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Main article: Shiva Rajaraman

All topics: 3

Researchers developed a sensing system to constantly track the performance of workers

23:01 | 29 June

Researchers have come up with a mobile-sensing system that can track and rate the performance of workers by combining a smartphone, fitness bracelets and a custom app.

The mobile-sensing system, as the researchers call it, is able to classify high and low performers. The team used the system to track 750 U.S. workers for one year. The system was able to tell the difference between high performers and low performers with 80% accuracy.

The aim, the researchers say, is to give employees insight into physical, emotional and behavioral well-being. But that constant flow of data also has a downside, and if abused, can put employees under constant surveillance by the companies they work for.

The researchers, including Dartmouth University computer science professor Andrew Campbell, whose earlier work on a student monitoring app provided the underlying technology for this system, see this as a positive gateway to improving worker productivity.

“This is a radically new approach to evaluating workplace performance using passive sensing data from phones and wearables,” said Campbell. “Mobile sensing and machine learning might be the key to unlocking the best from every employee.”

The researchers argue that the technology can provide a more objective measure of performance than self-evaluations and interviews, which they say can be unreliable.

The mobile-sensing system developed by the researchers has three distinct pieces. A smartphone tracks physical activity, location, phone use and ambient light. The fitness tracker monitors heart functions, sleep, stress and body measurements like weight and calorie consumption. Meanwhile, location beacons placed in the home and office provide information on time at work and breaks from the desk.

From here, cloud-based machine learning algorithms are used to classify workers by performance level.

The study found that higher performers typically had lower rates of phone usage, had longer periods of deep sleep and were more physically active.

Privacy experts and labor advocates have long raised concerns about the practice of tracking employees. That hasn’t stopped companies from incentivizing employees to wear fitness tracks in exchange for savings on insurance or other benefits. Startups have popped up to offer even more ways to track employees.

For instance, WeWork acquired in February Euclid, a data platform that tracks the identity and behavior of people in the physical world. Shiva Rajaraman, WeWork’s chief product officer, told TechCrunch at the time that the Euclid platform and its team will become integrated into a software analytics package that WeWork plans to sell to companies that aren’t renting WeWork space but want to WeWork-ify their own offices.

Meanwhile, the team of researchers suggests that while its system of continuous monitoring via wearables and other devices is not yet available, it could be coming in the next few years. It’s unclear if the team is making a calculated guess or if there are designs to try and launch this system as a product.

The team, led by Dartmouth University, included researchers from University of Notre Dame, Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Washington, University of Colorado Boulder, University of California, Irvine, Ohio State University, University of Texas at Austin and Carnegie Mellon University .

A paper describing the study will be published in the Proceedings of the ACM on Interactive, Mobile Wearable and Ubiquitous Technology.

 


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Tetrate nets $12.1 million to bring microservices to the corporate masses

15:11 | 13 March

Tetrate, a company bringing commercial services and support to the open source projects –Istio and Envoy — providing network management functions for the microservices that make up modern mobile applications, has launched with $12.1 million in new financing.

The company, founded by top engineers at Google who started the Istio project, raised its initial financing from a slew of institutions and big names in enterprise software including Pankaj Patel, Former Chief Development Officer at Cisco; Guido Appenzeller, Former CTO Cloud & Networking at VMware; BV Jagadeesh, founder and CEO of Netscaler and Shiva Rajaraman, Chief Product Officer of WeWork.

On the institutional investment side, Dell Technologies Capital led the financing, which also included Intel Capital, Samsung NEXT, 8VC, and Rain Capital.

Tetrate was able to bring this motley band of investors together to back its foray into professionalizing services and support around a toolkit that’s helping to redefine application development.

The company is supporting open source projects Istio and Envoy, which developers use to create what’s called a “service mesh” that orchestrates how microservices on a distributed data center platform communicate with one another and work together as part of an application.

It’s corollary in the old software world that I initially wrote about would be the middleware layer for in a client-server architecture. (Much of this was foreign to me before I read this excellent primer from ZDNet, which spelled out a lot of what’s going on for me).

One of the key things that microservices address, and that Tetrate will provide support for, is to support the management of different microservices at scale.

Think of the service mesh as the toolkit that keeps microservices communicating with each other and enabling applications at the level of executable code. So tools like Istio are used to manage the network without impacting the services that are running on top of it.

Tetrate was actually founded by some of the architects behind the development of Istio. “I was at Google for the last ten years most recently working as a product manager in Google Cloud,” says Tetrate co-founder and chief executive Varun Talwar. Indeed, Google was where Talwar and his colleagues developed the Istio toolkit.

Talwar says that the Istio toolkit was born out of the needs of the developers in the Kubernetes community. “It decouples the operations from the development,” Talwar says of the Istio service. “You can apply policy management.”

Talwar and his colleagues took the covers off the Istio project in May of 2017 at Glucon and brought in big names to support its use including IBM and Red Hat (now IBHat? RedBM?). A little less than one year later, Talwar left Google to start Tetrate.

Now, with the new financing from its backers, Tetrate is going to bring enterprise-grade extensibility, scalability, and performance to the open source tools that its founders helped develop, according to a statement.

“Customers are going through a journey of modernization and public cloud adoption,” said Talwar, in a statement. “Tetrate’s mission is to create the tools and technologies that help customers with availability and manageability of their applications as they undergo this transformation.”

The company is releasing a set of certified builds of envoy proxy and other open source tools to speed the adoption of microservices development in businesses. The company is also partnering with Google and the Cloud Native Computing Foundation for operating hybrid computing environments with Istio.

“Open source should be an integral part of any company’s software and operations strategy today,” said Envoy founder and Lyft Engineer Matt Klein, in a statement. “Interoperability will be the key factor in the next phase of cloud adoption, so having deep roots within the open source community gives Tetrate instant credibility among cloud-first companies.”

 

 


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Entrepreneurs and VCs are a big part of Gold House’s inaugural list of 100 influential Asian Americans

19:26 | 1 May

Gold House is a new nonprofit seeking to support Asian Americans in business and culture, and today it’s launching a tried-and-true initiative to bring big names together — a list.

The A100 list names 100 of the most influential Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in culture. Not surprisingly, got Hollywood celebrities like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Chrissy Teigen (as well as Crazy Rich Asians director Jon M. Chu, who I interviewed a couple years ago), but tech, startups and venture capital are also well-represented. In fact, the Gold House team sent me the 30 names that represent the tech industry on the list.

Among those names: Anu Duggal and Sutian Dong, partners at the Female Founders Fund. Duggal told me that it was “inspiring to see so many Asian Americans who are building incredible tech companies from across the country.”

“For me personally, the Asian network has been extremely valuable as a tech founder and VC,” she added. “This network has opened up doors and allowed me to access so many mentors who have been a very important part of my career story.”

Anu Duggal (Female Founders Fund)

And while you might think Asian American representation is the one area where Silicon Valley doesn’t have a diversity problem, Asians and Asian Americans remain largely absent from executive roles. So in a way, the A-100 list is highlighting the most notable exceptions, like Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

One of the other A-100 honorees, Twitch co-founder Kevin Lin (who recently stepped down as COO and took on a still-unnamed role around culture, strategy and innovation), agreed that “at the executive leadership level, there’s still clearly a diversity problem generally.”

One of the hopes for changing this, Lin said, is that Asian Americans can support each other as role models and mentors — so he’s hoping that by celebrating the success stories, the A-100 list can further the cause.

And companies shouldn’t just support diversity because it’s the right to do — it also helps their bottom line by giving them different and broader perspectives. In his own career, Lin said that being an Asian American helped him grasp the global importance of gaming and e-sports early on, at a time when video games remained “stigmatized” in Western culture.

Kevin Lin

Kevin Lin (Twitch)

Meanwhile, honoree Shiva Rajaraman, who’s chief product officer at WeWork, recalled growing up as an Indian American on Galveston Island in Texas, where he said he felt “a bit detached from my ethnic heritage,” while also becoming aware that he was one of the few Indian Americans in his school.

“I did begin to understand what it feels like to be on the outside looking in and that has instilled in me tremendous empathy for anyone who feels like they don’t perfectly belong,” Rajaraman said. “How I invest my time now is a reflection of that. At WeWork, we are building a global community that is aimed at bringing people together, from the way we design our beautiful spaces to how we are developing a completely new community platform, the intent is bring people together and help them find commonality in others by working and thriving alongside them.”

But who actually put this list together? There was a selection committee that includes Asian and Asian American notables like Yahoo founder Jerry Yang, DC Entertainment’s Jim Lee and figure skater Michelle Kwan, as well as those other multicultural leaders including actor Forest Whitaker, musician Pharrell Williams and Susan Lyne, managing partner BBG Ventures (which is backed by TechCrunch parent company Oath).

“All too often, the impact of Asians in the worlds of media, fashion, the arts, activism, and sometimes even technology is unseen or understated,” said selection committee member Khai Meng Tham  in a statement. (Tham is worldwide co-chairman and chief creative officer of Ogilvy & Mather.) “But raise the curtain and a wealth of talented people are unveiled. The A100 uniquely cuts across genders, pan-Asian ethnicities, beliefs, industries, and generations.”

As for Gold House itself, the nonprofit has a 20-person founding team of entrepreneurs, creative professionals and business leaders. They’re being secretive about who’s actually on that team, but I’ve spoken to a couple of the founders and can attest that they are real deal, successful entrepreneurs.

Anyway, you can see the tech industry list below, and check out the full A100 on the Gold House website.

  • Aileen Lee, Founder & Partner at Cowboy Ventures
  • Amy Morhaime, Head of Esports at Blizzard
  • Anjali Sud, CEO at Vimeo
  • Ann Miura-Ko, Co-founder & Partner, Floodgate
  • Anu Duggal & Sutian Dong, Partners at Female Founders Fund
  • Bobby Murphy, Imran Khan, Co-Founder & CTO at Snap / Chief Strategy Officer at Snap
  • Chieh Huang, Co-founder & CEO at Boxed
  • David Eun, President at Samsung Next
  • Eric Feng, Partner at Kleiner Perkins, former founding CTO of Hulu
  • Hans Tung, Managing Partner at GGV Capital
  • Jamie Chung, SVP, eCommerce & General Counsel at Walmart
  • Jen-Hsun “Jensen” Huang, Co-Founder & CEO at NVIDIA
  • Jeremy Liew, Managing Director of Lightspeed Ventures
  • Jess Lee, Partner at Sequoia Capital
  • Katrina Lake, CEO at Stitch Fix
  • Kevin Lin, Co-founder at Twitch
  • Melissa Lee, Television anchor, Fast Money, CNBC
  • Preeti Sriratana, Co-founder and COO at Sweeten; Chair at APEX For Youth
  • Rachel Lam, Co-Founder & Managing Partner at Imagination Capital; former Head of Time Warner Investments group
  • Reshma Saujani, Founder, Girls Who Code
  • Sanjay Sharma, TBA fund and incubator, former CEO at All Def Digital
  • Satya Nadella, CEO at Microsoft
  • Seung Bak, Co-founder, DramaFever, Warner Bros. Digital Lab
  • Shan-Lyn Ma, Founder and CEO at Zola
  • Shiva Rajaraman, CPO at WeWork
  • Sundar Pichai, CEO at Google
  • Suzy Ryoo, Venture Partner, VP of Technology and Innovation at Atom Factory
  • Vishnu Menon, Managing Director at Warburg Pincus

 


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