At Singularity University, blowing minds and taking meetings

March 2, 2010

CNET correspondent Daniel Terdiman shadowed Executive Program participant Rob Nail during one of his first days at Singularity University’s Winter 2010 Executive Program.

 For Rob Nail, Saturday was a bonanza of opportunity. Over dinner that night in building 20 at the NASA Ames Research Center here, Nail found himself discussing 3D printing and housing with X Prize CEO Peter Diamandis. Already, Nail had been considering buying some farming land in Northern California and had been interested in the nascent concept of 3D printed buildings. He told Diamandis that he wanted to try that on the land.

“He says,” Nail recalled, “I want to make this introduction,” and grabbed Nail, pulling him a few tables over to the side where the two put their heads together with one of the founders of a start-up that recently began working on building 3D printed housing for developing nations.

For Nail, himself an entrepreneur who has spent several months looking for companies to invest in or advise, the quick meeting may have been the start of something long-term. “I will probably have a relationship” with the start-up’s co-founder, he said. “It’s an opportunity for me to get involved as a seed investor, and to advise and help out. He’s just starting out…and we have a common connection with this passionate interest for housing, robotics and 3D printing.”

For Diamandis, putting Nail together with a potential business partner was emblematic of his own young venture, Singularity University, or SU, which seeks to put some of the brightest minds on the planet together to explore what is known as exponentially growing technologies. And earlier that evening, after they’d sat through eight hours of high-energy lectures on artificial intelligence, autonomous robotics and biotechnology, and bioinformatics, Diamandis stood up and welcomed his new charges — a group of 43 participants in the second 10-day Singularity University executive program — to the “family.” […]