New Points of View in Plain Sight

Lila Goldberg
Aug 10 · 9 min read

Progress lies not in enhancing what is, but in advancing toward what will be.

Left to Right: Chris Downey (CEO Arch4blind), Eric Harr (CEO Laudato Si Challenge), Joon Yun (President Palo Alto Investors), Tenzin Seldon (CEO Kinstep), Haben Girma (Design thinking deaf blind lawyer and technologist), Francis DeSouza (CEO Illumina), Scott Jacobs (CEO Generate Capital), Hemant Taneja (Partner General Catalyst), Patrick Fu (Partner Sequoia), Charles Kim (Managing Director China Renaissance Bank), Bilal Zuberi (Partner Lux Capital), Raphael Candas (Post Doc 3B’s Research Group ), Caitlin Sparks (Former Partner Full Cycle Fund), Ethan Chaleff (Nuclear System Engineer Kairos Power), Malcolm Handley (Managing Partner Strong Atomics), Shadi Sanbar (Managing Director GSE), Bill Chua (Managing Director GSE), Markus Rosgen (Emerging Market Strategist Citi Group), Reema Khan (Founder CEO GSE)

We seek alternate ways of looking at our lives and world in every discipline. Finding a new way to look at our own world has been a focus of Silicon Valley for some time now. How does AI solve problems differently than humans? How do alternate states of mind help us think differently? How do we build for a future that we cannot entirely imagine? But in looking so hard, have we lost sight of what is all around us? Are we missing frequencies we do not tune into? At the second annual Green Sands Global Summit 2018 at the San Francisco Opera House, such questions were explored in a unique way. The master of ceremony for the Summit was Nathana Sharma, a faculty member at Singularity University and general counsel at Labelbox. While the audience was global as usual, consisting of institutions and family offices representing 18 countries across Europe, Africa, Middle East, and Asia, the focus was on looking inward rather than outwards.

The Founder CEO of Green Sands Equity, Reema Khan introduced the theme of the 2018 Summit: Listen. Acknowledge the importance of asking questions and seek guidance from people and sources we overlook.

The evening commenced with a powerful musical performance of Johanne Sebastian Bach’s Cello Suite №1 by Grammy nominated Cellist Michelle Djokic. Michelle also spoke about her initiative Muskiwest that addresses issues of bullying for middle and high school students through music.

Topic 1: Where do you see convergence of biology and engineering, making the biggest difference?

Panelists: Francis Desouza (President CEO of Illumina), Kartik Ramamoorthi (Founder CEO of Encoded Therapeutics),Raphael Candas (Post Doc 3B’s Research Group — University of Minho), Dr. Philip Low (Founder CEO Neurovigil)

“Applying Genomics in medical practice will change the diagnosis and treatment for almost all diseases. Children with undiagnosed genetic diseases go on a 5 to 7 year long odyssy of testing and diagnosis in which they are misdiagnosed 2 to 3 times. This puts an unnecessary burden on the healthcare system, and the patients that genomics testing can significantly reduce.” — Francis DeSouza

“We’ve developed a series of technologies that are both computational and genomics- or sequencing-based that allow us to screen for and identify sequences in vivo that control where and when genes are able to be expressed,” Ramamoorthi said. “We take these sequences and place them in gene therapies — such as adeno-associated viruses (AAVs) — that allow us to control where the adeno-associated viruses are able to express the payload.” -Kartik Ramamoorthi

“After the last years of development, B-CULTURE just started a pilot trial with a Pharmaceutical company to use 100% human-based models of the blood-brain-barrier. Our in vitro models are now going to integrate real-time monitoring features to check the barrier permeability and cytotoxicity over the trials period. Ultimately, we not only contribute to reduce animal experimentation but also foster a more cost-efficient drug development process.” — Raphael Canadas

“More than 12 years ago, while completing an unsupervised machine learning algorithm for my PhD in Computational Neuroscience, I put $240,000 in credit card debt at 28% interest to launch NEUROVIGIL rather than start my lab at Caltech, Max-Planck or other places. 10 years ago, I beamed a person’s brainwaves to a mobile phone at TEDMED and months later, NEUROVIGIL delivered portable non-invasive brain monitors to Roche to help them obtain data on their compounds, before closing another deal with Novartis. 6 years ago, after helping Stephen Hawking, a paralyzed person spelled the word “C-O-M-M-U-N-I-C-A-T-E” directly with his mind, with a single channel non-invasive NEUROVIGIL device. Besides requests to help with non-invasive drug testing, with Parkinson’s and brain cancer prediction, to help build organic brain prosthetics, and send to wearables to space — and not use animals anywhere- we are now poised to significantly scale the company and leverage our arsenal of biomarkers and five dozen international patents to bring the human-based neurotechnology revolution to our species and are building alliances throughout the universe.” — Philip Low

Topic 2: The enablers of innovation, The Investors

Panelists: Hemant Taneja (Partner General Catalyst), Patrick Fu (Partner Sequoia), Charles Kim (Managing Director China Renaissance Bank), Bilal Zuberi (Partner Lux Capital)

“An innovative trend combining technology with economics is unraveling behemoth industries — including corporations, banks, farms, media conglomerates, energy systems, governments, and schools-that have long dominated business and society. Size and scale have become a liability.” — Hemant Taneja

The investor panel was moderated by Bilal Zuberi who spoke about the future of deep tech and the mistakes and price of building too fast. Hemant Taneja spoke about his ideas from his recent book Unscaled. The book explores how unscaling will affect six industries-energy, healthcare, education, finance, media, and consumer products-and how to benefit from this revolution. Patrick Fu (Sequoia)and Charles Kim (China Renaissance Bank) focused their discussion on the comparison between China and Silicon Valley’s scale and patterns of innovation and growth.

Topic 3: Is energy ever really renewable?

Panelists: Scott Jacobs (CEO Generate Capital), Caitlin Sparks (Former Partner Full Cycle Fund), Ethan Chaleff (Nuclear System Engineer Kairos Power), Malcolm Handley (Managing Partner Strong Atomics)

The sustainable energy panel discussed two diametrically opposite solutions to the environmental preservation argument. Why must renewable energy mean solar, wind, or waste to energy? Why not nucelar energy which is renewable and has much greater output.

As CEO of Generate Capital, a capital partner for the reneweable resource revolution, Scott Jacobs is pioneering the ‘Infrastructure Transition’ that is now well underway: from centralized to distributed, from monolithic to flexible, from analog to digital, from dirty to clean.

“The revolution is driven by customers — demanding a more resilient, more reliable and more affordable way to get their critical resources of energy, water, waste management and mobility.” — Scott Jacobs

On the other side of the panel were Malcolm Handley and Ethan Chaleff who emphasized the importance of funding nuclear fusion urgently.

“Fundamentally, I believe we will need nuclear power when we approach decarbonizing the last 25% of the grid, I want to make sure we’re planning for that future as we make decisions today” — Ethan Chaleff

“Climate change is the greatest risk of our time and Nuclear Fusion is the closest thing that we have to a silver bullet to solve it.” — Malclom Handley

Topic 4: China; public markets, global impact, trade

Panelists: Bill Chua (Managing Director Green Sands Equity), Markus Rosgen (Global Emerging Market Strategist Citi Group, Shadi Sanbar (Managing Director Green Sands Equity)

“Our advice has been to be overweight in north Asia as it has more current account surpluses, it’s cheaper and it has higher-quality companies in terms of recognisable brands. It also has companies that are very good at cash flow generation. We would recommend trying to avoid current account deficit countries in south-east Asia. Thematically, they have some better demographics but the external side looks weaker.”

For many investors in emerging markets, the prospects for China are a key concern. Mr Rosgen believes that China will eventually stumble. “It will not defy economics,” he said. However, a rerun of the Asian financial crisis would not be the best way to construct a central case scenario of China.

“You are much more likely to get a Japanification of the Chinese banking system where it is lumbered with all these non-performing loans. It then can’t allocate capital effectively.”

Topic 5: A different point of view

Panelists: Chris Downey (World’s leading Blind Architect), Dr. Joon Yun (President and Managing Partner Palo Alto Investors), Haben Girma (Deaf Blind Harvard Lawyer and Technologist), Eric Harr (Founder CEO Laudato Si Challenge), Tenzin Seldon (Founder CEO Kinstep)

“Perhaps our search for different view points should lead us to looking around us rather than stepping away from our communities.” — Reema Khan

The theme of the Summit was brought home powerfully by this final and most diverse group of luminaries. Reema told the story of her inspiring start to 2018 as she introduced and moderated the last panel in the Summit. ‘I was at the airport to pick up my mother, her flight from Turkey was delayed. I saw a tall stately gentleman with a long cane asking a woman for directions to the hotel shuttles. I offered to walk with him to the hotel shuttles as I had time. I asked where he was going and he said, “I am giving a keynote at a conference.” I smiled, You must be important. “Just a rare bird, I am the only blind architect in the world.” You mean architect of buildings and physical things? “Yes.” I was fascinated and asked for his card. It said Chris Downey, I googled him and watched his profound TED talk with tears in my eyes. To see my world differently I had to see it from a different point of view.

“Architecture is all about light, and when you no longer have sight, you envision and experience light differently.” — Chris Downey

Chris spoke not just about design of hospitals and universities and homes, but design of cities. How the cities of tomorrow would rely on different senses. Furthermore, with the advent of autonomous vehicles and AI, cities will be more walkable with fewer parking lots.

Dr. Joon Yun knows a thing or two about taking a different point of view. In recent years he has taken on many movements from the Palo Alto Prize for Human Longevity to the establishment of a National Institute of Nutrition. The publication of his co-authored book Interdependent Capitalism ties it all together.

We wrote this book to help the world reimagine new types of social, political, and economic institutions for the global village. As humans have globalized, family values have not scaled well. Not so many lifetimes ago, we lived in kin tribes where our interests were aligned according to the principles of inclusive fitness.”

Haben Girma , the first deaf blind Harvard Law graduate who is a key advisor to technology companies and a disabilities rights advocate read the questions typed by the moderator on a brail keyboard through her fingers and gave a thought provoking brilliant interview. She spoke about her experience of the world designed for sighted and hearing people, not just in terms of her own methods of coping but her perspective on what seems nonsensical about us to her. She spoke about her advisory work with Apple and Ericcson in developing technologies and products that were designed with disability in mind and found a bigger market among the non disabled. Haben spoke about the importance of using all our senses in tecnhnologcical innovation rather than having to use our hands and body as a tool. This would change design of products and change the concept of body in the future. People will be mobile and able to stay relevant and engaged longer as they age.

Eric Harr’s organization Laudato Si Challenge is a start up challenge in collaboration with the Vatican in Rome that focuses on solving the pressing issues of today such as refugee crisis and climate change.

Tenzin Seldon is a Tibetan refugee, a Rhodes scholar, a Forbes Under 30 Entrepreneur, and a World Economic Forum Global Change Maker. Her company Kinstep helps immigrants and refugees find meaningful employment in the United States. Tenzin spoke about her family’s experience of being separated for many years due to immigration policies that resulted in her mother finding her way to Washington DC but she had to stay behind in a Dharamshalla in India. Tenzin spoke about the importance of humility in our compassion and empathy. The importance of not just caring but doing.

“You can pretend to care, but you can’t pretend to show up. Show up.” -Tenzin Seldon

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