A Little Friendly Competition

2016-Startup-Columbia-blue.jpgFor this episode, we spoke to some of Columbia's up-and-coming entrepreneurs, all of whom were winners in the 2015 Columbia Venture Competition. 

These entrepreneurs competed for a top prize of $250,000 at the #StartupColumbia Festival. The objective? To give the judges compelling evidence of market acceptance for their value propositions. Nearly a year later, we asked each of these companies what they're doing, how placing in the competition has affected their business, and what it means to them to be Columbia entrepreneurs.

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Stories from a Former CIA Agent

Alex Finley* '94CC, '97JRN joined the CIA in 2003, where she spent close to six years as an officer of the CIA's Directorate of Operations, serving in West Africa and Europe. Before she joined the agency, she was no stranger to Washington DC or politics. As she puts it, "she chased puffy white men around Washington DC as a member of the wild dog pack better known as the Washington media elite."

After leaving the CIA in 2009, she returned to writing and soon found that her voice lent itself well to humor. In addition to her work for Slate, Reductress, and Funny or Die, she is also about to publish a book: Victor in the Rubble: A Satire of the CIA and the War on Terror, which goes on sale April 15. The book, which was inspired by her time at the CIA and some of the bureaucratic frustrations that she had, comes out next week. In a recent interview, Alex spoke about the book, her work with the agency, and what the future of the CIA might look like. 

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Who'll Run the World?

This June, Columbia Business School and Barnard College are teaming up to create an Executive Education program aimed at women: "Women in Leadership: Expanding Influence and Leading Change." According to the website, the program is designed to "help elevate the impact of women leaders—enabling them to navigate the business landscape, develop and leverage their talents, and step into roles of greater influence."

This program builds on a conversation that was already prevalent, but has reached a new level of exposure over the past 6 years or so. It could (and has been) argued that this increase in attention is due, in large part, to Sheryl Sandberg. As the COO of Facebook, Sandberg was well positioned to publicly pose a question that no one seemed to be asking: "why do we have so few women leaders?" This question became the basis for her TED talk in 2010, her Barnard commencement speech in 2011, and her bestselling book, Lean In, in 2013. The question sparked a national conversation about women and their roles in the workplace. 

To discuss this question (and many others) we sat down with the women running this new Executive Education program: Rochelle Cooper ('84BC, '88TC, '89TC), Rita McGrath ('81BC, '82SIPA), and Elana Weinstein (Barnard Athena Center for Leadership).

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What We Talk About When We Talk About Food

What are we talking about when we talk about food? Or, more specifically, food sustainability. When we talk about food, we are really talking about the complex relationship between food, water, environment, technology, policy, and ethics.

Food impacts us on so many levels: from the personal to the global. Individuals, communities, and national governments have to constantly make choices about which food reaches our tables. And, for a variety of reasons—climate change, energy costs, global economic inequality—these choices are becoming more and more complicated. For this reason, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists around the world are turning their attention to this area.

To shine a light on this development, Columbia Engineering and Columbia Entrepreneurship brought together a panel of Columbia experts, who are contributing to the global dialogue on food, to discuss available solutions to feed a hungry planet.

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Call the Bleach Patrol!

By Stacy Morford, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

Attention surfers, divers, snorkelers, and other ocean enthusiasts: Those vibrant coral reefs below you need your help. In many parts of the world, corals are getting sick in the warm water accompanying El Niño, and they’re turning bone white.

It’s called coral bleaching, and in severe cases it can kill them over time. But while scientists know that coral bleaching has been connected to changes in water temperature, many questions remain about the causes and the recovery process.

To track the evolution of coral bleaching and home in on its triggers, a group of surfer-scientists at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory has teamed up with the World Surf League and GoFlow to launch Bleach Patrol, a citizen science project and app. The app and website went live just ahead of spring break, as millions of people headed for the beaches.

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Preview: Past Present Podcast

We’re mixing things up a little bit here at The Low Down. We decided to feature a discussion from Past Present, a podcast that’s produced by three Columbia alumni: Nicole Hemmer '05GSAS, '06GSAS, '10GSAS (a research associate at the Miller Center for Public Affairs in Charlottesville, Virginia), Natalia Mehlman Petrzela '00CC (an assistant professor of history at The New School), and Neil Young '04GSAS, '05GSAS, '08GSAS (a historian and author of We Gather Together: The Religious Right and the Problem of Interfaith Politics).

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The 10,000 Year Forecast: Columbia and Climate

As climate continues to dominate the national conversation, Columbia's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO) is a powerful player in the fight to conserve our planet.  LDEO scientists are at the forefront in understanding the risks to human life and property from extreme weather events, both in the present and future climates, and on developing solutions to mitigate those risks. Hear directly from Dr. Arthur Lerner-Lam, deputy director of LDEO, as he discusses why climate research is more pressing now than ever before, and how Columbia, like no other university, is tackling the big challenges of today's climate landscape. 

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Fighting Illegal Trade in Wildlife

On July 30, 2015 the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution that targets the global problem of wildlife trafficking, calling on all 193 UN member states to take on a series of actions to “prevent, combat, and eradicate the illegal trade in wildlife.”

Adopted by consensus, the resolution recognizes growing global concern over widespread poaching and trafficking – particularly of elephants and rhinos.

In this episode, three ambassadors to the UN from Botswana, Germany and Vietnam address the problem facing wildlife today.

This panel discussion was sponsored by the Columbia University Club of New York.

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The Untold Story of Women in Iran

In this episode, Richard Bulliet, Professor of History and Middle East Studies at Columbia, and Dr. Nina Ansary '89BC, '91GSAS, '09GSAS, '13GSAS, the author of the book, Jewels of Allah: The Untold Story of Women in Iran, discuss the women's movement in Iran and how Ansary's book breaks down stereotypical assumptions and the often misunderstood story of women in Iran today.

"Based on her doctoral thesis on the women's movement in Iran, Jewels of Allah shatters stereotypical assumptions and the often misunderstood story of women in Iran today. Challenging the dominant narrative of the demise of women and their downward spiral into passive submission since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, Ansary argues that 'despite the current regime's best laid plans to redirect women into the private domain, the female population in Iran is distinguished by an unprecedented surge in female literacy and a flourishing feminist movement against the boundaries of traditional religious prescription.' " 

- Barnard Center for Research on Women (BCRW)

This talk was brought to you by BCRW and the Middle East Institute at Columbia University.

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When TV and the Internet Collide

If you tried to define television today, odds are that your definition would be very different from what it might have been just 10 years ago. Thanks to streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, more and more people are using their computers as their TVs. And it's not just serial programming that's moved online. Television news outlets have also made the move, producing content specifically for the web.

In this episode, CNN's Meredith Artley addresses this digital shift head-on, discussing how the old barriers between "digital" and "traditional" journalism are crumbling faster than ever.

This talk was presented as part of the Hearst Digital Media Lecture series at the Columbia Journalism School.

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