than I realized at the time since there were pretty much no regulations. Glad I survived!
CALinnovates interviews Phil Ting about the SF tech rebirth, his role in ensuring a tech-friendly environment in San Francisco, and as a candidate for CA Assembly*, how he will bring these common sense public policy solutions to Sacramento.
*This is not an endorsement of Ting’s candidacy. CALinnovates cannot endorse candidates for elected office per its 501(c)(4) nonprofit status.
Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom met with us to talk about his experience with and vision for California’s tech community. The City of Santa Monica, while known mostly for its beaches, is also home to a thriving tech community. Mayor Bloom has embraced the biz-tech community and, as a candidate for the State Assembly*, is outspoken about the role tech will play in our state’s future.
*This is not an endorsement of Bloom’s candidacy. CALinnovates cannot endorse candidates for elected office per its 501(c)(4) nonprofit status.
Upcoming Event: A Privacy Symposium hosted by CALinnovates & the UCLA Department of Political Science.
The Internet of everything is sweeping the nation. Whether we’re talking about your home, your life, or the way lighting is controlled on your favorite TV show.
According to Paul Goldhammer, a dimmer board operator on a sitcom filming at CBS Studios, there’s an app that essentially allows him to be in two places at once. iRFR, a product of Electronic Theatre Controls (“ETC”), gives lighting technicians like Goldhammer a tool to perform much of their work from a smartphone or tablet, taking them out of the control booth so they can remedy other challenges on the fly, saving in production time and multiple takes.
What makes iRFR even more impressive is that ETC gives proceeds from the purchase of the app to a healthcare nonprofit called Behind the Scenes, which provides financial support to entertainment technology industry professionals when they are ill or injured.
From our perspective, iRFR fits into the broad category of smart home (or smart life, more appropriately) products. This was a red hot category at CES this year. We learned a lot about the smart refrigerator at the show, and over the last number of months, we’ve seen a proliferation of exciting innovation in this space. One particularly noteworthy technology I’ve recently heard about provides the ability to check into your hotel room and unlock the door without stopping at the front desk. I’ve also seen a demo for a power management system that allows people to turn on or off their appliances and lights using a simple app in order to save time, energy, money and the environment.
Without further ado, let’s shine a light on Paul Goldhammer and his mobile app.