… it’s just that they don’t actually say that.
But first, what prompted me to write this post was this New York Times article highlighting something which I consider to be a real problem.
- An app that lets us brew our coffee from anywhere.
- An app to locate rentable driveways for parking.
- A “smart” button and zipper that alerts you if your fly is down.
Few would argue that Silicon Valley / The SF Bay Area is a hot house of intellect, coding, financial and legal brains with an unrivaled support infrastructure for start ups, a history of funding all of this thinking and development that goes back SIXTY years and all supported by two world class Universities. It’s hard to think of anywhere else in the world that would be so well positioned to truly solve global problems.
And yet, great as the work is … these days something seems to be missing. I have joked for a long time that there last think we need is another ‘like’ button. Putting that aside for two, I would contend that it is really hard to find software being built in Silicon Valley today that you would consider ‘world changing’ – despite the banal platitudes of so many ‘wanna be founders’.
My thinking is amplified by work I am doing with The Graduate School of Management at UC Davis. It’s a 100 year old campus about 70 miles away from San Francisco. To put into perspective if you don’t know the area – San Jose at the other end of ‘the Valley’ / ‘Peninsula’ is 55 miles and more importantly, if I was in San Francisco, I could be in a meeting room in UC Davis faster than one in San Jose.
But try telling that to people in the Valley, they will look at you oddly and will likely not even know where UC Davis is. (Spoiler alert – when you head out at the weekend to Tahoe for skiing or summer activities – you pass within 100 yards of it (I do not exaggerate). It’s on the left, just as you approach Sacramento – just where this water tower with the words US Davis is.
I happened to be at Davis earlier this week where all levels of the student body, faculty, business people and other visitors were working together at the 2016 Biomedical + Engineering Entrepreneurship Academy. Part of the Academy allows for the students to pitch their ideas to visiting mentors. These are three of the ideas that are not only being worked on, with working prototypes that I saw in action, but are also actively promoted and even moving to fund raising.
- A digital neurotherapeutic intervention to improve cognitive functioning in children with one of several neurogenetic disorders, the healthy aging and patients with certain types of brain damage.
- A wearable pressure ulcer prevention device that uses Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (NIRS) to detect the onset of tissue damage.
- A disease ‘BioPortal’ (an operational, secure web-based platform system) for real time routing, sharing, analyzing and modeling of Big Data related with infectious diseases
I think I know which list I would prefer to spend my time on.
Oh – and just so you know – not one of those people described their work as ‘world changing’ … I think they are too busy actually solving the world’s problems and working to move those ideas into reality. That is enough. The hyperbole is absent because it isn’t needed.
PS – they are the number one veterinary college in the world (only three schools in the USA even make it into the top 10) and their on campus hospital handles close to 50,000 animals per year – including some 7,000 horses. They have a state-of-the-art concert hall and just completed their Museum of Modern Art – so new it isn’t even open yet !
(My picture taken this week). They also have a nano fabrication plant, they practically invented the term ‘sustainability’, and the Californian Wine Industry would just not be the same without UC Davis. I could go on …. but I won’t – go take a look for yourself. While there – watch the video.