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ShaperTalk: Bringing Innovation to Traditional Industries

Often in the Bay Area, we talk about changes that will “disrupt” an industry. We excitedly predict the next technology, platform, or idea that will relegate something we once assumed to be crucial into something totally irrelevant.

And it’s true -- “traditional” industries like law, education, government, and even the arts are in need of change. But the changes some of our Global Shapers are working on are not “disruptive” so much as “transformational.”

On Monday, November 23rd, San Francisco Shapers Jason Boehmig and Mariel Reed joined Palo Alto Shaper Andrea Carafa and guest Trang (Mae) Nguyen for a discussion on the challenges and thrills of bringing innovation to the “traditional” industries of law, education, government, and the arts.

Jason Boehmig, CEO and co-founder of Ironclad (YC S15), started the evening by discussing how he and his team are helping companies automate legal paperwork. Jason’s involvement in law as both a former corporate attorney at Fenwick & West LLP and now an adjunct faculty member at Notre Dame Law School, gives him a unique perspective. An early lesson the Ironclad team had to learn was how to balance working with the suppliers versus the consumers of legal services. Because of the billable hour, suppliers of legal services -- the legal firms -- are not strongly incentivized to make their work more efficient. On the other hand, the consumers of legal services, corporations in this context, are looking for solutions that simplify and streamline their work.

Next, Andrea Carafa, founder and CEO of ArtsUp, shared about his work building a community platform for arts events hosted by local art lovers in unique spaces. Andrea noted that, in cities where real estate prices and rents are skyrocketing, many arts venues are disappearing and artists are being displaced. In other cities and towns cultural venues are lacking due to a number of other reasons. The end result is negative for the arts and for society. So how can we help the arts thrive? We can share our spaces. ArtsUp allows to host and attend music, theatre, dance and visual arts events in living rooms, backyards, galleries, book stores, warehouses, office spaces, etc. It’s all about sharing authentic arts experiences. As in the Renaissance, the power of communities can make the arts shine again.

Trang (Mae) Nguyen, Special Deputy Attorney General in the Executive Office of California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, shared the work the office is doing to bring innovation to the criminal justice system and promote transparency, accountability, and trust. The California Department of Justice recently launched an open data initiative — Open Justice — in September 2015. The initiative consists of two components: a Justice Dashboard highlighting key criminal justice indicators with user-friendly visualization tools, and an Open Data Portal publishing criminal justice data sets from the California Department of Justice’s statewide repository.  Initial datasets published include (1) Law Enforcement Officers Killed or Assaulted in the Line of Duty; (2) Deaths in Custody, including arrest-related deaths; and (3) Arrests and Bookings. Additional datasets that touch on aspects of the criminal justice system and new functionality will be added to the site over the next several months.

Finally, Mariel Reed from the Coursera partnerships team, shared her experience collaborating with university leaders and faculty to serve over 16 million learners worldwide. Coursera is a massive open online course (MOOC) platform that works with 139 top universities around the world to put courses online for anyone to take, from anywhere. Mariel noted that many platforms in the education space, esp. in higher education, have chosen to “go around” the university. For instance, Udemy is a course marketplace to allow anyone to make a course and Udacity is focused on content development from industry experts like Google. Coursera is not trying to "destroy" the university or make it irrelevant. Instead, Mariel and her colleagues are working with universities to help them update their mission and value proposition. Mariel noted in particular that it’s been exciting to see universities invest more in teaching and learning on-campus; utilize data to inform course development and teaching on and offline; and connect education to employment by offering a portfolio of courses, including those with direct industry relevance. She argued that the university’s reach and relevance may actually be increasing as universities reach a more global audience and begin to serve learners over a lifetime.

For more information on San Francisco Global Shapers, contact us at
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