An organization that has been a staple of the “Alt Tech” scene in San Francisco is now hosting events in Downtown Oakland.  It is another sign that Oakland is definitely becoming a major place to hold gatherings and meetups for business innovation and for new technologies. Right here, right now, it’s happening in Oakland.

Many of the events aim to foment a revolution in approaches  to economic development. Last month, Tech4Good brought Susan Mills, the founder and director of the EASE Initiative, to Manifesta, an alternative salon and business incubator in Downtown Oakland. This past weekend, Tech4Good hosted the Uptima Business Bootcamp’s “Sharing Economy” hackathon to promote a new vision of economic development.

EASE-diverse-grpsThe EASE approach puts the social and economic goals of a community into their regular consumer activities. Mills’ message is that social, economic and environmental issues can be addressed from inside the normal cycle of advertising and selling within a city or a region.  She proposes using a platform that is like a socially-conscious version of


The EASE platform handles advertising in a non-intrusive way by allowing a buyer on the EASE platform to opt in with a fine degree of control over their personal and social network information. Why would someone do that? Because as a member of the EASE network, you would have a say over how and where EASE — or any local group running the platform — would direct 50% or more of the advertising and selling fees. In the case of a megalith like Amazon or Google, those fees and advertising charges generate billions of dollars. (See highlights of this presentation in the video below.)

Regina Walton is the primary organizer for the trendy Tech4Good San Francisco group, which is affiliated with NetSquared, whose mission is to maximize technology for social good. In describing the Meetup group, she wrote, “I love the idea of helping nonprofits reach their potential with tech knowledge, training and resources. It’s a great way to help orgs dealing with social change.”

Having moved to Oakland recently and seeing the established nonprofit community as well as the growing number of Tech startups, Walton thinks that Oakland is an important venue for future Tech4Good events. She can be reached via the Tech4Good San Francisco Meetup web page and is actively seeking Oakland spaces to host more of these events.

Last month, Tech4Good and NetSquared helped promote the Mifos Initiative and the launch the new Mifos X platform whose goal  is to bring financial services to the nearly 3 billion poor worldwide who don’t have access to them. Mifos X is using open technology, cloud computing, and mobile platforms to transform the war on global poverty.

“The ‘takeaway’ that I hope to achieve is to get people thinking about a new approach for the large-scale, seemingly impossible, challenges faced by society today — how to use everyday commerce to fund, engage and track the public work of education, disaster relief, citywide economic development, statewide fire response, veterans, any large group, ” Mills told Oakland Local.

IMG_5779“I would be thrilled if EASE were to get its US start in Oakland,”  Mills added. “I think it’s essential to show that the program works, so I would choose an org to work with as an example and to have data showing that the EASE program yields results.”

Seemant Kulleen was impressed with the EASE event and the opportunity to meet and network with like-minded people.  “I’ve been living at Jack London Square, and completely in love with Oakland. I’m hopefully starting a business here soon.”

He moved  from Boston 3 years ago. “Oakland’s renaissance is unique because it is from within the community,” Kuleen said, “and it embodies our authentic values as Oaklanders: community, collaboration, mutual benefit. It’s tremendously validating and encouraging to see real businesses like Manifesta and business models like EASE take on those Oakland values and thrive,” Kulleen added.

The full online photo album is here and some sample images are in the slide viewer below.

About Uptima and the Sharing Economy

IMG_5973Uptima Business Bootcamp is a new and innovative member-owned business accelerator based in Oakland. They just hosted a Sharing Economy Challenge Hackathon this past weekend to jump-start the sharing model and, hopefully, close the wealth gap in the Bay Area and across the nation. Tech4Good helped promote this event and Tech4Good members were offered a discount to attend. (See Eric James Anderson’s piece on this event.)

Tech4Good and Optima will pair up again next month for an in-depth conversation on Business Innovation in the East Bay. The event will take place August 6 at Impact Hub in Oakland, and Tech4Good members will get a discount again.

This upcoming meetup will feature a panel of experienced investment professionals who will consider ways to combine investing with social impact. A growing number of new investors are looking for companies that generate measurable social and environmental impacts alongside financial return. In May,Uptima held the first talk in their Business Innovation Series on Sharing Economy Models with Tech4Good as a promotional partner.

The EASE model has academic stripes and aligns with the regional equity research of Pastor/Ortiz from USC.

An online photo album from the  Sharing Economy Challenge event is here.  A video of all the presented applications and the selected winners is below and also on YouTube.

Refreshments for the June Tech4Good Meetup were provided by three different pre-launch entrepreneurs: Evolve Superfoods, which makes healthy juices and snacks with natural superfoods, Chef Jeremy Armstrong’s Big Dippers, who shared his exotic sliders, and NattyCakes baked goods.

Just this week, another tech group, the Amazon Web Services technical Meetup from San Francisco, held another session in Oakland at SparkArt on Broadway.  This technical event for data center pros using the Amazon cloud infrastructure is currently rotating between Berkeley, San Francisco and Oakland. Find further information here.