On May 13, 2008 at HP in Palo Alto, SDForum held it’s second annual Teen Tech event. NPR, the San Jose Mercury News and CBS 60 Minutes covered this yearâ€™s bigger event.
One way to see the future is to meet the people who will be living in it. The Teen Tech event is a good way to see what the next fifty years will be like. Teens connect with each other while moving through physical and virtual space using voice, video, text messaging and games. Teens are moving beyond social networking to building businesses with each other. The question is not what technology teens will buy but what technology they will sell to the rest of us.
SDForumâ€™s CEO Susan Lucas-Conwell and HPâ€™s Debra Brackeen kicked off the event by introducing Anshul Samar of Alchemist Empire. Samar created a game where chemical elements and compounds become essentially action figures with particular properties. It has sold thousands of copies around the world.
Stephanie Olsen of Cnet moderated the High School panel with Deanna Alexander, Priyanka Bhatia, Sekal Hathi and Jonathan Wilde. Teens seldom watch TV but do watch YouTube. It would be nice to see a new episode on a big TV. They listen to music from iTunes and movies on Netflix and search for reviews on Google. They spend six hours a day on the laptops doing homework, reading and e-mailing because it can reach teachers, relatives or potential employers outside their age group. Students want teachers to create consistent user interfaces with lectures online and interactive whiteboards for online classes.
While they have no trouble learning new technical skills they still want to work on their real world social skills. Facebook is more popular and less complicated than MySpace. Most smart phones are not as smart as the iPhone. They want GPS, decent video and calendars interfaces that are easier to use. Like their parents, they are very concerned about privacy and safety. They are more likely to participate in causes online than their parents.
Allison Leopold Tilley of Pillsbury Winthrop moderated the second panel with Steve Hoffman of ROCKETON, JD Lewin of Microsoft, Matt Thompson of Sun, and Ameer Karim of HP. Millennials are so adept at new technology that their parents ask them for technical advice. They see teens more mobile, more virtual and more likely to use or develop open source applications. They are also more fickle and likely to drop a brand or technology if something better comes along. They have to see value before buying.
Online games are attracting millions of players usually by personal recommendations. Games designed by teens will be played by teens. They want to be able to create and control their online identities across platforms. They want to have their Grand Theft Auto avatar on their Facebook account.
Karen Rohde of SUN talked with Mani Pande of Institute for the Future about teens in the workforce. To attract talent companies will need to use blogs, wikis, instant messaging and texting. Teens multitask and will text message each other while in a meeting. They are more likely to communicate and collaborate. If they donâ€™t know something they will search and find someone who does. They expect flexible schedules and are seeking mentors to plan their careers.
Salina Truong of Gumball Capital spoke about her early desire to do good. As a child she wanted to buy a third world country. As a teen she sold Rubikâ€™s Cubes and snacks and moved on to selling affiliate software on eBay. Now she works with Kiva.org to encourage micro lending around the world.
Larry Magid of CBS moderated the College panel with George Deglin of Berkeley, Jae Joh of Stanford, Mazy Kazerooni of Ustream, Alina Libova of Cal Poly, Jon Osborn of Santa Clara and Jeff Siebert of Stanford. They donâ€™t watch TV or read newspapers. College students still use e-mail and carry laptops. About half the laptops at Stanford are Apple. Upper class students want smart phones that can surf the web like the iPhone or Blackberry. Other kids use basic cell phones and Microsoft Windows. Both groups look for music groups with MySpace. They use Facebook, Salesforce and Google Groups to keep track of friends or contacts. Teens will content as long as there are no strings attached like DRM. They want cell phones that vibrate and text message on faster networks. They like iTunes, Crunchgear, TechCrunch and Woot.com. They want better aggregation and interoperability in software applications. All of this technology makes it easier for them to be more socially and politically active.
Ben Bajrin of Creative Strategies moderated the Investor panel with Andrew Braccia of Accel, Sergio Monsalve of Norwest Venture Partners and Angela Strange of Bay Partners. Despite the current downturn investors and teens know the economy is cyclical and it will turn around. Bad investors and investments stay out of a down market and it is easier to see through the clutter. High energy costs will force the next generation to redesign where they live, work and play. Their technology choices will percolate through society and show up in other age groups. The opportunities are in mobile, content and branding. Right now there is no way for a teen to buy online without a credit card. That is an opportunity, and not just for teens. Fee or subscription models are vulnerable to advertising driven free content models. While they look for opportunities to invest in teen entrepreneurs they still want them to continue their educations.
Richard Escobedo of Teens in Tech spoke about his interest in entrepreneurship from age of seven until his present age of fourteen. He learned to be resourceful, seek help when necessary and to persevere. He started a podcast for teens and uses Twitter, WordPress, Apple and Final Cut Express video. Beyond technology he plays football and the violin.
Courtney Macavinta of Respectrx moderated the Teen Entrepreneurs with Drew Levine, Shooby Kumar and Daniel Brusilovsky. One factor in becoming a young entrepreneur is growing up in a family that values technology and entrepreneurship. They see lower barriers of entry in starting a business, with a great demand for video content.
Non-profits are inspiring teens too. Whitney Smith talked about the Girls for a Change that uses technology to build networks for girls in poor neighborhoods. Elizabeth Stock of Computers for Youth spoke of making learning fun and relevant in ways outside traditional education. Joel Franusic and Adam Smith of SuperHappyDevHouse invited teens to their big open source event at Sun Microsystems Menlo Park campus the next weekend.
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Copyright 2008 DJ Cline All rights reserved.