Fifty years ago, the term moonshot was discussed in relation to the Apollo 11 mission in 1969 where humankind first stepped foot on the moon. In the context of Elevate Festival 2019, the meaning of moonshot took many forms. It was the idea of shooting for the moon – addressing colossal problems in the world, proposing bold solutions, and harnessing breakthrough technology.
We heard about moonshots when Jodi Kovitz of #movethedial spoke about diversity and inclusion, and bringing more women into tech. In an industry historically male-dominated, Kovitz left us with the thought of what more could be accomplished if only we leveraged the other 50% of the population: women. $85 Billion. This number stuck with the crowd as she spoke about the Venture Capital funds invested in American tech companies in 2017. Of those companies, only 2.2% of them were run by women. Kovitz encouraged us all to invite people in, scale up meaningfully, and engage all of the incredible talent out there because we simply can’t afford to have 50% of the world’s talent on the sideline.
The idea of moonshots gained further context from Chris Hadfield and his session on how humankind first got to the moon. He took us on a journey of early explorers and their vessels, which achieved moonshots in their own rights. When John Cabot first sailed across the Atlantic and came upon Newfoundland. When, despite all odds, Neil Armstrong persevered through countless training missions to finally lead a crew into space and take the first steps on the moon. And when Elon Musk of SpaceX set out to create a rocket that would land itself in order to avoid immeasurable waste every mission. Hadfield also spoke about future moonshots with Jenny Sidey, a Canadian astronaut, who is inspiring young people today of all genders and backgrounds.
Day 3 brought forth a discussion around products, and how different companies achieve their moonshots of global inclusion by building useful products for the most amount of people. Samantha Stevens of Tinder spoke about designing inclusive products on 3 axes – gender, orientation, and ethnicity. As Tinder expanded globally several years ago, Stevens spoke about talking with users in different countries, revealing new product considerations that would protect users in an impactful way. The moonshot when she spoke about the product was being able to leverage data to positively impact both the business and end-users in a meaningful way.
Perhaps one of the biggest highlights of Elevate was Michelle Obama’s session, where she effectively outlined the challenge that when others go low, we should go high. However, going high is ultimately about understanding, and we can’t possibly fix a problem unless we truly understand it. As Obama put it: change isn’t about just one person, it’s about planting that seed.
To quote Jodi Kovitz, “intentions, however good or well-meaning are not enough. [We] have to go all-in and be intentional.” The moonshot of bringing more women into tech is a lot like that Apollo 11 mission 50 years ago, it takes a massive team who will think big, embrace change, and work collaboratively to get that rocket to the moon. Those, incidentally, are also some of the values we live and breath here at Architech.