Solving Silicon Valley’s Diversity Problem, One Fellow at a Time

Tech boot camp General Assembly offers scholarships for minorities and veterans. Three recent grads share what they learned.

Photo courtesy of General Assembly

All eyes were on Silicon Valley this past summer, not only for the latest and greatest tech innovations, but also for the latest (but not so great) indications that the industry’s diversity is sorely lacking. From Apple to Google to Facebook to Twitter, several companies publicly confessed that their employee bases are predominantly men, as well as largely white or Asian.

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High Tech Food: Silicon Valley Wants to 3D Print Your Next Meal

3D food printing and other “processed” food innovations.


Until very recently, the relationship between technology and food production, especially when it comes to processed food, has been much maligned. But the emergence of a small group of innovators out of Silicon Valley—backed by major venture capitalists and grants from the likes of NASA—is changing the way we understand processed food by creating sustainable alternatives to some of the hallmarks of our industrial food system.
Several of the food tech startups are tackling the problem of our collective reliance on animal products by creating plant-based “beef,” “poultry,” or “eggs” using advances in food processing. Such companies include Beyond Meat and the (unrelated) Beyond Eggs, each aiming to produce healthy, non-animal-based products that will be seemingly indistinguishable in taste and texture from the real thing. These companies are hoping to follow in the footsteps of the multi-million dollar company UnReal and their Unjunked Candy line (peddled by Tom Brady and Gisele Bündchen).
But the most interesting—and perhaps most innovative—of the food tech start-ups are companies that include two-year old Modern Meadow, a Silicon Valley-backed firm using recent breakthroughs in printing technology to create 3D-printed food. That's right—essentially printing what’s on your plate. This seemingly sci-fi Soylent Green is made using the latest in tissue engineering to create cultured muscle cells that are then manufactured, layer by layer, using “bio ink.”
With the help of venture capitalists like Peter Thiel, one of PayPal’s founders, Modern Meadow is working on a beef prototype, as well as leather, using bioprinting, and they plan to test tuna and pork in the future. Because these products use no animals, the carbon footprint, including land use, chemicals, and transport is drastically reduced (next to cars, factory-farmed meat is the biggest global contributor to greenhouse gases). And besides the environmental and health benefits, 3D-printed food is also being heralded as a solution to food shortages.
Similar reasoning and technology is fueling the Texas-based Systems & Materials Research Corporation, which was just awarded a grant from NASA to pioneer food printing for astronauts on missions to Mars. Their 3D prototype so far only prints chocolate, but the company aims to fight hunger with a liquid-based printer that "bakes" (or solidifies) as it prints, eliminating food waste. Pizza, for example, would one day be made with home printers using oil, cheese, bread, and tomato powder “cartridges” that would have long shelf lives and be readily available at your corner store. That would put a whole new spin on your favorite slice.

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New Startup Supplies the Cash College Grads Need to Follow Their Dreams

Upstart wants to take away the excuses for not doing what you want to do 'someday'.

Too many recent college grads end up taking jobs they need just so they can earn a salary to keep a roof over their heads and pay their student loans. Often those grads wake up a decade later, depressed and wondering what happened to the dreams they had of doing something that taps into their passions and makes a difference. Could going to work doing something you don't really believe in become a thing of the past? Upstart, provides new grads with the financial backing they need from angel investors to really do what they want.

"This is not necessarily tied to students starting companies," founder and former Google executive Dave Girouad told the Boston Globe. Instead, says Girouad, Upstart is "for non-traditional careers, people carving their own paths. That might mean their own company, but it could be an artist or creative type of person."

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Do All American Schools Need to Teach Chinese?

Given the growth of the Chinese economy, Sweden's considering adding Chinese classes to grade schools. Should we be doing the same?

Given the phenomenal growth of the Chinese economy, more American schools are adding Mandarin Chinese to their foreign language offerings. But no Western nation is taking Chinese language education more seriously than Sweden. Time reports that the Swedish education minister Jan Björklund recently announced plans to add Chinese to their nationwide grade school curriculum. According to Björklund, learning Chinese is going to "be much more important, from an economic perspective" than the traditionally offered European languages. Do American schools need to do the same to stay economically competitive?

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