Hello friend --
The state of STEM education
It's probably no surprise to you that STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) jobs pay 26 percent more than non-STEM jobs. Yet California’s four-year public higher education sector is too small to serve the college-age population. At the L.A. Area Chamber’s State of STEM at the California Science Center on June 22, L.A. region leaders gathered to discuss collaborative efforts in cultivating talent in STEM areas, which is essential to continued economic growth and competitiveness. Leaders addressed what role California's public colleges and universities play in strengthening STEM; a panel spoke on sparking change and diversifying STEM fields; and roundtable discussion explored ways to improve processes for equity in STEM. Bixel Exchange is a parter organization for State of STEM.
Failure is not an end …
… but rather a path to a different opportunity, according to Nellie Akalp, CEO of online legal document filing company CorpNet.com, who shared her entrepreneurial journey to our startup cohort at last Wednesday's Bixel After Dark event at Expert DOJO. Akalp and her husband and business partner sold their first company to Intuit in 2008 for $20 million, and she continues to share her tips to small business owners as a regular contributor to Forbes, Entrepreneur and Mashable. The event is part of an ongoing series of after-hours events for Bixel startups to connect and share their experiences in a casual, supportive environment.
Thanks to Expert DOJO for generously hosting our crew on the Westside!
Talent knows no color
Several Southland tech companies have committed to making diversity in the tech workforce a priority in a Tech Inclusion Pledge letter addressed to President Obama, and signed by senior leadership at more than 30 tech companies ahead of last week’s seventh annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit held in Silicon Valley. Join several other L.A. companies on the list, and commit to taking action to fuel American innovation and economic growth, by helping make the tech workforce at your company representative of the American people. Find out more here.
Diversity in Tech Through Career Pathways
While the tech industry is making moves to diversify the existing workforce, California has been fueling career pathways programs made available to students from middle school through community college, to aid in their pursuit of careers in technology. But is it working? Come discuss it with us at tomorrow’s meeting of the Chamber’s Innovation & Technology Council, featuring Sacramento Mayor-Elect Darrell Steinberg (via Skype), as he speaks on the bills he authored on career pathways while in the Senate. RSVP here.
Spotlight on …
… startup client Perceptoscope, whose namesake product appears like the average scenic pedestal binoculars you find at landmarks and museums. But look inside; there’s a surprise. We chat with founder Ben Sax on the heels of his showcase at last month’s San Francisco/Bay Area’s Maker Faire, and acceptance into Supplyframe’s DesignLab (a Pasadena hardware accelerator).
Optics, tracking and sensors … this is some serious maker magic. How did you first connect your interest in creating the Perceptoscope, to a pursuit of making it a reality?
I'm a filmmaker by trade, and for the past few years had been helping organizations communicate their more complex ideas. It was great work, and exposed me to a lot of wonderful ways of thinking, but I always had this itch to build something with my hands. At the same time, I'd been exposed to some early virtual reality and augmented reality technologies and realized that they offered a fundamentally new type of experience. It was an exciting moment in time for a medium where the rules were just being written. So I quit my job and followed a hunch that I could approach this in a different way. In a lot of ways Perceptoscope is built on principles that had been floating around my head for years but hadn't yet found an opportunity to take shape.
The Maker Movement has been gaining a lot of traction, especially here in L.A., where hacker and fabrication spaces have been cropping up. What does it mean to be part of this community?
I’ve been a hacker or tinkerer my whole life. As a kid I used to fix up cars or build computers. Once I got into the working world, that part of myself laid dormant. I think there's a part of a lot of us like that. Embracing the Maker Movement in L.A. has been a life-changing experience. I don't think people realize just how much creative brain power is in this city, and makerspaces are where artisanship, entertainment, and aerospace collide. But beyond these intersections, the most important thing makerspaces do is welcome unusual ideas without judgement. I couldn't have done this without the help of the CRASH Space community, who gave me a place to explore this idea among enthusiastic and insightful people.
What do you take away from your experience with us?
The most important thing Bixel did for me was bring guidance at a time when I’d pretty much been at this alone. When I was first starting out, people looked at me like I was crazy, and maybe rightfully so. I knew I needed more structure for this to live, and working with Bixel helped me build a path towards the goal I was envisioning. Starting to meet with [my advisor] Craig gave me a sense of trajectory and accountability. Even though it took some time to do, most of the steps I followed were ideas we laid out in those first few meetings. Building something from nothing takes time no matter what it is, so having that reliable resource to lean on was extremely helpful. Bixel also introduced me to the wider community of entrepreneurs around LA and it was inspiring to be surrounded by so many people fighting to bring their ideas to life.
Learn more about Perceptoscope.
Until we sync again,