Author: LauraLorek@gmail.com (Page 1 of 342)

LauraLorek@gmail.com

Raising Stakes: ‘Show Her the Money’ Shines a Spotlight on the Funding Gap for Female Founders

Female founders need more money to finance their ventures – that’s the key takeaway from the documentary “Show Her the Money.”

Over 100 people turned out Thursday night at Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar in Austin to watch the film, highlighting female founders, their quest for Venture Capital, and the lack of investment dollars going to women.

When the documentary’s producer, Catherine Gray, discovered that female founders receive only 2 percent of Venture Capital, she asked, “Why are we only getting 2 percent, and what is Venture Capital?” Gray said during a panel discussion following the film’s showing. Valeska Pederson Hintz, partner at Perkins Coie, moderated the panel and asked Gray why she created the film.

“I’m a big believer that film and television help change culture like awareness creates change, and I thought, wow, I’m in this ecosystem with these amazing, smart women in venture and angel investing,” Gray said.

Show Her the Money generates awareness and provides education on Venture Capital, Gray said. It also seeks to inspire more women to learn about and participate in Venture Capital and angel investing. The film does this in a storytelling way that makes it feel tangible and hšeartfelt, she said. Venture Capital is “actually very exciting, and who doesn’t want to have their pulse on the innovations out there?” Gray said. Also, the VC asset class could be more lucrative than any other investment, she said.

The movie is on a 50-city grassroots global tour sponsored by Wells Fargo across the U.S., Canada, Europe, and New Zealand. Locally, Perkins Coie and the Central Texas Angel Network sponsored the showing.

In addition to Gray, the other panelists included Laurie Cercone, angel investor with the Central Texas Angel Network, known as CTAN, Kelly Ann Winget, founder of Alternative Wealth Partners, and Azin Radsan van Alebeek, co-founder and general partner of Emmeline Ventures.

“I was typically the only woman in the room,” Winget said. She is also featured in the film as an angel investor in Dapper Boi. Winget has been involved in the private equity investment space for a long time. She believes it’s extremely important to let women know these investment opportunities exist and educate them on how to get involved.

Sara Brand, co-founder of True Wealth Ventures, the first female-focused venture capital fund in the country, attended the film’s showing Brand founded True Wealth Ventures with Kerry Rupp. True Wealth Ventures has raised a $20 million fund and a $35 million fund targeted at female founders in consumer sustainability and health.

Only 18 percent of general partners in Venture Capital firms are women, said Radsan van Alebeek, co-founder and general partner of Emmeline Ventures.

Among the cast members featured in the film is entrepreneur Dawn Lafreeda from San Antonio. She is the largest single-owner franchisee within Denny’s restaurant chain and one of the most successful female restaurant franchise owners in the U.S. She is also self-made and started as a waitress and hostess at Denny’s. Now, she’s an angel investor and limited partner in SoGal Ventures, which invests in women. The founder of that venture fund, Pocket Sun, is also featured in the film.

Entrepreneurs showcased in the film include Vicky Pasche, founder of Dapper Boi, a gender-neutral, body-inclusive apparel line; Diipa Bulle-Khosla, founder of Inde Wild, a skincare products line targeted at South Asian women; Marian Leitner, founder of Archer Roose Wine, which sells luxury wines in cans; and Jasmine Jones, founder of Myya, an online post-mastectomy intimates brand.

CTAN, with more than 120 members, is one of Texas’s oldest active angel investment groups, and women make up 28 percent of its membership, said Cercone, an angel investor with the Central Texas Angel Network. CTAN has a sidecar fund for female investors who want to write smaller checks. It is a $20,000 investment and gets put into between eight and ten companies, Cercone said. CTAN focuses on life sciences, software, hardware, and consumer packaged goods. CTAN is actively recruiting more accredited female investors with industry experience.

“If we get more women and people who understand the industries dominated by women, it’s going to result in more female-founded companies getting funded,” Cercone said.

It’s not about charity, said Radsan van Alebeek, co-founder and general partner of Emmeline Ventures. She said investing in women can be lucrative and yield a significant return on investment.

Pederson Hintz said the movie stated that a $10,000 check invested in a female-founded company goes much further than the same investment with a male founder. The data shows female founders generated 78 cents from every dollar of funding, compared to 31 cents for male-founded startups, she said.

Radsan van Alebeek said women are more capital-efficient because they know it will be challenging to get more funding.

“Whatever funding she gets, she cherishes, she nurtures; she has to be very thoughtful about how it’s going to be used,” she said.

“We’re kind of constantly in survival mode and thinking about 30 different problems,” Winget said. “We live in a world where we’re second-guessed by our male peers constantly,’’

Winget encouraged the allies of female founders to brag about the women in their lives to their networks and to promote their work.

“Women are very quiet about their accomplishments and skills,” she said. I think the louder we get about supporting women, the better.”

Radsan van Alebeek also said women must shift their mindsets and not wait for an intimate invitation to do something.

“If you want to do something, go do it,” she said.

Gray said she would like to see more women and men invest in women. LGBTQ people and the overlooked people with innovative ideas get funding as well.

“Every person, including Caucasian men, should care about us creating enough funding for women and BI-POC and LGBTQ founders to get funding,” she said. That’s so that all their amazing innovations can come to life and do everything from “curing cancer to saving the environment.”

That’s why there is such a great need for diversity in funding, Gray said. “That’s where the power is,” she said. “People deciding who gets the funding tend to invest in people they identify with, so you have to see yourself sitting at that table of deciding who gets the money.”

The panelists advised female founders to focus on aligning with investors who understand their industry and the specific challenges women face.

“Don’t take the first check you get, or do some due diligence on both the personality and the background of your potential investor because taking bad money can be detrimental to your business,” Winget said.

The founder might have worked with the investor for a decade, so it’s important to have investors who are aligned with the business.

Pederson Hintz also referenced a Harvard Business Review study that showed that there is a bias in investor questions when female founders pitch their ventures. Female entrepreneurs are often asked about risks and mitigation, whereas male entrepreneurs are asked about potential gains.

“I’ve been in all male-dominated spaces, even in the private equity space. I’ll go into a room, and I have a male assistant, and they’ll ask him a question before they ask me,” Winget said. I can’t work with a person like that. So, you have to have a little bit of grounding and walk away from situations like that and call them out on it because they don’t really know that they’re doing it, unfortunately.”

Other panelists advised them to ignore the question and keep talking about the investment opportunities.

“This is literally all made-up like everyone woke up one day and decided I’m going to do this,” Radsan van Alebeek, co-founder and general partner of Emmeline Ventures, said. “Everything is made up, so once you internalize that energy, you are unstoppable because if you can think it and dream it, it can happen.”

The panelists urged everyone to increase women’s participation in venture capital, educate themselves about the investment landscape, and invest in women-led initiatives. They also emphasized the need to increase financial literacy from a young age. Lastly, there is also a push for collective action to support and invest in diverse, underrepresented groups.

Central Texas Shines on Inc. Magazine’s 2024 List with Seven Women Entrepreneurs Redefining Innovation

Inc. Magazine Names Seven Central Texas Entrepreneurs to its 2024 Top 250 Most Intriguing Women Entrepreneur List.

Six female founders come from Austin and one from San Antonio.

Allison Ellsworth founded Poppi, a prebiotic soda that combines fruit juices and apple cider vinegar. She founded the company in 2015 and moved it to Austin in 2021. According to Crunchbase, the company has raised $53 million to date.

Angela Hood, the founder behind ThisWay Global, a software that revolutionizes the recruitment process by delivering a diverse pool of qualified applicants, is a game-changer. Since its inception in 2015, the Austin-based company has raised $3.9 million, with the latest funding from a WeFunder equity crowdfunding campaign, making a significant mark in the industry.

Robin Laine founded Transect, a software company based in San Antonio. The company offers software for real-time natural resources due diligence for development projects. Founded in 2016, the company has raised $4.3 million to date, according to Crunchbase.

Cortney Lebens co-founded Muy’Ono Resorts, a hospitality company that provides weddings, catering, dining, and event services in Belize. She started Muy’Ono in 2014 and grew the business from one resort property to 16 resorts and supporting industries.

Arielle Olfers co-founded The Southern Influence, an advertising and marketing firm based in Austin. She founded the company with her husband, Chris Olfers. According to its website, TSI reports having worked with dozens of global brands like Bala, Soho House, Goop, Reebok, Red Bull, and Tecate. Its work has been featured in Vogue, the New York Times, AD, Southern Living, and other publications.

Katie Spies founded Maev, a raw dog food company based in Austin. In 2019, Spies launched Maev after years of research and development, working with veterinary nutritionists to perfect its formulas. The company moved from New York to Austin. According to Crunchbase, it has raised $19 million to date.

Jen Young is a co-founder of Outdoorsy, a marketplace platform that connects RV owners with other campers. The company, founded in 2014, has raised $191.1 million, according to Crunchbase.

Austin Mourns the Loss of Lori Hawkins, Pioneering Tech Journalist and Pillar of the City’s Innovation Story

During SXSW in 2019, Lori Hawkins with Michelle Breyer on South Congress in Austin, courtesy photo

When Lori Hawkins joined the Austin American Statesman in 1994 to cover technology, the city looked vastly different from what it does today.

Dell was just ten years old at the time. It was the dawn of the information age, an economy built on computers, software, and the commercial Internet.

For the next three decades, Lori would write stories that chronicled Austin’s technology industry’s growth, contraction, and development. She grew to know about everyone in the Austin technology community, from venture capitalists to angel investors, entrepreneurs, public relations experts, and tech executives. She even founded Naturally Curly with Michelle Breyer and Gretchen Heber. But while Breyer and Heber would pursue the startup full-time, Lori stayed at the Statesman.

The Austin American-Statesman reported that Hawkins, 57, died Thursday after complications from a medical procedure. She is survived by her husband, Paul Sunby, and her daughter, Sora Sunby, and son, Will Sunby.

“Lori was such a legend in the Austin business community,” said Breyer, the chief marketing officer for SKU, Austin’s consumer-packaged goods accelerator. “She was a highly respected, award-winning business reporter who chronicled every twist and turn of Austin’s growth into a major business hub. She was universally loved and will be missed by so many people. I have known her for three decades and was so honored to have her as a friend.”

Lately, Lori has reported on the profound changes in Austin, including the departure of several Austin establishments on Congress Avenue, like Tesoros Trading Company and Lucy in Disguise with Diamonds, and the Austin American Statesman campus closure at Lady Bird Lake. She also wrote about newcomers to South Congress, like Austin-based Tecovas. She lived in South Austin and witnessed the changes firsthand.

Lori also “oversaw the publication of the Statesman’s TechMonday section, including editing the work of a five-person team and freelance writers,” according to her LinkedIn profile. She also helped the paper launch 512Tech.com, a website that covered technology startups, and contributed stories and videos to that project.

Serial Entrepreneur William Hurley, known as Whurley, worked with Lori on all his startups and considered her a friend.

“I owe a great deal to Lori Hawkins,” said Hurley, co-founder and CEO of Strangeworks, a quantum computing startup. “She was one of my favorite people. She was a dear friend and a huge supporter of all my crazy ideas. Without Lori, I don’t think that Chaotic Moon, Team Chaos, Honest Dollar, or even Strangeworks I’m running now would be where they were. She breathes life into startups. She supports founders of all types and backgrounds, and she was a staple in reporting on Austin tech and will be sorely missed.”

Preston James, Founder and CEO of DivInc, an accelerator for women and people of color, saw Lori as a voice for underrepresented founders in Austin.

“Lori focused on inclusivity in the ecosystem, which made us feel welcome and gave us visibility, and for that, I’ve always appreciated what she’s done,” James said. “She brought eyes and attention to DivInc and what we’ve been doing. She was one of the early ones that did that for us.”

Jenn Gooding, CEO of Narwhal Media Group, a public relations firm, recalled that when she struck out on her own in 2013, Lori was the first reporter she worked with when she was on the fence as to whether she wanted to continue in the field after having dealt with many (unnecessarily) rude business reporters.

“As I waited nervously with my client at the coffee shop on Congress, in walks this confident but warm woman that just put us both instantly at ease,” Gooding said. “She was kind and gracious, but when she left quickly, we both felt a little baffled…how on earth could she have gotten what she needed that quickly to create a good story? Nobody is THAT good, we said, waiting anxiously until the paper came out. The story turned out perfect, as did all the others we worked on over the years together, including the last one she ever wrote.”

Gooding’s client is Vendidit. Lori’s last story was on Billionaire John Paul Dejoria’s AI-powered startup, Vendidit, a software platform for the secondary market for retail returns.

“As the next generation of our community journalists learn their craft, I hope they work to embody the qualities that Lori gifted to Austin,” Gooding said.

Lori was a constant force of accurate, fair, and complete coverage of the technology space in Austin for decades, said John Berkowitz, founder of OJO Labs. He posted the Austin American Statesman story about her sudden death to LinkedIn and wrote:

“What a loss for our community. Lori Hawkins was one of the first to cover OJO and Movoto and stayed with us till today. The journalists who tell our stories and ask us the hard questions are a critical component of the success of Austin’s tech ecosystem, and Lori was one of the best. She will be dearly missed! Our Hearts go out to her family and colleagues.”

More than 20 people, primarily other Austin tech entrepreneurs, commented on the post, expressing their sadness at her death.

One of Berkowitz’s first conversations on the launch of OJO was with Lori.

“And from the first moment I met her, I felt the care and effectiveness of her tact,” Berkowitz said. “On every big milestone of the business, I knew Lori would be there to ask questions that mattered and tell the facts that she believed the community needed to know. The next big announcement of OJO won’t be the same without the conversation with Lori.”

Amber Gunst, who worked with Lori on several stories while she was the CEO of the Austin Technology Council, called Lori “the consummate professional. She was a real reporter. She didn’t sugarcoat anything, but she also didn’t do gotcha journalism. And she was always just absolutely a stellar person to have a conversation with and to do an interview with. I can’t think of anybody in Austin that supported tech or tech organizations more than Lori.”

David Altounian, an Austin entrepreneur for 30 years who moved to Rhode Island last year, was so sad to hear the news. He often talked to Lori at events like SXSW, tech meetups, and parties.

“Lori was always great to talk to about happenings in Austin, and we would generally gossip about people, companies, or subjects we both knew,” Altounian said. “Lori was always so positive, and I always felt that she wanted the best for Austin and its entrepreneurs. Not that she shied from tough stories or asking tough questions, but she acted as if she were invested in the community and its members. Instead of outside it.”

“To me, it wasn’t just a passing of a journalist; she covered an amazing time of growth and opportunity in Austin when Austin was struggling to build the entrepreneurial ecosystem, and her passing marks another Austin connection to that time that is no longer there for me,” Altounian said.

Richard Bagdonas said Lori was like a mind reader and was on top of the latest news.

 “As I was writing the Dark Ages of Austin Startup Capital, Lori had started working on a piece for the state of the Austin venture capital industry and pinged me to talk about it,” he said. “When I started MI7, she knew about it before anyone else.”

Barbary Brunner said that Lori was one of the essential sources of knowledge about the tech scene in Austin.

“Through my tenure as CEO of the Austin Technology Council, she and I had many frank conversations about the ecosystem and about being women in the ecosystem,” Brunner said. “She was an astute and generous guide, and her passing is a loss to the industry in so many ways.”

Inclusive Mentorship: Janice Omadeke’s Book Maps Path to Success

After New York-based The Cru acquired the Mentor Method in September of 2022, Joseph Kopser suggested that Janice Omadeke write a book about mentorship.

Omadeke founded the Mentor Method in 2015 in Washington, D.C. The business created mentorship software to engage, retain and develop talented and diverse employees. She moved the startup to Austin in 2018. Kopser served as a mentor to Omadeke and became the Chief Growth Officer of The Mentor Method.

Omadeke is among the fewer than 100 black women founders who have led a startup and raised more than $1 million in venture capital funding.

“I think one of my superpowers is just staying open to whatever is supposed to be next,” Omadeke said. So, when Wiley representatives approached her about writing a book about mentorship, she said yes.

Wiley published Omadeke’s book “Mentorship Unlocked: The Science and Art of Setting Yourself Up for Success”  with an official release date of April 2, 2024. The book is about mentorship, including what it is, how to find a qualified mentor, and how to make mentorship work for the benefit of everyone.

On Monday evening, Chris Hyams, CEO of Indeed, hosted a book launch event for Omadeke at The Indeed Tower in downtown Austin. About 200 people attended the event, which featured a fireside chat between Omadeke and Hyams. The talk highlighted practical insights around inclusive mentorship, Omadeke’s journey and her vision for empowering professionals from all backgrounds.

Hyams noted that Omadeke is vulnerable and open in the book about her experiences. Omadeke said it’s essential to be open as a mentor, to create a safe space for the mentee to grow, make mistakes, and share their fears and aspirations.

Omadeke also notes that mentorship is not easily accessible to many underrepresented groups, and it’s essential to make it more inclusive.

Hyams noted that Omadeke’s book provides a comprehensive framework for mentorship. It outlines seven different types of mentors one may need at different career stages and provides detailed guidance on how to write an email to a potential mentor to ask for mentorship.

“I wouldn’t be here without the help of incredible mentors like Joseph Kopser, Hugh Forrest and Jan Ryan, and others,” Omadeke said.

Omadeke said a person needs seven types of mentors: the company insider, skills master, money-minded, industry, network, influential, and peer mentors. In the book, Omadeke said she aims to help readers see themselves reflected and provides a roadmap for them to navigate their unique professional journeys confidently. She drew heavily from her experience after graduating and spending the first few years in corporate America.

When Omadeke signed up to participate in a mentorship program at her workplace in 2009, the organizers said they didn’t have anyone for her.

“Which actually meant that they didn’t have a woman or a person of color,” Omadeke said. Everyone was a straight white male, and that’s fine in mentorship, by the way. But the organizers of that program felt that race and gender were a stronger determining factor of mentorship than the fact that I’m smarter than everybody else who signed up.”

A male executive saw that and started mentoring Omadeke on the side, unofficially, and not through the program, but he saw her potential and encouraged her.

“I was my first pancake in terms of the framework written in Mentorship Unlocked,” Omadeke said.

Omadeke said she is committed to continued learning and growth and using her experiences to impact her next career opportunity. She also encouraged everyone to stay open to new opportunities, even if they don’t feel fully ready.

Following the talk, several people in the Austin entrepreneurial ecosystem commented on how Omadeke and her book have brought valuable insights to Austin.

“Janice is what Austin has been missing since I arrived in 1993,” said William Hurley, known as Whurley, CEO and Co-Founder of Strangeworks. “There’s not a strong enough mentorship community. A lot of people think they can’t mentor, or they just won’t because they don’t have time. And in her book, she describes exactly how people can give what time they have to drive the careers of those who need that opportunity to have mentorship.”

Preston James, Founder of DivInc, an Austin-based accelerator for women and people of color, praised Omadeke’s entrepreneurial drive and focus on mentorship. When James met Omadeke, she was in Washington, D.C. He encouraged her to move to Austin. In 2018, she won Capital Factory’s pitch competition for female founders, which came with a $100,000 investment. That same year, she also won Mass Challenge’s pitch competition, worth $50,000.

James, who spent a decade working for Dell, saw a massive need for mentorship in corporate America.

“I think anybody who’s tried to make their way and understand the importance of mentorship at various different stages throughout their career and in life, in general, this book captures the essence of that,” James said. I recommend it to everybody.”

James said he’s getting a copy of the book for his niece, who is graduating from Arizona State this spring.

“It’s a make or break for any individual who is serious about their professional growth,”  James said.

No one had tackled this topic until Janice said Jan Ryan, a partner at Capital Factory, a serial entrepreneur and a professor at UT who teaches the popular “Women in Entrepreneurship” course. Ryan recommends the book to students and everyone, no matter what career stage.

“She is bringing to life information people need to know no matter where they are in their careers. Finding the right killer mentor you’ve always dreamed about is now possible,” Ryan said. Read this book because it shows you how to get there, and it’s a two-way street. It’s not just about you. That’s why she’s successful. She understands that.”

“Janice is a hero to us all,” said Hugh Forrest, Co-President and Chief Programming Officer at South by Southwest. The mentoring concept she advocates so eloquently is so important to many different people at many levels of their careers. So, it’s a fantastic book for all of us to enjoy.”

Omadeke did a fireside chat with Kim Scott, the bestselling author of Radical Respect, at SXSW 2024. Following her talk, Omadeke did a book signing and sold out of her book.

“We had 40 copies, and they all went,” Forrest said. “We probably could have sold a lot more. It was great to have her part of the event. She served as the host of the innovation awards in 2023. She’s been very involved in SXSW for many, many years.”

Key Takeaways from OpenAI’s Peter Deng at SXSW

At SXSW, OpenAI’s vice president of consumer product and head of ChatGPT Peter Deng discussed the role of humans in the age of AI.

Deng previously worked at Instagram, Uber, and Airtable before joining OpenAI. He is a father of four. And in a fireside chat with Josh Constine, consumer VC at SignalFire and former TechCrunch editor, he discusses AI and humanity’s co-evolution.

Here are the key takeaways from the talk:

  1. AI can make us more human by allowing us to deepen our curiosities and ask more significant questions about existence, consciousness, mortality, etc. It acts as a “perpetual professor” to help crystallize our thoughts.
  2. AI, like ChatGPT, should assist humans, remove friction in tasks like writing or coding, and be a flexible tool to remove barriers so humans can focus on higher ambitions.
  3. AI should adopt each user’s values and ideals rather than projecting any particular culture’s values. Core values should include seeking truth, being helpful, and instilling human values like empathy.
  4. Safety and ethics must be baked into AI development, with responsible, cautious deployment even if core development accelerates rapidly.
  5. Basic versions of AI, like ChatGPT, should always be free and widely accessible to improve AI literacy globally.
  6. Disclosure of AI involvement should be the norm for personal communications, art, politics, etc. Even if we may care less about disclosure for some commercial uses in the future.
  7. People should constantly experiment with new AI tools, and enterprises should set “experimentation budgets” to empower employees to find AI use cases.
  8. The goal is coevolution – AI evolving responsibly alongside accelerating human understanding and trust in the technology through widespread access and transparency.

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7 Key Takeaways from Ray Kurzweil’s Talk at SXSW: the Singularity is Nearer

At SXSW, Ray Kurzweil painted an exciting but potentially scary vision of the imminent singularity driven by accelerating computing power and AI capabilities. Nick Thompson, CEO of The Atlantic, interviewed Kurzweil.

Kurzweil’s latest book, “The Singularity is Nearer,” will be released in June. The singularity is the point at which machines’ intelligence and humans merge.

Here are seven key takeaways from Ray Kurzweil’s talk at SXSW:

  1. Kurzweil believes we are rapidly approaching the singularity, where artificial intelligence will surpass human intelligence. He predicts this will occur around 2045.
  2. The exponential growth in computing power, as described by Moore’s Law, is enabling significant advances in AI, like large language models, and will continue driving progress toward artificial general intelligence (AGI).
  3. Kurzweil is very optimistic about the future benefits of AI and technology in areas like longevity, wealth creation, and eradicating poverty and disease. He believes technology has been an overwhelming force for good historically.
  4. After AGI is achieved, brain-computer interfaces and nanotechnology will be critical for merging human intelligence with AI systems.
  5. Ethical risks and challenges with advanced AI need to be grappled with, such as the potential for an advanced AI system to pursue a catastrophic goal like converting all matter to paperclips.
  6. Kurzweil argues that conscious experience is not scientifically definable, so simulating the brain’s neural connections is sufficient to recreate human-level intelligence.
  7. After the singularity, Kurzweil envisions humans being able to back up their minds and potentially live indefinitely by being recreated from these backups if their biological bodies die.

Respark Coaching’s Aaron Thweatt Discusses Managing Conversations Effectively on Ideas to Invoices

Aaron Thweatt, a former employee of AECOM, Activision Blizzard, SpaceX, and DoorDash, founded Respark Coaching to empower individuals to manage conversations effectively.

In the latest episode of Ideas to Invoices, Thweatt discusses his belief that managing conversations is the most powerful skill set one can learn, driving multiple facets of life and work. He also believes the most crucial conversation is the one with oneself.

Thweatt emphasizes the importance of communication in addressing performance issues within startups. He advises founders to have clear standards and processes to avoid misunderstandings and effectively handle HR issues.

On customer feedback, Thweatt stresses its importance in the early stages of a startup for product development and the need to balance customer desires with the company’s vision.

Regarding layoffs and restructuring, Thweatt highlights the need for founders to communicate empathetically and supportively, offering the example of Airbnb’s sensitive approach as a model.

In handling ethical concerns, he advises founders to investigate and address issues decisively, ensuring that the company culture prevents such problems from reoccurring.

On the challenges of virtual workspaces, he suggests building a culture that values emotional intelligence (EQ) and training managers to handle difficult conversations effectively.

Lastly, Thweatt recommends Chris Voss’s book “Never Split the Difference” for learning about tactical empathy and its application in business. He also mentions co-authoring a book with Voss on employing empathy in business practices.

To contact Aaron Thweat, visit the Respark Coaching website or follow him on all social platforms at @aaronthweatt

The entire podcast is posted below. You can also download it on Apple, Spotify, Amazon, Google, iHeartMeadia, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Aaron Thweat, Founder of Respark Coaching

Aaron Thweatt is a dynamic executive coach and seasoned HR professional who strongly believes in the power of an individual’s potential. His mission is to create meaningful connections between talent, ambition, and purpose by empowering executives and entrepreneurs to bridge the gaps in their personal and business lives, allowing them to thrive in their zone of genius.

30 Takeaways from Futurist Amy Webb’s Talk at SXSW 2024

At SXSW, Amy Webb’s talk emphasized the significance of identifying and responding to fundamental technological trends, especially those related to AI, the interconnectedness of devices, and biotech.

  1. Trends vs. Temporary Changes: Webb distinguishes between fleeting societal fads (like fashion and TikTok trends) and significant, long-term trends that show a change in direction over time. She emphasizes the importance of focusing on these impactful trends for future planning.
  2. The Role of Data and Research: To identify meaningful trends, the Future Today Institute utilizes data, research, signals, and modeling. Combined with an understanding of uncertainties, these elements help predict future possibilities.
  3. A Unique Moment in Time: Webb feels that the current moment is distinct due to the rapid evolution of technology, particularly in the creation and use of software and the development of generative AI.
  4. Generational Perspective on Technology: She notes that every generation experiences unique technological advancements and that we are currently witnessing a momentous shift.
  5. General Purpose Technologies (GPT): Webb identifies three primary areas of technological development—artificial intelligence, the connected ecosystem of things, and biotechnology. She argues that these technologies have become pervasive, influencing every aspect of the economy and society, similar to past GPTs like electricity, the steam engine, and the internet.
  6. The Technology Supercycle refers to an extended period of heightened demand that leads to substantial economic changes. Unlike past cycles driven by a single technology, Webb believes we are now experiencing a supercycle powered by multiple converging technologies.
  7. Convergence of Technologies: The convergence of AI, biotech, and the connected ecosystem has led to significant breakthroughs, creating new markets and attracting investments and talent.
  8. Challenges for Leaders: Webb discusses how uncertainty and short-term planning horizons are crippling decision-makers, leading to fear and a reactive mode of operation rather than proactive, strategic thinking.
  9. Strategic Foresight: She advocates for a more systematic approach to future planning beyond trend analysis, including scenario planning and strategies that ensure organizational resilience against unforeseen disruptions.
  10. Accountability in AI: Webb criticizes the lack of accountability in AI development and points out ongoing bias and ethical development issues. She calls for an incentive overhaul and better management of technology’s societal impact.
  11. Concept to Concrete AI: Looking forward, Webb predicts that AI will evolve from requiring specific prompts to being able to work with broad concepts, allowing for more creative and iterative collaboration between AI and humans.
  12. Unsecured AI: The talk touches on the risks associated with open-source AI models that lack security, potentially leading to harmful outcomes.
  13. Need for Regulation and Accountability: Webb stresses the urgency for establishing an accountability chain in AI development, especially as we approach artificial general intelligence.
  14. The Everything Engine: AI is characterized as the “everything engine” embedded in all aspects of life and services, highlighting the need for comprehensive data to fuel this engine.
  15. Empowerment and Agency: Despite the challenges, Webb expresses optimism that individuals and organizations can exercise control over their futures by working collectively through the transitions technology drives.
  16. The Transition Generation: She labels the current generation as “Gen T” (Transition Generation), signifying everyone has a role in shaping a society that will look drastically different after this technological transition.
  17. AI as the Everything Engine: AI is becoming deeply integrated into all aspects of life and services, a foundational element that improves and streamlines various processes.
  18. Data Necessity: AI’s growth and effectiveness are heavily dependent on data, and as such, the demand for high-quality, diverse datasets is increasing. We need new types of data beyond text, including sensory and visual data, to train more sophisticated AI models.
  19. Large Action Models (LAMs): LAMs represent a shift from predicting speech to predicting actions and behaviors. Numerous sensors in our environment will be required to collect the data necessary for these predictions.
  20. Connectables: This term refers to a network of interconnected devices that collect data to further AI capabilities. This ecosystem will likely expand with wearables, smart devices, and sensors.
  21. Growth of Devices: There will be an influx of devices, some of which may seem unnecessary or odd until the market stabilizes around beneficial technologies.
  22. AI-First Devices: New devices are being created to continuously learn from our behaviors in real time, moving us towards more personalized and anticipatory technology.
  23. Face Computers: Devices like smart glasses will become more common, equipped with numerous sensors to capture detailed information about our environment and behaviors.
  24. Challenges and Risks: These advancements may have potential downsides, including privacy, security, and socio-economic divides exacerbated by technology.
  25. Connectables and Large Action Models: These will enable more efficient data collection and AI training but will consume more power and require more advanced hardware.
  26. Biotechnology Link: AI, connectables, and biotechnology are interlinked, with biotechnology potentially moving us beyond silicon-based computing to more efficient biological systems.
  27. Generative Biology: Following generative AI, generative biology will allow us to design and create biological organisms and materials, opening up vast possibilities for medicine and materials science.
  28. Bio Computers: Computers grown from human cells may be the future, raising ethical and practical questions about procuring and using biological materials for computing.
  29. Actionable Steps: Amy Webb encourages a proactive approach to navigating these trends, including government and business strategies, to manage the transition and ensure societal benefits.
  30. Fight for the Future: Individuals are urged to become informed and share knowledge to proactively shape the technology super cycle for the good of humanity rather than passively experiencing its effects.

Amy Webb Launches 2024 Emerging Tech Trend Report | SXSW 2024

Portuguese and Spanish language translations for SXSW 2024 Keynotes and Featured Sessions presented by Itaú Join Amy Webb for the launch of the Future Today Institute’s 17th edition of its Tech Trends Report and a deep dive into all the tech trends you’ll need to follow in 2024.

HICAM Unveils New Robotics and Manufacturing Accelerator in East Austin

A new robotics accelerator is beginning to take shape just down the street from the massive Tesla Giga Texas manufacturing plant.

It’s the Hays Innovation Center for Advanced Manufacturing, known as HICAM, and last Thursday, the project’s developers held an event at the 50,000 building to unveil the new accelerator program. HICAM supports Its startups in the areas of advanced manufacturing, robotics, automation, and artificial intelligence companies.

The building is in the SH 130 corridor in East Austin. HICAM, a nonprofit center for advanced manufacturing, sits on a seven-acre campus at 6201 Quinn Lake Trail. HICAM focuses on fostering economic development and workforce development in East Austin.

The center is named in memory of Warren Hayes, an Austin entrepreneur who pioneered large-scale modular building development and founded the SH130 Municipal Management District.

HICAM seeks to promote and expand advanced manufacturing capabilities in the U.S., particularly in the Texas Triangle, projected to account for many of the nation’s new manufacturing ventures.

HICAM offers industrial space to startups building hardware that needs much room.

Space in Austin has changed a lot, and HICAM meets a need for industrial space for manufacturing companies, said Joshua Bear, founder and CEO of Capital Factory.

“There is an opportunity here in Texas to bring back manufacturing,” Bear said. Central Texas is emerging as the centerpiece of the advanced manufacturing sector.

HICAM is in a strategic partnership with Capital Factory and plans to announce other partnerships soon.

“This project is a vital step toward expanding cutting-edge manufacturing operations within the Texas Triangle, anchored by San Antonio, Houston, and the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, with the greater Austin region serving as a major technology hub,” Marc Spier, HICAM’s board chair, said.

Spier said the plan will drive advanced manufacturing back to the U.S. and Texas, particularly with HICAM leading that regional effort.

“If we do things right, the companies that leave here will be incredibly successful,” Spier said.

Spier said there are many milestones. This is the first, he said, and there will be more later this year.

Executive Director Marcus Metzger will operate HICAM. He previously served as executive director and founding member of Future Space NYC, a multi-purpose co-working incubator focused on the creative technology industry. He also served as head of a digital fabrication business in New York, specializing in custom manufacturing interactive installations for world-class museums and Fortune 100 businesses. He also runs NeoForge, a robotic additive manufacturing startup.

HICAM plans to select 5 to 10 companies in the initial cohort and hopes to graduate those companies within a one-to-three-year timeline, Metzger said.

“Our goal is to facilitate the rapid growth of promising hardware and manufacturing startups, seeing them graduate from our accelerator and into their manufacturing facilities in Central Texas,” Metzger said.

HICAM also plans to establish classrooms and educational partnerships with local academic institutions to build on the successes of existing workforce development programs. The education track will span six to nine months, focusing on skill acquisition in robotics, high-tech manufacturing, digital fabrication workflows, and computer-controlled machines.

Graduates of the program will earn a certificate, verifying their skill set and career readiness in advanced manufacturing fields. Moreover, businesses operating within the accelerator will actively contribute to curriculum development, leadership, skill sharing, and machine supervision to ensure a targeted skills pipeline. The accelerator also develops a specialized track to integrate veterans and active-duty military personnel into the workforce using similar educational frameworks.

In 2022, Austin voters approved a $750 million bond for all ACC campuses. Still, it included building a new campus focused on skilled trades at the college’s Southeast Travis County land near the Austin-Bergstrom Airport, said Molly Beth Malcolm, executive vice chancellor of operations and public affairs at Austin Community College. She said that ACC increasingly focuses on training students for highly skilled advanced manufacturing jobs.

Austin is becoming a hub for A.I. and robotics. The University of Texas’ Robotics Center has spun out two robot startups: Diligent Robotics, which makes Moxi, which assists in hospitals, and Apptronik, which makes Apollo, a humanoid robot used by Mercedes Benz in its manufacturing plants.

Colossal Hires Ancient DNA Expert Beth Shapiro as Chief Science Officer

Colossal Biosciences announced Tuesday that it has hired a key executive, Ancient DNA Expert Beth Shapiro, as its Chief Science Officer.

Shapiro’s joining Colossal full-time will help the company meet its de-extinction and species preservation goals.

Shapiro, an internationally renowned evolutionary molecular biologist, is a leader in paleogenomics and ancient DNA and will oversee the continued expansion of the company’s de-extinction and conservation science teams. She is also a MacArthur “Genius Grant” Award winner and National Geographic Explorer.

“Our efforts to apply our de-extinction technologies to help save critically endangered species is just as important to us as bringing back the iconic mammoth, thylacine, and dodo,” said Ben Lamm, Co-Founder and CEO of Colossal.

Lamm founded Colossal Biosciences in 2021 with George Church, a Harvard geneticist and pioneer in personal genomics and synthetic biology. Today, Colossal has 128 employees, more than 30 funded postdocs in major academic labs, and 60 advisory board members. The company is based in Dallas but has offices in Austin, Boston, Santa Cruz, California, and Melbourne, Australia.

Shapiro previously served as Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and lead of the Paleogenomics Lab at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Lamm said she will continue to work out of Santa Cruz and travel to Colossal’s other labs and offices as needed.

“Beth and I have developed an incredible relationship over the past few years. I’m extremely impressed by her intellect, drive, and the rigor of her scientific research,” Lamm said in a news release. “I know she will continue to push our scientific research programs further and is the best fit for the role. It’s a dream to work so closely with Beth, and I know our species leads feel the same.”

“I’ve been an advisor to Colossal since just after the company launched and am excited now to step in full-time to support the team’s groundbreaking work,” Shapiro said in a news release. “It’s thrilling to see the research we’ve been doing in the labs not only seeing the light of day but being applied to science that will positively impact the planet.”

As an advisor to Colossal for the past two years, Shapiro helped launch the company’s Dodo and Avian Genomics Group. She also developed, along with Colossal team members, the international scientific advisory board. And she served as the lead paleogeneticist. In that role, she secured samples and generated DNA data that Colossal uses as part of all species groups.

“I have worked with Beth for over 20 years and am continually impressed by her contributions to the field of paleogenetics. I cannot be more excited about Beth joining Colossal, as this will not only help accelerate Colossal’s de-extinction efforts but will also provide an even more direct link between my ancient mammoth research and Eriona’s and George’s teams. I look forward to continuing our collaboration with Colossal to refine our target list of which genes make mammoths unique compared to other elephant lineages,” Dalen,  Professor of Evolutionary Genetics at the Swedish Museum of Natural History, one of the research leaders at the Center for Palaeogenetics in Stockholm, and leading Woolly Mammoth expert, said in a news release. 

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