Awakin Calls » Srinija Srinivasan
Srinija Srinivasan: Nonprofit leader, technology executive
Jul 6, 2019: Transforming Our Market Culture Through Artistic Values
Read: Summary By Preeta Bansal
An accidental tech exec, Srinija Srinivasan joined Yahoo! in 1995 as one of the first five employees, where she served as Vice President, Editor-in-Chief for 15 years before stepping down in 2010. With a background in artificial intelligence, her work at Yahoo! centered on the human experience, starting with the categorization system of the Yahoo! Directory and rapidly expanding into leading editorial and policy issues globally. During that time, she also chaired the board of SFJAZZ, a recognized international nonprofit leader in jazz creation, presentation, and education. These experiences together forged her determination to co-found Loove, a developing music venture designed to demonstrate how commerce and technology can be guided by artistic values rather than letting our See full.
An accidental tech exec, Srinija Srinivasan joined Yahoo! in 1995 as one of the first five employees, where she served as Vice President, Editor-in-Chief for 15 years before stepping down in 2010. With a background in artificial intelligence, her work at Yahoo! centered on the human experience, starting with the categorization system of the Yahoo! Directory and rapidly expanding into leading editorial and policy issues globally. During that time, she also chaired the board of SFJAZZ, a recognized international nonprofit leader in jazz creation, presentation, and education.
These experiences together forged her determination to co-found Loove, a developing music venture designed to demonstrate how commerce and technology can be guided by artistic values rather than letting our culture be led by market values. Co-founded with Josh Roseman, a professional multi-instrumentalist, composer, producer, and bandleader, Loove serves as an equitable and sustainable model for creative music in the digital age.
"In 1995, when I joined an initial development team of just five people, tasked with building Yahoo!," Srinija writes, "we witnessed the exhilarating momentum of an epoch in which proponents of Culture commanded new technology, using it to assert cultural values like democracy, transparency, and accessibility. This assertion of values was enabled by new Technologies, and it upended the established powers of Commerce, re-imagining business models and revamping entire industries."
But soon, she notes, commerce fought back to seize "the power of Technology in order to increase productivity, improve efficiency, and scale to ever larger markets. ... [B]efore we knew it, we found ourselves praying to the God of Scale without examining the costs. We lost sight of our ultimate goal: to enrich human lives. We’ve substituted efficiency for beauty, productivity for passion, scale for satisfaction."
Srinija seeks through Loove to again support culture to re-balance our lives. By uniting like-minded audiences, artists, and presenters, Loove aims to transform the values of productivity, efficiency, and scale on which our culture heavily relies into an embodiment of beauty, passion, satisfaction, and community. “At Loove, Music is our favorite part of culture,” Srinija explains. “And one of its greatest strengths is its capacity to bring us into the moment – to remind us to live in the here and now. Other art forms help us escape reality, but music, perhaps alone, makes us notice it for what it really is, in all its deep beauty, pulsing mystery and elegant absurdity.”
Srinija recently concluded participation in the US Partnership on Mobility from Poverty, a collaboration between the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Urban Institute. “The Partnership's collective ambition is that all people achieve a reasonable standard of living with the dignity that comes from having power over their lives and being engaged in and valued by their community.” Tasked with answering one big question, “What would it take to dramatically increase mobility from poverty?”, the Partnership in 2018 released policy and philanthropic recommendations, and the Gates Foundation announced that it would invest $158 million in fighting poverty.
Speaking on the Partnership’s work, Srinija says, “We could always, always, always seek to find, uplift, and amplify the voices of people who have experienced [poverty] or who are experiencing it, to give dimension to their life, to their challenges, and be able to put ourselves in their shoes.” Srinija has also written on the issue: “It seems that at the root of why solving poverty is so hard lie our deeply entrenched narratives and beliefs about power. We can perhaps mitigate poverty by redistributing wealth and income, but to truly eradicate poverty would require a radical shift in our conception of power. We must first understand that according to our common narrative about power, one can only have power at someone else’s expense. Power in this model necessitates the diminishing of someone else’s humanity.”
Srinija serves as a Vice Chair of Stanford University's Board of Trustees and lives bicoastally between Palo Alto, CA and Brooklyn, NY.
Join us in conversation with this creative and passionate individual!
Five Questions for Srinija
What Makes You Come Alive?
Great food, music, art, laughter. Learning, often through expansive conversation. Being useful - to the people, ideas, and ideals I care about. Experiencing contrast, as it helps me be more awake to things that otherwise go unnoticed, see more of the water I'm swimming in, towards answering two recurring questions: "What needs to be said?" and "How can it be heard?"
Pivotal turning point in your life?
A few leap to mind: choosing to study Japanese in college had unexpected transformational impact, including meeting future Yahoo! co-founders Jerry Yang & David Filo while studying abroad in Japan; joining Yahoo! in its formation was an immeasurably consequential decision for too many reasons to count; choosing to live bicoastally to join my then-partner in NYC, and the subsequent end of that relationship - my biggest heartbreak - led to untold new vistas. I couldn't have imagined the learning and the breaking open that would follow, the liberation of realizing I can't be sure of anything, and that's OK. We co-evolved into best friends, and it's my proudest triumph and a beautiful reward to remain very much in each other's lives.
An Act of Kindness You'll Never Forget?
My host parents in Japan took me in as a stranger, welcomed me like a family member, and extended so much generosity - of spirit, time, and treasure. Instead of making me feel bad about my narrow eating preferences at the time, my host mother made me spaghetti and bought me corn flakes, and let the yellowtail sit at the table as a silent invitation with no judgment - gently encouraging me to try more things, and expand my palate. She even tried her hand at cooking Indian food, excited to expand hers and my host father's palates. They're a model of humanity, community, and generosity, and I'm ever grateful for their example and their extraordinary care.
One Thing On Your Bucket List?
I haven't had one, I just try to live well as best I can - but when my dad died, I learned what it means to die well. So I suppose that's now the one thing on my bucket list.
One-line Message for the World?
May we cherish this wondrous, absurd, astonishing marvel of being here together.
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