Making Something From Nothing: Jason Brown Of Family Central On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Location, location, location is real. As I shared previously, if you’re going to sell at retail, you need to find a high-volume environment.

As a part of our series called “Making Something From Nothing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jason Brown.

A serial entrepreneur and CEO with four decades of results-driven leadership, Jason Brown transforms startups into multimillion-dollar companies doing business on the global stage.

From e-commerce to brick and mortar, Brown has pioneered omnichannel, direct-to-consumer strategies for some of the world’s leading brands, including Columbia Sportswear, Custom Nutrition Services, Organic To Go, and Persona, a dietary supplement company he sold to Nestlé Health Science two years post-launch.

Over the course of his 40 year career, he’s founded 9 companies and raised more than $200 million in public and private capital across multiple industries including apparel, health and wellness, fast-casual dining, retail food and more — often serving as chairman of the board in addition to his executive duties.

Along with managing thousands of employees and opening hundreds of retail locations, Brown has acquired and invested in over a dozen companies, recruited high-powered board members, introduced established American products to new overseas markets, and built efficient, vertically integrated supply chains to successfully scale operations.

Today, Brown is the Founder and CEO of Family Central, a new web and mobile app that connects, organizes and keeps families safe through life’s ups and downs.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?

I was born in 1957 and raised in Pittsburgh, PA in a traditional Jewish household. We were a family of entrepreneurship, long before the concept of entrepreneurship existed. My parents owned restaurants, a bar, a laundry mat and a package store in their lifetime. When I was 14 years old, we moved to Miami Beach and I graduated from Miami Beach Senior High School. After graduation, I moved to Boulder, CO and started out at the University of Colorado in Boulder. I traveled to Mexico and discovered an incredible Mexican shirt — a jerga. I bought them for $2.50 apiece and brought them back to college. I sold them for $12.50, and they sold out in 5 days. That was the beginning of my first company, Cotton Comfort. I never went back to college and never looked back.

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

“People plan and God laughs.” This life lesson is always in my mind. Every time I come up with an idea, I hire the brightest people to help build the company. At the end, what I had planned in my mind is different than the final product or company that is built.

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

The book, “The One Minute Manager,” by Kenneth Blanchard, Ph.D. and Spencer Johnson, M.D. has made a significant impact on me as an entrepreneur. I weave its teachings into my leadership style and give a copy of the book to all employees, so there’s a mutual understanding of my leadership style up front and how I’d like them to incorporate some of the tips into their style too. This has worked well over the years to keep meetings tight and communication to-the-point, so team members can keep working toward our shared goals.

I also enjoy watching old videos of Steve Jobs talking about brand and brand development. What he shares in the 90s is still very much relevant today as companies clarify their brand and the emotion they want to have with their customers.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. There is no shortage of good ideas out there. Many people have good ideas all the time. But people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. Can you share a few ideas from your experience about how to overcome this challenge?

One thing that’s been at the core of every company I created was passion. It’s incredibly important that your idea is also your passion because it will become a focus in your life. If you don’t have a passionate reason to build something, then you’ll run astray, and you’ll only be in it for the money. What’s more, companies need to be authentic. The creation of a company must be real and come from the team’s heart and soul.

Another idea is to bring in a team sooner rather than later. The faster you build a team, the better your company will be. Hire or ask people to work alongside you in the very earliest stages of development, and make sure these individuals are smarter than you in what they do, so — as a team — you can build out the idea.

Often when people think of a new idea, they dismiss it saying someone else must have thought of it before. How would you recommend that someone go about researching whether or not their idea has already been created?

It doesn’t matter if your idea has already been created. Take Tesla for example. There are multiple car companies manufacturing hybrid and electric cars. It didn’t stop Elon Musk from disrupting the auto industry. It took someone with maniacal focus to build a company. So, take your idea and be passionate about it and make it the best it possibly can be — it will be the best that exists.

For the benefit of our readers, can you outline the steps one has to go through, from when they think of the idea, until it finally lands in a customer’s hands? In particular, we’d love to hear about how to file a patent, how to source a good manufacturer, and how to find a retailer to distribute it.

First things first — hire a lawyer and make sure your URL/domain name is available. Once the name is secured and your URL is available, file for a trademark.

Next, put together a board of advisors that will help guide the company in the earliest stages of development.

In terms of manufacturing, always look to go to the source. You can’t create a successful product unless you are as close to vertically integrated as you can be. However, in the early stages, it doesn’t matter how much it costs to manufacture the product. I’ve taken a cue from, Les Wexler, founder of Bath & Body Works, Inc. (formerly Limited Brands). If you see a dress and think it’s going to sell, buy as many as you can at retail price. Add them to your store at the price you can manufacturer them to see how fast they sell. If they sell immediately, you know you can manufacture them in volume and make a profit.

Location, location, location is a real part of retail. If you build it, they will come isn’t true. You need to put it in the way of customers. Digitally, if you’re going to sell a product — Amazon is most likely the channel of distribution. If you’re going to sell at retail, you need to find a high-volume environment.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started Leading My Company” and why?

  1. Growth consumes cash. Entrepreneurs always think when they sell more, they’ll have more cash flow. But, what happens is that they have to buy more in advance and the lead time of manufacturing gets greater, so they end up needing more cash to service that growth. This has happened at every company I’ve started.
  2. Agencies are better at selling than they are at implementing, most of the time. When I was building my last company, I thought I could create an agency strategy instead of hiring people with specific expertise we needed. Because the world was changing so fast, I felt we’d benefit from an agency model because we could lean into the learnings the agency had from other clients. I held an in-person strategy session to get everyone to work together. But, when they went back to their agencies, they were pulled in many directions. Their collaboration fizzled, and we didn’t get the output we needed from the time spent together.
  3. Hire good people early rather than waiting until you need them. 1+1=3. When you hire someone, you trust and you can have an informed conversation based their professional expertise. I can add value to what they’re sharing, and I can learn from them. In the end, they are better at their jobs, and I have a better company because I hired someone earlier.
  4. Always have a gross profit margin greater than 65% so you can spend the money on marketing. If you don’t make a material gross profit margin, you’re not going to make it up in the end. You’ll still have cashflow issues, marketing issues, and so it’s best to sell highest value possible, but with a material gross profit margin from the start. As your volume increases, other costs will go up, not down, so you want the dry powder necessary to grow the company geometrically.
  5. Location, location, location is real. As I shared previously, if you’re going to sell at retail, you need to find a high-volume environment.

Let’s imagine that a reader reading this interview has an idea for a product that they would like to invent. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?

The very first step should be a quiet trip alone for 1–5 days to really think about what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and how you’re going to implement the idea. You need time to visualize success. Then, surround yourself with the best people possible to help you identify the strengths and weaknesses of what you’re doing.

There are many invention development consultants. Would you recommend that a person with a new idea hire such a consultant, or should they try to strike out on their own?

Try to strike out on your own. If a consultant was capable of starting a company by themselves, they’d do it. You need to be able to think it through as your product and your invention.

What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one?

In my opinion, you must bootstrap your idea in the beginning. This will control the energy around your idea. Raising money from friends and family will allow you to put your own energy into your product and brand. Once you have this piece figured out and you’re looking for growth capital, then align with VCs. VCs bring support, ideas, and people along with money — and you need both!

Ok. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

There’s always an intentional philanthropic component to every company I started — from helping people with disabilities ski, helping women and children who experience trauma, and supporting an organization that provided critical nutrition women and children in early life throughout developing countries.

You are an inspiration to a great many people. 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.

Find a way to help men and women who are disadvantaged to have better services and support mechanisms for their families to live happier lives.

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, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

McKenzie Scott and her husband, Dan Jewett. I’d love to explore ways to make my latest startup, Family Central, available to families at all income levels. The new web and mobile app reduces chaos and stress in a family’s life so they can focus on what really matters — Family time.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.


Making Something From Nothing: Jason Brown Of Family Central On How To Go From Idea To Launch was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Makers of The Metaverse: Vishal Shah Of Lenovo On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality…

Makers of The Metaverse: Vishal Shah Of Lenovo On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Good timing — This industry will grow and change significantly in the next couple of decades. Unfortunately, quality solutions could come too early or too late as adoption rates for the technologies fluctuate. Stay as vigilant and nimble as possible.

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, we had the pleasure of interviewing Vishal Shah.

As Lenovo’s GM of XR and Metaverse, Vishal Shah leads the ThinkReality solutions team. Vishal leads Lenovo’s XR and Metaverse practices and is responsible for building and managing strong cross-functional teams for holistic product management, operations, and sales. Vishal has a 20+ year track record of successfully conceptualizing and launching consumer electronics products, software solutions, and cloud services in the mobile industry.

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?

Mine is a typical first-generation immigrant story. Growing up in India, I was always in awe of the great melting pot that the United States was and a true “land of opportunity.” I admired its great university system and how it prepared you for global roles. During the time I grew up in India, computers and PCs were rare, hard to afford, and restricted to large corporations. My first experience with a PC was in the early 1990s at a close family friends house, when they called me over to install it for them. Needless to say, I was instantly enamored with the potential of what it could do, and after installing Windows for the first time (from DOS), realized the power and potential of the “user interface” in technology. I virtually moved into their house and spent just about every waking hour out of college in front of that PC, to the extent that they thought I had been disowned by my family. After my Bachelor’s in Computer Science from India, I came to the Pennsylvania State University for Master’s in Computer Science, during the early days of the Mobile Communication and Internet 1.0 innovation cycle.

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?

After my Masters, my first job was at Motorola where I took a Dale Carnegie course. As part of the course, we read How to Win Friends and Influence People. I was blown away by the simplicity of its timeless yet important principles. As a manager, I made the course and book an essential part of the new employee on-boarding curriculum, and to this day I have colleagues thank because the book helped them both professionally and in their personal life. More recently, I was really touched and inspired by Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime, which chronicles the grit of Trevor, and the support from his mother, as he navigated the worst elements of apartheid South Africa to become one of the most successful comedians and TV personalities in the world.

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

I had read Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, where the term “Metaverse” was first coined at an early stage in my career and thought it was fascinating but a little far-fetched. However, when I got to experience the Oculus VR device after it was acquired by Facebook, I was blown away. At the same time, I had a chance to see Qualcomm’s Vuforia platform developed for phone and tablet-based 3D AR rendering and crafty devices like Google Carboard. I was convinced that XR is the “visual interface” of the future. The computer industry has been restricted to the 2D rectangular space for decades now, and I saw XR as the means for it to evolve into a true 3D, immersive and infinite environment.

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

My most interesting story is a personal one. I am blessed to have a 95-year-old grandfather who still loves to drive, travel and see the world. During the Covid 19 lockdowns, I had him experience various tourist sites and experiences on VR headsets and he was blown away at how realistic the experience was and that it transported him there. The other areas where I have seen XR have a huge impact are in mental/physical health, rehabilitation, and K-12 education. XR and the Metaverse can truly be the “great equalizer” when it comes to impact on health and education.

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 know if it is a funny mistake, but nevertheless, during the early parts of my career when I was launching AR headsets and solutions in 2014, there were a lot of lessons learned. One big mistake we made was being too early and ahead of the curve. Although our products were world-class and groundbreaking, not having the component supply chain and partners being able to scale at the same pace was a major reason for some of the failures in the early days of the XR journey for a lot of founders and innovators.

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 will be forever grateful to my parents who have supported me to get the best education and opportunities with the limited means they had. To this day, their support and encouragement is a major pillar in my endurance system. Professionally, I have stood on the shoulders of some fantastic managers and mentors. Most recently, I am grateful to the senior management at Lenovo for the opportunity to lead the XR business unit for them and build the roadmap for our enterprise metaverse solutions. Last but not least, I am supported by a talented team that challenges and motivates me to do my best each day.

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

I lead the ThinkReality business unit at Lenovo. ThinkReality is our portfolio of solutions for commercial AR/VR. Lenovo’s ThinkReality platform is making it easier for enterprise customers to scale into the enterprise Metaverse — virtual platforms where work is enhanced by spatial computing. ThinkReality is among the first truly device and cloud agnostic AR/VR software platforms to enable commercial customers to build, deploy, and manage applications and content on a global scale, with global support. ThinkReality XR Services provide vendor agnostic, end-to-end, white-glove services to help customers plan, deploy and scale XR solutions. ThinkReality also offers a growing portfolio of XR devices, including the award-winning ThinkReality A3, the most versatile smart glasses ever made for the enterprise and the Lenovo Mirage VR S3 headset, built for the workplace and designed for comfortable use throughout a busy day.

The use cases for AR and VR in the enterprise are varied and have proven ROI. The three most common use cases for AR are Remote Expert — which is having and expert viewing what a worker sees through the glasses and assists in guiding tasks, Workflow — having automated guidance on tasks appear in the wearer’s field of view, and Visualization — users can view and work with 3D models or ‘digital twins’.

Because of the immediacy and fidelity of new digital tools experienced through AR/VR devices, workforces will barely be constrained by time and space. The ability to create and work in 3D environments will amplify collaboration and accelerate productivity.

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?

The convergence of technologies and the vision of the Metaverse, 5G technologies, and the impact XR solutions will have on the enterprise market all excite me.

The convergence of technologies, from computing power and optics to haptic interfaces and 3D content, is very exciting; we now have a more complete vision of what this will mean for businesses, users and creators. The Metaverse is a future state of technology where 3D data is easily created and universally readable, resulting in 3D applications as the norm for business processes, productivity, and entertainment.

5G enabled devices have a bright future as the Metaverse for the enterprise continues to develop. Enterprise 5G scenarios are increasingly common now while universal 5G coverage remains on the horizon. Use cases include the ability to quickly and seamlessly push content, as well as deliver location experiences regardless of Wi-Fi connectivity. This is very useful for the enterprise managing global device fleets and applications for its employees and customers. Lenovo is developing new 5G technologies to enhance AR and VR experiences, including a wearable ‘neckband’ smart phone and 5G ready PCs.

And finally, I’m excited about AR and VR’s impact on workers. A good example is in the manufacturing sector. Deloitte recently predicted U.S. manufacturing is expected to have 2.1 million unfilled jobs by 2030. This shortfall is a result of several trends, including retiring ‘baby boomers’ and the loss of skilled workers in the sector. VR is incredibly efficient in training workers because of its inclusive nature, and AR enhances workers’ skill levels by providing access in digital information hands free to help complete tasks. These technologies hold abundant potential for closing the skills gap and increasing opportunities for workers and their employers.

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

The three things that concern me all have to do with this being a young industry and the inevitable growing pains that come with that. They are: Awareness and Understanding, Interoperability, Privacy and Data Security.

The first concern is awareness and understanding about the capabilities and ROI of XR technologies. There are still a lot of customers in the market that don’t realize how AR and VR can improve worker’s performance and enhance efficiency. I’d urge any C-suite executive or IT decision maker to start reaching out to solutions providers, start taking meetings and begin their journey into the Metaverse sooner rather than later. There is a steep learning curve with the technology, and every organization has their own specific needs that are likely to grow over time. The sooner you start the sooner you can make progress.

The second is interoperability. The ability to unify economies, 3D assets like avatars, and systems across platforms should be a defining characteristic of the Metaverse. There are significant engineering, business and design challenges to achieving this vision. It will take a lot of industry coordination and cooperation to make this happen. Some firms will push for ‘walled gardens’, gated solution in which only their cloud services, hardware or property apps will be used. This is probably unavoidable. However, if that becomes the norm, and the industry fails to build common ground for the Metaverse, we’ll never achieve some of the fantastic experiences the Metaverse could offer.

And last is safety and security. In the rush to building and commercializing the Metaverse, there’s a risk bad and irresponsible actors will create distrust amongst users by failing to secure data or misusing it. We have several very clear examples of this happening from the history of the development of the Internet. With the advent of the Metaverse we have the opportunity to learn from our mistakes and do much better.

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?

This is a great question, technologies and use cases previously thought as primarily being applicable to entertainment are increasingly crossing over to the business world. For example, the 3D graphic engines used to create video games are also being used to create virtual spaces for meetings and retail, because of this we can expect to see a lot more social and business collaboration and better experiences in the Metaverse.

What we are also seeing with the growing use of AR/VR in the enterprises is the gamification of training and learning. For example, you can virtually place workers in scenarios like dealing with difficult customers or responding to a hazardous industrial accident and let them ‘play’ through the situation and score their responses. The immersive nature of these experiences makes them more memorable and instructive. Also, because they are held on digital platforms more data can be captured and analyzed, i.e., many participants made mistakes in the same area, teams and personnel with particular backgrounds have faster response times, etc. That is very useful.

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

Smarter technology can absolutely improve people’s lives. I’ve already mentioned some of the impact on workers, but other fields like education and healthcare are already benefiting. VR learning is a wonderful opportunity for children to ‘see’ and experience abstract concepts in math and science. For example, it’s much more engaging and memorable to walk through a pyramid or sphere to learn geometry. And if you want to understand photosynthesis or how a human heart works, a virtual tour of a plant or the body’s circulatory system provides students with memorable visual lessons. AR has a place too in education, for example, trade schools can improve their lessons with hands-on experience learning about and repairing machinery of all kinds with instructor feedback or automated workflow guidance.

In healthcare, VR has been used for a wide variety of treatments, including pain management and recovering from PTSD. And AR is being used to extend the reach of physicians by connecting them with first responders attending patients onsite so doctors can see what EMT crews are seeing and consult on how to treat them — an excellent way to enhance physician productivity when we have shortages of qualified practitioners.

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

One myth that I would very much like to dispel is that either hardware or software by itself will determine which firms attain a leadership position in the new XR industry. If you read a lot of popular media, the leading discourse is about which AR or VR headset maker is going to reign supreme and capture the market, or which platform is going to be the most desirable real-estate in the Metaverse. I believe people are thinking about this the wrong way. In the Enterprise Metaverse, where business uses XR technologies to improve operations or create new services, it will be the sum benefit of hardware, software and services that will matter the most. Customers are looking for technology partners that can help them build and scale into the Metaverse with an end-to-end solution.

This is a very young industry, and the enterprise use cases are the cutting edge where innovation is occurring, and ROI is being achieved. The consumer sector will follow. This is similar to the early days of the PC market. There was a small group of hobbyists and tech aficionados that bought PCs in the 70s and early 80s, but it wasn’t until PCs became ubiquitous in offices that consumers decided to put them in their homes. The same is true here, and businesses don’t buy new technology solutions off the shelf, they get them from large, experienced firms with a track record of innovation, success and great service.

What are your “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career In The VR, AR or MR Industries?”

Because it is such a new field with enormous potential for growth and impact, if you obtain these five attributes, I’m confident you’ll have a successful career in the XR industries.

  1. In-depth knowledge of the tech — The Metaverse will be the culmination of Web 3.0 and immersive computing technologies; haptics, lidar, optical sensors, AI, 5G and blockchain are just some of the technologies that are going to be combined to create new experiences and business models. Having a good handle of how these technologies are developing, covering and being leveraged is the foundation for seeing opportunities and building successful products or strategies.
  2. Vision — It’s difficult to get somewhere if you don’t have a clear vision of where you are going. After you understand the relevant technology start building and testing models for the future of the market. Ask yourself questions like which kinds of workers will benefit most from AR or VR solutions, what are their use cases and specific requirements, etc.
  3. Customer-centric mindset — As you start building your models about the future of the industry, NEVER lose sight of the fact you only win if the customer wins. It’s all about the customer, how do you design solutions for better price, comfort, durability, security and scalability? What services will customers need? How are competitors failing to meet these needs and why?
  4. Network — XR solutions are highly complex, they can’t be built alone. Having good relations with the wide variety of software and hardware vendors that you’ll need to make your product come to market and evolve is critical.
  5. Good timing — This industry will grow and change significantly in the next couple of decades. Unfortunately, quality solutions could come too early or too late as adoption rates for the technologies fluctuate. Stay as vigilant and nimble as possible.

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

When you read books like Ready Player One and Snow Crash, the worlds they are set in are unhappy places and the OASIS or Metaverse is primarily a means of escape from a bad reality, rather than technology that improves human society. I think AR/VR technologies have a tremendous potential for good. They can help create more influence and empathy for worthwhile causes. They can help alleviate symptoms and achieve better health, and so on. I’d like to see more young people look at AR/VR and what the Metaverse could be and ask themselves, how can I make the world better with this opportunity?

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

I am an avid fan of your column and a regular reader. I thank you for the opportunity to share my experiences and journey. Coming back to your question, I would love to have a breakfast/lunch with Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. I am a big fan of his leadership style, and how he transformed Microsoft into the trillion-dollar market-cap league and primed to grow even further.

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


Makers of The Metaverse: Vishal Shah Of Lenovo On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Meet The Disruptors: Timothy Lewis Of Tea On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

No matter how hectic and stressful life is, if you have a clear conscious view of your decisions and have peace within, it helps to get through difficult things. The chaos of Burning Man and finding peaceful consciousness within that was a big learning lesson for me.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Timothy Lewis, Co-Founder of Tea, a company building the first open source software platform on the blockchain. Tea launched in 2022 with $8 million in seed funding led by Binance Labs, the venture capital and innovation incubator of Binance, the world’s leading blockchain ecosystem and cryptocurrency infrastructure provider.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I’ve been consulting as an engineer since I was 14 years old for clients including Fimat financial, Calyon Financial, NewEdge, Northern Trust, Sun Microsystems, Oracle, and Kaiser Permanente. I switched over to primarily working on Blockchain Development in 2015 and have been involved in that area ever since. I founded Ikigai Asset Management in 2018, an L/S hedge fund now managing over 200 million. Then, in early 2020, I founded DEVxDAO, a non-profit that provides grants to build cohesion and longevity in decentralized systems. This year, I’ve teamed up with Max Howell, the founder of the open-source software package management system Homebrew, to fix how open source is funded by creating our company, Tea.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

Web 2.0 accrued fortunes on the backs of free labor by unpaid open source volunteers. web3 has the power to change this. Software wants to be free, but programmers need to be compensated. Through the use of the blockchain and crypto, Tea has the potential to introduce new paradigms that allow open source compensation without direct payment. The platform can solve a core problem for the open-source software development community by utilizing the critical value proposition of decentralized token economies. We’re bringing the creator economy to open source. Our vision is to fix how open source is funded and create the tools that will accelerate its creation for the benefit of all humanity.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

Scott Morris, one of the world’s best infrastructure engineers, helped me hugely when I was young. We met through Internet Relay Chat (IRC), a communication forum that was thriving in the early to mid-90s. He shared expensive gear, like optical routers and optical switches, with me when I was a kid. I wouldn’t have had access to that in my bedroom on the farm without him.

Brian McGahan is a great educator on routing protocols and I’ve used his educational materials often.

Later in my life, Scott Walker introduced me to the world of cryptocurrency and where the crypto/blockchain market was headed, which significantly shaped my career and the creation of my current company, Tea.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

The one constant in life is change. One industry’s destruction is another’s creation. Disruption for the sake of disruption isn’t great, but if it’s an evolution in the ability for people to use a system in a better way, it should be expected and appreciated. From a technology perspective, things have always changed. Every generation has torn down and built new possibilities, but now the potential for technology is cycling much faster than ever before because we have a more interconnected humanity. As more intelligence is understood, the better the tools we’ll create will improve.

Can you share five of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

Captain Bernardo Herzer has 70-something patents and circumnavigated the globe multiple times. He advised: No moving parts on anything you’re building. I’ve built both physical products and software and have come to understand that creating something software-based in this day and age has the power to impact the world at a much faster pace.

Another piece of advice that I live by is to travel the world. By traveling, you can see different perspectives and integrate within the communities where you travel.

Also, don’t expect others to meet you at your viewpoint. Instead, try to understand why other communities have come to their views in their corner of the world.

Buddha’s quote, “Peace comes from within,” is another great and beautiful thing to live by.

No matter how hectic and stressful life is, if you have a clear conscious view of your decisions and have peace within, it helps to get through difficult things. The chaos of Burning Man and finding peaceful consciousness within that was a big learning lesson for me.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

Our recent funding is being used to hire additional resources to continue work on the protocol, software, and community development. Tea will have unique, first-of-its-kind features like our blockchain remuneration component, token governance, security application, and decentralized distribution of packages.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations by Ori Brafman is a fantastic book. If a starfish loses a limb, that severed limb can create an entirely new starfish. The book explores how so-called ‘starfish’ organizations are changing the world. It explains decentralization in a great way and explores how other organizations with decentralized governance in history have succeeded.

I also really appreciated The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff and E. H. Shepard. Pooh is such a lovable character and a fun, accessible way to explore the ancient principles of Taoism. When I was younger, IQ was stressed instead of EQ, and this book laid out a much more impactful understanding of emotional intelligence.

And lastly, Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. I liked the author’s approach and the way he connected the understanding that if you want to strive for more in life, you have to be open to speaking with people who have more in life. It’s essential to be creative in how you see and imagine yourself; if you can imagine yourself in a way, you can be that way.

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

I don’t ascribe to any overarching quote that summarizes direction in life. Listen to those who love you. Love with an open heart. Hope. Believe. Continue to move forward. Rinse. Repeat. Do it again.

How can our readers follow you online?

Follow Tea on Twitter or connect with us on Telegram, GitHub, or Discord.

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


Meet The Disruptors: Timothy Lewis Of Tea On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Meet The Disruptors: Brian Duncan Of HungerRush On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your…

Meet The Disruptors: Brian Duncan Of HungerRush On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Prioritizing treating your team members with respect, responding promptly, and helping them when they least expect it creates a culture of compassion that will shine through to all your customers.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Brian Duncan.

Brian Duncan is an experienced business development and sales leader with more than twelve years of leadership experience in strategy, director, and consultative selling roles. He specializes in SaaS sales for startups and Fortune 1000 companies, team building, sales strategy, C-level negotiations, and new business development.

HungerRush is driving the transition from the POS terminal of the past to the integrated POS system of the future. They call it the HungerRush 360 Restaurant Experience, making possible a 360-degree view of everything a restaurant needs to succeed, from the guests served to the operations and employees serving them. HungerRush can be found online at HungerRush.com

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this career path?

As a Civil Engineering major at Purdue, I already knew that hospitality was a specialty I wanted to be involved in. I’ve worked with a variety of companies since that time, including Hilton Hotels and Revolution Foods. In 2015, I founded Chowly, a POS company that integrated directly with third-party delivery platforms. Joining HungerRush in April 2020 as Director of Business Development gave me an incredible experience to leverage my knowledge in technology and hospitality. I’ve been committed to making a significant impact here in both growth and sales.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

HungerRush is really disrupting the way that restaurant franchises grow, scale, and satisfy our customers. The COVID-19 pandemic presented unprecedented challenges to restaurants, and many are still trying to level out with a new normal of technology. Additionally, the onslaught of apps available to restaurants makes it overwhelming to make smart decisions. Add to that the challenge that many of these apps for ordering are often laser focused on meeting the needs of chain and larger restaurants, leaving the smaller restaurants behind. HungerRush is advocating and leading restaurants into a new world focused on multi-channel ordering that fits with changing consumer needs.

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 think the funniest mistake I have made was, at a young age, I accidentally hit “reply all” for an internal networking event which copied over 300 external clients. Unfortunately, about 100 additional guests showed up and we spent nearly ten times our budget, but ultimately strengthened some relationships and even signed new business. I guess the lesson learned is never to underestimate the importance of relationship building and more importantly a good happy hour!

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

There have been a few mentors along the way that I believe have helped mold me into the person I am today. The first people I must mention are my father and brother; each of whom challenged me to excel in all aspects of life and to never settle. They taught me there is no substitute for hard work.

I also learned how to lead from Mike Pitcher, former CEO of LeasePlan USA. During his time at LeasePlan, Mike helped our company to reach unforeseen revenue goals and ushered in expansions into new territories. But the one thing I took away from my time working under him was not about how he grew the company, but how he knew every one of his 400 employees’ names and never missed an employee’s special occasion or funeral. He made time to introduce 24-year-old me to global executives and include me in corporate meetings, opening my eyes to what’s possible.

What I have learned from the people mentioned above is that good leaders and good businesspeople are synonymous with successful companies.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

Disruptive is almost always a good thing. Change can be uncomfortable, but if you’re not changing, you’re not growing. That being said, sometimes technology or business process that withstands the test of time is the definition of disruptive. The key is to maintain an appetite for change and growth and build that into the fabric of your business model.

Can you share five of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

  1. There is no more important customer than the internal ones you work with every day.
  2. Prioritizing treating your team members with respect, responding promptly, and helping them when they least expect it creates a culture of compassion that will shine through to all your customers.
  3. One person can be a crucial ingredient to a team, but one person cannot make a team.
  4. Any company or person can grow without collaboration or skill alone, but I never saw real exponential growth until I embraced working with other organizations and team members.
  5. Goals must never come from ego alone, but from problems that cry for a solution.
  6. Past companies that I created eventually became lucrative but that was never the goal. Understanding the pain felt by a large portion of a business segment and providing a cost effective and easy to implement solution, was what drove business.
  7. Build for what you think you’re going to need not for what you have.
  8. I have worked with developers across the board but the ones who have helped the company grow the most have the foresight to build products that are easily adaptable and ready to scale. With the speed at which tech moves if you build for what you need today you will always be a step behind.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

At its core, my role as Director of Business Development is to bring growth to HungerRush. The restaurant industry is constantly innovating, and it’s important to not only strive for big brands, but also work to keep current customers happy and give them the same opportunities for innovation as larger new brands. In order to grow our business, my role also requires that I’m in the know on our product development and innovation. On the technology side, our development team is always looking to leverage innovation in our offerings. That’s why we acquired OrderAI, and now have our OrderAI Text feature, which for example, Jet’s has rolled out. Since adopting the OrderAI Text feature, Jet’s Pizza has fulfilled 2 million text orders, tripling digital sales. That’s what we’re ultimately trying to do- help businesses optimize their full potential.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

The First 90 Days by J.D. Meir

At this point in my career, I take roles that have lofty financial growth goals but provide me with little training and I often have no roadmap of how to get there. My goal is to get up to speed as fast as possible so that I can provide an immediate impact and help the company scale in a short amount of time. The First 90 Days provides a roadmap on how to succeed in this exact environment. It does not just provide a high-level theory but lays out detailed plans on how to promote yourself within the business, have early wins, and even anticipate potential pitfalls.

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

Family comes first!

Putting my family and close friends first has helped me to excel in my personal and professional career further than I ever thought possible.

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

Promote diversity!

Hire people that you would never socialize with, promote people who are from the opposite background as yours, and grow with people from a completely different industry. I truly believe that our strengths come from our differences allowing us to look at problems from a unique angle. Diversity in thought, gender, ethnicity, and age will provide light to navigate in a corporate world while companies made up of similar minds can only see what is directly in front of them.

How can our readers follow you online?

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


Meet The Disruptors: Brian Duncan Of HungerRush On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Makers of The Metaverse: Matt Venables and Jeremy Smith, Creators of Genzeroes On The Future Of The…

Makers of The Metaverse: Matt Venables and Jeremy Smith, Creators of Genzeroes On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

… Be okay with making mistakes. It’s going to happen, so just learn from them and keep moving.

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, we had the pleasure of interviewing Matt Venables and Jeremy Smith.

Jeremy and Matt discovered their mutual love of film and music in film school and have been creatively joined at the hip ever since. Founding an independent music video production company shortly after graduating, they cut their filmmaking teeth creating and directing videos in multiple genres. With their undeniable passion for writing, their hard work found fruition when they landed writing gigs on the award winning and critically acclaimed time travel series CONTINUUM. It was here they served as writer/producers for the four-season run of the series before killing vampires on the SYFY/Netflix series VAN HELSING, where they wrote and Co-Executive Produced for its five-season run. In that time, they have received three Leo Award nominations for Best Writing (Van Helsing, ReBoot) with one win for Van Helsing. They also won a Canadian Screen Award for Best Digital Media Campaign (Continuum).

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?

Matt — I grew up in Lethbridge, Alberta. After graduating from high school I moved to British Columbia and worked in record stores and the majority of my life at that time revolved around music and movies. After living there for a few years I decided to attend film school and that is where I met Jeremy. We instantly connected over our love of music and movies and have been a team ever since.

Jeremy — I was born in Barrie Ontario and moved to BC in my teens. I always wanted to make movies and TV, but thought it was so out of reach. I wandered through dead- end jobs trying to find something that inspired me. One day I just said, “screw it” and enrolled in film school where I met Matt. 23 years later we’re still doing what we love and haven’t killed each other. It’s pretty amazing.

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?

Matt — The first book I read and could see the film version in my head (this was pre-film school) was Perfume by Patrick Suskind. I still to this day know the film version of that book that I want to make.

Is there a particular story that inspired you to pursue a career in entertainment and now the metaverse?

Jeremy — The HBO Series Six Feet Under completely changed my perspective on what television could be. No other series inspired me the way it did. It set me on a path to want to write stories and create characters for TV.

Matt — It isn’t a story but a suggestion. In high school I always wanted to make skits for my projects, one day I was stopped by a teacher in the hall and she asked me if I had ever thought about going to film school. The world of Film and TV felt so far from my universe that I said no, but the seed was planted and here I am today. Thank you Mrs. Rohovie.

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

Matt — I was lucky enough to have my Dad come to set and watch something that I wrote get shot. It was a proud moment for me, and I know a proud moment for him.

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?

Matt — I don’t think it’s necessarily a funny story but in our first writer’s room I was the writer’s room assistant and Jeremy was the Script Coordinator. We were told not to speak unless asked to. So one day I had a couple ideas and I emailed them to one of the writers. He proceeded to pitch them as his own. This taught me to use your voice and it’s important to be involved even if you’re at the bottom.

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?

Jeremy — There are so many people we could name, but Simon Barry has to top that list. He gave us our first job as writers on his first series, CONTINUUM. It was a big gamble for him to do that. He saw something in us, believed in us and is a big part of why we are where we’re at today.

Matt — You don’t get to this point without many people helping and believing in you. If I had to choose one it would be JP Finn. He taught me a lot about the production side of film making and how to troubleshoot difficult situations. He also taught me that the majority of the heavy lifting is done in prep. A strong prep will help the shoot go smoothly.

Tell us about GenZeroes? How do you think that will help people?

Jeremy — We always wanted to make a high-concept sci-fi story that was both thought provoking and fun escapism. GenZeroes creates this “what if” future for humankind that allows us to explore unique perspectives on how the human race should proceed after an apocalyptic event. Being able to play with all these varying philosophies that are at odds with each other mirrors what is going on in our world today, but then we give the audience an action adventure component with dazzling effects and cool tech to kind of take the edge off.

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

  • The over commercialization of Web3. You see it already, and if it happens too swiftly, it can suck the fun out of it really quickly. There is no way to really stop it from happening, so just try to weed through the tripe and you will find some truly awesome organic experiences.
  • Educating people about it. How do you make things accessible and user friendly for everyone? Right now you need to have some level of tech savvy to navigate it.
  • Keeping your community engaged. It’s a very interactive industry and maintaining the dialogue with everyone is important. We’ve used engaging the community to help in decision making has helped. If you give them ownership in the process, it becomes theirs and creates greater loyalty.

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?

Jeremy — Small businesses will be able to participate in things that may have previously been out of reach. Seminars, conferences, training opportunities, they will now all come to you, saving massive amounts of time and money.

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

Jeremy — Commuting is going to become a thing of the past, and that’s pretty exciting for a lot of people. Imagine not having to deal with a 30 minute or hour-long commute to and from work, appointments, etc. This time will then become yours to out toward things you love, your family, hobbies, side hustles. It’s going to change people’s lives in a positive way.

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

Jeremy — All NFTs are ponzi schemes. Some are, absolutely, but to write off an entire new technology and cultural groundswell because a few grifters got some ink after scamming people is pretty ignorant. Wait till I tell you about banks.

What are your “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career In The VR, AR or MR Industries?”

Jeremy — You definitely need to be adventurous. It’s such a new industry with no real template on anything. Many are making up the rules as they go, so you really need to have a trailblazer attitude.

A thick skin will do you well. There are a lot of naysayers whenever it comes to anything new, especially tech that threatens the status quo.

Be okay with making mistakes. It’s going to happen, so just learn from them and keep moving.

Collaboration is hugely advantageous. Find likeminded partners that you can help and that can help you. Strategic alliances will only make you stronger.

Matt — You have to be malleable; this space is evolving so fast you need to be able to adjust on the fly.

Believe in the product you’re creating, if you don’t fully believe in it you’re setting yourself up for failure.

You are both people 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. 🙂

With the implementation of VR, AR, and MR, access to free education and training can offer opportunities for advancement previously unattainable for many across the globe.

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 🙂

Jeremy/Matt — Mark Hamill. Beyond the obvious Star Wars fan-boying, he just seems like a super nice guy. We would probably annoy the hell out of him with all the pitches we would throw at him. Getting to work with him would definitely be a career highlight.

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


Makers of The Metaverse: Matt Venables and Jeremy Smith, Creators of Genzeroes On The Future Of The… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Agile Businesses: Hannah Moyo Of The Storytellers On How Businesses Pivot and Stay Relevant In The…

Agile Businesses: Hannah Moyo Of The Storytellers On How Businesses Pivot and Stay Relevant In The Face of Disruptive Technologies

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Ground your teams with a strong purpose and inspire them in your vision. We use stories to help people connect with this. We also use stories as proof points to help people envision the future they want to create.

As part of my series about the “How Businesses Pivot and Stay Relevant In The Face of Disruptive Technologies”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Hannah Moyo.

As Head of Consulting at business transformation consultancy The Storytellers, Hannah is committed to truly understanding the needs of their global client base and working with the organization’s interdisciplinary team to tailor impactful transformation programmes centered around their unique, story-driven methodology. She has designed and delivered a number of large programmes with clients including National Instruments, British Airways, Santander UK, Bank of England and Experian.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. 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?

The fast-paced world of technology has always interested me. Whilst studying Business Management at the University of Surrey in the UK, I took a year out to work as a Financial Analyst at Hewlett Packard — this really got me hooked. During the placement, I quickly came to understand how important it was to make meaning from data and how to turn information into a compelling story for leaders to make critical business decisions.

After graduating, I moved to London to take up a graduate position at IT services company Capgemini. The experience I gained from working on various transformation and implementation projects — both in the public and private sectors — inspired me to focus more on the human side of technology-driven change.

I loved the experience of helping people to make the most out of the technology and systems we were introducing. Looking back, those four and a half years at Capgemini really did lay strong foundations for my future career in Consulting.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

When I first entered the workplace, simply because I am a woman, I was convinced it was business critical that I wear heels every hour of every day at work. I was worried I would be seen as less important, less corporate and my role less valued if I didn’t.

I specifically remember finishing one client meeting barely able to walk — all thanks to the worst blister I have ever had, caused by a new pair of heels I felt compelled to wear! I find it funny now, because I can’t believe how at the time I just accepted the pain of commuting and walking to the canteen or washroom in heels.

Eventually, I realised that I was just as important to the business if I wore a pair of flats too! Today, whilst I still like to wear heels from time to time, I focus more on how I use my voice, words and actions to own a room.

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?

During my time at Capgemini, my mentor set me a goal to publish a social media post to my professional network at least weekly, and ideally daily, to create a habit. I hated doing it to begin with and didn’t see the point… that was until I began to see the results of my efforts.

People started liking my posts, and it really helped me to engage with our clients beyond the usual business channels of meetings, emails and face-to-face networking. It even helped us to land new business — just by posting and making a habit of it. It taught me that even making tiny changes to the way you do things can lead to incredible results.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?

At The Storytellers, we move people to do great things. This purpose has guided us through double digit growth and has recently led to our best revenue results ever since we were established nearly 20 years ago. It underpins everything we do and helps us to talk about the powerful role storytelling can play in helping our clients thrive and deliver extraordinary performance.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you tell our readers a bit about what your business does? How do you help people?

The Storytellers are business transformation specialists. Through a unique combination of consultative strategy and award-winning creativity — including creative campaigns, events and leadership coaching — we use the power of storytelling to activate extraordinary performance for our clients. For businesses navigating change, or looking to stay relevant and maintain competitive advantage, our programmes help to rapidly change mindsets and shift behaviours throughout an organization. To date we’ve worked with over 200 large, and often complex, global organizations.

Which technological innovation has encroached or disrupted your industry? Can you explain why this has been disruptive?

Live and immersive events play an important role in our integrated storytelling programmes, and in the last two years, the rapid shift to virtual and hybrid event delivery has required us to pivot quickly to stay one step ahead of our client’s needs.

From the moment the pandemic hit, the questions our clients asked became all too familiar; How do we engage over 400 people on a call and still make it interactive? How do we get 20,000 people to understand and engage with our strategy when everyone is working from home?

Humans are social animals. Interacting as a group or a ‘tribe’ is a fundamental need we have for our sense of wellbeing, and to enable us to make sense of the world and what is going on around us. Events that bring people together — even if online — provide an opportunity to build a sense of community — a space for leaders to open themselves up to those around them and hear their colleagues’ voices.

At a time of social distancing and remote working, organizational connectivity was essential. We also needed to equip the senior leaders of our client organizations with the right tools and knowledge to keep their teams engaged and motivated throughout this unprecedented period of uncertainty.

What did you do to pivot as a result of this disruption?

Firstly, we brought together the experience within all our teams — from Consultants and Programme Managers to Strategic Writers, Creatives and Producers — to collaborate on how we create new story-driven approaches to event delivery. One of the new platforms we created was StoryLive, a live, virtual event solution that has enabled us to engage audiences of over 4,000 people through a combination of broadcast, CGI, webinar style content, data capture and interactive technology. It enabled us to provide alternative ways to evoke similar levels of unrivalled emotional connection and immersion that matched, and often exceeded, the in-person elements of our business storytelling programmes.

Was there a specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path? If yes, we’d love to hear the story.

Although we have created and hosted virtual gatherings and experiences for our clients for many years, I think the real ‘Aha moment’ came when we realized that hybrid delivery was going to be our future and this gap in the market needed to be filled. Establishing a new blend of physical and virtual environments marked a new beginning for us in terms of how we inspire and continue to engage people in the new hybrid world in which we all live and work.

So, how are things going with this new direction?

Extremely well. After launching StoryLive we continued to research and innovate in this space. In the last six months we have undertaken multiple events engaging leadership teams and colleagues in new territories and are seeing success in international expansion, especially within the US. Through all this, I am incredibly grateful to our team. We have an amazing group of people who work together to make the magic happen — there’s no way we would be where we are without them.

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

Despite this being a period of incredible growth, perhaps the most interesting part is that we’ve not always focused too heavily on the numbers. Of course, you still need them to track progress. However, a crucial part of our journey has been to build a strong purpose-led organization together, where everyone is given more individual accountability, and through teamwork and clear direction — we are all pulling in the same direction. This has allowed us to explore these new markets, develop our product proposition and grow the team to take on even more high-profile clients. In turn this has led to commercial success.

What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during a disruptive period?

Keep your people with you. You may not have all of the answers — but that’s ok. Bring your teams together, have conversations and talk openly about your concerns and challenges. Create a safe space for challenge and to fail and take risks. You can successfully navigate the challenge with your teams if you keep talking and focus the conversation on your purpose, values and vision to help guide you even in the most uncertain of times.

When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?

Sharing stories is a brilliant way to boost morale and engagement within teams. Small stories provide proof-points that create belief in a common purpose, foster creativity and evoke passion. Collaborative storytelling is a way to make sense of the world we live in and create communities who will support each other. During even the toughest of situations, when people share stories about what they’ve achieved or even how they’ve struggled, not only will this help your team to connect on a different level, it will provide the green shoots of hope that any uncertain situation can be overcome.

Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?

In my experience, if you can embrace uncertainty — through conversation and collaboration — it will quickly lead to exploration and innovation.

Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make when faced with a disruptive technology? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?

Rather than mistakes, I get more frustrated when leaders make too many excuses for not facing up to disruptive technologies. For example, I’ve heard leaders dismiss exploring or using new technology because they say ‘everything is working just fine at the moment’ — great for now, but how will you remain relevant and stay competitive? Other excuses include, ‘we can’t innovate because we don’t know how’ and ‘we don’t have time’ or ‘we don’t have an R&D team’. As I’ve already said, every single person in an organization can innovate or adopt an entrepreneurial mindset — the mistake that leaders make is to not give their employees the space and empowerment to own it and do something about it.

Ok. Thank you. Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to pivot and stay relevant in the face of disruptive technologies? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Empower people to make decisions and help overcome a fear to take risks. For example, share examples of projects or situations that don’t always go as planned. We’ve seen the best results when leaders create safe environments where employees are able to sometimes risks — fail fast, learn fast and see results faster.
  2. Ground your teams with a strong purpose and inspire them in your vision. We use stories to help people connect with this. We also use stories as proof points to help people envision the future they want to create.
  3. Bring in industry trends and articles that help to create inspiration and spark ideas. For example, hold a hackathon or ‘industry inspiration’ session to discuss external thinking to vote on ideas from the team on new ways of working and doing things.
  4. Discuss the legacy you want to leave as a team. What do you want to be known for? What disruptive technologies are going to make this a reality and what are you not doing now that you need to change?
  5. Don’t lose focus and prioritize based on external data and internal agile thinking. Avoid taking on too many new ideas for disruptive tech at once, instead just focus on one or two big things to try as a team that will really make a difference.

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

My mantra is: It’s impossible to be perfect, we’re all human. When you make mistakes, as long as you quickly learn from them, you can usually grow even faster. Furthermore, when you’re leading a team that then isn’t afraid to make mistakes or take calculated risks, it can help you uncover opportunities that would have otherwise remained hidden.

How can our readers further follow your work?

Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn or follow The Storytellers for weekly insights on this and many more business transformation and future-proofing topics. You can also find out more about our work and sign up for regular updates from The Storytellers at thestorytellers.com

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!


Agile Businesses: Hannah Moyo Of The Storytellers On How Businesses Pivot and Stay Relevant In The… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Agile Businesses: Michael Schmidt Of Nerdery On How Businesses Pivot and Stay Relevant In The Face…

Agile Businesses: Michael Schmidt Of Nerdery On How Businesses Pivot and Stay Relevant In The Face of Disruptive Technologies

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Make evidence-based decisions. Better decision-making is something we all strive for. The companies we work with that achieve better results often have a strong data strategy that supports the decision-making of the team. Plan for and build into your products the ability to capture the right data in a way that allows for fast and accurate analysis. This approach supports not only making better decisions but can also accelerate the pace at which they can be made.

As part of my series about the “How Businesses Pivot and Stay Relevant In The Face of Disruptive Technologies”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Schmidt.

Michael Schmidt is CEO, Co-Founder and Board Vice Chair of Nerdery, a premier digital product consultancy. He is a seasoned leader with 20 years of experience in digital business consulting, where he is best known for solving complex business challenges and maximizing client outcomes through technology. He co-founded Nerdery in 2003, serving as CIO and then Chairman of Nerdery’s Board of Directors until being named CEO in 2020.

During his tenure at Nerdery, Michael has helped organizations across a variety of industries make long-lasting, transformational change. As CEO, Michael is passionate about guiding clients in making an impact through digital technology — ultimately, improving the lives of their end-users while growing their business.

In 2014, Michael co-founded and helped launch Prime Digital Academy, a full-stack engineering and UX bootcamp to provide training to help fill Minnesota’s IT talent pipeline, and has also guided various startups across industries. Away from work Michael enjoys spending time outdoors — fishing, skiing and wake surfing — and, most importantly, spending time with his family.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. 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 didn’t grow up with technology as a part of my day-to-day life or in my home. In high school, I took a few classes on an Apple IIe and thought it was interesting but didn’t think much more of it. School was not a good fit for me, and ultimately, I chose not to go to college. However, in my late 20s, I discovered my interest in software development and enrolled in a night program at a local college. Here I learned that software development came very naturally to me. I saw a lot of early success during my first job and found myself quickly rising to the top. And a few years later, I co-founded Nerdery with two people I met at that job — Luke Bucklin and Mike Derheim. Along the way, I’ve learned a lot about technology, consulting, business, how to run a company, and ultimately how to be a leader.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

I wouldn’t say it’s a particularly funny story, especially at the time, but I can share the one that sticks with me the most. A couple of years into my career as a software developer, I had an opportunity to work with a very famous Twin Cities band. They wanted us to rebuild a platform for them. It was a very challenging request with a very tight timeline.

Knowing we had some long days ahead of us — the team and I got to work. But, due to my inexperience at the time, we built it on the wrong hardware infrastructure. In the scramble to fix the initial issue, we neglected to load test properly. During the big reveal, the site lasted all of 30 seconds before it failed. This was back during pre-cloud days when you couldn’t just scale resources. While we got the platform fixed, it was incredibly stressful and, frankly, embarrassing. It is one of those moments that changed me. Going through that experience helped me grow into a seasoned software developer. I learned the value of stepping back and truly understanding the needs of the client.

When we first started this company and began hiring more experienced developers, one of my favorite questions to ask was, “Tell me about one of the biggest mistakes you made.” When people couldn’t come up with a meaningful answer, I knew they either lacked experience or the humility to admit a mistake. Regardless, they weren’t a fit for the team.

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?

There are many of them. I believe life is filled with people who really help you on your journey. My former business partner Luke Bucklin was definitely one. He taught me the value of people, of doing the right thing even if it hurts, and the importance of great work. Running a business is hard, and every day is a challenge, so you have to love what you’re doing. Luke helped me grow and mature as a business leader.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?

Nerdery was founded by the three of us — Luke Bucklin, Mike Derheim and me. We met at a previous job where we saw early on that it is hard to attract and retain great talent in an environment that doesn’t trust or respect people. Because of this, we knew the importance of building a business where people could be known and valued.

We believed a place that empowered people to do their best work would be the place where people wanted to be. We never judged a book by its cover and let “Nerds” lead with their character, hard work, and genuine talent. In that, we found that it’s not always about the most obvious person for the job; it’s about giving people a chance to show what they can do with the right attitude and aptitude.

Looking back, what I value most is all the great people that have come through this organization. Many folks have built careers and gone on to do amazing things. Their dedication, curiosity and passion are the ultimate drivers of their success, but getting the right opportunity can be a big lift.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you tell our readers a bit about what your business does? How do you help people?

Nerdery is a digital product consultancy that helps businesses grow revenue and serve customers through well-designed digital products. Our expert teams partner closely with clients to truly understand their business and the ever-changing needs of their customers.

The economy today is changing rapidly and putting a lot of pressure on businesses, so there’s a huge need in the market today to help companies learn how to compete amid this fast-paced change. We do this with end-to-end capabilities across strategy, analytics, design and development. Our strengths lie in delivering digital products with the speed, quality and agility to drive business results.

Which technological innovation has encroached or disrupted your industry? Can you explain why this has been disruptive?

There isn’t any one technology that’s been disruptive. The disruption stems from macroeconomic change caused by the wholesale advancement of technology. The digital economy is all about leveraging technology in a way that is highly connected to customers and provides value in different ways. Today, the internet, cloud computing, machine learning, and a myriad of other technological advances have created an environment where it’s significantly faster and easier for businesses to stand up new products and compete in different ways. And so, traditional companies that have been around for a long time are under constant threat.

Those threats come from startups and incumbents, but it’s the shift in the market and the way value is delivered and created that is forcing everyone to pivot, creating the space for us to evaluate where and how we best support our clients.

What did you do to pivot as a result of this disruption?

It’s all about creating focus. We started out as an execution partner for organizations — early on, it was very tactical. The way the market has shifted has forced us to rethink how we provide value to our customers. We have narrowed our focus to the types of engagements we pursue. We pivoted from saying, “Hey, we’re a generalist that can do everything,” to specializing in digital product consulting, where we need to show up in a very particular way, targeting a very specific buyer. Focusing on our business has absolutely been a big shift for us.

Was there a specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path? If yes, we’d love to hear the story.

It was more of a series of incremental changes in the industry, paying attention to where we saw traction, understanding our skill sets, and really knowing the market opportunity. During that time, we obtained a sharp perspective on how we deliver value, which is in understanding the needs of our customers and our iterative approach to digital products. To some extent, we allowed the market to provide direction on where to focus and align our expertise.

So, how are things going with this new direction?

I think it’s going really well, and that’s exciting. We’ve helped several amazing organizations embrace technology to deliver new value to their users and customers, positively change their business, and re-invent how they work. This business is about people, and when we get to work directly with our clients to help them achieve their goals, it’s rewarding and, frankly, fun!

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

Businesses need to be innovative to compete in the digital economy, but many don’t know how to start. To help support this early engagement stage, we created Nerdery Innovation Studio — a dedicated space for companies that need custom digital products and a partner who can help them step out of their comfort zone and realize what’s possible — and do so quickly.

Learning faster creates a competitive edge in a competitive market — it doesn’t matter if you operate a VC-funded startup or enterprise business with complex ecosystems. The Innovation Studio gives clients the space to learn quickly by strategically validating ideas and leveling up hypotheticals to working concepts that deliver marketable value right away.

Often innovation is viewed as an intimidating feat, but through the co-creation environment we established, innovation happens at the scale and speed that works best for each client. Whether the engagement is for incremental improvements or leading-edge transformation, successful outcomes are measured through building clarity around potential products and aligning business outcome owners on a shared future vision that creates the business value they seek.

What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during a disruptive period?

For me, personally, that means being unflappable and stable in the face of change. That doesn’t mean you can’t be vulnerable and honest, but trying not to let change negatively affect you. Begin with casting a clear vision, ensuring the team understands how that vision impacts them and how we win together.

When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?

By winning! This goes back to setting a clear direction for the team. Being really clear on what our goals are and what success looks like. When change and uncertainty are omnipresent, communicating and celebrating wins together helps bring us back to the center. If you can start showing traction, people get excited about it and want to provide support where they can.

Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?

Take care of your customers and take care of your people. For customers, understand what matters to them, and you will be able to accommodate accordingly. For your employees, providing the right work helps keep your teams engaged and excited to deliver for your customers.

Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make when faced with a disruptive technology? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?

Often, companies looking to innovate will start with what they think the product should be based on what’s important to them and they end up developing a product the customer may not want or need. When bringing products to the market, it’s really important to focus on what the end-user cares about.

Another trap that businesses can fall into is believing that they can deliver products using their internal IT teams. This in no way has to do with the team’s abilities; rather, it’s the methodology and approaches they use that make building a product challenging. Typically, the internal software team is a cost center, so they will normally think about an engagement through the lens of efficiency leading — thinking of each product as a project. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this approach, it makes it challenging to align with broader business objectives.

Lastly is not inviting their customer in to provide feedback throughout the process. It’s not uncommon to build something with a lot of unnecessary features or a product that doesn’t perform the way that it could or should. Without user insights and perspective, you miss a crucial opportunity to learn as well as the ability to pivot and understand what your customer truly wants.

Ok. Thank you. Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to pivot and stay relevant in the face of disruptive technologies? Please share a story or an example for each.

1. Understand your customer. The pace of business is accelerating and so are the demands and expectations of our customers. Their voice should be the driver when prioritizing and grooming a digital product roadmap. One mistake we see companies make is equating what is important to the business is equally important to their customers or assuming they know what their customers care about. This is very often not the case. Truly understanding your customers is the best way to avoid building something they don’t care about or want while meeting the business outcomes you are after.

EXAMPLE:

A major food services company needed a partner to help transform their customer experience to meet rising home delivery demand and also streamline expenses. Through technical thought leadership, skilled execution resources and profitability analytics, we were able to achieve continuous improvement in customer experience and consistent KPIs to measure that progress.

2. Speed. Every day, the barrier to entry to compete in the digital economy is becoming lower as technology enables companies to bring products to the market faster and cheaper, which means the threat of competition or disruption is ever-present and it makes speed an important component of a company’s success.

Today, we are seeing success with a two-pronged approach to this. First is speed of learning which is the new unfair advantage. Businesses that can learn what their customers care about more quickly can beat the competition because they provide better and immediate value to their customers.

The second is speed to value. Using an approach that gets a digital product in the hands of your customers fast not only supports capturing monetizable value, but it also supports the team’s ability to accelerate validating a product and learning to get to the crux of what the consumer cares about.

EXAMPLE:

The head of deployment for a major medical device company had identified that they were losing millions of dollars in lost revenue, largely due to delays in releasing new patient apps. We provided best practices for app release management and a tech stack assessment, which quickly and cost effectively gave them a better path forward.

3. Continuous innovation. Avoid the trap of trying to deliver a near-complete and perfect product on the first pass. Instead, start with a true minimum viable product (MVP) and build on it by taking incremental steps, measuring what happens, learning from it, and taking another incremental step. That continuous innovation cycle is critical when faced with disruptive change or competing in the digital economy. Not only does this approach support delivering better products, but it also helps to de-risk the engagements by allowing companies to make better decisions and pivot faster.

EXAMPLE:

A premier marketing agency needed to simplify the customer experience and modernize the fundraising platform to bring their vision to life and grow engagement and revenue. We designed a user-friendly app and helped optimize their efficiency by migrating infrastructure to the cloud, as well as streamlining business and technical processes, databases and integrations.

We had one high level road map, but continuously built and pivoted. It was about having an eye to the long game but being willing to be flexible along the way to meet customers’ needs. With the launch of the new app, user engagement and revenue increased significantly and nearly immediately.

4. Tackle your riskiest assumptions first. As companies look to find new ways to create value for their customers, sometimes there is a natural and healthy desire to push the bounds of technology. Sometimes, those challenges can be overcome, and other times they cannot. Just as often people get excited about their idea and in that excitement, they don’t prioritize correctly, overlooking their riskiest assumptions. We recommend first identifying if those assumptions are deal-breakers, and if so, not spending time or money on anything else until you prove those assumptions.

EXAMPLE:

A major pet food company that we worked with came to us with over 70 web properties, which caused a costly, hugely disconnected brand experience. We provided them with best practices to refresh both infrastructure and development processes, which significantly improved time-to-market, while also streamlining more than $2 million in costs annually.

5. Make evidence-based decisions. Better decision-making is something we all strive for. The companies we work with that achieve better results often have a strong data strategy that supports the decision-making of the team. Plan for and build into your products the ability to capture the right data in a way that allows for fast and accurate analysis. This approach supports not only making better decisions but can also accelerate the pace at which they can be made.

I am one of those people who wants to trust my experience and intuition when making decisions. I have learned that verifying my gut with supporting data, can bring peace of mind and is a winning strategy for making better decisions and thriving in a disruptive world.

EXAMPLE:

Custom Manufacturer
Due to the highly customized nature of this manufacturer’s product, waste scrap is unusable. The team had already implemented a simple machine learning model and were taking action on the data they had captured (adjusting humidity, changing the physical environment) but they needed smarter, actionable data to predict yield and make better business decisions. They partnered with Nerdery to leverage IoT and data science to improve the production planning process, reduce overrun and increase the on-time/in-full (OTIF) rate. This work resulted in an 85% yield increase for the company.

Here is a link to a video explaining more about these five things: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L5R79b4tp9A.

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

It changes often, but there are two:

Admiral James Stockdale has a quote in Jim Collins’ Good to Great that has resonated with me over the last year. “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end — which you can never afford to lose — with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.” To me there’s a difference between having hope and confronting the reality of your situation and doing it directly without hesitation.

The other one is by a guy named Zig Ziglar, and that’s: “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly, until you learn to do it well.” Part of my life lesson is that challenges are actually good, that’s when growth occurs, that’s when you become something more and really learn to do your job well. So really leaning into the challenges and knowing it’s a learning and growth exercise is important.

How can our readers further follow your work?

People can find me on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/mike-schmidt/, and follow Nerdery at https://www.nerdery.com/, and on all the usual social media channels at https://www.facebook.com/NerderyOfficial/, https://twitter.com/nerdery, https://www.instagram.com/_nerdery/, and https://www.linkedin.com/company/nerdery/.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!


Agile Businesses: Michael Schmidt Of Nerdery On How Businesses Pivot and Stay Relevant In The Face… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Muna Ikedionwu of M KEDI: How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Teams with increased diversity have shown to be better at creative problem-solving. Given that 90% of business is solving problems, a diverse team may be the secret to accelerating growth and more efficient business operations all around because they are able to more effectively and efficiently remove roadblocks, eliminate bottlenecks, and find better ways to achieve difficult tasks.

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

Muna Ikedionwu is the founder and president of M.KEDI, a business strategy and diversity and inclusion consulting firm. She works with mission-driven, investor-backed companies as a trusted advisor, facilitator, and advocate.

Prior to founding M.KEDI, Muna worked as Associate Director of a strategic communications agency, a chemistry researcher developing 30+ patent pending molecules, and a fashion writer executing content partnerships with notable brands such as Warby Parker, Coca Cola, and the New York Times.

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

I’ve always been fascinated by business and how it intersects with culture and society. As a teenager, I would research all there was to know about the companies behind all of my favorite products. I eventually went to Vanderbilt University for college, where I got the chance to study the unique relationship between sociology, business strategy, and science; especially as it pertains to the fashion, beauty, and media industries. It was bold and risky to focus on such niche topics that early on, but it led to a number of great opportunities including working with some of the most culturally relevant brands of our time.

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

In hindsight, one of the funniest moments from early in my career happened when I was an intern. I had never used a coffee maker before, and I was tasked with brewing a pot for the whole office. I was so scared to admit that I didn’t know how to operate the machine, that I just started pushing buttons and moving things around until what I thought was coffee started coming out.

I later realized that I served my bosses coffee ground runoff that tasted no better than tainted, dirty water but no one ever told me. Instead, I was moved off coffee duty and “promoted” to more meaningful tasks. For nine months all the managers made their own coffee because they were too afraid to tell me I did it wrong. And for nine months I missed out on the valuable lesson of asking for help even when the task seemed simple or obvious. This is a lesson I now always keep top of mind. Asking questions, offering judgment-free guidance, and being brave enough to not know, are powerful tools.

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?

“Be scared and do it anyway.” This reminder has pushed me to take risks and embark on career adventures that I wouldn’t have otherwise, out of fear of failing. As a business owner you can spend a lot of time trying to overcome fear. The real secret sauce to success is taking the leap in spite of it.

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 am forever grateful to Libby Callaway who took a chance on me when I was a science student looking for opportunities in the fashion industry. She founded a creative agency in Nashville that brought some of the biggest names in fashion to the city — Cartier, Hermes, Vogue. I was one of her first interns and experienced firsthand what the early days of building a successful agency look like. I’ve leaned on that knowledge ever since, especially when it came time to launch my own consultancy M.KEDI years later.

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

At M.KEDI, we are completely judgment-free and focus on making diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) practical for our clientele. We’ve found that the most successful way to help growing companies with diversity and inclusion is by taking a pragmatic and emotionally intelligent approach where we encourage and empower leadership to make good decisions rather than shame them into making change.

We recently worked with a client as they were raising venture capital funding to develop an effective diversity and inclusion plan. As a mission-driven company, this was an important part of turning their words into action, but it presented a number of challenges for the business.

We were able to have candid conversations with the founder and staff to translate their core beliefs into a DEI strategy that they’d be able to get investors on board with, while staying true to their values. It was the best of both worlds where investors, the company, and their customers benefited.

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

I’m currently working with a few companies that are either in the process of investor fundraising or have just closed major investment deals. It’s been incredibly exciting to help reframe diversity and inclusion as an asset versus a liability. I think each of these projects helps the general public by showing investors and key stakeholders that sustainable, scalable DEI does exist and can be a value-add for the bottom line.

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

My consultancy is rooted in social impact so I try to bring goodness to the world through my client work. All of our clients have a social impact component as a core part of their business model. It’s a fundamental part of how they do business and, through M.KEDI, I help them increase, expand, or sustain that work.

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.

#1 It Mitigates The Risk of a PR Nightmare

Increased diversity can help your business in a myriad of ways. First and foremost, it de-risks your business as the tides continue to shift in consumer attitudes. As we all saw in June 2020, there can be major consequences for not having diversity in place when consumers call on you to share your stats.

#2 It Increases Customer Loyalty

A Nielsen study found that consumers were more likely to repurchase from brands they felt supported the betterment of society. This means increased diversity efforts can have a direct, positive impact on your customer lifetime value (CLV).

#3 It Increases ROI on Customer Acquisition Efforts

On the flipside, increased diversity can help customer acquisition. If you’re not thinking about customer diversity, you’re leaving a significant portion of your target market untapped. By ensuring the messaging and brand imagery you utilize reflects the diversity of your total addressable market, you’re able to increase your potential market share.

#4 It Helps Build More Effective and Creative Teams

Teams with increased diversity have shown to be better at creative problem-solving. Given that 90% of business is solving problems, a diverse team may be the secret to accelerating growth and more efficient business operations all around because they are able to more effectively and efficiently remove roadblocks, eliminate bottlenecks, and find better ways to achieve difficult tasks.

#5 It Reduces Employee Turnover

Lastly, given the current labor market, increasing diversity can help your bottom line by increasing employee satisfaction and decreasing employee turnover. I recently worked on an employee retention initiative for a client with 200 employees. Time and time again we found that more than anything, employees wanted to see more diversity throughout the company.

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

Employees thrive when managers see them as a whole human, not just as a worker. All employees exist outside of their 9–5 job and supporting them in and outside of the workplace makes a world of a difference in their productivity, engagement, and overall commitment to the job. For an increasingly digital connected workforce, business leaders can help employees thrive by setting boundaries around work hours and offline hours. This is a small, but mighty way to reaffirm your commitment to employees’ wellbeing and productivity.

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

Managing a large team can decrease the amount of 1-on-1 time you get with your employees and make the little time you do get together strictly about the logistical and brass tasks portion of their role. To combat this, I encourage managers to ask “is there something you’ve been working on lately that you’re particularly proud of?” in their regular 1-on-1 with employees. This simple check-in encourages employees to take pride in their work, gives you an easy yet meaningful opportunity to congratulate them on a job well done, and illuminates where they may be interested in taking on more responsibility.

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 would love to have lunch with Pilar Johnson and Bobak Emamiam, the co-founders of Debut Capital. I’ve been so impressed by their work with this next generation of consumer start-ups. I’d be honored to talk with them about social impact, economic empowerment and the many ways diversity, equity, and inclusion is moving the VC world towards a better future.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

They can follow me on LinkedIn @Muna Ikedionwu for more and visit my website MKEDI.com to work with me.

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


Muna Ikedionwu of M KEDI: 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.

Aleksandr Litreev of Sentinel and SOLAR Labs: “5 Things I wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A…

Aleksandr Litreev of Sentinel and SOLAR Labs: “5 Things I wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A CEO”

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Don’t forget to take breaks and recharge. This one is super simple, but can be hard for me, as the work is always calling. I have to remember that I’m best when I’m taking care of myself.

As a part of our series about 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A CEO, I had the pleasure of interviewing Aleksandr Litreev.

Aleksandr Litreev is Founder and CEO of SOLAR Labs, the world’s leading developer of dVPN technology. The SOLAR Labs mission is to promote free speech, truth, and human rights globally, by empowering all people to have uncensored, untraceable, blockchain-enabled access to the internet via its decentralized applications and consumer hardware products, built exclusively at this time for the Cosmos blockchain ecosystem.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, 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?

It started back in 2017, when I started my activity fighting for human rights in Russia. My good friend and I developed a simple & useful service that helped tens of thousands detainees from protest rallies all over Russia. We called it “Red Button.” It was sort of an “Uber for a lawyer.” If you get detained, you just tap one button, and a lawyer goes to the police station where you are being kept to help you.

Since then, many things have changed. In 2018 the fight for freedom moved largely to the Internet, and we started to heavily resist against mass surveillance and censorship in Russia. Back then, I founded Vee Security — my very first VPN company. We were providing services that helped millions of people from places like Russia and Iran access Telegram Messenger freely (governments of these countries didn’t like it much back in time, so they were blocking it).

About a year ago, the fight went to the next level. Russian authorities arrested me in Russia and made up out of thin air several criminal cases against me. Luckily, I fled away to Europe. The Russian regime then started its aggressive crackdown on VPN services, and I realized that it’s time for blockchain — a technology that no government can censor. I thought about how there’s no single government capable of stopping Bitcoin, and imagined: What if we put the same technology as a foundation for a VPN service? That is exactly what we did with my new company SOLAR Labs. We’ve taken Sentinel blockchain as a foundation for our apps, and we made the world’s first truly decentralized VPN service, which cannot be blocked by any government.

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

Oh yeah. When we were developing a SOLAR dVPN application, Russian state-owned propagandist media RT made an article about us. They told people that ex-teammate of Alexey Navalny is developing a new VPN service which cannot be blocked by the Russian government. They just made up half of the text from nothing- but the most important thing this action they took admitted was that above all else, they’re scared to death of the power of this technology, since it is uncontrollable for them. Furthermore, and secondly, it truly threatens Putin’s regime because it gives Russian people a real, transparent view of what is happening. Many people don’t realize that most Russians in-country have very little idea about the true nature of global events, due to the insane amount of propaganda they’re fed daily by the State.

When the war in Ukraine started and the Russian army invaded Ukraine, the work we do became much more important than ever before. We understood that we need to make a breakthrough through a thick wall of lies & propaganda and let people know that their government is killing innocent people of neighboring countries. This was the moment we realized we were doing something more than a little bit important. We truly are driving change in people’s lives and helping them taste freedom, truth- reality.

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

Yep. “People who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” That is something Steve Jobs said back in 1984 and became my motto for life. My team is not afraid to experiment, to try something new. Back in 2018 people were looking at me like I was crazy — building another VPN service on the market that was already hot and fulfilled by such giants as NordVPN and ExpressVPN sounded like an idea of a person who lost touch of reality.

And now we see where we are with it. And so do they. Our competitors are stuck with old-school technologies that have never changed much since 2000’s and now they’re drowning after being blocked by China, Russia and many others. Our blockchain-based VPN is getting to these markets in which the old players simply cannot compete, period.

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

I’m grateful to my mother, a lot. She made me who I am. In addition to her, I’m also extremely grateful to my first business partners, Artem Tamoian, and Ilya Andreev, who took this adventure with me 4 years ago and helped me to develop our very first apps. We made a hell of a lot of mistakes, but mistakes are good lessons, unless you make them twice. After two times, make the mistake again, and it becomes a choice.

Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about the cutting-edge communication tech that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

Yes, sure. So we all know about existing VPN services. Both apps and servers are provided by a single legal entity. It creates a single point of failure — nobody knows who they are. Are they truly committed to No Logs Policy or are they secretly selling your data to 3rd parties and authorities? Moreover, it’s much easier for governments to do censorship — they’ll just ban everything from that legal entity and that’s it.

Our technology is different. The “D” in “dVPN” stands for “decentralization.” Our servers, which act as gateways to the internet are managed by community. Hundreds, thousands of servers. Each of them owned by different people, different organizations. That makes a huge decentralized network and censors don’t have a single entity to go after.

How do you think this might change the world?

As our technology is made two protect two ideas: freedom of speech and privacy. I believe that we can help accelerate a shirt towards democracy in such countries that have problems with getting their due to tyranny. The more people can access truth, the healthier the community, both locally and globally!

As for privacy, we believe that it is an essential human right and we saw from Edward Snowden’s leaks that governments don’t think the same. Therefore, we’re here to protect it.

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

Of course. Any technology can be used for good and for bad. We can treat our dVPN technology as a weapon. Obviously, it can be used by criminals, terrorists and other malicious actors, because let’s be honest: You cannot forbid criminals to possess weapons, because they simply do not respect the law. By prohibiting weapons you’ll just revoke self-defense tools from law-abiding people, but criminals will get it anyway. Same with dVPN. We made it for good — no sense to regulate or restrict it somehow, bad guys will find hundreds of other ways anyway.

It’s also important to note that at least as of now, the use case for our technology is far greater for “good guys” (normal civilians seeking freedom, not bothering anyone), than us seeing tons of examples of bad actors using our tech to do harm. No, sadly, it is closed government institutions of the world that are supposed to represent truth, love, openness and support for their people- THESE are the bad actors We the People currently need protection from. Mindboggling, but true.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “3 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

1. Do not solve non-existing problems, solve real ones. When we just started, our first apps were fulfilled with different features that we were developing for a while. As we found out, no one was using most of them, people were interested in the main feature only. If we knew it before we wouldn’t spend time solving problems that no one has.

2. Develop for yourself, deliver to everyone. The best way to create something people would use is to create something that you would use yourself. Understanding of this simple truth came to me several months after we launched our very first app. To be honest, I’m very ashamed of this one- it was ugly, and I did not use it myself. After I spent a week playing with it we re-developed it from scratch, so I would love it. If you won’t use something you made, why would anyone?

3. Do not promise, just do. Oh, damn, so many times in our early beginning we announced features and apps that we never released on time. It affected user experience a lot and we learned a lesson from it. Way better to announce something when it’s done. That way you always hit customer expectations.

4. “If they’re shooting at you, you’re doing something right.” I don’t mean literally, with bullets. And yes, I realize this is the name of a song title. But here’s the thing, when the work you do is a threat to the status quo, forces of darkness will come at you from all corners. This is something I learned very early on, but I’m putting it here because it’s good advice for others looking to make a global impact with their life’s work. It’s going to get hot the closer you get to truly doing something meaningful. Stay the course!

5. Don’t forget to take breaks and recharge. This one is super simple, but can be hard for me, as the work is always calling. I have to remember that I’m best when I’m taking care of myself.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

twitter.com/solarlabs_team

https://t.me/solarlabs
twitter.com/alexlitreev

This was so informative, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!


Aleksandr Litreev of Sentinel and SOLAR Labs: “5 Things I wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Making Something From Nothing: Rachel Breitenwischer and Lyndsey Wheeler Of Supernow On How To Go…

Making Something From Nothing: Rachel Breitenwischer and Lyndsey Wheeler Of Supernow On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Validate the problem. You need to determine if then idea you have is actually solving a problem that really haunts people. Talk to potential customers and survey your community to get clear on the user and problem.

As a part of our series called “Making Something From Nothing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rachel Breitenwischer and Lyndsey Wheeler.

Rachel Breitenwischer and Lyndsey Wheeler cofounded kids’ edutainment platform Supernow at the height of the pandemic. Convinced that learning should always feel like an exciting adventure, they set out to create a brand new learning experience that combined interactive, digital content, an inclusive universe of magical characters and hands-on, play based projects for kids ages 6–11.

Prior to Supernow, Rachel and Lyndsey co-founded Here/Now, a dating and human connection startup. The two met while working at the fashion tech company Rent the Runway, where Rachel served as the Director of Business Ops and Expansion and Lyndsey led product marketing for the Unlimited subscription. Rachel started her career in management consulting, helping Fortune 500 companies navigate their digital transformations while Lyndsey started in innovation consulting, where she built new products, services and experiences for brands using a design thinking approach.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?

Lyndsey:

The Supernow experience was very much inspired by our own childhoods — which were filled with lots of creative projects, summer camps, performances and outdoor adventures.

My childhood can be described as constant learning, wrapped in fun and creativity. I loved making crafts, using my imagination and dreaming up worlds and stories that I was the main character in. I was a PBS kid — we weren’t allowed to watch cable cartoons, but I was obsessed with Arthur, Wishbone and most importantly Zoom. I actually auditioned for Zoom when I was eight years old because I loved the show so much (sadly I didn’t make the cut). I also attended lots of enrichment camps. I was a camper and counselor at Camp Invention (a weekly camp focused on building products and transforming old things into new masterpieces). I was also a participant in Odyssey of the Mind — a team based creativity competition. All of these experiences have deeply shaped the Supernow content that we now design for our Superkids, which weaves together learning, imagination and hands-on creation.

Rachel:

Lyndsey and I share the background of having a childhood defined by creativity and curiosity. I give my mom a lot of credit for this because she intentionally didn’t make learning for me a chore (i.e. “Rachel you have to spend an hour today practicing reading”) but rather she made me want to learn by letting me explore my own curiosities. So for example, she’d take me to the museum and I’d find an artist I loved and then I’d get a book from the library to read about that artist. Or we’d take a hike at the nature preserve and bring a book about wildflowers and learn about the different species. My mom’s philosophy has made its way into Supernow as we focus on child-led learning in order to spark their love of learning (instead of dread!).

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

Lyndsey:

I’ve always loved this CS Lewis quote and find it motivating when building something the world has never seen before — “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

Rachel:

I give Brene Brown the credit for exposing me to this Teddy Roosevelt quote. I think about it a lot, especially when I’m in a moment of doubting myself or our company. It helps me snap out of it and be grateful that I had the courage to step out and embark on this wild startup adventure.

“It is not the critic who counts… The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena… who strives valiantly, who errs, who comes short again and again…If he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

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

We’re both really inspired by Brene Brown’s style of leadership — we’re big fans of her book, TED talk and podcast — and we try to weave courage and vulnerability into the way we run the company.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. There is no shortage of good ideas out there. Many people have good ideas all the time. But people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. Can you share a few ideas from your experience about how to overcome this challenge?

First, you should validate the idea through initial research. Gather up friends, family and strangers for interviews and surveys to ask if people really want this product and if it is solving a real problem. Then, assess if the business model works or could work in the future. There are a lot of product ideas that customers would be crazy about but if you can’t create a real, scalable business, then it’s not worth your time. Ask yourself, “is the market big enough”, “is it scalable?, “do the unit economics make sense?”. But once you’ve concluded this could be a great business and worth the opportunity cost of your time, then just try it! Don’t be hobbled by the fear that you don’t know exactly how the product should work because no matter how hard you try, you aren’t going to get it right on your first try. So just launch your best guess and see how customers react. From there, let your customers tell you where to go next by staying close to them through interviews, surveys, and user data. Continue to pivot and adjust until you find something that is sticky.

Often when people think of a new idea, they dismiss it saying someone else must have thought of it before. How would you recommend that someone go about researching whether or not their idea has already been created?

Start with the problem — if you observe a problem that you see lots of people dealing with, it means that there isn’t a solution that is perfectly designed for them yet. Two products on the surface may look similar, but often, there’s some aspect of the design, mechanics or positioning that make them very different. It’s important to know the competitive landscape you’re playing in so search the web and understand the category, but don’t dwell on the competition. Focus on solving problems for your customers.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started Leading My Company” and why?

  • Don’t get too caught up in what other startup people are doing — especially when you’ve just started and are many steps behind everyone else. It’s easy to see all the Techcrunch success stories and get intimidated, but staying heads down and focused on what you’re building is the best way to stay true to your vision and your customers. We started Supernow while quarantined in the middle of nowhere Texas, not in the middle of the NYC startup hustle and this really worked to our advantage. We were able to tune out the noise and build something without the constant distractions and comparisons. If you find yourself getting imposter syndrome, put down the article, delete Twitter and tune out the noise. You’ll sleep easier.
  • When in doubt, talk to customers. It can be easy to come up with tons of cool ideas of what the product could be, but none of those matter if they don’t solve real problems for your customers. When you’re unsure of the next step, talk to your customers and they will illuminate their problems, reveal behavioral quirks and give constructive feedback that will get you unstuck. This has happened to us many times. Through the many phases of Supernow, customer feedback has helped us make the jump from summer camp to after-school enrichment, and from subscription classes to adventure club.
  • Don’t get stuck to the version of your idea today — be open to pivoting. Over the lifetime of a startup, the product and execution will change a million times. Pivoting is inevitable so when you get the sense that things aren’t working, be open to change. We were always committed to our mission of cultivating a generation of kids with love and curiosity for others, the world around them and themselves, but the product itself has evolved a lot. By staying focused on the mission and not the specific features of the product, we’ve been able to adjust and evolve in a changing climate while still feeling authentic to ourselves and our team.
  • Make a fundraising plan and practice. Raising money is a critical part of building a startup and being good at it requires preparation and confidence. It’s important to have a plan of attack — determining which investors to talk to, planning how you’re getting introduced and sticking to a timeline. This is not a time to just “wing it.” It’s important to practice your pitch and get feedback from other founders, investor friends, etc. because the more times you pitch, the better you are at pre-empting questions and telling your company’s story. Fundraising is a mental game so make sure you’re in the headspace to be able to tell investors they should be LUCKY to invest in you — not that you need their money. They’ll sense it. In our case, we set a very strict deadline for the raise and told investors that we’d be closing by July 1. By asserting that we were running a strict process, and condensing the timeline, we were able to get the fundraise done and move forward quickly.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Starting a business for the first time is really hard. There are lots of people who have gone before and have experienced very similar challenges to the ones you’re likely facing. Seek out peers and mentors who have done it before and ask for advice. We’ve found that fellow founders are great resources when we’re facing a new challenge that we’ve never dealt with before.

Let’s imagine that a reader reading this interview has an idea for a product that they would like to invent. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?

Step 1 — validate the problem. You need to determine if then idea you have is actually solving a problem that really haunts people. Talk to potential customers and survey your community to get clear on the user and problem.

Step 2 — explore the category. Part of the discovery process is understanding the category your solution would exist in. You might be an expert in the field already but there’s likely lots more to learn. Do desk research, read articles and test other products in the space for inspiration.

Step 3 — design your prototype. Once the discovery is done, develop the first version of your product. This will likely change a lot over the course of your business. Remember, the goal here is to learn a TON so done is better than perfect. You just need something for people to test or respond to.

Step 4 — pilot your solution. Recruit test subjects to pilot your solution — you could use the group of customers that you explored the problem with and also entirely new people with very little context. You’ll want to observe their behaviors, ask for their opinions, and gauge their satisfaction. Stay close to these folks.

Step 5 — iterate. You’ll quickly start gathering insights around how to improve the product and also develop hypotheses on what to test next. Try to roll out weekly tests to incrementally improve the product experience. The more you test, the faster you’ll get to product market fit.

There are many invention development consultants. Would you recommend that a person with a new idea hire such a consultant, or should they try to strike out on their own?

If you came up with the idea, you are the best person to bring it to life. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seek out help. Lean into your superpowers and get mentorship for where you are gapped and bring on consultants (and eventually full time hires) to help you where you need it.

What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one?

If you can bootstrap, bootstrap you’ll maintain more control and ownership. But if you are building a business that requires upfront capital for product development or research, then consider the VC route. Also consider the VC route if scaling is important to your business model. Bootstrapped companies generally scale slower unless they are generating a lot of cash upfront to be able to reinvest in the business. We started off as bootstrapped but when we realized we wanted to build out our digital product to scale, we knew we needed outside investment.

Ok. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

We started Supernow during the pandemic and have been moved by the stories from families who have claimed that we’ve made their kids happier, less lonely, and more excited to learn during this challenging time. Plus we’ve provided a respite for tired and overworked parents who just need an hour back to themselves after working, teaching and taking care of their kids.

You are an inspiration to a great many people. 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.

The Supernow program has been built atop the principles of Social and Emotional learning and we believe that learning values like gratitude, mindfulness and emotional self awareness are just as important as learning STEM and creativity — in fact, the two go hand in hand. Our goal with Supernow is to inspire a movement of kids who are emotionally intelligent, tolerant and resilient, and armed with the creativity to be able to face life’s challenges head on.

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, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

We’re so inspired by the female entrepreneurs who also happen to be amazing parents too, including Sara Blakely, Serena Williams, Gwynneth Paltrow, and Reese Witherspoon. We’d love to have a roundtable with these badass founders to get advice and get them on our cap table!

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.


Making Something From Nothing: Rachel Breitenwischer and Lyndsey Wheeler Of Supernow On How To Go… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Author Beverly Willett On 5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive After A Divorce

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Learn to meditate and quiet the raging voices in your head. Because they will be there and they’ll compete with your need to find a place of calm and equilibrium from which to rebuild.

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

Beverly Willett is the author of “Disassembly Required: A Memoir of Midlife Resurrection, a raw and riveting memoir that examines the discomforts of change while celebrating the opportunities for transformation. A June 2022 book club pick by the world’s largest book club, The International Pulpwood Queens, and nominated for Georgia Author of the year, she has written for the nation’s top publications including The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The New York Post, The Guardian, and dozens more. A former NYC entertainment attorney, she gave a popular Tedx Talk entitled “How to Begin Again.

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

I grew up in a — very — small rural town in Southern Maryland, surrounded by extended family and the clichés we’ve come to believe about small town life — riding my bike everywhere, playing outdoors without supervision, and catching fireflies on summer evenings. Compared with so much of what happens in the world today, you might find it hard to believe that I remember my childhood as mostly idyllic, but it’s true. I felt loved, protected, and encouraged. I was lucky.

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

I could write a book, really. And it’s partly covered in my memoir. But here’s the short version: I’ve been writing all my life even when I didn’t realize it or that I was preparing myself to be a writer. In high school, I had several columns for community and school newspapers. As a lawyer, I wrote briefs, contracts, and memos, and in their own way, they too told stories. But my heart was more into creative writing so I took classes, and I’ve been writing and paying my dues for two decades. I finally had my first book published at midlife in 2019.

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

Choosing the most interesting story is impossible. I find so much fascinating in life and am rarely bored. I may never admit I’m “old” when I am, but it was a total thrill when AARP Magazine decided to excerpt my memoir in its February/March 2020 issue. With a circulation like that, I expected book sales would soar. But the country was focused on the pandemic which had just burst onto the scene in the U.S. so people were distracted with stocking up on masks, toilet paper and hand sanitizer….I’m relaunching now and hope you’ll buy my memoir! But in any case, I had no idea that the magazine would send a makeup artist and photographer to my house to do a photo spread to accompany the excerpt. As a writer, I never expected this sort of experience, and I had so much fun playing dress-up all over my house.

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 had written a couple of parenting pieces, but I was eager for my first commercial newspaper clip about 20 years ago. The NY newspaper I decided to pitch had a small personal essay column, and the editor liked my story so I sat down to write it. Trouble is the word limit was about 300 words and my draft was over 500. I sent it in anyway, and it was rejected because it was too long. I remember thinking that I couldn’t tell the story in only 300 words (or thereabouts), and sitting in my desk chair and feeling bratty. The editor said he’d let me try again if I wanted. So I had a decision to make. I wanted that clip desperately so I gave myself a lecture: Beverly, if you want that clip, if you want to be a writer bad enough, you’re going to tell the story in nearly half the words. So for most of the weekend — my children were with my ex — I can’t tell you how many times I wrote and rewrote the story and counted words. And at the end of the weekend, I think I had it down to about 302 words and I emailed it off, and within minutes, the editor emailed back — we’ll take it. I learned so many lessons from that obviously — listen to editors when they know better (that doesn’t mean I haven’t fought for things at other times!), be humble, be grateful for editors who take the time to help you. It was also a great early lesson in learning how to edit, write short, and hone in on the essentials of a story.

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

Not just one favorite. But one of my favorites is a poem by my favorite poet, William Wordsworth, which I quote from in my memoir “Disassembly Required.” I recommend that you google the entire text, but here are the first two lines: “The world is too much with us; late and soon, Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers.” That was one of many inspirations for my getting rid of most of my “stuff.”

As I went throughout my house, cleaning out four stories of “stuff” from a lifetime, I began to understand the power that “stuff” had once had over my life and how lacking in substance and importance most of it was. That helped me let go of my attachment which in turn opened the path to true freedom.

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

I’m in the final edits of my first novel before I send it off into the world to agent shop. I can’t reveal any more at this point, but I’m turning my attention back to my first profession, as a lawyer. My protagonist is a young woman facing personal and career challenges and an exciting new case that finds its way to her desk.

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

My ex-husband sued me in New York at a time when the state had not yet adopted no-fault divorce, meaning that he had to prove I’d done something legally wrong to obtain a divorce. I hadn’t. I opposed the divorce. I wanted to save my marriage. Ultimately that wasn’t possible, and I had no choice but to give in. It was the most horrific experience I’ve ever gone through. Never wish yourself in family court. I found zero compassion. How’s that possible? The death of a family is traumatic, and whether you want the divorce or not, you’re in a place of vulnerability with a million life changes swirling around you. It’s impossible to cope with them all at once. I contemplated suicide early on, something I could never have followed through on, but it didn’t mean I wasn’t driven to the point of feeling it was the only way out of the pain. But I held on, to my faith, to my inner strength. Luckily, I’d studied meditation for several years. I had tools to calm myself. I knew my children needed me, and that probably was at the forefront of my thoughts more than anything. There are so many stories I could share — I’ve written about many of them so I invite you to read my book and articles which I’ve posted on my website.

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

The pain can be so horrific that I think the natural tendency is to want the pain to go away as quickly and as easily as possible. So people resort to all sorts of temporary fixes — diving into a new relationship, shopping or spending money, drink and drugs. Pain is uncomfortable; it’s natural to shy away from it. But pain has a purpose. Before a medical diagnosis, it can provide clues that something is wrong. Without going through the pain of life and a period of grieving, we can’t heal, we’re just letting the wound temporarily scab over. You have to trust in the pain to heal and draw on whatever resources you have to sit with it whether that’s prayer, meditation, calling on friends or just trusting your intellect, even if your heart hasn’t caught up yet.

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

After 50 years of no-fault divorce in this country, the negative consequences of divorce are well-researched and easy to observe from the continued economic consequences on women to higher suicide rates for men to the multitude of increased negative outcomes for children of divorce. We have too much divorce in part driven by too much selfishness and focus on self-actualization. I’m not saying some divorce shouldn’t happen, but we’re too prone to wanting quick fixes in our society about so much. Relationships are hard and require hard work. Obviously there are positives for women and men who extract themselves from situations involving domestic violence.

I didn’t want my divorce, but was forced to accept it. I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I hadn’t found a way to accept it and find my way back to being the positive, happy person that is a reflection of my true spirit. But for my divorce, I wouldn’t have been able to speak about the harmful effects of divorce to others. I wouldn’t have been able to write my book and share my story of how I walked through the fire, grieved, and came out the other end stronger and more understanding of the grief of others. I’ve had desperate people write to me and say they’ve found an article of mine just at the right time when they were feeling hopeless. Can there be anything more positive than providing hope for someone else in their time of need? So to me it feels like a mixed blessing — the worst of my pain, shared with another, has allowed them to find a nugget of hope. Would I have become a writer? Would I have come back to my faith and for once made it the center of my life? Would I have been able to psychologically handle the health challenges that awaited me on the other side of divorce if I hadn’t already learned the tools required to go through hardship and thrive on the other end? Could I serve as an example of strength to my children for their own future trials if I hadn’t gone through divorce? I don’t have a crystal ball, but I certainly wouldn’t be the person I am today without having gone through a divorce. That was the pivotal incident around which my future growth revolved.

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

Don’t? I say that in jest, but only in part. In jest, because I think people jump into dating too quickly without healing and grieving first. And because it’s our human tendency to try and replace what we’ve lost thinking that’s going to make us happy. But it’s merely changing suffering. Get healthy first so you have your healthiest self to present to someone else. Recognize that happiness comes within. Oh we say it like we believe it. But it’s become a cliché. If we believe it in the core of our souls, then it doesn’t matter whether we date or not. Divorce can topple your self-image. Know who you are first or you won’t know what you want or how to make it work. The divorce rate for second and third marriages is sky high and greater than for first marriages. That should tell you something about how prepared people are the next time around before they dive in.

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

Your perspective and your reference points and expectations about where happiness comes from. Take a look at my Tedx Talk: “How to Begin Again.” That explains these concepts in a way I think most people can relate.

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

Be kind to and patient with yourself. That doesn’t mean shopping. It means don’t load yourself with expectations about how you should be or how quickly you should heal.

Pray. If you don’t pray in the traditional way through a religion that you believe in, find out how to pray in a way that you believe. A way to go inside yourself, to become vulnerable, to express your hopes and regrets, to purge your soul and to lift your heart in praise for what’s good.

Learn to meditate and quiet the raging voices in your head. Because they will be there and they’ll compete with your need to find a place of calm and equilibrium from which to rebuild.

Take the time to learn about who you are as a single person, what you like, what you believe, and what puts a true and lasting smile on your face. And then do more of that. In cleaning out a lifetime of clutter on four floors to prepare for selling my home, I came in contact with so many things that reminded me of my former self, my true self.

Go out alone and by that I don’t mean go to a bar to meet men or women. Go out and enjoy your own company. Take yourself out to dinner. Go see the movie you want when you don’t have a friend to go with you. Enjoy your own company and relearn that your happiness does not depend on having a partner at your side. The first few times might be hard. But I grew to enjoy my alone time and still do.

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

Go inward. Looking outward for things that can alleviate pain and anguish most often just gives a temporary fix. Inside is where you do the work and find the true, long-lasting antidotes. Every time I walked down to court, I meditated and recited Psalm 23.

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

This is a long list! I have to recommend my memoir, “Disassembly Required.” It’s why I wrote it — to hopefully show people a path to starting over. If you have kids, try to understand what they’re going through. One of my favorite books is “Between Two Worlds” for this purpose. Two websites have great resources and articles—www.divorcereform.us and https://ifstudies.org/. “Divorce Magazine” has lots of articles. If you’re in midlife, there are tons of podcasts.

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

Again, such a big question. I have so many ideas. But this reiterates something I said above: Learn to pray. And that means whatever it means to you. I’m religious, so that means a certain thing to me and for me that’s a vital, centering part of my life. But whatever you believe, I think we might all agree that the universe is bigger than we are and that there’s something else we can tap into, even if it’s just our inner self and getting quiet enough to really know ourselves. Prayer, whatever form it tapes, is also an expression of hope. We all need to find and hold onto hope no matter what. Prayer is also a way of quieting all those outward and inward voices — and there are so many in our society competing for intention and within ourselves. We need to learn to shut them out and hear ourselves think. So, yes, a movement toward universal prayer.

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

Despite going through the War of the Roses I’m not jaded. And I like to have fun. Hope springs eternal in my heart that there’s still a partner out there for me. But if not, I can live with that too. The Hollywood men of faith that come to mind are married and taken. But maybe Mark Wahlberg, Denzel Washington, Keith Urban, or Matthew McConaughey have a friend? I once would have said Liam Neeson, but I’ve read some things that made me think twice about him not being the man I thought he was. But then again, can you believe everything written about celebrities? I’d give him the chance to prove me — or them — wrong.

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


Author Beverly Willett On 5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive After A Divorce was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Meet The Disruptors: Edward Scott Of ElectrifAi On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your…

Meet The Disruptors: Edward Scott Of ElectrifAi On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Be curious, humble, adaptive and customer obsessed. Every business needs to constantly listen to customers who will tell you the path forward or what needs to be changed and optimized. Further, in today’s fast changing world, leaders need to be curious and willing to try different approaches and adapt. Through it all, you have to be humble letting others take the credit. We saw this when we created ElectrifAi — now one of the US’ leading machine learning software solutions providers. We built ElectrifAi out of the bankruptcy of Opera Solutions the previous team of which was arrogant, insular and disingenuous.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Edward Scott.

Edward Scott is the CEO of ElectrifAi, a leading US-based machine learning software company serving Fortune 500 and mid-sized enterprises. Ed has over 25 years of experience in the technology and private equity sectors. Ed started his career in Drexel Burnham Lambert and joined the Apollo Investment Fund in 1990. Ed was a partner at the Baker Communications Fund and held senior-level positions at Napier Park Global Capital and White Oak Global Advisors. Ed graduated from Columbia University and earned an MBA from the Harvard Business School with second-year honors.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I started my career at Apollo and got heavily involved in TMT. That experience led me deeper into tech and helping to build Akamai and ultimately building Europe’s largest data center business called InterXion. And then finally to machine learning and computer vision at ElectrifAi.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

Every business has significant amounts of data and ElectrifAi unlocks the potential of that data with pre-built machine learning software solutions that quickly help enterprise clients drive customer acquisition and retention as well as cut costs and risk through spend and contract analytics.

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

I was working for Smith Barney in the M&A group and assigned to a (yet another) restructuring of Chrysler. I showed up at the gate of Chrysler’s HQ in Michigan driving a rented Ford. The gate attendant directed me to a parking lot 2 miles away with no bus. It taught me the importance of situational awareness, as well as the need for a warm coat in Michigan!

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

I would say the top folks at Apollo. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t utilize a technique or tool learned at Apollo. Marc Rowan is the best. Plain and simple. They taught me the value of persistence in the face of great adversity which is something I drew upon when creating ElectrifAi out of the bankruptcy of Opera Solutions.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

Disruption is a positive when it creates a greater good and unleashes untapped potential. Think about the gig economy or AirBnB as examples. Think about computer vision which can automate certain visual cognition tasks yielding greater accuracy and throughput. When we talk about firms or institutions withstanding the test of time those are usually the firms that have constantly adapted. Uber is a positive disruption — the benefits of which are global and palpable. On one level social media is very disruptive and entertaining. But on another level, business models that grab personal information with no compensation and then monetize seem disingenuous at best.

Can you share five of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

Be curious, humble, adaptive and customer obsessed. Every business needs to constantly listen to customers who will tell you the path forward or what needs to be changed and optimized. Further, in today’s fast changing world, leaders need to be curious and willing to try different approaches and adapt. Through it all, you have to be humble letting others take the credit. We saw this when we created ElectrifAi — now one of the US’ leading machine learning software solutions providers. We built ElectrifAi out of the bankruptcy of Opera Solutions the previous team of which was arrogant, insular and disingenuous.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

We want to take AI and machine learning deeper into areas of social good and benefit. For example, educating and growing the next generation of data leaders not at the fancy Ivy League schools but in the community colleges and state universities. Giving young people a facility for data and the power of data. That’s where the next great generation of entrepreneurs will come from. We want to give them the tools to succeed. Other areas of interest include using AI to combat human trafficking. We have the power.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

My favorite book is Connecting the Dots by John Chambers. It’s filled with life lessons of all sorts, particularly for those involved in building companies. Chamber is one of the greatest CEO’s of all time.

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

From Ray Kroc: “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. “

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. 🙂

Educating kids in grade school about data and coding.

How can our readers follow you online?

On LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/edward-scott-74354923/

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


Meet The Disruptors: Edward Scott Of ElectrifAi On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Makers of The Metaverse: Mishi McDuff of Blueberry Entertainment On The Future Of The VR, AR &…

Makers of The Metaverse: Mishi McDuff of Blueberry Entertainment On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Customer empathy — our customers are everything for us. They truly are more than buyers, but they build the communities in which we work and live. We need to know them and make sure to serve them where they are and with what they need.

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, we had the pleasure of interviewing Mishi McDuff.

Mishi McDuff is the CEO and Founder of Blueberry, the world’s leading digital fashion brand. Before Blueberry, Mishi was a senior executive at multiple digital media and gaming companies. She led marketing at Peanut Labs (exit in 2010) and Xuqa (exit in 2006). In 2018 she co-founded 1336 Studios, a multiplayer game studio focused on the sports market, where she currently remains as Chair Woman.

Born in Turkey, Mishi has always been a metaverse fanatic and prolific digital artists, with 300k+ followers on platforms like Flickr for her work in digital design. She is a strong believer in the potential for digital fashion to re-define the traditional fashion ecosystem, offering empowering, sustainable and endlessly creative products.

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?

Hi! Thank you for having me. I was born and raised in Turkey. At a pretty young age, I learned technology and found that I could launch and build companies that were heavily focused in the US. I was fortunate to co-found and exit two companies before the age of 20. So, I grew up as an entrepreneur.

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?

It was a video game! I played Dota 2 religiously. Admittedly, I spent quite a bit of money on the game, but purely on the cosmetic appearance of the characters I played. It became very clear that self expression is important in any social space — digital or physical.

Is there a particular story that inspired you to pursue a career in the virtual reality/metaverse industry? We’d love to hear it.

I was a huge fan of the musical artist Skye Galaxy. When I lived in Turkey, I would listen to him on YouTube. I found out he did concerts on a platform called Second Life and I downloaded it immediately. I was able to join his concert and have an amazing time while meeting other people who attended the concert. Despite having such a good time, I realized my avatar looked very basic compared to others and I was determined to look just as dope as the rest of them. That night, I made myself a cute dress, and the next day other people were asking to buy my dress. That’s how Blueberry launched!

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

I have hundreds of what I consider to be the most interesting stories! It’s hard to pick just one. In summing it up, the people I meet through metaverse worlds and even real-life people interested in metaverse worlds are fascinating and so interesting. They include people from all professions — creatives, students, journalists, doctors — and also from all nationalities, religions and cultures. Diversity of perspectives has always been interesting to me — both opening my eyes to ways I want to live and also inspiring me of who I want to design for.

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?

Oh my gosh — it still makes me shake my head when I think about what I call my “hair fair despair.” I was donating 5 virtual wigs to a fundraiser to help children with cancer afford wigs. In preparation I was supposed to air-drop my designs to the influencers the night before the official drop. And then…. I inadvertently air dropped the designs to the entire distribution list. Instantly, none of the designs had value — because I gave them all away. So, I lost a night of sleep creating a whole new set of virtual hair.

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?

Of course, I must credit my mom. While she wanted me to be a doctor, and I am not, she always knew that I was smart and ambitious, needing an outlet to put all of me into my career. Knowing that she believed in me was the foundation I needed. Her consistent support and love has given me the courage to become an entrepreneur — and also a mother!

The other person I want to call out is Prosper Nwankpa. He has been a 2-times co-founder with me. He moved to the US from Nigeria at the age of 12 and rigorously found his path to a myriad of successes. He proactively shares what he is learning with me, and vice versa. When I am with him I feel empowered. If I question myself, he is always quick to remind me that I can handle whatever comes my way.

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

Blueberry has done a collaboration with the Broadway show Dear Evan Hansen. In honor of May’s Mental Health Awareness month, we are launching a metaverse fundraising event. Beginning Friday, May 13, 2022, a digital version of the show’s iconic blue striped polo will be available for purchase on Roblox, with 100% of the proceeds to benefit the Child Mind Institute, the not-for-profit dedicated to transforming the lives of children struggling with mental health disorders and learning disorders.

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 a couple of things in particular that most excite you about the industry? Can you explain or give an example?

First, the reach that these capabilities create is vast. Just from my own example growing up in Turkey, online communities gave me an eye for both the opportunities that existed beyond my day-to-day real life, as well as expanding the people I could meet as partners, collaborators and customers.

Second, VR, AR and MR give way to creative outlets for many people, and importantly many new creators. As cliche as it may sound, these new technologies are the blank canvases for new ideas.

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?

No matter what tools are created, there are always a few bad-actors that take those tools and misuse them. Our plan is to focus our attention on the positive people, players and capabilities in the space. There is no reason why these tools can’t make the world a better place.

There are 3 essential parts to the industry: the platforms, the creators, and the end users. The relationship between the platform and the creator is very open to exploitation. Protecting assets and copyright, fair compensation, and preserving equal opportunities should be taken very seriously by the platforms.

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?

Covid was an eye-opening experience for the power of virtual work. Think if we had a global pandemic before we had video conferencing. VR, AR and MR will take the next step in helping people effectively work together no matter where they are IRL*.

(*in real life.)

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

I believe that fashion and art are making enormous strides today. In the future, I believe that healthcare and education are frontiers that will leverage these technologies to serve people in really powerful ways.

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

It is no longer a field that is on the sidelines or niche. It is becoming, and has become, far more mainstream. I was laughing with a friend the other day, as her daughter lost a tooth and asked the Tooth Fairy to provide a gift in Robux. Kids use these metaverses and communities to connect and socialize in ways that can be really healthy!

What are your “4 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career In The VR, AR or MR Industries?”

It’s really so much the same

  • High-energy — we run 24×7 businesses with people around the world communicating with us and purchasing our products. You need to have a team that is responsive — which requires lots of energy.
  • Open-mindedness — we are operating in a very new world and evolving marketplace. If you get too set in your ways, you won’t be able to evolve and change to stay relevant with our customers and within our community.
  • Resilience — nothing about being an entrepreneur is easy. There are lots of “nos” for every “yes.” It takes resilience to keep coming back and working through the challenges to find success.
  • Customer empathy — our customers are everything for us. They truly are more than buyers, but they build the communities in which we work and live. We need to know them and make sure to serve them where they are and with what they need.

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 spent the last decade of my life building a community that empowers women in digital spaces. This is entirely what I want to do — even expanding the community to girls who will grow to be empowered women. The best part is that more and more girls and women want to participate in these virtual spaces — creating a world where they want to be.

We are very blessed that very prominent people 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 🙂

Gavin Rossdale because Bush is my favorite band of all time. Let’s skip lunch and do a Roblox concert instead.

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


Makers of The Metaverse: Mishi McDuff of Blueberry Entertainment On The Future Of The VR, AR &… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Makers of The Metaverse: Yann Toullec Of Univers On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality…

Makers of The Metaverse: Yann Toullec Of Univers On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Motivation- This space is in constant fluctuation and new ideas are everywhere. You have to be motivated to push your idea forward or it will get lost in the flood.

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, we had the pleasure of interviewing Yann Toullec.

Yann Toullec, Univers CEO, is a serial entrepreneur in the media and tech industry. Independent from a young age, Yann has always been driven by his ambition for creative solutions to real world problems and is now devoted to championing the future of the metaverse industry.

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 without screens and was mainly fascinated by books, poetry, and storytelling. My main passion since childhood was always how to solve problems. I would imagine futuristic creations and solutions for improving the world.

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?

Bienvenue à Gattaca because of the fact that it highlights that there are no fatalities and that no one should follow a designated path for external reasons, but instead follow their own instincts and let that dictate their journeys.

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

Alice in Wonderland and Mary Poppins. These stories are full of creativity and magic, but also full of personal growth and strong character development. I think it’s important to live with a childlike curiosity so I pursue ideas that are both exciting and have the potential to expand our physical reality.

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

I have a strong belief in Karma in the sense that when many negative things have occurred, life will balance out and positive shifts will begin. I believe this is especially true when it comes to business. With the Covid19 pandemic, many of my businesses were devastated. When the world began to open back up, I found myself surrounded by only my most loyal and steadfast relationships. My love of nightlife and socializing has helped me make some of my best friends in some of the strangest circumstances and now I have an incredible team and a revolutionary project!

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?

Looking for fame more than value, I built my first company in the movie industry in order to meet Emma Watson at the Cannes Film Festival. I was more passionate about meeting her than the movie I was making!

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 attribute my success and direct my gratitude towards my Mother. It was she who fueled my mind with books and poetry from such a young age. It was my Mother that showed me what true hard work was and the value of investing in your own mind. My Mother is a brilliant woman both personally and professionally and has a strong passion for adventure. Growing up with this incredible woman more than anything or anyone else in life, is what helped shape me into the person I am today.

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

My current project is Univers. Univers is an ever-expanding network of interconnected projects and dApps built on the blockchain. Our technology enables metaverse interoperability, meaning any project, application or platform may connect to or build on the network through any reality such as VR, AR or 2D interfaces. Metaverse interoperability provides asset liberation and increased utility as avatars, in-game assets, NFTs and tokens may be accessed while participating in any experience connected to the network without third party involvement, (eg., exchanges).

We’re increasingly seeing the ways in which our physical and our virtual world are blending. We at Univers truly believe the metaverse is simply another incredible extension of our reality and as such, we should all work together to shape it and ensure it is a place where we can all be free to create, explore, and make our own choices. Univers will help society by providing opportunities to unleash and expand their horizons creatively, socially and financially–collectively.

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?

Freedom , collaboration and organic growth. These are relatively new technologies and new spaces. If we can approach these technologies while honoring those three qualities, then VR, AR, and MR could be an amazing opportunity for truly harnessing collective consciousness and communal exploration.

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?

Data exploitation. Digital asset exploitation. One person or corporation with complete industry control/dominance. I believe the metaverse should be a space where each individual gets to be involved in decision making. If one corporation gains complete control of the space then we will likely experience a lot of the data and digital asset exploitation that we are currently subjected to online and in social media by corporate giants.

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?

Humans communicate in far more ways than in written and spoken words. These technologies offer us opportunities to communicate in new and different ways as well as create new experiences. This can be beneficial to brands because they can effectively create entirely new worlds for their consumers to participate in and experience their brands in more emotionally stimulating ways. It also provides more opportunities for consumers to connect with brands they may never have known about or had interest in. Ultimately it broadens opportunities for both companies and consumers.

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

Humans have a knack for inventing and then reinventing. One invention usually leads to a series of other inventions that often have even more profound effects than the initial invention. I think VR, AR and MR will start off as a place we get to connect, socialize, earn and explore new realities, but then evolve into something more incredible than we can predict right now. Maybe we’ll find new medical applications. Maybe medical students will perform their practice surgeries on avatars or get to explore 3D scans of clogged arteries. Maybe students with learning disabilities will be able to absorb more knowledge through VR education or story books will be full adventures that readers are completely immersed in. I believe the more open we are to accepting these technologies, the quicker we will find the many benefits.

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

In the blockchain industry there are a lot of “get rich quick” projects or “trendy topics”. The trend right now is the metaverse. A myth I’d like to dispel is that very one. Not all projects are just trying to make money quickly and then disappear. Some projects like Univers are dedicated to the long term elevation of this space. Find those projects and stand by them.

What are your “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career In The VR, AR or MR Industries?”

Motivation- This space is in constant fluctuation and new ideas are everywhere. You have to be motivated to push your idea forward or it will get lost in the flood.

Creativity- You need to be creative in every regard or else your idea and solutions will not be unique enough to stand apart from the competition.

Resilience- There are tons of hurdles in this industry. It’s essential to be solution oriented no matter how many challenges present themselves.

Team- Network is your net worth. Surrounding yourself with talented and experienced people who truly believe in your idea and can further elevate it is crucial. You cannot do everything yourself and you cannot do everything best.

Loyalty- Building a loyal following who believe in your project and want its success is a must. A strong and dedicated community will ensure your project survives the tumultuous markets.

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. 🙂

The movement I want to inspire is choice. We have the ability to choose where these industries are headed and how much control we have within them. Get involved. Talk to the projects you believe in. Take charge of your future in immersive technologies and invest your attention in the companies committed to our free future

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

I would love to share a meal with either Elon Musk or Keanu Reeves. Elon, so I could ask him about his vision and strategic choices, and Keanu so I could hear him speak about his philosophy on life.

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


Makers of The Metaverse: Yann Toullec Of Univers On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Meet The Disruptors: Nick Venson Of Swag Golf On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

“Anyone can do your job.”

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nick Venson, founder of Swag Golf.

Nick Venson brings 25 years of golf and collector industry experience to his role as Chief Executive Officer for Swag. Venson founded the company in 2018, with a focus on creating boldly-styled, premium golf accessories, equipment and apparel. Since then, the company’s products have become some of the most sought after items in the golf space with product sell outs often occurring in minutes when products are available. The company is continuing to expand its empire through licensing partnerships, retail relationships, and brand activations.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

An avid golf enthusiast from a young age, I took an interest in Scotty Cameron putters and grew a deep understanding and knowledge of the rare collectible putters, becoming one of the foremost authorities in the high-end space. This led me to eventually linking up with the Art of Putters — a concierge service and outlet for rare, collectible, and tour issued Cameron putters in 2005.

Eventually, I relocated from California to the Chicago area where I worked with Bettinardi, taking on expanded responsibilities including involvement in design and strategic planning sessions for nine years.

As these responsibilities grew, I started putting forth bolder, more visually engaging designs for consideration. Ultimately it became clear that if I wanted to create the golf products I envisioned, I’d have to strike out on my own. Swag Golf debuted in 2018 and since then, the company’s products have become some of the most sought after items in the golf space.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

In 2018, the golf industry was definitely stale. That wasn’t news to me. I had been formulating the idea for a company like SWAG for almost a decade but didn’t know how to execute it. With the knowledge I had acquired after nearly two decades of working in golf and specifically with collectible golf products, it finally felt like time about 5 years ago. I wanted cool, loud, and bespoke products that spoke to the new generation of young golfers, and nobody was making them well. It became apparent to me that golf needed SWAG.

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

Early on, we were still getting the hang of how to run a flash sale and how our e-commerce platform worked. We had just finished our third ever release, just a month after our launch, and it went great. People were still on the website and we had another cover that had come in that we’d already photographed and we thought, “Could we put that one up really quick?” We tried to quickly make a product page and made a joke about making sure you keep hitting F5 (refreshing), but then felt like we shouldn’t rush it. Little did we know that our platform saved our changes as we went, and the cover went up and sold out without us even knowing it was on the site. That day we accidentally invented what we call an “F5 release” — a secondary surprise release after an announced release — which has become a big part of our brand. It showed us that people like surprises and that collecting is more fun when you have to expect the unexpected.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

I was very fortunate to be able to work with and represent the greatest putter maker of our time, Scotty Cameron. The interactions I had with him and getting to pick his brain over occasional meals and rounds of golf is the reason I am where I am today. He was a master of marketing in a time without the social media behemoth we have today. His way of creating products and a brand that resonated with his customer base is something that I strive for daily.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

I don’t think disruption is ever bad in an industry. If you disrupt an industry and get negative feedback or it totally breaks the framework of that industry, my assumption would be that the industry was in dire need of a shakeup or revamping in the first place. As far as positive disruption is concerned, the true trailblazers or forward thinkers are always going to upset the old guard when they disrupt what has been working for a long time. I don’t think disruptors are the problem, ever. It’s usually those who fear change that are the problem.

Can you share five of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

This may sound funny to say but the best five words of advice were not meant to be advice: “Anyone can do your job.” Those five words drove me to prove the person who said it to me wrong. It hurt, it dug really deep, and it remains the reason I strive to be better as a business owner and as a creator of awesome products.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

We have a lot of projects we’re working on, but I think you will see quite a few new items from Swag before the end of the year. Not only on the golf side, but we will continue growth into the digital space as well as continue to dabble outside of golf. Our team has a lot of passion projects and not enough time to tackle them all, but I want to try to!

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

The autobiography “Shoe Dog” about how Phil Knight started Nike footwear really made a huge impact on the way I think about business. What he had to go through then seems like such a stretch today. Flying all over the world, making phone calls and waiting for samples and no internet! What a crazy journey he had, and what he was able to do was truly amazing. I feel very fortunate to be able to do in hours what may have taken weeks for him to accomplish.

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

One thing I heard over and over from a former employer was, “It is impossible to machine this or that.” Not knowing any better, I tended to just say okay, but as I continued to learn what was possible, it only made me realize that almost nothing is impossible if you are willing to put the time, money, and effort into doing things right. Swag doesn’t always do everything the way to make the most money, but I can assure you we do everything the right way.

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 could inspire a movement it would be ridding the world of glitter by 2033. “Glitter Free by ‘33” would be my motto. Sounds crazy you might say, but does anyone actually want a card with glitter on it? Do you actually want to hang Christmas ornaments and get glitter all over your clothes?

How can our readers follow you online?

The best ways to follow us are @swaggolfco on instagram and Twitter and our Official Swag Facebook group.

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


Meet The Disruptors: Nick Venson Of Swag Golf On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Making Something From Nothing: Paolo Tanjuatco of FortifySeo On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Having your own business gives you the luxury to manage your own time, however, as a business owner you are supposed to be on call all the time. I’ve had clients who message me in the wee hours of the morning but I can’t help but respond if I’m awake and see it on my phone since they are my customers.

As a part of our series called “Making Something From Nothing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Paolo Tanjuatco of FortifySEO.

Paolo Tanjuatco is the President and Head of Fortify SEO . A digital marketing agency based in the Philippines. A seasoned marketing strategist, he successfully transitioned from working for multinationals to starting his own business. A Masters of Science in Management graduate of the University of Asia the Pacific and a holder of a Certificate in Global Management from INSEAD (https://www.insead.edu/) , Paolo is also an Independent Consultant for SOFA Design Institute handling their Digital Marketing courses.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?

Being the youngest of 8 siblings, everyone around you tends to treat you like a kid. As a result, family and close family friends are more inclined to belittle or at least question your life decisions. This motivated me to put in 100% effort to develop myself and do the best in mastering my passion. It motivated me to be relevant and significant in my chosen career.

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

“Pray, Hope, Don’t Worry.”

As we all know by now, with the pandemic around, life is indeed full of uncertainties. Tomorrow may be far different from today. Given this, we shouldn’t let worries cripple us from doing our best today. Let us remember that every day is a building block and the backbone of our future. Every action or decision we make is intertwined in an unexplainable marvelous way that results in the future. We should also never lose hope in life and there’s always tomorrow to look forward to.

This life lesson quote has always been my mantra when the going gets tough and days don’t go by as planned. It gives me hope and a ray of positivity always as I hold on to my faith and trust the Almighty on His plans.

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

Eleven Rings “The Soul of Success” by Phil Jackson.

Being an avid basketball fan, this is one of the books that struck me where Phil Jackson is shown as being the coach with the most championships in NBA history. He needed to be a great leader to be able to manage such high profile players such as MJ (Michael Jordan), Kobe and Shaq. It required an array of skills, virtues, and loads of patience to be able to reach such success.

I believe my success in life is built on leadership. Seems cliché but as they said, no man is an island. Bringing the best out in a person is not an easy task and a good leader has a good eye on a team member’s strength and develops it for the team. This book gave me wonderful insights on how to handle different kinds of people.

Phil Jackson did not force his will on people but inspired them to change themselves. It brought out the best in each player he had in his team. He also empathized with his team players and looked at them as whole human beings not just as players who will bring the trophy to the team. Phil also understood that basketball is their livelihood and is just a fraction of their entire lives. He understood that for them work is an enabler to be successful in life.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. There is no shortage of good ideas out there. Many people have good ideas all the time. But people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. Can you share a few ideas from your experience about how to overcome this challenge?

You will never really know if an idea will work until you try it. We all need to take risks — calculated risks. But an idea will never be something if it is not tested. It will always be just an idea. So it’s best to test it out and have tangible proof or experience.

Coming from 10 years of extensive work experience in the Food and Beverage industry, there were a lot of ideas and products that were put on the table. But upon testing and doing proper research, not all of those products and ideas actually became successful. But reality is that not everyone has the privilege of doing extensive research when translating an idea into an actual business. My advice is that you should move and must test it out. Do something about it and just never let it sit as an idea because you would never know how truly one idea is important and real until you try it. The sooner you test and do something about it, the sooner you’ll get that recipe for success.

Often when people think of a new idea, they dismiss it saying someone else must have thought of it before. How would you recommend that someone go about researching whether or not their idea has already been created?

Compared to 20 years ago, we now have unparalleled access to information because of the Internet and Digitalization. As a marketeer, there are many ideas that are similar or the same but can still co-exist. You must look at your idea and see what makes it unique from someone else’s idea. Take for example a smartphone. What differentiates Apple from Samsung? Look at their specs. Their yearly new mobile phone models are both very similar in terms of features and capabilities. Looking closely, Apple’s entire ecosystem is the main differentiator from that of Android’s. So it all boils down to preference. But both companies are actually doing pretty well, in terms of business standards, through the years.

For the benefit of our readers, can you outline the steps one has to go through, from when they think of the idea, until it finally lands in a customer’s hands? In particular, we’d love to hear about how to file a patent, how to source a good manufacturer, and how to find a retailer to distribute it.

Stage 1: Idea Generation.

Let your idea brew. Think about it, try to make sense out of it.

Stage 2: Idea Screening.

Check if your idea is unique or if you can make it unique in your own way. Create different scenarios and challenge your idea. You can also do online research, digital agencies such as FortifySEO can check for online trends, keyword research and other data that can help with your idea.

Stage 3: Concept Development & Testing.

Make your idea into a real concept. Create product or service prototypes. Test your concept by doing research, surveys, or focus group discussions. File a patent for your idea if it is applicable. Filing a patent varies per country, but for the US you can check online on available patents or trademarks (https://patft.uspto.gov/). After checking you need to choose type of patent you need, afterwards you can file for a provisional patent. Next is you need to gather more information or data for your patent and continue with the application process.

Stage 4: Market Strategy/Business Analysis.

Conduct competitive research for your product or service. A good and simple way would be to do a SWOT analysis. Build on your strengths and look for opportunities on how to successfully launch your product or service. Create a business plan or a GTM (Go to Market Strategy).

Stage 5: Product Development.

Start developing your product or finalize your service. If you need to manufacture source from a reputable supplier, you must request for multiple samples and test it and make sure it passes your customer requirements and standards.

Stage 6: Market Entry/Commercialization

Execute your GTM. The key to a successful entry is to ensure your product or service is found by your target market. Choose a retailer or distributor who has had experience with your product or service and make sure that they are places frequented by your target market

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started Leading My Company” and why?

1. Flexitime means on call all the time.

Having your own business gives you the luxury to manage your own time, however, as a business owner you are supposed to be on call all the time. I’ve had clients who message me in the wee hours of the morning but I can’t help but respond if I’m awake and see it on my phone since they are my customers.

2. Not everyone who is with you from day 1 of your business will be with you all the way.

We started Fortify SEO with 5 partners and now only 3 of us are left. In time, people’s needs change and people change. I’m lucky our team is really focused on the company’s goals and objectives to continue growing this company.

3. Your idea/s will evolve.

Did anyone predict this pandemic? When building our company, we ensured that we would be agile and resilient. So from being a Digital Marketing Agency focusing on all aspects of Marketing, we evolved and found our expertise in SEO, Google Ads, and Social Media Ads.

4. You are on your own.

There are a lot of adjustments I needed to make from working in big local and international companies to setting up my own business. In corporate, I had a lot of support when it came to different functions of the business, Finance, HR, Logistics, etc. In my own business, I had to do all these or at least be very involved but it also helped me keep tabs of everything going on.

5. It’s so fulfilling to be able to give livelihood to people.

The best feeling I’ve had since I ran my own company is that I am able to help my employees and give them a good livelihood. What keeps me motivated to continue to grow this is that people rely on the business for their livelihood. It is also a means of sharing our blessings and successes. It is very fulfilling.

Let’s imagine that a reader reading this interview has an idea for a product that they would like to invent. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?

The first step is to check if their product or service is unique or has unique characteristics. Next is to analyze the industry that they would want to enter, are they going into a blue ocean (new market) or a red ocean (compete in an existing market). From there, one can develop the product and test it.

There are many invention development consultants. Would you recommend that a person with a new idea hire such a consultant, or should they try to strike out on their own?

It depends on what the situation calls for and on the level of confidence you have. But to succeed, one has to have the guts to just do it. Put your 100% heart, mind, and effort to it. So if a consultant will make you do it then that’s okay. But if you can do it on your own, why not just get it done. Remember, shortcuts are not the best path to success.

What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one?

I’ve always believed in the principle that you should never put your eggs in one basket. For starters, I would prefer bootstrapping as long as the risks are spread out. But once you have a formula on something that really works to exponentially grow something, the best way to go would be to look for venture capital.

Ok. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

Coming from the Philippines, I’ve seen how people, especially the underprivileged, struggle to find employment even before the pandemic. By successfully growing my company, I would be able to generate jobs and help my employees uplift their families.

You are an inspiration to a great many people. 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.

  • #WeAreAllGodsChildren

No matter who you are and where you come from, we are equally the same in all aspects. No racism, no gender issues, no political stands, we all should treat and love each other equally since we all come from one place and one Creator.

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, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

MKBHD (Marques Browlee) — I started watching him for his tech videos but I’m amazed how he can handle himself and interview anyone. I come from the Gen X crossing millennial generation and to see him grow himself and his brand is incredible. He worked hard making videos regularly and his work improves all the time which resulted in his really awesome videos now. And he’s a Golfer too! So I can relate!

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.


Making Something From Nothing: Paolo Tanjuatco of FortifySeo On How To Go From Idea To Launch was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Meet The Disruptors: Chris Lord Of Mustard Kick On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your…

Meet The Disruptors: Chris Lord Of Mustard Kick On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

… Question question question. It’s at the heart of every disruption, every innovation. It’s my north star and it can unlock your company’s idea, vision, mission, values and culture.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Chris Lord.

One of the most prolific disruptors of the past decade, Chris Lord is the dictionary definition of a disruptor. Not even halfway through his career, he has already built and sold two disruptive health tech startups for $200m. And he did that in less than an eight year span. Today one of his all-consuming passions is helping the younger generation to disruptively innovate.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I practically grew up in the workshop of ELAP Engineering, a company that my dad and uncle formed to create mobility products for vehicles, and was the first company in the world to develop the rotating car seat concept. It’s still going to this day and even making electric vehicles.

My uncle had the business mind and ability of a thicker-than-average ape but the ideation and inventive skills of a genius. Ha! My father on the other hand was quite different and, although not the great inventor or engineer, was accomplished in his own field of metallurgy. In their workshop, I inherited their combined inventiveness and technical prowess, but I added to that extreme ambition and strong business acumen.

In their workshop I was obsessed with innovating. Before starting university, I had worked out a way to produce in a weekend what three men had been taking a week to accomplish, simply by thinking through and iterating the methods used to make them more efficiently. This ability to question methods and think through better ways of doing things, it turned out, were to become my most important strengths.

Later, I met my chief ‘partner in crime’, David Newns and together we formed CN Creative, then hot on its heels, our second company, Nerudia. Within eight years we had sold these two disruptive health tech startups for $200m. More recently, I co-founded Prevayl with David and another partner, and established a family office for angel investments, to support the next generation of young entrepreneurs.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

True Innovation which is well employed is usually disruptive. Most people confuse innovation with the unrelated ‘variation’ which will usually have relatively negligible effect. The fire truck was an innovation that disrupted the incumbent method, the horse, but a horse that could be yoked faster in emergencies was a variation. The firetruck, of course, saved more lives.

However, innovation doesn’t only relate to ‘inventions’ as such but to new and better methods of doing things. Usually these methods are the results of someone innovating! Or put another way, someone thinking!

Take collection lockers like ‘Amazon Lockers’ that’s a new way of delivering. Rather than being tied to being home to receive a parcel it can be collected when convenient. Funnily enough I discussed this very idea with my business partner back in 2006. We had a quick 10 minute ideation on opportunities expected from the increase in courier use due to increasing online sales.

To me disruption can be implicit or explicit. An example of explicit innovation would be to pick a sector such as couriers and ideate on better ways of delivering it (excuse the pun). An implicit disruption would be to think of say an Amazon locker as an invention and then to choose a sector where it could fit, or not fit more precisely, in order to disrupt it.

I applied this thinking to one of my current companies, Prevayl which I co-founded. It’s an implicit innovation that disrupts smart watches. Instead of the technology being limited to a wrist watch, it’s embedded into clothing. At the moment, it’s sportswear, though is set to expand to sleepwear and more. Smart watches are limited in the data they can capture, but clothing, with clinical-grade sensors woven into the actual fabric (‘smart fabrics’) generates substantially more data points with far greater accuracy.

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?

My business partner David and I had developed CN Creative, a company which disrupted the nicotine replacement industry, in order to stop a billion people from smoking cigarettes. It remains the only vaping company ever awarded a medical license for a vaping product to combat addiction. Before being granted that endorsement, we were working around the clock on e-liquid formulations producing the first e-cigarette liquid outside of China. Like many engineer-innovators, I wanted to work on solving problems wherever I was, so I had turned my kitchen into a sort of nicotine e-liquid laboratory.

Late one night, at around 22:00, suddenly I felt very dizzy, nauseous and was fast developing a headache. I knew from my previous research of a then quite limited library what the first signs of nicotine poisoning were. I immediately called David, my business partner, fully expecting to need him to get me an ambulance — or an undertaker.

I explained to him that, without any ventilation in my kitchen, I had compensated by taking precautions at each stage when handling the highly toxic nicotine: by going to the back door and opening it, taking two deep breaths as a practice, followed by one big real one, before returning to the hob and adding the nicotine. To add the chemical, I followed a series of careful, precise steps, each taking up precious time. But I must have made some mistake, perhaps I’d not let the nicotine cool properly and released toxic fumes into the enclosed space. And now I would die as a result of this error. Not the outcome I particularly wanted.

David discussed my actions and work, then went on to ask, again very calmly, “You did all that whilst holding your breath then, yes?”

“Yes,” I replied. “Because I didn’t want to inhale all the fumes, but it only took 40 seconds maybe.” David asked how many batches I had made that evening, to which I replied I had made about 25. I then heard him laughing and tried to understand what he found so funny, especially at this time when I might be moments from death. “Chris,” he cajoled gently. “Are you surprised you feel dizzy and nauseous and have a headache when you’ve been holding your breath for the best part of a minute twenty-five times in the last hour or so?” Needless to say I didn’t die.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

I’ve never really had a mentor in the usual sense. My greatest influence and learnings have, however, come from my business partner and best friend of the past 15 years, David Newns. What I have learnt from him is vast and largely has helped me become stronger in the areas in which I was weakest. I think our relationship has made us both better; made our weaknesses less vulnerable and our strengths formidable!

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

I don’t believe that consensus is science nor do I believe that time is proof of suitability. Quite the contrary in fact. Almost always the longer something’s been present whilst the circumstances or environment has changed, the more likely the test of time would fail, given the right test.

Indeed some things last because they haven’t been given the right test, or have but the innovation that disrupts it hasn’t been created or monetised.

A simple example might be something as basic as a kitchen sink. Why hasn’t it changed in hundreds of years yet its purpose has? Dishwashers mean we don’t need a large sink for piles of dishes. Nor do we empty the mop bucket into the sink anymore. Yet these were reasons for the original design: large, deep and bulky sinks. So why does that unsightly and unnecessary design persist? We have had slight variations on the design, but nothing disruptive or revolutionary.

As I said, innovation –as opposed to variation– is almost always good and therefore if executed well will in itself prove disruptive. If something can be disrupted it was in need of it. And that is usually for the better.

Can you share five of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

  1. The best advice I’ve been given and the best I can give are the same thing: ‘question’.

Question question question. It’s at the heart of every disruption, every innovation. It’s my north star and it can unlock your company’s idea, vision, mission, values and culture.

I learned to fly, as a hobby, in Los Angeles. I wanted to break the club record for getting my license, but in order to do so, I had to question the conventional methods of doing so. My teacher agreed we had to question the usual methods.

So he covered up my instrument dials, those critically important information displays that tell you somewhat important things like airspeed, artificial horizon and your altitude. I had been studying them thoroughly and knew perfectly how to use them. But he made me question them as the sole guide for flying a small aircraft.

Instead, he said, “Listen to the plane, Chris. and just fly it” I looked at him, as if to ask whether the plane was going to suddenly speak out the data I needed! But he meant I should use my intuition, and fly circuit after circuit getting used to seeing, hearing and feeling the nuances without the pesky dials. Questioning runs through everything I do, so here are some more ways to apply it in disruptive business.

2. Separate fake problems from real ones.

By its nature, disrupting is doing something that hasn’t been done before. There will be unknowns. Obstacles will get in the way. Failures can happen. Your people will come to you with problems, and your job as a leader is to question if it’s truly an issue at all before spending valuable time ‘solving it’

For instance, colleagues have frequently come to me with what they’ll describe as a huge issue that turned out to be nothing of the sort. ‘We failed the test’ would be one such problem, but my immediate response was to question it.

I asked if the test was performed correctly; was its methodology correct; were the results correctly obtained; and, were the results correctly analyzed in providing the conclusion. This knowing and having the confidence our products didn’t fail tests. Not arrogance but attention to detail.

I’d estimate 80% of the issuesI’ve questioned turned out not to be issues at all. So it’s possible that questioning can solve 80% of an innovator’s dilemmas! It’s not only the way to discover real problems to solve, but also solutions.

3. Challenge the status quo. When it comes to innovation, question why something is done a particular way, whether the existing solution is most precisely, or economically or simply satisfying the problem it’s supposed to be solving.

I think I get this type of thinking from my dad. He solved problems within the aerospace industry’s metallurgy area that no one else could manage and obtained for them some pretty fundamental patents with regard to titanium and its manufacture into honeycomb structures. Several teams around the world had spent eight years trying to solve a particular and fundamental problem which was holding up the launch of a military aircraft, the Tornado. He turned the problem on its head, analyzed it from an atomic perspective, and solved it on an atomic level. Something to do with electrons and atoms! But he had questioned the previous approach and inverted it with great success. From this came titanium honeycomb and ultimately the firewall between the two engines on the Tornado.

4. If something matters to you, review the available data and come to your own conclusions.

I’m naturally wary of reading and blindly accepting a conclusion performed by someone else. If the answer is worth knowing and matters to me, then it’s worth me reading the methodology and results to determine a reasonable conclusion. But all too often the conclusion is predetermined. In many cases a study has been commissioned and paid by someone with vested interest in the report having a predetermined conclusion. Let’s take a hypothetical example.

It is hypothesized that vitamin D can play a major part in boosting the immune system and preventing disease. A study could be performed long-term to determine this. But you can make a tonne of vitamin D for mere tens of dollars, so therefore there’s little profit in it. Would you then expect a study performed by a profit-oriented organization like a pharmaceutical company and study performed by a company producing vitamins to have the same conclusion? Both when read I’m sure would appear plausible. Both will contradict each other and both can’t therefore be correct.

5. Have the die-hard positivity to turn challenges into opportunities. Cliché it may be, but as a disruptor you are bombarded with challenges. And having a positive mindset that will turn it into an opportunity is absolutely intrinsic in a successful entrepreneur. When I see an obstacle I think: how do I not only surmount it but come out better than I went into it?

It might be a new regulation coming in, or an inconvenient patent to get around, a product issue or quality control problem, but I always go into it with a very, very positive head on.

In my business CN Creative, we had some rather inconvenient patents to get around urgently and they were owned by a pretty big company: a company renowned for being the mother of patents in that particular area and really it was a brick wall dumped right across our otherwise blazing trail. I did, albeit with differing views of success from different patent attorneys, find not just a navigable path around it but at the same time develop new intellectual property (IP) and a quite unique product. Without going into the IP details, let’s just say I got around the wall by not wasting much time on the obvious and how to climb it but looked to the side and found the wall was very narrow and only a little wider than the path and… I just walked right around it. Not even a bead of sweat was spilled.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

The next thing I’m looking forward to is something that I haven’t done before, which is to launch a book. I’m told it’s one of the most authentic, roller-coaster rides a business book could hope to be, as it documents the highs and lows of building my first company which I sold for $60m. It really documents the disruptive entrepreneur mindset. Look out for it later in the year!

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

The biggest impact on my thinking, and my life, is my business partner, David Newns. More than any book or podcast or talk, he has been the most positive influence on my life and helped me disruptively innovate to the extent that I have. Indeed, he’s my partner in disruption and together we’re an unstoppable, dynamic duo that have created four incredibly successful, global companies, including two that sold for more than $200m.

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

As Einstein said: “Given 60 mins to solve a problem, I spend 55 minutes thinking of the solution and 5 minutes executing it.” For me, this approach is relevant in my life because it’s encouraged me to think through problems correctly, to use effective questions and generate new ideas. And then put them quickly into action through prototyping, testing and learning. It’s a quote that led to me filing more than 800 patents and creating two innovative companies which disrupted and shook up their sectors.

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 people to imagine a better future. And to do that, we have to learn how to question the world around us more than we appear to do currently, and think through better alternatives that we are developing. That starts with schooling.

Our schools today are not teaching critical thinking. Indeed, they are set up to avoid it. Seth Godin points out that today’s public education system is a product of the Industrial Revolution, whose sole intent was not to train the scholars of tomorrow — we had plenty of scholars. It was to train people to be willing to work in the factory. It was to train people to behave, to comply, to fit in. “We process you for a whole year. If you are defective, we hold you back and process you again. We sit you in straight rows, just like they organize things in the factory. We build a system all about interchangeable people because factories are based on interchangeable parts.” And we haven’t changed the system, despite the world around us transforming.

As a result, bright, smart, hardworking young people come out of the system still full of energy and passion, but wearing what the master disruptor Elon Musk calls a “mental straightjacket.” He says the most common mistake from smart engineers is to “optimize things that should not exist.” Why they do this, he says, is because “everyone has been trained in high school and college to answer the question, convergent logic, so you cannot tell the teacher that the question is dumb or you’ll get a bad grade. You always have to answer the question regardless of whether the premise makes any sense at all.”

So you get brilliant young people coming out of the education system, ready to make a difference to the world, with the means of creative production and distribution at their fingertips, on their phone. But they’ve had their thinking faculties straightjacketed. So they make the wrong difference, they optimize the things which shouldn’t exist. And they kick this back up to their parents, applying the same sort of brainwashing — or at least, limited reasoning — to them. And that can be quite dangerous.

It can inhibit people from disrupting effectively on the one hand and challenging the mainstream narrative on the other. Take a corporate example, where the mainstream is a public sector incumbent company, like an oil or mining company, trying to protect the downside rather than invent a better future. They spend more money on lobbying pals in government than on R&D. But then there’s a disruptive company like mine, or Elon Musk’s trying to make things better. Now, neither incumbent nor disruptor is perfect, and we both have much to learn from each other. But as a student, consumer, employee, voter…or whatever, you must have the ability to separate truth and reality from fiction and fake news, in order to make better choices.

Otherwise, as the incumbent’s lobbyists would have us believe, we might think that booze and cigarettes are healthy or that dumping toxic waste in a public water source is good for our salmon. And if we fail to question that effectively, then how can we disrupt it and make it better? And I believe that is what’s happening just now and it’s why I see this as an urgent issue. Lazy thinking has enabled politicians to lie without repercussions, huge global contracts, such as health ones, to be awarded to companies that are incompetent’s, and for disruptors to be more thwarted than they should.

You can apply the same dilemma to any mainstream narrative. Thankfully, disruptors question that narrative. We examine the data and if we find a different outcome, can imagine a better way and are entrepreneurial enough to commercialize our idea, then we can make the world better. We replace wasteful gas guzzlers with efficient electric technology, we solve the food crisis with lab grown protein, we save lives with operations performed by robotic surgeons operated by a continent away. But we wouldn’t do this if we simply nodded our heads and agreed with everything we were told, we have to question rigorously and think imaginatively.

And that’s really my hope, dream, and my goal, that today we can encourage the adults of tomorrow to challenge the paradigm and imagine something better.

How can our readers follow you online?

Look out for my new personal website in the coming weeks, but alternatively you can find me at https://www.mustardkick.com

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


Meet The Disruptors: Chris Lord Of Mustard Kick On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Meet The Disruptors: Airey Baringer Of TripleLift On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your…

Meet The Disruptors: Airey Baringer Of TripleLift On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Labels can be useful for quickly understanding something about each other at a high level, but they do a disservice to the nuances and uniqueness that we each represent at a deeper level. They devalue our uniqueness and instead push us to be more similar as opposed to celebrating and appreciating our differences.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Airey Baringer.

Airey is the Director, Product Management, Privacy at TripleLift where he oversees the team responsible for defining and executing the company’s product and go-to-market strategy for privacy and identity solutions. Airey plays a major role in TripleLift’s product development for post-third party cookie solutions, including identity, contextual, and Privacy Sandbox solutions. When Airey is not diving into the latest privacy policy changes, you can find him trail running, backpacking and eating his way through Southern California.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

My career has been marked by periods of “falling into things.” Coming out of college, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. I had a business degree. Now what?

I had never heard of product management until my first boss after college told me I’d be great at it. I gained ambitions to be in a startup and I made that happen. But joining a startup didn’t exactly lead to the riches that I had in my mind. What it did lead to, however, was an opportunity to take on a new project in Privacy. It was in this role that I first realized how big the problem space is for online privacy and consumer data, and how critical it is to broader notions of trust, collaboration, and a functioning society.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

The world of privacy and the world of digital advertising are converging, and that is driving significant change. Over the past decade plus, digital advertising has largely been delivered by tracking how people use the internet in order to understand the kinds of goods and services they may be interested in. Ads for the relevant goods and services are then shown to people across the web.

Advertising remains important to businesses of all sizes. Businesses use advertising to reach new consumers, find new buyers, and generally to help them grow and keep the economy running with pace.

But there are large macro-scale changes happening that are driving towards a more private version of the internet and data that are already changing the way digital advertising is served. Specifically, privacy regulation like GDPR and CCPA, consumer sentiment towards ads and privacy, and strategic company positions are all aligned on increasing privacy online. Any one of these forces can be influential enough to move markets, and on privacy and ads, they are converging.

My role is to work with the brilliant people around me to create solutions that balance the need for business growth with the market demand for greater online privacy. To do so, we’ve been re-thinking how digital advertising works and what technical solutions need to exist to deliver outcomes for businesses while respecting consumer privacy preferences.

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 I first started my career, I had never heard of product management. And when I started my first role in product management, I was still figuring out what the role entailed. I’m certainly grateful to my boss at the time for seeing my potential, but I really had no idea what I was supposed to be doing. What ensued in my first few months in the role is only funny as I look back, as I’m sure is the case with most professionals.

Having read just about every article on the web that existed about product management, I put my best foot forward — and even went as far as to commit to redesigning the customer facing website in order to gain support for the resources needed for a project I was leading. So there I was, teaching myself how to code in a new programming language, doing the design, and being the product manager with an engineering team based in China that didn’t know how to build website UX… lest we forget that I also didn’t really know what my role was.

I give a lot of credit to my first managers for taking a chance on me and providing me the opportunity to grow and learn. But in hindsight, who did I think I was? I learned many lessons during this time — chiefly, superhuman efforts aren’t likely to lead to successful outcomes.

So what’s funny about this? Six weeks after we released the product that I had bargained for resources for in exchange for creating a customer-facing website, the company acquired a competitor and the prior 9 months of my work were wiped away when all of the code was basically thrown away in favor of the new company’s code.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

In my experience, the best mentor is an unofficial one. I’ve been inspired and enjoyed feedback from many people. From my parents, to good friends, to family, to coworkers, to notable thought leaders, they have all challenged me to think differently and expand my understanding of the world around me. Many thanks to all of them!

From my friends and my family, I’ve learned humility.

From my coworkers, I’ve learned resilience.

From everyone on my list, I’ve learned how to be the best version of myself. I’ve also learned that the growth and learning journey never stops. Keep pushing. Always.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

I start from the perspective that products and services should be improving people’s lives. While it’s not possible to meet the needs of every person all of the time with a single product or service, it is possible to optimize for the most positive outcomes for a specific segment of people.

If the net benefit of disruption on the broader population is positive, by whatever measures are important, then the disruption is probably positive. If the net benefit of disruption on the broader population is negative, then the disruption is probably “not so positive.” However, it’s also unlikely that a large segment of people would support a disruption that made their lives worse.

As an example, rideshare services disrupted taxis. In many instances, taxi drivers were harmed because their business suffered, but riders, people who would have otherwise taken taxis or commuted in a different way, ultimately had a better outcome. Additionally, the services enabled more people to become drivers and work on their own time to earn more money. The follow-on impacts include taxi drivers becoming rideshare drivers. It has also forced the taxi industry to innovate in order to compete.

The net impact could be argued to be positive in the medium to long term for a majority of people even though it caused short term pain for some.

Can you share five of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

Create structure where there is none. People generally crave structure and predictability. This is why change is so hard for so many. It breaks the structure or expectations they have. Part of the task of innovating is creating structure that resonates with others and allows them to come on the journey with me.

Amateurs do strategy. Professionals execute. In the early phase of my career, I was always interested in strategy, but I didn’t know how to take strategic thinking and make it real. I thought the strategy was where the real thinking was done… the fun part. Strategy only matters if it can be executed. Executing is really fun… it’s more fun than strategy. Creating something, from nothing, with a team of people pulling in the same direction.

If you achieve all of your goals but leave a trail of blood behind you in the process, you fail. I was quite early in my career still, and had just started a new job. I was working hard, trying to prove myself because I didn’t feel I belonged… a bit of imposter syndrome. I came off harshly and received some feedback that I was challenging to work with. I was trying to force the idea that I belonged. My boss pulled me aside and shared this with me. I’ve remembered it ever since.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

In my immediate future, I’m going to continue working towards improved outcomes for consumers, publishers, and advertisers in digital advertising. Beyond that, the world is my oyster.

Longer term, I’m interested in helping solve problems that have an outsized impact on people’s lives. I don’t have plans in the works at the moment, but there are certainly ideas that I’ve placed on a shelf to explore later. Perhaps it’s time to dust a few of them off.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. Meditations was published as a book, but was actually Aurelius’ personal journal. He was a practicing stoic, and at the time, was the most powerful person in the world as the leader of the Roman empire.

The book resonates because it gives insight into the mind of a human and a leader based on the stoic ideas of “goods”: courage, wisdom, justice, and temperance. It helped me develop resilience, a stronger sense of conviction, an awareness of my own (vs. others) thoughts, and to attempt to optimize my own behavior to enable the achievement of others as a means to achieve great things together.

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

“It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.” — Epictetus

For me, this quote represents a willingness to question my own beliefs, to be open to new ideas, and to be more accepting of the different experiences and wisdom that exist.

This is both a vulnerable position to take, and a position of unimaginable strength. It takes strength of character to open myself to the idea that there are superior alternatives to what I created myself and that those alternatives didn’t originate with me.

My life experiences, the opportunities I’ve had, and the lessons I’ve learned have all been magnified when I was most willing to be vulnerable, tell the world exactly what I want, and be open to the idea that the responses I receive back may not be in the form I expect. In fact, to the contrary, the most amazing life experiences I’ve had came from being willing to move out of my comfort zone, respect, honor, and learn from the wisdom of others, and enable my unique self to lead the way.

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

We need a movement that eliminates the use of labels to define people or put them into groups. Each of us is far too nuanced and we all have far too many different experiences to fit neatly in a box.

Labels can be useful for quickly understanding something about each other at a high level, but they do a disservice to the nuances and uniqueness that we each represent at a deeper level. They devalue our uniqueness and instead push us to be more similar as opposed to celebrating and appreciating our differences.

Labels make it easy to identify the “other”, where “other” means different from me and usually somehow wrong or bad or undesirable. My life has shown me that people from all walks of life are far closer than we realize or may be willing to admit. When we understand the details of people’s lives, we find that those people don’t fit neatly into boxes, or groups. Our life experiences don’t make a zero sum game and it’s entirely possible and desirable that we can all get along without needing to be in the same recognizable group or share the same descriptive label.

Instead, we should treat each other with the respect and honor that we expect from others. We should work to understand each other’s unique experiences, qualities, and wisdom. We should seek to learn from each other.

How can our readers follow you online?

Find me on LinkedIn. I don’t do much on social media and I don’t publish much.

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


Meet The Disruptors: Airey Baringer Of TripleLift On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Makers of The Metaverse: Bryan Colin Of View Labs On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality…

Makers of The Metaverse: Bryan Colin Of View Labs On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Be a team player — Lastly, is to be a team player. The above are not possible without having a strong foundation of people you can rely on and bounce ideas off, but you have to be willing to get in the trenches with your team as you’re building your business in order to succeed.

The Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and 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, we had the pleasure of interviewing entrepreneur Bryan Colin.

Bryan Colin is Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of View Labs, today’s leading software provider of cutting-edge video and digital technologies that revolutionized the 360° video sector, enabling companies to shape real, mixed, and virtual reality to achieve critical business goals. Bryan has guided strategy, business development and sales for View Labs since its founding in 2016. The company now employs more than 40 professionals and supports leading businesses in real estate, construction, entertainment, retail, hospitality, technology and enterprise services. An early innovator of augmented virtual reality and virtual reality technology, Bryan has guided View Labs in the development of five interconnected products that help businesses collaborate more effectively, create interactive and immersive marketing experiences, increase user engagement and gain insight into customers.

Bryan earned his bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Skidmore College and holds a patent for Immersive Capture and Review.

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 the oldest of two boys in a town in New Jersey. My parents were both academically advanced and experts in mathematics, and operate a 4th generation family fashion business. This really helped to shape my path, as my parents gave me a glimpse into entrepreneurship at a young age and what it takes to run a business.

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?

A favorite book is Zero to One by Peter Thiel, the Co-Founder of PayPal. The book changed my perception of how entrepreneurship and startups operate. It creates a view of all the problems that startup companies solve, and then simplifies it into a digestible format that is easy to understand. I highly recommend anyone who is interested in pursuing their own business to check it out.

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

As an entrepreneur, I’m always on the lookout for pain points within an industry and developing a big-picture idea to solve them. I co-founded View Labs as a solution to one of the major problems I saw as a renter in New York City. The apartment search process relied on low-quality images and clunky virtual tours, if they were even available at all. I knew there had to be a better way to virtually tour units before seeing them in-person, which sparked the idea of how View Labs was born. Today, we’re on a mission to change how the built world is viewed in digital form. The company has evolved to serve far beyond the real estate industry. Our proprietary technology provides end-to-end solutions that blur lines between online & real experiences that transcend several industries, whether it’s hospitality, retail, entertainment in the built world, or creating metaverse experiences.

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

We’ve been fortunate to work with various professional athletes and musicians over the years since founding View Labs. I’ve enjoyed watching and meeting people that are world class in their respective skills, and the in-person experience gives such an appreciation of how talented they are. Trying to develop technology to recreate and immerse people into those experiences is our vision.

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?

Not quite a mistake per se, but a learning curve along the way was when we first started and were looking to capture high-quality 360° video, we tried to imagine how to get the smoothest content possible and hired professional ballerinas to operate the cameras. While this was a good idea in theory, we quickly realized that creating consistent, exact paths was not a job for humans — no matter how graceful, because it was nearly impossible to get the same speeds in motion each time, and moved on to robots, which are far better for our purposes. We realized that we needed to make robots that are capable of emulating the same motions without the deviations between takes.

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 work with a small contingency of incredible advisors and confidants that have guided my journey, and in their own way, each has provided tips and advice that has helped View Labs become what it is today. For example, one advisor insisted I have a conversation with our now CMO, Kailey Magder, and without them, we never would have been connected.

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

We’re constantly working on new innovations and have a lot of exciting and innovative projects in the pipeline. Currently, we’re creating the first metaverse that fuses real, mixed-reality, and simulated content. Through our work, we’ve digitized nearly 1 billion square feet of the built environment in hyper-realistic and immersive virtual tours, and we’re now applying our technology to the development of an all-encompassing metaverse. Our metaverse will feature immersive entertainment, shopping, and socializing in a photorealistic world — driven by original content and e-commerce experiences, creating a virtual world where enterprise partners, brands, creators, and talent will be able to monetize, grow, and prosper. This metaverse will provide endless opportunities to blend the real and mixed-reality worlds, and in turn, help to create new ways for companies to continue to innovate and expand.

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

What excites me the most are the opportunities that lie ahead within this industry. While these industries aren’t exactly “new,” there’s a new wave of creativity and talent taking them to the next level. There’s endless opportunity for creativity, and as more industries continue to tap into this technology, I’m most excited to see what’s next. It’s evident that content is king, and there are so many avenues that are still left to explore, and I hope to partner with the most innovative and creative brands on new ways to market, entertain, and be at the forefront of what’s next for e-commerce.

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?

Some entrepreneurs might not agree with me, but I don’t have any concerns. I have a lot of excitement for what’s to come within the industry, but not many concerns come to mind. As with anything, technology will continue to evolve, and I’m confident that this will be a new way of life. What is concerning about the ecosystem surrounding these industries is the funding required to turn things into a reality.

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?

Absolutely. While I agree that the entertainment aspect is apparent and one of the more exciting aspects of this technology, our core software products are used by enterprise businesses and have created efficiencies and insight into analytics that haven’t been tapped into before. View Labs’ software-as-a-service suite enables these businesses to collaborate more effectively by increasing user engagement, gaining insights into customers’ preferences, saving time and money, and providing new tools for decision-makers to make more informed choices.

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

These technologies not only affect our business lives but impact our day-to-day lives in ways you might not even realize are VR or AR. Imagine you’re going to book a hotel room and you want to see what kind of mattress the hotel has. Our proprietary AVR software gives more detailed insight than the typical booking experience. For example, users can click on those items and see those details. The same concept can be applied in almost any situation.

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

I think one myth I’d dispel is the misconception that all AR/AR/Mixed Reality has to do with gaming. While there is definitely a gamification factor involved, there are so many other everyday use cases for this type of technology — whether it is virtual touring, construction planning tools, and more. There’s a business side of this industry that not many see at face value.

What are your “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career In The VR, AR or MR Industries?”

  1. Create a big picture goal — Look to solve a pain point in an industry. From a high-level view, what is your company solving and why is the company’s solution better than the competition? From there, work your way down.
  2. Expand your network — One person might have the idea, but it often takes a village for that idea to come to fruition. For example, as stated above, I’m a “big picture” person and my expertise does not lie within the technicalities of the technology, but what it’s solving for. But that’s the beauty of creating a network of people with different backgrounds and skill sets. You can bounce ideas off each other and eventually find ways to make them work together.
  3. Adapt and evolve — One piece of advice I would give to those entering the industry is to be adaptable. Technology is evolving every day, and the needs and use cases can vary in a short matter of time. Since View Labs was founded six years ago, we’ve continued to evolve our products and technology and have connected with and served so many different industries than where we thought we’d be when we started, which leads to my next point…
  4. Be nimble — As a tech company, things move quickly, and you have to be ready and willing to roll with the punches.
  5. Be a team player — Lastly, is to be a team player. The above are not possible without having a strong foundation of people you can rely on and bounce ideas off, but you have to be willing to get in the trenches with your team as you’re building your business in order 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.

I do not consider myself a person of great influence. I hope that our company can achieve influence and success. Through our work, we’re aiming to inspire a greater movement into blending the real, mixed, and digital words. Eventually, this technology will be so ingrained in our everyday lives. It’s now almost impossible to think back to a time before iPhones existed, and yet today it’d be nearly impossible for most to be without them, and that’s what I believe we’re heading towards overall with this technology.

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

I would love to meet Jeff Bezos. His ability to consistently build and execute a vision as a CEO is inspiring. I would love the opportunity to sit and have lunch with him to understand how he is able to be so consistent and keep things on track.

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


Makers of The Metaverse: Bryan Colin Of View Labs On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Makers of The Metaverse: Sean Finn On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

I’d say a background in coding as well as creative arts management, a vision for the future, and a trendspotting and trendsetting mindset. But beside those attributes, you’re also going to need the things that are important to any field. Things like ambition, knowledge about an industry, a willingness to sacrifice, and passion.

The Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and 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, we had the pleasure of interviewing entrepreneur Sean Finn.

Sean Finn is an American entrepreneur and founder of the Houston-based real estate investment and development firm, Finn & Company. Over the span of his long and lucrative career, Finn has spearheaded business ventures in the fields of energy, entertainment, real-estate development, and health care, resulting in transactions numbering in the hundreds of millions of dollars. In the entertainment industry, Finn has also aligned himself with a number of production companies, including Cross Creek Pictures when he became an equity partner in such films as Black Swan (Natalie Portman), Hacksaw Ridge (Mel Gibson), and Black Mass (Johnny Depp), to name a few.

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

I was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. I played junior hockey when I was younger and eventually went on to play professional hockey until I suffered an injury that ultimately ended that career. So, I went back to school and then entered the business world, initially by way of the pharmaceutical industry and then real estate. In 2009 I founded Finn & Company and never looked back.

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

The book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. The idea that people are creatures of their environment, that if you’re exposed to certain things you’re going to grow or evolve into that environment, that really 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 had a lot of close friends who are involved in that industry. That’s really what prompted me to get involved initially.

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

I got to tour SpaceX one time. That was very interesting. It expanded how I looked at things. Elon Musk is so cutting edge — he’s doing so much in so many different facets of business and life. It can’t help but make you think a little differently.

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?

Well, without naming any names, a few of us were out one time. We were having dinner and drinks and there was this other couple with us. I was talking with this person — very low key, baseball cap, discussing the business he was in, things like that, just hanging out and having fun. I didn’t put it together at first. But then at one point I did. I recognized who this person was, and he was an extremely high-profile individual. It was pretty funny “mistake.”

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’d have to say my mother. She was a very successful business women who was always teaching us about business, educating us on things in the business world.

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

I’m involved in a transactional company for cryptocurrency. BitWallet (bitwallet.org). I’m an investor in that company.

Okay 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?

The three that immediately come to mind are the retail, entertainment, and the creator industry. There are going to be virtual stores in the metaverse, in places like Decentraland and The Sandbox, which will be the next generation of retail — virtual shopping experiences. In terms of the creator industry, the heart of that is that individuals can create and monetize content. There are a lot of tools in the virtual world that can help to create, monetize and then distribute that content. In entertainment we’re already seeing artists like Snoop Dog and Deadmau5 putting on fill-fledged concerts in the metaverse. And I can also see people going to movies together and enjoying visits to virtual theme parks soon too.

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?

I think they’re all going to be infrastructure related. Thinks like identity management, fraud detection, and crypto wallet security.

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?

Places like Facebook’s Workplace are already helping us work in unified locations where remote collogues can meet and work together virtually. I think that’s a good example.

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

There are and will be many, but the first thing that comes to mind would be anything that falls under the umbrella of remote meetings, whether that’s for business, personal relationships, or even things like remote doctor visits.

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

That it can all look very glitzy and glammy until you get into the nitty-gritty of it. These are new industries with new technology and they’re not always going to be win-win situations. They’re not always going to be a success.

What are your “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career In The VR, AR or MR Industries?”

I’d say a background in coding as well as creative arts management, a vision for the future, and a trendspotting and trendsetting mindset. But beside those attributes, you’re also going to need the things that are important to any field. Things like ambition, knowledge about an industry, a willingness to sacrifice, and passion.

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

I think education is so important, especially for the youth of the world. The movement I would want to inspire would be along those lines — getting the best education for the younger generations.

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

I’d love to have lunch Warren Buffet.

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


Makers of The Metaverse: Sean Finn On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Meet The Disruptors: Lior Aharoni Of Feature fm On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your…

Meet The Disruptors: Lior Aharoni Of Feature fm On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Patience — I’d say this is probably the best advice I got. It came from our main investor Joey Low who is a very prominent and successful investor focusing on tech in Israel.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lior Aharoni.

Lior is a distinguished alumni of the Israel Defense Force’s Elite Mamram Tech Program. A creator by heart, he has been building video games as a hobby since the age of twelve years old. Since running the IDF’s cyber-security department and previously managing Research and Security at Cyber-Art Software during its 2015 IPO, Lior has shifted focus toward the development digital music space. His decision to connect his passion for music with digital intelligence skills led him to successfully building three music platforms including his current company Feature.fm. As the CEO of Feature.fm, he is dedicated to helping artists through the use of new, innovative technologies. It is his goal to help creators focus on their art while simultaneously building an independent and successful business.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

Growing up, I had a huge passion for computers, technology, and music. I used to learn the bits and bites of everything related to operating the home computer. This naturally led me to code at the age of 12. I was actually creating computer games as a hobby and even won some prizes when I was a kid. I then enlisted in military service; there, I was serving in the elite tech unit Mamram. I spent 7 years in Mamram as an officer leading the cyber-security department. The military service was probably one of the most meaningful contributions to my career path as it opened me up to meeting many wonderful friends who are now at the backbone of the tech industry in Israel. After the military service, I joined and led the security for a company that at the time, was a startup and now, is a public company called Cyber-Ark. While Cyber-Security is super interesting and fun, I felt that I wanted to “Pivot” and connect my third passion (music) to my experience (tech) to help artists grow their audience and build a sustainable career.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

Feature.fm is an all-in-one marketing platform, built specifically to help artists in the music industry grow their audience and career. The unfortunate reality is that today, 99% of artists aren’t able to make a living from their art, music, and work. Our goal as a company is to focus on ways to help more artists succeed.

We strongly believe that Feature.fm plays a meaningful part in helping those artists build their audience, monetize and grow as small businesses. It’s not a secret that many artists feel that the music industry is not balanced in the way revenue is distributed and our disruption comes in the form of a platform that is helping more artists build themselves as a business.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

Our journey as a startup was far from easy, so help along the way was definitely a big factor in our ability to survive as a company and for getting to where we are right now. My biggest mentor during this time was my main investor Joey Low. When I started the company, I was just a tech kid with big dreams. I had no idea how the business world operates and where to start. Joey was always there, helping, guiding, funding, laughing and we really became good friends, like family. Joey is still involved in the company to this date. It’s been multiple times where I thought we’re not going to make it. As a founder, you always need to be the positive person who pushes everyone to succeed; but to be honest, sometimes it is very hard, especially when things don’t progress the way you expected. Joey was always there to bring me down to earth, telling me to be patient and giving me the reassurance that he’s behind us all the way. Joey is the kind of Angel investor who is also a true angel in life.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

Generally speaking, I think that disrupting is usually positive; at least, in the tech industry it’s almost always being mentioned in a positive light. But, I guess that like in anything in life, disruption can also lead long term to monopolies and shift of power from X corporation to Y corporation and you’re still relying on a corporation to do good with the accumulated power they have.

Few examples:

Amazon disrupted online commerce which is amazing; they truly have developed an amazing experience by making it so easy for millions of people to have a better customer experience. But as a result, they became huge, and many brands began to complain about difficulties working with Amazon, since they have full control over the marketplace.

Facebook/Twitter/Instagram –

Social platforms disrupted the traditional media; anyone can express his or her voice, share his/her views and opinions and build an online micro influencer business. We’ve seen how those platforms help in so many different cases, from allowing people to share information during wars in the Middle East, to grouping people together around certain causes, building communities, finding people with similar interests and more.

But again, power has shifted from traditional media to a few silicon valley executives and this creates too much control for those companies. We all need to rely on their decisions to make sure those platforms stay open, allowing free speech, etc.

The list includes any big corporation out there right now, which makes a lot of sense b/c those companies were built on the technology that was available back when they started. I think that the most interesting developments happening in this space are around web3. Similar freedom and service to customers, but with a much better way to govern and manage those networks (i.e decentralized). It’ll take a few decades to come to fruition, but I believe that eventually we’ll end up with a more fair and decentralized internet.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

Patience — I’d say this is probably the best advice I got. It came from our main investor Joey Low who is a very prominent and successful investor focusing on tech in Israel.

As a first time founder, you often think that things should happen fast and that the market will quickly respond to your new product or innovation. The reality is (at least in our case) that building a company, market and brand takes time. Being patient and consistent is very important. The more the market sees you around, the more it trusts you and eventually this translates to customers, growth and more opportunities.

Focus Staying focused is an advice I received from Adam Singolda (NAASDAQ:TBLA), the founder and CEO of the biggest content discovery platform. Staying true to your mission, and focusing hard on the problem at hand without distractions is probably what has helped us to succeed the most as a company. One example that I can give is that somewhere in 2014, we had just built our first product in (Sponsored Songs). We immediately started building another product that allows fans to buy sponsored songs for their favorite artists.

We spent 7 months building it before we had our first streaming partner. Eventually, we scrapped the product since we couldn’t really focus on two products at the same time. We also slowly realized that it’ll be very difficult to establish all the integrations with the most popular streaming platforms to make such a product viable.

Celebrate small wins — As I mentioned before, building a company and disrupting a space is a long journey; in fact, it’s a marathon. This journey is essentially (at least for us) long and full of small wins (and failures), that together makes our bigger wins possible. I think that the more you celebrate small wins, and appreciate every step you took forward, whether a small step or a big one, will make the journey much more enjoyable to everyone. After some time, you realize looking backward, that all those small steps forward have accumulated into a very big process. Alon Cohen, The founder of Cyberark (CYBR:NASDAQ) once told me, building a startup is like climbing a mountain. If you focus on how much you still have to climb, you forget to appreciate the amount of progress you have already made. So when you climb the startup mountain, let yourself look backward and appreciate how much progress that you’ve made. It’ll give you all the energy you need to keep climbing until you reach the top.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

We’re far from being done, as we feel that our journey has just begun. While I can’t share all our plans, I can say that our goal is to build tools that will help artists make significantly more revenue than today, and we believe that web3 will play a significant part in achieving this goal and that this is the best time to be a musician in the history of music.

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

Focus on people, people, people. Building a company is a marathon and not a sprint. It takes time; you make tons of mistakes, try so many different directions and ways to solve the problem at hand. In our journey, most people who started with me are still with me to this day (almost 10 years). Without them, we’d have no company right now, because it did take us a long time to reach product market fit, and growth. So I’d say, take your journey, the people that you believe can run the marathon with you, even when things don’t go as expected. If you have a winning team, you’re most likely to eventually win and I’m very fortunate to have an amazing team, investor and family that supported me throughout this journey.

How can our readers follow you online?

Twitter — @liorix

LinkedIn — https://il.linkedin.com/in/lior-aharoni-83a8494

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


Meet The Disruptors: Lior Aharoni Of Feature fm On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Makers of The Metaverse: Nadir Ali Of Inpixon On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality…

Makers of The Metaverse: Nadir Ali Of Inpixon On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

This is such an exciting time for metaverse technologies and especially for their business use cases. My advice for someone wanting to start or extend their career in this space–use your imagination.

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, we had the pleasure of interviewing Nadir Ali.

Nadir Ali is CEO of Inpixon, the Indoor Intelligence company. For over 20 years, in his executive-level roles at Inpixon (formerly Sysorex) he has tapped into the $12 billion industry of indoor positioning and data analytics. Nadir is a leading expert voice in the indoor intelligence and location technology industry.

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 here in the U.S. My parents immigrated a long time ago, and I went to UC Berkeley where I majored in economics and business. I started off in management consulting while still in college, but growing up it was my father, who was an entrepreneur, who influenced me the most. Thanks to him, I quickly realized that the entrepreneurial route was where I wanted to go. I started my first business after finishing my consulting stint at Deloitte & Touche just a few years after graduation. My first business was in the fashion industry, so it was very different from where I am today. I ended up selling that company and moved into technology when I started working for Sysorex, which was a systems integrator focused on the government market, and also a family business started by my father-in-law.

This was where I really learned about the IT industry and spent a lot of time experiencing how to properly run a business, — the operational side of building a business and scaling it — program management and operations, sales and marketing, partnerships and channels. I was able to work in many different areas of the business and eventually started developing what is now Inpixon and expanding that business.

Because Syrorex was a system integrator company reselling third-party products, one of the first things I learned and decided upon, especially being here in Silicon Valley, was that I wanted Inpixon to own its products. This led to us looking into acquiring companies, and at the time I found data analytics and cybersecurity very interesting. I found a company that did indoor positioning using radio frequency sensors, which we acquired and that was the beginning of the whole Inpixon business plan and strategy.

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’ve been fortunate to have had very strong mentorship from the businesspeople in my life, and they have helped shape my career. The first is my father, Mohammad Ali. He came from very humble beginnings in Pakistan but had a dream at a young age that he was going to be different and change his circumstances. He envisioned moving to America and having five children who were going to attend UC Berkeley. He quickly built his career as a successful entrepreneur in a variety of businesses along the way, moving first to the UK, then to America, where he had five children, and two of them (including myself) decided to attend UC Berkeley. His determination, ambition, ingenuity, and belief in himself has been an inspiration to me all my life.

The second person to whom I am quite grateful is my father-in-law, A. Salam Qureishi. Salam is best known for being the ‘Moneyball guy’ for football. He was a statistician by training who built the first computerized scouting and draft player selection system with the Dallas Cowboys and, subsequently, other NFL teams. He then built a highly successful systems integration business which is where I learned the ropes in the IT world. He provided me with strong business skills and served as an exceptional role model for giving back to society.

It’s nothing new to see the hunger and passion immigrants have to build a better life, but these two men in particular became very successful entrepreneurs, creating hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in assets, paying their taxes, and living the American dream. I consider myself truly blessed and lucky to have them in my life.

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

We are proud to have built a platform that offers what we believe is the best indoor intelligence solution on the market. The indoor location market is highly fragmented. There are many small vendors doing Wi-Fi analytics, maps, the employee app or capturing location data from cameras or other IoT sensors, but no one was providing an integrated solution with all the key components. So that’s what we’ve focused on. We have built or acquired the key technologies and have pulled it into one platform, creating a much higher value proposition for our customers.

Our entire premise of combining the physical and digital world is coming together. There’s a lot of hype around the metaverse and where that’s going next, but whether it’s virtual reality, augmented reality, or mixed reality, it all falls under the extended reality (XR) umbrella. It’s all about shaping immersive experiences for users, and it can be business- or consumer-oriented.

So, whether it’s workplace experiences where we’re talking about using our enterprise app, or hybrid events and the experience you have attending a conference, or industrial workplace experiences in a factory or warehouse, Inpixon is all about indoor intelligence and being able to provide a seamless experience. The experience is ultimately the deliverable.

Currently, we are working with major corporate enterprises and industrial facilities, and now even talking with major cities about smart city initiatives and using those same big data, location-based technologies, apps, maps, and even AR.

These experiences are being delivered by a core set of technology that we own today. That’s been our strategy — to put all of these pieces together to deliver a seamless, single, integrated solution. So we’re taking that to the next level. We started with sensors and then brought together the complementary solutions, but the next step is to elevate that experience with new technologies like augmented reality and to shape your experience as you’re moving through physical spaces.

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?

While there are notable consumer benefits, I am most excited about the opportunities for this industry to shape businesses. And, from my perspective, I think it’s more interesting to overlay the virtual world onto the physical world with AR or MR than to replace the real world with a VR experience. As just one example, in the industrial context, whether it’s a factory, warehouse or mine, workers can use AR to gain a next-level understanding of what’s happening in their environment. A manufacturing company employee, in their smart glasses, could not only visualize the location of all assets, equipment and personnel but also “see” inside of a box to know its contents.

All of the technologies driving AR and VR are only getting better due to advances with technology, as it takes a lot of compute power, energy and miniaturization to be able to deliver all of this. But things are advancing at a rapid pace.

Many of the things that we used to think about in Star Trek or in sci-fi movies are starting to come to reality and that is pretty cool and fun. Plus, they can enrich personal lives and make businesses more successful.

For instance, there are companies working on smart contact lenses, which could minimize the need for glasses or headsets. And at CES early this year, there were many other types of wearables besides glasses. Some examples include vests that have haptics, also known as kinaesthetic communication or 3D touch, and depending on what game you’re playing or what environment you’re looking at, you can feel the heat or the cold. Or, if you’re playing a boxing game, you could potentially feel the punch. Even holograms are going to become more and more realistic and present.

There are many exciting ideas that are going to further evolve this industry and really bring us into this immersive experience.

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?

As with any business, there are data privacy and security issues that you need to worry about. It’s something we deal with every day no matter what technology you are looking at. The continuation of being vigilant and intentional about protecting consumer data and providing the appropriate types of consent or opt-in capabilities as we develop these technologies is very important. One of our main visions for Inpixon has always been to make sure that we’re doing good with indoor data. As this industry evolves, technological advances need to be balanced with regulation to address this concern.

Another concern is with the headsets and glasses. There has been commentary and studies around strains in the neck and head in relation to wearable technology as it can be heavy especially if you’re wearing them for a long period of time. For some people, it can even lead to motion sickness or dizziness, so there are some concerns around this that should be addressed. Vendors are working to improve or even eliminate these risks with new lightweight designs, however, there still needs to be safety precautions and warnings for these devices.

Access is another concern. When something exciting first launches, its costs are higher. Although the costs are coming down for some of these wearables and new technologies, there is a bit of a digital divide that could grow wider. We don’t want that digital divide to widen too much, so how do we address that gap? I think as businesses, governments, and industry, it is important that we keep accessibility to everyone in mind, especially when it comes to education. We want to ensure there is a level playing field with access to emerging technology.

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?

There is a lot of focus on the consumer side at the moment, however, I’m more excited about the business side. So whether it’s industrial, healthcare, enterprise tech, or even education, the extension of mixed realities has an opportunity to have a major impact here.

I talked earlier about the use cases in factories and warehouses. In the corporate enterprise space, there are also big benefits in not having to pull out your phone or laptop to look up information and media. With AR, the experience can be served up to you, hands-free, in your smart glasses. Personally, I look forward to walking into a meeting with my agenda and talking points presented discreetly in my glasses, or to giving a conference presentation with my AR smart glasses acting as a teleprompter. I can even envision real-time language translations being delivered to my glasses as my international visitor speaks. There really are some incredible and practical use cases that this technology will unleash.

Think about how augmented reality and virtual reality could impact education– it would be the Khan Academy on steroids. Virtual and augmented reality can deliver these real-world experiences to help education–from a high school science project to a virtual class in medical school–the number of ways teachers, professors, and students alike can use this experience to improve education is mind-boggling.

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

There is a lot of confusion about what the technology actually is. One example is people assume AR and VR are the same thing and are used interchangeably, which is not true. One of the bigger myths is that this kind of technology is only for gaming or for consumers — think Pokémon GO. But I believe the business applications are more extensive and have a higher potential for positive life enrichment and economic impact.

And this leads to a third myth–that these technologies will be predominantly provided and controlled by “the Googles, Apples or the Metas” of the world because of development costs. The cost for this technology is dropping quickly and will continue to decrease. There are a growing number of use cases that can be best addressed by medium and smaller businesses. So, AR and VR are not just the reign of the global giants; these solutions will be provided by a wide range of companies and proliferated into our everyday life.

What advice do you give others to Create a Highly Successful Career In The VR, AR or MR Industries?

This is such an exciting time for metaverse technologies and especially for their business use cases. My advice for someone wanting to start or extend their career in this space–use your imagination.

When working on these innovations, stay creative, think outside the box about how this technology can be used to improve people’s lives, and also consider how they can be used to increase safety and security operations in a business.

And most importantly, think about how VR, AR or MR impacts society and all of us in the long run. Be sure to keep privacy and security and safety in mind and ensure whatever you are building addresses those factors. I’m going to reemphasize our Inpixon philosophy of doing good with the data you’re using or the service that you’re providing. This is a core value for us as should be for anyone working in this space.

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

I’d love to have a sit down with Tim Cook. I am very impressed with how he carries himself; he is low key and has a modest profile. I admire how he has taken over and grown Apple which was already so successful under Steve Jobs. Apple has so many great products for nearly every industry and across the globe–it is no surprise many consider it the most successful company in the world. It would be great to hear insights and advice from Tim Cook.

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


Makers of The Metaverse: Nadir Ali Of Inpixon On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Meet The Disruptors: Matt Titus Of epocrates On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

My experience working at a start up early in my career included never being allowed to say: “It is not my job.”

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Matt Titus.

Matt Titus is the Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer at epocrates, an athenahealth, Inc. company that delivers digital clinical decision support to prescribers. Titus joined epocrates from Real Chemistry, a global health innovation company, where he served as EVP, sales & customer experience and led commercial teams for the Health Technology Products & Solutions and Commercial Consulting offerings, including PaaS, SaaS, and IaaS solutions for pharmaceutical and life science companies.

Prior to that role, he served as the VP of business development — Americas for Kantar Profiles (Health), where he was head of sales for the Americas and led global commercial and revenue growth strategy, and also worked as a managing director at SERMO.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

A Craigslist ad! No, seriously!

I responded to a Criagslist advertisement in early 2010 to join a new healthcare startup. That was back in the early days of healthcare provider analytics via the internet and I joined Sermo as the tenth employee in the U.S. I had an incredible run there briefly working in project management before moving into a commercial role as the company grew to several hundred employees based in North America — eventually became the managing director of the Charlotte office. The rest is history!

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

Our work at epocrates is disrupting the physician experience at the point of care, or when they’re meeting with patients. With the science of disease and drug discovery moving faster than the speed of light, clinicians are increasingly turning to digital resources during patient appointments more than ever to triangulate diagnoses, understand ideal treatment pathways, and prescribe the right medication to optimize health outcomes.

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?

Oh boy. In my early days I had a client that was very anxious about an analytics project — too anxious. They once called and emailed me six times while I was away from my desk for just 30 minutes to grab lunch, even though the project was on time and on budget. I responded by unplugging my phone for the afternoon so I could keep other client projects on task. This turned out to be a big mistake!

I quickly learned the importance of overcommunicating what was happening and gaining trust with clients to uncover their key drivers of behavior. Looking back, I should have picked up the phone to understand what was causing the anxiety and agreeing on a strategic plan moving forward.

People are people. Sometimes, we just need a caring ear to listen to our concerns and all will be fine. I learned a valuable business lesson that day.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

There have been so many!

Tara Hostetter (Mercer) and the late Chris Morley (Sermo) — taught me the very best about creating an epic client experience and how to keep it fun while doing it.

Jennifer Carrea (Kantar Profiles) taught me to lead from the front by speaking truth to power.

My WPP Maestro Executive Leadership Group — Sam Dolin (Klick), Dana McGreevy (Real Chemistry), Jeff Semones (Group M), and Brian Elwarner (GTB Agency) all taught me to bring my authentic self every day.

And last but not least, John Seaner (IPM.ai/Swoop) taught me building scale from scratch, category creation, and limitless thinking.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

Healthcare is filled with those who have deep pockets, great intentions, and have valiantly tried and failed to disrupt our country’s healthcare system.

There’s no better example than a long list of Big Tech companies like IBM Watson or the Amazon, JP Morgan, and Berkshire Hathaway alliance (which created a company called Haven) that disbanded after less than 2 years. Too many of these players rush to overhaul an antiquated industry that’s overly complex, and where inoperability and cost overruns are the norm, without fully understanding the fundamental challenges that first need to be solved.

While the U.S. is the most scientifically advanced nation in the world, we come in first for dollars spent per patient, but last on patient outcomes. Clearly we are not getting out what we are putting in.

Checks and balances should be in place to avoid fraudulent disruptors (e.g., Theranos), but the it’s true that healthcare needs to be disrupted, if we will allow it. Disruption has to start first and foremost with the patient. That means keeping patients healthy by diet, exercise, regular primary care check ups, and best-in-class treatments for chronic conditions. Start there, and the results with come!

Can you share five of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

My experience working at a start up early in my career included never being allowed to say: “It is not my job.”

That taught me a valuable lesson — it is the collective responsibility of all employees to drive the organization forward. While some job functions are specifically assigned, many other workstreams or special projects offer opportunities to develop leadership, coaching, and strategic thinking. Use these environments to push yourself and grow these skillsets to help you reach your goals and tap into your full potential.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

Why stop at point of care? Science and medicine are moving at a million miles a minute.

If we truly want to disrupt healthcare, we have to think about meeting clinicians and [atients where there are — in their home, at the office, within the clinic, or at the hospital. Healthcare has now evolved into a 24/7 endeavor and keeping patients healthy year round is paramount to stop the constant drain on our current system.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

While at Kantar, Dr. Michael Gervais of Compete To Create came and spoke to us at a leadership retreat. As a former athlete, his application of peak performance by mastering the mental aspects of yourself and your business environment really resonated with me and helped me tap into my maximum potential. You can follow his podcast where he hosts world renowned experts called “Finding Mastery”.

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

The legendary LA Dodgers Hall Of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda once said, “In baseball and in business there are three types of people. Those who make it happen, those who watch it happen, and those who wonder what happened.” It’s always important to be driving forward and be the one who makes it happen!

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. 🙂

Be kind. It’s free. People can conquer insurmountable tasks when they work together instead of against each other.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can reach us directly at www.epocrates.com, and also follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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


Meet The Disruptors: Matt Titus Of epocrates On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Anushka Lokesh Of Breinify On Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Try and make sure that there are at least one or two elements of your job that “don’t feel like work.” For me this is preparing for and recording the podcast. I get to meet very interesting people, build relationships, and talk about marketing with experts, which is honestly something I’d be down to do outside of work as well. Every person is so different and it reminds me why marketing is so exciting, which helps me stay motivated at work.

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

Anushka Lokesh is the Head of Growth at Breinify, an AI- powered predictive personalization platform that helps consumer enterprises deliver relevant and personalized experiences at scale. She is an experienced marketing leader who has worked with iconic consumer goods companies like Anheuser-Busch InBev, where she launched and grew brands like Budweiser Magnum, Corona, Hoegaarden, and Stella Artois, and General Mills, where she worked in the New Ventures Group on new product launches. She has experience working internationally in India and Canada. Anushka also has an MBA from the Rotman School of Management, after which her creative nature and love for innovation eventually led her into the tech industry. Her expertise and interest are at the intersection of consumer behavior, marketing technology, and the future of consumer goods and retail. She is also the host of the Beyond Conventional Marketing podcast, where she speaks with marketing leaders about data-driven marketing, digital transformation, and technology and consumer trends.

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 moving around a lot because both my parents were diplomats. I’ve lived in 10 different countries so far and when I was younger we would move every 2–3 years, meaning every few years I would change schools, make new friends, and sometimes learn a new language.

It wasn’t always easy, but I absolutely loved it. I really loved getting to know people and building relationships, hearing other peoples’ stories and learning about different cultures. I actually still love doing all those things! I find it extremely exciting to meet new people, try to understand what makes them who they are, the challenges they face, and to build connections wherever I go.

I believe this is what marketing is at its core and why I love it so much. I developed a curiosity about people, a level of empathy, and the ability to adapt, which I think are all characteristics that really help as a marketer. Marketing has changed so much, but what hasn’t changed is that you still have to get to know people, understand them and build relationships.

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

The most important lesson I’ve learned about marketing is that while strategy and creativity are important, they are nothing without execution.

My first real job was at Anheuser Busch InBev for Budweiser. Experiential marketing was huge for us in India, so I worked quite a few events. We wouldn’t just sell beer, we’d also have photo booths, VIP lounges, and social media contests for consumers . At one of my first events, I forgot to make sure we had WiFi set up. Events typically have terrible connections, so it’s important to figure out these things and not rely on phone data. I spent the day of the event setting up WiFi. It was set up while the event was still going on. I felt quite silly! I definitely learned to be more detail oriented from this experience because it would have been such a shame to have everything else set up, and then for consumers to have a bad experience because of WiFi. It’s important to not just get caught up in the idea, but focus on what the entire experience will be like for consumers.

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

At Breinify, we help consumer enterprises deliver relevant and meaningful digital experiences through predictive personalization. To deliver predictive personalization on a website, email campaign, or other marketing channels can be quite a complex undertaking for many companies and to do this in a way that’s effective and scalable requires a solid foundation of data science. We work with retail and consumer goods brands that don’t have an in-house data science team to support personalization. All the data scientists would rather work at tech giants like Netflix or Amazon. We bring data transparency and education around data science and personalization as a journey. I think our team does such a great job of understanding where our customers are on this journey and then helping them grow.

We often find that brands are at different stages of implementing personalization. Some brands are just starting to think about optimizing consumer journeys to make their consumers’ digital experiences more personalized, while others are already quite data-driven and looking for more dynamic personalization. For example, we work with BevMo!, an alcohol retail chain, and Cowboy Charcoal, a well-known brand of fire-fuel products. When we began working with Cowboy Charcoal, we started with simple use cases to optimize the consumer experience with personalized recipe recommendations that led to 67.7 percent more clicks. With BevMo! we started out in a similar fashion, but over the course of a year, Breinify’s solution helped BevMo! achieve 51% YoY incremental lift in sales. Our team and AI platform has helped them personalize across all their marketing channels and drive conversions on their website, email and SMS campaigns. Both of these examples are a testament to how we help customers at every stage of their journey and grow with them as well!

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

Yes! One of the best parts of my role right now is that I host a podcast called Beyond Conventional Marketing. I speak with marketing leaders about data-driven marketing, technology trends, and the challenges they face. We’ve had some great guests from the consumer goods, retail, and ecommerce industries. Aside from having extremely interesting conversations with such experienced and fascinating people, who all come from different backgrounds and industries, I’ve realized that there are so many shared experiences as marketers. Despite being from different industries, we all face similar challenges, and can definitely learn from and be inspired by each other. I think this is important because marketing is always changing and while we all do our own research, there is nothing like learning from experience, either your own or someone else’s.

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?

Consumers today are extremely complex. The way they make decisions depends on so many factors, all of which are important to understand as a marketer. So, in that sense, both brand and product marketing are extremely important because they both contribute to the overall experience consumers have with your brand and impact the decisions they make. This is even more important now that consumers are spending so much time online and the consumer journeys are generally more complex.

The way I see it is that the goal of product marketing is to educate consumers about your product and value proposition. This would mean go-to-market campaigns for new products or features, communication around product benefits, and why consumers should choose your product over others.

While all this is important for building a brand as well, brand marketing is more focused on building a longer term relationship and emotional connection with your consumers. There’s definitely overlap between product and brand marketing as both are important to connect with consumers and grow your business, but in a nutshell this is how I would describe the difference.

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?

The reputation, trust, and consumer base that comes from building a good brand is an extremely important asset for any company. It can ensure longevity for your company and is an important factor for consumer loyalty as well. This type of brand equity can also allow you to sell products at a premium and maintain a competitive advantage. The way I see it, brand marketing is building a long-term relationship with your consumers. It definitely doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s definitely worth it in the long run to spend time and money into building a trustworthy and reputable brand.

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

  1. Clearly define your mission and values: This is the foundation of a trusted and well respected brand, and will help you build and define everything from your target consumer, identity, and assets. It will also help you make difficult decisions down the road as well. Consumers today are value-driven and choose brands that align with their values. I think I’ve been really lucky to work at companies that do this well. When I worked at AB InBev, the “Dream, People, Culture” approach was actually a guiding light for everything.
  2. Listen to your consumers: Sometimes I feel that companies have the tendency to create a product or a campaign they think is great. It might be a really impressive product, or a very unique and creative campaign, but if it isn’t what your consumers are looking for, it is quite useless. If the ultimate goal is to build a brand that people trust, and to connect meaningfully with your consumers, you have to understand their needs. For me the way to do this is by doing consumer research (not just once, but regularly) and approaching things iteratively. Your consumers’ needs can change, so it’s important to be able to listen and adapt as well.
  3. Have a good product: There is no point putting the time and resources into building a brand, if you don’t have a good product. At the end of the day, you want people to buy your stuff, so you need to have good quality stuff. A good product is the backbone of any good brand.
  4. Know what your brand is and isn’t: When thinking about your brand identity, it is of course important to figure out what you want your brand to be. Thinking of words and personality traits that describe your brand is helpful, but I think it is equally important to clearly define what your brand is not. An authentic and successful brand can’t be everything for everyone at all times, and clearly identifying what your brand is not will help in staying authentic and believable.
  5. Be consistent with all types of communication: You have to clearly define and document what your visual brand identity is, your tone of voice. Every company needs visual brand guidelines and a brand book, where it is crystal clear how to make creative assets and make decisions about your brand assets. Being vigilant and consistent in terms of both visual and written communication, is an underrated part of building a trusted brand. Consistency not only builds familiarity with consumers, but it also builds trust. Consistency at early stages of brand development can just mean identifying one or two simple messages that you want to nail down, and as your brand grows the consistency in communication can evolve across different channels, messaging, and elaborate campaigns.

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

Every marketer has a brand they really admire, and for me it’s Nike. I love them because they have functional and stylish products, they are socially conscious and they’ve built a brand that is inspiring. I still get goosebumps every time a new Nike ad comes out. None of their ads are super complex, but they are always impactful and evoke an emotional response from me. The way they communicate visually and with their copy is really simple but so thoughtful.

I think the way to replicate this is to be extremely clear on what you stand for as a brand, but also to really be clear on what response you want consumers to have. What do you want them to think, feel, and do when they interact with your brand?

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

I think it’s all related. Brand equity is really important for any brand. If you had two products that were essentially the same, but one was a well-known brand and the other wasn’t, the product from a well-known brand would be more valuable because it has a reputation and inspires trust. Measuring brand equity is complex and incorporates many different factors like brand sentiment, awareness, and consideration, as well as sales.

When measuring the success of a brand campaign, it depends on what the objective of the brand campaign is. You can do a brand campaign that is designed to improve sales. In which case, you should be measuring the additional lift in sales during that campaign. Black Friday is a great example of this. Even though the messaging is more discount oriented, it is still a brand campaign, and important for consumers to see, with the ideal end result being that they buy a bunch of stuff during Black Friday sales. If the objective of a brand campaign is to increase awareness, then you would measure consumer awareness before and after the campaign. This usually happens through brand tracking or brand awareness surveys.

Other possible objectives of a brand campaign could be to improve sentiment, in which case you might want to use net promoter scores or social media monitoring. What’s important here is that everything contributes to your brand equity and to measure the impact of any campaign, you need to clearly define the objective.

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

When it comes to social media, I think it’s important for companies to meet their consumers where they are and be purposeful in how they use social media. Understand how your consumers are using social media, and let that define how you use social media to connect with them. For example, if your consumer uses social media to get product recommendations from influencers, then your social media strategy should include influencers that can recommend your product, and should be optimized for discovery if consumers were to click through to your page.

I find sometimes the tendency with social media is to either try and be active on every platform, or if there’s new platforms to immediately try and get on those. But being on TikTok might not actually be beneficial for your brand or growing your business, so it’s important to be thoughtful about your social media presence.

Social media is also unique because it’s a two-way street. While putting out content, like any other marketing channel it’s important to reflect your brand identity and be consistent with visual and written communication, but social media channels can also be an effective feedback loop. It’s a great place to gather consumer feedback and listen to what type of content your consumers want or what they think of your brand.

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

I think it’s really important to do work that you enjoy and care about. Of course not everything in your day-to-day life will be enjoyable but generally aligning my career with my values and focusing on continuously learning has helped me feel good about my choices and find my way even when I’m a little lost. Also, one thing that I have grown to value more is the people that I work with as well. I love working with people who I can learn from, and the best teams I’ve worked on are not just work colleagues, but there is a sense of friendship and trust that is beneficial that helps us be successful, even when things are difficult.

That being said, it’s still possible to burn out even when you enjoy your work so I would offer this:

  1. Take time off!! I was always really bad at this earlier on in my career, but I find that taking time off from work to travel, spend time with family, or even just take a mental health day here and there helps me bring my full self to work and do my job well.
  2. Find non-work related things that help you decompress and re-energize. I think a lot about work even when I’m not working, and sometimes that may contribute towards burn out, but there are some activities that force me to not think about work that I always return to when I need a break, but maybe a day off isn’t possible. I love doing muay thai (kicking stuff is really fun and therapeutic) and drawing/painting on the weekend, and always feel more happy and re-energized the next day.
  3. Finally, try and make sure that there are at least one or two elements of your job that “don’t feel like work.” For me this is preparing for and recording the podcast. I get to meet very interesting people, build relationships, and talk about marketing with experts, which is honestly something I’d be down to do outside of work as well. Every person is so different and it reminds me why marketing is so exciting, which helps me stay motivated at work.

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

It’s been really encouraging in the last few years to see people thinking more about diversity. It’s an extremely complex issue, but something that I feel can help us make progress is by thinking about it in terms of representation. As humans, when we see ourselves represented, whether it is in different career paths, in the media, etc. it makes us feel valued and understood.

I think conversation is an underrated way of making progress, so maybe this seems very simple, but I would just try to facilitate conversations about representation over casual coffees, on the internet, and at work. These conversations should encourage people to discuss the ways in which they feel represented and the ways in which they aren’t. I find these conversations inspiring and insightful. They have really shaped some of the choices I make and the way that I approach the world and other people. More important and influential people might experience the ripple effect of one of these conversations, or it might inspire someone to change the way they make decisions.

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

“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.”

I love this quote because it reminds me to take things one small step at a time. It’s extremely helpful when I have a lot going on, or when I feel overwhelmed and it also grounds me into the present. Instead of worrying about things that can go wrong or thinking too far ahead into the future, it helps to focus on what I can do right now. I’ve found this to be extremely helpful, both in my personal and professional life.

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

I would love to hang out with Mindy Kaling. I have always been quite fascinated with the entertainment industry, so would definitely love to learn more about it. Aside from that she is extremely clever and funny, and I love what she’s done for representation of people of color in mainstream television. She seems really authentic and hilarious, and I think it would be a really fun time!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Follow me on LinkedIn here.

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


Anushka Lokesh Of Breinify On Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Michael Shangkuan Of Lingoda: 5 Things We Can Each Do To Help Solve The Loneliness Epidemic

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Sharpen your ability to connect with others in a deep and personal way by understanding more of their culture and history. Learn about their circumstances, be empathetic towards them and understand their backgrounds and why they might behave the way they do. Language learning is actually a great tool to become more empathetic as you learn not only about grammar and syntax but also about cultures and customs across the world.

As a part of my interview series about the ‘5 Things We Can Each Do Help Solve The Loneliness Epidemic’, I had the pleasure to interview Mike Shangkuan.

Mike Shangkuan is an EdTech entrepreneur, fitness fanatic, and polyglot, speaking six languages — English, German, Spanish, French, Chinese and Japanese. As a pioneer in language learning, he is the CEO of Lingoda GmbH, Europe’s leading online language school, where he is in charge of the company’s strategy and daily business. He is also a former natural bodybuilder and competed at several international competitions. He is a graduate of Yale University and he holds an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us? What was it that led you to your eventual career choice?

I was born and raised in the US, my parents had emigrated to the States from Taiwan. In school, I already became interested in learning languages — taking French in school and adding Chinese and Japanese classes to my weekend schedule.

Professionally, I always felt that I needed to be the “good Chinese son.” I was supposed to be good at physics and math, but instead I liked my French class the most. I studied economics at Yale University and completed my MBA at Harvard Business School. I then began my professional career at Goldman Sachs and Procter & Gamble. What ultimately led me to Lingoda was my previous position in San Diego, where I was the CEO of Terra Education, a B-corp offering life-changing service learning summer programs to teens in Africa, South America and Asia for twelve years.

I’ve always been interested in learning languages, traveling and diving deep into new cultures. To date, I’ve lived in six different countries across four continents and speak six languages: English, German, Spanish, French, Chinese and Japanese. Today, I’m the CEO of Lingoda, a leading online language school, which also makes me the first Asian-American to be the CEO of a German company.

On a different note, I’m also a former natural bodybuilder and have competed at several international competitions. I bring this up because it’s not actually that different from learning languages. To compete as a bodybuilder, you have to develop consistent, daily habits and train with a good teacher to achieve your goals, and not about talent.

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

I’ve lived in eight countries across North & South America, Europe, and Asia and been immersed in cultures and languages at opposite ends of the spectrum. Learning the language in those eight countries has played a key role in helping me better understand the nuances of the culture and immerse myself in the society. What is normal in one culture is awkward in the other.

Take Japan and Mexico, for example. I had lived and studied in both countries. In Japan, you don’t kiss or touch, even your parents. You bow. The greater respect you want to show, the deeper and longer your bow. I, of course, did not know that. So, when I first met my host family, I went around, extended my hand to shake and reached over to hug them. Each of them moved back, confusion in their eyes. The Grandmother was horrified. A few years later, I studied and worked in Mexico. My colleagues at work were equally horrified; I learned they were all gossiping about me and how rude I was because every morning and night, when I came and left the office, I did not go around the room and greet each colleague with a kiss and say “goodbye” with a final kiss for the day. I just went straight to my desk, turned on my computer, and started typing.

Now I run a German-based company. German culture is yet again different from Japanese, Mexican, and American. And we have colleagues from over 35 countries and cultures. One word of caution — never be late to a meeting with Germans.

You might ask, if you are interacting with a different culture or even living in another country, what can you do to overcome these challenges?

First, I wouldn’t worry about making mistakes. You WILL commit cultural faux pas.

Second, it’s much more important you develop a cultural awareness and curiosity of what your culture is and how the culture could be different. I call this developing your cultural IQ. A great way to develop your cultural IQ is to learn the language. Even some basic phrases and understanding of the grammatical structure reveals how a culture operates. Moreover those interactions will bring you closer together, when you show respect for that culture by starting the conversation in that culture.

Third, and I am especially addressing English-native speakers here, if the default language is English, speak slowly, enunciate, and use simple words. No idioms. If you must use idioms or a more complicated word, go back and explain what it is. Pay attention if people look confused. That is yet another reason to learn a second language. Those who do are much more empathetic in their cross-cultural interactions. I can recommend the book “The Language of Global Success” by Tsedal Neeley, a Professor at Harvard Business School.

Can you share a story about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?

We can also take “Culture Awareness” into a professional work environment. Every organization has its own culture, its written and unwritten rules: how decisions are made, how things get done, the vocabulary used to explain something, how things get done, among others. The same word will have a different meaning in two companies that are in the same industry.

For example, in my first two jobs after business school, I worked at Procter & Gamble and Clorox, both consumer products powerhouses. Clorox was even once a division of Procter & Gamble and it is referred to internally as the “Procter of the West,” since it is based in California. When I moved to Clorox and had the same exact position, the yearly strategic planning process was completely different. As Procter, the process was run by the Finance Manager, where it is run by Marketing at Clorox. I took my old paradigm at Procter and applied it to Clorox. It had devastating effects for my first few months at Clorox. My manager’s manager called me into the office one day and informed me I was not meeting expectations. We figured out what the issue was, and six months later I got promoted. But if I had taken half a step back and had a higher Cultural IQ, I could have avoided the problems I created for myself.

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

As a civilization, we are disconnecting from each other and from the world. In the last two years, borders have closed. People stopped traveling. It’s become more difficult for people to immigrate to a new country. People have become more parochial and afraid of the other.

At Lingoda, our mission is to build bridges across the world through language learning. These bridges can be virtual and physical.

Virtually, every year, we make millions of connections between people from all over the world. When you enter a class, your teacher could be from France and the four other students from South America, Middle East, Germany, and China. Then when you go to your next class, those four could be from the US, Mexico, UK, and Japan. Every class is a bridge to a new person, and all five of them use language as a means to understand each other and grow together.

Physically, we have launched our peer-to-peer initiative, where we offer free German and integration classes to refugees living in a German-speaking country. We started this one at the end of March as a reaction to the war in Ukraine and many refugees arriving in Germany. This one is very dear to my heart as my parents also came to the US from Taiwan for a new life — and they struggled even with basic conversation in English, despite having studied it for over ten years. Lingoda knows how vital language learning is to refugees to be able to integrate faster into a new society and to establish oneself in a new country, culture and life. We want to help people in need with our free volunteer-led German classes to make sure that they can establish a life in a German-speaking country in the best way possible for them. It is our hope that through language learning, we can foster a more inclusive and understanding world. This is our contribution to taking the first step towards those goals and to provide immediate help to those who need it most.

At Lingoda, in addition to offering flexible classes 24/7 to fit people’s busy schedules, we’re always innovating. One piece of student feedback has been that even after lots of studying of the language and class time, students still can’t understand what people say on TV or on the streets. Thus, we focus on speaking and listening, although we also teach grammar, writing, and reading. A unique feature of Lingoda’s curriculum is that we focus on real life vocabulary and on what native speakers really say.

We’re constantly looking for new ways to enrich language learning for our students and our teachers, while making the whole experience enjoyable and easier. In fact, we’ve just launched our new curriculum 3.0, which focuses even more on everyday speech and accents and colloquial expressions from countries around the world. We really want you to get a true cultural experience out of learning a new language with Lingoda.

Can you share with our readers a bit why you are an authority about the topic of the Loneliness Epidemic?

Harvard Research has shown that the global pandemic has triggered an epidemic of loneliness in America with feelings of isolation on the rise. The report suggests that 36% of all Americans — including 61% of young adults and 51% of mothers with young children — feel “serious loneliness.” The survey also suggests that lonely people often feel they’re reaching out or listening to other people more than other people are reaching out or listening to them.

As the CEO of an online language school, I know how important it is to make not only our employees (who are also still largely working from home in May 2022) but also our students and teachers feel part of the Lingoda community. Every day, the leaders at Lingoda are encouraged to reach out to employees to check in on their individual needs and situations. We have honest conversations about what we can do to improve their experiences, so that everyone can be on their A game. At the same time, we try to have fun and create working and learning environments that help everyone’s overall wellbeing and feeling of connection. Language learning really is a fantastic way to connect with people from all around the world, to learn about new cultures and feel less isolated.

One class with Lingoda can really take you on a trip around the world. For example, when studying Spanish with Lingoda, you could be in Miami, your teacher could be in Mexico and other participating students could be in Tokyo, London and Berlin. Each class is like a virtual travel experience in itself. And learning languages really opens the door to a whole new world — the people you will encounter and the cultures and countries you will learn about and perhaps even travel to can change your world and definitely work against a loneliness epidemic. Learning languages is not only an enriching process, but it allows you to expand your ability to expand your network and connect with others in a deep and personal way by understanding more of their culture and history.

Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. According to this story in Time, loneliness is becoming an increasing health threat not just in the US , but across the world. Can you articulate for our readers 3 reasons why being lonely and isolated can harm one’s health?

In my opinion, feeling lonely and isolated does not have a single cause and is a very complex topic. But loneliness can harm one’s health because

  • When you feel less connected to the people around you — friends, family, colleagues or neighbors — it might feel to you like their lives are continuing without you. That can have a negative effect on your self-esteem and the way you feel about yourself.
  • Loneliness can also be a symptom of depression, which often causes people to withdraw socially, which can lead to isolation.
  • Feeling loneliness can truly have negative effects on your physical health. It could lead to weight gain, sleep deprivation, poor heart health, and a weakened immune system. Loneliness can also put your body under more stress than normal.

On a broader societal level, in which way is loneliness harming our communities and society?

Many experts believe that having constant access to technology, specifically smartphones, can prevent us from making personal connections. We may reach more for our phones even during a lunch date with a good friend, perhaps not paying as much attention to the conversation as much as we would have before we were so attached to our phones. Spending too much time on social media is said to seriously harm our mental health, sparking feelings of loneliness, depression and anxiety.

Our older generations, who may not be as much connected, could be left out and made to feel more isolated as more and more connections are taking place online. But the question really is whether technology is causing or curing loneliness?

During the corona pandemic, we all witnessed first hand how helpful modern technology and new ways of staying in touch with our friends and family can be. Where would we have been without our dinner dates on Zoom during lockdown? For many of us, those Zoom meetings were quite far removed from the belief that online video conferencing or social media platforms are making us feel numb and disconnected.

I believe that if we use technology to our advantage, it can be an asset to our day to day interactions. When learning or teaching a language with Lingoda, you are getting in touch with people from all around the world who have the same goal as you: Wanting to learn a foreign language and immersing yourself in a new culture. And you’re doing it from the comfort of your own home with people you might not have the chance to meet in real life — when you’re at home in Miami and your teacher is from Argentina.

So what we can do is to use technology that stimulates our improved connections — try out our new language skills with people in your daily life — your Spanish-speaking neighbor or friend and build those bridges. Keep in contact with your language learning group and truly build those bridges around the world.

The irony of having a loneliness epidemic is glaring. We are living in a time where more people are connected to each other than ever before in history. Our technology has the power to connect billions of people in one network, in a way that was never possible. Yet despite this, so many people are lonely. Why is this? Can you share 3 of the main reasons why we are facing a loneliness epidemic today? Please give a story or an example for each.

I feel like I can connect this question to your previous one. Three main reasons for today’s loneliness epidemic might be:

  • We live in a society focused on individualism. Successes and failures are our own burden to bear.
  • Our definition of success has changed over the years. Does it mean constant new achievements, wealth, power and reputation? If you’re successful professionally, that might make you feel valued in society — but we keep forgetting that achieving success may also have to do with luck and is somewhat determined for us: where we were born and what influences us externally to achieve professional success.
  • With the rise of social media, people might feel like they’re constantly being compared to others and their successes without knowing their failures too. People don’t post about their bad days. This is the way that social media and technology can affect us negatively mentally and make us feel lonely.

But what makes us human is our ability to be able to connect with others and the ability to love and to build relationships. With the rise of social media, people might feel like they’re constantly being compared to others and their successes without knowing their failures too. This is what we should be concentrating on — building honest connections with people, learning about each other. And technology can be a great aid in this if we use it the right way.

Ok. It is not enough to talk about problems without offering possible solutions. In your experience, what are the 5 things each of us can do to help solve the Loneliness Epidemic. Please give a story or an example for each.

  • Connect with people and make a commitment to reach out to them. It doesn’t even have to be ten people that you don’t feel very close to. Pick one or two people in your inner circle that you feel comfortable with and reach out to them daily. Really make a point to check in with them and ask how they are doing.
  • Sharpen your ability to connect with others in a deep and personal way by understanding more of their culture and history. Learn about their circumstances, be empathetic towards them and understand their backgrounds and why they might behave the way they do. Language learning is actually a great tool to become more empathetic as you learn not only about grammar and syntax but also about cultures and customs across the world.
  • Online video conferencing or social media platforms have the reputation to have made people feel numb or rather disconnected — but this doesn’t have to be true. It can be a fantastic way to make a first connection with new people around the world, as it allows you to speak with people from the comfort of your own home. What builds bridges across different communities more effectively than learning their language and being able to reach them with the push of a button?
  • Try to get out of your comfort zone and engage in social activities. With learning a new language, actually speaking the language is the biggest challenge for most people. And Lingoda’s curriculum is designed to get people to speak as much and as soon as possible. All our classes aim to get in your speaking practice and to connect with the people in your group class — to ask each other questions in the new language and to feel like you’re in this together. You can easily choose at what level you want to begin learning your new language and you will be matched with people at the exact same level as you, so that you can connect easily. Be open and immerse yourself in a new culture — it’s a great way to make new connections and friendships.
  • Embrace the Cultural Quotient and broaden your horizons. Listen and understand with full empathy. Having lived in eight countries across four continents, I’ve learned to adapt to different cultures, especially as the first Chinese American CEO of a German company. These experiences have truly taught me to learn to embrace, appreciate and gain a fuller understanding of various cultures. The time I’ve spent abroad helped me to not only understand others, but also to understand myself.

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. 🙂

International Pen Pal Day. When I was young, before the Internet and smartphones, we wrote letters. I had two pen pals: one in France and one in Japan. For International Pen Pal Day, you get assigned a pen pal your age from a country other than where you are from. It could be any of 200 countries. On that day, you write a physical letter introducing yourself, your country, and what it’s like to live in your country. You attach a picture. Your counterpart does the same. Each month, you write one more letter and respond to your pen pal’s questions. After one year, you connect on Zoom and meet.

It all comes back to the idea of connecting with people from different backgrounds, cultures and learning about one another. If we invest more in learning about the other, we can truly foster a world of inclusion and build bridges around the world — even if we don’t always have the chance to meet each other face to face.

We are 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 with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I’m thinking long and hard about your question, and I don’t have anybody I would want to meet. Definitely not the standard answers, like Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg or Warren Buffett. You can test my commitment to this, if they actually do respond.

Here’s why. I like learning about the stories of “ordinary” people, very different from me, not talked up by the media. I’m not interested in meeting famous or “successful” people. Who I would be interested in meeting is a farmer in a small town in China who grow up during the Cultural Revolution, a retired man in Germany who fought as a young soldier in WWII and lived in East Germany during the Cold War, or young mother who is part of a tribe in New Guinea with little to no interaction with the rest of the world.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can follow Lingoda on our website, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and also my personal LinkedIn account for all things Lingoda and language learning.

Thank you so much for these insights. This was so inspiring, and so important!


Michael Shangkuan Of Lingoda: 5 Things We Can Each Do To Help Solve The Loneliness Epidemic was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Making Something From Nothing: Breanna Giglio Of Bashify Event On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Work never stops; embrace it. Your business is like your baby, it always demands your love and attention, so give it what it needs. Some of the best ideas I’ve had have been late at night in bed talking with my husband or on our nightly walks. It’s important to surround yourself with people who both give you the space to think about your business while also helping you to set healthy boundaries when you need to disconnect for a bit.

As a part of our series called “Making Something From Nothing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Breanna Giglio.

Breanna Giglio founded Bashify in 2020 after returning from her honeymoon and realizing that throwing great parties to celebrate life’s biggest moments was hard, especially in a pandemic. Burnt out from her job as a nurse in the pediatric ICU and looking for a new challenge, she began her event planning business offering beautiful public park and backyard styled picnics. Over the next year, business grew from simple date night picnics to baby/bridal showers and even elopements! After just a year in business and having planned parties for NFL players, mega-influencers, and the star of ABC’s The Bachelorette, Breanna and Bashify launched Bash Boxes to ship their parties right to your door. Bashify has moved its base of operations from Breanna’s home state of Washington to Dallas, Texas, where it now offers its event planning services to locals and Bash Boxes to the whole country!

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?

As far back as I can remember, I’ve always enjoyed creating and curating beautiful things. When I was in elementary school I loved theater and would’ve sworn to you I’d be a big Hollywood actor. My dreams of the silver screen were soon replaced by deep dives into Pinterest and long trips to the mall to find the clothing and things with the it factor. My creativity collided with my inner entrepreneur at 14 years old when I started “Breanna’s Chic Storefront” on Facebook to sell DIY crafts. Although my professional career started as a nurse, after two years of working at Seattle Children’s Hospital and with the support of my husband I started Bashify!

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

This may seem a little silly on the surface, but bear with me: “What would happen if you just called Taylor up?” — Kris Jenner. To be brief, the context here is that Kris’ daughter, Kim (who we all know), had a dispute with Taylor Swift. Amidst all the drama, Kris suggests something simple yet dramatic and oddly unthinkable — just talk to the person you have a problem with. I’ve found that so many people will love to tell you what is and isn’t possible because of their fixed or limited mindsets. Direct or bold solutions to problems are often written off as implausible, but those solutions are often what yield the best results. Sometimes you just need to call Taylor up.

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

My husband got me hooked on the “How I Built This” podcast and ever since it’s been a big inspiration to me. I love hearing the stories of how founders of these amazing companies that you and I know navigate their way through the first days of their startups. When I listen to episodes, it makes me feel like I can find a way past the problem I’m facing and that we will make it. We first listened to it on a road trip right after we got engaged and I’ve been listening ever since.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. There is no shortage of good ideas out there. Many people have good ideas all the time. But people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. Can you share a few ideas from your experience about how to overcome this challenge?

I’m a firm believer that you should let experts be experts. For me, that meant not trying to do everything in my business and leaning on the expertise of others when I felt like I was out of my depth. I’m no technical wizard, so I wasn’t going to try to learn skills like SEO or graphic design when I knew I could hire freelancers online to complete those tasks for me at reasonable rates. Being a founder is hard enough, so offloading the tasks farthest from my core competencies to professionals saved me a lot of headaches on execution and made my company better. By knowing my own limits, I made it a lot easier on myself to turn my good ideas into good business.

Often when people think of a new idea, they dismiss it saying someone else must have thought of it before. How would you recommend that someone go about researching whether or not their idea has already been created?

Just because an idea has already been done doesn’t mean you can’t find a new wedge into that market. In our case, we knew high-quality party supplies existed, but we also knew nobody was bundling them in easy-to-buy bundles with educational content to help you get the most from your purchase. I would tell entrepreneurs not to worry so much about whether or not their idea is wholly unique — because so few are — and instead to focus on if they provide value that is equal to or greater than what already exists.

For the benefit of our readers, can you outline the steps one has to go through, from when they think of the idea, until it finally lands in a customer’s hands? In particular, we’d love to hear about how to file a patent, how to source a good manufacturer, and how to find a retailer to distribute it.

We take a very bootstrapped approach to things because we like to get to market quickly and iterate even faster. When we first decided to launch our Bash Boxes, we went from concepting to launch in just 5 weeks. In that time, we sourced all the samples we needed from wholesalers, created content around the boxes, and redid our website. From there we started shipping, gathering data on what our customers did and didn’t like, and worked on strengthening supplier relationships and our own fundamentals of fulfillment. We just recently moved fulfillment from outside of our home to an offsite facility and are continuing to improve our processes. The big thing for us has been that we have the self-awareness to recognize how new we are to the world of ecommerce and fulfillment and leverage that to have an agile mindset. While we haven’t had to file a patent yet and can’t speak to that experience, we can say that it’s always a good idea to have multiple suppliers for a single SKU when possible to avoid being over-leveraged or taken advantage of by a bad manufacturer.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started Leading My Company” and why?

Sometimes you need to spend more. When we first started our business, we ordered some decorative sun umbrellas for our events from a wholesaler in China. To save money in the short term we ordered the minimum quantity possible, but later realized we needed more umbrellas. Because the shipping costs were so high, we ended up spending significantly more than we had originally planned to get all the umbrellas. Had we just spent the premium up front, we would have actually saved money.

Work never stops; embrace it. Your business is like your baby, it always demands your love and attention, so give it what it needs. Some of the best ideas I’ve had have been late at night in bed talking with my husband or on our nightly walks. It’s important to surround yourself with people who both give you the space to think about your business while also helping you to set healthy boundaries when you need to disconnect for a bit.

Directed action is worth more than detailed plans. At this point in our business, we’ve made about 3 major pivots. Because we’ve prioritized action over detailed planning, we’re able to learn from our experiences and create better plans as we go. Nothing will give you clarity like going out into the world, doing the thing, and seeing how you feel.

It’s okay to walk without knowing your destination. We never really planned or foresaw any of our business pivots, but each one led us to a better place. It’s impossible to forecast the future, whether that be pandemics, consumer demand, or geopolitics. That’s why it’s okay to try things, see how the market responds, and go from there.

Know what you want to get out of your business. It’s important to ask yourself things like “how much can I see this making and am I comfortable with that income” or “will this company give me the balance I want in life?” Actually at different points I found myself not liking the answer to one or both of those questions and made changes to my business to correct for that. A little less than a year ago I came to the realization that the lifestyle of being solely an event planner would not give me either the income nor the balance that I wanted, which helped lead me into creating the Bash Box ecommerce business.

Let’s imagine that a reader reading this interview has an idea for a product that they would like to invent. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?

The most important thing to do is validate demand. Would people pay for what you want to sell? Then the next question is, how much will people pay for this and can I get it manufactured at a price that gives me a reasonable margin? You can investigate these two questions by prototyping, talking to people, and even soft-launching your product.

There are many invention development consultants. Would you recommend that a person with a new idea hire such a consultant, or should they try to strike out on their own?

At the early stages of a company I think the founder should own as much of the intellectual property/management and focus on delegating specific tasks. If a founder feels the need to hire a general consultant rather than a more function-focused consultant, they may either not have a good enough idea of what it is they want to build or may not be the entrepreneur to bring that to market.

What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one?

If you hope to keep your company private and believe your company’s success in the short-term hinges on your unique capabilities or insight, it’s best to bootstrap. If you believe you’re building a company with an 8+ figure value that can provide an attractive public or private exit for investors and you believe you can find investors who will allow your company to do its best work, then venture can be a great option.

Ok. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

We believe that everyone deserves to be celebrated and should have days where they feel like the king or queen of the world. Making things look good is hard work, and we hope to make people everywhere feel like they can be celebrated in style with our Bash Boxes. I know in my own life it’s amazing what a beautiful dress, some flowers, and a night out with my husband can do to make me feel better, and I want to box that same feeling for people on their special days.

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

I think that being a new mom I’ve learned two things: people always assume you’ll stay home with the kids and the modern workplace hasn’t adapted to the millions of skilled, talented moms who want careers but can’t work full-time or in an office. I hope to build a company and foster a culture where working moms can grow in their career by taking advantage of the booming remote and gig economies. In an economic climate where dual-income households are increasingly becoming both the norm and necessary, I want to empower primarily at-home caregivers to be able to generate income and grow careers while taking care of their families.

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, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

Mark Cuban. My husband and I just moved to Dallas and are huge fans of Mark and his ventures. We love his energy on Shark Tank and how despite all his success he seems so grounded in reality and focused on making the world a better place. It’d be incredible to meet him!

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.


Making Something From Nothing: Breanna Giglio Of Bashify Event On How To Go From Idea To Launch was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

David Lloyd of Naked Marketing On Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Take all the findings to help define who you are, your purpose for being, what you hold dear, what makes you different to others and what your story is. This is where you need someone who is good with words.

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

David Lloyd is the Managing Director and co-founder of Naked Marketing, a creative agency based in Norfolk. With a whopping 20+ years’ experience in the creative industry Dave is a design powerhouse. On top of producing brief crushing work for clients of all shapes and sizes, Dave co-leads Naked’s Creative Team and manages the studio.

Naked specialises in building straight-forward and effective branding, design, digital and marketing strategies for small and medium sized businesses.

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

The love of art and design. As a kid I loved drawing but also growing up in the 80s I had a fascination with movie posters, they left such a lasting impression on me. Then that interest turned to album artwork too. It was GCSE design communication where I suddenly became enlightened with the vast scope of graphics. I then studied Graphic Design at Lincoln when it used to be an art and design school before the university.

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

I’m not sure about a mistake but a strange/funny anecdote was that the first agency I worked for. I had to design a front cover for a video (don’t ask) that the Daily Star newspaper had commissioned. On seeing my first concept the editor of the newspapers was annoyed that I had made them look like a tack tabloid. Maybe what I was trying to do was project the brand image to the audience, which should be a given in marketing. Plus, be honest, don’t hide behind smoke and mirrors.

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

Working with businesses of all shapes and sizes, it’s an organisation’s ambition or story that turns us on rather than just their budget. This concept helps us create long-term relationships that are mutually beneficial. We get to know our clients better. We want to create a marriage. The best story I can share is that we’re proud to say that over 50% of our current clients have continued to work with us for 5 years or more, and 20% for over a decade!

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

We’re working on lots of new brand/design/marketing projects currently from a global travel agency which will help all customers reduce and offset their carbon. This in turn supports important projects around the world to an amazing local, family run attraction stepping out of the shadow of lock down.

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?

Branding and marketing is full of over-complicated ambiguous definitions and jargon that really can create confusion and turn people off. Brand marketing is how your organisation presents itself to its audience. It’s not just how it looks and sounds but how it also feels. There’s a holistic quote which says your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room. For me, brand marketing is how you influence what those people think. Product marketing is showcasing benefits of a certain ‘thing’. What is important though with both types of marketing is to make a connection, find the emotion.

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?

Not only is it important for a customer to know who you are and what you do but you need to know as well. Who you think you are might be different to your audience. You need to be saying the right things to the right people. You need everyone in your organisation to know what it is you were put on this planet to do, what values you hold dear and what it is you look and sound like. This might have changed and where you were is different to where you want to be, a brand strategy can help you get there.

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

You can do it in four. 1) Start off with a discovery session. Do this through a workshop with staff and interview clients, they might have a different take. Think about the questions you want to ask for the answers you want to find, where the gaps are in your marketplace compared to your competition.

2) Take all the findings to help define who you are, your purpose for being, what you hold dear, what makes you different to others and what your story is. This is where you need someone who is good with words.

3.) Design your image, this can start off with your logo/identity and images, colours and fonts. What image are you trying to represent?

4) Delivery of all of this with your marketing, this can be digital with website/social media/emails etc., offline with print or verbal/written through podcasts or thought leadership pieces.

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

There are so many, but I think it has to be Innocent for the reason that it is the one brand that most people wanted to be like. It created a connection that resonated, it felt friendly, it cared, it was fun.

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

I would say that there are parts that are similar; it depends on the KPIs of your business and the outcomes you want. Generally it’s to create more awareness and more engagement, being known for something and creating recognition — which then leads to specific outcomes that can be transactional if that’s what your strategy dictates.

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

Huge, it’s how the outside world, especially those people that don’t work with us, see and experience our culture. We have won work off the back of social media and also had an old client call me up and tell me how much he hated what we were doing on social which I actually liked because it created a reaction. If it was boring they wouldn’t have said anything, and that’s even worse than hating it.

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

I’m starting to think of myself as a pretty ‘apolitical’ person but completely resetting our entire political system, and probably most of those throughout the world would be an incredible thing. They seem very unfit for purpose. We need to help each other and the planet on which we co-inhabit, and currently politics seems to be the barrier rather than the bridge to making this happen.

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

I wish I had the type of brain that retains all the great quotes I see, but I don’t, so there isn’t one specifically that I use. However, I do screen grab them from Instagram so here’s a good one I need to remember more — ‘if you have to force it, leave it’. It definitely refers to a time when I realised something fundamental in the business wasn’t working.

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

Michael Johnson from Johnson Banks

How can our readers follow you on social media?

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/nakedmarketing1

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

LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/company/naked-marketing/

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


David Lloyd of Naked Marketing On Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Mark Schonberg Of 2B3D On 5 Things You Need to Know to Scale a Successful Business

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Integrity is vital. You cannot be successful if no one trusts you, and your reputation can be easily damaged. When something goes wrong, be upfront about it. Bad news is not like fine wine, it doesn’t get better over time.

I had the pleasure to interview Mark Schonberg. Colonel (Retired) Mark Schonberg of, CSO of 2b3d.com is currently a Principal Partner and Managing Member of Renewable Energy Park, LLC, a company that specializes in the development of critical infrastructure and the associated eco-systems for industrial parks, transit/logistics hubs, digital infrastructure, and utilizing renewable power within those eco-systems.

A native of Council Bluffs, Iowa, he holds Masters Degrees in Information Systems and Strategic Studies, and received his bachelors from Iowa State University. During his military career he served in various locations to include Korea, Germany, Belgium, Africa, Afghanistan and numerous U.S. locations.

He recently served as the President of TerraScale, LLC, a Green Technology Company determined to answer to the world’s growing need for digital infrastructure (data centers) and sustainable energy by delivering a platform for enabling emerging Smart Technologies.

His Army career highlights include serving as the U.S. Army’s Cyber Capabilities Development and Integration Director (CDID), the Army Cyber Command’s Deputy Chief-of-Staff and Chief Information Officer/G6, the ISAF CJ6 Operations and Plans Chief in Afghanistan, and the United States Forces, Korea, Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence (C4I) Joint Working Group Co-Chairman and the Director of Task Force Mercury in charge of the C4I build-out in support of the $16 billion Yongsan Relocation Program. His last assignment was as the U.S. Africa Command’s J63 — Plans and Operations Director in charge of all Defensive Cyber Security Operations and Network Services across Africa and Southern Europe.

Thank you for joining us in this interview series. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?

I graduated from Iowa State University in 1990, and went straight into the U.S. Army as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Signal Corps. At that time it was fine to be a political science major in the Signal Corps because all you managed was analog radio systems. However, around 1993 the Army decided to place the responsibility for management of all the IT systems within the Signal Corps. Thus began my journey as an IT service provider, which eventually lead me to managing global IT services. Around 2008, I was recruited to work in this new area called Cyberspace. I was eventually made responsible for developing all cyber capabilities within the Army. Just when I thought it was time to retire, I was asked to move to Korea and take over the IT portion of the $16 Billion Yongsan Relocation Program, moving U.S. Forces out of the capital of Seoul to a new site 45 miles South near Pyongteak. The IT/Cyber portion of the program was ~$1 Billion, and we built one of the first truly Smart Cities.

You’ve had a remarkable career journey. Can you highlight a key decision in your career that helped you get to where you are today?

Very early in my career I started volunteering for all the technical training I could get. As an Officer, I was not expected to be very technical, but the leadership insights I gained by understanding the technical aspects of the position were invaluable. Do not be scared of technological advancements. Jump in there and figure it out, at least to the point where you understand the processes associated with the capability.

What’s the most impactful initiative you’ve led that you’re particularly proud of?

The aforementioned Yongsan Relocation Program was amazing. It is the largest construction project outside of the United States aside from the Panama Canal. It will be there for years to come and required me to utilize the many skillsets I’d developed during my 34-year Army career.

Sometimes our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a mistake you’ve made and the lesson you took away from it?

Logistics are everything! Many of my early failures simply revolved around the ability to sustain what we had done. You can have the greatest IT product ever, but if only you can operate it, then it is never going to work. Things have to be sustainable.

How has mentorship played a role in your career, whether receiving mentorship or offering it to others?

One of my best talents is recognizing the skills my team have possessed. You cannot make people excel in positions they do not have the desire or aptitude to perform. Most IT service technicians have no desire to be a manager. Yet I have seen it again and again, where you take your best IT person and make them a manager and they fail. So as a mentor, you need to challenge those you know can do more, while recognizing those who are operating in their best positions. Do not be afraid to make adjustments.

Developing your leadership style takes time and practice. Who do you model your leadership style after? What are some key character traits you try to emulate?

I do not have a specific person I have modeled my style after, but I do believe that leadership needs to be seen. Some refer to it as leadership by walking around.

Thank you for sharing that with us. Let’s talk about scaling a business from a small startup to a midsize and then large company. Based on your experience, can you share with our readers the “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Scale Your Business”? Please give a story or example for each.

I’m not sure there is much of a difference between small, medium, and large companies, but here are a few thoughts:

1- You have to be happy with the team; regardless of size. If you are not happy or worse yet you do not trust your work partners, then leave immediately. I was talked out of leaving my last company by my co-workers and then proceeded to have 6 additional months of misery. Yes the pay check was nice, but the stress was counterproductive and I found myself just working for a paycheck. It’s not fair to anyone.

2- You have to be able to manufacture. Now this doesn’t literally mean manufacturing, although it might in some cases. What I am trying to say is you cannot produce, deploy, and most importantly sustain your product or capability if you cannot get it from the whiteboard to the market. You might have the greatest scientist in the world, but if no one knows how to implement an assembly line, your product never goes beyond prototyping.

3- Stay lean. Salaries can break a company, but in many cases start-ups can’t afford salaries. Offer equity or some other types of incentives to keep quality people. Almost as important is do not overpay for people who help you out only once, and then stand there with their hand-out. If you have committed to pay them fine, but do it last and not at the expense of the rest of the company. Many times it is better to contract out initial functions and then in source where appropriate down the road.

4- Stop and think. Hardly anyone I have met truly has a strategic plan. They may have identified an end-state they want to achieve, but rarely have a plan beyond the next challenge in front of them. Having a plan affords you the ability to examine other opportunities along your company’s journey. In many cases you can enhance your core value streams with the integration of support processes.

5- Integrity is vital. You cannot be successful if no one trusts you, and your reputation can be easily damaged. When something goes wrong, be upfront about it. Bad news is not like fine wine, it doesn’t get better over time.

Can you share a few of the mistakes that companies make when they try to scale a business? What would you suggest to address those errors?

Failing to identify adequate resources for your project is a cardinal sin in my book. Something will go wrong or an unexpected cost will appear. You should plan for such contingencies.

Make sure everything you do is sustainable. The idea of wash, rinse, repeat should be your mindset in most engagements.

Scaling includes bringing new people into the organization. How can a company preserve its company culture and ethos when new people are brought in?

I firmly believe no one (or at least 99% of people) shows up to work wanting to do bad. So assuming you have selected the right person that possesses the aptitude and skills for your positions, I believe communicating is key for on-boarding new personnel. This can be hard, but the more you expose team members to the organizational goals, the sooner they can find their place.

In my work, I focus on helping companies to simplify the process of creating documentation of their workflow, so I am particularly passionate about this question. Many times, a key aspect of scaling your business is scaling your team’s knowledge and internal procedures. What tools or techniques have helped your teams be successful at scaling internally?

Great question, I think it revolves around knowledge management, and by knowledge management I do not mean access to SharePoint. I mean development of things like a continuity file, Records Management systems, and other things that allow for the easy integration of new personnel. These products can also allow you to review your organization structure and see where changes should be made. For example, I hired 10 project managers, but only have 7 engineers and multiple engineers are needed on each project. If you can afford it, having someone fully dedicated to knowledge management can pay great dividends, and you’ll also see that there is immense value in the data you have already collected.

I also believe in having a Quality Assurance program, especially one that incorporates third-party feedback.

What software or tools do you recommend to help onboard new hires?

This is situation dependent, but obviously some sort of basic collaboration tool set is needed. I have never found one magic bullet in terms of a software solution.

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

My friends will tell you I am a big Star Trek guy. That vision of the future is where I want mankind to go. I believe the first step in that journey revolves around free power for everyone. Today, we have no excuse for not having free energy. This would enable things like free internet, which then enables telemedicine, electric vehicles, etc., etc.

In the case of 2B3D, it would offer our PTSD treatment services anywhere in the world. It’s not hard, we just need to make up our minds to do it.

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


Mark Schonberg Of 2B3D On 5 Things You Need to Know to Scale a Successful Business was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Meet The Disruptors: CJ Pennington Of Proud Source Water On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up…

Meet The Disruptors: CJ Pennington Of Proud Source Water On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Positivity is a mindset. I believe in karma or essentially that we attract things based on what we put into the universe. Having a positive outlook on life makes it natural to be kinder to people and I think being kind to people can lead to ultimately better and more enjoyable outcomes in life. This is something I practice every second of every day.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing CJ Pennington.

CJ Pennington is the President and Co-Founder of Proud Source Water, making a positive impact through a fundamentally different approach to water: caring for our planet, our communities and our health all at the same time. Founded in 2017, CJ conceptualized and built the initial business plan for Proud Source from the ground up, rooted in the goal of uplifting small-town communities through local opportunities surrounding natural alkaline spring water sources, with a vision to be the most transparent bottled water company in the world when it comes to sourcing, sustainability and overall impact.

In his role, CJ not only designed the bottling facilities in both Idaho and Florida, but also designed the brand’s headquarters, packaging and more. Prior to Proud Source, he served as an architect and engineer assisting with the design and construction of notable projects for Boeing, the University of Oregon (Autzen Stadium) and the Simplot F.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I started my career as an architect, having graduated with a degree in architecture. In college I found my passion for sustainability, good design and problem solving. After graduating I practiced a handful of years in the space moving from architect to engineer, which I really enjoyed. I was working as an engineer in Seattle at the time when a family friend reached out asking if I would help design a water bottling facility in his hometown of Mackay, Idaho. In that first conversation I learned the town’s future was in question — the school was about to close due to lack of enrollment — and he knew someone needed to step up to create local jobs and give the town hope. His plan was simple, build a bottling plant to create 10 jobs. I had always wanted to help people and make positive impact in the world. So, I decided to walk away from a career that I truly loved to be a part of something bigger than myself.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

What makes us so disruptive is we didn’t set out to be disruptive. The goal wasn’t to shake things up — it was to do things for the right reasons — which happened to be disruptive in the industry we were getting into.

The commitment to our mission was critical as we grew the business and were faced with having to make decisions that impacted the future. We would look at how our choices would impact our community and the planet. Then we would then simply select whichever direction was better for both. We repeated this over and over until we looked around and realized we are on much different journey than other companies in the water space. I believe our way of thinking organically led to us looking and sounding different which ultimately has allowed us to disrupt.

At the core — it was this “doing the right thing” mission that was disruptive.

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 think the funniest mistake was a few years ago when we thought it was a good decision to erect boxes in our Headquarter offices in Boise for an order. You learn a lot hand assembling boxes over the course of a few days and it wasn’t until we were a handful of pallets into the orders, we all realized the box was engineered to be erected in a different manner than we had been using. Looking back, it turned out to be a wonderful team bonding experience, but I wouldn’t recommend it!

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

For anyone venturing out to start a business, you need a support group and community of people who are going to help. I’ve had a handful along the way that have kept me from making mistakes or let me make them and learn from them.

My father, who has industry experience and is involved with Proud Source, has been my biggest mentor. He’s made an impact on my life from an early age, teaching me what it means to work hard, be humble and have tough skin. I take all of his words to heart.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

I don’t necessarily know that I would agree that the word is somehow good or bad, positive or negative. I don’t align with that. Thinking differently should be celebrated. To be disruptive in an industry, you’re taking a different approach or angle. Personally, I think pushing boundaries and trying to innovate is always a positive thing. That’s advancement.

Can you share five of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

1- “Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.” -President Theodore Roosevelt.

The first time I heard this, it was from someone I looked up to when I was working as an engineer. I asked him what his secret was, as he got people to follow him in a way I hadn’t seen very often. He explained to me it was about being humble and speaking to people and holding yourself in a way that is approachable; just because you are the boss, you don’t need to beat people over the head with it. He equated this quiet confidence, and humble approach, to getting the best out of people. I really appreciated that, as he had a tremendous amount of power but didn’t tout it.

2- Positivity is a mindset. I believe in karma or essentially that we attract things based on what we put into the universe. Having a positive outlook on life makes it natural to be kinder to people and I think being kind to people can lead to ultimately better and more enjoyable outcomes in life. This is something I practice every second of every day.

3- “To know, is to know that you know nothing.” -Socrates

I didn’t enjoy English class. This is something I picked up after moving on from school in recent years after changing careers and finding success in a new industry. This idea meant something to me when people began asking me how I did something or when I was asked to give business advice. My natural response is to start by disclaiming that I know nothing but would be happy to share my own personal experience.

4- “Don’t cut corners.” I know it’s overly simple. In college I took a landscape architecture class. One day in class, the professor talked about cutting corners in way I had never thought about before. I take cutting corners very literal now walking down sidewalks or pathways properly instead of cutting through the grass or landscaping to get to where I want to go.

5- “It takes a village.” Whether it’s been raising my son or growing Proud Source, I’ve learned that it cannot be done alone. I often celebrate the village I am part of and make sure they understand how much I appreciate them allowing me in.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

We are going to take things further — the goal at Proud Source has always been to do things for the right reasons, no matter if they are easy or hard to do. After nearly 5 years of operating out of Mackay location we recently expanded to include a second spring bottling facility located within the Appalachola Forest in Florida. The expansion allows us to offer a high-quality spring water product throughout the U.S. without having to ship long distances. It’s a win for the planet and has given us the opportunity to create positive impact within another small rural community here in the U.S.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

“Making a profit is not the goal because the Zen master would say profits happen ‘when you do everything else right’.”- Yvon Chouinard

I read the book “Let My People Go Surfing” when I was putting together the business plan for Proud Source in early 2016. The book is full of wonderful ideas but this one might be my favorite due to its simplicity and the disruptive nature. His words felt familiar and really resonated. We wanted to create a business that was focused on doing things the right way with our earliest aspirations to create positive impact on the people in our small community.

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

The one that always comes to mind is to “walk with a purpose.” I received this lesson early in my career — when I first stepped foot on my college campus. My father shared it with me; at that age, I was walking slow as many do with not much drive. He reminded me that if you’re going to do something, be committed and give 100% of yourself. If you’re not, don’t do it.

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. 🙂

The first step is to join us in our mission of reducing single use plastic and please recycle. Small changes can lead to big impact. Secondly, I would encourage people to think differently about recycling. I think the saying goes “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”

How can our readers follow you online?

For more information, visit www.proudsourcewater.com, or our social media channels (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, LinkedIn and YouTube).

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


Meet The Disruptors: CJ Pennington Of Proud Source Water On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Making Something From Nothing: Mia Monzidelis Of Power Pony On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Every challenge you face is an opportunity to make the product and brand more meaningful.

As a part of our series called “Making Something From Nothing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mia Monzidelis. Mia Monzidelis Founder and Inventor (11 years old) started making Power Pony when she was five years old. A horse enthusiast, this young lady always wants to ride a horse, so she invented one that she could ride anytime! Imagined by Kids for Kids and built to ride like a real horse. A handcrafted Power Pony is powered by a patent pending ZüME engine. It is iOS connected, fully interactive, and guaranteed to provide fun, smiles and laughter on many exciting riding adventures.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?

My name is Mia Monzidelis and I am the inventor and founder of Power Pony. I am 11 years old and in fifth grade. I live in Long Island, New York. When I was four years old, I begged my dad to let me begin riding horses. He took me to my first lesson and I was so happy. I have been riding ever since. I LOVVVVE horses and ever since I was a little kid, I have wanted to own a horse. Living where I do, I can’t own one because mom and dad said we don’t have the space. I never gave up on my dream, so I came up with a solution, the Power Pony, which rides like a real horse that I can ride anywhere, anytime.

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

I’m a little young to have a life lesson quote, but now I always say, “Never underestimate a kid.” I know that many inventions start with an imagination, a passion, and a dream. I believe that you should keep your creativity alive no matter how old you are. If you have something that you want or something that you believe in, you should try your hardest to make it happen and don’t be afraid to fail.

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

A book that helped inspire me is called “What Do You Do With An Idea.” I received this book when I was a very little girl. It’s the story of an idea and the child who helps to bring the concept into the world. The story helps to inspire an idea and let the idea grow and then see what happens. I loved this story because I am a child who had an idea and I worked on that idea and have watched it grow into an actual reality! Now it’s out in the market and many kids are having so much joy using Power Pony. It has been super fun and very successful.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. There is no shortage of good ideas out there. Many people have good ideas all the time. But people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. Can you share a few ideas from your experience about how to overcome this challenge?

Like myself, I knew that a lot of kids like to ride horses, but it’s not always possible. I wanted a horse to ride whenever I possibly could. The products out there didn’t excite me, so I took my “want” and made my own. Lucky for me, my dad was blown away by my idea, and thanks to him, we were able to take what I imagined and make it come to life. My advice is if you really want to do something, don’t let anything or anyone stop you. Turning my dream into reality took a lot of time, hard work, research, and many failures to get it right. Failure was an opportunity for me to learn and help make it better. We tested many samples and at times it was frustrating, but we kept going until we got it perfect — I never gave up. I wanted the product to be great and the entire team spent so much time working on the Power Pony to make that happen. Being patient and finding solutions were sometimes tough. Even though I am a kid, it is possible to imagine something and bring it to life with a great team’s help, belief, and determination.

Often when people think of a new idea, they dismiss it saying someone else must have thought of it before. How would you recommend that someone go about researching whether or not their idea has already been created?

My dad always said to me, it’s not just the idea, it’s our application that will set us apart. Ride-on horses have been around for a long time, but NONE of them do what the Power Pony does. The first thing we did together was look at and review anything we could find in the market to understand what we had to make ours more unique and much better than anything else out there. We worked very closely with our design team and our patent attorney to make sure that what we imagined in the Power Pony was unique and could be patented. My recommendation is that no matter what you find, if you really want to do it, you should because how you do it will set you apart. Our brand statement is “imagined by kids for kids” and one day, I would like to help other kids bring their ideas to life as my dad did with me.

For the benefit of our readers, can you outline the steps one has to go through, from when they think of the idea, until it finally lands in a customer’s hands? In particular, we’d love to hear about how to file a patent, how to source a good manufacturer, and how to find a retailer to distribute it.

Imagination, a need, a want, a passion all lead to an idea.

Go Exploring

● Identify the problem — is what I am looking for or want available? For me, what I wanted and envisioned didn’t exist — we knew the Power Pony could be the solution.

● Consult a design firm to sketch the idea and create drawings, come up with ideas for materials.

● Create a proof of concept in a prototype to make sure what is imagined works.

● Research and meet with various manufacturers to choose the right ones.

Do the Research — A good attorney will help.

● Trademark searches.

● Patent searches.

● Retain a law firm to apply for patents if applicable.

● Conduct consumer market studies and validation of the product.

Build your brand.

● Decide what you stand for.

● Develop a marketing strategy.

● Graphic design for logos and branding.

● Website development.

Testing.

● Spend appropriate time testing samples, redesigning, and coming up with solutions.

● Alpha product testing — these were the first rideable samples.

● Beta product testing — better and improved but not final.

● Final production field testing.

Building the Team

● Marketing team.

● PR.

● Social Media.

● Photographers.

● Videographers.

● Operations and finance.

Obtain Licenses & Certifications.

● Find out about what business you plan to be in and make sure you are applicable to each country’s laws for safety.

Shipping, Storage & Delivery.

● Retain a shipping company to get the product into containers and shipped ● Contract trucking to get the product to warehouses for storage and, ultimately, shipping to customers.

We are currently not selling in any retail stores. My product is only sold on our website, powerpony.com.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started Leading My Company” and why?

● Be patient because the process takes a long time — it takes a lot of time, energy, and patience to get it right — for Power Pony, we started planning in the Fall of 2017. Everything that we needed to do to get it ready for launch, all during Covid, was A LOT. It took about three years to get the product done and ready for launch.

● Every challenge you face is an opportunity to make the product and brand more meaningful.

● Pick your partners wisely — when we first began the planning phase, we partnered with team members we thought shared the same excitement as us, and who were aligned well with our goals. Along the way, this changed, and we made some decisions to find and partner with the right people. Having the right team is critical for success — we now have that team!

● Videos are very impactful, and boy, do I do A LOT of videos — in getting ready to launch, I filmed a few videos that shared my story and that we thought would be helpful for our consumers. We learned that many consumers weren’t reading our manual and our instructions, so we decided to make it easy for them and create videos instead — check them out on powerpony.com. I have been making fun videos since I’m four, so this is a breeze for me!

● Every failed sample brings learning and, ultimately, success — as various versions of samples arrived and we continued to test them, we found things that we needed to enhance. We wanted to make it better, perfect. The testing allowed us to do just that. In addition, we have made cosmetic enhancements along the way that more clearly align with our “imagined by kids for kids” branding.

Let’s imagine that a reader reading this interview has an idea for a product that they would like to invent. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?

Identify if their product is a “need” or a “want” and who their consumers will be. Research to see what else is out there. If there are similar products, understand how they can make their idea different, better, and stand out. Ride-on horses and unicorns existed when I came up with my idea, but nothing rideable with a powered engine, which is what I created.

There are many invention development consultants. Would you recommend that a person with a new idea hire such a consultant, or should they try to strike out on their own?

I believe that if you have an idea and you think it will spark interest in others to purchase it because either it doesn’t currently exist or maybe you can create something better, just go for it. You will need help from people you can trust and people who have expertise. If you need to hire a consultant, they should sign an agreement of confidence and if they believe in your product as much as you do, maybe that will be easy, but please pick your partners wisely and make sure that your best interests and your idea’s best interest are being looked after. Nobody can replace what you bring to the table, so don’t simply rely on experts.

What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one?

First, you need to understand how much money it will cost to make your idea come to life, and my dad was super helpful in teaching me about that. Once you know that, BOOTSTRAP as long as you can. Prove everybody wrong, and prove to the people that believe in your idea that they were right. At some point, you may need to raise funds, and that’s OK, but getting past many of the first hurdles like trademarks, design, and working samples will make your idea more valuable quickly. I would suggest a friend and family round first, when and if you need the funds. If you believe in what you are doing, it will be so worth it.

Ok. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

I learned about the importance of being charitable and giving back at a very young age, and I know it means a lot to others to be able to help them. Since starting Power Pony, I have partnered with the Family and Children’s Association to donate some of my profits to help the many people their organization supports. Not only did I make my own donation, but I also created a video message to help bring in other donations during their year-end appeal in December 2021.

You are an inspiration to a great many people. 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 am currently partnering with an organization that provides services to children and families within my community. If I could inspire a movement, it would be to encourage all capable people within all communities to support organizations such as this — providing shelter for those in need, including runaways and people living in homes where they are abused; healthcare support for those in need of wellness and mental disabilities, etc. Helping and supporting our communities is important to me and should be for everyone.

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, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

I would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with Aaron Judge from the New York Yankees. I wish to meet with Aaron because he is my favorite player on my favorite baseball team. I mainly want to meet with him because he started an organization, the “All Rise Foundation,” that inspires children and youth to become responsible citizens. I would love to hear more about this, especially how and why he started this foundation and everything he is doing with it.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.


Making Something From Nothing: Mia Monzidelis Of Power Pony On How To Go From Idea To Launch was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Making Something From Nothing: Beni Gradwohl Of Cognovi Labs On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Surround yourself with people you can trust to help guide you through the ups and downs of getting your company off the ground.

As a part of our series called “Making Something From Nothing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Beni Gradwohl.

Beni Gradwohl is Co-Founder and CEO of Cognovi Labs, Inc., an artificial intelligence (AI) company that focuses on measuring the emotional drivers behind human decision-making. Cognovi’s award-winning psychology-driven AI helps clients in the commercial, health and public sectors reveal how audiences are feeling in the moment, predict their action and intent, and then communicate with the emotions to maximize impact.

Beni has been on a journey to understand how people act and find a systematic way to measure our decision-making for more than 20 years. He is recognized as an executive who combines a deep understanding of new advances in machine learning, alternative data and commercial opportunities to create new businesses and grow existing revenue sources. Throughout his career, from investment management and institutional securities to consumer banking and fintech innovation, he has delivered outsized returns for his clients and institutions.

Beni previously held senior leadership positions at Citi, Morgan Stanley and various investment management firms. An astrophysicist by training, he spent the first decade of his professional career in academia and research, studying astrophysics, cosmology, particle physics, and magnetic resonance. He has held research and teaching assignments at multiple leading academic institutions, including University of California, Columbia Business School, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, University of Chicago, Weizmann Institute of Science and The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Featured in Inc., Forbes and the Financial Times, Beni is frequently invited to speak on topics at the intersection of AI and behavioral psychology, the role of emotions in human decision-making, and how to engage emotionally to drive a better outcome. Beni received his Ph.D. in Physics from The Hebrew University.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?

My road to entrepreneurship does not follow a straight path. From a young age, I was interested in the sciences. My career began in academia focusing on astrophysics and cosmology. As a researcher, I believed the world revolved around analytics and data. This perspective fueled my transition to finance. I worked at investment management firms before making my way to Morgan Stanley and Citi, where I held executive roles.

While each of these experiences shaped who I am today, it was a class at Harvard Business School on behavioral economics and behavioral finance that disrupted how I viewed the world. The class opened my eyes to the impact of human emotion on decision-making processes, challenging my beliefs about relying exclusively on hard data. I came to understand that the majority of people’s decisions are made by the subconscious mind and driven by emotions. For 20+ years, I’ve focused on answering the question “how can we quantify that decision-making process?” It’s this question that led me to Cognovi Labs. Today, we apply artificial intelligence (AI) and behavioral psychology to capture, measure and deliver actionable insights on how emotions drive decisions and future actions.

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

There is an old Latin proverb that says “per aspera ad astra,” meaning “a stony path leads to the stars.” The proverb had such great meaning for me that it was the opening phrase of the thesis paper for my Ph.D. in physics.

There are very few things in life or in business that are easy. This old proverb reminds us that although the path to our goals may get rough, we can face the challenge head-on and keep moving forward. Reaching your aspirations — your stars — is rarely a smooth venture

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

As an avid reader, this is a difficult question to answer. There are so many books that have left a mark on me. I read books from many genres — from mathematics, psychology, neurology, and behavioral science to historical accounts and academic compilations.

Two authors who have influenced my thinking on human behavior are Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. Their work sets forth the notion that human beings are not as rational as we think we are. In fact, we are full of cognitive biases. And emotions are intertwined with these biases. I am passionate about reading and learning.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. There is no shortage of good ideas out there. Many people have good ideas all the time. But people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. Can you share a few ideas from your experience about how to overcome this challenge?

The key to any business is problem-solving. Take the founding of Uber, for example — a couple of friends having a hard time getting a taxi. That experience inspired the founding of a company that took in $17.5B in revenue last year alone.

At Cognovi Labs, we are focused on solving a global problem. How can we better understand and quantify human behavior? Our technology and research can help save lives (for example, by encouraging patients to take their medication); allow government leaders to communicate their message more effectively to constituents (for example, why it’s important to take the Covid or flu vaccine); help marketers better connect with their consumers; and ultimately, change the way that human beings interact with one another.

Being successful in the startup world is not about who has the latest and greatest idea, it is about taking that problem or idea and problem-solving it. This doesn’t mean having all the answers up front. But you will need to break the problem down to its elementary level. These stepping stones will form the path needed for greater impact.

Often when people think of a new idea, they dismiss it saying someone else must have thought of it before. How would you recommend that someone go about researching whether or not their idea has already been created?

An original idea isn’t the measure of success. In fact, when founding a business or creating a technology, it is helpful to be the second because it means someone has already done the work of convincing the industry of the market’s need. Understanding and respecting the impact of your predecessors, and building from that point, is often as productive (or inventive) as being a trailblazer.

Having said that, if you have an original idea and are passionate about it, go for it. In my case with Cognovi, I developed and internalized the idea of better quantifying human behavior for many years, something which is still at the leading-edge of development.

For the benefit of our readers, can you outline the steps one has to go through, from when they think of the idea, until it finally lands in a customer’s hands? In particular, we’d love to hear about how to file a patent, how to source a good manufacturer, and how to find a retailer to distribute it.

The process always begins with the customer and identifying the problem that you are trying to solve. There are several key questions to ask yourself in the journey, including: What is the problem? Why are you solving it? How can you measure the success of it? At the end of the day, regardless of the idea, gaining traction is key, and that cannot be achieved while sitting on the sidelines and telling yourself that you have the best idea. Identifying the problem and then putting yourself in your potential customers’ shoes is essential.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started Leading My Company” and why?

  1. Find yourself a mentor early on.

Surround yourself with people you can trust to help guide you through the ups and downs of getting your company off the ground.

2. Success at a startup looks much different than in the corporate world.

Success in the startup world cannot be achieved in the same way as in the corporate world. Remember that, while some tools and competencies carry over, they are not all as relevant. You will need to develop different skills. Learning the differences and mastering this delta is key.

3. Being the CEO of a startup doesn’t have to be a lonely job.

Very early on in my first round of raising capital, a successful entrepreneur told me that being the CEO can be the loneliest job, but it doesn’t have to be. Surrounding yourself with a network, whether they be advisors, mentors, or VCs, can help create an incredible sounding board and will lead to greater success down the line. I am fortunate to have found some incredible partners and advisors.

4. Venture Capitalists can offer a great support system.

Every founder is faced with the same question when considering funding: angel investors or VCs? While both provide fantastic benefits, I’ve found VCs can offer an indispensable support system that includes hiring introductions, client engagements, business advice and more.

5. Don’t raise capital incrementally.

Many first-time founders may fall into the trap of raising capital incrementally. My suggestion is — don’t. Raising a bit of funding early on and proving a market need for your concept is crucial, then go back and raise a larger amount of funding after getting your business off the ground.

Let’s imagine that a reader reading this interview has an idea for a product that they would like to invent. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?

The first step is to create a minimum viable product (MVP). Give it away to see if it gains traction. At Cognovi, we first started with political clients, helping to predict outcomes around politicians’ messaging and anticipate the impact on the opinion of their electorate. After we gave our product to a hedge fund for free and saw how useful it was in predicting Brexit, we knew the technology had potential. Since then, we’ve expanded to other industries and business applications.

There are many invention development consultants. Would you recommend that a person with a new idea hire such a consultant, or should they try to strike out on their own?

I personally did not work with an invention development consultant; however, it is important to focus on surrounding yourself with a supportive, knowledgeable and experienced network. If you are founding a business, you might find this support in diverse types of advisors.

What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one?

It depends on the product that you are bringing to market and whether or not you have the money to bootstrap your business. If you can bootstrap until you find your product-market fit, this can be a solid approach, but that isn’t always possible. This decision has to do with your business, but it can be highly individual depending on where you are in life as a founder and your financial situation. Ask yourself: are you able to take time away from making money to build your product? Are you fresh out of college and able to live rent-free for some time?

Ok. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

At Cognovi, we are focused on using technology for good. One critical area is the healthcare sector. Let’s look at medication adherence as an example. Six out of ten patients with chronic illness do not take the medicines prescribed by their doctors. Tragically, more than 125,000 Americans lose their lives each year as a result. With Cognovi’s tools, we can help pharmaceutical companies understand patients’ emotional barriers to filling (and adhering to!) prescriptions, and shape company communications and marketing to emotionally connect with patients and facilitate a different outcome.

This work is, quite literally, saving lives.

You are an inspiration to a great many people. 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.

The world needs more emotional intelligence and empathy. Not everyone possesses great emotional intelligence, but we can all work towards it. This would change the way businesses interact in contracts, or the very terms of those contracts. It would change the relationships between businesses and consumers and human beings in everyday life.

Working to bring technology to the world that can help augment human emotions and give guidance to us as humans can be crucial for improved interactions. I believe that higher emotional intelligence can truly alter society for the better. This drives the work that we are doing at Cognovi to help quantify and measure emotions to understand and support human connection.

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, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

There are so many people I would love to have lunch with! But I have to go with Albert Einstein. It would be a dream to learn firsthand what made him an incredible scientist and human being.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

Thank you!


Making Something From Nothing: Beni Gradwohl Of Cognovi Labs On How To Go From Idea To Launch was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Makers of The Metaverse: Sandra Helou Of Zilliqa On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality…

Makers of The Metaverse: Sandra Helou Of Zilliqa On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

“Understand the key aspects of strategy. You cannot enter it thinking you just have a great idea. You must have a strategy to back it up.

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, we had the pleasure of interviewing Sandra Helou.

Sandra Helou, the Head of Metaverse & NFTs at Zilliqa and Co-Founder at Metapolis, has in-depth knowledge and a multidisciplinary background spanning traditional and digital industries. Sandra leads Zilliqa’s NFT and Metaverse projects across growth, partnerships, strategy, marketing, and conceptualization and her global experience across Australia, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East enables her to deliver on both strategy and execution levels. A Futurist and action leader at heart, Sandra is committed to enriching and innovating the creator economy, Web3, and MetaFi / NFT space.

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

“I was born and raised in Melbourne, Australia my parents had left Lebanon during the civil war which meant that culturally I had the advantage of belonging to both the East and the West being multilingual. My first degree is in International Business and Law however my true love for advertising took over and I moved on to my second degree in Advertising and Marketing with a sub-major in psychology & graphic design. I grew up using mIRC and being between that digital transformation that was taking over, I don’t know if anyone remembers the social platform Hi5 (haha) — I’m a self-taught coder. I developed an application because I couldn’t find one that did what I wanted on the app store. I am lucky to be multidisciplinary and have had a pretty interesting and exciting career with the companies & projects I’ve worked with and the clients I have had. I love the art world and connecting people together for collaborations, I have also worked as an artist agent and representative for emerging and recognized artists within the art world. Fun Fact — I don’t have the Aussie accent.”

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

“I was obsessed with David Ogilvy and his approach to advertising and that was what led me towards my career. I would also say that Paul Ardens “Its not how good you are, its how good you want to be” was a great read aswell, The teachings of the Bauhaus and recently Mo Gawdats interview on “Diary of a CEO” presented by Steven Barttlet, The concept of minimalism and simplicity paired with the understanding of ikigai. I wouldn’t say anything in particular sticks out in specific as the journey of growth both personally and professionally should include multiple significant impacts from a variety of places.”

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

“Being at the forefront of technology and technological advancements in my career it was a clear path towards this industry. Having worked with a number of clients who wanted to be innovators within their industry it meant pushing boundaries and conceptualising projects and campaigns for brands which included new and advanced ways to engage and grow the end user base and build communities around that. I would say the trigger point however was NFCs (the QR codes unsuccessful but extremely important cousin) & Beacons — Wanting to find solutions to mass consumer engagement and community building leading to loyalty. Aside from my own curiosity, I once presented a client who wanted to grow their brand engagement and refurbish their loyalty program with a pitch that included the activation of VR, AR, and QR codes and NFCs to grow the database and bring their brand history and strength to life. At the time, they said it was too early for this kind of technology — it’s interesting to see so many companies trying to implement that strategy now.

I would also say a bit of my own curiosity with the Nintendo Wii and general trajectory of digital knowledge and advancements.”

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

“Every day is interesting! Launching all the new products has to be the most exciting: Metapolis, the metaverse powered by Zilliqa, as well as Rialto, the NFT marketplace bridging the gap between artists and Web3 has been great.

Being at the forefront of building out the next internet is the most interesting aspect of my career. Each day, we are building out Metapolis and the role avatars will play in our digital identity has been an absolute joy.

Zilliqa in itself has seen great growth from when I first joined and its been great being involved in the growth and progress.”

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?

“Be careful when you click reply all! Always double-check who the recipients are and who’s on cc.”

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

“At one point in my career, I was supporting a friend with a freelance project, and once I completed it, the person on the other end asked if I wanted to be wired money or Bitcoin. I had come across ‘Bitcoin’ maybe twice and If i see or hear something three times I need to look into deeper. I took a couple of days, downloaded the whitepaper, and then went back to him and responded with ‘Bitcoin’ and it was all changed from that moment.

At every point in your career, you meet people that nudge you in a new direction or offer a new perspective. They can be a small part of your life, but even the smallest of conversations often play a very important role in where you end up. In life, a lot of people impact your career, and while they might not be there for long, it’s the lessons that you learn in that moment of time that really make a difference. Ive been influenced alot by multiple people and that hasnt stopped day in day out.”

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

“We have just launched Metapolis, the first metaverse-as-a-service platform, powered by a leading L1 blockchain, Zilliqa. It provides a data-centric and fully customizable XR experience accessible through web/AR & VR. We have the vision of bridging the gap between the physical and digital worlds through seamless integration and an always-on layer of engagement. Metapolis has its sights set on becoming ‘The Next Internet’ and building a future for interoperability with security and safety at heart.

The Metaverse will support across a multitude of industries and verticals, we can apply it across health and wellness, education, luxury, entertainment, gaming etc and it will be the foundation of engagement and borderless access. I have written some posts on my linkedin profile which dive into more information if you are interested in checking them out.”

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?

  1. “Speed of innovation: People are creating amazing new things and we are constantly seeing incredible advancements with our technology.
  2. Avatars as digital identity within the Metaverse.
  3. Bridging the gap between the physical and digital worlds and having IO between cities.”

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?

  1. “We need to be aware of the teams that are building the Metaverse and ensure there is the technology knowledge to back it up. That is why I’m comfortable calling Metapolis the next internet because I know the team comes from a very deep tech and strategic background. Being able to differentiate between a gamified world and the next internet is important.
  2. Safety and Security is another concern. Whether that is bullying or grooming within the metaverse, we must find ways to ensure it is a safe and secure place to interact especially if it intends to be more than a gamified world. We must have certain processes in place such as Know-your-customer (KYC) processes or verified authenticity linked to our avatars.
  3. Mental and cardio health. Some people can become very attached to their avatar or the world they become involved in. It can become their sole purpose which can cause a disassociation between who they are in the physical world and who they are in the metaverse. This can also be a positive as it can also impact positively on our health and association through engagement for example people with high levels of anxiety are more comfortable in doing tasks and engaging behind technology etc.”

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?

“Before we even enter the work field, the metaverse will improve our education systems. Online universities already exist, but the metaverse will be able to take this one step further. We will be able to open up borderless education which means students will be able to fulfill specific regional curriculum requirements anywhere in the world. Think of exchange students. If we add the layer of a metaverse, it enables more people to get international education and pick up different courses. Taking into consideration the style and approach to learning that varies from individual to individual we can start allowing a whole level of personalization and engagement. This is feasible within the metaverse.

Another way of looking at is as more people move towards remote work the metaverse can add that layer of engagement and incentive to keeping employees engaged and connected.”

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

“VR, AR, and MR open up communication barriers for those that struggle in the physical world, such as individuals on the autism spectrum or managing any of the conditions that affect communication and cognition. The metaverse enables more people to learn and interact with others safely and comfortably using an avatar. If interactions and connections were being made in your ‘safe space’ through an avatar — a digital identity you choose to take on as your own — we could start to see improvement in mood, behavior, and interaction mimicking in the physical world.

The ability to connect our physical identity to our digital Identity through avatars will be the exciting point in entering the metaverse as we would have transitioned from emails, to @names, to avatars. Our avatars can represent us in the metaverse and become the new norm for “in-person” visits such as, government, businesses, application drop-offs etc. This would of course mean that these institutions need to strategize and build metaverse locations and representation. This will be highly beneficial for people with special mobility needs who might find it difficult to get around in the physical world. It’s only a matter of time.”

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

  1. “The metaverse is going to replace the physical world.
  2. NFTs and Blockchain are bad for the environment and in general.
  3. KYC is bad for decentralision.

People are quick to make judgments about blockchain and crypto industries but in reality, this new technology is helping many different industries and cultures. Everyone has a different opinion and it is down to each individual to do their research and decide for themselves. It’s important for people to understand this because although these myths may have come from a few bad seeds, it shouldn’t be a blanket statement to reflect the entire industry. NFTs and crypto have opened the door for a new income stream to a group of individuals who werent able to access regular monetary income or make a solid living from their work — quick example digital artists who are now leading the charge within the creator economy, previously all they had was putting their work on behance or dribble and hoping to get picked up for a freelance project. Countries where paypal and banks are holding back communities, crypto has allowed them to have financial freedom and be control of their future. In regards to KYC, decentralization can exist with accountability — lets better understand what “doxxing” really is.”

What are your “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career In The VR, AR or MR Industries?”

  • “Understand the key aspects of strategy. You cannot enter it thinking you just have a great idea. You must have a strategy to back it up.
  • Focus on community building. Community is the key driver to engagement and growth.
  • Associate yourself with a blockchain layer that aligns with your needs and can support you. For example, Zilliqa is going carbon neutral and focused on the creator economy through NFTs and Metaverse, so it aligns perfectly with my goals and what’s important to me.
  • Understand the core skills necessary for your field. If you are entering as a designer and want to create assets for the Metaverse learn Blender and Maya. From a developer perspective, understand Unity and Unreal’s role in the metaverse, webgl and all the applications that come with knowing the space and its future functionality.”

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

“I would definitely want to inspire people to look beyond the now and into the future of what the metaverse and NFTs can bring — Borderless education, health and wellness, etc.

Largely though, I would want to inspire those who are either looking at entering the space or still learning to just do it. Alot of people hold dear what they know and what they are used too because change can be difficult. But if you are questioning it, now is the perfect time to make that leap and explore your options. And definitely always do your own research!”

We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world 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 🙂

“In all honesty, it would be my grandfather who passed away before he could see the journey I have been on. He really believed in me and we would have conversations about this future that is now being built. While I respect everyone prominent in their field, I would like to have one last lunch with Antoine H.”

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


Makers of The Metaverse: Sandra Helou Of Zilliqa On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Ryan Stewman Of Hardcore Closer On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

You want to be yourself. If there’s one compliment, I don’t know if it’s a compliment or an insult at this point, but if there’s one thing that people always say to me, they say, I like you Ryan, cuz you’re just you.

At some point in our lives, many of us will have to give a talk to a large group of people. What does it take to be a highly effective public speaker? How can you improve your public speaking skills? How can you overcome a fear of speaking in public? What does it take to give a very interesting and engaging public talk? In this interview series called “5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker” we are talking to successful and effective public speakers to share insights and stories from their experience. As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Ryan Stewman.

Ryan Stewman is a best selling author, CEO of Phonesites.com, Founder of Apex, full time investor, and consultant to millionaires, professional athletes, and celebrities across the globe. He’s been featured in Forbes, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, The Street.com, The Good Men Project, CNBC and pretty much every other major business publication out there. He’s mastered the mindset it takes to win no matter what forces come against you. Ryan rewires minds and changes lives. Give him the chance, he will change yours too.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

People who know me well, know I had one helluva upbringing and early life. To some, the horrors of adoption, prison, drug addiction, and divorce are unfathomable. To me, they were just a part of growing up and doing this thing we call life.

I don’t talk about my childhood much, however, lessons that come from pain have the biggest impact and give us a sense of wisdom you can’t get from a book or watching a video so I’m willing to share mine.

I can pinpoint the trigger where my life changed. I was five years old. It was my very first day of school. I was so happy to get there and meet new friends. The very first day of school in my life I saw a kid making fun of another kid in the lunch room.

That kid’s name was Charles. I went up to Charles and dumped my tray on him and pushed him. My aunt, who was the principal, took me to her office and paddled me 3Xs. Charles never got in trouble and the kid I took up for never said thanks.

It was at that moment I learned 2 lessons.

1: I hated school.

2: No matter what I did I was always the bad guy.

I was adopted 2 years later and my life got more complicated with a new name and all. So the story and my hatred for school only got worse. ​​I had a painful childhood and I’ve spent my adult life using that childhood pain as fuel and energy to achieve anything I want. The way I see it now, the fact that I went through brutal pain as a kid, makes me fearless as an adult.

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

When I was a teenager, I would drive down the Dallas North Tollway and stare at all of the fancy skyscrapers with Ferraris parked out front.

I kept saying, “One day… that’s going to be me.”

I couldn’t help but wonder, “What in the world did those people do that my parents didn’t do, that everyone in my part of town didn’t do? What were those people doing that I wasn’t doing, that I needed to do?”

I couldn’t stop asking myself these questions. The endless curiosity eventually made me take action.

I started going to seminars, listening to audiobooks, taking different classes, online courses, etc. I did everything I could to rewire my brain for success.

One day in particular I was riding in the back of a friend’s S10 pickup truck, hauling it down the Dallas North Tollway. My friends were going to buy some beer and I was going to buy some smoke, planning on having a good time.

I remember looking at those skyscrapers thinking, “What are the people in those buildings doing differently than what we’re doing right now?”

The awakening was powerful, “One day, I’m going to leave these people behind.” I knew I didn’t have much of a choice at the moment. I knew I was surrounded by these people, stuck in the back of a truck that I couldn’t jump out of.

That didn’t matter. I knew that I was going to be in one of those buildings. I knew it was going to be my Ferrari parked out front. And it wasn’t going to come from slacking off.

It was going to come from hard work and effort. I made the decision that I was going to become the person I always wanted to be. It was a rough path though.

I’ve had two penitentiary terms, been divorced three times, and beat a crippling drug addiction. The pain, shame, and regret were tortuous. However, I work in one of those buildings now. I own exotic cars. I am one of those people, it happened.

What did I do differently to get here? I saw that my friends and I were solely taking, never giving. The main thing that got me to where I am today was my shift of perspective, letting my focus go from taking to giving.

When I approach sales, business, or life, my outlook is to give 100X more than anyone could ever take away from me. I approach business relationships intending to give more value than they will ever be able to give me. That is the difference.

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

That would have to be when I discovered the Force of Average (FOA). You see, we have been coded on this planet to have an average lifestyle. So anytime you’re about to break through that average lifestyle the struggle (FOA) is waiting around the corner to stand in the way of your success. Not only have I discovered the Force of Average, I have found what I consider to be the weapon that must be wielded against it: Focus.

The truth is I wake up each day knowing that I’m going to face struggles, not a day goes by that somethings not going to throw you a curveball, that’s the way this planet is coded. By discovering this, I’ve learned to walk towards those struggles and take them head on to succeed in life. I wouldn’t have known this, had I not discovered it and it’s the most interesting thing that I’ve ever had happen to me in my career.

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

When I was doing a mastermind with Fredrik Eklund all the fanboy clients rushed in the elevator with him and caused him to get stuck in the elevator. The NYC fire dept had to come fix the elevator and rescue everyone. I learned to have control of the crowd and security that day.

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

In 2010, I lived in a neighborhood directly across from a trailer park. The house was 1,700 square feet and reeked of cigarettes. I had been let go from my mortgage job, due to being unable to renew my license. I was unemployable and unready for the journey I was about to embark on.

On this particular day, I went to lunch with an old friend of mine. We met at the Genghis Grill in Frisco, Texas. When my friend sat down, he was beaming. My homie is a natural energy producer, but he was really on fire for this meeting.

“Ryan…man I’m telling you… The Internet is like the Wild Wild West. You can go into saloons and walk out with all the cash you want.”

What he said appealed to me so I questioned him more and more. He went on to jaw about funnels, continuity and costs per click. At the time, this stuff was Greek to me. I had no clue what in the hell he kept spewing. His vibe was contagious though. I was definitely intrigued.

After we finished our meals, I followed him out to his Hummer 2 and he handed me some CD-ROMs. He told me he’d paid $8,000 for the CDs, and that I had to return them when I was done. At first, I asked him what in the hell he was thinking, spending eight grand on CDs.

He said they were worth a million.

I was hooked! Eight thousand dollars, and I got it for free. I just had to get the CDs back to him in a few days.

After I returned to my house, I put the first CD in my drive. I watched the video and it spelled out the basics of how Internet marketing worked. I must’ve watched the entire CD set like a normal person would binge watch Netflix.

Flash forward two days: my first website and product were already up. While most people wait to take action, I just put something together. Next, I launched an ad on Google and boom! Sales rolled in. It was nuts. I doubled down on the ad spend and lost every dollar I had made.

Not only did I lose the initial ad spend I’d invested, I lost the profit I had made, too. Lesson learned. The only thing that mattered, was that I knew earning an income in this way was possible. If it worked once, it WILL work again, I told myself. I just needed to get back to the drawing board. And that’s exactly what I did.

A few weeks later, I launched a course that taught loan officers how to get leads from real estate agents. Slowly but surely, I sold the product, one-by-one. It was all done right from the extra bedroom in my house across the street from the trailer park.

In 2012, I moved to a nice home in a nice neighborhood, thanks to Internet marketing. Again, I put my desk in the extra bedroom and kept at it like a rapper in the lab working on beats. By the time 2014 rolled around, I had officially taken in seven figures in gross sales. All from products made from the extra bedroom.

You have been blessed with great success in a career path that can be challenging and intimidating. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?

The answer is simple: practice. I’ve recorded over 2000 videos. I’ve been on over 1000 podcasts. I’ve spoken on hundreds of stages. The first video of mine is still up on youtube. It’s terrible.

My first podcast episode is on iTunes, it’s horrible. My first time on stage I didn’t sell anything and the people who let me speak asked me not to come back (true story). But I kept practicing and doing it despite the rejection.

Today I have a consistent top 50 podcast, millions of views on youtube and I’ve spoken on stages with legends. I worked on improving until I leveled up. Stay focused, practice your craft, and refine your talent.

What drives you to get up everyday and give your talks? What is the main empowering message that you aim to share with the world?

My goal is to help reach and impact the lives of over 300,000,000 people across the globe. In order to do that, I must stay motivated to reach that goal. At the same time, that goal motivates me to get up each day, keep pulling from my reserve account and working on.

It motivates me to think of changing that many lives. Another motivation of mine is to leave a legacy for my children. When I pass away I want to leave a legacy that says I beat the odds.

My kids will take the ball from me and run up the score. My job is to teach them how to properly play the game, so they don’t get a flag thrown.

Every day I wake up and make sacrifices for my family. They are the reason I do what I do. I’m gonna give them the head start that most of us never got. I’m gonna leave them the money most of us wished we had.

I’m gonna show the love all of us wanted from our parents.

My mission stopped being just about money years ago. It’s what that money can do for those I’ll leave behind, that motivates me now!

You have such impressive work. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Where do you see yourself heading from here?

My most exciting project would have to be my Apex program. With that program, I’ve been able to help thousands of individuals become the most elite version of themselves. Let me explain:

One of the guys the program helped is from the southern part of the east coast. Before he joined Apex he was making $60k a year. He’s been with us for about 2 years now and now earns 6 figures monthly. In two years, following our program and advice, he now earns in a week what used to take him a year.

Another is this hard nose dude who lives in the land of Oz (Aus). We helped him set up a business selling to Americans. He’s making 7 figures a month now and has helped close over a billion in roofing deals.

I could go on but you get the point.

Here’s the best part though. These dudes have better lives. Not because of the money, but because they have lost weight, leveled their marriage up, and are celebrities in their own market.

They represent what winning looks like at all times and it shows. With the Apex program, we get you in, tune you up, supercharge your life and drop you on the track to success.

Currently, I help thousands of Entrepreneurs and in the coming years I can see that heading into the hundreds of thousands. Since my mission in life is to help others, I never plan on stopping this project or slowing it down.

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

Ramps Over Roadblocks

As you travel down the path of life, the Force of Average will throw you roadblocks. For most people, roadblocks stop them dead in their tracks or force them to turn around (retreat)

Let’s say you get in a relationship with someone you really like, they like you too. Then you go out drinking together and get in a fight; that’s a roadblock.

Let’s say you start a new business and unexpected bills pop up; that’s a roadblock.

Roadblocks stop ambition, drive, relationships and dreams. I’ve had more than my fair share of roadblocks in life, BIG ONES, and I got tired of running into them or turning around. So I figured out a better way.

Ramps over roadblocks.

I can’t run through a roadblock but if I put a ramp over it, I can avoid it stopping me all together. If I’m PREPARED to build ramps along the way, it’s better than turning around. Ramps take time to build, but they keep you going down the path.

Roadblocks stop you dead in your tracks. The key is to be prepared. Preparation comes from taking action and learning lessons.

Ok, thank you for all that. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker?” Please share a story or example for each.

It’s been my personal experience that as long as you hit just a couple key points when speaking you’ll become a good speaker, have a good stage presence, and be somebody that folks wanna watch.

Number one, you want to be yourself. If there’s one compliment, I don’t know if it’s a compliment or an insult at this point, but if there’s one thing that people always say to me, they say, I like you Ryan, cuz you’re just you.

You know, I had to have a conversation with a close friend and potential business partner the other day and I had to tell them, “Hey man, you gotta be careful when you get involved with me, cause I’m gonna be me. I know you have a lot of relationships and stuff like that and I don’t want to mess that up for you. So just know up front that I can’t pretend to be anything other than myself.”

I’m not the pretend person. I can’t be fake. I’ve just got to be myself and I think that’s why people watch me and listen to me the way they do. There might be a lot of public speakers out there, but there aren’t any like me.

Number two, you gotta be able to command attention. I usually have a presentation when I speak, because I have it down pat and I know what all it does for the audience.

One of the first things that happens is I have a video I come out to and it goes dark in the room. It talks about how I’ve never had a salary job and after two times in prison I’m a multi-millionaire. People in the audience ain’t used to all that, no matter where I go, cause I’m over the top. So as soon as that happens, they’re like, “This video’s crazy, he’s yelling, screaming and stuff like that.” That video hypes everybody up and as soon as I hit the stage, I make ’em scream after me, I command their attention.

Number three, you gotta blow the audience’s mind. When I’m up there on stage and I’m telling my story about how nine years ago I was sweating inside solitary confinement in a federal prison but now I live in one of the nicest neighborhoods in north Texas with my dream companion and my four children. I go and I tell ’em about how I’m a multi millionaire and have assets. All these things that I go out there and talk to them about is blowing their mind.

At the end of the day, what happens is I’m also blowing their objections away. They can’t say, “Well this won’t work for me.”, because it worked for me. I did it all alone, and it blows people’s minds that you can come from such a subterranean level and climb all the way up to the peak of the mountain.

Number four, you wanna give thanks to the host. I learned from Garrett J White that if you give a good testimonial, they’ll put your name out there. So I’ve always given really good testimonials.

When I took the stage at an event last week there were about 800 people there. I told the crowd, “You know, before we get started, I just wanna thank Mike and Jay. Without them, not only would it be impossible that I’d be on this stage, but it would be impossible that I’d be a millionaire in business doing what I love and building a life, my way and let’s also give a hand for the previous speakers as well.”

I wanna make sure that I give this feedback because the host is there to make money. The host is there to get attention. So it’s our job to make sure that we Edify that form. We want to make them feel like we promoted them, because they’ll feel good about putting us on stage and will want to bring us back again.

Number five, if you’re gonna be good, you have to engage with the crowd. What I do is I like to write offers for people. I’ll ask them what they sell and what objections they receive. When they give me those objections I handle them right there on the spot.

While I’m talking, I have the audience raise their hand with me. I’ll sit there and demand that somebody raise their hand in order to get them engaged. I ask questions that challenge the audience. I make them laugh. I get them in on my inside jokes. So that by the time I’m done talking and making jokes about kangaroos, they feel included. They become part of our culture. They’ll remember me.

As you know, many people are terrified of speaking in public. Can you give some of your advice about how to overcome this fear?

The number one fear in America is public speaking. We are scared that if we get up in front of people and we take a stance for something that we will be judged. To overcome this fear, you must decide what your worst case scenario is and plan for it to happen. People are paralyzed with fear of the worst case scenario but when you accept the fact that you can lose, but take the actions of a winner, you’ve already won before the victory is awarded. Once you overcome that and you step outside of that fear, you’re able to become fearless. When you get up in front of a room full of people and you are fearless, you command authority and you instantly become the expert.

You are a person of huge 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?

My mission is to help as many people as possible become the best version of themselves.

My mission isn’t “to be paid by those who become the most elite version of themselves” my mission is to help as many people as possible do it.

So I work daily to make that happen. For 12 years now I’ve done it. I’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way. I’ve struggled more times than I can count along the way. I’ve had massive setbacks in the process.

But I do the work every day because my mission is greater than money or things. Money and things are a result of me staying focused on my mission day in and day out.

Today I’d ask you to dial in your mission. Not dial it in in relevance to how it helps you fulfill your dreams and goals, but dial it into where you can fulfill your mission.

If you do it right, the mission will lead you to the material things you want. But it won’t happen overnight, it will happen over time.

Your mission determines your position in life. Figure out your mission, work for it and you will have everything you’ve ever dreamed of and then some.

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!

Jay Z

There’s not too many people who like Jay Z more than me. I listen to reasonable doubt like 2 times a week. I remember when Hard Knock Life hit the charts, that song was out of this world. See, I grew up in an era where music was good. Not this techno-mumble stuff you hear all over the clubs today.

Jay Z has been sharing business lessons since his first album. On Reasonable Doubt, he boasts about making six figures. That was 1996. Fast forward 23 years later and he has turned six into 10.

There are a lot of people in the world who have been earning six figures for 21 years, who still only have six figures. So what’s the difference between them and Jay? Jay aligned himself with the right advisors. He didn’t make his money and sit on it.

In my eyes, he’s one of the best businessmen on this planet, and I’d like a chance to learn from him.

Are you on social media? How can our readers follow you online?

I am on every social media platform out there. You can go to https://onespotsocial.com/closer and follow me from there. I post different types of content twice daily, so I recommend following me on every one of them.

This was so informative, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!


Ryan Stewman Of Hardcore Closer On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Meet The Disruptors: Daniel Satchkov On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

A friend with a great deal of business experience once told me “Don’t be a designer and a programmer”. Those are completely different mindsets and trying to be in both of them is extremely difficult and unproductive.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Blake Hutchison, CEO of Flippa.

Daniel is an inventor of Bastyon, a decentralized social network modeled after the concept of Bitcoin. He worked and published in the fields of quantitative finance and machine learning. In 2015 he was a winner of the prestigious Peter L. Bernstein award for the best article in the Institutional Investor Journals. He is a winner of the Outstanding Author Award for his work The New Paradigm of Risk Management. Daniel also worked extensively in the area of machine learning, co-authoring important papers. Daniel’s mission in inventing the Bastyon was to ensure that people can govern their own communication without arbitrary censorship from large corporations. Daniel is fascinated by the potential of Bitcoin to help secure human freedom of choice and to disrupt not just finance, but many other quasi-monopolistic industries.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

Most of my career I worked in financial mathematics, building risk management models for large institutions. I was both a practitioner and a researcher, publishing some scientific studies as well. However, around 2016 I became really concerned about arbitrary corporate censorship in social media. It was obvious to me that this censorship will grow and become a real impediment to society. That is when I wrote the original paper about the idea of Bastyon, at the time it was called Pocketnet.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

I tried to focus on systemic flaws in traditional social media. Most people pin the blame on this or that personality, but my goal was to analyze the principles behind banning bloggers and constantly changing the rules arbitrarily. I came to the conclusion that the three core problems with Big Tech social media are: 1. The way they are financed, which makes it necessary to recoup huge investments using any means possible, including acquiring any competition 2. The fact that the code is not open sourced, thus nobody could easily create a competitor 3. The fact that computing power is centralized making it easy target for hackers or shutdowns.

Bastyon is built to overcome all these issues. It is built exactly like Bitcoin, a non-corporate, open sourced code with a fully distributed computing architecture. Sometimes in the internet lingo that is called Web 3.0, except to date there are no example of real large Web 3.0 applications. Bastyon is one.

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

There was a series of Murphy’s Law episodes that happened in the first year of devepment of Bastyon, it was initially called Pocketnet. There was only 4 devs and the whole project was in deep beta. But for some reason everything worked smoothly when at least one of the devs was around, however if the off days coincided, there was trouble. One time the devs all went out on different camping trips and there was a major issue with the network. Two of them ended up fixing it by finding some internet on remote kayaking trips in the middle of nowhere. Of course, that was 4 years ago and now the platform is on a completely different levels, every release goes through extensive testing and there are close to 30 devs working on the project. But coding in the midst of wilderness on a kayaking trip must be an unforgettable experience.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

The biggest inspiration was the paper by Satoshi Nakamoto describing Bitcoin. For the longest time I avoided crypto, because I am averse to speculation and I could not see through the speculation to the core technology. But once I read the paper, everything changed. The hallmark of a genius is when a solution solves not one, but a whole host of major problems, which were not resolved before. Satoshi’s paper did that. Since I was a kid I was inspired by mathematicians, though my formal training is not in math, but in finance. I am also inspired by the programmers who built the dream Bastyon and are still building it with no salary or benefits. In particular, I will mention couple without revealing who they are, they can decide if they want to be public. One is a genius, who combines an amazing analytic mind with appreciation for beauty and arts, his name is Max. You will rarely see a programmer who can both do complex cryptography and create beautiful designs, all in an afternoon of work. The second programmer, Andy, works on the Bastyon node software in C++ and he has amazed me with his growth from the state of a young distracted genius to a wise architect and a leader. Going from having a narrow skill, which is typical in corporate environments, to being able to help design the architecture of something as complex as Bastyon in two or three years is miraculous. Of course, there are many other great developers, but I wanted to mention those two, they inspire me to continue to innovate in Web 3.0 with Bastyon.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

That is a great question. I believe that the guideline for positive disruption should be that whatever you are building should empower people and make them more self-sufficient. Most innovations in technology nowadays and especially social media, are opposite of that. That is why I call traditional Web 2.0 social media platforms — asocial. They are interested in creating echo chambers, making people think less for themselves, but rather be governed by trends. One scientist recently said that humans are ‘hackable animals’ who have no free will. That is a lie, but to perpetuate this lie, the ‘disruptive’ algorithms try to hack people’s biology through algorithms to make them more dependent. In Bastyon, for example, there are no closed groups. At some point everyone has to come in contact with opposing view points. If you don’t see different view points, you develop mind atrophy and then you are dependent and you can indeed become a ‘hackable animal’.

Can you share five of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

A friend with a great deal of business experience once told me “Don’t be a designer and a programmer”. Those are completely different mindsets and trying to be in both of them is extremely difficult and unproductive.

I have a tendency to want to understand and study anything that I work with. It is not enough for me to use formulas and algorithms, I need to understand and be able to apply them. With an incredibly complex project like Bastyon, I had to unlearn that some degree. I am not a programmer, rather I program only for research and testing purposes when I design architectures. But with Bastyon I wanted to get into programming more heavily, which took a tool on me. Serious programming is a a very intense endeavor and trying to be a programmer, while being a designer of the system is health threatening. So I learned to step back and trust developers and more importantly to help them grow.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

Almost 30 developers are working on Bastyon. My role is to research the new functions and verify them from a statistical point of view, that they can work. There are lots of new features, but the crowning jewel will be the completed jury moderation system on Bastyon. There can be no decent social network without some censorship. Things like pornography, child exploitation, threats and illegal narcotics are not allowed on Bastyon, but there is no central authority to moderate. Content is moderated by users who have gained reputation in the system. The jury system will ensure that such users can never band together to banish a certain viewpoint or a personality. When each block in the blockchain is created, a jury of peers is called if there are any complaints about content. This jury has to vote unanimously, but even more importantly, its members are chosen randomly. So you cannot choose to moderate someone, you will be chosen. For Bastyon I designed a jury system that overcomes a very important flaw of any blockchain jury systems. In a typical blockchain jury system, the jurors are chosen for each case, but their identities on the blockchain (pseudonyms, if you will) are know before they cast their vote. This creates possibilities for pressure. In the Bastyon jury of peers the jurors can determine whether they can be a part of a certain jury. But nobody besides jurors themselves can know that before they cast their vote. Once they cast the vote on the blockchain, then they also produce a number that proves their right to vote on this particular jury. This protection is quite important and overall Bastyon’s jury of peers will solve the remaining problems in running a decentralized social network.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

The book called Platform Revolution: How Networked Markets Are Transforming the Economy―and How to Make Them Work for You was important in my thinking and in understanding the problems of current platforms. An article by Chris Dixon called Why Decentralization Matters (https://onezero.medium.com/why-decentralization-matters-5e3f79f7638e) helped me crystalize thinking on the subject.

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

My favorite quote is from St. Paul: “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain”.

To me that symbolizes it means that whatever you do in life must have a higher goal and so there is no room for half measures, one must go all out!

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

Very simple. If you have a talent, do not waste it trying to get ahead in the corporate world. It is mostly a soul-sucking pursuit that gives no happiness or meaning. Instead look to work on projects that empower people, make them more responsible and less reliant on the Big Brother. If you are a developer, join the core group of Bastyon developers. There are 28 people now from many different countries. You cannot change the world for the better, if you don’t follow your dream.

How can our readers follow you online?

I only have an account on Bastyon, you can join and follow me here:

https://bastyon.com/daniel_satchkov

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


Meet The Disruptors: Daniel Satchkov On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Makers of The Metaverse: Jonathan MacDonald Of Minima On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality…

Makers of The Metaverse: Jonathan MacDonald Of Minima On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Don’t follow the herd — comparison is such an evil power. This is why modern social media is corrupting our emotions and driving people into depression. In business, and for this context, modern technology, it’s tempting to follow what a popular platform is doing…but they don’t necessarily know more than you do about your dreams and ambitions. You’re the boss. Not them.

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, we had the pleasure of interviewing Jonathan MacDonald.

Jonathan MacDonald is an award-winning, bestselling author and one of the most in-demand experts in the world on the topics of change, digital transformation, mindset, innovation, strategy and the future. He is also the Chief Marketing Officer at Minima, an ultra-lean cooperative blockchain network that fits on a mobile or IoT device, allowing every user to freely connect and run a full constructing and validating node. Part of the original cryptography groups prior to Bitcoin, Jonathan is a thought-leader in the blockchain space.

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?

Given up at birth and adopted by entrepreneurs who, after grafting for years, finally made it. That work ethic became my default understanding of how you make things work. Then the internet became wider used and ever since the first online chat rooms, a decade before the web as we know it, I’ve been involved in discussions related to human rights, specifically freedom and privacy. As the 90s evolved, I became more active in this area and wrote my first book at the end of that decade. Around the same time, The Cluetrain Manifesto was published, and a group of enthusiasts started meeting and mapping out what a more free and fair world would look like if humans were more empowered. I grew up around cutting-edge technology as if it was normal. I tended to get involved in companies just before they became huge — mainly by accident — but partly because I seem to see opportunities before other people, which can be a blessing and a curse in equal measure. Now, I’m fortunate enough to have half a dozen books including a Sunday Times Bestseller, and experience of twice as many startups. It’s been a fun journey.

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?

1984 by George Orwell had the first significant impact as I was young when I read it but had already suspected it was relatively biographical of the way things are in the world. I started to see similarities between Orwell’s characters and the realities of our time. That hasn’t lessened of course…in fact I think we could say we’ve never been more aware of how shockingly accurate the book is.

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

I don’t see myself as being in ‘one’ industry to be honest. If anything I’m in the industry of human rights, but the X Reality world is as meaningful in that context as any other. We’re still talking about people and how we view our reality, up against forces that attempt to skew our perception for their own means.

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

In 2008 I hosted an event at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. I invited over 80 people from the press, tech industry and other people interested in the topic of how we could best structure an increasingly digital landscape in morally beneficial ways. The title was ‘Every Single One Of Us’ (which was the name of my second book that came out in the same year). Several of us gave presentations and discussed how we could ensure that, when dealing with the dilemma of the most valuable information being private, we could enable ethical practices to protect citizen rights. The editor of a major tech magazine was very critical at the event — standing up and stating that we were talking nonsense — that this whole ‘privacy’ thing was irrelevant. It wasn’t a ‘thing’. A decade later that same editor posted a public apology online, referencing the event I’d hosted, explaining that a) the topic and importance turned out to be absolutely justified and that b) we were just far earlier to the topic than most had considered. Of course, history shows that the digital landscape we live in has, in most part, a blatant disregard of human privacy, with users of platforms essentially acting as batteries, powering a money-making machine that thinks nothing of forcing us to tolerate interruptive advertising while monetising our most sensitive information.

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

There’s been so many. Many of which are chronicled in my book Business Poison where, although I have anonymised the characters, most of them are actually me! I think the funniest mistake was when I became the youngest chairman of the Music Industries Association in the UK and let my committee try and convince me of their plans to identify and litigate against ‘the CEO of the internet’. Then there was a time I mortgaged everything in my life to fund a Sky TV Channel, only to find that my business partner was screwing me over in the background without me knowing. These things are funny now purely because the lessons were so profound in retrospect. Experience is a hard teacher as she gives you the test first and the lesson afterward.

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?

Pretty much everyone I’ve encountered has helped me along the way. Even those who have caused me harm. The lessons I have learned are invaluable either way. Most of my early skills were learned whilst watching my entrepreneurial parents build a business from scratch to a significant size. I learned my work ethic from them. As an entrepreneur what needs to get done, gets done, and it takes an enormous amount of courage to get up again after the countless hits you take. That came from them and without that discipline I wouldn’t be where I am today.

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

I’m loving helping Minima (https://minima.global) come to market. It’s ground-breaking and seriously important as an enablement platform that empowers people to be free and prosper. It’s also nice to show the world what we originally meant by decentralization as that’s been completely mutated from the vision we discussed in the 90s.

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?

The first would be how people can become healthier and happier. The therapeutic opportunities in X reality are massive. The second would be how we can experience other cultures if we’re in situations that wouldn’t allow it to easily happen. The third would be in terms of immersive experiences, widening our perspective of what we thought our ‘limits’ were.

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?

I’m always concerned about who guards the guards. Who is overseeing the ethical values. What are their objectives, ultimately? This is why decentralization is so fundamentally important. If there’s a corporation involved that has, say, advertisers or greedy shareholders; the user is seen oftentimes as a battery to power those desires.

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’m pretty sure we’ve all enjoyed at least one aspect of remote working in recent times! But seriously, X Reality is about closing the gap between what people have and what people need. That can span from training to leadership and everything in between.

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

It’s completely subjective. Life improvement can be as fundamental as shelter and food — and arguably those who could provide that to others, but don’t understand why it matters, could experience the stark reality of being homeless in X Reality and potentially have more empathy. Conversely, life improvement could be as esoteric as self actualisation or even spiritual enlightenment, which may be faster tracked via new stimulus provided by X Reality.

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

The greatest myth is that when a service is free, that’s a good deal…where in fact; when the service is free, you are the product. I’m convinced that people, over time, are increasingly awakening to the outrageousness of that proposition.

What are your “5 Things You Need to Create A Highly Successful Career In The VR, AR or MR Industries?”

  1. Follow your bliss — it’s so important to find what your true purpose is in life — or at least what fulfills you — and just do that. If you’re doing something you don’t enjoy, the outcome may be monetarily good, but the rest of your life will be less positive and you will feel a void that is only filled by following your bliss.
  2. Don’t follow the herd — comparison is such an evil power. This is why modern social media is corrupting our emotions and driving people into depression. In business, and for this context, modern technology, it’s tempting to follow what a popular platform is doing…but they don’t necessarily know more than you do about your dreams and ambitions. You’re the boss. Not them.
  3. Exercise your thought muscle as much as any other. We think 70,000 thoughts per day and up to 90% are the same as the day before. We live in a holding pattern that we cling on to. We should spend more time working on how we think (which is the topic of my most recent book ‘The Rise Of Advanced Thought’) and is the antidote to sleepwalking into an Orwellian nightmare.
  4. Don’t think you’re omnipotent — you’re not. Nor am I. I’d say two mistakes I made more than any are a) thinking I know best and b) trusting the wrong people. It’s a paradox, but one that is critical to achieving success.
  5. The people you meet on the way up, will also be met on the way down. If I lived again, I’d have been more respectful to people with different opinions. I was too opinionated and dismissive. I don’t regret it per se, as ultimately I learned from it…but from having several major business failures, I learned that how you treat people when things are good is significantly important.

If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

Minima is the underlying architecture of many movements. For me, I’d like that to be a springboard for life systems that enable people to live more fully. Taking away the noise from the signal and reversing some of the less palatable practices of today’s popular platforms.

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?

I would have enjoyed meeting Nicole-Reine Etable de la Brière Lepaute (as would you dear reader — look her up), Ada Lovelace, Albert Einstein, Alan Turing, and Viktor Frankl. Most of my heroes and heroines are dead. I’ve met the Dalai Lama (albeit sat in silence together), and the rest of today’s thinkers and doers I’ve wanted to meet I’m fortunate to either have met or worked with. I think the people who are really changing the world are behind the scenes so I don’t know them yet. If you’re reading this and you’re one of them, please reach out…I’m easy to find online!

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


Makers of The Metaverse: Jonathan MacDonald Of Minima On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Thomas Camilleri Of Switch On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Record yourself. You’d be surprised with how you sound and what you do when speaking, so be your best and harshest critic before going public.

At some point in our lives, many of us will have to give a talk to a large group of people. What does it take to be a highly effective public speaker? How can you improve your public speaking skills? How can you overcome a fear of speaking in public? What does it take to give a very interesting and engaging public talk? In this interview series called “5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker” we are talking to successful and effective public speakers to share insights and stories from their experience. As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Tiffany Kepler Creator of ConfidentBeauty.us and the Camera Ready Confidence Program.

Thomas Camilleri grew up on the small Mediterranean island of Malta. After starting off a degree in Architecture, he moved to London to pursue acting and lived there for his 20s, appearing in West End musicals Les Miserables and Legally Blonde as well as touring the UK and Europe with Evita and the Rocky Horror Show.

Ready for a new adventure and having missed his beloved home country, Thomas moved back to Malta where he has worked with Switch, a digital marketing agency, as a creative director for the past eight years. He has also developed his love for architecture and interiors through property conservation, renovation and design as well as having founded Lazarus Tiles, a project that saves antique Maltese encaustic tiles from the landfill and turns them into art.

IG: @tomcamilleri @thelazarusclub

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I grew up on the small Mediterranean island of Malta. We’re small but we dream big and many of us tend to spend our post-grad years abroad, soaking up what the world has to offer, before returning home to share what we’ve learned with the rest of the country. I’m part of a large family, with three siblings and 18 first cousins and life in Malta changed immeasurably after we joined the European Union in my late teens, going from a sleepy, sunny getaway to a bustling tech hub. Wanting to burn off lots of excess energy, my mother enrolled me in theatre school when I was 12 and that eventually led to me spending a decade working in theatre in London, a career choice that has certainly contributed greatly to my confidence and skill as a public speaker.

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

I’d already started studying architecture at university here in Malta when I visited ArtsEd in London for a week’s masterclass in musical theatre. One of the tutors there took me aside and told me that I should audition for the school — so I did! As soon as I got news that they’d offered me a full scholarship I quit university and headed off to London.

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

I’ve now spent the same amount of time working as an actor as I have working as a creative director in advertising. There’s so much overlap in the skills needed for both career paths that, while I would have never thought it, it was a seamless transition from one to the other.

Things tend to be a little more dramatic in the acting world and while I was halfway through a show in the West End production of Les Miserables, Marius’ understudy, who would throw me a stage punch, miscalculated and knocked me out halfway through a scene. I came to a few seconds later with a mouth full of blood and dragged myself offstage while my own understudy quickly jumped into costume to run on and carry on from where I’d got to. I’ve still got the scar to prove it!

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?

In between acting and advertising, I spent a year working with a small fashion PR firm in London. I learnt so much from that job, though the whole industry is very Devil Wears Prada.

When sending off the monthly reports to our clients, I once sent a report to the wrong client. Shouldn’t have been a huge deal, though both were men’s jewellery brands and we’d managed way more coverage for the other company whose report I’d sent by mistake.
I’ll never forget the moment I hit send, followed by Andre, the co-founder, shrieking ‘Thomas!’ from across the office as he received the wrong report which he was copied-in on.

We lost the client.

I learned my lesson.

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 owe so much to Ed, our Head of Brand and Creative. After working for years in very corporate environments, he knew exactly what he didn’t want Switch to be. Along with his brother, Rik, our CEO, they’ve really managed to mould Switch into what it is today. It was Ed who took the mad decision to bring me onboard after meeting for a coffee in Bar Italia in Soho. He really believes in transferable skills, particularly within the creative side of what we do. His belief in allowing us the freedom to pursue our own projects and passions outside of work and not micro-managing the team means that we’ve assembled a multidisciplinary family of misfits who create wonderful work, if I do say so myself.

You have been blessed with great success in a career path that can be challenging and intimidating. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?

Communication and networking is key. Speak to as many people as you can and try to do what you love. While many might think that your love of *insert skill here* might not pay the bills, it might open doors you’ve never dreamed of.

What drives you to get up everyday and give your talks? What is the main empowering message that you aim to share with the world?

The age of the single career is over. I love that every day never looks like the last one for me. Between my job and my various projects that I’m working on, my mind is continually firing on all fronts, bringing unexpected surprises and solutions through all of this cross-pollination that happens in my brain. At the moment I’m working on various projects with Switch, finishing off this beautiful 18th century maisonette in Ħamrun, running Lazarus Tiles, preparing for a new musical we’re launching in September and renovating a British-era shop in our capital Valletta.

Life’s really too short to do something you don’t want to do. I know that that’s a simplification of a complex issue for many, but it should really come down to that.

You have such impressive work. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Where do you see yourself heading from here?

Showing once again what a super pair Ed and Rik are, when I told them about how I’d managed to purchase this centuries-old shop in Valletta and that I was going to renovate and run it, they were as excited as I was. They were totally open to me remaining a part of the team, though perhaps without as much in-person time spent on the job. This way I can still contribute to the writing and concept-generation I work a lot on without being as involved with on-set creative direction.

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

At Switch, one of our mantras is that we don’t compete on price, but on quality. It’s a win-win situation because you really don’t want to be working with clients who are only interested in saving cents. If you’re respected enough to be paid well for what you do, you’ll enjoy doing it more, your output will be far superior and you’ll last a lot longer in that career.

Ok, thank you for all that. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker?” Please share a story or example for each.

– Go to acting classes. You’re not training to become an actor, but the skills you’ll learn will help you grow in confidence and connect with those you’re speaking to.

– Record yourself. You’d be surprised with how you sound and what you do when speaking, so be your best and harshest critic before going public.

– Exercise. If you’re out of breath after a flight of stairs, chances are you won’t make it to the end of the sentence clearly. You don’t need to be super fit, adding some walking to your routine is enough to help you with breath capacity and control.

– Read. Keep abreast of current events for references to pepper your speaking with and read books to grow your vocabulary. Don’t set yourself up to fail — read the news over breakfast and aim to get through one book a fortnight and add on from there if you manage easily.

– When possible, be off-script. Continuously referring to your speech could stop you from connecting with your audience. It’s easier than you think if you divide it into paragraphs and tackle a paragraph each evening leading up to your event.

As you know, many people are terrified of speaking in public. Can you give some of your advice about how to overcome this fear?

Acting classes all the way. They’re fun and will pay themselves back tenfold in so many different areas of your life — professional and personal.

You are a person of huge 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?

In Malta we have a huge problem with overdevelopment. We’re a small country with a high population density. Our planning authority here has consistently let us down because they’re subject to the whims of the construction industry, one of Malta’s most powerful lobbies.
If I could, I would want to raise more awareness of the beauty that is being lost daily through this rampant overdevelopment.

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!

Miriam Margolyes! What a woman. I’ve loved her since my childhood when I found her hysterical in Blackadder and she’s only improved with age. She has such a wonderful outlook on life and I would love to treat her to lunch.

Are you on social media? How can our readers follow you online?

Sure! Find me on Instagram @tomcamilleri and @thelazarusclub

You can also see me speak here and here.

This was so informative, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!


Thomas Camilleri Of Switch On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Jose Ucar On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Effective communication is about the effect you leave on your audience but where is the message coming from? It comes from you as the speaker, so it is key that you cultivate your mindset and manage your emotions accordingly to have the intended impact during your talk or presentation.

At some point in our lives, many of us will have to give a talk to a large group of people. What does it take to be a highly effective public speaker? How can you improve your public speaking skills? How can you overcome a fear of speaking in public? What does it take to give a very interesting and engaging public talk? In this interview series called “5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker” we are talking to successful and effective public speakers to share insights and stories from their experience. As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Jose Ucar.

Jose Ucar is a global TEDx speaker, NLP coach, international business, marketing specialist and founder of Jose Ucar Ltd. Jose has spent the last 10 years travelling the world, successfully growing and promoting different businesses by working alongside them to bring about transformational change through the power of advanced communication skills. His goal is to give you the confidence to present the best version of yourself when communicating with others and speaking in public. “My motto is, learn to communicate with yourself first, then with others, and finally broadcast your message to the world.”

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I grew up surrounded by love from my family. The first 5 years of my life I mainly spent with my grandparents before we moved away from Caracas — Venezuela, the city where I was born. Inspired by my granddad and my dad, I decided to start my first business at the age of 6, selling pens and rubbers at school. It was a profitable business for around a month until the school shut me down. I was selling cooler pens and rubbers for the same price as my competitors, so it was a no-brainer for my schoolmates to buy from me. Through my first side hustle, I learned how important it was to be authentic, to listen and pay attention to people’s needs, and to provide value, always provide value.

After this, many business attempts followed with no major success until I finally finished high school and went to Sweden as an exchange student, where my international presenting career would begin without even knowing it.

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

I was 12 years old and I remember this as if it was yesterday. Ucar, this is what my teacher Marcos Subero used to call me, I’m going to share with you the 2 things you need to do to succeed in life…

  1. Read the news every day (Something I failed at miserably).
  2. Learn how to speak in public (hmm, this is interesting and terrifying at the same time).

Back then he only planted a seed in my brain which would grow unconsciously until my trip to Sweden.

In the same way my teacher inspired me and transformed my life, I decided to do the same through my coaching, training and speaking. But as I said, he only planted a seed, a little plant grew from that seed in Sweden and after that it began to grow stronger roots and grew higher and higher.

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

Maybe not the most interesting but definitely one of the most challenging ones. This is the story that could have stopped me from ever speaking again, especially in a foreign language. I landed my first job in the UK back in 2007 and in my first week with the company I was given the opportunity to mind the phones. A bit of context first, it was an engineering company, I didn’t know the product yet, I thought I knew English…

The phone rang, I picked it up, and at that moment I realized I couldn’t understand a word they were saying. I received calls from different places in the UK for about 3 hours. They all hung up on me and because they were frustrated, they called me names, told me I was useless and made fun of my accent.

After those 3 hours my confidence was shattered and all I could think about was giving up. This is the kind of story that can break or make a human being.

I’m grateful because it made me a better person in the long run, but the process was painful. That story also inspired one of my coaching frameworks — FOC it!

This is the process I use (for myself and clients) to conquer the mind, the first element of impactful communication.

It enabled me to move from being the victim to being the hero of my own story. The creator, the captain of my ship, the driver of the bus, the pilot of my destiny.

Flexibility — How can I see this event as an opportunity? How can I grow from this? Where is the learning?

Ownership — It’s not them, it’s me. I’m in charge. People made fun of me and said I was useless, what am I going to do? I’m going to own it and do something about it.

Consistency — What actions will I take making sure I don’t stop until I see the change I want.

“Our behavior is a response to what we make an experience mean… and so is our communication”.

A few years later, I was able to land a meeting with one of the Top 10 aerospace manufacturers in the world. Yes, the useless guy on the phone managed to present the engineering company in such as way, that they gave us a chance. Last time I checked, it had turned into a multi-million pounds business.

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?

Hmm. Never drink before your talk. This may work for some people but definitely didn’t work for me.

I’m always working on my storytelling by the way but back then, as I was getting started, I’d go to London looking for storytelling events. I remember it was summer and believe or not, it was quite sunny in the UK. As I walked toward the place where the event was held, you can imagine in London, everyone was out, it was 6 pm in the afternoon, and what can I say, the energy was contagious, but I abstained. I abstained from indulging in a cold brew until I arrived at the place where they would give you a FREE one, ok I said, it’s only one.

It gave me the driest mouth ever, made me dizzy like no other beer before and combined with nerves, I’m not going to tell you what it did to my belly, yes, emergency time.

You’ll be happy to know that I successfully delivered my 5-minute story, but I learned the lesson. A beer before a presentation is not a good idea, at all!

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

There have been many people along the way, and there is usually one that makes the greatest impact at a certain given time. I can mention mentors, coaches, friends and family…

The following lines are dedicated to my brother German for his support, patience, company and compassion. He is the kind of human that silently, without making any noise can positively impact your life.

The pandemic had started and like many business owners, my business dropped to minus zero, and I spent a few days in shock due to the sudden changes that had taken place overnight.

Back then my brother was living with me in the UK, Surbiton to be precise. He is a very talented videographer who also had plenty of time to spare.

That’s the day when the world-class communicator online course was born. Today it’s impacted more than 40.000 lives worldwide and during COVID we gave it away for FREE to help people improve their mindset and communication.

I would never have been able to create the course without him. I didn’t have the resources to afford his services and yet he stood by me, waking up at 5 am almost every day for 3 months in a row, filming, filming and re-filming until we were done with the content. After that he spent 3 more months editing and creating a masterpiece.

Who else would have done that for me? No one, only him, my brother, German Ucar. My success is his success and the success of all the people who have made me a better man.

I appreciate you and love brother. Thank you very much again.

You have been blessed with great success in a career path that can be challenging and intimidating. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?

Failure is part of the process. Rejection is a fact. You won’t be liked and accepted by everyone, so get ready for it.

  • Say yes to opportunities.
  • Learn something new every day.
  • Build relationships.
  • Be humble and vulnerable.
  • Always bring your 200%
  • Be flexible.
  • Own and commit to the process.
  • Be consistent
  • Be open to feedback and avoid the 3 most dangerous words, I Know That!
  • Have some fun.

If you really want it, you will make.

What drives you to get up everyday and give your talks? What is the main empowering message that you aim to share with the world?

Short answer — I want people to be free and share their excellence with the world.

I also want to share that I have bad days, I don’t wake up every day fully motivated, I’m a human being after all. But, I’ve developed thinking strategies and routines that get me back on my feet and in alignment with my purpose which is to help people overcome their own limitations and to shine through the power of their voice.

I want people to embrace and respect that we are all uniquely different and that we also have growing commonalities that bring us together.

You have such impressive work. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Where do you see yourself heading from here?

I’m always looking to impact more people with my message and I’m currently building relationships with influencers and key decision makers in larger organizations and countries to expand my reach. I want to get my message across the world, especially in those countries that need it the most. I want to have a greater impact throughout Latin America, Africa and Asia. My international reach started with the World-Class Communicator course and now I want more stages from which to broadcast the beauty and importance of a respectful and accepting multi-cultural world.

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

I’ll give you two. Success is on the other side of fear.

FEAR — False expectations appearing real.

I experience fear often because I’m always looking to stretch myself by putting myself through uncomfortable situations. The above quote and acronym also works as a mantra, that helps me to keep a FAB attitude towards what I do.

Focused

Active and aware

Believing in myself and my work

Ok, thank you for all that. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker?” Please share a story or example for each.

Video — https://youtu.be/cUrXCK1Rl3g

  • Communication starts within

Effective communication is about the effect you leave on your audience but where is the message coming from? It comes from you as the speaker, so it is key that you cultivate your mindset and manage your emotions accordingly to have the intended impact during your talk or presentation.

Remember that when you speak you are broadcasting a message that is charged with emotions and this is what the audience will initially connect with. If you are feeling nervous or insecure, guess what the audience will feel?

They will still receive what you say (your words) but the intended impact will be lost.

Successful speakers cultivate their mindset by:

  • Connecting with their purpose — Why do you speak? Generally, the answer revolves around the impact they want to make on people’s lives. It has to be greater than you.
  • Bringing their passion for the topic they are about to present.
  • Believing in their message and themselves as speakers.
  • Practicing until they feel not just comfortable but excited.

Your ability to build a strong emotional connection with the audience and to keep it throughout your presentation will depend on your ability to connect with your own emotions.

“The quality of your thinking will determine the quality of your speaking.”

  • Always keep your audience in mind.

Without an audience we wouldn’t be called public speakers, agreed? And what would be the point of speaking if our audience doesn’t benefit from what we have to say?

Whenever I get invited to speak, I always ask event organizers (or the person inviting me to speak) the following:

  • Who is the audience?
  • What do you want them to take away at the end of my session?

Then I dive into how long you want me to speak for, the tone they would like me to use, etc… When I get booked, they have already seen my showreel, so they know what to expect in terms of content, style and delivery.

Remember that impactful speakers are those who change lives through the power of their words, are there for the audience and not themselves. They are looking to serve, positively influence and elevate people.

“Public speaking is not about you, it’s about the audience.”

  • Build a pathway.

When was the last time you heard a successful speaker say, wow, I had to wing it today?

I can answer for you, NEVER!

One thing is to be able to improvise because we can’t predict what’s going to happen, but we can certainly learn how to manage the unexpected. But there is always plenty of preparation.

Building a pathway is all about the science of your presentation. Simply put, how are you going to lead the audience to achieve the expected results, and leave them with what you’ve intended for them.

Here you will think about the points you want to make, and the stories you will use to illustrate them. The balance between logical, emotional content and earning the right to build an airtight persuasive case.

The number of slides (if you want to use them) and how they will help you to enhance your message. And don’t kill your audience with Bullet Points.

The more intentional and prepared you are, the greater the impact you will have on your listeners.

  • Whole-self delivery.

“We are always communicating, even when we don’t speak.”

Whole-self delivery is all about the art of your presentation. This is where you will plan how to bring your presentation to life using your full body and voice.

The secret here is that whatever you do, do it with purpose.

Body language used correctly will help you to clearly paint your message, stories and learning points in the minds of your audience.

Fail to do so and you will very likely bore your audience after a couple of minutes, they will disconnect, their minds will wander off and your incredible message won’t land as it could have otherwise.

I’m not saying that you need to turn into a hummingbird on stage but please avoid being a sloth. Moving between the two, is where the impact is. and

“People will always remember how you made them feel and not necessarily what you said.”

  • Strive for progress not perfection.

The best way to improve your speaking and achieve excellence is by practicing and saying yes to stage time. This is what I mean by progress. The more you speak, the more you expose yourself, and the more you learn, the more you will develop your speaking skills.

If on the contrary, you want to be perfect in terms of yourself as a speaker and your presentation, you are likely to wait and delay any speaking opportunities, which will impact your exposure and the much-needed practice so important on your journey to becoming a highly effective speaker.

The key point here is, it’s ok for you to challenge yourself if you set realistic challenges and expectations around your public speaking. I always invite my coaches to stretch themselves as long as the level of pressure doesn’t negatively impact their performance.

Another way to make incredible progress is by being open to feedback and avoiding the 3 most dangerous words — I Know That.

Keep on speaking your greatness.

As you know, many people are terrified of speaking in public. Can you give some of your advice about how to overcome this fear?

The very short answer is SPEAKING! How did you learn how to ride a bike or how to swim? By doing it.

There are different avenues to overcoming the fear of speaking but none of them will work unless you put yourself out there and speak.

I always recommend that people rationalize their fear. Most of the time the reason will be fear of losing control and fear of not being accepted. The sooner you realize that anything can happen while you are speaking and that there are only a few things you can control, the more resourceful you will become in terms of what you can do about it. You can only control your thinking, your knowledge of the topic, and the preparation you put into it. You can influence people and your environment but can’t control it.

Another question I ask is WHY? Why do you want to speak? A strong why can overcome many fears.

Practice and always ask for feedback. Feedback is the breakfast of successful speakers.

And remember that Success is always on the other side of Fear!

You are a person of huge 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?

It would be a movement to set people FREE from their own mindset limitations. The world needs our excellence which can only emerge when we learn and support each other to unleash it.

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!

I grew up watching the movie Rocky. I’d love to meet Sylvester Stallone. Rocky has always inspired me to move forward in life, I love his quotes and also the underdog story that somehow, I can relate to. I also admire Sylvester because while he was rejected over a thousand times when auditioning for movie roles, he took a step back and used his failures as lessons, he then decided to create his own roles to star in.

As a Public Speaker, I like to see failures as learning opportunities. And like Rocky says, life is not about how hard you can hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.

Keep moving forward towards your dreams and always speak your greatness.

Are you on social media? How can our readers follow you online?

Instagram — https://www.instagram.com/jose_ucar_/channel/

LinkedIn — https://www.linkedin.com/in/jose-luis-ucar/

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

Website — https://joseucar.com/

This was so informative, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!


Jose Ucar On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Makers of The Metaverse: Jason Rosenstein Of Portion On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality…

Makers of The Metaverse: Jason Rosenstein Of Portion On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

History repeats itself. Passion, drive, and vulnerability.

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, we had the pleasure of interviewing Jason Rosenstein.

Jason is a blockchain developer who identified the transformative and multifaceted capabilities of blockchain technology in 2011. He began building powerful machines to generate cryptocurrency and produced prototypes demonstrating the capabilities made possible by blockchain.

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 New Jersey, about an hour outside of New York City. I always had a deep fascination with both higher consciousness and technology. All of the projects I have either started or worked on are an attempt to heighten awareness through the use of new and cutting edge technological advancements.

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?

Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda resonated with me on a deep primitive level. I read this book over 5 years ago and to me it represents a new path that I believe may be a part of our world’s future. It is my great hope that technology will grant people access to exploring aspects of themselves that have been within the entire time.

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

I have no particular story, but my interest in ‘x reality’ is primarily in the fascination of consciousness existing outside of the body. It seems to me that the Metaverse is a natural next step in exploring deeper states of existence and exploration without having to physically relocate.

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

Portion began in 2016 and raised funds in 2018. By 2019, just over a year later, we had hit rock bottom. The world was not ready for what we had to offer. At the point of total failure –$0 left in the company bank account — advisors insisted that I throw in the towel. But, I gave it one last hurrah. I re-coded our Ethereum NFT marketplace smart contracts from scratch and deposited every fiber of passion into the rebuild. And it worked. Just 6 months later NFTs were across the news, from Saturday Night Live to famous celebrity drops. It occurred to me that wherever we invest energy and action the universe seems to react with equal opportunity.

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?

My mentor once told me: “If you want to make people happy, sell ice cream.” I held to this ideal and stuck to this mentality through the pitfalls of the entrepreneurial roller coaster. It truly was impossible to please everyone. It wasn’t until years later I found out it wasn’t my mentor’s authentic thoughts. It was something Steve Jobs said.

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

We are building a collaborative NFT auction house where artists can keep up to 100% of the proceeds. Creativity can be funneled into direct financial support for millions of artists around the world. We occasionally pair these ‘drops’ with lively Metaverse experiences.

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?

Non-local gatherings and socialization, immersive and therapeutic experiences, and digital land that has true scarcity value.

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?

I worry about future inactivity of the human race, improper use of brain computing interfaces with the Metaverse, and a wild west of gambling and other illegal activities.

To address these concerns I recommend keeping power with the people through decentralized forums and DAOs. No large corporation should ever have the full rights to a given Metaverse. The people must vote, and I trust in the innate ethical and philosophical constructs by mass consciousness.

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?

WFM is the future and covid has expedited the natural transition. The medical industry can particularly benefit from in-depth and realistic VR, AR, and MR training.

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

Many are rightfully concerned that the younger generations will engross themselves too deeply into an “artificial” world. It progressed from too much screen time on laptops and cell phones. I believe that the metaverse will allow for better communication and information transference so that younger generations can swiftly resolve concerns and come together through new Metaverse forums.

What are your “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career In The VR, AR or MR Industries?”

It is the same thing as any other industry. History repeats itself. Passion, drive, and vulnerability.

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. 🙂

Stillness and emotional integration are keys that may unlock a more cohesive planet.

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

I answer with the cliche. Elon Musk — because I believe he understands the great potential of the evolving consciousness of the human race.

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


Makers of The Metaverse: Jason Rosenstein Of Portion On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Making Something From Nothing: Scott Savlov Of The Path Here Podcast On How To Go From Idea To…

Making Something From Nothing: Scott Savlov Of The Path Here Podcast On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Be nice at all times. Despite your desire to be on top or to make your product the best, just be nice to others. Even greet everyone every day with a smile. The hard work and drive will bring lots of companions if you are nice.

As a part of our series called “Making Something From Nothing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Scott Savlov.

Scott Savlov is a legendary figure in the worlds of TV and sports entertainment, having worked as a producer and director of sports programming and television shows. His catalog includes more than 15 shows (hundreds of hours’ worth of TV) including The Ryder Cup, VH1’s Fairway to Heaven, Golf Magazine’s Under Pressure on CBS Sports, and The Omega Masters Celebrity Pro- Am. In 1996, Scott founded his own company, Savlov Consulting, a full-service sports, entertainment, promotion and television production company. Because of his long career in sports and television entertainment, Scott has developed lasting and deep friendships with people all over the industry, which he holds extremely dearly. Throughout his career, Scott heard from friends and family that his conversations were funny, informative, and insightful. In 2021, he decided to act on that feedback and develop a podcast featuring these conversations, and The Path Here was born.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?

I was born in Brooklyn and grew up in East Brunswick, New Jersey. Luckily for me, I had two very loving and inspiring parents, an older sister who is very smart and very patient, and an abundance of friends in the neighborhood. I worked hard in school and like a lot of kids, I loved staying active through sports. I played every sport I could growing up and over time started studying sports until I was able to start covering the NBA for WPST, my local radio station, at age 16. At age 20, I began working as an on-air television sportscaster and weatherman at the CBS affiliate in Phoenix, Arizona.

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

I started doing sports broadcasting at 16. Some years later, I had a chance to have lunch with one of my childhood heroes, Walter Cronkite. After I described some of my successes and failures in the sports television space, Cronkite said something I’ve never forgotten; “Treat everyone with the same level of integrity you wish you would be treated with.” Since then, in every success or failure along the way, I want people to feel as though I care, and to know that I put everything into each effort with tremendous passion and consideration.

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

I have several favorite movies. Some I’ve watched too many times and know all the dialogue by this point. I have a propensity to use those lines in different life experiences. Somehow, they always just seem to apply correctly. Leave the Gun, take the cannoli.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. There is no shortage of good ideas out there. Many people have good ideas all the time. But people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. Can you share a few ideas from your experience about how to overcome this challenge?

Over the course of my career, I have witnessed the dot com era and of course the the Silicon Valley entrepreneur era we’re currently living through. In the late 1990s, I was a consultant to Sun Microsystems. One day, I was driving back from a golf retreat with some members of Sun’s senior management. On the way back, I overheard a conversation on the car phone between Steve Jobs and one of Sun’s executives discussing the latest news with their companies and the other areas of their lives. Their friendly banter resonated with me, and showed me that whether talking with competitors, allies, friends or foes, you can always have respect and friendliness toward one another. Believing in the success of your ideas and taking pride in what you’ve built is essential, but it doesn’t have to come at the loss of courtesy. In hindsight, I feel like I was in the presence of the Ford and Edison of that time.

Often when people think of a new idea, they dismiss it saying someone else must have thought of it before. How would you recommend that someone go about researching whether or not their idea has already been created?

It sounds simple, but it is really easy to look things up on Google or other search engines. I’d always start there, but, if you are truly passionate about delving into a space, consume any and all information you can. Attack your new idea with a passion and keep that passion throughout every stage of the building process. If you don’t believe in your idea, why would anyone else?

For the benefit of our readers, can you outline the steps one has to go through, from when they think of the idea, until it finally lands in a customer’s hands? In particular, we’d love to hear about how to file a patent, how to source a good manufacturer, and how to find a retailer to distribute it.

I am not a creator of consumer retail products. That said, I have been involved with many product launches in that space. From the point you have a product, label, naming rights, copyrights, even patent on product, find the distribution channel that will be able to grow your product in multiple stages. First year development, three years in, five years in, and so on. If you are creating a product with sole intention of flipping it in 18–36 months, you have a completely different, more aggressive strategy. If you want your product to be picked up and distributed with a long play, then you need to know what your competitors are doing and create individuality and very competitive pricing. What makes you stand out, and why is your product superior? If you can answer those questions, then distribution will take your call, or better yet, they’ll be calling you.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started Leading My Company” and why?

It’s funny, when answering the question I think, “if only I knew when starting this project what I know now. Here are five pieces of knowledge I wish I had known in the past:

  1. Don’t do anything you aren’t passionate about. Too much time gets wasted on going down roads that aren’t worth it in the end.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or guidance. It isn’t an indictment on your intelligence to ask for help.
  3. Show some humility as you gain success. No one likes a sore winner. The first time you fail, everyone will gladly kick you on your way down.
  4. Be nice at all times. Despite your desire to be on top or to make your product the best, just be nice to others. Even greet everyone every day with a smile. The hard work and drive will bring lots of companions if you are nice.
  5. It is ok to recognize other people’s success. Too much time is wasted wanting to be better than someone else or to win. You will still get there if you are good at what you do. When you do win, it’ll be more fun, and even your competitors will want to congratulate you if you were personable along the way.

Let’s imagine that a reader reading this interview has an idea for a product that they would like to invent. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?

Identify what you think people need. Identify why they need it, and how much other things like it cost. Once you identify those points, have fun brainstorming on all the applications and ways your product will succeed. Then, determine what you need to do so you don’t fail. But know that it’s ok to fail! Believe in yourself and your product. You will figure out how to pivot. Be observant to the marketplace. Too much time is spent with tunnel vision on one idea while others are just out of reach. Lastly, take a breath and enjoy what the experience is all about.

There are many invention development consultants. Would you recommend that a person with a new idea hire such a consultant, or should they try to strike out on their own?

I am a consultant, so of course, I believe in the value of consultants. But make no mistake, I take more pride in the work I do for myself. Create your path and direction. Once your limitations become obvious, take some time to look into finding the right consultants who can help take you to another level.

What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one?

Always try to take your idea as far as you can go. Investment always has a burn rate that takes a piece of your success away from you. It’s never bad to have someone else’s money backing you but, sometimes their terms and their urgency can stymie your productivity. Here’s a golf analogy: When others are watching you and you feel their presence, you may tighten your grip on the club and make a mistake. When you are relaxed, the swing is easy and effortless, and you have a much better chance at success. Get yourself to that happy zone without undo pressures. Your creativity and your ability to work with others will be dramatically better.

Ok. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

Over the course of my career, I have raised well over $25 million dollars for various charities, and it’s a blessing to know that my efforts to raise that money have affected many people’s lives for the better. But I want to share another, simpler example; Years ago, my family and I were in downtown San Diego, and a homeless man asked me for money for food. I took him to a nearby fast food restaurant and bought him a full meal. My reward was the smile on his face his knowing that someone actually cared. Being nice in every day, interpersonal moments can be just as rewarding as writing big checks.

You are an inspiration to a great many people. 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.

Smile. Say hello to strangers. When people smile back, you have created a change in their demeanor for a moment. I would rather impact one person by being the guy that said hello, or held the door, or just smiled than be the person that is in their own head and mean to others.

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, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

Well, I created a show called The Celebrity Bucket List, so I kind of have a unique sense of how to answer this. I would like to sit with Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk. I wouldn’t ask them to invest in some business of mine, I would like to know what’s on their bucket list. I’ve found that sometimes for people like that, the answer is less lofty than you’d expect, and more like “Rosebud” in Citizen Kane. It’s not always some really expensive car or plane or boat that they’re waiting to check off their bucket list. I love seeing people get silly and have fun. So, if I had a moment to sit down with either of those two, my private time with them would have to embrace humor and storytelling.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

Thanks so much for speaking with me.


Making Something From Nothing: Scott Savlov Of The Path Here Podcast On How To Go From Idea To… 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: Billy Roberts Of Wedge Financial On How Their Technological Innovation Will…

The Future Is Now: Billy Roberts Of Wedge Financial On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Realize the impact those around you have on your character and world view. For a long time, I thought I was immune to the ideas of those around me, and kind of just went along with the flow. Knowing, as I do now, how impactful the characters and ideas of those around me have on my own character and actions has been incredibly poignant and really helped me understand who I am and what I am trying to achieve.

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

Billy Roberts is the CEO of Wedge Financial Inc., the first smart debit card that lets users pay for everyday purchases with any asset. Founded in 2021, the fintech startup is the first of its kind for offering the ability to use assets for everyday spending, giving users the ability to benefit from market movements of over 4,000 different stocks, ETFs and cryptocurrencies. Previous to Wedge, Billy founded ReStream Solutions, a data-driven oilfield solutions company for the exploration and production industry.

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

Yes, but it probably won’t make a lot of sense (unless you have experience working on boats). So, as you might have guessed by that previous statement, I’ve spent a lot of time working on boats. My dad always had boats — big ones, with big diesel engines, and a bunch of components that would always break. Typically they would choose to break when we were offshore, most often when the seas were rough. And, when boats break offshore, you’re stuck with either:

a.) calling another boat on the radio for a tow (embarrassing).

b.) calling the coast guard (really, really embarrassing).

c.) figuring out how to make what you have work well enough to get you home safely.

Let’s say that we never needed a tow.

Whether I liked it or not, every Saturday and Sunday morning my dad made me go to the boat with him and work on things and it taught me, unsurprisingly, how to work on things. What I mean is — it taught me how to take a problem, and whittle down the potential root causes of that problem until you identify an issue, address it, and make it harmonize with the systems around it.

Often, my dad had us building things as well, new systems, rebuilds, etc. We’d have to figure out how to take what was there, and breathe new life into it from a different perspective and a new set of constraints. Today, that’s basically what I do for a living. I’m either taking a bunch of little ideas and trying to build them up together into a big value prop (like building a boat), or I’m taking a big value prop and trying to whittle it down to why it might not be working the way I thought it would (identifying a faulty fuel pump). Working on boats, believe it or not, showed me what it is I like doing — building products, and fixing them when they’re not generating the returns we need them to. And, this brings us to today and to Wedge.

Wedge is revolutionizing how consumers access and utilize their assets for everyday purchases. Consumers can now pay for everyday purchases with any asset in their portfolio (stocks, bonds, crypto, EFTs). The assets are linked together in their “Wedge wallet,” which is accessible via a single intuitive app and smart debit card.

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

I’m not sure this is the most interesting story, but it’s a story that shaped my career path. Now, this could be hard to follow but bear with me …

The high-school lacrosse teammate of my first employer’s business development consultant’s son became the catalyst for my first big business sale. It’s entirely likely that, had this very obscure connection not been made exactly when it did, after years of separation and geographical constraints, my first venture would have failed (miserably), and my foray into entrepreneurship would have met its end (even more miserably).

This sticks with me and plays a role in my everyday life because looking back — for better or worse — the path to success is rarely, if ever, the one that we predict. So now, if anyone, whether there is direct line-of-sight to a strategic upside or immediate relevance, wants to meet, I always try to make it happen. Because, you never know where talent or opportunity may be hiding, and history has shown me repeatedly that my predictions as to where it may be are usually very wrong.

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

The big paradigm shift with Wedge is our capacity to enable users to spend with any asset (stocks, bonds, crypto, EFTs) they have access to in their “Wedge wallet.” In other words, consumers are no longer spending with just “cash.” This intuitive technology stitches together the different functional capabilities of various financial services but also, for the first time, empowers users to get more for every dollar they have earned by allowing them to capitalize on market movements each time they make a purchase, enabling them to use their assets more dynamically and in a way that maximizes real-time gains in the value of any asset — without sacrificing liquidity.

Although a bit abstract, we talk internally about making barter efficient again. What that means is as individuals moved from barter/trading, to the gold standard, to fiat (a security backed by a government), they were doing so because it was difficult to always know the relative value of one asset against another. In other words, you used to have to know the relative value of a pelt, to a jar of whiskey, to a bushel of grain to trade and buy/sell effectively. But it didn’t stop there, you also had to know the value of the dollar relative to gold, then ultimately, the value of the dollar relative to the good and/or service you wanted. That’s a lot of knowledge, and a lot of room for error.

However, with a platform such as Wedge, users are given the utility of cash, accessibility of crypto exchanges, and the power of the markets all in a single app. This union allows users to know exactly the value of their tradable assets relative to the dollar, enabling them to use assets smartly, and get more value from every dollar that they earn.

How do you think this might change the world?

To date, fiat has been the coin of the realm and the only (well, mostly only) way to pay for things. If you think about what Wedge enables, it’s really the power to spend using alternative sources of value which then enables more people to benefit from market movements seamlessly. In this paradigm, value now gets to flow to the enterprises that the collective deems relevant and valuable, and thus further accelerates the wealth/value of the collective ownership of those assets.

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

I’m always wary of those who go too big and too bullish on crypto. Don’t get me wrong, I love crypto and think there is a ton of potential in the space that hasn’t been capitalized on yet. However, it’s my hope with Wedge that users are benefiting from exposure to multiple asset types, and while it’s impossible to avoid risk entirely when investing in the markets, the exposure to diversification can help weather market corrections responsibly. Ultimately offering a real benefit from growth in sectors across the board every time they spend.

The allure of having another crypto type such as “moon” [a cryptocurrency on social media that crypto enthusiasts farm or earn based on the quality of their content] is powerful, but putting one’s faith in asset classes that are too far removed from real-world utility is a big risk. I think this type of investment needs to be contemplated for us at Wedge, its users, and the crypto space in general.

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

Kind of. In retrospect, getting Wedge to where it is today feels like more of an evolutionary process as opposed to a particular tipping point. For me, the tipping point that’s easy to delineate is that of when we made our second employee hire (Alton). The team that we had at that point (a total of four of us), had a strong enough early foundation that was able to take a look at the app and approach our strategy from a bunch of different angles. We unlocked the capacity to really prototype and test expeditiously, which led us on the evolutionary path referenced earlier. So, in short, for Wedge, our tipping point was a personnel one (and I think this is true of many companies). We had a great team all pulling in the right direction, and the app and its value lock was a result of it. This is what fuels our breakthroughs — the Wedge team.

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

Time. We need time to educate users on the value of Wedge and we need time for users to experience the benefits it offers in a tangible manner.

The concept of the first “Smart Debit Card” isn’t immediately intuitive. It takes time to build a full-funnel strategy that educates users on the art of the possible, and establish the credibility needed in the fintech space for long-term viability. Additionally, Wedge works best when users utilize dollar-cost averaging (DCA), an investment strategy in which an investor divides up the total amount to be invested across periodic purchases of a target asset in an effort to reduce the impact of volatility on the overall purchase, over a period of time. This is when you really build up a fly-wheel that starts delivering tangible value for users everyday (instead of just riding wild crypto-swings).

I’m confident that we have a unique, but also incredibly impactful offering. So it goes back to time. This is a long-game in terms of building our base and making sure that our users are getting the most out of Wedge.

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

Unfortunately, no. We are a startup that’s been running the typical playbook. But, through the uniqueness of our app and the value that it provides, we’ve been incredibly lucky to get picked up by some great minds in the space that have really accelerated our growth and bolstered our brand equity. We are, absolutely, going to start moving toward a more progressive marketing approach (less digital ads, more direct engagement).

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’ve been really lucky to have several really impactful, positive influences in my life and throughout my career. The one that sticks out the most is Wayne Wolf (Thank you Wayne!).

I graduated college with an unfortunate, at least from an income-generating perspective, degree in Marine Biology with a focus in Marine Vertebrate/Cetacean Zoology. I wanted to move to Austin (which by the way is land-locked and completely devoid of cetaceans) and find a job.

A friend of mine shared a job posting for a Field Applications Engineer at a technology company. Grateful for the find, I was incredibly underqualified due to the fact that I was, as you now know, a Marine Biologist. I also knew nothing about the field in which the technology company was focused (ozone generation).

I applied nonetheless and shockingly was able to get an interview. My interviewer however quickly realized that I probably wasn’t the right fit, but out of courtesy offered to show me around the office and it was there that I met Wayne, the CEO, and struck up a conversation. He indicated that the position probably wasn’t right for me, but because I had no other irons in the proverbial fire, I offered to work for free to learn about the technology and overall business. It seemed this offer came as a bit of a surprise to Wayne, who said “sure.” I was leaving, he came back out and said he would at least pay me minimum wage and we could see what happened. So, I walked out with a job(ish).

Within a couple of weeks I had learned a little about the business and technology, and had actually found an area where I could create some marginal value for the business. In college (and even prior, but that’s a different story), I had gotten pretty good at knocking out scientific studies and white papers, and Wayne needed more studies/whitepapers to highlight the advantages of the company’s system and how they could be applied to different applications. As we got more traction (and the Field Applications Engineer position remained open), I kind of fell into the position by default.

Over the course of a couple years, Wayne became a mentor. He taught me, amongst other things, how to look at problems from a different perspective, and most importantly, how to fail. Several of my projects didn’t work out, in large part because I didn’t execute on them properly. I assumed that my blunders would result in my termination from the company, but Wayne, to his own detriment (at least from a financial perspective), kept me on, kept trusting me, taught me how to learn from my failures, and to stay creative when the heat gets turned up.

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

I don’t know that I have, but I certainly try. Non-profit work is important to me and immigraiton is a topic that is near and dear to my heart, so I spend time and resources devoted towards making an impact to the extent that I can. I also try to be really mindful of the impact someone can have on a new college-grad or young professional on their life trajectory, just based simply on what happened to me. So when I can, I try to be as candid and supportive as possible to anyone that’s foolish enough to ask me for help. It’s probably a weird ego thing, but I get a bunch of satisfaction helping mentor folks getting started on their own entrepreneurial journey.

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

The biggest one for me: Realize the impact those around you have on your character and world view. For a long time, I thought I was immune to the ideas of those around me, and kind of just went along with the flow. Knowing, as I do now, how impactful the characters and ideas of those around me have on my own character and actions has been incredibly poignant and really helped me understand who I am and what I am trying to achieve.

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

I think you have me confused with someone else, so I’ll answer in a hypothetical assuming I did/do have influence, and since it’s a hypothetical, I’m going to allow myself to be as hyperbolic as possible.

Here’s the state of play that I see most concerning, and it’s one everyone talks about all the time (so not remotely novel). The world, the U.S. in particular, is becoming more and more polarized. I see it spilling through and coming back home through what I hear my 2nd grader talk about from things he picks up from his friends. He asked me what “lets go Brandon” meant the other day. I’m *&^%$@! sick of it.

So, if I could inspire a movement (and I realize once again this is hyperbolic), my movement would be for everyone — EVERYONE — to step away from social media (or at least start with Facebook). Its tearing us apart, its perpetuating false information, its playing a role in kids commit suicide, and for the life of me I can’t delineate a single damn benefit that comes from any of it. I truly believe it’s toxic, and it breaks my heart to see what it’s doing to people, and it frightens me in that I think the damaging effects that we have seen to date are really, just the tip of the iceberg compared to what’s coming if nothing changes.

No more social media — by choice — that’s my movement. I’m ok with LinkedIn though — that platform rocks.

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

This one might be a little over the top, but it’s really stuck with me. Moreover, it resonated with me after exiting from my first business (by T.S.Eliot).

“We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.”

I’m probably one of the luckiest people on the planet. I know a lot of folks say that in order to validate their success, but I promise with me it’s true. I’ve been able to do a whole bunch of amazing things just by nature of being born in the right place, at the right time, to the right folks. I just ‘Forrest Gumped’ my way into some pretty epic scenarios.

Here’s my blessing and my curse — I’m always looking over the fence and thinking that the grass is almost definitely greener over there, than where I am. So then I’ll go over there, and then I’ll look back and think, man, that other grass is pretty green looking. So then I’ll bounce back, but I’ll return with a different perspective. I’m different. I’m (in an effort to maintain this lack-luster metaphor), now looking at the other grass for not just how green it is, but how soft it might be, or some other quality, and the ping-pong game of life continues. Seed a new idea, grow it, see it bloom, but then want to jump back, and start planting a new seed.

People often ask me what my exit plan is, or what I’ll do when I cash out. The answer is simple (but kind of confusing I admit), in that I’m going to keep on doing exactly what it is I’m doing now. I’m going to keep “exploring” (which I realize is a bit of a stretch in entrepreneurship), and I’m going to keep on doing it because, for whatever reason, that’s the adventure I love. And when I get back to the other side of the fence, I see where I was before in a new way. I see it again for the first time. I start again with an empty page, but this time around I have a greater knowledge of the possible, the risks, the roller-coaster, so I arrive where I started, but it feels brand new. The exploration continues in a cycle.

I bet after that answer no one ever asks me this question again….

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 🙂

Wedge is the world’s first smart debit card. It’s uniquely positioned to change and enhance how people perceive value and make everyday transactions on a global scale. IF you believe that streamlining efficiencies, simplifying good-choices, and creating value that flows into the pocketbooks of users is relevant and compelling in the future of Fintech, Wedge definitely deserves a look.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Wedge

Billy Roberts

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


The Future Is Now: Billy Roberts Of Wedge Financial 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.

Makers of The Metaverse: James Kaplan Of MeetKai On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality…

Makers of The Metaverse: James Kaplan Of MeetKai On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Be open to being wrong. If I can say one thing it is that the industry is young and undefined. It is basically a desert. But one with plenty of oil to be found. Sometimes though, if you can’t find any it can be better to stop digging and try somewhere else to build your kingdom. There is a huge amount of foundation to be built and it is not zero sum.

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, we had the pleasure of interviewing James Kaplan.

James Kaplan is the Co-Founder and CEO of MeetKai Inc., a VR and Conversational AI company shaping the next-gen of artificial speech intelligence. He founded the startup with Co-Founder and Chairwoman, Weili Dai, after becoming frustrated with the limitations of current automated assistants. Kaplan has had a true passion for AI and coding since he was six and wrote his first bots at only nine years old, including the first Pokemon Go bot and many others still popular to this day. Now his pioneering work in the metaverse puts MeetKai in competition with the largest names in tech. Kaplan studied Computer Science at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, CA and currently resides in the Los Angeles area.

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?

Of course, it is my pleasure. I have always been interested in software from a rather young age. Around the time I was learning to read, I was rather fortunate that my parents got me a computer for me to play educational games on. I quickly grew more interested in the computer and how it worked than any of the educational games themselves. The Oregon Trail, in particular, is what set me off on a path towards AI and software. My slight obsession with some games, in fact, motivated some of my early entrepreneurial efforts. I wanted to buy in-game currency in a number of MMOs but obviously did not have a credit card of my own to do so. This led to me doing freelance web development to make some side money for buying game items. I never quite told any of the people I was charging that I was not quite a teenager at the time.

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?

While it might be more expected for me to say something in the sci-fi realm as what inspired or made an impact on me, it is actually something pretty far from that. When I was a teenager, I really loved reading sci-fi books — at the time, Neuromancer was a favorite. However, it didn’t really make an impact on me. Yes, it resonated with me, but so did most Sci-Fi. Instead, the book that probably made the largest impact on me was 100 Years of Solitude. I read that in middle school after hearing about it from family members that are much more literary than me. Aside from it being one of the greatest books ever written, the main thing that impacted me was showing me such an alternative view of the world. Life itself, for better or worse, can be as mystical and dystopian as sci-fi.

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

I have always been interested and fascinated by XR. I think anyone who has played games or grew up on games always dreamed about the idea of it. I remember when I was in college the news broke that Facebook had just acquired Oculus for $2 billion. This followed earlier purchases of Instagram and WhatsApp by them. I saw it in the blogosphere and recall clearly all the people complaining about this or that but what really stuck with me is the idea that “Oh boy, XR is going to blow up in ways people have no idea about”. That has been a backdrop to motivating me for quite some time. After seeing the power of stand-alone VR and cell phone-attached XR, I really do believe that it is ready for prime time.

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

I remember early on when I got involved into the XR space I met with a large number of startups doing work to look towards partnerships or joint investment opportunities. Oftentimes these would be extremely early-stage companies at different “demo days”. At one of them we were getting a demo on a function related to being able to “smell” in VR. I remember a person I was with having the headset on as they were trying to get the demo to work (it wasn’t working and the screen was black). The person in the headset all of a sudden exclaimed: “Oh wow! I can smell Indian food, is this a cooking movie that should be playing?”. Little did they know that the catering was being set up and…it was Indian food. This company did not end up ever releasing a product.

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 think the biggest mistake I made was to assume that everyone would want to wear headsets. Many of us grew up in this matrix/VR MMO dream where we all wish we could have fully immersive VR pods that we would go into. However, this is actually more of a bubble. Even more so, I thought that there was no real reason someone wouldn’t want to wear a headset. At a trade show I went to one time I came to understand that I had lacked diversity in thought amongst the people I talked to about this for a very simple reason: I never considered that perhaps many people would not want their hair to be messed with by wearing a headset for a given task… I always try to keep in mind the importance of not only thinking about what I think is cool these days.

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

I am very fortunate to have met my co-founder and mentor Weili Dai. Without her, I would be nowhere near where I am today. While there are many things I could be particularly grateful for and many stories that I could tell of the impacts they have had, the biggest one to me is that I learned to look at the world in a way that merges business and technology without disregarding morals. As an example of this, we were once in a situation where we were being asked by a potential customer to copy a piece of technology that someone else had, improve it, and then they would buy it from us. It would have been very lucrative for us. We turned down the entire engagement and never spoke to that customer again. While there are a number of reasons to decline, the one that stuck out to me the most was that it is a matter of pride. Pride, Weili always says, should lead to how we look and build technology. If we give up our pride in being creators of disruptive technology for even a moment, then we lose the ability to innovate long term.

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

Yes! The big one I am working on is our new B2C offering, the MeetKai Metaverse application. So far as a company our work has been pretty much confined to B2B engagements. We have pretty large deployments of our tech in a number of verticals and industries globally, however, our consumer products up to this point have been largely tech demos. The company was founded with a simple spec that we have always been working towards: improve efficiency of life through human-AI interaction. Up to this point the best way to accomplish that is to develop IP in the B2B world. However, with the expansion of access to low-cost XR devices (at least the path to them has begun) things can change. We’re building a metaverse product because a lot of real-life experiences people have now are cost prohibitive or simply impractical due to a whole suite of reasons for people. Apps, which did democratize a number of them, are fundamentally limited in what they can do given their constraints of form and function. An XR metaverse on the other hand allows us to deliver not just replacements for many real-world experiences, but also fundamental improvements to them too. But our goal is not to develop something that is purely the virtual — our metaverse is rooted in reality. There is already a real world that is very interesting out there, it is just not being exposed to enough people.

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?

  1. Low-cost standalone VR devices — The biggest issue that has stopped innovation in the space up to this point has been that the entry barrier was so high. Even beyond the raw cost of the headset, it often involved building a gaming computer to power the hardware which is not something a random user can do. Thanks to innovation from a number of hardware players we are finally seeing costs come down for stand-alone devices. This will only accelerate with innovations that I see on deck from semiconductor players in the ecosystem.
  2. Content creation tools — One of the biggest issues for any new and emerging platform is a lack of valuable content. If there is nothing to do then who cares. There are now multiple companies in the industry that are really focused on making it easier to create XR ready content without being an XR expert. Even more interesting are companies that are working to take old content and port it into XR.
  3. Alternative Monetization — I say this instead of Web3 because when you say Web3 everyone goes into a very specific mindset. What it means to me is that previously, people assumed that monetization options could only exist in an App Store model. There are now many more ways to monetize content. A big advantage to me about Web3 is this idea of more decentralized and direct monetization. Crypto is just one application that solves that problem and need, but not necessarily the only way.

All of the above 3 are required as a “team” to push the industry forward. The fact that they’re so far along is what excites me now. We’re starting to see a path for people to be able to easily create content that they can monetize with an increasing user base thanks to cheaper hardware.

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?

Ironically, the 3 things that excite me the most are also the 3 most concerning to me.

  1. Hardware is still too expensive. Currently $299 is as cheap as it gets. This is also ignoring the concept of what the actual costs to produce those devices are. For XR to really get huge, either a person needs to be able to not purchase a phone for it or the headsets need to leverage existing computers people already own for the price to get closer to being an accessory rather than a “new thing”.
  2. Content creation is still too hard. Creating content that actually runs well in VR is a really, really hard problem. In fact, if you look at many of the metaverse products out there many of them say “VR coming soon”. Sadly, I have bad news for anyone holding their breath — if it doesn’t run well in non-VR then it is only an order of magnitude worse in VR.
  3. Web3 has the potential to prevent adoption. The idea of everyone wanting to have a hardware crypto wallet is laughable. Even software-based wallets are a challenge. The industry cannot afford in such an infant state to create unnecessary barriers to entry. Furthermore, it shouldn’t try to relearn the lessons from the previous monetization efforts that platforms and sectors have tried before. High friction onboard is always a recipe for bad.

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?

XR has incredible benefits for the entire spectrum of work. As some examples — training right now for jobs is modeled more off of school than anything interesting. Immersive environments where users are able to simulate tasks provide a far more fun, engaging, and impactful experience for learning how to do new work. The benefits towards industrial applications of AR are also self-evident. In a nutshell, wearing an AR device basically gives you superpowers to see through walls and overlay data you would normally refer to your phone for. This is insanely valuable in any building or manufacturing situation. In terms of more white-collar work, what XR enables is the ability to have a far greater sense of presence. We, like many companies, have experimented a lot with functioning in this new remote world the past 2 years. With XR, you’re able to really create a sense of togetherness that is fundamental to so much of the deep collaboration that is usually done in an intimate office environment.

Furthermore, the virtual room in which XR collaboration takes place is capable of not just emulating but drastically improving upon real life work. This is because the entire space is dynamic. It is eye opening the first time you see people bring in data to a virtual meeting in XR. It really makes you feel sad every time you have to be on a video call and look at a screen share.

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

My general rule of thumb is that the XR world can improve our lives whenever one of a small set of criteria is met. I define these in terms of wishes I have when I am doing a task in real life.

  1. Wouldn’t it be nice if the space I am in now was personalized and dynamic for me instead of fixed for everyone? This is something we all feel when shopping.
  2. Wouldn’t it be nice if I could try that out without any risk or cost? This is something I think we all feel when considering traveling or doing some new activity.
  3. Wouldn’t it be nice if I could do this from home without being on my phone? An easy example of this, is that watching live theater is night and day different from a recording of it. XR solves this problem (or at least does a much better job given the cost to go to the theater).
  4. Wouldn’t it be nice if I could do this with someone who isn’t physically here with me? While yes, watch parties allow you to watch TV with someone, it is not the same as being in the same “space” as them doing so. And for anything physical, even as simple as board games, an app doesn’t cut it.

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

The biggest myth I would say is that you can only work in it if you have experience in gaming. XR is not just about gaming. Gaming is just the easiest application for many people to understand. Furthermore, the industry is so young right now that what it needs the most is people coming in from diverse backgrounds and interests to help unlock new areas for the industry to expand to. This is why I love talking to startup founders in the space. Otherwise, if you just take a bunch of gaming nerds like myself and expect us to happen upon new verticals you will likely end up with just more games.

What are your “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career In The VR, AR or MR Industries?”

  1. Spend time in XR every day. Otherwise, it is too easy to fall out of touch with where the wind is blowing.
  2. Don’t get too caught up in any one application. I believe XR is going to be larger than mobile. If you get caught up in one tunnel, then you could very well be in the wrong one. Imagine if you thought mobile phones would only ever be useful for communication.
  3. Don’t just build what is cool for the sake of building cool stuff. It can be very easy to get caught up in this, compared to other industries, because there are so few end users, relatively speaking. Make sure you are constantly thinking about how what you will do will deliver real value to your users.
  4. The world isn’t just the US. Make sure you think about the limitations of XR when you take it to a global scale. The value of XR and the metaverse can only come about in a much more connected globalist world. If you think everyone is an English speaker with a $300 headset you are missing the boat.
  5. Be open to being wrong. If I can say one thing it is that the industry is young and undefined. It is basically a desert. But one with plenty of oil to be found. Sometimes though, if you can’t find any it can be better to stop digging and try somewhere else to build your kingdom. There is a huge amount of foundation to be built and it is not zero sum.

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 really do hope that XR and the metaverse will enable people to form relationships virtually that they would never otherwise have done. Honestly, some of my most meaningful friendships as a kid happened online in video games. The ability to enable 2 people on other sides of the world to share an experience together has the potential to cause a lot of downstream good in the world. It breaks down borders in a way that nothing else can.

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 🙂

Honestly, I love talking to people way outside my field the most. What I enjoy most is talking to people who I would never even know about. That is why it is hard for me to say someone in particular with whom to share a private meal with because the most interesting person is one I don’t yet know about :).

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


Makers of The Metaverse: James Kaplan Of MeetKai On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Gillian Tietz Of Sober Powered On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Have confidence. It’s hard to have confidence as a new speaker and you’re going to suck for a while. A speaker who lacks confidence will not be able to hold the attention of their audience. The best ways to develop confidence are by knowing your audience and what they want, practicing, becoming an expert in your subject, and gaining experience over time.

At some point in our lives, many of us will have to give a talk to a large group of people. What does it take to be a highly effective public speaker? How can you improve your public speaking skills? How can you overcome a fear of speaking in public? What does it take to give a very interesting and engaging public talk? In this interview series called “5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker” we are talking to successful and effective public speakers to share insights and stories from their experience. As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Gillian Tietz.

Gillian Tietz is the host of the Sober Powered podcast. When she quit drinking in 2019, she dedicated herself to learning about alcohol’s influence on the brain and how it can cause addiction. She used that knowledge to free herself from the shame she had about being unable to control her drinking. Today, she educates and empowers others to assess their relationship with alcohol. You can find Gill creating content on Instagram, YouTube, and wherever you listen to podcasts.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I grew up in the Boston area, where I still live today. A defining part of my childhood is that I was bullied for all of middle and high school. Because of that, I spent most of my time studying, hanging out with my brother, and playing video games. I enjoyed writing short stories and poems in middle school, and in high school I got really into metal music because it helped me cope with the anger and isolation I felt. The bullying prevented me from socializing much, and because of that I spent a lot of time studying. That allowed me to do really well in math and science, which led to a career in the sciences.

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

When I was drinking I believed everything that the stigma tells us- that I was a weak-willed loser who chose to drink that way and had no self-control. This led me to really hate myself. When I finally accepted I can never drink again for the rest of my life I wanted to understand why this happened to me and why it doesn’t happen to other people. I was working as a biochemist at the time, and part of my job was to keep up with the latest literature in the field. I used those skills to dive into the research on addiction and understand if this was my fault or because I lacked self-control. The more I learned, the less shame I felt. About 7–8 months into this passion project I decided I had to share this information so others could benefit. I launched my podcast that same day. I have worked hard on my podcast every day since and became skilled at marketing and getting new listeners. That led me to want to share with other podcasters who were frustrated that no one cared about their “new episode is out” posts on social media. That is how I began speaking publicly on stages.

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

I presented at Podcast Movement Evolutions in March 2022 in LA and it was my first time attending a podcasting conference in person. Highly recommend attending conferences in your industry in person, because the networking was so valuable! I met people I really look up to like Dr. Andrew Huberman, host of Huberman Lab, and I made some strong connections with other podcasters and business leaders. In between me thanking everyone for attending my talk and turning to exit the stage a line had formed to speak to me. I’ll never forget how that felt. People appreciated my “it’s about you, not me” approach.

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 met my husband in my first year of graduate school while he was in his fourth year of a PhD program. I was doing a lab rotation in the lab he worked in and he was training me and supervising my rotation. At the end of each rotation we were asked to give a “chalk talk” where you get up to the chalkboard in a large, leveled auditorium and discuss your 9 week rotation using only the chalkboard. It was intimidating for many reasons: no slides, you had to draw and speak at the same time, and these chalk talks were very popular because everyone knew how nervous the new graduate students were. I was horribly nervous that my husband, who I had only known for a couple months and was still trying to impress, would think I wasn’t smart. I memorized my presentation and asked my husband to not look at me while I gave my talk. He actually sat there looking at the floor. For the remainder of my chalk talks, I told him he couldn’t come. He has always been my biggest supporter, even from the very beginning, so he stayed home whenever I had to present. I learned that if you’re that nervous about speaking that your husband has to stay home or look at the floor, then it’s a sign you need to work on your background knowledge. Nerves are normal, but the level of nerves I felt were due to not being confident in my expertise on the topic. I learned how critical it is to prepare for questions at the end of the presentation.

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

My husband has been my biggest supporter in everything in life, but he has helped me a lot with my speaking skills. My husband has a PhD in physical chemistry and is a Principal Scientist, which is the highest level in the scientist track in Biotech. I’ve been very fortunate to have such a successful husband because each time I had to give a scientific presentation in my job as a biochemist, he was able to help me prepare. He reviews my slides with me and asks questions. His questions are often things I didn’t think of myself and helps me to understand the story I need to tell in my presentation. He still helps me in the same way whether the topic is about podcasting, social media marketing, or addiction science. Understanding the story you need to tell is key to giving a compelling presentation.

You have been blessed with great success in a career path that can be challenging and intimidating. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?

You’re going to suck for a while and that’s okay. The only way to get better is to give weak presentations where you are so nervous you might throw up on the audience, but you make it through mostly okay. Each time you give a presentation, you get a little bit more comfortable. You have to accept that the only way to get better at speaking is by speaking. I was a nervous speaker for years and avoided presenting at all costs. It wasn’t until I realized it was an important skill that I wanted to develop that I stopped avoiding opportunities and actually started volunteering for them. This is your sign to volunteer or say yes to the next speaking opportunity you have. Feel free to reach out and tell me how it went too!

What drives you to get up everyday and give your talks? What is the main empowering message that you aim to share with the world?

I feel that I have a unique perspective. I spend nearly all of my time learning about podcasting, marketing, and addiction science. I know not everyone has that luxury, so I feel compelled to share my learnings and my perspective with the world. I want people to understand that as long as they want something badly enough, they can do it. I want to help podcasters switch their mindset from follow me, like my posts, listen to my podcast, and give me your money to, how can I help my audience? What do they need to know to succeed? How can I best spread this message to more people? I want to help people struggling with alcohol realize what’s holding them back from fully accepting that they need to get sober. Often, we say we want to get sober, when in reality we just want to drink without the consequences.

You have such impressive work. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Where do you see yourself heading from here?

I’m continuing to grow my podcast, which is currently in the top 100 on the mental health charts in several countries. I have aspirations to write a book someday about everything I have learned about addiction to help others get sober and stay sober. I am presenting at some more conferences on podcasting, and will continue seeking out these opportunities. I’m going back to grad school in the fall to get my masters in addiction counseling and co-occurring disorders. My goal is to work at a treatment center, and I think adding counseling expertise to my biochemistry background would further my goal of becoming known as an expert in my field. That is my overall goal, to become known as an expert in addiction, and everything I do is with that in mind.

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

“You will face many defeats in life, but never let yourself be defeated.” -Maya Angelou

It’s okay to fail or suck at something, as long as you don’t give up. When I got sober I started adopting a new mindset of “why not me?”. Even if I fail or I don’t get chosen for an opportunity, I keep trying. The only failure is in giving up and defeating yourself. When I launched my podcast, I had 0 followers and only 9 people listened on launch day (me and my mom were a few of the listens…), but I kept working at it because I didn’t really see any reason why people wouldn’t want to listen to it. When things get hard and you want to quit, remind yourself that successful people aren’t successful because they got lucky. They’re successful because they kept going when it was hard. When everyone else quit, they persevered because they wanted it badly enough.

Ok, thank you for all that. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker?” Please share a story or example for each.

  1. It’s about them, not you. Your audience is there to learn something very specific from you. Often, presenters feel that they need to qualify themselves at the beginning of their talk and will take precious minutes away from the information they are trying to deliver to instead spend it on an introduction of who they are and why they are amazing. The best way to qualify yourself is through the information that you share. An effective public speaker does not need to convince the audience that they are an expert in their topic, instead they show that they are an expert throughout the presentation.
  2. Be direct and clear. Get to the point and get to it quickly. An effective speaker knows what information is critical to their talk and what is just filler or fluff. Including too much information (which I have been guilty of!) or going off on a tangent distracts your audience and prevents them from fully internalizing your message. When you’re reviewing your outline or slides, ask yourself “what is the purpose of this slide and how does it fit in with the overall point?”. If you can’t immediately identify how that slide fits, then cut it out.
  3. Have confidence. It’s hard to have confidence as a new speaker and you’re going to suck for a while. A speaker who lacks confidence will not be able to hold the attention of their audience. The best ways to develop confidence are by knowing your audience and what they want, practicing, becoming an expert in your subject, and gaining experience over time.
  4. Humility. The best speakers find a balance between confidence and humility. Nothing ruins a talk and makes the audience tune out like an arrogant speaker. Similar to my first point, resist the urge to qualify yourself or brag about your accomplishments. The best way to maintain the balance between confidence and humility is by keeping your talk audience focused. Keep any introduction about yourself limited to 1 slide or 2 minutes max and limit the amount of stories you tell about your success. Instead of focusing on your success and how amazing you are, focus on the lesson learned from the success and teaching that lesson to your audience.
  5. Relatability. A highly effective public speaker is someone that others can relate to. If you’re sharing about your success in business, but I believe you had it easy and don’t understand my struggles, then I’m not going to completely engage in your talk. You stay relatable and accessible by never forgetting where you came from. When I speak about addiction, I never forget how hard it was for me to get sober and stay sober. When I speak about podcasting, I never forget when I felt frustrated that I had no followers, and no one would listen to my podcast. When I speak about science, I never forget when I was starting out and struggled to fully understand why we were pursuing that study and how it fit into our overall goal.

As you know, many people are terrified of speaking in public. Can you give some of your advice about how to overcome this fear?

The best way to become more comfortable speaking is by deeply understanding your topic. The times where I felt the most nervous about speaking were when I didn’t feel confident that I could answer questions. Many of my presentations have been in a scientific environment where I have been well aware that I was not the most knowledgeable person in the room. My worst talks happened when I felt that everything I knew was already included in my presentation and hoped we wouldn’t have time for questions. If you feel nervous about getting up and speaking, then the best thing you can do is spend time learning and preparing for questions. Like I do with my husband, you could share your slides or outline with a trusted friend or colleague and have them ask you questions. That will give you a better idea of what someone may ask you.

You are a person of huge 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?

More compassion. We are all different and we only understand our own experiences. The stigma exists because most people are able to decide how much they want to drink, drink that amount, and move on with their lives. They assume everyone has the same experience, so therefore problem drinkers just choose to go overboard or have a lack of control. Through my work in the sober community, I have learned to have compassion for people that have different experiences than I do. If the world could have a little bit more compassion for people in different situations, it would be a better, less judgmental place. We are all different and our brains don’t work in the same way. Someone isn’t bad or weak because they are different from you, they may have never learned coping skills, their brain may be more sensitive to rewards, or they may feel emotions more intensely than you do. Compassion isn’t giving people an excuse, it is simply not assuming everyone’s brain works the same way yours does. Compassion encourages people to get better, where judgment only encourages shame.

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!

Matt Heafy from Trivium. Trivium’s music has helped me through the darkest times in my life. I discovered them when I was 16 and listening to them helped me distract myself when I was bullied. I developed PTSD at 18 from a traumatic event and could not sleep because of flashbacks and nightmares. I would lie in my bed every night and listen to a full album of Trivium’s (Shogun) and by the time it finished I would usually be able to sleep. At the end of my drinking, I’d stay awake by myself and listen to Trivium and cry. I have been a super fan of Matt Heafy and Trivium for most of my life. Their music is healing.

Are you on social media? How can our readers follow you online?

If you search for Sober Powered, you will find me. That’s my website, Instagram, Facebook group, YouTube channel, and my podcast can be found wherever you listen to podcasts.

This was so informative, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

Thank you so much for allowing me to share!


Gillian Tietz Of Sober Powered On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Iryna Kidyba Of Simple On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Good knowledge of the material, personal interest in the topic, eye and voice contact with the listener, creative visualization of your speech, and a little humour.

At some point in our lives, many of us will have to give a talk to a large group of people. What does it take to be a highly effective public speaker? How can you improve your public speaking skills? How can you overcome a fear of speaking in public? What does it take to give a very interesting and engaging public talk? In this interview series called “5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker” we are talking to successful and effective public speakers to share insights and stories from their experience. As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Iryna Kidyba.

Iryna Kidyba is a financial specialist at Simple. She graduated from Kyiv National Economic University in 2015 with a master’s degree in financial markets. After that, Ira worked in several international companies, where she gained practical experience in stock market trading. She also has risk management skills in a big European Forex broker. Now Iryna heads the dealing department at Simple. She wants to share her experience with you.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

Sure. I became interested in the fascinating financial world already in middle school. That’s why after graduating from school I went to study at Kyiv National Economic University. There I had 5 interesting years of immersion in economic theories. After graduating with a red diploma, I went to gain practical experience in well-known international companies. The first years of work were quite difficult. But thanks to my efforts and fruitful work, I have achieved significant results over these 7 years.

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

My father. He is a lecturer in economics at Kyiv National University of Economics. It so happened that my dreams coincided with his. He prepared me for this since childhood, and I was a very diligent student. I was very lucky with my father.

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

The most interesting was 2017 when the first mass hype of cryptocurrency took place. People were selling apartments and taking big loans just to buy Bitcoin. We turned down many customers and saved their money because in 2018 Bitcoin collapsed from $20,000 to $3,000. Instead, we advised them to buy Tesla stocks, which showed significant growth in 2019.

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 traded the Turkish lira against the US dollar during political tensions between the authorities of the two countries in 2016. As a result, the lira fell sharply, and I lost a lot of company money. After that, I never traded again during political turmoil.

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?

In addition to my dad, my first boss, Victor, also helped me a lot. He was a very sensitive mentor and always accompanied me on difficult tasks. I inherited invaluable experience from him and then reached current heights thanks to this. Thanks a lot to him

You have been blessed with great success in a career path that can be challenging and intimidating. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?

Everyone has failures, and I also had them. This is a necessary part of success. Do not be afraid of mistakes, the main thing is to be assertive and get up after each fall. This is the only way to gain experience.

What drives you to get up everyday and give your talks? What is the main empowering message that you aim to share with the world?

I want to show by my example that anything is possible. Everyone can achieve their goals with proper perseverance. My story is nothing special, there are millions of such stories. But they still need to be told to new young people who are just coming to life and starting their way into the world.

You have such impressive work. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Where do you see yourself heading from here?

We are currently working in two innovative areas. These are DeFi and NFT. Decentralized finance is the future of our outdated economic system. Centralized banks will be a thing of the past. Also, in 5 years, we will keep all our documents as property rights or driver’s licenses in the form of NFT.

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

“Never say never”. No one could have imagined that Russia would start a full-scale war with Ukraine and our lives would change once and for all after February 24, 2022. The so-called Black Swan can always happen with the ensuing consequences. Plan B must always be prepared.

Ok, thank you for all that. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker?” Please share a story or example for each.

Good knowledge of the material, personal interest in the topic, eye and voice contact with the listener, creative visualization of your speech, and a little humour.

As you know, many people are terrified of speaking in public. Can you give some of your advice about how to overcome this fear?

Speak first in front of a mirror, then in front of relatives or friends. Then you can try to perform in front of strangers on the street. Also, record yourself on video and analyse afterward. Everything comes with practice and experience.

You are a person of huge 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?

Now I am interested in eco-activism and garbage sorting. This topic has become fashionable in Ukraine last years and is very common in Western Europe. But the United States and China still do not sort, despite the fact that they are the largest producers of garbage in the world. I want to convey the importance of this process to their residents.

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!

I would like to have lunch with the president of Ukraine — Vladimir Zelensky, as he is my idol.

Are you on social media? How can our readers follow you online?

https://www.facebook.com/Simpleinvest-104523255489895

This was so informative, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!


Iryna Kidyba Of Simple On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Meet The Disruptors: Blake Hutchison Of Flippa On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your…

Meet The Disruptors: Blake Hutchison Of Flippa On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Do things today, not tomorrow. It’s so easy to complete something tomorrow. The problem with that, is you could have learned faster or progressed more if you just did it when the opportunity first presented itself.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Blake Hutchison, CEO of Flippa.

Blake is the CEO of Flippa, the #1 marketplace to buy and sell sites, stores, apps and online businesses. Blake has worked on leadership teams assisting in fast growth businesses including Xero and Luxury Escapes. Among his start up experience, he also founded a company…he then used Flippa to sell the business.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I’ve worked in growth, business development and leadership roles over nearly 20 years. I’ve always enjoyed the challenge of growing divisions, channels and businesses but more pertinently, I absolutely love building something that customers get real value from. This passion led me to Flippa where we enable the exit and empower business ownership for thousands of business owners, investors and operators each year.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

Businesses have been bought and sold for 100’s of years yet the experience for small business owners and digital asset operators has not only been neglected, it’s lacked liquidity, access and transparency.

We are building the investment bank for the 99% and building sophisticated valuation, negotiation and transaction functionality traditionally reserved for the 1%…making the opportunity to exit a possibility for 100’s of millions of site, store and app owners all over the world.

Regardless of size, from $5,000 to $50M, Flippa is opening up a world of possibility, usually reserved for the well heeled and well networked.

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 must say, I can’t think of a funny mistake but I can certainly reflect on a funny story…I once pretended to be an external PR company representing a start up, my own startup, in order to secure a story. Journalists are more inclined to listen when it’s a third party…so I sold the firm’s credentials, pitched this exciting start-up (my own) and a specific concept and won some media coverage. I even made up a pseudonym. Anything to win coverage…

I learned that the hustle always works…or at least it has some great lessons.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

Whenever I’ve labeled people mentors they haven’t added a huge amount of value. It felt a little forced. Instead, I’ve tried to lean in and surround myself with people I trust, that I feel are equally curious and that want to achieve atypical impact.

Certain members of the Flippa board have been instrumental as a sounding board. Previous leaders at world class companies like Lonely Planet, Xero and Luxury Escapes were equally valuable for differing reasons. Finally, the level headedness of a specific investor (and friend) in my own start-up got me through to the other side. In that case, the impact was awesome. They stood by my side as the venture unraveled and I’m forever indebted.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

It’s usually less good when the switching costs are too high or alternatively, when the disruption is good for some but not for most.

Successful disruptors build better offerings that benefit more people. When they do, we embrace them.

Unfortunately disruption has become so sought after by entrepreneurs chasing greatness rather than customer value that in some cases you end up with a disaster. The best example I can think of is Theranos where the idea of disrupting the healthcare industry became destructive and dangerous. There’s certain industries that are more immune to disruption than others and often for good reason. Examples include the health care system and the judicial system.

Can you share five of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

1. Don’t peak when you are 18. Haha. I just love this. We put so much emphasis on being great young. Too many examples to run through.

2. Do things today, not tomorrow. It’s so easy to complete something tomorrow. The problem with that, is you could have learned faster or progressed more if you just did it when the opportunity first presented itself.

3. Hire for urgency. I’m still trying to figure out how to interview for this. Most people who apply for jobs are smart. They can do the job. The question is can they do the job quickly…with a sense of urgency.. I’ve hired some ludicrously clever people who just can’t get things done.

4. Be bold in your decision making. Slow decision making can ruin an organization and most of the time it’s either as a result of fear or misunderstanding. We’ve delayed product decisions due to misunderstanding and we’ve tended to be better off when we’ve just gone for it.

5. Reward your best talent. We almost lost a key member of staff recently. They resigned. Within minutes I reset their compensation plan and retained them. It’s proven to be the right decision.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

It’s going to be huge. We are building an entirely new way to buy and sell. The new negotiation hub rewrites the rules. Instant buyer matches are fed to you directly. You can organize buyers and shortlist preferred buyers. You can arrange and host video calls. You can sync discussions with WhatsApp. You can invite third parties and you can populate a data room. It’s the investment bank for the 99%.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

My favorite podcast is Business Wars. It really digs into how the outcome of these battles shape what we buy and how we live and there are always lessons learned in their decision making processes.

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

Don’t peak when you’re 18. Life is a marathon not a sprint.

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. 🙂

Every day I hear another story of another individual changing paths, finding a new beginning, and taking control of their future. It’s an exciting movement but I do believe that the path to independence and financial security comes from doing what you want, taking calculated risks and finding a passion.

How can our readers follow you online?

Connect with me on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/blakehutchison/

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


Meet The Disruptors: Blake Hutchison Of Flippa On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Meet The Disruptors: BaseNote On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

“Know your limits” — Every new thing that you take on adds a certain level of stress to your life. It’s crucial to understand how much stress you can handle and how much stress you’re agreeing to take on. It’s fantastic to take on new challenges at work but you have to ensure it’s not going to push you over your limit which will cause you to fail and set you back. Knowing exactly when and how hard to push is probably the biggest lever you can have in growing your career.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mike, Mick, and Nic of BaseNote.

Music tech startup BaseNote has an ambitious goal: to redefine how musicians fund their work. Through the BaseNote app, fans can purchase investments in their favorite artists, directly funding the creation of new music. Unlike donation-based crowdfunding programs, like Kickstarter or Patreon, BaseNote allows investors to share in the upside by entitling them to a portion of the artists’ streaming royalties. This incentivizes fans to spread the word about the musicians they support, generating more royalties for both shareholders and artists.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

We are the three co-founders of BaseNote, Mike, Mick, and Nic. We are all life-long music fans, attending copious festivals and live music events, and we have had the intention for years to start a company in the music space to improve outcomes for artists. Mike and Mick met in grad school, where they worked in the same lab. Mike then went to work for Snapchat, and Mick followed shortly after. There, Mike worked on the Snapchat camera team, while Mick joined the hardware team working on Spectacles, Snapchat’s camera sunglasses product. Nic was an early Snapchat employee working on the Android app, and around this time he transferred to the same hardware team where he and Mick worked together for several years.

We each took varied career paths since that time, but we always kept sight of our intention to start an artist-focused company at the intersection of music and technology. Over the last several years, there’s been an acceleration in the market trends of plummeting costs of production and distribution, a shakeup in the traditional methods of breaking new acts and finding a fanbase, and fanbases waking up to some of the abuses in the industry and wanting to do something about it. These trends aligned to make it the right time to start our company, and in early 2021 we kicked off our journey to redefine the way music is funded.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

Mick: For the past 100 years, the record deal has remained largely unchanged. The options available to artists to fund their careers are either to pay for everything themselves up-front, or to turn to a record label to provide funding. Label deals are heavily tilted in favor of the label, which is a relic of the days when the label had to physically produce and distribute records. Even today, many artists who sign a record deal will never see a cent of revenue from their share of the label deal beyond the initial advance. However, most artists don’t have the freedom to go it alone and are forced to take that deal.

Our path is to reimagine the way music is funded in the first place. While music is a capital-intensive business, there are a myriad of middlemen that you have to work with as an artist that make things much more expensive than it needs to be. We aim to disintermediate the process, and go directly to the fans to fund your art; ultimately, that’s where the money driving record profits for record labels is coming from anyway.

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?

Mick: In our very early days, it was unclear which workstream was going to be on the critical path to launch and we placed a high priority on refining our brand identity. A friend of ours recommended that we contract with a design agency, but in the interest of time and money we instead decided to outsource the project to a competition-based online design platform. We quickly discovered that you get what you pay for, and the quality of candidate logos we received was underwhelming. As soon as we gave feedback to one designer, every other designer would copy that feedback in hopes of winning!

We subsequently engaged with a design studio out of Los Angeles, and they delivered us a thoughtful, exciting brand that we couldn’t be happier with. The lesson learned is that in some industries there is no substitute for working with the professionals. The funny part is that now that we are familiar with the competition-style of work product we notice it everywhere, out in the world and online!

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

Mick: I’ve been lucky to have a lot of mentors throughout my life but the one that stands out the most is my uncle who spent a lot of time on the phone with me when I first got started in tech. He mentored me through interviewing, evaluating job offers, and eventually through some big decisions at work. He would always have great insights and frameworks to guide me. For example, my wisdom on making decisions came from him. He focused on the framework and structure of decision making so that I would be better at that long term and not only focus on the here and now.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

Mick: ‘Disruption’ has definitely become a buzzword, but I think a good definition is that it represents a rapid shift in the way things are done in an industry. Crucially, there’s no content in that definition that speaks to whether an industry should change, and how. So, when you think about disruption you really need to put it into the context of the industry, and whether there is a disconnect between the current needs of the industry and who the industry is serving.

A prime example of needed disruption is Uber. My personal opinions on their conduct aside, the reason they took off like they did was because they identified a very clear disconnect between what people wanted and what the market offered. Pre-Uber, calling a cab was a miserable experience for many, and Uber offered a solution. Those instances where the stakeholders of an industry aren’t having their needs met are when the term ‘ripe for disruption’ comes in, and that’s what we see in the music industry.

A counter-example, in my opinion, would be what’s happening in the crypto space. First with blockchain, and now with NFTs, solutions are being peddled that are certainly different ways of doing things, but it’s not clear that it’s going to meet the needs of key stakeholders in new ways, or that it’s the best way to meet those needs. In those cases, you end up with a solution in search of a problem, and I think the crypto space is still looking for that disconnect that they can uniquely solve to really achieve mainstream appeal.

Nic: Crypto is a really interesting example, especially in the music royalties space. I think in order to “successfully disrupt” something, you need to first have a deep understanding of how the existing system works, and the nature of its failings. It’s well known that tracking music royalties can be extremely complicated. There are companies out there that claim to solve these problems through technology (blockchain or otherwise). But the issue is that royalty tracking is hard because of legal and organizational constructs, not technical ones. There are different royalties coming in from different types of copyrights, and many different organizations that collect and administer these royalties. Copyright laws vary from country to country (royalty chains look different in the US vs the UK vs China, as examples). And you’ve got intermediaries like labels and distributors, who each do things slightly differently. So, if a company claims to solve this by tracking royalties on the blockchain, I feel that this betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the problem: the difficulty isn’t in keeping track of numbers, it’s the knowledge, logistical, and legal work needed to plug into all of these existing organizations.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

Mick: “Put on your own oxygen mask first.” — I’ve always been the type to take on as much as I could handle, and then maybe one or two more things. Naturally, I didn’t tend to get as much sleep as I should or have or have the time to take care of myself than I should. That all came to a head for me in the last year or two; between the pandemic, having a baby, starting a company, my wife finishing her doctorate, and several interstate moves, I hit a point where there wasn’t enough coffee in the world to keep my productivity up. I had to do a bit of a reset, but now I try to make sure I build in the time and focus I need to keep myself on track. There’s always the temptation to push longer and harder to put out the fire of the day, but you have to tend to yourself before you tend to your responsibilities if you want to maintain a sustainable output.

Mike: “Know your limits” — Every new thing that you take on adds a certain level of stress to your life. It’s crucial to understand how much stress you can handle and how much stress you’re agreeing to take on. It’s fantastic to take on new challenges at work but you have to ensure it’s not going to push you over your limit which will cause you to fail and set you back. Knowing exactly when and how hard to push is probably the biggest lever you can have in growing your career.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

Nic: We’re really excited about the concept of investing as a vehicle for fan engagement and community. When the app goes live, the social features are going to be fairly lightweight, but we plan on rapidly introducing new ways for investors to engage with the artists they love (both in-app, and in the real world).

Mick: We’re starting with music, but we see this paradigm shift in how art is funded as being relevant for all creative media. We’d like to expand our offering to film, writing, stage, any medium where you can build a fanbase that believes in your art.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

Mick: I was given Voltaire’s Candide when I was in high school, and I re-read it every year or so. It has a lot to say about how we interpret a world full of chaos, misfortune, and injustice, and makes the case for focusing on doing what we can for the people in our lives.

Mike: Three or four years ago, I read “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman and “The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World” by Niall Ferguson, both of these books have been instrumental in forming my views around making investments. “Thinking, Fast and Slow” does a fantastic job of helping guide the decision maker through why they have certain intuition and when to be skeptical of them. For “The Ascent of Money”, it slowly builds from before money to current financial markets which is fundamental for being able to judge different investment strategies.

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

Mike: There is no such thing as a bad decision but people have a bad decision making process which makes them regret decisions down the line. Almost everyone can look at the pros and cons of a decision and pick the better decision. However, many people don’t invest enough time into finding the pros and cons of a choice and then later say “Oh, well I should have known about X and Y” which makes them think they made a bad decision.

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. 🙂

Nic: If we look at the history of art, there’s a pattern that art financing has been controlled by a select few (royalty, aristocrats, churches, and, in the modern age, media executives). Unquestionably, this has produced many great works. But how many aspiring artists failed to reach their potential because their concepts were ahead of their time, and they failed to connect with the right patrons?

BaseNote is the democratization of art financing. When anyone can open up their phone and directly invest in an artist’s success, new genres of art can find their footing. We want to see a future where the creative class is expansive, financially independent, and empowered to champion bold new ideas. BaseNote is our first step towards that future.

How can our readers follow you online?

https://basenoteapp.com/

Instagram: @basenoteappofficial

Facebook: @BaseNoteApp

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


Meet The Disruptors: BaseNote On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Meet The Disruptors: Bear Walker On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Perfection is another form of fear — I’ve always been a perfectionist, which I’ve found, comes with insecurity. When something goes wrong, I’m hard on myself and attribute it to not giving my all. I’m working on striking a balance between maintaining quality and standards in what I do and pushing forward to be the best in the business, while also recognizing when that pursuit of perfection manifests itself as fear of failure.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Bear Walker.

Bear Walker is Founder and CEO of Bear Walker Industries — an internationally renowned skateboard design and manufacturing company specializing in hand-crafted and carved wood skateboards that are inspired by art and pop culture. Combining his expertise in woodworking with a passion for skateboarding, pop culture, and art, Walker creates one-of-a-kind designs all while driving the overall vision of Bear Walker Industries.

Walker’s experience in woodworking started at a young age, helping his father build houses. Later realizing his passion for design and riding, Walker created his first skateboard design as part of a senior project at Clemson University, and set out to push the boundaries of design and functionality.

Recognizing a gap in the market, Walker launched Bear Walker in 2017, grounded in authentic skate traditions, but customized with art and pop-culture references unique only to his work. Now, the brand is on a mission to create truly skateable, high quality works of art through boards that are meticulously crafted and feature a patented carved-out grip that took five years to perfect.

Functional and collectible, Walker’s attention to detail and innovative designs quickly caught the attention of brands and celebrities. Today, Walker partners with brands ranging from Marvel and Pokemon to the NBA and more, designing customized limited-edition collections that appeal to skaters, collectors, and more.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I graduated from Clemson University in 2011 with a degree in graphic design. This was right after the market crash, so I struggled to find a job that I enjoyed and matched up with what I was passionate about — skate, art, design, and woodworking. For a while, I bounced around from job to job, until I discovered how to carve out designs in skateboards to create friction for board grips. At first, I just made boards for myself, but eventually, I was getting questions from friends and even strangers asking where I got the boards and wanting to buy one. This was the inspiration behind Bear Walker Industries. Fast forward ten years, and I’ve turned that original design into a patented gripping surface that we’re not only using on our boards but also licensing out, establishing us as an industry innovator. We currently create custom boards for consumers and celebrities and release limited-edition skateboard collections with some of the world’s biggest brands, including Pokémon, Marvel, and the NBA. The boards are Made in America, and I strive every day to create an innovative work environment that people are excited to be part of.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

We’re pushing the boundaries of what a skateboard can be by fusing art and design in a new way and creating a new style of grip. We’ve made a uniquely innovative product, to the degree that when I initially entered the market, I received pushback from traditional shops and the skate community because what I was doing had never been done before. This forced me to create my own sales channels and eventually, I went fully direct-to-consumer. Doing this allowed us to position Bear Walker products as premium and one-of-a-kind collectibles, making the uniqueness a selling point.

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 I was building my first shop, I had limited resources. One day, I was using a nail gun that didn’t have a safety on it and nailed my fingers together. While it wasn’t funny at the time, it definitely taught me that there needed to be processes and procedures in place, and that’s something I’ve really focused on as of late.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

My father has been my biggest personal mentor, and Daniel Arsham has been my biggest professional inspiration. My father started from nothing and built a business from the ground up making custom homes. He was always committed to doing things correctly and never compromised, even if it meant a task would be more difficult or expensive. He always stuck to his values, and he’s one of the best people I know. Moreover, Daniel is my favorite artist, and I recognize myself in him. He creates disruptive art through collaborations and high-end collectibles, similar to what I do. Whenever I’m stuck on a decision of which path to take, I like to look at his journey and business and use it as a guiding light.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

As an artist creating something new, you’re always the first to market with your design, so you’re regarded as an industry expert and disruptor in what you’re creating. That feeling is a great motivator and gives you a sense of pride in what you’re doing. However, there is an inherent negative when you are new to something. You have to prove yourself and prove to others that the product you are creating is unique, and is better than the old way of doing things.

Can you share five of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

  • If it was easy, everyone would do it — What I’ve learned over the years of running a business is that there will always be extreme highs and extreme lows. It’s important to focus on the highs of a business and all of the great things we accomplish, and not let the road bumps or bad days ruin those highs. It’s all about managing the stress that comes with trying to grow a business and not allowing those extreme factors to affect you. At the end of the day, that’s the nature of running a business, and if the low lows didn’t come with it, there would be a lot more people doing what I’m doing.
  • Perfection is another form of fear — I’ve always been a perfectionist, which I’ve found, comes with insecurity. When something goes wrong, I’m hard on myself and attribute it to not giving my all. I’m working on striking a balance between maintaining quality and standards in what I do and pushing forward to be the best in the business, while also recognizing when that pursuit of perfection manifests itself as fear of failure.
  • Comfort is the enemy of progress — When I first started Bear Walker Industries, I never imagined it would be where it is today. It’s a strange feeling to surpass your goals, and it’s easy to become complacent with the success because you feel as if you’ve accomplished what you set out to do. When that happens, you need to get out of your comfort zone again and set new goals, so you are always working to be better.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

Honestly, I feel like I’m just getting started. As a company, we have recently established a reputation in the industry, which has given us the opportunity to continue to push the boundaries on a lot of our ideas and innovation. I want to expand from just selling skateboards and collectibles, to having apparel and being known as a lifestyle brand. I want to continue to be seen as an industry leader and have the opportunity to speak to other entrepreneurs and encourage them to pursue their dreams. More recently, I have become interested in NFTs and the Metaverse, and am brainstorming ways Bear Walker Industries can uniquely fit into that market. Overall, we want to continue to make cool shit and be the best at it.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

As a designer, I am constantly working to try and push myself and the boundaries of the industry. When I do have free time, I prefer to use it as a reset and turn off my brain. One of my favorite things to do is play video games with my nephew. This gives me the ability to recharge and set myself up for further success.

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

I suffer from anxiety, and as the CEO and Founder of a growing company, it seems like there is always a career-ending emergency or a fire to put out, or what my partner and I like to call a “near-death experience” for the company. When these instances arise, I think about my favorite mantra, “you may not know the answer, but you’re smart enough to figure it out.” Over the years, I’ve overcome challenges that didn’t seem “survivable.” Those experiences have proven to me that I do have the answers, and to always keep pushing forward no matter what.

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

I would like to inspire others to take their passions and build something tangible. I think a lot of the time, life gets in the way and sometimes our passions can fall to the wayside. When you’re passionate about a project or idea and are willing to struggle for five or ten years to build something you love at the end of the day, then do it. My business was not born overnight. I started this journey back in 2011 and have worked really hard to build Bear Walker Industries to what it is today. Looking back on everything, even the previously mentioned “near death experiences,” I’m glad I never gave up. It’s worth it.

How can our readers follow you online?

Readers can visit the Bear Walker website, www.bearwalker.com, to view our custom boards and gear. They can also follow along on Instagram at @bearwalkerofficial.

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


Meet The Disruptors: Bear Walker On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Adi Patil Of Start It Up NYC & Rriter: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

You must personalize your brand-building effort or brand if you want it to be effective. It’s critical to give your brand a personality. Allow customers to see and experience your brand’s entire personality. Consider your brand as something that customers want to associate with, much as their beloved vehicles, cellphones, or laptops.

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

Adi is the Co-founder and CMO of Start It Up NYC and Co-CEO of Rriter.com. He is a seasoned digital marketing and software development executive, frequent key-note speaker, and prominent figure in the US tech-marketing ecosystem.

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

After working corporate for about four years, I thought of building something that I can call mine. Luckily I met my co-founder Nico Hodel when I was in the right frame of mind for it, and the rest is history.

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

My co-founder Nico Hodel and I were both excited and desperate for clients when we founded Start It Up NYC. We were able to obtain a large number of those rather quickly, but at a cost that would take an excessive length of time. Not only that but our services were placed in a rather inexpensive pricing bracket. As a result, when people suggested us, they made sure to mention our pricing. It took us a long time to figure out how to price our services appropriately and start making a decent profit. Fortunately, we were able to make that change and we are still going strong after four years in business. However, we made the early mistake of undercharging for our services.

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

Ah, I wouldn’t want to take anything away from others that have a rough journey but we do fall under the same umbrella. Creating a brand that gathers attention in probably the most competitive city in the world — New York, can’t come easy. We started out of a loft that we lived in, with no funds, and today we have a company with a team that earns three figures, with no external investment taken. The story seems simple — two friends that happened to be roommates, came up with an idea and launched a company, and scaled it. But the journey, phew, too long to be covered in this answer. All I can say is, that it was a lot of smart work, networking, learning, and manifesting, that went into it.

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

I think all of our clients are doing some exciting work with us. But there is this one project we have been particularly working on since the last year or so, and we still have another phase of mobile app development to go. It is a social networking app for those that are or want to work on the 17 sustainable development goals set by the UN. That’s all I am permitted to say as of now, but well, the app launches in September, and we are excited to see the response and work on marketing post this development phase.

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?

It’s quite simple. Brand Marketing takes place when you want to promote and establish the brand’s image and identity. Product Marketing is when you want to run campaigns and deliver messaging specific to a product in order to generate conversions.

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?

Depending on your target audience, whether you think of a technology company like Apple, or a consumer-facing clothing line like Zara which is for everyone, or Chanel which is for the ones that can afford some luxury, consumers know what to expect from these brands, and they will try and buy multiple products these brands launch.

Once you build a brand image and identity, your products and services are very much awaited by your target audience. If I hang a pair of my jeans in a Zara store, I know it will sell for the right price. If I hang it in a random clothing shop, it may not. The focus should always be on building a brand so no matter what business you are into, you can achieve longevity.

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

1. Establish Your Brand.

The first step in developing a brand is to define it. This is a crucial phase since it determines what your brand’s true values are. Create a checklist of your company’s fundamental strengths while developing your brand. Similarly, when developing your personal brand, you should consider your abilities and expertise, particularly those that stand out. Similarly, you must understand what your brand represents and what is crucial to your brand (brand values). Your values should demonstrate that you are contributing to consumers’ environmental, social, and economic well-being in some way. Some of these crucial factors of brand building may not occur to you until later.

2. Set Your Brand Apart and Position It.

You must define your brand before you begin constructing it in order to draw attention and stand out from the competition. To set your brand apart, you must develop a distinct advantage in the minds of consumers, rather than simply attracting attention with brand-building colors, logos, or other surface components. Once you’ve come up with a distinct value proposition, you’ll need to apply a smart branding strategy to position your brand in such a way that consumers can perceive and appreciate its superior value to competing brands.

3. Create and Promote Your Brand.

As I previously stated, brand building is not a one-time event. It takes time and effort to develop a distinct and powerful personal or corporate brand. You must constantly be reinforcing your values and skills by taking on new tasks and assignments that will provide you with greater exposure in order to grow your personal brand. To build a voice for your personal or corporate brand, you can use promotional channels, blogs, forums, and social media (LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook).

When creating your brand, you should also try to create a personality for it (what people know, think, and say about you). This is what makes people want to connect with and engage with your brand. The truth is that if you follow through on your plans, you will be successful.

4. Make your brand unique.

You must personalize your brand-building effort or brand if you want it to be effective. It’s critical to give your brand a personality. Allow customers to see and experience your brand’s entire personality. Consider your brand as something that customers want to associate with, much as their beloved vehicles, cellphones, or laptops.

Customers should be invited to be co-creators of brand values as you engage in brand-building so that they feel like they own it and can relate to it. Consumer-brand engagement is encouraged by top brands tailoring products to match the requirements and tastes of customers. When you customize your brand, you give customers a reason to want to buy it.

5. Evaluate Your Brand.

Your brand isn’t static; it will go through a variety of emotions over the course of its existence. Your brand will either strengthen, remain inactive, or fade over time, depending on your brand tactics. New events, changes, and circumstances in the brand cycle present challenges and opportunities to increase the value of your brand or re-establish it. All of these possibilities should inspire you to take control of your brand-building efforts.

As your brand becomes more well-known, so do the duties and expectations that come with it. Reviewing your actions and analyzing your results using measures like brand awareness and engagement levels is the greatest method to ensure brand growth. Regular reviews will be beneficial.

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

Can’t help but give this one to Amazon. It is the biggest supermarket in the world. Especially if you look at their prime feature — Amazon Prime, products are trusted simply on the basis of the fact that they are drop shipped by the Amazon brand and stored in their warehouses. Yes, product reviews do matter, but as an umbrella, Amazon has the most amazing branding, delivery times, service, and customer satisfaction. No matter what else the brand launches, whether it’s their audio platform audible, or prime video for movies and shows, it’s all trusted and used by everyone, globally.

To replicate what Amazon did, one must provide seamless service, have great communication, and marketing that just delivers messaging around the trustworthiness of the brand. Of course, that is a mountain of a task to take on, but the results are as big!

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

It has all to do with sales, yes, but also shareability of the brand, the response of the customers, and taking a look at how long a customer is taking while considering your brand. How much time are people spending viewing your material or are they just ignoring it? A lot of these questions have to be answered and taken into consideration.

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

Oh, a huge role! As I mentioned in the previous answer, your brand has to win the shareability quotient. People should want to share how amazing your brand is on all platforms. As for you, social media is a great place to get creative and share your message through amazing designs and photography. Show off your brand identity in a way that resonates with your audience.

Successful social media campaigns can be good enough to generate a big volume of sales consistently.

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. 🙂

In the great scheme of things, I believe education is crucial. There are many people in the world who do not receive a proper education. I’d like to encourage people to establish more free programs and to support any children who are eligible for college scholarships. We all know that we can’t rely just on the government; we must continually contribute back in order to improve everyone’s standard of living and encourage growth.

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

“Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose.”– Lyndon B. Johnson

I’ve been through a lot in my life, from my parents getting divorced to losing both of them at a young age. I believe that focusing on today and the future has allowed me to see life in a more optimistic light. Maintaining positive intent on a daily basis is critical to overcoming life’s ongoing pain points. Especially if you have recently lost loved ones. Loss is both personal and irreversible.

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

Leonardo Dicaprio. We don’t belong to similar fields at all. But I would love to get to know how he finds time for so many social causes, and how it compartmentalizes his life between the two. He is doing so much for the oceans. Secondly, I do like his movies, and I am a fan.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Linkedin would be best — https://www.linkedin.com/in/adip/

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


Adi Patil Of Start It Up NYC & Rriter: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Making Something From Nothing: Jerry Kolber Of ATOMIC ENTERTAINMENT GROUP On How To Go From Idea To…

Making Something From Nothing: Jerry Kolber Of ATOMIC ENTERTAINMENT GROUP On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Be PATIENT. Because we are creators, we want to have our creations enjoyed, used, and loved as soon as possible. Whether you create physical goods, digital products, or media — the road from idea to execution to widespread adoption is always longer than you think. It was more than three years from our having the idea for the science series Brainchild before it began streaming on Netflix.

As a part of our series called “Making Something From Nothing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jerry Kolber.

JERRY KOLBER is an Executive Producer, writer and the CEO of ATOMIC ENTERTAINMENT GROUP — creators of the hit science/edu-taintment shows BRAIN GAMES and BRAINCHILD. Kolber graduated from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, with a degree in theater and concentration in film.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?

I grew up in the swamps of South Florida, with a lot of free time to wander around nature and make up games and adventures. My backyard was basically the Florida Everglades, my parents were very big on making sure that my sister and I spent a lot of time outdoors. Our bike rides took us by alligators, crocodiles, and iguanas, which we just figured was how everyone grew up.

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

“Art is the elimination of the unnecessary” — Pablo Picasso. This quote has always stuck with me, because it points the way towards impact through simplicity. Eliminating the unnecessary is a difficult process, but when done correctly, you are left with the essence of an idea, which is beautiful. It is so much harder than it sounds, but worth the effort. The creative work like we do at Atomic, results in experiences that are honest, insightful and impactful.

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

Seeing Star Wars as a kid was a game-changer for me. It was the first time I was aware of the power of media to fully immerse an audience in a vision — which led me to create my own little productions when I was 8 or 9 years old — and I never really stopped. It also sparked my love of science and space and wonder.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. There is no shortage of good ideas out there. Many people have good ideas all the time. But people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. Can you share a few ideas from your experience about how to overcome this challenge?

Persistence and commitment are highly underrated. Many great ideas fail because the ‘idea creator’ expected success in the first year or two; many fewer great ideas succeed because the creator stuck with it through the rigors of early startup. We live in a world where tech companies have trained us to expect — or demand — nearly instant gratification. That is quite the opposite of how success happens in business. I’ve found it generally takes at least 18 to 24 months for a business to establish a good foundation — and then you can build from there. The caveat being, if you do take an idea to the marketplace and aren’t getting any positive signals in the first 12 months — you might have more of a hobby, than a business.

Often when people think of a new idea, they dismiss it saying someone else must have thought of it before. How would you recommend that someone go about researching whether or not their idea has already been created?

First, it is not unlikely that someone has had the same idea before you. The real question is -which you can probably answer with a basic online search– has someone done exactly what you intend to do in the exact same way you intend to do it? For example, there are dozens of true crime TV shows, and dozens of home renovation TV shows — but each one approaches the subject a little bit differently.

For the benefit of our readers, can you outline the steps one has to go through, from when they think of the idea, until it finally lands in a customer’s hands? In particular, we’d love to hear about how to file a patent, how to source a good manufacturer, and how to find a retailer to distribute it.

While the specific legal processes may be different, the actual process of going from idea to finished film, book, TV series, or podcast is not that different from idea to manufacturing a physical product. Just as you can patent an invention before it is actually produced, you can copyright a script before it is produced. In both cases, it is NOT enough to just have an “idea” — you must actually write the script — or provide details of your invention — and then file it with the Library of Congress (Copyrightable Work) or Patent Office (Physical Products). It is highly advised to work with a specialized attorney when filing a patent or copyright. If your work has an overall brand identity you’ve invested in, you may also want to trademark the brand — again, hire an attorney who specializes in this. To create your creative product or physical product, the best way to find a producer or manufacturer is to tap into the network of people who’ve executed successfully in areas similar to yours; you don’t want a startup or newbie learning the ropes on the back of your IP. Depending on your track record and what you want out of the deal, this is going to cost you money, equity or both. For creative work, you can either self-distribute if production costs are low (self-publish, podcast, TikTok or YouTube channel, etc), or find a distributor in advance if costs are high (but you’ll need to partner with someone who can get you in the door at networks). For physical products, many people are going down the DTC route (via Instagram, Amazon, etc), since it eliminates the retailer and only requires a distributor, which can easily be found through some online research.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started Leading My Company” and why?

  1. Don’t do something just because you are good at it. As soon as possible, you should only be doing the things that ONLY YOU CAN DO. It’s easy as a founder to get caught up in doing everything because you CAN — but you should strive to delegate roles that someone else can do proficiently. In my own case, I’m good with financial work, but there are many people who are better and get more pleasure out of it than me. By removing the day-to-day financial oversight from my role, it frees up time for me to focus on big picture: creation and strategy, while still keeping an eye on KPIs and the overall financial health of my business.
  2. Be PATIENT. Because we are creators, we want to have our creations enjoyed, used, and loved as soon as possible. Whether you create physical goods, digital products, or media — the road from idea to execution to widespread adoption is always longer than you think. It was more than three years from our having the idea for the science series Brainchild before it began streaming on Netflix.
  3. Have ALLIES. It is vital that you have people around you who believe in your idea and are willing to tough it out with you. Whether this is a co-founder, investor, or another person, you cannot do it all alone. If you cannot find anyone who is willing to walk this long road with you, ask someone you trust whether the issue is you or the idea. Adjust accordingly. I could not do what I do without my producing partner Adam Davis, or the moral support of my friends and family.
  4. Begin with the end in mind — BUILD SYSTEMS. After the first few years in business, you should be able to go away for a few weeks without impacting the health of your company. This means that you cannot be the central asset of the business, but that IP, products, and systems are. The sooner you start building systems that can run without you, the better, because this is also what anyone considering buying your business is really paying for (unless they are buying IP). If you start this process when you’re thinking of selling your company, you’ve started too late. Reap the benefits of systems as early as possible.
  5. PICK YOUR BATTLES. You cannot fight every competitor, bad review, bad vendor, bad client, or whatever other injustice you think has been done to you or your business. Your job is to create, grow, thrive, and sell. Investing too much energy in fighting every battle will exhaust you and leave a bad impression. Pick your battles, and be willing to explain to your team & whomever you are engaging with WHY this is so important. And if someone you trust says, “Let it Go,” — you should probably just let it go.

Let’s imagine that a reader reading this interview has an idea for a product that they would like to invent. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?

First, really define the product. Ideas are everywhere, but walking an idea down the road to something specific is difficult. That first step takes you from dreaming to doing. Next, figure out who your audience or end user is, and be very specific — really imagine them, their lives, be able to describe how and when they’d interact with your product. This process should help you refine your idea. You need to really understand and kick the tires on your idea before you start talking to other people about it (outside of your allies/trusted circle).

There are many invention development consultants. Would you recommend that a person with a new idea hire such a consultant, or should they try to strike out on their own?

Consultants are useful if you’re taking a product or idea to the market to look for investors. We use IP consultants, attorneys, and chain-of-title companies to ensure that our ideas are not in legal violation of any existing intellectual property. In the big scheme of things, they are not very expensive, and they can help provide assurance to investors, partners, and distributors. If your invention requires knowledge and expertise that you don’t have, an invention consultant could help get you from idea to product. But I wouldn’t spend the money unless I’d done the research to know that my idea is viable to market.

What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one?

I am a fan of bootstrapping. We’ve run Atomic without outside investment, because we did not want the pressure of investment forcing us to make projects that we did not want to do or that did not align with our mission. This has been challenging at times, but overall we feel it’s been the right move for us because our reputation is based on the fact that we only create premium edutainment. Bootstrapping also means you only “eat what you kill” so you have to hit “publish” and get revenue as soon as possible. We are opening up to VC investment for the first time to build a subscription content platform around our educational podcast Who Smarted?, but only after we’ve spent the last 18 months ‘bootstrap proving’ the concept, and getting to 40,000 active users & over 400,000 downloads per month.

Ok. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

The filter for every project we do is — how does this make the world a better (or smarter) place? Our mission is to improve the world through premium educational entertainment. My success, and improving some aspects of the world, are quite literally the same thing. We’ve impacted millions of adults and kids by creating entertainment that improves critical thinking skills, improves science understanding, and helps people understand how their own brains and bodies work.

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

I would love to inspire a movement that resulted in teaching basic life skills to children and young adults. The fact that (at least in the US) we do not explicitly teach financial skills, critical thinking skills, and basic behavioral psychology is a massive missed opportunity. If we taught those three skills to an entire generation, it would radically change how we interact and prosper together.

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, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

This is a tough question. I think I would want to have lunch with the Obamas. They both rose to prominence, not through wealth or family connections, but rather their own combination of hard work, learning, leadership, social skills, and commitment to excellence. They seem like great people and their mission aligns with mine. I’d love to grab lunch with them because I know we’d come up with an incredible project together.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.


Making Something From Nothing: Jerry Kolber Of ATOMIC ENTERTAINMENT GROUP On How To Go From Idea To… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Tiffany Kepler Creator of “Camera Ready Confidence” On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly…

Tiffany Kepler Creator of “Camera Ready Confidence” On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Unwavering Belief in yourself; that what you say matters, that there are people who want to hear it, that they will connect to it and you, and having that belief can overcome any obstacles when they show up.

At some point in our lives, many of us will have to give a talk to a large group of people. What does it take to be a highly effective public speaker? How can you improve your public speaking skills? How can you overcome a fear of speaking in public? What does it take to give a very interesting and engaging public talk? In this interview series called “5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker” we are talking to successful and effective public speakers to share insights and stories from their experience. As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Tiffany Kepler Creator of ConfidentBeauty.us and the Camera Ready Confidence Program.

Tiffany Kepler is an International Video Confidence Coach, teaching female entrepreneurs how to grow their businesses and step into their power by being visible and using their voice to make a bigger impact on video. With her signature method she is able to help women business owners get on track to scale to consistent 5 figure months and beyond. She created her signature program “Camera Ready Confidence” along with monthly membership options to aid her clients in learning and implementing Clarity-Consistency-Confidence in their business to gain authority and visibility in what may seem like a very saturated online space.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

Of course, I grew up in southeast Michigan, had a pretty “normal” upbringing. My dad worked at Ford Motor Company and my mom for the majority of when I was young was the hardest working waitress; a very blue collar middle class family. I like to consider myself an open book about my life because I know that what I’ve been through and experienced is what made me who I am today; so if I can shed light or bring awareness I’m here for it. My dad was a struggling alcoholic who was sick with this disease for a long time. It had taken its toll on my mom but also for my sister and I; so when my parents divorced, I was 13, and I felt I had to grow up quicker than others my age due to the emotional traumas I had gone through. I’m very much an empath and feed on people’s emotions whether they’re good or bad; so constantly being in these highly emotional states really made me look at myself and the life I wanted to live, and how I wanted to do it differently than what I personally experienced.

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

Oh man there are quite a few. I have taken a couple turns, came to some stop signs, a couple screeching red lights that made my decision to do what I’m currently doing. I grew up being told I needed to follow the path of going to college, get a good job, make it your career, invest in a 401k, and retire. While there is nothing wrong with that for some, I realized after hopping from position to position that it wasn’t the job that was the problem but I wasn’t fulfilled doing it anymore. So I decided on this path because it gave that fulfillment, joy, abundant life I had been dreaming of. I had a close friend pass away recently, unexpectedly, and way too soon. I used that devastation to remind myself that we are not promised tomorrow, so I won’t live in fear when it comes to how I live my life. When I’m laying on my deathbed I don’t want to look back on my life and regret not doing more of what lights me up.

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

So interestingly enough, I thought when I started my online career that it would be easy, because well a lot of people online claim it to be. There are a million and 1 ways to create income online nowadays and I fell victim to how easy others made it look. Truth be told, we know that creating a business (and a thriving one at that), takes a crap ton of work-so don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. With that being said, business is work but that doesn’t mean it has to be hard or boring, if it’s the right business it should excite you, bring you purpose, and a passion that makes it all worth it.

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?

Like most people I try very hard to avoid mistakes because disappointment and failure is never easy, but I know that is a part of growth and change. Something that at the time was a mistake I would say is when I had done a Live training in the beginning of my business, I had no idea what I was doing so I was just showing up raw hoping I wouldn’t mess up. Well I sure did! I stumbled over my words, my face was beat red, my kids were running around; I was so overwhelmed and close to throwing in the towel but looking back I could laugh at what I thought was a mistake but got amazing feedback for being real, raw, and relatable. I showed that it’s ok to not have it all together. It’s okay not being perfect- perfect is boring- and showing people all of me and my “flaws’’ allowed me to be relatable.

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?

Absolutely! Where do I begin as I have such an amazing community, many coaches/mentors, supportive friends/family. Honestly there is not one person that I’m grateful for more than another because each person in my life has had a part in leading me to where I am today; and for that I’m grateful to all of them. I’ve realized that being grateful in my life has opened my eyes up to more positivity in my world. It’s easy to see the negative in the world; it’s constantly in our faces- but when you live in a world of gratitude it’s a much happier life filled with joy, abundance and opportunity.

You have been blessed with great success in a career path that can be challenging and intimidating. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?

My advice would be to not take yourself too seriously. Life is crazy, joyful, messy, beautiful, short, and you get to decide how you live it. Why not live it doing something that gives you purpose and is a passion that brings you more joy. It’s easy to feel fear because that is how we have been programmed, but realize that fear doesn’t serve you or the person you’re becoming. I fully believe if you have a deep rooted gut feeling to do something that feels unfamiliar, it goes against the grain, or scares you but you still have that urge; GO FOR IT! If it’s in you, it’s for you and nothing should stop you until you reach the top of that mountain.

What drives you to get up everyday and give your talks? What is the main empowering message that you aim to share with the world?

I love helping women step into their greatness. There are so many powerful women in this world yet they stand in their way. Why? They doubt, they sabotage, they compare themselves and they don’t see how amazing they are in what they bring to this world. We all have that “thing” whether you think you do or not; we all have something about us that makes each of us special. Society likes to compartmentalize and categorize women based on what we’re wearing, how old we are, what we eat, how we parent, the list goes on. That uniqueness, those quirks, those parts that at one point made us special, now feels like it’s wrong if they’re shared; which couldn’t be further from the truth. So what gets me speaking to my audience, what motivates me to keep sharing day after day…Belief that women can do extraordinary things if they let go of the fear and trust that it gets to work out for them if only they believe it.

You have such impressive work. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Where do you see yourself heading from here?

Thank you so much. I have my coaching container that offers my “Camera Ready Confidence” program alongside 1:1 support for my clients to be able to take what they learn and implement it into their lives/business. No one person’s life is the same, so long gone are the times of using cookie cutter one size fits all programs. I love being able to personalize my containers with both course and 1:1 access throughout the 12 week container. Something NEW in the pipeline right now would be my “Visibility Membership” where each month there will be exclusive training, challenges designed to move your feet and take some action, milestone gifts, plus DFY plug and use content ideas. All with the result of gaining that confidence and showing up on camera; using it as the powerhouse tool that it is to skyrocket your business growth online.

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

I live by this quote and it often pulls me out if I’m ever having an “off” day. “The biggest mistake is you think you have time, time is free but it’s priceless. Once it’s lost you can never get it back.” -The Buddha. This quote reminds me that we are not promised tomorrow, to not put things off no matter how big or small, to tell people how much they mean to you everytime you see them, to hug people like it’s the last time you will see them. To take what you have and not take it for granted. To live my life on my terms doing what I love. Think about all the time you’ve lost or wasted worrying, stressing. Think of where your business would be right now if you had that time back for a redo.

Ok, thank you for all that. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker?” Please share a story or example for each.

1- Confidence in what you’re speaking about, and doing so by believing in your message and how you bring that information to the audience. Having expertise in something doesn’t mean you know all the answers, but your specific viewpoint and perspective is needed in this world; so use it.

2- Clarity about who you are as an expert and what you can bring to the audience as a speaker. Even the most confident people have self doubt from time to time and being able to harness that fear and dissect how it’s not true is what sets the greats from the not so greats. Moving past the mindset blocks that are put in your way, to overcome them easily.

3- Showing up Consistently aka “practice” in what you’re saying will build that muscle and allow you to show up and speak with that much more authority and conviction in your voice and topic. It will be harder for you to be rattled the more you practice and get comfortable with what you’re speaking about.

4- Being Vulnerable and showing how your topic can relate to your audience. Sharing personal stories and how you overcame it. Creating genuine and authentic relationships with the audience to bring them on the journey with you. There is an art to storytelling and speakers who understand that power have much better success.

5- Unwavering Belief in yourself; that what you say matters, that there are people who want to hear it, that they will connect to it and you, and having that belief can overcome any obstacles when they show up.

As you know, many people are terrified of speaking in public. Can you give some of your advice about how to overcome this fear?

This is exactly what I help my clients with inside my containers and I love being able to help them get across that feeling of being terrified through my signature method using the power of unlearning mindset blocks, showing up with a solid framework/blueprint for how your going to effectively bring your knowledge to your audience, and gain visibility using your unique voice. The best advice and a great place to start if you’re terrified is to realize that the fear you place on speaking isn’t real. I know it seems crazy but I want you to dive deeper into the real reason you don’t like it. Keep digging deeper until you realize that it’s not speaking that is causing the fear but something so much deeper and personal than you may even realize. Know that it’s normal to have that fear but to recognize it, feel it, and move past it.

You are a person of huge 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?

Wow this is a great question, I would like to inspire a movement about being the change you want to see in the world. This country needs a lot of help, and it’s time to step up and help the people. It’s easy to complain about the current state of the country but where will that get you? Frustrated and still in the same spot. Don’t wait for someone else to start it. You have every ability to inspire and evoke change. If it’s in you, it’s for you after all!

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why?

Maybe we can tag them and see what happens! This is so hard. I would love to have lunch with Blake Lively. I would love to sit down and while trying to hold back tears of happiness would love to just talk with her about how she is able to grow her brand, career, and business while juggling being a mom and wife! I admire the work she does and while I know a ton goes into every part of her life, how is she able to make it look so effortless? I’m sure we all would love to know.

Are you on social media? How can our readers follow you online?

Of course! They can find me @confidentbeautybytiffk on Instagram as well as confidentbeauty.us or click here for more ways to connect.

This was so informative, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!


Tiffany Kepler Creator of “Camera Ready Confidence” On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Kyle Metcalf Of Newswire On How to Effectively Leverage The Power of Digital Marketing, PPC, &…

Kyle Metcalf Of Newswire On How to Effectively Leverage The Power of Digital Marketing, PPC, & Email to Dramatically Increase Sales

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Collaboration — Marketing is rooted in collaboration. Devising strategies and creating campaigns are great times to brainstorm with others. That snowball effect of ideas in a brainstorming session can lead to campaigns that move the needle for a brand. Open lines of communication and strong collaboration can unlock your full potential as a marketer.

Marketing a product or service today is easier than ever before in history. Using platforms like Facebook ads or Google ads, a company can market their product directly to people who perfectly fit the ideal client demographic, at a very low cost. Digital Marketing tools, Pay per Click ads, and email marketing can help a company dramatically increase sales. At the same time, many companies that just start exploring with digital marketing tools often see disappointing results.

In this interview series called “How to Effectively Leverage The Power of Digital Marketing, PPC, & Email to Dramatically Increase Sales”, we are talking to marketers, advertisers, brand consultants, & digital marketing gurus who can share practical ideas from their experience about how to effectively leverage the power of digital marketing, PPC, & email.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kyle Metcalf.

Kyle Metcalf is President and Chief Revenue Officer at Newswire. Prior to Newswire, Kyle was the Chief Executive Officer of Inspired eLearning; a Security Awareness & HR /Compliance training organization. Kyle led the turnaround and sale of this distressed asset to a strategic buyer. In his role at Inspired eLearning, Kyle was recognized as The National Business Journals’ Influencers: Rising Stars, San Antonio Business Journal 40 Under 40, and C-Suite Award winner. Prior to Inspired eLearning, Kyle was the founder and General Manager for the strategic, and high-growth “Rackspace Digital” business. Rackspace Digital was founded in 2009 and quickly grew to a $100 million business. Throughout Kyle’s 12-year tenure at Rackspace he held various leadership roles across sales, channel, customer service, and product. He is also active in helping the San Antonio technology scene through community involvement with Geekdom, TechBloc, the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, and other outreach activities.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, 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?

My career really began at Rackspace, a Managed Hosting company where I started as an entry-level sales rep but was able to expand upon that by learning and growing with the company as it went from $100M when I started, to over $2B and publicly traded when I left. That was over a span of 12 years. During that time, I founded a business unit that focused on solutions for ad agencies, marketers, eCommerce, and website management/development and grew it into a $120M business.

After I left Rackspace, I was the CEO of a Security Awareness, Harassment and Privacy training company called Inspired eLearning. I was there for almost 4 years and in that time we transformed the business from a low-margin content company to a high-margin SaaS platform. We successfully sold the business to Ziff Davis in 2020.

For my next chapter, I really wanted to get back into the Marketing/Advertising world that I was so passionate about and well connected with. After hearing about the innovative approach Newswire takes in a somewhat archaic market, I couldn’t wait to get started!

Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

I’ve made just about every mistake possible. I really believe that mistakes are necessary, but you MUST learn from them.

I almost didn’t take the call from Newswire because of all the mistakes I had made in the past in regard to the utilization of press releases. Of course, I didn’t realize how at fault I was until I learned how Newswire does it and helps our customers. At the time, I had ZERO success with press releases in my 15-year career: Both at a $2B public company with seemingly unlimited resources and a $14M training company with limited everything. Turns out, I had been doing it wrong all along!

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 believe in the Personal Board of Directors’ approach. There are way too many people that contributed to my success that it wouldn’t be fair to call out one. I will say that my time at Rackspace was filled with innovative, positive, results-minded people who were VERY sharp. They were also VERY generous with their time. That’s the only way I could have made my way from an entry-level sales rep to the General Manager of a $120M business.

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

We are innovating in the marketing space by blurring the lines between press releases and traditional marketing methods. It’s incredibly disruptive but also incredibly effective.

For example, most companies in our category are focused on their network. The reality is that all PR networks are 90% the same — Same distribution channels, same endpoints, same everything. You write a release, pick a distribution option, hit send and HOPE the right people see it. HOPE is not a strategy. This was my challenge in my former years.

Newswire works with companies to take that same press release and leverage it properly to secure earned media, improve SEO and site traffic and generate the RIGHT impressions. Looking at a fancy graph with tens of thousands of impressions means absolutely nothing if you aren’t following the additional strategic steps to drive results. That’s what Newswire does best.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

Humility

Being “Confidently Ignorant” is important to me. I preach this in every team I’m part of. It’s OK to not know something and it’s often appreciated when someone asks a clarifying question. This sparked my active and real curiosity in most things that initially helped me build a successful sales career and later on was the foundation for everything I have accomplished. Taking a genuine interest in a customer leads to more productive conversations, stronger relationships, and faster problem-solving. I was building powerful relationships with customers that I utilized to get into Channel and Partner sales. It was this progression that led me to where I’m at today.

It’s equally important to take a genuine interest in your company, teams, teammates, and industry to build the right products and develop the right culture internally.

Resilience

When I initially pitched the idea for what became “Rackspace Digital,” I was a Director of a couple of channel sales teams and I saw a need in the market that wasn’t being addressed. I put a deck together and set up a meeting with two key executives I needed support from to get going. I had one executive walk out of the room and another told me that “we aren’t going to change the way we support customers for such a small subset.” I was devastated. Instead of giving up, I was humble and asked other leaders and people I trusted for help. I ended up sharpening my pitch/projections and went back to the same executives with an offer: I’ll resign from my leadership role; give me three months to build a business plan; I’ll present it again and if you still don’t agree, I understand my current position will not be available.

That was the beginning of Rackspace Digital.

Objectiveness

Being able to see the challenge through someone else’s eyes is incredibly helpful in problem-solving and negotiating. I have always tried to hone this skill and consider what’s at play for someone else. This was very important early in my career at a big company where I was trying to be innovative and a bit disruptive. To get anything done, I had to gain approval from multiple stakeholders. I was REALLY bad at that before I started thinking about what the individual stakeholders had on their minds. Why would they say yes if this was going to cause more work for them? What’s in it for them? Is this threatening? Why?

All of these (and many more) questions led to significantly more successful negotiations and engagements. People were thankful for the homework I did and genuinely appreciated that I would take the time to “seek to understand.”

Seek To Understand

This is another very important trait to always work on. I gained a gold medal in Political Gymnastics that I never wanted — but it sure was helpful! I use this in all aspects of life — not just business. Walk a mile in their shoes.

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

Where do I start? We’re always innovating and improving our product set at Newswire. Our target market is small and mid-sized businesses. These businesses and their owners don’t get enough love from our industry so we saw a huge opportunity to support them with the products and tools they need to succeed.

We recently launched PR Campaigns, which are marketing campaigns that center around a press release. Most marketing campaigns are centered around a blog post, email, LinkedIn post, or something similar. We’ve found that utilizing a press release as the focal point of the campaign yields much stronger results. A press release is a higher authority piece of content that tends to get more attention than the methods I mentioned prior. The press release also helps with SEO/traffic improvement and creates opportunities for earned media mentions. With this product, our team writes the press release, promotes it to relevant media outlets, and distributes it to our top-tier distribution network.

For a company looking for more, we offer a 12-month program called the Media Advantage Plan. It’s a series of 12 press release campaigns AND it includes a dedicated account manager, a full go-to-market plan, as well as guaranteed impressions — all for less than HALF of what it would cost to hire a single resource internally.

Ok super. Now let’s jump to the main questions of our interview. As we mentioned in the beginning, sometimes companies that just start exploring with digital marketing tools like PPC campaigns often see disappointing results. In your opinion, what are a few of the biggest mistakes companies make when they first start out with digital marketing? If you can, please share an example for each.

In my experience, many companies will build a plan and focus on its execution but overlook the follow-through. This is where things fall apart. Based on what you subscribe to, a prospect needs anywhere from 8–12 touches before they will interact with your brand. The consistent thing is that there is no “one and done” in marketing. It’s an “always-on” effort that needs to be fluid, CONSTANTLY scrutinized, and augmented in real-time.

Too many times I’ve seen solid effort upfront and then weak follow-through. This will not yield positive results. In addition, if you aren’t collecting and studying the data, then you’re at a severe disadvantage. It’s a true mix of art and science. The “science” comes from the data and the “art” comes from experience, trial/error, and solid creative.

Let it be known NONE of this works if you don’t have a compelling message that’s tailored to your Ideal Customer Profile.

If you could break down a very successful digital marketing campaign into a “blueprint”, what would that blueprint look like? Please share some stories or examples of your ideas.

Our entire campaign strategy is related to PR Campaigns. We are our own customer and utilize the Media Advantage Plan (MAP) exclusively.

The MAP blueprint is simple, yet extremely effective. After doing all the table stakes work of determining the Ideal Customer Profile and campaign focus, the MAP team takes off. If I boil it WAY down, this is the fundamental blueprint:

Identify Table Stakes (ICP and campaign focus)

Set goals for the campaign

Write the press release with a compelling statement that resonates with the ICP (also align it to PPC and organic keywords)

Write the copy for a four-drip email campaign

Determine the media/publications we want to target to gain earned media

Obsess over the results (data) as it becomes available

Augment as needed

FOLLOW-THROUGH on the leads and customer engagements as quickly as you can — time kills deals.

Let’s talk about Pay Per Click Marketing (PPC) for a bit. In your opinion which PPC platform produces the best results to increase sales?

In my opinion, Google is the best platform to use. Google dominates the search engine market and drives a majority of our PPC conversions here at Newswire. However, It’s important to point out that we’ve seen an increase in performance from Microsoft/Bing so far this year. My best advice is to focus on performance metrics that make the most sense for your business and use a mix of channels to drive real results.

Here is the main question of our series. Can you please tell us the 5 things you need to create a highly successful career as a digital marketer? Can you please share a story or example for each?

Patience — It’s human nature to want results and to want them almost instantaneously. When it comes to marketing, it’s no different. We want our campaigns to generate results, fast. But, that’s simply not the case. Patience is a valuable characteristic that marketers should possess. By being patient, we’re in turn giving our campaigns time and space to work. As a result, we get a better idea if something’s working or if we need to adjust our sails and try a different strategy.

Humility — It seems like there’s a new platform or change to an algorithm every day. Not to mention there are different types of marketing… Think social, content, paid advertising, the list goes on and on. What I’m trying to say is there’s an intense amount of information to consume and skills to master. That’s why humility is a valuable trait that empowers marketers to learn more. We can’t know every nuance of every area of marketing. And, if we pretend we do, we miss out on learning opportunities. Deploy humility to ask pointed questions and gain valuable knowledge in return.

Collaboration — Marketing is rooted in collaboration. Devising strategies and creating campaigns are great times to brainstorm with others. That snowball effect of ideas in a brainstorming session can lead to campaigns that move the needle for a brand. Open lines of communication and strong collaboration can unlock your full potential as a marketer.

Adaptability — One of the worst phrases you can say and/or hear in marketing is “But we’ve always done it this way.” Unwillingness to change and pivot is a recipe for stagnation. Marketing is constantly changing. What worked today might not work three months from now and that’s OK. Adapting to the market and evolving with the growing needs of your target audience is what will set your brand apart from your competitors and put you on a track toward continued success.

Curiosity — This trait essentially brings this full circle. We know marketing isn’t static. It’s constantly changing and that’s why curiosity is imperative. Ask questions. Do your own research. Test your theories. Let go of ideas that should have worked but didn’t. A quote from James Clear, sums this up perfectly, “Intelligence follows curiosity.” Let your curiosity guide you to new heights in your career.

Can you please share 3 things that you need to know to run a highly successful PPC campaign?

My first suggestion is to start with your website and make sure it’s optimized for conversions. The last thing you want to do is develop solid PPC ad copy and strategic campaigns and then send users to a site that doesn’t meet their needs or guide them to further engage with your brand. Next, choose a platform. As I mentioned before, Google is the best platform to use, however, there are other ad platforms that can also drive results. I’d say start with Google while testing other options and keep an eye on their performance. Adjust accordingly. Finally, focus on targeting. As the popular adage says, “Everyone isn’t an audience.” The same notion applies to running successful PPC campaigns. Narrow your focus on your target audience based on their location, interests, and popular search terms. These are three building blocks brands can use to further pare down their targeting to deliver the right content to the right audience.

Let’s now talk about email marketing for a bit. In your opinion, what are the 3 things that you need to know to run a highly successful email marketing campaign that increases sales?

Who is your audience and what problems are they trying to solve?

How does your brand help solve said problems/challenges?

What is the compelling message that will make you stand out in a VERY crowded inbox/feed?

BONUS: What do you do after the prospect engages?

What are the other digital marketing tools that you are passionate about? If you can, can you share with our readers what they are and how to best leverage them?

HubSpot — Data is critical. We need to know what’s working, what isn’t, who’s engaging, and who isn’t. Having a tool like HubSpot is critical to making sense of the data so the team can make data-driven decisions to improve performance.

To get the most out of HubSpot, you need to take time and set it up correctly. Don’t cut corners. If you do, you won’t get the whole picture. It’s the foundation of all of our marketing campaigns.

SalesForce — A solid CRM is also table stakes. When you get someone to move from suspect to prospect, it’s now a job for sales to engage and close. Having this system integrated with HubSpot is incredibly useful for us to understand the entire journey from suspect to prospect to customer.

Google Analytics — Back to data. Google Analytics is the best tool out there to monitor activity on your website. Excellent UI and visualization which makes review and trends analysis easy. You don’t have to be a data scientist to sift through the information.

What books, podcasts, videos or other resources do you use to sharpen your marketing skills?

I’m a big fan of Brian Burns’ LinkedIn content. He provides actionable and practical sales advice anyone and everyone can implement.

How can our readers further follow your work?

www.newswire.com

www.linkedin.com/company/newswire-com/

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

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!


Kyle Metcalf Of Newswire On How to Effectively Leverage The Power of Digital Marketing, PPC, &… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.