Saturday, March 3, 2007

New Companies, Lots of Jobs

Two large white party tents sat empty in White Plaza for two days – and then on Thursday – they filled with undergraduate students, graduate students and recruiters from 66 fast growing start-ups. In addition to giving away pens, t-shirts, chattering teeth and jolly ranchers all of these recruiters were looking to hand out jobs.

“This is nothing like the career fairs when I was graduating from college,” said Matt Brezina from Xobni, a start-up company that aggregates personal information stored in email systems. “It felt like no one was hiring in 2001 and 2002. Now there are amazing opportunities out there,” he said. Xobni just closed a series A round of financing and is looking to add a handful of developers to its three person team.

“We are growing fast,” said Genelle Hung from ZipLip, a software start-up focused on email archiving. “We currently have 40–50 employees and we plan to double within the next year,” she said. “If you are a solid engineer and you have some business skills you are in high demand right now,” Hung said.

The majority of the companies participating in the fair were young internet related ventures. However there were a few exceptions. KiteShip Corporation, a company that designs “very large free flying sails” for cargo ships in order to reduce their fuel consumption, sponsored a table. So did GE Global Research, the company that “built the systems that brought electricity and light to the world,” according to their company literature.

“It is great to see so many companies out here celebrating and looking for the entrepreneurial spirit,” Hung said. Recruiters and students alike appeared in to be in high spirits from the time the tents opened at 10 am until they closed at 4 pm.

“In total I would say about 600 students attended the fair,” said Sunil Parekh ’08 a Biomechanical Engineer major who helped organize the event. “In the morning there were a lot of graduate students because undergraduates don’t get up that early. This afternoon we had a good mix,” he said.

“The turn out has been good. We have met really good people,” said Shiri Azenot from Sharpcast, a company developing software that synchronizes digital media and information.

“I met high quality students and a good amount of engineers,” said Sandi Sayama of RockYou, a widget platform backed by Sequoia Capital, Lightspeed Partners, and FirstRound Capital. Sayama collected about 50 resumes over the course of the day.

The event was organized by Business Association of Stanford Entrepreneurial Students (BASES). The student group aims to “build the next generation of entrepreneurs by facilitating networking, discussion, education, and hands-on experience.”

Friday, March 2, 2007

Tom Friedman on being green: "I'm not talking about buying a Prius"

NYT columnist and Discovery Channel reporter Tom Friedman told a packed Memorial Auditorium Friday afternoon that reversing the threat of climate change and introducing green technologies requires a full-scale commitment from private industry, government, and individual consumers.

According to Friedman, Wall Street must drive clean technology innovation. Federal and state governments can prod private industry by regulating energy uses and providing incentives for green research. And individuals must rally for environmentally-friendly policies and make energy independence a personal habit and a national issue. He called it "the biggest industrial project mankind has ever undertaken."

Even more, Friedman said, America must focus its efforts beyond its borders. He characterized efforts to fund R&D for ethanol fuel as "nuts." Rather, the challenge is to create clean technologies that can be piloted in emerging countries like China, India, and Brazil and had at "a China price."

"If you don't have clean power at the China price, you don’t have anything," he said. "If they can’t afford it, it won’t solve anything at all. The real math problem is how we get clean and green down to China's price. Otherwise, you’re just engaged in a hobby."

The first step, he said, is to own the issue. The green agenda should be recast as capitalistic and patriotic rather than smeared as "liberal, tree-hugging, girlie man, sissy, unpatriotic, and vaguely French."

"Eisenhower rallied us with the Red menace, and the next president will have to rally us with a green patriotism," Friedman said.

During the last five years, he said, three events have pushed environmentalism to the mainstream: the 9/11 attacks, Hurricane Katrina, and the Internet revolution that has flattened the world economic landscape. (Hence, his book, The World is Flat. You're welcome, Friedman.)

The threat of terrorism has revealed that our oil addiction feeds Islamic radicalism, Friedman said. He cited his first law of petropolitics: the price of oil inversely affects the pace of freedom in oil producing countries. In other words, the higher cost of oil, the greater the ease with which radical fundamentalists can push their agenda in Middle Eastern countries.

"We’re funding terrorism with our energy purchases," he said. "How stupid is that? We're funding the transformation of an Islam of open ideology to the most harsh, severe, intolerant brand of Islam. We and they will not pay the price until 30 years from now."

Friedman warned that China and India and other emerging superpowers are becoming major consumers of fossil fuels. He pointed to studies that most of the demand for energy will come from the developing world between now and 2020. And the U.S. has little leverage to demand that China and India go clean when it ignores these challenges and when dirty fuels are cheaper.

Finally, Friedman said, the emergence of a national and global consensus on the validity of climate change--tip of the hat to Al Gore--has hastened most Americans to worry about the health of the planet.

"We had daffodils growing in our front yard in Washington this December," he said. "It was like being in the Twilight Zone. I half expected Rod Serling to be out mowing my lawn."

Now, the bad news: If we don't fix this thing in the next 50 years, we're toast, according to Friedman. He mentioned a forecast that, in order to accommodate the growth of India and China and other countries and maintain today's energy levels in the U.S., the world has to eliminate 175 billion tons of carbon from the atmosphere between now and 2056. Here is the science behind this theory. In short, he said, it gets harder to accomplish each day we don't act.

He ended with an allusion to the title of his talk: "Green is the new red white and blue: Will that just be a bumper sticker on Main Street or will that define Main Street? I’m still not sure about that."