Becky Sarwate On Why Diversity Is Good For Business

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Diversity promotes corporate innovation, which can lead to new revenues. As just one high profile example, a Disney park engaged in brainstorming sessions with other Disney parks and divisions, and were able to shorten the timeline on idea execution from 40 to 6 weeks.

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

Becky Sarwate is a PR and communications leader who brings 20 years of demonstrated success in reputation management and branding growth to her role as Head of Communications for CEX.IO. She previously held high-visibility positions in the traditional finance and cybersecurity spaces with companies such as HUB International, TransUnion and Tanium. A multiple award-winning journalist, Sarwate serves as CEX.IO’s overall company spokesperson.

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

I’m a bit of a professional “late bloomer.” Though I always loved writing and knew I had a talent and passion for communications, I originally explored music and dance as creative outlets. Eventually realizing I possessed neither the talent nor the thick skin for performance, while I thrived pretty well in front of a keyboard, I pursued an advanced degree in English Literature. Back in 2007 when I concluded my studies, I suspected this deliberate course of action could prove to be a corporate communications career game changer, no matter how unorthodox. And it certainly was — in all the right ways.

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

I’ve spent a number of years in the crisis communications space. One of the longest-running and most complex challenges of my career was when I worked at TransUnion in 2017, and the infamous Equifax breach became household conversation in the U.S. Though TransUnion is an entirely separate company with different practices, I learned the hard and painful way that in a space with few competitors, public determinations of guilt by association are very real. And they take time and commitment to unwind. It taught me an important lesson about brands being a living thing, and that the need to establish and communicate competitive differentiation is continuous work.

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

“I don’t want to make somebody else. I want to make myself.”

  • Sula, Toni Morrison

In one of the Pulitzer Prize-winning author’s seminal novels, this quote is often misperceived as a rejection of motherhood. I never saw it that way at all. I viewed the words rather as a call to action for capable, successful women. I want to make a positive difference in every way, but that can only be accomplished through continuous work on myself as a human, a professional and a citizen of the world.

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

There are more people who deserve gratitude than I can possibly name in one brief space. However one of my most important career mentors has been Ilyce Glink, a well-known real estate and personal finance expert. I worked for her about a decade ago producing content for her wide variety of traditional and digital media platforms, and we’ve remained friends. She’s good at everything she does professionally, is a terrific wife and mother, a caring mentor and is never afraid to try and learn something new. She is present in all areas of her life and makes it look effortless. I have tried to carry that model with me through my own life.

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

CEX.IO is a company built on the notion of providing crypto ecosystem accessibility, and opening the benefits up to as many people as desire to enter the space. You won’t find overcomplexity and exclusivity here. We’re comprised of a geographically diverse team that is constantly working to build new services and improve upon existing ones for our customer base. We uphold the greatest regulatory and financial industry standards, because we believe that security and simplicity are the keys to global adoption .

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

The company recently launched our new CEX.IO University, which is a one stop shop for all things crypto education. We developed this platform with the goal of providing the necessary knowledge and tools to novices within the crypto space, which can only empower them and further the goal of adoption.

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

I like to think so. I am a rabid Cubs fan with a satisfying communications career that earns me a living. So in 2019, a writing partner and I published Cubsessions: Famous Fans of Chicago’s North Side Baseball Team. I was able to interview entertainment industry luminaries like Bob Newhart, Joe Mantegna and Nick Offerman, sharing their long-suffering stories as fans of the “Loveable Losers” turned 2016 World Series Champs. My partner and I donated all of our proceeds to relevant non-profits like the Chicago Baseball Cancer Charities. It was an opportunity to live a dream while using it as an opportunity to give back.

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. Sometimes employers need a negative motivator, so here’s a good one: the failure to diversify your teams will cost your business money — and a lot of it. Upwards of a $1 trillion is lost by companies each year due to attrition and voluntary turnover. Many of these job hoppers are from underrepresented groups that simply do not feel included in the business. Look no further than the biggest tech giants for recent cautionary tales.
  2. At the same time, hiring practices that meaningfully promote diversity can help a business actually make more money. Companies that place more women in the C-suite for example, enjoy an average 10% revenue bump.
  3. Diversity promotes corporate innovation, which can lead to new revenues. As just one high profile example, a Disney park engaged in brainstorming sessions with other Disney parks and divisions, and were able to shorten the timeline on idea execution from 40 to 6 weeks.
  4. It may seem counterintuitive as hiring is regarded as an internal practice, but diversity in recruitment, job offer extension and training can be very good for your external brand health. Brands with high diversity scores show an 83% higher consumer preference.
  5. At the same time, businesses known to show an aversion to self-examination and greater efforts at inclusion, are a common source of consumer frustration.

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

To be blunt: when hiring and building teams, look past your own face for quality talent and candidates. What I mean by that is, and this is especially prevalent in the crypto industry, confirmation bias can be real and stubbornly pervasive. As of the time of this interview, I’m disappointed to report that women represent only 4–6% of the crypto and blockchain work force. Given that we are more than 50% of the global population, with careers to build and money to invest, this is an embarrassing imbalance that must be conscientiously rectified. If DeFi as a whole wants to change its personal and private reputation as an exclusive male club, it starts by ensuring that there are female perspectives and voices in the metaphorical corporate boardroom. The fact is that female professionals cannot thrive where they are not present.

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

As a leader, you simply cannot be everywhere at once. So I believe in the “three Ts,” in this order: train, trust and temperature check. Provide your teams with the tools and resources they need to succeed. Have confidence that they are talented adults that you hired for good reason. Then put it on yourself to regularly connect with your team members, and keep each other honest as business needs and priorities evolve and skills need to pivot.

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 🙂

Martha Stewart, and not because I have any talent or passion for domestic lifestyle subject matter expertise. She is simply one hell of a tough and admirable lady. Started her career as a model, was a single mother, built a business empire, went to prison and lost, then built it again. Living proof that there can indeed be second acts for people whose talent and work ethic will not be denied.

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


Becky Sarwate On Why Diversity Is Good For Business was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Tom Cobin Of DynamiCoach On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Self-awareness. Before my most recent speech, I realized my heart had started racing and I was nervously tapping my foot. These are the kind of physical sensations that indicate anxiety over speaking. If you’re self-aware of how your own individual mind and body react to anxiety, you’ll know when you’re being “triggered” by fear of public speaking.

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 Tom Cobin, Founder of DynamiCoach / Polishing Your Presence for IMPACT.

Tom has been a public speaker for literally a half-century. He started public speaking in 7th grade, gathering contest trophies all over the New York City metropolitan area. The following year, he was named Class Valedictorian and gave the commencement speech at his elementary school graduation. He kept up his presentation skills through high school debate, and in college studied journalism at NYU, where he was a radio reporter, DJ, and interview program host. Even before graduation as the top student in his journalism class, he was working at CBS.

After 10 years “behind the scenes” as a writer & producer, Tom left NYC for a successful on-air career as an award-winning Investigative Reporter, Weathercaster, and Anchor. After another decade in journalism, Tom transitioned into pharmaceutical sales — where his outstanding presentation skills helped him achieve top sales awards and a promotion to National Sales Trainer. In this role, he conducted workshops in Presentation Skills, to help colleagues elevate their performance and career prospects. Outside of work, Tom also has experience as a trainer & coach in windsurfing, skiing, sailing, rollerblading, and yoga.

Tom is now helping others benefit from his wide-ranging experience through DynamiCoach — holding live and virtual workshops, and providing one-on-one coaching. He is also available for corporate training, and Keynote speeches for companies or organizations. He is currently Vice President / President-Elect of the Brickell ToastMasters Chapter in Miami, Florida, and a member of the Florida Speakers Association, the state chapter of the National Speakers Association.

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?

Grew up? Past tense? I’m still growing up!

Seriously: my upbringing has everything to do with how I became a speaking coach. I was raised in the suburbs of New York City, and was incredibly fortunate to have many advanced opportunities through Parochial School — including Public Speaking, which I began in 7th grade. This means I have been speaking publicly for half a century, literally! After graduation from elementary school (I was Valedictorian), my family moved to the Catskills in upstate New York, where I continued speaking and presentation in debate. In my final year, my partner and I went all the way to State Finals! After graduating high school early in three years, I began a pre-med curriculum at Cornell University, but dropped out in my sophomore year and moved to New York City, where I later resumed my education at NYU studying journalism. My speaking continued on-air at the college radio station, WNYU: I was a DJ, news reporter, and interview host. I also got my first paid work as a reporter, working part-time for WHN-AM (at the time, the largest and most powerful country music station in the nation), and the Mutual Broadcasting Network (of which WHN was an affiliate, and where Larry King had his pre-CNN radio show). By the time I was graduated (yes, that’s the grammatically correct form) as the top student in my NYU journalism class, I was already working at CBS headquarters as a writer & producer!

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

After 20 years as a journalist — both behind the scenes as a writer / producer in NYC and later on-camera as a reporter, weathercaster, and anchor — I transitioned into pharmaceutical sales. People would often say that seemed like an unusual career transition. But I realized both careers could be summarized by the same description: researching, absorbing, and summarizing information to be verbally presented for the benefit of others. Throughout my life, I’ve enjoyed training and instructing others to share my knowledge and experience for their benefit. Professionally, I served as a Pharmaceutical Trainer at District and National level. Recreationally, I’ve been a trainer / instructor in yoga, skiing, windsurfing, rollerblading, and sailing. So my current career as a Speaking Coach / Presentation Skills Trainer is a natural, organic confluence of my entire life’s activities for both business and pleasure.

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

I witnessed an example of one of the most encouraging aspects of public speaking: that what we fear the most — embarrassment — can actually form an emotional bond of “connection” between speaker and audience.

I was at a ToastMasters meeting where someone got up in front of the group for the first time. She only had to speak for 1–2 minutes, about “three things in life that are important to you.” She did fine through the first and second items, but then she stopped. The Timer pointed to his wristwatch and motioned for her to keep going. She started silently rocking back and forth on her feet, and looking up into the corners of the ceilings — two classic “tells” of anxiety. Then she started crying. Several of us literally leaped out of seats to run up and reassure her: “that’s fine, it’s your first time. You did great! You’re so brave.”

This exemplifies what researchers at the University of California at Berkeley have determined: moderate embarrassment can form a “social glue” among people.

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 demonstrating a form of deep breathing, and I stumbled while telling the group where to place their hand in order to perceive movement in their lower abdomen. I started by saying, “put one hand between your navel and your …” and stopped myself before getting any more specific. I quickly corrected myself: “Put your hand below your navel.” Everyone in the group laughed at this awkward moment.

I learned a few things from this experience: 1) think in advance about the details and specifics of what you’re going to say and how an audience will react, 2) be careful when human anatomy is involved, and 3) as cited in the research finding mentioned above: moderate embarrassment in front of a group is nothing to fear, and can actually enhance your “connection” with the audience.

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

The best leader / mentor of my TV career taught me an invaluable lesson 30 years ago on the power of non-verbal communication.

As News Director at WCBS-TV in New York City, he was grooming me as a Broadcast Producer. One day in the Control Room, we had a minor crisis — which I and the crew handled fine, with nothing apparent to the audience. After the broadcast, we met in his office and he pointed out to me that anchors on-set are in an environment of almost total quiet, with very little audio input other than the voices in their earpieces, primarily mine. He had observed that, during the show’s crisis, I was speaking in a fast, clipped, loud voice that conveyed anxiety and tension. Such emotions would be transmitted to the anchors through my voice in their earpieces, which could make them anxious and agitated as well, degrading their performance.

This was such a “profound revelation” that it remained with me throughout my life, and is especially important to me now as a Speech Coach and Presentation Skills Trainer. “It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it.” Tone of voice can completely change how others perceive what we say.

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 temporary, and often provides important experiences and learnings that later contribute to success.

I left pharmaceutical sales for two years and started a venture which provided the first-of-its-kind technology for medical education on mobile devices, before the iPhone. We failed for a number of reasons, but what I was forced to learn and execute for that endeavor formed the basis for the rest of my career. I mastered a suite of software: Illustrator; PhotoShop; Acrobat; PowerPoint; etc. I learned about the technology of relational databases (I do have a background in IT: my minor in college was Math / Computer Science). Combined with my background in television, all of this further technical knowledge and skill formed the basis for my gaining the opportunity to play a pivotal role in the “digital transformation” at my last pharmaceutical company, as National Sales Trainer. At my going-away party upon leaving that position, the Director of Training told the group that I had “changed the way this Company does training.” The experience of my earlier “failure” formed the foundation for everything that followed, including what I’m doing now.

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’m driven by HELPING OTHERS, pure and simple!

If I hold onto everything I’ve learned, I’m only helping myself. If I share what I’ve learned, I’m helping others.

My goal in life is to “have a positive impact” wherever I am, whatever I’m doing. That can mean contributing to tactics that help my sailboat win a race. That can mean cleaning-up trash at the party of a friend who is busy socializing. That can mean elevating others’ performance as a Sales Trainer, helping them find and use their own unique traits for success. Currently, it means dispelling myths about public speaking and conducting practical, experiential workshop exercises that have immediate benefit in helping others communicate better.

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 plan to start a YouTube Channel with short, tight video clips breaking-down the key components of my workshops: “Tips & Tricks of Becoming a Better Communicator”.
  • I intend to expand my client base and move into more Keynote Speaking, larger group workshops for corporations, and 1-on-1 coaching and consulting.
  • I aim to gain a large following on social media and establish a reputation as a recognized expert in public speaking.

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

If I may, I’d like to quote myself: “If you’re happy with where you are, embrace however you got there — and just make it a point to be happy with where you are!”

This saying / attitude has helped me live without regrets. It keeps me positive about both past and future, and avoids the risk of “getting down” about anything that has happened in the past, or what I fear may — or may not — happen in the future. Regrets lock you into negative emotions about things that are beyond your control, because they’ve already happened. It can sometimes be hard to accept perceived failures, but in my experience, lessons thus learned generally contribute to future success. In terms of other life moments you may be tempted to regret (for example, career / relationship decisions): you can’t ever know for sure how things would have turned out — so why second-guess yourself and your past?

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.

At DynamiCoach, I use an acronym for effective public speaking: I.M.P.A.C.T. Yes, that’s six letters, so your readers are getting an extra “bonus” tip! To be “five things” I’ve combined the first two — which are closely related, as exemplified in the relevant story.

I (eye) Contact

M ovement

P acing & Pausing

A uthenticity

C onfidence & Conviction

T elling stories

#1: EYE CONTACT / MOVEMENT

Being a “dynamic” speaker involves movement of many kinds: hands; eyes / face; body position; and voice (vocal variety can be considered a type of “movement”). Here’s a rhyme to review and remember:

Move your hands, move your face,

Move your body in its space.

Move your voice throughout its range.

Just don’t make it sound too strange.

Hand gestures should be purposeful and convey meaning, without becoming a distraction.

Eye contact and facial expression are innately connected, since your eyes are a major part of your face and usually the focus for others’ attention. The eyes & face provide critical ways to “connect” with your audience. They also provide immediate, real-time, in-the-moment feedback to the speaker. In human development, even before we can speak, we develop and use “mirror neurons” to recognize facial expressions and mirror them back. This is what’s happening when you look at a baby and smile: they smile back! It’s primal, and pre-dates verbal speech.

Physical movement through the presentation space is a means to convey action while also establishing eye contact in different directions with different parts of the audience.

Vocal variety is critical, to avoid being perceived as monotone / monotonous. Breathing techniques can help with projection, volume, pitch, and vocal quality. Modifying your speed and pacing can draw attention to what you’re saying. Don’t be afraid to “switch it up” while you speak!

Here’s an example of how intertwined eye contact and body movement are — and a demonstration of what NOT to do.

I was attending a meeting of a franchised public speaking system, where the moderator showed a videotape of their founder. After standing up to speak, he initially faced the camera in the middle of the audience. Then he moved to one side of the stage, and began looking at that section of the audience. “Great,” I thought, “he’s demonstrating both movement in his space, and eye contact with the audience.”

I waited for him to move from that spot, shift his gaze, and establish eye contact with the rest of the crowd.

And waited.

And then waited some more.

It actually became uncomfortable to watch him speak to only one small part of the audience. All I saw was his right side. I felt neglected, ignored, and disengaged — even just watching on videotape and not being there in person. He had failed to properly engage the entire audience with his body movement and eye contact.

P is for PAUSING (which is powerfully amplified by repetition)

As a pharmaceutical rep, I attended a lecture by a cardiologist at the University of Virginia, who was an especially effective speaker. He reviewed the complex process of lipid metabolism, and wrapped up with a memorable catchphrase, a key take-home point for the audience: “sugar makes LDL small.” He paused, lowered his voice, and repeated. “Sugar makes LDL small.”

That was nearly 20 years ago, and I remember it to this day.

Neuroscience explains the importance of pausing. Interrupting the “stream” of input gives the listener’s brain the opportunity to review and reflect on what you’ve just said, increasing the probability of retention. A pause also makes the listener’s brain more sensitive and attuned to whatever comes next. In this way, pausing emphasizes what you just said, and what you’re about to say. If “the next thing” is a repetition of “the last thing” you said, it’s a double-whammy for retention! This is what the cardiologist did to make what he said so memorable: pause, then repeat.

A is for AUTHENTICITY

“Just be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”

During a virtual conference of an organization to which I belong, I observed several speakers in varied situations through several days of meetings. One individual interacted with us in workshops and presented as a very calm, quiet, soft-spoken individual. When he later made a speech to campaign for a new role, he was speaking so loudly that I had to turn down the volume! The other candidate, similarly, seemed like she was yelling at us. I see this quite often: speakers confusing passion and energy with volume. This is one way in which speakers can seem unnatural, “forcing the issue” and trying to be someone they’re not. I stress the importance of “finding the voice that is uniquely your own.” Each of us has a one-of-a-kind personality and presence. I encourage clients to seek consistency between speaking and everyday life, so that you’re always just being yourself. Training as a public speaker will probably make you more expressive in normal life off-stage, and allow your expressiveness to come out organically without seeming artificial on-stage. Of course, we all can learn by imitating what we like and admire in others; it’s OK to identify specific things about individual speakers to mimic and adopt, to “find within yourself” some of those desirable attributes. Just be judicious, and remember: what works for someone else may not work for you, and can make you appear insincere or phony.

C is for CONFIDENCE

Everyone has their own “baseline” of confidence in general, and specifically in front of a group. I ‘ve identified a list of “R’s” that can boost our confidence.

  • Research: be the expert.

Whatever the topic, you’re giving a presentation specifically because you have information that has value for others. You should know something they don’t. Establishing yourself as the “subject matter expert” will give you the confidence that you have a good reason for being the center of attention. A related “R” is for References: providing citations of your sources gives you confidence that your audience will see that you’ve “done your homework” and view you with credibility.

  • Review: know your stuff.

Go over your materials inside and out. Thoroughly review everything you’ll use. This can help if you lose your place, or are thrown off-balance for any reason: you’ll gain confidence from knowing you could deliver the goods “off the top of your head, with your eyes closed.” Have additional supporting materials on-hand and easily accessible to address questions that go beyond your formal presentation. You’ll be more confident knowing you’re prepared to provide additional, unexpected value to your audience.

  • Rehearse: practice, practice, practice!

There is no substitute for rehearsal and repetition. Use your practice time to explore your options. Try saying things different ways, in different sequences. See which feels most natural. Caveat: avoid memorizing too much material verbatim, which may seem unnatural and might even derail you if you lose your train of thought. Practice delivering smaller, manageable “chunks” of information; think in terms of “bullet points” to summarize the sections of your talk.

Before a TV live-shot, I’d typically write a bullet item or catchphrase IN BIG, BOLD, CAPITAL LETTERS for each point I’d want to make. Then a few quick glances down to my Reporter’s Pad would keep me on-track. This is still my method when presenting on-camera virtually. Practice passages individually, until each is largely committed to memory and feels natural. Then rehearse transitions from one section to another. This is also a good way to decide where to pause between bullet points — either for emphasis and retention, or simply to take a break for both you and the audience.

  • Revel in the praise when you crush it.
  • Recognize how much you’ve improved.
  • Remember your success to build confidence for next time!

When I applied to be National Sales Trainer at my pharmaceutical company, I started my slide deck with a short video clip. I practiced at home, and rehearsed how to load the slides and insert the clip to play from within PowerPoint. On-site, the Training Team verified the system was functioning properly. The clip played as expected.

Until it didn’t.

The Trainer who helped me set up the equipment shrugged at me from the back of the room. I tried in vain to get the video to play. While the audience started to fidget, I accepted that the video wasn’t going to happen. I turned to the group, described the clip, and asked if anyone knew the “punch line” from that scene. One of the Trainers knew and said it for those who didn’t know.

I explained the connection to my material, and proceeded with the presentation and workshop. Things went smoothly, with the most senior person in the room nodding to what I was saying. Looking around, I saw that others noticed her approval and become more engaged. Afterwards, one attendee emailed me that it was the best presentation he’d ever seen. He clarified: he didn’t just mean among presentations by people applying to be National Trainer. He meant IT WAS THE BEST PRESENTATION OF ANY KIND IN ALL HIS TIME WITH THE COMPANY!

I RESEARCHED my subject and was able to provide new and valuable information to my audience. I REVIEWED my materials and REHEARSED enough that when the video clip crashed, I remained cool, calm, and collected. I REVELED at the positive feedback (from someone who within a year would become my Manager’s boss!) And I REMEMBERED that it was confidence that enabled me to turn a seeming disaster into the perfect opportunity to demonstrate the skills required in the position for which I was applying.

RESEARCH, REVIEW, REHEARSE, RECOGNIZE, REVEL, REMEMBER. That’s how you build confidence.

T is for TELLING STORIES

Before the written word, our very history as a species was kept solely by storytelling. Stories in fictional literature represent real-life ideas and values. People relate to characters they know. TV news pieces are called “stories.” The recognized international authority on public speaking, ToastMasters, calls for someone to start each meeting with a joke: the combination of story-telling and humor.

Telling stories, humorous or otherwise, engages an audience. Done properly, stories create points of reference to which listeners can relate. They’re interested and curious about how each story ends. A memorable story will help the audience “get the point” you want them to remember, in a way that conveys a self-evident truth.

As you know, many people are terrified of speaking in public. Can you give some of your advice about how to overcome this fear?

#1: Don’t “buy” it when you hear public speaking is our worst fear, even more so than death. That’s a myth, widely-circulated and often-repeated, based on misinterpretation of a marketing survey from 50 years ago! Still, fear of public speaking is very real and quite common — even among experienced speakers.

#2: Understand the nature of fear of public speaking. It’s a vestige of human evolution as a species, with our very survival dependent on protection from predators through the “safety in numbers” from the tribe. Today, anticipation of ridicule and rejection can feel being an “outcast” from the group. At its core, fear of public speaking is fear of embarrassment — which is not a literal threat to our survival, and can actually be beneficial, creating an emotional “connection” of empathy with the audience. Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley found embarrassment during public speaking made the speaker seem more human, relatable, and trustworthy.

#3: Confidence, as described above, is a key component of conquering this fear. The more you speak and gain confidence in your own abilities over time, the less likely you are to suffer anxiety about presenting.

#4: Self-awareness. Before my most recent speech, I realized my heart had started racing and I was nervously tapping my foot. These are the kind of physical sensations that indicate anxiety over speaking. If you’re self-aware of how your own individual mind and body react to anxiety, you’ll know when you’re being “triggered” by fear of public speaking.

#5: BREATHE. Take deep, slow, rhythmic, abdominal breaths. I have been doing yoga since I was a teenager; breath techniques are a key part of any yoga discipline. Put a hand beneath your navel and push that hand away with your abdomen as you inhale. It takes a little getting used to, but this body-awareness trick helps you identify how the lower abdominal muscles can be trained to suck air more deeply into the lower lobes of the lungs, providing more oxygen to the surrounding area, which is dominated by the vagus nerve (the word root is the same as “vagabond,” or wanderer, because the vagus “wanders” throughout the body). The vagus nerve thus gets “oxygenated” and secretes a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine, which is known as the body’s “natural tranquilizer.” Due to its capacity for self-regulation, this nerve has come to be known as the “smart vagus” — because it can act almost like a second brain. This is the neuroscience behind the old adage to “take a deep breath,” or “just breathe.” This is what I did when I realized I was getting nervous prior to my latest speech.

#6: Distract yourself. Take a walk. Focus on nature. Pick up your phone and peruse Facebook. Phone a friend. Do anything to get your mind off your anxiety. Reviewing your material may help, by continuing to build confidence through practice, and focusing on the subject matter itself instead of your anxiety. On the other hand, it could reinforce your anxiety by reminding you of what you’re about to do and the associated apprehension. Evaluate your own individual situation and see whether pre-speech review helps.

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?

Caring about others. Call it “the Golden Rule,” love, empathy, compassion. It’s all the same to me.

Throughout history, tremendous pain and suffering has resulted from extreme imbalance between those with wealth and power — most of whom typically want more of both — and those with less. I would love to start a movement for more of the world’s wealthy and powerful individuals to recognize and achieve the priceless, beneficial feelings and sensations derived from caring about others and seeing them live better lives. There’s neuroscience behind this: we’re “wired” to care for each other. Committing, or even witnessing, an act of kindness causes the secretion of “pleasure hormones” in the brain. In this way, happiness could wind up being something money can actually “buy” after all — if only it were put to such use.

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!

@BarackObama

He’s such a historical figure, who exemplifies so many things I admire: intelligence, kindness, humor, courage, persistence, empathy. Far from a perfect individual, he admits his own faults — one of the many things I find so admirable. It’s an overt tragedy how his words and actions have been distorted, and how he has been vilified by millions of the very people he would want to lift up.

Are you on social media? How can our readers follow you online?

Caveat: since I only started my business very recently, my social media presence is still in an embryonic stage, but will be built-out in the coming weeks and months. Thank you for providing a platform to discuss what I’m doing to help others!

Website: www.dynamicoach.com

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dynamicoach/

Facebook: @dynamicoach

FB Group: Speaking for Impact

Twitter: @Coach4Speaking

YouTube: DynamiCoach

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


Tom Cobin Of DynamiCoach 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.

Jitendra Gupta of Blissfull Prosperity Solutions: Giving Feedback; How To Be Honest Without Being…

Jitendra Gupta of Blissfull Prosperity Solutions: Giving Feedback; How To Be Honest Without Being Hurtful

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Be calm and peaceful. Whenever you are giving feedback, your mind must be calm and peaceful because if your mind is disturbed, your communication will fail; it will invite resistance and blame from another person’s side. So, always be calm and peaceful whenever you are giving feedback.

As a part of our series about “How To Give Honest Feedback without Being Hurtful”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jitendra Gupta, founder & CEO of Blissfull Prosperity Solutions, a spiritual billionaire coach, and author of ZeroHurt Communication.

He is authoring another book called, Stuck! Can’t Stay, Can’t Quit, which is on Transforming relationships. He has transformed more than 5000 people across nations in 14+ years. He is on a mission to create Spiritual billionaires who enjoy spiritual bliss with material abundance and serves society so that everybody can live a life of joy, peace, and prosperity in the world.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

After working for ten years in the banking industry, I observed that most people are stressed due to work pressure, relationship issues, health issues, etc.

Everybody seemed to live a very mechanical life. They were running aimlessly without thinking about the direction they wanted to lead. This made me question myself: “Where am I heading?”, “What is the purpose of my life?” “Is my life only about giving loans to people, doing a job, and taking care of my family, or do I have any other purpose in my life?”

A voice from within told me that I have a bigger purpose: to serve humanity and bring joy, peace, and harmony to people’s lives.

This thought grew each passing day, and in October 2010, I resigned from the bank and joined a spiritual cum social organization. I learned many things about spirituality, social work, and human transformation. I made a lot of spiritual progress and started conducting many training programs on relationship development, stress management, organizing, time management, business development, etc.

Since then, I have done a lot of research in human behaviour, neuroscience, quantum physics, spirituality, transformation, motivation, and leadership, but soon I exhausted all my savings and went through a deep financial crisis which also led to strained relationships. This made me realize that in order to live a fulfilling life a person needs to balance: spirituality, meaningful work, and money, and this led to starting of the Spiritual Billionaire project.

A Spiritual Billionaire is a person who enjoys spiritual bliss, and material abundance while making a social contribution. My mission in life is to create Spiritual Billionaires to maintain peace, prosperity, and harmony.

During this time, I realized that most people face difficulty maintaining good relationships because of poor communication skills, and I started teaching people “How to communicate without suppressing or spoiling relations?” I also wrote the books “ZeroHurt Communication” and “Stuck- Can’t Stay, Can’t Quit”. By using the principles people started getting fantastic results.

For example — A project in charge and a project manager who were always arguing and fighting started working as a team. In another case, A father and son who were not in talking terms started talking like friends. Like that there are many success stories of how the right communication can drastically improve any relationship.

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

  1. Going to the Root cause — The first thing that separates us from the lot is that we go to the root cause of any problem and find a solution that can work in day-to-day life.
  2. Practical Solutions — The second is that all our training and coaching solutions are not just theories but practical and can be immediately applied by anybody for excellent outcomes. They are simple to understand and easy to implement.
  3. Result Oriented — Third, our purpose is not just to share knowledge, but to give results for which our clients have hired us.
  4. Spiritual Foundation — The fourth unique quality of all our programs is that they have spirituality as the foundation. We thoroughly believe and acknowledge that any solution based on spirituality will give long-lasting and practical results.

For example, one of our programs is the Spiritual Billionaire program. There we take participants to the depths of their spiritual self, where they experience bliss, joy, unconditional love, and oneness with the universe and use that for living a materially abundant life.

For example, one of my clients wanted to grow his business without leaving spirituality and with our help he doubled his income in just three months.

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

This is Aarzoo’s story; I will never forget this story because it made a significant impact on me as it reminds me of why I started to transform lives. When she was 18, she lost her mother, and her father remarried. Aarzoo couldn’t accept her stepmother because she wasn’t able to give anyone else the same place as her mother.

As a consequence of it, her relationship with her brother, father, and sister-in-law also got ruined. She got into bad company and went through stress and depression. By the age of 23, her friends suggested that she should go to a psychiatrist, which she couldn’t accept. Somehow, she contacted me and asked “It’s been five years, and I have already tried so many things but still I am not able to come out of stress”, “Can I ever get out of this stress?” To which I replied, “Yes.” Later she decided to come for one of my Spiritual Billionaire mindset workshops.

At the end of the workshop, she shared, “For the last five years, I had this villain (stepmother) in my life and I tried everything to change my situation but all went in vain. I don’t know how, but something has shifted in the last two days, and now I can say that the villain has become my mother, and due to this I can sense my relationship with everybody in the family has also shifted. Now I am ready to rock the world”

This has been one of the most memorable experiences since I started my career; of course, there have been many such examples, but this one will always be special.

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?

This incident happened when I was attending my public speaking classes and in one of the lessons, we were being taught about the importance of appreciating people around us. I started applying my lessons practically by complimenting people around me. One day on my way home on the bus, I saw a beautiful girl standing in front of me.

Being young, full of innocence, and enthusiastic about practically applying my lesson, I decided to appreciate this girl for her beauty but before I could say it, she got off the bus and I also got down just to appreciate her beauty. I followed her and when I said “you are so beautiful,” she said, “shut up”.

The lesson I learned was no matter how good our intentions are, the ways to achieve them should also be proper.

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

In my organization, we have a culture where everybody should enjoy the work while delivering high performance. They should be able to balance their personal and professional lives, which is why people love working within our organization and never feel burned out.

People want to be treated like humans and not like machines. It’s important to understand that they also have feelings and emotions. If we trust them and give them the right environment, they will save themselves from burnout and provide excellent results while leading a more balanced life.

So, I would request all other CEOs and business leaders that yes, it is important that people deliver results but it is also important that they enjoy the work so create a culture and environment where everybody can enjoy the work, form deeper bonds, and have the flexibility to balance their personal and professional lives while delivering high performance.

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

Leadership is all about taking full responsibility for whatever they want. A leader is a visionary who has a vision for the future that will improve the quality of life for people. A leader is not the one who is only interested in getting the work done, but he’s also interested in the growth of people. Personally, a leader leads by example, inspires, brings out the best in people, gives credit when there’s a success, and takes the blame when there’s a failure.

In one of the banks where I was working, I did some work that was not up to the mark, and it had some grave mistakes, so my boss told me that we will have to go to the head office to face the management. I got a little anxious. I went along with my boss, and when I came in front of people at the head office, they started telling me about the mistake I had made. But then my boss took the responsibility on himself. He protected me and assured them that such a mistake would not happen again.

This is a sign of a great leader, he did not throw me to face the brunt, but he protected me and boosted my confidence. The next time I completed the work, it was good, and my boss allowed me to take the credit for it. So, for me, leadership is basically about taking 100% responsibility; it’s not just about achieving the goals and vision but also developing people, giving credit to others for success, and taking the blame when things don’t go as planned.

In my work, I often talk about how to release and relieve stress. As a busy leader, what do you do to prepare your mind and body before a stressful or high stakes meeting, talk, or decision? Can you share a story or some examples?

My way of handling stress is to move my body in different ways before any critical situation, either by jumping, stretching, taking deep breaths, or affirmations.

Whenever I focus on what I will get or lose, whether I will do well or not, all these thoughts lead to stress and anxiety, but when I think about it, I am here to contribute and make a difference in their lives, I experience freedom from stress. I also focus on giving my 100% and leaving the rest to God, which relieves all tension.

For example, Once, I had to go to an event, and I was nervous about “what to say?” “How to say?” So just before it, I tried relaxing my mind taking some deep breaths, and had a conversation with myself that “I will give my best, and I am here to contribute”, then, whatever happens, it happens for the best,” and after completing the speech, I received a standing ovation from the audience.

Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Can you briefly tell our readers about your experience with managing a team and giving feedback?

As a team leader, when we work to achieve our goals and visions, it becomes essential that the entire team is on the same page. Quite a few times, people may not perform as per expectations, or their behaviour may not align with the organizational values. Hence, it becomes imperative to give feedback to your team members to make them aware of their mistakes.

I have always had an excellent experience working with a team because of the art of communication I have developed over the years to give empowering feedback.

This has helped me get cooperation from my team members, and because of this, there is harmony in our team. We also have a system of giving feedback regularly to each other, which is required to develop good team bonding. Everybody feels that their views are valued and have freedom of expression. This empowers them to contribute towards building a fantastic team spirit.

I’ve been always working with teams, first when I was in the bank, second when I was in a spiritual organization, and third when I started my organization. I firmly believe that any team can work together only when they have a free flow of information and freedom of expression without any fear.

This might seem intuitive but it will be constructive to spell it out. Can you share with us a few reasons why giving honest and direct feedback is essential to being an effective leader?

It is essential to provide direct and honest feedback for various reasons –

  1. Workability — When you provide honest feedback, people will understand and will be able to recognize what is and is not working for them.
  2. Getting Results — Honest and direct feedback is essential for a leader because the leader is responsible for getting results. The leader is also responsible for whatever happens in the organization.
  3. Be on the same page — if things are not going in the proper direction, it is essential as a leader to bring the entire team in the direction of the goal. Suppose something is not going well, whether it is about some person’s behaviour or performance. In that case, it is essential to bring people’s attention to what’s not working, redirect their energies, and guide them on things needed to achieve the goals.
  4. Developing people — A leader is also responsible for developing people who run the organization and do the work. They must be given regular feedback on what they are doing right and what needs further improvement. I believe that feedback is the breakfast of champions and people can only grow by receiving constant feedback. If people are not given regular feedback. The growth will be prolonged, and as a leader, you want people to grow to their fullest.
  5. Avoid Gossiping — If you don’t give direct feedback, there’s a very high likelihood of misunderstandings, gossip, politics, etc. Direct feedback overcomes all of them.

Hence, as a leader, it is paramount to provide direct and honest feedback, both positive and constructive, at the appropriate time in a proper manner.

One of the trickiest parts of managing a team is giving honest feedback, in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. Can you please share with us five suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote employee? Kindly share a story or example for each.

My top five suggestions on how to give direct feedback without being harsh, which I have been successfully using along with all my clients, are –

  1. Be calm and peaceful.

Whenever you are giving feedback, your mind must be calm and peaceful because if your mind is disturbed, your communication will fail; it will invite resistance and blame from another person’s side. So, always be calm and peaceful whenever you are giving feedback.

2. Ensure the other person is ready to listen.

Always ensure that the other person is open to receiving our feedback because if the other person is not even ready to receive your feedback, then what is the very the point of giving feedback and the way you can ensure it is as follows-

  • By creating an empowering context — It means the reason why you are communicating should be empowering to other people. If the reason why you’re communicating is disempowering to people, they will most likely not be open to receiving your feedback. For example, if your aim of communicating is to make people seem wrong, bring them down, or yell out your anger and frustration, then that will not empower the other person. But if your purpose is to uplift the person, or help the other person grow, then it will empower the other person, and the chances of them listening to you will be much higher.
  • Relate with the person in an empowering way — If you think about the person negatively, for example, He is irresponsible and unimportant. This will not make the other person open to listening to you. But if you relate to other people as important and valuable, the chances of the other person listening to your feedback are higher. Always remember, “No correction without emotional connection.”

3. Express Responsibly.

It means you don’t attack the person but point out their action you have an objection to. Attacking on a personal basis will only make it difficult for the other person to receive your feedback. You want to make it easy for the person to listen to you and not hard.

Also, show them the reason why you have an objection to their action. Make them aware of the impact of their action on you, on them, the team, the organization, society, etc., so they are not left guessing why you are having an objection to their actions or behavior.

For example, if a person is coming late, you can tell them that their action of coming late regularly is creating indiscipline in the organization. It upsets me because I feel that I am being taken for granted. It is affecting you because you are creating a reputation of being very irresponsible and casual or any other reason that is making you upset.

4. Ask for a specific action/request.

After you have given the reason for your feedback, please don’t leave the process just there. Ask them the specific action you want them to take now or in the future. For example — You may say, “From next time, please be in the office by 10 am”.

5. Acknowledge and offer support.

After you have given the feedback, acknowledge the person for patiently and positively listening to you and for accepting your feedback, and offer any support that you can provide, which can help the other person to implement your request or action that you want them to take.

And finally, given the other person an opportunity to express themselves and listen to them empathetically.

Applying these things would go a long way in creating good team bonding. It will help you to give feedback without spoiling the relationships.

Can you address how to give constructive feedback over email? If someone is in front of you much of the nuance can be picked up in facial expressions and body language. But not when someone is remote. How do you prevent the email from sounding too critical or harsh?

The principle of giving constructive feedback will remain the same whether face-to-face or over email; the same five steps are to be followed.

It doesn’t make any difference whether the person is in front or remotely present. Even If you’re giving feedback via email, it is important to follow the system because it always does wonders.

Another thing that can be done is instead of giving feedback only in writing; you can record your constructive feedback and attach your audio file with the email.

In your experience, is there a best time to give feedback or critique? Should it be immediately after an incident? Should it be at a different time? Should it be at set intervals? Can you explain what you mean?

There cannot be one answer to this question because it depends on the situation, to whom you are giving feedback, and how critical and urgent the feedback is.

But a general rule is that constructive feedback should always be given one to one in private unless you want to provide common feedback to a group of people. For example — An entire sales team, all the employees, etc.

Another critical point is that you give them feedback only when your mind is calm and the other person is ready to listen to you. If you provide feedback when the other person is not in the right frame of mind, high on emotions, and is disturbed, then it is not the best time to provide feedback because it will probably backfire.

Subject to the above guidelines, feedback must be given immediately after the incident as far as time is concerned. It is fresh and makes sense to rectify the mistake immediately. It is also essential to provide feedback at regular intervals, so a person knows how they are doing and they get a chance to improve their performance and behaviour and not wait till the end of the year.

For example, if I see one of my teammates making the same mistake repeatedly, I may not tell that person immediately, but I will set up a time to give feedback.

How would you define what it is to “be a great boss”? Can you share a story?

In my view, bosses can never be great because a boss means somebody who is only interested in work rather than the person.

So, instead of saying a boss, I would say be a leader. A leader is a person who on one hand is concerned about the vision, goal, and performance, but at the same time, they equally care for the people.

In our organization, whenever anybody joins our team, we ensure that while everybody is performing at their highest level, they are also growing personally by providing them regular training and feedback, which will not just help them in their career but personally too. At the same time, we give them the flexibility to balance their personal and professional lives.

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. 🙂

Yes! for me, the idea or the movement that is very close to my heart is the movement of Spiritual Billionaire.

This is important because we see problems of stress, insecurity, poverty, unemployment, crimes, terrorism, pollution, divorce, and separation faced by individuals, families, and society. These problems can be traced to a lack of spiritual grounding and material prosperity in individuals.

Suppose every person grows spiritually and is grounded in their reality and operates from that reality in the service of humanity. At the same time, they enjoy material wealth and abundance. Then, we can have a heaven on earth where every person can live a life of joy, peace, and prosperity.

I am also working on the same movement, and I would like to invite everybody reading this article to be a part of this Spiritual Billionaire movement.

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

My favourite life quote is — “Pain is inevitable, but suffering is a matter of choice.” In other words, I am in charge of my happiness.

So how has this quote helped me in my life?

When we go through life, we will face challenges, ups, and downs, profits and losses, pains and gains.

Pain is inevitable, whether physical pain, emotional pain, or mental pain. It is an unavoidable part of life that nobody can escape, but suffering is a matter of choice which means that I can choose whether to suffer or not to suffer.

When I give energy to disempowering conversations, the things that I don’t like, and continue brooding, thinking, and talking about them, I am only making my pain bigger instead of focusing on what’s lovely and cheerful in my life, I can be happy and peaceful.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

The readers can follow my work by clicking here

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


Jitendra Gupta of Blissfull Prosperity Solutions: Giving Feedback; How To Be Honest Without Being… 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: Parker Beauchamp of Markd On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Don’t forget; no matter what, you are not a big deal in the broader context of world history. Try to be cool.

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

Parker Beauchamp is the founder and managing partner at Markd. A fifth-generation insurance professional with nearly 20 years in the industry, he is committed to transforming how the insurance space does business and leading by example. He is the former CEO of INGUARD, a forward-thinking insurance and risk management firm, where he managed a personal portfolio of clientele who required complex insurance and risk management strategies, such as high net worth individuals, celebrities, athletes and their companies. Additionally, Beauchamp was named one of Insurance Business America magazine’s “Young Guns’’ in 2015.

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 had a great childhood. Of course, it was not a breeze or anything, but I wouldn’t change any of it. I grew up in a small, rural, yet progressively artistic, city called Wabash, Indiana. It had 15,000 people when I was born and 10,000 when I left. I was an entrepreneurial little guy. As a kid, I started companies, mowed lawns and worked on farms. I always had a project going for money or how I thought I could create good in the world.

Growing up in a community like that, I, of course, did not have all the opportunities in the world, but I did have some benefit of growing up in an area where everyone knew me, even if that came with some strings attached.

I was very fortunate that my family valued travel and we did it extensively. At a young age, I made it to all 50 states in the US, and at least as many countries. Some of my favorite trips as a kid included visits to Lloyd’s of London with my mom and dad, where I tagged along as a stowaway of sorts. Both of my parents were ‘names’ at the organization, essentially meaning they were personally, financially responsible for a portion of the losses and expenses that exceeded underwriting proceeds. As with many Americans at the time, I’m not sure that went well for them.

But, that exposure to the insurance industry, at a relatively young age, probably 5 years or younger, made an unshakeable impression on me. I got to go into the new (at the time) Lloyd’s building and ride the escalators observing underwriters and brokers going about their business. I was completely obsessed. I read all the books, even if I didn’t understand them.

In addition to that experience, my family, along with some other families, owned a small insurance agency. Very typical stuff. My great-grandfather, Ward (my namesake), had acquired our piece of it from a bank for $5,000 just before the depression. During the depression, the bank reneged on its contract and stole the clients back, but Ward was a tough guy. He had his leg amputated by a civil war surgeon, on a block of ice, when he was only eight years old. He essentially fought to keep his clients and saved the agency. It grew like so many agencies grew; brought in some sons (truly), merged with competitors, and acquired others in surrounding towns and such.

As a family, we talked about insurance and helping our customers all the time. I dreamed of making all of them proud of me. I wanted to be the best and still do. I started mowing the lawns for the company when I was around 12, I think. Then, I started working in the office on breaks in high school, until later, as a teenager in college, I started getting shipped off to insurance companies for internships.

It was at one of those, in 1999, where I came to the conclusion all of insurance was going online. And, I thought it might be soon. It would surely just be a few more years I thought, and I was determined to be the one to see to it. But, yet, here we still are as an industry, 23 years later, with all this opportunity, just barely scratching the surface with the application of technology. It will happen.

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

It is not my line, but it sure means a lot to me. That is; it is better to be smart…but, if you’re going to be dumb…you better be tough. Even though I was undersized, I always took anyone on if I thought there was an opportunity to stand up for someone. This was especially useful getting into neighborhood fights as a kid and wrestling for the Wabash Apaches (right). I still apply this belief every day. To me, winning comes down to what you’re made of. Rarely does anything ever go to plan. Mistakes happen and you don’t get any redoes. So, other than to learn from mistakes, what already happened is not relevant in my mind. There is only where you are now, and where you can go, so figure out a way to survive and advance. In wrestling, you could be getting beaten badly on points, banged up, lungs on fire and feel near death, but if you can just get your opponent’s shoulders to touch the mat at the same time for a split second your arm gets raised as the winner. I loved this. Some people have makeup that would never allow them to quit. This is how I want to be — always. This is a fragile mentality. Because you only have to quit once to lose it. I’d rather die or lose a limb before quitting. I am fiercely protective of this. I think of my great-grandfather. Having his leg amputated in those days put him at an incredible disadvantage his entire life. Who cares? Just keep going.

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?

There is not. My own life experiences and adventures have led me to the highs and lows that mean so much to me now. For me, I think it has been more important to get out there and do something myself, even if that means I could screw something up.

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?

Definitely. I think most ideas are generally good. They’re just ideas after all and those are free. I think the hardest part about getting a good idea to become a business is shepherding it through all the naysayers, doubters, jealous people and cranks. Most people haven’t started a company, and never will, so what authority are they to tell you what’s wrong with your ideas? Take their feedback, but don’t let them kill off your dreams. Just keep going. Think of all the good ideas that never came to be because of someone talking another person out of it.

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?

Well, I don’t know. Maybe someone has, maybe someone hasn’t, but who cares. Google wasn’t the first search engine. Tesla didn’t invent the car, not even the electric car. Apple didn’t invent a mobile phone. Amazon wasn’t the first bookstore. Netflix wasn’t the first rental company. One doesn’t have to be first. It is a great big, complex world that has a lot of needs — I think there is enough space for you so do your homework and go for it.

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 sorry. I just can’t. There are so many ways to go about it. One has to find their own way. Above all else. Just start.

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

  1. Go for it. Starting is the hardest part. I never had trouble with this, but it does not mean I ever started without fear; fear of failing, fear of hurting me or my family, fear for my reputation. Embrace these feelings for what they are, feelings. These make life worth living.
  2. Raise hell. My grandfather told me this every time I said goodbye to him. “Okay man, raise hell,” he would say. It didn’t matter what we were doing. “Teach the teachers a thing or two,” was another. You can’t start a company by being afraid to put yourself out there. It’s unnatural. So be confident. Shake off the losses and just keep going.
  3. Have tons of fun. If you’re going about something. It might as well be fun. Most people will never start a company. Take pleasure in being one of the few that have or might. I try to walk the line of being excited AND terrified at the same time. I think that’s a good place to be.
  4. Be a fair dealer. Soon your time on earth will end so don’t cheat folks. What’s the point if you do? You’ll be liked more and have more success if you don’t.
  5. Don’t forget; no matter what, you are not a big deal in the broader context of world history. Try to be cool.

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?

I’d socialize it. Talk about your idea to as many people you trust that you can. After that process, do you still think you have something? Then, keep going. Involve some other professionals in the space, or investors, attorneys, analysts, etcetera. Your people will likely lead you to the next set of people, and the next and the next. If you love what you’re doing, keep plugging along.

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?

Personally, I’d strike out on my own. No offense to consultants. They have their place in the world, and I love some of them, but that is not where I would go to start a company. I would probably go to someone that has started a company (and not a consulting company).

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

Geez. Unsure. I think it depends. I’ve definitely done both, and also taken on reckless amounts of debt to see my ideas through. One trap I think many get caught up in are old adages about ‘being debt-free’, or obsessing over profit and loss while ignoring value creation. If you are focused on creating value quickly, I think having money to invest in your ideas and companies is the way to go. Having started with nothing, or maybe worse, starting with debts, today I’d side on raising venture money. That money is extremely important, and can be helpful to grow value quickly, but perhaps even more meaningful is that if you’re strategic, you’d have the potential to pick up some really great partners that can give you a second set of eyes, ears and ideas, networks, encouragement and such. Business is hard and can be an emotional rollercoaster, which is great. This makes you feel dead and alive so sometimes it helps to have a buddy or two with you along the way.

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

Well, I hope that I have. I don’t think that you can ever stop trying. One of the few great wealth creators in the world, if not the only true version, is just that — creation. Creating businesses, for example, can do good in the world and can also create wealth. With this comes a voice, influence, money and power for one to use as a source of good. But none of these are necessities. Don’t wait around for success to try to help people. There are a lot of folks we interact with all day long that we can help. Maybe it is as simple as a hello, or opening a door, telling someone you are proud of them, that you are cheering for them, or that you are sorry. There is so much to be happy for. Don’t let the details get you down. Smile.

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.

Selflessness

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.

Neil Armstrong. So many questions. So many. Gosh I want to walk on something other than Earth, and I will forever be jealous he got to do it first.

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


Making Something From Nothing: Parker Beauchamp of Markd 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: James Lam Of Lookahead Marketing On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Find a mentor or two and no more. Stop listening to others. Find one, maybe two mentors at most, and listen keenly to them. Be open to what they say. Be open to paying them so that they are vested in your success.

As a part of our series called “Making Something From Nothing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Soheil Nazari-Kangarlou.

James Lam, owner of LAM — Look Ahead Marketing, helps heart-centered entrepreneurs discover their superpowers and then use those gifts to shape their businesses into change-making enterprises via his 12-week signature program, Superpowered Business Success. James also built the successful franchise, Learn Photography Company, with over 5000 students at ten studios across Canada. https://www.lookaheadmarketing.com/.

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 Burlington, Ontario, where I was one of 3% of minority skin colors going to school. My parents are immigrants from Hong Kong. Growing up, we had money and a wealth paradigm, with my parents always talking about the kids becoming a doctor or a lawyer, some kind of a professional. The paradigm my family lived by was hard work will get you to your goals. We had to sacrifice fun, we played violin, I played piano, did great in math — it was an environment based on external validation. I drew a lot of the lessons for this article from my childhood because a lot of people in the coaching space and in the entrepreneurial world feel they can outwork the problem, but they’re wasting so much time.

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

When I was growing up I was a big Star Trek The Next Generation fan. In the very first episode, there was an all-powerful being simply named “Q” who threatened to extinguish humanity unless the crew of the Enterprise passed a trial that he set up.

As the bridge officers were debating on how to proceed with this trial, the Captain turns around and says “if we’re going to be damned, let’s be damned for what we really are.”

That saying has guided my entrepreneurial journey from start and it’s a big reason why I’m being featured today. Be yourself. Be proud of it. Wear it. You’ve earned it.

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 loved reading Mindset: The Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck. It made a HUGE impact on me when we really started to expand the business. For so many years, we had struggled with achieving marginal success, and then here was the first opportunity to truly go BIG. We were scared and, quite frankly, terrified that we were going to make mistakes (we knew we were going to make mistakes — just how many and how fatal were the questions!).

Mindset provided an infinite canvas from which to improve. Instead of seeing the world as “success or fail”, it taught me that “done” is a wonderful starting place and nothing is ever fatal.

In this industry, it’s common to have people abandon plans at the smallest hiccup. Instead of leaning into the problems as an opportunity for learning, many entrepreneurs give up far too early. This book challenges those assumptions that would have us believe that failure is fatal, and provides amazing context for continual improvement and eventually, guaranteed wins.

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?

This is a HUGE challenge with new entrepreneurs and one that I see all the time. In fact, it’s what generates 99% of the questions and keeps us in business! I’ll answer this all-encompassing question in a few different ways:

1) Making it too complicated and perfect. Set out to solve one problem and then test your offer.

People try to solve ALL the problems in one offer, which results in the offer never getting out the door because they continue to tweak it until they feel it’s “ready” (which is usually never). We underestimate the power of starting at Square One and improving. Come up with the solution to ONE problem and go all-in on that. For example, a good offer would be “how to change the oil in your car” whereas a not-so-great offer would be “how to rebuild your car”. One problem = one solution. Test it first to see if the public wants it and if so, improve on that ONE solution so it is the best it possibly can be. Then, you move on to the next solution ie how to change your brake fluid.

One of the recurring powerful themes in my work with coaches, healers, speakers, and authors is simply finding the courage to start being seen. The crown jewel of my signature course for online coaches and healers is them finally creating their first BETA product and being paid thousands of dollars without the complexity of funnels, landing pages, ads, or anything else.

3) Diluting the Idea

Stop comparing your Step 1 with others’ Step 26. A mistake that I see too often is new entrepreneurs strive for perfection and complexity from the get-go. This leads to poor decision-making and people becoming “busy” and over “productive”. A great example of this is having mentored some new coaches with amazing talents, who have created the most beautiful and amazing, highly complex email funnel logic campaigns… with sadly no emails to put in them.

This is a huge paradigm shift as we destroy the false belief that you needed ALL the systems, and all of them to be perfect in order to have a profitable business.

You have a special product that is unique to you and is amazing. Stop diluting it.

I’ve seen dozens of online coaches, healers, and course creators dilute an idea — and it’s all based on insecurity and lack of brand message clarity. It looks something like this — early on we do a competitive analysis and find somebody who is doing something similar. They’ve been in the space longer and we feel they are the authority so we change our very special product because we feel we need to be competitive. Some compensate by adding so many extra bells and whistles to the new product, that it ends up as just an overgrown shadow of what was once an amazing idea, having lost what once made it special.

Stay with your idea. Keep it special. Keep it simple.

3) People Don’t Find a Coach or Mentor

Find somebody who can help you succeed faster.

A good mentor or coach is somebody who will reduce your timeline to success by months, more likely years. Most people think a good coach tells you what to do, and sometimes that’s the case, but what’s equally as important, if not more important, is what NOT to do.

You have a finite amount of time in business and in the beginning, it’s critical that the time is used wisely. A good coach or mentor will give you a 100X+ ROI over many years.

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?

In my space, the better question is: does it *really* matter that you create something truly unique? Let me tell you these two ways of looking at this…

The people I have the privilege of working with — online coaches, healers, authors, and speakers — ARE the product (and let’s face it — everybody is unique in all their perfect imperfections). Normally we think that we always have to create something new and have to have the “first-mover” advantage. The reality is those first movers very rarely maintain that advantage, and in my space, the unique selling proposition is primarily the people themselves, followed secondarily by product and service uniqueness. What this means is that you have a crowd that is naturally attracted to you. So while you could argue that everybody who has worked with me could also work with Tony Robbins (truth by the way), personality and intuition dictate that my crowd will get better results because their personality and goals are in alignment with my skill set and knowledge. Hence — we are all individuals and all have unique businesses.

I am actually buoyed and encouraged when somebody comes up to me and says that their business idea is “taken”. There is so much business out there! We must believe in this as it’s one of the key tenets of abundance-minded thinking. Competition? That’s GREAT! Because it means you have a viable product so there’s money to be made.

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?

I LOVE the online coaching space because it’s super streamlined. One of the things I ask people to do is:

1.Come up with an idea

2. Have a conversation with their target market

3. Have an idea about the transformation their product offers

4. Sell to the email list as a Beta to verify that it is going to sell (while making a few thousand dollars)

5. Refine with feedback from Beta testers

6. Launch to market.

It doesn’t get any simpler (or faster) than that!

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

1) Go with your gut

So one of the things I do before making any decision, whether it’s big or little, is I always do a gut check. Of course, I run the numbers, I do the ratios, I look at possible scenarios and what could happen. But at the end of the day, more often than not, I trust my gut. And that’s one of the things I wish I had known earlier because I made a bunch of bad decisions by going against my gut, which caused me to take longer to get where I am now.

2) Find the courage to get out there and stop playing small

One of the things that I wish someone had told me is that entrepreneurship is scary. And when it is scary, it means you’re on the right path. There is risk in everything that we do. The best entrepreneurs take massive calculated risks, which pay off — and the result is a huge upleveling jump up to new levels.

3) Find a mentor or two and no more. Stop listening to others.

Find one, maybe two mentors at most, and listen keenly to them. Be open to what they say. Be open to paying them so that they are vested in your success.

To others who you don’t trust, keep them out of your mind. Follow this wisdom and you will go farther than ever.

4) Hard work in alignment with heart and spirituality

Here’s a nasty secret — the world is awash with one simple paradigm that needs to shift, which is “just work harder.” In my industry, it’s known as “hustle and grind.” Essentially there’s a false belief that if you work long enough, hard enough, and sacrifice enough, you will become abundant beyond your wildest dreams.

I wish that somebody told me to align my heart and spirituality with hard work instead when I first started in entrepreneurship. Spirituality and heart are the belief work that you must do around success. It’s the BEING part of your success. More than anything else this is the driver to your success.

5) Stop comparing yourself to other entrepreneurs. The road is long (and bumpy).

A mistake we make is comparing our Step 2 with others’ Step 30 and adopting all their strategies and tactics. We think, “if only I had that I could jump to success.” The reality is that every failure is like a brick and the more bricks you have, the bigger the house you can build. You have to have those brick-sized failures in order to win. So when you compare yourself to someone else, putting into play what they’re doing is not going to work because they got to Step 30 by going from 1 to 2 to 3 to 4, etc., solving a problem each step of the way. Your business has to have its own evolution without skipping stages.

The fastest route to success is to fail fast and fail often. As Soichiro Honda (yes, THAT Honda) said, “Success is 99% failure.” Take James Dyson, for example. Over the course of 15 years, he created 5,127 different prototypes for his bagless vacuum and when he finally had a working model, the British market rejected it. Did he give up? No, he sold it through catalogs in Japan, which eventually gave him the funds to open his own factory. Dyson is now valued at over $5 billion dollars.

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?

Beta test the hell out of it! Try to explain it and sell a test version for real money to see if you can get buyers — that helps to test the market. Then have those Beta customers come back to you with feedback.

Know that you don’t have to solve everything in one offer as you can leave room to solve the next piece of the puzzle in a future product. What you do need is to have a very specific goal of solving ONE problem. Many times I see people trying to create solutions and packages to solve ALL of the problems at once.

Solve the one specific problem that you set out to, then Beta test another product that solves the problem that follows the solution your Product One provided.

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 was going to say venture capital because you always, always (always) end up burning way more capital than you would ever expect in any business plan — take my word for it — three businesses later and I’m always amazed at how much we spend before making a decent income.

After much internal debate, however, I’m thinking bootstrapping is essential for any entrepreneur who truly wants to grow.

Why?

The truth is that I am a strong believer that the tough times in an entrepreneur’s life help to mold them into the person that they need to be. The skills, beliefs, and personality that are forged through the fires of challenge are what help an entrepreneur grow. And a company grows when an entrepreneur grows. I think what happens is when someone doesn’t have to “work for it”, they miss out on a level of learning and development of character that makes them a better entrepreneur. Think of how many businesses are passed down to the founder’s grandchildren only to fail because they lack this entrepreneurial steel, with examples such as Gucci, Seagram’s, and Eaton’s department stores. There’s actually a term for it, the “third-generation rule,” which finds 70% of affluent families will have lost their wealth by the third generation.

So there it is — bootstrapping #ftw — at least for me 🙂

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

Being the child of immigrants myself, I sought out an opportunity to help other newcomers to Canada, which is why I’ve been on the Board of Directors for the Immigrant Services of Calgary these last three years. I’ve been able to use my marketing skills to help improve messaging, build better and stronger systems and create partnerships with various organizations and businesses that can help refugees and immigrants build a new life while enriching the community.

In my professional work, I believe I’m helping change the world one person at a time. When my clients, who are coaches and healers, believe in what they can do and showcase it to the world, there is a ripple effect for the better. For example, one woman I work with tragically lost both her sons to murder. In order to honour their memory, she wrote books to help others who have undergone the loss of a loved one. My goal is always to help my clients shine their lights brightly to the world.

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.

My movement would be “Get out of hustle & grind, get into heart & mind”. The way to success is to work powerfully aligned. I believe that your deep why, that reason you do what you do, is the internal drive you need to keep going and avoid burnout.

It doesn’t matter if you’re an entrepreneur, it doesn’t matter if you’re in corporate, it doesn’t matter if you’re a mother trying to raise amazing children. What really matters is having the belief in spirit and a strong mindset which provide an unshakable foundation to be the best version of yourself at this moment. When you find that — you find your personal potential that will keep you going through thick and thin.

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.

Amy Porterfield!! Her course changed my business dramatically in under four years. I would LOVE to have the opportunity to thank her personally for the impact she’s had on our family.

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


Making Something From Nothing: James Lam Of Lookahead Marketing 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.

Chip Conley of Modern Elder Academy: 5 Things You Should Do To Optimize Your Wellness After…

Chip Conley of Modern Elder Academy: 5 Things You Should Do To Optimize Your Wellness After Retirement

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Give back. There are so many ways to give: know-how, know-who, money, energy. Mutual mentorship is my favorite. Be open to sharing your knowledge and wisdom with someone younger, but only if you’re going to learn something from them. I had over 100 mentees during my seven and a half years at Airbnb, but, in almost all cases, I was learning as much from them as they were learning from me.

As a part of my series about the “5 Things You Should Do to Optimize Your Wellness After Retirement”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Mohammed Elamir, MD, FACP.

Chip Conley is the Co-Founder and CEO of Modern Elder Academy–the first-ever ‘midlife wisdom school’ dedicated to guiding and supporting adults through periods of transition in life. Chip is also a New York Times bestselling author, the former CEO and founder of Joie de Vivre Hospitality, and the former Head of Hospitality and Strategy at Airbnb, where he served as a “modern elder,” offering wisdom to the company’s three founders. His book, Wisdom at Work: The Making of a Modern Elder forms the core of Modern Elder Academy’s curriculum and is inspired by his experience at Airbnb.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

The Modern Elder Academy (MEA) — for which I am the Co-Founder and CEO — encompasses three businesses in one: hospitality, wellness, and education. My entire career has been spent as a hospitality entrepreneur, beginning when I founded one of the first boutique hotel companies, Joie de Vivre, and then when I served as “modern elder” — offering my hard-earned wisdom — and Head of Global Hospitality & Strategy at Airbnb, a company that was becoming a global phenomenon. In addition to incorporating wellness practices throughout my adult life, I also owned the largest spa in San Francisco and created one of the first spa hotels in San Francisco. Lastly, I served on the Board of the Esalen Institute, and for a dozen years, taught workshops at America’s first human growth retreat center. The curriculum for MEA came from my fifth book based on my experience at Airbnb, “[email protected]: The Making of a Modern Elder.” This new path MEA is taking me on feels like the perfect trifecta of my past career history.

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

Joining Airbnb at age 52 after having been a CEO for two-dozen years was fascinating. I was no longer the “sage on the stage,” but instead the “guide on the side” for the three young founders who were nearly half my age. They called me their “modern elder” because they told me I was as curious as I was wise. I was the elder statesman for a company disrupting the hospitality industry — an industry I had been in for a quarter-century.

Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?

My first hotel purchase was a poolside motel in a rough part of San Francisco. I wanted to turn it into a rock ‘n roll hotel called The Phoenix. When I was buying it, I noticed they were running at 98% occupancy so I thought I was buying a successful business. However, I came to realize that the reason they were running those high occupancies was that they were renting rooms very inexpensively on an hourly basis (mostly to prostitutes). Vinny, the pimp, and his girls were the hotel’s biggest corporate account. Once I cleaned the place up, almost all of the old clients left and I was very cash poor. For the first 3 years, I took no salary, but fortunately, the place became famous for hosting well-known musicians. Over the next 24 years, I purchased over 51 more hotels and I always asked them who their business corporate accounts were.

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 never met my mentor. I had a pen pal relationship with the long-time CEO of Southwest Airlines Herb Kelleher. I originally reached out to him because I wanted my hotel company to have a fun, thriving corporate culture like Southwest. His assistant told me he couldn’t take phone calls from me, but that I could write to him once a year for advice. I did that for ten years in a row, and I was always impressed that he would thoroughly answer my questions each time. I was featured on the cover of Southwest’s in-flight magazine many years later, the month before Herb passed away, so I’ve always felt a kinship with him.

What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?

Create and respect boundaries for all of your employees. Ask your leadership team to state proposed boundaries to their direct supervisor. Then, have the whole leadership team present their boundaries as a group and create a document outlining them. Quarterly, have each leader outline how they are doing with their boundaries and offer a 5% year-end bonus for each one who self-determines that they lived up to their boundaries during the year. This is what we’re doing at MEA and it’s amazing to see how it gives our people more agency.

What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?

In my book “PEAK: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow,” I outlined how the employee hierarchy of needs has ‘Money’ (or the full compensation package) at the base of the pyramid (a “survival” need), ‘Recognition’ in the middle (a “success” need), and ‘Meaning’ at the top (a “transformation” need). If you can build your culture keeping this hierarchy in mind, you will have more loyal, happy employees. The real differentiator isn’t at the bottom of the pyramid (Money), it’s at the top (Meaning). However, if your compensation package is just not competitive, it doesn’t matter how much Meaning you’re providing. Your people will go elsewhere.

From your point of view or experience, what are a few of the reasons that retirement can reduce one’s health?

Stanford’s Dr. Phil Pizzo has shown that the three foundational elements of healthy older people are Purpose, Community, and Wellness. When people retire, it’s obvious that they may lose the first two of these elements unless they find a new purpose or community to be a part of. It’s essential to “retire to” something, not just “retire from” something. The big surprise is that wellness declines in retirement and it’s primarily because work creates structure and discipline for most people. On average, people accelerate their mortality rate by 2 years when they retire.

Can you share with our readers 5 things that one should do to optimize mental or physical wellness after retirement? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Find a mindfulness practice that suits you. For three decades, I loved meditation and hated yoga. (I later got over the yoga aversion thanks to an amazing “hack”.) As Viktor Frankl wrote, “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is your power to choose your response. In your response, lies your growth and your freedom.” Meditation gives my monkey mind a nap. It allows me to create more space and not be reactive, which might be one of the most important emotional tools you have at your disposal.
  2. Every two years, find a subject you’re passionate about and become an expert on it. Management theorist Peter Drucker did this for the last 30 years of his life until he passed away in his mid-90s. For me, I’ve studied everything from festivals to emotions to hot springs to the cultural history of Bali. Curiosity lubricates the mind and spirit.
  3. Walk 10,000 steps a day. You can do whatever you want for exercise, but in my opinion, this is the gold standard for measuring your fitness. There are so many apps that allow you to see whether you’re meeting this goal. I average 8,000 per day except during those weeks when I’m more intentional about long walks with my dog, Jamie.
  4. Give back. There are so many ways to give: know-how, know-who, money, energy. Mutual mentorship is my favorite. Be open to sharing your knowledge and wisdom with someone younger, but only if you’re going to learn something from them. I had over 100 mentees during my seven and a half years at Airbnb, but, in almost all cases, I was learning as much from them as they were learning from me.
  5. Pursue “long life learning.” Life-long learning gets all the attention, but we learn differently at 30 than we do at 60. Long life learning is all about creating a life that is as deep and meaningful as it is long. I wrote a white paper on this topic (“The Emergence of Long Life Learning”) and it’s what MEA is all about.

In your experience, what are 3 or 4 things that people wish someone told them before they retired?

Three questions that are relevant here: (a) What percentage of your adult life (starting counting at 18) is still ahead of you? If you’re 54 — the average age of our MEA alums — and you’re going to live till 90, you’re only halfway through your adult life, so why retire so early? (b) What’s something you know or have done now that you wish you’d known or done 10 years ago? Now that you’ve thought of that, what will you regret 10 years from now if you don’t learn it or do it now? This is how I learned Spanish and to surf in my late 50s. And © When you hear the sentence “I am what survives me,” what does that mean to you and what will be your legacy?

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?

Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning,” a story based on a Jewish psychologist in a Nazi concentration camp, is always a reminder that my life isn’t so bad. I had this book in my briefcase when I flatlined at age 47 after giving a speech in St. Louis. I had an allergic reaction to an antibiotic, but at first, it wasn’t clear why my heart stopped 9 times in 90 minutes. Having that book with me when I was in the hospital for a couple of days meant that I created an “Emotional Equation” (the title of one of my other books): Despair = Suffering — Meaning. So, from that point forward, I constantly focused on what meaning I could find in my life. The more meaning I had, the less despair I would experience.

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

Yale’s Becca Levy’s research has shown that when you help someone move from a negative to a positive perspective on aging, they will likely live 7.5 years longer. This is stunning because that’s more than if you stopped smoking or started exercising at age 50. We have all kinds of public health campaigns focused on smoking or exercising, but the societal narrative on aging is pretty toxic, even though the ‘U-curve of Happiness’ research shows that our life satisfaction in our 50s and beyond grows with each passing decade after a low point in our mid-to-late 40s. This is what MEA is all about and why we’ve created a movement with 26 regional chapters all over the world.

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

This quote gave me the soul (and spine) to say no to an offer from one of the most powerful men in the world who wanted to hire me just as we were getting the Modern Elder Academy off the ground: “The cost of something is measured by how much life you have to give for it.” In fact, I quoted those exact words when I turned down that job, as I intuitively knew I would have to give my whole life to the role he was positioning for me. I wasn’t willing to pay that high of a price for the power and prestige that working for this well-known man would have offered me. And, based on my life these lovely past four years, I’m so glad that quote gave me the courage to say no to my ego that was pressuring me to say yes.

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 if we tag them 🙂

Netflix founder and CEO Reed Hastings is someone who I met long ago when I was still running my boutique hotel company. I quoted him in my book “PEAK” and I’ve long admired his willingness to be a contrarian. He disrupted his own business by spending hundreds of millions

to make Netflix a streaming giant — putting their movies by mail business out of business. I really appreciate his approach to culture and became friends with his head of HR. He’s also been an advocate for innovative approaches to education. I just need to summon the courage to reconnect with him.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

I have a daily blog called Wisdom Well that is featured on my LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter accounts. You can also find out more about me at chipconley.com and modernelderacademy.com.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!


Chip Conley of Modern Elder Academy: 5 Things You Should Do To Optimize Your Wellness After… 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: Rakan Al-Shawaf Of Makeship On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Don’t try to perfect the process from the start — In the beginning stages of a startup, you have to do things that don’t scale. Early on in starting Makeship, I always found it frustrating when we didn’t solve a problem we are facing in the most efficient way possible. However, things are never perfect, and if you want to grow fast, you might have to do things relatively inefficiently before you can reach the point of scaling it.

As a part of our series called “Making Something From Nothing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rakan Al-Shawaf.

Rakan is the CEO and Co-Founder of Makeship, a crowdfunding platform founded in 2018 with the mission of helping the world transition to the creator economy. Rakan is a Syrian-Canadian entrepreneur with two successful startups under his belt. His passion for creating value through efficiency and supporting new, innovative ideas threads all of his experiences together.

Rakan was born in Toronto but spent time living in different places around the world, learning from each new location and experience. While at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Rakan carved a new path for himself — taking a gap year in Shenzhen, China and starting his first venture, logistics company Ryno Global. By helping e-commerce stores manage and streamline their supply chain logistics, Rakan grew Ryno to an 8-figure revenue with more than 20 full-time employees.

Rakan founded Makeship just a year later, and has since helped hundreds of clients launch their own products, build their brand and make a living. Under Rakan’s leadership, Makeship has seen significant growth year-over-year, doubling its profits in 2020–2021 alone. Rakan has mastered sourcing, logistics and branding over the years, and is passionate about the endless possibilities in entrepreneurship.

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 Toronto to Syrian immigrants who had only recently arrived in the country. I grew up as the middle child of seven kids and moved around a lot growing up. We lived in Jeddah, Hamah, Dubai, Hangzhou, Mississauga and Riyadh before I went to Kingston, Ontario to attend Queens University. The constant moving around shaped me as a person. I grew accustomed to making friends quickly around the world. I wasn’t afraid to put myself out there and meet new people wherever I was.

My dad is a serial entrepreneur and his experience and teachings was the inspiration I needed in my childhood to become interested in business. He lit that spark in me. I like to think I earned an MBA level degree just from my dad talking to me about his experiences and watching the ebbs and flows of his career.

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

A year from now you’ll wish you started today.” — Karen Lamb, author and lecturer.

This is one of my favorite quotes because it helped me navigate through goals that, in the beginning, always seemed insurmountable.

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?

Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari.It’s a book that explores what it means to be human — as the title suggests. It traces the origins, mechanisms and effects of human progress. From the days of hunters and gatherers to the twenty-first century, it unravels how mankind came to be and what the future might look like.

This book had the greatest impact on my life and I find myself referring to it often. My biggest takeaway from it is that every person’s behaviour, beliefs and values can be better understood if you take the time to learn more about them. It helped me develop an immense amount of empathy for people of all kinds. It also helped me understand the incentives that drive people to be passionate about working for a company. It gave me the foundational knowledge I needed to really understand why the world we live in is the way it is. The mechanics of the book is actually quite beautiful, and I now use this lens in all my decision making.

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?

Ideas are all around us and you can find inspiration from so many different places. The real tangible aspect of ideas coming to life is execution. In the case of building a business from scratch, execution comes down to being able to iterate — doing something again and again and again — and doing so consistently.

To me, the key to turning an idea into a business is to just start. Don’t judge yourself, don’t judge the speed at which progress is happening, or how much progress is happening.Every single company we admire in the world today started as an idea. That idea was the foundation and it took time, and intention, to create a full-fledged business. It comes down to mindset. Anyone itching to turn their idea into action should adopt a “failure is just learning” mindset with everything they do. Most businesses aren’t successful on the first try. It requires many failed attempts before it works. You should view failures not as shortcomings of your skills, but as an opportunity to learn.

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?

Most ideas that you will come up with are not going to be novel. An idea worth pursuing because of the market dynamics is an idea that is probably already being pursued by someone else. But don’t let that deter you from trying it out. A pool of different factors need to come together to make a business successful and the initial idea you’ve come up with is only one of those factors. There are many others that can come together to lead you to success or position you above any competition. That said, some basic market research will spare you the trouble from starting an idea in a market that is already deeply saturated.

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 believe in stress-testing your idea as much as possible before trying to invest time and money into it.

Entrepreneurs should think about their product in a minimum viable way. You want to make sure you’re targeting the right customer base. The best way to do this is to create mockups or a “smoke and mirrors” version of your product. It might not be fully fleshed out, but it gives you an opportunity to talk to the demographic you want to sell to and bring them a physical example. You could even do this through online testing — targeting potential customers via social media or search marketing, seeing how many people click “buy” and taking them to a page where you capture their email and interest. This is just one simple example. The ultimate goal is to provide demand for your product — and provide evidence. If the conversations or tests show you a different path, or that your idea isn’t going to work, switch it up!

To find a great manufacturer, I personally believe in going in-person and feeling things out. When I went to China, where our supply chain for Makeship is based, not only did I visit each factory myself, I also partnered with a local man — Wang Tao, who ended up becoming a co-founder of Makeship — to launch the business so that I can ensure someone who understands the landscape has skin in the game.

For distribution, I recommend you try your best to go directly to your customer instead of going through a retailer. You want to be able to own the data and have a closer relationship with your customers. This allows you to iterate on your product more effectively and figure out new service/product lines.

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

Don’t try to perfect the process from the start — In the beginning stages of a startup, you have to do things that don’t scale. Early on in starting Makeship, I always found it frustrating when we didn’t solve a problem we are facing in the most efficient way possible. However, things are never perfect, and if you want to grow fast, you might have to do things relatively inefficiently before you can reach the point of scaling it.

Be more bold with spending — Being a bootstrapped startup founder, I always found it anxiety-inducing to spend money too fast. Each dollar we earned was a battle, so I knew we needed to make sure we spent it effectively. At some point I did fall into the trap of spending money too slowly and missed out on some growth opportunities as a result.

Focus on what you can control — It is easy to get caught up in what could go wrong when you are building a venture. I found that in the early days, I was very worried that the economic situation would deteriorate to a level that would not allow for Makeship to thrive. But I learned that my energy is better spent on finding solutions to daily problems!

Product market fit is the most important aspect to company success — It trumps everything else. I wish someone had told me that most of the mistakes that I made wouldn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, because the ultimate factor we needed to get right was product-market fit.

Having a balanced life can actually support your company in a positive way — I definitely burned the midnight oil quite often and was living an unsustainable routine throughout my startup journey. More recently, I’ve learned the value of physical and mental health, as well as quality time with my friends and family. I’ve found that focusing on a more balanced life has actually helped me professionally and has helped Makeship and my employees do the same.

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?

I would actually start with why. Why do you want to create a product in the first place? Why do you want to be an entrepreneur and go down a relatively uncertain path? Bringing something brand new to the world is hard work, making it a profitable enterprise is even harder. You first need to understand your motivations and make sure you are doing it for the right reasons.That way, when things get tough, you’re still passionate, driven and interested in pursuing your product/startup.

Once you reckon with your “why,” I’d look at it in a few steps:

  1. Define the problem you are solving and be able to explain it really clearly. This will take many conversations (for me, I’d say it took 100+ at least) with people you believe face that problem and will benefit from your idea. Understand why they struggle, what they have tried before to solve their problem, and why they still believe it affects their life in a negative way.
  2. Create the minimum viable product that you can go out and “sell.” I put “sell” in quotations because you may not be in a position to actually exchange money for product/service at this point, but you can still sell your idea and gauge the level of interest in it.
  3. Finally, keep iterating until you find a minimum viable product that resonates with your customer base.

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 recommend you go at it alone, because you will learn the most this way and fully own the resulting product/service. This will best support you as you then scale the business and bring in more outside support (employees, mentors, etc.).

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 believe that if a business has the mechanics to be bootstrapped, it should be bootstrapped. Once you’ve proven incredible interest in the market, you may want to raise funds to add fuel to the fire, so to speak. But if you are building a non-capital intensive business, try bootstrapping!

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

First and foremost, we are focused on building a company people are genuinely excited to be a part of. As we grow, we are constantly improving the overall employee experience at Makeship and are very focused on our culture and HR practices. Since we’re a fully-remote company, fostering this level of support and culture is all the more important for us.

When starting Makeship, it was also important to me to be ethical about our products and output — as it should with most, if not all, new startups going forward. We’ve made it part of our mission to use only re-usable and compostable packaging for our products and started a partnership with Forests International to carbon offset the production and fulfillment of our products. For every product we manufacture, we make a donation to Forests International for the recapturing of carbon dioxide through the plantation of trees in Canada and Zanzibar.

In addition, my co-founders and I take on as many mentorship opportunities as possible for early stage founders that are just starting out.It’s important to share the wealth, just like my father did with me.

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 really encourage more people to experience the values and benefits of meditation. As I started to steer away from that “burning the midnight oil” mentality and making my personal health a priority, I turned to meditation. It’s impacted me massively. My sense of balance and focus has improved and I know that it translates into my success.

While this is already a movement — and one that’s growing — I would love to see more people take it up and see what it can do for their lives, too.

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 meet Naval Ravikant. He is a brilliant thinker and one of the most successful angel investors out there. There are many podcast episodes of his that I’ve listened to — probably five times or more! I believe there is so much value in the way he thinks and I would love to have even just a moment of his time to ask some questions and learn from him. If you haven’t heard him speak — you should!

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


Making Something From Nothing: Rakan Al-Shawaf Of Makeship 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: Mohammed “Rab” Shanableh Of OxeFit On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up…

Meet The Disruptors: Mohammed “Rab” Shanableh Of OxeFit On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Keep your life balanced — Family and personal time often take a hit in the race to the finish. Extreme and diligent efforts should be made to stay balanced. Too often you don’t realize just how important this effort is to your mindset, your health and your success.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mohammed “Rab” Shanableh.

With a career spanning 25 years in technology, Rab has teamed with some of the most elite industry global leaders in the technical arena. He is presently the Managing Partner of Lydia Partners Venture Fund and the Co-founder and CEO of OxeFit, a robotics fitness tech company that focuses on robust strength training and human performance.

Prior to co-founding OxeFit, he co-founded Affirmed Networks and was responsible for the Worldwide Operations organization and Systems Engineering divisions at Sonus Networks.

Rab received his Bachelor’s and Master’s of Science in Electrical Engineering at The University of Kansas.

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?

Of course! Thanks for the opportunity. I’m the CEO of OxeFit, a first-of-its-kind strength training system that’s revolutionizing the world of connected fitness. Engineering and technology have always had a stronghold on me. I received my Bachelor’s and Master’s of Science in Electrical Engineering at The University of Kansas and I’ve also been drawn to problem-solving as I believe it’s not only one of the most valuable skill sets one can have — but also the tool that drives forward solutions in both business and personal endeavors.

Almost exclusively, my talents and efforts have been concentrated on the latest cutting-edge technology with a primary focus on software, mobile, and data architecture development and applications.

It started with Advising Sonus Networks during its pre IPO stage in the late 90s. Sonus Networks was the main tech driver behind voice over packet technologies. It was the first in the market to take traditional telephony traffic and packetize it over the internet and nowadays most people communicate over the internet. I managed the Sales and Operations of the company post the IPO stage. The original idea was very disruptive on both technology and cost fronts. It collapsed multiple legacy network elements into one elegant software and hardware solution that removed significant cost out of the service providers networks.

From there, I went on to co-found Affirmed Networks, an industry leader in virtualization and 5G, which was acquired by Microsoft Networks. Affirmed Networks was a huge success as it played a critical role in revolutionizing data center into cloud based architectures, and I’m proud to say a member of the prestigious Global Unicorn Club, an exclusive award recognizing outstanding private companies valued at over $1 billion. It truly changed the way operators build their packet core.

With a career spanning 25 years in technology and NASA research, and three successful company exits under my belt, I shifted my attention towards OxeFit to focus on designing a robust strength training platform that can be powered by AI-based algorithms. OxeFit was the outcome of meeting with my co-founder and CTO Dr. Peter Neuhaus who, at the time, was doing research in the robotics area. Fitness and wellness had always been an area of interest for me, and fitness technology was increasingly no longer seen as just for professional athletes, but also incredibly useful for anyone seeking a healthy lifestyle regardless of their fitness level.

I saw the white space to help an overlooked demographic of people discover and fall in love with fitness. Dr. Peter and I started discussing a fitness machine that should be simple and enjoyable to use — but offer all the options that can be found at a gym, and more — and thus OxeFit was born.

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

First I wanted to revolutionize the way athletes train with science and technology, as this was an area that needed advancing, but would also provide key learnings for the consumer market. Not everyone was getting the proper education and tools to train or rehab safely. More so, elite trainers and pro-athletes were privy to information that other fitness fanatics weren’t.

My team and I were able to solve the difficult problem of developing a fitness machine for professional athletes — using state-of-the-art AI technology — that could ultimately be used in the comfort of a person’s home.

When we unveiled the XP1, OxeFit’s commercial fitness machine, many elite athletes benefited greatly from XP1’s advanced science and technology. With the help of XP1’s AI technology, celebrity athletes are using OxeFit to become the best versions of themselves and educate consumers on the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and fitness routine. The ability for XP1 to track performance, deliver highly personalized analytics, and offer advanced coaching has never been done. I don’t want people to look at OxeFit as just a piece of gym equipment, I want people to use OxeFit as a lifestyle.

It was a satisfying milestone for us when we could make the XS1 available to anyone in their homes. Late last year, we launched OxeFit’s first consumer product, XS1, which allowed us to take all the cloud functions from XP1 and apply them to XS1 so consumers could use OxeFit’s latest innovation in the comfort of their home. The XS1 really offers something unique in the at-home market — it combines strength, cardio, balance, and immersive interactive fitness training all in a single apparatus. Programs include rowing, canoeing, kayaking, paddleboarding, SurfSwiming, SkiCross and digitally-controlled pilates.

It’s truly the only at-home fitness system that offers the same level of workouts you can get in professional training facilities — and leverages robotics and artificial intelligence. The reason I’ve been so keen on AI is so consumers are able to get personalized insights and coaching that lets them take control of their own personal journey to a healthier life. I wanted to push the boundaries of what’s possible when you have the right data and OxeFit does just this.

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 reflecting on some of the funniest mistakes I’ve made, a majority of the time they were centered around the belief that I knew or had a seasoned understanding of all the facets of my field. Some may call that ego or overconfidence, but when you’re starting out, you’re excited about the possibilities to prove yourself. There were many lessons learned and lots of laughs, but I came to realize that it’s impossible to obtain all of the knowledge and understanding in your field early on. It’s important to always continually grow and learn, no matter how much of an expert you are.

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

A key mentor in my life has been Hassan M. Ahmed Ph.D., CEO of Affirmed Networks, former CEO of Sonus Networks, and an OxeFit board member. Hassan is a well-respected and prolific leader who brings an extensive technology background accompanied by a proven track record of disrupting industries through successful ventures. He’s helped bring more innovative perspectives to the table in the technology and fitness space and has been an essential part of my journey to starting OxeFit. When I worked at Affirmed Networks and Sonus Networks, I looked up to him to provide guidance on how to disrupt markets. Something that stuck with me was Hassan’s belief to always question if something was impactful. He continues to guide me on my ventures by advising on OxeFit’s business strategy and expansion in order to further the company’s leadership, growth, and profitability.

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?

Being a tech guy, disruption is not only positive, but it’s a requirement for success. In today’s technologically advanced society, being savvy is just not enough. You’ve got to focus on and be drawn to constant evolution and always be a hundred steps ahead. This not only satisfies that insatiable appetite for “what’s next” in the world today but also keeps you ahead of your competition.

Positive technology disruption is where innovation can significantly provide improvements in a segment of the market. In this case with OxeFit, AI-driven technology will positively disrupt and shake the fitness industry due to its ability to track a person’s performance and provide them with feedback, thus, allowing everyone to help make their workouts as efficient and safe as possible.

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

Keep a strong focus — don’t bury yourself in the details.

Keep your life balanced — Family and personal time often take a hit in the race to the finish. Extreme and diligent efforts should be made to stay balanced. Too often you don’t realize just how important this effort is to your mindset, your health and your success.

Surround yourself with people who challenge and motivate you — it’s important to be around like-minded individuals who will help you pursue your goals. This is equally important in both your professional and personal life.

Don’t be hesitant when it comes time to commit and don’t be cautious about dreaming. Overall, innovation, determination, teamwork and focus are key to a technology startup’s success.

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

Fitness is typically used by a subset of the population to build body mass and lose weight. We see using OxeFit as more of an overall lifestyle change where with time, it will become part of every household or gym. People will want to use OxeFit to train, compete, and feel strong, of course, but we see equal value in that it can make you feel mentally strong, as well. Whether someone has five minutes to work out or an hour, OxeFit allows users’ workouts to be completely customized to their own unique fitness goals.

OxeFit also just announced a new round of funding, with celebrity athletes, such as Dustin Johnson and Jalen Ramsey, as investors. We’re excited by the support of the pro athlete community and adding Dustin and Jalen to our team of investors further validates the need — and excitement — for smarter, more diverse, at-home fitness systems. Last year was about OxeFit launching in a B2B setting and this year we’re thrilled to show off the excellence of OxeFit to consumers.

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?

Don’t specifically have a book or podcast that has had a deep impact on my thinking, but I’ve respected talks and have always had the utmost respect for Jack Welch and Steve Jobs. As a businessman, I’ve always respected how they wanted to push boundaries and not stick to the status quo. Jack Welch taught me to always discover the best in people around me. Steve Jobs, being the leader he was and being in awe of the way he changed the culture of technology, impacted my leadership style by allowing me to distinguish leaders from followers.

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

A friend of mine once shared a story regarding a lesson his father taught him. “Before making a friend, think about it a thousand times, but once you make him your friend, never think about it again.” This has stuck with me as sage advice for not only personal friendships but also important business decisions. This lesson speaks directly to careful consideration and commitment — two important qualities for success. I practice these in every strategic business relationship I approach and it has continued to serve me well.

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 like to inspire a movement that focuses on education. Every day there are examples that represent the need for the increased development of more evolved, non-traditional educational opportunities. This is present at all levels.

The world is technologically advancing at an alarming speed and we must ensure that education and learning are available at the same pace. We as a society have an obligation to educate future generations and I would love to be involved in efforts that are focused on supporting our youth to develop advanced skill sets that deliver a more marketable, qualified, and self-sufficient population.

How can our readers follow you online?

To see how OxeFit will continue to shake up the fitness industry, I encourage readers to follow our latest developments on our website, Instagram and LinkedIn, all linked below.

OxeFit’s website: https://www.oxefit.com/

OxeFit’s Instagram handle: @oxefitinc.

OxeFit LinkedIn url: https://www.linkedin.com/company/oxefit/

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


Meet The Disruptors: Mohammed “Rab” Shanableh Of OxeFit 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.

Makers of The Metaverse: Christoph Fleischmann Of Arthur Technologies On The VR, AR & Mixed Reality…

Makers of The Metaverse: Christoph Fleischmann Of Arthur Technologies On The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

High uncertainty and optimism, as it is much easier to point out the problems in things than to see the good and the beautiful.

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 Christoph Fleischmann.

Christoph Fleischmann is the CEO and Founder of Arthur Technologies, a pioneering large-scale virtual reality meeting, and collaboration platform. Arthur’s workspaces have been built to host high-value meetings among business owners and their team members, regardless of location in the physical world. Since its inception, Fleischmann has seen the platform adopted by renowned organizations around the world, such as the United Nations, Societe Generale, and ERGO.

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 the south of Austria, close to the Italian border in the late 90s and early 2000s. The internet was not that prominent for everyone during this time, especially where I lived. But, I have always loved technology, software, and innovation. The internet was a fascinating place that could provide unique access to knowledge, incredible entertainment, and connections to people you could never meet. I found myself connecting with people all over the world via instant messengers and online forums.

Even with the internet at our hands, I still found the world to be a huge place. With my love for technology, I would work on software projects as a hobby; however, whenever I tried finding someone to work with, there were no people physically around me interested in these topics. I had to use the internet to connect with them — even though I love working with people in collaborative settings.

While the presence of games, computers, and the internet in my teens ignited my love for tech, technology’s limitations were why I founded Arthur. I wanted to live in a world where the internet was so strong that geography truly didn’t matter anymore. A world where I could connect and work with anyone globally as if I were in the same room with them.

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 have always been a massive fan of Nintendo and its video games — first and foremost, Zelda. I think the beauty and passion that Nintendo put into their games inspired awe in me. You could find small details in the remotest spots of their virtual worlds where you know almost no one would look. But it was this amount of perfectionism that made their virtual world light up and become real.

The virtual world was expansive, and you could roam free in it with superpowers. Many of the concepts and principles explored by such video games are now reused and rediscovered in XR development, even for software heavily geared for professional enterprise use. At Arthur, we take a healthy dose of inspiration from these games for our virtual worlds.

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

The limitations of the early internet were the driving force behind why I wanted to work in XR and start Arthur. For me, it was recognizing that the internet was still in its infancy and the true paradigm shift was going to happen in the future on a new set of technologies.

I felt that all that the internet had to offer was just a prelude to a much more pervasive and powerful experience that would genuinely make geographical distance obsolete. That experience turned out to be XR.

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

One “aha” moment for us happened very early in our journey with Arthur. In 2018, we were working with a distributed IT team at a large German automotive manufacturer. They used Arthur as a project office where they could align on complex technological problems. This work was all still done on PC-based VR headsets that were clunky and difficult to use because Arthur was still incredibly early and limited in its functionality.

One day, they invited us to a VR meeting in their office. It was a two-hour meeting, and we decided to take a short break after the first hour. Our team was about to take off our headsets when they told us to wait and took us into their virtual office outside to a small terrace they built themselves in Arthur. This area was the spot for their breaks, where they would have coffee chats in between work. That was the moment we realized we were on to something.

Arthur was being used not only as a tool for their meetings but more as a space to connect and work. A lot about our product strategy is built on this. We enjoy witnessing people pioneering this new medium and shaping it to their behavior to adopt it as a new and enabling tool for work.

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

We made the huge mistake of putting comfortable virtual chairs too close to a place where someone would start in our VR meeting world. I had the glorious problem that more than one person tried to sit down immediately despite having no actual chair. Seeing their avatar fall to the floor while the mic picked up a “thump” is funny in hindsight, although we were pretty worried at the moment that someone got hurt. Thankfully, no one got hurt.

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

There are many people towards whom I feel grateful. I would like to mention my parents, who realized quite early that their children needed access to a computer. Instead of being afraid of the new technology and overly controlling with how often we used it, they embraced it and let me and my brother explore the internet and computers ourselves.

I remember them being heavily criticized by other parents for their easygoing attitude towards the use of the internet. However, they responded that they didn’t want to deny their kids that education. This, of course, is not parenting advice; however, it did work out very well for my brother and me.

Some of the thanks should go to my older brother, who introduced me to video games, programming, and even little hacks at an early age. Much of the initial knowledge I had about computers and most of my excitement and interest in tech came from him.

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

With Arthur, we want to create a platform that can be used to connect and work with people all over the world in the most powerful and immersive medium there is — XR. While we are still working on Arthur, I think we underestimate how big a role geography still plays in our lives. Where we grow up, go to school, and move to for our jobs are all factors that fundamentally affect our lives and our opportunities.

Arthur helps enterprises establish hybrid and remote work models without compromising their company culture, collaboration, or creativity. For employees in many parts of the world, Arthur will bring them the freedom to choose where and with whom they want to work, without any compromises being made in their personal lives.

However, the most impactful part is what this technology can do for people in less fortunate countries. A solution like Arthur can truly make the world fair, no matter where you were born. As long as one has an internet connection and access to an XR headset, most of the current disadvantages will not be crippling anymore.

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?

The three things that excite me about XR right now are the timing, the impact, and the exploratory nature of it all. We are at a point in time where most of our journey is ahead of us, but it is no longer a pipedream or sci-fi. Right now, enterprises are deploying XR to improve their collaboration and communication, and consumers worldwide are enjoying social, entertainment, and gaming experiences with other people around the globe.

The impact of XR cannot be understated. It is truly the next interface with which we will connect to the digital world. In this way, the industry will transform our lives to the same extent as computing on flat screens. And, there is still so much undefined and undecided. Every day we are confronted with a new challenge potentially no one has ever faced. It is an incredible privilege to play a role in this technical revolution. It is truly magical to see the technology evolve, grow and unfold, with every single contribution by every individual working on it.

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?

We need more people working on XR developments. While Meta has managed to push the technology somewhat into mainstream attention with their Quest series, we still need a lot more people working on the software side. Humanity will need to build a digital world that effectively and ethically connects to our real one — so I would love to see many more people working on it.

Additionally, people equate a technological paradigm shift with one company’s mission and objectives. In people’s minds, the technology currently is too associated with Meta itself — and all positive or negative emotions they may feel about the company itself. While meta is indisputably a major player pushing this technology forward on both software and hardware, the whole technology is a lot bigger, and its opportunity is a lot larger than Meta itself. Some people are skeptical of Meta, but there should be a way to be still super excited about XR.

Lastly, the confusion about what it is. There is a fair bit of misinformation floating around about what the metaverse is, what Web3 is, and what XR is. Part of this is normal, as a lot of it is unfolding, but part of it should be fixable by focusing less on concepts, principles, and architectures and more on what people are building right now and which problems they are solving. I think the whole industry is suffering from too much theoretical future talk and too little focus on what we have in front of us and what a logical extrapolation of the currently solved problems could show. This would make it more tangible for end-users and alleviate people’s concerns about this new 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?

VR, AR, and MR can make hybrid and remote work easier in enterprises. One of the biggest challenges for large companies is how to offer hybrid and remote work to their employees without compromising on productivity and culture. It seems pretty clear that with webcams and 2D screens, we have maxed out the technological potential in these dimensions. We need a more powerful medium to enable geographically independent collaboration, which is XR truly. Companies with this technology will become more agile. They will be able to offer their employees an unparalleled work-life balance while simultaneously being able to tap into the entire world as a talent pool. The implications of making remote and hybrid truly work are vast — and XR is definitely the answer.

VR, AR, and MR will also become a new computing medium with an entirely new level of productivity and communication. The technology allows for much more than just “recreating” a physical office setting with zero travel needed. As a new three-dimensional computing medium, it will open opportunities for new forms of data visualization, information sharing, and analysis. We will work in 3D, and that will enable people to have even better communication and unshackled creativity and productivity.

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

Ironically, XR will make the world flat. Geography will no longer play a constraining role in our work lives. That means people with access to this technology will have more freedom to work with whomever they want, and their background, skin color, and preferred location will completely cease to matter in this virtual world. It will be interesting to see what this could mean for immigration and the problem of “brain-drain” in poorer countries. The future might bring a much more balanced picture of where value (and income) gets created worldwide than what we currently see.

VR, AR, and MR will also reduce the carbon footprint. Reducing business travel is a significant aspect of curbing CO2 emissions worldwide — and VR/AR/MR can play a huge role in this.

Lastly, it will make digital communication “human” again. In 2D computing, we are flat videos and profile pictures, and we communicate in messages and emojis. Our communication is incredibly abstractive in this digital world. There is scope for much negativity with this abstract and non-personal way of communicating. Online arguments escalate quicker than if we were talking to each other in person, and we never attempt to know most other people we engage with on the internet. Add to this the fact that we watch this digital world through small screens on our laptops or mobile phones, pulling us away from the real world around us.

XR is inherently more human than 2D computing. You actually get to be at the same place as others, you feel like you are present with them, and with advances in avatars and face/eye tracking, it will be even more human and realistic. We will finally look up from our phones again, as digital content will neatly weave itself into our real world.

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

I am not aware of any “myths” that need to be dispelled.

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

  1. A passion for the technology.
  2. A long breath as this journey will continue for a while.
  3. The ability to quickly learn and apply new knowledge.
  4. The ability to work with radically changing circumstances.
  5. High uncertainty and optimism, as it is much easier to point out the problems in things than to see the good and the beautiful.

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 already work extensively with the United Nations on how XR can internally help their teams to collaborate and communicate more efficiently. I would love to see how we could use this technology even more globally for education and more egalitarian access to the labor market. Any movement that puts this technology at the core of a strategy to improve people’s lives globally will be worth its efforts a thousand times over.

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 Tim Cook, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, or Sheryl Sandberg for lunch. All four for different reasons, though!

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


Makers of The Metaverse: Christoph Fleischmann Of Arthur Technologies On 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: Amira elAdawi Of AMIRA & CO On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your…

Meet The Disruptors: Amira elAdawi Of AMIRA & CO On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Frameworks and lists are so prevalent in the consulting world and I strongly believe that they often limit people’s thinking, preventing them from thinking multidimensionally. So, since I’m trying to change how we offer “advice” as consultants, let me not give you a list but rather offer a story about when my approach to life really changed.

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

Amira is the Founder and Managing Partner of AMIRA & CO, a boutique management consulting practice designed to deliver transformational change during post M&A integration and enterprise optimization, through a next generation model of management consulting, predicated on the importance of co-creation with clients for long-term success. Amira has over 20 years of experience in top-tier consulting firms, and as a business operator at Fortune-50 companies. She is an External Adviser to Bain & Co, a former Senior Principal at Booz & Co as well as former Senior Group Manager at Procter & Gamble. Amira holds an MBA from Harvard Business School, and a MC in Hospitality Management from Cornell University.

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

I spent over a decade in the management consulting industry following the traditional approach to consulting that assumes consultants are hired because they are smarter than their clients and that through a handful of interviews they can tell people who have been doing their jobs for decades how to do them better. I never bought into that thinking, and I don’t think empirical evidence would back it up. I always thought the service provided by consultants was essential, valuable, and needed, but I knew there must be a better way to do this. So I left my job at Big-5 consulting firms and dedicated time to do in-depth research with clients to understand what they hated about consulting (it’s a running joke in the industry, that everyone hates consultants! I wanted to know why), and what their “wish-list” is for working with consultants. That’s what led me to creating AMIRA & CO. A new type of consulting practice that uses a unique approach to delivering management consulting by collaborating with clients.

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

Our “transformation-from-within” approach is antithetical to traditional consulting. We believe that the best way to enact lasting success at a client’s organization is by partnering with them to co-create solutions. This empowers internal teams to play an integral role in the future of their success, rather than relying on external consultants to dictate solutions to them. As I tell my clients, my goal is for you to never have to hire me more than once for the same thing.

We don’t come in as outsiders and dictate solutions. Instead, we actively guide client teams to find the right answer themselves. We use best practices and industry expertise to show them how to analyze data, interpret results, test theories, and then we support them in solving the problems and eliminating the roadblocks that arise during implementation. Most importantly, using behavioral science, we coach them to work together in a whole new collaborative way that increases their job satisfaction as well as their productivity as a group.

I truly believe this is the only way to create lasting change. Successful management solutions must come from within.

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 this is a common mistake made by all consultants, but it’s not really funny: you assume you have all the answers, and you assume because of your pedigree, or because you work for a big top-tier consulting firm that you’re the smartest person in the room and that you must share your brilliance with everyone. Needless to say, over time, you learn that the more you think you know, the less you actually do! (Have you read the Dunning-Kruger research? If not, please read it!). Now I spend more than 75% of my time on engagements listening to clients, junior and senior alike. They almost always have the better answer to an issue, my job is to help them find 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?

That’s a tough one. I grew-up in the Middle East two decades ago when female leaders were very few and far between, if they existed at all. There was no expectation that a woman would “last” in business. The assumption was that you got a job until you got married and had kids, then you left your job, which of course meant that mentors didn’t invest a lot of time in women as they didn’t think it was an investment that would pay-off. So I didn’t have “mentors” in the traditional sense, but I was inspired by many women and men alike. And I learned a lot from many people that have crossed my path in life, even if not all of them were aware of it at the time — it’s really amazing how impactful minor interactions can have on one’s life, and in aggregate they add up to a lot of unintentional and fragmented “mentorships”. I sometimes wonder if that was a curse or a blessing. Having a mentor to turn to definitely would have helped at many points in my career, but maybe not having one and having to figure it out for myself led to a type of growth I wouldn’t have had otherwise.

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 tipping point should always be the customer. If you consistently listen to the user of your service with an open mind, and note any trend in input, or any common “inside-jokes” about your company or industry, that’s when you know change is overdue. Customers will always tell you what to continue doing and what to do differently if you listen honestly enough. And when I say customers I don’t just mean the ones you have — I also mean the ones you lost, and the ones you were never able to get. For example, when the common “joke” about consultants is that they “borrow your watch then charge you to tell you what time it is”, it’s time for disruption.

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

I can come up with a list, like any good consultant, but I won’t. Frameworks and lists are so prevalent in the consulting world and I strongly believe that they often limit people’s thinking, preventing them from thinking multidimensionally. So, since I’m trying to change how we offer “advice” as consultants, let me not give you a list but rather offer a story about when my approach to life really changed.

So this story may not seem very inspiring to many people, but it was a pivotal moment in my life. As a child, I was smart enough to do pretty well in school without trying very hard. I would skim material before a test and get an A or an A-. Everyone was happy and no one ever told me to do anything differently — not until Mr. Archer. When I was 10 or maybe 11, my geography teacher, Mr. Archer, was handing out exam papers and stopped to acknowledge a normally-B-student that aced the test. He said it was a pleasure reading the student’s test paper because it was clear that “she took time to read the material with dedication and focus, she truly internalized what she read, then took it to the next level by reflecting on what she read and making the learnings her own” — simple right? No duh? But that was the first time someone had verbalized in such a clear manner what it takes to excel at anything if you want to go beyond God-given smarts. The aspects he articulated so well are the aspects that you as a person can control, take credit for, and be proud of. It just clicked with me, that’s how you personally contribute to your development. It changed everything for me. The most interesting thing about this story is that he wasn’t giving me advice, he wasn’t even thinking of me when he said those words, yet the words felt like they were meant for me.

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

I think there is still a long way to go before I’m satisfied and have disrupted this industry as widely as I would like, so I’m sticking with this for a while longer. I’ve converted a lot of clients, but I’m hoping to convince the traditional consulting industry to join the revolution.

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?

Numerous of course, but let me talk about the most recent one. I just finished listening to Adam Grant’s book “Think Again”, and a lot of it resonated very strongly with me. The most impactful part — for me — was reading about the complicated value of “grit”. He posits that sometimes, grit is not as great as the world of type-A people make it out to be (me being one of those “very gritty” type-A’s). He explains that grit means you sometimes invest too much time, effort, and energy into things long after they’re clearly not working. It was a very interesting notion to contemplate, because it’s really hard to know when you’re being too gritty and beating-a-dead-horse, and when you’re just not persevering enough to reach that elusive tipping point that can change your trajectory. I haven’t figured out the balancing act there yet, but I’m working on it!

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

I love Dr. Maya Angelou’s “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” I love this one both personally and professionally. I think this ties into the grit theme I talked about earlier — a lot of us really want something to be one way or another, so we deploy selective listening and confirmation bias and ignore any information we get that doesn’t support our hypothesis. So even when people, or life, or data, tells us something very clearly, we just refuse to believe it because we don’t want to. Applies to love, friendship, business networking and big-data analytics just the same!

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

It would be a movement to reach girls in far corners of the earth, and somehow convince them, show them, prove to them how valuable they can be, on so many fronts and in so many different ways. I don’t even think we need to necessarily do anything beyond that, I think just that knowledge alone can create endless transformations.

How can our readers follow you online?

If readers are interested in finding out more about our unique approach to consulting or the impact we’ve had on clients we’ve worked with, they can check out our website at www.amiraandco.com and read some of our client’s “love letters” as we call them, and for more regular news about any interviews and podcasts that our team is contributing to, they can follow our LinkedIn page at https://www.linkedin.com/company/amiraandco — but no tweets from me, the world has way too many tweets as it is 🙂

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


Meet The Disruptors: Amira elAdawi Of AMIRA & CO 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: Tamara Shogaolu Of Ado Ato Pictures On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed…

Makers of The Metaverse: Tamara Shogaolu Of Ado Ato Pictures On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Creativity made me see the things I wanted to explore. My travels around the world opened my eyes to the reality of others and how I can leave a meaningful impact through the media I use. My creativity really emerges from my passion to tell stories and explore different mediums.

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 Tamara Shogaolu.

Tamara Shogaolu is an interdisciplinary artist, director, and creative technologist. She wrote and directed five films, Half a Life (2017), Another Dream (2019), They Call Me Asylum Seeker (2020) and Un(re)solved (2021). She is a recipient of the 2020 Creative Capital Award and was nominated for The Netherlands Film Festival’s Golden Calf (also known as the Dutch Oscar). Shogaolu works on augmented and virtual reality projects, as well as installations, sculptures and video art.

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 between the neighborhood of Catedral and Ancón. My family is from Catedral, so I was there every day during my childhood. I studied at the Simón Bolívar School in San Felipe in my early years, and then I transferred to St. Mary’s School until I went to the United States to complete my high school and university studies.

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

My favorite book is One Hundred Years of Solitude. I grew up in Central America, so a lot of the stories in the book resonated with me.

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 honestly have so many mentors I’m truly grateful for. To mention, Lisa Osborne, who is an amazing film writer, Raney and Dawn and, of course, Susan Cartsonis, who is also a film producer and co-founder of and partner in Resonate Entertainment. They really helped me in finding and building my path as a creative.

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

Yes, I do. Many of which are AR games. I’m also doing a sculpture project and of course my ongoing XR film project, Anouschka, which tells the story of Amara, a teenager from Amsterdam, and her journey as she tries to break a family curse using her unique power. I am equally excited about these projects.

I feel that these projects will truly elicit a sense of wonder in those who engage with them and, hopefully, encourage folks to further pursue media presented through the world of VR, AR, and MR.

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?

Using these technologies for work gives us more ways to enjoy and explore different media. Examples are the Van Gogh and Frida Kahlo immersive art experiences, which I think is romantic, the Megan Thee Stallion VR concert where fans will wear VR headsets to watch her, and our collaboration with PBS (FRONTLINE) for Un(re)solved, which is an award-winning web interactive where we share the lives and histories of 151 victims from unsolved civil rights-era murder cases.

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

The use of VR, AR, and MR in healthcare is something we should consider. These technologies are making notable changes for health professionals and their patients. I’ve read about doctors using VR as preparations for surgeries and how VR helps decrease pain, especially for patients suffering from chronic pain.

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

That you have to be a rocket scientist to understand these new technologies. For me, technology shouldn’t be intimidating, but rather, it should be used as a tool to tell your story and make it resonate with your audience. In that way, they will remember both your story and the technology that you used.

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

I was surprised how this industry really uses a lot of my stamina. I am doing a lot of traveling, researching and meeting new people, so I really need to stack up energy, make sure I stay hydrated and just monitor my health, so I can continue to pursue my passions.

Creativity made me see the things I wanted to explore. My travels around the world opened my eyes to the reality of others and how I can leave a meaningful impact through the media I use. My creativity really emerges from my passion to tell stories and explore different mediums.

I can’t do anything without a good team backing me up. I’m very proud to say that although my team is small, I have the best people working alongside me. We’ve been working together for years, so I know that I can rely on them at anytime.

Be curious. Just having the thoughts of, Can I do this? Will this make a difference? These kinds of thoughts will push you to do and to learn more. This is where my curiosity leads me, and it opened a lot of opportunities up for me, as a creative.

And always do your best. While it sounds basic, this is the most important. When you’re working hard and just giving your all to anything and everything that you do, people will resonate with you, and you will appreciate your work knowing that you’ve given your all, right from the start.

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

I want to increase access to technology and the way that people utilize it. In this way, we don’t have to be afraid of allowing more collaborations across various fields, and also changing the extractive design approach to 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 🙂

Definitely, Oprah Winfrey. I mean, who doesn’t want to meet Oprah? That aside, I think that what Oprah has been able to build is incredible, and I would love the opportunity to speak with her, but I also feel like bringing that level of empathy and humanity into the ways that technology and immersive technology are shaping the future, and how they can be beautiful and impactful. I think Oprah has the incredible ability to connect deeply with audiences, and her involvement in this world could expand the reach and have a positive impact on changing the landscape of who is included in the field.

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


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

Biomimetic Therapeutics: Joshua McClure’s Big Idea that Might Change the World

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

I wish someone would have told me is how difficult it is to get people to embrace a new technology that has the potential to transform the world and make even more money. Getting people to change from the way they are doing things — shifting conceptions, behavior and expectations — can be very difficult.

As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Joshua McClure.

Joshua McClure is the CEO, Co-founder, Co-inventor, and Chair of the Board of Directors for Maxwell Biosciences, a preclinical drug platform company that develops biomimetic therapeutics — synthetic compounds that mimic and improve upon biomolecules. A graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, Joshua has more than 20 years experience as a CEO. He is a multi-patent innovator with a background in military and commercial intelligence and now devotes his time to biotechnologies. His knowledge of leadership principles alongside his 2016 big data study of immune proteins’ impact on health outcomes are the foundation of the company.

He has founded and led multiple category-first companies and now devotes his time to biotechnologies. In 2015, Joshua dedicated himself to extending human health span through combating pathogens — the leading cause of human disease and mortality. He is a co-inventor of the world’s first tissue-safe virucidal anti-infectives, anti-infective device coatings, the first virucidal condom, human gene expression modulation technology, and invented geo-placed digital media, and facial recognition-based ecommerce. In 2003, he co-designed and led commercialization for the world’s first dual core laptop computer with Advanced Micro Devices.

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

I felt called to help heal the world after seeing the impact chronic disease had on loved ones.

I began reading scientific articles regarding the expression of the genome, and how it circulates proteins in the bloodstream. It occurred to me that perhaps genetic expression could explain why some elderly folks are resilient vs other elders are sickly. Perhaps proteins in the bloodstream could explain the difference between those healthy resilient populations compared with those with declining, vulnerable health, such as with Alzheimer’s disease and other long-term degenerative conditions.

Through my research, I found that there are key proteins present in long-term resilient populations that are not present in the vulnerable populations. One particular protein stood out — LL-37, orHuman Cathelicidin Antimicrobial Peptide — and I decided there had to be a way to improve health outcomes by making and applying a synthetic, improved version of LL-37. That’s when I began discussions with bioengineers who were experts in LL-37, including my co-founder, Dr. Annelise Barron.

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

Meeting Dr. Annelise Barron and finding out that she had already made improvements to LL-37 was one of the most exciting moments in my career. I learned she had already done a lot of work in developing a synthetic, engineered version, proving its capabilities while showing that it has very high biomimicry to LL-37, especially when it comes to fighting bacteria and fungi. Her research really encouraged me and I started working with Dr. Barron as we connected in our search for cures, not just treatments.

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

The main principles or philosophies that have guided both my life and my career are 1) being open to possibility and 2) embodying the possibility of power, compassion and health for the world.

Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?

Following nature and listening to nature is better than blocking or circumventing nature. We all should strive to be inspired by biology and use the mysteries and magic of the body to treat disease.

Infectious pathogens and cancers continue to evolve and threaten our existence and our economies. Using nature as our guide, we’ve developed biomimetic therapeutics — synthetic low-molecular weight compounds that can mimic and improve upon thousands of human peptides, which play a key role in maintaining optimal health. With enhanced potency, safety and stability, the compounds imitate key components of the immune system, humanity’s greatest asset in fighting disease.

The compounds are created by Maxwell’s exclusive first-in-class, CLAROMER™ brand drug platform and have been effective in destroying viruses, bacteria, fungi and some cancers, while safely avoiding healthy cells.

They work by targeting vulnerabilities in pathogen membranes. This is accomplished primarily by engaging phosphatidylserine, a lipid that is exposed on the outer membrane of many pathogens, senescent cells and many tumor lines. Mammalian biology uses phosphatidylserine to mark a cell for recycling, so healthy cells typically do not express this marker.

These pathogen-specific phosphatidylserine membrane vulnerabilities are what allow your immune system peptides to target them. We use that same vulnerability in the drug discovery process.

It’s never been done before — and it’s our way of creating health for the world — safely and affordably.

How do you think this will change the world?

Imagine a world where viruses are not just treatable but curable … a world where MS (Multiple Sclerosis), Herpes, HIV, Syphilis, Covid, Influenza, Rhinovirus (the predominant cause of the common cold) and all enveloped viruses are now under the control of mankind.

This idea will completely restructure and sustainably transform the way we treat and deal with disease. Many chronic diseases will essentially disappear once the underlying viral, fungal or bacterial causes have been treated.

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

As we know, viruses have been a driver of evolution for hundreds of millions of years because viruses edit our DNA. So if we’re significantly cutting back on viruses that are causing disease, then we could ultimately impact the randomized nature of evolution.

The developments at Maxwell are happening at the same time that CRISPR is evolving. To me, this is not a coincidence. I am both encouraged and inspired by the breadth of scientific innovation, which has accelerated in recent years.

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

When I started to look at the proteomics of the extracellular environment — that being the proteins in the bloodstream — I began to understand that those proteins are a key driver of long-term aging. The ultimate tipping point is when I realized that — if we can modify and improve the proteins that are active in the bloodstream and clean up the plasma — then we can significantly extend human healthspan.

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

All we need for widespread adoption is efficacy, safety and commercial viability — those three factors go along with the company’s vision to create health for the world safely and affordably. Our plan is to move forward with an eye towards market share — similar to what you’ve seen with cloud storage or email. Like the Amazon business model, we intend to offer very affordable, highly scalable drug products with the intention of capturing massive market share.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.) Written or video format optional (see details below).

The first thing I wish someone would have told me is how difficult it is to get people to embrace a new technology that has the potential to transform the world and make even more money. Getting people to change from the way they are doing things — shifting conceptions, behavior and expectations — can be very difficult.

The second thing is how incredibly effective and relatively simple it is — once you have created a team of people that believe in a new technology, understand it and understand the underlying mechanisms of action — to create a globally disruptive new technology.

The third thing is don’t trust what everyone tells you when you know in your heart you’re doing the right thing for humanity. When I started everyone told me that it was going to be very, very difficult for me as an outsider to the industry to raise money. My passion for this work, the support of an incredible team, and with our science and the potential to have a meaningful impact on global health, we have been fortunate to quickly raise capital.

Perhaps the fourth thing is the impact of timing. The pandemic hit around the same time that we were announcing Maxwell’s virucidal capabilities — it was completely coincidental since we started developing it years before COVID-19 overwhelmed the world. It helped that we had already assembled a stellar team of some of the top scientists in the world, and owned our patents outright. So, we had already done our homework with the metaphorical pop quiz hit.

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

Understand that failure is an option and look for opportunities to fail upfront and early. An absolute key to success is looking to fail fast, so try to find company-killing or technology-killing tests where you can prove that your technology doesn’t work so that you stop wasting money and time. Find as many of those tests as possible and be absolutely heartless with yourself so that — when you encounter anyone else — no one else can be as mean or as heartless as you have already been with your own idea. That one habit is really, really key.

Once you have completely eliminated failure as an option and there’s no way that you could completely fail, you understand the principles of the business, and the underlying basic data of the body and of the science, then you already know which cards are being dealt in the deck and you’re in a position to go ‘all in’. And that’s where I’m at now. My team and I really understand the technology — we understand how the body reacts to it and how the body works with the technology — so I am ready to go ‘all in’.

And finally for true success, understand what integrity is. Integrity is not only about honesty, integrity is about strength, like the integrity of a load bearing foundation of a home. And honesty is being completely authentic with yourself, which is absolutely key for attracting authenticity to your team, yourself and your company. Look for authenticity in the people you want to work with and know that attracting it starts by being completely authentic with your own self. That is the kind of authenticity that creates strength and integrity.

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 🙂

Imagine a world where viruses are not just treatable but curable … a world where MS (Multiple Sclerosis), Herpes, HIV, Syphilis, Covid, Influenza, Rhinovirus (the predominant cause of the common cold) and all enveloped viruses are now under the control of mankind. There are subpopulations of Type-1 diabetes that are caused by a viral infection of the pancreas duct. Research has shown that the onset of some cancers and chronic diseases are linked to infectious pathogens — viral, bacterial, fungal, polymicrobial and biofilms.

Maxwell’s patented biomimetic technology destroys a broad range of infectious pathogens — including all studied SARS-CoV-2, SARS-1, MERS, Influenza A — and could be the most disruptive technology that the world has ever seen.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Folks can find me on Twitter and LinkedIn. My Linkedin account is mainly focused on people that I personally know, but Twitter would be a good place to contact me via social media and follow me for random thoughts.

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


Biomimetic Therapeutics: Joshua McClure’s Big Idea that Might Change the World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Makers of The Metaverse: Brian Shuster of Utherverse On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality

Makers of The Metaverse: Brian Shuster of Utherverse io On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

You need a passion for MR. You can be successful as an animator or a character artist or a clothing designer. You need to learn the tools, be good at it, and be passionate about the underlying technology. There are also so many different paths for a career in CGVR like a networker or a front end programmer. It’s all very complicated and so new that it’s hard to discern what truly makes a successful person in MR aside from what always makes one successful — you must have love in the dream.

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 Brian Shuster.

Brian Shuster is a pioneer of the internet and the Founder & CEO of Utherverse.io. He has developed more than 100 patents and pending patents to core internet technologies and the metaverse.

Shuster is a legacy developer and has committed to creating an online virtual community in the metaverse called Utherverse. As a visionary and lead innovator for the internet since the 90’s, key IP and 17 years in the metaverse, he’s learned from the trials of the early internet and mastered the technology needed to build a thriving metaverse. Shuster’s aspirations for the Utherverse are to help undo the damage done by social media, demonstrate the successful application of methods and metaverse technology, as well as provide an open, safe, welcoming platform to nurture community and the economy of the future. He is truly a disruptor and a Web3 radical.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! 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 inspired by the book Ender’s Game. One main feature in Ender’s Game, and really the trilogy, was this ansible concept: a new type of life form that arose within the technology from faster than light and communications. It inspired me to write the Minerva Virus, which is a much more high tech fiction thriller for the main purpose of warning humanity that it is about to go extinct. In the Minerva Virus, I similarly have a technology that becomes sentient, but it’s not a fictional technology; it is a real technology, which is the internet. The internet basically comes to life as a giant, sentient brain and threatens humanity. That is the inspiration, and inevitably one of these paths humanity takes with technology will destroy us, and I need to delay that. The idea is we need to change our use of technology from being something that separates us, isolates us, and dehumanizes us; and we need to switch it so it does the opposite. It should create love and connection so that people don’t want to destroy each other. We want to lessen the number of people who want to watch the world burn. In that sense, it was an inspiration for what I am doing here. Time is of the essence. I fear that humanity will go extinct from our technologies long before climate change can do it to us. This change has to happen now.

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

What inspired me here was Star Trek and Holodeck. I realized there were real problems in implementing that technology, but if that technology could exist, everyone would spend all their time with it. It could be the most efficient way to accomplish so many things. The challenge is to get from web 2.0 to the Holodeck end point. This was my inspiration in the early 2000’s. My late partner, Ray Schwartz, and I started mapping out how to get there, how we could put those steps into practice, and that was the birth of the Utherverse.

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

When my first company was shut down, it was because Visa didn’t understand the internet. My company went from nothing to 10 million dollars of sales each month in just a year and a half, and Visa didn’t understand how I could get this without physical signatures on the credit card receipts. They stopped us cold in our tracks. Visa froze our bank accounts, seized our money, and ultimately set us and the internet back multiple years. We weren’t shut down completely, but this was pretty stunning. Our company was the backbone of the internet at the time, and just as we were starting to real money flows that were feeding a vast portion of the commercial internet, the lifeblood got choked out thanks to credit card companies. It wasn’t just Visa either, it was also Discover and American Express. We see parallels now with what’s happening from MasterCard. They are trying to choke out new, innovative businesses and threatening the income of so many online entertainers. It’s why I pray for the success of cryptocurrency. We don’t have to deal with the ignorance, prejudices, and biases of these pseudo-government run industries. It’s an excellent alternative.

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

The funniest mistake I made was letting Kanye West become the creative director of when I produced the first annual Pornhub Awards show. We had created what was going to be a spectacular, groundbreaking event for virtual reality with a fully immersive experience within the Utherverse.

And here comes Kanye West at the eleventh hour, and everyone at PornHub was so enthusiastic, that I agreed to allow him to be the creative director. That decision completely derailed the entire show and 11 months of effort. His team’s operations were utterly chaotic and they had no clue how to put on an awards show — let alone a show that was supposed to revolve around VR, and what should have been a great introduction to virtual reality to the masses, became the Kanye West show. So, I washed my hands of all the players. I learned to trust in myself and my team, and not get starry eyed with distractions.

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 dad. He had a healthy dose of both encouragement and skepticism. When I was first starting out, I had a business at UCLA, and I needed working capital. He trusted me enough to cosign a line of credit, even though he felt I should pursue a career path instead of being an entrepreneur. Still, he was able to give me advice and support me in that effort. At the time I was bringing up a business to compete with the campus bookstore. It ended up losing money, but it was really motivating to me because I needed to prove to my dad that I would be responsible for that loan. That drove me even harder to be successful in other ventures, and it was super satisfying to be able to make good on repaying the line of credit. I was able to make sure his faith in me was appropriate. He was my inspiration; he truly was a great man.

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

Utherverse is about to launch our Aeon browser. It’s a next generation metaverse platform. We’re getting ready to mint UTHER Coin. We’re doing an NFT drop in less than two months, which will be the first ever fNFTs. These are “functional NFTs,” so they actually do things in the Utherverse platform. I’m also about to release the Helium Haze, which is a groundbreaking way to consume cannabis. I’m also in the middle of creating the animated series called “Physics Unraveled,” in which I explain most of the issues in physics and conclude with a groundbreaking new breakthrough.

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?

These industries are totally transformative. It’s hard to imagine what life will be like once these technologies reach a point of maturity. Any time there’s a new technology that’s going to completely change anyone’s life — such as the personal computer, the internet, mobile phones and now Mixed Reality, it’s an exciting prospect. What I’m particularly excited about is the notion of a simulation of reality that everyone can interact with and which can provide almost any experience that one can imagine. You can do anything in MR and when considered in a networked framework, you can accomplish fantasy stuff as well as real world stuff with other real people.

For example you can attend college at the highest level for you personally, the class size isn’t limited to the physical building, and you’re not limited to being proximate to the campus. Even people in the most desolate places can get a world-class education for pennies.

You won’t have to physically go anywhere to accomplish both the mundane and fantastic once these technologies mature. This helps the environment, lowers exposure risks and generally makes life much easier.

I’d like to add that there is another technology called “haptics” and the more advanced “adaptics” that give you the ability to feel and be felt. With haptics and adaptics you can pick up a baseball, a doctor can do an exam, you can cuddle and watch a movie with someone halfway across the world. It is liberating and empowering for people to live their best lives, and that really excites me.

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 vision I just laid out is the best possible scenario. Left to its own devices, and given the way that these industries are developing, the outcome is shaping up to be the dystopian opposite. Right now we’re spending much of our lives on digital media, and when these flat-web offerings get upgraded into the next-generation metaverse system, the ability to manipulate, by those in control, will rise drastically.

Just as top tier educational experiences can be achieved in an MR future, it’s equally possible that first world companies and governments will, out of fear or greed, want to contain those prospects and keep them for themselves (or their populations). It would be a crime for all of humanity to create discriminatory restrictions and track and sell data from MR technologies, but this is certainly the path we are on. Humanity needs a metaverse bill of rights and digital governance to ensure the metaverse is governed justly and people are protected.

There are two paths ahead of us and one is very dystopian– where people are isolated, spend a lot of time on headsets, and are force fed propaganda. It is possible this could be the downfall of humanity. On the other hand there is a narrow but utopian vision that I am working towards, where people interact with each other, foster human connections and participate in an uplifting community where we are all accountable to each other.

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?

These technologies will help us at work in that they will create new jobs that don’t exist yet. Once these technologies mature this will create opportunities for virtual fashion designers, event coordinators, interior architects and the list goes on–all of these are new industries in the metaverse. You can also engage in low impact networking because it’s all in MR. You save money, put less burden on the environment and preserve company resources.

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

It’s going to improve everyone’s life if it is done right–in profound ways that individuals have to figure out for themselves. These technologies are going to democratize opportunities and experiences. It will be liberating for everyone.

Here’s an example. A paraplegic man emailed me a long time back, telling me that he thought his life was over — but when he joined the Utherverse platform, he found that he was able to participate in the community as a fully-able bodied avatar. He told me that he became social again and he met someone, went dancing, fell in love and got married. That single message has stuck with me all these years because it reinforced the value that I didn’t even truly appreciate until that moment. So it really depends on who is using it but MR can impact people on every level. It’s what you make it and what you need it to be.

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

People that are not heavily involved in the industry will look at a stunning image of an avatar and think it’s amazing and assume it can just be dropped into the metaverse. That’s a myth. Something that looks great is absolutely meaningless because there is a difference between how things look and the actual underlying technology. If you buy land in Decentraland you didn’t buy land in the metaverse, you bought it in Decentraland. As the metaverse grows up and turns into a real thing, in order for something that looks good to have value, it needs to be operational and interoperable — meaning people can access it and experience it from other metaverse locations.

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

You need a passion for MR. You can be successful as an animator or a character artist or a clothing designer. You need to learn the tools, be good at it, and be passionate about the underlying technology. There are also so many different paths for a career in CGVR like a networker or a front end programmer. It’s all very complicated and so new that it’s hard to discern what truly makes a successful person in MR aside from what always makes one successful — you must have love in the dream.

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?

The one person I would like to meet with is Niel Degrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist brilliant person. Theoretical physics is a hobby of mine, and I’ve succeeded in solving some wildly challenging math that has eluded even the most brilliant physicists. I would love to talk to him about where Einstein went wrong and show him how I was able to fix the broken math of Relativity. Plus I could really use his help in solving two remaining equations that would pull it all together. As close as I am to solving those, I just don’t have the time to devote to those last two little outstanding puzzles.

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


Makers of The Metaverse: Brian Shuster of Utherverse 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: Soheil Nazari Of Gainful Solutions On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Never stop learning and educating yourself. Every industry has a wide variety of knowledge on the internet, in books and through people in the industry. Make sure you are constantly keeping yourself up to date and educated- things change fast, you have to change with it!

As a part of our series called “Making Something From Nothing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Soheil Nazari-Kangarlou.

Soheil Nazari is a successful business executive with over three decades working within the domestic and international markets. He has served as an advisor to various enterprises and heads of governments throughout the globe, working within the fields of energy, construction, oil and gas, financing, commerce, telecommunications, technology, healthcare, manufacturing and distribution services. Soheil’s expertise lies in international diplomacy and global business operations, which he utilizes to provide valuable insights to his clients. Soheil is an expert in business expansion and growth and has helped many businesses increase their reach and operations. He is also a skilled negotiator and has extensive experience in international contract negotiation.

Currently, Soheil focuses on being the managing partner of Gainful Solutions which he also co-founded. As a managing partner of Gainful Solutions, Soheil provides custom-tailored solutions and guidance to businesses and governments. He focuses on political, social, and economic evaluations in distinct global markets. Soheil and his team discover and provide a wide range of services, including government relations and public affairs, international business development, communications, and campaigns and advocacy.

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 Iran and lived there at the beginning of my childhood. In 1968 my father left Iran to participate in a research program at Stanford University in California. After seeing success in this research program he traveled back to Iran to bring my mother and I to the states. From there I grew up in Santa Cruz the remainder of my childhood.

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

“The only way to do great work is to love what you do.” — Steve Jobs

I believe that this quote is especially important for entrepreneurs. If you don’t love what you’re doing, it’s very difficult to be successful. In order to wake up every day and feel the drive and motivation to push through obstacles, you have to find great joy and love in your end goal. The key to success is to find something that you’re passionate about and to pursue it with all of your heart.

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 am a startup enthusiast and avid reader. I’m particularly interested in books that provide valuable insights into the startup process and how to create a successful business.

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries made a significant impact in my process of beginning Gainful Solutions. Every campaign, business and politician I work with has a goal they are trying to achieve, The Lean Startup gave me valuable insight on how to begin the process of creating a successful strategy and business plan for them. I believe any entrepreneur who wants to be successful should take time reading this book, as it provides valuable insights into the startup process and how to create a successful business.

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?

Oftentimes I notice that when people have a good idea it is easily given up on because it is harder to bring that idea to life which is why I’m a big believer in the power of brainstorming. Once a good idea is thought of I find that it’s important to get as many people involved in the process as possible. I like to start by getting a group of people together and throwing around some ideas. Once we have a list of potential plans, strategies and product details/ideas, we then start to narrow it down and focus on the ones that seem the most promising. From there, we start to develop a plan of action and work on bringing the idea to life.

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?

We are in an age where we have the privilege of the internet right at our fingertips, I would first begin by researching your ideas- read articles, find companies doing something similar, search social media channels for information. Oftentimes it is hard to be the first person with a brand new idea that no one has pursued before but as stated previously we have the capabilities that come along with the internet and just because someone has had a similar or the same idea as you, doesn’t mean you can also pursue that idea even better. Being that we have access to so much information, we can take what people are liking/disliking/what people are looking for/ what businesses are lacking, and grow your business with that knowledge.

I also think that networking is a great form of research, talking to your peers and people in the business space of the market you are trying to enter. See what their ideas are, what have they heard of, do they have any tools or resources you can utilize? Do they want to be involved in your new venture? The possibility of generating a new business out of just an idea is possible- but it takes work, effort and research to accomplish successfully.

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.

Yes, unfortunately this is not a simple answer- as there are many steps and every idea has multiple routes it can choose to take depending on the industry, market and competition. I do think that the first and most important step is to make sure that your idea is written down, dated and witnessed- this helps in having priority in exclusive patent rights.

Once an idea is patented it is important to find the funding you need to appropriately market and design your product. If you already have personal fundings and are ready to do so, make sure you are researching and learning about the industry and market you are entering. Although your idea is patented there might be close competition that requires you to have an appropriate strategy in place to be successful.

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

  1. Create a Business Plan — The first and most important step is to create a business plan that you see as sustainable and factors in the hardships that come with leading a company. If you have a solid business plan, your goal becomes much more clear and much more accessible. The very intimidating path becomes easier to manage and navigate with a great business plan.
  2. Select the Best Team- Having a team of experts around you and working for you is extremely important because ultimately your team is an extension of you.
  3. Client Satisfaction- In the business of strategy, business planning and government referrals are the biggest source of your clientele. Because of this It is extremely important to make sure your client is happy and a relationship of trust and reliability is built between your team and theirs.
  4. Be Willing to Experiment- Nothing great ever came out of playing it safe. It is important to take risks, that is what sets you apart from your competitors and brings you to the next level of business.
  5. Never stop learning and educating yourself. Every industry has a wide variety of knowledge on the internet, in books and through people in the industry. Make sure you are constantly keeping yourself up to date and educated- things change fast, you have to change with it!

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 steps I would take are first to educate yourself on the products industry; are there similarities or competitors? Make sure you know the market you are entering as that will help you determine the appropriate strategy your business plan should take, which is the next step- creating a business plan. One of the first steps you should invest in after having a solid idea and plan for your product is marketing, ensuring people know about your product and getting them excited to invest.

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 a consultant can be a great asset for your team, but I do think you can only determine your need for a consultant after spending time researching, inventing and developing. If you feel you are still lost and need help- reach out to a consultant, as they may be able to bring your idea to life.

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

The best way to decide which route you should take is first assess your access to assets. If you have the means to sustain a company and do not need resourcing, bootstrapping makes sense- you will just need to make sure what you have of your own is enough to invest in a successful business and you will see a return. If you do not have enough to begin your business then searching for funding only makes sense.

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

Yes, everyday. Being that I work in governmental and political campaigns, with politicians and with lobbyists, the business I do on a daily basis is to make the world a better place. The current laws and regulations we have in place are constantly changing, and hopefully to make the world a better place- my job is to put a strategy and plan in place to amplify these efforts.

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 eager and excited to see the world move towards more sustainable practices. If I could inspire more politicians, businesses and people to invest in sustainability and sustainable practices I believe the future will be a better place for the most people.

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 am blessed to say I have had ample opportunity to meet with many people I admire so there is not one person in particular.

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


Making Something From Nothing: Soheil Nazari Of Gainful Solutions 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: Raed Al Tikriti Of Disguise On The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Be able to problem solve and think on your feet. This is brand new technology and many projects are doing something that has not been done before.

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 Raed Al Tikriti.

As Chief Product Officer for visual storytelling company disguise, Raed is constantly keeping his eye on the market to understand how best to move disguise forward. He combines a deep technical understanding of how and why products get made with excellent relationship management skills, to help disguise exceed customer expectations. Raed has an extensive background in product management, having previously held similar roles across broadcast technology and digital media on both sides of the Atlantic, including Grass Valley in Canada and Ventuz in Germany.

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 the UAE well before the boom that reshaped the country into what it is today. My parents are pharmacists, and my sister and I grew up regularly going with my mother to help out in the lab. There was always a strong interest in science in our house but if I ever had any plans to enter the medical field, they all fell by the wayside on my 10th birthday. That was the day my father gave me my first computer, and I was instantly hooked.

After high school, I moved to Canada to pursue a degree in Electrical Engineering and then started my career working on real-time graphics for airplane simulators. I was still hooked!

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 would say that Star Wars: The Mandalorian series had a major impact as it was one the first examples of Virtual Production being used in a major production. Instead of using green screen technology, The Mandalorian used LED volumes and real-time graphics from Unreal Engine that, through camera tracking technology, could be updated dynamically as the camera moved. This created an immersive virtual scene visible to actors on set in real-time.

Seeing such a major franchise like Star Wars using real-time graphics for VFX was a sign to me that the virtual production workflows and technology we were working on at disguise were going to change the game for the film industry.

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

My journey in this area started slightly over 2 years ago when I joined disguise. We had developed an extended reality (xR) platform that leveraged real-time graphics engines such as Unreal Engine, LED walls and camera tracking to create immersive environments for live performances. Our solution was based on the pioneering work done by Epic Games on the production of The Mandalorian and offered an integrated and productized system. I remember being amazed by the solution and evangelizing how this would be an important part of our future.

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

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the tremendous shift we experiences when then the pandemic struck.

xR turned into a lifeline for content creation during the pandemic. Movies and TV shows could be filmed without the need to travel on location. Live music could be performed on stages with rich visuals and streamed to fans. xR adoption took off and continues to accelerate to this day.

It turns out the future we envisioned arrived earlier than any of us anticipated.

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 first job was as a software engineer working on real-time systems for airplane simulators. These simulators are big 2-storey machines made up of airplane cockpits propped up on giant, powerful hydraulic jacks. I had just completed some software updates and, even though I was quite new in the role, I was feeling confident about the updates and decided to integrate them with very little testing.

I jumped into the cockpit and started flying the simulator to test my modifications. Within moments the simulator started shaking violently in all directions and it took me several minutes to find the reset button to stop the simulation and get down. My colleagues who were watching from the outside couldn’t stop laughing. I was feeling embarrassed and extremely motion sick!

Lessons learned: always double-check your work and always know where to find the reset button.

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 grateful to the CTO at one of my previous companies who mentored me and helped me grow. He generously put in the time and effort to work with me over the years. I learned a few important lessons hands-on:

● How to simplify and present complex technical topics.

● How to zoom out and look for out-of-the-box solutions. Sometimes the solutions were counterintuitive or were best achieved with less, not more, tech.

● What font size to use in Powerpoint presentations.

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

At the moment we are looking at expanding the capabilities of our extended reality (xR) platform to allow our users to start creating memorable experiences linked with the metaverse(s).

Our extended reality (xR) solution is currently powering over 300 stages in 35 countries around the world. These stages allow creative and technical teams to place talent inside infinite virtual environments for films, TV, live broadcast and more.

This vast network of stages has already been used to power some memorable metaverse experiences where we have streamed some live xR concerts directly into metaverses such as Fortnite. Looking forward, we see a future where such live stage performances can trigger actions in the metaverse and where metaverse avatars and content can teleport into the on-stage performance.

We believe that connecting the physical world with virtual worlds can produce new and exciting 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?

The first thing that excites me is that extended reality (xR) is changing traditional production workflows in film, TV and broadcast. Virtual production has VFX professionals taking graphics that would traditionally be applied in post-production and instead of having these virtual scenes appear in real-time on camera and visible for the entire cast and crew. This allows for creative decisions and changes to be made in the moment and for additional control while shooting (for example, productions no longer have to wait until sunset to shoot a night scene or for the weather to cooperate). Broadcasters and filmmakers can also cut their carbon footprints as extended reality immerses actors in any scene imaginable, negating the need for scouting and travelling to locations.

I am also excited by the sheer growth of the industry. This was partly accelerated by the pandemic but it’s clear that growth is set to continue, with some estimates pegging the market at $300 billion by 2025. We have seen widespread adoption and have continued to focus on democratizing access to these solutions by lowering the barriers to entry for creative and technical teams working with these technologies.

The third exciting aspect is that the opportunities for extended reality are limitless. Most are using these tools to enhance already existing entertainment forms like film, broadcasts, brand launches etc, however, we can use this technology to completely reinvent what we experience. We have seen partners use our hardware and software to power new experiences like Illuminarium, which are, essentially, “VR without the goggles” as 4K video content immerse visitors in a whole new world where they are transported to an African safari. We are also seeing new and interesting metaverse experiences with this technology and we can’t wait to see what disguise’s creative community comes up with in the next few years.

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

My number one concern is the availability of skilled xR talent. Right now, as this industry is so new, we need to find the best way to support emerging talent. Those who can create virtual graphics in tools like Unreal Engine and use disguise to deliver projects are in high demand and we must nurture them and also encourage more talent to pick up these workflows. At the end of 2020, disguise launched our free eLearning platform and we have a dedicated team for training. We are also working closely with universities so they can start teaching these workflows to students. For example, the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) is using disguise for their film studio’s xR stage so the next generation of filmmakers can learn and become adept at xR workflows. In addition, we launched the xR & VP Alliance which includes creative studios and technology providers working together on standards and on training the next generation of talent.

The second challenge we see is related to the complexity of deploying xR solutions today. For this technology to hit its stride, deployment needs to be simplified so that creative teams can truly focus on creating compelling content. We offer one of the easiest to deploy solutions today, and we continue to enhance it to further simplify deployment and operation. We are also improving integrations with creative tools and workflows to lower the content creation barriers. In parallel, with the xR & VP Alliance, we are working across the industry to define interoperability standards.

Another concern is around how the metaverse industry will overcome some of the pitfalls we have seen in the internet age — particularly with access to and sharing of personal data. In the metaverse, the data that platforms will have access to will go beyond information like search history and linger time, and will encompass facial expressions and body language captured by the technology. This data is even more “personal” and so much richer and therefore more likely to be in demand. We look forward to robust industry standards that ensure protection for those interacting within these virtual worlds.

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?

During the pandemic, we saw how we can leverage platforms like Zoom to stay connected at work even though we are far apart. VR, AR and MR will allow us to continue to stay connected like this but also mimic the experience of seeing each other in person.

Educational institutions have used xR stages to host remote learning sessions that were more engaging than Zoom calls. We also saw corporate customers leveraging xR stages for richer corporate communications and presentations. The feedback from both educational and corporate users has been very positive and we are seeing an increase in their demand and use of these solutions in the future.

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

A key benefit of this technology is its ability to reduce environmental impact through enabling virtual experiences.

I have already touched on how production teams in film, TV and broadcast are using extended reality to reduce their carbon footprint while still creating amazing productions filmed in exciting locations without leaving the studio.

AR can also be a step forward in reducing costs for bricks and mortar shops as well as allowing people to make more conscious decisions that eliminate waste when buying. Makeup brands like L’Oreal and Sephora now allow consumers to virtually try on their makeup from home; furniture brands like IKEA are using AR to visualise what a product might look like in their room. Fashion brands are using AR to allow customers to try on their clothes virtually. Research from Growth from Knowledge has found that 42.8% of global consumers want to use AR and VR to shop like they’re in a real store and 38.2% to experiment with new products. We have also seen famous fashion brands use AR, VR and MR to create virtual garments and even use our extended reality technology for virtual fashion shows. All of this promotes less waste and more environmentally conscious behaviour.

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

The number one myth I see is that the industry is just about wearing headsets. Blurring the line between the physical and virtual has many different technology components and headsets are only a part of that. At disguise we are creating virtual environments by integrating graphics engines like Unreal Engine, LED canvasses and camera tracking technology into an immersive experience. This is inherently complex, yet the results we see from this have been amazing. The first memorable application was during Katy Perry’s performance of ‘Daisies’ in the 2020 American Idol finale where she performed on an LED stage in real life yet was transported to a cartoon house that morphed and moved dynamically during the performance. This was all done during a live broadcast. It is so much more than putting a headset on.

Another myth I would like to dispel when it comes to the metaverse is that it is just an online gaming platform. Although games like Fortnite and Roblox have been crucial in showing the potential of metaverse platforms and that they are most likely the closest thing we have to a metaverse platform right now, the metaverse is for anyone who wants to connect with others and experience something different to reality. An example is “Party Royale” within Fortnite, where attendees can interact and experience concerts, movies and other events together. Roblox and Fortnite concerts have attracted tens of millions of attendees with performances by Lil Nas X and Ariana Grande.

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

There is so much opportunity in extended reality, not just when it comes to the technology, but also when it comes to the creative and content side as well. You truly can do anything!

It’s challenging to narrow it down, but in order to be successful, you must:

1. Be curious and willing to explore new technologies, methods and knowledge.

2. Be able to problem solve and think on your feet. This is brand new technology and many projects are doing something that has not been done before.

3. Be able to link both the creative and technical elements together so the technology can be used to the fullest of its ability.

4. Work together with a highly motivated community who are all pushing boundaries both technically and creatively. Our network of partners does amazing things and often collaborates with each other to make a project successful.

5. Dream big! Extended reality and the metaverse is not a place to limit our imaginations. There is a solution for everything if you are willing to look for it, so don’t be afraid to let your imagination run wild!

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

There’s already a focus on this topic, but I would encourage dedicating more energy to growing and diversifying enrollment in science and technology. Industry can help by working directly with schools to reach students early and by growing technical internships that can offer a gateway into these fields.

Many of the challenges that we face today and will face in the future require innovative approaches and solutions, and we will need all the scientists we can get!

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 🙂

It would have to be Serena Williams. She’s widely considered to be the greatest tennis player of all time. But after becoming more aware of her life story, I am even more in awe of how she overcame all the challenges to rise up and completely dominate the sport. I believe that grit is critical to success and it’s clear that she has it in spades.

Serena Williams is truly inspirational and a great role model.

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


Makers of The Metaverse: Raed Al Tikriti Of Disguise On 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: Joe Stewart Of Work & Co On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Always make the simplest possible solution first.

No matter if you’re making an app, or making a new HR policy, the first draft should always answer the question ‘what’s the simplest possible way this can work?’ and go from there. If you can make something work and it’s simplest, it will work when you add bells and whistles.

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

Joe Stewart is a designer and founding partner at Work & Co, a global digital product company. Since co-founding the company less than 10 years ago, it’s grown to nearly 500 team members across eight offices, been featured on Ad Age’s A-List, named Digiday’s Agency of the Year, honored twice on Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies, and dubbed one of the “most consequential agencies of the decade” by Forbes.

Joe — who is based in Portland and continues to be a hands-on leader working actively on projects — was named one of Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business. He holds design patents for Apple, Google, and Target, and is a Cannes Lion winner for his designs for Virgin America and Apple.

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 backstory is more linear than most people’s. I’ve really just been doing the exact same thing — designing digital interfaces — for a very long time. I started as a Web design intern in 1998 at a tiny agency in the Bay Area of California, and I just never stopped. I was studying graphic design at the time in college and I was mostly interested in record covers and skateboard deck designs. But I got an internship during the very wild west days of Flash 3 and IE4, and fell in love with the tools, the medium, and the potential digital design had for the world and for me.

I dropped out of school during the ‘dot-com boom’ of 1999 to work full time at another agency and just kind of kept going. I have the type of personality where I like to do the same things over and over and try to get better at them — so the story of my career is simply just 25 years of trying to be a better digital designer.

Eventually I worked my way up to being a Partner at a pretty large digital agency called Huge, where I met my other co-founders, and we decided we needed to branch out on our own in order to do things right. At the time, most agencies were trying to do everything for everyone — and we knew that the only way to do digital products well was to focus solely on them. So we formed Work & Co nine years ago for the express purpose of designing and developing digital products that can transform companies. We’re about 500 people now with 8 offices around the world, and as I said to all our colleagues around the globe on our anniversary recently, I’m excited for the next nine years!

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

The biggest accomplishment in my career to be disruptive, really, has been the advocacy for digital to have a seat at the table. It seems like an alternate reality now, but not that long ago companies really didn’t care about digital at all. A lot of us fought very hard to convince c-suites around the world that investing in digital products was one of the best paths to ROI there is. Trying to convince a CMO to invest in fixing their e-commerce site, or making better software for their employees instead of making another TV commercial was a battle we had over and over and over. It really wasn’t until the last few years that there was finally enough evidence to prove without a doubt that not only is digital product quite possibly the most valuable part of many companies, it is often intertwined with the brand itself.

I must say, it feels like quite a luxury at this point for everyone to agree that creating good tools for your customers and employees is a must. It seems obvious and inevitable in retrospect, but believe me, it was a fight to get us here. I feel immensely proud to contribute to this shift along with my co-founders and a lot of other folks who believe in Work & Co’s mission.

This manifests in the work I’m doing today by changing the power balance of the company / customer relationship. The way companies interact with their customers has changed from push to pull. It used to be that companies would do their best to tell their potential customers what to think and hope they could convince them to buy their goods. Now people expect a very different kind of relationship: they tell you what they want and if you have good tools in place for them to meet their goals, they take what they need, and be on their merry way. This creates much deeper bonds between brands and individuals, and makes for a much more pleasant way to deal with the world in general.

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 we were starting Work & Co, we had to come up with a name, get business cards, make a logo, and buy a URL for our website. I was working on a lot of that stuff, including getting the website domain name and we got ‘work.co’ which took a lot of negotiation and back-and-forth, but I bought it finally and set it all up and forgot about it. About 3 years later, I got a very panicked phone call from someone in IT saying “The website is down! The domain ownership expired! You are the only one who can fix it, because you bought it and have been running it with your personal account!” Oh shit. I let the URL lapse. I let a technology company’s website go down, because I forgot to renew the domain. Hahaha — what a rookie move. Anyway — after some very panicked typing, I transferred it over so that it was on the company’s account, and it hasn’t been a problem ever since. Moral of the story is, I’m glad to be surrounded by a lot of very smart people now.

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 have had a few great mentors in my life, but I think what is most interesting is my current state of mentorship — because it’s cut into two very different categories. First is masters from the past, and second is rising talent right now.

In my field, there is no history yet. I can’t pick up a textbook and see how masters solved digital product problems. We are really the first ones to be able to make a life-long career out of it, so we look to the masters of other design disciplines — architecture, industrial design, graphic design, etc.

I read a lot, and really encourage people to read as much as possible about people they consider to be successful in their field, even if they don’t instinctively like their work. What you learn by doing so is not how to design, but how to think about design. How to approach a problem, where to begin, what to do when you get stuck, how not to be afraid. Design is fundamentally terrifying. You are handed a blank sheet of paper and told to produce an answer to a problem. In the early part of one’s career it’s a deer in the headlights moment. But as you learn more and more from others about what they do in those situations, you can apply that to your own life — and — eventually the deer disappears and the designer arrives. For me, Massimo Vignelli, Naoto Fukasawa, and Dieter Rams have probably influenced me the most.

When it comes to actual nuts and bolts application of process, my mentors are a younger generation of designers I am lucky enough to work with. I can think of two, in particular, who fundamentally changed the way I work forever — Dever Thomas and James Ayres, who both rose through our company and are now design partners at Work & Co.

Dever really taught me never to move on until I was really happy with something. Before her, things would often be ‘good enough’ because I had to move onto the 99 other things I needed to do, but not her. She wouldn’t move on until it was totally right and she loved it — and that made the other 99 things much much faster and be easier to do — contrary to my instincts. Going slower, and taking more time to get it all right, ends up being faster because you waste less time on making mistakes.

James changed the way I approach conceptual design. My typical method for design was to design full fidelity, perfectly kerned designs that looked great during the concepting period of a project. People were often impressed with the work, but the problem is I had to spend lots of time producing the design, and not as much time simply thinking about the concept. James did the exact opposite. His designs were literally 3 gray boxes with no words moving in a prototype — but it worked, and you knew what it was, and it made perfect sense. What was brilliant about this approach, is he would spend 6 hours thinking about what the right answer should be, and 10 minutes doing a prototype. So, it was a really really smart prototype. And since the level of effort was so low, he could do 20 in the time I could do 1 of my designs. And his 20th was better than my 1st, even though his was just a moving gray box. He really helped me create a process to detangle myself from the laborious side of conceptual design, and actually spend my time “concepting”. Once the gray boxes are perfect, you can see the entire app in your head and design it once.

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 I have ever tried to intentionally “disrupt” anything. My goal has always been to make things simpler, meet peoples’ needs, and make tools that are a pleasure to use. What we often experience, though, is getting used to bad systems. We get used to things being hard to use, or barely working, or being a chore and we just accept it. Sometimes a technology, or an idea, or a group comes along that allows us to redo bad systems properly, how they should have been done in the first place, and only then do we realize just how awful the old way was — and sometimes people call that disruption. To me, it’s just making something good, which should always be your goal.

To go back to the question, ‘when is disruption a bad thing’ — or, in my framing — when do you stop trying to make something better? I think there are instances of things that are so good that any change can only make it worse. And, when that happens, you leave it alone. It’s pretty rare, but there are things that are done very well, and work very well, and if you try to re-invent them — they are worse than before. Don’t disrupt things that work better than any possible future version. Like… don’t do a cover of a Queen song. It will only be worse.

Here is a tiny concrete example of what I’m talking about, but it will illustrate the point. Not too long ago, designers always redesigned the scrollbars for the websites they were designing. They would change the colors, and the buttons, and the track — or sometimes totally re-write the entire scroll bar because they thought it would be better, or because they wanted to leave their fingerprints on the project. The problem was, the default scrollbars in Safari are REALLY well done. You can ONLY make them worse. Leave them alone.

There are not a lot of things that live up to this standard — something so good it can only be made worse — but that should always be our goal with every design we do. We should aim for our designs to last for many years. It’s impossibly hard in digital, but the only goal worth aiming for.

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) Simple.

Always make the simplest possible solution first.

No matter if you’re making an app, or making a new HR policy, the first draft should always answer the question ‘what’s the simplest possible way this can work?’ and go from there. If you can make something work and it’s simplest, it will work when you add bells and whistles.

2) Be nice.

You will see everyone you work with again, so be nice.

It’s a very small world. The people you work with now could be your clients in the future. Your intern can become your boss. You will see everyone you work with again. Being nice to people means that when you see them again, you can pick up where you left off.

3) Never lie.

If you tell the truth, even when it’s bad news, your work will be 10,000x easier. If you are honest about a problem, people can help you solve it. If you obfuscate the problem, you’re on your own — and — you’ve probably made the problem worse.

4) Stick to your principles.

Do the things you think are right. If you get in trouble for doing the right thing, then you’re not in a good place. Be willing to walk away from a bad environment. In the long run, this will pay off.

5) You are the only one who will take care of you.

Prioritize your mental health, body, and spirit. The company you work for, no matter how benevolent, will never be able to know what you need like you do. You are the only one who can really take care of yourself, so do it. Never feel bad about prioritizing yourself and your family. As someone who has burned themselves out many, many times, I can tell you — it’s not worth it.

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

I think of it a little differently than that. I think my role as a designer is more like a river that moves and changes over time. I’ve always just been doing the same thing: just trying to improve tools for people. The tools change, the medium changes, the technology changes, people change. What’s next for me is to keep doing what I have been doing for whatever comes next. So, if I get to help improve blockchain tech or brain implants then I’ll just keep doing my best to make those things simple and enjoyable to use.

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 that has had the most influence on me in the last couple years is ‘The Miracle of Mindfulness’ by Thích Nhất Hạnh. I would recommend it to anyone. The book is a series of letters about the joy to be found in every moment. The universe is an amazing and beautiful place. If you practice stopping and letting go, your mind can become quiet and the beauty of the existential world can reveal itself.

This might not seem to have anything to do with digital, or business, or design but in reality it’s the key to all of it. I really believe that creativity comes from a place of stillness and calm. It’s why when we’re in the shower or falling asleep we have good ideas — we’re calm. You can be calm anytime you want through the practice of stillness — which can lead to great creative ideas for business or design or digital — but also throughout the rest of your life.

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

One lesson I have tried to draw upon many times comes from my business partner and one my favorite designers ever, Felipe Memoria. Working in tech can be pretty stressful. There are always 1,000 things to worry about, and it’s very easy to get overwhelmed. Felipe once told me to only worry about what’s immediately in front of me — whether that’s my next meeting or my next hour of designing. It’s pretty genius, because it works on two levels. Firstly, it keeps things from getting overwhelming, and secondly, if you do a great job on each consecutive thing individually, you will eventually have done a great job on the whole thing. Focusing on the now ensures the future will be great. I love this idea from him.

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.

An idea that I am very interested in, and would like to spread as much as I can is: there is no such thing as “them” — there is only “us”.

This comes from Buddhism, but it has really changed the way I think and problem solve. I don’t believe you can change anyone’s mind by fighting, but only by working together. This requires dropping your guard, listening, letting go of your pretenses and prejudgments, getting to know someone, understanding their point of view, and really trying to put yourself in their shoes. This isn’t easy, but when you do this — that person is 1,000x more willing to do the same. This works in business and design, but it also works in real life and politics, and governments, and whatever. Humans don’t want to do this for some reason. We are naturally tribal and seek out differences and conflicts — but — if we recognize the truth that we are all “us” — then — we can come together and change things. I really believe this.

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


Meet The Disruptors: Joe Stewart Of Work & Co 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.

Alex Owen-Hill On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Many people in the business world resist it when I say that public speaking is a performance. Many professional speakers also refuse to accept that they are performers. This is a baffling mindset to me. We’re happy to use the word “performance” for almost every other situation where a person stands up and presents “material” (what we call “content” in business) to an audience: storytellers, singers, stand-up comedians, poets, TV presenters, clowns, actors, acrobats, … but for some bizarre reason business presenters want to make themselves different.

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 Alex Owen-Hill.

Alex Owen-Hill is The Voice Speaker. As a voice and performance coach, he teaches people how to bring their authentic voice to the stage so that audiences like and trust them. He also works with business owners and tech companies to help them to uncover the unique Voice of their Business — a voice that supercharges brand communications, improves company culture, and attracts the people they most want to work with.

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 as the only introverted engineer in a family of actors and acting teachers. Most of the adults I knew as a child were performers, but I wanted to be an inventor and create robots. As a result, my story is a bit “upside down.” Many performers have the opposite story — they say “I wanted to be a performer but all my family had serious business careers.” I wanted to be serious, but my family were all performers. Ours was a noisy household — our family bursts into song at every available moment, we have strong vocal control so can project our voices across the entire house, and our emotions tend to burst out rather than keeping them hidden. I was, and still am, one of the most shy members of my family. But, my background taught me an immense wealth of fundamental performance skills that most people in the world do not learn.

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

From between the ages of about 6 and 23 years old, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life — build robots! At aged 12, I had already chosen my university degree. Yeah, I’m a geek. I did a 5-year undergraduate Masters in robotics and then a 3-year PhD in robotics.

But my life’s purpose wasn’t as strong as I had thought.

Around the time of my PhD, my purpose started crumbling like a cheese. I developed a strong cynicism for robotic technology and how most researcher groups approached their research. Most research applications I read about claimed to help humans in some way, but I could see the researchers had made little attempt to actually understand the people their technology was supposed to help. And the standard of communication in technology was terrible compared to the performers I grew up around. Academics almost never burst into song mid-presentation!

Years later, I now feel this cynicism is part of what makes me valuable to technology companies — I never get “dazzled by the technology” as tech investors, founders, and customers often do. I always focus strongly on the practicality of the company’s products and the genuine needs of their customers.

The question became: Now what do I do with my life!?

I started a business creating online content for technology companies. At the same time, I started learning to become a professional speaker and a voice teacher, which is my mum’s profession. Over time, it has become clear that my strengths lie in helping business owners and non-performers by teaching them the performance and communication skills of professional performers.

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

One thing that always fascinates me is how dramatically a minor change can affect our ability to communicate. I imagine this will be familiar to both teachers and managers. I was working with one coaching client on her voice, to improve her pitches and presentations. In recent weeks, we had been working on breathing and “grounding” her voice.

After a few sessions, she told me she had used one technique during a difficult meeting in her company. The meeting had gone a lot better than she expected because of one “silly” little grounding exercise. Simply applying one minor change I had offered her for a completely different reason had now transformed how she handled hard conversations. I didn’t do that, she did!

As teachers, especially in the world of business, I think we often get stuck by assuming we know exactly how people will apply our teaching. But the real power of our teaching has almost nothing to do with us — it comes from how our students creatively connect the teaching with their own lives.

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 started pitching businesses for my content writing and strategy services, I was waaay too keen! I would meet a prospect at a local networking event or see an advert online. I’d enthusiastically think “I can make them my client!” Then, I would spend days on a proposal, I might visit the company, and I’d basically just make a nuisance of myself. One time, I saw a job advert for a company looking for a full-time marketer. I thought, “I want to work freelance, not on a salary. But I’m going to convince these people they need me as a freelance marketer.” For my proposal, I basically created an entire content strategy for this company. I also redesigned their business model… because clearly I — a new freelance copywriter — knew more about their business than they did. I spent ages created a ton of content ideas and new directions for them.

Obviously, I didn’t get the gig! At no point had I talked with them about what they were looking for… I had just decided what they needed, then spent days creating the content for it. It was a good learning experience for me, but what a big ego I had!

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 had a lot of guiding help in my life, though until recently I’ve been extremely bad at actually asking for help when I need it!

My close family (my mum, dad, and sister) has been an immense help to me. Over the years, they have been my reminder of the joys of performing and the skills that performers have.

In particular, my mum, Cathie Owen, was a great help when I started my journey to being a professional speaker and voice coach. Together with a fellow voice teacher, Marion Scott, we spent hours and hours reviewing the voice content I was writing. That would later become the fundamentals of my entire voice coaching methodology. I’m very grateful for all that time and work Cathie and Marion gifted to me then. I might not have become a speaker or performance coach without it.

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?

Take advantage of your strengths, and lean into your weaknesses.

Like many people, I tend to gloss over my strengths. They don’t seem like a big deal to me, so I don’t take full advantage of them as much as I should. For example, I have skills as a singer, writer, musician, comedian, and improv actor. I’ve actively developed these skills over the years, but I started with a decent base level of skill thanks to my upbringing. As a professional speaker, I don’t always use these skills, often trying to be more “serious.” But, the more I bring my humor, writing, and performance skills into my own speaking, the more audiences like it!

When you notice that one of your weaknesses is holding you back, lean into it. For example, I’m quite a strong introvert. Naturally, I don’t really enjoy talking to people and I comfortably can go for a long time without social interaction. In the world of business, this isn’t acceptable — we need to network, speak, and regularly follow-up with our contacts. No successful company has been built by a hermit, as far as I know. I work very hard to always improve my skills in this area.

The more I lean into my weaknesses, the better I understand myself and the better I can operate as a businessperson and a human being (I’m not saying these are mutually exclusive). In a way, my whole business has grown from my weakness — I naturally struggle with communication which means I work on it a lot. This makes me a much better communication coach and speaker than people who are just naturally good communicators.

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?

Like most professional speakers, I split my business between speaking and other income streams (for me, coaching and content strategy services). So I don’t give talks every day, which is normal in the speaking industry.

In all my work, one thing that drives me is the realization that we human beings don’t inherently understand each other… but we assume we do. When we work to deeply understand the people we’re communicating with, life and business become so much easier. In front of an audience, we succeed when we give most of our energy and thought to our audience. When creating content for your company, spend most time thinking about your audience. And successful leaders give most of their energy and thought to their teams.

As human beings, we find this very hard. Naturally, our tendency is to think of ourselves and our own ideas first.

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 coming up with new ideas and projects. Some of these I deem as hobbies, but they feed directly into my business. For example, I’m currently developing a street clown show, a stand-up comedy show, and preparing for a run of my family show Story Builders for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Story Builders is an interactive workshop I do with my sister and dad where we teach children how to create their own stories from nothing.

In business, I’m currently also working on a story project. It’s aimed at helping business leaders and speakers to create and tell better stories on behalf of their business. And I’m working to develop the framework I already use to help tech companies uncover a unique, authentic voice for their business.

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

“The beginner’s mind is empty, free from the habits of the expert, ready to accept, to doubt, and open to all possibilities.” Shunryu Suzuki

I like this Zen quote because it underlines so well the problem (and the solution) for most communication problems. One reason I gave up academia after my PhD was that I could see a hugely unhelpful culture around professors and other long-time academics. There was a culture of saying “I am the expert, so I am right.” which I thought restricted real creativity. I also see this culture in the world of professional speakers — we all have quite big egos and we think our expertise is “the best”… apart from me, obviously, because my expertise really is the best.

This quote reminds us that there is a disadvantage to expertise. The more experience and knowledge we gain, the less open our minds become. We need to continually ask ourselves — what would I think of this if I had no knowledge at all? When we can see the world through the eyes of a beginner, it becomes much easier to communicate in a way that others can understand.

I do a lot of clowning. One of the most powerful skills that clowning teaches you is how to look at the world through the eyes of a child that knows nothing. This is one reason I do it.

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.

A lot of the advice and “quick tips” you can find online about public speaking are extremely unhelpful. Some common tips are actively damaging. They set you up with bad habits that ruin your chances of becoming a spectacular speaker.

Instead of giving quick tips, I try to focus on the underlying fundamental skills.

Here are 5 things you can focus on to raise your game as a speaker:

1. The Performer Mindset: View yourself as a performer.

Many people in the business world resist it when I say that public speaking is a performance. Many professional speakers also refuse to accept that they are performers. This is a baffling mindset to me. We’re happy to use the word “performance” for almost every other situation where a person stands up and presents “material” (what we call “content” in business) to an audience: storytellers, singers, stand-up comedians, poets, TV presenters, clowns, actors, acrobats, … but for some bizarre reason business presenters want to make themselves different.

What results from this “I’m not a performer” mindset? Most business presenters and even professional speakers actively shy away from skills and training aimed at performers that could help them improve their presentations. They think it’s “not for them.” As a result, the general standard of presentations in business is woeful.

Do you want to be good at public speaking? Then you are a performer. Now behave like one.

2. Audience Focus: Change how the audience thinks, acts or feels.

How will your presentation (or any other communication) change how the audience thinks, acts, or feels?

All performances should change the audience in some way. If you don’t change them, why bother doing it at all?

When I’m being a stand-up comedian or clown, my purpose is to make people laugh. My job is to give people a catharsis from the stresses of their daily life by laughing together. Therefore, I change how the audience feels.

When I’m training a room full of engineers on how to give better presentations in their company, I aim to change all three things. I want them to feel more confident and capable in their presentations. I want them to change how they think about presentations. And I want them to change their behavior around presentations.

3. Strong Rehearsal Strategy: Over-rehearsal is a myth. Learn to rehearse.

If any presentation trainer tells you to “avoid over-rehearsal” run away quickly!

Over-rehearsal is a pervasive and dangerous myth, in my opinion. It actively stops newer speakers from ever increasing their skill. When you hear a speaker who sounds “over-rehearsed” what’s really going on is a failure in their rehearsal strategy, and perhaps a lack of good coaching.

Forget about over-rehearsal. Rehearsing more makes you better. Instead, focus on learning proper rehearsal strategies. And if a presentation trainer tells you to avoid over-rehearsal, this may be a warning sign that they don’t have the expertise to troubleshoot and fix your current rehearsal strategy.

4. Voice and Body Mastery: Become an instrument of communication.

When I was growing up, I learned how to use my voice properly. I couldn’t avoid it — my mum was a voice coach.

As young children, my sister and I used to sit in on my mum’s classes. We watched how she taught the next generations of young actors to use their voices. When I became a voice coach myself, this experience was part of my foundational knowledge of voice.

What’s the difference between the training for business presenters and for actors? Actors and other performers learn “voice and movement” from day one. Business presenters usually don’t.

People think that rehearsing a theater show is mostly about “learning the lines.” This is nonsense. Directors often require actors to learn all their lines before rehearsals begin. During rehearsals (which are often 3 weeks long at least) most of the time is spent applying skills related to voice and movement.

In business presentations, people spend almost all their time on content (which is like the actor’s lines) and nothing on voice and movement. You can improve your presentation skills hugely by developing your voice and movement skills.

5. Continuous Improvement: Never stop developing your craft.

It might seem strange that my final recommendation comes from the world of manufacturing — continuous improvement. But I am an engineer by training.

As a professional speaker, I continually find ways to improve my own performance skills. In the first half of 2022 alone, I’ve attended various workshops and courses in clowning, stand-up comedy, comedy writing, street performance, and improv acting.

My dad is an actor and has been almost all his life. He is 72 this year, and he is joining me on a 6 week intensive clown course this summer. If he doesn’t think that he has had “enough training” so far, why should you think you’ve “had enough training”?

There are always new skills to learn and hobbies you can take up that will can help you improve your communication skills. These won’t just help you improve your presentations, they will help you communicate better in all aspects of your life. Given that we spend most of our lives communicating with others… why would you not want to continually improve your skills?

As you know, many people are terrified of speaking in public. Can you give some of your advice about how to overcome this fear?

I have social anxiety, so I completely understand the fear of speaking in public. For me, standing on stage is less scary than talking to people in social situations. I know it’s the opposite for many people.

I offer 2 pieces of advice for dealing with fear of public speaking:

1. Accept the fear. It will not go away. Don’t try to make it go away or it will just come back stronger. Instead, find strategies to channel that fear into something useful. Many people talk about “reframing the fear as excitement” which is a good approach. But don’t just mentally think “this is excitement, not fear.” Also, find ways to move your body to channel that excitement. What do children do when they’re excited? They run around! So, try dancing to music, going for a run, or otherwise just getting your body moving before a presentation. This really helps channel your fear/excitement.

2. Rehearse your presentation fully and with good rehearsal strategies. When you have fully rehearsed your presentation, it doesn’t really matter if you are afraid. You’ll still be able to give a good presentation. Ideally, you should know it well enough so “your body can take over” if the fear blinds you for a moment. I had a panic attack in the middle of a show once. Because I was well-rehearsed I could keep going “on autopilot.” Eventually, I calmed down and turned off autopilot so I could re-engage with my performance properly.

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?

I would teach people how to use their voice. Vocal health should be taught just as much as any other health-related topic. These days, we know a lot about how our muscles work when we exercise. But most people have no idea how their voice works and how to use it in a healthy way.

Even making slight changes in how we use our voices can be hugely powerful. When I was living in Spain, I heard the word “afonica” a lot. It translates as “hoarse” and people often lose their voices on a weekly or even nightly basis. With my knowledge of voice, I could see why this might be happening. Just making a minor change to their vocal technique could reduce this huge, damaging situation.

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’ll admit, as an introvert, this question fills me with a bit of fear. What if the person does respond!? What if they contact me!? (answer: I’d be tickled pink and I’d handle it in the professional and charming way that I usually do… but the fearful thoughts are still there!)

I’d love to have lunch with Sacha Baron Cohen. He’s an extremely interesting person and I’m rather in awe of his ability to go out and “bring his clown” to every situation. I’m currently making my first foray into street theater and it’s scaring the hell out of me. Maybe I could “absorb” some of his courage over lunch, like a courageous sponge. Also, I’m currently preparing myself to be taught by the clown-teacher Gaulier and I hear he is a past student, so I’d love to hear about his experiences.

Are you on social media? How can our readers follow you online?

You can find me at all these places:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AlexOwenHill/

LinkedIn: https://linkedin.com/in/alexowenhill

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

Blog: http://creativetemperament.com

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


Alex Owen-Hill 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.

Georgina Shaw Of Shaw Marketing Services On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public…

Georgina Shaw Of Shaw Marketing Services On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Focus on Your Message, Not on Your Fear — The more you think about being anxious about speaking, the more you will increase your level of anxiety. Instead, in the few minutes before you speak, mentally review your major ideas, your introduction, and your conclusion. Focus on your ideas rather than on your fear and then go for it.

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 Georgina Shaw.

Georgina Shaw is a Chartered Institute of Marketing Qualified professional with experience of all areas of marketing and communications. She is an offline marketing specialist, copywriter and event organiser and the Director of marketing agency Shaw Marketing Services. Since 2007 she has been representing high profile clients, as well as helping many small businesses achieve their goals. A trained teacher and experienced public speaker who has offered marketing advice and guidance for many years, she also offers training courses in Spain and Gibraltar to help businesses promote themselves effectively, the most popular of which helps people to overcome their fear of public speaking.

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 was born in London, studied English and Philosophy at University and at the same time obtained my TEFL English teaching qualification. I taught English in Spain, China and Peru, worked in TV as a runner and warm-up artist, as an Events Organizer and finally found my way to marketing and PR in in 2005. I have been focused on marketing and communication since then, gaining a Chartered Institute of Marketing qualification and working for a number of agencies before opening my own agency, Shaw Marketing Services in 2008. As well as representing clients, I’ve also been able to combine my love of teaching and my TEFL qualification, with my passion for marketing and have been giving speeches and running training courses in all aspects of marketing. I also train professionals in public speaking, as I believe it’s a crucial skill for success.

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

Interestingly, I was determined not to go into marketing, as both my parents were in the advertising industry and I wanted to forge my own path. I originally wanted to be an actress and TV presenter, but after working in TV during my gap year I realized that wasn’t the place for me and started teaching, really as a passport to travel. I loved teaching, but wanted something a bit more corporate, so got into the events space, which I really enjoyed but was highly stressful. It was a chance meeting at a wedding that brought me to PR and marketing.

I was the Chief Bridesmaid at my best friend’s wedding and got up to make an announcement about someone’s car blocking an entrance during the wedding breakfast. My friend’s cousin came up to me after and praised me for how confident I had been giving the announcement and we spoke for a while about our jobs and what we were doing. At the time I was organizing events for an engineering association and he worked for a PR agency which specialized in representing engineering firms. By the end of the wedding he offered me a job, and I’ve never looked back. So you could say that my love of public speaking was what brought me into the career that I’ve enjoyed so much over the last 20 years!

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

What I love about working in a marketing and PR agency is that there is so much variety. One minute you can be sending out press releases, the next organizing big events, or dealing with politicians, celebrities and influencers.

One of the more unusual things we launched was a skydiving simulator, where you can fly on a column of air and we got the Mayor of the Town and a bunch of journalists to try it out as part of the launch and I joined them too. That got us a lot of great coverage and it was really fun too.

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 just starting out giving marketing presentations, I was a speaker at a big conference for International Women’s Day. We’d had a new template designed for my talk and the designer had added fades and timings on the slides which I hadn’t realized.

When I got up to speak the presentation was running on its own, going through the slides super-fast and I had to rush to catch up. I had no idea what was going on, but with 200 business women watching I just had to keep up with it and so finished the presentation in record time. The organizer was pleased as we were running late, and apparently no-one noticed my technical issues, but it was really nerve-wracking for me.

I learned three important lessons from that experience –

  1. Check and double check your presentation and practice it as you will be doing it on the day so that there are no nasty surprises.
  2. Strip out any timings or fades so you are in charge of how the slides run.
  3. The show must go on! Even if it feels like things are going wrong for you, if you can keep a smile on your face and keep going, many people won’t even notice that anything is up. If you keep calm and in control, they will feel safe in your hands. Remember they don’t know what was supposed to happen, so keep a smile on your face and keep on going.

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

The Founder of the networking group Costa Women Ali Meehan has been instrumental in building up my reputation as a marketer and public speaker on the Costa del Sol. She has regularly given me opportunities to speak at events and took a chance on me early on to be the MC for their big annual conference. Her faith in me and the buzz it gave me to speak in front of such a big crowd led to me pursuing more speaking opportunities.

These experiences also led to lots of people speaking to me after the events saying how frightening they found public speaking and asking me for advice. These requests inspired me to start training people in public speaking and help them to build the confidence that comes to me naturally from all my years acting and teaching.

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?

I would describe myself as a reluctant entrepreneur and someone who has been surprised at the success that I’ve had, both as a marketer and a public speaker. However, what has made it all possible has been establishing a support system around me of strong and confident business people who believe in me and never being afraid to say yes and give it a go. Remember that everyone has fears and self-doubt, and so try to think that it’s OK to get up there and give it a go. It’s never as bad as you think it will be once you start — so put yourself forward for that presentation, new job, or big client — it might just be the best thing you’ve ever done!

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 am passionate about teaching people and empowering them to take control of their own marketing to be able to grow their business. I believe that if you can get the right skills and mindset, you can be a brilliant asset to your brand. I like to inspire people to not be afraid of marketing and send them away with practical tips and a belief in themselves to give it a try. The same goes for the public speaking training, my overall goal is to help my students to banish their fears and start to create opportunities for themselves and their businesses through public speaking confidence.

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 love my job and am so lucky to be able to be running PR campaigns for the optical group Specsavers in Spain, alongside real estate agent Cloud Nine Spain, as well as copywriting and managing social media accounts for a number of clients in many different fields. There’s always lots going on and it’s never boring.

During COVID I had more time to pursue my passion for teaching and gave a number of online training sessions, as well as preparing a series of short marketing training videos called an A-Z of Marketing. Since travel restrictions have lifted I’ve been able to do some in person training courses in Marbella and Madrid as well as being the MC for a few big events and it’s been wonderful to get back out there. I’d definitely like to do more training and events moving forward.

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

I love the quote from Richard Branson — “Always think, ‘what’s the worst that can happen’ and have some kind of strategy to deal with it”

I like it for two reasons, because it inspires us to think about the worst that could happen, and then make a plan for success. I also think that when you think of what the worst outcome is, it isn’t normally as bad as you fear it could be. That’s certainly the case with public speaking!

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 . Remember it’s normal to be scared and don’t let that fear paralyze you!.

75% of people feel nervous about speaking in public, so you are not alone, but everyone can do it if they can build their confidence. I love the quote “good oratory is not the absence of fear, but taming it” and definitely believe that is true. If you can put your fears into perspective and get some coping strategies in place it will make everything else fall into place. So don’t let fear stop you from reaping the benefits that public speaking can bring! Being a good public speaker can give you more promotional opportunities, get you promoted at work, help you win more clients or earn more. It’s worth the effort!

2. Prepare properly.

Fear of speaking often leads speakers to delay preparing their speeches until the last minute. The lack of thorough preparation often results in a poorer speech performance, which reinforces a speaker’s perception that public speaking is difficult. Don’t let fear freeze you into inaction. Take charge by preparing early. Being prepared means that you have carefully chosen your topic to suit your audience, researched your topic, developed a logically coherent outline with a clear introduction, body and conclusion and created some great slides which will illustrate your points and help you stay on track.

My preparation and practice tends to start with a bullet point plan, which I’ll then develop into my script. I then move to producing the slides based around the script and making sure I have enough slides to support each point I want to make. I tend to do a number of read throughs, then record one to hear how I’m sounding. If I want to be really confident, I will listen to that recording for a few nights before my presentation just before bed, I find it really helps it sink in.

Once you’ve got a good grasp on your content you should practice aloud, standing up, with the slides running as they will be on the day. Vividly imagine the room where you will give your speech, or consider rehearsing in the actual room. It feels silly at first, but those practice sessions are invaluable to controlling the fear and giving a great presentation.

3. Know your introduction and conclusion by heart.

Actor and famed public speaker George Jessel once quipped, “The human brain starts working the moment you are born and never stops until you stand up to speak in public.” The opening moments of your speech are when you are likely to feel the most anxious. Being familiar with your introduction will help you feel more comfortable about the entire speech. If you also know how you will end your speech, you will have a safe harbor in case you lose your place. If you need to end your speech prematurely, a well-delivered conclusion can permit you to make a graceful exit. So don’t be afraid to learn those opening and closing sections off by heart, as if you were learning lines, they can really help you.

4. Engage your audience.

Boredom is your biggest energy, so start with a bang and tell people why they need to keep listening and then use variation, relevance and emotion to be memorable. Don’t be afraid to look around the room and make eye contact with different people, it keeps the audience interested and engaged. Last but not least slow down, use the pause and try to enjoy the experience, so your audience enjoys it with you.

Channel the confidence that you admire in others, there’s a lot of truth in the concept of faking it until you make it! Don’t be afraid to gesture, smile and share anecdotes and stories and make it larger than life with plenty of energy. By keeping your energy high you’ll also keep the audience awake and with you. Finally don’t take yourself too seriously — remember it’s only a presentation and whatever happens it isn’t the end of the world. So, if something goes wrong like you drop your notes, lose your place, or trip over, just laugh and get back to it. The show must go on!

5. Seek out public speaking opportunities.

The more you give presentations, the better you become, and only by putting yourself forward can you overcome the fear. However, don’t start too big and scare yourself to death! A great first step is to start networking and work on delivering the best one-minute introduction of yourself and your company that you can. Over the course of the meetings, you’ll see yourself improve and start to build confidence. From there, ask the organizer if you can give a presentation to the group, it’s a safe space where you can practice. Once you’re feeling up to it, start to offer to give the presentations at work, or at events and build up to the bigger stages from there. Another great way to start is to find your nearest Toastmasters, an organization which teaches and develops amazing public speakers, or to take a few acting classes. Wherever you start doesn’t really matter, just put yourself out there and believe you can do it and you’ll be great.

As you know, many people are terrified of speaking in public. Can you give some of your advice about how to overcome this fear?

I always tell people to remember that it’s only talking and if they can speak to one person, they can speak to 100. People build public speaking up into something bigger than it really is.

If they can discover their confident persona and reframe the feelings of nervousness and anxiety to be excitement and readiness to perform, then they can start to enjoy it. I personally love that buzz I get from those pre-presentation jitters and then the satisfaction I feel when I’ve done a good job. I think those jitters usually take over and cause the problems, but if you can take control of the fear, that adrenaline can make you perform better than you ever thought possible!

I recommend being as prepared as possible and knowing your presentation inside and out and using some deep breathing techniques before they get on stage to calm and center themselves.

An adrenaline boost before speaking can make you jittery. While seated and waiting to speak, keep both feet on the floor and wiggle your toes. Gently (and without calling attention to yourself) grab the edge of your chair and squeeze it. Unobtrusively, lightly tense and release the muscles in your legs and arms. It really helps release that nervous energy.

Focus on Your Message, Not on Your Fear — The more you think about being anxious about speaking, the more you will increase your level of anxiety. Instead, in the few minutes before you speak, mentally review your major ideas, your introduction, and your conclusion. Focus on your ideas rather than on your fear and then go for it.

As you wait to be introduced, think and act calm to feel calm.

Walk to the front of the room as though you were calm.

Take a moment to look for a friendly, supportive face before you begin.

You can do 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?

I would love to inspire people to support each other, be kind and be generous with their time and energy to help people succeed. Taking the time to help others really helps you too, and you could make a huge difference to someone’s lives by being kind and offering help and encouragement. If we all did it, the world would definitely be a better place!

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!

There are so many fascinating and inspiring people out there, it’s so hard to choose. I love the author Bill Bryson and think he’s got so many interesting things to say about the world and is so funny — he’d be a great lunch companion I reckon.

Are you on social media? How can our readers follow you online?

Yes you can follow us on social media and also watch our A-Z of Marketing videos on our YouTube channel and we also have lots of great marketing articles and information about public speaking on our blog

http://www.shawmarketingservices.com/

https://www.facebook.com/ShawMarketingServices

https://twitter.com/Shaw_Marketing

https://www.linkedin.com/company/shaw-marketing-services/

https://www.instagram.com/shawmarketingservices/

https://www.youtube.com/c/Shawmarketingservices/

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


Georgina Shaw Of Shaw Marketing Services On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public… 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: Roberto DaCosta Of VR Networking Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Leadership — If you are running a company or an employee of one, the key to success is feeling comfortable with yourself when you have leading roles and responsibilities to your people.

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 Roberto DaCosta — Founder of VR Networking.

Roberto is a 30 year old entrepreneur from NYC on a mission to help business owners all over the world connect, build, and grow in ways never thought of before. He ran his own marketing and branding agency up until the pandemic where he, like many of others, started to struggle. Using what skills he learned from his business, and a new Oculus Quest 2 Headset on hand, he found new hope in building his network with his own business networking community in the Metaverse.

Website Link: www.vrnetworking.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. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory and how you grew up?

I was born in Brazil and migrated to New York as a child. We were poor, and my parents sacrificed everything for me and my sister, I mean EVERYTHING. It was the right thing to do to help us live a better life. I remember having dreams of America in my sleep and imagining I could have all the toys and games I wanted, also playing in the snow! Being raised in a family that struggled but consistently worked on developing a better future was hands down the best thing for me and molded who I am today. I am forever grateful to my parents and grandparents for their part in making me. Everything I do to become the best person I can be is in reverence and in debt, in a way, for the sacrifice my family made for me.

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?

When I was in my late teens, I read “The Book of Secrets” by Deepak Chopra. I wasn’t heavily religious but I was spiritual and had my personal beliefs on why we are here. This book helped me be more centered in my life. This lead me to a path of self discovery, self compassion, and self mastery. From then on I have worked hard on my self development, that got me to where I am today.

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

Yes! Believe it or not, as a child still living in Brazil, one of those dreams of having all the toys I wanted was the vision of me playing in virtual reality. I don’t remember the movie I watched but it helped me form these ideas that when I would be older I will be playing in VR. I thought I would have to be rich to own all those futuristic toys. From that belief I had set up in my mind that I needed to be a business owner. Now I am one, and I am living that childhood dream that I had back in Brazil in my sleep.

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

There isn’t one particular story that is the “most” interesting per se. You know, the more I think about it, the more the whole store becomes the most interesting thing. It’s really the sum of many small disconnected sequence of events that people usually just brush off as a “nothing” event, but if you paid close attention, the magic of what we do in VR Networking is to make insignificant meetings and connections that lead to a higher potential. When we think “Oh wow that meeting was amazing! I am so glad I met that person!” we tend to overlook HOW we even got in the same circle of connections to find that awesome opportunity. You knew someone, who knew someone, who knew someone, who knew someone that now put you on. It’s all amazing and interesting.

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 can tell you, I hate being in the lime light, and starting a community in VR where now I had hundreds of people every week come and listen to me M.C. events was funny to me. I thought many times, how could anyone take me seriously when I fumble so much on a stage, and I sound like a child presenting at a science fair that I had not prepare for. Stage fright was a real big deal to overcome. Being in front of a camera or an audience still scares me. I learned though that even though the fear is the same, I grew larger than the fear. It’s a much smaller animal to me now and I feel really accomplished by that!

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?

So many people come to mind it’s unfair to pick one. In particular, though, a dear friend and mentor to me that I met through networking in NYC is Joe Rojas. He’s an amazing person and business coach, and over an 8 month period while I was studying with him at Start Grow Manage (his entrepreneur company) he helped me hone in on what I needed to be focusing on throughout my first year in developing VR Networking. I can say, without a doubt, if it wasn’t for Joe, I wouldn’t have been this far ahead. People wouldn’t have believed in me or my vision. We sat down and ran through the entire process on how to stay focused on what’s most important and how to organize each step. Everything was calculated and planned out. I still use all the knowledge and systems that he taught me and will continue to do for the rest of my life. He’s a life changer and that entrepreneur group was a key to my success.

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

Running business events in virtual reality is a new format for this whole industry, and there is much to learn and much still to be developed. All of our events and new programs are exciting and fun. We have all sorts of engaging events being worked on by a team of 12 people who took on leadership roles in this community. I think that’s the most exciting project, team development with people literally from around the world. We are all working together to create fun, interactive and educational events for business owners to attend, enjoy, and to come together so that they can continue networking in a fundamentally new way.

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?

You can bet on one thing, VR is going to completely change how we connect and meet new people. The first thing I will touch on is business connections. VR will allow business owners to meet each other instantly and connect on new partnerships, find clients, build referral systems, and most importantly help each other learn. The power of connection in virtual reality is unreal, and it can only be understood when you jump into a social VR experience yourself.

The second thing is community and events. In VR there is no limit to how many people can be in one space at one time, other than hardware limitation. Once we resolve the hardware problem you can bet there will be concerts and events like TED speakers presenting in front of millions, maybe tens of millions of people at one time, live. With this capability you will see community growth and the power of people with similar interest and goals like never before. Thats what we are focused on in VR Networking, we have the first business community in VR and plan on being the place to go, globally, for your networking and business Metaverse marketing needs.

Lastly would be marketing. In VR you can expect the standard ads on the wall, and video commercials popping into your view while you travel from world to world, or app to app. But the cool thing that most people aren’t seeing is the commoditization of influencer/community marketing. Now more than ever the power of marketing has been transfered into the hands of normal every day people. Brands are partnering up with TikTok users left and right to get their product in front of their followers. This market is only getting stronger, and by the time VR is in every home or 1 or 3 people own a headset, brands will focus less and less on the cost per click and more on the ROI of people within communities that hold some social significance or following.

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?

Lack of content is one major pain point. Social VR has a huge potential to become one of the top mediums where people get their daily dose of content, even now in its inception. People are missing the point that they can organize and monetize in these spaces so they aren’t thinking large enough. So start planning a content strategy and community development strategy.

The lack of tools to market that content out keeps communities spread thin so there isn’t a large push to get more people to adopt the medium. I know for a fact that people will not jump into new tech just for any old reason. We need to have people there to connect with, and content that we can relate to. So my main focus is to share with the world more broadly how VR can help business owners connect and market in VR and we will slowly but surly start a cascade effect by bring more and more businesses into virtual worlds, meetups, conferences and shows we host.

Lastly, the biggest pain point is the size and weight of a VR headset. If we want grandma Sally and the rest of her family to join in on a family hangout session in VR because the family lives far from one another, we will need headsets that feel comfortable, have a lasting battery, look less bulky, and can easily be carried around. I believe these problems all rely on each other to exist, and if we were able to remove one of them, the rest would also vanish soon after.

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?

Sure, first let’s look at retention rate for a VR event. We have looked at our numbers, and our attendees retention rate is mid 90% for the first 60 minutes. To give some context, the above average quality Youtube channel videos have a retention rate of around 65% on an 11 minute video. That means more than half of people watching leave that video after only about 6 minutes. If you add the fact that learning memory retention rate in VR is 75% compared to a live lecture (5%) and reading (10%) you start to see why hosting business courses and classes in VR could fundamentally change how people learn about business and how quickly they could pick up and use their new found skills. Thats why at the center of VR Networking we wanted to have a core team of business professionals and executive coaches to help our community members make their businesses better from attending our VR Networking events.

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

So many ways… One of the things I am looking forward to is the ability to hang out with my family all while living in different states and countries. Some of my family is in Florida, some in New York, and some in Brazil and Europe. I would love to have time with them “in person” whenever I felt like it. VR and AR is a connection tool. It puts people together in person, on demand.

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

Yes, that VR is for games and children. Both of these are wrong. VR can be a tool for many people to simply have fun and connect with others, or get away from reality for a while. It can and will also be a heavy business communication and marketing tool in the next few years.

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

Creativity — This is a new world and a new medium, the old way of thinking with 2D platforms will become secondary, so you’ll need your grey matter more than before for this.

A Team — Creating a successful community, business, or product for VR is a much heavier lift in general than our current market demands. Having a team of highly effective and skilled people around you is critical to growth in this space.

People Skills — Social VR is all about people getting together for the sole purpose of being around people. You need to know how to navigate a ton of different personalities.

Leadership — If you are running a company or an employee of one, the key to success is feeling comfortable with yourself when you have leading roles and responsibilities to your people.

Mentors — You need a circle of professionals around you who you look up to and who you can count on in giving you the right course corrections when you need it most. Mentors help clear your mind when you are foggy and help you become a better leader.

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

This idea is deeply rooted in my philosophy for VR Networking. Everything we are has very little to do seeking referrals, finding clients, and making more money. Of course that is what we are all in business for but it is a secondary thought. We focus on one question only which is “how can I help you?”. Our community thrives on this and we plan on fundamentally changing networking by making networking and business events free globally, and producing the largest network group in the world.

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

That could only be Gary Vaynerchuk. He embodies everything we are here doing. Bringing people up by caring for them and doing cool things for our communities at the same time!

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


Makers of The Metaverse: Roberto DaCosta Of VR Networking 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.

Making Something From Nothing: Brian Yauger Of Lemonhaze On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Hiring the right people is hard! We have gone through so many employees that interviewed amazingly, and that we were very excited about, only to find out within the first few months that they were the wrong person for the job. When you are a young company with limited finances the wrong hire can be a very costly experience. Don’t be scared to let somebody go and find the right fit.

As a part of our series called “Making Something From Nothing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Brian Yauger, CEO for the cannabis industry B2B events company Lemonhaze.

Lemonhaze is a premier B2B events company that facilitates connections within the cannabis space. Lemonhaze events are designed to foster elite experiences. As a result, their Lemonhaze Cannabis Industry Executive Golf Invitationals have emerged as the most coveted invitation in the cannabis industry. Please visit their website to stay informed about other Lemonhaze experiences, including Virtual Upfronts, legendary Budtenders First Parties, and focus groups.

Lemonhaze — Where the industry grows together.

Originally from Austin, Texas, Brian Yauger is the visionary CEO behind Lemonhaze, architects of exclusive experiences connecting the cannabis space.

Known as ‘the most connected man in cannabis,” Brian’s career began in college football after attending Texas State University before transferring to Hardin-Simmons University, where he graduated with degrees in Political Science and History. He coached for 12 years, including Big 12 and Ivy League teams like Oklahoma State and Columbia University, before returning to Austin in 2011 to start his first company, Cool Earth Contracting and Coating.

Recognizing the potential of the burgeoning cannabis industry, Brian relocated to Seattle, Washington, and was soon leading business development for a fund. In 2015 he started FRONT RUNNER, a SAS cannabis sales data website rebranded as Lemonhaze in 2016. In 2018 Lemonhaze pivoted from data to an events company when Brian discovered that the events the company organized to promote its services were the most successful aspect of its business. They began with events focusing on budtenders, eventually expanding out of Washington to Oregon, California, and Nevada. The COVID-19 pandemic forced Brian and his company to get creative, which led to growing their business to include Virtual Upfronts. Described as “speed dating for cannabis buying,” these events offer product salespeople and dispensary buyers a distinctive opportunity to directly engage through the efficiency of video meetings and sales platforms.

An avid golfer, sports fan, and cigar aficionado, Brian combined his love for the cannabis industry and the game of bringing the company out of COVID in 2021 by creating the Lemonhaze Cannabis Executive Golf Classic tour and the Lemonhaze Cannabis Executive Invitational. Tailored for the industry executive, these tournaments offer a day of friendly competition and networking on the green, which quickly emerged as Lemonhaze’s signature events.

Brian currently resides in Las Vegas, Nevada. However, if you are ever fortunate enough to attend one of Lemonhaze’s coveted events, you can usually find him wearing sunglasses in a golf cart with a cooler full of beverages and a cigar in his mouth, laughing, shaking hands, and passing out drinks.

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”?

Growing up in Austin Texas, sports were the center of my life. Like a lot of young people, I tried many sports, but from an early age, it was obvious that football was going to be my sport of choice. I lived the Texas “Friday Night Lights” high school years. I graduated from Westlake High School, well known for future Super Bowl MVP quarterbacks Drew Brees and Nick Foles, as well as NFL kicker and holder of the record for the longest kick in NFL Justin Tucker. I moved on to play football at Texas State and Hardin Simmons University.

It was obvious that my skills as a player were not going to take me much farther than playing for a small college, but my career ambitions were set to coach at the highest levels of college football. I was fortunate enough to do that for 12 years before my career path moved to entrepreneurship. The lessons I learned from sports still guide the life and business decisions that I make today.

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

When I was a freshman in college, I was spending spring break with friends in Cancun, Mexico. One night at Senior Frogs, I looked up and saw I sign on the ceiling that read, “life is what happens while you are making other plans”. For some reason that stuck with me. And every time I have made a life-changing decision that went against my “life plan” I have thought about that sign and made many decisions based on that quote, such as getting out of my lifelong dream of coaching or starting my company when my original job in Seattle fell through.

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 podcast “How I Built This with Guy Raz” is a regular listen for me. The books “Shoe Dog: a Memoir by the Creator of Nike” by Phil Knight and “The Founders: The Story of PayPal and the Entrepreneurs Who Shaped Silicon Valley” are two of my favorite books.

Entrepreneurship is incredibly rewarding, but it is also incredibly hard. Podcasts and books that interview or are written by successful entrepreneurs that tell the story of how they started and share stories of how they faced the same challenges Lemonhaze faces today are an inspiration in my life. I love to hear how others have faced challenges and I try to learn from what they did to overcome them.

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 biggest lesson I have learned as an entrepreneur is to build a company that I would want to use myself because if it would be helpful to me, it will be helpful for someone else. I took my experiences of going to trade shows with the first company I founded, and we just built Lemonhaze with the idea of what I wanted when we would go to those shows. Ironically it has worked out so well for our sponsors, that Lemonhaze has actually become a customer of Lemonhaze. The executives that attend our Executive Golf events as guests are our exact customers for sponsorships. We even set up our own booth at our executive events to promote sponsorships to our budtender events (a budtender is a person who works at a legal cannabis dispensary that makes recommendations on products and helps customers with purchases) our own attendees, thus making Lemonhaze not only the event organizer but also one of the sponsoring companies.

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?

In today’s world, a simple Google or even YouTube search can let you know what else is out there. However, anyone thinking of starting a business should not let the fact that there is someone else doing something similar stop them from moving forward. If your idea is good, and if you are willing to work hard and not let the word “no” stop you, then you can be successful. Many times it is the pivot that is the success. In the case of Lemonhaze, we started as a data company tracking the data of the recreational marijuana industry in Washington state. We started throwing our own events to promote our own product. When the companies from around the industry started knocking on our door asking to sponsor the events so that they could get access to the audience we were bringing in for ourselves, we knew that our future was in events and not data. However, we never lost our data roots, and data is still a big factor in what we do.

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?

As happens a lot in life you work very hard for 5 or 10 years to become an overnight success. The company that people know as Lemonhaze today started in 2015 as a technology company called Tetratrak that provided a SAS data service that rebranded to Front Runner. Then rebranded again in 2016 as Lemonhaze to include an enterprise solution along with a SAS solution. It wasn’t until 2017 that we started holding events to promote our own product that we started making any money. In 2018 we made the full pivot to events full time, but we did not reach national recognition in the industry until 2021. Now Lemonhaze is the fastest-growing cannabis b2b events company in the country, but it took many steps, many failed attempts like other products to find what our customers wanted.

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

Hiring the right people is hard! We have gone through so many employees that interviewed amazingly, and that we were very excited about, only to find out within the first few months that they were the wrong person for the job. When you are a young company with limited finances the wrong hire can be a very costly experience. Don’t be scared to let somebody go and find the right fit.

You can’t be all things to all people: It is important to listen to your customers and guide your company to what the customer wants. But you can’t do everything. When we were starting, we tried to do everything that was suggested to us, and we ended up paralyzing our growth because we couldn’t focus on a core product.

Hire people that are smarter and better than you: When you start a company you do everything from product development to marketing, to sales. As our company grew, I started hiring people and telling them how to do the job I hired them for and I was underutilizing their skills. What I have learned is to hire people that are better than me at all the tasks I used to do. It is important as a leader that you make sure that all employees know and follow the vision of the company, but hire people that make the vision clearer and better and clearer to your customers.

Simply get used to the word and learn to love the word “no”: These are two parts. First, when it comes to finding new customers, finding funding, or even looking for strategic partners, you will hear the word “no” so many more times than you will hear the word “yes”. Don’t let it bring you down. It is just like breathing and eating. You have to have it. The second part of that is to learn to love to use it. People will know you are a start-up, and they will try to get discounts or something free from you in exchange for something less valuable. Don’t be afraid to use the word “no”. You will be surprised how many times they come back with a yes a short time later.

You will know when it is right: Don’t let impostor syndrome bring you down. If your product works for the market, you will know it, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t be hard and that you won’t have doubts. Use the fear and the doubt to make it work for you.

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?

Try it first on friends and family and listen to what they say, “would be cool if it did X”. People will tell you what they want if you give them a place to start. If you asked 10 people, “what would you want” you will get 10 completely different answers. However, if you build a widget that you would like to use and show it to the same 10 people they will say, “It is great, and you know it would be cool if it also did X”. And for 5 of them, the “X” will be the same thing. The “X” is what people will happily pay for. The entrepreneur has to be careful though. You can’t build something that does everything. You have to find the core of what “X” is and get very good at that. Then start expanding around that core 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?

I have hired multiple consultants over the years and while I have been able to take bits and pieces of knowledge from each of them, I have found that they have never been worth the money. Impostor syndrome is real. Having a little insecurity is normal and many times an entrepreneur thinks they should hire someone that they perceive knows more than them. But the reality is that the entrepreneur knows their business better than anyone else. The consultant ends up reaffirming what I already knew was right. For me, finding mentors that have my best interest at heart has been much more useful for me in growing our company. It is not possible for you to hire someone to come in and make your company successful in the way you want your company to operate. But it is possible to find people you trust to help guide the decisions you make to help you become successful.

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 have to bootstrap at first. Your first idea will probably not be the idea that takes off. You have to find what the market wants, and when you find it, then go for capital and push the gas pedal down towards what works.

As an events company, we have seen dozens of companies come into the market well funded and blow all their money in a year over promoting a product that probably could have worked had they spent time building it first before taking on money.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

This is something we are working very hard on right now. The Lemonhaze business model is to put events together that bring in all the decision-makers for segments of the industry together at a specific event. For us, those decision-makers can be budtenders, dispensary buyers, or cannabis executives. When we started doing events exclusively for cannabis executives when you looked around the room of executive attendees it was a lot of white middle-aged men. It was a huge mirror to the industry that did not go unnoticed. We are working on structuring our networking events to make sure that women and diverse candidates have access to the people that hire for the jobs at the c-suite and VP levels.

If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

You never know what your idea can trigger. For our executives, it is to get qualified women and diverse candidates in front of the people that hire for executive-level positions. For our budtenders that love the industry, we want to find ways to help them climb the corporate ladder. Today’s budtender could be tomorrow’s VP or owner if they have access to the right mentors and the right education.

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.

Any entrepreneur that started with nothing and built a globally known brand. I would love to hear how they overcame challenges that we all face building our company. Peter Thiel or Phil Knight would probably top that list.

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


Making Something From Nothing: Brian Yauger Of Lemonhaze 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.

Wisdom From The Women Leading The Blockchain Revolution With Imge Su Cetin of Defy Trends

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Women are naturally very community-oriented and for anyone starting out, I’d start there. Find a supportive community of like-minded people. I make it a point to talk to lead data scientists because it’s a very niche space.

As a part of our series about Wisdom From The Women Leading The Blockchain Revolution, had the pleasure of interviewing Imge Su Cetin.

Imge Su Cetin, CEO and Co-Founder of Defy Trends. Imge Su is a data scientist whose prior experience ranges from creating apps for the United Nations to studying the adoption of Electric Vehicles. Her vision with Defy Trends is to break down artificial information barriers and empower people to make informed decisions in crypto investing and trading.

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

Before founding my company, Defy Trends, I had no idea that crypto was going to be a calling. I am a data scientist at heart and was working at the United Nations as a lead data scientist building products, scraping the web to forecast bilateral migration around the world using big data. At the time, I became interested in investing back when Wall Street Bets was popular. So, I used my skillset to scrape social media sites like Reddit and other sources to help me make informed investment decisions. That led me to build a similar product for cryptocurrencies, which was starting to go mainstream. This really took on a life of its own. I had friends who were also looking for data-backed information about crypto and wanted more transparency around these digital assets. There was no one else out there doing this and I quickly learned that there was a major opportunity in this category.

What we do at Defy Trends is very niche. We’re not creating an NFT marketplace or crypto exchange like so many others are, but the solution we provide is desperately needed in this sector. Millions of people invest in crypto blindly. We are taking away fear and uncertainty from the equation by providing traders with real, data-driven insights to inform their investment decisions. I had never considered running my own company before; data scientists tend to go into academia or R&D careers. This was a new way of thinking as a career data scientist and I learned that I could in fact combine my entrepreneurial spirit, skills, and interests into one venture, and that is how Defy Trends was born.

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

There is always something new and exciting in the crypto and blockchain sector that excites me, but one of the most interesting projects we are working on as a company is the Defy Trends Ambassador Program. We want to ensure all women are able to confidently enter this sector and get a piece of a disruptive technology. The Ambassador Program is a global education initiative to help women and those that identify as women to learn about new technologies and investments opportunities to achieve their long-term financial goals. We really believe that women should be empowered to take charge of their financial lives, particularly as investors. The crypto space is very community-oriented, and women especially naturally gravitate towards community and desire a safe space to learn about crypto and Web3. We’re creating chapters led by our ambassadors all over the world and are really excited to see it grow.

I’m very fortunate to have had great mentors in my life, particularly in a male-dominated space like data science. I notice that I’m often the only woman in the room and that’s something Defy Trends is passionate about changing and leading. We want the discourse around crypto, blockchain, and DeFi to be inclusive for all women. That requires creating safe spaces led by other women who are equally investing in the industry as they are in supporting other women who are just entering this space.

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 had two very influential mentors that have changed the course of my life and career. My professor in grad school, Dr. Volkan Vural from the University of California San Diego (UCSD), is very entrepreneurial, like me. He really pushed me to investigate opportunities beyond academia. He was a great example of this — he had his own company where he used his research and experience to build AI for “smart clothing.” These items could do things like take your temperature and tell your smartwatch what you were doing. He was teaching data science to MBA students and got me to think outside the box. Turns out, you don’t need to have an MBA to start a company, and the world of data science is unlimited. Data science can optimize any tech company and is applicable in every business because we live in a data-driven world.

My second mentor was my pre-seed investor, David Moss, who is still guiding us with Defy Trends. They say the first investment is the hardest. He really believed in me and what we were trying to do with Defy Trends. He gave us the initial funding to excel and make it bigger, and he introduced us to a lot of other investors, too. Our network has flourished since then, and that’s critical in any business environment. The more people you know, the more you grow as a company, a leader, and individual.

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

As a data person, I appreciate that blockchain data is very transparent. There is no grey area when you have all this data at your fingertips to help you make informed decisions. I get really excited by the fact that blockchain technology is going to break down the barriers of entry for a lot of people, including startup founders who want to build something meaningful in this sector. It’s an emerging industry with so much to explore, much like the early days of the dot com era. I also get excited about how open and transparent the data is in blockchain, and that allows us to know what’s happening in the financial industry.

Right now, there is a lot of overcrowding and a lot of projects within blockchain. It’s not an oversaturated market though, especially in the data market. I don’t believe in an oversaturated market. Eventually the industry will course-correct, much like the markets do.

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

As exciting as this industry is, people still don’t understand the underlying technology. Investors are basing a lot of their decisions on emotions, erratic behaviors, rumors, and hype. This is where Defy Trends comes in. We are scraping the information out there and putting it together in a way that enables investors to make educated, data-backed decisions.

Volatility is another big concern and problem in our industry, and that’s because it’s still so early. Lots of “whales” are moving on the investment side, and that scares off the risk-averse investor. But as we all know, the bigger the risk, the bigger the reward. We’re betting on Defy Trends to help investors navigate the ups and downs of the market.

Finally, we must consider the fact that eventually, regulations will catch up with the industry. Blockchain technology will become more predominant in the banking industry, and for that to work, the government will need to regulate it. It’s funny that this all started as a way to decentralize finance but more than likely, it will become centralized in some way. It becomes a double-edged sword especially if, and when, the technology gets in the hands of the wrong people. We’ve seen this happen with every technology. The World Wide Web, smartphones, AI — all these technologies started with the promise of doing good in the world but there will always be “bad actors” that use it to track or hurt people and organizations. It’s an unfortunate side effect of the technology industry.

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

The blockchain community is one that represents so much of who I am as a founder but also what I value in innovators. The community is smart, progressive, out-of-the-box thinkers that aren’t afraid to break the rules. This is how Defy Trends started and why I’m such a supporter of other women entering this space. Instead of following the traditional professional route of academia, I took a risk at starting a company in a brand-new industry. Defy Trends also breaks a lot of the outdated financial industry “rules” that have unfortunately, left a lot of women out of. A lot of what we do at the company is built around bringing women into this space, supporting them, and giving them the same benefits of learning, investing and prosperity that they’ve been left out of.

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

There are actually a lot of women in this blockchain and crypto space. I’d argue that there are less of us in this very niche category of data products and infrastructure that Defy Trends is in. I’ve noticed through my academic and now professional career that I was usually one of the few, if not only, women in the room. What we really need across the entire financial sector is more women at the C-level.

Women are naturally very community-oriented and for anyone starting out, I’d start there. Find a supportive community of like-minded people. I make it a point to talk to lead data scientists because it’s a very niche space.

I also advise women to take initiative and be clear on what they want to do in this industry or what they want to learn. Then, start building the skills and get more involved in the industry because the opportunities are limitless. You can now create a company or NFT marketplace or start educating people around the subject. Now is the best time to start something before this industry reaches its full peak.

Finally, ask questions and get to know people. It’s more about who you know than what you know, and that’s going to pay off no matter what level you’re at in your career.

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

My message starts with CEOs. Engaging women in the blockchain starts at the top. CEOs must support more women and support the initiative of hiring more women, putting them in leadership roles, board seats, and so on. It’s understandable that most companies miss this. I never think of gender when I’m considering someone for a role; I’m looking at their skills set and experience. But if you’re not bringing awareness to it or giving women in your company the equal opportunity to grow within the organization, they won’t have the skill sets you’re looking for. So, it’s important to be very intentional as a leader about inclusion and hiring people with diverse backgrounds. Diversity brings different minds, perspectives, and skills to the table and that’s important when building out your team. Even at Defy Trends, our leadership team is very diverse. I didn’t set out to build a company that was only led by other women, but I was actively engaging in the community and meeting other passionate, entrepreneurial women from different countries and backgrounds and that eventually formed the founding team of Defy Trends. I’m very proud of that because it shows other women what is possible.

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

“Well behaved women rarely make history,” is a one that feels relevant in our time. I’m often viewed as a rebel in the data science industry because I’ve created my own reality by building outside the boundaries of what is known as possible.

Whether it’s in academia or the workplace, women are often advised to conform and not make any waves. That’s something I was taught growing up and in my time in grad school. But had I stuck to that advice and remained a “well behaved woman,” I wouldn’t have built Defy Trends from the ground up and created a space for other women to dive into blockchain and crypto fearlessly. I think we all need a bit of a rebellious nature to accomplish big things.

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

I hope that our Ambassador Program is already doing just that- opening the space up to be inclusive and accessible for all and promoting education and involvement on a global scale. Web3 is a revolution that we hope to help everyone join regardless of knowledge base, prior involvement, wealth status, location, or any other factor.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can find us on https://www.defytrends.io/

Follow us on Instagram for education @DefyTrends https://www.defytrends.io/ or Twitter https://twitter.com/defy_trends

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


Wisdom From The Women Leading The Blockchain Revolution With Imge Su Cetin of Defy Trends was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Agile Businesses: Matt Wallace Of Faction On How Businesses Pivot and Stay Relevant In The Face of…

Agile Businesses: Matt Wallace Of Faction On How Businesses Pivot and Stay Relevant In The Face of Disruptive Technologies

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Try to find the strengths you have that bridge from what you do today into what you need to pivot to.

As Chief Technology Officer, Matt is responsible for product development, managed and professional services, and architecting Faction’s cloud infrastructure offerings. Prior to Faction, Matt worked 20 years in technology roles at both startups and Fortune 500 companies, including leadership roles at Level 3 Communications, ViaWest, and Exodus Communications, among others.

Matt is the co-author of “Securing the Virtual Environment: How to Defend the Enterprise Against Attack”, one of the first books to holistically address cloud security concerns. Matt attended the University of California at Santa Cruz and is an official member of the Forbes Technology Council.

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 first got my hands on a computer when I was 8, and taught myself writing BASIC from a manual. I dabbled a lot throughout childhood, and while in high school I had a mentor who ran an engineering team at Sun Microsystems, and I helped him with his side business, which was custom PCs. I was fairly sure I was going to write novels, be a lawyer, or focus on business until I started college and had a real Internet connection. I quickly became convinced that the Internet was going to change everything, in an era where even dial-up Internet accounts were still extremely rare.

I ended up starting at a tiny company called Exodus Communications, but it became one of the absolute behemoths of the tech boom. The team I spent most of my time on ran security services, but I was pushed relentlessly by mentors to become broadly versed in everything from networking to systems to code as well. We built many things for ourselves for automated deployment, version control, monitoring, and high availability that were miles ahead of vendor products, if they existed at all. My playful but extremely competitive peer group kept each other on our toes.

A former colleague later recruited me to VMware, and that experience pushed me beyond pure engineering. I wanted to see talented engineers not just doing great work, but doing it on the right things. I still think of myself as a builder, but I’m passionate about the vision for the future and enabling teams to create things that matter. Life’s too short to waste our time on the wrong things.

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’m grateful for a series of mentors that have helped me grow — from Jim Lovewell, who taught me a lot about hardware when I was still in high school, and hosted me as an intern at Sun Microsystems; to Mike Myers at Exodus who was a technology renaissance man who seemed to know everything and pushed me, and many others, to learn more — usually by doing. He had a remarkable talent for giving you things that were incredible stretch efforts.

These were remarkable because they really forced me to grow outside my comfort zone, but one thing I’ve realized now is that almost everyone has something to teach you. Being hungry and humble is great advice because it sets you up to learn. That environment was highly competitive but in a friendly, collaborative way.

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?

Faction is a multi-cloud data services company. Many modern businesses with strong digital initiatives are multi-cloud by necessity, design, or both. Data is the lifeblood of their business, and we make the same copy of data available to all their cloud environments, and those of key partners, at once — without moving or copying it. This allows them to innovate faster, scale larger, and simplify operations and governance, all while achieving lower costs.

A great real-world example is how we enabled the construction of a multi-cloud supercomputer, built solely from spot instances across all the public clouds, allowing massive parallel processing of genomic data on cloud GPUs. The model for doing this work improved performance and could result in cost savings of over 75% versus more traditional ways of doing things.

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

Faction had already built our first multi-cloud data service offering, but we were well known for our private cloud services, and we knew that our existing typical customer was not ideal for a multi-cloud data service. We wanted to make inroads with larger enterprises with larger data sets, who would benefit dramatically from our multi-cloud offering.

Our first big pivot started with the “a-ha” that as VMware launched their flagship cloud service, VMware Cloud on AWS, the initial hardware type wouldn’t have enough storage capacity. We worked with VMware to build an integration from VMware Cloud to our platform, which solved that capacity problem. Our prediction was right, and our solution moved us firmly into Fortune 500 & Global 2000 business, and also led to our investment by Dell Technologies Capital and our partnership with Dell.

That drove further innovation in our platform, and our second big pivot — we partnered with Dell to launch a set of multi-cloud data services that combined Faction’s multi-cloud platform with the capabilities of Dell’s hardware platforms, where they were and are a clear market leader. Dell was a leader in systems for unstructured data, and customers with petabytes of unstructured data were exactly the type of customers who would benefit the most from what Faction could do for multi-cloud architectures.

So, how are things going with this new direction?

Really well. Getting in front of the leadership at a Fortune 100 enterprise, and hearing that your product is “amazing” or “magical” is about as good as it gets for a technologist like me. Knowing that the impact is in millions of dollars saved, or even better, lives saved through accelerated research and improved patient care, means I get excited for Monday mornings.

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

I think helping your team understand the motivation, the vision, and what is expected of them during a pivot is critical. Uncertainty and fear slow your efforts and hurt morale; by contrast, clarity and excitement for a new direction can rally a team to tackle a challenge. A pivot means adding a bunch of unknowns, but with the right context, it can be taken as the adventure that it is.

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?

I think the best thing is to connect all the dots. Your team needs to know what you want to accomplish and why — both why it is good for the market, your customers, or the world; and why it is good for the business. Then you need to make clear the role they play in that transformation, and help them understand their own opportunities to grow and accomplish things.

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

Perhaps the most important thing is that you must become comfortable with uncertainty. To paraphrase Colin Powell, leadership happens between 40 and 70% certainty. If you are operating in tumultuous times, you sometimes have to make significant decisions when you have imperfect information. You can’t just guess, but the right decision made too late can be just as bad as the wrong decision. This goes hand in hand with fostering a culture where open communication — especially raising possible problems — is known to be virtuous. And of course — celebrate failure as a learning experience. You have to encourage risks if you want people to take them — and you should.

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?

First, a lot of truly disruptive technology is dismissed because it is too foreign from the status quo. You hear things like, “People will never do that!” But things with compelling fundamental value and clear growth are rarely truly fads. An obvious recent example is the cloud. The denial of its value, growth, and longevity took many forms, while trillions of dollars in value was created. I expect this to play out again with augmented reality, machine learning, and robotics in the coming decades.

Second, if it’s disruptive but not directly to your product, too many organizations either adopt technology for technology’s sake, without tying it back to business value; or they over-extend to adopt it when it requires too much effort and integration. Start with business value, and try to avoid straying too far from your core competencies when you are building complex things.

Third, I’ve seen a failure to really socialize and articulate disruptive technology. Some technology requires a complementary change in organizational behavior, and implementing a technology but failing to complete the swing on the human aspects can waste or delay a lot of the value.

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.

Try to find the strengths you have that bridge from what you do today into what you need to pivot to.

Don’t think in absolutes — when you start to pivot, nothing is certain; try to think in terms of how likely certain outcomes are, and whether success or failure is a matter of degrees. Does partial success help you? Think ahead to how your business landscape will be different either way.

Always ask yourself what you’d be afraid of a competitor doing. If you can identify it, and it is possible, you should probably be looking at doing it.

Remember that major disruption often happens as things progress from being customized to standardized to commoditized. As different technologies go from bespoke and expensive to standardized and cheap, the ways they are leveraged radically disrupt adjacent technologies. Some of them — like the cheap, fast, distributed connectivity of the Internet — disrupt almost everything.

Don’t overthink things — you have to stay agile in the face of disruption. Remember the 40/70 rule; if you’re less than 40% certain you’re more guessing than leading change, but if you’re more than 70% certain you’re probably overanalyzing and further certainty comes at too high of a cost of agility.

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


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

Nadja-Timea Scherrer Of Social Impact Agency plus305 On Why Diversity Is Good For Business

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

…Another reason is that inclusive culture businesses attract top-performing talent. Two-thirds (67 percent) of job seekers responding to a Glassdoor survey said that workforce diversity is important to them when evaluating employers and job offers.

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

Nadja-Timea Scherrer is a VP and Cultural Impact Strategist at the independent Social Impact Agency plus305 in Miami and Switzerland. Originally from Switzerland, she speaks 6 languages — some more some less fluently — and has traveled to and lived and worked in many countries around the world such as England, Vietnam, Egypt, Turkey, France and the US. She holds an Exec. MA in Intercultural Communication and consults businesses on how to integrate JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion) into their DNA and is in charge of drafting sustainability communication strategies at plus305.

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 am an impact entrepreneur from multicultural Switzerland. I believe in building bridges through storytelling and emotional connections. Being an Inclusion and Equity enthusiast, I am especially fascinated by lifestyles and perspectives that are very different from mine because it helps me rethink my own views and values. That is why I studied Intercultural Communication and Linguistics and have lived in and traveled to many different countries, among them Turkey, France, and the UK. I learned the languages of all the places I have lived in because language is closely linked to identity and culture. I love how languages give you access to the way people see the world. People only create words for what is important to them in a culture. In my own language for instance, we have a word that you cannot directly translate to English: Fremdschämen. It describes the act of being embarrassed for somebody else who is behaving in an embarrassing way. The fact that we have a word like this tells you a lot about our culture.

I started my career as a translator at the biggest media monitoring company in Switzerland and ended up building and heading the Language department which, for many years to come, achieved one of the highest turnover growths of the company. I then built my own company, consulting global organizations and government institutions on Intercultural Communication as well as offering PR, Interpreting, and Copy Writing services. When I worked for Apple in Silicon Valley on the intercultural adaptation of communication assets to the Swiss market, I met Alberto, the founder and CEO of plus305 in Miami. We decided to join forces in life and business and developed plus305 from a traditional advertising agency into a Social Impact Boutique. It has been quite a ride leaving my career behind and venturing out into the world of entrepreneurship, but it has been totally worth it. I have now been a partner, VP, and Sustainability Communication Strategist with a focus on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at plus305 for six years. Since 2019, we are also based in Switzerland.

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?

Ok, this is a sad and funny story at the same time. I had a Pakistani friend back when I was living in London right after 9/11. He always dressed in his traditional attire. One day, when we had coffee in central London he said to me: “You won’t believe what happened to me the other day! I was on a business trip. When I entered the plane and looked at my ticket to make out my seat, I looked up to see who will be sitting next to me. The man looked more or less just like me. Same traditional clothing, same beard, around my age. And you know what my first reaction was? I was fucking afraid, Nadja! Can you believe it?” We both laughed about it. But it also made me sad. It showed me how strong our unconscious biases are and that we even have them against ourselves. When I took the Harvard Implicit Association Test — which I would recommend to everyone, it is very insightful and free of charge — I was quite surprised at the results: as a woman not having children by choice and having built my career, I still have a bias towards associating men with career and women with family. I often wonder how this unconscious belief has held me back along the way. But it makes a lot of sense that I would have it: growing up, I had zero role models around me who would show me that women could be entrepreneurs or CEOs and if then they were so assimilated to the masculine business world that I did not relate to them. Understanding that we all have Unconscious Biases and even against ourselves was a very important insight that has shaped my JEDI programs to include what I call Mindful (Self) Leadership.

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?

Last year, I discovered that I have had a tendency in my life to take decisions without wanting to deal with the negative consequences. And let’s face it: absolutely every decision comes with positive and negative consequences. So last year, I (finally!) decided that I wanted to learn to deal with this better. I remembered an interview with the author Liz Gilbert where she said: “you just have to decide which version of shit sandwich you are willing to eat.” I realized that I had chosen my shit sandwich consciously and that I preferred it over all the other shit sandwiches out there so I would have to learn and accept the negative consequences that came with this decision rather than fighting them. This is when I took the decision that I would not suffer any longer about my own conscious decisions. And it worked. It has been life changing. It might sound trivial, but it brought me a lot of strength and empowerment. It kind of goes hand in hand with another one of my favorite quotes “The wound is the place where the light enters you” by Rumi, my favorite poet. There is no growth without pain…

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?

So, so many. I don’t even know where to start! In the last few years, it has definitely been my husband and business partner Alberto Jaen. He has a very calm and grounded personality despite his creative mind. He has taught me persistence and perseverance — in my personal relationships and in business. I don’t think I would have been a very successful entrepreneur without him for this very reason: without persistence there is no gain. Especially when you build your own business. I am a very flexible person but also very volatile. My life has not been short of adventures but getting older I was missing a routine and some consistency. He inspired me to find this balance.

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

plus305 is an independent Social Impact Agency. We are a new model of communication agency connecting Purpose Branding and Value-based Communication with Culture Transformation and Social Sustainability. We are an interdisciplinary agency bringing together fields that have traditionally been separated. Many businesses are still working in silos. We believe that sustainability and JEDI cannot be implemented into the DNA of an organization unless you approach it as a corporate Culture topic. And Culture is always connected to Communication: internal and external. When we talk about purpose- and value-led communication, what we do is connect an organizations values and purpose to their sustainability journey, their communication, and culture building. Beyond supporting organizations walking the talk, we also do: we have a sustainable business model that is based on the Triple Bottom Line of People, Planet, and Prosperity.

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

Our Social Impact Agency plus305 was selected to communicate Miami-Dade’s heat-related dangers due to climate change by developing a creative social sustainability campaign for the local county. Studies show that vulnerable populations are more at risk of being affected by heat-related illnesses and deaths. According to the Weather Channel, heat has been the leading cause of death in the US among weather-related fatalities for 30+ years and often happens on days with average rather than extreme heat. Per a 2018 study by a group of climate researchers, Miami experiences 133 high heat days every year — 27 more than it did in 1995. By 2075, the number is projected to hit 162. Yet, heat has failed to compete for media and government attention with Miami’s other major climate challenge: sea level rise.

We wanted to make sure that the campaign really speaks to everyone in an engaging way, so our Creative Director Alberto Jaen came up with the idea of involving local slam poet Eccentrich. Her poem connects the audience directly to culture, with a rhythm — like in a music video, creating an emotional connection. For the images, we scoured the streets together with Director Sergio Vizuete and filmed to align visuals with feelings, engaging the target like through a piece of art. The poet sets the tempo while reciting the words, with accompanying music emphasizing the crescendo towards the end.

The creation of this first ever heat campaign in Miami commissioned by Chief Heat Officer Jane Gilbert was made to protect everyone but especially those in lower-income neighborhoods inland where tree cover is 30% less than in upscale coastal areas, putting locals at risk during crises due to limited resources; waiting for buses on unshaded benches, no AC unit, and working outdoors on roofs. There is a strong correlation between equity and climate resilience, and the campaign works towards inclusion by targeting vulnerable zip codes. Miami-Dade County is drawing awareness to dangers in rising temperatures by declaring an annual “heat season” that will run from May 1 through Oct. 31 to increase extreme heat preparedness. As climate impacts mount, so does the urgency of resolving the equity challenge. Those least responsible for climate change are often the most vulnerable to changes in weather patterns and sea level rise, further exacerbating inequities.

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

I always felt that something was missing in my work. Having profitability as the only benchmark just didn’t feel right. At the same time, I was also disappointed by the NGO world with all their scandals back in the days. When I came across B Lab and first read Conscious Capitalism by the Whole Foods Market founders, I realized that we can create a new form of capitalism that made much more sense to me. I really believe in business as a force for good. After all, businesses are often a big part of the problem, so they also must be a part of the solution.

Supporting organizations in finding their purpose, their values, their voice in the world and accompanying them on their sustainability journey using creativity and strategy is beyond rewarding. You can of course not change companies from one day to the next, especially not if they are big international companies and you want to create long-term change. But we really believe that even small steps in the right direction can make a big difference. We are very adamant about not supporting green-, blue- or value-washing. And we tell our clients or prospective clients that, but we are equally adamant about not letting us stop because perfection can’t be achieved. Because perfect really is the enemy of good. Having the freedom to define our own values as entrepreneurs is one of the most important things to me. We integrated the Triple Bottom Line of benefiting People, the Planet, and Prosperity in equal measures into our companies’ bylaws. And we are also on a journey to become B Corp certified. I am also on the Board of the European Standards Committee of B Lab which certifies businesses which are a force for good. And I have just applied for a position at Solafrica to be a Board Member for the Marketing part of things. They are bringing solar technology to underdeveloped areas in Sub-Saharan Africa combining social and environmental sustainability with entrepreneurship and education. At the end of the day, trying to make a positive impact is more a way of life than something that is bound to a project: it is the way you talk to a waiter, treat your employees or clients, but also someone you don’t know and might need help and of course also your loved ones.

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. Increased diversity per se does not necessarily boost the bottom line. Having a more diverse workforce is only the first step. Having said that, studies such as for instance this Wall Street Journal Study do show that diverse teams are more innovative and productive and manage risks better. However, what organizations really need to focus on is inclusion and equity within the organization. This is much harder to achieve. Just an example: even the most effective recruiting strategy for diversity won’t lead to long-term change if new talent isn’t supported to succeed.
  2. The same study concludes that diverse and inclusive cultures are providing companies with a competitive edge over their peers. The most important word in this sentence is Culture. In order to create an inclusive organization, you have to create an inclusive culture. The study says that “The 20 most diverse companies in the WSJ study had an average annual stock return of 10% over five years, versus 4.2% for the 20 least-diverse companies.”
  3. If Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) is managed properly in an organizations, everyone within the company benefits. Because it creates a culture where everyone can bring their best selves to work. So when employees’ energy does not have to go into hiding their real identities anymore, this energy can go into creating value for the company. If workers feel like they belong, companies reap substantial bottom-line benefits. High belonging was linked to a whopping 56% increase in job performance, a 50% drop in turnover risk, and a 75% reduction in sick days. For a 10,000-person company, this would result in annual savings of more than $52M.
  4. Another reason is that inclusive culture businesses attract top-performing talent. Two-thirds (67 percent) of job seekers responding to a Glassdoor survey said that workforce diversity is important to them when evaluating employers and job offers.
  5. The more diverse the workforce, the better the understanding of the needs of diverse consumers. Imagine for instance a period-casre brand hiring a trans person that draws their attention to the fact that not everyone who menstruates necessarily identifies as a woman. That’s when inclusive ads like this are created which define the new normal and are so important to promote inclusion also on a societal level. Beyond that, they also help with the bottom line. Because consumers want to be able to see themselves in the world out there, in ads, the entertainment industry, see that there are role models that resonate with them, see that they are included, not excluded. This drives their purchasing decisions.

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

Create an inclusive and equitable culture of belonging and address your culture transformation bottom-up and top-down. You will have to look at structural and systemic changes as well as at mindset changes equally and address all touchpoints with all stakeholders. Try to avoid working in silos. Culture is the invisible net that connects everything. It is what people say about you when you are not in the room. Connect your culture strategy to your brand strategy, your sustainability journey, your core business — the connecting force are your values, your WHY, your mission, and vision and then communicate and activate it internally and externally alike, including all stakeholders on the journey.

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 have wanted to meet Ruth Bader Ginsberg, but it’s unfortunately too late now. I would love to have a breakfast with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, I admire her energy, eloquence, her career, and her courage.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can find me on LinkedIn here. And you can find plus305 here: just sign up for the newsletter or get in touch if you are a change maker and would like to be portrayed in our Talks that Matter series.

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

Thank you so much ☺!


Nadja-Timea Scherrer Of Social Impact Agency plus305 On Why Diversity Is Good For Business 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: Kayla and Kourtney Of Goal Achiever On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

You can’t cater to everyone — As much as your business idea is to cater to a massive group of people there will always be a percentage of individuals that still won’t like your business concept or model no matter how influential the business may be.

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

Kayla and Kourtney are two sisters that both graduated from CSU Northridge with a Bachelor Degree in Communications and they’re both mothers. Kayla and Kourtney’s father Kederio is the founder of Goal Achiever Inc. a business dedicated to helping others and giving back. Their story was inspired by their late cousin Terri Large who passed away at the age of 18 years old due to a rare brain cancer. Terri’s vision was to help those in need. A decade later Kederio wanted to carry out Terri’s vision and help a massive number of individuals by hearing their inspiring stories and helping them achieve their goals. Kayla and Kourtney have been honored to be working side by side with their father and to take charge on getting 1 million goal setting individuals across the United States to be a part of an inspirational movement “Goal Achiever 1 million”.

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”?

We had an amazing childhood, we were born and raised in Rancho Cucamonga, CA. Our parents were the youngest homeowners on our street San Dimas Lane, we enjoyed being outside, swimming and doing everything a kid at our age would enjoy doing. We had good grades in school, played sports mainly basketball and traveled a lot with our basketball team. We grew up in a two-parent household and consider our cousin Terri Large (who passed away due to cancer) like a sister. Terri and Kourtney were only 4 months apart while Kourtney and I were 2 years apart, so we were all close.

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

“Stay Focused” … this quote came from our cousin Terri Large. While she was in and out of the hospital doing chemotherapy, she always remained focused on school and her family and act as if the chemo was irrelevant to her, because she had other plans and goals to do so much for herself she couldn’t let cancer be her main focus. I (Kayla) remember Terri calling me when I was in college at CSU Northridge and asking me if I was getting ready for class, at that time Terri was bedridden and her body had given up to the point where she couldn’t walk nor take care of herself. I aways wonder why she was so concerned about my studies, but it dawned on me, she wanted me to “stay focused”. To stay focus on the things I can control and achieve and not letting small or big situations distract me even during her health decline she made sure I stay focused. I (Kourtney) remember Terri being my biggest cheerleader and motivator. She was my biggest critique, but in the same moment my biggest fan and she pushed me in ways that I didn’t even know I could push myself. Terri dealing with cancer only pushed me to go harder, stay focused and accomplish more than I set for myself if that was playing sports, my education or life in general. Stay focused is a life lesson quote that we always stand by, thanks to her.

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?

Honestly reality and Terri’s story made a significant impact on us. Her story from dealing with cancer from the age of 10 up until 18 was eye opening for us both. There is a small 2 minute clip of her detailing her scholarship award from Kettle One Vodka and her excitement during that small clip just shows she was ready for life to begin, even while dealing with cancer. Terri’s ability to carry on despite what she was battling has resonated with us in many ways as women in business, mothers, sisters, daughters, and our personal friendships.

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?

How to overcome this challenge is to simply believe that your idea is worth putting out there to the world. Once you believe in yourself it becomes a feeling that only you can stop. Face these challenges upfront and know that you may have some doubt, uncertainty and fear but remember a toddler fear nothing when they are getting into everything, they just have a concept to just do it, think as toddler and just do it until it’s done.

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’s always good to research to find out what others may me doing that is similar, but I (Kayla) learned something sometime ago that stuck with me. “If everyone was selling white T-shirts on different corners, you’d think by you selling the same white T-shirt wouldn’t give you any results because other people had that idea first, but what you don’t know is that your white T-shirt may be priced lower, your white T-shirt might fit better and you may have better customer service selling the T-shirt. So never sell yourself short because someone else came up with an idea before you, just learn new ways to sell it”.

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 — The idea is written on paper, taking every idea, and writing it down is the foundation of the new business.

Second — Share your idea and bring on a team, allowing others to help you on the developing side, editing, creating, designing etc. Your team could be people you know or look into freelancers that specialize in the field of work you are looking for.

Third — Build it, bring light to your written idea, and create, modify, and structure your business model.

Fourth — Launch it, start with your family and friends, word of mouth to get your business idea out there locally. Except feedback good or back so you can make necessary changes.

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

  1. Not everyone is on board — Close friends or family may not always be your biggest supporter even when you think that they will be. It will be that random person that you least expect to really support and motivate you on your business endeavor.
  2. You can’t cater to everyone — As much as your business idea is to cater to a massive group of people there will always be a percentage of individuals that still won’t like your business concept or model no matter how influential the business may be.
  3. Not everyone will understand your company idea — Our company wants to help millions of individuals set goals and share inspiring stories, while we give back to scholarships, school donations and charity. We thought the concept was simplified, but some people still don’t understand it even if we broke it down word for word.
  4. People will think you’re trying to take from them — Goal Achiever Inc. gives back, we do weekly cash reward giveaways on Thursday’s , we also had a April Savings Challenge to help individuals save and if they saved the amount of money per our calendar we were going to give back an additional cash reward for them saving, some people thought we were doing a bad deed or would say “I don’t need to save I have money”; our goal was to help those save and we did receive good feedback, but the negative feedback was shocking because what’s bad about saving and giving back?
  5. It’s easier to manage a large group than a small group — Our founder has ran/owned multiple businesses and he would quote “it is easier to manage a large group of people than a small group of people” not quite understanding how that could be true, but we faced this theory…kinda. A small group of people can all fall off at once leaving you to handle everyone’s position. We are a small company for now, but as the CEO and VP we must wear many hats in our company to make sure things run smoothly even with our small team.

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?

Research if the product has been invented before. If so, see how they built it and launched it. If not, decide who your target audience is for this product. Why would someone use it? How can they use it? What’s their pain (learned this from someone) the pain is why is this needed for anyone, how does that benefit them (i.e Goal Achiever Inc. allows members to set goals on our platform, why is this relevant to anyone? because those that write their goals down have a 42% chance of achieving it, so now we tap into the pain of a person that has troubles achieving their goals because they aren’t writing them down)

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 the invention you are looking to develop. Many entrepreneurs sought out to create businesses without seeking a consultant and just taking their idea and building onto it, AKA our father. In some instant a consultant is needed because you may not know where to start and we will be discussing this a lot on our podcast “Entrepreneur Talk” asking question on how that business owner started their business and did they seek any additional counsel to get it started.

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 really depends on the business endeavor and what the company’s goal is. As for Goal Achiever Inc. we are using our own funds to develop our business, but we also seek sponsors to help our business grow and to give back to scholarship awards, school donations and charity. We would recommend doing both if you can, one way may work better than the other.

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

We are just getting our feet wet, but as of today we have given away cash rewards to participating members that have set goals and our first scholarship award in the amount of $500.00 to a Senior student that will go towards his college of choice. We will continue to do what we were at sought out to do which is to “help others” and hopefully our movement will contribute to making the world a better place one day at a time

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.

Goal Achiever Inc. our movement is to inspire others and to help them reach their goals.

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.

Honestly, we couldn’t narrow this down to just one person, there are so many inspirational leaders, entrepreneurs and those that started ground up businesses just like ours. If this could be seen by anyone that has started from where we started, we’d love to enjoy a private breakfast or lunch with that individual and to really pick their brain and how they started, challenges they face and their inspiring success story.

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


Making Something From Nothing: Kayla and Kourtney Of Goal Achiever 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: Ben Davenport Of Pixotope Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

I personally think that, even if you’re not in a technological role or following an engineering path, you should get a basic grasp of the underlying engineering concepts and how the technology works. A lot of what we’re doing right now in VR/AR/MR is pushing the creative boundaries of what is thought possible. The technology is moving so quickly, that if you don’t understand the fundamental principles of that technology, and where the advancements and limitations are, you’re not going to be able to push the creative limits and will quickly fall behind.

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 Ben Davenport, VP Global Marketing at Pixotope.

Ben is a B2B marketer with a keen interest and understanding of the technologies that underpin the media and entertainment industry. During the past two decades, Ben has played a key role in some of the most complex and progressive file-based media solutions and projects in the industry while enabling leading media & entertainment technology vendors to differentiate their brands and products. Having previously headed up Portfolio & Marketing Strategy for Vidispine — an Arvato Systems brand, Ben now works as VP Global Marketing at Pixotope, the leader in live augmented reality and virtual production solutions.

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?

Growing up in Bristol, in the south west of England, my childhood was dominated by music — my whole family is musical and indeed my dad was a music teacher. But I was also attracted to technology. I was lucky that the school where my dad worked had great facilities, and I remember clearly when a shiny (well, grey) new midi synth and Atara loaded with C-Lab Notator arrived (Notator became Notator Logic under eMagic, and in time became Apple’s Logic Pro and Garageband). As a teenager I was fortunate to get work experience with Coach House Studios, then home to the band Massive Attack, and that led me to follow a career path into sound recording. I attended the University of Surrey, studying on the Tonmeister course which, as well as covering sound engineering in detail, introduced a lot of technical concepts from film and video. As part of the course, I spent a year working in industry, specifically with the Pro Audio Product Marketing team at Sony Europe and that’s really what set me off on a marketing career path in the media industry.

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?

Now, more than ever, it’s really important that we recruit and retain top talent in our industry and especially in the areas around XR/AR/Mixed Reality where media is competing with gaming and other applications of the tech. However, like many industries, we’re not great at imparting management and leadership skills to staff as they progress through their careers in the industry. Especially as I’ve moved into leadership roles, I’ve been drawn to a number of books around culture and leadership and I really appreciate Lencioni’s style of writing. I think “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” should be mandatory reading for any team leader or manager, but his other books are very useful too. Written as a “fable” they’re all incredibly easy to read and I’ve not met anyone who hasn’t been able to identify with one of the characters in each book, possibly more than one, and at different points in their career.

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

I can’t think of a specific story that inspired me to follow a career in media production — or now virtual production — but one of the amazing things about what we do is that there’s always something inspiring in terms of what our colleagues, partners or customers are doing. For example, the way The Famous Group used AR for fan engagement last year by creating a giant panther, jumping around the Carolina Panthers stadium, or how Video Canarias and the Weather Channel use Virtual Sets to create really engaging explainers for topical news and weather. Working primarily in the media and entertainment space, there are so many creative and inspiring people and projects.

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

Some 15 years ago now I was working for a technology vendor rolling out a new product. We had managed to sell a particularly large deployment to a public broadcaster in Europe but we had a lot of stability issues with the initial deployment. To minimize the disruption to their productions, the broadcaster decided to buy a second “mirror” of the system that they could failover too. However, in synchronizing the two systems, we managed to corrupt tens of thousands of hours of programming. As problems go, it was a pretty big one. I remember sitting down in a meeting with the customer the day we discovered what had happened and it goes without saying that they were pretty upset. However, the project lead from the customer started the meeting by saying “Nobody died here today”. It was an incredible lesson in keeping perspective and it set the tone for a productive meeting — one focused on finding solutions to the mess we’d created and ensuring it didn’t happen again. In the end we had an incredible partnership with that customer and they became a great reference site, but those words — “Nobody died here today” — and that meeting have always stuck with me.

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?

It wasn’t funny at the time, but I remember once almost 20 years ago being on the phone and bad-mouthing my boss, Russ, to then discover that he was stood right behind me. It’s only funny now because Russ and I became and stayed friends and still catch up regularly. The lessons learnt were first that you never know who’s listening — directly or indirectly — and second to always try to stay positive about colleagues. Our industry is pretty small and there is no sense in burning bridges.

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?

So many people it’s hard to think of one in particular but if pushed, I’d probably have to single out my significant other, Kirsty. I mentioned earlier that we often fail to give people the tools and training they need to be good managers — but Kirsty is in fact currently a Leadership and Management trainer. Her coaching and advice have been invaluable, not necessarily in securing “the next role” but certainly in making a success of the roles that I’ve had.

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?

It might be important to start by saying that when we talk about AR and MR in the Pixotope context, we’re talking about the mixing of virtual and real objects for television production. One of the reasons that it seems exciting right now is that although a lot of the techniques and technology we use have been around for a while, advancements in computers (GPU and CPU), alongside the rapid development of game engine technologies, mean that now we are able to bring virtual elements to life in “real time” — i.e. with no pre-rendering or post production. That brings a dynamic element to productions using Mixed Reality that makes the content far more engaging. I’d cite the Carolina Panthers again as an example there.

One of the other applications for the technology is in what we often refer to as XR (extended reality) — productions that use large LED volumes to project the virtual environment around the (real) talent and other either physical or virtual props. Famously, the Mandalorian uses this technique extensively, with one of the largest and most expensive LED volumes deployed. In creating the Mandalorian, the producers have found that scenes take 30–50% less time to shoot using XR when compared to scenes shot on a soundstage or back lot. In the wake of the pandemic, where on and off-screen talent have been working extremely long hours and in the context of threatened strikes, those kinds of reductions in time on-set are game changing.

Finally, I think the opportunities for advertisers to engage with audiences and localize content are huge. Another example from The Famous Group here in their collaboration with Colorado Avalanche and Chipotle in May 2022 — the mixed reality “ad” was entertaining and engaging.

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?

One of the thoughts I’ve always had about the moon landing conspiracy theories is that if they did fake it, it probably would have cost more back then than actually doing it. That’s no longer the case, though, and with the upsurge in misinformation and fake news in the last decade, the ease with which you can mix photo-realistic virtual elements with real footage obviously could be cause for concern in the wrong hands. Technological solutions to identifying manipulated media are relatively widespread but, as with all misinformation, the real challenge is the platforms and channels that are used to spread such media.

As for another industry challenge, it would be the lack of talent — there simply aren’t enough people that understand how to use and implement the technology. Pixotope is actively working on this and has created an education program, directly engaging with educational institutions, to give them access to the technology and experts that can help train the next generation of Virtual Production professionals. It’s a long game, and the shortage of talent in the interim is a concern, but it’s absolutely necessary to support the growth and adoption of these technologies.

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 tricky question to answer since Pixotope, and our customers, are focused on media and entertainment. That said, it’s our belief that Virtual Production (the use of AR/MR/XR in media) will simply become Media (or video) Production. Video has become such an integral part of all types of work, in communications, training etc. and it follows that the virtual element will follow too.

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

As with many things in the “early adopter” stage, there’s a belief that you need a “Virtual Specialist”. As I mentioned above, we believe that Virtual Production will simply become Media Production, and for that to happen, the “virtual” toolkit needs to be just a part of any production. Of course, some skill sets, such as 3D artists creating the virtual assets, will be new roles in the production team, but for others — lighting, cameras, set builders etc. — it will simply be another tool in their arsenal.

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

Number one: even when working in a virtual world, you need to deal with real people. So like any other industry, people skills are essential. However, the nature of working in VR/AR/MR is that, being virtual, you’re more likely to be working with people from different countries and cultures. This makes for a rich and rewarding work environment, but does require that you have an understanding of different cultures and how to work alongside them. Even when speaking the same language, things can get lost in translation — there’s a well-known meme of “What a Brit says, versus what you think they mean, versus what they actually mean”. Stereotypes can be harmful but there is an element of truth in there.

Second, I personally think that, even if you’re not in a technological role or following an engineering path, you should get a basic grasp of the underlying engineering concepts and how the technology works. A lot of what we’re doing right now in VR/AR/MR is pushing the creative boundaries of what is thought possible. The technology is moving so quickly, that if you don’t understand the fundamental principles of that technology, and where the advancements and limitations are, you’re not going to be able to push the creative limits and will quickly fall behind.

Next, you need to be able to have fun and love what you do. Working in VR/AR/MR, and more broadly in media and entertainment, many of the most important events (e.g. sports etc) happen in evenings and weekends and wherever you are in the industry, it’s likely you’re going to face some pretty odd hours at times to get the work done. It’s really important that you enjoy what you do and have fun doing it together with your colleagues. Most companies in the industry are pretty relaxed — I was once threatened with expulsion from a customer site when I turned up in a suit and tie — and they’re nice places to be, but if you’re not having fun, it could quickly turn into a chore.

Fourth, in the words of Bill & Ted “be excellent to each other”. Relative to most, it’s a pretty small industry and things move really quickly. Your ally today could be your competitor tomorrow and vice versa. There’s also no “traditional” paths for promotion, so your report this year could well be your boss next year. It’s therefore best just to be friends with everyone, even your fiercest competition — newcomers to the industry are always surprised when I suggest the best way to get competitive info is to walk up to the competition, introduce yourself and ask them what they’re up to.

Finally, as a small industry, there is a strong sense of community and it’s important to give back to that community whether that’s by giving your time to training initiatives, participating in industry charity events, becoming a mentor in one of the industry programs or contributing to advisory boards of industry associations. I have a strong sense that the industry I am in is my industry and as such, encouraging others to join it, or changing things I don’t like about it are absolutely my responsibility. Not only that, it is through such activities that I have found and/or been recommended for a number of roles, including my current one.

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

As with most of the tech space, there is a significant lack of diversity, both gender and cultural, in our industry. That’s something I feel strongly about addressing and I actively support organizations within the industry that are working to create a more diverse community. Understanding what the word “privilege” means in the context of diversity and inclusion. But perhaps more importantly, understanding and being aware of one’s own bias are not only crucial in tackling the issue of diversity, but can also be hugely beneficial. For example, I’m sure we’ve all fallen foul of affinity bias in a recruitment process — it’s much easier to identify with a candidate or a hiring manager if you share similar traits, but we also know that more diverse teams — character, gender and/or culturally — perform better. So that would be movement, to enable everyone to understand and be aware of their bias.

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 🙂

He’s rather busy at the moment, but I’m fascinated by Volodymyr Zelenskyy — I’d love to understand how a comedic actor, playing a president, not only followed a path to become the actual president, but also where and how he acquired the leadership skills that have been so visible and powerful during the invasion of his country. However, if allowed to indulge myself, a second person I’d love to sit with would be Dame Steve or to give her her full name Dame Vera Stephanie Shirley. Having arrived in the UK as a child refugee on the Kindertransport in 1939, she had an incredible career, including leading the team that designed the black box for Concorde, and was a pioneer for women in technology — an amazingly inspirational person.

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


Makers of The Metaverse: Ben Davenport Of Pixotope 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.

Makers of The Metaverse: Dave Galbraith Of Amerisure Insurance Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality…

Makers of The Metaverse: Dave Galbraith Of Amerisure Insurance Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Limited availability of “off the shelf” safety training modules and the cost to custom-build content. This is improving with the acceptance of VR training and the commitment of VR tech builders to building more safety experience content.

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 Dave Galbraith.

Dave Galbraith is the Assistant Vice President and Risk Management Technical Lead for Amerisure Insurance. He is responsible for the identification, research, development and implementation of risk management technology programs, and associated vendor management.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! 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?

As a company highly engaged in risk management efforts and technologies for employers, we are involved in the VR industry in a very exciting and crucial way. One of the most important components of an effective company safety program is proper safety training. By properly training employees, businesses can help prevent injuries and fatalities as well as encourage ongoing discussions with workers on the best ways to help prevent workplace accidents. As one type of effective teaching method, virtual reality training can reinforce classroom learning and engage users with memorable content experienced in a safe setting. This helps minimize disruption to work and resources while improving retention and recall of training. Virtual reality technology provides downloadable training content within a cloud-based platform. Training lessons can include industry-specific simulation scenarios for high-hazard and high severity exposures for workers, including fall prevention and ladder safety. Amerisure offers leading-edge virtual reality safety training together with PIXO VR™. Most exciting related to this capability:

  1. Employees can enter immersive hazardous operations without encountering real hazards.
  2. The “hands on” experience is available for large numbers of employees instead of just the “theory of” how a job should be performed.
  3. The realistic value in the VR experience: A worker can perform all the tasks virtually, from inspecting, selecting, and donning fall protection, then subsequently tying off properly. They can then perform a task requiring the use of fall protection. If all pre-tasks are performed properly, the worker will safely complete the task. If any pre-task is incorrect, they will fall virtually from the scaffold (without injury).

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. Amerisure has experimented with the AR/MR technology in remote locations (jobsites). Connectivity has been an issue that has prevented further exploration for the live interactive streaming. It works well in fixed locations where internet and phone connections are predictable and stable but is less effective in remote locations where it can bring tremendous value.
  • 5G upgrades and sensor technologies will continue to improve access to reliable networks in remote locations.
  • Pricing for connectivity hardware in remote locations will continue to improve, making it more affordable for contractors.

2. Given the recent pandemic, many people do not want to wear VR headsets recently worn by others. This is improving and will continue to improve with advancements in cleaning, the waning of the pandemic and durability of the contact areas on the headsets.

3. Limited availability of “off the shelf” safety training modules and the cost to custom-build content. This is improving with the acceptance of VR training and the commitment of VR tech builders to building more safety experience content.

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?

When Amerisure started the testing of developed content, we used “technical safety experts” to test the VR content. Many of the testers (such as myself) were not “gamers” in the entertainment spectrum. It was a very slow go. We reached out to employees who were “gamers” in their personal lives to help understand how to learn the VR world and how to train others. This switch was a game-changer in getting our VR program into the market for our customers.

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

Just as YouTube® has helped non-mechanics, non-contractors, etc. watch a video on how to repair, assemble, replace parts, or fix problems, the VR/AR/MR world can help the average “homeowner or car mechanic” perform the actual repair in the VR world so they can do it in the real world.

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


Makers of The Metaverse: Dave Galbraith Of Amerisure Insurance 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: Sam Tichnor Of FFUPs On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Nobody else will be as passionate as you are (and if they are, hire them). As fired up as you may be about your business, not everyone you work with will see it the same way. Even if you’re burning the midnight oil or working weekends, it doesn’t mean your agencies or contractors are. Frustrating, sure, but that’s just reality.

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

Sam Tichnor grew up in a family of entrepreneurs outside of Boston. A CPG veteran, Sam spent most of his career working at Harry’s, the highly-disruptive men’s personal care brand. While at Harry’s, Sam had hands-on involvement with fundraising and strategic planning, in addition to projects ranging from retail launches, to in-house brand incubation as a member of Harry’s Labs, and more. By 2020, Sam felt that he had gained a sharp perspective on how to build a brand in the modern era. After roaming the snack aisle in his local grocery store, Sam’s idea for FFUPs was born. He noticed something was missing — a puffs brand that was not focused on health claims, with the flavor variety found in other snack categories. Sam has built FFUPs with the consumer in mind, as a groundbreaking snack brand with nostalgic and craveable flavors made for the junk-food connoisseur.

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 as the youngest of 3 in a small town outside of Boston. My dad was an entrepreneur and my mom was a teacher. I played sports (slightly above average at tennis, slightly below average at baseball) and was fairly active, but definitely loved junk food and fast food and knew that’s what I wanted to eventually do with my life from a young age. One of my earliest memories was when my grandparents gave me a share of McDonalds stock for my 5th birthday (a wild present for a 5 year old) and I thought it meant I needed to put on a suit and go work there the next day. To my friends, my basement was known as a snack paradise; I made sure we (aka my parents) kept in stock a variety of sodas, chips, puffs, cookies and everything in between. To this day, my friends still request my mom’s cookies whenever I’m back in town! In high school, I had a perfect system for leaving campus during lunch, going to Wendy’s or our local pizza spot and getting back in time before my next class. One of the benefits of growing up in a small town is that I had a tight knit group of childhood friends and in fact some of those guys were my earliest taste testers and investors! I’d like to think that FFUPs as a brand represents who I am as a person: really dependable but doesn’t take itself too seriously.

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

“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.” — Sun Tzu. In life, I’ve found that taking a breath, planning, and executing against the plan always leads to more success than just jumping right in without a thought. If you don’t know what game you’re playing, it is really hard to win. That’s especially true with FFUPs. We’re taking a very contrarian brand position that consumers don’t actually want all of the “better-for-you” products being pushed their way. We knew we had an excellent product on our hands but in order to truly stand out and start on our way to becoming an iconic consumer brand, we had to really plan and think through the longer-term impact of early brand decisions.

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 mentioned in the quote above, “The Art of War” has had a meaningful impact on me — so much so that I actually re-read it once a year. It has taught be to be more grounded with how I approach every facet of my life, personally and professionally. Especially earlier in my career, when trying to figure out what my goals are and how to get there, this provided me with a great framework to think about how to get to where I knew I needed to go. And now with FFUPs, it helps me think through and uncover strategies to stand out from our competition.

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?

Starting a business is easier said than done. I think many people are afraid of failing and get caught up in the “what if I do this and it doesn’t work” mindset? I took the approach of “what if I do this, and it does work?” And then, put together a simple business model of what FFUPs could look like with success and worked backwards to figure out what I had to do to take that first step, which was leave a very comfortable corporate job (where I was already working on new brands) and strike it out on my own.

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?

To a certain extent, it doesn’t matter whether the idea is “new” or not. I like to think that every idea that could exist has already been thought of. There are two questions I ask in this situation: has anyone acted on it yet, and what would happen if I act on it?

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 steps I felt were necessary to go from idea to concept were:

  1. Talk to potential customers about what their actual needs were, both through interviews and a survey to validate that the product is solving a problem that actually exists.
  2. Engage a branding agency or freelancer to bring the brand world to life.
  3. Work with an experienced operator to identify what the supply chain should look like and conduct a manufacturer search. The ins and outs of manufacturing and finding suppliers can be challenging, and while there is a real cost to it, working with an expert who has done it before is a prudent investment.
  4. Find a 3PL who can handle all of your logistics (you can do this yourself depending on you product).
  5. Translate the brand world into a digital experience. This is your flagship store! Make sure it communicates exactly what you need your potential customers need to know.
  6. Let people know you exist!

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

  1. Everything takes longer and is more expensive than you think. As an entrepreneur, I’m wired to be cautiously optimistic about everything and always want to find more ways to do more with less. But the reality is not always the case — it took us an extra 4 months to launch because it was harder than anticipated to find the right manufacturing partner, which meant all of our ongoing expenses did not have any cash inflows from revenue to offset it.
  2. Nobody else will be as passionate as you are (and if they are, hire them). As fired up as you may be about your business, not everyone you work with will see it the same way. Even if you’re burning the midnight oil or working weekends, it doesn’t mean your agencies or contractors are. Frustrating, sure, but that’s just reality.
  3. Find a small group of advisors, and don’t listen to any other noise. I’ve been lucky to assemble a core group of diverse advisors with expertise in a variety of topics. They’ve helped serve as a north star when putting the brand together, especially with something as different as what we’re doing. I’ve had folks tell me that I need to rebrand, change the name, change the design, etc. but having that group of advisors to lean on to parse out what is signal and what is noise has been huge.
  4. You’re going to be told no, all the time, by everyone. The constant rejection takes getting used to. When I was getting going, I figured raising money would be a piece of cake. I’m relatively smart, can present well and have put together what I believe is a compelling brand. But not everyone sees it that way. I’ve been told no, been ghosted, ignored, you name it. It takes time to build the resilience, but once you have it, the rest becomes easy.
  5. Capture some memories! My only big regret is not documenting the journey as well as I could have. When my first hire, Alex, started, I included an onboarding session around the “history” of FFUPs. It was so awesome to have gone through the first year of business that I really wished I had captured all of it in real time.

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?

Ask yourself: why doesn’t this already exist? Then, what would it take for it to exist? As you answer those questions, assess them against whether you would be the right person to make it happen. If you can’t answer the first question enough to dismiss the idea, and feel like you are well positioned to bring it into the world, then you’ve got yourself a concept to go develop.

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?

Unless you actually know what you’re doing, work with and learn from someone who has experience.

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 really depends what your business is, what sort of goals you have, and who you want to have aligned incentives with. Raising VC money sounds cool, but their business model is built on making a broad number of bets, and hoping a handful of them deliver the majority of their returns. So you have to be comfortable knowing you might be a failed bet. On the other hand, bootstrapping comes with challenges as well; if you are chronically under-capitalized, it is hard to build the brand perhaps in the way it needs to be built.

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

I don’t believe one needs to achieve “success” to make the world a better place. And we’re just getting started with FFUPs, so I wouldn’t necessarily agree that I’ve achieved success yet.

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 hopeful we can do that with FFUPs. We were founded on the premise that people are tired of the pressure our increasingly socially visible society puts on them to be perfect / healthy / correct about all things all the time and we embrace the imperfections in humanity. If you want to binge out on some junk food, go ahead! You deserve it! So what I would like everyone to do would be collectively take a deep breath, get off the internet or your phone, enjoy a tasty snack and just live your life, whatever that may be. We could call it the “eat snacks on the couch” movement.

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.

Larry David. I couldn’t imagine a more entertaining person to break bread with. And I have a feeling he’d like the ethos of FFUPs.

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


Making Something From Nothing: Sam Tichnor Of FFUPs 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: 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.