Video by Matt Kang, Forbes
Steve Zhao gave himself six months. The Hong Kong-based video game company that he spent the last decade building was falling apart as people shifted to playing games on their phones. By early 2016, he knew he would have to shut it down. He tried releasing a game for virtual reality, but it bombed, and he lost most of the small investment in it. But Zhao had a new vision: a virtual reality world where people could experience games by playing with friends, rather than by wearing a headset alone in their homes.
“I would compare it to, in a way, a movie and a game,” Zhao told Forbes. “Because once you’re inside the experience it is almost like living inside a movie where you and your friends are the stars.”
His idea was to build out physical spaces where people could strap on VR headsets, haptic vests and sensors and become immersed in the virtual world, essentially bringing the Star Trek Holodeck to the shopping mall. Investors, though, had cooled on the idea of virtual reality startups, and Zhao struggled to find backers who bought into his dream. Instead, he invested his life savings and set a deadline of six months. Four months later, Zhao launched Sandbox VR on the 16th floor of an old high-rise in Hong Kong.
“The moment we realized that we actually might have something is when we demoed the product to close friends and family,” Zhao said. “When they were playing, we just realized how loud they were screaming—and no one expected that. It was so loud that the neighbors came to our office to see if we had a problem or not.”
That’s when Zhao realized Sandbox VR might be able to create an experience where people forgot they were in virtual reality and felt like real life. “To us, that was a catalyst,” he said.
The company started with a zombie experience in Hong Kong that shot up to become the number one attraction for the city on TripAdvisor. It added pirate and robot-themed games, and franchised out the company to Singapore, where it also reached the top-rated activity, Zhao said. Today Sandbox VR operates in seven locations around the world and plans to launch another eight in the U.S. alone. Every game costs $30-$45 a person, depending on the location, and the company is working on new titles, including a sports-themed experience. The buzz hasn’t slowed down—even Kanye West was spotted in a Silicon Valley mall trying out Sandbox VR. In January, the investor freeze on virtual reality ended when Andreessen Horowitz, alongside investors like Floodgate and TriplePoint Capital, invested $68 million to help Sandbox VR expand into the US.
“To be validated by them just felt like—it just was the best day of my life,” he said.
The world of work is changing rapidly—you need the right tools to change with it.
The year is 1958. NASA is born, Wham-O introduces the Hula Hoop, and the average tenure on the S&P 500 is 61 years. Flash forward to 2016. NASA’s Juno spacecraft orbits Jupiter, the Cubs win the World Series, and the average S&P tenure is 24 years.
At this rate, a full 50% of the S&P 500 will be replaced over the next decade. Did I get your attention? Because the message has never been more clear: adapt or die.
The future of work is more agile, decentralized, autonomous, cross-functional, and integrated than most organizations can imagine. That which is analog must be digitized. That which is manual must be automated. That which is isolated must be connected. That which is hidden must be made visible.
This changes everything—including workflow. And the question isn’t whether it will occur, but how.
A shift into “pull-based” workflows
The roles we fill at work are changing, too. As teams are empowered to make more decisions and rely less on hierarchy for control, they will trend toward “pull-based” workflows. Instead of waiting for a manager or a ticketing system to tell them what to do, teams will seek out the most valuable work they can find—from their own backlog, a shared space, or simply by sensing and responding.
This transition will lead to workflows that are less “actor and reactor” and more about an interconnected network of empowered agents using the same system to get their work done. And it will require a platform that can seamlessly connect every corner of the enterprise to succeed.
Next-gen employees demand next-gen tools
The entry of Gen Z— the “learn anything” generation—into the workforce is also forcing change. Gen Z expects to find everything they need to know on YouTube or Google. And as the first “no code” hacker generation, they expect to customize, connect, and even create technology with very little technical knowledge—just a willingness to dig in and get their hands dirty.
Younger workers want intuitive tools that allow them the flexibility to work anywhere, anytime. To a generation raised on the iPhone, workplace experiences should go beyond being mobile-first to being mobile-only. As a result, the stark divide between seamless consumer technology and awkward enterprise software is becoming more obvious and less acceptable.
Ultimately, the employee experience of the future will be shaped by and for these new roles and players. And the quality (or lack thereof) of the employee experience will continue to be a primary differentiator for organizations trying to attract top talent.
New software is shaping new behavior
Amidst all this cultural change and demand for effortless, consumer-like work experiences, a rift is growing between IT and employees. It’s a showdown between old-school, centralized IT and the demands of a new workforce—and the legacy team is losing.
Groups are setting up their own shadow Slack workspaces, Trello boards, WeChat, and ad hoc tools with little or no blessing from IT. Built as singular tools with a specific purpose, these applications integrate easily with other tools outside enterprise platforms. This allows teams outside of IT to build and maintain automated workflows of their own.
We are seeing in real time the power of software to shape behavior.
When software continues to reflect a waterfall project-management style with layers of bureaucratic approval and compliance checks built in, the status quo will remain intact. But those businesses that adopt new ways of working on a platform that supports digitized workflows to connect the entire enterprise can move forward. Because when software defaults to transparency, supports networks and fluid teams, and enables users do their work the way they want, companies can unlock meaningful change at scale.
So the message is: show me your software, and I’ll tell you what kind of enterprise you are. You can guess which kind is going to remain on the S&P 500 in years to come.
75% of Fortune 500 companies today depend on the Now Platform® to connect their enterprise with powerful digital workflows. Find more insights for leaders here and visit Servicenow.com to discover the power of the Now Platform.
Forbes Finds covers products we think you’ll love. Featured products are independently selected and linked to for your convenience. If you buy something using a link on this page, Forbes may receive a small share of that sale.
Lulu and Georgia Moriah Mini Table LampThis table lamp takes boho chic to a whole new level. The lamp is a sophisticated and stunning design with its combination of natural and glam finishes. The shiny lacquered ceramic base balloons out at the bottom and then tapers off to meet a wood column. The lamp is both classy and casual, which makes it perfect for a living room. It won’t be distracting from the other statement decor pieces in the room, but when the time is right, this lamp will definitely shine. The neutral linen lamp shade completes this simple and sweet look. On sale for $113.
West Elm Metalized Glass Table Lamp
Incorporate this season’s trendy hue into your living room with an iridescent table lamp. This modern design will instantly add a glam factor to your space. The hourglass-shape lamp base is made from mouth-blown glass and has a pearl finish to give it that shiny look. The whimsical touch is bookended by an antique brass stem and base for a polished finish. The table lamp isn’t only modern in style, but in function too. It features a USB charging port so you can stay connected even while spending time with the family in the living room. Originally on sale for $129, now on sale for $100.
Anthropologie Lola Glass Table LampOn your side table, this table lamp will really look like a work of art. The glass and brushed brass iron base alone would create a striking appearance, but the pop of color it’s embellished with really takes it over the top. Varying shades of blue appear like brush strokes over the glass base for and artistic touch. In a simple living room, a set of these lamps could easily become the centerpiece of the room and inform other design decisions. Incorporate blue throughout the space to tie it all together. On sale for $228.
CB2 Halo Globe Table Lamp
If your living room errs more on the side of formal this living room table lamp is the perfect home accessory. Cutting out the traditional lampshade, the globe design is a complete mid-century modern vibe. The floating globe would be just as much of a conversation starter on an end table as it would on the floor. The vintage vibes that the handmade engraved glass shade brings on instantly make the lamp worthy of an elegant room. The diamond-cut texture of the orb will help distribute a soft, textured light throughout the room. Originally on sale for $90, now on sale for $76.
Wade Logan Sullivan 19.5" Table LampFor more of a traditional look, this table lamp does the trick. The simple white shade and wood base are classic, but this table lamp is not without its modern upgrades. The open base made of stacked bentwood ovals adds in some curves giving the table lamp some texture. Match the rich wood to the other woods in your living room, or add in some contrast to a modern space full of stone. The mix of natural elements will hemp modernize this traditional style. On sale for $94.
Jonathan Y 24.5" West Glass LED Table Lamp ClearIlluminate your living room with this table lamp. These lamps will make an impact without being overwhelming. The glass base gives the lamp and light an airy feel, but is instantly glamorized by the gold-leaf plastered around the base. The sleek and sexy curves of the lamp further add to its appeal. Not only does this come with a lampshade but it also comes with an energy efficient bulb so you can light up without any guilt. On sale for $66.
Urban Outfitters Alina Rattan Table LampThe ultimate boho-chic lamp has officially been created. In the perfect living room this rattan table lamp, perched on a three-legged stand, will be a unique touch. The interwoven bamboo rattan shade is open and airy and creates a pattern effect with the light that adds to the overall texture of this piece. In a plant filled living room with a variety of natural elements and eclectic colors, this piece will fit right in. On sale for $69.
One of the perks of being President of the United States of America is that you get to submit your budget recommendations to the US Congress before any decisions are made. While it's up to Congress to make the budget and the President to sign it into law, the recommendations for the next fiscal year are where the administration gets to set their agenda and announce to the world the direction it wants to go in.
Last year, the Trump administration proposed cutting a number of Earth Science missions, ending NASA Astrophysics' flagship mission for the 2020s, WFIRST, and eliminating NASA's Office of Education. Then-acting administrator Robert Lightfoot put out a statement mentioning hard choices and an inability to do everything with a limited budget, but Congress overturned these cuts and restored funding for these programs. This year, the assault is even worse, and has a better chance of succeeding. Here's why.
America has, since the end of World War II, enjoyed its status as a superpower on planet Earth. We invested more than any other nation in fundamental science, including physics, chemistry, astronomy, biology, medicine, and space exploration. This investment has paid off in innumerable ways.
Every time, the way we've progressed has had a similar story: we chose, as a species and as a nation, to take on a great unsolved problem or unaccomplished task that lay before us. We invested in the infrastructure, person-power, and equipment necessary to rise to whatever challenge lay before us. And, most importantly, we invested with our tax dollars.
We chose to invest a significant portion of our government's expenditures on these endeavors. Basic research, education, and development — not a demand for return on investment — was what enabled our greatest successes, both in science and as a society. If you want to point to the one thing that made America great, this was it. The fact that we were investing in pushing the frontiers of human knowledge, and as a result, we were the first to reap its rewards.
Over time, it's somehow become acceptable to question the value of investing in all of those things: research, education, and development. Science became a favorite target of deficit hawks, with the largest projects and missions receiving the most negative press. This practice goes back many decades, and has led to the United States ceding scientific leadership on many fronts. For example:
The budgetary problems of James Webb became well-known in 2011, even though the overwhelming majority of the delays and cost overruns could have been avoided if not for the withholding of necessary funds. Today, they are used as a talking point for one purpose alone: to reduce federal funding for the most scientifically valuable missions of all, NASA's flagship missions.
There is a lesson from all of this. The problem was stated most clearly by Nicholas Samios, the former director of the Brookhaven National Laboratory. When speaking about the SSC's cancellation, here's what he said:
You can blame lots of people, but it was clearly a lack of will. We always got things done. It turned a getting-things-done society into a conservative, play-it-safe, no-risk society. We’re not made of the right stuff anymore.
We have already lost particle physics, the capacity for future deep-space missions, and the capability to take human beings beyond low-Earth orbit. While there are calls to bring crewed exploration back in various long-range capacities, the latest proposal comes with an unnecessary cost: gutting the science that made America great to begin with.
Hubble is perhaps the best example of what we can accomplish by dreaming big. As Neil de Grasse Tyson noted back in 2008 for Parade Magazine,
More research papers have been published using its data than have ever been published for any other scientific instrument in any discipline.
That was more than a decade ago, and Hubble continues to be the most sought-after observatory on (or beyond) planet Earth. Nobody doubts that its initial $5 billion cost was more than worth it, or considers the total $15-$20 billion spent over its lifetime to be a poor investment. We have revolutionized our view of the Universe in ways we could not have possibly anticipated prior to its launch. That is what NASA flagship missions can do like nothing else.
NASA was started in 1959, and as its budget soared throughout the 1960s, so did our accomplishments in both space exploration and in science. Throughout the post-Apollo years, however, the budget steadily dropped, with only a bump in the Bush (Sr.) years bucking that trend. Today, NASA's budget is less than 0.5% of total federal expenditures, with science making up nearly a third of what NASA does, divided into four subdivisions: astrophysics, planetary science, Earth science, and heliophysics.
And that's why the latest budget, released on March 11th by the Trump administration, is so terrifying in its boldness for destroying science research, education, and development in the United States. Amidst a record-breaking $4.7 trillion budget, NASA's funding is being slashed to a record-low of 0.45% of federal expenditures (a level not seen since 1960), with science, NASA astrophysics, and STEM outreach targeted for the greatest cuts.
In 2018, the Trump administration's proposed FY2019 budget was a disaster for science, with deep cuts for NASA, the Department of Education, the Chemical Safety Board, the National Science Foundation and many more. It was plainly an anti-science budget, which would be disastrous for not only America, but for practically every state across the board. Congress was able to restore much of the funding that was proposed to be eliminated, and the budget passed.
This year's proposed FY2020 budget has now been announced, and it's as equally disastrous for science as last year's proposal, but this time it's more insidious. By emphasizing space exploration and increasing funding for the lunar gateway project — which is arguably a good project on its own merits — it obscures the fact that it gets its funding by destroying many of our most important and scientifically valuable programs.
This time, there's a shuffle planned for NASA, and it's designed to kill the very idea of flagship missions while dropping the overall science funding to record-low levels. Here are the biggest changes over what we're presently doing:
The most optimistic take on the President's FY2020 proposal is this: there is bipartisan support for a United States with a strong science program across the board. WFIRST is the top priority space mission, as ranked by the National Academy of Sciences; NASA is doing what the scientific community has recommended to them as a whole by flying these flagship missions. Hubble, James Webb, and WFIRST are transformative observatories, and we can stop the President's short-sighted recommendations from becoming law.
But the budget proposal also declares that as long as he is in office, this will likely be an annual fight. A single year of missed funding or underfunding can kill a project that took decades to plan and enact. We must not lose our will. Our future and present demands that we not lose sight of a record-breaking cut to the greatest human endeavor of all: the quest to understand our existence.
Spiral Genetics CEO Adina Mangubat participated in a panel at the 2018 Forbes Under 30 Summit in Boston.JULIA FERRIER
As a 22-year-old recent college graduate with a psychology degree, Adina Mangubat founded a software company to address a need that was just emerging in 2009: analyzing the huge amounts of data generated from sequencing whole human genomes.
DNA sequencing was still very expensive and rare at the time, but Mangubat and her cofounders at Spiral Genetics anticipated a day when the cost of sequencing a genome would drop enough to allow scientists to sequence hundreds of thousands or millions of human genomes, whole populations, and compare them to learn about disease. To analyze such a volume of data, with the technology of the time, would have been prohibitively difficult and time-consuming, Mangubat predicted. Her company aimed to leverage cloud-based computing to crunch those huge gene sets, taking a fraction of the time.
“At the time there was a lot of discomfort around the marrying of software and genomics,” says Mangubat, a member of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list for Science and Healthcare in 2012. It was difficult to find investors with expertise in both areas, she says, or one who was willing to make a bet in an sector they didn’t understand. Spiral Genetics raised $5 million in venture capital before genomic data software firm Omicia, now Fabric Genomics, bought it in 2017 for an undisclosed amount.
But a year after the acquisition, Mangubat says she felt the focus of the company shift from the population-level analysis she had in mind when she founded the company to the clinical market of analyzing individual patient genomes. Now, Mangubat is relaunching Spiral as a separate company focused on comparing the whole genome data of large populations after taking it through Y Combinator’s latest accelerator session. Spiral is working with three countries and two academic institutions, and is one of Microsoft’s many genomics partners working on its Azure cloud computing platform.
“They have specialized in a particular implementation of technology that allows us to aggregate, harmonize, and compare large populations of whole human genomes,” says Desney Tan, general manager of Microsoft Healthcare. “The current methodologies [for genomic analysis] just do not scale in the way we believe Spiral Genetics’ technology will be able to.”
Microsoft is partnering with Spiral and an academic researcher to test machine-learning techniques on a database of patients with cardiovascular disease, looking for genetic markers that predict disease. It’s also working with countries doing large genomic studies to develop their own baselines and custom references for comparisons. Since genetics can vary from population to population, the current references might not accurately reflect what is standard in a given country. The reference genome used in comparisons is mostly Caucasian, for example, and using it as a standard for non-Caucasian populations will miss genetic differences, Mangubat says.
Countrywide genome-sequencing projects are producing “the largest data sets on the planet,” Mangubat says. Spiral’s goal is to make sense of them.
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Jaquan Frierson is a fourth year student studying mechanical engineering at Wayne State University and a guest contributor for Reach Higher
I am Jaquan Frierson, a fourth year Mechanical Engineering student at Wayne State University. I graduated from Cass Tech High School in Detroit, Michigan, and I hope to one day use my degree to start my own business in the engineering field—though I already own an LLC. Throughout high school, I was known as the guy that rapped and sold candy by many of the students, and I was also thought of as a pretty smart student by my teachers and classmates—though my grades may not have reflected that in the beginning due to circumstances outside of school. I had always known I would go to college and get a degree in something math related, so I made sure that I did my absolute best to bring my grades as high as possible so that they would pay for my education.
Jaquan meets former First Lady Michelle Obama and Craig Robinson with his classmates. MICHELLE OBAMA PERSONAL OFFICE
As I was finishing out strong in high school—finally getting the grades that I wanted, having acceptance letters from each college that I had applied to and leaving one of the best schools in the city—I was set on going to college and showing out. I remember going to Reach Higher’s College Signing Day in 2015 proud to have an opportunity akin to what athletes get every year and proud to represent Wayne State University because it was the only university I had ever planned on attending. When I walked across the stage and grabbed my diploma, I was already a step ahead of my father’s academic achievements and was determined to go a step further than my mother’s achievements, making me a first-generation college student. I began my college experience engulfed in a sea of people so large that I could not help but show the world through social media something so foreign to me and, in that moment, almost everyone was since I was not followed to this university by many of my friends.
I began classes still determined to show just how smart I was, overlooking the fact that I had no money or job and that textbooks were not cheap or even affordable. I had to speak with each of my professors privately to tell them that while I did not have the materials required, I was trying to obtain an on-campus job and was just waiting to hear back. Amazingly, my first professors turned out to be blessings with one buying me the book I needed for his math course and with another allowing me to use her i>clicker so that I would not lose points until I could afford my own. Eventually, I would finally get a call back while ending a small group meeting with one of the Christian organizations on campus that my roommate and I had hastily joined. My new friends and I ran to drop off my class schedule, all eager for me to start my first real job. Once I began working, I informed my instructors and told them that I would soon be able to pay them back or return their items and they were happy for me; my math professor even told me not to worry about it and use my first check to get myself something.
Jaquan is a fourth year Mechanical Engineering student at Wayne State University. @MICHELLEOBAMA
The semesters and school years continued each bringing new struggles and great experiences. Some semesters were rough, causing me to almost lose certain academic scholarships or struggle to pay for housing while others were much stronger academically and less financially taxing. The rough academic semesters were however another blessing. Some semesters saw me struggle both financially and academically, the latter sometimes a result of the former. While all academic costs were never a concern due to scholarships and grants dedicated completely to tuition, I would find myself working as many hours as I could to pay for housing and my meal plan. This caused me to struggle in my classes which then led me to being referred to a job in the math department by my mentor where I would work for one of his friends in a work study position which would allow me to able to spend some of my time studying while earning a higher wage than my other job, where I had been promoted to a student lead position, all while being around many of the resources I needed to improve my math skills.
While at this new job, I met and bonded with people that I otherwise likely would have never met and gained opportunities that I would not have had. These students would eventually become a large part of the community that helped me achieve the most success. This success came both in and out of school. While I now had friends to study with and ask questions while doing class work, my work study job became additional summer employment and would eventually be instrumental in my being able to move into my first apartment after being kicked out of my parents house; it would be my highest paying job in the summer where I worked three jobs to ensure I would be able to keep my apartment.
Jaquan with Keegan-Michael Key. JAQUAN FRIERSON
College has given me many new and positive experiences such as meeting different people from around the world, my first real, long term relationship with my girlfriend, my first parties—though there weren’t many—a Christian presence to keep me grounded while being on my own, friendships with people who have similar goals and motivations that could possibly be life long, the chance to network with other artists and musicians and perform my songs on campus, and most recently the chance to meet Keegan-Michael Key and Michelle Obama almost four years after her College Signing Day event where I was so proud to be representing Wayne State University. While these are just a few of the highlights in this crazy experience it shows how and why college is such an important life experience to have.
Through the good and the bad, high and low GPAs, and all the stress that came with it, my college experience is one that I would not trade or change for anything, and I would encourage everyone who is given such an amazing opportunity to take it. College has helped me grow and mature in such profound ways outside of just education and has prepared me for a future where everything may not always go my way but I know I can always persevere to success.