Kevin Warnock

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Global Social Venture Competition final presentations on April 12, 2013 in Berkeley, California USA

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Laura Tilghman, co chair of the 2013 Global Social Venture Competition, introduces the competing teams, April 12, 2013.

Laura Tilghman, co chair of the 2013 Global Social Venture Competition, introduces the teams, April 12, 2013

On Friday, April 12, 2013, I attended the 2013 final presentations by teams competing in the Global Social Venture Competition.

I was invited by Jennifer Walske, Faculty Director of the Global Social Venture Competition. Walske moderated the question and answer session between the judges and the competitors. I paid for a ticket to attend the event, but at a reduced rate as a member of the press — USD $49.50 rather than $99.00. Thank you to the organizers for the discount.

This event took place at the Haas School of Business on the campus of the University of California in Berkeley, California USA. Haas Dean Rich Lyons opened the event with some wise remarks.

Dean Rich Lyons, Molly Bode, Nick Cain and Laura Tilghman at 2013 Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013

Dean Rich Lyons, Molly Bode, Nick Cain and Laura Tilghman at 2013 Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013

This event was an all day affair, with keynotes, panels and even a debate. I arrived at 8am and left around 8pm.

This competition is the premier social venture competition in the world, and, according to the organizers, close to 650 teams from 37 countries competed. My friend Sara Olsen co-founded the competition while she was getting her MBA at the University of California Berkeley.

Keynote speaker Josh Nesbit at 2013 Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013

Keynote speaker Josh Nesbit at 2013 Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013

The morning keynote

Josh Nesbit, the CEO of Medic Mobile, gave one of the more uplifting keynotes I have heard in a while. I didn’t take notes so I am not prepared to summarize it, but he tells about a remarkable journey over the last four years or so where this non profit has improved the lives of tens of thousands of people in the developing world. The video of the talk should be posted to the Global Social Venture Competition website, or perhaps YouTube, by Friday, April 19, 2013, I’ve been told, so you’ll be able to watch it there. It’s well worth watching. I photographed Nesbit twice, and there is a more formal portrait of him at the bottom of this post.

The 6 final finalist teams

All 18 teams that traveled to Berkeley are finalists, and they all wore the same type of name badges. The 18 teams presented on Thursday, April 11, 2013, and the best 6 teams became what I will call the final finalists. In this post, I present short executive summaries of each of the 18 teams. This text was written by the teams themselves — I just copied it from the luxurious pamphlet distributed at the event. Normally, I place such text in quotes, but since this text compromises so much of this post, I am telling you here that the summaries are text I did not write.

The teams that advanced to the concluding round of judging are:

Faso Soap founders from the country Burkina Faso at  2013 Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013

Faso Soap founders from the country Burkina Faso at 2013 Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013

Faso Soap

1st place winner of USD $25,000; Blum Center for Developing Economies Peoples’ Choice Award of $1,500 — from the country Burkina Faso

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about half of the world population is still at risk of contracting malaria. In 2010, among 219 million people affected, there were 660,000 deaths, of which 91% were in Africa where malaria remains the leading cause of death. Particularly vulnerable individuals are pregnant women, children under 5 and HIV patients. Considering this alarming report, Moctar Dembele and Gérard Niyondiko, two students from 2iE Foundation, have found an innovative solution through the project Faso Soap. The “soap of Faso” offers an innovative solution for the prevention of malaria, which takes into account financial constraints and cultural habits of African families. The company will produce and market both antibacterial and anti-mosquito soaps made with 100% local resources to integrate prevention against malaria in the daily lives of people most affected by this scourge. Faso Soap: “The action of a group, the future of an entire nation.”

Hannah Erickson and Eric Sorensen of Carbon Roots International at the 2013 Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013

Hannah Erickson and Eric Sorensen of Carbon Roots International at the 2013 Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013

Carbon Roots International

2nd place winner of USD $15,000 — Haiti

Carbon Roots International (CRI) started as an idea to explore the potential of carbon-rich char as a tool for international development. The idea evolved from a chain of emails between three friends, to meetings over lunch, to a trip to rural Haiti in 2010. Upon returning to the United States, CRI’s three co-founders established the organization to enable the adoption of char technologies in Haiti. CRI’s work served as the basis for co-founder Ryan Delaney’s Master’s thesis at Arizona State University’s School of Sustainability, and compelled another co-founder, Hannah Erickson, to pursue a graduate degree at the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment. After several years of refining technology and testing solutions, CRI has produced a feasible, scalable business plan that addresses two overlapping issues—charcoal fuel use and low agricultural productivity—which converge in Haiti, but are endemic throughout the developing world.

I guessed correctly that Carbon Roots would win 2nd place. I really like this company, which makes ‘green’ charcoal briquets out of agricultural waste, like sugar cane waste. The briquets look like small hockey pucks, and apparently burn as well as charcoal made from trees. Deforestation is a large problem, so Carbon Roots has the potential to help the planet on a meaningful scale.

Pulpworks, Inc., the third place winner at the 2013 Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013

Pulpworks, Inc., the third place winner at the 2013 Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013

Pulpworks, Inc.

3rd place winner of $7,500 — United States of America

PulpWorks: The planet is choking in garbage – toxic, enduring waste. And the single worst culprit is packaging – thirteen bathtubs full per year for each person on the planet; in the U.S. alone, 31 million tons of plastic waste was generated last year. PVC is the world’s leading toxic packaging material. Consumer packaged goods companies are seeking a cost-effective, sustainable replacement for their current unsustainable PVC packaging. To address this crisis, PulpWorks has created a compostable, all-pulp-and-paper alternative to toxic plastic (PVC) blister packaging. Our patent-pending package is, in essence, the “un-blister”. It showcases products in the same manner as traditional blister packs, but, rather than ending up in a landfill, the entire package can be composted after opening. Increasing consumer and regulatory pressure will eventually remove PVC from the marketplace. As designers and manufacturers of eco-friendly packaging, PulpWorks will reap the rewards of this marketplace shift.

This company has developed a way to turn paper pulp into appealing compostable packaging. The containers they showed me have a texture that is similar to cardboard egg cartons. The three presenters got a laugh out of the crowd when they said between the three of them they have 100 years of experience in business. I like this product, and I hope they succeed. Fortunately, the CEO, Paul Tasner, pictured above and individually below, has decades of experience in the packaging industry, and as a result, he has been able to get meetings with household name companies like Clorox.

The PulpWorks team traveled to the competition finals on Bart, the commuter train system in the San Francisco Bay Area, where the University of California is located.

Benjamin Cohen, Dori Pap and Travis Horsley at 2013 Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013. Pap is a mentor for TOHL, Inc., one of the finalist teams, which is run by Cohen and Horsley.

Benjamin Cohen, Dori Pap and Travis Horsley at 2013 Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013. Pap is a mentor for TOHL, Inc., one of the finalist teams, which is run by Cohen and Horsley.

Benjamin Cohen and Travis Horsley of TOHL, Inc - at 2013 Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013. Photograph by Kevin Warnock.

Benjamin Cohen and Travis Horsley of TOHL, Inc - at 2013 Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013

TOHL, Inc.

Chile

TOHL developed a patent-pending technology for installing pipelines cheaply, quickly sustainably, and in any location. This technology utilizes much longer segments of pipeline than what is traditionally used. Single segments of pipeline are manufactured in lengths of 500 meters to several kilometers, and these long segments are loaded directly onto large spools that are deployed via helicopter or truck. The pipelines have fewer connections, which decreases labor hours during installation and allows the pipelines to be in operation faster than is possible if using conventional infrastructure technology. The patent-pending helicopter installations method also allows for TOHL to access remote areas that previously could not be reached, which is significant, because valuable water sources are often inaccessible. Lastly, TOHL’s technology also offers the service of pipeline removal and re-use, when the pipeline is only needed for temporary applications. The tubing is re-spooled and recycled for other projects saving money and resources.

This is the team I thought would win 1st place. Drinking dirty water either kills or makes ill countless numbers of people. This company can install a flexible water hose by flying a helicopter from a source of clean water to where water is needed. Often, their services are needed after a natural disaster like an earthquake. It could take months to repair a permanent underground pipe that serves an area damaged in a quake. TOHL can install a pipe overground in minutes once everything’s set up. The technology is not new, as I learned the oil exploration industry has been using the technique for years to bring water to their drilling rigs that are often out of reach of conventional plumbing. What’s new with TOHL is their specialization on emergency installations. They have developed expertise working with local governments to get the necessary permits and easements, a process I suspect is so difficult that it will discourage cheap copycats from competing with their company. The company’s first efforts have been in Chile, most likely because they received startup financing and support as part of the well known Startup Chile program.

The TOHL team is operating with real paying customers. The team showed an impressive video where their rented helicopter drops down tubing from a giant spool that hangs below the aircraft like a water container on a fire fighting helicopter. The TOHL helicopter showed tubing can be set down even on the tops of trees — flat or smooth ground is not required.

If the tubing is made unnecessary after some months, perhaps by the broken underground pipes being restored, the tubing can be reeled back onto the spool for reuse elsewhere.

Amazingly, the tubing can handle being outside for 25 years.

Founders Benjamin Cohen and Travis Horsley were impressive, and I spent perhaps half an hour hearing about their exciting venture. I wish them well.

The TOHL team studied at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), one of the 9 partner schools that together stage the Global Social Venture Competition. Each school sends a representative that works for the institution to the global finals. Georgia Tech sent Dori Pap, the Assistant Director of the Institute for Leadership and Entrepreneurship, pictured above with the TOHL team.

Reel Gardening team from South Africa at  2013 Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013

Reel Gardening team from South Africa at 2013 Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013

Reel Gardening

Reel Gardening is a manufacturing company that aims to make gardening simple. Its main product is a biodegradable strip that encases organic fertilizer and open pollinated seed at the correct depth in the soil, and the correct distance apart. Reel Gardening indicates where each plant will sprout allowing for watering to be localized, enabling a saving of 80% water in the germination phase. The strip also helps restore soil fertility as the paper breaks down and the vegetable based inks and organic fertilizer seep into the soil. The Reel Gardening team is made up of Claire Reid (Inventor and Founder), Sean Blanckenberg (Director at Reel Gardening), Emily Jones (Project Manager at Reel Gardening), Greg Macfarlane (Financial Advisor) and Dianna Moore (Business Advisor).

CSA Munching Box finalist team at 2013 Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013. Photo by Kevin Warnock.

CSA Munching Box finalist team at 2013 Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013. Left to right: Kongkrai Maksrivorawan, Sanjay Popli, Lalana Srikam and Niteepong Techamontrikul. Team member Bryan Hugill not shown as his visa didn't arrive in time for him to attend the event.

CSA Munching Box

CSA Munching Box is a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program providing weekly subscription-based delivery of seasonal, organic fresh fruit and vegetables direct from the farms to customers’ doorsteps and bringing the customers closer to our farmer networks in rural areas. We also serve as a distribution platform linking artisanal food producers to the urban market. Additionally, CSA Munching Box brings positive social impacts to its partners. We also use packaging made from recycled materials as well as deliver our products via bicycle couriers to reduce carbon footprint. The primary target customer group is the health-conscious and discerning consumers in major cities across Thailand. This group tends to have more knowledge about CSA, appreciates the concept, and possesses higher purchasing power.

The 12 finalist teams

Eighteen teams traveled to Berkeley for the final two rounds of the competition. On Thursday, April 11, 2013, six teams advanced to the concluding round of judging. The twelve teams that did not advance each got to deliver their pitch to all the attendees. The 12 finalists are:

AtRuim finalist team at 2013 Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013

AtRuim finalist team at 2013 Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013

Sangjae Park and Sung Jun of AtRium from South Korea at 2013 Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013

Sangjae Park and Sung Jun of AtRium from South Korea at 2013 Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013

AtRium

South Korea

The low income families in the world’s cold regions suffer not only from cold weather but also from problems such as fuel costs, illness, and pollution due to their outdated, inefficient stove heating system. AtRium addresses these socio-economic and environmental issues through an affordable heat absorber, G-saver, which is developed based on appropriate technology. Our primary target is Mongolian households living in a “Ger.” Later we will expand to other cold regions such as Inner Mongolia and Kazakhstan, and also to developed countries with our technology. Built on a consortium among Good Neighbors (NGO), Good Sharing (Social Venture), and Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (Academia), we aim to contribute to building a sustainable ecosystem that balances economic and social values by pursuing sustainable profit generation, improving the quality of life of low income families, protecting the environment, and developing local economy in cold regions.

Pasquale Fedele and Jarrod Fath of BrainControl, from Italy, at Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013

Pasquale Fedele and Jarrod Fath of BrainControl, from Italy, at Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013

Jarrod Fath and Pasquale Fedele of BrainControl from Italy - at 2013 Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013

Jarrod Fath and Pasquale Fedele of BrainControl from Italy - at 2013 Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013

BrainControl

Italy

BrainControl is a breakthrough technology that gives disabled people the power to control objects with their minds, allowing them to control a communicator, domotic devices (lights, doors, windows, alarms, temperature, bed position, etc.), wheelchairs, and other assistive technologies. Based on a proprietary Brain-Computer Interfaces technology (BCI), BrainControl interprets the electric map that correspond to certain brain activity and allows patients to control a tablet PC through specific thoughts, overcoming physical disability, and improving communication and environmental control. The focus is on assistive applications for people affected by degenerative neuromuscular disease (multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis – ALS) and ischemic or traumatic injury, which each year affects more than 3 million patients. BrainControl is the world’s first assistive technology that is usable by people who cannot move any muscles or communicate, but who are consciously aware, a state called “locked-in” or “apparent coma”.

Jackie Stenson of Essmart Global from USA and India - at 2013 Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013

Jackie Stenson of Essmart Global from USA and India - at 2013 Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013

Essmart Global

United States of America / India

Essmart: Millions of people have unmet essential needs, such as clean water and safe, reliable lighting. Hundreds of essential technologies that meet these needs already exist, such as non-electric water filters and affordable off-grid solar lanterns. However, these technologies are not reaching the people they were designed to benefit. Essmart builds an essential marketplace for these products in places where people already shop – their local retail shops – so that everyone can access them.

Botao Liang of E-Lamp from China - at  2013 Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013

Botao Liang of E-Lamp from China - at 2013 Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013

E-Lamp

China

E-Lamp is an intelligent lighting control system. It can adjust the color and brightness level of the LED light source by remote control using a mobile device. It can be used in agriculture: as the population of the world continues to grow, more food and crops are needed. As plants at different growth stages require specific spectral and wavelength, production could be sped up using E-Lamp’s adjustment of light intensity and spectral wavelength. The mobile device remote control can be used in agricultural greenhouses to centralize control of E-Lamp equipment in a single region or multiple regions to make the management more convenient. E-Lamp also can be used to improve disabled people’s daily life, allowing them to easily control the light and adjust the color to match their mood, even for psychological treatment.

Venkateswara Rao of Damascus Fortune from India at 2013 Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013

Venkateswara Rao of Damascus Fortune from India at 2013 Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013

Damascus Fortune

India

We at Damascus Fortune not only clean the planet, but have made the whole carbon conversion process profitable. We sequester carbon from carbon emitting industries and convert it into one of the strongest materials known to man – carbon nanotubes, carbon fibers and carbon nanorods. Our products are ultra-low cost as we use the waste emission and heat from the industry itself. We wish to start a composite manufacturing plant from in-house manufactured carbon structures to cater to automobile, aircraft, construction and other industries. We are seeking support to scale into new markets globally.

Armel Guenguara, left, founder of Nafa Naana, at 2013 Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013

Armel Guenguara, left, founder of Nafa Naana, at 2013 Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013

Nafa Naana

Burkina Faso

In Burkina Faso, households still rely on firewood for 90% of their energy consumption, thus contributing to irreversibly damaging their forest ecosystems. Toxic fumes from burning wood are harmful for people and issues faced in supplying fuel (for cooking and lighting) are a precariousness factor, particularly for women. Solutions do exist but remain out of reach for the most vulnerable populations.  Nafa Naana – which means “gains made easy” in local language – mission is to make clean and affordable energy products (energy-efficient stove, gas stove, solar lamps…) available to even the poorest households. The distribution channels are based on retailers operating as social microfranchisees and on direct sales to women’s groups. Financial barriers – for end-users, retailers and producers – are removed through the use of microcredit and savings mechanisms.

Meme B. Ortis, co-founder of Jorsey Ashbel Farms, delivering his Peoples' Choice winning pitch, at 2013 Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013

Meme B. Ortis, co-founder of Jorsey Ashbel Farms, delivering his Peoples' Choice winning pitch, at 2013 Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013

Jorsey Ashbel Farms

Center for Responsible Business Quick Pitch Award of USD $1,000 — Nigeria

Jorsey Ashbel Farms (JAF) is an unconventional livestock farm pioneering a groundbreaking approach to tackling the poverty problem of Protein-Energy Malnutrition, which affects millions of disadvantaged children and women. JAF produces Nigeria’s cheapest livestock products using an innovative, scientifically proven, low-cost livestock feed production technique combined with an innovative deployment strategy.

Meme B. Ortis in my mind really deserved this award. He was the most intense and passionate of all the 18 speakers. You can see his energy in the picture of him just above. He was constantly using his hands to make his point, and his voice was powerful and resonant. I was so happy I got to meet Ortis to photograph him.

We had a great conversation about those pesky emails everyone receives asking for help moving millions of dollars for a percentage. He said he has several of them in his email box right now. I shared with him the story of a guy that turned the tables on the spammers by getting them to write out in longhand one of the Harry Potter books. He had not heard about that reverse scam. If you haven’t heard about it either, I promise you’ll enjoy the story.

Here’s the summary: a guy gets a scam email and replies he’s too busy to help because he’s busy providing handwriting samples at $100 a page to improve a company’s handwriting recognition software. Soon, the scammer is asking to join in providing samples, and he ends up writing out with a pen the text of a 293 page novel, hoping to collect tens of thousands of dollars. Of course, he never is paid for his work, which is retribution for him scamming others out of their money via his emails.

From the summary written by the team, you wouldn’t guess what they really do, which is fascinating.

There is protein rich food inside a mango seed. The company opens the seeds, which apparently are not costly and are plentiful, and extracts the presumably mushy contents. That contents are so acidic it will kill chickens that eat it directly, but Jorsey Ashbel Farms has developed a method to process the extract so that chickens can safely and productively eat it. Even though this sounds like a lot of trouble, I learned there is a big cost savings versus feeding chickens corn. JAF runs a farm where they grow mangos and raise 10,000 chickens, in harmony. I would love to visit their operation to see this wonderful sounding operation first hand.

I forgot to tell the founders that I raise four chickens for eggs in my backyard in San Francisco. My chickens eat chicken feed from a bag, not mangos, however.

Ortis’ co-founder Ashbel Ayuba, pictured in the portrait section below, was the most stylishly dressed of the competitors, and had on a pair of highly polished green leather shoes made from the hide of an animal I could not identify. They looked like something rock star Prince would wear. In the early 1990s I saw Prince hanging out as a regular customer in the trendy nightclub Les Bains in Paris, France, and he had on some similarly wild boots, which matched his pants, which matched his coat with tails. He carried a golden walking stick, and had beefy bodyguards on either side, but nobody paid him any attention, as I don’t think he was famous yet in Paris. I told my French friends the next morning that I had seen Prince, and not one of them knew of him. I was ten feet from Prince dancing for an hour, so I am 100% certain it was Prince.

I stopped Ayuba on the stairs and asked to photograph him before I even knew what company he was part of — I just love his look and attitude. I told him he looked like what I would imagine an African James Bond would look like. He enthusiastically pumped his fist in the air and said ‘YEAH!!!’

I love being a photographer.

Woof founder from Hong Kong at 2013 Global Social Venture Competition, April 12 2013. Photo by Kevin Warnock.

Woof founder from Hong Kong at 2013 Global Social Venture Competition, April 12 2013

WOOF

Hong Kong

WOOF is a premium fashion brand producing elegant, yet quirky and fun fashion accessories. What makes us different is that our line of goods is produced by Chiengora (dog hair). WOOF’s raw material is collected from various grooming stores and animal welfare organizations. The grooming division of our current NGO partner, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), provides over 60% of the dog hair raw material for WOOF production. WOOF ensures that all our sources of material are 100% animal-friendly. WOOF production is a technology innovation. We are currently co-developing the machine spinning technology with our academic partner, the Institute of Textile and Clothing (ITC) from the Poly University of Hong Kong. Through fashion, WOOF aims to change attitudes towards animals. We aim to do this through two means: 1) reducing animal surrenders and increasing animal adoptions, and 2) improving the living conditions of animals.

Wedu founder from Thailand at Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013. Photo by Kevin Warnock.

Wedu founder from Thailand at Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013

Wedu

Thailand

Wedu catalyzes the next generation of local female leaders by providing innovative financing options for university and the lifelong support of mentors. We create a sustainable and positive cycle of development by identifying girls committed to local issues; investing in their education; mentoring them to lead and creating incentives for them to repay the funds to serve more girls. We envision a world where people from the most underprivileged backgrounds have the tools to change their lives and their home country by being masters of their own development. We started operations in Cambodia and Myanmar, built partnerships from the U.S. to Japan, united a league of extraordinary advisers and mentors from the Acumen Fund, Husk Power Systems, Unreasonable Institute and beyond. Wedu is Social Enterprise Startup of 2012 at Cambridge University, GSVC-SEA Winner, Semi-Finalist for the Echoing Green Fellowship and in the Top 10 Global Solution Award at Women Deliver 2013.

Vi-Care founder, from India, at Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013. Photo by Kevin Warnock.

Vi-Care founder, from India, at Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013

Vi-Care

India

Vi-Care is a one-of-a-kind company in India, and is on its way to formation to provide a low cost solution to address the problem of high infant mortality due to pneumonia in rural India. Vi-Care focuses on implementing a cost effective solution for the timely detection of pneumonia in infants, keeping in mind the lack of healthcare infrastructure in rural areas. Vi-Care’s solution involves the use of ubiquitous mobile phones to detect pneumonia in infants. Vi-Care provides a unique diagnostic application (i-Treat) capable of performing preliminary but informative diagnosis of pneumonia without requiring any external infrastructure or expert intervention, thereby greatly improving the chances of survival of infants in rural areas. The value proposition of Vi-Care rests upon providing an unrivaled, cost-effective approach to timely detect pneumonia in low-income, rural areas, keeping in mind the financial constraints of the people.

Sunshine Library Rural Digital Education Initiative team at  2013 Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013. Photo by Kevin Warnock.

Sunshine Library Rural Digital Education Initiative team at 2013 Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013

Sunshine Library

China

Sunshine Library Rural Digital Education Initiative (Sunshine Library) is a social venture seeking to improve rural education in China via modern technology. We aim to provide a comprehensive education solution to under-resourced, rural schools using specially designed tablet PCs. Sunshine Library does not only provide tablet PCs for under-resourced schools, nor do we place our volunteer teachers in rural schools. Leveraging information technology, we provide an integrated solution with a sustainable model of operation. We designed a tablet PC, the Sunbook, and educational apps customized to the needs of students, teachers, and schools in rural setting. Then, we deliver the tablets with Internet access to rural students, new teaching methods to teachers, and extensive educational resources to schools, hoping to eliminate education inequity. Now, we have provided 2,000 tablets for students and teachers in 4 rural schools in western China.

Lorenzo Di Ciaccio and Alessandro Gaeta of Pedius from Italy at Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013. Photo by Kevin Warnock.

Lorenzo Di Ciaccio and Alessandro Gaeta of Pedius from Italy at Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013

Pedius

Italy

Pedius is a communication system helping deaf people to make normal phone calls, using voice recognition technologies and speech synthesis. Pedius’ users can call all emergency numbers for free, as well as all partner companies supporting our accessibility program who agree to pay a fee and provide users a toll free access number. Users can also call private numbers, paying an affordable fee comparable to what is offered by VoIP communication providers. The goal of Pedius is the reduction of communication barriers for deaf people, enabling phone services for all and at the same time increasing the visibility of our accessibility partner companies.

I like this company. It turns out the founders know my friend Dan Luis, who used to be CEO for years at Purple, the company that bought my first Internet startup Hotpaper.com, Inc. Purple is in roughly the same business as Pedius, but Purple uses people to bridge connections between parties, while Pedius uses software.

The panels and debates

As I mentioned above, this event filled a day. There were panels and debates on social entrepreneurship. I stepped in briefly to take some pictures, but sadly, I did not have time to watch the events, with the exception of the morning keynote. I was busy either photographing or rounding up the subjects nearly all day.

Agricultural solutions for addressing poverty workshop at the 2013 Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013, held at University of California, Berkeley

Agricultural solutions for addressing poverty workshop at the 2013 Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013, held at University of California, Berkeley

Social enterprises in the developing world panel at 2013 Global Social Venture Competitiion, April 12, 2013, Anderson Auditorium, Haas School of Business, University of California Berkeley

Social enterprises in the developing world panel at 2013 Global Social Venture Competitiion, April 12, 2013, Anderson Auditorium, Haas School of Business, University of California Berkeley

Individual portraits

I took all the pictures that illustrate this blog post. I like very much to photograph people, and entrepreneurs are among my favorite subjects. I asked all of the subjects you see here for permission to photograph them, with the exception of the shot with Dean Rich Lyons, which I captured by standing alongside the official paid photographer, my longtime friend Bruce Cook. He set that shot up, and I simply asked the subjects to look at my camera after Cook was done getting his shots.

I took individual photographs of some of the founders, and I present those images to conclude this post. I gave permission to the subjects for them to use the pictures, so I hope to see these images on their websites and elsewhere around the web. Thank you to all the subjects for being so patient with me to get these results.

Sung Jun, CEO of AtRium from South Korea, at the Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013

Sung Jun, CEO of AtRium from South Korea, at the Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013

Paul Tasner, CEO of Pulpworks, Inc. at Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013

Paul Tasner, CEO of Pulpworks, Inc. at Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013

Elena Olivari, Vice President of Research and Development at Pulpworks, Inc. at Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013

Elena Olivari, Vice President of Research and Development at Pulpworks, Inc. at Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013

Travis Horsley of TOHL, Inc. at 2013 Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013

Travis Horsley of TOHL, Inc. at 2013 Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013

Ashbel Ayuba, co-founder of Jorsey Ashbel Farms, at 2013 Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013

Ashbel Ayuba, co-founder of Jorsey Ashbel Farms, at 2013 Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013

Lalana Srikam, CEO of finalist team CSA Munching Box from Thailand, at the 2013 Global Social Venture Competition,  April 12, 2013

Lalana Srikam, CEO of finalist team CSA Munching Box from Thailand, at the 2013 Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013

Meme B. Ortis (Note: his name may be Blessing Oritseweyinmi as that's what his nametag said. But I had him write his name for me, and he wrote Meme B. Ortis, so I don't know which is correct) the co-founder of Jorsey Ashbel Farms at  2013 Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013

Meme B. Ortis (Note: his name may be Blessing Oritseweyinmi as that's what his nametag said. But I had him write his name for me, and he wrote Meme B. Ortis, so I don't know which is correct) the co-founder of Jorsey Ashbel Farms at 2013 Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013

Lorenzo Di Ciaccio the CEO of Pedius at 2013 Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013

Lorenzo Di Ciaccio the CEO of Pedius at 2013 Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013

Eric Sorensen, Executive Director of Carbon Roots International, at Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013

Eric Sorensen, Executive Director of Carbon Roots International, at Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013

Claire Catherine Reid, Managing Director of Reel Gardening from South Africa, at Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013

Claire Catherine Reid, Managing Director of Reel Gardening from South Africa, at Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013

Pasquale Fedele, CEO of BrainControl, at 2013 Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013. Photographed at International House near the UC Berkeley campus.

Pasquale Fedele, CEO of BrainControl, at 2013 Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013. Photographed at International House near the UC Berkeley campus.

Benjamin Cohen, CEO of TOHL, Inc., at the 2013 Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013

Benjamin Cohen, CEO of TOHL, Inc., at the 2013 Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013

Portrait of keynote speaker Josh Nesbit at 2013 Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013, University of California Berkeley

Portrait of keynote speaker Josh Nesbit at 2013 Global Social Venture Competition, April 12, 2013, University of California Berkeley

I used my Canon 5D Mark II camera to take these pictures. The group shots were taken with a Canon 50mm macro lens. The individual shots were taken with a Canon 80-200mm f:2.8 L zoom lens. The wide shots were taken with a Canon 16-35mm f:2.8 L zoom lens. I upload pictures to this blog at camera resolution of 21 megapixels. Click on the pictures to load the full size versions, which are larger than the versions you see by default. I pursue blogging and photography as a hobby.

I am sorry I could not photograph everyone. I would have liked to photograph all 18 teams properly, like I do when I attend the 500 Startups Demo Days.

I really enjoyed this event. It was exciting to meet people from around the world. I invite everyone I met, if allowed in your country, to friend me on Facebook so we may stay in touch. Thanks and good luck!

Consumers should be permitted to voice record conversations they have with companies

without comments

http://AntiGodaddy.com home page, February 26, 2013 screen capture

http://AntiGodaddy.com home page, February 26, 2013 screen capture

To my knowledge, in the United States it is illegal to record conversations unless you have permission of the parties you’re recording. I believe the rules are more lax in some jurisdictions, but those exceptions are not that helpful if one wants to record a phone conversation with a company representative, because call centers are so dispersed over the planet. A representative could be anywhere.

I think United States Federal law should be changed to specifically permit consumers to record conversations they have with employees and other representatives of companies. Nothing stops me from asking for permission today, but I have never been granted permission when I have asked, so that’s why the law should be changed.

Companies routinely give themselves the right to record calls, so they should understand why a consumer would also want to have that ability.

I came to my recommendation January 29, 2013, after I had a frustrating conversation that day with Brian G., a supervisor at Godaddy, the Internet domain name giant. Brian’s email address is briang@godaddy.com. Brian refused to give me his last name, citing a Godaddy security policy.

On or around December 14, 2012, I learned a domain I’ve been wanting for a dozen plus years was in ‘redemption.’ This means the prior owner didn’t pay to renew it, so the registrar placed the name into redemption, a kind of holding place for domain names before they are eventually released to the public for purchase.

My heart raced. I was going to finally be able to reacquire the Hotpaper.com domain. I sold the name in 2000. My first reaction was to write to my friend Dan Luis and ask if I could pay the redemption fee to Purple, the company I sold the name to a dozen years ago, so they could retrieve the name from redemption status. This would then give Purple the right to transfer the name to me.

But after I composed the email to Luis, who I have been in touch with as recently as 2012, I decided to run this idea past GoDaddy, which was the registrar for Hotpaper.com.

I told the representative about my connection with Purple and proposed doing what I just outlined. The representative then advised me to  not bother, and just sign up for GoDaddy’s Domain Name Backorder service, which cost about USD $20.00 and included a full year of registration. This made the cost for getting the domain about $8.00, which is just 1/10th what it would have cost me to pay Purple to get the domain out of redemption status.

The representative told me that since GoDaddy was the registrar for Hotpaper.com that they would be able to get the domain name for me through their backorder service. He said that if Hotpaper.com had been with another registrar then they would have had to fight to try to get the name. The representative assured me multiple times that in this situation their backorder service was a sure thing. Not once did he even hint that I would be rolling the dice. Had he alerted me that I was speculating, I would have hung up and pursued the sure thing of contacting Luis.

Either Luis would have redeemed the name for Purple to hold on to, or he would have allowed me to redeem it through Purple. Luis would not have ignored me and let the name hit the open market — he’s my friend, and even though we haven’t seen each other in ages, we share a bond, for we both sold our companies to the company that is now Purple. Why am I so sure of this? Luis is the one that keeps our association alive by saying hello to me from time to time, not the other way around. I believe Luis respects me and does not want to upset me, so he would not take an adverse position, especially on something like this that is of no consequence to Purple, since they retired the Hotpaper name around a decade ago.

I would have been fine had Luis redeemed the name and had Purple hold on to it for decades to come. My desire is for the name to not fall into third party hands, so it was great that Purple paid the registration on the name for so long after they stopped using it. I saved over USD $100 over the last decade thanks to the kindness of Purple. Thank you.

I have explained to GoDaddy that their representative promised to get me the Hotpaper.com domain and failed, and to fix this failure they need to buy the domain and give it to me for the backorder fee I paid. This is a case of an employee being insufficiently skilled and trained, and their failure led to this sad result. GoDaddy the company is at fault, I believe. Yes, there may be some fine print somewhere on the GoDaddy website explaining the backorder process is akin to gambling, but GoDaddy’s sales representative negated that fine print.

I believe I was behaving reasonably when I took the word of the GoDaddy representative.

I figured that GoDaddy would have an advantage in ‘catching’ domain names dropping from their registry in the same way that high speed Wall Street traders benefit from extremely close proximity to stock exchange computers, so much so that high speed traders rent space in premium Wall Street colocation space to get faster connection times, since the speed of electricity is only so fast.

I have never bought a domain through a name catching service, so I was not an expert when I placed the order. But I felt the representative I ordered through knew what he was talking about, because he was so articulate, well spoken and because his explanation of why GoDaddy would definitely get the name sounded technically and practically believable.

If I had recorded that conversation, I believe GoDaddy would buy Hotpaper.com on the open market and give it to me for the backorder fee I have already paid. The conversation was so crystal clear and frankly damning that GoDaddy would not want to risk the recording and this story hitting the front page of Reddit, where I predict GoDaddy would have taken a beating from the readers of that news site.

This domain issue is of little importance. I survived a dozen years without the domain, and I’ll be fine without it for the next dozen or three dozen years. I have Hotpaper.net if I ever want to do anything Hotpaper related in the future.

The right for consumers to record calls with businesses, without notice, however, is a right US residents should have. There are so many business that will only correspond with customers over the phone. All banks I know are like this, and will simply not engage a customer by writing emails or letters back and forth. If you try to send a letter, often you’ll get a letter back asking you to phone. Banks I am sure force business to be conducted by phone because they know there will not be a record the customer can keep and refer to or publicize if the customer is mistreated.

Customers need to be able to believe what they’re told by company representatives, which, sadly, is a bigger and more difficult issue. I appreciate and recognize that I should have independently verified by reading the fine print on the GoDaddy website what the representative told me. I didn’t do it because the representative was so confident and self assured, and because the stakes were not material. Frankly, I’ll save hundreds of dollars over the years by not having to pay to keep the Hotpaper.com domain for myself, so you can even say GoDaddy did me a favor by the failure of their representative to explain how their backorder service works.

Companies should do the right thing by their customers when their representative makes such an obvious and glaring error. If a car dealer sells you a lemon, they’ll have to buy it back from you. If a doctor amputates the wrong limb, they’ll pay you plenty. If a lawyer drops the ball and forgets a filing deadline and you lose your case as a result, she’ll pay you.

Here we have a salesperson that sold me a product by misinforming me about its most important workings — whether intentional or not is irrelevant. This strikes me as fraud, though I am not a lawyer. GoDaddy should fix this apparent fraud by buying the domain and delivering it to me.

While researching this story, I found the website Anti GoDaddy, which collects GoDaddy horror stories from consumers. I posted a screen shot of this site’s home page at the top of this article. Notice the reach of GoDaddy — the embedded advertisement near the top of the page is for GoDaddy.

If this domain had been really important to me, I would have not handled the matter so casually. On a scale of 1 to 10, the Hotpaper.com domain ranks a 0.1. Note that I have not linked to the domain so as to not give traffic to the domain name speculator that ended up acquiring the name. The last time I checked, which was just once, there was a generic page offering to sell the domain.

The US Federal government should allow recording of conversations by consumers with businesses to reduce the harm that comes from currently insufficiently documented conversations. I suspect there are thousands of people that lost their homes in recent years because a bank told them verbally not to worry about their loan modification delays, but then foreclosed anyway. Had those promises been recorded by the consumers, the banks may have not been so quick to make promises they couldn’t respect, and homeowners could have pursued other options with more awareness of their true situations. The ramifications of only the business being able to record conversations are likely widespread and quite substantial, in every field, with every size business. It’s simply not fair to let only one party avail themselves of voice recording technology. Society would not stand for lopsided court reporting during trials, where the transcription was for the benefit of only the defendant or only the plaintiff. Why does society permit injustice with documentation outside the courtroom?

Laws need to change. I don’t know about the laws outside the United States, but I suspect this post applies to most of the planet.

Written by Kevin Warnock

February 26th, 2013 at 2:35 pm