Q2 Review: Top San Francisco Stories from April, May, and June

Xconomy San Francisco — 

Taking a cue from my colleagues in Boston and Seattle, I’ve gone through the archives to give you a look back at some of the most important, popular, controversial, or just plain fun Xconomy San Francisco articles and commentaries of the second quarter of 2013. I’ve picked six articles from each month, drawing on our traffic statistics and my personal list of favorites. Enjoy!


1. Dropcam CEO’s Beef with Brogramming, Late Nights, and Free Dinners

This piece about Greg Duffy, a founder with some strong views about how to treat startup employees, kicked up quite a dust storm of controversy, on our pages and over at Slashdot. The basic question: are the lavish on-campus perks offered by some Silicon Valley companies family-unfriendly? The question came up in the context of a longer interview about Dropcam’s Wi-Fi surveillance camera business.

2. Big Data is BS in Healthcare. When Will It Become Real?

Another controversial piece, this time from our national biotech editor Luke Timmerman. Luke argued that all the talk at healthcare companies about using data to provide more precise, affordable treatments hasn’t yet been followed up by action. But he says companies like GNS Healthcare are starting to show how it might be done.

3. Robots Remake the Workplace: The Photo Gallery

At our April 11 robotics forum at SRI International, we brought together leading roboticists and investors to debate whether robots are contributing to chronic unemployment. The consensus: maybe, but they’ll also create more jobs in the future. We followed up with a complete collection of videos from the event at Chris Anderson, Rod Brooks, & More Stars of Robotics: The Video.

4. Food Hackers Cook Up a Storm of Startup Ideas in San Francisco

Food—and how to find it, make it, or distribute it—is becoming one of the hottest areas for startup entrepreneurship in the Bay Area. We covered the first-ever Food Hackathon, where teams competed over the course of a weekend to produce the coolest new apps and business ideas. We also published a slide show after the event called Let Them Eat Code: Photos from the Food Hackathon.

5. Pivotal Seeks Better Enterprise Cloud, with EMC Roots and GE Cash

The cloud computing revolution continues to roll through the computing and software industries, and companies in the EMC family are working hard to keep up. In April a VMware spinoff called Pivotal Labs unveiled its new name (just “Pivotal”) and announced that, with help from an investment from General Electric, it’s building a new platform for cloud app development.

6. Automatic’s App Puts Your Smartphone In Charge of Your Car

The centerpiece of this article about Automatic, a startup building a smartphone app that monitors car engines via a Bluetooth device connected to the onboard data port, is a video of my test drive with Automatic chief product officer Ljuba Miljkovic.


1. Matterport Isn’t Playing Games with Kinect-Style 3D Camera

Microsoft’s Kinect motion sensor was only the first example of what infrared, depth-sensitive imaging chips from Israel-based PrimeSense can do. Silicon Valley startup Matterport is putting PrimeSense sensors into its automated camera, which can scan whole rooms and produce 3D renderings in minutes.

2. Genentech Follows Fast at ASCO as Cancer Immunotherapy Picks Up

In the world of cancer treatment, there’s enormous excitement over drugs that can provoke the immune system to attack tumor cells as if they were foreign invaders. In May, South San Francisco-based biotech pioneer Genentech reported encouraging results of a much-watched early stage trial of one such immunotherapy drug; as Luke explained, that means Genentech can stay in the hunt with rivals such as Bristol-Myers Squibb, Merck, GlaxoSmithKline, and Dendreon.

3. The Top Five Traits to Look for in Prospective Startup Employees

This guest post from Shellye Archambeau, CEO of MetricStream, pointed out that the most talented individuals aren’t always the most reliable, driven, or disciplined. Archambeau listed some of the other traits she looks for when hiring.

4. Genentech Cancer Antibody, Son of Rituxan, Nails Pivotal Study

Continuing its streak of good luck, Genentech showed that an experimental drug called obinutuzumab may be even more effective than its blockbuster antibody cancer drug Rituxan at fighting blood cancers.

5. The VC Will See You Now at the World’s Largest Office Hours

At its VentureScape conference, the National Venture Capital Association tried something new: it selected entrepreneurs from 160 early stage startups to come to San Francisco for interviews and coaching with venture partners from 60 different firms. Organizer Venky Ganesan of Menlo Ventures said it was the first time the NVCA had invited entrepreneurs into its annual meeting in a big way.

6. 11 Reasons Why Flickr, Not Facebook, Is the Place to Put Your Photos

Yahoo’s Flickr photo-sharing service is the big Lazarus story of the year in Silicon Valley. Under CEO Marissa Mayer, the company has modernized the site’s design, issued top-notch mobile apps, and offered a free terabyte of storage to users. In this column I explained why, despite Facebook’s larger reach, Flickr offers a more interesting and hospitable home for your pictures.


1. Don’t Panic, But We’ve Passed Peak Apple. And Google. And Facebook.

I kicked a hornet’s nest with this column, which asserted that Apple, Google, and Facebook’s biggest innovations are behind them, and that consumers should look to startups for the next wave of revolutionary ideas in computing. The piece elicited hundreds of angry comments (and a few supportive ones) on Xconomy, Slashdot, Reddit, Hacker News, and other forums.

2. Chamath Palihapitiya Wants to Rewire the Crap Out of Healthcare

Nobody’s happy with the current state of our healthcare system, and no one is more convinced that Silicon Valley can fix it than Chamath Palihapitiya, the outspoken ex-Facebook tycoon who co-founded a venture firm called the Social+Capital Partnership.

3. Johnson & Johnson’s New Innovation Center Part of Broader Initiative

For this piece, freelance contributor Bernadette Tansey talked with J&J executive Diego Moralles about the opening of the company’s new innovation laboratory in Menlo Park, CA, where the company hopes to work with local researchers and life sciences entrepreneurs to reinforce the biotech ecosystem by forming more startup companies.

4. The Right Now Economy: The Next Wave of Startup Success

In this commentary, Menlo Ventures managing director Mark Siegel argues that market leaders in almost every sector of the economy will be replaced by rivals who understand how to match supply with demand more efficiently.

5. Glam Reinvents Blogging and Brand Advertising for a Fragmented Web

Most people don’t realize that Glam Media is one of the top five media destinations for U.S. Internet users, if you think of its network of fashion, food, and parenting sites as a single property. This piece explores how Glam came out of nowhere to build one of the world’s largest networks of lifestyle blogs.

6. Coffee Goes from Folger’s, to Starbucks, to Tech-Driven Third Wave

San Francisco is one of the world capitals of “third wave” coffee brewing, which—because it’s slow by nature—is often synonymous with long lines and long waits. We took a look at Blossom Coffee, which is working on a faster, automated brewing machine that can consistently extract the best flavor from each variety of bean.