Incoming Managing Director Isaac Kato and the Seattle Techstars Northwest Hub have a 20-Year Head Start with the Class of 2020

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2020 marks an auspicious milestone for Techstars Seattle — the twentieth year of an audacious experiment in new business incubation, lean design and development innovation, and customer-driven, market-centric startup realization. On this second lap of the digital decathlon, Techstars’ can already boast a constellation of proven performers -all-stars like Remitly, Outreach, Zipline, Skilljar, and Bizible in its interstellar orbit.

Twenty years after cofounders David Cohen and Brad Feld began cultivating the original startup community in Boulder, CO (to be followed by Boston and Seattle not long after), the team has achieved its vision as a worldwide network dedicated to helping entrepreneurs succeed. …


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Belief in humor as a corrective force in politics is deeply ingrained in American culture.

Mark Twain may have put it best when he took aim at the political sphere: All forms of government are appropriate targets “to be blown to rags and atoms” by the use of laughter.

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When the current occupant of the White House descended the golden escalator in Trump Tower to announce that he would enter the presidential race, the New York Daily News printed the headline “Clown Runs for Prez” in bold letters over a photoshopped image of Trump showing him in clown makeup.

A relentless barrage of satirical attacks on the man and his ideas has ensued. There has not been a single show in late-night comedy in which Stephen Colbert, Seth Myers, Jimmy Kimmel, Trevor Noah, John Oliver, Samantha Bee, or Conan O’Brien, among others, have not torn into the political actions of the president. Just as there was not a single newspaper that endorsed candidate Trump in 2016. The thin-skinned, orange-tinged counterpuncher has swung back wildly against the punchlines. …


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If American democracy is to be saved — from foreign intervention, partisan polarization, or pandemic infestation — its liberation may be found in the mobilization of elections. Forget mailboxes. Voting by smartphone is the answer.

Who better than Seattle’s champions of mobile innovation, the founders of such franchises in mobile communications as McCaw Cellular (later AT&T Wireless/Cingular), MCI (later Comcast) and T-Mobile, to be in the room where it happens. One phone, one vote — in fact, the transition has already begun.

On Feb 11, 2020, Greater Seattle became the first region in the United States where every voter could cast a ballot using a smartphone — a historic moment for American democracy. The mobile technology was used for a board of supervisors election for The King Conservation District, a state-chartered natural resources assistance agency with territory that includes Seattle and more than 30 other cities. About 1.2 …


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In the global learning laboratory that has been our shared, realtime classroom for grappling with a worldwide pandemic, each of us — adult, parent and child — is a student.

- We’ve learned that no nation-state on this planet can exist in isolation, walling itself off from the rest of the world. As a slogan, “America First” now sadly represents our ranking in the number of coronavirus deaths inside our borders compared to every other country on earth.

- We’ve learned that face masks are not a masquerade for any one political party but a means of blocking the transference of an unrelenting virus. Faceshields or eyewear are better still if the other person is not wearing a mask. Covid-19 has also been discovered to have an aerosol capacity so the virus can hang in the air for several minutes like an ominous cloud. …


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In a 1959 speech, President John F. Kennedy famously remarked: “When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters — one represents danger and one represents opportunity.” Although today it is widely recognized that this was not the precise interpretation of the Chinese characters, President Kennedy’s wisdom about a crisis yielding unique opportunities may be more important than ever.

Brookings Institute scholars advise that the first step in any crisis is to recognize there is one and not underestimate the severity. (Are you listening, Mr. President?)

The term crisis should not be used casually, because if everything is a crisis, then nothing is a crisis. Such a mentality leads to burnout and delays. But recognizing a crisis is vital in diagnosing the problem and prescribing a remedy. Some crises can easily be defined in advance (yes, we could’ve / should’ve seen this one coming). Others are a series of events which gradually accrue. To turn an existing crisis into an opportunity requires reframing the problem and looking at the issues through a different lens. …


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A noted social scientist once explained the difference between Republicans and Democrats. It all comes down to pain. In their political and social behavior, the Democrats will always stop short of inflicting actual harm or pain on their fellow citizens, be it through legislation, regulation, public policy or direct action.

Unless there is no other alternative, a Democrat will refuse to be the cause of suffering. It’s the Utilitarian philosophy, “One for All and All for One,” Gens Una Sumus (”We are One”), the Hippocratic, not the hypocritical, oath. Pain is where the Dems draw the line.

The same cannot be said of Republicans. The R’s do not shrink from inflicting pain on others, including those who are considerably less fortunate than themselves. Call it a lack of empathy, a self-directed focus, a belief that they should be allowed to prosper whenever and however they choose, unhindered by environmental constraints (such as a public health crisis). If their gains come at the expense of other people, so be it. …


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Ever since Star Trek’s first generation of viewers was able to “boldly go where no man, woman or boomer had gone before,” legions of fans have been captivated by the vision of how we will survive in the 23rd century, provided, that is, we don’t kill each other first.

One of science fiction’s nobler virtues is reimagining the purpose and usage of technology. Arthur C. Clarke’s Newspad predated the tablet PC or iPad by a few decades. Earbuds were first described by Ray Bradbury in Fahrenheit 451, circa 1952.


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For Microsoft’s Team Xbox, managing 15 Xbox Game Studios, the evolution of Xbox Game Pass, the launch of Xbox Series X, and the global opportunity to play anywhere with Project xCloud has proven to be more than enough to handle.

Growing Mixer as a community gaming platform that can rival Twitch was a bridge too far.

“It became clear that the time needed to grow our own livestreaming community to scale was out of measure with the vision and experiences we want to deliver to gamers now, so we’ve decided to close the operations side of Mixer and help the community transition to a new platform,” announced Phil Spencer, Head of Xbox.


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O n June 19th, known in the chronology of Black history as Juneteenth, at least six African American museums and thousands of other cultural, civic and social organizations across America will join forces to celebrate Black freedom. Public comments are now being collected and will be published at blkfreedom.org and on Twitter with the hashtag #blkfreedom

For those who don’t know the significance, Juneteenth (a portmanteau of “June” and “nineteenth”), also known as Freedom Day, is a day of observance celebrated on June 19 that commemorates the freedom of African Americans from slavery. Activists have been pushing Congress to recognize Juneteenth as a national holiday but it hasn’t happened yet.


What was once a bright-line illuminating First Amendment rights and freedom of expression for both the American free press and ordinary American citizens began to fade into darkness after the U.S. homeland was attacked on 9–11–2001.

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Smoldering beneath the smoke and rubble of that catastrophic event was a burning ember that would ignite a sweeping transformation of our national security infrastructure.

Suddenly, the National Security Agency, or NSA, could not only connect the lines of every American citizen’s call history and personal contact network but blur the line as to how such information could be collected, from which sources, and how it could be used. …

About

Michael Lawrence

Where it reigns, I pour my heart and mind into decarbonated, but never decaffeinated, tech news and views on the Greater Seattle/Eastside Internet scene.

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