May 23, 2007 SDF Teen Tech Final

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Next Generation Tech: Teens Plugged In!

On Wednesday, May 23, 2007 at the Hewlett-Packard Auditorium in Palo Alto, SDForum presented “Next Generation Tech: Teens Plugged In!” The teens at this event build technology and make money. It was a science fair with venture capital, where you could literally invest in the future.

Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak all started out in business as teens. This event represented the latest generation of young people ready to use their early understanding of business and technology to change the world. The barriers to starting a company are falling. There is no sign that says, “You must be this tall to start a company.”

Teens In General

Most American teens spend about 200 billion dollars on technology. What do they spend it on? Every teen wants or has a cell phone, an iPod, and a personal computer. They like services that are free. They are more likely to buy if they have a job. The spending limit on a gadget is about $300. No one uses a landline telephone connection unless it is for a toll free call to technical support. They prefer typing full keyboards to awkward text messaging. The fewer hoops they have to go through the more likely they are to use a product or service.

Most of all, they do not like being targeted or treated like exotic animals in a zoo. Teens today are sophisticated as any older demographic and in some ways more so. They want a future they can live in. They want energy efficient cars with fully featured entertainment and navigation systems. If they can’t drive, they want European-style train systems so they can spend transit time communicating with their friends or working. They want to be more socially responsible than previous generations.

The dangers to youth online are seen as overblown. Most kids exercise good judgment. MySpace is no longer hot. Facebook is in. They are learning the limits of revealing their private lives online, particularly if they want a job.

High School Students

Liz Gannes moderated a panel consisted of students from several Silicon Valley high schools. She wanted to know what devices they were carrying on them at the moment. Most said they carried a cell phone and an iPod. (Hmmm. If only Apple could combine the two, it would cut the number of devices they would have to carry in half.) Most of them use FaceBook rather than MySpace, but are usually too busy to blog. If they need to know something for school they look at Wikipedia. Students will put notes for tests on devices and will text message friends for answers. They will use online shopping sites to research an item before buying at a brick and mortar store.

Sydney Butler, goes to school where her friends are scattered all over the bay area. The Internet makes it easier to keep in touch with family and friends.

Bennet Einsender is an avid skier and hard on consumer electronics. He was on his third cell phone in a year. One was damaged falling from the roof of a truck, the second from a pool cue accident. Designers need to plan for such things.

Amele Peisl does not intend to be an entrepreneur, but intends to work in technology. She has friends all over the world and it is easier to maintain relationships online.

Brittany Reeve has been programming since she was twelve and would like to see more USB ports on computers.

Katherine Tolentino plans to study business at SCU. Tolentino designs and sell t-shirts online.

Anshul Samar, the youngest of the panel, founded Elementeo that uses the Periodic Table of Elements as the basis for an educational interactive trading card game.

Daniel Shaffer demonstrated a project sponsored by MIT, which is a laser triggering device for quadriplegics. He already has a patent on an RFID system to control Hazardous materials.

Doug Bertain, Chris Tacklind and Mike Tramiel are part of the Palo Alto Robotics Team, winner of the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition in Science and Technology) at the Las Vegas regional competition.

College Students

Jasmine France, an editor and writer for CNET, moderated a panel of college students from Berkeley, Stanford, Santa Clara University, UC Santa Cruz. They discussed teens and technology. FaceBook again trumps MySpace as a socializing app. They carry high-end cell phones and iPods, but are looking at convergence devices like the iPhone. They pay for music or listen to Internet radio. They use a wider variety of PDAs for e-mail and text messaging and like dedicated devices for their simplicity. They want rugged devices with long battery life and full keyboards. They want open source software on mobile devices. Given a choice, nobody uses a landline telephone.

Preet Anand is a biological engineering major from Santa Clara University and writer with experience in medical outsourcing. He is not crazy about all-in-one devices because losing one would be like losing a girlfriend.

Ross Dakin is graduating Santa Clara University and will be working for LiveOps. President of the SCU Engineering and Business Alliance he already runs his own consulting company. In his experience, surfing the web on a cell phone doesn’t always work.

Joe DiPasquale, David Gobaud and Josh Liptzin are all majoring in computer science at Stanford and co-founder of They are all co-founders of an organizing and socializing company.

Daniel Fukuba and Eric Vicenti are founders of Composite Labs. Daniel Fukuba builds robots. His battle bot MaxWedge was national champion for three years. He works with Paly robotics and helps out with the MIT Lemellson project. Eric Vicenti has extensive knowledge of consumer electronics and now applies it to robotics.

Kyle Jessen a junior at Santa Clara University and a finance major and works with the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. He currently is an analyst at a global finance firm and like Blackberries. If you lose it you can reload your e-mail and preference easily. He wants speed and performance.

Vikram Mahal studies biology at Berkeley and works for the Triple Helix, a medical journal. He thinks that GPS navigation or mapping is a killer app for mobile devices. He is concerned about companies gathering information about potential employees. HR professionals look at online profiles like FaceBook as much as at resumes.
Kalvin Wang is a junior at Stanford. He is founder of Gumball Capital, a micro-lending company. He is astounded by how pervasive FaceBook has become and how much information people divulged online.

Michael Castellano is founder and CEO of Millennial a video production company that can create, convert, compress and distribute video into any format for any platform.

Monte Malhorta is a Stanford student with book telling young people how to plan for their retirement.

Keynote Speakers

Andrew Bolwell of HP’s Strategic Initiatives started the proceedings. He joked he was chosen to do this because he was the youngest member of his team and wore the loudest shirt. Most known as a director in HP’s Mobile E-Services Bazaar, his job is to look for new things that HP can do. Bolwell sees the huge potential of mobile services growing with younger users.

Ben Casnocha graduated from high school last year and is founder and board member of Comcate, Inc., the leading e-government technology firm since 2001. Casnocha talked about his experiences as a writer and entrepreneur in high technology. His journey began at age twelve with a class project. He applied the concept of customer service so citizens could effectively complain to local governments about things like potholes. Technology allows young people to develop their entrepreneurial skills into success earlier. The barriers to entry are lower and the access to markets is greater. The incentive is to go out on your own. Gone are the days where students expect to graduate and work for one company the rest of their lives. Half of today’s college students plan to start their own business. If most job creation is from small business, the rise of young entrepreneurs will drive new economic growth in America.

The growth can be global too. Casnocha hired engineers from Bangladesh, designers from Canada and others from Latin America. There are still some more traditional attitudes out there. The youth in France see what the rest of the world is doing and want to be a part of it. Entrepreneur is a French word, but an American value. He talked with kids in France, who said that if they started their own company, people would say “Couldn’t you get a job at a real company?”

He thinks parent’s concern over children on the Internet is overblown. People need to focus on the millions of young people empowering themselves with technology and not being victims of it.

Daniel Kafie is a Harvard grad that majored in Economics. Growing up in Honduras he started plastics recycling business and then a start-up called that sells arts and crafts but gives a percentage of the profits back to its artists. He went on to work in investment banking, media, and private equity before creating, a Spanish language social networking company similar to Facebook.

Courtney Macavinta is winner of both IPPY and iParenting awards for her book, RESPECT: A Girl’s Guide to Getting Respect and Dealing When Your Line Is Crossed.
She is an expert on teens and women and spoke about the decline of women graduates from college IT programs. She thinks that while the official numbers of women acquiring and using technical skills is declining, the actual numbers of tech savvy women is increasing.

Kevin Wright concluded with Sun Microsystems commitment to encourage innovation among young people.

Venture Capital And Teens

Josh Jaffe is a Senior Writer for The Deal, covering technology around the world. He moderated a panel on VC and Digital Usage. The topic was ‘What Do the Marketers Know About Teens? How Do You Invest in Teens as Consumers and Entrepreneurs?’

Chi-Hua Chien of Accel works in digital media, online advertising, information markets, and the consumer Internet. He was involved with BitTorrent, Facebook, Kosmix, and YuMe Networks, and Coremetrics. In the 1990s he noticed a five year-old text messaging is now graduating from high school. Teens are looking for entertainment. He sees more growth in integrating all the forms of communication, from IM to voice. He sees more growth in virtual worlds as seen in South Korea but not yet in the United States. If you want venture capital, he recommends young people think about building their business to either go public or sell to another business. You have to think about gaining or controlling market share to be attractive.

Ameer Karim is the Director of Product Marketing at Hewlett-Packard. He is looking at future technologies, market trends and working with consumers to understand and enable the digital home. Reaching teens is more difficult than previous generations. HP’s Snapfish is a heavily used website promoted with viral marketing on social networking websites and blogs.

Tim Kendall is Product Manager for Facebook, the site preferred by teens and college students over MySpace. Everyone at Facebook is a customer so it is easy to design products you would use. He attributes their success to their clean consistent interface is easier to use and control. Voyeurism and vanity play a big part to Facebook. There are people who want to be seen and people who want to watch. Facebook tries to balance both. They do lots of research and know that teen’s influence parents in technology, becoming the family’s IT managers. Youth are more likely to use tablet technology to take notes in school.

Larry Magid is a technology journalist for CBS and the New York Times and an Internet Safety Advocate. Talked about dangerous people and teens online. While most teens are safe from online threats, there are always kids at risk. They would have been at risk in the 1950s, it is just their access to technology and vulnerability is increasing. Teens are most at risk from people they know. MySpace is taking steps to make its site safer. Teens will be attracted to the same things as anyone else: good value, good design and reasonable products. He hopes that teens will develop a passion for saving the planet rather than what PC they will use.

Sergio Monsalve, Principal, Norwest Venture Partners says that these are highly communicative people. He worked at Photobucket with 25 million users serving 50 billion pictures. Young women were sharing 2000 pictures a month. He saw similar statistics at eBay. He thinks you need to develop a service rather than product, something used continuously. SMS will continue to grow in functionality. Multiplayer games and entertainment will grow. Beyond technology there have to be really good creators of content. There just are not that many funny people. They barriers to entry are lower and the chances for success are greater. He recommends young people build a company and then bring it to Norwest for growth.

Anne-Marie Roussel, Director, Strategic and Emerging Business at Microsoft, manages their entertainment portfolio. She points out that teens use technology to socialize. They see it as a part of their life. She was concerned at how few teens at this event used a Zune. Teens have more buying power than before. Microsoft works directly with high school and college students about designing interfaces for PCs and the Xbox. An example is a product like Melodus, where you hum a song into your cell phone and identifies the song and artists.

In summary, with access to technology and capital, teens can now build their own future.

Copyright 2007 DJ Cline All rights reserved.