Personal Brand Strategist Amanda Melissa : Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved…

Personal Brand Strategist Amanda Melissa: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Build a community — From McDonald’s to Amazon they all have the loyal fans who trust them and buy no matter what. Think of building a community online like a softball or soccer team. What do your teammates know about you that no one else knows? Do your teammates have the same beliefs and values as you? And remember you build a community with one to one relationships, it might take awhile but it is so worth it.

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

Amanda Melissa is a personal brand strategist for women coaches and service providers who want to attract the right clients using social media. She helped her client go from zero online sales to earring $30k in 30 days. Her mission is to help women grow authentic and influential personal brands so that they can create more impact in their industry and earn more money.

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

Absolutely! I worked in corporate marketing after college. Then on the weekends I did freelance social media management for small businesses. But what I learned from talking to so many business owners, was that so many wanted to go viral but so many didn’t have a message. When I asked them what made them different they didn’t know. That’s why I saw the need to help women business owners work on their brand and discover what makes them unique instead of only focusing on the vanity metrics. Because when you can clearly communicate your brand message it’s a lot easier to hire a team, save money on ads, and save time and stress by having a simple marketing strategy.

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?

Ohh yes! The funniest marketing mistake was being scared to put myself out there and record videos. I came from working in corporate marketing so I was never in the videos, I just had to record and post. So being a business owner, I had to also put myself out there despite feeling imposter syndrome. The reason why this is funny is because that’s exactly I how I help my clients. I help them be confident with feeling seen and putting themself out there. I learned that this is exactly what my clients go through and I know what it’s like to feel scared of feeling seen, but ultimately what I’ve learned is that visibility is your responsibility as a business owner.

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

Growing up I always knew I wanted to be in marketing but it wasn’t until I started interviewing that I noticed that I didn’t see very many Latina’s in the industry. Every interview I went to the teams were filled with “bro marketers.” So as a strategist what makes me stand out is that I’m Latina and I lead with my feminine energy instead of masculine.

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

The biggest project I have now is working with clients who want to be influential in their industry. For instance I’m working with a money coach who wants to make sure women get clarity on their money moves and personality that way they can better learn to manage their money in their life whether they are navigating sticky relationships, difficult family life, or unstable jobs. She is really helping women with their money and so it’s full circle. If I help my clients get visible online they help other people with their service.

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

I love this question! Product marketing is so much easier because you can literally film a banana and the different recipes you can use with it, and then people will want to go out and buy a banana. But brand marketing is when you create a community that is loyal to you. So if you have an email list who is always opening up every email you send because they love the content, that is brand marketing. You are creating the right brand messages to earn awareness and gain community that will buy from you.

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?

Yes! I help provide brand clarity to my clients by strategizing their message, target audience, and content strategy. And building a brand is so important because if you invest in a podcast, social media content, and email list, it’s very hard to stay on brand with all the things unless you have brand clarity. Investing into your brand clarity affects your lead generation strategy, content strategy, hiring/outsourcing, sales, and marketing. A past client came to me after spending almost $30K in 3 years on Facebook ads and they realized that it didn’t result in any sales. And that’s why it’s so important to invest in your brand that way it saves you a ton of money and time. Not too mention it will be able to help you communicate to your marketing team your vision and then they will all speak the same language whether it’s ads or a podcast.

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. Get clarity around the message you are sending — ask yourself from your audience’s perspective would you clearly understand how you are different than the competition?! Is it easy for them to understand what you do and who you do it for?
  2. Build a community — From McDonald’s to Amazon they all have the loyal fans who trust them and buy no matter what. Think of building a community online like a softball or soccer team. What do your teammates know about you that no one else knows? Do your teammates have the same beliefs and values as you? And remember you build a community with one to one relationships, it might take awhile but it is so worth it.
  3. Share stories that relate to your audience — What was your favorite story as a child? And what was the overall message you learned from it? Let’s say for example you learned how to make friends from the story. This is a prime example about what you need to showcase to your audience.Tell the story about why you are passionate about what you do, or the story about the biggest challenges you had to overcome as it relates to your audience and what your personal brand is about.
  4. Be vulnerable — Every personal brand shares their vulnerabilities but only as it relates to their audience. What struggles have you gone through that you share with your target audience? If you are a CEO of a health company and let’s say you sell protein bars, share a vulnerable story that way you audience can connect with you. Did you love chocolate as a kid and that’s why you had to create the best chocolate protein bar? Or did you create the best pie protein bar because you secretly eat pie any time of the year and not just on holidays? Be vulnerable but only as it relates to your audience and the service and product you are selling to them.
  5. Use video — I started a podcast for my brand and it was amazing but I learned it was easier for me to connect with my audience when I was on video. Video is one of the easiest ways to build trust. That’s why there are more YouTube stars vs. Instagram stars. Focus on delivering a clear message over video and it will be so much easier and faster to build trust and a believable brand.

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

One of the best brands right now is JLO’s. She is beloved by the Latinx community and they stay loyal to her by watching her movies, buying her music, and wearing her clothes. One thing I love that she is doing is she is moving her social media followers to her email list, that way they are the first to know about music, movies, or brands she is involved with. I love this because she also knows she can’t ever buy her followers but she can own an email list. Her brand is secure because she can spread messages about what is important to her and they obviously want to be a part of it and will buy from her. Her brand has also lasted for over 20 years and is beloved by women all over the world. The best thing you can replicate is to notice that building a brand takes time, but it’s important to stay the course and keep building fans that love you.

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?

A brand building campaign is like McDonald ads. Their ads aren’t saying go buy our hamburgers they are saying if you buy our hamburgers we promise you will be happy and love it. They are building a community who wants to be happy after eating at McDonald’s. So if I were to define it a brand campaign is how you can emotionally connect with your target audience so that they can be part of your community and eventually buy from you.

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

Social media is a big part of it because it’s a great way to build community and brand visibility. But the other component is email content. Having your own email list is key because we can’t own our followers like you can own an email list. My philosophy is using social media to grow my client’s email list.

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

I want to inspire other Latina’s to start their business and to build their dream life by being themself. I think too often in the Latinx community we want to please our family and friends but we forget to focus on our own dreams instead of fulfilling everyone else’s.

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

My favorite mantra is keep it simple. I think too many times as entrepreneurs we try to overcomplicate things. I’m all about seeing the big picture and making it simple. If we make things simple it’s a lot easier to take action and implement.

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 would love to have lunch with JLO. I think she is so inspiring as a Latina and she is multi-passionate and able to juggle so many projects and still build a successful brand. I think it’s amazing that she has been able to adapt and grow a social media following and stay in tune with her audience for over 20 years.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Follow me on Instagram at @amandamelissa.co and TikTok at @amandamelissa.c

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

Thank you so much! I appreciate it.


Personal Brand Strategist Amanda Melissa : Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Silke Muenster Of Philip Morris International: How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Access to the broadest talent pool.

Given the challenges ahead of us we need access to a broad talent pool, we need the right people with the right skill set on the job regardless of their gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or disability. We cannot afford to leave great talents out because of them being members of an underrepresented group. Especially younger generations who take a close look at the DE&I agenda of future employers.

As a part of our series about “How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Silke Muenster, CDO, Philip Morris International.

Silke was appointed Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) at Philip Morris International (PMI) in March 2020 — a newly-created role reporting directly to the CEO. She joined PMI in 2011, where she was director, Market and Consumer Research until 2012 when she became vice president, Market Research.

At PMI, she is known for being incredibly proactive on inclusion and diversity (I&D) — she is a coach and mentor to other women, has built a women’s network at PMI and prior to her current role, worked closely with senior leaders across the organization on workplace strategies and tactics to advance I&D. Over the past months, she has successfully expanded the focus of the company’s I&D strategy and established a number of global Employee Resources Groups (including on gender, race and ethnicity, and LGBTQ+ inclusion) with the purpose of creating a space for community and connection among employees, and to foster a sense of belonging, visibility, and greater understanding of different experiences and dimensions of diversity at PMI.

Prior to PMI, she led research roles at the Coca-Cola Company, Apollinaris & Schweppes and Marbert Kosmetik. She began her career at Research International after earning her degree in mathematics from Ruhr University, Bochum in Germany.

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

I began my career at a Market Research agency called Research International owned by Unilever, shortly after earning a degree in mathematics from Ruhr University in Germany. I subsequently spent more than 30 years in market research, marketing, and strategic planning roles for several companies including Coca-Cola. At Philip Morris International (PMI), I led market research until I was appointed to the newly-created role of Chief Diversity Officer in 2020.

I’ve been passionate about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) initiatives throughout my career, coaching and mentoring several female colleagues. As a working mother of three sons and a mathematician by trade, I’m no stranger to being the only woman in the room. This would often make me feel isolated and unwelcome. That’s why, in my current role, I’m committed to cultivating an environment that enables everybody to feel the joy of belonging to a workforce that celebrates individuals and encourages all perspectives.

I have a two-year-old granddaughter, and I’m determined to help pave an easier path for her and future generations.

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

Unfortunately, I can’t share most of the funny stories but my takeaway is that a lot of failures become funny stories in hindsight. It is always good to remember that what seems to be a drama today is something you might laugh about in a couple of years.

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

“The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.” Lieutenant General David Morrison, retired senior officer in the Australian Army.

To sustainably and rapidly drive progress, we cannot only rely on leaders to foster workplace inclusion. Everybody has a role to play, which is what Lieutenant General David Morrison’s alludes to. We need to drive education and awareness to establish an environment where microaggressions and unfair treatment of others — because of gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, or any other diverse characteristic — are called out. Individuals who are willing to speak up in this way become allies, helping to influence the behavioral and attitudinal changes needed to achieve a workplace where everybody can be their best, true selves.

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?

The list of people who helped me to get me where I am is really long. I had many fantastic bosses during my career. Although interestingly enough, I had only two female managers, but they are the ones I am most grateful towards. They were my mentors and role models at the same time.

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

I believe we stand out because we’re walking the talk of change and progress. In 2019, PMI became the first multinational company to receive the global EQUAL-SALARY certification from the independent not-for-profit EQUAL-SALARY Foundation — confirming that we pay men and women equally for equal work in the 90-plus countries where we operate. In May 2022, we were global EQUAL-SALARY re-certified. Recently, we also reached our global company-wide target of at least 40% female representation in managerial roles by the end of 2022. This was an important step in our efforts to improve gender balance at PMI, and I’m delighted that we achieved this goal ahead of time. But, of course, we still have a long way to go — so it’s critical we continue to drive progress. Our next aim to foster gender balance in our organization is to achieve 35% of women in senior roles by 2025.

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

We recently announced the results of our cutting-edge “Inclusive Future” study, which explores how businesses can measure inclusion and foster a culture of equity and belongingness. The publication of the study follows a yearlong academic research project conducted independently by the International Institute for Management Development (IMD). It examined a broad range of qualitative and quantitative approaches and practices that organizations can implement to drive organizational change in this vital area.

The project investigated the impacts of Covid-19, Black Lives Matter, MeToo, and socio-economic disparities on inclusion and inclusive leadership, highlighting the need for a more comprehensive measurement approach that examines all six key dimensions of inclusion: psychological safety, uniqueness, fairness, participation, belonging, and authenticity.

It also recommended the Inclusion Net Promotor Score (iNPS), a practical new pulse tool that we’re currently piloting to measure inclusion using a single question.

This pioneering research provides PMI — and other companies — with a broad range of methods and tools to help foster a culture where everyone is accepted and celebrated for who they are.

We’re only at the beginning of our journey. But step-by-step, we’re building an organization where every employee feels able to bring their best, authentic selves to work.

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

Fairness is one of the most important values one can have in my opinion. Over the years, I have spoken up whenever I noticed something that wasn’t right, or unfair, whether that be at work or in general. I have been a mentor to many people especially women and in my current role I have the opportunity to make sure that at PMI we use our influence to bring change to the world, especially when it comes to DE&I.

Let’s now jump to the main part of our interview. This may be obvious to you, but it is not intuitive to many people. Can you articulate to our readers five ways that increased diversity can help a company’s bottom line?

  1. Driving creativity and innovation.

An inclusive and diverse organization cultivates an environment where creativity and innovation can flourish, driving a company’s ambitions. At PMI, our ultimate goal is to deliver a smoke-free future. This means we are transforming from a traditional manufacturing and distribution business with a single product line to a science and technology leader in smoke-free products that are a much better choice for the millions of men and women who would otherwise continue to smoke. To achieve this, we need to unlock the full potential of all. That’s why building a truly diverse and inclusive organization is so pivotal to our success.

2. Driving consumer centricity.

At PMI, a diverse workforce that represents the consumers we serve is critical. In order to better understand the needs of our global consumers, we need inclusion and diversity. Women make up half the world’s intelligence and university graduates, influencing 60–70% of today’s consumer spend — so tapping into this talent pool to better reflect the needs of our consumers is a business must. That’s why we are committed to closing our gender gap at PMI.

3. Access to the broadest talent pool.

Given the challenges ahead of us we need access to a broad talent pool, we need the right people with the right skill set on the job regardless of their gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or disability. We cannot afford to leave great talents out because of them being members of an underrepresented group. Especially younger generations who take a close look at the DE&I agenda of future employers.

4. Consumer expectation.

In today´s world consumers expect brands to have a point of view and companies to act responsibly. Creating a diverse and inclusive culture is simply the right thing to do — for our employees and for society. We have a duty to lead by example and we’re committed to building an inclusive culture that enables each employee to contribute their best work.

5. Stakeholder expectation.

There’s a growing expectation for companies to ensure their workplaces reflect the full diversity of their consumers and society, as well as contribute to a fairer, more equitable world. This expectation gained momentum during the global pandemic, which brought systemic inequalities and deep societal divisions to the forefront of the public agenda. Businesses have a responsibility to help address these chasms and deliver a better, fairer world for everyone.

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

Employees can be their best, true, thriving selves when organizations provide them with a psychologically safe environment — the backbone of an inclusive culture. The best way to ascertain if a company is truly inclusive is to measure it — because what gets measured gets done. By strengthening their methods of measuring inclusion, companies can better foster a culture of belongingness. Business leaders should encourage their employees to get involved in DE&I discussions. This will enable employees to experience that vital sense and joy of belonging, giving them the confidence and safety to speak up, ideate, create, innovate, and reap the personal and professional benefits of a fully inclusive culture.

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

It’s important to understand that, for a multinational company like PMI, our DE&I activities won’t work for every cultural group. For instance, what resonates for people in Western Europe may not for people in Asia, and vice versa. That’s why we embarked on our “Inclusive Future” deep dive in the first place — to better understand the nuances that exist and, in turn, developing new tools to tailor our initiatives. This will enable us to pilot activities in specific geographies. As businesses leaders, we have a responsibility to act, to measure, to identify, and to address any issues around inclusion that may exist. Then we must respond with precision and purpose to foster work cultures that celebrate, value, and include everyone equally.

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

Given I am an extroverted and very curious person there is a long list of people I would love to meet! The top three on the list are Jason Sudeikis, as I am a real Ted Lasso fan and love the way they weaved inclusion topics into a TV series. Next one is of course Brenée Brown, I love her books, podcasts and speeches and I imagine her to be fun in a meeting! And the third one is Sam Harris, as I am doing his guided meditations, and I have one million questions — still.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

For a more comprehensive overview of our Inclusion & Diversity work, please visit the I&D section of our website: https://www.pmi.com/inclusion-diversity. Readers can also learn more about our “Inclusive Future” initiative here: https://www.pmi.com/inclusion-diversity/inclusive-future

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


Silke Muenster Of Philip Morris International: How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Meet The Disruptors: Sung Vivathana Of SpotOn Fence On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your…

Meet The Disruptors: Sung Vivathana Of SpotOn Fence On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Don’t be afraid to open yourself up to criticism or questioning. Part of learning and growing is questioning what you think is best and having others do the same. You’re not always right.

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

Sung Vivathana is Vice President of Engineering at SpotOn Fence, where he not only leads all technical aspects of engineering, product, and app development, but also invented GPS fencing technology itself. Sung’s experience developing extremely complex electronic systems ranges from commercial power supplies to life-saving electronic equipment used by the U.S. military. His unique perspective of making precision devices that must perform in any and every circumstance drives the accuracy and reliability for which SpotOn GPS Fence is known.

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 began my career, upon graduating from Widener University, as an electrical engineer. In 2007, I started working at InSight Technology with Ken Solinsky, developing and manufacturing advanced night vision and electro-optical systems for the U.S. military.

In 2010, InSight Technology was acquired by L3 Technologies and I stayed on until 2013, when I accepted a position with Optics 1, an electro-optical systems company in the defense industry.

Ken approached me with an idea: a truly wireless pet containment system. In 2015, I became SpotOn Fence’s first employee.

It was the first time I had ever developed a consumer product. My first working prototype was a series of boards and chips on a lunch-tray-sized piece of plywood.

For months, I’d stitched together printed circuit boards and developed custom software to process GPS signals. Imagine us carrying these big trays outside, creating virtual fences, and testing boundaries — in both summer humidity and winter snow. We’d let dogs roam and put down tape measures to collect statistical data and gauge accuracy.

Problems cropped up, like getting it to work under a tree canopy, where the signals were weaker, designing the collar so that the GPS antenna always faced up, and miniaturizing the technology so that it would work on smaller dogs. It was a lot of trial and error.

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

Before SpotOn, the concept of keeping pets contained in a virtual fence had never been successfully executed and there was no product that both kept your pet contained and let you know if it escaped. We’ve invented a multi-patented technology and applied it to the invisible fence — a system that had not been changed or upgraded in 40 years.

The SpotOn system is more accurate than the GPS on your smartphone or watch. By using a relatively large active antenna with high sensitivity to improve signal strength, and inertial navigation micro-electromechanical system (MEMS) components, such as three-axis accelerometers, magnetometers and gyroscopes, it provides additional movement information and corrects for possible satellite position errors. Most smartphones and watches use GPS only and non-active chip antennas for compact size.

This augmented GPS had never been used before in the consumer tech space, in which the only development had been pet trackers that use GPS and cell service. These devices aren’t very accurate and don’t update location frequently.

Our device is the first to have accuracy within 10 feet and update location every six seconds by using GPS data and triangulating with information from the European Galileo system, the Chinese BeiDou and the Russian GLONASS.

With this accuracy, SpotOn allows for greater flexibility than any other fence. Since you walk the boundary line, you can make the fence wherever you need it — even through water.

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 our early development stages, I quickly learned that we should not be testing outside in hilly areas in the middle of winter. Once, we built a fence on a hillside with snow and ice. While testing, I slipped and the board flew up in the air, crash-landed and broke. That board took me months to make and was gone in an instant.

Another lesson was not to perform prototype testing in busy public areas. You get a lot of funny looks and questions when you’re holding a lunch tray full of electronics on your head.

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?

John Mason from Sunrise Labs was a good sounding board during development. We would talk through all the innovative things we needed to make this technology work and spent a year and a half directly developing concepts together that are now patented. He was knowledgeable and personable, and we worked very well together to create a solution that has the potential for a great market.

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 always good to positively impact people’s lives, but there can be unintended, ‘not so positive’ consequences. Electric vehicles and solar panels are an example of this. While providing an alternative to combustible energy, a lot of the processes of developing and manufacturing “green” technology can have the unintended consequence of contributing to other environmental issues.

As we developed SpotOn to offer users flexibility, portability and customization of a fence, something that was always fixed and inflexible, we took extra steps to minimize any unintended consequences. For example, we conducted Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) testing of the product, something required for humans, but not dogs.

We also sourced and manufactured in the U.S., where possible, to create jobs, have better control of our supply chain, and be less dependent on offshore components.

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

For me, there are three that really stand out.

  1. Never give up. When inventing a product, there can be so many “worst of times” moments and external dependencies that you can’t control. Being an inventor and running a startup can be so overwhelming that it becomes easy to focus on the things that go wrong. Instead, try to focus on the little victories, on what you can control, and never stop trying.
  2. Surround yourself with positive people. If you are feeling down or low, surround yourself with others who can pick you up. Optimism helps to get through the worst days. When you feel like you will never meet your goals, a good team can really help flip your outlook.
  3. Don’t be afraid to open yourself up to criticism or questioning. Part of learning and growing is questioning what you think is best and having others do the same. You’re not always right.

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

I am going to continue to develop products that improve the lives of our pets. We want to be disruptors through and through and continue to push the envelope of technology when it comes to pets. We have plenty of ideas in the hopper, but that’s all I can say.

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 don’t at this time. I would love to explore more, but right now, I’m busy raising three boys who are generally very curious about how things work. They’ve adapted a problem-solving attitude to their interests. I usually spend my free time helping them tinker with electronics, code, or design and build things.

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

“Treat others as you want to be treated.” I try to take this approach every day to the people around me. Whether with family or colleagues, it helps drive collaboration and respect. I grew up in an urban area that was a little rough, where kids often didn’t treat one another with respect. I’ve always made sure not to repeat that behavior.

When I was starting out, I had some bosses that I think failed me in their leadership — creating what felt like more of a dictatorship than a learning environment. There was one instance when I saw a senior engineer look at work and call it ‘crap.’ I made a promise to myself that I would never do that to anyone.

At SpotOn, we’ve implemented a culture of respect for and confidence in your coworkers, so that we can do great things as a team. It’s how we got where we are today.

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 make mental health just as important as physical health. In our society, mental health isn’t looked at the same way other illnesses are; there aren’t enough people paying attention to it.

Mental health issues affect not only the individual, but also the people around them, and have great consequences on society. I think of how we could use technology to develop systems that better read brain activity and get ahead of these issues.

Mental health deserves the same education and support that we give to cancer research and other physical ailments, and we should provide education to help society better understand mental health issues without judgment.

How can our readers follow you online?

Follow us at @spotonfence.

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


Meet The Disruptors: Sung Vivathana Of SpotOn Fence 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.

Nadia Gonzalez Of Scibids: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Be personable. Studies have shown that consumers like it when brands are funny or say things that they agree with, and plenty of stories have been written about viral tweets from brands like Wendy’s.

As a part of our series about how to create a trusted, believable, and beloved brand, I had the pleasure to interview Nadia Gonzalez, CMO, Scibids.

Nadia is the CMO for Scibids, the global leader in artificial intelligence for digital marketing. She brings more than 15 years of marketing experience to the position, including senior marketing roles at Google, AdMeld, Sociomantic, Orchard Platform and her own marketing services firm where she supported early-stage adtech and fintech businesses globally.

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 was brought to adtech by needing to find a different job early on in my career. One of my first jobs, at a law firm in New York City, was reminiscent of all of the awful elements of the “Devil Wears Prada” — non-stop phone calls on weekends, daily 8 am F-bombs from my bosses and forced phone calls where the all-male partners ridiculed the assistants. I was depressed, and couldn’t find a way out no matter how many interviews I lined up.

A career coach told me to expand my network and meet with as many people as possible, and I took that to heart. One day in 2007, I was introduced to Ben Barokas, who was working at an online advertising network. I told him about some previous experience I had in television production, hoping he could help me connect it to digital media as digital advertising startups were really taking off. He told me that my experience had nothing to do with adtech. I thought that was that, but six months later he called me. He had just started AdMeld, a yield optimization platform for online publishers, and offered me a job. Ben agreed to give me a chance to learn about adtech, and I would help him manage his quickly growing startup.

What I lacked in adtech experience I made up for in knowing how to run an office and how to find solutions to problems. From day one I was exposed to everything it takes to operate a software startup. It was amazing to be part of a team that was growing in such a hot industry. I could not have dreamed it at the time, but in 2011 Google bought AdMeld for $500 million, and I became a Google employee.

That experience and the Google pedigree led to opportunities for me to take a seat at the table in senior marketing roles in two additional tech acquisitions, including one in the fintech space. With more than fifteen years in tech, I’m now CMO of Scibids, a Paris-based technology company that builds artificial intelligence for digital marketing.

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 mistake I made in my early days in marketing was not paying attention to detail and rushing through proofing materials. When something goes to print and it’s misspelled, it is a significant problem. I was devastated when I realized my oversight. At the time, I had a boss that sternly looked at me and said, “I won’t tell anyone, but this will never happen again.” I made sure it didn’t.

My advice to less experienced marketers who have worked for me is to slow down, take a break and read it again before asking me to do a final sweep. It takes a team and it’s ok to ask for help, but it’s also important to do your best!

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

What pulled me to Scibids in the first place is exactly what makes us stand out. We create customizable, sophisticated AI that dramatically improves paid media performance without third-party cookies or other digital identifiers for ad decisioning — and does better than more traditional methods that aren’t consumer friendly. Our approach is all about putting privacy first. I’ve seen a lot in the adtech space, but I hadn’t seen technology like this before joining Scibids.

For example, when we began working with an online retailer, we had to build a better, more efficient video campaign on the open internet compared to the retailer’s efforts on YouTube. We didn’t need to look at the same data other companies would have — we built our bidding models on impression level data and conversion feeds.

With that, we reduced the cost-per-qualified-visitor by 71% compared to the YouTube campaign the client was running — and produced the kinds of results that our client was looking for.

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

Scibids continues to rapidly expand; we opened an office in Canada earlier this year. Right now, my biggest project is the global go-to-market strategy. As privacy becomes a bigger concern around the globe, my chief concern is making sure that we convey our privacy-friendly image first.

This will help people by making advertising less targeted in the sense that it uses less personally identifying information and data. The more Scibids grows, the more we’re able to give people some of their privacy back.

How would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?

Branding is about who you are as a company and how that makes consumers feel. It’s about eliciting trust, inspiring loyalty, and building a positive relationship with consumers. Companies like Google, Samsung, Amazon, and more put a lot of effort into their branding.

Advertising and product marketing, on the other hand, is about what you are offering to consumers — making them aware of what makes your product different or better and then encouraging them to make purchases.

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

It’s simple: people like doing business with people and, by extension brands, that they like. Edelman’s research, for example, shows that a brand relationship goes beyond just buying a product — it means eliciting real emotions, building a sense of kinship between the brand and the customer, and continued interactions.

While advertising and marketing are always important, especially to make the first contact with a new consumer, building a brand is what keeps that consumer with you in the long term. It’s what inspires their loyalty and turns them into evangelists for you, organically growing your business.

Can you share 5 strategies (and examples if you have them) that a tech company should be doing to build a trusted and believable brand?

  1. Be personable. Studies have shown that consumers like it when brands are funny or say things that they agree with, and plenty of stories have been written about viral tweets from brands like Wendy’s.
  2. Make sure your tech says what you say it can do. If you’re not reliable, you aren’t eliciting the positive emotions you need to build relationships with your consumers. Microsoft had spent years building relationships with techies around the world with its Office suite, Windows OS, and more, and then it launched the Zune, which not only had to compete with the iPod, but then had issues with glitches like Zunes freezing in 2009 because they were unable to handle leap years.
  3. If you’re high tech, you need to be high touch. Low-touch advertising is easy for consumers to tune out. When I worked at AdMeld, we had some of the most sophisticated publishers entrusting us with their discretionary inventory because of the level of managed services we provided. Technology can do a lot that people can’t do, and we certainly know that at Scibids. AI is better than humans at certain tasks, like computing optimal prices to respond to bid requests, automating complex processes, and making data actionable. But more importantly, AI is also able to increase the quality of insights for humans to leverage and elevate our work, allowing us humans to use the human touch more effectively, which is what customers care about in the end.
  4. Sing from the same songbook. No matter your communication method, make sure it adheres to your agreed-upon style. Take Coke’s legendary mistake of introducing New Coke and immediately discontinuing Coca-Cola — and getting rid of the iconic cursive logo in favor of something that looked hopelessly outdated to our modern eyes. It’s not just about logos, though; it’s about setting the right tone with each interaction, using consistent formatting, and more.
  5. Use your customers to advocate for you and don’t forget thought leadership. Trust begets trust — so if a customer is willing to stick up for your brand, that signals you must be doing something right. Leverage those positive connections, and you’ll build a better brand each time.

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?

Suma Wealth. They are a small fintech startup, but they’re doing big things. Their founder and CEO, Beatriz Acevedo, has built big brands before, particularly media empires that know how to speak to U.S.-born Latino Millennial and GenZ youth. She did this once before with the video ad network Mitu, and she’s at it again with Suma Wealth, the leading financial technology company devoted to increasing prosperity, opportunity, and financial inclusion for young, U.S. Latinos. She’s teaching the next generation of Latinos to build wealth and does so in ways that are in-culture to build trust and speak to the Latino and American heritage that is their legacy. I wish this platform existed when I was in my 20s!

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 a little different because you’re not necessarily advertising to the masses. All the same, mindshare is very important in determining the success of a branding campaign.

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

LinkedIn and Twitter are the most important in the B2B side of marketing and branding. While you have to keep it professional, there’s plenty of room to make fun, insightful content that sticks with your potential customers.

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

Take a break! I know it’s hard to do — but when you walk away, you’re able to reduce stress and may even get some new insights into a particularly difficult problem. I work for a French company and recently learned that it’s illegal to eat lunch at your desk! How about that for promoting work-life balance.

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

Imagine a world where disinformation and misinformation just didn’t exist. We’ve seen the kind of role that disinformation can play in fomenting conflicts and otherwise weakening societies. If we could really make an effort to fight disinformation, I think we’d be much better off.

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

I learned this in a monastery from a Buddhist nun: “When in doubt, do nothing. Think about the task and ask.”

When I switched to adtech, I had to use this a lot. I didn’t know anything about adtech, but if I wasn’t able to stop and ask, I didn’t do anything that could have resulted in future problems until I could ask. The more I practiced this, the more I was able to learn and succeed together with the rest of the team, and I believe that teamwork is what made the company successful enough to be purchased by Google. I bring that lesson with me everywhere I go in my career.

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. 🙂

Stacey Vanek Smith: I loved her book, “Machiavelli for Women.” To take “The Prince” and break it down the way she did for today’s women in the workplace is not only thoughtful and insightful but also brilliant!

Dwayne Johnson: Does this need justification? I think he’s so cool and he’s a girl dad!

Dolores Huerta: Simply a legend. She’s a labor leader and civil rights activist on top of being Latina. I would keep pouring tea just to listen to her stories of struggle and triumph!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can find me on Twitter: @nadia_gonzalez or follow Scibids on Twitter @scibids or LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/scibids/.

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


Nadia Gonzalez Of Scibids: 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.

Meet The Disruptors: Nicolas Chammas Of Sentral On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your…

Meet The Disruptors: Nicolas Chammas Of Sentral On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Focus on your strengths. I think that advice is really valuable because we often focus on our weaknesses, which is really important. But we tend to be so focused on improving our weaknesses that we don’t double down on our strengths. Finding your superpower and doubling down on that can pay major dividends.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nicolas Chammas, CFO at Sentral.

An investor turned operator, Mr. Chammas joined the company as Sentral’s first Chief Financial Officer. In his role, Nick oversees Sentral’s finance and accounting functions and is responsible for managing the annual budget and the capital planning process, financial reporting, forecasting, and fundraising and ensures Sentral remains appropriately capitalized for growth. Prior to joining Sentral, Nick served as Vice President of Strategic Finance and Investment Analysis at Sonder, where he led $900 million in fundraising and Sonder’s eventual 2022 IPO. Before merging his passions for real estate, hospitality, and finance, Nick worked for more than 15 years in growth equity investing and investment banking. Nick has led investments in growth-stage technology and technology-enabled businesses, and has advised public and private companies on M&A, capital raising, and IPO transactions, representing nearly $15 billion.

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 grew up in Silicon Valley and started my career as an investment banker focused on disruptive tech and tech-enabled services companies. I really loved the deal business but I wanted to be closer to actually building companies so I transitioned to private equity where I was focused on investing rather than just advising growth companies. As an investor, I had an incredible amount of respect for entrepreneurs and start-ups that were transforming legacy industries and I began looking for opportunities to take on operational roles in growth companies. I also had the perspective that if you are going to be successful building a company, you need to be super passionate about the sector you are in and the problem you are solving. I’ve traveled all my life and have always been fascinated by real estate, and so the intersection of real estate and hospitality drew me in and led me to Sonder. After nearly three years there leading strategic finance at Sonder and taking the company public, I was introduced to Sentral’s CEO, Jon Slavet, and the Sentral team and was instantly drawn to Sentral’s vision of redefining home and building the world’s largest and most connected flexible living community.

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

The multifamily industry has relied on the same revenue model for decades: fixed 12 month leases of unfurnished units without the flexibility for residents and guests to reside or stay for shorter periods of time. However, due to radical shifts in technology, the work-from-home movement brought on by the pandemic and the desires of modern renters and travelers to become unburdened from a single long-term location, this model no longer works for a large segment of today’s consumers. In addition, short term rental (STR) operators, who have risen in prominence over the last five years, have developed a model where they can profit from running short term rentals in traditional multifamily buildings. This model provides owners with a fixed income stream, but all the upside goes to the STR operator. Sentral has taken a different approach — partnering with owners to share in the upside. Our unique approach to managing an asset is based on our ability to manage any length of stay — whether that’s a night, a month, or a year. We partner with owners to furnish a portion of their apartment units or the entire building based on the owner’s preferences — and we will manage any length of stay — from the traditional monthly leases to overnight stays. Through our ability to efficiently manage any length of stay, we are able to drive a 5 to 10 percent increase in owner NOI which we believe owners can’t get with any other partners.

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

Early on in my investment banking career, I had the good fortune of working with the amazing team at Google on their IPO. After I left investment banking, I remember my mother asking me if she should invest in Google stock. Having been through countless hours of training about insider trading, I was so paranoid about investing in Google that I told her not to invest, even after my insider knowledge had expired. I also held off on buying GOOG stock until several years later and by then the price had increased to 4x the IPO price. I’ve kicked myself ever since — timing is everything!

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

I’ve been fortunate to have some really great mentors in my career, but a lot of the values I have today were formed early on in life by spending time with my grandfather who was a successful entrepreneur in his home country of Lebanon. He was respectful of others’ opinions and would listen before he spoke, taking time to understand all perspectives before weighing in with his thoughts. I think we are often so quick to speak in groups or in meetings because we want to get our point across that we fail to listen to the other thoughts around the table. So in life and in my career, I try to listen before I speak, and use the perspectives of others to help shape my views. I think this is something great leaders do well — they surround themselves with other great leaders, listen to their ideas, and make decisions after reviewing multiple points of view.

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 investor earlier in my career, I tend to think about disruption with the framework of “better, faster, or cheaper.” A successful disruptor typically does one of these really really well. I’m old enough to remember when there were more than a handful of Internet search engines like AskJeeves, Altavista and others. Then Google came out with a wildly simple but much better search algorithm and quickly took market share from the other search engines, many of whom were eventually acquired or shut down. There are also examples of wannabe disruptors who failed in dramatic fashion. One recent example that comes to mind is Theranos. They attempted to disrupt the healthcare industry by using technology to deliver better and faster test results from small samples of blood, yet after burning through nearly a billion dollars of investors’ money, it was discovered that the technology simply didn’t work and the science was much more complex than the founders of Theranos had realized. At the end of the day, your product or service actually has to work — it can’t simply be faster or cheaper.

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

Focus on your strengths. I think that advice is really valuable because we often focus on our weaknesses, which is really important. But we tend to be so focused on improving our weaknesses that we don’t double down on our strengths. Finding your superpower and doubling down on that can pay major dividends.

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

At Sentral, we are just getting started. Our mission is to redefine home and build the world’s largest and most connected flexible living community. We manage about 3,500 apartments across the U.S. today and are rapidly expanding as property owners are desperate for ways to increase the value of their assets. The beauty of our model is that it truly is a win-win — our residents and guests have more flexibility, with the ability to stay a night, a month or a year in our properties, and our owner partners can get higher revenues and increase the NOI of their assets by partnering with Sentral. We think it is just a matter of time before the rest of the industry catches on and we are already in dialogue with many of the top institutional property owners to help transform their assets.

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’m a big fan of Patrick O’Shaughnessy’s podcast Invest Like the Best. I love his approach of bringing together successful investors and visionary entrepreneurs to tell their stories. My biggest learning from his various podcasts is that there are many paths to success, but one common thread among successful leaders is passion and relentless curiosity. Even the most successful leaders don’t claim to have figured it all out. Fortune 500 CEOs have mentors, leadership coaches, and learn from their teams along the way. As leaders we need to constantly evolve with the times and learn from those around us.

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

There are a lot of great life lesson quotes out there. One of my favorites is “Do easy things for a hard life, and do hard things for an easy life.” The takeaway is that if you end up always choosing the easy path, you will suffer later on. When we challenge ourselves and go outside of our comfort zones, that is where we grow and evolve and in the end leads to more fulfillment and happiness in our lives.

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

I think humility is one of the most important character traits a leader can possess, and I wouldn’t consider myself as having great influence, except perhaps with my kids. My wife and I have tried hard to raise our kids to be good people, who are respectful and kind, to other people and to animals as well. I think we could all make the world a better place through small changes in behavior like prioritizing kindness and respecting each other’s differences.

How can our readers follow you online?

I’m not super active on social media, but you can find me on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/nicolaschammas/ or on Twitter @nchammas.

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


Meet The Disruptors: Nicolas Chammas Of Sentral 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.

Agile Businesses: Jarrod Johnson Of TaskUs On How Businesses Pivot and Stay Relevant In The Face of…

Agile Businesses: Jarrod Johnson Of TaskUs On How Businesses Pivot and Stay Relevant In The Face of Disruptive Technologies

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Be constantly innovating and thinking about your product or service and its value. You should always be thinking about how to make things better, easier, faster, more valuable — not just in times of disruption but always.

As part of my series about the “How Businesses Pivot and Stay Relevant In The Face of Disruptive Technologies”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jarrod Johnson, Chief Customer Officer at TaskUs.

Jarrod Johnson is the Chief Customer Officer at TaskUs. Jarrod leads the “Client Organization” at TaskUs, including global marketing, sales, client services (account management), their portfolio of global offerings, and the consulting organization.

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

I spent ten years at IBM starting in technology consulting then moved into sales and account management roles. I became a market leader managing $100M in annual sales to Dallas-based retail and travel clients. Then I moved over to another large technology company that we sold to Xerox. I spent some time growing my career there, eventually becoming an SVP and Group President of IT Services.

After 16 years of working with large companies, I wanted to try something different. I wanted the experience of finding a $100 million dollar business and making it a billion dollar business. In 2016, I found the right business that was poised for growth, and joined TaskUs.

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

I made many mistakes in my early career, but there’s one that sticks out. When I first came out of college, I was starting as a consultant at IBM. At the time, there was a new fashion trend of square toed dress shoes. I needed new shoes for my job, so I decided to buy some.

Never have I made it so obvious that I was the youngest on the team than when I wore those. Everyone else was wearing traditional dress shoes, and here I was, wearing a trend. It even became a joke on my team — they would say, “Don’t bring me a bunch of square toes. I want the seasoned people.”

It taught me not to jump on a trend quickly, and to evaluate options before just going with what’s popular now.

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?

My mother is an incredible influence on my life. She was a very senior executive at several big companies, including Ernst and Young, CapGemini and Cognizant. While others found their coaches at work or school, I was born with the best executive coach available. Throughout my career, she has been someone I can bounce ideas off of and come to for genuine advice. No one could ask for a better mentor.

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

The original vision was that busy professionals would outsource tasks in their personal lives to people around the world who could do things better and cheaper, allowing the professionals to better manage their time and create personal freedom, such as in Tim Ferris’ “Four Hour Work Week.” That turned out to be a very tricky business to grow and do well and the TaskUs of today was born. We set out to work with technology startups and founders in Silicon Valley and Silicon Beach to help them scale their business rapidly, doing anything they needed more efficiently than they could do it themselves so they could focus on their core business.

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

TaskUs provides digital outsourcing services to high growth technology brands around the world, including some of the largest technology brands. We’re a business process outsourcing (BPO) services and innovation company that delivers ridiculously good solutions to our clients. TaskUs serves clients in the fastest-growing sectors, including social media, e-commerce, gaming, streaming media, food delivery, and ride-sharing, HiTech, FinTech, and HealthTech. Our services help companies quickly grow and scale through outsourced digital services and next-generation customer experience.

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

Artificial intelligence has made everything we do faster and smarter. It’s also taken away a lot of the simple, task-based work that used to drive our industry. Instead, it’s left behind a world of complex problems. That has actually created an opportunity for the services industry to become more valuable, because humans are critical to solving complexity. In the future, you’ll see more of a combination human and AI approach to how work gets done.

Cloud technology significantly changed the game. It lowered the cost of entry for people to start creating technology and solutions. You don’t have to have tons of capital to build anymore. That opened the door for our company, but it also opened the door for competitors.

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

We were unique in that we started our company as some of these disruptions were already happening. From the start, we’ve been a web-based company, and we grew up on the cloud. Everything we’ve done has been over the Internet, and it’s been a big advantage; lower cost to build and faster speed to market.

Especially in 2020, being cloud-based was an incredible head start. We were able to quickly send people home, get work done and not lose productivity. Without knowing it, we were preparing our company to thrive in remote scenarios.

We’ve also doubled down on people. The human factor is so important to our business, and we realize that the best way to have the top people is to invest in them. It’s not enough to just have a good culture. When we were a young company, having a great culture and a ton of passion went a long way. Now, with 45,000 people around the globe, we need more to keep that passion alive.

We built extensive programs around wellness, benefits and diversity and inclusion. It’s been an important pivot away from a culture approach, to a holistic people-first approach. Culture is still important, but we also have real programs that affect people in tangible ways.

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

The moment for me was when I saw the flywheel effect of investing in people happening in real time. The flywheel effect happens when small wins accumulate over time, creating a snowball of successes. That happened with our people.

When you invest in people, they do better work. Talent chooses to stay with you, their performance improves, and eventually the performance of whole teams is improved. These changes make your clients happier, making them invest more in your business. The company becomes more profitable. Then, you can afford to invest more into the next people program, and it continues.

The investments in people quickly pay off for your customers. It was actually surprising how fast we saw real results. It created a better environment for our employees, better service for our clients and better results for our shareholders.

So, how are things going with this new direction?

We’ve been incredibly successful with this new direction. TaskUs has experienced exponential growth. We’re now approximately 45,800 employees across 23 locations in 12 countries and we went public on Nasdaq in June of 2021.

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

I was surprised to see the number of clients who cared about the people doing the work for them at TaskUs. When you think about outsourcing, it’s often all about numbers and outcomes. While we care deeply about our people, we weren’t sure our clients thought much about it. What we found is that when you highlight your culture and your people as an asset, it’s phenomenal the response you will get from clients.

They have really bought into our mission, and appreciate that we’ve created a company that they would want to work at, too. Being people-first has actually helped us secure some of the best companies in the world as clients.

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

Stay calm and have a vision. There’s always going to be bumps and uncertainties in the road. You can see that in the market right now, we saw them 2 years ago when the pandemic began, and there were plenty of bumps before that when we were much smaller. When you, as a leader, stay calm and keep your team focused on the long-term vision, it keeps the company moving forward and staying the course. It can be easy to get distracted, and there’s nothing worse for progress than a distracted team.

There are things you can control and things you can’t. Stay focused on what you can, plot the path forward, measure your success and progress and go from there.

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

We overcommunicate to our people. Transparency, honesty and humility are the best ways to lead. Even if you don’t know what to say, if you communicate and are transparent with people, they will be generally understanding. Saying nothing at all is generally worse.

You want to keep people believing. If they still believe, you can calm everything down and keep moving.

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

Stay true to your core values and stick to what you’re good at. That tends to weather any storm. Sometimes you need to make a major pivot to adjust to the times, but often, things are temporary or small fluctuations in the market. The strongest survive and thrive in these circumstances.

Be true to yourself and consistent and clear with the market, and you will be in a better position to survive turbulence.

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

While you should recognize and respond to true disruption, don’t make mistakes by overreacting.

Stay on your path and execute your plan — if the plan needs adjustment, then adjust it. Don’t lose focus because you see a shiny object.

Be thoughtful about emerging technology. People often fall for hyped up trends. Don’t give in to the chaos. You absolutely must have a plan for emerging and growth markets and product or service line extensions but it should be a plan and not a reaction.

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

  1. Know your market.
  2. Talk to your customers… a lot
  3. Talk to your employees… a lot. Especially those on the front line delivering service or creating your products
  4. Give clear and concise direction in the face of challenge and change
  5. Be constantly innovating and thinking about your product or service and its value. You should always be thinking about how to make things better, easier, faster, more valuable — not just in times of disruption but always.

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

John Stuart Mill wrote about the concept of there being no “absolute truth”, and that truth is found through consistent debate and even things we know are true need to be challenged and confirmed every once in a while. As a former political science student, that is one of my big personal philosophies.

Creating dialogues, exploring topics and having debates can help find a lot of clarity. Be open to those conversations when it comes to solving problems, and it might lead you to the best outcomes.

How can our readers further follow your work?

You can follow TaskUs on Twitter and Instagram at @TaskUs, and follow me on LinkedIn.

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


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

Michael Bach Of CCDI Consulting: How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Access to talent. We are in a talent war, not just for service jobs but all jobs. Even with an impending recession, employers are struggling to find talent. A focus on diversity and inclusion will provide them with access to a wider array of talent and reduce the time it takes to hire people, particularly for those “hard to hire” roles. But it’s not just the diversity — you need to make sure the workplace is inclusive, or it won’t work. If you hire a person and they hear sexist, racist, homophobic, etc. comments or jokes, they’ll leave in a heartbeat. You need to ensure your workplace is inclusive to both attract diversity and ensure your team not only survives, but thrives.

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

Michael Bach is the founder of the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion and president and CEO of CCDI Consulting. He is nationally and internationally recognized as a thought leader and subject matter expert in the fields of inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility, bringing a vast knowledge of leading practices in a live setting to his work. He is the author of two best-selling books: Birds of All Feathers: Doing Diversity and Inclusion Right and Alphabet Soup: The Essential Guide to LGBTQ2+ Inclusion at Work.

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

Most of my career was spent in the IT field but I always had a passion for what we now call “diversity and inclusion,” specifically in the LGBTQ+ communities and with women and immigrants. I was raised to believe that I had a responsibility to use my privilege to the advantage of others, but to be totally honest, that wasn’t a job that would pay what I wanted to make. Then, in 2006, while working in the IT Consulting practice at KPMG, I had the opportunity to write the business case for the creation of a role in diversity. That moment changed the trajectory of my career because it merged a personal passion with a profession. Those were early days in the D&I space. So, you could call me a pioneer — which is a nice way of saying I’m old.

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

I’ve been working for over 30 years, so picking just one isn’t easy. I think the one that jumps out to me is the time that I identified one of my own biases, which happened before I got into D&I as a profession. I was in the process of hiring a new administrative assistant. I went through the interview process and found the perfect candidate — she had everything we were looking for. I went to my boss and said, “I found the perfect candidate, but…” and then explained that she was a larger woman. After my boss stopped throwing things at me, she said, “why on earth would you bring that up? What does that have to do with her ability to do the job?” She was right. And it forced me to examine where that bias came from.

I was a heavy kid. I started high school at 5’3” — and that’s not a height, that’s a diameter (if you get geometry, you get the joke). I have lived with body image issues my entire life. And I didn’t realize that I had a bias against larger people. That moment got me thinking about my own baggage and how I might be applying it to others. Dragging that bias into the light means it’s no longer controlling me. It’s not perfect (I still see the fat kid in the mirror) but it’s a lot better than it was. The moral of the story is that we are all flawed individuals.

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

“Shut up kid, you’re not digging ditches” — the immortal words of my maternal grandmother, Doris Kennedy. I wasn’t exactly the toughest child. I was a bit delicate and largely didn’t want to do anything where I might work up a sweat. One day we (my mother, sister, and I) were all working in her garden, and I was complaining about something (I’ve never enjoyed getting my hands dirty), and out it came. That lesson stays with me. Whenever I’m feeling a bit down about something, or like life is too hard, I think of old Doris riding my whiny tween ass. That woman would put any drag queen to shame.

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?

Just one? There are so many. If I had to pick just one, I would say Beth Wilson, who was my boss at KPMG. She’s the reason I have a job in diversity. She gave me a job that I was in no way qualified for, largely because no one really knew what the qualifications for such a job were. But she saw something in me, and she trusted her gut. I hope I’ve done her proud.

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

I think there are a couple things that make CCDI Consulting stand out.

1. We have the practical lived experience that so many consultants lack. There are many D&I consultants out there who have never done the work and just make things up as they go, stealing things from the internet. Lived experience matters but so does practical experience. Just because a person is from a marginalized community doesn’t make them qualified to do D&I work. The murder of George Floyd saw a huge increase in the number of D&I roles, many of which went to people because of their lived experience, not because of their skill. I mean no disrespect, and I have supported and mentored many of those people, but the employers were setting them up for failure.

2. We live our values. We’re not perfect, but I believe that anything we’d recommend to a client is advice we follow ourselves. Our values are not just words on a piece of paper. They are who we are, and they guide how we operate.

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

Well, I wrote another book. Because… you know… pandemic. It came out on March 29, and it’s called Alphabet Soup: The Essential Guide to LGBTQ2+ Inclusion at Work. I wrote it because, even after working in the LGBTQ+ inclusion space for over 30 years, I still see people struggling to grasp the basic concepts behind gender and sexuality. Beyond that, I also wanted to inspire people to take action. It’s nice that people say they are allied with the LGBTQ2+ communities, but I want people to step up and engage — to use their privilege as straight and cisgender people to the advantage of LGBTQ2+ people. Considering what’s going on in places like Texas right now, action is more important now than ever before. Maybe I need to send a few copies to the US Supreme Court.

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

I’m in a very unique position in that I often have the ear of very powerful people. Those people listen to me. They turn to me for advice. And as such, I can work behind the scenes to influence situations so that diversity can increase in places it hadn’t previously existed. The specifics don’t matter (mainly because I can’t share confidential information), but I’m making the world a better place in my own way.

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

1. Access to talent. We are in a talent war, not just for service jobs but all jobs. Even with an impending recession, employers are struggling to find talent. A focus on diversity and inclusion will provide them with access to a wider array of talent and reduce the time it takes to hire people, particularly for those “hard to hire” roles. But it’s not just the diversity — you need to make sure the workplace is inclusive, or it won’t work. If you hire a person and they hear sexist, racist, homophobic, etc. comments or jokes, they’ll leave in a heartbeat. You need to ensure your workplace is inclusive to both attract diversity and ensure your team not only survives, but thrives.

2. Increase in employee engagement. A great research paper from Deloitte called “Waiter, is that inclusion in my soup?” found a direct correlation between employee engagement and diversity and inclusion. Employers with a high focus on diversity, whose employees feel included, can see a lift in employee engagement by as much as 101 percent. High levels of employee engagement leads to higher levels of productivity, which leads to higher levels of profitability. If a person genuinely cares about their job (because their workplace is one that people can bring their whole selves to), they will be more engaged.

3. Increase in innovation and creativity. There’s a bit of a legend in D&I circles about a certain aviation company that attributes diversity and inclusion to the building of one of the most fuel-efficient airplanes ever built. Apparently, when putting together the teams to build this plane, they placed a particular emphasis on the diversity of the team members to ensure they had the skills they needed, but also a diversity of perspectives too. The team discussed their diversity at the project kickoff, and lo and behold, they managed to produce a revolutionary design. Diversity can lead to increased innovation and creativity, provided it’s done properly.

4. Access to different markets. There’s another famous story in the D&I world — but this one is verifiable. Frito-Lay (yes, the chip company) wanted to get into the Latinx/Hispanic market in the US. It’s worth billions, and they recognized they were missing out. They had tried a few different products, but they’d had little success. Then they turned to their Latinx/Hispanic employee resource group, called Adelante (which is Spanish for “ahead”), leveraging them as a de facto market research group. As Frito-Lay employees, they had a vested interest in the successful launch of a new product. Long story short, thanks to the input of the Adelante members and their family and friends, Frito-Lay launched Doritos Guacamole Tortilla Chips, generating $100 million in sales of that product in the first year — one of the best product launches in the company’s history.

5. Improve brand and reputation. A focus on diversity and inclusion can have a positive impact on an organization’s brand and reputation. Nowadays, if an employer doesn’t have a focus on D&I, they’re seen as out of touch at best. The world is changing, and people are concerned about who they work for. Research shows that employees want to work for companies whose values they connect with. Gone are the days of “a job for a job’s sake.” People want purpose and they want to know that who they’re working for aligns with their beliefs. A serious focus on diversity and inclusion can lead to an improved brand and reputation, which will help to attract talent and customers.

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

Do everything you can to be an inclusive leader. Deloitte published another great report called the “Six Signature Traits of Inclusive Leadership”. In it, they summarize six traits of inclusive leadership (hence the name). One of my favorites is courage. But not courage like running into a burning building; courage like being open and honest and admitting you don’t have all the answers. As business leaders, we’re often told that we need to appear to know everything, and never let people see our weaknesses. But that’s ridiculous and exhausting. Courage is about a willingness to be vulnerable — to not know everything and be honest about that. We need more of that.

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

Practice the Platinum Rule: Treat others how they need to be treated, not how you want to be treated. Recognize that every person is unique and will have their own needs and expectations. Get to know your people and what they need. As a leader, I’ve always felt that it was my job to make sure others can do their jobs. But to do that, I need to understand what my people need. Figure it out and create the workspace that allows people to grow and develop. The result will be high levels of engagement, high productivity, high innovation, and high levels of loyalty.

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

It’s a toss-up between Dr. Cornel West and Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw. They’re both such inspiring, thoughtful visionaries. I’ve heard them both speak at different events and they’re just amazing. Listening to Dr. West speak is like being hypnotized. And Dr. Crenshaw is the mother of the concept of intersectionality. I’m not impressed by celebrity. I’m impressed by people who give their lives to help make the world a better place. Dr. West and Dr. Crenshaw have done just that.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

They can visit my website at michaelbach.com and they can connect with me on social media: I am @TheMichaelBach.

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


Michael Bach Of CCDI Consulting: How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Gabe Karp On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Patience — There’s a lot of heavy lifting you have to do without seeing the benefit for a while. But you have to be patient and keep going. If you keep doing things to move yourself forward, eventually you’re going to catch a break and something’s going to work.

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 Gabe Karp.

Gabe Karp is a captivating storyteller and one of the leading experts in the art of conflict management. His message on the value and strategies of productive conflict has transformed many organizations — whether they’re trying to revive a stagnant culture or take on a competitor that seems unbeatable. Karp doesn’t speak from the outside looking in. He’s been an executive, manager, and leader in a range of roles. When he speaks on the topic of constructive conflict, there are no hypotheticals — he’s been there, done that and learned from it. Widely considered the gold standard in conflict management and leadership, his approach, which has been honed over 30 years, can help any organization harness the power of constructive feedback, open negotiation, and conflict resolution. Karp has just authored, Don’t Get Mad at Penguins And other Ways to Detox the Conflict in Your Life and Business.

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 dad was a lawyer — so I had to learn how to make a strong case and defend my arguments to get what I wanted in our house. I was also the youngest of four kids, and if any of us ever said anything that didn’t make sense, we would have three other people pointing out our flaws. So, from a young age, I learned how to articulate my thoughts clearly and concisely in that environment. I think that sounds like a harsher upbringing than it actually was — or at least that’s how I perceived it. Let’s just say it was an environment with a lot of healthy competition.

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

I spent the first decade of my career as a trial lawyer. I later joined a small technology startup as one of the key executives who grew it into one of the top digital promotions companies in the world. After we sold the company, I entered the world of venture capital. I currently sit on the boards of several companies and non-profits, and work closely with several CEOs as they confront the inevitable conflicts that come with growing a successful company.

Whenever I looked back 6 months or a year to sort of take an inventory of how I’d been spending my time, I realized I was always gravitating toward conflict. As a lawyer, I focused on escalating conflicts and then worked to resolve them. As a startup executive, I gravitated toward conflicts to drive efficiency. I found that when we sought out and embraced conflicts in a healthy way, we worked better as a team, our company grew faster, we developed stronger relationships with our clients, our team members advanced in their careers, and we produced better overall results compared to when we tried to avoid conflicts. I also found that avoiding conflict is an exercise in futility. Sure, you can delay having to deal with difficult issues for a bit, but that usually just allows the issues to get worse — and then you’ll have to deal with them once they’re unavoidable.

Overtime, I noticed that I was more comfortable in the midst of conflict than most people around me. So, I spent some time unpacking that, in an effort to figure out how to help others increase their comfort level with conflict. I started mentoring people to help them navigate difficult situations and to view conflicts as opportunities to drive efficiency, fuel growth, and strengthen relationships.

I also did a lot of public speaking in my early career — as a litigator in court, and as a startup executive at culture events, trainings, and conferences around the U.S. and Europe. When I entered the world of Venture Capital, we would host summits for the leadership teams of our portfolio companies, and I would present there as well. I’ve always enjoyed public speaking but what I enjoyed even more was when people would bump into me months and even years later and tell me they put a piece of my advice into practice. It not only fed my ego (which is always nice), it was great to hear that someone found benefit and value in what I said. People started asking me to come speak to their organizations. And I realized — okay, there’s something here; this is something worth pursuing.

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

While still at ePrize, we did a big promotion for WWE, and they asked for an executive from our company to speak at a press conference promoting the campaign. I show up, looking like an “executive” wearing a suit — and if you’ve ever seen wrestling fans, you know that the last thing they want to see at a press conference is some executive in a suit, especially right after John Cena just got them all fired up in a way that only he can. I remember walking out from behind a curtain into a wall of deafening noise, blinding lights and cameras. It was so loud, the only thing I could really make out were the insults that the wrestling fans were hurling at me. I said earlier that I’ve always enjoyed public speaking, but this was definitely an exception. In that moment, all the excitement over getting a chance to speak at a WWE press conference completely evaporated. Then the audience started chanting, “Who are you?! Who are you?!” All I wanted to do was go home and crawl under a blanket. But I just started talking and, somehow, I ended up turning the crowd around — to the point where they were all chanting my name. That was a crazy day. After the press conference, the WWE asked me to appear on WWE’s Monday Night Raw for three weeks in a row as part of the campaign we were running for them. They even gave me a championship belt with my name engraved on it to commemorate the experience. I’ve got a few degrees and certificates for things I’ve done in my life, but that belt was the only thing I put up on the wall of my office. I was a wrestling fan as a little kid and I’m still more proud of that belt than anything else. By the way, one of the biggest lessons I learned from that experience is never follow John Cena on stage — the only place to go from there is down.

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 as a keynote speaker, I had a great presentation deck with images, videos, and several slides with titles that were my cues for what to say next. The combination of the slide deck and my speech made for a compelling presentation. I was very excited to present at one of my first paid speaking engagements. When I arrived at the hotel conference room about 30 minutes before I was about to go on, I saw that it was a crowded and I thought, wow, this is really cool that I get to present in front of all these people. Then I realized there was no screen in the room, no ability to project my slide deck. I felt lost; I didn’t have the anchors I needed.

I did my best to describe what the videos would’ve shown, and I relied solely on my words instead of falling back on the images on the screen. It actually worked much better than I thought it would. From that experience, I learned that, while it’s always great to have slides, I need to be prepared for anything because the show must go on. Another lesson from that incident is that whenever anyone asks me to speak at their event, I not only ask upfront the details of how the room is setup (and whether I’ll be able to show slides), I learn what the meeting is about so I can customize my presentation to make sure it resonates with their specific audience.

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

Yes, Josh Linkner. He’s a keynote speaker, and he’s written two New York Times best-selling books. We were a year apart in high school, and he was the founder of the starup I joined. We’ve worked together and have been friends for a long time. He was the one who encouraged me to jump into the world of public speaking, and he helped me as I leaned into building a business. He’s been extremely generous with advice, sharing the insights he gained over the years through trial and error. It’s been great to have the benefit of his years of experience and wisdom. I can’t thank him enough.

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?

When starting any kind of business, it can be demoralizing when you hit a brick wall at 100 miles an hour. But you have to be able to get up, shake it off, and start running as fast as you can again. The only thing that’ll get you through extremely difficult times is passion for what you’re doing. If you don’t have that passion, you can’t do it. But if your passion sets you down the path of being a public speaker, any obstacles or fear that get in your way will be overshadowed by your passion to keep moving forward. By the way, there are people who are terrified of public speaking. If you’re one of them, definitely don’t go down this path. But if you’ve got a topic you’re really passionate about and want to share it with others, I say go for it. Don’t let anything get in your way. Of course, if you’re really passionate about it, you won’t care what I say anyway.

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

Well, like I was talking about before, it’s the passion. I’ve done a lot of work to understand the anatomy of conflict — the things that give rise to it, how to defuse it, and how to leverage it. I’m convinced that embracing conflict in a healthy way is the single greatest driver of success and happiness. Many people shy away from conflict at all costs. Sure, there are certain conflicts you shouldn’t engage — like when someone steals your space in the parking lot, you don’t need to get out of your car and give them a piece of your mind. I would just shut up and go find another parking spot. But other forms of conflict — like dealing with a person who has a difference of opinion or who is behaving in a way that makes you really uncomfortable — bullying you or being dismissive of your value — I’m 1,000% convinced that avoiding conflict in these cases will always be the wrong move. I like thinking about this stuff, talking about it, sharing my perspective with others — it’s a genuine passion.

We should work through conflicts instead of running away from them. We’re always going to be better off for having gone through that experience. When we step into that discomfort, we’ll learn about ourselves, and will learn about how to manage conflict. I believe, wholeheartedly, that I have simple yet powerfully effective tools to detox conflict and leverage it to drive success and happiness. It’s not a talent you’re born with; it’s a skill anyone can learn and enjoy immediate benefits when they practice 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?

I recently wrote a book called Don’t Get Mad at Penguins — which came out two months ago — so I’m still in the wake of the book launch. It’s available everywhere books are sold (shameless plug). I really enjoyed researching and writing the book, and I’m proud of it. So that’s probably the most exciting thing at the moment. And then, of course, I’m excited to do more speaking. I enjoy mentoring people and sharing the lessons from my book and keynote — whether it’s on stage with several thousand people or one-on-one.

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

Someone recently told me, “A life without meaning and purpose is a pretty depressing existence.” It may seem obvious, but that statement stuck with me. I like the perspective and it’s caused me to be deliberate about how I spend my time, what I focus on, and the things I put energy into. Since I heard that, there have been times I have stopped putting energy into something because it didn’t contribute to a life of meaning and purpose. Today, this is what’s top of mind for me.

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. A great speech — this one is obvious but I’ve seen some speakers who have great stage presence but didn’t have anything compelling to say. You wouldn’t be doing yourself, or anyone else, any favors if you work really hard to get a speaking engagement, only to fall flat on stage with nothing to say.
  2. Tenacity and resiliency — Having a great speech is critically important, but the real work of being a highly effective public speaker is actually getting booked as a speaker. You need to have urgency and a burning desire to get booked as a speaker– and then you need to start putting that burning desire into action. In most businesses, when you first start out, you’re going to get a lot of rejection. You need to have resiliency so that after you run into a wall going 100 mph, you are able to get back up and start running again. If you don’t have that, I wouldn’t recommend going down this path.
  3. Freakishly fast responsiveness — When someone reaches out to you and says they have a speaking opportunity for you, you need to get back to them immediately. If you take 24 hours to respond, you’re not going to succeed in this business. You should measure your response time in minutes, not hours and certainly not days.
  4. Commitment to the craft — You have to continually work and refine your presentation. Just in these past 12 to 15 months, the world has changed dramatically. I don’t care what it is you’re speaking about; your message should adapt and change to meet the demands of the current world. You also ask potential clients exactly what they want to get out of your keynote at their event. You customize your presentation to give them what they want.
  5. Patience — There’s a lot of heavy lifting you have to do without seeing the benefit for a while. But you have to be patient and keep going. If you keep doing things to move yourself forward, eventually you’re going to catch a break and something’s going to work.

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

If you have to go into the water but it’s freezing, you just have to jump in. Don’t dip in your toe, don’t wade in. Just dive in and do it. When you’re nervous about public speaking, you just have to jump in and start talking. The worst thing that will happen is that you’ll screw up. And, yeah, you’ll be embarrassed — but no one is going to get hurt and it’s not the end of the world. Half the time, the audience won’t even realize you’ve made a mistake. Just be able to laugh at yourself. If you freeze up on stage, joke about it and say, “Wow, I just froze up,” and that’ll get you a laugh from the audience.

When I walked out to that WWE press conference, I didn’t want to be there; I just wanted to go home and crawl under the covers. But that wasn’t really an option so I just jumped in and started talking. For the first 30 seconds, I don’t even know what I was saying, but I forced my way through it. At some point, the stress and anxiety of the situation gave way to the fact that I had a reason for being out there, that I had something specific to say. So, I said it and things worked out.

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 think my kids would disagree with the premise of your question so will you please tell them that I’m a “person of huge influence,” and really emphasize the word huge? Seriously, I would want to start a movement to dispel the myth that conflict is a bad thing that should be avoided at all cost. I would want to start a movement for people to create and embrace the healthy conflicts that fuel success, strengthen relationships, and get them to a happier place. I would achieve that by telling anyone and everyone that I can.

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!

Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the president of Ukraine. Talk about conflict; I’m really impressed with how he has led through this war with Russia against his country. That’s a guy who has stepped up to his calling in the most dire of circumstances. He also is a pretty funny guy and probably great to hang out with. I really hope that he and his family make it through to the other side of this thing.

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

Yes, you can visit www.gabekarp.com. I’m also on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/gabe-karp-1b772a1b, Twitter at https://twitter.com/gabe_karp, and Facebook at www.facebook.com/gabe.karp.79.

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


Gabe Karp 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.

Marissa Shapiro Of Martha: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

A mission is particularly powerful for brands, especially in a time where they are being looked at to act and respond to topics far outside of what their business may focus on. Defining the mission can help guide teams who are managing the brand to know not only what to respond to, but how to respond.

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

Marissa is the founder of Martha, the NY-based consultancy that builds brands from the inside, out. Her and her team partner closely with clients to create brand identities that claim space in their respective markets and engage their audiences across all touchpoints. Her career has led her to work with companies big and small, from Forbes, Vogue and Nike, to startups just getting their feet off the ground.

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

Absolutely! I had a bit of a winding path. I had been working at a now defunct network within Viacom and a friend of mine was interviewing for an agency. At the time I didn’t even know what an agency was, but she described the roles they were looking for and it sounded a lot like what I had been doing — essentially production. They ended up hiring me and once I got there I was immediately exposed to the ins and outs of how brands, digital products, and campaigns were created. It was a very creative environment and I loved it. It took me going freelance to make the transition from production to strategy and creative. Once I did, I formalized that offering into Martha, which is about seven years ago now.

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?

Ok, when I was at that defunct network at Viacom (Spike TV), I was covering a live UFC fight in Las Vegas. We’d basically write up what was going on in the fight and post it via blogs and Twitter throughout the night. It was my first time doing it and I got a message from my boss a couple of fights in that was along the lines of, “way too much detail, you do not need to transcribe the fight, just give the highlights.” It was then that I learned the attention span of audiences is very low and you need to get your message across as efficiently as possible.

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

Based on what I’ve seen from other companies over the years, what makes Martha different is that we go deep. We do a lot more than create a consumer-facing brand and hand it off with guidelines. We build a foundation for the inside of a brand, detailing out who it is and why it is that way based on inputs from the team, the market, and the audience.

Martha’s first client was a fitness company. The operations person was the one who ultimately hired us, and it was clear that the founder was uneasy about what they were spending on the project given what she determined the value of a brand to be. We went through our discovery process and our first review was brand positioning. She had a tough demeanor when the meeting started. By the time we were done she was smiling and excited. Once she saw the work, she recognized how deep we go to extract what’s special about a company and its team, to understand the audience and their needs, and to identify real opportunities in the market to serve as the foundation of the brand. They still leverage the brand we developed for them today, nearly eight years later.

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

Yes! One project we’re about to wrap up is for a sustainability SaaS company. They’re building a real-time data platform that will help businesses measure their footprint, reduce and offset emissions, and communicate these efforts with ongoing transparency. There’s no question that more businesses need to become more sustainable and the positive impact that this transition will have on people and the world.

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

Brand marketing is building awareness and recognition around the brand itself. This means ensuring that the emotional impact the brand is meant to have on its audience is coming through and achieving reach and growth as a result. There may be no call to action, or the call to action will be more about engaging with the brand itself (think: subscribing to a newsletter, following on social, consuming content).

Product marketing is communicating value of a particular product, service or offering. Essentially you’re trying to find an engaging way to explain what the value is and get them to take action (think: purchase, get in touch).

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

A brand is the thing that people connect with. It has personality and depth. It makes people feel things. It’s what people remember. When engaging with a brand you instantly store it in an emotional place in your mind: “that’s fun”, “that’s cool”, “they know what they’re talking about.” The brand is the vehicle for a lasting impression. Whereas general marketing and advertising efforts are typically in support of specific business-driven goals for the year. Even then, the brand comes into play because it guides how you present the product or service being marketed.

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. Brand Positioning.

A brand’s positioning is key in understanding what you want people to feel when they think of, or encounter your brand. An ideal position is one that is aligned with the special qualities of a business, while also differentiated from the competition.

There’s a lot of competition in the food space, so when we worked with a ready-to-eat meal company it was a challenge to find something that was truly own-able. We started by outlining everything the competition was already capturing for consumers — from being aspirational to accommodating their specific dietary needs. Then we looked at the brand we were working with to identify qualities or value props that weren’t already on the competitive map. It took some work, but we found it 🙂

2. Brand Tactics.

This is how we make the positioning actionable. We ask: If we want to be here in the competitive landscape, how do we get there?

Let’s take a previous client of ours from the fitness industry as an example. Team was a central part of what made their offering unique. So, we identified their strategic positioning as “The Team Captain” because research shows this role is consistently responsible for winning teams. From there we developed tactics that reflect top qualities of the most successful Team Captains of all time:

Having No Ego

Leading By Example

Sticking to Impactful Interactions Over Performative Ones

Finally, each of these tactics are then broken down into practical actions the brand can take across all touchpoints, including examples for now and into the future.

3. Mission.

A mission is particularly powerful for brands, especially in a time where they are being looked at to act and respond to topics far outside of what their business may focus on. Defining the mission can help guide teams who are managing the brand to know not only what to respond to, but how to respond.

I recently received an email from Daily Harvest informing me that a new product of theirs that I purchased should be thrown away due to complaints from customers about gastrointestinal issues. In communicating this, they called back to their mission of “taking care of food, so food can take care of you.” They went on to explain that this means “quality, safety, and transparency are and always will be our top priorities.” By doing this, I was reminded that things happen and that even when things go wrong I can trust this brand to be honest with me and take immediate action in my best interest.

4. Who we are and who we aren’t.

We always develop brand attributes in our process, which are essentially the personality traits of the brand. What I’ve found to be critical in developing these is to also identify what you are not. I’ve seen this done as two general lists, but I like to think of the attribute on a spectrum so we can narrow in much more closely on that personality. This ultimately results in a brand that is more clearly identifiable and consistent.

So, let’s say we want a brand to be Collaborative. We’ll look at that attribute and think, if we over-invested in this what might it become? And in this case we determined it was Friendly. Now, this isn’t a bad trait to have at all, but it’s not appropriate for this brand, which is dealing with crime and other serious matters. With this targeted approach, we gain a much more practical guide to executing on these attributes.

5. Brand awareness and sentiment tracking.

This is the practice of surveying and listening to your audience, both existing and prospective, to identify where your brand stands in their minds. Do they even know about it? If they do, do they have positive feelings about it? Do they associate any of your value props with the brand?

It’s always eye opening to hear what a client views as their brand’s core values and differentiators versus what the audience does. It teaches you how noisy the world is and how delicate brand messaging can be. We had a client that provided security of data and information exchange as their primary value, yet the audience all referred to the top value of the brand as being easy to use. That’s not a bad value to identify as, but it’s pretty baseline for a SaaS company these days. That’s not what is going to set them apart in the greater, noisier market. With that insight, we were able to help them refine their identity accordingly.

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?

I’m always impressed by brands that last — the ones who know who they are and stand the test of time. Home Depot is a good example of this. What impresses me most is their ability to appeal to a range of target audiences — from young and old, to the professional contractor and the DIY homeowner. I never really want to go to Home Depot, but if I need materials for a home project, that’s the brand that comes to mind first.

I think what we can learn, or try to replicate is the simplicity and consistency. The brand doesn’t scramble to adapt or fit in as the tides change. It sticks to what it knows and presents it simply and consistently. Its campaigns don’t try to grasp at far-reaching concepts and tie it to home improvement. It speaks directly to who its customer is when they walk through their doors and what they’re going to get. This was evident once again in their new tagline unveiled in 2019 — “How doers get more done.”

Building any brand, especially a believable and beloved one, also takes time. When you combine simplicity, consistency and time in market, your odds of sinking in with consumers in a way that means something to them are pretty good.

I’d be remiss not to acknowledge the slack they’ve received for their political affiliations in recent years, which I touch on more below. It actually makes this an even more interesting example of how much a beloved and believable brand can do for a company. In this case, Home Depot will very likely be fine because the brand equity is strong enough to either overpower or outlast the consumer’s attention span around negative PR.

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 similar in the sense that you should absolutely be measuring both. When it comes to measuring brand building campaigns, you’re typically looking at awareness, reach, perception and sentiment. These are things you can measure with brand awareness studies. Ideally brands are doing these every quarter, setting a baseline and observing shifts as new campaigns and products roll out. This includes social listening and surveys to the target audience to understand if the brand messaging, attributes, and value props are being absorbed.

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

Social media is a key input and output for branding efforts. During our discovery phase, we do social listening to identify trends in how the audience is engaging or thinking about the brand at that current time.

Then social media channels become a part of what we explore and test against as we’re developing the visual and verbal identity. Will the logo mark scale down to the Instagram profile icon size? How do we speak to consumers in a social ad versus an organic social post? Do we use emojis? There’s lots to consider when it comes to social media.

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 stop brands from being able to donate to politicians and lawmakers. Bringing it full circle, Home Depot has recently been boycotted for donating to lawmakers that rejected the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Brands — even beloved and believable ones — can often be used as a facade to get people to buy things from companies that aren’t really living up to the values that they put out into the world. We’re always going to be consuming, that’s not going anywhere. But, it would be incredible if we could feel confident in the brands that we’re consuming and not have to worry about strings attached. Separating corporate and political power would be a good start.

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

There isn’t one single quote or mantra that I live by. I’m Type A so that can get dangerous (haha). I do work with a coach and she often likes to take key insights and turn them into mantras so we don’t lose sight of them. A recent one was “Hear the Hesitation.” It’s really just a more applicable way of saying “Go With Your Gut” for me. As a business owner, there are a lot of pressures and competing priorities, which can make finding your gut challenging sometimes. But one thing that always stands out to me is when I’m hesitating. When I listen to that, I find it’s my gut trying to tell me something and I remind myself to stop and listen.

This has been particularly relevant for me in deciding what companies and people that I want to work with. Martha is a boutique consultancy and we like to focus in on the clients and projects that we work with. As of 2022, we only accept four projects at a time. Needless to say, who we choose to engage with is of the utmost importance to our business.

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. 🙂

Definitely Jess Lee from Sequoia

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can find me at https://www.instagram.com/marisshapiro/ and you can find Martha at https://www.instagram.com/hello.this.is.martha/

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

Thank you!


Marissa Shapiro Of Martha: 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.

The Future Is Now: Dmitry Semenov Of Saritasa On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up…

The Future Is Now: Dmitry Semenov Of Saritasa On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Learn to delegate quickly. You’ll save yourself a ton of time in the long run, and build up a team of competent people. Delegation is often the hardest part of leadership. It’s easy to do things yourself. It’s hard to ask for help.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dmitry Semenov, CTO.

Dmitry Semenov has over 20 years of experience building and managing technology projects. He is proficient in full software lifecycle development, with deep knowledge in PHP, .Net, iOS and Android. He is skilled in the architecture of high demand, high traffic systems and has worked extensively with complex databases and integrating diverse software environments.

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

Back in the 80s, I used to dream about having a computer at home. My mom worked in the software industry. Occasionally I got the opportunity to visit her workspace, meet with her colleagues, and play various games.

Through that, I met some extremely talented developers. Remember, back in those days there was no internet, no stackoverflow.com. People had to store a massive amount of information in their minds. They had no opportunity to find a quick solution and therefore they were required to understand the technology or the language at a very serious and deep level. So they were true masters of their craft.

I remember monochrome displays, IBM XT, then IBM XT286, IBM Keyboards, Magnetic disks, and 64 Kb memory. It is crazy how quickly technology evolved in 30 years. Then Quake, Doom, and Duke Nukem 3D. I got the 33.6 kb modem and spent hours of gaming with my best friend (and occupying the phone line). I got my first computer at home when I was in university studying computer science.

I loved programming. When the internet became somewhat available (very expensive back then, when you had to pay per MB). I learned PHP3 language and developed the first web reporting solution for the bank I was working in. Then I got a side gig and developed a full dating site using PHP language. That became my hobby — the internet and web apps. This hobby turned into a passion for me. I kept programming more and more. I was then hired as director of web development in a local ISP. Eventually, I formed my own development company.

In 2007 I met with my future partner in the USA by responding to his ad about development needs. We started working on several projects and eventually met in the USA and decided to join our companies. That is how I became CTO and concentrated on the technology side of things in Saritasa. I was always following the path of the “interest” — because I can only do great things if I love doing these great things. All these years — I still **LOVE** what I’m doing despite the stress, risk, weekend, and nightly work.

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

The most interesting stories are the stories of people I’ve worked with for many many years, shoulder-to-shoulder, that are growing, improving, maturing, and changing. Watching them change is very rewarding for me, as I know I’ve helped them, influenced them, or put a different perspective on things that were important to them. At the same time, these people changed me as well. They helped me become a better person, a better professional.

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

Over the years we developed many interesting, complex, and rewarding projects — “Mobile Medic” which helps paramedics on-scene, “Trivver” which changed how VR/AR advertisement can be done, and many many many more. We’ve built thousands of projects over the years. When you work on serious projects — the stability and the quality of the infrastructure solution becomes a key element. That element requires special skills, special people, and special culture. It is possible to create a great solution at the code level, but have the project fail because the infrastructure keeps failing or not performing under load. This is where the importance of DevOps comes in. DevOps, Cloud, Security, and Kubernetes have become a hot topic in the development world. The companies who get it done right will have a much better journey than the ones who don’t care where their code/apps are living.

How do you think this might change the world?

The Cloud, Security, Containers, Scalability, Observability, Continuous integration, Continuous deployment, and Kubernetes / nomad / terraform are very complex topics. Multiply each by nuances of their technology stacks (Go, Python, PHP, .NET, Java, etc), and it gets even more complicated. Developers don’t want to focus on them. It’s too complex. They want to use them. Just like you want to use your car without really worrying about how the gas is injected into the motor. You just want it to work whenever you need it.

The same is true for code. It’s said that development is a “black box” for non-technical folks. DevOps is an even blacker black box, but people still want it to work 24/7. DevOps helps hide these complexities from “consumers” — developers, end-users, managers, etc. DevOps are the “blood and heart” of the entire system. They’re in most cases hidden from their consumers but are critically important for any business/project/SaaS.

DevOps either allows consumers to show and do their best or renders them inefficient.

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

DevOps (and the tools behind it) is the culture. If we are going with the “Black Mirror” analogy, you could refer to it as a “cult”. Invest into it with care. Imagine you created your own “cult” and the primary spokesperson you relied on left. Now you have unmanaged followers and a power vacuum. An internal struggle is guaranteed. You may end up worse off than where you started.

So invest in DevOps only if you understand that this is a long-long-term investment. And ensure you have a team of people you can truly trust. You will get results in the future, but not in 3–4 months. The biggest risk is retention. If you hire someone who quits on you in a year just to find out that nobody can support what they have “crafted”. You’ll waste time and money.

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

The efficiency of the development team. If the team is not efficient you may lose 40 cents on the dollar. Which is huge, especially in the case of bigger and distributed teams. A proper process can save businesses an enormous amount of money and headaches each year. The wrong process can generate an enormous amount of expense and headache every day. The quality of your culture within the organization is the key point. A formal approach to DevOps is never a success. It is unique for each organization as each has different requirements, nuances, and usage of the technology.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption

Commitment. As I’ve said, DevOps is a culture, not a single technology or process. To implement and maintain a culture, you need to commit to it.

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

The people I work alongside every single day. One of them is my partner — Nik Froehlich. I used to be a black/white mentality person. The answer was either YES or NO. There was no in-between. He taught me to realize there are a lot of shades between black and white. This helped me in many areas — not just in technology, but with people and life in general. I rarely saw him being emotional through many years and many stressful scenarios. You get in the boat with him and you pull and pull. And then pull more. We pull and push every single day. This is fun and very rewarding. My best Vegas experience was with my partner and I remember it fondly. I hope to repeat it one day!

Back in 2008, I distinctly remember we were working in the office in Corona Del Mar. It was a sunny evening. We heard a loud noise outside and went onto the veranda just to see that his car was smashed by a drunk driver. His car at the time was an expensive convertible. The driver destroyed it. Nik was very calm, not angry at all, not a single thread of panic. When the police arrived, we told them we had a client meeting and left the scene. He never seemed to be upset and handled the situation with grace. I was very surprised because I would’ve reacted differently back then.

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

To teach people to become better people and better professionals.

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

Don’t start a business with friends or you will have no friends. Adding business and money complications into an existing friendship can lead to issues down the line. It’s better to focus on finding partners who you trust and growing those relationships based in a business mindset.

Learn to delegate quickly. You’ll save yourself a ton of time in the long run, and build up a team of competent people. Delegation is often the hardest part of leadership. It’s easy to do things yourself. It’s hard to ask for help.

You can’t change toxic people, regardless of how hard you try. Don’t waste your energy on people who you can’t help. It’ll be a drain of time and resources better spent elsewhere. Focus on the people you can help and you’ll be better off in the long run.

You can’t expect others to be like you or share and value the same ideas as you (but you should still keep trying to do that every day). Everyone has different life experiences which shape how they interact with the world. You should still try to help people, but understand not everyone has the same background as you do.

Other people have their own opinion, you don’t win if you overwrite their opinion. You win if both of you take something new from the conversation.

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. 🙂

Clean your own street/community/city. Just go out and do it once a day — meet other people doing the same thing. That way people unite as they live in the place they value and love.

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

You will regret that you didn’t do more than what you did.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I don’t feed my brain from social media. I don’t post on Linkedin, FB, Instagram, etc. Why? I just don’t need to share my thoughts and life with the internet. There’s enough “noise” out there already.

You can follow Saritasa on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter though.

Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was so inspiring, and we wish you continued success!


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

Making Something From Nothing: Kwame Ferreira Of Impossible & Bond Touch On How To Go From Idea To…

Making Something From Nothing: Kwame Ferreira Of Impossible & Bond Touch On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

The company is part of your life. It is not your life. It’s a construct that exists to enrich your life and the life of others. When it can no longer do so, create another company.

As a part of our series called “Making Something From Nothing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kwame Ferreira, CEO & Founder of Bond Touch.

Kwame Ferreira is a serial impact entrepreneur who is leading Impossible, best known for creating Planet centric design. He is the CEO and Founder of the Impossible company Bond Touch, the pioneer in emotional wearables with a mission to touch hearts and enrich relationships. Kwame also co-founded Wiresglasses, combating waste in the eyewear industry, helped grow Fairphone, the world’s first ethical phone, and chairs Nikabot, another Impossible company, creating healthier happier teams.

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 Angola. My parents were working for the ministry of culture, filming and documenting tribes across Angola. From there I moved to Brazil and then Portugal. I was a curious kid, growing up in nature until I was 17. I worked in my family’s construction firm, which gave me the pragmatism needed to become an entrepreneur.

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

The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed, by William Gibson. It opened my eyes to the fact that not only do we have time zones but whole areas of the planet living in totally different epochs. It’s a quote that gave me perspective. I feel like I spend my life moving between different futures. It’s important we share our idea of the future with as many people as possible so we all work towards the same goal.

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?

Daniel J. Boorstin’s — The Discoverers: A History of Man’s Search to Know His World and Himself was a book that opened my eyes to the vast landscape of knowledge we build upon in order to discover new things. The greatest obstacle to discovery, Boorstin wrote, is not ignorance — it is the illusion of knowledge. We tend to curb our curiosity at an early age. His writings kept me curious.

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?

  • Make small bets and see how the market behaves. This is the best advice I was given. Bet small, lose small. If you will, scale.
  • People will tell you with words that they love your idea but they will tell you with their wallets that they love your product. Or not.
  • Persevere. Build resilience in your daily life by modeling your behavior on people who have survived.

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?

Google. These days there are no excuses. If it has been created, great, someone has braved the market. What have they learned? How can you help solve the problem better?

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.

  1. I always start by feeling the problem. Describing it to my friends with very simple language as well as a potential solution. What I’m really doing is asking myself whether I am alone in this feeling. Do others feel what I feel? I always start with emotions and really try not to get too brainy.

After I’m convinced that my initial pitch has traction, I ask myself how will I know that the solution I propose is right? Do I have a framework to measure success? Is it revenue? Is it retention? Is it team growth? Is it cleaner oceans? Can I easily measure it? The answer lies in a finite number of indicators. Ensure they are clear. Measurable. Launching a product is so intense and time-consuming that you need to focus on what matters and only what matters.

You are not committed to a solution, you are committing to a problem. Committing to a problem is for the long haul. You may be launching several products in this problem space. Think 10 years. In ten years’ time will you be solving the same problem? The answer to this question determines how mission-driven you are. Mission is problem-connected, not outcome-based.

2. Pick your team. Ensure they are not like you. You can’t all play in the same position. Make sure they are a culture fit before they are a skill fit. Write them love letters as often as possible.

3. Get coaching as to how to manage people. Creating and launching products is all about people. You are not launching a product, you are launching a little vehicle that has all your team’s hopes and ambitions.

4. Patience. Breathe. Don’t try to disconnect. That’s not realistic. Instead try and connect with people outside your space. Learn how to meditate. It helps.

5. Set short-term goals aligned to long-term objectives. Do so with your team, as a team. Align everyone on a weekly basis. Celebrate when you reach your goals.

We are all made up of cognitive biases. Learn to discount these from your decision- making process. The best way to manage biases is by getting advice from those who have done it before. Take serious feedback seriously.

Try, fail, measure & learn. Try again.

Repeat 9 until point number 2 is positive.

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

  1. A company is made of people. It all starts and ends with people. Get coaching as to how to manage people.
  2. Keep things as small for as long as you can. Do more with less.
  3. Trust your advisors. They’ve done it before. Model your behavior after them.
  4. The culture you create will be modeled after your behavior, not your words. Lead by example. For more read Mimetic Desire.
  5. The company is part of your life. It is not your life. It’s a construct that exists to enrich your life and the life of others. When it can no longer do so, create another company.

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?

Pitch it to friends in a social setting, like a bar, or a concert. A noisy place that will make you simplify your pitch. It’s important you are able to convince friends and family before moving on to the market.

Moving on to the market, if it’s physical, I would not create the product but rather a model you can use in a photoshoot to exemplify its value. I would create a website, a video and lots of photos before I invest too much into the product. Put it up on Shopify (if it’s a physical product) and see if you get any sales. If it’s b2b, get a customer to show interest. If it’s a service, look at how you can create the minimum loveable 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?

Go at it on your own in the beginning. You don’t have resources and that is a good thing, it forces you to focus. Consultants cost money and time. You don’t have either. Instead of consultants, get advisors, and mentors. They will impart their knowledge in a pay-it-forward model, i.e. for free, something you will then copy once you have gained experience and have success under your belt.

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 bootstrap. VC capital is great when you need to scale. Once you have product-market fit. In the beginning you are looking for market fit. You can do so without VCs.

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

The first thing is sharing knowledge. I spend a lot of time passing on what I have learned to others. This is how I got here and the best way to make the world a better place.

The second thing is measuring impact. Ensuring my teams are working with independent frameworks, like BCorp for example, that allow us to assess progress in key metrics: Governance, Workers, Community, Environment, and Customers.

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.

Tech for Biodiversity. A movement of tech people who work on solutions that have a net positive impact in increasing biodiversity.

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 like to have breakfast with Ridley Scott. He directed so many of my favorite movies I feel like the future I imagine is the future he has imagined. I wonder if he is a breakfast man though.

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


Making Something From Nothing: Kwame Ferreira Of Impossible & Bond Touch 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.

Meet The Disruptors: Keith Gelman Of Talent Partnership Advisors On The Five Things You Need To…

Meet The Disruptors: Keith Gelman Of Talent Partnership Advisors On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

There’s enough money to go around. A younger version of me was stressing over another company winning a business pitch. My boss said, don’t sweat it; we will get the next one; there’s enough money to go around. This has stuck with me in so many forms when I get frustrated that things aren’t going right. Money and opportunity are plentiful, so if one thing doesn’t go your way, don’t lose track of your overall plan.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Keith Gelman, Founder and CEO of Talent Partnerships Advisors.

Keith Gelman is a highly-specialized entertainment, sports, music and culture marketing leader with over 20 years of experience.

He has built an impressive Rolodex, having directly represented the brand and talent sides with a keen focus on co-creating sponsorships and partnerships across multiple integrated global campaigns between brands and entertainment properties leveraging traditional marketing techniques, social media and streaming.

Talent Partnerships Advisors was born out of his love for fueling fresh perspectives, learning to listen for the big idea while channeling creativity and fresh storytelling into the brand’s program that feels real and makes sense for today’s consumer.

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

A $10 an hour internship led to the opportunity to find former Chicago White Sox All-Star Magglio Ordonez a car trade deal with a local car dealership. I loved it — when I was 23 and thought it was the coolest barter deal ever. I then got other White Sox and local Chicago stars free cars… then cell phones… then I got a $250 gift certificate for a dinner out. I invited my two best friends — the bill came to $350.

Fast forward a few years later, I got the opportunity to represent top sports players on endorsements directly, brands and talent while at Live Nation and now Talent Partnership Advisors.

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

The work TPA is doing is disruptive because we stop, listen and look around to what is happening in pop culture. Many of our brand clients look for relevant opportunities and moments — this doesn’t always need to be a revolutionary breakthrough. Still, it is as simple as identifying that perfect talent whose show just ended, the talent had a baby, or there is an anniversary. A lot of times, it’s not necessary to spend on the A-List talent, some celebrities that aren’t household names per se but are fresh enough that the media wants to talk to them. We find the angles, create the narrative, and when it all comes together, it tees up opportunities for the brand to strike.

For an agency like TPA, there’s never been a better time to offer brands, agencies, and PR professionals a robust Rolodex of industry connections and an approach of responsiveness, fresh perspective, creative storytelling, and realness.

If coming up with the winning idea for the celebrity or brand isn’t enough, TPA’s specialty is cost savings to the brand of upwards of 28% by understanding how deals should be structured. We have a process to review talent at fair market value and create efficiencies by saving agency hours in talent research, proposal development and the little things like TPA’s knowledge on back-end deal points that typically impact budgets. This is a game-changer.

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

I haven’t thought about this for 15 years… but I was working with a top sports star who was presented with a Vitamin Water equity offer. This specific star was getting six-figure offers, and our team was focused on the big payday and didn’t take the time to research the equity play properly.

What did I learn? Well, we all know how that turned out for 50 Cent and others… lesson learned. Look at the long game.

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

Shoutout to Jerry Weintraub. Although I never met this man, I was reading his book “When I stop talking, you will know that i’m dead” at one of the most important points in my career. Irving Azoff had brought be on as a consultant to help get the talent-managed brand deals. Shortly after, he resigned as Chairman of the Board at Live Nation and left FrontLine Management. With a lot of dust that needed to settle on the state of the union at Live Nation, I was left in a predicament on my next steps. Jerry’s stories in the book gave me the confidence to keep working on a certain project that led me to a full-time job as VP, Artist Partnerships of Artist Nation (formerly Frontline Management).

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?

Disrupting isn’t always good — Every few years, a new trend disrupts the talent partnership space. Think dot-com era or now, the web 3/NFT/Crypto boom. Brands that you never heard of are getting investment dollars and start spending on celebrities in a way that is not sustainable. Celebrities get in their head that overnight, they are worth, for example, $10M for the brand partnership, while realistically, that’s not the case for the average brand looking to work with that talent. Brands like these are throwing around money, and this ‘disrupts’ the everyday workflow for companies that play in the partnerships and endorsements space and end up hurting the talent in the long run as they miss out on fruitful strategic opportunities in the hope of the next big payday. It’s a trickle effect — once one celebrity hears that their friend got ‘paid,’ they expect it too… it’s a lose-lose outside of that one big payday.

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 wouldn’t be a true disruptor if I didn’t push for these six best words — There’s enough money to go around. A younger version of me was stressing over another company winning a business pitch. My boss said, don’t sweat it; we will get the next one; there’s enough money to go around. This has stuck with me in so many forms when I get frustrated that things aren’t going right. Money and opportunity are plentiful, so if one thing doesn’t go your way, don’t lose track of your overall plan.

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

I have never been more excited to say, “I don’t know.” I genuinely don’t! I know that TPA has so much momentum behind them right as the new shop is on the scene, and we are free from the confines of a bigger organization that we are poised to win.

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?

Want to get inspired to pound the pavement and reach goals? Then the book, as mentioned earlier, “When I stop talking, you will know that I’m dead,” by Jerry Weintraub.

How can our readers follow you online?

Check us out on Instagram @ talentpartnerships or on LinkedIn.

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


Meet The Disruptors: Keith Gelman Of Talent Partnership Advisors On The Five Things You Need To… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Meet The Disruptors: Hemanth Puttaswamy Of Malbek On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your…

Meet The Disruptors: Hemanth Puttaswamy Of Malbek On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Learn to take rejection as a learning experience. Not all opportunities are right for you. In a single day, you may have five positive interactions and two negatives, and the negatives can quickly bog you down unless you are able to recognize that every negative can be turned into a learning experience.

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

Hemanth Puttaswamy is a technology entrepreneur. As CEO and co-founder at Malbek (A Contract Lifecycle Management solution provider), his vision is to redefine the quote-to-cash solution aimed for the age of AI. Hemanth is a hands-on leader with a passion for building a great team with an amazing culture that zealously works to make every customer successful. He is responsible for overall corporate strategy and product vision with a keen eye towards building the best solution interface that will delight every user.

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?

When it comes to my backstory and my current company’s origins, it starts with a major lesson I learned about taking corporate pain to entrepreneurial gain. Years ago, when I was working as an executive in a public company, a yearly audit of financials showed major issues with the way revenue was recognized across our 2,500+ customers. The company had to restate financials going back ten years. This is when I realized the impact of badly managed contracts and non-standard contract terms.

A light bulb went off that there is a clear need to have a solution that would standardize contracting processes with complete enterprise visibility for every business.

This sparked a fire, which led me to research the available solutions to manage contracts and ultimately found this innovative company in the contract lifecycle management space.

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

We make what can be considered boring — contracts — come to life. We accomplish this by using AI in every part of the contracting process and provide context so anyone who touches contracts — from finance, to procurement, to legal, to sales — have the context they need to take the actions that help them reduce risk, save time, and eliminate headaches that silos can cause along the way.

We are disruptive because we are solving a series of complex contracting problems with highly engineered, yet easy-to-use technology. We apply our patented AI in the entire contract lifecycle. We don’t just use our solution to address singular pain points, as some companies do. We look at every part of the process and address it by leveraging different algorithms throughout the contract lifecycle. This is the big differentiator.

We bring in persona-based AI recommendations to include everyone in the contracting process in a way that is dynamic and meets client needs. We also provide industry benchmarks in context so our users can get better results than their peers.

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

When we started the company, one thing I had in mind was people should be able to relate to the name of the brand. The challenge was to come up with one word that encapsulated what we were trying to achieve. Namely, bringing people and processes together in smart, new ways.

We came up with more than 100 names, but nothing reflected our personality — the fun, light-heartedness, and also something that people could remember. While we were working to revolutionize the contract space, we didn’t want the word “contract” in our name as we felt it was limiting. In the meantime, the placeholder name we chose for the company was Malbek (with a K) because the co-founders were brainstorming names over a bottle of Malbec. We finished the evening by toasting, “To Malbek!”

Afterward, we laughed at how we had the right name all along. To me, Malbek represents coming together and bringing our best ideas to the table just like when you enjoy a nice bottle of wine with friends or family. It symbolizes the power of what we can accomplish together, and it relates nicely back to what we do — bringing so many different people across departments together as they work on contracts.

We believe our platform, just like a good bottle of wine, brings sales, legal, procurement, and finance teams together to collaborate for a common mission and is just waiting to be uncorked at every organization.

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?

Mentorship is important because the right conversations at the right time can have a huge impact on careers and companies. I’d say my most impactful mentors have definitely been the CEOs I have had the chance to work with in my career.

They have been able to show how to resolve conflicts and deadlocks, particularly in negotiations. This is especially relevant given that I work in the contract space where negotiations happen all the time.

They were good enough to bring me along so I could see these negotiations and focus on what mattered. The first major lesson I learned was to keep a human focus on contracts and negotiations. The second lesson was being able to understand big, complex deals, and learning how to close them in a way that works for everyone involved.

Gaining a deeper understanding of and appreciation for managing people and cultivating a thriving company culture came from the mentorship of a prior Vice President of Human Resources. She showed me that empathy was one of the most important characteristics of any company culture. I’ve never forgotten that.

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?

Today, there are a lot of people who misunderstand what AI is, even those working in this space. Meaning, they seem to find a solution and then look for where the solution can fit into a problem. This is often seen in businesses that chase buzzwords and jargon instead of thinking of use cases where there exists a real and pressing problem that needs to be solved.

True disruption starts with understanding customer pain. When we truly understand and can empathize with what problems need to be solved, we are able to get to work to solve the entire problem in a completely new way. By thinking through the problem to the ideal solution, and then — and only then- identifying the ways to solve the problem, we are able to solve much bigger problems.

Understanding the problem in-depth, thinking outside of the box towards the end goal, and not constraining yourself with perceived technology limitations is at the core of true innovation and disruption.

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

  • Listen to the customer. This is my first priority on any type of list. Listen more, talk less. You’ll learn a lot in the process.
  • Don’t think the customer is right all the time. You may get 100 asks and those requests can be transactional in nature. Take all these disparate messages and identify themes so you have focus and know what to solve.
  • Learn to take rejection as a learning experience. Not all opportunities are right for you. In a single day, you may have five positive interactions and two negatives, and the negatives can quickly bog you down unless you are able to recognize that every negative can be turned into a learning experience.
  • Build broadly when it comes to hiring. Don’t always try to look for one group of people. Hire people from diverse backgrounds, who are open-minded, and who are hungry to learn. If you hire by one pedigree or from one particular school, you’re limiting the success of your company. Broader perspectives lead to more diverse approaches to solving problems, and one of those solutions could be your next goldmine.
  • Empower your people and then great things can happen. This is rooted in trust. The best leaders instill a sense of responsibility and trust in their teams, which is refreshing in the corporate world. Encouraging ownership and ideas is key to building an innovative culture.

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

It’s a multiplication effect. Disruptive thinking multiplies when you’re able to empower employees and encourage them to always take risks and come up with different ways to solve a particular problem. When you do that, every department can produce ideas that blow you away. Given the platform and also freedom and trust a multiplication effect is created. I meet with every employee when they join, and meet again after 90 days to ensure the lines of communication are open.

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?

Amp It Up by Frank Slootman is an excellent read. In the book, he gives an almost unfiltered view of what it is really like to be a CEO.

As a leader, a lot of the outside world thinks you are superhuman, but the realities of what you are and what you experience as a leader are quite different. He covers the importance of focusing on both long-term vision and short-term tactics and how to handle all the things that come along the way.

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

Celebrate the good news only for a few milliseconds, and be ready for what’s next. How you gracefully handle the bad news you get in life is a way to turn challenges into opportunities.

As a leader, I’ve worked with customers who have been contemplating canceling their engagement, and rather than reacting defensively, or putting together a band-aid, we use the experience to not only solve the issue at hand, but also identify and solve a larger issue at hand, eliminating the pattern of problems at the root.

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

There are so many things that come to mind. First, figure out a way to remove violence from this world. Valuing and respecting diversity is always a good place to start when building empathy.

I also think about how each of us can have a better impact on the environment. Small actions by many can make a big difference.

For example, looking at things like how much you drive, how much we consume, the type of energy we use, and if we recycle or reuse our things can start behavior changes that last for generations.

How can our readers follow you online?

https://www.linkedin.com/in/hemanth-puttaswamy-791ba5/

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


Meet The Disruptors: Hemanth Puttaswamy Of Malbek 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.

Nick Kellett Of Deckible On Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

If you don’t have a strategy for PAID, EARNED and OWNED media you are dead in the water. POEM is a core building block.

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

Founder Nick Kellet is a seasoned tech startup founder. His boardgame, GiftTRAP won 20+ awards and sold 100k units. He owns a lot of decks! As List.ly’s co-founder it grew to a top 5k website (per Alexa rankings). GiftTRAP and List.ly thrived on a strategy of crowdsourcing, community, and digital media.

He sold his Business Intelligence startup to Business Objects, now part of SAP. He’s an evangelist and community builder with a love for cardboard.

Deckible is backed by a world class development team and a great team of advisors.

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

I have an inch thick binder of rejection letters from 1984. Despite that, I got meetings with companies including Milton Bradley or MB Games.

I pitched them a computer version of Connect Four. I was an early tech nerd and a wizard on the Commodore 64. I nearly quit university to invent games.

Funny story…MB Games said “we don’t think there’s a market for computer games”.

IBM said there was only a market for maybe 5 computers. People turned down the Beatles.

How do you process it when the world’s leading game company doesn’t see the potential for computer games! This was 1984.

Clayton Christensen didn’t write his book Innovator’s Dilemma until 1995!

I got used to rejection really young. “No’s” got me excited.

My parents were super-critical and I guess I got thick-skinned. I became my own feedback machine and I lived in my idea-palace.

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?

Holy, that’s tough competition. Mistakes are where the bullion is buried.

I placed an advert in Lotus User Group’s Magazine. We were advertising training for Microsoft’s database product. Microsoft and Lotus were rivals.

The ad had killer-copy. I got a 200x return. I’ve yet to trump that. And they wouldn’t take my next ad. That sucked! I should have booked a 3 year deal!

I learned; it pays to be controversial.

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

Standing out is all about story and metaphors.

We never explain anything from scratch. We use metaphors. Movie “X” is like the movie “Y”, but with a “Z”.

“x” is like “Jaws”, but in the jungle. Less is more.

Metaphors are gateway drugs. Powerful metaphors to get you curious and to try things.

Apple’s “1000 songs in your pocket” sold a lot of ipods.

I think of myself as a metaphor hunter.

I call Deckible “Audible for Card-Decks”. 4 words that pack a punch.

Deckible is about digitizing card-decks and that’s unique but the metaphor explains that.

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

I invent for a living. I’m always on to something new.

My new project is Deckible — “Audible for card decks”. We’re proudly repurposing the ipods tagline as “100 decks in your pocket”

You may be unaware of the size of the card deck market, but card decks are huge, and best yet, they have not been digitized until now. 100,000+ unique decks have been published. That shocks people who aren’t in the know.

People love decks, but they are bulky, so they get left at home. We fix that problem.

I love a good “Fro-To” — it should be a word.

From: Left at home

To: In your pocket

Movies, Books and Audio Books have all been successfully digitized. We know who won those marketplace wars…. NOT the creators.

With printing and shipping costs exploding, artists need new ways to sell their art. Digital Card-Decks on Deckible is a new profitable option for artists.

Deckible fills that void.

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

Brand is about story. I buy into Apple’s story. You could call me an “Apple fanboy”. That’s brand marketing, but brand marketing is not infallible.

I thought the Apple watch sucked. That’s product marketing. They failed the product level, at least for me. I was not an early adopter.

The brand didn’t carry me into the watch category.

I’d buy an Apple car over a Tesla.

Our brains are made up of a bunch of complex decision trees.

Marketing is about decoding and leveraging these trees like levers.

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?

Passion is a proxy or pseudonym for energy and when it exists, you don’t need to pay for “energy”. So nurture, discover and gather an army of passionate fans.

Branding is about creating passion and curiosity for what you do.

Marketing budgets are finite and laden with friction. They come with burdens and responsibilities, so use them wisely.

Invest in removing friction so future marketing flows more easily,

I mentioned earlier that I believe in creating “living things”. Living things are alive and exude free energy. When your product is alive your customers propel you.

Create all the free fuel you can to launch your rocket. And you reduce the possibility of failure. Involve so many people that failure is not an option.

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’m a big fan of “P.O.E.M.” Paid, owned, earned media. So that accounts for three elements of your media strategy.

If you don’t have a strategy for PAID, EARNED and OWNED media you are dead in the water. POEM is a core building block.

I prefer to use “S.C.O.P.E.” as a better model than POEM. SCOPE = Social, collaborative, owned, paid & earned media. SOCIAL and COLLABORATION are the 4th and 5th elements of my strategy.

SCOPE is about leveraging 1:9:90. Sadly many people haven’t heard of the 1% rule. It’s about nurturing the silent majority — the 90%.

1.9:90 is why social works. They are the building blocks that will lead you to success and make you mindful of creating a living brand based around audience participation and collaboration.

If your product/idea/brand is not shareable or collaboration-worthy then my simple advice is go back to the drawing board until it is.

My life experience validates SCOPE and this mindset.

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?

AlleyMan Tarot is the most funded tarot project on kickstarter. 22k units pre-sold.

I’m a huge fan of crowdsourcing and community and this project did it all. The deck was sourced from 100+ decks from 100+ creators. It’ was a mashup deck.

Their facebook fans group could not wait for the deck to arrive, so started mailing cards to each other to create their own mashup decks.

I used to love Jones Soda for this reason, but that’s an old example. Alleyman is a modern remake.

You can replicate this by stepping back from managing everything and letting your customers shine.

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’d said it all comes down to SCOPE.

You want to nurture activity on all 5 dimensions. That’s like playing with a full orchestra.

The best thing about SCOPE is the elements all play off each other, perhaps Jazz is a better metaphor than a full orchestra.

I want my advertising to play into my brand and community and social.

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

It’s woven in from the ground-up. It’s part of the DNA. It’s never lipstick on a pig.

Make it easy and compelling for anyone in your ecosystem to participate in social around your brand.

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’ve been thinking a lot about “artists helping artists”. I love tools that let people collaborate at scale.

There’s a huge gap between musicians that make a good living and those that don’t. Artists are the same.

I think there is potential here creating something.

I used to love Twitter in the 2009–2012 period. The twitter chats, #followfridays and the retweets. So many cool cultural norms .Perhaps there is new hope under Elon’s watch.

Go share 5 artists you love and pay it forward.

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

“Who are you to the tiger?” is a question an early mentor asked me. I’ve used it on every project I’ve ever touched.

It’s just a great way of asking what is your role on the stage of life, where do you play in the picture. And who are the actors in your play?

Are you the hunter? The mosquito on the tiger’s back. The ringmaster at the circus. Or the audience at the Magic show in Vegas? Or the tiger’s next snack?

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’m a huge fan of Ryan Holiday. I’ve read every book he’s written since “Trust me I’m lying”. He got me into stoicism.

And now he runs a bookstore in Texas amongst other things.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I’m @nickkellet on all the socials. And you can find me at

https://www.deckible.com

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


Nick Kellett Of Deckible 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.

Transformational Travel: Hilde S Palladino’s Big Idea That Might Change The World

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Know thyself. Dating back to the ancient Greeks, the saying ‘know thyself’ has encouraged people to engage in a search for self-understanding. I once had a client that did excellent work, on a subject she was passionate about, but still found herself burned out, and about to leave her job. It didn’t take us many sessions to understand that her personality type didn’t work in conjunction with the way she worked and that although her field of work was her passion, she had to go about it in a radically new way. Traveling is one of the best ways to confront your values, dig deep into your subconscious and set aside time to reflect on your findings.

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 Hilde S. Palladino.

A connector, inspirator and crime author, Hilde S. Palladino is first and foremost a true explorer. Having lived on three continents, served as a consultant for embassies, NGO’s and travel agencies, she firmly believes that if we all travelled more consciously the world would be a kinder place.

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?

After having founded several businesses, as well as working in corporate for multiple years, I made a clear choice in 2013 to change my everyday life. I wasn’t burned out, just sick of a life where working and working out was all there was. I didn’t want to wait for the weekend to relax, Christmas to have to time to read a book, vacations to be happy. I wanted to be joyful every day, Monday — Sunday. One of my dreams was to write a book, another not having to go in to the office every day unless I wanted to. I also wanted to eat healthier, spend my days in surroundings that gave me energy instead of draining me and do more of the things that was important to me. I decided to quit my corporate job, sell all my belongings and move to Bali. I have moved around thirty times in my life, living on three continents, therefor the moving itself wasn’t the difficult choice. The hardest part was the feeling of starting all over, just a suitcase in hand, and the uncertainty of my choice.

The difficulty was also concerning the fact that I didn’t want to just move my life to a different location. I wanted a new life, one that was radically different from the one I had.

One of the things I did, was to not get a long-term visa for Indonesia, I got one that would require me to leave the country every 60 days. I have to admit I regretted that sometimes, but it forced me to travel, and that was part of what I wanted. Travel, explore, learn about new cultures and myself, that was my mantra.

And here is the clue.

After having travelled extensively for almost two decades, I noticed that all my major life-changing epiphanies came during some kind of journey. There was a pattern there, and it is this. — When we are out of our comfort zones, in a different place, eating different food, talking with different people, spending our days differently than at home, we start to think different thoughts. And when we think different thoughts, we can create massive change in our lives.

We can change our behavior, what we know to be true, and we can solve problems at rapid speed this way. I knew that this knowledge was something I had to share with the world, and thus I made this in to a business.

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

A woman contacted me a few years back and told me about difficulties at work. Her team wasn’t performing, she felt that communication was part of the problem, but none of the coaches and advisors she had previously consulted was of any help. She needed radical change.

In just one session we mapped out a journey for her. We set her intention, arranged for her to work for an NGO in Indonesia for one week. This was something she had wanted to do, but never gotten around to, mostly because she was worried about the language barriers.

Yes, there was work involved, there was sweating, strange food, miscommunication, but also laughs and lots of time for reflection. What she came home with was not only a clear solution to the issues at work, but a whole new understanding on how to address problems within her team. She saw who needed what, including herself, and with that, a way of thriving through the pandemic when most of her industry crumbled.

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

I always reach my goals, and the reason, I believe, is that I always think about the big WHY of the goal. Why is it important? Why should I change my life to obtain it? How will it enrich my life? If the ‘why’ isn’t big enough, or important enough, I don’t do it. I only go after goals that I’m highly motivated to reach.

If I want to start running again just to get slimmer, that isn’t a very inspiring goal to me. If I decide that I want to start running to get in better shape as part of a routine to climb a particular volcano, or to take care of my body to avoid getting cancer again, that is a much more inspirational goal to me, and one that will get me out of bed in the morning.

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”?

One of the most powerful tools for transformation, traveling is still often overlooked as a means for change. But think about it, — there is not a single adventure without the possibility to experience something new, see the world through new eyes, get new perspectives. Journeys have the power to transform us. If people can use traveling as a way to better their lives, and others, if they could take what they have learned home to their families and friends, I not only think they will have the transformation faster, I believe we could create a better world.

How do you think this will change the world?

We are always impacted by our surroundings, the people we see, meet or live with. But when we travel, what we now bring home are Instagram shots, and the occasional souvenir.

What if we brought a shifted mindset home instead? What if we solved a problem while traveling and brought that home, or to the office? What if we returned with ideas, inspiration, new visions for our lives?

Time and again I have seen that setting an intention for your trip, and looking at traveling as something more than checking a place off your bucket list, has changed lives, and thus the world.

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

In the 90’s I was working in IT and we used to go on these team-building trips that required us to go white-water rafting, throwing ourselves into rough and freezing river waters in order to challenge ourself and thus build better teams. The problem was just that for some people it was way out of their comfort zones, harming them rather than helping them. And it certainly didn’t build better teams. If people think that Transformational Travel is about ‘toughening up’, that they have to climb the highest mountains to achieve success in their lives, they go about it the wrong way.

In order to transform your life, you will have to go outside your comfort zone, but there is a fine line were pushing yourself further isn’t beneficial anymore. That’s why I work with people to determine the best trip for each person, in regards to what you want the outcome to be.

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

Absolutely. I was diving in Indonesia a few years back, and although I have hundreds of dives under my belt, I have always been afraid of night-dives. One night though, I decided to face my fears in order to see a nocturnal animal, a Spanish dancer.

Only me and the dive-guide was in the water that night. I told him about my fears, and as we dropped in to the pitch-black sea, he assured me that everything would be alright. Well, it wasn’t. A few minutes into the dive, I panicked, started to cry, and had to surface.

Once back on the boat, the guide came over, telling me that I didn’t have to tell the others that I got scared. -Just say that we didn’t see the creature, he told me. It dawned on me then that we are all afraid of something, and that is nothing to be ashamed of. I obviously knew this mentally, but now the emotional realization was firmly established in me as well. It has guided me ever since. Whenever I have felt hesitant, whether I started a new business, publishing my first novel, my first time speaking on stage, I can always tell myself this, and recall the feeling I had. With that the fearfulness eases.

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

This is two-fold. Firstly, we all need to take solid look at the way we travel. The tourism can be a strain on the planet, we hear that all the time. Travelers are looked upon as culture-vultures, selfish consumers, rushing around without understanding what we’re looking at, or what our purpose for being there is. The industry itself can help changing this, by making us more aware of our actions and choices. And we as travelers need to take conscious decisions on what kind of people we want to be.

Secondly, on a deeper level the industry can also help the traveler see how they can make the journey be about something more than just the trip. By seeking to be partners in real change, the industry can guide and support travelers in setting intentions and defining desired outcomes for their travel experience.

I need to work with leaders within the travel industry. I need to partner up with the big players to get my message out there. As the industry start to see how they can create added value to their clients, and guests start to talk about their experiences, we can create real change in the world.

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

  1. Start with why.
    We hear this all the time, but how often do we actually do it? In regards to traveling we often pick a destination we would like to visit and then search Google for what to see there. Let’s flip that on its head and think about something you want to change in your life. When we are clear on this, we can map out the journey that would be most beneficial for you.
    When I started traveling solo, it was purely to challenge myself to be more street-wise, get more confident, and practice traveling alone to destinations that none of my friends wanted to visit. I chose island-hopping in Thailand as my first solo trip. It was a safe travel, but also one that required me to figure out things by myself. I actually had some nasty episodes there that I had to deal with, and grew immensely on that trip. At the end, I returned home with a much stronger confidence than when I left. Now I travel solo most of the time.
  2. Get out of your comfort zone.
    There is a disruption that happens when we decide to change our lives, businesses or relationships, but I don’t know a single successful person that hasn’t gone through uncomfortable pain to get through to their wildest dreams. Our greatest insights usually comes when we enter the spaces we are afraid to go to, and tackle the challenges that occur. Accepting discomfort is a way to elevate to something bigger, and when you take time to reflect upon what it means to you, magic evidently will happen.
  3. Learn what drives you.
    Get curious, get passionate and find your purpose. As Steven Kotler says, these are the feelings that drive behavior. When we are doing the things we are curious about, it doesn’t feel like hard work. Although it can require effort, when we get curious or passionate, the work feels more like play. I frequently hear people say they don’t have a purpose in life, that they are not interested in anything particular. I certainly don’t think that everyone needs to have world-changing purposes, but most of the ones stating the above have never dug deep enough. They have often never asked the right questions. As I said to a young woman the other day — passion and purpose doesn’t necessarily drop into your head one day, just as often we need to get curious, involve our brain in what Steven Kotler calls pattern recognition or incubation. When we ask ourselves the right question, better answers will come.
  4. Know thyself .
    Dating back to the ancient Greeks, the saying ‘know thyself’ has encouraged people to engage in a search for self-understanding. I once had a client that did excellent work, on a subject she was passionate about, but still found herself burned out, and about to leave her job. It didn’t take us many sessions to understand that her personality type didn’t work in conjunction with the way she worked and that although her field of work was her passion, she had to go about it in a radically new way. Traveling is one of the best ways to confront your values, dig deep into your subconscious and set aside time to reflect on your findings.
  5. Use journeys as a problem-solving mechanism.
    I had always wanted to write a book, but finding my creativity in my everyday life was less than fruitful. It wasn’t until I moved abroad with a clear intention to do more of what I loved that my writing practice started to produce results. In our everyday lives, 97% of what we do is unconscious, and as much as 70 % of our unconscious thoughts were put there by someone else. A majority of our thoughts and actions are the same as the ones we had yesterday. Going on a journey lets us start disrupting that repeat pattern and create transformation in your life.

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

  • Learn to thrive on change.
    This is my most important one. When I was working in the IT-industry in the 90’s, I saw how painful the new technology was for some of the older leaders. Some of them just retired early, some had their secretary do the work, but the most successful was that ones that had learned to thrive on change. The ever-changing technology of today is something that many of us master well, but recession, lock-down, change in management or anything that interjects with previous work or home routines can be just as daunting.

Challenges come in all shapes and forms. They can be physical, psychological, mental. They can come in solitude, or in relationships with others. To seek out change, and learn to love it, will put you miles ahead of the crowd.

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 🙂

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

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Instagram @transformational_travel
website https://thetransformationaltravel.com/

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


Transformational Travel: Hilde S Palladino’s Big Idea That Might Change The World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Makers of The Metaverse: Nayeem Syed Of Exponentials TV On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality…

Makers of The Metaverse: Nayeem Syed Of Exponentials TV On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Unity Developer — Unity 3D is quite popular in building Games and other content. Someone with strong front-end skills as well as backend programming skills could enter the 3D front-end programming world.

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 Nayeem Syed.

Nayeem Syed Chief Vision Officer at exponentials.tv. A web 3.0 media outlet that is focused on exploring the stories behind today’s greatest successes in various fields. We discuss a wide range of topics — wealth building, health improvements, blockchain technology, digital marketing, sports, media, influencers, celebrities, scientists, politicians, metaphysics as well as delve into the world that is not immediately visible.

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 first exposed to technology when I was 11 in ‘Computer Science’ lessons during the late 80s when GW BASIC was the language used. I started working professionally in the IT field when I was 17, teaching A Level Students and First Year University Students and subsequently moved to working in Software Development for the next 20 years before moving into Automation Engineering (DevOps) for the past 5–7 years.

Is there a particular book, film, or podcast that made a significant impact on you?

Rich Dad Poor Dad — the cashflow quadrant was very useful to understand the aspects of life and how the capitalist social system fits together.

Matrix — How reality is not what it seems but a matter of perception.

Holographic Universe — It’s like the matrix, but the scientific theory that conveys how this may very well be the case.

Quantum Meditation Method — I had been practising and following its meditation principles for the last 25 years.

Gary Vees Podcasts — He really dug into the metaverse, nfts and the new revolution and it really inspired me to take this technology stack more seriously.

These books, movies and techniques formed the foundation for a lot of my thinking.

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

Gary Vee’s predictions of the Web 1, Web 2 and Web 3 and how the Metaverse forms the base for the new and biggest revolution in technology really got me to dig in deeper into this. Subsequently Mark Zuckerberg’s bold stance of renaming a mega brand like Facebook into “Meta’’ got me to realize what’s coming is much much bigger than any of us and we can’t even begin to imagine the impact it will have on our lives.

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

The more I dig into it, the more I find I don’t need to go anywhere else to network and meet interesting people. There are already people from all walks of life involved in this, all the way from the most successful billionaires to people with very low tech understanding. They see the value in it and it creates a level playing field where everyone can participate in an equal standing.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting?

Losing money by walking into online scams in the NFT space. I come from a very strong tech background and generally understand security and scams pretty well, but it was funny how I managed to also walk into scams in my earlier days of NFT investing (and even later down the line). But this is like learning Poker cant be done without losing some money.

Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that? None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way.

I learnt a number of ways not to do things in this space. I think it is a very vivid real life example of how failure forms the pillar of success. Without learning to fail, it’s very difficult to succeed.

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?

Kevin McGovern. I went to his 58th Floor Penthouse in Manhattan to interview him for our Podcasts a few days before his first grandson was born. He shared a number of interesting details of his amazing entrepreneurship. He started working at 11, and presently operates 100s of businesses. He mentioned in order to do business in a country you need to know 3 very influential people in that country from Politics, Military and Religion. Also you need to network and hang out with the people you want to model after, this will automatically raise your own levels.

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

I am writing a book on “Metaverse” which will form the first of a series I am creating that covers a range of Web3 pillars as well as how it can be combined with life essentials such as money management, habit management, health and relationships and mind management. I think once this series is done, someone can soak in the information and apply it in their own lives to make a true difference.

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?

VR/AR/MR can really open some exciting frontiers that we are currently limited on.

3 examples would be:

1) Medical Science — Medical Students and Practitioners can learn/rehearse complex surgeries in advance using VRs. They can also participate across long distances using AR/MR for critical cases where they can’t make it in time physically.

2) Technical Support — If the car breaks down and engine needs to be repaired, a mechanic can attend remotely for faster access for inspection as well as basic level of repairs that can be done without external items, if other items are required they can use AR-goggles to know what the issue is before attending.

3) Architecture/Design — Cars/Houses/Buildings can be designed in advance in a VR world before they are created physically. They can even gauge the marketability well in advance.

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) Lack of physical development amongst children and young people is already an issue with the advent of the internet and children being glued to tablets/phones, reducing their ability to build real life social skills. This can go down a step further with VRs as the experiences are more comprehensive in the VR world, reducing more of the physical world experience from children/young adults. New legislation/methods need to be thought out so we can have a hybrid solution so people can still get a physical element.

2) Hacking/Exploiting/Scams — This can go to new levels as a combination of AR/VR, AI and better hardware could mean a very realistic impersonification can be done that looks very realistic, so another person attending could very well not be the real person but an AI implementation of that person that acts and talks just like the real person in the VR/AR world. Authentication and security measures need to be created and revised with all these in mind.

3) Greater dependencies on Technology and Hardware — cyber attacks can totally shut down societies as we start building greater dependencies on VR/AR for our day to day works as described above. Much tighter measures need to be taken on security and contingency plans thought out clearly as this can become critical.

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?

Meetings for one can be done from anywhere in a much more realistic way than today’s Zoom calls. After Covid remote working has already become a norm, but proper VR/AR will make it seamless and the work experience would be much further enhanced despite remote sessions.

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

360 Degrees virtual crime scene investigations can help us decipher complex cases, and with the combination of good tracking/monitoring, this can lead to better results in solving cases.

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

NFTs are currently seen as ‘digital arts’. It is far from it. NFTs (non-fungible tokens) form the backbone of the metaverse. Each element of a metaverse, from the wall to the avatar, you are using would be represented in the form of an NFT. In addition, NFT’s real use case is with providing a digital blockchain ledger that contains records of ownership/transactions of digital items and real life utilities can be seamlessly tied as benefits of the NFTs. The NFTs we mostly saw in the last year or two are hardly going to be the mainstream use case of NFTs as it evolves further.

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

There are going to be every type of application in the VR/AR/MR industries. So the skill sets needed can vary quite a bit depending on what you do.

Here are a few of the positions I can think of that can be towards forming the backbone:

1) 3D Designers — Maya, 3DS Max, Cinema 3D etc are some of the major tools used nowadays for building the 3D Designs.

2) VR Sound Engineer — will ideally be someone with some audio engineering background and well versed in different 3D audio tools and a creative mind.

3) Unity Developer — Unity 3D is quite popular in building Games and other content. Someone with strong front-end skills as well as backend programming skills could enter the 3D front-end programming world.

4) Programmers — There is an immense amount of calculations and algorithms needed to make efficient VR applications. A Programming Job would require a strong base/background in programming so they can easily transition to VR/AR/3D programming languages that are currently there as well as languages yet to come.

5) Automation Engineers — Today popularly known as SRE and DevOps engineers, this will become more automated with AI doing a bulk of the trenchwork and Automation Engineers will help steer the AI in the right directions. The Automation Engineers are needed to manage and create efficient infrastructure that is needed to host the blockchains and other VR/AR applications.

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 see ‘true freedom’ of thoughts and choices in the world we live in. There is so much propaganda and counter-propaganda in the media world, and people in mass are easily being manipulated in pretty much every culture and society of the world. This is an unfortunate case as news and media are meant to be mediums for sharing real information that goes around us rather than a tool for manipulating people’s thoughts and opinions.

With the advent of AI, Blockchain and Web3, a lot of these can be automated and assigned to machines that can work in a more decentralized manner, making it a lot more difficult for a collected few to manipulate the system so much for the masses. I still think there is enough good in mankind left to make this a reality.

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

3 People:

1) Elon Musk — I believe he is one of a kind and we are gifted as a generation to have someone like him walk amongst us. His thoughts, ideas and executions are truly revolutionary. He has shown how one person and their vision can make a difference for all of humanity. I would really love to get an insight into his thinking process and advice so I can share it in my book for my readers/viewers now and in future.

2) Warren Buffett — We are so lucky to still have the greatest investor of all time be amongst us. A lot of what I learnt on investing, money management and business was through studying his work as well as his recommended mentor Benjamin Franklin. I would love to speak to him to get more insight into his great mind and have a go at trying to fill him in on gaps in areas he is not well versed such as Blockchain, AI, etc which forms the next revolution.

3) Queen Elizabeth II — I write this on the day of her 70th anniversary on her Platinum jubilee. She is definitely one of the monarchs who has been through so much through her life and seen so much. I would love to learn more on her viewpoint on the world and how she has seen it evolve over time.

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


Makers of The Metaverse: Nayeem Syed Of Exponentials TV 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.

The Future Is Now: Laura Keily Of Immediation On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up…

The Future Is Now: Laura Keily Of Immediation On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Sales is hard and is also the most important role in the organization, other than engineering. Most people who say they know how to do it, don’t.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Laura Keily the Founder and CEO of Immediation, the leading online dispute resolution provider. Laura is a barrister (trial lawyer) and entrepreneur whose background spans M&A and corporate law at major international firms; company director, business advisor and in-house counsel for public corporations. In addition to her role as an attorney, she is a qualified arbitrator and specialist in corporate law and complex commercial litigation. Laura was awarded Australian Innovator of the Year by the Women’s Barristers Association in 2020 for her work in pioneering online mediation. She was also named “Australasia’s Most Influential Lawyer — Changemaker” in 2021 for her work in pioneering online dispute resolution.

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 story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I was an M&A attorney for quite some time. I had a wonderful tenure at Slaughter and May in the UK before returning to my native Australia. It was at this point in my legal career that I realized that partnership with an Australian firm was not for me, so I decided to become a barrister. Barristers with a background in corporate and finance practice law are rare in Australia, and even more if they are female. I was admitted to the bar (how we term becoming a barrister) and began my career arguing before judges. During that time, I trained as an arbitrator as well.

The change into legal technology was definitely not something I planned. I vividly recall lying in bed thinking that my clients were spending $300,000 fighting for a claim that was worth maybe $200,000. I kept thinking there must be a better way. I came up with the idea of an online system that would mimic the hearing experience in every way — rooted in the rule of law and offering a workflow to help claimants settle disputes faster and with less acrimony. That’s how Immediation was born.

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

It was one of those moments that end up changing your life forever, and for me, this happened really just by chance. I had conceptualized the idea of Immediation, but as all ideas are, initially it was just a pipedream. I met with my superannuation fund manager about whether or not I could finance the idea of Immediation to get a prototype platform developed, and he loved the idea so much that he offered to invest! I did the math and realized that with a small initial investment from a few friends and family, I could actually turn the dream into a reality. The first version of the Immediation platform was born.

Later it was funded and built out as a much bigger offering. Covid-19 was a game changer for the legal industry, forcing proceedings to move online almost literally overnight — and we were the best offering (being purpose-built for legal). We have supported this online transition for legal matters and began delivering a solution for hybrid proceedings. The business took off so quickly that my side hustle became my full-time role.

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

As far as we can tell, Immediation is the only online dispute resolution platform that was built on the rule of law — meaning we are law first and tech second. All others are tech first and attempt retro-fitting into law. The reason that fails is that law is a very particular sector with specific rules, procedure and respect for precedent. Thus far, we helped the Australian court system during the pandemic — federal, state and family court cases were heard on our platform. Now we’ve moved into complex cross-border arbitration with two arbitration centers in two of four major geographic powerhouses for global arbitration. Ultimately, we are offering speed to resolution — helping courts with their backlog and end-users get on with their case, in order to protect and enhance the rule of law and reduce the impact of disputes.

How do you think this might change the world?

I told my children that other than them, perhaps my legacy will be to stop people from flying all over the world to settle disputes — aiming for something more than sustainability: Regenerative Resolution. And offering greater access to justice — to a system meant to protect people but many of those very people have no way to enter or access the system. They will have access with Immediation.

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

Funny you mention that, Black Mirror is fundamentally about the law of unintended consequences. We are the solution for that. Right now, courts, arbitration centers and mediators are using traditional video conferencing tools to conduct legal business. Basically they are using technology you use to talk to your grandmother to conduct court hearings. I’ve written a think piece about how this is already leading to new jurisprudence around online dispute resolution. The rule of law is centered around privilege and security — traditional video conferencing platforms do not provide this — and in fact, courts are already overturning decisions rendered using standard video platforms so in my view, we are not far from that same reasoning being applied to arbitration and mediation. Our platform solves for all that.

In that way, we are the solution to the Black Mirror dilemma!

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

That moment of lying in my bed fretting about how much money my clients were spending and the fact that I couldn’t resolve their issues (settle their disputes) was the moment it crystallized for me. Beyond that, it has been people — the ones who’ve invested in Immediation and the team we’ve hired. Hand on heart I can say this is the best group of professionals in this industry and I am honored to lead them. Immediation would not be the breakthrough product it is were it not for them.

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

Awareness. Understanding that if you are using a standard video conferencing platform for a legal use — you are using the wrong tool!

Immediation is leading digital transformation for dispute resolution. Developed more than five years ago, it is considered as the gold-standard platform for arbitration, mediation, court hearings and corporate resolution — offering unmatched security, accessibility and sustainability. Immediation is ideal for online hearings, arbitrations, mediations, negotiations, witness conferences and more and is used by Federal Courts, Government and law firms. Everyday more sign on as awareness about us grows.

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

As a start-up we have to stand out. Luckily, we hired a cracker-jack marketer from outside legal who understands how to make us stand out, get noticed in the most creatively strategic ways. Between the conferences we attend, the thought leadership events we hold and the collateral we produce, we clearly look different than other players in the field. And we are different — so all our marketing is truly authentic to who we are and what we do. As an example, at a court technology trade fair, where the theme was the “future of justice” our booth was designed as the Starship Enterprise — literally taking courts into the future. The legal field can be fussy so it’s nice to offer a bit of breathing room and show a better way and smile while doing it.

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

As they say, it takes a village. So many people have shared in this dream of making dispute resolution more accessible to all, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of my incredible team, the backing and encouragement from investors and shareholders, and the trust in our great product from our clients. I am however incredibly grateful to my partner Troy, who ensures our household continues to run smoothly while I work long hours and is an amazing dad to our kids, and also to my parents.

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

I am in the practice of law as an officer of the court and now bringing technological change to my ancient and noble profession, from the inside out. To me goodness looks like equity and fairness — it looks like leading by example. I’m a barrister, a tech entrepreneur and a woman. Some say this makes me a unicorn. I’m not sure about that. Mostly, I’m the same friend, daughter, parent, sister, aunt, cousin, colleague, lawyer and professional I always was, but I try to let my light shine out into the world (Sint Lucernae Ardentes) and encourage my team to do the same. I lead from the trenches, next to them as a partner and friend, and to bring out the best in them. I don’t really know how to be anything other than authentic — my mother always said, “to thine own self be true” and I live by that mantra. I also try to be the change that I wish to see in the world, for women in leadership, for all professional women who also are mothers, and for change in the legal profession.

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

  1. I wish someone had told me just how hard it was going to be to build a tech company, hire a seasoned team and get the product off the ground. Funding is just the first part. When you get the funding, you are suddenly responsible for everyone’s part in your dream. It’s daunting. But if I had known, I likely wouldn’t have done it — but I am so glad I did. It is paradoxical.
  2. The difficulty in shifting the belief that justice, or dispute resolution, had to be administered in a traditional courtroom environment. While the pandemic helped initiate this shift in perception somewhat, there is still a way to go.
  3. There will always be bumps in the road no matter what you do, so you need to be resilient and keep getting up each time you fall off. I inherently knew that anyway. Most of my life in the CEO role I feel like I am driving along the road, getting constantly side-swiped — by technology issues, team dynamics, people, customer success, all coming out of nowhere. ALL the time. And yet, despite the bumps, I persevere and thrive.
  4. Have a clear vision of what you want to achieve and stay focused. Distractions pop up. That said, it is important to be able to adapt and in doing so, always remember the core vision.
  5. Sales is hard and is also the most important role in the organization, other than engineering. Most people who say they know how to do it, don’t.

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. 🙂

Increasingly, I am focused on the sustainability impact; helping to reduce the carbon burden associated with international dispute resolution. Immediation provides the legal industry with all the tools that are required for international dispute resolution to occur effectively online, hence reducing the need to pay the hefty financial and environmental costs of international travel for dispute resolution. If we can consolidate the use of sophisticated online dispute resolution platforms that do the job properly, we can capitalize on the rapid advances made during the pandemic to capture the long-term benefit for the legal industry, clients and the environment. My ultimate goal is to reduce the number and impact of disputes and also to ensure that we redress imbalances in equity, for women, for the community and for access to justice.

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

My late father always said, “if something is worth doing it is worth doing properly.” I embody that. I can’t do anything less than 100% and put massive action and effort behind it. I have a hard time with anything less than perfect, which has pluses and minuses. But in many ways, I credit that for getting me where I am today, I have had to teach myself to accept that things, people and situations are not always perfect and that is ok. But ultimately, my father was right. Show up, be a good person, do your best work, live your best life. I can’t do anything else. And frankly, the more I lean into that, the more it has worked.

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 🙂

Immediation is on a rocket ship taking the entire vertically and horizontally integrated market for dispute resolution, justice and legal. This team and this product are untouchable. Jump on board if you can catch up!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can follow our journey on our website and also our LinkedIn page.

Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was so inspiring, and we wish you continued success!


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

Makers of The Metaverse: Art Lee Of Rove Concepts On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality…

Makers of The Metaverse: Art Lee Of Rove Concepts On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Attention to detail is everything.

Don’t be afraid to take risks and experiment.

Challenge where the technology can take us.

Be patient.

Work with people that share your vision.

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 Art Lee.

Art Lee is an ecommerce entrepreneur. He is the founder and CEO of Rove Concepts. Art has been active in leading edge ecommerce platform technologies from early days of web SEO optimization, proprietary IT development, ongoing evolution of SEM, to the beginnings of a meta realities economy via VR, AR, and XR industries.

In 2011, Art Lee set out to fill a gap he recognized in the online furniture space at the time. Noticing that companies like Amazon had started with books and CDs yet stayed away from furniture, he saw an opportunity to create a brand that elevated the online furniture buying experience. Thus, he came up with Rove Concepts — a DTC furniture company that would change the industry while maintaining the integrity of his grandfather’s business using a contemporary, global business model.

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?

From a young age, I have always been intrigued by business, science, and technology — there is something about learning how our world works that is deeply engaging for my personal curiosity.

I realized that to effect change, building a business was the best platform for me. Despite attaining a Finance degree from university, entrepreneurship was always the only path for me right after graduation. I sold my secondhand car, my only possession that was worth anything at the time, and used the proceeds to fund my first business venture in ecommerce.

In 2011 from my small studio in South Granville, Vancouver, I founded Rove Concepts, a high-growth online-based furniture company that aimed to deliver quality, handcrafted stylish furniture to the masses.

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 1997 film Gattaca. This story made me question the future we are all working towards as a society — if a better future is the goal. The story’s social dialog and the protagonist’s ambitions of going to space resonated with me metaphorically, if not literally.

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

When I started Rove, it was obvious to me ecommerce was the way to unlock the accessible luxury trend for the home furnishings space. Standing here today, it is also clear that the next evolution in digital retail will be more groundbreaking than the current ‘tech-enabled D2C’ model as we know it. As a brand that is thinking a generation ahead in digital retail technology, we are here to pioneer the way a brand should engage their customers through meta reality. I believe the key for a meta reality economy is decentralization in ownership, content, and experience. For example, the Oculus Headset is just one platform through which people can engage with virtual reality environments created by Rove. Once consumers can experience an immersive web, they will not go back to the old web.

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

One of Rove’s sectional sofas was spotted in the post-apocalyptic video game The Last of Us. Our products are designed in-house so it was easy to spot. To this day, we wonder how it got there.

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

As the hilarious epitome of a startup hands-on owner-operator — very early on I found myself on a given day writing ad copy, talking to developers, destuffing a container without a loading bay, driving out in a minivan to deliver a customer’s table, and taking customer calls while in the minivan. What I quickly learned was that I cannot do it all and started hiring people who specialized in different areas. I also learned that by doing it first myself, I could now fully relate to work done by team members, no matter how far I reach down into the organization.

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?

While there are many people who I have met along the way that have helped me achieve success, I would like to particularly thank my grandfather for inspiring me. Growing up, I had always admired his passion for creating beautifully crafted furniture and I was inspired by his work of art. No matter what you do, you need to love what you do in order to keep yourself grounded, and my grandfather did just that. Even after his furniture company grew with many people working under him, he never stopped creating and designing furniture because that is what he loved to do. Whenever I feel that I am drifting off course, I always remind myself of the core reason I am in this business — creating beautiful modern furniture that is both accessible and affordable to the masses.

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

This summer we are launching a carefully designed and curated new furniture collection that can be viewed as functional art. The interesting thing about the collection is that the pieces will be tied to its virtual counterpart via NFTs. A feature of the future metaverse will be portability across platforms. What’s unique here for Rove’s collection is that you will get to own a functional piece of art both physically and virtually with a link between the two.

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 ability to bring the entire Rove showroom into the customer’s home is exciting. The customer can design, create, and preview in photorealistic AR the full set of products in the live environment. For example, in our 3D planner one can pair a sectional with a coffee table, side table, rug, floor lamp, and media console, then drop the entire configuration into their living room to take pictures and videos and share.

Another is the potential to change the meaning of a home page for the user. How interesting would it be to invite your friends living in other cities around the world into your virtual home that you have carefully decorated? Items you collect in your digital journeys can be displayed in your virtual home as you do with souvenirs. Your avatar will be the one navigating these virtual environments. Someday you may put as much or more effort into this virtual world as you do today with social media.

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?

New technologies are double-edged swords. Some argue our virtual connections are robbing us of real connections. There is of course a philosophical debate of which is necessarily more meaningful. I do think it is a function of information — as of today, an in-person face-to-face meeting will give you much more than a video call. The natural progression of VR, AR, and MR would get us closer and closer to mirroring what we consider to be a full information environment. It may be de facto teleportation someday, if all the senses are being engaged.

As an industry, we do need to be careful about what experiences we put in front of people, especially our youth. While the same can already be said of TV, movies, and video games, there are still reference points for your mind that what you see is not real. As we move into fully realistic environments, we will want to be more thoughtful on what we put into our consciousness. As with most things, I would say arming individuals with knowledge is the best way to address these concerns.

Lastly, not unlike social media today, we would not want to give people the wrong priorities within the X realities over pillar values like health, family, and accomplishment. If done well, we should promote these values rather than distract from them with virtual technologies.

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

There will be an evolution of working from home and staying engaged with your colleagues. We all lived through the pandemic routine of back-to-back-to-back video meetings. This will change if companies expect to keep team members engaged and still maintain the flexibility of remote work. As a stepping-stone towards full immersion, there will be widespread use of individual avatars for people to go into virtual offices. Gamification has proven to be a strong path to engagement for individuals. I believe Rove can play a big part in creating these beautiful, immersive virtual environments in the future, from architectural skyscrapers to exquisite interiors.

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

My hope is that the biggest impact for virtual technologies will be made to those lives, ironically, least touched by technology financially. For the vast majority of humanity, traveling around the world to experience new sights and sounds is simply not possible financially. With several more iterations in hardware and software, VR can be widely adopted like smart phones. Once that adoption has occurred, people around the world can connect with each other and with the world on a very different level. We will become more understanding of each other’s cultures, values, and dreams.

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

It may be common to think that virtual technology is what creates the content. In reality, it is absolutely the people behind the technology that create the vision. Virtual technology is like the paint and the brush for the artist or the camera and gear for the film director. It is a pure artistic pursuit that happens behind the scenes for an immersive virtual environment to be compelling.

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

Attention to detail is everything.

Don’t be afraid to take risks and experiment.

Challenge where the technology can take us.

Be patient.

Work with people that share your vision.

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

If I could start a movement or create change in people’s lives in some way it would be to push for personalized education. Personalized learning helps students take their strengths, and interests and build them towards a skillful set for further growth. Growing up, I knew that I wanted to create something that I could call my own but the paths that I was guided to seemed like a “one size fits all” approach. Through personalized learning, children can learn at their own pace, and create their own pathway for each individual’s personal and professional growth. In other words, learning to learn is the critical skill for our youth. Today, all knowledge is free and available at our fingertips. Like the legendary Ray Charles teaches, “life is notes underneath your fingers- you just have to play them baby!’’

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 🙂

Elon Musk — I started following his work before Tesla and SpaceX became mainstream in the media. If you go back to his old interviews, he has been very consistent in his goals to build an exciting future for humanity, and his ideas have been consistently unique and simple yet rational. What he is building through his companies today are obviously far from simple in terms of technological innovations. The goal of each company, however, is dead simple.

I would ask questions and hopefully learn answers to fascinating topics, with the view to one day pay it forward. This for me, would be like Elon’s equivalent of a private lunch with Franklin or Edison. He would surely ask them interesting questions.

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


Makers of The Metaverse: Art Lee Of Rove Concepts 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.

Kelsey Formost Of Magic Words Copywriting On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public…

Kelsey Formost Of Magic Words Copywriting On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Specific to digital speaking engagements: Don’t look at yourself in the camera as you’re speaking! It makes you self conscious about how you appear instead of allowing you to focus on what you’re saying. Once you see your frame, change the view so you’re not just looking at your giant face.

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 Kelsey Formost.

Kelsey Formost is a copywriting expert, marketing educator, speaker, podcaster & mental health advocate who helps entrepreneurs learn to write words that sell without sounding “sales-y”. She’s been featured in Business Insider, Ad Age, Glamour, Refinery29, Boss Babe & more.

Kelsey’s easy-to-understand copywriting courses & templates have helped take struggling businesses to six figures and beyond, but that’s not really what’s important to her. Kelsey’s mission is to de-mystify the process of communicating with an online audience, helping entrepreneurs feel empowered and inspired every time they need to write or speak about their business (and also, yeah, make more money in the process).

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 an extremely shy kid splitting my time between San Diego, California and a teeny tiny town in Colorado. As an only child, I thrived inside my imagination but had a difficult time when put into large groups. My parents were worried about my social anxiety, so they took the “sink or swim” approach and enrolled me in a community theater production of “The Wizard of Oz”. I was horrified at the time, but as time went on and I became more comfortable in myself, performing became such a gift. Theatre gave me an outlet through which I could express myself and connect with others in a way that felt safe. From age 10 until age 30 I pursued acting, screenwriting, and performing professionally, starring in shows in New York City, writing scripts with Oscar winners, and landing prestigious film and TV roles in Los Angeles.

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

I always love to share the story of the moment I decided to go into business for myself and leave the entertainment industry for good. I think it’s important for people to know it’s safe (and actually incredibly positive!) to completely change your career path, even if you’ve already invested money, energy, and years of your life pursuing something else.

In my case, I decided to completely change my life after hitting rock bottom at 10pm on New Year’s Eve 2017…I was fresh off a devastating breakup, sitting in my childhood home, my mom and her dog snoring on the couch next to me. I doom-scrolled through social media, seeing the engagements, weddings, pregnancy announcements, and “we bought a house!” posts from all my 30-something contemporaries, the anxiety building inside me like pressure in a shaken up soda bottle. I was so tired of hustling for approval from Hollywood, tired of hustling for love from people in my personal life, tired of hustling for respect from myself.

I had a full out sobbing-on-the-bathroom-floor-style breakdown and made a commitment right then and there: I was no longer going to invest my gifts, time, or energy in people, projects, or work that didn’t fill my cup. I was getting off the Hollywood hamster wheel of comparison and burnout. Instead of waiting for other people to say “yes” to me, I was going to start my own business.

What started as the seed of an idea on the bathroom floor of my childhood home grew into a 6-figure copywriting career. Once I felt that rush of empowerment, I became obsessed with helping other women build their own successful businesses! I found I had a gift for helping people tell their story in a way that “sold” them without sounding “sales-y”. To this day, through my courses, work, and speaking, I teach folx to talk about themselves with confidence and clarity- it will totally change not just your business, but your whole ass life!

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

At the beginning of 2020, I released my signature course “Copy Class” that teaches entrepreneurs how to write words that sell without sounding sales-y. It took me months to create because I wanted to be sure it was highly valuable and informative while still being accessible, fun and easy to understand.

I thought “Copy Class” was going to resonate most with young female entrepreneurs in their 20’s. But when I started looking at the numbers, I found there was a huge portion of my student population who were 40+, many of whom were in their 60’s.

I was getting notes from so many older women who’d felt intimidated by the online business world who were now launching their own companies and projects! To this day I find it so fascinating to see that you’re never too old, and it’s never too late to pursue your dreams.

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 first starting out, I had a hard time saying ‘no’ to people. I took on way too many clients for way too little money and I was on a one-way train to burnout town.

One day I was driving home after (yet another) coffee date with a potential client who wanted to “pick my brain” before hiring me. We’d met at a fancy cafe where I shelled out ten dollars I didn’t have on a tiny oat milk latte, and I’d spent almost two hours essentially giving her an entire business plan, for free. While I was in the car, she’d texted to say hiring me wasn’t going to work out but that she appreciated my time.

I was done.

I pulled into a parking structure with a roof deck that overlooked Los Angeles. I knew this because it was my favorite place to go cry. Which was exactly what I needed to do in that moment: have a good old fashioned mascara-running-down-the-face cry.

I found a great spot tucked away in a corner, put my beat up Ford Focus in park, hit ‘play’ on my “moody heart” playlist I save just for occasions such as these, and let loose. I sobbed and sobbed, and sobbed some more. I was sob-singing along to the song “She Used to Be Mine” from the musical “Waitress” (seriously, if you ever need a good cry, look it up) when all of a sudden, out of the corner of my eye I saw movement…I hadn’t noticed that a car had pulled in next to me, and there sat a girl behind the wheel, clearly listening in on my cry sesh and singing along with me and Sara Bareilles.

We locked eyes and the deep sadness of the song turned into a shared moment of belonging. We were just two musical theater nerds having a shitty day who’d happened across each other’s paths at the exact right time. When the song was over, we burst out laughing. I waved goodbye, put my car in reverse, and drove home.

I learned three lessons that day:

  1. Say ‘no’ or set clear boundaries whenever someone asks if they can “pick your brain” about your area of expertise. It’s one of the most common ways entrepreneurs get taken advantage of.
  2. Book fewer “dollars-for-hours” jobs and find other ways to create additional income through digital products. Dollars for hours work is impossible to scale- you’re just one human.
  3. There is a transformative magic in shared emotion. Whether it’s a stranger, trusted friend or family member, sharing your heavy feelings will always make them seem lighter.

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 so lucky to have a best friend from college who has been professionally writing for years. She’s walked me through countless projects and answered hundreds of my questions. She’s been my cheerleader, and my most trusted editor. I truly wouldn’t be anywhere near where I am today without her help. It’s such a valuable lesson to remember that everyone is a beginner at the beginning. The fastest way to be successful is to ask for help!

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 mom told me a story once about a time when she was trying to decide whether or not to go back to school to get her graduate degree after being out of college for almost a decade. She was debating the topic with her mom, saying she felt like too much time had passed and that it was too late for her to become a student again.

My grandma’s words of advice for my mom in that moment were so profound. She said, “whether you go to school or not, the time is going to pass anyway. It’s up to you to decide where you want to be in five years, because those five years will pass no matter which path you take. It’s not about making the “right” choice, but rather, which choice will you look back on in five years and regret less?

Time will pass no matter what you do. It’s so much better to collect failures that point you in the right direction than it is to always wonder “what if?”. Failure is simply an opportunity for re-calibration towards the next right choice.

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 show up with one main mission: to tell the WHOLE TRUTH about what it looks like to do what you love in order to fully de-mystify the process for others. Too often we’re only presented with the “end result”; the shiny 6-figure-generating Boss who appears to have it all figured out. This makes us feel intimidated at best and discouraged at worst.

I’m here to pull back the curtain to show two things:

  1. First, no one feels like they have it all figured out. The most successful entrepreneurs are the ones who admit they don’t know everything and are open to learning.
  2. Second, I want to show that while being an entrepreneur isn’t all champagne and roses, it absolutely is possible to be wildly successful doing what you love!

I’ve seen way too many people- especially women- hold themselves back because they’re intimidated. My mission is to give people the actionable tools they need to speak about themselves and their businesses with confidence while also helping them set up excellent systems to take care of their mental health.

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 pinch myself on the regular that I get to interview so many incredible experts on my podcast, “Find Your Magic”! I’m coming up on a year of content and I’m blown away each and every episode at the vulnerability and the value my guests are willing to share.

“Find Your Magic” sits at the intersection of mental health and entrepreneurship; my guests and I share actionable business advice as well as deeply personal stories about what it’s really like to do what you love. I’ve spoken with everyone from Google Ads experts to dating coaches to therapists who specialize in treating burnout. If you ever need a shot in the arm of inspiration or to feel less alone as you build your business, I hope you’ll tune in!

As to what’s next, I’m currently updating my entire suite of products — from my signature course, Copy Class, to my done-for-you email templates — and I’m also in the thick of building a new class on how to create passive income through digital products!

I’m also scared to tell you I’ve been quietly working on a book for the past 9 months…I’ve already written 40K words and am so excited (and nervous) to see where it takes me!

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

“You do not rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your systems”… This was such a gut punch when I read it in James Clear’s famous book “Atomic Habits”. Goals can give us great direction, but it’s an absolute guarantee we will never achieve any of our goals unless we set ourselves up for success by implementing systems that work for us. Big success is the result of thousands of small choices.

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. Want to get booked repeatedly and gain a reputation for being an excellent speaker? Remember this copywriter trick every time you create a presentation: there is only ONE question in an audience member’s mind at any given moment, and that question is, “what’s in it for me?”

One trick is to use the title of your session to tell them EXACTLY what’s in it for them. For example, instead of titling my keynote, “Copywriting for Websites and Emails that convert” I’m super specific and tell my audience EXACTLY what’s in it for them: “3 Copywriting Tricks to 3X Conversions in 30 minutes”.

The best way to ensure you’re successful as a speaker is to make sure your audience has clear takeaways they can apply to their life and their problems after they leave your session. In the case of my session title, my audience knows exactly what they’re walking away with before they even attend. Plus, it helps me write my actual speech by simply answering the question, “what’s in it for them? What information is most helpful for this target audience?”

2. Understand and prepare for your unique physical needs and quirks before taking the stage. Speaking is an extremely PHYSICAL experience. You can be completely confident about the content of your presentation, but the physicality is often what trips people up most. Here are some ways you can set yourself up for success;

  • Wear clothes that hide sweat. Leave that long sleeve dark silk top at home. Trust me.
  • Understand you’ll probably feel an urge to pace. Plan moments of stillness when you practice (rather than thinking you should just stand still the whole time…which is boring).
  • On pacing: choose footwear wisely! You can wear heels but make ’em as comfy as possible because blisters suck. Actress trick: you can buy stickers for the bottom of your shoe that muffle any clicking sounds!
  • Plan for a pre-presentation pee. Getting onstage and feeling like you have to pee is the literal worst. Actually, schedule 15 minutes to find a bathroom and do what you need to do. Not kidding.

3. LISTEN UP because you don’t wanna miss this one- I use this trick CONSTANTLY! Are you ready? Here it is: Use trigger phrases to re-gain people’s attention in the moment. These can be phrases like: “Get your notebooks out”, “listen up, this is important”, “if you take nothing else from today I want you to hear this”, “write this down”. This is actually a psychological phenomenon where you’re using a verbal cue to prep the audiences brain’s to receive an important point. It literally makes people sit up and pay attention! (Yes, I actually used a trigger phrase at the beginning of this tip about trigger phrases).

4. Repetition is recognition! When writing your speech, it can be extremely effective to choose a keyword or phrase that you repeat throughout the presentation. Similarly, you can repeat a point in the moment to hammer it home. This trick works extremely well in tandem with the trigger phrase trick above. I’ll give you an example… Imagine I’m speaking to you about copywriting (my favorite topic) and in the middle of my speech I say “Businesses that invest in copywriting see three times more conversions than businesses that don’t. I’m gonna say that again because if you take nothing else from today I want you to remember this: Businesses that invest in copywriting see three times more conversions than businesses that don’t! That’s 300% better results!” You as an audience member are much more likely to remember that statistic because I repeated it AND used a trigger phrase to make sure you knew it was important.

5. Specific to digital speaking engagements: Don’t look at yourself in the camera as you’re speaking! It makes you self conscious about how you appear instead of allowing you to focus on what you’re saying. Once you see your frame, change the view so you’re not just looking at your giant face.

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

If you’re someone who gets nervous before speaking in public, remember that speech is actually mostly muscle memory. One of the best ways to alleviate anxiety as an actress was to know my lines so well I didn’t have to think about them. So if you’re a nervous speaker, simply practice saying your speech out loud. The more you repeat the words you’re going to say, the more your body actually memorizes what it feels like to say the words.

An example: Think about the ABC song that you learned when you were a child. Anyone almost anywhere in the world can ask you to recite your ABCs and you’d be able to do it instantly, right? It’s the same thing with public speaking! If you just repeat the words you’re saying over and over, they start to feel at home in your body. When you feel at home in your body you’re much more able to relax when speaking in public.

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 this: have the courage to incorporate your self work into your career work. Too often we compartmentalize the different areas of our lives, when in reality, all the aspects of our daily life and work are part of a holistic, symbiotic whole. Our mental health deeply affects our creativity, our ability to show up in relationships, the functioning of our physical body — everything.

Acknowledging how the wellbeing of our mental and emotional selves affect everything else in our lives is, I believe, the key to true fulfillment. It’s the only way we can show up to give our true gifts to the world in our fullest capacity.

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!

Gabby Bernstein has been a real North Star for me. From her books to her courses to her podcast to her speaking, I always walk away feeling inspired! I’m actually writing a book right now after taking her bestseller masterclass.

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

I spend the most time on Instagram @kelsey.writes sharing lots of funny informative videos on copywriting, marketing and mental health!

You can also learn more about how I can help you develop a unique brand voice that sells (without sounding “sales-y”) at www.kelseyformost.com.

Finally, I’d love it if you tuned into my podcast “Find Your Magic” on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google, or wherever you listen to podcasts. I invite a new expert each week and we talk about the intersection of entrepreneurship and mental health!

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


Kelsey Formost Of Magic Words Copywriting On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Makers of The Metaverse: Anton Bernstein Of Pocket Worlds On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed…

Makers of The Metaverse: Anton Bernstein Of Pocket Worlds On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

At the stage we’re in now, with web3 still being fairly new to most consumers, traditional web2 tech individuals who successfully make the leap into web3 are generally naturally curious & early adapters. Of course this may be an oversimplification, but in my experience, web3 people find each other because they are continually seeking new experiences & new avenues for growth — financially or otherwise. However, I’ve found that the basic principles are similar, but the mediums have changed. In lieu of traditional networking events people meet in Discord channels, Reddit forums — or even in Highrise!

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 Anton Bernstein.

Anton Bernstein is co-founder and CEO of Pocket Worlds, the parent company of both Highrise and Everskies. With over 13 million installs, Highrise is a leading mobile-first metaverse serving over 2 million monthly active users who create avatars, build environments, host experiences, and trade collectibles. Since 2016, Anton has managed the virtual community with one vision — to expand Highrise into the largest digital nation on the Internet, where citizens can live, play, serve each other, and earn an income.

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?

Originally from Moscow, Russia, I moved to the United States in 1991 right when the Berlin wall came down at the mere age of 5. In Russia, My dad worked at a water power plant and due to the inability to earn an expanded wage in the Soviet Union, the plant paid him in computers when he performed well. Growing up, I was exposed to computers very early on and started playing and making games because one thing we always had was computers in our home. I spent most of my older childhood growing up in New Jersey, like most teenagers, playing games online with friends while talking on the phone. I’d also use map editors in Starcraft and Warcraft to build game modes, host Counter-strike servers, and make websites to earn a side income. Games were always a deeply social experience for me and a way to make an income.

For college, I attended The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania to do “business” which I quickly realized was just finance and consulting — not appealing to me in the slightest. Out of college I worked for two venture companies: Insight and Redpoint, but quickly left to find Luxury Escapes in Australia which today generates over $300M in revenue. Luxury Escapes taught first-hand marketing and product development, I learned here that I am more motivated by creativity & empowerment than discounts & sales. That’s what eventually led me to initiate Pocket Worlds with Jimmy.

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

My AIM screen name is still Sauron0796, growing up I loved Lord of the Rings. Tolkien’s incredible commitment to building a world, including its own language, was the most immersive and impressive concept to me. Ahead of its time, the story was a video game in book form. In my opinion, open world games have gotten closer to the feel of Lord Of The Rings, but Tolkien is a once in a generation genius. His work inspires me everyday & was a key inspiration for Highrise World, an accessible and mobile-first platform, providing the opportunity to build a custom experience with true digital ownership & autonomous governance. As far as games go, I was always so impressed by Bioshock and the world they created there. Bioshock was developed by a creative lead who incorporated ideas by 20th century dystopian and utopian thinkers such as Ayn Rand, George Orwell, and Aldous Huxley, as well as historical figures such as John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and Walt Disney.

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

In 2013, my co-founder Jimmy and I met in San Francisco back in through mutual friends, both hungry for a new career challenge. We both grew up gaming and quickly decided to embark on our own venture and launched Pocket Worlds with the vision of creating an app that would bring people together. Following the release of a few smaller projects, we turned our attention to what is now called, the metaverse. I’ve always been passionate about emerging technologies and creating new ways for people to form meaningful connections so we began building our first UGX mobile-first metaverse world, Highrise. The concept that really got Jimmy and I started was a strong belief that social networking needed to be more than just news feeds, messaging, and ad-driven business models that didn’t benefit the masses. Our goal was to have a richer, more human, better engaging online experience that becomes ubiquitous. We didn’t know what that would look like yet, but we knew it’d be accessible (on mobile) and built by its own user base & community.

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

As anyone who works in web3 will tell you, a career in web3 is the best way to meet captivating, intelligent, out-of-the-box thinkers from all around the world. Our first mobile metaverse, Highrise, has been growing year-over-year for the previous eight, both in revenue and user-base, but I will admit I was still somewhat shocked when I found out that Game of Thrones star Maisie Williams was a dedicated user and huge fan of the Highrise game. Maisie and her boyfriend, Reuben Selby have since become amazing friends and collaborators for our company. Maisie was recently the cover star for Hunger TV’s magazine and I was so honored when she approached and asked to interview me for a Q&A piece on the metaverse.

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

Well actually, the first app Jimmy & I created ended up becoming a huge flop. A good idea to start, Photoscore was a dating app in which women took the lead, assigning a numeric value to sort through and rank different fellas. Surprisingly, this was the first female choice-centered dating app of its kind at the time — Bumble didn’t appear in the App Store until late 2014. And yet, despite its progressive vision, Photoscore was rejected from the App Store, and the project likewise found no support from the growth accelerator Y Combinator. When their third party member decided to call it quits, Jimmy and I changed directions. Over the next year and a half, we would successfully launch two entirely new apps: Pocketz and Harvest Crossing. Both new apps were games with a focus on socializing, our lesson learned this was our sweet spot.

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 first co-founder for Luxury Escapes actually taught me a lot about how to be more assertive and close deals. Although he wasn’t always right, he sure knew how to keep moving things forward. His decisiveness taught me the value of swift and committed decision making. There’s really nothing worse than stalling a company’s growth while you “think about it”, you’re really just delaying the decision making. Certainly, you have to do your own research but procrastination in decision making affects everyone in your company.

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

At the beginning of this year, we announced Highrise World, which we will be launching over the next couple of months. Worlds now gives our users the ability to create their own custom metaverse communities that live on the block chain. We’ve seen an increased demand for custom metaverse experiences in recent years and even months, but building one takes significant time and resources. We believe that the future of social connectivity lies in the metaverse, so we’ve removed those barriers to entry. We’re rolling out our world building tools, the same tools that our team used to craft Highrise into the successful, thriving metaverse it is today, and allowing anyone who owns LAND on our continent to use them and follow our roadmap to success. In short, anyone can create their own metaverse, simply dubbed a Highrise. This will help people by expanding access to the metaverse and allowing for greater access online. And, by building on our continent we’re ensuring it’s done in a fair, safe manner. By building an entire digital continent, parcels of which are available to own in the form of LAND, we’re fulfilling our mission of expanding digital ownership opportunities for all.

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 most exciting concepts in the metaverse industry to date deal with digital ownership, the creator economy and the GameFi market. I believe that the future lies in the metaverse and our products, specifically Highrise World, are accessible and mobile-first, providing all the opportunity to build a custom experience with true digital ownership & autonomous governance. We are initiating a prosperous online economy that will enable new work opportunities for creators, collectors, and experience hosts from impoverished countries. A populated virtual world will bring the physical world closer and make you feel more connected within a community while helping to tear down global economic disparities and increase access worldwide. We also recently announced that our community-owned metaverse Highrise World will be supported by the Avalanche subnet — making it Avalanche’s first-ever metaverse subnet. This historic move merges the benefits of a GameFi economy with the existing, community-first infrastructure that’s contributed to the existing success of Highrise.

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 would say the three most concerning areas in the metaverse today for me are equality, governance & protection. The Web3 mindset is for everyone to have the same experience and Highrise has set-up in game guard rails to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity. Although I grew up playing social interactive video games, I know today they are not as safe or what they used to be. Cyber-bullying online is a huge problem and our goal is to diminish it by implementing AI features in chat rooms to detect inappropriate content and shut it down quickly. Lastly, MR governance is worrisome because in order for all these virtual worlds to stay spinning they have to work correctly, a failed example being Club Penguin. Highrise enables its users to have a healthy environment where the treasury is successfully managed & infrastructure is taken care of.

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?

After the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic, people are even more hungry for real personal connection. Work teams are becoming increasingly more spread out — like mine which is all over the world — connecting people together & sharing experiences has become more important than ever. The metaverse allows people to escape & interact with a community so when they resume their WFH life they can focus more clearly on the tasks at hand their employer asks of them. Virtual worlds help make the real world more connected in an increasingly spread out globally diverse universe.

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

Our products, specifically Highrise World, are accessible and mobile-first metaverses, providing all the opportunity to build a custom experience with true digital ownership & autonomous governance. Not only do we provide the tools for any brand, community or individual to create a custom metaverse through the Highrise World Builder, but we also empower successful digital ownership through our dedicated subnet blockchain. With this transition, simply put, a shift from web2 to web3, creators have full ownership of their content. Landowners can govern and monetize their metaverse how they see fit & build unique in-world experiences that engage with their users. And, on top of that, Highrise has a robust and active existing user-base ready to make this leap into the metaverse. Unlike similar metaverse worlds, Highrise has true user engagement — providing a never-before-seen capacity for engagement & income for the people that use it.

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

One of the biggest ongoing MR myths, both in media and in practice is that the metaverse is primarily male dominated. Our virtual world, Highrise, is over 75% female based, and some of the top performing creators are female, like Maisie Williams. As of March 2022, a survey conducted in the United States found that metaverse interests in men were doubled that of women. My biggest rationale for this incorrect trend is the survey data recorded are from metaverses like Decentraland & Sandbox that don’t have true user engagement like Higrise, therefore cannot adequately interpret the trends at hand.

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

At the stage we’re in now, with web3 still being fairly new to most consumers, traditional web2 tech individuals who successfully make the leap into web3 are generally naturally curious & early adapters. Of course this may be an oversimplification, but in my experience, web3 people find each other because they are continually seeking new experiences & new avenues for growth — financially or otherwise. However, I’ve found that the basic principles are similar, but the mediums have changed. In lieu of traditional networking events people meet in Discord channels, Reddit forums — or even in Highrise!

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. 🙂

Digital economies enable direct transactions between creator and consumer. In the physical world, you have a massive supply chain with rent seekers in between each stage. A worker in China works on a fabric that’s shipped to a factory where another worker builds a shoe that’s shipped to a distributor who sells to retailers who then resells to the end consumer. The workers ultimately see less than 5% of the revenue of those shoes they initiated. In the digital world, because there’s no physical limitations, the relationship between creator to consumer can be more direct. I believe in this new world, where the economic inequality that exists simply because somebody is born in a different country dissipates. The idea that anyone born in a lower class community in China, with less resources can build something of value and sell it directly to someone born into wealth all the way in America. In doing so, the world becomes more equal over time and is a huge reason why I love the creator economy.

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

I would love to sit and have a private meal with Tim Sweeney, founder and CEO of Epic Games, and the creator of the Unreal Engine, one of the most-used game development platforms. I think Sweeney would be the best candidate to build a mass adopted virtual world. Sweeney was chosen recently as person of the year for building and turning Fortnite into a social network with his company, hosting online events such as Travis Scott’s in-game concert which drew over 28 million viewers. He has his hands in the big next everything, to be able to sit down and expand our vision together would make Highrise even bigger success than it already is.

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


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

Meet The Disruptors: Nancy Bologna Of The Lives of CC Mercy On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up…

Meet The Disruptors: Nancy Bologna Of The Lives of CC Mercy On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Be yourself, nothing else works. Go ahead, fake it now and then. Might last for a while. But all you really have is you.

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

Author and creator Nancy Bologna, of Rockford, Minnesota, is a Clinical Psychologist by profession but has had many other positions such as a senior executive in large corporations, an executive business coach, and a “behind-the scenes” writer. She created a new and exciting way to “consume content” — — a digital interactive novel where people can contribute to the ongoing story, expand or invent new characters, draw, paint, make music and so much more. Welcome to The Lives of CC Mercy, an inclusive place where artists from around the world can collaborate, let their creativity flourish, and receive the recognition they deserve.

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 have always loved to read and write, and have been drawn to the human experience from a young age. I’ve worked in several different fields, including the entertainment industry, retail and executive coaching. As a psychologist, I’ve been privileged to understand on a deep level how people think and feel, share their dark moments and their joys. But there are so many stories that are left untold, and I wanted to find a way for people to have their own voice in this noisy world.

So I created a digital, interactive novel called The Lives of CC Mercy. This is a place where creators have the freedom to express their creativity and get recognition for their work. This is a living story that will become a visual medium as more creatives join the community. I’m starting it with five seasons already, each with ten episodes, and more than a hundred unique characters already!

The story starts with 16-year-old CC Mercy who commits a murder. But the story quickly moves beyond her. Drama, action, love, and all the human elements emerge. The story is broken into episodes and seasons, much like a TV series. I hope this becomes a visual medium where artists and writers can create new characters, expand on established characters, move the plot forward, go back into someone’s past, or dig deeper into their present. Every month, we’ll ask for artists’ renderings of what characters look like and the winner’s work will become that character’s image.

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

I’m creating an inclusive space where authors, artists and other creatives can do just that… create. To my knowledge, there isn’t a website or novel like this out there that is strictly developed by the everyday person. This is a concept that is gaining momentum. We see it with YouTube and streaming services like Netflix. People have a desire to create something new and to shake up how audiences interact with media.

We see this disruption in other industries like Uber. Instead of calling a taxi service, you use an app on your phone to find a driver near you. People go directly to other people. The Lives of CC Mercy transports content, rather than passengers. Person to person without an intermediary.

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 certainly have made a string of big mistakes so it’s hard to pick one! I underestimated the complexity of creating a compelling website that gets the story out there and gets attention. Luckily, I chose an excellent website design and development company, and they have been a true partner to me. I wouldn’t be this far without them. I learned that writing the story and bringing the characters to life is what a writer does. Social media, not the covers of a hard copy book, is what brings life, attention, and people to a medium.

I had to learn to lean on people who work with these materials daily, and so many good people made this what it is today.

I also underestimated how much of the story there is to tell. I was concerned when I started that I wouldn’t have enough of a story for people to work with. Now that I’m writing everything, it’s all coming out — — characters, action!

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 had great parents who believed in me. I have a great husband who believes in me. I am moved by ideas, so great writers and great philosophers have been my mentors. I’m a voracious reader of both fiction and non-fiction.

I’ve been honored by the sheer number of professional supporters I’ve had over the years. While working on The Lives of CC Mercy, I have had old colleagues find the website and reach out. I’ve seen so many of them show up for me with this project, including following me on social media and sharing the website with their friends.

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?

Great revolutions in science, art, and technology usually don’t occur solely on incremental change. Often it takes a very disruptive concept, theory or idea to force profound change. Newton, Picasso, Mozart, Einstein — — the list goes on and on — — challenged and disrupted existing beliefs and practices.

In the artistic world, you have artists pushing boundaries and challenging “What is art?” You can see writers and filmmakers diving into subjects that others see as taboo. You have services like Netflix and Hulu challenging how people consume content. That is my goal with this novel, to push the boundaries of how a novel is written or a film is made. I’m creating an immersive experience where the community tells the story and drives the characters.

Failed disruptors aren’t always visible to the rest of us. Disruption that fails to stand the test of time can be seen as negative. This type of disruption can lead people astray and doesn’t move an industry forward. There is a sense that time, money and energy were wasted and companies can fold. However, from the ruins of this disruption, there is usually someone else who finds a way to innovate that idea and bring it to life.

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 what you believe in. In my life, I have left several high-paying jobs because I found no purpose in the work. Purpose is very personal and no one can define it for you. The simple act of reducing someone’s suffering — — one person’s pain — — matters to me. My clinical practice has given me that avenue. I am fortunate indeed.
  2. Have some fun. Life is short and long at the same time. Better find some joy along the way. Keep your eyes, ears, and heart open to spot the little stuff along your way. Laugh at yourself and with others.
  3. Don’t expect to be understood. People are busy trying to figure themselves out, trying to live their own lives. If you are different from those around you, don’t expect them to understand you. Understanding is an advanced relationship state, and doesn’t happen often.
  4. Be proud of the little things you do. Count your invisible victories each day. Overcoming a hurdle, being kind when you’re tired and irritable, just do it. This is what hope is built on.
  5. Be yourself, nothing else works. Go ahead, fake it now and then. Might last for a while. But all you really have is you.

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

I plan on disrupting the consumption of content. Giving people their voice, an outlet and platform to display what lies inside, their writing, their art, their music, their ideas. Tapping human potential, there it is. Perhaps loosen the controls of entertainment by the powerful intermediaries and take the reins ourselves. There has to be a structure for this and discipline. That’s what I’m here for.

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?

Writers, poets, songwriters, and philosophers have moved me and still do. Bob Dylan, VictorHugo, Jane Austen, Leo Tolstoy, Lewis Thomas — — this list goes on and on. I live in my head and am influenced by ideas.

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

Mother Teresa — “Do not do great things. Do small things with great love.”

This quote resonates with me. I believe in the power of little things because you have no idea how big they can get or what impact they might have. These days, it seems to be about the next big thing. But there is infinite power in the little things we do.

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 greatest gift I could give this world would be for people to believe in themselves and have the courage to express their own voices. It’s so easy to be torn down by everything that is going on in the world and, often, other people. It’s amazing the power we really have to be part of this world as it is and as it could be.

How can our readers follow you online?

We’re just getting started, but we have big dreams for this platform. We are looking for submissions on our website, ccmercy.com. I don’t want to stop growing, so we are planning to have a newsletter and much more as we continue to build this community. You can also follow us on Facebook at @TheCCMercy and Instagram at @theccmercy. I’m reaching out my hand and asking for help on this creative endeavor because this is meant to be a community. Your work doesn’t have to be perfect; it just has to be you!

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


Meet The Disruptors: Nancy Bologna Of The Lives of CC Mercy 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.

Agile Businesses: Neal Hansch Of Silicon Foundry On How Businesses Pivot and Stay Relevant In The…

Agile Businesses: Neal Hansch Of Silicon Foundry On How Businesses Pivot and Stay Relevant In The Face of Disruptive Technologies

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

I think the most important role of a leader during a disruptive period is clarity on vision, clarity on the Northstar, and communicating that to the team, while providing a sense of direction. Certainly, the disruption happening will continue, but when you communicate clarity on vision, at least everyone feels like they know where they’re headed and what it will take to get there. It’s been a challenging few years, and we’re a relatively small business in the grand scheme of things, but this clarity is applicable whether you’re a team of 20 or 200,000 people strong, which is the operating size of some of our members.

As part of my series about the “How Businesses Pivot and Stay Relevant In The Face of Disruptive Technologies”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Neal Hansch, CEO & Managing Partner at Silicon Foundry.

Neal Hansch is the CEO and Managing Partner of Silicon Foundry, an innovation advisory firm that builds bridges between leading global corporations and the emerging tech economy. Hansch leverages over 25 years of venture capital, product management, technology operations, corporate development, and trusted advisory experience to lead the firm, which helps its member organizations navigate new technologies and market shifts, discover and engage with key emerging leaders, and unlock high-impact opportunities.

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

I started my career in the late 90s, otherwise known as Internet 1.0 during the dotcom boom, on the dark side as an investment banker. I was in this space during that first wave of technology companies that went public–companies like Netscape and eBay. Then, I moved to the venture capital side. I was involved in the funding of many of those companies, as they were our clients, and for taking them public as bankers. After, I spent nearly two decades as a venture capitalist, investing in early- and late-stage companies. I also did a stint in corporate development, at Macromedia, which was acquired by Adobe, as well as working within a handful of startups doing corporate development and strategic investments and acquisitions. And,,at Silicon Foundry, we put all that together. We operate at the intersection of startups, Fortune 2000s, and the venture capitalists backing those startups. My backstory led me, most naturally, to the role I’m in today.

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

I think the funniest mistake or maybe the most expensive mistakes would have been some of those Internet 1.0 startups we invested in because many may have been a bit ahead of their time. Or where, at the time, it was all about growth and growth as measured in eyeballs and activity rather than revenue. I think everyone may recall Pets.com. Well, Petopia was the equivalent. The logic made so much sense given how much people love their pets and spend on them. But the economics just don’t work when you ship 100 pounds of pet food and there’s only a $2 margin. We had a few companies who had similar stories. There was one where I think all that was left of our investment at the end of the day was a rubber football from when we sponsored a New Year’s Day college bowl. Thankfully, these mistakes happened early in my career when I was learning the startup game and venture business.

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?

With my career, it’s not any one person. I think I’ve been blessed at each place I’ve worked or participated as a banker or venture investor. I was always at least two or more years with these companies and projects, which seems to fly in the face of conventional practice these days. At each stop, whether it was investment banking, venture capital, or on the operating side, I always had an informal if not formal mentor–someone who invested their time in me and in turn helped me grow. Also when leaving a place, I always left in good standing. There are probably a half-dozen names that I could directly reference here.

Much of what we do here at Silicon Foundry and the roles I’ve been in, they’re very much apprenticeship roles, where it’s less about a hard, tangible technical skill set and more about learning the trade and learning the nuances.What’s great is that I am still in touch with those half-dozen people. We often find ourselves crossing paths. One of the things I really enjoy about Silicon Valley and the ecosystem here is the connectivity, and those relationships which are not measured in months or quarters, but years and, in many cases, decades. After time passes, we find ourselves working together again. A perfect example is several of our Silicon Foundry team members whom I worked with 10 and 20 years ago, and now I’m working with them day in and day out here.

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

Silicon Foundry is, at its core, purpose driven. For us, it marries personal passion with a drive of helping small companies and large companies find each other and have success in working together, which is a win-win for both sides. We talk a lot about helping Fortune 2000 companies navigate the startup ecosystem. First and foremost, it’s about having the insights, intel, and an understanding of the landscape. But to do that, so that you can connect the dots in the right way, you have to separate the signal from the noise. You have to figure out which of these emerging companies are not only the best of breed and pulling away from the pack, but also which of these startups Fortune 2000s should be engaging. The goal is they either become customers of these companies and use their new technologies, platforms, services, and even business models as inspiration in their own businesses, or they develop partnerships with these companies or make strategic investments that happen alongside those customer or partnership relationships or acquisitions. I feel fulfilled, whether it’s when I’m coming home at night or as we look back and reflect at the end of the year, knowing we’ve helped generate, ideate, and facilitate these engagements for outcomes that helped startups grow and be more successful as well as fuel business for the incumbents.

Which technological innovation has encroached or disrupted your industry? Can you explain why this has been disruptive? What did you do to pivot as a result of this disruption?

For our business, it’s understanding the landscape, identifying the startups operating within that space, and filtering them on many different variables and vectors. Arguably, for us, the most disruptive innovation would be if there was a holy grail database that captured all the startups in the world along with all the data points, quantitative and qualitative; where someone could be sitting at their desk and find just the right potential startup and partner for their needs. The good news for our businesses is that this kind of database doesn’t exist and, in many respects, it’ll never exist because the most important data points about a company and the founders of that company are qualitative. They’re real-time and largely about personal judgment. Yet, there are companies like CrunchBase and PitchBook. We view these tools as a starting point.

Ultimately, the human eye, human judgment, and relationships aren’t resident in a database, but garnered over time through history, trust, and authentic interactions. These databases are a tool we use because of the sheer volume of startups globally. But could they disintermediate us? We don’t think so because once again this is more of a starting point, or the mid game, but we take it from there and do what we do. We operate beyond a database at the highest levels, building sound relationships and using keen judgment. With founders and corporate executives, these attributes will never be measured in bits and bytes. We view these technologies like CrunchBase and PitchBook as an asset rather than a competitive threat.

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

I’m actually the second CEO here at Silicon Foundry. I think the “aha moment” was when I talked to the original founders, as they were looking to bring in a new CEO for the next phase of the business. They described the fundamental value proposition and, given my background, it immediately struck a chord because I had been on both the startup side and corporate side. I had also operated as a VC. So, I knew the pain points, not just conceptually, but I lived and breathed these concepts. I also spent time in corporate development at a big tech company trying to find potential acquisition targets. I knew on the startup side that trying to connect with the right decision makers at corporates was a very challenging undertaking, but I learned how to navigate these behemoth organizations. I’d known as a VC that you always want global connectivity to decision makers at corporates for the benefit of your portfolio companies. If you could open those doors, they could be potential customers, investors, or acquirers. When I heard the founders describe the fundamental value proposition of Silicon Foundry, I immediately knew there was sizable business potential. And the pain points weren’t conceptual. They were very, very tangible to me, since I had experienced all of them in the prior 20 plus years in different ways.

So, how are things going with this new direction? Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this pivot?

Ours is very much a global business, where half, if not more, of our members or customers or clients are based overseas. It’s very much relationship driven. A big part of what we facilitate is the ability for these corporates to engage the startups and spend time with them. Covid, when the skies closed and borders were shut, was definitely a headwind to our business and yet we continue to grow and we continue to grow every year. I think the tailwinds through Covid, or perhaps silver linings as it relates to our business, is that digital transformation has accelerated. Digital became a must have rather than a nice to have. That was underway pre-Covid, but the pandemic really put a fine point on it. For us, this worked out to be a positive, because that’s at the very heart of what we do.

If we look at the macro environment right now, corporates leveraging external innovation will charge ahead, regardless of what the stock market is doing. We’ve only seen an increase over the last number of years. These are trends that have not just continued, but I’d say continued to grow and accelerate. We’re seeing the technology ecosystem and tech companies migrate further from Silicon Valley, which is still home of the greatest number of startups and venture capital funds flowing in the region. The Bay Area, Southern California, New York, and Boston, have generally been four of the top five ecosystems outside of the Valley. But Miami is gaining a lot of traction these days, along with Austin, Seattle, Chicago, and Detroit. There has also been a rise in international tech ecosystems in places like London, Stockholm, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Shanghai. Not too long ago, many of these were emerging markets. Today, the rise of these other ecosystems and the number of startups that are up and coming, only further plays into the hand, if you will, of our business.

We have a finger on the pulse of the best companies coming out of these ecosystems and the best companies in each category, regardless of where they’re based. These trends are positive for our business and increase the need to be able to monitor these ecosystems. We are champions of those startups and those entrepreneurs, and connect them to our corporate members and corporates in our network, regardless of where they are. The more distributed, the more challenging that is, of course. But for us, the more fun it is to connect a US startup with a Middle Eastern financial services conglomerate, or a startup based in Tel Aviv to one of our members based here in the states.

What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during a disruptive period? Based on your experience and success, what are the most important things a business leader should do to pivot and stay relevant in the face of disruptive technologies?

I think the most important role of a leader during a disruptive period is clarity on vision, clarity on the Northstar, and communicating that to the team, while providing a sense of direction. Certainly, the disruption happening will continue, but when you communicate clarity on vision, at least everyone feels like they know where they’re headed and what it will take to get there. It’s been a challenging few years, and we’re a relatively small business in the grand scheme of things, but this clarity is applicable whether you’re a team of 20 or 200,000 people strong, which is the operating size of some of our members.

To pivot and stay relevant in the face of disruptive technologies, it may be practical or relevant to just adopt those disruptive technologies and have them be an asset rather than a threat to your business. A number of years ago, pre-pandemic, we had 15 to 20 very senior folks from train companies based here in the US come out to Silicon Valley. We had several conversations about disruption from technology. These were train companies with billions of dollars of assets, hard assets, tracks laid on the ground, criss crossing the nation. When they came out to Silicon Valley, the lens was on disruption. Ironically, what came from these meetings was inspiring. It was less about disruptive tech eating into their business and more about the solutions they were seeing and how they could make their business more successful by cutting costs, streamlining operations, and increasing safety of their employees on the track. It was less a defensive posture, and more an offensive and a partner in the collaborative mindset. Here’s this traditional industry, right? Now, there is disruption from autonomous trucking to other modes of transportation and moving goods across the US. You could certainly take the lens and say these disruptive new technologies will impact their business. But the best leaders of the bunch were really looking at it as how can we embrace these disruptive new forces? How can we integrate them into our own businesses for more success, increased revenues, greater safety and happiness to the employees, and more productivity? This example is leadership at its finest.

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

I’d go back to clarity and vision and direction and purpose. Again, when employees understand where a company is headed, there’s greater job satisfaction and a sense of fulfillment. Today, one of the biggest challenges is how to drive culture in what’s now so often a hybrid and distributed workforce. Leaders today and going forward need to think about the fundamentals, which is the purpose and mission of their companies. They need to be thinking about what drives employees too. What do employees embrace and attach themselves to? In parallel, how do we drive a positive, engaged, reinforced, committed culture?

There’s no shortage of articles, thoughts, and commentary on these critical topics. But I believe we’re all in it together and learning what that looks like going forward. And you’re talking to someone who just came back from their team offsite, and realized there are some team members who had not met each other after a year of work, which is the last time we had one of these events for our business. Pre-Covid, 95 percent of our employees worked together side by side. Everyone lived in the same general zip codes. Now, about half our employees are outside of our headquarters in Silicon Valley. We have team members in Los Angeles, San Diego, Austin, New York, New Jersey, Boston, and Florida. So, we’re learning along with everyone else.

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

The most common mistake ties in with those experts and executives back in the 90s who referred to the Internet as a fad–people like Clifford Stoll. Some thought this technology could never be sustained. A huge mistake is not recognizing or appreciating some of these new technologies and their potential impact. These things move on a relative basis at lightning speed. Some of this tech fundamentally shifts either the competitive landscape or just the way business is done. There is a continuous library of quotes from CEOs weighing in on some of these new technologies or trends and putting them off to the side very quickly. It’s important to keep in mind the potential of how these will change the nature of business. And, it’s about applying it to the business, as much as anything else.

The element of these new technologies is that they open doors to new ways of providing services or entirely new business models, which incumbents often have a difficult time embracing. When they are successful, those new models gain not just traction, but they end up being the model of choice in many industries. One example is SaaS in the software business. When I started my career, enterprise software was largely a perpetual license business model with a big ticket, single purchase, and then yearly maintenance contracts. Today, SaaS is arguably the de facto business model for software companies and many software companies had to go through that phase where they shifted their entire business models. It changed the economics upfront and, over the long term, became a business model that Wall Street appreciated and valued, which was reflected in the market cap of those companies who were able to make that transition effectively.

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

Change almost never fails because it’s too early. It almost always fails because it’s too late.” This maxim is one that in so many ways is a driver to our own business and a philosophy we share with our corporate Members, all of whom are going through their own digital transformations to varying degrees and speed of movements. At the same time, this also applies to our own firm and as we need to live by this philosophy, in the same way we espouse and support it with those companies we serve. During the pandemic change was certainly forced on us all in our personal as well as professional lives. Those who embraced, adjusted and in fact found ways to “lean into” that change as early and quickly as possible, I think we can all agree weathered the storm best over this period and perhaps even found the most silver linings during it. For example here at Silicon Foundry,, while our core value proposition remained the same, we embraces the need to shift so many elements of how we do what we do, how we deliver our services, how we collaborate as colleagues, and how we recruit and retain our current and future team mates, etc.

How can our readers further follow your work?

I can be reached by email at neal@sifoundry.com or on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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


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

Makers of The Metaverse: Corey Hill Of Veritone On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality…

Makers of The Metaverse: Corey Hill Of Veritone On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Forget the word impossible — Replace it with persistence, confidence and patience.

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 Corey Hill.

Corey Hill (also known as ‘chill’) is a self-realized technology expert with a dynamic career spanning multiple roles and industries. Collaborating to create value by leveraging technology and imagination is where he’ll tell you he’s living the dream.

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 with technology almost second nature to me. My father worked for a leading tech company, which meant not only being privileged to the latest ideas and innovation coming down the pike but also moving quite a bit — which spurred my love for travel and expanded my horizons early on. Being curious and having access to computers, I spent a lot of time tinkering with them during an era when you had to load the operating system from multiple disks. I learned a lot just by doing. So, when I went out into the world to start my career, I was intrinsically drawn toward technology. In school, I studied marketing and psychology, which rounded out my interests.

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 Alchemist by Paolo Coelho was a pretty impactful book. In fact, after reading it, I was inspired to make a choice for myself — for the first time — and started a new chapter, which involved many synchronistic meetings with people that led to career changes and pretty awesome opportunities. I think it was the scene in the story where Santiago is in the crystal shop and gets a job working for the merchant, who is afraid to fulfill his dream to go to Mecca. Santiago asks him why he doesn’t just go, and the merchant says the dream of going is the only thing that helps him face the drudgery of his days. If he goes to Mecca, what else does he have to live for? He represents a man who will never fulfill his dreams.

Two weeks after reading the book, I packed up and moved to Denver, which is ironic considering it only took Coelho two weeks to write the entire story. Further, the book was published two separate times by two different publishers. The first one lost faith in it. The English version was published by a third publisher years later, and that’s when it took off. It has been translated in many languages and has sold tens of millions of copies, and is even available for free download. It really resonates with me on many levels, but the most important being that you have to have faith in yourself, even if no one else does. And you must stay focused on your own journey.

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

I was pretty early to the business side of social media but began leaning in more on the technology side of things. But with that transition, I felt like I was missing out on this exciting technology, the VR, AR and MR innovation. So, this fear of missing out drew me in. Google was in the early stages of augmented tech and I was having discussions with friends about blending this tech with real life. For example, holding up your phone in a city like Chicago and visualizing the phone giving you information (via text or voice, or both) on that particular thing, be it a building or bridge or landmark.

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

Considering I wasn’t a “classically” or traditionally trained engineer, my transitioning from marketing to technology is interesting. I think it’s good for people who are like me to know they can come into these amazing companies and opportunities to be in a leadership position of their own accord. For example, I started my own social media and web development company where I created a multi-location digital signage network that worked over 3g. I built an entire business from the scripts to configure the hardware to the sales and marketing collateral to find and close investors and advertisers for the network. The success of the business gave me confidence that I could implement technical solutions but was still worried about doing it at the enterprise level. s. A friend actually convinced me to apply for more technical roles and I ended up landing a position as the technical analyst between the chief marketing officer and chief technology officer, for an airline’s e-commerce website. That’s as close to full circle as it gets.

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

It was my first week in a new position, and I was on the plane waiting for the last passengers to boardt, trying to knock out a few updates. While sitting at the gate and trying to hurry, I accidentally deleted the wrong table from a customer’s production application, crashing a key service in their operations. Once I realized my mistake, I only had a few seconds to call the CTO to let him know what happened before they closed the doors and devices had to be put away. I didn’t find out the resolution until I landed two hours later. I was sweating it out the entire flight. Thankfully, they had a very robust backup policy, so the problem was likely solved before we even took off. The lesson? Don’t make changes if you don’t have the required time, and don’t expect the Wi-Fi to work on the plane.

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 older brother was always significantly more technical than me and would spend hours on the computer learning and playing games. We actually used to fight over the shared computer so often, my parents eventually bought one for each of us. One of my earliest memories was in middle school, when he showed me how to use proxies to get to the anime sites that were blocked. I didn’t really understand what was happening until working on web development projects several years later.

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

Veritone is working on delivering a portfolio of metaverse andweb3 products! I think our expertise in the media and entertainment industry will help to drive additional adoption by those companies and help further drive the shift towards these emerging technologies. There are so many applications, and it’s exciting to see the impact our technology is having on companies focused on creating amazing content in digital formats. Our technology will create more immersive experiences, particularly as we move into metaverse environments.

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?

AR — As mentioned, augmented reality can really boost our creative abilities, help expand our horizons and provide us with options for exploring the world around us. I always liked the idea of being able to point my phone at an object and learn about it. Or the idea of being in a car and the windshield providing information, like where the nearest gas or charging station is located.

VR Immersion — Just in the fields of healthcare and education, virtual reality can take us to places we otherwise may not be able to explore. For healthcare, virtual reality can help in training surgeons before a single cut is made. As far as media content, virtual reality is enabling us to use synthetic voice for translation and so much more. It’s exciting to be able to expand the capabilities of language that way.

MR — When we mix all of these realities together, we get a multiverse experience, whether totally digital, like the metaverse, or in everyday physical environments. Take cars, for instance. We now have vehicle-to-vehicle communication, vehicle to infrastructure and vehicle to pedestrian.

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

Lack of diversity is number one. During these early stages, there’s the possibility the new realities miss the nuances of specific groups (ie accessibility like deaf, mute or blind) or cultures and they could end up being left behind. Part of the allure of the metaverse is inclusiveness and diversity of ideas! Two, the danger associated with people not paying attention while being immersed. Think about people looking at their phones crossing busy intersections. Or wearing a VR headset and falling into an object in the room. Then there is the danger of people losing touch with reality and getting addicted to the technology.

In everything, we need balance.

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 offer so many unique ways for us to communicate, whether in the same room or half a world away. This can help make remote work feel less remote. Imagine a real virtual conference call with your photorealistic avatars sitting around the conference room, shaking hands and actually feeling that handshake. I also think the distribution/access/display of information can be improved significantly.

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

As mentioned previously, these technologies can greatly benefit education and healthcare, as well as manufacturing. I know that companies are already using these to develop digital twins (digital copies of an environment like a factory) and design products before moving to the physical stage. NASA has been using digital twins for decades. We’re already moving in this direction but these technologies have the power to eliminate language and geographical barriers, and help people to express their ideas and thoughts in ways that just aren’t possible with the current mediums.

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

I hear quite a few people saying the metaverse will lead to a dystopian future. Lots of things can lead to a dystopian future. It’s like fire. It can bring warmth and light and can destroy. We all need to be responsible for the power we wield in life.

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

Number one is imagination. You’ve got to have a good imagination if you’re going to be creating a new world or new interface to the existing one.

Number two: Forget the word impossible — Replace it with persistence, confidence and patience.

Number three: You need a high-level understanding of and the ability to align imagination with an understanding of the moving pieces of the necessary tech to put a more compelling story together.

An understanding of the gaps/needs of the space. Imagination and tech without and understanding the gaps where there are general needs may not go as far

Five Storytelling! If you’re able to summarize all of the above things into a compelling story, you’ll have an easier time collaborating, socializing and ultimately selling your ideas to stakeholders and customers.

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 🙂

Chanda Prescod-Wienstein , a theoretical physicist with extensive knowledge in string theory and other principle building blocks of our current reality. I think understanding more about how the forces of this reality work, will only help to drive tangibly more immersive experiences within the realities of the future. Besides, depending on who you ask, we may already be part of an extensive simulation!

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


Makers of The Metaverse: Corey Hill Of Veritone 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: Porsha Ellis Of Crown + Conquer On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your…

Meet The Disruptors: Porsha Ellis Of Crown + Conquer On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Integrity, Curiosity & Resourcefulness are your best attributes. Use them to your benefit and for good!

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Crown + Conquer’s Managing Director, Porsha Ellis.

Porsha Ellis began her career in the marketing & events industry over 15 years ago; her first role working for the Super Bowl Committee as an Events & Community Relations Coordinator. That experience, coupled with her love for sports & entertainment, sparked her passion for client services and curating immersive, one-of-a-kind experiences. She launched her career with her move to New York City, where she produced events for brands like Victoria Secret, Samsung, HBO, and Microsoft to name a few.

Her journey continued as she transitioned over to the creative & sports marketing agency, Game Seven, where she made the move to Los Angeles, helping to open their offices on the West Coast. There she led campaigns and executed projects for brands like Nike and Beats By Dre; inclusive of spearheading a multi-year, multi-pronged Influencer Initiative, managing various digital and social talent, the first of its kind for Beats.

Five years ago, Porsha took the leap and transitioned over to newly founded creative agency, Crown + Conquer. As the Vice President of Accounts, she has overseen a wide range of brand campaigns and projects, leading influencer strategy & programs and managed a team to service clients such as Amazon, Spotify, Google, Airbnb and many more. Now in her role as Managing Director, she oversees business strategies and company operations including finance, legal, internal/client protocols, and processes to ensure growth & profitability.

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 in the industry over 15 years ago. My first exposure to the world of Experiential Marketing was around the Super Bowl, where I worked for the SB XL Host Committee while I was in college. There, I was exposed to the vastness of this industry and the different types of events that brands gravitated towards. After that role, I realized my love for creating & executing experiences that bring joy to others. Truthfully, planning & curating events has always been my specialty. In high school and college, I was always involved with organizations that put-on events, so I chose this career path because it allowed to be my most authentic self. I’m a planner at heart, anyone who knows me personally would say the same, so using my intrinsic skills to create magic turned out to be a perfect fit.

After college I moved to New York City to pursue a full-time career in Marketing; starting in Public Relations but then quickly realized that was not my calling. I double downed on producing events and landed my first full-time gig with Nike Communications (not to be confused with the “Just Do It” Nike). My work over the years has spanned across various Fortune 500 companies (Microsoft, HBO, Google, Apple) and I’ve built & executed a plethora of experiential work: Multi-City Tours, Exhibitions, Pop-Ups, you name it. I also found a lane for myself in the Influencer Marketing space over the last 8 years, creating bespoke strategies, executing campaigns & talent partnerships for Patron, Airbnb, Amazon & Beats By Dre to name a few. After a long stint in NY, Los Angeles became home where I helped build the west coast business of my last agency, Game Seven, which is also where I met & worked with my now boss, April McDaniel. I joined April in building Crown + Conquer over 5 years ago and have been developing our client relationships & growing our business to where we are today. Now, I’ve taken on the role as Managing Director, working with our Leadership team and Founder to ensure profitability and implementing business strategies as we continue to scale.

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

We create “Moments of Truth” and truth for us is being our most authentic selves, unapologetically, and always striving to be our best. Who we are at our core is a diverse group of creative alchemists who bring an alternative perspective to the table. There’s nothing traditional about us — we seek out what’s different and you’ll see that in every aspect of our business; how we hire, who we hire, the brands we work with, the type of projects we work on and how we execute the work… all of it matters.

Our work is more than just a service — we challenge ourselves to think outside the box and create waves in culture & we push our clients to do the same. Unfortunately, in this industry, there are so many people who are “all talk” but we’re all about action, showing up for ourselves, our clients, our vendors, and the community any way we can. This is who we have always been & what makes our work disruptive!

I’d be remiss not to mention that we are a female-led agency; our founder and our leadership team are all women (we also have some amazing guys that work on our team as well) so just by looking at us, you’ll see that we are different. Diversity is at our core — we live and breathe it every day because we’ve purposely & intentionally set ourselves up to gain as many perspectives as possible, which is what makes our work stand out.

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

Oh boy! There have been a handful of moments that I wished I could take back but ultimately, they all ended up becoming learning lessons that I’ve been able to apply even to this day. I’ve always worked in fast paced environments and when I first was given the task to create and send a budget estimate to a client, I knew that I was finally growing in my role. After getting the budget approved internally, it was time to send the budget out to the client, except I sent the wrong budget out, which had about a $30K discrepancy in it. Thankfully, we were able to smooth things over but that moment taught me a few valuable lessons in this business, especially when dealing with money.

1 — Double (and sometimes even triple) check your work. Being thorough is key.

2 — Take a second to slow down and breathe. While the work that we are doing is high pressure and urgent, we aren’t saving lives so taking an extra second to ground yourself will usually help in the long run.

3 — Own your mistakes, learn from them, and keep it moving!

Thankfully, I’ve redeemed myself over the years and I’m now known as the Budget Master by my team.

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

I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have a collective of colleagues (namely women) around me throughout my career journey that have encouraged me, challenged me, supported me, kept me honest and celebrated me over the years. For me, I have learned from so many people in the industry that it would be too many to name but what I think is important is to always keep a tribe of people around you that you trust. People that have your best interest at heart and are willing to help you grow however they can.

My relationship with April, our Founder of Crown + Conquer, isn’t a typical one. I’m grateful for the journey that she has been on as a Founder and what she has learned & shared with me along the way. When I really think about it, this agency was built from scratch, and I came in at the beginning, so we’ve navigated a lot of spaces as first timers together. We’ve learned some things by trial and error, and I’ve taken the wisdom that she has passed on and have been able to apply it in a way that benefits myself and the business.

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

Being disruptive is all about intention. As an agency, we intentionally focus on how to be the most creative, the most inclusive, the most purposeful, strategizing on what would resonate best with the target audience; and have checks & balances to ensure we stay true to this. For us, being disruptive is all about stretching ourselves and our clients to try new things and to get out of our comfort zone. We are not a one size fits all agency and we pride ourselves on that, so our agency is naturally disruptive at its core.

What can be seen as detrimentally disruptive is when agencies/brands have no intention, no purpose and are performative in how they show up. It happens all the time! Agencies/brands just want to be a part of a certain conversation or moment, with no real idea of how to connect with a specific demographic and/or community and no real intention of talking to them past that particular moment in time. That’s an example of how things can start to become problematic.

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’ll share the top three that have been relevant to my journey within this industry:

Integrity, Curiosity & Resourcefulness are your best attributes. Use them to your benefit and for good!

I really believe these three things have helped catapult us in this industry. We have integrity when it comes to our work and the relationships we are building. We care about the people/brands we work with and that’s reflective of us working with people we like and resonate with us (one of our companies’ core values/mottos). We are curious and are always looking to learn new things, new trends, new ways of resonating with different audiences. We’re resourceful to a T — always finding a way to get things done.

Always trust your gut (unless your gut isn’t trustworthy, then ask for help!)

As a predominately female agency, it’s important that we trust our intuition and use it to benefit the business. We use our inner guide to help us navigate an ever-changing landscape, especially as we’ve found our way through the pandemic.

Walk away from things & energy that don’t align with your values.

I’m big on boundaries and finding fulfillment and purpose in the work that you’re doing (blame my Libra sun, Cancer rising, Pisces moon). Crown + Conquer has always taken a stand to stay true to our values and have prioritized working with clients who respect our voice and point of view.

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

This is just the beginning! As an agency, we’ve spent the last five years building a solid foundation and have invested a lot of time and energy into growing our team. Despite spending the last two+ years navigating a pandemic, now is the time for us to double down on our efforts and go after some of our bigger goals. The sky is truly the limit for us. I guess I’ll just leave it at that for now; you’ll just have to follow along and see what’s on the horizon, but I will say that the future is bright, and I can’t wait to share more with the world.

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’m big on books and podcasts as of late. A couple of my favorite books regarding business are Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and Todd Henry’s “Herding Tigers: Be The Leader That Creative People Need.” As a manager and leader at my agency, it’s important to continuously develop my leadership skills to support my team but also work on my own effectiveness and self-mastery to be my best self and both books helped me hone in on blind spots/areas that were important for me to stretch.

“Set Boundaries, Find Peace” by Nedra Glover Tawwab is another favorite of mine and I think it’s relevant to the current times of the Great Resignation. We’ve been forced to really look deep at our priorities and find space to reclaim who we are and what’s important to us. This book helped me establish boundaries both in my personal and professional life to create a better environment to produce my best work.

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

I don’t know if this is particularly my favorite but it’s very applicable to how I live and work these days. “Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do.” For me personally, application and action are sometimes what’s missing from the equation when we try to problem solve. While the curiosity and learning are important, what you do with that information is even more telling of who you are and what you value. This is where I have found success, in consistent & intentional application. Being solution oriented is imperative in my line of work, as things are always changing and the work requires you to be flexible and to think on your toes, so finding ways to make the work actionable is key!

You are a person of 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. 🙂

Hmmmm, that’s a really interesting question. This movement has already started so I don’t have a groundbreaking idea to share at the moment but in this industry specifically, I think it’s important that we continue to give opportunities and a platform to underserved communities. I’m proud that as an agency we have always done this through our client and agency focused work (i.e., our Beats HBCU Creator Program, which is in its third year currently, or our Getty Internship Program Partnership) and I am finding more ways to do this personally as well.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can follow me personally on Instagram — @ImRaisingWisdom and follow my agency Crown + Conquer — @WeAreCrownandConquer. To learn more about Crown + Conquer, feel free to check out our website, crownandconquer.com.

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


Meet The Disruptors: Porsha Ellis Of Crown + Conquer 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: Josh Ebrahim Of ProFitX On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Product Research — We spent about six months designing the platform and creating the data needed to power it. This will be a continual process as the product evolves. Technology never stops.

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

As a former NBA agent who previously represented eight clients and worked with Drew Rosenhaus of Rosenhaus Sports Representation (RSR), Josh Ebrahim quickly came across numerous issues within performance and financial analysis that negatively impacted the real-time and projected value of his clients. To meet this challenge, Ebrahim reconsidered his career pursuits and created ProFitX.

ProFitX is a software company that provides access to real-time performance and financial insights and is powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI). The software Ebrahim created took three years of research and development and has been beta-tested with over 20 NBA teams. The Dallas Mavericks have since signed a multi-year deal with ProFitX and, as Mark Cuban has stated, the platform offers “advanced technologies [that] will provide us with the tools that allow us to gain a significant competitive advantage.” In addition, Forbes magazine suggests this could be the next frontier of sports analytics.

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 a small town outside of Dallas, Texas, and was exposed to many sports. My family was

I founded my own boutique sports agency in 2016 after getting certified by the NBPA and had mild success signing two highly-rated prospects. Things didn’t work out the way I envisioned so I sought out a different opportunity and was hired by NFL Agent Drew Rosenhaus of RSR as a Certified NBA Agent and VP of Basketball Operations. I then represented eight NBA athletes during my career (including 1st round draft pick, Anfernee Simons).

As an agent, I needed to find a way in which I could make decisions on the fly with dynamic information during free agency to best represent my clients and get them the contracts they deserved in negotiations with NBA teams. In order to make this happen, I left my position in 2019 to create ProFitX and supply the necessary technology for all stakeholders while changing the sports ecosystem for the better by bringing transparency and balance to sports analytics.

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 the father of a player I was recruiting my first year at Ebrahim Sports. I was a finalist to sign a highly-rated prospect and asked him why I made it to the final round of interviews. I remember his father saying, “You’re a bulldog, Josh, you’re tenacious, you keep coming, and coming, and coming and that’s why I know you’re going to be successful.”

Even though he didn’t end up signing with me, I’ve always remembered that moment and it has been my mantra ever since. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs, but I continued to try to put myself in a good position to succeed and be persistent. Good things happen to people who are determined and he ended up introducing me to Rosenhaus Sports.

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?

Bill Simmons’, The Book of Basketball is one of my favorites. It resonates with me for a lot of reasons. Each chapter feels like a progression of the game. I get flashbacks from my earlier years because I got to witness almost three decades of basketball and read that change from his eyes. I feel like I have and will continue to be on that parallel journey with ProFitX and every sport for which we build.

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 a lot of it comes down to what problem you’re attempting to solve, and whether it will bring value to your end-users. Then, it’s important to focus on the quality of the product and get it validated. People are going to tell you “no” a lot at the beginning, but the key is to stay the course and push through. I originally pitched the idea to investors as a sports agency and was laughed at in multiple email responses. After I solidified the partnership with the AI company to build the platform, my uncle ended up investing before I even started and he understood the risk involved with no product. But his initial support gave me a lot of confidence heading into the project and it keeps me confident I’ll get it to the finish line. We also stupidly projected this project to be done in six months, yet it actually took two and a half years to complete with lots of ups and downs.

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?

Trust your gut…listen to your intuition. Ask questions and do the necessary research.

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 think there are a lot of things that need to align to get past the first phase. I actually took my time planning out the concept and going through the motions. It ended up being the right decision for me. I spent the first two months testing the concept of the contractual algorithms and integrating the CBA parameters to see what it would look like.

After validating the concept, I filed for a provisional patent application and spent about seven days sketching out the designs for the software and the models and drafting a write-up of what it would be. Once that was done, it was really about finding the right partner to carry out the plan. I did a lot of research, due diligence, and explored several options to make sure I felt comfortable with the development company I selected. Lots of testing was administered in order to release it to market, and once that happens, it’s about getting your brand story out there and educating the users as to why this will be beneficial for them in the long run.

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

  1. Pivot when you need until you find the recipe that works.

We started development to create a consumer product to strengthen our overall business model, and eight months later, we have a growing list of partnerships and additional product offerings. Always be aware of the landscape in which you work and be ready to read the signs along the way to inform your decisions.

2. Believe in your vision and deliver quality.

It took three years to build, test, and configure my technology. It was built with love and I think that shows in the design. The vision was the only thing holding everything together to get to the end, and even then, the work is now just getting started, and I know there will inevitably be some resistance to our new innovation.

3. Be prepared to ride a roller coaster.

There are a lot of highs and lows as a startup. One of the most important things is to learn how to ride the wave and take the next best step for your company.

4. Get ready to work.

It’s a 24/7 job that requires a lot of grunt work. As the founder, you have to wear many different hats and that forces you to learn how to do every aspect of your business.

5. Be prepared for a lot of nos.

People are resistant to change, but I’m real and raw with every person and my story. They need to understand the story behind it and what it took to create.

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?

  1. Market Research — You need to know what competitors are out there if any, and what the overall market looks like.
  2. Customer Research — You have to know who you are going after as customers and how they will use the product.
  3. Product Research — We spent about six months designing the platform and creating the data needed to power it. This will be a continual process as the product evolves. Technology never stops.
  4. Patent Search — This was rigorous and done multiple times to ensure the likelihood of obtaining the patent.
  5. Time Stamp Your Idea — Buy yourself some time, most founders won’t have the product ready but will have the idea ready. So it’s important to either file a provisional patent application once you have built and sketched out everything you need to bookmark your idea. Then you will file for a non-provisional patent application once you have the product developed out in the next year. I’ve also heard of a crafty technique that involves mailing the application to yourself.

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?

Two heads are better than one. It really depends on what you are lacking and your strong suits. The more versatile the product, the more leverage you have. Don’t be afraid to pivot to expand your offerings and find a sweet spot. I relied on my development team heavily to help me execute my vision and would not be here without their expertise.

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 truly believe it depends on the mission and leadership of the company. Obviously having financial firepower can help every business. But my number one goal is to get the company to profitability as quickly as possible and expand from there. We are currently exploring venture capital but are mindful of how we want the company to grow organically and sustainably.

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

Teaching! I have been an Adjunct Professor at Monroe College for the past five years teaching business, accounting, and information technology.

I try to prepare my students with real-work experience, the importance of dreaming big, and being able to go and get what you want. I also plan to be heavily involved in philanthropic ventures soon. We just signed a corporate partnership with the school in which I teach and are exploring opportunities to revolutionize the classroom experience as well as the curriculum with ProFitX’s first piece of software, the Athledex.

We are also hosting interns and offering scholarships to students this year with the school so it’s been pretty exciting. I’ve also been fortunate to utilize the members of my team at ProFitX for an executive panel to provide students with further insights into the future of sports.

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 a serious climate and wildlife discussion needs to be addressed with more research and resources to actually start making a change. I aspire to be in a position where we can give back and bring more light to these issues we are facing.

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.

Pat Riley. He is an absolute legend in my books. I really admire his career and how he approaches the business of professional sports.

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


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

Meet The Disruptors: Fred Santarpia Of Endeavor Streaming On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up…

Meet The Disruptors: Fred Santarpia Of Endeavor Streaming On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

“Talk like a human being.” This was great advice I received early on in my career while trying to impress a room of senior executives. Since then, as a digital media and transformation executive that has worked in a lot of legacy industries, I’ve learned that it’s not realistic to expect your stakeholders to always learn what you want them to know. The onus is on you to make your strategy understandable, tangible and manageable for the individuals that you need to align your efforts with. To make meaningful connections, you need to talk like a human. If you need practice, try explaining your concept to a college friend or a spouse that’s not in your industry.

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

Fred Santarpia is a digital media and business transformation expert. He currently serves as president of Endeavor Streaming, where he spearheads the company’s global expansion strategy. Before joining Endeavor Streaming, Fred was chief operating officer at Moda Operandi and, previously, chief digital officer at Condé Nast, where he founded and launched the digital arm of Condé Nast’s entertainment division. Fred was also a founding member of the leadership team at Vevo and served as EVP & general manager. Prior to Vevo, Fred worked at Universal Music Group in a variety of senior leadership roles. Fred is a graduate of Villanova University and holds an M.S. in finance from Boston University. He currently resides in New Jersey.

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

My story began in the music industry at Universal Music. I joined Universal coming off the peak year of industry CD sales. As a young executive, I had a front row seat to music’s first wave of digital disruption: the unbundling of the album, the advent of peer-to-peer file sharing and the tremendous impact that had on the industry. That afforded me great learning opportunities in an industry that was going through tremendous contractions and convulsions as it grappled with change.

I got into the video and streaming space largely because Universal Music at the time, which was a business predicated on shipping product to wholesalers and consumers buying CDs in stores, became interested in pursuing alternate business models. One of which was thinking about how music and video content could be better leveraged on the internet. That gave me the chance to help think through the business model for what eventually became Vevo, which was incubated inside of Universal Music before it became a separate company.

I was able to look at our library of video assets, which were originally treated as a marketing expense to help sell physical albums, and ask “What if they were their own business? What would that look like?” We later struck a deal with YouTube to create an advertising business built on top of short form music video content. The challenge was to prove that we could monetize short form video content at scale in the same way traditional television was valued. We felt that because we had highly professional and produced premium content featuring the most socially relevant celebrities on the planet, we could turn that into a business. That turned out to be true.

In a way, my getting into the video streaming space was a stroke of good fortune. I just happened to be working in the music industry at a time when the industry was experiencing radical force change of consumer behavior. That gave me opportunity to think creatively about how an industry could evolve alongside change.

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

Endeavor Streaming operates at the very intersection of the real-time evolution of media creation and distribution. The “streaming evolution” is changing how people discover, consume and ultimately pay for content through subscriptions or advertising. What’s disruptive about this moment is the fact that it’s largely the very first time many media companies are building a direct relationship with the consumer around the delivery of their content rather than licensing to a third-party distributor who handles it for them.

When an organization decides to go direct-to-consumer, it impacts every element of operation. It’s introducing new, complex variables that it has never had to consider previously in running the business. At Endeavor Streaming, we’re helping companies navigate these challenges. We work with the top media companies in the world to build their direct-to-consumer strategies and drive return on their content and marketing investments. We bring technology, distribution and marketing expertise to help them deliver their new streaming services across every major consumer device while leveraging machine learning and predictive analytics to attract and retain their customers. It’s an incredibly exciting business to be in at a moment in time where more consumers are cutting the cord, if they ever had one to begin with.

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

This isn’t necessarily funny, but it taught me an important lesson nonetheless. When I was in college and not paying attention to anything, my dad said I should major in accounting because I’d always have a job. So I did, and went right back to not caring about anything. My first job out of college was as a public accountant, and when I realized what that meant, I almost had a panic attack. I spent the next 10 years of my career trying to find my way out of the back office in the accounting profession and into an industry that was more in line with my natural tendencies and creative pursuits.

The lesson here is a simple one: you can’t outsource decisions about your career to somebody else. You have to care. If you don’t take agency, no one else is going to do it for you. If I learned anything from those years, it’s that if you aren’t paying attention, you could miss a key decision and alter the course of your career in very real ways that may not be apparent when you’re coasting.

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?

Truthfully, I haven’t had the benefit of many strong, long-term mentors in my own professional journey. As a result, I’ve made a lot of mistakes that someone with a bit more wisdom could probably have helped me navigate better. I think there is tremendous value in mentorship, however, so I’ve tried to act as a mentor to many friends and colleagues throughout my career. The most important thing you can do as a mentor is really listen and validate the challenge your mentee is experiencing as real. Bringing your own experiences to offer perspective and light a path for someone is always welcome, but definitely secondary. And third, which is often overlooked, is not making mentorship a one-time thing. There’s a tendency in mentorship relationships to only interact when your mentee is seeking one-off advice on a challenge, but what makes the relationship really valuable is your ongoing perspective.

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’ve worked in traditional media companies that were in desperate need of disruption because they had missed the boat in how the world around them was changing. The magazine industry comes to mind here. Originally, leadership tied the prestige and value or their core product (journalism and storytelling) to the physical print medium. Disruption in the magazine industry meant exploring how content originally created for physical magazine brands could make its way in other forms of distribution across the internet through search, social media, short form video, etc. For magazines, I believe that disruption, though still currently painful for their industry, will ultimately prove out to be a positive thing over a longer time horizon. The great magazine brands have upheld the integrity of their core product and maintained authority and authenticity with their customers in a very noisy and fragmented media landscape. I would argue that, from a popularity standpoint, some of those brands are more popular than ever thanks to technology’s disruption of their industry. Their bottom line will eventually feel the benefit of that.

An industry that I think disruption has been terrible for is local news. Local news has been absolutely decimated by internet economics. Because print infrastructure has basically collapsed and local news organizations are relatively small, they don’t have the capital to invest in digital. As a result, we’re seeing people without critical information about the communities they live in.

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

“Talk like a human being.” This was great advice I received early on in my career while trying to impress a room of senior executives. Since then, as a digital media and transformation executive that has worked in a lot of legacy industries, I’ve learned that it’s not realistic to expect your stakeholders to always learn what you want them to know. The onus is on you to make your strategy understandable, tangible and manageable for the individuals that you need to align your efforts with. To make meaningful connections, you need to talk like a human. If you need practice, try explaining your concept to a college friend or a spouse that’s not in your industry.

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

Vevo is now 12 years old and thriving. Conde Nast Entertainment, the digital video division that I helped launch during my tenure, is 10 years old and thriving. Right now, I’m totally focused on building Endeavor Streaming into a business that’s going to have that same long-term staying power. I’m assured in the things we’re doing to build the direct-to-consumer and streaming platform for the future of the industry. In 10 years, I’m confident Endeavor Streaming will be known as the gold standard in helping sports media and entertainment companies build their direct-to-consumer futures. Once we get to that point, I’ll start thinking about what’s next.

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?

A book that really stands out to me is The Captain Class: The Hidden Force That Creates the World’s Greatest Teams by Sam Walker. The book examines 15 or so of the most dominant teams in sports history and looks for commonalities in what their leadership did to drive extended periods of success.

One chapter, titled “Carrying Water,” focuses on leading from the back. Walker finds that, on the greatest teams, the captain was rarely the star and never acted like one. More often, the captain shunned attention and gravitated toward whatever the team needed to be successful. When they had to, they carried the water. Instead of being the player to take a shot with the game on the line, the best captains put the best people in the position to succeed and ultimately drive the outcome.

This particular chapter resonated with me because, as the president of Endeavor Streaming, it’s really important that I set my team up for success. It’s not about taking victory laps and credits for wins, but putting the ball in the hands of the people most likely to drive the best outcome for the business. That’s the type of culture we’re building at Endeavor Streaming.

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 really big fan of Seth Godin, and I read his blog every day. A quote that has stuck with me throughout my entire career as my north star is “Make big promises and keep them.” The quote comes from a 2010 blog titled, “Simple Five Step Plan for Just About Everyone and Everything” — and I actually think it lives up to its title.

What resonates with me is the idea that you never have to ask anyone for permission to go and make an impact. It is entirely up to you how high you want to set the bar — just make sure that it’s high enough to matter.

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 wish everybody could be more thankful. We tend to be so consumed with the drama of our day-to-day lives that we forget what a great gift each day is. I lost a really good friend of mine during COVID, and it reminded me how short life can be. Be thankful for what you have, be kind and help others get through their struggles when you can. That’s my message of love.

How can our readers follow you online?

Readers can follow my personal LinkedIn account as well as Endeavor Streaming’s official LinkedIn page.

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


Meet The Disruptors: Fred Santarpia Of Endeavor Streaming 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.

David Mesfin Of INNOCEAN USA: How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

You learn from each other and become a well-rounded person. When you live in a nation that is a melting pot, it broadens your horizons. You are able to understand others and their struggles.

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

David Mesfin of Huntington Beach, California is an award-winning creative director and multi-disciplinary designer with over 15 years of marketing and advertising experience currently working for Innocean Worldwide. He is involved in several professional and community outreach programs including the Innocean Worldwide INNclusion Council, the International Academy of Digital Art and Science, and serves as a mentor for both the Multicultural Advertising Intern Program and One School. A member of the Black Surfers Collective, he is an avid supporter of the sport and recently launched a multi-digital narrative journey titled “Wade in the Water,” which features a long-form documentary, a collection of fine art prints and NFTs that chronicle the Black surfer tradition.

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

I was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and eventually migrated to the United States to live in St. Augustine, Florida for eight years prior to moving to Southern California to attend California State University, Long Beach, where I studied design and advertising. After completing my education, I worked at various agencies in the Los Angeles area. For five years, I also ran my own agency in downtown Long Beach. I was exposed to advertising and design while living in Ethiopia. My father worked for a firm called Neon Addis as the head of accounts, and I loved the nature of the industry and creative services they provided. I have never looked back. It has been one of the most fulfilling experiences.

Currently, I manage a team while working on the Genesis USA account at INNOCEAN USA in Huntington Beach California. I have been at INNOCEAN USA for over 10 years working on the Hyundai and Genesis accounts. My father was a Korean veteran, so it has been an interesting 10 years working for a Korean-owned company and the legacy of my father as a veteran of the war.

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

One of the most interesting projects I have ever worked on was for Hyundai where we traveled to Zagan, Poland to a remote military base to enable three United States soldiers to watch Super Bowl LI with their families. There were a lot of logistics to figure out for the project. We shot interviews during the first half of the show and then edited it until the game was over. We aired the just edited spot immediately following the game — almost as it was shot live. It was quite interesting to be on that base. It was the same base Hitler used for soldiers during World War 2 and the movie, The Great Escape, was filmed there. There was a lot of history there including the hotel where we stayed. The hotel very much reminded me of a scene from Wes Anderson’s movie, The Grand Budapest Hotel, with the symmetrical design and interior decorations. The owners and employees also had a charm and distinctive personality.

The most interesting moment of that shoot was the post Super Bowl party with the soldiers. They were grateful to be part of the Super Bowl, but most of all, a brand that took the interest to connect them to their family members in a memorable way. Even the other soldiers were thankful just to be part of the festivities and behind-the-scenes spots. The idea went a long way for a few of the soldiers who needed a change of pace. Several of them came up and thanked us for the experience.

I would say the lesson I learned from this experience is to not take people for granted. Every little decision you make as a brand or a person has an impact. You should always be mindful of your intentions.

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

“Failure is the secret to success.”

This quote came from the founder of Honda. I thought that quote was so interesting the first time I heard it. It just opened up a whole new world for me and how I approached certain projects. When you go to school, you learn this idea of following the rules. Once you build some confidence and you start to experience life, you tend to break the rules here and there. I was always very conservative in my ideas. But this quote helped me learn to take a leap and know that it is OK to fail sometimes by breaking out of the rules and trying different things.

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

I was lucky enough to have had two fathers in my life. They both had different personalities, and I gained a lot from each of them.

I lived with my birth father in Ethiopia until I was 14. He was a soldier, and he was very easy going. He was a person who had a lot of friends and was easy to work with. When I came to the United States, I was adopted by a Greek Orthodox Rev. Dimitrios Couchell (he is now a retired bishop). He is very organized with this time and budget. He is very methodical.

The one thing they both had in common was they were both very disciplined. It was a unique upbringing and gave me a perspective in life like no other. They both helped me achieve success in their own ways. That’s why at the age of 14, when I found myself in a completely different culture with a different language and completely different lifestyle, I was able to learn and adapt so well.

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

The 10 years I have spent with Innocean, I have learned that it is really about the people.

I enjoy getting to know my colleagues and learning about their lives and their families. That feeling of inclusion knowing you have built a relationship with these people and the history we collect together, that has really kept us all together, I am grateful for the family atmosphere.

This company, which employs over 500 people, does such an excellent job of taking care of its employees. They were incredibly supportive throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Another incredible way they have been supportive came after the Black Lives Matter movement. About two years ago, our company started the Innocean Worldwide INNclusion Council, which I have co-chaired with my colleague, Tiana Goston. Our job is to make sure there is inclusion and diversity throughout the company. It is an investment that our company makes for the employees, and that speaks to the diversity and knowledge base we have. We develop different programs and bring in speakers as part of our “Real Talk” series. We also support small minority-owned businesses and nonprofits in the community. One example of this is The Lantern Network Project, a mentorship program for African Americans where we connected a mentee and mentor to offer support from college throughout their career.

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

I just launched the “Wade in the Water” documentary, fine art exhibit and NFT sale project. The entirety of the project highlights the history of surfing in the Black, Indigenous, and People of the Color (BIPOC) community. It is really nice that an agency allows you to do your own passion project and becomes so supportive of it. It allows us to express our feelings and creativity in another way. That really goes a long way for our employees. And with Innocean being so supportive of that kind of thing, it shows other agencies the benefits of allowing their employees to explore their passion projects and how that helps them become better employees and live more fulfilling lives.

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

I am a member of the mentorship program at One School, a portfolio program aimed at passing along my experience to others who have their sights set on working at the top ad agencies in the world. I enjoy sharing the knowledge I have, opening doors for people of color in the advertising industry. There is a small percentage of African Americans in this field. For me, the idea of mentoring and bringing people of color on board, it’s very important because that brings a different perspective to the work being done. We are able to bring out our culture and challenge the status quo. It’s healthy for America as a diverse nation to have a marketing and advertising space that resonates with everyone. That goes a long way for the bottom line of a company.

People from diverse walks of life and with different experiences can draw from their personal knowledge, share new insights and challenge the status quo. Diversity also impacts the bottom line: a study found that companies with more diverse executives were 36% more likely to see above average profits.

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

1. Diversity drives innovative thinking. When you have a diverse group of people, it’s not only the color of skin. It’s the way they think. Having women, having those with disabilities, they all bring a unique perspective to a solution that others didn’t think of. It stems from their own personal experiences.

2. Diversity helps companies be aware of cultural sensitivities. A lot of time, organizations create campaigns not taking into consideration what a certain language or visual could mean to other people. So, a more diverse group may be able to see something in a script or visual and call it out in advance.

3. You learn from each other and become a well-rounded person. When you live in a nation that is a melting pot, it broadens your horizons. You are able to understand others and their struggles.

4. You better reflect the customers. A more diverse employee base is a bigger representation of the customer base. Whether it is the color of skin, gender, sexual orientation, or whatever the diversity of the situation is, the more people who can speak from their experience allows their colleagues to understand others more effectively.

5. Increasing the diversity among the leadership team can lead to more and better innovation and improved financial performance. That goes hand-in-hand with a diverse employee base. The more diversity you can fit into every step on the corporate ladder, the more effective the company will be in achieving success.

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

Make sure there is a representation of diversity in your leadership team. Not only does that help the company as a whole serve customers more effectively, but it also helps individuals within the organization learn and grow, both personally and professionally. The more exposure people have to a diverse group of others will lead to more acceptance of all of those in our society. That is achieved from learning and understanding, and for some who may not otherwise get that exposure in their lives, the workplace is a wonderful opportunity to provide that space for them.

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

In my team, I learn so much from individuals’ life stories, where they have been and what they are going through now. I learn from everyone — whether they are senior to me or junior to me in the company. My advice to business leaders would be to continuously have their finger on the pulse of their team. Even as the leaders, they can still benefit from what they learn from all of those around them.

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

Oprah Winfrey. I love her life experiences and how she overcame the trauma of her young age and her overall success in helping other people overcome their challenges. She is a great beacon, a voice, of individuals who are thriving to do good in our society.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Wade in the Water Project

Wadeinthewaterproject.com

Personal Website

Davidmesfin.com

Instagram

@davidmesfinart

www.innocean.usa.com

Twitter: @innoceanusa

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


David Mesfin Of INNOCEAN USA: How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Seeing Light at the End of the Tunnel: Gregg Coodley Of Atmosphere Press On The 5 Reasons To Be…

Seeing Light at the End of the Tunnel: Gregg Coodley Of Atmosphere Press On The 5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During The COVID Crisis

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Our preventative tools are extremely effective. The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines and to a degree the Johnson and Johnson vaccine remain very effective in preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death. While we talk about the drop in antibodies over time, we often fail to note that vaccination gives the body a lasting memory of the virus that will allow it to meet repeat infections with boosted immune defenses, preventing the worst disease.

As a part of my series about the things we can do to remain hopeful and support each other during anxious times, I had the pleasure of interviewing Gregg Coodley.

Gregg Coodley is a primary care physician and director of the Fanno Creek Clinic. He is the author of three prior histories, most recently, in collaboration with David Sarasohn, The Green Years 1964–76: When Democrats and Republicans United to Repair the Earth.

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

My career has been guided by a deliberate decision, to become a primary care doctor, as well as by a series of chance events. First, a chance where I took my first job led me into the care of HIV patients, confronting my first epidemic. Circumstances led me to become director of the University General Medicine clinic, where I discovered skills and inventiveness to convert the clinic from a money loser to a revenue source while tripling the number of patients seen. My success there gave me the confidence to later leave to start my own clinic accompanied by many of the doctors and nurses who worked under my leadership as then chief of General Internal Medicine at the university. Twenty years later it still surprises me to have seen the business grow and prosper so much.

I started writing books first to entertain my kids, with the first two books a fantasy of them going on an adventure with our pets. From there, I branched out into writing history which had always been my favorite subject. In November 2019, I decided to make my next book marry my interest in medicine, specifically epidemic diseases, with history to write a book chronicling the effect of major infectious diseases on American history. Two months later, Americans first heard of Covid-19. Like most doctors, my last two years have been shaped by the challenges of the Covid epidemic.

In researching my book on infection in American history, published last month, I learned so much I did not know from a whole host of well-written, interesting books dealing with specific disease episodes in the United States from smallpox in Boston in 1721, yellow fever in the then national capital of Philadelphia in 1793, plague in San Francisco in 1900, to AIDS in New York in the 1980s. It is encouraging to know that confusion about treatment, scapegoating of those blamed for the disease, fear and disruption didn’t start with Covid, but were present in so many of our past episodes. The Anti-Mask League started in 1919 San Francsico, while firing cannons was viewed as the best way to dampen the spread of yellow fever. In learning that our mistakes and stumbles during Covid mirror past American experiences, one also learns that Americans rose to the challenges of these epidemics. Each pathogen, through a combination of public health practices and medical advances, has been eliminated or brought under control. This gives us concrete reasons and evidence for hope.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During This Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

There are indeed five reasons to be hopeful about the future with Covid. First, it will never be as bad again. Even were the virus to mutate further, we will never be without the tools we have gained to deal with it. Even with the onslaught of the most transmissible variant yet in Omicron, it is not the same killer it was. While 300 deaths a day in the United States remains too many, it is not 3000 a day. The number of Covid infections in the United States may be as high as at any time in the pandemic, yet the number hospitalized and the number seriously or critically ill is far fewer. The preventative tools and treatments we have learned means that Covid going forward is currently more like a bad year of influenza, taking a toll among the elderly and debilitated, but not the massive killer of 2020 and 2021.

Second, our preventative tools are extremely effective. The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines and to a degree the Johnson and Johnson vaccine remain very effective in preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death. While we talk about the drop in antibodies over time, we often fail to note that vaccination gives the body a lasting memory of the virus that will allow it to meet repeat infections with boosted immune defenses, preventing the worst disease.

It has been disappointing that neither vaccination nor infection provides lasting immunity. As such, as currently stands we face a future where we are likely to need regular boosters to strengthen our immunity. Still, this is the worst case scenario. It is likely that we will develop even more effective vaccinations. Researchers are studying the possibility of vaccines that would target parts of the virus that don’t change so that immunity might be longer-lasting. Other research is looking into an intranasal vaccine, which would create maximum antibodies at the site of viral entry to reduce the frequency of infection. The knowledge we have learned about the virus isn’t going away; knowledge about vaccination will only increase over time.

Third, we now have effective treatments for Covid. When the pandemic started in early 2020, there was no treatment, leading to the advocacy of a host of untested and too often ineffective snake oils. All medicine could offer was supportive care such as oxygen and all too frequently intubation to help people survive critical respiratory compromise, and too many people died. We learned simple things first, like how to position patients for optimal oxygenation. The first anti-viral agent, Remdesivir, had modest benefit for hospitalized patients. From Britain we learned that dexamethasone, an inexpensive steroid, would dramatically cut the death rate among hospitalized patients. The next major advance was monoclonal antibodies that were shown to reduce patient deaths. All of these treatments were, to different degrees, difficult to administer except in a hospital setting.

Now, however, we have effective oral drugs, most notably Paxlovid. A study showed that Paxlovid reduced the chance that a Covid-infected patient would be hospitalized or die by almost 90%.

For many specific antiviral or antibiotic therapies, the organism can develop resistance over time. However, it beggars belief that our options for effective treatment will not continue to increase even further over time. This has certainly been the case for other viral infections, such as HIV, hepatitis C and herpes. The history of other infections suggests that the percentages of Covid-infected people who suffer severe illness or death will only continue to decrease over time.

Third, in early 2020 we knew very little about the virus. At first we did not know that infections could be asymptomatic or how the virus was really transmitted. We have learned much. We now know that masks do reduce transmission. We know that transmission is mainly respiratory rather than occurring by touching surfaces contaminated by viral infection. We know that infection is far more likely indoors than out. We know which activities, by spreading the virus into the air, are more likely to cause infection in others. Some might argue that too many of us don’t apply this knowledge, refusing to mask or now, after two long years, increasingly giving up on masking. Yet knowledge is never useless. At least those at highest risk know that they can reduce their risks by masking and avoiding activities, such as crowded indoor venues, most likely to cause infection.

Most importantly we have not learned all that we can or will. Our knowledge about the “long Covid” where disease symptoms persist is rudimentary. This will change, just as we learned what the complications of chronic HIV infection were once so many people were no longer dying of AIDS. We will understand Covid more and develop ways to treat it. Knowledge and understanding grows.

Fourth, we were woefully unprepared in so many ways for the onslaught of Covid. Doctors and hospitals were short of masks, short of ventilators, and short of the materials needed to do Covid testing. We know now what we were lacking and have taken steps to address these deficiencies. We have learned that amidst a global pandemic we could not simply rely on foreign suppliers for scarce items that everyone wanted. I believe that American production of many of those items found short has been ramped up. The powers that be will need to stay vigilant to make sure that we have adequate sources of needed medical equipment. I think this lesson has been learned to a far greater extent than pre-pandemic.

For now we are no longer short of test kits, vaccines, masks, ventilators or many other items. There are still medical supplies that are in limited supply due to supply chain issues, a euphemism that covers corporate decisions to manufacture so many medicines and other health care items in cheaper locations across the ocean. I am hopeful, if not completely confident, that this problem will never be as bad again as it has been. We do need to make critical drugs and other items in America, even if this imposes a (small) higher cost.

Public health has been crucial in the fight against Covid. I hope that we will build up our public health infrastructure to be better able to handle other diseases.

Fifth, the knowledge we have learned from the fight against Covid will be of great benefit in many other ways. The development of M-RNA vaccines that could be created in weeks will not simply allow for new Covid vaccines. The same technology can be used to quickly create new vaccines against other pathogens, both new and old. For example, for the infection of monkeypox, we know that our smallpox vaccines will be effective. We also could quickly make a new monkeypox vaccine using the new technology. The prospect is that future novel or newly spreading pathogens can be much more quickly prevented by quick development of vaccines.

Our newly developed drugs against Covid offer a reasonable hope that the same therapies could be rapidly developed against other diseases. Indeed Paxlovid is a combination of a specific anti-Covid-19 antiviral agent and a booster agent, Ritonovir, which came out of the treatment for HIV infection. We can learn from what has worked before to deal with other current and future infections.

Similarly we have learned that masking reduces the spread of respiratory infections. It is a tool that we can use, should we choose, to reduce the spread of everything from influenza to respiratory infection a, b and c of the future.

From your experience or research, what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

It will be hard for us to forget the cost of Covid, especially for those who lost friends or family to it. Katherine Ann Porter, author of Pale Horse, Pale Rider, wrote of the 1918 influenza pandemic that sickened her and killed her boyfriend, “It simply divided my life, cut across it like that.” I think that we can draw from the lessons of history to support our friends, family, co-workers and others left anxious and stressed from the Covid pandemic. It helps to remember that we are not the only generation to be struck down by a great plague. Those in the past, with fewer resources and much understanding, persevered. Things do get better. We can tell people with complete accuracy that the worst of Covid has passed, that it will never get that bad again and that we are not the people so woefully prepared to confront Armageddon.

I think anxiety has been heightened by all the other world and national issues that have happened concurrently, from the invasion of Ukraine to natural disasters to shootings. I think it is helpful to try to replace the feeling of helplessness, which greatly aggravates anxiety, with the knowledge that each of us can help repair the world. Rather than feeling that the problems are overwhelming, it is empowering to feel that every effort, no matter how small, can help, that he or she who saves one life is as if they had saved the world. I often encourage my patients, if they have time, to volunteer in some activity they find interesting, for whether or not they help others, the effort often helps them.

What are the best resources you would suggest to a person who is feeling anxious?

I encourage people who are feeling anxious to try to reach out to family, friends or others. There is strong documentation that these social connections reduce anxiety and depression and improve our sense of well-being. To borrow a line from an old movie, “ Man needs his own kind, like them or not.” I also encourage all of my patients to find things, whether exercise or meditation or hobbies or otherwise, that makes them feel better when they are feeling badly. We all will have hard times and having these tools can be very helpful.

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

In The Lord of the Rings, Frodo says, “I wish it had not happened in my time.” Gandalf replied, “So do I and so do all who live in such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” I find this quote helpful when I am feeling discouraged or feeling sorry for myself. It reminds us that our challenge is to make the best of our situation and think about what we can do about it.

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

I think we would most benefit if we could do our best to be tolerant of others and their differing views and perspectives.

My personal view is to think that as individuals and society we pay too much attention to what will make us happy no matter the consequences. I would argue to emphasize more our responsibilities rather than just talking about our rights. I think the fact that almost every religion and philosophy emphasizes the importance of right of honorable conduct as the path to a good life cannot be easily dismissed. I think trying to do good would be a good path for many people, but I also accept that my views are not those of everyone and would not presume to tell others how to act or think. I will leave starting a movement to others.

This being said, the consistent theme of my books is that progress is possible and that hope is not a misplaced emotion. I am more interested in the silver linings than the clouds. In writing about unsuccessful reformers in The Magnificent Losers, I looked at how their ideas often came to successful fruition later. The difficulty and the magnitude of the problems facing us cannot be a reason for inaction.

What is the best way for our readers to follow you online?

The website of the book TamingInfection.com is one way to contact me, particularly with regard to Covid and other infectious disease issues. There is a similar website for my most recent prior book The Green Years 1964–76: When Democrats and Republicans United to Repair the World, which looks at the years when most of the major environmental laws were enacted. My upcoming book Patients in Peril: The Demise of Primary Care in America looks at the problems of a crucial segment of American healthcare and offers a list of solutions. A website for this should be forthcoming.

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


Seeing Light at the End of the Tunnel: Gregg Coodley Of Atmosphere Press On The 5 Reasons To Be… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Meet The Disruptors: Anthony Chavez Of Codelab303 On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your…

Meet The Disruptors: Anthony Chavez Of Codelab303 On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

People are the most valuable thing for any business, but even more acutely so for a company like ours. Fundamentally, my business sells access to incredibly talented specialists who work fantastically well together as a team. It is critical to find these people, establish meaningful professional and personal relationships, and invest in their success, growth, wellness, and happiness.

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

Anthony Chavez is a technical leader based in Boulder, Colorado who has a deep passion for executing well conceptualized interactive products. He’s the Founder & CEO of Codelab303 with over 20 years of experience in entrepreneurship and web technology. Codelab303’s team works as a go-to shop that helps to modernize and transform established businesses and set them up for rapid growth and success. Its mission is to “Build the Right Thing. Build the Thing Right.”

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Tell me how it all began, the origins of codelab303 as well as Anthony Chavez.

From a young age, I was really drawn to art and technology. As a child, I lived around the world: Mexico, Pakistan, Hong Kong, before moving to the US. I guess I found out that interesting art, cool technology, and good food, can bring people together in amazing ways, no matter the language they speak, what they look like, or their age… So, I started coding at about the age of 7 and experimenting with digital art, whatever that meant to me at the time, which started as ASCII art and what I guess you could call irreverent memes drawn up in MS Paint, or coded in VB.

I never really identified a “calling” towards engineering or entrepreneurship, but in 1999 before entering high school, I started a website and brand called The FreerideZone to showcase my main interest, skiing. What started as a pursuit against boredom, documenting the talents and antics of my friends, turned into a “real” business and online magazine within the span of a year. At the age of 14, I had contracted copywriters, photographers, a clothing line, a production and editing crew, and a team of athletes. When I got an opportunity to become the Web & IT Director of Freeskier Magazine, I dropped out of college in my freshman year, moved to Colorado, and have had an unpredictable, but great life ever since. Until 2008, my career was focused mainly on building web technology for the ski industry and getting as many powder days as I could.

My ski industry life segued into the rapidly growing Colorado startup and digital agency community. Always in pursuit of the most interesting and challenging work, I found myself working at several Colorado agencies and startups, including CP+B as a tech director, where I was able to work on some incredible, once-in-a-lifetime type projects for brands like Dominos, Paypal, and Infiniti. From CP+B, I went on to become a CTO for a connected retail startup and then for an innovation consultancy. Over a relatively short period of about 5 years, I got an incredible immersion into prestige-class ad agencies and startups of every scale and aspiration. Along this path, an idea worked its way into my head; “I think I can do this better…” “Better,” being a subjective term, to me, meant delivering a higher quality end-product, at the end of a much more efficiently run project, and with a team of super talented, friendly people.

Give me your “elevator pitch” about codelab303. In other words, what services does your business provide?

We are a boutique digital agency, meaning that we provide strategic, design, engineering, production, and support for websites, mobile applications, SaaS platforms, and custom software installations or deployments of all types and varieties. Our team is a combination of seasoned, international talent that has, as a requisite, deep experience in product design and development and brand or creative development. The unique combination of skillsets sets us apart as a “special forces team” that are able to do, what the large A-list agencies are incapable of, and within timelines and budgets that set new standards for excellence, that we hope to share with every new partner.

Our mission statement is to make sure that our partners, first, build the right thing, and then we make sure that the thing is built right.

What does it take to be a success in your business? Can you give me three characteristics that have made you a success?

Team, trust, and kindness.

The team is everything.

People are the most valuable thing for any business, but even more acutely so for a company like ours. Fundamentally, my business sells access to incredibly talented specialists who work fantastically well together as a team. It is critical to find these people, establish meaningful professional and personal relationships, and invest in their success, growth, wellness, and happiness.

Establish trust, and never take it for granted.

The larger enterprises that we have partnered with have all expressed becoming very jaded with the partners they bring in. We do our very best to understand our partner’s culture and remain hyper-focused on delivering value while understanding that “value” has a different meaning for different organizations. The same is true for our team, and we strive to be a better company to work for each day.

Be kind.

We all, as professionals, can get caught up in the deadline we’re trying to meet, the headline we’re trying to grab, the revenue we’re trying to earn, or some other combination of metrics. These goals are challenging, and they should be. However, it’s essential to realize that we are all humans working with other humans, and if kindness is not a priority, accomplishing all of those challenging goals as a team becomes a lot harder.

[ALT/ADD] Good enough, is never good enough.

As an emerging business, we have always needed to have a fierce eye on the quality of every deliverable. Partners are smart, and they understand the difference between work that just “got done” and work that is — special. In such a competitive world, not only the depth, but the finishing touches and thoughtful pride for all work really matters, whether it’s just an email or a massive finished product. Good enough is just that, and that’s not what we’re here for.

It’s amazing how you have navigated these difficult Covid-times and come out with such high-profile clients like Ulta and Carvana. Can you tell the readers more about this process?

To be fair, we went into COVID with Ulta and Carvana as clients, however, prior to COVID, I still had a full-time job. Bad, or good timing, depending on perspective.

A bit of an origin story. codelab303 started as a bit of an experiment, to see if I could do things better, and an excuse to continue working with some of my favorite people. In the year coming into COVID, we delivered an API product for ULTA, in addition to an internal social network for Carvana — our relationship with USA Cycling was expanding, and we had two 6+ figure deals in the works for a tradeshow installation for an electronics company, and an on-ship gaming platform for a cruise line. Given the influx of work, I left my full-time job at the innovation consultancy on March 1, 2020–9 days later, Biden issued a state of emergency, 4 days after that, Colorado went on lockdown, the same day my 2-weeks was up, and I left a very stable job to fully embark on the journey of entrepreneurship.

From the perspective of the IRS, we were a brand new company, with only 3 months of payroll history — only one W2, mostly contractors. Shit. PPP wasn’t going to help at all, we knew we were in a fight, not only one to establish ourselves, but suddenly, one to survive.

Long story short — we survived, with no team or partner losses, and were able to support our partners through innovation, and rapidly adapting to daily changes. A great example of this was Modern Market (Colorado) and Lemonade (CA/TX) restaurants. On a daily basis, we refocused activities to provide what was relevant — curbside pickup, grocery boxes with TP, mother’s day bundles, and ghost kitchens during the darkest months. If customers or staff at the restaurants asked for it, we figured out how to design and build it — quick. At this point, we had thoroughly adopted the “move fast and break sh!*t” model, we did, we glued it together, we were throwing things at a wall to try to save everyone’s jobs — ours included. But it worked.

Why are you called the “disruptor?” Can you give me the story behind that name? Why are you called this and is there a story behind this name?

Oh boy… I guess we’re a disruptor primarily because we’re a little bit crazy. Along our journey, we’ve done some work that others wouldn’t, we’ve turned some away that others would covet.

We’re a disruptor in our space because we unapologetically focus on getting the work done, trimming the fat, and saving our partners from the ceremonial and unnecessary bloat of a typical agency. Additionally, we work with a seasoned international team of vetted senior talent, providing our partners with direct access to them, as opposed to upsell-and-offshore models from most competitors.

While we deliver on a variety of fronts at codelab303, ultimately, everything we work on as a business turns into code. We believe that our whole team is fundamentally made up of engineers; whether they’re fabricating project timelines, a customer experience, or a series of APIs — our team is bound by a spirit of innovation, and experimentation, and in a digital space, together we are all contributing to this crazy laboratory together as mad scientists, in the best of ways.

Do you have any advice for others who would like to follow in your footsteps?

Take the risk; then go with the flow and follow your intuition.

Nothing worth doing comes easy, and nothing easy comes without an amount of risk. Become accustomed to taking risks and embracing failure as a strengthening experience. Accomplishment requires failure, failure, and vision, so be ready to take some hard punches while staying true to your aspirations.

Great things take months, or years to happen. Bad things happen quickly and escalate through a series of moments.

This is a way of saying that, “success is a marathon, but you can disqualify yourself very easily.” Be patient and look at your incremental successes, no matter how small; as opposed to being focused on the next big thing. On the other hand, be aware that decisive, bad things, tend to present themselves quickly, even if they’ve taken a lifetime to become an issue — it is important to maintain an awareness of yourself and aspects of your life and world external to the business.

Embrace the fear, embrace the brutality.

As entrepreneurs, the beginning is going to be really hard for most real people. We all know the 5-year survival stats. While we all want to build the perfect product or service, and team, the reality is that it’s going to be hard, it will require a lot of sacrifices, it’s scary, it’s brutal, it really sucks sometimes. The other side of this is the existential reward that comes when things go right. When you can see your amazing work go into the world, or celebrate an annual anniversary with a teammate, those brutal moments fade away, and there are few things more satisfying. Becoming accustomed to fear will let you make greater leaps, and the endurance through initial growth, will make you stronger and prepare you for greater competition.

What are your goals for the future?

Sustainable Growth.

My personal goals for the business are squarely focused on the sustainable growth of a talent-first organization. Functionally, this means scaling our offering to win the most interesting work, work capable of attracting and retaining a world-class team of individuals, and in a way that supports and enriches their lives. Overall, this means, building a portfolio of products, applications, and experiences that are used enjoyed, and truly valued, by millions of people around the world.

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


Meet The Disruptors: Anthony Chavez Of Codelab303 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: Chris Pchelintsev Of Architecturalist On How To Go From Idea To…

Making Something From Nothing: Chris Pchelintsev Of Architecturalist On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Be ready to spend money–all of it: Building up your working capital is a challenge, but spending this money in time and high expenses is inevitable. Certain processes require a large investment so you shouldn’t be afraid or held back by that.

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

Chris is a Ukrainian-American entrepreneur who co-founded the online real estate company Architecturalist, LLC. and serves as the company’s CEO. After starting and handling multiple successful businesses, he started exploring his passion for architectural real estate. Architecturalist was initially an online publication exploring architecturally significant real estate in the United States, after working in this niche for several years the project grew into an online platform that helps agents who work with architectural homes get a better prices and terms for their clients by selling them to architectural enthusiasts using the online auction platform.

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”?

Thank you so much for inviting me, it’s a pleasure to contribute! I’ve always been passionate about business because it is a lot of creativity in building a company. I was born in Ukraine which was a brand new country created right after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Ukraine had to build everything from scratch. I think that boosted my love of business as I saw thousands of new businesses created every day. I was in University when I started my first successful business. It was a Digital Marketing company. I saw an opportunity in a relatively new area of business and took it. This is how I started.

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

I love this quote by George Bernard Shaw: “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” I always feel a strong positive energy when I think about these words as they make us reflect on what we want in life and how to get there. For me, for example, it means cold calling and constantly reaching out to potential leads, helping them understand why our solution can fit their needs. At the end of the day, sometimes you just have to do some tasks that you don’t necessarily want to do, to reach your goal and start doing the things that you love.

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?

One man comes to mind. It is Richard Feynman, probably the most curious and open-minded man who comes to mind. He was an American theoretical physicist and Nobel Prize laureate. But in my opinion, it is not his scientific achievements that are interesting, but rather his willingness to keep trying new things, to challenge the unknown, and at the same time to keep an open mind. He did safecracking, studied different languages, worked in fields unrelated to his profession or interests (such as biology or philosophy), and tried his hand at art and samba music.

I highly recommend his autobiography, “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!” to anyone who wants to know how important and yet how easy it is to discover new things, how it can change our vision and discover new meanings in the profession and beyond.

After all, not many of us define our life’s purpose is changing the world, but that is what we do, questioning the current state of things and offering new answers to existing questions.

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?

Jobs, Kawasaki, and Edison, all said the same thing: “a good execution is more important than a good idea” or “vision without execution is hallucination”. I couldn’t agree more. I’m sure some brilliant ideas weren’t able to succeed because of the poor execution. That’s why it’s pertinent to have patience and double down on planning and strategizing. When you have an idea, stick to a plan, and don’t give up. Lots of ideas don’t transition into a real business because often, the team gives up when reaching the first challenge.

Many of my ideas had to be greatly adjusted to make way for a clear execution. Ensuring that the outcome is understandable, user-friendly, and intuitive is an indicator of success.

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

Whether or not someone had a similar idea shouldn’t be a reason to discourage them from following through with it. We are in a rapidly changing and evolving world, where you never know whether a similar idea is going to be executed and turned into a successful business. I’d say go for it even if you think someone else is working on the same idea. Healthy competition is always a plus, look at Uber and Lyft.

Remember that when it comes to executing ideas, it is not a race. It’s about making sure customers are aware of the importance of different solutions and why they need them.

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.

Architecturalist is a service business catering to B2B and B2C needs. However, it is always good practice and highly recommended to seek an expert and ask as many questions as you may have before diving into any legal processes. You can never have enough research on your hands in a fast-paced environment.

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

  1. Don’t be afraid to delegate: Building and running your own business is never an easy task. For this, you are forced to wear multiple hats. From knowing how things should work in your business to actually executing these tasks, sometimes you find yourself without enough time, and here is when it’s time to start delegating. We all know the fear of having other people not complete the task as well as you would, but you must realize that even if it’s 70% similar to how you would execute a task, it’ll save you time and you can focus on other strategic elements to help grow your business.
  2. People come and go: It’s tough to find and attract the right talent for your team. And when you’re lucky enough to work with a strong team, you must realize that they might not always stay working with you and there won’t be much you can do to retain them. For this, it’s important to analyze and restructure your model, there will always be hidden talent when given a new role and someone new will always come along.
  3. Be ready to spend money–all of it: Building up your working capital is a challenge, but spending this money in time and high expenses is inevitable. Certain processes require a large investment so you shouldn’t be afraid or held back by that.
  4. There are no days off: In a way, it’s a good thing that no one told me this because it may sound discouraging at first glance. However, this is true for any goal you may have in your personal and professional life. Substantial and strong rewards come with hard work around the clock. When building your business, your working hours will go beyond just 9–5, and often, there are no end-of-the-shift hours. Success takes a while to grow and even when you have a team to help you build it, they will depend on you. Just remember, hard work always pays off.
  5. Seek investments, credits, or loans: To know what you’re doing and what’s going on with your business, you need your working capital to grow. This way you can have the right tools and talent to leverage your business.
    At some point there’s only so much you can do on your own bucks, so looking for capital is not a bad idea, despite many people fearing it. Businesses are built on credit and you must realize that seeking help is not synonymous with selling your soul to investors.

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?

  1. You should always start with research and due diligence on the market itself to understand competitors and overall sales trends. It’s never a bad idea to study and analyze competitors as customers to cater your solution to your target audience and add value to your company.
  2. Large corporations and small businesses alike agree that customer service and satisfaction are of utmost importance, they bring you money and improve your business so it’s critical to keep them in the center of your strategies.
  3. Working on a new idea may be tough at first, so leverage your research. It can be much easier to improve processes you learn from competitors than to start penetrating a market and tapping into new customers.
  4. Growing a business takes considerable time and attracting your audience should be done cautiously. Invest in your processes, run a quick trial and error and once you know your idea works, invest in marketing and keep attracting customers.

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 never a bad idea. In any area of work, it’s highly recommended to ask people around you what they need. Many times leaders tend to go by their gut and assume they have the best solution. But why not be sure of it and learn something new while you’re at it? You need to ask questions and know what you’ll be solving.

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

As soon as you can get your business up and running, you should look for greater investments– that’s always a good idea.

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

We try to make our solutions accessible to everyone and especially put them in the hands of those that I believe would use them properly.

One of the main differences in building a business in the US instead of Ukraine is the larger investments that can bring our solution to larger networks. These connections can consequently reach and help more people out there in the industry.

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.

A selfless and kind deed will always be to help others. And what better way to do this than through access to education.

Education may not always give you what you need and for what you do. For example, learning about how mortgages work, buying houses, and other daily activities alike can help you navigate real life better. Proper education should be guided into facilitating and understanding how the system works–teaching kids how to take out a loan, or how a credit score works for instance.

Currently, these processes are overwhelming and incomprehensible. So we must work towards an educated society where everyone has greater knowledge of what they’re doing. We should have free schools to teach these matters.

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 spend some time with one of the biggest architect names still here with us such as Ed Niles. His architectural style blew up in the 90s and is still widely used especially in California. I’d love to learn about what inspired him, where ideas take him, and how he works with so many big names.

I’ve always thought that if you can build a home in Malibu that will carry out your vision, it’d be interesting to talk to the architect that made this possible and what he thinks about it, how he started and saw it, up to how he completed this project.

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


Making Something From Nothing: Chris Pchelintsev Of Architecturalist 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.

Meet The Disruptors: Guy Melamed Of Exberry On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Fail fast, iterate. We are a learning team. We’re not afraid to fail, but it’s important we keep track of our findings so we can fix things and do better each time so our company reaches its KPIs.

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

Guy Melamed is co-founder and CEO of Exberry, the exchange technology pioneer that is revolutionizing marketplaces. As a serial entrepreneur, Guy leads the way by being innovative, a results-driven product strategist, and passionate about bringing top notch products to the market.

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?

Thank you for having me. I’ve been an entrepreneur ever since I can remember. When I was ten, I asked my parents if I could sell balloons in the local square on Saturdays, and they said yes! That first week, I went out and made it big! To everyone’s surprise (even me), I sold out and came home with a handful of cash. The following week, I was motivated to do even better. I knew I needed more manpower so I recruited 10 of my friends to cover the main shopping street! We did very well.

I have worked in tech for the last 20 years. Designing viable solutions for real business challenges has always intrigued me. I am most energized when we solve, not only for the immediate pain but for the future existence of the product we create.

I am also intrigued by the industries that are experiencing significant change and are undergoing exponential growth.

Over the years I was fortunate to work with gifted professionals in the areas of Education Technology, Natural Language Understanding, Shared Mobility, and Fintech, and specifically since 2016 in Blockchain. Finding real use applications and solutions that could be implemented and make an impact on our customers is a concept that becomes more important to me with each new product. Having solid tech is never good enough. The goal is to have tech that can change lives and businesses.

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

From a methodological point of view, we always start with the tech. Can the tech solve a problem? but that alone does not give the solution enough wings to fly. You can only claim true success when you master the other stages as well, from the product strategy, and customer experience all the way to GTM and penetration strategy.

This is a challenge when you are working towards innovations that will overlap with traditional industries. This is especially true when regulators are involved and the players are locked into lifetime contracts and legacy or proprietary tech.

The speed, cost of ownership, and performance at which we can help entrepreneurs and traditional markets launch their own exchanges or products is so fast, and in a SaaS model, this is really exciting to see! Until now, only the elite had access but now we are empowering big and small players that may have been previously closed off.

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 my very first interview for a managing role in tech, a missile attack alarm went off ten minutes into the meeting. The HR director and myself were locked in the safe room for an hour and a half. It was a crazy. It was funny. And, definitely a scary moment. This was one of the best interviews I ever had. An intense interview resulted in one of the most transformational roles for me as a young manager. I landed the job and went on to build the largest UX/creative department in Israel at the time.

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?

One thing I have definitely learned along the way is that you cannot do anything alone. There are four people that have made a massive impact on me.

Shmuel Meitar, is the Founder of Amdocs, he inspired me to switch from film and television to the tech industry. I learned from him how to dream big. He was a master at taking the most traditional industry (education at the time) and bringing it to the 21st century.

Shalom Passy, was a COO that I worked with at the same time. He was most influential in teaching me how to prepare a company for growth. I learned about recognizing the weakest links and taking action to correct them in order to build a stronger organization.

Uri Inx — Was a hire I made as an illustrator and art director for one of my product development teams. He has a unique way of thinking and is excellent to have when disintermediating. He knows how to ask tough questions. To this day, I make sure to bring him along to product and strategy meetings with some of the biggest players. Tech leaders are often surprised to see him sitting at the table, but I know that having smart individuals from different industries and with unique thought mechanics challenges us to be truly innovative. People love having him there.

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?

We cannot grow without disruption. We cannot disrupt without listening to feedback.

The core value of disrupting an industry or tech is always a positive concept. Any negatives from disruption would be the ripple effects that come from the disruption. And, those negativities should be temporary, expected, and evaluated because your feedback loop is a top priority.

Artists need an audience. Stores need customers. And, in tech, we need traction, users, growth, engagement, and retention. Without those four elements, we cannot even speak of disruption. Being locked into your own predisposition and waiting to make it big is not enough to disrupt an industry.

Listen, yes…really listen, to the feedback you get from the market and your users, iterate and evolve. Sometimes, Exberry will integrate solutions from totally different industries to test new growth models and solution designs. Sometimes it’s these minor fraction points that create exponential change.

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 recently asked my colleagues to share their thoughts on what they believed was the difference between wanting to get things done and actually getting things done. These, among others, were my favorite answers:

  1. Knowing when to say NO and when to say YES. Especially, when working with a team. Sometimes, we need to say NO to things that don’t align with our big goals. However when you are working with a team, sometimes the correct thing is to say YES so that everyone in the room is heard, understood and given a chance.
  2. Fail fast, iterate. We are a learning team. We’re not afraid to fail, but it’s important we keep track of our findings so we can fix things and do better each time so our company reaches its KPIs.
  3. Have the right team next to you. There is no “I” in team. Cliche, I know, but it’s true! We are responsible to support each other and respect each person’s role in the company.
  4. What happens…and when! If we don’t see results or change we know we need to recalibrate. So we pay attention to the results. Have we met our goals? If not, why not?
  5. Action > emotion. We are our own bottlenecks. The key is not getting stuck in our own heads. Ask for a second opinion, take a walk, and make changes if necessary, but DO something instead of worrying.

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

We are just getting started with Exberry, and some exciting things are coming up! So what’s coming next is a positive disruption of the ecosystem. Stay tuned!

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?

Apart from our podcast that is launching soon, one of the books that have guided me along the years is ‘How to Create a Mind’ by the futurist Ray Kurzweil. He suggests that the brain contains a hierarchy of pattern recognizers. This impacted me greatly in exploring how we can accelerate and create exponential growth by using new thought models. It’s a fascinating concept and opens your mind when trying to explore innovation.

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

“If the wave is up. Leave everything in the office and get in the water.”

Meaning, look for opportunities and go for them.

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 everyone should take on surfing! I live by the beach and I have surfed all my life! Water is an energy and movement in itself. But in all seriousness, we need to be inspired by the ocean and take care of it. Our children and their children will probably be living off of it. There are many environmental movements, but this one is near and dear to my heart. Take care of our ocean!

How can our readers follow you online?

Connect with me on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/guymelamed/

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


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

Making Something From Nothing: Panos Papadopoulos Of Panos Emporio On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Learn from children, because they know how to have fun, and they don’t know how to hate and be suspicious. That’s the best approach you can have to business and to life.

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

Panos Papadopoulos spent the past 35 years starting and developing Panos Emporio, one of the world’s leading brands in luxury swimwear, which today generates annual revenues of $20 million. Born in Greece, he is now based in Sweden. Panos recently published his autobiography PANOS: My Life, My Odyssey, in which he shares how he managed to leave his poor Greek village and went on to build a fashion empire.

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 Kertezi, Greece, in the spring of 1958. When I was two weeks old, my mother was working the fields, and a horse kicked me after being startled by a snake. She screamed, as I looked as though I could die, and an Orthodox priest baptized me on the spot — in line with Greek tradition he had to do this if I was to get a burial. That’s how I got my name, Panagiotis, though I was usually known as Panos (though my mother called me by the name the priest gave). Soon after, we moved to Paralia Aspropirgou, on the outskirts of Athens. We weren’t rich — in fact I know first-hand what it’s like to be very hungry. If you’ve seen how basic a refugee camp can be for a family, it wasn’t far from the life my parents, my two siblings and I had in those early days. I found it a real torment, especially as school was hard — my parents couldn’t afford the books that I needed. So it was a tough start, and one of my few solaces was to go see the films of Tolis Voskopoulos. I loved his music, and the films — about a man who has to overcome odds and great opposition — spoke to me. My parents, too, had amazing values, and they imparted them to me: believe in yourself, trust in yourself, and don’t wait for someone else to solve your problems for you. Listen to your inner self and let your best values guide you. Keep your word and respect others. These really formed whom I became and who I am.

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

There are plenty in my autobiography, but the one that sticks out is, ‘No risks, no history.’ This is what drove me to start my swimwear label in the 1980s. I love to challenge myself, and I love having my creativity stimulated. I’d get bored otherwise. I had to take a risk in order to have a business where I could determine what I wanted to do, and be the master of my own destiny.

Money comes when we do the things we love because they are the right things. We have to choose if we are to do the things we love or do the things we should. For me, it’s love every time, and it so happens that it meant I had to take risks, and do something no one else had done before. I had to create a swimwear line which genuinely appealed to women, was the most comfortable that money could buy, and was more colourful than anyone in Sweden, where I live, had seen before. No, it isn’t rational to sell swimwear in a cold country where hot summer days are few. But I wanted to have a life of freedom because that meant true luxury. That was the one thing I wanted above everything else. If I succeeded, I knew I would have my stage, my freedom to communicate my values and philosophy to others, to travel the world, to meet people, and, above all, to have unlimited creativity.

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 mentioned earlier Tolis Voskopoulos, who was my idol. His first songs and movies were like a balm for my vulnerable soul. He was a poor outsider trying to become a singer. His struggle for survival was met by less than kind people who wanted to exploit him, or just insult him. I recognized his struggle to make a career and the obstacles he faced along the way. He didn’t worship money like some did; he was a passionate person whose values attracted me. I knew most of his songs’ lyrics intimately, with so many feelings and so much respect. Every time I watched an interview with him, I could see how his words connected to his soul: simple, authentic replies, with a soft voice. There wasn’t that typical arrogance or a feigned air of superiority about him.

His way of acting and his life became a reflection of my later life. He was principled, and he wanted to be something of his own making without steamrolling others. His values have been my ones for my entire business life.

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

Sometimes, the only way to do it is to do it. If it’s something you’re genuinely passionate about, where you know deep down that you must follow that path, there’s more than a chance you have already analysed and processed everything you needed to in order to realize this passion. I know I did with my swimwear designs. I did my sociological market research — I majored in sociology at university — and knew what people wanted. I knew they weren’t being served by the labels out there. I also absorbed a lot of knowledge about fabrics and trends, and digested all of that. I innately analysed it all, and the answers were deep in my soul. The only way to uncover them was to do it. So often in my life, I would act first, then the realizations would come. I had to persevere. For me, it was a matter of survival.

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

In my case, it was 1994 when I started and there was no World Wide Web — at least not for me when I was trying to get by — so I didn’t even have that luxury. Everything I did, I had to figure it all out from step one. I kept it to myself, and I imagine I avoided many of the put-downs. And I knew no one had done what I proposed.

Why? One sunny day, I was with some friends at Långedrag beach, just outside Gothenburg. My friends jumped into the water, but I didn’t share their enthusiasm. I looked at the water, and it was grey. Everything around me was grey: the rocky beach, the sand, the stones, the rocks, and even the seawater. I saw the grey rocks, grey water — and these gorgeous blonde bodies. I started to look at the dark swimsuits, and, in my eyes, I could not understand why these bodies wore something just not to be naked.

Come late afternoon, the sun began going down and people started to head back, I said to myself: ‘Imagine if you could make these beaches with these gorgeous bodies more colorful.’ I didn’t think of being a designer. I just wanted to put some color on that grey beach.

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 I did invent processes for print and for fusing two fabrics together, most of my intellectual property resided in my design work, which is covered by copyright, something far easier to record. I always had my sketches, so I could prove when I came up with a design. There doesn’t need to be a registration process.

Initially, I used a local manufacturer as not many were actually capable of producing the designs I wanted, though later on, I began sourcing from different parts of the world. The secret is to be very forthright about what you want to achieve, but, more importantly, to know their jobs as well as you know your own. I studied every stage of the manufacturing process. As a result, I was always very clear about what I needed a manufacturer to do. If they couldn’t do it, I’d know very quickly.

Finding a retailer was tough when I first started. I literally called everyone in the book and got knocked back by a lot of them. But I couldn’t feel down about this. Each time I called, I refined my approach a little. I stopped saying who was calling, as that seemed to be blocking my chances. Eventually, I found one retailer, run by two middle-aged women, who said they wanted to see me. They were intrigued and wound up stocking my first collection. I focused on that one triumph, and while I visited and chatted with them, I told them I had difficulties getting retailers. They put me on to a man called Pelle, who was a legend in Gothenburg in those days. He knew all the big retailers in the country and was very persuasive. Having made the introduction, I went to see Pelle, and he got me into my first major retailer.

Even then, they were unsure about my range — until everything started shifting far more quickly than they had imagined. You can read the full story in my book.

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

When you feel a passion for something, pursue it. Something inside you is telling you that you’re enthusiastic about something and you need to follow through. I felt it when I left Greece and I felt it when I started my business. It was always there as I grew my business.

Acknowledge who you are. I’m someone who works 18-hour days because it gives me a sense of achievement. I like competing against myself. But this might not be for you. However, denying this is denying who I am.

Learn from children, because they know how to have fun, and they don’t know how to hate and be suspicious. That’s the best approach you can have to business and to life.

When you have the most fun, that’s when you have the greatest success. I probably could have left my company at the 25-year mark. It was less fun after that, although I still managed to innovate and win prizes, for my work.

No matter what you do, at the core are three values: passion, respect, and love. I’ve found that no matter what I do, I always come back to these three things. Passion can prevail over logic, and I always had a knack for being able to synthesize a lot of information and make a decision. We need to trust that instinct. My father always went on about the need to respect others, and respect nature. As to love, why else would millions of songs be written about it?

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

Learn about the people who might want to use your product. Don’t ask them, ‘Would you buy this product?’ as a lot of people can’t see a need for an item till it’s launched and presented to them. People can be rear-view mirrors when it comes to market research. Instead, ask about their jobs, what they see as important, and consider how your product addresses their concerns. If you think it will make a difference to their lives, then find a way to produce it and launch it.

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

Do it yourself. You can’t wait for others to solve your problems for you. Plus, how would a consultant know what your passions are and how you feel about something? Only you know that.

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’ll be different for everyone, but I opted to bootstrap. I borrowed only to produce my first collection, but once I had my first sales, I never went to the banks or venture capitalists. The banks were ridiculous to deal with back then, anyway. One time I had a firm order from a major retailer, and the bank wouldn’t open a letter of credit for me on account of my being Greek! So I never bothered with them again. It’s why my former company was one of 450 limited-liability companies (out of half a million) that were platinum-rated by the government!

If you seek venture capital, then do so honestly. Be very clear about what it’s for, and if you realize that the funds might not be used for the purpose you sought them for, return them. You’ll earn more respect for doing the right thing. Better that than burn through it all and have nothing to show for it.

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

Beyond creating products that people love, and that they come back to time and time again, I’ve inspired many others to follow their dreams. I’m still continuing to do that with House of Panos, my incubator, where I mentor and coach people — and if you’re a student or under 25, I’ll even do two free 30-minute sessions. The world would be a better place if we each did the things we truly love, not the things we feel we are forced to do.

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.

If there was a movement where we could encourage everyone to do the jobs they truly wanted to do, where every person loved every moment of their work, then I would be all for it. A job needs to stir your soul. I’d like to see this taught early on, so people learn to identify their passions. Every day they live their lives to the full! Let’s put this all online and see who might want to swap jobs!

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 was at Jamie Foxx’s house many years ago when he had his wrap party for Django Unchained. When he asked me if I wanted to hang out for lunch the next day, it was on the very day I had flown to LA and I had some filming shortly after. I was so very jet-lagged. I had to decline and I know he was as disappointed as I was. So, Jamie, if you’re reading this, hit me up!

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


Making Something From Nothing: Panos Papadopoulos Of Panos Emporio 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.

Agile Businesses: Denise Brinkmeyer Of JUMP Technology Services On How Businesses Pivot and Stay…

Agile Businesses: Denise Brinkmeyer Of JUMP Technology Services On How Businesses Pivot and Stay Relevant In The Face of Disruptive Technologies

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Never stop improving — Your phase one was just the beginning. Technological innovation is happening at a pace that takes my breath away. You will never stop pivoting or you will go the way of Borders Books.

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

Denise Brinkmeyer (www.jumptechnology.com) is the author of Project Orienteering: A Field Guide For Project Leadership and president of Jump Technology Services®. She has over 20 years of diverse business experience with various-sized companies and develops business consulting service strategies. Brinkmeyer focuses on the development and implementation of software project management and software design methodologies that dramatically increase both customer satisfaction and department performance.

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

I was born as the oldest child of two oldest children so of course I was the first child, first girl of the generation in my family. Soon my brothers and cousins were born, but there were few girls. I had never let it bother me much until one day I was told that I couldn’t do something because I was a girl. Well, that was enough incentive to make sure I did accomplish that goal and never let anyone tell me I couldn’t do something that I had set my mind to do. My mother says that I have always had a stubborn streak. At the age of 13 months old when she put me in my crib to go to sleep when I wasn’t ready, she said I would bounce myself on the mattress until I could get my leg up and over the railing. I shimmied down the side, ran down the hallway and glared at my parents for putting me to bed when I didn’t want to go. My mother called it stubborn, but I prefer the word tenacious.

That tenacity showed itself when in my early 30s I decided to leave my career as a teacher to raise my children at home. I wanted a good life, a rich life where I did what I loved and made a difference in the world. I always loved teaching very much, but I had no love for a system so influenced by politics where my monthly take-home pay didn’t leave enough money to take care of my children. People at school told me I was crazy to give up my career, but I thought, if I’m going to be broke, it might as well be with me staying at home with my children.

While at home, I started a homeschool co-op at my church and learned some basic html programming for our church and co-op website. Programming intrigued me and my children were older, so I decided to re-enter the workforce as a computer programmer. When people told me I couldn’t change my career from drama teacher to computer programmer as a woman at the age of 35, I said, “Oh yeah? Watch me.”

Growing up I had always thought that we all had the same ability to achieve or become anything that we set our minds and hearts to do. I didn’t understand when people would give up. I didn’t understand the fears that prevent people from pursuing a big idea. I never thought that I had some unique ability, only that when I really wanted something, I would keep trying until I achieved it. I laid out a plan to increase my studies, then pass a Microsoft certification test to prove I knew what I was doing.

The result: I landed a job as a programmer at a startup company and eventually moved to a job as a programmer at my current company. In 2001, I was one of 11,000 women in the world who held the Microsoft Certified Solution Developer credential. In just a few short years I had developed my skills to be competitive in an industry that didn’t really accept women. But I didn’t let the way I was spoken to interfere with what I wanted to accomplish.

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

I wish I had a story that was funny. There was a lot of learning and takeaways from things that happened. I was observing and learning as quickly as I could. One example is on my first big assignment for an inventory control system. It was written by someone else and then handed to me when that person left the company. My job was to debug the modules installed on the office computers and then fly down to Houston with the team to deliver the software and collect payment.

Once on site, I was walking the customer’s team through the software and they were growing increasingly agitated. Keep in mind that I didn’t design the software. I had only fixed bugs that appeared in the operation. So, I began asking questions to get a better understanding of how the system was falling short.

The senior executive asked me if I’d like a tour of the operation and we spent the next hour walking the floor and discussing workflow. I could see quickly where the design fell short. He thanked me for being the only person in our company who appeared interested in the work they actually did. It left me a bit stunned as a new programmer, but I was also motivated to correct the issues. After a few more weeks we delivered an update to the software that supported the efficiency and automation that all of us had envisioned.

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 am grateful to several people for their help. My friend, Angela, was a terrific coach. I met her early in my “Denise wants to be a programmer” phase when she was working for a computer training company. I shared my plan with her the day I walked in to sign up for a programming class, and we’ve been friends ever since. She cares very deeply about the people who seek her help. She goes above and beyond for everyone, never really realizing how incredibly rare that is.

My kids were also incredible during this time. They knew that I was on a path to ensure that we always had enough money for food, housing, and medical visits. They adapted extremely well from homeschooling back to public school. It wasn’t easy, but they are resilient and amazing people. I am so proud of them.

I met my husband at JUMP. His expertise as a software engineer gave me confidence that my instincts were correct even when my experience was questioned. Who we are as a company today has a lot to do with our partnership. I like to say that my job is to identify the forest and describe its boundaries. His job is to detail the bark on the trees.

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

The company I joined actually focused on software for manufacturing. I find manufacturing fascinating, so I enjoyed my work, but when the .dot com bubble burst and there was not enough work, we won a bid on a custom software system for health and human services. It was this project that led us into systems for vulnerable adult investigations. Up until that time my husband and I didn’t know about home- and community-based services or adult maltreatment.

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

We provide software as a service to state and county governments who provide services for older adults. These services include Aging and Disability Resource Centers, Senior Meals and services funded by the Older Americans Act programs, Long Term Care Ombudsman cases, and Adult Maltreatment investigations.

These programs use our software to support their operations and provide reporting to meet their local, state, and federal reporting requirements. Our customers interact with older adults as part of their daily mission. This means that our mission is to provide affordable software that helps them do their jobs without spending so much time behind the computer screen.

Our designs also collect very detailed information that helps program managers understand trends on interventions and outcomes.

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

Government programs prefer, as you can imagine, to control their data. Their responsibilities for privacy and security have always created a preference to keeping systems “in house.” As Software as a Service or cloud computing offerings became highly available to government programs, it became difficult for government programs not to take advantage of these systems because of the improved return on investment as well as total cost of ownership.

Just making the decision and following the process for procurement means one to two years before government programs even embark on projects for new technologies. These adoptions can take years to accomplish even though companies like mine with program-specific solutions can implement in a matter of months.

The next big area for adoption in government programs like social services will be integration of artificial intelligence to improve case documentation and improve the quality of services provided.

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

In 2010, we made the assumption that the commercial trend towards cloud computing would be followed by government program adoption. This was an easy leap since government programs are always slower to adopt new technologies and cloud computing has a lot of advantages.

We are also working on concepts related to artificial intelligence, but we can’t really discuss that until we get closer to product launch.

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

Our aha moment was really more that this technology would allow small, state-funded programs to collect data to help tell the story of vulnerable adult maltreatment and exploitation. It’s often said that “data drives dollars” when it comes to funding, but small programs had no data. They had no ability to collect data in their paper-based systems because they couldn’t afford what vendors were offering. We developed an affordable cloud-based solution with tiered pricing that helped even the smallest programs budget a data collection system.

So, how are things going with this new direction?

The product was launched in 2014 with the first customer in California. Today, we serve 54 government programs with that product, and have launched several other products to support Aging and Adult services across the United States.

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

I’d say really that things worked out the way we had hoped in our support of elder abuse programs. Supporting these programs became our mission. Eight years later, there is more funding and awareness of the abuse, neglect and exploitation of vulnerable adults. I am so happy to help Adult Protective Services demonstrate their outcomes through our systems.

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

It’s very difficult these days to move as quickly as you need to because of the rapid change in technology. Leveraging new technology gives you a competitive advantage over your competitor, but only if you can move quickly enough. This means that leaders must be great communicators. If you have cultivated a culture of concern and interest in the company’s products and services, you can explain how new projects and development keep the products in demand. Teams need to know that continual improvement protects the company from obsolescence. I don’t mean that you have to scare them into thinking their jobs are at stake, but instead you can motivate them to always produce leading products and services for their industries.

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

Frederick Herzberg is quoted as saying, “If you want people to do a good job, give them a good job to do — an enriched job.” Leaders must be clear in communicating their vision for the future and how the work being done today by every role intersects with an important mission.

I think it is critical that everyone has a sense of the value of their contribution.

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

Remember your people are the company. Make them successful, and the company will be successful. If you can’t make them successful, one of you needs to change.

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

1. Chasing the technology instead of the solution — Some businesses find technology so interesting they invest everything in adoption without linking the investment to specific, measurable outcomes. Technology is a solution to a problem. If you don’t know the problem, you have no solution.

2. Helping “Number One” more than helping “Every One” — Some business owners or managers see the project as their chance to climb. This can have a very negative impact on the outcome because it is very difficult to hide. Teams aren’t motivated by narcissistic leaders. Sure, everyone wants to feel proud of their accomplishments, but it often comes for free if you can solve an important problem for people (see #1 above).

3. Being immobilized by analysis — Some teams are so good at structure and administration, that when faced with an important change, they can’t move quickly enough. Sometimes it’s because they allocate too much time to the decision-making process, and sometimes it’s because they invite too many people into the decision-making process.

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

1. Be positive about your ability to pivot — Pivoting doesn’t mean abandoning what you are doing now. It means beginning to move in a new direction while retaining some continuity from where you were going. No one ever said pivoting means a giant leap. Staying relevant means doing what is important or could be important to your customers. Everyone may be shouting at you to build a mobile app, but if your customer base doesn’t want to give up precious space on their iPhones, you may find that a simple addition to the website is all that was ever needed.

2. Don’t be afraid to say goodbye — If steps in a new direction create a conflict with a percentage of your business, this is where you need to ask if that is the business you want to keep. Just because you have always served a particular sector doesn’t mean you have to do it forever, particularly if it is on a downward trend. The key to saying goodbye to these customers and retaining your reputation may be to identify some alternatives for them. As we moved to our social services solutions, we chose to say goodbye to website hosting and search engine optimization. Website hosting had become too competitive, and I had been convinced that by 2006 search engine optimization really worked best when it was managed in-house by marketing teams who could integrate SEO into the marketing plan. These two areas of the business were consuming too many of our resources, which we were ready to invest in our mission to serve adult maltreatment investigations. We helped the customers identify new hosting providers and move their SEO in house.

3. Adopt a phased approach to implementation — I’ve heard it said that “perfect is the enemy of done.” Where I see this most is in projects that include too many objectives in their first phase. They try to eat the whole elephant in one bite. You should be very clear about the “why” of your project with a business case analysis. Business objectives will need to be mapped to project requirements. Then, listen to your team about the best route to achieve the most important objectives by mapping out the best route to success. In my book, Project Orienteering, I suggest you think of your project like a journey. If you’ve ever driven from Oklahoma City to Los Angeles without stopping you know what I am talking about. People driving that long without sleep risk their health and safety (not to mention the safety of others.) In similar fashion, a project that drives to a big goal without incremental releases may be risky to the organization. If you’re a fan of agile methodologies then you already know what I am talking about.

4. Celebrate success with your team — Let your team have time to participate in the celebration of a job well done, no matter what this looks like. I don’t mean to frame it like a “break.” “A break” means that you were driving them too hard. This is a celebration of accomplishment that doesn’t take a lot of expense to be appreciated. This seems so obvious, but driven business leaders sometimes (myself included) forget to stop and smell the roses with their people. If you don’t do it, you can wear your people out. They need to know that you are human even if everyone thinks you operate like a machine. When you do take the time, they will be refreshed and ready for the next challenge.

5. Never stop improving — Your phase one was just the beginning. Technological innovation is happening at a pace that takes my breath away. You will never stop pivoting or you will go the way of Borders Books.

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

I like to remember John Maxwell’s quote, “Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.” This means that every event is an opportunity, even if the opportunity is to learn to be better. I hate losing so much that it can derail me for hours, and I have too much to do to waste it on bad feelings. Since I started reframing loss as learning I am much better. It’s more than lip service, or something I say to myself. I look at the situation and say what could I have done differently to win, and then I do it. Some people say look for the silver lining in the cloud, and I do something similar. If you believe everything is an opportunity, then even when events don’t have the outcome you hoped for, if you look you might find an even bigger win hiding underneath the learning.

How can our readers further follow your work?

They can visit my website at denisebrinkmeyer.com and subscribe to my new podcast, Tenacity Rules from Forbes Book Audio on Spotify, Audible, and Apple Podcasts. The first episode drops in early May.

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

Thank you! I enjoyed it.


Agile Businesses: Denise Brinkmeyer Of JUMP Technology Services On How Businesses Pivot and Stay… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: James Boyd Of Adyton On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The…

The Future Is Now: James Boyd Of Adyton On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Trust your instinct when it’s strong. There may be experts in the room, but they may not have done as much research and analysis as you have. Just because they are an expert does not mean that they are right.

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

James Boyd was born in the United States to British parents and grew up primarily in the United Kingdom. Electing to attend university in the U.S., James graduated from Stanford. Soon after, James enlisted in the Army and was assigned to the Army’s 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) as a Special Forces Communications Sergeant. Following his service James went on to work at the military-focused, data analytics giant, Palantir. Now, he builds world-class mobile software for people who serve at Adyton, a builder of mobile software that links users in the field to enterprise systems.

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

This story is really a convergence of two journeys — two core parts of my identity. I’ve always been passionate about technology and the promise of bettering our experiences through innovation. When I was 12 my uncle Bob taught me how to build my first computer. As a teenager I read the biographies of Scott McNealy, Bill Gates and Jeff Hawkins. I’ve also been deeply motivated to serve others — to protect people. 9/11 happened my first week at Stanford, and shortly after I met a Special Forces Officer — Joe Felter — who was doing his PhD, and he encouraged me to enlist and try out for Special Forces. My parents were thrilled. Fast forward to 2010, and I found myself on my 3rd deployment with my Special Forces team, working to track down Bin Laden’s finance networks in South East Asia. I had been trying to pin point bomb makers in our local area, and follow the money to uncover the network. We had plenty of intelligence information but it came from different Army systems that didn’t talk to each other, which made it impossible to understand. While I was on the deployment I started writing code to bring this data together. We’d train our partner forces by day, advise them by night, and in the off hours I would hack together scripts and databases to fuse together information from different sources. Some guys from another team came in from Afghanistan and said, “you’ve got to check out Palantir”. I looked on the website and saw my friends from college and thought — “these are real software engineers at a real software company, building real software”. I knew that this was the path — combining my passion for engineering with my mission to protect people. It’s what took me to Palantir, and led me to found Adyton.

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

I’ve had the privilege of briefing heads of state, directors of intelligence agencies, and senior military commanders. I’ve worked in some punchy places on some things I can’t discuss, but for me the story that stuck with me the most was one about someone else. In 2019, my brother called me up from western Afghanistan. He and his team were at a remote outpost, and were faced with hostile forces on a near daily basis. He told me that he, his team leader, and their intelligence sergeant used two of the products that I had helped build and launch on a daily basis. They used these products to prepare for their missions, and over the course of dozens of operations had only failed to find their target one time. They had been so successful that the leadership of the NATO forces in Afghanistan came along with them on their missions. But most poignantly — they used these products to identify hostile forces planning an ambush and successfully evaded the attack. These were products that my team and I had built and sold to SOCOM and the Army — and there in western Afghanistan my brother found himself as a user of these products, and used them to keep himself and his teammates safe.

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

We are working to revolutionize the way militaries and similar “hard hat industries” interact with their field personnel. Today the allied militaries and large enterprises operate in a world with decades of legacy IT investment in architectures that are secure but brittle. They were designed for a world of mainframes, terminals and offices, not a world where the primary computing device is carried in the pocket of field workers who operate in far flung places — on flight lines, under the decks of ships and on job sites. To truly empower these workers in the enterprise environment — it takes leveraging the infrastructure that the private sector has built out and the consumer carries in their pocket, and to do that you have to reimagine trust. We are building out applications that help field workers do their jobs more effectively and safely, and turns them into data generation engines for the enterprise. But the key to this is the set of foundational technologies we built that power these applications and allow them to work securely in a zero trust paradigm. They enable enterprises to extend trust in a world where you may not trust the network, and you may not really trust the devices that they run on. Once you can do this — for the end users this is huge. We’ve had over 100 soldiers and marines identify PTSD and mental health issues using our application Mustr. We’ve had Navy sailors tell us this gives them more sleep and more time with their family, and we’ve had Air Force deployment officers tell us that this helps them get troops to where they are needed more quickly and more efficiently.

How do you think this might change the world?

At the individual service member level — we are working to change expectations. That their time is valuable, that their work is important, and they deserve to have great tools that help them do their jobs more effectively. At the enterprise level it’s building a foundation for more agile forces, and challenging mental models for what is possible. Aspirationally we envision this as the backbone of productivity that helps allied forces collaborate and work together more fluidly. I remember being in Baghdad in 2016 when there was an imminent threat warning at our base. There were NATO forces running the operations, but communication between countries was incredibly high friction. There was one network that they could communicate on, but not everyone had access to it. I remember seeing a NATO officer strolling into the office the next morning, coffee cup in hand, and log into the computer that they can communicate on and check his email. He threw his hands up in the air in exasperation as he saw that there was an immiment threat 8 hours earlier. It’s just absurd that we are so hamstrung in our collaboration that he couldn’t receive threat warnings except by email on a computer in a different building on the other side of base. That’s the kind of absurdity that we are working night and day to change.

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

Caveat — I’ve never seen black mirror

We’ve spent a lot of time listening to the leadership teams of the units that use our software. Leaders have to realise that there is a fundamental shift taking place in the same way that technology impacts our social lives. This is technology that adds leverage leadership. It’s not a substitute for it. Leaders recognize that our application Mustr gives them more time to spend mentoring and coaching their personnel. It gives them a new mechanism to control risk to their force and their mission. It gives them a new means to engage with their personnel, and a new tool to establish open door policies. It’s not a bandaid though. A negative organization culture is still a negative organization culture — micromanagers are still going to micromanage, but with greater power. We’ve been fortunate to work with innovators and thought leaders who are seeking ways to improve the quality of work life for their personnel. At the same time, there are leaders out there who shun technology, who would look to block any interaction between their leaders and their personnel through mobile technology. We see this as a missed opportunity, and a failure to recognize that as the world evolves, we have to evolve with it.

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

In 2018 I had been doing some research on the Apple Secure Enclave. That’s the tamper resistant chip built into iPhones that runs the cryptographic functions. I had been tinkering reflecting on the communications security architecture in the military, and the physical devices I used to haul around in my backpack which stored the cryptographic keys. I realised that fundamentally what mattered was where you trust the math — the algorithms and random number generators that are used to generate and process cryptographic key material. If you trusted the math you could do anything in between. I built out a few proof of concepts for structured data interactions across a distributed group of users using what’s called a fanout architecture — it allowed you to send an instruction or message to tens of thousands of people a the same time. As I was considering applications for this I caught up with a friend from In-Q-Tel — that’s the venture arm for the CIA. He had also been in the Army and he immediately thought of the applicability to the military. By coincidence the next day, a Navy SEAL commander I had worked with previously in Iraq called me up lamenting the time wasted by his instructors capturing structured data in training environments. He explained that his instructors could spend their time mentoring students, but instead were doing data entry — and yet, they didn’t have adequate structured data to analyze and prevent their injuries. It was this coincidence, this connection that drove home that it was the military that needed this technology.

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

In technology we often talk of the early adopters — the innovators that are keen to try new solutions. For our technology, for Mustr — I think it’s pain. It’s leaders in organizations that feel pain, that believe there has to be a better way, and that it doesn’t have to be this painful. Those are the people that are willing to try, and those are the leaders that change their organizations. Once they try it, they recommend it to their colleagues, they take it with them to their next assignment. It builds up a groundswell, a movement of people that want to see things better.

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 so many people that have helped me — from childhood, through college, the military, Palantir, and now at Adyton. You learn different things from different people. One thing that always struck me is how much luck is involved. I count myself particularly fortunate to have worked for a man named Rod — sadly who passed many years before his time. He and I shared a mission — to transform intelligence in Special Operations. We were both dedicated and hard working, but had our different ways of doing it, and occasionally butted heads. Sometimes it was heated. If I’m honest, I was probably not the easiest person to work with at the time — I had little patience for others who didn’t experience the same urgency. It was Rod’s feedback that taught me one of my most important lessons. He said, “If there was someone who had James’s talent and Paul’s attitude (one of our other colleagues), I’d work for them in a heartbeat.” I realised that you can’t go it alone. It takes a team, and to build that team it takes a lot of investment in the soft stuff. The soft stuff is the hard stuff. It’s why we’ve invested so heavily in culture at Adyton to build the strongest, most resilient team possible that can tackle any challenge.

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

The men and women that use our products create the most goodness in the world. They use our products to coordinate firefighting for wild fires in California, to mobilize nurses for emergency rotations in New York during COVID, and to respond after natural disasters and tornadoes. For my part, I’m proud of the team that we’ve built, and the culture we’ve grown together at Adyton. We’ve created opportunities for people with passion and talents to contribute them towards impact. We are proud to say that we have no ceiling at Adyton, and have brought together a diverse group of people — veterans, military spouses and engineers from post-conflict countries — people from all over the world who are united in a belief that we can build products to make things better.

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

Trust your instinct when it’s strong. There may be experts in the room, but they may not have done as much research and analysis as you have. Just because they are an expert does not mean that they are right.

When something keeps you up more than one night — it’s time to solve the problem. The problem may seem large up close and that you have to endure it for a better time, but more often that not it’s best to just eliminate it.

Luck comes from surprising places. It may be the last place that you would think to look. We thought our strongest traction would come from the Special Forces community because of our network. It turned out to be the Air National Guard — a place we had no relationships.

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. 🙂

That people lead their interactions with empathy. When we come from a place of empathy, we understand that everyone is living their own lives, in their own worlds, with their own set of experiences that have shaped their reality, and to truly connect with others we have to first be empathetic with ourselves. From this place of compassion with the self, we can be open to others, and when we are open to others we can understand them — and that understanding is the foundation for communication, cooperation, and creating a better world together.

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

“Winning is a habit. Watch your thoughts, they become your beliefs. Watch your beliefs, they become your words. Watch your words, they become your actions” — Vince Lombardi

I’ve been consistently lucky. I lucked into the right habits that carried me through some challenging situations. Sometimes you don’t realise that these were important habits until later — until you are struggling in a different situation. The way we think is so important. The words we use in our thoughts influence how we perceive ourselves, how we shape our personas to the world, how we consider the value of our own worth. Winning takes a vice like mental discipline to build positive attitude and resilience patterns, and at the same time be able to clinically and rationally self-assess to determine what is true.

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 🙂

This is not about us at Adyton — this is about investing in the companies that are working to strengthen the institutions which defend democracy, freedom and the values we hold dear. I’ve seen first hand what insecurity and instability looks like. It looks like a child holding a rifle. It looks like food and starvation used as a weapon. It’s looks like elections that are manipulated by oppressors. The institutions of national security matter. The companies building products that help protect our security matter. The allocation of capital and investor talent matters. These companies aren’t building apps that exploit the attention of our youth — they are building technologies that keep us safer. This is a sector that is ripe for innovation, but it demands bold and diligent capital to fuel it. An investor that is looking to plug some numbers into a spreadsheet to fit a model that works in the B2B or B2C sector is the wrong investor. This sector needs investors that want to go deep — that want to understand how the transactions happen, that want to understand where the value is created, that want to understand the physics of growth. The growth is out there for the taking, but it takes investors willing to do the work, who believe that the world can be safer, and know that they have not just a role to play, but a responsibility to participate in the ecosystem that defends our freedoms.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can follow us on

Twitter: Adyton JJ Wilson

LinkedIn James Boyd

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


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

Modular Plant Solutions: Russell Hillenburg’s Big Idea That Might Change The World

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

No matter what you’re doing, it takes more money than you think it will. This one coincides with the first one because as they say, time is money, and I’ve found that to be very true.

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 Russell Hillenburg.

Russell Hillenburg is president and co-founder of Modular Plant Solutions (MPS), a global engineering firm specializing in process modularization and project implementation, as well as president of Houston-area fabrication business Woven Metal Products.

In the last two decades, Russell has embodied entrepreneurship, including taking over his family business and launching multiple new companies, all servicing the refining and energy industries. Russell was instrumental in developing MPS’s flagship product, MeOH-To-Go®, which enables users to create AA grade methanol for immediate market utilization from natural gas from a variety of grey sources, including pipeline, stranded and flared, as well as various compositions of syngas derived from newly developed green or blue sources.

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

I got started in the energy and petrochemical industry through my family’s business, Woven Metal Products (WMP), a premier fabrication business my grandfather founded over 50 years ago in the Houston area. I grew up in and around the energy industry and have held positions of all levels within that company, giving me valuable experience and insights into what’s next for the industry — and what customers are looking for.

My deep experience with customers in those industries led me to start up Modular Plant Solutions (MPS). In collaboration with my chemical process engineering partner, we developed the design idea for a small-scale, easily transportable, modular plant that saved on upfront capital costs, and we later co-founded MPS in 2016 to bring that design to market.

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

Our Modular Plant Solutions team has traveled the world to source the materials for our products, developing relationships with vendors in multiple countries. We’ve formed some fantastic friendships and relationships over the years, all of which started as business partnerships. It’s been so interesting to experience different cultures around the globe from the lens of not only business, but also good relationships. For example, when we travel to Italy for business, our partners bring us to their homes and give us a local experience. It’s really a great feeling.

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

For me, it’s about honesty, integrity and loyalty — in both my life and career. These three things build successful relationships. When you do what you say you’re going to do, people trust you and want to work with you. Also, the golden rule — treat others you want to be treated — is one I live by. You’ll make strong relationships that way, and that’s a large part of what has made Modular Plant Solutions successful.

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”?

At Modular Plant Solutions, we actually like to say that small is big in the world of modularization, and that’s exactly what makes the small-scale methanol plant, Methanol-to-Go®, we developed so appealing. For the last five decades, larger scale plants were more economically feasible, but with Methanol-To-GoⓇ we’ve broken that cycle, making small-scale make sense. Our plant modules are designed with our patent-pending idea that everything can fit in an ISO-1496 container. That way, plant components can be produced in several areas of the world, put in a shipping container, and then easily shipped by truck, ship or rail. It’s akin to building blocks, where you can fabricate parts in different locations and assemble them on-site / snap the pieces together. The combination of shop-fabricated modules, a standardized design, and lower transportation costs make our approach competitive with world-scale plants.

What’s really cool about this idea is that depending on a customer’s resources and needs, we can use different feedstock options and technology processes for Methanol-to-Go®, as well as add on back-end technology processes, to create AA grade methanol, gasoline or other end products.

For example, earlier in April, we made our first sale of a Methanol-To-GoⓇ plant to Arbor Renewable Gas to use in the first-of-its-kind green gasoline plant. Methanol-To-GoⓇ will be a key component in the process chain of green gasoline production at the plant. We were able to set up our small-scale methanol plant to receive syngas produced from woody biomass as feedstock, and the resulting methanol then goes through an add-on process that results in renewable gasoline. The bottom line: customization with a Methanol-To-GoⓇ plant can meet a variety of customer needs and desired outputs.

How do you think this will change the world?

With Modular Plant Solutions’ modularization techniques, we are breaking the curve to make small-scale plants economical. There are so many possibilities, the sky really is the limit. Options for where and what we could modularize to improve a situation somewhere are endless.

By modularizing plant components, most of the work is done in a fabrication facility instead of on-site, which takes away a lot of construction risks and costs, as well as increases the consistency and quality of the final product, not to mention the ability to repair any issues before assembly in the field.

The original design of the Methanol-To-GoⓇ plant takes previously unusable stranded natural gas that could be anywhere — and a potential pollution source if flared — and turns it into something useful and profitable. Our customers are able to get closer to their natural gas feedstock by building plants in more remote locations, from South Dakota to Africa, Texas to Europe.

Looking at our other current plant products, because the inputs and outputs can change, we can use a variety of feedstocks to create a range of outputs that are most needed for any given situation. With our current plant designs, we can use natural gas from a variety of grey sources, including pipeline, stranded and flared, as well as different compositions of syngas derived from newly developed green or blue sources to create AA grade methanol for immediate market utilization. And that methanol can be used to create several different products and chemical building blocks for other applications.

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?

While our goal is to build on a smaller scale, we still have to balance what makes sense economically with the optimal size for our plant design. While a smaller footprint can be advantageous for several reasons (less materials and less assembly at less cost to operate), we have to ensure the economies of scale are still logical for our plant or any client project.

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

Several years ago, an upstream and midstream company brought me in as a plant expert and partner, and I recognized a need to turn unusable stranded natural gas into a profitable commodity.

I started talking about the challenge with my business partner, David Townsend, a newly retired chemical engineer, and that’s when the idea for Methanol-to-Go®, our small-scale methanol plant, was born. We wanted to figure out a way to convert the stranded natural gas into something transportable and profitable, even though the gas was in a remote location, not easily reachable nor near a pipeline.

That’s what led us to co-found Modular Plant Solutions and develop the design for Methanol-To-GoⓇ, a small-scale, easily transportable, modular plant that uses stranded gas to produce market-ready, grade AA methanol.

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

There’s a lot of interest in our modularization capabilities, and we have several potential customers who are drawn to the ingenuity and uniqueness of what we’re doing. They are really interested in our techniques and ideas.

But as you can imagine, one of the key aspects to gaining more adoption is getting our first project off the ground. And that’s what we’re doing with the sale of Methanol-To-Go® to Arbor Renewable Gas. We will also be modularizing many plant components for their project, as well as managing the engineering and technology partners for the entire plant. Our team will also advise on procuring the needed equipment, help oversee construction, commissioning and start-up.

All in all, we anticipate that even more customers will want to buy into our small-scale methanol plant concept once they can see it in action.

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

  1. No matter what you’re doing, it will always take more time than you think it will. This one probably hits home the most as I’m more of a visionary and don’t always see the implementation details needed. I tend to think we can achieve the results in a fraction of the time. My team continues to advise me and think through the logistics.
  2. No matter what you’re doing, it takes more money than you think it will. This one coincides with the first one because as they say, time is money, and I’ve found that to be very true.
  3. Just because you can see the vision doesn’t mean that others can or are willing to accept it easily. I’ve found that often where we end up is beyond what I originally had planned or thought. As we work through details on a plan, there are more customers and a greater market need that drives future products, projects and plans. Because its far-reaching, I do a lot of selling of a vision that isn’t always realized by others.
  4. It takes more than just hard work to succeed. It takes ambition, diligence and optimism as well.
  5. The people involved in your business are critical to the long-term success. This couldn’t be truer for me and my experience. The people I have at my helm are some of the brightest in their areas of expertise and because of that, it allows me to not have to focus on those details. I can trust them to do what they know is best for various segments within each company.

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

Be open minded. Stay true to who you are. Demonstrate dedication through hard work.

There will always be times when it’s easier not to stay true to those values, but stick to your guiding principles. People appreciate it when you are forthright with them.

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

What we’re doing with Methanol-To-GoⓇ is breaking the world scale idea that you have to go bigger to build a cost competitive chemical plant. We chose to produce methanol because it’s a building block for a significant number of chemicals and other end products. And with Haldor Topsoe’s licensed process technology powering Methanol-To-GoⓇ, we have proven technology that has been in the industry for years backing the process, so it’s not just our word for it. We have developed a small-scale, long-lasting product we are excited to bring to market.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/russell-hillenburg/. Also follow MPS on LinkedIn for updates. Check out our website at https://modularplantsolutions.com/.

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


Modular Plant Solutions: Russell Hillenburg’s Big Idea That Might Change The World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Wisdom From The Women Leading The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries, With Gloria Gavin Of Resonai

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Having diversity of thought and representation in the workplace, in contrast to a homogeneity echo chamber, is good for business. I’ve worked for many user experience teams for products that were so homogenous that when we actually went to market, it didn’t resonate with actual consumers, who had not been represented in the market research sample. So we had to go back to the drawing board.

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

Gloria Gavin, Chief Business Officer, Resonai

Gloria serves as the Chief Business Officer at Resonai, a high-growth AI and spatial computing company based in Tel Aviv, with business operations in the U.S. Previously, Gloria founded and led a consulting practice providing strategic product launch and go-to-market services to high-growth startups, as well as large, public companies such as Google, Facebook, PwC, WalmartLab, and eBay. In her 25+ year career, Gloria has held senior management roles in global sales, marketing and business development at several private and public companies including Palm/HP, Volera, Inc., Yahoo, Inc., and Worldtalk Corporation.

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

I‘m the daughter of immigrant parents, who came to this country as young people from Mexico in search of the quintessential American Dream. I grew up focused on education and striving, and got excited early on about technology. It was the late 1980s, and computers were just coming into play. Macs were this neat, new technology. When I was in high school, my family got a Mac computer, which was both a big deal, and extraordinarily expensive for an immigrant family like mine. Tooling around with that first computer is where I got my first love of technology. I spent many years thinking about studying engineering, but ultimately it wasn’t for me. I was even more drawn to politics and policy — domains through which I could envision myself helping immigrant families like mine, as well as women, and other underrepresented groups. So I ended up studying international relations and political science at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles). This shaped me and gave me a love for global issues, while giving me the realization that global business is one of things that connects us.

I was then given the opportunity to do international business development early in my career. I traveled all across Europe, Asia, and Latin America setting up sales, marketing, and partnerships on behalf of Retix, an enterprise-software-for-email startup that had just gone public, and then WorldTalk, a small company that then grew, went public, and got acquired. Both companies were great starting points because many of their senior executives went on to become serial entrepreneurs.

I continued to work with many of them throughout my career in various roles at various companies. Those early postings provided me with tremendous opportunities. It’s where I got my training from executives that had themselves been trained as management consultants or had experience in major corporations.

From Retix, I got recruited to WorldTalk to move from Southern California to Northern California, and was convinced to work for this 30-person company. Previously, I had not planned to stay in the technology industry at all. WorldTalk grew to be much bigger and by staying on, I continued to learn, and went on to have many roles within the corporation. I took advantage of the huge growth that Silicon Valley was going through, and I became hooked on growing companies from startup, to mature corporations.

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?

Yes, Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover. It’s written by a woman who was raised in the mountains of Idaho, homeschooled, and isolated from mainstream society. The book is about how hard it was for her to get an education and draws attention to the disparities between people who have access to education and the global economy, and the people who don’t. Even in the U.S., that disparity can be stark. It’s an amazing story of human will. To me that resonates and ties back to my own story.

When my parents came to the United States, I have the impression that the country was more open and idealistic, and there were more opportunities for immigrants. Growing up I felt accepted. The world was our oyster. My impression is that it is much harder now. We forget that our immigrant communities have been and continue to be the backbone of growing our country and its economy. The places that immigrants come from changes but the concept remains the same. We need to get back to a time when America was seen as a beacon of hope for all.

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

My path to a career in augmented reality leads through my career in technology. I am passionate about growing startups into thriving businesses. When I came across my current company Resonai, I had already worked in technology for 25 years. My career includes time working at a startup, in the early days of the internet, that was acquired by Yahoo. I watched the internet grow from nothing into a thing that permeates every aspect of our lives. I remember what it felt like to be part of a major shift in technology and its effects on every part of society. Similarly, as I learned more about Resonai and the AI and mixed reality industry, I came to understand that we are at the infancy of another major shift as our digital and physical worlds are merging to create a new Metaverse. I knew I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to join the team and help be part of this new frontier.

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

Getting a front-row seat to watch the development of technology over time is definitely something I feel lucky to have participated in. One of those moments was 1999, when the internet was really taking off. Another was the unveiling of the iPhone in 2007, and the opening of the App Store in 2008. These are moments in history that I find myself sharing with my children who can’t imagine a world without the internet or their mobile phones. It’s fascinating that to generation Z and beyond, even email seems old school. It’s not something they like to use. I imagine that by the time I am a grandparent, I will be sharing stories about the beginning of the Metaverse.

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

Early on in my career I fell victim to the bias that was pervasive in the tech world. I was in Germany, for an internet conference, sitting in a room with 20 other people, all of whom were men, all of whom were wearing business suits. A young, casually dressed woman came into the room and I assumed she was a member of the event planning staff setting up for the next speaker, and I addressed her as such. She immediately made it clear, in a kind way, that she was a speaker at the conference, not a member of the staff. In fact, she turned out to be a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who is prominent in the industry. I have to admit I’ve made that kind of mistake on more than one occasion, and I’m still embarrassed by it. What I learned from it is how ingrained biases can become in one’s mind, even if you yourself are an example that proves the bias is incorrect. I’m encouraged that the numbers are changing and that we are seeing more women going to engineering schools and embracing technology careers. And while I’m no longer the only woman in the room in general, we still have a long way to go on management teams and corporate boards.

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

I’ve been fortunate to have many mentors and colleagues in my career who have shared their time and management skills to help me build my career. One in particular stands out because of the timing. Katie Mitic — an entrepreneur, technology leader and board director — provided me with pivotal help finding a path back into the working world, after I had taken two years off to raise my first-born daughter. Like many career women who take a pause to focus on child rearing, there came a time when I knew I was ready to go back to work but found it hard to find the on-ramp. As a mom and career woman, Katie understood the challenges and provided me with not only reassurance but also shared some of her network to help me launch my consulting firm. Key introductions to the venture capital community led to many assignments and provided a strong foundation for the future growth of my consulting business.

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

I try to use my professional experience to support the efforts of under-represented groups in technology, such as women and the Latino community. I volunteer with organizations that offer help to entrepreneurs and I help advise them with their fundraising as well as go-to-market strategies, and I’m an LP at an angel investment firm. Examples include Muze Music, a platform for booking and monetizing live music events, where I’m an advisor, and Trqk, a music royalty intelligence startup where I’m an investor.

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

It’s not one feature of this technology that excites me. It’s how mixed reality helps lead a major shift in merging our digital and physical worlds. Right now, you have to experience internet content and services through your phone or computer. In the future, every building will be a digital canvas with embedded intelligence so that as we navigate our built world, the internet will essentially come to us. It will be all around us providing information exactly when we need it to guide us, inform us, provide more personalized experiences. This Metaverse will create new ways to live, work and play in and around physical structures and will help grow a new set of businesses and revenue models that we are only beginning to imagine.

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?

Instead of three concerns, what concerns me is the fragmentation and noise of the industry, caused by dozens or even hundreds of new market entrants. The noise is confusing and overwhelming to both consumers and businesses. My concern is that businesses will end up adopting technologies that aren’t as useful, that are too expensive, and that don’t provide enough value.

The sooner that the big and small technology companies and new VR, AR, and MR industry leaders can agree on quality standards, the better. It’s important for the industry to regulate itself. Once technology becomes interoperable, it will really take off. It’s important that we employ strong security, data privacy, and content regulation so that consumers and businesses alike feel confident about using and deploying these new technologies.

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

There are many examples of business applications that are being used today. Some of the leading examples include AR training. Turnover is a big and on-going problem in many industries, and training is a big expense. Instead of sending trainers around the country, new employees can self-train by getting an immersive AR experience that is shown to provide deeper engagement, while employers can monitor the progress of training and update materials remotely. AR training is also being used in the medical industry to provide an immersive way to teach future doctors how to use equipment and perform surgical procedures.

AR navigation and wayfinding is another example. In shopping malls, airports, hospitals, and large office campuses, businesses are using mobile AR navigation to guide consumers, but also enable consumers to access AR content at critical junctures, like when they do self check-in. Guided tours inside entertainment centers and museums is another wonderful application for AR.

Finally, we are seeing that as entire buildings transform digitally, they become a digital canvas for AR advertising, promotions, and brand experiences. Malls, retail stores and entertainment venues are offering consumers AR navigation apps and guides to engage them, while capturing aggregate consumer data inside their buildings that enables them to provide personalized digital advertising.

Advertising led the way in the early days of the internet, creating a revenue model that enabled companies to grow. By transforming a physical building into a digital canvas and embedding that ability to create new digital media units, advertising can provide an important monetization opportunity for property owners.

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

Integrating augmented reality into a shopping, museum, or educational experience, will help increase the individual’s level of engagement. It’s one thing to read an article, see a picture, and watch a video. It’s another thing to actually feel like you are there, within the experience. Mixed Reality opens up the ability to consume content in a whole new way, much more immersive and detailed, and do it remotely as well as just at the right time and place. It will give us even more access globally to gain a richer and deeper understanding of global business, entertainment, and culture.

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

I’m thrilled to see more women going into STEM and staying in STEM. My daughter is at Cornell University, at the College of Engineering, and about 50% of her graduating class are women. Where I’m disappointed is how long it’s taken to see women at the senior management level of technology companies and on the supervisory boards. Once that starts to change, you’ll see a more even playing field for women in the field of technology, up and down the corporate ladder.

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

We are too focused on the Silicon Valley “bro” culture, and not telling the stories of women CEOs and entrepreneurs, and the huge support system and network of women executives that exists in Silicon Valley. While there’s no question that Silicon Valley continues to be male-dominated, the negative narrative discourages women from entering the industry in the first place, which in turn makes them miss out on the incredible opportunities the industry has to offer women as well as men.

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience as a Woman in Tech” and why?

1). Because I was a woman in a male-dominated industry, I overcompensated in my style of work by being tough and never revealing emotions. As a result, I ended up not being myself. When hiring, I also judged others by how tough they were, or seemed to be. That didn’t make me a great leader. It didn’t help me to understand my direct reports. And it caused me to bypass many potential hires who would have been great employees, and who ended up being very successful at other companies. I grew my emotional intelligence later in my career and really value the range of personalities that I have the pleasure of working with.

2). I misjudged how taking a career break to have children would have on my value in the working world. I was convinced I had lost my edge. But it turned out that having children, and running a household, actually made me more competent and more efficient at work in many, many ways. This lesson has three audiences: women themselves, their employers, and policy makers.

The message I want to convey to women is that while the technology industry may seem all-consuming and not compatible with having a family, it does not have to be, and giving yourself the grace to return to the workforce can be incredibly satisfying, and definitely worth trying for. To employers I would say we need to make more effort to create on-ramps for women after they’ve taken a step away to have children, because we don’t want to lose these women from the workforce entirely and the technology industry in particular. Finally, I want to tell U.S. policymakers to take some inspiration from Europe, where parental leave policies, more affordable and accessible childcare, and other business benefits, make it easier for women to come back.

3). Always be learning. By starting my own consulting firm, I had the privilege of working with a wide variety of executives, and technology companies, and venture capitalists in Silicon Valley. I would work with one or two new key clients every six months to two years. That afforded me the ability (and necessity) to pick up new industries on a continuous basis, and helped me stay abreast of a wide swath of technologies. This gave me the confidence and foundational knowledge to tackle the next project and to take on the next client.

4). Having diversity of thought and representation in the workplace, in contrast to a homogeneity echo chamber, is good for business. I’ve worked for many user experience teams for products that were so homogenous that when we actually went to market, it didn’t resonate with actual consumers, who had not been represented in the market research sample. So we had to go back to the drawing board.

5). Have fun! We work long hours in the U.S. It’s part of our business culture. Connection to other humans, and fun, is not ingrained in the work culture. Observing and experiencing other work cultures, such as in Europe, has brought home to me the benefit of taking vacations as a chance to decompress, and the benefits of creating time to socialize with work colleagues during business hours. I now try to make sure that my team is both building in personal down time as well as making time at work to build stronger personal connections. Teams that get to know each other are more empathetic and collaborative, and it makes work more fun.

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

If I could inspire a movement, it would be one focused on creating opportunities and breaking down barriers for upward mobility for a wider swath of people than currently exists in America. I’d like to return the American experience closer to the positive story that both I and my parents experienced. My movement would involve pushing America to deliver on its fundamental promises, as it imagines itself to be at its best. We’ve all heard that the middle class in the U.S. is eroding and that we have bigger disparities than ever between rich and poor. This is not good for our democracy and breeds the discontent that seeds anti-democracy movements.

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 a huge admirer of Hillary Clinton. Her story is a heartbreaking one. It takes us through the period in American history when opportunities for women were opening up in a big way, but climaxes at a moment of peak divisiveness in this country. I would like to thank Hilary, face-to-face, for paving the way for other women, to applaud her for her incredible achievements, in particular those focused on women and children’s issues, as well as for her life’s work in its totality. And I’m sure her story is not over, and that she will continue to contribute, perhaps in a quieter way than before.

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


Wisdom From The Women Leading The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries, With Gloria Gavin Of Resonai was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Meet The Disruptors: Robbie Ferguson Of Immutable On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your…

Meet The Disruptors: Robbie Ferguson Of Immutable On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Radical focus.

A sense of urgency.

Whoever learns fastest wins.

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

Robbie Ferguson is Co-Founder and President at Immutable, the leading layer-2 scaling solution for NFTs on Ethereum. Ferguson spent over a year in Data Analytics and Blockchain with KPMG Australia and is an active member of YPO Sydney Pacific and a Thiel Fellow with The Thiel Foundation. Immutable is currently one of the fastest growing unicorns in Australia with a $2.5 billion valuation and a vision to bring blockchain gaming to the masses.

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

My brother James and I have both been building tech companies together for the majority of the last decade. We also grew up as massive gamers — playing Runescape, Maplestory, Neopets — basically anything with an economy growing up. After a couple of startups we built together building a self-wagering application for League of Legends, and a machine-learning Shopify competitor which automatically optimized your store, we came across Bitcoin in 2014 and Ethereum in 2015. We were instantly obsessed with Ethereum and the possibilities that could be built from it.

We built crypto trading/arbitrage bots for a couple of years while we were studying at university, but when we saw CryptoPunks come out in mid 2017 — we realised we had to jump on the possibilities this technology unlocked, as essentially the first ever NFT. Although it was purely experimental, we saw this as the first real opportunity to build a meaningful mainstream use-case with crypto technology: using NFTs to allow players to truly own and trade their in-game items. We built the first ever multiplayer game on a blockchain — Etherbots — in December 2017. The entire game was on-chain, and playing a game today will cost you thousands in gas fees — it was completely decentralized and extremely inefficient. We learned a lot early-on about the right balances to strike in terms of what should be tokenized in a game (assets and core economic logic) versus what shouldn’t.

We were extremely interested in building NFT infrastructure, but back then no game developers had heard of — or knew what NFTs could do. We decided to build a flagship piece of content which could showcase the value of NFTs — Gods Unchained. This was a trading card game where you can own and trade your digital cards like you can physical Magic: The Gathering or Pokemon cards. Gods Unchained was and still is a very successful game built on Ethereum, but at its inception the technology supporting it was far from robust and we ran into scaling and liquidity limitations that impacted the user experience. So instead of asking how do we build a better game, we asked how do we build a better platform to support our games?

In the same way Valve created CS:GO and leveraged that marketplace into Steam, we knew we had to make a hit game that showcased the power of web3 for game developers to build a platform which would truly solve for their needs.

We’d experienced the problems with scaling on layer-1 Ethereum and the insane complexity and risk of smart contract development first-hand, and decided to build a platform that was secure, scalable and ridiculously easy to use to enable any game developer to build a web3 game. We made an early bet on roll-ups — now well established as the number one way for blockchain’s to scale — and went all in with ZKsync for support, and soon Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin went public saying these would be end-game for applications built on ETH.

Today, we are proud to have built the first multiplayer game on blockchain, the first layer2 solution for NFTs and to be the first to introduce Zk-rollups for NFTs.

We’ve also launched three tokens, set up our company the right way to last the test of time in a fast-growing industry, and have garnered interest from the likes of Tik Tok, Disney, GameStop and others. We’ve kept our mission and vision clear from day one — we’re a sustainable company with zero rug pulls and a dream to transform the gaming industry. At Immutable, we are bringing strength and scalability to the sector, and we’ve really only just begun.

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

Immutable is transforming the video game industry. Never have players had the opportunity to be more autonomous, more economical and more permission less in this space thanks to play-and-earn, in-game NFTs. Play-and-earn is about making games that are fundamentally fun to play, and having true digital ownership as the underlying technology that empowers players — which is the whole reason for playing. If you have to sell the technology, rather than the value to players, you haven’t built a game with an economy — you’ve built a gamified economy.

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

It’s hard to pinpoint just one mistake when we were first starting out, but I’d definitely stay putting all of our game’s logic on-chain, and having that cost around $5–6,000 per turn was an interesting first foray into web3 gaming. We realized pretty quickly what should belong on-chain vs. not. The industry is quite technical so bumps in the road like this, especially when first starting out, were not uncommon.

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?

One of my mentors has definitely been James, my brother and Immutable’s CEO and Co-founder. Since we grew up together we’ve always been driving and motivating each other, even from the earlier days. He’s not just a great mentor but an excellent accountability coach and someone I can trust and lean on. Something we specifically do to support one another is recommend books to each other to consistently push for self improvement and personal growth. I’m also a big fan of the Collison brothers, the founders of Stripe. Their story is super admirable.

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?

Good disruption inspires meaningful, cutting-edge change in some of the largest industries and companies. Challenging the status quo is critical to the evolution of our existence — if we’re not questioning everything and trying to make it better, we’re not growing as a society. Right now, traditional gaming as we know it is a staple for so many but the industry as a whole has experienced relative growth. With blockchain gaming, we’re disrupting web2 juggernauts with an idea that incentivizes gameplay and transforms the way players conceive the value of digital items and ownership.

Disruption can go too far when it’s not inclusive of traditional concepts and ideas. At Immutable, we’re not trying to diminish the long-established way to game. We’re introducing new, innovative and evolved ways to play by promoting earning and ownership. Adoption will be slow and there will be resistance (as there is with any disruption) but our end goal is to improve our industry, not disturb existing pillars of the space, to create a better gaming experience for all stakeholders — gaming companies, developers and players.

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

Instead of five words of advice, I have three core values that I tend to manage my day-to-day by.

  • Radical focus.
  • A sense of urgency.
  • Whoever learns fastest wins.

While working in a fast-paced environment I like to keep these three values in the back of my mind to stay on the top of my game.

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

Our long-term vision is to bring blockchain gaming mainstream and make play-and-earn universal in the gaming space. We’re bringing blockchain gaming to the masses and welcoming both web3 and traditional gamers to join the fun — Immutable is on track for rapid global expansion, and with that we’re hiring some of the top gaming talent from around the world to generate next-level user experience.

The metaverse will be built by gamers, for gamers and will no longer be something players conceptualize. Play-and-earn is a real, tangible experience and as more players get a taste of what’s possible with this new era of gaming, web3 adoption will be in full swing.

And with that, we’d definitely advise watching this space — we have tons of integrations, partnerships, collaborations and more with well-known companies lined up for the year ahead.

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’m a big fan of the book The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership by Jim Dethmer, Kaley Klemp and Diana Chapman. My brother James and I were best friends growing up, and building a global business put huge strain on our relationship at times. This book helped us create the frameworks of communication needed to have hard conversations compassionately — and we scaled these lessons learned to the entire Immutable organization. It’s a big part of the reason we have the culture we have today. The “above the line / below the line” from the book model is standard practice for us and instills a high degree of self-awareness in our leadership qualities.

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

American tech entrepreneur Justin Waldron gave my brother and James and I some sound words of wisdom a couple of years back that still really resonates with the two of us as we move forward on our journey — “a sense of urgency.” James and I are constantly learning and growing in this ever-evolving space. We’re passionate about Immutable’s next-level growth and the only way to excel here is to adapt, to absorb and to anticipate change. We love learning new things and we do it quickly because that’s the greatest recipe for success.

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

Immutable is our movement — we’re on a journey to build world-class web3 games with zero technical limitations. On this path we plan to embrace the full effect of NFTs, including demanding real property rights from your in-game items from game developers. Ownership is extremely important to us (and to the web3 mission and vision) and Immutable is a strong component in pushing this forward.

How can our readers follow you online?

Check out Immutable’s Twitter, Linkedin, Telegram, Medium.

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


Meet The Disruptors: Robbie Ferguson Of Immutable 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: Neal Desai Of Kafene On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Pay yourself well. Your time is the most valuable commodity. Of course the bottom-line matters, but your time is even more important. You need to be all-in to be a successful founder, so make sure your compensation is sustainable for you, and then roll up your sleeves with one less worry on your mind. At the beginning, I tried to cut corners here too much with myself. This should never be an issue so try and get it right from the get-go.

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

Neal Desai is the CEO and Co-Founder of Kafene, a one-stop-shop point-of-sale payment partner and underwriting technology platform that helps merchants offer flexible lease-to-own (LTO) purchase options for prime and nonprime consumers.

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 the United States from India shortly before I was born, and we lived in Atlantic City, New Jersey for the first few years of my life before settling in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, an idyllic, quaint suburb of Philadelphia. I was a pretty carefree kid who spent most of my time outside of school riding bicycles and swimming, but I took academics seriously. Over time, I developed a real love for science and math to a point where I competed at the state and national level.

When I attended Princeton as an undergrad, it was somewhat of a culture shock at first because I was from a community that was small and insular, while Princeton (both the college and the city) felt much larger, more diverse, and far more open. There was an initial adjustment, but I grew to love what the wider world could offer. I’ve been a city dweller ever since and I’m happy to be raising a family in New York City with both of my children in school here.

My time at Princeton also helped progress my interest in math toward game theory and statistics, which helped me land a job as a derivatives trader on Wall Street after I graduated. I did that for a decade, got the entrepreneurial bug, received my MBA and joined a small specialty lending startup as an early employee. The company grew and I rose to CFO. A few years ago I struck out on my own.

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

I tend to live by a couple of quotes, one for work, and one for my personal life — neither of which I can actually attribute to a specific person, but each of which resonates with me.

Professionally, I believe you must always “put yourself in a position where lightning can strike”. Or, in other words, you need to work to put yourself in a position where you can get lucky. You have a better chance of being in the right place at the right time if you make a habit of being in the right place. Whether your goal is meeting the right co-founder, generating outsized economic return — or something entirely different — you should always be asking yourself what the best possible outcome could be in your current job or position. With some planning and a few breaks, it just might happen.

Personally, my favorite saying is “You can’t eat risk-adjusted return”. The meaning of this is that if you only take the risks you are sure to win, you won’t have enough reward at the end of the day to put dinner on the table because the opportunity set is too small and too limiting. As an avid student of game theory, I don’t believe in taking every risk, but I know that success doesn’t happen without risks being taken so in all walks of life, I make sure I don’t get in my own way.

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

The most impactful book I’ve read is “Predictably Irrational” by psychologist and behavioral economist Dan Ariely. It’s about how people think, and it really changed my perspective on how I understood myself as well as other people. The book challenged the idea that people think and behave rationally. Instead, it said that people are actually irrational but predictable. Everyone carries a great deal of inherent biases around with them each and every day — some of them are relatively intuitive but others are literally baffling and even comical at times. We act against our own self-interests all the time without realizing it. What it taught me is that even when I’m positive I’m right about something, I might not be — and it’s important to be very open-minded because of how imperfect our thoughts can be.

A film I also found impactful was “Meet Joe Black”. I appreciated the concept that Anthony Hopkins’ character was chosen to be a shining example of a life well-lived. Despite clear flaws, it was evident in watching the movie that William Parrish (Hopkins’ character) was ultimately motivated by caring for his children, building his company, and being uncompromising in his values. Money wasn’t really part of his compass, which was refreshing.

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?

My advice to any aspiring entrepreneur is that it’s not always necessary to “think big”. Sometimes, the demand that thinking big forces us to place on ourselves actually results in perfectly viable ideas being overlooked and opportunities missed. It can be stifling.

There are plenty of age-old industries that remain highly fragmented and inefficient. Maybe your “idea” isn’t really a new product, but more of a fresh approach to and old problem that hasn’t ever been solved in an efficient way. That’s perfectly okay, so long as you understand the competition and how you’ll be acquiring customers.

At the idea phase, whenever possible, I’d recommend soliciting feedback from investors — maybe those who do seed investing, or even VCs who might chat with you informally. Investors have worked with so many people and companies who have faced the same questions on how to go from idea to business. More often than not, they can help you draw up an informal plan of action over lunch and they might be able to connect you with experts in your field that they’ve run into along the way. This can be extremely helpful because it often takes a village.

Lastly, a big reason startup founders tend to be younger is because becoming a founder is inherently high-risk. Once you have a mortgage and a family, it’s harder to take big risks. Timing life with your career and your ideas can be elusive. If you think you have a good idea and life seems like it’s at a good point, act. The world moves quickly and you never know how long your window will last.

I acted later than most, and it was harder to do. But it’s been deeply satisfying and I never knew how happy it would make me. That’s had positive spillover effects in all facets of my life.

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

Don’t worry so much about whether someone has already created your idea. Google created a business based on a search engine and it wasn’t the first to do so. It simply executed better than the rest and it figured out how to create a search experience that was easy and convenient for people. Facebook also was by no means the first popular social network — nor did it have a meaningful monetization model for its first few years.

Most often, you’ll find something that pretty closely resembles to your idea that’s already out there. Chances are that said company hasn’t executed well enough to corner the market. It could be a function of the business model, the founders, or something entirely different.

Stick to it and keep looking into whether what you’re offering would be the best option for customers. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. The best businesses are often not the ones that reach an idea first, but the ones who follow and figure out how to do things a little bit better.

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 aren’t a company that happens to hold patents but I think the most important thing broadly for companies that manufacture, offer services, etc. is to find a champion (or two) who is likely a potential early customer who is willing to suffer with you while you iterate. This can take a while sometimes, so It’s totally okay to pay this customer, because you need real feedback and you need to know when it’s time to go to market versus when it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

Let this customer see and interact with early prototypes. They will be your early MVP. For us, as a company in the financing space, there are elements of the journey that were significantly different from those of a manufacturing company, but at a high level, I’d strongly support the idea of having potential customers be part of the process early on.

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

The first thing I would recommend to anyone considering becoming a founder is to make sure there’s full buy-in from your family because if you think it’ll be an emotional roller-coaster for you, it’s probably even more so for them. I did do this, but I didn’t realize how important it was until the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The company was just a few months old at the time, and we’d just rolled out a beta of our product. We quickly went into hibernation of sorts for a few months, and it was unclear to me whether we would survive. As a CEO and founder, I knew there were eyes on me, and my family got me through that time.

Next, pay yourself well. Your time is the most valuable commodity. Of course the bottom-line matters, but your time is even more important. You need to be all-in to be a successful founder, so make sure your compensation is sustainable for you, and then roll up your sleeves with one less worry on your mind. At the beginning, I tried to cut corners here too much with myself. This should never be an issue so try and get it right from the get-go.

Third, don’t layer in any infrastructure ahead of scale. I had been CFO at a 125-person company so I spent too much time early on thinking about what infrastructure I’d be building and when because that’s what was familiar to me. What I found was that it put too much pressure on me to drive volume and that is another area I course-corrected quickly because we needed to be patient with the product to make sure it was ready.

Fourth, when scale does start to come along, make sure to begin to delegate hiring as much as possible. Founders will always be involved in hiring somewhat, but it shouldn’t be taking half your time. I’m someone who is always thinking through productivity hacks and I realized that I was spending too much time on hiring. I’d recommend turning to someone who can focus full-time on hiring once your organization reaches five people.

Lastly, spend your time doing and thinking about only the things that the CEO can do. There have always been times in my career when I’ve tried to do it all, but as founder there is so much that it’s necessary to delegate in order to see real success. Spend real time thinking about how to deal with important — and sometimes existential — tasks that must be done but aren’t urgent. All too often, we tend to let these things slip just because there’s not a deadline associated with them, and the only things we get done are whatever is urgent. These are two separate buckets and they’re both equally important.

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 thing you need to do is to assess what demand might look like for your product. Do you have at least a small group of people who would likely use your product initially and then tell their friends? Having a core audience — however small — to work off of initially and solicit feedback from is important. If you don’t have this, you may want to keep tinkering.

If you’re trying to determine whether you have this, consider paying to conduct surveys for market research. If you already have a prototype and you’re trying to figure out pricing and business model, A/B tests using Facebook and Google, routing potential customers to websites you’ve created can be extremely helpful and informative. You could also run a Kickstarter campaign, although the risk is that you alert your potential competition of your presence and give them a head-start.

If demand looks good, then it’s time to build and determine how much seed funding that might require — either from you or from friends and family. Stay patient. Things will remain lean throughout those first few hires and there will be plenty of existential seeming moments.

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

Personally, I think running a company is extremely rewarding but it’s not easy. I would say that if you have an idea, you should just go for it. If you need a consultant on day 1, I’m not sure you’re going to be able to run a company.

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

Bootstrapping may potentially inhibit your growth as well as your diversity of thought, but at the same time, it leaves founders with full equity and control of a company and some founders certainly prefer that.

I chose to go with venture capital. The expertise that a good VC can bring to the table, not just operationally but in terms of Rolodex, I think is well worth it. I’m trying to build a very large company that becomes the go-to option for point-of-sale financing for all merchants. We have well-funded competition. I saw VC as a force multiplier in everything I was looking to do and I view them as thought partners that I’m happy to have on my side.

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

I consider myself to be early in my journey still as a founder, but I think creating and nurturing a thriving business that puts workplace and people at the center of everything is where I want to leave my mark. I want there to be more instances of this and if I can add one proof of concept to the conversation, I’ll be thrilled.

I tend to agree with those who say that America has an unhealthy relationship with work within the greater context of life. I want my teams to be collaborating, listening to one another, and executing seamlessly. I think doing that requires creativity and clarity of thought that comes with a full night’s sleep as well as satisfaction and intellectual stimulation from the job itself.

I hear these discussed as buzzwords all the time, but the Great Resignation was evidence that there’s more to be desired and workplace is an area I’ve been hyper-focused on investing in and focusing on in the early stages, knowing that the culture established in the early going can often be enduring. I’m very proud of what we have today and as our company grows, our sustainable workplace will create a positive legacy.

Additionally, looking outward from our own workplace and to the people we serve, what we’ve built serves a wider purpose. We help an underbanked and overlooked segment of people that’s far bigger than many people realize, and we get them access to what they need in an affordable and debt-free way. I’m proud of that and I think we have a lot of room to run.

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 want people to see their full potential and realize that they can shoot their shot and try and build more things. I want those close to me to see that they, too can be entrepreneurs. I am unique in that I made a mid-career switch from trading to becoming a founder, but it’s because I saw that I could make a greater impact. I think there are many people like me who instead settle for careers that don’t allow them to fulfill their potential and that don’t do much more than supply a steady paycheck.

I want to show that it’s never too late — go take capital, add your sweat equity, and make sure that 1+1=3. It’s hard work, but it’s not as scary as it seems. You sometimes have to try things out, trust that you’ll rise to the occasion, and see where things lead.

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.

As someone who takes academics very seriously, I have been so impressed with Success Academy Charter Schools and its founder and CEO Eva Moskowitz. She is truly uncompromising in her ideals and in the process has scaled a phenomenal model as a business. She’s proven that anyone can learn anything at the highest level if properly resourced. Both of my children are enrolled at Success Academy and they are years ahead of where I was in math, and I competed at a very high level in that area. Not a day goes by that I’m not blown away by how they’re learning.

I’m someone who wants to see more people learn to build, and Eva Moskowitz is the best I’ve seen at educating people so that they’re able to build. She’s someone I’d love to meet.

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


Making Something From Nothing: Neal Desai Of Kafene 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.

Agile Businesses: Roman Stikkelorum Of Verve Agency On How Businesses Pivot and Stay Relevant In…

Agile Businesses: Roman Stikkelorum Of Verve Agency On How Businesses Pivot and Stay Relevant In The Face of Disruptive Technologies

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Watch, talk and learn: You’re not the first company that encounters disruptive challenges. There are a lot of existing playbooks, methodologies and people around that have been in your shoes. You might be able to adopt certain methodologies that have worked in another company, and reaching out on LinkedIn for a quick call is easier than ever. Expand your network and share amongst each other.

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

Roman Stikkelorum is co-founder and managing director at Verve Agency. With a solid brand story foundation, Verve builds outspoken visual identities and digital platforms that convert clients into loyal fans. The branding agency has made their mark in the industry by turning ambitious unicorns like Miro and leading organizations like Juni, Tuum and Dutch Design Week into love marks.

With a background in design, Roman addresses complex issues using the design thinking method, which means starting from an overarching vision to create positive online and offline experiences. Working from the inside out, he builds strong brands, brand strategies and online strategies that result in value, growth and impact.

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

My name is Roman Stikkelorum, I’m one of the three founders of Verve. Verve is a digital branding agency, founded after the shared insight that Dutch Design could play a big role in branding the digital world. I started at the Royal Academy of Arts in The Hague, where my companions Rindor Golverdingen and Michael Danker and I grew into self-taught entrepreneurs and managers. We moved from designing and selling t-shirts and events, towards more and more digital products. Now, we’re fully focused on digital branding projects for fast-growing companies all around the world.

Within my role as managing director, I’m always looking for the opportunities to learn more and it brings me joy to seeing my team develop and grow within our journey to becoming “The #1 Digital Branding Agency in the World.”

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

Every mistake is a learning opportunity. Although that sounds like a cliché, we’ve always looked at the bright side of things and pivoted when necessary. We’re grounded in this Pippi Longstocking-mentality: the belief that if we’ve never done it, we definitely can do it. This belief has always brought us further, rethinking situations and changing directions without losing track of our core. That’s why a lot of decisions we make do not really feel like mistakes. We’ve always fought our way through it. With success.

In hindsight, some might consider our name a funny mistake. Around 2007 when we founded our agency, it was a trend to name your company as a funny, weird word. We chose Vruchtvlees (literal translation: pulp). We liked it, because there’s a duality in it. It sounded weird, hence the reason people always remembered it. However, once we started growing and doing bigger assignments, we always had to explain what we do and why we were named as such. We started adding a descriptor to it to make it even clearer.

At the same time, we welcomed more and more international clients, attended conferences, won awards and every time we had to pronounce our name multiple times and then people thought “whatever”. The Dutch word with the hard “G” is very hard to pronounce and to remember if you’re not Dutch. Although the name brought us a lot of recognition and appraisal within the design field, it was only when we rebranded to Verve that everything really took off.

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?

We have encountered multiple clients that gave us an enormous amount of trust.

One of them is Irma Benliyan, former project lead of the online Literature Museum. She dared to invest in a huge project, when we were still a small agency at the time. She believed that we could build that ambitious project, even though we had never done it before. Irma chose to be highly involved in the process and to offer the right feedback, direction and guidance. With her mentality, mindset and vision, this project became a huge success. Her approach also taught me a lot about collaboration. You have to give full confidence to your team, but also roll up your sleeves and continue to direct and give feedback.

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

The goal has always been to bring digital and branding closer together. We like to bring strong brands to the internet. Even though we’re now 15 years in and the world has changed a lot, our purpose remains the same. We see potential in organizations, people and the world and we aim to realize that to its fullest potential. We have been holding on to our values ever since the start: to sense, to challenge and to simply love what we do. This has been our strong suit from the start. And even though we’re no longer just the three of us, this DNA and shared mission is what brings the team together.

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

At Verve, we turn good brands into great ones. We create brand strategies, visual identities and digital platforms that stand out in a sea of sameness. We like to work for rapid-growing brands that make us enthusiastic and challenge us as a team. We see these branding exercises as real collaboration with in-house teams, so we can offer a valuable addition.

Within our work, the common denominator is optimism and positivity. In this day and age, brands have a lot of influence in building the world of tomorrow. To make that happen, they have to become lovemarks and expand their reach. In this way we hope to make the world around us more fun and beautiful.

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

I think we’ve all experienced a huge shift in how we work. Even before the pandemic hit, our profession as branding specialists was about to change. The ability to co-create remotely within tools like Miro, Figma and Zoom did not only make our processes much more efficient, but also changed the nature of our profession. This has helped to create more agile brand identity systems and motion-driven identities. But it has also opened up the world as our playing field. It’s now easier than ever to collaborate with the best people across the world. Before, we were stuck sending over Adobe Illustrator files, keynote templates and numbers of emails back and forth, now we can actually collaborate on everything at the same time.

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

We embraced the opportunities and took a big leap with our proposition. We changed our name from the unpronounceable Vruchtvlees to Verve and decided to shift our positioning from being a local player to one with a more international perspective. We started hiring a more international team, streamlined our marketing assets and target persona and branded ourselves as the go-to branding agency for rapidly growing companies. Our working methods were already grounded with digital tools, so to move fully digital felt like a natural evolution for us.

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

There have been a number of moments when we have come to realize that changing our name and positioning was the best way forward. The real “Aha moment” came when we won the rebranding pitch for online whiteboarding tool Miro. Being a company focused on global and online collaboration, we got our first taste for a full remote rebranding project within an international context. With an ambitious timeline, a tight-knit collaboration with the client and working across timezones, we felt like a fish in the water.

The launch, trust of the client and quality of work, sparked a lot of enthusiasm and pride across the team, and we realized we wanted to do these kinds of projects more often. We immediately knew that to make that happen, we had to rethink our positioning and our name.

So, how are things going with this new direction?
It’s going even better than we could ever have imagined! The Miro rebranding might have kicked off our new direction, but the real growth potential happened after our own rebranding. We’ve found better ways to pitch our vision, and have found our niche in rapid growing, business-to-business focused companies that are looking for outspoken and creative brand strategies and identities.

We’re now in the fortunate position that we are getting more requests than we can handle, so we have the luxury to choose who we’re going to work for, which is an amazing position to be in.

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

We were often seen as the underdog that had a shot with the Miro rebrand. After the rename, we no longer had to prove our vision and the Miro rebrand opened even more doors. Now we’re talking to C-level executives that already see the importance of branding. We can really tie together product, business and brand as one holistic entity. We’re involved early on, in a pivot phase for these rapid-growing businesses and that translates into real partnerships.

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

For us, it has always been very important to involve the team with big company decisions. Because our purpose has always been clear from the start — become “The #1 Digital Branding Agency in the World” — we figure out the best way to get to Z along the way. We know our way from A to B, and we know where Z is. But all the small steps in between are still to be considered.

We share our goals, wins and challenges every quarter, and include a cross-section of the team in crucial business decisions. What we’ve learned, mostly during the Covid-crisis and working from home, is that being vulnerable and acknowledging current challenges is the best way to move forward as a leader in a disruptive period.

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

We always aim to take our team on a journey. They are important players in reaching our business goals, and realizing our mission. At the moment, one of our biggest challenges is expanding our team. We ask a lot from the team, and we acknowledge that this is one of the growing pains in our growth journey. What works for us, is a general stand-up every Monday to share the current status of the company including the wins and challenges of that week. Every quarter, we invite every unit (strategy, design, digital design and development), to showcase a success story. We do a lot that we can be really proud of, but in this transition period — and working from home — we too often take it for granted. Working hard is good, but having fun as a team is just as important.

To boost morale, we have introduced a party commission and given them a budget to celebrate small and big events within the company. We never really know what to expect, but they’ve been introducing small gestures with big impact. On Valentine’s Day, they gave out small compliments to the entire team, during Easter a spontaneous egg hunt took place and an airhorn can catch us by surprise when we’ve achieved a personal or professional win.

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

Communication is key! Always be sincere and honest with your team to ensure everyone knows how things are going. By regularly sharing information about the current state of business, everyone stays involved. Transparency is super important, both in good and bad times. And don’t forget to celebrate the small wins!

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

What’s interesting about our work is that companies come to us when they’re on a pivoting moment of their business journey. What we’ve encountered are the following three things:

1. Jump on every opportunity
Before businesses take a step back and look at their core business, they tend to jump on every business or marketing opportunity. This does not only confuse the team, but also their customers. Make sure to streamline efforts and rethink what fits your core DNA best, before jumping on every opportunity. How will it benefit your brand? How much time will you spend in overhead to make it happen?

2. Not involving the team
Don’t just stay in the C-suite, take your team along the way. Acknowledge the challenges and be open. And who knows, your team might surprise you with out-of- the-box solutions that will actually solve and shift focus to what’s really the main issue.

3. Don’t be afraid when people leave
You might lose some of the team members along the way. If they don’t fit the vision or lack the belief in the new direction, thank them and say goodbye. You don’t need people holding you back or longing for the good old days. Maybe their time has come to leave and the best way to do that is to support their decisions and stick to your vision.

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

1. Work in shorter time frames: When things are changing rapidly, check up on your team. We use daily stand-ups to wrap our heads around impediments rapidly, do motivational Monday status updates of the company and the direction we’re moving towards. We’ve also moved from year plans to quarterly plans. Our audacious goal is still clear, but we’re taking smaller steps to get there, one focal point at a time.

2. Keep an open mind: There’s this saying that in rapid-growing companies, you can expect your role to change every six months. The league you’re working in is changing, your team is growing rapidly and so are the expectations of your clients. What used to be normal, can be completely out of date within a few weeks or months. When we first started out, we as a management team were involved on many different levels. Now that we’re growing, we have to let go of certain tasks and specialize more in our roles. This allows us to grow and become stronger leaders.

3. Iterate, iterate, iterate: What you think might be the best solution, might not actually work. Iterate on your first ideas, fail, adjust and win harder. When you’re working in shorter time frames, it allows you to quickly adapt to specific situations. At Verve, we’re really focused on improving our processes. Every project is a learning opportunity and we adjust our processes every time and every time we improve, test and learn.

4. Watch, talk and learn: You’re not the first company that encounters disruptive challenges. There are a lot of existing playbooks, methodologies and people around that have been in your shoes. You might be able to adopt certain methodologies that have worked in another company, and reaching out on LinkedIn for a quick call is easier than ever. Expand your network and share amongst each other.

5. Keep an eye on your BHAG: Whatever you do, do not lose track of your “big hairy audacious goal”. It takes courage to get there, you have to keep your vision alive for yourself, but also for your team. So whenever we’re faced with specific challenges, we keep our eyes on the price of becoming “The #1 Digital Branding Agency in the World”. All new things we have to solve are always presented within that context whether they are positive or negative.

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

At Verve, we always liked the idea of “It’s not how good you are, it’s how good you want to be” which is a famous quote by Paul Arden, creative director of Saatchi and Saatchi. By setting ambitious goals and projecting yourself always one step ahead, I’ve learned that you can actually bring those ambitions to life if you set your mind to it. This has helped me, but also the team to reach higher goals I couldn’t have dreamt of a few years ago.

How can our readers further follow your work?

If you’d like to hear more about our vision on branding, you can follow Verve on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/company/vervetheagency/) and Instagram (instagram.com/vervetheagency), or head to verveagency.com.

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


Agile Businesses: Roman Stikkelorum Of Verve Agency On How Businesses Pivot and Stay Relevant In… 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: Tasso Argyros Of ActionIQ On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up…

The Future Is Now: Tasso Argyros Of ActionIQ On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Trust your instincts. When I feel something is wrong, it usually is. Early in my career I waited too long before I would do something, because I wanted to be certain something or someone is a problem. Not anymore.

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

Tasso Argyros is the Founder and CEO of ActionIQ. Tasso left the Stanford PhD program to start Aster Data, which was acquired by Teradata for $325M. At Teradata, he continued to solve big data problems for Fortune 500 enterprises. Tasso’s passion for empowering business users led him to start ActionIQ, with the mission of bridging the gap between data & action.

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

My father is a Professor of Mathematics, and since college I have been searching for ways to use Mathematics to make an impact in the world. Turns out it takes a lot of math to do proper data work, and that was the answer I was looking for. So, I became obsessed with data, and the systems we use to capture, manage and analyze it. The beauty of data is that you can abstract it and then use mathematics to extract knowledge and information from it. Customer data has its own opportunities and challenges, and we are just getting started in terms of figuring out how to make the most out of it.

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

I am not sure about the most interesting, but I can tell you that the most rewarding is when a customer that has made a bet on our company and product, generates so much success for their company that they are promoted, largely because they selected ActionIQ.

And similarly, when old employees of mine become experts in their field under my watch, or even become entrepreneurs themselves. My job is to build great products but at the end of the day it’s all about the people.

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

The world is changing fast — third-party cookies that marketers have come to rely on are going away, both consumers and regulatory bodies are driving increased privacy and security protections, while consumers and B2B customers are becoming more hesitant to spend money in the face of economic downturn and instability.

To survive, enterprise brands must focus on their existing customers — one of their biggest assets and a big challenge. They must undergo a customer experience (CX) transformation — to place a strategic focus on CX and ensure their CX systems and processes can unify all the brand’s customer data, democratize intelligence and orchestrate personalized customer experiences at scale and across all channels. Moreover, companies need to be flexible and agile in meeting their customers’ needs.

Not an easy task, given that there are more than 10,000 martech solutions alone. With this many solutions, the capability gap to meet the CX requirements is closed. The biggest challenge now is closing the agility gap — automating and scaling data-intensive processes across teams, channels and use cases. Governing them, maintaining them, seamlessly adapting those processes to remove inefficiencies, gain speed and capture the fleeting revenue opportunities.

The core of the CX stack — the axis that all operations revolve around — is what we call the CX Hub. ActionIQ is the only CX Hub powered by a CDP that leverages all customer data, actions on the intelligence insights and orchestrates powerful experiences to operate at the speed and scale demanded by the enterprise. The result? A single user-friendly solution that delivers the performance, agility, and actionability not possible with channel-centric solutions or legacy marketing clouds.

The AIQ CX Hub empowers organizations to leverage the solutions flexibly and securely they need to power personalized customer experiences at scale. Our solution offers the best of both worlds, with technology teams able to retain control of the data and governance, while business users can securely access the customer data, they need to become more independent, data-driven and effective in orchestrating both real-time experiences and omnichannel customer journeys for the right audiences.

This is a huge breakthrough for enterprise brands in an environment where personalized experiences are a key differentiating factor.

How do you think this might change the world?

Our mission is to help make every customer interaction useful, engaging and fun. This can lead to better day-to-day experience for hundreds of millions of people that are touched by our enterprise customers. What builds brand loyalty and increases CLTV is CX.

Even before the current business downturn many companies realized that they had to offer impactful, personalized experiences to their customers if they were to retain them and increase customer lifetime value (CLTV, a key metric of driving revenue and profits). This is what will help future-proof these enterprises and help them stand out from their competition.

CX transformation is no longer a luxury — it’s a business imperative, and what will separate winners and laggards is how effectively they can close the agility gap in delivering personalized, differentiated customer experiences at scale.

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

Customer experiences depend on the quality of customer data, and with third-party cookies going away, that means brands must have a solid first-party data strategy in order to create personalized experiences at scale. There has to be a solid underpinning ensuring data security and privacy. ActionIQ has a long-standing commitment to privacy and security — safeguarding our clients’ data is our top priority as an enterprise Customer Data Platform and something we will never compromise on as we move forward as a CX Hub.

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

Before ActinoIQ, I was the founder of a database company that was sold to a Data Warehouse leader, Teradata. At Teradata I observed how many big enterprises had massive amounts of customer data in their data warehouses — and today, in their data lakes — but the business was struggling to extract business value from it. I figured that customer data getting locked up in data systems is a huge opportunity and decided to start ActionIQ to help the business to do more with customer data.

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

More and more enterprise brands are realizing the need to deliver what their customers are demanding — personalized, consistent CX. However, this is a crowded market, which leads to buyer confusion — I mentioned that there are more than 10,000 martech solutions alone out there. This is an opportunity for ActionIQ, where we can help bring order to the CX chaos by pulling together fragmented customer insights and putting impactful customer experiences in motion, while helping brands make every team member a CX champion. AIQ CX Hub is the axis that the CX martech stack revolves around.

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

We have a three-prong marketing strategy:

  1. Letting our customers speak for us on why CX is a key business imperative and tell their transformation stories,
  2. We continue to educate the market on the different approaches to orchestrating personalized CX at scale and which use cases ActionIQ is best at supporting, and
  3. Being a thought leader in the market. For instance, we recently published our first annual CX IQ Index — primary research on the state of customer experience from both the business and consumer perspectives. Interestingly, we found a significant disconnect — a gap of 38% — between how highly businesses grade themselves on their customer experience versus the real scores from customers.

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

I credit my father for helping me discover a love for science, mathematics and computers. My advisor at Stanford, David Cheriton, a brilliant Professor who also happens to be the first investor in Google, taught me the principles of building great software and instilled in me a passion for applying science to solve real-world problems. When I was considering starting my first company, I asked him if I should do both my PhD and the startup. His response was that doing both would be fun, however “the problem with doing two things is that I would be competing with people doing only one”. He has a great way of thinking about the world.

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

I like to think of my impact in the world is primarily through my employees and my customers. Both are groups of people that I feel both grateful for working with me and responsible for helping them succeed. On the employee side, we think a lot about training & development, having an inclusive culture, diversity in the workplace and in general creating an environment where our employees can thrive. On the customer side, I strive to create a customer-first organization, putting the success of our customers above all other business objectives.

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

  1. Be direct. Helps build trust and saves a huge amount of time for everyone.
  2. Startups are marathons, not sprints. You can push your team to work nights and weekends and that’s great when you are running a sprint. But what wins marathons is a fast, steady pace that you can maintain for a long time.
  3. Trust your instincts. When I feel something is wrong, it usually is. Early in my career I waited too long before I would do something, because I wanted to be certain something or someone is a problem. Not anymore.
  4. Operate on principle. If something has to do with a principle — e.g., the value of inclusion in our workplace — then you have to go ahead and do the right thing. Don’t try to justify it or think of the negative implications, if there are any; doing the right thing works out in the long run 10/10 times.
  5. The value of Why. Your team will go very far to achieve a goal if they understand why they are doing it, and why it’s worthwhile. Leaders can be a lot more effective talking about the why vs the what or the how.

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 wish all of us could adopt a more sustainable lifestyle. Buying fewer things (but of higher quality that last longer), using more natural, sustainable materials and getting rid of plastics, getting rid of pollution in cities and around the world. People talk about climate change, which is important, but overconsumption and pollution are equally bad. This movement exists but we need to build a lot more momentum to make a meaningful difference for the world our children will live in.

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

“Don’t confuse luck with skills”. For example, most people want to hire employees from the most successful companies, which at some level makes sense. But I also love hiring people that did just okay but in a highly adverse or challenging environment — whether on the personal or business domain — because they had to go above and beyond to overcome that adversity and achieve even modest success. And these people, placed in an environment with more potential, can truly excel. On the other hand, some folks find themselves in the right place at the right time and become very successful with little skill or effort, and these people will likely struggle to repeat that success. Telling the two apart is difficult but indeed critical.

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

The Customer Experience stack is being reborn, and ActionIQ has what is perhaps the most valuable role in the new world order. We have phenomenal customer retention (very proud of that), very fast revenue growth but above all a highly differentiated product in a massive, exploding market.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

LinkedIn — https://www.linkedin.com/in/tasso/

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


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

Grace Francis Of WONGDOODY: How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

You can read endless consulting reports on talent acquisition and retention, but the most human story I can tell you is that when I was interviewing with my current company and saw an Asian-American surname above the door, I knew this was a place that encouraged people to embrace their identities and that I would be able to do the same. I was right.

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

Grace Francis is the Global Chief Creative and Design Officer of WONGDOODY, a creative agency with 21 offices around the world, each obsessed with designing for the human experience. Their personal mission is to bring more meaningful creative work into the world and not add to the noise.

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

I started off in tech, dot com bubble darlings working out how to bring soul to the early days of the internet when it felt like the whole world lived on the same six websites. Since then, I’ve always loved taking roles where we need to write the rule book ourselves, working things out along the way. You can only do that with people who are interested in collaborating.

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

I remember joining a new company and watching a leader open a question to the room. Regardless of specialism or seniority, people were comfortable giving opinions, sharing ideas and taking risks. Each time someone said something that resonated he lifted them up and shared exactly why he liked the idea. A month later, a different leader sat in the same room with the same group and no one spoke. A leader always sets the tone.

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

I grew up in a house where ‘what’s mine is yours’ was a popular mantra from the adults. Not just generosity with possessions, but also time and acts of kindness. When that principle is applied in abundance, you can’t help but grow up to give the same. Today, I have 1,200 staff across the world and set aside time to hear from any of them each week. There doesn’t have to be a reason for conversation; it’s about connection. When we spend time together, I feel rejuvenated and fortunate.

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

I have a very dear friend who started off as a colleague. He saw my potential and took me into his department, where he became my boss, then later a creative partner. We haven’t worked together for well over a decade, but when I am seeking advice, or clarity, or comfort, the first thing I do is open a blank email and type out his name. He doesn’t always have the answer, but he always replies.

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

We’re built on creative democracy, the concept that anyone and everyone has something of value to add to the work we create. This principle is one of inclusion — both intersectional identity and lived experience — and it runs through everything we do. When I joined WONGDOODY, I met with a junior team member who told me that this is the first place she has worked where she doesn’t have to represent everyone who looks like her, she can simply be herself and her contribution is valued. This is the bar.

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

In London, we just released a climate change game for the Financial Times that uses real-world predictive data to teach players about the impact we can have on the planet, if only we try. In Germany, we have a digital make-up emulator that is designed for people of all skin colors. Both projects are essential in my eyes. Contributing to the world can take many forms.

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

Still perhaps the most important thing I do is mentoring. I have a free practice at elsewherestudio.org that uses design thinking to help people answer challenges in life and work. As an English person, I also make an excellent cup of tea.

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

So much of business is invention and innovation — we cannot solve problems from a single point of view. Diversity helps us reach better answers, sometimes entirely new answers, which leads to greater business success. Organizations like Folx Health are a brilliant example of this.

Diversity expands our client reach, both the types of organization and clients themselves that we can authentically connect with in a meaningful way. The creative industry is built on our ability to rapidly understand and add to an industry or company we’ve just met. We would not be able to do this if we were all the same.

You can read endless consulting reports on talent acquisition and retention, but the most human story I can tell you is that when I was interviewing with my current company and saw an Asian-American surname above the door, I knew this was a place that encouraged people to embrace their identities and that I would be able to do the same. I was right.

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

You can create a space where people can authentically be themselves but you cannot ask them to give that part of themselves to their work. If you create a safe environment that promotes equity whenever possible, I find employees give all they have without even being asked.

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

As a leader, have your fingerprints on everything and your signature on nothing. This empowers your team while you set the vision.

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

I’d love a breakfast with Jen Wong, COO of Reddit, to learn more about shaping one of the most influential corners of the internet. Being part of Reddit, we know Jen is versed in the fine art of AMA.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Don’t — surely, you’ve had enough of me in these five minutes!

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


Grace Francis Of WONGDOODY: How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Veronica V. Sopher On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Be authentic — It is paramount that you show up as the real you and not some polished version of you that you think people will connect to. Some of my best talks have been ones where I shared personal stories that the audience could relate to. For example, I once spoke about imposter syndrome and the example I used was being concerned that my Spanx might be showing. The female audience roared with laughter as they all nodded their heads in agreement- they made the connection with me and it helped me keep them engaged for the rest of the talk.

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 Veronica V. Sopher.

Veronica V. Sopher is an award-winning communications professional with more than 25 years professional experience. She is a gifted storyteller and is passionate about connecting with audiences to inspire and create a sense of purpose. Veronica has lead teams of all sizes and has spent the last 15 years in the C-suite driving narratives that moves her organization’s brand forward. She believes her purpose in life is to connect others to create synergy that will transform 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?Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I come from a family of storytellers, on both sides. In the Mexican-American tradition, stories are a way of connecting and sharing values from generation to generation. I would hear “tales” of relatives and there was always a morale to the journey — it was often a traditional hero’s journey. I was raised in Houston by a single mother who sacrificed dearly to support all of the activities that my brother and I wanted to participate in. We were scrappy, resourceful and eager to impress. Education was the foundation of our upbringing and we knew how valuable an education would be to shaping the trajectory of our lives.

I remember wanting the Little Tykes play kitchens that had a little sink, refrigerator and even boosted a kitchen window with a tranquil countryside view. I would see it advertised on television on Saturday mornings while I watched cartoons, and my mom knew she wasn’t going to be able to buy me one. But, she didn’t let that stop her from making sure I had a play kitchen of my own. She used a large cardboard refrigerator box and using her art skills, she drew on a 3-D image of a sink, refrigerator, cupboard, and even cut out a window with a real fabric curtains. The dials that were drawn on, were true to oven dials and when I think of the effort she put into designing and creating my kitchen, I appreciate how deeply she wanted me to connect to my imagination.

My imagination and attention to detail have played a large part in my success and my ability to connect with others with my storytelling skills.

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

I was a sophomore journalism student at the University of North Texas when I walked into the newspaper lab and was told that there had been a bombing in Oklahoma City. I was dispatched to try to get some “color” from the scene, even though I was about three hours away from the site. I immediately started calling friends and colleagues that I lived in Oklahoma and after a few failed attempts, I was able to talk to a friend’s father who had just made it home from his office, just a few blocks away from the bombing site. One of the quotes I received from a contact was used in the university newspaper on the front page the next day. My journalism career had begun. I was thrilled to see my name printed and I was proud of my accomplishment. Days later, I was watching TV and I “saw” the damage to the building and my heart sank. I was so emotional to see the devastation, and to finally understand the loss of life and terror. At that moment, I decided that I did not want to be a professional journalist, and changed my path to public relations. I still wanted to tell stories and create opportunities for others. I had found my calling and I haven’t looked back.

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

As the spokesperson for a large school district, I was the face of a historic discovery where 95 African American graves were discovered on the construction site of a new school. After the discovery, historians and archeologist determined that the site was an unmarked cemetery of victims of the state-sanctioned convict leasing system that allowed the South to recovery economically after the Civil War. It was a profound discovery that shed light on a part of part that was not talked about or taught in our state curriculum. Three years later, I am proud to share that the state curriculum was modified to now include convict leasing in various grades and the site is being memorialized appropriately. The cemetery is open to the public and there are museum-quality learning exhibits on the site so visitors can lean more about our shared history. Being able to share amazing stories like these have been a highlight of my career.

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 blessed to have had a number of mentors and inspiring people in my life who shared their insights, gifts and experiences that helped me learn and grow. One in particular was a high school teacher, Ms. Lita Javors, who has since passed. She was one of those educators who understood the value of developing soft skills and leadership skills in young people. I remember how she encouraged me to put my name in for a state-leadership position for an extra curricular organization. I was scared, I had imposter syndrome, AND I had her support. Once I was elected, she helped me understand how to be a leader and taught me how to earn social capital. She would attend business luncheons with me where I learned business protocols and how to interact with business leaders. Without her guidance, I would not have had the courage to put my name forward for subsequent leadership positions. I am forever grateful for her investment in me.

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 the greatest teacher of all time. I am most grateful for every failure I have ever had as it taught me to get back up, to reevaluate my processes and decision-making processes and to put safety nets in place to avoid making the same mistake. Don’t hang your head down in shame, own it! Own your failures like a badge of honor and share your learning with others so they can avoid the same missteps. I express gratitude for my life time of learnings, good and bad, because they have shaped me, my leadership and my success.

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?

Seeing others step into their power and leadership is what drives my passion to get up every day and share my message. When I see someone connect to their why and take action, I cheer them on and encourage them because I know their work will positively impact others. My main empowering message is that we each have a purpose, and once we tap into that purpose, providence steps in and all is possible!

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 have narrowed my focus coming out of COVID to share my message of self-care for leaders so they can maximize their skills and talents and create a healthier balance between home and work life. My talks and courses are designed to help C-suite leaders and female entrepreneurs find their calling and tap into their greatness. I see myself continuing on this leadership journey and inspiring others step into their power. I am a connector and will continue to create synergistic relationships that can change the world.

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

“Jump and find your wings on the way down” has been my favorite life lesson quote and has driven so many of my professional decisions. Often when I wasn’t sure if I should take a risk, I learned how to tap into my intuition and have faith. A great example is when I was offered a position in another market and I had doubts and concerns about the potential move on my family. I made a list of pros and cons with my husband and at the end of the day, we had to make a decision based on faith. We actually used that quote as part of our deliberation and we pulled the trigger and moved. We built the plan along the way and learned that taking the leap of faith was the right move for our family.

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. Be authentic — It is paramount that you show up as the real you and not some polished version of you that you think people will connect to. Some of my best talks have been ones where I shared personal stories that the audience could relate to. For example, I once spoke about imposter syndrome and the example I used was being concerned that my Spanx might be showing. The female audience roared with laughter as they all nodded their heads in agreement- they made the connection with me and it helped me keep them engaged for the rest of the talk.

2. Be interesting — This can be done several ways, but the most effective way for me to be interesting is to share real examples that keep people’s interest. When I take the stage and use data in my talk, I always offer a relatable example that helps the audience make a connection.

3. Be energetic — Clear your mind and be present! This will help you keep your energy up. Don’t be afraid to use your body language to help tell your story. Your physical energy can be felt by your audience and when you are clear and present to your talk, your energy will be more powerful and more effective. I always take time to clear my mind before I take the stage and the times when I haven’t, I always regret it. Don’t skip this step.

4. Bring value — An effective talk is one where people are entertained, inspired and have actions that they can take with them. Your audience wants to learn and when you can summarize your tips, strategies and suggestions, your audience will be more likely to take action. I always offer a takeaway for my audience, even if it is a digital document or handout.

5. Offer bonus content — It is all about value! So as a speaker, you want to bring more value than expected. I offer my contact information for audiences to connect with me, and when they do, I send them some bonus content. Sometimes it’s tip sheet, additional digital content or courses, or suggested readings to continue the conversation on the topic. You always want to exceed expectations!

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

It is all about mindset. When you are clear that the information or insight you are sharing is going to help people, then it becomes less about you and more about the message. If your message is clear and is value-packed, then you will have a compelling desire to share it with others and this drive changes your mindset when you are on stage. A power public speaker is deeply connected to this desire and will always take the stage with humility and gratitude.

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 help female leaders tap into the value of self-care, I believe I could help them grow in their leadership, their health and well-being and grow in their roles as mothers and spouses. When a women can find a healthy balance between her career in home life, she is more effective, more efficient and happier. I believe in this COVID recovery time, it is more important than ever to focus on healing, both emotionally and physically. Self-care is paramount to growing and moving forward.

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 love to have lunch with Nathalie Molina Nino, the author of Leapfrog: The New Revolution for Women Entrepreneurs. After reading her book, my eyes were opened to the value of social capital and it’s impact on potential success in the American economy. While I had been a C-suite executive for many years, I didn’t understand the inter-workings of how it all worked, until I read her book. I was inspired to truly tap into the connections I had and to offer my services and expertise to others so they too could grow in their fields.

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

https://www.facebook.com/veronicavsopher

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

https://www.instagram.com/veronicavsopher/

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


Veronica V. Sopher 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: Jason Tiger Of Bubble Universe On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your…

Meet The Disruptors: Jason Tiger Of Bubble Universe On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Never give up. You need to have grit. You can never fail if you don’t quit. I heard this from my Dad at a young age, and it is part of who I have become. I was always underestimated, even as a young kid. I was the shortest in my class and it was tough to be short in my favorite sport, soccer. I was told I could never be on the varsity team because of my height. I ultimately proved the coaches wrong, and scored a header guaranteeing me a spot on varsity. I never gave up even when I was told I physically couldn’t do it.

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

Jason Tiger is a 29 year old entrepreneur who loves disruption. He started his career in Hong Kong for 5 years as Managing Director, running the world’s largest bubbles manufacturing company. There he gained the knowledge to launch Bubble Universe and permanently change how kids, adults and even pets experience bubbles forever.

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 really appreciate the opportunity to tell my story. I always knew I wanted to control my own destiny and be the captain of my own ship. I knew I had to start somewhere where maybe I was not the main captain, just yet. I was very fortunate to get the opportunity to go to Hong Kong to live and learn freely on how to run the Asian operations of my family’s large bubble company.

At first many, if not all of the employees there did not want change nor respect me. I began by introducing myself to all managers and department heads. I quickly learned the areas I wanted to focus on. I wanted to implement change to our sourcing/purchasing as well as product development department. I knew if I was able to decrease costs via purchasing I would be able to get the confidence from the US to implement more changes.

As I quickly began integrating into the purchasing/sourcing department, in just a few months the entire purchasing department resigned on me in one day. These were people who had been with the company for 40+ years. I immediately began searching and hiring people like crazy. I was able to bring on better people from much larger companies to align with my vision and build loyalty.

Eventually during my 5 years of similar integration into the multiple departments, I was able to grow the company’s sales 3x and profitability by 40%. I was told I was going to run the entire company including the U.S., but my family decided to sell.

The best way for me to learn was to be thrown into a tough situation at 23 years old and either sink or swim. For me there was no option to sink, only to swim and thrive. I learned how to run a company top to bottom, deal with numerous roadblocks and power through them, thrive in the chaos and ultimately reach solutions. This confidence led me to the opportunity of starting and running my own bubble company.

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

I started Bubble Universe to disrupt the bubble industry which has been around for hundreds of years and it has not changed. Currently, most bubbles are worse than detergent soap mixed with water from China. We heard from and then partnered with top pediatric allergists who said that kids were coming into their practice with allergic reactions and digestive issues regarding bubbles.

We wanted to solve this issue by creating the world’s safest bubble solution, so safe you can lick it. Our bubbles are made of food and USP (pharmaceutical) grade ingredients, made in the USA, and work with all bubble toys. We partnered with a top natural flavors lab to provide a one-of-a-kind sensory experience of flying food/beverage/candy for kids, pets and adults.

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?

Originally when we purchased the bottles and caps for our bubbles, I did not personally test to see if they would completely seal when twisted on and tightened. I then launched the company and had numerous people saying their package smelled like chocolate, watermelon and other flavors because drops of solution were leaking into the shipping box. It was extremely stressful then, but funny now. You live and learn…

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?

Some of my mentors consist of my Dad, the CEO of a large tech company, the founder of StartEngine and other entrepreneurs in startups. I would say each person has made an impact on me, but I would say my Dad has been the most impactful. My Dad moved from South Africa at age 18 with nothing to pursue the American Dream. He worked very hard to become a CPA. He left his comfortable job to raise/borrow the money to buy the bubble company. I would say his story of starting from nothing and never quitting to pursue his dream of owning his own large company is what I strive to be. To risk it all for glory. You only live once, so you might as well go for it.

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?

No matter the disruption there is always early positivity and some minor or even major negative impact. The scale is different, depending upon the speed of the consumer behavior change. I would say an industry disruption is mostly positive when the positive outcome stays consistent incrementally and beneficial longer term. A positive change for the economy, as well as the human environment over time is better. People need time to fully adapt and change. I would say most people do not like change. An example would be the electric vehicle industry. I believe it is the right time to change proportion.

With disruptive technology, job numbers typically have to catch up or change incrementally to avoid more negative impact. This seems to be the biggest negative I have seen. An example could be the dotcom disruption boom. When everyone realized that the internet would disrupt numerous industries, money began pouring in. This happened too rapidly, so people began rushing to invest or change jobs too fast. People also became fearful of losing their jobs, companies, etc., because they could not keep up. Too much optimism on the adoption of the new technology, caused it all to collapse. It had to hit an equilibrium of time and change. Rapid disruption on the consumer behavior rather than incremental change can have rapid negative backlash and impacts.

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

Never give up. You need to have grit. You can never fail if you don’t quit. I heard this from my Dad at a young age, and it is part of who I have become. I was always underestimated, even as a young kid. I was the shortest in my class and it was tough to be short in my favorite sport, soccer. I was told I could never be on the varsity team because of my height. I ultimately proved the coaches wrong, and scored a header guaranteeing me a spot on varsity. I never gave up even when I was told I physically couldn’t do it.

Build and harbor loyalty within your team, and they will do anything for you. Dustin Castillo, a major investor in my company Bubble Universe and mentor to me, was an army captain. He explained this type of loyalty to me. It has led me to bring on people who are the hardest working, solution minded and aligned with my philosophy that you either grow, adapt, or die. My Bubble Universe team is loyal and will do anything for the success of the company.

To love and be loved is everything in life. My grandpa Siggy who I looked up to because he was married for 55 years and worked till he was 82. I believe the love he received and gave kept him going. His purpose was to make an impact on people.

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

I believe my next venture will be in 3-D printing. It’s similar to how the computer used to be. Too expensive, too slow, too corporate and not user friendly. This industry is ripe and poised to completely disrupt e-commerce. With the ability to print anything in seconds. I would love to be part of it. It will be a must-have tool for everyone like a computer.

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 truly love and cherish Steve Jobs’ Stanford graduation commencement, so many wise words and experiences to live by.

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

It’s hard to pick just one, but two major life lesson quotes are how I run my life.

Invictus: “I am the captain of my ship, the captain of my soul”.

This quote is one of my favorites because it speaks about how life may throw you curveballs but you have the control and will to power through them.

My other favorite quotes are from Steve Jobs’ commencement speech, “No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true. Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

“Stay hungry and stay foolish.”

You must always follow your dreams and go for it. Keep moving forward. Take risks and follow your gut.

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. 🙂

Greatness comes from overcoming difficult and extreme situations. So go out there and take as much as calculated risk as you can to put yourself in a position to learn, fail and repeat, until you are successful.

How can our readers follow you online?

My linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/in/tigerjason

Instagram @jasontiger

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


Meet The Disruptors: Jason Tiger Of Bubble Universe 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: Javon Frazier Of Maestro Media On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your…

Meet The Disruptors: Javon Frazier Of Maestro Media On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

I believe that disrupting the industry is positive when you create opportunities for other people. Disruption can be negative when it creates some sort of advantage that only benefits you. Where you’ve cornered the market on something, and then you raise the price on that thing and you’re doing something only for the benefit of yourself. I think that’s where it becomes extremely negative.

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

Javon Frazier is a veteran digital strategist and serial entrepreneur with experience in nearly all divisions of the media and entertainment industry, including film, television, music, games, web and mobile.

Javon is the founder and CEO of Maestro Media, a first of its kind full-service strategic product and business development firm that works with creators and entrepreneurs to deliver experiences and products directly to consumers through engagement and positive brand sentiment.

Javon is also a leader in the crowdfunding world, with previous crowdfunding projects amassing over $15 million in funding. In 2021 alone, he has driven over $6 million in crowd fundraising through Maestro Media.

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 served as the Chief Product Officer for Studio71, one of the top multimedia influencer companies in the world. I’ve done over 100 creator campaigns with varied executions, from t-shirts, print on demand products, subscription boxes, tabletop games, and more. I’ve really become an expert in working with talented influencers and helping them to monetize their brand through merchandise and products, and have a long, extensive experience of success in the space.

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

It’s our non-traditional licensing. We’ve been able to develop a global, multinational organization with our products. We’re also hyper-focused on fans. We’re giving the fans unique experiences and innovative products. We are authentically interacting with them, listening to what they want and delivering. Which doesn’t sound like a lot of disruption, frankly, it sounds like, “Oh, that’s a no brainer.” However, you’d be surprised at the amount of people that take a swing and a miss based upon just trying to get the biggest IP and the biggest name to sign, and then watching that blow up in their face. It’s not about the biggest name, it’s about who has the most loyal and passionate fanbase, and how you can surprise and delight them in exciting ways.

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 think one of the people that I really attribute a lot of success I currently have in the space would be Reza Izad, the previous CEO of Studio 71. Reza and I had a thesis to make influencers the brand and develop merchandise licenses around these creators, the same way with the same veracity that you would license around Disney, Marvel, The Avengers, etc. And that’s what we did. I built a monthly subscription box around a kid that played with toys online and sold 350,000 boxes to every country in the world over a three-year period. Reza supported my audacious projects like that, and I’m grateful for his belief in me.

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 believe that disrupting the industry is positive when you create opportunities for other people. Disruption can be negative when it creates some sort of advantage that only benefits you. Where you’ve cornered the market on something, and then you raise the price on that thing and you’re doing something only for the benefit of yourself. I think that’s where it becomes extremely negative.

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

Enjoy the journey is probably some of the best advice I received. I know it’s only three words, but it’s three impactful words. I think if you’re always chasing the end and are always like, “Okay, I’ll be happy at the end,” you’ll never be happy, because the journey is the fun.

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

I’m really focused on finding other unique games, IPs and communities. I love taking unique IPs, video games, concepts, etc and working with their fan bases to turn them into board games and creating something that you wouldn’t consider to be successful, into something incredibly popular!

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?

People Time & Money: Inspiration and Wisdom for Every Entrepreneur by Rich Russakoff is a must read for any leader. It provided me with a lot of foundational tools, such as making sure that people are working in their zone of genius, and how to get the best out of people.

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

If you believe you can or you can’t You’re right.

How can our readers follow you online?

Check us out at MaestroMedia.com and give me a follow on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/javonfrazier.

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


Meet The Disruptors: Javon Frazier Of Maestro Media 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.

Dustin Whitney’s Big Idea That Might Change The World

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Be curious. Allowing your mind to wonder produces very rich thoughts that may not otherwise happen.

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 Dustin Whitney.

Dustin Whitney is an entrepreneur and a futurist. He operates at the intersections of enterprise, innovation, and design. Dustin’s current focus is around global demographics and the future of work.

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?

My career began to take shape at an early age. I became a manger when I was young, and I realized I had much to learn. I was fortunate to get involved in a leadership development program which had a profound impact on me. What began as executive training morphed into a deep and impactful personal journey. Early goals of becoming a better manager and boss quickly turned to how to be a better friend, a better father, a better husband. It has allowed me to approach topics with balance and clarity.

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

While I always thought I’d be in business and probably working in an office environment, I never thought I would climb mountains or ride motorcycles in far and remote areas. Encouraged to get out of my comfort zone and to put my trust in others, I joined a team that promotes leadership and adventure. We’ve led many expeditions and have helped many.

A particularly memorable trip was in 2013 when we journeyed to Africa to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. We always include a charitable component in every one of our adventures, so before our trek we first brought much needed supplies and resources to an orphanage in Tanzania. We climbed and successfully summited the mountain after a great day of playing soccer with the kids.

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

I try to incorporate servant leadership in everything that I do. It’s a practice that is incredibly rewarding, produces results, and brings the best out of people. It’s amazing what can get done when people are treated with respect and without concern of who gets credit.

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 world is facing a shortage of working age people. While it is true that the global population has tripled since 1950, doomsday predictions of overpopulation are misleading and could be based on flawed interpretation of widely propagated demographic statistics. Heavily relied upon models have not been accurate — predicting too many births as well as too many deaths.

In short, the population has grown dramatically over recent decades largely because fewer people have died — not because of increases in births. The result is an unexpected shift in the makeup of our society — many more older people than expected and a whole lot fewer young people.

How do you think this will change the world?

The implications are broad and deep. These demographic shifts are going to present tremendous challenges for business and society. We need to re-evaluate the fundamental components of our economic systems and rethink our approaches to infrastructure, community development, and healthcare systems. Prospects of automation, the use of robotics and deep learning machines are not threats, but potentially important solutions. Likewise, today’s immigration debates are not merely matters of humanity and justice, but of economics and of future prosperity.

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?

Bad decisions are made when based on flawed facts and well-intended policies could make bad situations even worse. Proper planning with market driven solutions is needed, yet some may look for easy answers. Having more children can correct this unforeseen and disproportionate drop in working age populations. How does a society produce more babies? Encourage childbirth with incentives and support? Some may pursue increasing births in ways that mother nature didn’t intend to. The potential of a Supreme Court reversal of Roe vs. Wade is certainly creating divisive opinions. Is the world willing to clone people? What about birthing camps? How about technologically driven artificial wombs? Will some societies go down that path?

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

The tipping point for me was when I realized there was a flaw in the numbers that everyone seems to use. Virtually all analyses performed by governments, economists and major investment operations associated with numbers of people, their geographic regions, and ages are based upon the same projections. The U.S. government entitlement and pension trajectories, the balance of economic power — as determined by the World Bank — and virtually all major public and private spending programs use the same numbers.

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

A willingness to put aside biases, review the facts, and to commit to intentional, sincere engagement.

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

  1. Be curious.

Allowing your mind to wonder produces very rich thoughts that may not otherwise happen.

2. Prioritize flexibility.

Balance is incredibly helpful and leads not just to productivity, but deeper levels of satisfaction and happiness.

3. Thoroughly consider opposing views.

Other people’s opinions matter and there is a reason behind them.

4. Surround yourself with virtuous people.

Virtue leads to a happy and meaningful life.

5. There’s never a right time — don’t wait.

It’s better to seize the opportunity of the day rather than letting it pass you by.

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

Humility.

Ego can be poisonous.

I always like to remember that we stand on the shoulders of those that came before us.

Aristotle had it right in his definition of a leader — ethos, pathos, logos are all necessary components.

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 🙂

These changes are a global topic that is impacting the entire world.

This isn’t something that may happen or could develop at some point in the future.

This is happening now, and the numbers show it.

There is virtually no part of American life that this will not impact.

Want to know more? Call me.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I welcome collaboration. People can follow me on Twitter (@dwhitneygroup) and I produce a newsletter with more in-depth analysis. Email is the best way to communicate with me (dwhitney@whitney-group.com).

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


Dustin Whitney’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.

Making Something From Nothing: Emily Oberman Of ‘copy edit design’ On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Your work is never finished.

Even when your work day is done, the endgame of your business needs to be everlasting — If you plan on continuing to grow. As important as it is to not get pulled in too many directions, it’s also important to not get stuck in the cushy plateau stage for too long either. The world as we know it is always evolving and innovating, and as a visionary, it’s important to be cognizant of that in order to stay above the competition.

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

Emily Oberman is the founder and CEO of copy.edit.design., a creative studio for content creators that focuses on omni-channel marketing through repurposing strategies. She has over 10 years experience in copywriting, digital design and operations. Her sweet spot is capturing the authentic voices of the brands she works with. By utilizing automations through technology on the backend as part of this process, Emily and her team create a seamless content machine that saves time.

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 the daughter of Russian-Jewish immigrants, I was born and raised in the city of San Francisco, CA. I spent my childhood conceptualizing different “entrepreneurial” ideas, whether it was a babysitting service for my neighborhood or a magazine that I tried to pitch to my elementary school principal in 4th grade. At University, I studied Broadcasting and Fashion, and later Graphic Design while living in Los Angeles for 7 years. Always wanting to try new things, I jumped from industry to industry spending way too long being everyone else’s assistant, which eventually brought me to my breaking point and the decision to start my own company. Working as a right hand to so many influential individuals, showed me what kind of business owner I wanted (and didn’t want) to be.

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

While working for the design department at Pottery Barn, my desk directly faced a wooden art piece on the wall. On it, in large block letters, it said, “If you are waiting for a sign, this is it.” I would gaze at this quote when my mind wandered, thinking of what else was out there past the proverbial corporate ladder. One day, my floor was purging a bunch of stuff, and that art piece sat leaning against a railing waiting to be tossed. Without sounding cliche as hell, I took that for my own sign and brought it home. It’s now three years into my entrepreneurial journey, and I still often look at it — except it now lives above my own CEO desk and when I glance at it, I revel in how far I’ve come by taking its advice.

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 daughter received a children’s book called, “Joseph Had a Little Overcoat” for her birthday when she was about three (she’s 7 now). As juvenile as it sounds, bear with me because I believe this book teaches the best lesson of all time for both kids and adults. The protagonist, Joseph, has an overcoat that he wears until it is no longer wearable. He then repurposes it into a scarf. When that article of clothing is no longer viable, he creates something else with it until all that’s left of it is just a button. But then, spoiler alert, he loses the button. Now, this is a big turning point because there are so many paths he could have taken, however, he chooses to write a book about his experience. This is a major teaching moment because it shows the reader that you can always make something out of nothing — just like this series!

This message speaks to me on so many levels. As the daughter of immigrants whose family came to this country with literally nothing and were able to make a great life for themselves (as entrepreneurs in their own right), I can attest to this concept. I’m also a huge advocate for teaching kids entrepreneurship. It helps them develop a growth mindset at a young age, and arms them with the skills to be resourceful so they never feel like they can’t do something — especially young girls!

I also love the line in the movie, “The Social Network,” where they reference Harvard students as the ones who don’t just take jobs, but who invent their own. I think for many, this is a novel concept that needs to be talked about more and not just in institutions for only those who can afford an Ivy League education.

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?

Speaking as a service provider, I think it really just comes down to the equation of: (your zone of genius) + (what you’re passionate about) = foundation for a business.

Are you a whiz with numbers, but love all things creative? Start a bookkeeping service for creative businesses. Are you a good writer? Do you have a passion for rescuing animals? Figure out a way to bridge the gap between animal shelters and mass media.

You can literally plug anything into this equation and you will get something.

On the flip side, think of all the ludicrous products you’ve seen out there selling — it’s because someone took a chance to take their idea one step further than just an idea they didn’t think anyone would care about.

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?

Yes! It took a long time for me to come to this, but what’s crucial when it comes to a good idea is not worrying so much about reinventing the wheel. People think that just because someone else is doing it, there’s no point in even trying. Well, I’ve got news for you — this is proof of concept at its finest. In fact, this shows that you’re definitely onto something because you can see that people are actually buying this type of service or product.

Your job? Taking the concept of what’s out there and working, and making it your own. The product or service doesn’t need to be unique to sell — your perspective and brand story are what will make you stand out from the competition.

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.

Speaking as a service provider, it’s really all about honing in on your offerings and figuring out how what you do is going to help your ideal client. I’m really big on systems and processes, so my biggest advice for someone trying to bring a product to market is to make sure they have internal systems in place as well as a stellar customer experience strategy. The worst thing a person or business can do is spend all this time filing for patents and figuring out how and where to sell, only to have things fall apart after they’ve acquired an initial customer. Sure, a sale is great, but if you’re thinking big picture and have plans to scale, then this step is crucial.

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

  1. Create sustainable boundaries.

When you’re first starting out, it’s easy to work around the clock and respond to any inquiry immediately. Mainly because you’re so excited about this new venture, but also because you’re so worried about disappointing a potential customer. However, creating boundaries for yourself and your clients actually helps you increase productivity and show up better. Studies show that there’s only a specific amount of time in a day that our brains are hard-wired to get work done, so it’s important to set these boundaries early on to avoid burnout and produce the results your clients hire you for. If that means not responding to an email until the next business day, then so be it.

2. Focus on your zone of genius and outsource what you’re not great at.

When you’re first launching, it’s almost inevitable that you’re going to be wearing many hats. It’s definitely a learning experience and important to know all the different parts of your business. But there will come a time when you’ll start realizing what you’re really good at, and what you’re not so great at. Lean into that and hire others who have the zone of genius for things you struggle with. Just because you started a company, doesn’t mean you’re going to be great at all the parts of it, and that’s ok.

3. Know your “why.”

In the beginning stages, you may not know why you’re doing what you’re doing outside of trying to create a business to make a profit for, you know, life. But it’s important to do the work to figure out why you’re doing what you’re doing past just making a paycheck. You need to figure out your brand’s story and the core pillars of who and what your brand is because that’s what will sell your product or service. It’s all in the messaging, and you can’t have a clear message if you don’t know your “why.” Think of it like this — if there are two identical products on a shelf, the customer’s decision lies solely on which brand they connect to more — oftentimes, this trumps even price objections.

4. Be an excellent communicator.

So many things get lost in translation when it comes to running a business, especially if you’re online-based and working remotely. Luckily, there are a ton of amazing tools at your disposal — learn to use them! Working internally with team members and contractors who support me, I make sure I task them with all of the information they need to get the job done. I use Asana for project management and am constantly creating screen casting videos via Loom or Descript, breaking down exactly what I need. I am also really big on checklists when it comes to repeatable tasks. On the client-side, the single best skill I deliver is stellar communication. I never shy away from jumping on an extra call or sending a voice note to clarify things if needed.

5. Your work is never finished.

Even when your work day is done, the endgame of your business needs to be everlasting — If you plan on continuing to grow. As important as it is to not get pulled in too many directions, it’s also important to not get stuck in the cushy plateau stage for too long either. The world as we know it is always evolving and innovating, and as a visionary, it’s important to be cognizant of that in order to stay above the competition.

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 thing I would do, is map out exactly what their product does. The second thing I would do, is figure out exactly what kind of customer would buy this. What most people get wrong, (and I sure have been guilty of this myself), is they’re afraid to niche down and try to market their product or service to as many people as possible. However, the more you niche down, the more successful and profitable your product will be. When you speak to a niche market, you really learn who your customer is — their desires, wants, and needs.

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 mentorship is one of the best investments someone can make in their business. On the other hand, just because someone advises you on something, doesn’t mean you should always follow exactly what they say. It’s really a mix of trusting your gut, but also being open-minded enough to trust the expert you hire to help 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?

That’s a tough one. I personally have bootstrapped my entire business, but it really depends on the type of business you’re building and what your goals are. When you work with a VC, you’re giving up equity in your business and it’s really up to you to know if that’s something that’s worth it for you in the long run. Not every business has the intention of becoming a mass-market entity, and that’s not to say that a small business can’t be super lucrative without getting to that point. It’s important to know what your personal goals are first and foremost.

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

I love working with my clients to figure out creative ways to tell their unique stories through their marketing and creative assets. My bigger goal though is to bring awareness of entrepreneurship to children, with my success being a true marker that you can literally create any job for yourself with the right mindset, skills, and resources. This is something I am working on as a passion project, so stay tuned.

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 LOVE entrepreneurship and would love to create a type of movement that supports other entrepreneurs. I truly believe that we can all work collectively and collaboratively together without feeling like someone is above us.

For the longest time, I felt unfulfilled at work, even though I was seemingly working in industries that interested me. When I realized that my success always seemed to have a cap, I had the epiphany that my path lay in entrepreneurship. Of course, it’s a double-edged sword because I can’t always guarantee X number in profit, but the tradeoff of the autonomy that comes with entrepreneurship is worth it to me. And unfortunately, the freedom that comes with this can never be found in a corporate environment.

My dream is to one day build a collective community where we all work together on an even playing field and share in the vision and mission of one another’s businesses while respecting each other’s personal goals.

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

There are quite a few! However, right now I am super girl crushing on Brit Morin. I’ve actually connected with her before, first when I was a student in Selfmade, and then again when her company hired me to support their program launch through their email marketing initiatives. However, having one on one face time with her would be an absolute dream. I’ve been following Brit + Co’s journey since they first began over 10 years ago I think, and Brit still maintains this amazing approachability I haven’t seen anywhere else when someone gets to her level. She’s launched a new venture now — a community focused on educating women in the world of crypto and web3 — and I am here for it.

I would also love to meet Lori Greiner. I watch Shark Tank religiously and am always in awe of how kind she is, even in such a “sharky” environment. I think she’s a true example of why women in business should never be underestimated.

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


Making Something From Nothing: Emily Oberman Of ‘copy edit design’ 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 Raskin Of DuroMax: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Unique and original product: Teaching people about the unique usages and offerings of a product or service builds brand credibility by demonstrating how to use a product or service in a new and more approachable way.

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

With 20 years of experience in the power equipment industry and his commitment to safety, reliability, and industry-leading performance, David’s passion heads the DuroMax team in the pursuit of Powering Everyone… Anywhere! His dedication to putting our customers first continues to elevate DuroMax daily as a nationally recognized brand.

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

As a second-generation business owner in this line of work, I grew up immersed in this industry, which allowed me more visibility into areas of opportunity in a market that was dominated by older players. I began my career selling products from other brands, which led me to become more familiar with the power tools and generator market. Through this early experience, I was able to hone in on what people really wanted and bridge the gap in the industry to successfully market DuroMax’s product line. With this in mind, we developed our first portable generator with the flexibility to be used for multiple functions, and invested in R&D to develop multi fuel type units running on gasoline, propane, and recently natural gas.

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?

Around 10 years ago, we originally intended for one of our company logos to be in full color but instead, we made an error on the file that was submitted to the print company/design house and we left off the color layers. The logo ended up going out to the public in black and white. We originally looked at this as a major error and were quite disappointed with ourselves, however, the black and white version of the logo was very well received by our customers and actually upon further review was a more appealing logo than the colorful one we were going to go with. This showed me that sometimes even something that is perceived as a mistake can work out for the best, and the glass really is half full.

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

Something key that remains crucial to DuroMax’s success is that our company really listens to our customers, and we strive to ensure that our products meet all the needs of our consumer base. DuroMax does not sacrifice quality as we are the only company in the industry that uses all copper windings in our gensets, all metal construction in our frames, and the most multi-fuel option models to ensure every DuroMax generator can deliver reliable power for years.. Keeping this in mind, we offer an industry-leading 5-year warranty because we truly believe in our products and want to make sure we are delivering only the best to our customers.

Perhaps most importantly though, transparency and communication with our customers have made a huge impact on our business strategy. At DuroMax, we are not trying to hide behind novelty price points. We only promote truth in advertising to our customers and that has and will remain a cornerstone in our business. Our plan is to continue to push the envelope with new and exciting innovations while keeping our customers happy!

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

We recently launched our first Tri-Fuel generator, the XP13000HXT, which is the largest Tri-Fuel portable generator on the market. Following this successful initial launch, we’re working on perfecting our Tri-Fuel technology to release more units in the future.

Something else that’s been on our radar for a while now is continuing to be more environmentally conscious in how we are developing our products. We have put a lot of our resources into natural gas and propane, which result in 70% fewer carbon emissions than if you run on gasoline alone. When developing these cleaner fuels, we are continuing to perfect and expand our research and development to ensure we are only putting out the highest quality products and doing our part in protecting the environment.

In the next 6 months, we plan on releasing new inverters for a quieter generator experience. By implementing new and improved inverter technologies, we hope to reduce the common complaints of seemingly loud generator experiences.

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

Brand marketing is getting your name out there and for example, making “DuroMax” synonymous with home power backup let’s say — it’s a less direct and less individual product focus than product marketing. It’s connecting with someone who is not thinking about generators or power equipment but is shown why they could use them through an explanation of who we are at DuroMax and what we do in a much more top-of-funnel way (think with a simple name, logo, or mission statement).

Product marketing is much more direct. Here we explain the advantages of a particular DuroMax generator or product and how it is the best in class by honing in on key features of what that product can do. The goal of this method is to educate and eventually lead the customer to purchase a specific product through selling points.

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?

Our goal when building our brand is to become synonymous with portable generators as Kleenex is to tissues. Having proper branding means that something as simple as a name can also stand for core values, quality, credibility, and more. For example, at DuroMax we have built a brand where our customers know they will be taken care of, with a quality product, nationwide service technicians to assist with any issues, and tips for how to properly use our products.

Keeping this in mind, it is so important to be original when branding– when you invest in your brand you are also building trust and confidence with your customers and you want to make sure you stand out! DuroMax is a brand our customers remember because of our unique packaging, design, and most importantly performance. I cannot stress enough how, as a brand, it is crucial to develop relationships with customers — when you take care of your end-users it opens the door for future customers.

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. Commitment to service — Since COVID, we have employed and stationed customer support/tech representatives around the country for optimal phone call coverage and support. We have brought on text message and chat software as well as email support to communicate with our customers however they choose to interact with us. We are so committed to this idea that our top leadership has traveled across the country to meet with our customers in their homes and check out their home power backup setups and learn from them.
  2. Unique and original product: Teaching people about the unique usages and offerings of a product or service builds brand credibility by demonstrating how to use a product or service in a new and more approachable way.
  3. Building and nurturing relationships with customers: It is so important to build relationships with a community of like-minded people to bounce ideas off of each other for different uses and functions of our product. At DuroMax, we have built a diverse network of people who all learn from each other. For example, we created our original Dual Fuel and Tri Fuel products because we were listening to what our customers and community were saying on platforms like Facebook. We were able to see that there was a large market there purely because of our network of innovative customers.
  4. Quality & Innovation — At DuroMax, we are very committed to being an industry leader when it comes to innovation and improving our overall product offering based on the direct feedback we seek from our customers. We pride ourselves on leading the industry with full-loaded power panels, all-metal constructions, all copper Genset windings, and more 10,000+ Watt models than any of our competitors. A huge driving force behind our innovation in multi fuel portable generator evolution to run from Gasoline only to Dual Fuel to Tri Fuel was inspired by feedback we sought out from our customer communities that we helped establish and nourish.
  5. Strength in messaging: Brand ethos and brand messages provide a foundation for word-of-mouth communication, which ties into our strong customer relationships.

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 two brands that come to mind when thinking about companies that have done an impressive job in building themselves up, those companies being Apple and YETI. In regards to Apple, everything about their presentation of their products and services, as well as how they market their products and themselves as a brand makes them stand out. The way they are constantly listening to their customers’ demands and desires is also extremely impressive as it contributes to their innovations and improvement of their products, it also has built brand loyalty unlike any other.

When it comes to YETI, we admire YETI because of the quality of the products they offer to their customers. YETI has done a great job of creating a story for its users and creating ways for them to feel immersed in the brand. Along with this, YETI also created a whole new market and successfully launched and maintained its 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?

In regards to measuring the success of a brand-building campaign, it is important to pay attention to people who are passionate about the brand and want to represent the brand on their behalf. Without loyal customers or brand fans, a brand-building campaign is unlikely to succeed. It is also important to look at metrics as well, to see if people are discovering your brand through your website, or if they are typing your brand’s name directly into search engines across multiple channels. Increased brand understanding and knowledge of the brand before its product offerings is another way that a brand-building campaign is successful. For example, people who are looking to buy a portable generator aren’t typing “portable generator” into their google search engines, instead, they are typing “DuroMax” in their search because they know DuroMax as THE brand that offers the product they are looking for.

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

Social media plays a large role in how we build relationships with our customers. We truly enjoy engaging with DuroMax users online because it allows us to have one on one interactions with them making it feel like a more personable relationship for both us and them. We have come to learn that our customers are extremely creative. They are constantly coming up with unique ways to use our product and we are able to be a part of this journey through their YouTube videos.

When our users create content, we always make sure to share what they are creating. At DuroMax we want to embrace our customers’ innovative minds as well as use this as a way to create even more of a community among fellow DuroMax users and ourselves.

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. 🙂

DuroMax would like to continue supporting Americans in overcoming the perceived obstacles when it comes to reliable backup power and power independence. Our goal is to inspire people to not lose the technical “know-how” of past generations. As daily tasks, tools, and equipment become more automated we need to remember the life lessons of the past and how quickly daily comforts we have become accustomed to can be taken away. It’s so important to remain prepared for anything and not become reliant on being taken care of. Being ready to take care of yourself, and planning is most important in disaster-prone areas. Even if a particular place hasn’t experienced many power outages historically, this doesn’t mean it won’t experience issues in the future.

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

One of my favorite quotes is “Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” by Theodore Roosevelt. This really resonates with me as it ties into how DuroMax has continued to stand behind its mission statement to power everyone anywhere. We remain on a path to truly impact people with our work and are proud of the work we do for our community.

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. 🙂

We are inspired by how Steve Jobs at Apple brought his unique vision to the world when it came to the personal computer and what evolved into iPhones, etc. In their way, they had a similar vision as we do… “Powering Everyone, Anywhere”. Apple literally changed the world and put a personal computer in the world’s pocket.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Follow us @duromaxpower

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


David Raskin Of DuroMax: 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.

Meet The Disruptors: Nick Fellingham Of Condense Reality On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up…

Meet The Disruptors: Nick Fellingham Of Condense Reality On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

If you surround yourself with people you like and respect and you work on something that really excites you, you will find that most people want you to succeed. We have been incredibly fortunate to build an incredible team who are all passionate about our product and our company and we have received backing from some fantastic investors.

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

Nick Fellingham is CEO and Co-Founder of Condense Reality, the company that’s on a mission to make the metaverse the number one destination for live events, transforming the way millions of people engage with music, sports and each other.

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 know some people leave university and jump straight into trying to start a company because it’s their dream and they think “why waste any more time?”

I came at it with a different approach though — in fact starting a business straight away was the last thing I wanted to do. I wanted to ‘pay my dues’ as it were. I knew I was going to start a company eventually, but what would make me a better founder would be knowing how to actually build products too.

Think of a piece of tech that’s growing in importance like, say, machine learning. Nobody could — or should — just decide to set up a business around it, without having a real depth of understanding of what it is and what it’s capable of. You need to have played around with it — a step I think it is important not to skip.

So, having been programming since I was about 11, I left uni and went off to build things — eventually moving into product ownership and product management roles. I worked at a number of different startups around Bristol — which was an invaluable experience.

During that time, I got to understand what it takes to run a business, experience the responsibility of owning a product, and develop my own set of skills. I got to see first-hand what the technology industry is like, and where and how it can be disrupted. And I got to have a few years of engaging with and learning from other people.

With all that under my belt in just a few short years, I felt I was better prepared to start Condense.

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

Well, any company working in or on the metaverse is already being disruptive, because they’re puncturing this idea that the metaverse is just a theory — a far-off vision that might never be realized. That’s absolutely not true — we’re already seeing tons of people spending time inside 3D worlds playing games and socializing with each other, a trend that’s only going to get bigger and bigger.

The thing about Condense that’s disruptive and unique to us — and why I love what we do so much — is we’ve adopted an enabling role. We are creating the infrastructure for anyone to live stream real-world events in 3D into the metaverse — which opens the door to anyone and everyone to be disruptive by creating content the like we’ve never seen before.

Disruption doesn’t need to be just a single individualized act — it can be giving others the tools to be disruptive too.

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?

Running a business is about enabling the people around you to do good work. If they excel, so does the company. So that’s why I’m always open to hearing other people’s ideas and suggestions — because they might be what solves a problem or takes the business forward.

Within that, they might also offer insight that helps with personal development. So I see mentorship less as a top-down thing — more as something I can get from a large number of people around me.

Two people who have stayed with me — quite literally — are Dan Fairs and Andy Littledale. I met both at SecondSync, the company they started, where I had my first tech job. SecondSync was acquired by Twitter, and they both now work with me at Condense — Andy is now our COO and Dan is our CTO. Our roles have shifted, but they continue to give me great guidance — which underlines the idea that mentorship doesn’t have to be one senior person telling a junior how something is done — it’s back and forth, and evolving over time.

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

Disruption is ‘good’ when it’s demanded by consumers because things are therefore transformed for a reason.

If people’s habits and technological capabilities have shifted, and large, slow-moving incumbents have failed to respond, then it’s a good thing that someone else is stepping in to fill the gap. Take the automotive industry for an example. If VW had provided what consumers wanted, there would be no need for Tesla — but they weren’t, and that’s why Tesla has outpaced these industry giants.

I think it’s good, because there’s value creation for the user, who gets something new or improved, and value creation for the company because they’ll make money from it. We’re seeing that in the metaverse right now. People are already spending their time in 3D worlds — which has created a gap for companies to fill by providing gaming, shopping, services — you name it.

It’s not positive when a company decides to disrupt and transform purely based on cost-saving at the expense of the customer. I’ll use the example of AI creating written content for publications. It would be a new approach, and it would save a publication money by no longer needing to pay writers — but it diminishes the quality of the reading experience for the user. There’s no value for the customer — and eventually, none for the publication, whose readers would walk away to a publication that understood how and when disruption is necessary.

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. Generally people overestimate what can be done in a year and underestimate what can be done in five. Interestingly, I think this idea often causes entrepreneurs to embark on projects which are not ambitious enough and therefore fail as businesses.

Starting new things has a significant time cost and knowledge gained working on a specific problem compounds. Because of this, five years spent on five separate (unrelated) projects will generally yield significantly worse results than five years spent on one.

Before starting Condense Reality I had worked on a number of small projects with friends in my spare time. We frequently underestimated how long these projects would take to complete. Months over our self imposed deadlines we would often realise that the time required to complete the project was not worth the value it would provide.

By choosing ambitious, hard projects which really move the needle, you have the potential to show what can be achieved after many years of focussed work. If you don’t have experience building companies you will likely be behind schedule at year one, but way ahead after five.

2. It is extremely hard to change customers’ habits. Products which adjust to the natural changes of consumers’ habits quicker than incumbent products are able to can be very disruptive. If you are pushing to change habits then either the user experience needs to be extremely well honed or the change needs to be subtle.

Early in building Condense Reality we realised that our technology is incredibly compelling when viewed inside augmented reality however consumers do not currently watch content this way. Rather than try to push down the route of trying to change consumers’ habits we chose to focus on bringing content to where consumers are already spending their time, inside 3D worlds.

I am extremely bullish about spatial computing (VR and AR) and I think that XR will become the next computing platform. However, by focusing on routes to market which do not require us to change our customers’ behaviour we are able to provide value to our customers today and we do not preclude ourselves from continuing to provide value when their habits inevitably change.

3. If you surround yourself with people you like and respect and you work on something that really excites you, you will find that most people want you to succeed. We have been incredibly fortunate to build an incredible team who are all passionate about our product and our company and we have received backing from some fantastic investors.

I think business can often be portrayed as a zero sum, dog-eat-dog game. However, whilst building Condense Reality I have often felt that the majority of people who I meet are willing us and our business forward and pushing for us to succeed.

I believe this comes from the passion we have for our mission and the respect we have for the people working with us to help us achieve it.

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

Some people are still debating whether or not the metaverse is going to materialize. As I said, it already has. We’re at the very beginning of a tectonic plate shift in how we socialize, game, and live — and we’re only a tiny fraction of the way there.

It’s incredibly exciting — the question for many companies now is, are they going to start working out where they fit in, or are they going to ignore and allow themselves to drift into obsolescence? And I really think there will be some major brands that allow this to happen to themselves.

For Condense, we’re looking to work with the ones on the right side of this shift. We want to help them make that transition — a transition that will take a long time, but will eventually lead us into the next generation of the internet.

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?

Music is actually my biggest passion. I love dance music, especially drum and bass. Not only is it the perfect thing to listen to while programming, but having gotten into producing drum and bass, it’s taught me a lot about programming itself. Producing is a very mathematical process, and requires lots of hours messing around using different software — all of which has helped build up my programming skills and my understanding of what makes good software.

In terms of books, I find The Dip by Seth Godin really useful to go back to and read when I’m trying to build really hard things, and Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday is great for advice at any stage of life.

More generally, I’ve really leaned into YouTube for personal development videos, skills guides, how-tos etc. Whether I need a tutorial because my boiler has broken down, or I want to master a new piece of software, there’s always something on there I can turn to — and I think the fact that all the people who make these films are doing so because they want to contribute to the world — to push other people along — is really admirable. It’s an ethos I share, and everyone at Condense shares.

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

I want people to spend their time online more wisely — to get more out of it. Sometimes I tell friends how long gamers — people like myself — will spend every day in 3D worlds. It’s usually a few hours, and this time is generally spent gaming, building, and being creative.

They immediately recoil, despite the fact that if I checked the screen time on their smartphone, the time spent would be the same. The difference however is that the time they spend on phones is most often spent using apps with algorithms designed to keep them hooked in and addicted, idly scrolling a newsfeed. These newsfeeds offer none of the satisfaction and development of playing a team game or hanging out with friends in a metaverse or going to a virtual concert or sports event.

As the next stage of the internet continues to develop, if we are deliberate about the products we are building and the products we use I believe that the human experience will be transformed for the better.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can find me on LinkedIn here.

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


Meet The Disruptors: Nick Fellingham Of Condense Reality 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.

Meet The Disruptors: Jeffrey Hood Of Theia Analytics Group On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up…

Meet The Disruptors: Jeffrey Hood Of Theia Analytics Group On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

“Focus on asset creation — Product!” Let me expand on this. Asset creation is everything, and two primary assets matter most — product and revenue. The former relies upon the latter, making sequencing extremely important.

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

Jeff Hood is the founder, CEO and Chairman of the Board of Theia Analytics Group (TAG), a provider of a complete suite of quantitative, proprietary, data-driven products for simplifying, clarifying, and measuring risks related to regulatory changes that impact organizational governance.

With more than 30 years of experience in institutional trading and equities research in both New York City and London, Jeff’s extensive experience covering the world’s most significant hedge funds, mutual funds, and pension funds gives him a unique perspective on the regulatory risks faced by global stakeholders. In his dual roles at TAG, Jeff leads the company’s product development of proprietary tools for mitigating regulatory and policy risks and drives strategy, business development and execution.

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

I spent 30 years working on Wall Street at some of the most noted trading desks, as well as the number one equity research firm in the world at the time. My extensive experience covering the world’s most significant hedge funds, mutual funds and pension funds gives me a unique perspective on the regulatory risks that many global stakeholders face. Later in my career, I brought my Wall Street experience to Washington, D.C., and began helping large businesses navigate the ever-shifting landscape of regulatory changes. We were selling Theia Analytics Group (TAG) services and analytics to these same clients during that time. It became clear that demand existed for a much more quantitative approach, so we transformed our company into the FinTech SaaS model that exists today.

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

The regulatory, governance, and risk management industry landscape is 100% qualitative. As a result, companies make billion-dollar decisions on outdated, expensive, and unreliable opinions.

Making decisions in this manner is almost like going in blind. TAG offers mathematically verifiable risk quotients and materiality-based market position reporting for every publicly traded company. This means that companies can understand not only their market position but also that of their competition and other industries. Think of it as creating an “outside-in” view of a company’s position within its marketplace.

Companies can play offense and defense simultaneously while saving time and money with this 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?

I was regularly taken advantage of by sophisticated D.C. operatives, who were threatened by the quantitative products I was building, who said my idea would never work! Initially, I listened to this advice but later realized it was wrong. Specifically, I had many people tell me that what we are currently doing was impossible, and yet, here we are. It was, and is, absolutely possible.

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 relied on a few clients who I have known for 20+ years to guide me through what I dreamed would be possible using my unique skill set and my view of the D.C. world, which was very skeptical of the qualitative process of how they conduct business. These clients became the Angel Investors of TAG and continue to play a big part in our growth.

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

The fundamental truth is that we live in a universe of systems moving through time, so disruptive change (good or bad) is a constant fundamental underpinning of the nature of reality.

In an absolute sense, no one can say if one particular disruptive change is “good” or “bad” because such things are decided by the arch of history, not any one person. What I can say is that the reason we built TAG is to disrupt the underlying nature of the governance space as a way to add lasting material value to companies, fiduciaries, stakeholders, and employees globally.

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

“Focus on asset creation — Product!” Let me expand on this. Asset creation is everything, and two primary assets matter most — product and revenue. The former relies upon the latter, making sequencing extremely important.

  1. “Operational flow” (business gearing) is the predicate of “money flow.” Therefore, focus on who is doing the doing and optimize those people and processes to serve the larger business goal, i.e., revenue.
  2. Businesses are value creation engines. Never think anything else. Doing so may hurt you.
  3. Double-checking is the cornerstone of success! This is a culture at TAG. We weave it into everything we do and beat its drum often and loudly.
  4. You are a measure of success, not the other way around! We sign our names to our work, and our life-force is embedded inside in each action. You matter — act like it!

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

Ultimately, we will have the world’s first fully unsupervised governance-focused artificial intelligence engine. In the future, the nature of governance itself will be inseparable from TAG. To expand, by ingesting all past, current, and future governance documentation from all companies, all verifiable sources, and all outcomes, TAG positions itself to be the governance authority of record globally.

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?

Coming from the financial world and having to shift my thinking to the tech world took a lot of reading and soul searching. One of the first books I read was “Start with Why” by Simon Sinek, who also has some fabulous Ted Talks.

The reason this book was so enlightening was my background was so opposite from tech that it took a lot of introspection to understand the road I was going down, and it still does. One example I wrestled with was my world was driven by P&L, and the tech world is top-line driven.

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

“Watch your thoughts, for they become your words; watch your words, for they become your actions; watch your actions, for they become your habits; watch your habits, for they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny.”

Propriety, decorum, and mindfulness in all things are the name of the game and have served my personal life as well as my professional life.

The six “P” Principles; proper planning prevents piss poor performance.

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. 🙂

Movements are all about ideas, and one of the ideas that have been a great influence in my life is the quote from Winston Churchill, “Never, Ever, Give Up.”

The exploration of that is going through a very difficult divorce and my best friend dying in the same 18 months, which was devastating! These life lessons continuously remind me not to give up and keep my nose to the grindstone while pursuing my dreams.

For instance, most recently, with TAG, I had to re-boot the company into a SaaS/FinTech company which took a herculean effort to transform. This process required taking four years of written material and transforming it into complex mathematics and lengthy algorithms. Extremely difficult!

How can our readers follow you online?

You can keep up to date with what we are doing at Their Analytics Group on our website as well as our LinkedIn and Twitter accounts.

You can also connect with me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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


Meet The Disruptors: Jeffrey Hood Of Theia Analytics Group 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.

Meet The Disruptors: Joshua Schwartz Of Viking Pure On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your…

Meet The Disruptors: Joshua Schwartz Of Viking Pure On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Pick something you are passionate about — a new venture will never be successful unless the founders/leaders are passionate.

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

Joshua Schwartz is the President of Viking Pure Solutions, a sustainable cleaning innovation company that is changing the way facilities clean and disinfect with non-toxic, on-demand solutions that are better for people and the environment. He is an active developer of medical real estate and supportive housing. He began his career in the financial industry, first in investment banking at Citigroup and then at private equity firm Apollo Management.

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?

Prior to co-founding Viking Pure Solutions, my business partner and I had developed a large network of medical business and medical real estate over a 15 to 20 year period. We owned and operated various medical businesses including diagnostic and treatment centers, surgery centers, urgent cares, cancer centers, imaging centers and laboratories focused on providing quality medical care in underserved medical areas. We also developed medical real estate for our own businesses and many of the major New York City hospitals.

Given our experiences with our own medical business and interactions with our hospital partners, we became increasingly alarmed about Hospital Acquired Infections (HAIs), which infect 2.5 million people and kill 100,000 people a year nationally. We were also concerned about the safety of our employees, who were increasingly using harsh and dangerous chemicals to clean our facilities to combat these pathogens. We started researching innovative infection control technologies, and after years of research, stumbled upon the concept of electrolyzed water. We were so enamored with the incredible safety and efficacy of hypochlorous acid and sodium hydroxide that — five years ago — we decided to exit our other medical businesses and focus on developing Viking Pure.

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

Our society has become accustomed to the concept that cleaning and disinfecting solutions must be harsh and toxic to be effective against killing viruses, bacteria and other pathogens. The status quo is that if you’re using green products, you must sacrifice efficacy. Viking Pure’s combination of efficacy and safety with our solutions is dispelling this myth and disrupting the massive cleaning and disinfecting industry. It is a true David versus Goliath story as upstart Viking Pure is competing against massive companies in this space — brand names like Clorox, Ecolab, Diversey, etc. — and winning 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?

Starting a business from scratch is so stressful and terrifying yet exhilarating at the same time, so “funny” is hard to come by! One comedic experience comes to mind from a couple of years ago… For context, we try to provide electrostatic sprayers for all our clients as it is an extremely efficient and effective way to dispense our disinfecting solution. During the pandemic, these could not be found anywhere. After long days, I would be up for hours during the night bidding on eBay auctions from around the world to source them. One night, I realized that one of my business partners was doing the same and the two of us were outbidding each other on eBay sprayers at 3 am! Neither of us could believe this was what our lives had become.

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?

Over the last 15 years my primary mentor has been my business partner, Bob Slingsby. Bob is a classic entrepreneur — brilliant with lots of high level great ideas. He is genuinely a very charitable person with his time and resources which has led him to form incredibly strong relationships professionally and personally. My background prior to meeting Bob was in the very structured world of investment banking and private equity, so we are a good match of skillsets. Over the years, Bob has really helped me be more focused on seeing the big picture and taking the long view on projects and relationships which has really helped in my professional development.

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?

At Viking Pure, I don’t think we are driven to be disruptive just for the sake of being disruptive. We are excited to go to work every day because we have developed an innovative technology that is safer and more effective than the status quo products that people have used for years. These patented solutions will dramatically help the safety of cleaning workers while also keeping all of us safer. The fact that our technology can be used in any environment allowing it to have a tremendous impact on the safety of our society is an incredible bonus.

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

Be patient — there is nothing quick or easy about starting a business.

Be flexible — any businesses, especially young ones need to be able to adjust quickly.

Pick something you are passionate about — a new venture will never be successful unless the founders/leaders are passionate.

View the big picture / take the long view.

Never burn bridges and have an openness to take as many meetings as possible — you never know where new relationships can lead in business.

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

Although we have already achieved some major milestones at Viking Pure, we think we are in the very early stages of disrupting this industry and there are many more lives to save and market share to gain against the toxic chemical producers. That said, we are constantly investing in our existing technology and looking at new innovations in the space of environmentally friendly, safe cleaning and disinfecting. We have a team of a dozen engineers working on R&D projects daily. There are several new concepts we are working on but it’s too early to share!

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 helped start Viking Pure, I had been managing a host of small businesses for over 10 years but I had not helped start any of them from scratch. I did spend a good amount of time reading books about start-ups and leadership. Three that really stood out to me are listed below. They all provided great lessons on making sure that the leaders of the company provide a clear vision of the company’s mission, inspiring the workforce and customers is critical and being best in class with products/service is key. At Viking Pure, we have striven to be all of these.

Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win

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

I played a lot of competitive sports growing up. One of my coaches always liked to quote famous coaches including Vince Lombardi, who said, “It’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get back up.” Although cliched, it is very relevant to the start up world, where everyday I feel like I am in a prize fight getting knocked down, but when you are passionate about what you are doing you need to have belief to keep pushing through the setbacks and have the confidence to know it will all be worth it in the end.

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

This is what we hope to bring about with Viking Pure! We want to inspire a movement to remove toxic cleaning chemicals from commercial spaces, where they cause harm to our workers, our patrons, and our environment. I have read countless journal articles and seen numerous studies about the horrible effects these chemicals can have on our health — from aggravating issues like asthma to causing severe burns and cancer. We don’t need these chemicals to clean effectively! In fact, their use has been shown to cause bacterial resistance and allow superbugs to develop on surfaces that we suppose are clean. With electrolyzed water, we can effectively clean and disinfect using non-toxic solutions that are completely safe.

How can our readers follow you online?

They can follow me on LinkedIn or visit our website.

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


Meet The Disruptors: Joshua Schwartz Of Viking Pure 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.