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Trial by Judge


Last night was the 24th Annual Genesys Partners Venture Capital Dinner & Forum at the historic Union League Club in New York City. Nearly 100 investors, analysts, journalists, and key influencers attended. CEO James Kollegger kicked off the evening and introduced Dr. Michael R. Nelson. Mike advises governments on Internet technology issues for Cloudflare, a startup that has improved the performance and security of more than seven million Web sites worldwide. Prior to joining Cloudflare, Mike held key roles at Microsoft and Bloomberg Government. He also taught at Georgetown University, and played important advisory roles working with Vice President Gore and President Clinton’s Science Advisor on issues relating to the Global Information Infrastructure. In 1998, I recruited Mike from the FCC to become Director of Internet Technology and Strategy at IBM. It was great to see Mike again after a number of years. Ken Auletta, best-selling author and journalist for The New Yorker, served as the judge. Mike and I worked with Ken and Jim Kollegger to find the experts and assemble the third mock trial.

The first “trial” was was about companies who were disrupting economies around the world, namely Uber and AirBnB. Esther Dyson, two journalists, and I argued the good and bad of what these two companies were doing. Some argued they were unfairly eliminating jobs and causing families who had spent millions on taxi medallions to lose their net worth. I argued both companies were not only satisfying consumers, but were innovating technology to provide enhanced convenience for consumers. I pointed out how DUIs were declining in all major cities served by Uber. Parents of college students are happy to put their credit card on the kids’ Uber account and could care less about those who invested in medallions. Many attendees at the first trial left with a copy of Health Attitude: Unraveling and Solving the Complexities of Healthcare.

The second “trial” was on March 7 last year and was titled, “Internet voting on trial: Problem or Panacea for Democracy?” Ken Auletta conducted the mock trial of Internet voting with a panel that included Greg Miller, Co-founder of voting organization OSET– Open Systems Election Technology Foundation, Minerva Tantoco, Senior Advisor, Future Perfect Ventures, and Chief Technology Officer, City Strategies, LLC, and myself. Ken cross-examined all three of us on technology solutions which could enlarge the voting base. He probed on privacy and security concerns, and related issues. Greg and I agreed on the need for better voting infrastructure, but disagreed on what it will take to make Internet voting a reality. Minerva added a balanced view of the need for cultural change and voter education. It was a lively debate. Ken summarized the two opposing positions as Internet voting should be sooner rather than later as I advocated, or later rather than sooner as Greg advocated. In the interest of time Ken declared the show of hands a tie, but it was clear to me, looking out at the audience, it was more like 60/40 or even 70/30 in favor of sooner rather than later. This would not be surprising from an audience of venture capitalists very familiar with investing in new ideas and changes in paradigms. See the story and pictures here. All attendees received a copy of Election Attitude – How Internet Voting Leads to a Stronger Democracy.

This year we had, “Tech Titans on Trial: Do Internet giants have too much power? Should governments intervene?” Ken Auletta was the third-time judge. The process for the “mock trial” became more refined this year with opening and closing statements, rebuttals, and cross examination by “Judge” Auletta. The proponent of some government oversight was FTC Commissioner Terrell McSweeny. The opponent of oversight was Rob Atkinson, President of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) and author of Big is Beautiful: Debunking the Myth of Small Business. The mock trial concluded with the jury, the 75+ Venture Forum attendees, rendering their verdict. When attendees arrived, they received poker chips which they could cast into large glass jugs. The pre-trial voting count was 30 against more regulation, 10 undecided, and 32 for more oversight and regulation. The post-trial tally was much more in favor of oversight and regulation. This was not surprising given the revelations by Mark Zuckerberg about privacy and data collection in his congressional testimony a few weeks ago. See Facebook and Congress. You can watch a video of the entire trial here.

After the cocktail networking reception, a seated dinner was enjoyed by all, and then followed by three after dinner speakers with short but, hopefully, valuable talks. I was first with “It’s All About Attitude”. I summarized what was behind the themes of Net Attitude, Health Attitude, Election, Attitude, and Home Attitude. A video of the talk will be included in next week’s e-brief. I finished with a teaser. Is it possible for your house to be too smart? I said yes, and you may not want to be telling Alexa or other voice assistants everything about your living habits. My new book offers a way to make your home smart and keep all of your habits in your house instead of in the cloud. All attendees received a copy of Home Attitude: Everything You Need To Know To Make Your Home Smart.

Next up was Howard Tullman, former CEO of 1871, the world’s biggest incubator, serial entrepreneur and GeneralManaging Partner of G2T3V LLC and Chicago High Tech Investment Partners. Howard’s talk was similar to last year’s, but full of new wisdom. He delivered the key points with easy to understand real-life examples. He said the future won’t be incremental. If you’re not in a big hurry, you’re probably too late. He described a brave new world where free isn’t cheap enough, soon isn’t quick enough, and fast isn’t fast enough. Visit tullman.com to learn about Howard’s amazing career.

The final speaker for the evening was Mark Walsh, formerly of Revolution Ventures, Verticalnet, and a serial entrepreneur. Mark wrapped up the day with his classic satire and song. Mark started his career as as a television newscaster at a West Virginia CBS affiliate. Although he has been  a successful American entrepreneur and venture capitalist, he has also taken numerous roles as a political activist. In 2006, Mark began serving as co-host of XM Satellite Radio’s Left Jab Radio, a weekly political radio show. Mark interviewed me on the show in March 2015 when Health Attitude: Unraveling and Solving the Complexities of Healthcare was published.

Next week, the e-brief will discuss some exciting work going on in regenerative medicine.