The Dish Daily

Beyond Starbucks: The ‘Third Place’ for Work and Socialization

Starbucks has grown to become a near-ubiquitous feature on the American urban landscape since its initial expansion in the late 1980s, because of the space it provides for people, not because of its coffee. Starbucks pioneered what it calls the ‘third place’, a place less formal than a workplace and more intimate than a person’s home, opening coffeehouses in the Italian tradition in the United States. Over the past week, I’ve had the chance to learn more about two new public spaces in our area.

Starbucks' creation of a 'third place' set the tone for many emulators. Ashley Westhem/The Stanford Daily

Starbucks’ creation of a ‘third place’ set the tone for many emulators.
(ASHLEY WESTHEM/The Stanford Daily).

On March 17, while Stanford students were preoccupied with final exams for Winter Quarter, HanaHaus, a new coffee shop and collaborative workspace opened up in the historic New Varsity Theater building on University Avenue. Set in a 15,000 square-foot space comprising the mission-styled courtyard of the old theater and the building’s interior, HanaHaus occupies the former home of the Borders bookstore which closed in 2011. Read more >>

XPRIZE: Funding solutions for tech-enabled learning

Over the past 20 years, the XPRIZE Foundation has become famous for sparking private sector innovation in space technology and exploration. Their latest challenge, the Global Learning XPRIZE, doesn’t literally reach for the stars, but is just as ambitious: it aims to bring education to every child in the world, especially the 250 million children around the world who cannot read, write or do basic math. Blending technology and education is not a foreign concept to Silicon Valley: entrepreneurs have been creating MOOCs (massive open online courses, for the uninitiated), code camps and teaching tools for years. However, Matt Keller, Senior Director of the Global Learning XPRIZE, assured me that this challenge wants to create something different.

xprize website

“There’s 60 million kids around the world who don’t have physical access to teachers. Can we make technology and content that is so intuitive that children can teach themselves and each other?” Keller asked.

Keller’s background as Vice-President of One Laptop per Child makes him perhaps one of the most qualified people to discuss technology-enabled learning – the Global Learning XPRIZE’s mission statement reads almost identically to One Laptop per Child’s: to bring software and content to children in developing countries in order to spark self-empowered learning. Supporting this lofty goal is a $15 million prize, with $1 million awarded to each of the five finalists and $10 million awarded to the ultimate winner. Read more >>

Neighborly: Invest money in social good

Doing well while doing good may become easier in the near future. Neighborly is a financial startup with offices in Kansas City and San Francisco focused on allowing citizens to fund local government projects and make money in the process. By making instruments called “municipal bonds” more readily accessible to individual investors, Neighborly will enable retail investors – people like you and me – to invest in relatively secure, tax-free securities while funding the communities that they care about.

Municipal bonds help local governments finance development

Put simply, municipal bonds are a way for local governments to borrow money when they need to finance projects, such as the construction of water facilities, playgrounds, hospitals, educational facilities, etc. When they issue municipal bonds, governments borrow money and pay that amount back in the future, plus interest. On Neighborly, you can currently choose to invest in projects related to “Education,” “Green Spaces,” “Transportation,” “Environment,” “Urban Spaces,” “Healthcare,” “Housing,” “Sports” and, soon, “Technology.” Municipal bonds are an especially attractive investment because their returns are tax-exempt. Read more >>

A review of the Oculus Rift

Facebook’s acquisition of the Oculus Rift in March 2014 raised some eyebrows in the tech world and drew attention to emerging virtual reality technology. The Rift is a head-mounted display that, according to Mark Zuckerberg in his announcement of the acquisition on Facebook, allows its user to enter a “completely immersive computer-generated environment, like a game or a movie scene or a place far away. The incredible thing about the technology is that you feel like you’re actually present in another place with other people. People who try it say it’s different from anything they’ve ever experienced in their lives.” While the most readily apparent use case for the Rift may be in providing an immersive gaming environment, Facebook hopes to use the Rift’s technology as a communication platform: “Imagine enjoying a court side seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face-to-face — just by putting on goggles in your home.”

Photo courtesy of Oculus Rift.

Photo courtesy of Oculus Rift.

The Dish Daily was able to get its hands on an Oculus Rift to try this experience, playing Team Fortress 2. As it stands, the use cases have yet to be fully explored, but the Rift shows enormous potential to fundamentally change the way we think about communication and entertainment media — and at a bearable price, at that! Read more >>

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.


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 >>