Leaving X, starting Flourish Labs

Today is my last day at Alphabet, after 15 great years at Google and X. I’m setting up Flourish Labs, a startup combining cutting edge mental health science and technology to foster flourishing and good mental health. Our mission is flourishing minds for all. We are building a future where nobody is held back by mental health problems, where everyone can be their best self and achieve their potential.

Poor mental health is a huge problem for our society that has been exacerbated by recent events. The pandemic and social injustice especially affected young people…

This week is my 15 year anniversary of joining Google. Emi Nietfeld recently wrote a nuanced op-ed in The New York Times about her experience as a software engineer at Google, from joyful beginnings to being harassed by a coworker and the miserable aftermath of her speaking out about it. She talks about being in love with Google when she first joined, and that love being slowly drained away by her bad experience. I have been thinking about her story since she published it, and it provoked some of my own reflections that I am sharing here. …

New open source resources to help researchers collect and interpret electroencephalography (EEG) data for mental health measurement

Today at the Sapien Labs Symposium, my colleague Vlad Miskovic presented insights from Project Amber, an early stage mental health project at X. Amber’s small team of neuroscientists, hardware and software engineers, machine learning researchers and med-tech product experts have been developing prototype technologies to help tackle the huge and growing problem of poor mental health. After three years of exploration, we recently wrapped up our work at X. …

This year, we are celebrating the 10 year anniversary of X, Alphabet’s moonshot factory. I joined the team 7 1/2 years ago when GoogleX was a small innovation lab working on secret projects: self-driving cars! stratospheric balloons! drones! jetpacks! space elevators! (Just kidding about the space elevators, and the jetpack project didn’t make it very far.) The New York Times called us Google’s lab of wildest dreams: “In a top-secret lab in an undisclosed Bay Area location where robots run free, the future is being imagined.”

Since I joined that small team comprised mostly of engineers, we have changed a…

Editor’s note: This post first appeared in the German business magazine Wirtschaftswoche in December 2017.

Every generation is living in “modern times.” Adam Kirsch, a poet and literary critic, noted that all generations like to think of themselves as living in an age of unprecedented disruption. Like countless generations before us, we are worried about the impact of technology on society. In fact people have always approached new technologies with a mix of pride and trepidation, from the printing press and automated looms, to electricity and the telephone.

What has changed during our lifetime is the pace of innovation. Technological…

Each place can learn from the other: right now, more than ever, we need greater collaboration between them

The following is an adaptation of a talk I gave at the Jacques Delors Institute’s Digital Europe conference in Berlin November.

At X, the moonshot factory, we aim to solve huge problems in the world with the help of technology. Now, I bet you’re thinking, “Great, here’s another American telling us how to do moonshots. Those Americans have been obsessed with moonshots since the 1960s…”

Except that I am not American.

I grew up in Berlin, went to university in Oxford, married…

Thoughts on inertia, fear and bravery

This is a talk I gave at the International Women’s Day Women Techmakers conference on March 5, 2016. I’m posting the transcript with slight edits for context and clarity.

I work at X, formerly known as Google[x]. We are the team behind self-driving cars, self-flying delivery vehicles, smart glasses, smart contact lenses, energy kites and balloon-powered Internet. We work on solving large problems in the world with technology.

Project Loon is experimental technology for balloon-powered Internet access.

But my talk isn’t about X. …

Obi Felten

Moonshots at X (fkaGoogleX) | Board member @SpringerNature @Shift_org @WellcomeTrust mental health | Yoga, paddle boarding, biking | Mama | obifelten.com

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