Week #3 —Tons of startups and a few big giants

There are more than 20 000 startups in the Bay Area. Rather small companies, often specializing in one particular area.

On the other hand, 2 giants’ headquarters are here: Apple and Google. Both are in the top 5 in terms of market cap; Apple being number 1 since 2012 (passing oil & gas company Exxon).

It’s interesting to see how people reason between working for these gigantic employers, versus working for startups. Big companies here offer good compensation, and good perks (I’ll tell you more about this!). Now, as far as I’ve understood, startups who have taken in external investment, also offer really good compensation — they have to, in order to attract the right people. I’ve met a few people who work for big employers here, but in fact they desire to work for a startup (telling me after a drink or two). And who wouldn’t want to change the world with a great team all focusing on one thing — make an awesome product and win the market?

Working for a startup, or even better — founding one — is ‘trendy’ both here and in Stockholm. Allow me to simplify things and make a little timeline: I’d say it was management consulting 10 years ago, then trainee programs 5 years ago, and now it’s all about startups.

STARTUP OF THE WEEK

Use Cardiio to track your heart rate just by looking at your smartphone screen.

It started off with MIT student Ming-Zher Poh asking himself:

How much info can you retrieve from using a smartphone camera?

As the findings evolved, the team refined the question:

How can you use a camera to analyze a person’s facial expressions?

After lots of testing and researching, they found a way to track a person’s heart rate, by just looking on your smartphone screen for ~5 seconds. Here’s the technology, put in a mirror:

This is Ming-Zher with a two-way mirror with a built-in webcam. It reads your pulse from your image.

This idea was a tech push; Ming-Zher wanted commercialize the technology they had found. Cardiio’s app turns your phone into a stethoscope. No additional gadget needed. Cardiio offers a freemium model: Using the heart rate monitor is free, but saving your wave data, and calorie counts cost.

Cardio hasn’t spent any money on marketing. They have had millions of downloads, just by ‘word of mouth’ and SEO. This is where I think the specialization factor matters. If you have a solution (e.g. Cardiio) connected to a very specific need (e.g. need to know my heart rate), people using the internet (i.e. some of the 3.2 billions) will find you on Google.

Numer of internet users of the world.

PHONE ADD-ON OF THE WEEK

Let your smartphone tell you that your mole is not cancer.

Here’s a brand new thing! A mole scanner! Alexander Börve meets me for dinner and tells me: “95% of skin cancer deaths are preventable by early detection. Skip the wait and screen right at home, using our app.”

It will be interesting to follow FirstDerm’s adventure going forward. They just kicked of a crowd-funding campaign. Good luck to you!

This thing tells you if your mole is innocuous, or if you should see a doctor to check it out.

LUNCH OF THE WEEK

Lunch at the Google office downtown.

This Friday, I had the pleasure to have lunch with Yana, who is Program Manager, Retail Operations, at Google. She told me what it’s like to work at Google, and she also told me about those benefits I’ve heard that Googlers get — here’s a summary:

  • Yana works around 60 hours per week.
  • She gets free lunch every day. (It was sooo good!) All Googlers have unlimited access to food and snacks.
  • She can do laundry for free.
  • Manicures, haircuts, etc, are available onsite for all Googlers, at a cost, but certainly cheaper than market price (there are discounts). But she claims it’s difficult to use these perks, since there’s not much time left besides work.
  • And there are lots of games and entertainment for everyone to use on site.
  • Vacation starts at 3 weeks, but increases as her employment time at Google adds up.
Yana Prystupa

Did you know that some startups here offer unlimited vacation? Yes, I know, it sounds crazy. Here’s how it works: As long as you deliver what you should, you can take vacation. Delivery is what counts. This model works, since it’s really easy to fire a person from one day to another (unlike Sweden and many other countries). In one way, I kind of like it.


You might want to know what Google is doing in health. Well, a lot. Google is quite secretive about things, but here are some of their doings. Tell me if I’ve missed something “big”:

  • Google wants to revolutionize healthcare — first concentrating on the U.S., where the need is B I G.
  • Google invests in health startups. One is hyped Oscar, which is a healthcare insurance company with a user-friendly web interface, a simple app, and jargon-free medical bills. Currently having 40,000 customers in New York and New Jersey, they go live in California and Texas on November 1st. Exciting to follow this!
  • Google recruits big names from healthcare. Newest hire is Dr. Thomas Insel, director for National Institute for mental Health for the passed 13 years.
  • Google carries out a few research studies at Stanford and other universities in the area within health. A surprising example is a study on how Google Glass can treat kids with autism.

WORKOUT OF THE WEEK

10 times up and down the Lafayette park + strength workout in between runs

Yes, that’s it. Dreadfully tough when you’re in the middle of it, but fantastically rewarding afterwards!

Måns and I take advantage of living right by the Lafayette park — perfect for these workouts. Tell me if you want to join one day!

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