I am dismayed with how the United States responded to four plane crashes 12 years ago this day, September 11, 2013.
Wars were started that still continue. Trillions of US dollars have been wasted destroying much more than just property and life.
Osama bin Laden still could have been found and brought to trial to determine his guilt or innocence, and we wouldn’t have wrecked our good will like we have with these needless and counter productive wars that are a drain on the world. Constant war is a drain on the mental energy of everyone in the world, I fear.
President Bill Clinton handled the 1993 World Trade Center truck bombing as a police matter, and I recall that some of the perpetrators were located, tried in civilian courts, convicted and punished. That’s the way to handle both daily criminal and infrequent catastrophic criminal events.
I believe the people behind the 9/11/01 attacks were upset with how the United States conducts itself on the world stage. I think a sane and proper response would have been to admit to the world that the United States does overstep its place more than it cares to admit. We should have attempted to open a rich and ongoing dialog with those who attacked us to solicit their advice on how the United States could tone things down in the future so that others wouldn’t be so hopping mad that they attack us.
Would such a polite and measured response have worked? I don’t know. But I think it would have cost less in every measure.
If a prestigious entity with world visibility were created where we would yearly sit with our attackers and those who think of attacking, we would have taken the wind out of the sails of our attackers to a substantial degree. The entity would need to have power, prestige and money for it to be seen as more than window dressing by those who might attack us. It would need to make sure action was taken after meetings so all those watching would know their voice was being heard and acted upon. This would be one heck of an organization, and I don’t know how to pull it off, but it needs to be built. We know how to build huge, costly organizations that can cause action. The US military is one such huge costly organization, for example. The organization for good I propose might need to rival the US military in size, scope, power and budget. That might sound crazy, but what really are we getting for our military expenditures now? I would argue a lot less than nothing. We are building negative equity like at no time in the history of the United States. We could fund the organization I propose by reallocating half the budget of the US military as a start. With just half its budget intact, the United States would still have a huge military, but we would also immediately have the largest organization for world change on the planet, and just by having made that commitment, I predict more than half our ‘need’ for a military at all would evaporate. Half of our military is still a lot, and think of the new friends we would make with the new organization for change I propose. Far fewer people would wish us harm if we were doing good on such an intense global scale.
Now prepare yourself for the most provocative text I’ve written in my life…
Soon after the September 11, 2001 plane crashes, United States of America President George W. Bush should have said something like this:
“The United States is profoundly sorry and embarrassed.
Without an invitation, the United States has been acting like the policeman of the world.
We recognize that there are other valid points of view on how to live life. We don’t want to be attacked like this again, so I ask those of you who wish us harm to please share with us how we can avoid such attacks. We are willing to make big changes, and we’re willing to spend a lot of money to be a nicer world citizen. To demonstrate our resolve to change and see the point of view of others, the United States today is contributing USD $100,000,000,000 to get the ball rolling towards a more fair and sane planet. We will spend to improve the lot of the people that attacked us.
On behalf of the United States of America, I am sorry that this country has acted such that you believe you had to attack it. While this country may not agree with your points of view, it does recognize that you view your points of view as valid and worth advancing. Clearly, we need to talk, and we will talk. I personally will talk face to face with your representatives.
The United States feels so strongly that it will learn to play nice on the world stage that beyond the USD $100 billion I just spoke of, I am committed to working with the US House and Senate to gain approval to spend up to USD $3,000,000,000,000 over the next decade to fix what’s wrong with the world.
The United States is not a vindictive nation.
The United States could respond by starting wars and destroying entire countries, but we’re bigger than that, and we will show our attackers that the people of the United States are your friends, not your enemies. War is terrible. Peace is golden. The United States stands for peace, not war.
On behalf of everyone in the United States, including the families of those who lost loved ones today, I appologize for our actions, attitudes and positions that led others to believe that they had to attack the United States so violently to get our attention.
With hard work and determination, today will be the last time that any people of the world should feel that they have to attack us to get us to change our overstepping ways.
The United States in fact is ashamed that it has come to this, that we have upset other people so dramatically and profoundly that they have responded by flying airplanes into our landmarks, ending the lives of so many earnest people in the process.
Let us spend the following ten minutes in silence to reflect on the enormity of the events of today. Let us imagine a world filled with peace, happiness and enough to eat and drink. Let us cast aside our revengeful impulses so that we can come together at a meeting table to plan how the people of the world shall overcome the horror of today in favor of the brightness of a more promising future for all of humanity.
To the friends and family of those who lost their lives today, if you want to be upset with somebody, be upset with me and the past Presidents of The United States of America. What happened today was a reaction to this country overstepping its place in the world. It simply is not nice to tell other people how to live while we consume such a disproportionate percentage of the resources of the planet. In the decades ahead, we will need to learn to share our bounty with others more than we have done so far. Look on this redistribution of wealth as your insurance payment for the future safety of you, your property and your loved ones, not as a handout. The United States has been acting like a rich, spoiled kid on the playground eating the finest candy and laughing while others nearby starve and have little. We can remain a wealthy and prosperous and happy nation while at the same time leveling the playing field. We are a nation of thoughtful and ingenious innovators, and if we put forth our full effort, perhaps 100 times greater than what was required to place a man on the moon, we can solve the really big problems the world today faces.
Three trillion dollars is a lot of money. We can spend that amount building peace, love and goodwill. We can also spend three trillion dollars killing hundreds of thousands of people and destroying countries.
I am certain that three trillion dollars of peace, love and goodwill is more valuable than three trillion dollars of rubble, hate and death.
May September 11, 2001 be viewed by history as the first day of the most kind and peaceful period the world has yet known.
For those of you that worship a higher power, may that higher power give you comfort on this historic day of new beginnings. Let us rejoice in the saved lives of the hundreds of thousands of people this nation will not kill in response to the events of today. Let us rejoice in the new lives of the hundreds of thousands of babies by coincidence born this historic day. It is tragic that the United States lost thousands of its residents today, but keep in mind more babies were born in the United States today than lives were lost in these four plane crashes.
The United States is your friend, not your enemy. The United States wants peace, prosperity and fairness for all the people of the world.
Tomorrow will be better.
I love you.”
Instead, President Bush said something genuinely and dramatically stupid:
“You’re either with us or you’re with the terrorists.”
This is such an unwise thing to say it sounds like something out of the mouth of a high school student at a third rate institution. Yet his short statement formed the basis for spending of even more trillions of dollars than I proposed the United States spend in my mock speech above.
The United States ruined itself by its unwise response to four plane crashes.
I don’t spend a lot of time delving into the deep details of world politics. I am not a historian. I am not particularly well informed about what I write about here. I admire Noam Chomsky and Dennis Kucinich. I think Chomsky and Kucinich would like what I have written here today. I hope to meet both men one day, perhaps in response to this post if I am really lucky.
I believe I possess a very fine and properly working moral compass. I am proud of and guard my moral compass. I’ve made profound and life altering changes in my life when needed to protect and guard and respect my moral compass, even when it would have been so easy for many others to compromise. Perhaps the above makes me look childish and unrealistic. Perhaps I will lose a friend or three by what I’ve written. But what I’ve written has been on my mind for ten years now, and today I decided to just say what I first thought starting about 2 seconds after I first heard about the first plane striking one of the towers of the World Trade Center complex in New York City, New York, USA.
The United States has ruined itself by its response to four plane crashes.
PS – I am sorry for the loss of the family and friends of those who lost their lives in the events of and following September 11, 2001. By writing this post, I do not intend to upset anyone who lost a loved one. My heart also goes out to friends and family of those who have been killed or injured in the response to the events of 9/11, including those serving in military forces on all sides. I love the United States, and I love people generally, from all countries. I am so sad that all this death and suffering and hate has happened. It’s all so unnecessary and wasteful. Thank you for reading. I love you.
Kevin Laurence Warnock
San Francisco, California USA September 11, 2012
Note: I published this post on September 11, 2011, the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Today, September 11, 2013, I published this post again, changing the first sentence from “I am dismayed with how the United States responded to four plane crashes 10 years ago this day” to “I am dismayed with how the United States responded to four plane crashes 12 years ago this day, September 11, 2013.”
I am proud of this post, and I plan to republish it annually on September 11th.
Lusty Lady Theater closes its doors at 3am September 2, 2013 after 40 years in business in San Francisco, California USA
I photograph people.
My favorite subjects are young women.
When I was a young photography student as a teenager at Brooks Institute of Photography, there was no Craigslist or Model Mayhem. I photographed my classmates and friends outside of school, but I frankly didn’t know many beautiful women that would allow me to photograph them.
I was painfully shy back then, so I would not ask strangers.
I never thought to advertise in the newspaper classified ads, and I probably couldn’t have afforded their rates had I thought of it. What did occur to me was to drop off a mini portfolio of my work at the front desk of The Lusty Lady Theater at 1033 Kearny Street in San Francisco, California USA.
This theater was less than a block away from the music venues I went to back then, when I was an enthusiastic fan of punk rock music. The famed Mabuhay Gardens and the club named ‘On Broadway’ on the second floor over Mabuhay Gardens were on the street named Broadway, which intersects with Kearny. I suspect it was the punk rock that brought me to this North Beach neighborhood and put The Lusty Lady on my radar.
I lived in Santa Barbara, California USA at the time since that’s where Brooks was located. But my parents lived in San Francisco, and I returned home periodically. I loved to shoot outdoors in the industrial sections of the City. I couldn’t photograph my Santa Barbara friends, because they weren’t in San Francisco, which is a six hour drive from Santa Barbara.
Amazingly, the nude dancers who worked at The Lusty Lady Theater seemed to like my portfolio because they telephoned me and volunteered to be photographed by me. I never paid any of the women I photographed — remember, I was a student and supplies were very costly. My large format view camera used sheet film that came to USD $.40 a shot for black and white and $3.00 a shot for color.
Two of the dancers I photographed were in their own bands, so I got to photograph these bands. Some of the images I created back then hold up well, and as soon as I get a scanner than can accommodate 4×5″ large format negatives, I’ll scan some of them and post them to this blog.
I used to get invited to parties the theater put together.
These parties were not at the theater.
One party I vividly recall was at a large private home about an hour outside of San Francisco. I took my then college roommate Tom Lounsbury there. There were topless women all over the place — dozens of them. It was like nothing I had seen before. Lounsbury, who has since changed his first name to Ishmeil, pushed me into the swimming pool with all my clothes on. I hadn’t brought swim trunks, and I certainly was not going to go skinny dipping like some of the women were doing. I remember being upset at Lounsbury because my wallet got soaked. But it was all in good fun, and it made the day even more memorable. Of course, there were no mobile phones back then, so I didn’t ruin a phone.
Another memorable party was at a nightclub at the Northwest corner of 11th Street and Folsom Streets in San Francisco. I could not find the current name of the property on Google Maps. At the time, there was a swimming pool in the club — a full size pool like you would find in a hotel. The pool would have a plastic translucent floor placed over it for dancing. But for special events, the flooring was put in storage and the pool was open for swimming. It was at such a private special event that I met Teanna Keller, a dancer at The Lusty Lady. Her stage name was Barbarella. I believe the year was 1986, the year I graduated college and moved back to San Francisco.
Keller mesmerized me by taking off all her clothes in the middle of the afternoon and diving into the swimming pool, while everyone else remained clothed. I had never seen someone do that, before or since. There were over 100 people at this private party.
We met for the first time later that afternoon, when she was again fully clothed. She and one of her girlfriends invited me to head across the street to The Holy Cow, a popular dance club that’s still there today. Eventually her friend just disappeared without saying goodbye, and I was alone with Keller. We dated for perhaps a month, maybe two… I can’t remember.
I ended the relationship, and I remember Keller being upset and crying. She had only recently given me the most impressive bouquet of flowers that any woman has ever given me. It was huge — around three feet high. I was shocked, since we weren’t ever that serious. She gave me these flowers during my lunch break from Newell Color Laboratory, where I worked for less than a year right after graduation from photography school. My work friends were impressed with those flowers. Yes, I got a bit of teasing.
I suspect Keller felt such a bond so quickly with me because I insisted we visit a clinic for the morning after pill. Condoms were new to me in 1986, and Keller was the first person that I had used a condom with. The condom broke because we were not using it correctly, out of mutual ignorance. I was panicked because my friend Lounsbury had just had an unexpected baby with his girlfriend, and at the time that seemed like a bad thing. I didn’t want this supposed bad thing to happen to me, so even though I had discovered the breakage within moments of it happening, I still wanted to play it safe. I took the morning off from Newell and took Keller to a clinic that specialized in female reproductive health. She was prescribed birth control pills with special instruction on how to take some of the pills more quickly than normal. If you use the pills this way, those pills mimic the functionality of today’s ‘morning after pill’ sequence. I don’t think one could buy a morning after pill advertised for that purpose at the time. Of course, Keller didn’t get pregnant, and probably wouldn’t have even without the pills. But she was super appreciative of my being so careful. She told her girlfriend — the one that had invited me to the party where I met Keller, and that friend of mine said how impressed Keller was with me for taking care of her as I did.
In retrospect, I sometimes wish Keller had gotten pregnant and that we had stayed together, because I would have a family now. I soon lost touch with Keller, and haven’t seen her for a quarter century.
I never photographed Teanna Keller, and I don’t even have a picture of her. She was thin with short blond hair, and stood about five feet five inches. I was certainly attracted to her, but I broke up with her because her work was too much for me to handle.
I never went to watch Teanna Keller perform at The Lusty Lady, so I was never her customer. I was poor, but I would have considered it to be poor form to show up at her work to see her without clothes when I could see her in my own home.
I once walked Keller to work from my work and said ‘have a nice day at work.’ She immediately asked me never to say that again when she was heading to her job.
She told me emphatically that she didn’t like the work.
Keller had a nice apartment in Fremont, California. The last time I saw her was at her apartment. We had already split up by then, but she had asked me for help fixing her record player. The phono cartridge was wobbling on the tone arm, and she wanted me to tighten the screws. Sadly, the plastic threads in the tone arm stripped and the cartridge fell off entirely. When I got there she could play records, though not optimally. When I left, her record player was fully broken and useless. I felt awful. Nonetheless, she gave me such a sweet big hug… I think she still wanted me to be her boyfriend. Sadly, I never saw her or heard from her again.
Keller was 19 years old and I was 24 years old.
When I read in the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper that The Lusty Lady Theater would be closing September 2nd, I decided to visit as a blogger. It turns out I was a day late.
The venue closed to customers at 3am this morning, September 2, 2013, with what sounded like an epic party. I probably would not have attended this party even had I known about it, since I don’t like strip clubs or peep shows, and I don’t know anybody at The Lusty Lady. But I am really glad I went this afternoon around 3:30pm as a blogger.
The doors were still open. They can’t be locked because there is no lock that I could see. The place has been open continuously 24 hours a day since 1973, so there was no reason to lock the doors. I suspect the theater stayed open even on September 11, 2001 when most San Francisco businesses closed down after four airplanes crashed on the other side of the United States.
When I arrived and introduced myself this afternoon, there were still half a dozen now ex-employees hanging out drinking mimosas. Andi Baker, second from the right in the group picture above, graciously allowed me to photograph the interior of the peep show, including the famous nude dancing stage, a mirror lined room about ten by twenty feet in size.
The Lusty Lady was a peep show. I understand from interviewing the staff today that this theater was the last live peep show in the United States. The theater charged no admission fee to step inside. Instead they made money by offering phone booth sized private rooms that had a motorized panel at eye level. When paper money was inserted into the bill receptor on the wall, the panel would slide out of the way, revealing a glitzy room mirrored on all surfaces other than the floor. Even the back sides of the panels were mirrored. These bill receptors used to be quarter dollar coin receptors a quarter century ago, and the theater used to distribute their own coinage, like many game arcades used to do, to thwart thieves that wanted to profit from breaking into the coin boxes in the private booths.
I forgot to ask how long the window is open for a dollar.
There were two other money making parts to the theater.
The first was a private pair of rooms called ‘Private Pleasures.’ In this set of rooms, a nude woman would sit in one room, and a customer would sit in the other. There was a glass divider between the rooms.
The second was a lap dancing area, something new from twenty five years ago. I suspect the theater was trying to compete with the many nearby traditional strip clubs that feature lap dances. One such club, the Hustler Club, is in the basement of the building The Lusty Lady is housed in, and the entrance door is adjacent to the entrance door to the Lusty Lady, as can be seen in the exterior picture of both clubs that accompanies this post. I was told that Hustler Club will be moving into Lusty Lady’s former space. The landlord for Hustler Club also owns the space The Lusty Lady rented, I was told.
The Lusty Lady was forced to close because the rent of approximately USD $16,000 was too much for the employee owners to afford. Yes, this club was employee owned and unionized. A feature length movie — Live Nude Girls Unite — was made about the long path the dancers took to achieve this apparently unique in the world ownership structure for a strip club. The movie is available in the US over the streaming service of the movie website Netflix.
The six staff I spoke with were shaken over the closing. They were heartbroken from what I gathered.
Courtney Crimson — I’m not sure if this is her real name or her ‘stage’ name — said she was the Theater Madame, which I presume meant she was the general manager. She used to be a dancer at the club, and started work there seven years ago. Her boyfriend Andi Baker also works at the club. They were a couple before they moved to San Francisco, and they both took jobs at the club, though not at the same time. I am impressed a romantic couple could work together at an adult entertainment club for years. Baker and Crimson were very welcoming to me today, and I sensed they were really pleased that I had come there to seriously and respectfully cover the demise of ‘their club’ on my blog.
I don’t know what the current dancers think of their work as dancers. I suspect most of them liked the work and that some, like my girlfriend Keller, disliked it.
My view is that most sex work should be legal.
I think the United States military should set up brothels near or inside its facilities the world over, perhaps even subsidizing the sex workers to encourage their participation. I suspect that sexual assaults that are apparently out of control in the military would drastically drop if there were affordable prostitutes conveniently available all the time. The Japanese reportedly forced women to service its solders during World War II. How much better it would have been for women to be allowed to set up business nearby or even inside military installations. Sex work is legal in advanced countries like Switzerland and Germany. The US should change its laws at the Federal level to override any state law.
I also believe all drugs should be legal, including cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and Oxycontin.
But even though I think sex work and drugs should be legal, I don’t want anyone I am close to be a sex worker or a drug user. I don’t use drugs, strippers or prostitutes. With the exception of the reporting for this blog post and my years ago visits, I do not go to any adult entertainment establishments, and I never plan to in the future. I think sex work is bad for the workers, and I have seen it destroy and harm lives to shocking degrees. But in spite of this, I think such work should be legal. I also think the social stigma should be lifted, since the stigma itself contributes in my mind to the harm caused by the work.
I don’t drink alcohol or smoke, even though both are legal. Even if sex work were legal and without stigma, I would still not be a customer.
One reason I can take this resolute position is that I have lost my shyness nearly completely. Thus, it is now relatively easy for me to meet women, both to socialize with them and to photograph them. I photograph far more young women now than I did 25 years ago, and I still photograph volunteers most of the time. I may hire perhaps one model a year, but that’s not to photograph them but to hear their stories about traveling the world as a model. Such models that really do travel the world while supporting themselves exclusively by modeling don’t volunteer, so to hear their stories and interview them, I have to hire them. I met glamor model Jessi June this way.
I met and photographed many self described Lusties decades ago. Maybe one day I will post their pictures. Right now those pictures are locked away on film negatives, and I don’t have a film scanner.
Many dancers will likely find this post in the coming days. It would be a lot of fun to do a large group picture of as many former Lusty Lady dancers as can be gathered at one time. If a dancer or other theater employee would like to help me organize such a shoot, please contact me via Facebook here. We could do the shoot outside, perhaps in North Beach, South of Market or even in front of the theater before its recognizable facade is replaced. I also have a studio we could use. I can’t pay anyone, but I can promise hundreds of quality photographs, and I will give everyone that models the pictures on DVD before they leave. This is a project that should get done, by me or by someone, before the dancers scatter across the land and can’t be gathered together easily, like they can right now. The male employees should be in the photographs as well, because the theater employed many men. They are part of the family I am certain.
The other dancers I photographed were just friends of mine. I stayed in touch with one for years. I can still find references to her music online. She settled down on a farm, got married and had children. Her name was much more unique than Keller’s name, so out of respect for her privacy, I will not name her on this blog.
The too easy accessibility of pornography will probably see to it that no business like The Lusty Lady will ever start again. In 1973 when this theater opened, people didn’t even have video cassette players, and adult movies were shown only at public movie houses like the California Pussycat chain, where I saw my first adult movie while I was going to UCLA, before Brooks.
The dancers I met were always very nice to me. I liked them. The two dancers I met today were nice to me. Saddie Massoch introduced herself to me before I had a chance to introduce myself. None of these half dozen people I met had any idea what my blog is about, yet they all treated me as if I were writing for The New York Times. Their enthusiasm for The Lusty Lady was genuine, and I suspect their hearts will be heavy for months to come, if not forever.
I hesitated a bit before writing this post. Admitting I once briefly dated a stripper is not something I thought I would do — ever. But Teanna Keller was sweet and we didn’t meet at her work. Everyone likes sex, and the story of The Lusty Lady, with its employee ownership and union representation, is one of the most interesting stories I have encountered. That I have a personal connection to this theater through my hobby of photography makes the story worthy of a blog post. And, look, even The Atlantic Magazine wrote about The Lusty Lady Theater closing!
Here’s a screen shot from The Atlantic website. Be warned, there’s a bit of nudity in the accompanying photograph. Again, this story is in The Atlantic.
I took the photographs that accompany this post, except for the shots inside the screen captures. I uploaded my pictures at full camera resolution of 21 megapixels. To see the full size versions, which are much larger, click on the pictures. I used a Canon 5D Mark II DSLR camera with a Canon 16-35mm L zoom lens. Most of the interior photographs are long time exposures. I may have the subject names in incorrect order in the caption for the team shot at the top. I had the subjects write their names down for me, but I forgot to have them put them in left to right order for the caption.
If the large group photograph I propose can’t be organized, I am willing to photograph smaller groups or individual dancers. Just message me via Facebook.
In other news, the replacement span of the San Francisco Bay Bridge opened to public vehicle traffic today for the first time.
ShoppinPal.com smart phone app from Fermyon, Inc. improves the brick and mortar retail shopping experience for both buyers and sellers
Fermyon, Inc. is the company behind the impressive ShoppinPal smart phone application that improves the retail brick and mortar retail shopping experience for both buyers and sellers.
Retailers complain about people treating their physical stores as free showrooms for consumers to touch and evaluate items they will then actually buy online, frequently from giant Amazon. The retailer I suspect feels cheated by these people since they received something valuable, but didn’t make a purchase from the store to compensate the store for their efforts.
Consumers like mobile shopping apps like the one Amazon gives its customers. Smart phone shopping apps let people look up specifications and customer reviews to help them make smarter purchasing decisions. I don’t see shopping apps disappearing, since they offer such compelling value to consumers.
Retailers with physical stores could of course create their own smart phone applications that mimic those from huge online merchants, but it’s mostly larger chain stores that do, because writing a shopping application is difficult and costly.
That’s where ShoppinPal comes in.
ShoppinPal is a service that retailers pay money for — 3% of sales for retailers with over USD $5,000 in monthly ShoppinPal sales, or $49.00 + 3% of sales for retailers that sell less than $5,000 a month through ShoppinPal. This strikes me as assertive pricing, but if it works, Fermyon will be in a position arguably even better than Visa and Mastercard, because Fermyon is not taking any fraud or refusal to pay risk that I can see. On the other hand, no small retailer could hope to deploy a system like ShoppinPal by developing the system itself, and showrooming is a looming problem that likely is motivating retailers to take defensive action.
Shoppers use the service for free.
The retailer gets access to a custom branded application its customers can install on their own phones. In addition, the retailer gets access to an online management console that shows what customers are buying, among many other statistics. Since buyers provide their email address when they install the smart phone app, the store can easily send them custom messages.
For example, if a potential buyer uses the smart phone app to add several items to their ‘wish list’ the store will know about that and can gently remind the potential buyer to return to the store to buy the items. Buyers can be especially enticed to return by being sent discount codes that buyers can use to receive the items at a lower price. Buyers can even opt to have the items delivered to them, offering the convenience of online shopping to the offline world.
I like ShoppinPal. The small team of two co-founders and three staff have put together an offering that appears to come from a larger entity that has raised far more than the modest USD $120,000 in outside capital that Fermyon has taken in.
Buyer engagement potentially starts moments after walking through the door of a shop. One can ‘check in’ to the ShoppinPal app, like one ‘checks in’ on Facebook. The check in alerts store management that the buyer was present.
Next the customer can use the camera on their smart phone to scan the bar code on items they are interested in. The app recognizes the bar code and pulls up that product. The app can, at the option of the retailer, show customers recommendations for other items they may like in their store.
For new retailers, the ShoppinPal cloud based software taps into the retailers’ point of sale cash register system and reviews the receipts for the prior six months of sales. The software sees that people purchased certain items during the same transaction, and uses that set data to recommend that future purchasers also consider such grouped purchases.
CTO Singhal asked current retailers using their system to try the recommendation engine, and those queried marveled at how the recommendations matched with their memory of what many past customers had bought together.
The ShoppinPal app and the website are both beautiful – spare, elegant and clean. The management console is by Mixpanel, a separate company ShoppinPal pays to provide that service.
Sellers can add various incentives for shoppers to buy more items. For example, a discount can be applied after a certain number of purchases. Thus, a coffee shop could automate the ‘buy 10, get 1 free’ paper punch card that still is in use, and was in use at the tea shop where I met with Singhal and Subramanian.
That tea shop in fact allowed customers to store their paper cards in a physical file system on the counter out for the public to access. I marveled the tea shop would put such sensitive information out on public display, because a competitor could surreptitiously copy down a list of the shop’s best and most loyal customers. With quality video cameras in every smart phone, someone could just pretend they were looking for their card while capturing video of every card the thief perused. An electronic loyalty system like that included in ShoppinPal reduces the risk a customer list can fall into the hands of an outsider or an employee that should not have that information.
Inside ShoppinPal, there is not only a wish list, but a gift registry, which should encourage others to buy at a retailer the others may not even be aware of when the items are added to the registry.
ShoppinPal communicates via application programming interfaces to two point of sale cash register systems — Lightspeed Retail and Vend. ShoppinPal hands off to the cash register the precision task of calculating sales tax, sidestepping a thorny problem, since there are thousands of sales tax jurisdictions.
As a customer walks around a store, as they pick up items and place them in their physical shopping cart or basket, they can click ‘add to cart’ within the mobile app. This gives a running total of their planned purchases, and when the customer is ready to pay, they can buy directly from the app, which will display a receipt on screen the customer can show to store staff as they pass through the exit.
This pay within the app feature over time will let retailers hire fewer checkout clerks. The pay within the app feature can be turned off by the retailer that prefers customers visit a cash register to physically run their credit cards through a credit card terminal.
Whether the purchase is paid for in app or at a retailer’s register, the ShoppinPal management console keeps track of all the buyers’ purchases, and makes the purchase history available to the customer, which in my mind is a great perk for the customer. When I shop at Lowes and HomeDepot, I use their loyalty cards mostly because their systems email me a copy of my receipt within minutes after a purchase, which makes my life easier at income tax time.
The sexiest feature of the mobile app is a feature that adds fun to getting a discount. Instead of just writing out ‘you get a discount’ the app presents a silvery gray patch that looks just like the silvery patches covering the digits on lottery tickets. You have to ‘scratch off’ the patch with your finger, and as you rub the screen with your finger, the silvery ‘material’ under your finger vanishes. The effect was startlingly captivating such that I believe a tiny company could be formed just to advance this feature inside other unrelated products from other companies.
ShoppinPal is still an early stage venture. The company was incorporated in January, 2011, but work didn’t really accelerate until CEO Subramanian completed his MBA in June, 2012, last year.
Fermyon has signed up four customers, all via resellers that have agreed to carry their product. I view it as a positive sign that resellers are promoting their product while the company is still so young, for resellers have to be particularly careful to not damage their reputations.
ShoppinPal’s customers are Harney & Sons in New York City, Heartfelt in San Francisco, Isha USA in Tennessee and Marthas Vineyard Glassworks in Massachussets, all in the United States. The Isha implementation is the most demanding, because the organization runs events that draw about 1,000 people twenty times or so per year, so the transaction volumes spike tremendously during events and subside the rest of the year.
I live in San Francisco, so I decided to install the ShoppinPal app on my Apple iPhone 5 and visit Fermyon’s customer Heartfelt, a charming and totally adorable gift shop in the Bernal Heights neighborhood. This single store business doesn’t sell items that people are likely to evaluate and then order online from a giant website. But the Heartfelt is the kind of place that I think could benefit from the loyalty, gift registry and wish list features in ShoppinPal. The store also I suspect prides itself on having just the right gift, as there appear to be over 10,000 different items for sale inside this small store. As I was browsing around, I found half a dozen items I wanted to buy, and I am not even looking for gifts right now.
As soon as you check in, a horizontal red line starts sweeping up and down the phone display. The indicates the phone is looking for a bar code to recognize. I created a video of the ShoppinPal experience from checking in to just before payment. I have embedded the video into this post. The video is a bit shaky because I had to hold my large camera in one hand, and operate the app with my other hand, and since the phone was so close, the depth of field was shallow. But the video does show faithfully what the app does.
As soon as the app finds a bar code, it goes into search mode where it’s communicating with the cash register computer to find the item. This takes about two to six seconds. Then the item shows up in your shopping cart. From there it is confusing what to do next, since there is no ‘checkout’ or ‘buy now’ button. Instead, to continue shopping, you are to press the button in the upper left labeled ‘heartfelt,’ the name of the store. This should be labeled ‘back’ or ‘continue shopping.’ There is a button in the upper right called ‘cart.’ I didn’t try that button, but I assume that button takes you to the shopping cart from where one can checkout.
I scratched off the panel as invited, and I got a 10% discount. I was given the chance to pay via credit card or PayPal, the payment service from auction giant EBay. I bought a lightweight wallet made from Tyvek, and I paid via PayPal. The process was quick and efficient, but my receipt listed my discount as $0.00 even though the 10% discount had been correctly applied to the total. I understand that ShoppinPal was only recently installed at Heartfelt, so I expect there to be small glitches to be worked out. For such an early stage yet ambitious application, ShoppinPal performed well.
As you might imagine, ShoppinPal has big dreams and has had sales meetings with huge brands that are household names throughout the US. I suspect that after they build their credibility with smaller retailers for the following months that they will land a national retailer.
ShoppinPal participated in 2012 in the Silicon Valley Bank Seed Showcase, a pitch event to investors for Silicon Valley Bank clients. Silicon Valley Bank is widely considered one of the most important banks in Silicon Valley for startups that aspire to or have raised venture capital investment. You can watch CEO Subramanian pitch on stage and then watch him later that day be interviewed by Carrie Walsh, Managing Director II, ESG, Silicon Valley Bank.
I could find no direct competitors to Fermyon.
The closest offering appears to be CardFree, which automates via a smart phone app some of the tasks that ShoppinPal automates, like payment and loyalty. But CardFree omits the ability to scan the barcode of products to bring up specifications and Amazon.com like product recommendations, two of the most compelling features of ShoppinPal, in my mind.
Another company that does part of what ShoppinPal does is CardStar from Constant Contact. CardStar appears to be a smart phone app just for storing and using loyalty cards from multiple retailers, so your physical wallet doesn’t burst from storing too many physical cards, like mine is threatening to do.
Another loyalty card company is BellyCard, which appears to be similar to CardStar.
Finally, there is a smart phone payment app called AisleBuyer, which lets in store purchasers pay via their smart phone. This company was acquired by Intuit in 2012.
The company’s name Fermyon is a play on the particle physics term Fermion. The definition of the Fermion is better left to the article on Wikipedia I just referenced.
I took the picture of Subramanian and Singhal that accompanies this post with my Canon 5D Mark II camera, my Canon 50mm f:2.5 macro lens and my Paul C. Buff Einstein studio flash unit.
The location of the photograph is the Skydeck accelerator run by University of California Berkeley. Jeff Burton is the Executive Director of Skydeck, and Burton encourages me to write about the UC Berkeley affiliated companies that the accelerator houses in its exceptionally glorious 10,000+ square feet of penthouse office space. If you look out the window in the center of the picture, you will see the clock tower that serves as the focal point of the UC Berkeley campus. ShoppinPal is headquartered at Skydeck, but this is not an indicator that the team is reckless with its finances. To the contrary, it’s an indicator that the team is careful with its money since the company’s office space is provided for free by the University of California, from where Subramanian earned his Masters of Business Administration graduate degree. Skydeck gives free office space to only the companies it deems most likely to succeed.
I became aware of Subramanian over the last year because we both attend monthly Cal Founders meetings, which are designed to help founders and mentors be more successful in business. Subramanian and I are more acquaintances than friends since we’ve only met and spoken a handful of times. He learned of this blog and asked if I would write about his venture, and I agreed because I had become intrigued when he had introduced his company during the roundtable discussions at Cal Founders meetings. I disclose the circumstances of how we met to deflect any appearance of bias due to my already knowing Subramanian.
On Sunday, June 30, 2013, I attended the San Francisco Pride Parade and Celebration in San Francisco, California USA.
The parade began near the foot of Market Street at 10:30am, and it continued for hours. I attended the first hour and a half of the parade with my dear friend Regina Aviles.
After the parade, I walked up Market Street to Civic Center, where San Francisco City Hall is located. There were over 100,000 people there, I estimate. The weather was unusually warm and sunny for Summer in San Francisco. The mood was upbeat and vibrant.
The mood was so bright because the United States Supreme Court on June 26, 2013 delivered astonishing news. Here is what Wikipedia has to say as of July 5, 2013:
On June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court of the United States issued its ruling on the appeal in the case Hollingsworth v. Perry, affirming that in accordance with numerous precedents, proponents of initiatives such as Proposition 8 did not possess legal standing in their own right to defend the resulting law in federal court, either to the Supreme Court or (previously) to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Therefore the Supreme Court both dismissed the appeal and directed the Ninth Circuit to vacate (withdraw) its decision, which had agreed with the district court ruling. The decision left the district court’s 2010 ruling as the final decision on Proposition 8. On June 28, 2013, the Ninth Circuit lifted its stay of the district court’s ruling, enabling same-sex marriages to resume.
The result is now the US Federal Government will recognize gay marriage for residents of US states where gay marriage is legal. Gay marriage is legal in California now, and gay couples have been getting married after June 26th.
I was at City Hall the afternoon of July 5th, the day I wrote and posted this article. I was there to inquire about appealing the assessment of my home value, but I could not miss the many happy gay couples having their wedding photographs taken in the splendid halls of the restored building.
I took over 3,000 pictures on Sunday at the parade and celebration, a record for one day in any context. My feet wore sore I did so much walking.
I now present 77 photographs from the event. I uploaded these at full size. Click on them twice in slow succession to see the full size versions. I used my Canon 5D Mark II DSLR camera, which captures images at approximately 21 megapixels. I used three different lenses throughout the day: Canon 80-200mm F:2.8 L zoom, Canon 16-35mm F:2.8 L zoom, Canon 50mm F:2.5 macro lens. I edited all of these pictures in Adobe Photoshop.
There were hundreds of nude men and women at this event. Such nudity at festivals and parades conducted via the permission of official city permits is entirely legal in San Francisco. I do not show any actual nudity in the photographs that follow, but be warned that there are some topless women wearing nipple coverings. If you are offended by such images, please don’t view the rest of the pictures associated with this post.
There are images of famous politicians below, including United States Senator Nancy Pelosi.
The two couples that brought their cases to the US Supreme Court are also pictured. Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrilo are pictured immediately above, and Kris Perry and Sandy Stier are pictured immediately below.
I almost got a picture of Facebook co-founder and current Chief Executive Office Mark Zuckerberg. According to news reports, he was riding on the motorized cable car bus you will see below. I believe I didn’t get a picture of him because I was not on the correct side of the street to see him. I have never seen Zuckerberg in person before, so I was and remain disappointed I missed him. Facebook is currently an important social network on the Internet. You may find me on that network at Facebook.com/kevinlwarnock and I invite you to subscribe to my public updates.
I am sorry for the delay in posting this article, but it is a lot of work to go through 3,000 plus pictures and then edit and post the best 77 images.
On Friday, April 12, 2013, I attended the 2013 final presentations by teams competing in the Global Social Venture Competition.
I was invited by Jennifer Walske, Faculty Director of the Global Social Venture Competition. Walske moderated the question and answer session between the judges and the competitors. I paid for a ticket to attend the event, but at a reduced rate as a member of the press — USD $49.50 rather than $99.00. Thank you to the organizers for the discount.
This event was an all day affair, with keynotes, panels and even a debate. I arrived at 8am and left around 8pm.
This competition is the premier social venture competition in the world, and, according to the organizers, close to 650 teams from 37 countries competed. My friend Sara Olsen co-founded the competition while she was getting her MBA at the University of California Berkeley.
The morning keynote
Josh Nesbit, the CEO of Medic Mobile, gave one of the more uplifting keynotes I have heard in a while. I didn’t take notes so I am not prepared to summarize it, but he tells about a remarkable journey over the last four years or so where this non profit has improved the lives of tens of thousands of people in the developing world. The video of the talk should be posted to the Global Social Venture Competition website, or perhaps YouTube, by Friday, April 19, 2013, I’ve been told, so you’ll be able to watch it there. It’s well worth watching. I photographed Nesbit twice, and there is a more formal portrait of him at the bottom of this post.
The 6 final finalist teams
All 18 teams that traveled to Berkeley are finalists, and they all wore the same type of name badges. The 18 teams presented on Thursday, April 11, 2013, and the best 6 teams became what I will call the final finalists. In this post, I present short executive summaries of each of the 18 teams. This text was written by the teams themselves — I just copied it from the luxurious pamphlet distributed at the event. Normally, I place such text in quotes, but since this text compromises so much of this post, I am telling you here that the summaries are text I did not write.
The teams that advanced to the concluding round of judging are:
1st place winner of USD $25,000; Blum Center for Developing Economies Peoples’ Choice Award of $1,500 — from the country Burkina Faso
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about half of the world population is still at risk of contracting malaria. In 2010, among 219 million people affected, there were 660,000 deaths, of which 91% were in Africa where malaria remains the leading cause of death. Particularly vulnerable individuals are pregnant women, children under 5 and HIV patients. Considering this alarming report, Moctar Dembele and Gérard Niyondiko, two students from 2iE Foundation, have found an innovative solution through the project Faso Soap. The “soap of Faso” offers an innovative solution for the prevention of malaria, which takes into account financial constraints and cultural habits of African families. The company will produce and market both antibacterial and anti-mosquito soaps made with 100% local resources to integrate prevention against malaria in the daily lives of people most affected by this scourge. Faso Soap: “The action of a group, the future of an entire nation.”
Carbon Roots International
2nd place winner of USD $15,000 — Haiti
Carbon Roots International (CRI) started as an idea to explore the potential of carbon-rich char as a tool for international development. The idea evolved from a chain of emails between three friends, to meetings over lunch, to a trip to rural Haiti in 2010. Upon returning to the United States, CRI’s three co-founders established the organization to enable the adoption of char technologies in Haiti. CRI’s work served as the basis for co-founder Ryan Delaney’s Master’s thesis at Arizona State University’s School of Sustainability, and compelled another co-founder, Hannah Erickson, to pursue a graduate degree at the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment. After several years of refining technology and testing solutions, CRI has produced a feasible, scalable business plan that addresses two overlapping issues—charcoal fuel use and low agricultural productivity—which converge in Haiti, but are endemic throughout the developing world.
I guessed correctly that Carbon Roots would win 2nd place. I really like this company, which makes ‘green’ charcoal briquets out of agricultural waste, like sugar cane waste. The briquets look like small hockey pucks, and apparently burn as well as charcoal made from trees. Deforestation is a large problem, so Carbon Roots has the potential to help the planet on a meaningful scale.
3rd place winner of $7,500 — United States of America
PulpWorks: The planet is choking in garbage – toxic, enduring waste. And the single worst culprit is packaging – thirteen bathtubs full per year for each person on the planet; in the U.S. alone, 31 million tons of plastic waste was generated last year. PVC is the world’s leading toxic packaging material. Consumer packaged goods companies are seeking a cost-effective, sustainable replacement for their current unsustainable PVC packaging. To address this crisis, PulpWorks has created a compostable, all-pulp-and-paper alternative to toxic plastic (PVC) blister packaging. Our patent-pending package is, in essence, the “un-blister”. It showcases products in the same manner as traditional blister packs, but, rather than ending up in a landfill, the entire package can be composted after opening. Increasing consumer and regulatory pressure will eventually remove PVC from the marketplace. As designers and manufacturers of eco-friendly packaging, PulpWorks will reap the rewards of this marketplace shift.
This company has developed a way to turn paper pulp into appealing compostable packaging. The containers they showed me have a texture that is similar to cardboard egg cartons. The three presenters got a laugh out of the crowd when they said between the three of them they have 100 years of experience in business. I like this product, and I hope they succeed. Fortunately, the CEO, Paul Tasner, pictured above and individually below, has decades of experience in the packaging industry, and as a result, he has been able to get meetings with household name companies like Clorox.
The PulpWorks team traveled to the competition finals on Bart, the commuter train system in the San Francisco Bay Area, where the University of California is located.
TOHL developed a patent-pending technology for installing pipelines cheaply, quickly sustainably, and in any location. This technology utilizes much longer segments of pipeline than what is traditionally used. Single segments of pipeline are manufactured in lengths of 500 meters to several kilometers, and these long segments are loaded directly onto large spools that are deployed via helicopter or truck. The pipelines have fewer connections, which decreases labor hours during installation and allows the pipelines to be in operation faster than is possible if using conventional infrastructure technology. The patent-pending helicopter installations method also allows for TOHL to access remote areas that previously could not be reached, which is significant, because valuable water sources are often inaccessible. Lastly, TOHL’s technology also offers the service of pipeline removal and re-use, when the pipeline is only needed for temporary applications. The tubing is re-spooled and recycled for other projects saving money and resources.
This is the team I thought would win 1st place. Drinking dirty water either kills or makes ill countless numbers of people. This company can install a flexible water hose by flying a helicopter from a source of clean water to where water is needed. Often, their services are needed after a natural disaster like an earthquake. It could take months to repair a permanent underground pipe that serves an area damaged in a quake. TOHL can install a pipe overground in minutes once everything’s set up. The technology is not new, as I learned the oil exploration industry has been using the technique for years to bring water to their drilling rigs that are often out of reach of conventional plumbing. What’s new with TOHL is their specialization on emergency installations. They have developed expertise working with local governments to get the necessary permits and easements, a process I suspect is so difficult that it will discourage cheap copycats from competing with their company. The company’s first efforts have been in Chile, most likely because they received startup financing and support as part of the well known Startup Chile program.
The TOHL team is operating with real paying customers. The team showed an impressive video where their rented helicopter drops down tubing from a giant spool that hangs below the aircraft like a water container on a fire fighting helicopter. The TOHL helicopter showed tubing can be set down even on the tops of trees — flat or smooth ground is not required.
If the tubing is made unnecessary after some months, perhaps by the broken underground pipes being restored, the tubing can be reeled back onto the spool for reuse elsewhere.
Amazingly, the tubing can handle being outside for 25 years.
Founders Benjamin Cohen and Travis Horsley were impressive, and I spent perhaps half an hour hearing about their exciting venture. I wish them well.
The TOHL team studied at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), one of the 9 partner schools that together stage the Global Social Venture Competition. Each school sends a representative that works for the institution to the global finals. Georgia Tech sent Dori Pap, the Assistant Director of the Institute for Leadership and Entrepreneurship, pictured above with the TOHL team.
Reel Gardening is a manufacturing company that aims to make gardening simple. Its main product is a biodegradable strip that encases organic fertilizer and open pollinated seed at the correct depth in the soil, and the correct distance apart. Reel Gardening indicates where each plant will sprout allowing for watering to be localized, enabling a saving of 80% water in the germination phase. The strip also helps restore soil fertility as the paper breaks down and the vegetable based inks and organic fertilizer seep into the soil. The Reel Gardening team is made up of Claire Reid (Inventor and Founder), Sean Blanckenberg (Director at Reel Gardening), Emily Jones (Project Manager at Reel Gardening), Greg Macfarlane (Financial Advisor) and Dianna Moore (Business Advisor).
CSA Munching Box
CSA Munching Box is a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program providing weekly subscription-based delivery of seasonal, organic fresh fruit and vegetables direct from the farms to customers’ doorsteps and bringing the customers closer to our farmer networks in rural areas. We also serve as a distribution platform linking artisanal food producers to the urban market. Additionally, CSA Munching Box brings positive social impacts to its partners. We also use packaging made from recycled materials as well as deliver our products via bicycle couriers to reduce carbon footprint. The primary target customer group is the health-conscious and discerning consumers in major cities across Thailand. This group tends to have more knowledge about CSA, appreciates the concept, and possesses higher purchasing power.
The 12 finalist teams
Eighteen teams traveled to Berkeley for the final two rounds of the competition. On Thursday, April 11, 2013, six teams advanced to the concluding round of judging. The twelve teams that did not advance each got to deliver their pitch to all the attendees. The 12 finalists are:
The low income families in the world’s cold regions suffer not only from cold weather but also from problems such as fuel costs, illness, and pollution due to their outdated, inefficient stove heating system. AtRium addresses these socio-economic and environmental issues through an affordable heat absorber, G-saver, which is developed based on appropriate technology. Our primary target is Mongolian households living in a “Ger.” Later we will expand to other cold regions such as Inner Mongolia and Kazakhstan, and also to developed countries with our technology. Built on a consortium among Good Neighbors (NGO), Good Sharing (Social Venture), and Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (Academia), we aim to contribute to building a sustainable ecosystem that balances economic and social values by pursuing sustainable profit generation, improving the quality of life of low income families, protecting the environment, and developing local economy in cold regions.
BrainControl is a breakthrough technology that gives disabled people the power to control objects with their minds, allowing them to control a communicator, domotic devices (lights, doors, windows, alarms, temperature, bed position, etc.), wheelchairs, and other assistive technologies. Based on a proprietary Brain-Computer Interfaces technology (BCI), BrainControl interprets the electric map that correspond to certain brain activity and allows patients to control a tablet PC through specific thoughts, overcoming physical disability, and improving communication and environmental control. The focus is on assistive applications for people affected by degenerative neuromuscular disease (multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis – ALS) and ischemic or traumatic injury, which each year affects more than 3 million patients. BrainControl is the world’s first assistive technology that is usable by people who cannot move any muscles or communicate, but who are consciously aware, a state called “locked-in” or “apparent coma”.
United States of America / India
Essmart: Millions of people have unmet essential needs, such as clean water and safe, reliable lighting. Hundreds of essential technologies that meet these needs already exist, such as non-electric water filters and affordable off-grid solar lanterns. However, these technologies are not reaching the people they were designed to benefit. Essmart builds an essential marketplace for these products in places where people already shop – their local retail shops – so that everyone can access them.
E-Lamp is an intelligent lighting control system. It can adjust the color and brightness level of the LED light source by remote control using a mobile device. It can be used in agriculture: as the population of the world continues to grow, more food and crops are needed. As plants at different growth stages require specific spectral and wavelength, production could be sped up using E-Lamp’s adjustment of light intensity and spectral wavelength. The mobile device remote control can be used in agricultural greenhouses to centralize control of E-Lamp equipment in a single region or multiple regions to make the management more convenient. E-Lamp also can be used to improve disabled people’s daily life, allowing them to easily control the light and adjust the color to match their mood, even for psychological treatment.
We at Damascus Fortune not only clean the planet, but have made the whole carbon conversion process profitable. We sequester carbon from carbon emitting industries and convert it into one of the strongest materials known to man – carbon nanotubes, carbon fibers and carbon nanorods. Our products are ultra-low cost as we use the waste emission and heat from the industry itself. We wish to start a composite manufacturing plant from in-house manufactured carbon structures to cater to automobile, aircraft, construction and other industries. We are seeking support to scale into new markets globally.
In Burkina Faso, households still rely on firewood for 90% of their energy consumption, thus contributing to irreversibly damaging their forest ecosystems. Toxic fumes from burning wood are harmful for people and issues faced in supplying fuel (for cooking and lighting) are a precariousness factor, particularly for women. Solutions do exist but remain out of reach for the most vulnerable populations. Nafa Naana – which means “gains made easy” in local language – mission is to make clean and affordable energy products (energy-efficient stove, gas stove, solar lamps…) available to even the poorest households. The distribution channels are based on retailers operating as social microfranchisees and on direct sales to women’s groups. Financial barriers – for end-users, retailers and producers – are removed through the use of microcredit and savings mechanisms.
Jorsey Ashbel Farms
Center for Responsible Business Quick Pitch Award of USD $1,000 — Nigeria
Jorsey Ashbel Farms (JAF) is an unconventional livestock farm pioneering a groundbreaking approach to tackling the poverty problem of Protein-Energy Malnutrition, which affects millions of disadvantaged children and women. JAF produces Nigeria’s cheapest livestock products using an innovative, scientifically proven, low-cost livestock feed production technique combined with an innovative deployment strategy.
Meme B. Ortis in my mind really deserved this award. He was the most intense and passionate of all the 18 speakers. You can see his energy in the picture of him just above. He was constantly using his hands to make his point, and his voice was powerful and resonant. I was so happy I got to meet Ortis to photograph him.
We had a great conversation about those pesky emails everyone receives asking for help moving millions of dollars for a percentage. He said he has several of them in his email box right now. I shared with him the story of a guy that turned the tables on the spammers by getting them to write out in longhand one of the Harry Potter books. He had not heard about that reverse scam. If you haven’t heard about it either, I promise you’ll enjoy the story.
Here’s the summary: a guy gets a scam email and replies he’s too busy to help because he’s busy providing handwriting samples at $100 a page to improve a company’s handwriting recognition software. Soon, the scammer is asking to join in providing samples, and he ends up writing out with a pen the text of a 293 page novel, hoping to collect tens of thousands of dollars. Of course, he never is paid for his work, which is retribution for him scamming others out of their money via his emails.
From the summary written by the team, you wouldn’t guess what they really do, which is fascinating.
There is protein rich food inside a mango seed. The company opens the seeds, which apparently are not costly and are plentiful, and extracts the presumably mushy contents. That contents are so acidic it will kill chickens that eat it directly, but Jorsey Ashbel Farms has developed a method to process the extract so that chickens can safely and productively eat it. Even though this sounds like a lot of trouble, I learned there is a big cost savings versus feeding chickens corn. JAF runs a farm where they grow mangos and raise 10,000 chickens, in harmony. I would love to visit their operation to see this wonderful sounding operation first hand.
I forgot to tell the founders that I raise four chickens for eggs in my backyard in San Francisco. My chickens eat chicken feed from a bag, not mangos, however.
Ortis’ co-founder Ashbel Ayuba, pictured in the portrait section below, was the most stylishly dressed of the competitors, and had on a pair of highly polished green leather shoes made from the hide of an animal I could not identify. They looked like something rock star Prince would wear. In the early 1990s I saw Prince hanging out as a regular customer in the trendy nightclub Les Bains in Paris, France, and he had on some similarly wild boots, which matched his pants, which matched his coat with tails. He carried a golden walking stick, and had beefy bodyguards on either side, but nobody paid him any attention, as I don’t think he was famous yet in Paris. I told my French friends the next morning that I had seen Prince, and not one of them knew of him. I was ten feet from Prince dancing for an hour, so I am 100% certain it was Prince.
I stopped Ayuba on the stairs and asked to photograph him before I even knew what company he was part of — I just love his look and attitude. I told him he looked like what I would imagine an African James Bond would look like. He enthusiastically pumped his fist in the air and said ‘YEAH!!!’
I love being a photographer.
WOOF is a premium fashion brand producing elegant, yet quirky and fun fashion accessories. What makes us different is that our line of goods is produced by Chiengora (dog hair). WOOF’s raw material is collected from various grooming stores and animal welfare organizations. The grooming division of our current NGO partner, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), provides over 60% of the dog hair raw material for WOOF production. WOOF ensures that all our sources of material are 100% animal-friendly. WOOF production is a technology innovation. We are currently co-developing the machine spinning technology with our academic partner, the Institute of Textile and Clothing (ITC) from the Poly University of Hong Kong. Through fashion, WOOF aims to change attitudes towards animals. We aim to do this through two means: 1) reducing animal surrenders and increasing animal adoptions, and 2) improving the living conditions of animals.
Wedu catalyzes the next generation of local female leaders by providing innovative financing options for university and the lifelong support of mentors. We create a sustainable and positive cycle of development by identifying girls committed to local issues; investing in their education; mentoring them to lead and creating incentives for them to repay the funds to serve more girls. We envision a world where people from the most underprivileged backgrounds have the tools to change their lives and their home country by being masters of their own development. We started operations in Cambodia and Myanmar, built partnerships from the U.S. to Japan, united a league of extraordinary advisers and mentors from the Acumen Fund, Husk Power Systems, Unreasonable Institute and beyond. Wedu is Social Enterprise Startup of 2012 at Cambridge University, GSVC-SEA Winner, Semi-Finalist for the Echoing Green Fellowship and in the Top 10 Global Solution Award at Women Deliver 2013.
Vi-Care is a one-of-a-kind company in India, and is on its way to formation to provide a low cost solution to address the problem of high infant mortality due to pneumonia in rural India. Vi-Care focuses on implementing a cost effective solution for the timely detection of pneumonia in infants, keeping in mind the lack of healthcare infrastructure in rural areas. Vi-Care’s solution involves the use of ubiquitous mobile phones to detect pneumonia in infants. Vi-Care provides a unique diagnostic application (i-Treat) capable of performing preliminary but informative diagnosis of pneumonia without requiring any external infrastructure or expert intervention, thereby greatly improving the chances of survival of infants in rural areas. The value proposition of Vi-Care rests upon providing an unrivaled, cost-effective approach to timely detect pneumonia in low-income, rural areas, keeping in mind the financial constraints of the people.
Sunshine Library Rural Digital Education Initiative (Sunshine Library) is a social venture seeking to improve rural education in China via modern technology. We aim to provide a comprehensive education solution to under-resourced, rural schools using specially designed tablet PCs. Sunshine Library does not only provide tablet PCs for under-resourced schools, nor do we place our volunteer teachers in rural schools. Leveraging information technology, we provide an integrated solution with a sustainable model of operation. We designed a tablet PC, the Sunbook, and educational apps customized to the needs of students, teachers, and schools in rural setting. Then, we deliver the tablets with Internet access to rural students, new teaching methods to teachers, and extensive educational resources to schools, hoping to eliminate education inequity. Now, we have provided 2,000 tablets for students and teachers in 4 rural schools in western China.
Pedius is a communication system helping deaf people to make normal phone calls, using voice recognition technologies and speech synthesis. Pedius’ users can call all emergency numbers for free, as well as all partner companies supporting our accessibility program who agree to pay a fee and provide users a toll free access number. Users can also call private numbers, paying an affordable fee comparable to what is offered by VoIP communication providers. The goal of Pedius is the reduction of communication barriers for deaf people, enabling phone services for all and at the same time increasing the visibility of our accessibility partner companies.
I like this company. It turns out the founders know my friend Dan Luis, who used to be CEO for years at Purple, the company that bought my first Internet startup Hotpaper.com, Inc. Purple is in roughly the same business as Pedius, but Purple uses people to bridge connections between parties, while Pedius uses software.
The panels and debates
As I mentioned above, this event filled a day. There were panels and debates on social entrepreneurship. I stepped in briefly to take some pictures, but sadly, I did not have time to watch the events, with the exception of the morning keynote. I was busy either photographing or rounding up the subjects nearly all day.
I took all the pictures that illustrate this blog post. I like very much to photograph people, and entrepreneurs are among my favorite subjects. I asked all of the subjects you see here for permission to photograph them, with the exception of the shot with Dean Rich Lyons, which I captured by standing alongside the official paid photographer, my longtime friend Bruce Cook. He set that shot up, and I simply asked the subjects to look at my camera after Cook was done getting his shots.
I took individual photographs of some of the founders, and I present those images to conclude this post. I gave permission to the subjects for them to use the pictures, so I hope to see these images on their websites and elsewhere around the web. Thank you to all the subjects for being so patient with me to get these results.
I used my Canon 5D Mark II camera to take these pictures. The group shots were taken with a Canon 50mm macro lens. The individual shots were taken with a Canon 80-200mm f:2.8 L zoom lens. The wide shots were taken with a Canon 16-35mm f:2.8 L zoom lens. I upload pictures to this blog at camera resolution of 21 megapixels. Click on the pictures to load the full size versions, which are larger than the versions you see by default. I pursue blogging and photography as a hobby.
I am sorry I could not photograph everyone. I would have liked to photograph all 18 teams properly, like I do when I attend the 500 Startups Demo Days.
I really enjoyed this event. It was exciting to meet people from around the world. I invite everyone I met, if allowed in your country, to friend me on Facebook so we may stay in touch. Thanks and good luck!
All motorized vehicles, including cars, boats, ships, trucks, buses, planes and trains should come equipped from the factory with integrated carbon monoxide and smoke detectors.
Vehicles should contain carbon monoxide and smoke detectors because power trains can fail and sometimes deliver deadly carbon monoxide into the passenger compartment, killing everyone inside. This happened yesterday, April 1, 2013, when three men got stuck in some mud while driving their sports utility vehicle in the early morning dark. One of the passengers, Shain Gandee, was famous for his starring role in the Music Television reality show Buckwild. The coroner ruled the deaths accidental and declared carbon monoxide poisoning to be the cause of death. The mud reportedly covered the muffler of the truck. That may have forced exhaust through holes in the exhaust system underneath the passenger area, and perhaps some of that exhaust infiltrated into the cabin. The truck was an old model that looks like it’s had a rough life.
It was probably cold and dark out, and I can see the three wanting to stay inside with the motor running to stay warm until daylight. Had there been a carbon monoxide detector on board, the three would have been warned of the danger they were in, and could have shut off the engine and stepped outside for some fresh air. Better to be cold than dead.
Even electric vehicles should have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, since batteries also are dangerous. Additionally, people might use propane heaters inside, and they emit carbon monoxide that can kill you when they are malfunctioning.
Detectors should be hard wired to the vehicle start battery, but should have 10 year on board battery backup as well, like all detectors should. Detector design should be standardized so a detector from a Rolls Royce Phantom will fit a Chevrolet Aveo, and vice versa. That way the cost to replace detectors at the end of their life will be low enough that people will be inclined to do so. There should be an interlock so the car won’t drive past 55 miles per hour unless a working and non expired detector is installed. This will more than gently nudge owners to replace expired or defective detectors. A red light on the dash is not sufficient reminder. Making the car not start is too extreme, since a user might be in danger if they got stranded. A speed limit is a powerful incentive.
A detector like I propose here should cost about USD $10.00 in quantity with the standardization I propose. I am sure Gandee’s family would have loved for him to have had a detector.
In the meantime, before my idea gets implemented on a universal scale, go buy a home style smoke and carbon monoxide detector and install it in your vehicle. If it goes off and saves your life, please tell me so in a comment so I know that people are reading this and acting upon my advice.
I don’t know how many unintentional carbon monoxide poisonings inside vehicles occur each year, but the number must be in the hundreds worldwide. An extra $10 to avoid these deaths is worth it.
Smoke, fire and carbon monoxide detectors should chirp to signal low battery condition only during waking hours – here is how
I have learned that smoke and fire detectors almost always signal low battery condition in the early morning between midnight and five o’clock. This wakes me up and forces me to replace batteries when I am sleepy. I suspect many people don’t have spare batteries always on hand like I do, and simply take the batteries out until they can go to the store. This leaves the premises less well protected, and I suspect fires have started during this period and that people have died.
The fix is so simple I can’t believe I only thought of it today.
Simply include a clock in all battery operated smoke, fire and carbon monoxide detectors. Have this clock powered by its own battery that can last a decade or more. Set this clock at the factory for the part of the world where the detectors will be sold. The low battery circuitry should consult this on board clock, and should suppress the chirping ‘low battery’ notification during typical sleeping hours, say from 10pm to 8am. The chirping can resume at 8am each day until the batteries are replaced. Alarms typically will chirp for months before they run out of power entirely, so the delay in chirping during the night will not cause a significant safety issue.
The clock should be user resettable so the detector can be moved between time zones by the buyer, or set to accommodate unusual sleep schedules.
I suspect the clock I am proposing costs no more than USD $.50 in bulk, and the feature that it will enable can be promoted to boost sales. I suspect such a detector will sell well because I suspect everyone with a detector has been awakened by their chirping.
Chirping during waking hours is likely to be a measurable advance in fire and poisoning safety, since awake and alert people are less likely to make mistakes, like removing the batteries or putting in replacement batteries backwards.
While the circuit designers are at it, they should program the detectors to keep track of the passing years and notify the user when the detector has reached its end of life, around ten years after manufacture. I am sure there are millions of ‘expired’ detectors still in use because people forget when to replace them.
This is my second post on how to improve detectors. My first post Smoke detectors should send activation warnings via text messages via Wi-Fi I wrote July 23, 2011.
I believe detectors chirp now early in the morning because batteries deliver less power when cold, and in many homes the temperature drops lowest early in the morning. Here’s a post by The San Diego Real Estate Inspection Company that agrees with me.
Thank you to SoftTech VC venture capitalist Jeff Clavier for sparking my imagination today to think up this fix. Clavier asked on Facebook this morning why detectors report low batteries exclusively at 3:30am. It’s then that I thought of including an internal clock to solve the problem. I posted my suggestion in a comment on Clavier’s Facebook Wall, and then decided to write this post to formalize my suggestion, with the hope the idea gets discovered and implemented.
If this idea makes money for you or your company, please send me an industry average royalty for using this, out of the goodness of your heart. I am guessing that will amount to about USD $.05 per detector, but that could result in my getting ever more wealthy over time given every residence on Earth should have multiple detectors forever. Thank you!
I will not patent this so it’s now in the public domain if it hasn’t already been patented, which is not unlikely given how simple the idea is. I could quickly find no mention of this idea after performing a Google search for this idea.
I wrote about Jeff Clavier last year, and I took the picture of him that accompanies this post. Clavier speaks colorfully. My favorite quote from when I saw him speak August 30, 2012?
“I passed on airbnb that some showed me when it was called air bed and breakfast and I said ‘air bed and breakfast… are you f—ing kidding me?”
My preference is that the world move quickly towards hard wired sealed detectors that have backup batteries that will last ten years. It also seems that non hard wired detectors should have solar cells like calculators and watches, to keep the batteries from having to drain themselves so quickly.
My clock idea I present here is still relevant to such detectors, since I would prefer to learn the detector needs replacing while I am awake and likely to buy a new one at once.
On March 18, 2013 I wrote a tribute to Hansoo Lee, who died March 4, 2013 at age 35 from cancer.
Here is Feld’s post, in its entirety, for posterity in case the above links ever disappear. Please read this version only if the links above don’t work, so as to not take traffic away from those sites. I generally only copy entire posts like this when I want to be sure some important text is readable for decades, like these lovely words from Brad Feld:
“I woke up to an email today from Aaron Schwartz, founder of Modify. I don’t know Aaron other than our email exchanges but he thanked me for Venture Deals which he said has been very helpful to him. His note went on to say:
A close friend of mine, and one of my best friend’s co-founders just passed away after a 15-month battle with non-smoker’s lung cancer. I thought the below article was incredibly revealing about how meaningful a partner and leader can be for a start-up. If you think it would be useful to other entrepreneurs, I hope you’ll take a moment and share it.
I went on to read Farewell Hansoo, We’ll Miss You, a beautiful tribute by Bhavin Parikh, the CEO and co-founder of Magoosh. At the end, I had tears in my eyes. Hansoo is 35 and just died of cancer, which was discovered a year ago. I have several friends fighting cancer right now and had one die last year and this story really touched me – of the intimacy of the relationship between co-founders, the beauty of spirit of Hansoo, and how rapidly loved ones and partners can be taken from us.
I just made a donation to the The Hansoo Lee Fellowship to support entrepreneurs. The fellowship will provide a stipend and mentorship to help Berkeley-Haas MBA students pursue their venture full-time for their summer internship, as Hansoo did. MBA students will receive a summer stipend of $5 – $10K, Mentorship from Haas alums focused on entrepreneurship, and office space.
Here is the heartfelt tribute that Bhavin Parikh wrote and that Feld noted above. Again, I generally only copy complete posts like this when I think there is a chance the original won’t be on the Internet for decades and decades, and when I think the likelihood of irritating the original author is low. Please read this text below from Parikh only if this link does not work:
“Hansoo Lee was a visionary, a close friend, and my co-founder at Magoosh. On March 4, 2013, at the age of 35, he lost his 15-month battle with lung cancer. Hansoo changed my life, and I will be forever grateful.
Hansoo and I were classmates in the full-time MBA program at Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley. He came to Berkeley-Haas fully aware that he wanted to pursue entrepreneurship. In fact, he wrote the following in his MBA application:
“I believe in the power of a well-operated, sophisticated organization that generates social and economic value. My career goal is to found and lead this type of organization.”
In our first semester at Haas, Hansoo and I joined Pejman, another Haas classmate, and his friend Vikram in creating Magoosh, an online education product initially focused on test preparation. Hansoo quickly emerged as a leader among the group. He was deeply passionate about changing the world through education. He served on the Board of World Savvy, an education non-profit, for several years prior to Haas and continued to do so during and after. Unlike the rest of us, Hansoo had worked at a startup before and knew what it took. He acted with conviction and focused on getting things done instead of trying to make the perfect decision. He had a bias towards action, a value we hold dear at Magoosh today.
Hansoo and I pursued Magoosh full-time during the summer, foregoing traditional paid internships. We worked out of the basement of his apartment for 10+ hours a day. That summer, we released Magoosh in small iterations, from just one page with a question, video explanations, and a text box for email addresses, to over 200 GMAT math questions with full-on video explanations. Early into the first semester of our 2nd year, Hansoo and I were the only remaining full-time members of Magoosh. We were at a crossroads: Should we go back to corporate America or continue to work on Magoosh full-time after graduation?
Hansoo, the visionary
Hansoo was fearless. The decision to pursue Magoosh full-time was a no-brainer for him despite Magoosh having very modest revenue and no funding. His confidence was unparalleled and often led to tension between us. But I later realized that while I could only see what was right in front of us, Hansoo could see through the fog. He had a vision for Magoosh of making high quality educational material accessible to all, and he had confidence in us to see that vision through.
He dragged me, often kicking and screaming, through many of Magoosh’s milestones. In October 2010, Hansoo spent weeks convincing me that we should raise a seed round. I still recall a three hour walk we took around Berkeley’s campus debating the merits of fundraising that ultimately he won out. And the process was easier than I expected, thanks to the previous 12 months that Hansoo spent building relationships with potential investors. I could always come up with thousands of reasons to defer a decision, but he would usually get his way, and we would take action. His way was the right way — make decisions and move forward — it’s why Magoosh is successful today.
In late December of 2011, I received a crushing email from Hansoo. “Hey Bhavin. I’ve been diagnosed with a rare form of lung cancer…” I could barely read on. I was 3,000 miles away visiting my wife’s family in Massachusetts, but my heart was with Hansoo in California. I didn’t understand. He was fit, active, and a non-smoker. He did everything right. How could this happen to him?
He stepped away from Magoosh operations as of January 2012, but he remained fearless about his prognosis and the company’s future. His positive attitude was infectious. I still can’t believe that during this time he provided me with support because he knew running the company as a sole founder would be difficult.
Unfortunately, his condition worsened throughout the year. Despite going through various advanced treatments, he faced complication after complication. Our weekly walks turned into monthly phone calls and then just the occasional email. I couldn’t imagine what he was going through, and I wanted to do more for him. But whenever we spoke, he told me to focus on Magoosh. He was watching from a distance and loved seeing the team’s progress.
On Monday March 4, 2013, Hansoo passed away due to complications from his cancer. We had spoken for nearly an hour just two weeks prior, and I’m grateful that we were able to chat then. I was able to tell him about his impact on Magoosh.
Hansoo’s impact on Magoosh
Hansoo left a lasting impact on our daily lives at Magoosh. He was the impetus behind our daily standup meetings and the weekly one on ones between managers and employees. He cared so deeply about crafting an amazing culture and brand that he led us through an exercise to define our core values when we had only 4 full-time team members — we still hold those values dear today. He was transparent with our vision and finances because he believed in providing everyone with purpose and autonomy in their work.
I’m reminded of him everyday when I walk into the Magoosh office. Magoosh would not be what it is today without him. We’ve grown into a successful business and have helped thousands of students improve their GRE and GMAT scores thanks to Hansoo. He was our leader, and we’ll miss him.
How you can help
To honor Hansoo’s memory, we have created the Hansoo Lee Fellowship. The Fellowship will provide a stipend and mentorship to help Berkeley-Haas MBA students pursue their venture full-time for their summer internship, as Hansoo did. Students will receive:
- A summer stipend of $5 – $10K
- Mentorship from Haas alums focused on entrepreneurship
- Office space donated by Magoosh
This fellowship is a realization of Hansoo’s vision. He always looked for opportunities to give back, and this is our way of celebrating him. To donate to the Fellowship, click here.”
I didn’t know Lee particularly well because we probably saw each other just a dozen times. Most of those times were at Cal Founders meetings at various venues in the San Francisco Bay Area. Cal Founders meetings are informal monthly gatherings where entrepreneurs discuss their business challenges. The big benefit to these meetings is the wide variety of advice that may be gleaned from the diverse attendees. I like to characterize the meetings as board of directors meetings where one may actually be completely frank about issues, with no worry that what you say may later be used against your company.
Since Cal Founders meetings are designed to encourage sharing of meaningful obstacles and opportunities, I feel like I learned quite a bit about Lee during these meetings. A person’s character comes into focus rather quickly when you hear them give and receive advice.
Lee was a standout at Cal Founders meetings, and for good reason. He was a smart, driven, accomplished and capable entrepreneur. Sadly, the majority of entrepreneurs I meet never deliver much in the way of results. Lee stood out because he actually delivered results. He was quick to cite statistics about growth, and he knew exactly how to bring customers to his business, and could specify exactly what results would come from specific steps. This kind of precision is less common than you might imagine.
I recall examples that demonstrate how impressive Lee was as an entrepreneur, but I won’t share them with you, since Cal Founders meetings are by design confidential, to encourage open dialogue. I doubt Lee would mind my sharing some examples, given that they paint him in such a favorable light, but I am loath to break confidentiality even in light of the sad circumstance of his too early passing.
I remember seeing Hansoo Lee the evening his startup Magoosh won USD $10,000 in the 2010 Intel Global Challenge business competition. The Intel Global Challenge is a big deal, and it is very competitive because Intel invites competitors from all over the world to participate. I have watched the finals awards ceremony for years and I conclude the competition is more competitive than the Berkeley Startup Competition, which itself is quite competitive.
I am comfortable sharing some of what I learned this afternoon in a public memorial open to all at the beautiful Golden Gate Club inside The Presidio. Part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, The Presidio used to be a United States military base before it was vacated and turned over to visitors to and residents of San Francisco to enjoy.
The Golden Gate Club overlooks the San Francisco Bay through giant windows perhaps two stories tall. These windows showcase the Bay is if it is a work of fine art in a museum.
Here’s Lee’s biography from the program handed out today at the memorial:
“Hansoo was born in Athens, Georgia [USA], lived briefly in Grand Forks, North Dakota, and spent his formative years in Pensacola, Florida. He was an outstanding scholar-athlete, graduating from Pensacola High School in 1996. He attended Amherst College where he was on both the ski and tennis teams and double-majored in Economics and Fine Arts, graduating in 2000. He moved to the San Francisco Bay Area after graduating from college and worked at a small internet startup before joining Walmart.com where he founded the strategy group. He then went to the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, to hone his skills as an entrepreneur. He and two of his classmates founded an education test preparation website, Magoosh, in 2009 during their time at Haas. Hansoo was the first CEO at Magoosh, which he and his business partner, Bhavin Parikh, worked on full-time after graduating from Haas in 2010. They have grown it into a successful, socially minded and profitable business in less than three years.
Hansoo had a love of the outdoors, travel, food, music, and the arts. All of these he enjoyed most with his friends and family. He had a particular love of sports and he described himself as a team player. This was true in all aspects of his life, personal and professional. He maintained close friendships from his early childhood and continued to make close friends throughout his his life. He met Wendy Lim four years ago and they were inseparable from the start; they became engaged last year. He is survived by Wendy, his parents Chung Ho and Hi Whan Lee, his brother and sister-in-law Hanmin Lee and Barbara Morgenthau and their beautiful children Mimoh and Taemoh.”
There were over two hundred people at Lee’s memorial.
I was impressed with how many people boarded aircraft to attend. The majority of the members from his class that belonged to his fraternity at Amherst were there, and two of them spoke at the podium sharing their memories of Lee. I learned that Amherst had banned fraternities, so fraternities were tiny and presumably somewhat hidden. As a result, when I write ‘majority’ I mean three fraternity brothers out of a total of five in Lee’s class attended Lee’s memorial. Counting Lee, four fifths of the entire class was represented. That I believe is a testament to Lee’s good spirit. Remember, Lee graduated from Amherst a dozen years ago.
About two dozen of Lee’s friends walked to the microphone and shared their memories.
Two of his friends met Lee in the first grade. One of those friends entertained us by explaining Lee’s love for business even as an eight year old. Lee was a pro at profitably buying and selling baseball cards. He studied baseball and developed the rare ability to identify future star players while they were still rookies in their careers. This skill allowed Lee to buy the correct rookie cards while they were still low cost, and then sell them years later when the players became stars. I learned Lee joked that he planned to pay for college with his card trading empire begun as a child.
I learned about Lee’s first skiing trip as part of a high school engineering club he belonged to, and how his enthusiasm for skiing caused him to wear out a pair of ski pants in just a night of tumbling on a slope covered with inadequate snow and uninvited mud.
Lee’s fiancée, Wendy Lim, delivered the most emotionally moving remarks.
Wendy Lim is really impressive.
Lim described herself as Lee’s opposite, but pointed out how well they each complimented the other.
Wendy Lim described Lee as the love of her life, and told us she had never before known love like that which she shared with Lee. It’s so sad Lee was taken from her so early after her lifelong search to locate him.
I introduced myself to Lim and expressed how sorry I am for her loss.
I also had the privilege of expressing the same sentiments to Dr. Chung Ho Lee, Hansoo’s father, Hi Whan Lee, Hansoo’s mother, and Dr. Hanmin Lee, Hansoo’s brother.
The Hansoo Lee Fellowship has been established at the Haas School of Business at University of California Berkeley. Lee started full time work on his startup Magoosh during the summer break between his first and second year at business school. This concerted several month effort I suspect really accelerated the progress at the company. The idea for the Fellowship is to help other student teams pursue their dreams during that pivotal summer break. The fellowship will provide a cash stipend, office space and advice from mentors to one lucky team each summer. If you are able and would like to give money to fund the Hansoo Lee Fellowship, please do so by following this link to the official UC Berkeley donation page for this fellowship.
Farewell Hansoo Lee. I am glad that I got to know you a bit during your exceptional life.
To my knowledge, in the United States it is illegal to record conversations unless you have permission of the parties you’re recording. I believe the rules are more lax in some jurisdictions, but those exceptions are not that helpful if one wants to record a phone conversation with a company representative, because call centers are so dispersed over the planet. A representative could be anywhere.
I think United States Federal law should be changed to specifically permit consumers to record conversations they have with employees and other representatives of companies. Nothing stops me from asking for permission today, but I have never been granted permission when I have asked, so that’s why the law should be changed.
Companies routinely give themselves the right to record calls, so they should understand why a consumer would also want to have that ability.
I came to my recommendation January 29, 2013, after I had a frustrating conversation that day with Brian G., a supervisor at Godaddy, the Internet domain name giant. Brian’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Brian refused to give me his last name, citing a Godaddy security policy.
On or around December 14, 2012, I learned a domain I’ve been wanting for a dozen plus years was in ‘redemption.’ This means the prior owner didn’t pay to renew it, so the registrar placed the name into redemption, a kind of holding place for domain names before they are eventually released to the public for purchase.
My heart raced. I was going to finally be able to reacquire the Hotpaper.com domain. I sold the name in 2000. My first reaction was to write to my friend Dan Luis and ask if I could pay the redemption fee to Purple, the company I sold the name to a dozen years ago, so they could retrieve the name from redemption status. This would then give Purple the right to transfer the name to me.
But after I composed the email to Luis, who I have been in touch with as recently as 2012, I decided to run this idea past GoDaddy, which was the registrar for Hotpaper.com.
I told the representative about my connection with Purple and proposed doing what I just outlined. The representative then advised me to not bother, and just sign up for GoDaddy’s Domain Name Backorder service, which cost about USD $20.00 and included a full year of registration. This made the cost for getting the domain about $8.00, which is just 1/10th what it would have cost me to pay Purple to get the domain out of redemption status.
The representative told me that since GoDaddy was the registrar for Hotpaper.com that they would be able to get the domain name for me through their backorder service. He said that if Hotpaper.com had been with another registrar then they would have had to fight to try to get the name. The representative assured me multiple times that in this situation their backorder service was a sure thing. Not once did he even hint that I would be rolling the dice. Had he alerted me that I was speculating, I would have hung up and pursued the sure thing of contacting Luis.
Either Luis would have redeemed the name for Purple to hold on to, or he would have allowed me to redeem it through Purple. Luis would not have ignored me and let the name hit the open market — he’s my friend, and even though we haven’t seen each other in ages, we share a bond, for we both sold our companies to the company that is now Purple. Why am I so sure of this? Luis is the one that keeps our association alive by saying hello to me from time to time, not the other way around. I believe Luis respects me and does not want to upset me, so he would not take an adverse position, especially on something like this that is of no consequence to Purple, since they retired the Hotpaper name around a decade ago.
I would have been fine had Luis redeemed the name and had Purple hold on to it for decades to come. My desire is for the name to not fall into third party hands, so it was great that Purple paid the registration on the name for so long after they stopped using it. I saved over USD $100 over the last decade thanks to the kindness of Purple. Thank you.
I have explained to GoDaddy that their representative promised to get me the Hotpaper.com domain and failed, and to fix this failure they need to buy the domain and give it to me for the backorder fee I paid. This is a case of an employee being insufficiently skilled and trained, and their failure led to this sad result. GoDaddy the company is at fault, I believe. Yes, there may be some fine print somewhere on the GoDaddy website explaining the backorder process is akin to gambling, but GoDaddy’s sales representative negated that fine print.
I believe I was behaving reasonably when I took the word of the GoDaddy representative.
I figured that GoDaddy would have an advantage in ‘catching’ domain names dropping from their registry in the same way that high speed Wall Street traders benefit from extremely close proximity to stock exchange computers, so much so that high speed traders rent space in premium Wall Street colocation space to get faster connection times, since the speed of electricity is only so fast.
I have never bought a domain through a name catching service, so I was not an expert when I placed the order. But I felt the representative I ordered through knew what he was talking about, because he was so articulate, well spoken and because his explanation of why GoDaddy would definitely get the name sounded technically and practically believable.
If I had recorded that conversation, I believe GoDaddy would buy Hotpaper.com on the open market and give it to me for the backorder fee I have already paid. The conversation was so crystal clear and frankly damning that GoDaddy would not want to risk the recording and this story hitting the front page of Reddit, where I predict GoDaddy would have taken a beating from the readers of that news site.
This domain issue is of little importance. I survived a dozen years without the domain, and I’ll be fine without it for the next dozen or three dozen years. I have Hotpaper.net if I ever want to do anything Hotpaper related in the future.
The right for consumers to record calls with businesses, without notice, however, is a right US residents should have. There are so many business that will only correspond with customers over the phone. All banks I know are like this, and will simply not engage a customer by writing emails or letters back and forth. If you try to send a letter, often you’ll get a letter back asking you to phone. Banks I am sure force business to be conducted by phone because they know there will not be a record the customer can keep and refer to or publicize if the customer is mistreated.
Customers need to be able to believe what they’re told by company representatives, which, sadly, is a bigger and more difficult issue. I appreciate and recognize that I should have independently verified by reading the fine print on the GoDaddy website what the representative told me. I didn’t do it because the representative was so confident and self assured, and because the stakes were not material. Frankly, I’ll save hundreds of dollars over the years by not having to pay to keep the Hotpaper.com domain for myself, so you can even say GoDaddy did me a favor by the failure of their representative to explain how their backorder service works.
Companies should do the right thing by their customers when their representative makes such an obvious and glaring error. If a car dealer sells you a lemon, they’ll have to buy it back from you. If a doctor amputates the wrong limb, they’ll pay you plenty. If a lawyer drops the ball and forgets a filing deadline and you lose your case as a result, she’ll pay you.
Here we have a salesperson that sold me a product by misinforming me about its most important workings — whether intentional or not is irrelevant. This strikes me as fraud, though I am not a lawyer. GoDaddy should fix this apparent fraud by buying the domain and delivering it to me.
While researching this story, I found the website Anti GoDaddy, which collects GoDaddy horror stories from consumers. I posted a screen shot of this site’s home page at the top of this article. Notice the reach of GoDaddy — the embedded advertisement near the top of the page is for GoDaddy.
If this domain had been really important to me, I would have not handled the matter so casually. On a scale of 1 to 10, the Hotpaper.com domain ranks a 0.1. Note that I have not linked to the domain so as to not give traffic to the domain name speculator that ended up acquiring the name. The last time I checked, which was just once, there was a generic page offering to sell the domain.
The US Federal government should allow recording of conversations by consumers with businesses to reduce the harm that comes from currently insufficiently documented conversations. I suspect there are thousands of people that lost their homes in recent years because a bank told them verbally not to worry about their loan modification delays, but then foreclosed anyway. Had those promises been recorded by the consumers, the banks may have not been so quick to make promises they couldn’t respect, and homeowners could have pursued other options with more awareness of their true situations. The ramifications of only the business being able to record conversations are likely widespread and quite substantial, in every field, with every size business. It’s simply not fair to let only one party avail themselves of voice recording technology. Society would not stand for lopsided court reporting during trials, where the transcription was for the benefit of only the defendant or only the plaintiff. Why does society permit injustice with documentation outside the courtroom?
Laws need to change. I don’t know about the laws outside the United States, but I suspect this post applies to most of the planet.