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Can Tech Ever be Good? On Public Interest, ESG and Other “Distractions”

04/19 Wednesday | 12pm

Despite the common focus on Silicon Valley, New York has been a ‘tech hub’ for a long time. From IBM and Bell Labs to Squarespace and Hinge, New York has brought about many old and new tech companies. And with tech companies comes venture capital funding. In this panel conversation we will explore how today, ’tech for good’ or what some people call ‘public interest tech’ is influencing the current tech scene, both in NYC and beyond. Sharon Zukin (CUNY) whose 2020 book ’The Innovation Complex’ is directly focused on the influence of tech on cities like NYC, will be joined by Lyel Resner, a Y-Combinator-backed former founder who now teaches ‘Public Interest Tech’ at Cornell Tech, and Dr Johannes Lenhard, visiting IPK from Cambridge and scholar of venture capital, especially its lack of diversity and ESG.


Dr Johannes Lenhard is affiliate lecturer and researcher at the University of Cambridge and the co-director of VentureESG. He has recently published a monograph on people experiencing homelessness in Paris (Making Better Lives), a co-authored book on diversity and inclusion in venture capital and tech (Better Venture) and his forthcoming book on the ‘Ethics of venture capital investors’ is under contract with Columbia University Press. He writes regular for a variety of journalistic outlets and runs the non-profit CHIRN (Cambridge Homelessness Impact Research Network).

Lyel Resner is a technologist, entrepreneur, educator, and advisor. He builds products and teams to help ensure that technology and media create a more just and prosperous future for everyone. He is currently Visiting Faculty at Cornell Tech where he is the Head of the Public Interest Technology Studio, is a Fellow at the MIT Civic Data Lab, and co-leads the Startups & Society Initiative. He is an advisor to Sourcemap, Kibo School, Elis, and MEET, and was formerly on the boards of The Centre for Social Innovation and The Bronx Academy for Software Engineering.

Sharon Zukin is professor emerita of sociology and of earth and environmental sciences at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center.  She has written extensively about New York, from Loft Living (1982) and Naked City (2010) to The Innovation Complex (2020), a critical examination of the city’s tech economy.  With the film maker Alice Arnold, she is developing a video project on SoHo, zoning, and the YIMBY/NIMBY conflict.

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