Issue 16

Bethany Koby Can her DIY tech toys enable a new generation of problem solvers to save us from ourselves?

Azeem Azhar A ‘closet scientist’ explores the role of technology in a future marked by exponential change.

Joel Flory The co-founder of VSCO nurtures a community that strives to defy social media’s popularity contest.

Julie Zhuo Facebook’s VP of Design shares her secrets for managing one of the world’s most influential design teams.

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  • Bethany Koby
  • Azeem Azhar
  • Joel Flory
  • Julie Zhuo

“We don’t need another ‘neutral’ toy brand. What we need is an optimistic vision and a genuine debate about what technology can be and do for our kids.”

Bethany Koby
Co-founder of Technology Will Save Us

Traditional toy makers are scrambling to catch up with the evolving expectations of increasingly tech-savvy younger generations. Recognising the potential to fill this gap, branding and design consultant Bethany Koby and her partner launched a contemporary toy brand with the goal of ending the era of overly homogenised, closed- system tech gadgets. Through a range of playful DIY tech kits, now sold in retail shops around the world, Technology Will Save Us aims to provide new educational experiences that encourage kids to think more creatively about technology, thereby shaping their future (and ours) in unexpected, transformational ways. With her unique background in design, tech, and education, and a business with a controversial name, Bethany is ready to shake up the EdTech sector by starting a debate about whether technology can be the planet’s knight in shining armour.

“Within entrepreneurship I think we’ve given people a freedom pass by putting entrepreneurs on a pedestal and writing hagiographies of individual successes.”

Azeem Azhar
Entrepreneur, Investor, Technologist

Journalist, entrepreneur, analyst, investor, strategist – the list of roles in Azeem Azhar’s professional life is seemingly endless, and so is the list of his interests. Whether through seeing him speak at an event, listening to his podcast, or reading his weekly newsletter The Exponential View, his impressive breadth of knowledge combined with his ability to break down complex issues makes every encounter an invaluable learning experience. In one of his many previous careers, Azeem founded PeerIndex, a tool that applied machine learning to large-scale social graphs to make predictions about user behaviour. Today, he spends his days analysing trends at the intersection of technology, science, and economics. From new breakthroughs in artificial intelligence to advances in climate change forecasting, Azeem’s far-reaching, analytical commentary provides us with a fascinating – and sometimes disconcerting – view of the future.

“The creative community smells BS from a mile away. The problem is that for too long we have been sold tools and services by wolves in sheep’s clothing.”

Joel Flory
Co-founder of VSCO

In times when much of our online behaviour is driven by likes and follows, millions of creatives have found refuge in the photography-based storytelling platform VSCO. By removing the social pressures around sharing content online, VSCO has become a safe space for uninhibited creative expression – and a thriving business for its founders. Originally a photographer, co-founder Joel Flory recounts the company’s transformation from a ‘community-strapped’ small business to a global photo-sharing platform with more than forty-five million users. Heavily influenced by his parents’ work and life ethics, Joel is determined to stray from conventional business models for the sake of an authentic user experience. The Bay Area native is not afraid to admit, though, that running a healthy community as a profitable business is a continuous balancing act, requiring a strong vision that’s receptive to change.

“Everything you do as a manager should be in service to helping your team create something valuable for the world.”

Julie Zhuo
VP of Design at Facebook

Every time you scroll through your Facebook news feed, leave a comment, or like a post, you interact with the work of Julie Zhuo. Back in 2006, the then-twenty-two-year-old computer science graduate joined Facebook straight out of college as its first intern. Little did she know that this scrappy startup would turn into the world’s most influential media company. A decade and one and a half billion users later, Julie is in charge of a growing team of designers, facing management challenges unique to building products with unfathomable reach. Having recently returned from maternity leave, Julie reflects on her career with Facebook and lays out her guiding principles for achieving good design at scale.

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Table of contents

Uniquely Yours
Food for thought by Brian Bailey.

Compassion by Default
Food for thought by Sarah Bray.

Projects
A collection of projects and ideas worth exploring, curated by Ivana McConnell and Kai Brach.

Interview
Bethany Koby on how a laptop she found in a rubbish bin inspired her company Technology Will Save Us, why technology is becoming an integral part of how we learn, and the challenges of creating a new toy category.

A Day With
Spend a day with Gabriel Borges.

A Day With
Spend a day with Lucy Rojas.

Odd Facts About
Learn less than useful facts about Brian Suda and Ekpemi Antonia Anni.

Interview
Azeem Azhar on how his multifaceted background in various domains informs his decision making, the role of luck in being successful, and what he’s learned from curating his weekly technology newsletter, The Exponential View.

Rules of Business
Guiding principles for doing business, by Elena Valentine of Skill Scout.

Survey
We asked 1210 readers about their daily habits involving screens.

Gear
A collection of useful and beautiful office products, curated by Ivana McConnell and Kai Brach.

Interview
Joel Flory on how his parents’ ethics influences his leadership style at VSCO, balancing commercial interests with the demands of a healthy community, and building a social network that objects the typical popularity contest.

Profile
We take a close look at Opendesk, a young company set to overhaul the traditional furniture making process through an online platform that brings together designers, manufacturers, and customers.

One Question
We asked our readers: What is one important lesson that being an active user of social media has taught you about yourself?

Workspace
A tour around the offices of Opera, Avast, Windward, Monday Consulting, and Ancestry.

Interview
Julie Zhuo on her ten year anniversary at Facebook, transitioning from engineering intern to VP of Design, her evolving definition of ‘management’, and how to achieve good design coherently in an environment of explosive growth.

Ten Things I’ve Learned
Jenn Bane and Glen Maddern share ten life lessons from working on the web.

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