Feature: What’s New in Silicon Valley
Living in Silicon Valley means being around some of the most creative people in the world, with the creators of Facebook, Apple, and the likes. Another great thing about Silicon Valley is that there’s always something new. While it’s hard to project what will be the next Apple or Facebook, there are some new startups and other companies out there that can’t be ignored.
Think of Yahoo! Answers, but better. Here, you can ask any question, and you can get answers from verifiable experts as well as people who just have a lot of knowledge on a particular subject. Plus, you can rate people’s answers and can find people with the highest ratings. It follows the Facebook model in that you can follow people and their posts show up on your newsfeed, and it follows the Pinterest model in its use of bulletin boards and pictures.
2. Singularity University
While it may defy the usual definition of “start-up,” or even university, Singularity University is definitely something to watch. It is a non-profit organization committed to solving the world’s problems. Every year, starting in 2009, eighty fellows, usually grad students, are picked from thousands of applicants to join ten week program during the summer. There, the students learn about the most cutting-edge technology out there, and then are challenged to ask themselves: “How can I use this to solve the world’s problems?” To provide some perspective, the problems attacked by students and professors are on the magnitude of solution to world hunger and a cure for cancer.
3. Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX)
Although Space Explorations Technologies, one of only a handful of private companies dedicated to space technology, has been around for a decade, some of its greatest achievements have happened within the last six months, suggesting that SpaceX has even more in store for the upcoming years. From Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla Motors and cofounder of PayPal, SpaceX became the first commercial company to safely return a spacecraft from orbit in December of 2010. In August, the company received a $440 million dollar grant from NASA to prepare spacecrafts for the transport of humans into space, and in October the spacecraft Dragon successfully attached to the space station, making SpaceX the first corporation to do so.
The idea of a sharing economy, finding ways to use or rent out rarely used things, has recently become a trend in Silicon Valley. Airbnb provides a forum for traveling business men and women who need a cheap place to sleep for a night to connect with people who want to rent out extra rooms in their homes, creating a so-called “Bed and Breakfast.” It was founded in 2008, and has already booked over 10 million nights and has expanded to include almost 200 countries. Other examples of the sharing economy trend include TaskRabbit and SnapGoods.
Square offers growing businesses simple ways to manage money with an iPhone, iPad, or Android app. The app allows such businesses to connect their bank accounts to their electronic devices. The big catch is the credit card reader, which attaches to the electronic device and (legally) gives businesses the opportunity to avoid the hassle of registering to accept credit cards. Their latest addition is Square Wallet, another app geared towards consumers, saving them the trouble of taking out credit cards or cash every time they make a purchase by attaching their bank account to their phones and automatically connecting to the cashier’s computer.