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Women in Tech: Lisa Falzone discusses Revel Systems and adrenaline rush of being a founder

Lisa Falzone, 30, co-founder and CEO of Revel Systems, a point-of-sale technology company, thrives under high-pressure situations. After graduating, the former Stanford varsity swimmer realized she missed the adrenaline rush and competitive spirit and filled that void with the entrepreneurship world.

“It’s really team-oriented and you learn how to perform at a high level under high-pressure situations,” Falzone said of being an athlete.

“Women need to be more into tech. There’s a lot of GDP missing in the United States just because women aren’t as involved as they should be.”

“In entrepreneurship everyday, it gives you that adrenaline rush [like] being on that block as a swimmer. The passion I had for swimming got translated into entrepreneurship.”400

After throwing out a couple of business ideas, such as a toy company, Falzone and Revel Systems co-founder Chris Ciabarra decided to focus on the restaurant industry. After talking to local restaurant owners, they found an opportunity revolutionizing the 25-year-old and bulky point-of-sales system. Revel Systems provides retailers, such as Smoothie King and Sonos, an efficient point-of-sales system using an Apple iPad and cloud-based technology. Falzone has led Revel Systems to a $400 million valuation.

Falzone’s success is clear, and she has been named to the Forbes “30 Under 30,” Business Insider’s “30 Most Important Women Under 30 In Tech” and San Francisco Business Times “40 Under 40″ lists. Read more >>

Making Silicon Valley sense of the ‘Internet of Things’

Last November, I traveled to Dublin, Ireland to attend the Web Summit, Europe’s largest tech event with over 20,000 attendees. The most prominent trend was the Internet of Things (IoT) — adding Internet connectivity to just about any and every object around us.

Wandering around the recent career fairs at Stanford, you’ll probably hear different topics discussed over and over: “Machine learning” is one of today’s most popular terms, but contenders like “computer vision” and “wearables” also hold a great deal of popularity. While Silicon Valley is the unofficial tech capital of the world, listening to what’s buzzing in the other tech cultures around the world can be extremely informative. In Dublin, for instance, IoT seemed to take much more real estate in the minds of tech leaders than is apparent here at Stanford.

Stanford and the Silicon Valley are awash in startups attacking “big data,” “machine learning,” etc. However, IoT has had little traction around the area. This disparity is perhaps not surprising, given the lack of prominent startups explicitly focusing on the IoT space. Only two startups have gained mainstream recognition in the Silicon Valley. One such startup is Nest, which creates self-learning home gadgets. Nest was acquired by Google in Feb. 2014 for $3.2 billion. The second such startup is Dropcam, which offers remotely-viewable cameras. Google similarly purchased Dropcam for $555 million in June 2014. Outside these two purchases, IoT technology development (particularly hardware) has been largely unglamorous, hidden within the efforts of GE Software, Microsoft and other industry giants.

In Dublin, though, the Internet of Things was at the forefront of discussion. More importantly, application of the “IoT label” at the Web Summit was much less generic than the unfocused attachment of “IoT” to any project involving the Internet and physical objects. Instead, an IoT venture was understood to be the application of Internet connectivity to objects not traditionally understood as networked. Read more >>

Scoryst: a better way of grading

One year ago, Catherine Lu ’14 MS ’15 and Karanveer Mohan ’15 MS ’15 launched Scoryst, a platform for student homework submissions and instructor feedback. Now, their product is already being used by 50 classes, including CS106X and CS103.

That’s not the first time that they’ve built a successful product — they previously built Free Food at Stanford and Fancy That with Amrit Saxena ’15 MS ’15 and Ayush Sood ’14 (Fancy That was recently acquired by Palantir). Lu and Mohan created Scoryst for part of their CS194 senior project, but then decided to develop Scoryst further after a couple of CS classes decided to adopt the product to grade assignments.

Scoryst

The grading site interface for Scoryst.

As former section leaders for the CS106 series, they understand the problems teachers and teaching assistants face when they need to receive and grade homework. All of the problem sets and assignments can be submitted online via Scoryst, where teachers and their assistants can easily edit grades, comment on assignments and navigate quickly through questions. In this way, the grading process becomes more efficient and can be done completely online.

“Our goal was to make grading more efficient and [to] help students [and] spend less time grading and more time working on more relevant issues,” said Mohan.

The advantage for students is that they can easily submit homework and quickly receive all feedback online. They can also find homework from previous classes, which is especially useful for coding assignments — code written for previous classes can still be useful in the future. What really makes Scoryst different, however, is that it is made by students for students. With no plans to monetize their product, Mohan and Lu believe that focusing solely on building a great product will put them ahead of their competitors. When asked about competitors, Mohan is quite confident. Read more >>

Women in Tech: Lea Coligado discusses women in Computer Science and her Fortune article

As a computer science major at Stanford, Lea Coligado ’16 noticed that the number of women in her Computer Science classes was dropping the more time she spent in the major. Amidst the bustle of a coffee shop on Stanford’s campus, she discussed the absence of an archetype of success in Silicon Valley that included women and how this culture has seeped into and affected the experiences of Stanford students.

Lea is determined to help change the way women are seen and treated in Silicon Valley and in the technology industry. The founder of the blog Women of Silicon Valley, she is trying to help increase the accessibility of role models for young women studying and working in technical fields.

“As a woman, it’s hard being in tech without having role models,” she told The Daily, discussing her recent piece in Fortune magazine. Her writing discussed gender issues in the technology industry, and was a forthright take on the myriad issues faced by women in technical fields in academia and the professional world.

As a continuation of The Dish Daily’s Women in Tech series, The Daily had the opportunity to talk with her about her experiences in this regard, both at Stanford and in the professional world. She hopes that Women of Silicon Valley will help more young women visualize themselves being in the technology industry. Read more >>

Stanford Startup: Datafox, financial analytics for all

As an analyst in Goldman Sachs’ Special Situations Group from 2008-2011, Bastiaan Janmaat had a problem — he faced the daunting task of both compiling and updating spreadsheets containing information on hundreds of private companies. Always a tough task, such an undertaking has become exponentially more difficult with the emergence of the Internet and an attendant explosion in the variety of information sources available to analysts.

While attending Stanford’s Graduate School of Business several years later, Janmaat came into contact with three other Stanford alumni who agreed that his problem was common but potentially solvable. Datafox, incorporated in 2013, represents their best attempt to confront the issue. Read more >>

Online food delivery: A guide for Stanford

With Dead Week and Finals Week around the corner, students will soon be searching for convenient food (more than they already do, that is). While Domino’s delivery has long been the service of choice among starving Stanford students, a recent boom in food delivery platforms has dramatically increased the number of options available. Chief among this group of startups are Postmates, Doordash and Fluc, each with its own distinct advantages and disadvantages. Investigating facets from driver base (Postmates seems to have the upper hand) to cost (should you tip your DoorDash deliverer?). The Dish Daily has sampled and contacted all four of the major services to compile this guide to help you wade through your options:

 

(CAITLIN GO/The Stanford Daily)

Contact Cameron Van de Graaf at camvdg ‘at’ stanford.edu, and Kendrick Kho at kkho207 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

Women in Tech: Ellora Israni talks She++

The latest edition of the Graduate School of Business’ (GSB) ‘View From the Top’ guest lecture series featured Elizabeth Holmes, founder and CEO of the biotechnology company Theranos. I was impressed by her strong yet quiet demeanor. During her Q&A, Holmes discussed a startling conversation she had with the CEO of The Girl Scouts, Anna Maria Chavez, that brought up an issue that had never crossed my mind.

She recalled a time when she was speaking to an audience consisting of the Girl Scout program’s valedictorians.

“Raise your hand if you think you’re going to be a leader in the technology business,” Chavez remembers asking the girls.

None did.

When trying to explain to Holmes why no one had raised their hands, Chavez realized that there weren’t enough women leaders in technology to be role models for the young girls.

“Women should be founders of multibillion companies and be CEO,” Holmes addressed the audience at the GSB. She urged that we need to create female role models of women to help give girls confidence in pursuing and succeeding a career in technology.

In sum, we still face a gender disparity in the corporate world. In the top 100 companies, 83 percent of executive committees were men, according to the Gender Balance Score Card. As a result, The Dish Daily is launching a series on Women in Technology to highlight female leaders in the Bay Area.

The first profile is Ellora Israni ’14, cofounder of She++, a 501 (c) non-profit that helps empower college and high school women to pursue a career in the technology. She currently is a software engineer at Facebook and serves on the board of She++. Her dream is that She++ is no longer necessary because we’ve achieved gender parity both in the numbers and how the people are treated.

Ellora Israni, Co-Founder of She++. Courtesy Ellora Israni

Ellora Israni, Co-Founder of She++. Courtesy Ellora Israni

Ellora Israni
Co-founder, She++
Software Engineer, Facebook

Read more >>

Brad Katsuyama talks high-frequency trading and IEX at the GSB

Brad Katsuyama doesn’t fit into the stereotype of Wall Street pervaded by the media.

“Movies like ‘[The] Wolf of Wall Street’ piss me off, because they give Wall Street a bad name. The people who watch a movie like Wolf of Wall Street and want to work on Wall Street are exactly the kind of people who shouldn’t,” he explained.

Brad Katsuyama, CEO and co-founder of IEX, an Alternative Trading System (ATS), gave a talk at the Graduate School of Business (GSB) this past Monday, Feb. 23. Katsuyama was profiled in Michael Lewis’ well-received book “Flash Boys.” IEX became well-known for being the the first equity pool owned exclusively by buy-side investors and is dedicated to institutionalizing fairness in the markets.

At his talk, Katsuyama focused on the importance of having integrity in a business that is transaction-oriented.

“I’m a capitalist,” he emphasized. “We want to make money, but we [IEX] want to make money doing the right things. I care very deeply about the function it serves in the economy.”

Integrity is, in fact, the very thing that drove him to create IEX in the first place. In 2007, Katsuyama was running U.S. trading and managing risk for the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) when the Regulation National Market System (NMS) was promulgated by the United States Securities and Exchange Commission. Regulation NMS, which, in essence, ties the multiple stock exchanges together to comprise the entire market, came into play.

While Katsuyama was trading tech stocks on behalf of mutual funds, hedge funds or banks on capital, if he put in an order for 100,000 shares of Intel, he could only get 80,000 shares. In 2008, it decreased to 65,000 shares – in 2009, 48,000 shares. Katsuyama noticed that he was consistently unable to get the full order of shares that he intended to purchase.

“This actually drove me crazy for two whole years,” laughed Katsuyama. “People think I’m some renegade or crusade who was fighting this, but it was a long process and didn’t become clear until I joined the technology team in 2009.”

In 2009, Katsuyama left his team of traders at RBC to manage a group of technologists who were building the tools that traders used. It was at this point that he understood the discrepancies between what he perceived as the market and what he could access.

“That’s when I realized the market I saw on screens and the market I thought I knew wasn’t the real market,” he explained. “The market is a collection of multiple markets, but the issue was that they were all at different locations.”

He explained his point using the example of a simple purchase of 100,000 equity shares.

“Say I wanted to buy 100,000 shares,” he started.

“I’d send the order to a piece of technology that would take 4 orders and blast it out to the market, and it would arrive at BATS, the first and closest exchange; then Direct Edge; then NASDAQ; and finally NYSE. The orders were sent at the same time, but there was a two-millisecond difference in arrival time between the first and last exchange,” Katsuyama said.

One of Katsuyama’s technology team members built infrastructure for high frequency trading firms and explained to him that it only took 476 microseconds to get from the first to the last exchange. Katsuyama was also able to see that exchanges were selling technology and data that allowed high frequency traders to race the big banks and buy ahead of their purchases. By sending his orders to NYSE first, Katsuyama discovered that his fill rate went back up to 100 percent – essentially he could purchase all the shares he wanted. But Katsuyama also realized that he couldn’t have been the first to discover this.

“It dawned on me that everyone else who knows this problem exists is part of the problem. The others weren’t trying to solve it – they exploited it and perpetuated it,” Katsuyama said. “I don’t blame them. You can’t fault for people for competitively doing what their competitors are doing.”

He does, however, place the blame on the exchanges.

“The national stock exchanges are selling the data and technology and have created multibillion dollar businesses out of this,” Katsuyama said. “It’s a problem if you trade on information that other people don’t have.”

So Katsuyama and his team set out to change the system.

“IEX creates a delay of 350 microseconds to even the playing field, forgoing hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue that other exchanges gain by selling technology or data,” Katsuyama explained.

“We spent 18 months building this exchange, and on Oct. 24, 2013, the night before we launched, we had no idea what was going to happen the next day,” he added. “We knew that in order for IEX to be a success, one of the big banks needed to buy in that we are the future.”

Today, Goldman Sachs is their number one client.

“We’re a market-based solution that gives people an option to act properly,” Katsuyama said. “It’s about giving people a rational choice that’s in the best interest of the market and their clients, and Goldman – which many people find ironic – took that option. We’re making a bet on people, not on a corporation or brand.”

He ended his talk with a comment about the future, especially in the context of all the business students in the room.

“Wall Street is going through this disruption, and it’s a great opportunity for all of you,” Katsuyama said. “The entrenched businesses are the hardest to break in, but when shit’s going on all over the place, it’s a great time to be young, ambitious and curious.”

 

Contact Jenny Lu at jenny123 ‘at’ stanford.edu.