The Westly Write Up


Here are a few updates from Team Westly over the past few months.



5th Annual Ag Business Conference


With path breaking California companies like Facebook, Uber, Google and Tesla dominating the news, it’s easy to forget that California’s agricultural sector is also a global leader.  Earlier this month, I spoke in Lodi to a group of over 120 business and government leaders who help make California the most productive and efficient agricultural economy on the planet.  Speakingof tech, Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer is famous for saying “every company is becoming a software company”.  Nowhere is this more true than agriculture.  California farms are becoming leaders in using GPS guided tractors, sensors that tell drip irrigation lines when it’s time to water and drones that detect insects, weeds and even nitrogen deficiencies in the soil.  The combination of California’s “perfect soil” and our technological leadership will ensure that California stays the agricultural leader for years to come.


TIM KAINE: An extraordinary leader


While most of the world focused on the startling contrasts between Clinton and Trump, a lot of us were watching the contrasts between vice presidential candidates.  Tim Kaine was one of the unsung heroes of the campaign making over 200 campaign stops in 25 states, and reaching out to voters with his characteristic combination of warmth, smarts and experience.  I was happy to be able to spend some more time with him Friday night in Palo Alto where he met with a small group of us to thank us for our support during the campaign.  He was kind enough to acknowledge that Anita and I were the first people in California to host an event for him when he first ran for the US Senate ten years ago.  We’ve been big fans of Tim’s ever since and it’s good to know that he will continue his excellent work in the U.S. Senate.


2016 Westly Prize for Young Innovators


Everyone has heard of the Nobel Prize and the Pulitzer Prize, but those are lofty accolades that seem attainable only to a few far along in their careers.  What’s needed is more recognition of brilliant younger people, earlier in their journeys.  That’s why Anita and I started the Westly Prize, to acknowledge and fund young social entrepreneurs between the ages of 16 and 28.  We had over 75 applicants from around the state who have already created both companies and non-profits that are changing the world.  On November 5th, we announced the six winners, each of whom received a check for $25,000.  And we were proud to have the support this year of the Packard Foundation, who partnered with us in sending the message that you’re never too young to start changing the world. 


You can read about all the winners here, but two of my favorites are Manny Escamilla, who grew up in a trailer in one of the toughest parts of Modesto and although he was raised by a single mom with substance abuse challenges, graduated from UC Berkeley and is now doing graduate work at Harvard.  Manny started CodeX, is an academy to help kids in the Central Valley learn how to code. His goal is to provide these kids with the essential computer skills they will need to climb the social ladder out of poverty.  We also awarded a grand prize to Anh-Thu Ho, a student at UC Berkeley from Vietnam who founded Ladon, a crowdsourcing platform for student translators to donate their services to help social workers to communicate in real time with people who speak little English.


My wife Anita was raised by a single mom who spoke primarily Chinese, so she saw firsthand how hard it is for non-English speaking parents to raise families in America.  Most immigrants want to learn English, but it’s not always easy when you have a job and five kids like Anita’s mother.  Hopefully organizations like Ladon can help the next generation of immigrants on the path to success in America.


Op-ed on Homelessness in Sacramento Bee


I just had an op-ed published in the Sunday edition of the Sacramento Bee: 


Use new tools to tackle homelessness

DECEMBER 2, 2016



“Solving homelessness requires more than just new money. It also requires that we get smart about how we spend this money. Seizing the opportunity that an influx of funding presents will require a commitment to 21st-century good governance – where decisions are based on data and best practices, and we scale what works and stop what doesn’t. The good news is that cities and states across the country have already begun using new technologies and creative policy to tackle homelessness effectively. Policymakers should follow their lead.”  

You can read the entire op-ed here.




Happy Holidays to you and your family!

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