Do you know that two media companies in the Silicon Valley are led by women? Representing two of the largest populations in the world, India and China, these two medias serve the immigrants from India and China in the United States.
India Currents has been a thought leader since its founding in 1987. An achievement that speaks to the unique need for a platform that champions South Asian identity of the diaspora . DingDing TV celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. Check out this video which shows publisher of India Currents, Vandana Kumar in conversation with Diana Ding, CEO of DingDing TV.
‘Tis the Season of Joy. The time of year when we count our blessings. Neighborhoods are sporting signs of festivity all around. Twinkling lights and fresh coats of paint adorn homes. Swathes of fall colors render the scene with an extra helping of cheer. Families gather to celebrate kinship, filling homes with warmth brought on by togetherness. And above all, there is Love – the secret ingredient that makes a house a ‘Home.’
I am holding a set of greeting cards in my hands. They make me smile with their vivid colors and childish renderings of stick figure humans, bugs and nature. Flipping them over I read the names, Anaya, Noe, Kaelyn – the artists who created these beautiful scenes. Ranging in ages between 6 and 10, they are children who live amongst us. What sets them apart from the average child is the fact that they have been or are currently homeless. Their existence has none of the safety or security that calls for celebration.
And yet, there is nothing in the scenes created by their little hands that alludes to their dire reality. These images are bursting with cheerful promise and hope. A playground sits nestled among trees on a glorious sunny day. Flowers abound as butterflies flit about. Children sport smiley faces as they play and enjoy their time outdoors. Houses rest under shady trees beneath an azure sky. The pictures project joy in a manner only a child can depict. It is a way to frame their fervent dreams and hopes. Because reality is often very different from these scenes.
NandiniGondhalekar is Director of Individual Giving, for LifeMoves, a non-profit organization committed to breaking the cycle of homelessness in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. I met with her at LifeMoves | Haven Family House shelter in Menlo Park. Walking me through the clean, efficiently-run, welcoming premises, Nandini impressed me with her passion for the cause. “I grew up in Mumbai, India. My family is deeply committed to and active in community service, social justice and advocacy. This early experience of volunteerism has profoundly influenced my career and professional decisions,” she says.
For Nandini, bearing witness to discrimination based on poverty and hunger instilled in her a strong sense of community mindedness, and a desire to help address such issues. Poverty, hunger and homelessness are complex social issues; providing effective solutions requires both knowledge and empathy. Nandini’s educational and professional backgrounds have helped with the work she does at LifeMoves.
The Changing Face of Homelessness
We see the homeless everywhere. Holding placards, carting their possessions in shopping carts, inhabiting street corners, and store fronts. Yes, we do see them. But do we really “See” them? Steeped in the drama of our own existence, we seldom stop to consider the hapless souls we share space with in our everyday meanderings.
But the face of homelessness is changing. The boundary of homelessness is no longer limited to a story of mental illness, substance abuse, PTSD or worse. It casts its long shadow across social strata, encompassing people of all ages and backgrounds; many of them work credible jobs, and draw a paycheck but they are still unable to provide a safe home for their families. This is the reality. It is a story that affects human beings across cultural and partisan lines. It is a story of abundance breaking at the seams. It is the sad saga of the American dream gone horribly wrong. The helpless inability of a fully deserving person to create a sanctuary called a ‘Home.‘
Talking to Nandini was a revelation. Citing the many changes occurring in Silicon Valley over the years, she spoke of dramatic cuts in the Federal shelter budget and a radically shifting housing market. How, you may wonder, does this connect to homelessness? Speaking of Silicon Valley alone, one in five households has an average income of $35,000. Many of the families cannot do without the services of public programs for their medical, nutritional and general assistance needs.
“Most of LIfeMoves’ homeless clients are employed. Some of them hold two jobs to make ends meet. If they are not on disability, managing a health issue or a psychiatric condition, they are out there working,” says Nandini. A significant number hold specialized and/or white collar jobs. A majority of the clients seek employment in the service sector. These jobs offer them no benefits. At most, they make $10 or $12 an hour. And this is where the cycle begins.
Silicon Valley has an abundance of new homes being built. Everywhere we look there are billboards advertising the latest community offering the most modern of amenities. For every family that joins the race to make their dream of home ownership a reality, there are at least three fighting a battle to maintain a roof over their heads. “The average monthly rent for a one bedroom apartment in Redwood City nowadays is $2745. Menlo Park or Palo Alto is upwards of $3000! It is very very difficult for a person working a service sector job to afford these rents!”, exclaims Nandini. Many of these families are living in basements, garages, and very often in their vehicles, one precarious step away from the streets. For me personally, this was a jarring realization!
Life Moves – the Organization
An organization whose mission is to break the cycle of homelessness, LifeMoves (formerly InnVision Shelter Network), is the largest non-profit in San Mateo and Santa Clara serving homeless families and individuals. Providing interim/ transitional housing and food since 1987, LifeMoves also provides supportive services that helps residents return to a stable, long term, self-sufficient life. Operating 9 shelters and 8 facilities that include a permanent supportive housing site, they also run a drop-in center in Palo Alto called the Opportunity Services Center, which provides two meals a day, including laundry and shower facilities. Of the approximately 700 people they help every day, roughly half of them are minor children.
LifeMoves runs non-site programs through which they help their clients apply for benefits like Medi-Cal, SSDI and food stamps. They also offer specialized services to veterans and their families, distribute motel vouchers and help people who desperately need emergency assistance if they are at risk of becoming homeless.
As an organization with a long history and a strong infrastructure, LifeMoves takes pride in its therapeutic service model – which takes into consideration the source of homelessness instead of only trying to fix the symptoms. This approach has made a huge positive impact and garnered far-reaching results over the years. Serving over 10,000 homeless individuals and families annually, and providing more than 266,000 nights of safe shelter, LifeMoves has successfully helped 89% of families and 73% of individuals end their cycle of homelessness, change their lives, and return to stable housing in the last year.
The LifeMoves | Haven Family House shelter in Menlo Park is equipped with a well run day-care facility for younger children, an upgraded teen center, and two play areas. It also features a community garden maintained by the residents. Located in a quiet residential area, the shelter has a welcoming air about it. Case workers work with clients and residents, volunteers are busy off-loading supplies and donations and the shelter operates with a well-oiled efficiency.
Walking the quiet halls of LifeMoves | Haven Family House shelter, we met a resident in the laundry room. In a large well lit room lined with washers and dryers, she folded baskets of clothes as she spoke with us, ecstatic about the chance she and her family had been given at LifeMoves. It was such a simple thing – clean laundry free of charge, and it had made such a difference in her life! It is these little things that most of us take for granted everyday.
Nandini spoke about the active volunteer program that keeps LifeMoves and its programs running smoothly. “Homelessness is a reality across the diaspora. It is imperative that we realize the harsh truths in our own backyard. There is always a need for volunteers. Donate in kind, donate your time! Make a financial donation if you can! It will help make a difference,” she urges.
We have had a lot to give thanks for these past months. California has seen depravity and hopelessness with wildfires ravaging entire neighborhoods. This and other events have touched us all, bringing home some harsh truths to reflect upon. As the cooling rain quenches the roaring thirst of the arid land, it clears the grey smog to reveal blue skies once more, bringing with it a reminder of the many lives who have lost so much.
In this ‘Season of Joy’, it behooves us all to consider stepping out of our bubbles, to try and take the first step in making a change in the life of someone other than ourselves.
Pavani Kaushik is a visual artist who loves a great book almost as much as planning her next painting. She received a BFA from the Academy of Art University, San Francisco. Her new avatar requires creative juggling with the pen and the brush.
Ash is a well-dressed sexual predator in Greater Than, a Bay Area Drama (BAD) Company production written and directed by Basab Pradhan, founder and co-director of BAD Company. Sindu Singh plays Roma Kapoor with panache as a woman in a man’s world. The more disturbing character was of Ash, played by Brian Levi, a smooth General Partner at a Venture Capital (VC) firm who believes that his wealth and power can help him score with women he meets at work.
How do villains justify their actions? What’s the internal monologue of the sexual predator? To our distress, Ash has managed to convince himself that he is entitled to a fair trade — sex in return for venture funding. Much like Humbert in Lolita, Vladimir Nabakov might have described Ash as a “vain and cruel wretch’ and “a hateful person.”
A great deal has been written about the bro culture in tech. Films like The Social Network (2010) and television serials like Silicon Valley (2014 – ) have looked deeper and even lampooned the excesses. In the play, Sumitra, played by Rita Bhatia, confides to her sister that male executives at work were systematically paid more. And often stared at her breasts. Sound familiar? In the pilot of TV serial Silicon Valley, a sexist programmer directs users to women with erect nipples through an app called NipAlert. Too far-fetched to be true? Even before the episode was aired, Titstare, “an app where you take photos of yourself staring at tits” was released. Sigh.
An article in New Yorker alludes to this lack of women in Silicon Valley: “The show’s signature gag was set at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco, a real event where founders take turns pitching their ideas. After the scene aired, viewers complained about the lack of diversity in the audience. Berg recalled, “A friend of mine who works in tech called me and said, ‘Why aren’t there any women? That’s bullshit!’ I said to her, ‘It is bullshit! Unfortunately, we shot that audience footage at the actual TechCrunch Disrupt.” Double sigh.
“#MeToo is the greatest cultural shift in a generation, Let’s hope it sticks” asserts Basab Pradhan. This insightful play feels topical and in step with shifting attitudes on gender politics. Some of the references to the VC world were a bit too arcane for me, but it was easy to appreciate the insider knowledge of Pradhan’s work. The play was staged in Sunnyvale theater, dare I say in the bosom of Silicon Valley. I thought of Silicon Valley the TV serial, where an established tech oligarch is challenged by smaller disruptive entrepreneurs. I recalled that Basab Pradhan had acted in plays in larger theater groups before he struck out to co-found BAD company with Sindu Singh.
How Silicon Valley.
Geetika Pathania Jain is Culture and Media Editor at India Currents.
Cover photo: (L to R) Sarah Williams (Jennifer), Sindu Singh (Roma) and Brian Levi (Ash).
Roma: Sindu Singh
Ash: Brian Levi
Jennifer: Sarah Williams
Jeremy: Paul Costello
Sumitra: Rita Bhatia
Greg: Ed Keyani
Writer-Director – Basab Pradhan
Stage Manager – Michelle Marko
WHAT: Greater Than is a new play about sexual harassment in the heart of Silicon Valley.
WHEN: Nov. 29 to Dec. 8. Eight shows. Preview night Nov. 29, 8pm. Opening night Nov. 30, 8pm.
WHERE: Sunnyvale Theater, 550 E Remington Dr, Sunnyvale, CA 94087.
TICKETS: $26 to $48.INFO: For tickets and details, go to bayareadrama.company or call 408-458-9375.
The theater is wheelchair-accessible, and free parking is available.
The departure of Instagram’s founders marks a pivotal and potentially perilous moment for Facebook. It has long been rumored that Kevin Systrom, who maintained an iron grip as chief product officer of the Facebook subsidiary, aggressively defended his fast-growing and youthful fanbase from desires to include more ads on the platform. The departure of Systrom and Mike Krieger, the other co-founder, follows on the heels of the founders of WhatsApp, who also left Facebook with concerns that the company was not behaving in a manner that put the interests of its users first.
Whenever a visionary founder leaves a company, it is a moment of great risk. For Facebook investors, the risk is even greater because Instagram has become the growth engine of the company, as the legacy Facebook product has stagnated and lost users in key markets.
Instagram is Facebook’s future, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s biggest test. Here are three things Facebook investors should watch closely for — and fear:
1. Changes to features that allow for more aggressive marketing customers
Instagram users hate ads that are not relevant to them. Systrom did a masterful job of ensuring his customers get exceptionally relevant content the majority of the time. Facebook has often erred on the side of clickbaity content and ads that are dubious in value and more like run-of-house remnants that pick up pennies off the floor.
Allowing those types of adds onto Instagram will signal to its finicky users that Facebook wants pennies off the floor more than it wants to maintain an intimate user experience.
2. Additional executive departures from Instagram
An obvious sign that cultural change is uncomfortable is executive departures. Systrom built a loyal team that bought into his world view. This removes the few checks and balances that remained against Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s obsessions with gathering data and monetizing it.
Should a revolving door start to spin at Instagram near the top, it’s a likely sign that changes by the new regime do not sit well with the early crew that made Instagram the rock star it is.
3. Surging negative dialogue on the platform
Part of what has made Instagram so awesome is that it lacks all the toxic discourse of Facebook and Twitter. That’s by design. The community has low tolerance for negativity and they are often turned off by the constant mudslinging and barrage of negativity on other social media.
However, angry, unhappy people always follow the users because they want a loud voice. The current feature set on Instagram makes it difficult but not impossible to create the types of negative content we saw take over Facebook and Twitter and gain real purchase. Should we see signs that Instagram is becoming a less happy place, that’s a real flashing red light for investors.
Instagram is the future of Facebook. How the company handles its crown jewel after the departure of its founding team will be a litmus test for its long-term ability to stay relevant and grow quickly. Surely Zuckerberg knows all this, and in the upcoming months we’ll see how he plays his new hand.
Vivek Wadhwa is a Distinguished Fellow at Carnegie Mellon University at Silicon Valley and author of The Driver in the Driverless Car: How Our Technology Choices Will Create the Future.
This article first appeared on Marketwatch.com and is published with permission from the author.
When I was a young girl, I read the Reader’s Digest “All in a Day’s Work” section with interest. Contributors would submit humorous or poignant anecdotes about interactions with co-workers and customers. On labor day, I offer a similar “All in a Day’s Work” style article based on my own work experiences, whether paid or unpaid, salaried or volunteer.
Earlier this year, I had an opportunity to volunteer as a substitute senior yoga teacher at India Community Center in Cupertino. The site is in the heart of Silicon Valley, just a few miles from Apple. One of the yoga teachers was getting some remodeling done in her house, and Dr. Sachin Deshmukh, who runs the yoga program, asked me to be the substitute. The informal nature of the yoga teaching was evident in the rather ad-hoc manner in which I found myself in the role of a teacher, facing about 40 expectant seniors. My yoga training at Yoga Bharati had prepared me for this moment, I hoped. A lapel mike was fastened to my shirt, and just like that, we were off.
A common complaint was that I could not be heard. I tried to project my voice. The man who had affixed my lapel mike, and who was referred to as Dr. Krishna, came by again, his forehead creased with concentration as he fiddled with the sound system. I shot him a grateful look. In a room full of octogenarians and nonagenarians, my grey hair notwithstanding, I felt like a young upstart.
There were several levels of fitness in the room, and I tried hard to modify poses so that the wheelchair-bound could benefit from the gentle movements of yoga. I looked up videos of chair yoga on YouTube. The adage that yoga meets you at whatever level you are is relevant here. Those who were on a mat went through rounds of sun salutations with practiced ease. A lady with a large bindi on her forehead began chanting in Sanskrit: sahanau vavatu, sahanau bhunaktu, saha veeryam karvavahai, a vedic hymn that is traditionally an invocation for harmony between the teacher and the students.
The weeks flew by. As I got to know the yoga students, I learned their names and joined them for lunch. Ramesh Mathur, wearing a Gandhi cap, coordinated the program, keeping things moving smoothly. I learned that a bright-eyed lady, who always sat with her friend at lunch, was a rishtedaar, a relative. “This yoga teacher is my granddaughter’s sister-in-law,” she proclaimed proudly at the lunch table, as I smiled and nodded to my senior students.
The center was well attended. Several seniors carpooled, their children taking turns on different days to drive a small group to the center. Friends would bring small Tupperware containers to share food with each other, eating together and mischievously spurning the communal meal that was deemed too healthy or too unhealthy or too bland.
The aging parents of tech workers in Silicon Valley proved to be a varied bunch. Many were polyglots, fluent in several of the languages that are spoken in India. Many had a deep knowledge of yogic traditions and practices. A retired University professor offered to help me with my Sanskrit pronunciation, her eyes kind. There were retired government bureaucrats and scientists, retired school teachers, poets and artists as well as housewives. Most had children and grandchildren who were fueling the tech boom in California.
There were comings and goings. During holidays, attendance went down sharply as a result of family outings with children and grandchildren. Some returned to India to tend to ancestral homes or visit family.
One of the ladies was new to the program. I told her she looked like my grandmother. She seemed to be settling in well, making new friends. She impressed me by telling me a multilingual joke, switching from Hindi to Bengali to Marwari as I clapped with delight. But one day, she was in tears. She was missing her husband, who had passed away a few weeks ago. Dr. Sachin spoke to her gently, helping her with her grief. Her new friends spoke consoling words. Everywhere, there was community and connections. I thought frequently of my own aging parents and in-laws in India, too far to benefit from these senior yoga classes.
I see now that this was a rare opportunity to observe an aspect of the immigrant experience which lies ahead. The yoga, I saw, can be particularly helpful to create community and healing around this ancient tradition, and ease the pain of being in a new land. But I also learned something about my own place in this adopted homeland and had a glimpse of my own life down the road.
The substitute stint ended quite suddenly. As I hurried into the large, somewhat musty room, an attractive lady was already issuing instructions. The home remodel had ended, and the regular yoga teacher was back.
And just like that, my gig as a senior yoga sub was over.
Geetika Pathania Jain is Culture and Media Editor at India Currents. She is touched by the selflessness of volunteers. For more information about the ICC Senior program, go to http://www.indiacc.org/programs/seniors/
When affluent Silicon Valley entrepreneur Neal Kumar’s beautiful, sensitive daughter, Maya, tragically commits suicide during her freshman year of college, no one seems to know why. In his frantic quest to find the truth – and as his seemingly idyllic life and family begins to unravel – Neal discovers many things about himself and his own choices.
When Silicon Valley Forum informed me I was to be a recipient of its 21st visionary awards, I was in disbelief. I have long been a critic of the ways of Silicon Valley and am clearly not in the same league as the 100 or so past recipients, who include Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Andy Groove, and Gordon Moore. But the Valley makes its own rules.
I came to Silicon Valley in 2009 to research its competitive advantages. In particular, I was trying to understand why foreign-born people such as I had achieved so much success. My research team at Duke University had worked with UC Berkeley’s AnnaLee Saxenian in documenting the role of immigrants in founding more than half of Silicon Valley’s startups from 1995 to 2005.
Our research revealed that what gave the Valley its global advantage was diversity and culture. It is a true melting pot, comprising educated people from every part of the world. It judges people primarily on their skills and capability; it welcomes debate and dissent; and it openly shares information. Silicon Valley is, in effect, a giant social network, joined through competition and cooperation.
I started out as a starry-eyed cheerleader for Silicon Valley but eventually realized that certain critical elements were missing — most notably, women, blacks, and Hispanics. As well, the Valley’s elite actively propagated a stereotype of the tech industry’s most successful: that they were young college dropouts. In fact, as my research team found, the median age of successful tech entrepreneurs was 39; twice as many were over 60 as were under 20; and twice as many were over 50 as were under 25. And they were highly educated.
I wrote a series of articles raising my concern. Though reader feedback was very positive, the articles ignited a firestorm of criticism from the Valley’s moguls. One VC friend pulled me aside to warn me that if I wanted “to make it in Silicon Valley,” I should stop raising these issues.
The stinging criticism from people I had respected made me realize that the problem might be worse than I had feared. But I was hesitant to take on such powerful people. It was my wife, Tavinder, who insisted that I do it. “If you don’t speak up and help these people, who will?” she said. So I did go on the offensive, and eventually, many of the Valley’s tech leaders did listen — and that is the greatness of Silicon Valley: It knows that it is imperfect, and so evolves.
The Valley’s moguls also supported me in my quest to raise the alarm about immigration policy. The U.S. had brought hundreds of thousands of skilled immigrants in on temporary visas without any thought to making available commensurate numbers of permanent-resident visas that would have allowed them to participate in the innovation economy as Americans. Elon Musk, Marc Andreessen, and Reid Hoffman readily endorsed my book, Immigrant Exodus and lent me support.
So Silicon Valley is the master of reinvention and contradiction.
A new reinvention is happening now that is greater than any other. The semiconductors that the Valley created are now powering advances in other fields. Ray Kurzweil says that as any technology becomes information-based, it starts advancing exponentially. That is what is happening to a broad range of technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics, sensors, and synthetic biology. These are making amazing things possible, including solving the grand challenges of humanity.
We may soon have the ability to generate unlimited, clean, and almost free energy; educate billions through AI and virtual reality; cure or prevent all disease; and grow more than enough food to feed the planet. We really can create the utopian future of Star Trek — 300 years ahead of schedule.
We also have the ability to unleash new horrors: killer robots, runaway AI, engineered viruses. Technologies such as social media, which were supposed to bring the world together and uplift humanity, are being used to divide and polarize. The gap between the haves and the have-nots is widening. Soon, AI and robots will eliminate hundreds of millions of jobs and leave the people who have lost them in despair.
Silicon Valley needs to wake up to the dark side of its inventions and take responsibility for their impacts. The problems won’t solve themselves; policymakers and academics don’t understand enough to take the lead. The creators of the technologies must lead the discussions on ethics, regulations, and controls. We need to come together and find ways of using advancing technologies to uplift humanity rather than destroy it. If we in Silicon Valley don’t do it, who will?
[This post is an edited version of a speech the author delivered at Silicon Valley Forums Visionary Awards.] Vivek Wadhwa is a Distinguished Fellow at Harvard Law School and Carnegie Mellon University at Silicon Valley.This article has been printed with permission of the author.
In a videoconference hosted by Indian start-up website Inc42, I gave Indian entrepreneurs some advice that startled them. I said that instead of trying to invent new things, they should copy and steal all the ideas they can from China, Silicon Valley and the rest of the world. A billion Indians coming online through inexpensive smartphones offer Indian entrepreneurs an opportunity to build a digital infrastructure that will transform the country. The best way of getting started on that is not to reinvent the wheel but to learn from the successes and failures of others.
Before Japan, Korea and China began to innovate, they were called copycat nations; their electronics and consumer products were knockoffs from the West. Silicon Valley succeeds because it excels in sharing ideas and building on the work of others. As Steve Jobs said in 1994, “Picasso had a saying, ‘Good artists copy, great artists steal,’ and we have you know always been shameless about stealing great ideas.” Almost every Apple product has features that were first developed by others; rarely do its technologies wholly originate within the company.
Mark Zuckerberg also built Facebook by taking pages from MySpace and Friendster, and he continues to copy products. Facebook Places is a replica of Foursquare; Messenger video imitates Skype; Facebook Stories is a clone of Snapchat; and Facebook Live combines the best features of Meerkat and Periscope. This is another one of Silicon Valley’s other secrets: if stealing doesn’t work, then buy the company.
By the way, they don’t call this copying or stealing; it is “knowledge sharing.” Silicon Valley has very high rates of job-hopping, and top engineers rarely work at any one company for more than three years; they routinely join their competitors or start their own companies. As long as engineers don’t steal computer code or designs, they can build on the work they did before. Valley firms understand that collaborating and competing at the same time leads to success. This is even reflected in California’s unusual laws, which bar noncompetition agreements.
In most places, entrepreneurs hesitate to tell others what they are doing. Yet in Silicon Valley, entrepreneurs know that when they share an idea, they get important feedback. Both sides learn by exchanging ideas and developing new ones. So when you walk into a coffee shop in Palo Alto, those you ask will not hesitate to tell you their product-development plans.
Neither companies nor countries can succeed, however, merely by copying. They must move very fast and keep improving themselves and adapting to changing markets and technologies.
Apple became the most valuable company in the world because it didn’t hesitate to cannibalize its own technologies. Steve Jobs didn’t worry that the iPad would hurt the sales of its laptops or that the music player in the iPhone would eliminate the need to buy an iPod. The company moved forward quickly as competitors copied its designs.
Technology is now moving faster than ever and becoming affordable to all. Advances in artificial intelligence, computing, networks and sensors are making it possible to build new trillion-dollar industries and destroy old ones. The new technologies that once only the West had access to are now available everywhere. As the world’s entrepreneurs learn from one another, they will find opportunities to solve the problems of not only their own countries but the world. And we will all benefit in a big way from this.
On May 17th, 2018, Silicon Valley Forum’s annual Visionary Awards returns for its illustrious 21st year—four of Silicon Valley’s brightest stars and leading founders will take the stage in celebration of their achievements, work, and contributions to Silicon Valley’s renowned business and technology ecosystem. The Visionary Awards invite the Valley’s thriving community—from up-and-coming entrepreneurs to lifelong company leaders, from seasoned investors to service providers—to come together for this singularly inspiring evening. The 2018 Visionary Awards will be held at Domenico Winery in San Carlos, California.
The 2018 Visionary Award recipients are:
Kimberly Bryant– Founder and CEO, Black Girls Code; visionary entrepreneur and speaker
Caterina Fake– Cofounder, Flickr and Hunch; author, entrepreneur, and angel investor
Astro Teller– Entrepreneur, scientist, and author; Captain of Moonshots, X
Vivek Wadhwa– Author, entrepreneur, and Carnegie Mellon Fellow
“Every year at our annual Visionary Awards, we look forward to the opportunity to celebrate the absolute best of the best of Silicon Valley—the leaders whose work is synonymous with what makes this region so magnetic,” said Denyse Cardozo, Silicon Valley Forum CEO. “We’re proud to invite the Valley to join us this year as we celebrate the achievements of this extraordinary group.”
Tickets are available at the event page both individually and in tables of 8 for attendees who want to enjoy a shared client or team experience. The evening begins at 6 pm with a wine reception, followed by a seated dinner and speeches from each of the Visionary honorees. Cocktail attire is encouraged.
At Silicon Valley Forum, we believe in the transformative power of entrepreneurship. We’ve dedicated the last 35 years to helping people learn how to build a business the Silicon Valley way, with a focus on creativity and innovation, using technology to bring society towards a better future. Whether you’re trying to create a company here or build your own Silicon Valley at home, our events and our online portal light the way for you to learn and grow as a 21st century entrepreneur.
Throughout our 35-year history, we’ve created thousands of successful events, programs, and conferences that educate, train, inspire and connect technologists, entrepreneurs, corporates, investors, innovation and startup hubs, and students—in Silicon Valley, throughout the U.S., and globally. We organize over 70 different activities per year, have over 20,000 subscribers/users, and work with over 40 countries worldwide.
Our partners include global leaders like Accenture, IBM, Microsoft, Mercer, and SAP, just to name a few, as well as leading venture capital firms and service providers. Silicon Valley Forum is a fully independent 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization.
When the movie The Martian first came out, my interest in seeing it was piqued when I realized that the writer Andy Weir, was a software engineer. He ended up self-publishing the book, because no publisher wanted to touch it. After it became popular on Kindle, Crown Publishing decided to publish it under their banner. When the book was finally made into a movie directed by Ridley Scott, it became a “must see.”
My interest in For Here or To Go was similarly piqued when I read that both the writer and director are Silicon Valley engineers. The movie itself came to fruition following the trajectory of a typical start-up. Instead of Powerpoint presentations, the writer Rishi Bhilawadikar and director Rucha Humnabadkar pitched to investors with the script and costing spreadsheets. When I asked Jayan Ramankutty why he decided to invest in this movie, he felt that the storyline had universal appeal. For the viewers in India who may think that America is purely a land flowing with milk and honey, this movie will serve a dose of reality. They get to see the struggles that South Asians go through as they try to earn a living and assimilate. For viewers in America (especially for those living in Silicon Valley), they can truly identify with the issues that the protagonist faces.
The movie is set in the backdrop of the 2008 recession. The movie centers on the work struggles of Vivek Pandit, played by Ali Fazal. He is poised to become a key hire at a promising healthcare startup. However, when they realize that his work visa has validity for less than a year, the offer disappears.Vivek draws upon his own ingenuity, struggles with flaws in the “its just paperwork” mentality and battles with forces beyond his control to get his visa extended. You find yourself rooting for Vivek to succeed not for some contrived reason (of being deemed a success in the eyes of his doting, forlorn mother in India), but because you want his courage, hope and doggedness to succeed.
The most appealing aspect of the movie to me was that it told multiple, believable stories of the diaspora as they face their own individual tussles- a daughter dealing with a father that is not available to her; an uncle trying to protect his hoodwinked nephew; an investor trying to convince his partner to give up on his idea of going back to India. The plot line draws on various characters to paint a mosaic of the immigrant experience. Omi Vaidya, who played Chatur Ramalingam in Three Idiots and Amitosh Nagpal provide the humorous interludes in the movie. The humor is not “forced” and is woven well into the script. In fact, the title of the movie comes from when Amit is asked the question “For here or to go?” by the clerk at a 7-11 store.
Just when Vivek is getting ready to give up and head back to India, he meets Shveta (played by Melanie Kannokada, former Miss India America). This motivates Vivek to fight the inane immigration system even harder. Rajit Kapur, known for his National Award-winning portrayal of The Making of the Mahatma plays the role of Vishwanath Prabhu, Shveta’s father. Vishwanath has just published a book that urges Indians in America to go back to India and help India succeed. He is passionate in delivering his message and steadfast in his strong views even when presented with an opposite point of view.
The movie has several breathtaking aerial views of Silicon Valley, including a beautiful aerial shot of the Golden Gate bridge. It also shows several familiar locations which residents of Silicon Valley will recognize.
For Here or To Go succeeds with wit and humanity. It is incredibly enjoyable and totally worth watching!