All over the Bay Area, particularly in San Francisco, thousands of startups are developing innovative products and services that collectively promise to transform the way we live our lives going forward.
Aaron Stanton is a book browser – he loves to hang out in libraries and bookstores.
At least since 2003, while still a student at the University of Idaho, he has been dreaming of a way to improve the book-browsing experience with the help of technology.
Over the past eight years, he organized a “book genome project,” dedicated to “breaking books down into their constituent elements on a large scale,” which in turn led him to form a company, BookLamp, which is debuting today.
After the recent controversy caused by revelations that Apple has been using its customers' iPods, iPhones, and iPads to collect location data about nearby cell towers and Wi-Fi hot spots, the Cupertino-based company moved quickly to claim that a bug was responsible and that it soon will be fixed.
Invariably, the way this story was perceived by much of the population was as another example of sinister, surreptitious data collection by modern technology in ways that could further compromise our dwindling sense of privacy.
Therefore, it triggered new calls for restrictive legislation in Congress and overseas.
What tends to get lost in the news cycles that originate with revelations like these is that virtually every tool or service we have grown to depend on in modern communications technology is storing data about how we use them 24-7.
In every neighborhood where tech startups are located, you’ll see them – small groups of bright young men, mainly engineers, going out to lunch together. Very occasionally, there will be a woman who is part of the group, but that’s an exception that proves the rule.
It’s an odd phenomenon, this gender segregation, especially because virtually none of these young men fit the old-fashioned stereotype of sexists; by contrast, their generation supports equality between men and women more than any in the past.
And as these companies grow, they hire plenty of women. At Twitter, for example, a recent estimate has women accounting for around a quarter of the workforce.
But where the paucity of women is most striking is on the boards of directors of Web 2.0 companies. In a piece last December for the Wall Street Journal, Kara Swisher documented that none of the leading companies in this sector – Twitter (9 members), Facebook (5), Zynga (5), Groupon (9) and Foursquare (3)-- had a single woman on their board!
Tim Westergren is one of those entrepreneurs who built an online company to fill a void he saw in the physical world.
His Oakland-based Pandora is the leading radio service on the Internet, which has to be satisfying for a musician who says he spent a "long time trying to make a living" in music beforehand.
In fact, Pandora, which recently filed for a $100 million IPO, now hosts a database of some 800,000 songs from more than 80,000 artists. This massive playlist is what you have to choose from in order to populate your own private music channel.
Around 80 million registered users have chosen to do just that, probably half of them via Pandora's iPhone app.
The phrase "to good to be true" has always been put to the test by Pandora. Since inception the internet radio station changed the way people listened to music by providing an easy to use listening forum that seemed to have a limitless catalogue of music. Just type in an artist, create a station and play... for FREE. Well, all good things come to an end. In the case of Pandora, that happens after 40 hours.