I have a secret for you. There’s a lot going on in Oakland. And I’m not talking about protests or a Brad Pitt sighting from the Moneyball premier. As I publish this blog post I can hear the choppers above, attracted to our local town because of the political and social unrest of #occupyoakland. While this is an important story, I want to talk about another Oakland story–one of job creation, innovation and economic growth.
I’ve had the opportunity to attend two events over the last few weeks promoted by InOak founded by local networking extraordinaire Deborah Acosta. The businesses promoted in these local events are uplifting the Oakland economy and enjoying all the benefits of the Bay Area’s best kept secret.
Lake Merritt where I live. Image source
The October 20th panel was produced and sponsored by investors DBL –the only woman-owned VC firm in the United States. The panel sat on a dimly lit stage at the Fox Theater Den as a packed house of entrepreneurs, influencers, and techies took notes, asked questions and enjoyed the local networking opp. Managing Partner Nancy Pfund did an elegant job of moderating the panel with five of the Oakland-based companies in their portfolio.
The panel included:
- Julie Corbett, CEO, Ecologic
- Joe Kennedy, CEO, Pandora
- Jim Marggraff, Chairman & CEO, Livescribe
- Kristin Groos Richmond, CEO, Revolution Foods
- John Woolard, President & CEO, BrightSource Energy
Below are just a few of the many highlights from the evening’s program.
I think we can agree that there is an obesity epidemic in the U.S., and it’s being exacerbated by our schools. Kristin Richmond took notice of this problem and did something about it with her idea Revolution Foods. Revolution Foods feeds children all over the country and to say the company has experienced explosive growth could be the understatement of the year.
It’s not new news that healthy kids do better in school. The food they put in their mouths affects their focus at school, the way the feel about their bodies, and what goes on at home. As a fellow food lover, food blogger and health nut I was pleased to learn about this exciting movement.
I think we are all ready for this food revolution!
Ecologic was started by Julie Corbett, a working mom who wanted to make a change regarding the sheer amount of waste we create as a society. Did you know only 25% of plastic jugs are recycled in the U.S.? Julie decided to do something about the waste problem. Check out this video that tells the story of Ecologic.
On a personal note waste is something I think about every day. I hate trash. My generation didn’t only inherit a rough hand of cards when it comes to the state of the environment, but we’re also inundated with media that make us feel guilty about it. Being raised with Ricky the Raindrop I feel the pollution and trash problem facing our world as a personal challenge.
When I worked for a media and events company in New York it drove me nuts that the company didn’t recycle. It’s refreshing to see someone taking action. I will be purchasing Ecologic bottles whenever possible.
Another highlight of the panel was Joe Kennedy, CEO of free internet radio provider Pandora. Kennedy said he would like to see Oakland become more like Brooklyn (or as Brooklyn is to New York City). What struck me about Joe’s portion of the panel was the way he fielded a question about the competition. Someone in the audience asked about Spotify–and Joe said he didn’t set out to make Pandora everything to everyone, but rather do one thing very very well.
To me that’s Oakland.
We don’t expect Oakland to be everything to everyone. We have some beautiful space here. We also have great entrepreneurial raw urban energy.
We aren’t for everyone, but we might be for you.