The Future Is Now: Martin Taylor of Prox & Reverie On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake…

The Future Is Now: Martin Taylor of Prox & Reverie On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Listen more than you talk. It’s taken a long time to really be present in other’s company but is surprising just how much people communicate when you stay still. It has helped me feel calmer under pressure and more enjoyable to deal in business.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Martin Taylor.

Martin has been in the XR industry since 2013 with Prox & Reverie being the second immersive business he has built. With skills ranging from filmmaking and industrial design to perception psychology and lucid dream research, XR innovation has become his natural home.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

When I was young, I was always trying to find a balance between my creativity and technical skills. I initially studied a degree in engineering and product design — thinking about how products work to suit human need by marrying form and function. However, after a period of time, I realised I wanted to become a filmmaker and pivoted careers in my mid-20s to start film school. An option at film school was psychoanalysis and semiotics, which is centred around the way people process information. There are physical and psychological perceptions systems — the psychological systems focus on how an individual finds meaning in the world around them and within.

This module related deeply to an integral source of inspiration: lucid dreaming. I frequently have lucid dreams and use them as a creative tool. Over two or three days you can play out a solution that might normally take three months, it’s quite incredible, and I’ve attempted to recreate the experience and process in various formats ever since. However, the problem I found while continuing my career in filmmaking, was that traditional 2D formats couldn’t begin to provide a level of control and immersion found in a lucid state.

But then VR came along and everything seemed to click into place — it provides a direct, immersive experience well beyond the bounds of purely screen-based media. It was also the first technology to achieve that combination of technology and creativity I was searching for, to begin with. Now, I am using a multitude of mixed reality technologies in tangent with one another.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

My first experience of using VR was in a meet-up — an artist had created a scene in the game engine Unity. Once you put the headset on, you found yourself sitting inside a flat in a sort of Neo-Tokyo setting with a television set right in front of you. What struck me afterwards was that I now had a memory of being in a place I never truly entered, a fictional, digital world — it was truly powerful.

I wanted to use VR and mixed reality technologies as a tool for the mind, a way of giving people simulated memories and experiences. Whether it’s a memory of a story, a memory for training purposes, the core idea of generating something real without taking someone physically somewhere became my focus as it felt possible to invite someone directly into my imagination.

Can you tell us about the cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

There’s a strong basis of industrial innovation in our work at Prox & Reverie — we’re developing a unique production studio concept called a ‘convergence volume’ (that we nickname ‘The Forge’) that opens a permanent bridge between physical and virtual realities by combining cutting edge XR technology and the knowledge of the mind’s powerful ability to ‘fill in the blanks’ and complete an experience.

The goal with The Forge is to have a single studio space designed to allow layered perceptions of outer (physical world) and inner (imagined) realities overlap and intersect to feel like extensions of each other, as a continuous spectrum. This is the creative and technical direction I believe is needed to establish the native format for XR.

Even though it’s early days for The Forge as a studio build, I’ve been working through the ‘convergence volume’ principals for a number of years now and we’re already seeing promising signs of success. As The Forge develops as a new paradigm in immersive creation and experience, we believe it could open up the potential for new combinations of artist function and new intuitive forms of spatial media to express deeper and more complex ideas than currently possible.

How do you think this might change the world?

In one of the first lucid dreams I ever had, I was reading a passage from a book. I fell asleep and went directly into a dream, there was a pinprick of light moving around creating a sort of jumbled pattern. But I had this feeling that I was both witnessing something being made and something I was making myself at the same time. The closest example I’ve ever seen that captures this experience is in the film Inception, where they draw a diagram explaining how you’re both in the dream and the dream’s architect at the same time. It’s a sort of loop effect and it’s what I am trying to recreate using The Forge.

Once we get to that instant loop, you’ll be able to create anything — it will initiate an entirely new form of media.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

When I attend panels, there is often a fear of a dystopian future where people are isolated from everyday life and plugged into a fictional world. But I think that issue is really a debate about the concept of escapism in general, rather than the technology itself. Black Mirror is named to make reference to what it’s reflecting back at you and is centered more around the human condition.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

The lucid dream I mentioned earlier was really the tipping point in my thinking and set me on a thirty-year path, learning about lucid dream mechanics, dream logic and Universal symbols. Over the years I’ve been developing a framework of spatial narrative grammar through trial and error and lots of academic background study. Once VR came around it really felt like my medium and in all my immersive projects but particularly in my recent project AWAKE, I got a chance to test my theories in practice.

Producing AWAKE allowed me to explore some of the mechanics behind lucid dreaming as a phenomenon. For instance, how the viewer moved from scene to scene, how characters appeared and disappeared, how your perspective changes from first to the third person — it feels seamless and natural even though dream logic is difficult to comprehend when conscious. It’s designed to tell you that things are normal and that it’s possible to move from one idea to the next but in ways very different to traditional media.

Since that very first lucid dream, I’ve been led down a path of making films that captured that concept. Film for screen wasn’t doing it, interactive apps on-screen weren’t doing it, but VR made sense — that experience was definitely my tipping point.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

We’ll never be competing with big tech giants that are working hard on headsets, networks and components that will bring about further widespread adoption. So our focus is on aggregating bleeding edge tech and fusing them with familiar ways that the world works.

To this end, we’re focusing on ideas such as bridging and integration. Essentially how to smooth out the journey into an immersive world experience and back and then have it stick as a truly integrated memory.

An area to work on here is how we currently reach out and touch the virtual world and how it meets us in return. Because the foundation of VR technology is gaming, interactions are often based on game controllers and the user interfaces of mobile phones. But I don’t think it’s very intuitive and doesn’t simulate how the physical world works.

What’s needed for the wider public is new types of tactile interactions and micro-infrastructure that replace VR controllers and air pinching with affordances that mirror reality. The aim is to anchor the experience in familiar learned reality while giving the imagination superpowers to express itself and share those ideas directly with others at scale.

This is why we’re developing and enhancing familiar everyday objects such as doors, practical mechanisms and life props that are both familiar and metaphoric which have a bonus psychological impact. A door, for example, is as much a psychological experience in your life as it is a physical one. If a door’s closed because someone is busy, it means ‘don’t enter’; if you’re trying to avert danger, it’s your means of escape. It’s these core elements that appear on repeat in your dream life and real life, it’s a universal language that can be anchored using The Forge. Once we’ve achieved this, we’re able to truly bridge the virtual and real worlds, leading to true widespread adoption. An out-there approach to some perhaps but we’re already witnessing in The Forge how users instantly know how to act around these XR-enhanced systems and how we can control the experience with more nuance and surprise. It’s exciting to explore.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I actually have a very weird story that changed everything. Before VR was an industry, I needed to make a leap of faith and invest in the right computing technology to run VR to test my dream theories. At the time, I was a freelance filmmaker. I was between jobs while living in Sydney and I had AUD$2,200 in a savings account. I had to decide on whether I saved it or invest it into a computer powerful enough to run the original Oculus Rift. I was agonising over this decision, but crunched the numbers and decided that if I could make money from it quick enough it would be worth it.

The very next morning after I ordered this laptop, I woke up to find an email from an anonymous stranger I’d never met, saying that he’d found and watched a personal documentary film I’d made some years ago about going to a consciousness expansion retreat. My film had inspired him to go to the place and during his visit, he’d had an idea that earned him a large amount of money and said he wanted to pass it forward.

The truly strange part was that it was the exact same amount I’d spent on the equipment the day before, which felt like some crazy ‘Universal refund’ letting me know I was on the right track to switch careers. I made the decision right then to fully commit and a week later, another larger cheque arrived and I was able to make the leap and set up my first dedicated VR company!

Since then, I’ve worked as hard to ensure that his gift was worth it and to try and turn it into something meaningful — I’m pleased to say we’ve stayed in contact and I’m still on the path I set out on that day.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

This is more than entertainment to me, this is trying to bring a ‘magic machine’ into reality. To have someone walk in and instantly create what’s inside their imagination — it’s something I’ve been striving for. Do you help a million people with small things or do you try and help individuals spread their creations? I want to help people better understand their perceptions, provide an experience that allows them to question the veil of reality. Personally, I subscribe to the idea that reality might be the best-designed simulation ever, and in my own experience, this is proving to be true.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

1 — Business leaders are people first, so relax and don’t think others are ‘above you’ just be yourself and talk to them as a person.

2 — Success goes both ways — both up and down but rarely stays the same. Don’t become complacent or arrogant with success thinking it will last forever but also hang in there if it’s not going your way either. Gratitude with the present is the best footing you can give yourself to handle the swings.

3 — Don’t burn out. Rest is as important as work for processing ideas and solutions.

4 — Start earlier. Don’t wait until the ‘right time’ — I feel as though I am hitting my stride quite late and would have loved to have been where I am now earlier. I’d tell my younger self to buckle down and work out how to leverage where I wanted to get to.

5 — Listen more than you talk. It’s taken a long time to really be present in other’s company but is surprising just how much people communicate when you stay still. It has helped me feel calmer under pressure and more enjoyable to deal in business.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

It would be a movement designed to wake people up a little that feel trapped in physical life or heavy personal narrative. That there is much more to life than the physical, to give them a peek behind everyday reality. The overview perspective people get when they’re in space is a great example, it’s a singular moment that brings up a million questions about everything previously assumed. The movement I want is based on providing people with a new perspective without the need to almost die or have to travel into the Earth’s atmosphere.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

‘The greatest illusion is that mankind has limitations’ — Robert Monroe.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

As technologies converge, we are completing the loop, with ‘The Forge’ a new paradigm of content creation system that transforms the perception of reality for entirely new forms of media, experience and creative expression. We’re commercialising this master plan along the way, but I would love to meet a VC bold enough and with enough vision to help us enhance human potential with The Forge. Once something like this is built, an accessible machine where people can capture and recreate entire inner realities and share them with another person, the applications are quite literally endless.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Instagram,

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


The Future Is Now: Martin Taylor of Prox & Reverie On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Henric Larsson of Chimney Group: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Try to minimize the internal stakeholders. The idea or concept you start with could be a diamond, but if ten different stakeholders comment on everything that is “edgy,” you will end up with a ping pong ball and not an exquisitely cut diamond.

As part of our series about how to create a trusted, believable, and beloved brand, I had the pleasure to interview Henric Larsson, founder and CEO of Chimney Group with more than 20 years of experience in story telling, content production and creation. Today Chimney has 450 employees and a global presence with offices in Stockholm, Los Angeles, Mannheim, Singapore, Frankfurt, Oslo, Copenhagen, Berlin, Malmo, Warsaw, Gothenburg and Sydney.

Larsson has been involved in productions for Madonna, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Dior, BMW, Coca Cola as well as over 50 feature films like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Searching for Sugarman, Control and Her. By producing content for cinema and TV that people want to watch, Larrson has learned how to help brands reach their consumers in the right way, at the right place and on the right time.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Like many things in life, it was mostly by chance that I came to this specific career path. At the age of 13, I started an early career at a stock broking firm. However, by the time I was 19, I quit because it was upsetting to see money flying around that didn’t create any value for society. I then took a job at a housing complex for disabled people and worked for a few years until a friend called me and asked for help on MTV’s show Real World. Working on that show, I met some incredible creative minds who managed the post-production. A year or two later, they joined me when I founded Chimney in 1996.

In the ‘90’s, post-production was a much more hands-on and time-consuming task than today. A 3D render could take up to 5 days, and if you screwed something up, you missed the air time. Moving files from one computer to another could take 8 hours. I started programming at the age of 8, so my familiarity with technology and my creative passion was a perfect mix in those days.

Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I don’t have many funny stories to share since we don’t specialize in marketing our own company. We help some of the biggest brands in the world but never do anything for ourselves. We strive to deliver fantastic work to our clients, so they come back to buy more and tell all their friends about us.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Being a privately owned company makes us very agile, and we constantly drive innovation in services and offerings. We opened up the first two offices abroad in 1998 and have continually opened more since then with 14 offices in 9 countries currently. I read a report from IBM 10 years ago that analyzed 1500 companies that outperformed the competition over 2–3 recessions, and they had something in common with our company. They all expected that 50% of their revenues in 5 years would come from products and services they don’t offer today. And if you still take care of existing clients, you will add this on top of what you already have. We have a robust culture here, with many employees having worked for us since our inception, but something we could improve on is recognition. Since we never pause and praise amazing work, we always feel that we could be 10% better. Clients usually rate us at ten, but we rate ourselves at seven. Maybe part of the reason clients love working with us is because we have higher expectations than they do.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We are constantly busy working on great shows for Netflix, which help to inspire creative minds everywhere. As an international company with one global P&L, we also share work between offices daily, which helps to stay connected and nurture talent. Many of our partners are creatively minded and have a voice when it comes to the company strategy. There needs to be a balance, but we do many things out of passion and not just business logic.

Ok let’s now jump to the core part of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?

We were taught in University that the perfect mix between brand marketing and product marketing is 60% and 40%, respectively. One needs to invest in the brand to get the consumers to know you exist, learn who you are, and build brand preference. This marketing will help you get better margins on your sales and lower sales and acquisition costs. Yet, this tactic seems to be something everybody has forgotten. I hear brands complaining about consumers being disloyal, but is that surprising when brands have spent 90% of their budget on re-targeting display ads? They have harassed the consumer online and screamed SALE in their face for +10 years, so I am not surprised their brand equity is diminishing. Many companies had good conversion at the beginning since they had built that equity for 30 years. However, now they pay using that equity, and if they don’t invest in restoring it, they will see the competition from challenging brands start to impose as well as a considerable part of their margins going into digital marketing to generate sales and revenues. It is a race to the bottom.

Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?

You can have the perfect products, best advertising campaigns, and the catchiest slogan, but if each of these aspects doesn’t directly align with your brand’s vision, you are doing yourself a disservice. Once you start to build up brand recognition, consumers will have expectations about your services and offerings. They come to anticipate a certain level of quality and expertise that your company delivers each time. This is how you build, strengthen, and maintain customer relations. Your brand is your calling card, or what you are immediately recognized for, so make sure it reflects your mission and overall vision.

Can you share 5 strategies that a company should be doing to build a trusted and believable brand? Please tell us a story or example for each.

  1. Take bigger creative risks. Allow your company to acquire different marketing assets so you can keep variety and don’t have to bet it all on one.
  2. Don’t focus only on sales and conversion KPI’s. We all talk about the Consumer Journey and funnel, but too often we go from Attention straight to Conversion and invest nothing in the Engagement and Consideration phases. It is in these areas that you build long-term relationships.
  3. Try to minimize the internal stakeholders. The idea or concept you start with could be a diamond, but if ten different stakeholders comment on everything that is “edgy,” you will end up with a ping pong ball and not an exquisitely cut diamond.
  4. Take control of your data. Too much data is left to be managed by partners like media and social agencies. This information is your holy grail, so implement your own data management system and invite partners to work in YOUR ecosystem.
  5. Start today to set up your strategy for a world without third-party data and cookies. When Google joined Apple on this path in Q1 2021, many marketing strategies will not work anymore. Going broader, more contextual, and less targeted doesn’t have to be a problem, and done right can create tremendous opportunities. You will maybe stop spending money on existing clients and instead go wider with your offerings and suddenly find new consumers.

In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job building a believable and beloved brand. What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?

One brand that specifically impresses me with its mission and brand marketing is Telsa. Between their vehicles’ state-of-the-art safety features and zero emissions, saving the environment has never looked so cool. They also offer other clean energy solutions, and their brand is unified in the point that they are trying to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy. The takeaway point here is that Tesla identified a need, in this case utilizing more sustainable sources of energy, and delivered it in new and unexpected ways, such as their Tesla Model 3.

In advertising, one generally measures success by the number of sales. How does one measure the success of a brand building campaign? Is it similar, is it different?

Everybody says that a marketing campaign needs to focus on both brand building and sales. That can be true but to the same marketing assets or the same channel. What if your marketing plan is fantastic, but the products or price suck, what will data tell you then? For decades we have measured branding performance using Net Promoter Score, which I think still works. Maybe I am too traditional, but marketing is about connecting with humans and triggering emotions, and our DNA hasn’t changed in the last 30 years, ha ha!

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

Consumers use social media to interact, connect, network, and discuss, so it is easy for brands to become just another interruption. Social media is probably THE most important channel in anybody’s communication strategy today, but not enough brands use it properly to focus on creating a two-way dialogue. It is getting worse every day due to cancel culture, to the point that it can scare brands from taking a stand or having a voice if it is not just white-washed opinions.

I think social media is powerful if one can accept that NOT being loved by some is just as powerful as being loved by others.

What advice would you give to other marketers or business leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?

I sometimes feel sorry for my brand’s marketing teams. They get to manage more and more every day but don’t get to increase headcounts. Since sales have moved into digital channels, they are not just responsible for marketing but also sales, product, and service innovation. The owners need to understand that the increased budget cannot just go into external media buying. That being said, most clients work the same way as they did 20 years ago; they just do more things. There are huge opportunities to work smarter, not harder, and use technology to automate many of these tasks. Brands should have their own ecosystem in which their partners work. A campaign right now involves ten different agencies, and the marketer is left to work in the agency’s infrastructure, and they all have different ways of working. With one, they use Trello and a Google Calendar, with another Slack and Dropbox etc. This is why sometimes up to 50% of their time is spent just on updating all partners on what is happening between them. Create your own ecosystem, get everybody to work as YOU want them to, and get all agencies around the same table for the first time.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I would love to focus more on role models for certain groups in our society, both locally and globally. The role models in some areas are the local drug dealers since many don’t see any other path. Conversely, we should not just showcase the founders of huge startups since that is too hard to reach for some people to relate to as well. It is the local heroes starting a small coffee shop, the small-town social workers, and the volunteer firefighters, to name a few, that we should be highlighting. With our footprint in the entertainment sector, we can produce amazing content and achieve global distribution to tell the stories needed to make a difference.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Maybe not my favorite life lesson, but when the IT crash happened in 2000, Sweden got hit very hard, and our revenues when down by 80% in one week. Being young and inexperienced, navigating through such turbulent times was tough, but I learned that worrying about what will happen tomorrow is not helpful. One can only work hard and do the best one can and then see what the future holds. We came through even stronger on the other side, and it also helped me learn to separate work from my personal life, even if it was going through a crisis. So, when the 2008 recession hit, or COVID in 2020, we were able to keep the team spirit positive and pushed through so that ultimately none of my coworkers were personally affected.

We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

My wife! I work too much and don’t spend enough time with the love of my life. We have been a couple for 32 years now, and CVG would not exist without her love and support. Between working full time, raising three kids, and taking care of everything at home, she has allowed me to continue doing what I love and travel the world.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


Henric Larsson of Chimney Group: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Stew Lawrence of CleanWell: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Identify opportunities for positive change • You should always be looking for ways to develop and stay ahead. Your ideas might not always be feasible — maybe you don’t have the right technology, the cost is too high, or there’s some other hurdle — but that shouldn’t stop you from ideating.

As part of our series about how to create a trusted, believable, and beloved brand, I had the pleasure to interview Stew Lawrence.

An accomplished senior executive and market leader, Stew Lawrence brings nearly 20 years of successful experience in sales, marketing, business development, and enterprise management in the consumer packaged goods and energy related fields. Stew is currently CEO of CleanWell, LLC a Denver based manufacturer of homecare cleaning products.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I started working with consumer packaged goods back in college, actually. I was living in Boulder, Colorado and interning with several startup CPG companies that had products being sold in small grocery markets, local places. After college, I had the opportunity to work with larger CPG brands, but still in the food industry — like Hot Pockets and Nestle — and I did that for quite some time.

When I was approached about joining the CleanWell team it was a particularly intriguing opportunity because, frankly, this was a product I already had in my home — and that’s always exciting to be able to work on something you’re already interested in and passionate about.

Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

This is a tough question — because honestly, despite making my fair share of mistakes throughout my career, I can’t think of many that I would consider particularly notable or funny.

I do have one anecdote I can share, though. My team was developing messaging for a cookie, and our angle was to compare the nutritional value of this cookie to the nutrition value in a serving of fruits or vegetables. The goal was to try to bridge the gap in consumers’ minds so they equated this cookie to these other, in theory, healthier options.

But, in reality, sometimes consumers just want a cookie — so this messaging didn’t resonate at all with our audience. It was a miss in terms of consumer thinking because really, it’s okay to have a cookie in moderation — and that’s the messaging consumers actually wanted.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

As a company, we’re extremely nimble and supportive of each other — and this past year has really proven that; because we needed to continue delivering great products, while also taking care of each other during a pandemic — and really, it’s CleanWell’s culture that made both those things possible.

Let me elaborate a little further.

Since we only have one owner — and there aren’t that many layers between him and the rest of the team — it allows us to be quick to make decisions and adjust to trends. And, since we’re one of the more established companies when it comes to using botanicals in cleaning products — we’ve really grown together as a team, making us close — kind of like a second family — and that’s really what shines through to make us stand out.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Well I can’t tell you all our secrets! Kidding, of course.

The biggest thing we’re working on right now is enhancing our current products. We’re continuously renovating our products. A big focus for us, at the moment, is pushing the envelope in terms of sustainability and recyclability. We’d love our product to eventually be completely biodegradable — and while these may seem like older trends, when you’re dealing with a disinfectant — it takes a lot of work because of the product ingredients and navigating the regulatory agencies.

Also, we’re working to develop a few products to be used in commercial environments — whether it’s food service or an office space — because they deserve a clean, botanical cleaning product as well.

In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?

I would delineate those by saying that brand marketing is defining who you are and why you exist, really the tenets of your business — mission, vision, clear objectives, how you partner within the industry, etc.

Product marketing, on the other hand, is a focus on the benefits you provide — the what you are. This is where you are more functional with your messaging and advertising so you can explain the benefits to any audience you’re targeting.

Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?

Loyalty. Without building your brand, it’s harder to build brand loyalty — which is what allows you to get repeat purchases and really become a part of someone’s life. If you only focus your advertising efforts on your product’s attributes — frankly, there are a lot of other products with similar attributes — and you’re not building a relationship with consumers, which is really important.

Can you share 5 strategies that a company should be doing to build a trusted and believable brand? Please tell us a story or example for each.

Focus on Quality • Delivering a high quality product and experience is what allows you to build a long lasting relationship with your consumers. It’s what keeps them coming back time and time again.

Speak with your consumers • Your brand lives and dies with your consumers — so get to know them. In my opinion, Consumer Affairs should always be an internal department — because while outsourcing it could save some money, having your consumers interact with someone who’s invested in the company not only is a better consumer experience, it allows for a direct line of feedback to business decisions being made.

Identify opportunities for positive change • You should always be looking for ways to develop and stay ahead. Your ideas might not always be feasible — maybe you don’t have the right technology, the cost is too high, or there’s some other hurdle — but that shouldn’t stop you from ideating.

Define your purpose • It’s important to find something to stand for and live by it. This can be something related to your product or culture — but whatever it is, make sure you walk the walk and talk the talk.

Look and feel matters • Make sure the look and feel of your products is positioned in a way that reflects your brand personality, product attributes, and purpose. If you are looking to reflect lively, progressive, and clean — don’t present your products in a dull and overly cluttered manner, for instance.

In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job building a believable and beloved brand. What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?

Patagonia.

There are so many things they do well. They consistently deliver on their promise of providing high quality, well thought out products. They make products from recycled materials — oftentimes from their own recycled materials — and give back to the causes they support, just to name a few.

But, really, that all that boils down to the biggest, and the most repeatable takeaway from their brand, which is that they truly live their mission and culture in all aspects of their business — which is what really impresses me about them.

In advertising, one generally measures success by the number of sales. How does one measure the success of a brand building campaign? Is it similar, is it different?

Directly measuring advertising by sales is sort of the age-old challenge for marketers because there are so many other variables — pricing, channel, competitive sets, etc. — so even from a high-level, it can be difficult. But when thinking about successfully building a brand, however, it’s really getting that repeat purchase. It shows you have loyal consumers. Also, when you have a successful brand, there’s no gap between how you intend to be perceived and how you’re actually being perceived.

And you can get a sense for all of this from your consumers when they reach out — whether that’s on social media, through anecdotal consumer affairs, or direct conversations your team has.

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

Interestingly, we do less direct product advertising on social media than some of our other mediums — because, honestly, it’s a little boring and repetitive to sell your products to consumers directly when they are really there to build a relationship with you. So for us, when it comes to social media — we start with who we are in a consumer’s life and trust that our attributes will come into the conversation after as a way to validate that we’re the right brand for them to work with. Bottom line, though — it plays a major role.

What advice would you give to other marketers or business leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?

Take lots of deep breaths — and then take calculated risks. We don’t live in an academic world where things have to be 100% validated before making a decision — that’s part of why working in marketing and advertising is fun.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

This one’s already happening — and that’s general transparency.

Obviously, my mind goes first to the world of consumer packaged goods first — and what we’re seeing right now is that in general, products are becoming more transparent with what’s in them. If we look at cleaning products, specifically, in the past you didn’t have to disclose what was used to make a disinfectant, for instance — and now you do. And that’s really important because people should know what they’re putting on their surfaces and in their homes, just like they do when considering products they’re putting on or in their bodies. In my opinion, this also extends to corporate transparency. Other than keeping certain intellectual property information to yourself for obvious competitive reasons — I like the idea of providing as much transparency as possible for your end users and employees.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I have two that I’ve always liked.

The first is from George H. Allen. He said, “One of the most difficult things everyone has to learn is that for your entire life you must keep fighting and adjusting if you hope to survive. No matter who you are or what your position, you must keep fighting for whatever it is you desire to achieve.”

And I had this taped to my locker in high school, and now hangs in my office, as a reminder to keep the foot on the pedal, but adjust when you need to.

The other one is from Henry Ford who said, “You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.”

We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them.

This is sort of a cliched answer, but it’s the honest one, and it would be both my grandfathers. They were both in business, but not in my industry, so I’d love to sit down to talk with them about their careers, the highs and lows, etc. They did some pretty interesting things during a very different time and I think there’s a lot I could glean from them that could be adapted and applied to my career, and my industry, today.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Personally, I don’t have a big social media presence. I’m more of an observer, rather than a content creator. I am on LinkedIn, so that would be the best place for readers to find me.

To find CleanWell, visit https://cleanwelltoday.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cleanwelltoday/?hl=en

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cleanwell/

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


Stew Lawrence of CleanWell: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Suzanne Sachs of VintageDiamondRing.com: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Know your target audience. We understand our consumers want history within their jewelry while keeping the environment safe with sustainable engagement rings. Once you have a customer, retain them. Keep your customers on file for future mailings and keep in touch with them so they know you care. We send out mailers and try to check in with them on how their engagements are going. We love getting to know their stories and the personal impact keeps them coming back for more jewelry for future events.

As part of our series about how to create a trusted, believable, and beloved brand, I had the pleasure to interview Suzanne Sachs.

Suzanne worked at Sony Music in NYC as a Director of Licensing for eleven years but always had an entrepreneurial spirit and a plan to lead to her own company. Her husband is a wholesale diamond and antique jewelry dealer. When they became engaged in 2004, Stuart mentioned starting an online antique engagement ring website, a move he saw as critical to staying relevant in the field. His NYC office kept him busy though, and so it happened. Suzanne recognized this was the ideal time to launch her own business. She could take the knowledge she acquired from the corporate world and integrate it into a new business on the world wide web.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Funny enough, while I was working at Sony Music I met my (now) husband on a blind date who happened to be a wholesale diamond and antique jewelry dealer. When we became engaged, knowing we wanted to start a family, we began to talk about starting an antique engagement ring business online. My husband recognized the future of business was in e-commerce. I took a chance and left Sony in order to begin ArtDecoDiamonds.com (now VintageDiamondRing.com).

Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I don’t know if it’s “funny,” per se, but I really thought that starting an online jewelry business would be easy! Little did I know how many moving parts there would be, how much time the business would consume and how much innovation it would require. The internet is ever-changing. Can you imagine the daily transformations that have gone on from 15 years ago until today!?

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

VintageDiamondRing.com has a strong commitment to protect and preserve the environment. We practice sustainability by selling vintage engagement rings and in doing so we are protecting the earth by promoting recycling and social justice.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I wouldn’t necessarily say we are working on any new projects, but our continuing goal is to sell sustainable engagement rings. There is nothing more important to us than taking care of the environment, that is why we sell vintage engagement rings. Choosing vintage jewelry is the ultimate in “recycling.” Because vintage jewelry pieces do not need to be remade, no additional resources are required for them to be enjoyed again. Even if the stones are remounted into new pieces, it is still recycling and reusing at its core.

Ok let’s now jump to the core part of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?

Great question, and it’s pretty simple. A company’s brand is a logo or other signage symbolizing what service or product they are offering. When companies market their brand they use positive influences to build their brand to influence consumers. On the other hand, product marketing is when a company promotes information geared toward their specific product or service..Even though these are two different concepts, it is in a company’s best interest to try and use them together.

Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?

There is more to building a brand than just advertising. At Vintagediamonring.com we feel that we have to build a lifestyle brand. Any business can have a logo and a product, but when a consumer can turn to a company and know their purchases say something about who they are and what matters to them, it falls into a different category.

Can you share 5 strategies that a company should be doing to build a trusted and believable brand? Please tell us a story or example for each.

  1. First, and most important, social media is a key component to building a trusted brand. We have the opportunity to educate consumers in real time about what is important in our business practices.
  2. Your enthusiasm and devotion for your business should be evident.
  3. Whether on your website or on social media, consumers can tell when you truly believe in what you are selling and what you stand behind. If you believe in it, they will too. We post daily on our Instagram page new rings we have acquired because we are so excited to share them with our followers.
  4. I am a firm believer in being transparent with what your business is offering. Consumers want to trust you and what they are buying. Have your product, or service, clearly defined or outlined so there is no question about what someone is purchasing. All of our rings offered on our website are clearly explained. If there is any question, people know they can contact us any time of day and we are available to answer any questions.
  5. Know your target audience. We understand our consumers want history within their jewelry while keeping the environment safe with sustainable engagement rings. *Once you have a customer, retain them. Keep your customers on file for future mailings and keep in touch with them so they know you care. We send out mailers and try to check in with them on how their engagements are going. We love getting to know their stories and the personal impact keeps them coming back for more jewelry for future events.

In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job building a believable and beloved brand. What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?

Funny, shouldn’t I say VintageDiamondRing.com!? I believe we have done an incredible job in offering ethical and conflict-free jewelry that any person can feel good about wearing. The only way to replicate a good lifestyle brand, again, is by having a product you believe in, that truly leaves a positive imprint.

In advertising, one generally measures success by the number of sales. How does one measure the success of a brand building campaign? Is it similar, is it different?

Be true to yourself and your brand, and really believe in what you are trying to accomplish. People will know if you are feigning authenticity. Consumers tend to stand behind someone who they believe stands behind their product.

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

Social media actually plays a tremendous role in our company, as it should in every company today. We connect with consumers on a daily basis showing them the vintage jewelry we acquire. These pieces are environmentally friendly, and sustainable therefore allowing consumers to feel good about their purchase.

What advice would you give to other marketers or business leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?

Do what you love and you will never burn out!

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂 Aren’t we in the middle of a movement regarding sustainability and global warming? I think this is a huge challenge for businesses, and society today and going forward within the next decade and beyond.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

This is easy. My husband’s uncle was Ben Mellen and his partner Leon Rafalowicz., quite prominent diamond dealers in NYC. Unfortunately, they passed away years back but the lessons he taught my husband, who in turn taught me , are unforgettable. “If you can’t go through the front door, go through the side door. If you can’t go through the side door, go through the back door. If you can’t go through the back door, climb through the window.” Never quit

We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂 One of my idols is Madeleine Albright. I love to hear her speak, she is so brilliant and I really love the pins she wears!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

https://www.instagram.com/vintagediamondring_/

https://www.instagram.com/vintagediamondring_/

https://twitter.com/Vintagediamond_

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


Suzanne Sachs of VintageDiamondRing.com: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

At Home Testing: Ron Chiarello’s Big Idea That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Ask for feedback early and often. Focus not just on the people who are going to buy your product, but the people who have done it before. You want to start your communications with experienced folks as early as possible.

As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Ron Chiarello, Ph.D.

Ron Chiarello, Ph.D. has had a 25-year career designing, developing and manufacturing cutting-edge micro-fluidic, micro-electronics and semiconductor technologies. He founded Alveo Technologies in 2015 to develop innovative healthcare solutions that empower individuals around knowing their own health. Alveo recently won the $6M XPRIZE Rapid COVID Testing Competition for its be.well™ COVID-19 Test, an at-home infectious disease test initially focused on upper respiratory infections that can be adapted to detect a wide range of infectious diseases, saving countless lives and medical resources globally. Dr. Chiarello earned his Bachelor of Science in Physics at UC Santa Barbara and his Ph.D. in Physics from Northeastern University.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you please tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

As a young boy watching the original Star Trek television series, I was fascinated by Dr. McCoy, who is on some exotic, far away world, and he’s got this medical tricorder that’s telling him everything he needs to know about humanoids. And I remember thinking, well, that’s really cool but we need that tricorder on Earth and everybody should have one. And that really stuck with me…this notion of empowerment of individuals around knowing their own health and having technology that can do that. And that’s why I launched my company, Alveo Technologies, in 2015.

Can you please share with us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I’m a car buff and I attend car shows every so often. One day it hit me: my car has 200 sensors. I know everything about my car: tire pressure, fluid levels, brake wear. Just yesterday it told me, “I need an oil change. Take me to the dealership.” And it won’t stop bugging me until I do it! Every time I turn my engine on, it says, “Your attention and energy need to be here. Take me to the dealership to get new oil and a microfilter change.” Imagine if we had a similar system for our body where we could know at the molecular level whether we have a disease and, if so, what is the disease? What actions should I be taking? We treat our cars better than we treat our own bodies!

Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?

I believe in growth, both for individuals and for organizations, be it a company, a university or a family. A system becomes the best version of itself through the collective manifestation of those individuals. Philosophically, we should be doing everything to help each other be the very best versions of ourselves. A specific example: Blame and criticism typically do not help someone become a better version of him or herself. Rather, we need constructive coaching, mentoring, making people feel aspirational, and giving them the space to be creative but balanced with routines and habits.

Ok thank you for that. Let’s now move to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?

I am passionate about using diagnostic technology for people to know their own health in real time and on their terms. And I want this for everybody, not just the elite or people who can afford it. Everyone should be able to know their health earlier and take steps to intervene so that a particular health event doesn’t worsen. You get, let’s say, a virus that’s connected to the common cold, and then that develops to the flu, which becomes pneumonia. No good, right? You’re getting worse and less and less healthy because you didn’t have early knowledge and an early intervention. And this applies to any disease, whether it’s cardiovascular, diabetes, dementia, infectious disease. Right now, my team and I are focused on developing a low-cost, high-performing and easy-to-use infectious disease testing platform, which we hope will empower people to test at home and obtain treatment at the earliest possible time — saving countless lives and medical resources globally.

How do you think this will change the world?

Being able to self-test early and often to know if you are sick will hopefully lessen the stress which leads to anxiety and depression around the fear of not knowing your health nor the health of people around you — elderly people, your family, your loved ones — who may infect you or be infected by you. We just witnessed a dual pandemic in terms of a mental health crisis along with an infectious disease crisis (COVID-19). We already had increasing suicide rates before the pandemic. The social isolation did not help. We are social creatures. We must interact with others. So again, being able to test, knowing your disease or health state so you can safely interact as a human is very critical in preventing mental health issues.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this idea that people should think more deeply about?

There is a potential drawback as we put people’s health data on record. For example, the segregation of people based on their health state (e.g. vaccinated vs. unvaccinated) could be an example of an unintended detrimental effect. We need to be aware of that and get out in front of it. Privacy and choice are key to how individuals share their data and how it can help the great good. We don’t want healthcare data to be used solely for profit. It has to circle back to the benefit of the individual.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?

The tipping point was when I discovered that Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is the number one killer of kids under the age of five worldwide. RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways in the lung) and pneumonia in children younger than one year of age in the United States. I have children and it touched me profoundly because this is something we can address and we can be part of the solution to prevent death.

What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?

You cannot market an at-home, multiplex infectious disease testing platform without regulatory approval globally. So that means FDA in the U.S., CE mark registration in the European Union, and so on. Countries like India have their own process for regulatory approvals as well. So our vision is to make our infectious disease test kits simple enough, low-cost enough, and easy enough to manufacture that different regions can have their own supply. In addition to regulatory approvals, we need more capital to build manufacturing and distribution facilities so people who most need our test can access it.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

I wish someone had told me:

  1. Big ideas are capital intensive. They need development, they need top talent, they need resources to be fully realized.
  2. Regulatory approvals take time. The approval process differs by region and can be unpredictable.
  3. Get out in front of clinical trials and regulatory approvals. Before you even have the product ready, hire experts in clinical trials and regulatory approvals and get their input on your product and your process very early on. Don’t wait.
  4. Be proactive with your partnerships. In our case, it’s with pharmaceutical companies and distribution partners. Be aggressive. Tell them what you’re doing early because you’re going to need their channels for your products.
  5. Ask for feedback early and often. Focus not just on the people who are going to buy your product, but the people who have done it before. You want to start your communications with experienced folks as early as possible.

Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?

There are three main things: vision, discipline and service.

  1. Vision: You’ve got to stick with it. When I started Alveo in 2015, before the pandemic, at-home testing was a hard sell. Now, everyone’s like, “How soon can I get it?”
  2. Discipline: This covers everything from get up early, make your bed, clean your workspace, to the corporate rituals around how you execute on product development, manufacturing, regulatory approvals. Have the discipline to do the things that move the big idea forward every day.
  3. Service: Be of service to your employees, your customers, your strategic partners. That will then be returned to you because investors and strategic partners, your law firms, media firms, they all work for the company and the company works for them. At Alveo Technologies, what we’re trying to do is help relieve suffering, help people to be healthier, help people to live their best lives. That’s service.

Some very well-known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

The market for rapid COVID-19 tests has thus far been defined by high costs, low accessibility, long times to treatment and inconsistent performance. We have the best technology that enables us to develop a high-performing, low-cost, easy-to-use infectious disease testing platform. High performance means it gives a result that allows either a treatment or an action. And that’s very, very important. For example, if you take an antigen test and you’re positive, nothing happens. You’re in quarantine until you get a molecular test like ours, and then you get the right treatment. Or if your results are negative for COVID or any other infectious disease, then you can get on a plane or go to a sports arena. Accurate, reliable performance is very important and is key to early intervention.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can follow me on Twitter @RonCphd or on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/ron-chiarello-ph-d-529056127/

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


At Home Testing: Ron Chiarello’s Big Idea That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Rising Through Resilience: Andrea Evans of HealingSpace On The Five Things You Can Do To Become…

Rising Through Resilience: Andrea Evans of HealingSpace On The Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Stop and breathe. This one sounds really simple but it works. On top of the incredibly diminished amount of sleep you experience as a mother, there’s the unrealistic expectations society has placed on Black Women as a whole. I felt a pressure that if I expressed my true weakness, that I was letting everyone down. The only thing that really helped in these moments is when I focused on my breath. Eventually, I was calmer and so was my baby.

In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Andrea Evans.

Andrea Evans is a graduate from Cornell University with a background in management consulting and project management. Andrea’s passion lies in creating a safe space for Black women to find all encompassing resources for their mental, physical and spiritual health. As a mother and Black Woman that has suffered from Depression, Anxiety and OCD, she has dedicated her life to improving the emotional wellbeing of others.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?

Thank you for the opportunity! After spending the past few years dabling in different industries, it wasn’t until I became a mother that I started to realize how all of my life’s experiences have shaped me into the person I am now. After experiencing postpartum depression and anxiety, I realized just how mandatory it is for Black Women to have an abundance of access to resources that can help them develop emotionally. Mental health simply isn’t talked about enough in a context that is truly beneficial for Black Women, and addressing the need for mental health resources for us is the beginning of the healing that is needed in our community.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

Since I’ve begun my work in creating HealingSpace for Black Women, I’ve also been adjusting to motherhood. One of the most interesting things that has happened is going to the doctor for a keloid and being lectured by a male provider on how breastfeeding past 6 months is not recommended because children in Africa are breastfed and malnourished. I handled the situation with grace, but his ‘advice’ was completely uncalled for and just showcases how from the point a child is conceived, mothers hear so many unsolicited opinions. Providing a resource for Black Women to share stories like this will not only serve as a safe place for us to vent, but also shed light on how far we have to go as a society.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

It had been 30 hours of labor since I was induced. The nurse came in to check how far along I was and my body wasn’t progressing. I needed a C-Section. As the doctor explained to me the procedure my palms were sweating, my underarms started to tingle from sweat and my face simultaneously lost color and flushed so hot to the touch. I had an overwhelming sense of panic as I realized I was having major abdominal surgery.

After reading and hearing so many statistics about black women dying in childbirth in America, the LAST thing I wanted was a white male doctor cutting into me when I already was experiencing preeclampsia. The unplanned C-Section sparked a slew of emotional turmoil for me. After battling with Postpartum depression and anxiety for 6 months, I realized I never wanted my daughter to have to go through this. Black women deserve a safe space to talk about their experiences and heal from their traumas. As a woman that has experienced some of the worst bouts of depression, I feel it’s my responsibility to ensure other Black Women can have better access to comprehensive mental health materials so that they feel seen and acknowledged even in those dark places.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I want to thank my 7 month old daughter. If she never came to be, neither would HealingSpace. She is my muse, my entire world, and my inspiration to lead the conversation on mental health for Black Women.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

Resilience: The ability to get back up even after you fall. No matter how hard or soft.

Resilient people are lifelong learners. They’re adapters. They aren’t afraid of change, in fact, they embrace it. Black Women are extremely resilient. Facing adversity from all angles, and still are the most educated demographic in america. Black women are the prime example of resilience.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

My mother. She is not afraid to share her emotions with her family. She cries, she laughs. She makes time to relax and works hard. She obtained her bachelor’s degree with 3 children at home. She is resilient.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

In high school, I was among some of the smartest kids in the county, but since I wasn’t at the top of my class, it was pretty much assumed that acceptance to Ivy League was a ‘stretch’. Let’s face it, Black Women aren’t told to strive for their wildest dreams by the media, we’re still the ‘token black girl’ in many regards.

Applying to an ivy was the “reach” school on my list sinceI don’t fit the profile of an ivy league student. I wasn’t white or rich or famous. When I was accepted everyone was shocked to find out and started to see me differently. This was the first time I really felt like I had a path in life that was not ordinary at all.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

When I was 21 I was in an extremely toxic and abusive relationship. It was very hard to break out of and took me a long time to recognize when was the ‘right’ time to leave. I failed a class and the relationship I had with friends and family suffered, I lost 20lbs and my mental health took a turn for the worst. Being a Black Woman, I held this idea that if I ‘suffered’ long enough that I would eventually see better outcomes. This is far from the truth and I think many Black women can relate to feeling.

Once I finally left that situation, I graduated college with two degrees, moved back home to be around family, got my first car and started working for a billion dollar hospitality company where I was one of few Black female interns accepted.

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

Being the only one in the 5th grade with acne forced me to question my self worth and self image. As I learned over time, self worth and self image can be improved with consistent practice. I couldnt the mean comments on my acne or the color of my skin distract me from my goal and love to learn.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Stop and breathe. This one sounds really simple but it works. On top of the incredibly diminished amount of sleep you experience as a mother, there’s the unrealistic expectations society has placed on Black Women as a whole. I felt a pressure that if I expressed my true weakness, that I was letting everyone down. The only thing that really helped in these moments is when I focused on my breath. Eventually, I was calmer and so was my baby.
  2. Reflect. Taking a few minutes out of everyday to reflect and gauge your internal emotional well-being will do you wonders. For example, make a habit while wrapping your hair at night to ask yourself “how was I feeling today?” and see how acknowledging your emotions makes you feel.
  3. Evaluate. Periodically taking inventory of your life and the people you surround yourself with will help you gage how you’re doing mentally. Are you surrounding yourself with toxic people? Are you saying you’re fine just so that other people don’t worry? If so, what are some reasons why you shouldn’t prioritize other people’s feelings before your own?
  4. Schedule protected time. I cannot stress enough how important it is to take time away from work and other obligations to do things that make you happy. As Black Women we are always striving for excellence. We want our kids to be smart, healthy and well behaved, we want our relationships to be perfect, we want our finances to be in order.. It’s a constant go, go, go mentality and we rarely get the time to just do nothing. It’s time to prioritize doing nothing.
  5. Pray and/or Meditate. It’s extremely important to take the time to be in silence. Allow your brain to rest other than when you’re asleep! Give your mind a moment to stop trying to solve problems and hand yourself over to prayer or simply being in the present moment.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Celebrating The Vulnerable Black Woman. She is not afraid to show her emotions and put her mental well-being FIRST. Because she deserves that option as much as anyone else.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Add me on Linkedin 🙂

https://www.linkedin.com/in/andreasevans/

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


Rising Through Resilience: Andrea Evans of HealingSpace On The Five Things You Can Do To Become… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Women Leading The Blockchain Revolution: “If you’re looking to enter the space, you don’t have to…

Women Leading The Blockchain Revolution: “If you’re looking to enter the space, you don’t have to be technical” With Ayelen Osorio of Netcoins

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

I’d say if you’re looking to enter the space, you don’t have to be technical. In fact, you will learn a lot of the technicalities on the job. Know that you still offer a lot of value to the space even if you don’t have a technical background. Remember that.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Ayelen Osorio, Content and Community Manager at Netcoins, a cryptocurrency exchange company based in Canada. She believes bitcoin is a great way for women to build wealth for themselves. Her mission is to help women understand the world of crypto; what it is, how the blockchain works, how to invest in cryptocurrencies and stay safe.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share with us the story of how you decided to pursue this career path? What lessons can others learn from your story?

It’s an honour to be here. Thank you for having me!

I personally have strong feelings about making the world a more fair and just place so topics like economic empowerment, technology, and human rights have always been on my mind; specially considering my own background. I grew up in Venezuela where these topics hit close to home.

My career path into the crypto space started late 2019. I had just gotten back up on my feet from dealing with some financial setbacks due to health reasons and an ex-coworker came knocking about an opportunity to help grow and educate a community from the ground up.

I was intrigued by the idea of learning a very complex topic that merged together technology, economics, psychology and human rights. It was also reinventing the financial world. I thought it was an awesome opportunity I could not pass so I accepted the offer at Netcoins. Now, my goal is to help women understand and benefit from crypto investments.

One of the most memorable moments was when the hiring manager (my Director of Marketing now) said “You don’t need to be an expert from the get-go. I want people to grow and learn alongside you. It’s extra endearing and rewarding when you’re able to put yourself in the average person’s shoes and start from square 1 too.”

The moral of my story (so far) — it’s ok to find things daunting and new. Know that you don’t have the answers to everything so take it easy on yourself! Fight to work on what you’re passionate about. Opportunities will follow you when you do that.

Can you tell me about the most interesting projects you are working on now?

For me, it’s the work I’m doing around crypto education — podcasts, interviews, blog posts, emails, workshops or our very own Crypto Academy for Beginners.

I’m a big believer in talking about these super complicated topics and explaining them in everyday language through as many channels as possible. That’s because I want women to feel like they are included in the conversation, and more than that — that they understand these important topics.

So any time that I see women understanding the concepts of money, wealth generation and crypto investments unlocking in their minds, I feel like we’ve won. It’s always a great day for me. I guess you can think of me as being women’s biggest financial cheerleader! That’s what gets me excited to wake up every morning and do my work.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I agree with you — we neve achieve success on our own!

The person I’m grateful to have is our Director of Marketing, Hannah. I actually worked with her at a previous company and now I work with her at Netcoins. By now, she knows how I think, how I work, communicate and deliver. She knows when to step in to support me and when to let me fly. I can also count on her to tell me the truth, even if I don’t want to hear it haha

On top of that, we have an amazing friendship outside of work. She is kind, funny, brilliant and all-around awesome! All these things together make for a great working-relationship so I feel very fortunate to have it — specially because I know most people don’t enjoy their work or who they work with. I’m very lucky!

What are the 5 things that most excite you about blockchain and crypto? Why?

Wow, there’s too many to count! What gets me really excited is:

1. Seeing the progression of bitcoin adoption from “computer nerds” to retail investors, companies, institutions, to now small countries like El Salvador…. all in the span of 12 years. That’s fast!

2. The industry is growing like crazy. It will be exciting to see the new projects evolve and more brilliant minds join the space. Soon enough, working in the blockchain and crypto space will be normal.

3. Watching the financial world become decentralized (ie: seeing lending, borrowing etc. be done 24/7 without third party involvement and high fees). That’s a big deal for democratizing wealth opportunities!

4. Making friends in the crypto industry. Crypto enthusiasts are some of the kindest and smartest people you will ever meet. I’m looking forward to meeting more of these innovative people.

5. Last but definitely not least — continuing to work on helping women understand and invest in crypto.

What are the 5 things that worry you about blockchain and crypto? Why?

To be honest, I don’t often worry about blockchain or crypto. Especially not bitcoin.

I don’t listen too much to mainstream concerns around the demise of crypto as I find a lot of their claims to be unfounded. Most critics don’t really understand crypto in-depth.

If anything, my concern is that the fall of bitcoin (particularly) is a result of a self-made injury, where a bug is introduced into the blockchain. This is why it’s important to learn as much as we can about the work being done to the blockchain and participate in the conversations around the future of bitcoin and its network.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share a story?

In my personal life, I noticed a lot of my girlfriends didn’t know how to invest. Let alone how to invest (safely) in crypto. It was a huge hurdle for them to get started because they didn’t understand money and wealth in the first place.

So, I created a Slack group with my girlfriends where we discuss financial planning, investments and cryptocurrencies. It’s been a safe space for them to ask those “embarrassing” questions without judgement. And to meet other women with similar goals.

I’ve loved watching them ask questions, learn and dip their toes into crypto. Nothing has been as rewarding as that! I only hope this group continues to grow and help other women.

As you know there are not that many women in your industry. Can you share 3 things that you would advise to other women in the blockchain space to thrive?

I’d say if you’re looking to enter the space, you don’t have to be technical. In fact, you will learn a lot of the technicalities on the job. Know that you still offer a lot of value to the space even if you don’t have a technical background. Remember that.

And if you’re already in the space, I’d say develop your own framework of thinking and practice critical thinking because a lot will be said about crypto, blockchains, and whether the space will survive or not. Most of it is noise and clickbait. If you allow it to affect you, it will burn you out and hurt your work.

Finally, have fun! If you’re enjoying what you’re doing, if you’re passionate about it, it will ooze out of you. You’ll attract people and opportunities to you! Your world will expand and you’ll be able to make a great impact in your own unique way. But, nothing happens unless you don’t love it first. So make sure you’re doing what you love!

Can you advise what is needed to engage more women into the blockchain industry?

Personally, I think crypto enthusiasts need to change the language around crypto a little bit; and not talk about it in such technical, alienating and complex terms. Otherwise, the confusing terminology acts as a massive barrier to entry and that’s not what crypto is about!

I really believe that if we explain crypto in simple terms, and answer people’s questions with patience and empathy, then women will feel less intimidated to join. They’ll want to learn more, ask questions, test it out, and eventually participate in the space

Right now, it’s very much a man’s world (and a techy-man’s world at that). We need more marketers, story-tellers, data scientists, women, and people from all walks of life to enter the space.

What is your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that had relevance to your own life?

There is a beautiful quote by Rumi that I love: “live life as if everything is rigged in your favour.”

I say this when I have a challenge or a hard task in front of me. For example, when I’m nervous before a podcast interview. I tell myself that this moment is the best moment for me to participate in the interview because life, the universe — or whatever you want to call it — knows I can handle it. This moment is when I am most prepared to handle it.

The quote reminds me that the challenging moment I’m dealing with has arrived at the perfect timing for me. It’s rigged in my favour, and therefore, I can handle it.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Data shows that women, children, low-income communities, people with different abilities and so on are often ostracized from the traditional financial world.

If I could start anything, it would be an organization and (bitcoin) fund that supports and invests in these vulnerable communities around the world. The goal would be to help them build long-term wealth with bitcoin. Of course, I’d have to think about the details but that’s where I’d start.

I want to see them uplifted and thriving! To me, bitcoin is the best way to do that.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I’ve recently re-joined twitter. I’d love to connect there, @Ayelen_Osorio! Please don’t be shy to say hello! I’ve love to connect. You can also reach me on LinkedIn.

I recommend you also follow Netcoins on Twitter. It’s a great place to learn about crypto, the technology powering crypto, and industry news. We work really hard to produce great content for everyone! We hope you enjoy it.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

Thank you so much for having me! I had a lot of fun chatting with you today!


Women Leading The Blockchain Revolution: “If you’re looking to enter the space, you don’t have to… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

David Choi of Magna Carta & Angel Falls: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

I feel like five things every branch should be doing is one, leveraging social by telling the stories of your product, company, and employees. Two, creating a lot of video content, showing the product through imagery that is consistent with what the customer will receive, and showing the customer how to use the product at its highest level. Three, the company should be working within its own ranks to tell its brand story and make sure everybody believes and wants to hold up the values of the company. Four, you need to integrate the brand story into existing product marketing, like slogans and imagery. Lastly five, it’s important to tell your brand story in a short, concise, but powerful way. This story is the rock your brand is built on.

As part of our series about how to create a trusted, believable, and beloved brand, I had the pleasure to interview David Choi.

Born in Los Angeles but raised in Washington, DC, David Choi has been in the wine business for the last decade. He found his passion for wine as the owner of one of the nation’s largest and oldest wine stores, Pearson’s Wine & Spirits. He dove deeper into the wine industry as an importer and wholesaler.

As the most popular wine expert on TikTok sharing his vast wine knowledge, creative pairings, affordable recommendations, and much more to his over 200,000 followers, wine expert David Choi owns two Napa Valley wine companies and is shaping how millennials themselves consume and talk about wine. David’s #1 wine TikTok page is @winewithdavid.

As the proprietor of the two Napa Valley wine companies Angel Falls Wines and Magna Carta Cellars, David first found his passion for wine as the owner of the nation’s largest and oldest wine stores, Pearson’s Wine & Spirits in Washington, DC, which has been in business since 1933. Next, he dove deeper into the wine industry as an importer and wholesaler, learning all aspects of the industry. Today, David is one of only 60 living recipients of the Order of Agricultural Merit (l’Ordre du Mérite Agricole) in the United States and was inducted into Jurade of Saint Emilion, the oldest wine society in Bordeaux, in 2012.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

It was a chance opportunity to be a part of a wine store in Washington DC. I was figuring my fit in this world and wine found me. The store was Pearson’s Wine & Spirits that opened in 1933 and had a history of being one of the top wine stores in DC and one of the first to import Bordeaux and Burgundy wines in the US so being there it was like getting a master’s degree in wine.

Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Too many to tell all of them but one in particular was but it is all about really taking it as an experience and keep moving going and knowing it is part of the process.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Being an outsider and not part of the Napa Valley wine culture we started as most I knew were born into this or exited from a company looking for a new hobby or investment, but I found early on that this was a passion of mine and something that found me and that I was meant to be a part of.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We just about to bottle the 2019 vintage of Magna Carta and we are releasing Angel Falls Sauvignon Blanc in August which we are very excited about as we will extend this to more people being at a $15–20 price point, without sacrificing any of the quality and artistry our fans are accustomed to.

Ok let’s now jump to the core part of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?

Brand marketing is all about building trust, showing that you are a source that cares about customers, and at the highest level that you can always count on the brand. We used social as our main form of brand marketing, showing my face and what I stand for, and we believe we’ve gotten stronger reach for our brand marketing because of this. Product marketing is just getting your product out there, and why it’s better than the competitor. And at the end the day the product has to stand for itself once it reaches their door, and that’s the most important touchpoint.

Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?

While a product can sell well, without a brand standing behind that product that has a rich history and a clear mission statement, it’s unlikely a consumer will ever buy more than one of your products if they are significantly different, which they usually are. Building a brand is all about creating trust with the customer, building customer longevity, and ultimately just being a brand that the customer wants to recommend.

Can you share 5 strategies that a company should be doing to build a trusted and believable brand? Please tell us a story or example for each.

I feel like five things every branch should be doing is one, leveraging social by telling the stories of your product, company, and employees. Two, creating a lot of video content, showing the product through imagery that is consistent with what the customer will receive, and showing the customer how to use the product at its highest level. Three, the company should be working within its own ranks to tell its brand story and make sure everybody believes and wants to hold up the values of the company. Four, you need to integrate the brand story into existing product marketing, like slogans and imagery. Lastly five, it’s important to tell your brand story in a short, concise, but powerful way. This story is the rock your brand is built on.

In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job building a believable and beloved brand. What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?

In general CPG brands are forced to tell strong brands stories because consumer trust is so important in this industry. Brands like Poland Springs are doing a great job at this because they have to, water is a simple product, and the selling point is the brand story. Another new brand that’s doing a good job it’s called SIMULATE, the company behind in NUGGS. They’re generating hype through creating a lot of brand story on social. They have a strong brand story and ethos.

In advertising, one generally measures success by the number of sales. How does one measure the success of a brand building campaign? Is it similar, is it different?

I think it has to be different, one great way is just anecdotally talking to customers and employees. In truth, it’s hard to measure but that doesn’t mean it’s not important. It’s for long-term brand health, which will play into sales, but it’s not something that can be measured easily.

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

It’s our main point of contact for brand building because we have been able to generate hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of value through organic reach, so it’s our most valuable asset.

What advice would you give to other marketers or business leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?

It’s all about staying healthy, mentally and physically, and making sure that your brand is healthy too. Creating space for yourself to breath and grow.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I’d want to inspire a global appreciation for wine, the original alcohol, and the rich history behind it. I believe the biggest miss recently is that older wine brand haven’t communicated well to the next generation of wine drinks, and we’re trying to change that.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

There are a few quotes that I look at every morning for inspiration and this one touched me today. It’s how to persevere no matter how difficult or bleak things are today to look at it as part of the process and that you are one step closer to your ultimate goal.

“Many of life’s failures are experienced by people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” — Thomas Edison

We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Currently there are two Mark Cuban and Warren Buffet

How can our readers follow you on social media?
They can catch us on IG @magnacartacellars and personally IG @winewithdavid and TikTok @winewithdavid

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


David Choi of Magna Carta & Angel Falls: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Nerve Repair: Paul Brennan’s Big Idea That Might Change The World

I believe there is no end to learning and one’s own self-guided education. I believe the nature of life is a focus on learning which begins at birth to the moment you die. Always be curious. Follow the ‘golden rule’ by always treating others like you would like to be treated.

As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change the World in The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Paul Brennan, President and Chief Executive Officer, NervGen Pharma, a publicly traded (TSX-V: NGEN, OTCQX: NGENF) clinical stage biotech company dedicated to discovering and developing treatments for patients suffering from medical conditions related to nervous system damage, has over 30 years of experience in the pharmaceutical and biotech industries working in leadership roles in general management, corporate strategy, commercial planning, business development and regulatory affairs in Canada, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Most recently Brennan’s experiences include senior business development and management positions in various biotech companies, including Aquinox Pharmaceuticals, Arbutus Biopharma, Aspreva Pharmaceuticals, and AnorMED Inc.

Brennan has a comprehensive list of business development and licensing transactions, totaling over $3 billion in value: he played key roles in the merger of Tekmira Pharmaceuticals and OnCore BioPharma to create Arbutus Biopharma, in the sale of Aspreva Pharmaceuticals to Vifor Pharma for $915 million and in the sale of AnorMED to Genzyme for $580 million. Prior to working in biotech, he held senior roles in Business Development and Regulatory Affairs at AstraZeneca. Brennan holds a MSc in Physiology, and a BSc (Hons) in Life Sciences from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you please tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

As Confucius said, “choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” I’ve always had a keen interest in biology, medicine and life science and I sought to find employment in this sector. After graduating, l had three months to find a job or I would have move back home with my parents in Ottawa. There’s nothing like that motivation to do everything in your means to find a way to meaningful paying employment. I worked with a recruiter, I answered ads in the newspaper (remember when people did that?) and even did some cold-calling.

Focusing in on the pharma sector, I actively interviewed for employment and received three job offers in one week. I accepted an offer with AstraZeneca, a global, science-led biopharmaceutical business, and eventually became a Director of Regulatory Affairs.

I’ve always been interested in areas beyond my individual responsibility. At AstraZeneca, I learned about sales, clinical research, marketing and manufacturing. I think that being interested in understanding the 360 degrees of a company is really important to building an impactful career.

Can you please share with us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

NervGen Pharma Corp’s IP was developed by leading medical researchers of degenerative brain disease and nerve damage, led by Dr. Jerry Silver in Cleveland, Ohio, where he is Professor of Neurosciences at Case Western Reserve University’s School of Medicine and adjunct Professor in the Department of Neurosurgery at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation. He is also credited in over 180 publications and is the recipient of several prestigious awards, including the Ameritec Prize for significant accomplishments toward a cure for paralysis.

Just after accepting the CEO position at NervGen, I met with Dr. Silver to review his animal model data which you can see highlights on this video. It was truly a ‘come to Jesus’ moment listening to Dr. Silver explain the data in an exciting and enthusiastic way. The recovery of locomotion with a significant subset of animals recovering fully, even in very severe spinal cord injury (SCI) models was remarkable. The animals also recovered voluntary bladder function; a critical unmet medical problem associated with SCI. The results were reproduced in multiple studies, labs and models — truly robust, reproducible data.

Dr. Silver first came to global prominence with a front page story in The New York Times entitled, “Rat Nerves Repaired and Rejoined with Spine” in the 1980’s which chronicles the first time crushed nerves were repaired. Dr. Silver is an extraordinarily accomplished and renowned spinal cord injury and regenerative medicine researcher and it was clear that NervGen Pharma Corp. exclusive worldwide licensing agreement with Case Western Reserve University to research, develop and commercialize this patented technology with potential to bring new therapies for spinal cord injury and other conditions associated with nerve damage was truly revolutionary.

Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?

I believe there is no end to learning and one’s own self-guided education. I believe the nature of life is a focus on learning which begins at birth to the moment you die. Always be curious. Follow the ‘golden rule’ by always treating others like you would like to be treated.

In the workplace, I fret over substance rather than style. For example, think about a company’s creation of a slide deck where there are ten people in the room focused on its development. So many times, people argue over style issues — the font, the color, the imagery, etc., — when there is no right way to do things. Content is the substance that is king. There is a right or wrong way to generate substance. Gaining consensus on the substance, including all the underlying messages, is what is most important and what I try to guide my team to understand.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now move to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about your company’s “Big Idea That Might Change the World”?

Injury or disease to the central nervous system (CNS) results in multifaceted cellular and molecular responses. One such response, the glial scar, is a structural formation of reactive glia (cells) around an area of severe tissue damage. The purpose of the scar is to encapsulate the site of the injury to prevent further damage and begin the healing process, but it ultimately inhibits the body’s reparative mechanisms. Dr. Silver discovered that a constituent of these scars, a glycoprotein called chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan (“CSPG”), is a major inhibitor of the body’s natural ability to regrow and regenerate the CNS.

Dr. Silver, together with scientists at Harvard University, identified protein tyrosine phosphatase sigma (“PTPσ”) as a key neural receptor that binds with the CSPGs in the glial scar. Dr. Silver’s research showed that PTPσ impedes nerve repair through its activation upon binding to CSPGs in the glial scar.

Multiple studies with animal models for several diseases and medical conditions have shown that treatment targeting PTPσ receptors with a compound developed by Dr. Silver and his research team, NVG-291-R (also called intracellular sigma peptide, or ISP in publications), promoted repair of damaged nerves and improvement in function.

NervGen is now developing NVG-291-R as the basis for its core technology. Our lead product, NVG-291, is a close analog to NVG-291-R.

Since the original discovery of NVG-291-R, the compound has been studied further by Dr. Silver and his collaborators, by NervGen and by a number of independent laboratories. There is now a large body of evidence to indicate that NVG-291-R’s mechanism for nerve repair is mediated by a number of endogenous repair mechanisms, including axon regeneration, plasticity, remyelination, autophagy and immune modulation. Furthermore, these repair mechanisms seem to be helpful in treating nerve damage associated with both acute nervous system damage injury (spinal cord injury, peripheral nerve injury, traumatic brain injury, and stroke) and with neurodegenerative diseases (multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), frontotemporal dementia (FTD), and Parkinson’s disease).

NervGen’s initial development programs are focusing on spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease.

How do you think this will change the world?

Conventional wisdom is that the central nervous system axons cannot regenerate after injury and that the nervous system cannot repair itself. The successful completion of NervGen’s technology on human subjects could rewrite the prognosis and provide life-changing therapies for people with spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease as well as other neurogenerative disease.

With the FDA’s approval of Biogen for Alzheimer’s patients — developed to decelerate the spread of the disease in its early stages — the spotlight is now on for finding therapies with a more meaningful response. NervGen’s technology platform has introduced a truly novel approach to treating Alzheimer’s disease.

We are preparing for a Phase 1b Clinical Trial in Alzheimer’s Disease and entered into a research agreement with Sylics Contract Research, to study the effects of NVG-291 in mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this idea that people should think more deeply about?

Quite frankly, no. If our technology enables a paralyzed person to regain mobility, restores recognition memory and rescues cognitive deficiencies for Alzheimer’s disease sufferers and reverses disease progression for those with multiple sclerosis, it is very hard to find a drawback.

Was there a “tipping point” that led the company to this idea? Can you tell us that story?

What led NervGen to our revolutionary ISP was a tragedy. Codi, the daughter-in-law of Dr. Harold Punnett fell into a hole and the integrity of her spinal cord did not survive the trauma. Codi remains a complete T-11 paraplegic. Dr. Punnett embarked on a neuroscience literature search and networking effort to find any way to improve Codi’s condition as reported in New Mobility magazine.

Dr. Punnett refused to accept the spinal-cord no-win-situation and the pessimistic mobility prognosis of Codi’s physicians. As a dental surgeon in British Columbia, Punnett is well-versed in medicine and physiology and he vigorously researched potential cures. Punnett met with Dr. Jerry Silver and was intrigued and brightened by his lab’s recurring data, which is that with injections of a peptide Silver’s lab invented, ISP (intracellular sigma peptide), Silver can cause severely spinal-cord-injured mice to walk again, to walk ostensibly normally.

NervGen was created to commercialize this ISP which we believe will change the world. The big idea that might change the world is that we have identified the chemical in the brain that is stopping the brain from repairing itself. Dr. Silver’s research focused on the glial scar which forms at sites of a physical injury such as spinal cord injury, as well as sites of inflammatory damage from neurodegenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease.

Our next tipping point will be when we demonstrate that the results from preclinical studies translate to humans, which we hope to see after our phase 1b and 2 trials. When that occurs, we expect to see considerable attention to the company, from patients, physicians, investors and from pharma. Our development programs focus on multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury and Alzheimer’s disease with a Phase 1 trial in healthy volunteers to begin in Q2 2021. Our Phase 1b trial in Alzheimer’s disease is scheduled to begin in 2022/ Phase 2 trials in multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury will begin in 2022.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

Widespread adoption of our ISP will happen when we are able to commercialize NVG-291 so that these revolutionary treatments are widely available; that’s the final tipping point.

What are your “Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

I wish someone at university told me to pay more attention to biochemistry and chemistry. My understanding is predominately physiology, but greater biochemistry/chemistry knowledge allows you to dig one layer deeper into the technology with greater ease. As someone who is committed to continually learning, I find my way to the knowledge I need, but it would offer me a leg-up to have taken more biochemistry coursework while in college.

Back when I was in high school, only girls were encouraged to take typing classes. As a course elective, girls were drawn to learn the skill of typing more than the boys since a good portion of employment was divided by gender-specific roles — some jobs designated for women, some for men. In our modern age “keyboarding” is vital for nearly all interactions with computers and other electronic devices. I wish I had known that a digital revolution would demand that each of us to learn to type in one form or another.

Like everyone else who grew up in the ‘70’s, I deeply regret not buying Apple stock when it first went public!

As a Canadian, hockey is our #1 sporting past-time. Like any memorabilia, vintage hockey cards, produced before 1980, are the rarest and most valuable. As a kid, in the 70s I collected every hockey card that was available. Unfortunately, I had not foresight to protect them and instead enjoyed experimenting with my cards on my bike so that the free end slaps the spokes going by as the wheel turns. At least it made a cool sound!

Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?

I believe the most important “success habits and mindsets” go back to what I said about always being curious. Be curious, think strategically, focus on the big picture and be open-minded. You are open to new ideas and ways of thinking when you are open-minded.

Being strategically focused is very important to my mindset. I do a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis when analyzing an opportunity. By comprehensively understanding the opportunity, I am able to maximize the opportunity while minimizing potential threats.

Some very well-known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

NervGen’s technology is a big idea based on a unique discovery that will change the paradigm of how nervous system damage is treated. It is atypical for CNS products to have broad applicability like our technology. Our tech is based on multiple experiments and has been confirmed by many independent experts cross the world. We are on the verge of being broadly discovered.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

We invite your readers to follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!


Nerve Repair: Paul Brennan’s Big Idea That Might Change The World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Wisdom From The Women Leading The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries, With Amy Watton of Masters of…

Wisdom From The Women Leading The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries, With Amy Watton of Masters of Pie

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Subject matter experts are key — don’t pretend to know it all when you don’t, everyone in your team is the expert in their area, and always involve the right people at the right time to help solve problems in areas where you have less knowledge.

The Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality & Mixed Reality Industries are so exciting. What is coming around the corner? How will these improve our lives? What are the concerns we should keep an eye out for? Aside from entertainment, how can VR or AR help work or other parts of life? To address this, as a part of our interview series called “Women Leading The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Amy Watton, Senior Project Manager at Masters of Pie.

Amy is Scrum Leader at Masters of Pie, a software company that creates extended reality (XR) collaboration solutions for enterprises. She is responsible for managing the development team as well as building bridges with enterprise customers. Prior to this role, Amy worked in various project management roles in emerging technologies, the education sector and new product innovation in luxury retail.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory and how you grew up?

I grew up in a small town in Northern Ireland. It was not particularly cultured or diverse and I knew I wanted to experience more but I wasn’t very confident or well travelled. I moved to England to study for my degree in business management and never went home. I was the first person in my immediate family to go to university so I guess I was quietly ambitious, but I have definitely worked my way up — starting out in entry level roles and gaining as much experience as I could from each step, always pushing myself to learn more.

It took a while to find the best fit for me in terms of my career — I have a strong background in customer service and management, but I never really enjoyed the industries I worked in and always felt there was something missing until I started working in tech. I have particularly enjoyed working with emerging technologies — every day is different, and you need to think on your feet, multitask, and problem solve to keep delivering results with limited time or resources or sometimes both!

Is there a particular book, film, or podcast that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Work Like A Woman: A Manifesto for Change by Mary Portas — this book focuses on Mary’s successful career in retail, rising through the ranks in a male-dominated world. She starts by explaining the challenges she faced with gender disparity but learns to ‘play the game’ by her rules — fighting for her place and for the culture she knows is the future. It resonates with me as the tech sector is still male dominated, but I don’t feel I need to change who I am or try to replicate the approach of those around me. I can use my gender as a strength, working with empathy and consideration, promoting buy-in and inclusiveness within my team. I still find it inspiring and a regular reminder that the best teams are not homogeneous — people with a mix of different skillsets and experiences collaborate to achieve great things.

Is there a particular story that inspired you to pursue a career in the X Reality industry? We’d love to hear it.

I don’t necessarily have a story around the XR industry, but I have always been interested in companies that work with emerging technology. The diversity of people, projects, and the innovation pace is exciting and that is where I feel comfortable. On top of that, the possibility of developing products that will materially change the way we work in the future, and the potential of XR to be the next computing paradigm, is something very motivating.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this fascinating career?

What I have found most interesting since I started working with tech start-ups is how quickly we can adapt compared with larger, well-established companies. I’ve previously worked in companies with significant ‘red tape’ and numerous levels of sign-off for every decision. I still see that environment now when I work with enterprises and see how difficult it is for them to react quickly. Our business is dynamic and fluid — we have a multi-skilled team who work collaboratively and efficiently so we can capitalize on opportunities and changes in the market quickly.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Early in a new job working on software implementation projects, I was excited to respond to my first email from a client. I wrote a response and was happy to get it out quickly and efficiently; however, a senior colleague was quick to point out that my Irish tone of voice was very much apparent and the recipient, being from a global organization and based in Japan, could take this as extremely blunt. Obviously, I was embarrassed, this was my first experience of working in a global team, but it did give me a great lesson in the importance of a global language, considering tone and avoiding colloquialisms which could lead to miscommunication. This has been hugely beneficial over the years as the tech sector (and by its very nature, VR, AR and XR) is truly global.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I would say the program manager from a previous role. When we first began working together, I was concerned about how different we were — there were clear cultural differences between our communication styles and approaches to various situations which I found difficult at first, especially as she was my line manager. It was also the first role where I’d felt a sense of imposter syndrome and I struggled with my confidence at the time. While discussing a new project I was going to lead, she bluntly said to me: “How can I be confident that you’ll do a good job if you aren’t confident in yourself?” I was taken aback by that question, but it really made me think about how I present myself and my capabilities to the world, and the impact that could have on opportunities in front of me. The experience prompted me to undertake personal development, honing my skills in areas such as conflict resolution and evolving my leadership footprint. This process made me aware of my strengths as well as the areas I could improve on. For example, I realized that I often felt that people who were quite self-confident could come across as arrogant to me but that was actually a performance-driven strength of theirs and it only felt that way to me as it’s something I found difficult as my natural strengths are in people and processes, rather than performance. I learnt strategies for coping with internal and team conflict, and how to communicate successfully as well as persuasively. What I thought could be a difficult relationship turned out to be very rewarding and she was a great mentor.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

The pandemic has forced the workforce en masse to move to remote working. This new way of working is here to stay, and all organizations will have to embrace a dispersed workforce. This shift in working habits has resulted in an explosion of videoconferencing solutions to connect people. This only partially solves the problem as only one person has access to the data in this interaction. The project I am currently driving forward is the development of a real-time immersive (XR) collaboration platform. The difference between conferencing (people) and collaboration is that the latter brings both people and their complex 2D and 3D data together to provide an essential solution for complex enterprises. Immersive real-time collaboration for enterprises has the potential to transform the way we work.

Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. The VR, AR and MR industries seem so exciting right now. What are the 3 things in particular that most excite you about the industry? Can you explain or give an example?

What really excites me about working in this XR industry is the fact that the industry is evolving from prototyping the art of the possible to scaling out robust production solutions. There is significant investment in this market sector that is driving innovation at an incredible speed. The enabling technologies of 5G, edge computing and server-side rendering will materially lower the cost of adoption while significantly increasing the addressable market. There currently exists a spirit of exploration between technology innovators and large enterprises who are looking at this technology as the next big step change in how we work. The next five years will be the age of spatial computing and I feel I am in the right place at the right time to ride that wave of innovation.

What are the 3 things that concern you about the VR, AR and MR industries? Can you explain? What can be done to address those concerns?

The current total cost of ownership to deploy XR solutions at scale is prohibitive. The combination of computing and headset costs is hurting the economic justification and inhibiting the technology adoption at scale. The enabling technologies currently being deployed will address many of the issues associated with delivering a quantifiable return on investment. Further, for XR solutions to be adopted at scale, the proposition needs to be integrated into the existing workflow processes of the enterprise and not strapped onto the business as a ‘shiny demo’. Finally, stop trying to force XR solutions to solve problems that may be addressed with a cheap browser-based flatscreen terminal. There are clear quantifiable benefits to leveraging XR and the industry needs to focus on standardizing ways for the technology to be seamlessly integrated and leveraged.

I think the entertainment aspects of VR, AR and MR are apparent. Can you share with our readers how these industries can help us at work?

The technology providers of the real-time game engines that have been deploying compelling games experiences for years are the basis for XR innovation. The games industry real-time engine is the basis for the digital twin used by enterprises today. The major players in the XR consumer market are all laying down the foundations to own this next growth market. Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Snapchat, etc have all invested heavily in the sector, and the XR market as a whole will benefit as a consequence. Finally, the engineers of tomorrow are the gamers of today.

Are there other ways that VR, AR and MR can improve our lives? Can you explain?

Let me give you a practical example — in the manufacturing industry, there are subject matter experts in maintenance of heavy and complex machinery. Until now, these highly skilled workers had to travel around the world to do their job. Using XR technology combined with real-time collaboration capabilities, these workers don’t need to be in situ, saving them from sometimes risky and unnecessary travelling, reducing carbon footprint, etc. With this technology, someone locally can display a digital twin of the machinery in situ, and the highly skilled worker can access the machinery and guide local technicians on how to fix the problem. Embrace XR technologies and save the planet.

Let’s zoom out a bit and talk in broader terms. Are you currently satisfied with the status quo regarding women in STEM? If not, what specific changes do you think are needed to change the status quo?

In short — no! I would love to work with more women — the ratio of men to women in the tech industry, in my experience, is definitely skewed. This can be very intimidating at first, but I would advise women who are interested in working in these industries to not be put off — I have found my work environments to be open and supportive, and found challenging and rewarding career opportunities in tech. Leave any preconceived notions at the door and know that you can have significant influence and contribution without limit.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about working in your industry? Can you explain what you mean?

You don’t need to have a technical background to work in tech. Of course, it helps — but you can still add a lot of value without that knowledge. I often find my strength in technical meetings is being able to cut through the technical jargon and ask what value are we actually providing with this solution and does this meet the customer’s expectation and requirements?

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience as a Woman in Tech” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Subject matter experts are key — don’t pretend to know it all when you don’t, everyone in your team is the expert in their area, and always involve the right people at the right time to help solve problems in areas where you have less knowledge. For example, our product team understands the customer requirement and what the end product should do, and our development team decides how we get there.
  2. Leadership is not about having one strong skill — if that’s all you rely on, you’re likely to overuse it and cause conflict. I believe great leaders have a wealth of skills and flex different ones to tailor them to each situation. Crisis management, for example, requires strong decision making, but periods of change require flexibility and the ability to adapt to the current situation.
  3. Opposites attract — at times it can be difficult to work effectively with people who have strong or different personalities from your own. But through the experience of managing conflicts within various teams, I’ve learnt that such differences bring with them a wealth of experiences, skillsets and perspectives to the team and this can be beneficial in many ways.
  4. Communication — it’s key to always be aware of your target audience when you communicate, tailoring your message to get the key information across for that audience. For example, whether it’s for the development team to support or explore ideas or for the leadership team to ensure they have what they need to make an informed decision. It’s also important to consider the individuals within your team and how they like to work day to day, and fit with that to get the best results.
  5. Don’t go against your core value system — it takes too much energy from you to try to be someone else. I feel that I’m quite principled in my approach and try to approach my role with empathy and consideration, always trying to balance what’s right for customers, the team, and the business. I couldn’t do it any other way, and I don’t believe that I need to.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

When you’re young you wonder how your actions may change the world one day, and I’m in a stage of my career where I feel that I can be doing something for the greater good. Creating a technology that will enable someone to have medical treatment from a surgeon who is on the other side of the world, it’s something quite Orwellian, but the reality is that improving this type of technology to a point where it is really accessible will bring people together in ways that we never thought possible before. Having the chance of democratizing remote medical treatment and improving the healthcare of disadvantaged communities, whilst also reducing unnecessary travel and thereby helping to fight climate change, is something that would make me proud.

We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I’d have to say Jacinda Ardern — she is bringing empathetic leadership to the global stage, challenging gender stereotypes, promoting equality, and breaking down barriers with her policy changes. Her approach has been consistent, has resonated well with her country, and has been very successful, highlighted recently by her handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. Jacinda would be a fantastic mentor and a powerful person to have in my network!

Thank you so much for these excellent stories and insights. We wish you continued success on your great work!


Wisdom From The Women Leading The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries, With Amy Watton of Masters of… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Beatrice Ruiz of Trampoline Global Consulting: How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Work on your own bias. We call it unconscious bias for a reason. It is hard to raise awareness, in general, it is even harder to do the work on oneself. It is never late to start, and the positive results are worthy. Small actions like, for example, not asking women to take notes at a meeting by default will make a big difference towards core change.

As a part of our series about “How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Beatrice Ruiz.

Beatrice Ruiz, CEO of Trampoline Global Consulting and founder of #InspirationCafe, was born in Spain in a multicultural and multifaith family. Growing up in such a varied background, Beatrice saw first-hand the importance of exposure for an open mind and the many benefits that diversity brings to the table.

Beatrice has lived, worked, and studied multiple degrees, including an MBA in the USA and different certifications in DEI, in +6 countries. This sparked the idea to direct the exposure, experience, and knowledge collected over the years to her business Trampoline Global Consulting, which works with small, medium, and Fortune 500 companies (including Salesforce and State Street) to move their Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion efforts forward.

Beatrice is a speaker at DIFEST Global and a regular guest contributor and speaker to DEI podcasts, online magazines, and global events, and she is known as the Fairy Godmother of Diversity.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive into the main part of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you share a bit of your “backstory” with us?

Thank you for having me! My backstory is the big reason for where I am today.

I grew up in Spain and, from a very early age, we were encouraged to lead inclusive initiatives. As a family, we had a strong focus on disability and children from underserved, underrepresented communities. I ran my first Toy Drive when I was eight or nine years old.

I was fortunate enough to study Art in the UK, International Relations in Germany, Finance in Spain, and an MBA in the USA. I worked in very different countries such as the UAE or Poland. Being a foreigner for most of my life allowed me to experience the benefits and challenges that come with being “different.”

It was in the early 2010s when I had my “aha!” moment. I wanted to dedicate the rest of my professional career to supporting companies to move their Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion efforts forward. To make a difference, one company, one person at a time.

It happened when I moved to the USA, and I was classified as “Hispanic Female.” Little I knew what that meant. In the years that followed I learned that a Hispanic Female earns less for no reason, works twice as much to land half of the opportunities, or needs not to have a voice to avoid losing her visa.

This “aha!” moment was both shocking and a blessing. Thanks to it, though, I found what I love to do.

I founded #InspirationCafe as a safe space for industry leaders and HR practitioners to challenge the status quo of DEI. To date, I have had leaders from eight countries and three regions, from small companies to NGOs and Fortune 500s.

Then, I created Trampoline Global Consulting. A safe trampoline from where companies and individuals can jump as high as they want to. I help them understand their baseline through DEI Auditing so they know where they are today.

I support them in translating DEI facts and trends into a strategy. A strategy into actionable items, those implemented items into metrics through DEI Consulting.

I help them make change sink in and last through DEI Adult-Learning Training.

To date, I have worked with Fortune 500 companies, including Salesforce and State Street, or NGOs like Random Acts.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? Can you tell us the lesson or take away you took out of that story?

The first time I applied to Disney, I was 12.

I grew up with classic Disney movies. I loved drawing, I was good at it, and that’s everything I wanted to do when I grew up.

I wanted to write and draw stories.

At that time, while I loved Disney movies, I could barely relate to any of the princesses. Most dark-haired characters were the wicked ones, while the blond ones were the heroes. As a Spanish child, I had almost black hair.

One Christmas, Reyes Magos, the Three Wise Men, brought me everything I needed to learn how to draw Disney characters. What a wonderful gift.

A few months later, my mother asked what I was doing about my dream of joining Disney. I did not know. “Tell them,” she said.

I did. I sent Disney a letter along with my drawings. And then, we waited.

It turned out I was good…but I had to wait to be legally allowed to work; once that happened, I could contact them again. I did. I networked and networked, and after my MBA, I was introduced to the responsible for MBA internships. This time, the issue was different. I was not a US citizen. That long-wanted door closed, but I learned a few valuable things in the way.

  • I learned about the power of support, passion, determination, and consistency. If it weren’t for my mother, who taught me to pursue my passion and knock on the door of my dreams until it opens or until I build the door I need, I would have never made it where I am today.
  • I learned about the importance of closing doors so others can open. Sometimes we have to let things go unfinished. Sometimes we don’t have to. We can pursue them until we get a definite answer so we can move on. Closing doors is powerful and liberating. My father, who is the most determined person I know, taught me this, among many other things.
  • I learned the invaluable impact of networking to grow as a professional and as a person. On my path to what I thought would be my dream job, I met the most wonderful people. One of them stands out above everyone else. Mike Berry. He is a former Executive Director at Harvard University, former President of Barnes & Noble, former CEO of The Cheesecake Factory, and former SVP of Operations at Disney. Mike not only took me under his wing as a mentee, but he is also a very dear friend. I succeed in my early time in the USA thanks to his support.

For those wondering, no, there’s no Disney hero Spanish children can relate to yet.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you tell us a story about how that was relevant in your own life?

There are a couple of “Life Lesson Quotes” that I remind myself of frequently.

The first one is “Tune your intuition and listen to it.” One of the best things that I did during the pandemic was to re-tune my intuition. I found Women who run with the Wolves, by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes through Courtney Adamo. This book is intense and, at times, difficult to read. I am lucky to be bilingual as I saw that some parts of the book are easier to understand in Spanish, some in the translated version, in English. I went through it in just a few days, and it made a huge impact. I invested time and energy in reconnecting with myself, and I felt like I was reborn like a butterfly. Literally.

The second one is “What might feel obvious to you, it’s likely to be amazing to everybody else.” Research shows that women suffer from impostor syndrome more often than men. For example, women rarely apply to jobs unless they meet 95% of the requirements, whereas men do regardless. Eight out of 10 women feel they do not have enough support, role models, nor visibility, and research shows that lack of confidence could be one of the root causes. A while ago, I was having one of those days where the impostor syndrome hit me. What if? What if? What if? My other half hugged me, reminded me of all the good that my work is doing in other people’s lives, and told me that what may seem ok to me was probably wonderful to everyone else. He was right. It’s ok to have doubts sometimes, but we can’t lose sight of our dream, our passion, and all the good that we are doing. Even if one day it looks nonsense to you, keep going. The rest of us find your gift amazing.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?

How long do you have? 🙂

Having a good support network is crucial to move forward in life.

I have been blessed with many people in my life who have helped me in different ways to progress.

I want to highlight the boost we get from people who say no to us as well. When they say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, they have a point. Hearing “no” from time to time not only helps us gain resiliency but also pushes us out of our comfort zone. It makes us think, flex, be resourceful, and adjust our strategy and journey as needed. I can’t tell you the number of “no” I have received over the past few years. And, don’t get me wrong, it hit my self-esteem, and it was hard, at times, to recover. Now, I am so thankful they said “no” so I can be where I am today.

Moving on to the “yes.” Aside from my parents, my partner, and Mike Berry, who I mentioned earlier, I can’t pick just one person, so I’ll share with you a few of them that have been crucial in my life for the past few years.

Orla Nolan, VP of L&D at State Street Ireland. Orla has not only been the mentor anyone needs to progress in a big corporation, but she is also a true friend. Without her support, I don’t think I would have navigated the pandemic the way I did, and I would not have made it this far, this fast, and this relevant with Trampoline Global Consulting.

Paul Francisco, Chief Diversity Officer at State Street. He is a role model in the D&I space. A man of principle, with solid values, who moves forward rain or sun. I was fortunate to meet him through friends when I lived in Boston, and his example impacted how I’d approach my D&I career.

Nicole Thomas, Alex Trusty, Rudinov Vincent, and Loreto Calaf believed in me when I didn’t see it myself.

Thank you.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Authenticity. At Trampoline Global Consulting, I focus on core change. DEI is not a trend. It is not about checking boxes or about being politically correct. It is about believing in the uniqueness of each individual and the value they bring to the table. It is about recognizing and embracing that increased diversity is good in every aspect of life, and yes, it does improve your financial performance 🙂

My clients appreciate that I am straightforward, candid, and committed to their success and that of the communities they operate in. After all, that’s the goal. To build companies that are a reflection of the communities they serve. To create safe spaces where you can bring yourself to work without leaving part of you at home. All of you is welcome.

This is what makes Trampoline Global Consulting stand out. I am authentic, candid, and committed to your long-lasting success.

When I look back, there is a particular story that stands out. For many years now, I have been referring to Black people as Black people, not People of Color (POC), not colored people, not any other variant. You can imagine the criticism, the judgmental looks, and the consistent “advise” on how I was being racist.

I stuck to my guns, and here is why.

Joshua Adams, a black staff writer at Colorlines and Communications professor at DePaul and Salem State, wrote a candid and helpful article about this topic:

“(…)

Saying ‘POC’ when we mean ‘Black people’ concedes that there’s a need to describe a marginalized group as ‘less’ Black for people to have empathy for an issue.

(…)

For me, ‘people of color’ feels like a hiding place; like I have to hide a crucial part of me to not tap into the reflexive fear or apathy toward Blackness. Describing myself as ‘POC’ feels like walking into a space with an apology in hand, a preemptive ‘sorry’ for any offense my Blackness may have caused.

James Baldwin once said, ‘The plea is simple — look at it.’ Words can be a mirror that reflects the world as it is, or they can be prisms that have the potential to amplify but also to distort. Our struggle as a society is to find mirrors.

But maybe my simpler plea is for people to know one thing: It’s okay to call me Black. And if you feel it isn’t, I still insist that you do.”

I couldn’t have explained it better.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

I am working on a couple of new projects right now. These are exciting times.

The first one is a collection of Stories of Overcoming. I have been interviewing people with powerful stories for weeks. These are stories of overcoming in the D&I space from all around the world. I record candid interviews in the safe space that is #InspirationCafe. My guests bring their whole selves and share their stories of healing, overcoming, success with the ultimate goal of inspiring others. Different views, different cultures, different faiths, different upbringings, different lives. An extraordinary journey.

Oftentimes, we think that our lives are too mundane to be of any interest to others, but we couldn’t be more wrong. Your story is as unique as you are. The way you face challenges and overcome them is your approach. You can inspire more people than you think.

This is the project I am working on. I am collecting hope and inspiration and sharing it with the world.

The second one is a series of “How To” guides to move D&I efforts forward. From how to start designing your D&I strategy, to how to translate it into actionable items globally and regionally, to how to measure the results. We are endless sources of ideas, but we need to turn them into reality. I am helping companies do just that.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I believe that my clients’ success is “bringing goodness to the world;” The more successful my clients and the people around me are, in terms of D&I, the more successful the communities they interact with are, and so it cascades.

Trampoline Global Consulting’s achievements come from our ability to support companies, their employees, and their executives in creating excellent, diverse, equal, and culturally dynamic organizations. Safe, multicultural aware, and collaborative organizations where you can bring your whole self to work.

A recipe to bring goodness to the world: The happier your employees, the more successful the company, the better the communities, the safer the world.

Ok. Thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main part of our interview. This may be obvious to you, but it is not intuitive to many people. Can you articulate to our readers five ways that increased diversity can help a company’s bottom line. (Please share a story or example for each.)

https://youtu.be/vIIQ-aubftM

  1. Diversity correlates with better financial performance — Research shows that diversity correlates with better financial performance, from 15% to 35% ABOVE the national industry median in North American, Latino-American, and British companies. When we think of diversity, we have to think beyond race, gender, or the primary protective classes. Diversity also includes the diversity of thought, which means NEW ideas, NEW products, AND innovation.
  2. Diversity Helps You Not to Leave Money at the Table — Your company must be a reflection of the communities it interacts with. When clients don’t have anyone in your organization they can relate too, they may go and find someone else. Diversity is not about checking boxes or being politically correct. Diversity is about believing in the uniqueness of each individual.
  3. Diversity Attracts the Best Talent — By being aware of unconscious bias, you will position yourself to attract the best talent in the marketplace. When we look around us, we realize that we choose our friends and our network based on how similar they are to us. And this is comfortable. We are all biased. Unconscious bias is real. And there’s no vaccine 😉 Our brains filter information based on our cultural background, upbringing, values, and so on. This bias impacts our ability to attract diverse talent.
  4. Diversity Reduces Employee Turnover — Employees who feel supported are free to be themselves. They feel appreciated and are less likely to leave you. Diversity, along with inclusion, equality, and other factors like happy clients, keeps people from leaving their jobs.
  5. Diversity Increases Productivity — Diverse and flexible teams are culturally aware. They learn from each other and fuel each other, and that increases productivity and overall happiness in the workplace. This translates into innovation, engagement, new clients, and better financial performance.

What advice would you give to other business leaders to help their employees to thrive?

  • Appreciate your employees and tell them often. As obvious as this might sound, honest appreciation makes a big difference. As business leaders, we have a responsibility for the wellbeing, engagement, and success of our employees. This doesn’t mean that employees are not accountable for driving their careers. It means that as a leader, we walk a step ahead, and what we say, do, and decide matters. Sometimes, we might forget that intention is different from impact. For example, we may want to show appreciation to an employee by saying thank you in private for a job well done, but if we give the credit publicly to someone else, the impact is that the employee feels undervalued and, eventually, disengaged.
  • Work on your own bias. We call it unconscious bias for a reason. It is hard to raise awareness, in general, it is even harder to do the work on oneself. It is never late to start, and the positive results are worthy. Small actions like, for example, not asking women to take notes at a meeting by default will make a big difference towards core change.
  • Listen. As leaders, we may feel the pressure of having to know everything all the time. It is a false expectation. There is nothing like knowing where to find the answers and who has them to keep moving. Be open to the fact that we don’t know it all. Every employee is unique, and they can teach us something new daily. Be ready to be genuinely curious.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this 🙂

I’ll be happy to meet any of the biggest names for sure, but if I had to choose just a couple, I would go with Richard Branson and Indra Nooyi.

Having a private breakfast with Richard Branson would be something. I have admired the iconic, eccentric entrepreneur for a while now. Disrupting industry after industry, doing good, and impacting as many lives as he can. He is a role model of entrepreneurship and social justice. As he mentioned once: “A billionaire is a person who touches the life of one billion people.”

Then, meeting Indra Nooyi would be interesting. She is a strong role model of female leadership, and while the number of women at the top keeps increasing, she seems to be always ahead of the pack. With a wealth of experience in business, family, and the balance between them, Indra is someone I would definitely have breakfast with.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can find more about Trampoline Global Consulting, #InspirationCafe, and the work that I do to support companies become excellent, diverse, equal, and culturally dynamic organizations by visiting our website www.trampolineconsulting.com or connecting with me on LinkedIn. I am always happy to get to know new people, their inspiring stories, and be of help where I can.

Thank you for these excellent insights. We wish you continued success in your great work.


Beatrice Ruiz of Trampoline Global Consulting: How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: Brian Hamilton of Hippo Technologies On How Their Technological Innovation Will…

The Future Is Now: Brian Hamilton of Hippo Technologies On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

Expect to be lonely when making hard decisions and expect to dive into an abyss where you cannot see where you are headed but have confidence that you will navigate to success.

As a part of our series about cutting-edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Brian Hamilton, president and co-founder of Hippo Technologies, Inc.

Brian Hamilton is a recognized pioneer and leader in market acceptance and in the deployment of Internet of Things, augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR), and wearable computing technologies in healthcare, education, automotive, consumer packaged goods, oil and gas, power and utilities, transportation and logistics, IT and telecom, industrial manufacturing and entertainment verticals.

Brian most recently was co-founder and Chief Business / Revenue Officer for RealWear Inc., which developed the HMT-1®, a ruggedized head-mounted wearable Android tablet for industry. While in this leadership role, Brian established a global sales force, ISV partner and channel reseller network and successfully drove product adoption in over 57 countries growing RealWear from concept stage to the world leader in market share in industrial wearables. While in this role at RealWear the organization grew from four to over 130 employees, established two domestic and five international offices and raised more than $100 million in capital.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I have always been a believer in the future of wearables and the impact they can play in the real world as we look to democratize knowledge transfer and support the human race on a global basis. In 2013, I began my work in wearables and Augmented Reality with Smart Helmet sensor devices and in 2016, I founded the company RealWear with other industrialists and technologists who shared that passion for the future of voice driven by wearables with a focus on acceptance of these devices based on certifications in highly regulated and compliant environments.

In 2019, I met Dr. Pat Quinlan, the former CEO of Ochsner Health and we discussed a vision of how the work we were doing in the industrial sector could be applied to healthcare and how these devices can support clinicians all over the world to globalize healthcare through enhanced mobility. Our company began in Nigeria at the Royal Dutch Shell Hospital in Port Harcourt, where the devices were used to support virtual consultation, proctoring, rounding and teaching with my co-founder of Hippo Technologies, Dr. Wale Sulaiman. (https://www.cnn.com/2019/10/03/africa/dr-sulaiman-free-surgeries-intl/index.html)

I cherished my time in Nigeria and sub-Saharan Africa as the work we were doing greatly mattered and helped people get access to care they needed when they needed it. Experiencing this impact first hand made this a calling and this was right before the pandemic which made our mission even more timely and relevant.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I have been lucky to have been able to deploy these technologies in over 50 countries and there are countless stories and memorable moments supported by so many amazing people. One interesting story that was a highlight for me was getting to test head-mounted devices with Team USA of SailGP on the fastest sailboats in the world in San Francisco Bay. Team USA for SailGP (https://sailgp.com/teams/united-states/) took it easy on me, but seeing how the headsets operated at these speeds and in that G-Force environment was memorable and special. SailGP and the teams involved are amazing people and some of the most technologically savvy innovators I have met to date.

Can you tell us about the cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

I’m super excited for the continued advancement of MedTech. At Hippo Technologies, we are working on the future of just-in-time healthcare delivery via mobility and heads-up displays with a focus on enabling people to get access to healthcare regardless of where they are located geographically or their economic means. There are a few buckets of technological breakthroughs we are working on: these include an open API interoperable platform designed to leverage voice and hands-free computing at the edge which opens the world of AI on-demand and more as well as a focus on the technologies which can transform the delivery of healthcare in the home. We also are focused on the future of wearable computing and the mainstream adoption of the next generation of mobility devices.

How do you think this might change the world?

We believe that the work we are doing bridges the gap between physical care and virtual care, enabling healthcare providers and educators to overcome the barriers of time, distance, and training to deliver all the benefits of an in-person experience through the safety and convenience of remote care. There is an opportunity to globalize healthcare and provide new levels of access to make the world a better place.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

Self-awareness when in disruption mode is important and always with change comes unintended consequences; some good and some not so positive. Possible drawbacks can be similar to traditional mobility where people have the potential to always be connected like with our phones and digital burnout can occur. Providing participation tools for on-demand care where the demand will always outweigh supply will be a difficult balancing act and it is always important to retain the clinical decision-making process by the human and not the machine. AI decision trees can be helpful, but we should work hard to retain the human decision-making process through this advancement and be mindful of the sacrifice it takes to be a healthcare professional and continue to advance training for the future of tomorrow in this area on a global basis. Technology is a tool, but should not be designed to replace the human element of care and the empathy that is required when treating and helping human beings.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

There was one story in particular in Port Harcourt, Nigeria at RNZ (Royal Dutch Shell) Hospital which made me realize the power of the opportunity and what could be possible. A woman was going into surgery and was literally being wheeled into the operating room and one of the doctors started a pre-op consult with her with a head-mounted device-enabled consultation. The patient was so curious that she wanted to try the device before her surgery, and she was able to interact with not just the physician treating her but others in the hospital instantaneously before her procedure. At that moment, I saw the future of Hippo Virtual Care –the power and availability and also the clinician-patient connection that technology made possible. It was a life-changing experience.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

There are a variety of adoption drivers for changing mobility in healthcare. Connectivity (LTE, WIFI and Satellite) is key to the universal adoption of wearables. We also need to pay particular attention to the evolving compliance and data security implications of virtual care, which forms the backbone of our solution.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

I have been an evangelist for the scale and adoption for head-mounted displays for many years, but the key is to have partners, customers and ecosystems tell the story of the value. We have been fortunate to have some of our partners sharing their successes, but by design we have been relatively quiet on marketing hype so that we can allow the global healthcare community to adopt and share their vantage points on the specific value. There are so many potential use cases in healthcare to make the delivery and experience of care more convenient, more efficient, and more affordable, while improving quality. More will be coming to light in the near future directly from the clinical communities we support.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Too many to count as so many people have found a special place in my life and with this journey.

My family has influenced this work as my father has dedicated his life to advancement of medicine at Johns Hopkins, MD Anderson and City of Hope. My little brother who is a retired Major League Baseball player is on the front lines as a doctor in the New York City area (https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/29089594/inside-mark-hamilton-journey-mlb-md-fighting-coronavirus) through COVID.

Also, on the technology side, I must always point to my co-founders at RealWear for their influence and for working so hard to deliver the future in this area. There are many in the RealWear family who have contributed to wearable computing advancement including Chris Parkinson, Sanjay Jhawar, Andy Lowery, Stephen Pombo, the Kolev brothers, Ken Lustig, Melissa Ownby, Andrew Chrostowski and others where execution and resilience delivered change in the world of wearable computing many thought was impossible. (https://realwear.com/company/timeline)

On the healthcare side it is my partners at Hippo Technologies including Dr. Patrick Quinlan, Wale Sulaiman, and the entire team who rallied around these technologies and helped to drive this reality as we found ourselves in a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic situation.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

At Hippo Technologies we are committed to helping the people and organizations who can benefit the most from new levels of healthcare access. We have launched the Hippo Global Health Initiative to help charities and underserved communities with these technologies and to provide global access to healthcare knowledge networks. Providing education and global support networks can really make a difference.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Don’t let worry consume you through the process and enjoy the ride by valuing the successes and learning from the failures.
  2. Rip the bandage off quickly when things are not working. Always be compassionate, but be prepared for daily, monthly and annual changes and remain agile to auto-correct.
  3. Meet regularly with your mentors for advice, consultation and learn from every interaction.
  4. Be different in the investment pitches. Don’t focus on hockey stick growth projections which everyone shows and ground yourself with a focus on stair step growth and reality.
  5. Expect to be lonely when making hard decisions and expect to dive into an abyss where you cannot see where you are headed but have confidence that you will navigate to success.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger 🙂

Globalized approach with a concept called Polymorphic Medicine.

https://hippohive.org/the-future-of-healthcare-polymorphic-medicine/

Polymorphism is the ability of medicine to take on multiple forms — not just delivered by physicians in a clinical setting addressing sick patients but representing a holistic, integrative approach to health, care and wellness that meets the individual where they are now, both physically and emotionally, where they live, work, learn, play, and pray. It transcends the clinical setting and is firmly rooted in the social, environmental, and behavioral determinants of health and it is our belief that good health is co-created by individuals, the system that supports them, and the environment in which they live.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Carpe Diem: Seize the day. Seize every day. I have tried to maximize every day and every experience in my journey of life. I believe that you have to take calculated risks in your thinking and if you cannot dream about an idea then you cannot try to achieve it.

Some very well-known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I appreciate the investment community and the investors who enable success and progression. My ask of the VC Community is to continue to make their criteria of investment clear as it takes an amazing amount of time for entrepreneurs to approach that world. Ironically, I do have an investor close from an elevator experience in 2018 so even this cliché is possible.

In an elevator, I would share an idea of their participation in redesigning healthcare via Virtual Care. If there was an interest alignment in that mission, vision, value and purpose, I would invite them to learn more about how that can be reality in the next 36 months and how that can drive valuation, returns while actually bring new levels of healthcare access to those who need it most.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

linkedin.com/in/brianchamilton

Twitter: @Bchtech

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


The Future Is Now: Brian Hamilton of Hippo Technologies On How Their Technological Innovation Will… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: Dr Jim Burns of Locanabio On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up He

The Future Is Now: Dr. Jim Burns of Locanabio On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up Healthcare

“Working smarter is better than working harder.” Sometimes I think that it would have been smarter for me to work as hard as I have on how to do things better, rather than just do more of what I was doing.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Jim Burns.

Jim Burns, PhD, joined Locanabio in December 2019 as CEO and Board member. Prior to joining Locanabio, Dr. Burns served as the CEO of Casebia Therapeutics and led the team in discovering and developing new CRISPR/Cas9-based breakthrough therapeutics to treat blood disorders, blindness and heart disease. Prior to Casebia, Dr. Burns spent the bulk of his career at Sanofi-Genzyme, where he held several leadership roles with increasing responsibility, including North America Site Head for R&D where he coordinated R&D operations across key therapeutic areas, and head of Sanofi-Genzyme R&D. Dr. Burns is a former board member of MassBio, a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a member of the External Advisory Committee for the BioMedical Engineering Department at Boston University. He also served as the industry representative for the Food and Drug Administration General Plastic Surgery Panel. Dr. Burns earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Purdue University and Master of Science and Doctorate degrees in bioengineering from the University of Illinois-Chicago, where his thesis work focused on drug delivery. Following his graduate studies, he was a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Florida.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

In 1984, I was interviewing for a postdoctoral position at the University of Florida which unfortunately, was less than impressive upon further examination and ultimately would not have given me the experience that I wanted to further my career. I could not stop thinking about another postdoctoral position I had previously applied for with Eugene P. Goldberg, PhD, Director of the Biomaterials Center in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Florida. At the time, Dr. Goldberg said he simply did not have space for me on his team. But I was determined to meet with him and convince him to hire me. I remember walking up to his office, knowing that he was not expecting me and that he may not even be there. There were two things that were remarkable about that day: 1) that same day Dr. Goldberg’s father, unfortunately, had passed away, and 2) Dr. Goldberg was standing at his desk holding a piece on paper with my name and number, looked up and said, “I was just going to call you because a position just opened up.”

The reason I wanted to work with Dr. Goldberg was because I wanted to work with someone who could help me understand how I could take basic science and engineering principles and apply them in a translational way to products that could actually get into people and help them. Some of those skills and mentoring opportunities I got during my two years with Dr. Goldberg at the University of Florida, learning about product development and translating early ideas into products that can help people, were in some ways how I ended up working at Genzyme (now Sanofi Genzyme) for as long as I did. Through Dr. Goldberg’s mentoring and his professional relationships, I was able to start my journey at Genzyme and in the field of pharmaceutical and biotechnology product development.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I am not sure how interesting this is to others, but early in my Genzyme career there was a situation that shaped how I think about leadership. During my first year at Genzyme, my lab sponsored work with an external collaborator on an important project that we hoped would lead to a significant corporate partnership. However, the potential partner could not reproduce the collaborator’s results, which we were relying on to close the deal, and they walked away from further discussions. There was a lot at stake so you can imagine this caused much consternation within the R&D leadership, the board of directors, and with our CEO Henri Termeer. Henri called a meeting and asked each of us — starting with me — if we believed the technology really worked. At this point, I had nothing to lose so of course I said, “Yes.” Henri then went around the room asking each in turn the same question and all said, “No,” except for the last person he asked who happened to be my boss — the head of research for Genzyme — and who did not like the project. To my surprise, he said, “Yes, and give Jim three months to prove it.”

Three months later, my lab produced results showing the technology worked, and most importantly a completely independent testing facility using the same study protocol under good laboratory practice (GLP) conditions showed exactly the same results. With these studies in hand, we were able to raise $35 million to fund projects that ultimately generated two commercial products. This episode showed me an important leadership feature by two different people in the same meeting. Sometimes support of the person is more important than doubt about a project. My boss did not believe the technology would work (most things do not in our business, after all, so this was not a crazy position), but he realized that I did believe, and it was important to him to support me. And Henri knew it was important to support his head of research and the new kid, even if there were questions about the technology. After that moment, I had the greatest respect for Henri and my boss as leaders, and always tried to incorporate an element of people impact in my decisions.

Can you tell us about the cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

At Locanabio, we are focused on correcting disease-causing mutations at the RNA level. While gene therapy continues to be a focus among many pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, including those focused on rare diseases, in recent years RNA has been in the spotlight, thanks in part to the emergence of nucleotide-based RNA targeting platforms. We are advancing a new class of gene therapies that target dysfunctional RNA. The combination of RNA modification and gene therapy delivery via one-time administration makes Locanabio’s platform, called the CORRECTX™ platform, unique. It is positioned as a promising therapeutic approach that could transform the treatment of many genetic and even non-genetic diseases, many of which currently have limited or no approved treatment options.

How do you think this might change the world?

We believe that like antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs), small interfering RNAs (siRNAs), gene editing, gene therapy and now mRNA vaccines, engineered RNA-binding protein systems have the potential to be a significant new advance in medicine because of the inherent modularity of the technology and because of the breadth of diseases for which a one-time RNA targeted therapy can be the best approach. Through creative manipulation of the basic systems, we can effect a number of different types of RNA manipulations, each of which has a number of genetic and non-genetic disease applications. We live in an amazing time in which many genetic medicines have either been approved or are making significant clinical advances. All have a place in the armamentarium of tools to apply to human disease, and we believe our approach with CORRECTX™ will as well.

Using the CORRECTX™ platform, we are pursuing applications in devastating neurodegenerative, neuromuscular and retinal diseases including myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1), Huntington’s disease, spinocerebellar ataxia type 1 (SCA1) and familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

We recently published promising preclinical study data on our platform in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering. Based on our platform, we developed what is called an RNA-targeting CRISPR Cas9 system (RCas9), which is comprised of an RNA-binding protein and RNA-modifying enzyme, that is delivered via a gene therapy adeno-associated virus (AAV) vector to destroy disease-causing RNA. We assessed whether the CRISPR RCas9 system could provide molecular and functional rescue of dysfunctional RNA processing in mice with DM1. Results from the preclinical study showed, for the first time ever, that the molecular and physiological features of DM1 could be reversed, showing the significant potential of our platform technology to treat this devastating neuromuscular disorder.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

As more gene therapy and gene editing technologies emerge, it is important to think carefully about how we leverage these tools to best treat genetic diseases and to recognize that there is no single approach or treatment that will be right for every patient. It is incredibly exciting to see the gene therapy and editing landscape rapidly progress and hopefully one day we will reach a point where physicians can ask themselves, “What is the right genetic approach or genetic tool I should use to treat my patient in the safest possible way?”

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

Our unique CORRECTX™ platform technology was born out of research conducted by Locanabio founder and world leader in RNA biology, Gene Yeo, PhD, at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). The “tipping point” was the moment he realized that gene therapy could be used to deliver proteins that bind to RNA, rather than DNA (as with CRISPR Cas9). This new approach, called RNA directed Cas9 (RCas9), is the basis of our platform and allows us to combine two validated technologies in medicine — RNA modification and gene therapy.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

We recently completed a $100 million Series B financing to support preclinical and clinical development of our platform technology for treating diseases such as Huntington’s disease, DM1, genetic ALS and retinal disease. With new funding we hope to accelerate our efforts to advance multiple promising development programs, initiate what we call investigational new drug (IND)-enabling studies, and further develop our platform, which has the potential to be a major new advance in medicine.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

We have been and continue to speak with a range of industry stakeholders who are important to us, including investors, analysts, potential partners, key opinion leaders, physicians and patient advocates, about the significant potential of our platform technology and its unique approach to addressing disease areas of unmet need. We have also been promoting important company and development milestones throughout the year in press releases and speaking with a number of business and medical trade media to build broader awareness of our technology. In just one example, Locanabio was recently featured in a leading medical trade publication called Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News about technological advances and breakthroughs in medicine, which was subsequently featured in an article in The New York Times Magazine.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I have already mentioned an example of Henri Termeer influencing my thinking on leadership. But he also had an impact in a very simple way on how I think about innovation. About six months after the situation I described earlier, I was walking with Henri and my boss, the head of R&D at Genzyme, across the Boston Common on our way back from a visit at Massachusetts General Hospital. I was talking about all the ideas I had for products that we should work on in my lab. And it must have been irritating to listen to, but Henri did not say anything until we got across the Common when he stopped, looked at me and said, “Ideas are a dime a dozen,” and then he kept walking. Those six words had a profound impact on me because I, of course, immediately realized that I had to deliver, not just come up with ideas. I became highly focused on learning the process of product research and development. It became a science to me; how to define goals, deliverables, develop plans, run meetings, hire great people, and assemble effective teams. I realized that great ideas were necessary but not sufficient for innovation. One had to execute effectively to ultimately deliver products to patients, which is when you can only say innovation has really happened.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I feel that the hardest thing humans do is develop drugs to try to fool biology to do something that a specific type of cell is not programmed to do. We are developing a completely new class of gene therapies that are able to target the root cause of certain genetic diseases by correcting mutated or dysfunctional RNA in patients. The diseases we are targeting are serious, devastating and underserved, largely because they are rare diseases, but we are leading the way in creating a new advance in medicine that could bring patients much-needed treatments that can truly make a significant impact on their health and quality of life.

But 10 years or so from now, I hope that we can leverage our platform to go beyond genetic medicines and treat other types of diseases, even non-genetic diseases. Our team is very passionate about transforming our platform technology into something that can help as many patients as possible.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. “Working smarter is better than working harder.” Sometimes I think that it would have been smarter for me to work as hard as I have on how to do things better, rather than just do more of what I was doing.
  2. “It is ok to say no.” The art of people and project leadership is to balance genuinely listening to people with making decisions firmly even if they are not welcome. Every time you make a decision you are saying “no” to another option, so embrace saying “no,” or you will never get anywhere as a leader.
  3. “It is ok to be wrong or make mistakes as long as you learn from them.” We go through life and school getting bombarded with negative feedback if we do something wrong, get a poor test score, etc., so we avoid admitting mistakes. This is a disaster from a personal growth and continuous improvement standpoint. Making mistakes and learning from them is key to becoming better.
  4. “Listening is more important than talking.” I read somewhere that a person who talks a lot is more often thought a fool than someone who listens and is thoughtful about what they say. I have learned to like this way of thinking because by listening you gather information and when talking the information is only going out. As a leader you have to balance this with the need for people to know where you stand, even if you agree with what is being said.
  5. “People will remember about 10% of what you say in a presentation, 10% of how you said it, and 80% how you made them feel.” When I heard this from a former TV news reporter it changed how I prepared and delivered my presentations. It made me much more connected to the audience, and I believe helped me give better presentations.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I wonder how much energy we would save and how much positive impact on the environment we would have if once a month the world turned its lights off for one hour, something similar to the citywide energy conservation and awareness campaign Lights Out San Francisco that started in 2007, only taking it to the next level.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

It is a quote from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” My mother shared this with me when I was about 15 years old as a lesson that you never know what someone else is going through, so keep that in mind when you deal with people and judge their actions.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 😊

Locanabio is developing the next advance in genetic medicine by combining both gene therapy and RNA modification for treating diseases. Our proprietary CORRECTX™ platform consists of RNA-targeting systems that are delivered using a gene therapy vector to modify dysfunctional RNA in a one-time administration. The platform is versatile in that we can perform different RNA manipulations — destruction, replacement, splicing, editing, and translational enhancement — which offers the potential to treat many other types of diseases, even non-genetic diseases, that other RNA-targeting therapies cannot. Our unique and highly targeted approach can also reduce the risk of DNA modifications and off-target effects associated with traditional gene therapies. We are developing therapeutic options targeting neurodegenerative, neuromuscular and retinal diseases including DM1, Huntington’s disease and retinitis pigmentosa. We recently completed a $100 million Series B financing in Q4 2020.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Locanabio Twitter page: https://twitter.com/locanabio

Locanabio LinkedIn page: https://www.linkedin.com/company/locanabio/

My personal LinkedIn page: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jim-burns-b101aa9/

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


The Future Is Now: Dr Jim Burns of Locanabio On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up He was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: Sally French Tyler On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up Real…

The Future Is Now: Sally French Tyler On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up Real Estate

Take the leap, even if I don’t feel qualified. Some people are more likely to apply for a position or a promotion that they may not feel quite qualified for and, as a result, more often reap the rewards. I’ve learned along the way the benefits of putting your name in the hat for new opportunities and having the confidence to take the risk. Even if you don’t end up being selected, there is a benefit to going through the process.

As a part of our series about cutting-edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sally French Tyler.

Sally French Tyler is a seasoned veteran of the real estate and title insurance industry. She currently serves as executive vice president of First American Title Insurance Company and as president of the company’s National Commercial Services Division. In her role, Tyler is responsible for planning, strategy and innovation, and in recent years has focused her efforts on revolutionizing commercial real estate transactions by driving digital transformation of the commercial title business. She also oversees recruitment and development, and her people-first approach has been instrumental in inspiring and developing emerging leaders from around the organization.

Tyler has served on the boards of many commercial real estate industry organizations and has been frequently recognized by trade publications as one of the top female leaders in the industry.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Right out of college, I started working in commercial real estate for a developer. Soon after, we hit a downturn — common in a cyclical industry like real estate — and I was approached by someone in the industry about a sales position for a national title insurer, a company that helps facilitate real estate transactions. I was a little less familiar with the space but saw it as an opportunity to challenge myself and take on a new role. The role turned out to be a perfect fit for my skill set and professional goals, and I never looked back. I particularly liked that in commercial title insurance, I had access to all facets of commercial real estate rather than a single aspect, like development or leasing. Commercial title insurance is the glue of every real estate transaction, and in this business, we have exposure to the beginning, middle and end of every deal. Because these deals are often very complicated, there are immense opportunities to gain significant knowledge about how these deals work.

I’m still learning something new about our business every day, and that intellectual stimulation has kept me in the industry.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

At the start of my career at First American, I was a brash young salesperson and very client focused — almost to a fault. One of my clients complained to me that something had gone wrong operationally and without asking follow-up questions, I criticized a colleague for the mistake. When I learned all the facts, I came to realize that the client had been mistaken and I had missed an opportunity with an internal co-worker to back them up and to give them the support they deserved when they most needed it.

This experience taught me that in business there are always two sides to every story and navigating and protecting both internal and external relationships is equally important.

Can you tell us about the cutting-edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

The commercial real estate industry has been slow to embrace digital transformation. Property transactions are often time-consuming and complicated, with much communication still done over email or on paper.

A number of years ago, my team and I set out to find a way to modernize the customer experience and bring it to the 21st century. We realized that, if we were spending hours digging through emails, our clients are likely doing the same thing. We were losing both time and money.

Built on both employee and customer feedback, we developed ClarityFirst™, a first-of-its-kind digital platform that connects all participants in real time and streamlines the commercial real estate transaction process, making it more transparent, efficient and secure. With the help of innovative technology, our customers know exactly where they are in the process at any given point in the deal and are able to complete transactions faster and more accurately.

How do you think this might change the world?

We are helping to change our slice of the world. Commercial real estate is a large contributor to the economy, and we feel excited about advancing technological innovation that helps make people’s lives easier. Real estate buyers, sellers, lawyers, lenders, and all stakeholders can certainly appreciate the time and money we help them save. It’s crucial to staying competitive in the commercial real estate market.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

There is always hesitation around adopting innovations, even those that are destined to become fixtures in everyday life. It’s human nature.

Technology should be built to be intuitive, user friendly, and of course, secure. Our team has been laser focused on protection of user information through multi-factor authentication, encryption technologies, and state-of-the-art wire verifications, among other things.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

There wasn’t one moment that led to the creation of ClarityFirst, but rather, a domino effect. It was a combination of listening to both our employees’ and customers’ frustrations and observing the inefficiencies in the commercial title closing process.

Our approach to development was unique in a way that we involved our top customers in the process, which gave us an understanding of the critical need for this technology and their pain points. It allowed us to recognize the value proposition we wanted to bring to our customer experience, and ClarityFirst was built by and with clients in a joint effort with First American employees.

As we continue to enhance the platform, we are regularly sourcing feedback from our customers and employees to make enhancements and bring new features to the market.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

Many seasoned commercial title professionals have customized their approach to business and much of the process has been manual for decades. Convincing them to step outside their comfort and familiarity with the traditional process in order to try new technology is our greatest challenge to adoption.

However, our customers that have jumped aboard are excited by the platform and by the positive implications it has had on their business. We believe that once people adopt the technology and engage with it frequently, they’ll quickly come to appreciate its benefits. The platform also becomes increasingly helpful as our customers embed themselves in each feature of the platform, be it the document sharing, wire transfers, or exchange of information between participants.

It boils down to the fact that email communication is a way of the past — the ClarityFirst platform allows customers to track each document at each moment over the life of a transaction, allowing them to close more deals in less time.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

We believe that ClarityFirst has the power to revolutionize the commercial title insurance industry, but we didn’t want to rush to market. Instead, we started the roll out in a very intentional, regional way, allowing our own employees became comfortable with its capabilities.

When we reached a critical mass of users, we began to implement our larger go-to-market strategy. Our latest announcement of the multisite portfolio element — a feature that allows users to manage multiple properties across different regions — is a major breakthrough and was the impetus for a robust communications and marketing campaign.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I think most people have someone in their career path that believed in their abilities before they did themselves. When I was hired in a national sales role, I was asked by a colleague and mentor to take on a leadership position — the role that I still hold today — that I felt I was not yet prepared for. I’m not unique in taking a leap before I felt I was ready, but his faith in my abilities has contributed to my own professional competence and success.

I also feel incredibly lucky to be married to a partner who has a great belief in me. It’s very important to have a support system and have people around you who see your abilities, so you can see them in yourself, too.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

About 10 years ago, in partnership with our human resources department and the full support of our CEO, I started a program at First American called Women in Leadership. I was the first female executive vice president in the company at the time, and from the overwhelmingly positive response to that, it became abundantly clear to me that we needed to become more purposeful in creating a path for others to follow.

From senior executives to mid-level employees, our Women in Leadership program provides leadership development and a network of mentors. Since its inception, nearly 100 women have graduated the program, and more than 40 percent of its alumnae have received promotions.

I’m especially proud to help inspire other women in the company. Our work through the program to date has helped First American earn recognition as a top place to work, and I believe a lot of that is due to the equity we are building in our workplace. My hope is that one day, we as a society won’t need these programs.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Trust my gut instinct more. I didn’t always trust myself in the beginning of my career. I soon realized that it isn’t always easy to be out in front and leadership can be daunting. When introducing new strategies or new innovative technologies, like our ClarityFirst platform, which is unique to the industry, you have to take the time to build a coalition around the idea; create a strong foundation; sell the vision with a focus on communicating the “why” around the concept. Once you have that support, the team will help you carry the ball and celebrate with you as you cross the finish line because it’s their victory, too.
  2. Take the leap, even if I don’t feel qualified. Some people are more likely to apply for a position or a promotion that they may not feel quite qualified for and, as a result, more often reap the rewards. I’ve learned along the way the benefits of putting your name in the hat for new opportunities and having the confidence to take the risk. Even if you don’t end up being selected, there is a benefit to going through the process.
  3. Formal education vs. life education. I had the incredible fortune to go to college and probably have a better understanding now of what a gift it was. Obviously, so many others are not afforded that same opportunity. But I can say that I have worked alongside many talented and skilled individuals throughout my career who don’t happen to possess that “piece of paper” indicating a formal degree, but for whom I have deep respect and admiration. At my first job out of college, I worked for a real estate developer and was often surrounded by people with undergrad and graduate degrees, but I found our secretary, who had a high school education, to be the smartest person there. Life degrees are important and of equal value. Promote people based on contribution, not on resumes.
  4. Your brand is your equity. You build your personal and professional brand over the length of your career. Your brand is what people say about you when you aren’t in the room, and it can build equity over time if it is a positive one. Protect it like your own personal credit. I’ve learned the value of understanding why brand matters, both in my own career and in watching others.
  5. You don’t have to know everything. I often tell young leaders that they have to let go to grow when I see them making mistakes similar to the ones that I made earlier in my career. Part of the reason I couldn’t let go was because I thought I had to know everything about every aspect of our business in order to be responsible for it. It’s not possible. The reality is that you have to surround yourself with great people and trust your team and their respective areas of expertise to make good decisions.

If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

What we have done at First American with the Women in Leadership program is being replicated for broader diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. We’re at another inflection point for diversity at all levels and based on our success of elevating women in the workplace, we are going to emulate that same type of programming for more diversity initiatives.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“The shortest distance between two people is a smile.”

Both personally and professionally, success is intrinsically tied to connectivity and approachability. If you can succeed in those ways, you can overcome many challenges: you can solve problems, have difficult conversations and connect with people.

I have found that if people find you to be approachable and genuine, they feel your warmth. It doesn’t take much to smile and be genuine — and for me, that’s the easy part.

If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch of your solution/technology to a VC, what would you say?

We are transitioning commercial real estate transactions from the paper world to the digital world. We’re looking to make email a thing of the past by creating a streamlined closing process with greater efficiency, transparency and security for our employees and customers. If we can ensure they are happy and successful, we can create greater returns for both.


The Future Is Now: Sally French Tyler On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up Real… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Nate Zorich of Avail Divorce: 5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive After A Divorce

You give yourself permission to feel every emotion you experience: rage, hurt, confusion, powerlessness, humiliation, despair, and even numbness to the world. For many people, the end of a marriage is more than the end of a relationship. It’s also the end of an identity. This loss can feel disorienting and sometimes even terrifying.

As part of our series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive After A Divorce Or Breakup” I had the pleasure of interviewing Nate Zorich.

After experiencing the frustration of the divorce process himself, Nate Zorich founded Avail Divorce in 2017 to offer tools, provide resources and build a community for the more than 1.5 million Americans who go through divorce every year.

Nate graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania where he played Division 1 hockey. Nate went on to achieve the classic “American dream” — secured a great job, got married, completed his MBA, had two beautiful children, and bought a house in Fort Collins, Colo. The marriage deteriorated, and Nate found himself at a crossroads with no resources BY divorced people FOR divorced people. Every online resource he was able to find within the multi-billion dollar divorce industry led to a sales pitch or was difficult to understand.

Leveraging his business background, Nate began developing a resource that made it easier to navigate the challenges of divorce. He wanted to provide people with the information they needed to make the right decisions, offer tools to make the process less stressful and create a community of support to make divorce less lonely. Through Avail Divorce, Nate has created practical, tangible resources that work to break the stigma of divorce, save people time and money, and help people come out on the other side of divorce happy and healthy. Nate is set to launch Avail Divorce in Spring 2021.

When he’s not leading and inspiring Avail Divorce’s vibrant community, Nate can be found strumming his guitar, playing ice hockey, co-parenting his children and playing with his rescue dog.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to ‘get to know you’. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?

I grew up in a small rural college town in Indiana, Pennsylvania. My mother was an entrepreneur who owned an audiology practice and my father was the dean of the library at the local university. My brother is four years older, entered college early, and now is a freelance journalist for Discoverer, Archeology and has worked with The New York Times. Our grandmother lived with us as well as our rescue dog Max. I drove to Johnstown PA each day for high school to attend a Catholic highs school that had a contending hockey program.

Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I saw an opportunity to help others avoid the trauma I had experienced in a healthy manner. There were so many 3 a.m. google sessions learning everything I could about the process and my rights. I couldn’t believe with the large number of people getting divorced everyday that there wasn’t an option for a trusted resource for the masses that help you avoid common pitfalls, put language to a situation and rebuild yourself from scratch.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?”

― Mary Oliver

My mother survived cancer in her late 30s and later my brother survived a large cancerous tumor on his brain. It made me realize that the life I was living was not the life I wanted to settle on. I am grateful for every day and realize how mortal I am. With that knowledge, I’m going to live fearless, curious, creative and continue to improve those lives that I am grateful to touch.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

There are several co-parenting apps out there, but there really is nothing out there with the functionality and the style of the Avail CoParenting App. A few of the main features are the child expense tracker, which provides reports, receipt attachments, delinquency notification and full transparency between parents. There’s also a shared calendar with assigned roles for pick up, drop off responsibilities and can be shared with kids, grandparents, and babysitters. The info bank which can include items like the parenting plan, the divorce decree, insurance cards, pediatrician information, ballet recital flyer, passports, etc. To learn more, visit our website at www.availdivorce.com

Ok. Thank you for that. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell us a bit about your experience going through a divorce, or helping someone who was going through a divorce? What did you learn about yourself during and after the experience? Do you feel comfortable sharing a story?

Sharing your divorce story is an important part of Avail. Your story destigmatizes the experience and removes the shame and stigma attached with divorce. When you normalize the experience, others are more likely to reach out and seek help. I’m not against marriage, my parents and extended family are still very happily married, but I am against staying in a broken relationship at the expense of your mental health and your family’s well being. There is no shame in doing what’s right for you.

The biggest lesson was redefining myself and developing those skills to gut check what is true to me. Whether it was buying a new couch, or shedding toxic friendships. I became my biggest advocate and developed healthy boundaries to make space for my life I’d envisioned.

In your opinion, what are the most common mistakes people make after they go through a divorce? What can be done to avoid that?

The most common mistake after going through a divorce is not revisiting co parenting plans on a regular basis. Family dynamic, schedules, and income will change on both sides of the house. Scheduling an annual check in to accommodate your life as it adapts can prevent what might be seen as a threat if it comes out of the blue after years of neglect. Other issues are:

1. Parentification- of a kid to participate and manage the younger children.

2. Enmeshment- where the child has to check with the other parent before doing anything.

3. Parental Alienation- Excessive hate of the other parent.

4. Estrangement- When the child is aligned with one parent.

5. Gatekeeping- Limiting the other parents’ access to the children.

People generally label “divorce” as being “negative”. And yes, while there are downsides, there can also be a lot of positive that comes out of it as well. What would you say that they are? Can you share an example or share a story?

The flip side of the grief of losing your identity as a husband is creating your identity as a single person. Through trial and error, many dates and an unfortunate attempt at skinny jeans, I now know who I am, my style, my strengths and my intentions. This practice of staying in tune with yourself as you grow was the greatest gift of my divorce.

My time without the kids is now spent focusing on myself, mentally, physically, spiritually. I didn’t have this presence while I was married, as my sense of duty and being a martyr parent wouldn’t allow it. Now I’m modeling what self care and boundaries look like for my kids and I’m a better parent because of it.

Some people are scared to ‘get back out there’ and date again after being with their former spouse for many years and hearing dating horror stories. What would you say to motivate someone to get back out there and start a new beginning?

Know your limits, be smart, safe, and genuinely curious. If you’re not having fun, then have some prepared bailout lines ready to gracefully exit. You don’t have to be perfect to start dating. It’s okay to put yourself out there as is and know that there are people out there looking for someone just like you.

Apps can be an easy, low-risk way to get an idea of what’s out there. They can be a wonderful tool for connecting with new people and finding people with similar interests that you might not otherwise meet. Take action by choosing two or three apps that seem to match your dating goals and create some profiles and upload flattering, accurate pictures. If you’re already online, take the next step by making the first move and inviting someone you’ve been chatting with for a face-to-face meeting — after pre-screening them, of course.

Online dating is an efficient, and many times effective, way to meet new people, and prescreening your dates makes this process easier. Increase your chances of a match by being open and honest about yourself in your own profiles and doing your due diligence when it comes to theirs. Before you agree to a meetup:

  • Double-check that their pictures are an accurate representation of themselves.
  • Have a quick video chat to verify identity and get a first read on whether you two have chemistry.
  • Do a basic background check to identify any potential red flags and keep yourself safe.
  • Don’t share your own personal identifying information until you’ve met your date in person and feel safe with them. It’s okay if it takes a few dates before they know your last name or the street you live on. If they have a problem with this, they’re the problem.
  • Keep an open mind — dating post-divorce can be as fun as it can be nerve-wracking! I suggest remembering that the other person is probably nervous, too. And in the event that a date goes terribly, remember that you can probably turn it into an excellent story to share with your friends. Don’t take a terrible date too seriously.

What is the one thing people going through a divorce should be open to changing?

It’s surprising to see the number of couples who believe that they will be an exception to the rule and have an amicable divorce with little conflict. What starts with the best intentions, slowly deteriorates as the division of emotionally charged objects gets divided between the couple. The triggers that caused the divorce get amplified and often get an explosive reaction. Some people in the divorce industry make a career out of pinning people against each other to run up their billable hours so choose your team carefully.

The one thing people should be open to changing is to practice forgiveness. This removes the emotionally charged decisions to get revenge or try to show strength when all you are really doing is dragging out the process and spending more of your money. Take the high road and make your decisions from a place of dignity.

Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. If you had a close friend come to you for advice after a divorce, what are 5 things you would advise in order to survive and thrive after the divorce? Can you please give a story or example for each?

  1. Prioritizing Your Self Care

Health is the greatest possession.

-Lao Tzu

If you’ve ever grown a vegetable garden, adopted a pet, or owned a car, you know you get out what you put in. The amount of care you give your garden leads directly to the quality and quantity of your harvest. The attention, training and love you give your pet is directly linked to their happiness and health. The consistent maintenance you give your car drives its performance, both in the 0–60 and in the long-term.

2. You’re no different.

Yet sometimes we neglect to give ourselves that same mindful, consistent attention, also known as self-care. This can be especially true when you’re going through divorce. Everything else comes first. You are second.

The reality is, if you’re not feeling 100 percent, it’s far more difficult to take care of anybody or anything else. And the process of divorce can be a grueling one. This is no time to “let yourself slide.”

You need to stay as healthy as you can be for the everyday challenges you’re sure to encounter, and even more so for when the going gets tough. The more time you spend taking care of yourself, the better off you, and the people who depend on you, will be. Practicing good self-care is more than a cliché; it’s a must.

STORY

“Many people commented on how healthy I looked after my husband left — that I looked more relaxed, that my coloring was better. The source of a lot of stress was gone and I could spend some time taking care of myself. I was physically healthier than ever, kickboxing in the morning, smoothies for lunch and getting to bed before 10:00. I had started a lifestyle that felt great and one that I can continually build from. I’m now starting to meet people in these circles that share my passion, like cooking classes on Wednesday, and a hiking group meetup on Saturday mornings.” — Jeanette

3. Let’s get practical

Focusing on self-care contributes to your clarity and peace of mind, helping you to make better everyday and long-term decisions. Your healthier self will be more able to manage the negative effects of stress, avoid burnout, and leave you feeling more worthy, with confidence to face the future.

A healthier you will manifest in every aspect of your life, from your family and friend interactions to your work performance to your core feeling of self-worth and well-being.

Here are some simple ways to care for and rejuvenate yourself:

  • Get enough sleep.
  • Cat nap: close your eyes and give yourself a short rest when you need it.
  • Make healthy food choices, choose vegetables and nutrient-dense foods like salads, nuts, blueberries and avocados over empty calorie foods like chips, processed snacks, and sugary foods like soda and cookies..
  • Exercise! Even a short walk can make a big difference.
  • Block out some time in your schedule to meditate regularly. Even 5 minutes makes a difference.
  • Listen to your favorite music while walking out in nature.
  • Find a creative outlet and make no excuses to pursue it, even briefly, every single day.

4. Fight for yourself

Not everyone around you will understand your renewed efforts to take care of yourself. Some may see these healthy acts as selfish. Don’t be distracted. Those who love and respect you will get it. You may be accustomed to sacrificing your needs to meet those of family and friends, but during this trying period, it can be a recipe for burnout. Your mind, body, and spirit need — and deserve — your daily attention and care.

5. It’s a marathon, not a sprint

Sometimes it’s easier to meet the urgent needs of the person in front of you who is requesting — or demanding — your attention than it is to take care of yourself. You may face pressure to meet the expectations of the people around you at work, home, and in the community. This can be especially challenging if your role in your marriage was to be a caretaker or the one who is relied upon to give and do emotional labor for others at the expense of your own self-care and needs. These expectations of others can be unrealistic, especially when you are going through a divorce. Divorce is a great opportunity to break old habits of “running on empty.” Ultimately, the only one you’re accountable to is yourself. You are important, and so is your health and wellbeing. If you know your limitations, you can make the appropriate choices to stop and rest, or even retreat, whenever you need to. Give yourself the permission, power and space to do this.

Take the next step

  • Today, do one small thing just for you. Sleep late. Exercise. Read. Shop. Relax.
  • Make a plan to enact one self-care step on a daily basis; change up your routine so you don’t lapse.
  • When needed, clearly communicate the importance of your good health with family or friends.

6. Minimizing The Drama

Difficulty is inevitable. Drama is a choice.

-Anita Renfroe

Drama. Who needs it? Certainly not you at this point in your life. We define “drama” as a consistent overreaction or unwarranted exaggeration for the purpose of gaining attention. And during a divorce, you don’t have the time or energy for it. So, how can you effectively minimize it?

Rather than taking personal responsibility, those who engage in drama often antagonize others and are quick to point fingers. They spin small anxieties into giant disasters, display volatile mood swings, and seek to “one-up” your experiences and feelings with their own stories. While this might make for must-watch reality TV, it only causes more stress and pain when you’re facing the reality of divorce. Drama-free (or even low drama) divorce may seem like an oxymoron, but it is possible.

Story

“We got a divorce because my husband had an affair. When I discovered who she was, the first thing I wanted to do was call everyone I knew and ‘out’ her to the general public. Why not? She broke up our marriage! That’s how I felt about it at the time, anyway. I now realize our marriage ended for reasons that are much more complicated than that. But then I thought about our kids. I realized that, as much as I felt justified in my outrage and anger, turning our divorce into a public soap opera would make this difficult process even worse for them. So I kept my issues to myself and a few trusted friends and eventually realized keeping the drama as low as possible had made the divorce easier for me, as well.”

-Vanessa

Practical tools

Instituting a “No Drama” policy from the start will help you to steer clear of pointless emotional drain. This means making a decision not to create or participate in dramatic behavior with anyone involved in the divorce process, especially your ex. Set boundaries. Distance yourself if necessary. Take time away from communication or actively moving the divorce forward if needed. And perhaps most importantly, don’t reward dramatic behavior with the attention it craves.

Take the “No Drama” pledge:

  • I will not post anything negative about my ex on social media.
  • I will not gossip about my ex, complain, vent emotions, or make unfair accusations (except on occasion to a few select, trusted Power People. Let’s be honest, we all need to vent somewhere, sometimes. The idea is not to vent publicly in a way that fuels drama, or to allow for venting to consume our time and energy).
  • I will not overanalyze the intentions of others and choose to be offended.
  • I will not disparage my ex to our children or in front of our children.
  • I will not allow other people to say unkind things about my ex in front of our children.
  • I will encourage our children to love and respect their other parent.
  • I will apologize and take responsibility when I am at fault.
  • I will avoid bickering with my ex, instead, I will seek to communicate with civility.
  • I will not engage in inflammatory language.
  • When confronted with drama, negativity, or aggression, I will make peace.

Try on their shoes

There’s a joke that goes, “Try walking a mile in their shoes. Then you’ll be a mile away and you’ll have their shoes.” The real point: seek understanding. When communicating with your ex, seek not only to gather information but to understand where they’re coming from. Drama often gets its start in miscommunication. Listen first. If you don’t understand something, ask about it. Avoid accusations that may fuel future drama. It may feel good in the short term to lash out or recount your spouse’s record of wrongs, but it’s not wise in the long run.

If you do need to air your frustrations or constructively express your anger, seek out counseling or an unbiased mentor who can help you translate your negativity into productive actions. If your spouse is behaving badly while you are trying to remain calm, give it a rest for a few days. Also, mediation or couples’ therapy can allow a neutral third party to mitigate the drama.

Watch for the signs

You can only control yourself. Learn to recognize the signs of drama, refuse to take the bait, and if you can’t quickly end it, politely excuse yourself and walk away. Be thoughtful about how you communicate. Engage in honest and direct conversations, but use restraint. By taking the high road and modeling positive behavior, you can influence the people around you.

Sometimes, people rev up drama because it’s an extension of their grieving process. Creating drama can be a way of getting your ex’s attention, or making them respond to you, or looping them back into patterns of connection (no matter how broken or dysfunctional).

Don’t feed it

When you find yourself confronted by drama, take a moment to consider its cause. If your ex is the instigator, perhaps their dramatic tendencies are coming from a place in them that is grieving, afraid, and desperately missing you. You can set boundaries with compassion. Drama feeds on energy and attention. Denying those things helps reduce it. Think about stepping away from the situation or communication for a few hours or a few days. And always do so with compassion. You’ll never regret taking the high road.

Count to five

Or ten. Or twenty. You know yourself. When confronted by drama, count to whatever number it takes to calm yourself. Maybe give it 24 hours before responding. Or a week. Take deep breaths. Breathing deeply resets the autonomic nervous system from “fight or flight” to “everything is okay, we can relax.” It’s science. And it works.

Take the next step

  • Turn off notifications from your ex or any drama-instigator. Set aside one time of day to check in with texts you need to read; if you are receiving texts from people who you actually don’t need to engage with (i.e. your former sister-in-law) you can block or hide her messages. You can tell her now is not a healthy time for you to engage, and block her until you are ready, if and when you ever feel ready.
  • For kids, drama is trauma. Shield your kids from any adult drama that is happening. Don’t make your kids take sides. They need attention, safety, and permission to love and be loved by both their parents.
  • Make a mental plan about how you can deal positively and effectively with drama when it arises.

3. Dealing With Fear

“The only thing to fear is fear itself.” Franklin Roosevelt famously said that. Obviously, he hadn’t gone through a divorce. Fear of the unknown is a natural response to times of change when what was familiar is suddenly unfamiliar and the future is unclear. Facing your fears is an important part of both moving through and recovering from your divorce. Fear has a sneaky way of messing with even your most carefully laid plans. Uncertainty can surprise and overwhelm you. One of the most common fears divorcing people say they experience is the fear of being alone. You worry about being rejected, being alone in times of sickness or disability, or the possibility you won’t find love again. Being alone doesn’t mean you have to feel lonely. You may need to learn how to be alone and be content with yourself. One of the greatest gifts of divorce is the opportunity for self-rediscovery. Acknowledge the normal fear you feel during this time, then ask yourself what you want next. Taking control of your journey with deliberate intention can help you see your future and alleviate your fear of it. Alone time can be a good thing. A second common fear is a fear you’ll never be happy again. Dealing with the grief of divorce, it may be hard to imagine yourself smiling today, tomorrow, or even next month. Other common fears include worries about money, children, and an opaque, generalized fear of the future, that great unknown stretched out in front of you. No matter what you fear, know this: others have faced it, too, and have come through it to find new life on the other side. There is a way forward.

Story

“One day as I was getting ready to go out and thinking about the future, I was full of fear. Suddenly I remembered that everything is pretty much a mystery except for the next 24 hours. I was determined to live one day at a time. It helped a lot.”

-Linda

Fear-taming strategies:

Consider these strategies to help you move beyond fear to a more positive mindset. Facing fear head-on can lessen its sting and power. Identify: Knowing what makes you afraid can be the first step. Underlying fears can be sneaky, keeping you from moving forward. Know and name the roots of your fears. Sometimes, a good therapist can help. Then you can begin to look for a solution to overcoming them.Baby steps: Take a small step. Repeat. You’ll find small steps lead to bigger ones. The more you face the challenges that are in your way, the more you will gain confidence and power to move on. This is basic inertia. An object in motion stays in motion.

Tune out the chatter:

Mute the negative noise that feeds your fears. We all have that little voice in our head that tells us everything can and will go wrong. Author Anne Lamott suggests imagining that critical voice coming from an actual person — maybe an angry, critical person in your family or community. Visualize that person shrunken down to the size of a mouse. Then, pick them up, put them in a glass jar, and tighten the lid. They can be negative and critical all they want but you can’t hear them.

Breathe:

A proven way to replace the lens of fear with one of positivity and hope is simply to breathe. Deep, diaphragmatic breathing can activate your body’s relaxation response and help you slough off fear-based feelings. Spending time in nature can also reduce fear and anxiety, and increase pleasant feelings. Changing your outlook can help you change your reality.

Review your accomplishments:

No matter how great or small, think of all the things you’ve achieved and conquered in your life. Write them down in a gratitude journal, and don’t minimize them. If you’ve triumphed over all these things in the past, you can surely do it again in the future.

We all need somebody to lean on:

Having warm and empathetic people nearby, at least once a day, can help you feel calmer and more in control of your fear-based feelings. Support from others who understand and care about your struggles is essential to moving beyond fear. Who are your Power People? Lean on them.

Fear is normal, so is overcoming it:

Fear is a natural human reaction to the unknown. It’s key to our evolution and survival. Fear can keep you from making a bad decision, or from doing something dangerous. Not all fear is bad. But when fear becomes overwhelming or keeps you stuck in an unsafe or unhealthy place, it’s time to take charge and make changes. There is a new future out there waiting for you to discover.

You’re not alone:

Know that you are not the only one experiencing fear and anxiety because of divorce. Others have gone through the same gauntlet in which you find yourself. The only way you can put fear behind you is to move through it. Face it head-on, experience it entirely, lean on your family and friends, and use these tools. You’ll get through it, too.

Take the next step

  • Today, tell a caring friend or family member about a fear that is bothering you.
  • Share your fears with the Avail community in the Community Exchange. You’ll see you’re not alone.
  • Start a guided meditation practice where you learn to be with your fear, and learn that feelings of fear are normal and okay.

4. Forgiveness

“When you forgive, you in no way change the past — but you sure do change the future.”

– BERNARD MELTZER

Whether or not the dust has settled from your divorce, its effects aren’t over. While the conclusion of your divorce may bring legal closure, in many cases your emotional journey to healing has only begun. Forgiveness plays a vital role in this healing. You may not be there yet and that’s okay, but you can begin to prepare your heart to consider forgiveness. Forgiveness is more than a gift to yourself and your emotional well-being. It’s a choice to let yourself move out of the past and forward into the future.

Story:

“In the early days of the process, I desperately wanted to forgive him because I wanted to be free of all the resentment and anger that I felt. I even met with my pastor and begged him to give me some kind of magic prayer that would grant me forgiveness. He reminded me that forgiveness is a process, and that often there are several steps that need to happen before we get to it. So the best I could do was set the intention, feel my feelings, and trust that one day I would feel like I’d forgiven him. I can’t really say when it finally happened. All I know is, one day, years later, I woke up, and I wasn’t mad anymore. Instead, I felt gratitude that we had met, loved each other for a while, and brought a beautiful human being into the world.”

-Kendra

Make forgiveness a practice:

During or after your divorce, it’s important to forgive your ex and yourself. Forgiveness means letting go of negative thoughts and feelings so that you can begin healing. Forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting. It means refusing to allow the memory to have power over you. And it’s not “one and done.” Rather than being a single action, forgiveness is a perspective and practice. Take the following steps to move towards forgiving your ex.

Release your emotions:

Before you can reach a place of forgiveness, you must allow yourself to fully feel your hurt and anger. There’s no set timeline for grief and healing, but try to keep moving forward. Avoid getting mired in negative emotions. It may be helpful to set some time limits for yourself. For example, set an alarm and allow yourself to cry for 30 minutes. Or, if you feel yourself wallowing in anger, tell yourself, I’ll entertain my anger today but tomorrow, I’ll start fresh with a more positive approach. Writing a letter to your ex can be a cathartic exercise as well. Write down all your bitter feelings and tell your spouse how they hurt you. Then release them (and don’t send the letter — the letter is for you. Or create a ritual such as burning the letter in your fireplace to release it.)

Extend empathy:

Forgiving yourself and others is a necessary part of healthy relationships. As you work through your emotions and release some of your pain and anger, extend empathy toward your ex. This doesn’t mean pretending they didn’t hurt you, but put yourself in their shoes. It may help you understand why they acted the way they did and give you more gracious feelings towards them. Most people have the same basic drives, and most of the time, people hurt others because of their own injury or blind spots or selfishness. By refusing to retaliate, you can break the cycle of hurt. Be vulnerable. Admit that you can be wounded. Gaining a better understanding of your ex’s motivations and remembering their humanity helps you release your desire for revenge.

Choose empowerment:

Being unwilling to forgive imprisons you as a victim. Break free by choosing not to hold a grudge and instead focus on learning from the past so you aren’t condemned to repeat it. Focus on what you can control, such as letting go of hurt feelings. Forgiveness is more for you than for your ex. Forgiveness is how you take charge of your life and move forward with peace.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean it didn’t happen:

Forgiveness is not about pretending the hurt never happened, condoning your ex’s behavior or actions, or giving up your claim to justice and a fair legal settlement. It is also not the same as reconciliation. The person who hurt you does not necessarily get the slate wiped clean, particularly if they have expressed no regret or have not taken steps to make amends and changed their behavior. But your choice to forgive is not dependent on the actions of your ex.

When you’re ready:

Although therapists often identify forgiveness as a critical part of divorce recovery, you may not yet be ready for it. You must be willing to forgive. If it’s too early because the pain is so deep or your ex so unrepentant, that’s okay. Work through expressing and releasing your anger and pain first. Until you can forgive genuinely, acceptance of the situation is an authentic choice while you treat your wound. Forgiveness is an ongoing process and it can take time. Don’t rush it. Remember, it’s for your healing, not for the person you’re forgiving. Forgiveness empowers you to make peace with the past so you’re free to move forward.

Take the next step

  • Identify where you are in the process of forgiveness (of your ex and yourself)
  • Write a letter to your ex or to yourself where you offer forgiveness (don’t send the letter! It’s just for you.)

When you feel you’ve moved towards forgiveness, even just a step, celebrate it. Forgiveness is a process.

5. Building Healthy Habits

“Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.”

JIM RYUN

When going through a divorce, it can be easier to develop new negative patterns or fall into deeper dependence on old ones to numb the pain. Bad — or self-destructive — habits can be a coping mechanism to comfort you during troubled times. If they ultimately make you feel worse — drained, exhausted, and depressed — it’s important to choose true self-care over quick and easy bandaids.

Habits don’t just happen:

Every formed habit is a result of cognitive programming. The brain builds associations between actions and rewards, pleasure, fear, and pain. The time it takes to build a new habit varies, but, according to a 2009 study by health psychology researcher Phillippa Lally, it takes an average of 66 days to rewire the brain and form a new habit.

Story

“I drank a glass of wine at night when I started divorcing from my ex. Then it became two glasses, then three. At first, it wasn’t every night, but soon it was. I realized I had created a bad habit of depending on wine to soften my thoughts and numb myself from the difficult things I was feeling. Ultimately, it didn’t help me sleep. I fell asleep quicker, but then I would wake up around 2 or 3 am and just lie there. This never happened to me before I started drinking so much before bedtime. I realized I needed to change my habit. Fortunately for me, getting rid of all the wine from my house and deciding I would only drink a glass of wine when I was out with friends helped. It cut back my alcohol intake and made me start getting better sleep again. At the same time, I discussed my difficult time with my doctor and she prescribed me some antidepressants, which I ended up using throughout my divorce at a low dosage that really helped me. I was glad I stopped self-medicating and sought advice from my doctor.”

-Malia

Make an honest assessment:

The first step to reducing or eliminating unhealthy habits is to identify them. Excessive eating, drinking, using tobacco or cannabis, watching TV, and associating with people who ultimately bring you down are on many people’s lists. Start by making your own list. Plainly and unemotionally acknowledge exactly what your bad habits are and write them down.

Find your reason:

Before you tackle your unhealthy habits, start by asking yourself what your motivation is to change. Perhaps you want to get physically fit so you can be active with your kids. Maybe you want to cut out a vice because it’s affecting your family relationships. Having a specific, meaningful reason can help you be successful in changing your habits.

Identify your triggers:

The next step is to begin recognizing the signs that you may be on the verge of engaging in your bad habit. Sometimes we may not be aware that past behavioral patterns are subtly framing our present craving, regardless of our conscious level of desire for them. Even the most subtle behaviors usually have a key “indicator” leading up to them, whether it’s a feeling in the pit of your stomach or a certain pattern of reactive decision making. For example, perhaps mindlessly watching videos on the internet triggers an overeating binge, or interactions with a particular family member leads you to drink one glass of wine too many. Notice these things.

When you notice that you’re feeling or doing something that triggers your negative coping mechanism, take note of the time and place that it happened. Many people find journaling the signs helps them recognize a pattern. When you can see what you’re doing, it’s easier to change.

Trade a bad habit for good.

If you find yourself gripped with a desire to repeat a bad habit, try replacing the bad with the good. This is proven to work. Say you just ended a stressful phone call and your instinct tells you to grab a beer to relax. Instead, try taking a quick walk around the block. You may find that simply distancing yourself from the conversation by ten minutes was all you needed to reset your mood. For some people, a good way to cut back on drinking alcohol is having an alternative beverage handy that they enjoy — iced tea, kombucha, seltzer water, even something simple like ice water and lemon. Tempted to eat mindlessly in front of the TV? Try popcorn or freshly cut fruit. Portioning helps, too. If eating too many corn chips ultimately makes you feel bad, put them in a small bowl rather than eating them out of the bag. Try different things and go with what works for you. Interrupting your old patterns can help you create new, healthier ones.

Make a plan and get support:

When it comes to breaking bad habits, don’t rely solely on your own motivation and self-control. Set up strategies and schedules to make new habits more automatic and easier to do. Find someone to hold you accountable and remove temptations from your environment when possible. If you like, use an app to help you track your progress or remind you to practice your new habit.

Focus on progress, not perfection.

Breaking bad habits and building new ones takes time. Start slow and don’t try to change too much at once. It’s better to take small steps successfully than take large leaps and fail. Seek to make long-term, sustainable changes rather than quick fixes, and keep your expectations realistic. Don’t worry if you miss a day or two, just commit to sticking with it. The longer you practice it, the more natural the habit will become.

Take the next step

  • Identify a habit you want to eliminate
  • Make a plan to replace it with a new one
  • Identify your triggers
  • Ask someone close to you for help

The stress of a divorce can take a toll on both one’s mental and emotional health. In your opinion or experience, what are a few things people going through a divorce can do to alleviate this pain and anguish?

First, you breathe. In fact, you breathe deeply, signaling to your nervous system to calm down, telling it that everything will be alright. Because it will be. Then you take it one day — sometimes one minute — at a time.

You give yourself permission to feel every emotion you experience: rage, hurt, confusion, powerlessness, humiliation, despair, and even numbness to the world. For many people, the end of a marriage is more than the end of a relationship. It’s also the end of an identity. This loss can feel disorienting and sometimes even terrifying.

Now, some good news: No feeling lasts forever. “Time heals all wounds” is a familiar expression for good reason: because it’s true. You will move forward one step at a time. And you won’t be alone.

You’ll move into a new way of living in the world, evolving your identity as you have your entire life. You’ll discover new ways of showing up for yourself and others.

Even if divorce is far from what you wanted, you can remain in control of your life. You can continue to make healthy decisions for yourself and your family.

Go easy on yourself

In the first few months after a spouse leaves, you may feel incredibly vulnerable. It can help to imagine yourself as a small child. Give yourself the same unconditional love, kindness, support, and infinite compassion you would give to that child.

Get practical

It can help to set clear boundaries with your ex, their families, and mutual friends. They can drain your energy during this difficult time. Turn off phone notifications for these contacts and set aside a 30-minute window each day to respond to them as needed. Communicate on your terms — when you’re ready.

You may feel depleted from grief. That’s natural. Allow yourself time to rest. If you’re not up for going to family functions, work parties, or other social events, don’t go. Some people find comfort in going out dancing or casually dating. Some people don’t. Listen to yourself.

Find your power people

It’s important not to isolate yourself. Identify the people in your life who lift you up and seek them out! These are people who give you power, who give you positive energy, and who are always there for you. They will continue to be.

And just as they are kind to you, be kind to yourself. Decide what feels energizing and life-giving to yourself in this moment, and do it. It’s okay to binge-watch a mindless show on Netflix. It’s okay to sit in the bathtub and cry (we promise, you won’t stay there forever). It’s okay to go rock climbing with your friends from college. It’s okay to get on a dating app and meet a new person for coffee.

Treat yourself

Find one thing each day that makes you feel better. It may be taking a long walk with the dog, watching a movie with your kids, reading a novel, grabbing coffee with an old friend, or going dancing. Try to do one nice thing for yourself every day. And forgive yourself when you can’t. Have patience. Show yourself the same compassion you would a dear friend. It’s a new reality. Doing your best is all you can do.

Ride the roller coaster

Yesterday you felt okay. Today you can barely hold back your tears. Grief isn’t linear. Try to accept the natural unpredictability of your emotions. Welcome them like a roller coaster that you know will rise and fall. Or an afternoon thunderstorm that rolls in and then out. Notice what you’re feeling, embrace it and know that it will go just as it came.

Therapy works

When your body is injured or in pain, you see a doctor. Emotional pain should be treated no differently. Therapists help us deal with our feelings. In fact, deciding to see a therapist is often the most healthy, mature and wise choice you can make. The end of a marriage, especially if it is sudden, can feel as traumatic as a death. Don’t navigate it alone.

Reconnect with yourself

When your identity is tied to another person like a spouse, it can be difficult to remember that you are a whole, worthy person on your own. Single life can be bewildering, but it’s also a starting point for self-growth and discovery. It’s common for divorcing people to feel at once terrified and excitedly free. Fritz Perls, MD, psychiatrist, and founder of Gestalt Therapy believes “fear is just excitement without the breath.” When you reframe your misfortune as an opportunity to recreate your life exactly how you want it, you empower yourself to take control of your life. Use this time to rediscover old interests, hobbies, and friends you may have lost along the way. Spend your free time doing something that you love.

Reframe your divorce story

Although it’s changing, society too often equates divorce with failure. We challenge this outdated idea. Why measure the success of a marriage in longevity alone? What about the quality of the time you spent together? Think of your marriage not as a failure but as a success that had a beginning, a middle, and an end. What was successful about it? What wasn’t? How can you build on that moving forward? Frame your divorce story in a way that is both truthful and healthy for you. Don’t let your ex or others dictate it.

Rachel’s story

“When my husband told me he wanted a divorce, I was in shock. Soon after that came a deep sense of humiliation and shame. I’d been dumped. The levels of rejection would ripple across not only me personally but through my community and work. This label of “failure” was thrust upon me. I felt powerless, scared and angry. Over time, I learned to channel this energy into a way to approach this new life as an opportunity, one that I subconsciously desired but had always compromised while married. In that way, a scenario that made me feel like a victim at first became a way to empower myself and give me the strength to go after what I wanted out of life”.

– Rachel

The 90-second rule

It can come on suddenly. Heart racing, sinking sensation in your stomach, a tightening in your chest. You’re overcome by a powerful emotion. Follow the 90-second rule. First, take deep, cleansing breaths for at least 90 seconds. A million different feelings or fears may arise from financial to social to parental. This is a time to repeat a powerful mantra to yourself, such as “Every day, I’m learning how to take care of myself” or “I’m going to be OK.” Replace negative self-talk with positive. The more you practice, the easier it becomes.

Look forward

As much as you want to understand all the reasons your spouse left you, you may never feel satisfied by the answers. Digging into the past and replaying every argument will not bring your spouse back, nor will blaming yourself. One thing that can feel especially difficult when a marriage ends is the “how and why” the divorce happened at all. Whereas you and your ex might have shared a common narrative about how your relationship began and the course of your shared lives, it may feel especially disorienting to disagree on how you got to the point of divorce. Part of accepting the divorce is accepting that you will likely never agree about exactly what happened. And that’s okay. There can be more than one truth in a divorce, and more than one truth about how each of you experienced your marriage. Spend your energy building yourself up. Look forward instead of reliving the past.

Take the next step

  • Take 5 minutes and write down something you loved doing before your marriage that you stopped doing. What did you love about it? Why did you stop doing it? Do you want to do it now? How could you start?
  • Pick a new boundary or goal you want to set for yourself and practice it this week (example: I’ll turn off text notifications from my sister-in-law this week).
  • Create a mantra (borrow one you love or write your own) and post it on your bathroom mirror.

Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources related to this topic that you would recommend to our readers?

I would recommend the Avail Divorce YouTube channel. There, you can watch or listen to many meaningful, topical conversations for divorced or divorcing people. I’ve been enjoying Yung Pueblos new book Clarity & Connection. I’ve been listening to “How I Built This” with Guy Rozz for many years. Other notable authors are Brene Brown, Mel Robbins, Cheryl Strayed and Ester Perelle.

Because of the position that you are in, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would get all the world leaders to collaborate to mitigate and plan for climate change.

We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Richard Branson. He’s a brilliant entrepreneur who has never tired of trying to use his life to make the world a more interesting and better place. He’s infinitely curious and uses his dyslexia as a strength.

Thank you for these great insights and for the time you spent with this interview. We wish you only continued success!


Nate Zorich of Avail Divorce: 5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive After A Divorce was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: Virgin Hyperloop CEO Josh Giegel On How Their Technological Innovation Will…

The Future Is Now: Virgin Hyperloop CEO Josh Giegel On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up Zero Emission Transportation

…I’d like to flip that question by saying that there would be serious drawbacks without hyperloop technology, environmental collapse being perhaps the most critical. I know Black Mirror paints a dystopian picture of technology, but I would offer that the world is headed straight for a calamitous future if we can’t use technology to reverse pollution and carbon emissions. Hyperloop technology is a direct means of addressing the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions — the transportation sector. And I’d like to add that hyperloop transports goods as well as people. Imagine what the environment would be like without so many cargo vehicles.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs. I had the pleasure of interviewing Josh Giegel.

Josh is the CEO and Co-Founder of Virgin Hyperloop, where he is leading a world-class team of engineers making the hyperloop a reality. Giegel founded the company in 2014, when hyperloop was an idea drawn on a whiteboard in a garage. Previously, at SpaceX, Josh developed the world’s first reusable rockets and led the successful testing of six different rocket engines. Josh received an MS in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University where he was a Graduate Engineering Fellow. He holds a BSME from Penn State University where he graduated with honors and was first in his class.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I grew up in a family of engineers, so as a kid we would take these dorky vacations to the Space Museum. I was in awe of the rockets and the team that put the first man on the moon, and I dreamed that someday I could create my own rockets. Also, my dad was great at fixing things, and I’d watch him tinker with cars in the garage. From him, I learned a lot about problem-solving and perseverance. I guess it’s natural that I would end up an engineer myself.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

One of my favorite things to do to unwind is cycling. In the early days of Virgin Hyperloop, I was on a bike ride in the Santa Monica mountains here in Southern California. At one point I decided to take a break, and there on the road were a Model T and a Tesla Model S. In that moment, I came to the realization that two cars, almost a century apart in design and concept, could ride on the same road. The road wasn’t doing anything — it’s just a passive thoroughfare. In a similar way, the hyperloop pod — the vehicle that passengers ride in — can ride in the same tube for several decades, despite upgrades in the technology of the actual pod, its battery, etc. That’s when the concept of ‘smart car, dumb road’ was born, and it’s one of the threads in hyperloop’s ability to remain a viable mass mobility mode for 20, 50, 100 years. In this case, it’s ‘smart pod, dumb tube.’

Can you tell us about the cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

If we’ve learned anything from the pandemic, it’s that people enjoy being together. And the mission of hyperloop is to forever change the concept of distance and time through sustainable, high-speed travel. With our proprietary magnetic levitation and propulsion systems and our innovative vehicle architecture, we’ve found a way to make high-speed travel so smooth that you can move at speeds approaching 700 mph without spilling a drop of coffee. Hyperloop takes the best of all modes of travel, with none off the pain points. It’s fast like a plane, on-demand like a metro, and convenient like a car. So let’s say you have a friend or relative that lives someplace that’s too far to drive by car, and visiting them involves a plane or rail trip. With hyperloop, you could get from New York City to Washington, DC in the same amount of time it would take you to get from the East Side to Midtown Manhattan. People could live in more affordable, less crowded communities and work in a metropolitan center without distance being a barrier.

How do you think this might change the world?

The most important thing for me, and I’m sure for many of your audience, is ensuring that we leave the planet and environment a better place for the generations to come. Hyperloop has zero direct emissions, and it can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by billions of tons. Take for example a hypothetical route between Chicago, Columbus Ohio and my hometown of Pittsburgh. Hyperloop would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2.4 million tons. That’s enough to fill almost 1,500 hot air balloons. It’s about sustainability without sacrifice. The job of the engineer is to improve the lives of all through technology without destroying the planet around us.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

I’d like to flip that question by saying that there would be serious drawbacks without hyperloop technology, environmental collapse being perhaps the most critical. I know Black Mirror paints a dystopian picture of technology, but I would offer that the world is headed straight for a calamitous future if we can’t use technology to reverse pollution and carbon emissions. Hyperloop technology is a direct means of addressing the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions — the transportation sector. And I’d like to add that hyperloop transports goods as well as people. Imagine what the environment would be like without so many cargo vehicles.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

I started my career at SpaceX, and I had the opportunity to work with and learn from Elon Musk. When he open-sourced hyperloop technology in his 2013 whitepaper, I was intrigued. As I read the paper and began to realize the potential it had to address a critical gap in mass mobility — we haven’t had a new mode of mass transit in over 100 years — I was determined to find a mathematical way to make it work. Before too long it became an obsession, so much so that I quit my job at Virgin Galactic to devote my time to making hyperloop a reality. Now, seven years later, we are the first company in the world to put passengers on a hyperloop system, and we’re fast on our way to commercializing hyperloop by the end of the decade.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

As humans, we tend to resist the unfamiliar. Sometimes things that we’ve never done before, something that the world has never seen, can seem suspicious or even scary. I can’t imagine what people thought when they saw the first commercial passenger plane. I think world leaders are well aware of the challenges and damage created by current modes of mass mobility. The European Union set an example when it identified hyperloop as a viable mode of mass transit in addressing the race to net zero emissions by 2050. Here in the U.S., our new administration put forth an ambitious infrastructure plan. Widespread adoption can only happen when our governments provide a regulatory framework that facilitates the development and deployment of new technologies. I’m confident that we’re on the right path.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

We’re fortunate to have had such a great response from news media around the world from the start. There was great interest and coverage last November when we successfully put passengers on a hyperloop system at our Nevada test site. That vehicle my colleague Sara and I rode in will be on display at the Smithsonian Museum this fall, in the very same space that gave the world its first glimpse of Edison’s lightbulb, the first telephones and the Apollo rockets.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

One of the most formative experiences I’ve had was during my time leading the Research & Development group at Echogen Power Systems. The CEO of the company watched me give a presentation about our technology to a group of potential customers. At the end of the day he pulled me aside and said, “Josh, I need you to be better.” He noted that while I knew the technology, I wasn’t communicating it effectively to the customer. He wanted me to be able to explain what it was the company did to anyone on the planet, engineer or not, in 5 minutes, or 5 hours. He concluded with, “unless you can do that, you’re no good to us.” He knew the last part would stoke the competitive fire and that I’d see it as a challenge. So I began trying to explain complex pieces of technology to anyone, engineer or otherwise, in a way that they could understand. It was tough at first, but I slowly found my stride. That was such a profound lesson that it continues to help me today. How do you explain something no one has ever seen? That’s what I’ve been doing every day for the past 7 years — taking the vision in my head and communicating it to the world.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I am a huge proponent of STEM education, especially for women and girls. My mother, sister and wife are all engineers, and I’d like to see more equity and inclusion in this space. Virgin Hyperloop has a program called BLAST Scholars, in which we award an internship to Black engineering students. We’ve had some amazing students come through the program, some of which became employees after their internships ended.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. You’re going to experience a global pandemic — it would have been nice to know that the most critical moment in our company’s history — the first passenger test — would come to a halt because of a virus. It was a great lesson in contingency planning and in making the best of the worst possible circumstances.
  2. Pay close attention to the things you observe in your non-work life — I was on vacation in southeast Asia and I saw two kids using a flashlight and a cellphone to watch a YouTube video on how to fix their scooter. This left a profound impact about the life-changing power of technology. It was both exciting and humbling. The image of those kids grounds me when things don’t go as planned.
  3. Trust your instinct, no matter what — I’ve gotten much better at this. Listen to that little voice inside, even if in the moment it’s making no sense at all.
  4. Disruption is not a bad thing — I’ve learned that the unconventional route is where the magic happens. It takes a lot of creativity and courage to try something no one has done before — I say go for it!
  5. Persistence is your best friend — I’ve heard a lot of no’s and a lot of ‘it can’t be done’s’ since I started my company. I’ve learned that being persistent is not the same as being obnoxious — for each door that’s closed in your face, persistence is what fuels you to find another door. It’ll be harder than you think to start a company. You have to ask yourself if you have the courage to see it through, despite all the obstacles.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 😊

Time is our most precious resource. We can’t change what we’ve done in the past and how we arrived at this place with regard to climate change. All we can do is change what we do going forward. There is awesome responsibility in that. The decisions we make and the technology we develop today will affect people who aren’t even alive yet. I ride on trains that were created before I was born. What are we going to create today that lives on for future generations? It’s about the power of the engineer to create the future we want. Let’s Terraform Earth!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

When I was younger I had a poster of Muhammad Ali with his famous quote: “Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it.” Defying the impossible is what I do every day, and it’s what fuels my teams to do what they do best in order to make hyperloop a reality. Physics tells us the it takes energy to move and change things, the energy required to move is proportional to the size of the change you want. The world won’t change unless we change it, impossible will stay impossible and dreams will stay out of reach. The human brain and heart are limitless sources of energy to create change for good — if we each choose to follow our hearts and minds and believe in ourselves, we can create a better world.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

The world has moved forward as we’ve moved faster. Virgin Hyperloop is a new, sustainable mass mobility system that will upend the concept of distance and time. If you think it’s just a faster train, I am about to disappoint you — hyperloop is so much more than that. It combines the best of all modes of travel and none of the worst. We are the first company in the world to put passengers on a hyperloop system. We accomplished that in just 6 years. Imagine what we will do in the next 6 years. Some of the world’s most renowned businesspeople and investors are all in. I encourage you to join us as we launch the decade of hyperloop.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

They can connect with me on LinkedIn and follow me on Twitter: @JoshGiegel


The Future Is Now: Virgin Hyperloop CEO Josh Giegel On How Their Technological Innovation Will… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Christina Lawrence of Barnum Financial Group: 5 Things To Look For When Hiring a Financial Planner…

Christina Lawrence of Barnum Financial Group: 5 Things To Look For When Hiring a Financial Planner or Financial Adviser

Everyone should have access to a financial advisor. A good advisor is there to help you navigate your finances for life and help you plan for milestone events like buying a car, your first house, starting a family or business. It is a roadmap for life and not a transactional event.

As part of our series about what one should look for when hiring a financial planner or adviser, I had the pleasure of interviewing, I had the pleasure to interview Christina Lawrence, Wealth Management Advisor at Barnum Financial Group.

Christina started her career in 2000 and has partnered with leading advisors, including her mother, Joan Constantikes, who was a financial advisor for over 30 years. Together, they built a multigenerational practice that provided sound financial guidance for hundreds of clients and their families.

When possible, Christina encourages all family members to participate in important decisions, including defining a purpose and mission for their family wealth, philanthropic grant-making, and coordinating each member’s role in the management of the family’s assets. Empowering her clients to grow their wealth and business interests, Christina and her resources at Barnum Financial Group offer financial planning that focuses on income, estate planning, and gifting strategies that both protect and provide for generations to come.

Christina offers financial literacy programs focusing on financial empowerment for women as well as “Next Gen” and beginner investors. Her popular “Roadmap to Financial Wellness” series educates her clients and their families on how to build a solid financial foundation. A strong advocate of ESG investment concepts (environmental, social, and governance), her process benefits from an open architecture platform that is company-agnostic and promotes sustainable giving across generations.

A graduate of The American University in Washington, D.C., with a B.A. in Spanish Studies and Psychology, she also earned her MBA at Thunderbird School of Global Management. After graduation, Christina lived in Madrid, Spain, where she co-owned and operated a translation and publishing company catering to Fortune 500 clients. She also spent several years in Silicon Valley at tech start-ups, learning important entrepreneurial values.

Christina is on the Planning Committee of “A Leg To Stand On” (ALTSO), a non-profit organization providing free orthopedic care to over 18,500 children with limb disabilities in the developing world. In October 2020, she celebrated her 15th year as a volunteer photographer for ALTSO’s annual event, “Hedge Fund Rocktoberfest.” She also serves on the Advisory Board of the Institute of Family Governance.

Christina and her husband, Piers Lawrence, a professional jazz guitarist, live in the East Village in New York City with their Burmese cat, Koko May.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to ‘get to know you’ a bit more. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Always an entrepreneur at heart, I was offered a position at a dynamic tech start-up in Silicon Valley in the late 90s and jumped at the chance to move across the country. However, funding soon dried up and times got very tough and I experienced the first major “dot bomb” in 1999 when I was downsized from 3 start-ups in 2–½ years. My mom, who had been an advisor at that point for a dozen years on the East Coast suggested I pursue becoming my “Own Boss” and focus on working with people that I care about to help them with their financial planning. I was lucky to have been surrounded by strong mentors and partners who taught me how to be resilient so I could pivot into a new career where I could stay connected to the start-up community in a meaningful way.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

This is a very interesting time. The pandemic, besides being a health crisis, has also turned out to be a financial crisis, with market volatility and Americans losing their jobs. This has driven many of us to review and redesign our financial roadmap. Even before the crisis, I have been working with my clients on helping them create financial plans, but it has become even more of a priority since March 2020. As part of multigenerational planning, my colleague and I launched a “Roadmap To Financial Wellness” Series for teenagers and junior investors to help them develop a financial framework and good financial habits early in their life.

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything differently? Is there a takeaway or lesson that others can learn from?

A catalyst for me was when my mother passed away in 2017 since she was my business partner for 18 years. It prompted me to reflect on my practice and clients. I decided to switch firms as I wanted to provide my clients with a more holistic approach to financial planning beyond solely accumulating assets. I’m a firm believer that as much as my clients need to save, they also need to be defensive in order to protect their assets and achieve their goals.

What three pieces of advice would you give to your colleagues in the finance field to thrive and avoid burnout? Can you give a story or example?

Don’t ignore your hobbies. 2) Volunteer for a cause that you are passionate about. 3) Always be mindful to establish personal and professional time and “own it” especially in this current environment. Personally, I have been volunteering as an event photographer for 15 years for a non-profit called A Leg To Stand On that provides prosthesis for children in developing countries. They celebrate with a big rock concert called “Rocktoberfest” every October in New York City and raise money and awareness for this one-of-a-kind mission. Rocktoberfest enables me to apply my personal passion of photography for a meaningful cause.

Ok. Thank you for all of that. Let’s now move to the core focus of our interview. As an “finance insider”, you know much more about the finance industry than most consumers. If your loved one wanted to hire a financial advisor (not you :-)), what are your top 5 tips to find out about before committing?

1. Make sure they respect your intentions and know that they act as your Fiduciary.

2. “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” ~ Theodore Roosevelt

3. Find someone who doesn’t see you as a number or dollar amount; yet is an essential advisor with whom you can work for many years.

4. Interview for the right fit. Not all advisors are alike. Research and consider several potential advisors to see who you have the best working relationship with.

5. Know the “why” — Why did they become a financial advisor? Find someone passionate and purposeful who wants to help you and your family long-term.

I think most people think that financial advisors are for very wealthy people. This is likely not actually true. Can you explain who would most benefit from hiring a financial advisor and why? Can you give an example?

Everyone should have access to a financial advisor. A good advisor is there to help you navigate your finances for life and help you plan for milestone events like buying a car, your first house, starting a family or business. It is a roadmap for life and not a transactional event.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I’m grateful to my family. My father was a trust and estates attorney and my mother was a financial advisor for 31 years. My maternal grandparents wrote books for women and finances in the 1970’s. Helping others navigate their lives is in my DNA.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Equality and opportunity for financial independence is important to all of us. Our team feels that no matter when you start, and no matter what you start with; with proper planning, setting goals and ongoing follow through, you can achieve your lifetime financial goals. Everyone should have access to financial education and Financial Planning 101.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can find me on LinkedIN and my website.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


Christina Lawrence of Barnum Financial Group: 5 Things To Look For When Hiring a Financial Planner… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Vanessa Okwuraiwe of ‘Edward Jones’: How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line

Culture should be woven into the fabric of every business. Creating a culture that allows an organization to reach its peak potential — while also providing an environment where associates feel free to bring their best selves to work doesn’t happen by chance. It’s an evolving landscape, and the work is never done. If a company’s organizational structure, systems and processes make up its hardware, its culture and behaviors are the software. Both elements have to work together as a single system for the company to achieve its purpose.

As a part of our series about “How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Vanessa Okwuraiwe.

Edward Jones Principal Vanessa Okwuraiwe is part of the strategic leadership team that helps the firm achieve its goal of being a place of belonging for all and to fulfill its purpose of making a meaningful impact in the lives of clients, associates and communities. She is responsible for helping the firm increase its representation of different groups and foster engagement and inclusion. Vanessa earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from the Edo State University in Nigeria, a master’s degree in development economics from the University of Kent,Canterbury and an executive MBA from Washington University in St. Louis, Olin Business School. An advocate for economic and educational development, she is active on the board of the St. Louis Community College Foundation and actively engaged in the Arts and Education Council of St. Louis.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive into the main part of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you share a bit of your “backstory” with us?

I’m currently part of the Edward Jones strategic leadership team helping the firm increase its representation of different groups, fostering inclusion. Looking back, there are a number of reasons and experiences that got me to where I am today. I began my professional career in banking at the Halilfax in Reading, England in 1996. In 2001, I joined Edward Jones’ former United Kingdom affiliate, Edward Jones Limited, as an academic training leader and later took on the responsibility of leading academic training leaders within the Training department. In 2007, I transitioned to join Financial Advisor Recruiting and Hiring, overseeing the growth and retention of financial advisors in the United Kingdom. I was named an Edward Jones principal in 2008.

In February 2010, I relocated to the firm’s St. Louis headquarters to assume responsibility for the hiring and training support of the new branch office administrators. They are part of our branch teams and partner with our financial advisors to serve our 7 million clients. Five years later, I moved to lead Financial Advisor Career Development. That brings us to today where I’m part of the strategic leadership team that helps the firm achieve its goal of being a place of belonging for all and to fulfil the firm’s guiding purpose of making a meaningful impact in the lives of clients, associates and communities.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? Can you tell us the lesson or take away you took out of that story?

I remember talking to one of my leaders early in my career about difficult performance conversations I needed to have with some members of the team. I was still a new leader and while these were crucial to do, I was concerned about how best to have them. The leader said to me “ Vanessa, when you have a tough conversation, always leave people with their dignity intact”. I absorbed this lesson because it aligned so well with my purpose. We know how valuable feedback is when done the right way. It helps people develop into their best selves which is not just good for them as individuals, it’s good for business. His wise counsel all those years ago has guided me in how I have led and enabled others to grow — being thoughtful, candid and respectful. This is also important for creating a place of belonging where people can engage authentically knowing that they will have the support and resources they need to effectively contribute to an organization.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you tell us a story about how that was relevant in your own life?

I have quite a few! One of my favorites was made famous by Nelson Mandela. “Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.” “The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers fear.”

I have found these to be helpful when I embark upon something brand new — whether that was bringing my first child home from the hospital, taking on a new challenge at work, presenting to hundreds of people for the first time. It has always been important to “feel the fear or discomfort” that comes with trying because that’s how I’ll develop new skills and be a continuous learner.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?

I’ll always be grateful for my parents because they laid the right foundation for me. I have benefited from a village both personally and professionally. At Edward Jones, our culture has played such a great role in how we develop leaders and associates. I have had many opportunities to “sharpen the saw” and develop the right mindset to help others and ensure we always put our clients’ best interest first.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Edward Jones is a purpose-driven organization. Our purpose is to partner for positive impact — to improve the lives of our clients and colleagues, and together, better our communities and society. Our culture is an amalgamation of our purpose and values brought to life through our thoughts and our actions. Having that clear sense of purpose and a set of guiding principles allows for quick decision making — particularly in times of crisis like we’ve just been through with the pandemic — and helps us to clearly understand what is most important to us — taking care of our clients, working in partnership and valuing the contributions of every individual.

Edward Jones is a place of belonging for all, where our associates come together to live out our purpose and help clients achieve what matters most to them. Our firm has seen tremendous growth over time as we continue to commit to diversity, equity and inclusion. Our clients, colleagues and communities will all be better off because of what we do, together, right now and in the years ahead.

In June of last year, we announced our Five-Point Commitment to support diversity, equity and inclusion. We committed to real change and progress in diverse recruitment, hiring and advancement and to make a “meaningful increase” in the diversity of our home office leaders and financial advisors. Currently, our financial advisors are 8 percent people of color and 21 percent women. Our home office general partners are 10 percent people of color and 29 percent women. We’ve now defined what and by when we strive to achieve a meaningful increase in diversity among our financial advisors, home office general partners and home office leadership. Our commitment as a firm is that by the end of 2025:

  • We’ll achieve 20 percent people of color and maintain gender parity among our home office leaders of leaders and leaders of associates.
  • Home office General Partners will be 15 percent people of color and 40 percent women.
  • Financial advisors will be 15 percent people of color and 30 percent women.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

This is the one-year anniversary of our Five-point Commitment to address racism and positively impact opportunities for people of color. We are holding ourselves accountable for meaningful progress and are committed to creating a path to greater diversity and equity as well as economic opportunity for people of color in our communities.

As one of the first signatories of the CEO Action for Diversity pledge in 2017, we committed to engage associates in honest dialogue as a tool for creating change. Since June 2020, more than 11,500 of our associates have participated in these Courageous Conversations on topics like race, to build understanding and create empathy among our colleagues. When we issued our Five-point Commitment last year, we committed to taking these conversations into our communities and have done so in St. Louis and Kansas City, with two more in Raleigh-Durham and again in St. Louis this year.

We are currently conducting an analysis of pay in our home offices — equal pay for equal work — and will share results and take any necessary actions when data is available.

We’re continuing racial-equity training and anti-racism personnel policies. We enhanced our learning program, which is called Inclusion and Diversity 365 to provide training and development opportunities for all. And we’ve strengthened our array of racial-equity unconscious bias and allyship courses.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

There are a couple of recent initiatives that I’m particularly proud of. When we made our Five-point Commitment, we committed $1.2 million to continue fostering our 40-year partnership with the National Urban League and the St. Louis Urban League. This investment in the Save Our Sons program helped 300 African-American men find jobs and careers lost during the pandemic.

I’m also excited about expanding our Financial Fitness program, which provides financial literacy education and greater economic inclusion for 20,000 high school students in 575 schools — more than 50 percent in high-need schools.

Ok. Thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main part of our interview. This may be obvious to you, but it is not intuitive to many people. Can you articulate to our readers five ways that increased diversity can help a company’s bottom line. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. In order to innovate and grow with impact, you need to bring diverse perspectives to the table. Along with this, increasing diversity brings unique experiences and creative ideas to a firm, ultimately, lending to its bottom line.
  2. Creating a place of belonging for all, provides all employees the ability to bring their full selves to work each and every day.
  3. For us at Edward Jones, purpose has always been a central component of what we do. When purpose authentically aligns with a company’s actions, the outcomes can be tremendous: clients engage; colleagues are inspired; and companies can make a deep impact in people’s lives.
  4. Diverse leadership directly influences the composition of the rest of the firm and also mirrors it. This further contributes towards the happiness and retention of employees, increasing productivity and proactivity.
  5. Transparently communicating your company’s diverse makeup along with its values and standing on topics such as equity and inclusion elevates the firm as a whole.

What advice would you give to other business leaders to help their employees to thrive?

Culture should be woven into the fabric of every business. Creating a culture that allows an organization to reach its peak potential — while also providing an environment where associates feel free to bring their best selves to work doesn’t happen by chance. It’s an evolving landscape, and the work is never done. If a company’s organizational structure, systems and processes make up its hardware, its culture and behaviors are the software. Both elements have to work together as a single system for the company to achieve its purpose.

Companies succeed when they have a people-focused strategy because it fosters a sense of belonging among employees. This involves more than a policy statement; it necessitates candid dialogues and true concern for employees’ needs.

Diverse mindsets are also essential for any organization that wishes to develop and succeed. If you want your firm to expand, you need to be innovative. Different points of view challenge the status quo, resulting in a greater forward-looking approach. Those points of view are usually packed into a variety of genders, races, interests, experiences, backgrounds, and other factors.

What advice would you give to other business leaders about how to manage a large team?

To successfully manage any large team, employees should feel included and informed. This boils down to having an open, inclusive culture. Firm culture manifests itself in the way we show up, think and act. In many ways, it’s like a tree. Our history, core values, and purpose are the roots of that tree; these elements are constant and position us for strength. Above ground is the way we work, think and act — and these things will evolve over time as we bring our purpose and value to life in service of our clients, colleagues and communities.

The purpose of an organization must be clear and clearly conveyed to all employees. Leaders must also be deliberate about inclusion and belonging in order to create an engaged and productive workforce that feels accountable and enthusiastic about the organization’s future, and motivated to achieve objectives. As a leader, be visible, demonstrate those ideals, make yourself available and celebrate small and big successes.

One example of how Edward Jones managed a large team of associates is at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. When the world changed, seemingly all at once, the leadership team had to make a series of big decisions with wide-ranging ramifications, and quickly. The firm also had to wade through information (and disinformation) that was evolving by the minute. We had to lead without a playbook, and without the luxury of time. Keeping our clients, associates and key stakeholders at the center of every decision helped us navigate this unforeseen situation.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this 🙂

David Oyelowo: A Nigerian British actor who has starred in many films such as Selma, A United Kingdom, Queen of Katwe. I admire his intentionality in the roles he has chosen to portray — powerful and purposeful characters. He started a company to have a voice and create an avenue for other voices to be heard. I would love to chat about his background as I think we have some similarities, the challenges he has overcome and why he is so intent on making a positive difference in our world.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Website: https://www.edwardjones.com/us-en/why-edward-jones/about-us/corporate-citizenship/inclusion-diversity-equity-commitments

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/vanessa-okwuraiwe-3028922b/

Thank you for these excellent insights. We wish you continued success in your great work.


Vanessa Okwuraiwe of ‘Edward Jones’: How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Rising Through Resilience: Delasber Griffin Sanders of No Greater Love On The Five Things You Can…

Rising Through Resilience: Delasber Griffin Sanders of No Greater Love On The Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient

Protect Your Being: Take care of what you are allowing yourself to hear, read and watch. The mind is a terrible thing to waste and ultimately the major power in this struggle of resilience. Watch what goes into your mind. Keep your mind clear. I had to learn to meditate to clear my mind when trials come up against my daughter and she becomes ill.

In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Delasber Griffin Sanders.

Seeing a need for support for moms dealing with their insecurities about having a special needs child, Delasber dedicated her life to helping those moms make a difference. She founded No Greater Love, Inc dba Amoree’s Journey to support families touched by autism by becoming their Sunflower and their light teaching them the art of resilience. A wife, a mom, a teacher and special needs advocate, Delasber Griffin Sanders, who can be contacted at https://ngl-family.com, spends her days working to ensure that no mom is left behind.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?

Hailing from the small city of Winnsboro, Louisiana, the adopted daughter of a minister/teacher and wife, I grew up being surrounded by education. So, it was no surprise when I became a teacher for fifteen years and church musician for thirty-one years. I thought my life was perfect UNTIL… It was turned upside down with the birth of my daughter and I became a stay-at-home wife and mother to who is now an amazing nine-year-old child diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, epilepsy and myasthenia gravis.

I am a #1 best selling author of No Greater Love: Parenting Through Multiple Diagnoses and No Greater Love: 21 Days of Resiliency. A Journey of Hope: A Medical Planner for Special Needs Families will be released in July 2021. I pray that this will be a blessing to families struggling to keep all the information needed for their child’s medical safety at their fingertips.

My life is centered around my daughter, and I founded a 501(c)3 nonprofit No Greater Love, Inc dba Amoree’s Journey which supports families touched by autism and other medical diagnoses in making soul connections through resilience training and soul connection art parties.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career?

I taught for fifteen years in what would be considered low-income areas with ‘at risk’ students. Even though I lived in a little country town and I was surrounded by hunting, fishing and mudhoggin’, , I was far from a country girl.

If you knew me, you would know that I have absolutely no interest in eating Bambi or his parents and I am not about to go and ride in the mud for the fun of it. Well, I taught children who did this type of thing every weekend for play.

I will never forget this day. I walked into my classroom one morning and there was a package on my desk. I opened the card, and it was from a student. Such a sweet card written very eloquently saying how much they appreciated me, and they had killed their first deer and wanted to share with me. I should have known better than to open the package at that point. Well, I did not, and I opened it. It was something fleshy. LOL

When the child came into my room, he asked me if I had received the package and I said yes and thank you so much but…. What it is…? He said PROUDLY… it is a deer heart, Miss Griffin. I gave you my first deer heart.

I must have had this look of terror on my face because another student spoke up and started to tell me that meant good luck and basically peace be upon you. I hugged the little boy and took the deer heart home to my father, and he placed it into the freezer.

I had forgotten about that deer heart until my father passed and we cleaned out the freezer and I found it. He had kept it for me for three years. My father knew the significance of what this little had done.

Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

I learned many lessons from that experience. One may never know what another person is thinking about you and even if they are thinking of you. Treat everyone with respect, love, and joy. Never shun anyone because they do not have your personal values. I did not understand the heart of the deer but, I understood the heart of my student. The heart is the most important organ of any being. Take care of the heart and the rest will follow. That is my biggest take away from that day. From that moment on, I made sure to take care of the hearts of my students, my family, my friends, and most of all, myself.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

What do I think makes my company stand out? I believe it to be our personality and reachability. There are many companies that work with autism and the effects of autism on families. However, there are not many who use their reach to literally touch the families. We get to the know the families. We work one on one with the families to help promote connections within the family. When a family reaches out to No Greater Love, Inc Amoree’s Journey, that family gets Delasber or another board member. There is not a lot of paperwork to go through to get to talk to us. Our phone line goes straight to my cell phone and if I am not available at the time, it is forwarded to a board members’ phone.

Not long ago, during the pandemic, my phone rang, and it was a call for No Greater Love. The person on the other end of the phone literally broke down when I said, “No Greater Love, Amoree’s Journey, how may I help you?” This was a grandmother of a child on the spectrum, and she had just been evicted from her home. This grandmother was ill and having a hard time working to pay the rent. I took down all her information and asked her to give me five minutes to contact my board. It took me three minutes. My board approved getting her a week in a hotel so that she could find a place to live for she and her grandson. I called her back and I was able to get on the phone with the hotel and book the room and pay for it so that they could have a place to stay for a week. That was all the time that the grandmother told me she needed to get herself back on her feet. After that week, the grandmother had a new home and was settled. This is one thing that I believe makes us stand out. The ability to work immediately for families. Now, we cannot do this for everyone but, this time we were blessed to have been given the donations to make that happen for that family.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

This answer might seem a little strange but, if I were to thank a person who helped me to get where I am today, I would have to thank my biological mother. She gave birth to me but, she realized she could not take me where I was destined to go, and she left me. Now, it has taken me a while to be able to forgive her for how she did it. But I am incredibly grateful that she did. If she had not made the decision to walk away from my life, I would not have been adopted by (in my eyes) the greatest parents to ever walk the face the earth. My life took a forward trajectory when my biological mother walked away from me. I do not have many stories about her because I only met her three times. But, in my later years, I have learned to give honor to whom honor is due and she deserves this honor. This woman birthed me, but it was not until she walked away from me that she gave me life. And for that, I shall be eternally grateful.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience?

I define resilience as the power to rebound from adversity and or trauma with passion and fire to fight another day.

What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

Resilient people see reality as it is but, they give their reality a sense of purpose. Resilience shows up differently in different people, but all resilient people can bend and be flexible with the reality of their lives.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind?

When I think of resilience, my daughter, and other people like her come to mind. People who fight trial after trial after trial and never stop fighting.

Can you explain why you chose that person?

My daughter has many medical diagnoses, and she has been on life support (ventilator) eight times in the nine years she has been alive. But, this little girl, keeps coming back strong. Older people have a saying that I will use here. “I am so glad I don’t look like what I’ve been through”. That is my daughter. She is the one who taught me what true resilience is. I watched her with a friend named Maddie. Maddie’s issues can be seen to be a little worse than Amoree’s but, they both are the life and light of parties. It is that true grit that makes me get up in the morning because I feel if they can do it with all that they deal with… then who am I to complain about my little stresses in life.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway?

I have had people tell me that things cannot be done or that I should not be doing them. Yes, that has happened to me. I laugh in the face of doubters. LOL

Can you share the story with us?

This question kind of made me chuckle to myself.

I think my greatest story about this would have to be when I first decided I wanted to be a teacher. It was my first year and I was working on my certification because I did not get my undergraduate degree in education. Thus, I was a transported teacher from the field of social sciences.

Well, this supervisor came to observe my class. This was a major event for a new teacher because it is stressful. I felt that I did an amazing job teaching these students and they were catching on to the concepts rather quickly. I was proud of myself and my students.

After the class was over, the supervisor stopped to talk to me. She informed me that I needed to find another profession. I was not educator material and I had not done a good job in her eyes. In fact, she was not even passing me on my observation. I was going to have to go through this again. I was so hurt even to the point of angry.

Let us just say that I took what she said, and I ran with it. Before I left the school system, I had been elevated to one of the top eight teachers in my state and was honored by the state department of education as such. That woman had to eat crow because the same way I taught when she observed me is the way I became Teacher of the Year for the largest region in my state.

It was not good to mess with Teacher Delasber.

I did what she said I should never and could never do…

I became a teacher!

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

I believe that my greatest setback was the story that I just mentioned.

However, I did have a major setback in my self-esteem when I received the diagnosis of autism for my daughter. You know one does not want to admit that probably the first thing that runs through your mind when you find that you do not have a perfect child is why me? What did I do to deserve this? I am highly intelligent, and her father is smarter than I am. How did we get this child with issue?

Now, that is not to say that I feel I am better than anyone but, those thoughts ran through my mind. Autism and or developmental delays did not run in my family (or so I thought). So, I never imagined that my daughter would have any issues like this.

Autism rocked my world, and I did not know what to do with it. I had to learn. I had to pull myself up and realize that she was here and that I had to fight for her. I started fighting and I fought everyone. I fought the teachers. I fought the doctors. I fought everyone who was not willing to fight with me.

I am a much stronger woman because of my daughter’s diagnosis. It made me learn the true meaning of fight! I am a warrior mom now because I have a warrior princess for a daughter, and she is not ready to give up the fight. She taught me that fighting was a lifestyle when done correctly.

Now, I fight for other moms and children who do not have voices to speak for themselves or they do not yet know how to use the voice they have.

I am stronger now than I have ever been because of my daughter’s fight.

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

I was abandoned at 1.5 years old by my biological mother. I grew up believing that I would be left by everyone who was supposed to love me. Thus, I never really trusted anyone. I learned to lean and depend upon myself instead of other people because other people may let me down.

I had no idea how it affected my life story until a few weeks ago when everything was brought into the open for me and I had to face my true demons.

Being left by your biological parents takes a toll on some that never gets repaired. I know that I had to be resilient to continue to live where I felt I was not loved truly. How can anyone love someone whose own Mother did not want them?

I was blessed to be cared for by my grandmother and then later adopted by my aunt and uncle but, I never really healed from the trauma of being left by the one person who was supposed to love me forever. That built my ability to overcome and stand amid adversity. She made me who I am by that one huge step.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

In order to truly be resilient, we must unlock the power within ourselves. I see the steps as keys that I use to open doors for myself every day.

Do you remember there was a game show that would ask the players if they wanted door number one or door number two? That is kind of my game plan for life resilience.

I have 5 keys which are used to unlock different doors I need to enter to regain my power.

Key 1: Protect Your Being: Take care of what you are allowing yourself to hear, read and watch. The mind is a terrible thing to waste and ultimately the major power in this struggle of resilience. Watch what goes into your mind. Keep your mind clear. I had to learn to meditate to clear my mind when trials come up against my daughter and she becomes ill.

Key 2: Own Your Ish: Know that there are parts of you that are not good and there are parts that are. Work on the not so good parts and know that many times in this life we blame things on other people and other environments and other circumstances that need to be rerouted to our internal issues. Own your fears and your insecurities. But also own your magic, your light and your love to make a change in the world.

Key 3: Work Your Goals: Make a goal for your life. After you decide upon the goal, plan three and four different ways to achieve your goal. Remember, your plan may have to change but, your goal does not. Make many plans. Change the plan and keep your goal. You can do it.

Key 4: Elevate Your Thoughts: This is huge. You cannot stand down in the dumps if you are going to build resilience. When stresses come upon you. Stop and think of good and happy things to bring your light into your heart and head. If you elevate your thoughts, your resilience meter will rise.

Key 5: Regain Your Dreams: Remember that you have dreams that you need to accomplish. There will be doubters. There will be turmoil. There will be distractions. BUT you must not give up on your dreams. Regain them!

If you use the 5 keys to unlocking your power of resilience interchangeably, you will reach heights you never imagined possible.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

There is a song that says what the world needs now is love sweet love. I believe that what the world needs now is hope.

If I could get just one person a day to have hope in a future that is bright for ALL that would be my goal. I try my best every day of my life to let one person know that whatever it is that they are going through is simply a bridge to something else.

I try to spread hope because without hope we are all lost. I would love for everyone to tell at least one person a day a hope that they see for that person. Find someone who needs a little hope. Give it to them. Tell them that you see a bright future ahead. If you dig deep enough, you can see that for everyone.

We do not all burn with the same brightness. But we all have a light.

Share your light!

Share your love!

Share your hope!

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

There are so many people I would LOVE to meet but, if I had to choose one, I believe I would want to meet Holly Robinson Peete. She is an icon who has done so much to help different communities all over the world.

My community of autism families need someone to help them.

We have people trying to help themselves by using the autism name but, there are very few major organizations and or people working to help the autism family make connections within themselves.

We need the research, do not get me wrong. BUT we need organizations and people of clout who are willing to stand and offer the support to help struggling families make connections within the family units.

Holly is doing that with the HollyRod Foundation. I want to do that with my No Greater Love, Inc Amoree’s Journey nonprofit.

I would love to sit down with her and discuss how we can combine forces to make life better for our families.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I can be reached across all major social media networks. Most are simply Amoree’s Journey. I am currently working on a YouTube channel. Join us so that you can get information about our next moves. We would love to have you become part of our family and walk this journey with us.

Facebook: nglamoreesjourney

Instagram: amoreesjourney

Twitter: AmoreesJourney

Clubhouse: @Amoreesjourney

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


Rising Through Resilience: Delasber Griffin Sanders of No Greater Love On The Five Things You Can… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Chad E. Foster of Red Hat: 5 Steps That Each Of Us Can Take To Proactively Help Heal Our Country

Listen — When you talk with someone, don’t listen for your chance to talk. Listen to help the other person be understood. Listening is not about sending messages. It’s about learning from one another.

As part of our series about 5 Steps That Each Of Us Can Take To Proactively Help Heal Our Country, I had the pleasure of interviewing Chad E. Foster.

Chad E. Foster is a motivational keynote speaker, sales/finance leader, and inspirational change agent who works at Red Hat/IBM. He was the first blind executive to graduate from Harvard Business School’s Program for Leadership Development and has been featured with NBC, CBS, Forbes, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, USA Today, and Chief Executive Mag.

“People are often surprised at what I was able to achieve in spite of being blind but to the contrary, I feel I am successful because I am blind, not in spite of it,” says Chad.

After losing his eyesight while attending college in his early twenties, Chad started at a top consulting firm, and has built a career in the technology industry where he has directed financial strategies and decisions resulting in more than $45 billion in contracts.

Determination, ambition, and resilience are the key drivers to his incredible journey. The Atlanta Opera has commissioned an opera inspired by his life story and his first book, Blind Ambition: How to Go from Victim to Visionary, is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple Books, Bookshop, Books-A-Million, Google Play, and other fine retailers.

Today, Chad speaks to corporate audiences and professional athletes to help them develop resilience in the face of uncertainty and show people how to overcome their own blind spots.

He lives with his wife and his 2 children in Atlanta, GA and is a daredevil of his own, enjoying snow skiing every winter.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?

At 3-years-old I was taken to Duke University Medical Center where doctors told my parents “try to prepare for the day when Chad’s vision is gone. In the meantime, enjoy life while you can.”

It’s hard to imagine how difficult the long drive back home to Knoxville, Tennessee must have been for them. They cried the entire ride. Imagine hearing the news that your toddler will eventually go blind from an incurable retinal disease (retinitis pigmentosa “RP”).

Despite the grim prognosis, I was an active boy. Doctors advised my parents they should put me in a special school for the blind. Instead, they signed me up for soccer.

For the next fifteen years I lived as “normally” as I could. I played sports including soccer, basketball, football, and I even wrestled in high school. I began lifting weights in high school as well. When I visited a top retinal specialist at 14-years-old, he remarked that riding bikes, jet skis, motorcycles and learning how to water ski and drive cars are not things people with RP typically do. It’s possible I have something less severe than RP. It’s possible I would not go blind.

Hearing that news, my teenage ego swelled with pride as I continued my magical thinking. I would beat blindness. I would be the outlier. While enrolled at the University of Tennessee however, life took a fateful turn.

I was 21-years-old when darkness came knocking on my door. While reading a routine literature assignment, the evening quickly devolved into anything but ordinary. The text on the pages dissolved into a sea of bubbles. I squinted my eyes. I rested to refresh my eyes. I switched on a bright lamp to create more contrast on the reading pages. No matter what I did, nothing enabled me to see the words on the page in front of me.

The cold reality sliced through me like a knife through butter. This was it. The doctors’ predictions had come to fruition. I’d read my last page of print. Perhaps I’d watched my last football game. Seen my last sunset. Life as I had known it was coming to an end. I awoke to the morning of my new dark reality.

A Boa Constrictor of hopelessness wrapped itself around me and squeezed me tightly. It was hard to move. Hard to breathe. At university I’d entered the medical field because I wanted to help others and now I wasn’t even sure if I could help myself. I began to mourn the death of my imagined future self. We ask children all the time what they want to be when they grow up and none of them, and I mean none of them, say they want to be a blind person.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

While I’ve enjoyed many books over the course of my career, I’m compelled to mention the book I recently wrote that HarperCollins Leadership published — Blind Ambition: How to Go from Victim to Visionary.

I now know that I’ve been given a beautiful gift of blindness, disguised in some ugly wrapping paper. I’ve learned the keys to happiness, resilience, and success, and I’ve captured those lessons in my book.

I lost my vision to help others find theirs.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

“We become the stories we tell ourselves” is my favorite quote. It’s a lesson I’ve learned throughout the course of my life and it’s so simple, yet so profound. If you tell yourself a story of “I’m a victim” then that’s who you’ll be. If you tell yourself a story of “I’ve got this and I’m going to make it look good” then that’s who you can be.

I could’ve told myself that I went blind because I have terrible luck. Instead, I told myself that I went blind because I’m one of the few people on the planet with the strength and toughness to deal with it and use it to help others. Technically, both stories could be true. I reframed my struggle (blindness) into a strength (mental strength), enabling me to take on all life’s twists and turns.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leadership is putting others before you. It’s caring about other people. It’s having the courage to make the right decisions, and taking the hard actions even when they’re not popular or easy.

I learned these lessons from my friend and mentor Ben Gieseman. While on his team my wife and I were going through marital problems and had separated. She wanted to move back to Atlanta to be near her family and at the time we were living in the Northern Virginia area. Not only did he approve a job transfer on the spot, he also offered his house just in case I needed a place to stay while we figured things out. How often does that happen in a multibillion dollar company? It doesn’t happen — not with anyone else.

Ben cared and that’s why those of us on his team would run through walls for Ben Gieseman.

In life we come across many people, some who inspire us, some who change us and some who make us better people. Is there a person or people who have helped you get to where you are today? Can you share a story?

My friend and mentor mentioned above, Ben Gieseman, taught me many lessons in leadership in the time I worked for him. WE won billions of dollars in contracts and had an absolute blast doing it. Last year the final lesson Ben taught me is that our time on this earth is precious and it’s limited.

Ben Gieseman passed away last year at 53-years-old from an inoperable brain tumor. He left behind his lovely wife of 25 years and their three beautiful children. I had the honor of speaking at his celebration of life in June 2021 and it was fulfilling to see the hundreds of people in attendance who he had affected. Everyone had great stories about how he’d helped them.

Whatever you want to do with your life. Whomever you want to talk with. Whatever dreams you have. Goals you want to pursue. Help you want to giv. The time to act is now. Don’t delay. Our time is precious and it’s limited.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The United States is currently facing a series of unprecedented crises. So many of us see the news and ask how we can help. We’d love to talk about the steps that each of us can take to help heal our county, in our own way. Which particular crisis would you like to discuss with us today? Why does that resonate with you so much?

Our ability to have meaningful dialogue with those who have diverging points of view. This resonates with me because I’ve faced similar challenges while going blind.

I thought I could imagine what others face before I went blind. I’ve lived over twenty years in the mainstream majority and another twenty-plus years as a disabled minority. The ignorance, assumptions, and behaviors were breathtaking.

The key to navigating complex dynamics like these starts with talking with one another.

This is likely a huge topic. But briefly, can you share your view on how this crisis evolved to the boiling point that it’s at now?

It started with consumers of information. Interestingly, the general public-including myself-are the chief culprits. When we collectively decided to stop paying for news, we forced the news and media industry to migrate to a different business model.

News and media went to the online advertising model to fund their reporting and news. For example, CraigsList crushed paid classifieds so the media had to rethink monetization. All roads for news and media led to advertising.

Advertising creates incentive for sensationalism. Will readers click on an article if it’s not catchy? Well, based on the evolution of the media, we’re a society subject to clickbait. The news became less neutral and more polarizing.

Next, social media followed the same trend. With advertising as the dominant business model for social media companies, consumers began being served content that was both polarizing and tailored to their beliefs. Social media giants quickly realized it’s easier to keep people reading if they’re being served content they agree with. The more they read, the more ad revenue social media companies earn. So, when people hear others that don’t believe what they believe, people astonishingly wonder “how can they think that?,” because they think everyone is reading the same content — but they’re not. Everyone is reading opposing content and borderline indignant when others disagree.

Finally, the pandemic caused everyone to communicate virtually, creating layers of abstraction between diverging points of view. We then saw a rise in “keyboard cowboys,” who found it easier to hide behind their computer screen and hurl insults/blame at those with opposing views instead of meeting others where they are. Technology is great, but it makes it easier to dehumanize those whom we don’t agree with.

Can you tell our readers a bit about your experience either working on this cause or your experience being impacted by it? Can you share a story with us?

I’ve had people ask me who feeds my dog for me. I’ve had people tell my wife “tell your friend his dog is very cute,” as if I’m not capable of speaking, hearing, or evidently, marriage — she was my “friend.” I’ve had people tell me that the reason I went blind is because I wouldn’t let people pet my service dog while in harness.

People are shocked when they learn I work. They must assume I’m jobless and living off of the government. I’ve faced so many assumptions it’s hard to put into a short article.

But here’s what I know to be true: anytime we think we can imagine what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes, we’re wrong. Full stop. None of us can imagine. I thought I could imagine. When I went blind, I quickly recognized that I had no clue.

Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you please share your “5 Steps That Each Of Us Can Take To Proactively Help Heal Our Country”. Kindly share a story or example for each.

1 . Listen — When you talk with someone, don’t listen for your chance to talk. Listen to help the other person be understood. Listening is not about sending messages. It’s about learning from one another.

2 . Learn — Begin each conversation with a genuine sense of curiosity and just a dash of humility. Try to avoid the trap of knowing you’re right. Give the other person some credit in that they might have an experience you don’t.

Genetically, we’re 99.9% alike. It stands to reason that the differences among us must be due to the different experiences in our lives. We only know what our limited experiences have taught us.

When entering difficult conversations, it’s helpful to tell yourself, “I respect this person and their point of view. They believe what they believe due to the information they’ve collected. They must know something I don’t. I wonder what that is.” This short reset can create a learning mindset which makes us more capable of sharing, learning, and influencing others.

3. Empathize — Try to imagine facing what others face. Imagine going through their experiences. Really attempt to paint a picture of what they tell you. Listen to learn, and experience what they’ve experienced as much as you can. Don’t question it. Believe them and try to put yourself in that situation

This inevitably brings us closer together.

4. Use Less Technology — Technology is great when it’s the only option. For communication, especially those tough conversations about sensitive matters, do it in person. Be with the person and share the space with them. Feel the energy and human connection.

And if you have to use technology, ensure you’re not sending a communication electronically that you would not have the courage to send face-to-face.

5. Pay for News — We need to get back to paying for news! We need — desperately need-fact-based neutral reporting. We need to get away from the advertising model for information.

It’s very nice to suggest ideas, but what can we do to make these ideas a reality? What specific steps can you suggest to make these ideas actually happen? Are there things that the community can do to help you promote these ideas?

Share this with your friends and encourage them to listen to diverging points of view in person. Help them understand how crucial it is to listen to learn and not send messages. Seek to understand first, then we can be understood. Urge them to pay for news and avoid ad-based news services.

We are going through a rough period now. Are you optimistic that this issue can eventually be resolved? Can you explain?

I’m an eternal optimist. We can-and must-resolve it. The world is headed for the creation of a new world order if we don’t. There are certain organizations out there that want to wage a disinformation war to fracture the unity amongst us to sow the seeds of chaos needed to rebalance power in the world. We can fix it, but it starts with you — the reader.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

You have one life to live. How do you want to live it? Our time is limited. Leave the earth better than you found it. Make a difference. Do it tomorrow may not come.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson- because he has the social reach to impact the way millions of people think about making a difference in our world.

How can our readers follow you online?

Amazon Book Page: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1400222648?tag=hcleadership-20

Website: https://chadefoster.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FindChadEFoster

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/FindChadEFoster

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/chadfoster

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ChadEFoster

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!


Chad E. Foster of Red Hat: 5 Steps That Each Of Us Can Take To Proactively Help Heal Our Country was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Brand Makeovers: Vincent Snijders of LogoSharp On The 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and…

Brand Makeovers: Vincent Snijders of LogoSharp On The 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image

…It’s important to build trust. When you’re starting a new business, it can be a challenge to get others — be it customers, vendors, or investors — to trust you. That’s why it helps to take the old-school advice of “dressing for the job you want.”

As part of our series about “Brand Makeovers” I had the pleasure to interview Vincent Snijders.

Vincent Snijders is a 35 year old male from the Netherlands. He started his first company at the age of 20. Vincent is the owner of LogoSharp.com also based in the Netherlands. LogoSharp.com is his 6th successful company that he has started since 2013.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

We needed to create a lot of logo designs for marketing campaigns of our clients. We found that most online solutions do not provide a complete logo package with all the files/ formats that they might need, just low resolution images. A lot of clients came to us with low resolution logo images that we could not use for their marketing campaign. The result of this was that our clients needed to re-brand already in their startup phase, resulting in delays of the planned marketing campaigns.

We came up with LogoSharp.com. LogoSharp is an easy to use online logo making solution that is affordable and also provides all the logo files a startup would need, to run a successful marketing campaign.

Can you share a story about the funniest marketing or branding mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When I first launched logosharp I found out that the checkout was not working on the website for a couple of days. This happened after testing before the launch. However I needed to change a few things after the launch in the code and I did not re-test the checkout. Resulting in lost orders for a few days. I now double check everything!

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Is there a takeaway or lesson that others can learn from that?

The development of LogoSharp took about one year. We got a lot of positive feedback during the development. After a year of trial and error. I finally started to get clients and call LogoSharp a success.

I would suggest everyone to follow their dreams no matter how long it will take.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Yes we are working on new design platforms for industries other than logos that is meant for end consumers. Unfortunately I cannot disclose any information about it yet!

What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?

Getting enough sleep is crucial to your health and happiness. Make sure you exercise rather than sitting behind the computer all day. Make sure you set a boundary between work and your private live.

Ok, let’s now jump to the core part of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?

You need a brand to be able to promote your product. Without a brand you will not have a stable returning client base. It’s important that your clients can recognize not only the product but also your brand.

Product Marketing

Product marketing is just what it sounds like: it’s all about the product in your marketing message.

This may be product advantages, a special deal, or even a case study, but whatever strategy you use, the message should be focused on the product rather than the business.

Brand Marketing

Rather than focusing on a single product, this method of marketing focuses on the company’s principles, ideals, and speech.

It’s used to gain customer buy-in and loyalty, as well as promote the brand as one that consumers want to be associated with.

Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?

It’s important to Build trust. When you’re starting a new business, it can be a challenge to get others — be it customers, vendors, or investors — to trust you. That’s why it helps to take the old-school advice of “dressing for the job you want.”

Before a person tries your product or service, they assess appearance. Think about if you visit a mediocre website or get handed a business card that looks dated. It doesn’t instill trust or confidence, does it? You’re probably not going to jump to purchase something or contact someone for more information.

In contrast, a strong brand can inspire someone who doesn’t know anything about your business to start to gain trust and interest in what you deliver. It can also help build loyalty over time, as your business grows and gains fans — you need only think of your favorite coffee shop logo and how seeing it on a someone’s cup in the morning makes you feel.

By designing a great logo and putting it on your website and other customer-facing materials, you can immediately convey that you mean business. And because 70% of companies say it’s cheaper to retain a customer than acquire a new one, the more you can do to build trust, the stronger your business will be.

Let’s now talk about rebranding. What are a few reasons why a company would consider rebranding?

To boost your brand in competitive marketing.

There are certain symbols that come to represent particular industries or products. For example, how many pizza places have you seen with a logo that features an Italian, mustachioed chef with a tall white hat and a wide grin? Maybe holding a ridiculously huge pizza? A good logo reflects who you are, but it should also distinguish you from everybody else. A good logo should dare to be different.

Facilitates brand loyalty

From time to time, a company will redesign their logo, perhaps to update their look or reflect some other corporate change. As a marketer, I get this. As a consumer, I hate it. When I’ve become accustomed to my favorite brands’ logo and they change it, I feel a little betrayed. Now I’ve got to retrain my brain to look for something new. Brand loyalty is huge and something every business needs to foster. A recognizable and familiar logo goes a long way toward building brand loyalty.

Be everywhere

Placing your logo on all of your marketing, packaging, products, social media, website, etc. is a way to advertise your brand and your message consistently, whether it’s in the store, in your customers’ homes, online, i.e., everywhere you want to be. If you’ve developed your brand message and successfully tied it to your logo, everything you do and create becomes associated with the logo and the brand.

Are there downsides of rebranding? Are there companies that you would advise against doing a “Brand Makeover”? Why?

Avoid Tropicana’s Famous Failure

Rebranding isn’t always a success.

Many multinational corporations have tried and failed to rebrand themselves in the past.

Perhaps the worst of these was the Tropicana rebrand in 2009.

Tropicana hired ad agency Arnell in 2008 and spent months (and $35 million) rebranding the business, only to lose $20 million in revenue in the first month.

They went back to their original design after just 30 days.

Their mistake is now a case study of one of the worst rebrands in history.

Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Can you share 5 strategies that a company can do to upgrade and re-energize their brand and image”? Please tell us a story or an example for each.

1.Design your logo

A logo is probably one of the first things that come to mind when you think about building a brand. And for good reason. It’s the face of your company after all, and could potentially be everywhere that your brand exists.

Ideally, you’ll want a logo that’s unique, identifiable, and that’s scalable to work at all sizes (which is often overlooked).

Consider all the places where your brand’s logo needs to exist, from your website to your Facebook Page’s profile picture to even the little “favicons” you see in your current browser tab.

If you have a text logo as your Instagram avatar, for example, it’ll be almost impossible to read. To make your life easier, get a square version of your logo that has an icon element that remains recognizable even at smaller sizes.

2.Research your target audience and your competitors.

Before you start making any decisions about your brand, you need to understand the current market: who your potential customers and current competitors are.

There are many ways to do this:

Google your product or service category and analyze direct and indirect competitors that come up.

Check subreddits that relate to your customers and eavesdrop on their conversations and product recommendations.

Talk to people who are part of your target market and ask them what brands they buy from in your space.

Look at the relevant social media accounts or pages your target audience follows and are receptive to.

Go shopping online or offline and get a feel for how your customers would browse and buy products.

3. Pick your brand’s colors

Choosing your colors.

Colors don’t just define the look of your brand; they also convey the feeling you want to communicate and help you make it consistent across your entire brand. You’ll want to choose colors that differentiate you from direct competitors to avoid confusing consumers.

4. Write a slogan

A catchy slogan is a nice-to-have asset — something brief and descriptive that you can put in your Twitter bio, website headline, business card, and anywhere else where you’ve got very few words to make a big impact.

5. Fonts

Choosing your fonts

It’s also good to look at fonts you might want to use on your website.

Pick two fonts at most to avoid unnecessarily confusing visitors: one for headings and one for body text (this doesn’t include the font you might use in your logo).

In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job doing a “Brand Makeover” What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?

McDonald’s revamped the menu to include healthy choices including salads and wraps, as well as the launch of McCafé concessions that offer luxury coffees and herbal teas.

McDonald’s has grown from strength to strength since then, with an annual average growth estimate of 4%.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Covid is currently wreaking havoc on the hospitality industry.

I was considering how I could assist them.

You could raise funds by hosting a dinner party for your relatives or friends.

When you team up with a local restaurant, you can use a percentage of the night’s proceeds to help your cause and other struggling local businesses in the same way.

That way, we’ll all be able to support each other!

Can you please give us your favourite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Never give up, follow your dreams” In my 15 year career there where numerous people in my life that said “it will not work”. With all my projects I have proven them wrong. I never gave up with any of the projects I have started, even when it had no revenue the first year. All the projects I believed in turned out to be successful.

How can our readers follow you online?

https://www.logosharp.com


Brand Makeovers: Vincent Snijders of LogoSharp On The 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Empathy: Ron Gura’s Big Idea That Might Change The World

If you’re not spending 50% of your time as a founder on team building and recruitment, you’re doing it wrong.

As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Ron Gura.

Ron Gura is the Co-Founder & CEO of Empathy and a tech entrepreneur who has brought his love for developing empowering products to startups and major international corporations alike. As SVP at WeWork, Ron started and oversaw a global R&D center of 250 team members, responsible for the tools and systems that helped the company scale operationally. Previously, Ron served as Entrepreneur in Residence at Aleph, a $550M early-stage venture capital fund. Prior to that, Ron served as a Product Director and GM at eBay, leading a business incubation organization. Ron joined eBay as a result of the 2011 acquisition of The Gifts Project, a social-commerce startup where he served as Co-Founder & CEO.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you please tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Entrepreneurship is not a career path for me, but rather a way of life that allows me to keep my personal and work identities aligned. I grew up in a household where entrepreneurship was the default and only choice. I saw firsthand the pros and cons of making your customers a priority, working long hours, and harnessing unlimited purpose and fulfillment. The focus was on finding a problem domain that is unanswered, and dedicating several years, if not your entire career, obsessing over a solution domain. This was my mindset when creating Empathy. I had seen the ways in which the loss of a loved one can be demanding not only emotionally but also logistically, and yet no system existed to walk bereaved families through the processes that come after they lose someone close. We needed a solution, and so I became determined to find one.

Can you please share with us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

A decade ago, together with close friends and family, I co-founded “The Gifts Project,” a small social-commerce startup focused on “group gifting.” A year in, we struck a major deal with eBay — they wanted us to make our platform available on their homepage just in time for the holiday season, so people could chip in together to purchase a bigger, better gift for Christmas. Needless to say, the increase in traffic to our service was immense. All of a sudden, a few 26-year-old kids in Tel Aviv were dealing with literally millions of users a day, sleeping in the office in shifts to make sure nothing broke. It was an exhilarating adventure, and it completely changed our business. eBay ended up acquiring the company a few months later.

Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?

Resilience and empathy are key principles for me.

When it comes to resilience, I view Roosevelt’s “The Man in the Arena” as perhaps the greatest rhetorical moment in history, as it distilled the understanding that taking action is what matters the most. While it’s important to hear the voice of the naysayer, we shouldn’t listen or accept the critics who don’t try to change reality themselves. Founders fight and push, day in and day out, to make sure they’re testing their thesis fully and trying to create a new reality.

Empathy is about putting yourself in someone else’s shoes; it has the potential to radically transform society. I try to personally follow that value and principle in everything I do, whether it’s product management, sales, talent acquisition, or everyday family life. The act of trying to feel or identify with someone else’s feelings changes your relationship with them entirely. It brings you to where they are; you are no longer asking someone “what can I do to help?” instead, you’re asking “what can we do so we can both overcome these challenges together?”

Ok thank you for that. Let’s now move to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?

My team and I developed a platform called Empathy that we are confident will change the world, or at the very least make grief just a little bit more manageable. It’s an app designed to help families navigate the journey they face after losing a loved one.

Loss doesn’t skip anyone. What most people don’t think about when discussing loss are the additional burdens that come with it: the logistics. On average, there are 500 hours of tasks, paperwork, and bureaucracy to manage in the days, months, and even years following a loss.

Due to the inherent optimism of human nature, there is a tendency to avoid uncomfortable topics like death, and as a result the industry has been left largely untouched by the kind of innovation that could immensely ease the burden placed on the shoulders of grieving families. Empathy is changing that; my co-founder and friend Yonatan Bergman and I decided to face the issue head-on and build an app that streamlines the logistics following loss, guiding families through all of these challenges, and taking on some of the burden for them.

How do you think this will change the world?

Death is undoubtedly a taboo subject, and utilizing technology to address such a sensitive topic compounds this effect. We utilize technology to minimize logistics, and so enable more family time, and more care and attention to the emotional side of grieving and coping. We don’t strive to replace human connection — we strive to make more room for it.

With that in mind, we know that Empathy can make a positive contribution to the larger conversation about loss in our society. It’s not just about grief, it’s also about the day-to-day, the coping, and the practical work. Wrapping up a loved one’s affairs and carrying out their final wishes will never be easy for those grieving a loss. 500+ hours of paperwork and practicalities are like another whole job, one that no one accounts for. Our friends and acquaintances, our colleagues and workplaces — expectations need to be adjusted in our society around what loss entails, so that we can all be better at supporting people coping with it. That includes bereavement leave (which currently is not mandated by law in the US) and resources from your workplace, it includes continuity of care from senior living and hospice care, and it includes updated expectations around what grief looks like and how we as individuals can better support each other.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this idea that people should think more deeply about?

One of the laws of unintended consequences includes unexpected benefits. The negative effects of the taboo around death are evident. When people don’t discuss death, they are left unprepared and vulnerable. The philosopher Martin Heidegger claimed that in order to lead a meaningful and authentic life, we need to overcome our inherent nature of avoiding thinking about death and face the idea that life is temporary. While there may be some hard truths to face when thinking about death, the potential benefits outweigh the potential drawbacks.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?

As an entrepreneur, I look for sectors that are ripe for disruption. The lack of tech available to help those dealing with end-of-life issues was a problem domain I had kept coming back to for years, and I decided to properly research it. It’s that research that ultimately led to Empathy.

I was no stranger to loss in my own life, and it’s also vividly present in some of my closest circles, but when I started actively learning about grief, loss, and bereavement, my eyes were opened. When you really look at families experiencing loss, the idea that what they need is “disruption” starts to seem too small, limited, even trivial.

What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?

We have already launched Empathy across the US. We have brought in a team of leading experts in grief, software engineering, and estate law in order to ensure that the fruition of this idea is as all-encompassing as possible in order to ease as much of the burden on bereaved families as we can. In order to spread the idea widely, we aim to push for meaningful change in US policy, be that in bereavement leave, death care, or bereavement standards, with the goal of raising awareness about the issues brought on by death, and the extreme logistical burdens that come with the loss of a loved one.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Schedule everything that matters to you. If it’s not on your calendar, you’ll never get to it..
  2. If you’re not spending 50% of your time as a founder on team building and recruitment, you’re doing it wrong.
  3. Be decisive in cutting toxicity. It will pay dividends.
  4. Naivety can be your most powerful asset — embrace that naivety as the hidden blessing it is.
  5. Don’t work on weekends.

Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?

Never stop being curious, and never fear asking the “stupid question.” You miss out on a lot of opportunities if you never ask questions.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I’ll keep it simple — my pitch or ask would be to keep up the amazing global momentum of mission-driven companies that are aiming to solve real, meaningful, complex problems for humanity.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

https://twitter.com/empathy_app

https://www.instagram.com/empathy_com/

https://www.facebook.com/empathyforfamilies/

https://www.linkedin.com/company/empathy-com/

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


Empathy: Ron Gura’s Big Idea That Might Change The World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Non-Fungible Tokens: Jonathan Rosen On The 5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly Successful…

Non-Fungible Tokens: Jonathan Rosen On The 5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly Successful Career In The NFT Industry

Believe in your work. If you believe in it, others will too. This is a very new space, and everyone is trying to find their footing. Let your work be your guiding light.

Many have observed that we are at the cusp of an NFT boom. The thing is, it’s so cutting edge, that many people don’t know what it is. What exactly is an NFT and how can one create a lucrative career out of selling them? To address this, as a part of our interview series called “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly Successful Career In The NFT Industry”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Jonathan Rosen.

Jonathan Rosen is a NYC-based language artist who works with mixed-media collage and interactive digital technologies through which he explores his interest in human possibilities. Rosen received a B.A. from University of Florida and a M.S. from VCU Brandcenter for advertising — launching the next 10 years of his career as an award-winning advertising creative and commercial film director. Since Rosen transitioned into visual art, he’s had exhibitions in NYC, Sydney, Taipei, Paris, Hong Kong and recently participated in museum shows in Shanghai, Chengdu, Florida and at the Smithsonian in DC. His work lives in collections around the world — including pieces in the permanent collections of The LiveStrong Foundation, Bloomingdales, Pandora Music, Colette in Paris.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory and how you grew up?

I grew up in suburban beach life in Long Beach, New York. I was a shy and scared kid, but always a big daydreamer. Going to Space Camp in Huntsville Alabama by myself at age 12 was transformative. I learned I didn’t want to be a scientist or air force pilot to be an astronaut, but it laid the groundwork for me to explore new worlds on this planet and the stories floating around in my head. Working in a sneaker store as a teenager led me to Nike which led me to a career as a creative in advertising. It was an exciting and creative career that led to me living in NYC, London, Amsterdam and Sydney. I eventually started directing commercials and short films, which led me to co-founding Lucky Branded Entertainment (one of the first hybrid agency/production companies).

Is there a particular book, film, or podcast that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

That’s a hard question as there are so many influences I could mention, but if I was being honest with the GenX dork inside me, it has to be Star Wars. I probably wouldn’t have gone to Space Camp, film school and lived around the world the way I did without that film.

Is there a particular story that inspired you to pursue a career in this new industry? We’d love to hear it.

We were close to selling 51% of Lucky to a big communications company and when that deal fell through at the 11th hour it made me reevaluate everything. Who I was as a creative person. My life’s purpose. My contributions to the world. While at the time it was agonizing to go through, it made me yearn to use my creativity and my voice to tell the stories I wanted to share through visual art. So, six months later, I left Lucky and became an artist. The rest is history.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this fascinating career?

When I first got it into art, I had a bit of imposter syndrome. I didn’t go to art school or have the same art-insider contacts. Then by pure luck I was seen in a small Australian fashion magazine by the owner of the concept store and gallery, Colette in Paris. She invited me to exhibit in November of 2015, which turned out to be a few days after the 2015 Paris attacks. I wanted to cancel or at least delay the exhibition, but she was adamant that the show must go on and that if we didn’t try to go back to a normal life the terrorists would win. It was a very important learning experience for me when it came to perseverance and “rolling with it.” With encouragement from Colette’s owner, I ended up making a new piece titled I WANT PEACE that I created in the middle of the gallery floor and the showcase piece, I WANT TO DREAM (A blackboard people can write their dreams on) had new meaning in light of the attacks. I had some very deep, emotional and powerful conversations with onlookers about how my art has the power to heal and create change. From then on, I was an imposter no longer and truly an artist. Also, Karl Lagerfeld’s tweet that he loved the show didn’t hurt.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I was preparing for one of my first solo exhibitions and I had canvases all over the floor in different states of progress. I just painted the canvas a bright red and while it was drying, I stepped out to get some food. When I returned there were paw prints all over it. My 3-year-old French Bulldog denied the accusation, but he was literally caught “red-handed.” What I learned from that is not to be attached to perfection because mistakes can be an opportunity for something new.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My husband and fellow artist, Tom Smith, always knew I was an artist. I had bad handwriting and I couldn’t draw or paint, I had limiting beliefs and could not see the same possibility he saw in myself. After going on work trips to Art Basel with him, I started to be open to the breadth of art in its many forms. Conceptual and language-based art really spoke to me and my advertising roots. So, after one Art Basel trip I made my first piece; I WANT TO BE A ROCKSTAR, made from 800 concert tickets stubs I collected over the years. What I thought was a once-off “hobby” piece quickly got into a group show and sold. The rest is history. I wouldn’t have had the courage to make such a radical and unpredictable career shift without Tom’s encouragement and sounding board every step of the way.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Yes. I’m debuting my new digital art NFTs out in very public art spaces. First a preview show with W1Curates on the 36-screen corner building facade in the heart of Oxford Street in London. Then displaying them on the 7-story Nasdaq Tower in Times Square NYC. After a year of being stuck inside, digital art was a natural evolution of my practice. Then in the early part of 2021 NFTs exploded, but now that world is vaccinated and getting back outside, I wanted to bring this new digital medium out in the world — and in a big way. My work is about human possibility. The good, the bad and everything in between, so I hope when people see my work out in public that they momentarily reflect on what they want and who they still want to be.

Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. I’m sure you get this question all the time. But for the benefit of our readers, can you explain in your own words what an NFT is, and why people are spending so much money on them?

NFTs (or Non fungible Tokens) are digital artworks that are paired with a smart contract (digital certificate of ownership). The smart contract is “minted” using Ethereum’s blockchain technology which verifies its authenticity through hundreds of decentralized verification checks called nodes. The smart contract is like a certificate of authenticity that usually comes when you buy physical artworks. While there could be many copies of the NFT digital file, it’s the smart contract which verifies the ownership. For example, many people take photos of the Mona Lisa, but only the Louvre truly owns it. The token holder of that NFT is the only one who can resell it.

The NFT industry seems so exciting right now. What are the 3 things in particular that most excite you about the industry? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

  1. “Gamification” — What I love about NFTs is that it pushes the boundaries of how people experience art and can continue long after it’s created. NFT Gamification comes in many innovative flavors: Coded into the smart contract, artists can create outcome based NFT’s that unlock additional rewards if certain measures are met (like collecting four NFTs from a collection gives you access to a secret NFT) or the artwork can be personalized by whoever is the current owner of the work.
  2. My NFTs were born out of my interactive mirror series titled Dream Machines. The mirrors are “time-based” media sculptures, as the piece changes for a viewer over a period of time. NFTs can take this type of viewing experience to new levels with work that morphs, degrades and changes over time.
  3. Like blue-chip art, high-priced and famous NFT pieces are starting to act as collateral in which people can borrow against. This is proving that this digital art form has staying power and a substantial commodity.

What are the 3 things that concern you about the industry? Can you explain? What can be done to address those concerns?

1. Predictions of market & over minting of editions — Current predictions of the market are mixed saying the bubble may have burst while other reports state in early May, over $102 million NFTs were sold in one day. During the peak of NFT hype, marketplaces and their artists were making hundreds of editions of the same NFT. To me creators need to preserve a form of rarity or uniqueness or they will not retain their original value. Personally, I would only collect 1-of-1 unique pieces.

2. Celebrities/Brands — There were a lot of brands and people of notoriety (who are not artists) who got on the NFT bandwagon (and did quite well for themselves). However, the NFTs they created were most often not very good, oversaturated the market and made it harder for underrepresented digital artists to break in.

3. Let the NFTs free! — Currently when an artist mints a NFT (and a collector buys it) on a particular marketplace it is stuck there, meaning it can’t be transferred or resold and put on another platform. So, moving forward there needs to be a solution where NFTs can move freely between marketplaces, while also allowing for artist royalties to go to their rightful place.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about NFTs? Can you explain what you mean?

A lot has already been written about the environmental impacts of NFTs (as well as mining cryptocurrency), so I’m not going to belabor the point. NFTs use a lot of energy, but so do our laptops, our streaming services, our cars, etc. What I do want to point out that in about 6 months, Ethereum (the blockchain technology that most NFTs live on) is moving to a new L2 ‘proof-of-stake’ verification system which will make the energy used to mint an NFT a fraction of what it previously cost and new NFT scaling protocols and ecosystems like Palm and Polygon will make it even more efficient. While this will solve NFTs impact on the environment, we still have a ton of work to do in other sectors if we’re going to solve our planet’s climate crisis.

What are the most common mistakes you have seen people make when they enter the NFT industry? What can be done to avoid that?

  • New NFT artists think they can mint a NFT and it will sell. Like any artform you need to give you and your work meaning. Then share that with a greater community until it’s embraced and thus valued.
  • NFT Artists should look beyond just the static image or video by pushing the medium and technology.
  • Coming from the traditional art world I was only on Instagram. I still have a steep hill to climb to build up my Twitter, Discord and Clubhouse know-how and followings — all of which is where NFT collectors and crypto peeps hang out.

How do you think NFTs have the potential to help society in the future?

Visual artists are not entitled to royalties when their work is resold and goes to auctions. Now with NFT smart contracts those royalties are built in and artists can be fairly compensated, especially when art appreciates over time. However, bigger than just the art world, NFTs have a chance to radically change the web, social media, content, streaming, music and the news. Art is just an early case study on how the world could be tokenized and creators in ALL spaces get paid fairly.

Ok, fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly Successful Career In The NFT Industry?” (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. R&D — I took a good six months exploring the space before I minted my first NFT. Research the art. The collectors. The critics. The technology. Then I took more time to see how I could push my art, so it maximizes the medium. Don’t just drop a drop.
  2. Your uniqueness is an opportunity — the reason it took me so long to make NFTs is because there were no other language-based NFT artists in the space and I couldn’t imagine how I would fit in. I would have saved myself a lot of time, if I could have transformed my perceived weakness into an opportunity to tell a new story to a new community of digital art aficionados.
  3. Find collaborators — While I’m tech-able, I still need a coder. You may need a musician, a filmmaker, a 3D artist to bring your creation to life. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, as you will be helping others utilize their skills and hopefully some coin.
  4. Promote it and then promote it some more — Find where the NFT community is and engage and share your work with them.
  5. Believe in your work. If you believe in it, others will too. This is a very new space, and everyone is trying to find their footing. Let your work be your guiding light.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

A portion of every NFT sale and resale and resale after that, will be given to do something good in the world for perpetuity.

We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Going back to my earlier answer, I’d have to say Dave Filoni. I would love to pick his brain about galaxies far far away.

Thank you so much for these excellent stories and insights. We wish you continued success on your great work!


Non-Fungible Tokens: Jonathan Rosen On The 5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly Successful… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: Eddie Ibanez of MKTSQ On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The…

The Future Is Now: Eddie Ibanez of MKTSQ On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

If you have a passion and an idea, go all in and pursue it. I love traveling, it’s a big part of my life, that’s why I decide to create MKTSQ in order to make people get excited about booking travel again. I finally found happiness in life when I decided to pursue what I am passionate about.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs I had the pleasure of interviewing Eddie Ibanez.

Eddie Ibanez is a technology entrepreneur and pioneer in computer tech and data patterns. As a teenager, Ibanez successfully hacked AOL from his bedroom and pursued computer science until attending MIT where he was recruited out to work for a government agency in cyber security, developing software that reverse-engineers the location of known government and terrorist threats. Eddie contributed to the KNN method in mathematics and the collective experience helped pave the way for the launch of his first company, Zenabi. Zenabi is an AI and advanced analytics firm used to help companies unlock the potential in their user data. In 2016, Zenabi Analytics was acquired by Priceline to replace their marketing automation platform where Ibanez was appointed Chief Scientist before leaving to develop MKTSQ.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Thanks for having me! What brought me where I am today is a combination of my passion for travel and my purpose in life is to democratize and use the internet to help people navigate financial success. With MKTSQ, I want to properly reward great destinations, great products, and people who make great content.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Where do I start, I have so many! One of it is probably jumping out of cell phone towers with my friends for work. But it’s all fun!

Can you tell us about the cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

We’ve created a platform so that people can find interesting products/destinations to purchase through amazing content made by content creators instead of the usual mundane, static images you see when online shopping. We use data driven AI to understand people’s shopping patterns to give users a curated view of what to purchase as well as a a proprietary checkout system allowing for multiple brand purchases & experiences within a single cart for a seamless buying experience.

We also give people the opportunity to monetize the content they make and once we go further and rolled out, everyone will have the opportunity to become a creator on MTSQ.

How do you think this might change the world?

We’re changing the world because we think differently. We aim to change the way people travel and how people will experience purchasing products through experience and through video content.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

I wouldn’t say there are any drawbacks, if anything, there’s a drawback in our favor to the users. We represent the users and not MKTSQ, so we aim to always advocate for them first.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

COVID was definitely the tipping point. Being home all the time made it possible for me to develop and grow the idea that had into a reality. With traveling being paused as a result of the pandemic, I wanted to build a platform that gets them excited to travel again once restrictions lift.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

To communicate my voice and share my idea with influential people! Word of mouth amongst a group of th right people can go a long way.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

We have been working with influencers as they are key for this product. I’m using patented algorithms I’ve developed over the years and emerge what people want, predict what they want and what I have in inventory for them and using that intelligence in order to get them to plant them

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I wouldn’t be here without Christopher J. Buch, who has always believed in me when no one else did.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I love kids so I started a charity to help young unfortunate kids & show them how to gain success in life no matter what their backgrounds are.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

1. Always read the fine print of any business agreement, every tiny thing is very crucial. Review everything down to the appendix.

2. Don’t compare your opportunities with what other people have & focus on the opportunities that you own. When I stopped comparing myself to others, that’s when I grew, both personally and profesionally.

3. If you have a passion and an idea, go all in and pursue it. I love traveling, it’s a big part of my life, that’s why I decide to create MKTSQ in order to make people get excited about booking travel again. I finally found happiness in life when I decided to pursue what I am passionate about.

4. Fundraising for business is as important as developing the product, I had past instances where I had a great products but lack of funds which in turn slowed down they’re growth and maximum potential.

5. Marketing a great product is more important than stocking up on inventory. When you have a great product, then the demand for inventory will follow.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would love to get the opportunity to support and help every single person to do what they love and be fairly paid for doing what they love.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Do what you love! If you have a passion, go all in.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

My pitch varies from person to person so would have to actually do it in person!


The Future Is Now: Eddie Ibanez of MKTSQ On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Wisdom From The Women Leading The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries, With Nancy Beaton of VCOIN

Surround yourself with smart women. Build a circle of trust at work and in life. Build each other up and support each other. We do not need to be in competition, we need to work in collaboration.

The Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality & Mixed Reality Industries are so exciting. What is coming around the corner? How will these improve our lives? What are the concerns we should keep an eye out for? Aside from entertainment, how can VR or AR help work or other parts of life? To address this, as a part of our interview series called “Women Leading The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Nancy Beaton.

Nancy Beaton is the Vice-President of Strategy at Together Labs, the technology parent company behind the leading friend discovery metaverse and social app IMVU and VCOIN, an ERC-20 token, built on Ethereum. Nancy Beaton currently leads efforts to turn the economy of IMVU, one of the largest virtual 3D worlds, into the next generation of market exchange through blockchain technology and VCOIN, which lets all users hold, earn and exit the platform with real value.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory and how you grew up?

Nancy Beaton: I’m a “good” Midwesterner, born and raised most of my life in Kansas before moving to Colorado to help start a tech company in Boulder. While both my parents started as teachers, my dad eventually found his way to politics and ended up being one of the longest-serving Lt. Governors of the state. And, growing up it seemed like a lot of obligations at the time, but traveling the state with him and going to dinners, press conferences and even having my family be visible in the media really exposed me to a lot that my formal education did not.

On the more formal side of my upbringing I have three degrees (BA in Rhetoric, MS in Journalism and an MBA) as I need to be continuously learning which likely contributed to me typically jumping at new career opportunities that challenged me — which is also why I think I was so attracted to starting new businesses, especially in the ever-changing environment of tech.

Is there a particular book, film, or podcast that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

As I mentioned before I have an insatiable appetite to learn, there isn’t one touchstone book or podcast that had an impact on me…I listen to and read as many as I can. I can tell you that growing when getting in trouble, my dad would always say, “well, what did you think would happen?” This was a common phrase in my house and likely hit meet more than a single market strategy from an Olgivy book. It left me always thinking through scenarios, what would happen and a bit of strategic game play when it came to business.

Is there a particular story that inspired you to pursue a career in the X Reality industry? We’d love to hear it.

We have all seen the Ready Player One type movies, Westworlds and others that portray the idea of a unified experience across the Metaverse and I personally believe these are all a matter of “when” and not “if”. I have been fortunate enough to be on the forefront of some great tech plays and believe in the power of what X Reality, what it can bring to users and how it can shape the market.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I am a firm believer that we achieve our ultimate success with help from others. It is key to surround ourselves with friends, mentors, bosses and colleagues who make us better and stretch us to play at the top of our game. It is why I feel lucky to have had strong mentors and why I choose to be a mentor in programs such as TechStars.

Specifically, I am fortunate to have first, a strong group of women that I call friends, mentors, colleagues and part of my circle of trust that I can turn to for any part of my life — — professional and personal. For any woman, young or old, this is essential. Things are different for women and we need others who understand and can support us.

On the business side, I would say that I have been in business some way or another with John Burris, Chief Strategy Officer for Together Labs, for the past 20 years. He pushes me to recognize what I am capable of, even when I might not see it myself, is something for which I am grateful. And, while we challenge each other, the friendship, friendship of our families and his guidance has helped me reach where I am today.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

VCOIN. This is the first digital currency that can be earned in a virtual world and transferred off of the platform and converted to real cash for people to us in the real world. Based on Blockchain technology, this puts control in the hands of earners in virtual worlds, games and communities and enables users to turn the love of the game and the time they spend to real money.

Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. The VR, AR and MR industries seem so exciting right now.b What in particular most excites you about the industry? Can you explain or give an example?

What excites me most is the immersive nature that VR, AR and MR deliver to users. I already see it with my eight year old son who dives deep into Minecraft on his Oculus because “it feels more real”. His expectations are already high when it comes to what you can do with technology and eventually AR,VR and MR will meet and exceed those expectations.

Secondly, I believe that when you combine these technologies with other new and exciting technologies such as blockchain, NFTs and other forms of user control and interaction the market will really begin to take off in a meaningful way.

What concerns you about the VR, AR and MR industries? Can you explain? What can be done to address those concerns?

Right now, the most proven business case is gaming with just a few standout examples. And, don’t get me wrong, gaming is a great industry in which to have success — it is bigger than Movies and North American sports combined. Obviously, we are huge fans of the game and social gaming industry.

But for the AR, VR and MR industries to really take hold we need to see proven business models in other industries as well. This will be a matter of time as the technology becomes more widely adopted with access in lower-priced devices and accessibility across devices in everyone’s hands. This is when it will turn from a “novel science” to a useful product.

Are there other ways that VR, AR and MR can improve our lives? Can you explain?

Definitely. VR, AR and MR have great capabilities in the areas of health care — which is front and center on everyone’s minds right now, construction proof of concepts, mapping with AR and arts and galleries creating more immersive experiences than listening to guided tours on headsets.

Let’s zoom out a bit and talk in broader terms. Are you currently satisfied with the status quo regarding women in STEM? If not, what specific changes do you think are needed to change the status quo?

I think there is always room for improvement — especially when it comes to women in STEM. I think we address this starting at the roots:

First, we need to highlight more women in STEM. As we discussed before, no one gets to the top of their game without mentors. It makes it even harder when you don’t see anyone like you as a successful leader, harder to find a mentor to help you navigate a sometimes difficult path, and harder to see yourself in the field at all.

Secondly, we need to share more of what STEM is — Amazon is STEM, Facebook is STEM, Google is STEM, Snap is STEM. We need to attract more young women to the field with the products, companies and interests they know and have today. It starts in school where it should be core to the curriculum and not an after-school offering to join STEM as it is in many classrooms today.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about working in your industry? Can you explain what you mean?

Virtual experiences are more than just fun games. These experiences truly connect users, create friendships and give users a means to make a living. Unlike just scrolling through curated social posts, true virtual experiences — like those we have at Together Labs — can create healthy social environments with new friends and give users a way to turn the time they spend in the game into a way to make real value.

For example, in IMVU, our users provide all of the virtual goods and services on the platform. Now, those that are wedding officiants, avatar editors, personal shoppers can provide services, earn a digital currency (VCOIN) and convert that VCOIN to real cash. When you hear from this Producers, as we call them, connect with users, provide a valuable service and earn real money. Very different from a traditional first-person shooter experience on a console.

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience as a Woman in Tech” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

Five leadership lessons…wow, after this many years in tech, I have learned a lot.

  1. Both men and women are smart, many times only men believe they are smart enough. Too many anecdotes on this one to choose just one.
  2. Both men and women are smart, many times only men believe they are smart enough. I am saying it twice because it is that important.
  3. Walk into the room like you belong there…because you do. When I was younger in my career we went to Japan to research a new product offering and how to bring it to market. As was the custom at that time, they had two tables facing each other (one for our team and one for the partner’s team). Name tags were placed from center to the end based upon professional hierarchy. Being one of only two women my name tag was at the end — although I was second in seniority. Without causing embarrassment I picked up my name tag and moved it to the middle to sit across from my partner counterpart.
  4. Always be learning, be watching, be listening. Unfortunately, oftentimes a weakness of women in tech is that we don’t feel we belong — or it has been so hard to be recognized, you sometimes question that. So we are always trying to improve, to listen to what people need and carefully watching. Use this as your superpower — and you will quickly surpass those that stagnantly rely on only what they possess today and ego.
  5. Surround yourself with smart women. Build a circle of trust at work and in life. Build each other up and support each other. We do not need to be in competition, we need to work in collaboration.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Free good education to everyone. It is a great equalizer and can also be a great barrier. I have been fortunate to be born into a circumstance and environment where it was available, valued and made accessible. But not everyone has that opportunity and they should. It should be a basic right.

We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

There are so many.

A living leader — likely Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx. I love her drive and grit, even when she got into an industry she didn’t know. And, even today she hasn’t lost that drive, nor the desire to change women’s lives.

The nerd in me — I have always been fascinated by the Algonquin Roundtable — the idea that smart, sassy and well-read people would get together and banter and collaborate every day at lunch is my cup of tea.To be part of that once would be amazing.

Thank you so much for these excellent stories and insights. We wish you continued success on your great work!


Wisdom From The Women Leading The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries, With Nancy Beaton of VCOIN was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Erika Cramer of The Queen of Confidence: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To…

Erika Cramer of The Queen of Confidence: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient

Get around mentors, coaches and others who are resilient — They have a different way of seeing the world, they are optimistic and most times will have a solution mindset and choose to focus on solutions rather than problems. Growing up I didn’t have this community and I noticed the difference.

In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Erika Cramer, The Queen of Confidence

Erika Cramer, The Queen of Confidence, is an award-winning international confidence coach and host of the 5 star-rated Confidence Chronicles Podcast. After surviving many traumatic experiences, Erika is a real example of how you can heal your personal story to transform trauma into triumph and now leads a global movement to empower women. She is also the author of the new book, Confidence Feels Like Sh!t.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?

I grew up in a little town near Boston, Massachusetts. I was raised by a single mother who truly did the best she could, while struggling with bipolar. I was in and out of the foster care system, while she was in and out of mental hospitals. Growing up in the system there was a lot of sexual abuse, verbal abuse and physical abuse. It created this really angry child and in high school, I struggled with my worthiness and felt like I was damaged goods.

That led to me joining the military at 17, a stint that lasted 10 years. I fell in love with my high school sweetheart; he went to war and thankfully, he came back, but he wasn’t the same. We ended up in a terrible car accident. He walked away, and I broke my back. I had to learn how to walk again. It was a crazy tragedy. But it really woke me up to my life. The following year, unfortunately, my husband was drinking and driving on his own and he passed away in a car accident. I felt so trauma’d out by then that it was too much to handle. I numbed out for the next five years of my life.

This is the very short version! After this, I ended up moving to Australia where I went on a huge journey of self-development and discovery. I spent over $50k on courses, mentors, life coaches and retreats. I fully worked through my life and trauma and I got so obsessed with doing this work, I decided I would help women do the same thing. I also met my personal trainer Hamish, who later became my husband. We’re now married with two gorgeous sons.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

I had my second son in 2017. I was working for a corporate company and had been doing my side hustle for five years. I lacked so much confidence, but one morning I was in the shower (why does all the wisdom come in the shower?). I got a clear message: “You’re not here to do what you’re doing. You’re here to become a confidence coach. You’re here to help women.” I ran downstairs and told my husband. I wasn’t going to go back to my corporate career. I was going to become a confidence coach!

It was the scariest thing to do, because it was the worst timing. We were dead broke, in debt, and we just had a second baby. But this meant I didn’t have the luxury of doubting myself — I had to do what I had to do to make it work. I had to go all in. I started creating content, I started sharing, building a community on social media. I started a YouTube channel, I started my podcast. I had to step up and by “having to do it”, it made all of our dreams and business vision come true. My biggest takeaway from that experience is that no one’s going to come knocking at your door. If you want to do something, you need to just do it. You need to make your own noise instead of expecting other people to somehow discover you or find you.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

One of the biggest things that makes our company, The Queen Of Confidence, stand out is that we are about community and sisterhood. We’re about taking responsibility and we’re about integrity. During the COVID pandemic, we had 300-plus students in 18 countries in our program. Since the pandemic hit different parts of the world, affected different parts of the world differently, we emailed every single one of our members and asked them if they needed financial support, if they needed to pause payments, if there was anything we could do? We even ended up doing a fundraiser for the women who were really struggling.

Because we reached out and looked after them, we didn’t have any members drop off. We can say that not only do we have values, but we truly live our values in this business. We don’t just say we’re for women, but what we do is for women. We are a company that takes a stand for that. We are inclusive. We are supportive.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I have to really give it up to my husband, Hamish. He was the first person I ever told my whole story to and instead of feeling ashamed or broken, he really honoured me. He made me feel seen and strong. He was very patient, and gently invited me to work on myself and to unpack my difficult experiences so that I could grow from them. He is still my greatest teacher and mentor.

Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

I think of resilience as an ability to overcome difficulty and discomfort, without it destroying you. Meaning, when you’re able to overcome the difficulties life gives you and not allow it to ruin your existence. Instead resilient people let it make them, they let their hardest times create their inner strength. I feel it’s highly connected to resourcefulness and being someone who looks for solutions to the challenges they are faced with.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

Nicholas Vujicic. He was born with no arms and no legs, he could have easily felt sorry for himself and spent his life being angry at the world (something I read he did in his youth). Instead, he spends his life as a motivational speaker teaching children about the importance of accepting people’s differences and inspiring others with his story. He shows us that it’s not about what happens to us, it’s about what we make it mean and what we decide to do next. We can allow the tough times to destroy us or grow us. We get to choose.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

Yes, when I broke my back at 23 years old, my doctor told me I would never touch my toes and that I would have back pain for most of my life, especially if I ever decided to get pregnant. He was wrong. Three months after surgery I was able to touch my toes. I had two children and no back pain and to this day, I still never have pain in my back, even though there is a titanium fusion. I have been able to deadlift 100kg by strengthening my back and core!

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

To be honest I feel I have too many of those moments, but the one that stands out right now is the most recent one. In 2017, my husband and I found ourselves in the worst financial position ever. I was a contractor on unpaid maternity leave, my husband’s gym business was on the decline, we had just had our second child, moved into a large home rental and drained our savings account.

It was the most stressful time. We were looking for coins underneath the car seats to buy bread for our family. Just 11 months later, I had created an income of $160,000 in our coaching business. The tough time we experienced gave me such a desire to hustle and not only hustle but to actually go for my dreams.

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

When I was 7, my mother took us on a family vacation to Puerto Rico and we got into a terrible car accident. Our car had flipped upside down multiple times, we were lucky to survive. My dad heard that I was in the country and what had happened (he’d left us when I was two). Just four days after our horrific car accident, I was kidnapped by my dad, who I’d never met. Suddenly, I wasn’t going back to America to be with my mother — I was staying in Puerto Rico, without her, with a whole new family and unfortunately I couldn’t speak the language.

When I was finally reunited with my mom 12 months later, we jumped back into the regular cycle I grew up with of my mom getting sick, me visiting her in mental hospitals and living in yet another foster home. By 16, I’d had enough. This experience was terrible at the time, but it showed me my strength, and my ability to persevere and keep going, even when I felt like I was cursed. In Puerto Rico I learned Spanish and ended up connecting to my roots. Twenty years later, I reunited with my dad and heard his side of the story and gained deep closure. Every single “bad” moment supported me, therefore I can’t think of them as bad. It’s because of all the hardship that I am who I am, and I have been able to create the life I live and leave the impact I have.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Become aware of your stories and what meaning you’ve put behind them — We all have a story about our lives. I carried the story that I was damaged goods and unworthy of love. How that played out in my life was that I attracted toxic relationships into my life. The moment I started working on myself and realising that I can choose what things mean changed everything for me. I remember my first ever mentor telling me that I could choose how I wanted to see my past and my mind was blown. She taught me that I didn’t have to make meaning out of anything. Later I realised that if I don’t believe my crappy stories, they have no power over me. It was and still is such a huge realisation.
  2. Commit to working on yourself — A growth mindset is needed if we’re going to become more resilient. When I started to read books, listen to podcasts, join programs and hire coaches I started to unravel my past and see the gifts in the difficulties. We can become more resilient if we’re willing to become more optimistic, which comes when you raise your consciousness and you start working on you.
  3. Choose to see things happening FOR you rather than TO you — A lesson I learned from Tony Robbins. He would always say there is a gift in the struggle and although things seem hard in the moment, notice that everything you have ever experienced that has been difficult has created strength and resilience in you. We cannot become more resilient without the challenges, this is a part of the process. I wouldn’t be able to serve the women I do today and have the empathy for my clients who experienced trauma if I myself hadn’t felt similar feelings to them in my past.
  4. Work on your self confidence — This was one of the biggest things that helped me become more resilient. I lacked so much confidence until I started to work through my life, gaining awareness and putting myself out there. I started doing things that scared me and proving to myself that I could overcome my fear and that I could do hard things. Little by little my inner confidence grew. Self-confidence is extremely important if you’re going to become resilient.
  5. Get around mentors, coaches and others who are resilient — They have a different way of seeing the world, they are optimistic and most times will have a solution mindset and choose to focus on solutions rather than problems. Growing up I didn’t have this community and I noticed the difference. When I started to strengthen myself, take responsibility for my life and my results I would attract the same group of people. Those who wanted to grow and evolve and in this community I thrived, I was supported and I felt like things would get better and of course, they did.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would love to see more of us working on ourselves, I would like to normalise the expression of hard feelings and emotions without it feeling like “if I go speak to a professional coach or therapist something is wrong with me”. I would love to have more trauma informed humans in the education system, in the medical system, in government etc. So many people suffer in silence about their feelings of inadequacy or not feeling good enough and if it keeps going unspoken we think we’re the only ones. In reality, this is something everyone experiences; there is nothing wrong with us, we are not broken or damaged, we’ve experienced trauma and we should be able to openly discuss this in our communities and hold space for each other to transform.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

Tony Robbins. I freaking love him so much. The fact that he is SO resilient and has lived SO much and the fact that he completely transformed his life. Then decided to serve others and still continues till this day to serve others. He could easily retire, he’s got the money, the love of his life, the family, the success, yet he will still stand up and speak for 50+ hours at his live events (events that he has been doing for years). Also I think we both have the same crazy amount of high energy and I love that about him.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can find me everywhere but i particularly hang out a lot on instagram so come say hi

▸ Instagram https://www.instagram.com/thequeenofconfidence

▸ Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Theconfidencequeen

▸ Linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/in/erika-cramer-ab695571

▸ Website: www.thequeenofconfidence.com

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


Erika Cramer of The Queen of Confidence: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Non-Fungible Tokens: Shani Merdler of Minute Media On The 5 Things You Need To Know To Create a…

Non-Fungible Tokens: Shani Merdler of Minute Media On The 5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly Successful Career In The NFT Industry

Empathy is a strong weapon — when trying to think of what the other side has in mind, whether it’s seller or buyers, try to put yourself in their shoes to understand their perspective. If you approach situations with the mindset of what you would care about, what would move you to action and make you come back again, you are set up for a greater measure of success.

Many have observed that we are at the cusp of an NFT boom. The thing is, it’s so cutting edge, that many people don’t know what it is. What exactly is an NFT and how can one create a lucrative career out of selling them? To address this, as a part of our interview series called “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly Successful Career In The NFT Industry”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Shani Merdler. Shani is the VP of Product at Minute Media, a leading global content and technology company and owner of The Players’ Tribune, FanSided, 90min, DBLTAP, Mental Floss and The Big Lead. SInce 2013, Shani has helped develope the publishing, video and content tools that help Minute Media and its publishing partners create, distribute and consumer digital content. Today Minute Media holds the #1 spot in Comscore’s U.S. sports video rankings and #3 in U.S. sports reach.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory and how you grew up?

I grew up in a small town in the center of Israel, the eldest of four children and granddaughter to immigrant grandparents from Romania and Iraq.

I was always very independent and after serving in a technology unit in the Israeli army, I took a different path from most freshly-released Israeli soldiers. I started working in the hitech industry. What was supposed to be a year of saving up money for a long, glorious trip was replaced by a career path that led me to where I am today.

Is there a particular book, film, or podcast that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz is a short book that lays out in a very structured and simple way sources for our suffering as humans that mostly come from our perception. It resonated with me as I saw how we are all used to being part of a situation or experience that we rarely look at ourselves from the outside. There is so much value in this new perspective of understanding that we have a choice in how people’s actions and words affect us. It can help us become more empathetic and compassionate towards others which I believe also leads to success in different aspects of life.

Is there a particular story that inspired you to pursue a career in this new industry? We’d love to hear it.

At Minute Media, I am responsible for product development to help our own media properties as well as our publishing partners reach more people, increase engagement, bring in more revenue and monetization opportunities. This includes everything from video tools, to content management systems, to ad tools. I am constantly thinking of both content creators and the end-user that is consuming the content. Minute Media has a large focus on sports (The Players’ Tribune, 90min, FanSided and others), and the sports world has been an early adopter of bringing NFTs more to the public.

The connection of NFTs to the creators and media world is very natural in my view. As the creator economy rises in popularity and more and more tools and services are being created to empower them and support their success and financial indepences, NFTs are a vehicle that can solve many of the challenges that are coming up for creators.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this fascinating career?

An interesting experience that I have had was participating in a Roblox concert. I’m usually not a user of the platform but I was intrigued by the experience. I have found it extremely weird to be walking in this virtual space as a character that I don’t feel a connection to. This is why the idea behind Meetbites resonated so much with me, similarly to how I choose what I wear in the physical world, I should be able to choose how I look when I’m in the virtual space. Especially with their new guide on how to convert your character into a metaverse avatar.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The funniest mistake I’ve made was assuming that the same limitation of the physical world also applies for NFTs. I was thinking that there could be only one copy of what is also called an edition of a certain NFTs, like in the physical world there is only one copy of the Mona Lisa. This made me look at all of the marketplace platforms the wrong way.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I have had great teachers in different forms along the way, many times the most unexpected ones. If I have to choose one person that helped me get where I am today, it’s my father.

My father had his own business in the ERP software industry most of his life, and from a young age he has shared with me stories and dilemmas from his work and the way he chose to deal with them. He was and is a great advisor that helped me look at things with the right perspective more than one time, stopping me from making mistakes by sharing his philosophy.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

At Minute Media we are working on exciting tools to help content creators grow their business through content creation, distribution and experiences. Our goal is to empower them to make the most out of their creation through their properties and through our ecosystem. This is powered by Voltax which features a CMS for written content, an OVP for video content and what we call Voltax Boost — a smart toolkit that helps enhance their revenue potential, content offerings, and audience development, enabling them to stay ahead of the ever-changing industry. For NFTs specifically, I believe that they are a great enabler for us to do great things for creators once NFTs will support new types of assets.

Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. I’m sure you get this question all the time. But for the benefit of our readers, can you explain in your own words what an NFT is, and why people are spending so much money on them?

NFTs enable us to own and prove our ownership over digital assets. Similarly to how we acquire physical products from stores, offline or online, we are now able to own a beautiful digital art in the highest quality using NFTs. People that value art and unique objects value it regardless of it’s form of existence. Thanks to technology, digital experiences are no longer secondary to physical ones and that’s the key to why people are willing to spend money on them.

The NFT industry seems so exciting right now. What are the 3 things in particular that most excite you about the industry? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

What most excites me about the industry is the endless possibilities for it to evolve.

If we are getting specific, I’m moved by how NFTs are going to shape digital communities, how a true sense of community can emerge from models where all community members contribute to a certain cause but also be compensated for its success.

I’m also interested in how NFTs shift the power balance to the creators, allowing them to create the guardrails for the consumption of their work, allowing only their true followers, the ones that purchased their item or items before to be able to acquire their latest work.

What are the 3 things that concern you about the industry? Can you explain? What can be done to address those concerns?

The things that I’m most concerned about are around the utilization of NFTs for negative purposes such as racism, hate of speech, encouraging violence and more. While NFTs have had a beautiful (also visually) beginning, we have already witnessed things that started with good intentions but have been misused in a way that caused harm.

To address these concerns, I believe a really strong moderation tool is needed that will be able to scan assets and prevent the exchange of these types of assets.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about NFTs? Can you explain what you mean?

I believe that some of the myths that surround NFTs are that they are only relevant for a small group of geeks. However, this can easily be debunked as well-known, more mainstream entities start to use them, as we’ve seen with Taco Bell and others.

What are the most common mistakes you have seen people make when they enter the NFT industry. What can be done to avoid that?

A common mistake that I see broad;y, not just with NFTs, is that people tend to jump into things without understanding how they work. For NFTs specifically, this means that people are entering the industry without being knowledgeable enough about how things work, the different platforms that exist and the entire ecosystem. People have gotten used to consuming quick “how to” videos on everything they do in life and their attention span continues to shorten. My main recommendation is whatever you want to do, first learn the rules of the game, then play.

How do you think NFTs have the potential to help society in the future?

I believe that NFTs could have a great potential for charities looking to raise money using auctions of digital assets. This trend has shown it’s first signs with this auction for the cause of stopping Asian hate.

Ok, fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly Successful Career In The NFT Industry?” (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Knowledge is power — we are fortunate to have access to free information that helps us be more informed in our choices and untap our abilities and potential. You want to be successful? Master the way things are working.
  2. Be nimble — don’t restrict yourself to what has been done or how it has been done, continue to try new things, new platforms and above all, experiment. Eventually you will find what works for you.
  3. Get creative — when you think you have exhausted your options, remember that the number of opportunities is endless. New initiatives continue to emerge and since you know what you do best, think creatively about how it can connect to what is being done.
  4. Don’t be a stranger — there is some loneliness and individualism around creation online but many good things are coming from collaborating with others. Whether it’s via a community, social media or any other form of communication, reach out to people that inspire you, you might be surprised by the outcome 🙂
  5. Empathy is a strong weapon — when trying to think of what the other side has in mind, whether it’s seller or buyers, try to put yourself in their shoes to understand their perspective. If you approach situations with the mindset of what you would care about, what would move you to action and make you come back again, you are set up for a greater measure of success.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would create a platform of NFTs for good, where people can create and donate assets to their favorite charities. The platform will enable the charities to easily create a public auction for the assets and maintain their community of donors.

If that triggers a movement, count me in and let me know 🙂

We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Yes, I would love to have a private breakfast with Elie Hassenfeld, the founder of GiveWell to speak about the opportunity NFTs could have for charities.


Non-Fungible Tokens: Shani Merdler of Minute Media On The 5 Things You Need To Know To Create a… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Alkaline Certified & Alkaline Fresh: Brandon Burrell’s Big Ideas That Might Change The World

The challenges of raising funding! Before started Alkaline Fresh, I never had to raise funds for my previously companies as they were self-funded by myself, so I was unaware of the process of fundraising and how many different variables that came along with it.

As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Brandon Burrell CEO & Founder of Alkaline Certified & Alkaline Fresh.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you please tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I have always had a major passion for eating healthy foods but when I started my global recruiting firm and started providing culinary and food beverage applicants for the maritime industry my desire just went to another level. Being in the food culinary space, I learned a great deal about culinary arts from various countries around the world. In my travels, I learned about The Alkaline Diet and how alkaline foods had so many positive effects on the human body.

Can you please share with us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

When I started my global recruiting firm, I created partnerships in Ghana, Indonesia, India, Malaysia, Myanmar, South Africa and Vietnam where me and my team set up culinary and food hospitality schools to provide the necessary trainings for individuals who were seeking careers in the maritime and hotel industries.

Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career? The principles

Always set goals for whatever I want to achieve. If there is no set goal, there is nothing to strive towards. Everything must be sacrificed for the attainment of that goal, and one must persist through all adversity until the goal has been obtained. Another principle I live by is to always do the right thing because good will always follow.

Ok thank you for that. Let’s now move to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?

The creation of Alkaline Fresh and Alkaline Certified. Both projects are monumental and will create a paradigm shift to our current awareness regarding food, beverage and personal nutrition products. With Alkaline Fresh, it is the first company to provide the healthiest plant base ready- made alkaline meals to adults and children that will help fight adult and childhood obesity in America. Amongst environmental issues, such as consumption of animal products, preserving our oceans and natural ecosystems by helping decrease the demand in fishing which is affecting our planet. Alkaline Certified will help spread awareness of alkaline products by being the company that certifies alkaline food, beverage and personal nutrition products. We are committed to certifying and building sources of alkalinity products, educating consumers and providing certification. Alkaline Certified will give consumers to right know that their food is alkaline, or acid based. Both of the ideas will change the world in a positive way forever.

How do you think this will change the world? The world will now have the awareness along with the access to the healthiest meals on the planet that it did not have prior to Alkaline Fresh and Alkaline Certified being established.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this idea that people should think more deeply about?

Currently, I do not foresee any potential drawbacks about this idea that people should think deeply about. Our products and services are aimed directly to help consumers easily be able to choose healthier options that they were previously unaware. Alkaline Fresh and Alkaline Certified will are extremely beneficial to consumers who are seeking to improve their wellness and have no ill effects.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?

The tipping point was the rise of COVID-19 and how Americans were losing their lives to this diseases mainly because of underlying health issues. Especially, minorities! It was just extremely sad to see people suffer and lose their lives because of obesity issues. I was just fed up and watching people die and decided I needed to put my dreams into motion no matter how difficult they may be to achieve. As a minority, I knew if people could see what I created I could impact millions of lives around the US and the world in a positive way. Therefore, I acted on my ideas and started to put them motion in the peak of the pandemic.

What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption? I need a positive public platform to lead this idea to widespread adoption. People are always seeking ways of having a healthier lifestyle and I believe with the right platforms widespread adoption will happen immediately.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. The challenges of raising funding! Before started Alkaline Fresh, I never had to raise funds for my previously companies as they were self-funded by myself, so I was unaware of the process of fundraising and how many different variables that came along with it.
  2. The importance of having networking relationships with employees working in VC’s. I had no one in my circle who had prior experience on fund raising nor did I have relationships with people who worked for VC’s so I had to step outside of my comfort zone and network with various organizations and professionals who had experience in the VC space to educate me along the way.
  3. The importance of having traction for startups. This was a question I was truly not expected to answer for a startup company that had not launched. I learned that I could create traction outside of revenue streams from other sources such as branding, product development, connecting with influencers and establishing valuable partnerships.
  4. The importance of having positive people around you when starting a business. When starting a new business there are so many ups and downs along with all a lot of doubt, fear and anxiety. It is important to surround yourself around people who are supportive even if they cannot see the end goal. It makes the experience less worrisome when you have that support group. No one will be in harmony with the goal like you because it’s part of your consciousness!
  5. Align yourself with partners that believe in you! During this process I have align myself with partners who believe in me, my brand and really are passionate about the products and services my companies are providing.

Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?

  1. The importance of setting goals and the proper way to attain them.
  2. Establish a daily gratitude practice. I learned from mentors the importance of having a daily gratitude practice and when faced with adversity to remember to express gratitude.
  3. Always keep positive mental attitude.
  4. Action must be taken in spite of doubt, fear and any other negative factors.
  5. Trust your intuition when making decisions.
  6. Act as if the goal is already completed and it will be.
  7. Enjoy the journey and trust the process.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Perhaps you have a growing family and struggle to find convenient yet healthy meal options for every day of the week. Maybe you feel your constant battle with weight gain, brain fog, and food allergens deserve attention. Perhaps you are ready to help America diminish the obesity issue in children and adults. Introducing Alkaline Fresh! We help young adults, athletes, and families eat healthy foods. We do this by providing ready-made, plant-based foods for breakfast, lunch, and dinner! Imagine arriving home from work to find your Alkaline Fresh box on your doorstep. That feeling of relief you get when you see the Alkaline Fresh box and know all you have to do is heat your meals and not worry about the millions of details necessary to cook a fresh, healthy meal.

Hello, I’m Brandon Burrell, Former Wall Street Investment Banker, Serial International Entrepreneur & Founder of Alkaline Fresh. I have partnerships and conduct business in over 8 countries in the culinary, maritime, hotel, and financial services.

After years of enjoying an alkaline diet, I realized that most consumers have limited options to purchase quick, healthy alkaline meals. Most market options use low protein, low fiber ingredients enriched with soy and other additives such as thickening agents or gluten, which is not suitable for anyone. Customers don’t have the option to purchase premium, ready-made plant-based alkaline meals.

Until Now.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/brandon-burrell-5aa040b/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/brandon.burrell.754

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/brandburrell/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/burrellbran

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


Alkaline Certified & Alkaline Fresh: Brandon Burrell’s Big Ideas That Might Change The World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: Jenna Yim of ProtoPie On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The…

The Future Is Now: Jenna Yim of ProtoPie On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

Everybody Wants To Feel Important — We spend at least 8 hours a day at work with our team members. That’s ⅓ of the day! What we often don’t acknowledge is the influence that has on us and the influence we have on each other.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jenna Yim.

Jenna Yim is the president and chief strategy officer of ProtoPie, the codeless interactive design tool ProtoPie. Yim has spent 18 years diving deep into digital ecosystems, digital transformation and user experience strategy to bring large and complex digital projects to life. Her global perspective on user experience and digital strategy was forged by working across Asia and North America. In the latter, she spent over 12 years driving digital expertise for creative businesses such as Isobar, Publicis, and No Fixed Address by making her mark as VP, Solutions Strategy and Customer Experience at FCB/Six providing strategic partnership to C-level clients of global brands. Over the course of her career, she has played a pivotal role in creating successful digital & mobile foundations for global brands including LG, Samsung, BMO, WestJet, The Home Depot, and AXA Insurance. Now back in her native South Korea, she is defining the future of digital design as a global business leader and Chief Strategy Officer for ProtoPie.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I speak Korean and English, but my first language is digital. I’ve spent the last 18 years deep-diving into digital ecosystems, from user experience to digital transformations, I’ve loved bringing complex and unique projects to life. I consider myself very fortunate in that I was able to develop a truly global perspective on UX and strategy by working in two very different continents — East Asia and North America.

I spent 15 years in North America working as VP of solutions, strategy, and customer experience, strategically partnering with C-level clients from global brands and guiding an extremely talented team to thrive and deliver results. From LG to Samsung, BMO to Home Depot, I have contributed to creating successful digital and mobile foundations for some of the most recognised brands.

Now back home in South Korea, I’m a global business leader, strategist, maximizer and chief strategy officer of Studio XID, a company that provides the code-less interactive design tool ProtoPi’. I’m responsible for the full operation of the Growth and Customer Success Division. It’s been a journey, but I am very much in love with what I do — the passion, curiosity and tenacity that stems from that really drives me to deliver the best solutions I can.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

This might not be the most interesting story, but it’s definitely the most challenging part of my life and career. In 2017, at the peak of my career, I got a severe concussion from a very unfortunate accident. Overnight I went from a high-functioning, intelligent woman to a person with a two-digit IQ who couldn’t even go outside without physical pain and emotional fear. Since then, it has been a long journey of recovery and adaptation of my “new” limited capabilities. It was a very difficult journey but as a result, I believe I became a better leader who understands the power of caring for others, values empathy at work, and knows how to motivate others and support them to overcome difficulties they encountered.

Can you tell us about the Cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

I work on the strategic direction of a product called ProtoPie. ProtoPie is a powerful software used to create interactive prototypes to communicate and demonstrate creative ideas with others. Imagine that you have a mobile app idea that you want to show to your potential investors. It used to take a lot of time and effort to find designers and engineers who could create a functional demo. With ProtoPie, you can create this functional prototype on your own. The tool lets you express your idea without coding. Instead of spending hours on coding, users can focus on articulating their ideas and exploring various options before finding the right solution. I’m currently working on expanding the capabilities of ProtoPie so that users can not only explore their idea but publish it as a final product. From the conception to creation of interactive digital products, ProtoPie will empower users to go through this journey as easy as pie.

How do you think this might change the world?

Just like YouTube influenced everybody to become a content creator, I believe ProtoPie can empower everybody to become creators. One doesn’t have to be a designer or engineer, but anybody with creative ideas can create digital products. Parents can create a mobile app for kids to learn math, an entrepreneur can create a concept product to find potential investors, and a student can create a tablet game he can play with his friends. By eliminating the obstacles of coding, we can change the world of interactive digital products.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

Just like the drawbacks of user-generated videos that could be created for abusive and harmful purposes, user-generated digital products could benefit or harm others based on the creator’s intentions. A tool like ProtoPie empowers people to create something, but proper guidance or education is required for all creators about harmful contents and utilities.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

The most meaningful tipping point was actually at the beginning of our journey. Tony, our CEO and co-founder, was questioning how interactive ideas can be expressed without the core message being lost in translation. He was inspired by the simplicity of music notes where beautiful pieces of music can be expressed through a combination of simple symbols. He created a concept model of ProtoPie by defining basic elements of interactions as triggers & responses. By combining 25 triggers and 17 responses, you can pretty much express any interactive ideas. That’s pretty cool, huh?

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

The most challenging part of ProtoPie’s adoption is that people simply don’t know they can create something without code or coding experience. We recently released a voice prototyping feature where users can demonstrate a voice-activated experience, similar to Siri or Alexa, through the prototype. However, most people will assume that they will need an engineer’s help to create this experience. Breaking the current perception of technical limitations; that is our challenge.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

Because ProtoPie is very innovative, we decided to use a more traditional method of marketing to break the perception. We created a beautiful 3D animation video to tell the story of a creator’s journey. We delivered the message very beautifully without an overwhelming use of technical jargon or flashy marketing copies. We just wanted to deliver the message that “an idea stuck in your head is just an idea. Free your idea with ProtoPie.”

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There are way too many people who helped me in my journey, so I found this question particularly hard. If I really had to name one person, then I would have to say Lori Ralko, who was my psychotherapist. She helped me understand my inner strengths and made me believe I am much stronger than how I see myself. Especially during my recovery from the accident and concussion, there was a moment when I thought I would never be able to be back to who I was again. Then, with her help, I was able to realize that I don’t need to go back to who I was. I have power to create a “New Me” who will be even stronger and wiser than before.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I know there are many intelligent and great leaders (and potential leaders) out there. But I also know that even those who we think are the greatest, have their own doubts, insecurities and fears. I try to be very open and honest about the struggles I had along the way, rather than emphasizing the shiny and glamorous parts. Even if there are only one or two people who may be experiencing similar challenges, I think it is still worth letting them know that they are not alone.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Everybody Wants To Feel Important — We spend at least 8 hours a day at work with our team members. That’s ⅓ of the day! What we often don’t acknowledge is the influence that has on us and the influence we have on each other. As a leader, you have to remember that one careless word can really ruin someone’s whole day. When we wake up in the morning and go to work, there isn’t a single person who thinks, “I want to have the most meaningless day.” Everybody wants to be recognized, appreciated, and believe that they contributed to something that matters. If we remember this then the way we treat each other will be better and we will all have a more meaningful ⅓ of a day, every day.
  2. Your Energy Is Your Leadership — When I think of the great leaders I have met in my life, they always had a smile on their faces and positive energy shining through regardless of the time of day or mood they were in. Great leaders know how to bring positive energy to the room and deliver it to people around them.
  3. Define Your Goals Based On Intrinsic Values, Not Extrinsic Values — When I see a team member’s career development plan, I often notice that their career goal is to be promoted or to get a salary raise. The thing is that promotions and salary increases are the outcomes of the evaluation. Basically, it is a KPI of your performance, not something you can decide or control. Create your career goals based on the capabilities you want to gain, skills you want to improve, and growth you want to achieve. Then, sooner than later, you’ll be able to achieve the outcome as a result.
  4. Success Is Achieved By Developing Your Strengths, Not Eliminating Your Weaknesses — What are your top strengths? This is a simple question and so often asked during an interview. You may answer this well during the interview, but once you start the job, quickly you start feeling insecure and thinking about all the things you may not be good at. Be confident. Be aware of your own talents and strengths. Focus on excelling at what you are good at and find a partner who can compliment your weakness, rather than trying to be good at everything. You’ll soon realize that you are not only more successful but also happier in life.
  5. Bring Solutions, Not Complaints — This is very simple but often gets forgotten. Many people easily can find something they don’t like or they have trouble with. However, not many people see it as an opportunity to come up with solutions to make the situation better. Just a simple attitude change will bring drastic improvements to your relationships, communications and performances at work.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Respect for Diversity — We are all different human beings with different personalities, perspectives, lifestyles, languages, races, gender, and so on. We all need to stop expecting others to be the same as we are and learn how to respect and embrace differences. I believe the world will be a better place if we all try to understand these differences because they really are our biggest strength.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I love who I’ve been, but I really love who I’m becoming.” — Dulce Ruby

Even when I thought I had rock bottom, when I was going through illnesses or difficulties, I was learning and growing. I truly believe that I became a better person as a result. This quote inspires me not to be afraid of the unknown future because I now know that the future me will always be the better version of me.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

#Design #No-Code #Productivity #EnterpriseSaaS #Innovation
ProtoPie has the full potential in this up-and-coming market and growing user demands. Contact us! 😉

How can our readers follow you on social media?

LinkedIN: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jennayim/
Twitter: @jenna_yim

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


The Future Is Now: Jenna Yim of ProtoPie On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Non-Fungible Tokens: Devesh Mamtani On The 5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly Successful…

Non-Fungible Tokens: Devesh Mamtani On The 5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly Successful Career In The NFT Industry

KYR (Know your risk) — First and foremost, it is very important to understand the risks that come with this investment type. It is important to know about the risks involved.

Many have observed that we are at the cusp of an NFT boom. The thing is, it’s so cutting edge that many people don’t know what it is. What exactly is an NFT, and how can one create a lucrative career out of selling them? To address this, as a part of our interview series called “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly Successful Career In The NFT Industry”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Devesh Mamtani, Chief Market Strategist at Century Financial

Devesh Mamtani joined Century Financial in January 2017. He is responsible for risk monitoring and evaluation and the supervision of the research and trading divisions at the firm. He also heads algo- trading for the organization.

Prior to joining Century Financial, Devesh was the Deputy Vice President for Global Wealth Management at the Edelweiss Group — India’s leading diversified financial services company.

Devesh’s illustrious career kicked off in 2007 when he joined Deloitte Consulting (India) as an Associate Analyst before joining Motilal Oswal Securities — India’s leading integrated financial services company a year later.

He later joined Asit C. Mehta as its Senior Vice President for Asset Management, then moved to Edelweiss Group.

Devesh holds a Bachelors’s Degree in Information Technology Engineering from Thadomal Shahani Engineering College in 2007 and is also a certified Financial Risk Manager.

Devesh is a regular speaker at Investment-related events in UAE and also writes articles for leading business and economical publications in UAE

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory and how you grew up?

I grew up in India, where I completed my engineering degree specializing in information technology. Mathematics has always been a passion for me, and I soon realized that I could make a career out of it. Hence, I cleared FRM in order to hone my risk management skills. I was fortunate enough to be a part of the team that led the algo trading space in India. My parents ran a business along with an NGO for animals. This helped me in developing business acumen along with empathy. In my free time, I enjoy a good game of tennis, football or cricket as sports have always helped me in decluttering my mind. I am a firm believer in forming win-win partnerships and growing together.

Is there a particular book, film, or podcast that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

There are a couple of books that I keep coming back to on a daily basis. “The 7 habits of highly effective people” by Stephen R. Covey is a book that I have learnt a lot from. I feel it has a holistic view of how to approach life in an efficient manner. The book resonated with me as I firmly believe in taking responsibility for your actions. I also draw immense inspiration from “Rafa: My Story”, the autobiography of my idol Rafael Nadal. It has time and again motivated me to constantly strive for excellence.

Is there a particular story that inspired you to pursue a career in this new industry? We’d love to hear it.

I enjoy taking up initiatives that satiate my curiosity. I constantly wonder about what could be the next big thing that changes the world. As a result of this, in the beginning of my career itself, I was a part of the pioneering algorithmic trading team when algo trading was a lesser-known term in India. Since then, I have witnessed the finance industry evolve from one form to another. Currently, I feel NFTs are one of the future forms the industry could evolve into, and hence I am trying my hands in them.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this fascinating career?

The beauty of the finance industry is that you have tons of anecdotes for the future generation. Recently, the way blockchain and cryptocurrencies have exploded onto the scene is incredible. From a handful of people knowing about them to it being discussed, accepted, and adapted by billions in a short span of time makes it one of the most interesting stories to tell. Talking about cryptos and not mention The Beeple auction price of 69 Million is unthinkable. A colleague of mine suggested that I should buy some cryptocurrency and later on said that he was joking. The joke made me 10K USD.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

As mentioned before, I had chanced upon an opportunity to be part of a then-upcoming field (more than a decade ago) called Algorithm trading. It was exciting to be one of the first people to do this in India. When we launched the first algo, it felt like it would be one of the biggest things in the industry. Once, a slight error in the code led to a sizeable financial loss which we were able to more than cover up eventually. This made me realize the flip side of high speed and high computational power. My colleagues and I still joke about it and call it tuition fee. This incident taught me that one needs to be careful in the world of technology.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I feel success is a very ambiguous and subjective word. I am grateful for what I am doing. I have been blessed to work with many great people. However, there are three who deserve a special mention — Mr. Bal Krishen Rathore, Mr. Nadeem Khan, and Mr. Vijay Valecha. I call them the holy trinity. They have been paramount in my career growth. In 2020, one fine evening, we happened to discuss the possibility of starting a fan engagement platform. Little did I know that with the support of these three, we would start Boomer11, UAE’s one of the first fan engagement platform. I also am indebted to my family for their constant support and love.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I am part of a couple of projects which we hope would add huge value to people. One of them is a fan engagement platform which I hope every sports lover shall enjoy using. The other one would give people an opportunity to invest in real estate in a new and innovative way. We are hopeful that both of these projects should be useful to users.

Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. I’m sure you get this question all the time. But for the benefit of our readers, can you explain in your own words what an NFT is, and why people are spending so much money on them?

A non-fungible token (NFT) is a unit of data stored on a digital ledger, called a blockchain, that certifies a digital asset to be unique and therefore not interchangeable. At this point, a good description of NFT would be a collectible. They are unique digital assets or what can be called as one of a kind assets in the digital world.

A lot of people are looking at NFTs as collecting art. The spending seen on Beeple auction, Grimes Video, Jack Dorsey tweet, and many others have made artists and people believe that there is a huge demand for NFTs. People are spending on these as they believe this a unique opportunity to have a claim on future royalties as well as the satisfaction of owning the asset.

The NFT industry seems so exciting right now. What are the 3 things in particular that most excite you about the industry? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

  1. Value for Creators — It is an excellent way for creators to monetize their work.
  2. Fan Value — An excellent way for fans to own collectibles of their favorite creators.
  3. Acceptance — NFTs have seen a quicker acceptance than other use cases in the blockchain world. If the sustainability issue is solved, then we shall see many more accept NFTs. This space could explode, especially with interest from so many creators.

What are the 3 things that concern you about the industry? Can you explain? What can be done to address those concerns?

  1. Power Consumption — With the electricity consumption of cryptocurrencies being more in several countries, the rush towards NFTs has further increased this issue. This is a very concerning issue as the carbon footprint is massive.
  2. Hacking — The underlying assumption is that the security of a blockchain ecosystem is full-proof and un-hackable. However, history has shown that this is not the case.
  3. Acceptance issue/Regulatory — Perhaps the biggest fear for crypto & NFT investors is any market downfall on account of an outright ban on the mining operations

Switching over to protocols like proof of stake is one of the many solutions to the problem. Another possible alternative would be for the developer community & miners to invest back some of their rewards in renewable assets space.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about NFTs? Can you explain what you mean?

The biggest myth probably is that the digital assets cannot be hacked. Some reports say that users of NFT marketplace Nifty Gateway said hackers stole digital artwork worth thousands of dollars from their accounts. Some people who were hacked also said their credit cards on file were used to purchase additional NFTs.

What are the most common mistakes you have seen people make when they enter the NFT industry. What can be done to avoid that?

People are getting carried away by investing in probably everything as there is a lot of buzz in the space. Investors need to understand the risks of this space. They should also know that there can be duplicates of the NFT they have invested in. To avoid this, the most important thing is learning more and having the satisfaction of owning the NFT without considering the value it may have in the future.

How do you think NFTs have the potential to help society in the future?

This could be the way collectibles and digital assets are sold in the future. It could generate fair and great value for artists. It may become very big in years to come as it is seeing interest already from big brands like NBA, Nike, etc.

Ok, fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly Successful Career In The NFT Industry?” (Please share a story or example for each.)

https://youtu.be/OoG6syWwLFA

  1. KYR (Know your risk) — First and foremost, it is very important to understand the risks that come with this investment type. It is important to know about the risks involved.
  2. Take a chance — If would don’t buy the lottery, then you won’t win the jackpot. The rally in the space is crazy. What better time than now. Invest or buy an asset that gives you the satisfaction of owning it
  3. Creators — Add all the content that you have made; you really never know what would sell for how much. Ask Mike Winkelmann.
  4. Selection — While selecting what could be a good digital asset to invest in or create, try to focus on it being the first of its kind. Like the first tweet, first 5000 days etc. This could be an excellent way to select from the many options available.
  5. Be updated about this space — currently, Ethereum is being used, but you never know, a push towards sustainability could see a demand for Tezos.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Education for all. I think education is essential for everyone. It is a fundamental right that every human being has. Education plus basic finance knowledge should be provided to everyone who cannot afford it. This shall help change the world to make it a better place.

We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Breakfast with Rafael Nadal. I would love to ask him, how he can be so humble even after achieving nearly everything in the sport of Tennis. I would like to speak to him about his never-give-up attitude. How does he go on and on and on!

Thank you so much for these excellent stories and insights. We wish you continued success on your great work!


Non-Fungible Tokens: Devesh Mamtani On The 5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly Successful… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Brand Makeovers: Sue Reninger of RMD Advertising On The 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and…

Brand Makeovers: Sue Reninger of RMD Advertising On The 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image

Stay connected to your consumers/market: In a world of social media, most brands have become more similar than different. Some have violated the essence of the brand to join the ever-growing category of “edgy brands” in the social space. But the best communities are those that attract brand lovers: consumers and category advocates that WANT to share their thoughts/opinions, and enjoy being a part of the creation or recreation of a brand.

As part of our series about “Brand Makeovers” I had the pleasure to interview Sue Reninger.

Since founding RMD Advertising in 1992, Sue has been responsible for the complete strategy and direction of RMD’s Columbus-based flagship office. Sue knows what it takes to successfully market and grow an emerging food business. As Managing Partner of RMD, she works with clients such as Rudolph Foods, Barney Butter, Bil-Jac Dog Food, Little Caesars Fundraising, Graeter’s Ice Cream and ParmCrisps/THINSTERS to develop new strategies for their businesses and distinctive brands.

Her talent as a manager and leader has given rise to RMD’s employee and client-focused culture, which, at its core, has a creative and engaging environment. Sue is the past President of the American Marketing Association, where during her tenure as President, earned the prestigious honor of being named the International Chapter of the Year. She is also a past Advisory Board member of the International AMA’s Chapter Council, past member of the Board of Directors of Central Ohio’s Alzheimer’s Association, as well as past member of Communities In Schools and the Hunger Food Alliance.

She has also co-founded Wagons Ho Ho Ho, a 501c3 charity that serves children in dire need with HOPE. Each year in December, the charity buys, builds and stuffs red wagons with a Christmas dinner, and delivers them to the state’s neediest children and families. In all, 1,500 families and children are served by Wagons Ho Ho Ho, through the help of more than 700 volunteers who build the wagons in one day.

She has been honored with the prestigious NAWBO Visionary Award and Marketer of the Year from the American Marketing Association.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I grew up on a strict diet of Bewitched and David Ogilvy. Bewitched cast a husband who was in the advertising agency business. In each episode, he struggled to come up with an appropriate campaign. I knew then, at the ripe age of 6, that I wanted to be in that industry. As I got older, I found myself greatly interested in David Ogilvy, the father of the advertising agency business.

After college, I joined an advertising agency, where I learned a lot. But I also had the distinct thought, “there must be a better way to strike a win/win between the agency’s profitability and the client’s needs”. That was the beginning of RMD Advertising. Still to this day, I can honestly say I was led to this career.

Can you share a story about the funniest marketing or branding mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Well, no mistake when you’re starting out feels funny at the time — they feel rather terrifying. However, one story revolves around a direct mail campaign we were creating for a client. It was to be a pre-show mailer for a major, national tradeshow. Everyone in the industry was attending, and our challenge was to design a pre-show mailer that would capture attendees’ attention — ensuring they came to our client’s booth.

We designed an amazingly creative piece. It showcased a duck, with a baby’s safety pin penetrating through the heavy card stock (this piece was for a neo-natal nurses show). The pins were glued, and we took the concept to a branch of the U.S. Post Office for approval. At the time, this was a VERY large spend for the client. Significantly large … as the database was large.

On the eve of the show, our client called, angrily, to inquire WHY her pre-show mailer was still at the post office. The post office general had called her directly to inform her the mailings violated their safety standards, and all 100,000 pieces needed retrieved immediately.

Looking back: of course they were disallowed. But at the time, creativity (not brand) was king to a young startup.

After a sleepless night of worrying, and quite a bit of brainstorming over how to get out of this dilemma, I woke up in the morning with the only solution possible: admit blame, take responsibility and provide a next best solution (which involved a custom post show mailer at our expense).

It was difficult, but I remember choking down the words as I asked the client after presenting the next best solution, “will you find a way to forgive us, and to continue working with us?” I’m forever grateful for her response, because it taught me grace, and the importance of extending it often. She remarked, “Yes, we will — mainly because we’re impressed with your willingness to solve the problem, not simply dump it at us, and to shoulder the financial responsibility accordingly. That shows character and integrity, something we don’t often find.”

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Is there a takeaway or lesson that others can learn from that?

Most definitely.

After nearly a decade and a half in the agency business, we gained (and then loss after three years) the darling account of the agency, a food client. At the time, like most agencies, we focused on whatever work we could find — healthcare, technology and manufacturing, etc. EVERYONE wanted to play on this account, and when it was lost, we were heart-broken, all of us.

It was in that moment in our conference room, while I was breaking the news to the team, that one lone hand raised and inquired, “why don’t we just pitch ONLY food brands?” And that was the beginning of the new RMD — an agency that to this day focuses solely on food and beverage brands.

A brand strategy lesson: Brands ARE aided by sacrifice. This focus on the food/beverage category overall, and specifically on challenger brands, has allowed us to become EXPERT in serving these clients. And today, I can say humbly that we perform better in this category than any other agency.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I’m always working on something exciting — doing so helps me to live two of my core principles: continuous learning and contribution.

Currently at the agency, we’re growing faster than we ever have in the 29 years we’ve been around. We’re using that growth as fuel to attract new talent and new clients that push us to grow and expand ongoing. Aside from the agency, I’m currently writing three books, based on life experiences and core philosophies (one is a children’s book), and this year, our charity (WagonsHoHoHo.org) will be expanding from one state to three.

What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?

Honestly, I believe burnout comes from NOT having enough to stimulate yourself. I also wholeheartedly believe it comes from not contributing enough. Many people think it comes from working too hard or doing too much. I’ve had periods of my life when I’ve worked very hard (which is my typical state), and I’ve had periods of my life when I’ve taken it easy. For me, always working and always contributing makes the difference. It’s when we lose touch with, or neglect, the reasons behind what we do (and no, money is not a strong enough motivator), that we become burned out.

Ok, let’s now jump to the core part of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?

In my own words, product marketing is the art of bringing a product that is already needed by a group of individuals to market, and helping them to learn about that product.

Brand marketing, on the other hand, is about creating something much greater. Brand marketing is less about education and more about helping consumers feel something about that product or company. By connecting consumers to a sense of nostalgia, a reason to believe in the brand, or emotional experiences, brand love is eventually created. It cannot be created quickly, as it’s much like a relationship that must be nourished over time. When consumers are willing to select and purchase that brand over time, despite other options or the price of the product, brand love has been achieved.

Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?

A brand, once built, is long-lasting. It’s very difficult for a new product to come to market and take market share away from a product that’s already built a following of brand lovers. In fact, studies have shown that once a brand owns a place in consumers’ hearts, new competitors often must spend three times more to even penetrate a portion of market share.

Let’s now talk about rebranding. What are a few reasons why a company would consider rebranding?

Often, food brands especially, will embark on a “rebranding” venture. Many mistake a brand for a logo or a look/feel/label of a product. But if a brand is built in the heart of the consumer, and placed there through experiences, changing a logo or a look of a product technically isn’t a “rebrand”. Still, products will often change their look/feel to remain relevant to consumers and their expectations of what a product that is “current” should look like. In the food business, it’s really about shelf appeal — which is important.

Further, studies have demonstrated over and over the impact of a proper “brand” and how a refresh can dramatically increase sales and relevancy, if the new look/feel is directed by research and hits the mark with consumers.

Are there downsides of rebranding? Are there companies that you would advise against doing a “Brand Makeover”? Why?

If a “rebrand” is done based on “gut” or instinct, it can fail. If the purpose of enhancing the shelf presence or look and feel is to become more relevant to consumers, a founder can sometimes feel too close to the product and think they know what’s best for the consumer.

When this happens, there can be a “miss” and sales, brand and market share suffer. There are some brands who enjoy a nostalgic connection with consumers. It’s rare, but when the brand resides so deeply in the heart of those consumers, a brand refresh could actually be rejected by fans and brand lovers.

Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Can you share 5 strategies that a company can do to upgrade and re-energize their brand and image”? Please tell us a story or an example for each.

Understand and define your core values: What does the brand stand for? What needs does it meet? What are you most known for?

When Graeter’s Ice Cream looks for innovation, it refuses to pivot from the core foundation that it was built on 150 years ago. Today, the brand is the ONLY craft ice cream brand still owned by a family and using the original French Pot process. This process is unsurpassed for making the best quality and the richest, creamiest ice cream. It always has and always will remain at the core of what it does.

Audit the brand: Are there any products in the line that do not “fit” or that violate the brand promise? What is the culture of the brand? Is the true essence of the brand being adequately communicated in a 360 fashion, such as with PR, social media, advertising, internal communications, etc.? Is the brand’s communication authentic?

Doing this important step is the fastest way to earn consumer trust. When Southern Recipe Small Batch reinvented the pork rind category, and turned the appeal to millennials, predominantly females, it did so in a way that everything that touched consumers made the brand more believable and relatable. Today, five years later, it remains the #1 pork rind in America, and single-handedly changed the way America thinks about this high protein, low carb, Keto-friendly snacks.

Continually grow and learn: Few curves are sharper than the marketing curve, especially now. Keeping up with competitive innovations, movements in dissimilar categories that can be adapted by your brand, how you communicate and more — all of this is important to the brand. An ever-growing brand must have an insatiable appetite to stay alert, learn and grow.

Stay connected to your consumers/market: In a world of social media, most brands have become more similar than different. Some have violated the essence of the brand to join the ever-growing category of “edgy brands” in the social space. But the best communities are those that attract brand lovers: consumers and category advocates that WANT to share their thoughts/opinions, and enjoy being a part of the creation or recreation of a brand.

Be true to the brand amidst fear: In a competitive, outspoken world, it’s often terrifying for a brand that receives negative reviews and polarizing posts as the public speaks. It’s important at this point to return to the core of the brand amidst troubling times and respond quickly in an appropriate, brand-centric way. Diplomacy is always important, but equally important is the brand.

In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job doing a “Brand Makeover”. What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?

There have been a lot of really great case studies of strong rebrands over time. Two of my favorites are Taco Bell, of recent, and Betty White. I’m impressed with Taco Bell’s ability to adapt to the ultra-instant gratification needs of their current consumer — in look, feel, product and delivery method. The pivot was admirable as well.

In a non-food arena, no one can argue against Betty White’s ability to remain relevant as a brand. She has stayed true to who she is throughout many decades, while adjusting her brand and herself to a changing package, a changing audience and changing times. As one of our most iconic brands today, although a bit unconventional, she optimizes what it means to remain relevant and find ways into the hearts and the minds of a very diverse group of “consumers”.

The lessons in both of these case studies are important: remain relevant and stay true to your core brand while understanding what makes the brand beloved. Repackage when needed and stay close to the wants/needs/desires of your audience.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would start a movement that brings families, all families, back to the dinner table. I firmly believe that family time is essential to building healthy families, yes — but also healthy individuals.

During dinner time, when a family gathers around the table, discusses their days, their dreams and their heartaches, real conversations begin. It’s here that families learn to trust, to communicate and to solve problems. Every single problem in our world today could be solved if we all learned to trust and dialogue just a little more.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My dad once told me, “remember, no matter what they take from you, they can never take the experience. Even if it’s just 5 minutes of experience, that’s something you’ll always have.”

My dad was my hero and my mentor. I’ve tried to keep everything he taught me with me, but this nugget specifically has guided me always to seek to learn, and more importantly, to experience every new adventure, no matter how small, in a long-lasting way. I truly do believe that there’s something to be found that can be carried with us as we move forward in life.

How can our readers follow you online?

RMD Advertising on Social @RMDAdvertising
Sue Reninger on Social @SueReninger
www.RMDAdvertising.com

Thank you so much for sharing your time and your excellent insights! We wish you continued success.


Brand Makeovers: Sue Reninger of RMD Advertising On The 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Non-Fungible Tokens: Robert Norton of Verisart On The 5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly…

Non-Fungible Tokens: Robert Norton of Verisart On The 5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly Successful Career In The NFT Industry

Keep up with the technology. NFTs are changing very fast, and just because you understand them today doesn’t mean you’ll remain in a knowledgeable position tomorrow.

Many have observed that we are at the cusp of an NFT boom. The thing is, it’s so cutting edge, that many people don’t know what it is. What exactly is an NFT and how can one create a lucrative career out of selling them? To address this, as a part of our interview series called “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly Successful Career In The NFT Industry”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Robert Norton.

Robert is an entrepreneur with a passion for art and technology. Before establishing Verisart, he was the co-founder and CEO of Saatchi Art and Sedition Art. Previously he worked on the executive management team at King.com and AOL Europe.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory and how you grew up?

I grew up in Hampstead in London, which is an area known for being the home to many artists and writers. The poet John Keats had a house not far from where we lived. It’s a pretty neighborhood known for its wide, open parkland called Hampstead Heath. I studied in London and Oxford, and then started life as a journalist for Reuters before moving on to AOL. I’ve been working with digital media and internet businesses ever since.

Is there a particular book, film, or podcast that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

I studied English literature and Modern History at Oxford University, and was a great admirer of the poetry of Sylvia Plath in my teenage years and the short stories and novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald in my 20s. “The Great Gatsby” remains one of my favorite books, because it manages to be both concise and lyrical and keeps you wondering and wanting more.

Is there a particular story that inspired you to pursue a career in this new industry? We’d love to hear it.

Having co-founded and led two other startups in the intersection of art and technology, Saatchi Art and Sedition Art, I was familiar with how artists used new technologies across their practises. However, I wasn’t too knowledgeable about blockchain and how this technology could be applied to the art market until the artist Casey Reas wrote to me about its possibilities in 2014. This started me thinking about how I could apply blockchain to the arts and collectibles market, and so began my idea for Verisart.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this fascinating career?

The first NFT we launched as part of the 10×10 series with SuperRare was a work by Neïl Beloufa, and was one of three NFTs that related to three large scale sculpture installations at a museum show at an exhibition called “Digital Mourning” at the Pirelli HangarBiccoca in Milan.

What was so interesting about this NFT is that the museum show itself had to be temporarily closed to the public due to a COVID resurgence in Milan. That meant that the only way for people to experience this show was through the NFT, which was aptly titled B, trying to reach out to its audience. That was a really intriguing moment in terms of how art finds new ways to connect us despite the occasional restrictions of the physical world.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I’m grateful to Shepard Fairey and his wife, Amanda Fairey, for seeing the potential in applying blockchain certification to the art market very early on, and for using the Verisart service for the registration of their works. I was also fortunate to learn from the incredible people in his studio, who helped us build a better product.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We’re currently working on a range of initiatives, from better preservation standards for time-based media with museums, to AI algorithms that develop their own distinctive styles, to assisting galleries with strategies for entering the world of NFTs. All of these projects will lead to more art making its way into NFT marketplaces in a structured manner that empowers the artists and creators.

The NFT industry seems so exciting right now. What are the 3 things in particular that most excite you about the industry? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

NFTs are still very new. We’re comfortable working with evolving technologies, and there’s always the excitement of the new that comes along with them.

We also enjoy helping people navigate through new digital experiences, and NFTs certainly qualify in that regard.

Finally, we’re thrilled by the widespread consumer interest in owning digital assets, and intrigued to see how the collector proposition naturally evolves from where it is today.

What are the 3 things that concern you about the industry? Can you explain? What can be done to address those concerns?

Scams and fraud are a big problem. We’ve already seen instances where people believe they are buying from or supporting well-known artists but get fooled by fake accounts. It’s happened even on reputable platforms.

The other two concerns are related: people having their intellectual property rights breached, and NFTs that are minted on behalf of artists without their knowledge, depriving them of the revenue they should receive. There are numerous accounts on social media of artists who are surprised to see that NFTs are created based on their work.

These are issues that can be solved through education, by getting the word out to creators on how to protect their work and to buyers on how to know if what you’re buying is legitimate. We’re also actively advocating for clearer standards for verifying NFT art, including the additional information in the records of our own Verisart certification which can’t be found within the NFTs themselves.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about NFTs? Can you explain what you mean?

Because something’s online, it will be there forever. That’s a dangerous belief to hold, because history teaches (and will continue to teach us) that nothing is forever. Being sure you know what you’re buying when it comes to NFTs is crucial, because otherwise you may be at the mercy of a network or server that can be switched off and leave you with nothing,

An even bigger myth is that NFTs are a sure win and a quick way to make money. The reality is that the NFT market is very patchy. There are pockets of success, but also people who struggle to find their audience like in any creative industry.

What are the most common mistakes you have seen people make when they enter the NFT industry. What can be done to avoid that?

Entering the NFT market without a plan, and that goes for both individuals and companies. It’s easy to get seduced by the idea that this is a technology that you should be involved with simply because it’s receiving so much hype.

But FOMO is not a reason for participating. You should find the passions, artists and works that are meaningful to you.

How do you think NFTs have the potential to help society in the future?

NFTs have the potential to transcend borders in a more frictionless way, allowing for more creative collaboration. They’ll allow for a greater speed to market, thanks to a growing group of collectors who are willing and eager to engage with digital assets. The trading of NFT art will also speed up as a result.

Ok, fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly Successful Career In The NFT Industry?” (Please share a story or example for each.)

1. Be in it for the long term. We’re just at the starting gate for consumer interest and adoption.

2. Learn by doing — don’t be afraid to dip your toe in the water. Like all emerging technologies, NFTs are a medium for iterative improvement, and each one doesn’t need to be a massive success.

3. Put out work that has meaning to you, as opposed to looking for quick market fits that may not have longevity.

4. Enter into dialogues with other people in the NFT industry. Since everyone is learning about this technology together, you’ll benefit from their experiences, and vice versa.

5. Keep up with the technology. NFTs are changing very fast, and just because you understand them today doesn’t mean you’ll remain in a knowledgeable position tomorrow.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

We really believe in the importance of our Fair Trade Art certificate, which allows people to immediately know when an artwork is doing something good in the world by generating proceeds for charitable causes. We’ve worked with Shepard Fairey and Amnesty International, as well as Rob Pruitt and the ACLU, and I hope to see other artists tackle the climate crisis with works that focus our attention on how we can do better to protect our Earth.

We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I’ve had the good fortune to meet many great artists, but I’ve never met Jeff Koons. I’d love a private breakfast with him because he has been at the forefront of contemporary art, with works that continue to dazzle and push forward how we see art.

Thank you so much for these excellent stories and insights. We wish you continued success on your great work!


Non-Fungible Tokens: Robert Norton of Verisart On The 5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: Joe Chamdani of TuringSense On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up…

The Future Is Now: Joe Chamdani of TuringSense On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

The route that makes it easiest for customers is usually the best route, even if it’s the harder one. For example, when we started TuringSense, the easier route for us was to do what everyone else was doing, such as depending on the user to affix the sensors onto their bodies and to rely on them to provide a stable magnetic field environment. With hindsight, we should have seen sooner that both issues would have huge usability problems for consumers.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Joe Chamdani.

Joe Chamdani is CEO of TuringSense. A serial entrepreneur, Joe has co-founded two other companies with successful exits and raised over $80M in venture capital. Joe got his BS degrees in EE and CS at Washington University St. Louis and PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Georgia Tech.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

A mentor of mine told me one day that I would be happiest working at the bleeding edge of technology, and he was right! In fact, I was so eager to get going that while getting my PhD I was moonlighting as a research engineer at a computer systems lab. And when my doctorate was finished, it led to two patents and a job straight away with Sun Microsystems.

Can you share the most interesting story that has happened to you since you began your career?

Well, I’m not sure if this is the most interesting story, but it’s certainly the most interesting car rental story. For one of my companies, we were due to present the next day at a conference in another part of the country, but the product wasn’t totally ready, and I didn’t want to hop on a plane and leave the engineering team behind and be potentially out of touch with such a big deadline looming. So, with only 24 hours left, I rented an RV and put the entire product and engineering team in it, and we drove cross country for 12 hours, coding the whole way there. We arrived at our lodgings with a completed product and nailed the demo in the morning.

Can you tell us about the cutting-edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on?

Before PIVOT Yoga, the only way you could get reliable wireless motion capture information in real time was to use cameras and lots of them, the way Hollywood studios do. Those systems cost millions to buy and even hundreds of thousands to rent, because you also need specialized studios, technicians, software, and hardware.

But with PIVOT Yoga, our system is completely digital, with no cameras, and it only requires a smart phone app and our smart, “sensorized” yoga clothes, which we sell for $99 plus $19/month for unlimited classes.

When you choose a class through the app, the instructor appears on screen and PIVOT Yoga digitally inserts a live avatar of your body into the video, allowing side-by-side practice with the teacher. There is no equipment to set up, no cameras to position, and no furniture to move out of the way.

It’s hard to think of another product with a pricing and ease-of-use breakthrough like this one. We have calibrated our clothes against those massive Hollywood-sized camera installations, and we have virtually the same accuracy. Technically speaking, some of the component breakthroughs here were in sensor fusion, wireless protocols, error filtering, and other firmware.

How do you think that will help people?

Movement activities, like yoga and tennis, can’t really be learned out of a book. And honestly, it’s a little difficult to learn it even with a video demonstration like YouTube. Can you imagine paying for a tennis lesson or yoga class where the teacher never gave you any feedback? That’s what learning yoga through YouTube is like. We believe real-time feedback on your form is vital to learning well and quickly. At the end of the day, that’s what we provide: instant form feedback, whether it’s from a teacher directly (as in our live classes) or indirectly (in our on-demand classes). We really do want to teach the world to move.

How do you think this might change the world?

The bar for online instruction is going to be permanently raised and that’s a good thing. But beyond that, for activities like yoga, fear of doing things incorrectly is a big problem for beginners and it’s one of the things holding them back from exercising. In the US and in many parts of the world, there’s rising awareness for physical fitness and activity and anything we can do to keep people motivated and exercising is going to be important.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

It’s true that any technology can be misused. With our product there is an opportunity to get too obsessed about your form, we do recognize that. That’s why all of our performance tracking metrics require a little digging from the yogi to discover. We do want people to be interested in proper postures, but it’s possible to miss the forest for the trees, and the yoga for the asana. We hope we’ve gotten that balance right.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

There were actually two really important moments. The first was when we noticed just how tough proprioception — the ability for a human being to know at any point where their body is in space — really is. In early tests, we asked yogis to close their eyes and raise both arms until they were level with their shoulders. It surprised us that nobody could do it! So, we started thinking hard about how to help yogis in this respect, and that led us to the product we have today, which puts a live avatar of the yogi’s body on screen.

The second big moment happened when we demoed our app in a high-rise building. It simply wouldn’t work properly, and we finally figured out the problem: the flooring of the building had lots of electrical conduits in it, and they were putting out a magnetic field that was causing havoc with our system, which depended at the time, like most motion capture systems on a stable magnetic field environment. That pushed us to make our product immune to magnetic fluctuations, which are all too common in consumer households, and I’m happy to say we succeeded.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

Honestly, we feel like most of what we need are more great teachers on our PIVOT Yoga Teacher platform. We are scouring the world for them now.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

Our focus right now is mostly on the product side of the business. We’ll start worrying about the other P’s (in the famous four P’s marketing expression) shortly.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There are so many people I could name, but one stands out: my father, who helped not so much with what he told me, but by the example he set.

My father was a CPA, but hardly a traditional one. His passion was for helping his clients grow their businesses, and his clients loved him for his out-of-the-box yet practical thinking. He was very hands on and even ran boot camps and other entrepreneur education sessions out of his office. He made most of his money from side investments, eventually leading him to start other businesses of his own. As my siblings and I grew up, there was always some new product being made in the house — from a printing press to soy sauce and furniture carvings. I always enjoyed watching employees make the products and tried to jump in to participate in the making and sales of these products. Eventually my dad’s furniture business took off, though it weathered some hard times when my father kept the business running to make sure that his employees still had incomes. And most importantly, I remember to this day that his customers used to do every deal with my father on a handshake, since they knew his word was as good as law.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Well, most of what I work on starts out as an idea on a napkin. So, I never get tired of seeing ideas come to fruition after an insane amount of work and then seeing a smile on the face of a customer. Those are great moments. And along the way of building these businesses, it usually means jobs get created and careers get built. I’m even old enough now that several of the people I recruited to former companies have gone on to start their own businesses.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

I can think of 4!

The route that makes it easiest for customers is usually the best route, even if it’s the harder one. For example, when we started TuringSense, the easier route for us was to do what everyone else was doing, such as depending on the user to affix the sensors onto their bodies and to rely on them to provide a stable magnetic field environment. With hindsight, we should have seen sooner that both issues would have huge usability problems for consumers. Eventually we did, and it’s been great, but we had a lot of resistance internally to breaking the mold. But if the mold is hard on end users, it needs to get broken, and the sooner the better.

A little research goes a long way. I’ve often been tempted like many entrepreneurs to build things in consumer or even hardware spaces that I know a lot about already. That can work, but not always. While consumers can’t always tell you the answer you need, you can certainly look at what they currently do — what they use, what they spend their free time on, and so on — and learn from that.

Get the key hires right from day one. Early hires are so critical, particularly along core dimensions of a business. In a consumer business, product talent is super important, and you should sweat that first hire if you don’t already have that DNA. In some of my businesses, I’ve been slow to recognize that and regretted it later.

Learn faster, and practice tough love. I always feel that a team can learn faster. But where my teams have made mistakes, it’s almost always been on the “learning” part of the build-measure-learn loop. Part of the learning here is that you have to be willing to let go of approaches that don’t work sooner, or more precisely aren’t working well enough in the amount of time that it’s prudent to give them to develop. Most technologies will eventually work if you give them a lot of time, but young companies are always short on time and capital. So you have to be a little ruthless in weeding technologies that are going to take too much of either of those.

If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Well, we think that teaching the world to move — our cause at TuringSense — is a pretty good calling. The developed world in particular has huge problems with obesity — over a third of US adults fit that description — and we know extra weight has enormous health implications. So, removing the barriers to exercise, and meeting people where they are (which is at home!) is really important. And by making it easier to learn proper form correctly, we can not only keep people safer as they exercise but also help develop the motivation to keep their exercise going. We’ve only just gotten started here.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Somebody once told me that startups are roller coaster rides, not moon shots. That’s given me important perspective because all of my companies have experienced ups and downs. If you know in advance to expect a rollercoaster ride, then you’ll be a lot likelier to hang on to the end.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say?

We have a proprietary product that’s cheaper, better, and easier to use, by orders of magnitude, in a trillion-dollar industry at the intersection of fashion, fitness, gaming, and even physical therapy.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

We’re on Instagram and Facebook.

Thank you so much for sharing your time and your excellent insights! We wish you continued success.


The Future Is Now: Joe Chamdani of TuringSense On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Non-Fungible Tokens: Yura Lazebnikov of WePlay Esports On The 5 Things You Need To Know To Create a…

Non-Fungible Tokens: Yura Lazebnikov of WePlay Esports On The 5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly Successful Career In The NFT Industry

…What we saw in this new technology was a new way to present ourselves and deliver our thoughts, a certain amount of creativity associated with the content that we had created and will create to our audience, not just by sharing it all at once, but by sharing the joy of owning it. As pretentious as it may sound, this is a concrete step forward in interacting with your users, your consumers who love your product and want to spend more time enjoying it.

Many have observed that we are at the cusp of an NFT boom. The thing is, it’s so cutting edge, that many people don’t know what it is. What exactly is an NFT and how can one create a lucrative career out of selling them? To address this, as a part of our interview series called “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly Successful Career In The NFT Industry”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Yura Lazebnikov.

Yura Lazebnikov is an expert in IT integration, software development, and the creation of data centers. He started his first business in 2003 in the field of esports. In 2006, Yura Lazebnikov, together with business partner Oleg Krot, founded WePlay Esports. His achievements include taking it to the multinational level, with offices and esports studios from Hong Kong to Los Angeles. Yura Lazebnikov’s focus is WePlay Esports’ strategic goals, partner engagement, and creating new global media and IT products.

His goal is to increase the market share of the WePlay Esports media holding company up to 25%.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory and how you grew up?

If we talk about my background, it probably presents a classic example of an IT entrepreneur who was into all things related to computers, gadgets, and computer games since childhood. At some point, my hobby started bringing me money little by little, which produced a number of streams of income that helped me earn and grow in various industries related to IT, video games, software development, outsourcing, and the construction of these infrastructures. And over all this time, my love of gaming hasn’t gone anywhere, which in the end took us to what we have today in the company WePlay Esports.

Is there a particular book, film, or podcast that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

In fact, if I think about it, there are probably a lot. Here’s an interesting story related to video games. When I was a very young kid, I had a computer game. It was the first version of the game Dune. Not the one that was a strategy yet, but the one that was a first-person RPG quest. I was probably 9 or 10 at the time — I don’t remember for sure. So, anyway, I couldn’t complete the game, because I would get very much stuck after the first, like, 10–20 minutes, because the ideology was like an impenetrable wall to me, and I didn’t know where to go or what to do. So, it was basically this game that inspired me to do two things at a very early age. First, I read all the Frank Herbert novels at that age, which definitely helped me complete the game as it was quite accurate to the first Dune novel. Second, it encouraged me to start learning English at least at a level that would help me understand the dialogues between the characters. So, this was a story from my childhood that probably influenced my formation as a person to some extent.

Is there a particular story that inspired you to pursue a career in this new industry? We’d love to hear it.

I guess there is no particular story. It was a combination of numerous circumstances, facts, events, other people’s successes, their stories, books, hobbies — this whole mix, which is always present in the life of each individual and affects their decisions every day. Chance meetings, the convergence of interests — that’s how it all happened. If I had to single out one story, like when I was walking, saw the northern lights, and decided to perform a specific action, I couldn’t because this was not the case. Louis Pasteur once said: “Chance favors the prepared mind.” So, there must have been some uninterrupted chain of events that led to a number of correct decisions, which led to career development. There sure were mistakes, obstacles, and setbacks, but judging by the fact that in the long term, we are moving forward quite energetically, this inspiration probably isn’t waning yet — it just keeps accumulating and driving us forward.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this fascinating career?

I can tell you, but it’s probably not a very interesting one. However, what happened was part of what influenced the formation of some sort of entrepreneurial mindset, and my career, too. When you move from school to college, numerous opportunities open up; you get a lot of freedom, and also thoroughly different parameters for life that apply to you, in fact, as an adult, when you stop being a schoolboy. So, in my first exam week at the end of the first term, I failed all the possible exams and tests, my grades were even below the threshold required to get to sit them. And this gave me an understanding that a lot of freedom comes, of course, with quite a lot of responsibility, and in the end, you have to sort everything out yourself, because it’s unlikely that someone will come and solve everything for you. It was a great lesson, and in the end, I passed all my exams very well, at the end of February or in March. And it had a strong impact on my formation, my understanding of the world, and so on. It was a good wake-up call, which made it obvious that with great freedom comes a lot of responsibility, and, my friend, you have to learn to solve any problems fast and basically by yourself. That was the story.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

There is actually a series of such stories, and I would hardly call them mistakes — I’d rather call them experience. We analyze all mistakes and move forward — just as I told you in my previous answer. I can recall our experience with the green screen at a tournament in 2016, which has contributed to the fact that WePlay Esports has now one of the strongest production teams in the world, and we are making the coolest content on the market. But at the time, it was a funny enough story that allowed us to learn a lot. Such stories are small, and they happen weekly, if not daily. They are all part of the set of factors making up our experience and progress. So, yes, I know that it echoes the previous question, but we get a lot of experience every day.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

At different stages in my life, there were, of course, different people. Of course, there were my parents, who gave me some basic capabilities, who believed in me, helped me, sometimes they would give me a push, sometimes they would discipline me, and sometimes, they were cool about things and did not scold me. Sometimes they also passed on their experience. It was in my teenage years, some sort of anti-childhood — my formative years. Then, quickly, I met Oleg Krot, my partner. We influence each other, and it’s hard to put anybody else at the same rank — that’s why we are partners, we grow and move forward together.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

There are actually many projects, both in my head and in development. You can give people either a feeling of joy and happiness or a sense of earning and increased prosperity through the projects that we are doing, if we don’t consider the social and charity projects that we have. As for our business projects, we either create products that make life or the world better, or they are products deliberately intended for earning money, which in the end still make people happier. That’s the only way we do projects. That is, we don’t do those that can harm anyone or can be detrimental to any of the parties in advance. That’s why, same as any IT entrepreneur for that matter, we are looking for undiscovered areas of the market and trying to combine many things like a puzzle. And if this puzzle comes together, there is a huge BOOM — fireworks exploding, someone has a smile on their face, someone has got more money, someone has more happiness and joy. So, that’s it.

Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. I’m sure you get this question all the time. But for the benefit of our readers, can you explain in your own words what an NFT is, and why people are spending so much money on them?

That’s an easy question, compared to all the other questions that come at us from the crypto world, cryptocurrency and blockchain industry, and so on. Because, in fact, an NFT is just a digital asset, which does not appear to be any different from the assets that people had in earlier years. And if a person actually has an original Dali or Van Gogh in the basement, they don’t see it every day anyway, but the mere knowledge that they have this painting is heart-warming. And an NFT is a digital treasure of the same order. In other words, it’s a unique item that exists in the digital world, belongs to a certain person, can’t be replicated, and whose value depends on many factors. Basically, people have long been accustomed to owning digital or semi-digital derivative assets, such as company stocks, gold and precious metal derivatives, futures contracts, and so on. And no one normally has any qualms about them. Since we live in the 21st century and everyone spends a huge amount of their free and working time on the World Wide Web, it’s only logical that civilization has produced a certain type of asset that exists in this digital world. Thanks to blockchain technology, it is practically indestructible, its ownership is easily confirmed, and, basically, the only question that arises is that of the price of these assets. And as we well-know, in today’s world, things are worth exactly as much as people believe they should be worth. And the market for digital items, digital game currency, skins, accounts, and everything else has been around for years, and for some above — even decades. NFTs are just a sort of new step forward, a step-up in the cultural and business development of asset ownership on the Internet at the moment. And if you look at the essence of things, there is nothing new in it compared to owning any other type of asset, be it rare cars, a diamond ring, a baseball cap with an autograph of an athlete — there is no difference. It’s just another transferable thing, or, yes, a digital thing. Yet another prized possession that increases in value over time, that’s nice to own, to know that you have it somewhere, let’s say, in a digital vault or a cold digital wallet or platform. And you know that no one else has it. That’s what an NFT is.

The NFT industry seems so exciting right now. What are the 3 things in particular that most excite you about the industry? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

NFTs are now peaking as a trend since the technology has been around for quite a long time — several years already. Now everyone is talking about it. Again, there are things that make people more excited about this industry. First comes the easy access to acquiring these assets. That is, in fact, unlike with any other asset that exists in the physical world, you spend your money, cryptocurrency, conventional currency, and instantly get in your possession a digital asset that you can just as easily sell, auction off. It’s stored with you; it’s much easier to transport than any other type of asset. And if you really love something you’ve bought — a painting by an artist, a photo, a music track, a digital autographed card, a highlight reel, digital figurines, characters, etc., you can wrap many things up as NFTs. It makes it much easier for you to own them, and you get as much pleasure from owning them as from anything you bought on the market. And that’s probably where their secret lies. Because we as human beings have already come to the understanding that we don’t quite distinguish between the pleasure of owning digital and physical objects, so the trend for NFTs will grow, the industry will develop. Perhaps hype will decrease a bit. But, same as with the pandemic that, I hope, is declining in many regions, the number of cases is now much higher than it was a year ago, but everyone is talking about it much less. It will be the same with NFTs — more and more people will own them each day, the market will stabilize, it will become understandable and accessible to millions, hundreds of billions of people, but the feeling of hype will decrease, although the engaged audience will grow by tens and hundreds of times.

What are the 3 things that concern you about the industry? Can you explain? What can be done to address those concerns?

There are actually no concerns about the industry, and if we talk about the cryptocurrency industry, then it has nothing to do with NFTs. If there can be concerns about cryptocurrencies, like that it’s digital money with nothing behind it, and so on, NFTs are just a new format of asset ownership, as we just mentioned. So, if we talk about the industry, there is no entirely new industry — it’s the same one that sells paintings worldwide for tens of millions of dollars on Sotheby’s, the black market that sells one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry, people queuing for new collections from their favorite artists, so they can put them in storage or hang them on the wall of a private museum. And NFTs are just another commodity added to that list — it’s not a new industry, it’s the enrichment of the old one with new types of items that exist in the digital world. Therefore, there are probably no three things to be concerned about — there is hardly even one. This industry is not connected in any way with cryptocurrency, cryptocurrency exchanges, the rise or fall of Bitcoin, Vitalik Buterin’s remarks about Ethereum, or Elon Musk’s tweets about Dogecoin. There is just one base, it’s used in many honest NFTs, and blockchain technologies are used for storage. Blockchain is a centralized, deregulated data storage system. It’s basically a type of database. So calling it an industry is a bit of an overstatement. We at WePlay Esports often get asked about the esports industry. Sure, it does exist as an industry. But more and more often, I try to explain to people that it’s not a separate industry. It’s the good old sports industry, to which new disciplines get added. And a person who watched a boxing match on Friday night, the same person aged 25, who is, for example, interested in neuroscience, who loves video games, and spends their free time with their girlfriend or boyfriend, on Saturday night will watch a Counter-Strike matchup. Just because they like to consume competitive content, be it Formula 1, boxing, or Dota 2 — for people who have grown up in the 21st century, it makes no difference. It’s the same with NFTs — it’s just a new kind of asset that people who have money will want to own, will maybe want to earn some money from speculative trade, from reselling it; there will be a black market, a gray market, a white market. So, I think we needn’t worry about NFTs — they’re not going anywhere.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about NFTs? Can you explain what you mean?

We’ve just talked about this — it’s about them being non-existent things. “They are non-existent things” is one of the main myths in general, which concern not only NFTs but all the digital assets existing in the world: how can you spend money on something you can’t put your finger on? Well, for one thing, people very often spend money on things that they can’t keep or touch, for example, on services. If people endow a certain object with value — one can talk for a long time about the value of modern-day money, gold and reserve assets, the gold peg, etc. We can talk about whether modern money is worth anything in the understanding of the 19th century, for example (a small spoiler — it’s not). So, the main myth that people believe in is that if a certain asset exists in the digital world, it has no right to have a value in U.S. dollars or euros, and this is a myth and nonsense. Because if humanity as an entity endows a certain object a certain value, then this object automatically acquires this value. It’s somehow been working like this for 50 thousand years, and we all live with it — starting from the times of digging sticks, berries, and mammoth meat, and ending now, with NFTs, digital works of art, some unique things that only exist on the Internet, which are physically impossible to transfer to the real world.

What are the most common mistakes you have seen people make when they enter the NFT industry. What can be done to avoid that?

If we talk about mistakes and recommendations, I would probably like to address the security of storage. People are often quite messy when it comes to storing some of their data, accessing digital wallets, and so on. Most of our company projects exist in the digital space, which is why we are careful when it comes to cybersecurity. Therefore, when we were preparing the launch of WePlay Collectibles NFT project, we approached the issue of choosing a marketplace carefully, and selected a safe, reliable partner with a solid reputation — the leading international exchange and blockchain ecosystem Binance. They are launching the Binance NFT marketplace, and we have decided to present our first tokens from the Storyline collection at the platform’s auction as part of the “100 Creators” campaign.

We need to understand that if the asset is digital, the number of attackers and scammers who will try to set up schemes to steal NFTs and then resell them on a black, underground market will grow with each passing day. So, the biggest mistake that people can make is to be messy about the safety of their digital assets, because the number of people who will want to steal them will grow exponentially every day. So, I do have a recommendation — if you want to start owning this type of asset, work on your technological literacy. This basically applies to the ownership of assets of any type, be it stocks, cryptocurrency, shares in enterprises. You should always meticulously observe security measures that will allow you to continue to own these assets, regardless of the desire of scammers and people who want to take them from you.

How do you think NFTs have the potential to help society in the future?

As a matter of fact, it is one of the ways people can apply their creative and entrepreneurial potential. It’s another tool for self-expression for which other people are potentially willing to pay money. How will it help society? It will make the world a richer place in terms of art, music, and sports achievements, which can also be represented as NFTs. This will give artists the opportunity to look for new ways to earn money, new ways to express themselves, and that’s cool, that’s the way to go. Many people are horrified about the 21st century wiping out professions through automation, and trade unions are fighting tooth and nail to save thousands of jobs at companies. Here are the jobs — take them! More routine work will be done by ever more advanced algorithms, machines, robotic technologies, while this is where the human potential can apply itself — create some things that algorithms, neural networks, etc. are not yet capable of creating. Although, of course, there will be a place for them, too. But as in any other industry, handcrafted things will always cost more than those created by algorithms and mechanisms. So, there is this huge field of possibility for new professions, for earning money, for applying your intelligence and your creative abilities. That’s why this all is so cool.

Ok, fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly Successful Career In The NFT Industry?” (Please share a story or example for each.)

That’s easy enough to answer using our example and our reasons for deciding to enter the NFT market. I can tie all my previous answers to this question. What we saw in this new technology was a new way to present ourselves and deliver our thoughts, a certain amount of creativity associated with the content that we had created and will create to our audience, not just by sharing it all at once, but by sharing the joy of owning it. As pretentious as it may sound, this is a concrete step forward in interacting with your users, your consumers who love your product and want to spend more time enjoying it. What we are doing with NFTs is something that I think companies from all industries that are not entirely b2b-oriented but have at least some connection with b2c will come to eventually. If you have a live person as a client, you want to touch them and share with them some part of what you do. And, at the same time, baseball caps and T-shirts with the company logo are already a cliché everyone is sick and tired of. On top of all that, in industries such as media and competitive gaming, in which WePlay Esports works, we accumulate a lot of complex, beautiful, and cool material that you can start releasing to the audience. That’s what we will use NFTs for. This is not some random tool that we decided to mass-produce, like some sort of baseball card equivalent, and give it away for a bit of money. No, it will be a large set of what are, in fact, our history and our thoughts, ideas, events — assets that are ours, which we will distribute among our audience, giving them the opportunity to own it all together! That’s what NFT is for us and how we got there.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

It seems to me that this is a trick question. It’s like, “If you know the answer to this question, why haven’t you done it yet, and if you don’t, why try to come up with some stupid thought just to answer it?” So, my answer to this question is that I honestly don’t know, but I sincerely believe that every day, all the people on the team and I, we all try to do it. And so, “the most amount of good to the most number of people” is what we do every day. In some things, we do better, in other things, we do worse. But if at some point we do have an epiphany and suddenly understand how to make sure that everyone has enough of everything, we will probably take that chance. However, the probability of this happening tends to absolute zero. My answer is part romantic, part cynical, but my point is that if someone says they know the answer, they are most likely either a fool or a liar.

We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them

Can I just briefly answer “No” to this question? Actually, as an entrepreneur, I try to pursue the meetings and opportunities that help move the business and what we do forward. If we talk about what we do in esports, then, of course, I would like to be able to convey my thoughts in a deeper, more interesting way to the people who make decisions as leaders of the global industry — at Valve, Epic Games, even though I really like what they both do. I am no less awed by what Blizzard, Riot Games, and so many others do. This doesn’t mean that there is no chance to have these meetings, but if the question is who I would like to have breakfast, lunch, or dinner with, then the more breakfasts and dinners I have in my life with people who we can mutually enrich and find some common ground for of our potential projects, the more fun it will be for everyone, and no matter how selfish it may sound, for the world as a whole. So, you can tag Gabe Newell and Electronic Arts Inc., Blizzard Entertainment Inc., and Epic Games Inc. top managers.


Non-Fungible Tokens: Yura Lazebnikov of WePlay Esports On The 5 Things You Need To Know To Create a… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Alexander Ferzan of Zaddy: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand

It’s not what you like, it’s what they like. I am constantly approached by people who make a thing that they think is awesome, but nobody else cares about it. When I first started my agency, this was the lion’s share of my business, trying to retrofit something someone was selling to an audience that didn’t ask for it. A commodity isn’t about what YOU need, it’s about what THEY need. Pay attention to THEM.

As part of our series about how to create a trusted, believable, and beloved brand, I had the pleasure to interview Alexander Ferzan.

Alexander Ferzan was born and raised in New York, and now proudly claims “Miami transplant”. He came to life in the late 90’s punk scene, transitioning from mediocre musician to talent representative, pursuing a path in music management for almost a decade before jumping ship to put his art school degree to work. Now specializing in non-traditional marketing and advertising, Ferzan prides himself on developing alternative ideas for brands that can stomach the risk. From Bieber, to Four Loko, Ferzan has spent the better part of the last 10 years creating out of the box initiatives for some of the best brands on the planet, out of a small creative shop he calls ZADDY.

Ferzan, The Fat Jewish and White Girl Problems also founded BABE (recently acquired by Anheuser-Busch), a wine company that revolutionized the alcohol industry by leveraging audience and voice over social media and traditional advertising outlets. When he’s not handling special projects for his clients, Ferzan is focused on owned and operated brand development, creating intellectual property in house and building teams to bring each initiative to life. Oh, he’s also 5’9”.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

The truth lies in a confluence of two factors; I refused to work for anyone else, and my process was a bit too alternative for any employer to truly stomach. That meant I had no choice but to work for myself, applying a whole quiver of amalgamated skills to whatever project I could see myself benefitting. From managing punk bands as a kid, I had no choice but to do everything — from sending out demos, to doing packaging design, to even hopping on stage and playing when a band member had the flu.

Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I’ve mad countless mistakes, it’s part of innovating. One that my colleagues never let me live down was with regard to a meeting we had with distributors for White Girl Rosé early on, where I had the stage for 5 minutes and completely blacked out, going full wax poetic on super deep cut entertainment and internet industry jargon. Essentially, I was telling a room of 350lb liquor sales reps named, “Sal” about how @browncartigan isn’t a good outlet for marketing spends due to the disconnect between meme audiences and theme or personality accounts. Biggest take away, know your audience.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We focus on non-traditional tactics in every strategy we design, that’s the gist. When Four Loko wants to make a splash, we do a collaboration with Fleshlight and send celebrities prosthetic vaginas in a Four Loko can. When Babe wants to prove that they crush the competition, we build a wine endorsed monster truck and jump it 100 feet in the air, only to land on a bunch of spiked seltzer demolition cars. We just don’t care what anyone thinks is “too much” or “nuts”…we do what we think will slap, and we do it hard.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Yes, every project we are working on is exciting, that’s something I can say with confidence. While some give away money or help people get tested for STD’s (stay tuned for that one) the one that stands out as the most exciting and helpful at the same time would be “99PROJECTS”, a CSR platform we built for AriZona Iced Tea. 99PROJECTS is AriZona’s commitment to bringing 99 creative ideas to life, no matter how long or how much it takes. People can submit their ideas at99projects.org and AriZona will choose the ideas they will fund.

We’re also doing a bunch of notable talent initiatives, in trade. From sending Mike “The Real Tarzann” Holston to Ecuador during a global pandemic to continue his conservational efforts, to helping Raw Rodgers live out his dreams as a 50 year-old pro skater, we’re the team helping to make it happen.

Ok let’s now jump to the core part of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?

Brand Marketing and Product Marketing used to be different, but now everything is the same. When I was a kid, you were a skater, a punk, a jock or a nerd. These days it isn’t so segregated. All creative types have converged, thanks to the internet, and it’s an amazing time to be everything at once. For brands, it’s no different. A brand’s voice is just as important as the Product Integration and it all needs to hit just as hard as the call to action. Everything is happening at the same time, and the ones who get that are the ones who are winning.

Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?

You know, a few years ago I think I’d actually agree with the presumption of this question, but I’ve grown out of it. Building a brand is kind of bull, to be honest. It’s a tactic that us woke millennial entrepreneurs engineered to increase the value of our product or service to out of touch executives, basically the VICE methodology. “We control the audience, so we can just tell them what to do.” We now know that’s not true, it’s smoke and mirrors. There is no brand without a great product or a great offering. My goals have shifted from storytelling to consumer listening. Some of the most ubiquitous brands we intimately know did nothing but offer something great at a value, brands like OxyClean, Cellino & Barnes and Glock didn’t focus on building a brand, they focused on a product people needed, and how to offer it in an enticing way. Tesla and SpaceX are the best examples of that today. No commercials, no real social media, no ads…just great products.

Can you share 5 strategies that a company should be doing to build a trusted and believable brand? Please tell us a story or example for each.

1) It’s not what you like, it’s what they like.

I am constantly approached by people who make a thing that they think is awesome, but nobody else cares about it. When I first started my agency, this was the lion’s share of my business, trying to retrofit something someone was selling to an audience that didn’t ask for it. A commodity isn’t about what YOU need, it’s about what THEY need. Pay attention to THEM.

2) “Too far down the road” is B.S.

A lot of people fear shutting a project down or pivoting because they consider the amount of time and energy invested to be a factor in the potential success, or lost revenue. That’s not true. Beating a dead horse will only result in a really dead horse that no one cares about. If it’s not working, cut your losses! You’ll limit your wasted utilities and probably make up for it sooner with a better idea.

3) There is no “way” to do stuff.

If you don’t have a hammer, you’ll probably whack a nail with the nearest hard object. You’re not going to not get that nail in the wall. Similarly with marketing, advertising, brand development, etc., if you follow the path of someone before you, you’re not innovating. Now, that path might be a thorny trail of potholes and oil slicks, but if you get to the end faster, better, richer — who cares? Agencies and brands all think they know the path to success, and the truth is most of the time all they do is proliferate mediocrity. Do it your way.

4) You don’t know one thing about anything at all.

Spew heaps of B.S. at all times to get the job done, but then just shut-up and listen. You’re the only one who knows you actually don’t know anything at all.

5) Ok now you’re a F*ing genius.

Ok truth is, if you made it this far, you’re on to something. Appease everyone by listening with one ear open, exercise ‘assimilation contrast’ where it fits, but know that you know what’s best in the end — and do what you have to do to protect that.

In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job building a believable and beloved brand. What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?

Apple, Tesla, Nike, blah, blah, blah…ALSO, FOUR LOKO, never once defined a brand voice or narrative, they just let the consumer believe what they wanted and give the product an organic voice. They let the fans do the work because the product was so strong.

In advertising, one generally measures success by the number of sales. How does one measure the success of a brand building campaign? Is it similar, is it different?

Said it before, I’ll say it again…branding and marketing and sales are all part of the same 21st century beast. Can’t have one without the other. Success is paying your bills and putting some money away at the end of the month.

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

Media, be it social, earned, traditional, is at the root of all campaigns we design. We typically think headline backwards when we’re ideating, and if it’s not going to work in the news, then we make sure it’s photo-worthy for the internet. If it isn’t on the internet, did it even actually happen?

What advice would you give to other marketers or business leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?

If you don’t want to avoid burn out, don’t do this. Get a job that allows you to retire at 45 with full bennies, and enjoy your family and ice -cold Bud Lights the rest of your life. Otherwise, burn the f* out. That’s how we do it, we rip and shred.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Proofread your meltdowns. Type it out, read it an hour later, edit it, read it an hour later, edit it, read it an hour later…then see if you still want to send it. You’ll get a lot further doing the exact opposite of what you want to do at any given moment, then doing what you want to do at any given moment.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Omg, I’m literally writing a toilet top book on euphemisms — this is my thing! Ok…

Mom: People tell you who they are everyday, only you refuse to believe them.
Ram Dass: Everybody’s busy being somebody.
Fat Jew: There’s a million ways to say, ‘fuck you’.
Ace Ventura: If I’m not back in 5 minutes…just wait longer.

The relevance for all these quotes is simply to reflect on what you do, say, hear, and think — just be different, ’cause if you’re different, you’re probably better.

We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Hmmm, how’s about Donald Trump (yes, I think he’s an a**hole obviously), the ghost of Steve Jobs and that 12 year-old Burger King hired as their creative director like 6 years ago — that kid rips.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Instagram: @ferzan

Business: www.zaddy.net

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


Alexander Ferzan of Zaddy: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Steven Jiang of Hiretual: How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line

Increasing diversity will help create an unbiased foundation at company — Having a diverse and inclusive workforce is the only way for a company to really be conscious and aware about how they engage with individuals who come from different backgrounds and have different opinions that are crucial for growth. How is a company supposed to be confident in their ability to avoid unconscious bias if they don’t have a workforce that challenges them to do so?

As a part of our series about “How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Steven Jiang.

Steven Jiang is the CEO and co-founder of Hiretual, the recruiting industry’s leading Talent Data System. Coming from a technical background, Steven’s passion for recruiting began with his own struggles hiring engineers as an Engineering Manager at Samsung’s mobile division in Silicon Valley. Steven founded Hiretual on the principles of leveraging deep advanced technology to transform recruitment into a data-driven model that was completely Internet-friendly. Powered by a proprietary AI-matching engine, Hiretual helps recruiters source and engage the most relevant job candidates 10 times faster with the power of public data found on the Internet and intelligent system integrations with search engines, talent databases, and business software. A lifetime student of recruiting, Steven believes in empowering recruiters with valuable and up-to-date resources in the ever-evolving hiring landscape.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive into the main part of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you share a bit of your “backstory” with us?

I grew up in a rural village in China where education at the time wasn’t a main priority. My parents went to great lengths to provide me with a good education, where I then knew I wanted to succeed. In the later years as I was getting my PhD, I also received an internship as a software engineer, which soon later inspired me to focus fully on becoming a software engineer. I worked very hard to differentiate myself from my peers, sometimes working 18 hours a day 7 days a week! After many promotions and growth, it was time to think about what was next in my career — I wanted to build something for myself. Being always passionate about building a team, bringing a group of people to create a purpose, I knew creating Hiretual was my next step. I put in this much work so I can better support my team and set them up to make bigger and better contributions to the organization.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? Can you tell us the lesson or take away you took out of that story?

When I started my career, I would work a ton of hours each week and in the process I spent a lot of time understanding what productive work really is and what type of leadership could build an environment for productive work to flourish. Through all that hard work, I got a promotion that would soon lead me to a great boss that I’ve learned a ton from throughout the course of my career up until today — that boss became of a cofounder of Hiretual with me, and we’ve been on this journey together for the past 6 years thanks to everything we’ve learned from each other during that initial stage of my career. Spending all those hours back then has also helped me better understand what my team would need in their day to get their job done efficiently while enjoying what they do.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you tell us a story about how that was relevant in your own life?

“If you can dream it, you can do it” by Walt Disney. I suppose the quote is self explanatory, and it really is a truth that I take to heart. If you were to tell me all those years ago — back when education wasn’t a main priority for most — that I’d successfully build a company of my own and grow a team that thrives off innovation, creativity and teamwork, it would sound like a dream. I’ve always dreamt of big things, and I believe that everything paid off because I dared to dream and I wasn’t afraid to reach for things even though they felt so far away.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?

My parents. They inspired me to where I am today and the company I created. They have always taught me to be myself and always real to myself, which has taught me great lessons throughout my career thus far. Also, my team who’s been with me since the beginning of Hiretual. They never allowed each other to say anything negative about the startup company and never showed any fear, even though every day was a challenge. The team helped give me the drive to push through and never give up — which led us to creating Hiretual.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

At Hiretual, we have more women team leaders than male — 80% of our product team is female. We strive to have a diverse team and to date we have eight countries represented. Rather than caring about candidates’ backgrounds, we focus on experience and passion for the job. Hiretual’s goal is to have the best practices in recruiting, focusing on bringing in the unbiased.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

An exciting project our team has been pursuing is Hiretual Apps, a marketplace of integrations with tools to support recruiting functions including resume searches, calendar scheduling, video interviewing, team collaboration and analytics. This helps those in the recruiting space by removing the extra steps in the recruitment process with automated data synchronization between recruitment tools while simplifying talent management across internal and external channels.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Bringing goodness to the world has always started from my relationships with the people around me. My success has introduced me to a team of over 200 people who are excited about Hiretual, a vision and product I led in a small apartment room with less than 10 people over six years ago. I want to bring goodness to the lives of each and every one of my team members so my biggest priority is treating everyone around me with respect and fairness and showing them a place where they are listened to and appreciated, the same way I was when I first started my career. The world will be a better place if each and every one of us truly takes care and expresses our gratitude to the circles of people around us.

Ok. Thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main part of our interview. This may be obvious to you, but it is not intuitive to many people. Can you articulate to our readers five ways that increased diversity can help a company’s bottom line. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Increasing diversity will help create an unbiased foundation at company
    Having a diverse and inclusive workforce is the only way for a company to really be conscious and aware about how they engage with individuals who come from different backgrounds and have different opinions that are crucial for growth. How is a company supposed to be confident in their ability to avoid unconscious bias if they don’t have a workforce that challenges them to do so?
  2. Diverse talent brings unique experiences which can bring better, more creative ideas
    At Hiretual, we’re building a product that talent acquisition teams actively use to increase diverse representation in their talent pipelines. Our product can’t be made without a team that speaks up about different problems and solutions in the hiring process viewed from many unique lenses. When we’re upfront and aware of how experiences differ among minority and majority groups, we’ll have a more complete picture of how our product actually impacts the audience we aim to serve.
  3. Diverse talent can aid with decision making for the same reason as above — they all experience, perceive and learn different things from the world, which can help with decisions
    For example, I mentioned above that 80% of our product team are women. The decision-making process would look completely different if everyone on the team were men, especially if it comes to decisions on how our product should serve our many customers who are looking to drastically increase gender equality in their organizations this year. The enthusiasm to drive these solutions forward might look different, and the empathy toward other minority groups and how hiring processes adversely affect them may also differ.
  4. It’s proven that diverse companies produce 19% more revenue
    I believe that companies with diverse workforces produce more revenue because the quality of products and services increase for the reasons mentioned above — a more holistic view on solutions to build and a deeper understanding of problems being faced by a broader audience. When scopes are limited by a lack of diversity, your organization is limiting the value it can offer.
  5. Being more conscious of diversity brings the opportunity creating more business opportunities
    This comes hand in hand with expanding the value add your organization brings to more members of the community. Being conscious about diversity gives people a reason to trust in your service and your product. In our world today, nobody is going to depend on a company that throws a single blanket solution over everyone’s unique problems. There are many choices out there for people to choose from, and they’re going to choose a company that represents them best.

What advice would you give to other business leaders to help their employees to thrive?

Build a company and team that’s filled with talented and energetic professionals to realize their value. In order to help employees thrive, the company should be accountable for delivering the same value and consistent results that is promoted in their business — consistency is key.

What advice would you give to other business leaders about how to manage a large team?

Actions and examples are the two key factors. It’s easy to assign a title to a person, which usually brings power, but the most important concept is using that power as a community together. For leaders, it’s a good habit to try to do everything with your staff — being close to staff is just as important as being close with your customers.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this 🙂

That’s a hard question, I have respect for a lot of great leaders who I continuously learn from. If I have to choose one, I would choose Reid Hoffman. He is the prime example of someone who created a genius business model.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Connect with me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/stevenhiretual

Visit Hiretual’s website: https://hiretual.com/

Thank you for these excellent insights. We wish you continued success in your great work.


Steven Jiang of Hiretual: How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: Etai Hochman of Mirato On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The…

The Future Is Now: Etai Hochman of Mirato On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

Be prepared to disappoint everybody, including yourself. You will always want to achieve and do more. I want to spend more time with my wife, I want to spend more time with my daughters, I want to build more features, I want to learn more about a new industry, I want to spend more time with our customers. More. More. More. I want to do all of that, but I cannot. Understanding this is key for expectation management.

As a part of our series about cutting-edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Etai Hochman, co-founder and CTO of Mirato.

Etai Hochman is the co-founder and CTO of Mirato, a recognized technology and innovation leader in the field of third-party risk management for the financial industry. Etai has successfully broken norms across a wide range of industries, from improving academic education for gifted children in mathematics (Bar Ilan University Israel) to optimizing the radio networks of the world’s largest mobile operators (Intucell, acquired by Cisco) to unlocking a new breed of cyber insurance for enterprises (founder of At-Bay). While still in high school, Etai earned a B.Sc. in mathematics from Bar Ilan University before enlisting to serve in the Office of the Prime Minister of Israel, where he worked for six years creating a strategic cyberinfrastructure that unlocked new operational capabilities for Israel. During his tenure, he also completed an MBA from Tel Aviv University.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I think I was eight or nine when I got my first computer. From the very first time I saw a computer at my cousin’s house, I really loved it — it was like a magic machine to me. In Hebrew, the computer is mechashev, and a magician is mechashef. I drew the connection immediately between these two words and their meanings.

I had always had an affinity for numbers and methodology, and this new machine was exciting and magical to me. My family called it “breaking the box” whenever I would think of a new way to approach something or if I found a way to solve a problem around the house. I learned how to code when I was ten, and it came very naturally to me.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Early in my career, a manager challenged me to identify and solve a unique customer problem. I needed to find something we were not even aware of yet and outline a solution within an aggressive timeline — three weeks or less.

I hit the road, flying across the U.S. to meet with a variety of our customers in NY, Atlanta, LA, San Francisco, Seattle, Kansas City and Washington, D.C. I spent the day with the customers’ engineers, following them through how they used our products and what type of challenges and opportunities they faced. As a former software engineer turned product manager, I knew our products backward and forward, but did I truly understand how our customers were using them?

I returned to the office and worked for 48 hours straight on a prototype for a new product, which was eventually approved. We built it and shipped it, and it quickly had a significant impact on our business unit’s goals for sales and customer satisfaction. We won an award, and this project helped inspire other customer-focused programs throughout the company. My technical background helped me connect with our users and draw feedback from them in a way our other executives had not yet been able to do.

After this project, I became an entrepreneur. I had a voice that I did not have before, and I was able to understand the things that I could do that no one else could. In short, this experience taught me that my technical understanding and ability to explain solutions in a format that could be digested by executives would be a key part of my success moving forward.

Can you tell us about the cutting-edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

In today’s fast-moving global economy, organizations are finding themselves increasingly reliant on third-party partnerships in order to remain competitive. These suppliers open the organization to additional risk, which is managed in a third-party risk management (TPRM) program. These programs in large organizations typically use outdated technologies, which results in significant human time and effort spent on manual processes.

At Mirato, we empower risk managers to leverage new advanced technologies to apply a greater level of automation and intelligence to highly manual TPRM processes. Cognitive computing technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP) are used to augment TPRM and power performance alongside human thought processes and traditional analytics. We leverage the efficiencies gained by other known methodologies such as intelligence gathering, data analysis and software development to improve upon an organization’s existing TPRM program.

How do you think this might change the world?

The secret sauce at Mirato is our ability to understand risk processes and build automation to make these important functions more efficient and effective. We empower very smart people to focus on high-value work, without having to waste time on redundant tasks and data administration.

We are focused on financial services today, but this type of automation in risk management applies to other verticals. For example, the automobile industry relies on thousands upon thousands of third-party suppliers at every stage of production and distribution. Helping to mitigate risk in this industry could have a direct influence on performance and consumer safety. This technology also has the potential to expand into industries such as healthcare, where it could have a very positive impact.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

Some readers might hear the phrase “automation” and assume that this will replace humans in the risk management field. We do not see that happening at all. This type of technology is helping risk management teams enable their people to do what machines cannot do, and not waste their time going back again and again to an assessment questionnaire or a business continuity plan. Instead, the addition of this technology allows these risk professionals to focus on the more challenging work of mitigation planning, scenario development and other more advanced functions of their profession.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

My entire background led me to this. When I was a software engineer and algorithms developer in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), an elite intelligence unit in Israel, I was learning many different aspects of risk and cyber risk management. I took what I learned in the Army and went to work analyzing cellular networks, where I assessed these vast networks from a bird’s eye perspective — looking for the geographical places where we might have the most risk of failure in the network, fix it automatically and monitor to make sure nothing deteriorated, all using sophisticated AI. I then moved into the insurance industry for a time, where I was managing the risk of loss from cyber-attacks. Then I moved into building this infrastructure at Mirato that is designed from the ground up to allow organizations to decide how they want to manage risk. I have taken everything I learned before and helped to create a powerful risk management infrastructure to benefit our clients.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

We are always eager to add new design partners. I give a lot of credit to our earliest intellectual design partners, who got us to an amazing product. As we continue to build more applications on top of our infrastructure, this group continues to be very important to us.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

An innovative marketing strategy that we have used is our design partnership program. The design partnership program has helped us get the word out to key partners and potential customers and demonstrate Mirato’s value quickly.

By allowing people into your initial processes and design exploration, you are able to delve much deeper into your customers’ needs and wants than what your early research, surveys and other market investigations can possibly uncover.

Invite people in and show them your product very early. Then iterate based on their insights.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

The network we have in Israel is quite amazing. My career would not have been possible without it. From my friends in the Army and at university, to the supportive networks I found at my earlier companies, I am really grateful for the friends I’ve made in these different types of organizations.

There are so many people I should thank, and that I do thank whenever I can! One story I can share is from when I worked under Lior Div, a cybersecurity industry luminary. I was on a new project, and Lior asked me to “make a plan,” and I did not know how to get started. I was missing key information and it was my first time creating a plan of this type. I went back and told him I did not know where to begin, which was a difficult thing for me to admit! He reassured me and offered this advice, “If you do not know how to make a plan, make a plan on how to make a plan.” He offered such a simple tip — realizing that everyone does not always have all of the answers — and this has guided me several times throughout my career.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

While I am still very much a student of entrepreneurism, one area where I actively give back is in our schools. A good education is critical to success. I was fortunate to have amazing teachers from who I learned a tremendous amount. Everyone should have that same opportunity, but the reality is that we are not quite there yet.

I volunteer to teach math and computer science at the high school level. I wish I had more time, but for now, I do what I can. It has been rewarding from the very beginning. I remember reconnecting with some of the students in my very first math class a few years later, and they shared what an impact I had on them. One even went on to pursue a very unique role in the military, indicating how my experience had inspired him to pursue that opportunity. While I started as a volunteer to give back to these kids, they end up rewarding me, too.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

  1. Be prepared to disappoint everybody, including yourself. You will always want to achieve and do more. I want to spend more time with my wife, I want to spend more time with my daughters, I want to build more features, I want to learn more about a new industry, I want to spend more time with our customers. More. More. More. I want to do all of that, but I cannot. Understanding this is key for expectation management.
  2. Learn to manage urgency versus importance. We cannot do everything for everyone, so learn to weigh each item’s urgency and its importance to your broader goals.
  3. Embrace feedback and learn from it. It is easy to get defensive when someone comes to you with feedback, but do not let pride get in the way of hearing — and ultimately embracing — good feedback from well-meaning people.
  4. Scale at pace. It is tempting to want to grow quickly, especially when you build something people want, that fills a need, that solves a problem. However, you can quickly dilute your value if you spread out functionality and features to try and please too many different types of users too quickly. Stick to your original targets and grow only when you are ready.
  5. Hire the best people and make sure they become better. I cannot say this enough. I have been very lucky to find the best people, and I owe our success to their excellence. The second part is equally if not more important. Once you are in this partnership, it is your privilege and obligation to help your partners evolve and become the best version they aspire. This is a story I like very much. Assaf, our research & development director at Mirato, is the best engineer I have ever met, an inspirational leader and an amazing enabler to his peers. All that, and he has been my best friend for the last 15 years. Our commitment to each other is to stop at nothing, including hard feedback, to make sure we are better versions of ourselves every day.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Our education system needs an evolution. I do not have the answer, but it is clear the entire education system across the world needs more investment — money, talent and ideas. We need to invest more in our children’s future. I will continue to do my best to help on a local level. One of my dreams is to take a year off from work and take my family on a trip around the world where I would develop a unique curriculum for my girls. I would work in local information and travel-based knowledge that could create a deep set of meaningful lessons, and they would be able to take these learnings with them through their entire lives.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Nothing is free, not even a kick in a**.” My grandfather told me that. Everything you get, you get for a reason, good or bad. He encouraged all of us to work hard for everything we earn. A negative experience will make us stronger if we learn from it. If we earn praise, it was deserved, and it might get you to the next step or earn you a new tool you needed. Understand the reason, learn from it and move on.

My grandfather passed away 25 years ago, and I have seen this lesson proved to be right over and over during this time.

Some very well-known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

What we do at Mirato has not been done before. We are taking thoughtfulness, experience and know-how from different industries — cybersecurity, big data, risk management, artificial intelligence, business analytics and data analytics — and bringing it into the management of big risk processes at scale and at depth. It is effective because our technological capabilities are designed to distinguish entities, controls, people and locations automatically. We enable risk managers to focus on what they are good at. With this, we believe we can change an $8 billion TPRM market and own 25 percent of it. In fact, 50 percent of the TPRM market today is human labor and we are focused on optimizing output from that group.

Beyond the risk management issues, we also bring the best talent to the table. Mirato has strong relationships, which we have built on trust and excellence. We know each other, care about each other and drive each other to be better, every single day.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Follow me on Twitter and connect with me on LinkedIn. I am busy building, so your readers should also follow Mirato, where we are much more active on social media! Follow Mirato on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


The Future Is Now: Etai Hochman of Mirato On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: James Kaplan of MeetKai On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The…

The Future Is Now: James Kaplan of MeetKai On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

If something isn’t working, it doesn’t always make sense to fix it. This is especially true for people. If you don’t mesh with someone, don’t try to force it to work. As an entrepreneur, you want to minimize politics and focus on your business.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing James Kaplan.

James Kaplan is the CEO and Co-Founder of MeetKai, the first AI voice assistant that uses conversation, personalization, and curation to make users’ lives easier.

Kaplan founded MeetKai in 2018 after becoming frustrated with the current AI voice assistants on the market today. Now, he’s joined by his Co-Founder and Chairwoman, Weili Dai, to create one of the fast-growing tech startups.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I have always loved programming since I was six years old. I started to learn how to code just after learning to read! In particular, I liked making games. One of the most important pieces of a game, especially when you are an adolescent, is artificial intelligence (AI). Wanting to design AI for games morphed into a love for AI in general. Over the years, I realized entrepreneurship is the best way to amplify the work that one person can do.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Before co-founding MeetKai, I ran an AI-based hedge fund. At the time, my business partner bought Ethereum, a type of cryptocurrency, when it first came out. But we couldn’t remember the password to our cryptocurrency site! We had to work for a few days to write a cracker for his password based on similar patterns when creating passwords. After a few days of rushed and stressful engineering, we recovered tens of thousands of Ethereum coins.

Can you tell us about the cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

Our core area of focus is in Conversational AI. We want to go beyond using language understanding to get a single search result from a search engine and instead allow computers to truly converse with users. Right now, this conversational capability is being used to help people search and find content (such as recipes, restaurants, movies, and television shows) using conversational language. In the future, we want to bring this same conversational technology to more day-to-day scenarios. In particular, we want to use this technology to enable rich meditation and fitness experiences that are dynamic. By allowing AI to replicate the experience of a personal coach, we will be able to bring that experience to many more people than can’t afford a human doing so.

How do you think this might change the world?

We see this as the first step to reach the AI that people envisioned would be helping them in their day-to-day lives. The first Iron Man movie featured Jarvis as a true conversational assistant, but that was 13 years ago. While it may have seemed that progress was being made towards that goal since then, I think everyone can agree that the current state is far from it. We are aiming to accomplish this using fundamentally new approaches to the problem.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

I think there are two fundamental problems and drawbacks. The first is user privacy. In trying to create a conversational assistant that’s with a user in their day-to-day life, we need to make sure that this assistant is truly personal. We want this technology to be developed in a way that you can see your assistant as your best friend, not a commercial entity. The second class of problems is the question of ethics and bias. If you trust your assistant to provide you personalized content, we have to ensure that the assistant is not introducing bias into your life or otherwise promoting it. Our goal here is not to eliminate all viewpoints from the assistant. We think it would make a lot of sense for the assistant to challenge you at different points — encouraging you to break out of your comfort zone — but we have to be cautious. All decisions we make as a company, both in business and R&D, have to keep these fundamental drawbacks in mind.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

We founded the company in late 2018 based on an observation: the current technology for voice assistants was trying to add voice to a text-based understanding of the world. Put simply, voice assistants turned what you said into text and just put that text into Google. As a result, the technology was good at basic queries like asking for a movie by title but started to fail and degrade if you expected to have a conversation with it. Our tipping point was one realization. Instead of building a voice assistant on top of existing search engines, we started from scratch and built a search engine based on the premise that it will be used for voice.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

We spent 2019 in a pure R&D cycle, and we spent 2020 in a QA cycle with partners with a large global footprint to validate the technology. Our goal for the next 12 months is to take what we developed and build it into consumer products. We are still at the early stages of bringing all of the capabilities to users, but one of our biggest challenges to widespread adoption is education. We need to reeducate users so they interact with our AI using actual conversational language to search, not just keywords. This has been more difficult than we thought. People have a fixed set of expectations for what types of searches a search engine can handle. As a simple example, people would search Google for “white solid color shirt” if they wanted to find a shirt without stripes. With our technology, we can enable users to say, “Hey Kai, can you find me a white shirt without stripes?” It’s a very different way of looking at things.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

We just started our marketing process in May. We are working with a few content partners in different regions to put together marketing campaigns this coming summer to target early adopters. These are still at the early stages of being discussed publicly, but we hope to have more to share soon.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My Co-Founder, Weili Dai, is the embodiment of a mentor. I can’t say enough positive things about her. The biggest thing that she’s taught me is to think about how the other side can win. You want to make that a win-win rather than the opposite. This is what helped us get our first partner when we were still in the R&D. I went into the meeting with a clear pitch of why they needed us and why we had an interest in helping them. That win-win is key to avoiding long-winded dances that waste both sides’ time. If there is no win-win, make it obvious early, and if there is, make it clear early on.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I think that we’re only starting here, but one of our big hopes is to bring cutting-edge AI to areas of the world that are traditionally last in line to receive new technology. We have selected Mexico and Indonesia as our “test beds for innovation.” We want to bring more cutting-edge and disruptive technology there even sooner than to the United States. We have formed a partnership with the premier digital health company in Indonesia and are working towards using our AI to enable much lower-cost health experiences for Indonesians in 2022. We’re hoping to make similar partnerships with local players in other underserved markets to enable them with this next-gen AI.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

Never write an email that is longer than one screen on a cell phone. I can’t count the number of times I have sat with high-profile individuals and never seen them scroll to the end of an email before replying (or ignoring it).

Don’t undersell your potential. People are tempted to say something like, “If we just capture 1% of the market, we will be huge.” Just say, “This is the market, these are the players, and we are going to eat their lunch.”

If something isn’t working, it doesn’t always make sense to fix it. This is especially true for people. If you don’t mesh with someone, don’t try to force it to work. As an entrepreneur, you want to minimize politics and focus on your business.

Trust your gut, seriously. If something feels off to you at first glance, don’t convince yourself that it’s fine. Listen to yourself and trust your common sense.

Always know who is signing the paper on the other side and who you will be talking to if things go south. Whenever you deal with massive entities, make sure you understand who the decision-maker is, and more importantly, who the person is that you will go to if something goes wrong. The last thing you want to be doing is trying to build a relationship with that person before it’s too late.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I know this may sound cliche, but never be afraid of being the underdog. Many movements fail to start because people are afraid of being the “David.”

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Overpromise, overdeliver even if it is hard.” This was shared with me by a startup founder doing extremely ambitious work in hardware. It resonated with me. Sometimes, you have to ignore the advice to underpromise, overdeliver. I think about this very frequently ahead of weeks that look intractable. You have to buckle down, bite the bullet, and make the impossible possible.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Few major advancements in AI have come from established players. Most of the groundbreaking work comes from new entries. Google, for example, leapfrogged Yahoo. When it comes to conversational AI, this will be the case too. By approaching the problem in a new way and creating everything from scratch, it’s possible to leapfrog over the tech giants and build a next-gen voice assistant with conversational AI technology.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I am on Twitter as @jekirl and you can find us on Instagram as @meetkaihub


The Future Is Now: James Kaplan of MeetKai On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Non-Fungible Tokens: Michael Blu of LGND On The 5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly…

Non-Fungible Tokens: Michael Blu of LGND On The 5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly Successful Career In The NFT Industry

You need to have an audience. — If I’m an amazing artist and I show people I know my stuff and they think it’s wonderful that’s great, but if you don’t have a way to get that momentum out into the bigger community it’s incredibly difficult to be successful in that way. You need to get out into the community, make friends, show your art, make NFTs give them away, slowly build your audience. You’ve got to be a promoter, or if you just don’t have that in you, you have to find someone else who really believes in you and can do that job for you.

Many have observed that we are at the cusp of an NFT boom. The thing is, it’s so cutting edge, that many people don’t know what it is. What exactly is an NFT and how can one create a lucrative career out of selling them? To address this, as a part of our interview series called “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly Successful Career In The NFT Industry”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Blu.

Michael Blu, Co-founder of LGND, is an early blockchain investor and expert in intellectual property and data center technology. He brings his diverse experiences as a Marine, musician, film producer, best-selling author, and owner of a national precious metal brokerage, to supporting LGND’s mission of empowering artists with sustainable NFT opportunities.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory and how you grew up?

I was born in a fairly small sleepy town on the edge of a big, beautiful river. I would cut my way down through the blackberry bushes to the train tracks with my friends. We’d often hop on the slow-moving trains and end up taking 10–15 miles long train trips to nowhere and end up having to make the long walks back home. Lots of fun adventures growing up like that. We lived in an era where parents didn’t really ask where you were going, and we had a lot of independence in that way. I’d ride my bike all over town and come home at dark. I grew up with a lot of freedom and I always had time to be creative and work with my hands, whether it was building tree forts or painting. Later on, I fell in love with playing music, I started playing the guitar, joined choir, and really enjoyed the idea of having my whole life in front of me. Anything was possible it seemed. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy more rigorous studies as well, I especially enjoyed math and science. No matter what I was interested in I was able to explore it and I’m extremely grateful for having that sort of childhood.

Is there a particular book, film, or podcast that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

My three children, my wife and I find ourselves sitting around the table drawing and listening to Audible. It really gets our creative juices flowing and makes for a fun, shared experience. Specifically, not too long ago, we started going through the Harry Potter series as a family. It was our first experience with the stories, and it was fantastic! What a ride that was and such a joy to experience it all for the first time with your children. We were all enamored by it. We’d wake up the next morning, and start talking about where we left off in the story the night before. There’s a lot to those stories, lots of subtext and parallels to life right now. It brought about some great philosophical discussions with the children, which made it take on a whole new perspective to me as an adult. Our adult programming makes us look at these sorts of things in a certain light, but hearing an 8, 9, or 11 year old talk about these big concepts was an absolute blast. Talking about what things meant in the book through the filter of the kid’s perfect innocence made me have a whole different level of appreciation for the art of storytelling. It was a powerful experience for me, personally and I cannot wait for our next big book journey together as a family.

Is there a particular story that inspired you to pursue a career in this new industry? We’d love to hear it.

A book that comes to mind, one that I read a very long time ago is The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. It has stuck with me, even more so recently when put into a modern perspective. There’s a lot of uncanny crossover between that book and what’s going on today. That book and that story line was significant, and I think it pushes into the whole blockchain, digital assets outlier technology aspect of our industry. Depending on what side of the aisle you’re on economically, politically, etc. you’ll have a totally different take on the technology. The book is completely misunderstood by one side and completely adored by the other and there’s not a lot of middle ground. I think that’s a really interesting parallel to how the industry is going right now. I’ve been meaning to revisit it again with this fresh perspective, so I’ll have to pick it up and reread it soon.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this fascinating career?

The most interesting story is a pretty dramatic one. The formation of LGND was me embarking on Uplift.art, which is a philanthropic technology organization that leverages blockchain and NFT tech. In the formation of that I was speaking to a young developer and I shared my vision for the LGND.art platform. He told me to reach out to a guy named Scott. I reached out to him that same day and we immediately became friends. It was one of those situations where within the first few minutes of talking to someone it feels like “it’s good to see you again, brother!”. It was comfortable, familiar, and we were immediately on the same wavelength. We just started pitching ideas back and forth and when we took our first breath, we realized a few hours had gone by! We sat back to kind of take it all in and we both came to the same conclusion: ‘We have to build this!’ Then the realization hit us, and we just started laughing — we can’t do this alone! We’re both dreamers, swept away by ideas and innovation, but we’re not programmers or savvy businessmen necessarily. But we both had a certainty in our vision. That led us to a sort of impasse as we decided it was worth trying to figure out how to realistically create this platform. Cut to me driving home later that evening when I get a call from a friend of mine, Mike Rockwell. He was just calling to check in and catch up. We’ve been friends for a long time and we’ve both been involved in crypto for a long while at this point, our kids play together, you know he’s just a really great guy who also just so happens to possess that savvy business mind that Scott and I were lacking. It was one of those synchronistic moments. He had just finished building out this giant data farm project in Europe, was looking for his next project and he really wanted to focus on the crypto space. I just couldn’t believe it! I said, ‘funny you called… I have an idea for you!’ Then I sat in my car in the driveway for the next hour going over the broad strokes of this concept that Scott and I had just honed. By the end of the call Rockwell kind of left it open-ended saying you know, “interesting, let me get back to you”, but I could tell the passion came through and it had sparked something in him that he just needed to put into perspective, so I wanted to give him a little time, but scheduled a chance for Scott and I to sit down and really pitch it to him. I immediately called up my new best friend, Scott and told him he wouldn’t believe what phone call I had just been on. I told him we had an amazing opportunity, and we had an hour to meet with Rockwell the next day and really make sure we plant those seeds deep. We knocked it out of the park during the meeting. We all had a shared chemistry and passion about the concept, but still at the end of the meeting Rockwell, who is very methodical, didn’t give any clear commitment. He doesn’t run into things, which is smart, but we were still confident he got it and we just gave him the time he needed to come to the decision on his own. Three or four days later we got the call, and it was real. Rockwell was all in and we were off to the races. Rockwell immediately laid out the plan forward for us just like a leader does and boom, boom, boom, he started executing all these things like a rockstar and we were onboarding a killer, world-class team. We were just blown away, we couldn’t have dreamed of a better, more established team of the smartest most talented folks out there. It all ramped up so fast it was astounding. Everyone was on fire and working at their peak.

Then all of a sudden, out of the blue… Scott’s no longer with us. He passed away. A devastating, huge blow. Now, I’ve experienced loss in my personal life, and I was fortunate enough to have my family there to share that grief with and work through that pain. It’s hard. The hardest thing you can do. But this was an entirely different experience. Here we had assembled this amazing team, we had the wheels turning and things needed to get done. This project was moving fast already, we couldn’t stop what was already in motion. We were all charging the mountain, hand-in-hand but then, suddenly, half or more of the soul of the project is just gone. Vanished. No warnings, no goodbyes, just sudden inexplicable loss. I struggled with it immensely, but how do you process that when you have an entire team relying on you. I couldn’t get lost, cry, and go through processing that loss in the way I knew. I had to rise up above that loss and be a leader. We all had to rise up. That enormous tragedy had to be something that we processed all together, to listen to one another and support one another — but we couldn’t stop working on the project that was in part founded by the genesis of that loss. It was an experience that none of us will forget. I love all the people on our team dearly and we were all there for one another, working through the emotions and working through the logistics of the immensely ambitious business venture that we wanted to make sure was perfect to really honor, Scott and what he meant to all of us. We had to stand up and plant the flag and say ‘NO’ to surrendering to the grief. We did it and we took care of one another. I wish he were here now because what is going on with LGND is everything he wanted it to be and so much more, and we’re just at the very beginning.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

We are building the future. Combining the different components that we are, the technology itself, the conceptual future we see as inevitable. That being the case, being so young in a space that’s growing so quickly, it’s a whirlwind. We’re in an innovative exponential climb, working on so much technology, from cross-chain bridges, to the underlying integration of the WAX blockchain. We’re trying to open up the whole space to the world, instant free, transactions, scalable, built by a team that understands global payments and blockchain to its core. We’re innovating on top of these base layer technologies that are themselves innovating every single day. So, there’s a ton of mistakes that need to be made for that to happen. To find the right path you must explore a lot. So, I’m not sure if they’re necessarily funny, but I can definitely say during our private alpha launch, we were supposed to mint something like 199 of a particular art piece, but our alpha users were so passionate about taking part that the demand far outstripped what was supposed to be the supply. Something was wrong on our end however and once we hit that 199 limit the system didn’t stop, and we ended up selling about 800 more than we were able to mint. So, our resident super hero/master artist, Ty Carter came in and said “I got you”, then created a special edition NFT to give to those users.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My father, Thomas. An extraordinary human, he raised me in such a way that I became extremely self-reliant at an early age. I’m one of those ‘jack of all trades, master of none’, types of people. I can do a lot of things, from building houses to making music, but I’ve never spent time getting a master’s degree in something and really perfected one specific skill. But that’s what my father gifted me, the ability to do, and desire to do, so many things. He’s a great mentor and always has amazing feedback and ideas. I call him often and brainstorm with him. He’s a huge part of why I am who I am today.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

The metaverse we’re building, Uplift.world is really exciting for me. I think we’re doing some really innovative things in the metaverse space, integrating it with real-world creativity. Whether you’re a lawyer, an accountant, whatever, you can go into this world and have a creative experience and be an artist. Another is Yoshidrops.com Its in the early stages, mud-on-the-wall development, but it’s hopefully going to change the future of the music industry by focusing on music NFTs that produce oxygen. We’re working with some exciting partners that we can’t talk about just yet. But we are doing a closed-access private drop soon and we’re a small, passionate community that will be more and more public and mainstream as we grow the platform.

Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. I’m sure you get this question all the time. But for the benefit of our readers, can you explain in your own words what an NFT is, and why people are spending so much money on them?

An NFT in its very basic form, a way to prove ownership of a digital item. Anything you own digitally; a photograph, a movie file, a pdf, a concert ticket, the deed to your house — anything digital, but let’s use a photograph as an example. Say you’ve taken a beautiful photograph of Barack Obama, you can take that image and add any informational metadata to it you want, your digital signature, a link to your website, a note about the photo, etc. then you can create that as an NFT on the blockchain where it will live forever with all that information. There’s no way for it to be corrupted or disappeared. You can keep it on file as proof, or as an artist you could monetize it. Create X number of copies and sell them. Now say you mint one million of these images. You could sell those one million copies and when your fans buy it, they can do what they want with it. They have this beautiful image, they can save it and put it in their digital collection, or, and this is important, they could go to the secondary market with it. They could say, I’m going to sell this for a hundred bucks. The real interesting part is that since we know the providence of this digital asset, no matter who buys it from the initial purchaser, the original artist still gets paid. This in and of itself is revolutionary for the art world. It sets a new precedent for artists to control their legacy and earn what they deserve off their work. They now have a source of passive income that will last forever, no matter how many times that NFT changes hands, the original artist will always get a portion of that sale price, whatever it may be. The artists now have more control and more income from a single image they’ve sold. That’s why at LGND we say we’re helping artists secure their digital legacy — that’s not a throwaway line, that’s our mission. The reason they’re selling for so much money has to do with the idea that people who understand all the above understand the intrinsic value of not only an authenticated digital piece of art, but also that for the first time in hundreds of years of art history, we’re making sure the artists are taken care of and earning forever. Art enthusiasts like that, they want to support the artist directly and with NFTs they are able to do that on an unprecedented scale. This is a revolutionary step that empowers the artist like was never possible before and people are willing to pay a premium for that. Smart crypto enthusiasts and investors also understand the growing threat of inflation in relation to fiat currencies, a dollar today won’t be a dollar in a few years, so these smart investors know it’s a good idea to put that money into an asset class that is immune from those inflation risks. Their digital asset will retain, and in fact, grow in value as the technology becomes more and more ingrained in our everyday lives and in this new, quickly evolving blockchain-based economy.

The NFT industry seems so exciting right now. What are the 3 things in particular that most excite you about the industry? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

I’m so hyper focused running the R&D for LGND, working on Uplift, and on Yoshidrops that that’s where all my excitement lies recently. As I hinted at before, Yoshidrops will revolutionize the music industry. The music industry needs a lot of help. What’s being done to musicians is criminal. I know top-notch composers, writers, and producers, people who have worked on huge projects that bring in hundreds of millions of dollars and they see zero revenue from that. That’s a shockingly common thing to see in the music industry. We’re going to change that. We’re going to present the answer and whether the industry gets on board with it will be a defining moment for them. This is their second MP3 moment. Remember the companies who scoffed at MP3’s and digital distribution? That is the same mentality of people who are looking at the NFT market right now and saying, ‘I can just screen grab that.’ They don’t get it, they haven’t dug in and done the due diligence to understand the other side. This is the time they can choose to empower their artists and help them thrive in the new upcoming marketplace, or they can go the way of the dinosaurs. The streaming services too, Spotify, Apple Music all of them have an opportunity right now to get on board with the future and reinvent themselves or lose big time. The core of Yoshidrops.com is to empower the musicians and to empower the labels that are able to see the future and help these artists build their brands in a new way. It’s a new way to support the creative and the IP that surrounds it because right now the original creator is the last mouth to be fed, and sometimes they don’t get fed at all! It’s a shame and that’s what we’re changing for visual artists with LGND.art and what we will be doing in kind for musicians with Yoshidrops that’s what’s really exciting to me right now,

What are three “myths” that you would like to dispel about NFTs? Can you explain what you mean?

That they’re going to destroy the planet. There’s a pervasive belief by people who don’t really understand the technology. And maybe that was kind of true in the beginning when people were locked in to using ‘proof of work’ blockchains, those mechanisms require huge amounts of computational power. It’s basically a competition on POW to see who can use the most energy to solve a complicated mathematical equation and “win” the transaction to create the block. Proof of stake however, and specifically, delegated proof of stake, which is what the WAX blockchain is, takes a completely different approach. People saw how ridiculous and wasteful that POW consensus mechanism was, so instead of seeing who can use the most brute force power to create the answer to an equation, a proof of stake blockchain just requires people to invest their own assets back into the protocol to help show they have a vested interest in honestly minting new blocks. These blocks do not have to be brute-forced with hardware to solve because it relies on a consensus mechanism that requires validators to invest their own assets back into the system in a way to create a self-checking approval system that can be done on nearly any hardware, it doesn’t need to be a specialized power-hungry mining rig — it can be your phone. It’s just an approval process that solves the equations easier by having more bespoke assets on-chain to help unlock the solution. You’re more so devoting time instead of mass amounts of energy to solve the new blocks. So over time, POS systems can actually become more sustainable. The WAX blockchain is 125,000 more efficient than other POW blockchains. This is sustainable. Artists have been abused enough without being accused of destroying the planet.

Another common myth is that it’s too expensive to mint and transfer these NFTs, which again can be true on other blockchains where you will end up spending more money to create the authentication of the asset than you may be able to sell it for. That’s not a smart business model for an artist to get wrapped up in. But on WAX that’s not true at all. We do not charge gas fees to our artists, ever. We sweep all that nonsense out of the way and make it as easy as possible for an Artist to do what they do best, focus on their creative process.

The last common misconception is that the whole market is a bubble. We’re still definitely in price discovery mode at this point, but the genie is out of the bottle. The technology solves so many problems inherent in the digital space, while innovating in ways no one ever thought about before that it is impossible to go back to the way it was before. Blockchain tech and NFTs in general are the future and regardless of what prices may do in the short-term, the long-term success is inevitable.

What are the most common mistakes you have seen people make when they enter the NFT industry. What can be done to avoid that?

Probably starting off on a proof of work blockchain! Which is still probably the most pervasive and talked about aspect of the industry because they’ve been around the longest and there is so much money tied up in them already. The biggest mistake is to not do your homework and just jump in on these blockchains that are not ideal for the NFT market. WAX is purpose-built for NFTs from the ground up, so artists need to understand all the implications of that. Fees on other blockchains are a huge barrier of entry for some. Even as a purchaser of an NFT these things are vitally important, you don’t want to buy an NFT then get hit with a fee to move that NFT that exceeds the cost you originally paid for it. You just can’t buy a ten-dollar NFT on a proof of work blockchain and send it somewhere cheaply. It’s like buying ten dollars’ worth of groceries and being charged a hundred bucks to take it to your car, it’s ridiculous. So that’s the big common mistake. You have to learn about the difference in these blockchains and what their limitations are, what they do best and what they’re made for. WAX is made for NFTs, and we made the decision to build LGND on the WAX blockchain because we did that research and found it to be the best fit to help elevate the whole market.

How do you think NFTs have the potential to help society in the future?

They’re already helping people in big ways. I get messages quite frequently on Telegram with Uplift.art, which is, again, the philanthropic, charitable component under the LGND umbrella. We’ve done a lot of charitable NFT drops and raised well over a million dollars to help build schools in Haiti and to also fund a food drive for those schools. We give away NFTs regularly within our ecosystems because it’s so easy, and we’re not paying gas fees, so we can send NFTs to people that have real value — there’s a story behind it that resonates with the audience — but they can then go and sell them on the secondary market. This is something they got for free that has value in the uplift world that other users will pay for, so it provides an income source for people. If someone in Venezuela sells an NFT for two hundred dollars that means something completely different to them in their circumstances than it does to you or me in our circumstances. To us it’s ‘oh, yeah, cool’, but to them it’s feeding their family, it’s the start to paying for their education, to help them move, to really change their circumstances. It can be life changing, lifesaving even. Outside of that, even just taking part in the uplift metaverse can be a source of income for them because they get paid to play, to interact with the uplift world. You get paid in WAX rewards and other cryptos. People are even creating entirely new income sources within that world of their own design; they’re creating business within the metaverse. I know someone who created a tour service in the Uplift world. People are creating new industries and new careers for themselves to change their lives for the better. Keep in mind, we’re still in the early stages here, so I’m very excited and optimistic for more people to learn about these opportunities and become aware of the new possibilities that this technology presents.

Ok, fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly Successful Career In The NFT Industry?” (Please share a story or example for each.)

#1 You need to have an audience.

If I’m an amazing artist and I show people I know my stuff and they think it’s wonderful that’s great, but if you don’t have a way to get that momentum out into the bigger community it’s incredibly difficult to be successful in that way. You need to get out into the community, make friends, show your art, make NFTs give them away, slowly build your audience. You’ve got to be a promoter, or if you just don’t have that in you, you have to find someone else who really believes in you and can do that job for you.

#2 Find your superpower.

What’s your niche, what do you love to do? Don’t just jump on a bandwagon, that’s insincere. Be you, figure out what it is you love to do and what your unique voice is and embrace it. Do that as best you can and put your intention behind it. Form follows that intention so fill your work with that intention and be distinctive.

#3 Finish your work.

Don’t procrastinate to perfect something. Art doesn’t have to be perfect; it just needs to be honest. Perfect is subjective. If you set unrealistic expectations on yourself, you’ll never produce a substantial body of work. You need that body of work to really succeed in the art markets, so you have to allow yourself to be imperfect. A bricklayer doesn’t second guess every brick he lays, he uses his skills and does his job, he builds a wall and before you know it, something substantial and powerful exists.

#4 Give to others.

Help others shine. This is a reciprocal relationship referencing #2 on this list. You sometimes need to be the person that helps someone achieve what they can be too. That’s part of the community mindset I’m talking about. That will come back to you tenfold. Be a good friend, find good friends, and enable and support their dreams.

#5 Slow Down.

Get outside, take your shoes off, plant your feet in a green patch of grass, some sand, even dirt for that matter. Get off the concrete, off the plastic soles, center yourself, take a deep breath and just listen. Be in the now, in the moment and enjoy the gift of life and being centered in the now and that will reset you to go back to #1 and nurture this whole loop.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

We’re doing it in the Uplift.world! It was built by five friends who loved playing Minecraft who used to get together every Sunday and build cool stuff together. One day one of the friends put up a wall and wrote “I love my son.” Everyone said, ‘what are you doing?’ and he said, ‘I felt so grateful today I just wanted to write about it’. So, everyone else starting writing a gratitude on the wall and 35,000 gratitude messages later in the uplift world with about 2,500 participants this whole world has been built on gratitude from the ground up within what we call the “win, win, win” economy -10% of all the revenue produced within the uplift world goes into our Uplift donate charitable fund, this is the fund we use to build schools in Haiti and as it grows, we’re going to expand it to all sorts of philanthropic good in the world. With Yoshi drops is all about NFTs that produce oxygen where a significant amount of those proceeds goes to planting trees and kelp farms and other innovative technologies that produce oxygen in our beautiful world. So yeah, we’re living it right now, we’re not waiting for ‘some day’ we’re in the middle of that inspiration.

We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

You know, I would love to have a meal with Elon Musk. He’s been very active in the crypto space, he’s taken some heavy shots from the community lately because of the price dive that’s pretty much been attributed to some of his recent comments, which I think is more of a coincidence than the actual cause. I’d love to have a talk with him about green energy and the environment and what he stands for, because there is a lot of controversy with batteries for his cars and how the raw materials are sourced and how they’re made. I’d like to see how he squares that up and what he sees as the future technology to remedy these issues. It’d be interesting to dig into his mind about crypto and see what his real true knowledge of the space is because he’s been a real advocate of Dogecoin, which is a meme coin that’s always been a running joke in the industry. Now, I don’t want to disparage or offend Dogecoin advocates, they have a thriving community full of well-meaning people, but I would like to know what’s behind his stance, and if there’s a real structured plan behind it. He’s a brilliant mind and I can’t imagine him making such flippant comments to his significant base of followers that he has an enormous amount of influence over if he didn’t have some sort of real thought put behind what he’s saying.


Non-Fungible Tokens: Michael Blu of LGND On The 5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Smart Energy Management Architecture: Anil Srivastava’s Big Idea That Might Change the World

We should be using hydrogen fuel cells paired with batteries right now. Leclanché is currently retrofitting vehicles to use both these complimentary technologies. There is no reason why any heavy transport vehicle should be using diesel fuel any longer; we can put a stop to it within a few years. There is a larger technology debate and economic viability case but these are manageable obstacles. The battery industry has evolved and is creating good by itself. Smart energy management architecture and batteries paired with hydrogen fuel cells are creating an enhanced and immediate impact. This is evolutionary in nature.

As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change the World In The Next Few Years,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Anil Srivastava.

Anil Srivastava, the Chief Executive Officer of Leclanché, is a highly successful and experienced executive with a strong track record of building global businesses. His quarter century experience spans the clean energy, digital technology and telecommunications markets.

He joined Leclanché in June 2014 and has engineered a turnaround of the 100-plus year old battery manufacturer into a top-tier provider of energy storage solutions serving the utilities and mobility/transportation industries.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you please tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I was born and raised in India and learned that human society will be much happier when you can advance anything in the areas of food, healthcare, water or electricity. Anything that advances in these areas is ideal. I was brought to this specific career path from an experience I had with my wife while I was on vacation in Greece. We were in the middle of “nowhere” and I saw a solar panel on the roof of a house — tapping into the energy of the sun. It made me think of the villages in India. Affordability + Power. After that moment, I came back to Paris and joined Areva Renewables, a company in this space.

Can you please share with us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

When I joined Alcatel in Paris, I was faced with the need to change the mindset of the Enterprise Division team I was leading. I felt that as a company, we had lost our attention to detail. Everything was old and not in good condition. I decided to start out by improving the bathrooms, the sinks, the toilets, etc. One young employee told me that I was crazy in an all-hands meeting. My simple response to this was, if you can’t figure out the small things, you can’t figure out the big things. Attention to small details makes good companies great and great companies excellent. The rest is history built on good teamwork and commitment; the Company resumed growth after many years of decline.

Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?

I don’t have any specific principles or philosophies; just the values I live with. I learned my work ethic from my parents. My mom had no formal education, and my dad was a chief financial officer. He taught me about integrity and honesty by example. Though he had broad access to company money and resources, he never took advantage of his trusted position to enrich himself or provide for a better home, newer appliances, cars, etc. for our family. He was very principled and didn’t give into temptation; I appreciated him teaching me that key lesson. My mother was persistent, a hard-worker and woke me up every morning to study and be on top of things like my education. I learned those important values from my parents.

Let’s now move to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change the World”?

Our team at Leclanché is creating a smart energy management architecture marrying the latest battery technology with green hydrogen fuel cells with the goal of tripling overall power efficiency compared to standalone fuel cells. This will help to greatly reduce greenhouse emissions and the cost of ownership!

The impact of this smart energy management architecture is significant. It can reduce greenhouse gasses significantly — nearing zero emissions in the heavy transport sector. That’s trucks, busses, marine vessels of all kinds, mining vessels of all kinds, port infrastructure, etc.

We don’t have to wait until 2050 to reduce greenhouse emissions. We can see a quick significant profound reduction in greenhouse gasses right now and help to create a green economy in these sectors using Leclanché’s Smart Energy Management Architecture.

How do you think this will change the world?

We should be using hydrogen fuel cells paired with batteries right now. Leclanché is currently retrofitting vehicles to use both these complimentary technologies. There is no reason why any heavy transport vehicle should be using diesel fuel any longer; we can put a stop to it within a few years. There is a larger technology debate and economic viability case but these are manageable obstacles.

The battery industry has evolved and is creating good by itself. Smart energy management architecture and batteries paired with hydrogen fuel cells are creating an enhanced and immediate impact. This is evolutionary in nature.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this idea that people should think more deeply about?

No, I don’t see any unintended consequences, but I do see obstacles. The obstacles could come from people trying to take a very rigid, almost religious position if you will, in hydrogen fuel cells versus batteries. I could see that getting in the way. I could see someone saying one is great and someone else saying the other is greater. But combined, they are better. I expect some resistance from vested interests, if you will and primarily from a technology debate, as to which one is superior.

There should be an incentive for retrofitting highly polluting vehicles diesel-powered heavy transport vehicles including credit for ‘saved CHG emissions’ and a penalty for those who do not.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?

No, tipping point, this has truly been evolutionary in nature. Current battery technology is good by itself but not sufficient to solve the key problems in heavy transportation and other sectors. A smart energy management architecture can make a significant and profound impact right now.

What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?

We’ve always led by example. Whenever we see opportunity, we’ve acted. We are currently leading the charge to widespread adoption.

Here are three projects using a combination of hydrogen fuel cells plus batteries that showcase how we are leading by example:

  1. HySeas project in Scotland, UK: this technology is used by maritime vessels in Scotland. This is the final step to zero emissions from marine transport — all powered by renewables.
  2. A large trucking company in the U.S.
  3. Freight Trains: We are currently helping to retrofit a diesel locomotive to 100% electric clean power in Canada. Converting a diesel locomotive to 100 percent electric? Can you imagine the impact of that? That’s what we do — help to create an ecosystem of partnerships moving forward.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Premature industrial grade: The battery industry was still in an industrial ramp-up stage.
  2. Complexity: The complexity of energy storage systems is severely understated. This industry is a convergence of electrochemistry and IT systems for application in the mobility and electricity industry.
  3. Vehicle ‘start-use case’ to ‘now running vehicles’: Batteries were used for starting vehicles; not for running vehicles. The scale of engineering, performance reliability and safety requirements needed for that is much more demanding than just the start-use case. The challenge for the scale was, and I believe still, is underestimated. Look at the repeated recalls in the automotive industry involving some of the largest players in the Industry. Also, look at the repeated unfortunate fire incidents in energy storage systems.
  4. Leclanché, my Company, though 100+ years old with rich heritage, was essentially a start-up in developing new applications of battery technologies.
  5. I underestimated the capital investment, and time, required to scale the business in all its aspects. Our technology needed to leapfrog the much larger Asian competitors. Our production levels needed to be at multi-gigawatt hour scale to be cost-competitive. Thanks to our shareholders, our technology has achieved that with an investment of more ca. $250 million over the past six years — we are well on our way to scale our production capacity in Germany and are looking to expand further through a joint venture in the automotive sector.

Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets?”

Honesty. Start by being honest and truthful to yourself.

Acknowledging the Issue at Hand/Coming Together: Problems need to be solved by coming together and acknowledging you have a problem.

Voicing Your Concerns to Others: Be honest about your fears and your concerns with others.

Don’t Overpromise: Better to be honest and willing to speak to what you can do, in terms of ability and capability.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

LinkedIn:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/anil-srivastava-03a331/?originalSubdomain=ch

https://www.linkedin.com/company/leclanch-sa/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/LeclancheSA/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/Leclanche_SA


Smart Energy Management Architecture: Anil Srivastava’s Big Idea That Might Change the World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: Idris Mootee of urbancoolab On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up…

The Future Is Now: Idris Mootee of urbancoolab On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

50% of business out there is a scam and don’t create customer value. You can find that in financial services when all they do is sell you funds and made commissions but have no value add.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing IDRIS MOOTEE of urbancoolab.

Idris is the co-founder of Urbancoolab, a company focuses on advancing applied AI in computational creativity. Prior to that he was the co-founder and global CEO of Idea Couture for 12 years until the firm was acquired. Idea Couture has built its reputation as the most sought after innovation firm for Fortune 500s with offices in Toronto, San Francisco, London Amsterdam, New York City, Mexico City and Sao Paulo. Idris has a proven executive management track record and over 25 years of experience building business from scratch, he is passionate about building high performance teams to drive product innovation, velocity and scale.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I have always looked ahead in imagining about the future. (urbancoolab co-founder) Javier and I would always joke about how machines might eventually take over and how we should start something to advocate for “Machines for Humanity”. In the last five years, I’ve been involved with various Fortune 500s in the application of AI in FinTech and HealthTech was deeply aware of its vast possibilities — as well as its limitations. And during that time, it was common for people to casually throw ideas around how there is an AI solution for all the world’s problems. When Javier returned from London after his computer science studies with a focus AI, we discovered that we had two common interests: Streetwear and AI. And from there the idea was born and we began to design a creative artificial intelligence machine and the first application is streetwear and fashion. And there are many more to come.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

From the start, everything I’ve ever done in my career has been dedicated to innovation. When I co-founded Idea Couture, the global innovation firm that I exited before co-founding urbancoolab, we worked with countless clients including Burberry, Prudential, Pepsi, Nike, and Samsung in conceiving business models focused on strategic foresight. We deployed armies of anthropologists and design thinkers to help them imagine and realize the futures. In 2000, we received calls, averaging once each month to ask us to help. And the brief was somehow always the same “How can we become Apple?” My answer was also always the same: “Hire Steve Jobs”. People think there is a magic formula, but in reality, everyone has to chart and find its own path in order to succeed.

Can you tell us about the cutting-edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

Urbancoolab’s mission is to employ machine intelligence toward various aspects of the creative fields. Because it is involved with creativity, the recurring theme around the concept is that it will somehow take away human jobs. But that’s really mostly a myth. Yes, there are industries in which automation can replace certain operational procedures but new jobs will inevitably be created. The renowned computer scientist Kai Fu Lee’s is convinced that given AI’s limitations when it comes to performing humanistic tasks — tasks that are personal, creative, and compassionate — these are the jobs that will be safe from displacement. But this too may not entirely be true either.

Right now, we are pushing true creative collaborations between Humans and AI Machines. It is not the scenarios that one is the master and the other becomes the tool. The biggest limitation is subjectivity. How can machines perform subjective mapping between senses and sensual qualities to illustrate the dynamics between computing and consciousness? It is unknown how our senses (e.g., vision, audio and olfactory) are translated into subjective human feelings and emotional responses that lead to creative outcomes. One scenario is that our machine will be able to translate visuals and sounds (and we’re already doing that), but the emotional responses we are getting from it might not be the same as they might be for humans. Either way it is a breakthough. And we can argue for another 50 years whether machine art is art or machine feelings are feelings because, clearly, we haven’t arrived at any consensus about what constitutes as art and which feelings are valid.

How do you think this might change the world?

We are optimistic that there is a version of the future in which humans and machines live, work, co-create and even play side by side. For instance, we enjoy driving a lot but there are times when we may wish the machine can self-drive, because we need a power nap or make a video call. We enjoy cooking a lot and there are times some of us would rather the AI kitchen can decide and cook something while we are finishing up work.

Most designers enjoy and take pride in the process of design creation but I’m sure there are days when they might wish that there was a machine that can help in extending an idea and iterating on it while they are doing what humans do, whether it’s socializing or tending to their families. We are figuring out how humans can take advantage of that human x AI collaboration possibilities. This is how we look at it, at urbancoolab, we believe human and machines together can co-create. We believe companies that can use such potentials are best positioned for success.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

Any technology has its drawbacks even things we create to be good for us — such as medications with potential side effects. The idea is to learn, understand, know, and anticipate these unintended consequences. Sometimes, technology can move at a pace when it becomes difficult too fast to predict what’s next, this may be especially true with regards to changes in human behavior. For us, the drawback is the standards of design will be raised to levels where it will be much harder to surpass them. Think about photography today. Whereas before you had to really know how to calibrate your camera’s settings in order to take a good photograph now anyone can take a reasonably good image with the right phone and thus it’s become really challenging to make a living out of it.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

There was no actual tipping point. It is not like one day the big idea dropped onto us. We have been working on this for three years and every week we perform new experimentation and taking small steps. It was through a long process of trial and error and testing hypotheses that got us here.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

Leonardo da Vinci drew up plans for an armored humanoid machine in 1495. Engineer Mark Rosheim has created a functional miniature version for NASA to help colonize Mars. Robots will soon be just appliances for every home. AI will be embedded in every system. Creative intelligence will achieve mass adoption once we start to move beyond designing garments to making sneakers to producing food. It comes down to how fast we can collect enough datasets that powers an AI.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

We are doing all kinds of experimental projects to bring collaboration to a truly authentic level, instead of companies simply snapping their logos together. We are creating collections with brands that will never work together and see how an AI can do it if it is able to get into the “minds” of those designers/brands. Can you imagine Ferrarri collaborates with Porsche? Or Nike collaborate with Adidas? We are hoping these projects will get people excited about the possibilities as well in the exceptional capabilities of our AI.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There are so many people that I am grateful to during my career and it is almost too many to mention. That list is long. People of extraordinary vision put a lot of faith in what I do because all the work that I’ve done are uncharted territory. That includes this company that I co-founded. I guess I am destinated for this kind of work. But of course I couldn’t have done this without all the people who’ve been on this journey with us in making this a reality.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I have codified what I’ve learned, and the same program I designed and taught at Harvard Graduate School of Design, and published it into the book “Strategic Innovation: What They Can’t Teach You at Business Or Design School” eight years ago in multiple languages. I believe by sharing my IP to the business world will improve the strategic and critical thinking power of any typical business school student by ten times over. I want to make that available to anyone for free in the future. The world needs more design thinkers and not people who solve one problem by creating another one.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

50% of business out there is a scam and don’t create customer value. You can find that in financial services when all they do is sell you funds and made commissions but have no value add.

50% of business out there are operating on an expired business model. Think about auto insurance and when you won’t be the driver anymore, so it will be Tesla or Google.

50% of customer out there have no idea what they want. As they say ask people what they want for their horse carriages, they’d a faster horse. But one wanted a car. No one wanted a self-driving car.

50% of all large companies simply cannot innovate they way into the future. They have too much vested interests in the past. Think Kodak as a chemical company and never wanted digital to work even they invested the first digital camera.

50% of business successful was lucky accident. Yes hard work was put in but it was not the intended application. The microwave began its lifecycle as a military device. Raytheon engineer Percy Spencer was trying to find a better way to detect enemy planes in World War II and accidentally that microwaves radiating from the device he was working on had melted the candy bar in his pocket.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I think our culture is in danger. We are constantly being programmed by media. Mass media used to be influenced by culture. Culture provides media with sources for content and now it is the other way around. Media (social media and TV shows) accelerates how pop culture is consumed and influences everyone and unfortunately the loudest noise and are those that are further amplified. What we need now is a resistance to a trigger down culture and empowering micro culture to flourish again. That would be the kind of movement that I hope we can also inspire with our work at urbancoolab.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

As a career strategist I used to tell people this: “Non tutte le ciambelle riescono col buco” — which is a metaphoric way of saying that things don’t always turn out as planned. You can only plan so much and modelling becomes a waste of time. These days I remind people of the prove I learned from my time in Tibet — “You are the sky. Everything else — it’s just the weather.” Be the sky!

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Creative singularity is here. Creativity is what will power our future. Creative machines are part of that new future and that’s what we are building towards.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

On Instagram, they can follow us on @urbancoolab_ or @idriscouture

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

Thanks for having me


The Future Is Now: Idris Mootee of urbancoolab On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Denise Scott of Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC): How We Are Helping To Make Housing…

Denise Scott of Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC): How We Are Helping To Make Housing More Affordable

I want young people to start thinking about ownership earlier, whether it’s a business or a home. If you start getting on a trajectory to make that pivot earlier, you’ll be stronger throughout your life. I’d also like to see people being more entrepreneurial because that is how we get more creative, innovative thinkers. It would be great to see entrepreneurial skills taught in school to support people who are interested in that pathway.

In many large cities in the US, there is a crisis caused by a shortage of affordable housing options. This has led to a host of social challenges. In this series called “How We Are Helping To Make Housing More Affordable” We are talking to successful business leaders, real estate leaders, and builders, who share the initiatives they are undertaking to create more affordable housing options in the US.

As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Denise Scott, executive vice president for programs at the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), the nation’s largest community development organization.

Denise Scott is the executive vice president in charge of many of LISC’s national, and all of LISC’s local programs. As such, she leads LISC’s neighborhood investment strategies to expand and sustain opportunities in communities across the 37 cities where LISC has offices and manages the organization’s Health, Housing, and Safety & Justice programming areas, among others. Currently serving as chair of the Board of the New York Federal Reserve, Scott has a long history in housing, including as head of LISC’s New York City office, and as a White House appointee to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). She also previously served as the managing director/coordinator responsible for launching the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Development Corporation, an organization that facilitates economic development through job creation, strategic investments, and small business assistance.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

After college, I got a joint master’s degree in public health and urban planning because I was interested in both, but I was more drawn to the public health side. When I hit the job market, however, all the jobs available seemed to be in housing, so I took a position with the NYC Housing Agency, figuring I would stay for about a year until I found something in public health. That was almost 40 years ago!

Today, housing and public health are seen as very interconnected — people understand housing, employment, and so much more, as the social factors that determine our health outcomes — but that was not the case when I started out. I felt it though. And I have to say that, after all of these years, it’s exciting to find that more people in both the public and private sectors finally see these factors as entwined.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

It all changed for me when I moved from working in Queens to working in Harlem at a time when Harlem was facing a massive abandonment of its neighborhoods. In the mid 80s the city owned over 50% of the land and buildings in Harlem, and it was one of the most neglected places in the country; today, Harlem is both one of the hottest real estate markets and a place where people of all economic levels can live and work and maintain their community. To be at the forefront of helping to cause that change was a tipping point for me. I saw that intentionality, focused investment, and engagement in community can cause massive change. That’s what made me decide to stick with housing as a career. And memories of that job still inform the work I do today.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My father was the greatest inspiration in and on my life. We used to talk for hours as he guided me.

Most parents say, “Don’t play in traffic.” My dad always said, “Play in traffic, Denise.” He meant that, in order to cause change, you have to understand other people’s perspectives and, in order to understand perspectives that are different from your own, you have to get out there — get in it. You have to think strategically and assess the politics of the situation.

He was a chef, but he was always involved in his community. He got me interested in community issues as a child. He knew the mayor, all the elected officials. And he actually influenced my decision to take that first housing job even though it wasn’t the one I wanted. He always had a vision that I was meant for community development and, to him, that meant housing.

He used to say, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there. And you don’t want to take just any road.” He taught me that you have to lay all that information out — all that knowledge you get from playing in the traffic — and think critically.

Most of all, he taught me to love who I am and to always be myself.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

It was really my father and his words of wisdom that have had the greatest impact on me, much more than any podcast or book.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Each one, teach one.” Again, this quote comes from my father. He truly believed we all have responsibility for one another — that you’re not going to get any further than the person behind you. You always have to pull up the rear. I think about that every day.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about the shortage of affordable housing. Lack of affordable housing has been a problem for a long time in the United States. But it seems that it has gotten a lot worse over the past five years, particularly in the large cities. I know this is a huge topic, but for the benefit of our readers can you briefly explain to our readers what brought us to this place? Where did this crisis come from?

The lack of affordable housing is related to many issues: lack of supply, the high cost to build, not enough focus or funding from local governments, and lack of adequate subsidies, just to name a few. We have been underbuilding relative to the need for years, and what is built tends not to serve families in particular. The cost of land also doesn’t support affordable housing production — cities are becoming ever more expensive, which, while a success story for urban areas compared to the 1970s and 80s, is creating huge issues of gentrification and displacement, particularly for communities of color.

Can you describe to our readers how your work is making an impact to address this crisis? Can you share some of the initiatives you are leading to help correct this issue?

LISC invests in historically disinvested communities across the country in order to close gaps around health, wealth, and opportunity. Last year, we invested over $2 billion in housing, community spaces, small businesses, workforce development, and programs related to health, safety, recreation, and much more. Currently, we work in 37 cities and over 2,100 rural counties, so we have the ability to scale market-specific solutions to have an outsize impact. Over our 40+ years, we have supported the creation of 436,320 affordable homes and 74.4 million square feet of commercial space representing $69 billion in total investment.

Preserving and developing affordable housing is always one of our top priorities, and we do it in a way that utilizes diverse sources of capital. We develop creative new ways to build new homes and purchase existing affordable housing by combining resources such as philanthropic, private, and flexible financing — and to identify money that can act like government subsidies.

One great example is a successful fund we manage in Charlotte that has financed over 1,200 units of affordable housing using capital from local government, philanthropy, and the corporate community — a great opportunity to see many players come together to create real impact. The local government decided they needed to do something about housing affordability; the philanthropic and private sectors reached a similar conclusion at the same time; and the community was ready for the change. They called LISC and said, “We have a vision to improve economic mobility here and to build more affordable housing, and we have all these local players who want to work together on it, can you help us do it?” It was very exciting because our theory of change is that it takes all these layers together to make it happen.

Another big focus for us is diversifying the pool of developers so that more women and people of color — groups that are drastically underrepresented in non-profit real estate development — are involved in housing production. We’ve had a program in California called the Housing Development Training Institute running for 30 years that trains nonprofit housing developers to this end; and last year it expanded to Ohio. We are expanding the program to other cities and hope to see it launched nationally for an even greater impact.

Can you share something about your work that makes you most proud? Is there a particular story or incident that you found most uplifting?

I think the moment we’re in right now is pretty uplifting. We have an opportunity here to focus on BIPOC communities — to lean into this moment and really use it to invest more and empower communities of color to take on leadership and ownership. That’s what’s going to fundamentally change the conditions of poverty and close the gaps in wealth, health, and opportunity. This is a moment in time and let’s not waste a minute of it. Let’s be assertive and do everything we possibly can to try and take advantage of the attention that this work is getting, of the funding that it’s getting, and let’s do some bold things with it.

In your opinion, what should others in the affordable housing industry do to further address these problems?

We need to be willing to try innovative approaches. We need to consider working with more flexible sources of capital. We need to increase the minimum wage to truly be a living wage because, if we’re not addressing the economic development side of the equation, we’re not dealing with the whole issue. And there are policy agendas we should advance. For example:

Existing programs like LIHTC, HOME, CDBG, and Section 8 need to be better funded and expanded to serve more people. Currently, the mortgage deduction is larger than all the low-income housing subsidies combined. Renters need the same supports that owners receive. Rent stabilization programs should also be expanded to provide a measure of control for rent increases, particularly in hot markets.

Tenants should be protected through strong eviction and other tenant protections laws, and through legal aid and housing counseling organizations. The federal funds designated for past due rent need to move quickly to reach those in need. Nonprofits can be incredibly helpful here, bridging the gap between government and landlords and tenants.

City governments must be strategic about how they utilize their federal housing resources to maximize impact. This means targeting resources to the lowest income and most vulnerable families and ensuring community-based organizations and local stakeholders are engaged with program delivery.

We need to pass foreclosure protection laws, and allow for flexibility with payments, such as extending the mortgage timeline an additional year or two.

Funds should be provided for down-payment assistance and home-buyer education counseling.

Freeze property taxes in hot markets and increase access to grants and 0% interest loans for home repairs.

Develop alternative housing, such as rent-to-own programs, community land trusts and land banks, co-ops, and accessory dwelling units, to increase supply.

Remove zoning laws that prohibit density in order to increase affordable housing supply.

At the federal level, enact the Neighborhood Homes Investment Act, which would provide tax credits to support developing and rehabbing single-family homes in distressed communities.

Can you share three things that the community and society can do to help you address the root of this crisis? Can you give some examples?

We know that the high cost of living in many cities is forcing people out, in particular people of color. One way to prevent this is to pay people more money. We need to increase the minimum wage to a living wage so that people can afford a home, food, education, health care — everything one needs to live a safe, fulfilling life. Secondly, the supply of affordable housing has to substantially increase, and existing affordable housing needs to be preserved to remain affordable. A third focus should be on increasing ownership, both of housing and of small businesses.

If you had the power to influence legislation, are there laws which you would like to see introduced that might help you in your work?

In addition to the minimum wage increase, I’d like to see the Neighborhood Homes Investment Act passed. In many historically disinvested communities, it costs more to build or repair a home than the home is worth. This Act would provide federal tax credits to close this gap, increasing affordable housing production. I’d also remove laws that reduce housing density so that we can build more in areas where the cost of land and building is high, as in most cities.

It would be good to have dedicated funding streams to support the increased need for nonprofit capacity to better support communities in need. Nonprofits are a vital component of the local service delivery systems in every city. Their infrastructure is critical to sustain!

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started leading my company” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

There’s a real complexity to finance that I had to learn how to address in order to do my job well. I think I could have achieved more earlier on in my career if I had started with a deeper understanding of that complexity, but you have to go through it to get to that understanding, so it’s a bit circular.

Another thing I learned over the years is how important it is to keep pushing for a good idea even when you’re told no, even when you have to be flexible or negotiate to make it work. If you believe something to be a really good idea, keep pushing and its time will come. Often, we give up on an idea because we can’t sell it at the first try. There’s a level of stick-to-it-ness that‘s required in this work.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I want young people to start thinking about ownership earlier, whether it’s a business or a home. If you start getting on a trajectory to make that pivot earlier, you’ll be stronger throughout your life. I’d also like to see people being more entrepreneurial because that is how we get more creative, innovative thinkers. It would be great to see entrepreneurial skills taught in school to support people who are interested in that pathway.

I’d also like to see philanthropy be more flexible about how funds can be applied to solve a problem. The more flexible funds are, the greater an impact they can have. Right now, philanthropy tends to be very prescriptive, which impedes the possibilities. Historically, philanthropy was more thematic, and when the pandemic began, it shifted again to being less restrictive in order to help people quickly. I’d like to see that be a permanent shift so that we can tackle more multi-dimensional problems in the most creative manner. Banks and government could consider more flexible funding options as well.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I would love to share a meal with Kamala Harris and talk to her about improving equality for women of color. I’d like to see more women in positions of leadership in finance, STEM, government, and industry, and to see a pipeline of women rising in the ranks. I’d love to talk to Kamala about how we can grow this pipeline of women, particularly women of color, for future leadership positions — including president of the United States.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

www.lisc.org

https://twitter.com/lisc_hq/

https://www.facebook.com/lisc.org/

https://www.instagram.com/lisc_hq/


Denise Scott of Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC): How We Are Helping To Make Housing… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Brand Makeovers: Jonina Skaggs & Bradley Skaggs On The 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and…

Brand Makeovers: Jonina Skaggs & Bradley Skaggs On The 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image

Simplify and focus — Don’t try to be everything for everyone. Keep things as simple as possible which will allow you to better focus on those products that your consumers love. We worked with a brand that had 5 SKUs and all of them were amazing.

As part of our series about “Brand Makeovers” I had the pleasure to interview Jonina Skaggs & Bradley Skaggs.

Jonina Skaggs, Partner & Art Director at Skaggs and Bradley Skaggs Partner & Creative Director at Skaggs.

Skaggs is a full-service, award-winning creative & branding agency specializing in beauty and hospitality. Skaggs began as a graphic design studio in San Francisco in 1998, with Microsoft and NASA as its first clients. By 2000, partners (and former architects) Jonina and Bradley opened up the New York office which has since grown into a full-service branding and digital agency with an international portfolio of clients including Charlotte Tilbury, Diptyque, Morphe, Estee Lauder and Skyn ICELAND to name just a few. Skaggs thrives at making brands heard, seen and known.

Thank you for joining us in this interview series. Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Bradley: To make a long story short, we met in architecture school when Jonina was doing a foreign exchange program. I was in my last semester and she had a year to go at the university she was studying at in Germany. My uncle was an architect and had a contact in Stuttgart, Germany and I called him up and asked him if I could have a job. He agreed that I’d learn German so by chance I ended up in Germany for Jonina’s last year of school. Our relationship became closer, I quit my job in Stuttgart and moved to Trier where she was studying and got a job in Luxembourg with a very small architectural practice. She then graduated and also got a job in Luxembourg. We moved and spent about 2 years in Lux before moving to San Francisco so Jonina could do her MFA (architecture ended up not being her thing). Her MFA connected her with one of the founders of Pentagram who ended up being her mentor and literally changed her life. I had interned at a couple of firms in San Francisco while I was in school and knew the good firms there so figured I had a pretty good chance at getting a job.

Fast forward a few years and Jonina finishes her MFA but had so much freelance work that she never really did work for another company. It got to the point where our small studio wasn’t enough space and we found an office space down near Chinatown. I had become interested in 3D modeling and the emerging virtual building concept when I was in Europe and started working on the side developing a website for Progressive Architecture magazine to feature the editor’s top 6 homes in a virtual web environment. This ended up connecting me with one of the pioneering software development companies in the 3D modeling space. One thing leads to another and I start working on a virtual tour website of all 10 NASA facilities while Jonina lands Microsoft as one of her first clients. So here we were in 1998 with our hands so full that I quit my day job and Skaggs Design was formed. We haven’t looked back since.

Can you share a story about the funniest marketing or branding mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Bradley: This isn’t exactly a mistake but it is funny. During one of our first major presentations to the team at Microsoft, we ran out of spray mount for the last board (this is before projection and massive screens) so we stopped at the art supply store on the way down to Mountain View, CA. We got to Microsoft and had to mount the last board in the parking lot. While spraying the spray mount on the drawing, a gust of wind comes out of nowhere and blows the piece of paper out of our hands and it ends up stuck to the side of the car and to make matters worse, we end up covered in spray mount. We managed to get the drawing peeled off the car and onto the board, but the 80s metal band hair wasn’t going away. It was a funny meeting. Lesson learned, always keep enough supplies on hand.

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Is there a takeaway or lesson that others can learn from that?

Jonina: I would say it was the day we got a completely out-of-the-blue call from the director or e-comm at diptyque. He had been following our work and really wanted to work with us. That was the beginning of an 8 year engagement which involved the design of their first real e-comm site and running all of their global digital for the US, UK, France and EU. That changed everything and led us to work on the launch of Charlotte Tilbury in the US and doing her global digital for 5 years. It also put us squarely in the beauty space. It made us realize that what we were doing was getting noticed, that our creativity was desirable and opened our eyes to an industry we’d never really considered.

Bradley: I would add that the takeaway to this is to stay focused on what you enjoy doing and what you want to be doing. You will get noticed but you have to also be looking for the opportunity. Often you could trip over an opportunity because it’s so close.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Jonina: Yes, I think we have been fortunate in that all of our work (for the most part) has been exciting. I love to be challenged and I think the team does too. Over the past year of COVID, we’ve done a lot of digital work and a ton of packaging projects. I’m not so sure it will help people directly, but I do know that putting more of an emphasis on more sustainable packaging and materials and coming up with ways to reduce the amount of material will help with reducing waste and bring some good to the planet.

What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?

Bradley: Travel. Go to far away places, observe how people interact and how the same things we have here are marketed there. Burnout isn’t impossible to avoid and you should expect it from time to time, but it is manageable. Travel has alway been our re-energizer and a huge source of inspiration.

Jonina: Travel is my #1 thing to do (I’ve had a passport since age 1 but selfcare comes really close (without the selfie): Be alone without a device and stick your feet up in the air, be silly and make faces, meditate (2 seconds flat before you start to talk to yourself, again) and dance, dance, dance to your favorite music.

Ok, let’s now jump to the core part of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?

Bradley: Brand marketing is the “what” and product marketing is the “how”. That might be a bit simplistic or confusing but, for example, let’s say brand X is a skincare company (what it is and what it is known for) that makes products A, B and C. Products A, B and C were created to address issues 1, 2 and 3 and they do this by doing so and so (the how). The “how” is product marketing and brand marketing is “what” brand out there that can solve my problem.

Jonina: Branding is giving a brand their visual and verbal voice. Advertising is executing creative strategies to the consumer.

Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?

Bradley: We worked with a CBD brand once that was aiming to take on Lord Jones. The brand grew both cannabis and manufactured products which was unique since most brands buy cannabis from different farmers. We created everything from the overall brand positioning and key message, to renaming the brand and designing the identity to all their packaging and the website. They put a lot of good money and time into this effort and it looked great and very different from what was out there in the market (and their CBD was amazing). Then they hired a Chief Revenue Officer who came in and decided the brand could only win by discounting at every opportunity. He literally killed the brand and now it’s just sort of there but not doing anything. Had they stuck with the plan and continued to invest the resources and energy to build the brand, I’m sure they would be a very successful brand now. It’s unfortunate. Building a brand requires both an investment and marketing and advertising efforts. It really doesn’t work with just one or the other.

Let’s now talk about rebranding. What are a few reasons why a company would consider rebranding?

Jonina: There are a few. The most common is a merger or acquisition and the new management is ready to shake things up. Or, the brand has a legacy they have created over the years and it’s time for a refresh. The other is that the brand started off on the wrong foot and needs to get things in order. This is very common, unfortunately, since it often means they need to try to rebrand without a realistic budget. I’m not saying it can’t be done, but the number of times we’ve met with founders that spent a lot of money for nothing only to realize it all needs to be redone is depressing. It’s important to get it right the first time and build from there.

Are there downsides of rebranding? Are there companies that you would advise against doing a “Brand Makeover”? Why?

Bradley: There is always a downside but if done correctly it can pay off in the end. Young brands need to be patient and stay focused on building their audience and supporting their products. You can never please everyone with the visuals but a bad product is a bad product and people will know it instantly. As it is said “a pig with lipstick is still a pig”, right? Make sure you have an amazing product and that the brand image/messaging is professional and relevant to the audience and differentiating from the competition.

Jonina: If the brand is not broken, don’t fix it. We have seen so many companies hiring new CMO’s and marketing directors and off they go to try to “fix” a brand that isn’t broken. Maybe needs to be updated a bit because of new technology or their customer needs but often a full rebrand isn’t necessary. Just some cleanup, organization, simplifying and revitalizing is often enough to get a reaction and be able to determine if going further makes sense.

Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Can you share 5 strategies that a company can do to upgrade and re-energize their brand and image? Please tell us a story or an example for each.

Bradley & Jonina:

  1. Hone your brand message — While it may make sense to you, it’s not guaranteed it will make sense to your audience. It’s important to keep honing your brand message since there are new brands popping up every day and to make sure it’s resonating with your audience. Look at what people are saying about your brand and you’ll see keywords start to popup. Integrate those into your story, if possible.
  2. Refresh your brand image — This one is obvious. Sometimes a little change is all that is needed as discussed earlier. Other times, it’s time to put the gloves on and really get to work with repositioning, crafting new messaging, reformulating products or creating new products and rolling out a revitalized brand.
  3. Reevaluate the white space — The market changes and new products show up and what you thought was your white space is no longer yours. It’s important to keep an eye on the competition and make sure you own your space. If not, it’s time to reevaluate and, if necessary, find or redefine a new white space that is better suited for your offering.
  4. Simplify and focus — Don’t try to be everything for everyone. Keep things as simple as possible which will allow you to better focus on those products that your consumers love. We worked with a brand that had 5 SKUs and all of them were amazing. They conquered Europe and came to the US and after a short time, they decided to introduce a bunch of new products that didn’t even contain their key ingredient thinking that would help their appeal with the US audience. So rather than spending the money on building their US audience they spent money on product development and then had to spend more money on supporting products that their competitors were doing better.
  5. Adapt to your audience — This does not mean jump from one trend to the next but it does mean listening to your audience to understand their pain points. We’ve worked with brands that were certain their audience was like this or that, which was true 5 years ago but not today. We’re all getting older each day, our interests change, the products we use change so don’t think that your audience will always be the same. You have to grow with them and at the same time continue to bring new customers into your brand world.

In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job doing a “Brand Makeover”. What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?

Bradley: Probably easier to find one that didn’t do a good job, LOL. A brand has to be constantly nurtured and if done so, then a makeover shouldn’t need to happen. I’m more interested in brands that continue to evolve over time hence they never get to a point where they have to do a big makeover. Look at Apple, for example, the constant evolution of the visual design keeps their look fresh and engaging and inline with their product evolution.

Jonina: Papaya King in NYC is a brand we did a makeover of that hadn’t been touched for over 30 years. The NY Times noted it as the best makeover keeping the legacy of the brand while giving it a much needed clean up. It was a really fun project too.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Bradley: Cut down on consumption and support biodiversity. We are literally killing our planet with over consumption and the amount of waste we produce. One of our hopes is that post-COVID we’ll all realize how fragile life is, how having less actually makes you happier.

Jonina: Eat less junk food and maybe the big food corporations will rethink their delivery systems. People need to look into your freezer and RETHINK how much they are consuming and the waste being produced.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Bradley: “Haste makes waste” — Mom. She was completely right about this. Either do it right the first time or don’t do it at all would be the follow up statement. It applies to pretty much everything including our work.

Jonina: An old Icelandic saying:Thröngt meiga sáttir sitja” which translates to “Tight may reconciliation sit”. This is important for any work or personal relationship. If you can’t sit “close” to each other then there is no chemistry.

How can our readers follow you online?

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/578560

IG: @skaggscreative

This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!


Brand Makeovers: Jonina Skaggs & Bradley Skaggs On The 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Non-Fungible Tokens: Danil Krivoruchko On The 5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly…

Non-Fungible Tokens: Danil Krivoruchko On The 5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly Successful Career In The NFT Industry

You need a large, very large follower base (preferably on Twitter). If for the last 3–5 years you have been working on increasing not only your skills, but also your Instagram numbers, now is the time to get a return, not only in the form of likes on the size of your audience.

Many have observed that we are at the cusp of an NFT boom. The thing is, it’s so cutting edge, that many people don’t know what it is. What exactly is an NFT and how can one create a lucrative career out of selling them? To address this, as a part of our interview series called “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly Successful Career In The NFT Industry”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Danil Krivoruchko.

Danil Krivoruchko is a motion designer and visual effects artist. Krivoruchko’s NFT works are already well-known to digital art collectors, having been featured on platforms such as KnownOrigin and Foundation; the Ksoids mark his premiere on OpenSea. His digital art work is also well-known in the film community. Last October, a collaborative group of designers and artists under the direction of Krivoruchko used 3D-imaging to transform the sci-fi novel “Blindsight” by Peter Watts into a short film. The movie has won over a dozen awards, including the Best Animation Award at the Miami International Science Fiction Film Festival. In the past 17 years, Danil has collaborated with big brand clients such as Apple, Nike, Boeing, Verizon, and Intel, to name a few.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory and how you grew up?

I’m Danil Krivoruchko, a designer, director and VFX artist from New York. I was born in Donetsk, Ukraine, but only lived in this city for a few months. My family moved frequently and in the end we ended up in Moscow. Eight years ago I moved to New York and have been living here ever since.

After 15 years of work in various studios, three years ago I became a freelancer and since then I have been engaged in both commercial and various personal projects. During this time I worked for Apple, Intel, Verizon, Nike and released a couple of short films that have collected many awards.

Is there a particular book, film, or podcast that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

The sci-fi novel “Blindsight” by Peter Watts made an impact on me, so I turned it into a short film. Last October, a collaborative group of designers and artists used 3D-imaging to transform the sci-fi novel “Blindsight” by Peter Watts into a short film. The movie has won over a dozen awards, including the Best Animation Award at the Miami International Science Fiction Film Festival. That was a big success for all of us.

Is there a particular story that inspired you to pursue a career in this new industry? We’d love to hear it.

My introduction to the world of cryptocurrencies began back in 2017. I first heard about the intersection of crypto-technologies and art from Andy Alekhin, co-founder of the snark.art platform, and it was about two years ago. At that time, he had already done several digital art projects and he needed help from a motion designer in his current project. Since then, I followed what was happening in this industry, but did not seriously immerse myself in the topic until the beginning of this year. At that time, Beeple’s works were sold in minutes for some absolutely insane prices, and then I saw in the instagram feeds designer names whom I knew from New York studios about their works sold for crypto. I decided to try it too and applied on the KnownOrigin site, waited two weeks and got the status of an artist. I remember how I posted my first work at night, and in the morning I woke up with the notification that it had already been sold. Since then, I have been actively engaged in NFTs. Now I introduced already 1000 Ksoids.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this fascinating career?

I invented Ksoids together with my wife Victoria back in 2013. We just moved from Moscow to New York and it was important for me to be visible in the new area, so I did a lot of personal projects. The Ksoids were born out of my love for generative art and my wife’s love for cute creatures. To our delight, the project turned out to be really successful — many near-design blogs reported about it and it seems it had an impact on me being hired by my first New York design studio. I even received an offer from a Chinese factory to start the production of physical toys but luckily I declined because it would have been too much of a headache for me. The project was put aside and lay in the portfolio for 8 years. From time to time, I returned to the site of Ksoids, looked at random pairs — Ksoids seemed to be as cute as before 🙂 Recently, Facebook reminded me of my announcement of this project some eight years ago, so I shared that post with the picture of Ksoids, and Andrey wrote back that it would be cool to turn them into an NFT collection. I thought, “Ha, so I made digital collectibles before it became a trend!” We talked over the phone and the process started. We spent about a month searching and restoring a project from long-forgotten backups (8 years for 3D is already archeology), creating and testing a smart contract that would give buyers a random Ksoid, preparing a website and other materials for launch. On April 22, we launched the project and in just four days we sold more than 80% of the collection. In terms of volume, we got to the first place among the new collections on the OpenSea platform and entered the top ten among all collectibles on the platform.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Once I commented rather rudely in a letter from a client, thinking that they were not in the copy. It was a small project that had been dragging on for more than a year, so in fact, everyone in the team already had such thoughts. The lesson is to stay positive and check who and what you are sending 🙂

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Andy Alekhin, co-founder of the snark.art platform, has influenced me to turn my artworks into NFTs. We worked together on several digital art projects already over the past few years and our current Ksoids project that sold out in just a few days is one of our biggest joint successes.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I am always working on several projects, usually a mix of commercial and personal projects. It so happened that lately commercial work is mainly about credits for big science fiction and fantasy series for Apple and Amazon. From personal projects, I am now working on a joint super-interesting project in the field of digital fashion. I believe that this art form has a great future, and it would be great if it helps to partially reduce the amount of real clothes that are now being produced to be worn only for a selfie.

Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. I’m sure you get this question all the time. But for the benefit of our readers, can you explain in your own words what an NFT is, and why people are spending so much money on them?

I can’t easily judge the NFT market from the point of view of a collector who sees art as a way of investment. I look at the crypto-art market as an artist, so I’m primarily interested in the creative part of my works, not the price tag. In addition, now there is chaos on the market due to the general immaturity of technology and often the price does not correspond to the value of a given work (in my opinion, of course), it can be overestimated or underestimated. So, I can only advise you to develop your own taste and keep an eye on what is happening. There are more changes happening in the crypto per week than in the regular art over years.

The NFT industry seems so exciting right now. What are the 3 things in particular that most excite you about the industry? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

-In my opinion, this is the first time in my career that long-deserved recognition (including financial) has come to digital artists. Before that, I quite often noticed a disdainful attitude towards works that do not have physical embodiment.

-General democratization of the art market, now young artists have many more chances of being noticed than before when they used to try and find their way into the “classic” galleries

-The crypto scene is very fast, and things happen in weeks that can take years in the normal world. There are dozens of different experiments going on right now, many of which will go nowhere — but some will give birth to new names, and perhaps even genres of art.

What are the 3 things that concern you about the industry? Can you explain? What can be done to address those concerns?

-Almost complete lack of control over the authenticity of the authors of the works — there are frequent cases where the artist’s works are in fact stolen from someone else and sold as their own.

-A young market where there is no good way for the buyer to understand the quality and real cost of the work being sold. Many works are sold at incomparably high prices, and at the same time, many really talented authors cannot sell anything at all.

-Energy costs for each transaction should be greatly reduced; hopefully this will happen soon.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about NFTs? Can you explain what you mean?

-That you are guaranteed to earn by selling your work — just like in a “real” art market, no one can give such a guarantee.

-That any work you buy is guaranteed to rise in value. If your goal is an investment, and not just supporting artists whose work you like, then you must understand all the risks associated with crypto-currencies, and in particular, with crypto-art.

What are the most common mistakes you have seen people make when they enter the NFT industry? What can be done to avoid that?

  • Expectations that are too high (from both buying and selling) can lead to disappointment very quickly.
  • The belief that the quality of work corresponds to its price — now the market is too young and often the assessment of work does not correspond to its value when the initial excitement subsides.
  • That you will be noticed simply because you posted a new job — in my opinion, marketing and the follower base are now more important in crypto art than the real quality of work.

How do you think NFTs have the potential to help society in the future?

I don’t think this is some kind of technology that will directly affect the whole of society. Specifically in the field of art, there is a chance that the way of collecting will change, direct support of artists can lead to an influx of new people with new ideas and more variety, which will ultimately make our lives a little more interesting 🙂

Ok, fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly Successful Career In The NFT Industry?” (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. You need a large, very large follower base (preferably on Twitter). If for the last 3–5 years you have been working on increasing not only your skills, but also your Instagram numbers, now is the time to get a return, not only in the form of likes on the size of your audience.
  2. This is so important that I’ll say it a second time — social media are your main channels for selling your NFT art. Chat, meet, participate in collaborations, create connections with both other artists and collectors.
  3. Understand the NFT technology itself and the Ethereum blockchain, which runs most of the marketplaces. Many truly interesting NFT art projects are born at the junction of the possibilities that this technology opens up with digital art.
  4. Be prepared that in the crypto-world (and in particular crypto-art) everything develops and changes at a much faster rate than in the usual one. Trends appear and disappear in weeks, the market situation changes every day — you will need to be constantly “in the loop”, otherwise your strategies will become outdated and quickly stop working.
  5. Although from the outside it may seem that NFT art is all about instant success stories, the vast majority of them take years to hone the artist’s style and create their own audience. There is always a chance of gaining popularity by circumventing these conditions, but the chances of this are about the same as winning the lottery.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I’m not sure that there is such a movement — but if more people thought at least a couple of steps ahead about the consequences of their actions, we would live in a much cooler world.

We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I have never had role models among famous people. I respect a lot of them for their actions, but it always seemed strange to me to try to get close to them and imitate someone in everything. So, I would rather spend this breakfast with the people closest to me — with my wife and children 🙂

Thank you so much for these excellent stories and insights. We wish you continued success on your great work!


Non-Fungible Tokens: Danil Krivoruchko On The 5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Stacey Gordon of Rework Work: How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line

Spend less time recruiting because according to Glassdoor, 57% of employees want their company to prioritize diversity and are more attracted to companies that do. Less time recruiting can also translate to reduce costs. Jobs aren’t open as long, which means less burnout for current employees and higher productivity.

As a part of our series about “How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Stacey Gordon.

Stacey Gordon is Executive Advisor and Diversity Strategist of Rework Work where she and her team coach and counsel executive leaders on DEI strategies for the business, while offering a no-nonsense approach to unconscious bias education for the broader employee population. Stacey’s unconscious bias course has consistently been the second-highest viewed course on the LinkedIn Learning platform and it also been translated into at least four languages. You can find Stacey’s book, UNBIAS: Addressing Unconscious Bias at Work, at Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, and wherever books are sold.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive into the main part of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you share a bit of your “backstory” with us?

I started my career in diversity, equity and inclusion as a recruiter and when I realized that I was having to spend more time and work harder getting women and professionals of color hired, it occurred to me that I would need to target the companies that hire rather than spend time on hiring.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? Can you tell us the lesson or take away you took out of that story?

Since I started my career? That’s a long time. I don’t work in an industry that provides for much fun in my stories but I did have a prospective client ask me if I could skip talking about LGBTQ topics in my unconscious bias workshop. I think I might have been speechless.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you tell us a story about how that was relevant in your own life?

I always work off the phrase “luckiest are the prepared”. It was my favorite quote as a recruiter because I would tell candidates they don’t need luck for their job interview, they need to be prepared. But it’s still a mantra I live by because it’s how I was able to get selected as the professional to update the resume course on Lynda.com, which is now LinkedIn’s learning platform. And by doing that, I was then able to pivot to creating the unconscious bias course which is one of the most popular courses on their platform.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?

There are so many people. I thanked many of them after publishing my book, Unbias: Addressing Unconscious Bias at Work and my reason for that is that they were all women. I looked back at the people who have gone out of their way to help me when they didn’t have to and every single person was female.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I think the name of my company makes me stand out. People like the name. They also like the branding, but the name is what people remember. When I changed the name from The Gordon Group to Rework Work, it was because I was frustrated at the roadblocks not only my candidates were experiencing, but even me as the owner of the company and in a rant, I stated that we need to rework recruiting, rework onboarding, rework hiring, rework advancement and promotions and that we just need to rework work!

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

Yes, right now I am working on a new course concept that will allow people to take ownership of their education in diversity, equity and inclusion and also keep them accountable to action. My goal is to help leaders avoid the trap of being performative and inauthentic and actually champion and implement change.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

It’s in my mission statement. I’m consistently working to make a difference for all and while I haven’t achieved it yet, I’ve definitely made a difference for some.

Ok. Thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main part of our interview. This may be obvious to you, but it is not intuitive to many people. Can you articulate to our readers five ways that increased diversity can help a company’s bottom line. (Please share a story or example for each.)

https://youtu.be/0avQQJHsJJ4

  • Increased profitability. You want 19% higher revenues? Be more diverse. (According to a Boston Consulting Group study)
  • Increased new business opportunity. Who doesn’t want to capture new markets and you’re likelihood of doing so goes up dramatically when your company is more diverse — both gender and with regard to ethnicity.
  • Spend less time recruiting because according to Glassdoor, 57% of employees want their company to prioritize diversity and are more attracted to companies that do. Less time recruiting can also translate to reduce costs. Jobs aren’t open as long, which means less burnout for current employees and higher productivity.
  • Increased customer retention/reduce rate of customer attrition — Harvard Business Review article cite a major retailer that experimented with diversity and belonging and increased customer retention by 4%.
  • Increased employee retention. With more women in leadership a company is 30% more likely to provide fair pay and benefits (according to Pew Research Centre).

What advice would you give to other business leaders to help their employees to thrive?

Actually value your employees and their input and feedback. Why hire them if you aren’t going to listen to them?

What advice would you give to other business leaders about how to manage a large team?

Realize that people are different so you can’t manage them all in the same way. You have to have diversity of leadership skills.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this 🙂

I’ve already spoken to the CEO of SHRM which is the largest HR association in the world, so I thought I might like to speak with Jeff Bezos, but I realized the largest employer is actually Walmart which means I’d like to speak with Doug McMillon.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

They can stay apprised of what we’re up to by checking out my newsletter at reworkwork.com and by following me at linkedin.com/in/staceygordon, twitter.com/reworkwork or facebook.com/reworkwork. I’m also on IG @ ReworkWork

Thank you for these excellent insights. We wish you continued success in your great work.


Stacey Gordon of Rework Work: How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Sile Walsh: Giving Feedback; How To Be Honest Without Being Hurtful

It is good to remember that it takes 10 positives to counteract one negative. Not all feedback can be positive, but it’s important to note that negative feedback has a much bigger impact on any worker. As managers, we tend to be busy and often don’t take the time to reach out until there’s a problem.

As a part of our series about “How To Give Honest Feedback without Being Hurtful”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sile Walsh.

Sile specializes in strategic and inclusive leadership and organizational development. She is experienced in coaching senior leaders and middle managers across sectors including healthcare, pharmaceuticals, education, technology, and commerce within Ireland and internationally.

Sile has an international client base and speaks on leadership, inclusion, and coaching psychology. Sile guest lectured with University College Cork on both the masters in Organisational Psychology and Personal and Management Coaching, is on the committee for Coaching Psychology with the Psychological Society of Ireland, and is a senior board member for a private organization providing services on behalf of government agencies.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I got started over 10 years ago and in a way I almost fell into working with leaders and organizations and supporting them in achieving their goals while also supporting their people effectively. Before I had my own business I was working very closely with director’s business founders and CEO’s and supporting them in developing their own businesses. It came second nature to me to work with people in leadership positions and to support them in achieving and creating the outcomes that they wanted.

Through this work before I sent set up my own business it became really clear to me that people were front and center to both who your ideal clients were or service users and to how the work was done well.

With this focus it made sense to me to start up my own business and work with a number of people in terms of developing their own people and their organizations through inclusivity and leadership.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

In in our company we focus on people we focus on the people who deliver the results and we focus on the people that we work with and by keeping people central to our decision making we’re able to see through the complexity quiet down the noise and make really good decisions that result in better outcomes for everybody involved. As a wise man whose name I can’t remember once said we don’t just focus on win win solutions we focus on no loose solutions this means in my company we focus on how to best support people everyone in a way that there isn’t unnecessary risk and that losing isn’t part of the equation.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

The story that I get asked to tell repeatedly is a story about how I got one of my first jobs outside of a family business. This role was in one of ireland’s top restaurants and I wanted to work as a chef however is only 11 so for six consecutive Saturdays I knocked on the door of the restaurant and asked for the head chef because I knew he was the decision maker for five Saturdays he told me that he didn’t have work for me right now and I said thank you and left. I relies on the fifthe knock that I had to change my tactics and I decided that on the 6th Saturday I wouldn’t knock and ask for a job because I’d already been told he didn’t have one right now and instead I chose to knock on the door an offer to work for free. As I knocked on the door and he came out to see me you could see he thought here we go again however this time I asked would he give me the opportunity to work for him for free and he told me to go and get an apron he had things like could do straight away. This head chef went on to employ Me 2 weeks later and later on when I did an apprenticeship went on to fully support the apprenticeship including financially and ensuring that I had an internal mentor within the organization. While this isn’t my career any longer it was the first time I realized that learning to ask the right questions has answers that the wrong questions can never achieve.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I find this one hard because I don’t think my biggest mistakes just happened in the beginning of my career I think that if you are working towards a learning and development mindset you tend to learn and develop everyday and make mistakes daily. I think the most embarrassing thing that happened to me was in the middle of training a roomful of 45 educators I was pointing at the board and fell over the desk.

What advice would you give to other CEOs and business leaders to help their employees to thrive and avoid burnout?

My first piece of advice would be for leaders to be human first. A simple gesture of safeguarding that one-on-one time with employees is much more impactful than one may think. If a leader starts prioritizing people ahead of the never-ending treadmill of tasks they may even see a more engaged and productive workforce. In short, leaders must be a human first and a boss second.

Another piece of advice would be to encourage teams to unplug. Vacations or not, it’s increasingly difficult to unplug from work — particularly if an always-on culture is encouraged. It is on leaders to set the tone. Employees may often try to keep pace with their superiors, and if their boss does not finish on time or take time off then they won’t either. Leaders have to communicate the value of disconnecting, but also live those values by doing it themselves.

Leaders might also want to establish frequent contact. When a leader takes the time to get to know employees on a personal level, it’s easier to see when they’re struggling. Assuming that they’ll reach out when they’re overwhelmed is easy to fall back on, but rarely works out well. For example, employees may feel intimidated or uncomfortable approaching managers with personal or work-related problems. In this case, you could proactively set the standard for open communications with your staff. At the beginning of a meeting, consider taking a few minutes to ask someone how they’re doing and how they feel about their workload. You might also implement an open-door policy, where employees can drop in and speak with you about whatever is on their mind.

Another good idea is to expand the wellness benefits. We know that exercise is beneficial to our mental health. Between the release of serotonin and endorphins during exercise, we get that happy, at-peace feeling. Why not encourage your employees to take advantage of the many benefits of exercise, including physical and mental? By expanding employee benefits programs to include memberships to gyms, you can encourage employees to stay healthy. And staying healthy goes beyond just the physical benefits. It helps us avoid burnout. In addition to exercise, expand your benefits programs to include flexible work options, employee assistance programs, and stress management programs. Help your employees find the balance between work and home life.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leadership is the ability of an individual or a group of individuals to influence and guide followers or other members of an organization. Leadership involves making sound — and sometimes difficult — decisions, creating and articulating a clear vision, establishing achievable goals and providing followers with the knowledge and tools necessary to achieve those goals. An effective leader possesses the following characteristics: self-confidence, strong communication and management skills, creative and innovative thinking, perseverance in the face of failure, willingness to take risks, openness to change, and levelheadedness and reactiveness in times of crisis.

In my work, I often talk about how to release and relieve stress. As a busy leader, what do you do to prepare your mind and body before a stressful or high stakes meeting, talk, or decision? Can you share a story or some examples?

The truth is that leaders are not born with the ability to cope with stress better than the rest of the population. They simply realize that dealing with stress and pressure is a necessary step on the path to achievement and instead of fearing it, equip themselves to make the most of it. One piece of advice for leaders when dealing with stress is to see the situation as a challenge, not a crisis, and to focus on the goal. The next step is to take controlled, considered action. Taking the time to reflect will reduce stress, improve clarity and increase the likelihood of resolving the issue. Another good idea for leaders is to demonstrate realistic optimism. A positive mental attitude that is allied with a realism that sometimes things do go wrong goes a long way. Leaders may also want to find balance in terms of temporarily removing themselves, either physically or mentally, from the source of their stress, which may include exercising. Multiple studies have shown that physical exercise not only reduces stress but also improve concentration by reducing anxiety, therefore leading to better decisions. Finally, leaders should prepare for the unexpected. Leaders are much less likely to be stressed about something if they were expecting it. The trick is not to worry about everything that might happen, but to be prepared for it if does, which is a lot easier said than done!

Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Can you briefly tell our readers about your experience with managing a team and giving feedback?

I manage a team internally within my current organization and I have been supervising and managing teams for over 16 years. The first team I supervised I was younger than them by about eight years and that was my first experience of managing teams let’s just say for everyone’s sake that didn’t go as well as I’d like to think I do now.

This might seem intuitive but it will be constructive to spell it out. Can you share with us a few reasons why giving honest and direct feedback is essential to being an effective leader?

Feedback is a vital part of any leader’s skillset. Project managers, team leaders, teachers, coaches develop this skill over the course of their careers. Not just giving feedback, but also receiving it is essential for efficiently sharing information within teams and groups. Constructive feedback is a robust tool for creating healthy environment, boosting productivity and engagement, and achieving better results. It positively influences communication, team members’ interaction and teamwork results in different fields.

One of the trickiest parts of managing a team is giving honest feedback, in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. Can you please share with us five suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote employee? Kindly share a story or example for each.

When staff members are working remotely, all types of communication are vital to success. However, giving feedback to remotes workers in a virtual workplace is one of the most critical — as well as often overlooked — components of communication in a business that utilizes remote workers.

One important tip is: don’t assume “no news is good news.” Connecting with remote workers is not accidental. They don’t see you pass by in the office halls nor do you bump into them in the elevator. This lack of regular contact can lead to confusion about their status and performance. While the old adage “no news is good news” may be true in some instances, a lack of news or communication can make a worker feel isolated and uncertain. Without a daily smile and chitchat from you near the coffee machine, a worker can start to wonder if he or she is valued. The key to overcoming the remote nature of this office arrangement is to make regular contact a daily ritual. Don’t wait for the monthly newsletter or yearly review; make a point to check in with your remote workers on a tighter schedule.

Another important tip is to choose the best medium to communicate: In a distributed work environment, we get used to relying on various media for communicating. We send countless texts and instant messages in a day. However, sometimes these media are just not appropriate for providing feedback in a remote workplace, because they lack the nuances of a spoken conversation. This is especially true with difficult or critical feedback. For the same reason you should not break up with a romantic interest by text, you shouldn’t criticize someone’s work by text or email. You also shouldn’t reserve phone contact just for the “bad” things or asking to schedule a phone chat will become a harbinger of doom.

It is good to remember that it takes 10 positives to counteract one negative. Not all feedback can be positive, but it’s important to note that negative feedback has a much bigger impact on any worker. As managers, we tend to be busy and often don’t take the time to reach out until there’s a problem. However, this type of intermittent and negatively weighted communication will leave remote workers frustrated and less productive. When you’re providing negative feedback to remote workers, use the sandwich method. Start with a positive, then give the negative, and then end with another positive. The key is to not end the conversation with the worker dwelling on the negative.

And finally, make sure to invite two-way communication. It is easy to fall into a pattern with remote workers of just communicating feedback and moving on. However, there is a lot to learn by opening the door to responses from your remote staff as well. Consider that learning about them, their goals, and challenges can help you better manage them productively. Additionally, you can use them as fresh eyes for plans and ideas you might have.

Can you address how to give constructive feedback over email? If someone is in front of you much of the nuance can be picked up in facial expressions and body language. But not when someone is remote. How do you prevent the email from sounding too critical or harsh?

A good idea is to say something friendly. When you’re writing the opening line (after the salutation, that is), it can be helpful to imagine it’s a conversation. If someone walked up to you and dove right into their point, you would be put off. That is why a line like How was your weekend? or I hope this note finds you well, as superfluous as it may seem, helps kick things off on the right note.

The next thing a leader could to is to thank the employee. No one likes a blast of unmitigated negativity in their inbox. A leader could begin an email with a small note of appreciation for what the recipient has already done. You don’t have to go overboard, it could be something as simple as: ‘’This provides a great starting point for our discussion.”

In the body of the e-mail provide direction that’s specific, positive and actionable. Criticism is received best when it is truly constructive. That’s why rather than concentrating on what the person did wrong, you should focus on how to improve. For example, as opposed to “This presentation is way too long,” you can write “This presentation is headed in the right direction, and if we can pare it down to 10 slides we’ll be in great shape.’’ Believe it or not, people appreciate knowing why you chose to do things differently. It is counterintuitive (because who wants to hear how they messed up in detail?), but in actuality, it shows that you have a high opinion of them. It demonstrates that you wouldn’t disagree with them just for the sake of it. Beyond that, it shows you think they are smart enough to learn from feedback and deliver on your expectations moving forward.

In the last line of the e-mail always end by asking if you could clarify anything or answer any questions. While ‘’Please let me know if I can answer any questions’’, might seem obvious, it serves a purpose. It makes the whole spirit of your email more collaborative.

In your experience, is there a best time to give feedback or critique? Should it be immediately after an incident? Should it be at a different time? Should it be at set intervals? Can you explain what you mean?

A general rule of thumb is to give feedback as often as you can. If the person is just starting, give feedback on a daily basis until the person is comfortable with his/her job. Daily feedback shows team members that you care about them, shows your interest in quality, and gives them the necessary comfort to grow from there. Look at feedback as a way of empowering your team.

If the team member is already experienced, give weekly feedback, even if it is just a few lines commenting on something that went really well or reminding the purpose of the project if there is nothing to be improved on. Be careful not to fall into micromanagement. Weekly feedback does not mean that you will interfere with what that person is doing; it is just a moment of guidance and mutual acknowledgement.

If the feedback is small, heed the urgency of now. For most feedback that comes to mind, usually, the best time to give feedback is shortly after the moment has occurred. Why? The longer you wait, the longer what you didn’t share is still affecting the way you think — and affecting the way the other person acts.

What if the feedback you need to deliver is a doozy? An employee really messed up a big project, or they seriously offended a leadership team member. This kind of sensitive, meatier feedback is best delivered during a time when both you and the other person are in a reflective, empathetic state. That means not “in passing,” not hurried, and not as a “surprise” to the other person.

How would you define what it is to “be a great boss”? Can you share a story?

A great boss is someone who inspires their employees to be their best selves. They should be able to identify their employees’ best qualities and bring them out. Additionally, they should pinpoint growth opportunities, share them in a constructive manner and help develop a plan for improvement.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would like to inspire an empathy movement. In this increasingly alienated world I believe empathy is something we miss the most, both in a private and a business setting.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite quote would be: ‘’if there’s a will, there’s a way”.

There has been a number of things that I have achieved and access to that I was originally told I couldn’t. I think when we consider feedback we need to think about whether we giving feedback to somebody that supports them in how they’re going to achieve something or whether we’re defining the limits of their capacity. it for me this quote was about me taking control of what I can achieve and doing so by focusing on how I can achieve it despite the fact that feedback may have actually attempted to put limitations on my capacity rather than support my head.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

www.silewalsh.com

https://www.youtube.com/user/silewalsh

https://www.linkedin.com/in/silewalsh/

Thank you for these great insights! We really appreciate the time you spent with this.


Sile Walsh: Giving Feedback; How To Be Honest Without Being Hurtful was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.