The Dish Daily

Stanford solar technology startup acquired by SunPower

On July 2, Dfly Systems, a startup founded by three Stanford students, was acquired by SunPower, a solar technology company with Stanford origins. The acquisition was announced later in the summer.

Andrew Ponec ’15, Darren Hau ’15 and Daniel Maren ’16 founded Dfly Systems in the spring of 2013. The company builds circuit boards that fit in the junction box on the back of every solar cell. The technology aims to increase the efficiency of power plants while also reducing hardware costs.

Since having founded the company, all three students have gone on leave from Stanford, and the trio also made Forbes’ “30 Under 30” list under the “Energy and Industry” subcategory.

The idea for Dfly Systems hatched from an introductory course in green electronics taught by Bill Dally, professor of computer science and electrical engineering. Ponec and Hau worked together on a research project that extended beyond the class.

“We really had no idea what we were doing at the time,” Ponec said. “We got a little ways into the project when the quarter ended, and we asked Professor Dally again if he would consider allowing us to continue the project, as a kind of independent research project with him.” Read more >>

Stanford-sponsored social enterprise SmileyGo rapidly expands past international borders

SmileyGo, a student-founded social enterprise founded approximately two months ago, has built foundations internationally with the help of its Stanford sponsors Tina Seelig Ph.D. ’85, Tomas Kosnik, Ernestine Fu ’13 M.S. ’13 Ph.D. ’19 and Rebeca Hwang ’11.

Aiming to foster communities and provide equal opportunities for children in underserved communities by connecting firms and educational NGOs, SmileyGo has over 35 members and is currently operating in over nine countries worldwide. Earlier this month, the enterprise also expanded to Canada and the United Arab Emirates. Read more >>

There’s an ‘I’ in Twitter: Platform allows narcissism

“Christina Smedley is a useless. Piece of sh*t,” Rakesh “Rocky” Agrawal, former Pay Pal director of strategy, tweeted of his colleague.

Let’s just say that’s not how you start your new job or win over your co-workers.

Twitter has allowed a space for anyone to converse in real-time with its 255 million active users. To know there’s a big audience waiting for you can be dangerous and heighten self-importance.

“The belief that there is an audience interested in following one’s moment-to-moment postings suggests egocentrism, self-aggrandizement, and self-importance—the very characteristics of narcissistic individuals,” psychologist Bruce McKinney said in the journal Communication Research Reports.

Some may think millions of users are just dying to hear what you are doing moment-to-moment. This narcissism could cause desensitization. The lack of physical barriers and face-to-face confrontation causes Twitter users to be less sensitive and encourages them to write whatever is on their mind (#nofilterneeded). The only possible reaction is a reply or Twitter direct message, which isn’t threatening because it’s still distant. Read more >>


Ten Stanford startup companies presented at the annual LaunchPad Beta Trade Show on Tuesday at the Stanford

Co-taught by Michael Dearing of Harrison Metal, and Perry Klebahn, founder of Atlas Snowshoe Company and Timbuk2, LaunchPad is an intense spring quarter, application-only class. Although listed as a 4 unit course that meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4:15 p.m. to 6:05 p.m., students consider it to be one of the more demanding classes at Stanford.

(JOE HANSEN/The Dish Daily)

(JOE HANSEN/The Dish Daily)

Here are a few of the startups that featured in the LaunchPad Beta Trade Show:

Blueprint provides high school, community college and college students with a way to map and “build academic and career plans” that are “tailored to their current interests and experiences.” Founded by Rachel Romer and Mike Howard, two Stanford business school students, the website is beautifully designed but one must create a login in order to explore careers and create a blueprint. If Blueprint was integrated with one of the larger MOOCs it could have tremendous influence in student decisions around classes and career. Blueprint could also benefit high school guidance counselors and undergraduate advisors.

Switchmate is an internet of things startup that enables people to turn on and off light switches with their app. Think Nest but for one’s lights. Switchmate has begun selling these light switches for $29.99and will be launching a crowdfunding campaign later this summer. Switchmate is a team of three with strong technical talentThe Dish Daily has covered Switchmate before in a piece about internet of things and Stanford startups. Read more >>

Re-engineering journalism

“Journalism is dying.”

That is the response of many when I say I’m pursuing a graduate degree and career in journalism. With local newspapers closing every day, more and more people absorbing news through Twitter and Facebook and a drought in the hiring of journalists of color, they may be right—or so they think.

Yes, journalism is not what it used to be. But who said it had to? According to the 2014 John S. Knight Journalism Fellows, journalism can be whatever you want it to be.

On Monday night at Stanford, this was the underlying mission of the 20 fellows who presented their visions for what journalism is and will look like moving forward. They have spent the past year, while taking breaks from their professional jobs, developing concepts and prototypes that will push journalism forward.

Here is a list of the most interesting and promising presentations:

The Top Seven (in reverse order)

7. Sahar Speaks! – All too often, news is told about a particular group of people or issue, not by those experiencing it, but by onlookers. Amie Ferris-Rotman wants to change this, specifically for females in Afghanistan. Her hope is to empower them with training, mentoring and an international publishing platform so that their stories, from their unique perspective, are told. Read more >>


Colors come together for more than just the rainbow flag or paint swatches. The meanings we associate with them create a virtual how-to map for company branding. In this Silicon Valley environment of innovation, the colors chosen for startup logos are just as important as, if not more than, the idea itself.

(Courtesy of Bernat Casero)

(Courtesy of Bernat Casero)

Here is a quick color breakdown for entrepreneurs to keep in mind as you come up with your startup’s new logo, as well as an idea of how saturated is each color’s market:


My favorite color by far, red is always associated with excitement and vibrance. Think of company’s like Coca Cola, Yelp and CNN. These brands are associated with youthfulness, constant change and evolution. By choosing red, you’re targeting a dynamic audience that is also open to change. Second to one other color, the market for apps with red logos is highly saturated. Any entrepreneur attempting to gamble may have their product lost in the shuffle.


If you’re looking to convey similar emotions and concepts as red, but want to stray away from that concentrated market, orange is a great alternative. Although fewer companies (outside of the orange juice folks, obviously) use the color, it is becoming more popular. Think of Home Depot, Nickelodeon and Shutterfly. Characteristics like creativity, friendliness and enthusiasm come to mind. Read more >>

Pulling the plug

For many millennials, the smartphone is an extension of the body.

(KASEY QUON/The Dish Daily)

(KASEY QUON/The Dish Daily)

We constantly check our screens for texts, e-mails and notifications. This dependence has become so strong that it’s not uncommon to see a group of friends at a restaurant sitting in silence—their eyes glued to their cellphones.

It has become socially accepted to tend to the latest text instead of committing oneself to the personal interaction at hand.

Born and raised in the Computer Age, I didn’t know a life without technology. This past winter quarter, however, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Madrid. That meant (per my parents) turning off my data plan and abandoning my iPhone in order to avoid huge phone expenses.

My first reaction? Anxiety. Noooooooo! How could I ditch my iPhone for 10 whole weeks?

After a few days in Madrid, I found that I could handle situations without the smartphone (alebit with the slight help of an on-the-go phone call/text only flip phone). Read more >>

Silicon Valley dynasties (part 2 of 2)

See part one of our coverage here

Tim Draper spoke about his international investments. He said that the Hotmail investment propelled DFJ to look internationally given its global reach. That’s how they found Baidu and Skype. Adam Draper agreed that entrepreneurship is everywhere but remarked that the Silicon Valley ecosystem is a thousand times better than anywhere else. Ron Conway agreed and said that they try to bring their companies to the Valley because it seems startups can move much faster here than anywhere else. He then discussed the importance of immigration reform and his active involvement in, which was founded by Mark Zuckerberg.

Ron Conway also discussed the tech class war in San Francisco. He noted that while “President Obama is talking about the income inequality gap, San Francisco happens to be the poster child.”There is “not enough affordable housing and that is driving people crazy and the tech industry is being accused of displacing people.”

The elder Conway discussed how he is working with San Francisco mayor Ed Lee on initiatives such as SF Citi. SF Citi is a group that comprises 850 tech companies, which he said probably represents 95 percent of the tech workers. He noted that SF Citi encourages volunteering and that this was his topic at the keynote speech at Techcrunch Disrupt. He discussed Circle the Schools, an initiative in which the principal of a school tells tech volunteer workers what the school needs and ask the techies to fix the problem. He also noted an initiative by Marc Benioff of Salesforce, which is raising $10 million to fight poverty in San Francisco.

Tim Draper spoke about his policy initiatives such as Six Californias. Roizen noted that he was also very involved in the California School Voucher issue, proposition 38. Roizen said he needed 800,000 signatures to get Six Californias on the ballot. Tim Draper said it will be hard to do but he is on schedule. Adam said he supports his father’s Six Californias initiative because it makes “people ask the question of whether change can happen.” He added that in 1849 there were plans to split California into two states and that breaking up California into multiple states had featured on the ballot three times. Read more >>

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