Category Archives: Technology

Indore-born Rajesh Agrawal appointed chair of London & Partners

The British-Indian entrepreneur and philanthropist was appointed deputy mayor of London for business in June

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London & Partners, the mayor of London’s official promotional company, has announced the appointment of Rajesh Agrawal, the deputy mayor, business and enterprise, as its new chairman to help drive tourists, events, inward investment and international students to the city.

Born and brought up in Indore, Agrawal arrived in London in 2001, and grew a two-person enterprise working from one small office into a multi-million-pound business based in London, with offices in Birmingham, France and Spain.

As an entrepreneur he founded RationalFX in 2005, and Xendpay in 2014, both companies utilising technology to reduce the cost of international money transfer for businesses and individuals. Agrawal is passionate about promoting entrepreneurship and creating opportunities for young people. He was appointed chair of Oxfam’s Enterprise Development Programme in 2015 and has been a patron of the Prince’s Trust for many years.

Agrawal, 39, an experienced international businessman and technology entrepreneur, will lead on helping London & Partners attract international trade and investment to London. He will also play an important role as an advisor and champion of London as a global city for business, including spearheading international trade visits. He will also be pivotal in helping the company promote the city as a leading destination for tourism, students, culture and major events, with the overall aim of creating jobs and growth for the capital.

Commenting on his appointment, Agrawal said: “I look forward to leading the London & Partners Board to build on the company’s successful work in promoting London as a leading destination for inward investment, tourism, higher education and culture. Having moved to London to set up my own business 15 years ago, I know how important it is to make sure that London remains open to entrepreneurs and businesses from all over the world. It is vital that we continue to shine a spotlight on London’s talent, innovation and other assets that make it the world’s leading city in which to do business.”

Since 2011, London & Partners has added £1.2 billion GVA to London’s economy while creating or supporting an additional 38,000 jobs in the capital. In addition, the company has also helped 1,244 overseas companies setup or expand in London.

London & Partners work has also contributed to the success of London as one of the world’s most visited tourist destinations, with a record 31.6 million visitors to the capital last year. Additionally, the organisation has helped to bring major cultural and sporting events to the capital such as the Lumiere festival, the Rugby World Cup 2015 and the upcoming UEFA European Champions Final and Semi-finals in 2020.

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For this man, sky is not the limit

Moon Express, co-founded by Indian-American Naveen Jain, will be the first private company to land spacecraft on moon

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In a first, the Federal Aviation Administration has given license to a private US company, co-founded by an Indian American, to launch a spacecraft and land on moon in 2017.

This breakthrough US policy decision provides authorisation to Moon Express for a maiden flight of its robotic spacecraft onto the Moon’s surface, the company said in a media release. There have been no private space missions so far beyond Earth’s orbit and only state agencies have performed outer space missions.

“The sky is not the limit for Moon Express, it is the launch pad. Space travel is our only path forward to ensure our survival and create a limitless future for our children,” Naveen Jain, co-founder and chairman of Moon Express, told PTI. “In the immediate future, we envision bringing precious resources, metals, and moon rocks back to earth,” he added.

The company was co-founded in 2010 by space visionary Bob Richards, Jain and serial entrepreneur and artificial intelligence and space technology guru Barney Pell with the common vision to be at the forefront of commercial space exploration and innovation. “The Moon Express 2017 mission approval is a landmark decision by the US government and a pathfinder for private sector commercial missions beyond the Earth’s orbit,” Richards told PTI.

“We are now free to set sail as explorers to Earth’s eighth continent, the Moon, seeking new knowledge and resources to expand Earth’s economic sphere for the benefit of all humanity,” he added.

The federal interagency approval of the Moon Express 2017 lunar mission establishes an important precedent for the private sector to engage in peaceful space exploration, bringing with it monumental implications for the advancement of technology, science, research, and development, as well as commercial ventures that expand Earth’s economic sphere, the company said.

The company submitted its historic application for a 2017 commercial lunar mission to the FAA on April 8, 2016. While the licensing of ‘SpaceShip Two’ was an anticipated event, the authorisation of the Moon Express flight to the lunar surface was hailed by the Space Foundation as a significant commercial space breakthrough.

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The White Hat hacker who bagged $10,080 from Twitter

Microblogging website awards Indian-origin Avinash Singh for discovering security loophole in its Vine video-sharing service

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Microblogging website Twitter awarded Avinash Singh, an Indian-origin White Hat hacker, $10,080 for discovering a security loophole in its Vine video-sharing service. The flaw enabled Singh to access the entire cache of Vine’s online code.witter in March and was awarded with $10,080, through a bug bounty startup called HackerOne, reports The Times of India.

According to a report by Hacker News website, the hacker discovered a Docker image for Vine while looking for vulnerabilities using censys.io. For those unaware, Docker is an open digital platform for developers and system administrators. From code to libraries, it includes everything required to build and run applications.

The complete code for Vine was stored as part of a Docker image, used to host the site. The server was on Amazon Web Services and ideally should have been private. But, it was public and using Censys, Singh was able to discover the Docker image.

In a blog-post, Avinash Singh explained that he was able to see the entire source code of Vine, its third party keys, API keys and other information. He further added: “Even running the image without any parameters was letting me host a replica of Vine locally.”

He reported his findings to Twitter on March 31, and they fixed the issue within 5 minutes.

Recently, a Bengaluru-based hacker, Anand Prakash, claimed he received $15,000 (approximately Rs 10 lakh) from Facebook for reporting a bug that could have put the social network’s 1.6 billion users at risk.

In a blog post, Prakash wrote that on February 22, he had found a simple vulnerability that could have been used to hack into any user’s Facebook account and get access to their credit or debit card details, personal pictures and messages.

The 22-year-old, who works at Flipkart as a security engineer, describes himself as a ‘bug bounty’ hunter, and says he has earned around Rs 1.2 crore just by reporting bugs to Facebook, Twitter and a host of other US-based big technology companies.

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How about a suit you can run a half-marathon in? A sweater that uses carbonised coffee to absorb odours?

Indian-American Aman Advani’s fashion start-up Ministry of Supply revolutionising business wear, inspired by NASA spacesuits

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This isn’t your average performance gear—it’s polished menswear that incorporates advanced technology to make your life that much easier. We’re talking about products — ranging from socks and pants to dress shirts and jackets — that use fabrics and manufacturing techniques designed to make professional clothes cooler, drier, and more stretchy, without looking like the wearer just stepped off the golf course.

A suit you can run a half-marathon in. A sweater that uses carbonised coffee to absorb odours. These are the sorts of things that Massachusetts-based fashion brand Ministry of Supply is bringing to the world of fashion. Some of the technology, such as special heat-regulating substances embedded in the fabrics, were developed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to help keep astronauts comfortable in orbit.

While graduating at the Sloan School of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2010 – which he joined after consulting with Deloitte – Aman Advani co-founded Ministry of Supply, a clothing brand which seeks to reinvent business wear to include the benefits of athletic gear, said Span Magazine in a feature.

He used “phase change materials” engineered by the space agency that regulate body temperatures.

“As an engineer, you’re taught to tinker, which has always been natural to me. With dress socks, in particular, the solution was simple,” he said in the interview. He said he took his favourite Nike socks, sewed them inside the dress he wore to work. “With my mom’s help on the sewing machine, I had an easy route to testing and proving that a simple mash-up was better than the incumbent,” he added.

Advani, who is the chief executive of the brand, met the co-founders of the company at MIT.

“We were introduced to each other since we stood out from the rest of the start-up crowd. There aren’t too many fashion entrepreneurs at MIT. We all saw a near identical picture of a brand that stood for so much more than a mixture of technology and style,” he was quoted as saying.

Elaborating about the history behind the name of the company, which would remind people of James Bond movies, Advani said: “We love our name’s story. It represents the ’empathetic inventor’; where Q, from the James Bond films, gets Bond ready for anything while always looking sharp.

“Much like Q – whose character is actually based on a real person in the early 1900s’ British government, operating under the cover, Ministry of Supply – we’re in the labs making sure that our customer looks sharp and feels ready for anything.”

“As the lines between work, play, and downtime continue to blur, we need essential garments that keep up with our entire day. We’ve set out to achieve that versatility through capable garments that actually fit the human body and are easy to care for and wear, no matter what you choose to do in them,” the company website says.

This year, the company plans to expand its reach through products, channels and even some in-house manufacturing, reports say.

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This Columbia University professor is on a quest to change the way we look at cameras

Among Indian-origin Shree K Nayar’s inventions – a wrap-around camera that can take photos of the hidden side; a kid-friendly digital camera that can be assembled by the user; the world’s first fully self-powered video camera; etc

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Indian-origin researcher Shree K Nayar is on a mission to change the way we look at cameras. Recently, scientists – led by the Columbia University professor – developed a novel flexible sheet camera that can be wrapped around everyday objects to capture images that cannot be taken with conventional cameras.

The researchers designed and fabricated a flexible lens array that adapts its optical properties when the sheet camera is bent. This optical adaptation enables the sheet camera to produce high quality images over a wide range of sheet deformations.

“Cameras today capture the world from essentially a single point in space,” Nayar was quoted as saying by media reports. “While the camera industry has made remarkable progress in shrinking the camera to a tiny device with ever increasing imaging quality, we are exploring a radically different approach to imaging,” he said, adding: “We believe there are numerous applications for cameras that are large in format but very thin and highly flexible.”

If such an imaging system could be manufactured cheaply, like a roll of plastic or fabric, it could be wrapped around all kinds of things, from street poles to furniture, cars, and even people’s clothing, to capture wide, seamless images with unusual fields of view.

The design could also lead to cameras the size of a credit card that a photographer could simply flex to control its field of view.

However, this is not the first time the Birla Institute of Technology, Mesra and North Carolina State University alumnus has made the quintessential camera look more exciting. In 2009, he designed a camera that can be assembled by the user. The idea was to redesign the camera so as to inspire young kids to learn the underlying technology.

As per Gizmag, the Bigshot camera was inspired by a 2004 documentary project that put cameras into the hands of the children of prostitutes from Sonagchi, Calcutta, providing a unique snapshot of life in the city’s red light district while the kids learned new skills.

In 2011, Nayar founded a startup called Kimera, LLC to get Bigshot into the hands of students and teachers worldwide. The market-ready camera kit is now being manufactured under licence by Hong Kong’s EduScience, and sold in the US by Elenco Electronics for just $89 each.

In April last year, Nayar invented the “world’s first fully self-powered video camera” that can produce an image each second, indefinitely, of a well-lit indoor scene. The camera, which is encased in a 3D-printed body, is completely self-sustaining meaning it can power itself indefinitely.

The computer scientist known for his work in the fields of computer vision, computer graphics and computational cameras. Nayar is the TC Chang Professor of the Computer Science Department at Columbia University. He co-directs the Columbia Vision and Graphics Center and is the head of the Computer Vision Laboratory (CAVE), which develops advanced computer vision systems. In February 2008, he was elected to the US National Academy of Engineering.

Nayar received a BE in electrical engineering from Birla Institute of Technology in Mesra, Ranchi in 1984, and an MS in electrical and computer engineering from North Carolina State University in Raleigh in 1986. He received a PhD in electrical and computer engineering from The Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh in 1991.

Nayar worked as a research engineer for Taylor Instruments in 1984. From 1986 to 1990 he was a graduate research assistant at The Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon University. In the summer of 1989, he was a visiting researcher at Hitachi Ltd. in Yokohama, Japan. He joined the faculty of the Computer Science Department at Columbia University in 1991, and in 2009 he became chair of the department.

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How Reshma Saujani made it to Fortune’s ‘50 Greatest World Leaders’

The Indian American founder of the non-profit, Girls Who Code, has helped place 10,000 high school girls into the tech world

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Today, Saujani is best known as the founder of Girls Who Code, a nonprofit that aims to initiate young women into the tech world. So far, the nonprofit has helped place 10,000 high school girls into programmes where they learn how to code, develop mobile apps, and receive mentoring from women in engineering at companies like Facebook and Goldman Sachs. She has also managed to raise $16 million from corporations to support her mission.

She was recently named one of the ‘50 Greatest World Leaders’ by Fortune magazine, an annual list that included the likes of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel, National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the Roman Catholic Church’s Pope Francis and Apple chief executive Tim Cook in the top five this year. She came in at No. 20.

Fortune explained that at a TED talk in February 2015, the 40-year-old Saujani stressed teaching girls to be brave rather than perfect. The video of the talk she gave has accrued just shy of 1 million views. “She’s well-qualified to preach that message: It took the former Wall Street attorney three tries to get into Yale Law School,” Fortune wrote in its piece of the New York-based founder of Girls Who Code.

Born in Illinois, US, Saujani is of Gujarati descent. Her parents lived in Uganda, prior to being expelled along with other persons of Indian descent in the early 1970s by Idi Amin. They settled in Chicago.

Saujani attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she graduated in 1997 with majors in Political Science and Speech Communication. She attended the John F Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, where she received a Master of Public Policy in 1999, and Yale Law School, where she received her Juris Doctor in 2002.

Saujani is married to entrepreneur Nihal Mehta, who is a co-founder of ad tech startup LocalResponse. The two have a son named Shaan who was born in February 2015.

Saujani worked at the law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, where she defended securities fraud cases, and on a pro bono basis handled asylum cases. In 2005, she joined the investment firm Carret Asset Management. After Saujani left Carret, its principal owner, financier Hassan Nemazee, was convicted on felony charges relating to bank fraud carried out over the course of several years at Carret, including during Saujani’s time at Carret; she later told the news media that she had had no knowledge of any illicit conduct at Carret.

Subsequently, she joined Blue Wave Partners Management, a subsidiary of the Carlyle Group, the global alternative asset management firm specialising in private equity. She was an associate general counsel at Blue Wave, an equity multi-strategy hedge fund; it was closed in the aftermath of the 2008 market collapse.

By most measures, Saujani is a huge success. But at the same time, as she admits in an interview with Fortune, she is a “walking failure of not being able to accomplish [her] dream.”

Saujani is referring to her two failed attempts to run for public office: first for the House of Representatives, then for the office of New York City Public Advocate.

Yet the former financier didn’t let her failure determine her future, and she now wants other women to do the same: “I want women to be comfortable with being imperfect,” she was quoted as saying by Fortune. “I immediately see how girls are afraid to try things that they won’t be good in. And women stay with the things they’re good at even if that’s not what they’re put on this earth to do.”

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Exclusively.in founder creates a new ‘Bond’ – a start-up that lets users send ‘handwritten’ notes from any device

Indian American entrepreneur Sonny Caberwal is also the founder of Sher Singh brand (acquired by Myntra); he was also the world’s first Sikh supermodel to be featured in top fashion magazines including GQ in 2009

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Sonny Caberwal is a man of many talents. While working as a business developer for IT companies and running his own tea firm, the San Francisco businessman was discovered by Kenneth Cole, the American fashion designer, early in 2008. He featured in a video called We Walk in Different Shoes and was signed up by the American and South African model agency Boss.

In 2009, the 37-year-old Indian American was picked by GQ’s Style magazine for its spring-summer spread, thereby becoming the first Sikh supermodel to be featured in a top fashion magazine.

More recently, Sonny co-founded and sold Exclusively.in and Sher Singh. Founded in June 2010, Exclusively.in offers a variety of ethnic wear products including apparels, jewellery, handbags and accessories for the US and the UK markets. In contrast, launched in 2011, Sher Singh specialises in sports-inspired lifestyle apparel for men and women.

These businesses were e-commerce pioneers in India when they began, and were backed by some of the world’s leading investors, including Accel Partners and Tiger Global Management. The companies were acquired in November, 2012 by Myntra.

Caberwal’s latest venture is Bond, a tech start-up that lets users personalise greeting cards with their handwriting, written by a robot though.

Bond, headquartered in New York City, mixes the traditional with cutting-edge technology: it harks back to a time of fountain pens, creamy sheets of writing paper and wax-sealed envelopes. Plus robots to deliver the personalised message.

Caberwal, founder and chief executive of Bond, describes it as “the opposite of Snapchat,” as per a report in The New York Times. Started in 2013, Bond has about 50 full-time employees and several high-profile backers, like Gary D Cohn, the president of Goldman Sachs, and the rapper Nasir Jones (known as Nas).

Although handwritten notes and cards may seem like artifacts of the 20th century, greeting cards are still a strong business. As per the Greeting Card Association, Americans purchase about 6.5 billion cards a year and annual sales are estimated to be $7 billion to $8 billion. Despite a culture awash in digital communications, the greeting card and stationery industries have not declined precipitously but have remained largely flat, said Patti Stracher, director of the National Stationery Show, an annual trade show and business event for stationery, greeting card and gift companies, said the Times report.

Bond built its own writing machine, which can produce personalised notes for every customer. Designed by the company’s chief technology officer, Kenji Larsen, the machines have robotic arms that can hold a pen, a paintbrush or a marker. The paper is moved around using static electricity — rather than a roller — so it stays pristine, with no wrinkles or marks. Bond also seals each envelope with wax, adds postage and mails it.

Customers can choose from a variety of handwriting styles, or they can have their own handwriting copied and digitised for $500. Each customer’s original signature is uploaded to Bond via smartphone, to be used on cards and notes. Customers also upload recipients’ addresses. If an address is unknown, the service will send an email or text message to the recipient asking for it. An invitation-only premium service, Bond Black, costs $1,200 a year and provides clients with a personalised mobile app to send notes in their own handwriting on custom stationery, the Times reported.

Many of Bond’s biggest customers are commercial, including Fortune 500 companies, nonprofits, and small independent businesses like professional services firms and real estate brokers.

“Companies spend $23 billion on customer relationship management tools to understand and have a more personal relationship with their customers. We are the physical implementation of that,” Caberwal, who studied corporate law at Georgetown Univeresity, was quoted as saying by the Times.

Earlier last year, Fast Company, in a story on Bond, quoted Caberwal as saying, “We think there’s a lot of friction points when it comes to doing something nice for someone else. Nobody has ever said, ‘You know what’s awesome? I had the best experience at American Greetings.’”

Bond wants to bring the romance back to letter writing with a more modern experience.

“We have really set out to reimagine what that would look like—how we can create a truly personal experience that lets people deliver that personal touch that is truly theirs, but let them do it from anywhere,” he added.

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Pics courtesy: Sonny Caberwal’s Facebook page, NY Times

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