SAIL Spinners Dinner

On April 28, 2015, a SAIL (Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory) Spinners reunion dinner was held at Chef Chu’s in Mountain View, CA; the same day as the celebration of the Stanford Computer Science Department 50th anniversary. There were 120 people seated at 11 tables. Here are pictures of some of the tables: #SAILSpinner

Arthur Keller, Jim Davidson, Linda DeMichiel, Martin Frost, Bill Scherlis, Jo Leilest, Richard P. Gabriel, Elaine Kant, Steve Rubin, Amy Lansky
Table 4-Amy Lansky, Richard Gabriel, Bill Scherlis, Arthur Keller-27
Oussama Khatib, Bernie Roth, Harlyn Baker, Ken Salisbury, Larry Tesler, Bob Tucker, Fred Wright, David Wilkins, Cordell Green
Table 5-Bob Tucker, Ken Salisbury, Harlyn Baker, Bernie Roth-29

Fintech: Silicon Valley Takes on Wall Street

The April 21, 2015 Vlab meeting held at the Stanford Graduate School of Business was on Fintech: Silicon Valley Takes on Wall Street. #vlabFintech
  • Financial institutions are becoming more efficient. Since 2010, there have been a large number of financial technology startups. There are two driving forces. First, 65% of millenniums are not happy with current financial products—they dislike the fees and credit evaluations. Second, there is a move towards using mobile devices.
  • Nick Shalek, Partner at Ribbit Capital. Ribbit is a venture capital firm whose mission is to change the world of finance. People only buy seven cars in their lifetime. When you go shopping for financial products, it is like everyone has a remedy for hair loss and is saying the same things; making it difficult to make an informed decision.
  • Baiju Prafulkumar Bhatt, co-founder of Robinhood. We were started in 2012 and currently have 30 people in our firm. Robinhood provides free stock trading and has no minimum account size. Stock trading products from other firms are very complex and intimidating. We are a mobile first company. We have 1 million people on our waiting list. Less than 10% of our customers are over 40 years old. We make our money from interest on margin accounts and uninvested customer cash balances. We believe in allowing people to learn by doing.
  • It was observed by Jillian Manus that financial products are like fire, they can either help cook your food or burn it. For a novice investor, the key question is how do you make sure the rocket is pointed in the right direction? It is easy to lose your shirt on margin investing.
  • Libor Michalek, CTO of Affirm. They let consumers make a purchase, then pay for it in easy, fixed monthly payments; enabling customers to gain financial literacy. They make credit decisions based on a combination of FICA and social signals using algorithmic learning within two minutes.
  • Jake Fuentes, CEO of Level Money (acquired by Capital One in January 2015). Level Money automatically updates spendable cash as you make purchases each day, providing a simple, real-time picture of how you’re doing in order to stay in the black. There are 85 million millenniums, it is a big demographic. There has been mass adoption of mobile devices that are always accessible. Yet it is difficult for these individuals to know how much money they have at a given instance. They launched their product 18 months ago in November 2013.
  • Jillian Manus, General Partner of Structure Capital. Jillian observed that she was the oldest person on stage, having a couple of grown children, her youngest son being in high school. She was the first investor in Uber. She observes that millenniums have an incredible mistrust of existing financial institutions. In many ways, the phone has become their magic wand.

Moore's Law at 50

The Computer History Museum on April 17, 2015 had two lectures and a lunch-time film on Moore’s Law at 50. #CHM

The talk at 11 AM featured David Brock and Arnold Thackeray, the co-authors of Moore’s Law: The Life of Gordon Moore, Silicon Valley’s Quiet Revolutionary, moderated by John Hollar, the CEO of the Computer History Museum.
  • Gordon Moore was the most important chemist of our era.
  • The biography by David Brock and Arnold Thackeray took ten years to write.
  • Gordon was a local yokel, a 5th generation Californian. He grew up in Pescadero, but moved to Redwood City when his father got a job as sheriff there.
  • Took the train to San Jose State, but then decided to attend Cal. He completed his Ph.D. in three years at Caltech at a time when Linus Pauling and Richard Feynman were teaching there.
  • Gordon worked on the border between chemistry and physics in a Caltech subbasement.
  • He and his wife had their first child, Ken, in the 1950s after moving to Maryland to work at APL.
  • Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory was located in Mountain View because he wanted to be close to his ailing mother in Palo Alto. He ran an ad for a chemist in a paper that Gordon responded to.
  • Gordon developed a high temperature diffusion process in a furnace. At Intel he developed an annealing process that facilitated the wire bonding of leads to a semiconductor chip.
  • Gordon was a master of nudging other people.
  • Betty Moore and Andy Grove were masters at reading Gordon’s facial expressions.
  • Betty had seen the result of wealth misapplied. At one point, her father owned half of Oakland, before losing it all. Her mother divorced and raised Betty as a single mom.
The 2 PM talk was on the past and future of Moore’s Law. It featured William Davidow of Mohr Davidow Ventures and Carver Mead, professor emeritus of Caltech. They were moderated by David Brock.
  • In 1960, Richard Hamming observed the impact on society of order of magnitude changes. For example, the impact of the horse on the city-state, the railroad on the industrial-city, and the automobile on today’s two-dimensional suburbs.
  • In this context, Moore’s Law represents 8 orders of magnitude change over a 50 year period.
  • Society is a reflection of interconnections that leads to restructuring. There is a cultural lag that results in tension and friction. This leads to the question of what does infrastructure look like in the future?
  • Carver Mead observed that it was a tough sell that five to six orders of magnitude improvement were possible. Moore’s Law is a reflection on human nature—that something is physically possible and worth doing. Moore’s Law makes everything I do, better.
  • As humans, we engage in a lot of fighting of last years war.
  • We map the physical world into the virtual world; the frequency of energy into color, vibration into music; forgetting in the process that we see the world as a perception of reality.
  • Originally we thought of the mind as a clock. Then we thought of it as a telephone switch. Then as a digital computer. Today we see it as a collection on neurons and synapses having thousands of different levels. In truth, we still have a lot to learn about how the brain functions.
  • Economic theory does not deal well with the fundamental changes caused by innovation.
  • Consider printing, broadcast, and point to point (EBay) commerce. We find the broadcast medium trying to preserve algorithms that worked well in the past, but don’t work well today.
  • Look for pinch points that prevent us from moving forward.
  • Magnetic recording, optical communication and the growth of knowledge are all examples of Moore’s Law applied to other areas of technology.
  • We need a new quantum theory—what was sufficient in the 1920s, isn’t sufficient today.

Becoming Steve Jobs

On April 7, 2015, John Hollar interviewed Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli at the Computer History Museum on their new book, Becoming Steve Jobs. #CHMSteveJobs
  • Brent Schlender found 50 interview tapes of Steve Jobs that hadn’t been transcribed. They had talked often, at length, over a 25 year period. Steve would reach over and it the pause button when he wanted to say something off the record.
  • Rick Tetzeli called Brent’s agent and asked if there was interest in a book about Steve Jobs. They wrote an article for Fortune, and this triggered a book contract a week later.
  • At NeXT, Kathy Cook was the PR person who contacted the San Francisco bureau of the WSJ. Brent had heard horror stories about Steve. He was told to wear a flak jacket and was nervous about meeting Steve. On his first interview, Steve spent 20 minutes interviewing Brent.
  • Brent and his family were invited to the NeXT annual family picnic where Steve had hired the Pickle Family Circus.
  • The book was started 9 months after Steve died. Initially Apple didn’t want to cooperate on the book.
  • It was interesting in interviewing people, they cried and talked about Steve in the first person. As a result, he got personal and intense interviews that helped provide a better picture and deeper understanding of Steve. The interviews were as much art as science, like trying to describe playing a jazz solo.
  • Steve was very sophisticated. He knew how to motivate people. The book tried to focus on why he did what he did, as opposed to how he did it.
  • Apple University—post mortem of successes and failures.
  • Tyrant savant—quite terrible. Steve was brilliant at rallying a small group for a few months.
  • How do people really change?
  • Steve learned how to manage his weaknesses that got him into trouble. He learned to reign in some of his worst tendencies.
  • Steve had a good eye for things like Pixar. He really liked the guys at Pixar. Bear in mind that up until then, Apple was his only experience he could use as a yardstick.
  • Ed Catmull at Pixar observed that Steve couldn’t do it on his own. He learned to be patient in managing a creative team, making steady progress. Ed noted that at Pixar, at some point, all of our movies suck!
  • In 1991, at the time of the Fortune article, the image of Steve Jobs was as an has been, whereas Bill Gates had just pasted $1B in net worth and was a juggernaut.
  • Steve was very ambivalent about selling next. He wanted to give his guys and NeXT investors an exit. At the time, morale at Apple was terrible. Steve’s wife said, “you won’t be happy unless you try.”
  • The question for Apple was whether they would go bankrupt or who would buy them?
  • Steve made a variety of step by step decisions. One was to get employees to start to think big again. The 1997 to 2000 period was getting Apple stabilized and back on its feet again. They shrunk Apple to make it profitable. Brent wrote the article, “The Graying Prince of an Aging Kingdom.” It was not well appreciated.
  • Steve observed that Apple followed its nose, you can only connect the dots in hindsight.
  • Apple switched to contract manufacturing, and made the leap with the iPod of making millions of products a month. They started to redesign their products one or two times a year. The logistics of doing this are amazing.
  • Johnny Ive observed that the relentless pace drives both products and what you learn from it.
  • Bob Iger at Disney is a step by step CEO. He had to work hard to get Steve to trust him. One of Steve’s faults was that he judged people too quickly.
  • Bill Gates was one of the first people to be interviewed for the book. Over the years, he had become much closer to Steve. Bill was very candid and open. He suggested, “Don’t Try This At Home” as the title for the book.
  • Lots of entrepreneurs have the asshole part down pat, but most lack Steve’s brilliance. Steve was always looking for something new he could add to an existing product.
  • There are many mysteries unknown about Steve. We’ll be writing about him for a long time. Why did he build that boat? What did he learn in India? Why did he move from Hindu to Buddha? What was his internal gyroscope?