It has been quite a whirlwind of a week. Last weekend I was in Big Sur, celebrating (and officiating) the wedding of my dear friend Steve Jang and his lovely bride, Margaret DesGaines. It also meant an opportunity to enjoy the rugged beauty of Big Sur and the California coastline. A week later, I was up in Napa, to spend what was a relaxing weekend with a handful of friends to celebrate my 50th birthday. Instead, Matt (Mullenweg) surprised me by a (almost a) surprise party (first in 50 years) with collection of some of my closest friends. That was the best gift ever – plus to have it in my favorite spot in the wine country – Bottega of Yountville was even more amazing.
As my friend Joanna Scott whispered in my ear, presence is better than presents – and it made the evening memorable. And those who brought me gifts, I guess they know me so well. Friends after all should know you in that super transparent manner, that they can pick perfect gifts for you. It was delightful to see so many of them in one place, their faces weaving together a lifetime of memories. Good reminder, that life is essentially a collection of people you meet and love.
Once the celebrations were over, it was time to fly to Pittsburgh, where Matt was receiving the Heinz Award, for his efforts and contributions to the world of technology, economy and employment. It was in recognition of his efforts to promote open source software. It was amazing to visit with the Heinz family and meet other award winners – Trombone Shorty (aka Troy Andrews, Hal Harvey, Dr. Nadine Burke Harris and Michelle Alexander. What a remarkable group of people and I was blown away by the passion Ms. Alexander had for the racial inequalities. What a remarkable woman – her re-telling of her story brought tears to my eyes. Her book, The New Jim Crow is now on its way to my apartment and will be the next book I read.
At the pre-awards lunch, I sat next to Andre Heinz, the scion of the family, and we started talking about the city of Pittsburgh and its rebirth. I hate to say revival, because that isn’t what this is all about. The city is experiencing an influx of technology companies; young people with fresh ideas and all those are slowly replacing the visages of the past. There are co-working spaces, new cafes, artisanal eateries and just a sense of optimism — which perhaps might make Pittsburgh the new “Portland.”
Funny as it may seem, but the presence of Uber in this town seems to have given the city a lot more confidence about its future — why not. After all any city that has Carnegie Mellon University around the corner, has an immense future in the world of connected cars, automation and the new data reality. Talking about autonomous cars — I have not seen a self-driving Uber just yet. By the way, read this new report from Swedish research group, the Berg Insight, which forecasts that the “total number of new autonomous cars is forecasted to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 62 percent from 0.2 million units in 2020 to reach 24 million units in 2030” bringing the “active installed base of autonomous cars” to about 71 million at the end of 2030.
If I was running a company looking for future expansion, I think Pittsburgh might be a good option — plus they have a great baseball stadium. I can’t wait to come back and take photos — unfortunately, I had to stay in my hotel room, thanks to some nonsense I ate at the Chicago airport on my way here. We are flying to New York today — to mostly see my east coast friends and attend the New Yorker TechFest, where one will get to see David Remnick go toe to toe with Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, amongst several other speakers.
In the interim, here are two articles I think that are worth your time.