19:04 PM

Warm and Fuzzy Wednesday - Silicon Valley Awards Do-Gooders

A glittering crowd of 1500 of Silicon Valley's top aristocracy attended the Tech Museum Awards, which hands out $50k in prizes to five organizations that are using technology to benefit humanity.

This year produced an excellent crop of winners, much better quality than a few years back when it seemed more like a high school science fair. I didn't have high expectations about the event but this time I was impressed.

Cold outside, warm inside

I still have a fundamental issue with the fact that this $2m party celebrates $250,000 in prizes, it seems there is a disconnect here. Is this Silicon Valley's warm and fuzzies night on the cheap?

I think it used to be, but it is changing, and I like the direction it is taking.

Peter Friess, who took over as President of The Tech Museum 18 months ago, has an energetic team of people such as Lisa Croel, Marketing Director, and a stellar board that includes Microsoft's Dan'l Lewin.

There are firms such as Ogilvy PR that contribute pro bono services, plus hundreds of local volunteers working behind the scenes. They have all helped transform the museum from an organization struggling with large debts, and into a Silicon Valley gem (firmly in the black).

Teaching innovation

The Tech Museum is heavily involved with local schools and clearly is hitting its mark with visiting students. I know because my 13 year old daughter Sarah loves the Tech Museum and so wanted to join me on Wednesday night.

I congratulated Mr Friess on a successful event but wondered why it wasn't being used to raise more money out of this extremely monied audience. It could be a glittering fund raising event as well as a glittering celebration of tech for humanity.

Mr Friess said he was happy with how this "modest" event was developing. Modest is good, but this crowd also responds to bold challenges, and the bigger the better, imho. Shake some money out of them...

[There were so many whales at the event that I'm surprised Greenpeace wasn't there hauling them back into the water.]

I got to chat with Frank Quattrone, chairman of the Tech Museum. He said that the Tech Museum needed to get more media coverage for its activities. Robert Scoble and myself told Mr Quattrone that as representatives of the new media we would be honored to volunteer our services for the next one.

Standing small and standing out

It was a stylish, good looking crowd, with many rich and famous. But the person that stood out the most and stole the entire evening was someone hardly known by anyone: Dr Helen Lee, head of the Diagnostics Development Unit based in the UK at Cambridge University.

Dr. Lee is small in stature, yet casts a giant presence. I'm hoping to catch up with her on Thursday for a video interview - please stay tuned.

A Sixth Award?

I have one final suggestion: Let's have a sixth award that celebrates using tech for humanity in Silicon Valley.

It is wonderful seeing award winners from developing nations but Silicon Valley needs to show that its own communities are thriving - yet they are not. Silicon Valley tells the world its technologies have the power to transform, yet many in its own communities are struggling.

The public school system, for example, is a joke. Public schools here are basket cases instead of showcases.

A $50k cash prize will make a difference in a developing region of the world--tech or no tech. That's easy. Let's find out how can tech make a difference in this community.

[Will anyone step up to fund such a prize? You'll get your name next to the likes of Intel (an SVW sponsor), Applied Materials, Accenture, Microsoft, SanDisk and others...]

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