Continue reading “From 0 to 1M customers, a conversation with Y Combinator”
The tech industry has created millions of jobs and an unprecedented level of wealth. It allows people across the whole planet to solve a wide variety of problems and improve the communities around them. Coding is one of the most valuable skills of our time and students around the world are beginning to learn it earlier in their lives than ever before.
The problem? Education affordability, social and racial disparities and gender discrimination. Many kids in low income families have never touched a computer, never given the opportunity to learn computer science, or what’s worse, they don’t believe they can ever become software engineers, thinking of the job as something reserved for privileged people.
The good news is that there are a bunch of amazing engineers out there focused on mitigating these problems, and today I’m interviewing Fernando Sanchez, Software Engineering Manager at Microsoft and Co-Founder of ‘Geeking Out Kids of Color‘ (GOKiC), a nonprofit focused on empowering kids of color with education in computer science so they can use technology to help make a positive impact in their communities. His story is not only inspiring, but also one that I hope reaches any kid out there thinking that they are not allowed to be part of the tech industry.Continue reading “Interview: can tech and education solve social inequality?”
2017 has been the year of the smart speaker. Amazon’s Echo Dot and Google’s Home Mini are currently selling for around $30, which makes them a popular Christmas gift. Using an Artificial Intelligence (AI) has never been cheaper and it’s finally reaching critical mass.
Companies are investing on AI more than ever: natural language recognition still has to improve a lot, but the current algorithms are already impressive. My favorite example: it’s now possible to ask “how long would it take me to get to Starbucks on 15th Ave?” and get an accurate response with the right assumptions. What a time to be alive!
All of this progress comes with side effects: having to learn how to talk to a machine. Often, people start talking without the wake-up keyword, and sometimes they forget to check if the device is actually listening, getting confused when there is no response to their inquiry. Talking to a machine is not easy and usually, very unsatisfactory.
Perhaps that dissatisfaction is what makes us be less aware about our manners when addressing an AI. What would you think if someone interrupted you mid-sentence with a sudden “STOP”? What if someone kept giving you orders relentlessly, never pausing to thank you? That’s how most of us talk to AI’s like Alexa or Siri, never saying “please” or “thank you”.
MoviePass is a subscription-based service that allows users to watch almost any movie in theaters for a flat monthly rate. In August, the company announced a surprisingly low price of $9.95, leaving many scratching their heads. I interviewed René Sánchez, cinema expert and movie critic at CineSinFronteras.com, and we discussed the privacy implications and the potential impact to the online streaming industry.
Even though I’ve been using it for a month already, it still feels too good to be true. Were you surprised by the MoviePass announcement?
Yes, I was surprised by their announcement to reduce the monthly subscription price to just $9.95. It is such an amazing deal, especially when you consider that a regular, 2D movie here in the Seattle metro area costs between $12-15. So even if you only watch one movie every month, you will be saving some dollars with MoviePass! What shocked me the most was to know that the major exhibitors and theater chains were onboard with this change. I expected a lot of pushback from them, considering their old-school ways to operate. So far, only AMC has tried (and failed) to restrict the use of MoviePass in their theaters.
What’s the problem that MoviePass is trying to solve?
People don’t go to the movie theaters anymore. Studios and exhibitors keep blaming Netflix and other rival streaming platforms for their audience loss, instead of recognizing the real root cause: the movie-going experience has become very expensive and obsolete. Ticket prices rise every year (the same goes for concessions), studios keep releasing sequels and remakes no one asked for, and most multiplexes scream for renovations (uncomfortable seats, run-down interiors, and poor image and sound quality). To top it off, patrons can sometimes be rude and annoying.
Again, it’s really not Netflix’s fault that people want to stay at home, rather than going out to watch a movie. Who wants to pay more than $60 (including tickets, food and parking/Uber) to enjoy a mediocre movie in a rickety auditorium, while everyone else is either talking or staring at their phones?
“Is that an earthquake?” the candidate asked with their eyes wide open, as everything around us started shaking. On September 19th, a 7.1 earthquake hit Central Mexico shortly after 1pm, and I was there interviewing university candidates for Microsoft. We were able to exit the building without issues, and even though my phone was unable to make any calls, it had data connectivity, allowing me to contact my family and friends over WhatsApp.
Many others weren’t so lucky: 369 people were killed, and over 6,000 were injured. The earthquake occurred on the 32nd anniversary of the 1985 Mexico City earthquake, which killed around 10,000 people. After spending the following days inspired by the amazing reaction of the Mexican society, united and determined to help each other, I wondered how different the situation would have been without technology’s help. How long would it take for people to find out if their families and friends were OK? How would they be able to find help or where help was needed?
My good friend Paulina Bustos was the perfect person to talk about these issues, so I decided to interview her. Paulina studied Computer Science at the Tecnológico de Monterrey University, worked at Microsoft in Redmond, WA for over 3 years and is now living in São Paulo doing a Technology Fellowship with Artigo 19; she is the co-funder of Cívica Digital in Mexico, where she worked with several non-profit organizations and governments to strengthen citizenship using technology, and she also teaches Software Design & Analysis at ITAM University.
Where were you during the September 19th earthquake in Central Mexico and what was your immediate reaction when you realized the magnitude of the event?
I was in Sao Paulo in a meeting, when my cellphone started ringing with all the messages from family and friends. My oldest sister lives in Mexico City and she usually texts back within the first 5 minutes after an earthquake. This time she took almost an hour. I knew immediately that something was off.
Becoming an engineer is not an easy task. Excelling at it is even more complicated. And if you happen to be a woman and part of an ethnic minority, things will be remarkably tougher for you.
Today, I’m interviewing Bea Querido-Rico, an engineer with over 12 years of experience in the aerospace industry, who is also running for Port of Seattle Commisioner. Join us while we talk about what we can do to improve the world for future generations.
Education is one of the big challenges of our time, with less students choosing STEM degrees each year. How would you encourage the younger generations to become the professionals that we need as a society?
The strategy that works the best is inspiring through understanding first what motivates younger generations. Once the motivation is understood, then link that motivation to S.T.E.M. and pair it with relevant fun courses as well as role models that they can relate to.
Growing up I was only exposed to sports, accounting, and nursing. Some people in my family took steps into starting a business and my brother pursued engineering in college but all of that in my world was so abstract until I landed an internship at the Boeing Company working for the C-17 military cargo aircraft. That summer internship in aerospace widened my perspective and heavily influenced the way I think and operate professionally.
Both Amazon and Apple have made recent announcements that have resonated across the literary and music industries (even though Apple has already made a royalties policy U-turn after a controversial open letter from Taylor Swift).
We live in a society where technology allows consumers to access creative content easier and faster than ever, so I wanted to better understand how some of these decisions (like Amazon’s new pay-per-page policy) affect the industry at its core. Below, you can read an interview with Mary C. Moore, author and literary agent.
Amazon recently announced a new payment policy for self-publishing authors where they’ll basically get paid for each page of their book that people actually read. Amazon claims that they received great feedback from authors, so how do you think this will affect the industry?
Well, this is speculation and opinions on this strategy vary wildly across the board. As the way it stands now, the largest impact is going to be on the self-publishing authors who publish exclusively through Amazon. Beyond that, the effects will probably be felt on writing trends. A pay-per-page system skews in favor of high-paced, tension-filled, cliff-hanging writing that makes the reader continue to turn the page rather than some of the more subtle and nuanced books that perhaps favor lovely writing, or a surreal storyline, or something more abstract.
On-Demand Delivery, Instant Gratification… if you’re not used to hear these words already, you will be soon. The fast-changing space of on-demand economy is filled with startups that will bring anything to you, almost instantly.
Uber, Airbnb, Caviar, PushForPizza, Munchery, Doordash, Postmates, SpoonRocket, Sprig, Instacart, Shyp, TaskRabbit; all of them are great examples of this fascinating trend, and today we are interviewing Sergio Treviño, Co-Founder and Lead Technical Architect of BrewDrop.
Much has been written about Bitcoin in the last few days: the demise of Mt.Gox triggered a wave of doubts about the cryptocurrency and the current ways of exchange. However, there are several initiatives trying to improve this situation and today we are interviewing Ximo Guanter, Co-Founder of Coinffeine, a peer-to-peer Bitcoin exchange platform.