Yale alumni gather to discuss the changing face of tech

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"We don't need another food delivery app," said Donna Dubinsky ’77 to her fellow alumni at the Yale Tech Conference in San Francisco.

Over 100 Alumni gathered in downtown San Francisco on April 29 for the third annual Yale Tech Conference. Victor Wong ’09, founder of Thunder, created Yale Tech in 2011 in an effort to highlight the technology ventures of Yale students and alumni.

This year’s conference, hosted at Morrison and Forester, focused on the “Changing the Face of Tech”and included diverse perspectives regarding strategic developments in the rapidly changing field. The unpredictable trajectory of a typical tech career was another consistent theme.

Lina Chen ’08, co-founder and CEO of Nix Hydra, discussed how her desire to create a game geared toward women was fueled by the lack of gaming choices that were available. According to her, most games were geared toward violence and competition. She encouraged women who want to explore gaming to either to start their own company or become a content creator at companies like Nix Hydra.

Alison Wagonfeld ’91, incoming CMO of Google Enterprise, shared guiding principles for navigating a tech career. She advised attendees to always invest in relationships in all dimensions of their life. Wagonfeld stressed the benefit in allowing the different parts of your life to blend together, including boards and clubs that you are involved in. She also advised for participants to seek out high-visibility projects that are also high risk. Wagonfeld concluded with a discussion about the importance of making time to help others, including encouraging younger alumni by offering interview feedback as well as mentorship.

Jennifer Pahlka ’91, founder of Code for America, gave participants a view of how government agencies can be improved through technology. She started Code for America in 2010. “We have high expectations of government technology,” she said, stressing stressed the importance of accountability by holding government agencies to a standard of excellence.

In a talk titled “Hatching Thunder Lizards,” Ann Miura-Ko ’98, co-founding partner at FLOODGATE, discussed how most entrepreneurs don’t understand that when raising money from venture capitalist, they need to see billion dollar exits in order for the funding to make sense.

She also highlighted four aspects of power that are important for startups to strive toward: proprietary, product, company, and category power. Product power specifically involves learning how important the market is as well as the pull of the product by the market, she said, while company power involves building the infrastructure with a scalable business model.

Alumni panelists also noted how their Yale education allowed them to have a well-rounded foundation for their tech careers.

Michael Seibel ’06 talked about his move to San Francisco after graduating from Yale and his current role as partner at Y-Combinator. He spoke to the importance of a company owners explaining clearly what they do. “You will become the James Bond version of yourself,” he said, suggesting that these explanations should be done in the simplest form. During the question-and-answer portion, facilitator Kevin Winston, founder of Digital LA, gave alumni the opportunity to practice their pitches.

Stressing the importance of doing work that will positively impact society, Donna Dubinsky ’77, CEO and co-founder of Numenta and a trustee of Yale, told the group, “We don’t need another food delivery app. Work on more high-risk and -return ideas”

Full videos from the conference will be posted later on the Yale YouTube channel. To read a recap of social media coverage of the conference, visit the Yale Alumni Storify page.

For more information about Yale Tech events, visit the www.yaletech.org. Recaps of the first Yale Tech conference in 2014 and the second conference in 2015 and videos of those events can be found on YaleNews.