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News

SPLAT targets data, outreach as airplane noise continues

SPLAT targets data, outreach as airplane noise continues


Graphic courtesy of Don Gardner
Activists claim that a new SFO flight path leaves a “sound shadow” that impacts Los Altos and Los Altos Hills.

Sky Posse Los Altos Team – more simply known as SPLAT – seeks to squelch the noise...

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Schools

Los Altos High student-run charity plans '5 Gallon Gala'

Los Altos High student-run charity plans '5 Gallon Gala'


Courtesy of Lia Evard
Water by Youth members gave Egan students a chance to carry a 40-pound Jerry can, to see how difficult it is to obtain water in developing nations.

Water by Youth, a club at Los Altos High School, is making a splash by pla...

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Community

What would you do with a box of cookies? Local Girls Scouts help Tanzanian orphanage

What would you do with a box of cookies? Local Girls Scouts help Tanzanian orphanage


Courtesy of Alicia Madden
Sales of local Girl Scout cookies support service projects, such as funding an orphanage in the village of Mto wa Mbu in Tanzania.

Girl Scout cookies – whether you think of them as a treat, a tradition or a diet comp...

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Sports

Scoreless spells sink LA boys

Scoreless spells sink LA boys


Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Los Altos High point guard Nolan Brennan attempts a shot in Friday’s game versus Palo Alto. He scored eight points in the loss.

There have been several games this season in which the Los Altos High boys basketball t...

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Comment

New 'York' values

New 'York' values


Hughes

 

As we have witnessed California suffer through one of its worst droughts in history over the past few years, all of us, I’m sure, have been keenly aware of our surroundings and have done a small part in trying to conserve wa...

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Special Sections

Getting a charge  out of the Volt

Getting a charge out of the Volt


Courtesy of Chevrolet
The 2016 Chevrolet Volt can be driven up to 50 miles on the power stored in its batteries.

Just five years ago, we wondered in this column what the power supply would be for the car of the future. Gasoline, diesel, electric ba...

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Business

Nearing V-Day: Shops stock sweets, treats

Nearing V-Day: Shops stock sweets, treats


Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Los Altos resident Ella Roosakos, 11, with her mother, Gail, puzzles over which Gourmet Works sweets to buy as a valentine for Ella’s friend.

The gift-buying rush isn’t exclusive to Christmas. It may jump over...

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People

ALAN RODNEY MILLS

ALAN RODNEY MILLS

Alan Rodney Mills, PhD, 83, of Los Altos passed away peacefully on Saturday, January 30th, 2016. He was born in Rochdale, England in 1933 and came to California in 1962. He was a proud alumni of Manchester Grammar in England, University of Liverpoo...

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Stepping Out

PYT 'Gets Famous'

PYT 'Gets Famous'


Lyn Flaim Healy/Spotlight Moments Photography
Renee Vetter of Palo Alto, left, and Megan Foreman of Los Altos star in Peninsula Youth Theatre’s “Judy Moody Gets Famous.” Performances are scheduled Friday and Saturday.

Peninsula...

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Spiritual Life

A time to prepare: Fasting for Lent isn't limited to food

 

Today is Ash Wednesday, which in the Christian calendar marks the beginning of Lent – the 40 days of preparation for Resurrection Sunday, otherwise known as Easter.

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Inside Mountain View

New right-to-lease ordinance promises relief for renters

New right-to-lease ordinance promises relief for renters


Mountain View Tenants Coalition/Facebook
Residents gather in the fall to protest Mountain View’s rising rents. Rent relief is on the way in the form of a new ordinance.

A controversial Mountain View law requiring landlords to provide lease opt...

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Entrepreneur melds Silicon Valley, Hollywood and faith

We will soon see what happens when the Silicon Valley startup culture and biblical principles are brought together in the entertainment industry. Ben Chelf, Silicon Valley technologist and entrepreneur, recently co-founded The Story Locker, a company designed to produce high-quality films with entertaining stories.

Personal and faith background

Chelf was born in Terre Haute, Ind. Raised in a Christian home, he read the Bible as a youth but said he “simply adopted the faith of my parents.” In his late teens, his faith waned.

“It didn’t seem relevant at the time,” Chelf said.

But at the age of 20, he re-engaged with church and his faith was reinvigorated. He says he even considered attending seminary but instead chose to pursue a career in computer science.

First startup

Chelf came to the Bay Area to attend Stanford University in 1996, where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science. While studying to earn his doctorate, he and some colleagues invented a fundamentally different way to test complex software to speed up the software development process and to create higher-quality software. They left Stanford to start Coverity to commercialize their research. It caught on.

Coverity grew from two to 150 employees during Chelf’s tenure at the company from 2003 to 2009. During that period, Chelf worked first as the company’s chief operating officer, then as chief technology officer.

In the process of working at his first company, Chelf learned an important lesson about himself. He had always believed that his value and strengths were in software development and engineering. But as he also had responsibilities in sales, marketing and leading teams, he came to realize that he possessed skills in business leadership.

“I found that I enjoy and am good at casting vision, inspiring action, building teams and executing a plan to accomplish more than anyone thought possible,” he said.

The Story Locker

Chelf said his new vision is “to bring a Silicon Valley approach to the Hollywood storytelling business.”

As a youth, Chelf loved reading science fiction. He believes that science fiction is “one of our best platforms for philosophical discourse and can have a major impact on culture.” One book he read particularly stands out – “The Rise of Endymion” (Bantam, 1997) by Dan Simmons.

“I soaked in every last minute with these characters, practically feeling like I was living with them as their story came to a close,” Chelf said. “Already having inclinations toward the power in the art of storytelling, this experience made me truly realize the influence that stories can have over our emotions and thoughts. In hindsight, it was one of the experiences that led me to start my current venture, The Story Locker.”

Chelf said he believes that Silicon Valley and Hollywood are on a crash course and he wants to be in the middle of it. He recognizes that streaming technology is changing the way people consume entertainment, which has significant ramifications for the business models that have sustained the entertainment industry for decades. He intends The Story Locker to be at the forefront of content development as the industry changes.

The concept behind The Story Locker is unique. Chelf is working to bring talented writers and artists together in an incubator setting to collectively create high-quality stories. He noted that the highest-quality films all start with a great story and generally attract substantially larger audiences and make more money. Chelf plans to have The Story Locker change the existing paradigm through its story development process, drawing from principles of the top visual storytellers from the past century.

Building on biblical principles

Chelf and his business partner, Ben Patterson, a fellow committed follower of Christ, are building The Story Locker on biblical principles.

“As Christians, we’re supposed to treat people well,” Chelf said. “We are supposed to love everybody. We are supposed to invest in people. And we are supposed to make the lives of people better. We try to do that at The Story Locker.”

In contrast to the traditional model for story development in Hollywood, The Story Locker has full-time creative employees and gives them an equity interest in the content created as well as in the company itself. This practice seems obvious in Silicon Valley but is atypical in the entertainment industry. Chelf believes that is not only the right thing to do, but also good business practice.

The Story Locker creates stories that Chelf describes as “approachable by most families” but not faith-based. Currently, the company’s stories would have ratings from G to PG-13.

The Story Locker has been operating since January 2012, and Chelf plans to launch the company in the press in 2014.

Skip Vaccarello is a longtime Los Altos resident. For more information, visit findinggodinsiliconvalley.com. Vaccarello plans to publish interviews from the site in an upcoming book.

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