Invited by the Duque of York to have dinner at Windsor Castle November 3

The other day I received a letter from Buckingham Palace, inviting me to have dinner with the Duke of York (Prince Andrew) on Thursday at Windsor Castle.

I was curious to see the castle from the inside: it is a medieval style fortress, filled with military memorabilia (guns, swords, lances, armors…), banners and crests. It was more Game of Thrones than Harry Potter.

The reception was held at the Grand Reception Room. Then the delicious dinner was impeccably served at Waterloo Chamber. One thing I noticed is that all serving staff was a member of a minority, yet none of the guests except two, were.

After dinner, tea (and delicious bonbons) was served at St. George’s Hall, where I had a chance to chat with the Duke.

Honestly, I was surprised. I guess many of us have seen his picture, when married to Sarah Ferguson. They seemed like quite a lively and smily couple. He seemed so human and fun. Yet the man I spoke to the other day was a stern, strict, strong man. One that transmitted “statesmanship”. Is it because Brexit? Because the Queen is 90? Talking about the Queen, he mentioned an amusing anecdote about this very particular woman: just the day before she wanted to try a new water nebulizer for the toilet bathroom, so she headed to the first one (nevermind it was the gents’) with her entourage. As she was wearing gloves, instead of removing her gloves, she asked her staff to wash their hands using the new nebulizer, and to tell her what they thought 0_0

When I pointed out the anachronism of the monarchy in XXI century Europe, the duque talked, in no uncertain terms, about leadership. He said (if I remember the quote correctly):

“No. 10 [UK’s Prime Minister Cabinet] is good at following. We [Did he mean the UK Royal Family? Did he mean him and me? Did he mean his guests?] are good at leading. That’s what we have to do”.

I will not comment on that quote, as I am not absolutely sure I interpreted it correctly, and I do not even want to start a “royal-political-especulation” post, particularly in post-Brexit UK.

One thing I will comment, though, is that it was a true pleasure to be able to meet and chat with the rest of the technology-focused guests:

  • Tim Berners-Lee, Director, World Wide Web Consortium
  • Andrew Eland, Engineering Director, Google Deep Mind
  • Christopher Bishop, Director, Microsoft Research Cambridge
  • Corinna Zarek, Deputy US Chief Technology Office, The White House
  • Natalie Black, Deputy Director No. 10 Policy Unit, UK Prime Minister’s Office
  • David Cleevely, Chairman, Raspberry Pi Foundation
  • Liam Maxwell, National Technology Adviser, Her Majesty’s Government
  • John Simmons, Minister Counselor, US Embassy

Then again, this kind of concentration of power and behind-the-door petit-comitee gathering is something I have often decried as a toxic byproduct of a system (be it representative democracy, monarchy, or consumerist capitalism) that we desperately need to change.

Some meetings in London and Paris: from UK’s Secretary of Health to Microsoft’s CEO

The last few days have been quite hectic. So much so that I’m going to “bundle” them into one or two very heterogeneous posts.

By the end of September I had to attend a few events, like being invited to a member of Microsoft’s Partner Advisory Council (we held the first meeting at the InterContinental London Park Lane Hotel), or an E2E networking dinner at Charlotte Street Hotel:

Tuesday October 4 I travelled to Paris to meet a South American Vice-minister of Health in IBM France:

I attended the Cloud/Open Source/DedvOps/CyberSecurity Europe Expo October 5:

October 6 I met Microsoft’s CEO @satyanadella at #transform16 in East Wintergarden:

Upon my return from San Diego (see specific posts about that below) I met the UK’s Secretary of Health, Jeremy Hunt, at the Oxford and Cambridge Club on Thursday October 13:

Then I was invited, by the Executive Director and the UHNWI Director, to have lunch at UBS’ new building at 5 Broadgate on Monday October 17:

And I was invited to present at the NHS Blood & Transplant Workshop held at the Coin Street Centre Tuesday October 18:

But there is always room for some culture, so after having a meeting at University College Hospital, Wednesday October 19, I visited the Wellcome Collection:

Last day in San Francisco: ART

Saturday, September 17, was my last day in San Francisco, and the only one I had with some spare time.

After breakfast, I went to but some gifts from Japan Town and then headed to Union Square, for the Korean Day (Chuseok) culture festival.

Then I went to the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts to check out Tom Sachs’ Space Program: Europa. As I feared, after the failure of Sony Outsider, Tom Sachs’ obsession with demonstrating his hand-made “bricolage style” continues. Further more, it feels like yet another bourgeois manboy “fun” exhibition. It is as if the art world is taking a more and more polarized position as if an artist and her work can only fit one of these buckets: escapist detachment from the hardships of everyday life, snobbish detachment from popular accessibility, or rejection of any institution or establishment.

My suspicion that Space Program: Europa was all about the first option was enhanced by the fact that I did not see any African-American person there, although I was there for quite a while. So I decided to test my thesis.

I wanted to go to the Museum of the African Diaspora, but someone told me it was closed today for a private event (later I found out it closed early, but I could have gotten in), so I went to the nearby San Francisco Museum of Modern Art instead.

The lack of diversity was beyond appalling. It was mesmerizing. In the SF MoMA store everyone was white, many blonde, tall, with perfect teeth… are you kidding me? After reading everywhere about it, and visiting so many tech companies, I knew this city has a diversity and divide problem, but this was ridiculous.

I walked into the museum, and the lack of diversity remained apparent, although diminished by the presence of a healthy number of tourists. Very sad, but it was time to focus my attention on the art.

What a collection! Of course, I enjoyed the usual suspects (Rothko, Calder, Judd, Warhol, Serra, Picasso, Mondrian, Kelly, Martin, Twombly, Sherman, Murata, Duchamp, etc) but I also got to experience some works from Roy Lichtenstein and Gerhard Richter that were not their best known (most certainly I did not know about those pieces), which gave me a completely new appreciation for them, and reminded me that you can’t judge an artist by one piece, just like you can’t judge a book by its cover.

I also enjoyed very much the exhibition “Typeface to Interface”, which had it been exhibited in NY it would have been packed with hipsters, but here it was full of techies (interface designers perhaps?). Special mention: the mesmerizing Sagmeister & Walsh video “Now is better”:

So with one delightful overdose of art, I headed to the airport to fly back to London.

San Francisco, day 5

Wednesday, September 14 I spent the whole day at K&L Gates, one of the largest law firms in the world, which has customers like Microsoft (the “Gates” in K&L Gates is for Bill Gates’ father), Amazon, etc.

It was a typical upscale law firm setup: expensive video conference equipment and giant screens (I liked their “rear projector and mirror” trick) in a high-rise building with impressive views, and some art, like the “flying dildos” in reception.

I met with some of their top lawyers, all partners, and we had meetings around Data Protection, Term Sheet terms, Corporate Governance, Immigration, M&A, and Patents (that was the shortest meeting, although an extremely interesting and very open-minded debate 😉

I learned a lot, and it was extremely useful. Of course, these people are quite sharp; you have to be to charge $1,000 per hour.

Lunch was just “average”, but the wine and cheese they served at the end of the day were really awesome.

On my way back to the hotel I had a telephone call from Chinese investors I had to take. While talking on the phone and walking I realized a short homeless man was following me very closely, in an erratic pattern. Concerned that I might accidentally trip him, or that he would become distracting to my call, I entered the Saks Fifth Avenue store on Union Sq. Then he stood outside, with a frustration look in his face, banged the glass door, and left.

I did not make much of it and apologized to the three store attendants that witnessed it. What surprised me is how horrified they were. They wanted to call the police, and tried to persuade me to not go back out the door! What kind of irrational fear is this? Are the class divide tensions generated by a growing inequality leading to fear/aggression? We need to put an end to this sad situation where the 0.1% militarizes the secluded public areas where they transit in order to feel secure until they reach their luxury bunkers.

Ironically, I also saw “fanboy homeless”: rich brand-obsessed young people sleeping in the street in order to queue so they can have the “privilege” of owning the next gadget by a particular brand.

But, oh the marvels of a simple mind, all that was easily left behind as soon as I stepped into Kinokuniya bookstore, and later sunk my teeth into a homemade green tea daifuku filled with amazingly silken anko at Kissako.

I won the Anti-Patents Policy Hackathon

On September 13, Mind the Bridge hosted a policy hackathon sponsored by Dell at the MTB Innovation Center in San Francisco. The Dell PolicyHack™ brought together entrepreneurs and U.S./EU policy experts to solve policy challenges. The goal is to productively brainstorm and to provide top-line thinking that can inspire and serve as basis to develop and implement full policies.

My team was formed by:

  • Sara R. Klucking (Section Chief, Innovation & Programs, Office of Science and Technology Cooperation, US Department of State)
  • Bogdan Ceobanu (Policy Officer, Startups & Innovation, European Commission)
  • David Hodgson (CEO, Hummingbird Labs)
  • me

The five teams had 75 minutes to come up with a policy solution to issue areas that impact entrepreneurs. Each team was then be given five minutes to pitch their solution to the panel of judges formed by:

  • Pēteris Zilgalvis (Head of Unit, Startups and Innovation, European Commission)
  • John Zysman (Professor Emeritus, Political Science, UC Berkeley)
  • Burton Lee (European Entrepreneurship, Stanford University)
  • Richard Boly (Principal, Beaurichly Llp)
  • Alberto Onetti (Chairman, Mind the Bridge and Startup Europe Partnership).

Master of ceremony was Kristen Mattern (Senior Government Affairs Manager, Dell). The issue areas were: funding, trade, migration, patents, and privacy. Obviously, I chose patents.

When I started telling my team my ideas about patents (basically, how to effectively end the system, since it is so broken and dysfunctional, and what would happen), they thought I was out of my mind. But I ended up convincing them with evidence. So finally my proposals were the ones I presented . We were supposed to present as a group, but Sara and David fled right before we were up for the presentation, and Bogdan “let me do the talking” and the answering of questions.

Although the other teams did a great job, my team won!

The award: to have my ideas written in a paper that will be presented to the European Commission as “expert policy advice”.

It’s ironic: over a decade after I was lobbying against software patents in the European Commission in Brussels, having Microsoft’s lobbyist as my main adversaries, now the European Commission takes my anti-patents ideas as expert advice, and Microsoft is my free-software company’s main partner. I guess time puts everything in its place.

That’s how you hack the system from inside.

Although I never believed that was the way to real and meaningful change, at least now I can say “been there, done that”.

A week of meetings in London

After the trip to Boston I came down with the flu, of course on a weekend as usual. So Monday I had zero energy, but a week ahead with an usual large number of meetings around London, so I had to do “magic calendar tricks” to be able to make all of them and to also attend several events. The main “trick” is to concentrate meetings geographically, adding into the calendar the time it takes to go from point A to point B.

The meetings ranged from the Economic and Commercial Office of the Spanish Embassy in London to entrepreneurs seeking advice to potential investors and advisors.

On top of the meetings, I had a ton of conference calls and events. The only event I was invited to, I missed, and I really wanted to attend was the premiere of the documentary Design Disruptors.

The upside of hectic weeks like this is that I get to meet very interesting people (this week alone: an Oxford professor, a Baroness former Secretary of State for Health, two PhD entrepreneurs, a world-leading strategic investor advisor, the owner of a Chelsea art gallery, the head of a top law firm, CTOs of some of the largest technology companies in the world, etc), I get a lot of exercise done, and I get to enjoy the city.

Invited to the Amazon Web Services Summit

On Wednesday and Thursday, I was invited to attend the Amazon Web Services Summit in London’s Excel center.

Besides an exhibition area with many vendors (some of them already suppliers to my company) like NewRelic, DataDog, GitHub, Chef, Alscient, Teradici, DataPipe, Ruxit, CloudCheckr, Amazon Activate, Elastic, Redis, etc, all with their great swag (mostly t-shirts and stickers, but lots of giveaways, from drones to iWatches), the highlight was the conference sessions.

I was interested in (and attended most of): DevOps, Game development, Security, Migration, Containers, Lumberyard, Encryption, Diversity, Microservices, BigData, and Enterprise systems.

They ranged from very boring to very interesting, from highly technical to highly comical. But the only one that was extremely sad is… you guessed it: the talk on Diversity. The one with less attendance and less engagement (see if you can spot which of the photos in the gallery belong to that session). How can that be, when lack of diversity is such an enormous problem in the tech world?

By the people attending and the talk itself it is very clear that the tech world is absolutely clueless about what the real problem is and how to address it.

My fear is that, beyond being quite a complex issue, there is no REAL interest in addressing it. After all, throughout history, high-value profit-generating activities have been the exclusive domain of the ruling elite. Which today mostly means White AngloSaxon Middle-Aged Men.

Never mind the shiny millennial poster boys in the cover of Entrepreneur magazines: they usually do not run the show or call the shots, they just speak the techno-lingo, but the money behind them, and the power center in “their” companies resides in… mostly White AngloSaxon Middle-Aged Men. Luckily there is a lot of activity coming from other countries and other ethnic groups. But the “gender gap” (or “glass-ceiling”) is still a seriously unresolved issue.

Invited to attend the E2Exchange Annual National Reception

On Thursday, I was invited to attend the E2Exchange Annual National Reception at Banking Hall (London)

It started as a fun networking evening event, where I met all kinds of people, from VCs, to the owner of a large bank, to PR specialists… even a hypnotherapist!

Some politicians, like The Secretary of State for Business, had confirmed their attendance and were scheduled to debate Brexit, but they cancelled at the last minute due to the terrible murder of Jo Cox.

Guest speaker at KPMG UK Health event

Yesterday I was invited by KPMG UK to be a guest speaker at their Health Get Together event.

It was a pleasure to be invited to participate in their internal event. It gave me an inside look at how consultants work, and I also had a chance to listen to a very interesting internal presentation about their social media use.

The White House Chief Data Scientist assures me the White House strongly supports encryption and opposes back doors

Tuesday March 1 I had a conversation with Dr. DJ Patil, the First White House Chief Data Scientist, at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas.

He was interested in discussing ways in which the White House can help healthcare technology companies like mine. The first issue I raised was my concern over the FBI’s request for Apple to decrypt a suspected criminal’s iPhone.

My position in this issue is well known: weak encryption means weak security for ALL of us, so nobody can request weak security for security’s sake.

As I told Dr. Patil that built in encryption is not something that can be made weaker or stronger on a per-case basis. We either all get strong encryption or we do not. If back doors are forced onto technology products, and strong encryption is restricted, we will all suffer from it, not just the healthcare industry. Besides, expecting the user to trust a central authority is not a good idea either, as we found out from the US Government’s recent failures preventing cyber criminals from accessing confidential and private data.

To my delighted surprise, Dr. Patil completely agreed with me and assured me that the White House strongly supports encryption and opposes back doors.

He apologized for not being able to elaborate much more, since this was an ongoing court process, but I did not need any more elaboration. His words were crystal clear. Let’s hope the Obama administration remains so and actively helps us lobby against diminished security and rights.