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When science fiction becomes reality

13.10.2020

Interview mit Cindy Chin

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You are engaged as a „visiting professor“ for the FH Salzburg to teach the students about the importance of the combination of economics and applied informatics. From your professional background and experience the students will benefit for their future researches and employments. What is the focus of your teaching? Science or practice? What was your incentive to come to Salzburg for this assignment at the FH Salzburg?

The focus of my teaching is to inform and create an interest and dialogue into an area where the sky is no longer the limit. The world I am in is when science fiction becomes reality. It requires imagination, creativity, strategic thought and planning in order to realize the vision and challenges to come. Combined with technical know-how.

I was introduced to Salzburg from a visit after the DLD Women conference in Munich years ago and then the Sonophilia Network where I met der Rektor von FH Salzburg Gerhard Blechinger. When we had met, we had wanted to do something together but did not know at the time what it was. Now we do.

Do you think economy can work without the digital solutions and technology we have these days?

No, the economy cannot work without digital solutions in software and technology. We left that decades ago when mobile devices came on the market. If anything, the coronavirus times as accelerated the digital transformation and data growth. We are now living in new territories.

You worked as Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Program Curator for the Digility Conference and Expo in Cologne. Digital Transformation is one of your main issues. What’s the next big digital step we will take? And what do we have to consider?

I’m working on a book called “Data in the Age of Cognification.” We are increasing our usage of video now in communications and remote work more than ever before and the data we are producing through our use of technology is creating vast oceans of information. Already our ordinary operating systems in society have shifted and technology brings many solutions, some temporary and some permanent.

For example, the financial industry has been disrupted and digital payments solutions are the answers to the problems and pain points. Healthcare is at the forefront of disruption due to COVID as well as supply chain industries. The vast amount of systems have been changed and we are trying to adapt to them and we have to consider those reprucissions as well as how to be agile and ready the next time it occurs.

Data-security is a big matter we must all cope with. What changes are required to make digitalization safer.

This is a terrific question for my colleague Dominik Engel at FH Salzburg who teaches cybersecurity in the programs there. Regulation and enforcement of the regulations is happening in the European Union as it is more protective of data privacy while in the United States the issues are larger.

You are a NASA Datanaut, a data innovation program to promote data science, coding and gender diversity. What exactly is your role in this NASA-program?

My role in the Datanauts program is to engage with NASA’s open data to create innovative new thinking, processes, and products. The goal is to attract data newcomers, introduce and advance data science skills, and create a vibrant data problem-solving community.

You are concerned with blockchains as well. They have a bad reputation because of speculative business with cryptocurrency. What’s your opinion about these problems and how will blockchains be used in future?

Blockchain is not the only industry where business is speculative. If you found a startup, your business is speculative because of the risks involved. The difference is that blockchain deals directly with money and financial systems which is heavily regulated. I’m seeing the industry change and grow as there is more acceptance on the legislative and regulatory bodies, but what is missing is mass adoption and usage, which is the same problem you’re solving as a tech entrepreneur. Without people or users, your idea is dead. Paperless payments are already happening and you can see it in real life in China. Paper money is gone. Our mobile technology that we carry is ready for contactless payment or online ecommerce, but the retailers (U.S.) on the other end may not have the hardware systems in place that can allow you to make a purchase without signing it as is standard practice in the U.S. before COVID. 

Regarding virtual and augmented reality: Today we have some technical and gaming applications. Will there be more and other functions for Augmented and Virtual Reality in future? 

Yes, in healthcare, supply chain, and definitely in the aerospace industries.

You are an advisor and board member on several startup teams, a mentor in the Google For Startups Accelerator and a former member of the Startup Executive Academy “Silicon Castles” in Salzburg too. Do you recognize great differences in the startup-scene between Europe and the USA?

Yes I do. The startup scene in the U.S. is fast and vast. It’s quite mature and possible to get funded very quickly with the right team. There are regulations in practice and in place in the U.S. to allow startups to move quickly because there are already established track records of large successes.

In Europe it is still growing and successes are happening, but on a slower scale. I’ve been able to see it from when venture capital in Western Europe was still a discussion even 7 years ago. Now you see more VCs, more entrepreneurship ecosystems and the incubators and accelerators have exploded now. However, the hesitation for risk in Europe is still quite high so you won’t see the same kind of numbers as in the U.S. or Asia.

Many big companies use startups to initiate change. Are startups the economical game changer in future? What are the strengths and weaknesses of startups, especially concerning tech startups?

Yes. The entire S&P 500 in the U.S. has changed dramatically and you see a number of technology companies that were startups now on the capital markets and drivers for economic change. The strengths and weaknesses of startups, especially tech, depends on what their risks are. Most don’t make it and it is on a case-by-case basis. 

Do you see special challenges for women founding a tech startup – or aren’t there any?

Women, especially first-time founders, have long lagged behind men in raising venture capital for their startups. Yes, there are fewer female investors or VC’s out there and the challenges are quite visible when you read the stories of female founders not being funded or their value propositions understood by male counterparts. VC deals with startups founded exclusively by women dropped to just 4.3% in the first quarter of 2020 vs. 7.1% in Q1 2019, according to PitchBook data. 7.1% is not a categorization of success by the startup investment/venture capital community. It’s a failure by the investment community for not recognizing this gap.

You are supporting empowerment of women to ensure diversity and inclusion in technology. What is your claim about female leaders and their impact in changing the world.

I don’t need a claim about female leaders and their impact. Look at the case numbers of COVID-19 in Taiwan, New Zealand, Germany, etc.

Data sets being built in tech algorithms don’t recognize women or people of color. Healthcare solutions are being designed without taking into consideration the vast datasets of women’s health and it gets into dangerous territory with serious consequences.

A great wealth transfer is here and women and younger generations are the biggest beneficiaries. Approximately $30 trillion in wealth is set to change hands in the next three to four decades, and women are poised to inherit a sizable share from their spouses and aging parents. It is sizeable amount to change markets.

Cindy Chin

Cindy Chin is an entrepreneur, venture strategist, and cultural ambassador of the arts and sciences. As CEO of CLC Advisors, LLC, she is an advisor and board member to founding startup teams, a subject matter expert in frontier technologies, opportunity scout for VC and LP partners, a global strategic thought leader, and a sought-after speaker. She recently co-founded a new tech startup, CLIPr, in the virtual meeting/video AI and machine learning space and is its COO & Co-Founder.

She is also a NASA Datanaut, an open data innovation program to promote data science, coding, and gender diversity that operates within the Office of the CIO at NASA Headquarters. She is a mentor in the Google For Startups Accelerator and Stanford University’s Technology Entrepreneurship and undergrad programs. She was a Co-Founder of Women on the Block, an organization created by blockchain enthusiasts to promote empowerment of women to ensure diversity and inclusion in technology. Cindy was the Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Program Curator for the Digility Conference and Expo in Cologne, Germany and a member of the faculty of the Startup Executive Academy of Silicon Castles in Salzburg, Austria. In 2018, she was named as one of Entrepreneur Magazine’s “50 Most Daring Entrepreneurs in 2018” along with leaders including SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, General Motor’s CEO Mary Barra, celebrity chef and founder of World Central Kitchen José Andrés, “Crazy Rich Asians” author Kevin Kwan, Chance the Rapper, Academy Award winning actress and founder of Hello Sunshine’s Reese Witherspoon, and IBM’s CEO Ginni Rometty.

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