Over the last decade, consumer technology and the sharing economy has revolutionized almost every aspect of our lives. It has changed the way we travel, shop, interact with our friends and even date. Millennials have come to expect immediacy and sharing of experiences, including in their financial investments. As a venture capitalist during this time period, I’ve watched and invested in startups focused on disrupting their analog predecessors and provide the best on-demand service at fractions of the costs. While there have been major innovations in peer-to-peer and mobile payments, particularly in the emerging world, traditional finance has largely avoided total industry disruption — until now. With half of the world’s population under 30 years of age and the number of under 35 millionaires at an all-time high, financial services companies are going to be dealing with a lot of customers who do not understand why their money is ‘locked-up’ in a fund for a decade or why their home can’t be fractionally sold.

Blockchain technology, and the digitization of shares (also referred to as tokenization)  is enabling this type of user experience. By digitizing an asset, and using a smart contract to automatically enforce the rules and regulations of that asset, owners are able to sell shares of private securities on SEC complaint exchanges on-demand In financial terms, we refer to this ease of creating a transaction as ‘liquidity’. In millennial terms, we might describe this feature as swiping left, unsubscribing and utilizing free e-commerce returns.

Disruption in startup investing already began with crowdfunding. The whole point of crowdfunding was to make access to the best deals available to a far wider audience. This it did. However, it fell short in aiming to address the inherent portfolio approach of a fund where you can spread risk across multiple portfolio companies, and it did not address the lack of liquidity. The digitization of funds is the next evolution of that vision, with professional investors at the helm doing deeper due diligence than what users can read on crowdfunding websites. The other advantage of these funds over crowdfunding is that you can get involved with later rounds of funding, since crowdfunding is usually focused only on seed stage.

This is transformative because trillions of dollars worth of the world’s assets do not have a liquidity feature, and as a result, they are bought or sold at a discount because transactions are done ad-hoc without global, highly accessible marketplaces. For instance, private equity and venture capital funds have typical lockup periods of 10 years or more because they wait for their portfolio companies to return and reserve funding for follow on rounds.   If an investor wants to exit a fund interest, they find an intermediary, who then finds a buyer if they can.

The nature of private equity and venture capital requires fund managers to have the ability to operate with a high degree of autonomy from their investors.. The fact that the fund is digitized has nothing to do with the fund investment thesis and the level of risks the fund will assume in its investments. A digitized fund has more freedom to operate than a traditional fund. The fact that your investors have liquidity, allows you to take a much longer term view, if needed, in an investment since the pressure for liquidity of the LP interests is not there anymore. They can exit when they want to and sell their interest on a SEC compliant secondary exchange.  If anything, liquidity can improve returns. First, you can exit the fund after, let’s say, 3–4 years rather than 9–10 greatly increasing your internal rate of return if the net asset value has grown sufficiently by reducing the investment period. Second, liquidity has a premium (the same way that illiquidity has a penalty) in terms of price so a liquid fund should actually be more valuable.

Some traditional VC investors are driving the ball forward in this arena.  Rob Nance and Jon Avidor of CityBlock Capital recently told me about their NYCQ project – a digitized venture fund making equity investments into companies building the infrastructure for digital assets. As meta as this sounds, it struck me as one of the smartest applications of blockchain technology that I’ve seen, and one that also gives retail investors the chance to make a bet on the use of blockchain to tokenize legacy assets.

CityBlock sells shares of the NYCQ fund on their website and allocates the capital it to proven investors with track records of profitable exits. The value of the shares will change as the underlying equity holdings of the fund changes. It’s a diversified portfolio of equity in companies that are upending traditional finance, and it’s liquid. The company thinks of itself as the Airbnb or Uber of venture capital – an investment firm for the digital age focused on removing user friction and creating hyper-efficiency. Managing Partner Rob Nance said “What we learned from Bitcoin and altcoins is that the there is pent up demand for liquid digital assets. Digital tokens shares can be cashed out much faster and more easily than conventional paper shares because there are significantly fewer layers between buyers and sellers.”

Other players in this space include Blockchain Capital, SPiCE VC, and Science Blockchain, who have all successfully issued digital shares in their venture funds and those shares are preparing to trade on regulated exchanges.  In the very near future more funds will provide liquidity as a competitive advantage. Ultimately, we may look back at the days where our financial portfolios were tied up in illiquid investments and consider this as old school as the Blackberry.


Article first appeared August 16, 2018 on Forbes.com.



After many stops and starts it finally appears that we are on the verge of a true convergence explosion between Internet of Things (IOT), AI, and blockchain. Or in other words, the production of data, the consumption of data and the distribution of data.

To review:

IoT, pertains to the interconnectivity of the world around us—basically how all of our personal and home devices work together to optimize daily human life.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has previously been described as the ability of computer systems to perform tasks that previously had required human interaction, but today it pertains more to algorithms that assemble and analyze personal data which is then used to facilitate and streamline human existence.

Blockchain is a digital ledger in which transactions are recorded chronologically and publicly. The technology often involves bitcoin or other similarly cryptocurrencies. The main benefit of blockchain is that it catalogues data into a permanent record along a chain that is transparent and linear.

The convergence of these technologies come with both enormous benefits and also significant risks. Industries have been looking at blockchain as a way to streamline their processes and make tracking and data collection simpler and more transparent. In the past, there have been those who worried about the susceptibility of IoT and AI to the hacking of encryption services. Those security concerns are one of the main reasons why we haven’t yet seen a true explosion of the convergence of IoT, blockchain and AI but the tide has begun to turn as blockchain advances have now made the aforementioned hacking more difficult.

What are the key convergence highlights? One of the main ideas at the interaction of AI and Blockchain is the data marketplace. If everyone owns their own data and can make it available as they choose in a private manner, we could have more data in aggregate.  To truly achieve its potential, each of the three building blocks of AI must be made available in a centralized, private, and secured manner.

Outlier Ventures explains the need for the Convergence Ecosystem by saying, “The Internet of Things is creating an unmanageable data environment, and artificial intelligence is giving those who control the most data more power than any company in history.”  Outlier adds, “The integration of these technologies will see markets become increasingly open-sourced, distributed, decentralized, automated, and tokenized.”

Observers are closely watching which sectors and companies will emerge atop the convergence industry bracket. Interestingly, this convergence war echoes what occurred several years ago with cloud/mobile convergence. The companies who emerged victorious from that battle were not initial sweetheart companies like Lycos and Yahoo but rather Microsoft, Amazon and surprisingly, IBM, a company once associated with hardware who has made significant inroads into this space, especially as of late.

Several budding convergence sectors will undoubtedly determine the winners and losers. The Government Accountability Office recently identified eight industries where convergence has the greatest upside. They include the health care industry, transportation (both personal and commercial), smart homes and buildings, manufacturing, supply chains, wearables, agriculture and energy. Other industries that appear primed to take full advantage of the technology include farming, marketing, retail and the financial services arena.

So if you’re making your convergence picks who should be in your Final Four? Not surprisingly the smart money is on the companies that are already leaders in the digital economy like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple and, despite their recent Cambridge Analytica issues, Facebook. These behemoths have access to a wealth of data and already have established footholds in the IoT landscape. Google, for example, has cornered the market on geographic mapping. But the companies who could become major convergence players aren’t simply limited to the GAFA Four. Metromile, for example, is a San Francisco based company which provides per-mile auto insurance along with an app called The Pulse, which collects data about trips and car health. Ecobee is a Canadian home automation company that makes thermostats and smart light switches for both residential and commercial use and a company like Ring is already a major player in the home security field.

In the health care field, Chrono Therapeutics is focusing on improving clinical outcomes for patients battling addiction and living with neurological disorders via their Integrated Dosing Solution. The company integrates timed drug delivery with personalized, mobile-based digital support and data analytics which seeks to maximize compliance and improve overall patient health. Several smaller start-ups have a real shot at establishing and solidifying a hold on a market that escapes the view of one of the aforementioned tech giants.


Article first appeared on Forbes.com




Despite the fact that the way motion pictures are made and seen hasn’t changed dramatically in the last century, there have been notable examples in the last twenty years of technological advances which have revolutionized the film industry.

Streaming services have reshaped the way audiences watch movies or other content at home or on the go, creating a new wave of innovative entertainment options. The ability to actually make films has become easier, as director Steven Soderbergh proved with his latest film, Unseen. IMAX made the “big screen” experience even bigger with movie screens that are nearly 100 feet tall. Movie theaters made the change from heavy, analog 35 mm film to digital in the early 2000s, and one of the biggest technological advances came in the world of animation as Pixar revolutionized animation by expertly combining engaging storytelling with breathtaking visuals. Check out Coco for further proof!

Now, the latest tech trend that appears ready for its close-up in the movie business is blockchain and that technology is poised to take the film industry, in the words of Toy Story’s Buzz Lightyear, “to infinity and beyond.”

The following is a sampling of sectors within the movie business which are using blockchain, and the women at the helm that are creating lasting change in the industry.

Independent Production

One area of the movie business that is already incorporating blockchain is in the production, marketing, and distribution of independent films. The first blockchain film is set for release in early July and is called, No Postage Necessary. The film, starring George Blagden (Versailles) and Charleen Closshey (An Evergreen Christmas), is a romantic comedy about a man who poses as a postal worker to steal people’s mail in order to make ends meet.

What makes this film different from traditional movie production is that it is being distributed through a P2P incentivized video network which utilizes the blockchain app Qtum. The clear benefit of this technology is that, in addition to being released in theatres, it will also be made available to purchase and view online using bitcoin. This groundbreaking change will immediately eliminate a litany of movie industry middle men who are waiting to get their hands on a portion of box office revenues.


Blockchain significantly reduces the possibility of piracy by providing top-to-bottom transparency whereby all individuals involved in each stage of the process, from production to content viewing, are identified. Piracy is a problem across the movie industry, but it hits independent films especially hard. These films already are at a disadvantage in trying to gain moviegoers eyeballs against the big studio tentpoles. For example, the music industry is already using blockchain by utilizing unique IDs and time stamps in a way that will all but eliminate piracy. Watch for the movie industry to follow suit.

Consumer Interaction

The social media interaction app TaTaTu is the first video-on-demand and social platform to reward consumers for watching movies, music videos, sports, gaming, and celebrity content. The app also rewards consumers for sharing and posting content in addition to when their friends watch and post, as well.

The platform is the brainchild of AMBI Media Media Group Co-Founders Monika Bacardi and Andrea Iervolino. The company is in negotiations for additional content partnerships and, on June 27th, announced it would produce and finance the directorial debut of actor David Henrie (How I Met Your Mother) entitled This is the Year.

The company’s new beta test is scheduled for July 1st.

Distribution and Marketing

Led by company CEO Amorette Jones, Treeti is designed to harness the disruptive power of blockchain in order to create a new way for filmmakers to distribute and monetize their creative projects. Jones is no novice to the film industry. Over the past two decades, she has revolutionized marketing from

creating the first dedicated movie website for Stargate to being first to leverage the power of the internet for The Blair Witch Project, widely praised as the first and most successful socially interactive marketing campaign ever.

Jones also paved the way for digital distribution with the launch of Standing in the Shadows of Motown, which enabled studios to increase revenue by eliminating the cost of striking prints. The Treeti program will eliminate the need for third party services for studios and allow content owners and distributors to directly bring their content, promotional events, and PR directly to audiences.


Hong Kong based ANX Blockchain Services has developed a blockchain platform that will eliminate a theater circuit’s dependence on time consuming, credit card transactional cash flow by working in, what they call, Movicoin. Starting with incorporating the ABS into a chain’s loyalty club service, moviegoers purchase Movicoins either at the theater’s online platform, POS system, or right at the box office. Then, consumers store their Moviecoins in their digital wallets and can use Moviecoins to purchase either movie tickets or theater concessions. Due to the technology’s simplicity and convenience, Moviecoins will significantly cut down on long lines at the box office and concession stand through their innovative technology. The company recently announced the addition of former Focus and Sony Pictures executive Peter Schlessel to its Advisory Board.

Subscription Services

What will be interesting to watch is which of the subscription moviegoing apps will be the first to incorporate a blockchain component. The majority of bitcoin users are between the ages of 20-35, the prime age demographic of subscription moviegoing apps such as MoviePass, Sinemia, and exhibitor subscription programs that are in place from circuits such as AMC and Cinemark. Fan favorite Alamo Drafthouse announced a subscription based beta test that will begin in mid July.

If its financial standing (or lack thereof) is to be believed, MoviePass, which set the moviegoing industry on its ear in early 2017 by bringing a $9.99 subscription plan to market, won’t be the service to do so, as financial and industry experts don’t expect the service to last much longer after consistently hemorrhaging money. Alternatively, look out for the individual circuits to revel in the benefits of blockchain. From the standpoint of lower transactional fees, increased concession sales, and greater customer loyalty, MoviePass showcase’s a version of ANX’s Movicoins as part of their programs.

While the movie industry is currently lagging behind other sectors with the incorporation of blockchain in its day-to-day business, it’s important to note that it is an industry that historically takes a while to incorporate new technologies. When it does, however, that technology usually takes off like a

500 HP Dodge Charger in The Fast and the Furious, and women are more than happy to take the wheel.


Image: Shutterstock

This article was first published on Forbes.com

If ever there was a question as to whether New York City is the capital of fintech or blockchain, it was answered this week. Through a series of events from May 11 – 17, “Blockchain Week New York City,” surprised everyone in attendance with diverse panels. Conference organizers were particularly careful to put women on panels and get female attendance up.  “Satoshi is female” they declared and wore T-shirts to match, referring to the still unknown identity of Satoshi Nakamoto who is credited with founding crypto and blockchain. “We think cryptocurrencies should be built with  different values than Silicon Valley,” said Nyla Rodgers, the creator of the Satoshi is Female group.

The headliner and most talked about event of Blockchain Week is the 4th annual and 3 days long Consensus however, I found the most inspiring talks at the Women on the Block Diversity event on Mother’s Day. Their concept of having all women speakers was designed to highlight and recognize the contributions and innovations of woman across the blockchain industry globally. The event had over 400 registrants from all over the world, including 50 speakers from US, Canada, Japan, China, Canada, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Turkey, Australia, Lithuania, South Korea, Norway and the Cayman Islands.

The day of learning and thought leadership at Women on the Block had a goal to educate and empower women to become involved in the emerging and disruptive industry.  Topics included smart contracts, raising capital, creating startups, legal and regulatory issues and use cases and the room was a sea of diversity.

The event’s sponsor Microsoft gave out a series of awards, one woman particularly deserving is Amber Baldet, Clovyr Co-Founder and CEO, the recipient of the Corporate Innovation award.  Her company brings the flexibility and ease of use of modern application development to the blockchain domain. With Clovyr, people and businesses can experiment and even implement blockchain-based applications. Clovyr could also in the future easily enable merchants to accept cryptocurrencies as a form of payment as seamlessly as they accept a credit card. It’s these types of developments that will cement cryptocurrencies place in the larger scheme of the consumer based economy. Previously, Amber led the team at J.P. Morgan Chase that developed the blockchain project, Quorum.

Another woman highlighted was Ashwini Anburajan, Founding Partner of the 22X Fund. 22X is one of the firms which represent the future of the cryptocurrency market, tokenizing real world assets to spread investor returns and give entrepreneurs greater access to capital. With her fund, Ashwini is democratizing access to capital by allowing investors to buy tokens representing equity across a diverse portfolio of startups. She’s bridging the gap between ICO and venture capital and revolutionizing the way start-ups look to raise capital. Investors into the 22x Fund are offered the opportunity to support the growth of 30 participating early-stage ventures, all of which have already raised capital from VCs or other traditional modes. Ashwini’s innovative take on funding is just one of the reasons she was awarded the Innovation in Venture Fundraising award from Microsoft.

Microsoft’s Entrepreneur In Residence, Tereza Nemessanyi, was the award grantor who said “People often tell me they don’t know any women in Blockchain, which is surprising because I know so many and more getting involved every day.  This week was pivotal in cementing key communities of diverse movers and shakers. It is still early enough in Blockchain to enter and shape what it will be.”

Blockchain Week was a far cry from the origin of the creation of crypto now known as the Silk Road and the Red Pill, a blockchain based crypto kicked off social media for extreme misogynistic views. What I did see were the merging of industries and the heralding of what could be the end of the era of the “blockchain bro”.  The origins of blockchain and cryptocurrency are part of the reason why the industry lacks diversity. The early days of blockchain and crypto consisted mainly of hacktivists and cypherpunks. Fast forward 10 or so years, and look at the contemporary origins of blockchain and cryptocurrency: tech and finance—areas which are still struggling to become more representative of the population as a whole.

The industry of blockchain is still relatively new so we have the chance to make this segment of the tech industry better than the rest for women and people of color. With blockchain we’re building an ‘automated trust society.’ Automated trust means equality and fairness, blockchain really should be the perfect space for inclusiveness and diversity to thrive. The underlying spirit of the technology lies in opposition to rigid or standard systems put in place by conventional finance companies or the internet’s data monopolies by requiring people of any kind to collaboratively use a shared ledger. To me, what blockchain week could represent is the redemptive moment for tech and diversity outlined at the end of Emily Chang’s book Breaking Up Brotopia.


First published in Forbes, May 20, 2018



“I’m close to artificial intelligence (AI) and it scares the hell out of me,” said Elon Musk during HBO’s Westworld panel at South by Southwest this year. “It’s capable of vastly more than anyone knows, and the improvement is exponential.” Musk cited the example of AlphaGo, Google DeepMind’s artificial-intelligence program best known as the first computer program to defeat a professional human player at the boardgame Go. The AI had been trained to tackle the Chinese game “Go,” which is a 2,000-plus year old abstract war simulation.  In 2016, Google announced that its program had defeated every other Go-playing software — and a formidable human opponent, Fan Hui, a European champion. Then, it bested the world champion, Lee Sedol, four games out of five, in a competition that was live-streamed on YouTube.

The threat of machines getting smarter than their creators is so real, in fact, that Musk calls for public oversight to ensure the technology is developed safely. “The danger of AI is much greater than the danger of nuclear warheads — by a lot,” Musk said. “Mark my words, AI is far more dangerous than nukes.”

We do not want to be paralyzed by fear.  At the annual Milken conference this week, there was a much more optimistic tone as AI was brought up in many of the sessions.  The conference highlighted some of the positive real world work being done by women in AI and how AI’s applications are being brought into the present. Women are proving that AI is not limited to the scary future of man vs. machine, they’re running companies currently utilizing AI in healthcare, fashion and retail; real world applications of AI that other women can appreciate and sink their teeth into.

In a Milken session about AI and medicine, Dr. Iya Khalil spoke about AI and healthcare.  She is the female co-founder of GNS Healthcare, a healthcare analytics company using the latest innovations in machine learning to turn data into solutions that slow disease progression, reduce adverse events and and optimize therapeutic effectiveness. Khalil is a tech entrepreneur, physicist and inventor that is leading the charge in harnessing data to transform our health.

At Milken, Khalil spoke about how AI and machine learning can reduce drug discovery times and enable precision medicine with the goal of improving outcomes and reducing the costs of R&D.  Her goal is to leverage these capabilities to transform medicine from an expert-driven field – with poor predictive power and large gaps in its fundamental understanding of human biology – and transform it into a data-driven predictive science – with a more complete understanding of the mechanisms of disease and response to interventions.

Another area of optimism in AI is in fashion and retail.  Women, like Anastasia Sartan and Marianna Milkis-Edwards, the co-founders of  Epytom, and what they call “the first AI personal stylist,” are developing real world applications that can be used now.  The company is building a no-waste, made to order, customer-centric supply chain based on AI and machine learning. This is an area that is catching the eye of many larger players, as both Walmart and Amazon have invested heavily in this space. Epytom’s brainchild is their Facebook Messenger fashion assistant, Epytom Stylist. If you’re like me, every morning you open your closet, ponder your outfit choices and ultimately declare, “I have nothing to wear.” Epytom is like having your own personal stylist at your beck and call. It analyzes your existing wardrobe and suggests outfits via chat based on your daily agenda, personality and even weather in your location. Epytom also figures out what other clothing items will maximize your wardrobe’s potential and then designs and produces them just for you.

A seasoned fashion-tech entrepreneur, Sartan founded Trends Brands, a Russian online store, which in 2011 won Best New Shop by TimeOut Moscow. She was a finalist for Ernst and Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year in 2015.  Milkis-Edwards as the fashion editor of InStyle Magazine was tired of the fashion industry’s push to keep buying. They joined forces to create an alternative to the current broken fashion supply chain and customer experience.

“We learned how to digitize our users’ fashion taste,” says Epytom Founder and CEO Anastasia Sartan. “Most people can’t explain why they like or hate a certain look. We replace ‘why’ with ‘how.’ Instead of trying to get into a user’s head, we employ neural networks to reverse-engineer their style profile through signals they send on a whim: ‘I’d totally wear this outfit!’ or ‘I’d never buy a skirt like this!’ Neural networks unlock what neither we, nor the user, can put into words.”

Epytom aims to eliminate mass production that leaves stores with dead stock and shoppers with an overwhelming choice of subpar apparel. They also save time, eliminating the need to pile through racks of clothes attempting to find just the right item to buy or outfit for the day. Also, Epytom saves their customers money by teaching their old and new personalized clothes “new tricks.” It is the company’s mantra that you can have perfect style with as few as 40 pieces.

The uses of AI are far reaching and it’s important to have women take the lead in machine-learning initiatives that are geared towards their end user, women. The real-world applications of AI that women are creating are far away from the futuristic gloom and doom stories you may hear at SXSW about robot takeovers and are bound to improve millions of lives. In the near future we’ll have even more women to thank for advances in AI due to programs like AI4ALL, a nonprofit with summer programs at Stanford and UC Berkeley. They give AI training to diverse groups of high school students, focusing on teaching female, minority, and low-income students. AI4ALL received funding from Melinda Gates in 2017 and is adding four more universities in 2018.

I am encouraged by the advancements in AI and the part women have played in healthcare and in industries like fashion that are so far-reaching. For now, instead of being scared about the takeover of humanity, I’m happy to focus on using AI for good, right now. I’ll leave the fear-mongering to Elon Musk.


Published in Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/nisaamoils/2018/05/07/the-women-making-ai-less-scary-and-more-accessible/2/#1858c2fc4b76

Image: NEW YORK, NY – APRIL 12: Model, philanthropist, and investor Natalia Vodianova, Epytom founder and CEO Anastasia Sartan, and MSNBC ‘Your Business’ host JJ Ramberg speak onstage during Vanity Fair’s Founders Fair at Spring Studios on April 12, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for Vanity Fair)

Recently, a woman told her story of being virtually groped in a leading virtual reality (VR) game called QuiVR. When she entered the game’s multi-player mode, a fellow gamer named BigBro442 began to fondle her Avatar. Now the company purposely built the game so each Avatar is physically gender neutral but they did allow these beings to have the player’s individual voice. When the woman began playing, her fellow combatants realized she was a woman after hearing her speak and BigBro442 decided it would be acceptable (and probably funny) to virtually sexually assault her. The woman explains the assault in detail through her blog on Medium.

QuiVR developers Henry Jackson and Jonathan Schenker found out about this situation and went to work fixing the problem. Yet this remains a serious issue in the VR world. Women in business have faced decades of harassment and gender inequality in blue chip industries such as law, advertising and the financial sector, but we need to now also pay close attention to virtual reality, and all of Silicon Valley for that matter.

Is harassment in the VR arena the same as in the workplace? The real question should be: does it really matter? It’s difficult to completely eliminate the possibility of this kind of unfortunate event, but what is vital is the need to offer the tools to re-empower the player in real time as it’s happening.

Jesse Fox, an Ohio State University professor who researches the social implications of virtual worlds said, “It wouldn’t be different if someone sent you a harassing email to your work email or harassed you in a chat room.” But Fox warns that virtual reality opens the door to a new level of violation.

“What’s different about virtual environments is an extra layer of immersion. If you are being groped in the real world versus a virtual world, the visual stimuli do not differ,” she said. “You are seeing it. It is appearing to happen to your own body. Those layers of lifelike experience are going to be more traumatizing in that moment.”

As harassers begin to be singled out and ostracized in the real world do we now face a rising tide of VR sexual assaults? Will these worlds allow the anonymity that abusers will see as a “safe haven”? And will these technologies become male-only because women are going to feel as triggered and traumatized in the VR space as they do in the real world?

Here are the first two steps that need to occur: First, game developers need a clear understanding and admission that there is a problem. And, second, they need to create a solution that will ensure every gamer, no matter their gender, feels comfortable in multi-player games. The fix for the game mentioned above was to create a virtual “bubble” to be placed around the player during the game. Other solutions include VR experiences eliminating all individual gamers’ personal characteristics, specifically instituting a gender neutral voice.

The bubble that is now featured in QuiVR may, on paper, look like a tiny fix, but the key here is that the creators and developers are now understanding that they need to foster as safe of an environment in VR as they do in their company’s offices. Change will only happen and it is indeed happening, when all developers come to that realization.

But what isn’t being discussed as a solution is one that quite possibly could be the most effective. Women have made great strides in becoming more represented in every level of corporations and organizations and having women involved in every phase of the development and implementation of VR games and platforms could be the true game changer. Right now the industry is so male-dominated that many developers simply fail to understand or completely ignore situations in VR that women may find objectionable and rightly label as harassment. Having women involved in the development and beta testing of this content would greatly eliminate the possibility that female users would suddenly find themselves in uncomfortable or emotionally damaging situations.

As a side note, part of the allure and the promise of VR was that it would enable the viewer to completely understand the subject matter by actually becoming a part of it. A documentary filmmaker, for example, can detail the horrors that animals face in factory farms but the empathy level is expanded exponentially when he or she also includes a virtual reality experience. The recent production, I Animal, from the group Animal Equality places the viewer directly in a factory farm so they are fully immersed in the experience.

Studies have shown that women are generally more empathetic than men so doesn’t it make sense that women should make a significant contribution to VR content that is so heavily rooted in empathy? Change will only happen when CEOs in the VR space realize the importance of including women on the ground floor of these emerging technologies.


Article first appeared in Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/nisaamoils/2018/04/02/ethical-ai-is-vr-harassment-the-same-as-workplace-harassment/2/#67764b4a5213

Image: Shutterstock

Fortune recently ran an interesting assessment of VC deals by gender and if you’re a glass-half-full person then you’ll be happy to learn that all-women founding teams received $1.9 billion in investment in 2017, which was up from $1.4 billion in 2016.

Putting that sliver of hope off to the side, unfortunately the bad news far outweighs the positive as that $1.9 billion is a paltry 2.2% of the total pot of VC investment. To show the entire picture, all-male teams accounted for 79% of the total pie while mixed-gender groups and those that PitchBook, who contributed the data, were unable to classify, made up the remaining 19%.

And the cavernous discrepancy doesn’t stop at the amount of the investment either—it also encompasses the number of investments as well. Only 368 of the nearly 6,000 VC deals involved female-led startups and just to make matters worse it appears that the amount of the VC checks being written for female founders are significantly less than their male counterparts.

Do you want another uncomfortable stat? The largest investment in a male-led company was for WeWork, who nabbed $3 billion in VC cash. The largest investment in a female-led company was $165 million for Moda Operandi. That amount was a pitiful 5.5% of the investment that WeWork was able to secure.

What makes the disparity even more distressing is that female-led companies are statistically more successful than ones founded by men. According to First Round Capital, female founders outperform male founders by 63% and TechCrunch has stated that female startups have shown to generate a 35% higher ROI and 12% higher revenues than their male counterparts. In addition, companies with women at the helm have higher first-round (64% higher) and last-round (49% higher) valuations.

As important as it is to point out the gap between the genders in VC funding it’s even more imperative to determine a cause for the gulf. Fortune quoted Julie Wainright, founder and CEO of The RealReal, who noted that a major factor was the lack of female VCs. “When you have different businesses that aren’t proven that may appeal more to a female customer and a female investor is going to be able to evaluate that.”

Another explanation could be the inability of a male VC investor to fully understand products or services that come from companies helmed by women and which may be geared at a female consumer. There may also be unconscious (or, in some cases, conscious) biases towards companies run by women. Yet another version is that women tend to ask for exactly what they need rather than what they think they can get.

Kathryn Minshew, co-founder and CEO of millennial career site The Muse, has a different theory, saying that male- and female-founded companies are fundamentally judged differently. “There’s a lot of research that in business, women tend to be judged on performance and men on potential. The same is true in start-up funding in aggregate as well. I felt that we had generally raised based on what we have done,” she says, while male founders raise capital on what they have the potential to do.

Many in the VC world say that there is perhaps a silver lining for female-led companies in all this. Several have said that they have had to adopt the “do more with less” mantra for their startup companies. Instead of luxury offices and daily fruit and snack shipments for their employees, more streamlined companies can get to profitability faster if they are more focused on actually selling their product.

CES 2018 has now concluded and this year’s event was all about getting smarter – everything from speakers, appliances, robots and home goods are getting extra smart through AI and voice recognition. There were some really exciting innovations being released and showcased at CES this year and much of the excitement is about your voice – everything from speakers, appliances and robots are getting extra smart through Artificial Intelligence and voice recognition technologies often powered through Alexa or Google assistant.

Let’s take a closer look at the major CES topics:

Vehicle Tech

This is an area with across-the-board improvement via artificial intelligence, voice recognition and improved battery-power. For example:

  • Panasonic made a deal with Amazon’s Alexa and is now going into automobiles.
  • Toyota released its futuristic self driving E.Pallete for “stores of the future” that bring shopping to you.
  • Legacy players like Kia, Ford and Toyota filled CES to the brim with concepts of new battery electric vehicles and newcomers like Byton and Lucid also staked their claim as competition for the Tesla Model 3.

Air Taxis

  • Intel’s Volocopter 2X made a big splash by taking flight for the first time in one of the large presentation halls and Uber’s air taxi by Bell was on display. By 2023 it will cost as much as Uberx.
  • Surefly Hybrid Electric Helicopter.


CES wouldn’t be CES without robots and they continue to be a CES hot item:

  • Pepper is a robot who can read feelings and can tell if customers are sad or happy. Sprint is currently using Pepper in stores to communicate with customers.
  • Aeolus is a smart robot run on Alexa that can act like a security guard and even go around your home and bring items to you. Need a beer during the big game? Let Aeolus get that for you. It’s a guy’s man cave dream come true.
  • Aibo is Sony’s latest generation of robots which responds to touch and has surprisingly organic movements.

Automatic Translation Tools/Earbuds

  • Anyone that loves to travel should look forward to automatic translation tools. There were various items on display from hand-held devices to in-ear buds that are a lot better than carrying around a dictionary. Mars earbuds allow you to talk in two separate languages in real-time and are slated for release this summer.

Home Smart Speakers

Also known as digital voice assistants, home smart speakers are being well watched as they’re touted as a 4th channel of retail and are easily integrated into other technology.

  • Ownership of smart speakers, is projected to hit almost 40% in the U.S. in 2018.
  • CES this year saw a huge run of products that bank off of Alexa’s voice recognition including Alexa-powered headphones, mirrors, showers, light switches and even smoke alarms.


US consumer tech industry revenues are expected to increase by about 4 per cent to $351bn in 2018, propelled in large part to the surge in these types of items.

Overall, the big question at CES was whether Google Assistant or Alexa will end up being the go-to for products in the future.  Smart products need the technology to power it and that race right now is between Google Assistant and Alexa.  Apple is late to the game. Right now, Amazon’s Alexa is at the forefront of voice recognition and you’re seeing a multitude of products that are harnessing that technology to create smart homes.

It will be interesting to see how everything plays out in 2018.











Invariably at every panel discussion and keynote address this past week at CES there was talk of how smart cities growth will influence policies, transportation, cities and towns, our industry and our planet. The issue was given a drone-propelled boost when back in November Bill Gates’ company announced it was investing $80 million into a “Smart City” in the far western suburbs of Phoenix. Mt. Lemmon Holdings bought a 24,000-acre track of land in the town of Belmont that would theoretically include tens of thousands of smart homes to be built along with the accompanying smart infrastructure, public schools, office and retail space. And if you think that this will be some small gathering of solar power homes then think again. The area is roughly the size of Paris and nearly the same projected population base as nearby Tempe, one of the largest Phoenix suburbs.

The possibilities are endless. Is this finally the future that the cartoon The Jetsons envisioned back in the 1960s? Their peek into the 2060s included flying cars, robot maids, pop up phone screens and 5-second dinners. It all sounded crazy back in the days of the Kennedy Administration and perhaps we can’t whip up a chicken piccata in 3 seconds but many of these projections are either just on the horizon or are in use in some form or fashion currently.

And it’s not just about the in-home experience. Is this where Amazon’s delivery drones will finally be used in full force? In addition, with Phoenix being the testing ground for the Waymo autonomous cars will we find Belmont city streets filled with driverless vehicles? Can kids be driven to soccer practice without either mom or dad firing up the Range Rover? Will picking up grandma or grandpa at Sky Harbor Airport no longer involve sitting in massive traffic jams during peak travel time but instead only involve plugging information into an app and waiting for the old folks to arrive for Thanksgiving dinner. In addition, Phoenix has 300 days of sunlight a year, making their solar power supply almost endless. That will be corralled for use in traffic lights, outdoor signage and office spaces, to name but a few.

It will be interesting to assess the pros and cons of starting a Smart City from scratch rather than the retrofit that many cities around the world are trying. Singapore, for one, has succeeded because they had the time to map out a plan and follow through. Houston, New York and Columbus have won accolades for their achievements in water management, energy consumption and transportation, but none of the current Smart Cities started from the blueprint phase. After all, it’s much easier to bake a new cake rather than to try to add creme filling into an existing one.

But that last point was not how Ford CEO Jim Hackett sees the future as during his CES keynote address he announced that the automaker will work with the Bay Area tech company Autonomic to build a platform that will enable existing cities to use their Transportation Mobility Cloud to build out infrastructure communications.

The Transportation Mobility Cloud will support location-based services and will provide real time alerts on traffic and EV only areas to ease congestion and improve air quality. Ford’s group of smart mobility offerings are growing, primarily last mile shared commute service Chariot, GoBike and its forthcoming autonomous ride hailing fleets. If successful it could provide a massive opportunity to invade a white space for the automaker.

Getting back to Belmont, ultimately what will determine success or failure of Gates’ project is, quite simply, whether people move to the city and, possibly more importantly, remain there. Smart technology is wonderful if it will ultimately improve peoples’ lives. Will this enable them to shorten their work week? To work remotely? If there will truly be the number of new businesses moving into Belmont then there’s a strong possibility of workers’ commutes diminishing precipitously.

In addition, what effect will solar power have on energy bills and air quality? There has to be some advantage to 120-degree heat in the summer months. And will the quality of the town’s school systems, infrastructure and healthcare benefit from being smart? Again, it’s easier to start anew than to try to fix something that’s currently broken, and if Arizonans see that Belmont rates near or at the top of the list for the best hospitals and schools in the state then watch for the influx of new arrivals into town.

If the positives of a Belmont project outweigh the negatives, and only time will tell if it will, then the answer to the above questions will be a resounding yes. If so, then Bill Gates’ already profound legacy would then take a giant, solar-powered step forward.

Last week I attended the Summit Series in Los Angeles which featured a virtual who’s-who of the modern business world, including Reed Hastings, Tim Ferris, Shonda Rhimes, Beth Comstock, Jessica Alba and Kobe Bryant, to name but a tiny fraction.

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