Rising Through Resilience: Bonnie Kuhl of Archer and Olive On The Five Things You Can Do To Become…

Rising Through Resilience: Bonnie Kuhl of Archer and Olive On The Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Stop and breathe. When I’m feeling overwhelmed (which is just about every other day, to be honest) I need to create space for myself. I block my mornings every weekday in case I need time to recover from a stressful event or to prepare a plan for one that’s going to happen. I don’t always need to use it, but giving myself some space to sit and draw, rest, and get oriented in the right direction is important to me.

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 Bonnie Kuhl. Bonnie is the CEO and Founder of Archer and Olive, and Co-Owner and Co-Founder of Aluma. After her own diagnosis of bipolar disorder and general anxiety disorder, Bonnie has dedicated her businesses to helping others with their mental wellness. In particular, Archer and Olive is a luxury stationery brand with a focus on wellbeing and mental health, while Aluma provides mental wellness workbooks for mothers to make time for themselves in motherhood.

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?

Absolutely! Firstly, I would say I’ve always been an art-focused person. I was really into scrapbooking back in high school and college, though at the time it wasn’t much more than a need to make something that looked pretty, and I just got a lot of practice creating. But when I got into college my relationship with art and creativity changed. I had some really strange feelings that ultimately, I learned were depression and bipolar disorder. For a long time, I didn’t know what it was, and during that period of my life I wasn’t making good decisions, and both my education and my personal life were slipping. My parents and I couldn’t afford lots of things I needed for school or any mental health support at the time, so it wasn’t looking good. It wasn’t until I learned of a mental health program for students at my school that I was able to see a psychiatrist and get financial and medical support. That program saved my life, and even supported the expensive school supplies I needed in the Art Department for my degree

From then on, as part of my “treatment” I used art as a tool to keep my mood stable, organize my thoughts, reduce my anxiety, and take control of my mental health. The idea behind Archer and Olive was to help other people achieve their goals, exercise their creativity and provide them with the tools to manage their mental health too. The planner side of my business is near and dear to me because I use that practical version of art as a tool to keep me on track when I feel off-center, mentally. Fast forward several years and I’m married, and Archer and Olive is expanding every year!

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 don’t know how interesting it is, but it certainly speaks to how I think resilience plays into business:

Six or so years ago when I first tried making a business out of my art it was with wedding stationery and design. I made a lot of connections and people seemed to like my floral art, especially for weddings, invitations, and the like. All signs pointed to: this is going well: People liked me, my work, I had lots of connections, and was profitable. But after doing it for a couple of wedding seasons I had to be honest with myself: I really didn’t like the wedding industry at all, for lots of reasons. I wanted more creative control, and a less pressured environment. So, I quit it.

That was when I started making journals and painting more. When I first started selling notebooks, people didn’t like them. I felt a lot of cognitive dissonance: I was doing well before, should I have quit? I like this, but do other people? Is that bad? But I just kept making things and doing my day job. One day people were trying to paint in my books, and having a hard time with it (I had too). I made my pages thicker, and people (including me) loved it! We built a little following, and then listened more, made more, and grew more.

This is a good example because it highlights one common and one not so common example of resilience: I found something that was profitable, that I hated and I quit it. Then I started doing something I loved, that was harder to catch on. But I was able to find flow in something I loved, and was able to keep making and making until it worked for my customers. Resilience is finding what works for you when it doesn’t, period.

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

Definitely our customer service. We have made a really big effort to bake empathy for people into every part of our company. Where it meets the public is through our wonderful customer support team. As a business you want to grow and make money, but it’s because of the way people (both inside and outside the company) feel about what you’re doing for them.

For example, we had a customer who had emailed in when we launched our mental health campaign. The campaign consisted of a notebook and pen bundle, along with access to a custom digital program developed in partnership with a psychiatrist. The program provided customers with weekly journaling prompts, weekly videos and online resources tailored to their personality type. During the launch, I mentioned on social media our ongoing program where people can reach out if they don’t have the means to purchase a journal. A woman emailed in to be added to the donation list, and then instantly responded that she felt bad for asking and just to ignore her request. Well in true A&O fashion we went above and beyond, as A&O has created a space for no one to feel shame when they contact us. She was beyond touched by this and couldn’t help but share her experience with anyone around her. She even went out of the way to send such kind letters to our customer delight team. But even more so, our customers were inspired by this to reach out to our team to donate the bundles and/or the digital program themselves to others in the community.

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?

Someone who has greatly helped me achieve what I have to this day is John Ratliff. I met John through EO (Entrepreneurs Organization) in Austin, which is probably one of the best decisions I’ve made professionally. In a call with him about the company, he gave me the best piece of advice: Get a Line of Credit, Get a CFO, Watch your Cash Flow. Finance in business is not and will never be my strength, so this was important to hear. Several months later I hired a CFO and re-oriented our financial strategy and I feel much more confident about our books and the longevity of my business.

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?

The first thing I want to clarify is what I believe is a common misconception about resilience: It is not being beaten down every day on something for a really long time because you heard somewhere you should “not be a quitter”. To me, resilience means “always adapting”. Resilient people change when it’s necessary to achieve their goal, even if that means quitting something. To be resilient I think people also need to be able to slow down. If you’re pursuing something and you can’t take a break after a big obstacle, you can’t possibly consolidate the information and regain enough stamina to make smart decisions. Being able to move, stop, see things in perspective, and adapt are the big traits of resilient people to me.

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

When my husband and I talk about people we admire, I always talk about Abraham Lincoln. It has nothing to do with politics or American history. Like me, he struggled with mental health issues, but also lots of other personal things. Whenever I think of how I am going to get out of bed today, I think about all of the huge decisions he had to make while dealing with his family’s health and deaths, his own health, depression, and all of the turmoil and terrible things happening in our country at the time. Yet, somehow, he is well known for taking his time to write letters, self-control, and empathy. Despite any flaws and faults, he must have put a lot of effort into slowing down, gaining perspective, and taking small steps to move things forward, as honestly as he could. That inspires me.

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?

I’ve been lucky in that I don’t think that anyone has stared me down and told me: “No that’s not doable, stop it”. But indirectly my whole life I’ve gotten signals like that. Growing up, my parents were in pretty traditional roles. Also, most of the time, with four young kids and little money, they were focused on making sure we had the basics to be happy. All the women I was surrounded with were incredible mothers and loved children. If I’m honest, I’ve never been like that. I love being a mom but it’s never felt like “my calling”. There wasn’t anything about exploring a career, or the adventure of making something, selling it and sharing it with other people. So, growing up I think the indirect messages I received were that I needed to provide for my family and take care of my children because that’s what they did, and there was no room for anything else. I grew into an adult thinking that was the goal and making something or having a business was something that other people far away did, not me. Luckily, I soon talked myself into it.

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?

Well as I mentioned in my “backstory”, I had the biggest setback in my life in college. I was mentally ill, with no barriers or help, away from home, with the independence to do what I wanted. I did a lot of things I shouldn’t have that I won’t go into detail about here, but suffice it to say if I hadn’t stopped, I wouldn’t be here today. I was bouncing between regret, happiness, confusion, and sadness. I was about to drop out of school and leave town for the wrong reasons with no plan. Luckily, during some lucid moments, I reached out to a program at my school called DARS, which supported people with disabilities in school. They saved me, really. They helped me get a doctor and medication. When I started feeling normal, they helped me afford supplies for school. Not having to worry about those things made it so much easier to focus on my life and wellness. Shortly after that I started dating my now husband and building a life. I’d call that a bounce back.

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

As I mentioned, we grew up pretty poor. So as a young girl there were always things other people had that I wanted, but couldn’t get. I couldn’t get my hair done, or nice cool clothes, or accessories, or trendy school supplies. I remember when I was young, I had to find creative ways to get those things. The one thing I knew I could get lots of money for at that age was candy. I started selling candy at school to get money to get cool school supplies and accessories. The school eventually shut me down. But I still had a skill: art. So, I started making and selling bookmarks instead for 50 cents each. When I learned to knit, I realized I could sell those for even more so I sold knitted caps at school. That gave me a little bit of an income to splurge on things I couldn’t get otherwise. I’m pretty proud of navigating that.

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. Always have a milestone. As you can imagine with a notebook business, I journal and plan A LOT. You can’t keep getting up time after time without knowing what’s getting you up. Be clear and honest with yourself about what it is you’re trying to do. That can be a soft thing, or a hard number, but have something you use to help you get back on track… or to help you realize when you need to let go of so you don’t make the same mistake.
  2. Stop and breathe. When I’m feeling overwhelmed (which is just about every other day, to be honest) I need to create space for myself. I block my mornings every weekday in case I need time to recover from a stressful event or to prepare a plan for one that’s going to happen. I don’t always need to use it, but giving myself some space to sit and draw, rest, and get oriented in the right direction is important to me.
  3. Talk about it. “Can we chat?” is often what I’ll say to my partner on my way to the couch after we put our son to bed. He knows that usually something is going on and we need to turn chill time into sound boarding time. If it’s not that then it’s with our therapist every other week. If I’m having trouble bouncing back or moving forward on something, it really helps to just bounce it off a sympathetic ear. You don’t have to ask for advice, just let them know you need to let some stuff out. If you don’t come to a conclusion, you’ll at least feel a little better.
  4. Give yourself one day. Some days, I just can’t do it. I can’t even look at my list, think about the thing that happened, or get up. When it’s just not happening, I give myself permission to give in for one day and promise myself that tomorrow I’m going to start again. I can sleep, watch sad movies, sit outside, journal, whatever; I take a personal day. But, when I go to bed, I go early, and the next day I get up and get started again. If it takes multiple days, it’s time to start considering if my goal is the right one.
  5. Re-orient yourself. When all else fails trying to get back on the horse, maybe it’s time to try another horse. That doesn’t mean quitting your goal, necessarily. For example, for me, I take comments and reviews of A&O very personally. During a launch we always had a lot of emails and comments, but it was just absolutely draining for me to make everyone happy. At the time, though, that was part of the job: great customer service and launching products. After grinding against that problem for months, to my family and I’s detriment, I decided that was not the way I was going to move the business forward. I couldn’t keep going if I did that. So, after taking a day or two to figure it out, I hired some great people to help manage that, while I focused on product design. I didn’t know if we could afford it, but it was a great investment! We launched more products that year than ever before, and I did my best work. I kept going, by quitting, and setting a new target.

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. 🙂

Mental health is nothing to be ashamed of or to shame people about. In more metropolitan communities it is making strides, but there are lots of communities where different types of mental health problems still marginalize people, and it makes it hard for people (like me) to get ahead. I wish the resources I had in college could be made available to everyone with an illness.

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 🙂

This may not be the answer you’re looking for but, I’ve always wanted to have a sit down with Jack Black. If I’m asked who I want to have a meal with I want to laugh and talk about interesting stories. From everything I read he seems like an approachable, down to earth guy who could deliver on that!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can find me on Instagram at @archerandolive and @archerandolive.community, and @explorealuma. On YouTube at Archer and Olive, and Facebook at Archer and Olive and Archer and Olive Community.

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


Rising Through Resilience: Bonnie Kuhl of Archer and Olive 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.

Ray of HOPE: Jess Hoeper’s Big Idea That Might Change The World

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

You will start feeling deep love for the otherwise seen as unlovable, this is very hard to talk with others about because we have such a justice-based society, and we feel owed the same justice that is actually only owed direct victims.

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 Jess Hoeper.

Jess is an author, social worker and reflective coach. Jess owns her own business Ray of HOPE, where she works with human service leaders and provides reflective coaching. She has developed a framework for her coaching method called the reflective coaching path, where she works to enhance self-awareness and helps leaders know them selves so well that they feel comfortable leading from the guiding trinity of mind, body, and soul. Jess’s professional passion is working with child welfare leaders. When Jess is not working, she is raising five kids with her husband on their family farm in Minnesota.

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 led to social work through a means of various paths; many rejections, many successes and a lot of love in connecting with others!

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

Probably not the most interesting due to the confidential nature of social work, but certainly an interesting one! I began my career prior to becoming a mom and I became a mom during my career. I have now become a mom 5x over. I remember starting in the field of child welfare before becoming a parent and I had expectations that there was a “perfect” way to parent. Obviously as any parent knows, there is no “perfect” or “expert”. But it was so interesting to observe how my own thinking and expectations shifted when I too became a parent.

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

The principles and philosophies that have guided my whole life so far include 1. Ability to see people…deeper than the surface. 2. Finding the meaningful moments in what could otherwise appear meaningless. And now as an adult and parent my guiding principles/philosophies also includes 1. Uncondition your love for people, because all people are worthy of love and 2. Do everything with the intention considered and choose the intention that makes your highest self proud!

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 “BIG IDEA THAT MIGHT CHANGE THE WORLD” is, Lets uncondition our love for each other.

The biggest “wondering why” for me has been around the conditions of love. We say unconditional love, but do we really mean unconditional? What does unconditional even mean? By definition unconditional is absolute, without conditions, limitations, reservation or qualifications. And if we do mean unconditional when talking about love, then why do we put so many conditions on love. The conditions of “I love you, but first…. what is your religion?, what is your political view?, are you parent?, do you choose not to be a parent?, are you grandparent?, what job do you have?, where do you live?, do you run?, etc.” You can see how this list could go on and on. We all condition our love for each other. But why?

If someone is different than us, do we love them less? Yes, sometimes. Why? Well, the honest answer is likely because of the conditions we put on love! Can our conditions be changed? YES! First, we have to see them to change them. Self+awareness is the first building block of emotional intelligence. The best tool I know to build our own self-awareness is self-reflection. Let’s carve out time to spend with ourselves so we can deeply get to know ourselves and our functioning conditions on love. When in self+reflection ask yourself “what conditions do I put on love?” When we get to deeply know ourselves, lets agree to break down the barriers of our own conditions. If we deeply value each other as unique, then we value differences. We all need to get out of our own way and uncondition our love for each other. Then we can share ourselves whole heartedly with each other…….no conditions!

How do you think this will change the world?

If we truly become self+aware of the conditions we place on our love for others, then and only then can we choose to uncondition our love for others. Imagine if we could see people far past the conditions of our love, we would have a much higher likelihood of reaching a state of peace.

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?

Yes, the main drawback, is to love unconditionally while all others are still loving with conditions, your heart will get hurt. But when we bravely walk into the world of leading the way, we get scuffed up sometimes, it doesn’t mean it is not worth the effort, it just means that it might not feel amazing for your heart all the time!

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

Yes I know the exact tipping point, but let me tell you there have been many illuminating moments of how deeply our conditions around love wound us all, but the tipping point was when I was working in child welfare and I had a family that I was working with that I cared for very very deeply, we spent a significant amount of time together and I got to see each family member uniquely grow and flourish, I was able to see the love grow amongst them, but for me as the professional I was not suppose to share in the love, that could be seen as unethical to “love your client”….but I did love them, I loved everyone of them very much. I realized my passion for being with people in the hard moments of life caused me to open my heart wide open with them and I would in turn love them, but my professional role conditioned my showing of that love through words. WTF! If human services, child welfare specifically, is not to be built on ability to love and build strong meaningful relationships with the families served then I would ask, what should it be built on? We have so many harmful conditions on love because we get the definition of love so tangled into something perverse instead of truly love!

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

A Tedtalk opportunity on this topic! And of course, for those brave souls that see their conditions on love to step up and help change them. If you find yourself unable to love somebody because you don’t share all of the same views, then we are doing love wrong! So, let’s try to do love right and uncondition it whenever possible!

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why.

Five things I wish someone told me before I started my path to unconditional love….

5. The people you expect to love you without conditions, will first get very conditioned in their love of you, this is about them and not you. The mirror is hard to hang.

4. You will never feel bad about choosing love!

3. We bear the burdens of our conditions, not the other, it is our job to see our own conditions before we judge another’s.

2. If you consider your love for your children and how unconditional at its core that love is, this concept is much easier to grasp!

1. You will start feeling deep love for the otherwise seen as unlovable, this is very hard to talk with others about because we have such a justice-based society, and we feel owed the same justice that is actually only owed direct victims.

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

The most important success habit is to check yourself often when it comes to the success you are seeking, and ask yourself, did you define for yourself what success is or are you operating within someone elses definition of success? If you find yourself amidst someone else’s definition please do the world a favor and define it for yourself. Our success is collective, when you are successful, I am successful, and when I am successful, you are successful. We are not in competition we are in connection!

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 did have to honestly just google “what is a VC”, of which there are an upward 120+ options for what VC stands for, so here is hoping I get this right.

  • If this pitch is for VC= Vatican City, the current Pope I am certain would not disagree with my idea of unconditioning love for each other.
  • If this pitch is for VC= Vanessa Carlton, the singer, lets collaborate on a song about unconditioning love for each other, I am a terrible singer but I certainly enjoy writing!
  • If this pitch is for VC= Vancouver Canucks (hockey), you could very much help the idea of unconditioning love go ABROAD, play an entire game where you can’t use violence and just have to love each other no matter the team you are on, just play for fun in an effort to support unconditional love, even if just for a moment.
  • If this pitch is for VC=Violent Crime, this seems too counterintuitive to pitch, lets just do away with the need for this VC please and thank you!
  • If this pitch is for VC= Vassar College, I would say, lets make an entire course available online and in-person called “Self+awareness of your conditions on love” in an effort to help people identify their conditions and choose which they are capable of unconditioning and support doing just that!
  • And lastly if this pitch is for a VC=venture capitalist, which it seems would be the most likely VC, then I would say let’s partner on a project that would give voice to this idea of unconditioning love on a grander scale, so many more people consider the idea, you come with the money and I’ll come with the passion to think, write and speak.
  • And to all other VC’s that I did not pitch to I apologize, and would still welcome a conversation about love, no matter what VC you are, I will not condition my love for you because of what is behind your V or your C!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I use Instagram @reflective_coaching or LinkedIn: Jessica Hoeper. My website is www.rayofhopereflectivecoaching.com

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

And thank you for allowing me time to discuss my idea that could change the world!


Ray of HOPE: Jess Hoeper’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.

LeeAnn Renninger of LifeLabs Learning: Giving Feedback; How To Be Honest Without Being Hurtful

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Set it up well — Make feedback part of your expectations for any project. Before you begin any collaboration say when should we give each other feedback? Or, as a manager, make it known that 1–1s are the time for giving feedback. Role model it by asking for feedback yourself so that I can keep learning and growing. Can you give me some feedback on how I’m doing in XYZ ways?

As a part of our series about “How To Give Honest Feedback without Being Hurtful”, I had the pleasure of interviewing LeeAnn Renninger, Co-CEO, LifeLabs Learning LeeAnn Renninger, Co-CEO, LifeLabs Learning.

LeeAnn is a lifelong learner, interested in diverse things, from noticing patterns in the way people part their hair to the way car headlights look like facial expressions. She has a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology with a specialization in idea transfer, rapid skill acquisition, and leadership development. She is a co-founder of LifeLabs Learning, a researcher, curriculum design specialist, and co-author of the books Surprise: Embrace the Unpredictable & Engineer the Unexpected and The Leader Lab: Core Skills to Become a Great Manager Faster. LeeAnn has lectured at Columbia Business School, Princeton, MIT, the University College London, and the United Nations.

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 have my doctorate in cognitive psychology and a love of figuring out ways to help people communicate ideas better and learn things faster. I started LifeLabs Learning to help professors with these skills, and that worked so well that companies quickly started noticing and asking for the same training for their employees. We’re now 100 + teammates around the globe, helping 1,000+ companies master life’s most useful skills.

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

A lot of times managers come to us looking for a grand set of skills, like being a better motivator or being able to say difficult messages well. What we’ve done is to break that complex skill down into what we call Behavioral Units — Or BUs….The tiniest unit of behavior that you can change to make the greatest amount of difference. So, in effect what you get is the ability to simplify complexity and become a better leader faster.

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

At the beginning of LifeLabs Learning, we’d often go into companies and ask “who here is a great manager?” Anyone who got named again and again I met with in-person to see what they are doing differently. We called them the greats. I wanted to put the greats through a series of scenarios, but I noticed already from the start that something was indeed different. Whenever I met with a ‘great’ and began asking questions, they very quickly turned the tables to ask questions back — questions like What should I do to prepare? What does success look like? What’s the goal? etc. What becomes clear very quickly is great leaders are good at asking questions, and it happens no matter what the context is. We now train people in exactly that skill.

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?

When you are passionate about research it is hard to stop yourself from sharing all the little details of science and academia. We had to learn quickly to package our content into short, actionable lab formats, cutting anything that isn’t essential. Picture a nerd-out specialist meeting up with a busy sales rep. Not a good match-up unless you get to brass tacks right away, which we now do.

What advice would you give to other CEOs and business leaders to help their employees to thrive and avoid burnout?

Help people get good at pausing skills on a micro, meso, and macro-level. On the micro-level start your meetings on time and end them on time, with at least a 5-minute break in between. In a meso level role, model taking lunch breaks. On a macro level, reward celebration of progress with small breaks in between sprints, ritualize the closing of projects and make sure the company is taking skillful breaks and vacations.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leadership means being a catalyst. A catalyst in chemistry is something you put into a liquid to help create change. Great leaders know the questions to ask to bring out new thoughts. They know how to set up the conditions for action to happen, and they know how to bring out the best in people, teams, and orgs.

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?

I think about how what I’m going to say will make people’s lives easier. Then I get excited to share it. I also ask myself what are my 3 MITs here (most important things) and focus only on those.

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?

We create workshops on how to give and receive feedback well and have trained over 200,000 people.

My team of 100+ expects me to be great at role modeling what we teach.

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?

The human body is a feedback organism. For example, when we try to walk, we can only learn by moving, seeing how it lands, then correcting. Workplace feedback follows that same principle. Your goal should be to create a team of learn-it-alls. The only way to do that is to create a feedback culture.

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.

Set it up well — Make feedback part of your expectations for any project. Before you begin any collaboration say when should we give each other feedback? Or, as a manager, make it known that 1–1s are the time for giving feedback. Role model it by asking for feedback yourself so that I can keep learning and growing. Can you give me some feedback on how I’m doing in XYZ ways?

Set up a time to talk with your remote employee. Don’t give feedback in written form unless you know the employee well and/ or the stakes are low.

Ask for a micro yes before giving your feedback -’ is it okay if I share some thoughts with you on XYZ?…’ Micro-yeses create buy-in and give the receiver time to process.

Share the behavior you noticed ‘ I noticed that…’

Name the impact statement ‘I mention it because/ It matters because’

End with a question — ‘What are your thoughts/ do you agree/ next time could you…’

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?

We’d strongly suggest giving the feedback in a channel that is richer than email, meaning do it over video or phone. If not possible, you’ll need to front-load your explanation of why you are giving the feedback ‘I wanted to share ____ with you because I think it will help us _____.’

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?

Create a culture where giving feedback is both ritualized (e.g., every 1–1) and is normal as an incident occurs. Do this by checking in regularly: How should we give each other feedback? How are we doing with giving each other feedback, on a scale from 1–10? What would move it one point?

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 remind people that the workplace is the place to practice life’s most useful skills. See each day as an experiment. Extract your learning and beat your former self.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

www.LifeLabsLearning.com

Thank you for these great insights! We really appreciate the time you spent with this.


LeeAnn Renninger of LifeLabs Learning: 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.

Valerie Fischer: Five Ways To Develop More ‘Grit’

Pep Talk. Have a good support system who would cheer you on and talk you out of your funk. But also do pep talks with yourself. The state of our life is highly dependent on the words that we tell ourselves. Choose kind words. Look in the mirror and tell yourself that you are doing the best you can.

As a part of my series about “Grit: The Most Overlooked Ingredient of Success” I had the pleasure of interviewing Valerie Fischer.

Valerie Fischer is a Neuro Linguistic Programming practitioner with over 20 years of experience in advertising and marketing, and co-founded an e-commerce site for locally made products. This combination gave her a unique process that helps businesses transition and thrive online. In recent months, her Brain Science Selling framework has helped over 5000 online entrepreneurs increase their revenue by as much as 40%.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what events have drawn you to this specific career path.

Before we begin, I would like to thank you for this opportunity. I have always wanted to share my story of grit and what better platform to share this than with your community.

I lost what I thought was my dream job at the start of this pandemic. It became a complicated relationship when I realized during the lockdown that I did not share the same values as with my former company.

When the quarantine was announced in Metro Manila, our boss wanted us to keep working in a remote office, away from our families, away from immediate healthcare. I believe in keeping employees healthy and safe before operating the business, but that was not the case with her. We did not agree on digital marketing strategies which made it challenging to work together. But that was her business, and I was only an employee.

I quit, she fired me. It was mutual.

Little did I know that this unfortunate incident will lead me to my purpose. It was not a rejection; it was a redirection.

Can you share your story about “Grit and Success”? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

I come from a poor family. Both my parents worked so we can make ends meet. Aside from being a nurse, my mom made candies after work, and we will sell them at school the next day. Sometimes, she would make sausages that we would sell to our teachers.

We learned at a young age that life was not easy. At twelve years old, I started my first side hustle, I became a tutor to a seven-year-old boy.

That same year, my mom was diagnosed with kidney failure. The doctors said she only had six months to live. Thankfully, she lived for four more years after that initial diagnosis. She fought and we fought with her. We had debts left and right. But the years added to her life made it all worth it.

Having experienced poverty at a young age not only taught me grit, it also brought me ambition. I promised myself that I will help my family get out of situations where we had to rely on other people’s mercy to continue living. I imagined a life outside of the small apartment that we rented, a world where I can buy what I want without looking at the price tag.

My childhood also equipped me with resilience. It made me mentally tough and agile. These traits I would later use as I find my purpose in life.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

“This too shall pass”. When I heard this line uttered by a bellboy in the movie My Bestfriend’s Wedding, I was reminded of what I would tell myself when I was younger. This too shall pass. I always knew that if I persevered, I would take myself out of that difficult situation. And this might sound preachy, but I also knew that God, or whichever supreme being you believe in, will always provide.

So how did Grit lead to your eventual success? How did Grit turn things around?

Because I am so used to life throwing me curveballs, when I lost my dream job last year, that incident did not even have power over me. Sure, I was afraid, I let myself be miserable for days. I cried and worried myself to sleep for a while, but I knew that I could get up again when I was ready.

Grit is like a muscle. You must exercise it to grow and develop. And there are ways to fortify and strengthen that muscle.

Based on your experience, can you share 5 pieces of advice about how one can develop Grit? (Please share a story or example for each)

  1. Practice — Unfortunately, this part means that you experience struggles in your life. You must consistently move through it. You must get used to thinking of it as another boulder you have to lift, and in each big rock that you remove from your path, the stronger you will be to pick up the new ones. How did I practice Grit? Let me see: We grew up poor, I had to be at the top of my class to keep my scholarship, I lost my mom at 15, I used to waddle through chest-deep floods just to get to school and eventually to work, I lost one of my boyfriends to a robbery-homicide, I lost my job during the pandemic. All through my life I got to practice. The trials did not stop. I just got better at handling them.
  2. Persist and Persevere– I have always loved studying and vowed to finish school at whatever cost. Despite living three hours away from University and not having the budget to live in a dorm, I decided to commute. I would take the tricycle, then a jeepney, then a bus, then another jeepney before I get to school. I used to have nightmares about being late to class and would leave before sunrise so I can get there on time. During the commute is when I read and reviewed for my exams. Occasionally, that’s where I try to catch up on sleep. On bad days, it’s on those commutes that I would get sexually harassed. But that’s a story for another time. There will be moments when you will want to throw in the towel and just give up. Breathe. Gather yourself. Call on the gods of fortitude and put one foot in front of the other. When you marry persistence and perseverance with passion, that’s when you grow grit.
  3. Pep Talk. Have a good support system who would cheer you on and talk you out of your funk. But also do pep talks with yourself. The state of our life is highly dependent on the words that we tell ourselves. Choose kind words. Look in the mirror and tell yourself that you are doing the best you can.
    – When my then boyfriend was murdered in broad daylight, I was reminded again of how life was short. We should be pursuing our dreams more actively. I decided to go on a solo trip to Paris. I told myself that I deserved it after just being through a horrible nightmare. It was time to suck the bone marrow out of life. So, I put together my savings and made it an unforgettable trip of healing.
    -In her new book, The High 5 Habit, Motivational Speaker Mel Robbins talks about Neurobics where we marry positive thoughts with corresponding actions. She says that we all want to be cheered for, but we don’t cheer for ourselves. In this exercise, she asks us to look in the mirror and give ourselves a high 5.
    -Say this with me: “Thank you, self, for never leaving my side. Congratulations for surviving this day. Thank you for hanging in there.”
  4. Point your Attention to Gratitude — When I lost my job last year at the start of the pandemic, I was so scared that I would not have the money to support myself and my family should anything happen. But I did not let this fear stop me from helping people. I gave free trainings, did pro bono NLP coaching, and coached local makers on how they can transition their businesses to the digital space. What we focus on dictates our reality. So, I focused on things I can control, things and people that I am grateful for, hope instead of despair.
    -Pointing your attention to gratitude gives you strength to power through every step you need to take to get out of the darkness that surrounds you.
    -By doing this, I got my name out there, got the respect of those who I helped and by the power of reciprocity, I immediately got hired as a regular trainer for many of my clients.
  5. Pause. As they say, rest if you must but do not quit. Sometimes the pause comes in the form of watching your favorite Netflix show, or a day out with friends. Sometimes it means a loud and fun happy activity, other times it can mean treating yourself out for coffee. Sometimes too, we need longer pauses, these are the ones that help is recharge and rejuvenate.

I do yoga every day, not only for its health benefits, but also for the quiet and stillness it gives me. I put my attention to my breathing. The in and out of air through my nose, the feel of the air in my skin, the sound of my surroundings. That becomes my pause.

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 you when things were tough? Can you share a story about that?

My mom, when she was still alive, had so much faith in me. I would join contests and academic competitions and she would always tell me that she knew I would win. She said I can do whatever it is I pour my heart into. She knew even before I took my exam that I would get into my preferred school. Just thinking about her and her faith in me is enough to keep me going.

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

Being a small business owner myself, I know how people are having a hard time because of the pandemic. I give free trainings to makers, artisans, micro business owners, creatives, freelancers once a month to help share the burden that the lockdowns have brought our economy. This is my own little way of paying it forward.

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

From my one-to-many trainings, I recently ventured into one-on-one coaching for those who need more thorough and in-depth sales and marketing strategies to help them with their business. I am loving the experience so far.

I also co-authored a book, Becoming The Big Me, which tells profound stories of real people about how they overcame their trials and pains. These are powerful accounts of grit, transformation and strength. Please watch out for that on Amazon.

What advice would you give to other executives or founders to help their employees to thrive?

I interviewed and hired a lot of my team members. Even then, I valued grit. Instead of the usual tell me about yourself question, I ask them about the most difficult thing they had to go through and how they survived it. Their answers will give you a deeper understanding of who they are as individuals, potential team members who will either drag you to a pit or save you. Their stories of grit will let you peek behind the curtain of their personalities, their dreams, of what they value in life.

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. 🙂

Rest is as important as Do. In music, it is important to provide spaces, allowing the listener to absorb each musical phrase before the next one starts. It adds strength to the rhythm of the melody. In yoga, the shavasana at the end of each practice is essential to calm our central nervous system and bring our breathing back to normal.

The same is true for life. By granting ourselves time to rest, we allow our bodies and our minds the opportunity to direct our energy to healing and restoration. You cannot have the stamina to build grit without rest.

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

My mom used to tell me, “Everybody is fighting a battle you know nothing about. So, try to be more understanding. Each of us has a story to tell.”

We all have our struggles, secrets, pains. While some of us build grit, some break down and fall. It is important to be compassionate. Always.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Thank you so much for this opportunity to share my thoughts about Grit.

Readers can follow me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/valeriepfischer

Connect with me on Linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/in/valeriepfischer/

Subscribe to my Youtube channel where I also house my online show and podcast Change Makers with Valerie Fischer https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZDb4-QA6RQiphcvH1qgiTg

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


Valerie Fischer: Five Ways To Develop More ‘Grit’ was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Michael Kieran of Tray.io: How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Diversity can drive long-term continuity across your team. As time continues to march forward and today’s workforce continues to age, we are seeing new faces among Generation Z beginning to join the workforce. Within the next two years, 50% of the workforce is expected to consist of millennials. As you plan your organization for long-term growth, it’s important to consider the changing demographics over time and build a culture that accepts and empowers team members of all backgrounds and age cohorts, so that you can continue to productively hire and retain team members, not just today, but 5–10 years from now.

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

Michael Kieran is Tray.io’s Head of Talent, leading the charge to grow the automation leader’s world-class team. Previously, he headed up recruiting for information security leader Duo, scaling the company’s team 10x while building a new C-suite and new generation of V-level hires. He believes strongly that people are a company’s greatest asset and greatest competitive advantage.

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?

My name is Michael Kieran, and while I’m an Ottawa native, I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some of the fastest-growing organizations across the globe to scale their teams. I’d probably describe myself as a serial hobbyist with a mastery complex. I always find myself looking for a new skill I can spend a lot of time and effort on to develop and add to my repertoire. I’m usually always partway through the process of getting better at something.

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 takeaway you took out of that story?

I think one of the things that’s most interesting about recruiting, or about working with people in general, is how there are so many different ways things can go. The possibilities really are infinite, not just for unusual things to happen, but also for important lessons to come to the surface.

For example, early in my career, I was in a role selling corporate hospitality packages to Fortune 1000 companies for major sporting events. I had a client call booked with an executive at a battery-manufacturing company to discuss a six-figure package to the Masters Tournament.

I called my contact and asked, “So, how’s the morning finding you?” He calmly replied, “It’s OK, just busy. Give me a call later.” Shortly afterwards, I learned that “busy” meant that a manufacturing plant had literally exploded, and my executive contact had been spending his morning caring for the families of his team members, but was still able to be “in the zone” for work.

Afterwards, I was able to get to know this executive and become personal friends. He taught me a lot about how great leaders have the ability to not carry what’s around them into the next meeting — about how they can stay present in the moment and focus on the task at hand.

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?

One of the most important lessons for me has always been about approaching tough decisions from a position of doing what’s right for everyone, instead of just doing what would be easiest in the moment.

When I find myself facing a tough call, I think about three very important and inspiring people I’ve known: my grandad, Dug Song (my former CEO at Duo), and Black Venture Institute founder Leyla Seka. All people I’ve seen consistently take the high road even when making the toughest decisions. Obviously, they’re all very different people, but their common thread has always been finding the right thing to do. It’s about coming from a place that’s high on ethics and morals, rather than focusing on short-term gain.

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 would say Dug Song, who is a co-founder of Duo and one of the first people who really “gave me the ball,” so to speak, in being a talent leader. The goal in working with him was always about finding leaders we’d all want to work with.

Dug taught me a lot when it comes to diversity. Duo was the first place I myself was able to be 100% authentic and true to myself, while still being challenged and stimulated intellectually. (Usually, you tend to have to compromise one at least one of those things.) It was at Duo that I realized the kind of workplace I wanted to help build. Even though I was routinely in high-stakes conversations, negotiating equity with public companies and some of the most in-demand executives in the business, I did it all as myself, without having to pretend to be someone else.

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

I’d like to think Tray.io stands out because we’re a mission-driven company, with a mission that comes straight from the top and is reinforced every day across our team, culture, and products. Our company offers a sophisticated software product called the Tray Platform — a low-code automation platform that gives anyone the power to integrate their software tools and automate pretty much any important process.

There’s a core belief held by our founders — and everyone else at Tray.io — that brought about our product, our company, and our team, which is that people have amazing potential. As our founder and CEO, Rich Waldron, puts it, it’s important for all of us to be able to do “our best work” — and that is to realize our full potential. Part of the reason we built a general workflow automation platform was to give any modern worker the power to automate repetitive, time-consuming manual work and focus on the most valuable strategic projects available.

To put it another way: Why would a company invest a significant amount of time and resources into hiring an incredibly talented and capable team member, only to sit that person down in front of a pile of manual spreadsheet work? Frankly, companies that hire the smartest candidates in the world to do hours of menial labor because they don’t have a better way to manage their processes are doing it wrong. Your team will get the most value from new team members who are working at their full potential on the highest-priority projects they can join, without the distractions of repetitive tasks. And when you create a work environment and culture built on empowering team members to realize their potential, your new candidates will also be more engaged, learn more, and will be more likely to stick around. We understand that it’s a big world out there with many opportunities, but our talent team’s mission is to make Tray.io not just a great place to work, but also “a great place to be from.”

Our regard for our team members’ potential (and their valuable time) is also reflected in the way we hire, which is a holistic process that combines traditional talent scouting with candidate experience management and top-of-funnel talent marketing. We have only the deepest respect for our team members and for anyone we’re fortunate enough to speak to as a candidate. When our candidates — even the ones that end up not accepting our offers — take a moment to share what a positive experience they had during the hiring process, we know we’re doing something right.

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

As hinted at above, we’ve launched a new talent marketing function. Speaking from a purely strategic standpoint, our goal is to engage candidates further up the funnel and get on their radar earlier, so that if and when they decide they’re ready to start looking for a new opportunity, Tray.io is more likely to be a top-of-mind choice.

However, talent marketing for us is also about expanding our storytelling with folks outside of the company. As part of our approach, we’re building out an editorial calendar with new information, videos, and other materials we post to our social media channels to share what it feels like to work at Tray.io. As Dr. Maya Angelou said, “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Additionally, we’re also expanding our efforts into working with a variety of community-based groups to provide no-strings-attached mentorship to young professionals in a variety of fields. Obviously, it’s a good way for us to get our name out there, but also it’s extremely rewarding to be able to give back to the community and help prepare the next generation for the challenges ahead.

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

One story that comes to mind is about the basketball team at my high school. I attended Woodroffe High School in Ottawa and, when I was a young athlete, my goal was to win a city championship and be the best player in the city. Unfortunately, we had some injuries and issues that kept us from championship gold.

However, 20 years later, I reconnected with my coach, who had since become the principal. I decided to coach basketball for grades 9–12. At the time, the team consisted entirely of at-risk youth who were unlikely to finish high school. As coach, I made it my goal to help develop these young people and impart what I thought were important values around work ethic, collaboration, and doing the right thing.

For three years in a row, we made it to the semifinals for the city championships. For three years in a row, we got knocked out of the running. In the fourth year, and maybe this isn’t unlike the plot of a Disney movie, we won the city championship in an extremely high-pressure situation. It was a great experience watching the young people I’d worked with grow up and achieve their goals. Both I and my former coach felt great about passing along that important lesson to someone else — no matter who you are or where you’re from, if you can outwork everyone else, you can accomplish things that seem impossible.

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. Diverse hires add diverse perspectives overall. Let’s get the most obvious point out of the way. A company founded by a group of people who all belong to the same cultural group, all went to the same school, and all came from the same town — and exclusively hires people with the exact same background — may not have a particularly broad or comprehensive perspective on the market they serve, or the challenges they may face in the future.

2. Diverse hires are more likely to understand unmet needs in underserved areas. Traditional talent practices focus on hiring with a myopic focus exclusively on merit, followed by a compensation arms race to secure the best candidates. In hiring, and in just about any other discipline, having teammates with more-diverse perspectives means having team members who can spot opportunities in less-represented places. From a sales perspective, a more-diverse team can spot hidden opportunities in under-leveraged markets. From a talent perspective, a more-diverse team can track down a wider range of suitable candidates for any given position, giving you more opportunities and more likelihood of hiring a strong fit.

3. Diverse leadership can drive more-robust execution. Which team is more likely to successfully engineer, launch, and grow new projects? Which team is more likely to possess the varied experience to successfully identify potential pitfalls prior to launch, and come up with strategies to ensure the project remains successful post-launch? A team with diverse backgrounds and experiences that has worked in a greater variety of settings and experienced a greater variety of mishaps? Or a team with largely homogenous backgrounds and experiences that has rarely left its own comfort zone?

4. Diverse mentors offer more-comprehensive training. Mentorship is valuable in any context, but is limited by the experience of your mentors. A leadership team with diverse backgrounds is significantly more likely to have had a greater variety of valuable experiences that the rest of your organization can learn from, apply, and use to outmaneuver less-diverse competitors.

5. Diversity can drive long-term continuity across your team. As time continues to march forward and today’s workforce continues to age, we are seeing new faces among Generation Z beginning to join the workforce. Within the next two years, 50% of the workforce is expected to consist of millennials. As you plan your organization for long-term growth, it’s important to consider the changing demographics over time and build a culture that accepts and empowers team members of all backgrounds and age cohorts, so that you can continue to productively hire and retain team members, not just today, but 5–10 years from now.

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

Understand that today’s workforce is changing and we are a long way from settling into a new norm. For example, the pandemic has significantly affected the general public’s perception about what’s “normal” regarding returning to work vs. staying remote. Major tech firms such as Twitter, Dropbox, and Facebook have all mandated that employees can work from home indefinitely. For leaders, it’s important to be mindful of these developing expectations among their team members. For talent leaders, it’s important to be empathetic and understanding about candidates’ at-home experience.

What advice would you give to other business leaders about how to manage a large team?

Technical proficiency is very important, but managing a large team — and growing it into an even larger team — requires leaders to be forward-looking. I strongly advise not getting hung up on past performance, which is an important indicator, but not always a perfect indicator of whether a team member will thrive in your organization. When hiring, it’s important to be farsighted in your decision making, make decisions as though it were 24 months (or more) from now. Focus not just on past accomplishments, but also on future potential.

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’d have to say Serena Williams. She’s demonstrated time and time again that she can shift into a gear where she’s mentally stronger than everybody else in the room. I have an enormous amount of respect for her resilience and work ethic, and how she’s not only changed the game of tennis, but changed the way young girls that look like her can believe they can do anything.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Please feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/karwani/. I’m always looking for new ideas to up our game.

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

Thanks very much for the opportunity.


Michael Kieran of Tray.io: 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: Desmond Wheatley of Beam Global On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake

The Future Is Now: Desmond Wheatley of Beam Global On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The World Of Clean Mobility

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

When I was a young man out at sea, there was a chief engineer I worked for who was one of the first people to make me realize the answer to any question should always be ”yes, now let’s figure out how” instead of “no, now let’s figure out why.” I took that very seriously and it’s how I’ve led my life. I’ve spent my life saying yes and then figuring out how to make it happen.

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

Desmond Wheatley is CEO, President and Chairman of Beam Global, a clean technology leader in sustainable charging infrastructure. Wheatley joined Beam Global in 2010 when it was Envision Solar, serving as the Company’s CEO since 2011 and as Chairman of the Board since 2016. He led the successful uplisting to Nasdaq (BEEM) in April 2019. Wheatley founded, funded and operated four profitable start-up companies and was previously engaged in M&A activities. Wheatley evaluated acquisition opportunities, conducted due diligence and raised commitments of $500M in debt and equity. As an innovator, Wheatley holds several patents in clean energy for mobility. With more than two decades serving in senior international leadership roles, Wheatley’s experience spans technology systems integration, energy management, communications and renewable energy sectors. Prior to Beam Global, Wheatley was a founding partner of the international consulting practice Crichton Hill LLC, CEO of iAxis FZ LLC, a Dubai-based alternative energy and technology systems integration company, and President of ENS, the largest independent security and energy management systems integrator in the US. He held a variety of senior management positions at San Diego-based Kratos Defense and Security Solutions, fka Wireless Facilities, and in the cellular and broadband wireless industries, deploying infrastructure and lobbying in Washington DC on behalf of major wireless service providers

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 Borthwick in Scotland. Borthwick is a village which comprises the house I grew up in, a church, a castle, the tiny school I went to and the headmaster’s house. It was an idyllic and bucolic environment which had been pretty much unchanged for centuries. It was there that I first learned that one has to fight to stop people from destroying the environment. Though there was no recognition of global environmental impacts, we were acutely aware of the local impacts of unmanaged development. My father fought hard against such pollution and blight and brought me up to feel that it was normal to fight for such things.

I’ve also been involved in a number of diverse businesses — shipbuilding, energy infrastructure, telecommunications, security and finance. Although I’ve journeyed down many different career paths, I’ve always felt my purpose was the same: identify problems, find opportunities, innovate, put teams together, put capital to work and, at the end of the day, help solve the increasing challenges this world is facing. I have also raised the capital required to grow, through some very lean times, and led the company through a public offering and a listing on Nasdaq so my experience in the capital markets and with public companies has been another crucial contributor.

At Beam Global we invent and manufacture products which are designed to preserve this blue planet while allowing humans to securely, comfortably and profitably go about their daily lives. Our products generate, store and dispense electricity using nothing but renewable sources. We build them to be tough because they have to not simply survive but continue to work reliably in the harshest of environments.

Everything I learned growing up in Borthwick, out at sea, in shipyards and deploying money, energy, communications and security infrastructure contributes to the invention, design and fabrication of the products we make today at Beam.

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

One of my favorite stories to recount is from early in our evolution at Beam Global. We had an opportunity to demonstrate our product at an industry event at a time when there was skepticism about its efficacy. We could not pass up any opportunity for a live demonstration. This particular event was being held several miles from our facility. Back then, the product was large, heavy and tall, making it very expensive to transport. We’ve improved it immensely but at that time, we simply couldn’t afford the highly specialized trucking equipment and forklifts on both ends that would be required to deliver the product to the demonstration site. But, I felt, we equally could not afford to miss this opportunity because it might increase skepticism about our ability to deliver something that worked and really solved the problems we knew it could.

I set about considering how we could save some money on the delivery and landed upon the idea of doing away with the specialized trucking and one of the forklifts. We would, instead, carry the product the whole way on one forklift, across the city, on public streets — in the middle of the night, naturally.

We set off at around 2 AM in an old and dilapidated but very large forklift traveling at no more than two or three miles per hour. I had employees and interns in personal and rented cars with their blinkers flashing in front of and behind me as I drove the forklift. I needed the escort because the product was large enough to completely block traffic in both directions on the streets we chose. There wasn’t a lot of traffic at first but as the hours wore on the early commuters started to join us and with increasing frequency registered their frustration with horns and middle fingers. At one point, a mile or so from our destination, the forklift overheated as I tried to climb a freeway overpass. The hydraulics bled off until the forks hit the street, but I pressed on with great showers of sparks spraying in every direction. Finally, the forklift could take it no more and I came to a halt with a growing traffic jam behind and in front of me. There was nothing to do but to wait until things cooled off which, thanks to the second law of thermal dynamics, they inevitably do.

Hours later we arrived at the destination. The hosts assumed we had merely unloaded from a truck on the street, not that we had driven the loaded forklift for several miles through the night. It never occurred to them that anyone would do such a thing. The event was a success and seminal in our development. But much more than that, it was emblematic of our company’s ethos — nothing is impossible, and we never accept “no” or “it can’t be done.”

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

Beam’s technology is leading the world to clean mobility. Our patented product is the only 100% renewable, transportable, off-grid EV charging infrastructure option on the market. The ability to access clean power that is not reliant on the grid is vital, especially with the vulnerabilities of our current grid. Not only does this technology help ensure people have resilient access to power in a rapidly scalable format, but it also drastically reduces greenhouse gas emissions. We started the production process for our products about a decade before EVs began to really gain popularity, so we’ve been ahead of the curve all along with our renewable charging infrastructure.

How do you think this might change the world?

70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation and the generation of electricity. These emissions are having a detrimental impact on the environment. Reducing emissions leads to a cleaner world free from the dangerous effects of climate change, which we’re already seeing today. When people drive on sunshine, they truly are changing the world.

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

Actually, I think we are reversing the Black Mirror effect. Our technology does not create or enhance a more dystopian or macabre future. It’s quite the opposite. We are challenging the Dickensian polluted world of transportation and electricity generation and replacing it with a bright, clean, innovative fueling future. This will democratize access to transportation and energy through cost reductions whilst removing the sinister profit and greed driven quest to maintain our addiction to oil — an addiction that contributes to millions of deaths a year. The Dystopia exists, we are tearing it down.

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

The single shift that took place to allow our technology to exist was in battery technology. Energy density, cost and thermal management of battery technology allowed us to produce our EV ARC charging system.

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

We need a shift in public perception. People are accustomed to relying on fossil fuels for power, and there are a lot of myths about solar power. Many people believe that solar power is unreliable and that it’s a hassle to fuel electric vehicles, but that’s simply not the case anymore. Further, we’re used to fueling our vehicles in a certain way — part of our culture of transportation revolves around heading to the gas station to fill up when your indicator on the dash is near empty. Charging electric vehicles requires a different mindset. It’s not about not running on empty — it’s about creating a charging network in which drivers feel comfortable stopping to top up, plugging in their car wherever they are. Cars spend 95% of time parked; this is the ideal time to charge them. We need a mindset shift, and that’s part of what Beam is working toward as well.

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

When we first started Beam, there was no marketing strategy in place. We took it out into the world, showed it to people and sold it to them. We rolled the dice and knew we had one shot. We were able to get in front of some high-profile customers, such as Google, that helped us build the foundation and reputation of our brand. It’s only been in the past year and a half that we started formally marketing our products and since then the interest has skyrocketed. The City of New York is one of our largest customers, and they’ve illustrated how dedicated they are to creating an off-grid, renewable energy charging network for their fleets and vehicles through deploying our products across the five boroughs.

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?

When I was a young man out at sea, there was a chief engineer I worked for who was one of the first people to make me realize the answer to any question should always be ”yes, now let’s figure out how” instead of “no, now let’s figure out why.” I took that very seriously and it’s how I’ve led my life. I’ve spent my life saying yes and then figuring out how to make it happen.

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

Every day my company is working to reverse the negative impact that greenhouse gas emissions and other fossil fuel damages have on our environment. But we’re also working to create a more safe and secure energy system. Recent events this year in Texas and the wildfires in California have shown the entire country how fragile our electricity grid is. We need more than just an EV charging network. Just as we’re never out of oil thanks to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, we need a Strategic Electricity Reserve to back up our electricity grid. We’ve already seen what can happen, in the case of the Colonial Pipeline hack, when resource grids fail due to external interference, not to mention the risk of internal failure.

Our products reduce greenhouse emissions without asking our customers to give up anything, all while helping to create a more secure electricity grid. Simply put, when Beam has a good day, the planet has a good day. That fact motivates me and my team every day.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why.

  1. Take big risks
  2. Doubt the experts
  3. Surround yourself with people who share similar goals
  4. Be confident in your decisions
  5. Don’t take “no” for an answer

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. 🙂

For me, it all comes down to leaving everything, everybody and everywhere a little bit better than you found it. If everyone conducted themselves with the simple goal of improving everything and everyone they touched, the world would be a much better place. Tackling transportation and electricity generation pollution will dramatically change the world for the better and have local impacts, great and small, for all its inhabitants.

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

Having the confidence and decisiveness to make decisions is more important than whether the resulting decision is right.

This has been relevant to my career path and has given me courage in my convictions. Hesitation to make decisions, or the inability to make choices, does not allow for growth. Making tough decisions has allowed me to scale and grow Beam.

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 🙂

Beam has the fastest deployed, most scalable, most robust, lowest total cost of ownership infrastructure solution for what will be one of the biggest and most arduous infrastructure deployments in human history.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Facebook — https://www.facebook.com/BeamForAll/

Twitter — https://twitter.com/BeamForAll

LinkedIn — https://www.linkedin.com/company/beamforall/

YouTube — https://www.youtube.com/BeamForAll

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


The Future Is Now: Desmond Wheatley of Beam Global 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.

The Future Is Now: Warren Paul Anderson of Discreet Labs On How Their Technological Innovation Will

The Future Is Now: Warren Paul Anderson of Discreet Labs On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The World Of Finance

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Catch success by not giving up. — Nowadays it’s relatively easy to start something whether it’s a blog, podcast, newsletter, social media account, or even a club, community or company. There are so many free tools, platforms, and resources online dedicated to starting x, y, z. But there are far fewer resources available on how to finish something, and find success. I have personally started several companies, published multiple blogs, and each time have learned that by simply not giving up, you put yourself in position to catch success.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Warren Paul Anderson.

Warren is VP of Product at Discreet Labs, which is developing Findora, a public blockchain with programmable privacy. Previously, Warren led product at Ripple, working on the XRP Ledger, Interledger, PayString protocols, the RippleX platform, and RippleNet’s On-Demand Liquidity enterprise product. Prior to Ripple, in 2014 Warren co-founded Hedgy, one of the first DeFi platforms using programmable, escrowed smart contracts on the Bitcoin blockchain. Warren has two bachelor’s degrees from Northwestern University, and did graduate studies at Harvard 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?

Absolutely. This is one of those stories where someone was lucky enough to parlay their hobby into a job, which became a career. I started off in cryptocurrency, by mining Bitcoin, back in 2011, when you could actually mine on a CPU, so you could mine on a laptop, and I caught the tail end of that. In hindsight, I wish I kept the miners on more often, because it would have been a bigger windfall, but you know, from 2011 to 2013, I just mined as a hobby, just from the sidelines as many others were at the time. Then in 2013 an opportunity to jump in full time working on blockchain technology came about and I decided to stake my career on this technology. I’d been poking around at it, very interested in what the future could hold, and the technology had been around for about four years at that point, and I figured it was probably a good time to go all-in on the technology. Prior to that there weren’t that many people that were willing to actually be so bold as to stake their career on such a nascent industry, but I decided to throw caution to the wind. I co-founded Hedgy in 2014. We raised a seed round from Tim Draper and Marc Benioff. I’ve been working full time in blockchain and cryptocurrency ever since. So I’m one of the fortunate ones that has carved out a career working in crypto. Although I’m probably one of the worst people to ask anything about the cryptocurrency market and prices and what not, but I definitely geek out a lot on the technology. And I’m having a blast building really cool things with some really smart people.

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

Oh man, I have many stories from over a decade working in tech — some of failure, some of success, some are funny, some are sad — perhaps all of them have a lesson to be learned. One in particular is from 2015 when I was Co-founder & Head of Product at Hedgy, an early DeFi platform built on the Bitcoin blockchain. We were off to the races building an OTC smart contract platform for bitcoin miners to hedge their volatility. I heard a rumor that Changpeng Zhao (aka CZ) had recently left his position as CTO of OKCoin, which at the time, was one of the largest bitcoin exchanges in the world. After discussing with my team, I reached out to CZ to recruit him to join Hedgy. We had a call with him and he agreed to join on one condition: that we build an exchange. Given that we were focused on the OTC market, and that Coinbase and others were already several years ahead, we viewed this as an uphill battle that we may not be able to win. So we decided to stay the course, and thanked CZ for taking the time to talk with us. Two years later CZ launched Binance, which is now the largest crypto exchange in the world with a valuation in the tens, if not hundreds of billions of dollars! Lesson there is to stay focused, but always keep your options open to new opportunities, even if they look unlikely at the time. I congratulate CZ for executing on his dream.

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

I would say that anyone working in blockchain and cryptocurrency is standing on the shoulders of giants. I say that because cryptography has been around for decades and the specific type of cryptography that the Discreet Labs team is building out for Findora, zero-knowledge proofs, have also been around for decades. The problem is they haven’t really been usable until recently. And when I say usable, I mean, being able to utilize them in a commercial setting that’s fast and efficient enough, and to scale to meet the needs of a modern-day digital economy. A zero-knowledge proof is a type of cryptographic method that allows people to reveal information about something without needing to reveal anything else about that thing — in other words sharing information without showing it. This makes things very interesting for financial applications — such as being able to prove something like, I am an accredited investor, without disclosing exactly how much money I have. Or proving that I live in a certain jurisdiction, without revealing my actual address. These are bits of personal information that are typically stored in unencrypted databases that can be hacked, and used to destroy lives. So being able to share that information without showing it helps to protect people.

Discreet Labs is building an entire library of zero-knowledge proofs to support various use cases on Findora. The first type of zero-knowledge proofs that we’ve built are called Bulletproofs, which were actually invented by the original Findora research team. Bulletproofs are widely used across different blockchain networks such as Monero, Grin, and Mimblewimble, as they scale to support the needs of specific types of statements, particularly around confidential transactions. For example, Findora uses Bulletproofs to mask transaction amounts and account balances on its public blockchain. There’s a variety of other zero-knowledge proofs that Discreet Labs is working on to support more complex statements. One of the architectural design goals is to achieve scalability across the proof generation and verification times. Historically, these were big numbers. For example, it wasn’t too long ago that generating and verifying just a single proof used to take days. Now we’re able to compute a proof in spans of milliseconds. Reducing the size of the proof, measured by succinctness, is one way to achieve that scalability. That breakthrough becomes significant from a technology perspective, and I think that the amount of real world use cases that are going to be utilized with zero-knowledge proofs is going to grow, and Discreet Labs is on the forefront of providing these solutions.

How do you think this might change the world?

We’ve seen the digital economy grow exponentially — the percentage of GDP that is derived from ecommerce accounts for over 20–30% and growing. That’s a great thing for the world, but it’s also scary, because basic principles like privacy are being exploited at an alarming rate. So, using zero knowledge proofs, can help people to preserve privacy, without having to make the trade-off of being less compliant with regulators, authorities, and governments. You can preserve personal privacy and still maintain compliance. Discreet Labs is a firm believer in remaining compliant with financial transactions, and accountability, but we also want to make sure that people’s privacy is preserved. We believe that zero-knowledge proofs are going to help ensure there’s more private, yet compliant transactional volume on public blockchains.

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

On the flip side, I can think of a couple of Black Mirror episodes if this technology is not adopted! Blockchains are radically transparent, meaning they reveal transaction amounts and account balances, so you can definitely create some interesting Black Mirror episodes around that concept. If people know your wallet address, then they can likely figure out what you’re spending your money on, whether it’s how much food you’re buying at the grocery store, or something far more embarrassing than that! That’s probably the extreme of where we want to be in terms of accountability and transparency. But with zero-knowledge proofs I think the upside far outweighs the downside. The downside would be more along the lines if this technology does not get adopted, if it just stays a niche part of cryptography and doesn’t ever see mainstream adoption. I think it can be pretty scary what could happen. Without zero-knowledge proofs, you’re either fully transparent, or you’re fully private, there’s no middle ground in between. Zero-knowledge proofs can help bridge that gap.

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

There were a lot of really impressive teams across different universities that were working on various forms of how to solve the scalability issues of zero-knowledge proofs. They all came up with very similar solutions at a high level, but as you get into the details, each approach is quite different. I think all those breakthroughs happened roughly at the same time, which is pretty customary in technology. I think a lot of them have been implemented or are starting to be implemented across different blockchain technologies to solve scalability challenges. But really, I think the tipping point is being derived from the demand for user privacy, particularly around blockchain and crypto. Bitcoin doesn’t really have a lot of privacy, user transactions are very transparent, bank account balances on the other hand, are not transparent. Whether it’s Tesla buying $1.5 billion worth of crypto, or me sending my grandma $15 worth of crypto, it’s all fairly public. So, I think a few different teams want to solve this in a way that uses cryptographic research, specifically around zero-knowledge proofs, to follow the cypherpunk manifesto of achieving more privacy for an open digital society. They want to preserve that mentality while also supporting accountability through selective disclosure. Discreet Labs is following down that same path of the cypherpunk movement, and taking these technologies into production through mainstream adoption.

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

I think there are two approaches to widespread adoption. One is a screwdriver approach, which is to write single purpose zero-knowledge proofs for very specific use cases that require simple statements. Then build a lot of tools and full stack applications that kind of abstract away the complexity of using them. There’s another Swiss Army Knife approach, which is where you build more general purpose zero-knowledge proofs that can be applied to a wider range of use cases with more complex statements, and then abstract those away through a platform. I think the approach that we’re taking is a little bit of both. The key to widespread adoption of zero-knowledge proofs is to build out the abstraction layers, which make the technology more accessible, because otherwise this is pretty complicated stuff.

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

Honestly, we haven’t been very active in marketing beyond the occasional interview, op-ed, or AMA, but we’re ramping up the marketing machine. As the technology matures and as we introduce new marquee applications that use the underlying technology, you’ll start to notice more promotion with an emphasis on community involvement. A lot of these technologies are built open-source, so the communities tend to be very collaborative. We are expanding the cryptographic library that we’re building and opening the entire platform to make it available to developers to audit, contribute to, and use themselves. We believe that open source is a strong ethos to live by in the crypto blockchain world. That’s been our primary contribution to advancing the space: publishing open libraries, open protocols, and open platforms. The rest is purely network effects.

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

I will say that my grandmother is a great inspiration for me. She’s been my sounding board for a number of years. She’s 95 years old and sharp as a tack. I talk to her every week. When I’m working on something that’s pretty far in the weeds she’s able to help me condense it for a more general audience. That has served as a bit of a guidepost for me — if grandma gets it I feel like our customers and the mainstream industry will also get it! Her presence has also helped me keep a strong moral compass. And I think that’s helped, particularly in blockchain and crypto, because every year, there’s some new seemingly get-rich-quick scheme that might be enticing at the surface, but is actually more of a distraction towards the long term goal of building useful blockchain technology. I think Grandma has been a good source for me!

Beyond that, you know, we wouldn’t be here without the contribution of Satoshi Nakamoto. So, whoever it, he, she, or they are, definitely deserves a shout out for the contributions they’ve made to the blockchain industry.

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

One thing I’ve learned the busier I get, is that giving back, at least authentically, is actually really hard to do. That being said, I’m such a passionate advocate of blockchain technology, that even in my spare time I talk about it to all my friends. I’ve channeled that passion and knowledge to guest lecture at the university level. I’ve spoken with a lot of these high school kids who actually seem to understand this technology better than most people I know that have been working on it for a decade or more! It seems to come very naturally to the high school age, it feels very native to them, and just makes sense. I think, you know, giving back through education and evangelism has been a great joy for me because this technology is creating new opportunities that never existed before for younger generations. In the future, I’d like to spend more time working on direct philanthropic efforts, but I’m not there yet, I think we have a lot more to build!

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

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, even if you think they’re stupid questions.

  • I think a lot of people sit on questions, especially in a more group-like setting and they’re afraid to ask because they don’t want to suggest that they don’t understand the topic at hand. I’ve actually taken the opposite approach where, even if I know the answer, I like to ask the question, not to prove that I know it, but to benefit everyone else around me. I also like to hear how the other person responds to the question because it may be different from my perspective.

Everyone has a unique perspective that you can learn from.

  • If you give the exact same book to two different people, they will likely have radically different views on the book after reading it. People tend to derive most of their opinions in life based on their own perspectives. So understanding where a person is coming from can really help in understanding their view.

Be a bridge builder, not a bridge burner.

  • In any industry, especially in the open source world of crypto, you will find competitors that will try to tear you down to uplift themselves. This type of bridge burning can lead to a lot of toxicity, which can become a drain on everyone’s passion for their work. Instead of fighting fire with fire, try to build a bridge with the competition. Reach out to them to open a dialogue. Explore ways to work together. Even try to build on each other’s platforms. You may find they are more of a friend than a foe.

To achieve the highest impact, find a way to become invaluable.

  • Oftentimes when hiring new people for any role, I can immediately tell if they are going to be a high impact player or not by the way they get to work in the first few weeks. If the person asks what they need to work on, or be given constant direction, then that person may not have the right ingredients to make a big impact. On the other hand, if a person independently finds ways to be useful by identifying issues that need to be addressed, or gaps that need to be filled, and then working on them, especially with others on the team, then that might be a signal that the person is going to have a big impact and become an invaluable member of the team.

Catch success by not giving up.

  • Nowadays it’s relatively easy to start something whether it’s a blog, podcast, newsletter, social media account, or even a club, community or company. There are so many free tools, platforms, and resources online dedicated to starting x, y, z. But there are far fewer resources available on how to finish something, and find success. I have personally started several companies, published multiple blogs, and each time have learned that by simply not giving up, you put yourself in position to catch 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. 🙂

This may sound very self-serving, but I would inspire a movement around the notion of privacy. I think we’re going to look back in history at this time and it’s going to be a pivotal point where the notion of an individual is going to be tested. Because we have our physical self, the kids call it IRL, in real life. And then we have a notion of our digital self on social media and other places, we call this the virtual self. And I think in the future there’s going to be a less clear divide between those two, and without privacy, it could get very dangerous.

I use the example of the book Ready Player One; when the main character’s personal identity gets revealed in the real world, the entire plot just goes into panic mode! He’s at his most vulnerable and starts being chased in both the virtual world and real world. The notion of privacy is going to become very important so we can ensure a divide exists between those two worlds. You need to have your privacy in the real world, and in the virtual world, and be able to delineate and keep them separated for security reasons. So, I think inspiring a movement around privacy is important. It’s like a neo-cypherpunk movement for preserving privacy in a more digital society. We should be able to look back and say, this was an important fight, and it protected lives, and protected people, and it made sure that the future could be more peaceful than the past.

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

One of my closest friends said something to me in my early 20s, when I was just starting out my career, and it’s always resonated. The saying goes: “be bold, be brief, be seated.”

I think that that’s a pretty good one, being bold, meaning, have substance to what you say, and make sure that people remember it. Be brief, meaning, be concise, be sensitive to people’s time. Then, be seated — make sure that you’re giving the next person their shot at being bold and brief and pass on the torch whenever possible. I’ve always remembered that and its always been some advice that I’ve tried to heed.

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 🙂

Yeah, I would say that one of the biggest problems threatening today’s digital society is the dangerous tradeoff being made between individual accountability and privacy. Discreet Labs has developed Findora, a public blockchain with programmable privacy, that leverages the latest advancements in zero-knowledge proofs and multi-party computation, to help people make smarter tradeoffs with their privacy. We call this selective disclosure, and believe it has endless applications for the future of both commerce, finance, and the very essence of digital identity. You can’t protect your identity without preserving your privacy, so our goal is to build and provide the tools and the platform to support the growing digital economy on top of these basic necessities for privacy and identity.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can follow me on Twitter @warpaul, and find me on LinkedIn.

Thank you so much for joining us.


The Future Is Now: Warren Paul Anderson of Discreet Labs 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: Garret Flower of ParkOffice On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up…

The Future Is Now: Garret Flower of ParkOffice On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up How We Park

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Material things have no value until they do. People spend too much time wasting money on material things, the next phone, watch, shoes and I have always found this need to buy things only leads to the same unfulfilling feeling, which can only be replaced by the urge to get the next thing, These purchases normally don’t have any alignment with your personal goals. I have found it’s better motivation instead to reward yourself with items after symbolic achievements.

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

ParkOffice CEO and Founder Garret Flower is an experienced entrepreneur specialising in prop-tech. An established innovator, he has founded several successful businesses, including Krust Bakery, and was featured among Ireland’s “30 under 30 business leaders” in 2017 and 2018. ​​An advocate for technology, traffic management solutions and sustainability, Garret currently leads ParkOffice where he and his team are on a mission to revolutionise parking for workers and employers worldwide.

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

As a teenager, I was fascinated by two things: entrepreneurship and the environment. Throughout my formative years, I was setting up different businesses and ideas. In my early twenties, I set up my first environmentally focused business — an LED lighting company. The company itself didn’t work out, but it whetted my appetite for the power of business to build a more sustainable world.

From then on, I knew that I wanted to build businesses that made a profit but more importantly benefitted the planet.

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

For me, the most impactful things are always the small personal stories. Just last week I was talking to a user of ParkOffice.io. She had previously been dropping her two children to a childminder at 6am so she could make it to the office for 6.30am, just to make sure she had parking at the office. She had no other options as if she didn’t get parking, she would have been faced with a 5-hour round trip commute on public transport.

Hearing her tell me how ParkOffice.io has allowed her to transform her commute was really powerful. She now gets to stay with her kids until 8am, getting quality time with them in the morning. I just love when you can see and feel the difference you are making in people’s lives.

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

Employee parking is broken. 47% of businesses report having employee parking problems. This is crazy. We see the same problems again and again: a lack of space, poor usage of existing space, large administrative burdens and environmental worries.

We have developed an extensive platform to eradicate all these issues. Our software has all the features a business needs to optimize, understand and ultimately reduce their employee parking lots.

In the short-term, we give companies all the technology they need to eliminate short-term problems like a lack of availability. In the medium-term, we give them the data and insights they need to understand their employee parking behavior. Finally, over the next ten years we are going on a journey with all our clients to help them reduce their staff parking dependency.

The offices of the future will have parking. However, every company needs to be looking at how to strategically reduce their parking lots. Parking needs to transition from being the default and become the exception instead.

This is ultimately the journey we are bringing companies on which is very exciting for the triple bottom line of people, profit, and the planet.

How do you think this might change the world?

Our first step with most employers is getting their motorists to travel more responsibly and more efficiently. We then start to work with them to reduce the number of people driving to work.

There are obvious benefits for businesses. ParkOffice.io saves their employees time, it reduces the stress of commuting and of course, it saves companies a lot of money on parking.

This complements the massive benefits for local communities too. ParkOffice.io reduces last-mile congestion around offices, freeing neighborhoods from the chokehold of congestion, particularly around peak travel times. The knock-on benefits for wellbeing and air quality are massive.

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

We have a constant educational job on our hands. There is a massive disconnect for a lot of companies. Their employees are complaining about a lack of parking availability which is leading to increased investment in additional parking facilities.

At the same time, the same companies are making grandiose statements about the environment. The two don’t add up. I would worry that some companies will look for the short-term benefits of our software but aren’t gearing up for the long-term journey where we help them reduce car dependency.

However, to date clients are really buying into the vision. They know things need to change and they understand that we have the technology to help them now and in the future.

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

The pandemic has been a massive challenge for a lot of companies. However, we’ve been very lucky. It has massively accelerated our market.

Increased flexibility has made it much more complex to manage parking. Pre-COVID, many staff had fixed parking spaces that they could use every day. Now, if they are only going to be in a few days a week, can a company really afford to leave their spaces lying idle?

Figuring out who will be present and when, and allocating them parking spaces based on their commuter needs is too much to manage manually — particularly if you have more than a handful of staff.

Solving this issue is one of ParkOffice.io’s core features. Even pre-pandemic, 30–40% of parking spaces lay idle during the work day with staff out at meetings, etc. This number is only going to grow.

What we can see from markets like Australia & New Zealand, where offices have reopened for periods, is a massive uplift in demand.

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

We have a solution that benefits half of the companies in the world. Our retention rate is through the roof, users love the product. Once we get in, we stay in.

Our one challenge is finding the buyer. A lot of companies manage parking by committee. This means that there is nobody tasked with managing the problems. It simply rears its ugly head again and again at meetings.

Often, we are contacted by companies, who want our solution, and they need it. They just aren’t sure who they need to sign off from. Luckily, we’ve gotten very good at working with companies to identify all their stakeholders in the parking journey and we’ve become very good at making it super simple for businesses to buy ParkOffice.io and get started.

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

From day one, we’ve focused on building the world’s best employee parking management solution. We’ve always felt this is the best marketing strategy. The proof has been in the pudding to date. Recently, we were selected as the Best Value Product & Easiest To Use Product in the Space Management category by Capterra, the world’s leading software comparison website.

This is a great testament to the work we’ve done as not only does this place us ahead of any other parking products, but also it places us top of the pile when compared to all the desk-booking and workspace management software which are exploding into the market at the moment.

The standard and quality of the companies knocking on our door every week looking to learn more about our product is astounding. This is how we’ve managed to sign up leading global employers like eBay, Sanofi & Alstom.

None of us can 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 grew up with my Mum telling me I was destined for great things. This constant reinforcement has set me up with self-confidence to try to do things other people wouldn’t even dream of.

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

It’s definitely a little easier getting up every day and knowing you are making it simpler for people to get to work in a more environmentally friendly manner. ParkOffice.io is already having such a positive impact on employees, employers, and communities. I look forward to watching this continue to grow.

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 go for quality, in everything you do. When I was starting out in entrepreneurship, I was desperate to keep costs low. I ended up finding office chairs being given away for free. The chairs weren’t in great condition but hey a saving is a saving right? After a few months, I was sitting in the office one day working away and suddenly the office chair split in half. I landed on a metal rod which ended up lodging in my back. I was literally an inch away from being paralysed and required 12 stitches. You might think you are saving time & money in the short run by shopping around for bargains. However, in the long term quality always pays…

2. Surround yourself with great people. I have been fortunate to meet and become friends with some incredible people in my life. I believe you are the sum average of the five people you spend the most time with. I believe this but also push to meet people who inspire you and can teach you from their own learnings. Reach out to people you look up to and ask for that coffee or lunch meeting, you will be surprised with the mostly positive response to help.

3. Keep growing. I’m a big believer in self improvement, I created something called “self improvement Sunday” with my wife Neassa, where we would spend one hour each Sunday doing something fun, different, challenging. e.g. learn Spanish, rock climb, skydive, visit museums etc. This helps increase the scope of your imagination and pushes you to try new things. Make sure you spend quality time with loved ones, these are the memories you will remember.

4. Be more open, tell people you care. This is something I have to push myself on. Being brought up in the Irish countryside Colehill Co. Longford you are thought to be a man, to be tough, unemotional and that if you cry or say something emotional you are a “softie”. What I have found is that the more I open up to my friends, fiancé and family the better I feel. I regularly ask my friends now how they are feeling, ask them if I can help with anything and try and tell them openly how I feel. I would recommend everyone to try and open up a little bit more.

5. Material things have no value until they do. People spend too much time wasting money on material things, the next phone, watch, shoes and I have always found this need to buy things only leads to the same unfulfilling feeling, which can only be replaced by the urge to get the next thing, These purchases normally don’t have any alignment with your personal goals. I have found it’s better motivation instead to reward yourself with items after symbolic achievements.

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.

One of the main reasons which will draw people back to the office is a sense of community. I always wonder about how we could bring this sense of connection and community into commuting.

Personally I’d love to see one carriage on every subway/metro etc. designated as the chatting carriage. People would know that everyone who gets into this carriage is looking for a conversation during their journey. The bigger the world gets, the harder we need to work to bring people together.

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

“Rome wasn’t built in a day”

When leaving college, I would read about all of these so-called overnight successes, then I would push myself hard doing 7 day weeks, 20 hour days trying to create this success for myself. What I have realised is that success doesn’t happen overnight and it can take years of persistence and eventually you still might fail as business is hard and so many things can go wrong that are out of your control. Go easy on yourself, enjoy every moment and take the learnings as successes until you get to where you want to be (hard I know!). Relax and enjoy the ride.

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 are the market leader in a rapidly growing $50bn market. The way the world parks at work needs to change. We have the product. We have the team. We have the traction. Let’s have a conversation about how we can change the world together.

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


The Future Is Now: Garret Flower of ParkOffice 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.

Salood: Joshua Castillo’s Big Idea That May Change the world

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Invest in product development: our first collaboration we spent more time marketing the actual launch event than we did with the product itself. We were desperate to get started that we ignored the actual thing that would make us money.

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 Joshua Castillo.

Salood Born and raised in a sleepy town near the Rio Grande Border Joshua has always envisioned himself in a role that would be bigger than he could imagine. Since childhood Joshua was surrounded with good roles models that instilled him to give back whenever he could even if he has nothing. Although he was faced with obstacles like unsure what to do with his life and being so far away from opportunity, he followed his senses and knew he had to move to a bigger city in order to utilize his talents. After completing his bachelor’s degree in Business at The University of North Texas Joshua entered the workforce and deferred to a role that he didn’t want. Because of the competitiveness in the Dallas-Fort Worth market Joshua was in between positions that had nothing to do with his degree or dreams. It wasn’t until a member of his community was faced with the devastating news of being diagnosed with cancer where a resurgence of purpose was calling him. After intensely researching treatments and expenses Joshua found the upsetting news of the lack of financial assistance for families going through cancer. After sharing the devastating statistics with his best friend turned business partner Kenny, they both felt the need to find a way to raise money for the cancer community but creatively. At the time of 2018 there was a popular trend in brand partnerships with celebrities that were selling out and instantly knew they would take the same formula but apply it towards opportunities for pediatric cancer patients. With the added bonus of getting a percent back of the proceeds that could be then distributed back to a larger pool of cancer families in need of financial aid. They realized such a curated, seamless purposeful product simply just didn't exist in the market, so they decided to create their own brand partnerships but with purpose. Together the two best friends formed Salood, which officially launched in June 2019. Since then Joshua has overseen the brand partnership opportunities and is heavily involved on the product development side with the patients and businesses. In his spare time with Salood he has had the privilege to moderate Zoom conversations with cancer families alongside Zachary Levi and Amy Poehler as the surprise guest speaker. With the fundraising efforts continuing to shatter records Joshua is looking forward to evolve and grow the mission. Currently he is overseeing 4 brand collaborations launching in 2022 with the intent to start the 2023 calendar this fall. When Joshua is not dealing with Salood he is spends his free time trying new restaurants and looking for live music with his girlfriend or catches the latest blockbuster release in the theatre.

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

Moderating a conversation with Amy Poehler over Zoom. I sometimes struggle with imposter syndrome so to sit in a virtual room where Amy is taking direction from me was validating and interesting because I never imagined I would have an opportunity like that.

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

I’m a big believer in 2 principles: being proactive and acting selfless. Following these 2 morals has provided personal and career wealth beyond measure. Being pro-active has allowed me to co-create successful programs for the cancer community. With setting my own needs aside I’ve been able to let Salood programs flourish into something purposeful that will reach a lot of people in need.

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”?

Salood, derived from the Spanish word “salud” meaning health and good wealth, is a Texas non-profit that is committed to pairing pediatric cancer patients and businesses to collaborate and create customized products that benefit cancer families in need of financial aid. Our long-term goals as a mission is to spark a public interest in the financial demand that is attached to pediatric cancer and sharing through our campaigns human piece stories.

How do you think this will change the world?

With each of our campaigns having a human interest at the center of the product I believe the audience will resonate with their stories using 2 different ways. They could take each story away by applying generosity into their everyday lives. Whether that’s volunteering at their local non-profit, donating an amount to support a charity or using their time to create something better for their community. It’s our hope that a spark is ignited within to create change no matter the size of the work. Everything counts. The other way is for the public is connect with our stories. I’ve read a handful of comments since we’ve launched with others sharing parrels of their own stories similar to the ones we’ve told. I care deeply about accurately representing everyone and feel that this human connection has deeper meaning that can provide mental wealth for those who follow our mission. It’s a beautiful thing to watch stories shared from all over the world connecting with us in some shape or form.

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?

The financial demand that comes from pediatric cancer. When you see our fundraisers, you’re happy to support the product the child created (as we are too) but there’s a message within our writing that I think most people gloss over and forget to really pay attention to. The proceeds we receive from our campaigns are directly donated to other families that are struggling with their finances due to a child being treated for Cancer. When I say struggle, I mean they can’t afford their light bill or groceries. I don’t think people realize exactly what that means or understand what some of these cancer families really face. It’s common for a parent to stop working when a child is diagnosed which reduces income and then the family is faced with complicated decisions on how they should spend their money. It’s devastating they have to make those choices while already dealing with such an unimageable time in their lives. Our goal as a mission to start the conversation about the financial demand and ways we can come together to fix this hidden issue.

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

There wasn’t necessarily an “a-ha moment” that led us towards the creation of Salood it was something that happened overtime over our common shared interest in giving back. What led us to this mission was unintentionally discovering how much of financial demand cancer was and the question “what happens when you can’t pay your bills but need to keep your child in treatment?” We were puzzled by the thought that you have to accept the reality of keeping your child alive while somehow still making ends meet. It didn’t add up and still doesn’t. Cancer is devastating as it is and to add the complicated layer of oh hey you still need to keep up with your bills didn’t sit well with either of us. After non-stop research for some time we felt this calling to think creatively and find a different approach to fundraise outside the traditional fundraising. Around the same time of developing our concept we saw a trend in celebrity brand collaborations that were selling out and always at the center of mainstream media. It was obvious between my business partner and I that we would adopt that same successful formula but with pediatric cancer patients at the center of it. We wanted to redefine what a purposeful purchase really is. It was our way of providing opportunities to those in need while serving a large pool of cancer families that are in need of financial aid. Once we locked in our mission everything fell into place after that and we haven’t stopped growing since.

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

Partnering with different hospitals, businesses/brands, and financial capital to start recruiting a team of people to help evolve and grow.

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

  1. Invest in product development: our first collaboration we spent more time marketing the actual launch event than we did with the product itself. We were desperate to get started that we ignored the actual thing that would make us money.
  2. Timing is everything: we’re so eager to share with the world what we’re working on that we got impatient and rushed the first few collaborations. We didn’t think through how to strategize accordingly.
  3. Time management: I wish someone really knocked sense into me and told me to not be counterproductive into over thinking decisions. I put a lot of effort into what we do and sometimes I don’t use the day to its fullest advantage. I learned after a year how to properly manage my time and still find ways to improve.
  4. Invest in services: The goal is to be financial conservative because we’re using our own money to fund some of these projects. I wouldn’t utilize resources and have found that setting aside a healthy of amount for outside sources really is beneficial to your company. It pays off.
  5. Volunteer at a non-profit: I never made time to see how some local organizations run things and quickly realized I was missing out on some free education.

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

Not allowing myself to use plan B. I’ve trained my mind to think this is the only option I have in life and need to make the most of it. I tell myself this is my only shot and I can’t mess it up.

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 🙂

Average out of pocket expenses for pediatric cancer is $35,000 and while there’s options with insurance did you know there’s a limited amount of options when it comes to assistance with everyday expenses? Salood provides funding to families in need of financial aid through our brand collaborations with pediatric cancer patients. Since launching in 2019 our campaigns have raised over $100,000 in product sales and have raised $72,380 for cancer families in need. With your help we can reach more families across the US and can produce larger scale products that will bring in more revenue.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Instagram: @Saloodinc

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Salood-103704234795241

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


Salood: Joshua Castillo’s Big Idea That May Change the world was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Integrated Roadways: Tim Sylvester’s Big Idea That Might Change The World

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Integrated Roadways is determined to prove we can make roads pay for their own existence through the economic benefits they provide to users. To deliver on that, our goal is to transform roads into networks for connected, electric and autonomous vehicles, providing new services to these vehicles (and their occupants and cities they service) and using those services to generate revenues to pay for the improvements.

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 Tim Sylvester.

Tim Sylvester, Founder, CEO and Chief Technology Officer of Integrated Roadways. Tim’s experience in construction and degree in electrical and computer engineering inspired him to create Integrated Roadways, a smart infrastructure technology provider. Smart infrastructure is the integration of data, communications, power, and networking systems into core infrastructure like roads, highways, and bridges.

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’m first-generation internet. I’ve always been pretty far ahead of the curve when it comes to technology — I started using Bulletin Board System (BBS) and early internet services from Big Blue Disk when I was about seven, back in 1988 when being extremely young online was notable. I remember in junior high catching flack for using email, web chat and online gaming, which are all now standard and normal activities for a young teenager. My first business was selling custom burned CDs in the late ’90s, before Napster made music sharing widely available.

I also grew up in rural Missouri, which isn’t noted for its strong technology culture, so when it was time to join the workforce, I went into construction — it was readily available, and paid relatively well. Long before the DARPA Challenge in 2004, I came to realize road networks were on a path to convergence with data, communications and power networks to support connected, electric and autonomous vehicles (CEAVs). But I also knew technology companies didn’t really understand roads, and roadbuilders didn’t really understand technology, so neither of them were going to tackle the challenge. This opportunity was an entirely new category, and it needed a category-definer (like Google, Facebook, Amazon, Tesla and others) to really pull it out into the open.

And since I understood the market and saw it early, I was in a perfect position to do something about it.

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

The most interesting ones I’ll keep to myself a while longer, but I’ll share one that’s formative. In 2014 or so, Integrated Roadways had already shown our ability to design and supply prefab modular roads, and we were working with the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) to show how this technology could make it possible to rebuild I-70, which is something MoDOT has been wanting to do for decades.

I was sitting in a meeting with the director at the time, Dave Nichols, and he said something along the lines of, “If you can use the tech to generate revenue from services for CEAVs, why don’t you show me how we can use that revenue to finance the I-70 rebuild?” And I realized that was a key point — make the road pay for its own existence so that the supply for road improvements is sourced directly from the traffic that demands those improvements, cutting out the bottlenecks and inefficiencies from the existing public-funded, low-bid procurement model that has dominated for the last century.

After all, if the current method of funding roads works, then why are our roads in such bad shape? Because the way we’ve been doing it doesn’t work! So, let’s not just improve the tech, let’s use the tech to fix the entire economic model for public road infrastructure, too. Alongside the tech, that was the change in mindset we needed for this to all come together.

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

As cliché as it may sound, I try to focus on what actually matters to the advancement of human society. Far too many businesses focus on passing trivialities that only exist to consume time and resources. How many companies out there are driving more garbage production, but not usefully contributing to society?

There are lots of small, meaningful things people can do, too — which are important, necessary, and contribute to the richness of human experience — but what I really wanted to spend my life on was something that would help humanity take big steps forward. I wanted to do something meaningful that could make the world a better place, and there are few places that have more of an effect on society, and the individual lives that make up our society, than infrastructure. Compellingly, that’s also one of the areas that almost nobody thinks about when it’s time to evaluate how we can do better, which meant the opportunity for an impact and to find something that could be impactful was massive. And the likelihood someone else would beat me to the punch was low.

I guess one way to look at it is I want to help contribute. And roads are something that, until COVID, the average person spent 90 minutes on each day, and the entire economy and modern human society fundamentally depend on.

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”?

Integrated Roadways is determined to prove we can make roads pay for their own existence through the economic benefits they provide to users. To deliver on that, our goal is to transform roads into networks for connected, electric and autonomous vehicles, providing new services to these vehicles (and their occupants and cities they service) and using those services to generate revenues to pay for the improvements. This can create a virtuous cycle that massively increases investment in infrastructure (improving incomes, quality of life, and more), while allowing public owners to shift their limited public funds to other civic needs that aren’t in position to be financially self-sustaining like roads are.

Forty percent of U.S. roads need significant improvement right now, representing trillions of dollars of unfunded infrastructure liabilities. Even the Biden infrastructure plan would only be a 20% annual federal funding increase for the next five years, which barely moves the needle against our backlog — we’d need a plan like that every year for the next decade or two, which is not going to happen. Meanwhile, road improvement costs have doubled in the last 15 years, and will double again over the next 15. That doesn’t even consider the new costs of the emergent smart cities, smart infrastructure, and CEAV capabilities that our communities will need in that time. When it comes to public infrastructure, the United States is in a death spiral, and we have to try dramatic new things to save ourselves.

We can’t tax our way out of this and the old ways we’ve used to fund roads just don’t work anymore. At the same time, we’re facing the emergence of connected, electric, and autonomous vehicles that significantly shift our technological and economic capabilities — and yet almost nobody has investigated how the changes in vehicles reflect new opportunities for the underlying infrastructure. Nearly 20 years after the DARPA Grand Challenge, academics are just barely starting to look at the infrastructure side of autonomous vehicles. But even then, from a technology stand point, they’re hardly considering the business cases or the socio-economic impacts of the opportunity.

That’s the thing about new technologies — you don’t have to keep doing things “the way we’ve always done it.” New technologies open new doors to new possibilities, so that we don’t have to be stuck with the same dysfunctions we tolerate with existing methods. We can do new things, we can fund projects in new ways, we can use new capabilities and opportunities. Henry Ford said, “If I’d asked my customers what they wanted, they’d have said faster horses.” But what they needed wasn’t faster horses, we needed cars, and what our cities need now isn’t smarter vehicles or federal subsidies, it’s smart infrastructure that is sustainably financed and self-supporting from the revenues it generates from operations.

When public owners took on road improvements 100 years ago, they broke the link between supply and demand, and turned infrastructure funding into a partisan political issue. So instead of facing down two seemingly intractable problems that are on an inevitable collision course, let’s take a lesson from Judo and let their momentum and inertia interact in a way that one problem solves the other — the roads get fixed by providing services for emerging demands, and emerging demands are supplied for by fixing the roads. We’re taking the opportunity to reconnect the supply of money to the demand for road improvements, so instead of public owners having two things they can’t afford, one solves the other — but this could never happen with the current owner mindset where the government funds everything.

How do you think this will change the world?

Computers started with landline telephone connections and investing in internet-native networks completely revolutionized business and our household lives throughout the ’80s and ’90s. Then, telephones went mobile, shifted to cell networks, and became smartphones, which created yet another massive economic and social disruption throughout the early 2000s. These were enormous, world-changing shifts driven by computing technology being merged to the networks and devices.

One hundred years ago, most people were farmers. The urbanization of the world and increasing densification is not only necessary due to our increased population levels but will also be a requirement if we have any chance of surviving another 100 years on this planet. Enabling that urbanization and density without self-destructing takes an entirely new mindset for approaching civic infrastructure, which means we need to make a clean, clear and significant break from the early 1900s’ methods that still dominate.

Re-envisioning roads as networks for CEAVs holds as much, if not even more, economic and social potential as the internet and smartphone revolutions did. We need that world-changing potential to be able to support the emerging demands from vehicles, cities and people over the next century, the same way roads completely changed 100 years ago to accommodate the automobile, which made the last century of economic development possible. This is the exact same thing we’ve done a half-dozen times now — it’s just wearing a different outfit. As has been said, “History doesn’t always repeat itself, but it often rhymes.”

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?

Nearly everyone has a set of kitchen knives. We usually don’t think about them twice (much less fear them), but they’re one of the most common ways to get injured in the home. My point is that a knife cuts both ways, and technology is the same — everything that can be used for good, can be used for evil.

The thing that concerns me the most is the death of privacy and discretion. Unless the sensors put in the road to help autonomous vehicles navigate are developed with privacy in mind from the beginning, it would theoretically be possible to track people’s movements. You can benefit from that on a moment-to-moment basis for navigation, but does the government really need to know exactly where you go every day? Do the police? What about hackers? Can you really trust everyone in the world, or even anyone in the world, to know every detail of your personal movements?

Building in controls, protections, and limitations from the beginning was critically important to us. If someone with malice in their heart wants to abuse the system, we’re making it as hard as possible for them to use our tech to do that. That’s one reason why we voluntarily include a no-personally-identifiable-information clause in all of our projects with cities, because we don’t want to track drivers, and we don’t want to be responsible for making it possible for malicious people to track drivers, either.

We try to take a user-oriented position with each feature. What if this was happening to me? What if I was being treated this way? Do I really want to use a system that would do this to me, that would treat me this way? We know we can’t impose morality on a technology, but we can refuse to make immoral choices, or choices that are convenient for us that present a risk or danger to others. At the end of the day, we really think about how we’re treating others, which is an extremely important but often overlooked aspect of modern society.

The real “Black Mirror” angle is someone else is already doing what people are afraid our technology might do — think about the phone in your pocket and the applications it’s running. If you’re worried about the consequences of what we might do, let’s take that energy and put it towards the consequences of what people are already doing.

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

One summer in high school, I spent every day on my way to my job sitting in a traffic jam, watching workers prepare the roadbed and grade for new lanes. When it was finally ready for the new pavement, it snowed! So, I spent all winter in traffic and watched them do it all over again the following spring. And I thought to myself, “There’s got to be a better way to do this!” After all, Eli Whitney promoted interchangeable parts for factory-based mass production back in the mid-1800s, so how in the world has it failed to reach road construction? Even the house I grew up in was a kit from Sears 100 years ago! I figured there had to be a way to build roads as a modular system, like giant Lego blocks — a new technology model for roads. And factory production makes so many things possible that are just impossible with site-built techniques.

Many years later, we’d figured that part out only to run into the fact that, frankly, public owners are broke. They just don’t have the funds they need to service their liabilities. If they were private companies, they would have been put in receivership decades ago, but they’re government agencies so they get special treatment. This was around the time I ended up talking to Director Nichols from MoDOT, who tasked me with figuring out how to make the road pay for itself. While that was far from the last piece of the puzzle, it certainly set us off on finding the last major group of puzzle pieces we needed, which was a new economic model for roads. Put the technology model with the economic model, and now you have something that can truly change the world.

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

What I’ve been hearing a lot from people lately is: “This is inevitable, this is the future of the industry, there’s no way for this to play out other than roads becoming smart.” Their minds are there, so the biggest thing now is to take that next step to the physical and actually try it out so we have assets in operation to show that this works in the real world on average roads for average cities.

Infrastructure is absurdly expensive. $5 million to $10 million doesn’t go very far when it comes to roads, and that makes people nervous. “Well, what if we lose the money?” Congratulations, you’ve already lost that money 10,000 times over because roads are in miserable shape. But instead of fixing them, we slap on another resurfacing so we can kick the can a few more years until it’s someone else’s problem. Let’s quit screwing around and try something that can help us make a major advancement. It’s not 1975 anymore and $5 million really isn’t what it used to be. Let’s give it a shot! If it works, we’ve solved an enormous problem and we will make an embarrassing amount of money doing so. And if it doesn’t, well, guess what? We spent 0.002% of what we spend on traditional methods we already know don’t work. The cost of not trying it is far greater than the cost of trying it.

It took 30 years to get from dial-up BBSs to fiber internet, from a 2.4gHz cordless phone to ubiquitous cellular, and we’ll get there with smart infrastructure, too. It’s really incredible how quickly good ideas spread once they get a little momentum — it took humanity 75 years to adopt indoor ovens, but only seven to adopt smartphones. Considering half the roads in the nation pretty much need to be rebuilt right now, the demand is there, the capacity to absorb the demand is there, the supply is there, and the cost of delays exceeds the cost of mistakes. We just need a few final pieces to come together before this thing really takes off.

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

  1. Manage your pro forma. So many people are intimidated by managing a financial model that shows your expected balance sheet, cash flow and income statement. Look, it’s all made up. Forward-looking statements are literally fabrications that are, at best, guided by our knowledge and assumptions. They’re always bad and they’re always wrong. But so were the inaccurate maps explorers used to circumnavigate the globe. The critical factor was they had the guts to try. And that’s the goal here: to make the effort. Build your pro forma so you have some reasonable approximation of what needs to happen to be successful and when. Then go out and see how accurate you were. It took me way too long to get comfortable with this step and now this is the very first thing I force out of my mentor companies when I do startup mentoring.
  2. Solutions come from different places than problems. If the guy who’s sick knew how to get better on his own, we wouldn’t have doctors. And yet healthcare is one of the most necessary industries. We need to stop assuming that because public agencies have the problems, they also have the answers. The first step in getting help is admitting you have a problem, and, boy, public owners have problems. Let’s stop being coy and pretending they don’t need to change. Avoiding acknowledging the problem just makes it worse. We also have to realize there’s a level of discomfort and uncertainty to finding solutions. I had someone say, “We tried innovation and it didn’t work!” Yeah, well, I skipped dessert and I’m still fat. A diet isn’t something you do once and call it done, and neither is innovation. It’s a process, it’s an intention, and it’s a mindset. You have to be open to new ideas and try them out as a core operational practice, because you never know what you’re going to miss if you assume you already know the answers and you’re too scared to try something different. “The demons are all in your head.”
  3. Move slowly and fix things. Miss me with that “move fast and break things” attitude. That’s for people whose offering is so unimportant and unnecessary that it doesn’t really matter if it works or not. What society needs is more things fixed, not more things broken. And we move way too fast as it is. Mostly that speed is in dismissing new ideas when, if we’re going to be quick about anything, we should be quick about dropping old ideas we know aren’t working anymore. When I say, “move slow,” I don’t mean to intentionally slow to a crawl. I just mean don’t try to go so fast you lack time to do it right, half-ass everything and create more problems than you solve. America is powerful when we whole-ass things.
  4. Set the stage to make failure impossible. For anyone whose personal story begins more modestly than “with a small loan of a few hundred thousand dollars from my dad” (which is the real story behind most well-known entrepreneurs), you have to take a different approach. That’s why I’m not a fan of “fail fast.” That’s a mantra for people in an investment-rich environment where they’re capitalized by professionals who don’t see any personal loss from business failure. That may describe a large number of startups in places like San Francisco, but most startups aren’t there, don’t have access to those investor networks, and don’t have large amounts of personal capital to draw from. Most of us are working with money from people who would take a personal loss if the company failed, so “fail fast” is an irresponsible and dangerous attitude. It is, however, a great way to encourage a barrier to entry that limits access to opportunity for average people! That’s one reason why our approach has been towards resiliency and sustainability, to make decisions that ensure we’ll survive no matter what. This means the only thing at stake is our growth rate, which makes it easier for us to raise funds from people where the money is meaningful and personal. And it also means we spend those funds on things that have residual value even if the worst happens, because then we have actual assets that can be divested to recapitalize our investors. The only thing at risk here is the internal rate of return, not the continued existence of the company. Is that a slower pace of growth than what you get by letting the wind blow a stack of money down Market Street? Absolutely. But it makes more sense for the average people who have started the vast majority of startups. Don’t fail fast, set yourself up so it’s impossible to fail and you can be the one who makes it easier for other entrepreneurs to get started.
  5. Define success on your own terms. One of the most common questions I get asked is, “If Integrated Roadways could be bought by any company in the world, who would you want it to be?” That question baffles me because it assumes that selling the company is a success condition for us. Why would we make selling out a requirement for recognizing our success? Admittedly, that’s the dream for a lot of people — build and sell. Lots of entrepreneurs and investors gauge someone by how quickly, frequently and repeatedly they get in and out. Get things just to the point where it looks like it could work, make it someone else’s problem and move on. But that’s not by any means the biggest marker of success. In my view, selling a company like that is often a sign of failure, that the company couldn’t actually succeed on its own, or that the founder didn’t care enough to get it there. Its best future was as a minor subdivision of something else, a lamb to the slaughter. Admittedly, mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell, so sometimes these kinds of mergers work out really well. But most of the time, they’re just a sign that someone was building a feature, not an independent company, or in our case, an entire new category of industry. In our view, success isn’t someone writing us a check for a few billion dollars, as nice as that may sound in the abstract. Our success is hundreds of millions of people owning shares of our business, and billions of people owning shares of our local subsidiaries through project-based crowd funding. That way, when we bring smart infrastructure improvement programs into communities, the members of the community can show their support by investing directly in Main Street and receiving a share of the proceeds that their community generates from our mutual success. That’s my view of success — helping catalyze a new American century by stimulating reinvestment in our own communities, our own economies, our own lives. Investing our wealth at home, growing our local economy, helping straighten out the budgets of our local municipality, making lives better for our families and neighbors. Yes, it means financial success, too, but as a byproduct of work well done, a bit of a “thank you” from the communities we help rebuild and thrive. There are as many types of success as there are capable people in this world, and it’s ok if what you consider success isn’t the same as what society or your peers might assume of you. Be yourself, that’s the only person you can be.

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

You have to be utterly reliable. Nobody should ever ask “Where is he?” or “Why didn’t he get that done?” To lead, you have to set a good example for everyone. Say what you’re going to do, keep your word, and others will learn they can rely on you, then make choices that allow you to rely on them. You have to set the culture and mindset that people will emulate. Poor leaders pick a direction and tell everyone to carry them there. Good leaders are at the front of the pack setting the direction and pace and helping ensure everyone keeps up with them.

I am extremely diligent about my schedule — everything I do is on my schedule, and everything on my schedule is what I do. All my employees can see it, and they can hold me accountable in the same way I hold them accountable. After all, if I want them to answer to me, shouldn’t I answer to them as well? Functional authority is earned through respect. I overcommunicate expectations to people — I’d rather say it five times and be heard twice than say it once and not be heard because I can’t expect everyone to hear (or remember) everything I say. Even I can’t do that, so I can’t expect more of others than I give of myself.

I work out five times a week, sleep eight hours a night and eat very clean. If I don’t take care of myself, I can’t work and if I can’t work, how can I expect others to? Don’t try to show off and sleep four hours a night to prove how productive you are. Don’t try to work 60 hours a week to show how committed you are. Neither of those work and the quality you produce is subpar. I guarantee eight hours of work from someone who slept eight hours the night before is better every time than 16 hours of work from someone who slept four.

And that goes for family and private time as well. You’re not going to impress me by working over weekends and holidays. Instead, you’re going to make me concerned about your pending divorce, health problems and mental collapse. And at the end of the day, when you work your life away for someone else, what do you get? Maybe a cheap gold watch, but the only thing you can really bet on is that tombstone, which will get here no matter what. Pace yourself, take care of yourself and live a balanced life — you’ll enjoy it more and have more of it to enjoy.

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 🙂

Integrated Roadways is a smart infrastructure technology developer, vendor, and operator. The company’s initial product, Smart Pavement™, transforms traditional roads into a software-enabled networking and sensor platform to support connected, electric and autonomous vehicles.

Treating the road as a network generating revenue from commercial operations enables Integrated Roadways to engage cities for privately financed and managed large-scale, long-term smart infrastructure improvement programs. This approach transforms the average city’s greatest liability, its public road infrastructure, into a financially and technologically self-sustaining asset, ensuring our cities continue to support economic development and competition while providing for emerging public and commercial demands for next-generation vehicles, devices, and city services.

Over the next 10 years, our goal is to capture 10% of the infrastructure market in the U.S., representing 200,000 lane-miles of road and 80,000 intersections, which is approximately $900 billion in total asset value with annual recurring revenue flow of $300 billion.

If any of those combinations of words interest you, let me know, I’m sure there’s a lot we can talk about.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

The best way is to follow Integrated Roadways on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. You could follow my personal LinkedIn, but don’t expect much because I’m not overly active — there’s far too much other work to do, and too little time to do it.

I appreciate social media’s importance, but the best way to reach me is over email — I do my very best to give acknowledgement within a few days, even if it takes longer to provide an actual in-depth response. I work very hard on sharing an equitable amount of effort and insight with everyone who reaches out to me as they put into that outreach, so if there’s something we need to talk about that adds as much value to my life as I can add to yours, shoot me an email and we’ll get it on my schedule. What’s my email? It’s not hard to figure out and there are several ways to get there, but that practice is left as an exercise to the reader. You need to show me you care enough to make an effort if you want me to return the favor. But if you have something interesting to talk about, I’m very much looking forward to hearing from you.

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


Integrated Roadways: Tim Sylvester’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.

Rising Through Resilience: Dr Ahron Friedberg Of Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai On The Fiv

Rising Through Resilience: Dr. Ahron Friedberg Of Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai On The Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Resilience is the ability to bounce back from adversity. It’s interesting that you can define specific traits that help people become more resilient and develop them. These include: taking care (e.g., good nutrition, physical activity, proper sleep), determination and grit (it’s important to keep trying!) balanced by adaptability and flexibility, a good moral compass or belief system (doing the right thing helps strengthen you), insight and understanding (learn backward, live forward), good relationships with family and friends, realistic optimism (things will work out), gratitude and, finally, hope.

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 Dr. Ahron Friedberg.

Dr. Ahron Friedberg, M.D. is a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. He is a practicing psychiatrist and psychoanalyst in Manhattan. His research been published in numerous peer-reviewed journals, including The Psychoanalytic Review, The American Journal of Psychoanalysis, Neuropsychoanalysis, and Psychodynamic Psychiatry. Dr. Friedberg’s writing focuses on the treatment of anxiety and trauma, clinical technique, and the concepts of resilience, consciousness, and desire in psychoanalysis. He has received numerous awards for excellence in writing, in addition to originality and scholarship.

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’ve been a psychiatrist in private practice for around 30 years. My background was in English literature and philosophy at Dartmouth College. The opportunity to work with words and ideas in healing ways along with medications and other techniques was appealing to me. I’ve been privileged to become a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Mount Sinai and to teach and supervise many talented young clinicians.

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?

As Director of the Park Avenue Center, I’ve been privileged with a career full of interesting stories — the ins and outs of people’s professional and personal lives. Since early 2020, I’ve been especially focused on helping people cope with issues related to the pandemic, and changes that it’s brought to many of our lives. One recent story, concerning leadership, involves a woman who lost her job in banking due to cutbacks. Rather than give up or get demoralized, she used it as an opportunity to start an online business in fashion, which she had always wanted to pursue. It has already become successful through her entrepreneurship and now employs numerous people. I thought it was neat that she was able to turn a crisis into an opportunity, nd use it to pursue a career she had always wanted for herself.

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

The Park Avenue Center has 3 components: leadership, mentorship, and health and wellness. It stands out for the individualized and tailored approach it takes to helping each person to do his or her best, and succeed at their career or in some endeavor. The model is one of psychologically-informed business consulting. Often, it’s negative thinking or conflicts within ourselves (some that we might not even be aware of) that hold us back. One attorney I was working with, kept tripping up his advancement at the firm because of competitive issues with his supervisors. Over time, we discussed how rather than seeing them in negatively competitive terms — as he had tended to see his relationship with his father, who was also an attorney — he came to view the work relationships with supervisors more in terms of their wanting to help him succeed. After all, his success at work benefitted them as well. Dealing with the psychology of clients often benefits them, both professionally and personally. So, the Park Avenue Center stands out in terms of how it applies personal psychology to business situations.

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’ve had the good fortune to have excellent teachers and mentors along the way. Dr. Dennis Charney, President for Academic Affairs, at the Icahn School of Medicine, particularly helped me to come into my own professionally. He is a leader in the science of resilience and wrote a classic book on the subject. I was able to incorporate those principles first into my practice as a psychodynamic psychiatrist and then into my work with at the Park Avenue Center.

I first met him at a meeting at Mount Sinai over a decade ago. After speaking for a while about his work and contributions (he’s a research psychiatrist and a founding father of the field of resilience), he invited me to be part of his lab meetings and research group. I thought that was generous and openminded of him. I was grateful for the opportunity, and resilience became integral to my own work and writings.

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 is the ability to bounce back from adversity. It’s interesting that you can define specific traits that help people become more resilient and develop them. These include: taking care (e.g., good nutrition, physical activity, proper sleep), determination and grit (it’s important to keep trying!) balanced by adaptability and flexibility, a good moral compass or belief system (doing the right thing helps strengthen you), insight and understanding (learn backward, live forward), good relationships with family and friends, realistic optimism (things will work out), gratitude and, finally, hope.

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

My father is a terrific example of resilience. During the pandemic, he had a serious fall and injured himself. He needed surgery and for awhile was unable to even walk. But he has a strong spirit, clear mind, and motivation to get better. I admire his determination and grit. The progress has been slow and incremental. But he is always realistically optimistic and hopeful — and grateful for our family and daily life. I’m always learning from his example.

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?

During the pandemic, I was told that it wouldn’t be possible to both treat patients — so many people needed help — and record my experiences at the same time. But I felt it was important to do so because, as a psychiatrist working through telepsychiatry, I had a unique window into people’s lives and suffering. So, I teamed up with my co-author Sandra Sherman, who is a brilliant writer, and we succeeded in publishing Through a Screen Darkly: Psychoanalytic Reflections During the Pandemic. It’s kind of a real-time time capsule of this most difficult period, which we’ve all lived through. I often felt tired from long days of trying to help people cope, and bolster their resilience. But together we made a contribution that’s been highly acclaimed and, hopefully, will help others learn from these challenging times.

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 was once rejected from a very traditional professional organization that I had worked hard to become part of. I realized afterward that the work I practiced was different from what they preached in terms of classical psychoanalysis. So, I tried to learn from their rejection, and use it to further examine and consider my own practices and approaches. This led me to integrate resilience work as well as cognitive behavioral approaches and psychopharmacology into my work as a psychodynamic psychiatrist.

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

Well, my mother was fairly ambitious for me growing up. When I took up baseball, she decided I should be a pitcher. When we were getting my first mitt, she asked the salesman what arm the best pitchers threw with. He seemed a little befuddled, but explained that since most batters are right-handed, left-handed pitchers had some advantage. But I was a righty! So, I had to adapt and be flexible, and learn a new way of throwing. It wasn’t easy because, as studies have shown, children have difficulty doing major tasks with one hand when the other is dominant. But I persevered, even when some of my team-mates made fun at first. I knew it was important, not least to my self-esteem, so I overcame the challenge. I became a left-handed pitcher, and a pretty good one.

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

Taking care: self-care is basic, especially during stressful times. Life is more of a marathon than a sprint. So, pace yourself. You don’t have to train as an Ironman. But getting in your steps each day with some sun and fresh air is health-promoting, and helps with endurance and going the distance.

Determination and flexibility: obviously determination is an important factor in resilience. It’s important to keep trying to do better. But people forget how being flexible and adaptable can make you stronger and enable you to make contributions. One doctor I was working with decided that he was feeling burned out because of emergency room work. He transitioned into primary care medicine. He found this strengthened his resolve to continue to help people and his commitment to practice medicine.

Mentorship: it’s very satisfying to help the next generation of people in your field, be it business, law, medicine or some other profession. It’s easy for forget that the younger generation has a lot to teach us. One example was a young psychiatrist who found a new application for a medication. Because he was less fixed in his mindset, he was able to see possibilities that the rest of us missed. This elevated the work of the whole group and opened up a new area of study. We then organized a multidisciplinary study group, which met regularly to discuss collaborative opportunities. So mentorship can go in both directions overtime.

Learning: one of the most important ways to become more resilient is to learn, both from your mistakes and your successes. You don’t have to go out of your way to make mistakes — they’re inevitable, and we all do — but you can learn invaluable lessons from them. One example was of an attorney who made a significant mistake and lost his job at a corporate law firm. But he owned his error and learned from it. He determined to be much more careful. When he was hired by his next firm, he was able to excel and eventually became a partner there.

Gratitude: it’s important to be grateful for opportunities, and your own successes. That allows you to make the most of them. I was very appreciative of the first book I wrote with Sandra Sherman, Two Minds in a Mirror: Psychotherapy and Personal Change. That shared accomplishment allowed us to undertake Through a Screen Darkly. Now we’re writing a book on leadership. Success is more satisfying when it’s shared with others. That kind of collaboration, and appreciation of it, helps you to be better and stronger in your endeavors, and more likely to succeed.

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’s always been an article of faith of mine to pursue peace. Human nature necessarily has conflict and strife in it. But we don’t have to live out those issues in negative ways in the world. During the pandemic, my children and family started a charity called Seeds for Change (seeds-for-change.org). The model is one of making small contributions that add up and grow into larger solutions. We hope it will bring about some good over time. Good deeds can grow in unexpected ways.

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 🙂

I admire the entrepreneurship of Elon Musk. He’s a visionary who puts foundations under his dreams. He’s terrific at building teams and having them work toward common and achievable goals. Musk is also very motivated and determined — and shows true grit.

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


Rising Through Resilience: Dr Ahron Friedberg Of Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai On The Fiv was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

HealingGardens: Abhi Arora’s Big Idea That Might Change The World

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

It’s ok to take a break and take care of yourself, your family, friends and team. Because the work at a startup can sometimes be relentless you may forget to take care of yourself. Remind yourself to make your physical and mental health a top priority. Having a healthy body/mind is not only good for you and everyone around you, it also gives you more energy to spend on your work goals. I remember for the first few years I was working 16 hour days and doing that I lost so much weight and strength and it affected my health for many years to come. Nowadays I always try to eat healthy, go spend time in nature or just have a coffee with friends and I have never been happier.

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 Abhi Arora.

Abhi is the CEO of HealingGardens.co. He also invests in various startups as an angel investor. He has been a tech enthusiast and entrepreneur for many years.

In addition, he is a total Nature nerd. He grew up dreaming about traveling into the woods as a nature photographer. Before Healing Gardens, Abhi co-founded a $350MM startup that he was able to take public on Nasdaq.

In earlier work life, Abhi was a software engineer and worked on creating products such as FillSkills that helps people find careers etc. When he is not working, he spends time with his family traveling, birdwatching and catching up on nature documentaries.

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?

For a long while, in the back of my mind, there has always been a push to work on something more important than the daily routines, something that helps others. Many years ago I created an app called iPlantTrees that connected people who wanted to plant trees with resources. With the climate emergency growing and becoming increasingly important, I wanted to do something about it before I die. I had just grown a startup successfully. And I was going through some major anxiety issues. To take a break and to recover from my anxiety I started going to Rishi’s farm and home garden. They look and feel like a healthy forest ecosystem or a botanical garden. It’s like having a bit of Hawaii in the middle of a concrete jungle. And immediately I started feeling better. Anxiety would just drain from me every time I visited these healthy forest ecosystems. Rishi explained that this is a very common occurrence and is well known in the farming community. So we started meeting other urban farmers and gardeners. We ended up meeting 20+ people. Based on the community feedback we decided to start Healing Gardens.

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

I was always scared of trying new things, especially when I thought others would judge me. But over time I have learnt to do the opposite and it has yielded really positive results. I try to say yes to things that make me nervous. So now I have flown planes, done scuba diving, given a recorded lecture to a large audience, created a publicly listed company, met amazing people and travelled a lot. In short — don’t let others define who you are, take small steps and try things out of your comfort zone.

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”?

Climate emergency is at our doorsteps. We are all scared of how we will survive through this. People have started acting on it through various solutions. HealingGardens, which is mine and my friend Rishi’s company, is trying to solve this problem by enabling gardeners to earn income from their gardens. When gardeners have money, they plant more, more trees, more shrubs etc. Trees and plants in turn consume carbon dioxide and store it in various forms.

In addition to the Climate benefits, healthy gardens provide proven anxiety relief. I have personally felt this. Just before starting HealingGardens, I was going through a lot of anxiety issues including being in an ambulance. By simply visiting healthy ecosystems, my body and brain have completely recovered. Being in a healthy ecosystem gives immediate relief, as if anxiety is being drained from your body.

With Healing Gardens, we want to bring both this potential world changing aspects of gardens to others and the world.

How do you think this will change the world?

When you are visiting or buying something at HealingGardens, you are supporting planting trees. There is an estimate that if 50 billion trees are planted, all the excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will be taken out. That’s just a few trees per person. Our hope is that in the next 5–10 years people through the Healing Gardens platform will be accelerating tree planting and ecosystem creation all over the world

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?

In many many tree planting strategies and implementations, we see a huge problem — once the trees are planted, no one is there to take care of the tree. Or even before a seed is planted, no one spends time review the soil it is being planted in. There is a really important piece of the puzzle — training the people to maintain and manage healthy ecosystems. This is what Healing Gardens is doing from day one.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story? What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?

Just like Airbnb had to convince people that staying at other’s houses could be a good experience, same way we have to convince the general public that going to beautiful organic lush gardens exist near you and are accessible easily.

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

  • It’s ok to take a break and take care of yourself, your family, friends and team. Because the work at a startup can sometimes be relentless you may forget to take care of yourself. Remind yourself to make your physical and mental health a top priority. Having a healthy body/mind is not only good for you and everyone around you, it also gives you more energy to spend on your work goals. I remember for the first few years I was working 16 hour days and doing that I lost so much weight and strength and it affected my health for many years to come. Nowadays I always try to eat healthy, go spend time in nature or just have a coffee with friends and I have never been happier.
  • Find people who are as passionate about the problem as your are. Don’t hire for talent only. Talent is just one aspect of what is needed to work at a problem successfully. At my last startup, we hired people who were experts in their fields and also people who were not experienced at all but very hungry to learn quickly. In the end when you look back, after 4 years, the people who made the real difference are the ones that were passionate and hungry to learn. At HealingGardens we have been hiring gardeners who have been building and caring for beautiful gem-like gardens for years. Their input and passion for nature has been critical to our success.
  • Learn when to say no. While running a startup, you already have a lot to do. You have limited resources and many many things to do. In the initial stages the founders are building software, building a team, building community, raising funds, doing accounting, working on the legal stuff and the list goes on. So learning to focus and saying no to distractions is a must have skill that you need to develop quickly. Sometimes that means saying no to media interviews, other times it means focusing on your core product and core customer. For example, in the beginning days of HealingGardens, we were building an iOS app and I was a big part of that effort. But after trying for a few months I knew that it was not working out. Me and my team had put in so much effort into the app that we didn’t want to let go. But finally we took the decision of starting from scratch and said no to our ego that wanted us to hold on to the effort we had put into the app.
  • Build fast, but not alone. There is a famous quote that says “If you want to go fast, go alone”. I feel that is taken out of context a lot. Building in a vacuum is dangerous. I once spent 3 months building a very technical product that never saw a single customer. Instead the approach that has works better is to work closely with your customers. Be their best friend. Understand their needs. Show them things that you are working on that are supposed to help them. This will get them excited! They will learn to trust in you and give you honest feedback. This way you can iterate on your product ‘fast’, but not ‘alone’. And you make amazing friends for life on the way.
  • There will be ups and downs. One of the hardest things that I had to learn was to not take failures of business as personal failure. There will be days when you are super excited about the business and there will be days when nothing seems to work. Sometimes both these things will happen during the same day. A wise person once told me to enjoy the highs and lows equally. I asked how can I enjoy failure? The answer was simple — You failed because you tried. You tried because you cared. enjoy the lessons you learn and iterate. This still gives me motivation when things are rough.

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

I have just one thing here that really opened my eyes to the possibilities — Almost everything you see around you and interact with daily, including planes, roads, buildings, bridges, video games, internet, laws, companies, elevators, money, religion etc are all built by humans. Humans that were just like you and me. By working together and working on our passions we were able to make all this happen. You too can make anything happen, create anything you set your mind to. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination, will and some luck. You can’t control luck but you control the first two! Take your shot.

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 🙂

HealingGardens lies at the intersection of mental health and Climate change. Being in lush healthy gardens is associated with improvement in mental health. I felt that personally and its a very commonly known thing in gardening circles. At HealingGardens, you can book dreamy gardens for workshops, events, or a space to host your own experience. When you book at HealingGardens, you are paying to affect the climate crisis. Our gardeners use their income to use regenerative and sustainable practices. We launched this year (Jan 2021) and are already all over Los Angeles with 40 gardens and 1200+ visitors! Our plans are to be planet wide in the near future.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Follow HealingGardens on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/healinggardens.co/

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


HealingGardens: Abhi Arora’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 Athena Demos of Big Rock…

Wisdom From The Women Leading The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries, With Athena Demos of Big Rock Creative

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Lesson number two is more of a life lesson and I don’t want to say it’s a “women in tech” thing — it’s just a life lesson: Treat everyone as if they are greater than or equal to yourself. This has gotten me through a lot of situations in which someone wants to explain something to me that I already know. I learn about who the person is at that moment. They don’t know that I know the information, I should not get upset by them explaining it to me. The fact that they want me to be more informed on that information I am honored to receive but it takes work to listen in that way.

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 Athena Demos

Athena Demos is the Co-founder of Big Rock Creative, producers of BRCvr, an award-winning, official virtual Burning Man experience. BRCvr and its partner, Microsoft’s AltspaceVR, offer the only fully immersive Burning Man experience built on a social VR platform and essentially is the first to create a true metaverse in social VR.

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 South Texas and spent my entire childhood there. I grew up on a ranch, so I was out in nature all the time. Trees, cows and horses were my childhood companions and mentors. It was a lovely way to grow up. In 1996, I moved to Southern California to pursue a career in acting and modeling. Since then, I’ve been fortunate to work steadily. I still do. Early on, I worked for many years as a figurative art model. My likeness has been in museums, galleries and shows all over the world. More recently, I became involved in film production. I spent eight and a half years working for an Oscar award winning documentary film company, Moriah Films, as their production manager. I was fortunate to be able to continue my acting, as well. During that same time, I increased my involvement in the Southern California Burning Man community. Within 15 years, I served as the Los Angeles regional contact producing festivals, orientations, and film festivals. I was a founder and producer of the LA Decompression Arts and Music Celebration in Downtown LA from 2002 to 2017 that saw hundreds of artists from the Burner community showcasing their art to the greater Los Angeles community.

So how did I get involved in VR? It’s quite the story. Because of my position with Burning Man, I was introduced to Greg Edwards. He had built a low-res Google cardboard version of Burning Man 2014 for VR. I was very excited to experience this version, but had no idea what it could lead to. I arranged for us to go to the Burning Man office in San Francisco and present it to the executive leadership team, including founder Larry Harvey. They loved it! But their lack of technological vision prevented them from doing anything with it. So, the virtual playa ended up on a hard drive on the top shelf of Greg’s closet.

Fast forward to 2020. The pandemic was shutting down all gatherings. My dear friend Doug Jacobson, who was already exploring VR, was looking for a way to celebrate his birthday. He contacted Greg to see about creating a venue for his party. Greg remembered he had the Burning Man playa he had created in 2014 on a hard drive. They dusted it off, literally, and gave it a whirl. Next thing you know, they were standing together on the virtual playa. Quickly, Greg and Doug called me to get involved. They asked me to once again reach out to the Burning Man leadership. At that exact moment, Burning Man announced the cancelation of Burning Man 2020. They asked us to help create a virtual version for the world to enjoy. That is how BRCvr was born.

I am in love with the XR space. The potential it presents artists to create is astounding. To the core of my being, I am a muse. I am here to inspire and facilitate the creative process. That is why I became an actress and production manager, why I worked as a figure model for artists, and why I got so involved with the Burning Man community. It has been a logical progression to my joyful journey in the XR space.

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 favorite film is Being There with Peter Sellers. The reason it is my favorite, besides the fact it is an exceptional film, is that it shows you the power of words and the way we understand words to be, and the many different meanings that one can take from the simplest of conversations. It makes you think how important it is to use your words wisely and to make sure that the meaning that you speak about something is received the way you wish it to be received.

You know, it’s the story of that game called telephone where you say something to somebody, who says something to somebody, who says something to somebody, but by the time it gets to the other end of the line it’s something completely different. It’s stuff like that that I find very fascinating. The film is also about being in the present moment, about living in a space of now, not worrying about the past, not having anxiety about the future, but just being here now. Being There really connected and resonated with me.

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

I never saw myself getting into the XR industry. I’m more of a community organizer than a technologist. How I ended up with Big Rock Creative and BRCvr is merely from community organizing. I am bringing the burner community together, encouraging them to build amazing art. And to create a community within BRCvr to field other people’s creativity into reality, literally and virtually.

The opportunity presented itself from an immediate need. We were in the middle of the pandemic and we needed to figure out a way in which Burn Week could happen because now, more than ever we needed it. We had this virtual playa from back in 2014 that was created for a solo experience. But it did not have an immediate use. Bringing us forward to 2020, now it does. My job was to engage the community and help them get the tools they needed to create their art, gather, and connect with each other. That’s how I got involved in extended reality — by community organizing. If it wasn’t for the pandemic, I seriously doubt I would be in this industry. But now, I absolutely love the potential for art in this industry. I could not wish for a better place to bring the global Burning Man Community together.

At my core I am a muse. My purpose in life is to inspire creativity in others. That is why I got so involved in the Burning Man community. My first year at Burning Man was 1999. I immediately knew I was home. All I wanted to do was be of service to artists and their art. VR has allowed me to extend my passion for helping artists beyond my wildest dreams.

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

This one is just near and dear to my heart. People think VR and AR are just a game. And you’re not really engaging. However, immersive social VR is very engaging and compelling. And it feels like reality. We have the Physical Meat Space (yes, meat) and we have the Virtual Meet Space.

Every year at Burning Man we have a temple where you can leave offerings. An element of your life you are ready to release. You can write a note on the temple. I’ve seen people leave everything from wedding dresses and ashes. I left photos of my dog and his collar after he died. My mother and I placed pictures of my dad after his death. The Temple is this place of acknowledgement and release. There was not a year that needed the temple more than 2020.

The Virtual Burn had a temple. You placed your offerings on a dedicated website. Decided whether it would be private or public. The public ones were shared in the virtual Temple. My dear friend Jim lost his daughter, in 2020 by some unknown problem they still haven’t quite figured it out. It was very quick and extremely painful. No one needed the temple more than Jim in that moment and he didn’t have one — but he did in VR. I was thankfully on the platform and present when the temple went live and he was there. And I said, “Jim we have to go to the temple and we have to go now.”

The Empyrean Temple was breathtaking. Jeremy Roush did the virtual temple design and built the World. Sylvia Lisse and Renzo designed the temple to be physically built. Easily one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve ever had in VR.

Jim and I arrived at the temple. There was a general sound of calm reverberating through the virtual air. About five other people were there, spread out on the divergioning platforms looking at the offerings left on the Temple website. Jim clicked through the offerings trying to find the one he wrote to his daughter. It took over 45 minutes of clicking until he found it. He read it to her, there in the virtual Temple. He had that Temple moment. I held space for him as he cried that Earth shattering soul-crushing cry. Normally in the physical Temple you would hold someone and we call it holding space and I truly understood what it meant to hold space in that moment because I couldn’t touch him. All I could do was hold the space that he was in. I held out my avatar arms and I created a ball of energy around him while he cried. I said nothing and I listened. He took a deep breath in but his head was down, his Avatar head was down, he took a deep breath in, he sighed. It was so painful. He looked at me and he just said, “Athena, it’s so painful.” I took his hands in mine and we stared into each other’s eyes. I felt like I was staring directly into his eyes. He said he felt like he was staring directly into my eyes and we were avatars in virtual reality mourning, sharing and being together. That to me, is easily the most interesting story that happened to me. There have been lots of interesting stories and lots of interesting things but to be able to have that type of moment with another person in VR, that we normally only have in the physical world, and have it be compelling and engaging. It was an important moment.

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 don’t consider myself a technologist. I didn’t spend my life learning technology. I don’t have a degree in computer science. It’s all a learning process for me. In May of 2020, I acquired my very first headset. It was the Oculus Go which didn’t really work well on AltspaceVR. I was living in Southern Mexico, where it is super hot and my headset would overheat after ten minutes. I needed to get something to prevent it from overheating. I looked for something like a gel ice pack, but it’s not really something they have in the tiny pueblo I was living in. So, I found one of those frozen marinated steaks that come pre-packaged in plastic. It was like an ice pack! I wrapped it in a sock and would hold it with my left hand on my GO and use my right hand to move around with the controller. That would give me an hour before the battery died. Then the steak would melt on one side, then I would flip the steak over to the other side. It was a hilarious solution. Ultimately, that technology and platform don’t really go together. I thought it was funny that I would spend everyday with a steak held onto my Oculus Go. I learned that I needed an Oculus 1. When they came out with the Oculus 2, I bought that, too. I learned that you need the hardware to go with the software. You really do. I’m learning from the ground floor. I have been sharing my early experiences to allow other people to feel empowered to learn. There are so many people that are like me, that aren’t used to being around technology. I can say, “Hey, I can do it, you can do it. I can get on this platform, you can get on this platform. I can learn the functionality, I can learn the basics of world-building and so can you!” It’s so empowering and inspiring.

Smooth roads are never something I’ve looked for. I like off-road adventures.

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 business partner, Doug Jacobson. He is the perfect partner to achieve success with. He’s great to work with, he does have a full understanding of the technology, he loves it, he’s been around it. He is an accomplished editor and filmmaker and storyteller and VR and AR is very much about telling stories. Working with him is a dream.

His first year going to Burning Man was ’98 and he’s been documenting the event ever since. My first year was ’99. I think we met in 2001. Actually the first time we worked together, I was an actress in a movie he was making. We have been in the same communities and have gotten to know each other really well and become really close friends, his wife is one of my best friends. We fell into VR together.

We were both having monumental birthdays for 2020 and he wanted to have a big birthday party, but obviously we couldn’t gather because of the pandemic so he was looking for a way that we could gather. He started digging into the different VR platforms. He had a VR headset and was exploring options when he found AltspaceVR. He realized that their community was a lot like burners. That we would all get along really well.

Once he uploaded the digital playa from 2014 onto the AltspaceVR platform — he and Greg, who built the first 2014 playa, were standing there together on the VR playa and realized “oh my gosh this is a thing, we are here”. They quickly contacted me. I had just landed in Mexico after narrowly getting out of Panama as all the world was shutting down. On my little laptop computer I joined them on the virtual playa. I remember thinking, we are in three completely different places and we feel like we are all together.

That started the ball rolling. We decided that it was a good idea to build a company to be the foundation for BRCvr. That is the origin of Big Rock Creative. I had built companies before, so I jumped into action. Plus I know many people at the Burning Man organization, so I started reaching out to the people that I knew. All the pieces started to fall into place. It was the immediate need to have people participate, to be radically inclusive and work on a communal effort. The Burning Man Principles were in play.

The next thing we knew, Doug and I were in business. Many companies reached out to us post-Virtual Burn Week to see what we could build for them. Their company party, departmental celebration, their new office building. A way for their “community” to gather.

Now our vision is on virtual events. Both Doug and I have a background in physical event production. We are combining what we know from both worlds and creating something new. I couldn’t do that without Doug.

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

We just finished Virtual Burn Week 2021. Now my sights are on a new project we are excited about. We always center around community building, bridging global communities together. This new project will do just that. I’m not able to share much about it because we have NDAs signed.

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?

I’m excited about mixed reality and hybrid events; the ways in which we are going to connect the globe. How people at an event in person are able to be present with people that are at that same event in virtual reality. Having the performer in person streamed into virtual reality and then what’s going on in virtual reality streamed back into physical reality and the ways in which the attendees of both can communicate with each other. Bridging the global community together into a “single space.” And I say “single space” in quotation marks because it is anything but a single space. It is more like a single space for consciousness. So we can all be in the safety of our own homes while being together as one.

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?

My number one concern with all of this is that we’re going to lose our connection with the natural world, lose our connection to the planet, to nature, the trees, grass, and birds. We’re going to ignore them. If we ignore them they will cease to exist. I don’t mean that in a metaphysical way. If we don’t pay attention to what’s going on in our environment, we won’t notice the changes that are happening like wildlife dying as their homes no longer exist. We need to pay attention to those things. So my VR mantra is “One hour in, one hour out” — If you spend an hour in your headset, then spend an hour outside with nature. If you have five hours in your headset, then go for a hike or bike ride. #OptOutside

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?

Recently we had a company hire us to build their own New York office building in AltspaceVR. The building was recently completed just as Covid shut everything down and no one was able to experience the new building. We made it possible for their team to enjoy the new building virtually. We hosted an event to introduce them to their new work space. This virtual work space offers them the ability to work together and collaborate virtually.

A virtual work space helps with carbon footprint too. Many people travel for business. The airplanes, cars, hotels, and the whole system feeds a massive carbon footprint. Having a mixed reality workspace alleviates the pressure of our planet that business travel causes. Someone in China can be in an office in New York and collaborate without having to actually travel there. They don’t have to get in a car, to go to the airport, to get in an airplane, to fly to a place, to get in the car, to go to a hotel, to check into a hotel, to get into a car, to go to the office so that they can have that meeting — that entire carbon footprint goes away. We need to find a way for all of those different layers to continue and be sustainable while we lower our carbon footprint. I think a combination of physical in office meetings as well as augmented reality/virtual reality meetings will help.

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

XR allows us to come together as a humanity in a way that we have never been able to do before. We meet people of all different walks of life. When we meet people in the physical world we ask, “where are you from?” but in VR we ask “where are you?”. VR provides us with a tool for being in the now. Avatars give us the ability to be open to learning about a person first instead of making a decision before the learning begins. That is an opportunity to unify — to evolve from society to humanity.

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?

My first problem is with the question because STEM learning is limiting. I like to say STEAM learning. It’s science, technology, engineering, ARTS and math. We need the Arts in there. The Arts is out-of-the-box creative thinking. The Arts is using your imagination. The Arts are part of science, technology, engineering, and math. You have to have that creative out-of-the-box way of thinking.

So I think the first problem is that we are still stuck on STEM and we need to get stuck on STEAM. Steam is powerful. Steam gets a locomotive going.

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

The biggest myth about working in XR is that you need to have a Computer Science degree to even understand it. While there are aspects that do require advanced skills in programming, there are positions for anyone with a love and curiosity in the XR industry. I can explain it by talking about building art at Burning Man.

At the physical Black Rock Desert when you’re building a piece of metal art you need designers, welders,and electricians. But there are people who do not have those skills but want to be a part of some big art piece. At Burning Man we have the principles of communal effort, participation, and radical inclusivity. Those three mean that everyone is included to participate in the joint effort and it is our goal to find where their skills can benefit the project. There’s some simple ways people can participate like bringing water or food to everyone who’s working, or helping to build the camp or driving the truck to the Playa. There’s all these roles I need to fill in order for the project to come to fruition. It is not all computer programmers you don’t have to know code. Maybe you’re really good at business, maybe you’re really good at bookkeeping, maybe you’re really good at spreadsheets, maybe you’re really good at community organizing. All of those aspects bring a project to fruition. Thinking you have to be a programmer to be in this industry is a myth. All you need is passion.

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. I’m still learning and I’m open to learning and I’m excited about learning. My first foray into virtual reality was last year, when we started BRCvr and Big Rock Creative and it has been a learning curve of astronomical proportions, not just learning technology but also learning tech business. I have been open to meeting as many people as I can, networking, and learning from them. Every person you meet has something to teach and something worth learning. I come to every relationship I have with curiosity.
  2. Lesson number two is more of a life lesson and I don’t want to say it’s a “women in tech” thing — it’s just a life lesson: Treat everyone as if they are greater than or equal to yourself. This has gotten me through a lot of situations in which someone wants to explain something to me that I already know. I learn about who the person is at that moment. They don’t know that I know the information, I should not get upset by them explaining it to me. The fact that they want me to be more informed on that information I am honored to receive but it takes work to listen in that way. Now lucky, being new to virtual reality that I see everyone and every explanation as new information for me and the industry is changing so quickly that you have to be completely open to change at all times you might start working on a project and the technology just change it and what you’re doing great set it doesn’t work anymore you got to go in a different direction and it’s like a rocket shooting off into space and you’re just hanging on to all the information.
  3. Delegation is the key to sanity. Create a strong team of people you trust with various responsibilities, so you can concentrate on sailing the ship.
  4. Allow people to show up as their authentic selves at that moment while giving them room to shine.
  5. Have fun!

I am lucky to be a woman in tech because I get to nurture art, artists, technology, engineering, and science. I get to nurture community — it’s a privilege to be able to do that.

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 want to inspire the Burning Man movement into a global VR platform for the understanding of the 10 Principles of Burning Man. So that people can take those principles and apply them to their life. I would like to see society, which is a group of homo sapiens evolve into Humanity, which is a group of human beings. We like to call ourselves human beings but are we really? What is a human being? It’s a humane being and to be humane means we have kindness, empathy, and compassion. We are humane to each other. We are humane as individuals and we are humane as a group. That is what makes us humanity. I would like to see and inspire through the virtual reality world a coming together of the global community that we evolve from society to humanity.

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’s a long list — world leaders, leaders of organizations. I would love to sit with Kamala Harris and discuss all this with her. I think discussing the principles and how they apply to people’s lives and putting the A in STEM and making it STEAM. Talking about and showing her the ways in which we come together as a humanity in virtual reality. I think Kamala would be an excellent person to sit down with and share ideas.

UNESCO would also be great to work with and bring their projects into VR for all the globe to enjoy without the carbon footprint of getting there as well as the actual footprint of being there.

You know we have people that would love to go to Burning Man that can’t go. You know, President Obama, he couldn’t show his face at Burning Man, just wouldn’t happen — he would be walking about with his entire secret service. But he could come in VR and I think it would be useful to have someone like President Obama, President Biden, or Vice President Harris experience VR and what the community is like inside this world of our own. That’s why I want to reach out to governmental leaders.

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 Athena Demos of Big Rock… 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 Yenbamroong of mu Space Corp On How Their Technological Innovations Will…

The Future Is Now: James Yenbamroong of mu Space Corp On How Their Technological Innovations Will Shake Up Space Exploration

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Create an inclusive workplace culture. Hire candidates that are diverse in backgrounds and expertise. Diversity brings a pool of talents to your organization.

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

James Yenbamroong, is a space entrepreneur and engineer. He is the founder, CEO and lead design architect of mu Space Corp. Born and raised in Bangkok, Thailand, Yenbamroong’s interest in aviation started as a child, when he drew airplanes and robots on the wall of his bedroom, while also enjoying anime on space travel and robots. His father, who often brought him to airshows and military museums, also influenced his fascination with flights and outer space.

As a teenager, James moved to New Zealand to attend school and live with a host family. He recalls this time instilled a sense of independence and adventure in him. Later, he relocated to California, finished his secondary education and attended the University of California, Los Angeles, where he obtained his Bachelor’s Degree in Aerospace Engineering. His first job in the industry was at renowned aerospace and defence technology manufacturer Northrop Grumman, where he was a systems engineer for satellite projects. Later, he began working hands-on within their satellite program, while he also secured a Masters scholarship in Mechanical Engineering, which returned him to UCLA part time. He was later promoted as Project Lead for unmanned vehicle systems at Northrop, where he worked on highly classified projects for the organisation.

Yenbamroong left the US in 2014 and moved back to Bangkok, where he set his sights on starting his own company. In 2017 mu Space Corp was born. The company offers satellite services, satellite internet service, and aerospace manufacturing, and James is the CEO and lead design architect.

In addition to his primary business pursuit, Yenbamroong has plans of opening up space tourism to people in Asia-Pacific and sending the first 100 humans to the moon. He has stated that the goals of mu Space revolve around his vision of improving the quality of life of people on Earth. These include mitigating the impact of human overpopulation on the environment and reducing the risk of human extinction by setting up a lunar habitation.

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

Since when I was young, I’ve been fascinated with the moon and the constellations you see when you look in the sky at night. I remember as a child, I often drew aeroplanes and robots on the wall of my bedroom, while also enjoying anime on space travel and robots. My father often brought me to airshows and museums which I think has also influenced my fascination with flights and outer space. I always had a natural curiosity for space so I guess it’s natural I would end up an engineer.

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

I start with ideas on papers and a team of 6 people who share the same passion for transforming the world with space technology. We use each other’s expertise and teamwork to bring the company to what it is today.

Even though what we’re doing is difficult and challenging, I am fortunate to assemble a strong team of young generations who are ready to go on this journey with me and tackle the world’s pressing problems. That’s very exciting for me.

Now, I see more and more people in Thailand who were once not interested in space technology becoming more interested in it, which is a good sign. It’s safe to say that mu Space has sparked the interest in space technology in Thai people. Today, we have a fanbase that follows and encourages us. This is the force that drives us to move forward and do better things and develop more advanced technologies. We want to work and live up to what we always say, “We bring space closer to you.”

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

Our company is an aerospace manufacturer and satellite service provider in Southeast Asia. We develop and manufacture satellites in-house in our own factories with an emphasis on power systems and electronics which are the heart and brain of the satellites. The technological breakthrough that we’re working on right now is called a Space Internet Data Center (IDC) where we do advanced research to further develop and operate a data center in space.

The Space Internet Data Center (Space IDC) is a small-satellite constellation system that will serve cloud services in space on-premises. Data processing and other data activities can be operated right in space where more and more satellites are placed. The microgravity and cold nature of space help lower the power consumption of the server computers, which constitute the majority of data centers. This means that the operation hours of a space data center will last a lot longer than a data center on Earth. There usually are interruptions occurring during data transmission on Earth, either caused by the system itself or natural disasters such as floods, fire, earthquakes, or electronic outages. This space data center will remove most of the risks and problems on Earth and send the data directly from space to users. It will be significantly faster, more stable, safer, and more convenient.

How do you think this might change the world?

This changes everything about data & information storage and cloud services nowadays as we only have data centers on Earth up until now. It is like a new era of data storing and cloud services. Now we’re experiencing the Covid-19 pandemic, we see companies transform to digital and virtual environments. They have to move to the cloud. That’s where our Space IDC is for.

Our job is to improve the lives of people through technology. We need to do that without destroying the planet around us. More importantly, is that we need to ensure that everyone has access to technology and the opportunity to benefit from that technology where needed.

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

I know Black Mirror offers a different perspective on technology and portrays a dystopian picture of the technology world which I agree partly that these are serious concerns. However, I would like to point out that we could use technology to help create a better world to live in. For example, having a data center in space helps us prevent the exploitation of energy consumption on Earth. Technology makes our lives easier and more convenient. The area that we need to be careful of is how technology is employed and how it could potentially be abused or used in a non-creative direction.

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

There was no single tipping point. It took decades of space technology innovation across an entire ecosystem to make satellites truly accessible from outer space. It’s important for me and it’s also our company mission that we leave the planet and environment a better place for the generations to come. This is the reason we need to explore space to bring back the resources to help our planet Earth and all of humanity because we would run out of resources on Earth and our population will continue to rise until a certain moment that it starts to decline. Putting a data center up in space is one step closer to that goal.

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

To me, technology is an enabler to innovation, transformation, and success. We have a strong team of young talented engineers and specialists. Everyone is working hard to bring those ideas on paper into reality. To get this technology to scale to widespread adoption, we need support from different sectors both the government sector and private sector. It’s important that the government consider providing a regulatory framework that facilitates the development and deployment of new technologies. We still have a long road but I’m confident that we’re on the right track.

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

We’re fortunate to have had great coverage from news media around the world from the beginning. They are interests from both international and local media outlets. We have been receiving great responses from our fans.

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?

Honestly, “it takes a village” for me to be where I am right now. I have had the opportunity to meet with some of the most talented people in the aerospace industry. I have had great supporters over the years in my career. I have been very lucky to have an amazing team backing me up during these years. To name just one would be unfair.

Also, I would be nowhere if it weren’t for the support of all of my parents, my family and my friends. They’re always there for me. They have been rooting for me since the start.

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

We have a mu Space internship program, in which we welcome university students from different majors to come and work with us. We’ve had some amazing students from the program, some of whom became employees after their internships ended and some also have the potential to lead their teams.

My approach is to connect smart engineers and problem solvers to bigger real-world problems. Our team is tackling one of the biggest crises in the world’s history of resources running out. We are going to space hoping to find resources to save our mother planet.

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

  1. Be yourself. Trust your instinct, do what your gut tells you. Nobody knows what you want or what you’re capable of better than yourself.
  2. Persist until you win. There’ve been so many people saying no to my face since I started my business. It takes a lot of courage to win over all the obstacles that come your way.
  3. Create an inclusive workplace culture. Hire candidates that are diverse in backgrounds and expertise. Diversity brings a pool of talents to your organization.
  4. It’s okay to fail. No one is immune to making mistakes. Embrace those failures as they show you the mistakes you make. Reflect on those decisions that lead up to those mistakes and learn from them.
  5. Stay hungry for new opportunities. Don’t be shy. Keep your eyes open and your mind fresh for any new opportunities. Connect with people and build a relationship, it might lead you to a great experience or new business cooperation.

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. 🙂

Seize the day! Make the most out of your life, every day. Time is precious. It flies by so fast. Do the things that you will never regret not doing. The decisions we make will have an impact on our lives as well as the technology we develop will have an impact on society. Technology can transform human lives. We have to think of our future generations who will come after us and live in the society that we have created. It’s up to us to leave the world a place where our children can grow as physically and mentally healthy as we can.

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

I believe in teamwork. Doing what we do needs a great team with a commitment. So I always go by the quote “Lift as you climb.” I have trust in my team to own and manage the business their way. I will help them when needed. I let them lead their team & projects and own operations end-to-end. The only way to succeed as a company is to lift your team up, recognize talent and offer to promote them. This also goes with everything in life. Success doesn’t come from one person, you need to support others in order to succeed.

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 space industry is accelerating quickly worldwide and generating a massive amount of revenue. mu Space is the first mover in Southeast Asia’s space industry. We will attract and create countless opportunities for both the business and technology sectors. We are looking for investors who share the same vision to join our growing team. If you are one of those people who put importance on long-term investments in the high technology industry to help improve the future for all of humanity, mu Space is your choice.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Web | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube

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


The Future Is Now: James Yenbamroong of mu Space Corp On How Their Technological Innovations Will… 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, With Amy Kalnoki of Bitwave

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

“Running a startup is a marathon, not a sprint.” Running a startup is difficult, time-consuming, and exhausting. I try to always remind myself of our company’s long-term vision and to pace myself. I’d actually add that it’s less like a marathon, more like a long rollercoaster — one day is the highest high, you just closed the biggest deal of your life, the next day the lowest low. So long as I do something every day that moves the business in the right direction I think of it as a win.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Amy Kalnoki — a serial entrepreneur and technology industry veteran with expertise in enterprise software sales, accounting, and cryptocurrencies. In 2018, she co-founded Bitwave, a software platform that provides cryptocurrency accounting, tax tracking, bookkeeping, DeFi ROI monitoring, and crypto AR/AP services for enterprise businesses. Prior to this, she co-founded Synata, an enterprise search engine that was acquired by Cisco in 2016.She is passionate about cryptocurrency and the potential for blockchain technology to change the world.

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?

I have always wanted to run my own business and be an entrepreneur. I find working at a startup very exciting and fulfilling. I get asked all the time, “What’s it like to start a company?” I love that question — it can be stressful and exhausting, but in the end, if you love to learn by doing, thrive in a constantly changing job role, I think it is the best job you can have. You end up having to learn so many new skills and wear so many different hats. After working at a startup, you come out knowing way more than when you started.

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

Currently, the company I co-founded, Bitwave, is working to bring digital assets to businesses. We bridge the gap between the new world of crypto, blockchain, and DeFi and traditional finance. I get to be on the absolute leading edge of a brand-new discipline and drive innovation in the FinTech space. It is very exciting. I also worked on a previous startup working on enterprise search — startups really becoming a passion of mine, it’s great to find a new problem to work on.

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 Pat introduced me to blockchain back in the early days of cryptocurrency. I am grateful he introduced me to cryptocurrencies back then, so when the opportunity came to found Bitwave, I was already well versed in the space. I definitely would not have heard about cryptocurrencies as early as I did if not for him.

What are the 3 things that most excite you about blockchain and crypto? Why?

I’m excited about the enormous power of Decentralized Finance (DeFi) to reshape the financial services industry! With the right processes and software, businesses could run their business, pay their employees, get paid by their customers, and even file their taxes with DeFi protocols. Very soon businesses of all sizes can use DeFi to not only go cashless but also go bankless! They will be able to access even the most complicated financial instruments, like paper markets, swaps, and bonds, all because of the ever-growing capabilities of Decentralized Finance.

What are the 3 things that worry you about blockchain and crypto? Why?

I would like to see more regulatory clarity around crypto and DeFi. I think regulatory clarity would help more people and businesses adopt cryptocurrencies. Which could help remove friction from the financial services industry. This would happen faster with clearer guidance from the government.

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

I am excited for the potential of blockchain and cryptocurrencies to help bank the unbanked and bring more financial power into the hands of businesses of all sizes.

As you know there are not that many women in your industry. Can you share 5 things that you would advise to other women in the blockchain space to thrive?

Actually, I find the blockchain and crypto industry to be more diverse than some other areas of tech, which is inspiring. I think women can thrive in any space, especially in a new, rapidly growing space like this. I’m optimistic about what I see happening in the crypto space and I tell everyone I know who is looking for a new job to check out the exciting things happening in the crypto and blockchain industry.

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

It’s great to see more women in the blockchain and crypto startup space. Blockchain and crypto is for everyone!

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

“Running a startup is a marathon, not a sprint.” Running a startup is difficult, time-consuming, and exhausting. I try to always remind myself of our company’s long-term vision and to pace myself. I’d actually add that it’s less like a marathon, more like a long rollercoaster — one day is the highest high, you just closed the biggest deal of your life, the next day the lowest low. So long as I do something every day that moves the business in the right direction I think of it as a win.

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. 🙂

One of my favorite charities is WildAid — they take an economic approach to ridding the world of illegal animal trafficking, and I love that. I love protecting wild animals, and I like when organizations take a very pragmatic approach to solving hard problems, sounds a lot like a startup!

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


Women Leading The Blockchain Revolution, With Amy Kalnoki of Bitwave 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: Benjamin Richard Truitt of BYTZ Fund On How Their Technological Innovation Will…

The Future Is Now: Benjamin Richard Truitt of BYTZ Fund On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

If even the smallest amount of data contradicts your hypothesis, act as if it is incorrect until proven otherwise. In one phase of development, my back-testing results were based on an assumption that I made about a variable. As I began testing this assumption it took quite some time to accumulate enough data for an accurate measurement. However, the very earliest measurements, though not statistically significant, were correct. I should have revised my back-testing inline with this small set of more conservative results until more data supported a more aggressive strategy.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Benjamin Richard Truitt.

Benjamin Richard Truitt, throughout his career, has endeavored to bring the technical fields of engineering and computer science to the real estate investment and banking industries through the development of innovative applications designed to streamline complex valuation models and better forecast outcomes using artificial intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning. Currently, he is the VP of Products for Lending Standard, where he has been for almost five years. In addition, he is the President & Chief Investment Officer of BYTZ Fund, LP, an algorithmic-based hedge fund he founded in 2019. Ben holds a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Colorado — Boulder as well as an MBA with emphases in Finance and Investments from the University of Colorado — Boulder, Leeds School of Business. He has also completed a Data Science Fellowship at Galvanize — Platte Denver Campus and is a CFA Charter holder.

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

Regarding running a hedge fund, it has been a long road. The first pivotal moment that shifted my career happened during the financial crisis that led to The Great Recession. Up until that point, my career had been centered around real estate, commercial lending, and developing software tools for automation in these areas. I was working on turning high-end spec homes that were in the $2–4 million range. During that time, I worked with a great deal of investors who were funding these projects. In early 2007, a very plugged-in mortgage broker that I knew was working in the subprime borrowers’ space. The morning the first set of news came out about a fund within Bear Stearns, he called me, speaking in a very animated tone, forewarning me about what this meant for the industry.

Bear Stearns was one of the first dominos to fall and it raised many eyebrows, including mine. This fund was the one that was investing in the purchase of mortgage securities, and it was indicative of what would happen from this time on. The mortgage broker that told me about this cited, “Ben, you have no idea what this means.” It was so early in the collapse of the financial markets and with his on-the-ground knowledge, he was able to make that call. I realized then it was not only because of what he did daily; he was in tune with the capital markets.

Following that first event, the real estate development industry was just beginning to unwind, until everything came to a screeching halt. With those series of events, the next few years were spent cleaning up. From that point I spent almost every waking moment understanding capital markets and how they drive investment through other industries. Taking the first step in that direction, I completed an MBA and shifted gears to investments, derivatives, and bond pricing. From that point, I went on to complete my CFA charter. It was then I realized that my career had been completely altered in a new direction, and I found myself lucky to have escaped what could have been a crippling situation.

The more I learned, the less I was comfortable investing. It was due to the immense knowledge I was being fed and I wanted to absorb it all and make the right decisions. The one thing that I began to see was that there was a missing piece — automation. That is when I took my studies and my interests to the next level, embarking on a path to leverage Machine Learning, and hence, the fund. It has been and continues to be a marathon and not a sprint and I never forget the lessons I was first exposed to in 2007.

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

There are so many interesting things that have taken place during my career. Focusing on the automation, I think that the first time the test for the stock trading Machine Learning algorithm showed promise and potential, was pivotal. Often, when you create something new, spurring from a fresh idea, and you really test the feasibility, it doesn’t work. It took me quite some time to get to that moment of awe when the code worked. I refined and tested it over and again and it continued to show promise. It was a long road to get to that point and it is one I keep in mind on the most frustrating of days!

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

I think that right now, all of us working in this space, are figuring out how to take Machine Learning from an academic abstract to real world use cases. To me, the cutting-edge piece is not creating some new algorithm that does something different; rather it is finding ways to apply existing Machine Learning technology that gives you useful information. For instance, in identifying investments, I look at which ones are likely to be outlier performers. In that perspective, I am working with a snapshot in time. I then start asking myself questions, such as, ‘What is the best company in the moment to invest in?’ ‘Is this investment going to continue to be a good one?’ ‘What might be a better investment?’

Getting technical, in Machine Learning two types of algorithms are classifiers and recurrent neural networks, and we are merging the two together. Recurring neural networks and forecasting stock prices uses a time series of data to make predictions. With that, you can look at metrics that changes over time, and you can use that data to predict something else. Some other value that is important to you, perhaps the probability of the stock being a good investment, is also important. It is vital to review the performance and back test the algorithm. This helps measure performance. If the algorithm shows a 60% chance of working, you must remember that you are still dealing with the flip of a coin as there is still a 40% chance it won’t work. It is not a simple point in time analysis. You are looking at historical data and predicting future performance. I spend a great deal on refinement.

How do you think this might change the world?

As I focus on the applications in capital markets, and as Machine Learning becomes more complex and better simulates processes, we could really see a world where the trading is all conducted by computer algorithms across all markets. When I stop and think about that, if all is done by computers, where is the edge there for an investor or a fund? What is the purpose of trade? I do question the role that capital markets plays if all is done by computer, it brings me back to the fundamental reasons for why we have capital markets. They have morph, enabling them to serve in ways beyond what they do currently. Driven by the urge of investors to do trading activity, Machine Learning can contribute to the efficient use of capital in the economy. If we are all doing the same thing, at some point it could change the purposes of capital markets and how they function.

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

A bit of what I just talked about above is what I think deeply about. We are working so hard to get an edge using technology, and this is not new. High frequency trading has been used to get an edge over other investors in the space. As you do that, those investors invest more. It becomes a competition, and you whittle away the profit potential.

I actually think of the movie, “The Book of Eli,” when I think of near future technology drawbacks. In that movie, all knowledge is stored in electronic form, and people scramble to find books. At some point, society burned the books, which were seen as a political divide, and they ended up destroying that history. With that example, and while it is a movie, I don’t think that we should be reliant on any one medium. We may refine technology to a point of efficiency, but we need to be cognizant and recognize other ways to collect data. I am still using my own collective knowledge to refine the algorithm for my fund, and that is due to amassing 20 years of knowledge from a variety of sources.

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

One of the first machines learning algorithms that I wrote did something like the algorithm used for my fund. Using my knowledge of the mortgage industry and going back to my roots, that algorithm forecasted the probability of defaults in Freddie Mac mortgages. Essentially, I used financial ratios to make predictions about a loan. There are a lot of similarities that come from financial ratios and real estate property. I first did this back in late 2016, and I started to work on the code for that in early 2017.

One day, I attended a CFA event on risk first investing. They were looking at ratios and applied a threshold to them, showing us if price to earnings is above a certain amount, that was seen as risky. They then looked at debt to assets and set thresholds. I had an “a-ha” moment following that event. I researched ratios and looked at what was meaningful. I then looked at what other funds have done to find success and it all began to come together. I was now working with about 25–30 different ratios. It was my tipping point.

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

Besides raising more capital, I personally think that people are learning about technology uses and it is why I share my knowledge regarding what we can do with technology. As more people enter college and graduate school to work on technology applications, there will be much more widespread use.

However, with that, I am not looking to get widespread adoption right away. I think that widespread adoption will happen in its due time. Right now, the investor community needs to understand this a bit more. Sophisticated investors want to understand things inside and out — and they should! They don’t feel comfortable investing in something they do not understand. It brings me back to being more apprehensive regarding investing after acquiring more knowledge. One of the biggest roadblocks is that the more you share with investors about how things work and how these algorithms are developed, the more it becomes confusing unless you have a deep academic background. There are the early adopters in the AI funds, and eventually the rest of the investment community is going to see the performance and become less apprehensive.

I think one way that investors can become more comfortable is understanding the similarities between Machine Learning algorithms and their own brains. If you’ve ever found yourself glance at something and think it was one thing but then focus your attention and realized it is something else, you have experienced your brain going through a similar analysis to that done by a Machine Learning algorithm. With limited information your brain can determine what the object most likely is to some level of confidence, say 60% certain. As you focus and your brain absorbs more of the surroundings and maybe the orientation of the object, it gradually realized that you are maybe only 40% confident of that original assessment, but you’re actually 80% certain that this object is something else. Your brain then recognizes the object as what it thinks it is with 80% certainty. This is exactly how Machine Learning algorithms identify potential outcomes. They assign probabilities to the potential outcomes and settle on the one with the greatest likelihood of being accurate. I think if investors begin to recognize more that they are walking through life really being 100% certain of very few things, they’ll become more comfortable with the idea that a Machine Learning algorithm may only be correct 60% of the time and that is in fact very good and can generate great profit.

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

Not really, and that is intentional. When I first created the algorithm, the back testing is all I had to talk about. However, the live trading is what you are measured on. I made sure my performance was available through different publishers so that investors could see the fund’s performance. Drawing attention through performance is all that really matters.

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?

A big part of this project, for me, was the fact that I genuinely enjoyed coding and working on the algorithm. I found it fascinating, and it gave me joy. I had been doing work on various coding projects, until I met my first investor, Yan Zheng. This fund was just another project for me at that time. When it began to show promise, that is when I began to think about doing something longer term with it. Yan pushed me from this being an academic project to a live fund. She heard about what I was working on through her son and real estate investing and she became very interested. She gave me the push I needed to get the fund off the ground, and I saw the incredible opportunity to make this happen sooner than I thought possible.

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

The fund is small and young and, at this time I don’t have excess capacity. However, I can offer a few things here. My fund has investors and is not an open fund. I have created relationships with great people. As those people make money and generate wealth, they are doing some amazing things with it, including setting up foundations and charitable organizations. That makes me feel good.

There is also potential to utilize the technology that I have at my disposal in many areas. The computer hardware is very advanced and runs for only about one hour a day, therefore having a huge amount of capacity available. One thing I envision over time is doing pro bono work for other projects given the fact that there are many uses for this kind of technology. One example would be to partner with law enforcement to use technology to help with unsolved cases. Another area that has immense potential is healthcare databases and research. I endeavor making this a priority as the fund continues to mature.

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

  1. If you’re instinctually hesitating, focus on understanding why.
  • I have experienced this multiple times since starting the fund. One benefit of having more experience is that you better understand your instincts, including when to fight through them or allow them to put you at pause. When I find myself not as excited about raising new capital or worried about the market open on a daily basis, something is wrong and its time for me to really focus on figuring it out.

2. If even the smallest amount of data contradicts your hypothesis, act as if it is incorrect until proven otherwise.

  • In one phase of development, my back-testing results were based on an assumption that I made about a variable. As I began testing this assumption it took quite some time to accumulate enough data for an accurate measurement. However, the very earliest measurements, though not statistically significant, were correct. I should have revised my back-testing inline with this small set of more conservative results until more data supported a more aggressive strategy.

3. Your greatest asset is not the capital in your fund, but the investment partners that have contributed. Choose them wisely.

  • I have learned this lesson on several occasions, and it is always worth hearing again. Investors can be your best system of support or your worst fuel for self-doubt. In any startup there are enough hurdles to overcome without your investors being additional obstacles.

4. Nobody wants to hear you whining about how much you pay in taxes.

  • In any successful startup, you may soon begin paying more in taxes than 90% of people make in salary. Nobody will feel sorry for you

5. Whiskey will always taste better in celebration.

  • One of the biggest pieces of being in any type of speculative investment is staying even keel. A good algorithm might only be up 55%-60% of trading days. There are going to be down days and many of them. Find healthy ways of dealing with stress and do your best to leave your fund performance at your desk.

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. 🙂

As I mentioned earlier, there are ways to help the medical and law enforcement communities and that is something I plan to do on my own. I also think that there is another piece of the puzzle, which is more political in nature.

If there were tax benefits to incentivize corporations to share their resources, we might be able, as a society, to combat obscure medical conditions. That is one example. Companies would be able to provide access to much needed technological tools and resources. There are many ways that we can collectively make a difference, and technology can be used to do good work as non-profits alone cannot accumulate the types of sophisticated technology needed in fields such as, forensics, and medicine.

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

I would say that the Lao Tzu quote: “Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny” is something that I think about often.

Those words have always stuck with me. There are little things that develop in my life on a consistent basis that I try to control. A big part of emotional health is being able to start with my thoughts and words as they really do become habits. Nothing happens overnight and success is a journey.

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 🙂

Machine learning is only as powerful as the system in which it is applied. Just like the human brain is useless without the body, artificial intelligence is useless without being provided the means to both absorb and act upon data. What separates Spire Fund Advisory from other investment firms is that we develop full systems around the use of the latest cutting-edge Machine Learning technology and these systems are scalable and transferable to other markets and sub-markets. BYTZ Fund LP is only in its incubation stage and just starting to show the true potential of this technology. Once fully developed, our technologies can be applied to specific sectors, index composites and other asset classes to create a full spectrum of investment opportunities.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

LinkedIn is the best place to get in touch with me.

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


The Future Is Now: Benjamin Richard Truitt of BYTZ Fund 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: Jake Miller of MetaCX On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The…

The Future Is Now: Jake Miller of MetaCX On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Keep solution complexity and cognitive overhead as low as possible. Most folks think keeping scope limited is the most important thing one can do to make product development easier. In fact, it is low complexity and low cognitive overhead that make for robust applications that can be composed and added to over time.

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

Jake Miller is co-founder and chief architect of MetaCX, the pioneer in a new value-based approach for achieving shared success in B2B ecosystems. For over 15 years, Jake has been a product and engineering leader. A self-described futurist, Jake is passionate about applying research and collective experience to manifest transformational products. In his former role, Jake was director of engineering at Salesforce and led the development of the industry-leading product Journey Builder. An Indianapolis native, Jake is a husband, father of one, and dog dad of two giant Saint Bernards.

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 in fifth grade, my uncle gave my family our first computer, an Apple II. I really didn’t know what to do with it at the time. The only program we had to run on it was AppleWorks with a word processor, spreadsheet and database. What was a 10-year-old going to do with a word processor, spreadsheet or database? At the time, I actually didn’t understand exactly what each of those things was, but it didn’t stop me from experimenting. From a very early age, I’ve been incredibly curious about how things work.

I created my first database that was a simple collection of numbers assigned to shirts and pants in my drawer. That was it. Then I’d query a shirt and a pair of pants randomly, and that’s what I’d wear for the day. At least this is how I remember it. It was novel probably for just a couple of days. But the point was, I was fascinated by technology.

This fascination led me to explore computer technology at school in the following years. I spent half of my day at Central Nine Career Center, a trade school where I could learn at my own pace. The computer labs were becoming more prevalent, and there were even programs like the Cisco academy to do hands-on training. The .com boom had opened the door to many web development opportunities, and I had the idea to create a company called KartSync that would synchronize catalogs and inventory between companies. I was too young to understand the first thing about business, funding and product development so that idea never fully materialized. That experience, however, made me realize that product development would be my career path.

I’ve always applied the perspective to the world about “what if.” What if it worked differently? What would be the advantages or disadvantages? Will the novel approach unlock more value? This approach almost always yields a better way to do something. If the better way to do something means creating something new, what better way to do that than building a business to deliver on that vision.

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

I started my first business when I was in college. It was a consulting business called MeSync Technologies. I developed custom data-driven applications. The computer technology curriculum at the time was not interesting to me because I was already building databases and writing applications. I decided to pursue an undergraduate degree in English where I could concentrate on linguistics. I like to think of linguistics as the science of language. Surprisingly, there is a great deal of conceptual overlap between computer science and linguistics. The premise was that by way of a liberal arts education I would be well-rounded and more capable to creatively tackle problems. I credit this decision to a competitive advantage. Early on though, I had planned to earn a master’s degree and Ph.D. in computational linguistics but quickly found opportunities to build cutting-edge enterprise software. I have continued to follow this path.

As an aside. I’m more excited than ever about what the research companies like Google, Nuance, Facebook and MIT are doing in the field of natural language processing. We’re going to see huge leaps in the application of this research in the next 5–10 years too. It is truly an exciting time to work in tech.

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 B2B business world, value chains are complex, and successful initiatives depend on cooperation between several organizations. Imagine a B2B scenario where value realization depended on carefully coordinated value exchange between three or more parties.

Value — tangible or intangible — is a concept that can not only be formalized but can be strategically managed leveraging technology. The characteristics, profiles, dependencies, people and context are real, quantifiable and manageable. Organizational boundaries are starting to be bridged by technologies like Slack, where shared channels make it easy for two different organizations to communicate within the same channel.

MetaCX has built a next-generation B2B outcome management platform — combining the idea of formalized value, in a shared collaborative space, along with real-time analytics that demonstrates value achievement ongoing.

How do you think this might change the world?

We’re leveling the playing field between organizations and bringing people together. Collaboration today is done via a lot of channels. What we believe is missing in enterprise relationship software is a place to establish, formalize and collaborate in the context of business goals. As our CEO Scott McCorkle says, the purpose of business is to exchange value. Yet there isn’t a great place to track and measure this — QBRs are conducted in slide decks. We hear customers say things like, “we create charts and visualizations to support our QBR updates, we show them in a slide deck, and the customer never looks at them again.”

Beyond that, the days of siloed organization IT are going to go away. I predict that over the next five years, we will see a major wave of information sharing contextualized by the goals cross-organizationally. We have to rethink how we architect platforms to be secure, protect privacy, help organizations normalize the information they want to share, limit it to need-to-know information, and actually share it.

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

It’s not exactly a drawback, but I think it is important that a system that automatically surfaces performance metrics requires transparency, which might be intimidating to some companies — metrics have to be consumed in context. The fact that value that should go up is actually going down might not be in the control of a supplier, and the context about why will be important.

Also, I believe enterprise systems will continue to become more real time. I was talking with Pernille Rydén, dean of education IT at University of Copenhagen, about the idea of real-time systems and the ability for us to track in real time the cascading effects of changing metrics in a network of companies. She asked me the question, “But should we?” Her point was that the more and more technology we bring into our lives, the more stress we create — the more pressure to pay attention. It throws off the equilibrium of ourselves and leaves us less time to spend in “flow,” a type of deep immersive thinking. This is the mental space where strategy and creative approaches are born. I think there is a lot of wisdom in this thinking. We’re going to see an economy of 40-hour workweeks decline to fewer hours over the next decade as technology helps us to not only become more productive but also require less time to achieve the same output.

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

Our CEO and co-founder Scott McCorkle, co-founder Dave Duke, and I have worked in the enterprise software space for decades combined and had the realization that management of relationships was one-sided when, in fact, the value that customers get from organizations is within the products they use.

To solve this problem, there needed to be a product to bridge this gap between buyers and suppliers — a shared space to establish shared outcomes and monitor proof of performance metrics.

Regarding proof of performance metrics, one of the things we really wanted to do was build a real-time, event-driven platform to handle IoT scale data. It’s a bit counterintuitive for a startup to build a large technical footprint early, but from day one, we have been adamant that the predecessor of existing enterprise software would require a ground-up architecture. Our analytics platform is unique in that it accurately reflects the state of all metrics and milestones across the entire ecosystem in real time. At surface level, this sounds straightforward, but chaining the outputs of metrics and cascading those updates across a system for the present, past and future values is a tall order.

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

We need a mind shift in how companies approach working together. This is no small feat, but in order for the adoption of the technology, organizations have to realize that digital transformation includes formalization of the shared outcomes between them and their customers, investors, vendors, partners and associations. This success plan will need to be memorialized and stand as a source of truth about the goals of the relationship.

We need perspectives to change from loose, unformalized, non-tracked customer goals to be managed in a formalized, semi-structured way. Beyond formalization of business objectives, formalization and surfacing qualitative and quantitative metrics in the context of those goals, in real time, requires a different way to think about proving performance through analytics.

The good news is that we’ve found most companies are ready to make this shift; there just isn’t a product that does this very well.

A larger number of digital transformation initiatives fail. At MetaCX, we have a methodology that companies can use to structure their transformation.

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

As we engage with our customers, we use our own product to document and establish QBR reviews, measuring success in the context of outcomes. We’re also working with partners and vendors through bridges as well as building an ecosystem of successful players. Ultimately, organizations that collaborate together will have an advantage. Organizations are extensions of teams; they are a team even if it is a cross-company.

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

Early on, a teacher named Marty Miller, of no relation, showed confidence in me. I wasn’t particularly successful in traditional classrooms because my curiosity always took me off course, and I was fine with that because I was fulfilling this insatiable desire to think differently.

Teachers are often under-appreciated, and having instructors that facilitate the space conducive to a student’s learning style is paramount, in my opinion, for students to succeed — beyond standardized tests.

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

When I worked for Salesforce, the employee resource group called Outforce hosted an event where students from across the state of Indiana visited our campus to have a one-on-one conversation with LGBT+ folks and allies. The purpose of this event was to help these students explore possible career paths in the software industry.

I was paired with a transgender girl who was very quiet and timid at first, but once she was comfortable, she started to ask inquisitive questions about my career path, my likes and dislikes of my job, and what my day-to-day work life was like. By the end of the conversation, I wasn’t sure if I had made an impact or not. Afterward, when we were wrapping up, I was approached by this young lady’s mother. She said, “Thank you from the bottom of my heart.” I was taken off guard by her sentiment because I didn’t feel like I had made a great impact on her daughter. Then she explained to me that they live in a very small town in northern Indiana where her daughter has no LGBT role models, and day-to-day life is generally difficult for LGBT folks — particularly for a transgender child and their families. She continued on that her daughter having the opportunity to speak with a professional that is out, open, and able to be their authentic self had a big impact on her daughter, and she had not seen her that excited about talking to someone before.

This was humbling and also such a great feeling. From that point on, I realized that there are people watching, young adults are watching, and I could be a role model and maybe even inspire these young people to know that it gets better.

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

  1. Stay steadfast to personal values.

Define your own personal values, and ensure that the work you choose, the people you spend your days with, and your company share those values. These are a handful of the values I’ve defined over the course of my career.

  • Family — My husband and son come first, no matter what.
  • Being valued — Co-workers acknowledge my work and see the value I provide and vice versa.
  • Creativity — Thinking outside the box and using cross-domain input result in unique, novel and valuable solutions, offering a competitive advantage.
  • Time is the most valuable resource — Working smarter, not harder, is a must not only for me but an expectation I have of my co-workers.
  • Excellence — Giving 110% toward achieving success and expecting those around me to do the same.

2. Keep solution complexity and cognitive overhead as low as possible.

Most folks think keeping scope limited is the most important thing one can do to make product development easier. In fact, it is low complexity and low cognitive overhead that make for robust applications that can be composed and added to over time.

3. Find a mentor.

Most folks are willing, even excited, to share their experiences and coach.

At one job I had, I wasn’t sure if I aligned with the company culture or not. Even as one matures in their career, having a group of people that have experienced conflicts or situations that you are encountering are tremendous sounding boards. Ultimately, my coach said that it sounded like I just needed someone to give me permission to leave. She added that over her career, one of the most powerful things she learned was that even if one is successful in their role, if they feel “icky” or out of place, it’s not worth sticking around. The most successful people she knows know when to quit and aren’t afraid to do so.

4. Understand your work style.

You need to know your own working style and understand how other people communicate and work. This leads to effective communication and creates space for empathy.

I was at a company where I found it difficult to work with many folks. I felt like I spoke Greek much of the time, and it turns out it was because my personal work style was quite different from most folks. I’m quite direct and to the point, which can sometimes come off as dismissive and harsh. My tendency to be fully objective to measure and evaluate situations also tends to overshadow the need to build relationships with colleagues. Ultimately, forming relationships and tweaking my own approaches made a great difference in my effectiveness.

5. Finally, and most importantly, be your authentic self.

When I started my first job with all strangers, it was a software company that was growing exponentially. I was really intimidated by the fact that I’d be working with so many engineers from great schools, but more importantly, that most of them were men. Being a gay man, I was afraid that if I were to come out, people would think of me differently and treat me differently. I never lied — that’s one of my core values — honesty; but in my head, it was a sort of don’t ask, don’t tell sort of situation. If someone asked about my personal life, I was fairly dismissive of the conversation and quickly changed the subject. What’s so ironic about this is that when same-sex marriage became legal in Indiana, my partner and I, both working downtown, ran to the city-county building to apply for our marriage license. It just so happened that we were the first couple to arrive and the first same-sex couple in the state to be married. This put our faces on the cover of several newspapers and even a photo of my husband and I holding hands and kissing on network news. I was a little terrified to go back to work. But when I arrived, several of my colleagues were sitting in a conference room to celebrate and had even collected gifts for us. It was a huge, huge moment for me personally that helped me to better connect and be open with people. I could be my authentic self. And what I felt more proud about was that then I could be a role model for others that may not find themselves in a situation where they can be so open. From that day on, I proudly say “my husband,” not partner, because that is what it is. A phrase so common to most can be a powerful affirmation to others.

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 like to see our culture of long hours as heroic efforts disappear. I’d like to see technology help people be more productive in a short amount of time. That saved time would be used for people to pursue personal endeavors, hobbies, and spend more time with their loved ones. Life is short. The purpose of doing business is to build value through value exchange. That is the driving force behind the software we’re building, and I believe it will help make people more successful.

I’d also like to see boundaries between organizations’ technology and information become much more fluid. I’d like to see the internet be a true digital space where how we work, interact, and the information we share is represented in this space and augmented using artificial intelligence. There has been a cliché over the past decade and that is “to blur the line between the physical world and the digital world,” usually in reference to digital transformation. I don’t think that has fully been realized. That is because software has always been rooted in one-sided architecture. IT organizations build systems and employ products intended to serve internal use cases rather than having a collaborative architecture mindset.

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

This is something a dear friend of mine Heather John told me several years ago, and I doubt she even remembers. It goes something like this: “At different points in time, feel the need to either consume or create. It’s important to do both.” That is to say, take in what people say, take in others’ experiences, study, learn and read, because that is all necessary to be able to create — whether it’s a novel, a painting, a business, a product or a new skill. My takeaway has really been to deliberately know when I want to consume or when I want to create. This helps me be more mindful of how I spend my 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 🙂

For decades, enterprise software has been built to serve a single company — not to bring suppliers and buyers together to focus on true value creation. Traditional features and functionality monitor the side effects of value instead of measuring real impact. Value is a thing. It can and should be defined, managed and measured.

MetaCX optimizes the flow of value across the entire enterprise value chain, connecting vendors, customers, partners and teams in a shared system of record for value creation.

MetaCX provides a co-owned digital space called a bridge where buyers and suppliers can come together to define and collaborate on desired business outcomes. The bridge keeps all parties accountable and focused on the goals, milestones, metrics and action plans necessary to unlock value creation.

To track and prove performance against the desired outcomes documented in a bridge, the platform supports multidirectional data sharing. Suppliers and buyers are able to instrument any application, system, or digital endpoint and surface insights from these sources as a means to monitor value creation and delivery.

By providing a neutral space for data sharing, MetaCX mitigates sensitivity to data access and control and ensures that neither the supplier nor buyer feels at a disadvantage. Regulatory concerns are addressed by only using anonymous, aggregated data on a platform with strong cybersecurity and privacy controls.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Jake Miller on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/jakemillerindy/

Jake Miller on Twitter: @JRMiller, https://twitter.com/_JRMiller

MetaCX website: https://metacx.com/

MetaCX on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/metacx/

MetaCX on Twitter: @metacx, https://twitter.com/metacx

MetaCX on Facebook: www.facebook.com/metacx/

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


The Future Is Now: Jake Miller of MetaCX 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: Dale Amon of Immortal Data On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up…

The Future Is Now: Dale Amon of Immortal Data On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

That technology really would suddenly make a SpaceX possible and kick in the doors so that the rest of us could follow. I can say I ‘knew it’ and even wrote about it, but I still find it shocking to watch it actually happening. Starship is mind blowing even to those of us with decades of reputation as Futurists. If it doesn’t blow your mind, you have not really understand what has happened and is to come.

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

Dale grew up in a small Western Pennsylvania town near Pittsburgh and was surrounded by aerospace from his earliest memories. His mother rented space to pilots, stewardesses, Air Traffic Controllers and Air Force personnel from the Greater Pittsburgh Airport. It was the era of Dr. Von Braun and Walt Disney, rockets of the International Geophysical Year, Sputnik and the first satellites. He knew and never doubted he was destined to play a role in moving humanity out into the Universe.

In High School he was the person the teachers queried on anything to do with space flight; when he attended Carnegie Mellon University he took the most difficult of the engineering courses, electrical engineering, spiced with computer design and as much Cognitive Psychology as could fit into his undergraduate schedule. Through those courses he came to know Dr. Herbert Simon, a Nobel Laureate and with his assistance and that of the Electrical Engineering Department head, Dr. Angel Jordan, created a self-defined masters on “A Study of the Human Mind” that included his senior year studies. He also managed to find time to be a local folksinger and a regular with the CMU Scotch and Soda theatrical company which did an original musical each year.

He became involved with entrepreneurship during his summer job after year four at CMU as he transitioned from mostly undergraduate to mostly graduate work. Dr. Dwight Bauman from Mechanical Engineering had set up an effort at CMU to create an early model for turning students and graduate students into entrepreneurs. Dr. Bauman had Dale working for People’s Cab, owned by his Entrepreneurship Center, to keep him on line until there was funding for Dr. Romesh Wahdwani and Dr. Krishnahadi Pribadi’s Compuguard Corporation.

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 could not say I was brought to it, rather that I was born to it, or at least imprinted on it at such an early age that I can not remember a time before I knew that this was ‘who I am’. One of my very earliest memories is being allowed to stay up after the evening news on black and white TV to watch “Captain Video”, so I know I was already hooked by around age four.

Everything since then has been a series of swings and round-abouts to get to where I could take part in the greatest of humanities adventures. Yes, we had a government program, but I always knew in my heart, at least as f ar as back as the cancellation of pretty much everything after Apollo satisfied the short sighted minds of politicians, that it could not be real until people started making money at it. It has taken longer than I ever imagined possible. I had ties into the earliest of the commercial space ventures, and in fact one of those ‘first generation New Space’ pioneers is a key member of my company.

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

Oh Lord, where to begin? And which are tellable even decades later! I’ll just pick one that is safely back in the mid-1970’s.

Compuguard had sold a building automation system to Galaxy Apartments across the Hudson River from Manhattan and systems were beginning to be installed. Our sales people, as sales people are wont to do, thought it would be a wonderful idea to bring in a group of high level people from the Tri-Service Spec who might consider our systems for a number of government facilities. A great idea. The only problem was, the system was still under construction and my team was still working on the software! This led to long nights and when we were down to the wire I still did not have a working system. I put it onto a bootable cassette tape anyway and was driven to Greater Pitt Airport; I arrived on the job site around midnight with the demo scheduled to start around 0800! I was not in a great mood and Romesh, the President, went out and got me a hamburger and fries as I’d also not had an opportunity to eat.

I settled into the main lobby desk where our computer was ensconced and proceeded to work through the issues one at a time… in an assembly code debugger. I worked out binary patches which I manually entered into memory. By morning I had it working — with one feature exception. I was in a frightful looking state by then, having been working literally for days. I briefed the Prez on what was working and specifically said “DON’T DO X”. I don’t remember what X was, but it was a problem that would cause an immediate crash. I then went off to a side area of the building and laid back in a comfortable easy chair to get some rest. There was also the fact that the sales types did not want the potential customers to wonder why the company had its most senior engineer on site. It was probably an hour or two, but it seemed like minutes and I was rudely awakened by one of our electronics designers who was also there. He told me: “He did X.” To which I responded: “*&%#$@&%*@!!!!!” As it turned out, our leader had recognized what he’d done and taken the visitors up to an upper floor to seen the system in an example apartment. I got to the lobby desk where I had a pad of yellow paper with all of the addresses and the binary patches; I rebooted into the debugger; I typed in the binary patches… and keep in mind that there was NO OPERATING SYSTEM. Our system was it. I then looked at the last temperatures from the outside walls of the building, worked out their values in binary floating point, typed them in and hit GO… just as the call came in from upstairs that he was about to put in an alarm that would print on our printer. It worked. I then went back to the lounge chair, still swearing, and got some sleep. The demo, to the view of any outsider, went well.

I have dozens of stories like this. Absolutely crazy things happen when you are putting untried new systems into facilities that are under construction. Then there was the huge rattlesnake at the Johns-Manville World Headquarters site… but that’s another story.

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

There are two facets to what we are doing. The most important one is bringing down the costs. We don’t expect that space hardware will be cheap in a consumer sense, but that said, the market incentives prior to the New Space revolution have been to push costs to insane levels because the taxpayer was footing the bill and the money would flow through key Congressional Districts.

We’re all about changing that by bringing much more commercial management and design to bear on the field. We want small companies that do interesting projects to be able to afford us.

The other element is our patent. The concept of replicating the data over multiple cheap and only lightly ‘armored’ boxes as a replacement for large, heavy and indestructable units (relative to spacecraft requirements at least) is a very different way of approaching the problem of getting back data from a disaster. Add to that our key feature, that of a GPS on each box that will get a few initial readings as a vehicle breaks up, and you have a unique capability that we believe the FAA, NTSB and insurance companies will be very, very interested in.

How do you think this might change the world?

If we do our part to bring down the cost of systems going into space flight, we help bring the day closer when humanity is a multiplanetary species as the National Space Society has said for decades. I might add that I have been a member of the leadership of that organization going back to its roots in the L5 Society and have been a Director for many years.

If we are to bring the entire world up to the level of Americans without trashing the planet, we need to access the cheap, abundant resources and energy that are available out there. We are living through the time that is as important as the first lung fish crawling out of a resource poor pond on its stubby fins. We get to make it happen. I cannot imagine anything more important or bigger than that.

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

I cannot really. We will make space flight cheaper and safer. There will be accidents and people will die. When that happens you want to learn as much as possible so that the next generation of systems is safer and more reliable. Don’t let anyone fool you. The best we have right now is still at the level of the very first biplane airliners of the 1910 era. It took decades to build to the level of safety we have today. I think with current technologies we can learn more, learn it earlier and deploy that knowledge faster so that spaceships will become safe in a few decades rather than the best part of a century.

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

Yes. It was Columbia. I was writing for a major early blog in the UK and covered that flight on line. I and others who were very familiar with spacecraft were really worried from the start of the flight that something bad might have happened. It did. Later on I saw some video tape on TV that one of the astronauts on board had taken during re-entry, Chowdra I believe. The penny dropped that a video tape had survived re-entry and been picked up in the middle of Texas and was still good. Magnetic materials have a thing called the Curie Point. That is the temperature at which magnetic domains are ‘unfrozen’ and thus erased. The tape had obviously never got that hot. Many years later, after we were already well into development of the concept, I read the NASA Columbia Crew Survival Report and found that my idea of the randomness of survival of things on a spacecraft were spot on. I believe most, if not all of the space suit radios made it to the ground and were recovered. They were able to read the EPROMS with the serial numbers on them and one even booted up when power was applied!

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

First of all, no one else out there has a patent on the idea of getting tracking data of major parts of a breakup from a distributed network of cheap, redundant modules. Secondly, we are looking at a broader product line than that even. We are implementing a set of Minimum Viable Products that will collect data, store it and distribute it as needed. We are using an open architecture so that we can source data from anyone’s devices by writing a software plug in for it and feed data to anyone’s gadget that needs live, real time data. While elements of this exist now, it is done over and over and over by companies that either think they can do a better job in house or ones that are too small to afford the high cost of equipment from the legacy companies. Additionally, we are going to have a parallel system that is non-aerospace to allow for ground based experimentation and learning about how these kinds of systems work. We’re going to build an enthusiastic user base and grow with them.

In addition to that, as if it were not enough, our team knows pretty much everyone in the business, especially New Space but also in the old guard. We are already discussing behind the scenes with some of the new space companies who realize that our experience base on a systems level might be invaluable to them.

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

This has been a relatively stealth operation thus far. Not that we have outright hidden it, but we have been too busy doing our work to get up on the rooftops and shout about it. My preference is also very much to have something real in hand. While I don’t mind shouting about some of our goals and long range plans, I preferred that we actually have some initial ‘real stuff’ in hand.

That said, I have done talks at a number of small conferences with audiences who are very much part of our perceived market.

Beyond that, you are part of the first wave of our real coming out party.

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 people like Dr. Romesh Wahdwani, Dr. Krishnahadi Pribadi and Dr. Dwight Bauman were key to me becoming an entrepreneur. If not for them I probably would have joined the USAF, or gone to work for North American Rockwell, or perhaps run off with a jazz fusion band.

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

I’ll tell you when I get there! My philosophy of life has always been to apply the Golden Rule; and to always be sure that when I leave a place, I have left it at least a little better for my having been there.

If true success and wealth come my way, it will be very much dedicated to making sure humanity has a home in the Stars that will be counted in millions, not thousands, or years.

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

I am not sure I’d have wanted to know! I am pretty sure it was a combination of bullheadedness, self-confidence and reliance that kept me going over the years. I do not think I would have believed how long and hard and round about my personal road to the space industry was going to be. I don’t have a particular story, but:

1) How long it was going to take for commercial space to really take hold.

2) How difficult it was going to be for the Capital markets to recognize that space may be hard, but it is far easier than the old guard make it out to be.

3) How bloody hard the old guard would battle to keep their rice bowls and how nasty the behind the scenes politics would be in those efforts to protect what they had.

4) How indirect and round about my path to my goal would be.

5) That technology really would suddenly make a SpaceX possible and kick in the doors so that the rest of us could follow. I can say I ‘knew it’ and even wrote about it, but I still find it shocking to watch it actually happening. Starship is mind blowing even to those of us with decades of reputation as Futurists. If it doesn’t blow your mind, you have not really understand what has happened and is to come.

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. 🙂

Actually I am already on it. I’m pretty close to a charter member of the Space Movement. I go all the way back to the L5 Society in 1979 and through the merger into the National Space Society at a conference I ran in Pittsburgh in 1987 and am currently part of its ‘senior leadership’, a Director, the former Chair of the Conferences committee for 15 years during which I ran the International Space Development Conference. I managed to hand that off to another person and now run the smaller invitation only event, the Space Settlement Summit.

As to movement… yes, NSS has on occassion had members out with picket signs that severely annoyed people in high places who were more interested in their fiefdoms than in opening space to all of us… and to some unfortunate anti-nuclear demonstrators who were shocked to find we outnumbered them at the Galileo Mission launch!

So yes, I have for decades been one of the leaders of just such a social movement. And we are winning.

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

One of my own personal sayings: “If you want to soar with the eagles, you have to flap your own wings because the only thing they carry with them is prey.”

Basically, you never sit around and cry about what has happened to you or blame it on some person or group. You get up and do it anyway. If you fall down, you dust yourself off and start all over again. (I particularly like the old Frank Sinatra song, “High Hopes”.)

If you want something to happen, you don’t whinge and cry about it. You do 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 🙂

Space is hot, and it is not going to be a fad. It is not just tourism and satellites, although those have been mainstays. What is about to burst upon the scene is space as a place for basic industries, mining, manufacturing and energy. It is the next great sphere of human activities just as the Oceans of the world were centuries ago.

Space is hard and nothing made by humans is perfect. Accidents will happen and IDI will be there to ensure that information will be recoverable so that any given problem does not happen again.

Many failures that lead to disaster do not just happen out of nowhere. Data can be collected and stored and analysed with predictive tools that allow intervention before the worst happens. IDI will be there to make sure that data is affordably stored.

America needs entrepreneurs, engineers and scientists who will keep our nation in the forefront in this soon to be contested ‘everything else’. They need an opportunity to learn space hardware and try ventures at low costs; they need to be able to ground test; at somewhat higher cost they need to learn through doing in suborbital and small sats. They need systems they can trust as they grow in their industry and move out into long term and deep space projects. They need reliable data collection and storage at as low a price as possible with the technology of the time. IDI will be there.

Space is risky and many large ventures will try and many will fail. But everyone needs systems for their test stands, their sounding rockets, their small sats, their hypersonic flight system, their deep space vessels, their space stations, their lunar and martian habitats and human exploratory vessels. Someone must provide those with electronic and data systems and to assist in the system’s designs. IDI will be there.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

www.immortdata.net for our website. We also have a Facebook public Facebook group at www.facebook.com/ImmortalDataInc

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


The Future Is Now: Dale Amon of Immortal Data 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.

The Future Is Now: Jeremiah Robison of Cionic On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up…

The Future Is Now: Jeremiah Robison of Cionic On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Find something you care deeply about: Building a startup is difficult and you’ll have a lot of ups and downs. However, if you’re passionate and believe in your mission, you can power through. This is especially true when you’re in a space as complex as the human body.

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

Jeremiah Robison is the Founder and CEO of Cionic, a company changing the lives of people with mobility differences by helping them move more independently. Since founding Cionic in 2018, Robison is steadfastly working to develop the company’s first offering, the lower leg Neural Sleeve™, via software development, product design, and individual trials. In 2017, Jeremiah and his wife Jacquie founded WAWOS, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit “committed to supporting and celebrating children with Cerebral Palsy and related neuromuscular delays through the application of design and technology.”

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

My daughter has cerebral palsy and I know firsthand the frustrating lack of solutions to help her live an independent life. I thought, “We have reusable rockets and self-driving cars, but people with these disabilities have limited options?” That is why, at Cionic, we believe that if we can build the technology, we can change the lives of people with mobility differences and the lives of their loved ones by helping them move with greater confidence and independence.

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

In 2011, I was CTO of Slide, a social networking company. At this time, we had our own server clusters because it was before hosted solutions were around. We were up against a wall of people who demanded our product, so I ordered $500,000 worth of memory to put in our server. However, it wasn’t going to come in time. The memory was supposed to come on a Friday, so I drove about an hour to get it. Driving back in rush hour with several months of payroll in my trunk, I just kept thinking “please don’t get in an accident, please don’t get in an accident.” Nowadays when you need to scale your servers, you just click a button, but back then, it wasn’t so easy.

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

Predicting movement intent. Our neural clothing uses surface EMG to measure the electrical signal being sent from the brain to the muscles that elicit movement. We have built models on top of this signal that can predict what movement the user intends to perform fractions of a second before they do it. This interface between the brain and machine enables more precise and natural augmentation of movement.

Programmable stimulation array. With our wearable stimulation array we can programmably steer stimulation current to different muscles, eliciting a wide range of precise movements not possible with current fixed electrode systems.

Combining these two technologies into a discreet garment that can analyze, predict, and augment human movement in realtime is the real breakthrough that we hope can improve mobility for individuals living with stroke, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s.

How do you think this might change the world?

We talk about how disability means not being able to do something. However, technology has always bridged this gap for people. We’re in what I call “the information age,” which is all about how you can access information. I like to think about how information can bridge the gap so much that disability isn’t even a word anymore because this technology will be accessible to everyone. Augmentation will be normalized as a human function and that’s how Cionic’s technology can change the world.

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

In late 2019, we had our first sensing+stimulation prototype running on body. Sofia was on break from school and we had her in the office testing out gait stimulation. I remember the holiday music playing in the background as we tested stimulation parameters on each individual muscle while she walked on the treadmill. Late in the day we tried for a “moonshot” stimulating all four major muscle groups of her left leg in coordination with her gait cycle. It was incredible, like watching a wholly different person. Her crouch gait was gone, and she was walking smoothly and confidently. Analyzing the before and after, her gait improved an amazing 70 percent. It’s this synthesis of a million things that have to go right, but when it does, it’s so transformative.

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

For us, it begins with picking a disorder that a large population suffers with, which is why we often work with stroke patients. In addition to showing that our technology works, we also need to make it a price point where everyone can afford it and/or get reimbursed by insurance companies. To do this, we begin with the data to show the efficacy, which will help us receive advocacy from clinicians. From here, we need to get the product to the users themselves and work through regulatory clearance and then reimbursement. It will take some time, but it’s worth the wait.

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

We haven’t been trying to publicize it yet. The reason being that we want concrete data before publicizing our technology. We don’t want to provide false hope, which is why we want the technology itself to leave us room to improve before we offer a product to the 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?

Both my mother and father. Growing up, I was constantly in my mom’s physical therapy clinic and with my dad who at the time built supercomputers. My mom worked with people who suffered from spinal injuries and my dad worked in the hardware space. At an early age, I became interested in their work and wouldn’t have gotten to where I am today without them. I live every day trying to live up to the example they provided me and think I’m doing them proud.

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

Ever since we received our daughter’s diagnosis, I’ve wanted to help give back to other families who have children with cerebral palsy, or have it themselves. In 2018, my wife and I founded WAWOS, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that makes walker capes for children with CP and funds recreational activities for children with disabilities. Our goal is that every person who is diagnosed with cerebral palsy or another disability that requires them to use a walker, wheelchair or crutches, that one of our capes will accompany them, so they know that they are a superhero.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why.

  1. Find something you care deeply about: Building a startup is difficult and you’ll have a lot of ups and downs. However, if you’re passionate and believe in your mission, you can power through. This is especially true when you’re in a space as complex as the human body.
  2. Embrace regulations from the beginning: Many technology companies have tried to delay or skirt regulation. The FDA is not trying to stifle innovation, they are there to make sure that innovation gets to customers safely. Embrace the relationship with your regulators, set up your processes early, and make it part of your culture. It is nearly impossible to bolt it on later.
  3. Building wearables is hard: Electronics don’t like to be bent or get wet and don’t live seamlessly within clothing. You need to think about solving these challenges first. How do you design a product for manufacturing knowing that the clothing will live on the human body first? I’ve had many products in the past that I was proud of, however, I wasn’t prepared for all the scenarios that came my way. This is why we have a lot of product letdowns within the wearable space.
  4. Surround yourself with people you want to spend all day with: I’ve been lucky to bring people with me from past jobs that I knew worked well with me. Knowing this from the start is important in creating a successful company.
  5. Find a partner in your life who can balance you out: When I met my wife, I was in the office three or more nights a week. These all nighters were long, and she had a lot of people say, “Why would you date someone like that?” Even with people making these comments, she had the same work ethic as me and was always supportive. Having this support and encouragement was great and I wouldn’t have been able to make these commitments without a life partner like her.

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

“Stay humble, stay working.” I like this quote because I know a lot of people whose success went to their head. When this happens, you’re not doing the work for the right reasons. You need to keep your humility because once you lose it, it prevents you from really doing something extraordinary.

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 🙂

At some point in the future, every item of clothing we wear will be embedded with technology that’s intelligent and assistive. It goes beyond Siri. This technology will have to fundamentally change how healthcare and our machinery is run. I know that solving these real world problems for individuals in the most need is the best start toward working on the augmented human. Cionic is the best bet you can make. We aren’t invasive, we are scalable and have a platform that other entities can build on top of.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Twitter: https://twitter.com/cionicwear

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cionicwear/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/cionic/

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


The Future Is Now: Jeremiah Robison of Cionic 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.

Brand Makeovers: Mark Miller of Historic Agency On The 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and…

Brand Makeovers: Mark Miller of Historic Agency On The 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

We tend to recommend companies rebrand when there’s a misalignment between messaging and culture. When these things are misaligned, it causes confusion for a customer, and they don’t want to buy.

As part of our series about “Brand Makeovers” I had the pleasure to interview Mark Miller.

Mark Miller is co-founder of Historic Agency where he leads product strategy, marketing transformation, and brand. He’s rebranded nearly 100 organizations and also specializes in all things strategy including brand, product, and marketing. Mark is also co-author of “Culture Built My Brand”.

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 went to school for film, and after directing a couple of student shorts I realized it wasn’t for me.

After graduation, I got into film and video production. It’s great, but it doesn’t make as much money as marketing does. You end up spending countless hours for very little results when it comes to video. A 60-second commercial could take two days to shoot, hundreds of thousands of dollars, countless hours, and you have 60 seconds to show for it.

I started getting into marketing and branding because of client needs and really fell in love with branding.

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?

Early in my career, I was put in charge of internal marketing and communications for a large organization. I had to secure a web development company to build an internal app, and it cost $40,000 to build this little thing that we needed. I was able to sell people on the idea. However, I failed to actually do my due diligence on the company that did the development. So, we paid them $40,000 and got nothing out of it.

The lesson I learned is, one, it’s important to do your homework, and two, we’re always going to make mistakes. Generally, they’re not going to be as bad as we think — they’re not going to be the $40,000 mistake — and it’s truly what you learn from it and how you pick up and move on that matters.

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 tipping point was confidence. As with most creative people, I’m probably insecure in myriad ways.

Knowing that you have the ability to solve the problem, or even just find the solution is a major shift. You don’t have to know the answer to the question, but you have to have the confidence in yourself that you do know what you’re talking about. You can steward the relationship with the client, and you can help them find the answer.

You don’t need to know everything in the world. You don’t even have to be the best at what you’re selling, doing or trying to market. Just to know that you have the confidence in yourself to help your client find the right answers and succeed is enough for that client to say yes, or for the project to go well, or for you to get that opportunity.

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

One of our most exciting new projects is the launch of our new book, “Culture Built My Brand”. The book talks about how company culture is really the driving force behind successful brands and is a culmination of our teams work with countless brands.

We also just finished a client project, which was merging two of the largest health information exchanges (HIEs) in the Southwest, helping them work on mission, vision, values and their culture. As we say in the book, we used that (culture) to create their new brand, naming and overall rollout.

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

Often when it comes to addressing burnout, the common thought is we just need rest. But what gets left out of the conversation is how you get refueled.

Rest is not the same thing as refueling. Rest is a place to let your guard down, to shut off all the burdens and responsibilities that we have and to actually rest. Refueling is the thing that keeps your creativity, strategy, and energy going. You’ve got to figure out what it is that energizes you. Sometimes that isn’t rest.

Sometimes it’s having a hobby, like cocktails or woodworking or gardening. For creative people in the marketing field, a lot of times finding other mediums that you normally would never work in are great for refueling so you don’t burn out.

People in marketing are constantly having to come up with new ideas. We are burning creative energy all the time — and that has to be refueled to avoid burnout.

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 getting your customers or your audience to buy into your “why” — who you are, why you exist, and all the things that make up your brand that are separate from your product.

To use Apple as an example, their approach to design, to simplicity, to privacy — those are the things that aren’t really tangible. They show up in products and in services, but they’re bigger reasons that people point to as why they’re Apple loyalists.

The same can be said of Patagonia. It isn’t necessarily that they make the best bags, because you could argue North Face’s Summit backpack, which has been to the summit of Mount Everest multiple times, is the best bag. But you buy into Patagonia because of the other things. That’s the brand side.

The product marketing side is what we would traditionally think of as marketing. What is the value? What are the features? How is this product going to change my life?

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?

Investing in the brand is important because it raises all ships in the harbor. Recently, some research came out that indicated companies that have stronger brands generally will spend less on marketing, compared to their competitors who don’t invest in brand.

With major brands like Apple and Google locking down retargeting and tracking — and likely email lead acquisition and tracking credit card purchase information — it will be imperative to invest in your brand so that your customers want a direct relationship with you as a company instead of just defaulting to all these gates where they know you’re never going to get their information, and they can live in this little privacy bubble.

You want them to seek you out, and then you want them to engage with your brand. You want them to sign up with a real email address and to follow you on social. That is a huge opportunity and a huge reason companies need to invest in brand today.

Let’s now talk about rebranding. What are a few reasons why a company would consider rebranding?

Often companies rebrand because they see symptoms of a larger problem: our logo is outdated, our website isn’t functioning, our social media is flat.

In our book, “Culture Built My Brand,” we point to those root causes. We identify six patterns we see within top-performing brands, whether they realize it or not, and how they’ve leveraged their company culture to make sure the brand stays successful and on message.

We tend to recommend companies rebrand when there’s a misalignment between messaging and culture. When these things are misaligned, it causes confusion for a customer, and they don’t want to buy.

For instance, we’re talking to a really great nonprofit that helps feed homeless people and food-insecure people. Though they’ve been around for years and provide this year-round, most people think they’re only open around Thanksgiving. They have a brand problem, which is rooted in misalignment within their culture, which is misaligned with their mission, which is misaligned with their visual assets.

Are there downsides of rebranding? Are there companies that you would advise against doing a “Brand Makeover”? Why?

The downside to rebranding is when you don’t have a clear process for what that rebrand is, regardless of whether you’re doing it with a partner or handling it internally. When you think, “We just need to change the logo,” and that’s what you’re calling a rebrand, but you haven’t fixed culture issues that are why that logo doesn’t work, you’re going to have the same problems with new tactics. A sound process is key.

The other reason companies might not need a rebrand is that they have everything they need but don’t have the right people in the right places. The functional, relational trust is something that we talk a lot about.

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.

At Historic Agency, we actually refer to brand as the sum of five parts. These include:

  1. Culture (of course): who you are. The convictions driving your mission, the values holding your organization together, and the behaviors defining your brand.
  2. Story: what you say and how you communicate who you are to your audience. It’s the explicit articulation of your brand, its mission, and its values.
  3. Service and product: simply put, this is the product or service you sell.
  4. Experience: how you feel. This includes the physical or digital touchpoints you offer, as well as how your people (internal and external) feel about their experience, which determines whether they’ll keep engaging.
  5. Identity: how you look. The aesthetic qualities of your brand that your audience sees first — your logo, website, visual identity, and design.

These five pillars combine to create your brand promise and communicate to your audience what to expect from your brand no matter how they might connect with you. These are the pillars through which you build trust and deliver consistency. When trust is achieved, it retains customers, builds brand believers, and creates advocates who generate more buzz for your brand than any traditional marketing strategy ever could.

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?

Chobani is an example of a great rebrand. Their CEO calls himself the anti-CEO because he cares for his people. The modernized vintage aesthetic they’ve cultivated through visuals create this feeling, no matter what age you are, of some nostalgia. Nostalgia for a slower time where family and friends mattered. Where we weren’t inundated with messages on our phone, looking at everything all the time.

That value they place on people comes through in their design, even though it’s subliminal. It creates this emotion they value as an organization.

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 mission is to build stronger communities by helping brands do more good. A movement for us is like what brands like Chobani or Gravity Payments are doing — they’re putting people first. And they’re truly living that.

Whether they’re doing this through DEI work or addressing homelessness, community health care, education or income inequality, we found that brands have more to do with the way we live than causes do. You can have your greatest nonprofit that does the greatest work, but at the end of the day, Apple and Amazon dictate how you live more than whatever movement you think you’re a part of.

So for us as an organization, the movement we want to see is being able to take our belief that an intentional culture, created through branding, can help reshape communities at scale. If we’re taking these ideas of equality or justice and incorporating that into our brand strategies for companies, I think we’ll see change happen at a scale that isn’t happening now.

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

“You’ll think of something.” My wife gave me a banner during COVID with that quote printed on it.

It goes back to my earlier comment, having the confidence in yourself to believe that you can do what is necessary versus knowing it ahead of time. You’ll think of something. You’ll figure it out. Whether it’s something like signing a client and taking on a challenge that might be bigger than we anticipated or something unprecedented happens, like COVID. No matter what, you’ll think of something.

How can our readers follow you online?

Either on LinkedIn or at Historic Agency.

Thank you so much for these excellent insights! We wish you continued success in your work.


Brand Makeovers: Mark Miller of Historic Agency 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.

The Future Is Now: Sharon Bordas of Mindshow On How Their Technological Innovations Will Shake Up…

The Future Is Now: Sharon Bordas of Mindshow On How Their Technological Innovations Will Shake Up The Entertainment Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Don’t be afraid to do hard things. Making a low budget movie with two movie stars on a small budget is really hard. Building a start up with a remote staff and an unproven pipeline is super challenging. Making 12 minutes of animation in 8 weeks (yes we just did that here at Mindshow) is practically impossible. But the wins are SO much bigger when you do cool and unexpected things.

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

Sharon Bordas is a strategic and entrepreneurial entertainment executive, known for leading teams in the creation of high quality product with strong commercial appeal. In her current role as President of Mindshow she is building a cutting edge CG animation studio based on proprietary tech that is transforming transforms the traditional animation pipeline. Since joining the company in 2019, Bordas has led Mindshow into the content business, producing animated and mixed media series for Mattel, Netflix and Viacom.

In her previous role as Vice President of Scripted Series Programming at Lifetime, Bordas had the privilege of working on the Netflix original series YOU from Executive Producers Greg Berlanti and Sera Gamble and the Peabody award winning series UNREAL from Sarah Gertrude Shapiro and Stacy Rukeyser.

Prior to joining Lifetime, Bordas served as Executive Vice President, Production and& Development at VC backed independent content studio Mar Vista Entertainment. As a founding member of the senior executive team, she was responsible for building a pipeline to support the development, financing, production, delivery and worldwide distribution of a slate of over thirtyforty film and television projects per year.

Television clients included Lifetime, Hallmark, Syfy, TF1, Disney, Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu. Feature films produced during her tenure at Mar Vista premiered at Sundance, SXSW, Bentonville and the LA Film Festival. Her most unique creative achievement during her time at Mar Vista was ultimate Lifetime movie and cultural phenomenon A Deadly Adoption starring Will Ferrell and Kristin Wiig.

Bordas is a produced and published writer who graduated from the USC Master of Professional Writing Program.

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

Although I’ve been a fan of CG animation since the day I saw the first Toy Story movie, I never could have imagined that I would end up in the animation business. I didn’t even know it was possible. But that’s the magic of Mindshow.

I began my career as a writer of episodic television, which through a surprising turn of events led to me producing movies and building a VC backed independent content studio called Mar Vista Entertainment. I had been a storyteller for a long time, but what I didn’t realize until I got the opportunity at Mar Vista was that I was also an entrepreneur. I liked the business side of the business. I liked learning new things and taking on impossible challenges. And I really liked leading a team of smart people and figuring out how to do things no one had ever done before.

When it was time for me to leave Mar Vista, I decided to take an opportunity to go work in a more corporate environment at A&E Networks as a series executive for Lifetime. I made amazing shows and worked with some really fantastic people, but I quickly realized that I had landed in the wrong room. The institutional challenges were confusing to me and the culture wasn’t a match. I missed being a part of a small nimble team who said yes to change. So when my contract at Lifetime came to an end, I knew I needed a change. That’s when I met Gil Baron, CEO of Mindshow.

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

I am a person with a lot of fantastic stories, but that first meeting at Mindshow might be the most impactful on my career. A showrunner I had worked with at Lifetime knew I was looking for my next adventure and asked me to do her a favor and a take a meeting with a friend who was running a VR based improv comedy company and looking for a creative executive to help build out a studio. I don’t really understand what they are doing, she said, but they are smart and sound like you.

Now I will admit, working in VR based improv comedy sounded fairly painful to me at the time, but I decided to go check it out. When the guys at Mindshow showed me a demo of the technology, I felt like I had been struck by lightning, and realized this was way beyond VR. I immediately saw the potential to do something completely new and use the tools they had built for the consumer facing product to make an entirely new kind of series production pipeline. for major studios. I brought in a couple friends I knew from the animation business to check it out, and they verified for me that what I was looking at was magic. If I got it right, it just might revolutionize the industry.

So I said yes to Mindshow.

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

The technology at Mindshow is built on the organizing principle that the process of making animation should be fun, fast and accessibleaffordable. We want to focus on the fun stuff and leave the tedium behind. We use VR, AR, real time engines and our super flexible pipeline to get to a cut faster than anyone else in the business quickly and make good creative decisions fast. We jump into mocap suits and act out our characters. We use cameras in new and interesting ways. We systematize things to be more efficient. We bring people from live action into the space. And our long terms goal is to push the technology forward so not only can we use it to make professional content, we can also bring users directly into the experience and create life changing, brain melting, interactive moments.

How do you think this might change the world?

The technology we are building is super joyful for users. I see people experience that joy every day when they step into Mindshow. I see a future where we bring that experience of interaction with characters and worlds to consumers in a really powerful way. I’m also a big believer in the power of entertainment and storytelling. In these trying times with so much uncertainty and loss, laughter is like oxygen. Any joy we can create in the making and consuming of our content is a meaningful thing to be doing for the world.

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

I honestly don’t watch “Black Mirror” but I can imagine a world where people get lost in the metaverse. Especially when there is so much isolation and fear in the real world. Technological solutions always have an impact on labor, but I think can also create new opportunities. But I tend to be an optimist when it comes to technological advancement.

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

The moment I understood that Mindshow allowed that the concept of time for character performances could exist independently of what the cameras captured and when the cameras ‘recorded’ the scenes was something I’ll never forget. It challenged my view of content creation and really leveraging the concept of a recordable metaverse in a way I’d never experienced before. The idea that I could walk back onto a ‘hot set’ at any time and reshoot with as many cameras as I could load into a scene was mind-blowing. That’s what I held on to as I navigated fundraising and building a very complicated pipeline; that moment where I saw and understood something powerful and transformational.

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

VR is an amazing tool and experience and once headsets are as lightweight as a pair of glasses, everyone will want to use it for a variety of purposes. But wWhat we are building goeswill eventually go beyond linear content creation. A VR and really is t the core it’s about building newfaster and smarteasier ways to make and interact with and control characters and worlds. I think with the right IP, everyone with a phone could and would want to pick up what we are putting down.

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

We are a B to B business right now, so my job is to make my clients happy. It’s a pretty targeted marketing campaign at present. When we go consumer, that will be an entirely new strategy that I can’t wait to attack. Because I know once Once content makers and industry professionals people experience thiswhat this tech and this team can do, they don’t want to leave. Like, I have to kick people out of the demos all the time. It’s just too much fun.

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 current board at Mindshow is hands down the most supportive group of dudes I have ever, ever, ever had the privilege of knowing. The teams at SWaN & Legend and Knollwood(KWI) in particular know just where to point me at just the right moment to keep supporting my growth. It’s been life changing for me, quite honestly, to have their support through these last couple very challenging years of building a start up while navigating a pandemic.

I’ve also been lucky to have a group of female executives who have supported my move into thanimationis entirely new medium. Carrie LeGrand at Mattel and Meghan Hooper White at Viacom come to mind specifically; both knew me from live action and trusted me to deliver what I said I could deliver, even though I was working in an entirely new medium. We all need people who believe in our abilities and are willing to take a calculated risk.

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

I hire amazing people, trust them to do their jobs and treat them well. I also have hired quite a few up and coming directors, actors, producers and writers over the years. A lot of them female. Watching them ascend and build their careers is super gratifying to me.

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

  1. No one is coming. Everyone who has ever worked for me knows that I often quote Hermione Granger with this particular phrase. We all have a tendency to think that someone will come along to save us or help us or tell us what to do. My career started to really take off when my boss at the time said she was going to hire someone above me and instead of feeling defensive that she wasn’t trying to help me I said “no, that’s my job.” And it was. I realized I had been waiting to be chosen and that was a mistake.
  2. No one knows what they are doing. Every time I’ve started a new chapter in my career, I’ve assumed that the grown ups know what they are doing. I assumed when I joined A&E Networks that they had the data to know what the audience wanted to watch and when they wanted to watch it. But there was a lot of gut decision making going on, even at the highest levels. I’ve realized that business is more of an art than a science and that experience was admirable, but not necessarily an indicator of future performance.
  3. You don’t need to know exactly what you want to do when you grow up. I used to worry that I didn’t have a plan. Now I think that’s a strength. I didn’t know I was going to be a producer, but I got the chance to do it and I loved it. This is my first time producing animation and I love it. I had never raised VC money before I joined Mindshow, but I dug in and read everything I could and met really smart people and found it fascinating. If I’d said no because this job wasn’t part of the plan, or I didn’t know what I was doing, I would have missed out. Like, I wouldn’t ever have thought I’d do an interview like this, but here I am!
  4. Don’t be afraid to do hard things. Making a low budget movie with two movie stars on a small budget is really hard. Building a start up with a remote staff and an unproven pipeline is super challenging. Making 12 minutes of animation in 8 weeks (yes we just did that here at Mindshow) is practically impossible. But the wins are SO much bigger when you do cool and unexpected things.
  5. Hydrate. Seriously. It’s helpful.

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 honestly think my gift is hiring people with little to no actual experience to do something they have never done and have it change their lives. My movement would be one against literal prior qualifications. I’m the anti resume! Look for smart, interesting people and don’t be afraid of failure. Just because you haven’t done it, doesn’t mean shouldn’t do it. I’ve seen that over and over again and think it’s magical to see people who are hungry to learn do the unexpected and thrive.

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

I’m going to quote my kid Georgiana Bordas Hill who once said to me: “Mommy, life is like a Rrubik’s Ccube with no algorithm.” And she’s right. We solve one side and then we just keep turning and turning, trying to solve the puzzle, and then we start all over again. I think about it all the time. And how somehow she is smarter than I am already at 12 years old. This whole girls in STEM education thing is working out!

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 🙂

Well, from what I’ve seen from VC’s so far is that most of them want what they can’t have, so I’d like to say that this round is closed and you can’t come in! But I’d also like to say that you should keep an eye on Mindshow infor our next round because we are wicked smart, movinglightning fast and using a solid business case of experts at using our tech to solve problems and make creating content in a big, big industry that is pulling in some very excitingattractive valuations. as a means to build unique tech that will be mission aligned with the metaverse and unicorn everyone’s faces off! And I’ll also say this… honestly, we are having a good time doing it,building the future so, like like… you know…, call me. Also IP, Metaverse, Frontier Tech, NFT’s, SPAC, IPO, Unicorn, Pony.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I’m on Linkedin for my professional interactions.

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

Thanks for asking!


The Future Is Now: Sharon Bordas of Mindshow On How Their Technological Innovations Will Shake Up… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Brand Makeovers: Ted Vaughn of Historic Agency On The 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and…

Brand Makeovers: Ted Vaughn of Historic Agency On The 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

You need to integrate your brand values into your people’s behavior. Too often, we have core values and brand values and brand narrative that exists completely divorced from management supervision and standards of accountability for behavior. Then we wonder why we get Enrons. This is why we wrote, “Culture Built My Brand”. You’ve got to figure out how to integrate your brand values into your people management. Otherwise, you’re mitigating success at best.

As part of our series about “Brand Makeovers” I had the pleasure to interview Ted Vaughn.

Ted Vaughn is co-founder of Historic Agency where he leads client transformation and specializes in executive leadership, brand development, and strategic clarity. Ted has served hundreds of for-profit and nonprofit brands. His passion is to serve senior leaders by helping them align everything they do to build their brand from the inside out. Ted is also the co-author of “Culture Built My Brand”.

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?

Throughout my entire career, no matter where I worked, I was having brand and marketing conversations without ever knowing I was having brand and marketing conversations.

When I took an executive director role overseeing a group that involved marketing and communications, it connected the dots. That team helped me understand all of the things that I was passionate about and interested in and gave it language: brand strategy, brand theory, the way it connects to marketing.

That’s what set me on the course to becoming passionate about the topic of brand. For me, it’s more about brand strategy and less about marketing. It’s more about how the true north of any organization fits into the strategy and less about the marketing of their specific products or services.

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?

Early in my branding career, I worked with a client where all correct answers were there for their rebrand. I ran forward with the rebrand, knowing that we had the right logo and marketing strategy. But we failed to get buy-in and bring senior leadership into the conversation, and everything started to fall apart. We thought that because they trusted us and we had the right answers, they’d just adopt every idea we had, but it was a lead balloon.

To this day, it was a failure to launch. Not because it was wrong, but because we didn’t get buy-in and have senior leadership understand the process. That will forever be a mistake I will not repeat.

This was before Historic Agency. But in many ways, this experience created the primary value that we live by now, which is: the process is the product.

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?

It goes right back to the recent transition my business partner (Mark) and I made at Historic Agency. We doubled down on what we are best at and let our organization be aligned around it, which, ultimately, is culture and strategy.

We wrote a book, “Culture Built My Brand,” because we’re passionate about healthy culture and the fruit it provides any brand in any vertical or industry. When we as an agency took our own medicine, it was a game-changer.

Understanding what you’re good at and embracing it can empower you to cross chasms you never thought possible.

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

Working on and then launching our new book has been really exciting. The idea that culture and strategy are inextricably linked is at the heart of this book and it was a fun exercise to take what we do day in and day out and put words to it. We believe a strong culture breeds a healthy brand, and we wanted to share how organizations can create that through the process and techniques we use.

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

You need self-awareness. I meet many people who have ambition, drive and hustle, but they fail to understand who they are — their personality and their liabilities. Those things they live blind to might not be a big deal when they’re 17 or 18, but they become bigger and bigger barriers to growth and success as one grows older.

In marketing, especially, it’s about how you communicate and inspire confidence (or don’t inspire confidence) in your clients. If you’re lacking self-awareness and you’re lacking understanding about your blind spots and what you’re good or bad at, it becomes a real barrier to growth, success and, frankly, health. You end up making mistakes that a more self-aware person wouldn’t make.

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?

I’ve always looked at brand marketing as the tide that raises all other ships. Many organizations spend a lot of effort marketing services or products when they really have brand gaps. If they were to spend time addressing their brand, it would end up fixing other issues on the product or service side.

Brand is often a more subtle psychological game. A lot of people are absolute fans of brands like Patagonia and Apple, but they don’t necessarily know why, nor do they actually process that on a regular basis. They are attracted to the brand in a very subtle psychological way, which is why they purchase their products and read their catalogs and get their emails.

There’s a real covert, below-the-surface strategy to brand marketing. There’s a much more overt above-the-ground strategy involved in product marketing.

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?

If you get brand right, you can survive a product failure here or there. You can survive a website failure. You can survive some narrative issues because you have a brand that’s clear and healthy. It’s a brand that’s able to withstand the little cracks.

If you don’t have a healthy brand, those little cracks can sink the whole ship. The crack becomes a tipping point for other things.

We wrote our book because the single greatest investment in any brand begins and ends with culture. Investing in brand is ultimately investing in your organization’s engine so it has the capacity to carry you anywhere, even if you get a flat tire along the way.

Let’s now talk about rebranding. What are a few reasons why a company would consider rebranding?

It’s really important to ask the question behind the question: What does our brand need? It’s not usually a complete rebrand, but it’s repositioning or tweaking an element of the brand.

Too often, we lack subtlety and fine brushstrokes when we talk about brand and brand strategy, and it results in misguided scopes of work, mistakes or assumptions that aren’t healthy. Assumptions like, “We’ll change our logo. It’ll fix everything.” When maybe the last thing you need to worry about is your logo because you have a product problem or a culture problem.

That’s why we have the five pillars of brand because, depending on the problem in one or more of the pillars, it might not be a rebrand. It might be some more subtle repositioning. That ends up saving you money and maximizing your effort.

Are there downsides of rebranding? Are there companies that you would advise against doing a “Brand Makeover”? Why?

There are three specific risks highlighted in any rebrand. Number one, if your culture is broken — because you don’t have a clear why, or you’ve got people in the wrong seats, or you’ve got management issues or toxic leadership — a rebrand is not going to help you. A rebrand is essentially going to put fancy wrapping paper on a box of air. Thinking a rebrand will fix culture is a problem. That’s not a reason to rebrand.

Second, if you have a rebrand with all the right answers and all the right things, but you fail to roll it out and launch in an effective way, you might as well have not rebranded. Oftentimes, especially in the nonprofit sector, the failure is on communication, rollout and launch. There’s an assumption that people will get it or like it, but there has to be context given to it.

You’ve got to have a launch strategy for any rebrand. If you don’t, it’s going to fall flat.

The third thing is that there are times where you underestimate brand awareness, brand affinity or brand loyalty. You think that, because you have loyalty or awareness, everybody will love it and go with you if you rebrand. That’s a death blow if you don’t do the research to understand what the audience you serve actually thinks about your existing brand.

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. You need to integrate your brand values into your people’s behavior. Too often, we have core values and brand values and brand narrative that exists completely divorced from management supervision and standards of accountability for behavior. Then we wonder why we get Enrons. This is why we wrote, “Culture Built My Brand”. You’ve got to figure out how to integrate your brand values into your people management. Otherwise, you’re mitigating success at best.
  2. You need story (we refer to this as “lore” in the book). I’m not talking about marketing narrative, as that can change frequently. If your internal narrative and key stakeholders — whether they’re donors or your core consumer — aren’t clear on why you exist, that lack of clarity is going to kill you at some point. Assessing internal language is crucial. If you get that right, external marketing language is not difficult, but often brands go wrong in marketing because they forget who they are and what they stand for.
  3. The third is product innovation. One of the biggest barriers we see with clients is a failure to innovate. Innovation is a proactive strategy for improving things to better serve your audience. Innovating intentionally and proactively, taking appropriate risks, and not just waiting for crisis to drive innovation is a key component of success.
  4. Fourth is experience. It’s really important your physical experience aligns with your digital experience. If they’re not in sync, you’ve got brand gaps. There’s a reason Apple’s physical experience is so aligned with its digital experience. It’s not a coincidence. It’s very intentional, which just continues to deliver on its brand promise.
  5. Finally, there’s identity. It’s important to audit all your print and digital collateral every 12 months or so. It’s amazing how those grow antiquated or become violators of brand standards. There are many ways we begin to dilute our brands in how we communicate, and because we’re insiders, we just stop seeing it. We don’t see that the old logo is still in use in 25% of our print collateral until we audit all our assets.

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?

The best example recently is Gucci. I remember being a kid and thinking Gucci was only for this elite group of Upper East Side folks. Now my 17-year-old daughter wants Gucci because her favorite hip-hop artist loves Gucci. The way they went from this sleek, wealthy brand to a more Instagram-worthy, progressive, urban brand is a killer study in how to rebrand. They didn’t just modify the logo, they reinvented themselves from the inside out as a company, and it worked.

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 I think about movement and brand, the more we can see Fortune 50 companies demonstrate cause for human good as a core driver of why they exist, the better. I don’t mean in a small team marketing way, but in a way that demonstrates true brand citizenship. Then we begin to see that ripple down and put other brands under pressure to do the same.

If the largest nonprofits improve their messaging in a way that compels greater engagement and models new ways to build a tribe of advocates, that can change the world. If we get that right, we can help all the other nonprofit brands at a smaller scale learn from them. Ironically, in the nonprofit space, the small brands often innovate and get that right. The larger brands are the most backward until they hit such a pain point they have to change.

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

Winston Churchill said, “We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.”

We often build a brand, and if we don’t do it thinking holistically about culture, we’re surprised when, several years later, we have a brand that has shaped us in ways we might not like.

I think I can speak to that firsthand at Historic Agency. We built something, but we didn’t build it with our eyes open. We didn’t build it as intentionally as we should have. Then, three years later, we realized that it built us in a way that we weren’t happy with. So we had to tear down some buildings, if you will, and rebuild. It’s really important to build stuff with your eyes wide open and assess and align on a routine basis. Brand isn’t one-and-done. Brand is an evolving process you have to revisit regularly.

How can our readers follow you online?

On LinkedIn or on our website, HistoricAgency.com.

Thank you so much for these excellent insights! We wish you continued success in your work.


Brand Makeovers: Ted Vaughn of Historic Agency 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.

Wisdom From The Women Leading The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries, With Lauren Koester of ForeVR…

Wisdom From The Women Leading The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries, With Lauren Koester of ForeVR Games

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

With the incredible freedom of movement afforded by VR, it is also important to design consciously and inclusively for all levels of mobility. I try to keep in the back of my mind a tenant I actually read on a sticker during my time at Mixer/Xbox: if you aren’t actively including, you are actively excluding. At ForeVR Games, we work with ​​Cathy Bodine (Associate Professor, Director, Center for Inclusive Design and Engineering) as an advisor and made sure that players could bowl seated, any throw style, one handed, and even lying down.

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 Lauren Koester.

Lauren Koester is Senior Director of Marketing at ForeVR Games. In this role, she oversees all PR, community and marketing efforts as the company grows its game portfolio. A senior marketer passionate about building gaming communities and elevating VR marketing, Koester’s previous experience includes roles at Amazon, Microsoft, Xbox and Unity Technologies.

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 outside of Atlanta and as a kid I tried out everything. I was really lucky that my parents supported my quest to try everything from tap dancing to soccer to acting. When I was 11, I sang the National Anthem at an Atlanta Braves game solo! I had a creative and empowering support system that definitely prepared me for a future of wearing many hats and commanding an audience. I was raised to be vocal and stand up for myself, which absolutely prepared me for my existence as a woman in gaming.

I went to school for Broadcast Journalism because I wanted to be a sports reporter, apparently just my first foray into a male dominated industry. Through internships and college jobs, I ended up in my first full time job on the other side of the country in Los Angeles as a Sales Assistant at CBS Radio. Although my career can seem a little random, it has been a series of focusing on a role, finding something I’m really passionate about and then expanding on that thing and sometimes that is at the same company sometimes it is externally.

From radio I moved to digital radio which then transitioned into digital media and then mobile ads to mobile gaming and then to Unity Technologies! To this day, Unity gives me the most street cred in the community. I used to work closely with the evangelism team and do talks at Unites and Unity Dev Days about Unity Ads and Analytics, best practices, how to be successful, topics along those lines.

Instead of business cards I decided to have a chibi cartoon of myself made holding a cellphone with my contact information and printed on a sticker. At the last in person Game Developers Conference (GDC), a friend captured one of those stickers in the wild. After my time at Unity, I worked briefly on a game tech at Amazon called GameOn and then I led marketing at Mixer through the Ninja acquisition until, unfortunately, the service was shut down. Working on two products that were ultimately shutdown back-to-back after two year stints was rough, but it gave me the opportunity to consult which led me to opportunities in VR. When I was considering accepting the role at ForeVR, my friend who made the introduction joked, “you might’ve marketed the most VR games of all time.”

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

I have always loved anime so for me the ultimate VR experience is something fully immersive akin to the world of “Ainkrad” in Sword Art Online (SAO). There is a special feeling when you put someone in a VR game for the first time and they try to touch their surroundings and then you connect them into multiplayer to play with a friend or even a stranger and you feel the presence of someone who could be thousands of miles away. That’s magic.

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

One story that I learned the most from happened before my time in the VR industry, prior to graduating college. At the time, I was on my quest to be a sports reporter. I was a beat reporter covering the local NHL team and I had a press pass and was doing post-game interviews with the rest of the reporters. The team captain came in, he hadn’t been on the ice much, he had a pretty lackluster game and I was actually focused on a player piece for someone who hadn’t come back to the equipment room yet, so I was standing off to the side with three other (male) reporters. I ended up behind the shot in the night broadcast. I got pulled into the press office the next game and told that I was there for a reason, not to socialize. None of the male reporters were spoken to. But as a female reporter, I needed to pretend to be getting quotes so that I don’t appear unprofessional? How is that fair? It’s not. But that’s how it was. My learning from that incident was not that I should give up or that I should fight the system, but that sometimes things will be harder for me because I have put myself in a situation where I’m in the minority. I am going to be conscious of myself when I am in these situations because I have things to get done and I don’t need to waste my time on nonsense. However, I will absolutely voice my concerns and ensure that I have the right motivating evidence and information to have the right conversation to actually spur change. It’s always easier said than done.

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 had a recent hiccup, with our last Atlantis alley update of ForeVR Bowl!

To set the scene, it was around 6pm the night before our update was supposed to be featured by Oculus and we were finalizing the store page and assets and submitting everything for review. I had our marketing materials and assets scheduled to go live, all of our content creators were under embargo with the new content, everything was timed to perfection. Myself, our Chief Creative Officer, and our CTO were all dialed into a Google Meet as we went through the final steps of the submission process for review when I heard: “Ooops.” Somehow in the submission process an error prompt resulted in the update going live roughly 18 hours earlier than scheduled. My meticulously planned and timed tease of content and ‘exclusive first look’ all rendered out of date. I decided to have some fun with it and made a TikTok which ended up kicking off some fun account virality that was an unexpected hit: Link to TikTok. I’ve found that our community really resonates with the human side of our business, so my takeaway from something like this is to just own it and have fun with it. While we absolutely had a post-mortem sync and escalated the issue to Oculus to ensure it doesn’t happen again, ultimately there’s no need to beat yourself up when these things happen.

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

We are always working on updates to ForeVR Bowl, we have a new Versus Multiplayer mode that lets players play for one side each week, asking classic questions like: Batman vs. Superman? Cats vs. Dogs? Hotdogs vs. Hamburgers? The winning side gets a prize. We also have a brand new Brooklyn coffee shop themed lane, launching September 9th. We’re also a part of the VAL Summer Games. We have a few more updates planned throughout the end of the year for ForeVR Bowl and another game launching later this year.

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?

  • VR is welcoming a cohort of non-gamers. Somehow, VR has become a non-gamer+ middle ground, specifically with the introduction of the Oculus Quest. Now that VR no longer requires an expensive gaming PC, it’s much more accessible to and easy to get into the system. But in addition, I have found that amongst our players and even my family members, the people that gravitate towards VR are often not those that would ever refer to themselves as a “gamer”. They might enjoy mobile games, but they likely don’t own a console. I’ve also noticed most people are very reluctant to try VR, but once coaxed into it they want to try it again. This is where it’s often the decidedly non-gamer who is captivated.
  • Streaming in VR is becoming easier and flashier. Another way to grow the platform is to make it easier for streamers and content creators to adopt and use. With tools like LIV making it very easy to stream yourself inside the game (it allows you to create a green screen effect of your person in the game, instead of the avatar), the content can turn out really cool. The tools for streaming are still far superior for PCVR (ability to see chat, use Discord audio reliably) but you are then wired to your PC. But Oculus seems to be adding features that may make chat viewing possible so that you can play untethered, but I recommend investing in battery extenders.

Since the launch of ForeVR Games, one of my goals has been to make content creators an integral part of our community. Our upcoming new bowling lane in ForeVR Bowl is a coffee shop and we’ve asked our creators to make 11×17 “gig posters” that we can have stuck on the walls throughout the hall to give it that lived-in, coffee shop vibe. I’d love to take it one step further in our roadmap to build in tools that allow streamers to interact with their chat, such as allowing Twitch chat to choose their bowling ball arsenal or grant a gutter avoider ball in Pro Mode.

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?

  • It’s difficult to “police” presence. The element of physical presence in VR can add an extra dimension (literally) of engagement with other players. For example, if I’m playing a PC game and another player decides to come over and do the running man (or worse) on top of my character, it’s annoying. In VR, if another player comes over and stands on top of me or gets “in my face”, it’s not only annoying, it can truly feel upsetting and unsafe. I recently had an experience myself in a free-to-play game where I experienced what would be considered sexual assault in the real world. There is no way to sugar coat it. In a multi-player situation, I was the only female identified player, and I was being harassed by multiple players in various forms. It took about six “clicks” to get to a screen to report the players as I sat experiencing the abuse while using the reporting tools. One of the female members of the ForeVR Bowl community told me she rarely plays multiplayer VR games without a “chaperone”. It’s important for developers designing games to find ways to not only mute players but make their avatars invisible and unable to interact with a player at a boundary that makes them comfortable. In ForeVR Bowl, we have two icons next to the player’s name that allow you to mute and vanish a player with one ‘click’, however, it’s something we are actively building on because we realized that making the offending party invisible is nice, but the fact that they’re still able to interact with my person is just as hypothetically upsetting. While on the other hand, if I’m in VR with a friend, it’s super fun to be able to give them bunny ears and sneak up behind them and goof around because in that context, presence can be delightful. Oculus has also added an easy to use ‘who’s here’ and ‘report’ feature to their latest multiplayer Software Developer Kit (SDK) and I’ve been in multiple conversations with members of the Oculus/VR community about sharing our learnings and building best practices. It’s a challenging problem but it’s a great one to solve for now, in the current life cycle of VR.
  • Another concern is merging and growing “gaming communities” with “non-traditional gamers.” One of the most exciting things to watch since the launch of ForeVR Bowl has been the growth of the community. We have a passionate and engaged community in-game, on Facebook, on Discord and on Twitter. Our Discord hit two thousand members in our first two weeks the app was live. While we plan to bring ForeVR Bowl to other platforms and have other titles scheduled for release later this year, we have already found a vibrant, uniquely non-traditional gaming community on Oculus Quest that might not be familiar with Discord or more gamer-bred community tools. It will be crucial to VRs growth and emergence to the mainstream to avoid any type of gatekeeping and ensure all players are welcomed and feel supported. With the incredible freedom of movement afforded by VR, it is also important to design consciously and inclusively for all levels of mobility. I try to keep in the back of my mind a tenant I actually read on a sticker during my time at Mixer/Xbox: if you aren’t actively including, you are actively excluding. At ForeVR Games, we work with ​​Cathy Bodine (Associate Professor, Director, Center for Inclusive Design and Engineering) as an advisor and made sure that players could bowl seated, any throw style, one handed, and even lying down.
  • Limitless tracking opportunities. Oculus has recently added support for “hand tracking”, which gives developers the ability to drop the controllers and recognize players hand gestures in VR. At ForeVR Games, we’re making your favorite in real life (IRL) games in VR, so the more access to different tracking options the closer we can replicate those realistic game motions. Where device tracking is limited, companies are making all kinds of devices like shoes, gloves, sensors and even “mind control” neural controllers as add-ons. We are leveraging hand tracking in an upcoming title and while it has unique challenges, it’s exciting to see the veil between reality and virtual becoming thinner.

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?

I actually have a great quote from one of our players that speaks to how the aspect of “presence” applies to VR:

Our social life is mainly online now and it’s nice to be able to chat with friends but actually being able to hang out in VR and chat and play games really help with my mental state. It feels like we’re actually physically there with our friends and that makes coping with what’s going on just a little bit better.”

The ForeVR Games leadership team has held all of our meetings (5 total now) in Horizon Workrooms since its launch (screenshots). Once you get past the novelty of poking your neighbor, staring at your hands and how funny your CCO looks when he’s petting his dog, it’s way more engaging than the standard video call. It’s easy to get distracted, but who doesn’t enjoy a little humor when your coworker drops their pen and suddenly appears with just their eyes to the top of their head levitating in the middle of the table. The screen sharing tools make it possible to conduct business and we’re now trying to coordinate how we can fit our whole team into a Workroom with the size limitations (16 avatars + 38 remote on video) with the goal of getting everyone into the room. Especially as remote work becomes more prevalent, VR can truly bridge that gap that video conferencing doesn’t quite achieve. In fact, since ForeVR Games was founded during the pandemic and did not meet as a team in person until after our first game (ForeVR Bowl) shipped, most of us ‘met’ in game. We all kind of knew what we looked like, how tall we were and even our mannerisms, all because we’d spent so much time together in VR prior to launch.

Outside of replicating the physical office, there are a ton of uses for VR from training athletes to replicating intricate surgeries to a recently launched app (that I purchased but have not yet tried) for learning languages. Most types of simulations can be achieved easily in VR

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

Like any “console”, there are slowly becoming more and more non-gaming apps for VR. Fitness is arguably the largest draw to VR and one of the reasons — anecdotally — a lot of women I know have gotten into the Oculus platform in particular. You can truly work up a sweat, have fun, and you get the added bonus of being removed from the reality of your mortal meatsack. There is also a meditation app that I enjoy called Tripp that I have tried a few times as a wind down after a late night work session before going straight to bed. A good friend and game developer, Theresa Duringer actually used VR and developed her game, Ascension VR to help get over her fear of flying. There’s so much potential for learning, immersion and different experiences, we are only limited by the developers and creators willing to invest resources based on the size of the VR market.

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’m very lucky that I’ve worked with some incredible women in gaming. The companies I’ve worked for have always been committed to diverse hiring practices, with close ties to industry organizations like Women in Gaming and Girls in Tech. At ForeVR Games, there are four awesome ladies on our team in engineering, production and customer service roles.

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

In order to work in gaming you have to be a “gamer” is a big one. I have worked with some great people who make great games and don’t play the game. For certain roles it’s not as important to be ingrained in the community and day-to-day gaming. Additionally, if you’re removed from the inner workings of the game in a business role, you might not be a gamer at all and might be super passionate about HR. This is cool, as long as these people understand gamers and the product.

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. 🙂

If I look at this in the lens of inspiring a movement that would bring the most amount of good to my industry, would be stronger VR moderation best practices and tools. And a path towards shared reporting for gaming platforms/developers so that developers can be wary of other title’s repeat offenders and track patterned behavior.

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 🙂

We don’t even need to have a meal, I just think Bill Murray would really enjoy ForeVR Bowl. I once read he did most of his own bowling in his movie, Kingpin, in the first take. I would really like to get Bill Murray a bowling shirt, an Oculus Quest 2 and a copy of ForeVR Bowl. Selfishly, because — in my head — if he jumps into at least one game of multiplayer and one person posts their mythical story on Reddit about the night they played in multiplayer with Bill Murray — we can just copy and paste our new app listing.

Perhaps I should say I would have lunch with Wes Anderson or Jason Schwartzman because I don’t think Bill Murray is an active social media-er.

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 Lauren Koester of ForeVR… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.