Rails Girls are back in town!

An interview with Laura Fernandez, Rails Girl + back end developer atCamaloon.

Rails Girls is a non-profit movement founded by Linda Liukas and Karri Saarinen in Helsinki, where the 1st workshop took place in 2010. Since then, this peer-run (and free!) workshop, that aims to “give tools for women to build their ideas”, has been organized by local teams in over than 200 cities, attracting more and more girls to the programming world.

In Spain, this Rails Girls movement is sparking. Their workshops have already taken place in Madrid (2012), Córdoba (2014) and Gran Canaria (2015). In Barcelona, the 1st one took place two years ago. And recently, a group of volunteers thought the time had arrived to organize a second one! And here we go with the 2nd free Rails Girls workshop in town, taking place on March 28 + 29 at FabLab.

One of those volunteers is Laura Fernández, backend developer at Camaloon and ruby on rails lover. We have interviewed her to have a look behind the scenes of the Rails Girls movement and the Barcelona group of volunteers.

itnig: Laura, can you explain a bit more what is Rails Girls, how it works and what is the ultimate motivation of this initiative?

Laura: The first time time I heard about Rails Girls, I loved the idea. A few months ago I met a group of girls who work on IT and ‘the question’ came up: why are so few girls in development, engineering and technology? Sadly, we don’t really know the reason. So, with this initiative we want to share our experience as tech-girls. We would like to teach all girls some basic things about our daily job as web developers and offer them help and support to those who are making their first steps in this world, or thinking on doing a career twist.

i: How many people are behind the Barcelona Rails Girls chapter? And can you explain us a bit more about your role?

L: This edition of Rails Girls Barcelona 2015 is being organized by a mixed group of volunteers. I say mixed because we are all girls but also we have a boy, Andreas! And I also say mixed because each of us is from a different country. So, it has been really inspiring and enriching every time we have spent together figuring out how this is going to be.

Not all of us are developers though, but we all love technology. Paulina was the first one who explained us the idea, because she collaborated a few times with the Rails Girls team in Poland. Andreas also has experience organizing previous Rails Girls’ events. María is our marketing person. She is full of ideas and deals with media & sponsors like a true ninja.

The rest of us, PiliSilvia and me, we are Rails developers and we all have done our best looking for coaches and sponsors.

i: I am a girl and I want to learn to code. What is Ruby on Rails and why should I start with this programming framework?

L: Ruby on Rails is an open source web application framework written in Ruby. It was first published in 2005 and new releases are published nearly each year. It is used in most startups and it is said that more than 600.000 sites all over the world are running in Ruby on Rails.

My background was software development, but anyone, from any background, who gives it a try finds it easy to learn and understand. There are no boring or confusing configuration files and the ruby syntax is really easy to get!

Rails Girls Barcelona · March 28 + 29

i: Any Rails Girls workshop lasts a weekend. Can you explain a bit more how is the weekend structured?

L: The installation party takes place the first. This means that we will help everyone setting up all software needed in their computers. After that, we will start with some theoretical explanations and coding, step by step. We would like to create a comfortable atmosphere in which everyone will be welcomed to ask any doubt. We will also have some enlightening talks from interesting people…sshhh…sorry I can’t tell you more 😉

i: What can someone with absolute zero knowledge about programming create something in less than 48h?

L: It is not so important what you are going to develop, but what you are going to learn. After the workshop you will understand how web development works, you will have the ability and the resources to start learning by your own. However, a lot of things can be done in 48hours, of course! A basic app will be deployed including some forms to interact with, a database, the application of some designs… All depends on you! Are you prepared? 😉

i: Can men also attend this workshop?

L: Yes, of course! The only requirement is that they have to attend with a girl. Unfortunately, there won’t be enough spots for everyone, so we are giving priority to girls.

i: A lot of women will be reading this post right now (I hope ^^). What would you tell them to encourage them to sign up?

L: Come on!!! Your are going to learn something new. This is your opportunity: everything you always wanted to know but you never dared to ask!!

Was Laura convincing enough?
Great! You can sign up here!
See you on Saturday, March 28 at FabLab!

Interviewing Emilia Vila, co-founder & CEO at Agroptima

Although technology arrived later to agriculture than to other industries, the fields are catching up. In recent years, more startups and venture capitalists have set their sights on this ancient industry, and innovation is already changing the rules of the game for farmers. Fact is that agriculture is one of the biggest markets in the world and all the agricultural process clearly have a big margin to benefit from data science, wireless technologies and software in the cloud.

In Spain, one of the startups that is already providing solutions to manage the daily life of a farm without farmers having to step off the tractor is Agroptima.

To know a bit more about this startup and how the agricultural industry is being disrupted with new software tools we have interviewed Emilia Vila, co-founder and CEO at Agroptima.

itnig: Hi Emilia! You have experience launching different startups in different industries. Why did you decided to startup in agriculture with Agroptima?

Emilia: In a previous start-up (Delizr.de) my co-founder and me talked to farmers very often. We realised how frustrated they were when it came to optimize their crops and analyze their performance. They had poor software tools and no data.

We also saw an increasing amount of data coming from IoT devices: drones, sensors and machines. We realised we could build the Google Analytics for farmers. And that is what Agroptima is, short and sweet 🙂

We were also super motivated to have the chance to revolutionize a vast industry, which faces so many challenges in this century. For example, do you know how we will feed the world by 2050? We will have to increase food production by 70%. With Agroptima we know we can have a great impact in this world and that motivates us everyday.

i: In your opinion, and although the market is big enough, why agriculture has not been attractive to entrepreneurs as fast as other industries?

E: I think it is because most of the entrepreneurs come from the urban world and they focus on solving problems they encounter or products they want to use.

i: You say that Agroptima’s goal is “to dramatically increase agriculture competitiveness through new technologies”. How are you achieving this goal?

E: We are achieving this goal by focusing on the farmer. We are not focusing on intermediaries or other people. We believe that farmers are the key piece to revolutionize agriculture and we are providing them with the right tools.

The first version of Agroptima is already in the market and it is already helping farmers optimize their farms, save time, paper and easily comply with the law. The current version of Agroptima is a mobile app and webapp that allows farmers to keep track of their activities and manage their entire farm resources. This simple tool allows them to get rid of paper and to start gathering data that can be used to make better decisions on crop rotations, plantations or usage of specific products like herbicides, fertilizers, etc.

i: You started Agroptima on February 2014 and launched the beta of your product in September 2014. What happened during that period of time? Could you recall the main steps of the process of creating your product?

E: We have built a team integrated by engineers and a group of farmers. These 6 farmers are very modern, tech friendly and have experience using farm software in the past. We listened to their needs and essentially made the best product upon them. Co-creation is the key.

Before launching Agroptima, farmers tested it in the fields. We scaled step by step with batches of new farmers and finally now Agroptima is already available to anyone and more and more farmers are using it to optimize their farms every day.

i: Farming is mostly dominated by men. How do they handle the fact that the boss of Agroptima is a woman?

E: You are right, actually, farming is mostly dominated by men as it is a hard physical job. However, I am lucky that our community of farmers is very professional and I have never experienced an uncomfortable situation due to gender differences.

i: How about your team? Your co-founders are Ferran Gascon (CTO) and Anisia Tardà (Agricultural Engineer). Did you knew each other before Agroptima or how did you came up to start a business together?

E: I started Delizr.de with Ferran, an online gourmet marketplace, and I have worked with him for a long time. During this experience is where we identified the opportunity of Agroptima.

Meeting Anisia came later thanks to a contact we had in common. We shared a common goal: to bring tech to agriculture and to help farmers be more efficient. When you are so passionate about a common goal, the connection is very strong. In our case, we formed the perfect team (tech, agrotech, business) and we had a great opportunity in front, so we just seized it!

Agroptima’s Team + the farmers (beta testers).

i: As far as I know, you haven’t closed any funding round yet. How have you financially survived until now?

E: We have raised funds thanks to the 9 innovation contests that we have won all around Europe and we have chipped in personal savings.

i: Are you planning to open a funding round in the near future?

E: Yes, we are now actively looking for smart money to help us revolutionize agriculture faster.

i: What is your long term vision for Agroptima and what are your next steps?

E: Our next step is to laser focus on improving what we have and to connect with the farming community. Our long term vision, is to achieve the “interconnected farm” where all the elements and devices are connected and the farmer can manage and optimize the farm from Agroptima.

i: In your opinion, what is the future of agriculture? Will it become a hyper-technified sector with field’s evolution being supervised by drones?

E: For us, the future of agriculture is the involvement of the farmer in technology. Therefore we focus on providing the best technology to the farmer (not intermediaries, advisors, etc.).

We are hyped everyday by new gadgets, sensors, robots, drones… Those technologies will be successful as long as farmers want to use them, as long as they are solving an important pain. If that’s the case, I am sure they will help shape the future of agriculture.

There is no doubt farming activities will have a higher degree of automation and therefore big data, drones and internet of things can be key to provide the inputs necessary to make this possible.

Interviewing Marc García, co-founder & CEO at Viuing

Last Wednesday, February 18 Marc García, co-founder & CEO at Viuing, was interviewed at the 2nd CEO talks of the year, organized at itnig by our colleagues from Delvy Law & Finance.

Below you can find the video of the interview, which was conducted in Spanish by Josep Navajo, lawyer and co-founder at Delvy.

About Marc García and Viuing:

Marc García describes himself as “an entrepreneurial spirit with a determined attitude and passionated about my job”.

But before launching his own business, Marc worked for two big corporations: 8 years at Ferrovial as sales area manager, and almost 9 years at Yamaha as coordinator of water vehicles, recreational vehicles and power products.

When asked about these experiences, Marc assess them very differently: “At Ferrovial I was very junior. I stayed because they offered me to lead a project — Don Piso — and I mainly learned about dealing with customers. But Yamaha was my top job experience”.

At Yamaha Marc learned how to design, evaluate and re-allocate budgets, and how to manage teams in a multinational environment. And during a F1 race, he and his co-founder, Sergio Palomino, had the idea of Viuing: “Standing at the grandstands we realized that we were actually missing most of the race, and we came up with the idea of a device we called Viuing”.

After that, he left his job because “I was a risk lover, as I guess all entrepreneurs are, who deeply believed in his project”. But, what is most important, Marc knew there was a market for his product!

And in October 2013, Viuing was born: a device for attendants to major events so they can see everything that is going on, even if it happens outside their field of vision. “Viuing is a way to maximize your experience”, says Marc.

Although the product is focused on motor sports’ events, because of the number of attendants, their needs, and for reasons of advertising investments, Marc knows the device can be used in many other events, like big music festivals or even for broadcasting a mass of the Pope.

And as you probably already know, early this year and with only 1 year of life, Viuing managed to close its first round of investment of €700K, which will allow them the “go to market” during 2015.

The Importance Of Financial Management in a Startup

Startups in Spain tend to trivialize the importance of the financial management of its businesses, and often look down on it, considering it a “simple number producing” activity related to “gestorías” (agencies that undertake administrative work).

But companies who care for having a first class finance management from the beginning have some clear strategic advantages:

  • Efficiency: Releases time from other key positions of a startup — founders, CEO’s, CTO’s, CPO’s, Sales Directors — who otherwise have to do financial management in a partial, reactive and non professional way.
  • Data analysis: Beyond the “simple number producing” label, the company becomes a data-driven organization, managed by information and data. Data rigorously analyzed, linked and integrated that keep the board well informed, adding value and guiding the strategic decisions.
  • Organization processes: Process is everything! With a sound base of financial and non-financial metrics, the company can adopt a rigorous and standardized weekly and monthly operational cadence. The Board and the Board of Directors ensure that the strategy is implemented and that any significant variation is discussed, debated and, if necessary, corrected.
  • Visibility: To third parties — investors, strategic partners and financial partners — a level of confidence is transmitted when the company has a strong and professional financial management.

Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions:

I do not have CFO, so what?
Many companies make the mistake of assimilating a professional financial management to large and complex enterprises. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is a clear advantage to professionalizing the role from day one .

Now or later?
Now! The main reason for delaying the decision of professionalizing the financial tasks of a company is usually the cost, since it is not a function of the front office. Companies that pay attention to financial management from day one are able to scale their operations better. Instead, those companies that wait to succeed, often discover that they professionalized their financial department too late.

Common mistakes:

  1. “We are facing a shaky and not cohesive organization with respect to key metrics”.
  2. “We must walk the path of one year in only one month”.
  3. “There were mistakes in the initial approach of the company that are now expensive, slow and delicate to fix”.
  4. “In an emergency such as a financing round or an internationalization process, the finance area may not respond adequately and quickly enough”.

Having a “gestoría” is not enough?
No. The accounting data is not directly interpretable by the business and, in any case, someone should do the job of adding non-financial metrics, interpret them, report them and discuss them appropriately with the board. Raw data do not add value.

What is the difference between the financial management in a small company and the one we might have later, once we succeed?
Essentially the cost and the flexibility, not the quality. On each growth-phase of a company, complexity and business success requires a CFO model adapted to it. But maintaining the common elements that we discussed earlier in this post. It is a mistake to wait for the company to succeed to change from an external financial agency to an internal CFO, who is capable of dealing with a millionair financing round or sell the business. The change is too abrupt, and the results do not occur as quickly as the company would like .

Given the need for a startup to have a professional financial management service, we have identified the following solutions:

  1. The startup has a CFO who is also a co-founder and who knows and wants to grow with the company. This CFO cost should be aligned with the initial business needs.
  2. The startup has an independent CFO who can growth with the company. He/she has to be able to gradually adapt to new situations, challenges and complexities. And the company has to be able to retain him/her!
  3. The startup has a service support tailored in terms of commitment and cost. This service provides the support needed on every life stage of the company and it is able to scale with the business.

This post appeared first on Delvy Law & Finance blog, on February, 3 2015

by Xavier Sansó
CFO at Delvy Law and Finance

5 (good) reasons why you should get your hands on Virtual Reality in 2015

Andreessen Horowitz, the $4 billion venture capital firm (yes, the one that invested in companies such as Foursquare, Twitter, Facebook and Airbnb, among many others), published last January their top 16 tech trends here, and guess what? Virtual Reality is #1.

Many of us lived the Virtual Reality (VR) hype through the 90’s and the following disenchantment. Simply put, neither the technology nor the market was ready

But Palmer Luckey, a (then) 19 year old ‘kid’ from Long Beach, California, after having spent his teenage years tinkering with up to 50 head-mounted displays and building more than five cost-effective virtual reality displays, finally put the first version of what he called the “Rift” as a DIY-kit on Kickstarter on June 2012. In just 36 hours the campaign surpassed $1 million in funding, eventually ending with $2,437,429. Almost two years after, on March 25, 2014, Luckey’s company, Oculus VR, was acquired by Facebook for US$2 billion.

Picture: http://www.tweaktown.com/news/37828/oculus-vr-founder-palmer-luckey-makes-the-cover-of-wired-magazine/index.html

Since then, it seems that every big media or tech company (Sony, Pixar, Disney, Facebook, Google, Samsung and Microsoft among others) is interested on VR technology. But why this sudden crazy interest in VR technology? In short: the first time you experience VR through a headset like the Oculus Rift, you understand why (read: you’ll be mind blown). Just in case you haven’t (please, try!), I’ve compiled five reasons why I think this technology will be highly disruptive (in the “Peter Thiel’s sense”) in 2015:

#1. Presence has finally arrived

In the early days of VR (pioneered by Jaron Lanier), two main issues plagued VR developments: “motion sickness” and lack of “presence”. You get motion sickness when wearing a VR head-mounted display if you move your head and the scenery do not change fast enough. You can get symptoms like dizziness, nausea or even vomiting. On the other hand, “presence” is the feeling you get when you wear a head-mounted display, and aside from the realistic 3D rendering, you feel as if ‘you are there’. I’ve personally witnessed more than fifty people trying the Rift for the first time, and almost half of them try to ‘touch’ the ‘things’ they see with their hands (you can also watch ‘first-timers’ reactions here). Yes sir, that’s what can be called presence.

The Rift achieve presence and lack of motion sickness through a wide field of vision (more than 100 degrees) and a really well engineered (fast plus accurate) head rotation tracking. If you are curious about the details, I recommend this book from Manning Publications.

Picture: http://static.oculus.com/connect/slides/OculusConnect_Epic_UE4_Integration_and_Demos.pdf

#2. VR is a new medium and a new interface

VR is both a new medium and a new interface.

As a new medium, it’s characterized as a post-symbolic medium, meaning that you do not need a ‘language’ to communicate in that medium, the user just ‘experience things’ there. Some people have even called VR ‘the empathy machine’ after projects like this one, funded by United Nations, in which you experience (via immersive video) the day-to-day reality of a Syrian refugee. VR as a medium is storytelling on steroids.

The music industry is also getting up to speed with the technology, with artists such as Paul McCartney, Jack White, Beck, U2 and Coldplay experimenting with VR.

As a new interface (just as the birth of the computer mouse allowed new kind of applications and human-computer interactions) VR will unlock interaction possibilities we’re not, of course, aware as of now. As an example, Guy Godin has developed a ‘Virtual Desktop for VR’. I know, it may sound silly, but keep in mind that the natural interface for humans should be closer to immersive 3D than to a flat 2D screen.

#3. Big companies have their hands on Virtual Reality

Facebook bought Oculus VR, Samsung has partnered with Oculus VR, Sony has its own VR device in progress, Google-backed ‘Magic Leap’ is trying to make the perfect Augmented Reality Device after Google Glass fiasco, and Leap Motion has literally resurrected thanks to VR.

A month ago, it was announced that Youtube is developing 360º video streaming, VR ready.

It all sounds like the early days of the Web, in which all the money from the Valley was suddenly redirected to the new technology. And yes, it may be well that a new bubble is coming bigger as ever, but also remember that the Web survived those days by filtering out noise from value.

#4. VR development is progressing at blazing speed

I ordered Oculus DK2 on June, 2012 (it arrived on September, though). At that moment, development was kind of ‘low-level’, esoteric or expensive (licensing). In just four months, WebVR (an initiative to bring VR to the web, via javascript access to VR devices) has become really solid, Unity released their Oculus Rift integration for the free version (this is huge!), and Leap Motion+VR integration is driving really innovative applications. Youtube is full of VR videos (mostly from drones), VR (mostly three.js/WebVR based) developments are starting to grow on Github, and Oculus/Leap stores are really growing; not to mention the grassroots groups trying to make 180º videos cost-effective and VR-ready.

Picture: http://techcrunch.com/2015/01/23/un-launches-powerful-oculus-virtual-reality-film-following-syrian-refugee-girl/

#5. Real world applications are already appearing and the spectrum is huge

One of the problems with early VR is that it was successful at the industrial level, but not at the consumer level. Now, with around US$350 or even just US$20 (Google Cardboard, or a DIY version, plus a smartphone) and some knowledge of Unity (or a similar game engine) or Javascript/WebGL you can start developing your own applications.

If you follow ‘Road to VR’ or ‘Enter VR’ podcasts, you’ll quickly notice that each and every day new applications are appearing: from immersive journalism, to healing diplopia through virtual reality and everything in between: gaming (of course), adult content, movies (Story Studio and Zero Point), mental ailments healing and fitness. If you are interested in the applications of VR to Social Sciences, ‘Infinite Reality’ is a fascinating read.

As a side note, at Outliers Collective we are working to bring VR to Data Visualization (or Data Visualization to VR), developing D3.js-like capabilities into both Unity and WebVR. One of our early examples, a real-time network visualization experience can be seen here. Seems like we are not alone, you can check also ‘6000 moons’ (a data visualization/simulation of nearly 6000 objects orbiting around us in space)

***This is a guest post by Oscar Marín
Data Engineer and co-founder at Outliers Collective