Celebrating Teens in Tech

Last week was one of those moments that I love as a marketer. You start with a big idea that seems super hard to execute and then you pull it all together in a few months — and it’s better than you’d hoped it would be. When Paul Holland and I started talking about putting together a program that would showcase ideas and innovations from young tech-minded, entrepreneurial high schoolers, we weren’t sure how exactly it would take shape. We did know it was an idea we and everyone at Foundation Capital cared deeply about. Fast forward to October 2nd and we had 100 people gathered in our courtyard and teams from seven Bay Area high schools doing just what we had hoped for – blowing our minds, challenging conventions and getting us really excited about the future that these people and their peers will create.

FCT3 came together because, first and foremost, the students got behind this idea. Every team came at the question of ‘What does disruption and innovation in a particular sector look like to you?’ in their own totally unique way. Teachers gave students the time to work on this and to participate in the event. I love that as people are clamoring to get their new iPhones, the team from Eastside Preparatory high school brought forward an idea to automatically turn our communication devices off when we are having a real face-to-face interaction of importance. Yes, please!

You can read more about all the ideas here. Thank you, Kurt Wagner and Re/Code, for this great recap of the ideas and the spirit of the event.

We were teen-led all the way. Our teen coordinator and summer intern, Alex Sahai of Lick-Wilderding High School, helped us scope the program, communicate with students and select speakers and panelists from Netflix, Instagram and Chegg who would wow the students. We used Jelly to name the event and a panel of teens to select our logo design. I like to think I’m pretty cool but these folks kept the program from slipping into boring adult-only relevance.

And now I get to do another thing I love as a marketer: build off momentum. We are building ways to keep the dialog going and thinking about how we’ll do FCT3 in year 2. We received great feedback from the students as well as the teachers. The science chair at a local high school said he was going to re-evaluate some of the things he did in the classroom. The students thought the experience was “profound” and “inspiring.” So watch this space as we host our YEP (Young Entrepreneur Program) next week at Foundation Capital and check out these pics from FCT3.

Here’s a re-cap of the schools that came and what they presented:

Woodside Priory: Asked educators to teach students critical thinking –in addition to skills like coding — to ensure a student’s success, no matter which 21st century career they chose to pursue.

Crystal Springs Uplands: Shared the impact of tech in the classroom with tools like Edmodo, “Facebook for homework in school,” SmartMusic to support music education, and Coach’s Eye to help analyze sports videos.

Menlo-Atherton High school: Three Physics experts explained Bitcoin — and the world of crypto currencies. Crypto currencies could be the Swiss banks of the 21st century, they predicted.

The Nueva school: Showcased their projects built on the theory that people are motivated by games: A saving-electricity game that’s part of PG&E’s Green Button Connect program, a glove that will allow users to easily communicate with those who do not know ASL by converting hand gestures to text, and Pico, a 3-D printer that’s cheap and safe.

The Eastside College Prep: Presented ‘U-View,’ an insertable eye lens that works as an all-in-one device: a phone, a reader, a camera, and even a TV. The goal was to solve the problem of too many devices, without any danger of overuse.

Summit Prep: Advocated self-directed learning, where students would work towards their goals at their pace.

Lick-Wilmerding High School: Presented water technology: A hydro-kinetic generator that would use a series of turbines to provide electricity and a water condensation unit that draws water vapor from the environment to collect clean, fresh drinking water.