Generate SF @ APEC

Just a day before the conference, we were invited to exhibit at GenerateSF, a conference hosted for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in 2023, in San Francisco. I received a call from Shaheer, a Berkeley student involved in a non-profit organization. It felt a bit rushed, and honestly I didn't feel like it was the best way to spend my time.

Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation
Generate SF

Aerbits on the Backburner

Just a week prior I had decided to put on the back burner. I had been working on Aerbits for nearly two years, and I was running out of money. Although I had several cities interested and even working on pilots, I was not in the position financially to continue, without some other means of funding. The immediate need for me was to get a job, at a company with Product Market Fit (PMF), and a good culture. I could spend my days doing what I love, coding, building things, and on nights and evenings I could continue to work on So, although I didn't have a job yet, I decided to go and keep the dream alive.

It wasn't difficult. I already have posterboards, with printouts showing how Aerbits works. I have a lot of visually appealing material, from dramatic dumpsite photos, to maps, charts, graphs, and even some high-production videos I made for YouTube.

Aerbits Booth at Generate SF

The Exhibitors

This wasn't the kind of conference I was used to. First of all it was intimate, with only one hundred or so people. The exhibitors ranged from diversity initiatives, food manufacturers, visual design marketplaces, homelessness advocacy, and even a company that is focused on the ancient form of writing Tagalog characters. The list goes on. There were a few other exhibitors that came from the AccelerateSF conference, including some of the prize winners.

Design Buddies CityStructure Design Buddies Stickers showing designers art Bunny 3D buildings Presenter talking about how he's helped thousands of homeless people Tagalog characters Audience at Generate SF


There were three speakers whose message I connected with. From each of them I found a small piece of inspiration, and perhaps will make a small change in my life.

Tagalog Writing

The first was the Tagalog writing company. The founder had wandered into leaning about his culture through an ancient form of writing, and found that it was a way to connect with his culture. He built an entire suite of products around the art, knowledge, and the lost culture of his people.

Tagalog Bayani Art

I found myself wondering could find some connection to my past? My ancestry is a mix of Scottish, Persian, French, German, and a smattering of Asian, African, and Native American. Yet, I don't feel a connection to any of these. I consider myself a dad, husband, technologist. Ethnicity doesn't really have a place in my current identity. I wonder could I find more meaning, more purpose, and more connection by learning about Scotland, Persia, France, Germany, Mongolia, the Congo? I don't know, but I'm curious.

The Climate and Nuclear Energy (Among other things)

The second speaker was a technologist, an ex-founder, ad-Yahoo-acquisition, the founder of Anthropocene Institute, Carl Page, who has spent the last two decades focused on climate change, and using his engineer's mindset to overcome the doom and gloom typical of climate change advocates. Rather, his approach was one of optimism, and a belief that with appropriate action and technology, we can solve the problem.

Anthropocene founder Paul Crutzen presenting

Paul spoke about the need for not only more energy, but the need for more energy consumption. This was new to me. Having heard the message now for decades: Save, Conserve, Don't waste. His message was the opposite, that we only achieve energy abundance by consuming more energy, and creating economies of scale. He spoke about the need for more nuclear power generation, that nuclear has been completely mis-characterized. In his words, the worst nuclear disaster took fewer lives than the best coal factory. Chernobyl killed 31 people, while coal kills 13,000 people per year. That's not even counting the people who die from breathing air containing particles from burning coal, which has been estimated in the millions.

It's insane how many more people die from coal than nuclear. And yet, nuclear is the one that is feared.

Solid Fusion has so much potential for abundant clean energy.

The Menstrual Cycle

Another speaker that surprised me spoke about the menstrual cycle. Sophia Yen, founder of Pandia Health, advocated for more time and energy, and in particular communication around women's periods. At first, I wondered how I could help. But then, I realized that women have a secret superpower, and a secret responsibility. Every month they may experience extreme pain, and I could be more empathetic, and also less patronizing when it comes to that pain. I don't experience pain like that.

Ovaries are vital and should be treated with more respect Pandia Health

Another interesting piece of knowledge was a statistic around birth control and cancer. By using birth control pills to limit the menstrual cycle to when it's needed, women can reduce their risk of ovarian cancer by 50%. That's huge! The speaker demonstrated that American women menstruate several orders of magnitude more times than the number of children they carry. While, in other countries women may have ten children in their lifetime, both limiting the total number of menstrual cycles, and also spreading them out over a longer period of time. This is a huge difference, and I immediately texted my wife about it.

Buildspace and the Future of Education

Farza Majeed, the founder of Buildspace, spoke about the future of education. He told us the story of how Buildspace came to be, and what it had become. I found this story very inspiring, because my own personal journey of finding my passion and pursuing it full-time has been an immense leaning experience. I was inspired by Farza's agility and willingness to pivot, and his ability to find a niche that he could fill.

Buildspace founder Farza Majeed speaking at Generate SF Buildspace

I'm going to sign up for Buildspace as a part of my effort to reconnect with my community: technologists and entrepreneurs.

The Future

From my perspective, the future is bright. I'm excited to see what the next generation of technologists, designers, and entrepreneurs will build. I'm excited to see how the world will change, and how we will solve the problems that we face. It's up to us to make the world what we want, and I'm satisfied that we're learning, growing, and making progress.

My Perspective of the conference at Generate SF

I really enjoyed talking to folks who stopped by my exhibit, and I'm excited to see what the future holds. I made some connections with the Berkeley Haas School of Business, the Anthropocene Institute, the Digital Equity Office of the City of San Francisco, and a few others. I'm excited to see what the future holds.

Brian Johnson standing by his Aerbits Exhibit at Generate SF