BUILDING COMMUNITY - Nirav Tolia
Karuna Pai   May-2019   136 Views   0 Comments

Nirav Tolia, the Co-Founder and Chairman of Nextdoor.com was the keynote speaker at the USICOC DFW Annual Technology Conference ‘Billion Dollar Exit’ held on April 17th, 2019.

He walked us through his journey to inception of Nextdoor.

Welcome to the Neighborhood | Nirav Tolia

Nextdoor is a private social network for your neighborhood. Nirav elaborated that the genesis of Nextdoor is focused around one of the most important communities, which is the one we live in - our Neighborhood! The mission of Nextdoor is to use technology to strengthen real world neighborhood. 

Friday Night Lights | Odessa, West Texas

The serial entrepreneur is a proud Texan at heart. He claims it is his Texan roots that planted the seed to Nextdoor. The Tolia family moved to Odessa, Texas when Nirav was two years old. Yes, the famed book ‘Friday Nigh Lights’ town where he and his brother were raised. The book is about Odessa Permian High School, also the same high school he attended. Tolia shares that the sense of community & neighborhood in Odessa  & Texas is really powerful. Nirav continues to teach people of the community he experienced in Texas and concludes that  Nextdoor wouldn’t have been created if not  for growing up in Odessa. He went on to secure his undergrad from the prestigious Stanford University! He humbly jokes about being the least educated in his family. Nirav comes from a family of physicians, his parents  immigrated from India and continue to practice medicine in Odessa and his brother is also a physician.  

Startups | Dot.com era

Tolia shares “Silicon Valley encourages you to  take Big Risks but reality is most risks don’t turn into success”. Nirav joined Yahoo in 1996 at its  infancy and witnessed its boom first hand. Simultaneously, he started a non-profit organization Round Zero; the premise was  based around encouraging entrepreneurs who aspired to start their own companies. Round Zero is the stage prior to funding/financing, the brainstorming level. He left Yahoo in 1999  and started ‘Epinions’ – electronic opinions, the power of technology to help people   make better buying decisions, which eventually was acquired by eBay. After achieving success in these ventures, he started his next venture in 2007 with 12 others called ‘Fanbase’, a site for fans of different sports to congregate and share information over a network, unfortunately didn’t take flight and shut it down in 2009. Now with only 7 employees left they decided to pursue another big idea. Every Tuesday morning the team conducted ‘Billion Dollar Idea’ meeting. 100+ ideas were generated and narrowed to a couple of dozen such as 80%off to celebrity stage. Then in the summer of 2010 they zeroed in on a social network geared towards bringing together neighbors, they called it ‘neighborly’, sort of a code name before landing on Nextdoor. Tolia reveals, “Technology had not yet played a role in strengthening our communities although Facebook had played a huge role in making us better friends”. They ultimately built the prototype and showed it to one small neighborhood in Menlo Park, California and almost immediately knew they had created  something special, of course, they had no idea that specialness would translate to over 200,000 or close to 100% of neighborhoods in US!

April fool’s | Not

Never know what you will find on Nextdoor, it’s long since been just for finding lost dogs. An original Picasso painting was sold on Nextdoor.com, which even caught buzz in the ‘Texas Monthly’ and people assumed it was April fool’s! But in reality somebody did advertise Picasso painting on Nextdoor and a neighbor purchased it. The specialness of Nextdoor grows from helping a teenager find a babysitting job to getting a great service and provider recommendation  r the most important of them all, in times of natural disaster to literally save lives. Nirav Tolia admits “This has been the ultimate reward of creating Nextdoor and building stronger communities!” 

Borders | Beyond

Nextdoor at 1.5 billion valuation is expanding internationally and is in seven countries - Netherlands to New Zealand and they are just  getting started! Nextdoor is a local service so not  devoid of challenges as they extend globally since each has its own culture, traditions and customs. At the same time, Nirav explains that the concept of being a good neighbor is not just a US notion, it is age old adage to work together to help each  other create a better community and a better future. So Nextdoor’s vision has always been to be global and every neighbor in every neighborhood around the world would be using Nextdoor.

Diversity | Advocacy

Nirav is huge advocate of diversity and woman  power. He attributes it to his upbringing, he saw equity and equality growing up as both his parents worked, practiced medicine. He gets emotional speaking about his beautiful wife  Megha and mother of their 3 boys. He admires her tenacity for juggling a full time job and raising their sons. He also shares with great pride that the cofounders of Nextdoor are not only diverse but has a female cofounder- Sarah Leary which is rarity for tech startups. In 2018, he hired his replacement for CEO of Nextdoor- Sarah Friar an exceptional female leader. His hope is that one day ultimately will not make it unusual for a woman to be a CEO!

Rising from the Ashes | Phoenix

Tolia repeated several times that Nextdoor is a company created out of Failure! He reminisces that the 7 cofounders were working at a dire time, desperate for results, grasping at straws and finally “an idea that was born out of failure not success and it has been anything but an overnight success”.  Though they launched Nextdoor in summer of 2010, it didn’t grow wings till much later, in fact one neighborhood at a time. Today about 220,000 neighborhoods in the US use Nextdoor and Tolia believes it will be 100% by the end of 2019 in the United States. Nextdoor’s story is truly a powerful testimony of purpose, persistence, and patience.

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PARMESH BHEEMREDDY SWORN IN AS NEW PRESIDENT OF ATA
Toppick Media Editor   Mar-2019   99 Views   0 Comments
Parmesh Bheemreddy, who played a key role as the convener for the success of the Philadelphia convention of the American Telugu Association in 2014, has now become its president. 
The association, known by its acronym ATA, is a premier umbrella organization of people who speak Telugu in their adopted land of America. The ATA board held its meeting at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Saturday, January 19, when Bheemreddy was sworn in as president of the organization.   

The meeting was attended, among others, bythe board of trustees, past presidents, advisers, standing committee heads, regional coordinators and directors.  Along with Bheemreddy, who is based in Delaware, a new board of trustees was also installed at the meeting attended by a total of 150 delegates from across the US. In their presence, President Karunakar Asireddy passed the baton to the new president.   

ATA expanded its trustee board members to 31 from 27 following the toughest competition from among its members in the history of ATA, which came into being in the early 1990s. Eighteen of its trustees from three categories were elected unanimously.   The following are the 18 members: Arvind Muppidi, Satish Reddy, Venu Piske, Ravi Patlola, Madhu Bommineni, Sainath Boyapa Ili, Ramesh Nallavolu, Srinivas Da rgula, Vijay Konduru, Venu Sankineni, Srikanth Gudipati, Hari Lingala, Sunny Reddy, Sai Sudini, Ramakrishna Reddy Ala, Anil Boddireddy, Rajeshwar Tekmal and Meher Medavaram.  

The new trustees will be in place for four calendar years beginning 2019. Bhuvanesh Reddy Boojala, from Virginia, was chosen unanimously as president-elect. He will serve as the president of ATAfor 2021 and 2022.  

Jan 19th, 2019 In his presidential address, Bheemreddy vowed to preserve and strengthen the Telugu heritage in the US. He also promised to promote further literary, cultural, educational, social and economic as well as religious activities of the community mentioned in the ATA constitution.
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Scotland highlights by Dr Reena Koppala
Dr Reena Koppala   May-2019   54 Views   0 Comments

The Scots are famous storytellers, and in Scotland you'll discover that every castle, loch, and glen has a legend surrounding it. Travel to Scotland and immerse yourself in its fabled history and nature. You'll leave with your own great story to tell, here is mine!

Day 1: We arrived around midnight in Edinburgh, we started our expedition the next day with an authentic Scottish breakfast. We made reservations to a couple of Scottish shows and a ghost tour. They say commuting like a local in its essence is the pinnacle of any travelers experience… Using a local map we walked to the nearest bus stop to board the Lothian bus. We got on an ocean terminal bus to visit the Royal Britannia yacht. The Royal Yacht Britannia is the former Royal Yacht of the British monarch that served Queen Elizabeth II, in service from 1954 until 1997. We were enthralled by the Royal Ships layout, and imagined the way the royal family would have spent their memorable times onboard the ship. After the tour, we set out for a quick shopping sprint and hopped the bus back to the city. By this time, we were extremely hungry on our way back, we spotted an Indian restaurant ' Golden Ambal'. Deeply immersed in the spread of idli, dosa, naan, and biryani my son could barely talk after the fact! Following the late lunch we went back to our hotel and relaxed over a hot milk with a 'cube of sugaaaaa'. The evening part of the tour was reserved for the faint old section of Edinburgh… 

Caddies and Witches tour is a must-see attraction on your trip! Around 8 pm we were greeted by our very own 'Ghost' who ushered us through the dark alleys and dungeons of Edinburgh. Confronted by sightings of ghost, ghouls and goblins and spellbound by the bone chilling folk stories, we were truly thrilled, thanks to our ghost guide! This was the best tour ever! Later that night we walked by the University of Edinburgh and took a metro back to our hotel to unwind to the comfort of our cozy rooms. 

Day 2: We woke up a little late the next day, quite exhausted by an eventful first day. Following a scrumptious breakfast we headed for my son's place of choice for his birthday, The Edinburgh Castle. It was a breathtaking walk with a spectacular scenery of the old town. Edinburgh Castle is home to the Crown Jewels of Scotland, that with them rests the 'Stone of Destiny' also knows as 'Stone of Scone'. It is a traditional coronation stone of all the Kings and Queens of England and Scotland. That stone has been fought for by England and Scotland many times. There we got to meet a lady personified and dressed as Mary, Queen of Scots. She performed a show and taught us how to do the Scottish walk. Later we browsed through some old woolen shops and souvenir shops in search of memorabilia's to take back home with us.  Make sure to buy some Scottish jackets here, because the wool used in the jackets are very different and quite unique. In the evening, we walked through the cobbled stone path to a traditional Scottish gala where they had traditional Sottish music, dance, and songs followed by a grand dinner in the setting of a magnificent historic Preston field House. This was just moments from the Royal Mile.  This truly was the highlight of our tour!

Day 3: This day was our day tour to Loch Ness 'monster'. A visit to Loch Ness and Inverness combines the great outdoors with the warm vibrancy of the Highlands. The drive through Scottish highlands and villages itself was enchanting. We arrived around noon and took the boat tour inside the lake. Either as a part of a boat tour or as a trip in its own right, you must visit the Urquhart Castle and  discover more than 1,000 years of history perched on the edge of Loch Ness. Once one of Scotland's largest castles, Urquhart saw great conflict during its 500 years as a medieval fortress. After the cruise, we stopped at the pleasant bustling village of Drumnadrochit, a great place to stop for lunch either at Loch Ness Inn or Fiddlers Inn. I know, you will believe me when I say that I saw the Loch Ness monster! On our way back to the Hotel we enjoyed the breathtaking views of the Scottish Highlands.

Day 4: On the fourth day we woke up early to catch a train to Glasgow. Took the train from the Hay-market to Queen Station. Once in the city, we visited the 16th Glasgow Cathedral, a grand example of pre-Reformation Gothic architecture, and the only mainland Scottish cathedral to have survived the Reformation.  Next main stop was the Glasgow science center. While my family explored, I had a quiet afternoon at a local Scottish bakery ... catching up with work and my diary. We got to view the BBC and later took a cab back to George Square. The brief stroll through the city chambers and its architecture was truly captivating, it is indeed a must see! Just before dusk we set out to explore the streets of Glasgow where we had dinner in the city before boarding our train back to Edinburgh. From the Haymarket station we walked back to our hotel. After resting and taking a quick shower we headed to the coffee room and had some milk and snacks in the library room. By this time we were done and ready to hit the sack.  The beautiful part of Scotland is in every hotel, nook and corner and at the center was a library where you could find some really old books.

Day 5: This day we went on an informative sightseeing tour of Edinburgh, stopping to view the regal Palace of Holyrood house. We got to go inside the new Scottish Parliament Building and walk the Royal Mile, delving into the heart of the city. Later after lunch, we strolled through the grand new town with its gothic façades, enjoying the rest of the day at leisure. The Museum of Scotland is a must see during this trip, this is where we spent our afternoon. I have seen many museums in different parts of Europe but I felt this was the best museum I experienced.

Day 6: On our sixth day morning we crossed the Firth of Forth to the celebrated home of golf - St. Andrews, to view its ancient university and famous golf course. Shakespeare's Macbeth takes center stage as we visited Glamis Castle, once home to the beloved Queen Mother and birthplace of Princess Margaret. We enjoyed a guided tour of the castle and its beautiful gardens just before we traveled to the waterfront city of Dundee, distinguished for its status as the first UNESCO City of Design, and the original home of marmalade! By the time we made it back to the hotel we were tired, yet overjoyed with our experience! Having packed our bags to start our journey back to Dallas the next day morning we bid farewell to a truly enchanting town and its Royal character and charm.

Day 7: On our sixth day morning we crossed the Firth of Forth to the celebrated home of golf - St. Andrews, to view its ancient university and famous golf course. Shakespeare's Macbeth takes center stage as we visited Glamis Castle, once home to the beloved Queen Mother and birthplace of Princess Margaret. We enjoyed a guided tour of the castle and its beautiful gardens just before we traveled to the waterfront city of Dundee, distinguished for its status as the first UNESCO City of Design, and the original home of marmalade! By the time we made it back to the hotel we were tired, yet overjoyed with our experience! Having packed our bags to start our journey back to Dallas the next day morning we bid farewell to a truly enchanting town and its Royal character and charm.

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Young talent: Cruz  Albuqerque
Young talent: Cruz Albuqerque
Toppick Media Editor   May-2019
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Performance Award (Youth) Best Actor in a Musical at the Broadway World Dallas awards. Best Actor - Art Centre Theatre.

This polite, well mannered, talented 6th grader belonging to Pioneer Heritage middle school in Frisco / Texas, is a bundle of joy with a heart of gold. Always positive and ever willing to help a friend in need. His innocent spontaneous laughter can brighten up the darkest room.

At the age of 5 he exercised his musical talent, singing and dancing while doing a cover song/video ‘Be bop a Lula’ on You Tube as part of a mom & son production.

That enkindled a fire in his belly to perform on stage. Although he was exposed to gymnastics, swimming and soccer, he preferred the arts and enjoyed sketching. He started learning the piano and later took up hip hop lessons for a short while and learnt a bit of dancing with his mom also a former singer/dancer.At the age of 7 he won the 1st place at an all Dallas talent hunt ‘ Audition America’. Loved by his colleagues in elementary, Cruz was voted student councilor for two consecutive years by his fellow students. Cruz admits it gave him a sense of responsibility and a boost to his self confidence.

He later went on to act in the musical ‘Cats’ where he played the role of ‘Munkustrap’. Little did he know that he would be nominated for the Performance award (Youth) Best Actor in a musical in the Broadway World Dallas Awards, including over 100 cities across America, Canada, Central and South America, Europe and Asia, and WIN it !!!

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Padma Mishra: Art Of Balancing Act
Padma Mishra: Art Of Balancing Act
Neetu Rishi   Mar-2019
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An insight to the life of Padma Mishra, the owner of VISRAP entertainment. A girl from a small state in India, who comes to USA with some buried dreams and desires and then along with adapting herself in a new environment, taking care of all the home chores and family just decided to give wings to her passion.

She was always in love with music and decided to bring this music to the reach of the Dallas Community and thus was born VISRAP entertainment. Not only this she is also a Board of directors and Women Forum Co chair for Indian Association of North Texas.

1.     What inspired you to start VISRAP Entertainment?

A: - When I moved to Dallas, had no friends, so involved myself in volunteer work for concerts and started enjoying and looking at the fact that no women are involved in this field, so I decided to start this venture.

2.     What was the logic behind the name VISRAP?

A:- The name is a combination of my whole family, VIS from my son, Vishal, RA from my husband, Rajesh and P from my name, Padma. My family support is my inspiration.

3.     How did you manage to do three shows back to back in 2018 all alone in spite of all the odds that you were facing in life?

A: - I am a challenge loving person, my self-confidence and my willingness to do things made me do this.

4.     You are loved and surrounded by so many people around you, what’s the magic behind this?

A: - I believe in give and take, if you give love and respect, you are reflected back.

5.     What message would you like to give to girls out there who have somewhere in heart to do something, but are not able to be that bold enough to ignite it?

A: - Whatever you want to do, people will give you advice, people will help you but in the end its you have to take it forward. Be yourself.

Women are the real architects of the society.

Happy Woman’s Day .

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Swati Goyal having a candid conversation with the comedy kings Kunal Kamra & Rahul Subramanian
Swati Goyal having a candid conversation with the comedy kings Kunal Kamra & Rahul Subramanian
Swati Goyal   Jan-2019
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I had the pleasure of having a candid conversation with the comedy kings Kunal Kamra & Rahul Subramanian who were here in Dallas for a standup comedy show. Here's their story Dallas, sit back and enjoy!

Swati: How did you enjoy performing in Dallas?

Rahul, Kunal: We had a great time, the audience was so responsive and so full of life. It was almost like performing in Mumbai with the exuberant crowds that motivate you to do better!

Swati: We’ve had so many comedians come to Dallas this year – Amit Tandon, Atul Khatri and they all had an IT background; clearly there is a strong correlation between IT and comedy. What are your thoughts on this? 

Rahul: That’s a fair question because in India most people end up doing IT. From the same batch of people, you will see other careers evolve like pilots, journalism and comedy. So that explains why most comedians have an IT background. Kunal actually is unique in that he’s not from IT (Kunal chuckles).

Kunal: Yeah, I am a BCOM drop out. I actually saw that poster where all fish are going in one direction and that one fish is going in opposite direction; I chose to be that fish. But if I become a PM someday, I’ll fake my degree, Kunal quips. 

Swati: How has life changed for you guys after being famous in comedy scene?

Kunal: On a personal level, it hasn’t changed much. To us, our content/ delivery is same just that now we have more people coming in to listen to our show and now we are  expanding geographically. From performing in Nagpur, Nasik, Ahmedabad, we have evolved to performing internationally and are glad to be here in Dallas!

Rahul: To add to this, comedy platform is still very grounded and connected to the audience. It’s not like Bollywood where with one movie you shoot to fame. End of the day we are normal people who still travel by Uber and still use discount coupons!

Swati: Rahul, on one of your shows we heard how your breakup inspired MBA. Is that true? 

Rahul: Wow, that’s a tricky one! Well, I’d say my breakup didn’t inspire MBA but breakup was the reason I did MBA, basically to get away from it. Before the MBA entrance exam results are announced, you have to buy the admission forms for colleges. I didn’t get admission in any of the colleges I had bought the forms for. But there was this one college giving out forms even after results came out and that’s the college I ended up joining and here we are! So yes, sometimes something good can come out a little bad in life.

Swati: Tell us about your most embarrassing moment on stage so far.

Rahul: For me it was performing at a standup comedy show where only fifteen people were present in audience, none of whom were really listening. In the middle of the act,  these five girls right in the middle stand up and request me to take a picture of them. And guess what, I did! Those five girls were 33% of my audience so I couldn’t have disappointed them. So that was me, taking a picture in middle of my act!

Kunal: During one of my shows, an elderly uncle eating pasta got so offended by my comedy that he got up in the middle of the show shouting “This is not comedy, this is anything!”. That was the most discouraging/ embarrassing remark I received till date, comparing my comedy to “chicken tikka” would have felt a little better (Kunal giggles).

So this was our inside scoop from the comedy kings Kunal Kamra and Rahul Subramanian. Hope you enjoyed reading their story. Stay tuned for more!

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