Interview with TeenTechSF Founder: Marc Robert Wong
International High School, San Francisco - Nov 2013
Q. What inspired you to start TeenTechSF?
"What I love about tech is that all you need to succeed is to have a great idea and to work hard. Tech is the new American Dream. It doesn't matter if you are young or old, rich or poor, or what your race, culture, gender, religion is -- a great idea is a great idea. As Victor Hugo said: 'Rien n'est plus puissant qu'une idee dont l'heure est venue.' Nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come. These are our ideas. This is our time."
Q. Tell us more about your upcoming event.
On Saturday, November 16th, Oracle Team USA performance head, Ian Burns, wing designer Joseph Ozanne, and Golden Gate Yacht Club VC, Tom Ehman, will give the keynote presentation on: "The Mindset of Innovation: Winning the America's Cup." There will be a networking break so students get a chance to interact one-on-one with innovation leaders followed by breakout sessions on developing mobile apps, creating site-specific multimedia performance art, global tech trends, financing a startup, and more! Runway Startup Incubator is hosting the event. It's a very cool venue, and it will be a great opportunity for students to visit a working startup space."
Q. How did you come up with the theme "The Mindset of Innovation" for this year's Fall conference?
"The theme for the TeenTechSF launch last spring was: "Innovate, Collaborate, Create: Tech Leaders Talk to Teens." During the launch 100+ students connected with 27 tech leaders from Apple to Zynga creating 14 new apps. For the TeenTechSF Fall Conference, I wanted to recognize how tech is re-shaping our world, not just science and business, but sports, the arts, politics, education...everything! So this time, I expanded the focus to the mindset of innovation: what happens when you ask an engineer trained to create airplanes and rocket ships to re-invent the sailboat or what happens when you ask teens how they would re-imagine the library or the theater for the Digital Age?"
Q. Why did you select Oracle Team USA for the keynote-- what significance do you see in introducing technology to our classic understanding of the world and how do your keynote speakers exemplify this?
"The America's Cup races were so exciting. The AC72 catamarans were amazing: seeing a boat the size of a 13-story building literally flying across the Bay at more than 50 miles per hour! It was crazy to see the six ton boats lifting right out of the water and tilting over to the point of capsizing. Tech completely revolutionized this sport. It was like all the tech that goes into launching a rocket was blasting those boats across the Bay.
For me, it was totally a 'Silicon Valley Rules the World' moment. Yes, the skill of the crew was important, but you don't win eight straight at match point without a faster boat. That's the design team. That's better tech. Oracle Team USA kept improving. That feedback loop, that cycle of innovation, is also very Silicon Valley. People commented on how international Oracle Team USA was, but that's very Silicon Valley as well: Recruit the people with the best ideas, regardless of nationality."
Q. Why do you think it is important that your peers engage in the conversation revolving around technology and innovation--what do you believe youth can bring to the table that adults may not necessarily be able to?
"We are the next generation of innovators, and we don't have to wait to become part of the conversation. We can start that dialogue now. We are Born Digital -- the 'new' technology is our natural environment. We need to learn how to control it. Or it will control us. I like that technology is fast, flexible, and interactive. If you make a mistake, you just start over. When I was little, I was one of those kids who could never wait to start until after the teacher had finished explaining all the rules of the assignment. Tech rewards a fearless, playful, hands-on approach that comes naturally to teens."
Q. Who do you recommend attend the Fall TeenTechSF conference and what do you hope your attendees will walk away with?
"At the TeenTechSF launch last spring, we had students from schools all over the Bay Area, public and private, single sex and coed, different religions, different economic areas. Diversity fuels innovation. Research shows that a more diverse team is a more innovative team. We need everybody's ideas, and we need to be able to work together to turn those ideas into reality. I hope that the students that are a part of TeenTechSF walk away with a sense of empowerment and a better understanding of how to use technology to reach their goals and shape the world."