Silicon Valleys Singularity University Has Some Serious Reality Problems

The pitch was simple: Overlook accredited graduate schools and believe big at Singularity University. Google co-founder Larry Page and futurist Ray Kurzweil could be among your own lecturers in the Graduate Studies Plan at Singularity, named for the thought that humans will someday mix with machines. You’ d operate a kind of combination think tank plus startup incubator, trying to address issues as grand as renewable energy plus space travel. Kurzweil announced this program during a TED Talk in 2009 , adding the Singularity team had leased the campus from NASA, just eastern of the agency’ s historic Flugzeughalle One in Mountain View, Calif. The team received 1, two hundred applications for its first class of forty later that year.

Reality hasn’ t matched the hype. Formerly unreported police files, other files, and interviews with current plus former students and staff color the picture that almost right from the start, some Singularity staffers weren’ big t able to curb their worst urges. A teacher allegedly sexually attacked a former student, an executive took more than $15, 000, a former staffer alleges gender and disability splendour, and Singularity dismissed 14 of approximately 170 staffers and suspended GSP, now called the Global Solutions System, after Google withdrew funding this past year.

Alumni say for-profit Singularity has become just another organizer of conferences plus executive seminars. It’ s evaluating buying the seminar company Abundance 360, started by Singularity co-founder Philip Diamandis. “ It’ s dropped its soul, ” says Vivek Wadhwa, who ran the teachers until 2013 and is at Carnegie Mellon University. “ It’ ersus become a moneymaking corporation. ”

While Singularity says it requires seriously its community’ s protection and any related allegations, the majority of those matters are far in the past, states Chief Executive Officer Rob Nail. He says he or she was already planning to suspend and reevaluate GSP before Google ended the annual grant of $1. five million. The grant covered about 50 % the costs of the program, which was totally free for participants. Google, whose older manager Jen Phillips left Singularity’ s advisory board late this past year and won’ t be replaced, states it plans to focus on Singularity’ ersus entrepreneurship programs instead.

Nail states although GSP may be reborn mostly online, conferences and executive education and learning (tuition: $14, 500 for a weeklong program) will become the bulk of Singularity’ s i9000 work. It held 10 meetings last year and has 18 planned just for 2018. On Feb. 15 this announced it raised $32 mil in venture funding led simply by Boeing Company. and investment company WestRiver Group. Erik Anderson, WestRiver’ s CEO, is replacing Diamandis as Singularity’ s chairman. These types of changes, Nail says, will help the organization turn a profit and thereby aid a lot more people. “ If we want to make genuine impact, ” he says, “ we have to do it in a sustainable fashion. ”

Singularity had NASA connections beyond its rented structures. Early GSP students speak extremely of a lecture by former astronaut Dan Barry, a physician who had the space shuttle program after thirteen rejections. Several say they noticed him as a mentor. Barry hasn’ t taught GSP students given that 2013, when the company investigated your pet for allegedly sexually assaulting Yasemin Baydaroglu, a French student who else attended GSP in 2011.

Baydaroglu says Craig arranged a 2013 meetup within Paris. They went for a bicycle ride, during which she complained associated with back pain, and then went to their hotel to chat. He reminded her he was a doctor, the girl says, and offered her the massage, speaking in strictly healthcare terms. Because he was a mentor, the girl trusted him— until, she states, he touched her breasts plus genitals, and she fled. “ I absolutely didn’ t see it coming, plus I’ m so careful, ” she says. “ This time our guard was low. ” The girl reported the incident to law enforcement several days later, then stopped at a doctor.

“ We completely deny her accusations, ” Barry says, adding that the queries that followed led to “ the distressing time for me and my spouse. ”

Baydaroglu showed signs of psychological stress that she said were associated with a physical assault, according to the copy of a May 31, 2013, doctor’ s report reviewed simply by. According to a copy of a notice sent from France’ s Workplace of the Prosecutor, it declined in order to pursue the case because authorities hadn’ t been able to find Barry.

Singularity began its inner investigation after Baydaroglu separately documented the alleged assault to the organization. Barry left that summer’ s i9000 program in June; his spouse was ill, and the company informed students he left for personal factors. In a June 22, 2013, e-mail to Baydaroglu reviewed by, the Singularity human resources official told her Toenail believed “ the facts around the main allegation of unwanted sexual coming in contact with are inconclusive” but that he informed Barry the circumstances indicated “ bad judgment. ” The official wrote that will Barry wouldn’ t be present for that remainder of the 2013 GSP plus asked Baydaroglu not to discuss the situation with other parties.

The e-mail outlined steps Singularity was using to reduce the likelihood of staffers being in “ potentially intimate situations” on campus, including prohibiting them from getting alone with a student at the end of a course day and installing webcams in order to classrooms. Baydaroglu says Singularity’ s i9000 response left her feeling significantly depressed and betrayed. Particularly galling, she says, was “ inquiring me not to talk about it. ” The company declined to discuss the case other than to say Barry hasn’ t already been an active faculty member since 2013.

Singularity leaders have a history of shady monetary practices. When the organization was in the infancy in 2009, Alicia Isaac, the particular financial controller, used its bank cards to make $13, 500 in individual purchases; she also kept the money from a $2, 000 check in order to Singularity, according to a subsequent law enforcement report. And she helped the chief executive of an artificial intelligence institute attempt to steal almost $80, 000. Law enforcement arrested Isaac in 2009; she pleaded no contest to felony scams charges. Isaac didn’ t react to requests for comment.

Another early Singularity architect, Bruce Klein, was convicted in 2012 associated with running a credit fraud operation within Alabama. He’ s no longer linked to the company. Board member Naveen Jain was convicted of insider investing in 2003. He appealed the $247 million judgment and eventually settled.

Nail, who have previously helped found an software company, arrived in late 2011 along with Chief Strategy Officer Gabriel Baldinucci, a former Virgin Group executive. These people soon changed Singularity from a not for profit to a for-profit B Corporation, meaning a private accreditor certifies it fulfills certain social and environmental requirements.

For years several staffers close to Baldinucci lived alongside your pet in a series of rented houses nicknamed the SU Villa, in Atherton and Woodside, Calif. Other workers say the group got favorable therapy and the general atmosphere was unfavorable to women. Eleanor Schuermann, an attorney at Kastner Kim LLP, is usually representing a staffer who claims Singularity discriminated against her due to her gender and disability, compensated her less than men in the exact same position, and retaliated against the girl for complaining. The attorney’ h filings with state regulators, the very first steps toward a lawsuit, aren’ capital t yet public record. Schuermann, who wouldn’ t name her client, states she’ s heard from 2 other Singularity employees about comparable claims. The company declined to discuss the case but says it works difficult to support women.

Singularity is a long way from 2009, once the first GSP led to the development of Getaround, a car-sharing firm that’ s raised $85 mil from investors including Toyota Engine Corp. “ It is amazing exactly what all has happened here, ” Google’ s Page said throughout the program’ s opening ceremony these year. “ It exceeded my expectations. ” These days, Page isn’ t involved with Singularity. Kurzweil doesn’ t dispute that while he attends board meetings, he rarely talks.

Anderson, the new leader, says the company expects to meet the revenue and social goals. Toe nail says it’ s making great on some of its grander goals, citing work on United Nations anti-hunger initiatives. Still, he says, Singularity can do much better: “ We’ re nowhere close to impacting the billion people the students talk about. ”  

BOTTOM LINE – Singularity is using a $32 million personal assistant to steer its programming tough toward a series of executive training workshops and conferences.