Remember when we used to walk around the fountain in NYC’s Washington Square Park (or wherever your favorite source of inspiration is) and talk about what’s ahead? We’re looking forward to doing more of that soon. And we’re also looking forward to sharing some great conversations with the tech ecosystem nationwide.
The Future Fountain, a new podcast series developed by Orrick and NYU Tandon Future Labs, will feature founders, investors and other key players in tech to examine the most pressing issues we face today.
From DEI and sustainability, to harnessing innovation to advance social, economic and environmental justice, to practical advice on scaling your business, The Future Fountain will serve as a platform for honest conversations with leaders on where we’re thriving, where we’re coming up short, and how we all can work together to create a more inclusive ecosystem.
Startup Spotlight: AgTech with a Social Impact, with Apollo Agriculture
Like many emerging markets, Sub-Saharan Africa has a lot of farmland, but hasn’t yet optimized its agricultural production. Eli Pollak, Founder and CEO of Kenyan-based agtech platform Apollo Agriculture, saw an opportunity to help farmers in these emerging areas get access to the resources needed to change that. Now his company is helping small-scale farmers grow – and he’s setting his sights on other regions that could benefit from his company’s platform. In this episode, Eli talks to Orrick partner Samir Bakhru about his startup journey and learnings for all founders around building customer trust, attracting top-tier talent, and staying true to your vision.
Building a Resilient European Tech Ecosystem in 2022 and Beyond
The European tech ecosystem has roared past an impressive milestone, surpassing the $3 trillion mark across public and private markets. In the first few months of 2022, investment in European tech surged 50 percent even as the number of IPOs declined, according to Tom Wehmeier, a partner in the venture capital firm Atomico. In this episode, he discusses the evolution of Europe’s tech ecosystem and looks around the corner to the next State of European Tech, an annual report Atomico publishes with support from Orrick and others. Wehmeier also talks about the rise of remote work, a growing focus on mission and purpose, and the challenge underrepresented founders continue to face accessing capital. He says the ecosystem’s growth underscores a founding belief of Atomico: that great companies can spring up anywhere, and that no region has a monopoly on talent or ideas. Listen as Wehmeier talks with Orrick partner Chris Grew about how the war in Ukraine, inflation, supply-chain disruptions and the pandemic have affected European tech this year – and why he sees a bright future, despite some headwinds.
Harnessing the Power of the Ocean to Combat Climate Change
From renewable energy to electric vehicles, efforts to combat climate change often focus on lowering carbon emissions. Yet we also need to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere – and the ocean may be able to help. Kelly Erhart, Co-Founder and VP of Business Development of Project Vesta, says oceans have been naturally removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for billions of years, but no one has tried to leverage that process and bring it to market. Project Vesta hopes to do just that. It plans to grind a naturally occurring and abundant mineral into a sand that removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere when dissolved in the ocean and used in coastal-replenishment projects. In this episode, Anik Guha, a partner in Orrick's Technology Companies Group, talks with Erhart about what Project Vesta sees as one of the cheapest permanent carbon-removal solutions today. They also discuss the broader carbon-capture and carbon-credit markets, why planting trees alone isn’t enough to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and why she’s optimistic about our ability to fight climate change.
AI + Hiring: How to Help Ensure Your AI Makes Ethical and Unbiased Decisions
With millions of job applications submitted to companies each year, vendors of AI software promise to democratize and speed up screening and hiring. But using machines is not without challenges. The potential damage from an algorithm that predicts the wrong outcome or excludes diverse candidates is significant. What can companies do to mitigate discrimination in AI hiring tools? In this episode, Orrick Employment Law Partner Lisa Lupion talks with Hilke Schellmann, an Emmy Award-winning reporter and journalism professor at New York University, about the promises and pitfalls of AI tools and how companies can mitigate risk in the workplace of the future.
Startup Spotlight: How Dollaride is Transforming Urban Transit for Underserved Communities
Dollar vans have long been the only option for people who live in "transit deserts" – underserved communities in urban areas that aren't close to any subways or trains. These informal ride share networks are sometimes the only affordable way to get to work or school – but they were ripe for innovation. Su Sanni, Founder and CEO of Dollaride, who grew up in a transit desert in Brooklyn, has built a game changing mobile app, making the experience far more accessible for van drivers and riders. In this episode, Su talks about his journey as a Black entrepreneur, the importance of founders finding mentors and prioritizing mental health, and why he prioritizes "moving at the speed of trust" when partnering with governments, regulators, customers and communities to drive innovation forward.
How to Build a Privacy-First Company
As companies work to assure consumers and regulators of the importance they place on data privacy, Numina is taking an innovative approach to designing products with transparency and customer trust in mind. Numina, a company that aggregates data to measure and draw insights about street-level activity in more than 25 cities, never collects personally identifiable information, but is still able to share meaningful insights that help urban planners and government agencies improve pedestrian and traffic safety. Hear from Tara Pham, Founder and CEO of Numina, on how the privacy landscape is changing, the inherent privacy risks associated with smart cities, and her predictions for the future of urban mobility.
Accelerating Board Diversity in Tech
As of last year, two hundred Fortune 500 companies had greater than 40% board diversity – a four-fold increase compared to a decade ago. However, these numbers also indicate there’s still more work to do. All Raise, a startup nonprofit on a mission to amplify the voices of female founders and funders, is helping to lead the transformation. The organization has launched Board Xcelerate, a 90-day program that taps into All Raise’s diverse network of founders, investors and operators to add talented underrepresented executives to the boards of high-growth, private tech companies. In this episode, All Raise CEO Pam Kostka talks about the value of board-ready vs. board-proven, how greater board diversity can drive better business performance, inclusivity and belonging within tech companies, and how adding underrepresented groups can lead to wealth creation.
Startup Spotlight: How Edquity is Using Higher Education to Close the Wealth Gap
Social impact startups have a lot to balance – including staying true to their mission and achieving high growth and profitability. No one understands this better than David Helene, founder and CEO of Edquity, a NYU Tandon Future Labs graduate and first-of-its-kind education technology provider that works with colleges to provide emergency financial aid to students. In this episode, Helene shares his journey from the financial sector to social entrepreneurship, how social entrepreneurs can get creative about monetization without diluting their impact, and how solving issues within higher education can narrow the intergenerational wealth gap, particularly in communities of color.
Responsible Innovation: Combatting Disinformation and Deepfakes
With the rise of social media platforms, alternative publications and citizen journalism, the sources of news and information have grown exponentially. Yet, the quality and transparency has not kept pace. Deepfake technology has escalated the problem. In this episode, Kathryn Harrison, Founder and CEO of DeepTrust Alliance — a nonprofit global coalition of stakeholders that creates solutions to build more trust in news and information — shares how technology is transforming how we communicate, why regulation isn’t enough to address the rising tide of disinformation, and considerations for how the tech ecosystem can work together to collectively tackle misinformation, disinformation and deepfakes.
Why Mentoring Matters Monday Night & Every Night
As a kid growing up in Chicago, Jabari Hearn dreamed of creating Nike commercials — ones that could rival the icon spots the brand produced with Michael Jordan, his childhood idol. Years later, Hearn would get that chance when he started working for Nike in senior-level marketing roles. Hearn, now SVP of Marketing and Entertainment at Westbrook Media, says the guidance of a mentor, a fellow Black executive at the company, was a turning point in his career. The relationship helped him excel. Now, he’s giving back to other marketers of color through Monday Night Mentorship, a membership network and career accelerant for marketers of color co-founded by Hearn. In this episode, Hearn shares the key things mentors and mentees must do to get the most out of their relationship, and how organizations can use mentorship to transform DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) into DIME (Diversity, Inclusion, Mentorship, and Equity).
Reimagining the Workplace for Innovators
Dr. Anne-Laure Fayard, Associate Professor of Innovation, Design and Organizational Studies at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering, has spent her career studying collaboration and the best environments for fostering innovation. This is the very social science we need to tap into as we reimagine a workplace that's better than the one we left behind. In this episode, Dr. Fayard shares why "proximity, privacy and permission" are crucial to collaborative workspaces - and why inclusion and a culture of trust drive innovation. She also offers some practical advice for leaders transitioning their teams into the post-pandemic world.
A Roadmap for Diversifying the VC and Startup Ecosystems
Only 1-2% of venture capital-backed companies have either a Black or Latinx founder. Women still get less VC funding than men — even though companies founded or co-founded by women often perform better (sec.gov).
How can the VC and tech ecosystems become more inclusive? PayPal Ventures, the VC arm of PayPal, is trying to accelerate this change. It has made a financial and business commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion through millions in grant funding to small businesses and non-profits disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and by shifting its deposits to financial institutions that support underrepresented communities. In this episode, Mario Ruiz, previously at PayPal Ventures and now Co-Founder and Partner at Infinity Ventures, shares how PayPal Ventures is driving change both within and outside of its own walls, and ways the VC community can help the tech ecosystem become more inclusive.
Starting a Company as an Underrepresented Founder
Charley Moore started Rocket Lawyer with the mission of bringing affordable legal help to consumers. Thirteen years later, more than one in nine Americans now has a Rocket Lawyer account, including thousands of employees who access these legal services through their employer-provided benefits.
Along with expanding access to the justice system, Moore is passionate about inclusive workplace environments where diverse ideas, founders and individual contributors can thrive. In this episode, Moore talks about how his experience as an underrepresented founder has shaped his career, how the tech industry can build a more inclusive pipeline and how companies can align profit with their purpose.