Anushka Lokesh Of Breinify On Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Try and make sure that there are at least one or two elements of your job that “don’t feel like work.” For me this is preparing for and recording the podcast. I get to meet very interesting people, build relationships, and talk about marketing with experts, which is honestly something I’d be down to do outside of work as well. Every person is so different and it reminds me why marketing is so exciting, which helps me stay motivated at work.

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

Anushka Lokesh is the Head of Growth at Breinify, an AI- powered predictive personalization platform that helps consumer enterprises deliver relevant and personalized experiences at scale. She is an experienced marketing leader who has worked with iconic consumer goods companies like Anheuser-Busch InBev, where she launched and grew brands like Budweiser Magnum, Corona, Hoegaarden, and Stella Artois, and General Mills, where she worked in the New Ventures Group on new product launches. She has experience working internationally in India and Canada. Anushka also has an MBA from the Rotman School of Management, after which her creative nature and love for innovation eventually led her into the tech industry. Her expertise and interest are at the intersection of consumer behavior, marketing technology, and the future of consumer goods and retail. She is also the host of the Beyond Conventional Marketing podcast, where she speaks with marketing leaders about data-driven marketing, digital transformation, and technology and consumer trends.

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

I grew up moving around a lot because both my parents were diplomats. I’ve lived in 10 different countries so far and when I was younger we would move every 2–3 years, meaning every few years I would change schools, make new friends, and sometimes learn a new language.

It wasn’t always easy, but I absolutely loved it. I really loved getting to know people and building relationships, hearing other peoples’ stories and learning about different cultures. I actually still love doing all those things! I find it extremely exciting to meet new people, try to understand what makes them who they are, the challenges they face, and to build connections wherever I go.

I believe this is what marketing is at its core and why I love it so much. I developed a curiosity about people, a level of empathy, and the ability to adapt, which I think are all characteristics that really help as a marketer. Marketing has changed so much, but what hasn’t changed is that you still have to get to know people, understand them and build relationships.

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

The most important lesson I’ve learned about marketing is that while strategy and creativity are important, they are nothing without execution.

My first real job was at Anheuser Busch InBev for Budweiser. Experiential marketing was huge for us in India, so I worked quite a few events. We wouldn’t just sell beer, we’d also have photo booths, VIP lounges, and social media contests for consumers . At one of my first events, I forgot to make sure we had WiFi set up. Events typically have terrible connections, so it’s important to figure out these things and not rely on phone data. I spent the day of the event setting up WiFi. It was set up while the event was still going on. I felt quite silly! I definitely learned to be more detail oriented from this experience because it would have been such a shame to have everything else set up, and then for consumers to have a bad experience because of WiFi. It’s important to not just get caught up in the idea, but focus on what the entire experience will be like for consumers.

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

At Breinify, we help consumer enterprises deliver relevant and meaningful digital experiences through predictive personalization. To deliver predictive personalization on a website, email campaign, or other marketing channels can be quite a complex undertaking for many companies and to do this in a way that’s effective and scalable requires a solid foundation of data science. We work with retail and consumer goods brands that don’t have an in-house data science team to support personalization. All the data scientists would rather work at tech giants like Netflix or Amazon. We bring data transparency and education around data science and personalization as a journey. I think our team does such a great job of understanding where our customers are on this journey and then helping them grow.

We often find that brands are at different stages of implementing personalization. Some brands are just starting to think about optimizing consumer journeys to make their consumers’ digital experiences more personalized, while others are already quite data-driven and looking for more dynamic personalization. For example, we work with BevMo!, an alcohol retail chain, and Cowboy Charcoal, a well-known brand of fire-fuel products. When we began working with Cowboy Charcoal, we started with simple use cases to optimize the consumer experience with personalized recipe recommendations that led to 67.7 percent more clicks. With BevMo! we started out in a similar fashion, but over the course of a year, Breinify’s solution helped BevMo! achieve 51% YoY incremental lift in sales. Our team and AI platform has helped them personalize across all their marketing channels and drive conversions on their website, email and SMS campaigns. Both of these examples are a testament to how we help customers at every stage of their journey and grow with them as well!

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

Yes! One of the best parts of my role right now is that I host a podcast called Beyond Conventional Marketing. I speak with marketing leaders about data-driven marketing, technology trends, and the challenges they face. We’ve had some great guests from the consumer goods, retail, and ecommerce industries. Aside from having extremely interesting conversations with such experienced and fascinating people, who all come from different backgrounds and industries, I’ve realized that there are so many shared experiences as marketers. Despite being from different industries, we all face similar challenges, and can definitely learn from and be inspired by each other. I think this is important because marketing is always changing and while we all do our own research, there is nothing like learning from experience, either your own or someone else’s.

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

Consumers today are extremely complex. The way they make decisions depends on so many factors, all of which are important to understand as a marketer. So, in that sense, both brand and product marketing are extremely important because they both contribute to the overall experience consumers have with your brand and impact the decisions they make. This is even more important now that consumers are spending so much time online and the consumer journeys are generally more complex.

The way I see it is that the goal of product marketing is to educate consumers about your product and value proposition. This would mean go-to-market campaigns for new products or features, communication around product benefits, and why consumers should choose your product over others.

While all this is important for building a brand as well, brand marketing is more focused on building a longer term relationship and emotional connection with your consumers. There’s definitely overlap between product and brand marketing as both are important to connect with consumers and grow your business, but in a nutshell this is how I would describe the difference.

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

The reputation, trust, and consumer base that comes from building a good brand is an extremely important asset for any company. It can ensure longevity for your company and is an important factor for consumer loyalty as well. This type of brand equity can also allow you to sell products at a premium and maintain a competitive advantage. The way I see it, brand marketing is building a long-term relationship with your consumers. It definitely doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s definitely worth it in the long run to spend time and money into building a trustworthy and reputable brand.

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

  1. Clearly define your mission and values: This is the foundation of a trusted and well respected brand, and will help you build and define everything from your target consumer, identity, and assets. It will also help you make difficult decisions down the road as well. Consumers today are value-driven and choose brands that align with their values. I think I’ve been really lucky to work at companies that do this well. When I worked at AB InBev, the “Dream, People, Culture” approach was actually a guiding light for everything.
  2. Listen to your consumers: Sometimes I feel that companies have the tendency to create a product or a campaign they think is great. It might be a really impressive product, or a very unique and creative campaign, but if it isn’t what your consumers are looking for, it is quite useless. If the ultimate goal is to build a brand that people trust, and to connect meaningfully with your consumers, you have to understand their needs. For me the way to do this is by doing consumer research (not just once, but regularly) and approaching things iteratively. Your consumers’ needs can change, so it’s important to be able to listen and adapt as well.
  3. Have a good product: There is no point putting the time and resources into building a brand, if you don’t have a good product. At the end of the day, you want people to buy your stuff, so you need to have good quality stuff. A good product is the backbone of any good brand.
  4. Know what your brand is and isn’t: When thinking about your brand identity, it is of course important to figure out what you want your brand to be. Thinking of words and personality traits that describe your brand is helpful, but I think it is equally important to clearly define what your brand is not. An authentic and successful brand can’t be everything for everyone at all times, and clearly identifying what your brand is not will help in staying authentic and believable.
  5. Be consistent with all types of communication: You have to clearly define and document what your visual brand identity is, your tone of voice. Every company needs visual brand guidelines and a brand book, where it is crystal clear how to make creative assets and make decisions about your brand assets. Being vigilant and consistent in terms of both visual and written communication, is an underrated part of building a trusted brand. Consistency not only builds familiarity with consumers, but it also builds trust. Consistency at early stages of brand development can just mean identifying one or two simple messages that you want to nail down, and as your brand grows the consistency in communication can evolve across different channels, messaging, and elaborate campaigns.

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

Every marketer has a brand they really admire, and for me it’s Nike. I love them because they have functional and stylish products, they are socially conscious and they’ve built a brand that is inspiring. I still get goosebumps every time a new Nike ad comes out. None of their ads are super complex, but they are always impactful and evoke an emotional response from me. The way they communicate visually and with their copy is really simple but so thoughtful.

I think the way to replicate this is to be extremely clear on what you stand for as a brand, but also to really be clear on what response you want consumers to have. What do you want them to think, feel, and do when they interact with your brand?

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

I think it’s all related. Brand equity is really important for any brand. If you had two products that were essentially the same, but one was a well-known brand and the other wasn’t, the product from a well-known brand would be more valuable because it has a reputation and inspires trust. Measuring brand equity is complex and incorporates many different factors like brand sentiment, awareness, and consideration, as well as sales.

When measuring the success of a brand campaign, it depends on what the objective of the brand campaign is. You can do a brand campaign that is designed to improve sales. In which case, you should be measuring the additional lift in sales during that campaign. Black Friday is a great example of this. Even though the messaging is more discount oriented, it is still a brand campaign, and important for consumers to see, with the ideal end result being that they buy a bunch of stuff during Black Friday sales. If the objective of a brand campaign is to increase awareness, then you would measure consumer awareness before and after the campaign. This usually happens through brand tracking or brand awareness surveys.

Other possible objectives of a brand campaign could be to improve sentiment, in which case you might want to use net promoter scores or social media monitoring. What’s important here is that everything contributes to your brand equity and to measure the impact of any campaign, you need to clearly define the objective.

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

When it comes to social media, I think it’s important for companies to meet their consumers where they are and be purposeful in how they use social media. Understand how your consumers are using social media, and let that define how you use social media to connect with them. For example, if your consumer uses social media to get product recommendations from influencers, then your social media strategy should include influencers that can recommend your product, and should be optimized for discovery if consumers were to click through to your page.

I find sometimes the tendency with social media is to either try and be active on every platform, or if there’s new platforms to immediately try and get on those. But being on TikTok might not actually be beneficial for your brand or growing your business, so it’s important to be thoughtful about your social media presence.

Social media is also unique because it’s a two-way street. While putting out content, like any other marketing channel it’s important to reflect your brand identity and be consistent with visual and written communication, but social media channels can also be an effective feedback loop. It’s a great place to gather consumer feedback and listen to what type of content your consumers want or what they think of your brand.

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

I think it’s really important to do work that you enjoy and care about. Of course not everything in your day-to-day life will be enjoyable but generally aligning my career with my values and focusing on continuously learning has helped me feel good about my choices and find my way even when I’m a little lost. Also, one thing that I have grown to value more is the people that I work with as well. I love working with people who I can learn from, and the best teams I’ve worked on are not just work colleagues, but there is a sense of friendship and trust that is beneficial that helps us be successful, even when things are difficult.

That being said, it’s still possible to burn out even when you enjoy your work so I would offer this:

  1. Take time off!! I was always really bad at this earlier on in my career, but I find that taking time off from work to travel, spend time with family, or even just take a mental health day here and there helps me bring my full self to work and do my job well.
  2. Find non-work related things that help you decompress and re-energize. I think a lot about work even when I’m not working, and sometimes that may contribute towards burn out, but there are some activities that force me to not think about work that I always return to when I need a break, but maybe a day off isn’t possible. I love doing muay thai (kicking stuff is really fun and therapeutic) and drawing/painting on the weekend, and always feel more happy and re-energized the next day.
  3. Finally, try and make sure that there are at least one or two elements of your job that “don’t feel like work.” For me this is preparing for and recording the podcast. I get to meet very interesting people, build relationships, and talk about marketing with experts, which is honestly something I’d be down to do outside of work as well. Every person is so different and it reminds me why marketing is so exciting, which helps me stay motivated at work.

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

It’s been really encouraging in the last few years to see people thinking more about diversity. It’s an extremely complex issue, but something that I feel can help us make progress is by thinking about it in terms of representation. As humans, when we see ourselves represented, whether it is in different career paths, in the media, etc. it makes us feel valued and understood.

I think conversation is an underrated way of making progress, so maybe this seems very simple, but I would just try to facilitate conversations about representation over casual coffees, on the internet, and at work. These conversations should encourage people to discuss the ways in which they feel represented and the ways in which they aren’t. I find these conversations inspiring and insightful. They have really shaped some of the choices I make and the way that I approach the world and other people. More important and influential people might experience the ripple effect of one of these conversations, or it might inspire someone to change the way they make decisions.

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

“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.”

I love this quote because it reminds me to take things one small step at a time. It’s extremely helpful when I have a lot going on, or when I feel overwhelmed and it also grounds me into the present. Instead of worrying about things that can go wrong or thinking too far ahead into the future, it helps to focus on what I can do right now. I’ve found this to be extremely helpful, both in my personal and professional life.

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

I would love to hang out with Mindy Kaling. I have always been quite fascinated with the entertainment industry, so would definitely love to learn more about it. Aside from that she is extremely clever and funny, and I love what she’s done for representation of people of color in mainstream television. She seems really authentic and hilarious, and I think it would be a really fun time!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Follow me on LinkedIn here.

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


Anushka Lokesh Of Breinify On Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Michael Shangkuan Of Lingoda: 5 Things We Can Each Do To Help Solve The Loneliness Epidemic

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Sharpen your ability to connect with others in a deep and personal way by understanding more of their culture and history. Learn about their circumstances, be empathetic towards them and understand their backgrounds and why they might behave the way they do. Language learning is actually a great tool to become more empathetic as you learn not only about grammar and syntax but also about cultures and customs across the world.

As a part of my interview series about the ‘5 Things We Can Each Do Help Solve The Loneliness Epidemic’, I had the pleasure to interview Mike Shangkuan.

Mike Shangkuan is an EdTech entrepreneur, fitness fanatic, and polyglot, speaking six languages — English, German, Spanish, French, Chinese and Japanese. As a pioneer in language learning, he is the CEO of Lingoda GmbH, Europe’s leading online language school, where he is in charge of the company’s strategy and daily business. He is also a former natural bodybuilder and competed at several international competitions. He is a graduate of Yale University and he holds an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us? What was it that led you to your eventual career choice?

I was born and raised in the US, my parents had emigrated to the States from Taiwan. In school, I already became interested in learning languages — taking French in school and adding Chinese and Japanese classes to my weekend schedule.

Professionally, I always felt that I needed to be the “good Chinese son.” I was supposed to be good at physics and math, but instead I liked my French class the most. I studied economics at Yale University and completed my MBA at Harvard Business School. I then began my professional career at Goldman Sachs and Procter & Gamble. What ultimately led me to Lingoda was my previous position in San Diego, where I was the CEO of Terra Education, a B-corp offering life-changing service learning summer programs to teens in Africa, South America and Asia for twelve years.

I’ve always been interested in learning languages, traveling and diving deep into new cultures. To date, I’ve lived in six different countries across four continents and speak six languages: English, German, Spanish, French, Chinese and Japanese. Today, I’m the CEO of Lingoda, a leading online language school, which also makes me the first Asian-American to be the CEO of a German company.

On a different note, I’m also a former natural bodybuilder and have competed at several international competitions. I bring this up because it’s not actually that different from learning languages. To compete as a bodybuilder, you have to develop consistent, daily habits and train with a good teacher to achieve your goals, and not about talent.

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

I’ve lived in eight countries across North & South America, Europe, and Asia and been immersed in cultures and languages at opposite ends of the spectrum. Learning the language in those eight countries has played a key role in helping me better understand the nuances of the culture and immerse myself in the society. What is normal in one culture is awkward in the other.

Take Japan and Mexico, for example. I had lived and studied in both countries. In Japan, you don’t kiss or touch, even your parents. You bow. The greater respect you want to show, the deeper and longer your bow. I, of course, did not know that. So, when I first met my host family, I went around, extended my hand to shake and reached over to hug them. Each of them moved back, confusion in their eyes. The Grandmother was horrified. A few years later, I studied and worked in Mexico. My colleagues at work were equally horrified; I learned they were all gossiping about me and how rude I was because every morning and night, when I came and left the office, I did not go around the room and greet each colleague with a kiss and say “goodbye” with a final kiss for the day. I just went straight to my desk, turned on my computer, and started typing.

Now I run a German-based company. German culture is yet again different from Japanese, Mexican, and American. And we have colleagues from over 35 countries and cultures. One word of caution — never be late to a meeting with Germans.

You might ask, if you are interacting with a different culture or even living in another country, what can you do to overcome these challenges?

First, I wouldn’t worry about making mistakes. You WILL commit cultural faux pas.

Second, it’s much more important you develop a cultural awareness and curiosity of what your culture is and how the culture could be different. I call this developing your cultural IQ. A great way to develop your cultural IQ is to learn the language. Even some basic phrases and understanding of the grammatical structure reveals how a culture operates. Moreover those interactions will bring you closer together, when you show respect for that culture by starting the conversation in that culture.

Third, and I am especially addressing English-native speakers here, if the default language is English, speak slowly, enunciate, and use simple words. No idioms. If you must use idioms or a more complicated word, go back and explain what it is. Pay attention if people look confused. That is yet another reason to learn a second language. Those who do are much more empathetic in their cross-cultural interactions. I can recommend the book “The Language of Global Success” by Tsedal Neeley, a Professor at Harvard Business School.

Can you share a story about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?

We can also take “Culture Awareness” into a professional work environment. Every organization has its own culture, its written and unwritten rules: how decisions are made, how things get done, the vocabulary used to explain something, how things get done, among others. The same word will have a different meaning in two companies that are in the same industry.

For example, in my first two jobs after business school, I worked at Procter & Gamble and Clorox, both consumer products powerhouses. Clorox was even once a division of Procter & Gamble and it is referred to internally as the “Procter of the West,” since it is based in California. When I moved to Clorox and had the same exact position, the yearly strategic planning process was completely different. As Procter, the process was run by the Finance Manager, where it is run by Marketing at Clorox. I took my old paradigm at Procter and applied it to Clorox. It had devastating effects for my first few months at Clorox. My manager’s manager called me into the office one day and informed me I was not meeting expectations. We figured out what the issue was, and six months later I got promoted. But if I had taken half a step back and had a higher Cultural IQ, I could have avoided the problems I created for myself.

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

As a civilization, we are disconnecting from each other and from the world. In the last two years, borders have closed. People stopped traveling. It’s become more difficult for people to immigrate to a new country. People have become more parochial and afraid of the other.

At Lingoda, our mission is to build bridges across the world through language learning. These bridges can be virtual and physical.

Virtually, every year, we make millions of connections between people from all over the world. When you enter a class, your teacher could be from France and the four other students from South America, Middle East, Germany, and China. Then when you go to your next class, those four could be from the US, Mexico, UK, and Japan. Every class is a bridge to a new person, and all five of them use language as a means to understand each other and grow together.

Physically, we have launched our peer-to-peer initiative, where we offer free German and integration classes to refugees living in a German-speaking country. We started this one at the end of March as a reaction to the war in Ukraine and many refugees arriving in Germany. This one is very dear to my heart as my parents also came to the US from Taiwan for a new life — and they struggled even with basic conversation in English, despite having studied it for over ten years. Lingoda knows how vital language learning is to refugees to be able to integrate faster into a new society and to establish oneself in a new country, culture and life. We want to help people in need with our free volunteer-led German classes to make sure that they can establish a life in a German-speaking country in the best way possible for them. It is our hope that through language learning, we can foster a more inclusive and understanding world. This is our contribution to taking the first step towards those goals and to provide immediate help to those who need it most.

At Lingoda, in addition to offering flexible classes 24/7 to fit people’s busy schedules, we’re always innovating. One piece of student feedback has been that even after lots of studying of the language and class time, students still can’t understand what people say on TV or on the streets. Thus, we focus on speaking and listening, although we also teach grammar, writing, and reading. A unique feature of Lingoda’s curriculum is that we focus on real life vocabulary and on what native speakers really say.

We’re constantly looking for new ways to enrich language learning for our students and our teachers, while making the whole experience enjoyable and easier. In fact, we’ve just launched our new curriculum 3.0, which focuses even more on everyday speech and accents and colloquial expressions from countries around the world. We really want you to get a true cultural experience out of learning a new language with Lingoda.

Can you share with our readers a bit why you are an authority about the topic of the Loneliness Epidemic?

Harvard Research has shown that the global pandemic has triggered an epidemic of loneliness in America with feelings of isolation on the rise. The report suggests that 36% of all Americans — including 61% of young adults and 51% of mothers with young children — feel “serious loneliness.” The survey also suggests that lonely people often feel they’re reaching out or listening to other people more than other people are reaching out or listening to them.

As the CEO of an online language school, I know how important it is to make not only our employees (who are also still largely working from home in May 2022) but also our students and teachers feel part of the Lingoda community. Every day, the leaders at Lingoda are encouraged to reach out to employees to check in on their individual needs and situations. We have honest conversations about what we can do to improve their experiences, so that everyone can be on their A game. At the same time, we try to have fun and create working and learning environments that help everyone’s overall wellbeing and feeling of connection. Language learning really is a fantastic way to connect with people from all around the world, to learn about new cultures and feel less isolated.

One class with Lingoda can really take you on a trip around the world. For example, when studying Spanish with Lingoda, you could be in Miami, your teacher could be in Mexico and other participating students could be in Tokyo, London and Berlin. Each class is like a virtual travel experience in itself. And learning languages really opens the door to a whole new world — the people you will encounter and the cultures and countries you will learn about and perhaps even travel to can change your world and definitely work against a loneliness epidemic. Learning languages is not only an enriching process, but it allows you to expand your ability to expand your network and connect with others in a deep and personal way by understanding more of their culture and history.

Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. According to this story in Time, loneliness is becoming an increasing health threat not just in the US , but across the world. Can you articulate for our readers 3 reasons why being lonely and isolated can harm one’s health?

In my opinion, feeling lonely and isolated does not have a single cause and is a very complex topic. But loneliness can harm one’s health because

  • When you feel less connected to the people around you — friends, family, colleagues or neighbors — it might feel to you like their lives are continuing without you. That can have a negative effect on your self-esteem and the way you feel about yourself.
  • Loneliness can also be a symptom of depression, which often causes people to withdraw socially, which can lead to isolation.
  • Feeling loneliness can truly have negative effects on your physical health. It could lead to weight gain, sleep deprivation, poor heart health, and a weakened immune system. Loneliness can also put your body under more stress than normal.

On a broader societal level, in which way is loneliness harming our communities and society?

Many experts believe that having constant access to technology, specifically smartphones, can prevent us from making personal connections. We may reach more for our phones even during a lunch date with a good friend, perhaps not paying as much attention to the conversation as much as we would have before we were so attached to our phones. Spending too much time on social media is said to seriously harm our mental health, sparking feelings of loneliness, depression and anxiety.

Our older generations, who may not be as much connected, could be left out and made to feel more isolated as more and more connections are taking place online. But the question really is whether technology is causing or curing loneliness?

During the corona pandemic, we all witnessed first hand how helpful modern technology and new ways of staying in touch with our friends and family can be. Where would we have been without our dinner dates on Zoom during lockdown? For many of us, those Zoom meetings were quite far removed from the belief that online video conferencing or social media platforms are making us feel numb and disconnected.

I believe that if we use technology to our advantage, it can be an asset to our day to day interactions. When learning or teaching a language with Lingoda, you are getting in touch with people from all around the world who have the same goal as you: Wanting to learn a foreign language and immersing yourself in a new culture. And you’re doing it from the comfort of your own home with people you might not have the chance to meet in real life — when you’re at home in Miami and your teacher is from Argentina.

So what we can do is to use technology that stimulates our improved connections — try out our new language skills with people in your daily life — your Spanish-speaking neighbor or friend and build those bridges. Keep in contact with your language learning group and truly build those bridges around the world.

The irony of having a loneliness epidemic is glaring. We are living in a time where more people are connected to each other than ever before in history. Our technology has the power to connect billions of people in one network, in a way that was never possible. Yet despite this, so many people are lonely. Why is this? Can you share 3 of the main reasons why we are facing a loneliness epidemic today? Please give a story or an example for each.

I feel like I can connect this question to your previous one. Three main reasons for today’s loneliness epidemic might be:

  • We live in a society focused on individualism. Successes and failures are our own burden to bear.
  • Our definition of success has changed over the years. Does it mean constant new achievements, wealth, power and reputation? If you’re successful professionally, that might make you feel valued in society — but we keep forgetting that achieving success may also have to do with luck and is somewhat determined for us: where we were born and what influences us externally to achieve professional success.
  • With the rise of social media, people might feel like they’re constantly being compared to others and their successes without knowing their failures too. People don’t post about their bad days. This is the way that social media and technology can affect us negatively mentally and make us feel lonely.

But what makes us human is our ability to be able to connect with others and the ability to love and to build relationships. With the rise of social media, people might feel like they’re constantly being compared to others and their successes without knowing their failures too. This is what we should be concentrating on — building honest connections with people, learning about each other. And technology can be a great aid in this if we use it the right way.

Ok. It is not enough to talk about problems without offering possible solutions. In your experience, what are the 5 things each of us can do to help solve the Loneliness Epidemic. Please give a story or an example for each.

  • Connect with people and make a commitment to reach out to them. It doesn’t even have to be ten people that you don’t feel very close to. Pick one or two people in your inner circle that you feel comfortable with and reach out to them daily. Really make a point to check in with them and ask how they are doing.
  • Sharpen your ability to connect with others in a deep and personal way by understanding more of their culture and history. Learn about their circumstances, be empathetic towards them and understand their backgrounds and why they might behave the way they do. Language learning is actually a great tool to become more empathetic as you learn not only about grammar and syntax but also about cultures and customs across the world.
  • Online video conferencing or social media platforms have the reputation to have made people feel numb or rather disconnected — but this doesn’t have to be true. It can be a fantastic way to make a first connection with new people around the world, as it allows you to speak with people from the comfort of your own home. What builds bridges across different communities more effectively than learning their language and being able to reach them with the push of a button?
  • Try to get out of your comfort zone and engage in social activities. With learning a new language, actually speaking the language is the biggest challenge for most people. And Lingoda’s curriculum is designed to get people to speak as much and as soon as possible. All our classes aim to get in your speaking practice and to connect with the people in your group class — to ask each other questions in the new language and to feel like you’re in this together. You can easily choose at what level you want to begin learning your new language and you will be matched with people at the exact same level as you, so that you can connect easily. Be open and immerse yourself in a new culture — it’s a great way to make new connections and friendships.
  • Embrace the Cultural Quotient and broaden your horizons. Listen and understand with full empathy. Having lived in eight countries across four continents, I’ve learned to adapt to different cultures, especially as the first Chinese American CEO of a German company. These experiences have truly taught me to learn to embrace, appreciate and gain a fuller understanding of various cultures. The time I’ve spent abroad helped me to not only understand others, but also to understand myself.

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

International Pen Pal Day. When I was young, before the Internet and smartphones, we wrote letters. I had two pen pals: one in France and one in Japan. For International Pen Pal Day, you get assigned a pen pal your age from a country other than where you are from. It could be any of 200 countries. On that day, you write a physical letter introducing yourself, your country, and what it’s like to live in your country. You attach a picture. Your counterpart does the same. Each month, you write one more letter and respond to your pen pal’s questions. After one year, you connect on Zoom and meet.

It all comes back to the idea of connecting with people from different backgrounds, cultures and learning about one another. If we invest more in learning about the other, we can truly foster a world of inclusion and build bridges around the world — even if we don’t always have the chance to meet each other face to face.

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

I’m thinking long and hard about your question, and I don’t have anybody I would want to meet. Definitely not the standard answers, like Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg or Warren Buffett. You can test my commitment to this, if they actually do respond.

Here’s why. I like learning about the stories of “ordinary” people, very different from me, not talked up by the media. I’m not interested in meeting famous or “successful” people. Who I would be interested in meeting is a farmer in a small town in China who grow up during the Cultural Revolution, a retired man in Germany who fought as a young soldier in WWII and lived in East Germany during the Cold War, or young mother who is part of a tribe in New Guinea with little to no interaction with the rest of the world.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can follow Lingoda on our website, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and also my personal LinkedIn account for all things Lingoda and language learning.

Thank you so much for these insights. This was so inspiring, and so important!


Michael Shangkuan Of Lingoda: 5 Things We Can Each Do To Help Solve The Loneliness Epidemic was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Making Something From Nothing: Breanna Giglio Of Bashify Event On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Work never stops; embrace it. Your business is like your baby, it always demands your love and attention, so give it what it needs. Some of the best ideas I’ve had have been late at night in bed talking with my husband or on our nightly walks. It’s important to surround yourself with people who both give you the space to think about your business while also helping you to set healthy boundaries when you need to disconnect for a bit.

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

Breanna Giglio founded Bashify in 2020 after returning from her honeymoon and realizing that throwing great parties to celebrate life’s biggest moments was hard, especially in a pandemic. Burnt out from her job as a nurse in the pediatric ICU and looking for a new challenge, she began her event planning business offering beautiful public park and backyard styled picnics. Over the next year, business grew from simple date night picnics to baby/bridal showers and even elopements! After just a year in business and having planned parties for NFL players, mega-influencers, and the star of ABC’s The Bachelorette, Breanna and Bashify launched Bash Boxes to ship their parties right to your door. Bashify has moved its base of operations from Breanna’s home state of Washington to Dallas, Texas, where it now offers its event planning services to locals and Bash Boxes to the whole country!

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

As far back as I can remember, I’ve always enjoyed creating and curating beautiful things. When I was in elementary school I loved theater and would’ve sworn to you I’d be a big Hollywood actor. My dreams of the silver screen were soon replaced by deep dives into Pinterest and long trips to the mall to find the clothing and things with the it factor. My creativity collided with my inner entrepreneur at 14 years old when I started “Breanna’s Chic Storefront” on Facebook to sell DIY crafts. Although my professional career started as a nurse, after two years of working at Seattle Children’s Hospital and with the support of my husband I started Bashify!

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

This may seem a little silly on the surface, but bear with me: “What would happen if you just called Taylor up?” — Kris Jenner. To be brief, the context here is that Kris’ daughter, Kim (who we all know), had a dispute with Taylor Swift. Amidst all the drama, Kris suggests something simple yet dramatic and oddly unthinkable — just talk to the person you have a problem with. I’ve found that so many people will love to tell you what is and isn’t possible because of their fixed or limited mindsets. Direct or bold solutions to problems are often written off as implausible, but those solutions are often what yield the best results. Sometimes you just need to call Taylor up.

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

My husband got me hooked on the “How I Built This” podcast and ever since it’s been a big inspiration to me. I love hearing the stories of how founders of these amazing companies that you and I know navigate their way through the first days of their startups. When I listen to episodes, it makes me feel like I can find a way past the problem I’m facing and that we will make it. We first listened to it on a road trip right after we got engaged and I’ve been listening ever since.

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

I’m a firm believer that you should let experts be experts. For me, that meant not trying to do everything in my business and leaning on the expertise of others when I felt like I was out of my depth. I’m no technical wizard, so I wasn’t going to try to learn skills like SEO or graphic design when I knew I could hire freelancers online to complete those tasks for me at reasonable rates. Being a founder is hard enough, so offloading the tasks farthest from my core competencies to professionals saved me a lot of headaches on execution and made my company better. By knowing my own limits, I made it a lot easier on myself to turn my good ideas into good business.

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

Just because an idea has already been done doesn’t mean you can’t find a new wedge into that market. In our case, we knew high-quality party supplies existed, but we also knew nobody was bundling them in easy-to-buy bundles with educational content to help you get the most from your purchase. I would tell entrepreneurs not to worry so much about whether or not their idea is wholly unique — because so few are — and instead to focus on if they provide value that is equal to or greater than what already exists.

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

We take a very bootstrapped approach to things because we like to get to market quickly and iterate even faster. When we first decided to launch our Bash Boxes, we went from concepting to launch in just 5 weeks. In that time, we sourced all the samples we needed from wholesalers, created content around the boxes, and redid our website. From there we started shipping, gathering data on what our customers did and didn’t like, and worked on strengthening supplier relationships and our own fundamentals of fulfillment. We just recently moved fulfillment from outside of our home to an offsite facility and are continuing to improve our processes. The big thing for us has been that we have the self-awareness to recognize how new we are to the world of ecommerce and fulfillment and leverage that to have an agile mindset. While we haven’t had to file a patent yet and can’t speak to that experience, we can say that it’s always a good idea to have multiple suppliers for a single SKU when possible to avoid being over-leveraged or taken advantage of by a bad manufacturer.

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

Sometimes you need to spend more. When we first started our business, we ordered some decorative sun umbrellas for our events from a wholesaler in China. To save money in the short term we ordered the minimum quantity possible, but later realized we needed more umbrellas. Because the shipping costs were so high, we ended up spending significantly more than we had originally planned to get all the umbrellas. Had we just spent the premium up front, we would have actually saved money.

Work never stops; embrace it. Your business is like your baby, it always demands your love and attention, so give it what it needs. Some of the best ideas I’ve had have been late at night in bed talking with my husband or on our nightly walks. It’s important to surround yourself with people who both give you the space to think about your business while also helping you to set healthy boundaries when you need to disconnect for a bit.

Directed action is worth more than detailed plans. At this point in our business, we’ve made about 3 major pivots. Because we’ve prioritized action over detailed planning, we’re able to learn from our experiences and create better plans as we go. Nothing will give you clarity like going out into the world, doing the thing, and seeing how you feel.

It’s okay to walk without knowing your destination. We never really planned or foresaw any of our business pivots, but each one led us to a better place. It’s impossible to forecast the future, whether that be pandemics, consumer demand, or geopolitics. That’s why it’s okay to try things, see how the market responds, and go from there.

Know what you want to get out of your business. It’s important to ask yourself things like “how much can I see this making and am I comfortable with that income” or “will this company give me the balance I want in life?” Actually at different points I found myself not liking the answer to one or both of those questions and made changes to my business to correct for that. A little less than a year ago I came to the realization that the lifestyle of being solely an event planner would not give me either the income nor the balance that I wanted, which helped lead me into creating the Bash Box ecommerce business.

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

The most important thing to do is validate demand. Would people pay for what you want to sell? Then the next question is, how much will people pay for this and can I get it manufactured at a price that gives me a reasonable margin? You can investigate these two questions by prototyping, talking to people, and even soft-launching your product.

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

At the early stages of a company I think the founder should own as much of the intellectual property/management and focus on delegating specific tasks. If a founder feels the need to hire a general consultant rather than a more function-focused consultant, they may either not have a good enough idea of what it is they want to build or may not be the entrepreneur to bring that to market.

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

If you hope to keep your company private and believe your company’s success in the short-term hinges on your unique capabilities or insight, it’s best to bootstrap. If you believe you’re building a company with an 8+ figure value that can provide an attractive public or private exit for investors and you believe you can find investors who will allow your company to do its best work, then venture can be a great option.

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

We believe that everyone deserves to be celebrated and should have days where they feel like the king or queen of the world. Making things look good is hard work, and we hope to make people everywhere feel like they can be celebrated in style with our Bash Boxes. I know in my own life it’s amazing what a beautiful dress, some flowers, and a night out with my husband can do to make me feel better, and I want to box that same feeling for people on their special days.

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

I think that being a new mom I’ve learned two things: people always assume you’ll stay home with the kids and the modern workplace hasn’t adapted to the millions of skilled, talented moms who want careers but can’t work full-time or in an office. I hope to build a company and foster a culture where working moms can grow in their career by taking advantage of the booming remote and gig economies. In an economic climate where dual-income households are increasingly becoming both the norm and necessary, I want to empower primarily at-home caregivers to be able to generate income and grow careers while taking care of their families.

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

Mark Cuban. My husband and I just moved to Dallas and are huge fans of Mark and his ventures. We love his energy on Shark Tank and how despite all his success he seems so grounded in reality and focused on making the world a better place. It’d be incredible to meet him!

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


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

David Lloyd of Naked Marketing On Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Take all the findings to help define who you are, your purpose for being, what you hold dear, what makes you different to others and what your story is. This is where you need someone who is good with words.

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

David Lloyd is the Managing Director and co-founder of Naked Marketing, a creative agency based in Norfolk. With a whopping 20+ years’ experience in the creative industry Dave is a design powerhouse. On top of producing brief crushing work for clients of all shapes and sizes, Dave co-leads Naked’s Creative Team and manages the studio.

Naked specialises in building straight-forward and effective branding, design, digital and marketing strategies for small and medium sized businesses.

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

The love of art and design. As a kid I loved drawing but also growing up in the 80s I had a fascination with movie posters, they left such a lasting impression on me. Then that interest turned to album artwork too. It was GCSE design communication where I suddenly became enlightened with the vast scope of graphics. I then studied Graphic Design at Lincoln when it used to be an art and design school before the university.

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

I’m not sure about a mistake but a strange/funny anecdote was that the first agency I worked for. I had to design a front cover for a video (don’t ask) that the Daily Star newspaper had commissioned. On seeing my first concept the editor of the newspapers was annoyed that I had made them look like a tack tabloid. Maybe what I was trying to do was project the brand image to the audience, which should be a given in marketing. Plus, be honest, don’t hide behind smoke and mirrors.

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

Working with businesses of all shapes and sizes, it’s an organisation’s ambition or story that turns us on rather than just their budget. This concept helps us create long-term relationships that are mutually beneficial. We get to know our clients better. We want to create a marriage. The best story I can share is that we’re proud to say that over 50% of our current clients have continued to work with us for 5 years or more, and 20% for over a decade!

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

We’re working on lots of new brand/design/marketing projects currently from a global travel agency which will help all customers reduce and offset their carbon. This in turn supports important projects around the world to an amazing local, family run attraction stepping out of the shadow of lock down.

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

Branding and marketing is full of over-complicated ambiguous definitions and jargon that really can create confusion and turn people off. Brand marketing is how your organisation presents itself to its audience. It’s not just how it looks and sounds but how it also feels. There’s a holistic quote which says your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room. For me, brand marketing is how you influence what those people think. Product marketing is showcasing benefits of a certain ‘thing’. What is important though with both types of marketing is to make a connection, find the emotion.

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

Not only is it important for a customer to know who you are and what you do but you need to know as well. Who you think you are might be different to your audience. You need to be saying the right things to the right people. You need everyone in your organisation to know what it is you were put on this planet to do, what values you hold dear and what it is you look and sound like. This might have changed and where you were is different to where you want to be, a brand strategy can help you get there.

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

You can do it in four. 1) Start off with a discovery session. Do this through a workshop with staff and interview clients, they might have a different take. Think about the questions you want to ask for the answers you want to find, where the gaps are in your marketplace compared to your competition.

2) Take all the findings to help define who you are, your purpose for being, what you hold dear, what makes you different to others and what your story is. This is where you need someone who is good with words.

3.) Design your image, this can start off with your logo/identity and images, colours and fonts. What image are you trying to represent?

4) Delivery of all of this with your marketing, this can be digital with website/social media/emails etc., offline with print or verbal/written through podcasts or thought leadership pieces.

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

There are so many, but I think it has to be Innocent for the reason that it is the one brand that most people wanted to be like. It created a connection that resonated, it felt friendly, it cared, it was fun.

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

I would say that there are parts that are similar; it depends on the KPIs of your business and the outcomes you want. Generally it’s to create more awareness and more engagement, being known for something and creating recognition — which then leads to specific outcomes that can be transactional if that’s what your strategy dictates.

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

Huge, it’s how the outside world, especially those people that don’t work with us, see and experience our culture. We have won work off the back of social media and also had an old client call me up and tell me how much he hated what we were doing on social which I actually liked because it created a reaction. If it was boring they wouldn’t have said anything, and that’s even worse than hating it.

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

I’m starting to think of myself as a pretty ‘apolitical’ person but completely resetting our entire political system, and probably most of those throughout the world would be an incredible thing. They seem very unfit for purpose. We need to help each other and the planet on which we co-inhabit, and currently politics seems to be the barrier rather than the bridge to making this happen.

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

I wish I had the type of brain that retains all the great quotes I see, but I don’t, so there isn’t one specifically that I use. However, I do screen grab them from Instagram so here’s a good one I need to remember more — ‘if you have to force it, leave it’. It definitely refers to a time when I realised something fundamental in the business wasn’t working.

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

Michael Johnson from Johnson Banks

How can our readers follow you on social media?

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/nakedmarketing1

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

LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/company/naked-marketing/

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


David Lloyd of Naked Marketing On Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Mark Schonberg Of 2B3D On 5 Things You Need to Know to Scale a Successful Business

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Integrity is vital. You cannot be successful if no one trusts you, and your reputation can be easily damaged. When something goes wrong, be upfront about it. Bad news is not like fine wine, it doesn’t get better over time.

I had the pleasure to interview Mark Schonberg. Colonel (Retired) Mark Schonberg of, CSO of 2b3d.com is currently a Principal Partner and Managing Member of Renewable Energy Park, LLC, a company that specializes in the development of critical infrastructure and the associated eco-systems for industrial parks, transit/logistics hubs, digital infrastructure, and utilizing renewable power within those eco-systems.

A native of Council Bluffs, Iowa, he holds Masters Degrees in Information Systems and Strategic Studies, and received his bachelors from Iowa State University. During his military career he served in various locations to include Korea, Germany, Belgium, Africa, Afghanistan and numerous U.S. locations.

He recently served as the President of TerraScale, LLC, a Green Technology Company determined to answer to the world’s growing need for digital infrastructure (data centers) and sustainable energy by delivering a platform for enabling emerging Smart Technologies.

His Army career highlights include serving as the U.S. Army’s Cyber Capabilities Development and Integration Director (CDID), the Army Cyber Command’s Deputy Chief-of-Staff and Chief Information Officer/G6, the ISAF CJ6 Operations and Plans Chief in Afghanistan, and the United States Forces, Korea, Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence (C4I) Joint Working Group Co-Chairman and the Director of Task Force Mercury in charge of the C4I build-out in support of the $16 billion Yongsan Relocation Program. His last assignment was as the U.S. Africa Command’s J63 — Plans and Operations Director in charge of all Defensive Cyber Security Operations and Network Services across Africa and Southern Europe.

Thank you for joining us in this interview series. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?

I graduated from Iowa State University in 1990, and went straight into the U.S. Army as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Signal Corps. At that time it was fine to be a political science major in the Signal Corps because all you managed was analog radio systems. However, around 1993 the Army decided to place the responsibility for management of all the IT systems within the Signal Corps. Thus began my journey as an IT service provider, which eventually lead me to managing global IT services. Around 2008, I was recruited to work in this new area called Cyberspace. I was eventually made responsible for developing all cyber capabilities within the Army. Just when I thought it was time to retire, I was asked to move to Korea and take over the IT portion of the $16 Billion Yongsan Relocation Program, moving U.S. Forces out of the capital of Seoul to a new site 45 miles South near Pyongteak. The IT/Cyber portion of the program was ~$1 Billion, and we built one of the first truly Smart Cities.

You’ve had a remarkable career journey. Can you highlight a key decision in your career that helped you get to where you are today?

Very early in my career I started volunteering for all the technical training I could get. As an Officer, I was not expected to be very technical, but the leadership insights I gained by understanding the technical aspects of the position were invaluable. Do not be scared of technological advancements. Jump in there and figure it out, at least to the point where you understand the processes associated with the capability.

What’s the most impactful initiative you’ve led that you’re particularly proud of?

The aforementioned Yongsan Relocation Program was amazing. It is the largest construction project outside of the United States aside from the Panama Canal. It will be there for years to come and required me to utilize the many skillsets I’d developed during my 34-year Army career.

Sometimes our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a mistake you’ve made and the lesson you took away from it?

Logistics are everything! Many of my early failures simply revolved around the ability to sustain what we had done. You can have the greatest IT product ever, but if only you can operate it, then it is never going to work. Things have to be sustainable.

How has mentorship played a role in your career, whether receiving mentorship or offering it to others?

One of my best talents is recognizing the skills my team have possessed. You cannot make people excel in positions they do not have the desire or aptitude to perform. Most IT service technicians have no desire to be a manager. Yet I have seen it again and again, where you take your best IT person and make them a manager and they fail. So as a mentor, you need to challenge those you know can do more, while recognizing those who are operating in their best positions. Do not be afraid to make adjustments.

Developing your leadership style takes time and practice. Who do you model your leadership style after? What are some key character traits you try to emulate?

I do not have a specific person I have modeled my style after, but I do believe that leadership needs to be seen. Some refer to it as leadership by walking around.

Thank you for sharing that with us. Let’s talk about scaling a business from a small startup to a midsize and then large company. Based on your experience, can you share with our readers the “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Scale Your Business”? Please give a story or example for each.

I’m not sure there is much of a difference between small, medium, and large companies, but here are a few thoughts:

1- You have to be happy with the team; regardless of size. If you are not happy or worse yet you do not trust your work partners, then leave immediately. I was talked out of leaving my last company by my co-workers and then proceeded to have 6 additional months of misery. Yes the pay check was nice, but the stress was counterproductive and I found myself just working for a paycheck. It’s not fair to anyone.

2- You have to be able to manufacture. Now this doesn’t literally mean manufacturing, although it might in some cases. What I am trying to say is you cannot produce, deploy, and most importantly sustain your product or capability if you cannot get it from the whiteboard to the market. You might have the greatest scientist in the world, but if no one knows how to implement an assembly line, your product never goes beyond prototyping.

3- Stay lean. Salaries can break a company, but in many cases start-ups can’t afford salaries. Offer equity or some other types of incentives to keep quality people. Almost as important is do not overpay for people who help you out only once, and then stand there with their hand-out. If you have committed to pay them fine, but do it last and not at the expense of the rest of the company. Many times it is better to contract out initial functions and then in source where appropriate down the road.

4- Stop and think. Hardly anyone I have met truly has a strategic plan. They may have identified an end-state they want to achieve, but rarely have a plan beyond the next challenge in front of them. Having a plan affords you the ability to examine other opportunities along your company’s journey. In many cases you can enhance your core value streams with the integration of support processes.

5- Integrity is vital. You cannot be successful if no one trusts you, and your reputation can be easily damaged. When something goes wrong, be upfront about it. Bad news is not like fine wine, it doesn’t get better over time.

Can you share a few of the mistakes that companies make when they try to scale a business? What would you suggest to address those errors?

Failing to identify adequate resources for your project is a cardinal sin in my book. Something will go wrong or an unexpected cost will appear. You should plan for such contingencies.

Make sure everything you do is sustainable. The idea of wash, rinse, repeat should be your mindset in most engagements.

Scaling includes bringing new people into the organization. How can a company preserve its company culture and ethos when new people are brought in?

I firmly believe no one (or at least 99% of people) shows up to work wanting to do bad. So assuming you have selected the right person that possesses the aptitude and skills for your positions, I believe communicating is key for on-boarding new personnel. This can be hard, but the more you expose team members to the organizational goals, the sooner they can find their place.

In my work, I focus on helping companies to simplify the process of creating documentation of their workflow, so I am particularly passionate about this question. Many times, a key aspect of scaling your business is scaling your team’s knowledge and internal procedures. What tools or techniques have helped your teams be successful at scaling internally?

Great question, I think it revolves around knowledge management, and by knowledge management I do not mean access to SharePoint. I mean development of things like a continuity file, Records Management systems, and other things that allow for the easy integration of new personnel. These products can also allow you to review your organization structure and see where changes should be made. For example, I hired 10 project managers, but only have 7 engineers and multiple engineers are needed on each project. If you can afford it, having someone fully dedicated to knowledge management can pay great dividends, and you’ll also see that there is immense value in the data you have already collected.

I also believe in having a Quality Assurance program, especially one that incorporates third-party feedback.

What software or tools do you recommend to help onboard new hires?

This is situation dependent, but obviously some sort of basic collaboration tool set is needed. I have never found one magic bullet in terms of a software solution.

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

My friends will tell you I am a big Star Trek guy. That vision of the future is where I want mankind to go. I believe the first step in that journey revolves around free power for everyone. Today, we have no excuse for not having free energy. This would enable things like free internet, which then enables telemedicine, electric vehicles, etc., etc.

In the case of 2B3D, it would offer our PTSD treatment services anywhere in the world. It’s not hard, we just need to make up our minds to do it.

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


Mark Schonberg Of 2B3D On 5 Things You Need to Know to Scale a Successful Business was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Meet The Disruptors: CJ Pennington Of Proud Source Water On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up…

Meet The Disruptors: CJ Pennington Of Proud Source Water On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Positivity is a mindset. I believe in karma or essentially that we attract things based on what we put into the universe. Having a positive outlook on life makes it natural to be kinder to people and I think being kind to people can lead to ultimately better and more enjoyable outcomes in life. This is something I practice every second of every day.

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

CJ Pennington is the President and Co-Founder of Proud Source Water, making a positive impact through a fundamentally different approach to water: caring for our planet, our communities and our health all at the same time. Founded in 2017, CJ conceptualized and built the initial business plan for Proud Source from the ground up, rooted in the goal of uplifting small-town communities through local opportunities surrounding natural alkaline spring water sources, with a vision to be the most transparent bottled water company in the world when it comes to sourcing, sustainability and overall impact.

In his role, CJ not only designed the bottling facilities in both Idaho and Florida, but also designed the brand’s headquarters, packaging and more. Prior to Proud Source, he served as an architect and engineer assisting with the design and construction of notable projects for Boeing, the University of Oregon (Autzen Stadium) and the Simplot F.

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

I started my career as an architect, having graduated with a degree in architecture. In college I found my passion for sustainability, good design and problem solving. After graduating I practiced a handful of years in the space moving from architect to engineer, which I really enjoyed. I was working as an engineer in Seattle at the time when a family friend reached out asking if I would help design a water bottling facility in his hometown of Mackay, Idaho. In that first conversation I learned the town’s future was in question — the school was about to close due to lack of enrollment — and he knew someone needed to step up to create local jobs and give the town hope. His plan was simple, build a bottling plant to create 10 jobs. I had always wanted to help people and make positive impact in the world. So, I decided to walk away from a career that I truly loved to be a part of something bigger than myself.

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

What makes us so disruptive is we didn’t set out to be disruptive. The goal wasn’t to shake things up — it was to do things for the right reasons — which happened to be disruptive in the industry we were getting into.

The commitment to our mission was critical as we grew the business and were faced with having to make decisions that impacted the future. We would look at how our choices would impact our community and the planet. Then we would then simply select whichever direction was better for both. We repeated this over and over until we looked around and realized we are on much different journey than other companies in the water space. I believe our way of thinking organically led to us looking and sounding different which ultimately has allowed us to disrupt.

At the core — it was this “doing the right thing” mission that was disruptive.

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

I think the funniest mistake was a few years ago when we thought it was a good decision to erect boxes in our Headquarter offices in Boise for an order. You learn a lot hand assembling boxes over the course of a few days and it wasn’t until we were a handful of pallets into the orders, we all realized the box was engineered to be erected in a different manner than we had been using. Looking back, it turned out to be a wonderful team bonding experience, but I wouldn’t recommend it!

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

For anyone venturing out to start a business, you need a support group and community of people who are going to help. I’ve had a handful along the way that have kept me from making mistakes or let me make them and learn from them.

My father, who has industry experience and is involved with Proud Source, has been my biggest mentor. He’s made an impact on my life from an early age, teaching me what it means to work hard, be humble and have tough skin. I take all of his words to heart.

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

I don’t necessarily know that I would agree that the word is somehow good or bad, positive or negative. I don’t align with that. Thinking differently should be celebrated. To be disruptive in an industry, you’re taking a different approach or angle. Personally, I think pushing boundaries and trying to innovate is always a positive thing. That’s advancement.

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

1- “Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.” -President Theodore Roosevelt.

The first time I heard this, it was from someone I looked up to when I was working as an engineer. I asked him what his secret was, as he got people to follow him in a way I hadn’t seen very often. He explained to me it was about being humble and speaking to people and holding yourself in a way that is approachable; just because you are the boss, you don’t need to beat people over the head with it. He equated this quiet confidence, and humble approach, to getting the best out of people. I really appreciated that, as he had a tremendous amount of power but didn’t tout it.

2- Positivity is a mindset. I believe in karma or essentially that we attract things based on what we put into the universe. Having a positive outlook on life makes it natural to be kinder to people and I think being kind to people can lead to ultimately better and more enjoyable outcomes in life. This is something I practice every second of every day.

3- “To know, is to know that you know nothing.” -Socrates

I didn’t enjoy English class. This is something I picked up after moving on from school in recent years after changing careers and finding success in a new industry. This idea meant something to me when people began asking me how I did something or when I was asked to give business advice. My natural response is to start by disclaiming that I know nothing but would be happy to share my own personal experience.

4- “Don’t cut corners.” I know it’s overly simple. In college I took a landscape architecture class. One day in class, the professor talked about cutting corners in way I had never thought about before. I take cutting corners very literal now walking down sidewalks or pathways properly instead of cutting through the grass or landscaping to get to where I want to go.

5- “It takes a village.” Whether it’s been raising my son or growing Proud Source, I’ve learned that it cannot be done alone. I often celebrate the village I am part of and make sure they understand how much I appreciate them allowing me in.

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

We are going to take things further — the goal at Proud Source has always been to do things for the right reasons, no matter if they are easy or hard to do. After nearly 5 years of operating out of Mackay location we recently expanded to include a second spring bottling facility located within the Appalachola Forest in Florida. The expansion allows us to offer a high-quality spring water product throughout the U.S. without having to ship long distances. It’s a win for the planet and has given us the opportunity to create positive impact within another small rural community here in the U.S.

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

“Making a profit is not the goal because the Zen master would say profits happen ‘when you do everything else right’.”- Yvon Chouinard

I read the book “Let My People Go Surfing” when I was putting together the business plan for Proud Source in early 2016. The book is full of wonderful ideas but this one might be my favorite due to its simplicity and the disruptive nature. His words felt familiar and really resonated. We wanted to create a business that was focused on doing things the right way with our earliest aspirations to create positive impact on the people in our small community.

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

The one that always comes to mind is to “walk with a purpose.” I received this lesson early in my career — when I first stepped foot on my college campus. My father shared it with me; at that age, I was walking slow as many do with not much drive. He reminded me that if you’re going to do something, be committed and give 100% of yourself. If you’re not, don’t do it.

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

The first step is to join us in our mission of reducing single use plastic and please recycle. Small changes can lead to big impact. Secondly, I would encourage people to think differently about recycling. I think the saying goes “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”

How can our readers follow you online?

For more information, visit www.proudsourcewater.com, or our social media channels (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, LinkedIn and YouTube).

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


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

Making Something From Nothing: Mia Monzidelis Of Power Pony On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Every challenge you face is an opportunity to make the product and brand more meaningful.

As a part of our series called “Making Something From Nothing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mia Monzidelis. Mia Monzidelis Founder and Inventor (11 years old) started making Power Pony when she was five years old. A horse enthusiast, this young lady always wants to ride a horse, so she invented one that she could ride anytime! Imagined by Kids for Kids and built to ride like a real horse. A handcrafted Power Pony is powered by a patent pending ZüME engine. It is iOS connected, fully interactive, and guaranteed to provide fun, smiles and laughter on many exciting riding adventures.

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

My name is Mia Monzidelis and I am the inventor and founder of Power Pony. I am 11 years old and in fifth grade. I live in Long Island, New York. When I was four years old, I begged my dad to let me begin riding horses. He took me to my first lesson and I was so happy. I have been riding ever since. I LOVVVVE horses and ever since I was a little kid, I have wanted to own a horse. Living where I do, I can’t own one because mom and dad said we don’t have the space. I never gave up on my dream, so I came up with a solution, the Power Pony, which rides like a real horse that I can ride anywhere, anytime.

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

I’m a little young to have a life lesson quote, but now I always say, “Never underestimate a kid.” I know that many inventions start with an imagination, a passion, and a dream. I believe that you should keep your creativity alive no matter how old you are. If you have something that you want or something that you believe in, you should try your hardest to make it happen and don’t be afraid to fail.

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

A book that helped inspire me is called “What Do You Do With An Idea.” I received this book when I was a very little girl. It’s the story of an idea and the child who helps to bring the concept into the world. The story helps to inspire an idea and let the idea grow and then see what happens. I loved this story because I am a child who had an idea and I worked on that idea and have watched it grow into an actual reality! Now it’s out in the market and many kids are having so much joy using Power Pony. It has been super fun and very successful.

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

Like myself, I knew that a lot of kids like to ride horses, but it’s not always possible. I wanted a horse to ride whenever I possibly could. The products out there didn’t excite me, so I took my “want” and made my own. Lucky for me, my dad was blown away by my idea, and thanks to him, we were able to take what I imagined and make it come to life. My advice is if you really want to do something, don’t let anything or anyone stop you. Turning my dream into reality took a lot of time, hard work, research, and many failures to get it right. Failure was an opportunity for me to learn and help make it better. We tested many samples and at times it was frustrating, but we kept going until we got it perfect — I never gave up. I wanted the product to be great and the entire team spent so much time working on the Power Pony to make that happen. Being patient and finding solutions were sometimes tough. Even though I am a kid, it is possible to imagine something and bring it to life with a great team’s help, belief, and determination.

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

My dad always said to me, it’s not just the idea, it’s our application that will set us apart. Ride-on horses have been around for a long time, but NONE of them do what the Power Pony does. The first thing we did together was look at and review anything we could find in the market to understand what we had to make ours more unique and much better than anything else out there. We worked very closely with our design team and our patent attorney to make sure that what we imagined in the Power Pony was unique and could be patented. My recommendation is that no matter what you find, if you really want to do it, you should because how you do it will set you apart. Our brand statement is “imagined by kids for kids” and one day, I would like to help other kids bring their ideas to life as my dad did with me.

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

Imagination, a need, a want, a passion all lead to an idea.

Go Exploring

● Identify the problem — is what I am looking for or want available? For me, what I wanted and envisioned didn’t exist — we knew the Power Pony could be the solution.

● Consult a design firm to sketch the idea and create drawings, come up with ideas for materials.

● Create a proof of concept in a prototype to make sure what is imagined works.

● Research and meet with various manufacturers to choose the right ones.

Do the Research — A good attorney will help.

● Trademark searches.

● Patent searches.

● Retain a law firm to apply for patents if applicable.

● Conduct consumer market studies and validation of the product.

Build your brand.

● Decide what you stand for.

● Develop a marketing strategy.

● Graphic design for logos and branding.

● Website development.

Testing.

● Spend appropriate time testing samples, redesigning, and coming up with solutions.

● Alpha product testing — these were the first rideable samples.

● Beta product testing — better and improved but not final.

● Final production field testing.

Building the Team

● Marketing team.

● PR.

● Social Media.

● Photographers.

● Videographers.

● Operations and finance.

Obtain Licenses & Certifications.

● Find out about what business you plan to be in and make sure you are applicable to each country’s laws for safety.

Shipping, Storage & Delivery.

● Retain a shipping company to get the product into containers and shipped ● Contract trucking to get the product to warehouses for storage and, ultimately, shipping to customers.

We are currently not selling in any retail stores. My product is only sold on our website, powerpony.com.

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

● Be patient because the process takes a long time — it takes a lot of time, energy, and patience to get it right — for Power Pony, we started planning in the Fall of 2017. Everything that we needed to do to get it ready for launch, all during Covid, was A LOT. It took about three years to get the product done and ready for launch.

● Every challenge you face is an opportunity to make the product and brand more meaningful.

● Pick your partners wisely — when we first began the planning phase, we partnered with team members we thought shared the same excitement as us, and who were aligned well with our goals. Along the way, this changed, and we made some decisions to find and partner with the right people. Having the right team is critical for success — we now have that team!

● Videos are very impactful, and boy, do I do A LOT of videos — in getting ready to launch, I filmed a few videos that shared my story and that we thought would be helpful for our consumers. We learned that many consumers weren’t reading our manual and our instructions, so we decided to make it easy for them and create videos instead — check them out on powerpony.com. I have been making fun videos since I’m four, so this is a breeze for me!

● Every failed sample brings learning and, ultimately, success — as various versions of samples arrived and we continued to test them, we found things that we needed to enhance. We wanted to make it better, perfect. The testing allowed us to do just that. In addition, we have made cosmetic enhancements along the way that more clearly align with our “imagined by kids for kids” branding.

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

Identify if their product is a “need” or a “want” and who their consumers will be. Research to see what else is out there. If there are similar products, understand how they can make their idea different, better, and stand out. Ride-on horses and unicorns existed when I came up with my idea, but nothing rideable with a powered engine, which is what I created.

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

I believe that if you have an idea and you think it will spark interest in others to purchase it because either it doesn’t currently exist or maybe you can create something better, just go for it. You will need help from people you can trust and people who have expertise. If you need to hire a consultant, they should sign an agreement of confidence and if they believe in your product as much as you do, maybe that will be easy, but please pick your partners wisely and make sure that your best interests and your idea’s best interest are being looked after. Nobody can replace what you bring to the table, so don’t simply rely on experts.

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

First, you need to understand how much money it will cost to make your idea come to life, and my dad was super helpful in teaching me about that. Once you know that, BOOTSTRAP as long as you can. Prove everybody wrong, and prove to the people that believe in your idea that they were right. At some point, you may need to raise funds, and that’s OK, but getting past many of the first hurdles like trademarks, design, and working samples will make your idea more valuable quickly. I would suggest a friend and family round first, when and if you need the funds. If you believe in what you are doing, it will be so worth it.

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

I learned about the importance of being charitable and giving back at a very young age, and I know it means a lot to others to be able to help them. Since starting Power Pony, I have partnered with the Family and Children’s Association to donate some of my profits to help the many people their organization supports. Not only did I make my own donation, but I also created a video message to help bring in other donations during their year-end appeal in December 2021.

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

I am currently partnering with an organization that provides services to children and families within my community. If I could inspire a movement, it would be to encourage all capable people within all communities to support organizations such as this — providing shelter for those in need, including runaways and people living in homes where they are abused; healthcare support for those in need of wellness and mental disabilities, etc. Helping and supporting our communities is important to me and should be for everyone.

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

I would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with Aaron Judge from the New York Yankees. I wish to meet with Aaron because he is my favorite player on my favorite baseball team. I mainly want to meet with him because he started an organization, the “All Rise Foundation,” that inspires children and youth to become responsible citizens. I would love to hear more about this, especially how and why he started this foundation and everything he is doing with it.

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


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

Making Something From Nothing: Beni Gradwohl Of Cognovi Labs On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Surround yourself with people you can trust to help guide you through the ups and downs of getting your company off the ground.

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

Beni Gradwohl is Co-Founder and CEO of Cognovi Labs, Inc., an artificial intelligence (AI) company that focuses on measuring the emotional drivers behind human decision-making. Cognovi’s award-winning psychology-driven AI helps clients in the commercial, health and public sectors reveal how audiences are feeling in the moment, predict their action and intent, and then communicate with the emotions to maximize impact.

Beni has been on a journey to understand how people act and find a systematic way to measure our decision-making for more than 20 years. He is recognized as an executive who combines a deep understanding of new advances in machine learning, alternative data and commercial opportunities to create new businesses and grow existing revenue sources. Throughout his career, from investment management and institutional securities to consumer banking and fintech innovation, he has delivered outsized returns for his clients and institutions.

Beni previously held senior leadership positions at Citi, Morgan Stanley and various investment management firms. An astrophysicist by training, he spent the first decade of his professional career in academia and research, studying astrophysics, cosmology, particle physics, and magnetic resonance. He has held research and teaching assignments at multiple leading academic institutions, including University of California, Columbia Business School, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, University of Chicago, Weizmann Institute of Science and The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Featured in Inc., Forbes and the Financial Times, Beni is frequently invited to speak on topics at the intersection of AI and behavioral psychology, the role of emotions in human decision-making, and how to engage emotionally to drive a better outcome. Beni received his Ph.D. in Physics from The Hebrew University.

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

My road to entrepreneurship does not follow a straight path. From a young age, I was interested in the sciences. My career began in academia focusing on astrophysics and cosmology. As a researcher, I believed the world revolved around analytics and data. This perspective fueled my transition to finance. I worked at investment management firms before making my way to Morgan Stanley and Citi, where I held executive roles.

While each of these experiences shaped who I am today, it was a class at Harvard Business School on behavioral economics and behavioral finance that disrupted how I viewed the world. The class opened my eyes to the impact of human emotion on decision-making processes, challenging my beliefs about relying exclusively on hard data. I came to understand that the majority of people’s decisions are made by the subconscious mind and driven by emotions. For 20+ years, I’ve focused on answering the question “how can we quantify that decision-making process?” It’s this question that led me to Cognovi Labs. Today, we apply artificial intelligence (AI) and behavioral psychology to capture, measure and deliver actionable insights on how emotions drive decisions and future actions.

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

There is an old Latin proverb that says “per aspera ad astra,” meaning “a stony path leads to the stars.” The proverb had such great meaning for me that it was the opening phrase of the thesis paper for my Ph.D. in physics.

There are very few things in life or in business that are easy. This old proverb reminds us that although the path to our goals may get rough, we can face the challenge head-on and keep moving forward. Reaching your aspirations — your stars — is rarely a smooth venture

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

As an avid reader, this is a difficult question to answer. There are so many books that have left a mark on me. I read books from many genres — from mathematics, psychology, neurology, and behavioral science to historical accounts and academic compilations.

Two authors who have influenced my thinking on human behavior are Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. Their work sets forth the notion that human beings are not as rational as we think we are. In fact, we are full of cognitive biases. And emotions are intertwined with these biases. I am passionate about reading and learning.

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

The key to any business is problem-solving. Take the founding of Uber, for example — a couple of friends having a hard time getting a taxi. That experience inspired the founding of a company that took in $17.5B in revenue last year alone.

At Cognovi Labs, we are focused on solving a global problem. How can we better understand and quantify human behavior? Our technology and research can help save lives (for example, by encouraging patients to take their medication); allow government leaders to communicate their message more effectively to constituents (for example, why it’s important to take the Covid or flu vaccine); help marketers better connect with their consumers; and ultimately, change the way that human beings interact with one another.

Being successful in the startup world is not about who has the latest and greatest idea, it is about taking that problem or idea and problem-solving it. This doesn’t mean having all the answers up front. But you will need to break the problem down to its elementary level. These stepping stones will form the path needed for greater impact.

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

An original idea isn’t the measure of success. In fact, when founding a business or creating a technology, it is helpful to be the second because it means someone has already done the work of convincing the industry of the market’s need. Understanding and respecting the impact of your predecessors, and building from that point, is often as productive (or inventive) as being a trailblazer.

Having said that, if you have an original idea and are passionate about it, go for it. In my case with Cognovi, I developed and internalized the idea of better quantifying human behavior for many years, something which is still at the leading-edge of development.

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

The process always begins with the customer and identifying the problem that you are trying to solve. There are several key questions to ask yourself in the journey, including: What is the problem? Why are you solving it? How can you measure the success of it? At the end of the day, regardless of the idea, gaining traction is key, and that cannot be achieved while sitting on the sidelines and telling yourself that you have the best idea. Identifying the problem and then putting yourself in your potential customers’ shoes is essential.

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

  1. Find yourself a mentor early on.

Surround yourself with people you can trust to help guide you through the ups and downs of getting your company off the ground.

2. Success at a startup looks much different than in the corporate world.

Success in the startup world cannot be achieved in the same way as in the corporate world. Remember that, while some tools and competencies carry over, they are not all as relevant. You will need to develop different skills. Learning the differences and mastering this delta is key.

3. Being the CEO of a startup doesn’t have to be a lonely job.

Very early on in my first round of raising capital, a successful entrepreneur told me that being the CEO can be the loneliest job, but it doesn’t have to be. Surrounding yourself with a network, whether they be advisors, mentors, or VCs, can help create an incredible sounding board and will lead to greater success down the line. I am fortunate to have found some incredible partners and advisors.

4. Venture Capitalists can offer a great support system.

Every founder is faced with the same question when considering funding: angel investors or VCs? While both provide fantastic benefits, I’ve found VCs can offer an indispensable support system that includes hiring introductions, client engagements, business advice and more.

5. Don’t raise capital incrementally.

Many first-time founders may fall into the trap of raising capital incrementally. My suggestion is — don’t. Raising a bit of funding early on and proving a market need for your concept is crucial, then go back and raise a larger amount of funding after getting your business off the ground.

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

The first step is to create a minimum viable product (MVP). Give it away to see if it gains traction. At Cognovi, we first started with political clients, helping to predict outcomes around politicians’ messaging and anticipate the impact on the opinion of their electorate. After we gave our product to a hedge fund for free and saw how useful it was in predicting Brexit, we knew the technology had potential. Since then, we’ve expanded to other industries and business applications.

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

I personally did not work with an invention development consultant; however, it is important to focus on surrounding yourself with a supportive, knowledgeable and experienced network. If you are founding a business, you might find this support in diverse types of advisors.

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

It depends on the product that you are bringing to market and whether or not you have the money to bootstrap your business. If you can bootstrap until you find your product-market fit, this can be a solid approach, but that isn’t always possible. This decision has to do with your business, but it can be highly individual depending on where you are in life as a founder and your financial situation. Ask yourself: are you able to take time away from making money to build your product? Are you fresh out of college and able to live rent-free for some time?

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

At Cognovi, we are focused on using technology for good. One critical area is the healthcare sector. Let’s look at medication adherence as an example. Six out of ten patients with chronic illness do not take the medicines prescribed by their doctors. Tragically, more than 125,000 Americans lose their lives each year as a result. With Cognovi’s tools, we can help pharmaceutical companies understand patients’ emotional barriers to filling (and adhering to!) prescriptions, and shape company communications and marketing to emotionally connect with patients and facilitate a different outcome.

This work is, quite literally, saving lives.

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

The world needs more emotional intelligence and empathy. Not everyone possesses great emotional intelligence, but we can all work towards it. This would change the way businesses interact in contracts, or the very terms of those contracts. It would change the relationships between businesses and consumers and human beings in everyday life.

Working to bring technology to the world that can help augment human emotions and give guidance to us as humans can be crucial for improved interactions. I believe that higher emotional intelligence can truly alter society for the better. This drives the work that we are doing at Cognovi to help quantify and measure emotions to understand and support human connection.

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

There are so many people I would love to have lunch with! But I have to go with Albert Einstein. It would be a dream to learn firsthand what made him an incredible scientist and human being.

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

Thank you!


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

Makers of The Metaverse: Sandra Helou Of Zilliqa On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality…

Makers of The Metaverse: Sandra Helou Of Zilliqa On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

“Understand the key aspects of strategy. You cannot enter it thinking you just have a great idea. You must have a strategy to back it up.

The Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality & Mixed Reality Industries are so exciting. What is coming around the corner? How will these improve our lives? What are the concerns we should keep an eye out for? Aside from entertainment, how can VR or AR help work or other parts of life? To address this, we had the pleasure of interviewing Sandra Helou.

Sandra Helou, the Head of Metaverse & NFTs at Zilliqa and Co-Founder at Metapolis, has in-depth knowledge and a multidisciplinary background spanning traditional and digital industries. Sandra leads Zilliqa’s NFT and Metaverse projects across growth, partnerships, strategy, marketing, and conceptualization and her global experience across Australia, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East enables her to deliver on both strategy and execution levels. A Futurist and action leader at heart, Sandra is committed to enriching and innovating the creator economy, Web3, and MetaFi / NFT space.

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

“I was born and raised in Melbourne, Australia my parents had left Lebanon during the civil war which meant that culturally I had the advantage of belonging to both the East and the West being multilingual. My first degree is in International Business and Law however my true love for advertising took over and I moved on to my second degree in Advertising and Marketing with a sub-major in psychology & graphic design. I grew up using mIRC and being between that digital transformation that was taking over, I don’t know if anyone remembers the social platform Hi5 (haha) — I’m a self-taught coder. I developed an application because I couldn’t find one that did what I wanted on the app store. I am lucky to be multidisciplinary and have had a pretty interesting and exciting career with the companies & projects I’ve worked with and the clients I have had. I love the art world and connecting people together for collaborations, I have also worked as an artist agent and representative for emerging and recognized artists within the art world. Fun Fact — I don’t have the Aussie accent.”

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

“I was obsessed with David Ogilvy and his approach to advertising and that was what led me towards my career. I would also say that Paul Ardens “Its not how good you are, its how good you want to be” was a great read aswell, The teachings of the Bauhaus and recently Mo Gawdats interview on “Diary of a CEO” presented by Steven Barttlet, The concept of minimalism and simplicity paired with the understanding of ikigai. I wouldn’t say anything in particular sticks out in specific as the journey of growth both personally and professionally should include multiple significant impacts from a variety of places.”

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

“Being at the forefront of technology and technological advancements in my career it was a clear path towards this industry. Having worked with a number of clients who wanted to be innovators within their industry it meant pushing boundaries and conceptualising projects and campaigns for brands which included new and advanced ways to engage and grow the end user base and build communities around that. I would say the trigger point however was NFCs (the QR codes unsuccessful but extremely important cousin) & Beacons — Wanting to find solutions to mass consumer engagement and community building leading to loyalty. Aside from my own curiosity, I once presented a client who wanted to grow their brand engagement and refurbish their loyalty program with a pitch that included the activation of VR, AR, and QR codes and NFCs to grow the database and bring their brand history and strength to life. At the time, they said it was too early for this kind of technology — it’s interesting to see so many companies trying to implement that strategy now.

I would also say a bit of my own curiosity with the Nintendo Wii and general trajectory of digital knowledge and advancements.”

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

“Every day is interesting! Launching all the new products has to be the most exciting: Metapolis, the metaverse powered by Zilliqa, as well as Rialto, the NFT marketplace bridging the gap between artists and Web3 has been great.

Being at the forefront of building out the next internet is the most interesting aspect of my career. Each day, we are building out Metapolis and the role avatars will play in our digital identity has been an absolute joy.

Zilliqa in itself has seen great growth from when I first joined and its been great being involved in the growth and progress.”

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

“Be careful when you click reply all! Always double-check who the recipients are and who’s on cc.”

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

“At one point in my career, I was supporting a friend with a freelance project, and once I completed it, the person on the other end asked if I wanted to be wired money or Bitcoin. I had come across ‘Bitcoin’ maybe twice and If i see or hear something three times I need to look into deeper. I took a couple of days, downloaded the whitepaper, and then went back to him and responded with ‘Bitcoin’ and it was all changed from that moment.

At every point in your career, you meet people that nudge you in a new direction or offer a new perspective. They can be a small part of your life, but even the smallest of conversations often play a very important role in where you end up. In life, a lot of people impact your career, and while they might not be there for long, it’s the lessons that you learn in that moment of time that really make a difference. Ive been influenced alot by multiple people and that hasnt stopped day in day out.”

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

“We have just launched Metapolis, the first metaverse-as-a-service platform, powered by a leading L1 blockchain, Zilliqa. It provides a data-centric and fully customizable XR experience accessible through web/AR & VR. We have the vision of bridging the gap between the physical and digital worlds through seamless integration and an always-on layer of engagement. Metapolis has its sights set on becoming ‘The Next Internet’ and building a future for interoperability with security and safety at heart.

The Metaverse will support across a multitude of industries and verticals, we can apply it across health and wellness, education, luxury, entertainment, gaming etc and it will be the foundation of engagement and borderless access. I have written some posts on my linkedin profile which dive into more information if you are interested in checking them out.”

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

  1. “Speed of innovation: People are creating amazing new things and we are constantly seeing incredible advancements with our technology.
  2. Avatars as digital identity within the Metaverse.
  3. Bridging the gap between the physical and digital worlds and having IO between cities.”

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

  1. “We need to be aware of the teams that are building the Metaverse and ensure there is the technology knowledge to back it up. That is why I’m comfortable calling Metapolis the next internet because I know the team comes from a very deep tech and strategic background. Being able to differentiate between a gamified world and the next internet is important.
  2. Safety and Security is another concern. Whether that is bullying or grooming within the metaverse, we must find ways to ensure it is a safe and secure place to interact especially if it intends to be more than a gamified world. We must have certain processes in place such as Know-your-customer (KYC) processes or verified authenticity linked to our avatars.
  3. Mental and cardio health. Some people can become very attached to their avatar or the world they become involved in. It can become their sole purpose which can cause a disassociation between who they are in the physical world and who they are in the metaverse. This can also be a positive as it can also impact positively on our health and association through engagement for example people with high levels of anxiety are more comfortable in doing tasks and engaging behind technology etc.”

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

“Before we even enter the work field, the metaverse will improve our education systems. Online universities already exist, but the metaverse will be able to take this one step further. We will be able to open up borderless education which means students will be able to fulfill specific regional curriculum requirements anywhere in the world. Think of exchange students. If we add the layer of a metaverse, it enables more people to get international education and pick up different courses. Taking into consideration the style and approach to learning that varies from individual to individual we can start allowing a whole level of personalization and engagement. This is feasible within the metaverse.

Another way of looking at is as more people move towards remote work the metaverse can add that layer of engagement and incentive to keeping employees engaged and connected.”

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

“VR, AR, and MR open up communication barriers for those that struggle in the physical world, such as individuals on the autism spectrum or managing any of the conditions that affect communication and cognition. The metaverse enables more people to learn and interact with others safely and comfortably using an avatar. If interactions and connections were being made in your ‘safe space’ through an avatar — a digital identity you choose to take on as your own — we could start to see improvement in mood, behavior, and interaction mimicking in the physical world.

The ability to connect our physical identity to our digital Identity through avatars will be the exciting point in entering the metaverse as we would have transitioned from emails, to @names, to avatars. Our avatars can represent us in the metaverse and become the new norm for “in-person” visits such as, government, businesses, application drop-offs etc. This would of course mean that these institutions need to strategize and build metaverse locations and representation. This will be highly beneficial for people with special mobility needs who might find it difficult to get around in the physical world. It’s only a matter of time.”

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

  1. “The metaverse is going to replace the physical world.
  2. NFTs and Blockchain are bad for the environment and in general.
  3. KYC is bad for decentralision.

People are quick to make judgments about blockchain and crypto industries but in reality, this new technology is helping many different industries and cultures. Everyone has a different opinion and it is down to each individual to do their research and decide for themselves. It’s important for people to understand this because although these myths may have come from a few bad seeds, it shouldn’t be a blanket statement to reflect the entire industry. NFTs and crypto have opened the door for a new income stream to a group of individuals who werent able to access regular monetary income or make a solid living from their work — quick example digital artists who are now leading the charge within the creator economy, previously all they had was putting their work on behance or dribble and hoping to get picked up for a freelance project. Countries where paypal and banks are holding back communities, crypto has allowed them to have financial freedom and be control of their future. In regards to KYC, decentralization can exist with accountability — lets better understand what “doxxing” really is.”

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

  • “Understand the key aspects of strategy. You cannot enter it thinking you just have a great idea. You must have a strategy to back it up.
  • Focus on community building. Community is the key driver to engagement and growth.
  • Associate yourself with a blockchain layer that aligns with your needs and can support you. For example, Zilliqa is going carbon neutral and focused on the creator economy through NFTs and Metaverse, so it aligns perfectly with my goals and what’s important to me.
  • Understand the core skills necessary for your field. If you are entering as a designer and want to create assets for the Metaverse learn Blender and Maya. From a developer perspective, understand Unity and Unreal’s role in the metaverse, webgl and all the applications that come with knowing the space and its future functionality.”

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

“I would definitely want to inspire people to look beyond the now and into the future of what the metaverse and NFTs can bring — Borderless education, health and wellness, etc.

Largely though, I would want to inspire those who are either looking at entering the space or still learning to just do it. Alot of people hold dear what they know and what they are used too because change can be difficult. But if you are questioning it, now is the perfect time to make that leap and explore your options. And definitely always do your own research!”

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

“In all honesty, it would be my grandfather who passed away before he could see the journey I have been on. He really believed in me and we would have conversations about this future that is now being built. While I respect everyone prominent in their field, I would like to have one last lunch with Antoine H.”

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


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

Ryan Stewman Of Hardcore Closer On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

You want to be yourself. If there’s one compliment, I don’t know if it’s a compliment or an insult at this point, but if there’s one thing that people always say to me, they say, I like you Ryan, cuz you’re just you.

At some point in our lives, many of us will have to give a talk to a large group of people. What does it take to be a highly effective public speaker? How can you improve your public speaking skills? How can you overcome a fear of speaking in public? What does it take to give a very interesting and engaging public talk? In this interview series called “5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker” we are talking to successful and effective public speakers to share insights and stories from their experience. As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Ryan Stewman.

Ryan Stewman is a best selling author, CEO of Phonesites.com, Founder of Apex, full time investor, and consultant to millionaires, professional athletes, and celebrities across the globe. He’s been featured in Forbes, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, The Street.com, The Good Men Project, CNBC and pretty much every other major business publication out there. He’s mastered the mindset it takes to win no matter what forces come against you. Ryan rewires minds and changes lives. Give him the chance, he will change yours too.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

People who know me well, know I had one helluva upbringing and early life. To some, the horrors of adoption, prison, drug addiction, and divorce are unfathomable. To me, they were just a part of growing up and doing this thing we call life.

I don’t talk about my childhood much, however, lessons that come from pain have the biggest impact and give us a sense of wisdom you can’t get from a book or watching a video so I’m willing to share mine.

I can pinpoint the trigger where my life changed. I was five years old. It was my very first day of school. I was so happy to get there and meet new friends. The very first day of school in my life I saw a kid making fun of another kid in the lunch room.

That kid’s name was Charles. I went up to Charles and dumped my tray on him and pushed him. My aunt, who was the principal, took me to her office and paddled me 3Xs. Charles never got in trouble and the kid I took up for never said thanks.

It was at that moment I learned 2 lessons.

1: I hated school.

2: No matter what I did I was always the bad guy.

I was adopted 2 years later and my life got more complicated with a new name and all. So the story and my hatred for school only got worse. ​​I had a painful childhood and I’ve spent my adult life using that childhood pain as fuel and energy to achieve anything I want. The way I see it now, the fact that I went through brutal pain as a kid, makes me fearless as an adult.

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

When I was a teenager, I would drive down the Dallas North Tollway and stare at all of the fancy skyscrapers with Ferraris parked out front.

I kept saying, “One day… that’s going to be me.”

I couldn’t help but wonder, “What in the world did those people do that my parents didn’t do, that everyone in my part of town didn’t do? What were those people doing that I wasn’t doing, that I needed to do?”

I couldn’t stop asking myself these questions. The endless curiosity eventually made me take action.

I started going to seminars, listening to audiobooks, taking different classes, online courses, etc. I did everything I could to rewire my brain for success.

One day in particular I was riding in the back of a friend’s S10 pickup truck, hauling it down the Dallas North Tollway. My friends were going to buy some beer and I was going to buy some smoke, planning on having a good time.

I remember looking at those skyscrapers thinking, “What are the people in those buildings doing differently than what we’re doing right now?”

The awakening was powerful, “One day, I’m going to leave these people behind.” I knew I didn’t have much of a choice at the moment. I knew I was surrounded by these people, stuck in the back of a truck that I couldn’t jump out of.

That didn’t matter. I knew that I was going to be in one of those buildings. I knew it was going to be my Ferrari parked out front. And it wasn’t going to come from slacking off.

It was going to come from hard work and effort. I made the decision that I was going to become the person I always wanted to be. It was a rough path though.

I’ve had two penitentiary terms, been divorced three times, and beat a crippling drug addiction. The pain, shame, and regret were tortuous. However, I work in one of those buildings now. I own exotic cars. I am one of those people, it happened.

What did I do differently to get here? I saw that my friends and I were solely taking, never giving. The main thing that got me to where I am today was my shift of perspective, letting my focus go from taking to giving.

When I approach sales, business, or life, my outlook is to give 100X more than anyone could ever take away from me. I approach business relationships intending to give more value than they will ever be able to give me. That is the difference.

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

That would have to be when I discovered the Force of Average (FOA). You see, we have been coded on this planet to have an average lifestyle. So anytime you’re about to break through that average lifestyle the struggle (FOA) is waiting around the corner to stand in the way of your success. Not only have I discovered the Force of Average, I have found what I consider to be the weapon that must be wielded against it: Focus.

The truth is I wake up each day knowing that I’m going to face struggles, not a day goes by that somethings not going to throw you a curveball, that’s the way this planet is coded. By discovering this, I’ve learned to walk towards those struggles and take them head on to succeed in life. I wouldn’t have known this, had I not discovered it and it’s the most interesting thing that I’ve ever had happen to me in my career.

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

When I was doing a mastermind with Fredrik Eklund all the fanboy clients rushed in the elevator with him and caused him to get stuck in the elevator. The NYC fire dept had to come fix the elevator and rescue everyone. I learned to have control of the crowd and security that day.

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

In 2010, I lived in a neighborhood directly across from a trailer park. The house was 1,700 square feet and reeked of cigarettes. I had been let go from my mortgage job, due to being unable to renew my license. I was unemployable and unready for the journey I was about to embark on.

On this particular day, I went to lunch with an old friend of mine. We met at the Genghis Grill in Frisco, Texas. When my friend sat down, he was beaming. My homie is a natural energy producer, but he was really on fire for this meeting.

“Ryan…man I’m telling you… The Internet is like the Wild Wild West. You can go into saloons and walk out with all the cash you want.”

What he said appealed to me so I questioned him more and more. He went on to jaw about funnels, continuity and costs per click. At the time, this stuff was Greek to me. I had no clue what in the hell he kept spewing. His vibe was contagious though. I was definitely intrigued.

After we finished our meals, I followed him out to his Hummer 2 and he handed me some CD-ROMs. He told me he’d paid $8,000 for the CDs, and that I had to return them when I was done. At first, I asked him what in the hell he was thinking, spending eight grand on CDs.

He said they were worth a million.

I was hooked! Eight thousand dollars, and I got it for free. I just had to get the CDs back to him in a few days.

After I returned to my house, I put the first CD in my drive. I watched the video and it spelled out the basics of how Internet marketing worked. I must’ve watched the entire CD set like a normal person would binge watch Netflix.

Flash forward two days: my first website and product were already up. While most people wait to take action, I just put something together. Next, I launched an ad on Google and boom! Sales rolled in. It was nuts. I doubled down on the ad spend and lost every dollar I had made.

Not only did I lose the initial ad spend I’d invested, I lost the profit I had made, too. Lesson learned. The only thing that mattered, was that I knew earning an income in this way was possible. If it worked once, it WILL work again, I told myself. I just needed to get back to the drawing board. And that’s exactly what I did.

A few weeks later, I launched a course that taught loan officers how to get leads from real estate agents. Slowly but surely, I sold the product, one-by-one. It was all done right from the extra bedroom in my house across the street from the trailer park.

In 2012, I moved to a nice home in a nice neighborhood, thanks to Internet marketing. Again, I put my desk in the extra bedroom and kept at it like a rapper in the lab working on beats. By the time 2014 rolled around, I had officially taken in seven figures in gross sales. All from products made from the extra bedroom.

You have been blessed with great success in a career path that can be challenging and intimidating. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?

The answer is simple: practice. I’ve recorded over 2000 videos. I’ve been on over 1000 podcasts. I’ve spoken on hundreds of stages. The first video of mine is still up on youtube. It’s terrible.

My first podcast episode is on iTunes, it’s horrible. My first time on stage I didn’t sell anything and the people who let me speak asked me not to come back (true story). But I kept practicing and doing it despite the rejection.

Today I have a consistent top 50 podcast, millions of views on youtube and I’ve spoken on stages with legends. I worked on improving until I leveled up. Stay focused, practice your craft, and refine your talent.

What drives you to get up everyday and give your talks? What is the main empowering message that you aim to share with the world?

My goal is to help reach and impact the lives of over 300,000,000 people across the globe. In order to do that, I must stay motivated to reach that goal. At the same time, that goal motivates me to get up each day, keep pulling from my reserve account and working on.

It motivates me to think of changing that many lives. Another motivation of mine is to leave a legacy for my children. When I pass away I want to leave a legacy that says I beat the odds.

My kids will take the ball from me and run up the score. My job is to teach them how to properly play the game, so they don’t get a flag thrown.

Every day I wake up and make sacrifices for my family. They are the reason I do what I do. I’m gonna give them the head start that most of us never got. I’m gonna leave them the money most of us wished we had.

I’m gonna show the love all of us wanted from our parents.

My mission stopped being just about money years ago. It’s what that money can do for those I’ll leave behind, that motivates me now!

You have such impressive work. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Where do you see yourself heading from here?

My most exciting project would have to be my Apex program. With that program, I’ve been able to help thousands of individuals become the most elite version of themselves. Let me explain:

One of the guys the program helped is from the southern part of the east coast. Before he joined Apex he was making $60k a year. He’s been with us for about 2 years now and now earns 6 figures monthly. In two years, following our program and advice, he now earns in a week what used to take him a year.

Another is this hard nose dude who lives in the land of Oz (Aus). We helped him set up a business selling to Americans. He’s making 7 figures a month now and has helped close over a billion in roofing deals.

I could go on but you get the point.

Here’s the best part though. These dudes have better lives. Not because of the money, but because they have lost weight, leveled their marriage up, and are celebrities in their own market.

They represent what winning looks like at all times and it shows. With the Apex program, we get you in, tune you up, supercharge your life and drop you on the track to success.

Currently, I help thousands of Entrepreneurs and in the coming years I can see that heading into the hundreds of thousands. Since my mission in life is to help others, I never plan on stopping this project or slowing it down.

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

Ramps Over Roadblocks

As you travel down the path of life, the Force of Average will throw you roadblocks. For most people, roadblocks stop them dead in their tracks or force them to turn around (retreat)

Let’s say you get in a relationship with someone you really like, they like you too. Then you go out drinking together and get in a fight; that’s a roadblock.

Let’s say you start a new business and unexpected bills pop up; that’s a roadblock.

Roadblocks stop ambition, drive, relationships and dreams. I’ve had more than my fair share of roadblocks in life, BIG ONES, and I got tired of running into them or turning around. So I figured out a better way.

Ramps over roadblocks.

I can’t run through a roadblock but if I put a ramp over it, I can avoid it stopping me all together. If I’m PREPARED to build ramps along the way, it’s better than turning around. Ramps take time to build, but they keep you going down the path.

Roadblocks stop you dead in your tracks. The key is to be prepared. Preparation comes from taking action and learning lessons.

Ok, thank you for all that. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker?” Please share a story or example for each.

It’s been my personal experience that as long as you hit just a couple key points when speaking you’ll become a good speaker, have a good stage presence, and be somebody that folks wanna watch.

Number one, you want to be yourself. If there’s one compliment, I don’t know if it’s a compliment or an insult at this point, but if there’s one thing that people always say to me, they say, I like you Ryan, cuz you’re just you.

You know, I had to have a conversation with a close friend and potential business partner the other day and I had to tell them, “Hey man, you gotta be careful when you get involved with me, cause I’m gonna be me. I know you have a lot of relationships and stuff like that and I don’t want to mess that up for you. So just know up front that I can’t pretend to be anything other than myself.”

I’m not the pretend person. I can’t be fake. I’ve just got to be myself and I think that’s why people watch me and listen to me the way they do. There might be a lot of public speakers out there, but there aren’t any like me.

Number two, you gotta be able to command attention. I usually have a presentation when I speak, because I have it down pat and I know what all it does for the audience.

One of the first things that happens is I have a video I come out to and it goes dark in the room. It talks about how I’ve never had a salary job and after two times in prison I’m a multi-millionaire. People in the audience ain’t used to all that, no matter where I go, cause I’m over the top. So as soon as that happens, they’re like, “This video’s crazy, he’s yelling, screaming and stuff like that.” That video hypes everybody up and as soon as I hit the stage, I make ’em scream after me, I command their attention.

Number three, you gotta blow the audience’s mind. When I’m up there on stage and I’m telling my story about how nine years ago I was sweating inside solitary confinement in a federal prison but now I live in one of the nicest neighborhoods in north Texas with my dream companion and my four children. I go and I tell ’em about how I’m a multi millionaire and have assets. All these things that I go out there and talk to them about is blowing their mind.

At the end of the day, what happens is I’m also blowing their objections away. They can’t say, “Well this won’t work for me.”, because it worked for me. I did it all alone, and it blows people’s minds that you can come from such a subterranean level and climb all the way up to the peak of the mountain.

Number four, you wanna give thanks to the host. I learned from Garrett J White that if you give a good testimonial, they’ll put your name out there. So I’ve always given really good testimonials.

When I took the stage at an event last week there were about 800 people there. I told the crowd, “You know, before we get started, I just wanna thank Mike and Jay. Without them, not only would it be impossible that I’d be on this stage, but it would be impossible that I’d be a millionaire in business doing what I love and building a life, my way and let’s also give a hand for the previous speakers as well.”

I wanna make sure that I give this feedback because the host is there to make money. The host is there to get attention. So it’s our job to make sure that we Edify that form. We want to make them feel like we promoted them, because they’ll feel good about putting us on stage and will want to bring us back again.

Number five, if you’re gonna be good, you have to engage with the crowd. What I do is I like to write offers for people. I’ll ask them what they sell and what objections they receive. When they give me those objections I handle them right there on the spot.

While I’m talking, I have the audience raise their hand with me. I’ll sit there and demand that somebody raise their hand in order to get them engaged. I ask questions that challenge the audience. I make them laugh. I get them in on my inside jokes. So that by the time I’m done talking and making jokes about kangaroos, they feel included. They become part of our culture. They’ll remember me.

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

The number one fear in America is public speaking. We are scared that if we get up in front of people and we take a stance for something that we will be judged. To overcome this fear, you must decide what your worst case scenario is and plan for it to happen. People are paralyzed with fear of the worst case scenario but when you accept the fact that you can lose, but take the actions of a winner, you’ve already won before the victory is awarded. Once you overcome that and you step outside of that fear, you’re able to become fearless. When you get up in front of a room full of people and you are fearless, you command authority and you instantly become the expert.

You are a person of huge influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

My mission is to help as many people as possible become the best version of themselves.

My mission isn’t “to be paid by those who become the most elite version of themselves” my mission is to help as many people as possible do it.

So I work daily to make that happen. For 12 years now I’ve done it. I’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way. I’ve struggled more times than I can count along the way. I’ve had massive setbacks in the process.

But I do the work every day because my mission is greater than money or things. Money and things are a result of me staying focused on my mission day in and day out.

Today I’d ask you to dial in your mission. Not dial it in in relevance to how it helps you fulfill your dreams and goals, but dial it into where you can fulfill your mission.

If you do it right, the mission will lead you to the material things you want. But it won’t happen overnight, it will happen over time.

Your mission determines your position in life. Figure out your mission, work for it and you will have everything you’ve ever dreamed of and then some.

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!

Jay Z

There’s not too many people who like Jay Z more than me. I listen to reasonable doubt like 2 times a week. I remember when Hard Knock Life hit the charts, that song was out of this world. See, I grew up in an era where music was good. Not this techno-mumble stuff you hear all over the clubs today.

Jay Z has been sharing business lessons since his first album. On Reasonable Doubt, he boasts about making six figures. That was 1996. Fast forward 23 years later and he has turned six into 10.

There are a lot of people in the world who have been earning six figures for 21 years, who still only have six figures. So what’s the difference between them and Jay? Jay aligned himself with the right advisors. He didn’t make his money and sit on it.

In my eyes, he’s one of the best businessmen on this planet, and I’d like a chance to learn from him.

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

I am on every social media platform out there. You can go to https://onespotsocial.com/closer and follow me from there. I post different types of content twice daily, so I recommend following me on every one of them.

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


Ryan Stewman Of Hardcore Closer On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Meet The Disruptors: Daniel Satchkov On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

A friend with a great deal of business experience once told me “Don’t be a designer and a programmer”. Those are completely different mindsets and trying to be in both of them is extremely difficult and unproductive.

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

Daniel is an inventor of Bastyon, a decentralized social network modeled after the concept of Bitcoin. He worked and published in the fields of quantitative finance and machine learning. In 2015 he was a winner of the prestigious Peter L. Bernstein award for the best article in the Institutional Investor Journals. He is a winner of the Outstanding Author Award for his work The New Paradigm of Risk Management. Daniel also worked extensively in the area of machine learning, co-authoring important papers. Daniel’s mission in inventing the Bastyon was to ensure that people can govern their own communication without arbitrary censorship from large corporations. Daniel is fascinated by the potential of Bitcoin to help secure human freedom of choice and to disrupt not just finance, but many other quasi-monopolistic industries.

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

Most of my career I worked in financial mathematics, building risk management models for large institutions. I was both a practitioner and a researcher, publishing some scientific studies as well. However, around 2016 I became really concerned about arbitrary corporate censorship in social media. It was obvious to me that this censorship will grow and become a real impediment to society. That is when I wrote the original paper about the idea of Bastyon, at the time it was called Pocketnet.

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

I tried to focus on systemic flaws in traditional social media. Most people pin the blame on this or that personality, but my goal was to analyze the principles behind banning bloggers and constantly changing the rules arbitrarily. I came to the conclusion that the three core problems with Big Tech social media are: 1. The way they are financed, which makes it necessary to recoup huge investments using any means possible, including acquiring any competition 2. The fact that the code is not open sourced, thus nobody could easily create a competitor 3. The fact that computing power is centralized making it easy target for hackers or shutdowns.

Bastyon is built to overcome all these issues. It is built exactly like Bitcoin, a non-corporate, open sourced code with a fully distributed computing architecture. Sometimes in the internet lingo that is called Web 3.0, except to date there are no example of real large Web 3.0 applications. Bastyon is one.

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

There was a series of Murphy’s Law episodes that happened in the first year of devepment of Bastyon, it was initially called Pocketnet. There was only 4 devs and the whole project was in deep beta. But for some reason everything worked smoothly when at least one of the devs was around, however if the off days coincided, there was trouble. One time the devs all went out on different camping trips and there was a major issue with the network. Two of them ended up fixing it by finding some internet on remote kayaking trips in the middle of nowhere. Of course, that was 4 years ago and now the platform is on a completely different levels, every release goes through extensive testing and there are close to 30 devs working on the project. But coding in the midst of wilderness on a kayaking trip must be an unforgettable experience.

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

The biggest inspiration was the paper by Satoshi Nakamoto describing Bitcoin. For the longest time I avoided crypto, because I am averse to speculation and I could not see through the speculation to the core technology. But once I read the paper, everything changed. The hallmark of a genius is when a solution solves not one, but a whole host of major problems, which were not resolved before. Satoshi’s paper did that. Since I was a kid I was inspired by mathematicians, though my formal training is not in math, but in finance. I am also inspired by the programmers who built the dream Bastyon and are still building it with no salary or benefits. In particular, I will mention couple without revealing who they are, they can decide if they want to be public. One is a genius, who combines an amazing analytic mind with appreciation for beauty and arts, his name is Max. You will rarely see a programmer who can both do complex cryptography and create beautiful designs, all in an afternoon of work. The second programmer, Andy, works on the Bastyon node software in C++ and he has amazed me with his growth from the state of a young distracted genius to a wise architect and a leader. Going from having a narrow skill, which is typical in corporate environments, to being able to help design the architecture of something as complex as Bastyon in two or three years is miraculous. Of course, there are many other great developers, but I wanted to mention those two, they inspire me to continue to innovate in Web 3.0 with Bastyon.

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

That is a great question. I believe that the guideline for positive disruption should be that whatever you are building should empower people and make them more self-sufficient. Most innovations in technology nowadays and especially social media, are opposite of that. That is why I call traditional Web 2.0 social media platforms — asocial. They are interested in creating echo chambers, making people think less for themselves, but rather be governed by trends. One scientist recently said that humans are ‘hackable animals’ who have no free will. That is a lie, but to perpetuate this lie, the ‘disruptive’ algorithms try to hack people’s biology through algorithms to make them more dependent. In Bastyon, for example, there are no closed groups. At some point everyone has to come in contact with opposing view points. If you don’t see different view points, you develop mind atrophy and then you are dependent and you can indeed become a ‘hackable animal’.

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

A friend with a great deal of business experience once told me “Don’t be a designer and a programmer”. Those are completely different mindsets and trying to be in both of them is extremely difficult and unproductive.

I have a tendency to want to understand and study anything that I work with. It is not enough for me to use formulas and algorithms, I need to understand and be able to apply them. With an incredibly complex project like Bastyon, I had to unlearn that some degree. I am not a programmer, rather I program only for research and testing purposes when I design architectures. But with Bastyon I wanted to get into programming more heavily, which took a tool on me. Serious programming is a a very intense endeavor and trying to be a programmer, while being a designer of the system is health threatening. So I learned to step back and trust developers and more importantly to help them grow.

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

Almost 30 developers are working on Bastyon. My role is to research the new functions and verify them from a statistical point of view, that they can work. There are lots of new features, but the crowning jewel will be the completed jury moderation system on Bastyon. There can be no decent social network without some censorship. Things like pornography, child exploitation, threats and illegal narcotics are not allowed on Bastyon, but there is no central authority to moderate. Content is moderated by users who have gained reputation in the system. The jury system will ensure that such users can never band together to banish a certain viewpoint or a personality. When each block in the blockchain is created, a jury of peers is called if there are any complaints about content. This jury has to vote unanimously, but even more importantly, its members are chosen randomly. So you cannot choose to moderate someone, you will be chosen. For Bastyon I designed a jury system that overcomes a very important flaw of any blockchain jury systems. In a typical blockchain jury system, the jurors are chosen for each case, but their identities on the blockchain (pseudonyms, if you will) are know before they cast their vote. This creates possibilities for pressure. In the Bastyon jury of peers the jurors can determine whether they can be a part of a certain jury. But nobody besides jurors themselves can know that before they cast their vote. Once they cast the vote on the blockchain, then they also produce a number that proves their right to vote on this particular jury. This protection is quite important and overall Bastyon’s jury of peers will solve the remaining problems in running a decentralized social network.

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

The book called Platform Revolution: How Networked Markets Are Transforming the Economy―and How to Make Them Work for You was important in my thinking and in understanding the problems of current platforms. An article by Chris Dixon called Why Decentralization Matters (https://onezero.medium.com/why-decentralization-matters-5e3f79f7638e) helped me crystalize thinking on the subject.

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

My favorite quote is from St. Paul: “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain”.

To me that symbolizes it means that whatever you do in life must have a higher goal and so there is no room for half measures, one must go all out!

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

Very simple. If you have a talent, do not waste it trying to get ahead in the corporate world. It is mostly a soul-sucking pursuit that gives no happiness or meaning. Instead look to work on projects that empower people, make them more responsible and less reliant on the Big Brother. If you are a developer, join the core group of Bastyon developers. There are 28 people now from many different countries. You cannot change the world for the better, if you don’t follow your dream.

How can our readers follow you online?

I only have an account on Bastyon, you can join and follow me here:

https://bastyon.com/daniel_satchkov

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


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

Makers of The Metaverse: Jonathan MacDonald Of Minima On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality…

Makers of The Metaverse: Jonathan MacDonald Of Minima On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Don’t follow the herd — comparison is such an evil power. This is why modern social media is corrupting our emotions and driving people into depression. In business, and for this context, modern technology, it’s tempting to follow what a popular platform is doing…but they don’t necessarily know more than you do about your dreams and ambitions. You’re the boss. Not them.

The Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality & Mixed Reality Industries are so exciting. What is coming around the corner? How will these improve our lives? What are the concerns we should keep an eye out for? Aside from entertainment, how can VR or AR help work or other parts of life? To address this, we had the pleasure of interviewing Jonathan MacDonald.

Jonathan MacDonald is an award-winning, bestselling author and one of the most in-demand experts in the world on the topics of change, digital transformation, mindset, innovation, strategy and the future. He is also the Chief Marketing Officer at Minima, an ultra-lean cooperative blockchain network that fits on a mobile or IoT device, allowing every user to freely connect and run a full constructing and validating node. Part of the original cryptography groups prior to Bitcoin, Jonathan is a thought-leader in the blockchain space.

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

Given up at birth and adopted by entrepreneurs who, after grafting for years, finally made it. That work ethic became my default understanding of how you make things work. Then the internet became wider used and ever since the first online chat rooms, a decade before the web as we know it, I’ve been involved in discussions related to human rights, specifically freedom and privacy. As the 90s evolved, I became more active in this area and wrote my first book at the end of that decade. Around the same time, The Cluetrain Manifesto was published, and a group of enthusiasts started meeting and mapping out what a more free and fair world would look like if humans were more empowered. I grew up around cutting-edge technology as if it was normal. I tended to get involved in companies just before they became huge — mainly by accident — but partly because I seem to see opportunities before other people, which can be a blessing and a curse in equal measure. Now, I’m fortunate enough to have half a dozen books including a Sunday Times Bestseller, and experience of twice as many startups. It’s been a fun journey.

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

1984 by George Orwell had the first significant impact as I was young when I read it but had already suspected it was relatively biographical of the way things are in the world. I started to see similarities between Orwell’s characters and the realities of our time. That hasn’t lessened of course…in fact I think we could say we’ve never been more aware of how shockingly accurate the book is.

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

I don’t see myself as being in ‘one’ industry to be honest. If anything I’m in the industry of human rights, but the X Reality world is as meaningful in that context as any other. We’re still talking about people and how we view our reality, up against forces that attempt to skew our perception for their own means.

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

In 2008 I hosted an event at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. I invited over 80 people from the press, tech industry and other people interested in the topic of how we could best structure an increasingly digital landscape in morally beneficial ways. The title was ‘Every Single One Of Us’ (which was the name of my second book that came out in the same year). Several of us gave presentations and discussed how we could ensure that, when dealing with the dilemma of the most valuable information being private, we could enable ethical practices to protect citizen rights. The editor of a major tech magazine was very critical at the event — standing up and stating that we were talking nonsense — that this whole ‘privacy’ thing was irrelevant. It wasn’t a ‘thing’. A decade later that same editor posted a public apology online, referencing the event I’d hosted, explaining that a) the topic and importance turned out to be absolutely justified and that b) we were just far earlier to the topic than most had considered. Of course, history shows that the digital landscape we live in has, in most part, a blatant disregard of human privacy, with users of platforms essentially acting as batteries, powering a money-making machine that thinks nothing of forcing us to tolerate interruptive advertising while monetising our most sensitive information.

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

There’s been so many. Many of which are chronicled in my book Business Poison where, although I have anonymised the characters, most of them are actually me! I think the funniest mistake was when I became the youngest chairman of the Music Industries Association in the UK and let my committee try and convince me of their plans to identify and litigate against ‘the CEO of the internet’. Then there was a time I mortgaged everything in my life to fund a Sky TV Channel, only to find that my business partner was screwing me over in the background without me knowing. These things are funny now purely because the lessons were so profound in retrospect. Experience is a hard teacher as she gives you the test first and the lesson afterward.

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

Pretty much everyone I’ve encountered has helped me along the way. Even those who have caused me harm. The lessons I have learned are invaluable either way. Most of my early skills were learned whilst watching my entrepreneurial parents build a business from scratch to a significant size. I learned my work ethic from them. As an entrepreneur what needs to get done, gets done, and it takes an enormous amount of courage to get up again after the countless hits you take. That came from them and without that discipline I wouldn’t be where I am today.

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

I’m loving helping Minima (https://minima.global) come to market. It’s ground-breaking and seriously important as an enablement platform that empowers people to be free and prosper. It’s also nice to show the world what we originally meant by decentralization as that’s been completely mutated from the vision we discussed in the 90s.

The VR, AR and MR industries seem so exciting right now. What are the 3 things in particular that most excite you about the industry? Can you explain or give an example?

The first would be how people can become healthier and happier. The therapeutic opportunities in X reality are massive. The second would be how we can experience other cultures if we’re in situations that wouldn’t allow it to easily happen. The third would be in terms of immersive experiences, widening our perspective of what we thought our ‘limits’ were.

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

I’m always concerned about who guards the guards. Who is overseeing the ethical values. What are their objectives, ultimately? This is why decentralization is so fundamentally important. If there’s a corporation involved that has, say, advertisers or greedy shareholders; the user is seen oftentimes as a battery to power those desires.

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

I’m pretty sure we’ve all enjoyed at least one aspect of remote working in recent times! But seriously, X Reality is about closing the gap between what people have and what people need. That can span from training to leadership and everything in between.

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

It’s completely subjective. Life improvement can be as fundamental as shelter and food — and arguably those who could provide that to others, but don’t understand why it matters, could experience the stark reality of being homeless in X Reality and potentially have more empathy. Conversely, life improvement could be as esoteric as self actualisation or even spiritual enlightenment, which may be faster tracked via new stimulus provided by X Reality.

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

The greatest myth is that when a service is free, that’s a good deal…where in fact; when the service is free, you are the product. I’m convinced that people, over time, are increasingly awakening to the outrageousness of that proposition.

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

  1. Follow your bliss — it’s so important to find what your true purpose is in life — or at least what fulfills you — and just do that. If you’re doing something you don’t enjoy, the outcome may be monetarily good, but the rest of your life will be less positive and you will feel a void that is only filled by following your bliss.
  2. Don’t follow the herd — comparison is such an evil power. This is why modern social media is corrupting our emotions and driving people into depression. In business, and for this context, modern technology, it’s tempting to follow what a popular platform is doing…but they don’t necessarily know more than you do about your dreams and ambitions. You’re the boss. Not them.
  3. Exercise your thought muscle as much as any other. We think 70,000 thoughts per day and up to 90% are the same as the day before. We live in a holding pattern that we cling on to. We should spend more time working on how we think (which is the topic of my most recent book ‘The Rise Of Advanced Thought’) and is the antidote to sleepwalking into an Orwellian nightmare.
  4. Don’t think you’re omnipotent — you’re not. Nor am I. I’d say two mistakes I made more than any are a) thinking I know best and b) trusting the wrong people. It’s a paradox, but one that is critical to achieving success.
  5. The people you meet on the way up, will also be met on the way down. If I lived again, I’d have been more respectful to people with different opinions. I was too opinionated and dismissive. I don’t regret it per se, as ultimately I learned from it…but from having several major business failures, I learned that how you treat people when things are good is significantly important.

If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

Minima is the underlying architecture of many movements. For me, I’d like that to be a springboard for life systems that enable people to live more fully. Taking away the noise from the signal and reversing some of the less palatable practices of today’s popular platforms.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why?

I would have enjoyed meeting Nicole-Reine Etable de la Brière Lepaute (as would you dear reader — look her up), Ada Lovelace, Albert Einstein, Alan Turing, and Viktor Frankl. Most of my heroes and heroines are dead. I’ve met the Dalai Lama (albeit sat in silence together), and the rest of today’s thinkers and doers I’ve wanted to meet I’m fortunate to either have met or worked with. I think the people who are really changing the world are behind the scenes so I don’t know them yet. If you’re reading this and you’re one of them, please reach out…I’m easy to find online!

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


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

Thomas Camilleri Of Switch On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Record yourself. You’d be surprised with how you sound and what you do when speaking, so be your best and harshest critic before going public.

At some point in our lives, many of us will have to give a talk to a large group of people. What does it take to be a highly effective public speaker? How can you improve your public speaking skills? How can you overcome a fear of speaking in public? What does it take to give a very interesting and engaging public talk? In this interview series called “5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker” we are talking to successful and effective public speakers to share insights and stories from their experience. As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Tiffany Kepler Creator of ConfidentBeauty.us and the Camera Ready Confidence Program.

Thomas Camilleri grew up on the small Mediterranean island of Malta. After starting off a degree in Architecture, he moved to London to pursue acting and lived there for his 20s, appearing in West End musicals Les Miserables and Legally Blonde as well as touring the UK and Europe with Evita and the Rocky Horror Show.

Ready for a new adventure and having missed his beloved home country, Thomas moved back to Malta where he has worked with Switch, a digital marketing agency, as a creative director for the past eight years. He has also developed his love for architecture and interiors through property conservation, renovation and design as well as having founded Lazarus Tiles, a project that saves antique Maltese encaustic tiles from the landfill and turns them into art.

IG: @tomcamilleri @thelazarusclub

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I grew up on the small Mediterranean island of Malta. We’re small but we dream big and many of us tend to spend our post-grad years abroad, soaking up what the world has to offer, before returning home to share what we’ve learned with the rest of the country. I’m part of a large family, with three siblings and 18 first cousins and life in Malta changed immeasurably after we joined the European Union in my late teens, going from a sleepy, sunny getaway to a bustling tech hub. Wanting to burn off lots of excess energy, my mother enrolled me in theatre school when I was 12 and that eventually led to me spending a decade working in theatre in London, a career choice that has certainly contributed greatly to my confidence and skill as a public speaker.

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

I’d already started studying architecture at university here in Malta when I visited ArtsEd in London for a week’s masterclass in musical theatre. One of the tutors there took me aside and told me that I should audition for the school — so I did! As soon as I got news that they’d offered me a full scholarship I quit university and headed off to London.

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

I’ve now spent the same amount of time working as an actor as I have working as a creative director in advertising. There’s so much overlap in the skills needed for both career paths that, while I would have never thought it, it was a seamless transition from one to the other.

Things tend to be a little more dramatic in the acting world and while I was halfway through a show in the West End production of Les Miserables, Marius’ understudy, who would throw me a stage punch, miscalculated and knocked me out halfway through a scene. I came to a few seconds later with a mouth full of blood and dragged myself offstage while my own understudy quickly jumped into costume to run on and carry on from where I’d got to. I’ve still got the scar to prove it!

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

In between acting and advertising, I spent a year working with a small fashion PR firm in London. I learnt so much from that job, though the whole industry is very Devil Wears Prada.

When sending off the monthly reports to our clients, I once sent a report to the wrong client. Shouldn’t have been a huge deal, though both were men’s jewellery brands and we’d managed way more coverage for the other company whose report I’d sent by mistake.
I’ll never forget the moment I hit send, followed by Andre, the co-founder, shrieking ‘Thomas!’ from across the office as he received the wrong report which he was copied-in on.

We lost the client.

I learned my lesson.

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

I owe so much to Ed, our Head of Brand and Creative. After working for years in very corporate environments, he knew exactly what he didn’t want Switch to be. Along with his brother, Rik, our CEO, they’ve really managed to mould Switch into what it is today. It was Ed who took the mad decision to bring me onboard after meeting for a coffee in Bar Italia in Soho. He really believes in transferable skills, particularly within the creative side of what we do. His belief in allowing us the freedom to pursue our own projects and passions outside of work and not micro-managing the team means that we’ve assembled a multidisciplinary family of misfits who create wonderful work, if I do say so myself.

You have been blessed with great success in a career path that can be challenging and intimidating. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?

Communication and networking is key. Speak to as many people as you can and try to do what you love. While many might think that your love of *insert skill here* might not pay the bills, it might open doors you’ve never dreamed of.

What drives you to get up everyday and give your talks? What is the main empowering message that you aim to share with the world?

The age of the single career is over. I love that every day never looks like the last one for me. Between my job and my various projects that I’m working on, my mind is continually firing on all fronts, bringing unexpected surprises and solutions through all of this cross-pollination that happens in my brain. At the moment I’m working on various projects with Switch, finishing off this beautiful 18th century maisonette in Ħamrun, running Lazarus Tiles, preparing for a new musical we’re launching in September and renovating a British-era shop in our capital Valletta.

Life’s really too short to do something you don’t want to do. I know that that’s a simplification of a complex issue for many, but it should really come down to that.

You have such impressive work. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Where do you see yourself heading from here?

Showing once again what a super pair Ed and Rik are, when I told them about how I’d managed to purchase this centuries-old shop in Valletta and that I was going to renovate and run it, they were as excited as I was. They were totally open to me remaining a part of the team, though perhaps without as much in-person time spent on the job. This way I can still contribute to the writing and concept-generation I work a lot on without being as involved with on-set creative direction.

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

At Switch, one of our mantras is that we don’t compete on price, but on quality. It’s a win-win situation because you really don’t want to be working with clients who are only interested in saving cents. If you’re respected enough to be paid well for what you do, you’ll enjoy doing it more, your output will be far superior and you’ll last a lot longer in that career.

Ok, thank you for all that. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker?” Please share a story or example for each.

– Go to acting classes. You’re not training to become an actor, but the skills you’ll learn will help you grow in confidence and connect with those you’re speaking to.

– Record yourself. You’d be surprised with how you sound and what you do when speaking, so be your best and harshest critic before going public.

– Exercise. If you’re out of breath after a flight of stairs, chances are you won’t make it to the end of the sentence clearly. You don’t need to be super fit, adding some walking to your routine is enough to help you with breath capacity and control.

– Read. Keep abreast of current events for references to pepper your speaking with and read books to grow your vocabulary. Don’t set yourself up to fail — read the news over breakfast and aim to get through one book a fortnight and add on from there if you manage easily.

– When possible, be off-script. Continuously referring to your speech could stop you from connecting with your audience. It’s easier than you think if you divide it into paragraphs and tackle a paragraph each evening leading up to your event.

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

Acting classes all the way. They’re fun and will pay themselves back tenfold in so many different areas of your life — professional and personal.

You are a person of huge influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

In Malta we have a huge problem with overdevelopment. We’re a small country with a high population density. Our planning authority here has consistently let us down because they’re subject to the whims of the construction industry, one of Malta’s most powerful lobbies.
If I could, I would want to raise more awareness of the beauty that is being lost daily through this rampant overdevelopment.

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!

Miriam Margolyes! What a woman. I’ve loved her since my childhood when I found her hysterical in Blackadder and she’s only improved with age. She has such a wonderful outlook on life and I would love to treat her to lunch.

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

Sure! Find me on Instagram @tomcamilleri and @thelazarusclub

You can also see me speak here and here.

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


Thomas Camilleri Of Switch On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Jose Ucar On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Effective communication is about the effect you leave on your audience but where is the message coming from? It comes from you as the speaker, so it is key that you cultivate your mindset and manage your emotions accordingly to have the intended impact during your talk or presentation.

At some point in our lives, many of us will have to give a talk to a large group of people. What does it take to be a highly effective public speaker? How can you improve your public speaking skills? How can you overcome a fear of speaking in public? What does it take to give a very interesting and engaging public talk? In this interview series called “5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker” we are talking to successful and effective public speakers to share insights and stories from their experience. As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Jose Ucar.

Jose Ucar is a global TEDx speaker, NLP coach, international business, marketing specialist and founder of Jose Ucar Ltd. Jose has spent the last 10 years travelling the world, successfully growing and promoting different businesses by working alongside them to bring about transformational change through the power of advanced communication skills. His goal is to give you the confidence to present the best version of yourself when communicating with others and speaking in public. “My motto is, learn to communicate with yourself first, then with others, and finally broadcast your message to the world.”

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I grew up surrounded by love from my family. The first 5 years of my life I mainly spent with my grandparents before we moved away from Caracas — Venezuela, the city where I was born. Inspired by my granddad and my dad, I decided to start my first business at the age of 6, selling pens and rubbers at school. It was a profitable business for around a month until the school shut me down. I was selling cooler pens and rubbers for the same price as my competitors, so it was a no-brainer for my schoolmates to buy from me. Through my first side hustle, I learned how important it was to be authentic, to listen and pay attention to people’s needs, and to provide value, always provide value.

After this, many business attempts followed with no major success until I finally finished high school and went to Sweden as an exchange student, where my international presenting career would begin without even knowing it.

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

I was 12 years old and I remember this as if it was yesterday. Ucar, this is what my teacher Marcos Subero used to call me, I’m going to share with you the 2 things you need to do to succeed in life…

  1. Read the news every day (Something I failed at miserably).
  2. Learn how to speak in public (hmm, this is interesting and terrifying at the same time).

Back then he only planted a seed in my brain which would grow unconsciously until my trip to Sweden.

In the same way my teacher inspired me and transformed my life, I decided to do the same through my coaching, training and speaking. But as I said, he only planted a seed, a little plant grew from that seed in Sweden and after that it began to grow stronger roots and grew higher and higher.

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

Maybe not the most interesting but definitely one of the most challenging ones. This is the story that could have stopped me from ever speaking again, especially in a foreign language. I landed my first job in the UK back in 2007 and in my first week with the company I was given the opportunity to mind the phones. A bit of context first, it was an engineering company, I didn’t know the product yet, I thought I knew English…

The phone rang, I picked it up, and at that moment I realized I couldn’t understand a word they were saying. I received calls from different places in the UK for about 3 hours. They all hung up on me and because they were frustrated, they called me names, told me I was useless and made fun of my accent.

After those 3 hours my confidence was shattered and all I could think about was giving up. This is the kind of story that can break or make a human being.

I’m grateful because it made me a better person in the long run, but the process was painful. That story also inspired one of my coaching frameworks — FOC it!

This is the process I use (for myself and clients) to conquer the mind, the first element of impactful communication.

It enabled me to move from being the victim to being the hero of my own story. The creator, the captain of my ship, the driver of the bus, the pilot of my destiny.

Flexibility — How can I see this event as an opportunity? How can I grow from this? Where is the learning?

Ownership — It’s not them, it’s me. I’m in charge. People made fun of me and said I was useless, what am I going to do? I’m going to own it and do something about it.

Consistency — What actions will I take making sure I don’t stop until I see the change I want.

“Our behavior is a response to what we make an experience mean… and so is our communication”.

A few years later, I was able to land a meeting with one of the Top 10 aerospace manufacturers in the world. Yes, the useless guy on the phone managed to present the engineering company in such as way, that they gave us a chance. Last time I checked, it had turned into a multi-million pounds business.

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

Hmm. Never drink before your talk. This may work for some people but definitely didn’t work for me.

I’m always working on my storytelling by the way but back then, as I was getting started, I’d go to London looking for storytelling events. I remember it was summer and believe or not, it was quite sunny in the UK. As I walked toward the place where the event was held, you can imagine in London, everyone was out, it was 6 pm in the afternoon, and what can I say, the energy was contagious, but I abstained. I abstained from indulging in a cold brew until I arrived at the place where they would give you a FREE one, ok I said, it’s only one.

It gave me the driest mouth ever, made me dizzy like no other beer before and combined with nerves, I’m not going to tell you what it did to my belly, yes, emergency time.

You’ll be happy to know that I successfully delivered my 5-minute story, but I learned the lesson. A beer before a presentation is not a good idea, at all!

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

There have been many people along the way, and there is usually one that makes the greatest impact at a certain given time. I can mention mentors, coaches, friends and family…

The following lines are dedicated to my brother German for his support, patience, company and compassion. He is the kind of human that silently, without making any noise can positively impact your life.

The pandemic had started and like many business owners, my business dropped to minus zero, and I spent a few days in shock due to the sudden changes that had taken place overnight.

Back then my brother was living with me in the UK, Surbiton to be precise. He is a very talented videographer who also had plenty of time to spare.

That’s the day when the world-class communicator online course was born. Today it’s impacted more than 40.000 lives worldwide and during COVID we gave it away for FREE to help people improve their mindset and communication.

I would never have been able to create the course without him. I didn’t have the resources to afford his services and yet he stood by me, waking up at 5 am almost every day for 3 months in a row, filming, filming and re-filming until we were done with the content. After that he spent 3 more months editing and creating a masterpiece.

Who else would have done that for me? No one, only him, my brother, German Ucar. My success is his success and the success of all the people who have made me a better man.

I appreciate you and love brother. Thank you very much again.

You have been blessed with great success in a career path that can be challenging and intimidating. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?

Failure is part of the process. Rejection is a fact. You won’t be liked and accepted by everyone, so get ready for it.

  • Say yes to opportunities.
  • Learn something new every day.
  • Build relationships.
  • Be humble and vulnerable.
  • Always bring your 200%
  • Be flexible.
  • Own and commit to the process.
  • Be consistent
  • Be open to feedback and avoid the 3 most dangerous words, I Know That!
  • Have some fun.

If you really want it, you will make.

What drives you to get up everyday and give your talks? What is the main empowering message that you aim to share with the world?

Short answer — I want people to be free and share their excellence with the world.

I also want to share that I have bad days, I don’t wake up every day fully motivated, I’m a human being after all. But, I’ve developed thinking strategies and routines that get me back on my feet and in alignment with my purpose which is to help people overcome their own limitations and to shine through the power of their voice.

I want people to embrace and respect that we are all uniquely different and that we also have growing commonalities that bring us together.

You have such impressive work. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Where do you see yourself heading from here?

I’m always looking to impact more people with my message and I’m currently building relationships with influencers and key decision makers in larger organizations and countries to expand my reach. I want to get my message across the world, especially in those countries that need it the most. I want to have a greater impact throughout Latin America, Africa and Asia. My international reach started with the World-Class Communicator course and now I want more stages from which to broadcast the beauty and importance of a respectful and accepting multi-cultural world.

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

I’ll give you two. Success is on the other side of fear.

FEAR — False expectations appearing real.

I experience fear often because I’m always looking to stretch myself by putting myself through uncomfortable situations. The above quote and acronym also works as a mantra, that helps me to keep a FAB attitude towards what I do.

Focused

Active and aware

Believing in myself and my work

Ok, thank you for all that. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker?” Please share a story or example for each.

Video — https://youtu.be/cUrXCK1Rl3g

  • Communication starts within

Effective communication is about the effect you leave on your audience but where is the message coming from? It comes from you as the speaker, so it is key that you cultivate your mindset and manage your emotions accordingly to have the intended impact during your talk or presentation.

Remember that when you speak you are broadcasting a message that is charged with emotions and this is what the audience will initially connect with. If you are feeling nervous or insecure, guess what the audience will feel?

They will still receive what you say (your words) but the intended impact will be lost.

Successful speakers cultivate their mindset by:

  • Connecting with their purpose — Why do you speak? Generally, the answer revolves around the impact they want to make on people’s lives. It has to be greater than you.
  • Bringing their passion for the topic they are about to present.
  • Believing in their message and themselves as speakers.
  • Practicing until they feel not just comfortable but excited.

Your ability to build a strong emotional connection with the audience and to keep it throughout your presentation will depend on your ability to connect with your own emotions.

“The quality of your thinking will determine the quality of your speaking.”

  • Always keep your audience in mind.

Without an audience we wouldn’t be called public speakers, agreed? And what would be the point of speaking if our audience doesn’t benefit from what we have to say?

Whenever I get invited to speak, I always ask event organizers (or the person inviting me to speak) the following:

  • Who is the audience?
  • What do you want them to take away at the end of my session?

Then I dive into how long you want me to speak for, the tone they would like me to use, etc… When I get booked, they have already seen my showreel, so they know what to expect in terms of content, style and delivery.

Remember that impactful speakers are those who change lives through the power of their words, are there for the audience and not themselves. They are looking to serve, positively influence and elevate people.

“Public speaking is not about you, it’s about the audience.”

  • Build a pathway.

When was the last time you heard a successful speaker say, wow, I had to wing it today?

I can answer for you, NEVER!

One thing is to be able to improvise because we can’t predict what’s going to happen, but we can certainly learn how to manage the unexpected. But there is always plenty of preparation.

Building a pathway is all about the science of your presentation. Simply put, how are you going to lead the audience to achieve the expected results, and leave them with what you’ve intended for them.

Here you will think about the points you want to make, and the stories you will use to illustrate them. The balance between logical, emotional content and earning the right to build an airtight persuasive case.

The number of slides (if you want to use them) and how they will help you to enhance your message. And don’t kill your audience with Bullet Points.

The more intentional and prepared you are, the greater the impact you will have on your listeners.

  • Whole-self delivery.

“We are always communicating, even when we don’t speak.”

Whole-self delivery is all about the art of your presentation. This is where you will plan how to bring your presentation to life using your full body and voice.

The secret here is that whatever you do, do it with purpose.

Body language used correctly will help you to clearly paint your message, stories and learning points in the minds of your audience.

Fail to do so and you will very likely bore your audience after a couple of minutes, they will disconnect, their minds will wander off and your incredible message won’t land as it could have otherwise.

I’m not saying that you need to turn into a hummingbird on stage but please avoid being a sloth. Moving between the two, is where the impact is. and

“People will always remember how you made them feel and not necessarily what you said.”

  • Strive for progress not perfection.

The best way to improve your speaking and achieve excellence is by practicing and saying yes to stage time. This is what I mean by progress. The more you speak, the more you expose yourself, and the more you learn, the more you will develop your speaking skills.

If on the contrary, you want to be perfect in terms of yourself as a speaker and your presentation, you are likely to wait and delay any speaking opportunities, which will impact your exposure and the much-needed practice so important on your journey to becoming a highly effective speaker.

The key point here is, it’s ok for you to challenge yourself if you set realistic challenges and expectations around your public speaking. I always invite my coaches to stretch themselves as long as the level of pressure doesn’t negatively impact their performance.

Another way to make incredible progress is by being open to feedback and avoiding the 3 most dangerous words — I Know That.

Keep on speaking your greatness.

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

The very short answer is SPEAKING! How did you learn how to ride a bike or how to swim? By doing it.

There are different avenues to overcoming the fear of speaking but none of them will work unless you put yourself out there and speak.

I always recommend that people rationalize their fear. Most of the time the reason will be fear of losing control and fear of not being accepted. The sooner you realize that anything can happen while you are speaking and that there are only a few things you can control, the more resourceful you will become in terms of what you can do about it. You can only control your thinking, your knowledge of the topic, and the preparation you put into it. You can influence people and your environment but can’t control it.

Another question I ask is WHY? Why do you want to speak? A strong why can overcome many fears.

Practice and always ask for feedback. Feedback is the breakfast of successful speakers.

And remember that Success is always on the other side of Fear!

You are a person of huge influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

It would be a movement to set people FREE from their own mindset limitations. The world needs our excellence which can only emerge when we learn and support each other to unleash it.

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!

I grew up watching the movie Rocky. I’d love to meet Sylvester Stallone. Rocky has always inspired me to move forward in life, I love his quotes and also the underdog story that somehow, I can relate to. I also admire Sylvester because while he was rejected over a thousand times when auditioning for movie roles, he took a step back and used his failures as lessons, he then decided to create his own roles to star in.

As a Public Speaker, I like to see failures as learning opportunities. And like Rocky says, life is not about how hard you can hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.

Keep moving forward towards your dreams and always speak your greatness.

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

Instagram — https://www.instagram.com/jose_ucar_/channel/

LinkedIn — https://www.linkedin.com/in/jose-luis-ucar/

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

Website — https://joseucar.com/

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


Jose Ucar On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Makers of The Metaverse: Jason Rosenstein Of Portion On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality…

Makers of The Metaverse: Jason Rosenstein Of Portion On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

History repeats itself. Passion, drive, and vulnerability.

The Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality & Mixed Reality Industries are so exciting. What is coming around the corner? How will these improve our lives? What are the concerns we should keep an eye out for? Aside from entertainment, how can VR or AR help work or other parts of life? To address this, we had the pleasure of interviewing Jason Rosenstein.

Jason is a blockchain developer who identified the transformative and multifaceted capabilities of blockchain technology in 2011. He began building powerful machines to generate cryptocurrency and produced prototypes demonstrating the capabilities made possible by blockchain.

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

I grew up in New Jersey, about an hour outside of New York City. I always had a deep fascination with both higher consciousness and technology. All of the projects I have either started or worked on are an attempt to heighten awareness through the use of new and cutting edge technological advancements.

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

Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda resonated with me on a deep primitive level. I read this book over 5 years ago and to me it represents a new path that I believe may be a part of our world’s future. It is my great hope that technology will grant people access to exploring aspects of themselves that have been within the entire time.

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

I have no particular story, but my interest in ‘x reality’ is primarily in the fascination of consciousness existing outside of the body. It seems to me that the Metaverse is a natural next step in exploring deeper states of existence and exploration without having to physically relocate.

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

Portion began in 2016 and raised funds in 2018. By 2019, just over a year later, we had hit rock bottom. The world was not ready for what we had to offer. At the point of total failure –$0 left in the company bank account — advisors insisted that I throw in the towel. But, I gave it one last hurrah. I re-coded our Ethereum NFT marketplace smart contracts from scratch and deposited every fiber of passion into the rebuild. And it worked. Just 6 months later NFTs were across the news, from Saturday Night Live to famous celebrity drops. It occurred to me that wherever we invest energy and action the universe seems to react with equal opportunity.

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

My mentor once told me: “If you want to make people happy, sell ice cream.” I held to this ideal and stuck to this mentality through the pitfalls of the entrepreneurial roller coaster. It truly was impossible to please everyone. It wasn’t until years later I found out it wasn’t my mentor’s authentic thoughts. It was something Steve Jobs said.

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

We are building a collaborative NFT auction house where artists can keep up to 100% of the proceeds. Creativity can be funneled into direct financial support for millions of artists around the world. We occasionally pair these ‘drops’ with lively Metaverse experiences.

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

Non-local gatherings and socialization, immersive and therapeutic experiences, and digital land that has true scarcity value.

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

I worry about future inactivity of the human race, improper use of brain computing interfaces with the Metaverse, and a wild west of gambling and other illegal activities.

To address these concerns I recommend keeping power with the people through decentralized forums and DAOs. No large corporation should ever have the full rights to a given Metaverse. The people must vote, and I trust in the innate ethical and philosophical constructs by mass consciousness.

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

WFM is the future and covid has expedited the natural transition. The medical industry can particularly benefit from in-depth and realistic VR, AR, and MR training.

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

Many are rightfully concerned that the younger generations will engross themselves too deeply into an “artificial” world. It progressed from too much screen time on laptops and cell phones. I believe that the metaverse will allow for better communication and information transference so that younger generations can swiftly resolve concerns and come together through new Metaverse forums.

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

It is the same thing as any other industry. History repeats itself. Passion, drive, and vulnerability.

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

Stillness and emotional integration are keys that may unlock a more cohesive planet.

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

I answer with the cliche. Elon Musk — because I believe he understands the great potential of the evolving consciousness of the human race.

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


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

Making Something From Nothing: Scott Savlov Of The Path Here Podcast On How To Go From Idea To…

Making Something From Nothing: Scott Savlov Of The Path Here Podcast On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Be nice at all times. Despite your desire to be on top or to make your product the best, just be nice to others. Even greet everyone every day with a smile. The hard work and drive will bring lots of companions if you are nice.

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

Scott Savlov is a legendary figure in the worlds of TV and sports entertainment, having worked as a producer and director of sports programming and television shows. His catalog includes more than 15 shows (hundreds of hours’ worth of TV) including The Ryder Cup, VH1’s Fairway to Heaven, Golf Magazine’s Under Pressure on CBS Sports, and The Omega Masters Celebrity Pro- Am. In 1996, Scott founded his own company, Savlov Consulting, a full-service sports, entertainment, promotion and television production company. Because of his long career in sports and television entertainment, Scott has developed lasting and deep friendships with people all over the industry, which he holds extremely dearly. Throughout his career, Scott heard from friends and family that his conversations were funny, informative, and insightful. In 2021, he decided to act on that feedback and develop a podcast featuring these conversations, and The Path Here was born.

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

I was born in Brooklyn and grew up in East Brunswick, New Jersey. Luckily for me, I had two very loving and inspiring parents, an older sister who is very smart and very patient, and an abundance of friends in the neighborhood. I worked hard in school and like a lot of kids, I loved staying active through sports. I played every sport I could growing up and over time started studying sports until I was able to start covering the NBA for WPST, my local radio station, at age 16. At age 20, I began working as an on-air television sportscaster and weatherman at the CBS affiliate in Phoenix, Arizona.

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

I started doing sports broadcasting at 16. Some years later, I had a chance to have lunch with one of my childhood heroes, Walter Cronkite. After I described some of my successes and failures in the sports television space, Cronkite said something I’ve never forgotten; “Treat everyone with the same level of integrity you wish you would be treated with.” Since then, in every success or failure along the way, I want people to feel as though I care, and to know that I put everything into each effort with tremendous passion and consideration.

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

I have several favorite movies. Some I’ve watched too many times and know all the dialogue by this point. I have a propensity to use those lines in different life experiences. Somehow, they always just seem to apply correctly. Leave the Gun, take the cannoli.

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

Over the course of my career, I have witnessed the dot com era and of course the the Silicon Valley entrepreneur era we’re currently living through. In the late 1990s, I was a consultant to Sun Microsystems. One day, I was driving back from a golf retreat with some members of Sun’s senior management. On the way back, I overheard a conversation on the car phone between Steve Jobs and one of Sun’s executives discussing the latest news with their companies and the other areas of their lives. Their friendly banter resonated with me, and showed me that whether talking with competitors, allies, friends or foes, you can always have respect and friendliness toward one another. Believing in the success of your ideas and taking pride in what you’ve built is essential, but it doesn’t have to come at the loss of courtesy. In hindsight, I feel like I was in the presence of the Ford and Edison of that time.

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

It sounds simple, but it is really easy to look things up on Google or other search engines. I’d always start there, but, if you are truly passionate about delving into a space, consume any and all information you can. Attack your new idea with a passion and keep that passion throughout every stage of the building process. If you don’t believe in your idea, why would anyone else?

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

I am not a creator of consumer retail products. That said, I have been involved with many product launches in that space. From the point you have a product, label, naming rights, copyrights, even patent on product, find the distribution channel that will be able to grow your product in multiple stages. First year development, three years in, five years in, and so on. If you are creating a product with sole intention of flipping it in 18–36 months, you have a completely different, more aggressive strategy. If you want your product to be picked up and distributed with a long play, then you need to know what your competitors are doing and create individuality and very competitive pricing. What makes you stand out, and why is your product superior? If you can answer those questions, then distribution will take your call, or better yet, they’ll be calling you.

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

It’s funny, when answering the question I think, “if only I knew when starting this project what I know now. Here are five pieces of knowledge I wish I had known in the past:

  1. Don’t do anything you aren’t passionate about. Too much time gets wasted on going down roads that aren’t worth it in the end.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or guidance. It isn’t an indictment on your intelligence to ask for help.
  3. Show some humility as you gain success. No one likes a sore winner. The first time you fail, everyone will gladly kick you on your way down.
  4. Be nice at all times. Despite your desire to be on top or to make your product the best, just be nice to others. Even greet everyone every day with a smile. The hard work and drive will bring lots of companions if you are nice.
  5. It is ok to recognize other people’s success. Too much time is wasted wanting to be better than someone else or to win. You will still get there if you are good at what you do. When you do win, it’ll be more fun, and even your competitors will want to congratulate you if you were personable along the way.

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

Identify what you think people need. Identify why they need it, and how much other things like it cost. Once you identify those points, have fun brainstorming on all the applications and ways your product will succeed. Then, determine what you need to do so you don’t fail. But know that it’s ok to fail! Believe in yourself and your product. You will figure out how to pivot. Be observant to the marketplace. Too much time is spent with tunnel vision on one idea while others are just out of reach. Lastly, take a breath and enjoy what the experience is all about.

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

I am a consultant, so of course, I believe in the value of consultants. But make no mistake, I take more pride in the work I do for myself. Create your path and direction. Once your limitations become obvious, take some time to look into finding the right consultants who can help take you to another level.

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

Always try to take your idea as far as you can go. Investment always has a burn rate that takes a piece of your success away from you. It’s never bad to have someone else’s money backing you but, sometimes their terms and their urgency can stymie your productivity. Here’s a golf analogy: When others are watching you and you feel their presence, you may tighten your grip on the club and make a mistake. When you are relaxed, the swing is easy and effortless, and you have a much better chance at success. Get yourself to that happy zone without undo pressures. Your creativity and your ability to work with others will be dramatically better.

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

Over the course of my career, I have raised well over $25 million dollars for various charities, and it’s a blessing to know that my efforts to raise that money have affected many people’s lives for the better. But I want to share another, simpler example; Years ago, my family and I were in downtown San Diego, and a homeless man asked me for money for food. I took him to a nearby fast food restaurant and bought him a full meal. My reward was the smile on his face his knowing that someone actually cared. Being nice in every day, interpersonal moments can be just as rewarding as writing big checks.

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

Smile. Say hello to strangers. When people smile back, you have created a change in their demeanor for a moment. I would rather impact one person by being the guy that said hello, or held the door, or just smiled than be the person that is in their own head and mean to others.

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

Well, I created a show called The Celebrity Bucket List, so I kind of have a unique sense of how to answer this. I would like to sit with Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk. I wouldn’t ask them to invest in some business of mine, I would like to know what’s on their bucket list. I’ve found that sometimes for people like that, the answer is less lofty than you’d expect, and more like “Rosebud” in Citizen Kane. It’s not always some really expensive car or plane or boat that they’re waiting to check off their bucket list. I love seeing people get silly and have fun. So, if I had a moment to sit down with either of those two, my private time with them would have to embrace humor and storytelling.

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

Thanks so much for speaking with me.


Making Something From Nothing: Scott Savlov Of The Path Here Podcast On How To Go From Idea To… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: Billy Roberts Of Wedge Financial On How Their Technological Innovation Will…

The Future Is Now: Billy Roberts Of Wedge Financial On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Realize the impact those around you have on your character and world view. For a long time, I thought I was immune to the ideas of those around me, and kind of just went along with the flow. Knowing, as I do now, how impactful the characters and ideas of those around me have on my own character and actions has been incredibly poignant and really helped me understand who I am and what I am trying to achieve.

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

Billy Roberts is the CEO of Wedge Financial Inc., the first smart debit card that lets users pay for everyday purchases with any asset. Founded in 2021, the fintech startup is the first of its kind for offering the ability to use assets for everyday spending, giving users the ability to benefit from market movements of over 4,000 different stocks, ETFs and cryptocurrencies. Previous to Wedge, Billy founded ReStream Solutions, a data-driven oilfield solutions company for the exploration and production industry.

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

Yes, but it probably won’t make a lot of sense (unless you have experience working on boats). So, as you might have guessed by that previous statement, I’ve spent a lot of time working on boats. My dad always had boats — big ones, with big diesel engines, and a bunch of components that would always break. Typically they would choose to break when we were offshore, most often when the seas were rough. And, when boats break offshore, you’re stuck with either:

a.) calling another boat on the radio for a tow (embarrassing).

b.) calling the coast guard (really, really embarrassing).

c.) figuring out how to make what you have work well enough to get you home safely.

Let’s say that we never needed a tow.

Whether I liked it or not, every Saturday and Sunday morning my dad made me go to the boat with him and work on things and it taught me, unsurprisingly, how to work on things. What I mean is — it taught me how to take a problem, and whittle down the potential root causes of that problem until you identify an issue, address it, and make it harmonize with the systems around it.

Often, my dad had us building things as well, new systems, rebuilds, etc. We’d have to figure out how to take what was there, and breathe new life into it from a different perspective and a new set of constraints. Today, that’s basically what I do for a living. I’m either taking a bunch of little ideas and trying to build them up together into a big value prop (like building a boat), or I’m taking a big value prop and trying to whittle it down to why it might not be working the way I thought it would (identifying a faulty fuel pump). Working on boats, believe it or not, showed me what it is I like doing — building products, and fixing them when they’re not generating the returns we need them to. And, this brings us to today and to Wedge.

Wedge is revolutionizing how consumers access and utilize their assets for everyday purchases. Consumers can now pay for everyday purchases with any asset in their portfolio (stocks, bonds, crypto, EFTs). The assets are linked together in their “Wedge wallet,” which is accessible via a single intuitive app and smart debit card.

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

I’m not sure this is the most interesting story, but it’s a story that shaped my career path. Now, this could be hard to follow but bear with me …

The high-school lacrosse teammate of my first employer’s business development consultant’s son became the catalyst for my first big business sale. It’s entirely likely that, had this very obscure connection not been made exactly when it did, after years of separation and geographical constraints, my first venture would have failed (miserably), and my foray into entrepreneurship would have met its end (even more miserably).

This sticks with me and plays a role in my everyday life because looking back — for better or worse — the path to success is rarely, if ever, the one that we predict. So now, if anyone, whether there is direct line-of-sight to a strategic upside or immediate relevance, wants to meet, I always try to make it happen. Because, you never know where talent or opportunity may be hiding, and history has shown me repeatedly that my predictions as to where it may be are usually very wrong.

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

The big paradigm shift with Wedge is our capacity to enable users to spend with any asset (stocks, bonds, crypto, EFTs) they have access to in their “Wedge wallet.” In other words, consumers are no longer spending with just “cash.” This intuitive technology stitches together the different functional capabilities of various financial services but also, for the first time, empowers users to get more for every dollar they have earned by allowing them to capitalize on market movements each time they make a purchase, enabling them to use their assets more dynamically and in a way that maximizes real-time gains in the value of any asset — without sacrificing liquidity.

Although a bit abstract, we talk internally about making barter efficient again. What that means is as individuals moved from barter/trading, to the gold standard, to fiat (a security backed by a government), they were doing so because it was difficult to always know the relative value of one asset against another. In other words, you used to have to know the relative value of a pelt, to a jar of whiskey, to a bushel of grain to trade and buy/sell effectively. But it didn’t stop there, you also had to know the value of the dollar relative to gold, then ultimately, the value of the dollar relative to the good and/or service you wanted. That’s a lot of knowledge, and a lot of room for error.

However, with a platform such as Wedge, users are given the utility of cash, accessibility of crypto exchanges, and the power of the markets all in a single app. This union allows users to know exactly the value of their tradable assets relative to the dollar, enabling them to use assets smartly, and get more value from every dollar that they earn.

How do you think this might change the world?

To date, fiat has been the coin of the realm and the only (well, mostly only) way to pay for things. If you think about what Wedge enables, it’s really the power to spend using alternative sources of value which then enables more people to benefit from market movements seamlessly. In this paradigm, value now gets to flow to the enterprises that the collective deems relevant and valuable, and thus further accelerates the wealth/value of the collective ownership of those assets.

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

I’m always wary of those who go too big and too bullish on crypto. Don’t get me wrong, I love crypto and think there is a ton of potential in the space that hasn’t been capitalized on yet. However, it’s my hope with Wedge that users are benefiting from exposure to multiple asset types, and while it’s impossible to avoid risk entirely when investing in the markets, the exposure to diversification can help weather market corrections responsibly. Ultimately offering a real benefit from growth in sectors across the board every time they spend.

The allure of having another crypto type such as “moon” [a cryptocurrency on social media that crypto enthusiasts farm or earn based on the quality of their content] is powerful, but putting one’s faith in asset classes that are too far removed from real-world utility is a big risk. I think this type of investment needs to be contemplated for us at Wedge, its users, and the crypto space in general.

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

Kind of. In retrospect, getting Wedge to where it is today feels like more of an evolutionary process as opposed to a particular tipping point. For me, the tipping point that’s easy to delineate is that of when we made our second employee hire (Alton). The team that we had at that point (a total of four of us), had a strong enough early foundation that was able to take a look at the app and approach our strategy from a bunch of different angles. We unlocked the capacity to really prototype and test expeditiously, which led us on the evolutionary path referenced earlier. So, in short, for Wedge, our tipping point was a personnel one (and I think this is true of many companies). We had a great team all pulling in the right direction, and the app and its value lock was a result of it. This is what fuels our breakthroughs — the Wedge team.

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

Time. We need time to educate users on the value of Wedge and we need time for users to experience the benefits it offers in a tangible manner.

The concept of the first “Smart Debit Card” isn’t immediately intuitive. It takes time to build a full-funnel strategy that educates users on the art of the possible, and establish the credibility needed in the fintech space for long-term viability. Additionally, Wedge works best when users utilize dollar-cost averaging (DCA), an investment strategy in which an investor divides up the total amount to be invested across periodic purchases of a target asset in an effort to reduce the impact of volatility on the overall purchase, over a period of time. This is when you really build up a fly-wheel that starts delivering tangible value for users everyday (instead of just riding wild crypto-swings).

I’m confident that we have a unique, but also incredibly impactful offering. So it goes back to time. This is a long-game in terms of building our base and making sure that our users are getting the most out of Wedge.

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

Unfortunately, no. We are a startup that’s been running the typical playbook. But, through the uniqueness of our app and the value that it provides, we’ve been incredibly lucky to get picked up by some great minds in the space that have really accelerated our growth and bolstered our brand equity. We are, absolutely, going to start moving toward a more progressive marketing approach (less digital ads, more direct engagement).

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

I’ve been really lucky to have several really impactful, positive influences in my life and throughout my career. The one that sticks out the most is Wayne Wolf (Thank you Wayne!).

I graduated college with an unfortunate, at least from an income-generating perspective, degree in Marine Biology with a focus in Marine Vertebrate/Cetacean Zoology. I wanted to move to Austin (which by the way is land-locked and completely devoid of cetaceans) and find a job.

A friend of mine shared a job posting for a Field Applications Engineer at a technology company. Grateful for the find, I was incredibly underqualified due to the fact that I was, as you now know, a Marine Biologist. I also knew nothing about the field in which the technology company was focused (ozone generation).

I applied nonetheless and shockingly was able to get an interview. My interviewer however quickly realized that I probably wasn’t the right fit, but out of courtesy offered to show me around the office and it was there that I met Wayne, the CEO, and struck up a conversation. He indicated that the position probably wasn’t right for me, but because I had no other irons in the proverbial fire, I offered to work for free to learn about the technology and overall business. It seemed this offer came as a bit of a surprise to Wayne, who said “sure.” I was leaving, he came back out and said he would at least pay me minimum wage and we could see what happened. So, I walked out with a job(ish).

Within a couple of weeks I had learned a little about the business and technology, and had actually found an area where I could create some marginal value for the business. In college (and even prior, but that’s a different story), I had gotten pretty good at knocking out scientific studies and white papers, and Wayne needed more studies/whitepapers to highlight the advantages of the company’s system and how they could be applied to different applications. As we got more traction (and the Field Applications Engineer position remained open), I kind of fell into the position by default.

Over the course of a couple years, Wayne became a mentor. He taught me, amongst other things, how to look at problems from a different perspective, and most importantly, how to fail. Several of my projects didn’t work out, in large part because I didn’t execute on them properly. I assumed that my blunders would result in my termination from the company, but Wayne, to his own detriment (at least from a financial perspective), kept me on, kept trusting me, taught me how to learn from my failures, and to stay creative when the heat gets turned up.

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

I don’t know that I have, but I certainly try. Non-profit work is important to me and immigraiton is a topic that is near and dear to my heart, so I spend time and resources devoted towards making an impact to the extent that I can. I also try to be really mindful of the impact someone can have on a new college-grad or young professional on their life trajectory, just based simply on what happened to me. So when I can, I try to be as candid and supportive as possible to anyone that’s foolish enough to ask me for help. It’s probably a weird ego thing, but I get a bunch of satisfaction helping mentor folks getting started on their own entrepreneurial journey.

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

The biggest one for me: Realize the impact those around you have on your character and world view. For a long time, I thought I was immune to the ideas of those around me, and kind of just went along with the flow. Knowing, as I do now, how impactful the characters and ideas of those around me have on my own character and actions has been incredibly poignant and really helped me understand who I am and what I am trying to achieve.

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

I think you have me confused with someone else, so I’ll answer in a hypothetical assuming I did/do have influence, and since it’s a hypothetical, I’m going to allow myself to be as hyperbolic as possible.

Here’s the state of play that I see most concerning, and it’s one everyone talks about all the time (so not remotely novel). The world, the U.S. in particular, is becoming more and more polarized. I see it spilling through and coming back home through what I hear my 2nd grader talk about from things he picks up from his friends. He asked me what “lets go Brandon” meant the other day. I’m *&^%$@! sick of it.

So, if I could inspire a movement (and I realize once again this is hyperbolic), my movement would be for everyone — EVERYONE — to step away from social media (or at least start with Facebook). Its tearing us apart, its perpetuating false information, its playing a role in kids commit suicide, and for the life of me I can’t delineate a single damn benefit that comes from any of it. I truly believe it’s toxic, and it breaks my heart to see what it’s doing to people, and it frightens me in that I think the damaging effects that we have seen to date are really, just the tip of the iceberg compared to what’s coming if nothing changes.

No more social media — by choice — that’s my movement. I’m ok with LinkedIn though — that platform rocks.

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

This one might be a little over the top, but it’s really stuck with me. Moreover, it resonated with me after exiting from my first business (by T.S.Eliot).

“We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.”

I’m probably one of the luckiest people on the planet. I know a lot of folks say that in order to validate their success, but I promise with me it’s true. I’ve been able to do a whole bunch of amazing things just by nature of being born in the right place, at the right time, to the right folks. I just ‘Forrest Gumped’ my way into some pretty epic scenarios.

Here’s my blessing and my curse — I’m always looking over the fence and thinking that the grass is almost definitely greener over there, than where I am. So then I’ll go over there, and then I’ll look back and think, man, that other grass is pretty green looking. So then I’ll bounce back, but I’ll return with a different perspective. I’m different. I’m (in an effort to maintain this lack-luster metaphor), now looking at the other grass for not just how green it is, but how soft it might be, or some other quality, and the ping-pong game of life continues. Seed a new idea, grow it, see it bloom, but then want to jump back, and start planting a new seed.

People often ask me what my exit plan is, or what I’ll do when I cash out. The answer is simple (but kind of confusing I admit), in that I’m going to keep on doing exactly what it is I’m doing now. I’m going to keep “exploring” (which I realize is a bit of a stretch in entrepreneurship), and I’m going to keep on doing it because, for whatever reason, that’s the adventure I love. And when I get back to the other side of the fence, I see where I was before in a new way. I see it again for the first time. I start again with an empty page, but this time around I have a greater knowledge of the possible, the risks, the roller-coaster, so I arrive where I started, but it feels brand new. The exploration continues in a cycle.

I bet after that answer no one ever asks me this question again….

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

Wedge is the world’s first smart debit card. It’s uniquely positioned to change and enhance how people perceive value and make everyday transactions on a global scale. IF you believe that streamlining efficiencies, simplifying good-choices, and creating value that flows into the pocketbooks of users is relevant and compelling in the future of Fintech, Wedge definitely deserves a look.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Wedge

Billy Roberts

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


The Future Is Now: Billy Roberts Of Wedge Financial On How Their Technological Innovation Will… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Makers of The Metaverse: James Kaplan Of MeetKai On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality…

Makers of The Metaverse: James Kaplan Of MeetKai On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Be open to being wrong. If I can say one thing it is that the industry is young and undefined. It is basically a desert. But one with plenty of oil to be found. Sometimes though, if you can’t find any it can be better to stop digging and try somewhere else to build your kingdom. There is a huge amount of foundation to be built and it is not zero sum.

The Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality & Mixed Reality Industries are so exciting. What is coming around the corner? How will these improve our lives? What are the concerns we should keep an eye out for? Aside from entertainment, how can VR or AR help work or other parts of life? To address this, we had the pleasure of interviewing James Kaplan.

James Kaplan is the Co-Founder and CEO of MeetKai Inc., a VR and Conversational AI company shaping the next-gen of artificial speech intelligence. He founded the startup with Co-Founder and Chairwoman, Weili Dai, after becoming frustrated with the limitations of current automated assistants. Kaplan has had a true passion for AI and coding since he was six and wrote his first bots at only nine years old, including the first Pokemon Go bot and many others still popular to this day. Now his pioneering work in the metaverse puts MeetKai in competition with the largest names in tech. Kaplan studied Computer Science at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, CA and currently resides in the Los Angeles area.

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

Of course, it is my pleasure. I have always been interested in software from a rather young age. Around the time I was learning to read, I was rather fortunate that my parents got me a computer for me to play educational games on. I quickly grew more interested in the computer and how it worked than any of the educational games themselves. The Oregon Trail, in particular, is what set me off on a path towards AI and software. My slight obsession with some games, in fact, motivated some of my early entrepreneurial efforts. I wanted to buy in-game currency in a number of MMOs but obviously did not have a credit card of my own to do so. This led to me doing freelance web development to make some side money for buying game items. I never quite told any of the people I was charging that I was not quite a teenager at the time.

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

While it might be more expected for me to say something in the sci-fi realm as what inspired or made an impact on me, it is actually something pretty far from that. When I was a teenager, I really loved reading sci-fi books — at the time, Neuromancer was a favorite. However, it didn’t really make an impact on me. Yes, it resonated with me, but so did most Sci-Fi. Instead, the book that probably made the largest impact on me was 100 Years of Solitude. I read that in middle school after hearing about it from family members that are much more literary than me. Aside from it being one of the greatest books ever written, the main thing that impacted me was showing me such an alternative view of the world. Life itself, for better or worse, can be as mystical and dystopian as sci-fi.

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

I have always been interested and fascinated by XR. I think anyone who has played games or grew up on games always dreamed about the idea of it. I remember when I was in college the news broke that Facebook had just acquired Oculus for $2 billion. This followed earlier purchases of Instagram and WhatsApp by them. I saw it in the blogosphere and recall clearly all the people complaining about this or that but what really stuck with me is the idea that “Oh boy, XR is going to blow up in ways people have no idea about”. That has been a backdrop to motivating me for quite some time. After seeing the power of stand-alone VR and cell phone-attached XR, I really do believe that it is ready for prime time.

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

I remember early on when I got involved into the XR space I met with a large number of startups doing work to look towards partnerships or joint investment opportunities. Oftentimes these would be extremely early-stage companies at different “demo days”. At one of them we were getting a demo on a function related to being able to “smell” in VR. I remember a person I was with having the headset on as they were trying to get the demo to work (it wasn’t working and the screen was black). The person in the headset all of a sudden exclaimed: “Oh wow! I can smell Indian food, is this a cooking movie that should be playing?”. Little did they know that the catering was being set up and…it was Indian food. This company did not end up ever releasing a product.

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

I think the biggest mistake I made was to assume that everyone would want to wear headsets. Many of us grew up in this matrix/VR MMO dream where we all wish we could have fully immersive VR pods that we would go into. However, this is actually more of a bubble. Even more so, I thought that there was no real reason someone wouldn’t want to wear a headset. At a trade show I went to one time I came to understand that I had lacked diversity in thought amongst the people I talked to about this for a very simple reason: I never considered that perhaps many people would not want their hair to be messed with by wearing a headset for a given task… I always try to keep in mind the importance of not only thinking about what I think is cool these days.

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

I am very fortunate to have met my co-founder and mentor Weili Dai. Without her, I would be nowhere near where I am today. While there are many things I could be particularly grateful for and many stories that I could tell of the impacts they have had, the biggest one to me is that I learned to look at the world in a way that merges business and technology without disregarding morals. As an example of this, we were once in a situation where we were being asked by a potential customer to copy a piece of technology that someone else had, improve it, and then they would buy it from us. It would have been very lucrative for us. We turned down the entire engagement and never spoke to that customer again. While there are a number of reasons to decline, the one that stuck out to me the most was that it is a matter of pride. Pride, Weili always says, should lead to how we look and build technology. If we give up our pride in being creators of disruptive technology for even a moment, then we lose the ability to innovate long term.

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

Yes! The big one I am working on is our new B2C offering, the MeetKai Metaverse application. So far as a company our work has been pretty much confined to B2B engagements. We have pretty large deployments of our tech in a number of verticals and industries globally, however, our consumer products up to this point have been largely tech demos. The company was founded with a simple spec that we have always been working towards: improve efficiency of life through human-AI interaction. Up to this point the best way to accomplish that is to develop IP in the B2B world. However, with the expansion of access to low-cost XR devices (at least the path to them has begun) things can change. We’re building a metaverse product because a lot of real-life experiences people have now are cost prohibitive or simply impractical due to a whole suite of reasons for people. Apps, which did democratize a number of them, are fundamentally limited in what they can do given their constraints of form and function. An XR metaverse on the other hand allows us to deliver not just replacements for many real-world experiences, but also fundamental improvements to them too. But our goal is not to develop something that is purely the virtual — our metaverse is rooted in reality. There is already a real world that is very interesting out there, it is just not being exposed to enough people.

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

  1. Low-cost standalone VR devices — The biggest issue that has stopped innovation in the space up to this point has been that the entry barrier was so high. Even beyond the raw cost of the headset, it often involved building a gaming computer to power the hardware which is not something a random user can do. Thanks to innovation from a number of hardware players we are finally seeing costs come down for stand-alone devices. This will only accelerate with innovations that I see on deck from semiconductor players in the ecosystem.
  2. Content creation tools — One of the biggest issues for any new and emerging platform is a lack of valuable content. If there is nothing to do then who cares. There are now multiple companies in the industry that are really focused on making it easier to create XR ready content without being an XR expert. Even more interesting are companies that are working to take old content and port it into XR.
  3. Alternative Monetization — I say this instead of Web3 because when you say Web3 everyone goes into a very specific mindset. What it means to me is that previously, people assumed that monetization options could only exist in an App Store model. There are now many more ways to monetize content. A big advantage to me about Web3 is this idea of more decentralized and direct monetization. Crypto is just one application that solves that problem and need, but not necessarily the only way.

All of the above 3 are required as a “team” to push the industry forward. The fact that they’re so far along is what excites me now. We’re starting to see a path for people to be able to easily create content that they can monetize with an increasing user base thanks to cheaper hardware.

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

Ironically, the 3 things that excite me the most are also the 3 most concerning to me.

  1. Hardware is still too expensive. Currently $299 is as cheap as it gets. This is also ignoring the concept of what the actual costs to produce those devices are. For XR to really get huge, either a person needs to be able to not purchase a phone for it or the headsets need to leverage existing computers people already own for the price to get closer to being an accessory rather than a “new thing”.
  2. Content creation is still too hard. Creating content that actually runs well in VR is a really, really hard problem. In fact, if you look at many of the metaverse products out there many of them say “VR coming soon”. Sadly, I have bad news for anyone holding their breath — if it doesn’t run well in non-VR then it is only an order of magnitude worse in VR.
  3. Web3 has the potential to prevent adoption. The idea of everyone wanting to have a hardware crypto wallet is laughable. Even software-based wallets are a challenge. The industry cannot afford in such an infant state to create unnecessary barriers to entry. Furthermore, it shouldn’t try to relearn the lessons from the previous monetization efforts that platforms and sectors have tried before. High friction onboard is always a recipe for bad.

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

XR has incredible benefits for the entire spectrum of work. As some examples — training right now for jobs is modeled more off of school than anything interesting. Immersive environments where users are able to simulate tasks provide a far more fun, engaging, and impactful experience for learning how to do new work. The benefits towards industrial applications of AR are also self-evident. In a nutshell, wearing an AR device basically gives you superpowers to see through walls and overlay data you would normally refer to your phone for. This is insanely valuable in any building or manufacturing situation. In terms of more white-collar work, what XR enables is the ability to have a far greater sense of presence. We, like many companies, have experimented a lot with functioning in this new remote world the past 2 years. With XR, you’re able to really create a sense of togetherness that is fundamental to so much of the deep collaboration that is usually done in an intimate office environment.

Furthermore, the virtual room in which XR collaboration takes place is capable of not just emulating but drastically improving upon real life work. This is because the entire space is dynamic. It is eye opening the first time you see people bring in data to a virtual meeting in XR. It really makes you feel sad every time you have to be on a video call and look at a screen share.

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

My general rule of thumb is that the XR world can improve our lives whenever one of a small set of criteria is met. I define these in terms of wishes I have when I am doing a task in real life.

  1. Wouldn’t it be nice if the space I am in now was personalized and dynamic for me instead of fixed for everyone? This is something we all feel when shopping.
  2. Wouldn’t it be nice if I could try that out without any risk or cost? This is something I think we all feel when considering traveling or doing some new activity.
  3. Wouldn’t it be nice if I could do this from home without being on my phone? An easy example of this, is that watching live theater is night and day different from a recording of it. XR solves this problem (or at least does a much better job given the cost to go to the theater).
  4. Wouldn’t it be nice if I could do this with someone who isn’t physically here with me? While yes, watch parties allow you to watch TV with someone, it is not the same as being in the same “space” as them doing so. And for anything physical, even as simple as board games, an app doesn’t cut it.

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

The biggest myth I would say is that you can only work in it if you have experience in gaming. XR is not just about gaming. Gaming is just the easiest application for many people to understand. Furthermore, the industry is so young right now that what it needs the most is people coming in from diverse backgrounds and interests to help unlock new areas for the industry to expand to. This is why I love talking to startup founders in the space. Otherwise, if you just take a bunch of gaming nerds like myself and expect us to happen upon new verticals you will likely end up with just more games.

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

  1. Spend time in XR every day. Otherwise, it is too easy to fall out of touch with where the wind is blowing.
  2. Don’t get too caught up in any one application. I believe XR is going to be larger than mobile. If you get caught up in one tunnel, then you could very well be in the wrong one. Imagine if you thought mobile phones would only ever be useful for communication.
  3. Don’t just build what is cool for the sake of building cool stuff. It can be very easy to get caught up in this, compared to other industries, because there are so few end users, relatively speaking. Make sure you are constantly thinking about how what you will do will deliver real value to your users.
  4. The world isn’t just the US. Make sure you think about the limitations of XR when you take it to a global scale. The value of XR and the metaverse can only come about in a much more connected globalist world. If you think everyone is an English speaker with a $300 headset you are missing the boat.
  5. Be open to being wrong. If I can say one thing it is that the industry is young and undefined. It is basically a desert. But one with plenty of oil to be found. Sometimes though, if you can’t find any it can be better to stop digging and try somewhere else to build your kingdom. There is a huge amount of foundation to be built and it is not zero sum.

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

I really do hope that XR and the metaverse will enable people to form relationships virtually that they would never otherwise have done. Honestly, some of my most meaningful friendships as a kid happened online in video games. The ability to enable 2 people on other sides of the world to share an experience together has the potential to cause a lot of downstream good in the world. It breaks down borders in a way that nothing else can.

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

Honestly, I love talking to people way outside my field the most. What I enjoy most is talking to people who I would never even know about. That is why it is hard for me to say someone in particular with whom to share a private meal with because the most interesting person is one I don’t yet know about :).

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


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

Gillian Tietz Of Sober Powered On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Have confidence. It’s hard to have confidence as a new speaker and you’re going to suck for a while. A speaker who lacks confidence will not be able to hold the attention of their audience. The best ways to develop confidence are by knowing your audience and what they want, practicing, becoming an expert in your subject, and gaining experience over time.

At some point in our lives, many of us will have to give a talk to a large group of people. What does it take to be a highly effective public speaker? How can you improve your public speaking skills? How can you overcome a fear of speaking in public? What does it take to give a very interesting and engaging public talk? In this interview series called “5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker” we are talking to successful and effective public speakers to share insights and stories from their experience. As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Gillian Tietz.

Gillian Tietz is the host of the Sober Powered podcast. When she quit drinking in 2019, she dedicated herself to learning about alcohol’s influence on the brain and how it can cause addiction. She used that knowledge to free herself from the shame she had about being unable to control her drinking. Today, she educates and empowers others to assess their relationship with alcohol. You can find Gill creating content on Instagram, YouTube, and wherever you listen to podcasts.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I grew up in the Boston area, where I still live today. A defining part of my childhood is that I was bullied for all of middle and high school. Because of that, I spent most of my time studying, hanging out with my brother, and playing video games. I enjoyed writing short stories and poems in middle school, and in high school I got really into metal music because it helped me cope with the anger and isolation I felt. The bullying prevented me from socializing much, and because of that I spent a lot of time studying. That allowed me to do really well in math and science, which led to a career in the sciences.

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

When I was drinking I believed everything that the stigma tells us- that I was a weak-willed loser who chose to drink that way and had no self-control. This led me to really hate myself. When I finally accepted I can never drink again for the rest of my life I wanted to understand why this happened to me and why it doesn’t happen to other people. I was working as a biochemist at the time, and part of my job was to keep up with the latest literature in the field. I used those skills to dive into the research on addiction and understand if this was my fault or because I lacked self-control. The more I learned, the less shame I felt. About 7–8 months into this passion project I decided I had to share this information so others could benefit. I launched my podcast that same day. I have worked hard on my podcast every day since and became skilled at marketing and getting new listeners. That led me to want to share with other podcasters who were frustrated that no one cared about their “new episode is out” posts on social media. That is how I began speaking publicly on stages.

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

I presented at Podcast Movement Evolutions in March 2022 in LA and it was my first time attending a podcasting conference in person. Highly recommend attending conferences in your industry in person, because the networking was so valuable! I met people I really look up to like Dr. Andrew Huberman, host of Huberman Lab, and I made some strong connections with other podcasters and business leaders. In between me thanking everyone for attending my talk and turning to exit the stage a line had formed to speak to me. I’ll never forget how that felt. People appreciated my “it’s about you, not me” approach.

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

I met my husband in my first year of graduate school while he was in his fourth year of a PhD program. I was doing a lab rotation in the lab he worked in and he was training me and supervising my rotation. At the end of each rotation we were asked to give a “chalk talk” where you get up to the chalkboard in a large, leveled auditorium and discuss your 9 week rotation using only the chalkboard. It was intimidating for many reasons: no slides, you had to draw and speak at the same time, and these chalk talks were very popular because everyone knew how nervous the new graduate students were. I was horribly nervous that my husband, who I had only known for a couple months and was still trying to impress, would think I wasn’t smart. I memorized my presentation and asked my husband to not look at me while I gave my talk. He actually sat there looking at the floor. For the remainder of my chalk talks, I told him he couldn’t come. He has always been my biggest supporter, even from the very beginning, so he stayed home whenever I had to present. I learned that if you’re that nervous about speaking that your husband has to stay home or look at the floor, then it’s a sign you need to work on your background knowledge. Nerves are normal, but the level of nerves I felt were due to not being confident in my expertise on the topic. I learned how critical it is to prepare for questions at the end of the presentation.

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

My husband has been my biggest supporter in everything in life, but he has helped me a lot with my speaking skills. My husband has a PhD in physical chemistry and is a Principal Scientist, which is the highest level in the scientist track in Biotech. I’ve been very fortunate to have such a successful husband because each time I had to give a scientific presentation in my job as a biochemist, he was able to help me prepare. He reviews my slides with me and asks questions. His questions are often things I didn’t think of myself and helps me to understand the story I need to tell in my presentation. He still helps me in the same way whether the topic is about podcasting, social media marketing, or addiction science. Understanding the story you need to tell is key to giving a compelling presentation.

You have been blessed with great success in a career path that can be challenging and intimidating. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?

You’re going to suck for a while and that’s okay. The only way to get better is to give weak presentations where you are so nervous you might throw up on the audience, but you make it through mostly okay. Each time you give a presentation, you get a little bit more comfortable. You have to accept that the only way to get better at speaking is by speaking. I was a nervous speaker for years and avoided presenting at all costs. It wasn’t until I realized it was an important skill that I wanted to develop that I stopped avoiding opportunities and actually started volunteering for them. This is your sign to volunteer or say yes to the next speaking opportunity you have. Feel free to reach out and tell me how it went too!

What drives you to get up everyday and give your talks? What is the main empowering message that you aim to share with the world?

I feel that I have a unique perspective. I spend nearly all of my time learning about podcasting, marketing, and addiction science. I know not everyone has that luxury, so I feel compelled to share my learnings and my perspective with the world. I want people to understand that as long as they want something badly enough, they can do it. I want to help podcasters switch their mindset from follow me, like my posts, listen to my podcast, and give me your money to, how can I help my audience? What do they need to know to succeed? How can I best spread this message to more people? I want to help people struggling with alcohol realize what’s holding them back from fully accepting that they need to get sober. Often, we say we want to get sober, when in reality we just want to drink without the consequences.

You have such impressive work. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Where do you see yourself heading from here?

I’m continuing to grow my podcast, which is currently in the top 100 on the mental health charts in several countries. I have aspirations to write a book someday about everything I have learned about addiction to help others get sober and stay sober. I am presenting at some more conferences on podcasting, and will continue seeking out these opportunities. I’m going back to grad school in the fall to get my masters in addiction counseling and co-occurring disorders. My goal is to work at a treatment center, and I think adding counseling expertise to my biochemistry background would further my goal of becoming known as an expert in my field. That is my overall goal, to become known as an expert in addiction, and everything I do is with that in mind.

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

“You will face many defeats in life, but never let yourself be defeated.” -Maya Angelou

It’s okay to fail or suck at something, as long as you don’t give up. When I got sober I started adopting a new mindset of “why not me?”. Even if I fail or I don’t get chosen for an opportunity, I keep trying. The only failure is in giving up and defeating yourself. When I launched my podcast, I had 0 followers and only 9 people listened on launch day (me and my mom were a few of the listens…), but I kept working at it because I didn’t really see any reason why people wouldn’t want to listen to it. When things get hard and you want to quit, remind yourself that successful people aren’t successful because they got lucky. They’re successful because they kept going when it was hard. When everyone else quit, they persevered because they wanted it badly enough.

Ok, thank you for all that. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker?” Please share a story or example for each.

  1. It’s about them, not you. Your audience is there to learn something very specific from you. Often, presenters feel that they need to qualify themselves at the beginning of their talk and will take precious minutes away from the information they are trying to deliver to instead spend it on an introduction of who they are and why they are amazing. The best way to qualify yourself is through the information that you share. An effective public speaker does not need to convince the audience that they are an expert in their topic, instead they show that they are an expert throughout the presentation.
  2. Be direct and clear. Get to the point and get to it quickly. An effective speaker knows what information is critical to their talk and what is just filler or fluff. Including too much information (which I have been guilty of!) or going off on a tangent distracts your audience and prevents them from fully internalizing your message. When you’re reviewing your outline or slides, ask yourself “what is the purpose of this slide and how does it fit in with the overall point?”. If you can’t immediately identify how that slide fits, then cut it out.
  3. Have confidence. It’s hard to have confidence as a new speaker and you’re going to suck for a while. A speaker who lacks confidence will not be able to hold the attention of their audience. The best ways to develop confidence are by knowing your audience and what they want, practicing, becoming an expert in your subject, and gaining experience over time.
  4. Humility. The best speakers find a balance between confidence and humility. Nothing ruins a talk and makes the audience tune out like an arrogant speaker. Similar to my first point, resist the urge to qualify yourself or brag about your accomplishments. The best way to maintain the balance between confidence and humility is by keeping your talk audience focused. Keep any introduction about yourself limited to 1 slide or 2 minutes max and limit the amount of stories you tell about your success. Instead of focusing on your success and how amazing you are, focus on the lesson learned from the success and teaching that lesson to your audience.
  5. Relatability. A highly effective public speaker is someone that others can relate to. If you’re sharing about your success in business, but I believe you had it easy and don’t understand my struggles, then I’m not going to completely engage in your talk. You stay relatable and accessible by never forgetting where you came from. When I speak about addiction, I never forget how hard it was for me to get sober and stay sober. When I speak about podcasting, I never forget when I felt frustrated that I had no followers, and no one would listen to my podcast. When I speak about science, I never forget when I was starting out and struggled to fully understand why we were pursuing that study and how it fit into our overall goal.

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

The best way to become more comfortable speaking is by deeply understanding your topic. The times where I felt the most nervous about speaking were when I didn’t feel confident that I could answer questions. Many of my presentations have been in a scientific environment where I have been well aware that I was not the most knowledgeable person in the room. My worst talks happened when I felt that everything I knew was already included in my presentation and hoped we wouldn’t have time for questions. If you feel nervous about getting up and speaking, then the best thing you can do is spend time learning and preparing for questions. Like I do with my husband, you could share your slides or outline with a trusted friend or colleague and have them ask you questions. That will give you a better idea of what someone may ask you.

You are a person of huge influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

More compassion. We are all different and we only understand our own experiences. The stigma exists because most people are able to decide how much they want to drink, drink that amount, and move on with their lives. They assume everyone has the same experience, so therefore problem drinkers just choose to go overboard or have a lack of control. Through my work in the sober community, I have learned to have compassion for people that have different experiences than I do. If the world could have a little bit more compassion for people in different situations, it would be a better, less judgmental place. We are all different and our brains don’t work in the same way. Someone isn’t bad or weak because they are different from you, they may have never learned coping skills, their brain may be more sensitive to rewards, or they may feel emotions more intensely than you do. Compassion isn’t giving people an excuse, it is simply not assuming everyone’s brain works the same way yours does. Compassion encourages people to get better, where judgment only encourages shame.

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!

Matt Heafy from Trivium. Trivium’s music has helped me through the darkest times in my life. I discovered them when I was 16 and listening to them helped me distract myself when I was bullied. I developed PTSD at 18 from a traumatic event and could not sleep because of flashbacks and nightmares. I would lie in my bed every night and listen to a full album of Trivium’s (Shogun) and by the time it finished I would usually be able to sleep. At the end of my drinking, I’d stay awake by myself and listen to Trivium and cry. I have been a super fan of Matt Heafy and Trivium for most of my life. Their music is healing.

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

If you search for Sober Powered, you will find me. That’s my website, Instagram, Facebook group, YouTube channel, and my podcast can be found wherever you listen to podcasts.

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

Thank you so much for allowing me to share!


Gillian Tietz Of Sober Powered On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Iryna Kidyba Of Simple On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Good knowledge of the material, personal interest in the topic, eye and voice contact with the listener, creative visualization of your speech, and a little humour.

At some point in our lives, many of us will have to give a talk to a large group of people. What does it take to be a highly effective public speaker? How can you improve your public speaking skills? How can you overcome a fear of speaking in public? What does it take to give a very interesting and engaging public talk? In this interview series called “5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker” we are talking to successful and effective public speakers to share insights and stories from their experience. As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Iryna Kidyba.

Iryna Kidyba is a financial specialist at Simple. She graduated from Kyiv National Economic University in 2015 with a master’s degree in financial markets. After that, Ira worked in several international companies, where she gained practical experience in stock market trading. She also has risk management skills in a big European Forex broker. Now Iryna heads the dealing department at Simple. She wants to share her experience with you.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

Sure. I became interested in the fascinating financial world already in middle school. That’s why after graduating from school I went to study at Kyiv National Economic University. There I had 5 interesting years of immersion in economic theories. After graduating with a red diploma, I went to gain practical experience in well-known international companies. The first years of work were quite difficult. But thanks to my efforts and fruitful work, I have achieved significant results over these 7 years.

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

My father. He is a lecturer in economics at Kyiv National University of Economics. It so happened that my dreams coincided with his. He prepared me for this since childhood, and I was a very diligent student. I was very lucky with my father.

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

The most interesting was 2017 when the first mass hype of cryptocurrency took place. People were selling apartments and taking big loans just to buy Bitcoin. We turned down many customers and saved their money because in 2018 Bitcoin collapsed from $20,000 to $3,000. Instead, we advised them to buy Tesla stocks, which showed significant growth in 2019.

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

I traded the Turkish lira against the US dollar during political tensions between the authorities of the two countries in 2016. As a result, the lira fell sharply, and I lost a lot of company money. After that, I never traded again during political turmoil.

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

In addition to my dad, my first boss, Victor, also helped me a lot. He was a very sensitive mentor and always accompanied me on difficult tasks. I inherited invaluable experience from him and then reached current heights thanks to this. Thanks a lot to him

You have been blessed with great success in a career path that can be challenging and intimidating. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?

Everyone has failures, and I also had them. This is a necessary part of success. Do not be afraid of mistakes, the main thing is to be assertive and get up after each fall. This is the only way to gain experience.

What drives you to get up everyday and give your talks? What is the main empowering message that you aim to share with the world?

I want to show by my example that anything is possible. Everyone can achieve their goals with proper perseverance. My story is nothing special, there are millions of such stories. But they still need to be told to new young people who are just coming to life and starting their way into the world.

You have such impressive work. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Where do you see yourself heading from here?

We are currently working in two innovative areas. These are DeFi and NFT. Decentralized finance is the future of our outdated economic system. Centralized banks will be a thing of the past. Also, in 5 years, we will keep all our documents as property rights or driver’s licenses in the form of NFT.

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

“Never say never”. No one could have imagined that Russia would start a full-scale war with Ukraine and our lives would change once and for all after February 24, 2022. The so-called Black Swan can always happen with the ensuing consequences. Plan B must always be prepared.

Ok, thank you for all that. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker?” Please share a story or example for each.

Good knowledge of the material, personal interest in the topic, eye and voice contact with the listener, creative visualization of your speech, and a little humour.

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

Speak first in front of a mirror, then in front of relatives or friends. Then you can try to perform in front of strangers on the street. Also, record yourself on video and analyse afterward. Everything comes with practice and experience.

You are a person of huge influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

Now I am interested in eco-activism and garbage sorting. This topic has become fashionable in Ukraine last years and is very common in Western Europe. But the United States and China still do not sort, despite the fact that they are the largest producers of garbage in the world. I want to convey the importance of this process to their residents.

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!

I would like to have lunch with the president of Ukraine — Vladimir Zelensky, as he is my idol.

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

https://www.facebook.com/Simpleinvest-104523255489895

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


Iryna Kidyba Of Simple On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Meet The Disruptors: Blake Hutchison Of Flippa On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your…

Meet The Disruptors: Blake Hutchison Of Flippa On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Do things today, not tomorrow. It’s so easy to complete something tomorrow. The problem with that, is you could have learned faster or progressed more if you just did it when the opportunity first presented itself.

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

Blake is the CEO of Flippa, the #1 marketplace to buy and sell sites, stores, apps and online businesses. Blake has worked on leadership teams assisting in fast growth businesses including Xero and Luxury Escapes. Among his start up experience, he also founded a company…he then used Flippa to sell the business.

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

I’ve worked in growth, business development and leadership roles over nearly 20 years. I’ve always enjoyed the challenge of growing divisions, channels and businesses but more pertinently, I absolutely love building something that customers get real value from. This passion led me to Flippa where we enable the exit and empower business ownership for thousands of business owners, investors and operators each year.

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

Businesses have been bought and sold for 100’s of years yet the experience for small business owners and digital asset operators has not only been neglected, it’s lacked liquidity, access and transparency.

We are building the investment bank for the 99% and building sophisticated valuation, negotiation and transaction functionality traditionally reserved for the 1%…making the opportunity to exit a possibility for 100’s of millions of site, store and app owners all over the world.

Regardless of size, from $5,000 to $50M, Flippa is opening up a world of possibility, usually reserved for the well heeled and well networked.

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

I must say, I can’t think of a funny mistake but I can certainly reflect on a funny story…I once pretended to be an external PR company representing a start up, my own startup, in order to secure a story. Journalists are more inclined to listen when it’s a third party…so I sold the firm’s credentials, pitched this exciting start-up (my own) and a specific concept and won some media coverage. I even made up a pseudonym. Anything to win coverage…

I learned that the hustle always works…or at least it has some great lessons.

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

Whenever I’ve labeled people mentors they haven’t added a huge amount of value. It felt a little forced. Instead, I’ve tried to lean in and surround myself with people I trust, that I feel are equally curious and that want to achieve atypical impact.

Certain members of the Flippa board have been instrumental as a sounding board. Previous leaders at world class companies like Lonely Planet, Xero and Luxury Escapes were equally valuable for differing reasons. Finally, the level headedness of a specific investor (and friend) in my own start-up got me through to the other side. In that case, the impact was awesome. They stood by my side as the venture unraveled and I’m forever indebted.

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

It’s usually less good when the switching costs are too high or alternatively, when the disruption is good for some but not for most.

Successful disruptors build better offerings that benefit more people. When they do, we embrace them.

Unfortunately disruption has become so sought after by entrepreneurs chasing greatness rather than customer value that in some cases you end up with a disaster. The best example I can think of is Theranos where the idea of disrupting the healthcare industry became destructive and dangerous. There’s certain industries that are more immune to disruption than others and often for good reason. Examples include the health care system and the judicial system.

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

1. Don’t peak when you are 18. Haha. I just love this. We put so much emphasis on being great young. Too many examples to run through.

2. Do things today, not tomorrow. It’s so easy to complete something tomorrow. The problem with that, is you could have learned faster or progressed more if you just did it when the opportunity first presented itself.

3. Hire for urgency. I’m still trying to figure out how to interview for this. Most people who apply for jobs are smart. They can do the job. The question is can they do the job quickly…with a sense of urgency.. I’ve hired some ludicrously clever people who just can’t get things done.

4. Be bold in your decision making. Slow decision making can ruin an organization and most of the time it’s either as a result of fear or misunderstanding. We’ve delayed product decisions due to misunderstanding and we’ve tended to be better off when we’ve just gone for it.

5. Reward your best talent. We almost lost a key member of staff recently. They resigned. Within minutes I reset their compensation plan and retained them. It’s proven to be the right decision.

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

It’s going to be huge. We are building an entirely new way to buy and sell. The new negotiation hub rewrites the rules. Instant buyer matches are fed to you directly. You can organize buyers and shortlist preferred buyers. You can arrange and host video calls. You can sync discussions with WhatsApp. You can invite third parties and you can populate a data room. It’s the investment bank for the 99%.

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

My favorite podcast is Business Wars. It really digs into how the outcome of these battles shape what we buy and how we live and there are always lessons learned in their decision making processes.

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

Don’t peak when you’re 18. Life is a marathon not a sprint.

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

Every day I hear another story of another individual changing paths, finding a new beginning, and taking control of their future. It’s an exciting movement but I do believe that the path to independence and financial security comes from doing what you want, taking calculated risks and finding a passion.

How can our readers follow you online?

Connect with me on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/blakehutchison/

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


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

Meet The Disruptors: BaseNote On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

“Know your limits” — Every new thing that you take on adds a certain level of stress to your life. It’s crucial to understand how much stress you can handle and how much stress you’re agreeing to take on. It’s fantastic to take on new challenges at work but you have to ensure it’s not going to push you over your limit which will cause you to fail and set you back. Knowing exactly when and how hard to push is probably the biggest lever you can have in growing your career.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mike, Mick, and Nic of BaseNote.

Music tech startup BaseNote has an ambitious goal: to redefine how musicians fund their work. Through the BaseNote app, fans can purchase investments in their favorite artists, directly funding the creation of new music. Unlike donation-based crowdfunding programs, like Kickstarter or Patreon, BaseNote allows investors to share in the upside by entitling them to a portion of the artists’ streaming royalties. This incentivizes fans to spread the word about the musicians they support, generating more royalties for both shareholders and artists.

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

We are the three co-founders of BaseNote, Mike, Mick, and Nic. We are all life-long music fans, attending copious festivals and live music events, and we have had the intention for years to start a company in the music space to improve outcomes for artists. Mike and Mick met in grad school, where they worked in the same lab. Mike then went to work for Snapchat, and Mick followed shortly after. There, Mike worked on the Snapchat camera team, while Mick joined the hardware team working on Spectacles, Snapchat’s camera sunglasses product. Nic was an early Snapchat employee working on the Android app, and around this time he transferred to the same hardware team where he and Mick worked together for several years.

We each took varied career paths since that time, but we always kept sight of our intention to start an artist-focused company at the intersection of music and technology. Over the last several years, there’s been an acceleration in the market trends of plummeting costs of production and distribution, a shakeup in the traditional methods of breaking new acts and finding a fanbase, and fanbases waking up to some of the abuses in the industry and wanting to do something about it. These trends aligned to make it the right time to start our company, and in early 2021 we kicked off our journey to redefine the way music is funded.

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

Mick: For the past 100 years, the record deal has remained largely unchanged. The options available to artists to fund their careers are either to pay for everything themselves up-front, or to turn to a record label to provide funding. Label deals are heavily tilted in favor of the label, which is a relic of the days when the label had to physically produce and distribute records. Even today, many artists who sign a record deal will never see a cent of revenue from their share of the label deal beyond the initial advance. However, most artists don’t have the freedom to go it alone and are forced to take that deal.

Our path is to reimagine the way music is funded in the first place. While music is a capital-intensive business, there are a myriad of middlemen that you have to work with as an artist that make things much more expensive than it needs to be. We aim to disintermediate the process, and go directly to the fans to fund your art; ultimately, that’s where the money driving record profits for record labels is coming from anyway.

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

Mick: In our very early days, it was unclear which workstream was going to be on the critical path to launch and we placed a high priority on refining our brand identity. A friend of ours recommended that we contract with a design agency, but in the interest of time and money we instead decided to outsource the project to a competition-based online design platform. We quickly discovered that you get what you pay for, and the quality of candidate logos we received was underwhelming. As soon as we gave feedback to one designer, every other designer would copy that feedback in hopes of winning!

We subsequently engaged with a design studio out of Los Angeles, and they delivered us a thoughtful, exciting brand that we couldn’t be happier with. The lesson learned is that in some industries there is no substitute for working with the professionals. The funny part is that now that we are familiar with the competition-style of work product we notice it everywhere, out in the world and online!

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

Mick: I’ve been lucky to have a lot of mentors throughout my life but the one that stands out the most is my uncle who spent a lot of time on the phone with me when I first got started in tech. He mentored me through interviewing, evaluating job offers, and eventually through some big decisions at work. He would always have great insights and frameworks to guide me. For example, my wisdom on making decisions came from him. He focused on the framework and structure of decision making so that I would be better at that long term and not only focus on the here and now.

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

Mick: ‘Disruption’ has definitely become a buzzword, but I think a good definition is that it represents a rapid shift in the way things are done in an industry. Crucially, there’s no content in that definition that speaks to whether an industry should change, and how. So, when you think about disruption you really need to put it into the context of the industry, and whether there is a disconnect between the current needs of the industry and who the industry is serving.

A prime example of needed disruption is Uber. My personal opinions on their conduct aside, the reason they took off like they did was because they identified a very clear disconnect between what people wanted and what the market offered. Pre-Uber, calling a cab was a miserable experience for many, and Uber offered a solution. Those instances where the stakeholders of an industry aren’t having their needs met are when the term ‘ripe for disruption’ comes in, and that’s what we see in the music industry.

A counter-example, in my opinion, would be what’s happening in the crypto space. First with blockchain, and now with NFTs, solutions are being peddled that are certainly different ways of doing things, but it’s not clear that it’s going to meet the needs of key stakeholders in new ways, or that it’s the best way to meet those needs. In those cases, you end up with a solution in search of a problem, and I think the crypto space is still looking for that disconnect that they can uniquely solve to really achieve mainstream appeal.

Nic: Crypto is a really interesting example, especially in the music royalties space. I think in order to “successfully disrupt” something, you need to first have a deep understanding of how the existing system works, and the nature of its failings. It’s well known that tracking music royalties can be extremely complicated. There are companies out there that claim to solve these problems through technology (blockchain or otherwise). But the issue is that royalty tracking is hard because of legal and organizational constructs, not technical ones. There are different royalties coming in from different types of copyrights, and many different organizations that collect and administer these royalties. Copyright laws vary from country to country (royalty chains look different in the US vs the UK vs China, as examples). And you’ve got intermediaries like labels and distributors, who each do things slightly differently. So, if a company claims to solve this by tracking royalties on the blockchain, I feel that this betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the problem: the difficulty isn’t in keeping track of numbers, it’s the knowledge, logistical, and legal work needed to plug into all of these existing organizations.

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

Mick: “Put on your own oxygen mask first.” — I’ve always been the type to take on as much as I could handle, and then maybe one or two more things. Naturally, I didn’t tend to get as much sleep as I should or have or have the time to take care of myself than I should. That all came to a head for me in the last year or two; between the pandemic, having a baby, starting a company, my wife finishing her doctorate, and several interstate moves, I hit a point where there wasn’t enough coffee in the world to keep my productivity up. I had to do a bit of a reset, but now I try to make sure I build in the time and focus I need to keep myself on track. There’s always the temptation to push longer and harder to put out the fire of the day, but you have to tend to yourself before you tend to your responsibilities if you want to maintain a sustainable output.

Mike: “Know your limits” — Every new thing that you take on adds a certain level of stress to your life. It’s crucial to understand how much stress you can handle and how much stress you’re agreeing to take on. It’s fantastic to take on new challenges at work but you have to ensure it’s not going to push you over your limit which will cause you to fail and set you back. Knowing exactly when and how hard to push is probably the biggest lever you can have in growing your career.

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

Nic: We’re really excited about the concept of investing as a vehicle for fan engagement and community. When the app goes live, the social features are going to be fairly lightweight, but we plan on rapidly introducing new ways for investors to engage with the artists they love (both in-app, and in the real world).

Mick: We’re starting with music, but we see this paradigm shift in how art is funded as being relevant for all creative media. We’d like to expand our offering to film, writing, stage, any medium where you can build a fanbase that believes in your art.

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

Mick: I was given Voltaire’s Candide when I was in high school, and I re-read it every year or so. It has a lot to say about how we interpret a world full of chaos, misfortune, and injustice, and makes the case for focusing on doing what we can for the people in our lives.

Mike: Three or four years ago, I read “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman and “The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World” by Niall Ferguson, both of these books have been instrumental in forming my views around making investments. “Thinking, Fast and Slow” does a fantastic job of helping guide the decision maker through why they have certain intuition and when to be skeptical of them. For “The Ascent of Money”, it slowly builds from before money to current financial markets which is fundamental for being able to judge different investment strategies.

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

Mike: There is no such thing as a bad decision but people have a bad decision making process which makes them regret decisions down the line. Almost everyone can look at the pros and cons of a decision and pick the better decision. However, many people don’t invest enough time into finding the pros and cons of a choice and then later say “Oh, well I should have known about X and Y” which makes them think they made a bad decision.

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

Nic: If we look at the history of art, there’s a pattern that art financing has been controlled by a select few (royalty, aristocrats, churches, and, in the modern age, media executives). Unquestionably, this has produced many great works. But how many aspiring artists failed to reach their potential because their concepts were ahead of their time, and they failed to connect with the right patrons?

BaseNote is the democratization of art financing. When anyone can open up their phone and directly invest in an artist’s success, new genres of art can find their footing. We want to see a future where the creative class is expansive, financially independent, and empowered to champion bold new ideas. BaseNote is our first step towards that future.

How can our readers follow you online?

https://basenoteapp.com/

Instagram: @basenoteappofficial

Facebook: @BaseNoteApp

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


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

Meet The Disruptors: Bear Walker On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Perfection is another form of fear — I’ve always been a perfectionist, which I’ve found, comes with insecurity. When something goes wrong, I’m hard on myself and attribute it to not giving my all. I’m working on striking a balance between maintaining quality and standards in what I do and pushing forward to be the best in the business, while also recognizing when that pursuit of perfection manifests itself as fear of failure.

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

Bear Walker is Founder and CEO of Bear Walker Industries — an internationally renowned skateboard design and manufacturing company specializing in hand-crafted and carved wood skateboards that are inspired by art and pop culture. Combining his expertise in woodworking with a passion for skateboarding, pop culture, and art, Walker creates one-of-a-kind designs all while driving the overall vision of Bear Walker Industries.

Walker’s experience in woodworking started at a young age, helping his father build houses. Later realizing his passion for design and riding, Walker created his first skateboard design as part of a senior project at Clemson University, and set out to push the boundaries of design and functionality.

Recognizing a gap in the market, Walker launched Bear Walker in 2017, grounded in authentic skate traditions, but customized with art and pop-culture references unique only to his work. Now, the brand is on a mission to create truly skateable, high quality works of art through boards that are meticulously crafted and feature a patented carved-out grip that took five years to perfect.

Functional and collectible, Walker’s attention to detail and innovative designs quickly caught the attention of brands and celebrities. Today, Walker partners with brands ranging from Marvel and Pokemon to the NBA and more, designing customized limited-edition collections that appeal to skaters, collectors, and more.

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

I graduated from Clemson University in 2011 with a degree in graphic design. This was right after the market crash, so I struggled to find a job that I enjoyed and matched up with what I was passionate about — skate, art, design, and woodworking. For a while, I bounced around from job to job, until I discovered how to carve out designs in skateboards to create friction for board grips. At first, I just made boards for myself, but eventually, I was getting questions from friends and even strangers asking where I got the boards and wanting to buy one. This was the inspiration behind Bear Walker Industries. Fast forward ten years, and I’ve turned that original design into a patented gripping surface that we’re not only using on our boards but also licensing out, establishing us as an industry innovator. We currently create custom boards for consumers and celebrities and release limited-edition skateboard collections with some of the world’s biggest brands, including Pokémon, Marvel, and the NBA. The boards are Made in America, and I strive every day to create an innovative work environment that people are excited to be part of.

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

We’re pushing the boundaries of what a skateboard can be by fusing art and design in a new way and creating a new style of grip. We’ve made a uniquely innovative product, to the degree that when I initially entered the market, I received pushback from traditional shops and the skate community because what I was doing had never been done before. This forced me to create my own sales channels and eventually, I went fully direct-to-consumer. Doing this allowed us to position Bear Walker products as premium and one-of-a-kind collectibles, making the uniqueness a selling point.

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

When I was building my first shop, I had limited resources. One day, I was using a nail gun that didn’t have a safety on it and nailed my fingers together. While it wasn’t funny at the time, it definitely taught me that there needed to be processes and procedures in place, and that’s something I’ve really focused on as of late.

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

My father has been my biggest personal mentor, and Daniel Arsham has been my biggest professional inspiration. My father started from nothing and built a business from the ground up making custom homes. He was always committed to doing things correctly and never compromised, even if it meant a task would be more difficult or expensive. He always stuck to his values, and he’s one of the best people I know. Moreover, Daniel is my favorite artist, and I recognize myself in him. He creates disruptive art through collaborations and high-end collectibles, similar to what I do. Whenever I’m stuck on a decision of which path to take, I like to look at his journey and business and use it as a guiding light.

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

As an artist creating something new, you’re always the first to market with your design, so you’re regarded as an industry expert and disruptor in what you’re creating. That feeling is a great motivator and gives you a sense of pride in what you’re doing. However, there is an inherent negative when you are new to something. You have to prove yourself and prove to others that the product you are creating is unique, and is better than the old way of doing things.

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

  • If it was easy, everyone would do it — What I’ve learned over the years of running a business is that there will always be extreme highs and extreme lows. It’s important to focus on the highs of a business and all of the great things we accomplish, and not let the road bumps or bad days ruin those highs. It’s all about managing the stress that comes with trying to grow a business and not allowing those extreme factors to affect you. At the end of the day, that’s the nature of running a business, and if the low lows didn’t come with it, there would be a lot more people doing what I’m doing.
  • Perfection is another form of fear — I’ve always been a perfectionist, which I’ve found, comes with insecurity. When something goes wrong, I’m hard on myself and attribute it to not giving my all. I’m working on striking a balance between maintaining quality and standards in what I do and pushing forward to be the best in the business, while also recognizing when that pursuit of perfection manifests itself as fear of failure.
  • Comfort is the enemy of progress — When I first started Bear Walker Industries, I never imagined it would be where it is today. It’s a strange feeling to surpass your goals, and it’s easy to become complacent with the success because you feel as if you’ve accomplished what you set out to do. When that happens, you need to get out of your comfort zone again and set new goals, so you are always working to be better.

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

Honestly, I feel like I’m just getting started. As a company, we have recently established a reputation in the industry, which has given us the opportunity to continue to push the boundaries on a lot of our ideas and innovation. I want to expand from just selling skateboards and collectibles, to having apparel and being known as a lifestyle brand. I want to continue to be seen as an industry leader and have the opportunity to speak to other entrepreneurs and encourage them to pursue their dreams. More recently, I have become interested in NFTs and the Metaverse, and am brainstorming ways Bear Walker Industries can uniquely fit into that market. Overall, we want to continue to make cool shit and be the best at it.

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

As a designer, I am constantly working to try and push myself and the boundaries of the industry. When I do have free time, I prefer to use it as a reset and turn off my brain. One of my favorite things to do is play video games with my nephew. This gives me the ability to recharge and set myself up for further success.

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

I suffer from anxiety, and as the CEO and Founder of a growing company, it seems like there is always a career-ending emergency or a fire to put out, or what my partner and I like to call a “near-death experience” for the company. When these instances arise, I think about my favorite mantra, “you may not know the answer, but you’re smart enough to figure it out.” Over the years, I’ve overcome challenges that didn’t seem “survivable.” Those experiences have proven to me that I do have the answers, and to always keep pushing forward no matter what.

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

I would like to inspire others to take their passions and build something tangible. I think a lot of the time, life gets in the way and sometimes our passions can fall to the wayside. When you’re passionate about a project or idea and are willing to struggle for five or ten years to build something you love at the end of the day, then do it. My business was not born overnight. I started this journey back in 2011 and have worked really hard to build Bear Walker Industries to what it is today. Looking back on everything, even the previously mentioned “near death experiences,” I’m glad I never gave up. It’s worth it.

How can our readers follow you online?

Readers can visit the Bear Walker website, www.bearwalker.com, to view our custom boards and gear. They can also follow along on Instagram at @bearwalkerofficial.

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


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

Adi Patil Of Start It Up NYC & Rriter: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

You must personalize your brand-building effort or brand if you want it to be effective. It’s critical to give your brand a personality. Allow customers to see and experience your brand’s entire personality. Consider your brand as something that customers want to associate with, much as their beloved vehicles, cellphones, or laptops.

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

Adi is the Co-founder and CMO of Start It Up NYC and Co-CEO of Rriter.com. He is a seasoned digital marketing and software development executive, frequent key-note speaker, and prominent figure in the US tech-marketing ecosystem.

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

After working corporate for about four years, I thought of building something that I can call mine. Luckily I met my co-founder Nico Hodel when I was in the right frame of mind for it, and the rest is history.

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

My co-founder Nico Hodel and I were both excited and desperate for clients when we founded Start It Up NYC. We were able to obtain a large number of those rather quickly, but at a cost that would take an excessive length of time. Not only that but our services were placed in a rather inexpensive pricing bracket. As a result, when people suggested us, they made sure to mention our pricing. It took us a long time to figure out how to price our services appropriately and start making a decent profit. Fortunately, we were able to make that change and we are still going strong after four years in business. However, we made the early mistake of undercharging for our services.

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

Ah, I wouldn’t want to take anything away from others that have a rough journey but we do fall under the same umbrella. Creating a brand that gathers attention in probably the most competitive city in the world — New York, can’t come easy. We started out of a loft that we lived in, with no funds, and today we have a company with a team that earns three figures, with no external investment taken. The story seems simple — two friends that happened to be roommates, came up with an idea and launched a company, and scaled it. But the journey, phew, too long to be covered in this answer. All I can say is, that it was a lot of smart work, networking, learning, and manifesting, that went into it.

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

I think all of our clients are doing some exciting work with us. But there is this one project we have been particularly working on since the last year or so, and we still have another phase of mobile app development to go. It is a social networking app for those that are or want to work on the 17 sustainable development goals set by the UN. That’s all I am permitted to say as of now, but well, the app launches in September, and we are excited to see the response and work on marketing post this development phase.

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

It’s quite simple. Brand Marketing takes place when you want to promote and establish the brand’s image and identity. Product Marketing is when you want to run campaigns and deliver messaging specific to a product in order to generate conversions.

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

Depending on your target audience, whether you think of a technology company like Apple, or a consumer-facing clothing line like Zara which is for everyone, or Chanel which is for the ones that can afford some luxury, consumers know what to expect from these brands, and they will try and buy multiple products these brands launch.

Once you build a brand image and identity, your products and services are very much awaited by your target audience. If I hang a pair of my jeans in a Zara store, I know it will sell for the right price. If I hang it in a random clothing shop, it may not. The focus should always be on building a brand so no matter what business you are into, you can achieve longevity.

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

1. Establish Your Brand.

The first step in developing a brand is to define it. This is a crucial phase since it determines what your brand’s true values are. Create a checklist of your company’s fundamental strengths while developing your brand. Similarly, when developing your personal brand, you should consider your abilities and expertise, particularly those that stand out. Similarly, you must understand what your brand represents and what is crucial to your brand (brand values). Your values should demonstrate that you are contributing to consumers’ environmental, social, and economic well-being in some way. Some of these crucial factors of brand building may not occur to you until later.

2. Set Your Brand Apart and Position It.

You must define your brand before you begin constructing it in order to draw attention and stand out from the competition. To set your brand apart, you must develop a distinct advantage in the minds of consumers, rather than simply attracting attention with brand-building colors, logos, or other surface components. Once you’ve come up with a distinct value proposition, you’ll need to apply a smart branding strategy to position your brand in such a way that consumers can perceive and appreciate its superior value to competing brands.

3. Create and Promote Your Brand.

As I previously stated, brand building is not a one-time event. It takes time and effort to develop a distinct and powerful personal or corporate brand. You must constantly be reinforcing your values and skills by taking on new tasks and assignments that will provide you with greater exposure in order to grow your personal brand. To build a voice for your personal or corporate brand, you can use promotional channels, blogs, forums, and social media (LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook).

When creating your brand, you should also try to create a personality for it (what people know, think, and say about you). This is what makes people want to connect with and engage with your brand. The truth is that if you follow through on your plans, you will be successful.

4. Make your brand unique.

You must personalize your brand-building effort or brand if you want it to be effective. It’s critical to give your brand a personality. Allow customers to see and experience your brand’s entire personality. Consider your brand as something that customers want to associate with, much as their beloved vehicles, cellphones, or laptops.

Customers should be invited to be co-creators of brand values as you engage in brand-building so that they feel like they own it and can relate to it. Consumer-brand engagement is encouraged by top brands tailoring products to match the requirements and tastes of customers. When you customize your brand, you give customers a reason to want to buy it.

5. Evaluate Your Brand.

Your brand isn’t static; it will go through a variety of emotions over the course of its existence. Your brand will either strengthen, remain inactive, or fade over time, depending on your brand tactics. New events, changes, and circumstances in the brand cycle present challenges and opportunities to increase the value of your brand or re-establish it. All of these possibilities should inspire you to take control of your brand-building efforts.

As your brand becomes more well-known, so do the duties and expectations that come with it. Reviewing your actions and analyzing your results using measures like brand awareness and engagement levels is the greatest method to ensure brand growth. Regular reviews will be beneficial.

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

Can’t help but give this one to Amazon. It is the biggest supermarket in the world. Especially if you look at their prime feature — Amazon Prime, products are trusted simply on the basis of the fact that they are drop shipped by the Amazon brand and stored in their warehouses. Yes, product reviews do matter, but as an umbrella, Amazon has the most amazing branding, delivery times, service, and customer satisfaction. No matter what else the brand launches, whether it’s their audio platform audible, or prime video for movies and shows, it’s all trusted and used by everyone, globally.

To replicate what Amazon did, one must provide seamless service, have great communication, and marketing that just delivers messaging around the trustworthiness of the brand. Of course, that is a mountain of a task to take on, but the results are as big!

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

It has all to do with sales, yes, but also shareability of the brand, the response of the customers, and taking a look at how long a customer is taking while considering your brand. How much time are people spending viewing your material or are they just ignoring it? A lot of these questions have to be answered and taken into consideration.

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

Oh, a huge role! As I mentioned in the previous answer, your brand has to win the shareability quotient. People should want to share how amazing your brand is on all platforms. As for you, social media is a great place to get creative and share your message through amazing designs and photography. Show off your brand identity in a way that resonates with your audience.

Successful social media campaigns can be good enough to generate a big volume of sales consistently.

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

In the great scheme of things, I believe education is crucial. There are many people in the world who do not receive a proper education. I’d like to encourage people to establish more free programs and to support any children who are eligible for college scholarships. We all know that we can’t rely just on the government; we must continually contribute back in order to improve everyone’s standard of living and encourage growth.

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

“Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose.”– Lyndon B. Johnson

I’ve been through a lot in my life, from my parents getting divorced to losing both of them at a young age. I believe that focusing on today and the future has allowed me to see life in a more optimistic light. Maintaining positive intent on a daily basis is critical to overcoming life’s ongoing pain points. Especially if you have recently lost loved ones. Loss is both personal and irreversible.

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

Leonardo Dicaprio. We don’t belong to similar fields at all. But I would love to get to know how he finds time for so many social causes, and how it compartmentalizes his life between the two. He is doing so much for the oceans. Secondly, I do like his movies, and I am a fan.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Linkedin would be best — https://www.linkedin.com/in/adip/

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


Adi Patil Of Start It Up NYC & Rriter: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Making Something From Nothing: Jerry Kolber Of ATOMIC ENTERTAINMENT GROUP On How To Go From Idea To…

Making Something From Nothing: Jerry Kolber Of ATOMIC ENTERTAINMENT GROUP On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Be PATIENT. Because we are creators, we want to have our creations enjoyed, used, and loved as soon as possible. Whether you create physical goods, digital products, or media — the road from idea to execution to widespread adoption is always longer than you think. It was more than three years from our having the idea for the science series Brainchild before it began streaming on Netflix.

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

JERRY KOLBER is an Executive Producer, writer and the CEO of ATOMIC ENTERTAINMENT GROUP — creators of the hit science/edu-taintment shows BRAIN GAMES and BRAINCHILD. Kolber graduated from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, with a degree in theater and concentration in film.

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

I grew up in the swamps of South Florida, with a lot of free time to wander around nature and make up games and adventures. My backyard was basically the Florida Everglades, my parents were very big on making sure that my sister and I spent a lot of time outdoors. Our bike rides took us by alligators, crocodiles, and iguanas, which we just figured was how everyone grew up.

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

“Art is the elimination of the unnecessary” — Pablo Picasso. This quote has always stuck with me, because it points the way towards impact through simplicity. Eliminating the unnecessary is a difficult process, but when done correctly, you are left with the essence of an idea, which is beautiful. It is so much harder than it sounds, but worth the effort. The creative work like we do at Atomic, results in experiences that are honest, insightful and impactful.

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

Seeing Star Wars as a kid was a game-changer for me. It was the first time I was aware of the power of media to fully immerse an audience in a vision — which led me to create my own little productions when I was 8 or 9 years old — and I never really stopped. It also sparked my love of science and space and wonder.

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

Persistence and commitment are highly underrated. Many great ideas fail because the ‘idea creator’ expected success in the first year or two; many fewer great ideas succeed because the creator stuck with it through the rigors of early startup. We live in a world where tech companies have trained us to expect — or demand — nearly instant gratification. That is quite the opposite of how success happens in business. I’ve found it generally takes at least 18 to 24 months for a business to establish a good foundation — and then you can build from there. The caveat being, if you do take an idea to the marketplace and aren’t getting any positive signals in the first 12 months — you might have more of a hobby, than a business.

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

First, it is not unlikely that someone has had the same idea before you. The real question is -which you can probably answer with a basic online search– has someone done exactly what you intend to do in the exact same way you intend to do it? For example, there are dozens of true crime TV shows, and dozens of home renovation TV shows — but each one approaches the subject a little bit differently.

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

While the specific legal processes may be different, the actual process of going from idea to finished film, book, TV series, or podcast is not that different from idea to manufacturing a physical product. Just as you can patent an invention before it is actually produced, you can copyright a script before it is produced. In both cases, it is NOT enough to just have an “idea” — you must actually write the script — or provide details of your invention — and then file it with the Library of Congress (Copyrightable Work) or Patent Office (Physical Products). It is highly advised to work with a specialized attorney when filing a patent or copyright. If your work has an overall brand identity you’ve invested in, you may also want to trademark the brand — again, hire an attorney who specializes in this. To create your creative product or physical product, the best way to find a producer or manufacturer is to tap into the network of people who’ve executed successfully in areas similar to yours; you don’t want a startup or newbie learning the ropes on the back of your IP. Depending on your track record and what you want out of the deal, this is going to cost you money, equity or both. For creative work, you can either self-distribute if production costs are low (self-publish, podcast, TikTok or YouTube channel, etc), or find a distributor in advance if costs are high (but you’ll need to partner with someone who can get you in the door at networks). For physical products, many people are going down the DTC route (via Instagram, Amazon, etc), since it eliminates the retailer and only requires a distributor, which can easily be found through some online research.

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

  1. Don’t do something just because you are good at it. As soon as possible, you should only be doing the things that ONLY YOU CAN DO. It’s easy as a founder to get caught up in doing everything because you CAN — but you should strive to delegate roles that someone else can do proficiently. In my own case, I’m good with financial work, but there are many people who are better and get more pleasure out of it than me. By removing the day-to-day financial oversight from my role, it frees up time for me to focus on big picture: creation and strategy, while still keeping an eye on KPIs and the overall financial health of my business.
  2. Be PATIENT. Because we are creators, we want to have our creations enjoyed, used, and loved as soon as possible. Whether you create physical goods, digital products, or media — the road from idea to execution to widespread adoption is always longer than you think. It was more than three years from our having the idea for the science series Brainchild before it began streaming on Netflix.
  3. Have ALLIES. It is vital that you have people around you who believe in your idea and are willing to tough it out with you. Whether this is a co-founder, investor, or another person, you cannot do it all alone. If you cannot find anyone who is willing to walk this long road with you, ask someone you trust whether the issue is you or the idea. Adjust accordingly. I could not do what I do without my producing partner Adam Davis, or the moral support of my friends and family.
  4. Begin with the end in mind — BUILD SYSTEMS. After the first few years in business, you should be able to go away for a few weeks without impacting the health of your company. This means that you cannot be the central asset of the business, but that IP, products, and systems are. The sooner you start building systems that can run without you, the better, because this is also what anyone considering buying your business is really paying for (unless they are buying IP). If you start this process when you’re thinking of selling your company, you’ve started too late. Reap the benefits of systems as early as possible.
  5. PICK YOUR BATTLES. You cannot fight every competitor, bad review, bad vendor, bad client, or whatever other injustice you think has been done to you or your business. Your job is to create, grow, thrive, and sell. Investing too much energy in fighting every battle will exhaust you and leave a bad impression. Pick your battles, and be willing to explain to your team & whomever you are engaging with WHY this is so important. And if someone you trust says, “Let it Go,” — you should probably just let it go.

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

First, really define the product. Ideas are everywhere, but walking an idea down the road to something specific is difficult. That first step takes you from dreaming to doing. Next, figure out who your audience or end user is, and be very specific — really imagine them, their lives, be able to describe how and when they’d interact with your product. This process should help you refine your idea. You need to really understand and kick the tires on your idea before you start talking to other people about it (outside of your allies/trusted circle).

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

Consultants are useful if you’re taking a product or idea to the market to look for investors. We use IP consultants, attorneys, and chain-of-title companies to ensure that our ideas are not in legal violation of any existing intellectual property. In the big scheme of things, they are not very expensive, and they can help provide assurance to investors, partners, and distributors. If your invention requires knowledge and expertise that you don’t have, an invention consultant could help get you from idea to product. But I wouldn’t spend the money unless I’d done the research to know that my idea is viable to market.

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

I am a fan of bootstrapping. We’ve run Atomic without outside investment, because we did not want the pressure of investment forcing us to make projects that we did not want to do or that did not align with our mission. This has been challenging at times, but overall we feel it’s been the right move for us because our reputation is based on the fact that we only create premium edutainment. Bootstrapping also means you only “eat what you kill” so you have to hit “publish” and get revenue as soon as possible. We are opening up to VC investment for the first time to build a subscription content platform around our educational podcast Who Smarted?, but only after we’ve spent the last 18 months ‘bootstrap proving’ the concept, and getting to 40,000 active users & over 400,000 downloads per month.

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

The filter for every project we do is — how does this make the world a better (or smarter) place? Our mission is to improve the world through premium educational entertainment. My success, and improving some aspects of the world, are quite literally the same thing. We’ve impacted millions of adults and kids by creating entertainment that improves critical thinking skills, improves science understanding, and helps people understand how their own brains and bodies work.

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

I would love to inspire a movement that resulted in teaching basic life skills to children and young adults. The fact that (at least in the US) we do not explicitly teach financial skills, critical thinking skills, and basic behavioral psychology is a massive missed opportunity. If we taught those three skills to an entire generation, it would radically change how we interact and prosper together.

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

This is a tough question. I think I would want to have lunch with the Obamas. They both rose to prominence, not through wealth or family connections, but rather their own combination of hard work, learning, leadership, social skills, and commitment to excellence. They seem like great people and their mission aligns with mine. I’d love to grab lunch with them because I know we’d come up with an incredible project together.

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


Making Something From Nothing: Jerry Kolber Of ATOMIC ENTERTAINMENT GROUP On How To Go From Idea To… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Tiffany Kepler Creator of “Camera Ready Confidence” On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly…

Tiffany Kepler Creator of “Camera Ready Confidence” On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Unwavering Belief in yourself; that what you say matters, that there are people who want to hear it, that they will connect to it and you, and having that belief can overcome any obstacles when they show up.

At some point in our lives, many of us will have to give a talk to a large group of people. What does it take to be a highly effective public speaker? How can you improve your public speaking skills? How can you overcome a fear of speaking in public? What does it take to give a very interesting and engaging public talk? In this interview series called “5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker” we are talking to successful and effective public speakers to share insights and stories from their experience. As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Tiffany Kepler Creator of ConfidentBeauty.us and the Camera Ready Confidence Program.

Tiffany Kepler is an International Video Confidence Coach, teaching female entrepreneurs how to grow their businesses and step into their power by being visible and using their voice to make a bigger impact on video. With her signature method she is able to help women business owners get on track to scale to consistent 5 figure months and beyond. She created her signature program “Camera Ready Confidence” along with monthly membership options to aid her clients in learning and implementing Clarity-Consistency-Confidence in their business to gain authority and visibility in what may seem like a very saturated online space.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

Of course, I grew up in southeast Michigan, had a pretty “normal” upbringing. My dad worked at Ford Motor Company and my mom for the majority of when I was young was the hardest working waitress; a very blue collar middle class family. I like to consider myself an open book about my life because I know that what I’ve been through and experienced is what made me who I am today; so if I can shed light or bring awareness I’m here for it. My dad was a struggling alcoholic who was sick with this disease for a long time. It had taken its toll on my mom but also for my sister and I; so when my parents divorced, I was 13, and I felt I had to grow up quicker than others my age due to the emotional traumas I had gone through. I’m very much an empath and feed on people’s emotions whether they’re good or bad; so constantly being in these highly emotional states really made me look at myself and the life I wanted to live, and how I wanted to do it differently than what I personally experienced.

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

Oh man there are quite a few. I have taken a couple turns, came to some stop signs, a couple screeching red lights that made my decision to do what I’m currently doing. I grew up being told I needed to follow the path of going to college, get a good job, make it your career, invest in a 401k, and retire. While there is nothing wrong with that for some, I realized after hopping from position to position that it wasn’t the job that was the problem but I wasn’t fulfilled doing it anymore. So I decided on this path because it gave that fulfillment, joy, abundant life I had been dreaming of. I had a close friend pass away recently, unexpectedly, and way too soon. I used that devastation to remind myself that we are not promised tomorrow, so I won’t live in fear when it comes to how I live my life. When I’m laying on my deathbed I don’t want to look back on my life and regret not doing more of what lights me up.

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

So interestingly enough, I thought when I started my online career that it would be easy, because well a lot of people online claim it to be. There are a million and 1 ways to create income online nowadays and I fell victim to how easy others made it look. Truth be told, we know that creating a business (and a thriving one at that), takes a crap ton of work-so don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. With that being said, business is work but that doesn’t mean it has to be hard or boring, if it’s the right business it should excite you, bring you purpose, and a passion that makes it all worth it.

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

Like most people I try very hard to avoid mistakes because disappointment and failure is never easy, but I know that is a part of growth and change. Something that at the time was a mistake I would say is when I had done a Live training in the beginning of my business, I had no idea what I was doing so I was just showing up raw hoping I wouldn’t mess up. Well I sure did! I stumbled over my words, my face was beat red, my kids were running around; I was so overwhelmed and close to throwing in the towel but looking back I could laugh at what I thought was a mistake but got amazing feedback for being real, raw, and relatable. I showed that it’s ok to not have it all together. It’s okay not being perfect- perfect is boring- and showing people all of me and my “flaws’’ allowed me to be relatable.

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

Absolutely! Where do I begin as I have such an amazing community, many coaches/mentors, supportive friends/family. Honestly there is not one person that I’m grateful for more than another because each person in my life has had a part in leading me to where I am today; and for that I’m grateful to all of them. I’ve realized that being grateful in my life has opened my eyes up to more positivity in my world. It’s easy to see the negative in the world; it’s constantly in our faces- but when you live in a world of gratitude it’s a much happier life filled with joy, abundance and opportunity.

You have been blessed with great success in a career path that can be challenging and intimidating. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?

My advice would be to not take yourself too seriously. Life is crazy, joyful, messy, beautiful, short, and you get to decide how you live it. Why not live it doing something that gives you purpose and is a passion that brings you more joy. It’s easy to feel fear because that is how we have been programmed, but realize that fear doesn’t serve you or the person you’re becoming. I fully believe if you have a deep rooted gut feeling to do something that feels unfamiliar, it goes against the grain, or scares you but you still have that urge; GO FOR IT! If it’s in you, it’s for you and nothing should stop you until you reach the top of that mountain.

What drives you to get up everyday and give your talks? What is the main empowering message that you aim to share with the world?

I love helping women step into their greatness. There are so many powerful women in this world yet they stand in their way. Why? They doubt, they sabotage, they compare themselves and they don’t see how amazing they are in what they bring to this world. We all have that “thing” whether you think you do or not; we all have something about us that makes each of us special. Society likes to compartmentalize and categorize women based on what we’re wearing, how old we are, what we eat, how we parent, the list goes on. That uniqueness, those quirks, those parts that at one point made us special, now feels like it’s wrong if they’re shared; which couldn’t be further from the truth. So what gets me speaking to my audience, what motivates me to keep sharing day after day…Belief that women can do extraordinary things if they let go of the fear and trust that it gets to work out for them if only they believe it.

You have such impressive work. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Where do you see yourself heading from here?

Thank you so much. I have my coaching container that offers my “Camera Ready Confidence” program alongside 1:1 support for my clients to be able to take what they learn and implement it into their lives/business. No one person’s life is the same, so long gone are the times of using cookie cutter one size fits all programs. I love being able to personalize my containers with both course and 1:1 access throughout the 12 week container. Something NEW in the pipeline right now would be my “Visibility Membership” where each month there will be exclusive training, challenges designed to move your feet and take some action, milestone gifts, plus DFY plug and use content ideas. All with the result of gaining that confidence and showing up on camera; using it as the powerhouse tool that it is to skyrocket your business growth online.

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

I live by this quote and it often pulls me out if I’m ever having an “off” day. “The biggest mistake is you think you have time, time is free but it’s priceless. Once it’s lost you can never get it back.” -The Buddha. This quote reminds me that we are not promised tomorrow, to not put things off no matter how big or small, to tell people how much they mean to you everytime you see them, to hug people like it’s the last time you will see them. To take what you have and not take it for granted. To live my life on my terms doing what I love. Think about all the time you’ve lost or wasted worrying, stressing. Think of where your business would be right now if you had that time back for a redo.

Ok, thank you for all that. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker?” Please share a story or example for each.

1- Confidence in what you’re speaking about, and doing so by believing in your message and how you bring that information to the audience. Having expertise in something doesn’t mean you know all the answers, but your specific viewpoint and perspective is needed in this world; so use it.

2- Clarity about who you are as an expert and what you can bring to the audience as a speaker. Even the most confident people have self doubt from time to time and being able to harness that fear and dissect how it’s not true is what sets the greats from the not so greats. Moving past the mindset blocks that are put in your way, to overcome them easily.

3- Showing up Consistently aka “practice” in what you’re saying will build that muscle and allow you to show up and speak with that much more authority and conviction in your voice and topic. It will be harder for you to be rattled the more you practice and get comfortable with what you’re speaking about.

4- Being Vulnerable and showing how your topic can relate to your audience. Sharing personal stories and how you overcame it. Creating genuine and authentic relationships with the audience to bring them on the journey with you. There is an art to storytelling and speakers who understand that power have much better success.

5- Unwavering Belief in yourself; that what you say matters, that there are people who want to hear it, that they will connect to it and you, and having that belief can overcome any obstacles when they show up.

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

This is exactly what I help my clients with inside my containers and I love being able to help them get across that feeling of being terrified through my signature method using the power of unlearning mindset blocks, showing up with a solid framework/blueprint for how your going to effectively bring your knowledge to your audience, and gain visibility using your unique voice. The best advice and a great place to start if you’re terrified is to realize that the fear you place on speaking isn’t real. I know it seems crazy but I want you to dive deeper into the real reason you don’t like it. Keep digging deeper until you realize that it’s not speaking that is causing the fear but something so much deeper and personal than you may even realize. Know that it’s normal to have that fear but to recognize it, feel it, and move past it.

You are a person of huge influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

Wow this is a great question, I would like to inspire a movement about being the change you want to see in the world. This country needs a lot of help, and it’s time to step up and help the people. It’s easy to complain about the current state of the country but where will that get you? Frustrated and still in the same spot. Don’t wait for someone else to start it. You have every ability to inspire and evoke change. If it’s in you, it’s for you after all!

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why?

Maybe we can tag them and see what happens! This is so hard. I would love to have lunch with Blake Lively. I would love to sit down and while trying to hold back tears of happiness would love to just talk with her about how she is able to grow her brand, career, and business while juggling being a mom and wife! I admire the work she does and while I know a ton goes into every part of her life, how is she able to make it look so effortless? I’m sure we all would love to know.

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

Of course! They can find me @confidentbeautybytiffk on Instagram as well as confidentbeauty.us or click here for more ways to connect.

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


Tiffany Kepler Creator of “Camera Ready Confidence” On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Kyle Metcalf Of Newswire On How to Effectively Leverage The Power of Digital Marketing, PPC, &…

Kyle Metcalf Of Newswire On How to Effectively Leverage The Power of Digital Marketing, PPC, & Email to Dramatically Increase Sales

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Collaboration — Marketing is rooted in collaboration. Devising strategies and creating campaigns are great times to brainstorm with others. That snowball effect of ideas in a brainstorming session can lead to campaigns that move the needle for a brand. Open lines of communication and strong collaboration can unlock your full potential as a marketer.

Marketing a product or service today is easier than ever before in history. Using platforms like Facebook ads or Google ads, a company can market their product directly to people who perfectly fit the ideal client demographic, at a very low cost. Digital Marketing tools, Pay per Click ads, and email marketing can help a company dramatically increase sales. At the same time, many companies that just start exploring with digital marketing tools often see disappointing results.

In this interview series called “How to Effectively Leverage The Power of Digital Marketing, PPC, & Email to Dramatically Increase Sales”, we are talking to marketers, advertisers, brand consultants, & digital marketing gurus who can share practical ideas from their experience about how to effectively leverage the power of digital marketing, PPC, & email.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kyle Metcalf.

Kyle Metcalf is President and Chief Revenue Officer at Newswire. Prior to Newswire, Kyle was the Chief Executive Officer of Inspired eLearning; a Security Awareness & HR /Compliance training organization. Kyle led the turnaround and sale of this distressed asset to a strategic buyer. In his role at Inspired eLearning, Kyle was recognized as The National Business Journals’ Influencers: Rising Stars, San Antonio Business Journal 40 Under 40, and C-Suite Award winner. Prior to Inspired eLearning, Kyle was the founder and General Manager for the strategic, and high-growth “Rackspace Digital” business. Rackspace Digital was founded in 2009 and quickly grew to a $100 million business. Throughout Kyle’s 12-year tenure at Rackspace he held various leadership roles across sales, channel, customer service, and product. He is also active in helping the San Antonio technology scene through community involvement with Geekdom, TechBloc, the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, and other outreach activities.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

My career really began at Rackspace, a Managed Hosting company where I started as an entry-level sales rep but was able to expand upon that by learning and growing with the company as it went from $100M when I started, to over $2B and publicly traded when I left. That was over a span of 12 years. During that time, I founded a business unit that focused on solutions for ad agencies, marketers, eCommerce, and website management/development and grew it into a $120M business.

After I left Rackspace, I was the CEO of a Security Awareness, Harassment and Privacy training company called Inspired eLearning. I was there for almost 4 years and in that time we transformed the business from a low-margin content company to a high-margin SaaS platform. We successfully sold the business to Ziff Davis in 2020.

For my next chapter, I really wanted to get back into the Marketing/Advertising world that I was so passionate about and well connected with. After hearing about the innovative approach Newswire takes in a somewhat archaic market, I couldn’t wait to get started!

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

I’ve made just about every mistake possible. I really believe that mistakes are necessary, but you MUST learn from them.

I almost didn’t take the call from Newswire because of all the mistakes I had made in the past in regard to the utilization of press releases. Of course, I didn’t realize how at fault I was until I learned how Newswire does it and helps our customers. At the time, I had ZERO success with press releases in my 15-year career: Both at a $2B public company with seemingly unlimited resources and a $14M training company with limited everything. Turns out, I had been doing it wrong all along!

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

I believe in the Personal Board of Directors’ approach. There are way too many people that contributed to my success that it wouldn’t be fair to call out one. I will say that my time at Rackspace was filled with innovative, positive, results-minded people who were VERY sharp. They were also VERY generous with their time. That’s the only way I could have made my way from an entry-level sales rep to the General Manager of a $120M business.

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

We are innovating in the marketing space by blurring the lines between press releases and traditional marketing methods. It’s incredibly disruptive but also incredibly effective.

For example, most companies in our category are focused on their network. The reality is that all PR networks are 90% the same — Same distribution channels, same endpoints, same everything. You write a release, pick a distribution option, hit send and HOPE the right people see it. HOPE is not a strategy. This was my challenge in my former years.

Newswire works with companies to take that same press release and leverage it properly to secure earned media, improve SEO and site traffic and generate the RIGHT impressions. Looking at a fancy graph with tens of thousands of impressions means absolutely nothing if you aren’t following the additional strategic steps to drive results. That’s what Newswire does best.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

Humility

Being “Confidently Ignorant” is important to me. I preach this in every team I’m part of. It’s OK to not know something and it’s often appreciated when someone asks a clarifying question. This sparked my active and real curiosity in most things that initially helped me build a successful sales career and later on was the foundation for everything I have accomplished. Taking a genuine interest in a customer leads to more productive conversations, stronger relationships, and faster problem-solving. I was building powerful relationships with customers that I utilized to get into Channel and Partner sales. It was this progression that led me to where I’m at today.

It’s equally important to take a genuine interest in your company, teams, teammates, and industry to build the right products and develop the right culture internally.

Resilience

When I initially pitched the idea for what became “Rackspace Digital,” I was a Director of a couple of channel sales teams and I saw a need in the market that wasn’t being addressed. I put a deck together and set up a meeting with two key executives I needed support from to get going. I had one executive walk out of the room and another told me that “we aren’t going to change the way we support customers for such a small subset.” I was devastated. Instead of giving up, I was humble and asked other leaders and people I trusted for help. I ended up sharpening my pitch/projections and went back to the same executives with an offer: I’ll resign from my leadership role; give me three months to build a business plan; I’ll present it again and if you still don’t agree, I understand my current position will not be available.

That was the beginning of Rackspace Digital.

Objectiveness

Being able to see the challenge through someone else’s eyes is incredibly helpful in problem-solving and negotiating. I have always tried to hone this skill and consider what’s at play for someone else. This was very important early in my career at a big company where I was trying to be innovative and a bit disruptive. To get anything done, I had to gain approval from multiple stakeholders. I was REALLY bad at that before I started thinking about what the individual stakeholders had on their minds. Why would they say yes if this was going to cause more work for them? What’s in it for them? Is this threatening? Why?

All of these (and many more) questions led to significantly more successful negotiations and engagements. People were thankful for the homework I did and genuinely appreciated that I would take the time to “seek to understand.”

Seek To Understand

This is another very important trait to always work on. I gained a gold medal in Political Gymnastics that I never wanted — but it sure was helpful! I use this in all aspects of life — not just business. Walk a mile in their shoes.

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

Where do I start? We’re always innovating and improving our product set at Newswire. Our target market is small and mid-sized businesses. These businesses and their owners don’t get enough love from our industry so we saw a huge opportunity to support them with the products and tools they need to succeed.

We recently launched PR Campaigns, which are marketing campaigns that center around a press release. Most marketing campaigns are centered around a blog post, email, LinkedIn post, or something similar. We’ve found that utilizing a press release as the focal point of the campaign yields much stronger results. A press release is a higher authority piece of content that tends to get more attention than the methods I mentioned prior. The press release also helps with SEO/traffic improvement and creates opportunities for earned media mentions. With this product, our team writes the press release, promotes it to relevant media outlets, and distributes it to our top-tier distribution network.

For a company looking for more, we offer a 12-month program called the Media Advantage Plan. It’s a series of 12 press release campaigns AND it includes a dedicated account manager, a full go-to-market plan, as well as guaranteed impressions — all for less than HALF of what it would cost to hire a single resource internally.

Ok super. Now let’s jump to the main questions of our interview. As we mentioned in the beginning, sometimes companies that just start exploring with digital marketing tools like PPC campaigns often see disappointing results. In your opinion, what are a few of the biggest mistakes companies make when they first start out with digital marketing? If you can, please share an example for each.

In my experience, many companies will build a plan and focus on its execution but overlook the follow-through. This is where things fall apart. Based on what you subscribe to, a prospect needs anywhere from 8–12 touches before they will interact with your brand. The consistent thing is that there is no “one and done” in marketing. It’s an “always-on” effort that needs to be fluid, CONSTANTLY scrutinized, and augmented in real-time.

Too many times I’ve seen solid effort upfront and then weak follow-through. This will not yield positive results. In addition, if you aren’t collecting and studying the data, then you’re at a severe disadvantage. It’s a true mix of art and science. The “science” comes from the data and the “art” comes from experience, trial/error, and solid creative.

Let it be known NONE of this works if you don’t have a compelling message that’s tailored to your Ideal Customer Profile.

If you could break down a very successful digital marketing campaign into a “blueprint”, what would that blueprint look like? Please share some stories or examples of your ideas.

Our entire campaign strategy is related to PR Campaigns. We are our own customer and utilize the Media Advantage Plan (MAP) exclusively.

The MAP blueprint is simple, yet extremely effective. After doing all the table stakes work of determining the Ideal Customer Profile and campaign focus, the MAP team takes off. If I boil it WAY down, this is the fundamental blueprint:

Identify Table Stakes (ICP and campaign focus)

Set goals for the campaign

Write the press release with a compelling statement that resonates with the ICP (also align it to PPC and organic keywords)

Write the copy for a four-drip email campaign

Determine the media/publications we want to target to gain earned media

Obsess over the results (data) as it becomes available

Augment as needed

FOLLOW-THROUGH on the leads and customer engagements as quickly as you can — time kills deals.

Let’s talk about Pay Per Click Marketing (PPC) for a bit. In your opinion which PPC platform produces the best results to increase sales?

In my opinion, Google is the best platform to use. Google dominates the search engine market and drives a majority of our PPC conversions here at Newswire. However, It’s important to point out that we’ve seen an increase in performance from Microsoft/Bing so far this year. My best advice is to focus on performance metrics that make the most sense for your business and use a mix of channels to drive real results.

Here is the main question of our series. Can you please tell us the 5 things you need to create a highly successful career as a digital marketer? Can you please share a story or example for each?

Patience — It’s human nature to want results and to want them almost instantaneously. When it comes to marketing, it’s no different. We want our campaigns to generate results, fast. But, that’s simply not the case. Patience is a valuable characteristic that marketers should possess. By being patient, we’re in turn giving our campaigns time and space to work. As a result, we get a better idea if something’s working or if we need to adjust our sails and try a different strategy.

Humility — It seems like there’s a new platform or change to an algorithm every day. Not to mention there are different types of marketing… Think social, content, paid advertising, the list goes on and on. What I’m trying to say is there’s an intense amount of information to consume and skills to master. That’s why humility is a valuable trait that empowers marketers to learn more. We can’t know every nuance of every area of marketing. And, if we pretend we do, we miss out on learning opportunities. Deploy humility to ask pointed questions and gain valuable knowledge in return.

Collaboration — Marketing is rooted in collaboration. Devising strategies and creating campaigns are great times to brainstorm with others. That snowball effect of ideas in a brainstorming session can lead to campaigns that move the needle for a brand. Open lines of communication and strong collaboration can unlock your full potential as a marketer.

Adaptability — One of the worst phrases you can say and/or hear in marketing is “But we’ve always done it this way.” Unwillingness to change and pivot is a recipe for stagnation. Marketing is constantly changing. What worked today might not work three months from now and that’s OK. Adapting to the market and evolving with the growing needs of your target audience is what will set your brand apart from your competitors and put you on a track toward continued success.

Curiosity — This trait essentially brings this full circle. We know marketing isn’t static. It’s constantly changing and that’s why curiosity is imperative. Ask questions. Do your own research. Test your theories. Let go of ideas that should have worked but didn’t. A quote from James Clear, sums this up perfectly, “Intelligence follows curiosity.” Let your curiosity guide you to new heights in your career.

Can you please share 3 things that you need to know to run a highly successful PPC campaign?

My first suggestion is to start with your website and make sure it’s optimized for conversions. The last thing you want to do is develop solid PPC ad copy and strategic campaigns and then send users to a site that doesn’t meet their needs or guide them to further engage with your brand. Next, choose a platform. As I mentioned before, Google is the best platform to use, however, there are other ad platforms that can also drive results. I’d say start with Google while testing other options and keep an eye on their performance. Adjust accordingly. Finally, focus on targeting. As the popular adage says, “Everyone isn’t an audience.” The same notion applies to running successful PPC campaigns. Narrow your focus on your target audience based on their location, interests, and popular search terms. These are three building blocks brands can use to further pare down their targeting to deliver the right content to the right audience.

Let’s now talk about email marketing for a bit. In your opinion, what are the 3 things that you need to know to run a highly successful email marketing campaign that increases sales?

Who is your audience and what problems are they trying to solve?

How does your brand help solve said problems/challenges?

What is the compelling message that will make you stand out in a VERY crowded inbox/feed?

BONUS: What do you do after the prospect engages?

What are the other digital marketing tools that you are passionate about? If you can, can you share with our readers what they are and how to best leverage them?

HubSpot — Data is critical. We need to know what’s working, what isn’t, who’s engaging, and who isn’t. Having a tool like HubSpot is critical to making sense of the data so the team can make data-driven decisions to improve performance.

To get the most out of HubSpot, you need to take time and set it up correctly. Don’t cut corners. If you do, you won’t get the whole picture. It’s the foundation of all of our marketing campaigns.

SalesForce — A solid CRM is also table stakes. When you get someone to move from suspect to prospect, it’s now a job for sales to engage and close. Having this system integrated with HubSpot is incredibly useful for us to understand the entire journey from suspect to prospect to customer.

Google Analytics — Back to data. Google Analytics is the best tool out there to monitor activity on your website. Excellent UI and visualization which makes review and trends analysis easy. You don’t have to be a data scientist to sift through the information.

What books, podcasts, videos or other resources do you use to sharpen your marketing skills?

I’m a big fan of Brian Burns’ LinkedIn content. He provides actionable and practical sales advice anyone and everyone can implement.

How can our readers further follow your work?

www.newswire.com

www.linkedin.com/company/newswire-com/

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

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!


Kyle Metcalf Of Newswire On How to Effectively Leverage The Power of Digital Marketing, PPC, &… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Recording Academy’s Panos A Panay On How The Grammys Aim To Reach New And Younger Audiences

The Recording Academy’s Panos A. Panay On How The Grammys Aim To Reach New And Younger Audiences

Don’t be afraid to fail. If you don’t fail you don’t innovate, you don’t learn. Simple. No one ever learned anything new without failure. Riding a bike? Reading? Playing the piano? So may inventions were created as a result of failure: Louis Armstrong invested scat singing because his music stand fell during a live recording; Ike Turner invented rock and roll distortion because his amp fell off the back of a truck.

As part of our series about “Brand Makeovers” — though this one is more of Brand Innovation — I had the pleasure of interviewing Panos A. Panay.

Panos is the Co-President & Chief Revenue Officer for the Recording Academy, which is the organization behind the esteemed GRAMMY Awards.

In his role, he drives business growth and innovation across the entire organization to further expand the service offerings for Academy members and the industry.

Prior to joining the Recording Academy, Panos was the founder of music promotion platform Sonicbids, served as the senior vice president for Global Strategy and Innovation at Berklee College of Music and is a fellow at MIT Connection Science.

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

I have always had a passion for enabling music talent to maximize its potential and reach an audience. I started my career as a talent agent in the mid 1990’s booking artists like Chick Corea, Pat Metheny, Nina Simone and many other jazz greats. It showed me the impact that music can have on a global stage and the universality of the artform. My experience as a talent agent, informed the founding of my company Sonicbids, one of the first online platforms that made it easy for bands, especially independent bands, to connect with music promoters around the world. We were an early pioneer in the space, one of the first online companies empowering non-label affiliated artists. I started the company out of my apartment in Newton, MA, funded it with mostly savings and credit card debt and ran it for 13 years until I sold it to the then-parent company of Billboard Magazine. At that time, we had over 500,000 members and helped some 1 million gigs happen through the site.

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

When I first started my career as a talent agent in the mid 1990s, I got a call from someone called “David Matthews” who wanted to collaborate with our artist Pat Metheny. I thought wow, Dave Matthews wants to collaborate and record with Pat, AMAZING! At the time the Dave Matthews Band was huge and thought, hey that made sense that he’d be a Pat Metheny fan. We talked for about 25 mins, thought he was super cool and set on motion a whole process to get “David” and Pat to connect. Long story short, Pat got on a call with someone called David Matthews who ended up being, well, NOT Dave Matthews. So, Pat politely listened and turned him down, it happened to be another Pat Metheny musician fan who probably was pinching himself that he got to talk to Pat’s agent and then to Pat. So, I guess the lesson is: Don’t be afraid to ask the obvious question. Are you THE Dave Matthews?

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

Yes, I remember when after years of persistence at Sonicbids I managed to get South By Southwest (SXSW) as an exclusive partner where Sonicbids would be the only way for bands to apply to perform at the festival. I started talking to them in 2001 and did not sign a deal until 2007. After that, it put us on the map. And it catalyzed a whole slew of new promoters (we grew to have over 32,000 events on the platform) joining the site. Nearly seven years later, when I sold Sonicbids, the single most important catalyst for the sale was our subscription model (reoccurring revenue) and the partnership with SXSW. The takeaway for me is that you have to earn your stripes before a major company will pay attention to you as a startup. There’s no shortcuts. But if you hang in there long enough and focus on the job, the results, the value you are generating, the pay off will come.

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

I am jazzed by the idea of expanding what the Academy and what the GRAMMYs do beyond what we are primarily known for today. Our job as an Academy is to keep replenishing, building and expanding the ecosystem for all creators that enables them to thrive, be inspired, express their talent, build their careers, and expand their reach across the globe — because nothing in my view is more important to our social fabric than music. Music teaches us to feel, to love, to emote, to learn, to understand, to share, to want to grow, want to become a better version of ourselves. And that musical talent is everywhere, but opportunity is not, so bringing what the Academy does to cultures around the world, outside of the American continent is a big part of what we are looking to do. Not just the show, but the educational, advocacy and support efforts that we so passionately pursue every day.

I am also excited about all the new avenues that we have to engage creators and audiences today, outside of the broadcast network medium. This year around the 2022 GRAMMY Awards, we did an innovative partnership with Roblox that saw the GRAMMY experience expanding into the 40 million daily users of their gaming platform; we are actively looking into metaverse partnerships; we did a partnership with Binance to explore digital ticketing, tokens and other blockchain related activations; we partnered with OneOf on a super cool NFT offering of GRAMMY artwork; and we also struck a major partnership with Facebook where over 130 million people saw the GRAMMY telecast performances within the first 72 hours after the show. I can go on and on but there is no better time in my view than NOW to look at all kinds of new stages and business models that we can expand into as an Academy, as an advocacy and educational platform for creators.

What advice would you give to other innovators / business people to thrive and avoid burnout?

I loved reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People as a young college student, it changed my life. The whole approach of “Sharpening the Saw” meaning paying attention to replenishing yourself mentally, spiritually, emotionally and physically shaped my ability to just keep going. Remember that your own well-being is what makes EVERYTHING else possible. Ignore yourself at your own peril. I meditate, read, exercise and remember to have meaningful personal conversations every day. That’s my nourishment.

Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to always finding ways to keep it relevant and innovative?

A brand is a living, breathing thing. It’s not stale or built in cement. It’s organic, it requires care, replenishment, growth, watering, pruning. Look at great brands over the years that went stale and died or have become less relevant than they once were: GE, Kodak, Atari, Hewlett Packard, Polaroid. They were all pioneers, all leaders. If you confuse your purpose with your product, your invention with your intention, you are bound to become obsolete.

Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Can you share 5 strategies that a company can do to innovate their brand/company to better serve clients/members, etc.? Please tell us a story or an example for each.

  1. Change is constant, embrace it. As I described above, it’s important to not conflate intention with invention, product with purpose. The GRAMMY Awards as a TV show is an amazing platform that has served us and our mission amazingly well for 65 years. But the world is evolving, viewing habits are changing, audiences for music are everywhere, and the very nature of a music creator is also being redefined. That’s why we are experimenting with all kinds of new partners in blockchain, gaming, metaverse, social, etc.
  2. Don’t be afraid to fail. If you don’t fail you don’t innovate, you don’t learn. Simple. No one ever learned anything new without failure. Riding a bike? Reading? Playing the piano? So may inventions were created as a result of failure: Louis Armstrong invested scat singing because his music stand fell during a live recording; Ike Turner invented rock and roll distortion because his amp fell off the back of a truck.
  3. Look for Unexpected Success: When things we expect to succeed, fail, we do postmortems and examine failure oh so closely. But when things we DON’T expect to succeed yield results, we often dismiss them as a fluke and move on. But many a business were created because they paid attention to unexpected success. Gloria and Emilio Estefan realized that crowds would love to get up and dance when they finished their straight up pop set with a fusion of Latin sounds and playing the conga. They then practically reinvested contemporary pop culture by fusing Cuban / Latin music with American pop. There would be no “Despacito” if there wasn’t a Miami Sound Machine.
  4. Ask a dumb question: Edwin Land invented the Polaroid instant camera because his young daughter asked one day after he took a picture of her with his film camera why couldn’t she see the photo instantly? That set him on a path to invent the Polaroid camera. Would Instagram exist today had that three-year-old not asked that question?
  5. Diversity is good for the environment, good for society and good for organizations: If you want to think differently, you have to bring different people together. You have to listen to different points of view, have different lived experiences, have your own assumptions challenged. Homogenous environments don’t survive for too long. At the Academy, I am proud to be part of a team that doesn’t just talk diversity, we embody it, we live it, we are it.

In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job at constantly staying relevant and innovating? What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?

I am a big fan of the job that Satya Nadella did at Microsoft (full disclosure, my namesake cousin, Panos C. Panay, is Chief Product Office there!). In many ways, this is a company that was still competitive, still incredibly valuable, but underperforming and under innovating and overdependent on a couple of long in the tooth product lines that it had introduced decades earlier. I am impressed with the way he and his executive team and board were able to execute a massive cultural shift, ween it off its dependency on minorly-incremental innovations on Windows and Office; and remade a 40 year old company into an innovative startup all over again, competing with companies like Amazon and Facebook that as half its age or less — and recapturing its pizzaz. That does not 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. 🙂

I would call it the Listening Movement. In the 21st century there’s too much talking, not enough listening, too much broadcast, not enough reception. How different would our societies and world be if we all learned how to be better listeners?

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

Yes, my wife told me to learn how to substitute the words “have to…” to “get to…” Instead of thinking, gee today I have to call this person, go to that meeting, respond to this email, get on this airplane to go to that conference, think of the difference in perspective when you change all the “haves” to “gets”. You realize how blessed your life is.

How can our readers follow you online?

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


The Recording Academy’s Panos A Panay On How The Grammys Aim To Reach New And Younger Audiences 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 Li Gong Of Youbi Capital

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Your opinion matters and there is no such thing as stupid questions.

As a part of our series about Wisdom From The Women Leading The Blockchain Revolution, had the pleasure of interviewing Li Gong.

Li Gong is a Partner at Youbi Capital and Venture Partner at HashKey Capital. Li has been involved in about 200 deals over the past four years, leading investments including Metalcore, Bling Financial, Defiant and more. She is also an active member of several decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) like theLAO and Own.fund and serves as a fellow at Kernel.

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?

Thanks for the opportunity. I was introduced to the crypto space back in 2015 by my college friend, who was a large Bitcoin miner in China. I tried crypto mining for a while but never got fully involved. Then, 2017 saw the boom in initial coin offerings (ICOs) and I was asked to help this friend source deals and enact due diligence.

After months spent reading whitepapers and talking to each project, I was amazed by this emerging space. The speed of development and the way people worked and collaborated was beyond imagination. Very soon, my partner and I, Chen Li, started our full-time careers in the crypto space in 2018.

I will say the biggest regret is that I did not jump down this rabbit hole soon enough. However, I did have the opportunity to participate in the Ethereum ICO back in 2015, but my mind was closed and I did not want to spend time exploring new technology and taking risks. I will encourage everyone to open their mind and allocate some time and capital to new sectors in their infancy, that is probably when you can earn the best risk/reward ratio.

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

For sure! I’d point you toward MeStar and WRLD as the two projects I spend most of my time with.

MeStar is a blockchain game about caring and loving. I heard from one gaming veteran that the profit of certain genres is driven by hate. People will spend to gain advantages over their rivals or even enemies. But a game like MeStar is different — it is driven by love.

The founder, AB, was once a victim of campus bullying in his high school, and in respite, he spent years in Minecraft to cure himself. He even ran one of the largest private servers of Minecraft in Asia. So, he ended up creating this more open and updated web3 version of Minecraft. It offers limitless opportunities for people to build, create and manage their servers as an NFT owner. It is so fun to see the young team create cool items and mods relentlessly. And as a non-gamer and a woman, that is exactly the game I would spend time and enjoy.

As for WRLD, the founders are coming from traditional tech startups and have accumulated years of mapping data to create a digital twin of the real world. I got to know them from a panel I participated in and our connection was able to inspire them to renovate the business model and open their environmental tools to all the developers. I am so excited to see some creative use cases driven by the existing technology under the new ownership economy.

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?

For me, it has to be DC from HashKey Capital. During the harsh crypto winter between 2019 and 2020, we made just a few deals at Youbi Capital and almost halted our activities completely. DC extended an offer and onboarded me as a part-time team member of HashKey.

HashKey Capital is a well-established brand in Asia with enormous resources in the fintech and traditional finance industry. I was thrilled to be given the trust and opportunity to grow with the team.

I think I never spent the time talking to him about my gratitude, so I would love to use this opportunity to thank him for that trust. I admire him as a true leader, who built the fund from scratch.

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

  1. The people: People in web3 are friendly and open-minded. Most of the founders are very young and talented and their energy and courage inspire me all the time. The people in this space are willing to share, listen and work together.
  2. The learning opportunities: I have been in this space for more than 4 years. I worked hard to keep up with the development of the industry and never stop learning new things.
  3. The great potential: I think now is the perfect time to join the space. The long-term trend is pretty clear with the tremendous growth of infrastructure, capital, end-users and developer communities. However, the innovation and iteration of both product and business models do not stop.

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

  1. Short-term driven projects: As an investor, I’m proud that more than 80% of the projects I funded within the last two years have a product or minimum viable product. And we are quite comfortable participating in equity deals and token deals with long lock-up and vesting periods because we believe that good products take time to build and find the right market fit. If a team is talking more about listing than the product, I have no interest to continue the conversation.
  2. Growth hack: I have seen great founders with the right ideas and execution to build from 0 to 100. However, many of them lack the experience to manage their growth since they are extremely young and some of them have never had a regular job. So, at the later stage, there might be a challenge to manage the ever-growing team. Youth and courage are what everyone admires, but we should let more senior talents join and help the industry grow steadily.
  3. Regulation uncertainty: Looming regulation and rule changes demand pause for thought. For example, the entire cryptocurrency mining industry in China disappeared almost overnight when the government decided to crackdown. It is pity to see that years of infrastructure investment are wasted and those industry pioneers are moving out of the country.

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

I am always very grateful that I actually made it so far in this industry and survived the harsh crypto winter. I have the luxury to contribute my time to newcomers in the space and fund some public goods.

A very interesting project we supported is Guardian of Earth. This project’s web2 entity is called QuestaGame, which offers an augmented reality experience to track plants and animals in the real environment. Dr Jane Goodall also spoke highly of the QuestaGame. This is exciting since I have learned the cool story about Dr Goodall and her ape friends since I was a kid. And the entire Youbi team loves animals — with our CEO being a big dinosaur fan — so this deal was a no brainer for us. This project will benefit the study of living species on earth and help NGOs and university programs track the information at a very low cost.

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?

  1. It’s never too late to start.
  2. The industry welcomes diversified backgrounds.
  3. You don’t need to have money to participate.
  4. The best way to learn in Web3 is to participate.
  5. Your opinion matters and there is no such thing as stupid questions.

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

“Everything is the best arrangement.” So, stay flexible and follow your heart.

I have to admit that I am not the kind of person who is good at planning. I am curious and always positive about everything new in my life. So when one of my college friends visited the U.S. and encouraged me to take a look at the opportunity in the blockchain space, I did.

When you have the first introduction call with me to learn about my fund, there is one word you will always hear: flexible. I have been in this industry for over 4 years and am always humbled and excited to see tons of new trends every year. From layer1s and DeFi to NFTs and beyond. I choose to follow the beat of the market and define my way of collaboration. As an investor, I try my best to stay open and flexible. No matter whether I choose to invest or not, I always try my best to help people connect. After years in this role, I connect the dots of my own network and create new synergy all the time.

Our venture capital fund, Youbi, is unique. We follow our hearts and support new founders in the space. During the journey, I keep adding wonderful people to my pack like Andrew and Alex from Republic, Tom and Delphi Digital, Aaron and Pri at theLAO. The list goes on. They were all pretty new to the space or at the very beginning of what they were building, but their passion, capability and kindness impressed and convinced us to participate in their deals. This is the ethos of staying flexible and following your heart!

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. 🙂

For me, it would be a women founders’ fund. It’s all about giving back. I’d like to see more seasoned veterans find a way to contribute and guide the new builders into the space. And, of course, they will also be rewarded for their time and generosity.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You bet — find me on Twitter.

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

Thank you!


Wisdom From The Women Leading The Blockchain Revolution With Li Gong Of Youbi Capital was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: Arie Trouw Of XYO On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech…

The Future Is Now: Arie Trouw Of XYO On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scen

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Don’t be afraid to fail because failure is just a step towards success. It’s nearly impossible to learn from success, but learning from failure is relatively easy. So, when you fail, the best use of that event is self-improvement and the desire to try again and hopefully succeed the next time you try. My investment philosophy is that I always want to invest in the first success of an entrepreneur, not the last failure.

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

Arie is Co-Founder of XYO Network, the world’s first blockchain geospatial oracle network backed with cryptography. Arie is an accomplished serial entrepreneur with a rich history of technological breakthroughs and business successes involving multiple 8-figure exit events. Arie founded XY Labs in 2012 and is a strong believer in decentralization and the creation of the integrated owner/user model.

He currently serves as Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of Directors at XY Labs, Inc. At XY, he also heads the XYO Foundation, which is responsible for the open source development of the XYO Network and the promotion of the XYO Token.

Prior to starting XY Labs, Arie was CEO and Chairman of Pike Holdings. He received his Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from the New York Institute of Technology.

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

I moved to Ohio from South Africa when I was seven and had to learn English. I basically fell in love with learning new things, and that interest translated over to computers when I was a very young child. I actually tore apart every machine in the house trying to figure out how they all worked — just my curious mind wanted to know. Then when I was a little older, in the early years of the internet, I started managing a bulletin board called The Sidewalk. It was just sort of a natural progression to get into coding and engineering, and here we are.

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

The most rewarding thing has been seeing people use our software at scale. Having 100 people use your software, 1,000 people use it, and 100,000 or 1 million is really exciting and cool.

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

XYO’s decentralized network of devices anonymously collects and validates data associated with geography, temperature, humidity, and even speed, among other components. Our unique cryptographic protocol is designed to be implemented in any project or place and in many different coding languages — ensuring the data is verified and trusted by all participants. It’s a Reality Oracle and can provide concrete data — the applications are pretty far-reaching.

How do you think this might change the world?

By leveraging a decentralized network of devices to collect and validate data from various sources, XYO can harness the power of data to address current and future real-world challenges — from directing disaster response to more accurately assessing underwriting risk, analyzing behavioral patterns, or even addressing supply chain issues.

These are just a few of the exciting use cases discovered each day on our network. With no cap for potential, our users are accelerating digital transformation on a global scale and helping change the world for the better.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about? Every new technology can have flaws, nothing is without pitfalls. But, I think there’s a meaningful conversation to be had around the balance between protecting users while allowing innovation to flourish.

Similar to Bitcoin, and most blockchain technologies, the most compelling property of blockchain is the built-in accountability inherent in a fully-public ledger. This accountability derives from the fact that each transaction is completely open and viewable. Bitcoin can be interpreted as a platform that is anonymous but not private.

The XYO Network shares these traditional blockchain properties, yet, since location data is sensitive, additional thought into how privacy concerns are handled becomes necessary. For this reason, the XYO Network is built with privacy at the forefront of how its platform runs.

To accomplish this, we allow for the binding data (Bound Witnesses) to be stored on public archivists and Payloads to be stored on either public or private archivists.

Sharp tools can be used for good or evil, but if it isn’t a sharp tool, it’s not worth building.

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

Developers. We need more developers to start utilizing the potential of XYO. We recently launched the newest version of our network, XYO 2.0, which aims to accelerate the adoption of both its proprietary technology and blockchain overall. With XYO 2.0, we’re very confident adoption will steadily increase because developers of all experience levels are invited to participate in the network and discover new and innovative ways to use its potential.

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

XYO has a dedicated and engaged community of people from all over the world. We love hearing about our community’s ideas and use cases on social platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Our community is one of our most vital assets, helping evangelize XYO’s technology.

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

My mother helped me buy a computer in the 1980s, and it changed the course of my life. I spoke about it in a previous answer, but it truly was a formative experience for me in my youth, and it has led me to where I am today. So, thanks Ma.

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

As the world’s first Reality Oracle, we’re committed to making the world a better place by harnessing the power of data to address real-world issues, like supply chain disruptions or public safety monitoring. We put the power of data back into the user’s hands, incentivizing people to participate in the global data economy by validating anonymous and secure geospatial data.

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

Ok, let’s see…

  1. Be a jack of all trades AND a master of one. Without being a jack of all trades and understanding many things in your field, you struggle to understand the context in which you work. Without being a master of one, you’ll struggle to provide expertise and be at the top level of your chosen field.
  2. Always check your own work before assuming the problem lies on other people’s shoulders. The most embarrassing thing (at least to me) is to be sure others are wrong when you are actually at fault. There’s absolutely nothing lost in being modest yet confident.
  3. Love the journey you’re on and not just the outcome. You’re guaranteed to be on the trip and not guaranteed to get the result you’re seeking. Being an entrepreneur is much like being an artist. You do it because you’re compelled to. You’ll always be doomed to fail if you do it for the lottery ticket. But if you embrace your journey, you not only learn from it, but you’ll be guaranteed success, even if it is just for the joy of the journey.
  4. Having a work/life balance doesn’t require you to choose life over work when you love what you do for a living — they can be symbiotic. I can think about my projects 24 hours a day but still have time for my family, friends, and myself. This allows me to achieve at the required level to succeed without destroying my personal life.
  5. Don’t be afraid to fail because failure is just a step towards success. It’s nearly impossible to learn from success, but learning from failure is relatively easy. So, when you fail, the best use of that event is self-improvement and the desire to try again and hopefully succeed the next time you try. My investment philosophy is that I always want to invest in the first success of an entrepreneur, not the last failure.

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 most people know, I view myself as a type of Dataist. The view that a person is the sum of their memories, experiences, and accomplishments is something that I firmly believe. One’s legacy is the level of the sum of events that one can accomplish before time eventually runs out. I would love to see more people find purpose and direction in their lives and focus on personal enlightenment and the pursuit of self-improvement through building their legacy.

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

“Good enough” is never good enough. People often utter “good enough” when they give up on trying to reach the bar they set out to reach rather than when hard decisions need to be made on priorities. My goal is to put my head on my pillow every night, feeling that I tried my best that day and did not just do ‘good enough.

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

At XYO, we’re constantly striving to change the world, but with tactics allowing us to succeed in lesser circumstances. Our current path for XYO is revolutionary in how it converges data-permanence and real-world integration with the virtual world. Combining that with my Dataism views, we provide ‘Data Immortality” to projects, people and organizations.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Twitter: https://twitter.com/arietrouw

Web: https://arietrouw.com

XYO on Twitter here.

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


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

Meet The Disruptors: Kane Sarhan Of THE WELL On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Do more, want less: This is something my mom has said to me since childhood. It is a constant reminder to give more than you receive and to be thankful for what you have.

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

Kane Sarhan is the Co-Founder and CCO of THE WELL, your one-stop-shop for wellness and host of the podcast Messy Situations. Prior to THE WELL, he was Head of Brand of SH Group, Starwood Capital Group’s hotel brand management company where he oversaw the creation and management of the Firm’s two luxury lifestyle hotel and residence brands, 1 Hotels & Homes and Baccarat Hotels & Residences. Sarhan has been named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list, an Echoing Green Fellow, and a Francis Hesselbein Institute NEXT Leader of the Future.

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?

Woof, how much time do you have? My background is very non-traditional and has spanned multiple industries, roles and locations. I was born and raised in a small town in Michigan, moved to New York at 18 years old and have been hustling ever since. I have always worked on things that interest me with (and for) people who are smart, kind and the best at what they do. I have worked in tech, venture capital, private equity, non-profits and hospitality — the connecting thread in all of them is a creative passion to build new things digitally, physically, and financially and a love for bringing people together around a common cause or belief.

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

We are disrupting a health care industry that has been designed for sick care rather than health care. The wellness industry has never been bigger, but people have never been sicker, more stressed or less well. THE WELL is your one-stop-shop for wellness. We offer a range of health and wellness services, products, and experiences tailored to you. Integrating both modern medicine and ancient healing practices, our thoughtfully-designed spaces focus on whole-person health, addressing the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of well-being. Led by a team of world-class experts, we believe in preventative care that helps people feel good everyday.

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

There are so many — one of the most memorable has to be one of the most embarrassing. When I was 23, I went to Ireland with a group of young entrepreneurs as part of a leadership summit. On the first day, we were set to meet the President of Ireland on the steps of the capital in Dublin. It was a surprisingly sunny day in Ireland so I had sunglasses on. We were waiting for him for some time when his aide came out to say he was running behind but would be there shortly. I started chatting with one of my friends on the trip when an older gentleman approached me, put out his hand and said, “Hello, what’s your name?”. I put out my hand and said, “Hi, I’m Kane Sarhan. What’s yours?” The moment our hands touched, the 20 cameras that were waiting there with us started flashing, only to have realized I asked the President of Ireland his name in front of 100 people! I then proceeded to fumble over my words and talked to him for a few more minutes before I realized I also still had my sunglasses on and was not even looking at him in the face. He was very funny and gracious but I learned a very important lesson: Always know who you are meeting and Google them ahead of time to recognize their face — especially heads of state!

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 been very lucky to have the most fantastic mentors in my life. I am where I am today because of the people who invested in me and helped to grow as a young person. I would say the most impactful would be Nihal Mehta and Reshma Saujani. I worked for both of them early on in my career as their apprentice, and they truly changed my perspective on business and on who and what I could be.

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. Do more, want less: This is something my mom has said to me since childhood. It is a constant reminder to give more than you receive and to be thankful for what you have.
  2. Get the right people in the right seat on the bus: This is something my CoFounder, Sarrah Hallock, taught me and it is so true. The key to success is always to have the right team doing the right jobs.
  3. You’re no use if you’re not the full you: This advice is from my friend and author, Rahaf Harfoush, who has constantly reminded me about the importance of self care, rest and recovery as an entrepreneur. The hustle culture we have created is very dangerous so I try to always make room and space for down time.
  4. It’s all relative: I like to constantly remind myself how small I am (and my life is) in the grand scheme of things. It is a good way to not allow situations or issues to balloon out of control. Whenever I need a reminder about this, I love watching this Youtube video.

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

I have been working on a personal project called Messy Situations for a while. It is a platform that is starting as a podcast, coming out on May 4th, but is expanding into lots of other things that make space and give honor to the messy side of life. The past two years has been very challenging for all of us, and the one thing I have learned is that it is a lot easier to navigate hard, messy, scary situations together than it is apart. I want to really lean into the messy side of life for myself and others to make space for all of us to learn and grow from it.

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

I love Elizabeth Gilbert’s Ted Talk on Creative Genius. It is an oldie but a goodie. I have watched it dozens of times at this point and think it is such a good reminder to separate ourselves from our work (as creatives) and to give space for divinity in our day to day.

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

Healthcare is preventative! We have got to change the way we think about our health in this country and around the world, systemically and culturally.

How can our readers follow you online?

Instagram: @Imkane or @thewell

Tiktok: @Twogaysandahouse

Online: The-Well.com or KaneSarhan.com

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


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

Makers of The Metaverse: Hans Hansen Of Brand3D On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality…

Makers of The Metaverse: Hans Hansen Of Brand3D On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Stay informed. Follow the ever-changing trends in this space. If you are to be successful, you need to be able to join the conversations and help evolve the technology approach of your company and/or your customers.

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 Hans Hansen.

Hans Hansen is the CEO of BRAND3D and has extensive knowledge in technology. Currently, his expertise is being applied to 3D technology and enhancing the online experience as the world prepares for the Metaverse. Over the past 20 years, he has developed products and new ventures in the areas of Artificial Intelligence, 3D technologies, M2M automation, Internet of Things, Mobile Marketing, Fitness and Health Monitoring and Social Web Services.

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?

Thank you, it’s an honor to be here. Well, long story short, I grew up in a rural setting in Jutland, Denmark in Europe, and as a kid, — at a time before online gaming and smartphones — I ended up working at a strawberry farm where I managed the estate during the off season.

I found out that I quite liked “being my own boss”, and my career has since moved in an entrepreneurial direction, even when I was working at Nokia the then number five brand in the world.

I was constantly looking for new technology and new business opportunities, and over time, this has given me the privilege to work on various emerging technologies:

In my early 20s, I did my M.Sc. thesis at DTU in Copenhagen using a new type of AI (RTRL neural networks) that eventually evolved into the “deep learning” AI as we know it today.

During my early 30s, I worked on two revolutionary new trends: real-time communication and mobile apps technologies: First by heading up the Architecture Committee of the OMA for Nokia, where we laid the foundation for the “app stores” that we know today, and later in cooperation with Oz Communication / Ericsson, we worked on a feature complete “Slack + Zoom” communication solution.

I then went on — with some of my peers from the OMA — to co-find a startup, Mobile Cohesion, taking in $25m in venture capital from Accel Europe to create the first “app stores” (the company later became part of Intel Services). I was also involved in early Internet-of-Things startups, one of which is still using cloud connected devices to reduce the power consumption of water damage control.

While it was a true privilege to get involved with all these technologies early on, it has also been frustrating to be too early to market. I am therefore really happy to be working on the Metaverse with my current company, Brand3D. The Metaverse is already taking off in various niches, such as VR based on Oculus/Facebook/Meta technology, in Augmented Reality where companies like IKEA have let their customers place virtual goods in their homes for many years and for regular ecommerce where Shopify has seen more than double conversion rates using 3D technologies.

This time, I feel that I have finally hit the right time to market.

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 movie Tron has always been an icon. Not only am I a great fan of Jeff Bridges (“Star Man”, “Fabulous Baker Boy”), but Tron represents a true landmark for 3D technology and one of the first Metaverses ever to be realized using computer animation.

The movie shows a complete alternative world where computers provide the “gateways” much like the Metaverses of today, and this vision has always fascinated me. Unlike more occult Metaverses, such as the Matrix movies, Tron was more about generating experiences with powerful software and hardware and hence much easier for me to identify with efforts to bring 3D to the Internet of 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, when I was working for Oz Communication I had the privilege of working with Gudjon Mar Gudjonsson who was behind one of the very first VRLM (Virtual Reality Markup Language) browsers that allowed browsing a 3D scene on the web. Gudjon and several others went on to create EVE Online a computer game that represented one of the very first 3D “worlds” about 25 years before the current hype wave.

The founders essentially set out to create the first Metaverse and meeting this inspiring team and to experience this interstellar Metaverse laid the foundation for my enthusiasm for the XR space. It was one of the reasons I decided to start Brand3D; with the aim to make 3D creation and publication on the web even easier and available to even more people outside of the gaming world.

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

My brother, Svend, worked at Jagex as a software developer, and at the time, they developed the world’s most popular massive multiplayer online (MMO) game in terms of number of users. It made the Guinness Book of World Records in 2018. While Gudjon and his team provided me with fascination for 3D technology, the stories I heard from my brother brought me fascination with the idea of a massive online virtual world where users communicate and cooperate from all over the globe.

This was — in terms of user community — an early look into the promise of the Metaverses that are being built today. Svend’s girlfriend, now wife, Katie, was working for the team that communicated with the user base, and there was a strong community feel among these inhabitants of a virtual “role playing game” pre-Metaverse. In fact, some of the users would pay for expensive flights across the world to join an annual gathering of users in Cambridge, UK, where the company was located.

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 visiting one of the early GPU Conferences held by NVIDIA at a time when VR headsets were still a novelty, and the technology was still too costly for most people. HTC had just launched their first VIVE headset and I was standing in line for hours to try it on. When I finally got through the line, I was very eager to try all the (quite limited) software applications that were available, so I paid no attention to the warning plaques and the instructions that the staff provided. Instead, I jumped from application to application as the time with the headset was quite limited. When I got to the VR Drawing program developed by Google “Tilt Brush”, I was truly fascinated.

The program essentially allowed you to sculpt in 3D by spraying a thin ray of material — much in the same way a 3D printer prints shapes. I was so fascinated creating this sculpture in the middle of the Sahara Desert that I did not pay attention to the various buttons on the remote control. At some point I was virtually jumping around my sculpture (the VIVE headset was one of the first mainstream VR headsets that would track your exact position), when I accidentally pressed a button on the side of the controller. I am sure that the instructor had warned me, but I was too eager to try the gadget. From running around in the desert with nice cacti and terra cotta colored rocks, I was immediately, and I mean INSTANTLY hanging in deep space. My sculpture suddenly looked tiny, and I got a glimpse into why they say astronauts find looking into open space one of the most intimidating experiences. I immediately tore off the headset and it took a few months before I dared to wear one again 🙂

This somewhat shocking experience — and I would like to point out that I am usually not that easy to shock as I used to parachute in my teens — taught me that VR experiences may not be the answer to mass adoption of 3D technologies. Surely, it’s fascinating to experience, but it may just be a bit too far from reality for the mass market to adopt the VR technology at the scale needed — at least in the short term.

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?

Besides the people I have mentioned above, there is a long list of people who have helped me stay focused and not give up. Being an entrepreneur can be daunting and a mental marathon. It is therefore crucial to have mentors that can support you along the way. I once won a pitch competition at the leading Scandinavian startup program “Accelerace” (https://www.accelerace.io/) and the prize was access to personal coaching from two major entrepreneurship gurus from the UNC / Kenan Flagler business school in NC. One of the teachings of Professor Zoller is to seek out a mentor early on in your career — he calls this “Finding your Santa”. This principle has become one of the most important lessons in my later career and I have since had numerous mentors. In fact, I have recently joined the Growth Academy by Dan Martell, where successful entrepreneurs are providing coaching for up-and-coming software companies CEOs. Since I joined, Dan and his team have really helped me accelerate my business and make the right decisions in a competitive and ever-changing business landscape.

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

Yes, we are currently working to make 3D content creation for the Metaverse even easier.

Today, you can download 3D assets from a long list of online sources, many of which are free or very low cost.

Using free online tools, you can then upload these into 3D mini-Metaverses and publish these on social media like Facebook, or your blog or website.

It has never been easier to get started with 3D on the web, but we are, at the moment, working on making that even easier.

Our new tools that will be launched in the coming months will allow you to use your smartphone to quickly create a new 3D object and publish it to your friends, customers or communities.

We hope this will make it even easier to share content, create engaging educational material and even create 3D NFTs that you can then put up for sale. Longer term these assets can then be embedded into your favorite online Metaverse as the technology becomes more accessible.

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 really excites me is that the “wait is over”. The technology is finally converging into something that is available on the web as we know it today. Users no longer have to wait for the perfect VR headset or smart glasses from Google or Microsoft. The technology is accessible and can be made available to both PC, mobile phones and AR by anyone who can copy & paste a link.

The second thing that is amazing about the current climate, is that there is real acceptance of doing things online and remotely. There is no longer the need to travel by car or plane to do simple business transactions. This makes the Metaverse and XR technologies much more relevant along with our mission to democratize the XR tools even more important.

Finally, I am intrigued by the gamification that is beginning to happen in the market. As mentioned previously, I think all brands who want to maintain their following must adapt to this new reality. It’s not enough to focus on physical products, but instead, start innovating in the production, marketing and tracking of digital goods. Not only does this provide new revenue streams that these brands and retailers cannot ignore, but more importantly, it creates a much stronger relationship with their customers. For example, if Nike sells custom shoes at a $150 price tag to teenagers today, they can either sell one shoe per season in a transactional fashion, or they can sell hundreds of digital items in between physical sales in much the same way as successful “free” online games like Fortnite and Pokémon are selling virtual items for billions. Not only does this increase their bottom line, but it creates a much stronger link to their customers who — eventually — will become their main customer segment in the future with much stronger buying power.

The Metaverse is thus not just about entertaining its users, but also a business opportunity that brands cannot afford to miss out on.

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 big players in the industry are involved in arms races to “own the value chain” for the Metaverse based marketplace for the future. Facebook/Meta is using its Oculus headsets to create a very closed and technically challenging platform for smaller businesses to tap into; this could continue to delay the adoption of the full potential of the industry.

Other tech giants, such as Epic Games has announced similar “closed worlds” being in the works with their partners. This is the most concerning development as 3D on the web provides an open, levelled playing field for all businesses to participate.

Another concerning fact is the related inequality that these closed and tech requiring Metaverse platforms create. It would be very difficult for users in developing countries and low-income regions to participate if access to the Metaverse remains behind a barrier of having to invest in expensive headsets and other closed technology.

Finally, there is the sheer realism posed by VR based Metaverses of the future. When the technology finally catches up with the ambition of the software companies creating these worlds, there may be very little need to ever enter the real world. Just as in the recent Ready Player One, the physical world may end up being much poorer and less attractive reality than that available behind the VR glasses. This could essentially create behavioral patterns of escapism; a condition known of people who take various drugs to get away from an unpleasant life. We are not anywhere near this being possible with the current technology, but in 5–10 years, I would expect the virtual worlds to be very realistic. I once had an employee — one of my best developers — who was calling in sick several times a week, and when he did show up, he looked like he had barely slept. It turned out that he was playing an online game called Everquest, where he had become one to the top-ranking officers in an army. This to him became a lot more attractive than his day job as a software programmer. I think we may see much more of this in the future as the Metaverses become increasingly immersive.

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?

AR has already proven invaluable in mapping 3D objects to real-world camera views. Doctors use this technology to provide information on help diagnose problems and virtual technologies are widely used in training and specialized education such as machine repair and simulations. Hazardous scenarios can be simulated and allow first responders to train their reactions without actually creating the underlying often dangerous events.

In higher education, AR and 3D technologies are already being used to create non-linear learning processes. For example, in online classes, a teacher can provide the students with a 3D model of a certain object — for example a human brain — and students can then study the deeper lying elements of the brain anatomy by clicking through the 3D model in real-time or offline as part of their homework.

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

Virtual Learning is a key factor to drive equality across the globe, but recorded videos can only do so much compared to physical education as we have all learned during the pandemic.

VR, AR and MR can help bridge this gap by providing “hands-on” to remote students. This can suddenly allow remote students in poor countries to gain access to costly experiments in a virtual space.

Large universities, such as MIT, Oxford and Stanford, which are inaccessible to most students — even in their home countries — are running online programs via online learning platforms. Kaltura is a leading provider of such tools and we at Brand3D are working with them to improve remote learning and make “experiments” available in virtual contexts for students all over the world. This will hopefully over time erode the massive inequality in access to high-quality experimental learning in poor regions of the world

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

You do not need a headset to use 3D technology. The massive investments by tech giants into both the technology and marketing of VR has driven the myth that the Metaverse requires high-end technology. Thankfully, the reality is that anyone can participate in this XR revolution with nothing but a web browser. The technology allows fully immersive experiences to be viewed and shared on any web page without the need for app downloads or VR glasses.

As discussed elsewhere, this will ultimately democratize access to the worlds of 3D and the industry will seek to deliver 3D where the users are and not wait for expensive VR headsets to become available to the masses. For example, on mobile devices.

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

  1. Join the communities. The XR industries is a very connected industry with lots of key influencers from whom you can learn a lot and most of whom are very eager to share their expertise. Online communities on Facebook and Youtube are a key source of information and networking opportunities.
  2. Agility. The technology and the market move faster than any other industry, and you need to be able to quickly adapt and learn new things.
  3. Stay informed. Follow the ever-changing trends in this space. If you are to be successful, you need to be able to join the conversations and help evolve the technology approach of your company and/or your customers.
  4. Industry overview. It’s a great idea to make sure that you have a complete overview. Even if you are not a developer of technology, you need to know enough to be dangerous and help drive the strategy of your team. This may be true for any tech area, but the XR industry is known for new paradigms emerging constantly.
  5. Technology agnostic approach. You must keep an open mind and not lock in on a single technology strand. The XR industry is littered with standards and de facto standards and tools that are no longer and have become discontinued online environments such as Google Poly.

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

I would love to help contribute to the gap between remote working and the technology boom that we see in hotspots in the USA, Europe and Asia. Many companies are working to solve this through freelancer platforms and virtual meeting experiences. However, our platform was designed form the ground up to be nimble and work well on any device and on slower network connections, whereas most of our competitors focus on higher end devices and broadband connections. We pride ourselves with having users from the most remote and low-income regions. We hope we can continue to let these users create virtual goods and experiences and reduce the in-equalities that are otherwise growing as availability of advanced tech tends to concentrate in privileged urban areas of rich countries.

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 really like to sit down with DAVID HELGASON . He co-founded Unity in my former hometown of Copenhagen, which is a leading game engine company behind games like Pokémon Go, and he was a true visionary in early adoption of Augmented Reality and other technologies that have laid the foundation for the XR technologies we know today. I believe he would have a lot of insights into this fascinating space and in successful entrepreneurship in general.

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


Makers of The Metaverse: Hans Hansen Of Brand3D 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: Brian Shuster Of Utherverse On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your…

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

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Real disruptors don’t often get good advice because they are the ones forging their own path. The best advice is the advice I’ve given to myself– Every idea doesn’t pan out to be good, you have to fail a lot and recognize what’s going to succeed as early as possible. The key is being able to discern an outcome as early as you can and you hone that skill through trying and failing.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I 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! 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 was introduced to the internet back in 1994, at the time I was an internationally syndicated newspaper cartoonist and I jumped on the web thinking it’s a great way for people in cities where my comic wasn’t in their paper to access and enjoy my comic on a daily basis. I realized that the internet was a great medium for commercial exploitation so I founded World Wide Internet Network–my first web company — I developed the first banner ads and an aggregation tool to aggregate thousands of small and medium sized websites so that I could have a large enough audience to interest advertisers and get into the market space. We activated the internet and commercialized the web.

With my introduction of banner advertising, many websites went from being loss centers to profit centers. Within 18 months we were generating about 10 million dollars a month –we spent this on expanding and upgrading which had an amplifying effect on the internet. We developed the full foundation for web 1.0 and then started thinking about what’s next, which was social media and web 2.0.

As web 2.0 rolled out we started to think about synchronization of communication which is where web 3.0 comes into the picture–the best of online gaming and the best of the internet to create massive, multi-user online reality for things like concerts, conventions, real estate. These are all things you couldn’t do on the flat web but are becoming a reality through what I call web 3.D.

By 2005 our technology stack was mature enough to be released as Utherverse. Ever since our launch our mission has been to transition the web to web 3.D. As a theoretical physicist, I am solution oriented. My overall career path and goal has been driven by the need to see each other as human beings. I realized more than 20 years ago that we need to use technology to eliminate most people’s motivation for hating other people. We need to use technology to come to the realization that all life is connected, being able to see each other and connect as human beings–with empathy. I want accountability towards each other and for people to view each other in community.

In order to preserve and improve the course of humanity we need to be accountable to each other and in my belief, the way we will achieve this is through seeing and communicating with each other with empathy. When it is thoughtfully implemented, technology can enable people to feel good because they are able to do good things with it–especially if they are in a vibrant, positive online community.

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

We are taking technology from being this flat, asynchronous communication tool and totally transforming these experiences where you feel like you’re really experiencing things with other people. My work is concerned with an unbounded experience–these new technological experiences can feel genuine and positive. Building a metaverse is disruptive because we can use it to democratize experiences that were once limited to class and geography. It is disruptive because it empowers people and is totally deflationary. You can go shopping without harming the environment, you can attend the very best university through your avatar for pennies instead of hundreds of thousands of dollars, you can experience world-class entertainment as if you were a billionaire from anywhere in the world. It is a great equalizer.

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 mistake wasn’t very funny but the lesson that I learned is that you don’t only need to worry about your competition, you need to worry about the people that you think are on your side.

My first internet company grew too fast, we went from a $700 investment to doing $10 Million dollars a month in 18 months. The banks and credit card companies didn’t understand what we were doing, they didn’t understand the internet in those days, so instead of being a supportive part of my company’s infrastructure, they became a major obstacle that got in the way of further success. I brought banner ads to the internet–the first advertising dollars on the internet, this turned into e-commerce. We encountered “friendly fraud” due to the lack of security infrastructure on the cards. We asked for a range of fraud prevention tools but our requests were ignored and, because of the fraud, the credit card companies would subject us to fines and penalties without telling our company.

The lesson I learned from this is that competition is great–it expands the market. There’s always room to make a scenario win-win, even with competitors. It isn’t the competition that you always need to be worried about though. Sometimes those that are an integral part of your business will do you in. You need to watch your core, because when things go wrong they can go really wrong.

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?

When we were really blowing up I hired this guy Ed Rollins, he was the Chief of Staff for Ronald Regan. He became my CEO coach and he gave me a great piece of advice that has made a huge impact on me. He told me that as the CEO of a company, I’m the visionary — but 50% of my time should be spent by myself, thinking. I always make it a point to ponder in the evening and make sure to take time to think about what happened during the day. I’ll often come to very important conclusions and end up finding ways to make sure my team is efficient.

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?

Change for the sake of change is not good. Disrupting is just a word. When it means making something more efficient, it’s always a positive for the disruptor–market forces will always naturally tend toward more efficiency. Sometimes institutions thrive on a lack of efficiency. Disrupting is good as a long term outcome but creates problems for those that rely on the current structure.

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 feel like I’ve been swimming against the current for my entire career. I was pitching the internet to venture capitalists and was told that the internet was a fad–nobody understood it. I am my own best council here.

Real disruptors don’t often get good advice because they are the ones forging their own path. The best advice is the advice I’ve given to myself– Every idea doesn’t pan out to be good, you have to fail a lot and recognize what’s going to succeed as early as possible. The key is being able to discern an outcome as early as you can and you hone that skill through trying and failing.

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

I am building a whole new connective interface for the web. I am pretty booked up on that but I am also shaking things up in other ways. I have solved a massive physics equation and am going to release an animated series called “Physics Unraveled,” we are in production right now and at the end of it I will be solving an equation Einstein was working on for his entire life–unifying electromagnetism and gravity. I am also releasing a cannabis accessory that totally transforms the way cannabis is consumed called the Helium Haze. It is massively different from anything that currently exists–it’s in production right now.

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?

When I was young, I used to be frightened of death and wanted to live for as long as possible. I came to terms with mortality with this book called “Conversations With God” and my takeaway from that book was that when religion says God is everywhere, in a sense that’s really true–in a sense we are God and we are the universe, we are matter and if you consider that all matter is truly the divine, then we are the consciousness of the divine. The universe has come alive through us being self aware. As a collective, the universe continues to exist even if we are only here for a short period of time. This ties back to a lot of my motivations to build out a metaverse where we are all interconnected.

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

“We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” — John F. Kennedy

Doing things that are easy is living a life of boredom. Doing the hard thing is gratifying and gives your life purpose. I apply that quote to most of the work I do and the solutions I explore.

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 to mobilize good hearted people in the community I have built to be altruistic and empathetic. If you are empathetic and you care about other people–that is the highest calling. If your heart is in the right place you will leverage your intelligence for good. That’s how we build ourselves and gain completeness. I would like to inspire compassion and feel blessed to have an opportunity to improve peoples’ lives.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can follow my company’s work @utherverse and you can follow me on Twitter @Brian_Shuster

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


Meet The Disruptors: Brian Shuster Of Utherverse 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.

CosmiC SiblingS: Guillaume Levy-Lambert’s Big Idea that Might Change the World

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

“It” never ends. I started planning our 60th birthday celebration with the intention to “tell The Calendar Story like never before”, and now I see that creating the CosmiC SiblingS Beta community is more urgent and important than I had realised and will continue to be part of my life for years to come.

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 Guillaume Levy-Lambert.

Guillaume Levy-Lamber is a Singapore-based conceptual artist, whose artist statement, “documenting Divine providence”, is developed in the TEDx of the same title. Guillaume is also the co-founder of The MaGMA Collection and Art Porters Gallery.

An advocate of reinvention, Guillaume started his professional life in financial services with BNP Paribas Asset Management (1984–1997), where he held increasingly senior assignments in Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore. He later joined the communications industry, as Asia Pacific regional chairman for Publicis (1997–2007), tasked with building an advertising network.

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?

In March 2000, I heard the voice of the late Roy Lichtenstein tell me he had created “Desk Calendar” for me (for context, see the episode MaGMA 0300 in the catalogues of The MaGMA Collection’s 2010 and 2014 exhibitions). For years, I wondered what Lichtenstein had meant.

I had first encountered “Desk Calendar” a few months earlier at MOCA in L.A., during my first ever museum visit with my life partner, Moonbeam, who I had met just once month previously.

The painting depicts an appointment book with several inscriptions. The main date shown, Monday May 21st 1962, is the day I was born. There is also one date circled– October 26th. This is Moonbeam’s birthday.

A few years later, Moonbeam and I were stuck in Phuket when the tsunami hit. This is when the awareness of our mortality struck me, and I decided that my priority had to be sharing The Calendar Story. It took another three years for me to leave the corporate world and start a conscious process of coming out as an artist.

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

One of the key inscriptions on “Desk Calendar” reads: call 212–288–4820. Of course, I dialed! A few times, over the course of several years.

When I called again in 2011, a recording stated, “this number is not in use”. So, with the help of Xavier Roux, I acquired the number. To this date, the number shown on “Desk Calendar” is my US phone number.

For about five years, as the painting travelled from LA to Chicago to Washington DC to London and back to LA, hundreds of members of the public called the number. Like me, they were curious about the painting and who the number might connect them to. I collected their voice mails.

In 2016, I managed to return some of the calls, on Skype or FaceTime. This lead to about 30 hours of recordings from which Romy Engel and I created Evidence, a five minute film produced for the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco.

It is through this project that I encountered my first Cosmic Sibling — that is, someone who was also born on 21st May 1962, the date depicted in “Desk Calendar.”

This ultimately led me to where I am today, focusing my energy on the CosmiC SiblingS project (more on this later!).

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

Curiosity. As a teenager in the late 1970s, I embarked on genealogical research, following threads and enjoying the discoveries along the way. I even received an award from the hands of a physics Nobel Prize winner, Louis Néel.

Consultation. I learn from my friends. For example, when I decided to leave the bank and to start a career in advertising, I drafted a letter to Bill Tragos, the T in TBWA.Over the next ten days I rewrote it 10 times after showing it to a few friends and taking in their feedback. A version of the same letter found its way to the desk of Maurice Levy at Publicis (no relation), who hired me to build their Asia network.

Courage. For more than 20 years, I have lobbied for the renaming of Petain Road in Singapore. A long story, and still work in progress. Along the way, I am documenting Divine providence, my way of enjoying the ride and noticing the clues that the universe sends along the route of this treasure hunt we call life.

Chutzpah. I once took an unopened gift to the hospital for a CT Scan. A dozen years later, still unopened, it became the center piece of my 2020 exhibition, Le Secret Sacré.

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

The big idea is to create a platform that will facilitate human connections along largely unexplored dimensions.

I have stumbled upon a desire for bonding that the existing social media platforms do not service well today.

Through the CosmiC SiblingS project, I am attempting to reconnect with some of the 300,000 or so fellow humans who were all born, like me, on the 21st of May, 1962. I say reconnect as it feels like we’ve all met before (as in before incarnating, like in a scene from Disney’s Soul?).

CosmiC SiblingS will bring us closer together. We come from all walks of life. In our first virtual meeting in 2020, while we were all in the big lockdown, we had participants from Colombia, Mexico, Canada, France, the USA, Ivory Coast, Dubai, The Philippines, Singapore.

And that was only a small group of pioneers. The connections felt between us all are unique. You can get a feel here.

How do you think this will change the world?

We will increase the emotional awareness and realisation that we all belong to one big loving human family, and that we can all touch each other’s lives. Each of us is an agent of Divine providence for countless other persons.

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?

I personally cannot imagine any drawbacks to connecting with as many different people, from as many walks of life, as possible.

If any of the readers feel differently, I encourage you to message us on https://www.instagram.com/cosmicsiblings/.

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

I first calculated how many people were born on the same day as me 23 years ago, a few weeks after seeing “Desk Calendar” for the first time. I was hoping to prove that I didn’t need to alter my agnostic view of the world as surely “Desk Calendar” would resonate as intensely with many others as it had with me.

When I inherited Leo Castelli’s former phone number, my secret desire was that one of the callers would leave a message saying “it’s my painting!” so that I would be free of the inescapable feeling that I am worthy of such a special attention.

This almost happened with caller DC86. In 2012, he had left an innocuous voice mail saying, “greetings from Chicago, from the Art Institute”. The tipping point was connecting with him, in the summer of 2016. It turns out that Michael Davis is one of the CosmiC SiblingS.

His grandmother’s birthday was October 26, the date circled in “Desk Calendar”.

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

Will each of you reading this join me on 21st May 2022, when I celebrate with a few CosmiC SiblingS from around the world?

Everyone is invited.

Please sign up here and assist in spreading the good word.

You could look amongst your Facebook friends who has a birthday on May 21. That “market” is about 20 million people.

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

  1. “It” never ends. I started planning our 60th birthday celebration with the intention to “tell The Calendar Story like never before”, and now I see that creating the CosmiC SiblingS Beta community is more urgent and important than I had realised and will continue to be part of my life for years to come.
  2. Midlife crisis. As a young adult it’s an expression we hear often. They should warn you that it feels like a violent roller coaster ride that starts without warning. You see, I’ve tried a few times to bring The Calendar Story to an end so I could focus on other exciting stuff on my bucket list.
  3. Once you’re done climbing Mount Everest, you discover countless other summits awaiting. The 2010 exhibition had been a formidable challenge, and I realised that there was still so much to do. This being said, we’re enjoying the view. Whilst I have not climbed Everest for real, in 1990 I did climb Mount Fuji. They said it takes three hours, I think it took us the whole night. I loved the expression on my friends’ faces when we reached the summit and I opened my bag, with a cool bottle of Champagne ready for us to savour. Running down was so fun!
  4. You can’t have it all. Well, I still fantasise about multi-tasking.
  5. One can rebel and be rewarded for it. Aged 12, I decreed I would not do my bar mitzvah. I think G-d decided to make me gay so I would understand what it means to be Jewish (for me it’s two rather similar experiences). A quarter century and a few heartbreaks later, I met Moonbeam. And had my bar mitzvah for my 39th birthday (see MaGMA 1339).

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

Ask and you shall be given? Please share this article and send CosmiC Siblings my way.

Gratitude, generosity. We are all CosmiC SiblingS, we are all born on 21 May 1962, all our paths are lit by Divine providence.

Positivity. Look for the blessings in disguise. Do you know the story of the Chinese farmer?

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 🙂

Andy Warhol also inspired me, with this quote good business is the best art”. What if we told you that the next revolution will be spiritual, and lead by an artist?

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Instagram — @cosmicsiblings

Event website — 21May1962.com

Facebook event — https://www.facebook.com/events/1003567250253396

Linktree — https://linktr.ee/cosmicsiblings

Personal — https://linktr.ee/guillaumelevylambert

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


CosmiC SiblingS: Guillaume Levy-Lambert’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.

Meet The Disruptors: Bob Miles Of Salad Technologies On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your…

Meet The Disruptors: Bob Miles Of Salad Technologies On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Dont take yourself too seriously. I’m a big believer in the Dunning-Kruger effect, which describes one’s life cycle of understanding across a specific topic or area of expertise. Individually, we don’t know where we lie on this spectrum — whether we’re in the early stages of understanding a topic, thinking we know everything while stuck at the peak of “Mount Stupid,” or whether we truly are gaining the knowledge and experience to be a subject matter expert.

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

Bob Miles is the Founder and CEO of Salad Technologies. After training to become a pilot, Bob studied Aeronautical Engineering and began his career at Qantas Airways as a performance engineer. Bob co-founded the digital production company responsible for The Green Way Up, a twelve-part television series that aired internationally on National Geographic and Netflix; he designed, built and operated a waste-to-fuel system to power a cross-continent expedition without consuming fossil fuels. Bob went on to specialize in product management for mobile applications and was co-founder of a connected car startup that developed networked software for consumer automobiles. He later relocated to the United States to take a position as Head of Product at a consumer drone manufacturer, where his passion for aviation coalesced with his expertise in building networked applications.

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 always wanted to be a pilot and got my license immediately after leaving school, only to discover that it wasn’t the career for me — I need a creative outlet in my work, and creativity is not something you want in your pilot! After studying aerospace engineering, I joined Qantas as a performance engineer, only to quit nine months later to found my first startup. Now I’ve spent over a decade in the startup space. I love the intersection between cutting edge technology and mass market adoption. Introducing radical ideas is what drives me; naturally startups are where I belong.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work youre doing thats disruptive?

At Salad we’re introducing a radical new concept that is somewhat uncomfortable for the average web user: when you’re not using your computer, someone else will make use of it. It’s analogous to the early days of Uber or AirBnB, where 99.9% of people would’ve been uncomfortable with a complete stranger picking them up in their car, or staying in their spare bedroom. With our lives becoming increasingly digital, the sharing economy will inevitably reach the computing space. This is what we are disrupting at Salad. Most of the world’s compute resources sit in consumer homes all over the globe — idle throughout the day, but connected to the Internet. Consumer resources are overwhelmingly underutilized, while enterprise demand for compute resources grows exponentially. We’re also in the middle of a chip shortage. Conventional providers simply cannot provision enough hardware to meet demand. We’ve found ourselves amidst a compute crisis where access to processing and other computational resources is limited. Salad is connecting a massive, latent supply to an ever-increasing demand by promoting mainstream acceptance of a radical value proposition.

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?

One of the first businesses I ever started was a tour company that took international students on an “Australian Outback Experience” to the family farm. I had no idea what I was doing, and this translated into a terrible performance as a tour guide. The first several tours received almost no commentary because I was so terrified of the microphone! The lesson there is to do your homework, see what your competitors are doing, and understand how they deliver the product. For me, all it took was going on a few day trips from other tour providers to understand their process and listen to their commentary, and then I was able to build on those lessons to hone my skills.

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?

As someone who’s always worked at the earliest startup stages, I’ve never really had a long-term relationship with a single mentor. In lieu, I turn to the wisdom of the Internet — specifically podcasts. No matter what the problem or situation you’re thinking through, there is an incredible amount of content available to help frame your thinking and guide next steps. For example, How I Built This has amazing stories from entrepreneurs coming from all sorts of backgrounds with battle stories from the early days of their companies. Similarly, Masters of Scale hosted by Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn, has so much wisdom and sound advice wrapped up in its countless episodes.

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?

Tech founders of the past two decades have often taken “disruptive” and used it to advertise or positively frame their businesses, technologies, or ideas. It’s a trend that arose from the outlier companies that did something truly innovative and groundbreaking. Those are the AirBnBs and Ubers of the world, the startups who took ideas that were so radical at the go-to-market stage, and took them mainstream as billion-dollar companies. True disruption is asymmetrically positive — but as you suggest, not all disruption is good. If you’re introducing a competing product or service that is only incrementally better, its unique selling point can be lost in marketing messaging that relies on descriptors that are overly vague, optimistic, or nebulous. In other words, if you’re trying to use the term “disruptive” to sell an idea that isnt, you’re likely going to confuse potential customers and never gain meaningful traction. “Disruptive” is overused by entrepreneurs, as both a term and a notion.

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

Dont take yourself too seriously. I’m a big believer in the Dunning-Kruger effect, which describes one’s life cycle of understanding across a specific topic or area of expertise. Individually, we don’t know where we lie on this spectrum — whether we’re in the early stages of understanding a topic, thinking we know everything while stuck at the peak of “Mount Stupid,” or whether we truly are gaining the knowledge and experience to be a subject matter expert. In either case, it’s all relative to your moment and its horizon of expectations. Those who come after us will be even more knowledgeable. It’s essential to acknowledge that with humility. The takeaway is that no one really knows what they are doing; we’re making educated guesses through our personal and professional lives. That’s particularly true of startup founders or entrepreneurs seeking to build something new. It’s incredibly easy to be tough on yourself, so remember not to take yourself too seriously.

We are sure you arent done. How are you going to shake things up next?

We’re laser-focused on the work we’re doing. In order to disrupt the cloud computing industry, we’ve spent the past four years building a sharing economy on top of a distributed infrastructure layer. Salad now rivals the world’s fastest supercomputers with tens of thousands of active network nodes per day. In the short term, we’re onboarding more third-party clients onto our distributed cloud and expanding our end-user portfolio to include diversified compute workloads. Our goal is to empower millions of gamers and everyday webizens to compete directly with conventional cloud providers — safely, on their own terms, and with sovereign control over those valuable compute resources.

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

We all found ourselves in a moment of deep shock and uncertainty during the initial outbreak of Covid, and there were just as many impacts on our business. Revenue dropped, and we experienced high turnover in the face of an inscrutable future. It was a personally stressful time. I remember listening to the Masters of Scale episode featuring Brian Chesky and finding the conversation deeply impactful. With lockdowns and travel restrictions in place, AirBnB’s core business had been completely waylaid. To hear just how they were handling the situation in real time proved to be a very valuable data point for me. Now our network is stronger than ever!

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

“The grass is always greener on the other side.” It’s a great idiom that captures what so many of us experience: always wanting something different than what you have. I’ve always aspired to be a tech founder; now that I’m wearing these shoes, it’s very easy to lose sight of what you’ve accomplished and see where you’re at. Sometimes you’ve got to take a step back and recognize just how fortunate you are.

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. 🙂

Doing the most amount of good for the most amount of people comes down to energy abundance. Humans flourish when we have access to ample energy and cheap resources to pursue activities above and beyond what’s required for subsistence. There needs to be a movement towards a rational re-evaluation of our energy production. We need to revise our politics to welcome engineering principles into the conversation — less focus on how energy is consumed, and more investigation into how we can generate more energy, in a sustainable way, with the lowest carbon intensity possible. Many have tried, and many have failed, but in my mind it holds the most potential for our collective good.

How can our readers follow you online?

The best place to find me is on Linkedin. Just search for Bob Miles, Founder and CEO of Salad!

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


Meet The Disruptors: Bob Miles Of Salad Technologies 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.

Making Something From Nothing: Adi Patil Of Start It Up NYC & Rriter On How To Go From Idea To L

Making Something From Nothing: Adi Patil Of Start It Up NYC & Rriter On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

A team is made up of talent, but each talent has a different personality. You need to make sure you are getting the right personalities together to create a formidable team. A team that is passionate about the goals of the company, and works and enjoys together, creating an amazing culture that defines your company and workplace.

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

Adi is a seasoned digital marketing and software development executive, frequent key-note speaker, and prominent figure in the US tech-marketing ecosystem.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! 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 the US, in Shady Grove, Maryland, and grew up partially in India. Some of my schooling took place in Russia. Growing up with kids from diverse backgrounds around me really helped me understand more of the world at an early stage in my life. I would credit my childhood fully for the multicultural and social person I am today.

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

“Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose.”– Lyndon B. Johnson

I have faced a lot of hardships in my life, from my parents getting divorced to losing both of them pretty early. I think focusing on today and tomorrow has helped me look at life positively. Maintaining good intent every single day is extremely crucial to getting over the constant pain points in your life. Especially, if you have lost near and dear ones. Loss is personal and permanent.

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?

Well, I have probably mentioned this in multiple interviews, but Catch-22 by Joseph Heller is my favorite book. The writer coined the phrase Catch-22. I truly believe that life is full of Catch-22 situations and once you learn to solve these, you can truly overcome anything.

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

I think ideation should be given only as much attention as it deserves. “A good idea” is fairly subjective. In business, once you have an idea, you do have to conduct market research and financial analysis pretty comprehensively to determine whether the idea is worth executing. You also have to define the point of success for an idea and find the best path to get there. Time is money, so you’d rather execute one feasible idea a year, than try 10 and depend on chance.

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 someone else thought of it before. Someone else thought of Facebook before, Myspace had ample time to establish itself. Facebook got it right and published the most simple social media platform when it launched. Users were drawn towards the simplicity of facebook’s interface initially as compared to Myspace’s UI with the music on profiles, the top friends section, and whatnot!

The point is, think about how you can do something better, even if it’s already done!

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 of all, the product has to be top-notch, so start with making sure your idea is really original, so you can file a patent. You must look into what type of patent you want to file. For example, a utility or design patent. Do your research, look at competitors, and apply for a patent you have the best chance of getting. You should get a good lawyer for your filing process. Connect with and get any queries you have answered from the United States Patent and Trademark Office — https://www.uspto.gov/.

In terms of sourcing a manufacturer, find one that can develop your product exactly how you want it, and in fact, help you enhance it. Make sure their manufacturing facility is highly-scalable, for whenever your idea takes off.

Retailers and distributors are really important. Take the tabasco factory in Louisianna, for example. That little bottle of sauce is in every restaurant in every country today, all thanks to the amazing distributor they found in New York, ages ago! Make sure your retailers have great traffic and distributors have great reach.

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

  1. Do not undercharge for your services, just because you are a new company.

When we launched Start It Up NYC, we were both excited and desperate for clients. We ended up getting a lot of those pretty soon, but for a price that would cost us an unreasonable amount of time. Not only that, we got categorized in a fairly low price bracket for our services. So, when people recommended us, they definitely advertised our pricing. It took us a long time to price our services fairly, and start making a significant amount of profit. Luckily, today, we are 4 years into the business, and going strong. But, we did make the mistake of undercharging for our services early on.

2. Smart networking can save you time.

It sounds cliche to discuss ‘smart networking’, but when we launched, we would take any and all meetings, in person. Especially, since this was in the pre-pandemic era, human interaction in person was on a high.

It is really important to spend your time networking with individuals that you can benefit from and vice-versa. You cannot spend time networking at events or meetings, when what you do and what other people do is completely unrelated and irrelevant. In most cases, you can assess this, before you plan on meeting anyone or attending any event.

3. Communicate as much as you need to.

Communication with clients or customers should be clear and concise, but you also need to make sure you communicate more if needed. When I was new to the business, leading Start It Up, I would often feel weird about ‘disturbing’ my clients too much. Which would in turn cause a little bit of miscommunication or my deliverables would end up being unsatisfactory at times. Then I realized that I had to build a rapport with my clients, well enough, so that they didn’t feel like my over-communicating when necessary would bother or disturb them.

Eventually, I caught up to speed with my communication skills when I was managing a client, and today it’s like smooth sailing for me.

4. Get all of your management tools and technology together before you start leading a team.

This is technical but critical. I wish someone had told me that I should have my project and task management dashboards, social media dashboards, CRM and sales dashboards, email, and team communication platforms set up and settled right from the beginning.

Your entire management infrastructure being smooth can help you save so much time, and make decisions way faster based on various KPIs and metrics that you identify. You can easily keep track of everything going on on any particular day in a matter of minutes.

5. Hire the right people, and this is not just professional, it’s also personal.

A team is made up of talent, but each talent has a different personality. You need to make sure you are getting the right personalities together to create a formidable team. A team that is passionate about the goals of the company, and works and enjoys together, creating an amazing culture that defines your company and workplace.

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 — Analysis — Goals — Financial Planning — Team Building — Product Building — Q&A- Branding — — Marketing Plans — Launch — Marketing Execution — Achieve Product-Market Fit — Scale — Continuity in Retention and New Acquisition. This is the journey. Plan and envision each step in the journey with a lot of attention to detail before you decide to execute your idea fully.

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?

You always need a second opinion, whether it’s a co-founder or advisor. If you are launching a product in a field you are not well-worsed with, I would definitely recommend getting a consultant that has a proven track record.

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 product or service you are offering. Service-based businesses can generally be bootstrapped for starters. Product-based businesses generally need funding. But again, this also depends on your personal financial situation. So there are a lot of things to consider before making a decision as to how to financially plan your process.

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

Well, probably not as much as I’d like to. But I guess that’s a good thing, it means I will continue to do more and won’t get complacent. I try to give back as much as a can. Pay my employees more whenever I can. Donate to food and education drives. I am doing my bit, but yes, I’d definitely like to do more.

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

I think in the grand scheme of things, education is key. The world is full of people not getting a proper education. I’d like to encourage people to create more free programs, and sponsor any kids they can through college. We all know we can’t only depend on the government, we need to constantly give back to lift everyone’s lifestyle and facilitate growth.

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 think I would love to grab lunch or coffee with Elon Musk. I am curious to see what he is like in person. His business decisions are so unpredictable, yet always correct. I would love to know how he makes it all happen. I will make sure to tweet a picture with him if this does happen. Haha.

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


Making Something From Nothing: Adi Patil Of Start It Up NYC & Rriter On How To Go From Idea To L was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: Guy Yehiav of SmartSense by Digi On How Their Technological Innovation Will…

The Future Is Now: Guy Yehiav of SmartSense by Digi On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

We believe it is crucial to incorporate the voice of the customer throughout our marketing and sales initiatives. Through every channel — digital, social, face-to-face — we infuse all our messaging with stories from delighted customers and raving fans. The marketing process is part of the customer experience, and one of the core missions of our company is to improve the customer experience. We want to be an example of transparency in the space, so we bring that attitude into the way we communicate with the market, employees, and customers. The best way to make your case is by showing proof of other satisfied customers.

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

Guy Yehiav is the President of SmartSense by Digi, an IoT solution for the nation’s largest pharmacy retailers, food retailers, and foodservice companies. Over his 25-year career, Guy has built a reputation as a highly respected executive known for creating a culture of innovation and inclusion while embracing new customers and pursuing vertical markets. Guy has a track record of success spanning mergers and acquisitions, product portfolio planning, B2B enterprise software, SaaS metrics, conflict management, AI, and IoT solutions.

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

In high school, I studied computer science and electrical engineering. Then, I served in the army for four years, where I worked in electronic warfare. In college, I had two majors, industrial management and computer science. I didn’t go to college to go into the supply chain sector, but the combination of these two majors was the catalyst that sent me in that direction.

My background includes 28 years in supply chain innovation. I built my first company, Demantra, around the concept of a “demand-driven supply network,” a term that was coined by one of my mentors, the late Roddy Martin of AMR Research. Demantra provided supply chain optimization software. Our whole idea was around “outside-in” thinking — optimizing your supply network from what’s being demanded rather than what you can produce. Since then, everything I have done has always been built from the perspective of “outside-in” thinking. It’s about what the customer needs — both now and in the future — not what I can develop. You can apply this same perspective to how you approach everything — the supply chain, technology innovation, and even hardware and software development. After I sold Demantra to Oracle, I was the head of Oracle’s supply chain go-to-market strategy for four years.

Then I identified that the next big thing was to eliminate reports because they are not universally instructive. If I send a report to two different people, one person will do one thing, and the other may do something completely different. Too many people were drowning in reports. So, I joined a consulting company called Profitect and transformed it into a software base, focusing on prescriptive analytics for the next ten years. Data takes on different forms: descriptive, diagnostic, predictive, and prescriptive. Descriptive is a snapshot of your data, typically at the aggregate. Diagnostic analytics allows you to slice and dice the data to find out why something happened in the past. Predictive analytics show you what will happen based on historical trends and events. Prescriptive analytics show you what you need to do today to optimize tomorrow’s outcomes. I sold, integrated, and merged Profitect with Zebra technologies, an amazing technology company that focuses on hardware and optimizing the front-end employee’s work. They planned to add more software to their hardware in a “better together” type strategy, adding more value to their customers.

Through that journey, I learned that there was massive innovation and progression over the last 20 years in IoT sensors. However, I believe there will be even more significant changes coming to the IoT space in the next few years, and I want to be part of these changes. So, when I was looking to do something new with my career, I started talking with people from IoT solution provider SmartSense and their parent company Digi. Now I am serving as the President of SmartSense.

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

Over the years, I have been fortunate to create some great connections with my buyer personas and my user personas. These individuals were often promoted because my company’s technology enabled them to set themselves apart in their own company. I always tell one story that sticks with me. At a conference, one of my users came with his wife. She came up to me and thanked me, saying that their new home was a result of my company’s technology. Her husband had implemented our solution and had been promoted twice, allowing them to afford their new house. When you overdeliver for customers, you impact their careers, but more importantly, their lives. And that’s fun to see. That’s why I’m here.

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

We connect the physical with the digital and back to the physical type transformation. That’s what we do. You can think about it as connecting machines with machines and with humans. In our specific case, the machines are all kinds of sensors. I’ll give you an example. Let’s say that a freezer door is open. Your sensors will tell you that temperature is decreasing, pressure is decreasing, and humidity is increasing while current consumption is at an all-time high. You can be 97% certain that the door is open with just these four measures. You don’t even need a camera anymore. With this knowledge, our IoT platform generates a prescriptive workflow, instructing an employee to shut the specific freezer door. This is a very efficient, targeted direction of labor.

In the old days, you would just say, “Hey, it is 4 pm; you should go and check the temperature across all freezers and refrigerators manually and log it on paper or in a file to store in a compliance folder.” Or, if you had legacy IoT temperature sensors, you would say: “Hey, the temperature decreased. What could that be?” It could be a power outage. It could be that the door is open. There could be a malfunction of the unit itself, or even an inventory overload. You would not know. Not knowing requires employees to investigate all potential causes. It requires an employee with advanced knowledge, which is not always available at all locations. Eliminating all those checks with a targeted work instruction allows you to act in a timelier manner that ensures quality and safety and prevents loss.

This IoT technology optimizes human labor, redirecting people to specific tasks that have a more significant impact. The goal is to augment, not replace, humans. We connect the physical world to the digital world and then go from the digital back to the physical in a never-ending optimization loop.

How do you think this might change the world?

Fundamentally, we save lives. That’s what we do. We collect and connect the critical temperature, humidity, oxygen, CO2, accelerations, current, and other measurements for vaccines, medications, produce, food preparation, and other critical assets. Our platform creates workflows that ensure safety. We also help ensure inventory is where it’s supposed to be, providing that it’s of the best quality possible, so our customers can delight their customers. But, at our essence, we take all this data with the objective of saving lives. We serve hospitals, pharmaceutical retailers, food service providers, restaurants, and grocery stores. It’s a very exciting space.

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

We all read about privacy concerns in the media, and there is public wariness around robotics, automation, and IoT. Although these technological advancements may appear to be cause for concern, I don’t think we need to fear IoT. Leading companies like SmartSense are putting securities in place within the IoT to protect against ransomware and leakages to ensure that the data is only used to optimize products and services in a way that delights customers. IoT and automated robotics will continue to show their value, and we will see more and more technology deployed in warehouses, grocery stores, and other places. The whole idea is to connect all those IoTs to generate extra value for customers.

In fact, when we consider the Gen Z workforce coming into retail pharma, grocery, and food service, we need to think about how we’re equipping them with the technology they need to do a great job. Gen Z expects the connectivity that IoT enables. If we do not give them the technology they need to overdeliver, they will leave and look for another job.

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

Right now, the IoT market is very fragmented, and many manufacturers are only focusing on producing hardware for sensors to sense specific capabilities. At SmartSense, we are going beyond that by using the data that the hardware collects to prescribe actions that optimize outcomes in real-time. I think the tipping point for our verticals will be the point where connected IoT combines with other innovation areas, like the blockchain, for example, generating even more value and transparency.

If you take a sensor and put it on a pallet throughout the supply chain, you can enter it into a publicly held general ledger. You can request data from the ledger, identifying a specific SKU or specific product and pulling up information about the state of its quality over time, farm to table for food. An apple needs to be held at a specific temperature and humidity levels throughout harvest, the dormant months, and the supply chain. With IoT connected to the blockchain, you could pull up these measurements from the apple’s complete history — from agricultural producer, through transportation, all the way to the retail environment. This information would help you determine how long the apple will last, how tasty it will be, and other critical quality considerations. The state of produce is mainly impacted by its state during the time of transport. Operators and consumers alike would be given a more holistic story regarding product quality. This potential goes beyond agriculture and grocery. The possibility for the IoT/blockchain combination to impact the pharmaceutical industry with applications for vaccines and medications is massive as well. There is a gamut of industries that need these capabilities.

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

I think where IoT is going next is 100% true positive, with detailed guidance on what needs to be executed to improve and even optimize outcomes. You can take that into control, quality assurance of products, you can take it into tracked transportation, you can take it into on-shelf availability, you can take it into a lot of areas.

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

We believe it is crucial to incorporate the voice of the customer throughout our marketing and sales initiatives. Through every channel — digital, social, face-to-face — we infuse all our messaging with stories from delighted customers and raving fans. The marketing process is part of the customer experience, and one of the core missions of our company is to improve the customer experience. We want to be an example of transparency in the space, so we bring that attitude into the way we communicate with the market, employees, and customers. The best way to make your case is by showing proof of other satisfied customers.

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 number one person would be my wife, Maya. A long time ago, I learned that you need to be able to go to the balcony. Whatever you do, you need to go to the balcony and get an outside perspective on what you do and what you think from time to time. If you bring all the management on an outing and start brainstorming, you get the same view most of the time. If you can bring someone with an outside-in view, it’s the best unfiltered perspective. And that’s what my wife brings to me. She doesn’t know the industry with the same level of detail as my management and I do, or the vertical that we are playing in. She is a programmer and an interior designer. But, when she comes from the outside in, she looks at it and she may say, “Ahh, that sounds like a mistake.” And she would tell me that. Then I restart and know I need to build from there.

Over the years, I have had multiple mentors. My supply chain mentor is, rest in peace, Roddy Martin. He was a great friend of mine and my mentor in supply chain. His generosity and passion are well-known across the industry. He always wanted to help you and push you and train you and educate you and connect you with others all at the same time. The CEO we hired at my first company Demantra, Bill Seibel, provided me with terrific guidance on entrepreneurship and building company culture. He recently came out with a great book called Press Go: Lessons Earned by a Serial Entrepreneur. Another great mentor is James Langabeer, II. He is a Professor of Healthcare Management, Policy, and Biomedical Informatics at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. James taught me everything I know about customer success and implementation. He plans to join and lead our SmartSense Board of Advisors for healthcare (more to come later). From a math perspective and heightened ability to solve complex problems, my professor Eli Singerman impacted me tremendously. He’s a fantastic guy that told me that for any problem — in life, in enterprise, in software — there’s a mathematical formula that can solve it at 100% accuracy. And that’s what he does for a living, now as a leader of Engineers at Intel. I’ve also been fortunate to know Eddy Shalev, who built the first Israeli Venture Capital company in 1984. He guided me and taught me how to build strong technological companies.

Of course, there are even more mentors I haven’t mentioned. I’m very grateful for the abundance of advice and guidance I’ve received throughout my career.

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

My slogan that I really believe in is, “It’s all about the people.” I think it’s essential not only to say it but to mean it. Whether it’s the people who work at your company or the people that buy your solution, you need diverse perspectives for entrepreneurship and innovation. When I wake up in the morning, I think about how I can help the people I work with progress in their careers and make our customers’ lives better by under promising and overdelivering. The fulfillment that I get from seeing people progress in their careers, either our employees, our customer’s or industry colleagues, is what really resonates with me.

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


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

Makers of The Metaverse: Syed Ahmed Of Act-On Software On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality…

Makers of The Metaverse: Syed Ahmed Of Act-On Software On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Beyond creativity, brands should be willing to take risks and try out different things. There’s a unique opportunity to reach new audience segments in new ways, and companies shouldn’t be afraid to take risks — as long as they don’t compromise their authenticity along the way.

The Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality & Mixed Reality Industries are so exciting. What is coming around the corner? How will these improve our lives? What are the concerns we should keep an eye out for? Aside from entertainment, how can VR or AR help work or other parts of life? To address this, we had the pleasure of interviewing Syed Ahmed.

Syed Ahmed is SVP of Engineering at Act-On Software and has extensive experience leading engineering and operations teams. Prior to Act-On, he most recently served as CTO and VP of Engineering at Contiq. Syed also spent four years leading a high growth period at Tapclicks, a marketing operations start-up. As SVP of Engineering at Act-On, Ahmed brings a wealth of expertise in AR/VR, platform scalability, data analytics, and CRM integrations, which he leverages to bolster Act-On’s ability to develop highly-customizable, unique and innovative 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?

I grew up in India where there was focus on education, especially STEM. My parents taught me to dream big, work hard and ​to be persistent. They taught me the value of rolling my sleeves up and working hard to solve problems to get results. Eventually, I came to the U.S. to pursue a graduate degree. I had my early start in marketing more than two decades ago, a time when most marketing was analog. Marketing automation technologies were still in their infancy, yet I was intrigued by the potential to advance how marketers reach and promote their products. Digital transformation over the last decade has fundamentally disrupted the very underpinnings of marketing: how marketers structure their campaigns, reach and inform prospects and customers alike, and measure success across segments.

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 been a big fan of Reid Hoffman’s Masters of Scale podcast. Reid’s concepts of finding product market fit, focusing on customer needs and making your product excel for one customer before scaling, are all very instructive ideas across all industries. I’ve also been a years-long student of Jim Collins and his deep research on what makes successful long-lasting businesses. Jim’s ideas are just as instructive to any practitioner in our industry.

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

A few years ago, I got exposed to VR games at an event. It piqued my interest because it is a highly interactive, multi-sensory platform that enables one to experience environments to the extent that their mind and body start to believe what is happening is real. I could see the potential of this technology to bridge the gap between online and offline environments.

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

The shift toward cloud computing has truly accelerated the digital transformation, lowered innovation costs, and shrunk product engineering cycle times. Early in my career, I would often find myself spending a substantial part of my working hours at a data center, tending to servers, swapping out disks, and dealing with other mundane hardware and network issues at odd hours. Now that our workloads are on the cloud, we have scaled up the pace of innovation, and are empowering marketers with AI-based tools to drive effective ways of marketing and reaching their audience. I was working at a company that used to syndicate content to top e-commerce sites in America. Whenever the traffic spiked unexpectedly at these sites, we were impacted as well; when we had an outage they would be affected by it, too. There was a time we had slowed down a Fortune 500 e-commerce site because our servers went down due to a hardware issue. I had to run to the data center in the middle of the night to fix it. It is easy to look back at this now-outdated technology and laugh, but at the time it was simply our reality to endlessly navigate issues with hardware, on-premises servers, and connectivity issues like this. With cloud technology powering our platforms today, running to the data center has become a relic of the past for most 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?

In one of my prior roles, I negotiated a compelling multi-year deal with our services vendor at a price point that would have saved us a lot of money going forward. I won a lot of accolades for the deal, and my CEO and our finance team were thrilled. However, the ink had barely dried on the contract when cracks started to appear. In negotiating a great price, I didn’t leave much room for the vendor to deploy the resources warranted to deliver a high-quality service. We were soon facing a steady stream of outages and barely a week would go by without a critical service interruption. Within a matter of weeks, I went from high fives to having to unwind the contract and find us a more stable vendor and reliable services outcome. In driving down the price, I had lost sight of the critical component of the deal: service stability.

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?

Malcom Gladwell stands out to me as someone whose writings and podcasts have really shaped my thinking and how I approach the world around me. His incisive data-driven approach to looking at popular narratives and understanding deeper undercurrents is instructive to all of us in business and life.

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

We see the potential of AR/VR technology as the next frontier in driving engaging experiences. Virtual Reality (VR) allows companies to replace physical experience with a digital one. It lets marketers bridge the gap between experience and action (like “attending” a concert in the metaverse). Augmented reality (AR) allows brands to give customers unique and tailored experiences. Marketers can use AR to increase sales and enhance brand value through mobile devices by allowing customers to try the products before they buy (like “trying on” new shoes from the comfort of your living room). We are working on providing technology to enhance content by allowing our customers to embed AR in channels like emails, SMS etc.

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 about truly immersive experiences enabled by AR/VR technologies is how they level the playing field and bring technologies to the masses. I think there’s great potential for AR/VR to modernize our education system and deliver lessons to students in more interactive forms. I believe healthcare and telemedicine also stand to gain from the advances in AR/VR; access to healthcare will not be restricted to cities and towns that have the best hospitals, but will extend to patients across the world. AR/VR will also emerge as a platform for marketers to reach new demographics and engage in new and meaningful ways, enabling their audiences to build deeper relationships with their brands. With augmented shopping experiences brands can use AR to allow consumers to try products before they buy them. From trying a new hair color to testing makeup, there are many ways to engage with a prospective customer.

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. Legal framework in the metaverse — The metaverse’s virtual world is still lacking robust integration of laws and legal jurisdictions on the physical world, which leaves the participants vulnerable to cybercrimes. Businesses operating in the metaverse must strive to establish sound operating policies for their participants and deterrents for dangerous and unethical operators.
  2. Data privacy and security — With new technology comes the need for more evolved security measures. This requires building new methods of data privacy and protection where there was none. As the metaverse takes hold and brings in a new class of business users, there is skepticism about data security. People need to know their personal details (both virtual and physical) are properly secured in the metaverse. The underlying security infrastructure must keep pace with the evolution of the metaverse.
  3. Property Rights — securing ownership of virtual assets is going to be the key to success of metaverse. Blockchain establishes ownership of digital products; however, it may not be adequate to keep pace with the evolution of the metaverse.

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

The deep immersive and collaborative aspect of AR/VR/MR is enabling us to tap into the global talent pool. We are no longer restricted to finding and hiring talent in the tech hubs of San Francisco, Austin, Seattle, but AR/VR is opening up the markets in places such Salt Lake City, Nashville, and Boise and giving us access to a rich talent pool across the country. AR/VR is helping us create deeply collaborative workspaces where our team members are not constrained by their geography. Marketing is one such industry in which collaboration is critical to its success.

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

After-work activities such as going to the movies or simply hanging with friends will be possible in the virtual world. Virtual concerts and other mass-participation events are already being experimented with AR/VR.

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

While AR/VR experiences hold a lot of promise, they will not supplant the deep benefits we derive from establishing physical presence and investing and building experiences in the physical space. Merely having a presence in AR/VR is not going to be adequate for a marketer in engaging with their audience. Marketers will need to bring some of the same tools from the physical world in segmenting audiences and personalizing experiences.

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

  1. There are no boundaries in AR/VR, so be creative. This is a new frontier where, essentially, anything is possible. Brands should capitalize on this opportunity to stretch their efforts and engage in new, uncharted ways.
  2. Beyond creativity, brands should be willing to take risks and try out different things. There’s a unique opportunity to reach new audience segments in new ways, and companies shouldn’t be afraid to take risks — as long as they don’t compromise their authenticity along the way.
  3. Be engaging. The KPIs that worked in Web 2.0 will no longer be applicable. For example, you cannot use banner ads; instead you should be focused on building holistic, engaging experiences.
  4. Familiarize yourself with blockchain, especially NFTs. NFTs have become one of the key tools in the metaverse, and anyone serious about pursuing a career in this space needs to be well-versed in them.
  5. You need programming skills to be able to customize the experiences in the Metaverse. Users don’t necessarily need to be coding wizards, but they should have a solid foundation in languages like Python, C++, and Java to have a chance at success in the Metaverse.

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. 🙂

STEM education is still lagging in our country, and our students score lower compared to most of the developed world. America is no longer producing the best and the brightest graduates from our high schools. As digital transformation accelerates, we risk leaving behind a large number of students who are not trained adequately to participate in this digital economy. For those of us in the technology world, this is an opportunity to address that gap and bring renewed emphasis on high quality STEM education in our classrooms.

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 inspired by Bob Iger and his transformational leadership at Disney, his stellar rise from a weatherman at ABC to the top job at Disney, and how he steered the digital transformation at Disney. The success of Disney+ streaming service is a testament to his acumen and visionary leadership. There is so much more I can learn from Bob at a private lunch.

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


Makers of The Metaverse: Syed Ahmed Of Act-On Software 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: Nayef Issa Of Nü Androids On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your…

Meet The Disruptors: Nayef Issa Of Nü Androids On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Speak it into existence. My business associate and brother from another mother Torrence Swain is a big believer in astrology/manifest destiny ( I’m still not there yet). Anyways, he’s always preaching to me, pushing me to just believe in the powers that be. That if you believe in and speak your truth into the universe, the universe will hear you and bring it to fruition. That’s not to say that a lot of hard work, sweat and tears don’t go into making what you want happen, but you will never receive what you don’t ask for.

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

Nayef Issa is the creative force behind Nü Androids, the euphoric, inclusive artistic movement that has been connecting people since 2015. What began as a way to bring new sounds to the untapped D.C. music scene has since evolved into something more, allowing Nayef to use his myriad skills to conceptualize, produce and market events in ways that few others do.

In 2014, Nayef began programming events at the iconic D.C. venue, Flash. Billed Nü Androids, these parties were held on Wednesdays (an “off-night”) which meant true musicheads were there for the sounds, not just the scene. And that meant the acts — many of which didn’t normally stop in the market — loved performing for a Nü Androids audience. Nayef and his team were soon bringing some of the freshest new sounds to D.C. — future bass, disco, deep house, French disco, tropical house. His natural ability to identify talent (Nayef was his friends’ Spotify and SoundCloud long before those platforms existed) led him to book the likes of Mura Masa, Purple Disco Machine, Nora En Pure, Matoma, Ekali, Yaeji .

However, Nayef’s vision was sometimes too ambitious for fixed nightlife venues and so he created A.i. — blending music, lighting, art and meta-sensory experiences for one-night-only playgrounds at places like Cafe Asia, warehouses and other blank canvases.Nayef conceptualizes, sketches, designs and produces A.i. shows, working alongside the musical talent as a Creative Director would. To date, Nayef has brought to life over 150 A.i. shows with artists like Fkj, the late Virgil Abloh (in his first and only performance in DC), Black Coffee and the late Sophie. (For the launch of Gorgon City’s album Olympia, for example, Nayef designed a night rooted in Greek mythology, complete with billowing clouds.)

A.i. laid the groundwork for Dimensions, multi-day experiences which began in 2018 in D.C. with a two-day celebration featuring Karma Fields. Nayef launched Dimensions to combine two different worlds — art installations and warehouse dance parties — into one. Dimensions landed at Art Basel in 2019 with over 50 artists, musicians and creatives coming together in a 50,000 square foot abandoned Macy*s — including a forgotten food hall that was transformed into a futuristic nightclub. In addition to projection mapping and meta-sensory experiences, Dimensions at Art Basel included interactive spaces such as a Bedouin tent with tastings of El Silencio Mezcal.

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?

Honestly I grew up wanting to be a soccer player, just like any athletic kid with a dream to be a star in the professional league of their respective sport. I immigrated to the US from Beirut, Lebanon when I was 7, and have been living in the Virginia / Washington DC area ever since. I have 2 sisters, and grew up as the only male figure in the household. It was 3 women and me. As I’ve grown older, I’ve realized what an incredible blessing that was. In my early 20s I started to host events in DC, however, I was always into more forward-thinking music (not to mention I was also the resident playlist-curator for all my friends). So after a few years of running commercial parties, I began to transition into producing live music events and booking touring artists who I thought were pushing industry and genre boundaries. This move would ultimately lead me to launch Nu Androids.

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

Nü Androids made its first real appearance in DC when I began programming events on Wednesday nights at the nightclub, Flash. Wednesday’s were considered an “off night”, so ; these parties were filled with true musicheads attending for the sounds vs. the scene. We were packing the house every Wednesday. Through these shows, we were able to inject DC with fresh sounds of acts that normally wouldn’t stop in the market.

After I solidified Nü Androids as a player in the DC music / nightlife scene, I started merging interactive art installations and live music at our pop-up events. I remember thinking to myself, “How can I attract and entertain people who don’t know the headlining artist, but are still thinking of attending with their friends.” This is why I blended the music and arts worlds together. My first real execution of this was a project called Dimensions. We found a 20,000 sq ft building in DC and converted it into 10 interactive installations, including a bedouin mezcal tasting tent, surrounding a full blown underground rave in the middle of the room. It was just really amazing to see. We brought this to life in 2018, and over 2 days we saw over 2200+ attendees. From that moment, every pop-up music event we’ve done includes some form of installation. Be it virtual reality, projections, or LED-based interactive buildouts, there is always something there to engage your curiosity other than the headlining act.

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 went to the wrong airport to pick up an artist before a show! Here I am texting the artist telling him I’m here at door number 8 and this dude is like, “Um the gates only go up to door 4….” So I pulled up the itinerary and realized I was actually at the wrong airport. Lesson learned to check the airport arrival on the advance sheet MULTIPLE times after that fiasco.

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?

It’s been my mother all the way. She instilled a strong moral pillar in me that has transcended beyond my personal and professional life. One of the most important things she taught me was that if there is something you can do to help someone out, you do it, even if you know it’s never going to be reciprocated. If I can do something to help someone out, whether it’s making an introduction to someone or making the time for the next generation of industry aspiring disruptors to guide them / help them create their own lane, etc., I always will.

Bottom line is Mama Issa dedicated her whole life to her children and the values she taught us are reflected in everything we do.

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?

A Positive disruption is what is going on in the music industry, especially in the production and DJing side where you are seeing a lot more females really breaking out and making some noise. For example LP Giobbi, the crazy talented DJ/entrepeneur (and friend of Nü Androids), actually created an organiztion called FEMME HOUSE which offers more equitable opportunity for women and gender-expansive individuals in the technical and behind the scenes areas of music. This program also helps talent trying to cut through the noise navigate the music industry in its entirety.

We always think of tech being such a positive contribution to any industry, however one place where I feel there has been a more negative impact is the loss of local journalism. These newspapers help build social cohesion, encourage political participation, and improve the efficiency and decision-making of local and state government. With a number of them having disappeared over the last few years, this has now created a really noticeable separation within communities.

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

Speak it into existence. My business associate and brother from another mother Torrence Swain is a big believer in astrology/manifest destiny ( I’m still not there yet). Anyways, he’s always preaching to me, pushing me to just believe in the powers that be. That if you believe in and speak your truth into the universe, the universe will hear you and bring it to fruition. That’s not to say that a lot of hard work, sweat and tears don’t go into making what you want happen, but you will never receive what you don’t ask for.

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

I am currently working on a venue concept that is 8 years in the making. We can’t share too much information just yet, but essentially it will be a hybrid restaurant/bar blending Mexican-Lebanese cuisine adjacent to a modular pop-up event space for me to create and conceptualize all types of events. Ultimately, I hope for other brands/businesses to be able to utilize this space to do the same through their own creative lens.

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

It’s not one particular podcast or book. I listen to a variety of wide ranging ideas, theories, etc. which help me formulate my own ideas on life. I think it’s silly to only listen to people who share all of your beliefs and opinions. How can you possibly grow as an individual, or better yet, challenge your critical thinking by not expanding your horizons? How do you know if your viewpoints hold water if you are not debating them against opposing ideologies? You simply can’t.

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

“If you want things done a certain way, you have to do it yourself” This is always super important in the creative world. That’s not to say that other people will do a lesser job than you could, but other people don’t have the same vision as you. Only you can really execute and bring to life what you have conceptualized in your mind.

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. 🙂

Honestly, just being more understanding of each other’s journeys through life. Sometimes those journeys are aligned, and sometimes they are not, it’s going to cause friction one way or another. If we show empathy and compassion towards each other it would really go a long way in bringing us closer together. I know it sounds super hippie haha, but I really do believe in that. Everyone is always so quick to judge without stopping to think and fully understand the circumstances of one’s actions or lack thereof.

How can our readers follow you online?

My IG is @Nayeftissa, and you can stay connected to all of the dope things we are doing at Nü Androids on IG as well (@nuandroids. ) Better yet, come to DC to check out one of our upcoming shows and see what the hype is all about!

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


Meet The Disruptors: Nayef Issa Of Nü Androids 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: Michael Owen Of MediaCombo On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality…

Makers of The Metaverse: Michael Owen Of MediaCombo On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Concern is privacy. There are outward facing cameras on VR, AR and MR glasses and headsets. On AR and MR spectacles and head mounted displays these cameras scan the viewer’s location and enable persistent display or positioning of virtual imagery over the real-world environment. But in the process, these cameras can also record other people as well as private home or office spaces. There was a lot of pushback when people realized that Google Glass users might be making surreptitious recordings as they went about their daily activities.

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 Michael Owen.

Michael Owen is an award-winning producer with three decades of experience producing commercials, music videos, short documentaries, video art and recently augmented and virtual reality projects. Michael is a co-founder of MediaCombo, a digital media studio offering museums, science centers and cultural organizations, cutting edge product development, including user experience, content creation, and strategy to drive interest in exhibitions and events, connect with local communities, and reach new visitors. Recent XR clients include The Morgan Library & Museum, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and the Pollock-Krasner House & Study Center. This project, Tracing Paint: The Pollock Krasner Studio in Virtual Reality, about the studio in Springs, New York where Jackson Pollock and, later, Lee Krasner painted some of the most iconic abstract expressionist paintings of the 20th Century. The project will premiere at the New Media Film Festival in Los Angeles on June 2, 2022. Michael is also co-chair of the VRARA (VR/AR Assoc.) Storytelling Committee.

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 New York City. My father was British and worked for the United Nations. My mother was American and raised in New York. She met my father when she was working at the ILO (International Labor Organization) office at the UN Headquarters in Geneva. But the reason I grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan is because my father’s job was based at the UN Headquarters in NY.

My father gave me my first 35mm still camera. It was a Yashica rangefinder that he brought from Japan. That’s what got me hooked on taking pictures that later evolved into my interest in film and then video and other media technologies.

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 don’t read books as much as I would like because I have mild dyslexia which is probably why I’m so drawn to visuals and sound. But of the authors I’ve read, I’m particularly drawn to Neal Stephenson. Someone gave me Cryptonomicon, which I loved and from there I read Snow Crash, the Diamond Age and the Baroque Cycle. Everyone points to Snow Crash as the work that defined the “Metaverse.” It’s a great cyberpunk novel that illustrates how someone’s online and offline worlds can converge and was way ahead of its time for 1992. But having read it, I didn’t imagine the immersive, 3D spatial worlds that we are just beginning to explore and develop today. That’s what’s described by Ernest Cline in Ready Player One almost 20-years later. What I find amazing about Neal Stephenson’s work is he demonstrates how technology drives our culture. In Diamond Age he paints this dystopian world where the average person orders a meal — think fast food options — that gets 3D-printed in their home device that looks like a microwave. They will enjoy the meal watching news and entertainment on a massive screen that is the focus of their living space. In that world, for most people everything is mass-produced but the elite have their food, clothes and furnishing artisanal and hand crafted. In the books of Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle, it’s kind of like reverse science fiction because he’s writing about the past to highlight how evolving technology and the resulting changes impact global culture.

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

I became interested in VR very late compared to pioneers like Tom Furness and Jaron Lanier. Both did a lot of work in demonstrating use cases for the technology but everything they did was in a lab. Tom Furness’s early headsets for pilots required a massive amount of computer power to function that could only be done with military R&D budgets.

By 2015 VR was having a big public facing moment. Google had a deal to provide cardboard viewers to every New York Times print subscriber. NYT was committed to producing XR content for its readers. I was intrigued. In March of that year, I attended a conference in LA for an IMAX large screen film project I was working on. One of the presenters at the conference was from a company that did volumetric scans of landscapes that could be used for large screen nature projects or VR. They offered to show me their work on a headset and the feeling of presence, of being immersed in a 360°landscape was incredible and from that moment I was hooked.

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

Once I discovered VR, I immediately started looking for an opportunity to produce my own projects. I attended every event or conference I could find to learn more about the field. Who was making VR, what sort of equipment were they using? Who was the audience? How were they accessing this new VR content? I soon learned that Google, an early promoter of XR technology, was acquiring content for a 3D 360° educational platform called Google Expeditions.

Each Google Expedition consisted of 3D panoramic images of a location that students could view using Cardboard, the Mattel View-Master or Samsung Gear VR devices. When connected together over a WiFi network, the teacher, using a tablet, was able to guide the students through a virtual field trip pointing out places of interest on each 360° panorama, ask provided questions about the location as well as keep track of where each student was looking.

I had been working on a film about Lake Baikal in Siberia, the oldest, deepest, most voluminous body of freshwater on Earth and I thought it might be a good subject for a Google Expedition. I got an introduction from the Education team that managed and commissioned Google Expeditions and they commissioned MediaCombo to produce three Expeditions about Lake Baikal, The Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics in Moscow and scenes of Life in Russia.

So, in March 2016 I was in Siberia filming on and around a frozen Lake Baikal with a Moscow based VR crew. While the Google Expeditions only Stereo, 360° still images, we filmed everything as moving video as well as still images.

I’ve filmed all over the world, but filming at Lake Baikal in winter was a truly remarkable experience. One of our locations, the Ivolginsky Datsan, is the most important Buddhist monastery in Russia. Here we were allowed to place our camera in the middle of the senior monks during a service in their main temple. It’s truly incredible scene that enables viewers to observe the chanting monks and their novitiates from their midst. A viewpoint that would not be possible in real life or with any other technology.

I’m proud of this work. It was my first foray into immersive media. But I soon learned that this was just one aspect of VR, AR, XR technology. 3D 360° video is powerful because it places the viewer in the middle of a scene. The viewer has agency to look anywhere they want in the 360° view. By moving their head, they can rotate their point of view up, down and around. But they can’t move or change their position within the scene. Another way of describing that is 3 DOF (Three degrees of freedom). For purists that is not true VR. That requires 6 DOF (six degrees of freedom) which involves tracking forwards, backwards, left, right, up and down, or the ability move around in a virtual environment and interact with it.

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

A big misjudgment I made back in 2015 / 2016 that, in hindsight, might be considered a funny mistake is thinking there was an audience for VR that could actually support the production of non-entertainment VR programming. The reality is I caught the VR bug in the middle of a major hype wave that saw a lot of major media players jumping on the VR bandwagon. Time, The New York Times, The Guardian, ARTE all set up VR divisions. The United Nations / Samsung backed VR project Clouds Over Sidra, about a refugee camp in Syria, was heralded as a communications game changer because of the way VR enhanced a viewer’s sense of “presence” and “empathy” about the subject matter. Jaunt raised a $100 Million from investors including Disney to produce and distribute VR content. A lot very interesting and ground breaking work was created in this period along with a lot of less successful experiments. The bottom line is that very few people actually owned real VR systems that required the headset and tracking systems that had to be connected a computer with a powerful GPU that cost, at a minimum, several thousand dollars. The Cardboard option that many pointed to as the way to reach a mass audience, required the user to insert a state-of-the-art mobile phone running a dedicated VR app into deliver the content. This was OK for casual use but to arrange a screening for a group of people required the commitment of a lot of expensive mobile devices. The only way for most people to see VR was at media festivals. That was great but there was no consumer market yet to support the wide range of people, companies and organizations that had been drawn to the emerging field.

Following delivery of the three Google Expeditions, I produced a 3D 360° short film from the video scenes we captured at Lake Baikal. Together with my Russian co-director / producer, Georgy Molodtsov, we created “Lake Baikal: The Science and Spirituality of Extreme Water”. The 7:20 ambient documentary premiered at the Dubai Film Festival Alternate Realities section in December 2016. We considered it a calling card or trailer for a longer, more substantial immersive documentary. The project was accepted at the immersive market at IDFA in Amsterdam and Sheffield Doc Fest in 2017. And while the VR project was screened at VR festivals around the world for the next several years, it was clear that raising money for a VR documentary about a lake in Russia, however important, was going to be extremely difficult.

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?

Every emerging field has evangelists. DJ Smith, Co-founder and Creative Director of the Glimpse Group in New York has been an avid promotor and supporter of the XR industry. He became a co-organizer of the New York VR Meetup in January 2014 and helped grow the group to over 6,000 members. Up until the pandemic in 2020 these IRL events brought together creative, technical individuals from all aspects of the XR community. Through presentations and relationships I developed at NYVR and other industry meetups, I got to see what developers were doing with photogrammetry and volumetric capture and building worlds with game engines such as Unity and Unreal and expanded my understanding of VR beyond 360° video.

The Glimpse Group, now a publicly traded company, is a platform for a group of VR and AR software and service companies. DJ Smith and his team have been very helpful and supportive of MediaCombo and our projects.

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

Right now, MediaCombo is working on a number of projects that leverage the ability of VR to eliminate the barrier of distance to bring groups of people together in virtual spaces. We are just in the development phase, but have been doing testing with secondary school students. It’s gratifying to see the positive impact VR has on them when they have an immersive experience with other people in an environment that outside of their day-to-day lives.

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?

Spatial computing in the form of VR, AR and XR will transform our culture in the way computers and the internet and, more recently, smart phones and mobile computing have in our recent past. It’s really astounding to contemplate how the world has changed since Steve Jobs introduced the first iPhone in 2007. The impact of these new spatial technologies will be just as revolutionary.

The technical advances and business adoption of XR technology over the past seven years are already incredibly significant. VR’s ability to convincingly simulate the real-world environments and processes is recognized by the military and industry who see its value for training. Firms such as Walmart, UPS, Bank of America and Accenture have made large investments in VR training because the ROI outweighs the high cost of production and headsets.

In the consumer space Meta has, by some accounts, sold just over 10 million Quest headsets, at a price close to or below cost. This strategy has succeeded in creating the largest market for VR content primarily made up of gaming and entertainment enthusiasts. Beyond this Meta has pledged to spend upwards of $10 billion each year on metaverse-related initiatives to develop and dominate what Mark Zuckerberg believes is the next computing platform. It is uncertain, at best, that Meta will succeed in this effort. However, there is no doubt that the enormous research and development commitment will also indirectly benefit the entire XR ecosystem.

It’s an exciting time to be in the industry because so much is unsettled. You can let your understanding of the technology guide you but in every other way it’s the wild west. No one is in control and no one knows how it will turn out. There’s still a lot of sharing information and ideas within the community. If you have a good idea there’s nothing stopping you from pursuing it.

What I personally find most exciting is social VR technology that enables groups of people to gather in a virtual space. What’s notable about having social experiences in VR is the feeling of presence and physical memory of interacting with other people and the environment. The potential for remote work, training, education and performance is unlimited.

There are already many publicly accessible virtual platforms such as Microsoft owned AltspaceVR, Meta Horizons, VRChat and Engage, among others. In addition, there are many platforms that have been created to replicate specific business meeting environments or real-world simulations such as classrooms, galleries or historical settings. All of these are precursors to the concept of the Metaverse as a virtual universe that consists of many different environments that one can seamlessly switch between like a streaming channel or website, and not controlled by any one or two companies.

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 first thing holding back the XR industry is the lack of adoption of the means to engage with immersive experiences at scale. This will not happen until both the technical quality of head-mounted displays improves significantly and the cost becomes affordable. This includes AR devices that have the form factor of eyeglasses, like the Snap Spectacles that are currently only available as beta devices to select creators and also VR headsets that have higher resolution and are more comfortable to wear than current models.

The second factor is network connectivity and bandwidth. There is already a serious digital divide in terms of affordable access to broadband. This will only be exacerbated by the widespread adoption of spatial computing. The solution is universal high-speed data access. This is a priority for U.S. infrastructure goals. It is essential for the adoption of technologies as well the U.S. economic growth and security.

The third concern is privacy. There are outward facing cameras on VR, AR and MR glasses and headsets. On AR and MR spectacles and head mounted displays these cameras scan the viewer’s location and enable persistent display or positioning of virtual imagery over the real-world environment. But in the process, these cameras can also record other people as well as private home or office spaces. There was a lot of pushback when people realized that Google Glass users might be making surreptitious recordings as they went about their daily activities.

In the case of VR headsets in addition to outward facing cameras to track the viewer’s movement and hand gestures to match them in the virtual world, advanced devices today also track the viewer’s eye movements and other biometric sensors such as pulse and temperature are also in development. The eye tracking enables the headset to be much more efficient by delivering high-resolution imagery to just the part of the 360° world the viewer is looking at. But it’s also possible to use this capability to keep track of what users are paying attention to. The other biometric feedback is being used to gauge the performance of participants in VR training exercises that simulate operating equipment in dangerous or emergency situations.

Today this technology is only incorporated in devices used in professional settings. But this functionality will eventually be incorporated into consumer headsets and it’s important to get ahead of the privacy issues.

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?

As I described previously, VR has been embraced by many corporations and U.S. government agencies because it offers a high return on investment for the delivery and retention of a broad range of hard and soft teachable skills. VR is perfect for immersing viewers in settings that simulate the operation of complex equipment or social settings and role-playing exercises that enable them to appreciate and manage bias or behaviors that they might not have recognized before.

I also believe that VR, AR and MR can play a very important role in 5th to 12th grade education but it’s much harder to demonstrate the return on investment in secondary school settings.

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

VR can transport people to places that they could not otherwise visit for reasons of disability, distance, cost, or because they no longer exist or don’t exist yet. It’s absolutely the next best thing to being there. AR / MR can make a loved one appear in your own space in avatar form. While the tools for AR / MR virtual exchanges are not consumer friendly, AARP has a prototype VR program called Alcove. The program offers games that family members with VR headsets, can play together as well as a number of virtual travel destinations they can visit together no matter where they are in real life.

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

I’m a big supporter of immersive technologies and, as I’ve described how VR, AR and MR will have a huge impact on our culture in the future. Unfortunately, the biggest myth of the moment is that the “Metaverse” is just around the corner. Metaverse, in this sense, meaning an ecosystem of worlds where viewers can navigate around virtual spaces and interact with objects and other visitors while they are there. Essentially this is the spatial equivalent of surfing the internet, except on the web everything is flat. Today on an e-commerce site you will see a grid of items for sale. In the metaverse you will navigate through a 3D representation of the store itself. If you turn your head your view will change as if you were there. If you want to pick something up, extend your real hand to grab and your virtual hand will pick it up. You are represented in the virtual world by an avatar. And it’s possible to meet up with someone in the virtual store and go shopping together to make it a social experience. You would recognize your friend by their avatar. They would recognize you by yours. People will invest time, energy and even money to customize the appearance of their avatar. The idea of the “Metaverse” is that it is a series of interconnected domains. Today you can check out Instagram, buy something on Amazon and then check out a performance at a virtual club. Since these are now all virtual worlds you would want your avatar to appear the way you designed it in all of them. However, there is no such interoperability today and no real incentive to change that.

In the short term, most development will be driven by custom commercial applications. It will probably take another five years before future head mounted VR, AR, MR devices are powerful, comfortable and affordable enough to encourage widespread public adoption. It will take a few more years after that for consumer applications to flourish.

What are your “5 Things You Need to Create a Highly Successful Career in the VR, AR or MR Industries?”

Like many other fields or industries, a successful career in immersive tech requires collaborating with people with different skill sets and backgrounds. A typical VR project involves a creative concept, writers to describe how the story or message will be represented in the chosen medium. A User Experience (UX) designer will determine how the viewer will navigate the story, a User Interface (UI) designer will develop the actual graphical look and feel of the journey. The project may require animation, photography, photogrammetry of spaces or objects, or volumetric capture of people. All of these scans of places, objects, people and any other characters may need to be touched-up or refined in a 3D graphics application. A static 3D capture of a animal or character may need to be “rigged” so they can be animated. Think of the digital equivalent of making and attaching strings to the joints of a marionette puppet. If there is any 360° video, the scenes must be seamlessly stitched together and color- corrected. Sometimes it’s necessary to add a floor or sky to make the scene a full 360° spherical image. Once, all the elements are prepared, they need to be integrated using a 3D development platform such as Unity or Unreal. These spatial applications, also known as game engines, enable programmers to define how viewers navigate the space and interact with objects and other characters in real time. Once the mechanics of the program have been determined, a sound engineer will develop a sound design that will vary depending on where the viewer is in the virtual world. Standing by a fireplace or waterfall? The source of a sound effect can be placed on its location in the virtual environment and then programmed to taper off over a certain distance. Thus, the sound of a crackling fire will become apparent and then grow louder the closer a visitor gets to the fireplace. The same spatial sound design would apply to characters speaking. The closer characters are together, the louder their voices will become.

With all these facets of a production, good communication skills are required to keep all departments working together efficiently. Whether you are a manager, department head or team member good communication, which means listening, as much as explaining, is essential.

To be a successful producer, creative director or production manager it’s not necessary to be computer programmer, application wizard or expert in any of the crafts involved in the project. However, it’s worth spending time learning about what’s involved. Be clear about what you want to achieve from a technical and storytelling standpoint and get every departments’ input in the planning stages of the project before you commit to a budget or schedule. Often a creative request may involve a lot time and effort. But the team involved may offer an alternative that, while different, will achieve the desired result. Also, don’t assume that because something is easy to do in traditional, linear editing that it’s equally simple in an immersive environment where the player controls their position and pace of the experience. For example: I want to shorten a section of dialogue by cutting some copy. In video I would just delete the offending audio track on a video editing application timeline, then cut the picture by the same amount and, if there was a resulting glitch, cover it with a cutaway. When producing a VR, I found out from our programmer that this request, while doable, would break several connected actions that would have to be reprogrammed. What should take five or ten minutes to do in a video edit might require a few hours in Unity or Unreal.

The other important skill is expectation management. Especially if you are producing a project for a client, it’s essential that their expectations align with what you will be delivering from the outset.

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. 🙂

My team and I are working on a project that would empower educators to transform 21st Century learning by accessing museum resources in the U.S. and around the world through virtual reality.

Schools are struggling to equip children with the knowledge, abilities, and experience needed for success in 21st-century society. Museums are struggling to be recognized as providers of essential services to their communities. The pandemic has exacerbated the situation for both institutions. The next few years will present ongoing challenges and opportunities, compelling museums to adopt new methods and tools to connect with their communities, and schools to transform instruction to prepare the next generation for the long-term.

Our project will combine museum galleries and museum collections with Virtual Reality and Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) — a proven, 21st-century instructional model, has clear potential to meet these challenges.

VTS is a student-centered pedagogy and supplemental PK-12 curriculum proven to drive growth in the key ‘21st-century’ and ‘soft’ skills that schools are striving but struggling to support — critical thinking, social and emotional, and communication skills.

Virtual Reality presents particularly compelling possibilities for schools due to its potential to authentically and holistically engage 21st-century learners in ways that are otherwise hard to achieve through more traditional ‘teacher-as-medium’ instructional strategies.

By situating the learning experience within realistic representations of world-class museum spaces populated with carefully curated works in museum collections that remain out-of-reach to the vast majority of learners, teachers, and schools, the VLG project has the potential to bring museum resources to educators, curated to meet their core standard requirements and drive transformative instructional improvement in K-12 schools.

If adopted, this program will teach life-long learning skills to hundreds of thousands of students in underserved communities. It would do a lot of good for a large number of people.

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 🙂

The person I would really like to meet and have a conversation with is Laurene Powell Jobs of the Emerson Collective. Her foundation is very interested in transforming education and is already working with organizations that using EdTech to achieve their goals.

They also supported the exhibition of Alejandro González Iñárritu’s virtual reality project “Carne Y Arena” in the Washington, DC. Produced in 2017, “Carne Y Arena” is one the best a location-based virtual reality experiences I’ve seen. It plunges the viewer / participant into the harsh reality of immigrants crossing into the United States. The powerful VR program only lasts six and half minutes but it’s integrated into a well-designed on-boarding and exit process that made for a truly memorable and impactful experience. The Emerson Collective funded the location and staffing costs required to exhibit “Carne Y Arena” in D.C. for several months. Everything about the installation was impeccably executed. Admission was free to the public but tickets were gone within minutes of becoming available twice a month. However, impressive, Carne Y Arena experience is not scalable. However, it is a great example of the power of VR to give people experiences that they will remember as real. I would like to talk about how VR can be applied to education.

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


Makers of The Metaverse: Michael Owen Of MediaCombo 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.

Arelious Cooper Of Art in the Paint: Five Ways To Develop More ‘Grit’

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Define your mission. — Knowing your why will keep you going way longer than doing a trivial task. It will keep you focused and will help you evaluate how much sacrifice you should make for a particular project.

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

Arelious Cooper is the Executive Director of Art in the Paint, an Atlanta-based nonprofit organization that creates community centers without walls. Through Art in the Paint, Arelious and his team renovate public outdoor basketball courts and install murals to strengthen communities, promote safety, inspire creativity, and encourage play.

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

I was jogging at Stone Mountain in Georgia and came across the monument tribute to three Confederate generals etched on the side of the mountain. The site made me nauseous, and I honestly wanted it removed immediately. In that moment I felt helpless, ashamed, and hopeless. When I got home that night, I began to write the plans to start Art in the Paint. I needed to find an outlet that would help me make murals that did the exact opposite of what seeing that monument did to me. So now we install murals on courts to help neighborhoods feel hopeful, proud and inspired.

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

It was the day before we were set to paint our very first court. Using social media, we invited members of the community to come and join us in our efforts and learn more about Art in the Paint. While the response from the community was mostly positive, we were met with push back from some local residents who were concerned about outsiders coming into their neighborhood and ‘making changes.’ This is when I realized that earning trust from local residents would be critical to the success of Art in the Paint, and ultimately, the impact our efforts will have on the communities.

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

Travelling the world, I noticed how people treated children of different socio-economic status. It broke my heart to see a child being shown they had less value based on how little or how much their parents made. So, when times get hard, I keep going for every child from areas like southwest Atlanta, Santiago, Dominican Republic or Minna, Nigeria who has been told that they might die before 21, can’t get a degree or make something of their life. I want them to see that someone who was just like them did it so they know they can too.

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

Refusing to use cheap materials, being committed to finding community programming, and finding the best artists are not the paths of least resistance for a small nonprofit. We knew we had to do those things no matter what the costs were to show the community that they were respected and valued. Seeking outside help from companies that have a shared mission for helping local communities has also helped us to succeed. We recently applied for, and received, the Quest Rookie grant, which is a $20,000 grant to help people and local organizations who are making an impactful difference in their local communities.

Based on your experience, can you share your “5 Things You Need To Know To Develop More Grit”?

  1. No one else is in charge of making your dreams happen. — You have to get out there and make it happen everyday and be an example for why people should support you.
  2. You cannot do it alone no matter how tough you are. — Once you show people what you are about, you need to be able to recruit a team that can fill in the gaps and blind spots that you have as an individual. This way you can accomplish more and get closer to your goals.
  3. Leaders eat last. — Once you have your team, you must make sure that you take care of them, support them and show that you’re grateful to have support behind you to help accomplish your goals.
  4. Create a daily checklist. — Sometimes our ambitions will tell us that we need to do grand-scale things in order to change the world, and that can be a daunting task. By breaking down day to day efforts that ladder up to a bigger goal, the task to achieve the goal becomes more realistic, and you become more productive working towards a seemingly impossible goal.
  5. Define your mission. — Knowing your why will keep you going way longer than doing a trivial task. It will keep you focused and will help you evaluate how much sacrifice you should make for a particular project.

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

I hit rock bottom and had been successful in getting courts painted, but I had no clue on how to run an organization. I went to a co-working space named Plywood People and met a gentleman named Jeff Shinabarger and asked for help. He and his assistant Kayla taught me through their programs what my role was as an executive director and what my responsibilities were to the community that I serve. Thank you, Jeff and Kayla! I’ll never forget you.

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

Last year, because of something as simple as painting basketball courts, we were able to install $700,000 worth of artwork into 8 cities and 4 countries around the world. Specifically, in southwest Atlanta, where I’m from, we were able to install $2.3 million worth of resources around our courts.

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

Because of the good people at Quest and being a recipient of the first ever Quest Rookie Challenge this year, this summer will be huge for us! The Quest Rookie Challenge was created to help champion people who are making an impact in local communities. Quest awarded Art in the Paint $20,000 to help further our positive impact in the community. With the Quest Rookie grant, we’re painting in four cities and hosting health fairs, basketball leagues and an art festival.

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

I would tell every founder or executive to make sure all employees are aware of the company’s mission statement so they always know the goal of the day.

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

To be honest, I think we are already doing that. We transfer neglected neighborhood basketball courts into community centers without walls. By installing full scale murals on basketball courts, we create safe spaces, connect collaborators, and inspire play.

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

My grandmother told me that it’s not important how people feel about you when you walk away, but it’s more important how they feel about themselves when you walk away. This always sticks out to me when I do community work because we realize that people aren’t always looking for a savior, they’re just looking for help. So, in our interactions and when we tell our stories about our interactions, we want to make sure we give dignity to the people in the communities that we serve.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can follow us on Instagram at @artinthepaintorg and follow our journey at @QuestNutrition.

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


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

M Curtis McCoy On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Punctuality — Arrive early to ensure you have time to set up and relax before your talk starts. I like to go to a secluded area, pray, stretch, stand tall and do some vocal warm-ups before getting on stage.

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 fascinating 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 experiences. As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing M. Curtis McCoy.

M. Curtis McCoy is an American podcast host and motivational speaker. Curtis is also a best-selling personal development author and host of “Success, Motivation & Inspiration” on Amazon Fire TV.

M. Curtis McCoy has dedicated his life to helping others break through their limiting beliefs and achieve success. As a motivational speaker, he inspires millions of people worldwide with his message of hope and possibility.

In his most recent book, How To Be Successful: Think Like A Leader, M. Curtis McCoy compiles true stories and conversations with entrepreneurs to help you live your best life.

If you’re looking for motivation and inspiration, M. Curtis McCoy is the perfect speaker for your next event. His message of hope and possibility will inspire you to reach your goals and live your best life. Be sure to check out his podcast as well. You won’t be disappointed!

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?

Thank you. I’m honored to connect with your audience! I grew up in a rough household where “children are to be seen, not heard.” I won’t spend too much time talking about the abuse in this interview, but I had zero self-confidence and no sense of self-worth. My dad often told me I was “a waste of skin” or a “waste of oxygen,” and on one occasion, he urged me to “do the world a favor” and commit suicide. The only reason I didn’t was that I wanted to prove my dad wrong.

When I moved out for college, I spent years being too shy to hold a conversation with a stranger. I had a hard time making eye contact and never thought I’d end up becoming a motivational speaker.

We all go through junk we don’t like to share. We want to look like we’ve got a great life and everything is perfect, but everyone is struggling with something behind closed doors. It’s up to you to decide if you let your past become your identity. Leaders choose to be defined by their purpose rather than their struggles.

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

After college, I started several companies, including a cosmetic medical LASER clinic, a Christian clothing company, a white-label pharmaceutical company, and a supplement business that sponsored events at the Denver Colleseum, MMA fights, and bodybuilding events all over Colorado.

Life was great; surrounded by professional bodybuilders, fitness models, Denver Broncos cheerleaders, Denver Nuggets dancers, powerlifters, and athletes!

I’ve had type-1 diabetes since I was 27 months old, so when I started having multiple grand-mal seizures weekly, I thought it was just a side effect of diabetes. It wasn’t until I woke up one morning in 2010 with half my body paralyzed that oncologists diagnosed me with a malignant glioblastoma brain tumor.

I couldn’t run any of my businesses and could no longer live alone or drive a vehicle due to the frequent seizures, so I had to move home temporarily with my mom and “bonus-dad,” Steve (he’s like a step-dad, only cooler).

While fighting brain cancer, my mom urged me not to focus on the terminal diagnosis and start another business instead. I think she did this to keep my mind off the brain cancer, but I printed out some flyers and started repairing iPhone screens on the kitchen table. Over the next ten years, that little screen repair business morphed into a telecommunications company (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) serving over 250,000 users in all 50 states!

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

A young man called me in January after searching Google for motivational speakers. Unfortunately, I found out during our conversation that he had already been taking painkillers to overdose and commit suicide. He called late at night, planning to leave a message with a stranger about his suicide before finishing the bottle of pills.

We each talked about our tough childhoods and how it felt like death was his only way out. We spent about 45 minutes on the phone, and this young man promised he would flush the rest of the pills down the toilet instead of finishing the bottle.

I was scheduled to speak in San Antonio, TX, on March 12th and had been preparing for the speech for weeks. At 2:38 AM, that same young guy sent me a text message with pictures of him holding my book. He was celebrating his 24th birthday, and rather than partying; he read How To Be Successful: Think Like A Leader, cover-to cover. In the text, he shared his new personal identity. He now defines himself as “a leader who’s all about progressing in life and bettering himself every single day.”

This young guy deciding he was created for greatness and choosing to give life another try is worth more to me than any money I’ll ever earn from book sales or speaking engagements.

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 that it’s funny, but many new speakers use too many notes when giving a speech. I was terrible at using too many notes because of the memory issues after surviving brain cancer. Still, it’s much easier to connect with your audience if you write down a few bullet points and have a natural conversation with the audience.

Here’s the lesson: Write a few bullet points and talk from the heart!

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

I owe my success to hundreds of people, including employees at my retail stores, business partners, and even podcast hosts and authors who create inspirational content that keeps me growing! My telecommunications company would have never gone nationwide without an incredible investment of time and money from our friend, Paul Silzell.

As a teenager, my dad kept us away from my mom, but as soon as I moved to Denver for college, we were able to get back in touch. For over 20 years, my mom, Connie V. Wyatt, has been my best friend. We’ve worked on massive business projects and taken some pretty cool trips together! She researched the Hoxsey Biomedical Clinic in Tijuana, Mexico, when I was given only 60–90 days to live with brain cancer! After American oncologists said I had a 0% chance of survival, that treatment saved my life.

Daniel Gomez is an award-winning professional speaker who I admire. He’s an incredible friend as well.

Daniel hosts the Sticker Shock Speaking Academy in San Antonio, TX. The event gives speakers the blueprint for building and operating a successful speaking business. I absolutely recommend this event if you plan on becoming a professional speaker! It’s incredible!

I was scheduled to speak at Sticker Shock in March. However, the morning I was scheduled to speak, I fell outside the conference center, hit my head on the sidewalk, and had a seizure.

It was raining, so when I fell, the back of my suit was wet. My head was bleeding from the impact against the sidewalk. Paramedics came, and I was so embarrassed that I almost booked an early flight home and skipped speaking. It took everything I had to go back inside.

I gave a 10-minute speech that went incredibly well, but I felt like an outcast. “Was this the last time I’d ever agree to speak on stage?” Was I an imposter?” The devil was really working on my self-confidence. I was ready to give up.

Rather than avoiding the guy who just had a seizure, Daniel Gomez invited me up on stage with a couple of preachers who prayed over me as a group. They spoke encouraging words and prayed for healing. The love and camaraderie I felt were like nothing I’ve ever experienced.

You have been blessed with great success in a career path that can be challenging and intimidating. Do you have any advice for others who may want to embark on this career path but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?

Try joining a speaking club like Toastmasters! Find opportunities to speak at local events, coworking spaces, and community gatherings. Start taking every opportunity to speak. The audience wants you to be amazing! Be yourself! They’re rooting for you!

I’ve given hundreds of talks, and the fear never completely disappears, but it gets easier when you remember that the audience isn’t judging you. No one pays to go to an event, hoping the speaker sucks. Instead, they’re on your side!

What drives you to get up every day and give your talks? What is the main empowering message you aim to share with the world?

We talked earlier about the young man who decided not to end his life after calling me in January. He’s the 4th person to reach out while deciding whether or not to commit suicide. Thankfully, everyone who dared to reach out chose not to end their life.

When I was young, I did everything to be “successful,” focusing on becoming wealthy, but as I got older, I started to care more about encouraging and inspiring people to live their best life. If I give a speech or post a short video on social media that inspires someone to keep going or become a better person, or if I help a single small business succeed, that’s what gets me excited!

You have such impressive work. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Where do you see yourself heading from here?

Thank you so much! I’ve spoken at Caesar’s Palace and some pretty cool venues, but there are two projects I’m most excited about now:

First, I’m excited to be speaking at schools to inspire kids and help them see that the things they’re going through won’t last forever, and life gets better if you keep pushing.

Also, I’m offering business coaching/mentoring to entrepreneurs on a limited basis, and it’s been incredible to see their growth in business and life!

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

Rather than reshare a quote, I have a message for your audience. You have a story to share. Your opinion matters, and people can benefit from hearing your message!

We all have doubts and fears, but that’s not an excuse not to inspire others to greatness! Public speaking will open up opportunities you never knew existed! You can do this!

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?”

  1. Preparation & Practice — Do your research and know your topic inside out. It’s easy to talk about a subject you know well! You don’t need to worry about memorizing an entire speech if you know the subject well! We’ve all heard the saying, “practice makes perfect,” but that’s not entirely true. Perfect practice makes perfect! Rehearse in front of a mirror, record yourself or get feedback from friends.
  2. Punctuality — Arrive early to ensure you have time to set up and relax before your talk starts. I like to go to a secluded area, pray, stretch, stand tall and do some vocal warm-ups before getting on stage.
  3. Personality & Passion — Be yourself and engage with your audience members. Don’t try to be someone you’re not! Make eye contact with a few people. Talk about the benefits your audience can receive. Don’t make the speech about you. Speak from the heart and let your passion for the subject shine through.
  4. Poise & Projection — Maintain good posture and keep your head up. Standing tall with your chest out helps with confidence. Don’t be afraid to move around and use relevant hand gestures to keep the audience interested. Speak for the size of the room. Speaking too loud can look awkward or irritating if you’re talking to a small audience in a conference room. Speak loudly enough and clearly so that everyone can hear you.
  5. Positive Attitude — Smile and radiate positive energy! Even if you’re nervous, smiling (when appropriate) helps you be more relatable.

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

The audience wants you to be amazing! Be yourself! They’re rooting for you!

You are a person of huge influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I believe you were created by the same God who created the entire universe. He is the most powerful force in existence. He created you in His image, and He loves you! You’re more incredible than you’ll ever know! I would love to put that on billboards across the country.

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’ve been able to share meals with some incredible leaders, but Brad Lea is someone I find incredibly entertaining and inspirational.

Brad Lea has interviewed leaders like Daymond John, Tim Grover, Ed Mylett, Grant Cardone, Patrick Bet-David, Tom Bilyeu, Robert Kiyosaki, and Jesse Itzler on the Dropping Bombs Podcast.

I look forward to being a guest on his show soon! I’ll be happy to bring lunch if he has time to eat!

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

M. Curtis McCoy has links to the platforms I’m most active on, but right now, I’m focusing on:

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


M Curtis McCoy On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Makers of The Metaverse: Steve Stein Of XMANNA On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality…

Makers of The Metaverse: Steve Stein Of XMANNA On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Knowledge — an interesting aspect we are seeing today is that in addition to formal education, new technologies are actually based on a lot of self education and accumulating knowledge. Do you use these technologies? Do you understand what they can offer? With creating new technologies and innovation, constantly learning is key.

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 Steve Stein.

Steve has over 20 years of experience in leading companies in Finance, Tech, Real-estate and now Blockchain. With a unique expertise in commodities and currencies, and a passion for helping sales organizations to overachieve, Steve has been able to push for collaborations with organizations such as Inter Miami CF, foreseeing the potential for sports in the Metaverse.

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 initially grew up in a very supportive home, with strong messages of perseverance and hard work. I was taught by my father to always aim higher than what you think you’re capable of achieving. Growing up in an environment where I learned that anything is possible through hard work, perseverance, kindness and passion was incredibly foundational to me. So I try to embody these messages into everything that I do in my life.

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 my parents have had the most significant impact on my life and ethos over any book or piece of media, to be honest. Watching my parents show so much kindness to strangers and friends, helping out in our community and providing financial aid to strangers impacted me a lot. From them, I learned that the most important thing in life is the people around you, both family and community, so I would say they were the most impactful to me.

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

There isn’t a particularly specific story, but I think that understanding a decentralized ecosystem and the benefits of a business model that is conducive to community-building has led me to this path. I’m really fascinated by the future of the internet and understanding what that could look like in terms of experiences and how people interact with it, that inspired me to be part of that change.

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

I would have to say the first call we ever had with our lead advisor from GD10. We conducted a 40-minute call showcasing our product and fielding questions with the investor. At the end of the call, he gives us a mile-long list of tasks, changes, and restructures for us to implement and hangs up the phone without another word. Safe to say we were a bit taken aback with the very blunt feedback, and questioned whether we wanted to have the investor on board with the project. But we re-evaluated what he proposed, and the changes did make sense so we implemented them right away. On a follow-up call a few days later, he was blown away when we revealed that we had already implemented his suggestions in such a quick turnaround, and his surprise turned into millions for us. What we thought was a very different and blunt meeting turned out to give us support from our most incredible investors, and we showed that we aren’t afraid to get our hands dirty when it comes to addressing issues in the company.

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 was when I called a sports club, and for preparation purposes, I researched their gate numbers to see their game attendance. When I got on the call with the club, I politely pointed out these figures thinking they realized their attendance was not as high as they wanted and how we could help with that. Long story short, they did not particularly appreciate the feedback and thought I was insulting their business, so you can imagine how the rest of the call went. While it was an embarrassing moment, especially as my team heard this verbal lashing on speakerphone, we are actually now in partnership negotiations with the same team three years later.

The fact is, a person’s success is not determined by their wins, but by how they handle failures. Making mistakes will always happen in business, but learning from them is how you succeed in the long-term. While the moment with the team was embarrassing, it allowed me to re-evaluate our approach and our services when partnering with teams, which ultimately made us into a better company.

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 can’t name everyone, but I’m incredibly grateful for all our employees and developers behind the scenes that are building this project from the ground-up. But two key people I can name would be my mother, first and foremost, for always being there and her incredible support. The other person I’m very grateful for would be my partner Gabi, who has always trusted me, listened to me and has got us where we need to be since the beginning. There are lots of particular stories that I could share and I will share them one day.

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

Yes, The MannaVerse, where our business model is based on an ownership economy by rewarding those that contribute value into the ecosystem. XMANNA sees themselves as the Intel Chip inside a computer that helps make it better, faster and stronger — the essence is creating the underlying infrastructure that powers mega-content metaverse that is powered by amazing partners, who help bring in the critical elements of premium live events to the virtual world with venues, artists and more.

The plan is to continue and spread across the sports network worldwide and to provide products that enhance the sports experience for fans, while continuing to build the Mannaverse and making continuous partnerships to fuel content within it. Our goal is to simply make our token very useful and beneficial for gaming and enhancement of XMANNA products with access, discounts and even the opportunity to help support ecosystem projects before they are released.

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 most exciting things that excite me in these industries are NFTs, which have evolved beyond just collectibles. NFTs can make a real impact in mixed realities and augmented reality in addition to the ownership economy. I think that they are key in the future of the internet in terms of experience, and can signify both physical and virtual products while users experience an all-encompassing digital world. In terms of the ownership economy, it allows regular people to create value from revenues generated from a company, generating passive income for potentially millions of people. Bringing all these components to market with technology that is truly immersive would be an incredible step for spearheading the next phase of the internet. Additionally, I also think gamification is vital in these industries, particularly with engaging users and earning rewards. People have a preconceived notion about advertising and that they will pay not to see it. I think that utilizing gamification can bridge that gap in getting users over the entry barrier of advertising in order to use services, and in turn, making it more effective. Adding in the possibilities of gamification provides a way for both users and companies to see rewards through interactive advertising.

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?

VR, AR and MR technologies are changing our world. As they become more powerful, coupled with better software and development, there will be more and more use cases for these immersive technologies. As the awareness of AR and MR apps increases, there is a growing demand for companies that provide these services.and I think that the biggest challenge will be the actual migration from 2 dimensions into the web3.0. It will be a whole new ecosystem that will be to be built from scratch and can not be migrated, any business that fails to spot this shift on time is risking becoming the next blockbuster.

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?

AR, VR and MR are relatively new technologies as far as their practical application and utility is concerned. Many industries and companies, especially the small to mid-sized companies, do not have the technical expertise or the proper SDK / software to develop AR / MR applications.

But we are already seeing first signs of adoption in a few industries: automobile, manufacturing, aerospace and of course, retail. Furniture shops allow you to virtually choose the furniture you like and visualize how they will look in your home settings, you can shift objects to different locations and purchase them instantaneously. Some fashion houses allow you to virtually try on a dress without having to go to the dressing room. This is a real use of the technology at work, and it’s only the beginning.

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

While AR and VR have been around for a number of years, mixed reality is relatively new.

Mixed Reality (MR) interfaces combine real and virtual settings in various ways to enable psychological immersion in a setting that blends physical and digital phenomena. For example, an outdoor augmented reality (AR) experience using mobile devices can superimpose information, simulations, and videos through the camera lens view to create natural phenomena effect. This interaction between the interactive world and the physical world is what we call mixed reality (MR). Most businesses these days are exploring, piloting, or deploying mixed reality, and I personally believe that mixed reality is crucial in achieving those strategic goals. By creating a new and improved experience in all aspects of our lives, from shopping and entertainment to medicine and well being we will all find a way to improve our lives using this technology.

Just imagine a world where all of the value that you create in society would be recognized and rewarded for your contribution. From buying groceries to paying your electricity bill or buying an upgrade on your game or even attending live events. People are not attached to the value they create in society and using these new technologies, people can begin to attach themselves to the value they create.

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

We don’t believe in funny money, we believe in building technology first and tokenizing after to create a true utility.

The other element I would like to dispel is the concept of an NFT. Most people see an NFT and think of a digital collectible, but the potential for them is so much greater than that. When I hear NFT, I think of house keys or proof of citizenship, among other things that can be securely digitized. NFTs give people the ability to utilize them in a brand new way when they have utility attached to them.

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

1. Passion — being excited about creating the future is a basic element. Do you think the metaverse is the next greatest development being created? Do you believe that VR and AR can bring value? Do you have a passion to be involved in creating innovation in these fields? — then you are on the right track.

2. Knowledge — an interesting aspect we are seeing today is that in addition to formal education, new technologies are actually based on a lot of self education and accumulating knowledge. Do you use these technologies? Do you understand what they can offer? With creating new technologies and innovation, constantly learning is key.

3. Integrity — in any career actually, your ability to bring real value is crucial. First of all, being a person with a strong moral compass is crucial.

4. The ability to deliver on time — because the world is developing so fast, and so is the competition, the need to deliver high quality products, on a timely basis is key. In addition to having great ideas, the need to implement and deliver is critical.

5. Originality — when creating innovation and the future, in a fast shifting reality, you need to be able to think outside the box — create original solutions, find better ways to do things, connect in new ways with your users and partners. We want the future to be better — so creating solutions that haven’t been implemented before is key.

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 if I can inspire anybody to do something it would be to show kindness to another person. Not because someone is watching, not for financial gain, but because in that moment you recognize another human being in need. I think that if people just take a minute to show kindness to another person, the world can be a much better place. Kindness doesn’t cost you anything except for some energy and heart, but the impact of it is contagious and extends beyond one person.

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’m going to go with a historical figure here and say Abraham Lincoln, one of my personal heroes. He believed in our God-given rights, our freedoms, and how these freedoms must be protected while creating a better environment for all. This is really what XMANNA stands for in creating an environment that’s beneficial for everyone.

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


Makers of The Metaverse: Steve Stein Of XMANNA 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: Laila Belabbas Of Splish Splash Handmade Products On How To Go From…

Making Something From Nothing: Laila Belabbas Of Splish Splash Handmade Products On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

You can’t please everyone: There will be times when you will have to make difficult business decisions that may not be popular. Remember that all your decisions will impact the business and you are responsible for the success of your business and the people working in it! Without people, you have no business. Treat your employees well. They are your most important asset!

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

Laila was born and raised in Montreal. She has lived in Vancouver, BC Canada since 2008. She identifies herself as a member of the BIPOC community. Laila comes from a family of 5 children being the only girl.

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”?

Both of my parents immigrated to Canada before I was born. My father is from Morocco and my mother came from France. They both met in France and moved to Canada in Montreal. Both speaking French, Montreal was the best choice for them at that time. My father was the sole provider of the family. His first job was working as a warehouse worker making only $2 an hour. At that time they only had one son. When my father found out that his wife was pregnant with me, he decided to go back to school and become a boilermaker, believing that having a trade will ensure a better life for the family. He moved up from company to company and secured a job working for the Montreal transit company. He was making only $40, 000 a year working as a boilermaker. supporting the family while my mother left her career as an RMT and became a stay-at-home mom raising the family, the hardest job in the world! Both of my parents came from poor families. My mother lost her mom at 14 years old, leaving her father with 9 children and scrambling to make a living to support all his kids. Her father’s parents were both living in Morocco. My grandfather was a farmer making very little money and hmyer grandmother was a stay-at-home mom with her 10 children. My father left at a young age of 16 years old for a better life coming to Canada, but first he made a stop to France where he met my mother and they both decided to move to Canada. I saw my father as a hard-working individual who worked long hours during the evenings, nights and weekends, picking up overtime shifts for extra money. I’ve learned at a young age that my parents would not be able to pay for education or help financially. I learned that I have to make sacrifices and work hard in order to have a good life. I have learned my work ethics from my father. He always told me that education is the key to being successful and without education life would be a struggle.

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

Everyday is a different day. All situations are temporary. Things happen for a reason and there are no coincidences. I believe that you are where you are for a reason. You need to keep faith in the universe. Life is full of surprises and even in the darkest moments things will turn for the better. Life is an iceberg and you never know what’s under it as you can only see the top. All good things are hidden and show up when unexpected.

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 was struggling in my personal life emotionally and financially and I had difficulty paying my rent on time and eating regular meals. It seemed I could never catch my breath working from one minimum wage job to another, unable to see a bright future. I woke up one day and decided enough is enough. I needed a change and fast. I was tired of being poor and unhappy. My parents didn’t have the financial means to help me. I purchased a book that changed my life. Awakening the Giant Within by Anthony Robbins. I discovered self-mastery and how to live a meaningful life. I learned step-by-step how to change my mindset and improve every aspect of my life. It did not happen overnight; it took years of hard work and seeing my self-worth. Growing up in an immigrant family was not always easy. Expectations were high and sometimes unattainable. Anthony’s words resonated with me. This was the best book I ever purchased. Anthony was my personal coach without knowing it!

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?

Splish Splash Handmade products came about when I left the corporate world being an Human Resources professional for over 10 years. I decided at 37 years old that I wanted to go back to school to further my knowledge and skills. I went to University to pursue a Bachelor of Commerce in Entrepreneurial Management from Royal Roads University. Part of one of the business classes I took, an entrepreneurial class, made this whole idea of Splish Splash come to life. The first week of entrepreneurship class, our business professor asked everyone that we had one week to come up with a business idea and submit for approval. The challenge was it had to be handmade from yourself and could not be purchased or sold from something already made. We had to create a product from scratch and start selling your products for a whole semester. I can assure you that the stress level in that class was really high. I was asking myself, “What in the world? I don’t know how to make anything!” Then it came to me. I always made my own soap and bath products because I had such sensitive skin. I couldn’t find products that would suit my skin but never thought about selling them. I have had a self-care routine since I was 16 years old. I love taking baths with bath salt, essential oil of lavender, with a candle and piano music in the background. I decided this is an opportunity to try something different and, honestly, I just wanted to pass my class. So I pitched my idea to my professor. This opportunity was perfect to use my artistic and creative side that was dormant for so many years due to working in a corporate environment. Going back to school was the best thing for me. It allowed me to rediscover myself and focus on the things I love and enjoy. Being artistic and creative was always who I was! Being pressured to build a new business gave me the boost to try it out. I went all in. I was able to have focus groups, packaging, product testing, logo creation, a business name, market research, R&D, design a website, a business plan, sustainability empathy map canvas, financials and a business canvas model. I promoted my handmade natural products as a self-care eco-friendly home spa experience.

It was a massive success! The feedback I received from people was so positive. They loved the products and I completely sold out. That was an indicator that I was on to something. My professors were very supportive and helped me throughout the whole program. They pushed hard and it wasn’t always easy. But, they wanted me to succeed. I can say that I am proud to have founded a self-care, eco-friendly and handmade product line that makes people feel good about themselves and able to have that relaxing home spa experience from the comfort of their homes.

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?

Conduct market research and find out what your market segment would be. Conduct a competitors’ analysis and review products that are similar to your idea. There are a lot of products that can always be improved. When you have an idea that pops into your mind, write it down, it’s surprising how easily we can forget a great idea. I encourage you to share your idea with people you trust, that will provide you honest feedback. This will help fine tune your idea because we can’t always see every angle of idea. Also something that is very important is do not get married to an idea. If the feedback is not positive, it’s okay to change gear, be flexible and open. People want you to be successful. Honest opinions can avoid disappointment and wasting time and money on an idea that may not work. Remember that starting a business is not a competition and taking time to try your ideas and conducting research is part of building a sustainable business.

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. Using the lean start-up model

I am a very visual individual and need to see my ideas on paper. I draw and map product ideas to help design and make changes. I then develop the product and give samples to friends and family asking for real feedback. The feedback is valuable and helps me improve the design and the products. Any product I develop, I test on myself as well. After final testing, feedback and design, the final product is ready to launch. I like to support other businesses as well. I try to source from local suppliers that specialize in selling to businesses, with no minimum purchase requirements. That is something very helpful when you are just starting off. Bigger suppliers will have orders starting at a few thousand dollars just for one product. I would encourage you to search for something that will allow you to start small and not break your bank to purchase supplies, packaging and raw materials. Also customer service experience is important. Put effort and thought into your packaging to create a “wow” factor when your customer opens their purchase. I like to make every customer feel special no matter how much the purchase is! I always add a special hand written note.

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

  1. Thinking about being your own boss will mean you can do whatever you want and having no one boss you around and have more freedom and time: There’s nothing further from the truth. Working for yourself will be time consuming and responsibility falls on your shoulders and no one else. Your new bosses will be your internal and external stakeholders. Customers will be the one you need to listen to and allow their feedback to improve products and services. Your suppliers, service providers, consultants etc. will be like a business partner. Treat them right and be respectful. They are providing you with the supplies to create your products in order to sell them. Be mindful that anyone that you need to conduct business with will be important.
  2. Planning: There are so many details running a business and managing your day-to-day business operations. For example, I have forgotten things or ordered the wrong products. It’s important to draft a list of things to do, and set calendar reminders for meetings and events. It will help keep you organized.
  3. You can’t please everyone: There will be times when you will have to make difficult business decisions that may not be popular. Remember that all your decisions will impact the business and you are responsible for the success of your business and the people working in it! Without people, you have no business. Treat your employees well. They are your most important asset!
  4. Why leaving a full-time job with a steady paycheck: You will probably hear that a lot. Working for someone else doesn’t mean you have more time for yourself and necessarily make more money. If the past few years have taught us anything, it’s that life is precious. It’s better to try something and not have regrets than play it safe. If you don’t try, you won’t know. It could be the best decision you have ever made for yourself. You have one life to live, don’t miss out on being your best self!
  5. Your Social Media Message: You will be under the spotlight more than you know. Choose your words wisely and spread a kind positive message. If you have nothing good to say, then don’t. Always remain professional, calm and respectful to everyone. We all have bad days where we can be frustrated and things are not moving the way we want. It’s okay to step back. Do not send angry emails or make angry phone calls. You will be thankful you didn’t.

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?

An important thing is you don’t need thousands of dollars to build a product. I have learned to use the lean business model in school. It means you don’t have to sell all your belongings, mortgage your house, or use all your life savings. Ensure you have an (MVP) minimum viable product. It is a low cost way to build a product that has just enough features to showcase and help you get the products tested into customers’ hands. It’s a great way to receive immediate feedback and iterate to finalize a finished product. It’s the perfect way not to mass produce and invest too much money and a great opportunity to see if your products will be well received or not.

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?

Starting a business can be fun and exciting, but also challenging. Don’t expect success overnight and do not rush building a business because it takes time. A slow, steady success will give you the ability to adjust changes along the way. I also encourage you to educate yourself on entrepreneurship. The more tools and support you can build for yourself, the better it will be for you to make sound decisions for your business and save costs. Not everyone is able to receive seed money. Invest in yourself, take business courses, read books and research how to start a business. Join a group of entrepreneurs, like minded individuals and business groups. It’s a great way to share and learn experiences from others. You can also hire people on contract or part-time to help with some aspects of the business that you’re not experienced with. A little help never hurts! Don’t be afraid to ask friends and family. They may have skills or talents that could be useful to you.

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

This is a very personal choice. Ask yourself, “Do I want to become an entrepreneur? Do I wish to build something for myself and have control over the decision making from beginning to end, or do I need a team of people to help me build a business?” For myself, I decided I would rather bootstrap to have control of the product development and which direction the business is going.

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

As a Human Resources Professional, we believe that caring for an employee’s mental and physical wellness is top of mind. I designed a business to bring a self-care, eco-friendly wellness experience that serves as a mental and physical wellness to everyone. I believe that we all need that 30 minutes per day to take time for ourselves and disconnect. A rested self is a much better version of yourself. Life is challenging and stressful. We all need time and what better way to be part of offering wellness products than to help people feel better and relaxed? This also gave me an opportunity to build a business that is inclusive for products and work culture. I hope to inspire and empower other BIPOC individuals and other women to pursue entrepreneurship. Something I would like to be involved in down the road is to help other entrepreneurs succeed and start this exciting journey!

I have friends that are members of the LGBTQ2S+ and I was asked to create pride products because they felt there was a lack of representation in the beauty industry. So, I created a product line for the LGBTQ2S+ because I want people to feel included and celebrated more than just once a year, but all-year long. I also believe in acts of kindness and giving back to the community and supporting people. I do have a soft spot for charity and I volunteer work. I donate products to non-for-profit organizations.

I believe it is important to give back and I am passionate about various causes and enjoy engaging in partnerships and fundraising activities with organizations that reflect my values.

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

I would love to be able to inspire more people like myself. Coming from a poor immigrant family doesn’t mean you can’t be successful. I strongly believe that education is key to be able to develop and grow. It might be more difficult, requiring hard work and sacrifices, but it’s all worth it at the end. No one can take that away from you. Surround yourself with people that see your potential and believe in you. I had mentors in my life that helped develop myself. Also, having a support system is important because no one can be successful on their own. Never give up no matter how many times you fall. Keep going. Resilience is key!

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? She or he might just see this if we tag them.

Being BIPOC, I grew up with not many role models looking like myself. I chose Oprah as a role model while growing up because she was the person I could identify most with. She inspired me to be who I am today. A few years ago, I was in a leadership training course and part of an exercise we did was how you see yourself as a leader. We had to make a vision board. When I looked around me in that class I was the only BIPOC person. We had a magazine to cut out images and find what would be suitable that could represent me as a leader. I was able to find an image of Oprah. She was a leader that I identified myself with growing up and I wanted to continue working on myself to become a true authentic leader. Plus, she looked a little like me! Hoping to be able to do good for the world.

I admired her ability to lead her interviews with empathy, being true to herself and always helping others. She has a unique way of connecting with people at a deeper level that I can’t explain. I always wanted to be Oprah! She inspires so many people and truly makes the world a better place.

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


Making Something From Nothing: Laila Belabbas Of Splish Splash Handmade Products On How To Go From… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Brian Franklin Of Vows & Speeches On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Come in prepared. Know what you’re going to say and how it’s going to start and end. There is nothing worse than listening to someone figure out their presentation on the fly and just rambling without a cohesive point.

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 Brian Franklin.

Most of Brian Franklin’s 25 years of work in writing and advertising has involved working as an award-winning political consultant (including Best Use of Humor in a political ad). In his political career has guided communications and advertising for over 150 campaigns, from congressional campaigns to state-wide races and ballot amendments, and has managed advocacy programs for numerous national organizations.

In 2021, Brian and his wife Nicole started Vows & Speeches, a company created to solve the problems of anxiety that couples have about writing their own vows, and as a cure for boring, rambling, long, and/or embarrassing speeches that happen seemingly in every wedding. Likewise, many officiants without experience (and even some that have experience) have trouble writing a compelling, enjoyable ceremony. Vows & Speeches works with the couple and their officiant choice to write a moving, enjoyable ceremony that tells the story of the relationship.

Vows & Speeches aims to lead a new niche in the wedding industry where the aspects of the wedding that involve writing have professional assistance.

Brian Franklin

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?

My family bounced around a lot as my dad was in sales. I was born in New York City and lived in Jersey until I was 6, then in Sherman Oaks, CA for a year and a half, moved back to Jersey for a few years, then California from 10–17… then Miami and Fort Lauderdale. I met my now-wife and partner, Nicole, who lived in Los Angeles. We both had children from our previous marriages, and so from 2010 to 2019, I flew from Florida to or from Los Angeles every week. Richard Branson even wrote a blog post about our marriage, which was helped along by Virgin America happening to be the first airline with reliable, fleetwide Wi-Fi in 2010. If it wasn’t for them and his vision, I probably couldn’t have kept our company going and kept the relationship.

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

Professionally, I started out as an advertising copywriter and wound up starting a political advertising and communications firm in 2007. It went very well, and we won some big races, but I’ve been casually trying to get out of politics for several years. Some of my work has involved speechwriting, and by this point I’d helped some friends and family members with their speeches and officiated a few weddings. I started to casually look at writing wedding speeches and last year, I talked to some wedding pros on the app Clubhouse about it. They suggested adding custom vows and ceremony scripts.

A light went on in my head, and a couple of hours later, I had a logo designed, a website posted and written, and the next day we had our first client. Talking to wedding planners — we realized quickly there was a tremendous interest in our services. We’ve been steadily building since, and it’s been fantastic fun. I was a songwriter and performer throughout my twenties, so it’s nice to go back to writing about love.

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

Whether we’re writing the ceremony or the wedding speech, you get to know a lot about the couples. One of my favorite stories involves a groom who is particularly quiet, rarely talks to people… but when he learned his fiancé loved Ariana Grande, he learned every song so that when they went to the concert, he could make it that much more fun by being able to sing along with her and a crowd of tweens.

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?

No good mistake stories here yet, thankfully. It’s a new business, but so far everything has gone pretty smoothly.

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 was a natural writer, but it wasn’t until my second job in advertising that I was hired and mentored by an extremely talented writer and creative director, Christian Boswell. Christian took the time to edit my work like a professor might… with the goal of teaching rather than quickly getting to good copy. He would ask questions like, “Why did you use that word or phrase?” But most of all he would cut stuff out and demonstrate how to get more complex ideas out with fewer words or sentences. Everything became purer… more distilled. He made sure you knew how to interview the client in a way that got you the info you really needed. They’re skills that have proven critical in everything I’ve done professionally, but particularly invaluable with Vows & Speeches.

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?

Starting a new career, particularly later in life, can be scary — but so is the prospect of being unhappy in the career you have. There was no plan to be in the wedding industry two years ago. Something clicked in my head, and I just jumped towards it. My wife, Nicole, who is also my partner in the business, went with me to an industry conference in November and as we were walking out, she said “You know, you’ve had some cockamamie ideas in the past. This is not one of them.” She was all in, and we’ve been putting our hearts into it ever since. It’s very exciting. Home runs require big swings. There’s a lot of work to be done, but sometimes you just have to trust your instincts.

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?

It’s not the talks — it’s the job. Every day, we get to write love stories and help parts of the wedding that have largely been left without professional guidance. So much attention is traditionally paid to the optics of the wedding… we want to make the words beautiful, too.

You have such impressive work. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Where do you see yourself heading from here?

We’re expanding and going to be hiring additional writers and staff over the next months. Our hope is that by 2023, many more couples and wedding party speakers know there is help there for them, and they don’t have to be anxious about what they’re going to write or say. We’re trying to create a niche in the industry and be a leader in how that is marketed to couples and the rest of the industry.

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

Many years ago, I adapted a quote from a Tom Waits song, which was originally “Did you bury the carnival” into a motto: “Don’t bury the carnival.” To me, beyond simply having fun, it’s about not allowing life to get in the way of the things that are colorful and enjoyable. I recently got a tattoo to that effect… and thinking about this new business, it’s even more meaningful. We’ve got to make sure the good parts shine in the scripts!

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. Come in prepared. Know what you’re going to say and how it’s going to start and end. There is nothing worse than listening to someone figure out their presentation on the fly and just rambling without a cohesive point.
  2. Be dynamic in the organization of your content. Treat the content like a musical artist might treat a set list. You want there to be the equivalent of fast songs and slow songs… Not being too dense with data for too long without getting to some highlights. Getting the crowd ramped up from the beginning, and then assume you have to get their attention again. In weddings, this means interspersing humor with the romantic or serious parts. (Or vice versa.)
  3. Be dynamic in the organization of your presentation. No one wants to hear a monotone speaker… nor is it effective to be loud all the time or soft the whole time. Throughout the course of your speech, change the cadence and the volume. Have soft parts and loud parts. Have fast ones and slow ones. This keeps the audience’s attention and helps you emphasize points that really matter while creating excitement and build up beforehand.
  4. Remember why the audience is there. Too many speakers — particularly in weddings — forget the mission is to please the audience, not themselves. In weddings, it seems wedding party speakers often think this is their time to practice their stand-up routine, or to get a litany of feelings (good or bad) off their chest, when in fact the real goal should be to make the couple + and the audience smile and be happy. In other types of speaking engagements, it might be to deliver a message or to simply be entertaining while they eat. But to be a truly effective speaker — you have to remember why the audience is listening to you in the first place. Are you an incidental speaker at something else they signed up for? Or did they come specifically to hear you? The answers should change how and what you present.
  5. Practice out loud, time it, and don’t be a minute longer than you need to be. Reading something silently is not practicing. Practicing is reading out loud, getting the words out, and getting some muscle memory going. It’s so common to be able to read something in your head, and then you go to speak it and it feels like you’re tripping over an obstacle course of words. A good presenter will either practice until they can get through those obstacles or rewrite the sentence or paragraph so it’s easier. Importantly, you need to time it. Very experienced speakers know what a certain number of words or pages roughly equals in time, but most people should verify it with a stopwatch. If you’re going over, cut the copy back. And if they’ve given you 5 minutes, and you can say what you need to say in 4, then do it in 4. Don’t speak for the sake of speaking, unless you’re being paid to do a minimum of a certain number of minutes.

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

We work with couples and wedding party speakers that are often afraid of speaking in public, and have no experience talking in front of 50, 100, 150 or more of their closest friends and family. Especially about something so personal and close to their heart.

Getting professional help with both the script and presentation dramatically reduces their anxiety. Knowing that someone is helping you craft good content, agreeing on the quality of it, and working with you to present it better makes everything easier. Beyond that the biggest key is practicing. People are often afraid of being embarrassed… messing up. But they won’t be embarrassed if the content is good and they’ve put the work in to get competent at delivering it. That’s a lot of why we are building this business — it’s not just making the wedding better; it’s taking the anxiety and pressure out of these moments.

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’m not a person of huge influence, but I think we need a movement to find commonalities again to get back to the point where we knew we disagreed with people on politics or religion or taxes, but we could still call them friends or close family members and enjoy their company. We need to channel our passions back into the things we appreciate about each other rather than the things that can — and seemingly are — tearing friendships and families apart.

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!

Bruce Springsteen’s been a hero of mine for most of my life and provided an insane amount of joy. I learned guitar and sang specifically imagining joining him on stage someday. That seems a bit unlikely at this point, but lunch, while still unlikely, seems like a lower lift for him.

A close second after that would be Dwayne Wade — who from what I’ve seen and heard exemplifies the kind of work ethic and character anyone could hope for from a public figure. (Go Heat.)

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

Website: VowsAndSpeeches.com
Instagram: @vowsandspeeches (http://instagram.com/vowsandspeeches/)
Facebook @vowsandspeeches (https://www.facebook.com/vowsandspeeches)

Twitter: @Brian_Franklin

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


Brian Franklin Of Vows & Speeches 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.

The Future Is Now: Christian Lund Of Templafy On How B9Creations’s Technological Innovation Will…

The Future Is Now: Christian Lund Of Templafy On How B9Creations’s Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

To be honest, I’m actually glad nobody told me anything before I started! I’ve always thought that I’ll figure things out as I go along — knowing too much at the beginning can make you overly cautious and nervous about all the possible bumps in the road. This can hold you back from moving forward and trying to accomplish those big, audacious goals. At the start of my career, I pictured myself as a bumblebee, flapping my wings as much as I could to fly and doing whatever I could to make things happen in the early days.

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

Christian Lund is Co-Founder of Templafy — the leading next gen document generation platform pioneering the content enablement space. With more than 15 years of domain knowledge, Christian helped spearhead the transition for large organizations from on-premise systems to Software-as-a-Service solutions for document creation and template management. Prior to founding Templafy, Christian served as the Director at Omnidocs and the Strategy Consultant at Berlingske Media.

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

I studied political science at university but eventually made my way to sales. As my career progressed, I found myself gravitating toward strategy and consultancy roles. It was on this path that I met my future business partner, Henrik Printzlau.

We began by building Omnidocs, a template management company, where I brought my sales/business knowledge to the table and Henrik shared his tech expertise. However, as we continued to build that business the cloud was becoming more mainstream, and we realized there was potential for more. The cloud totally changed the way people work, and we saw a massive opportunity to take advantage of this shift through the lens of business documents. This eventually manifested in the spin out of Templafy in 2014.

Businesses were spending way too much time on the content process — from template creation to approvals to simple information gathering — and as more invested in cloud technology, we knew that there had to be a better way forward. We founded Templafy with the vision of making the document generation infrastructure easier, and over the past seven years this has transformed into a mission to enable professionals to create better performing documents faster through connected content.

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

It’s difficult to point to one specific story and classify it as the most interesting in my career. Instead, I’d like to highlight two ‘aha’ moments I’ve had while building Templafy and how they’ve shaped the growth of the company.

The first revolves around the future of work. This has changed massively over the past two years and we’ve seen the emergence of the “digital HQ” as a result. In the digital HQ, everything is content. Every piece of data, every video clip or audio file, every business document, every creative asset has a digital footprint and therefore is content. And because everything is content, content is everything. In this environment creating high-performing documents requires more effort and time from people than is generally acknowledged — and we’ve realized that shift opens a massive opportunity for Templafy. We connect content throughout an entire organization, directly serving the necessary pieces to individuals within the places they already work (Microsoft Office, Google Workspaces, etc.), allowing them to efficiently create high-performing business documents.

The second ‘aha’ moment was that as a founder, it’s important to take a step back and admit that you don’t know everything. Founders can’t be visionaries and run the entire operational side of an organization at the same time. You can and should rely on the intelligence, input and experience of your team members to help you build your company. At the beginning, Henrik and I were open to admitting that we didn’t know everything, but we fearlessly moved forward with building our company, which allowed us to start the story. The team members who have joined us since allowed the story to continue. Today, we have almost 400 team members across the globe who each bring a unique expertise to help build the company.

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

Templafy helps professionals create better-performing business documents faster. Our solution activates brands, drives governance and supports document creation at any complexity and scale. We do this by connecting content to users where they work, when it matters most. Templafy’s platform provides intuitive access to approved content inside Word, PowerPoint, Google Workspaces and more to increase company-wide usage of the latest material and collateral. This enables all employees to find the approved assets they need to create top notch documents without having to jump from application to application.

With the shift to remote work, it’s now more crucial than ever to provide employees with the tools they need to work smarter — not harder. Templafy recently conducted a survey of more than 600 professionals working full time in the US to determine the role content plays in brand activation. Our data revealed that there’s a lack of content infrastructure across the board, with 51% of respondents noting their business does not have a common database of company-approved content.

When you have a connected content ecosystem, it allows for the entire workforce — whether remote or not — to better align on brand standards and consistency. What’s more, it builds trust amongst employees that they have the tools necessary to quickly create high quality documents and focus on the work that matters to them most.

How do you think this might change the world?

That’s such a big and important question, and in my experience I truly believe that the future of work will revolve around content. Specifically, I think there are four truths that are shaping the role of content in business moving forward:

  • Content is everything. It’s your finalized new business pitch; the metadata that lives inside the document; the video that showcases your solution to prospects and the webpage it lives on. Because of this expansion of what content means, it can be increasingly challenging to navigate. Searching through enterprise repositories for the right document was once a difficult but possible task, but with the rise of digital technologies that all output and store enormous amounts of content and data, searching for content has become impossible. Content now needs to find people and workflows, not the other way around.
  • With improvements to business processes and technology, content creation points are multiplying by the second. Apps like Microsoft Word used to be the center of content creation, a singular platform for a disparate workflow. But today, content creation apps abound, and they need to seamlessly integrate with business workflow applications to support content creation as part of those workflows. Integrations that connect content to business workflows are now essential.
  • Regulatory requirements for organizations are on the rise. They put businesses under increasing pressure to ensure compliance across all employee-produced content, and these regulations are going to keep evolving and changing in the new digital HQ. To navigate this new landscape, businesses must invest in technology that can automate these steps and remove the onus of compliance from the employee.
  • Data needs to drive new content. Without data and measurement, content serves no real purpose. For far too long employees have had no insight into how well their content actually performs. Businesses need to use actionable data to inform their content strategy.

We like to call the manifestation of these truths content enablement, and we’re using that concept to drive the future of Templafy and document generation as a whole. Perhaps the most interesting parts of these truths are those that revolve around governance — we’re continuing to see more and more regulatory and security needs become priority for businesses around the globe, like GDPR and the upcoming expansion of the California Consumer Privacy Act.

Templafy solves for this by simplifying and standardizing the process of ensuring all business content is compliant with the latest regulations. Our technology enables businesses and their employees to feel confident that they’re up-to-date, allowing them to shift focus away from manual document governance to creating high-performing content that drives results.

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

Since Templafy launched in 2014, technology has certainly changed, but one thing has not: documents are the lifeblood of a business. As businesses create more content, it’s essential that there is a safe, easily accessible place to store everything. The cloud is that place.

In the age of document management, the list of benefits that the cloud offers businesses grows daily. Companies no longer have to feel constrained by the limitations and restrictions of in-house IT departments and all the overhead costs associated with staffing and resources. Taking into account how businesses are also growing quickly, a cloud-based solution allows for a fully scalable system that grows alongside a business.

While you could say that the ‘tipping point’ was the global pandemic, I’d also argue that the need for more automation and cloud-based solutions and platforms predate the last two years. Hybrid and remote workforces are not new concepts, but it’s fair to say that the pandemic has expedited the adoption of these ways of working. And when employees have easy access to the right tools, platforms and resources to create consistently on-brand business documents, everyone wins.

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

If I had to sum it up in one word, it would be education. The massive market we’re currently operating in was originally built by Microsoft. They trained the world on how to do business documents. Then Google came along and started to compete with them in terms of collaboration, but everyone more or less has been trained to think about business documents in the same way. Since Templafy is directly in the middle of the document creation process, we have a huge opportunity to solve problems for anyone and everyone who touches a business document.

For most organizations, to create a high-performing document each and every employee must have three things:

  • Knowledge of company guidelines to include correct branding and mandatory company data.
  • Time to navigate silos of company content and data.
  • Expertise in document compilation to create professional business documents efficiently.

However, very rarely do employees have all three of those things. Instead they take the easy route and grab the most accessible (instead of the most accurate) pieces of content available to build their documents. In fact, our recent data shows 87% of employees have used Google to search for a company image or logo to use in a piece of content or presentation. We like to say this kind of workflow is powered by “disconnected content,” and when work is dictated by that concept, organizations are unknowingly submitting to content anarchy, a world in which the unattractive combination of non-compliant business documents and plummeting employee efficiency reigns supreme.

This anarchy is only getting worse for two major reasons: the amount of content that is produced — sometimes hourly — is growing exponentially, and the number of systems and applications housing that content is also growing. So while most people probably feel like they have a good grasp on how to create content, most times it’s not nearly as efficient as it could be, meaning there is still a greater need to educate on the perils of disconnected content and content anarchy. One of the risks businesses face when they lack a solid content infrastructure is losing client trust: 93% of our panelists agreed that even small errors in final content can damage client trust. And with only 4% of content making it out into the world mistake-free, that puts your brand integrity in constant peril.

As a leading platform, it’s our responsibility to show businesses and employees what a new world driven by connected content can and should be. We have the proof that once the problem is identified and realized by businesses, adoption can happen seamlessly and quickly. It’s now just a matter of showing it to the world.

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

It’s difficult to pinpoint just one person, but I’ve learned a lot — and continue to learn — from the Templafy team. Specifically my co-founder Henrik Printzlau; I’m positive neither of us would be where we are without each other. Working with Henrik has been an incredible learning experience, and I’m forever thankful for and impressed by our ability to specialize in different things but come together to build the company.

I’m also constantly learning from Jesper Theill Eriksen, our CEO. He has taught me so much about how to successfully run a team and business, and I often find myself looking to him as an example of what good leadership looks like.

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

Throughout my career, I’ve always tried to focus on the ways I can have a direct, positive impact on the people around me. As such, I’ve always prioritized the growth of Templafy employees. My goal is that people will be able to look at their time at Templafy and say it’s where they learned the foundation for their career — how to work with people, push boundaries, build something meaningful, and create genuine connections.

Outside of Templafy, I work with local businesses within my Danish community to help advise and guide new entrepreneurs. This allows me to help other leaders avoid mistakes I made myself at the outset and mimic the growth and success Templafy has seen.

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

To be honest, I’m actually glad nobody told me anything before I started! I’ve always thought that I’ll figure things out as I go along — knowing too much at the beginning can make you overly cautious and nervous about all the possible bumps in the road. This can hold you back from moving forward and trying to accomplish those big, audacious goals. At the start of my career, I pictured myself as a bumblebee, flapping my wings as much as I could to fly and doing whatever I could to make things happen in the early days.

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 it comes to a larger movement, I always go back to what we are doing here at Templafy — document generation guided by content enablement. Connected and streamlined content allows people to free up time to do more impactful work and focus on the projects that really matter to them.

We want to build this movement to such a scale that we are enabling millions more people to spend less time on admin work and focus on more impactful work. Not only will this lead to happier workforces, but it also frees people up to focus on the things they’re passionate about — such as those big picture things like climate change, healthcare innovations, etc.

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

A mantra I’m always returning to is: “Avoid reinventing the wheel if it’s not necessary.” If there’s already a product or service out there that adequately solves a problem, chances are folks are not going to abandon what’s already working for something with your company’s name on it. It’s not worth producing something worse than what’s already been accepted as good.

You should always be looking to solve the next problem and fill gaps in the market. Push your innovation to the next level instead of just sticking to the status quo — this will help you exceed expectations and get a leg up on the competition.

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 🙂

In the future of work, businesses will rely on enabled content to get things done.

We’ve already intelligently connected entertainment content for consumers (i.e. Spotify, Netflix), so why not do the same for business applications? Content is exploding in organizations across the globe, and with this evolution, two truths will drive all future activity:

  1. Content must find people and workflows. Not the other way around.
  2. Content must report back on its whereabouts. The era of static content is over.

Templafy is spearheading this movement in business documents. We intelligently connect content to people and workflows by removing risk and allowing companies to do what they do best: drive business results.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Follow me on LinkedIn!

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


The Future Is Now: Christian Lund Of Templafy On How B9Creations’s Technological Innovation Will… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Meet The Disruptors: Amberly Allen Of Dealer Merchant Services On The Five Things You Need To Shake…

Meet The Disruptors: Amberly Allen Of Dealer Merchant Services On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

“Know your strengths and your weaknesses. I will tell you that I know what I’m good at. I know what my VP is good at. She knows what I’m not good at. And we are together to make sure our staff is “in the right seat on the bus.”

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

Amberly Allen started working in the automotive industry when she was 23. She has been recognized with many awards including but not limited to the INC 5000 2x, Top 40 or 40, Stevie Award winner for best entrepreneur, and Ernst and Young Winning Woman finalist. Over the past 18 years, she has worked with some of the best dealers in the country. Her two auto-centric businesses, DI Marketing, Inc and Dealer Merchant Services, have been nationally recognized for their fast growth. Her tenure, hard work, and innovation have allowed her to become among the most respected women in automotive.

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 selling direct mail to dealers when I was 23 and decided at 24 I could do it better and with more integrity — so I went out on my own and started a boutique marketing firm — DI Marketing. This was when I really fell in love with automotive and have sold nearly $40 million in marketing products since. I’ve worked with some of the best dealers in the industry and frankly some of the toughest — they only made me better. The entrepreneurs in the automotive industry are some of the strongest in any business: they know their numbers, they can outwork anyone, and are always focused on maximizing profitability. Several years ago, I learned about some significant legal and compliance changes affecting businesses across the country, specific to their credit card processing expenses, and I knew my dealers could benefit in a HUGE way but only if it was executed properly. I spent several years researching the law and handpicked a team with experience specifically in automotive with over 75 years combined years in the business.

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

First, the way that people pay for everything is changing! Second, businesses and their margins are diminishing quickly. There is a better way! Instead of a business raising its price for everyone, we can empower people with a choice in how they pay and an option to save. This is disruption at its finest. With our program, if somebody uses cash, check, or debit card, they shouldn’t have to pay as much as credit card paying customers because the cost of the good itself is different from the merchant.

Numbers tell all — we have grown 2000% in the past 12 months. My clients can save anywhere between $5,000 and $20,000 a month, which goes straight to their net profit. Some of our dealers have increased their minimum wage, improved their facilities, and hired more staff; an enormous way to help their local community. Plus, it gives their cash-paying customers the option to save as opposed to subsidizing those credit-paying customers. The disruption is the ability to empower customers with the choice and the transparency of their payment options.

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 direct mail company, I had the wrong phone number on one of my first direct mail campaigns. The phone number went to a plumbing company in an entirely different state — selling toilets — instead of to my car dealership. I was mortified, I immediately addressed it with both businesses and made it right. Biggest lesson: double and triple-check your work. And of course — always take care of your customer.

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 always seek counsel from entrepreneurs I respect, and I have always had a business coach. I am also lucky enough to be a third-generation entrepreneur and both my parents and grandparents have encouraged me to pursue my dream of starting my own business. When I told my dad I was going to go out on my own, I was only 24 — he understood that being an entrepreneur is not for the faint at heart. He asked me very seriously, “are you sure you want to do this?” And I was sure. Although he didn’t back me financially — I already had a plan for that — he did furnish my first office, it was really nothing to brag about. It was old, dusty, dirty furniture, but it at least got me through the first twelve months.

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 = change. In general, people don’t like change. In my opinion, positive disruption happens with transparency and the empowerment of choice. If the change only benefits one group or person, then it oftentimes is designed to help one party. I think it is important to clarify what your intentions are, with our program, this change benefits both the consumer and the business — as I like to say, “the tides rises all boats”. It’s also important to note that change is inevitable, as a business if you don’t face these changes head-on then you could be left behind. My direct mail company is a perfect example, direct mail has changed drastically, we had to adjust and include digital as a huge part of our portfolio as it has made a huge difference.

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

The #1. piece of advice I’ve ever been given in my life my mom taught me. Make sure I was financially stable and independent, especially if I was going to have kids. #2: There are going to be lots of failures. I had one CEO tell me about a “life extinguishing event” meaning when your business is threatened to be able to continue. Other than that, everything can be solved, but there are a lot of failures along the way. #3: Know your strengths and your weaknesses. I will tell you that I know what I’m good at. I know what my VP is good at. She knows what I’m not good at. And we are together to make sure our staff is “in the right seat on the bus.” #4 Know your numbers. Decide what impact areas are critical and measure them. This allows you to use those numbers to chart the path and change direction if needed. #5: Manage your time. Everyone says this — but this is the most valuable resource on the planet. My favorite author, the late Chet Holmes, author of the Ultimate Sales Machine writes about it in the first chapter of his book. We all have the same 24 hours, how are you going to maximize it? My team revisits this chapter EVERY SINGLE WEEK in our Monday morning meeting because it is a tool that can always be sharpened.

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

World domination! I have some philanthropic things I want to do next. My next project hopefully will be even bigger. I love automotive space, so I’d like to potentially stay there. Long term, I know it’s my life’s work to help women entrepreneurs.

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?

I am constantly in my audibles app, so as an avid audiobook listener, I can listen while I am driving or cleaning, or getting dressed. I mentioned before, The Ultimate Sales Machine by the late Chet Holmes is by far my favorite business book. I have read it several times and require my staff to read it also. Some of my other favorites: Super Attractor by Gabriel Bernstein, When life gives you Pears by Jeannie Gaffigan, Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey, The Woman I Wanted to Be by Diane von Furstenberg, The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor and so many more!! ProTip: make sure the author is the narrator, you can feel that passion of their story when they read it to you! I also follow the teachings of Abraham Hicks, which is all about creating the life that you want and where to put the energy focus.

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

Helen Keller, “life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”

I’ve had this quote in my life since I was a teenager. I believe that to be true. Being an entrepreneur is a high-risk, high reward type of an environment. And, you know, I love it. I wouldn’t have it any other 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. 🙂

I believe that micro entrepreneurialism is the way of the future, and the way people can improve their quality of life. People want freedom in their schedule, time being the most important resource, and if they can figure out what they are good at — they can capitalize on it. Fiverr is a perfect example of this. In this world of contract labor — whether it’s graphic design or artwork or music — they can sell themselves to their sphere of influence. I saw a woman that is making a great living doing face painting for kids’ birthday parties. The first step, figuring out what you are good at then having the confidence to sell it and the sky is the limit.

How can our readers follow you online?

https://www.linkedin.com/in/amberlyallen/ or www.dealermerchantservices.com

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


Meet The Disruptors: Amberly Allen Of Dealer Merchant Services On The Five Things You Need To Shake… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Meet The Disruptors: Colton Duncan of Forty5 Strategies On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up…

Meet The Disruptors: Colton Duncan of Forty5 Strategies On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

“Never let the enemy of good be great.” — This one has really stuck with me. When I am in the mood to really set off fireworks, I tend to take on a little too much and try and make a spectacle, resulting in a sloppy outcome.

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

Colton Duncan is one of the most effective political consultants under the age of 30. Despite his young age, he has quickly established himself as one of the most trusted strategists in the “America First” movement. He has worked for a number of successful companies and now runs his own firm.

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 always been interested in Politics and have worked in most fields in the industry in some way or another. Throughout college and in the earlier years of my career I learned the ins and outs of the trade, followed the very best and found myself with the most dreaded title in politics: Consulting.

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

The game completely changed in June of 2015 when President Trump disrupted the House of Cards that decades of incompetence and corruption had built. The Republican Strategists, Consultants and Industry Insiders of yester-year refuse to accept this reality and still try to maintain “Business as Usual.” Most of them advise their clients to play nice and stay out of the Culture War, when it is the very thing you must tap into to win.

Voters don’t care that you balanced the budget, they need you to validate their emotions. Good and bad. They need you to be saying what they are thinking. National Populism is a very underutilized tactic in politics. Wielded by the right people, it can restore a Country to greatness.

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?

One of the campaign ads I wrote and directed had the candidate shooting pigs out of a helicopter with an AR-15. Turns out his wife owns a Vegan Restaurant. Really made getting that ad approved difficult but a hilarious irony to look back on.

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?

Mentors are always there, if you know where to look. I’ll always be thankful to the party leaders that took a chance on me in college, the employers I had at the start of my career and the industry professionals I have met along the way. That kind of help, especially early on, isn’t forgotten and those relationships have all been maintained.

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 for the sake of disruption is bad, right? But only Psychopaths disrupt for fun. Everyone is going to believe their disruption is good. Whether it’s for an industry or a country, the rest of us just have to hope they are right.

We sat back and watched entire cities burn for an entire summer. The perpetrators certainly believed this “disruption” was justified in their pursuit of “Social Justice.” But in reality, lives were ruined. These folks did get one thing right; in today’s age, all that matters is the attention.

Conversely, that attention can and should be used for good. Court attention at all cost: an art that Donald Trump has mastered. Politicians, Causes and Movements should be as “disruptive” as possible to garner Media/Public attention. If the news is fake (which let’s be honest, it is) then you can spin whatever story your heart desires. Nothing is stopping you, in truth.

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) “Never let the enemy of good be great.”

This one has really stuck with me. When I am in the mood to really set off fireworks, I tend to take on a little too much and try and make a spectacle, resulting in a sloppy outcome.

2) “Tactics without Strategy is the noise before defeat.” -Sun Tzu

I read The Art of War by Sun Tzu my sophomore year of college and it has been one of my favorite books ever since. This quote is so important because it’s easy to get wrapped up in the day-to-day and lose sight of the big picture. If you don’t have a strategy, all your tactics will be for naught.

3) “It is easier to ask forgiveness than it is permission.”

You can do anything you want if you simply have the political willpower to do it. It’s as simple as that.

4) “Everything woke turns to crap” -President Donald Trump

Stay away from wokeism at all costs. It poisons everything it touches.

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

This is a great quote from Steve Jobs. It’s important to find something you’re passionate about and stick with it. If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.

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

Independent Journalists are really, really underutilized. The Industry should move away from relying so heavily on the Mainstream Media and Strategists should buddy up to some Meme pages, Podcasters and other independent news outlets. It’s a sleeping giant, ready for someone to come along and wake it up and organize it.

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

The 48 Laws of Power. It’s an amazing book that delves into the psychology of power. I highly recommend it to anyone looking to get ahead in their career or life in general.

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. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”

This quote is so relevant to me because I truly believe that if you don’t love what you do, you will never be successful. You have to be passionate about your work in order to be successful. And if you haven’t found your passion yet, keep looking!

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

I would love to see a National Populist Movement take over this Country. We need to stop being so afraid of offending people and start putting America First again. We need to take back our Culture and restore some semblance of normalcy. We need to remember that we are one Nation, under God, and indivisible.

How can our readers follow you online?

https://www.facebook.com/colton.duncan.37

https://mobile.twitter.com/@duncan_colton

https://www.instagram.com/duncancolton

https://ideamensch.com/colton-duncan/

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


Meet The Disruptors: Colton Duncan of Forty5 Strategies 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.

Alberto Jaen Of plus305 On Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Honesty instead of perfection. Brands need to welcome imperfection and earn the trust of people. Nobody expects you to be perfect but they do want you to be real.

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

Alberto Jaen is a Creative Director from Madrid who has lived in the US for over 10 years and has won 20+ international advertising awards. He worked as an Executive Creative Director for Revlon, Johnson & Johnson, P&G, Pepsi, Toyota, IKEA, or Orange Telecom among others at three of the biggest advertising agencies: BBDO, Leo Burnett and JWT NY. Before building his own purpose-led company, the Creative Impact Boutique plus305, he was also a Jury Member at the New York Festival. Now, he is the CEO & Creative Director at plus305.

In the last 20 years, he has worked for big brands around the world inspiring them to tell their story in an impactful way. He holds a B.A. in Advertising & PR. He is passionate about storytelling and humanizing brands through purpose- and value-based communication and serves on the Board of Voices for Children Foundation.

He is also a Co-Founder of the Zero Waste HULA App which won the Circular Economy Challenge of the UN in New York in 2020 and has been donated to those most in need, especially during Covid.

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

Probably seeing my father working in advertising. Going with him to the shootings of commercials opened the doors of storytelling to me. My mom is very creative, too, she cooks and paints very well, so I guess I grew up in an environment where coming up with ideas was part of our ‘every day’.

I worked at Leo Burnett, BBDO, and JWT New York. But in 2014, I quit my job in NYC and I founded the Social Impact Boutique plus305. I wanted to step out of big ad agencies. I wanted to create another approach to communication that inspires me and makes me feel good about what I do.

And then in 2016, I met my partner in life and business, Nadja Scherrer, working on the communication of a big tech company in Silicon Valley. We both had the same interests and vision of how we wanted to help make companies more conscious and hopefully make the world a little bit better. So, she joined plus305 as a partner and we started focusing on the Social Impact and Social Responsibility field.

It has been a challenging but beautiful journey, using our resources, experience, and talents to create a different narrative for organizations and help them walk the talk. Building a brand based on values and purpose, using creativity and culture transformation as the main tools.

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

One of the first clients I worked for was a beer brand. I had no experience at all. I was a trainee. I remember that I presented what I thought was a very cool idea. When I presented it to my superiors at the time, they looked at me asking if I noticed anything strange or wrong. I looked at it, and I said “actually, I feel it’s a very powerful ad, the headline is clever, the layout, the mix of colors”. They kept asking and testing me. Finally, I realized that the green colors we used are the ones of the main competitor of our client.

Since then, every time we get a new client, I make sure we are doing like a PhD in that industry. We study, observe, and analyze the category and all the competitors’ communication. That ad was never presented to the client but taught me a big lesson.

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

When we started to focus on corporate social responsibility and social impact back in 2016, many people didn’t even know what we were talking about in the meetings. It definitely was not a priority for businesses. plus305 exists to elevate the purpose of brands with meaningful creativity and innovation. We develop creative solutions to business challenges, connecting them to culture, grounded in purpose. We believe in a holistic approach to sustainability that trickles down into all areas of the business and is integrated into the overall mission of the business.

We strategize, implement, and connect impact to brand purpose, value-based communication, and Employer Branding to generate real impact and ROI. We curate the culture change necessary to become a truly sustainable, equitable, and inclusive company. And finally, we will help you write your sustainability story before someone else will through a customized PR strategy and messaging curation.

We work on projects that last from 1 month to a year or more, always keeping the long-term vision in mind. We’ve been working with innovative start-ups, multibillion corporations, and Foundations. And we can say that any organization needs to connect to its audience in a real and genuine way. That is why we stand out, it’s a very different approach to marketing and business in general.

A story… well, now I remember a beautiful one. It was a big client, like a huge one. The opportunity was big at the time. We proposed to detach from everything they did before and to film a documentary. To build the brand values, focused on real people. They’ve never done that before and it was almost scary for them. We insisted, we wanted to communicate the message but also to create a real social impact. The conversations continued for a couple of months. Finally, they gave us the green light. We filmed in Florida: it was a beautiful story about a fireman, Andy, and his daughter. We worked hard for weeks. We couldn’t present in person. When they were presenting the short documentary, one of the top guys sent a text telling us that the person in charge, who had worked there for 15 years, had been in tears when he had watched it. My first reaction was “oh my God, he hated it and we screwed it up big time… after insisting so much…”. Then he sent another text, “it’s the most beautiful piece he has ever seen in his entire career here”.

Sometimes you need to take risks. That it has not been done doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

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

We are currently about to launch the new campaign for Miami-Dade County to prevent and protect people from the increasing heat of Miami in the summer. It’s still a secret, so I cannot show it to you…

But it will be a very powerful campaign. We’re creating several pieces; the team worked hard to come up with a very creative concept that I think will stand out and make people conscious about the issue at hand.

This campaign aims to help people in Miami, especially the more vulnerable ones, to be conscious and take measures when the sun is up and the heat increases. It was a challenge because these kinds of campaigns are usually boring and full of paternalistic content telling people what to do. In this case, we did a twist, and the result is really interesting. It has become one of the best experiences of the year so far.

To be able to send this message in an original way, make it memorable and impactful, can save lives. That’s huge. If you think about that, it’s a big opportunity and a big responsibility at the same time.

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

Of course, if you don’t have a good product or service, people won’t buy you twice or not even once. But we’re living in a world where you can access one million products that do the same in just one click. Why will someone interact with yours? Because of the values that represent your brand. Latest studies show that more than 80% of people will change the product if the brand is aligned with their values. Which means that there’s no loyalty anymore. Why should I interact with your brand? We need to elevate the conversation, to build on purpose- and value-led communication.

If you solve a customer’s problem with technology and tactics alone, you’ll own that solution until someone improves the technology. If you solve the problem with brand values, it is untouchable. New generations aren’t paying for products or services anymore. They are paying for trust and transparency, two things that are very hard to fake or manufacture. The temptation to base your marketing on the tired cliché of knowing your customer better than they know themselves is a dangerous game to play these days. We need to stop using demographics and use psychographics instead because it does not matter any longer where you come from, what your sex or race is… the only thing that matters is what you believe in. People love brands that love them back. It’s simple.

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

The problem starts when a client says “well, we’ve always done it this way”. That sentence is dangerous. We always need to change to stay the same. Back in the days, marketing and advertising were the same. You could spend a lot of money in advertising, be everywhere, and you’ll sell accordingly. But the game has changed: now we’re exposed to between 6,000 to 10,000 ads per day. Consumers filter the messages; they have more power than ever before. So, what’s the key? Earning their attention. Don’t steal it. Empathy counts. Building relationships, not clicks. Treating the target with respect. It’s ok to market to a target but you build a relationship with a person. Your customers don’t care about your customer’s journey or your research, now we interact with consumers when, where and how they want.

We need brands that build culture, that give us a meaning and sense of belonging. People are worried about themselves; so as a brand, we cannot focus on messages that talk about ourselves all day long. People don’t buy Apple because Apple “believes people with passion can change the world”. People buy Apple because they want to see themselves as one of these people. People care about the way you make them feel. The emotional connection is with the brand, not the product. If tomorrow Apple creates a bank or a car, do you think that people would trust their new products? The answer is yes. So, while consistency is obviously one of the key elements of a brand, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t have to change.

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

I think that doing what you say you do, is a good way to start building a brand. The problem is that nowadays this is not enough. Brands should focus on:

  • Honesty instead of perfection. Brands need to welcome imperfection and earn the trust of people. Nobody expects you to be perfect but they do want you to be real.
  • Generating a continuous communication. Inform and connect, be consistent and avoid misunderstanding. The priority should be to foster dialogue.
  • Adopting a win-win-win mentality. Cooperating with stakeholders, sharing the same needs and vision, the same values. It’s important to be flexible and to be able to learn and adapt along the way.
  • Using empathy and transparency in our decisions. Brands depend on people; you can’t make people happy all the time but you can demonstrate that you really care. Being direct in your communication, honest and authentic, genuine. It’s important to do the things right, but it’s more important and difficult to do the right thing.
  • Using AI and data optimization to personalize messages, be more precise and accurate with each target you communicate to.

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

If you just allow me to mention one, I would say Patagonia. Their philosophy, honesty, and attitude are an example for so many. It’s not easy to be Patagonia. What they do and how they have been keeping it up for so long makes their brand play in another league. Many others have stepped in their footsteps, they were the pioneers. The way they see their business changes the business.

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

It’s bigger than sales, it’s about the value of the company. Studies show that 80 percent of consumers want to purchase a brand that reflects their values, and points to a corporate shift of emphasis from the appreciation and value of tangible assets to intangible assets. Intangible assets can be divided into two categories: reputation, intellectual property, and goodwill. Tangible assets would be land, inventory, property, and cash. According to the July 2020 Intangible Asset Market Value Study, in 1975 only 17 percent of all assets in the S&P 500 were considered intangible. As of 2020, 90 percent of all assets within the oft-cited stock market index are intangible. In other words, relationships matter more than ever. You need to build trustworthy brands that transcend your service. Emergency wins every time in the marketing department, fear is in all briefings. But Marketing and Communication need to evolve, create a long-term vision. The purpose of a business is to find a way of being that’s so meaningful that the fact that building a business is really hard is no longer relevant. If marketing doesn’t translate that, it’s worthless.

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

Forty years ago, 75% of adults in a country could be reached with three 60 second TV spots. Social media changed everything. The challenge is to keep the same message and a consistent communication in all the formats. The tone of voice of brands is the silent ambassador, it defines the personality. The voice should be unique, based on values and storytelling. Brands need to tell stories worth hearing. Social media and the internet allow us to connect with all ages, backgrounds, thoughts from around the world and latest studies show that interests, values, and beliefs cross demographic lines. That’s why we need to focus on a mindset instead of targeting demographics.

Social media is important for consistent communication. Believe it or not, but it gives credibility, makes you trustworthy. If you sign up on a website or app, on many occasions, they give you the option of verifying your identity through Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. So yes, it’s a tool that we need to use well to amplify our message and make it coherent. Furthermore, social media allows us to connect with our tribes in an efficient way and it allows us something even better: it helps our tribes to connect to themselves through us.

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

Actually, we already created such a movement! Its name is Not Self-Made. We patented the idea in the USA for clothing and we’re about to launch a series of events, conversations, and T-shirts.

In a world where being “self-made” is synonymous with success, in a world where there are lists of “self-made” millionaires, we asked ourselves: is this really a reflection of real life? Has anybody come to this world knowing everything or getting anywhere without any help? Is that the message we want to send to new generations who maybe have no contacts or favorable situations? Being “self-made” is a myth. Nobody is self-made, and even less someone who becomes successful in whatever they do.

That’s why we created “Not Self-Made”. It’s a movement that brings a bit of humbleness and consciousness. We’ll create events to show how anyone needs someone at some point. Events where successful people will inspire us by telling their story and sharing who helped them to get to the top. Because when you share your story and thank the key people in your life, you allow other people to ask for help, but you also inspire other successful people to help.

A movement that fosters collaboration, that will talk about mentorship for young people and create more and more opportunities for everyone. We need less pressure from all these opinion leaders who promote the idea of “self-made”. And we need more people remembering who was supporting them when they were at the bottom.

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

It’s very difficult. I’m a life lessons collector ☺ I write, write, write, every time I see or hear something that is relevant or interesting. Well, that’s already one of the good lessons by the way: “If you want to remember something, write it down, don’t trust your memory!”.

But there are two others that come to my mind right now that are relevant and help me in many moments.

One is: “You’re never going to be ready”. This is a life lesson if you want to grow. You need to jump even when you don’t know how you’re going to survive. This is the way my siblings and I learned to swim. When we were 1 year old, the swimming coach threw us into the pool, and the body reacts, sends you up, you face up and stay horizontally on the surface. That is how you lose your fear of water and progress starts.

Another one is “To learn to manage frustration”. In business, this is key.

And now I remember one more that my mom always reminds us of: “take it day by day”. We tend to forget that life is a long run, and we try to rush everything. We need to enjoy the present. Sorry, I gave you four.

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

I love that question. It’s difficult… I would say two names, so maybe I get lucky with one of them.

Satya Nadella. What he did at Microsoft, his philosophy and culture based on values are an example for many big organizations. I love his vision, his respect for others and his business decisions so far.

And Phil Jackson. I’m an NBA fan and I have followed him since he was the Bulls’ coach. His way of approaching the game and competitiveness, his way of seeing life, and his wisdom, have had an influence on my way of leading my teams. I read his book and have watched his interviews for many years. What he has done is interesting to me as a leader.

I’ll send you a photo if one of them contacts me to have breakfast…

How can our readers follow you on social media?

https://www.linkedin.com/company/plus305/?viewAsMember=true

https://www.instagram.com/plus305/

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


Alberto Jaen Of plus305 On Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

James Jason of Notta AI On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Be confident in your ability to lead — To be a successful public speaker, confidence is essential. When you’re confident of your ability to inspire a crowd, it shows and it is contagious. This is when your presentation will be the most effective. Remember, everyone gets stage fright. You’re going to be nervous, but don’t let that keep you from doing a good job and presenting yourself as a confident public speaker. Many public speakers experience stage fright, but they don’t let it ruin their presentation. They do their best and the audience still experiences a great presentation. To be confident in your ability to inspire, remember that people want to listen to you. They want to hear your message, so inspire them! Be confident in your ability to inspire!

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 James Jason.

James Jason is the Founder and CEO of Notta AI. He built a company around a software that converts audio to text in a matter of seconds. In his day job, James is a SAAS provider enabling businesses to do more with less. He is a full-time entrepreneur that has a passion for language and technology.

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 South Dakota in the United States. When I was around 7 years old, my family and I moved to Minnesota. Growing up, I always wanted to help people through my writing and I was always interested in business and marketing. Like any other kid, I started growing up in my teenage years. I was shy and timid and didn’t have many friends. I felt like I was in my shell the whole time. I spent most of my time alone, reading books and watching TV. I had a small group of friends at school, but other than that, I felt alone.

I had a few jobs throughout high school that helped me realize all of the things I wanted to do when I graduated, so I applied to the University of Melbourne and got a degree in Software Development. When I got to college, I started to get more involved with different activities, such as volunteering, playing on a sports team, joining groups on campus and so on. I started making more friends and getting more involved with my community. It was in college that I started feeling like I actually belonged somewhere and that I truly had a home with my friends and my community.

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

In my early teens, I was often in front of a crowd. I was a young actor, and a class clown, and often found myself in embarrassing situations due to my lack of social judgement. However, I was also a great speaker and was constantly being asked to do stand-up bits at school and for local community events. Eventually, I gave up on acting and found a job doing voice over work for advertisements. I was an overnight success and was soon flown around the world by large corporations to talk about the benefits of their products. Now I am a public speaking coach and mentor to many people.

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

This is the story of the first time I prepared a speech to an audience of a few hundred attendees of a conference. On that day, due to some personal issues, I was so nervous when I got up on stage and did not remember much of my speech despite having prepared all week for it. I suspected in my mind that this would be my worst speeches ever. To my surprise, though, the audience was so engaged and the room was full of positive energy. They seemed to enjoy everything I said when I really thought my speech was boring and unconnected. It was It was such a great experience! I learned how to be more confident and how to handle a stressful situation. The audience gave me a lot of positive feedback, and I found this experience to be very lucrative to my career. I always refer back to it whenever I feel low or demotivated.

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?

One time I was when I was supposed to give a public speech, I recalled too late that I had left my notes at home! As soon as it was my time to speak, I mumbled a few words then asked the audience if they wanted to hear about my favorite song or about the thing I was supposed to talk about. They were all like “yea, go on!”. I told them I was going to sing it and started to sing the song but I kept on forgetting the lyrics so I just kept on singing the chorus. Double tragedy! I felt super embarrassed but they all thought it was hilarious. I guess they had a good time watching a person sing a song he wasn’t familiar with and forget the lyrics.

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 always thank my father for helping me become a public speaker. Without his help, I would never have found out how much I enjoyed talking to large groups of people and sharing my ideas with them. He helped me through my period of shyness and gave me the motivation to tell my story to others.

My father helped me develop a personality that was stronger, more confident, and more outgoing. He made me feel comfortable in the spotlight. He let me do the speaking for him at family functions, so I could get used to being in front of a crowd of people. He also gave me examples of how to get people interested in what you’re saying, so I could find my own style. My father is also a role model, like many fathers are, that I can look up to.

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?

People who want to become public speakers but fear failure often lack confidence. They fill their minds with fear of speaking in front of people so that they don’t take the chance and make themselves feel inadequate. My advice for people who want to become public speakers but fear failure is to speak as often as possible, at every opportunity. The only way to get over your fear of public speaking is to practice, practice, practice!

If you want to become a public speaker you need to make sure that you’ve got the right skills for this type of work. Public speaking is all about communication and you can learn many techniques to communicate efficiently and effectively. It’s important to practice your speech even before the event and make sure to give a varied speech. You need to have different stories and examples to keep people on their toes and to hold their interest. You have to have passion when it comes to public speaking and if you don’t then it’s better if you find something else.

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?

What drives me to wake up every morning and give speeches is to help others. So many people in the world are lost and it’s up to us to take action as much as we can to help them. One of the best ways to provide aid is through encouraging words and sharing our experiences. I’ve found that even the most cynical person can be brought out of their shell if you share your enthusiasm and show them it’s possible! You never know when you might inspire someone to take action!

I have a simple message, but it is one that has changed my life: talk to someone. That includes the stranger you pass on the street and the coworkers in the office. Your words might be the ones they need to hear to make a change in their lives. They might help them through a hard time or guide them on the right path. You never know how much your words might mean to someone else. So go out and help someone, talk to them and make their lives better as my words have done for me.

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?

Since I was young, I’ve always been interested in technology. As I grew older, I was fascinated by the idea of converting speech to text. It’s something that I’ve worked on for many years and have finally decided to share my project with the world! The app is called Notta and I believe it is one of the first apps that does what it does. After I had the idea and began creating a prototype, I was able to build it into an app that quickly and easily converts speech to text. I fell in love with this project. This app is truly revolutionary and I know that it is going to do well.

In the future, I want to create an application that will help public speakers to prepare great speeches. The point of this application is to enable speech writers to make sure their speeches are not only accurate and grammatically sound but also that they are interesting for their audience and easy to read. Their speech will be parsed by intelligent AI and will get a score. This score will indicate to the speech writer if the speech is in need of revision or if it is excellent and ready to be used in a real-life speech.

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

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” That’s one of my favorite quotes and is important to me because it reminds me to always plan ahead. For example, if you have a speech coming up, plan out what you’re going to say, how you’re going to say it, and what props or aids you’ll have on hand to help the audience understand the topic and take action!

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.

Tip #1 Be confident in your ability to lead

To be a successful public speaker, confidence is essential. When you’re confident of your ability to inspire a crowd, it shows and it is contagious. This is when your presentation will be the most effective. Remember, everyone gets stage fright. You’re going to be nervous, but don’t let that keep you from doing a good job and presenting yourself as a confident public speaker. Many public speakers experience stage fright, but they don’t let it ruin their presentation. They do their best and the audience still experiences a great presentation. To be confident in your ability to inspire, remember that people want to listen to you. They want to hear your message, so inspire them! Be confident in your ability to inspire!

I show confidence as a public speaker by speaking loudly and moving my hands and body. I used to be afraid of public speaking, but now I can talk to a crowd of people as if they were all friends. I have even built public speaking skill enough to give a speech. I used to be afraid of public speaking, but now I can talk to a crowd of people as if they were all friends. I have even built public speaking skill enough to give a speech.

Tip #2 Always write down your thoughts

If you want to be a successful public speaker, make sure that you write down your thoughts and memorize them. This will allow you to go over your speech while you’re practicing it. It also helps you to avoid going blank or getting nervous while you’re in front of the audience.

The next step is to practice with a trusted friend or a small group. Once you’re comfortable with it, you can practice in front of a mirror. This is a great way to find out anything that you may have missed so you can go over it and polish it. You can also practice on your own time and when you feel comfortable with your speech, you can deliver it in front of an audience.

I write down my thoughts as a public speaker by two means, either by creating diagrams or dictating my thoughts into a recorder. My preferred method is creating diagrams, as they allow me to build a structure of my thoughts and process it in an orderly fashion. This method also allows me to spend more time focusing on my thoughts and process it more fluidly rather than trying to write it all down as I go.

Tip #3 Involve other people in your speech creation

When it comes to public speaking, the best way to improve is to practice. As you practice a speech, make sure to involve others in your speech’s creation. If you find yourself struggling with a part of your speech, ask someone else for feedback. They may be able to give you the motivation you need to get it done! One of the best ways to do this is to involve a friend or family member in the process. The more people you get to read through your speech, the better. Their input will make all the difference as to how well your speech will be delivered and received.

As a public speaker, I enjoy it when I get to incorporate the audience into my speeches. It helps build a more interactive environment. I know that I’m more engaging when I incorporate my audience’s thoughts and feelings. When I’m working on a speech, I’ll often have an idea or topic in mind and then share that idea with my audience. I’ll ask them what they think or what they would add to the topic. Sometimes they’ll give me an idea that inspires a whole new speech!

Tip #4 Perceive the crowd as your best friend or closest person

Public speaking can be a nerve-racking experience. Even experienced speakers can feel jittery from time to time, before or during a presentation. The best way to deal with this feeling is by speaking to a friend or family member as if you were having a conversation with them. Imagine that you are talking to someone you’re comfortable with and keep in mind that you are speaking to a large group of people, not just the person you are speaking to. By using this technique, you will be able to relax and speak more confidently. When you talk with family and friends, you don’t hold back any of your feelings or emotions. You talk to them as if they’re right there in front of you, looking into their eyes. It’s this kind of tone that you should take to being a public speaker. It’s essential to maintain eye contact with the audience while you’re talking and make sure you’re putting the same effort into speech as you would if someone was right there in front of you.

I treat the audience as if they were my best friends. It’s a lot easier to speak to your friends because then you’ll feel a lot more comfortable and have an easy time being yourself and thinking of things to say. If you’re giving a speech and don’t feel happy or excited to talk to the audience, then it’s because of a lack of connection with the audience member.

Tip #5 Practice daily

To become a good public speaker, it takes lots of practice. I started by taking public speaking classes, but I soon realized that I still wasn’t ready. I started improving my skills by joining a debate club. I then took a class at the local library on public speaking. I noticed that I was a much better speaker being in front of a class than just speaking to a stranger. It was because of the class that improved my speaking ability and I can now speak to anyone. I have perfected my skills so well that I am able to make a speech at any public place. When public speaking, it is a good idea to memorize the speech and practice it over and over. Practice as much as you can. I practice every single day before every event I speak at.

Practicing in front of a mirror is always a great way of preparing for my speeches. First, I need to know what I’m going to say and practice the proper way to say each sentence; Then, I practice with your pacing. While some people may have a better way that works for them, the most important part is to speak at a comfortable pace and not have a script that is too long, so you don’t lose the attention of your audience.

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 once had stage fright and it’s not easy, but it’s something that can be overcome with time and practice. Whenever I was called on to speak in class, I’d go out of my way to make excuses to get out of it. I’d try to find any reason to avoid speaking to the class, because I was afraid that I’d fumble over my words and look like an idiot in front of everyone. It was especially hard if I wasn’t prepared for the presentation. In fact, I would much rather stare at a presentation someone else had made than make one of my own. I know that might sound strange, but the expectations I put on myself were just too much to handle. I felt like I had to put on a performance and I was always worried that I wouldn’t be able to deliver. In short, if anyone really wants to overcome this fear, practice and time are the surest hacks.

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?

If I could inspire a movement, it would be inspiring people to be kinder to one another in an already tough world. It’s amazing how many people are quick to judge others, rather than build each other up. Kindness is truly infectious, so it’s never too late to change the world! You can start small, by being extra kind towards those you come in contact with on a day-to-day basis. If you see someone struggling with a heavy object, offer to help! The person will be so thankful and you will feel good about helping them out. For example, If you have time, you can even volunteer your time at a local shelter. Volunteering is always a rewarding experience, and I’m sure you will leave inspired to continue to spread kindness!

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 admire Esther for her standup comedy, her acting and her TV personality. But my main admiration for her is that she always seems to be herself, cracking jokes and seemly oblivious to what’s considered “normal.” She’s really just an icon of a strong woman. I admire how funny, kind and generally nice people think she is. She seems like a person who would make you feel comfortable and safe, regardless of who you are. I think what she’s achieved in the entertainment industry is remarkable, especially considering it’s a man’s world. she’s a great actress who’s had a very interesting life, and i think she would be a great person to talk to.

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

People can reach me on LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/james-jason-2a2494239/

They can also find me via email at james@notta.ai

I am also available via my website which showcases my auto-transcription application here: https://www.notta.ai/en/home

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


James Jason of Notta AI 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.