A Canadian in the Valley
That’s Silicon Valley if you were wondering… The IsmailiMail team recently caught up with Anar Simpson, Editor-in-Chief of The Ismaili Canada magazine (2003-2007) and inaugural International Editor for TheIsmaili.org (2007-2008). Since then Anar has returned to her computer science roots and founded a company: llearth (Parallel Earth). She just completed the Program in Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Stanford Graduate School of Business and is on the Organizing Committee of the C100. She was part of the TechWomen program initiated by the U.S. Department of State and more recently was invited to the Women and the Economy Summit (WES) and the Innovation, Trade, and Technology Conference at APEC 2011 meetings in San Francisco.
IM: So tell us about llearth?
AS: llearth is a social gaming platform company. The idea behind it was conceived during our family walks on Stanford University’s Dish Walk. We were trying to understand why the broad range of social gaming choices available today did not appeal to us. What ensued from that discussion was the idea of creating a unique game-based platform that connected people’s real-life passions (sports, for example) to an online mobile environment. We want to bring the games that people already love closer to them through their mobile devices and desktops.
IM: Is it like fantasy football? And where can we download it?
AS: It’s not fantasy football, in that the stats matter less than the actual, real time game. llearth is a platform which brings actual world events to users in the form of a physics-based game. We’re keeping the details under wraps for now, but will let you know when we plan to launch.
IM: So that brings us to your involvement with TechWomen?
AS: President Obama’s Cairo Speech in 2009 sought to strengthen ties between MENA (Middle East and North Africa) countries and the US. One of the initiatives to come out of this was the TechWomen program launched by the US State Dept.; in collaboration with the Institute of International Education (IIE) and the Anita Borg Institute. They put together a program in which they brought in 37 senior technical women from the MENA region and paired them with women in the Valley in companies such as: Adobe Systems, Cisco, Facebook, Google, HP, Huawei, Intel, etc. for a month-long mentoring session (http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2011/06/164861.htm). In addition to the technical mentors, the women were also paired with cultural mentors so that they could get a balanced view of the Valley. I was invited to be a part of TechWomen as a technical mentor due to my position as female founder of a start-up company.
IM: Was the objective of this program was to further educate these women?
AS: Certainly that was part of it, in that they could experience the unique, entrepreneurial atmosphere of the Valley. Just as importantly, however, the program imparted a real understanding of different cultures and placed emphasis on developing relationships between these two different parts of the world. The month-long mentoring capped off by a visit to Washington for discussions with senior State Department. officials as well as an event with Secretary Hillary Clinton. (http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2011/07/167699.htm) The outcomes of the program have so far been phenomenal: Upon their return home, women from Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestinian Territories, Morocco, and Algeria have launched various different initiatives to enhance science and technology and are using their newly-found contacts in the US to perpetuate these efforts.
IM: And what is the C100?
AS: The C100 (http://www.thec100.org/) is a group of Canadian expats living in the Valley and their mandate is to connect the top 100 emerging technology entrepreneurs in Canada to the top 100 Canadians in the Valley. Basically the group provides a link to venture capital, introductions to key companies and mentoring by C-level folks in the Valley. As a member of the Organizing Committee I have been responsible for setting up the CRM database for the membership and also heavily involved in the flagship “48 Hours in the Valley” events. This is where we bring in around 20 start-ups from Canada (through a highly vetted selection process working with the Canadian Consulate) for the two-day event in the Valley. This highly sought-out event and the C100 has garnered a solid reputation both in the Valley and in Canada.
IM: Recently you had an opportunity to meet with Rona Ambrose, Minister of Public Works & Minister of State for Status of Women Canada.
AS: The Women and the Economy Summit (WES) was part of the APEC 2011 meetings this year in San Francisco. The Canadian Consulate held a Women’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Roundtable Discussion with the Minister and the Canadian Delegation and Bay Area participants. The focus was on understanding how to promote and support women entrepreneurs and exploring the relationship-building that could be done with the US.
IM: Thank you for this update and good luck with these numerous initiatives…
AS: Thank you! Keep up the good work at Ismailimail.