Meet The Disruptors: Pinar Akiskalioglu of Punk Business School On The Five Things You Need To…

Meet The Disruptors: Pinar Akiskalioglu of Punk Business School On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

…Technology, the pandemic, the recession — the world is changing. In the future there may be fewer jobs, so we need more radical thinking.

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

Pinar Akiskalioglu is an entrepreneur who wants to make the business and beauty worlds put people and the planet first.

She is founder of TAKK, a personal care brand which sells a stripped-back collection of beauty essentials, and Punk Business School aimed at entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs who want to become better, more empathetic and intuitive leaders.

Pinar was born in Turkey but is now based in London. Along with dividing her time between her two businesses, she is also a board member for Ricoti, a renewable energy business and a consultant at Oxford Garage, a mentor hub for new startups.

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?

For most of my early career, I was in a hurry to climb the corporate ladder. This is what you do in the emerging world: work hard to achieve the defined success ideal. I did what it took to be successful; delivered results, won the crowd and strategically negotiated my next steps until I was at the top of my game.

The moment I got there, I decided to start my journey all over again to find how I could use my skills, knowledge and privilege to create a positive social impact in the world.

Doing this is harder than I ever imagined. Leaving a powerful corporate position behind — for which you worked hard for — makes you feel vulnerable. I responded to this by immersing myself in prestigious business education before I started swimming in the entrepreneurial ocean. It was a way to manage my fear before I started doing my own thing.

One day during a class, I was praising an old CEO who would replace what he deemed ‘underperformers’ with more productive people to boost company performance when a fellow classmate called me out, remarking that ‘this wasn’t a CEO she would like to work for and how it was nothing to be proud of.’ This pivotal moment opened my eyes to a new world, one that is different from the culture I grew up in where the rules of the game could be confidently challenged.

Today, I am working hard to build companies that are financially strong to stand on their own and make a difference for a just world. In my years working in the corporate world I have experienced so much of what is wrong with business and I now want to work on ideas to right those wrongs. Global companies are too powerful — they make it impossible for smaller companies to compete and spend too much time on internal politics, impressing each other within the organization rather than focusing on creating value for our society. Capitalism has gone too far and it is destructive.

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

I am a serial entrepreneur, only involved in impact making businesses. My beauty brand, TAKK, sells a pared-back collection of bathroom essentials made from high-quality ingredients. It is very much a reaction to the ‘sell cheap, stack ’em high’ ethos of the big brands who compete for consumers by creating more and more products. This only leads to shelves groaning with ‘stuff’, mountains of plastic in landfill and to consumer fatigue — do we really need to choose from 200 types of shampoos, especially when most products do the same thing?

At TAKK there is just one product for each category — so, one face cream, one shampoo, one shower gel, one soap, one razor and so on. They are suitable for both women and men because the difference in skin types is negligible — there is no need for separate products.

We don’t overmarket or overpromise miracle ‘wonder cures’, because they simply don’t exist — it’s just marketing hype. We are working to create a robust circular economy to act on solving the climate emergency. We are also helping to create a workplace where our employees are happy, paid fairly and fulfilled.

I hope TAKK will make big beauty brands sit up and take notice. But I don’t just want to encourage the beauty world to be more ethical, I want the business world to be more considerate too. I believe it has lost its way, putting profits over people and the planet.

That’s why I have recently launched Punk Business School which aims to give practical and affordable philosophy education to business professionals. Traditional courses teach the facts such as corporate finance and marketing, peppered with an awful lot of unfathomable management speak and over-complicated business BS, but very few teach people the core tenets of what good leadership means today: empathy, collaboration and intuition. Punk Business aims to change that.

The world is changing, it’s becoming ever-more complex and many of the new problems can’t be answered by what you learn in textbooks. You need to know who you are and what you stand for, listen to your intuition so you can look at the bigger picture and make better decisions.

So, in a nutshell, I am trying to do for business what I am doing for beauty — strip out the noise and in doing so, do my bit to make it more humane.

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’m not sure it’s a laugh-out-loud story, but the biggest mistake I made when launching TAKK was about being too corporate in our language at the start. Despite being a direct-to-consumer brand, our website talked more about our corporate ethics than what our products did. As a result, in the first two weeks, we had more venture capital companies approaching us than customers!

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?

We often think about mentors being senior leaders but I would say my team members inspire me every day to be a better manager. I’ve learnt that being a nice manager, by stripping out the unnecessary layers of business — the presentations, the documentation, the overly-elaborate work systems — you can give people the mental and creative space so they thrive. When you let people be themselves, rather than making them comply with what an organization wants them to be, you will get the best out of them. If you don’t, you can run into problems with internal politics, perhaps blame culture and even bullying, which can ruin a productive workplace.

I also think some of the best mentors have actually been bad managers that I have worked for in the past — who have shown me what not to do.

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

Disrupting is good when it is used as a force for positive change, like what I am trying to do with TAKK — trying to stop the beauty industry selling more products than people (and the planet) needs. When disrupting is not good however, is when the motive puts profit over people and the planet. Take Uber. I believe this is just Wall Street cash flooding the market, killing off traditional taxis and without any concern for the social welfare or rights of their drivers. Pouring money into a market simply to hijack profits is not the right way to do business.

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

I don’t really listen to other people’s advice. I hope that doesn’t sound arrogant as it’s not meant to be, it’s just not the way I learn. I prefer to plough on, make mistakes and learn from them. I do get advice from books though — I read philosophy. Philosophers Friedrich Nietzsche and Bertrand Russel have been great teachers since my twenties. The Japanese writer Haruki Murakami I also find inspiring. He says: “a story begins when something that should be there isn’t, someone who should be there isn’t” — it’s a motto that reminds me of the beauty of life and gives me the strength to embrace challenges when things don’t go my way.

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

A few years ago I stumbled on US psychologist Barry Schwartz’s Ted Talk Paradox of Choice which basically changed my life. In it he talks about the paralysis of choice and how the more choices you have, the more unhappy and unsatisfied you are. I was still in the corporate world at the time and the talk was eye opening — it made me question whether my job selling personal care was actually making people happy as I told myself, and whether I was actually doing anything worthwhile to society. Schwartz’s thinking became the basis of my personal care brand, TAKK.

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

Bertrand Russel said; to conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom. There’s a lot of fear involved, especially in entrepreneurship, and I don’t think we talk about it enough. It’s important to embrace that fear, but not let it stop you from doing what you believe is the right thing to do.

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

I want to build companies where people are really happy, treated fairly and are successful and where we do focus on people and profits. If I can pull this off, I will set an example that people will know it is possible. I’d like to inspire other leaders to do the same — many successful people have the same urge, turning to consulting or writing books at the end of their career, but I’d like to be the one who does it while they go along.

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?

Firstly, I would like the world to share financial resources. This would be in the form of a universal basic income — giving everyone in the world enough money to eat and have a place to sleep. It’s an ambitious dream, but while critics say that it would only fuel lethargy, experiments from a two-year experiment in Finland in 2017 proved that it can boost mental health and can even fuel self-worth, confidence and aspiration.

People were even motivated to branch out and seek more expansive opportunities, often through unpaid work. The experiment showed how people have a desire to contribute to society — so let’s think higher of people and not assume they’re just out for themselves.

Technology, the pandemic, the recession — the world is changing. In the future there may be fewer jobs, so we need more radical thinking.

In the same vein, I would also like the world to start sharing knowledge — businesses often work in silos and don’t recognise that collective action can solve complex problems such as climate change.

I am often accused of being too romantic but there needs to be people in this world with aspirations. Hope is contagious. People are naturally drawn to it, and when they are drawn to it and come together, movements happen. And change happens — for the good.

How can our readers follow you online?

My two business websites: https://www.punkbusinessschool.com/

https://takk.co.uk/

Or on social media: https://www.linkedin.com/in/pinarakiskalioglu/ and https://twitter.com/Akiskali

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


Meet The Disruptors: Pinar Akiskalioglu of Punk Business School 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.

Heroes Of The Homeless Crisis: How Ardana ‘AJ’ Jefferson Of Homeless Children’s Education Fund Is…

Heroes Of The Homeless Crisis: How Ardana ‘AJ’ Jefferson Of Homeless Children’s Education Fund Is Helping To Support Some Of The Most Vulnerable People In Our Communities

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Do not take life for granted. Someone else is wishing for what we have every day.

As a part of my series about “Heroes Of The Homeless Crisis” I had the pleasure of interviewing Ardana ‘AJ’ Jefferson.

Ardana ‘AJ’ Jefferson joined Homeless Children’s Education Fund (HCEF) in March 2022. She is tasked with advancing the organization’s 23-year mission through leadership development, community advocacy, public policy, financial stewardship and sustainable revenue growth. With more than 25 years of experience in nonprofit management and net revenue growth, AJ has an in-depth understanding of the industry and has successfully executed strategic plans across organizational enterprises.

Before joining the HCEF team, AJ served as the Director of Hope Group (Business Development and Operations) for Hosanna House and Vice President of Membership/Marketing for both the YMCAs of Greater Rochester and Central Florida. Additionally, she served in various leadership positions across the YMCA movement.

AJ is a member of the NAACP and an advocate for children with special needs. She also lends her skills to Carlow University as a frequent presenter and lecturer. Her other favorite pastime activity is instilling courage in her mentees, friends and business associates. And, her life’s purpose is fueled by helping people reach their highest potential.

Thank you so much for joining us! Is there a particular story or incident that inspired you to get involved in your work helping people who are homeless?

Yes, I was homeless. When I was a child, my mother decided to leave my father after living through years of a very tumultuous marriage. We left in the middle of the night, leaving an Army base somewhere in Massachusetts and traveling what seemed like days on a Greyhound bus to start a new life in Pittsburgh. My mother had nothing but her new college degree and the desire to make a better life for us. This happened in the early 1980s when the McKinney-Vento Act was not yet established; therefore, specialized school programs and social services support were unavailable. But we did have extended family that helped us — specifically my great Aunt Ruth (we called her Aunt Ruby), who welcomed us into her home for as long as it took for my mother to find a decent job and a safe place to live.

Although Aunt Ruby graciously provided us shelter, she was not wealthy. My mother still had to figure out how to feed and clothe us. And living in someone else’s house with other people is different from living in your own house. My mother and I had to share a small room and I could not just be a kid — run around and play like I used to. Nothing in the house was ours except the clothes on our backs. I had to ask permission for everything. We had to live through stressful moments before my mom could move us out. But, unlike other children in that same situation, Aunt Ruby tried her best to make us feel welcomed, loved and supported.

My mother was a rock through the entire process. She was trying in every way possible to make our transition as normal as possible. I applaud her for making the tough decision to leave our home because she wanted something better for us. And, her commitment to getting her college degree aided her greatly in transforming our lives.

Homelessness has been a problem for a long time in the United States. But it seems that it has gotten a lot worse over the past five years, particularly in the large cities, such as Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, and San Francisco. Can you explain to our readers what brought us to this place? Where did this crisis come from?

The causes of homelessness are complex and multivariate. Still, the main driver, especially in the major cities you listed, is that housing costs have increased over the past few decades at a rate that far outpaces wages. There is simply not enough housing available at the prices that people working low-wage jobs can pay and employment at these jobs is increasingly unstable. Based on data from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, there are about 11 million households in the United States who have extremely low income (i.e., below 30% of the area’s median income) and only around 7.4 million units of housing affordable to them. In addition to this stark shortage in absolute terms, many of those 7.4 million affordable units are already occupied by people above the extremely low-income threshold (i.e., those with low income still compete with higher-income households for the limited affordable units). The actual number of homes available to those 11 million Americans in the lowest income bracket is closer to four million, leaving a shortage of seven million affordable homes (https://nlihc.org/gap).

Factors such as mental illness, domestic violence, substance use, etc., all contribute on an individual level. But almost all serious analyses of the problems place them as secondary causes of the shortage of affordable housing.

For the benefit of our readers, can you describe the typical progression of how one starts as a healthy young person with a place to live, a job, an education, a family support system, a social support system, a community support system, to an individual who is sleeping on the ground at night? How does that progression occur?

What you describe is not a common progression because so many young people never have access to all those advantages from the start. Take the health piece in isolation: access to quality health care in the United States largely depends on your ability to pay for it; as a result, children born into families with low income tend to have fewer health checkups and more health complications. They are much more likely to suffer from chronic health problems like asthma, exposure to lead and mental health conditions, primarily due to environmental factors beyond their control.

Similarly, as we see daily in our work at HCEF, there is no guarantee of a stable place to live and a good education for children. All the students we work with have lost their housing at some point, sometimes for a few weeks, sometimes intermittently for months or years. As parents struggle with housing, kids often miss large chunks of school time as a result. Education is time-sensitive. Suppose a child misses lessons at critical developmental periods. In that case, it can have snowballing effects on their ability to keep up with schoolwork down the road, affecting all sorts of long-term life outcomes, especially their ability to maintain stable housing as an adult.

So, the progression might look more like this: you are born into a household where the Mom is living paycheck to paycheck. She is staying in a tumultuous relationship to help pay bills. Eventually, she is forced to leave her partner and take you and your siblings to a shelter after a domestic incident. She tries to keep you in the same school, but no one can provide adequate transportation, so you miss a few weeks of class in the 3rd grade when you transition to the shelter. Then you may miss another month or so when you find permanent housing in the 4th grade, with sporadic absences in between as school transportation falters.

Maybe this happens again in middle school. By the time you enter high school, you start struggling with depression and anxiety related to the domestic violence you have witnessed, on top of the various difficulties of constantly bouncing around from place to place. Eventually, you lose interest in school and drop out because classes seem irrelevant. It feels like you are too far behind to catch up and to increase the hours at your part-time job seems more important in the short term. Unfortunately, this puts a relatively hard cap on your earning potential, so when Mom kicks you out at 19, you have not been able to save enough to make rent on your own, so you end up sleeping outside for a few nights, which leads losing even that low-paying job and so on.

This story is a culmination of my personal experience with homelessness and the experiences I have heard shared by my team as they work with students and families. The reality is that the track to homelessness is cyclical and usually starts before someone is born. The good news is that there are hundreds of ways people can interrupt these cycles to create better opportunities for those trapped within them. Ensuring parents and students access high-quality education is one of the most important interventions, as it opens the door to self-sufficient employment and other social opportunities.

A question that many people who are not familiar with the intricacies of this problem ask is, “Why don’t homeless people just move to a city that has cheaper housing?” How do you answer this question?

There are so many reasons that it is hard to know where to begin. First, logistically, moving has high up-front costs that people in immediate need of housing often cannot afford in the short term.

Moving to a less expensive region frequently means displacing yourself from your extended family, support networks and personal history, mainly affecting families with children. Abandoning friends, family and familiarity is not only emotionally scarring but also materially unfeasible for those who rely on their social networks for basic necessities such as free childcare (which allows them to work beyond the hours their kids are at school) and transportation (which gets their kids to school when buses fail to). Cheaper housing often means fewer jobs, lower pay and fewer public services. It is a tough sell to ask a parent to uproot their whole life for a place where their job prospects look worse than where they are presently.

The most important complication is that housing costs are rising everywhere. Rent has been outpacing real wages for decades, creating a situation where there are not enough affordable housing units available for the number of people who need them.

If someone passes a homeless person on the street, what is the best way to help them?

This advice may be obvious to anyone reading, but it is always worth a reminder:

1. Treat them with respect as you would extend to your friends, neighbors or coworkers.

2. Learn about the organizations in your area that are providing needed services and support them financially or through volunteering. Do your research to find the most credible organization with proven experience supporting individuals experiencing homelessness.

3. Share information about services. Anyone entering a shelter in Allegheny County (the Pittsburgh region) must call the Allegheny link at 866–730–2368 to receive housing help. You can also share/use Finding Your Way in PA (https://findingyourwayinpa.com/) or 211 (call or go to https://pa211sw.org/) to find free local help for basic needs like showers, food, counseling services, rent, etc.

4. Advocate for systemic change. Learn about solutions from groups like HCEF, SchoolHouse Connection, the National Low Income Housing Coalition, ACTION Housing, etc. Call your legislators, form local activism groups and vote.

What is the best way to respond if a homeless person asks for money for rent or gas?

Even the ‘experts’ disagree on the answer to this question, but honestly, if I have a few extra dollars, give it because I believe in the scripture that says be kind to strangers because you could be entertaining an angel. If you are uncomfortable with that (which is completely understandable), consider carrying cards with information about the basic-needs services in your areas, such as food banks and drop-in centers, so you can share them when you meet someone. Most homeless service providers will gladly give you something like this if you ask.

For Pennsylvania residents, Finding Your Way in PA (https://findingyourwayinpa.com/) is also a phenomenal resource for helping people find free services like meals, shelter, rental assistance, showers, etc. It is easy to navigate and provides full descriptions of how to access services and filters based on location and relevance, so you know the information will be helpful to the person who needs it.

Whatever you do, remember how you respond can have a significant impact on someone’s day.

Can you describe to our readers how your work is making an impact battling this crisis?

A high-quality education can spell the difference between being homeless and being housed. Since young people who experience homelessness in school are much less likely to graduate from high school (only 64% graduate compared to 84% of the total population), there is a direct pipeline from youth homelessness to adult homelessness. In fact, someone who does not graduate high school is 346% more likely to experience homelessness as a young adult, making the lack of a high school diploma the single greatest risk factor for homelessness.

Our goal is to provide students experiencing homelessness with access to stable, high-quality education throughout their childhood so they can graduate on time and succeed in whatever they pursue. We provide after-school programming at shelters, individualized home-visit tutoring, funding for emergency needs, social/emotional health education, systemic advocacy, supplies and post-secondary scholarship funding. We provide whatever else it takes to keep kids on a successful track to graduation and successful careers. It is not easy work, but it is absolutely necessary to do whatever we can to level an extremely inequitable playing field.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the homeless crisis, and the homeless community? Also how has it affected your ability to help people?

Every school district closed its doors and attempted remote learning for most of the 2020/2021 school year. Needless to say, ‘at-home learning’ was a disaster for children who did not have stable homes from which to learn. There was a lack of technology, none or unstable internet, crowded or unsafe living spaces and a lack of childcare.

And, remote learning severely impaired school staff’s ability to identify and serve students experiencing homelessness. For context, each school must legally designate a homeless liaison among its staff. This person, usually a school counselor or social worker, must work to identify students experiencing homelessness, then connect them to supportive services. In a typical year, liaisons will notice when families lose their housing by their need for transportation services. Parents will call to let someone know they have been forced to move and cannot get their child to school or someone will reach out to the family based on a student’s absence.

During remote school, that system fell apart. Without a need for transportation services, liaisons struggled to identify students in crisis, plummeting official homeless youth numbers and leaving thousands of Pennsylvania youth unserved at a time when they needed the most help. In light of this, we have been redoubling our efforts to champion students by strengthening school partnerships, expanding programming and offering new professional training for school staff to help them identify and help students in crisis.

Can you share something about your work that makes you most proud? Is there a particular story or incident that you found most uplifting?

During my first weeks with HCEF, I was awarded the opportunity to witness firsthand how our team supports the students. I remember being in a mobile learning session led by our K-8 team, Kait Nykwest and Alizé Strickland. I marveled at their ability to create an inspirational, progressive and individualized learning environment for a 6-year-old that has suffered tremendous loss and countless housing transitions. After weeks of Kait and Alizé applauding him for trying his best while they incorporated individualized learning, the little boy who could not spell his name, with great pride, showed me he could now identify all the letters in his name and put them in the proper order. My heart was filled with joy as he proudly accomplished that task.

I also recall observing a college and career planning session led by our Teen Advocate, Patience Baker. One of her students was experiencing a difficult situation with a college admissions officer. She was on the brink of giving up, but Patience changed that moment by providing a tool she could use for the rest of her life. Patience had our student write down everything she needed to ask the admissions officer in a script. The young lady then called the officer and sent a follow-up email using that same script. An hour later, the admissions team resolved the issues and the student was greatly relieved and beaming from ear to ear.

These are just two basic yet life-altering examples of my team’s support for our students.

Without sharing real names, can you share a story with our readers about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your work?

From our Program team:

Jayvon (changed name) moves back and forth, sometimes weekly, between two sets of caregivers, one at an apartment and one at a motel. The changes mean different routines, meals, schedules and levels of engagement in learning. When he misses the consistency of daily routines, his participation in school and after school can be challenging, but he and his caregivers value his education. Each day he logs on with us virtually to catch up on basic skills he is missing due to several months of absence in second grade. His recent return to school resulted in a referral to our programs. Jayvon has jumped forward with quick progress in both letter naming and identification, things that were initially a struggle. His after-school team and in-school educators have been meeting weekly to keep up on his current strengths and progress and talk about how to encourage his growth to continue at a quick pace. During a recent meeting with his school counselor, we learned that he would be able to progress to the next grade in the fall, which they said would likely not have been possible without Javon’s hard work and the team’s effort to collaborate with his caregivers. We are extremely excited to celebrate Jayvon’s excellent progress and look forward to visiting and tutoring him in person to keep building on his strengths.

Summer update:

This summer, Jayvon woke up bright and early each Monday and Wednesday — with the help of his grandfather — to meet with our team for his tutoring sessions. As a part of HCEF’s pilot Mobile Learning program, Jayvon spent his mornings reading books, identifying letters, writing words and sentences, playing learning games and creating science experiments! His grandfather was engaged throughout the process, staying in touch with our Family Engagement Coordinator about scheduling, discussing what Jayvon was learning and how to advocate at a school district meeting for Jayvon and students like him. Jayvon’s perseverance reminded us that learning is an incremental process and that each new set of words is an opportunity for celebration. He conquered fluency in naming and identifying letters and strengthened his phonics skills which are key components of reading. Jayvon’s face showed his genuine excitement and confidence as he learned to read new words and sentences. At the end of each session, he loved to recount the day’s activities for his grandfather and share the successes and what he was looking forward to practicing before the next session.

We look forward to continuing to work with Jayvon and his family as he transitions back to school for the new school year.

Can you share three things that the community and society can do to help you address the root of this crisis? Can you give some examples?

• Educate yourselves and others on the root causes of homelessness.

• Advocate for systemic change. Learn about solutions from groups like HCEF, SchoolHouse Connection, the National Low Income Housing Coalition, ACTION Housing, etc. Call your legislators, form local activist groups and vote.

• Donate to organizations working hard to help people escape homelessness and maintain stable housing.

If you had the power to influence legislation, which three laws would you like to see introduced that might help you in your work?

• The Homeless Children and Youth Act (HCYA) is a federal bill extending federal HUD homeless assistance eligibility to families who are temporarily doubling up with others due to a loss of their housing. These situations are frequently unstable, overcrowded and/or unsafe. The education system recognizes these families as homeless and provides special rights and protections, but the broader spectrum of homeless services remains unavailable. This bill would align homelessness definitions to allow HUD to evaluate families in these situations for much-needed services.

• The American Housing and Economic Mobility Act is a federal bill that would invest in building nearly three million new affordable housing units targeted at low and middle-income families. It would also incentivize local municipalities to loosen restrictive zoning laws that keep rents high. It could make a huge difference for millions of families who struggle to pay rising rents and mortgages.

• Improved funding for the Education for Homeless Children and Youth Program. This is the only federal program that funds schools’ ability to identify and assist students experiencing homelessness. Currently, 77% of local schools across America do not receive any of it. We are simply not providing schools with enough money to scratch the surface of the educational component of homelessness. Schools across the country cannot consistently transport unstably-housed students to and from school because of the lack of funding. How can we expect people to improve their situations if we cannot even transport them to school so they can learn to read at pace with their peers?

I know that this is not easy work. What keeps you going?

I have spent my life advocating on behalf of marginalized individuals. When I became a mother of a child with special needs, my commitment to helping women and children in need increased tenfold. Joining HCEF and supporting my staff fuels my purpose in life to instill courage in others. It is my absolute pleasure to wake up every day and assist my team as they provide direct care and support to our students. It is a tremendous responsibility that I do not take lightly but it brings me immense joy to support those who support our kiddos.

Do you have hope that one day this great social challenge can be solved completely?

Yes, I do. It may seem insurmountable, but I believe that strategic collaboration with social service agencies, post and secondary education institutions, major employers and local and federal governments can eliminate the cycle of poverty that perpetuates generational homelessness.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1. That I would cry often! The everyday stories of our students tug at the heartstrings.

2. That homelessness does not typically look like we would expect. If a person is not living in a consistent, stable and adequate nighttime residence, according to the federal government, they are considered homeless. So not only was I homeless at the age of nine so was my son because we lived with his grandmother for a period of time when I was in transition.

3. That this work would bring me back to life! In my work with a former organization, I knew there was something more I was destined to accomplish in my life. And because I was not the leader of that organization, I felt stifled. At HCEF, I am helping to model the work that will make the most impact on the population we serve.

4. Do not take life for granted. Someone else is wishing for what we have every day.

5. Each staff member is not simply good at what they do, they are real-life superheroes! For very little money and even less fanfare, my team stays committed to seeing our students succeed.

You are a person of enormous 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 that would bring about the most change, I would normalize providing mental health training to all students in K-12 schools. This summer, our Teen Outreach staff provided modified, fast-tracked dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) to 13 students at a local youth organization where my son participated. For one month, four days per week, my DBT-certified staff helped students identify and change negative thinking patterns and offered them a pathway to change those negative thoughts into positive, productive behaviors. How do I know it works and is important for students to navigate real-life situations? I saw my son use the skills he was taught to self-regulate his emotions when he experienced a challenging situation during the summer. I watched him apply the coping mechanisms to move from potentially having a meltdown to calmly requesting the support he needed to establish positive thinking.

This progress was amazing to witness and I realized at that moment that every child should have the opportunity to learn these invaluable life skills.

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

I have had several life lesson quotes over my nearly five decades but the one that always comes back to me is from my mentor Robyn Guy. As I was about to embark on an incredible career journey, leaving home and traveling to Florida, I thanked her for everything she did to help me, including buying my first nice interview suit. So, when I landed the job, I wanted to pay her back for her kindness. She said the only way I had to return the favor was “pay it forward.” And that is what I have tried to do from that moment on, pay her kindness and support she showed me forward to my mentees, staff and other colleagues.

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, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I doubt this person would see this because he is no longer with us, but I would have loved to chat with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Talk about a person who put everything on the line for what he believed in, the people he believed in. A person who inspired people to act using his words, his voice and his passion. A man that stood up and fought back with love for his people to be heard. That is the type of leader I desire to be.

How can our readers follow you online?

Homeless Children’s Education Fund

www.homelessfund.org

LinkedIn — Ardana Jefferson
https://www.linkedin.com/in/inspiringu2lead

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!


Heroes Of The Homeless Crisis: How Ardana ‘AJ’ Jefferson Of Homeless Children’s Education Fund Is… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Meet The Disruptors: Bill Kerr Of Avalon Healthcare Solutions On The Five Things You Need To Shake…

Meet The Disruptors: Bill Kerr Of Avalon Healthcare Solutions On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Choose being right or effective.

When dealing with people, you have to decide whether you want to get them on board with the change or do you want to be right. In my opinion, it is more important to be effective than right, and being right may be a barrier to being effective. This requires me to suppress my ego.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Bill Kerr, M.D., CEO, Avalon Healthcare Solutions.

Bill Kerr, M.D., is the CEO of Avalon Healthcare Solutions. He co-founded the company in 2013 and leads the Avalon team that is scaling laboratory science into the healthcare ecosystem. Dr. Kerr holds a bachelor’s degree and medical degree from the University of Arkansas and an MBA from the University of Houston.

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?

As the son of a physician who practiced in a small town in Arkansas, I grew up around healthcare. In fact, my father would sometimes drop me off in a hospital physicians’ lounge while he did rounds on a Saturday. From an early age, I knew I wanted a career in healthcare but not as a front-line physician. I wanted to somehow make healthcare better.

While working toward undergraduate and medical degrees at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, College of Medicine, my focus turned to research. I delved into why cancer cells spread, sequenced DNA, and spent a year as a research assistant at the University of Oxford. But it was during my residency in the early 1990s in Texas when healthcare cost, quality, and access caught my attention. Undocumented immigrants in Texas had inpatient care paid for by the state, but not outpatient care. My conversations with parents about the inability of their child to receive care upon discharge brought to my attention the impact of healthcare funding. It also was the height of HMOs, so I saw the challenges people had navigating the healthcare system and narrow networks.

It took marrying another pediatric-oncology physician to shift my career focus within medicine. When I met my now wife, she and I both intended to become pediatric oncologists −− she a clinician and me a researcher. It struck me that our life together would be easier if we were not in the same field.

I was still very interested in how to improve healthcare costs, quality, and access. I decided I needed to learn the language of business. I earned an MBA and then became a medical director in the managed care sector. I stayed with health insurers for a dozen years. During that time, I witnessed employers struggling with the rate increases in health insurance, patients struggling to secure appointments and paying out-of-pocket costs, hospital administrators trying to retain nursing talent while balancing budgets, and physicians struggling to absorb malpractice insurance rates. It was a wonderful perspective from which to engage in the challenges of cost, quality, and access.

During my dozen years in the managed care industry, I had positions of increasing accountability for cost, quality, and outcomes. As Vice President of Professional Networks at Independence Blue Cross in Philadelphia during the start of this century, I worked on pay-for-performance programs for physicians and hospitals.

As the Chief Medical Officer at Blue Cross and Blue Shield Florida, I became closer to marketing the product through consumer incentive plans to inform and educate about treatment options. In my next position at Wellcare, I was involved with integrated case management for people with complex medical and mental health issues. It was compelling to me that we were driving innovation for the sickest of the sick.

At this time, the Medical-Loss Ratio for Medicaid and Medicare (and later coverage under the Affordable Care Act) required that payers must spend 80% to 85% of premium dollars on claims expenses. This limited the amount of money a health plan could retain for investment and profit, which resulted in cuts in the cost-quality area. This is not easy to do!

About this time, I became aware that private equity groups were looking for opportunities to invest in healthcare innovation and invest in programs that drove patient outcomes. So, I joined friends who had spun out a company and began my entrepreneurial journey that led to Avalon Healthcare Solutions, which I co-founded in 2013.

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

Avalon Healthcare Solutions is the world’s first Lab Insights company that generates actionable lab-driven insights in real-time to proactively ensure appropriate care and enhanced clinical outcomes.

We started Avalon because lab testing is the gateway for appropriate diagnosis and treatment care planning, and it certainly impacts the goal of achieving value-based care in this country. In fact, lab results are the basis for 70 percent of medical decisions.

There is, undoubtedly an explosion occurring in what we can test in the body. It goes beyond genetics, which receives a lot of attention, but we can break down more chemical components, stain tissues differently, and much more. All this innovation needs to be sorted out by the healthcare industry. It’s comparable to the disruption in radiology in the 1990s when innovation in PET and CT scanning required education on how and when to use the testing technology.

The fact is that increasing lab testing capabilities are increasing waste in the healthcare system. Consider that 10 to 12 percent of lab units “stuffed” into testing panels provide no useful information on diagnosing or treating a patient. This phenomenon of panel stuffing is pervasive and is common in routine testing, such as thyroid and Vitamin D panels.

Through Avalon’s platforms and solutions, we are uniquely disrupting the lab testing industry to save time, reduce waste, and improve patient care and outcomes. We do that with sound science, as our independent clinical advisory board creates policies defining when lab testing is clinically useful. Avalon prepares these policies for healthcare payers to follow when managing lab testing authorization and reimbursement. Does that create disruption for physicians, health systems, and labs? Yes, and it is changing how lab tests are ordered, approved, and paid for. One of Avalon’s customers has published over $100MM in savings through its adoption of our program.

With more than 33 million lives covered by Avalon, we are now bringing together the management of lab results at scale and gaining insight into testing trends. We can show where lab tests are not being utilized — and should be — and where lab results are not being used correctly to inform care. It’s another type of disruption that will advance appropriate testing and truly inform care.

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 in my career when I was a medical director at United Healthcare, I had to review an orthopedic procedure. A nurse colleague came to me after I reviewed the case and said the orthopedist doing the procedure wanted a “real doctor” — not a board-certified pediatrician — to make the decision. I spoke to the orthopedic surgeon and explained that my decisions were based on national standards and I was well-trained to apply the health plan’s criteria to the case to approve or deny benefit coverage. While I didn’t make any mistakes in this case, I still laugh about being called out as not a real doctor. It emphasized to me that data by itself is not enough, and human connection is also very important in healthcare.

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?

Steven Udvarhelyi, M.D., currently CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana, was my boss when I worked at a start-up Medicaid plan in Texas and Independence Blue Cross in Philadelphia. He taught me about managing people and budgets and greatly advanced my business knowledge. I was a “blank sheet of paper” early on, and Steven helped fill it in.

Adam Boehler and Ezra Perlman of Francisco Partners still inspire me. Adam knows how to build companies from the ground up, and Ezra knows technology and investing. Combined with my knowledge of building programs and services, we had the right synergy to start Avalon.

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

Disruption for disruption’s sake is not always good. But disruption becomes necessary to change outcomes from the status quo. The challenge in healthcare is that cost and quality are not aligning, and the American public knows it and is not happy. Americans are spending more each year for less in quality than many other countries. It’s not acceptable that the gap keeps growing, so disruption is happening.

The challenge with disrupting the U.S. healthcare industry is the inertia built from what I call “huge tectonic plates,” which are the large provider systems, pharmaceutical companies, healthcare payers, government regulations, etc. They make innovation hard and generate great force in opposing 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.

Choose being right or effective.

When dealing with people, you have to decide whether you want to get them on board with the change or do you want to be right. In my opinion, it is more important to be effective than right, and being right may be a barrier to being effective. This requires me to suppress my ego.

Here’s an example: A middle manager says if he is promoted to a certain title, he will be more effective at his job. His mindset is that a bigger title brings more authority, but that’s typically not true. I believe that the higher up you go in an organization, the less top-down authority you truly have, which requires more influence to be successful.

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

Avalon’s Lab Insights program is set to manage lab results at scale, at the population level. We’re marrying large data sets from the healthcare system to identify opportunities we haven’t even thought of yet. We do know we can look at lab test ordering and see who is not ordering the right tests or making the right decisions based on the test results. As the industry works to migrate from a fee-for-service to a fee-for-value program, ensuring the right testing and right interpretation and analyzing trends over time are critical. We’re about to see this go from anecdote to reality in our programs.

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?

Walter Isaacson’s books are some of my favorites. I recently read Code Breakers, which explains how Jennifer Doudna and her collaborators invented an easy-to-use tool to edit DNA, known as CRISPR. I also read Isaacson’s books on Steve Jobs and Leonardo Da Vinci. Isaacson tries to understand how people reach a level of excellence, while also looking at their flaws and how they mitigate them to still succeed. It’s enlightening to understand that we’re all flawed and it’s a team effort to drive innovation.

As for podcasts, I enjoy Hidden Brain, which explores the unconscious patterns that drive human behavior. The podcast has helped me think a little differently. For instance, a recent episode demonstrated how important our frame of reference/viewpoint is to our understanding of the people around us. It pushed me to see the value of looking through other people’s eyes.

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

“Life is not hard. People make it hard.” — Charles Barkley

You see the truth in this quote daily, with people making things harder than they should be. We should all think about how we’re making things hard and work on making things easier.

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 the “tectonic plates” in healthcare more focused on driving value as opposed to preserving their self-interest and maintaining the status quo. I truly believe healthcare companies can be viable while being innovative in the areas of affordability and improved patient outcomes.

How can our readers follow you online?

https://www.avalonhcs.com/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/bill-kerr-7886505/

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


Meet The Disruptors: Bill Kerr Of Avalon Healthcare Solutions On The Five Things You Need To Shake… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Meet The Disruptors: Chaeyoung Shin Of NAMUH On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

“If you take everyone’s opinion into account, you’ll end up with the most mediocre of ideas.”

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

NAMUH co-founder and CEO, Chaeyoung Shin, is on a mission to close the gap between human breast milk and infant formula, recreating the bioactive molecules produced in breast milk that have a vital role in infant health and development. She earned her PhD in chemical engineering from UC Berkeley, transforming her proprietary yeast-based technology into a company as part of the Energy Biosciences Institute accelerator and Berkeley Skydeck Hot Desk programs.

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 starts as a “fragile” child. When I began eating solid foods, I didn’t have a strong appetite. I struggled with a constant stomach ache and watery stool, I noticed that I had lower levels of energy compared to my friends. I just thought I was born fragile, but didn’t recognize something was wrong because often as a child, what you experience is the only thing you know, and that is the “norm”. My digestive problems lasted until my early twenties, and I was diagnosed with multiple immune-related diseases, such as lupus — which in hindsight, might have been related to my gut problems. It was during my early days at graduate school when the importance of the gut-brain axis started to become a big thing. Also by this time, I knew that constant stomach aches were not normal. So, I launched a side project of meticulous research and experimentation with my nutrition. After years of scouring the internet and trial-and-error, I pieced together the best nutritional strategy to feed my body and gut microbiome. And I achieved the result that I was longing for — I don’t have constant stomach aches anymore (woohoo!). There were also unexpected, additional benefits — my energy level skyrocketed, my weight remained the same but my waist size decreased 2 in, and a fog over my thoughts (that I didn’t even know existed) lifted. Also during this time, I started questioning why I had struggled with all of these health issues and awful symptoms, especially as these immune conditions are often not considered to be hereditary. Simultaneously, I started working in the field of infant nutrition. That’s when it clicked; perhaps all of my health problems started from day one. I wasn’t breastfed as a baby and instead was exclusively formula-fed, which I later found out my body didn’t respond well to.

This realization fueled me to dive deeper into the murky world of baby formula, and what I discovered was shocking. Did you know there are no standards for infant formula to compare with breast milk? Did you know that formula feeding is associated with 40+ diseases and conditions? Baby formula is so necessary to a modern mom’s way of life, but it shouldn’t mean that a formula-fed baby is receiving inferior nutrition. NAMUH is working on closing the gap between human breast milk and infant formula. Our proprietary technology aims to create a baby formula that is molecularly identical to that of human breast milk.

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

The baby formula industry is stagnant and has been for the past 40 years. The large players have no need to innovate — their sales are increasing YoY anyway driven by the growing number of working women — and so they don’t! I’m not here to disrupt something that works well, but unfortunately, the ingredients and recipes in standard baby formula aren’t cutting it. Other brands are entering the baby formula market with organic and vegan options, but the basis of ingredients are still the same. NAMUH (human spelled backwards) has the technology to recreate human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs), the fiber-equivalents of breast milk, which are only found naturally in breast milk. In addition, we have partnerships with leading lipid and protein players to work together on creating human milk-like lipids and proteins. We want to provide formula feeding moms with a superior choice to what is on the market today.

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 at a pitch event in Japan a few years back… when it was my turn to present, I noticed that they had a very futuristic-looking standing microphone at the podium. But the microphone didn’t seem to be working, so I leaned further and further into the microphone and also asked if the audience was able to hear me. I was about to tap it when a person finally ran upstage and handed me a typical looking microphone that was on top of the podium all this time. It turns out, I was speaking into the lamp, not a microphone. I was extremely embarrassed, but I ended up winning a prize at the event, so it was a happy outcome! The lesson that I learned from this experience is to make sure to take into consideration all the information rather than just only focusing on the first thing that I spot. Of course, I also learned that if a microphone seems to be emitting light, it’s likely not a microphone.

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?

Ryan Bethencourt has been an awesome mentor for me. Ryan is the CEO of Wild Earth, a vegan pet food company. I met him at Indiebio, an incubator program that we were part of. Coming from the academic world, it was quite shocking for me to run into someone like Ryan. He is always at level “hyper” in energy, and encourages first-time entrepreneurs to embrace both the hardships and the enjoyment of founding a startup. I learned how to hustle and make things work from Ryan. He helped keep me sane throughout the hard parts and is still my go-to person whenever I run into massive walls.

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 a stagnant system, market or product offering should be done when legacy brands are making no effort to improve upon the status quo simply because they don’t have to. Take breast pumps for example. In 2014, the New York Times wrote an article entitled, “Shouldn’t the Breast Pump Be as Elegant as an iPhone and as Quiet as a Prius by Now?” And the answer was a resounding “yes” from pumping women! Today, Willow, Elvie and Babyation (to name a few) have responded to that need and created wearable breast pumps that women can use discreetly while continuing about their daily lives. Without that innovation, women were tethered to an outlet and had to undress halfway in order to pump milk every 2–3 hours. This innovation changed the way women accomplish a very necessary yet challenging task — especially in the workplace!

Trying to replace breastfeeding entirely would be a “not so positive” disruption. Yes, in many cases breastfeeding is difficult and not possible, but it is a perfectly viable option for some. There is an emotional bonding aspect to breastfeeding, which would be almost impossible to replace. There are also immune-related functions of breastfeeding, which would be astronomically expensive to replace. So rather than “replacing” breastfeeding, I believe in supporting breastfeeding mothers and providing better for baby alternatives that will make a significant difference to moms who cannot or choose not to breastfeed.

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

“Trust yourself.” I got this piece of advice from Ryan Bethencourt. I guess people say it all the time, and I used to think that I was good at trusting myself. However, when the day came when I had a handful of older, more experienced and successful people in front of me telling me I was wrong, I made the mistake of trusting them instead of myself. Now I make sure I don’t forsake my instincts or beliefs just because other, seemingly smarter people disagree.

“Grow thicker skin.” Paula Hicks, our CTO and my good friend & mentor, told me this after I had a particularly stressful week with investors. I was emotionally responding to every negative comment that was given to me so hearing her advice jolted me awake — my emotional responses were not helping me focus on the areas that needed actual improvement. Over time, I learned to grow thicker skin around my emotions at work. Reminding myself that the feedback is not personal (or should not be personal) and refocusing my energy on tangible actions really helped.

“You don’t have to be good at everything yourself; you just need to find and hire people who are better than you.” Laura Smoliar, one of our earliest investors, told me this. As a first time CEO, it was quite overwhelming to build a company, but her advice helped me change my perspective. Rather than learning how to do everything myself, which would be my first go-to solution, I learned how to learn just enough to be able to understand the needs and/or spot people who could help me or help me hire for a certain need. This mindset helped me recruit our amazing team.

“Be yourself.” This one I got recently from my marketing team. I think most founders are trained and advised to follow in the footsteps of some other great founders or their personas. In the past, I tried many things to diminish my feminine side (since most great founders are male), such as getting my hair cut short and wearing only pants. I also tried my best to bring out my inner Elon Musk during my pitches but would still get feedback that I should be more crazy like Travis Kalanick or more confident like a male founder of mutual acquaintances. But my marketing team had a crazy idea — to let me be more like myself. It’s too early to tell if this works or not, but at the very least it’s been the most liberating option 🙂

“If you take everyone’s opinion into account, you’ll end up with the most mediocre of ideas.” I don’t know where I read this, but it really helped me when I was getting a ton of feedback from all directions. I enjoy bouncing ideas off of people, but once we got to a certain size, it became really hard to take everyone’s thoughts into consideration. Reading this piece of advice gave me the confidence to weigh people’s opinions differently.

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

Project Breast Milk is a call to action for moms who want to help create a healthier future for the next generation of formula fed babies. In August, NAMUH is launching Project Breast Milk. This effort will recruit 2,000 breastfeeding moms to donate their milk to create a future where every baby can benefit from nutrients that are found only in breast milk today. We have the technology to create a baby formula that is based on breast milk — now we need to create the recipe with help from breastfeeding moms who are passionate about creating a better future for all babies. Our formula is slated to launch in 2024.

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

It would be a book called “The Wise Heart” by Jack Kornfield. It’s about Buddhist psychology and shares many wisdoms and examples of how to observe and train your mind to be more “at peace.” I read this book for the first time last year, and it has helped me immensely with being more compassionate to myself and others. When you are running a startup, it often feels like what you or your team is doing is not enough. The amount of workload is limitless and it almost always feels like you are not doing a good job. While this is not unusual for startup founders, it was unsustainable for me so I needed to learn a way of thinking that could alleviate some of the pressure. After reading the book, I learned how to observe my own feelings and actions, then redirect them towards a better outcome for me.

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 in Korean and there is no exact translation. Roughly translated, it’s akin to “Que sera, sera” or “whatever will be, will be” or “just go for it”. I sometimes hesitate to start new and unfamiliar things so I often have to give myself an extra nudge to take that leap.

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 the larger movement is about providing all people with better nutrition options. And transparency! People should know exactly what is in their food from day one and into adulthood. NAMUH is a nutrition company at its core, and our goal is to provide nutrition that is beneficial to your body, not something that simply meets a low existing bar. I’m passionate about this and want to create standards for the baby formula industry that make it easy for parents and caregivers to understand what babies are receiving nutritionally when they select a particular infant formula as compared to breast milk.

How can our readers follow you online?

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


Meet The Disruptors: Chaeyoung Shin Of NAMUH 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: Ganesh Swami Of Covalent On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

This also goes for each individual. What is the biggest investment that never goes wrong? It’s an investment in yourself. Go learn something, go work at an interesting company, and have smarter friends.

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

Ganesh Swami is the co-founder and CEO of Covalent, a Coinbase Ventures and Binance Labs backed data provider that brings visibility to billions of Web3 data points. Swami has over a decade of experience working with database technologies and bringing new products to market.

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 started my career in building protein simulation algorithms to solve cancer and my entry into blockchains crypto was quite accidental. I’ve always had this idea that the blockchain space required a standardized method to interact with, and I ended up scratching this itch at a weekend hackathon. I ended up winning that hackathon and starting a company to commercialize that project. So that was my entry into the crypto market.

Please share your favorite life lesson quote and how it was relevant to your life.

Jeff Bezos has this quote, “focus on things that do not change, not things that change”. So what are things that don’t change in society? People want things to be cheaper. People want excellent support. If you focus on that, as opposed to the new shiny thing, that gives you more room to experiment. With Covalent, we know that regular people will interact with web3 and crypto, and they don’t want to learn new stuff, they don’t want to retrain themselves, they don’t want to change the tooling, they don’t want to change the processes. That’s why this middleware technology makes a lot of sense, it really facilitates the adoption of crypto and FinTech.

This also goes for each individual. What is the biggest investment that never goes wrong? It’s an investment in yourself. Go learn something, go work at an interesting company, and have smarter friends.

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 first piece of advice is to stop being a perfectionist. A lot of people have amazing ideas and have the execution abilities to make it come true, but what stops them is actually their own mind of having to make sure everything is perfect. There is no guarantee that everything will go the way you imagined, especially in the business world, you have to learn and adapt. The best way to do that is to start acting the moment you have the framework set up, and work bit by bit to craft it how you envision it to become.

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?

When an idea hits you so strongly that it motivates you to undertake such an endeavor, it is likely because you understand the value that you are trying to create. These ideas don’t just come from anywhere, they come from years of experience and dedication to a field or craft. You are immersed in an industry or culture and you notice something is missing, so you set off to build something to fill that void in a way that will create value and improve upon what already exists.

Please outline the steps one has to go through, from when they think of the idea, until it finally lands in a customer’s hands.

This really depends on the type of products, some may require more steps and some are easier than others. Think about patents, supply chains, fundraising etc. However, generally, I think most of the products still follow the steps below.

Ideation, research, target market, initial concepts, production, prototype, manufacturing, marketing.

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?

It is imperative to first understand the market you are getting into, and how your product will impact that market. You must also have a strong grasp on your target customers and how you want them to interact with your product.

After going through these steps and outlining near and long term plans, the next phase is formulating what types of individuals you will need on your team, and how to go about assembling a high quality group to bring your idea to life.

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?

The answer really depends on who you are and what you aspire to do. Generally, I would say that nobody knows your idea like you and your team do, and if you are smart in building a highly effective and capable team, those sorts of problems will be much easier to solve internally.

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

There are pros and cons for both, and Covalent has gone through both stages. Having Venture Capital’s funding at your back in the beginning is definitely a good feeling for any start-ups. You will have the ability to accelerate at the speed that is way faster than your peers, but at the same time, you are risking losing control of your company. Covalent started in a bear cycle in the market, which meant that we were in a pretty bad position looking for venture capital in the very beginning. We were bootstrapped, and that gave us the freedom to focus more on our product and our customers. Without all the glamorous factors of the business of meeting and keeping up with the relationships with investors, our small team could really dedicate 100% of our time into developing the best product based on the customer feedback.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

At Covalent, we truly believe in the promise of blockchain technology. It is our mission to help developers, founders, hobbyists and anybody who is curious about this new technology to unlock its full potential through data visibility.

By bringing visibility to billions of Web3 data points, we are helping to support the pioneers building the future of Web3.

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

It will be the data movement. I think today data skills have to be a key life skill, and the reason for that is because the world is more complicated today than it was like 20 years ago, or even 50 years ago. A lot of people have internal agendas that try to push on you. For example, with election numbers, with the vaccines and COVID numbers? Every politician has their own agenda that they’re pushing on to you. It’s not clear what is true and what is not true. The only way to understand these things is to go back to the data and understand and crunch the numbers and verify for yourself if this is valid or not.

So a movement that I would like to contribute is to teach millions of people how to crunch numbers, how to understand the data, and how to apply first principles thinking to come to your own conclusion.

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


Making Something From Nothing: Ganesh Swami Of Covalent 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.

The Great Resignation & The Future Of Work: Adrian Jonklass Of Covalent On How Employers and…

The Great Resignation & The Future Of Work: Adrian Jonklass Of Covalent On How Employers and Managers Need To Adjust To The Future Of Work

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

I am very optimistic about the desire for innovation. It is exciting to see so many motivated and intelligent people coming together across the globe, connected by technology, to work on projects with a tangible goal of changing the world for the better.

As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Adrian Jonklass.

Adrian Jonklass is CFO, COO, and head of research at Covalent, a Coinbase Ventures and Binance Labs backed data provider that brings visibility to billions of Web3 data points. Jonklass has 15+ years of executive experience across multiple ventures, including co-founding Dignii — a leading data platform derived from human insights.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you please tell us about one or two life experiences that most shaped who you are today.

I graduated close to the top of my class from a top 50 MBA program into the recession following the dotcom bust in 2002. As there were mass layoffs in Tech, I worked a variety of jobs that I would have never have considered doing, including selling cars and conducting market research on real estate foreclosures. Those experiences helped me in my subsequent career in market research and consulting to real estate developers and family offices in Dubai. Over a decade later, as a well rounded business person, I was able to realize my dreams of being a tech entrepreneur.

What do you predict will be the same about work, the workforce and the workplace 10–15 years from now? What do you predict will be different?

Remote and hybrid work models are certainly here to stay. For many companies, applying flexible policies when it comes to in-person or remote work is crucial for both attracting talent and streamlining productivity.

It is impossible to predict the future, especially considering how much has changed in the past two years. However, for Web3-based organizations, the idea of “decentralization” now transcends beyond the blockchain and is often brought to life in the workplace — projects no longer require all team members to be in one place, and instead talent is scattered across the globe and engage in virtual collaboration. At Covalent, we implement a hybrid and flexible work model with a core team based in Greater Vancouver and a distributed team throughout Canada and a few countries globally. For the team in Greater Vancouver, most come in to our amazing 5,000 square foot office 3–4 times a week.

What do you predict will be the biggest gaps between what employers are willing to offer and what employees expect as we move forward? How can employers reconcile those gaps?

It is important for any employer to do their best to understand the needs of their employees, as well as the best ways to attract the highest level of talent.

An approach that has worked well for Covalent is placing equal emphasis on hiring candidates who share our core values and candidates who have the skill set required for the open role. In our experience, employees who share the same values are more willing to embrace the changes that all startups experience, including taking on new roles and responsibilities. This helps with our retention as well as opening up new learning, development, and career opportunities.

We’ve all read the headlines about how the pandemic reshaped the workforce. What societal changes do you foresee as necessary to support a future of work that works for everyone?

The workforce is changing at an increasing rate and hence re-training and re-education are key. It is interesting to see emergent models, such as “train now; pay when placed,” become more popular, in this case, with the training institute taking on part of the risk of the training being relevant. An innovation we are seeing in Web3 is the emergence of decentralized and on-chain credentials, which can remove gatekeepers and friction around access to credentials, transcripts, records of employment, and other achievements. In Web3, we also see implementations of Universal Basic Income, which is a stipend that is available to anyone who wants, to cover basic living expenses so to allow more people to take on unpredictable gig-work, start an entrepreneurial venture, or take up artistic and creative pursuits. These and much more innovation are required to retrain the tens of millions of people who will be displaced by workers who are digital native and who trained to use digital tools.

What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?

I am very optimistic about the desire for innovation. It is exciting to see so many motivated and intelligent people coming together across the globe, connected by technology, to work on projects with a tangible goal of changing the world for the better.

That is one of the most enthralling aspects of the blockchain industry in particular — how contagious the excitement and energy is, and how motivated the whole space is to build products with immense real-world value.

What innovative strategies do you see employers offering to help improve and optimize their employee’s mental health and wellbeing?

Mental health and well being is critical to both individual and team success. The hardships brought on by the pandemic served as a wake-up call to many businesses to acknowledge and tackle this important topic.

By offering flexible remote work policies, employers are putting more trust in their employees than ever, which fosters a relationship of mutual respect and accountability. We ensure our benefit plan has mental health related coverage. We also use a 4-day work week in the Summer to encourage people to get outside and enjoy the beautiful region we live in and to promote mental health and work life balance.

It seems like there’s a new headline every day. ‘The Great Resignation’. ‘The Great Reconfiguration’. And now the ‘Great Reevaluation’. What are the most important messages leaders need to hear from these headlines? How do company cultures need to evolve?

The most important message any leader can take away from these headlines is to care for your employees as real people, and not just as members of a business. People want to be seen and heard, and they want to feel like they are part of a team where they are valued.

What’s your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? And how has this quote shaped your perspective?

I like the quote [from the Bible] that, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every[thing].” The current season may feel like Winter, so we should do the things that we do well in Winter, which is, to sharpen our tools, build our skills, processes, and capacity i.e. get prepared and ready for the inevitable Spring and the growth to come. Covalent was born in a crypto bear market and are well poised to use this Season not just to survive but to potential increase our market share.

Our readers often like to continue the conversation with our featured interviewees. How can they best connect with you and stay current on what you’re discovering?

Visit our website — covalenthq.com — where you can see everything that the team at Covalent is working so hard to build. We post blogs, and reviews frequently. Also follow our Twitter account (@Covalent_HQ) and Telegram channel to remain updated on community and product developments.

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


The Great Resignation & The Future Of Work: Adrian Jonklass Of Covalent On How Employers and… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Meet The Disruptors: Ido Wiesenberg Of Voyantis On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your…

Meet The Disruptors: Ido Wiesenberg Of Voyantis On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

It’s meaningless to spend time, money, and resources towards building a product that only sounds good in theory, but might not actually be used in practice. As such, it is important to have close ties with the market early on, to understand what is really needed, which has yet to uniquely exist.

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

Ido Wiesenberg is a husband, father to three, and the CEO and co-founder of Voyantis, a predictive growth OS that enables growth and marketing teams to acquire and retain high-value users for greater long-term profitability.

Before Voyantis, Ido co-founded Tvinci, an OTT TV solution that was acquired by Kaltura in 2014. He was later selected by Forbes as one of the most promising entrepreneurs in Israel.

Ido has over 20 years of experience in building sales, growth and marketing teams, and a proven record of helping novice entrepreneurs set up their ventures through his mentorship with the Techstars accelerator program.

Ido enjoys playing a direct hand in helping entrepreneurs succeed through wisdom he gained along his own entrepreneurial journey, and by exposing them to innovations that will help support business goals. He is also a transformative speaker that presents actionable insights on these topics, in addition to ways to elevate user acquisition and growth.

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 foundation is the fact that I came from a very creative family — with a musician father and brother, and a choreographer mother. As such, it was always clear to me that I will also be a part of creating something. By extension, since business elements interested me from a young age, I channeled my creativity into building different businesses from a very young age.

I got my start in the advertising industry about 20 years ago, as an Adobe flash master. I worked with top leading brands in Israel, including top ad agencies just as they were starting to go digital. Soon after that, I started my first company, Frido, which was a boutique digital marketing company. That led to my start in video and websites, which led to me co-founding Tvinci, an OTT TV solution that was acquired by Kaltura in 2014. In 2020, I co-founded Voyantis with Eran Friendinger, and the rest is history.

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

I am a big believer that the whole growth marketing industry will experience a shift from acting in a retrospective manner, to taking a futurespective approach. These days, it has become clear that the way decisions are made on a daily basis should be changed into a more scientific way using machine learning. As such, in a few years, predictive growth will be standard. This is an essential part they are making decisions and acting on data, and it will be a strong part of the workflow. I am pleased with my role in this change, through Voyantis’ predictive growth platform.

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?

Back in the Tvinci-days, I had a successful meeting with an investor who agreed to invest $250,000. I was happy with the amount, and sure that I wouldn’t need another dollar — so I communicated that to all the other investors. I was certain that $250K was enough for Tvinci to be profitable.

Three months after that, after realizing I had spoken too soon and said too much, I returned to the same investors, and luckily they were nice enough to invest. Tvinci made major strides since then, and those investors continue to be my investors today in Voyantis.

That experience taught me to always keep some form of dialogue going, and not make major decisions in haste.

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?

On the HR side, I work for Dan Valach, who helped me build an organization with the right foundations, in addition to building for scalability. He also helped me implement the right work processes, employee empowerment, and to build values.

On the business side, Roi Rubin and Roi Erez help look at the big picture, and challenge me and assist in scaling from the business side, while always looking a few steps ahead.

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’re building a new category, which has its own positive, and less-positive elements.

While we understand that there is a strong demand for our solution, people are still not searching for it. Most potential customers are not aware of such a solution and our primary focus is how to educate the market first and then how to build trust in our solution.

There is a strong intent but it is still hidden, and our work by building this new category exposes this intent and explains, in simple words, why companies need to switch to the LTV-based approach.

Market education is a very challenging process, but on the other hand, it is also very rewarding when you succeed because it makes it easy to become a market leader.

So the reward is very big but you need patience.

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. It’s meaningless to spend time, money, and resources towards building a product that only sounds good in theory, but might not actually be used in practice. As such, it is important to have close ties with the market early on, to understand what is really needed, which has yet to uniquely exist.
  2. From the beginning we worked alongside customers and learned of their needs. We ultimately based our roadmap on real demand from the market, and shaped it based on actual feedback from live customers from the early days.
  3. Every area of focus needs to be done with scale in mind. In our case, we saw that it was really important to focus from the beginning on a certain type of customers, with an understanding of how the same product will suit an expanded range of customers in the future. This is why, from the start, I stressed to build a product that would fit a large enough market.
  4. It is also important to build an internal knowledge center from scratch, to distribute knowledge between team members. It was one of the problems I faced in my previous company, when we had over 500 employees, and new team members were coming on board. At Voyantis, we decided to build a knowledge base from day one, to educate each employee well in advance, as part of an onboarding process, to become an expert within a few weeks. We continuously enhance this process, with the understanding that this is another way to ultimately achieve scalability.
  5. Our HR team was structured from the ground up to think about the employees from the beginning, while building a personal development program for each team member, in addition to a feedback loop, and instilling values — all of which extends to the management team as well.

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

The current economic situation has made things interesting in the growth marketing front, and it will only get more interesting in the next year. I truly hope that an increasing number of companies will realize that the shift towards profitability, instead of the mindset of growth-at-any-cost, is becoming crucial. I realize that this means the market would need to be more educated towards this topic, and the need to act on unit economics. Decisions need to be made by growth teams based on long term view, not short term proxies.

With all this in mind, I hope to achieve massive growth by helping more companies predict and act upon data. Of course, I would also want to keep them beyond satisfied, because of the value we provide to our customers.

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?

There are many books by Shimon Peres that have impacted my thinking. One that particularly stands out is, No Room for Small Dreams: Courage, Imagination, and the Making of Modern Israel, for reasons that don’t even have anything to do with politics. This book beautifully teaches about innovative thinking, optimism, going against the odds, taking on a long-term view, and having faith in your goal.

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

Always look at the bright side of life. As an entrepreneur there are many reasons to be pessimistic. Every day is a whole new roller coaster, and there are many pessimistic people along the way that would try to bring you down. You must always remember to stay optimistic, with faith in your endeavor, and don’t give up — even on the most difficult days along the way.

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

As a member of the high-tech industry, it is important to help bridge gaps in the industry and workforce. We must bring in more under-represented people, including minorities, and people aged 50+ who have dropped out of the workforce, etc. The ability to help, teach, and lift people up as a whole is a win-win for everyone.

How can our readers follow you online?

I love connecting with people of all ages and stages on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/idofrido/ and on Twitter: @idofrido

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


Meet The Disruptors: Ido Wiesenberg Of Voyantis 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: Saad Alam Of Hone Health On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

You don’t need a lot of money to validate an idea. The conclusion that I’ve come to is that I can validate so much of what I need to do without major monetary investments, and as soon as you see traction, that becomes interesting and exciting.

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

Saad Alam is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Hone Health, the largest online clinic that treats men’s hormonal imbalances, low testosterone, and increases longevity. Before founding Hone Health, Saad was the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Citelighter, an education-technology company that helps students become writers using principles of neuroscience. Before submerging himself into entrepreneurship, Saad was the Director of Marketing and Sales at HealthCentral, a health-centric website that publishes medically vetted content. Before that, Saad led Market Research at Eli Lilly & Company for the $4B neuroscience franchise He was responsible for market research and insights development for leading pharmaceutical brands, including Zyprexa, Symbyax, and Relprevv.

Saad holds a Masters of Public Health (MPH) from Columbia University and an MBA from the University of Rochester, where he was the student body president.

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’m a first-generation Pakistani-American. My father originally came to America to attend Stanford University on a full academic scholarship, where he received his Ph.D. in Particle Physics and was part of the largest particle physics studies in history, discovering several new particles in the process. My father made sure that my mother received her education when they came to the United States, something that was fairly uncommon in Pakistani culture, and she went on to become a financial executive. I was truly blessed to grow up with such loving parents that really encouraged me to be an acute academic student, but I also spent a lot of time trying to fit in and be accepted by my peers, and that came in the form of athletics. I started at a very young age and had to teach myself many of them because my parents didn’t grow up playing American sports.

When I went to college, I definitely knew that I was also an entrepreneur — I had a lot of entrepreneurial tendencies growing up and had many endeavors to make money, and my parents really wanted me to be a physician. I prepared myself to attend an Ivy League Medical School but ultimately decided that it wasn’t the path for me and decided to go to business school. After graduating, I went to run market research and development for a $4 billion pharmaceutical company, because I thought that it could help me be as close to the healthcare industry as possible while being able to have a large impact and support myself. I eventually realized that this wasn’t the role or path for me, as I wanted to be able to have a greater impact.

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

“The obstacle is the way” — In life, if you believe that there are going to be nothing but a series of obstacles and you are already anticipating them, you will already be in the right mindset to attack them and be in a problem-solving mentality rather than feeling defeated that you have a challenge in front of you. It’s relevant in every part of my life as an entrepreneur and as a family man, I’m always ready for the next problem and trying to find the solution.

My father used to read me this poem called Sitaron Se Age and what it basically said was that in your life, there are many different valleys and peaks to climb, but once you get to that peak, don’t become complacent. Always remember there are other mountains that are higher to climb. To never become satisfied and always look for the next thing that will get you excited in life.

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 read voraciously, and there are lots of books that have had an impact on me. One book that really changed my understanding of how to manifest things into reality was Becoming Supernatural by Dr. Joe Dispenza. Dr. Dispenza had a traumatic spine injury while riding a bike and physicians told him he’d never walk again, and he visualized his spine healing, and within several months he was riding a bike again. The conclusion that Dr. Dispenza came to was that there is a mechanism that you can manifest things into life, and how you can take your thoughts and turn them into real-world actions.

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 have a lot of ideas, but there are six things I always keep in mind when going through ideation.

  1. Take time to think deeply about the problem you’re trying to solve. I have to go through a process where I fall in love with it. When I have an idea I record a voice memo, or write a note in my phone, and if I continuously find myself going back to that idea or concept, there’s a deep emotional attachment to the idea or the problem I’m trying to solve. Over the next 1–2 days I’ll use a whiteboard and start writing and start asking myself ‘Is it the idea I’m in love with? Is it the problem I’m in love with? Are there other ideas that could solve this problem?’ and I let myself become deeply attached to it to the point where it becomes my mission or my duty to solve this.
  2. Just start while you’re still excited. While I’m excited I’m taking the time to do research, and have conversations with multiple groups of people to get their insight or perspective.
  3. The business starts when it gets hard. This is when progress is happening. For many, this is when they will lose their enthusiasm, but this is when you need to take a step back and ask yourself ‘Why is this challenging? What can I be doing differently to work around the issues?’ and push through it. When you’re able to get through the challenging portion, that’s when the magic happens.
  4. Failure is progress. When you’re failing you’re learning, and that’s the building of the business. What a lot of people will think is that this is the universe telling them that this isn’t a good idea and won’t work but it really is working — it’s just a matter of finding another way to get through to the other side.
  5. Force yourself some time to think through the learnings and re-adjust. Sometimes you have to force yourself to de-couple from the process and take a step back and take a different viewpoint on what you’re trying to achieve. This can be really challenging if you’re deep into the operations process. To think about what you’ve learned to this point you need to separate yourself from the situation you’re in — go for a walk, listen to music, go play basketball, spend time with people you care about — and then you can typically re-approach the situation with a set of fresh eyes and think about how you need to re-adjust.
  6. Keep moving forward — work hard and smart. You may get overwhelmed, but it’s important to keep the momentum that you’ve generated and keep on pushing. Generally when I hear people say they want to work smart and not hard I think that they are not the kind of people that I’d want to work with. I believe that you have to work both hard and smart in order to be successful and be able to bring an idea to life.

The concept of Hone Health was a byproduct of this process. At age 35, I found myself with a significant decrease in energy, loss of focus, and was putting on weight, despite eating perfectly, exercising regularly for 20-plus years, and putting a huge emphasis on ensuring I got enough sleep. After months of going to different physicians, lab work, and consultations, it was finally discovered that I had the testosterone levels of an 80-year-old man. What was more alarming, but in some ways reassuring, was when the physician that finally diagnosed me with low testosterone explained how common of a condition this is for men over 35 and as they continue to age. After experiencing this firsthand physically, mentally, and emotionally, I knew that there had to be other men out there that were dealing with the same issues, and trying to navigate the healthcare system the same way I did.

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?

Here are three processes I go through during an ideation process:

  1. The first step is to write a set of questions that a person may ask Google.
  2. Google like crazy. Google as many different variations of that question as you can think of, and look at all the different solutions that pop up. You’re going to find a lot of organizational websites, you’ll find a lot of academic articles. You’ll also need to go to the second, third, and fourth page on that Google search to identify the businesses that are trying to solve that same problem.
  3. Once you find the competitors — understand how well they are doing. If they are doing poorly, why? Is the need not there? is the execution poor? How would your solution differ? If they are doing well, you need to ask yourself ‘Is there room in the market? How would my solution be better? How much would it cost to develop? How much more could I charge? Can I take market share away from this competitor, and if so, can they pivot to catch up with me?’

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

First and foremost, you’d need to think of every potential manufacturer, vendor, or retailer you would need to use for your product or service, and find the emails or phone numbers of the owners of those businesses, and schedule time to speak with them. Tell them that you’re an entrepreneur and always present yourself as an expert in your field, and tell them what you’re looking to accomplish. You’d be surprised how many free calls you can have, and when you find someone who is passionate about what you’re working on — they will give you all the time in the world. Always remember — they are looking at you as a potential client and they want to talk to you

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

  1. Hire people smarter than you. I wish I had spent more time adding people who were veterans in the space and had done it before and I could go to them and say ‘Recreate this, but with this slight variation. Instead, I thought about how can I hire but spend all my time creating, but in reality if I had spent more time finding the right people and letting them create I think I would have gotten further a lot faster.
  2. You don’t need a lot of money to validate an idea. The conclusion that I’ve come to is that I can validate so much of what I need to do without major monetary investments, and as soon as you see traction, that becomes interesting and exciting.
  3. Fail fast and it’s never as bad as it seems. At first, I wanted everything to be absolutely perfect before I shipped. Now, I aim to create something that’s just good enough, ship it, fail, understand how you can improve it, and re-tool it. Generally, at the onset, I always use to think that failing is horrible and it was an indication that I was a bad entrepreneur, and now I approach it with the mindset of ‘I can fail at anything, it’s never as bad as it seems.’ You can always find ways to pick up the pieces and improve the process.
  4. You will have to repeat yourself over and over. I felt bad about this early on, but now I don’t feel bad about this at all. I have to continue to repeat myself over, and over, and over again to ensure that the same message is resonating with multiple groups of people in the company, and it becomes part of their lexicon.
  5. If the actual idea is bad don’t chase it down if the execution proves good. This may sound antithetical to the things I’ve previously said. Generally speaking, if you have an idea and you’ve tried to make it work 10, 15, or 20 different times, don’t go raise capital if you’re a really good salesperson if the idea truly isn’t unbelievable at the end of the day. You have to truly believe that if you take the capital you will be able to apply it and build the business. The mistake I made in my first business was exactly this. I shouldn’t have tried to build a venture-scale company and bootstrapped it a little bit more.

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. Sketch it out with paper and pen — write it all out, draw it out, outline all the features and why this is necessary.
  2. Go on Fiverr or Upwork and find a CAD developer to build a 3D model if this is a tangible product. If it’s a development product you’ll need to find a development shop that can help you.
  3. Go to Alibaba and find someone to build the product as cheaply as possible. You’ll probably have to talk to 30–40 people to give them the specifications and the 3D model.
  4. Build and iterate. You’ll probably want to work with 2–3 people on Alibaba to see different variations that are being sent to you so you can review the quality of the product. From there you’ll go through several iterations before finally landing on a supplier.

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

If you’re hiring a development consultant you’re not an entrepreneur. I think you need to have the idea yourself, especially if it’s your first one, you have to believe in it, you have to think through it. I think development consultants are better for larger companies and not first-time entrepreneurs.

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 love both, but it took me a while to understand the difference between which you choose and why. I’m sure that many young people starting out when building a business think that they need money, I was the same way, versus thinking that you can start a business, but you don’t need money. I think it’s important to have a clear understanding of the outcome or purpose of what a venture-backed business is and how fast it’s supposed to grow, and will the market you’re going into truly support a venture-type outcome that would make investors happy.

I have built several venture businesses, but for my next endeavor, I’ll want to bootstrap for as long as I can before I go to look for venture — if at all. I think that there’s a way to build a bootstrap business that is cash flow positive with very little money, it just takes a little bit more time and management expertise. I think you just need to think through the business model very carefully.

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

I am a cold-hearted mission-driven killer. I only build mission-driven companies that provide value and improve people’s lives, and I work like tomorrow is not promised and I make sure that the team around me is of like-minded people who have the same approach to the work and the task at hand. If I haven’t gone through the problem personally and had it impact me directly, I won’t build it — it’s just not the business for me.

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

With Hone Health, I am leading the movement that I think is of the utmost importance — peace of mind, confidence, and perspective as they age. I think most people succumb to the idea that the best years are behind them when they hit 40 or 50 years old, and the reality is you have 2–3 good lifetimes left ahead of you, and we’re trying to teach people that through education and solutions to increase and enhance longevity.

Other movements that I think are really important are centered around self-awareness, desire and willpower, and momentum and manifestation. If people were more self-aware and could remove themselves from their egos a little bit more they would be able to accomplish so much more in life because your ego can hold you back from hearing the truth and understanding the next steps you need to take to become the person that you really want to be. I think a lot of people have great ideas but they don’t have the desire or willpower, so creating a movement to be able to tap into your inner-self to make sure you have an unlimited amount of willpower and desire, even when things get difficult. The last one, there’s this concept of momentum and manifesting your dreams and desires and a lot of people don’t understand how to do that, and I think there’s another movement being personified in the creator economy, which is you can basically create your entire life and it’s a function of what are the steps to do it because they can be easily replicated.

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.

Fred Wilson or Marc Andreeson

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


Making Something From Nothing: Saad Alam Of Hone Health 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: Anastasios “Taso” Arima Of IperionX On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up…

Meet The Disruptors: Anastasios “Taso” Arima Of IperionX On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Exceed people’s expectations. Jump into the deep end and learn to swim. When you impress people and build relationships with them, they will be there to make sure you don’t sink.

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

Anastasios “Taso” Arima is the Founder and CEO of IperionX, a leader in developing U.S.-based sustainable critical mineral and critical material supply chains. Taso has a long history of identifying company-making projects and in the exploration, development, financing, and permitting of projects. He attended the University of Western Australia where he studied Commerce and Engineering.

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 Perth, Australia, an area where industry is heavily reliant on mining so that is the industry I knew. It made sense to get started in the metals and mining space. After university, I started in mining finance, eventually founding a coal company in Alberta, Canada. I stayed in the fossil fuels area until I moved to the U.S. when I recognized the coal mining industry was on the decline. I wanted to align myself with industries with an eye toward sustainability, and along with my team, I created another company, called Piedmont Lithium, which we developed into one of the leading lithium projects in North America. After Piedmont was well advanced and with a strong management team in place, I began to look at other supply chains in the United States that are vulnerable and need to be re-shored, with titanium being a standout. We identified very quickly that both titanium mineral and metal supply chains need to be rebuilt in the U.S., and we have secured a very large mineral deposit in Tennessee, and have combined it with an advanced, highly sustainable titanium metal production technology. And that is why I started IperionX — to revitalize the U.S. titanium industry with a low-cost and low-carbon method for titanium manufacturing and extraction.

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

Our technology is going to disrupt the metals industry. Titanium’s weight-to-strength ratio is superior to that of aluminum and steel, can withstand extreme temperatures and is extremely corrosive resistant. Yet, due to its high price tag, it is primarily used in high-end, advanced applications, including fighter jets, ships and missiles Our titanium metal technology has the potential to enable the production of a low-cost, low-carbon, sustainable titanium. Not only that, but our technology also enables us to use 100% recycled scrap metal to produce high-quality titanium metal, enabling a closed-loop resource and socially inclusive green economy, the only of its kind.

In addition to our technology, we also have the rights to the Titan Project, a critical mineral project covering approximately 11,000 acres in West Tennessee. Our approach to minerals extraction will be focused on implementing highly sustainable practices, so much so that we often compare it to farming, including a big emphasis on land reclamation. To this end, we have partnered with the University of Tennessee’s Institute of Agriculture to ensure we are leaving the land in a better state than how we found it.

The combination of our technology and our Titan Project allows the potential for IperionX to reshore the entire mineral-to-metal titanium supply chain in the United States, with the intent of making low-cost, low-carbon titanium accessible to be used in a wide range of industries, including automobiles, medical devices, electronics as well as aerospace and defense.

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 pretty young when I had to hire my first CEO. I knew whom I wanted, but I also knew I had to make the case as to why he should build this company with me. So, I took him for drinks and sold him on the job. I thought it went great. When it came time to pay the bill, my credit card was declined. I was out of money. I had to ask him to pay for our tab. I learned that dreaming big pays off, and to always carry cash.

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?

I have been very lucky to have incredible mentors. When I was just starting out, the owner of the Investment Bank I was working at took me under his wing and showed me a lot about what it meant to be a business professional and leader. I was able to see how successful businesses were from the top. It was a unique perspective that I certainly do not take for granted. These mentors and others were able to grow my network quickly. All of these professionals taught me a lot about building professional relationships that have helped me in all aspects of my life. I was a very persistent young professional and when I saw opportunities, I impressed people whom I wanted to learn from. I worked hard and tried to impress my mentors. That’s what helped me grow. Even today, after founding several successful companies, I still turn to my mentors to talk about business strategy, operations, and even my personal life.

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

When you disrupt an industry and the result is better for society, that would be a positive disruption… but when the outcome has detrimental effects, I would consider that a not-so-positive disruption to an industry.

This reminds of an interview Jon Sylvan once had with The Atlantic regarding his invention of K-Cups. His invention completely changed the coffee industry and since then, billions of these single-use coffee pods have filled our landfills.

I wholeheartedly believe our company is going to be a positive disruption in the metals industry. Many people do not know this, but the traditional way titanium is made, the Kroll Process, is very bad for the environment. It is dirty and expensive. With our HAMR technology, we will be offering an alternative that is not only more affordable but also sustainable.

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

Exceed people’s expectations. Jump into the deep end and learn to swim. When you impress people and build relationships with them, they will be there to make sure you don’t sink.

“Buy low, sell high” was originally a statement that I thought was crazy. But now I see how it’s great. It’s risky moving into an area that’s new or doesn’t have a lot of competition. But as you work to build it up others will take notice and if you want to sell, then is the time. Always look to run toward opportunity especially when no one else is there.

Know when you are wrong. That’s easier said than done when you’re trying to build something. But if you are learning and growing, that’s part of the process. And knowing how to fail means you can recover faster.

Listen to anyone and everyone who will talk to you. My dad taught me that everyone has something to say. By listening to people in all walks of life you learn a lot about your strengths and weaknesses. You get to decide whom you listen to and who really knows what they’re talking about and whether it’s worth taking their advice.

It’s okay to be told no. Someone, eventually, the harder you work, will say yes.

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

I believe we are on the cusp of the age of titanium. Right now, titanium is seen as a luxury metal, but we have the opportunity to make this metal more common in our everyday lives. And what a world of difference it could make.

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

“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.” by Abraham Lincoln. I don’t let myself procrastinate, and I try to get stuff done early.

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?

Recycle. If we can properly get rid of plastic, it would do a lot of good. There’s no sense in seeing garbage all over city streets and trash cans flowing over. We must care more about the environment. It’s a massive issue and it’s only going to get worse. We can have a positive impact.

How can our readers follow you online?

Twitter: https://twitter.com/iperionx_ltd

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/taso-arima-26315658/

TikTok: https:www.tiktok.com/iperionx

Facebook: https:www.facebook.com/iperionx

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


Meet The Disruptors: Anastasios “Taso” Arima Of IperionX 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.

The Future Is Now: Stevie Hopkins Of Dropolis On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up…

The Future Is Now: Stevie Hopkins Of Dropolis On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up E-Commerce

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Starting several businesses at a very young age, I wish I would have been more open minded in teaming up with strategic partners/potential investors. I feel this insight and higher knowledge would’ve taken these ideas to the next level.

As a part of our series about cutting-edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Stevie Hopkins: CEO of Dropolis and SCP.

Evangelist of all things culture, creativity, music and more, Stevie parlayed his experience developing a disability advocacy brand into SCP Merchandising, the largest independent merchandising company in the entertainment industry.

He has helped build the merch brands of some of the biggest names including Billie Eilish, Unus Annus, Mitski, Carly Rae Jepson, Louis the Child, Freddie Gibbs, and more.

Now, he’s bringing both his unbridled enthusiasm for what’s next and the best of his expertise as a recognized master of merch to the web3 realm. Dropolis is-quite literally-the city of Stevie’s dreams.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I own a DIY disability awareness lifestyle brand that I inherited from my sister, who passed away in 2009. That led me down the path of printing and shipping t-shirts and other merchandise and in 2013 a local band needed some t-shirts printed. I’ve always been one to say yes to almost any opportunity. That band ended up growing rapidly over the next year and became a significant part of my life. That led to introductions to many managers in the music industry and before long I was managing merchandise for the likes of Billie Eilish and now I have one of the largest merchandising companies in the entertainment industry with clients from music, YouTube, Twitch, TikTok, podcasts, etc.

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

In 2020, I helped build the merch brand for a one-year YouTube project called Unus Annus. On the very last day of their one-year video series, they invited their friends that helped them along the way to participate in a live stream to say goodbye to the channel. They called me onto their stream around midnight and there was a live viewing audience of over one million people. The success of that live stream and the effect on merch sales required me to rent an entire separate building just for their project and we had to hire almost 50 full time employees. If it wasn’t for that YouTube project and success of that live stream, I’m not sure my business would have survived Covid given our historical dependence on concerts and live events.

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 building the first frictionless marketplace for NFTs that are specifically linked to limited edition collectibles and merchandise. Dropolis will add a new layer of opportunity for creators and collectors, both from a revenue and engagement standpoint for creators, but also a new simpler yet amplified way for fans to collect.

How do you think this might change the world?

The advent of Blockchain and digital assets and its use case for physical collectibles and engaging with fans is going to provide a more efficient economic model around the secondary market for concert tickets, merchandise, experiences and other limited edition collectibles such as sports memorabilia, toys, etc. Collections will be “tracked” on the Blockchain and it will end up creating new ways for people to connect with one another through Blockchain-backed social media, etc. I feel that Dropolis will help expedite the adoption of web3 and Blockchain to the masses because it moves an everyday transaction to the chain and incentivizes people to collect and trade digital assets.

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

I talk about the “black mirror” vision of our future through the lens of Blockchain on a regular basis. Now that we all have phones and other cloud-based technology on our bodies at all times, we have an easy digital wallet for Blockchain collectibles in our possession via our phone, Apple Watch, etc. It’s only a matter of time before every public place is tapping into our digital wallets to serve us customized experiences and communications but also to use our wallets to commemorate what we do. Similar to a sci-fi film; as you walk down a futuristic street passing billboard advertisements and signage that morph to only directly target you. In another example, imagine getting your haircut and the barber/stylist dropping a token into your wallet and then going to a restaurant after your haircut for a date and receiving another token at checkout. Our entire life of experiences could potentially be tokenized on the chain as a chronological time capsule. That could very quickly be used for many things, by the government or companies. Blockchain and tokenization is the next iteration of digitizing our entire being.

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

My merchandising company sells millions of merch items every year and after I discovered NFTs in February of 2021, I quickly envisioned a world where all of the items leaving our warehouse are tokenized. I’ve been building ever since.

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

Blockchain and NFTs currently have somewhat of a marketing problem. There are many misconceptions and a lack of understanding of what the technology is and how it can be used. I believe widespread adoption for platforms such as mine is very achievable with time and a collaborative effort to educate people how to collect digital assets and to do so safely.

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

We have not yet gone fully to market as we are lining up our initial content partners and working out tech developments further.

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

It may sound like a cliché answer but I wouldn’t be here without the love and support of my mom. I grew up with a very severe disability and still live daily overcoming the challenges of needing 24/7 personal care assistance. My Mom not only took care of me when I was young but every time I’ve started a new business she was willing to help me with the physical tasks necessary that I could not do on my own. When my sister passed away, she was the first person to jump in and help me take over the t-shirt brand and she has been handling customer service, online shipping, and hundreds of other tasks ever since!

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

Whether it’s my own t-shirt brand for the disability community (3E Love), any of the thousands of clients in the entertainment industry that I have served, or the future customers of my web3 platform (Dropolis), I believe that I am helping to create unique items and experiences that bring people joy and create conversations. The conversations that our merchandise creates bring people together every day throughout the world.

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

  1. “Bootstrapping is not the only option”

Story: Starting several businesses at a very young age, I wish I would have been more open minded in teaming up with strategic partners/potential investors. I feel this insight and higher knowledge would’ve taken these ideas to the next level.

2. “Hire fast, fire faster, promote fastest”

Story: From my experience as a solo entrepreneur and comparing this to working alongside a brilliant team I’m grateful to call my colleagues, I’d always choose the latter. At the end of the day, you can’t do everything alone. If you’re in a situation where you have positive cash flow, it’s always a smart business decision to build-up in terms of staff. More creative minds, more jobs to fill, and more work being done. Creating a steady system of employee standards will allow the business to keep staff that meet company requirements.

3. “There is no playbook to building a business in web3”

Story: While building Dropolis, I felt the pressure to create something “perfect”. I quickly realized the web3 landscape is a constantly changing marketplace. There is no “perfect” model. From there on out, I trusted my vision to create something thoughtful that consumers would genuinely enjoy, utilizing this technology.

4. “Always reflect on your purpose”

Example: Ask yourself “why” and make sure you are serving that. Always come back to the core reason of why you do what you do. Without it, you can easily lose sight of larger business goals.

5. “Try to remain open to all opportunities that come your way; trust the process”

Story: I’ve had the privilege to manage Billie Eilish’s merch brand for over two years. It all started when I agreed to fulfill a twenty five piece t-shirt order for a show in California for her. Long story short: this relationship led to a multi-million dollar merch brand. While all this was a risk at the time, I knew I could get the job done and that opened so many doors for my career. I trusted the process and the universe rewarded me.

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. 🙂

By meeting new people of different backgrounds, experiences, and ethnicities it’s allowed me to learn so much about myself that has helped shape who I am as a business operator. One thing that really excites me is to become that bridge for others. So many of us have brilliant ideas that never see the light of day. I’d love to be a motivation for people to get out of their comfort zone and flex their worth! Continue to put yourselves out there, I challenge you to have mandatory monthly trips or attend networking events that force you to meet new people!

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 count dollars, I count relationships — It’s my personal motto and something I remind myself of day in and day out. With that being said, I understand the importance of revenue in business — but building relationships was my key to longevity. The idea of sustaining these strong relationships have helped me maintain great employees during tough market conditions, opened the door to new business opportunities via referrals, and have truly saved the day when I needed external favors from vendors.

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 🙂

Dropolis is the first marketplace where creators and fans can buy and sell NFTs directly linked to collectable merchandise, bridging the gap between the blockchain and the way fans interact with their favorite creators. Behind the platform, there is a fully integrated team of web3 strategists, merchandisers, marketers and developers who are creating a marketplace (Dropolis) that will onboard creators and fans on to web3 to provide an exceptional user experience and lasting benefits.

We aim to leverage the infrastructure we have built with SCP, the largest vertically integrated merchandising company in the country, and pair it with Dropolis, a creator and fan focused blockchain marketplace designed by web3 strategists and fan engagement experts to meaningfully extend the creator economy into web3.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

https://twitter.com/steviespeaks

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

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


The Future Is Now: Stevie Hopkins Of Dropolis 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.

Wisdom From The Women Leading The Blockchain Revolution With Niamh O’Connell Of CasperLabs

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

… COVID really did put blockchain, NFTs and crypto in the limelight which is great, but like other disruptors of the space, tech maturity doesn’t happen overnight. The internet began in 1969 when Charley Kline (UCLA student) sent a message to the Stanford Research Institute, which was the first connection between computer networks. It wasn’t really until the early 2000s that it became mainstream.

As a part of our series about Wisdom From The Women Leading The Blockchain Revolution, I had the pleasure of interviewing Niamh (Neeve) O’Connell.

Niamh (Neeve) O’Connell is senior business development manager at CasperLabs. Niamh is a blockchain expert and has been at the forefront of the blockchain evolution since 2016. She is a co-founder of BlockW, a female-led initiative providing a platform for communication, education, and the discussion of ideas relating to careers in blockchain.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share with us the story of how you decided to pursue this career path? What lessons can others learn from your story?

Absolutely. I always knew from a young age that I would end up in business after setting up little businesses, selling my neighbors everything from lemonade to locally sourced flowers. It was really during my undergraduate course (Business, Economics & Social Studies) at Trinity College Dublin — where I undertook some IT modules — that I started thinking about marrying the two: business and technology. At the time, these hybrid courses weren’t available, but they are now!

And so, in 2015, I joined Deloitte & Touche’s Consulting Division in Dublin, Ireland, which was heavily investing in disruptive tech at the time, and I had the opportunity to be part of the founding member team that was tasked with setting up and scaling their blockchain lab for Europe, Middle East, and South Africa (EMEA). I quickly realized I was most interested in exploring how blockchain could be used to disrupt supply chains, and how consumers specifically could really benefit from using the tech. So that’s really how it all started and I haven’t looked back since.

As for takeaway lessons, I would say that:

  1. Just because you start a course or a job in one area, doesn’t mean you can’t shift gears. Your career path is a journey and shouldn’t be viewed as something linear.
  2. Find a job in an area that you’re genuinely passionate about where you feel you could make an impact …it will make the late work nights seem not so bad!
  3. The biggest factor to affect your career is your mindset. Be open.

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

Yes there are a few that come to mind.

On the supply chain management side, we recently worked on a project with our partners at WISeKey, where we demonstrated the viability of using the Casper blockchain as the secure data layer for transmitting and communicating encrypted information with IoT sensors and satellite technology. WISeKey can now fully secure its IoT communications network with verifiable data to record and query information on the blockchain.

On the consumer engagement side, we’re exploring a range of VR/AI mobile activation campaigns underpinned by the Casper NFT across a number of verticals.

We’re building several bespoke marketplaces for a number of assets to enable trading and resell of access products.

This project is a doorway for mass deployment of farming, agricultural sensors, logistics, infrastructure monitoring, and energy sectors.

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, there are actually a few.

Tyler Mulivhill (Global Co-head of NFTs, ConsenSys) — Tyler is the reason I’ve been working in New York since early 2020. He asked me to move stateside and help scale out Treum’s supply chain & blockchain SaS offering and team.

Claire Fitpatrick (Enablement Head EMEA, TikTok) — Claire has been a great support and sounding board since we worked together at ConsenSys and continues to do so virtually.

Emma Walker (Director, Wayflyer) — Emma and I were introduced in early 2018, whilst we were both working in Blockchain in Dublin. We were both frustrated by the lack of women in the space generally. 4% of meetup attendees were women at the time and this minority told us they didn’t feel necessarily comfortable getting actively involved as a result. And so, that’s why Emma and I co-founded BlockW to foster awareness and inclusivity around blockchain and disruptive tech in Ireland.

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

At a fundamental level:

  1. The fact that blockchains can provide verifiable proof of information. So, consumers can — for the first time — make more informed decisions before purchasing or consuming something. You can see the proof points beyond the claims brands make about their products. For me, a big foodie, this was a lightbulb moment!
  2. The fact that information on the blockchain is tamper resistant (it cannot be deleted) is absolutely pivotal as we’re living in a world where censorship and a lack of trust are growing concerns.
  3. NFTs (non-fungible tokens) which can represent ownership, an object (digital or physical) and even collect fees. They are paving the way for new assets and economies, through the ability to fractionalize asset ownership, create new revenue structures, new ways to engage with an asset, a brand and a community.

They have the potential to run the economy!

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

  1. The pace at which blockchain education is occurring.

Since mid 2020, a lot of people have been buying tokens for blockchain projects for quick wins following “market hype” but don’t know necessarily how the technology works or the expected utility. There’s a growing number of cyber-attacks generally, and so when people don’t understand the risk engaging with projects that were born during COVID and don’t know how to secure their digital assets, they are extremely vulnerable to attacks.

Blockchain is a long-term play. The technology is maturing and we’re far from mainstream adoption. We need to educate people. Transparency and education create trust. We need to get to a place where blockchain products can be insured.

2. The media are writing about the wrong things which create misperceptions to those not deeply embedded in the space in times of uncertainty.

Layoffs, for example, historically are sadly always a case in bear markets as a result of actions taken during long periods of economic growth. The blockchain industry is no exception and has come under even more scrutiny because it came on more people’s radar as a result of the global COVID crisis.

Blockchain and NFTs actually provide a new medium for content creators to monetize their assets, opening up more opportunities.

3. The speed at which standards & regulation come into play which ties back to my first point around time. COVID really did put blockchain, NFTs and crypto in the limelight which is great, but like other disruptors of the space, tech maturity doesn’t happen overnight. The internet began in 1969 when Charley Kline (UCLA student) sent a message to the Stanford Research Institute, which was the first connection between computer networks. It wasn’t really until the early 2000s that it became mainstream.

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

  1. Connect with other women and other blockchain enthusiasts in the space — community is everything.
  2. Put yourself out there — if you’ve an idea and a community is bought into it, they’ll help make it happen. Look at the number of DAOS that are out there!
  3. Bring more women generally into this space — we’ve a lot of catching up to do!
  • Attend conferences, meet ups and webinars for continuous learning.
  • Connect with me on LinkedIn.

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

  1. Change at a policy level. Education needs to start at an elementary/primary school level as kids’ values and views are shaped from as young as four.
  2. DAOs to replace the broken and outdated corporate structures that are in place which cause more harm than good and stifle change.
  3. More “coder dojo”-type programs, but also non-tech programs for those on the business and arts side of things for all ages.
  4. Better company mandates that encourage women to apply and support particularly around massive decisions like starting or delaying parenthood.
  5. Mature blockchain products and tools freely available which can be downloaded via an app store. Decentralized app stores will be here in the next 3 years.

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

“Try To Be A Rainbow In Someone’s Cloud” — Maya Angelou

I value how we treat one another above all else, which is something that’s completely within our control and so I treat a stranger, a best friend or a colleague the exact same. You just don’t know what someone is going through at a given time and everyone would be physically, mentionally and emotionally better off with positivity, so I live by this.

In a meeting or out with my friends, what you see is what you get.

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. 🙂

It would be focused around DAOs (decentralized autonomous organizations).

Forming DAOs at a country and then global level which are formed around maintaining a sustainable planet and even leaving it in better condition.

People could participate and contribute to as many “programs” via digital immersive experiences and then also meet up and participate with their communities as they travel or move around the world. Let’s say one is around a circular economy, so members’ actions are all focused on reducing, reusing, and redistributing finite resources like water and food. This enables global problems to be addressed and anyone can actually contribute and see the impact/effect it is having because it’s all evident and provable on the blockchain.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Twitter: @niamhjoc and LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/niamhoconnell1/

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


Wisdom From The Women Leading The Blockchain Revolution With Niamh O’Connell Of CasperLabs was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Brittany Hodak On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

… A love of travel. Some people hate to fly. Others hate waking up in hotel rooms and wondering where they are. If you want to work as a keynote speaker, you’d better love to travel! Although I do a fair number of virtual gigs, I travel three or four times each month for out-of-town events.

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 Brittany Hodak.

Brittany Hodak is an award-winning entrepreneur, author, and customer experience speaker who has delivered keynotes across the globe to organizations including American Express and the United Nations. She has written hundreds of articles for Forbes, Adweek, Success, and other top publications; she has appeared on programs on NBC, CBS, ABC, and CNN; and she has worked with some of the world’s biggest brands and entertainers, including Walmart, Disney, Katy Perry, and Dolly Parton. Entrepreneur magazine calls her “the expert at creating loyal fans for your brand.” Brittany’s debut book, Creating Superfans, will be in stores in January 2023.

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

I grew up in a small town called Roland, Oklahoma. When I was 16, I got my first job as a radio station mascot — I got to dress up in a bee costume, which I thought was the coolest job in the world! That led to more jobs at the radio station, including a really fun feature called Brittany Jones Diary after my maiden name, as a nod to the Bridget Jones films. I interviewed rockstars when they came to town and wrote about it for the station’s website. That path inspired me to work for record labels and then ultimately launch my own entertainment marketing company.

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

I’ve always loved speaking, but I never considered pursuing it as a career. I always worked in the entertainment industry, helping recording artists connect with their fans. Several years ago, I was on Shark Tank. After my appearance on the show, I started getting lots of requests to speak. I’ve always loved customer experience, so I gave it an entertainment spin (“creating superfans”) and started speaking to and consulting for great organizations across the country.

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

I was keynoting at an event recently when a fire alarm went off in the hotel. At first, attendees thought it was part of the keynote. When it didn’t end in a few seconds I said, “I think we should probably all go outside?” and several hundred of us made our way downstairs and outside until the hotel declared “all clear.” It turns out it was a relatively-harmless fire in the kitchen, so we were able to finish the event. It certainly made for a memorable experience!

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 knew nothing about speaking professionally. I was an entrepreneur who became a keynote speaker by accident because several companies requested that I speak to their teams. It wasn’t until about six months into speaking professionally that I mentioned to a friend how time consuming it was to create completely customized presentations for every event. He kindly told me that I should be customizing some of my content, but that the key points for my main points should be the same. That was a game-changer, haha!

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 dad was always my biggest cheerleader. He was a restaurant manager when I was a kid, and then a customer service manager at a car dealership, so I saw firsthand from him how important it was to treat customers and team members well. His passion for people helped fuel my love of customer experience.

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?

Yes: Accept the fact that you’re going to fail sometimes! Learn from those small failures and move forward. When you dwell on them and let them create fear, that’s when they snowball into bigger failures.

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?

I’m obsessed with customer centricity — that is, putting your customers at the center of every decision you make. I love sharing that message, because improving customer interactions quite literally makes the world a better place. There’s nothing better than hearing an audience member say, “I never really thought about customer experience before, but now I get why it’s so important.”

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

I’m thrilled that my first book, Creating Superfans, will be in stores in January! It’s currently available for pre-order.

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

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” — Theodore Roosevelt.

Too many times, when talking to a customer, we don’t take the time to listen to them. We lead with authority at the expense of empathy. We’re so anxious to tell them what we know that we forget to show them that we care. Whether you’re in sales, marketing, public relations, customer service, product development, or just about anything else, empathy is a critical skill. Why? Because the quickest way to get someone to care about you and the things you care about is to demonstrate that you care about them.

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 message worth sharing.

So many times people will say to me, “I want to be a professional speaker!” When I ask them what they want to speak about, they have no idea. The first key to creating a memorable, meaningful keynote is a message worth sharing. You’ve got to believe in your idea so much that you’re willing to advocate for it onstage for an hour (or more!) at a time, inspire others to rally around it, and deliver similar speeches dozens if not hundreds of times each year. If you haven’t dialed in on your message and your “why” yet, prioritize that ahead of everything else.

2 — Persistence.

Yesterday, an event organizer who saw me speak four years ago reached out and booked me for a gig. She said, “I’ve been following you for years. I love your newsletter, and I’ve always wanted to book you for an event because your keynote was one of the most memorable and impactful ones I’ve ever seen.” She and I never met, and she’d never reached out before. You never know who is listening and watching. Spend time dedicating yourself to improving your craft, and people will come to you.

3 — A heart for service.

When you’re a speaker, it’s not about you: it’s about the audience. You’re simply there to bring an idea or message to life that you want them to remember and act on. Familiarize yourself with the industry and/or company you’re speaking to so you can create a relevant experience for your client and show them that you care. After your keynote, be sure to answer individual questions and offer further support or resources.

4 — A love of travel.

Some people hate to fly. Others hate waking up in hotel rooms and wondering where they are. If you want to work as a keynote speaker, you’d better love to travel! Although I do a fair number of virtual gigs, I travel three or four times each month for out-of-town events.

5 — Great systems!.

Customer relationship management (CRM) software is key for my business. There are many things I have to do before and after an event, and my CRM will automatically set tasks for me so that I never forget a step. For example, after every presentation, I’ll get a reminder to send a thank you note. I also send clients a special survey to fill out so I can record useful information in my CRM, such as their birthday, favorite treat, and favorite charity.

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

Absolutely. The best advice is to focus on the audience instead of yourself. If you’re allocating all of your energy to figuring out how to serve them, you’ll be less worried about your fears. Always remember that no one is there to judge you or find flaws — they all want to learn from you!

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

When any of us is interacting with another person, at the end of that experience the person will feel one of three ways: better, worse, or exactly the same as they did when the interaction began. I call these outcomes Net Positive, Net Negative, and Net Neutral. If you focus on making as many of your interactions (in real life and virtually!) Net Positive Experiences, you will be quite literally making the world a better place, one interaction at a time.

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!

Trevor Noah!

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

Absolutely! I’m @BrittanyHodak on all networks.

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

Thank you very much; it’s been a pleasure!


Brittany Hodak 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.

Wisdom From The Women Leading The Blockchain Revolution With Chelsea Cain Maclin Of R Labs

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Building bridges: Focus on building relationships with each other and with the existing community. The existing community is male-dominated, but many people realize that a rising tide lifts all ships — everyone needs to help and support each other for Web3 to reach the impact depths we all want it to and for mass adoption.

As a part of our series about Wisdom From The Women Leading The Blockchain Revolution, I had the pleasure of interviewing Chelsea Cain Maclin.

Chelsea Cain Maclin is the Co-Founder & CMO of R Labs. Chelsea is the former Vice President of Marketing for Bumble where she led brand, marketing, and partnerships teams, scaling the business to 100M downloads and a $12B IPO. In 2019, Chelsea was named as one of Business Insider’s 20 CMOs to Watch. An active angel investor, Chelsea focuses on womxn and BIPOC founders, within sustainable CPG, mental health, and safety sectors.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share with us the story of how you decided to pursue this career path? What lessons can others learn from your story?

I have always been interested in the intersection of people, technology, and impact. I’ve also always been creative and entrepreneurial (I grew up painting outside and trying to sell marbles to my that I made out of mud). I went to college on a leadership scholarship, where I studied art history, studio art, creative advertising, and Spanish. Since then, my career has always followed the same interests — cutting-edge technology, people, impact, and creativity, ripe for start-ups and scale-ups.

My first foray into the start-up world was with a wonderful company called LTK, which was very early in the creator economy. We helped creators and small business owners (mainly women and under-represented founders), to build, scale and monetize their brands. Over the years, the business has grown to be worth +$2B. LTK laid the foundation for the intersection of my interests brought to life through my work.

The next most pivotal role I enjoyed was with Bumble, where I joined as the 7th employee working out of a tiny apartment in Austin, TX. Again, we were building for an under-represented market of women who were massively underserved within the online dating space. It was very rewarding to be a part of growing the brand to reach our goal of gender equity and safe online communities for women, men, and non-binary folks to connect, find love, and friendships. Over the years, I helped the team scale to 100mm global downloads and through a +$12B IPO.

I would advise others to look inward first and define what is most important to them for fulfillment and happiness, then to seek that in their work. Every 6–12 months, I reflect on the previous chapter and check against my North stars. How am I serving people through technology, creating meaningful impact, and harnessing creativity? Then, I assess where I’m headed. Setting North stars around the areas of your professional life and work that are critical to your own goals and happiness, and then ensuring your career path is aligned towards those is what creates meaningful impact in business.

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

I am LOVING working with the team and our growing community at R Labs, who are deeply committed to having a positive impact on the planet and the people who live within it. We are launching our first NFT soon, R Planet. R Planet is our first inaugural NFT collection brought by R Labs and rooted in a deep belief that profit and purpose should go together. We asked ourselves — “What if your token could do more? What if you could use your tokens to support your favorite cause, and make money doing it? What if your Patagonia-collab token funded climate projects, gave you a limited edition jacket, supported a climate initiative, and made you money?” This is what we are building.

The NFTs and other products we’re launching will help fund real-world impact projects that provide under-served communities with access to mental health support, sustainable energy, education, and other services.

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?

Geeta Sankappanavar, the founder of R Labs, and I connected almost two years ago. At the time, I was transitioning in my career and seeking the next opportunity that would intersect with my personal North stars. We clicked right away, and she soon became a mentor and coach for me during a time of change. She’s a leader I respect and admire deeply who encourages me and everyone around her to be better — from a leadership, team, and human perspective.

Her guidance is invaluable during times of key decision-making, both in the workplace and in my personal life. I’m grateful for her vision, mentorship, and leadership.

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

  1. Innovation: We can create value in new and different ways. Web3 is about value creation, not value extraction — which allows us to rethink systems that don’t currently serve and build new & better products and tools.
  2. Accessibility: The value created through blockchain and crypto is accessible to many more people than in traditional industries. For example, impact assets historically have only been accessible to wealthy individuals, groups, or institutions.
  3. Community: We can create a community around shared values, vision, and mission and are not bound by geography. Blockchain changes the way people interact with each other, with brands, entertainment, and financial institutions. This is a deeper, more intentional level of interaction and community building, where transparency and accountability are paramount.

I believe we will continue to see mass adoption of blockchain and crypto grow over the next five years as these three pillars continue to evolve.

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

  1. Utility & purpose: Right now, many products lack real-world utility and purpose — the WHY. We in Web3 need to provide a sense of belonging, a trusted brand, and an environment that people can connect to. The internet made everyone a publisher — I saw this at LTK — crypto is going to make everybody an investor and allow them to be part of something greater. We’re building this at R Labs!
  2. Safety: There is a lot more work to be done to ensure safety protocols for those interacting in Web3 and the prevention of bad actors. Volatility is a concern, but products are coming out with higher utility that is more reliable and less volatile.
  3. Usability: There is a high barrier to entry right now for mainstream mass consumers. The fact is that it is still extremely challenging for most people to set up a wallet, make a purchase, and interact with that purchase is an issue. When we make the user experience seamless and convenient for the consumer, we will see mass adoption.

The crypto space needs to get easier, safer, less volatile, and more purposeful for more people to be interested in being a part of it.

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

My favorite thing I’ve done in the last few years is starting to angel invest and mentor, specifically underrepresented founders and creators. I’ve been fortunate to be able to write (small) checks with no strings attached and build relationships with these founders who are struggling with a lot of the challenges I’ve experienced in the past working with startups. The small group of founders and creators I mentor teach me so much, too!

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

  1. Building bridges: Focus on building relationships with each other and with the existing community. The existing community is male-dominated, but many people realize that a rising tide lifts all ships — everyone needs to help and support each other for Web3 to reach the impact depths we all want it to and for mass adoption.
  2. Don’t work with Assholes: I feel very lucky to be able to work with people with shared values from varied backgrounds who truly care about each other and what we’re building.
  3. Resources: Find educational and entertaining resources to learn from. There are so many but find a few that you like and find yourself going back to. Zen Academy and BFF are two of my favorite projects and resources.
  4. Be mindful of your mental health, and that of others: Take breaks! Start-ups and the Web3 space are super-fast-paced environments. It’s important to have a life outside of work to be rested, rejuvenated, and our best selves. It can be an overwhelming space because of the speed, so prioritizing one’s mental health is critical.
  5. Find a mentor outside of your circle: Seek out a mentor. It could be a peer mentor, who is outside of your day-to-day team, but also in crypto. We have many advisors at R Labs and they have all been incredibly helpful to me when I feel stuck and are great at taking me outside of my “bubble.”

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

I think there are some incredible projects that are already building bridges, like BFF, Crypto Chicks, and World of Women, where there are active communities, educational tools, and many resources. They are creating resources and safe spaces for women, and I applaud them for what they’ve built. For more women to enter the space, we will need a combination of access to communities, like BFF, that are built with women in mind, access to education and resources, and access to broader projects or initiatives that are not necessarily gendered. We need to continue to build initiatives for women, support existing projects, and build partnerships with leaders in the space who are focused on welcoming women and other genders to the space. Some of the things I mentioned earlier are things women are concerned about (safety, volatility) and we need to solve some of these before we see more women join the space.

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

“You have two ears and one mouth, use them in that proportion.” I heard this from Nicole Quinn, an incredible woman, and Partner at Lightspeed, but it originates from a Greek philosopher.

When it comes to creating a new business or product you need to be vocal, brave, and visionary, but at the same time, there’s so much that we can all learn. There’s a lot of thoughtfulness that needs to be put into these communities due to the risks in the space, but also because of all the opportunity that comes with connecting technologies and people from varying backgrounds. We should be really listening to the community, the folks developing new tech, and leaders in the space so we can better build, better serve, and make more helpful and profitable businesses.

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. 🙂

We are building exactly what I would want: pairing social impact projects, with creating a meaningful community through technology. This is it! You can check out our website to learn more at www.rplanetnft.xyz

How can our readers further follow your work online?

R Labs will launch a new purpose-led NFT project arriving to Web3 later this summer oriented around the intersectional impact in five core pillars including mental wellness, inclusivity, sustainability, education, and overall entertainment. Let’s make our tokens matter more. For real-time updates on the launch of the Summer NFT project, people can follow @RPlanetNFT on Twitter and join our Discord.

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


Wisdom From The Women Leading The Blockchain Revolution With Chelsea Cain Maclin Of R Labs 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: Anisa Telwar Kaicker Of Anisa International & ANISA Beauty On How To…

Making Something From Nothing: Anisa Telwar Kaicker Of Anisa International & ANISA Beauty On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

To trust my intuition: My gut is always spot on when it comes to assessing professional relationships and business decisions. The times I’ve found myself in difficult situations, whether mentally or professionally, are when I’ve discounted what I felt to be true about a situation, a person or an action step needed for my business. Over the years, I’ve learned to always trust my gut and never doubt myself.

As a part of our series called “Making Something From Nothing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Anisa Telwar Kaicker, Founder & CEO of Anisa International and ANISA Beauty.

Anisa Telwar Kaicker is the Founder and CEO of her namesake business, Anisa International. She started her business in 1992 and for almost 3 decades has pioneered the leadership, product development and culture of this globally branded business through the design and manufacturing of cosmetic brushes for makeup and skincare. She partners with the most esteemed brands in the beauty industry.

In 2003 Anisa International vertically integrated their operations by opening their own manufacturing facility, Anisa China, in Tianjin. Fast-forward to 2020 and through substantial investment in social and environmental sustainability, Anisa has expanded her operations by opening two new state-of-the-art facilities: Anisa Tianjin and Anisa Jinghai. Committed to cleaner, safer and responsible manufacturing, these facilities employ over 500 individuals dedicated to the practice of cruelty-free and ethically made products.

Now, after almost 3 decades of providing superior products to the best brands in the business, Anisa has chosen to further expand her innovation with a specialized category of cosmetic brushes focused on makeup and skincare application through ANISA Beauty.

Anisa’s personal reputation is equally notable and includes long-standing philanthropic contributions that span causes for homeless families, animals and the conservation of our environment.

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

My name is Anisa Telwar Kaicker, and I was born in New York City. My dad was from Afghanistan and my mother was of Russian descent. When my dad got a job in Tennessee as a professor, my parents and my four siblings moved to Nashville. We were diverse and different, yet we somehow managed to make it work in our predominately white, rural community. While I consider Nashville where I was raised, I have always felt connected to New York City — with my fondest and earliest of memories developing there, since I was born is Queens.

Even as a child I was always a leader, and regardless of age I always had a feminist point of view, standing up for myself when boys in school would question my abilities. I was competitive in my achievements, valuing hard work and education. Because my parents were immigrants, I always saw their desire for us to have a better life than they had.

Individually, my parents both had a lot of energy and strength. They got married when my mom was very young, and my dad was older. They divorced when I was 15 and though devastating for me at the time, I now understand their separation was necessary.

As I entered my teenage years, I was rebellious, reflecting on the feeling as a woman of color held down in a small town. When I left, I felt like I could finally breathe and spread my wings. My parents constantly encouraged me to create my own destiny.

When I was in my late teens, forgoing completion of a formal education, I started working with the family business, my mother’s import/export company. In that time, I’d met a gentleman whose family was focused on cosmetic brushes. I thought to myself — cosmetic brushes link to fashion, so this was very interesting to me. I was going to take a trip to New York, as he was having a little bit of trouble selling his brushes. I was 21 at the time and he was 25. I agreed to help him out, and so I called on Revlon. I literally looked in the Yellow Pages, called the number listed and asked if I could speak to their brush buyer. From there, I just showed up. This is how I started working in the beauty industry and focused on the design and manufacturing of cosmetic brushes. I learned the art, craft and attention to detail from concept to completion. I had no idea what a gift this would be become.

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

In my 50’s the mantra type quote I have resounding in my head is “We are what we think”. I am highly aware after these last few years, everything seems to stem from the thoughts we allow in our mind. Good and bad.

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 Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. I reread this recently with my husband. I had read this when I was in my 20’s, and I loved this parable. The story to me shares how we learn in our life, and in a life well lived, we become wiser, we learn from our lessons, we pay attention to the signs that life can give us, and we trust the process.

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?

Now more than ever we have many, many people taking initiative, building new businesses, big and small, following their desire to create something in the world that is theirs. I love this..it is brave and bold and gives all of us more wonderful access to passion driven products and services. The only thing I would say is it is OK to take your time with this journey. Plot milestones, create small wins. Be in the business and not above the business. Use the business to get better at what you do so it is clear that you are in for the long haul.

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

We have so much access to information that it can be overwhelming. We can feel like we are behind already before we even start, yet my approach has always been to research of course, see what is out there, so that you can differentiate. After this initial review, keep your head down and focus on your own business. Don’t get distracted by others!

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.

This is a very detailed question, pretty tough to answer succinctly.

Product design is a science of intuition, market understanding, product historical knowledge, customer demand and need, and having the right team members and supply chain to execute.

This has come from 30 years of experience in how we design.

There are many nuances to good successful design. Make sure you have someone who is first highly passionate about design, yet also knows that it does not matter if you love it — you must be able to sell it to a market that wants and needs it.

There are exceptionally good patent lawyers that can help list this question. I use partners to file and support our process. I highly suggest a good partner to research first (within your budget) to get the proper education when it comes to patenting and beyond.

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

1. To trust my intuition: My gut is always spot on when it comes to assessing professional relationships and business decisions. The times I’ve found myself in difficult situations, whether mentally or professionally, are when I’ve discounted what I felt to be true about a situation, a person or an action step needed for my business. Over the years, I’ve learned to always trust my gut and never doubt myself.

2. It’s crucial to delegate responsibility: I can’t take on everything by myself. It is ok to delegate responsibilities to my employees, and to trust them to get the job done. No matter what level we hire someone to work for the company, it’s important that their roles and accompanying responsibilities are clearly defined, with the ability to measure success quickly; without this, there could be gray areas where miscommunication happens, or tasks are not completed.

3. Always have empathy and give customers what they want and need, NOT what we think they want: It’s vital to understand the needs of my customers and clients, knowing their goals for success allows us to make sure we accurately execute the necessary actions to attain their ‘end-game,’ so to speak.

4. It’s okay to take time off: Burn-out from overworking and stress is real, and I have made many mistakes in the past in my business because I was exhausted and did not take the time I needed for myself. Yes, running a company is an immense responsibility, but I am also human. Giving yourself that mental break brings you new perspective and clarity that you may not have while you’re in the depths of your daily work.

5. Have a network of support, especially mentors and mentees: It’s important to have the guidance of a mentor and to have a mentee to give those lessons back to. We all have something to offer the next generation of entrepreneurs. Having the ability to giveback is just as educational as learning from someone else’s experience. As a CEO, I believe I have a responsibility to lead the next generation, as my mentors led me.

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

Research the current market and determine if the item can be patentable!

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?

This truly depends on the field and an individual’s expertise. The more experience an individual has, (most likely) will determine the less need for a development consultant.

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

Everything has to do with one’s end game goals and capabilities. One size does not fit all, and these days there are hybrid and varying approaches. Business is just like an individual — complex, and layered. This truly depends on so many factors and the founder must assess what is right for them always.

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

I knew early on I wanted Anisa International and ANISA Beauty to achieve a more meaningful mission. The brushes are a hero to us because they help us do more than just create beauty tools. We ideate, design, and make well-loved tools in a sustainable fashion that benefits our employees, our consumers, and the business overall. My team and I pour years of experience into Anisa International and ANISA Beauty and we’re the best at what we do.

When I first started Anisa International, I took the reins on making the cosmetic brush industry more cruelty-free by developing cutting edge (animal-free) fibers for our clients. Now, with even greater control over our supply chain, development, and production processes, we can ensure each brush meets our stringent quality control measures. We can pay our artisan brush makers a fair wage, while significantly reducing our carbon footprint. Every brush we produce is PETA-Certified, cruelty-free, and sustainably made. While our team is a small sector of the beauty industry, I’m proud to say we’ve pushed to make our industry safer, fairer, and more sustainable than ever.

I am proud that there are people who want to participate in this business. It is so rewarding to see the ripple effect of the people who have been involved in Anisa International & Anisa Beauty and how it has positively impacted their lives. I want the business to be self-sustaining, and for the philanthropic impact of the business to live on long after I am gone.

Under the Anisa International mission, a percentage of our annual revenue is committed to giving back to our community in Atlanta. We are partners with Fernbank in support of lifelong learning of natural history, as well as charities with an emphasis on helping those in need including Families First, Georgia’s most prominent family and children’s services organization, and Atlanta Mission, the longest-running provider of service to homeless men, women, and children. We have a lot of love for our four-legged friends, too, and have had immense success in bringing awareness to and saving many lives through our partnership with Lifeline Animal Project.

Like Anisa International, ANISA Beauty is committed to being a strong ally in the fight for social justice. Since our launch, we annually pledge $50,000 to support organizations aligned with our fight against discrimination based on race, gender, age, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. It is an honor to partner with such influential organizations as Marsha P. Johnson Institute, Lost n’ Found, International Refugee Assistance Project, AAPI, Black Mommas Matter, and many more.

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

What I hope for is people to give back. The world in which we live needs all of us to care. If we each chose a cause in our life, something we care about and gave that cause 5–10 hours a month our world would transform. We also would be happier, less anxious, kinder and more content as individuals. Giving back to be is the best and most healing medicine we have as a society.

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 have been very impressed with the CEO from Dick’s Sporting, Lauren Hobart; she has blown me away with her support of women’s rights and people of color. She took a stand in a male dominated, conservative business. She gives me hope as she strives to create safe spaces for all with the company’s view of “everyone’s an athlete.”

I also read recently that she was part of the executive team of Ed Stack. The former CEO, who in the wake of the Parkland Shooting in 2018 decided to pull large-capacity magazines and assault rifles from their shelves. It is those tough (but right) decisions that truly make a good leader and company.

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

Thank you for having me!


Making Something From Nothing: Anisa Telwar Kaicker Of Anisa International & ANISA Beauty On How To… 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: LaTisha Styles Of You’ve Got Clients On How To Go From Idea To…

Making Something From Nothing: LaTisha Styles Of You’ve Got Clients On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

You Don’t Have To Be Perfect — The very first time I started my business I wanted things to be perfect. I went through the entire process of creating a course, from scripting to recording, and then opening the cart but no one was buying the course. And I learned along the way that it’s okay to be imperfect and just dust it off when you fall, get up and learn from every experience.

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

LaTisha Styles is an Online Marketing Certified Professional® and the Founder & CEO of You’ve Got Clients® a marketing consulting agency helping coaches create and fill their coaching programs with high-ticket clients. LaTisha is also a Psych-K® Facilitator who helps entrepreneurs shift subconscious blocks to establish the beliefs that form the foundation of their dream as well as shift any limiting beliefs or subconscious blocks standing in the way of that dream.

Before the business, the success, and the income, LaTisha always knew what she exactly wanted for her life. She had cultivated what she calls the “stubborn belief” in manifestation — the concept that you can create the life of your dreams by directing your thoughts. This belief led her to build a business that has generated a million dollars in revenue.

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”?

In my early childhood, I can remember that I always had an entrepreneurial spirit because my parents have always taught us to do business in our own little way. Especially my dad. He has been one of the biggest influences on my entrepreneurial journey. I remember him taking me and my sister to a local Sam’s club which is a big box warehouse filled with wholesale goods. He bought us candies, gums, and a couple of other things to start off our first round of inventory. When we got home my dad explained to us how we are going to make a profit out of these candies. He explained the prices, how much we should sell each candy for in order to buy the next round of inventory, and how profit is calculated. It was the first time I learned about business, understanding that there’s a cost to doing business, and making sure that you stay ahead of that.

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

“To the world, you may be one person; but to one person, you may be the world.” The first time I read this quote, it helped me understand how one person can have an impact on many people. That’s what really carried me through my life because that’s one of my goals, to be impactful to as many people as possible.

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 of my favorite movies is The Matrix. I have watched this movie and the entire trilogy several times. The reason that this had such a big impact on me is that the movie is filled with a lot of metaphors and allegories. In the movie, they refer to the Matrix as “the world that’s been pulled over your eyes.” It’s a movie about self-discovery and understanding that what you see might not necessarily be true and it’s important to look beneath the surface. Especially in the first movie of the trilogy, there was a scene where the main character Neo came to a realization that in order for him to become the One, he actually had to choose it. It was like watching someone come to a realization of themselves and learning what that journey is about. And that’s exactly what I share with my clients as well. I tell them they should “Assume the Throne”. Similar to the way a monarch ascends, you might not feel ready; but at some point, you have to choose: this is who I am, this is how I want to show up, this is who I’m called to impact, and I am here for a reason. I think stepping into that energy is something that all leaders have to do at some point.

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 often find that the biggest thing holding people back from translating their idea into an actual business is simply the mindset that the idea has to be perfect, or they have to be successful on their very first attempt. Sometimes we just have to try our ideas out and we have to understand that failure will be part of the process. From my experience, I had to get good at failing. I call it “failing forward”. Failure is not a negative thing. It’s just part of the process. I always try to slow things down and evaluate where I am and what didn’t work. I can then reconfigure my approach and do things a little bit differently in my next step.

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?

I always say there’s nothing new under the sun, so even if you think you have a new idea or if you think that someone else has already come up with the idea. I suggest, just get over it and just execute and execute better than the others who might have the same idea as you. Take the rideshare industry for example. There are many players; Uber, Lyft, Grab, Flywheel, and many others. There are multiple companies with a similar idea and ultimately success comes down to execution, not just who will execute first, but who will execute best.

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 can share the process of turning my idea of a book into a physical product. I had an idea of a book that I wanted to write and I just needed help to pull those ideas together in a way that is clear and concise. So I hired a ghostwriter and together with my legal team, we filed a trademark for the topic so I can also create spin-off content, workshops, additional programs, and other products and services based on the idea of the book that I wanted to write. As far as manufacturing, I contacted a friend who had also written a book and asked them for a referral to their book printer. As far as finding a retailer, I decided to distribute it myself. These days you have the entire world at your fingertips because of the internet, and so I decided to sell it on my own website. But there’s also an easy option where you can sell your book to an online retailer like Amazon.

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

  1. Get Your Hands Dirty And Do The Work — When I was starting out with my company I was literally getting my hands dirty and doing all the work. I don’t think I realized how difficult it is to find a talent to help me propel my business forward. So at first, I have to do all the work and slowly build a team to help ease up my workload along the way.
  2. You Don’t Have To Be Perfect — The very first time I started my business I wanted things to be perfect. I went through the entire process of creating a course, from scripting to recording, and then opening the cart but no one was buying the course. And I learned along the way that it’s okay to be imperfect and just dust it off when you fall, get up and learn from every experience.
  3. Get A Mentor — I quit my corporate job to take on my business full-time and I had a really hard time. I had to go back to work full-time because I couldn’t make things work for my business. So the next time I quit my job, I hired a mentor. I realized that you need someone to guide you. Someone who’s been there already and can show you where to step, how to do things, and what pitfalls to avoid.
  4. There’s No “There” To Get To — I always had a vision in my head that once I get “there” I’ll be truly happy and successful. “There” is that proverbial carrot leading you towards the next success you desire. But once I do get “there”, I know I will still have another “there” to get to. I had to realize that there’s no ultimate destination and it’s just a matter of continuing on your journey, enjoying every moment, and making the most out of every experience along the way.
  5. You’re Not Going To Be The Only One With Your Idea — I wish I had known that you’re not going to be the only one with your idea, and it’s just a matter of becoming the biggest and brightest in the marketplace to establish your spot. Make as big of a splash as possible so that when someone thinks of a certain word, they think of your business. I started out playing small because I didn’t want to offend or outshine friends who were doing something similar. I didn’t understand or realize that there are no feelings in business and I’m not taking something away from them by achieving my goals or reaching something bigger.

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?

If you have an idea for a product that you would like to invent, the first few steps I would recommend is to create something physical or tangible out of that idea. Create a drawing, start recording, or whatever you have to do to take that idea and turn it into something that is tangible in the real world.

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

It’s generally helpful to hire someone that knows better than you. I would recommend that you first try to find some helpful resources within your community or even in the Small Business Association. Seek out resources that have already been made available for you before hiring someone in particular. And until you know exactly what questions you want to ask, wait to hire someone. Because if you don’t know what you’re looking for, you might just waste your time, money, and you might even get taken advantage of. So make sure you are an informed buyer, no matter what you are purchasing.

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

I am a fan of bootstrapping. I bootstrapped my business. Anytime you have other people’s money involved in your business, your decisions might get influenced by other people’s opinions. It might hinder the liberty of your creativity and get in the way of fully implementing your idea. So if you have the capacity to bootstrap your business, I would definitely recommend it over venture capital.

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

I have used my success to be an example that it’s possible for a Black woman to be successful in business. I wanted to prove the stereotypical norm wrong that someone like me could not have a successful business and could not have the income that I have now with my business. I truly believe in the quote “change starts at home”. I truly believe that the best thing that you can do to help the world at large is to improve your own situation first so that you can set an example to others and be that someone who can inspire generations.

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 I could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, it would be what I’m doing now, which is teaching women and minorities that you can absolutely charge more for your services. Stop charging what you think you are worth but instead charge what your services are worth. You have so much to offer and this is what I teach my clients, to have confidence in themselves and realize that what they do to help their clients goes above and beyond just coaching; it also creates transformation in their client’s lives. Therefore the pricing should reflect the outcome of that service.

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

I would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with Issa Rae. I really admire what she’s accomplished, how far she’s come, and her discipline. Also with her being in the entertainment industry and seeing how she’s been able to maneuver it, I would love to ask how she creates contracts and handles negotiations. I would love to talk to her about these experiences and her ability to build a team, to connect with people, and how she has navigated her success from where she started and how far she’s come.

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


Making Something From Nothing: LaTisha Styles Of You’ve Got Clients 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: Erin Michelson Of Summery On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your…

Meet The Disruptors: Erin Michelson Of Summery On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Manage energy, not time. This advice has been game-changing for me since it enables me to harness one of my biggest attributes — my energy. By matching my mental state to the task, I can maximize my productivity. Energy maximization helps me, as a goal-oriented person, to embrace structure and simplicity in order to drive results.

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

Erin Michelson is a Forbes #Next1000 entrepreneur and recognized as a 2022 AI for Good ESG / AI Innovator by Women in AI North America. As Founder + CEO of Summery, she leverages behavioral science and AI to measure and activate stakeholder values and organizational culture.

Before turning to technology, Erin had a 15-year career in global finance and social impact consulting, working with companies such as Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, and American Express. She wrote the book series Adventure Philanthropist, after traveling to more than 100 countries volunteering with humanitarian organizations.

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?

As a solo female non-technical founder, I’ve had an unorthodox path to AI. I had 3 degrees in political science, 10 years in global finance, and a career as a social impact growth strategist before turning to technology. Yet while industries may have changed, there was one constant throughout my career: a deep commitment to social causes and a focus on maximizing our individual and collective impact.

In fact, it is this diverse background and skill set which has made me uniquely qualified to build Summery, an AI-driven data analytic company that quantifies individual values and organizational culture. Our trained models enable executives to anticipate and implement changes in organizational culture, leading to increased retention, engagement, innovation, and brand reputation.

The need for this type of systematic approach to building and evaluating organizational social capital, the ‘S’ in ESG, was reinforced by Harvard Business Review research showing that companies benefit from executives with strong social skills, “including a high level of self-awareness, the ability to listen and communicate well, a facility for working with different types of people and groups, and what psychologists call “theory of mind” — the capacity to infer how others are thinking and feeling.”

Our team of scientists and engineers has developed technology that measures individual values — empathy, integrity, innovation, agility, and disruption — at the individual, organizational, and societal levels. Not only can we assess values, but also amplify and streamline social impact values and behavior to strengthen organizational culture.

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

Executives understand that a healthy culture is critical to attract top talent, foster product or service innovation, and catalyze organizational growth. But until now, there was no way to measure culture. With recent advances in artificial intelligence and technology, we can now quantify a company’s cultural IQ.

Understanding your company’s culture IQ benefits the bottom line by:

  • Acquiring and retaining top talent: In a recent Inc. article on the Great Resignation, recruiters are prompted to articulate a company’s culture during the hiring process by sharing: “This is who we are, and this is who we stand for. You decide if we fit you, too, and let us know.” But why not help the applicant decide if the “fit” is right? Now we can with values-based recruiting technology that assesses culture and value alignment.
  • Assessing ESG risk: Here Deloitte’s Kristen Sullivan discusses the C-suite and Board of Directors’ increased attention to timely reporting of ESG standards. With an objective set of culture metrics, compliance and audit officers can now assess operational, financial, and reputational risk associated with organizational trust and cultural toxicity.
  • Quantifying cultural ROI: An insightful piece by McKinsey’s ESG team highlights the necessity of social capital metrics while underscoring the difference between a company’s purpose and its ESG position. The ability to set an objective, transparent cultural baseline enables executives to measure the progress and investment made in ESG, DEI, and social capital programming.

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

I don’t know if this is funny ha-ha or just cringe. During my first year as a CEO, I often participated in pitch competitions. It was a good way to get feedback on our product ideas and to practice telling our Summery story.

I loved pitching, and was good at it. I was on a winning streak, but this one competition — I totally bombed. To make matters worse, I was raked over the coals by the judges. When I returned home that evening, I vowed to rework my pitch and speak again at the next opportunity. I answered the first email invite in my inbox: a local San Francisco pancake breakfast hosted by the Kauffman Foundation, one of the country’s largest supporters of entrepreneurship.

A week or so later, only me and one another entrepreneur showed up for the 8:00 am competition. While early mornings meet ups are definitely a tough call for people in the startup world, I wasn’t quite prepared for folks sitting in the audience eating pancakes while still wearing their pjs. Nonetheless, I enthusiastically gave my newly re-worked pitch to the handful of individuals sitting in the room.

At the end of the competition, the event videographer complimented my pitch and asked if he could send it to a friend of his. Without knowing who his friend was, or why he wanted to send it, I agreed. He sent the pitch, and followed up with an introduction for the two of us. His friend happened to work at Salesforce in the area of innovation and culture. It was that introduction that led several months later to Salesforce becoming our first enterprise client.

While I made the mistake of bombing the pitch, I learned a valuable lesson: Don’t give up. What might seem like a setback can turn into an amazing opportunity.

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’m fortunate to have many mentors as part of the Extraordinary Women on Boards (EWOB) Network, a community for highly accomplished women actively serving on public and private company Boards of Directors across a wide range of sectors.

These women from around the world convene regularly to learn together, share best practices, and help one another raise their influence in the boardroom. Several members, in particular, are a great source of support and inspiration to me: Laura Deutscher, Lorraine Henrickson, Wanda Lopuch, and Kathleen Murphy.

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 love this question because we are literally in the business of quantifying individual values and attributes like empathy, integrity — and disruption! Through our research, we’ve defined a disruptive person as someone who challenges the status quo.

What I like most about this description is that it isn’t our Summery scientists’ definition, but instead a more universal definition that we achieved through crowd-truthing. Crowd-truthing is an open-source framework for machine-human computation based on human semantics. By exponentially increasing the quantity and quality of inputs we can decrease bias and more precisely define the concept of disruption.

We work with our clients to both increase and decrease disruption in their organizational culture. We don’t look at these instances as “good” or “bad” but instead how useful disruption is to the goals of the organization.

  • Increasing disruption: We work with universities across the country. Many of these institutions of higher learning want to encourage disruptive and innovative thinking in their faculty and students. One way we increase disruption is to pair faculty and student mentors with disruptive values with other students who are seeking that attribute. As more individuals display disruptive behavior the culture of the organization evolves.
  • Decreasing disruption: In our work with Fortune 500 companies, we help them look at how disruption can be useful in certain job positions and industries, while not-so-helpful in others. For instance, technology clients often want their product teams to embrace disruption and “push the envelope” as they problem solve and develop system-changing business strategies. Banking and financial service firms, however, may want to decrease disruption, emphasizing the importance of staying within established industry norms and regulations.

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

1. There is no “right” decision. This piece of advice was shared by a graduate school classmate when I was struggling with a personal decision. Oftentimes we can become paralyzed by weighing all our options and put too heavy a value on not making a mistake rather than optimizing our opportunities. I try to make a decision based on the best information I have at the moment. And then I make another decision.

Later I read World Series of Poker champion Annie Duke’s book “Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All The Facts.” Annie’s work has helped me to further move away from the dichotomy of right and wrong and embrace the continuum between the extremes. As I’ve become more comfortable with uncertainty, I’ve been able to think more probabilistically and make better decisions.

2. Put yourself in a position to be lucky. Jason Roberts promotes this advice via his formulation of a “Luck Surface Area.” In essence, by sharing your expertise and passion, you are increasing the chances of luck finding you.

“The amount of serendipity that will occur in your life, your Luck Surface Area, is directly proportional to the degree to which you do something you’re passionate about combined with the total number of people to whom this is effectively communicated.”

3. Manage energy, not time. This advice has been game-changing for me since it enables me to harness one of my biggest attributes — my energy. By matching my mental state to the task, I can maximize my productivity. Energy maximization helps me, as a goal-oriented person, to embrace structure and simplicity in order to drive results.

I think of it like leverage. Leveraging my energy to increase the probability of success. For me this means I do creative work in the morning, calls and meetings mid-day, and process-driven work late afternoon. I also ferociously defend my calendar, limiting calls to 3–4 a day and scheduling time for strategic thinking.

4. “Thank you for being late.” Steve Ketchpel, one of my advisors, said this to me once as I rushed to meet up with him for lunch meeting. Like many entrepreneurs I work with extreme intensity, so Steve’s saying reminds me of the “power of the pause.”

Pausing throughout the day enables us to literally catch our breath, allowing both mind and body a moment to regenerate. For instance, while waiting on a conference call for the others to join, I take that 1–2 minutes to look outside at the garden, take a couple of deep breaths, or listen to the rain.

5. Curate your intellect. I’m a great believer that inspiration comes from getting out from behind your desk and exposing yourself to new ideas. I revere the arts and applaud the courage it takes to be an artist. Here’re a few favorite (easy) ways I expand my horizons.

  • Find new music via the Tiny Desk series.
  • Follow City Arts & Lectures for inspiration. I especially like the episode with ballerina Misty Copeland.
  • Read fiction. Recent favorites include Tommy Orange’s There There and Haruki Murakami’s Killing Commendatore.

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

I recently read an article by Nathan Baschez on “What kind of company do you want to build? Scale, speed, or freedom: choose two.” Nathan contends that when building a company, every founder needs to prioritize two of these three objectives. As a founder, I see the wisdom in this framework and am currently prioritizing:

Freedom: In our first year, we declined an offer of funding. Instead, I opted to bootstrap the company and go straight to revenue. This flexibility means that my team and I have the option to set our own priorities, including taking an ethical approach to data privacy and working with clients that are aligned with our values.

Scale: Increasing our impact is our current focus. Last year we successfully migrated to a SaaS business model and are expanding our reach through strategic partnerships. We are now pursuing systemic change by working with multinational companies, forming alliances to reach hundreds of colleges in the HigherEd space, and exploring new verticals including building cultural alignment within first responder and faith-based communities.

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 enjoy Guy Raz’s “How I Built This” podcast, which I find equal parts business education and inspiration. Take the episode with Payal Kadakia, founder of ClassPass. Payal relays how in the early days there was no technology behind the matching of individuals with exercise classes, instead, she made the matches manually. While it was a time-consuming task, it enabled Payal to observe customer behavior first-hand, helping her gain first-hand knowledge of what her customers wanted.

I’ve taken this lesson to heart and set aside time daily to look closely at how our AI is performing values-based matching of individuals with global giving opportunities, volunteering activities, and learning resources. While we have auto-reporting to discern patterns, my hands-on approach helps me glean insights into customer needs as we continually refine product development and marketing strategies.

Also on my list of favorites is Dolly Parton’s America series. Although I’m not a huge fan of country music, I admire Dolly Parton’s business acumen and creativity. Forever underestimated, Dolly learned early to retain the rights to her music and is now taking steps to ensure that future musicians can sample her songs through a vast database that will pay royalties to her estate after she’s gone.

I’m also inspired by Dolly’s philanthropic commitment. Not only did she donate $1M to fund COVID vaccine research, but she has a steadfast commitment to early childhood education. She founded the Imagination Library, a program that has distributed more than a million books to children from birth until they begin their first year of school.

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

“For there is always light,

If only we’re brave enough to see it.

If only we’re brave enough to be it.”

Above is an excerpt from Amanda Gorman’s poem “The Hill We Climb,” that she recited at the presidential inauguration in 2020. Amanda, the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history, wrote the missive to convey a message of hope and unity to the country.

Her poetic words continue to inspire me and many Americans to take action and to help create the future we wish to see. Interweaving her poetry with purpose, Amanda notes that her “purpose is to help people and to shed a light on issues that have far too long been in the darkness.”

I share this motivation. I created Summery as a for-profit social impact enterprise to help individuals and organizations first define their sense of purpose and values, and second, to implement these values. For me and my team, helping others is the genesis of our work, not an accompaniment.

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 founded Summery after a 2-year sabbatical where I traveled to all 7 continents and 62 countries volunteering with humanitarian organizations. Upon returning I wrote the Adventure Philanthropist book series, which highlighted not only my worldwide adventure but 30 other individuals that were leading fulfilling lives that reflected their values. I wrote the series to inspire others to find professional and personal fulfillment through social impact and philanthropic activities.

It was a grand goal, but it didn’t quite work. While readers liked my book, they let me know that my lifestyle seemed too extreme and folks couldn’t quite see how to incorporate social impact into their everyday lives.

So I was driven to create tools to help people understand and activate their personal values. I recruited an ex-Google engineer to build a prototype of our KindQ™, a behavioral science evidence-based app that provides individuals with a unique value profile based on 1 of 98,304 different combinations of kindness.

Each individual is then matched with three personalized social impact activities to easily activate their values. Each time someone completes a Kind profile, we honor it with a donation to a nonprofit organization reflecting a community’s collective values. The result for an organization or enterprise is greater personal and professional fulfillment for key stakeholders, such as employees, customers, vendors, and investors.

Our data and scientific insights create an organizational baseline that enables executives to measure behaviors and cultural transformation, creating an opportunity for true system change. This is our movement: to inspire individuals and organizations to live their values.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

LinkedIn: Erin Michelson

Twitter: @ErinMichelson

Summery’s Insights Blog

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


Meet The Disruptors: Erin Michelson Of Summery 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.

Beth Noymer Levine Of SmartMouth Communications On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective…

Beth Noymer Levine Of SmartMouth Communications On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Keep it moving. All of it. You included. A speech or presentation is effectively a show. And let’s face it, people love to watch a show. When you think about it, though, shows are not static; they move. So, unless you are tethered to a fixed microphone at a podium, you should move — forward, toward the audience; side to side in the front of the room or on the stage; or around the room if there’s space.

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 Beth Noymer Levine.

Coaching people to use their brains before their mouths is the sole focus of Beth Noymer Levine’s work at SmartMouth Communications. After more than a decade in Public Relations, Investor Relations and Corporate Communications in New York and Atlanta, Beth established SmartMouth in Salt Lake City in 2005 to offer Speaker Coaching, Presentation Skills Training, Media Readiness™ Training, and related services. Beth is the author of the award-winning book “Jock Talk: 5 Communication Principles for Leaders as Exemplified by Legends of the Sports World” (Greenleaf Book Group, 2015). She is also the creator of the mobile app, “SmartMouth Public Speaking Toolkit,” and a suite of Communication and Presentation Skills courses offered online through Udemy, OpenSesame, and GO1.com. Beth has lectured and taught at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, the University of Utah, and New York University. In 2015, Beth was one of Utah Business Magazine’s “30 Women to Watch.” She has been featured in Forbes, Harvard Business Review, the BBC, The Wall Street Journal and is a regular contributor to Forbes.com.

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?

Probably the most relevant aspect of my childhood is that I grew up with three brothers and no sisters. Two were older, one was younger. As the only girl, I learned to “take it,” so to speak, and also to “dish it out” to people who were bigger than I was. The net result was that, by the time I reached adulthood, I was not intimidated by much of anything or anyone. Over my career years, this translated into me being far less scared of an angry fist-pounding boss or client than my peers were.

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

Yes, I vividly remember in the mid- to late 1980s, when I was working as a communications consultant on Wall Street, I would be tasked with preparing an investment banker and/or their corporate client for an interview with the media or a presentation to investors. I was usually a lot younger and less experienced — in business and in life — than my clients, but I was able to be insightful and helpful about how they should present their story and what their key messages were. And, to my shock, they were accepting and very appreciative. I recall making a mental note to myself at the time that this niche of preparing people to be effective speakers and presenters could be a really interesting business one day.

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

I have been extremely fortunate to have the privilege of working with some outstanding people and organizations. One of my favorite stories to share is from the very early days of SmartMouth Communications. I think my business was about a year old when I was alerted to an RFP for Media Training from the U.S. Ski and Snowboarding Teams. No matter what, they would be an A-List client, but I was especially excited because they were Utah-based and so was I. I responded to the RFP and made the final cut. Three firms, including mine, were invited to present to the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Teams’ executive leadership. I found out I was up against a global PR firm and a firm that had been exclusively media training high-profile professional athletes for two decades. Yikes! I knew that my competitors would have eye-popping PowerPoint presentations to share …. and then there would be me. I needed to figure out how to differentiate myself and my capabilities, even though SmartMouth was in its infancy. I decided to use my 45 minutes to deliver some of the same media training to the executive leadership team that I would to the athletes. In other words, I made it experiential and tangible for them so they would know 100% what they would be getting. By some miracle, I won the business and have worked with Olympic athletes at various points throughout the 18 years since SmartMouth was established.

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, I have some whoppers! I think the funniest mistake I made in the early days of SmartMouth is something I repurposed as a word-to-the-wise piece of advice to clients after the fact. I had been invited to speak at a very large conference and was absolutely thrilled. I was prepared in every way, including my outfit. I remember that I wore a black skirt and black sleeveless turtleneck sweater under a very smart-looking self-belting light tan jacket. I was nervous, though, as it was going to be my largest and most consequential audience to date. I probably don’t need to tell those who have had this same experience, but my nerves turned to sweat, and sweat shows on light colors. Only after I was done with my presentation did I notice that my wet armpits were noticeable on my light tan jacket. So embarrassing! All I could hope was that I had not actually raised one of my arms while speaking. This little “mistake” morphed into “whatever you do, wear a dark jacket!” advice for clients who tell me they get nervous.

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 Mom, for sure. I haven’t talked about this often enough, but starting SmartMouth was my re-entry strategy after a career break for motherhood. Long before it was chic, or even commonplace, my Mom went back to school for her master’s degree and then started working part time. It was the early 1970s; she had one child in college, one in high school, one in middle school and one in Kindergarten. I learned from her that my path did not necessarily need to be linear; it could be crooked, broken, or of my own design. She taught me, by example, that life unfolds in chapters, and we get to be the author of our own chapters and choose what’s best for us at any given point. In fact, I think what’s being referred to as “the great resignation” right now is just that — people choosing what’s best for them during an unprecedented time.

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 doesn’t label a person, it labels an event or project or initiative. You can have (multiple!) failures and still be a success. In fact, you should have some failures. Failure is like rain; it happens when we prefer sunny days, but it comes with the benefit of watering our trees and flowers. Just like you shouldn’t be daunted by rain, you shouldn’t be daunted by failure. It happens when you’re aiming for success, but you learn from it, you become smarter, and then you’re better prepared for success going forward.

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?

Communication is the currency of success! That is SmartMouth Communications’ motto. I know I can help change the trajectory of a person’s or an organization’s effectiveness or reputation with a few simple tips on how they present themselves and how they communicate in general. TMI, or too much information, is universal buzzkill for so many reasons. People know this and yet they still typically deliver too much information. My mission, if I had just one, would be to help more people understand why and how to prioritize and package their heaps of information.

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?

One really exciting thing on the horizon is something that’s new for me. While I have been a member of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) for many years, it was somewhat loosely and also off and on. During the pandemic, I had the time and capacity to get more involved. Now, two years later, I am honored to be the incoming Chair for IABC’s World Conference in 2023, to be held next June in Toronto. Bringing people from every continent together, all of whom share an interest and a career in various aspects of communications, is a huge undertaking and very exciting. My goal for next year’s World Conference will be to deliver an amazing experience and also tremendous value in the learning, professional development and the relationship-building.

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

“You don’t know what you don’t know.” Such wise words! So true about life, as well as about people and general knowledge. I try to remind myself often that I don’t know what I don’t know. It keeps my humility intact, it keeps my mind open to the viewpoints and knowledge of others, and it keeps me open to learning new things. I always say that I learn more from my clients than they learn from me, and that’s true. Not only do I learn about their businesses or professions, but I learn about people and their challenges and successes. I learn what makes them tick, and, most valuable of all, I often devise public speaking hacks that will work for them or I am privy to the ones they’ve devised for themselves … all of which are “homegrown” and inform my practice as a coach/trainer.

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. Assume nothing. Don’t assume your audience will pay attention 100% of the time when you’re speaking. Don’t assume they’ll be able to follow or understand what you’re talking about. Don’t assume they care. Your job is to make them care, help them follow along, and to grab and hold their attention. All of which starts with them — and not with you and your subject matter expertise. You live in your material, but your audience is likely to be hearing it for the very first time. In other words, what’s commonplace to you may be brand new for your audience. I often pull out a toothbrush when I’m working with a client. They look at me quizzically, as in “why on earth did you bring a toothbrush?” Then I ask for a robust explanation of what a toothbrush is, and why and how we use it. Clients answer, but haltingly because they have to give it some thought. Even though it seems like the most mundane, self-explanatory thing in the world, you can’t assume that everyone knows what a toothbrush is … or what you’re talking about.
  2. Audiences need handholding. They need you to guide them. Audiences won’t work hard to figure out what you’re trying to tell them or what you’re asking of them. Being in the audience, being a listener, is a passive role; the speaker has the active role. So, in your opening, when you’ve got their attention, tell them what your goal is for them (something you’ll want them to think, know, do or feel by the end of your talk). They need that for context and tracking. Similarly, your audience needs to know when you’re done with one point and moving on to the next, or when you’re digressing to tell a story and when the story is done. Guide them, bring them along. I have a client who recently gave a talk that was succinct, clear and easy to follow. But even with that, I insisted that he enumerate his points so the audience would be crystal clear on where he was at each step of the way. I took it a step further and asked him to gesture by raising his thumb, then forefinger, then middle finger for points 1, 2 and 3.
  3. A presentation is not a master class. You can make your point without your audience fully understanding your subject matter in the same way that you do. TMI (too much information) is a killer, it floods your audiences’ brains. Similarly, you should be careful to leave out jargon and acronyms, which are “exclusive” language. Rather than be impressed by your use of technical terms, your audience will just check out. I recently worked with a client company whose top leaders explained their jargon by using even more jargon, presuming everyone knew what they meant. I had to call a timeout and ask them to break it down into the most accessible explanation possible. A lot of speakers are driven to be thorough and comprehensive in explaining their content to their audiences — almost as if they want their audiences to have PhD-level understanding of the topic. For most presentations, though, speakers can simplify both the language and the amount of information, and their audiences will have an easier time following along and getting the point.
  4. Get naked. Be real and be open. If you haven’t noticed, being vulnerable is a thing these days. It’s held in respect and esteem, and so people share the most deeply personal things about themselves on social media, even on LinkedIn. Nevertheless, it can be hard to convince some speakers, especially in leadership roles, to open up and share things that are personal, deeply or not, when they address either internal or external audiences. Yet it’s a good thing, it always draws in the audience and gives them a new point of view, usually very favorable, on the speaker. It’s humanizing. Recently, I had an interesting experience with a CEO client. We were about to rehearse a speech he needed to deliver, it was in an easy to follow bullet-pointed format in front of him, and yet he spoke so haltingly and went off on tangents while rehearsing that I couldn’t figure out what he was doing or why. As I carefully offered my observations, he revealed that he had struggled with Dyslexia his whole life and that, while he wanted to have the bullet points in front of him, he also couldn’t sort through them fast enough for a smooth delivery and also didn’t want his audience to think he was fumbling because he was unprepared. The resolution? He decided to open his talk by telling the audience about his Dyslexia as part of his declaration to them that he cares deeply about his topic, is very prepared, but that if it doesn’t sound like it, there’s a reason. It was quite moving, and he was applauded for his openness. I applauded him as well.
  5. Keep it moving. All of it. You included. A speech or presentation is effectively a show. And let’s face it, people love to watch a show. When you think about it, though, shows are not static; they move. So, unless you are tethered to a fixed microphone at a podium, you should move — forward, toward the audience; side to side in the front of the room or on the stage; or around the room if there’s space. Not distractingly fast, but methodically and slowly. And you should gesture, you should animate your words with physical, almost theatrical, actions (think: Charades!). I had a tech client a few years back who I was coaching prior to a big keynote address; the kind where there were going to be more than a thousand people in the room and he was going to be projected onto two giant screens. He had an amazing family story, which included his parents emigrating from Taiwan to the United States. To give you an example of what I mean by “animating,” I encouraged him to turn on his heels and move from one side of the stage to the other when he said, “and my parents moved from Taiwan to the United States” so there would be more of a show, and so the show would match the content.

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

Absolutely! First, it’s important to acknowledge that nervousness is just your body’s adrenaline getting you geared up for something important. Even if you were a frequent public speaker, you would get a little bit nervous every time. The important thing to remember is that the first two minutes — or 120 seconds — are when this is the worst. After that, your nerves begin to settle down and you hit your stride. This calls for you to not only know your opening but to choreograph it so that you create a pause in which you can take a sincere inhale and exhale.

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?

There are so many important issues facing people right now — human rights, food insecurity, affordable housing, gun safety, access to healthcare, you name it. Having listed all of those, however, I think the movement I would inspire would be environmental. Climate change is affecting literally everyone, worldwide. My movement probably would be focused on making sure there is clean, renewable, safe sources of energy everywhere in the world. Not only would that bring a lot of good to a lot of people, but it would also help stop the erosion of our air quality, water supplies, forests and other habitats, all of which humans and various other species need.

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

There are lots of people I’d love to have lunch with, but not all of them would open up and go deep with me. I would want to go deep. I don’t know if he’d be up for it, but I would love to have lunch with LeBron James. I’m a huge fan, and I’m in awe of how he has built his life, his brand, and how he maintains his focus and intensity on the court. He’s still a phenom to me, even at age 37.

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

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

https://twitter.com/SmartMouthComm

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

Thank you!


Beth Noymer Levine Of SmartMouth Communications On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Darrin Murriner Of Cloverleaf: Giving Feedback; How To Be Honest Without Being Hurtful

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Build genuine relationships with your people who are remote, so that when you do deliver feedback, it’s done in a way that can be received and your team can trust that it’s coming from a good place, where you have their best interest in mind. Oftentimes, when I see leaders struggling with giving feedback, it’s because that element isn’t there.

As a part of our series about “How To Give Honest Feedback without Being Hurtful”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Darrin Murriner.

Darrin Murriner is Cofounder and CEO of Cloverleaf.me. Prior to founding Cloverleaf he managed large and complex teams at companies such as Arthur Andersen, Fifth Third Bank and Munich Re. He is the author of Corporate Bravery, a book focused on helping leaders build a culture free of fear.

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

I’ve always been an entrepreneur. I remember my dad selling specialty advertising when I was in the fifth grade, and I would take all his extra samples to school to sell for money. I made enough to buy the original Nintendo Entertainment System, which was a big deal! I kept this up through similar side hustles throughout my time in high school, but when I went to college I got stuck on a corporate track. I think for a lot of kids coming out of college nowadays, entrepreneurship is the preferred path, but in the late 1990s and early 2000s — and for decades prior — people were focused on paving the way to jobs at places like Goldman Sachs or General Electric. For a while, I fell into that groove, and I spent the first 15 years of my career not being fully true to myself.

Meanwhile, I was still doing all these entrepreneurial things on the side, and I didn’t understand that maybe it meant I should have been an entrepreneur full-time. Over time and through a lot of self-awareness work, it dawned on me that I’m meant to be building things. I wrote a book called Corporate Bravery, which really marked my transition out of the corporate environment into entrepreneurship. The focus of the book was on how to change corporate cultures to be less fear-based in their decision making, promoting a more aggressive stance that found motivation in opportunity rather than being influenced by what could go wrong. Throughout that experience, I began harboring some thoughts and ideas about a tech platform that could help people engage more effectively with each other in the workplace, and thus, Cloverleaf was born.

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

My cofounder, Kirsten Moorefield, and I were focused on bringing transparency to how people work together, examining the behavioral layer of how work gets done and addressing questions like, ‘Why did I work well with that person, but didn’t work well with this other person?’ and ‘Why was that team able to accomplish such amazing things, but other teams weren’t?’ It feels like it’s this ambiguous, mysterious thing, but there’s data and science that can be leveraged to build an experience out of these questions. We decided to build a tech platform that could do just that.

Like any new burgeoning area of technology, you must find ways to connect innovation to existing markets and the way people think about solutions to their problems. Over time, we’ve evolved into the coaching space, because coaching is the way many people solve interpersonal challenges in the workplace today. The problem with coaching is that oftentimes, it’s only accessible to the top five- or ten-percent of leaders in an organization. That’s pretty exclusive. At Cloverleaf, we believe everyone should have the ability to learn about themselves and about how to work effectively with each other using a technology solution could really facilitate that.

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

My first job out of college was with Arthur Andersen — what was, at the time, the most well-respected accounting firm in the world. They happened to have a client in Houston, Texas by the name of Enron, which imploded very spectacularly as a company highflyer in a burgeoning field of energy trading. Because Arthur Andersen was the accounting firm for this company, their reputation took a major hit, too. It was like the company disappeared overnight, going from having 85,000 global employees to being practically non-existent.

What a weird way to start your career, right? There was a lot of fear and trepidation, and plenty of that factored into writing Corporate Bravery. On the other hand, I got a lot of valuable leadership lessons in that short period of time. I had a chance to learn what to do well and what not to do.

My direct manager at the time was very transparent; he built a lot of trust through really focusing on our team dynamic, and even passed on opportunities that didn’t allow him to bring his team along with him. It was a selfless demonstration that established a high level of trust and camaraderie. That period was a really formative for me — both for the positive and negative lessons learned.

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

The mistakes I’ve made in my career are almost all related to entrepreneurship, either failed projects that never really got off the ground, or even some day-to-day mistakes we made while building Cloverleaf. Oftentimes, most of those mistakes revolve around trying to do too much and not being focused enough. I would say most of the incidents I can recall probably took place sometime throughout the last four or five years and revolve around not being ruthless enough about the focus on my personal attention or the attention of the company.

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

The biggest thing is to set aside time. For instance, I recently began blocking off an hour at lunchtime, because I was finding myself getting increasingly crunched for time around that part of my day. I would end up grabbing some sort of fast food that wasn’t good for my body, which I’d then scarf down very unceremoniously ahead of my next call. I realized that having a break midday is a really good thing, not just for my personal health, but also to reflect and even follow up on the latest developments from that morning.

I also block off two Fridays a month on my calendar. This is time I devote to tackling longer work, where I can clear my plate and spend more than just a 30- or 60-minute stretch of time thinking strategically about some of the more advanced challenges facing our business. It might not always get adhered to — if I’ve got a critical client meeting that must happen during time I’d blocked off, I can reckon with altering my lunch plans. If you can hold that time block 80-percent of the time, though, it gives you the necessary space to reflect and avoid burnout.

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

There’s no perfect formula to leadership. Every situation calls for a different style. Being a company that uses behavioral assessments like DISC or the Enneagram, we often notice the culture associating leadership with behaviors common to those with DISC type D for Dominance or those who are an eight on the Enneagram — the decisive, high-energy types. Our team works hard to make sure that we’re not only appointing leaders who exhibit those qualities, but are rounding out our leadership team by promoting those who bring differing strengths to the table.

In reality, I’ve seen so many people who either don’t have the positional authority or don’t exhibit those stereotypically dominant characteristics who regularly demonstrate good leadership through speaking up in important moments with critical information or alternative perspectives. In those moments, leadership to me is as simple as standing up and lending your voice, plus following that up by creating space for others to be heard as well.

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

I have a pretty strong faith component in my life, and for me, tapping into that is an essential component of relieving stress. I think creating space for whatever spiritual connection someone might want to express is important in relieving stress as a leader. Personally, I tend to dedicate time to my faith in the morning, so that I’m starting my day with the right frame of mind and can better process my stress-induced emotions as the day goes on.

I’ve also been working on establishing some habits geared at the physical release of stress. I’m constantly trying to figure out where I can fit exercise into my regular routine. Sometimes it’s in the morning, sometimes it’s after work, and oftentimes it’s bringing up the rear of particularly long, busy weeks.

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

I’ve been a manager for two decades in various contexts, from classic corporate environments to startup spaces, like the one at Cloverleaf. In my time as a manager, I’ve worked with many people, with different personalities, communication preferences, and work styles. What I’ve learned is that building strong relationships is the key component to giving good feedback. In those situations where feedback doesn’t get delivered in an effective way, it’s because there’s not a strong relationship and personal connection between folks, and the person giving feedback doesn’t know how to adjust feedback for an individual.

For example, at Cloverleaf, we’re mostly what we call support-motivated team members, which means, if I walk up and ask someone, “How’s that particular task going?” it doesn’t feel like micromanagement to most people, because they’re the type of team members who want to know that their manager is engaged and asking questions and looking for opportunities to help and break down barriers.

But I have one team member in sales who doesn’t prefer the support-motivated approach. He’s a very goal-oriented person. He wants to know the number he needs to achieve in a certain day, week, or month, and then talk to me at the end of the month to let me know where he stands with that number. If I ask him every day how his work is going, it’s going to feel micromanagement to him. That’s not the kind of feedback or engagement he’s looking for from his manager. I’ve learned that it’s important to get to know people on a personal level and ask them what style of feedback they prefer, and set that expectation upfront. I want to make sure that we can have conversations that feel productive for everyone involved.

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

A 2015 Gallup study shared that “today’s employees want a manager who is invested in their personal and professional development. They want frequent feedback — and opportunities to do more of what they do best.” Giving continuous, real-time feedback — that is also, as you mention, honest and direct, but I’d also like to add, humble — really helps empower and motivate team members to do their best work. It’s an incredibly important skill for a leader toward building trust in the workplace, increasing engagement of the team, and helping grow each person’s strengths.

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

As I mentioned, building relationships is critical in giving feedback. At Cloverleaf, we talk about our core values, and one of those is “be a genuine teammate.” This involves two qualities: candor and authenticity. If you’re going to be candid, that is going to lead to better, more effective performance. There must be an authentic relationship that exists behind that. That’s very hard to do in a fully remote or virtual world. What we know about how people engage and interact with each other in digital or virtual spaces is that interactions tend to become very transactional. It’s focused on: “Did you get this thing done?” “Where are we at with that deliverable?” “Hey, how do I access this document?” It’s very much about the productivity and that doesn’t create a fertile ground for performance feedback to be well received, because there’s not a real authentic relationship there.

Build genuine relationships with your people who are remote, so that when you do deliver feedback, it’s done in a way that can be received and your team can trust that it’s coming from a good place, where you have their best interest in mind. Oftentimes, when I see leaders struggling with giving feedback, it’s because that element isn’t there.

Practically, you can do this through weekly one-on-one meetings, where you’re getting to know each other and building that trust. But it’s also important to create separate conversations that are focused on employee growth and personal development. Once there’s trust, there’s also a desire for feedback. For example, the other day, I met with a team member who initiated the conversation for feedback. She came into our one-on-one by asking, “What can I be doing better?” Ultimately, we want to hire people who come with that kind of growth mindset, who are actively seeking that out, but we know that not everyone is in that place, so again, the key element is to intentionally work toward building authentic relationships with those remote employees.

Can you address how to give constructive feedback over email? If someone is in front of you much of the nuance can be picked up in facial expressions and body language. But not when someone is remote.

How do you prevent the email from sounding too critical or harsh?

The same goes for email. If you have a genuine relationship with the person you’re giving feedback to over email, then there is a strong foundation of understanding built in. I would, however, avoid giving feedback over email if that relationship hasn’t been established. Focus on building that relationship first, since there is a lack of nuance, and therefore opportunity for miscommunication in tone over email, especially with constructive feedback.

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

Absolutely. One of the most critical factors in giving feedback is when you give it (whether it’s constructive or positive feedback). It’s important that feedback is as close to the relevant circumstances as possible. Holding onto feedback is a disservice to everyone involved. If the timing doesn’t allow for feedback in the moment, try to give feedback within one week or less, instead of waiting for the next performance review. Giving feedback as close to the event has a direct impact on someone’s understanding of how they’ve performed — and these more consistent feedback nudges have been shown to lead to higher engagement and behavioral changes than piling everything on in an intervention- or performance review-style feedback session.

Some other things I consider beyond timing is making sure that the feedback I give has the intention to contribute. Criticism, for example, is not feedback. Constructive feedback with alternative approaches and solutions is helpful. As for positive feedback, don’t stop at “great job!” Go beyond that and express the impact that a job well done has had on the team, organization, and specific individuals as well. The key thing to remember is building trust is hard work and takes time.

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

A great boss has a healthy amount of humility and empathy. A recent study from the University of South Australia Centre for Workplace Excellence spent time with nearly 500 team members spanning 120 different workplace teams. The research uncovered that “leaders who demonstrate humility through self-awareness, praising others’ strengths and contributions, and being open to feedback” are creating more positive workplaces and curbing negative influences.

What’s great is that both humility and empathy are skills you can learn and practice as a boss. The basics are essentially:

  • Humble leaders have a self-awareness that acknowledges they don’t have all the answers.
  • Humble leaders include their teams in problem-solving and decision-making and are dependent on others each step of the way.
  • Humble leaders ask questions with sincerity and curiosity.

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. 🙂

Something I’ve been feeling increasingly passionate about is the current American political structure. My interest isn’t rooted in specific issues as much as in ensuring our political system works as a democracy, guaranteeing every voice can be heard through access to voting. I’ve been looking into nonpartisan organizations that I can get involved with or throw my support behind — either financially or with my own time — who are making great strides in bringing free and fair access to secure electoral processes.

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

In his book Humble Inquiry, former MIT professor Edgar Schein makes this statement about humility: “Humility is not a required major personality trait of good inquirers. But even the most confident or arrogant among us will find ourselves humbled by the reality of being dependent on others.”

This quote resonates with me as a cofounder, manager, and coach to my team. We will all be humbled by depending on others in life. Effective leaders depend on their team members to do much more than complete a list of tasks. I depend on my team’s opinions, insights, and feedback for the good of the team. This not only provides our company with a more diverse set of opinions but also helps individual team members feel more valued.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can follow me @murriner on Twitter and keep up with what we’re working on at Cloverleaf on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and at our blog.

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


Darrin Murriner Of Cloverleaf: Giving Feedback; How To Be Honest Without Being Hurtful was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Meet The Disruptors: Roderick de Rode Of Spinn On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your…

Meet The Disruptors: Roderick de Rode Of Spinn On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

‘Recruitment is everything’ is definitely one of the most important drivers for success, you need a skilled and high-performing team that understands the mission and are equally convinced to get things done. Diversity, especially, and hiring a mix of characters turned out to work in our case.

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

Roderick de Rode founded Spinn in 2015 out of his passion for excellent coffee and a disdain for the wasteful, expensive, and mediocre coffee that was produced by popular POD systems on the market. Spinn is on a mission to reimagine coffee for the connected age and the discerning coffee lover. Prior to Spinn, Roderick got his start in tech, working at Dell, Microsoft, and other startups.

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 a background working in the technology industry, and am very passionate about sustainability and, of course, coffee. Knowing that coffee is one of the most widely-consumed beverages in the world and that consumers crave convenience and quality in their daily lives, I watched as an era of fast-brewed, yet culturally and environmentally destructive coffee, such as K-Cups, rose to the top.

My disdain for wasteful, expensive, and mediocre-tasting coffee from POD systems pushed me to create Spinn in 2015. Using its multi-patented centrifugal brewing technology, Spinn invented a new and exciting way to homebrew, which allowed the coffee to taste better, all while avoiding the use of wasteful filters and pods. We use technology to empower consumers to make a better cup of coffee in a very easy way and supported by a network of 500+ artisan coffee roasters in the USA.

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

Spinn is a hardware-enabled coffee marketplace redefining the home coffee experience through extraordinary craft, wireless convenience, and zero waste. Spinn is disrupting not only the at-home coffee experience but also tapping into technology to create a pod-free and first-of-its-kind digital coffee marketplace. Unlike other products on the market, the revolutionary, brilliantly connected Spinn Coffee Maker effortlessly crafts the perfect coffee, espresso, cold brew, and more all from the touch of an app.

Additionally, our brand defines a new and unique better-for-the-planet coffee maker category using whole coffee beans instead of disposable filters or pods, all while offering this unrivaled convenience. Spinn embodies the values that drove the spread of coffee from the 11th century to today, and has connected a global network of coffee roasters, tasters, makers, and consumers. By creating a platform that links growing to roasting and brewing to tasting, we are able to deliver on the promise of the highest quality coffee, every time.

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?

Misjudging the time and effort it takes to engineer and develop great products and services.

Not hindered by any knowledge of coffee or hardware manufacturing, we started with a ten-slide pitch deck. After receiving a great first response to the idea, it turned out to be much harder to get the product to market with the big amount of pre-orders that we sold. You see similar patterns with Tesla model 3 and Cybertruck, products that take very long to actually deliver after the first hype of the announcement and pre-ordering process. In the end, it’s 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?

The biggest inspiration really was the very first pre-order customers and investors that were interested in the product and proposition. When we got invited to an accelerator program in Silicon Valley, the biggest question from investors was ‘show product market fit’ — is the product this something that people actually want to buy and use? With that feedback in mind, we launched an early-stage website, explaining what the idea was and a video that showed what we had in mind. The response was overwhelmingly positive, with tens of thousands of people signing up for the product. This was the biggest driver and inspiration to continue the journey, seeing that we were not alone in our frustration with POD systems that produce mediocre coffee. Advisors come and go and they all make a smaller or bigger impact.

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 idea of disruption excites some people and terrifies others. In my opinion, disruption is always good because it creates a shift in mental models. How do we think about our existing reality and what should come next? In the end that’s where progress, innovation and evolution lives. It’s human nature to grow, evolve and improve the way we do things. POD coffee systems were revolutionary 35 years ago because they solved a convenience problem. However, our new beliefs and realities allow for newer, more modern solutions that fit the current day and age. We cannot justify polluting the world with unsustainable practices. We believe Spinn makes better coffee. Not only better tasting, but also better for the environment. Therefore, we have to disrupt the current thinking about portioned coffee and wasteful plastics for every cup of coffee made with a capsule system.

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

  • Well number one is ‘don’t give up’. A cliche, but tenacity, drive and determination are important factors when you’re building something new on the unbeaten path with lots of competition. At times you might feel like Don Quixote holding on to faith, but faith combined with passion has created amazing things (also many terrible things, by the way).
  • ‘Recruitment is everything’ is definitely one of the most important drivers for success, you need a skilled and high-performing team that understands the mission and are equally convinced to get things done. Diversity, especially, and hiring a mix of characters turned out to work in our case.
  • ‘There is no rule book’ turned out to be true. You can read so much about all other founder stories and how companies were built and the do’s and don’ts, but every story is unique. Much like the people building these companies.
  • Philosopher Seneca once said ‘Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity’. We’ve been called lucky many times, but when we analyzed why certain favorable things happened it did come down to accumulations of circumstances that triggered a magical outcome.
  • I enjoy listening to music and it gives me a lot of inspiration. So the fifth best word of advice is found in the song ‘That’s life’ by the great Frank Sinatra. It helps when you’re down and out and need a push to get back in the saddle.

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

At its core, Spinn is always growing, aiming to revolutionize the industry as a whole and reimagine coffee for the connected age. In fact, Spinn’s hardware-enabled, app-connected coffee system recently launched a first-of-its-kind cold brew feature, which enables coffee lovers to create cold brew in under 60 seconds. People love it. Spinn’s app and coffee marketplace will continue to grow, remove complications, and craft the perfect cup of coffee. Next steps will involve making things faster, better, and cheaper. We have ideas for smaller machines, commercial applications, alternative beverages, and expanding into international markets.

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 would say the school of life has had a deep impact on my thinking. I believe in a decentralized way of learning and a multitude of experiences and input that shape one’s beliefs and behavior. There are so many sources of knowledge, wisdom, and learning that it’s hard to pinpoint the most important ones. From Spinoza and Socrates to Mike Tyson, Van Gogh to Bill Gates and Chuck D, they’ve all had an impact on my mental construct. I listen to the ‘standard’ Podcasts like Guy Raz ‘How I Built This’; Reid Hoffmans ‘Masters of Scale’; A16Z podcast and Lex Fridman, and try to cherry-pick from the enormous amount of information coming our way.

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

Fear is a bad advisor. We have taken a lot of risks that led to good outcomes. Face your fears and live your dreams is what they say. I encourage anyone to drive for progress over perfection, and start doing. The fear of imperfection can have a massive impact on progress, slowing things down.

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

It’s unfortunate to see the suffering, hate, and division in the world that is often driven by misunderstanding and fear. Not to sound like a hippie, but I think it’s time for more love, understanding, care, and kindness in the world. Life is just too short.

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


Meet The Disruptors: Roderick de Rode Of Spinn 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: Jason Wilbur Of WILBUR On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

“Surround yourself with supporters and people that get it. Remove toxic people from your life.” Building something, like a business, takes everything you’ve got. Distractions and energy drains will kill opportunities for success.

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

Jason Wilbur is an award-winning designer with decades of creative and technical experience in a broad range of product categories, including timepieces. Along with his leadership in pioneering new realms in the world of design, he is the founder of the eponymous WILBUR brand. From the rarified world of automotive R&D to advanced car design and experimental timepieces, Jason Wilbur is hell-bent on Designing the Future. By any means necessary.

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?

At a very young age I became intrigued by everything mechanical, especially things with gears. I grew up in New York but spent a lot of time at my family’s farm in Vermont learning how to fix and figure things out on my own. I would assemble my own tools, build my own machines, and draw architectural plans for the treehouses I would construct; my brain was just wired differently.

In high school, my focus shifted towards art. I knew the artists were the ones who lived in a state of revolution, rather than a state of evolution, and I always knew those were the roots I was born from. Stemming from a family of musicians, artists, and scientists, creativity and unique ideas were never devoid in my household. Moreover, living in New York City allowed for me to immerse myself into things that inspired me, like contemporary art that challenged convention, unique architecture, street art, and culture.

In college, my interests were physics, engineering, and entrepreneurship however, I knew that design/art would allow for a path with more creative freedom. I didn’t have a specific plan; I just knew I wanted to create exciting and challenging things. I majored in Fine Art and Graphic Design from the Rochester Institute of Technology, where amongst many fields of study, they have a well-respected art and engineering school.

After a few years of working in the design industry, my love for cars and machines drove me back to school. I attended Art Center College of Design, in Pasadena — an institution known as the best school for car design in the world. Through my work with ACCD I received an internship at Porsche, designing everything from cars to watches to powerboats. After that, I accepted a car design job with Honda R&D working on both production and concept cars. I was the lead designer on several key Honda cars, including the Honda FC Sport, The Honda Sport concept, the NueV (electric urban vehicle), and created over a dozen internal future vehicle concepts.

My expertise in design and advanced car development inspired me to create WILBUR, but I learned more about watch design from breaking the rules than following them. My approach quickly moved further from the traditional “ways to design a watch” and more toward my experience with advanced vehicle design methods to inform my watch designs.

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

The luxury watch industry itself is a conservative industry. Luxury watch brands out of Europe often play it safe by designing watches or creating new collections that tend to look like one another. And, that’s okay — there’s a huge market for it and I love to see those brands be successful! But following someone else’s lead is just not my style.

Throughout the course of my career, I’ve come to learn that people, brands, companies aren’t willing to take risks, or are even intimidated by creative concepts and outlandish designs because they know that after some time, it’s going to garner traction and they will have to play catch up sooner or later. With WILBUR, I am intentionally being disruptive and willing to risk it all — ultimately, I am working to redefine what luxury means.

The word luxury, in and of itself, has lost its sparkle. It’s such a commonly used term that someone can slap a good looking logo on a fine piece of product or material and as soon as the next celebrity wears it, it’s automatically considered luxurious.

WILBUR is being disruptive by creating its own standard of what luxury is. We are going against the grain of what traditional luxury standards have been pushing for so long. We are working to create the next American luxury empire, without the uppity attitude it tends to carry. We’re a luxury brand made for outlaws, rulebreakers and rebels. We’re certainly not for the faint of the wrist.

American design has not been respected for a long time and I am working to change that perspective with every WILBUR watch created. WILBUR timepieces are high concept sculptures that happen to tell time. We follow no industry formula for what we create. Our products are not for everyone; we create only for the limitless few, not the masses. We design and make ultra rare high-concept pieces like the LEO with in-house designed movements and complex execution as well as “Daily Drivers” like the Launch Edition meant to merge high-concept design sensibilities with the simplicity (and audacity) of a simple Japanese movement. In addition, our Speed Shop versions offer opportunities for experimentation with futuristic R&D techniques or ultra-limited editions to mix things up.

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 I’m not sure if it’s the “funniest” but, I know my wife and I both share a chuckle looking back at some of the positions we were in while trying to bring WILBUR to life. For example, I remember when the LEO, a new watch design I am launching this winter, was just a thought nearly eight years ago. I had an investor interested in this specific design who assured me that if I could make the LEO a reality, he would invest. I was excited and willing to spend my last penny to bring WILBUR to fruition; I literally started selling things out of my own house and even my motorcycle. We really needed the money, we were doing desperate things like counting coins out of our couch and dipping into our 401K’s. I even flew to Switzerland to find suppliers in person to help make a tangible model to showcase. When I reconnected with the investor to show him the first ever WILBUR watch, he shared that he had moved onto a different focus and was no longer interested. My heart sank to my stomach, I didn’t know what I was going to tell my wife. But one “no” wasn’t going to stop me — I have that “Everest Syndrome,” where I just keep going and going until I reach my end goal regardless of the obvious dangers. I also know what I bring to the table and I know WILBUR is going against the grain and redefining watch standards. I knew that I designed this watch to represent WILBUR and this is basically how the LEO came about. It has been a crazy journey, to say the least and it certainly holds a special place in my heart.

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?

Throughout my journey, I have had so many mentors but the most powerful have been my teachers and professors. Growing up, I almost always had trouble in school — I couldn’t sit still, my mind and body were just wired that way. It’s like I needed to be doing something, or building something versus reading out of a book or following a lecture. Some teachers often reported, “Jason is disruptive in class.” However, the ones who understood that I was on a mission to do something different showed me the power of support and guidance and pushed me to break the rules to find my calling. It’s truly rare to find people willing to take a personal risk for your benefit. I am lucky to have found this honorable trait in many of my teachers along the way.

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?

Creatively speaking; if you set out to be disruptive, you will be destructive. If you set out to create something new based on your own rules, your success — if it comes, will be called disruptive. From a business standpoint, a whole industry rarely benefits from a good disruption; it’s usually a new company that refuses to follow old and outdated industry rules and truly focuses its efforts on customer values. Real value comes when the disruption benefits a group of customers that have been offered a modern and relevant value from an otherwise antiquated industry. Online video streaming disrupted the video rental market for example.

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. “Surround yourself with supporters and people that get it. Remove toxic people from your life.” Building something, like a business, takes everything you’ve got. Distractions and energy drains will kill opportunities for success.
  2. “If it’s not a bit difficult, it’s probably not worth it.” Real things take effort, if something is too easy, there’s a sign you are missing something.
  3. “Exploration, not imitation, is the key to innovation.” Risk taking creates exciting journeys and unique outcomes. Not all efforts end the way they are planned but if the journey allows you to grow and learn along the way, you can’t lose.
  4. “Ignore the noise.” There are always going to be haters when you follow your dreams. You need to learn to take relevant feedback yet, filter out the toxic and unhelpful clutter.
  5. “One step at a time.” Building a business or launching a new endeavor can be scary if you try to digest the scale all at once. Just start — then you can finish.

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

Apart from other things I have in the works, WILBUR is launching two new watches this year.

First, the EXP (Experimental) which is designed and built in the USA with a Swiss-made movement. Every single aspect of the dimensions for this watch are smaller, not shrunken, just smaller — making it a more wearable timepiece. I designed the EXP with super 3-dimensional sculpture that can be appreciated from all angles — I learned this from my car design background, it has to look good from top, side, back, etc. One of the first things I do is take the watch off and show people how it looks architecturally. I take it off my wrist because the wrist is just a place to store the watch, it has to be appreciated off the wrist. The main design concept was to create chassis-like architectural structures that make up the watch case, making for an extremely technical feel. This limited-edition watch has a 9-part modular Exo-Chassis Case (most watches have 2–3 max), sapphire crystals with anti-reflective coating, 3-D hand finished details with a transparent glass dial base, and a “suspended” dial with movement structure. Limited to only 100 pieces, the EXP will be available this Fall.

Second, the LEO (Low Earth Orbit), created to serve as the pinnacle for what the WILBUR brand represents. Born from “Dreams of Machines” the LEO’s American mechanical sculpture holds nothing back and challenges the convention of traditional luxury watch designs. The LEO offers a concept of cryptic symbols or puzzle pieces, that on their own are unrecognizable, but when the pieces come together, they create a familiar hour numeral under a space frame-like structure that resembles a machine destined to orbit. Designed in-house and made in Switzerland, the LEO is hand finished and made up of an 8-part modular design, sapphire crystals with anti-reflective coating, titanium, WILBUR Engine One Automatic Jump-Hour Movement, separate discs for minutes/hours, JW1 movement chassis, and a JW1 Rotor. This small-batched limited-edition watch will be available for purchase in the winter exclusively through invite-only.

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?

Yes, one of my favorite books is, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Anyone on a significant journey in life should read this book. There’s a quote within this book that speaks volumes to me: “The place to improve the world is first in one’s own heart and head and hands, and then work outward from there.”

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

“If you don’t know which way to go — go uphill.” My goal in life is to spend my time doing meaningful things, not easy things. If I find myself lost, I don’t look for the path of least resistance, I look for the path that takes me up. I may never get to the top but at least I’m climbing mountains.

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 and leave something good behind for the most amount of people, I truly feel that everyone should teach at some point in their life. And I don’t just mean in an educational setting, but in life. Try and teach someone something new — help another person push the limits. Not only is it empowering, but by teaching someone something new or foreign, you are helping someone inspire creativity and build a new knowledge that they may not have had before.

How can our readers follow you online?

WILBUR Instagram: @Wilburwatchco

WILBUR Facebook: @Wilburwatchco

WILBUR TikTok: @Wilburwatchco

WILBUR Website: www.wilburco.com

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


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

Meet The Disruptors: Trevor Rappleye Of FranchiseFilming On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up…

Meet The Disruptors: Trevor Rappleye Of FranchiseFilming On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

“If you have a product, yet no one knows it exists, you have nothing.” — You can have the best product or service in the world, but if no one knows it exists, you’re invisible to your target audience. You have to network, spend money on marketing, take risks, and stay in front of your ideal buyers on a consistent basis. Your business can’t scale if you’re behind your own computer screen all the time. Trust me — it pays to get out there!

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Trevor Rappleye, CEO of FranchiseFilming & CorporateFilming.

Trevor Rappleye is the CEO of FranchiseFilming & CorporateFilming, an industry leader in producing full-service video marketing content for the franchise industry. Utilizing the company’s proprietary VIP National Subscription model, these videos drive franchise development, recruitment, and sales opportunities. Trevor began filming with his parent’s ancient VHS camera when he was just 13 and has been in love with emotion and storytelling ever since. To date, Trevor’s video production companies have experienced 3,000% growth in the franchise industry, by sharing authentic, unscripted stories for prominent brands such as Neighborly, Batteries Plus, Fast Signs, Franconnect, United Franchise Group, and more. He used to stutter, got C’s in high school, and — at the late age of 24 — finally identified himself as a member of the LGBTQ community. He’s here to tell you — if you put in the work and LOVE what you do, great things will happen.

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

I’ve been in love with filming since I was a kid. I’ve never truly had another full-time job — I’ve always just filmed for myself and loved capturing fun family moments, weddings and friends’ adventures. In high school, we had KBFT TV- the №1 high school live news station in the nation and that’s where my passion picked up. At 17 years old, I worked at KCRA 3 / NBC as an intern. They even put me on live television five times!

We began filming corporate events and small business videos in 2015 and literally fell into franchising in 2019. One of our first clients, Go Minis (who found us on Google / Yelp) recommended we go to the International Franchise Association’s (IFA) annual convention. At the time, I didn’t even know what a “franchisor” was — I thought it was a typo!

In all seriousness, we fell into this path — but we also took the risk of breaking into a new niche that was severely underserved. I walked the expo floor at IFA 2019 — and maybe 5% of the booths had video and testimonials. I was flabbergasted! How does this $819 billion dollar industry not know the power of story, emotion, and testimonials? Insert FranchiseFilming!

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

One word sums our company up: Simplicity. We’ve developed a national membership model to serve our franchise clients that is simple, easy to use, and transparent. The bigger the client, the easier they want things to be and the more they want YOU to handle. With our VIP Membership Model:

  • We create monthly marketing videos with zero hassle.
  • We never charge travel fees — transparent rate, it never raises throughout the partnership!
  • We edit the first video in just 10 days.
  • We don’t use scripts — only real, authentic stories.

We are solving three pain points for this industry:

  • How do I film my franchisees? They’re based everywhere and travel could get expensive. Insert our National VIP Membership Model — no travel fees, ever!
  • I hate waiting months for my videos — okay, done in 10 days!
  • I don’t have time to manage a film crew — We handle all scheduling and logistics! Just tell us who to film — and we handle the rest, such as scheduling, vision, logistics, etc!

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?

Going into franchising, I didn’t know the difference between a franchise, franchisor and franchisee. The franchisee is the individual owner of the franchise concept (such as a Fast Signs or Dunkin’ Donuts) and the franchisor sells the opportunity to prospective franchisees that invest in their proven systems.

I didn’t understand the business model and, at my first big meeting, I came across as a real newbie. I kept trying to correct the person in front of me, saying, “You mean you’re the franchise? Franchisor isn’t right.”

Rightfully so, that conversation led to nothing, and I learned a powerful lesson that day! I learned: Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask questions if you are confused. It’s perfectly fine to question what you don’t know. People appreciate it — as everyone used to be a newbie in the space!

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 business coaches and mentors has been Vaughn Sigmon of Results Driven Leadership. He’s been with me since Day One, back when I had an 80-square foot office to myself. He’s helped me realize some key things. I thought I had to film everything — but in order to scale, I had to step back and let other talented people take the spotlight.

My father, Kevin Rappleye, has also been one of my mentors and biggest supporters. He did so well in the hotel industry niche, selling to a specific group of people — and that’s what we are doing in franchising!

The two key insights I learned from them are:

  • It’s better to be №1 in a small niche, than to be №50 in a big industry (the fish in the pond reference). If you stay the former, you’ll become the go-to resource and industry thought leader that much quicker!
  • Always remember the 80/20 rule. In business and in life, 80% of our success comes from only 20% of our activity. By focusing on the 20% that works and generates revenue, any business venture can skyrocket with growth. Our 20% activity was the franchising industry — and now it’s become 80% of our focus. Hence, our tremendous growth which is tied back to our niche focus, our talented team, and the passion our brand has for story.

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

Disruption is a great thing, especially if you’re revitalizing a sleepy, dying industry. For example, Yellow Cabs come to mind. The fact that we didn’t know the cost of the ride and we didn’t know when they would arrive for pickup — was terrible. The taxi industry deserved to be disrupted by Uber because they got complacent.

When it comes to Amazon, disruption can be seen as either good or bad. Amazon has changed the world in a positive light — we can now get food within an hour or a big sofa in just one day. No more waiting weeks or going into the store. But it also put a lot of small retailers out of business. It honestly depends on who you ask.

I’m a big fan of Ethical Capitalism — if someone builds a better mousetrap, and you don’t pivot or change, that’s on you. Always be changing and growing, because if you don’t- you’re dying. If you can grow a profitable company, create jobs, and better the life of your team while serving your clients well — that’s what makes capitalism great. Capitalism is not (and should not) ever be considered a bad thing.

If someone doesn’t like something, they are welcome to start their own company, take tremendous risks and build something from scratch. Building a business is hard and success never happens overnight.

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

The five best words of advice I’ve received include these following examples:

  1. YWSYLS. “You win some, you lose some, who cares?” This applies to the sales process. Don’t get hung up on deals you didn’t close. I remember back in 2021, we lost out on a $100,000 deal that I was certain we’d close. I got complacent and stopped selling for weeks -the wrong decision! They backed out, and it floored me — I was sad for days, even weeks. I‘ve since learned not to rely on one big sale — your sales pipeline should always be full of prospects! Until the check clears, the deal is NOT CLOSED.
  2. Your ego is showing” This refers to scalability, as a first time CEO. In order to scale, you have to put your ego aside. People don’t want TREVOR onsite. They want a great, inspiring video, produced on time, under budget, and with a great partner. We began to scale our efforts when I stopped being present on every single filming session in 2020. I could then focus on sales. The minute that I implemented processes, a system, and began hiring and training based on our values and mission — we grew like crazy.
  3. “You can have scale or control, but you can’t have both.” Same as above — if you want to control everything, you’ll stay small forever. Allow your team to grow and learn on their own, even if they make mistakes. We, as entrepreneurs, make mistakes all the time — shouldn’t our team be able to do the same?
  4. “If you chase two rabbits, you’ll end up catching none.” I’m a firm believer that you can’t focus and do TWO things extremely well. If you aren’t focused on ONE thing (for us, that’s now franchising and our VIP Membership Model), you’ll end up doing a couple of things on an average level. It’s better to do one thing well than five things on an average level. This is why (since 2020) we don’t go to 10+ expos in multiple industries, we only concentrate on the franchising industry.
  5. “If you have a product, yet no one knows it exists, you have nothing.” — You can have the best product or service in the world, but if no one knows it exists, you’re invisible to your target audience. You have to network, spend money on marketing, take risks, and stay in front of your ideal buyers on a consistent basis. Your business can’t scale if you’re behind your own computer screen all the time. Trust me — it pays to get out there!

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

We’re launching a new training video program and a new microsite, FilmMyFranchisees.com — both of which will help franchisors in many new ways. We can now create (and handle everything) engaging and authentic training videos to address specific needs — such as lowering the risk of workplace injuries, the associated costs for in-person training sessions, and much more. FilmMyFranchisees is a new partnership with OnlineImage, a marketing services provider, that will allow us to film 300+ franchisees at a single internal brand conference. But each franchisee will receive a localized, humanized marketing video, with the capacity to increase their own conversions, leads, and sales at the local level — all by showing up organically as an SEO piece of video content, instead of a website. It’s a game changer for franchisors and franchisees alike — an opportunity to provide localized videos, with measurable ROI, for each of the attending franchisees. Everyone will receive a $100K video value for a 1/10 of the cost, because the fee is distributed amongst both the franchisor and franchisee. They’ll simply pay a monthly maintenance fee for a three-year term to have their personal video appear on Google, enhancing their own SEO, and much more.

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

I am in love with “365 Days of Leadership” by John C. Maxwell. I’ve read it cover-to-cover several times and my entire team has a copy. As a leader, it really woke me up to the notion that I have to care, set a vision, and plan for the future. The only way to grow a company is to generate more leaders.

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

“If success was easy, everyone would be successful.” If you truly want to grow your business and make money, you have to give up late nights on the weekends and sleeping in on workdays. In 2019, I began waking up at 5:30 a.m. and working 70-hour weeks — and my business scaled. You’re entitled to nothing, but if you work for it, success will eventually come. I’m a firm believer that the world owes you nothing — not healthcare, money, food, security — nothing. Some may say I work too much, but success doesn’t come easy. I’m putting in the work now so I can have a better life when I am older.

It was this kind of thinking that woke me up and helped me move on from a bad partnership situation back in 2015. By the year 2018, I was $80,000 in debt — the result of paying myself only $1,000 a month for years. I never disclosed this fact, and my team had no idea. Things simply had to change. Between 2017–2021, there were many months that I went without a salary. But it was necessary if I wanted my company to scale.

I’ve learned to assume the risk and put in the work now — to stop avoiding it. Almost everyone that’s successful now had to work hard to get there. As a new CEO, you get paid last — the business comes first.

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

I’d like to see a movement where people strived to be more authentic, sharing their own stories without fear of acceptance. Stop trying to play a certain role and care less about what people think. If you’ll just be YOU — more true success will come your way then you can ever imagine.

How can our readers follow you online?

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

https://www.tiktok.com/@trevorrappleye

https://www.instagram.com/trevorlovesstory/

Hello@CorporateFilming.com

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


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

Making Something From Nothing: Julian Jagtenberg of Somnox On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

… The ability to build & sell — will make you invincible. I don’t think a great product will sell itself and make a great company. You need great marketing as well and vice versa.

As a part of our series, “Making Something From Nothing,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Julian Jagtenberg.

Julian Jagtenberg is the CEO and Co-Founder of Somnox, a category-carving company known for developing the first intelligent sleep companion proven to improve the quality of rest. Julian (26) brings a passion for robotics to his role at Somnox, where he and his team have built a science-backed sleep companion, shown to improve breathing and settle the mind for better sleep, recovery, and quality of life. Julian graduated with honors from the Delft University of Technology with a degree in Industrial Design. He also holds a minor in Robotics from the Delft Biorobotics Lab — 3mE (Faculty of Mechanical, Maritime, and Materials Engineering).

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

As a child, I always wanted to become an inventor who could create things that would eventually change the world. Growing up, I always looked around to see what I could build, fidgeting with LEGOs and building soap boxes and treehouses in the garden. I was obsessed with creating, and during that time, I had an infatuation with Star Wars and robotics. It fascinated me how we, as humans, could create lifelike companions that would be able to help us with daily challenges. One of the items I was inspired by was Gyro Gearloose, which is a character that invents all sorts of crazy stuff, but the point was these inventions remained within his garage and were never shown to the world.

During high school, I participated in a curriculum called “technasium,” helping young kids use their beta skills to design products. Choosing Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands made sense since that was where many sound innovations came from, like the solar car and that sort of stuff.

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

I live by the quote, “He who has a why can overcome any how.” It is a quote by Viktor Frankl, who wrote the book Man’s Search for Meaning. The reason why this quote is so important to me is that life can be challenging. Especially being an entrepreneur, the odds are not always in your favor. Knowing why you do what you do will enable you to overcome many challenges and even attract people with the same “why” and may have a tremendous impact on your goals.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that significantly impacted you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you?

I enjoy reading books — the book that changed my life is A Guide to The Good Life by William B Irvine. The main takeaway is to have a radical focus on what you can control and be less worried about everything you can’t control. The book is about stoicism, which I believe is an excellent philosophy for life that provides practical ways to cope with challenges and help turn them into more pleasant experiences. One of the other key takeaways is how controlling your mindset and reaction to external events is a powerful thing to train. I always give this book as a gift to family and friends because it provides the tools to deal with modern life, even though stoicism originates from the ancient Greeks.

I even host a monthly book club for founders! Learn more at founderbookclub.com

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the central 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 to translate a good idea into an actual business. Can you share a few pictures from your experience about how to overcome this challenge?

Many people have great ideas, but only a few can execute their vision and bring it into the world. I think, first of all, knowing why this idea needs to be in the world and being super motivated to succeed crucially. 99.9% of people won’t pursue their idea simply because it’s effortless to say, “I could have thought of that.” One of the hardest things you can do is not necessarily build a business but build a product. To increase your luck, I have three practical tips. Tip one is to have the perseverance, time, and dedication to execute your idea. Be aware that it won’t be easy, and you’ll have to go all in. My second tip is to start small; try to make prototypes and give them to customers. Make it tangible as soon as possible, and talk to the user to gain feedback immediately. With that feedback, you will be more confident that the idea is worth pursuing. Lastly, my third tip is to assemble a team and partner up with other companies whose mission and motivation are philosophically aligned with yours. In our case, we are helping people sleep better, so we partnered up (early on) with a company that had the same mission but wasn’t a competitor. Instead, they were complementary to what we were doing and were already making significant progress leveraging their experience to bring their product to market.

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?

I love the quote: “People don’t have ideas; ideas have people” by Carl Jung. It’s this conviction that all ideas are probably already out there and someone likely already thought of them. Like Steve Jobs said, “it’s about connecting the dots, and you can only do that by collecting as many dots (e.g., experiences and lessons) at scale.” So it’s not about necessarily having the idea; it’s about executing the concept. Also, if you research, you will find that someone may already have this idea. I would say that’s a great thing because if there is no competition, that’s often a very bad sign. It means you’re in a market that’s not there, or you hit the jackpot. The secret sauce is finding those initial ideas on the internet and proving that you can execute them using the existing knowledge to stand on the shoulders of giants.

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, source a good manufacturer, and find a retailer to distribute it.

I could probably write a book about this question, but I will keep it brief. First, it’s about creating something people want and fulfilling a need early on. The only way to do that is to talk with users about their problems. Fall in love with the problem and fall in love with the consumer having these problems. You’ll get a lot of information on what it is they are genuinely experiencing and how you could potentially solve that problem. A common mistake is having technology solve a problem vs. a problem in search of technology. Once you understand the problem, you can start building initial prototypes: physical or non-physical products that test with the same user. It’s talking to users at scale, really understanding how they work, live, what they think, hear, and feel, and you can then actually get into something that might be the solution. Second, I think it’s vital to understand if you are solving a very urgent problem. Is it a bleeding neck problem, or are you creating a slight increase in the status quo? I always aim to create a bleeding neck problem solution because that’s where people have an urgent need for your product. Once you get in the prototype phase and assemble a team that can help you, it’s a good idea to talk with a patent attorney upfront to determine if you have invented a new product. Based on that, ask yourself, “do I truly have something novel, and do I feel I will continue this process to file a patent.” If the answer to those questions is yes, I would recommend it. It’s expensive to invest in intellectual property, but it’s necessary to gain future investments and protect your business. Next, make more prototypes and continue testing because it’s the only way to know you have something that works, honestly. Once successful and confident it works, you could start to sort manufacturers that can produce and deliver your product. Finding manufacturers is a skill, and I would look into it with experts. It’s about what fits your brand and how production affects sustainability. I would be very selective in picking partners because you will continue to do business with them for a long time. Then, when you have built the product and it’s ready to ship, it’s vital to understand where your products should be sold and how to distribute them. Again, the same tool is applicable; you need to talk to the user and ask, “where do you currently look when trying to find a solution for a problem” and “where do you pay for those solutions”? Only when you genuinely understand that can you pursue retailers, design your website, go for Google Ads, or maybe even go in person knocking on doors. Do things that don’t scale in the beginning. Validate you found a channel with the right messaging to talk to the right audience before you pour in a lot of money to make it work.

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

  1. Validate the product first — see if people are willing to pay for it before investing in production and hiring. This is essential and part of the credo of YC (Y Combinator) — talk to users and write code.
  2. People are the most important, so be extremely strict in hiring — the people you let in determine your culture and brand values; you should never settle for mediocre talent. You need people with the grind and hunger to make it a big success.
  3. In the same vein as number 2 above, be very strict on who gets equity in the company — shares are an excellent motivator for talent to join the team given the ‘high risk, high reward’ structure — but, especially in the beginning, you can make costly mistakes with investors playing tricks on you — that may heavily dilute your stake in the company. Getting advice from lawyers on that topic is crucial — don’t let the information advantage investors often have to fool you into getting into a deal that may get you in trouble.
  4. Take care of your health first at all times. Your company is your baby — and you will do everything to make it a success; it will be an obsession — yet with much uncertainty. It’s easy to forget about your energy, health, family, and friends. Yet this is vital to do what it takes. Sleep, exercise, and a healthy diet should be on your to-do list.
  5. The ability to build & sell — will make you invincible. I don’t think a great product will sell itself and make a great company. You need great marketing as well and vice versa.

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

The first step I would take is to create physical prototypes to put in the hands of real users. Determine their feedback — do they like it, do they hate it? Are they willing to pay for it? After multiple iterations of what you’re creating, you will have an idea if it’s worth pursuing and translating into a tangible product. When it comes to hardware, I would be even more skeptical: is this problem only able to be solved through a hardware component? If not, see if you can solve the problem in a more scalable manner.

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 independently?

I would recommend asking people who have done it before and finding a mentor who has already created something similar to what you are doing. You might find that people are very willing to pass on their experiences and share information that will help you avoid the pitfalls they may have experienced. Also, in my experience, people are open to connecting with you and talking, so don’t hesitate to reach out with a personalized message. Be sure to indicate why you want to get in touch, what they should help you with, and make it accessible by offering lunch or coffee!

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 is the best way to go in the beginning if you’re the first to find the product-market fit. This is a term to say that you found the customer willing to pay for it. You can scale that only if you have found that you can do it, then it’s a good idea to get venture capital. But getting a profitable company to reinvest those profits into growth is much more powerful. I would be apprehensive about getting venture capital as a standard way of building your company. Bootstrapping is something people can appreciate, and you might end up having more control over the quality of your company. So only get venture capital if it’s essential because I think the best funding you can get is paying happy customers.

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

Somnox aims to help 100 million worldwide achieve better sleep by 2030. Their patented technology provides users with a science-backed sleep companion to relieve feelings of stress and anxiety, resulting in deeper, more restful sleep. We found stunning reviews of people changing the quality of their life by improving the quality of their sleep — from police officers with PTSD to athletes looking to improve their performance by improving their sleep.

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.

For me, that would be prioritizing sleep — if everyone slept well, the world would be such a beautiful place. When we’re sleeping, we enter a deep recovery state that allows us to combat life’s stressors.

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

Matthew Walker is one of the leading sleep scientists and the author of the book “Why We Sleep.” I’d love to get in touch with him to discuss the future of sleep science and technology. Probably without coffee, since that ruins your sleep 😉

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

Thank you for having me!


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

Making Something From Nothing: Dr. Mary Kovach On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Make decisions that lead you toward your goals and who you want to be. Your day-to-day decisions will impact the rest of your life; make good decisions.

As a part of our series called “Making Something from Nothing,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Mary Kovach.

Dr. Mary Kovach is an associate professor with more than 15 years of undergraduate teaching experience. She earned her Ph.D. from Miami University, an MBA from Cleveland State University, and a Bachelor’s degree from Baldwin Wallace University. Additionally, Dr. Kovach earned a LEAN Six Sigma black belt (LSSBB) certification as well as multiple Agile certifications.

She spent 15 years at Fortune 500 companies managing multimillion-dollar global business units, earning a variety of management awards, and leading projects from inception to completion. Dr. Kovach is published in various scholarly journals and magazines and is also a blind peer reviewer to a variety of scholarly/academic journals. Furthermore, she was named to the International Editorial Board for The Journal of Values Based Leadership. Dr. Kovach has her own YouTube channel entitled Dr. K — The Management Professor, where her show “ROCKSTAR Manager” initially aired on the In the Limelight TV channel on Binge Networks.

Within the last few years, Dr. Kovach authored three books including #1 Best-Selling #MINDSET A Research-Based Approach to Understanding Motivation (Foreword by Sir Aaron Caruso, international award-winning tenor), ROCKSTAR Manager: From Theory to Practice (Foreword by Rocco DiSpirito, award-winning chef, author, and businessman), and with her cousins, Don’t Cut the Basil: Five Generations of Authentic Italian Recipes (Foreword by Ale Gambini, award-winning chef), which is a #1 international best-selling cookbook.

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 backstory?

Absolutely! For the first 15 years of my career, I worked for Fortune 500 companies. I had various departments underneath me from all over the world, so I managed day-to-day P&Ls valued at hundreds of millions of dollars as well as led major projects — such as moving call centers oversees or being required to optimize processes, ultimately shutting down large facilities. It was intense but a great experience. I started teaching as an adjunct professor and loved it. I was presented with an opportunity to transition into teaching full-time, completely changing career lanes and then earning my Ph.D. as well as tenure. I took advantage of the transition from face-to-face courses to online courses by building a YouTube channel, and instead of writing articles for scholarly journals, I started writing books. My most recent book entitled #MINDSET A Research-Based Approach to Understanding Motivation earned ten #1 placements during its launch week on Amazon! I also have two other books, ROCKSTAR Manager: From Theory to Practice, and the #1 international best-selling Don’t Cut the Basil: Five Generations of Authentic Italian Recipes.

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

Since this interview is about launching ideas into reality, I’ll share a quote from Walt Disney. He said “If you can dream it, you can do it.” I believe that. The only thing stopping you, is you. Graham Cooke said, “You can tell the quality of someone’s inner life by the amount of opposition it takes to discourage them.” If you want something that bad — go for it. The sky is the limit!!

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?

Yes! I joined Dame Clarissa Burt’s Mastermind group in 2020. This professional group of rock star women shared insight, resources, feedback, and provided continuous support. These women were at the top of their respective professions and willing ambassadors for this tight-knit network. Clarissa personally facilitated each Mastermind session, and they were always filled with laughter, intellect, and practical application.

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

You’re exactly right. There are a million ideas out there, but most people don’t transition that idea into something tangible. I see the biggest obstacle in overcoming this challenge as precisely that — those willing to roll up their sleeves and dedicate the time and effort to seeing their idea through to fruition, and those who don’t act on their ideas. Whatever your idea is, break it down into much smaller milestones. Create realistic time frames around achieving each of these milestones; then, block out time daily or weekly in your calendar to ensure you hit each milestone.

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

If I had to share five, they would be:

  1. My dad always told me, “Be a leader, not a follower.” It’s amazing how your perspective will change with that mindset.
  2. Make decisions that lead you toward your goals and who you want to be. Your day-to-day decisions will impact the rest of your life; make good decisions.
  3. Pay attention to your commitments, not only to ensure you fulfill them, but that you don’t overcommit. Those who produce great results are always asked to do more.
  4. Understand how to manage your own finances. Know your current revenue streams and continuously think of others in your future pipeline. Pay attention to your expenses and only pay for what you need, not what you want.
  5. Don’t self-select out. You were picked for a reason. There’s always a learning curve; if other people believe in you, you should believe in you, too!

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?

There are many ways to approach new product development from inception to execution. Here, I suggest you do some research to ensure there are no similar products on the market. Search for keywords specific to your product and industry to ensure you know what products are on the market and what you’re likely to experience. Then, find different groups on various social media platforms that can provide insight, familiarity, and provide some guidance whether there is a need in the marketplace for your product. I would also find a mentor in the field 1) who previously launched a product and can provide you with references (for details like applying for patents, creating and securing trademarks, etc.), 2) who is willing to be a sounding board and provide constructive feedback, and 3) who is someone you can genuinely trust.

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?

Every person is different. For those with a solid capital backing and prefer professional advice that minimizes risk, hire a specialized consultant. From there, interview multiple consultants to learn which is the best fit for you — including your personality, communication style, expected outcomes, and fees. For those with minimal capital but big ideas who are comfortable with a little more risk, start researching on your own. This will allow you to make decisions that best fit the direction of your business and potentially build a network along the way. You can always hire someone down the road, but diving in can add more value to your experience.

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

I think everyone has something that makes them unique. Learn what lights a fire in you and build on it. Own it. Love it. We only get one life to live, and nobody knows how long we’ll be here. Find your passion and share it with the world!

One of the blessings I’ve had is a successful career. For the last 12 years, I’ve sponsored girls from Mexico and India. I spent many cumulative months staying at an orphanage in Mexico, and I want to show my girls that they are loved, they have support, and they can be whomever they want. I have one girl from India who visited the U.S. and we spent about a week together. All of them have so much passion for life, generous hearts, and are so intelligent, that I can’t wait to see their impact on the world! So to answer your question, I hope that through my success, I can have a larger ripple effect from my personal relationships with these girls who can transform the next generation of female leaders.

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.

Thank you, that means a lot. I’m a professor and launched a YouTube channel a couple of years ago. When leaving a class or ending a video, I end with “Be your best you.” This means that you have something to contribute, and it’s your responsibility to share it with everyone. The decisions you make impact who you become. Think about who you want to be and make decisions to ensure that you become your best version of yourself. Nobody’s perfect, but you can make an effort every day to be your best you.

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

It’s been my pleasure! Thank you for your time and questions!


Making Something From Nothing: Dr. Mary Kovach 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: Andrea Lisbona Of Touchland On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your…

Meet The Disruptors: Andrea Lisbona Of Touchland On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Focus — Don’t lose sight of what you’re trying to accomplish — always keep your eye on the prize, no matter the obstacles that come your way and can distract you.

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

Andrea Lisbona is a millennial entrepreneur and Barcelona native, set out to disrupt the stale hand sanitizer industry with her innovative brand, Touchland, aimed at elevating everyday experiences, which has been in the works for more than a decade. Inspired by great innovators and the marriage of great function with great design, Andrea developed Touchland, a revolutionary brand of hand sanitizers that combine sleek, functional packaging with non-sticky, moisturizing, luxurious-feeling formulas that now come in fourteen reformulated and elevated amazing scents.

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 come from an entrepreneurial background, so naturally I always knew this career path would be for me. I came to the US in college and saw how many people use hand sanitizers, but at the same time, the experience was awful! The goopy, sticky formulas smell terrible (like cheap vodka or tequila) and dry out your skin — I kept thinking, “how is something that people use every day such a bad experience?” I quickly realized the hand sanitizer market was ripe for disruption; this is a category that had consistently grown for 20+ years with zero innovation or creativity. There was a clear opportunity to elevate this everyday experience from a necessary evil to a pleasurable ritual.

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

Touchland is the first hand sanitizer that gives you a beauty experience. The packaging was very strategically designed to be both functional and visually appealing, the formula is a skin-moisturizing spray (not a goopy gel) with zero stickiness, and the products come in a variety of elevated scents such as Pure Lavender, Blue Sandalwood, Beach Coco and more. This year, we also introduced the Glow Mist Rosewater Hand Sanitizer, the first skincare-infused hand sanitizer to nourish and renew the appearance of your hands.

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

One of my funniest mistakes happened while presenting on national television in Barcelona for international handwashing day on May 5th, 2014. I was presenting our dispenser and demonstrating how it works. I had to remove the cartridge and ended up putting it in the wrong way. When it came time to present nothing actually dispensed, so to make it look like I didn’t mess up, I had to pretend to rub the product into my hands. Ever since then I always ensure that that anything I’m using is working and I know how to use it before a presentation.

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 really look up to Steve Jobs and Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel as innovators who managed to marry great design with functionality. Both superb visionaries challenged the norm and created brands that have grown and sustained a reputation that continues to flourish in their absence. I strive to create a brand with brilliance that can excel into a trailblazer.

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 an industry is always a positive attribute once you are making a positive impact in society. A positive disruptor will always change the way we think of things, uprooting traditions and paving the way for reinvention. If you are causing harm or adding to the issues already at hand, this can lead to a negative disruption. If you innovating in a category where you are not needed or if your consumers are uninterested, then you need to find another option that will work. It takes years to dedicate time and patience to research to truly understands the wants and needs of an industry to truly disrupt it.

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. Perseverance — no matter what, you are going to go through lots of challenges on your journey. Having been in entrepreneurial family and going from having everything to losing everything when I was young is what keeps me on track and helps motivate me.
  2. Passion — when I first pitched my idea to the general director of my business school, who happened to be the first woman to be leading that institution, she wrote a blog post afterwards saying “Andrea had fire in her eyes.” It’s important to make sure that whatever you end up persuing in life you do it with drive, and you do it with immense passion — you’ll end up with success.
  3. Adaptability — If it’s one thing I learned is that there are going to be unexpected circumstances. You have to be flexible, sometimes thinking quickly on your feet, to navigate through changes, ebbs and flows. Keep in mind that there is always more than one way to reach your destination.
  4. Focus — Don’t lose sight of what you’re trying to accomplish — always keep your eye on the prize, no matter the obstacles that come your way and can distract you.
  5. Instinct — trusting your gut to follow your dreams against what other’s say. Believe in your dream and follow that instinct to make it into a reality.

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

We are continuing to expand our portfolio of Power Mist scent options, which our audience is always excited for. On social media, the top question is always “what scent is next?” After the success of our first collaboration with Disney, we are lining up some really fun and exciting new collabs later this year and early next year. We are also currently looking at other categories for innovation. Touchland is not slowing down anytime soon!

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?

One of the books that I’ve read that’s really resonated with me is Principles by Ray Dalio. I really liked learning his principals on what and how to become the next Steve Jobs of finance. As an inspiration of mine, it’s great to learn how others are also looking towards him for guidance on how to become the next big thing.

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

Always remember the bigger picture. When it comes to launching a brand, or anything you set your mind to, there will be so many ups and downs along the way. You will face many challenges, but it’s important to come back and remind yourself of why you started in the first place.

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

I would love to spark a movement where we’re able to transfer everything we’ve learned and share that with other aspiring founders without asking for anything in return. Being a founder is an invaluable lesson, so I’d love for us to come together and teach them how to survive financially, offering pro-bono entrepreneurship master classes. How rewarding would it be investing in others without asking for their investment in return.

How can our readers follow you online?

Follow me at @andrealisbona on Instagram and TikTok!

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


Meet The Disruptors: Andrea Lisbona Of Touchland 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.

Mark Zinder On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

You are in control. Take charge. It’s about you and the audience, not about the feelings of a couple of people running the A/V.

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 Mark Zinder.

Mark Zinder is a leading financial expert, trend forecaster, and seasoned keynote speaker. He has traveled the globe delivering more than 2,000 presentations to hundreds of thousands of people around the world. Laughing is the key to learning and connecting with your clients is the key to success.

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

I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, but was born in Frankfurt, KY. My Dad, ignoring the advice of friends and the explosive news of racial tension that was developing in the deep south, decided to pack us up and move the family to Alabama. It was 1961 — I was five. Originally both my parents called New York City home and living in the troubled south in the 1960s was not my mother’s notion of a good idea. After living in a small duplex for over a year, she did what many protective mothers would do at that time — while my dad was on a business trip, she put a contract on a house in a great neighborhood with an outstanding school system. When my dad returned home my mother took him to see the 3,500-square-foot, two-story colonial house on a well-manicured one-acre lot. My parents rarely argued but that day I remember my father repeatedly saying, “We will never be able to afford this house!” My mother, ever the persuasive and spunky New Yorker, was unwavering — she wanted the house. Dad called his stockbroker for advice and Tom told him that in his lifetime, he would pay more for a new car than he would for the house my mother was begging to own. Reluctantly, Dad purchased the house.

So, we moved to Mountain Brook, Alabama, a suburb of Birmingham, with an outstanding school system and a contingent of mainly upper-middle-class, white, Anglo Saxon, Christian neighbors that was comprised mostly of doctors, lawyers, architects, engineers, CPAs, and a smattering of steel magnates and a few other wealthy business owners, which, I might add, was not our pedigree. My parents were first-generation Polish and Russian immigrants that embraced Judaism as their religion and would not be welcomed in this mainly pristine white Christian neighborhood (which the real estate agent was so kind to continually point out). To say that we were not accepted would be an understatement. Attending the Cotillion Dance or being invited to join the Mountain Brook Country Club would be reserved for another era — one that still has not emerged. But we soldiered on, living in that beautiful home with its magnificent one-acre manicured lawn.

A couple of decades later, as predicted, my father purchased a car that cost more than that two-story colonial.

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

This is a story I rarely share — but it is very important to the topic of this interview. As a child, I had a speech impediment — a lisp. A simple word that described my impediment perfectly, which also was too obvious to ignore by the 5th-grade bullies (back in the 60’s they were simply referred to as “classmates”), because the word, thank you very much, contained the letter “S”. The word lisp, for those afflicted with the impediment, is both the setup and the punchline to a very cruel joke. I was often teased, but would never have imagined that a family member would also do so. After embarrassing my social-climbing mother in front of her friends, later that night, in private (her intent was not to be cruel…in front of others, that is), she spat the word “lisp” at me, using the well-positioned “S” for emphasis. I can only conclude that she was hoping that she could mock the impediment out of me. I ran to my room and cried myself to sleep. It hurt…but it also helped. I vowed to correct my speech impediment one way or the other. I practiced for hours upon hours in front of a mirror. I got better. For years I practiced more and got better still. I then did the most courageous thing of all for any 16-year-old with questionable self-esteem. I auditioned for the lead in the high school play. Days later the cast was posted on the wall outside the drama teacher’s room and my name was near the top, not the lead, but the one playing the comedic role of a character named Snazzy in the play, “Life of the Party.” Six weeks later, it was the opening night of a three-day run. After the successful Thursday night performance, the cast, one at a time, came back on stage to take their bows and receive their obligatory applauses from family and friends. Since I had one of the leading roles, I was one of the last to take the stage and take my bow. I remember this moment vividly — like it was yesterday — a defining moment in my life. I walked out on stage and watched the entire audience rise to their feet. I was receiving a standing ovation.

I knew that very minute what I was going to do the rest of my life — I was going to live it on the stage!

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

I was invited to be a main platform speaker at one of the largest conferences in the world. In 2005, I was asked to present to over 10,000 individuals as a mainstage speaker in Bangkok, Thailand, and with that many attendees, the organization needed to run a “tight ship.” My speaking slot was scheduled for 40 minutes — not 41, not 39 they emphasized — 40! I rehearsed numerous times. I had it down to the minute. I was prepared and ready to “nail it.”

The conference boasted of its worldwide membership and that attendees were coming from 27 different countries, which of course meant many different languages would be spoken. Any concerns of a language barrier were quickly cast off when we, as the group of speakers, learned that there would be translators for those non-English speaking members. I didn’t see that as a problem at the time. However, I use a lot of humor in my presentations, not jokes like “a guy walked into a bar,” but humor, like, “I was walking down the street and saw this interesting-looking bar across the street so I went in…” By the way, jokes are told in the third person, humor, in the first person. However, if you think about it, humor’s subtle nuances are not easily translated from one language to another.

It’s the day of the event. I’m on my spot, backstage, behind the curtain, listening to the organization’s president deliver my introduction. As he said, “Please help me welcome Mark Zinder,” the stage manager pulled back the curtain and gently shoved me out onto the stage. (I later learned that in the past, speakers would often freeze when the curtain was pulled back revealing the sea of people — so they intentionally assist you by giving you a little push.) After the applause died down, I begin with a few funny statements about myself and where I am from. I do this to get a read on how the audience will respond. Did they laugh? Then I become more animated — this is now a “performance.” Was the response tepid? Then I back it off a little bit and the delivery style is more akin to a “speech.” For me, the first few minutes are critical, as they will determine my pace for the remainder of the allotted time. I’m just a couple of minutes in and it hits me. About a third of the audience members are wearing headsets for the translation and it is taking a few additional seconds for the different interpreters to translate my American humor into their native tongue. Sometimes it takes more than just a few seconds as I watch from the stage, in front of thousands of people, as the laughter rolls. At first, a large group of English-speaking attendees begin to laugh, then, after a little lag, a group to my left began to laugh, and then another group, and another. They are not all receiving the same joke at the same time, which is fine — I’m a professional and will be able to adapt — until I look at the foot of the stage and see the giant digital clock ticking down the seconds. Even though I had rehearsed, I was not prepared for the laughter to roll and last as long as it did.

As Vice President Dan Quayle once said, “One word sums up probably the responsibility of any vice-president, and that one word is ‘to be prepared.’”

Yes, that is three words, and that’s what makes the gaff so funny. But as a speaker, on stage, by yourself, without other members of a cast to bail you out if you forget a line, or band members to keep on playing if your mic goes dead, you are alone. Sometimes, when things go amiss, it feels like you are completely naked, much like that dream many of us have experienced the night before the first day of elementary school — introducing yourself in front of the entire class — unclothed!

Lesson learned, even though you think you have planned, rehearsed, and are ready, be prepared to pivot for the unexpected.

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?

After being the national spokesman for a large money management firm, it was time to leave the steady paycheck behind and venture out on my own. It was soon thereafter that I received an unexpected call from Jay Klahn, the owner of Dynamic Speakers, who, over the years, would also become a very good friend. He had a client that was interested in booking me for a speech and Jay had found my website online. We were getting the initial interview out of the way, and I said to him, “Jay, I’m really, really, good.” We then started doing a lot of work together, and our speaker/agent relationship flourished. About three years into our friendship, he said to me, “Hey, do you remember when we first spoke on the phone and you told me you were really, really, good?” I said, “I do.” He then replied, “Do you know how many speakers tell me they are really, really good?” and I said, “No, how many?” and he said, “All of them!”

Lesson learned: Prepare your unique elevator pitch to describe what makes you different and how you stand out from the crowd because, out of the blue one day, you might get a call from an agent. And they don’t want to hear from you that you are really, really, good — they want to hear that from the prospective client who saw you speak and is looking to hire you!

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 is that one person in my life that was the motivation for my speaking success: it was my high school drama teacher, Karen York. She was the one who encouraged me to audition for the upcoming school play, and she is the one that metaphorically held my hand, molded me, and introduced me to one of the greatest “rushes” known to humankind — the standing ovation! There are thousands of speakers, and I have heard a lot of them. Those that stand behind the podium and read their prepared scripts — the ones that use no voice inflection or don’t even know how to use the stage or tell a joke or relate a story. Those that have something to say but simply don’t know how to say it. Karen York taught me that there was more than just reciting the rehearsed word. How you say it and how you use the stage. Voice inflection, timing, and non-verbal pauses are all key to an outstanding presentation. But it takes skill, and this skill is not innate — it is learned, and Karen took the time to teach it to 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?

Oh yes. My advice is both simple and difficult. “Be so good, they have to like you!” Simple in theory, difficult in practice.

Many speakers dream of getting the call from an agent and having them fill their calendar with speaking engagements, and all we have to focus on is getting to the event on time. Let me throw a wet rag on that right now. You are the presenter and the agent! You are always selling. While taking Daniel Pink’s Master Class (yes, I am still learning and trying to perfect my craft), I learned that we spend roughly 40% of our day selling. “But I’m not a salesperson,” you may be thinking. Oh, yes you are. Whether it is an idea, a product, or yourself…you are selling. That is 24 seconds out of every minute, 24 minutes out of every hour, you are selling, and what you are selling is your ability to articulate, educate, enlighten, inspire, and engage.

Ladies and gentlemen, when you are on stage, you must remember that every presentation you deliver is an audition for the next presentation. I can’t begin to tell you how many people approached me after I delivered a speech to tell me they were interested in having me speak at a conference they are in charge of planning. If you are really, really, good, they will like you…and want to hear more from you!

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?

My job, as I see it, is to know what the audience knows, and know it well. My job is to also know what they don’t know, and know that as well! That’s the hard part, but also the most rewarding. I’ve seen too many speakers get up on stage and deliver a presentation that doesn’t articulate any new information that I haven’t already read in a recent news story or seen delivered weeks before by someone else. Yes, I know our job as a speaker is to speak, but it is also to inform — to bring something new to the table, whether an idea or simply a different way of looking at things. The thing that drives me is when someone approaches me afterward and says, “You know that story you told about (fill in the blank), I didn’t know that!” I love to teach and I love it when the audience learns something new.

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’ve been speaking professionally for over 30 years. I’ve delivered somewhere between 2,500 and 3,000 presentations in 12 different countries — and yes, all for a fee. In those years I have been to enough conferences that I have seen more than my share of speakers. Some good, many bad. Often, I want to approach them afterward and say to them, “Just talk to us like you were telling this story to your friends.”

Once I had the honor to speak on the same agenda with the pilot that flew Air Force One during the events of 9/11. He wasn’t just along for the ride — he was in the thick of it and his story is fascinating! A story many of us have never heard — one that should keep you on the edge of your seat. We became acquaintances and I was stunned to hear his speaking fee — it was half of what it should have been. The way he told it was good — it could have been great! For someone who is not a trained orator, the default is to tell the story in chronological order: This happened, and then this happened, then this, and then I went home. The end. For the novice, it makes sense. For the pro, it’s all wrong.

What would I like to do next? I would like to train speakers that have something to say — how to say it, how to deliver it, and how to move and use voice techniques so they engage the audience. Speaking publicly can be a great career and an amazing “rush” not only for the speaker but also for the audience — if done properly.

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

As stated earlier, I use a lot of humor in my presentation. One of the reasons is that people will retain seven times more information if they are laughing while they are learning. Seven times! I want my presentation to be memorable, but I want to be memorable also. By doing so, when an audience member who heard me speak is talking to someone that wasn’t at their meeting, they don’t say, “I heard this guy speak at the conference,” but “I heard Mark Zinder speak at the conference… and he was really, really good!”

I will state it again: Be so good they have to like you. That is actually a derivative of a Steve Martin quote that goes, “Be so good they can’t ignore you.”

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. I’m going to start with the most important thing of all: setting the stage. And I’m speaking about the physical stage — setting the “stage” for your presentation. The lights, the sound, the volume on your wireless lavalier microphone. If you are speaking at a large conference, you might have less control, but I can’t emphasize enough about taking as much control as you can. Let me first start with audio/visual. I’ve done thousands of presentations and if there is going to be a problem while you are on stage — it’s going to be with A/V. I now have it in my contract that I will be using my laptop. This is non-negotiable. There have been too many times that their equipment simply stopped working, or the PowerPoint deck that I sent them has gotten discombobulated. Or maybe you gave them a thumb drive at the actual event, the morning of. Nope. I have experienced that not working either because whatever typeface I am using is not a typeface they have on the computer, so the titles on my slides are in gibberish. I travel with a laptop that I use exclusively for delivering my presentation. I keep it clean. That way, if there is a problem with my computer (and there never has been) then it is my fault. Also remember to pack all the necessary adapters, extension cords, clickers, etc. Next, do a sound check beforehand. The A/V group thinks they know your voice level (we will discuss this later) but the speaker before you probably had a softer voice so they have the sound turned way up. I can’t tell you how many times I have had to move the lavalier mike down my tie because the volume is too loud. Lastly, the lights. Again, not being a speaker, the person in charge of the lighting thinks it’s a good idea to turn the lights down so the audience can see the slides better. If you want to guarantee that the audience will be napping during your presentation they slated you to deliver after lunch or at the end of the day, then turn the lights down. Otherwise, ask that the lights be brought up to 75% house. 100% house would be all the way up. Turn them down, but just a little. Remember, the focus should be on you, not the slides. I have designed my PowerPoint slides to present themselves well in a brightly lit room. Lastly, the people “manning” the A/V booth will tell you they are professionals and not to worry. However, they are not the ones on stage — you are. Take control and don’t worry about hurting their feelings.

There are too many examples of things going awry, but the one that disappointed me the most was the time I was speaking to over 10,000 people in Bangkok, Thailand. Numerous screens hung from the rafters above because the people employed to video the event were also delivering it live so the people towards the back of the hall could see the speaker. The very first acting class I took was called Stage Movement — the professor taught us how to use a stage. “Imagine you are in a box,” he said. If you are on a big stage, then you are in a big box and exaggerate your movements. Small stage, small box, keep your arm movements close to your body and your movements across the stage smaller. This was going to be a big stage and I was going to use every bit of it. I was talking to the director and giving him the lowdown of what I would be doing and how I would be moving, and he said to me, “We’ve got this — we do the Academy Awards every year. Don’t you worry.” I was thinking that the video clips of me speaking in front of 10,000 would be great for my “Promo Reel.” “Ok,” I thought, “The Academy Awards.” I was duly impressed. Less so when I finally received the video. It was junk. Not at all usable. None of it. I was so disappointed.

The lesson learned: you are in control. Take charge. It’s about you and the audience, not about the feelings of a couple of people running the A/V.

2. Begin at the end. Tell them what you are going to tell them — not in its entirety but give them a hint of what to expect. Then take them on a journey and when you get to the end, you get to finish the story that you started, completing the circle. I once heard Annie Leibovitz speak. She was on stage for over an hour showing many of her now famous photographs and telling the story behind each of them. She ended with what I think is one of her most famous of all, the picture of John Lennon and Yoko Ono. John Lennon, unclothed in a fetal position, nestling his wife. We all remember that photograph. What I didn’t recall was that picture was taken just hours before he was shot outside his home in New York. Personally, I would have started with that photograph and told a story or two about how there were earlier photographs of Paul and Yoko, not taken by her, in bed, protesting the war (setting the stage). And then how she had taken this iconic picture that later graced the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine. I would have then continued on my presentation and at the end, bring that photograph up again and explain why it was so important and what had transpired right after it was taken. Here was a man who had publicly protested the senseless killings of others and then later that day, after taking this now famous picture, he too was part of a senseless murder. End there. Leave the audience awestruck. Complete the circle. The audience would know that you were ending your remarks. Accept your applause, take your bow and then open it up to questions.

3. People tend to speak softer when they get on stage — I can only imagine it is because they are nervous. When I am training speakers, one of the first things I do is to draw five hash marks on a piece of paper. The top hash mark represents “yelling.” The bottom one is “whispering.” The one in the middle is the level at which we talk. Here’s the problem; when unseasoned speakers get on stage, they tend to take it down a notch below average. No! What you need to do is to take it a notch above average. This is where you are speaking louder, but not yelling. At this level, you are speaking with enthusiasm and the benefit of speaking with enthusiasm is that enthusiasm is contagious! Be enthusiastic about what you are telling the audience and the audience will become enthusiastic as well.

I call the period after I speak “kissing the babies.” This is when people stand in line to either ask a question or compliment me on the delivery of the speech. Nine times out of ten, if they are complimenting me, they refer to my enthusiasm.

4. Mark Twain once said, “The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.” Reading is where you will get a lot of facts, but it is also a great source for great stories. I used to go to a bookstore, gather a half dozen nonfiction books, get a latte, find a big comfy chair, and read the first four of five chapters of the selected books. Sometimes, additional stories come later, but I promise, there are going to be a couple of good stories in there. I speak on finance and economics — a rather dry topic, and the books on these topics can also be dry and uninteresting. However, the author, encouraging you to read on, will include a story that will illustrate what he or she is trying to teach. Today, I have substituted Amazon for the bookstore, which will allow you to read about 50 pages before they want you to purchase the book. Libraries are also a great source, absent the latte and big comfy chair.

I was reading a book called The History of Money. Towards the end of the book was an amazing story that I continue to share to this day. It was the story about the Wizard of Oz. A story we are all familiar with, but few people know that it is actually a story about monetary policy! Oz, as we know, is the abbreviation for ounces, like an ounce of gold or an ounce of silver. “Follow the yellow-brick road” — the golden road paved to the Emerald City — Washington, DC, where the dollar (or greenback) was printed. Dorothy was an activist out of Kansas City; her real name was Leslie Kelsey, but her nickname was “The Kansas Tornado.” The Tin Man was the American industrialist, the Scarecrow represented the American farmer, the “winged monkeys” were the American Indians, and the “munchkins” were the little people — the U.S. population. In the book, Dorothy’s slippers are made of silver, but because the movie was produced in 1939, and technicolor had been introduced just four years prior, they decided to make her slippers ruby red! Ladies and gentlemen, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the book published in 1900, is not a children’s story, but a commentary on what was unfolding in the late 1890s when William Jennings Bryan was running for President and was proposing the United States get off the gold standard and go on a bi-metal standard — gold and silver!

Facts tell, but stories sell!

5. If you are a speaker that doesn’t have a particular story — landing a plane on the Hudson River or flying the President during 9/11 — then always, always, always be writing new material. Always. And here is some advice: don’t try out your entire new speech all at once. When delivering your older speech, slowly add some of your new material into it — just kind of slide it in. Try it out. Keep using it until it is polished. Then remove it and set it aside. Add something new, try it out, polish it up, then set it aside. Nothing is worse than trying out new material all at once without ever rehearsing it in front of a live audience and then dying on stage. Well, wars, racism, apartheid — all those things are much worse, but you get my point, right?

Recently, my agent called, and he was trying to convince his client to bring me back. They had hired me ten years ago and their initial response was, “We’ve already heard him.” “Yes, but that was ten years ago,” he said. “Yes, it’s the same person but with different material. You loved him then you will love him again now!” They booked the gig. Always, always, always be working on new material!

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

Jerry Seinfeld can put things in perspective like no other. He once asked the audience if they knew that public speaking was the number one fear in America. Most everyone knew it. He went on to share, adding some perspective, that the fear of dying was number two. NUMBER TWO! Which, according to Seinfeld, meant that if you are going to a funeral tomorrow, you would rather be in the casket than delivering the eulogy!

Earlier, I spoke about performing in a high school play. It is now night two, Friday night. It is five minutes before showtime. After the lights go down and the curtain goes up, I am the first actor to walk out on stage. The director, Karen York, approached me and asked if I was ready. I said to her, “I’m so nervous.” She then explained to me that what was causing my nervousness was the same thing that causes excitement — my adrenalin was in high gear. She told me that I had to rephrase my statement and not think, “I’m so nervous,” but rather, “I’m so excited.” It is self-fulfilling, she said. She went on to remind me of the standing ovation I had received the night before. She said, “close your eyes and relive that moment — how it made you feel — how excited you were for hours afterward. Now, when the curtain goes up, step on that stage with that feeling, and then go do it again!”

The best advice I ever received.

You see, we are climbing a metaphorical ladder. Many of us get about halfway up and we think to ourselves, “Yes, this is good enough…I think I’ll just stay right here on this rung — this is where I am most comfortable.” Aren’t you curious about what’s up near the top rung? One step, two steps, three steps higher. My advice: Your curiosity has got to be one degree greater than your fear!

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

Can we stop lying already! News anchors, politicians, and heads of state should be above this angle for winning approval. This may come as a surprise to many but Frank Abagnale, the man portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie, Catch Me If You Can — it’s all a lie. He never impersonated those professionals — the pilot, the attorney general, the doctor, the professor. He didn’t do it. How do I know? Because I was once a speaker’s agent myself and he was one of the speakers I represented. I then went to work for him, promoting his speeches. That is until I discovered he was a fraud. One threat and 40 years later, the actual truth is beginning to surface. I have learned that it is easier to con someone than it is to convince them they have been conned. If you believe his story — you’ve been conned!

One of my favorite quotes is from Mark Twain who said, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”

If I could influence a movement, it would be one where the truth was always told, versus saying anything to get better ratings, get elected, or become famous or wealthy.

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!

Mike Birbiglia. If you are unfamiliar with his name or his work, I encourage you to go to either Netflix or Amazon and stream one of his many shows tonight. I suggest watching “My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend” first. Then watch it again but this time pay closer attention to his delivery- how he starts with where he is going to end, and how he uses voice inflection for effect and impact. Watch how he uses the stage. Watch how he talks to the audience rather than at the audience. He is a master of his craft there is no one better at delivering a story.

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

Readers can find me on LinkedIn or through my website, MarkZinder.com

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

Thank you for the opportunity. I do want to close with one more piece of advice; BE SO GOOD THEY HAVE TO LIKE YOU!


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

Makers of The Metaverse: Josie Darling Of Synodic Arc On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality…

Makers of The Metaverse: Josie Darling Of Synodic Arc On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Passion — there will be hard work and long nights. Make sure that whatever project you dream up, you believe in it and you’re passionate about it. Involve your team in key decisions so that they can be passionate too.

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 Josie Darling, Head of Operations at Synodic Arc.

As the only business major in a room full of artists, Josie knows a thing or two about herding cats. Accounting, human resources, and enforcing deadlines are a few of the ways she helps bring the Synodic Arc ideas to the finish line. Originally from Chicago, she currently lives in Seattle, Washington.

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

Thank you for having me! Let’s see, where to start. I’m originally from Chicago, Illinois, and I grew up with eight siblings. My parents are separated and remarried so depending on where you cut it, I can be the oldest, middle, or baby. I would say my love of video games comes from my big family. One of my brothers, Christopher, is seven years older than me and would always give me a controller that wasn’t plugged in so I could feel like I was playing along without messing his game up. I remember doing the same thing to one of my younger brothers later!

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?

Oh, gosh, I would have to say Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. In the book, Ender is this isolated child who’s taken away from his family because of his great military potential. Throughout the book he has so much heart and empathy for those around him, but he’s being manipulated by forces he can’t possibly understand. The ending is such a twist that even now, on my seventh or eighth read through, it still makes me emotional! I love a character who still cares about others despite all odds.

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

I think more than one particular story, what drives me in this industry is the unlimited challenge. There’s so much potential, so much uncovered ground that it makes every day exciting. When I hear about successes from our programmers, it feels like they’re doing things no one has ever done before. I couldn’t be more proud of them and that ability to trailblaze makes this industry so addicting.

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

You know, I think all my best stories are still covered by NDA! I’ve gotten to shake hands with some very influential people since we started this journey and I’m always fascinated by the doors it opens. I’ve been in meetings with investment bankers and biotech engineers who are more interested in what I’m working on than talking about themselves. I was meeting with a scientist who had more PhDs than I could shake a stick at, and all he wanted to know was what we were working on next.

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?

First of all- I think everyone in this industry shares the same funniest mistake. If you claim you haven’t slammed your knee into your coffee table while wearing your headset, I’m calling you out! Testing your game or program can be so rewarding that sometimes it’s hard to step away and get back to the computer. Sometimes it feels like hours and hours of coding go into getting one tiny feature to function. Don’t lose sight of the big picture; you’re still making progress!

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

Of course I’d have to say the founder of Synodic Arc, Michael Pulis. He is one of the best bosses I’ve been able to work under. He is so thoughtful, intentional, and he takes your advice seriously. Everything we do is collaborative. He’s got this great drive and ambition but he knows that I’m keeping an eye on the business so he doesn’t have to. He told me that before he makes big purchases, he thinks about if I’ll approve the business expense. If he can’t justify to me, he can’t justify it for the business! It’s a good check and balance system.

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

I am, I am! We have a few different projects in the pipeline. We’re preparing for our game launch this holiday season and I think it’s going to take people by surprise. I truly believe it’s going to open people’s eyes to the possibilities of AR and MR technology in the video game industry. We’re going to be right on the forefront of a new movement and people will see things differently after this.

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?

As I mentioned before, the most exciting thing about the industry is the potential. You can sit down for five minutes and think of twenty new games that would be so fun to play. Number two would be connectivity. Just imagine having a mixed reality experience that you and your friend can have at the same time in your living room. You can go on an entire adventure together without leaving your house. Lastly, I’m excited about applications outside of games, especially for hospitals and hospice. What if a patient could take that trip to Italy they always wanted, right in their hospital room?

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. Funding. We know it, the whole industry knows it. You can’t undertake such revolutionary technology without having investments. And it could be a long time before those really pay off! This is a long game, not a quick buck. We’re developing the future.
  2. To go along with that, I would say public perception. I think there’s still a dystopian element to VR that some of the public has, and we need to be honest about it and address it. Publications like yours go a long way in helping us bridge that gap.
  3. Last- but not least! — COMFORT! We have got to get those headsets more comfortable for long term wear. People come in all shapes and sizes, some wear glasses, like my younger brother. If people can’t wear the headset for more than thirty minutes, it’s going to continue to be a barrier. It’s a big challenge for hardware developers but they are constantly improving with each new console.

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

I’m actually friends with someone whose bosses gave her a VR headset for her lunch break. They would play beach scenery with seagulls and waves. I think we haven’t even begun to think about the work applications for this technology. Data visualization comes to mind. I’d love to really get in there with a 3D graph. Start walking around my data sets, pulling out and expanding points. That might be a little nerdy.

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

I’d like to explore more into the hospital and hospice idea I mentioned earlier. I think here is where we can really improve lives. They say that your mentality plays such a huge role in your recovery and even your success in surgery. VR can take someone anywhere in the world and put them in a better state of mind. Imagine someone learning to walk again, and instead of staring down a bleak hospital hallway, they’re using mixed reality to see milestones, or points, or cute little bunnies. I believe this is coming, and I believe it will improve lives.

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

Any preconceived notions about what it’s like to work in the industry should be thrown away. We are still so early, in the grand scheme of things. You can make whatever path you want, as long as you really want it. If you think it’s too hard, or too expensive, or no one will care about VR then you will manifest those things to be true. The only way to understand this work is to jump in and see for yourself.

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

  1. A good team — you can’t do it all. Don’t overwhelm yourself with so many tasks that you burn out immediately. Surround yourself with people who can help you.
  2. Passion — there will be hard work and long nights. Make sure that whatever project you dream up, you believe in it and you’re passionate about it. Involve your team in key decisions so that they can be passionate too.
  3. Hard deadlines — this technology is evolving at such a rapid pace, you can get swept up in thinking ‘oh, if we wait for one more update, we can include X’. Three or four of those and you’re way past scope and way past budget. Decide your end point and stick to it!
  4. Patience — VR, AR and MR takes a lot of trial and error. There aren’t as many boards you can go to and Google your way out of a problem. There will be times you have to try and try again. This is where patience, level-headedness, and calmness can see you through the other side of a problem.
  5. A good mentor — this applies to everyone, but I really believe it! It doesn’t even have to be someone in the industry, it just has to be someone whose opinion you respect, who has experience to share with you, and can be a sounding board for ideas. It’s like your rubber ducky but for business ideas instead of coding.

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. 🙂

Wow, thank you! For me, personally, especially in our industry, we need to take a stand against crunch culture. We cannot continue to treat our teams as disposable, burn them out as quickly as possible and move on to the next one. Your team is everything, and they deserve to go home and see their families! If it can’t get done this sprint, then we move it to the next one and learn better for next time how long that task takes. We have to get rid of the idea that people are just so lucky to work in this industry that they should sacrifice their mental and physical wellbeing and be grateful for it. Happier employees are more productive, more creative, and will respect you for respecting them.

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

That’s something of an intimidating thought. She really might be reading this! If I could, I would want to meet Sofia Chang, the CEO of the Girl Scouts of America. I’m a lifelong Girl Scout, and I attribute so much of my success to the skills I learned through them. I’d love to meet her and hear her life experiences and how she handles the pressure of being at the top and having the future of so many girls under her direction. That would be such a dream for me.

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

Thank you for having me! It’s been a pleasure. You can check out our games at www.SynodicArc.com/games.


Makers of The Metaverse: Josie Darling Of Synodic Arc 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: Melinda Lee Of Stage TEN Media Networks On How Their Technological Innovation…

The Future Is Now: Melinda Lee Of Stage TEN Media Networks On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up E-Commerce

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Recognize your abilities and be confident in them. It’s part of you and who you are.

After you’ve gotten through stressful periods at work, over and over again, realize that even if you’ve never done that exact thing before, you can figure it out. When you realize that you have that ability, you know you’ll get through it — like you have so many times before.

As a part of our series about cutting-edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Melinda Lee, President of Stage TEN Media Networks.

As President of Stage TEN’s media network, she leads its media division which includes business and editorial operations, studios and content production units, and is growing the live interactive content network by launching new content formats, partnerships and business models.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My parents immigrated with my sister to the United States from Taiwan. When I was younger, I didn’t have many Asian female role models besides my older sister and mom. I learned English from TV, and Connie Chung was a trailblazer for me. She was a successful Asian woman that I could see, and because I could see her, I could dream of growing up to be like her. My problem was that I didn’t know anyone at all who was in media nor did I have “friends of a friend” who could introduce me to anyone that was even adjacent to that world. My parents, out of fear and love for me and my future, pressed upon me that I did not have a chance in media. My parents dreamed of me going into medicine, law, or engineering to have a better life. Reflecting on this time of my life, it saddens me that career paths were narrowed down to just 3 areas. But, I think it’s a common story for parents of first-generation Americans who have hopes of their children experiencing the American Dream. My parents were so brave and sacrificed a life they knew for me and my sister and I am forever thankful that they made the decision to come here.

Wanting to please my parents, I went into law but ultimately left after only a few years. However, in my short stint as an attorney, I was so lucky to clerk for Judge Anne McDonnell. In my career, I have been fortunate to work for quite a few female trailblazers and she made an incredible early first impression on me. While I don’t identify with being an attorney anymore, the experience taught me new ways of thinking and set the foundation for where my career has led me.

I’ve had an unpredictable path to get to where I am today. My first career change was leaving law to go work for MTV Networks as a freelancer. A friend helped me do a very nerdy analysis on comparing the pay cut with the value of an upward trajectory in a field I wanted to be in, then we added a happiness multiplier to the calculus, and the risk/reward calculus worked out for me to take the leap. This was my first media role where I learned about music and content rights, international businesses, and launched new media initiatives. I affectionately term this period of my career my ‘career college’. After that, I moved into the business of creative and content in the tech start-up space, started my own company, and then went back to legacy media companies, but this time with a twist — I found myself getting hired for new divisions that needed to be built up and grow quickly. I set up digital businesses for publishers when they were transforming from print to digital, and I also led initiatives for digital video studios when publishers ‘pivoted to video’. I eventually ended up at BuzzFeed and led their content initiatives and strategies for their brands. Side note: BuzzFeed’s culture reminded me so much of MTV’s culture back when I first started. It felt like I had circled the globe and came back home with lots of traveler’s tales to share. And now, I’m at Stage TEN where I get to combine my experiences in media, tech, content, and launching new initiatives into the world.

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

Every new role gives me a new ‘most interesting story’. I get to work on launch initiatives where we need to show quick but real growth in new areas. These are exciting and intense situations that are defined by the people working on the project so it’s a unique experience every time. Most teams are a combo of exceptional people, solid good contributors and not so exceptional people to varying degrees. The interesting stories originate in the dynamics of people’s wok styles during the goal alignment process across the organization.

I have too many stories, but a recent one is that a few other Melinda Lee’s in the world have reached out to me to connect on career and business advice on Linkedin. Not to get too meta on this, but these other Melinda Lee’s are doing some really great work in sectors like health and sustainability. I’m actually on the board of advisors for Parcel Health, which was co-founded by their CEO, Melinda (Su En) Lee. These other Melinda Lee’s are interesting and inspirational in their own right.

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

My team and I develop new content formats with Stage TEN’s technology — we create interactive and shoppable live streams. Stage TEN’s breakthrough is our low latency live stream technology that makes it easy to create, distribute and make live streams interactive and shoppable. It lowers the barriers to entry so that anyone who has access to a phone or computer can create a live stream and connect with their audience or community. Our technology enables people to distribute their live streams to not only their social media platforms but also to their own websites so they can own their audiences and generate income. Anyone can make a great idea into a live stream and immediately connect with their audience from anywhere.

Technologies oftentimes marginalize underrepresented groups because access is more difficult and there is a vicious cycle where people then don’t see themselves represented in emerging content formats. And we all know that you can’t be what you can’t see. We know that it’s normal to see diversity in life and we are committed to reflecting this in our content.

How do you think this might change the world?

We have created a whole new way for people to experience commerce. The definition of commerce will even expand beyond shopping and encompass all value exchanges. When we look at content coming from APAC countries that entertain and delight audiences with shoppable live streams, we see how they can connect communities and provide a shared experience with opportunities for value exchanges. The more accessible and inclusive content is created and then distributed across many platforms- social media platforms, creators’ own sites- the more possibilities for new worlds to emerge and new ways to exchange values.

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

Content really has the power to influence and inspire people to act. Content creators have a responsibility because they have the power to influence the world in good and bad ways. Content has its consequences and technology allows one to customize their consumption of it. Having defined brand values, and commitment to moderation practices — not just from the brands, but from the community and technologists — is an important practice. We’ve seen so many horrible unintended consequences of ad models that rewards massive scale and attention — we need to learn from this.

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

Now that live streaming is no longer a trend and is now part of a balanced content strategy, audiences are realizing that interacting with the live streamer is more than just commenting. Now they are exchanging things that have value credits, donations, gifts, etc. This value exchange mindset is already there for Gen Z, gamers, and Gen Alpha. These are communities that will lead widespread adoption.

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

Stage TEN has over 200K users and the well-known creators and personalities that use our creator tools bring their followers to experience the real time interactivity on our player. So there is an organic marketing strategy just by using our Pro and Mobile Studios.

We wanted to reach a broader audience of creatives so we went right to the source — VidCon 2022. We met with creators firsthand from all over the world and took them live using our Mobile Studio app. They were able to interact, play games with the audience live and experienced the power of Stage TEN for themselves. While at VidCon, we also partnered with The Phluid Project, a brand built on creating gender-free clothing and accessories to sell their products live.

We brought our technology to creators in their true environment so they could see themselves in the live commerce space while doing what they do best- creating content. The Mobile Studio app spoke for itself after that.

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

I don’t even know where to start on how many people have helped me along the way. Each and every person who has worked on one of my teams has helped me get to where I am today. I’m so grateful for my mentors early on in my career who I met at MTV Networks, my former boss at Meredith (DotDash), and investors/business partners from my media company, ZenCat Productions. All these amazing people generously gave me their time, advice, and feedback on how I could be better at what I do.

A moment that stands out is when I was looking to leave law and find my way into the entertainment industry. I didn’t have access to anyone in media, but it was my dream (not my parents). I was an early adopter and signed up for AOL when it was still dial-up. I lived in entertainment and TV chat rooms looking for anyone who was in the industry that I could connect with. They had a directory where you could look up other AOL members and I did a search for entertainment executives and 5 people popped up! I wrote all 5, and miraculously 3 people responded. 1 of those 3 was an attorney who worked at Nickelodeon. After a few months of correspondence and answering my many, many questions, he agreed to meet me and told me about a freelance position at my dream company — MTV Networks. I took the leap and left my gig as an attorney for a freelance role in the rights and clearance department for a VH1 show called “Rockstory.” The show was canceled a month later and I found myself without a job. Luckily, I had made enough of an impression and they offered me a staff role on a different project. Even though I was making even less than what I made as a freelancer, it was the start of my career in the industry and a dream come true. Thank you, Keith (“Zurcheke”), for being an ally to someone like me.

I try to remember to say thank you to all my mentors (many are now my dear friends), but I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to give them their due. Once someone on my team asked me how I keep going — especially when we are launching new initiative after new initiative — and I realized that much of my drive to keep going and to be the best version of myself comes from wanting to pay all this wonderful goodwill forward to others. There is also a big part of me that never wants to let those mentors and sponsors who believed in me down.

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

I’m not sure I’m a person that could really tell you that. I operate off of the following values — try to be kind and elevate those who lead with kindness to others, treat others with respect for who they are, promote empathy, look for and reward humble excellence, acknowledge and honor those who have been generous and helpful to you in the past, seek feedback on how to be better, pay it forward to people that share similar values. Hopefully, these values bring goodness into the world.

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

  1. Your brain is not fully done developing until your late 20s.
  • This explains so much of the decision paralysis I had when I was in my 20s. I used to feel like some decisions were life or death when it came to my career. Now I see the same behavior in mentees of mine who are around the same age I was. Time and self-assessment are keys to developing into someone you can be proud of. And time is the one thing you can’t turn back and you can’t rush.

2. Sometimes the “right” decision is the only outcome.

  • This is related to the point above. When it comes to career choices, sometimes we feel like we have to choose wisely or else our lives are ruined. But if you step back and really reflect, you might actually see that either decision is the right one. Nothing irreversible will happen if you choose either decision. You will be learning new things and have yet another experience to draw from so don’t agonize over making the “right” decision when you don’t need to.

3. Recognize your abilities and be confident in them. It’s part of you and who you are.

  • After you’ve gotten through stressful periods at work, over and over again, realize that even if you’ve never done that exact thing before, you can figure it out. When you realize that you have that ability, you know you’ll get through it — like you have so many times before.

4. The system is set up to reward those with privilege.

  • Even though I knew I was a minority, I didn’t understand how much harder I needed to work to get to the same place as more privileged folks. I believed that the workplace was a meritocracy and I learned this isn’t always the case. So I created a toolkit to strategize, build resilience, develop wisdom (hopefully), and watch and listen to others. This allowed me to be more effective in the workplace and also be a better version of myself. It’s important that if you manage others in the workplace, empower those who don’t benefit from inherited privilege. We can change the system for the better.

5. You can make your future self proud of yourself now.

  • We are all works in progress. But if you can imagine the version of you looking back at yourself now, would you be proud of the choices and actions you are taking now? We can’t see the future, but I’ve found this framework helpful in guiding me towards making decisions and being the person I strive to be.

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.

Inspiration can come from anyone. I often find myself in conversations about measuring our content with a goodness metric and wishing that a goodness app existed — where ethical decisions, concern for moral consequences, care for the well-being of the community and individual rights, empathic actions, and equity are all factored into the algorithm developed. Technology and algorithms could weigh moral decisions, human dignity, ethics, empathy, and equity above factors like shock, hatred, outrage, and disgust. Ethics would be designed into the platform and place that generates good content, shared communal ethics and meaningful value exchanges could result.

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

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Maya Angelou

Facilitators have used this quote as a north star in offsites we’ve created in the past. It’s a great foundational statement for how a company culture should be built. Yes, goals and outcomes are important but how you achieve them is even more important. Treating people and their experiences with respect goes a long way in aligning incentives and just makes for a more positive journey to experience together.

Beyond work experiences, this quote has meant a lot to me personally as well. My mom passed away recently and for the last 10 years of her life, she suffered from dementia. My mom and I had a daily routine for at least 15 years where I’d call her every morning (before work) and night (after work) so she could keep track of the time of day. Through the years, my mom gradually wouldn’t remember that I had called her the day before. Eventually, she’d forget that I had called her at all. But she was always happy when I called because she felt like she hadn’t spoken to me in a long while. Every time I called, her mood would change to happiness and she’d ask me the same questions over and over again with the same excitement each time. She forgot what my answers were but what was consistent was her happiness and excitement. I don’t think my mom ever forgot the feeling that she experienced during our previous calls and it helped her quickly jump into a happy mood. As time passes without her here, I’m left with a finite set of memories of my mom. As much as I try, I don’t fully remember the questions that she asked me over and over again or my answers but, one thing I will never forget is how her happiness on these calls made me feel, which was and still is great. Thanks for this unforgettable gift, Mom.

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


The Future Is Now: Melinda Lee Of Stage TEN Media Networks On How Their Technological Innovation… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Mike Stickler Of Leadership Books On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Know Your Audience.

I can’t stress how important it is to know your audience. You must know who you’re talking to and tailor your message accordingly. Otherwise, your message — and you — becomes irrelevant, awkward, uninteresting, or aggravating. And on that last one, unless you mean to be a provocateur in your public speaking, try to avoid audiences that are clearly going to be aggravated with your worldview. It will save you from a life of negativity.

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 Michael Stickler.

Michael Stickler is the author of four best-selling books and a respected professional speaker. He is also the CEO of LeadershipBooks.com, a publishing company dedicated to coaching non-fiction authors from concept to completion and guiding experienced authors to higher book sales and financial success.

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?

One unique thing about my life is that I grew up on an island off the coast of California called Catalina Island. It was in the 1960s when my mom and dad moved our family there. My dad was a lobster fisherman and a taxi driver. And my mom did a whole bunch of things to help make ends meet. So, I too became an entrepreneur at a very early age and discovered ways I could make money. I dove for coins, hauled tourist’s luggage in my wagon, swept up the local A&W, and retrieved shopping carts from around town for 25 cents each.

One of my early entrepreneurial gigs during the wintertime was to collect rocks from Moonstone Beach, which was three coves away from Avalon, the only little town on the island. aI’d pick the prettiest ones, polish them up, and then make them into jewelry. Then during the summer I’d approach one lady after another and talk them into buying them. What I learned from that experience was all businesses begin and end with people. So, you must be a great listener. You need to understand how people think. And whether it’s a sales transaction or a management process, you should only move people forward in increments, not in giant swaths of change.

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

I was a pastor for 19 years, so I had lots of practice as a professional speaker. And what is so unique about being a pastor is that you must come up with a unique and inspiring message each and every Sunday. Now this differs vastly from how a motivational speaker, or a keynote speaker operates. They usually develop about five messages and then deliver one of them based on what they’re hired to deliver. They make some changes to them to be unique to the audience, but they get so much practice delivering those same five messages, they know when people are going to laugh, cry or sigh.

The really good professional speaker can shrink or stretch any one of those five messages according to the circumstances. So that means you need to have enough content for anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. That way you are covered whether you are doing a five-hour coaching and training session, a 20-to-50-minute keynote address, or a two-minute elevator speech. And it’s like any other skill, the more you practice it the better you get. So, I credit all my training in the pulpit for helping me perfect the ability to speak in a precise manner in the time allowed.

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

Here’s a story that I found interesting. I was at the airport leaving a city where I had been doing some speaking. There was a couple right behind me in the ticket line who told me they had heard me speak and wanted to thank me. They went on to say complimentary things and then asked me how they might develop some of ideas I’d discussed. When we parted ways, I was still in the line and a woman who had overheard our conversation asked, “Hey, are you famous or something? Am I supposed to know you?”

I got a chuckle out of her question because I don’t think of myself as famous. But the more I thought about it, the more it made me realize the incredible dynamic between a speaker and each member of the audience. And as I repeatedly teach the authors and speakers I coach; it underscores the vital importance of being sensitive to your audience. Here’s what I mean by that.

If you are standing on stage speaking to a big group of people, you might only see five rows out because of the blinding stage lights. But you know what? You are building a relationship with everyone in the room. And that relationship must be managed. It must be valued. It must be shepherded. Because even if the people are all the way in the back row behind a pole, they’ve developed a relationship with you, and you must be sensitive to knowing you have that with them.

What’s different about speaking versus acting is that when you’re acting, you’re pretending to be someone else. But when you’re speaking, you’re being authentic. You’re being who you are. You’re being real. And people, unseen and unknown by you, are identifying themselves as being in a relationship with you. So, you must be mindful to treat that relationship with courtesy and respect.

The same principles discussed for your audience apply to your readers if you are an author. They believe they know you and therefore believe in what you say. So, whether the message comes from the page or over the auditorium speakers, you should never be divisive and you should always be genuine. Because if you are one thing in print or onstage and another thing at home, people will find out. They always find out. And they will be very disillusioned with you and prone to discard all the good advice you’ve shared.

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

The lesson I learned was always turn your microphone off when you’re not on stage. Even if you have the greatest people in the sound booth. Now, we’ve all heard the story of the guy who goes in the bathroom and he’s standing at the urinal and the entire audience is listening to the process. Well fortunately, that’s never happened to me. But I did engage in conversation that was not what the whole audience wanted to hear because I didn’t turn off my microphone. It was with my late wife who was busily trying to help me get the microphone wires tucked into my pants. And she said something kind of cute that only wives would say to their husbands, and the whole audience got to hear it. It wasn’t crude or vulgar. It was cute and appropriate. However, it still it wasn’t something I wanted a couple hundred people to hear. So, I’m guessing my face was just a little red when went out on the stage and apologized to everybody. Fortunately, it was a great — and understanding — crowd because we all laughed about 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?

I’ve been blessed to have several mentors and they have all played different roles in my life. But the one who gave me a strong understanding of how worldview works in each of our psyche was Chuck Colson. If that name sounds familiar it is because Chuck Colson was involved in the Watergate scandal with President Nixon. In 1974 he voluntarily pled guilty to obstruction of justice and served seven months in Alabama’s Maxwell Prison. And as he wrote in his best-selling memoir, Born Again, he was drawn to the idea that God had put him in prison so he would see that he needed to do something for those he had left behind.

Later in his life he started a program called the Colson Worldview Center. And it was there that I met and was mentored by Chuck Colson and eventually went to work for him. It was that experience that helped me understand about worldview and why people make decisions based on how they see the world. This one tool revolutionized my speaking and writing career.

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?

Well, I’ve been an entrepreneur most of my life and I can tell you that failure is simply part of the process. And any entrepreneur who tells you they have never failed is not telling the truth or they’re currently in the process of failing and they don’t realize it. I remember my dad telling me that most successes come after a string of five failures. So, you can’t let failure be is directly related to your identity. You must simply view it as an important part of the process of becoming successful. Because sometimes failure is due to outside circumstances beyond your control, like the guy who has a thriving charter fishing business in the Caribbean and a hurricane comes along and wipes him out. That wasn’t his fault. So, I just think the way to overcome failure is to learn from it and move on, and don’t ever let it be tied to your identity.

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?

What I primarily like to speak about is generosity. Whether it’s an entire message or just a portion of it, the lifechanging importance of generosity is always at the heart of my message. Now most people think of generosity as just pertaining to money, but it’s so much more than that. It’s time. It’s talent. It’s relationships. It’s wisdom. And when I’m successful in showing how giving away something valuable like that to others blesses everyone involved, I feel I’ve conveyed something truly important. So yeah, sharing the amazing power of generosity is what gets me up in the morning.

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?

Well, first and foremost, I’m an author. And what I’m working on now is a series of books that follows along my last book, Ghost Patriot. It is a work of fiction, so it gives me a platform to express how I see the world and how I think we can all make a difference. So, what ends up happening is people ask me to speak on what the book’s about and then that allows me to share much broader views. If people fall in love with the story or the characters, they want to know more about why I created them. And even if people don’t like my book, it gives me a great way to convince them that they can see the book in a different light. As for what I see myself doing in the future, I am a writer, so as long as I have the power in my fingers to press a keyboard, I will write.

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

Most people don’t know this about me, but I am a professionally trained horseman. I was fortunate to have apprenticed under two hall of fame horse trainers when I was a young man. One of them taught me a lesson I’ll never forget and have often repeated. I was in a stall, and I went to lead this very expensive horse out of the barn. But he stopped me by grabbing my arm forcefully, right at the elbow. My natural reaction was to resist. Then he said, “Now, let me try it this way.” And he grasped my elbow lightly in the same spot and just lifted it gently. My natural reaction was to let him have my arm and follow his lead. Then he said, “Let me teach you the most important thing you’ll ever know about horses. It is — Let the wrong thing be difficult, and the right thing be easy.”

This life lesson taught me how to lead powerful horses who have a unique personalities and temperaments and strong wills and emotions. And I found the same philosophy works with human beings. You might be able to physically force a human being to do something, but if you really want them to do something willingly, you need to look for ways to make the wrong thing difficult and the right thing easy.

Here’s how that might apply in business. Let’s say you want your frontline customer service people to be more pleasant in their interactions. Because when your staff is welcoming, respectful, and helpful, your customers, patients or clients are happy. And happy people keep coming back, give great reviews and will refer your business to others. Here’s a real-life example of how that works.

I wanted to make an appointment to see my doctor, but the process of setting that appointment was convoluted and frustrating. First, I called to make an appointment, but they weren’t available. Then they called me back at a random time when I wasn’t available. This went back and forth a few more times until I finally got the appointment. Then they start pinging me with all kinds of messages and follow-up calls. So, by the time I finally get there, I’m ticked off about the process. And assuming everyone is experiencing that same aggravating process, who is the person who gets the brunt of all their frustration? Why, the poor receptionist, of course.

I had a visit just two weeks ago and the receptionist was short with me. I looked at her and politely asked, “Are you having a bad day? Because you don’t have to talk to me like this.” She caught herself and said, “Oh, I’m sorry. You’re right. I got a lot going on.” And I gave her a compassionate smile and said, “I understand.” See, they set her up for that by making the appointment process difficult. She’s not a mean, angry person. She’s just placed in a position where everybody that walks in is mad at her. So how do we fix that? Make the right thing easy by simplifying the appointment process.

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.

Practice Makes Perfect.

Many public speakers never reach their potential because they rely on their talent and not their effort. But the ones who do exceedingly well do so because they put in the time and effort to practice, practice, practice. They practice in front of a mirror, their loved ones, a video camera, a trainer or coach, or a smaller audience. And it is through that practice that they really begin to master their speech and perfect their craft. A good analogy for this skill development would be an athlete who was gifted in sports but relied only on talent and not effort. Eventually he or she will get blown away by the competition who is willing to do everything it takes to excel.

Learn From Experts

If you want to be viewed as an expert, you must do what experts do. And that learning process starts by observing them. Watch how they present certain topics. See how they present their messages in different settings. Then use the techniques they used. It will take your proficiency to a whole new level.

Here’s how that observation process worked for me. I’ve had the benefit of being around some of the greatest preachers, pastors, and evangelists in the world. As I watched them, I realized there’s a big difference between the way they preach to a live audience of 300,000 people and how they preach on television. There is a subtle difference in the way they stand, the way they use their hands, the way they interact. And by noting those differences, I had the benefit of learning how to be better in my presentations.

Know Your Audience.

I can’t stress how important it is to know your audience. You must know who you’re talking to and tailor your message accordingly. Otherwise, your message — and you — becomes irrelevant, awkward, uninteresting, or aggravating. And on that last one, unless you mean to be a provocateur in your public speaking, try to avoid audiences that are clearly going to be aggravated with your worldview. It will save you from a life of negativity.

Dress For Success.

This one might seem a little odd, but you should dress one level up from your audience. If you are speaking at a convention where the dress code is business casual, then you should wear a suit and tie. If your audience is in flip flops and board shorts, you should be wearing a polo shirt and casual dress pants. Because the way you dress has to do with how your audience will perceive your brand. To that point, I’ve seen some speakers really go out of their way to solidify their brand. I was just speaking at the National Speakers Association and there was a guy there walking around in a cowboy outfit with shiny saddle bags thrown over his shoulder. I’m not sure what his message was, but I can only assume his outfit was another level up from what his audience was wearing.

Communicate With Your Host

It is so important to communicate with your host. Some speakers don’t get that, so they just show up and give one of their five messages. And because they didn’t take time to learn from the host who their audience is, their presentation sounds canned and flat. The audience is like, “Well, you might as well just have sent me a CD”. That kind of reaction will never make a difference for them or get you invited back to speak. So, communicate with your host, so you really understand what their expectations are. Find out how much money you’re going to make, when you’re supposed to be there, what’s the dress code, what the audience is about, what they want you to achieve with the audience, etc. It’s so simple and important to the process, and its mind boggling to me how few speakers utilize this valuable resource.

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

The answer is very simple. Find a good Toastmasters group and follow it. Toastmasters is designed to help you get through your public speaking fears. You may never do public speaking as your main profession, but what that skill will do for your confidence, poise, articulation, communication skills, etc. will bless every aspect of your life. And if you are required to do public speaking for work, Toastmasters will allow you to hone your skills in a supportive environment where it won’t cost you money, respect, or opportunity if you bomb. So, whether you need it as a career boost or just want to face down your fear, I heartily recommend you do at least the first 10 challenges in Toastmasters. I guarantee you it will be a game changer.

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

I would love to inspire people to live generously. To have them experience the joys and rewards of giving to others. I’m not just taking about being generous with your money, but with every area of your life. Just using your time as an example, if you are always rushed, hurried or too busy for others, that typically leads to hurt feelings and strained or broken relationships. On the other hand, if you budget your time well you can use it wisely to nurture relationships, build important bonds, create or relive amazing experiences, and discover ways you can support and collaborate with others. In doing so you will discover one of the great mysteries of life — the more you give, the more you receive.

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 Barack Obama. Now, to be clear, I don’t agree with any of his politics. But I do find the guy interesting and engaging. So, I wouldn’t mind just having a conversation with him because dialog and understanding is so very important today. And we could all benefit by judging less and understanding more so we can have fruitful relationships with people who view some aspect of the world differently.

I think what got me intrigued by Barack was the way that he once handled a conflict early in his administration. He invited the various parties to the White House to have a beer. And as they all had a beer, they tried to work out their differences. And I thought, “You know what? Not because he’s the President, but I wouldn’t mind talking to him over a beer.” Just because I think he’s a really smart man, and if he would listen, I’d like to share some of my points of view.

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

www.LeadershipBooks.com

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

Twitter — https://twitter.com/BooksLeadership

LinkedIn — https://www.linkedin.com/in/mikestickler/

Instagram — https://www.instagram.com/leadership.books/

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


Mike Stickler Of Leadership Books 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.

Kelvin Johnson Of Brevity Pitch On Five Things You Need To Create A Successful Tech Company

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Be observant and have active listening skills. What you may foresee as the customers’ wants and your vision may not be it. So, being willing to listen to your customers is super important. I initially built Brevity as an entrepreneurial tool, but we recognized from the results of our beta people wanted this same type of framework for sales and different scenarios. So it opened our eyes to the power of what we initially built and where it’s going.

We had the pleasure of interviewing Kelvin Johnson.

CEO & Co-founder of Brevity Pitch, an AI-powered software helping professionals, create persuasive pitches, Kelvin Johnson has versatile career experience as a CPA, consultant, and executive at a fast-growth tech startup in Denver. He is the author of the forthcoming novel, “Don’t Fear The Sharks: Six Principles to Pitch Investors,” coming out in October 2022. Johnson graduated from Villanova University with a Master of Accountancy.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My parents were sales professionals. They were perplexed about my first job at the Big 4 Accounting Firm. They asked me how to become a CPA when I couldn’t stop running my mouth.

Eventually, I moved into management consulting, which I thought was a good mix of salesmanship, while still being analytical. I also started to get good at cross-selling and upselling work as a consultant. Still, as a senior consultant, you don’t get compensated for that until you are an associate director or director. As an impatient millennial, I didn’t want to wait for this long to be paid for my efforts.

So I was at a crossroads in my career. Do I join the dark side of sales like my parents, or do I go somewhere where I can see my ideas come to fruition? So I chose the latter. I became the fifth employee of a tech company in Denver, Colorado. From that opportunity, I learned a lot. I managed sales, products, and operations and led two acquisitions. Eventually, the CEO of that company and founder said, “You have the makings of a CEO. When you have a great idea, I will fund your company.” And he ended up keeping this promise.

But what brought Brevity to light was when I started a freelance consulting shop called “Humble Warrior Advisors.” And at that shop, I was helping early-stage entrepreneurs get that next major milestone during that period because of my cross-functional background.

I found myself helping out the most with the pitch, and what was great about that but simultaneously frustrating was that people saw and found value in my services. However, entrepreneurs wanted to work with me but couldn’t afford my fees. I couldn’t help them.

What are the current options in the market? And on one end, you have expensive pitch coaches and consultants like me. Or you have these expert books, blogs, and YouTube channels that can be time-consuming and overwhelming to learn.

And then, when I looked under the umbrella of the pitch and presentation software as a service market, I recognized that most of them are focused on pitch deck aesthetics and cosmetics, but not necessarily the story, content, messaging, and delivery.

At that point, I saw a gap in the market, and that’s when Brevity came to birth.

Can you share the most exciting story that has happened to you since you began your company?

The most compelling story is one of our most significant strategic partnerships, Founders Live. They are a global entrepreneurial organization in 130 cities and five continents.

I saw a random email from Founders Live looking for a city leader to run the Minneapolis branch. They have a 99-second pitch competition. So I applied for that city leader because I saw obvious synergies with Brevity’s platform. I had my first introductory call with Nick Hughes.

The moral of the story is he didn’t just want me to be a city leader. He said, “You’ve built software that can help my organization” Throughout time, founders who live in Minneapolis ended up using our Beta product. And we produced a lot of global finalists, contributing heavily to Brevity’s proof of concept.

Finding an excellent opportunity for our company through a random outreach email is a lucky story.

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

The funniest mistake I made (if you can call it funny!) was when I was at that tech company in Denver, and the CEO founder told me that if I have a great idea at some point and I’m mature, he’s going to fund my company.

So I told him about the early stages of Brevity. He was intrigued by the concept, and without any assurance that what we built worked, I asked him for a large amount of money without any validation. There wasn’t a lot of validation. He started challenging certain assumptions and said, “You validate these assumptions. I’ll write you a check.”

So it made me go back to the drawing board. And I learned a profound lesson about validating your assumptions. And he’s one of our most prominent investors to this day.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times you faced when you started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue, even though things were so hard?

Working with people was always difficult when you have different personalities and views or philosophies that were probably different visions. At times, that’s perhaps one of the most complex parts when you first start this journey.

Did I consider giving up Brevity Pitch? I did. There was, of course, high blood pressure and all these different things, but where the drive to continue came from is, first and foremost, my parents. From an early age, they would sacrifice. We lived in West Philadelphia, and they offered to send us to prestigious private schools. And, you know, West Philadelphia wasn’t the best in the area to grow up in. Yet they made the sacrifices that put us in a position to excel.

But when I decided to pursue my entrepreneurial journey, they were close by my side and advocates.

I’d also like to acknowledge the investors of our company. We have over 20 people invested in this company, and they have helped me through many hard times and didn’t give up on me.

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

Early on, one of my mentors, Steve Thomas, was a massive inspiration for me.

I told him I wanted to be a partner at a Big Four firm. And he told me honestly that he didn’t think I would be happy there. He’s the one who encouraged me to leave my consulting firm to join an early-stage tech company in Denver. Once I tasted the rapid pace of working at an early-stage company, I wanted that for myself and my own company.

Can you give us your favorite life lesson quote? Can you share how that is relevant in your life?

One of my favorite quotes is from a basketball player, Sean Singletary, who told me, “Don’t get bitter, get better.” And that’s one of my famous quotes, as it’s so easy when you don’t get your way or get rejected. It’s so easy to play the victim card. Instead, he taught me to embrace the lesson of not getting bitter about things and work to constantly improve.

Now let’s shift to the main focus. The United States currently faces an essential self-reckoning about race diversity, equality, and inclusion. This is a vast topic, but briefly, can you share your view on how this crisis has evolved to the boiling point that it is now?

I live in the Twin Cities, and I watched an incredible documentary on race and the impact that it’s had on education, getting mortgages, and how difficult it is for people in poverty to have the same opportunities. This has had a significant impact on why things are the way they are. And I live in a city where my barber shop was around a corner from where George Floyd’s murder took place.

So these mechanisms purposely put in place have had a significant impact. And it shows why we are where we are today. This may be obvious to most of us, but it would be helpful to spell out.

Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it’s so essential for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?

Of course. It comes down to the fact that when similar minds are the only perspectives, there is a blindspot in judgment. So if you’re trying to acquire customers, one of the big things we have within our software is buying personalities.

And, you know, people have different buying personas and philosophical meanings of life. As long as you and your team comes from a place of respect and trust, there will be synergy. My co-founder and I don’t even always agree. However, having a team that allows you to question, seek answers, and ultimately make the best decision is going to have the best impact on the culture, economics, and vision.

Let’s zoom out a bit and talk in more broad terms. It’s hard to be satisfied with the status quo regarding Black Men in Tech leadership. What specific changes do you think are needed to change the status quo?

I think we need more shepherds, right? Right. You have more opportunities you’re not ready for, but you have the capacity and competency to get there. And the best example for me is Wade Rosen, who I work for in Denver, and Andreas, who both gave me a real chance as a Director of Operations at a fast-growing tech company when on paper, I wasn’t qualified.

So I think within the interview process, being able to dig deep into people’s life experiences, not just professional experiences, shows context that they can strive in.

Digging deeper, I think these types of environments are critical. One of my favorite football coaches is PJ Fleck from the University of Minnesota. A question he askes during the interview process when he was recruiting players, “Tell me about when you’ve failed in life.” I’m paraphrasing here, but it was to tell him about when you failed and what you learned from it. For the players that don’t have that vulnerability he’s less interested. So really, diving a little bit deeper is incredibly important.

We love to learn a little bit about your company. What is the pain point that your company is helping to address?

I run into many people with remarkable concepts, ideas, proposals, or businesses. Still, they have a lot of difficulties communicating concisely and in a compelling manner. In this short attention span society, we compete with Zoom fatigue and lower comprehension rates. People want instant information and don’t have 60 minutes to conclude what you do, why they should care, and the following steps to work together.

That’s the most significant pain point we’re addressing, and that theme is relevant across sales, applicable across interviewing, and fundraising. Anytime you need the influence to convince or connect, it’s super important to be clear, concise, and compelling. And what we do at Brevity is help people formulate and craft the right story, content, messaging, and delivery to be clearly understood but also persuasive.

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

One of our users who moved to the USA from Africa didn’t have the best English language skills. He ended up using our coaching and our software. He is on his way to becoming one of the most successful tech companies in the twin cities. By leveraging our coaching and software, he could be a little more compact in his messaging. He learned how to tell stories that illustrate the need for his product, and I would say that’s one of the best stories we can speak to.

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

Yes, actually. The most exciting project is our beta product to help people raise several million dollars to win pitch competitions. But what we’re seeing now, based on the insights we’ve garnered from our proof of concept, is that people want to be able to leverage our pitch script frameworks, intelligence, timing, logic, all the things that we built in our software into a more ubiquitous nature.

So whether interviewing for a job or asking for a promotion or a raise, people want to ensure they have the right story, content messaging, and delivery to influence and persuade their target audience.

Our commercially-viable product launches in October; this is the most exciting project we are working on right now.

What would you advise of another tech leader who initially went through years of success of growth but has reached a standstill from your experience? Do you have any general advice about boosting growth or sales or restarting their engines?

The first thing that comes to mind is knowing how to be a great active listener. Being customer obsessed and asking them questions. But the beauty of it is not what they initially say.

There’s a concept of five whys in Kaizen. Someone rarely gives you the correct answer in their initial response. Being able to have that trusted relationship with your customers and understand their needs is one of the ways that can help you experience massive growth. Also, paying attention to the trends in your industry or adjacent industries is incredibly important because when you develop a product or a service, paying attention to similar characteristics and psychographics of another customer segment can also be an excellent way to expand sales.

Even for us at Brevity, we are going international. There are 67 English-speaking countries. So it’s super important to realize other geographies you could also expand into.

Do you have any advice about how companies can create high-performing sales teams?

Two things I learned early on with high-performing sales teams are: One, having a leader that can sell themselves and gets on the front line showing people that they can also do this, is super important.

And two, ensure that you have an environment of coaching, consistent training, and role-playing. This way, the time people get to the front stage, there’s less stage fright, and they can have that habit of performing in these sometimes intense situations.

In your specific industry, What methods have you found most effective in finding and attracting the right customers? Can you share any stories or examples?

We still have a long way to grow, and one of the most effective methods I’ve seen in our early stages is being quite literally in proximity to your buyers. For example, we had an event that I was invited to speak to within the last three weeks called F’UP nights. F’UP nights are where CEOs express vulnerability, showcasing where they messed up in a portion of their career and

what they learned from it.

What was great about it was that a potential buyer was there. I didn’t even say anything about Brevity, I said maybe one line about it, but long story short, it resulted in a sale. So literally, strategically networking and not going in to grow a business, but instead of learning, developing, and connecting with people, has been an excellent way for us to find the right customers.

Based on your experience, can you give three or four strategies to give your customers the best user experience and customer service?

The first strategy is the timeliness of being responsive and following through–holding yourself accountable for that.

The second one is on the customer side: our customers are program directors and CEOs and having “quality partner reviews” quarterly. Those have been dynamite for us.

The third is establishing ground rules and expectations and what they see as their KPIs or critical success metrics before starting the engagement.

The fourth is owning your mistakes and not deflecting because I’ve seen many relationships improve dramatically when you own your mistake and improve.

As you like to know, this HBR article demonstrates that studies are shown that retaining customers can be far more lucrative than finding new ones. Can you share some advice from your experience about how to determine customer churn? Do you use any specific initiatives to limit customer attrition or customer churn?

Quality partner reviews are enormous. The other is like having a great company culture where people feel heard and valued because they will show up better for your customers. Another is listening and implementing, being honest when you can’t, and being transparent.

Here’s the central question for our discussion based on your experience. Success. What are the five most important things someone should know in order to create a very successful tech company? Please share an example for each.

Number one is to validate your assumptions and build a minimum viable product test. The ability to see if people get the end outcome of the results you foresaw is most important, and we did that with our beta product. I assumed this would help people increase their chances of being clearly understood and compelling and streamline the process of creating a pitch. And it did. You need to see if people get the end outcome of the results you foresaw is most important, and we did that with our beta product.

The other important aspect of a successful tech company is to have a hiring process early on and even for original co-founders or vendors. The method I use is the “Who Hiring Method.” And even for one of my good friends, who is now my co-founder–Max Huc–we went through that process. And we got clarity in the context of our strengths and weaknesses together. One of the most important is to involve a hiring process for co-founders, employees, and even vendors and stay consistent with it.

The third thing anyone running a successful tech company should know about is self-care. This is an arduous journey; staying disciplined and consistent with your self-care and always being willing to adapt and modify is crucial because no success can amount if you don’t take care of yourself first.

The fourth is to be observant and have active listening skills. What you may foresee as the customers’ wants and your vision may not be it. So, being willing to listen to your customers is super important. I initially built Brevity as an entrepreneurial tool, but we recognized from the results of our beta people wanted this same type of framework for sales and different scenarios. So it opened our eyes to the power of what we initially built and where it’s going.

Those are the main things that build a successful tech company. The last one is solidifying your core values earlier than you thought. You should leverage those in the hiring and selection process of the people you bring on board; that was critical for us. Easier said than done because I actually struggled with building your foundation for scale, setting up the hub spots, setting up the procedures, and making sure your administrative house is in order. From what I’ve heard, I think it is super vital regarding potential buy-out. Those organizational documents and compliance can, unfortunately, get overlooked.

The final media questions of our discussion. You are a person of enormous influence. If you could Inspire movement, that will bring the most amount of goods to the most amount of people. What would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Early on, having the education system dig into emotional education, whether a therapist or educator, was entirely helpful. I’m a big fan of cognitive behavioral therapy. I’ve been with mine for the last six years, and it helps me more often than not. It also allows me show up my relaxed best self, and a movement around that would be awesome.

We are very blessed that very prominent readers read. In this column, is there a person in the world to us with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why he or she might see this if we tag them?

Because I grew up in Philly, the first one that comes to mind would be Will Smith. He grew up a block away. And I started reading his book and just some of the early life lessons he overcame. He had to overcome being someone who was called “the only chip in the cookie” at some of the early schools he went to and how he had balanced growing up in the ‘hood versus growing up in less diverse prestigious schools. Obviously, he’s famous, and he’s had a lot of success, but his work ethic is unbelievable. So, having conversations with him at a project and breakfast would be awesome.

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


Kelvin Johnson Of Brevity Pitch On Five Things You Need To Create A Successful Tech Company was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Author Bethany Clemenson On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Know your material. Don’t try to “wing-it” You’ve got to know the points, stories, examples, so well that if something unexpected happens, like you lose your slides or note, that you can still be impactful.

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 Bethany Clemenson.

Bethany Clemenson is a speaker, leadership coach, registered nurse, and author of Ditching the Dream. After realizing she was living a life she was taught to want instead of the one she really wanted, Bethany left her corporate job in senior living, and she and her family sold almost everything they owned, bought a motorhome, and traveled the US on an adventure designed by their teens. She now supports others on their journey to let go of what they were taught to believe and want for their lives, and instead, decide to live out what they truly desire.

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

I grew up in a small town in Southern Illinois. My parents worked hard to support our family. I am the oldest of two. I have one sister who is seven years younger than me. When I was younger we lived in a trailer and then one day in sixth grade, I remember coming home to see the trailer sitting off our property and a doublewide trailer in its place. All my basic needs were met and I was loved but I watched my parents struggle financially to have nicer things. I always wanted more but remember feeling like I was wrong for wanting more and this deep sense that I “should ‘’ just be grateful for what I had because so many people had less. I floundered after high school and eventually became a nurse because it was a safe and solid career choice and all the other women in my family were nurses.

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

As a nurse, I worked in the emergency room and I used to cry before I went to work. I enjoyed helping people but didn’t love how I did it. One day, a friend of mine told me about this job posting she saw for a leadership position at a brand new assisted living community that was opening. I read the description and applied for the job. I had no management experience, outside of running a code blue in the ER, but I took a chance anyway. I got the job and for the first time ever, I loved what I did. I couldn’t wait to go to work and had a lot of fun making a difference. As the years went on, I began working on myself with a life coach and the effects rippled out to every area of my life. I shared what I was learning with anyone who would listen and eventually I got the courage to leave my corporate job and become a certified coach.

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

Watching people wake up to the idea that so many of their limits are self-imposed. We have so much free will that it can be incredibly easy to imprison ourselves by what we believe. When I speak and work with clients one-on-one, they discover how to set themselves free. I’ve had clients go back to college after years of feeling like they weren’t smart enough to get a degree. Another client quit college after realizing that she was doing it only to please her parents. At one speaking event recently, an attendee stopped me after and said she was taking a vacation for the first time in five years! The people I work with get promotions, save their marriages, forgive themselves and others, learn how to say no without feeling guilty and step into living a life on their terms. The number one regret of the dying is that they weren’t courageous enough to do what they wanted in their lives, I’m on a mission to change that.

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

One of my first speaking engagements was at a high school honor society induction. I was nervous and tried to fit a lot of information into my fifteen minutes. I was talking so fast that my lips began sticking together. I asked for water but no one brought any…I had lost them with information overload. I learned that connecting with the audience is key and less is more when speaking. This also led me to become a certified speaker and take lessons to improve my stage presence. Life is definitely a classroom.

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

A resident named Maxine came into my life at a time where I had started to believe that no one lived a life true to themselves. I had been working in senior living for several years and sat with people as they faced the end of their lives and I realized that so many people didn’t live how they wanted to but instead lived for what they thought others wanted or expected of them. In the end, they never saw the Grand Canyon or learned to dance. Their dreams died with them.

Then Momma Max walked into my life and she was proof for me that you could live life on your terms. She hadn’t had an easy life but she was true to herself. She did things that lit her up and when her husband died, she bought a small motorhome and traveled the US alone! She helped me see possibilities and gave me hope.

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 and success go hand in hand. Failure is just a journey in learning — so shift your perspective and be committed to learn from each experience whether you deem it a success or not.

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

My goal is to be proof for others that it’s possible to live life on your terms just like Momma Max was for me. I help people get clear about what they want, get real about why they don’t have it, and then take action by being courageous enough to do the things necessary to create a life they can’t wait to wake up to — regardless of what anyone else thinks.

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

My debut book, Ditching the ream: How to Live Life on Your Terms recently released and I’m having so much fun sharing it on social media and through speaking engagements. I’m in the midst of recording the audiobook and creating a companion journal and course to go with the book. From here, I see expansion of my business and impact. It’s an exciting time for sure.

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

Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will rule your life and you will call it fate. Carl Jung

I came across this quote not long after I started working with a life coach and remember thinking about how powerful we are. I started to see how my thinking and behavior were directly connected to the outcomes I was having in my life. I went from believing that life was happening to me to believing that life was happening for me. Our outside world and how we perceive everything around us is so deeply connected to our unconscious mind (our automatic thoughts and beliefs) and I have learned that once we begin to master our mind, we take our power back.

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. Water — see example above 🙂 Seriously though, I never go to stage without water.
  2. Connection with the audience. The audience needs to feel like you “get” them. Share a relatable story, laugh at yourself, and be transparent. Instead of speaking at them, ask questions and get them engaged. When I speak I engage with the audience by asking questions throughout my presentation.
  3. Know your material. Don’t try to “wing-it” You’ve got to know the points, stories, examples, so well that if something unexpected happens, like you lose your slides or note, that you can still be impactful.
  4. Keep your presentation simple. Stick to a few points and share stories about each one. People remember stories over statistics because good stories drive an emotional connection.
  5. Be true to yourself. Don’t speak on something you’re not fully comfortable with just to get on stage. Know your strengths, passions, and stay in your lane. In the beginning of my speaking career, I would speak on almost anything I was hired for. I was afraid to propose something that was a better fit. Today I trust that it’s all happening for me and make the proposal based on who I am, my strengths, and the impact I know I’m best at making. Your audience can feel it when it’s forced.

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

Just start. I started small and honed my skill through lots of practice. You don’t need to be great to start, but you have to start to be great — Zig Ziglar. Lead a book club. Speak to a small group at work, in your community, or at church. Start where you are.

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

I would start a #ditchers movement where people would ditch the dreams they were taught to have and live life their way on their terms! I believe that if we all were in places, doing things that set our souls on fire that the world would be full of people who fulfilled their dreams and helped others do the same!

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!

Absolutely! Mel Robbins because I love how real, relatable, and actionable she is. Her messages are simple, profound, and life changing. Mel walks her talk and shares what she knows. I think she’s an incredible example of a #ditcher and I’d love to connect with her. Mel is a “Momma Max” for people!

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

IG: https://www.instagram.com/bethanyclemenson/

FB: https://www.facebook.com/speakerbethany

LI: https://www.linkedin.com/in/bethanyclem/

Website: bethanyclem.com

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


Author Bethany Clemenson 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.

Making Something From Nothing: Jeff Yanes Of Lyfe Social On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Changing consumer habits is easier said than done- Initial consumers will be reluctant to abandon a familiar product and take a risk with yours. Consumers using well established and trusted brands are difficult to shift. My greatest challenge launching Lyfe Social has been getting consumers to make that shift.

As a part of our series called “Making Something From Nothing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jeff Yanes, founder of Lyfe Social.

Jeff Yanes was born and raised in Miami, which means he knows the city, its people and its visitors well. Yanes decided to found and build Lyfe Social after the COVID pandemic shifted the way people socialized. Lyfe Social is the app that will take the Miami nightlife scene by storm because it will allow users to see who is where and what places are more popular than others. It is an app geared toward those with their finger on the pulse of what is happening in a city like Miami. Whether they want to be seen with someone or avoid seeing someone the Lyfe Social app will empower them to make smart nightlife decisions.

Currently Yanes is involved with his family business, Pure Beauty Farms, as their President of Operations. Having been at Pure Beauty Farms for a total of 17 years he has shifted several times within the company to meet its needs, his positions have ranged from Shipping and Transportation Manager, Automation Innovation Manager and Head of Engineering, before that he was a sales analyst and dispatcher, working his way up. He is also preparing to launch a different venture in the medical marijuana space.

Jeff attended the Florida International University where he earned a Business Administration Degree and went on to earn a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Miami.

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 and raised in Miami Florida to immigrants from Cuba. At the age of five, soon after Fidel Castro seized power, my parents immigrated to Miami, FL. Their experiences and upbringing created a toughness and persistent attitude that has transpired to me and my siblings. My father is very loving and tough but has always led by example. He has never asked anything of me that he isn’t willing to do himself, and that is how I lead my teams today. They both prioritized studying and hard work, when it was time to apply for college, they gave me one option: “apply to any school in Miami.” At the time I didn’t understand their reasoning but am now very grateful to stay connected to my community and build my network. Throughout college and graduate school, I worked full time, which taught me even more work ethic. I couldn’t be more thankful for the sacrifices my parents made and the values they instilled in me; that have made me who I am today.

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

There are many “life lesson quotes” but my favorite is: “Be willing to be uncomfortable. Be comfortable being uncomfortable. It may get tough, but it’s a small price to pay for living a dream.” I believe the only way to grow is to push out of your comfort zone. If you’re not willing to venture into the unknown, you won’t grow. Seeking discomfort helps people open themselves to new experiences.

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?

Podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience. His wide range of guests and their life experiences have taught me there are many different paths to achieve and measure success. There is something I take away from each of his podcasts, whether it be with comedians, scientists, politicians, athletes, or entrepreneurs. Each guest has a unique starting point and path but all share one commonality: they are all passionate and persistent about what they do.

The episode with Kevin Hart is one that I often go back to. His journey is motivating and inspiring. Hart’s stories about his strict mother and upbringing remind me a lot of my own. “You don’t start things and not finish them, you don’t quit. There is nothing that comes out of quitting besides knowing that you didn’t finish. If you start it, you finish it, if you’re going to do it do it, try to be the best.” I can hear my father saying those exact words to me.

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 learned from developing the Lyfe Social application that turning an idea into an actual business is extremely difficult but even more rewarding. Ideas without a vision to execute, are just hallucinations. On the road to turning an idea into a product you must apply discipline but more importantly consistency because “without commitment you’ll never start but without consistency you’ll never finish.” When the road gets bumpy, I remind myself of those words.

Step 1 in turning an idea into a business is, do your research, become an expert of your idea. The more knowledgeable you are about your idea the easier it will be to build a team and secure financial support. You need to be able to answer questions like: what problem am I trying to solve, how will it make people’s lives better, who are the competitors, how is my product different, who is my target market, how much capital do I need? When I developed the Lyfe app, I wanted to help people navigate their nights out and help them always know what is happening around them.

Once the research phase is complete its time to plan. Planning for a new product is challenging and will never play out perfectly but using what you learned from the research phase will allow to you to make a roadmap. Now that your roadmap is complete its time to secure financing. Financial plans are guesstimates, they rarely work out as planned. Make sure you build some cushion into your plan for unforeseen obstacles. Now its time to execute. Execution will vary greatly from business to business. In this stage you need to be flexible. You need to be willing to adapt and change the roadmap as you go, “be comfortable being uncomfortable.”

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 the idea exists is irrelevant. How well did this company execute the idea? If the product exists part of the work is done for you. Your focus should shift from inventing to perfecting. How will your product be better than the current? How will it better satisfy the consumers’ needs/goals? Your idea already existing should not deter you from pursuing yours. On the contrary, it should excite you to know there is already a market for your idea. For example Lyfe Social is another social networking company but no one else is offering what we offer to users to create physical from online interactions.

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.

This varies by idea. Is your idea a product or service?

I’ll walk you through the steps I took for Lyfe Social. Lyfe Social is a social networking service I founded earlier this year.

Create the entity- The primary reason for this is to separate the liability of the business from the liability of the owners. You can go about this in various ways, but my preference is to use an attorney. An attorney will be able to better guide you in which type of corporation best suits your idea. Once the entity is created you need to open your business bank account.

File Trademark/Patent- In the case of Lyfe Social I filed a trademark. An attorney will conduct a preliminary search and give you legal opinion if there are any conflicting trademarks. Trademark filing is tricky, you will need to file various marks. One for the name alone, another for the logo alone and a third for the name with the logo. Filing this way protects and covers all the bases and offers the most protection.

Sourcing a Manufacturer- This will vary by product. Is your product unique or is it similar to one that already exists? Unique products are initially more difficult to manufacture unless you’re manufacturing them inhouse. Outside manufacturers will be hesitant to produce your new product. They will initially ask for prepayment, minimum order quantities, packaging requirements, distribution, and cost you accordingly. The initial order quantity may not be enough for a manufacturer to justify changeover costs, new tooling, and new molds. Manufacturers will be more willing to work with you if your product is similar to something they already produce.

Finding a Retailer- The internet has greatly reduced the barrier to entry when finding where to sell your product. Selling your product online will greatly reduce your start up and operating costs. An e-commerce site gives you worldwide access and allows you to generate sales data for future negotiations with traditional brick and mortar retailers. Pitching a new product to traditional retailers is difficult and expensive. Negotiations will include, order minimums, terms, initial fulfillment, replenishment, distribution, customer service and returns. They may be more willing to giving you an opportunity if you offer your products on consignment or pay by scan. Consignment adds tremendous financial risk, you must consider increased inventory costs but may be the easiest way of getting your “foot in the door.”

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

“If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late” Reid Hoffman- I fell victim to this quote when launching Lyfe Social. I delayed bringing the product to market until I felt it was “perfect.” Consumer feedback is vital when developing a unique product. They will guide you in the direction your product takes. Your product might be used for something completely different than you intended.

Changing consumer habits is easier said than done- Initial consumers will be reluctant to abandon a familiar product and take a risk with yours. Consumers using well established and trusted brands are difficult to shift. My greatest challenge launching Lyfe Social has been getting consumers to make that shift.

Patience- Ideas worth pursuing take time. Things will take longer than expected. I know how difficult it is to be patient when you see money going out and none coming in. Understand that it’s part of the process. Be patient with yourself and your team. A patient mind makes better decisions.

Bounce your idea off complete strangers. They will be more likely to give you honest feedback than family and friends- Family and friends will be reluctant to give you honest feedback in fear of hurting the relationship. I’ve learned to welcome negative feedback. It forces me to rethink the idea and make it better.

Make sure you are never the smartest person in the room- You won’t learn and grow from being the smartest person in the room. Surround yourself with people who are more intelligent, they will challenge you to improve. Understand that your role is to initiate the vision, but the execution comes from your team. Success isn’t a one-person show.

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?

Make sure there is an actual demand for your product. Pitch it to as many people as possible and see if they show interest. If the feedback is positive, it’s time to start researching. Most of my ideas come from my own experiences, it’s more engaging to develop a product you would use.

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 think entrepreneurs should do as much research as possible before relying on outside experts. Becoming reliant on consultants could harm your business. Consultants tend to be “experts” in everything, you will rarely hear one say, “I don’t know, let me get back to you.” Personally, I have never had much success with consultants. My strategy has always been to build an inhouse team of experts, people with “skin in the game” before hiring consultants.

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

This depends on the financial stability of the entrepreneur. How much risk can be absorbed? What position will you be in if your idea fails? If feasible, bootstrapping is ideal to validate the idea. A validated idea will minimize risk for venture capital and give you more negotiating leverage. One of the major limitations of bootstrapping is scalability. How quickly can you react if demand increases? There isn’t a right or wrong way to answer this question, it ultimately depends on the entrepreneur.

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

Success can be measured in many ways. One way I measure success is how we can impact the community beyond ourselves. Our financial donations to nonprofits have undoubtedly helped make the world a better place but just as important is the role the success of the organization has played on the team. Our organization has given all of us a means to provide for our families, make dreams a reality, and give purpose to our daily lives.

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

I wish to one day aid in tackling the health crisis in our country. Our healthcare system is a business that profits off the sick. TV ad spending of the pharma industry accounts for 75% of the total ad spend. This is a problem; doctors are prescribing patients with medications to help patients live with their respective diseases rather than find or treat the root cause. There have been many advancements in healthcare that are getting suppressed by bureaucrats and special interest groups. We cannot continue to live with a system that thrives off the unhealthy.

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.

Joe Rogan. The knowledge I have gained from listening to his guests is invaluable. His delivery and authenticity earned him the #1 spot in American media. I would love to sit across the table from him say thank you.

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


Making Something From Nothing: Jeff Yanes Of Lyfe Social 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: Jen Wotsch Of DoorFoto On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Sometimes you must learn things the hard way. This is especially true when it comes to digital advertising. We have gone through a couple of digital ad agencies promising us the world of success through Google, Facebook and Instagram ads. For us, it has been an expensive lesson, ultimately leading me to learn about these platforms and then running my own ads against their ads to see which ones performed better.

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

Jen Wotsch is the CEO of DoorFoto, a Tampa-based startup that is trailblazing the path for digital art in the home décor industry. With a degree in interior design from the International Academy of Design and Technology (IADT) and over 15 years of experience in the industry, she has helped find a way to revolutionize the idea of door decorating.

Jen previously worked for various home builders and design agencies, before the industry was restructured back in 2008 during The Great Recession, where she assisted in the designing of interior finishes (i.e. flooring, paint, bathroom tile, as well as furniture, window treatments and decor) of model homes all across Florida. Jen has also served as a furniture sales associate at Crate and Barrel when she earned “million dollar seller” in 2010 before becoming a part of the showroom design team.

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 been interested in beautiful design. I earned my degree in interior design back in 2004 and worked for various home builders and design agencies before the industry was restructured back in 2008. Around that time in 2010, my husband and I had our first child and I had decided to stay home and raise our children for a couple of years.

We live in South Tampa, and back in January 2017, I started to notice that people were decorating their doors with more expensive and elaborate wreaths during the Gasparilla season. With an eye for design and someone that loves to decorate, I wanted to spice up our door since we are on the parade route, but with something more than just a wreath. I wanted something exotic, something I could customize.

I figured there had to be a cool Gasparilla door cover product on Amazon or Etsy. When we couldn’t find anything to our liking, we tried getting something custom printed at a local print shop. I was shocked to learn how expensive a custom door cover would cost. Some friends and I then decided we would create our own product and make a website so anyone could upload an image or choose from thousands of designs to quickly transform their door into the gritty pirate image that we had initially imagined.

Our site DoorFoto.com now has over 50+ different categories from Christmas to Hanukkah, Halloween to Juneteenth, and of course, amazing images for Gasparilla. We give customers over 1,800+ designs to choose from or they can create their own with our online design tools.

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

Fabric door covers are something that most people have never heard of. In the past, if you wanted a door cover, you were limited to stickers, vinyl banners or some people even used wrapping paper to wrap their doors during the Christmas season. These products are cumbersome to install and usually used only once and then thrown away. Most of the companies selling these door banners or stickers on Amazon, are buying limited designs from China in mass quantities, and then selling them on Amazon or some other websites. Because of inventory issues, they can’t provide many designs to choose from, so you get very limited options with no customization capabilities.

A DoorFoto™ fabric door cover is made from athletic fabric that is washable, stretchable and reusable. Very similar to the yoga pants that many women are wearing or the athletic spandex shirts and shorts that you see from Nike or Under Armour. We feel we can compete and disrupt the home décor space. With new automated sewing robots and digital textile printers just now entering this market, we know that with scale, we can bring high paying manufacturing jobs back to the US. By providing a better product that only takes 28-seconds to install, can be completely personalized and requires no inventory, as we only print what is ordered, our team is carving out a new category in the door décor space.

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

The first lease that we signed was in an office space in Downtown Tampa. The landlord didn’t ask us too many questions as we told them we were starting a design company. We didn’t know that the equipment we would be buying needed to be ventilated and was quite loud. When we found out, we brought it to the attention of the landlord, and they told us that we could not have industrial equipment running next to general office space. Luckily, we had only signed the agreement and not put any money down as they quickly ripped up the contract and told us we needed to be in a different zone for manufacturing. It’s funny to think about how naive we were (are) on certain things. As our equipment IS big and loud and would have never worked in this tiny little office space that we originally signed with.

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

My mentors come in the form of podcasts. More specifically, I love listening to “How I Built This” by Guy Raz. Each week, they talk to the founders of some of the most iconic companies today. You get to hear the back stories on some of the best businesses and brands and what it took to build their companies. More importantly, you get to hear the founder’s struggles, trials and tribulations. Starting a company from scratch and marketing a product that most people have never heard of like DoorFoto™ is quite challenging. I love knowing that the founders of Airbnb or Headspace had to overcome tremendous challenges before their companies started to get traction. When I am feeling depressed and defeated, I pop in a Guy Raz interview, and I’m immediately brought back from the pessimistic Jen to my optimistic self.

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

Disruption for disruption’s sake in my opinion is pointless and counterintuitive unless you are moving the idea or product in a forward motion to benefit society. I think sometimes people think disruption is bad because it might take away jobs. However, if you look back on history, this isn’t the case at all. While new products, technologies or ideas can displace jobs temporarily or permanently, it doesn’t mean it is bad in the long run.

Look at the history of cars. To those that were manufacturing stagecoaches, they saw the automobile as a huge disrupter and major problem for their industry. And they were right! But the net effect is that the car industry moved things forward in a positive way for humanity. It created millions of more jobs than the stagecoach industry would have ever created. Think of all the industries that were created around the automobile industry. There are thousands of examples like this throughout history.

At DoorFoto™, we believe that by completely automating manufacturing with digital presses and sewing robots in the future, we can create a better user experience by hiring more employees in the customer engagement, sales, marketing and design space instead of having to hire people for manual labor jobs. Unfortunately, most textile manufacturing is done overseas because labor is so cheap. Hence the term “sweat shops.” US companies can’t compete with labor costs when countries are paying their labor force $243 a month!

Automated manufacturing will completely change this in the future and allow for complete customization of anything. Why buy a pair of Nike off the rack shoes, if you can design your own online and get it delivered in three days. They won’t be manufactured overseas, they will be made in the US because a customized product of one can only be made stateside. The experience is unique and provides a better end product and user experience. This is our goal at DoorFoto™. We will use automated manufacturing to completely disrupt the home décor space.

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

Do things that don’t scale and think small to grow big. Essentially this advice allows us to treat every customer as if they are the only customer in the world. Most of the ideas for categories and images on our site are from customer feedback. We had a customer two years ago that wanted us to print a vintage Santa Claus from the 60s. This one request led to one of our best-selling categories which is our Vintage Collection. This collection of old Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day images and more from the 40s, 50s and 60s are just timeless and make for a beautiful old-fashioned fabric door cover. Last year, one of our customers wanted us to make them an African American Santa Claus. We designed a customized image for them. From this one request, it was the 2nd best-selling product throughout the entire holiday season. We’re a small company so for now it is easy for us to do things that don’t scale. But I think unique insights like this now while we’re small, will help us stay close to our customers when we’re big!

Some other “best” words of advice would be to get a mentor, or many, as soon as possible. Mentors come in all forms including in-person, virtual or even podcasts! We recently joined a startup incubator that provides amazing mentorships and group collaboration. You need to immerse yourself with other people building companies as it is a phenomenal environment to learn and bounce ideas off of.

My final best words of advice would have to be ‘what worked for one company, may not work for you’. Sometimes you must learn things the hard way. This is especially true when it comes to digital advertising. We have gone through a couple of digital ad agencies promising us the world of success through Google, Facebook and Instagram ads. For us, it has been an expensive lesson, ultimately leading me to learn about these platforms and then running my own ads against their ads to see which ones performed better. My ads ended up performing just as well as the agency ads, so we cut ties with our agency, saving us $1,000/month in admin costs that we now use for other marketing experiments.

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

We just got approval from the NCAA to make DoorFotos for all the collegiate teams that we decide to partner with. We have HUGE plans to create some truly unique and majestic imagery for college sports fans. Imagine if you’re a Florida Gator fan and hanging up your DoorFoto™ in 28-seconds on game day, and later that night you replace it with a Halloween DoorFoto™ for all the trick-or-treaters. Total time to install and take down both of these DoorFotos is less then 1-minute! This will be a great market for us and just the beginning as we plan to expand to more licensing deals with the NFL, NHL, MLB, Disney and others in the future!

Our simplicity makes it easy for anyone to customize their front door, office door or bedroom door into something amazing.

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 have many favorite business books that I keep near me at all times for inspiration. One of my favorites is “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho. A simple story about a young shepherd boy on a journey to find treasure. Without giving the book away, the fact that this boy started the journey is what makes the book so magical. Those first steps and having the conviction to continue his journey are the reasons he is rewarded in the end.

I feel that many people never take the first steps in their personal or professional journeys. The journey is what makes it exciting! Win or lose, it’s the lessons that we learn during the journey the propel us forward. We try to instill in our kids that failure is ok as long as you learn something from it. People call this failing forward. The shepherd boy would have never had the chance to fail or succeed, if he didn’t take those first steps and that really resonated with me as we are constantly failing forward in this new adventure at DoorFoto!

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

If you think you can do it, you’re right. If you think you can’t do it, you’re still right. That is how I always remember the saying, but the actual quote is from Henry Ford and says, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t…you’re right.”

Either way, for me it sums up how important mental attitude is when determining your personal and professional successes. Having a strong mental attitude is critical to achieve the things that you want to achieve and remembering this quote during challenging times, or times of despair, always helps me recalibrate my thought process.

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. 🙂

Smile more! This is the DoorFoto motto and I think smiling brings out the best of us and transfers that emotion to others. Smiling is the universal global language and makes everyone feel better when performing this simple act. So smile more…at your door décor or at that stranger walking past you. You will feel better, and I promise you they will feel better too! We have sold over 12,000+ DoorFotos and I read every single review that comes in. We have over 1,500+ five-star reviews and I love hearing the stories of people saying how much our product brings a smile to their face or their neighbors, through one of our designs or something they personalized.

How can our readers follow you online?

https://www.linkedin.com/in/jen-wotsch-190242152/

https://www.instagram.com/doorfoto/

https://www.facebook.com/doorfoto

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


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

Makers of The Metaverse: Keith Rumjahn Of OliveX On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality…

Makers of The Metaverse: Keith Rumjahn Of OliveX On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Talk to your customers: Traditionally, people made products in stealth and then launched when it’s ready. We learned that there’s a huge risk in developing something people don’t want. Releasing the product early and getting customer feedback early has been instrumental.

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 Keith Rumjahn.

Keith Rumjahn is the Founder and CEO of OliveX Holdings Limited (NSX: OLX, “OliveX”), a digital health and fitness company delivering unique user experiences through fitness gamification, augmented reality, and move-to-earn experiences.Rumjahn is responsible for OliveX’s driving vision, growth strategy, and fundraising. His vision led to the creation of the OliveX Fitness Metaverse and the development of OliveX’s revolutionary Dustland series. Under his leadership, the company is developing an interoperable ecosystem of fitness, combining the Dustland series, DOSE (an ERC-20 Fungible Token of purchase, utility, and action) and the Fitness Metaverse to make real-world rewards a utility in the digital world. Rumjahn, his partner Gigi Cheng, their two children, Tyler and Hunter, and their dog, Satoshi, currently call Hong Kong home.

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

I grew up in Hong Kong and studied computer science at Queen’s university in Canada. The best thing I got out of university was meeting my wife, the mother of my sons, Tyler and Hunter. I worked as a software engineer out of college but I developed a sports app on the side for fun. That app became the no.1 sports app on the app stores and I quit my job to become an entrepreneur. I later got investments from Nike and Techstars and eventually sold that business to Animoca brands. Fast forward to today, OliveX is building a fitness metaverse with multiple game titles for running, cycling and HIIT workouts. I’ve been in the business of fitness and sports for the last 10 years of my career and I love it.

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?

Lateral thinking by Edward De Bono. It’s about how to systematically come up with creative solutions for anything. At OliveX we’re building fitness games on the blockchain, there are no rules. We were one of the first companies to combine gaming, blockchain and fitness by launching our DOSE token to reward people for getting fit. Moving forward, we continue to break new grounds on new game economies and tokenomics on fitness gameplay.

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

When Sandbox launched their Snoop Dogg experience, it blew my mind. The Snoop Dogg NFT’s sold out in minutes for over $10M in revenue. Fans of Snoop Dogg wanted a digital representation of themselves inside the metaverse. They also wanted to listen to a Snoop Dogg concert inside the Sandbox. This was the tipping point for me to realize that the metaverse was real.

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

I have two memorable moments. When we IPO’ed and when we launched our DOSE token. Especially when we launched our token, we hit a market cap of $1B in value. We’ve since built a community of 50K fans and over 10K daily active users, which is the fastest accumulation of users I’ve ever seen.

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

The funniest mistake I made was making a game called Garfield Fit. It was a game similar to Pokemon except with the lazy fat cat Garfield. It really didn’t make sense to run with Garfield so the game failed. I learned that in gaming, the context of the IP must match your game play.

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

I’ve had an incredible pleasure of having Yat Siu as a mentor and investor. Yat Siu is the chairman of Animoca Brands, the leading blockchain game company in the world. I remember listening to him present about the open metaverse in 2017 and how it all came true in retrospect. His ability to see into the future and be right is extraordinary.

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

Yes. We are launching Dustland Runner and Dustland Rider. Both games are based on the story of our Dustland world. One is a running game and the other a cycling game. Players will get to have fun working out and also earn some NFT’s doing so. We hope to motivate 1 billion people to move.

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?

Sure.I’m excited about the metaverse and the underlying 3 things that make a metaverse:

  • Digital ownership: The users of the metaverse will be owners of the metaverse.
  • Digital interoperability: All the metaverses should connect to one another seamlessly.
  • Decentralization: Everybody has different tastes. We don’t want a single metaverse. We want many different ones to suit different people’s needs.

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’d say the three things I’m concerned about are the same three things I’m excited about. Right now, the VR metaverse is owned by a few large companies. The current social networks are all wall gardens. This makes it hard for others to play nice. It presents both challenges and opportunities.

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

As we’ve seen in fitness, the world has moved to a hybrid model. Gym membership is at an all time high but attendance is at an all time low. I’d expect the same with work, people want the flexibility of working from home but also having an office. Just like virtual concerts, I believe VR, AR and MR can provide that immersive experience for work. This is required for deep collaboration.

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

Right now, the best use case for VR, AR and MR in fitness is for physical and mental health. Long term, I believe that if the hardware improves to become lighter then it could become the main way to do fitness.

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

The biggest myth is that blockchain destroys the environment by consuming a lot of electricity. Actually, a lot of technology has been developed since bitcoin that does not require a proof of work. There are other proof systems that use 1/1000 of the electricity required before.

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

  • Live in the future: The industry moves so fast, you need to learn by experience. A Lot of our games were inspired by other games that I’ve played that are new. For example, our Dustland runner game is largely inspired by Death Stranding which is about delivering items in a dangerous world.
  • Connect the dots: Innovation is often just the combination of existing ideas in new ways. Our move to earn games are a combination of gaming, blockchain and fitness.
  • Break the rules: What got you here may not get you there. The things that worked before may not work in new industries. We tried porting existing game designs to our AR games but VR, AR and MR requires different game mechanics.
  • Talk to your customers: Traditionally, people made products in stealth and then launched when it’s ready. We learned that there’s a huge risk in developing something people don’t want. Releasing the product early and getting customer feedback early has been instrumental.
  • Find comfort in ambiguity: Remember that this is all new, you’re only limited by your imagination. We learned that we can solve any problem by being creative. In most cases, there’s nothing for us to reference.

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 treadmill was a machine designed to torture prisoners. No wonder people associate fitness to pain and torture!

Fitness should be fun. I want everyone in the world to feel like they can get active, at all levels by playing our games. Fitness can be FUN! That’s the movement we want to inspire.

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

The leader I’d most like to speak to in the USA would be the CEO of Disney, Bob Chapek.

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


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

Makers of The Metaverse: Vasil Tuchkov of It Remains On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality…

Makers of The Metaverse: Vasil Tuchkov of It Remains On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Vision: you must be able to visualize what the future of your career, your project will do. You can’t create without the vision of what you want to make.

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 Vasil Tuchkov.

Writer of fiction. Stories, scripts and film. Vasil is a published Novelist. First book published at the age of 17. Founder of StudioRubik — the Disruptive-Creative Agency. Vasil is also the Co-Founder of a blockchain full-service company. His work includes creative & marketing campaigns with viral reach in the UK, USA, Japan, Brazil. Founder of LivingWEB: Live Display of Digital Space, where Art, Tech and Advertising crossover, to transform branded installations into mind-bending sensory experiences. Vasil enjoys living with ferrets.

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

I was born in post-soviet Bulgaria but spent my teenage years in the USA. Always been fascinated with creating and exploring the deeper corners of my imagination. I wrote my first novel at 15 and published at 17 with the major fantasy and crime publisher in the Balkan region back then. Got translated into Russian, then spent the next decade writing stories, novels, and scripts. I was involved with installation art, photography and video, then got tired of being broke, so I moved into entrepreneurship (my university education was Business and Journalism/advertising). About 10 years ago I founded a disruptive creative company — StudioRubik.com, where we focused on creative direction, branding and viral videos, delivering over the years 60+ M views for brands such as Red Bull, Audi, Viacom, and others. Then I took part in an IT company and consulted fintech and blockchain start-ups and scale-ups. I’ve been in crypto and blockchain since 2013 I was always fascinated by the freedom and possibilities it offers, limited only by one’s imagination. I’m very passionate about art, science and adventure.

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?

There have been many over the years. I grew up in a time before the Internet, and my first friends and teachers were fantasy and sci-fi books, role-playing games, comics and classic anime. For It Remains in particular, the sources of creative mana have been perhaps Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, Dark Horse comics, Tarkovsky’s/Strugatsky’s Stalker, the old Russian Sci Fi comedy Kin Dza Dza, Dune, Cormac Mccarthy’s The Road, Brian Evenson’s fiction, and the art of Giger and Beksinsky.

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

It happened somewhat organically, as my interests and work experience aligned. It merged my interest in fictional worlds, fine art, storytelling, and my curiosity for immersive tech innovation; represented by the coming of Web3 and the dawn of the Metaverse.

I wrote a book: a graphic novel that unexpectedly found a home and audience in the NFT space and has been growing on four continents as a Decentralized Franchise ever since. The X reality industry will do that to your expectations — ideas growing out of proportion and morphing into new unseen forms that continue to live on independently.

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

Early 2022, I was invited as keynote speaker at the World of Web3 Summit Dubai, where I presented the blockchain-powered NFT Project — It Remains, based on my Beyond Dystopian graphic novel. After the presentation, myself, and our Art Director Anthony (also Art Director of Pixar’s Wall-E, Finding Nemo, and The Incredibles) we were approached by a woman from the audience. At first, I thought it might be one of them usual loonies at expos, waiting to ask, “what are NFTs?” and “can you make me one?”.

However, as it turned out, this lady was a true gem and ran the biggest immersive gallery chain in the world — the one exhibits the Van Gogh and Kandinsky interactive exhibition experiences.

It Remains premiered in their 30k/squared feet venue inside Dubai Mall under the world’s tallest Burj Khalifa. On that night, guests left the realms of the physical and stepped into the pages of a graphic novel come to life through 3d mapping on the walls and floors, presenting the dystopian world of It Remains. The gathering included top industry leadership attendance but more importantly, validated NFTs as high-end Contemporary Art.

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?

So, I wrote It Remains in my darkest hour, after work-related burnout, after the end of a long relationship, after surgery that kept me bed-ridden for the next four months, and at the beginning of a plague that would scorch the world for the next two years. I spent my quarantine drinking and writing. At some point I showed my friend and neighbor Ed (each of us being the only company logistically possible at the time) who took an interest in the story and atmosphere, and as a talented digital artist put his skills to breathing another dimension to my written words. What I couldn’t or refused to say, Ed expressed through his visuals. It’s kind of how we arrived at the format of choice — fine-art adult Graphic Novel in the spirt of Sandman.

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

In my mind It Remains was a personal, even intimate project, meant to provide escape from a harsh reality into an even harsher desolate one. A way to vent for myself and Ed. Ultimately, I was reminded that language is a virus and that stories are contagious. Not before long, the project was out of our hands and carried by several collaborators and investors, who fell in love with the narrative and the artwork and committed to turning it from merely a book to the first Decentralized Entertainment Media Franchise, merging the physical and the digital through original content experiences of AR and VR, into MR.

To say we are grateful for all the helpers and friends we’ve met on this journey would be an understatement. Hollywood industry stars like Anthony Christov joining the core team is just one example of many.

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

On a more serious note, we firmly believe in what we do, and we care for the message sent out into the world(s).

Since the characters of It Remains are based on real homeless people, which I photographed in different cities over the past three years, and which then our artist Ed Mattinian turned into signature artworks, the event served as an instrument to raise environmental awareness for plastic alternatives and housing causes. We also plan to donate a portion of future proceeds to community-approved/curated causes and ensure transparency via the blockchain.

It has been a humbling experience for us, no doubt, and the beginning of a legacy in-the-making. Hopefully we can do some good on the way. As one is only as valuable as the problems one solves.

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 industries are becoming increasingly exciting and further mysterious, with the expansion of web 3 development and computing capabilities.

New opportunities and applications of the tech upon our lives seem to emerge daily. We are all very early, and we are still to witness the birth of the next “children” of the blockchain, the web 3.

The challenge is to stay current and ahead of the curve. This may prove more difficult than we imagined as time in the web 3 space is hardly comparable to “conventional” industry timeframes. In our team, we have found that being fully transparent, open-source, and involving the youngest Degen communities into the process keeps us fresh and updated.

As a team coming from conventional business, what particularly excites us is the freedom and the clear untamed path, enabling creators to skip monopolies and disrupt the status through delivery of uncensored original content directly to the audience. The viewer also becomes a participant and is invited to shape the experience uniquely. To become part of the story — consume, vote, promote, earn, and co-create — a revolution to previous content-consumer relationships.

Another opportunity for unseen improvement is brought upon the education industry. VR and MR alter and enhance the way we perceive, process, and memorize information. It offers new testing grounds and almost the ability to “load game” that only video games used to offer. Surgeons can train and perform in hyper realistic environments, mimicking real life surgery.

Learning experiences for kids and adults become more immersive, engaging, and entertaining.

One example is for such a tool is Microsoft’s HoloLens>, which innovates the way people interact online by allowing for real-life show-and-tell sessions and even importing objects or drawing diagrams. It could also be used as a looking glass, through which people travel the globe digitally, and as realistically as if they were there physically. Tourism, real-estate, agriculture, sex industry — the applications are countless. We can watch and if we’re keen, perhaps take a ride on that journey into the future of mankind.

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

As the industries are still considered new and there is no general adoption yet, it can be challenging for people to adapt to the new ways of human interaction within the world of web 3. Naturally, some will be opposed to idea of changing the world as we know it. By having for example 40% of what is real and 60% virtual/modified reality plugged in daily, just the same way we all now have smartphones and live on the internet everywhere.

Perhaps the access to proper information, trainings and the introduction of safety measures and milestones would assist us on this biotech journey and would allow the physical and the digital to evolve in harmony, rather than exclusivity.

A topic we explore in the story of It Remains, through the eyes of father and son at world’s end, struggling to hold onto their former world, and learning how to adapt to change, both internally and externally.

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?

Like I said, the potential is limited only by your imagination. Imagine training in a virtual landscape for jobs like surgery or advanced mechanics. Even telehealth can take a leap forward with these new technological developments. People who are not in the best places or aren’t able to get the standard treatments/opportunities could use this technology to make a huge difference in people’s lives

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

As I mentioned, we are very early still. The technology is young in how we see it how far and deep we can go. But there are always concerns when it comes to the unknown. Live surgery requires highly skilled and experienced personnel, which may no longer demand physical presence in the future. As it may eliminate some jobs, it will open others and cut down on costs, and maybe even the need for surgeons to be physically present at the operation, saving lives from a distance, behind remote virtual stations, for example.

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

I’ve often heard from People outside the space things like “oh, no, I hate the Metaverse! They want to turn us into robots” or “Skynet is coming, terminator predicted it!” Even though they don’t seem to know which metaverse they are referring to and what exactly it means.

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

Vision: you must be able to visualize what the future of your career, your project will do. You can’t create without the vision of what you want to make.

Curiosity: You must always leave the door open to learn about new things. New technology, terms, and even cultural movements can change your career in a heartbeat. Being curious and taking the time to do your homework and seeing new developments as they come into existence is a huge part of success.

Madness: you must be crazy to succeed in this industry, people don’t want the basic anymore. They want crazy, popping, something that will stick out in their minds and be a focus for years to come.

Cojones: you can’t succeed without getting your stuff out there, and you have to have the guts to risk it and throw your product out for the public if you have any hope of success. “You miss one hundred percent of the shots you don’t take”. Take your shot, take your chance, and have the will to succeed despite the naysayers.

Thick hide: you won’t be able to please everyone. Some people will look at your product and they’ll hate it, it’s just the nature of the business. You have to be able to weather the storm of criticism and have the inner strength and support to persevere despite it.

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

Decentralization of authority. hive-mind mentality. pro-active individuality. Let’s bring back the Renaissance human ideal and build upon it.

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 🙂

Neil Gaiman. Preferably not over lunch but rather tea party with cats and crows among the participants.

And also perhaps Evgeni Morozov versus Slawoj Jijek at a freestyle rap battle.

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


Makers of The Metaverse: Vasil Tuchkov of It Remains 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.

Michelle Fuller Of One Bold MF On The Five Ways To Develop More ‘Grit’

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Don’t give up. Keep going, no matter what. This is always easier said than done. No dream was ever created by a quitter. You will never achieve the success you desire if you turn around.

As a part of our series called “Grit: The Most Overlooked Ingredient of Success” I had the pleasure of interviewing Michelle Fuller.

Michelle is a transformation coach and speaker. She is a lifestyle engineer for women who want to recreate their life after heartbreak or reach a new goal. She is a speaker who shares her own story of transformation on stage.

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

I am passionate about helping women recreate their life after heartbreak. It’s a unique mission because I know how significant personal growth and self-development are in that mission. Five years ago, I hired a coach who completely transformed my life. At the time, I was in a desperate place, and he helped me uncover the real roots of my despair. Because the change I was able to create was so incredible, I wanted to pass on the new mindset I found to other women so they could transform their own lives.

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

Courage is necessary for pursuing anything in life that comes with no guarantees. Taking a path you have never taken will bring all of your limiting beliefs to the surface. Not only do you have to overcome them, but you will also need the strength to keep going, even on the most challenging days. When I stepped out on the ledge, I came face to face with my biggest fear. I realized early on that I was giving others too much power. I would often shrink in fear at the thought of others’ opinions of me and my potential. Because I had spent most of my life as a people pleaser, I was terrified of what others would say as I started to coach. The fear of not being liked paralyzed me in the beginning. As I overcame one belief, another one would make itself known. To pursue my goals and dreams, I had to dig in every day and do the hard things I didn’t want to do. I worked on my mindset continuously. I continued to pick the things I needed to master and worked on those as well. I created the time I needed to focus on my business, message, and social media content. Finally, I found coaches on the next step of my journey to help me. Hiring the right mentors has been pivotal to my success and helped me stay determined.

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

I have always pursued excellence, and I am a natural creator. I am highly organized and detail-oriented, all of which helped me climb the corporate ladder before I discovered my mission. In addition, I believe in doing incredible work. While some of my skills are natural, I learned the most about grit and determination in my childhood.

I learned everything I needed to know about grit before I turned fourteen. I grew up in the eighties before cell phones, the internet, and instant gratification. My Mom and Dad both worked full-time jobs while my Mom fought a breast cancer diagnosis at the age of thirty-two.

Despite being viciously sick nearly every day, my Mom continued to work her full-time job. She got up every morning, styled her wig, put on her make-up, and left to work at a job she did not love. She held on to her last drop of freedom until she could no longer do it.

As my Mom’s health continued to fail, my Dad had to keep working to support our family. He would leave for work as the sun came up. Then, he came home and made dinner. My Mom would often have violent reactions to her chemotherapy treatments. My Dad would wake up with her in the middle of the night and rush her off to the ER, vomiting blood. He was often tired, exhausted, and emotionally broken, but he always took excellent care of my sister and me. He continued to do this for four years, splitting his time between work, home, and the hospital.

I watched my Mom and Dad face insurmountable challenges daily as they struggled to navigate her cancer battle. Despite being mentally and physically exhausted, they continued to do the hard things. They taught me how to be self-sufficient and independent. They exemplified determination and strength in their actions. They embodied grit.

My Mom lost her battle with cancer when she was thirty-six. I lost her one month after I turned fourteen. As I reflect on my life, it’s obvious my ability to persevere in the darkest times was born while observing my parents do the same.

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

Grit has been one of the cornerstones of my success. It allowed me to climb the corporate ladder despite lacking a college education. It helped me find the courage to create my own business and speak. I never gave up on my dreams. I kept on going, no matter what. I had to learn to embrace failure. As each new challenge presented itself, I dealt with it. I worked on myself endlessly and continue to do that today. Grit has allowed me the opportunity to realize the success I have, and I am only getting started. Grit lives in courage and the willingness to do the hard things. If you desire to bring your dreams to fruition, you will be required to take the road less traveled. You must dig in and never give up.

Based on your experience, can you share your “5 Things You Need To Know To Develop More Grit”?

Know your why. To pursue something you deeply desire, you must have a strong why to keep you focused on the challenging days. Write down your why on an index card, and always keep it with you.

Don’t give up. Keep going, no matter what. This is always easier said than done. No dream was ever created by a quitter. You will never achieve the success you desire if you turn around.

Love the journey. Who you become on the way to any goal is worth far more than the goal itself. The journey will force you to up level in every way. You will become a completely different person so learn to love the process.

Embrace the suck. Be willing to do the hard things. Learn everything you can on the way to where you want to be. Failure is inevitable so use failure as a lesson. Don’t avoid the things you need to do.

Find a mentor. A new goal or dream will require you to reinvent yourself. Find someone who will help you along the way and hold you accountable. The right mentors will challenge you, support you, and hold the vision for you.

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

As I set out to become an entrepreneur and share my message with women who needed it, I found myself overwhelmed, lost, and confused. By the time I hired Bryan Hawley to be my business coach, my level of frustration was high, and I thought about giving up. Instead, he supported me and my vision from day one. Not only did he give me concrete steps to follow, but he also connected me with others who were liked minded. Because he believed in me and my vision, I kept going. Like all things, your limiting beliefs will always rear their ugly head when you create a new goal or dream. Having a mentor who can help you navigate the murky waters is essential.

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

Because I was willing to do the work to change my life, I now share those same skills with other women. As a result, I help women create a new vision for their life on the other side of heartbreak. This allows them to navigate their unique journey in an empowering way, not only for themselves but also for their children. To get better, we must be better. To be better, we must work on ourselves. We must believe it’s all possible because it is. No one has to suffer alone. Therefore, I am here to ignite a new passion for life in all my clients. This is my mission. Not only have I changed my life, but I can now share my Mom’s story as well. This is the power of transformation.

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

I continue to upgrade my offerings for new and existing clients. There are many things in the works, but I am working on creating a retreat for women and an ongoing mastermind right now. Both of these will allow women to do the deep work needed to heal their lives. These will be intimate settings where women can work on themselves alongside other women doing the same.

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

This is my best advice to founders. For your employees to thrive, they must be vested in you and your vision. Know what you stand for. Create business values that are distributed to your employees. Please share your story with them. Tell them how important they are to the company. Pour into your employees the tools they need to be successful with you and in life. Finally, get to know your people; this is priority number one. Get to know them as humans, not just employees. Bring in mentors, coaches, and speakers who will ignite something inside 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. 🙂

The movement I care most about is making sure children of cancer patients have the resources they need to be successful. This includes tutoring, coaching, and emotional wellbeing support. A family is turned upside down when a cancer diagnosis is handed down. It’s so important to me that the children have what they need while their parent fights for their life.

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

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be?” Marianne Williamson

This quote changed me profoundly. This quote is the invitation for each woman to step into the bold, authentic, fabulous human she is. Because I am so deeply moved by this quote, I continue to show up in life as I want to be, not as others would have me be. It has made all the difference.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

https://www.facebook.com/oneboldmf

https://www.instagram.com/onebold_mf/

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


Michelle Fuller Of One Bold MF On The Five Ways To Develop More ‘Grit’ was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Wisdom From The Women Leading The Blockchain Revolution With Liat Aaronson of Horizen Labs

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Do not be afraid to take a space and own it. In our industry, gender does really not hold much relevance even if women are the minority. Your drive, creativity and other abilities are far more pertinent.

As a part of our series about Wisdom From The Women Leading The Blockchain Revolution, I had the pleasure of interviewing Liat Aaronson.

Liat Aaronson is the co-founder and COO of Horizen Labs, a spin-off of Horizen to address the growing blockchain for business market. Before that she served as the COO of Selina Hospitality. She also served as a Partner at Marker LLC, a leading Israel-New York based venture capital firm, and she continues to oversee their follow-on annex fund.

Prior to joining Marker, Liat was the Executive Director of the Zell Entrepreneurship Program at IDC. In the ten years of her leadership, she helped grow and develop an innovative venture creation program that allows undergraduates in their final year of study at IDC to experience entrepreneurship hands-on by taking ideas and developing them into funded startups. Many successful companies — including Gift’s Project, Wibiya, Wibbitz, Bizzabo and Argus — were founded out of the program.

Liat holds a bachelor’s degree in political economy of industrial societies (economics and political science, cum laude) from the University of California at Berkeley, an LL.B. and MBA from Tel Aviv University, and an LL.M. in European law from the University of Leiden in the Netherlands (cum laude). She became a member of the Israel Bar Association in 1999, after completing her internship at Kantor, Elhanani, Tal & Co.

Liat attained practical experience in mergers and acquisitions and new ventures as an associate attorney at Naschitz, Brandes & Co., a position she held until joining IDC Herzliya in 2005. There she helped grow the program and the startups that came out of it. Today she remains involved as chairwoman of Zell and is the director of the ZEP Fund LTD.

Liat is a board member at Rewire, Glide, Duality and the Infinity Pension Funds. She is a board observer at Victorious and is a member of Friends of IDC’s advisory board. Liat is also on the advisory boards of SeedIL, Cockpit Innovation Hub, Taglit Excel Ventures, Ramle Innovation Hub, WiSe, Weizman Institute’s entrepreneurship program and Scola, the 81 Unit entrepreneurship program.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share with us the story of how you decided to pursue this career path? What lessons can others learn from your story?

Being interested in technology has been part and parcel throughout my career, from being a mergers and acquisitions (M&A) attorney to a venture capital investor, an entrepreneur educator and an operator of a high-growth technology firm. I am lucky enough to have been around since the beginnings of the internet and I have always kept tabs on its development, from the hype it garnered in the early 2000s to the emergence of blockchain and Web3 today.

When news about Facebook’s Metaverse came out, I became particularly interested and invested in the future of tech. It was also around that time I met my now-partners and co-founders. From there, my passion became blockchain technology and exploring the potential it has to offer in corporate governance, economics and, broadly, how we manage our lives.

When my now-co-founders offered me the opportunity to take on the operations role of our company focused on blockchain infrastructure, it was a no-brainer. I was so captivated by the possibilities this technology offers and the vision of our CEO. Without question, I jumped off the cliff into the unknown and happily embarked on this exciting journey with Horizen Labs.

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

One of the most interesting projects we’re working on right now at Horizen Labs is our zero-knowledge ethereum virtual machines (EVM). I think it is very exciting because not only does it lend itself to the accessibility of what Ethereum has been able to build, it also showcases the scalability and the privacy-enabling functions of what Horizen and Horizen Labs are known for.

We also have some exciting token launches coming up. I cannot disclose most of the details yet, although this is definitely something to keep an eye on. In addition to using our software development kit (SDK), we are exploring so many exciting use cases.

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

I’ve had a lot of help from a lot of people. If I can choose only one, it’s my life partner and my best friend — my husband. We’ve been together for more than 30 years and he always has my back. He has been my biggest enabler when it comes to my success. It’s worth noting he and I willingly compromised on a lot of things to allow each other to succeed, both individually and as a team.

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

Crypto, principally, is definitely the most incredible and interesting use case for blockchain. It is simply astounding, from its potential as an alternative to government-run currency to how enthusiastically the public is experimenting on its possibilities. I, personally, eagerly anticipate the results of these experiments.

However, I am much more passionate about what blockchain can do in the long run as a platform for other interesting innovations, like decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs). DAO is a decentralized ledger technology, like a shared spreadsheet, where there are definitive rules on how you upload information. Removing information is not possible. DAO will be a gamechanger when it is used in governance. We will use blockchain technology in our everyday lives without ever needing to know how the underlying technology works, much like email. Take NFTs, for example, which the public usually perceives as a way of collecting art. NFTs actually serve as a proof of ownership. The technology allows for provable ownership, which can be traded on a peer-to-peer level — from gift cards, to care and home leases, airplane tickets, voting, etc. — with participatory governance and macroeconomic layers embedded into these assets.

On that note, the third thing I’m excited about is on the economic side. Crypto and blockchain will allow us to earn passive income by being a contributor to a fully decentralized ecosystem. Because it is operated by different contributing players, we can use the currency to trade securely and allow users to maintain freedom from surveillance.

Notably, blockchain is not the future anymore. It is the here and now.

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

Like most tools and technologies, blockchain and cryptocurrency are not perfect. The volatility of the market is always a concern. However, with our experience weathering through these winters before and successfully overcoming them, Horizen Labs is ready to ride this wave securely.

What worries me most are the two major barriers to mass adoption. The first is the mainstream’s poor understanding of blockchain’s benefits. Second, a few clunky technologies cannot fully deliver on the promise of blockchain. It requires great expertise, experience and a whole lot of brain power to come to fruition.

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

Despite being a relatively new entity, we already have Horizen stories about bringing goodness to the world. For example, we have been consulting with some governments about improving voting infrastructure, bringing blockchain technology to a place that allows more participatory democratic involvement.

Personally, I am a part of an entrepreneurship program in Nigeria where blockchain is one of the technologies we are bringing forward. I believe there’s a unique opportunity in developing countries to skip today’s chapter of mobile banking systems and instead go directly to peer-to-peer lending. This will cut out financial institutions as middlemen. The pages are already turning in some Asian countries, like the Philippines and Vietnam. I believe Africa, in particular, is ripe for not only adopting the technology but also making it an engine to drive economic and social movements.

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

There aren’t a lot of women in this space, which means there is a lot of opportunity for people to remember you. You can get invited to a plethora of conferences because they are always looking to diversify panels. Although it sounds a little cynical, I do believe it is a valuable opportunity for exposure. We, as women, can seize that opportunity and use it to our advantage.

Second, in my experience, the tech community is very open-minded. I have found being the only woman in the room has been helpful in fostering meaningful discussions. We can use that position to raise awareness on the topics and causes we are most passionate about. By doing so, you will be more motivated to show up, participate and even lead.

Third, do not be afraid to take a space and own it. In our industry, gender does really not hold much relevance even if women are the minority. Your drive, creativity and other abilities are far more pertinent.

Fourth, you must know that being a female in this industry is not a hindrance and you are not alone. Particularly, for Horizen Labs, we are a very diverse organization in terms of gender, geography and race. For example, in operations, legal, finance and in talent, most of my team members are female. I am fortunate to be surrounded by very strong women on our team, including our Chief Product Officer, Rosario Pabst. I find it very empowering to work in such an open organization.

Fifth, and finally, I recommend taking advantage of networking opportunities. There are a multitude of groups aimed at helping women in the industry support each other. It’s also important to get involved in groups that are niche to your interest, even those not specifically having to do with gender. I am a proud member of Facebook Israel’s SheShe program, where I have taken on the mentorship of an aspiring female career professional and the experience has been truly humbling.

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

There seems to be a psychological barrier for women in technology. For some reason, more men are attracted to deep tech projects than women. I believe this is a deeply rooted problem that starts all the way down to basic education. Female students should be supported and encouraged to undertake STEM studies.

Beyond that, there are many roles in a tech company that do not directly relate to technology. From a business function perspective, it does not matter what kind of company you work for. All that matters is that you understand and are supportive of the vision of the company, you believe in the technology and you are skilled within your function (marketing, operations, legal, finance, human resources, etc.). By embarking on this functional path, I believe more women will find their way into technology

The good thing is, at Horizen Labs, we are dedicated to our vision of creating more use cases for blockchain technology. We are intent on making it more accessible for a broader type of user. If you are interested in the next phase of the internet and you want to be part of that movement, then there are a lot of opportunities for females — whether you are already in deep tech or not.

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

Whenever I am asked this question, two always come to mind. The first one is from my son’s swim practice. I don’t remember who said this because this is often attributed to multiple people but it goes like this: “The more I practice, the luckier I get.”

The second one is by Gay Hendricks from The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level: “In my life I’ve discovered that if I cling to the notion that something’s not possible, I’m arguing in favor of limitation. And if I argue for my limitations, I get to keep them.”

This second quote has touched my life a few times and, in particular, I believe it touches many women. There is this ‘imposter syndrome’ thesis, which I have experienced throughout my life and especially in my career. It is this idea that you don’t believe enough in yourself and think someone must have made a mistake in giving you opportunities. Research shows it is prevalent in talented, educated women. I also have met men who fall into the same kind of limitation trap. So, really, it can affect anyone.

For a story of imposter syndrome at play, let’s not stray far. I will use my experience in getting into Horizen Labs as an example. In the beginning, I was flustered by the idea of joining a very tech-savvy company while my knowledge in blockchain is very limited. It didn’t matter how much I read or studied. There was still this barrier to entry I just couldn’t cross. Later, I realized it was a limiting factor I imposed on myself when I barely even had time to acquaint myself with this industry.

I started shifting my frame of mind and told myself, “Yes, I might not become a deep, deep tech cryptographer but I understand enough of the technology to know how it actually works. I am capable of explaining this to other groups of people.”

Low and behold, I do often explain the technology when I speak publicly. Every time I get up on stage, I cannot help but think to myself, “Wow, I have challenged those limitations at least one more time!”

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’ve had the privilege of running an entrepreneurship program, instilling venture creation and putting it to practice by coming up with ideas and validating them. We helped young entrepreneurs determine whether an idea had the potential to launch a startup or if they needed to be shelved, reimagined or completely eliminated. Instilling that mindset has been the most important contribution I gave through this entrepreneurship program.

Through that program, and in many other experiences I’ve had, there has been an educational element I find attractive, such as volunteer work with the Middle East Entrepreneurs of Tomorrow involving Palestinian and Israeli youth, a project in Nigeria I am working with with the Israeli embassy there. I’ve also worked with Israel’s leading medical hospital, other research institutes and high school programs abroad. Every time I have the opportunity to teach those building blocks of education, I feel I am giving people tools to think about ideas and how to bring those ideas to fruition. To me, entrepreneurship is a way to bring about innovation and a better world.

I may not be creative enough to come up with the ideas myself. However, I am grateful I am blessed with the ability to share the knowledge of how to build those ideas thoughtfully and with rigorous process. I can keep doing that and maybe I can find the magic kernel of doing it specifically for an intended goal.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can reach out to me on Twitter or LinkedIn @liataaronson and also follow @horizenglobal on Twitter or join our Discord community.

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

Thank you very much. I greatly appreciate it.


Wisdom From The Women Leading The Blockchain Revolution With Liat Aaronson of Horizen Labs was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Jonathan Garber of The Seneca: 5 Things You Should Do To Optimize Your Wellness After Retirement

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Nobody can change their past. Try to let go of it and find joy in your present.

As a part of my series about the “5 Things You Should Do to Optimize Your Wellness After Retirement” I had the pleasure of interviewing Jonathan Garber, Executive Director of The Seneca, in Rockville, Maryland

Jonathan Garber is Executive Director of The Seneca, a Silverstone/Watermark community in Rockville, Maryland. A mission-driven senior living executive with more than 25 years of progressive leadership, management, and development experience, Jonathan previously served in executive roles at Heritage Senior.

Living, Discovery Senior Living, Ascension Health and Erickson Senior Living. In his role as Executive Director, Jonathan has successfully created a resident-centered, team-oriented approach to operations.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

Mine was not a very traditional start into the senior living industry. In the first half of my career, I was a hospital CEO running a group of hospitals in the Washington, D.C., area. Through a partnership with another health system, we began working with new senior living and skilled nursing communities, where we were providing physician services and Part B services. I was able to meet people at one of the now major senior living providers, Sunrise Senior Living, who convinced me I’d do really well in their industry. So I made the decision and changed careers. I took over a senior community 62 miles from my home that offered assisted living, independent living and memory care services. I went from running hospitals to helping pass out medications, running the dishwasher, you know, whatever was needed to support the team. But I found my love and my niche. And I’ve been very fortunate to have had the chance to grow to where I am now in this industry, developing and opening several senior living communities. I absolutely love what I do and can’t wait to see what my future holds.

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

Throughout my career I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know many interesting residents. But one stands out in particular. He was one of the brightest people I ever met, a doctor of physics who worked with Einstein and Oppenheimer on the Manhattan Project. He had early and advancing Alzheimer’s and dementia, and he knew it, he knew exactly what was happening to him. As I got to know him, I noticed he would always be rubbing his hands. One day my curiosity got the better of me and I asked him why he did that. He replied, “Every day I wipe the blood off my hands from my role in developing the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs.” That’s always stuck with me.

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

When I was still a hospital CEO, I opened a hospital in Bakersfield, California. My team and I thought it would be educational and enlightening to have key leaders, like the city’s mayor at the time, spend a night in the building shortly before we opened it for patients. We even had a live TV news crew on site. Well, we did not fully anticipate how negative the experience would be for our participants, even though we tried to create a “sleepover” environment. Our antics made us look quite foolish and we learned to leave the sleepovers to children. Needless to say, it was a funny lesson learned and people kidded me about it for months after it occurred.

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?

Early in my career, when I was still in the hospital industry, I did a fellowship in hospital administration at a hospital in South Florida. And Dr. Brian Kaye, our System Chief Operating Office, became a mentor for me. Throughout much of my early career, he was my guide, mentor and, overall, a steady shoulder to lean on. To this day I admire him and feel very fortunate to have known him. The kindness he showed me is a major reason why I always do my best to help people who are just starting their careers.

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

First, be a good planner. Don’t be caught trying to make quick decisions. Always plan ahead and anticipate obstacles. But most importantly, to be successful in this career, always remember the reason that we are all in senior living, which is to take care of our residents, their families and our associates. If you put their needs first, you’ll always be successful. However, don’t forget to take breaks. Senior living community operations are a seven-day-a-week, 24-hour, 365-day-a-year kind of business. People will always be reaching out to you, but be careful not to overextend yourself.

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

Hire from the heart. Hire people who, at the end of a long work day, you’d still want to be around — people who share similar key values as you. However, I’m not saying you should only hire clones. Make sure those you hire will challenge you to grow professionally and be comfortable with the challenge.

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

In my opinion, a major reason for health deterioration post-retirement is not staying engaged and becoming stagnant. We saw that often during the pandemic, when people had to become more isolated.

Another reason is not eating healthy, balanced meals. That’s why I take extra care to always have a range of fresh and nutritious meal options at The Seneca, the community I direct.

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

  • Staying engaged.
  • There are studies that show people who are isolated and alone have shorter lifespans than those who regularly engage with others. It doesn’t mean that you’re an extrovert or an introvert; just try to be around other people so you’re not alone.
  • Pursuing passions.
  • I encourage residents to find social activities they are really passionate about, whether it’s volunteering, teaching, playing golf, anything that can keep them engaged, active and happy. For example, many of my residents enjoy playing pickleball, a low-intensity sport that keeps them active and social.
  • Eating well.
  • After retirement, it becomes very easy to not eat nutritional foods regularly. Ordering takeout or just eating whatever’s around takes the least amount of effort. Taking the time to cook a healthy meal or choose healthy foods during restaurant outings with friends and family can go a long way in helping you retain your health, physically and mentally.
  • Letting go of the past.
  • Nobody can change their past. Try to let go of it and find joy in your present.
  • Making new connections.
  • This is related to my points about staying engaged and pursuing passions. While you’re enjoying the social activity of your choice, don’t be afraid to make some friends along the way.

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

I’ve heard many people say they wished someone told them to:

  • Actively try to make peace with their past before retirement. You have a lot of time to think post-retirement and ruminate on past regrets.
  • Plan ahead for retirement. Have a thorough and solid financial plan well before retiring so you don’t outlive your savings.
  • Connect with family before retiring. Let your family be involved with your life. They care about you and want to be there for you. Let them help you.

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

“In Search of Excellence” by Tom Peters contains lessons that have stuck with me for years, one being “a bias for action.” What I understood from this lesson is to never spend too much time thinking about a decision before making it. Yes, preparing for consequences is important, but oftentimes we spend so long hesitating and eventually talking ourselves out of making decisions, which makes us lose opportunities. This lesson has encouraged me to always take action, even to this day.

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 would start a movement centered around fostering community, kindness and civility. I don’t know if it’s a result of the pandemic, but these days I’ve noticed people are being less civil and understanding toward each other. I would like my movement to inspire people to lead with empathy and gentleness when interacting with their neighbors.

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

A quote that I’ve had close to my heart since my high school wrestling days is, “It’s all a state of mind.” Basically, if you think you can do something, then you will. It helped me conquer the uncertainty of switching career paths years ago and has helped form who I am today.

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

Definitely David Letterman, because I love the way his mind works. I would love to have a meal with him where I can just listen to his stories.

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

LinkedIn is the best social media platform they can use to engage with me. Here’s my profile URL: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jonathan-garber-439b8615.

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


Jonathan Garber of The Seneca: 5 Things You Should Do To Optimize Your Wellness After Retirement 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: Mathew Georghiou Of MediaSpark On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality…

Makers of The Metaverse: Mathew Georghiou Of MediaSpark On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Be motivated to continually learn new things on your own.

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 Mathew Georghiou.

Mathew is a leading expert in the design of educational games and simulations and his creations have reached millions of people around the world through thousands of schools, nonprofits, government agencies, and Fortune 500 companies.

Mathew is also an engineer, inventor, designer, writer, and entrepreneur. Mathew has founded and operates businesses in educational technology, toys, social media news and advertising, and metal art and signage.

Learn more at Georghiou.com.

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

I’m originally from Greek Cyprus. My family moved to Canada when I was very young. I earned academic and athletic scholarships to go to university where I studied engineering and math. I started my career at IBM and soon after resigned to start my own business when I was 26 years old.

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

I grew up in the 1970s and 1980s when video games and computers first started entering homes. I was an early adopter and spent a lot of time playing games like Atari, ColecoVision, and Intellivision and then started programming with a Vic 20 and Commodore 64. I programmed my first game around the age of 12 using Basic.

This early experience in gaming and tech shaped my future more than anything.

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

I really disliked school. Academically I did well, but I found it to be boring and uninspiring. When I entered college and had more flexibility, I treated the academics like a game.

I avoided the unnecessary “grind” of attending classes by skipping everything that wasn’t mandatory and instead learned on my own. My feeling was that I didn’t need to attend a class to have my professor read my textbook to me. Some of my instructors thought I skipped classes because I was lazy, but I was really just gaming the system.

Sadly, this old-school academic experience continues today, despite the amazing technology and resources available.

I’m inspired to change it.

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

I twice had publicly-traded companies plan to acquire my business, but both went bankrupt before the deals closed.

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 visited an investor to pitch them on my business and while I was plugging in my computer, I ripped the socket out of the wall and tripped the power in the office. Awkward 🙂

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?

After the dot com crash of 2001, and the unexpected bankruptcy of the companies that were going to acquire us, our business was in financial trouble and barely hanging on. We had over $1 million in debt, no assets, and very little revenue coming in. I had also accumulated over $125,000 in credit card debt that I used to pay my employees.

I had made arrangements with all of our creditors to give us time to repay our debts, but when months turned into years, some became impatient and they started to squeeze me. One creditor called me in for a face-to-face meeting and I was mentally preparing for them to squeeze me too.

To my surprise and relief, they offered to invest more money in my business. That investment was a turning point for us.

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

Yes, we are always creating new products. The newest and most exciting is businessXP — the world’s first and only fully game based experiential training for anyone who wants to start a career in business, level up their career, or start their own business.

businessXP is a faster, more effective, and more affordable alternative to business school.

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?

They each have their strengths.

(1) Virtual Reality (VR) is amazing because you can create any environment you can dream of and participants can be physically and emotionally engaged in the experience. In the context of education, you can train in environments that may be too dangerous, costly, or inaccessible in the real world. You can role-play realistic experiences. You can be a cell travelling through the human body. Psychologists can help patients overcome trauma. People with physical challenges can achieve a greater sense of freedom. The possibilities are endless.

(2) The tactile capabilities of VR are intriguing. Doctors can practice surgery to perfect the fine-motor skills of their hands. You can “hold” virtual organs to learn how the human body functions. You can physically assemble a piece of equipment. You can shake hands or hug friends located across the world. Soon, you may even be able to sense textures and temperature.

(3) Augmented and Mixed Reality (AR & MR) are amazing because you can overlay virtual objects onto the real world. The ability to be guided and take action in real time in a way that directly affects the real world has incredible potential. Mechanics can be guided to repair complex equipment with visual cues. First responders can be warned of dangers in real time. People with cognitive challenges can be guided to cook a meal or find their way home.

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) In the context of learning and education, the biggest challenge is the same one I have experienced for 20 years — overcoming the status quo to convince educators and administrators to adopt new methods of learning. There are going to be a lot of poorly designed experiences while the technologies mature and these negative experiences will slow down adoption.

To address this concern, designers need to choose the best technology to achieve their instructional goals. I have created a template to help with this — 
Comparison of Web App, Virtual Reality (VR), and Augmented & Mixed Reality (AR) for Creating Learning Experiences

(2) I worry about VR headsets and AR/MR-capable devices being the new digital divide. Previously it was access to computers and the Internet — and as that divide diminishes, we now have a new divide emerging with these specialized devices.

To address this concern, the ability to share devices should be considered more deeply. Current VR headsets cannot be worn for long periods of time, which means that sharing becomes a viable option in the short term.

(3) I’m concerned with how the worst of the Internet will carry forward into these new experiences. Fake news, bullying, toxic communications, privacy, security, and all of the challenges the world has already been dealing with unsuccessfully.

To address this concern, further cooperation is needed between technology developers and law makers to strike a proper balance between the need for open and free communication with privacy, security, and mental health.

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

These technologies will enhance career and on-the-job training in all industries.

Early adopters will be industries that have training challenges related to danger, cost, or accessibility.

Broader adoption will see these technologies used to build deeper human relationships at a distance — with coworkers, partners, customers, and shareholders.

Brands will integrate these technologies with non-fungible tokens (NFTs) on the blockchain to provide unique and personalized offers and experiences for their customers.

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

Time, health, and relationships are three of the most important aspects of the human experience.

These technologies will give us more time by automating much of the daily grind in our lives. They will act as “second brains” that allow us to focus our attention on activities that are personally more meaningful to us.

These technologies will give us better health by allowing us to monitor our personal health more closely, helping us prevent, identify, diagnose, and treat health issues. They will help us overcome disabilities and provide better care for those who need it.

These technologies will allow us to expand our tribes and deepen our human relationships by providing more ways to communicate and the ability to have shared experiences at a distance.

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

Myth — playing games is just a guilty pleasure to pass time.

Reality — all games are educational.

Games are the most powerful force in our Earthly universe. The amount of human energy that is invested in playing games is astounding. We can harness that power to accomplish amazing things.

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

There are many career opportunities in this space, so it really depends on the role you want to play, but here are some things that apply widely:

  1. Be highly interested in the work.
  2. Be motivated to continually learn new things on your own.
  3. Be productive and get things done.
  4. Be a problem solver not just a doer.
  5. Communicate clearly and work well with others.

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

I’m a big believer in the power of entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneurship is more than just running a business. Entrepreneurship is a mindset that empowers individuals to take control of their own future and helps them realize personal goals and objectives. It’s about freedom, lifestyle, self-confidence, family, community, and more.

I believe the entrepreneurial mindset is one of the most meaningful gifts we can give to the world.

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

My social mission is to help facilitate entrepreneurship around the world through game-based learning, so I’m happy to connect with anyone who shares this goal.

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


Makers of The Metaverse: Mathew Georghiou Of MediaSpark 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.

Lillee Jena On The Five Ways To Develop More ‘Grit’

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Whenever you feel overwhelmed by something in your life, accept the fact that this is the best thing you can do for the time being, and you’ll face tougher issues when you’re able to deal with them.

As a part of our series called “Grit: The Most Overlooked Ingredient of Success” I had the pleasure of interviewing Lillee Jean.

Lillee Jean is a New York City director, writer, producer, model, actress and cyberbullying advocate, who is known for her web-series’, that include, “Lillee Jean TALKS! Live”, “Voyager” and “Mind Over Beaute”. Currently she is filming her work on a cyberbullying documentary called “Project: Bullyish”, in which she shares her unbelievable experience of being stalked and bullied online for the last five years. Lillee Jean hopes that the film will shed light on the dangers of the internet, as well as tell her own story about what happened to her.

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

As a child, I enjoyed stop-motion photography for my dolls and creating short videos online. As a result, I decided to experiment with videos and blogs, producing makeup tutorials and product reviews for my blog and YouTube channel. When I was a teenager I began to receive online attacks from a group of people marshaled together by one person, who calls them a cult. My privacy has been violated, and I have been attacked with antisemitic hate, slander, defamation and lies, all aimed at hurting me, and with one goal, to prevent me from flourishing online. All of these people come from the beauty community, and after years of being assaulted online non-stop by these people, I decided to leave this toxic, angry community permanently. It had become difficult for me to conduct business because of the defamation, which adversely affected my business relationships. Since my mindset has changed, I will never represent or interact with such a hateful group of people again. My emotional and physical well-being improved after changing gears. With my new focus on advocacy and filmmaking, I’m sharing my passions with the world in a more creative and productive way. Currently, I’m filming a documentary called Project: Bullyish about my experiences (and what continues to happen to me), and we have several commitments starting in the Fall of 2023 to show our film at several film festivals. My resilience and grit have helped me become who I am, creating both informative and entertaining shows, which make me happy, and I hope share a positive message to the world. I’m currently airing two series, “Mind Over Beatue” which explores what will make you happy, etc., in your life, and “Voyager”, a series about wonderful places to visit in New York. It really takes inner strength to get to new beginnings in your life.

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

When it comes to having grit and achieving success in your life, you have to be determined to do what you love, regardless of how hard the road may be. It has been an emotionally draining experience to deal with cyberbullying on so many levels. The cruel game that has been played out has reached a level that I never imagined could be crossed when it became stalking, both online and in person. I have really had to dig inside of myself, and asked myself at times is this worth it? Is this a journey I’m willing to take? Introspectively, I have asked myself these questions over the years, and my answer now would differ from what I would have said years ago. This path has caused me to do things differently, and it has caused me to dig deep within and find my resilience, grit, and inner strength. My hope is that through my story, that I will tell, over and over until changes are made in the law, other people will not suffer at the hands of people so callous that their delusional fantasies and guilty pleasures of being someone else anonymously online made them feel better about themselves.

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

I am someone that does not believe that anyone has the right to tell me that I cannot do something. This is not in my genetic makeup, and I will never allow somebody else to dictate my life. Things have at times been unbearable for me, but I will make my way in the world, and nobody will tell me that I need to move because they deemed it so. I was born with this drive within me, and nobody will ever take that from me.

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

The power of determination fuels me every day. Regardless of whether I succeed or fail, I will always do what makes me happy. It’s really that simple. I have made myself who I am through sheer determination, keeping my wits about me, and knowing who I am.

Based on your experience, can you share your “5 Things You Need To Know To Develop More Grit”?

1. Never allow anyone to tell you that you cannot do something;

2. Stick to your guns, and keep on doing what makes you happy;

3. Tune out anyone negative around you that attempts to sabotage your dreams;

4. Create a peaceful environment for yourself;

5. Whenever you feel overwhelmed by something in your life, accept the fact that this is the best thing you can do for the time being, and you’ll face tougher issues when you’re able to deal with them.

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

My parents have provided me with guidance and support throughout the years. I’m grateful for the friends who have always been there for me, both when I was at my lowest and when I was at my happiest. People should surround themselves with positive people who care about them and will support their future vision.

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

Through my advocacy, I hope to assist people in any issues they may face similar to the adversity I have faced in my lifetime. The only thing I can do is keep spreading positivity and offering support to others who may need it as much as I once did.

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

At the moment, I am working on three different projects at the same time. Currently, I am filming my new web-series, each of which explores a different theme. It is very important to me to finish the documentary I am working on. It is my goal to ensure that no one goes through what I have without support and information again. I seek to make a difference in the world in my lifetime. The world needs purpose, passion, and teachable moments.

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

Listen to what your employees want, as these are things you can accomplish for them. You need to stay on top of how things are changing in the world and how it affects your employees. Our world has changed since the pandemic, and it is crucial to realize that people have changed in many ways for the better.

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 only thing I want is for the world to be kinder to each other. When people speak to others, they need to pause and consider how they will make others feel. At the end of the day, I hope we all make a positive impact on each other.

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

The best advice I ever received was “don’t sweat the small stuff,” which is so true. The best thing you can do is to lay back and allow things to happen, and not micro-manage everything.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

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

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCGQF-GZ2oWfgb1NN3QtJJlA (Lillee Jean)

Websites: https://www.lilleejean.com and https://www.lilleejeanbeauty.com

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RealLilleeJean

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/LilleeJean

Digital Art: https://www.deviantart.com/lilleejean

Giphy: https://giphy.com/lilleejean

Tenor: https://tenor.com/official/lilleejean

IMDB: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm10479689/

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


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

Making Something From Nothing: Ian Chen Of Discotech On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Don’t do everything yourself. The first few years of Discotech, the Co-Founders were doing everything, including super low value work like customer service and guerilla marketing on the streets. While there is something to be said about being cost efficient and scrappy, we were probably too scrappy for too long. It is important to offload lower value work so that the leaders can be focused on bigger picture items that can really impact or transform the business.

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

Ian Chen is the Co-Founder and CEO of Discotech, the OpenTable for Nightlife and Music Festivals. Ian began the journey to create Discotech in 2013 with his two co-founders, Mark Wu and Ian Bushong, who he met while attending the University of California Berkeley.

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 and raised in Potomac, Maryland to two Taiwanese immigrant parents. The immigrant mentality rubbed off on me as my parents strongly emphasized the importance of education and being scrappy. After graduating high school, I attended the University of California Berkeley, where I studied Business Administration as well as Industrial Engineering. From there, I began my professional career as a management consultant at Bain & Company out of their San Francisco office. After two years at Bain, I moved to Los Angeles to join a Private Equity Firm called The Gores Group. After my time at Gores, I started Discotech with some of my friends that I met during my time at UC Berkeley.

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

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”.

It was during my time working at The Gores Group in LA that the idea for Discotech manifested itself. While frequenting night clubs in my spare time after grinding it out at work, I realized that it was extremely inefficient and burdensome to have to go through club promoters, these human middle men, in order to get reservations at nightlife venues. At the time, there were no apps or websites out there that made it easier for people to search events, get pricing, or make reservations at clubs in different cities. Discotech was ultimately born to solve my own problems as a customer. Hence, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

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 movie Gattaca has been a source of inspiration for me. Despite being fictional, the movie motivates me to dig deeper inside myself when times are tough or when I think I hit a brick wall. The main character Vincent Freeman shows how powerful discipline and perseverance can be, even when the cards may be stacked against you. There is a scene near the end of the movie where Vincent tells his genetically enhanced brother how he was able to beat him in a swimming contest, and it is probably my favorite quote in any movie — “This is how I did it: I never saved anything for the swim back.” While I can’t say that the cards have been unfairly stacked against me in life, I have used this quote for motivation to power through many of my own setbacks, including having to deal with the pandemic while being in a nightlife/live events business.

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

The first step in building a business is in many ways the hardest. I think a big part of this is tied to the risk of failure and the opportunity cost associated with “going all in”. To this, I would say that a good way to mitigate this is to dip your toes in and test the waters before quitting your day job. Discotech was started as a side project while my Co-Founders and I kept our full-time jobs. We each carved out some time on the side to push the idea along and to validate our idea. Once we started to show a little traction, it gave us the conviction that we needed to quit our jobs and go full time on the company.

The other biggest challenge with starting a company I believe is building the right team. Running a company is hard to do by yourself. Are you able to find people in your network who have complementary or supplementary skill sets to help you kickstart the business? You don’t have to shoulder all of the responsibilities yourself and executing on an idea may become a lot more feasible and manageable if you have someone you trust working alongside you. If you don’t have people in your network that could be good partners/co-founders, then you may need to expand your network!

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?

I think in this day and age, it is very quick and easy to see if there are already strong players in your vertical. A quick Google or Amazon search should give you an idea of what the market landscape looks like. Even if you do find a competitor or competitors working on the same idea, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. For one, it validates that the idea may be worth doing. Secondly, you need to ask yourself if any of the players have a dominant position in the market already. If it is a large market and there are players with very little market share, then it is still very much possible for you to compete and have a successful outcome. Most good business ideas have numerous competitors in the field, and very few businesses are “winner takes all.” You have to define what success means for you, if it is having financial independence and personal freedom, you can definitely accomplish that without being the number one or two player in your market.

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.

Here are the steps that we took:

  • Develop a pitch deck which outlines the vision as well as the business model (how we plan to make revenue and profit).
  • Use the vision/deck to recruit Co-Founders. In Discotech’s case, it was critical that we found someone who could help us design and build out our product. (Find software developers).
  • Develop a low cost / minimally viable wireframe (demo product).
  • Pitch the demo product to nightlife partners who would become our first customers.
  • Once nightlife partners were sold on our product and gave us confirmation they would use our services once we launched, we quit our full time jobs to pursue Discotech full time.
  • Develop a minimally viable iOS app and launch on the app store. (This took a decent amount of time).
  • Create marketing (social media, online, guerilla) to get the app into customer hands.
  • Use initial traction metrics to raise funding and get the app into the hands of more customers.

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

  1. Think bigger (go after a bigger market) — When we first started Discotech, we were focused on building a mobile app to make it easier for customers to reserve tables at nightclubs. This is a very specific niche with a much smaller total addressable market size compared to where we are today, which is selling tables, tickets, and guest lists to live music events (including nightclubs, concert venues, music festivals, and lounges). Gaining market share in any industry is going to be hard, the bigger the pie the easier it is to scale your revenue. If we had not expanded our addressable market, we probably would not have survived to today.
  2. Start simple — Looking back, we probably could have gotten our product out to market much more quickly and cost effectively if we had built a website before building a mobile app. Websites are generally cheaper to and faster to develop compared to native mobile apps. Furthermore, acquiring customers via the web is generally easier/cheaper as well — it is easier to get a customer to click on a website link compared to getting someone to download an app. Additionally, the earlier you get a website out, the sooner you start developing your SEO which is a great way to acquire customers on the cheap.
  3. Do something with high gross margins / sexy unit economics. One of the challenges of scaling our business is that our industry generally has a standard 10–15% commission for inventory that we sell on behalf of our clients. Having low margins makes it hard to do things like affiliate marketing, because there isn’t much pie to share down the value chain. Many businesses that sell a product or provide a service have gross margins that are multiple times higher, making it a lot easier to scale into profitability.
  4. Don’t do everything yourself. The first few years of Discotech, the Co-Founders were doing everything, including super low value work like customer service and guerilla marketing on the streets. While there is something to be said about being cost efficient and scrappy, we were probably too scrappy for too long. It is important to offload lower value work so that the leaders can be focused on bigger picture items that can really impact or transform the business.
  5. Outsource overseas where possible — We have found incredible employees overseas to handle parts of our business operations such as customer success, data entry, and receivables collections. They work hard, are eager to learn, and cost 70–80% less than hiring domestically. While we would love to create more jobs in America, the reality is that running a business requires you to keep expenses lean wherever possible. Outsourcing more of our work overseas earlier would have also allowed us to perform item #4 much earlier.

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?

  • Do a deep dive of the market and the business model. What are the most important assumptions that you are making and is there a way to validate them before diving into building the product?
  • Find a reliable mentor, someone who has done something similar before or who may have tangential expertise. What are their thoughts and what do they recommend? There are people out there who can save you a ton of effort and heart ache if you can pick their brain.
  • If you are ready to officially start the company, TALK TO A STARTUP LAWYER to get your company set up properly. This will save you and your team a ton of headache, effort, and money down the road — trust me. We tried to “bootstrap” all of our company Founder agreements, board documents, and other legal docs and it ended up biting us in the butt many times over the first few years.

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 can’t speak to the consultant route, but again I do believe that a Founder can benefit a lot from having a mentor, someone who has walked the walk in the past. It really depends on what you have to give up and how much expertise and passion they have for your project. What is the trade off?

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

If you can grow your business profitably without raising money, more power to you and more control to you. I have always heard from people with more expertise than myself that if you don’t need the money, don’t take the money. However, many companies would also have an easier and faster road to scaling their business, and a greater chance to succeed if they are well capitalized. Again, each business is unique and Founders may have different goals or definitions for success.

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

First off, I would not consider myself a successful entrepreneur yet. However, our product Discotech is helping customers save time, money, and have fun. Coming out of the pandemic, this is more important than ever as people start to become social again and heal emotionally. Our product has over 10,000 reviews on the app store and has a 4.9/5 star average rating. We are delighting our customers and helping people let loose and enjoy life a little more, I think that is noble work!

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

Tough question, but I think the two of the most important issues facing our current generation and future generations are surrounding climate change, and the impact of social media. Both governments and individuals need to be more motivated to do their part in curbing climate change, or investing in new technologies or scientific approaches to reverse it. I also believe that social media is a huge epidemic in modern times and its negative effects have blindsided human society. More research and oversight/restrictions are necessary to prevent massive amounts of mental health issues for future generations to come.

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.

Despite all the crazy personal drama surrounding him, I would still have to go with Elon Musk. He is just such an inspiration and once in a generational entrepreneur / leader in innovation.

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


Making Something From Nothing: Ian Chen Of Discotech 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: Noah Kim Of NewKino On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

The best words of advice I’ve ever received is to take risks and say “yes.” No progress ever came out of holding back.

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

Noah Kim is a director and 3D Generalist. Kim co-founded NewKino and Luna Market and directs narrative films and commercials. Kim’s work has been featured on Insider, Input, and Hypebeast.

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

I always loved world building, ever since I was younger. In recent years it’s translated into world building for the metaverse, and I’m so excited to see what those worlds grow into.

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

NewKino started as a production company that was focused on VFX and 3D. In December 2020, the digital artist Beeple kicked off the NFT craze for 3D artists and inspired us to start making NFTs. We started off making NFTs for musicians and artists. In June 2021, we pivoted and decided to start serving brands. We recently worked with Under Armour, Stephen Curry, Berlin Cameron and Luna Market to build the first-ever wearable metaverse sneaker — the Genesis Curry Flow — the project was nothing short of incredible.

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

The funniest mistake might have been that I thought the metaverse would be here by now. I think the metaverse is still being built. It’s in its early infancy and there is still so much to learn. It’s like saying you can learn about the entire universe just by looking through a telescope.

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?

Ewen Cameron at Berlin Cameron has been a great mentor to me. Together we worked on the Genesis Curry Flow project, and I’m super grateful to have been a part of this project creatively.

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?

Oftentimes “disrupting” is a term that could spark fear. Fear of the unknown can be a scary thing for people because they don’t know what things will look like afterwards — what will the world look like after this? But disruptors crave that change because that’s the space that progress lives in. Disrupting might not always look like that, it might sometimes just be chaos for no reason — but our definition of disruption is for the sake of change and progress.

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

The best words of advice I’ve ever received is to take risks and say “yes.” No progress ever came out of holding back.

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

Currently, I’m working on tapping into the gaming industry. The gaming world and the metaverse haven’t always existed synergistically so this is a new and exciting experience for NewKino to be merging the gaming world with the world of NFT creation.

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?

On the School of Motion podcast, I learned a lot from the episode where Beeple was a featured guest. It had me thinking a lot about what digital ownership meant and how it was going to change everything for the digital artist.

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 have a favorite life lesson quote yet but that’s only because I’m in uncharted territory with bringing metaverse art to mainstream brands. When a quote inspires me, I’ll be sure to let you know!

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 want everyone to own their art and their work. A movement that I would absolutely get behind would be a movement that supports the idea that artists deserve credit for the worlds they bring to life. Creativity should always be celebrated.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can learn more about us on our website: www.newkino.studio and check out our Instagram @newkinostudio.

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


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

Meet The Disruptors: Shyne Webster Of Designed by Shyne On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up…

Meet The Disruptors: Shyne Webster Of Designed by Shyne On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Be true to yourself — it sounds cliche, but the more authentic you really are, the more aligned opportunities will come your way. Some of the best opportunities in my career have come naturally.

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

Shyne Webster is a brand strategist, designer, Adobe Express Ambassador, and the founder of Designed by Shyne, among other hats she may wear. She started her first business at 17 years old and founded her studio a year later; today, at 20, she’s helped nearly one hundred brands grow. Shyne is a leader for fellow rebels and disruptors, blazing her own “bright orange trail” through the industry with her anti-hustle, human-first approach to brand building.

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 I first started Designed by Shyne, I was selling t-shirts and stickers with my art on them to my local friends and family. However, I had no intention of it being my career path or lifelong business. About a year after DBS began, I pivoted into freelance graphic design. I learned “on the job,” and realized my passion was for helping people embrace their creativity and express themselves to connect with their communities, which is what led me deeper into branding and the strategic side that I specialize in now.

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

The work I’m leading at Designed by Shyne is disruptive in a number of ways. One, I wasn’t formally educated or trained in branding, so the entire process and framework I use with my clients is original to me — it’s not derived from what some business expert says you should do; it’s derived from what I’ve seen to be true, what works for my brain, and what I’ve proven through past client work. I’m leading by example and shaking things up in the creative and marketing industries by showing the next generation of entrepreneurs and thought leaders that they don’t have to build businesses like anyone else. I want people to know [and I teach them] that you can do things your own way and still be highly successful. The way I build brands has been extremely effective without having to copy someone else’s method.

My brand building approach is human-first, not business- or profit- first, meaning I keep it simple and personal– your brand is a bridge from your soul and philosophy from your ideal client’s. Beyond that, we don’t just build brands that look good; we build cultures, communities, and movements. My work is all about building brands people can believe in and live out daily; so I’m not afraid to ignore traditional marketing metrics and focus on how people feel instead.

My human-first approach goes back to how I operate my business as well. I don’t use manipulative marketing tactics to sell, I pay everyone on my team fairly (even my interns), and I make sure my team members feel heard and encouraged to bring their whole, authentic selves to the workplace. This summer, I started paying my team a bonus for spending time outside every day because wellness is so important to me. That’s disruptive, in my opinion, to believe in your values so much that you live them out in every single way, not just with your clients.

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

Oh my gosh, this is kind of embarrassing, but I’ll share it because it’s solved now…When I was first starting out, I didn’t understand sales tax; so I didn’t collect any sales tax on any products, and then I ended up owing money to the state. I paid it off and got legally legitimate, but who can blame me? I was a high school kid back then! From that, I’ve learned to do my research and become more financially literate as a business owner.

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 had some amazing mentors from various areas of my life, but a couple I’d like to shout out are Chris Wright, Isabella Silverio, Sara McCabe, and Dexter Washington Jr. They’ve mentored me as a creative, business owner, and human in different ways; but the biggest thing I’d like to emphasize is that all of my mentors have helped me be a better, more authentic version of myself. They encourage me to do my best, to figure things out my way, and grow without imitating anyone else’s path.

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?

This is a great question — a lot of people want to be “disruptors” because it’s trendy, or a buzzword, but if you don’t understand a system, you shouldn’t (or can’t, really) disrupt it. I think disrupting an industry isn’t so positive when you rush into it without considering carefully the ramifications of your disruption. For example, in most science fiction movies, when scientists create artificial intelligence; that’s a great disruption in the moment, but eventually it causes a ton of other problems. I would say, if you’re truly passionate about changing a system, you should understand how it works, what doesn’t work, and what could go wrong before trying to alter it.

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. Ask for help — nothing good in business happens alone, so don’t be afraid to collaborate or ask your support system to help you when you need it. Good leaders know when to bring other people into the vision.
  2. Be true to yourself — it sounds cliche, but the more authentic you really are, the more aligned opportunities will come your way. Some of the best opportunities in my career have come naturally.
  3. Care less what people think — nobody else’s opinion matters. Your journey is your own, and nobody can critique that, especially people who have never done what you want to do in life.
  4. Be less cerebral — by this I mean “get out of your head.” It’s easy to overthink when you have a lot of responsibilities, but sometimes you just need to get back into your body and ground yourself through exercise, fun times with loved ones, or rest.
  5. Always be learning — no matter what you’ve accomplished or how much you know, there’s always something to learn. A humble heart and open mind will take you further than you “expertise” ever could.

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

I’m just getting started! I’m shaking up the way brands and communities are built by focusing on collective contribution and co-creation, as opposed to “building a cult following.” I can’t reveal too much (otherwise it wouldn’t be very disruptive), but I’m working with some really visionary brands in the web3/crypto/NFT space that are going to change culture.

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?

Garden City by John Mark Comer has deeply impacted how I think about work, rest, and “the art of being human.” By reexamining my relationship with work, especially as an entrepreneur, I’ve been able to build a business that fits my life, not the other way around. A lot of people in the startup and tech spaces are overworked and constantly burnt out, and I realized I don’t want to go down that path with Designed by Shyne.

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

One quote that sticks with me comes from C.S. Lewis, “It is not your business to succeed, but to do right. When you have done so the rest lies with God.” I believe the reason my business has been so successful is because my focus has been to love people and genuinely serve them. Only by keeping a pure heart with pure motives and being a faithful servant have I been able to get this far in my career so quickly.

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 actually just begun this movement called “Slow Girl Summer,” or #slowgirlsummer. It’s an anti-hustle, anti-hurry cultural shift from toxic hustle culture and a cure to burnout. Through this movement, my goal is to show people that they can thrive professionally without sacrificing their personal wellbeing. I don’t want people to choose profit over peace when they can have both!

How can our readers follow you online?

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

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


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

Making Something From Nothing: Alina Villasante of ‘Peace Love World’ On How To Go From Idea To…

Making Something From Nothing: Alina Villasante of ‘Peace Love World’ On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

The day you make a decision to start a business, you decide to take people’s livelihood into your hands — Everybody on your payroll depends on you to pay bills and put food on the table for their family. The responsibility goes beyond your needs but also the people around you that help you build a business.

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

Alina Villasante is the founder and designer of her lifestyle brand and an advocate for loving and inspiring others to be the best. The Peace Love World brand was born in 2009 out of an energetic soul’s love of fashion. Born in Cuba, raised in New York and based in Miami, Alina found her purpose in the world of fashion after 17 years in the aviation business. While building what the Business Journal called the “world’s number one repair station,” Alina traveled the world and recognized that everyone was hungry for the same thing: peace, love, and happiness. She decided that her mission was to find a window to the world where she could inspire people not only to feel loved but to love others.During the High Standard Aviation sales process, Alina found her voice of positive energy and affirmations and used the clothing as her canvas to spread her message. The movement quickly spread to major retailers along with 2,000 boutiques around the world. It has been endorsed by celebrities such as Pharrell, Coca Cola, Oprah Winfrey, Jennifer Lopez, and the Kardashians. The popularity that the brand was gaining led it to the QVC platform.The opportunity filled in a blank that her client was looking for and an opportunity to touch millions with the brand message.Peace Love World is Alina’s destiny and through life’s many obstacles, she stands through her mission and purpose — always keeping the light on even in the dark. Today, Alina and her daughter are the hearts behind the brand who work together daily to build an empire. “I feel so blessed not only to take this journey with my daughter, but to know that not only will I leave my legacy to her … but she will step into my shoes and keep my energy alive.”

Peace Love World is a luxury lifestyle brand that embodies fashion with meaning founded and designed by Hispanic female entrepreneur Alina Villasante. Launched in 2009, Peace Love World has grown into a global brand with celebrity fans including Jennifer Lopez and Kris Jenner. Known for comfortable and flattening styles, every garment is branded with positive affirmations and infused with love in the form of eight embroidered red dash-marks, one dash for every letter in the word “love” and the word “amor.”

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 Havana, Cuba at the height of Fidel Castro’s communist regime. It was a dark time in Cuba’s history. I was the youngest of three kids back then (soon to be five), and the baby daughter. But we had a good life. We had a beautiful home and my parents had great jobs that they worked so hard at to support us. At 8 months old, when my parents decided they couldn’t stay for the safety of their children. My dad left first, to go live with my grandparents, (his in-laws ) look for work, and get a visa waiver for me, since I was born only a few days after the American embassy left Cuba permanently. A few weeks later, we landed in Queens, New York and I lived there until I was 12, until my dad got a job in Atlanta. I did middle school and high school there and 4 days after my high school graduation I moved to Miami and started my life as I know it today.

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

“Love is not something you look for, love is something you become” is my philosophy in life. I believe that if you want to be something, become it and then you will attract it rather than going out and looking for it.

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

“Life is beautiful” by Roerto Begnini resonated with me because of all the trials

and tribulations that he went through, and how he overcame them with love, family and imagination. “The mastery of love” by Don Miguel Ruiz is my bible. Both have taught me to lead with love and that life really is beautiful. Love is the one basic human need that everyone longs for, and I want to be remembered as a heart that truly unselfishly loves.

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?

An idea is just an idea until there’s action and execution. It’s about the person behind it bringing it to life with passion and support from their community. It all starts with you and your drive to make it something that people want.

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?

As Michael Kors would say, everything has already been invented even if you think you are the first person to have thought of it. Be the first person to do something with it. It’s about taking that idea and making it yours.

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

The first thing I do is call my attorney to see if the idea has been taken. If it has not, I work with him to secure it, whether it be my patent, trademark or copyright.

Once that has been sorted, I design the product in CAD form to create a visual and in this particular case, look for fabric swatches and type. I also make a mood board and create a sample with a pattern maker and a seamstress.

From there, to find the source, I either call people in the community who have done the same or find a factory through networking or Linkedin that aligns with the product development.

After selecting a factory, I send them my prototype and they create a production sample. Once approved, we go into the development phase.

Then, it’s all in my hands to market and sell through different platforms and channels on retail and wholesale levels.

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

1. There’s no days off — to run a company and to truly be successful you need to be accessible and available to all your customers, clients and vendors. It doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy life and vacation, it just means success becomes your lifestyle. Work, life balance.
2. The day you make a decision to start a business, you decide to take people’s livelihood into your hands — Everybody on your payroll depends on you to pay bills and put food on the table for their family. The responsibility goes beyond your needs but also the people around you that help you build a business.
3. Learn from other people’s mistakes, but know you are going to make your own — As an entrepreneur you go into a business, with the available knowledge and resources you have. Part of the growth and success is failing. I thought I needed a business partner to expand my business, and instead I chose someone that wasn’t aligned with my moral compass and we had to separate at a large cost. What I learned was to keep the dynamic under one umbrella where I can still learn from others but not risk my livelihood along the way.

4. Integrity, loyalty and relationships are number one. You need to make sure that you are always honest and doing things by the book- For example, my relationships of over 30 years with my bankers have always come from this place and it has developed into a trusting relationship that I know they always have my back even in the hard times. Business is all about trust.
5. You have to pay taxes lol — It’s the law and something that unless you are a business owner, you don’t realize what a weight it is on a company and there is no way around 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?

Figure out who the consumer is, share it with your community, analyze the feedback and make sure it’s not taken. Once all of these are well-received, find the resources you need to bring it to lfe.

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

I have tried that route and it hasn’t worked for me. What has worked for me is surrounding myself with people smarter and more experienced than myself. Keeping it all in-house and going for it. If you don’t believe in yourself, then nobody will believe in 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?

Bootstrapping all the way. I believe in bringing in financial help when you’re ready for exponential growth. When the brand has proven itself, it is profitable on its own, and you’ve exhausted all possible resources to take it to the next level.

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

Leading with love and using my platform along with the QVC platform to reach millions with my message. I have aligned myself with philanthropic efforts and giving back which I believe is my responsibility. The Peace Love World movement began to build its community on QVC through the opportunity to be part of major campaigns, such as Giving Tuesday and International Women’s Day. The fact that QVC gives me the opportunity to be the face and the voice of my brand is the most authentic way to spread my message and I plan on building on this partnership for the years to come. I am so proud of our partnership because they have brought my vision to life by producing amazing products and giving me a platform to spread my message to millions of viewers. I hope to continue to build my legacy by inspiring the consumer through my voice, my product, my generosity, my commitment to give back and my future podcast and book titled “Love Made Me Do It.”

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.

Health is wealth. The ability to work out is a gift. I believe in promoting longevity. By taking good care of ourselves, eating right, exercising, drinking supplements, moving your body to release endorphins, in turn makes you feel happier. I believe all will extend your life to be the best version of yourself, not only for yourself but for your loved ones and the people around you. The more we get to know our bodies and educate ourselves with what we need, the better quality of life we can have. Lead by example.

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.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy. He leads by example. I am in awe of his leadership and fearlessness and I know he must have great fear not only for his country but for his family. He took the job of presidency and followed it through in times of trouble. To sit and speak to this man would be a great honor.

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


Making Something From Nothing: Alina Villasante of ‘Peace Love World’ On How To Go From Idea To… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Inventor’s Patent Academy: Sudeepto Roy Of Qualcomm’s Big Idea That Might Change The World

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

“Failures are true friends” — Every setback, however painful, does have a silver lining. A lesson about a method, technique, or preparative steps that did not yield the anticipated result. Build a mindset where you can gamify failures and see the point of learning from the situation that is otherwise defeating. I have often been able to revive former failures under a new set of circumstances, but now with the benefit of experience and knowledge of what to do differently.

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 Sudeepto Roy, inventor, tech executive and co-founder of The Inventor’s Patent Academy.

Sudeepto is presently a Vice President of Engineering at Qualcomm Incorporated in San Diego, CA. Over nearly three decades at Qualcomm, Sudeepto has held many pioneering and strategic roles in engineering development, global customer engineering, product planning, and ecosystem enablement projects with startups, universities, and governments. Outside of work, he volunteers at and serves on the boards of several non-profit organizations related to children’s education; safety from firearms; community cohesiveness; diversity, racial justice, and equitable outcomes; and actionable sustainability initiatives. Sudeepto joined forces with a team of experts in their respective fields, and collaborated with Invent Together to launch an online learning platform, The Inventor’s Patent Academy, or TIPA, aimed at guiding inventors from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds through the benefits of the patent system and the process of turning their breakthroughs into patented inventions.

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?

Right out of graduate school, I was fortunate to join a then-young company in San Diego called Qualcomm, where the startup-borne culture of thinking broadly, thinking collaboratively, thinking innovatively, staying fiscally sound, and having the grit and patience to sustain multi-year research is still celebrated. While there are many interesting stories that shaped my career choices, a peculiar common thread is that I rarely had to apply for or seek out new projects inside Qualcomm — preceding each new career direction inside Qualcomm, project executives starting brand new initiatives would reach out internally, saying “come join us, get our innovations out to a new key customer, or get this project launched in a brand new country, and in the process, build awareness and get our technologies closer to the customer.” The motivation for TIPA started out the same way when Alex Rogers, Qualcomm’s Division President for Technology Licensing and Global Affairs, and Invent Together Executive Director Holly Fechner came away from an expert fireside chat on inventor and patentee diversity in December 2020. After this event, the question Alex asked us was: how can we meaningfully add to the body of work that helps every American inventor fully participate in the US patenting system?

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

Gosh, there are so many intriguing stories that it’d be difficult to highlight the “most interesting one,” but let me tell you a recent one — helping the American Inventor. Earlier in April, I was invited to be part of a Qualcomm team in Washington DC to participate in the USPTO’s National Inventors Hall of Fame exhibit in Alexandria, VA and the induction ceremony for the world’s foremost accomplished inventors. It was a magical evening. Their inventions have literally changed our lives: Voice Over Internet Protocols, laser dermatology, enhancing produce freshness, the sports bra, and so much more. We may be facing challenging times, but seeing the spirit of innovation alive and that we can come together to celebrate the inventors was healing and uplifting. When you are feeling down and uncertain, take a moment to read about an inventor’s life story — their struggles, their brilliant insights, their perseverance, and, ultimately, the impact of their invention on the lives of so many. Their stories are instant, inspirational elixirs!

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

“Give more than you take and help more than you are helped.” — As you look back, it is eye-opening to recount the set of fortunate circumstances underlying your own hard work, talent, and passion that contribute in unison to your successes. The gifts of nourishing family relationships, great education from pre-K through grad school, working at a company of well-meaning and competent individuals, and being able to reside in a generally fair society with access to ample resources from clean food, air, water, world-class health care, and access to cutting-edge technology… Some call them blessings. Others call them privileges. Many take them for granted. Yet, the fact remains that we consume a lot of resources to sustain ourselves through the relatively short period we spend on this planet. I simply ask myself, what can I do in return to leave this place a bit better than I found it? What can I do more to help someone else with my talents or expertise or simply support them emotionally, physically, financially, or educationally to meet success in their own journeys?

Also, it is rare in one’s career to find alignment between personal passions and the jobs your employer actually pays you for. Working on the TIPA course for helping underrepresented inventors, I found a perfect match with my beliefs and life experiences. Around WWII, my grandparents fled as refugees from what would eventually become Bangladesh into India, escaping war and fear of religious persecution. All they had was their education, talent, and desire to work hard in a new country that welcomed them. I grew up and lived first in India and for two-thirds of my life here in the US, in fair, democratic systems that reward meritocracy. What are the blessings that worked well for my forefathers and myself that can be brought to bear on all my brothers and sisters here in the US? How can I help make the many outstanding gifts of the US system that have worked so well for me more accessible to others?

Ok thank you for that. Let’s now move to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about the “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?

You’ve certainly heard the proverb, “give a person a fish and you feed them for a day; teach them to fish instead, and you feed them for a lifetime.” The Big Idea is to democratize access to knowledge, know-how, and resources. The goal behind the Big Idea is to enable the know-how of protecting one’s intellectual property to anyone interested, especially in the areas we are fortunate to operate in, such as advanced communications and computing technologies and advanced business techniques. Using patents to protect intellectual property can present challenges, since patenting can be an arcane area of law and is highly specialized and complex. How can we make this topic accessible and familiar to inventors of all backgrounds, especially those who have not typically been able to benefit from the protections of intellectual property law? This goal was the motivation behind investing time and energy in crafting the TIPA course.

The course was authored by diversity consultant Erin Kelley based in Virginia, Patent Agent and intellectual property rights (IPR) law educator Dr. Bernie Greenspan based in San Diego, Aiko Bethea, executive coach and inclusivity consultant, and several other experts, who collaborated for over a year with Invent Together to develop the patent e-learning course. This free course teaches about patent law through the lens of the inventive and patenting journeys of five inventors of diverse backgrounds. The course discusses the challenges and barriers typically faced by inventors who are underrepresented in our patent system and historically excluded from patent-heavy science and engineering fields, including women, people of color, people who identify as LGBTQIA, people from lower-income communities, veterans, and people with disabilities.

How do you think this will change the world?

A study by the World Bank that I came across showed that every extra year of education contributes to an increase in income. This statistic is an astounding testament to the return on investment of education efforts. In developed economies, the pressure of quickly adopting new technologies and innovations, rapid technological obsolescence, which occurs when technology becomes outdated because more advanced models have been introduced, and global competitiveness make the need for investment in specialized education even more pronounced. Almost every area of human activity has become interdisciplinary. Previously, distinct branches of study and research, such as medicine, engineering, or public policy, now intertwine, giving birth to highly interdisciplinary areas ranging from biomedical engineering to robotics, to the myriad applications of artificial intelligence, the study of complex problems like climate change, or finding new renewable energy sources. Another good example is the patent law field — a patent lawyer essentially has two degrees, one degree in a science or engineering area and a law degree, plus additional training and specialization in patent law. While creating the TIPA course, keeping this multidisciplinary aspect of today’s knowledge systems in mind was paramount to us. In the course, we remind the inventors of their core values that help center their goals and inventing objectives; we help them understand potential challenges and barriers they may face and give them tools to overcome them; we discuss patent law concepts and the way the USPTO patent application and prosecution process works, and also illustrate these concepts through story snippets from five inventors who have experienced each phase of these processes. We hope that access to this knowledge gives an inventor, who is already an expert in their field, additional leverage and motivation to also think about protecting their hard-earned intellectual property and potentially use those rights in a lucrative way.

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?

This is an important question. No idea works or prospers in isolation. As much as we are proud of the TIPA course and are hopeful of its impactful role for inventors of all backgrounds, there are other huge gaps that this course touches upon, but the course’s scope doesn’t allow us to fully explore a solution. For instance, how do we increase the STEM pipeline of women inventors in fields that have an underrepresentation of women, e.g., many engineering disciplines vs. life sciences. Another area that needs to be solved is access to funding for the initial set of patents for which every inventor or startup needs to find money — this is often an insurmountable barrier, especially for startups. Should they use their scarce funding for salaries and product development or for the expense of patenting? Thirdly, how can we strengthen the US patent system so that more inventive subject matters are eligible, and also, once granted, patents are enforceable? So, courses like TIPA are only impactful as part of a suite of interconnected tools that work together to solve the overall problem of underrepresentation in inventive and patenting fields.

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

We had already done courses in other countries in Europe and India to improve understanding of advanced technology research (at startups and universities) and intellectual property rights in those countries. Given the preponderance of excellent IPR courses in our country, here in the US, we didn’t realize or appreciate the urgency of bringing this type of education to underrepresented inventors. Towards the end of 2020, our Division President Alex Rogers participated with Invent Together Executive Director Holly Fechner in a panel discussion on “Promoting Diversity in US Innovation” with then USPTO Director Andrei Iancu and Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, and two professors and leading economists about improving diversity in IP filings and steps that can be taken, particularly for female inventor participation. Also, through the USPTO’s Council for Inclusive Innovation (CI2), there was a call to action to the business community (who are among the most prominent filers of patents) to help improve access to patenting education among inventors. These two were our calls to arms.

The core team, working with Invent Together, planned the TIPA course the following quarter with a very intentional focus on the barriers and challenges faced by underrepresented inventors, secured internal funding, assembled a team of experts both in patent law and diversity, equity, and inclusion, found a great creative agency who could bring the course to life in an online/multimedia format, collaborated very closely with Invent Together, and then set about crafting the course in 2021, beta-tested it in June 2022 and then launched it in July 2022.

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

We need students! We invite inventors who are pursuing undergraduate degrees, are in grad school, researchers at universities or in small/medium enterprises, startups, or government laboratories to take the course. We are looking for all American inventors, especially those who are yet to be fully represented in our patent system. We aim to speak with over 125 organizations that partner with Invent Together, colleges and universities, startups and business incubation organizations, professional societies, and veteran support organizations. This discussion with the Authority Magazine is a great step to help us reach our audience! Spread the word and request folks to check out the TIPA course at https://learn.inventtogether.org

Beyond spreading the word about the course, consider supporting organizations that promote STEM education, inventor, and patenting diversity.

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

“Murphy’s Law — Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” Bad things not only do happen, but they can occur at the worst possible time. The antidote is good planning, and for some critical instances, having not only a backup but the backup of a backup and some degree of tolerance for setbacks. A sad example is the numerous situations that arose during our TIPA course creation effort related to the many cruel blows of COVID on our colleagues and their loved ones.

“Failures are true friends” — Every setback, however painful, does have a silver lining. A lesson about a method, technique, or preparative steps that did not yield the anticipated result. Build a mindset where you can gamify failures and see the point of learning from the situation that is otherwise defeating. I have often been able to revive former failures under a new set of circumstances, but now with the benefit of experience and knowledge of what to do differently.

“Seek out experience. Talk with people. Make networking a habit.” — Often in life, even if you feel that you are on your own unique journey, with your own unique set of circumstances, it turns out that there are others who have walked these paths. They have similar experiences but not the same. Talk with them. Find out what worked, what did not work, and what strategies and preparation they undertook. Throughout writing the TIPA course, we spoke with many experts in the diversity outreach and IP education field and carefully noted their comments, suggestions, and words of caution.

“Things will take longer and cost more than originally planned” — Even the most meticulous and realistic planners underestimate the interconnectedness of events and outcomes. Build into your plan some cushion for both time and money and tolerance for minor setbacks along the way. For instance, we originally planned to launch TIPA on World IP Day (which is April 26th), but it took nearly three more months to allow for more thorough testing, more curation of the video content, and modifications to make sure that the tonality of the course matched that of the target audience.

“Partner and delegate.” — It is way more fun doing projects with multiple talented people. In crafting TIPA, we had colleagues from all over the US work collaboratively over five quarters. We found a way to work together and brought the best out of law experts, diversity experts, policy experts, creative writers, videographers, copy editors, web designers, program managers, and interns! We had intense multi-hour video discussions and vigorous email debates, got upset with each other, and then came to a mutual understanding, and due to COVID, worked almost entirely online. It is only later this month that we will have our first in-person get-together, and I am really looking forward to it.

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

I touched on positivity, friendships, and resilience in speaking about things I wish I knew before I started. One big element of a “success habit” is remembering our childlike curiosity and openness to new experiences — these encompass many traits and habits, such as making or learning a daily habit, holding back on being judgmental, and immersing oneself fully in the task at hand. Having childlike curiosity is a blessing in adult life, not naivete! There’s a lot we can learn from children and a lot we can relate to from when we were once children.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

In my work at Qualcomm I’ve been involved in helping launch deep-technology startups in several countries, including India, Taiwan, and Vietnam. We look for early-stage startups at the pre-series A funding stage and incubate them in annual cycles, offering technology, business, and IPR mentorship. We do this in an equity-free manner, so we never have any ownership of the business, which is really appreciated by the startups. At Qualcomm, we know that deep-technology development takes patience and grit.

Similarly, investing in startups that can use advanced technologies such as 5G, edge-AI, and robotics to solve their own country’s needs and problems can help identify future leaders three, four, or five years in advance. My hope is that The Inventors Patent Academy will help kickstart the interest of all inventors in creating these startups. In order to help give those start-ups a better chance to grow, my request to VCs is to take a slightly longer time horizon, especially for deep-technology startups. If you can help them in scale, enough winners will remain that will make your own business and, of course, their businesses successful and worthwhile. Qualcomm companies have already helped more than 125 startups worldwide in this fashion, and they’ve done everything from launching satellites to applying AI for cutting-edge medical treatment to making cities, homes, and industries safe and productive. These startups have cumulatively raised more than $200 million, had many successful exits, filed hundreds of patents of their own, and launched many groundbreaking products and services. If we had relied only on the established electronics giants in the world, these use cases of advanced technology would have taken longer to develop or not have happened at all.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

To keep up with the latest news on The Inventor’s Patent Academy, follow Invent Together on Twitter @invent_together, I’m not a big user of social media myself, but I am active on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/sudeeptoroy).I’m not a big user of social media myself, but I am active on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/sudeeptoroy) and occasionally post on Twitter (@SudeeptoRoy5).

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


The Inventor’s Patent Academy: Sudeepto Roy Of Qualcomm’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.

Non-Fungible Tokens: Justyn Eddins Of MR Augmented and PILLAR On The 5 Things You Need To Know To…

Non-Fungible Tokens: Justyn Eddins Of MR Augmented and PILLAR On The 5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly Successful Career In The NFT Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Team — Your team is going to be the folks you grow this project with. You need to ask yourself, “what type of project is this and who do I want to build this project with?” I’d recommend onboarding individuals with industry expertise. If you can’t find a full-time team, then have expert advisors.

Many have observed that we are at the cusp of an NFT boom. The thing is, it’s so cutting edge, that many people don’t know what it is. What exactly is an NFT and how can one create a lucrative career out of selling them? To address this, as a part of our interview series called “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly Successful Career In The NFT Industry”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Justyn Eddins.

Justyn Eddins is an NFT expert and Augmented Reality CEO. He is the CEO of MRAugmented and of PILLAR, both leading companies in the Augmented Reality space. PILLAR is the #1 AR app that brings digital assets (like NFTs, art, and digital goods) to daily life in the palm of your hand — and soon glasses and lenses. MR Augmented is funded by Niantic, the makers of Pokemon Go. In addition to being the CEO of two successful companies, Justyn is also the founder of “The Black Web3 Group” and “Young Black Entrepreneurs.” Justyn’s previous experience includes leadership roles in technical recruiting at Google, Rockstar Games, and more.

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

I’ve always been interested in how things work. I was that neighborhood kid that would fix everyone’s computers, VCRs or DVD players. I was also that kid that got in trouble for taking things apart. I needed to know how things worked! I took a very non-traditional route to my career in tech. I went from child actor, to college athlete, to self-taught tech founder. Deep down inside I’m still that neighborhood falling in love with the way things work and creating something new.

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?

Eckhart Tolle’s, “A New Earth” has completely changed my self awareness and image. The book explains how our stream of consciousness is essentially a live-stream version of observing ourselves. Once we separate ourselves from our ego, we can live, be, and create in live-stream mode which can give us a tremendous sense of peace. To sum it up, it helped me submit my ego and focus on being present. This is incredibly important for any founder — you must be willing to “fail fast” (as the famous Google mantra goes) and be open to feedback and change without taking it personally.

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

When I first learned about NFTs and Augmented Reality, I was hooked and wanted to research everything I could about the spaces. When NFTs finally started to become mainstream, I began realizing there was tremendous overlap between the two applications. I began developing my second company “PILLAR” to add value to NFTs through AR. Typically, a person will buy an NFT because they think it is cool, want to be a part of a community, or think they can monetize. After buying it, the NFT sits in their phone, computer, or wallet. They might post it to social media or screenshot it… but then what? PILLAR brings NFTs (and other digital assets) to life by placing them to a specific geolocation. You can use your phone, or even glasses / lenses to view the NFT in “real life,” share it with friends, and so much more! When Niantic (creators of Pokemon Go) funded it, I knew this was more than a passion project and my career in this space launched from there.

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

This past April 2022, MR Augmented hosted an NFT AR Exhibition in Los Angeles. Our goal was to simply test some new technology we were working on in a fun way. Little did we know it would be so successful that it would spearhead an entire company, PILLAR. To be honest, I just got tired of the skepticism around the technology I love so much, so our event was set up like a networking happy hour including photobooths, open bars, DJs, and of course the “star” of the event, NFTs displayed in Augmented Reality. People loved it. Everyone had their phones out, not to lose presence, but to be even more present at the event which was something I’ve never seen before. This is how PILLAR began.

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?

Balance is something I have come to learn is a necessity for long-term success. I didn’t quite realize this in my early days and wow, did I pay the price! I actually managed to work myself into pneumonia. At the time, I was working 40 hours per week at Google, and 40 hours per week at my first start-up “Zave.” I eventually couldn’t even think straight and was forced to go to the hospital. To use the doctor’s exact words, I needed “extreme rest.” Though it was so serious at the time, it seems silly and obvious now that a healthy “you” is key to a healthy company.

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

I am eternally grateful to all my mentors, advisors, and team members. The only person who ever could come to mind beyond their impact is my son. Like any entrepreneurial roller coaster, there have been highs and lows. Knowing he is proud of me and what I am building has allowed me to still enjoy those “lows” and use them as fuel to my fire. I remember when my son was having a bad day. We had just finished up putting some fun AR characters into our app. I showed him the app and it blew him away. Seeing his face light up and all his problems melt away inspires me to give other people that same experience.

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

My second company PILLAR is still in the pre-seed stage, so I am actively working on it everyday. The idea of bringing new technology to the world is more than enough excitement for me, but in creating PILLAR I realized there was an even greater purpose. We’re enabling talented artists to easily create and share their artwork as interactive NFTs and collectibles. We are enabling brands both big and small to turn their offerings into digital experiences. And even cooler, we are enabling people to get out in the real world and interact with all of that and each other through AR.

Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. I’m sure you get this question all the time. But for the benefit of our readers, can you explain in your own words what an NFT is, and why people are spending so much money on them?

The idea of an NFT can be quite confusing. Even the term “Non Fungible Token?” Like what is that?! I like to start with the purpose of NFTs, which is centered around ownership and value. An NFT is different from a photograph or video because when you buy it, you are the only person in the world who owns that specific asset (even if there are multiple copies, you are the only one who owns that unique “version” for lack of a better word).

There are a few different types of NFTs. Here are two examples. The first example is artwork. An artist can now monetize beyond physical “canvas” type versions of their art by selling digital NFTs. The artist’s community of fans and patrons benefit from this as they are able to prove they are the sole owner. Some NFTs also come with additional perks, which leads us to the second example, which I like to call a “Utility NFT.” An example of a Utility NFT can be the famed “Bored APE.” If you’ve heard of Bored APE, you’ve probably wondered how a cartoon monkey sells for close to $1M. Good question. Seriously. This all has to do with the community and the perks associated with that NFT. If you own an APE you immediately get brought into a community that has rare events (think private concerts with a-list artists), their own crypto token, and global visibility. Since you own that NFT you’re able to monetize it as well.

The NFT industry seems so exciting right now. What are the 3 things in particular that most excite you about the industry? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

  1. Continuous Growth — Seeing NFTs become more mainstream excites me. More diversity can only improve the offerings, community, and industry overall.
  2. Utility NFTs — NFTs are becoming utilities with real life perks. For example, I am the recent owner of a “Bill Murray” NFT from The Chive. With my purchase, I got community access including an exclusive and highly active Discord group. I also received a rare physical coin in the mail, and was invited to upcoming IRL events. I even had the chance to meet Bill Murray in real life. Instead of cashing in on what could have been the coolest lunch of my life, I decided to “flip” my NFT that I purchased for 2ETH for 16ETH just 8 days later. I love that the blockchain is here to prove it.
  3. Technical Innovation — I am definitely biased, but what could be more exciting than what we’re building at PILLAR? The ability to quite literally bring NFTs to “real life” through Augmented Reality is something that has never been done like this before. We enable you to view, engage, interact with and share NFTs in a unique way for the very first time. Nothing is cooler than that to me.

What are the 3 things that concern you about the industry? Can you explain? What can be done to address those concerns?

  1. Scams — Unfortunately there have been so many scams that it is hard to decipher what’s real and what’s not. I urge those getting into the space, to do research on the projects you invest in. Anyone with a little technical knowledge can list an NFT for sale for any price they choose. I wouldn’t spend your money just off hype, who is behind the project? What are they proposing? Where is their RoadMap?
  2. Lack of Understanding — My friends want to get into the space but the current applications are not user friendly at best, and terribly confusing at worst. There can quite literally be 20+ steps to purchase an NFT and when you think about the typical 1-step “Amazon-type ”checkout we have become accustomed to, this can be more than a deterrent. The reality is people are interested, but it’s very confusing!
  3. Risk Factor — Because of scams and because of lacking of understanding. The risk factor is very high. Imagine going to vegas and betting $10,000 on a poker game when you have never played and have no idea of the rules or how it works. This happens in the NFT space everyday.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about NFTs? Can you explain what you mean?

You may have heard someone joke, “what’s the difference between NFTs and a screenshot?” That’s a huge myth. Yes, you can screenshot something but you do not own the assets. NFTs are synonymous with digital ownership.

What are the most common mistakes you have seen people make when they enter the NFT industry. What can be done to avoid that?

Let’s circle back to the poker example we discussed before. The risk is high if you do not know the rules of the game, how to play, or have never played before. Imagine going to Vegas and betting $10,000 or more when you have no idea what’s going on. I’ve seen so many people come into the space and invest without that core knowledge. I use the word invest because that’s exactly what you’re doing when you buy an NFT. You’re investing in that project, community, and its potential. Just like betting in Vegas, or making an investment in a company, most of the time you lose money. It’s the big wins that make it pay off, but those are certainly not common or guaranteed. The more knowledge you have, the more likely you’ll win. But like anything else with high-risk high-reward, the odds are not in your favor. That’s why it’s so important to buy NFTs for more than monetary value. Buy them because you love them, you support the artist, or because you want to be a part of the community. Just like in Vegas you might want the perks of a high roller, even though you lose most of the time you bet. For any new user coming into the space, do some research and learn. YouTube is a great place to start. Like anything in life that’s new, there is a learning curve.

How do you think NFTs have the potential to help society in the future?

One aspect of NFTs I think can have a huge impact is giving people the ability to own their personal data. NFT technology can give us the ability to validate, identify and own any information about ourselves including our medical records, contact information, and more. This could completely revolutionize how we perceive information, authenticate ourselves, and prevent identity theft.

Ok, fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly Successful Career In The NFT Industry?”

Community — The community is the single most important factor. Any person that’s going to buy your NFT is investing in more than the asset, they’re investing in the artist/creator and in the community. If the community doesn’t believe in the value of the project then it will be reflected in the lack of success. I’ve been a part of a ton of awesome NFT projects with great art / assets, but the community lost trust with the leadership. This happens all the time. If the community is not growing or active then the project will eventually end as well.

Utility — Great NFT projects come with great utilities. Delivering on your promises with regards to perks does not need to be immediate (Rome wasn’t built in a day), but having a transparent roadmap that you actually deliver on is essential. For example if you say “drop 1” comes with exclusive live-stream concerts, then have the musicians lined up in advance. Do not promise the world to your community with no true goals or intentions. This will ensure you have a successful NFT career that stands out from the rest.

Roadmap — A roadmap is a clear outline of what your project will accomplish. Like any investment, your “investors” aka your community will want details to inform their purchasing decision. If you want your project to succeed, develop a roadmap with reachable goals. Don’t over promise and be sure you can hit the goals. This will keep your community engaged and excited about the growth of the project.

Team — Your team is going to be the folks you grow this project with. You need to ask yourself, “what type of project is this and who do I want to build this project with?” I’d recommend onboarding individuals with industry expertise. If you can’t find a full-time team, then have expert advisors.

Communication — I’ve seen so many failed projects with all the elements to win, but no communication with the community. That factor alone is the death of them. Think about how terrible of an experience it is for a new NFT buyer to join a project with no updates or point of contact. I would highly recommend having someone dedicated to community management and having weekly or daily “talks” on Discord and Twitter.

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. 🙂

PILLAR is enabling consumers, communities, creators, and companies to create digital experiences with AR. While this is truly a movement within itself, there are so many new ways to give back to deserving organizations in doing so. I am very excited to see new ways to incorporate philanthropy, social justice, and positive community initiatives into the app. That’s all I can say — for now!

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

I’d love to have lunch with Andrew Lookingbill from Google Maps, whom I met while working as a Technical Recruiter there. Andrew was literally the first person I told about my passion for AR. As a leader at Google, Andrew’s enthusiasm and support validated me and gave me the courage I needed to press on with my career. I haven’t spoken to him since I left Google, so this is a fun way to ask — Hey Andrew, want to get some lunch?

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


Non-Fungible Tokens: Justyn Eddins Of MR Augmented and PILLAR On The 5 Things You Need To Know To… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Vanessa Bird, The Aesthetic Consultant On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public…

Vanessa Bird, The Aesthetic Consultant On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Never let things go to your head. Yes, you may find you are invited to speak at more and more events but don’t let that success make you complacent. Each event requires the same level of preparation and attention to detail as the last and the audience deserve to hear you at your best. Even if you can use some parts of a previous talk, be sure to amend it to suit the audience in front of you. Bring energy to each talk as if it was your first and your audience will feel it and engage with you.

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

Vanessa Bird The Aesthetic Consultant® uses 14 years of business and sales experience within medical aesthetics to help aesthetic practitioners and clinics overcome the challenges they face on a business level. Vanessa builds world-class luxury Patient Experiences, dramatically increases clinic revenue and enhances positioning and reputation in the aesthetic medicine arena. An expert in aesthetic business, Vanessa writes for leading industry publications and is a regular on the speaking circuit at UK and European Medical Conferences.

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

I was born in the north west of England, 1 of 3 girls to parents who worked in media and newspapers. I had a happy childhood and I was very studious with a particular interest in art, science and creative writing, with the writing possibly inherited from my father who was a journalist and newspaper editor. My father had a collection of classic and vintage cars so I grew up with a love of cars and motorsport. I also developed my creative side by painting and drawing, playing the oboe in the school orchestra and singing in the choir. As I wasn’t sure of the direction I wanted to head in career-wise, I studied for a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Philosophy at The University of Liverpool before heading out in the world of work. Yes it was a strange choice of subjects to study but I figured 3 years of deep thinking couldn’t do any harm!

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

I fell into sales a couple of years after graduation. I needed a job and still didn’t know what I wanted to do as a career so just accepted the first thing the recruitment agency set me up for. The role was selling services to a diverse range of industries, so some days I would be surveying a factory or office and other days a hospital, a dairy or even a nuclear power plant (decommissioned of course). I found the different type of characters I met fascinating but wanted something more ‘glamorous’ . I decided I wanted to be a Pharmaceutical Rep as it sounded more professional. A recruiter told me it would be hard moving directly to Pharma so instead suggested I take a sale role selling medical devices, so I did. I didn’t have much knowledge of the aesthetic medicine sector at this time but once I was in it I was enthralled with what I saw (and still see) as the perfect mix of creativity, health and science. After 11 years of selling high end medical aesthetic devices I identified a need for bespoke business support so in 2019 I took the leap and set up my own consultancy business called The Aesthetic Consultant®. Since I set up I have developed my profile as an industry writer, educator and speaker sharing my knowledge and experience with others as I work with businesses and clinics in the U.K, the Middle East, America and Europe.

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

I have so many interesting stories to tell as my industry is absolutely fascinating. Stories behind why top doctors and surgeons moved into aesthetic medicine. Stories about high tech devices that make a difference to patients. Even stories about parties and events that were breathtakingly memorable. Perhaps one to focus on here was when I worked as a sales rep for leading medical device company BTL at the time they launched a brand new device that had never before been used in the aesthetic medicine arena. Being involved in the preparation prior to launch and in the launch of EMSCULPT itself was incredibly exciting. We had to prepare for the disbelief of doctors who had never before used something this way. We had to prepare for our rivals and how they would try and talk down the technology. We even had to prepare how we would talk about the business opportunity to customers as it was so unique. The excitement and buzz surrounding the launch of EMSCULPT was like nothing else I had experienced as we knew we had something special and it went on to make waves in the industry. It’s rare to be part of something so groundbreaking.

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 recall being interviewed for a national sales role with a laser company. I passed my first interview and they flew me out to Madrid to meet the EMEA Sales Director for the second stage interview and I was super-nervous. The woman accompanying me (who interviewed me back one the UK) kept telling me how scary and intolerant of fools the EMEA Director was so I was extremely nervous when I met him. “Do exactly as he says” She said as we walked into his office. We shook hands and he said “Pull up a chair”. I looked around and saw a chair and…. remembering what what UK Manager said I perhaps took it a bit too literally and pulled the chair across the floor from the far side of the room to the desk instead of lifting it up and carrying it. The room was filled with this awful scraping of metal on tiles as the chair dragged across the floor and seemed to go on for a lifetime. The EMEA Director just stared at me in disbelief. I immediately thought I had failed the interview so relaxed and just answered his questions. Guess what? I got the job!!!!

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

There are so many people who have helped me get where I am today. Whether it was supporting me as a friend, or mentoring me as a colleague or even just showing me how things worked being the scenes in a clinic, they’ve all provided valuable help and assistance so it would be unfair to single out just a few. One thing I can say is that the network I now have is incredible and I am very grateful for being part of a wonderful group of people.

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?

Setting up my own consultancy business was incredibly scary at the time. I was successful as a sales rep so stepping way from that security and success and setting up a consultancy firm with no experience of running my own business caused many sleepless nights! However I am a planner so sat down and over a period of months worked through my idea and who my target audience would be and why they might want to work with me. I leaned heavily on my network too whilst brainstorming and planning things. They would give me pep talks, see my strengths when I feared I didn’t have any, and give advice on different aspects such as branding, pricing, marketing and accounting. They were a shoulder to cry on when I was having a wobble and really did support me. I would say for anyone considering doing something similar, firstly sit down and identify your strengths and experiences and how these would benefit your target customer. Who is out there already doing it? What USP could you develop to make you stand out? Then pull on the experience and support from your network. Listen to what they say. Take their advice. Then build that into your future 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?

I love sharing my knowledge and experience and helping others. That’s why I set up a consultancy. I want to inspire and motivate people, encouraging them to be creative and develop themselves and their career. We are our own worst critics and lack self-confidence so sometimes it takes someone else to make you realise that and change. If I can do this through talks and presentations and spark a new direction or idea in someone then I have made a difference. We all have something to share.

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

I’m already booked as a speaker for some upcoming industry conferences and private company workshops so I am working on something unique and informative for each of them depending on what their particular audience needs. It’s important never to duplicate the same talk, but instead give the audience a fresh new take. In April I was a speaker at the biggest anti-ageing conference in Europe and now I am currently working on submitting an abstract for next year. I hope to do more international speaking engagements as I love meeting new people and hearing about the similarities and differences in our industry depending on where they are in the world.

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

‘“Work expands to fill in the time available”. This was a quote from one of my Professors when we were discussing Philosophy of Time and Space. Basically he was explaining that if you have 3 weeks to complete an essay it will take you 3 weeks to finish it. If you have 2 hours in an exam it will take you 2 hours to finish it. It’s the exact same essay but all that changed was the time available. I always try and remember this when working on projects and ensure I set myself shorter deadlines throughout to keep me on track and stop me procrastinating.

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. Slow down when you’re presenting. We have all been guilty of this at some point, myself included. Nerves or excitement gets the better of us and we rush through our talk. Enjoy the process, take your time and remember, those natural pauses aren’t a sign you don’t know what you’re talking about, they are simply a way to enhance your presentation.
  2. Be confident. You do know what you’re talking about and have something to share with the audience so do not doubt your own ability. Why not make a list of all the positive things you bring as a speaker. List your experience, any specialty you have, your skills, your knowledge and keep adding to it. You’ll soon realise how much value you bring.
  3. Plan ahead. Sometimes the fear of something going wrong on the day can cause us anxiety so prepare and plan ahead. Make sure your slides (if using a presentation) are spell-checked and run in the order you need them to. Make a few copies of your presentation in various formats (PowerPoint, Keynotes, PDF) and different screen ratios and also bring a version of each on a USB just in case something happens to your laptop or a cable fails. Allow plenty of time for travel and delays. Pre-plan your outfit and make sure you feel confident wearing it. Some time spent preparing will really ease those nerves and you can focus on the talk itself.
  4. Stop comparing yourself with other speakers. We all have different styles and mannerisms so trying to duplicate another speaker will not feel natural to you or your audience. Sure, if you see something you like that another speaker does, try it out and if it fits in with your style and feels natural then incorporate it. But don’t copy someone else completely. Your audience want to listen to you, not a cheap copy of someone else. Be individual and unique.
  5. Never let things go to your head. Yes, you may find you are invited to speak at more and more events but don’t let that success make you complacent. Each event requires the same level of preparation and attention to detail as the last and the audience deserve to hear you at your best. Even if you can use some parts of a previous talk, be sure to amend it to suit the audience in front of you. Bring energy to each talk as if it was your first and your audience will feel it and engage with you.

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

There’s something about standing up in front of an audience that makes us believe that others will be critical and judge us. We think they will judge us on what we are saying, whether we should be on stage in the first place, what we are wearing, how we are speaking, whether our hair looks good…. One thing I always tell my clients to do is put themselves back into the audience for a moment. What do they do as an audience member? Do they sit and listen to the speaker? Do they follow the slides and make notes? Or do they blank all of that out (the very reason they came to the talk in the first place) and instead focused on someones shoes, the way their tummy looks or the fact the speaker’s roots need touching up? I bet the latter didn’t even feature for them. Nobody cares what your hair looks like or whether you sneezed in the middle of a sentence. If you content is engaging and informative then the audience will be absorbed in that and not the colour of your outfit. So my advice is to remember that the audience want to learn from you and will be focused on what you show them on screen and what you say out loud. Everything else fades into the background.

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

I would like to see more face to face engagement. Post-pandemic we started to host meetings via video and don’t interact face to face the same way as before. Even when we do, we find ourselves checking our mobile phones instead of concentrating on the person sitting on front of us. If you can, schedule a meeting with someone in person rather than via video link and when you do, switch that phone to silent and focus completely on the person you’re with. We thrive off interaction and human contact so let’s focus on bringing that back again.

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!

Dame Joan Collins! Without a shadow of a doubt she has mastered her art as an actress, a writer and a star and is one of the few who really command attention when she walks into a room. The stories she would tell and the experience and knowledge she could share would be invaluable.

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

I am on Instagram @theaestheticconsultant and also on Linked In (search Vanessa Bird The Aesthetic Consultant). It would be great to connect on both platforms.

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


Vanessa Bird, The Aesthetic Consultant 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.

Lisa Fischer Of Mission Lane On 5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive After A Divorce

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Own it. Don’t try to hide your experience to blend in. Your experiences in life, good or bad, could make your voice, opinion, and presence especially important to someone going through a similar struggle. Being transparent about your life experiences can introduce you to the right people to help you learn and grow.

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

Lisa Fischer became Chief Lending & Growth Officer at Mission Lane in April 2020. In this role, Lisa is accountable for the growth, credit performance, and profitability of the credit card business. She regularly speaks on macroeconomic trends and the Fed and is happy to share her economic outlook for the rest of 2022. She works with credit subprime customers every day and can also confidently speak to spending and savings tactics for consumers to combat rising prices.

Prior to joining Mission Lane, Lisa was the Head of the Digital Bank for Barclays US Consumer Bank where she managed the $5B branded credit card portfolio, decision science, credit, checking, installment loans, and $15B of digital deposits.

Prior to joining Barclays, Lisa spent 20+ years in the credit card industry, holding various senior roles in marketing and credit with a deep focus on data and analytics. Lisa was Managing Vice President at Capital One for 12 years, where she held roles leading credit card acquisitions across mail and digital channels and the Credit Recoveries business. Prior to Capital One, Lisa was Senior Vice President at JPM Chase accountable for credit card marketing and originations. Lisa began her career at Providian Financial, departing at Senior Vice President of credit card portfolio management.

Lisa has a Bachelor of Science from Duke University and a Master of Science in System Engineering from the University of Virginia. She lives in Reston, Va. with her 16-year-old daughter.

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

I grew up with an individualistic and unstoppable mindset from frequently pursuing opportunities outside of my comfort zone. Growing up, I spent much of my time playing high-impact sports on men’s sports teams. So, when I went to college at Duke University, I didn’t find it odd or a barrier that I was the only woman graduate in math and computer science my year. Similarly, when I went to the University of Virginia for graduate school, I was the only woman in my class of systems engineers. These experiences sparked my independent leadership style, and my ability to confidently break through glass ceilings throughout my career.

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

After graduate school, I took a position in consumer finance. I saw this field as a way to combine my math and computer science skills in a way that could help people directly. After spending a chunk of my career at traditional financial institutions that were only catering to specific populations, and having a daughter interested in robotics (who was frequently the only female at her robotics camps) I realized that I wanted to pursue a career centered on inclusion and advocacy for underrepresented individuals. So, when I came across a job at Mission Lane, a fintech company that caters to individuals who are financially underrepresented by traditional banks, I knew it was the job for me. I joined the fintech world and haven’t looked back since!

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

At Mission Lane, we have close relationships with our customers and have the privilege of hearing their amazing stories all the time. We recently heard from one of our customers who had dealt with setback after setback that impacted her finances. She fought cancer (and won!) but amidst her doctor’s appointments and subsequent medical struggles, lost her job. Once in remission, she found she was unable to find another job in the same field because her skills had become outmoded, so she had to go back to school. Along the way, she racked up a lot of bills and debt — including medical debt, credit cards, and student loans. Then things got even worse when, unfortunately, one of her children got diagnosed with cancer and her own cancer came back.

Despite these enormous challenges, she kept battling. She finished school, got a better job, and started chipping away at her debt while getting herself and her child healthy. She knew she needed to rebuild her credit as part of her journey back but wasn’t able to find any banks willing to give her a chance until she discovered Mission Lane.

Here’s what she told us, “Believe it or not, I couldn’t have done it or gotten where I am if I didn’t have one credit card, the Mission Lane credit card, to build it all back. And that’s the truth. I am so happy Mission Lane took a chance on me — and I believe I am on the right path.” This is what makes my job at Mission Lane so special, and why I do what I do.

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 in my career, I had my first opportunity to present my research to our CEO. An hour before the presentation, I realized that I included an incorrect variable in the analysis, thus rendering the research inaccurate. Although terrified, I went to the meeting and shared the truth, as well as a request to come back a week later with an update. I vividly remember walking out thinking that my career was over. However, the same CEO promoted me six months later. He said that my honesty bred his trust in my leadership. While this was terrifying in the moment, I can look back at this experience and laugh now. This helped me learn that behind the formal presentations and diligent research, we’re all humans. Moving forward, I try to uphold the same standard of bringing a human-first approach into the workplace.

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

A quote I live by is “if you don’t understand, you don’t have all of the information.” I pride myself on being someone who asks a lot of questions, because I find that by talking things out, you can often find a path forward. So, when I don’t understand a problem, or am struggling to find a solution, my first step is to gather more information to figure out what I’m missing. Everyone should empower themselves to ask questions and exchange information with others to find creative solutions to their everyday problems.

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

There are lots of exciting projects in the pipeline! All aim to help people improve their financial lives. Most recently, Mission Lane released new capabilities for Earn, an app that helps gig workers discover new jobs and aggregate their earnings data across all jobs into one convenient dashboard, helping them track where they are earning the most money so they can optimize their gigs for increased earning potential. According to the Pew Research Center, more than 16% of Americans engage in gig work. To reach this growing population, Mission Lane is rolling out this product to help serve them as their dynamic income streams often make it difficult for traditional financial institutions to provide them with quality, affordable products.

Mission Lane also recently released a credit builder loan product to help people build credit even if they may not be able to qualify for a credit card yet. Unlike a regular loan, a credit builder loan has a shorter repayment timeline, and the loan is deposited into a secured savings account where it remains until it’s fully paid off and reports these payments to all three credit bureaus. This product furthers our goal to help our customers succeed in their financial lives, no matter how many roadblocks or setbacks they’ve faced.

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

No one ever plans for a divorce, right? My divorce was costly in many ways, but also in a literal sense. I left the relationship pinned under my ex-husband’s accumulation of debt that I didn’t know existed. He had hidden a severe gambling problem that came to light when our house was foreclosed upon. On top of that, all of our savings and investments were gone, the credit cards were maxed out and taxes were not paid. As a result of my divorce, I was approximately $800,000 in debt, with no additional cash flow.

Despite my background in banking, my divorce opened my eyes to the reality that many financial institutions, like ones where I’d spent the decades of my career, are not equipped to properly serve or empower people who face substantial financial setbacks. I realized that traditional financial institutions were getting something seriously wrong — many credit-challenged individuals are people who have faced tough life situations and want to build a stronger financial future. They aren’t just people who don’t want to pay their bills. Above all, this experience forced me to realize that life can be unpredictable, but how we move forward with our actions can define us. I was determined to pay back this debt and did so by being organized, independent, and focused on the future.

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

Because going through a divorce is an overwhelming experience in many ways, a common reaction can be to shut down. Despite this urge, I would advise women going through a divorce to ask as many questions as possible. Often as women, we tend to shy away from questions because we’re afraid of appearing uninformed, but the consequences of not understanding should outweigh these fears. Part of what contributed to my financial situation around my divorce was not asking questions and leaving financial decisions for my husband to handle.

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

Amid many negatives, a positive that came out of my divorce journey was the realization that I had been perpetuating this financial stereotype as a woman not involved in my family’s finances. This led to a subsequent pledge to take control back of my money, enabling me to be empowered and confident when building a future for myself and my daughter.

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

After going through difficult life situations like divorce, it can be especially hard to regain confidence and courage to start a new beginning. One of two considerations have motivated me to move forward. The first is to look at where I am today, and what more I want in the future. The second is to think about my daughter Kylie, and what life decisions would have the most positive impacts on her. Personally, I want to make the most of my life, but that hasn’t always pushed me past my fears. What has is the realization that setting for less in my daughter’s life is unacceptable. So, for other people in a similar situation, I’d suggest instead of just thinking about yourself and your future, also consider the futures of your loved ones, and how they also deserve a new beginning.

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

Their mindsets when it comes to making long term plans and looking towards the future! For me, this was mainly related to my finances. While it may be scary at first, it’s crucial to take control and develop a plan to become financially independent early on. Before my divorce, I never thought about finances in a meaningful, long-term way. Now, I’ve changed my outlook to become as organized and knowledgeable as possible.

I created an Excel spreadsheet for myself and began tracking my expenses, outlining what I anticipated for costs, and distinguishing between luxuries and necessities. I started to set goals for myself on how much debt I could pay off in a certain time period. This helped me visualize my cash flow and cut down where needed, and before I knew it, I was surpassing milestones faster than the timeline I had laid out for myself and developing long-term financial goals for the future.

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

Firstly, own it. Don’t try to hide your experience to blend in. Your experiences in life, good or bad, could make your voice, opinion, and presence especially important to someone going through a similar struggle. Being transparent about your life experiences can introduce you to the right people to help you learn and grow.

If you had a bad experience that sticks with you, do something to make a difference. After my divorce, when an opportunity came along to work at a fintech company that is focused on helping people build back their finances after facing setbacks, I didn’t think twice. I found peace in having the power to make a difference for women and all people who find themselves in similar situations, need support getting back on their feet or simply getting started, and need to know the financial options available to them.

On the financial side, if you don’t have credit cards or financial resources in your own name, apply and start building credit. For those who have trouble qualifying for a card, there are options such as applying for a secured card, retail store card, or credit builder loan. Find a financial tool that works for you and stick with it as you work to regain your financial footing.

If legal fees or other divorce payments have left you with sources of debt, make a plan. Aim to tackle your debt with the highest interest, a.k.a. the most “expensive” debt, first. However, everyone’s financial situation is different, so if you can, find a trusted professional who can help you determine the best plan.

Start planning for the future and be bold! When creating your financial plan, it may seem that savings is paramount — and it is. But many, especially those who are risk-averse, tend to stick to savings accounts where their money isn’t doing any work for them. While savings accounts are excellent vehicles, be sure to take advantage of your 401K and other investment opportunities that can help money grow over time.

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

My biggest suggestion is to pour your passion and energy into a worthy effort to connect with others. I realized my desire for independence when going through my divorce and poured this energy into mentoring women inside and outside of Mission Lane to help them fight workplace stereotypes, promote continued learning in STEM, and break societal norms when it comes to women communicating their wants and needs. My experience sparked my passion for educating women on financial literacy. Pouring my time and energy into mentorship brought hope and light into my life when going through my divorce, even on the darkest days.

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

While on the move, I love to listen in on the latest episodes of Freakonomics and NPR Marketplace to stay up to date on the latest finance and economics news. When I have the time to sit down and read something, I check out our Mission Lane Junction page. Junction is a platform where Mission Lane customers can highlight their stories of financial resiliency and share their voices, and it helps me stay close to our customers and the industry.

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

Across all industries, but especially those that have been traditionally male dominated, it’s not enough to just have women in the room. We need to make sure they also have a voice and access to the mentorship and leadership opportunities that can help drive their careers forward. Now that I serve in a leadership role, I try to serve as a mentor to share my experience, be a soundboard and advisor, and most importantly, a friend to new women in the fintech world. While the finance and tech industries still have strides to make towards equal representation, women serving as mentors to other women looking to start their careers in the industry is a key way to jumpstart empowerment. I advise all women to seek out peer-to-peer networking, mentorship, and sponsorship opportunities from the outset. Establishing relationships with other women in the industry early on can equip you with the support and knowledge that will benefit you throughout your career. I want to create a world where women like my daughter Kylie can do anything that they want to do and can be happy and comfortable while doing it. Establishing equal opportunity for women to share their voices in the workplace is the key to achieving this success.

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


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

Hussain Almossawi’s Big Idea That Might Change The World

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Chase your dreams and goals fiercely: the world’s greatest innovators weren’t satisfied with the status quo; they had a vision for something better and chased it relentlessly. So if you want to be successful, don’t settle for mediocrity, chase your dreams with everything you’ve got.

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 Hussain Almossawi.

Hussain Almossawi — a product designer, visual effects artist, and author who has worked across industries and around the world, consulting for companies such as Nike, Apple, Adidas, Amazon, Intel, and Ford Motor Company, among others. He is a regular keynote speaker on innovation and design and has taught at several universities. In 2019, Hussain founded Mossawi Studios, a multi-disciplinary design studio specializing in creating memorable, iconic, and bold experiences. He loves blurring the lines between product design, visual effects, and storytelling.

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?

Growing up, I was always passionate about design and sports, and I would dream of either making it to the NBA or working for some of the world’s biggest and most innovative sports brands — in hopes of working with professional athletes. That dream, along with persistence, took me on a journey around the world, filled with different experiences, exciting people, failures, and successes. After many, many tries, I was finally able to get my foot in the door and intern for the world’s number one sports brand: Nike. Fast forward to shortly after my internship, I had a chance to consult with and work for some fantastic brands, including Apple, Nike, Adidas, EA Sports, Ford, Amazon, Pepsi, and others. I also used my experience to set up my own studio, Mossawi Studios, which focuses on building experiences through product design and VFX.

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

There have been many interesting stories and milestones, and there continue to be new ones along my journey all the time. A significant milestone in my career would be when I got into the Nike Design Internship program. I was told that there were about 10,000 applications submitted, and only 12 design interns were ultimately chosen. It was a life dream come true.

One of the reasons I actually pursued my Master’s degree was to become a student again and become eligible to apply to this internship — which I put my heart and soul into the application I submitted. What made this milestone an important one in my career was that I always looked at good design through the lens of aesthetics first — but at Nike, my mindset shifted 180 degrees.

The big question was always how are we innovating, what is the innovation story, and what’s the consumer experience. It’s been over ten years, and it has significantly impacted my process and approach towards not only design but any project — whether it’s writing a book or building a strategy and vision. So as a designer, business owner, and author, I always start my process with how can we make innovate and bring something new and exciting to the table.

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

There are quite a few. The first is that a vision and a plan are extremely important and necessary to make your goals and dreams come true, except that it becomes worthless without execution. Execution is key, and if you have a dream, then you shouldn’t just talk the talk but walk the walk.

The second principle is persistence. With persistence comes the understanding that failure is nothing but an experience and a road bump that gets you closer to the end goal. Failures actually give you an advantage as to what not to do the next time you are trying to solve a problem or reach a goal. Persistence also leads to the third principle, which is being focused and flexible in your process. Focus is extremely important as long as it comes with awareness, and with awareness, you know when to pivot and when to shift gears. If you don’t, you could find yourself running around in circles and wasting your energy on nothing.

Finally, the fourth principle is to “Stay hungry and humble” the moment you think you made it is the moment you fail, and being hungry for what’s next and willing to raise the bar is what will keep pushing you forward. Doing all that throughout your journey, and through your success, the ups and downs, while being yourself and humble, is what really matters because, as human beings, it’s easy sometimes to forget where we came from. On that note, giving back to those who are just starting out or those who want to be in your position should be in your DNA to give back, and your struggles starting out and become a driving force of good to everyone around you.

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”?

Growing up, I always thought to myself that innovation was an extremely hard and overwhelming thing. Every time I saw a great idea, regardless of how simple or complex it was, I would think to myself. “Why didn’t I think of that?”

The process of innovating and being an innovator feels somewhat overwhelming when you are first familiarizing yourself with it. But having worked with some of the world’s most innovative companies and teams, I came to realize some repetitive patterns across different companies and industries that made the process of innovating much simpler and easier to approach. Innovating is for everyone — for anyone wanting to think outside the box, anyone looking to come up with a new idea in any discipline they might be in.

In my book, The Innovator’s Handbook, I share some of these insights and try to give the reader a front-row seat to what an innovator’s mindset looks like inside these giant innovative companies. Sometimes, it could be very simple tools and hacks that give you that innovator’s mindset to better unleash and supercharge your creativity.

Some lessons from the book include the importance of knowing that you don’t need to re-invent the wheel every time, and building on what already exists with your spin on it to improve and elevate the idea could be extremely powerful. Knowing when to lead and when to follow, and the implications of both. Drawing inspiration from the likes of Leonard da Vinci who never stopped being curious and was always asking questions and asking how we can become curious sponges in our everyday lives. How can we bring in amplify our teams with more diversity to give us more profound and rich perspectives? When focusing on improving an existing idea, how can we be more laser focused on the specifics vs. the product as a whole? Such questions, ideas, and stories cultivate a better innovator mindset for the next time you are looking to innovate or come up with your next big idea.

How do you think this will change the world?

Making anything more accessible and less overwhelming is what will always move the needle. As a designer, I had to learn some very complex programs when I was first starting out in the early 2000s, and the reason they were complex was that the learning material was very limited, the best things I could get access to were in monthly printed magazines or some tutorial websites that made written tutorials, and you had to follow step by step looking at a bunch of text and small images. Fast forward to today, you can find tutorials for almost any program, in many languages, all over YouTube and the internet in full HD. What’s the result? The number of emerging young artists and designers is just outstanding, thanks to the fact that learning materials are much more accessible, easier to follow, and allow many doors to be opened in terms of opportunities and growth. Now, why is making the idea of becoming an innovator and having an innovator mindset more digestible necessary? For the same reason, the more innovation we can have, the better our lives would get in terms of living, experiences, economy, business, you name it. So I’m all in for simplification and accessibility.

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

I’m a big advocate for giving back, which also comes in the form of teaching and giving talks at different creativity and innovation conferences and running innovation workshops.

Those who attended my workshops felt an instant shift in their approach towards problem-solving and coming up with ideas, and all I was sharing were simple tricks and hacks of things I had experienced behind closed doors in some of the world’s most innovative companies and working with some of the most brilliant minds. As a result, I was really interested in collecting all these ideas and insights, along with practical exercises that I saw as most effective, into a simple, fun book that made the idea of innovation both approachable, engaging, and not overwhelming. My whole idea was to give the reader a front-row seat into how we did things in the industry.

A lot of us look at companies as these giants and can’t figure out how they do such great work, and the reality is that no matter how big the company is, at the end of the day, you are only working with a small group of people in a bubble and it’s all about how you function as a group and ideate together. The company’s culture, vision, and management definitely help steer its employees in a particular direction.

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

First and foremost, people need to be aware that this book exists and that it can help them in their innovation journey. Second, people need to understand that innovation is not some magic formula or something that you’re born with, but it’s a muscle that you can train and get better at with practice. And lastly, once people start reading the book and practicing the techniques, I would love to hear feedback so that we can continue to iterate and make the book even better! I hope this book will be a valuable resource for anyone looking to improve their innovation skills — and that they will soon be able to see the world with an innovator’s mindset.

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

  1. Network! — Networking and expanding your connections only helps you get to know very interesting and diverse people. The more you can collaborate with people who are very different from you, the more interesting your innovations and ideations will be.
  2. Don’t reinvent the wheel — I always thought that innovation meant reinventing the wheel, but the reality is you can always build on an existing idea or merge 2 ideas together and come up with something new. Innovation doesn’t require squeezing your brain till you are fatigued and left with no groundbreaking idea. Sometimes the simple ideas make it, with good execution and storytelling.
  3. Working for the big brands is not the end goal — I always thought that making it into my dream company meant I made it. But the reality is that some companies will elevate you, and at others, you will find yourself stuck in a toxic environment filled with egos and politics. Huge brands are unique, and you learn a lot, but if you don’t get in, it’s not the end of the world. You can always learn, push, and become great at what you want to do through other means. Some of the greatest innovators and entrepreneurs never worked for any household names, and we look up to them for all their success today.
  4. It’s never too early to innovate — I never thought I could innovate when I was younger because I always saw it as this thing that only adults did in the “big world.” But the reality is that kids are the best innovators because they’re not encumbered by years of experience and expertise. They see the world with fresh eyes and aren’t afraid to challenge the status quo. So if you have an idea, don’t be afraid to pursue it, no matter your age.
  5. Read — reading gives you a lot of depth and knowledge, along with exposure to new ideas. Not only does it give you something to talk about, but you learn about different cultures, time periods, and worlds that you would have never been able to experience otherwise. It helps with your writing, your storytelling, and your ability to think critically. So if you want to be an innovator, start reading right now.

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

  1. Be happy and enjoy the process: often times we focus too much on the destination and not enough on the journey. We become so fixated on becoming successful that we forget to live in the present and enjoy the ride. We need to remember that success is a process, not a destination, and every step we take helps us get closer to our goal.
  2. Be persistent: you will face a lot of setbacks and failures on the road to success, but it’s essential to never give up. Every “no” is one step closer to a “yes,” so don’t let rejection stop you from pursuing your dreams.
  3. Know what you want: it’s crucial to have a clear vision of what you want to achieve. This will help you stay focused and motivated when things get tough.
  4. Put yourself first, it’s ok to be selfish sometimes: we live in a world that tells us we need to be selfless and always put others first, but the reality is that you need to put yourself first sometimes. You can’t pour from an empty cup, so make sure you’re taking care of yourself first and foremost.
  5. Chase your dreams and goals fiercely: the world’s greatest innovators weren’t satisfied with the status quo; they had a vision for something better and chased it relentlessly. So if you want to be successful, don’t settle for mediocrity, chase your dreams with everything you’ve got.

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 🙂

Our world is hungry for true innovation, yet too many world-changing ideas die in the brainstorming stage because their creators lack the resources to bring them to fruition. With the right skills, knowledge, and connections, I can be that bridge between visionary and success. So if you’re looking to invest in the next big thing, invest in my newest resource — The Innovator’s Handbook. If we could get this resource into the hands of every would-be innovator, there’s no telling what they could achieve. With your help, we can change the world.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

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

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/hussainalmossawi

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/mossawistudios

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


Hussain Almossawi’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: Author Tammie Otukwu On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

I believe everyone needs a coach or consultant. Consultants have been down the road you are trying to travel. Why struggle when you can have a guide. Some would complain that a consultant will cost too much money. To this I have two things to say.

As a part of our series called “Making Something From Nothing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tammie L. Otukwu, an Author, U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Retiree, Certified Life Coach and she currently works for the Veteran’s Administration as a Legal Administrative Specialist. She holds a master’s degree in Psychology and Management, a Green Belt Certification in Lean Six Sigma and has taken numerous military and civilian training courses. She received a certificate of Appreciation from President Barack Obama upon her retirement from the Army after serving over 26 years. She was recognized by “Strathmore’s Who’s Who Worldwide” and featured on the Ty Bentli Show’s segment of “Get a Hero Hired” in 2015.

Her book, “War after the Military” has been featured in Pretty Women Hustle, Soigne and Swank and Authority Magazines. She was as a guest on Dreamspire Media’s Author’s Lounge. She is a member of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women and spends much of her time volunteering in the community.

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”?

Yes, my childhood was bittersweet. I grew up in a military family. I got to travel the world as we moved from base to base. My father was a career soldier and I watched him work hard to advance amongst the ranks despite the many obstacles that were placed in his way as a Black man in the 60’s. Yet, he had one vice that would eventually send my life into a spiral of uncertainty.

When I was a teenager, my father’s gambling addiction had become too much for my mother and our family was split apart. My mother and I would leave the comfort and amenities of the Army bases and move to the south. We were homeless but thankfully found shelter in the home of my grandmother and other family members. Those tough times instilled a strong desire for stability and success that would drive me to future success.

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

My life lesson quote is “if you stay ready, you won’t have to get ready.” The military life of a soldier can be very challenging in that it is ever-changing. Soldiers are often assigned positions and required to perform tasks that are well above their capability. Throughout my military career, I challenged myself to put education and training on the forefront because when I was faced with challenges, I had already prepared myself to excel.

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 Bible is a book that has made a significant impact on me. As a child I was taught to read the Bible and learn about God’s protection and what a significant relationship it is to have with Him. As a young adult I continued to seek out the word of God and I realized and began to appreciate what a Guide for life the Bible was for me. Presently, I rely on God’s word as I face life’s challenges and know that the word of God does not fail and has been a consistent in my 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?

Absolutely, it is my firm belief that manifesting good ideas into actual business begins with the unseen, intangible qualities. These qualities are encapsuled in the alphabets ABCDE.

AB: Absolute belief: You must have absolute belief in your idea before you can bring it into reality. Many people say they believe in their ideas, but their actions speak differently. Belief is simply not enough. Most people believe texting while driving is dangerous, but they do it anyway. Yet, absolute belief impacts the way we behave and see the world. When you have absolute belief in something your actions will reflect those beliefs. A person who absolutely believes that they will be successful will act on that belief. They will act whether they have time, money, or ability. They won’t rest until they are moving closer to their absolute belief.

C: Commitment. Once you have developed an absolute belief in your idea, you must commit to it. You must develop a determination that no matter what comes, you will see your vision to its conclusion.

D. Decision: Making a definitive decision is essential to realizing your idea. You must decide what you want with clarity and emotion. There are so many people who don’t like the results they are getting in life, but they have yet to decide what they want. Decide with specificity what you want and when you want it. Write your decision on paper. When a person makes a definitive decision, all of heaven and earth will shift to bring that reality to fruition.

E. Execution: The Bible states “Faith without works is dead.” Execution is the engine to success. You must make it a priority to execute at least one step daily. Even if you can only make a call, write a page of your book, or hammer a nail in a piece of wood. Do something to execute the plans and goals that you have written.

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 their idea has already been created?

We live in a world where every thought, idea, and question can be found with the click of a button. Google is so entrenched in our daily lives, that you can literally find out anything you want to know. My suggestion starts first with the admonition to stop seeking reasons why your idea won’t work and start looking for ways to make it work. A simple google search for your idea will let you know if anyone has your idea or if there are any ideas like yours. However, more important than worrying about whether someone has thought about your idea, your focus should be how to make your idea as unique as possible. Someone may have thought of your idea, so what. You can refine your idea to be better. If people stopped at the mere thought that someone else has thought of an idea, there would only be one car manufacturer in the world. There would only be one airplane fleet. There would only be one hamburger restaurant and clothier. The world is filled with billions of people. There are bound to be redundant ideas. Keep moving forward. Make yours better than those before.

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

I wish someone would have told me that I can’t be everything to my business. The surest way to destroy a business is to neglect building a proper team. In the beginning of my business, I was the CEO, secretary, CFO, COO, mail carrier, IT tech. It doesn’t take a genius to know that at some point the slightest blow of wind would knock that house of cards down. As a businessperson, it is imperative that you find help to carry the load.

I wish someone would have told me the importance of networking. We’ve all heard the saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Studies have shown that people earn within 15% of what their peer circle earns. If you want to grow in your business, you must hang with people who are in that industry.

I wish some would have told me the power of words. As I have grown as a businesswoman, I have come to realize the tangible benefits and consequences of the words I speak over my business. As the Bible states, “Life and death are in the power of your tongue.” Success is directly impacted by the positive, constructive words you speak.

I wish someone would have told me to enjoy the journey more than destination. Success and accomplishment happen during the process. The end is simply the result of the habits and strength built up in preparation for the destination. The person who wants to run a marathon has already achieved the goal of running 26.5 during the many weeks and months of running in preparation for it. They are already successful marathon runners. The final marathon is just proof for others to see.

Lastly, I wish someone would have told me the power of failure. Denzel Washington once gave a commencement speech encouraging graduating students to “fail forward.” So many times, I was so afraid to fail, I failed to try. Failure is an important part of the learning process. You cannot avoid it. You can only prolong your journey to success by trying to bypass it. Failure is not a bad thing. It is to success what falling is to the baby learning to walk. Without it, there is no growth.

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

Step 1: write it out. Writing down your thoughts is the first step of manifesting the unseen.

Step 2: Count the cost. Find out what it cost in money, time, and energy.

Step 3: Gather the people, resources, and organizations you’ll need to make your idea a reality.

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 everyone needs a coach or consultant. Consultants have been down the road you are trying to travel. Why struggle when you can have a guide. Some would complain that a consultant will cost too much money. To this I have two things to say.

One, I would suggest that if you’re not willing to invest in your vision, then you don’t deserve to achieve it. A farmer who is unwilling to put his seed in the ground does not deserve a harvest.

Secondly. I would suggest that if you’re not willing to invest in your vision, you really don’t believe in it. If you’re telling everyone you have a million-dollar idea, but you’re not willing to invest $10,000 into bringing it to reality, do you really believe you have a million-dollar idea?

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 and venture capital are two vehicles to the same destination. One (bootstrapping) is slow and, in most cases, less risky for those who don’t like the idea of being responsible with other people’s money. They also may not like the idea of having to share their rewards. Venture Capital is a risk but can provide the money you need faster. I would not suggest taking any money unless you have fully laid out your plan and are extremely organized and disciplined.

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

I use my success daily to make the world a better place by helping one person at a time. There is an old proverb that states “When you throw a pebble in the ocean, you change the tide.” The fact is, when we help one person, we have helped the world. When we change the course or direction of one person’s life, there is a ripple effect that you may never see, but it is just as important to the course of history as the contributions of the greatest historical figures in the world. Think of the person who told Abraham Lincoln, “Yes, Abe. I think you should run for president.” Or the first person who asked Martin Luther King, Jr. for help which stirred within him a desire to help those who couldn’t help themselves. These small moments don’t make it into the history books, but they were the impetus that created the reality we enjoy today.

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.

As I do daily, I want to help those men and women who have fought for the freedoms we enjoy in this country. If we celebrated the true heroes of our country — those who sacrifice their minds, bodies, and lives — the way we celebrate sports and entertainment figures, I believe we would change the world as we know it.

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 an opportunity to sit and speak with Oprah Winfrey. I would love to understand the source of her power of will, determination, and perseverance. I would love to understand how she develops her vision to Make Something from Nothing.

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


Making Something From Nothing: Author Tammie Otukwu 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.

Dr Andrew Brandeis of OK Capsule On 5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career In The…

Dr Andrew Brandeis of OK Capsule On 5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career In The Health and Wellness Industry

Surround yourself with others in the health and wellness industry. Find a network of people to count on for best practices, support, ideas, and great relationships. I have been fortunate to be supported in my career while having an opportunity to be a leader in space.

As a part of our series called “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career In The Health and Wellness Industry”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Andrew Brandeis, Founder of OK Capsule.

Dr. Andrew Brandeis is a physician with over ten years of experience practicing integrative medicine, a serial entrepreneur, and the Founder of OK Capsule. OK Capsule provides the technology, products, fulfillment, and strategic support that makes it safe, simple, and sustainable for companies to launch and scale the delivery of personalized supplement packets to their customers. OK Capsule’s enterprise platform is the most technically advanced integration solution for companies and brands to formulate, sell, and deliver personalized supplements at any scale. Dr. Brandeis earned both his doctoral degree and an undergraduate degree from Bastyr University in Seattle. He has spoken at multiple conferences and for tech and medical organizations, including TechCrunch Disrupt, on the intersection between health and wellness. Focused on longevity and breakthroughs in anti-aging, Dr. Brandeis specializes in dietary supplements as a primary modality in medical practice and is on a mission to continue to help people improve the quality of their lives and reduce their healthcare costs through personalized nutrition.

Andrew Brandeis is a physician, CEO, and Founder of OK Capsule. OK Capsule provides the technology, products, fulfillment, and strategic support that makes it safe, simple, and sustainable for companies to launch and scale the delivery of personalized supplement packets to their customers. OK Capsule’s enterprise platform is the most technically advanced integration solution for companies and brands to formulate, sell, and deliver personalized supplements at any scale. Dr. Brandeis earned his doctoral degree from Bastyr University in Seattle and his undergraduate degree from Rutgers University in New Jersey.

Focused on longevity and breakthroughs in anti-aging, Dr. Brandeis specializes in dietary supplements as a primary modality in medical practice and is on a mission to continue to help people improve the quality of their lives and reduce their healthcare costs through personalized nutrition and supplementation.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Was a particular person or event inspired you to live a wellness-focused lifestyle? Can you tell us about your primary motivation to go all in?

There was a person who inspired me. I was 15 and met a mentor who became my personal Mr. Miagi, like from “The Karate Kid.” I was learning karate with him (really!), and he had a very healthy lifestyle back then. He owned a health food store that sold organic produce, supplements, and other natural foods and products. That’s how I got into it. My first job was working in his health food store, where I learned about supplements and saw firsthand how they were helping customers. This was my primary motivation to go all in. I value health and always have had some gut issues. I grew up as a kid with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and figured out how to resolve it myself with supplements and by avoiding foods that triggered it. I quickly learned that “feeling crappy” sucks, and feeling good doesn’t. To this day, I’ve had a hard time with the different labels of healthy food versus junk food. There’s no such thing as healthy food. There is food, and there is junk. Food provides the nutrition your body needs.

When I’m tempted with junk, I ask myself, “Am I ok feeling awful?” As a parent, I ask my daughter to remember how sugar makes her feel. She’s seven, and I ask her, “How did you feel after you ate a cinnamon bun or ice cream?” She agrees with me. That’s not to say we don’t enjoy a treat, but it’s great that she has that awareness.

Most people with a wellbeing centered lifestyle have a “go-to” activity, exercise, beverage, or food that is part of their routine. What is yours, and can you tell us how it helps you?

Ashtanga yoga is part of my everyday routine. I practice yoga because it’s routine and repetitive, and I can see linear progress. It’s a very intense practice, and since I spend a lot of time sitting in front of the computer, I get energy, get it out of the way early in the morning, and prepare myself for the day. Yoga is very connected to breathing. I’ve read that Yoga means “to yoke,” and you’re yoking your breath to movement, all while finding a solution to a problem. I’m not into competitive sports, and I travel a lot. I know that I can practice yoga anywhere. All I need is 12 square feet of floor space.

To live a wellness-focused life is one thing, but how did it become your career? How did it all start?

It all started in that health food store when I was 15. I eventually became a manager, and at some point, I realized I was practicing medicine without an education or a license. I was treating people without understanding what I was doing, but I was very interested. I went on to get a degree in nutrition and preventive medicine. Back then, finding integrative doctors in a suburb of New Jersey wasn’t easy, so I had to figure it out on my own.

Can you share a story about your biggest challenges when you first started? How did you resolve that? What are the main lessons or takeaways from that story?

The biggest challenge I met when I was beginning was doing something that had not been done before in a regulated industry — learning about a new industry and understanding the regulations about how doing something new and novel fits in when there aren’t necessary frameworks for what you’re doing. Learning, trial, and error is a minimum level of quality that you have to have to sell a good product.

As a start-up, you’re trying to fake it until you make it, but with supplements, you’re trying to create the highest quality product while fundraising and having the minimum viable product. How do we do this on a minimal start-up budget? We can’t move fast and break things, as nutrition and supplements are not the Silicon Valley mindset of “just get it done and get it on the shelves.” With transparency and the highest quality ingredients, we need to take our time and not want to hurt people. We want to help them improve their health and offer the best benefits possible.

Can you share with us how the work you are doing is helping to make a more significant impact in the world? Can you share a story that illustrates that?

We are doing several things to make an enormous impact in this world. I’ll share two:

First, we are improving people’s nutrition in a targeted and easy way that makes them feel better, have more energy, and reduce healthcare costs because it’s easier to prevent illness than treat it–whether it’s supplements for migraines, Covid, arthritis, or heart diseases.

Second, every time we ship a product, we are saving about 200 grams of plastic bottles. All of our packaging is compostable. Each compostable packet we distribute contains about five pills. We don’t use any bottles. Five plastic bottles must be used if supplements are purchased or sourced elsewhere. We strongly believe that wellness for people should not come at the expense of health for the planet.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

Consumers may not know what melatonin is for, but if they see a package called “sleep,” they’ll understand what it’s for. We are calling them “solution-oriented packs.” These packs are condition-specific, such as packs for sleep, migraines, joint issues, periods, and allergies. These packs are high-quality doctor-formulated (by me) supplements I take personally. These packs make it easy for consumers to identify based on their challenges.

Compliance is also a significant challenge for consumers. There are many advantages to putting supplements into packs. You can have them anywhere, anytime. They are convenient and effective, and from years of medical experience and being in the industry, I can tell you that very few people will open 4 to 5 bottles per day, even a couple of times per day, to take their supplements. Rather than opening 2–3 bottles, which is very cumbersome, with packs, you can keep a couple of packs at your desk or in your purse or when you travel, and when you need them, you have the solution there when you need it.

You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

As an entrepreneur, I’m pretty risk-tolerant. I have tons of ideas and no fear of failing. I don’t view failure as negative. I related closely to Thomas A. Edison when he said, “I have not failed. I have just found ten thousand ways that won’t work.” I want to try stuff. It may not work, and that’s ok, but I know I’ll learn from it. I also have an insatiable desire to solve problems and trust my intuition. If it makes sense in my head, I have a hard time believing that it will not make sense in reality, be it in my career or personal life.

Two examples are launching OK Capsule and marrying my wife when we had just met and didn’t speak the same language. With my wife, I only spoke English, and she only spoke French, but I had a feeling we would work out, and we did! I feel that “When you know, you know.”

I have a blend of curiosity and creativity. I’ve always been curious and consider myself to be reasonably intelligent. I want to understand how things work and why they do. I like putting things together and finding satisfaction in finding something no one sees. I seek to make the world better for me, and I believe that if it works for me, it will likely function better for others.

Regarding supplements, I want to know what specific supplements I need, how often I need them, and why I need them. But no way am I going to take 12 pills daily, so I decided to put them into packets. I developed a company to support my compliance challenges with taking my supplements. I wanted it to be easy, and if it’s difficult for me (even as a doctor), I knew that most people wouldn’t comply with taking their supplements. As a physician, I have years of experience prescribing supplements to patients, and compliance is burdensome. But convenience ALWAYS wins, and compliance skyrockets if you make it easy for them. I’m no different than my patients.

Learning to take my 100% responsibility is another trait that has helped me the most. In every situation where there is conflict, I seek to figure out my role. You can’t change anyone else’s behavior but can change your own. So if a colleague is late to a meeting, instead of getting mad at him, I communicate that it makes me feel that my time isn’t being respected. I will say, “Time management is important for me, and it’s frustrating and disruptive for me when you’re late. What can I do to help you get to the meetings on time?” That’s me taking my responsibility for them being constantly late. I have applied this at OK Capsule, which has helped us communicate better and more efficiently.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Let’s begin with a basic definition of terms so that all of us are on the same page. Wellness is a vast topic. How would you define the term “Wellness”? Can you explain what you mean?

There are different levels of wellness. One is the absence of disease. This is baseline wellness where you are not sick. Then you can optimize your health by optimizing your sleep. Some people eat like crap all of the time. They’re constantly tired, have gut issues, and don’t even realize that they’re not in their baseline steady state of wellness. They are sub-optimal.

Then some people say, “I know I shouldn’t eat gluten or sugar, so I don’t eat it.” RDA is the amount needed to avoid a deficiency. Vitamin C does so much good stuff, and you can optimize health by taking more Vitamin C. So, there are different levels of wellness ranging from sub-optimal to optimal wellness. The key is to ask yourself, “What can I do to maximize all of my body systems, from energy to longevity to mental clarity?” I think of wellness as optimal, meaning the action steps I need to take to feel my best with minimal effort. When you consume food and supplements, your body takes what it needs and carries waste products.

As an expert, this might be intuitive to you, but it will be instructive to articulate this expressly. Can you please share a few reasons with our readers why focusing on our wellness should be a priority in our lives?

Focusing on health should be a priority in our lives. If you are somebody who values feeling good, then do it! Why would you de-prioritize changing the oil in your car? If the output you want is feeling good in your head, heart, and body-mind, then just take care of it!

Many people complain about not feeling well but don’t want to work to feel better. If you want a different outcome, you have to change the input. To me, it’s so essential. I want to sleep well and wake up with energy.

Patients say things like: “I was a runner, but then my knees hurt.” So, if these runners don’t want knee pain, they have to put effort into physical therapy, strengthening exercises, and nutrition. The same goes for someone that has chronic inflammation.It’s simple to address with diet because what you put in your body strongly connects to how you feel.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an increasingly growing understanding of the necessity for companies to be mindful of the wellness of their employees. To inspire others, can you share steps or initiatives that companies have taken to help improve or optimize their employees’ mental and physical wellness?

Supplements can benefit your mind and body with minimal effort and cost. Rather than having chocolate in our fish bowls at the office, we offer supplement packs. At OK Capsule, we give everybody supplement packs, and around Covid, it was “Covid Packs,” and most people didn’t get sick, and if they did get sick, they were back at work pretty quickly.

We also have an unlimited vacation policy. If my team needs time off, they just take it.

We also provide standing desks for people who ask.

Here’s the central question. What Are You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career in the Health and Wellness Industry? If you can share a story or an example for each.

First, you must have your health and wellness– your practices and behavior. Doing this makes you the consumer, so you can better understand health from a consumer perspective. This self-practice also helps you identify opportunities and gaps in the market. I, for example, ask myself, “What supplements do I need to take, and how do I make it easy?” My practice of health and wellness is a simple routine. Simplicity is key. People in the industry are more likely to take you seriously and believe in you if you look healthy. You kind of have to walk the talk.

Second, it’s critical to understand the regulatory environment in the health and wellness space. Understanding the framework and identifying opportunities without breaking laws or doing anything harmful in the industry is paramount.

The third is to have integrity. consumers must trust the supplement brand, and your customers must feel and understand the benefit. There are snake oil sales people out there and you don’t want to be one of them.

Fourth is to surround yourself with others in the health and wellness industry. Find a network of people to count on for best practices, support, ideas, and great relationships. I have been fortunate to be supported in my career while having an opportunity to be a leader in space.

Fifth is the ability to recognize the change that is coming. Health and wellness are evolving fast because science and wellness have converged. New technologies are out now and continuing to hit the market. They will drastically change the definition of wellness that I state above. There is longevity technology that’s coming out that is about to make my medical education irrelevant, such as technology around changing your genetics. If you want to succeed in what’s coming in health and wellness (5–15 years down the road), you need to pay attention to what’s coming and see how you can integrate it into a career. I am always reading new books and studying to stay updated.

You are a person of significant influence. What would that be if you could start a movement promoting wellness to the most important number of people? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I think that preventing illness is way more effective than treating it. I believe that a lot. The easiest way that people can prevent disease is by removing the bad stuff from their diet and lifestyle–trying to remove stress, keep essential exercise, and avoid processed foods and sugar.

Also, take your vitamins and figure out which ones you need. The easiest way to take them is in packets. The movement I want to see happen is based on the company I started. As a doctor, I spent so much of my effort just getting people to a baseline that they could have done themselves. But opening multiple bottles of supplements was a challenge, and they usually failed at this task. It would have improved their lives if people could just comply. I tell my patients and colleagues to change the inputs earlier if you (i.e., take supplements) want a different outcome.

As I mentioned earlier, treating an illness is more complicated than preventing it. A little effort can prevent things, and healthcare costs would go way down. People would feel better.

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

I would say I’d have breakfast with Tony Robbins. He just wrote this book, Life Force, with so many insights and knowledge that changed how I practice medicine. I think what he’s currently up to will help optimization. He understands how to motivate people to make the change that I just talked about. I think what he’s doing is great.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

OK Capsule

LinkedIn

My Medium column

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


Dr Andrew Brandeis of OK Capsule On 5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career In The… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.