For Fall Quarter 2021, CDDRL will be hosting hybrid events. Many events will be open to the public online via Zoom, and limited-capacity in-person attendance for Stanford affiliates may be available in accordance with Stanford’s health and safety guidelines.
A Conversation with Obi Felten, founder and CEO of Flourish Labs
With Additional Remarks by 66th US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
Moderated by Ambassador Shirin Tahir-Kheli
Named in honor of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the Condoleezza Rice “Women Who Inspire” Lecture Series seeks to highlight how women are reshaping the world, confronting global challenges, and blazing trails across all walks of life that improve the human condition.
Previously, Obi was Head of Getting Moonshots Ready for Contact with the Real World at X (formerly Google X), Alphabet’s ‘moonshot factory’ and innovation lab. At X, Obi worked on cutting edge technology projects such as internet from balloons (Loon), air delivery by drone (Wing) and sustainable energy storage using molten salt (Malta). Most recently Obi founded and led Amber, a project using brain-based biomarkers and machine learning to measure anxiety and depression.
Obi was Director of Consumer Marketing for Google in Europe, Middle East and Africa, launching and growing Google Maps, Chrome and Android from zero to hundreds of millions of users. She founded Campus, Google’s space for tech entrepreneurs. Before Google, Obi set up the ecommerce business of a major UK retailer, worked as a strategy consultant, and led eToys.com’s (unsuccessful) expansion to Germany during the first dotcom boom.
Obi is an independent director of Springer Nature, a global academic and educational publisher. She is an advisor for mental health at the Wellcome Trust, one of the largest funders of scientific research, and Chelsea & Westminster NHS Trust’s Best For You youth mental health initiative.
Obi is an advocate for women, people of colour and other underrepresented groups in technology. At X, she founded the diversity & inclusion team, supported several employee resource groups and served on the leadership team for Women of Alphabet in the Bay Area. She mentors female startup founders and leaders getting ready for board service.
Obi grew up in Berlin and saw the wall come down. She has a BA in Philosophy and Psychology from Oxford University. She now lives in California with her husband and two children. She loves yoga, biking, paddleboarding, skiing (which she picked up at age 40), travelling, cooking, eating, and her family.
From January 2005 to January 2009, Rice served as the 66th Secretary of State of the United States, the second woman and first black woman to hold the post. Rice also served as President George W. Bush’s Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs (National Security Advisor) from January 2001 to January 2005, the first woman to hold the position.
Rice served as Stanford University’s provost from 1993 to 1999, during which time she was the institution's chief budget and academic officer. As provost, she was responsible for a $1.5 billion annual budget and an academic program involving 1,400 faculty members and 14,000 students. In 1997, she also served on the Federal Advisory Committee on Gender-Integrated Training in the Military.
From February 1989 through March 1991, Rice served on President George H.W. Bush’s National Security Council staff. She served as Director, then Senior Director, of Soviet and East European Affairs, as well as Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs. In 1986, while an International Affairs Fellow of the Council on Foreign Relations, Rice also served as Special Assistant to the Director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
As Professor of Political Science, Rice has been on the Stanford faculty since 1981 and has won two of the university’s highest teaching honors – the 1984 Walter J. Gores Award for Excellence in Teaching and the 1993 School of Humanities and Sciences Dean's Award for Distinguished Teaching.
She has authored and co-authored numerous books, most recently To Build a Better World: Choices to End the Cold War and Create a Global Commonwealth (2019), co-authored with Philip Zelikow. Among her other volumes are three bestsellers, Democracy: Stories from the Long Road to Freedom (2017); No Higher Honor: A Memoir of My Years in Washington (2011); and Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family (2010). She also wrote Germany Unified and Europe Transformed: A Study in Statecraft (1995) with Philip Zelikow; edited The Gorbachev Era (1986) with Alexander Dallin; and penned The Soviet Union and the Czechoslovak Army, 1948-1983: Uncertain Allegiance (1984).
In 1991, Rice co-founded the Center for a New Generation (CNG), an innovative, after-school academic enrichment program for students in East Palo Alto and East Menlo Park, California. In 1996, CNG merged with the Boys & Girls Club of the Peninsula, an affiliate club of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA). CNG has since expanded to local BGCA chapters in Birmingham, Atlanta, and Dallas. Rice remains an active proponent of an extended learning day through after-school programs.
Since 2009, Rice has served as a founding partner at RiceHadleyGates LLC, an international strategic consulting firm based in Silicon Valley and Washington, D.C. The firm works with senior executives of major companies to implement strategic plans and expand in emerging markets. Other partners include former National Security Advisor Stephen J. Hadley and former Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates.
Rice currently serves on the boards of Dropbox, Inc., an online storage technology company; C3.ai, an AI software company; and Makena Capital Management, a private endowment firm. In addition, she is Vice Chair of the Board of Governors of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and a trustee of the Aspen Institute. Previously, Rice served on various additional boards, including those of: the George W. Bush Institute; the Commonwealth Club; KiOR, Inc.; the Chevron Corporation; the Charles Schwab Corporation; the Transamerica Corporation; the Hewlett-Packard Company; the University of Notre Dame; the Foundation for Excellence in Education; the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; and the San Francisco Symphony.
In 2013, Rice was appointed to the College Football Playoff Selection Committee, formerly the Bowl Championship Series. She served on the committee until 2017.
Born in Birmingham, Alabama, Rice earned her bachelor's degree in political science, cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, from the University of Denver; her master’s in the same subject from the University of Notre Dame; and her Ph.D., likewise in political science, from the Graduate School of International Studies at the University of Denver.
Rice is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and has been awarded fifteen honorary doctorates.