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Mobile Technology News, June 28, 2015

As developers for tablets and smartphones we like to keep abreast of the latest mobile technology developments . This is a daily digest of mobile development and related technology news gathered from the BBC, the New York Times, New Scientist and the Globe and Mail to name a few. We scour the web for articles concerning, iPhone, iPad and android development, iOS and android operating systems as well as general articles on advances in mobile technology. We hope you find this useful and that it helps to keep you up to date with the latest technology developments.

  • Big Companies Can Avoid Disruption by Partnering With Startup Accelerators
    David Cohen started as a software programmer at age 13 and since then he has had only one job interview. Cohen started three startups and now is the founder and general manager of Techstars, a mentorship-driven startup accelerator is considered one of the best startup accelerators in the world. Less than 1% of the companies that apply to Techstars are accepted — a lower acceptance rate than getting into MIT, Stanford or Harvard. Techstars a global ecosystem that enable and empowers entrepreneurs to bring technologies to the market.

    2015-06-27-1435412304-5609774-109_david_cohen.png
    David Cohen – Founder and GM of Techstars

    Cohen (Twitter: @davidcohen) describes Techstars as:

    What Techstars is fundamentally a global ecosystem in which entrepreneurs are enabled and empowered to bring new technologies to the market. So we focus on technology companies, primarily Internet companies. We do that through our accelerator programs, which are three-month intensive mentorship programs that operate in cities around the world; 13 different cities.

    We also have about 300 million in venture capital to back companies that are exciting and are emerging from that ecosystem. We recently acquired Upglobal, who are the folks responsible for ‘startup weekend’. If you’ve never experienced a startup weekend, it’s like discovery and inspiration for entrepreneurship, it happens 1000 times a year around the world.

    Cohen started Techstars in Boulder Colorado because he wanted to improve the entrepreneurial community in Boulder. He has his partners Brad Feld, Jared Polis and David Brown took a 20 year view towards this mission of creating a vibrant and active entrepreneurship community. “The four of us wanted to make Boulder better as an ecosystem over a long period of time, and tried a way to do Angel investing that made more sense,” said Cohen.

    To achieve this mission, Cohen and his partners created a mentorship driven accelerator model. Companies apply to Techstars and 10 out of every 1,000 applicants are accepted.

    We spend about three months with each company, three months of intense mentorship and we get the best entrepreneurs in each of the communities that we operate in. We fund them with a little bit of capital, not enough to do any damage. But a little bit to get them going.

    At the end of three month mentorship period, the companies share their ideas with venture capitalists and investors, and hopefully go on to build businesses.

    Techstars started because we wanted the ecosystem to be better. Today, we do that in many communities around the world and we also do it on behalf of major corporations.

    The real power is in the network

    Cohen views the history of venture capital as hierarchical and old school, where entrepreneurs would present their ideas in a boardroom on Sand Hill Road, in front of Silicon Valley investors, being judged and then potentially funded. The network effect of today’s accelerator model takes advantage of the community of mentors and investors around the globe. For example, Techstars has 150 mentors in New York alone. There are 10 companies that Techstars mentors during an intensive period, guided by a network that spans Chicago, Seattle, London, Berlin and many more major cities around the globe.

    Cohen believes that the power is in the network. Techstars wants to see these startups succeed. The Techstars alumni who have already had an exit are coming back to Angel invest. Cohen believes the new flip model for venture capital means that the ecosystem will put network ideas first over the ideas of the old school hierarchy.

    The quality of the network is in the quality of the mentors. The Techstars mentor ecosystem is 2,000 strong and global, consisting of business operators, successful venture capitalists, and Techstars alumni who are there to help, not be in charge. Cohen makes this very important distinction that a good mentor is there to give first, hoping to get back in some unexpected way later. Mentors are not here to tell people what to do, but rather they are here to share their experiences and provide guidance as needed. Cohen provides a checklist to the mentor community, with specific requirements that ensures a quality mentor-mentee relationship.

    We’re working with many innovative corporations like Nike, Ford, Microsoft, Barclay’s, Sprint and many other that have understood the power of this ‘give first’, where you just provide help to entrepreneurs and that’s what these mentors are doing.

    What’s coming back to them is opportunities to invest or perhaps a job as a CEO of an interesting high growth startup. The network is giving back to them in an non-transactional way. In almost a karmic way, and I think this is the nature of entrepreneurship, we are on a mission to help educate people around the world.

    Successful characteristics of entrepreneurs

    Cohen and his team of mentors look for 6 entrepreneur characteristics as part of their selection process:

    1. Team (incredible executors)
    2. Team (technical and business savvy)
    3. More team (capabilities, core values, guiding principles)
    4. Market – what market are they in?
    5. Progress – the ability to do stuff
    6. Idea – ideas do matter

    We have this theory we’re pretty sure it’s correct. We think that entrepreneurs do stuff, they don’t just talk about stuff, and so we look for signs that they actually do stuff.

    We put ideas at number six only to help people understand that it’s last. Ideas do matter. Ideas are bonus points. Good ideas of course matter, but they’re going to change a lot and it’s much more about the team and the market and the ability to get stuff done.

    Cohen’s own experience, which includes more than 600 portfolio companies, is that founders who are really about the mission are the best ones to build great companies. Mission driven founders view the world in a certain way. “When Ryan Graves from Uber were just starting, he viewed the world a certain way and was able to invest until his view came true. They don’t all work out that well but they’re not going to stop until the world works that way,” said Cohen.

    “You want to look at people who are really attached to the problem and not to their solution to the problem. That are willing to throw it all away to get it right to solve the problem and change the world in the way that they envision,” said Cohen.

    The importance of transparency in business

    Coehn and his company are incredibly transparent about their successes and failures. You can go to the Techstars website and see every company that Techstars has ever funded — how much money have they raise, how many employees they have, where are they based and more. You can also find the founder’s email address. Techstars publicly provides a 100% reference able client list.

    Entrepreneurship transparency I think is important because there are so many problems that you just have to be real about them. There are so many way for a startup to die, so the transparency attitude is key.

    The first thing we say in orientation to entrepreneurs is to drop the act. You are already in, we’re on your team, so show us all the problems. The more you’re real with people, and the more you let people help you, the more they get to understand how you operate as an entrepreneur. The stronger that relationship is, then the more likely there’s a future together in that relationship.

    Cohen believes that mentoring and managing startups is really about managing psychology. The mentor network consists of these experienced psychologists around, who are operators who have done it before. They’d help you through the difficult times which are inevitable.

    Techstars has funded 200 companies around the world. With only a 1% acceptance rate, these are all very interesting people and companies. Those companies have raised $1.5 billion in venture capital and employee thousands and thousands of people. The report card is, are we creating a better ecosystem for these companies to be successful every day. The measure of success for Cohen and his team is based on creating meaningful, long-lasting companies. “Ask me then, how many companies did we create that you know became very meaningful, sustainable, and long-lasting companies who have an impact on the world. I feel like there is eight or nine multi-billion-dollar companies in the portfolio. I only know three or four of them, right, but there is probably five more that are given all the promising companies that are out there,” said Cohen.

    Accelerating corporate innovation

    Cohen and the Techstars accelerator programs are demonstrating to big companies that they can augment or replace corporate sponsored innovation programs and/or accelerate technology roadmaps by leveraging startups. Cohen notes that today’s Fortune 500 companies are 50% different than 20 years ago. Cohen sees big companies valuing innovation and yet failing to produce and deliver solutions that fit today’s market needs. Cohen sees very few successful corporate venture capital funds that have sustained – he cites Intel and Qualcomm as exceptions.

    What happened to Techstars is that we got approached early on by Microsoft, and earlier on they were a partner of ours and they said, ‘we want you to run an accelerator that’s just like what you do, but around our technology.’ We did that and we discovered something really interesting.

    By creating the combination, letting Techstars do the same thing we normally do, with our normal mentors, but calling it the Microsoft accelerator, whereby we supplemented the mentors with people from inside the Microsoft organization, something magical happened. The fact that Microsoft employees had to leave the campus and come down to a startup space that has a cool vibe, and then just give first and participate — instead of trying to get anything — we produced amazing companies.

    These amazing companies were born, they got the benefit of Microsoft’s partner network, and the funding around Techstars and Microsoft didn’t take anything. They [Microsoft] didn’t take any equity, they didn’t take any options, they didn’t take the right to buy, the right to do business with — nothing like that.

    What these companies did get is a lot of opportunities to do those things because they gave first. Since then, we’ve rolled that model out, refined it and do it now for many partners like the ones I mentioned earlier. They are focused vertical like Qualcomm, for example, who run an accelerator in the robotic space. Ford in the mobility space in Detroit, Disney in entertainment and so on. To enable that magical combination, we demonstrated to corporations the understanding that by giving first, they actually get more out of it.

    One example of this magical combination was the Disney accelerator and company called Sphero. Sphero makes a robotic ball gaming platform — it’s hard to make robotic balls move because there is no forward or backwards or left or right and control with thumb. Their work inspired the character VB8, which is the new R2D2 in the next Star Wars movie. This was a great innovation and partnership for both companies and it all happened because Disney gave first and they unselfishly partnered with a great young company to build something magical. Disney did not view this as a transaction to get something up front, but rather an opportunity to accelerate innovation through mission driven collaboration.

    Only the most enlightened companies are approaching us early on, but it is getting broader and we have a lot of companies that are interested in this.

    They see what we do, and they see the track record of companies that go through Techstars — on average always two million in venture capital. We’ve had 65 M&A acquisitions. We’ve got many big companies that want to know ‘how do we create that in a space that’s near us, so we can be near it and understand it, and drive some innovation, and perhaps we can acquire’, and we teach them how to do it.

    How do big companies measure success with accelerators? The answer varies based on each company.

    Nike really cares about ‘at that moment in time’ — they have the Nike Fuel API, they make the Fuel Band, and we are trying to create this kind of point system activity, which is obviously taken off hugely.

    Nike had a tech platform and they were going to release their API’s, and rather than release them to the world, they decided to partner with 10 high potential startups and just give them this before anybody else and see what they can do. These startups pushed the envelope on that technology and informed Nike about what they should do to make it better. In Nike’s case success was about learning. Now, they got a lot of PR out of it and it didn’t hurt.

    Large corporations realize that we are going to get disrupted on many levels and technology is moving really fast. To be close to the pace of innovation, and have the opportunity for fist mover advantage, it makes perfect sense to partner with startup accelerators and a highly motivated and experienced mentor ecosystem.

    “Companies like Qualcomm have a venture fund and venture group that is among the top corporate innovation venture funds out there. The group is interested in building future products. Led by their CTI, the purpose is centered on technology and innovation,” said Cohen.

    To learn more about corporation innovation programs and real examples with tech accelerators, the changing role of the CIO and more early stage investment advice for startup CEOs, you can watch the full interview with David Cohen here. Please join me and Michael Krigsman every Friday at 3PM EST as we host CXOTalk — connecting with thought leaders and innovative executives who are pushing the boundaries within their companies and their fields.

    — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

  • Even Ralph Nader And Grover Norquist Agree That Government Should Be More Open
    By most measures, the 113th Congress of the United States was one of the least productive in history, failing to pass major legislation for most of its two years. One exception was the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, a historic open-government law that passed last year after an arduous three-year process. The DATA Act established government-wide standards and quality requirements for financial data, which will make it far easier for the public to understand how Uncle Sam is spending taxpayer dollars.

    The overwhelming bipartisan support for the DATA Act and the principle behind it — that government spending should be disclosed to the public — reflects a larger truth: People from all directions on America’s political compass want open government. In May of this year, two noted activists from different quadrants — small-government advocate Grover Norquist and consumer advocate Ralph Nader — joined me on stage at the Data Act Summit, a conference to examine the status of the DATA Act one year after its passage.

    “People care deeply, even average citizens,” said Norquist. “If you just ask them whether the government should be transparent, the answer is yes, and they’re serious about that. I think the best ways to get other countries that are not very transparent and that are much more corrupt than the United States government [to act better] is for us to be better at it. This is about reforming other countries by reforming us first and being a good example. We don’t have to go over there and occupy to get someone to behave. It’s a matter of doing it well ourselves.”

    Here are some of the highlights from our wide-ranging conversation on how government data should be published, shared and used — or not — in society:

    Location, location, location

    Many kinds of open data are coming online now, from health to energy to transit to real estate. Technology companies that specialize in real estate, like Zillow and Redfin, are among the leaders here. People are interested in what properties are worth, how that changes and what’s available nearby. According to the Pew Research Center, a majority of American adults are comfortable with sharing real estate transaction data.

    Norquist argued that if information is already publicly available on paper, putting it online is just a way to democratize the process.

    “One of the arguments you make is that this is available if you want to get it,” said Norquist. “Someone goes down to the City Hall and gets all the tax data, like the value of the house and when it was sold and so on. … It’s not a secret that’s being exposed. It’s an open secret. It’s information that’s legally available to all citizens, but not able to find easily. You want more people to have more information, quicker.”

    The thing is, people are all for information being publicly available until “openness” comes too close to home. That Pew survey found that 75 percent of Americans are uncomfortable with mortgage data going online. In New York state a few years ago, a local newspaper acquired handgun registration data through the state’s Freedom of Information Law and mapped it. The journalists took it a step too far when they put actual names and addresses on a searchable map. That created a massive scandal, the paper took the map offline, and the New York state legislature changed the law. People still want and need some privacy, which puts a premium on thinking through the ethics of a more transparent age.

    What about our rights?

    Applied to the powerless, openness may be deeply problematic, even immoral. Take the issue of building owners using housing court records in New York City to create tenant blacklists. The city government has tried to crack down, but companies are still paying for those data, correlating cases to names, and selling the results to other companies or landlords.

    At all levels of government, officials are entrusted with confidential data that citizens want to be kept private, from Social Security info to health data to tax records. When governments fail to protect private data from intrusions or leaks, people’s lives may be permanently changed through identity theft or worse.

    “The tragedy is that if we don’t find a better word than privacy, which has a kind of luxurious connotation, like ‘get over it,’ and get to the real gravity of the civil right that’s being protected here, it bores people,” warned Nader. “You can’t get people really upset about it unless they’re burned by it, and a lot of times, they don’t even know they’re being burned by it. You get a credit application denied — you don’t even know you’re being burned by it.”

    Some major differences of opinion divide the Obama administration, the law enforcement community, and privacy and civil liberties advocates as to when and how data and devices should be strongly encrypted. “Strong encryption” refers to security measures that lock access to data or computing devices using a number at least 256 digits long. Law enforcement officials, including the FBI, want to be able to access any data or mobile device through built-in “backdoors” or keys held in escrow. A broad coalition of civil liberties groups, tech companies and security experts wrote a letter in May to President Barack Obama urging him not to allow such backdoor exceptions because they would weaken the U.S. tech industry, harm IT security and undermine human rights.

    “I’m for hard encryption,” said Norquist. “We had this argument a long time ago, when the FBI wanted to ban encryption in American software, even though there are 19 countries that did hard encryption — including countries that aren’t our friends. It’s not like the bad guys couldn’t get it. I testified on the subject.”

    Yelp with government data

    Sunlight on government or corporate corruption can help hold the powerful to account. Sunlight on your local diner can be fundamentally useful. Pew’s research showed that a majority of Americans are extremely comfortable with the idea of putting food safety or restaurant inspection data online. They want to know if the place they’re dining has a history of uncleanliness. So what other kinds of disclosures should be digitized so they can be used at that point of decision-making?

    Norquist suggested that consumer reviews of products, services and providers in two-sided arrangements, such as Uber’s drivers and passengers, can do a better job of informing the public than regulators can.

    “I think it makes the information in the market so much higher quality, both directions, than you’d ever have through the regulatory state,” he said.

    There are many places, however, where government agencies already collect data about goods and services, which they release back into the marketplace. The Securities and Exchange Commission and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, for instance, gather information from financial advisers and then disclose it, along with complaints against those professionals. In 2011, BrightScope liberated that material and built a business around it, creating a searchable directory of financial advisers. Agencies collecting consumer reviews could be an essential arbiter of quality and a bulwark against false or defamatory statements.

    Norquist wasn’t sure if he broadly supported government agencies collecting and releasing data in all markets. Where a regulator is already doing so, however, he said he’d “certainly like it to be legal to be released, sold voluntarily, shared, as much data as there is out there. I think government is going to have some data, and that should be public information.”

    The long data shadow of prison

    Today, a growing number of Americans agree on the need for criminal justice reform. One challenge is that convicted criminals moved from prison to parole are likely to be subject to unprecedented data collection. Norquist suggested that managing that kind of surveillance will be part of reform discussions.

    “I work with Right on Crime, which is a group of conservatives who are in the process of rethinking how many people you need in prison for how long to keep crime down rather than up,” he said. “Technology makes a lot of things possible, to not spend as much money incarcerating people and still have crime rates falling.”

    If reform gathers momentum in Congress, we should be discussing whether, when, how much, and by whom former offenders will be tracked. Should all sex offenders be in a database and tracked with GPS devices? How much of that data should be retained or shared, and with whom? What should be held back from publication, blocked from social networks or even removed from search results?

    “There’s an expungement movement,” said Norquist. “At what point does something you did at 15, which went into a file, disappear? Is there something, after X number of years, it shouldn’t be on your record?”

    He noted the long reach of a criminal past when comes to current employment, particularly with the growth of licensing for many jobs. According to The Economist, some 30 percent of U.S. workers now need a license or permit from the government.

    “The people who do your nails, the people who do your hair, the interior decorators, all get a license in some states,” said Norquist. “One of the first things they do is say ‘no criminals.’ You can’t have criminals. And no felons. Somebody can’t be a barber because of X numbers of years ago they committed a crime? I understand no bank tellers if someone has been an embezzler, but there’s a lot of that that can come out.”

    Nader agreed, noting that a felony conviction punishes people in ways that go far beyond prison, from losing the right to vote in some states to difficulties with obtaining public housing, student loans and jobs. Limiting the movement of data about Americans’ criminal histories might be necessary to enable people who have served their time to rebuild their lives.

    “There’s a real movement here, fortunately, to get rid of these laws,” Nader said. “A lot of stuff is going on in legislatures all over the country, in the voting area and other areas. But what’s important is every time you get rid of one of these laws, you get rid of the data that can be requested, that can be used to harm people who are free and paid their debt to society. This business of post-punishing people that have already served their punishment someday I hope will reach the Supreme Court and be invalidated under the equal protection clause of the Constitution.”

    Norquist and Nader had a lot more to say on how a transparent government should work. Watch the video of our full conversation at the Data Transparency Coalition’s conference above.

    — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

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