Pubcon Liveblog: Jason Calacanis on Startups that Save the World
Jason Calacanis is an angel investor who has invested in companies including Uber, ChartBeat, Whisper, SignPost and Thumbtack. He invests $10 million a year. He meets with 15 companies a week. He’s currently focusing a lot of his effort into Inside.com, a news curation service.
“I spend a lot of my time thinking bigger,” Calacanis says. “And a lot of that has to do with watching Google say ‘I have absolutely no limit to my ambition.’ I spend a lot of time meeting with startups and founders … And that puts me in a unique position to be optimistic and opportunistic.”
Calacanis’s keynote is unique – it’s not tactical or strategy-driven. It’s steeped in reality and meant to simply inspire and inform the audience of the amazing progress that startups and forward-thinking companies are bringing to the world in the areas of six global problems.
Startups, he asserts, will solve our world’s problems rather than governments. His keynote, which is meant to inspire us, will cover major advances by tech and startup companies.
“A lot of the stuff in science fiction is becoming our reality today. You can see it in the pace in which we have to respond in our industry. Amazing opportunities are coming our way … We are at the safest, wealthiest and most optimistic time in the history of our planet and species,” Calacanis shares.
Startups Save the World
Global Problem #1: Cancer
Cancer is the second most common killer of Americans after heart disease. In 2014, 585,000 Americans will die from cancer and 1.6 million new cases will be diagnosed.
- COTA (Cancer Outcomes Tracking and Analysis): Allows doctors to look at big data associated with cancer – this data helps them know what’s causing the cancer and how to treat it more effectively. This generation might be the last generation to see cancer as a fatal disease.
- D-Wave Systems: Looks at DNA and creates custom solutions for patients. It’s twenty years away.
- Immunophotonics: Labels the cancerous cells in your body and creates a virus to kill those cells.
Global Problem #2: Climate Change
Humans are causing extra warming in ocean, land and atmosphere. Rising sea levels are disrupting farming and food, species migration and extinction. Current emissions rate will yield dangerous temper rises by 2100.
- Oroeco: Will create plants that take more carbon out of the atmosphere than the plants that exist today. Currently, Oroeco has created a tobacco plant that glows in the dark by gene sequence modification.
- Global Forest Watch: Crowd source techniques mapping every square mile of the planet’s forest and the forest density – then we’ll know in real time when people are destroying the forest and where we need to plant more trees.
Global Problem #3: Energy
Germany had a number of days last year where more than 50% of their energy came from renewable energy. Calacanis is not nervous about energy. Nuclear energy is hundreds of time safer than coal energy. France is 90% nuclear energy.
- Nest: Learning algo and customization can help us use less energy.
- Opower: Realtime app for looking at use of energy in your home, your city, your appliances, by room – it will be built into your outlets. The algo will know the energy patterns of each appliance.
- SolarCity: Stores solar power in your batteries.
Global Problem #4: Hunger
One in nine humans goes to bed hungry every night. One in six Americans is food insecure. We will need 70 percent more food by 2060.
- Bitty Foods: creating cookies made with cricket flour – flours made from ground up crickets. The crickets create a protein-based flour that is sustainable and less costly.
- Hampton Creek Foods: Fake eggs – when you mix into a cookie or baked good, you can’t tell the difference.
- Food Cowboy: Matches people that need food with people throwing food away.
Global Problem #5: Jobs
There is a perception that there will always be jobs – it’s not true. The technology has caused the eradication of a lot of jobs. The efficiency of the American work is extraordinary today and jobs are going away. Occupy Wall Street was a moment of civil unrest.
- Airbnb: People in NYC are renting their apartments for $100-$300 dollars a night and making a ton of money. We have changed as a society. Hotel stays would have cost much more in the nineties – now you get jet off to Japan and not even worry about where you’re staying – there will be an Airbnb nearby.
- Uber: People are moving to cities with Uber, Lyft and Sidecar because the drivers are netting $20 or $30 an hour – well above the minimum wage. Calacanis recently rode with a driver who moved to San Francisco from Atlanta to get a job with Uber to raise money for his family. He’d been out of work and he saw Uber as the solution to his family’s troubles. He’s calculated he’ll be out of debt in six months, and move back home. Moral of the story? These jobs are saving people who can’t get work.
- Thumbtack: You type what you want (anything from design to tennis instruction), they send the request in detail to a bunch of freelancers, and you can buy their services. There are people on their platform that are making significant amounts of money through their talents.
Global Problem #6: Repression
More than 1.6 billion people in the world have no say in how they are governed. Citizens asserting rights suffer harassment and persecution without recourse. In 2012, one in six people lived in countries without free press.
- Twitter, Facebook and YouTube: It’s the new Amnesty International – people take to Twitter and let people know when injustices are occurring. You can’t hide your bad behavior when it’s broadcast publicly for millions by citizens. Government can’t ignore it when we all know about it.
Jason Calacanis’s Final Thoughts
“I am in shock over how many things that needed to change have, in fact, changed. It’s an amazing time for entrepreneurs.”
- Dare to be great.
- Do big things.
- Think even bigger.
“Our work is hard, but it’s lifting the world up.”