Author Ron Brock On Five Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Startup

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

…It would return to a system of teaching what was once right about our country in the old-fashioned way. Reading, writing, and arithmetic being taught in such a format that students can understand it. Conceptually that would imply teaching be done differently by demographic considerations. This would replace a more one-size-fits-all system of applying the same standards of measurement on all schools in a city. Standardization of teaching may be more efficient from a system standpoint, but the school dropout rate in areas where students are likely not to last due to inability to perform isn’t served by standardization. The result is the student is lost without having been given the opportunity to succeed. This would not impinge on students capable of performing at higher levels. Their score would have different standards, consequently, would be taught differently. This movement is envisioned to be one small step toward correcting what appears to be a current source of disaffection among economic strata.

Startups have such a glamorous reputation. Companies like Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Uber, and Airbnb once started as scrappy startups with huge dreams and huge obstacles. Yet we of course know that most startups don’t end up as success stories. What does a founder or a founding team need to know to create a highly successful startup? In this series, called “Five Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Startup” we are talking to experienced and successful founders and business leaders who can share stories from their experiences about what it takes to create a highly successful startup. As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Ron Brock, author of The Thicket’s Prodigy: Reflections of an Improbable Life.

Ron Brock’s career included a role as a Senior Product Manager at Frito Lay where he was responsible for the highly successful launch of Nacho Cheese flavored Doritos brand tortilla chips. Following the conclusion of the introductory marketing campaign he relocated to Phoenix, Arizona, later transitioning into commercial real estate sales. Serendipity struck a few years later when, seeing the potential of Tim Berners-Lee’s newly announced World Wide Web, he discovered an ability to revolutionize commercial real estate. He created the first up-to-the-minute, searchable, accessible database of multifamily properties, then included, and patented, an independent system of classifying real estate property improvements and location. His memoir The Thicket’s Prodigy: The Extraordinary Life of an Improbable Genius, details his life story, including time spent in Los Alamos, New Mexico where his father worked as part of a team redesigning the Manhattan Project’s atomic bomb. Ron, also the author of Gamebreaker: Guide to World Class Selling, resides in Scottsdale, Arizona. Learn more at www.galtmirrin.com.

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

Following graduation from Arizona State University I held several positions in corporate sales and marketing during the 10-year period. I have enjoyed my time with corporate life, but had an itch to try things on my own.

Serendipity struck when I met Ron Button, a former General Electric computer engineer who had been recently forced into finding another occupation when General Electric Corporation closed its computer division. The partnership we struck focused on the sale of commercial apartments.

It was a time when the commercial real estate industry was still relatively primitive. Property inventories were carried on 3 x 5 cards and investment analysis relied on hand-held calculators; the results illustrated on 14 column spreadsheets. Information concerning market conditions was by word-of-mouth opinions stated by appraisers or commercial real estate brokers.

Fast-forward 20 years. The 3 x 5 card catalog was replaced by a computerized database, and investment analysis was calculated and displayed on computers. But there were limitations.

Database storage of apartment inventories was a nice improvement but did not allow for manipulation of inventory, or market data. Things were still being done the old way. Not by choice, but because there was no other option. Then conditions changed.

What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?

Share one of my life’s most exciting moments? Absolutely! But first, let’s back up.

One day in 1995 serendipity struck once again. “We need to do this!” My daughter Kim was waving a flyer advertising a seminar to be conducted at Phoenix’s Biltmore Hotel conference center. My first reaction was disinterest; I had plenty to occupy my time. But her enthusiasm was insistent: “we need to see what this is about!” Okay let’s see what they’ve got.

We were less than 15 minutes into the seminar when the “AHA!” moment struck: here was the answer. The one we had been searching for!

For several years we had been investigating the prospect of data manipulation, and even data standardization, with no promising solution. Data standardization, the concept of making objective apples-to-apples comparison of one real estate property with another, was a frequent industry topic of discussion, but no one had devised an answer. The problem was if they had developed that capability there was no vehicle currently to make it available.

Now here it was! Everything and more! Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web had capabilities beyond any expectations we had had. Until now.

Was there somebody in your life who inspired or helped you to start your journey with your business? Can you share a story with us?

It was over lunch with one of our brokerage customers, Fred Unger. After hearing my explanation concerning what we were doing to improve our firm’s capabilities Fred casually mentioned, “what’s to stop you from extending the new service beyond Phoenix?”

Why hadn’t I thought of that? There was a business here!

Pierce-Eislen, our start-up’s conceptualization, was born that day.

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

We developed both software and content for the apartment industry. Our system for categorizing properties allowed a more accurate comparison of rental rates among like for like properties rather than the prior way of simply counting every property as being the same whether a rundown tenement or luxury high-rise. We received patents on our rating systems for both property improvements and location.

Our operations focused on the quality of data gathered and summarized. Pierce-Eislen remains unique in the commercial real estate industry, but has assumed a new name — “Yardi” — the company that acquired our organization in 2013.

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

A question that is profound requires a profound answer. Pierce-Eislen’s success has little to speak to the question other than the company has continued to be managed with integrity. As to personal activity I have had the discretionary opportunity to support social causes that might otherwise be missed. For example, See International, a humanitarian organization dedicated to prevention of blindness throughout the world.

I mention See International as the sort of organization I find most attractive to support. My contribution to these alternative organizations in need in comparison with major donors is not impressive by comparison, but I am happy that I am enabled to be able to participate.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

Among the questions you have asked this may be the most subjective. Also, most controversial.

My personal history has centered on determination, call it grit. The World Wide Web is the most current example. What began as a simple implementation of a new concept became a constant series of seeming roadblocks. Each had the potential to end the project before we could even test the premise of whether we had a workable product.

My second most useful characteristic has been a reasonably capable persuasiveness. I was able to convince people to continue supporting me when odds seemed against us. That particular trait was most useful in raising capital and maintaining investor confidence during difficult periods.

There were several of those, beginning with the September 11, 2001, collapse of the World Trade Center towers. Pierce-Eislen had begun offering a product to the apartment market on February 1, of that year and additional capital funds were required to continue operations.

Dependability is a third trait that works well for me.. There had to be reasonable confidence on the part of others that when circumstances get rowdy, I will find a way to overcome them. Any business, particularly one that’s new, and still mostly untried, requires that shareholders and key employees maintain feelings of confidence that regardless of difficulties encountered things are in reasonably good hands.

Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?

While raising capital through an angel round virtually everyone engaged in the same activity was giving advice — “speak in terms of eyeballs to the site.” The premise was that the old way of showing a pathway to profit was obsolete. The dot-coms were in full strength, and strenuously proclaimed, “how you are going to make money from the process can be determined later.”

We were one of a very few startups of the time, the only one that I was aware of, that was raising capital funds based on a schedule — how we were going to achieve profitability and timing for doing that event.

The recommendation to focus on eyeballs to the site was ultimately one of the more important recommendations we were able to avoid. When the late 1990s smoke cleared an estimated 90% of dot-coms were bankrupt. By then we had funded our angel round and planned the next financing round.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

Where do I begin? It seemed Pierce-Eislen’s existence was in constant harm’s way from the start.

The Web was acknowledged immediately as the greatest innovation in communications since Gutenberg and his Bible. And we, along with nearly everyone else, were inspired by the new discovery. But there was a hitch. A very big hitch.

To make use of the web required conversion of existing software, in our case Microsoft’s Visual Basic, to a new program called SQL, short for Sequential Query Language. And almost no one with software development experience, in other words just about every programmer in Phoenix, knew anything about SQL. Added to that was an impossibly long list of new product ideas that sprang up overnight with the name attaching the dot-com designation. All needed software development.

A suddenly overwhelming demand for programmers capable of dealing with SQL drove the cost of software development to $185 an hour. Worse, the price included predominantly programmers who claimed SQL competence despite having a near clueless lack of capability. It was apparent there was no way we were going to accomplish what we had intended under those circumstances. Without a solution providing a radically different approach it was game over.

After some brainstorming our thoughts turned to a starving-student type from Arizona State University. We were fortunate to find that individual relatively quickly. A very bright electrical engineering student, he had a great deal of enthusiasm about computer programming and was relatively fluent in ColdFusion, another software language with considerable similarity to SQL.

We offered to buy the SQL manuals and pay him $15 an hour ($26.50 per hour equivalent today) to learn how to program in SQL. It was assumed he then would continue to work for us at the $15 an hour wage to program our needs.

We had solved one problem, only to confront another.

We had to simultaneously fund our startup and at the same time build an organization. It was a catch 22.

The competition for competent personnel was ferocious, and the battle for capital source attention wasn’t any better. Worse, one was dependent on the other. Private investors wanted to know that an organization was in place. But capable people were in short supply and wanted to know they would be riding a winning horse if they decided to join us.

Secondary issues — a company name, website, marketing materials, recruiting a Board of Directors –at the same time seemed inconsequential in comparison with the other two.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard? What strategies or techniques did you use to help overcome those challenges?

My father’s influence. I had the good fortune of an unusually positive role model. One who never seemed to see things as being little more than inconveniences when they were in the way of what he wanted to accomplish.

He overcame extraordinarily difficult circumstances to become educated, then became part of a team that redesigned the Manhattan Project’s atomic bomb. My book, The Thicket’s Prodigy, elaborates on how he at one time lived homeless, and still managed to earn a degree in mathematics from Texas Technological College

The story didn’t end with his work in Los Alamos. He later became an expert in high powered computer applications, then received a congressional appointment as Director of computation and analysis over NASA’s computer operations for manned spaceflight. Ultimately, they landed Neil Armstrong on the moon.

His positive influence carried forward to my own attitude about not letting anything stand in the way of completing whatever I set out to do.

The journey of an entrepreneur is never easy and is filled with challenges, failures, setbacks, as well as joys, thrills and celebrations. Can you share a few ideas or stories from your experience about how to successfully ride the emotional highs & lows of being a founder”?

The successful entrepreneur is aware that emotional highs need to be tempered. Just around the corner is a surprise problem waiting to ambush what seems like stable circumstances.

We thought the perfect solution to what we had been looking for as a vehicle to create a more robust database experience was there for the taking when we first viewed the World Wide Web. When we began to act on it a series of seemingly insurmountable setbacks gave us one new problem after another to work with.

But maybe that’s what makes an entrepreneur. The challenge of overcoming what sometimes seems insurmountable conditions to reach the finish line — a product that possibly no one has thought of before, and now you have a working model. And it’s time to do some heavy lifting: forming a company, and raising the capital needed to put the company and the product out there to see if a success can be made of it.

It’s a journey that isn’t for everyone. But for the right individual, a visionary who enjoys the entrepreneurial process in the manner a professional athlete enjoys his sport, there is no substitute.

And sometimes, things just don’t work out. In that event, you look forward and move on to the next idea.

Let’s imagine that a young founder comes to you and asks for your advice about whether venture capital or bootstrapping is best for them? What would you advise them? Can you kindly share a few things a founder should look at to determine if fundraising or bootstrapping is the right choice?

My first question: “describe your temperament?” Dealing with capital sources requires considerable preparation. A venture capital firm had a nuance, an elevator pitch. Almost a requirement. When we were raising Pierce-Eislen capital, during the dot-com era a reasonable probability was that brash young types who had already made serious money on other investments. And now, being full of themselves, were frequently known to face questions, stated in the imperative, “why the (bleep) should we invest with you?”

Bootstrapping is typically more likely to involve raising capital funds from individual investors who might enable initial operations and further agree to provide additional capital as needed to supplement negative operating income until cash flow is positive.

Between the two options my feeling was bootstrapping was our best option. We resorted to a creative solution. In funding Pierce-Eislen’s angel round, and subsequent rounds, we killed two birds with one: major investors were required to serve as board members. The format gave comfort to sophisticated investors, and we ended up with a board that was the envy of every startup around. Pierce-Eislen’s capital was raised as needed rather than as a large capital raise at the beginning. And I would recommend this manner of funding to most young entrepreneurs.

I have known others who have had what seemed unnecessarily negative experiences with venture capitalists from the Silicon Valley area. When things didn’t go as planned, and that condition is nearly inevitable, the VC, not dealing with patient money, pulled the plug on the company, closing it down.

One exaggerated example was with a founder who had what seemed an excellent concept for an online real estate auction firm selling single-family houses. The founder went to a Silicon Valley VC, requesting $18 million. The VC countered with insisting a $36 million investment was to their liking. Things didn’t work out. In less than nine months the experiment ended with the auction company’s closure. There was no discussion relating to “how can we make this thing work?”

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Many startups are not successful, and some are very successful. From your experience or perspective, what are the main factors that distinguish successful startups from unsuccessful ones? What are your “Five Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Startup”? If you can, please share a story or an example for each.

Successful companies generally share a few, common-to-all, characteristics: a unique business proposition, reliable capital source, capable management, a well-conceived business plan, and most important of all, an energetic individual of high integrity serving as founder.

In contrast, unsuccessful attempts usually begin with several handicaps: little product differentiation, undercapitalized, incompetent management, an idea with no plan, a sometimes-questionable individual as the founder.

Now we get to: Five Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Startup:

First, a useful product. The definition of an extraordinarily successful startup must be that the product to be the basis for forming a company possesses a high probability of success and longevity, once established.

Business Plan. A clear definition of how business functions are expected to be developed. Organizational format, use of funds, potential contingencies, revenue forecasts and a clear definition of an exit strategy.

Founder’s grit. A no nonsense attitude, chutzpah. There will be times of considerable stress when things aren’t going so well, even to the extent that there is the appearance the project may hit the sort of roadblock leading most to abandon the project. Such moments are when the founder exhibits why his shareholders placed their faith in his ability to “make things happen” when the going gets tough.

Access to Patient Capital. Startups are generally expected to have a manner of returning investor capital that can be spelled out in terms of timing or specific events which are required to have been realized. But either may take longer than expected, or additional capital is needed during the development process.

A clearly spelled out agreement between the founder and individual investors is essential. And just as essential, investors should be selected just as carefully as they would be while engaged in selecting the investment being offered.

Tales of disagreeable investors making it difficult for management to operate the company are considerably more frequent than would be necessary with appropriate selection of investors by the founder.

Investor/ Organizational Communication. Problems are inevitable and frequent as you navigate through the process of developing the myriad elements included in the startup’s key functional components. Maintaining communication with shareholders, and key organizational members, explaining an assessment of problems encountered, and the founder’s solution is essential. Taking the time to calm concerns before they take on the larger-than-life perspective is considerably more valuable in trying to work through the problems before they become an issue.

What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?

Insufficient capitalization tops the list. Stories of companies who were close to achieving positive operations, but who had to close their doors due to lack of sufficient funds needed to continue, are near universal.

Nearly as important, and very likely to closely relate to the first problem, is weak management, particularly in the marketing and sales functions. This goes back to the dot-com era. We experienced hiring many individuals who had been involved with failed companies, only to find they were just as ineffective in selling our products as they had been with their prior company. Without a competent sales organization there is no capability for a company to function.

Avoidance of these company killers is the same for each: don’t underestimate the potential of either going sideways. What will be done to mitigate that potential has to be addressed at the time an introductory business plan is written.

Startup founders often work extremely long hours and it’s easy to burn the candle at both ends. What would you recommend to founders about how to best take care of their physical and mental wellness when starting a company?

Have a workout program established, one that’s habitual and can be done either before the beginning of the workday or at the end. Never in the middle of the day.

If you do your best thinking in the early morning, schedule your workout before the start of the productive part of your day.

A workout doesn’t have to be scheduled for every day to be effective, but it does have to be routine. I’m not aware of a substitute to relieve stress associated with business development demands that often extend into late evenings. It’s that potential that favors the advantage of an early morning workout before the start of business.

It’s tempting to work weekends, holidays, and what would be vacation time. But the result can be crushing to the ability to keep up a productive schedule. The brain needs downtime, and downtime sometimes means taking a weekend off and going somewhere without taking work along.

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 return to a system of teaching what was once right about our country in the old-fashioned way. Reading, writing, and arithmetic being taught in such a format that students can understand it. Conceptually that would imply teaching be done differently by demographic considerations. This would replace a more one-size-fits-all system of applying the same standards of measurement on all schools in a city.

Standardization of teaching may be more efficient from a system standpoint, but the school dropout rate in areas where students are likely not to last due to inability to perform isn’t served by standardization. The result is the student is lost without having been given the opportunity to succeed.

This would not impinge on students capable of performing at higher levels. Their score would have different standards, consequently, would be taught differently.

This movement is envisioned to be one small step toward correcting what appears to be a current source of disaffection among economic strata.

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 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.

Several individuals fit the description of someone I would love to have breakfast or lunch with, but most definitely the first would be Warren Buffett.

Mr. Buffett has shown an unwavering ability to hold onto an investment and make the formula work in his favor. I have known one other individual who had a similar approach to investments — that is he never sold, he only accumulated.

Angelo Sangiacomo owned apartment communities, principally in the City of San Francisco. He achieved notoriety for having single-handedly caused rent control in the city by once raising rents on all of his apartment communities by $100 per month on the same day.

That wasn’t my reason for being interested in speaking with Angelo. He was one of the more interesting people in the real estate world, acting totally independently from any outside influences. His first purchase when he began his accumulation of real estate properties was a rundown single-family home that he subdivided and rented out portions for $75 per month. His final development, 60 years later, was a high-rise apartment building in San Francisco, funded entirely by his own money. And he still held that first house that he had purchased and subdivided to be rented out.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Readers can follow my work via my website, Galtmirrin Publishing.com; and they can purchase a copy of my book, The Thicket’s Prodigy: Reflections of an Improbable Life, on Amazon, also at Barnes & Noble and some independent bookstores.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!


Author Ron Brock On Five Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Startup 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: Terry Ouzounelli Of Greek Entrepreneurs On How To Go From Idea To…

Making Something From Nothing: Terry Ouzounelli Of Greek Entrepreneurs On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

You can’t have all the answers beforehand. Take action and you’ll figure everything out along the way. Just get started!

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

Terry Ouzounelli is an ex-military officer, entrepreneur and author from Greece. She graduated from the Hellenic Military Academy and served in the Greek Army as an officer for eleven years.

She had an interest in philosophy and spirituality from a young age and through her own entrepreneurial and self-growth journey has achieved semi-retirement and financial freedom.

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

Thank you so much for the opportunity to share my story!

Well, I am not responsible for my childhood, so I am not talking about that, but I’m happy to share my mistakes, failures, choices, and decisions I’ve made during the adult life that led me to the person I am today.

I studied at the Hellenic Military Academy Evelpidon for four years and I served in the Greek army as an officer for eleven years. Although I loved my job as a military leader, I was often doing a second job to be able to afford a more comfortable life. You would find me managing hotel reservations, delivering food, doing short commercials, dropping a few lines as a background actress, serving drinks at local bars, and even dancing! But what is certain, is that I was extremely hard-working. The type of job didn’t matter to me. I didn’t want to put myself in a position of struggling financially. Nevertheless, as you can easily understand, after a few years I was exhausted. I needed to find another way to make money.

In the beginning, I started a bunch of side hustles and types of online businesses and most of them failed. That didn’t bother me at all. I learned, acted, and failed. Again and again.

Starting a business and becoming an entrepreneur had never crossed my mind.

I started Greek Entrepreneurs as a side hustle, like with everything that I had done so far. I am not a person who takes things seriously and this wasn’t an exception.

However, after a while, things got serious. And when I say serious, I mean that Greek Entrepreneurs had exponential growth and everybody in Greece and Cyprus was talking about it. Within two years, I had helped over 2,500 people start investing, trading in the Stock Market, and making passive income. The most interesting thing is that until now, I have spent zero dollars on marketing. This is because my clients saw tremendous results in their lives and suggested my products and services to other people! This is when I understood that things got serious. I was officially an entrepreneur.

You don’t choose to become an entrepreneur. People decide that for you.

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

It may sound pessimistic at first, but the more you dive into that realization, the better your chances of succeeding are. The most valuable lesson that I’ve learned is that “you are on your own. No one is coming for you.” Don’t expect any support from anyone to start working on your dreams, success, ideas, business, whatever that might be, even yourself! Stop waiting and procrastinating and act now! Let me give you an example.

As a Greek, I may be biased, but if you want to study philosophy, you have to start with ancient Greek philosophy. All other types of philosophies throughout the world are influenced by ancient Greek philosophy (I explain more about that in my book Catharsis: the reason why you are here). The ancient Greeks imagined opportunity as a head that had hair only on the front side, while the back side was bald. According to them, if an opportunity was presented to you, you would have to grab it by the hair because if you didn’t do so, it would be too late to grab it after it passed by you since you would be looking at the back side which was bald, thus you wouldn’t be able to grab it.

That’s what you should do every time. Grab each opportunity the time it shows up. Act quickly.

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?

Oh my God, where to start with? As an author and a bookworm myself, I have read a lot of books that have helped me tremendously in many areas of my life. I usually read books from the self-help and business genre. I strongly believe that you can’t succeed in anything unless you work on yourself first. And of course, everyone should be constantly working on themselves because no one is perfect and nobody can claim that they know it all. You may be the best version of yourself right now, but there’s always room for growth and more knowledge. That’s why I focus on reading self-help books frequently.

Two of the best self-help books that I have read are Letting go by David R. Hawkins and Breaking the habit of being yourself by Dr. Joe Dispenza.

One of the best entrepreneurial books I have read is Unscripted by M.J. DeMarco, which helped me grow my business massively.

Of course, my own books, Catharsis: The reason why you are here, The Silence of the Sheep, and Mastering Wealth: The Escape from Modern Slavery, have also helped me during my self-growth journey because you grow a lot by writing too. I remember that I ended some chapters in tears. I was happy, proud, and relieved.

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?

Ok, I’m going to disappoint many people again. That’s not my intention. However, sometimes, uncomfortable facts and the truth are way more beneficial than inspiring quotes and sweet talk.

There are no ideas.

Or let me rephrase that so it’s more easily understood. There are no unique ideas. We all have the same ideas because we are all one, as the ancient Greek philosophers believed. Stop thinking that you’re better than everyone else, smarter, more talented, more knowledgeable, or whatever. Stop thinking that your “unique ideas” will make you successful. In other words, stop dreaming and start working.

That’s the ugly truth. Nothing but work can guarantee results.

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?

Of course at least one person or in reality, many people have had the same idea before! Even if you don’t believe in what the ancient Greek philosophers believed, that we are all one, take the rational approach. It is mathematically and statistically impossible that your idea is unique.

But what can you do about it?

It doesn’t matter! Even if there are a lot of people or entrepreneurs that have implemented that idea and have turned it into a business, this doesn’t prevent you from starting your own business, based on the same idea. Again, what will make your work, business or project stand out is your personality, the way you present your work and how you can help or improve other people’s lives. As long as the value is provided, as long as you see the smiles on people’s faces, as long as you see them thriving using your products or services, you don’t have to worry about any competition. Besides, in entrepreneurship, you can’t have all the answers beforehand. You start, implement, improve, adjust, change, fail, succeed, adjust again, change again, and so on.

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.

Don’t worry or get stuck in the details. There is only one purpose for your business: to serve people. Never think about profit, money, numbers, logistics, or anything else, at least in the beginning, before you get started. I’m not saying that they are not important, but what is more important is the customer. I can’t stretch this enough. As long as you care about your customer and you do your best to solve their problem or add value to their life, the rest are not even issues. You will figure them out.

Let me share with you my personal (and embarrassing) experience regarding this. When I first got started providing financial services and education, my website sucked! It was the worst website you can imagine. As I was on a tight budget in the beginning, I did everything myself, including building the website and linking all my products and services. It was terrible. It was a mess. And I wasn’t smart enough to see what was going on and adjust, or maybe I wasn’t skilled enough as an entrepreneur to adjust.

I had that embarrassing website for two years, having a few thousand people visiting and logging into my website every month. Sometimes the servers crashed and the website wasn’t functional at all!

But again, my stupid and stubborn personality didn’t let me see that something was wrong.

I started seeing the problem when I listened to the feedback, which I encourage you to do, as it will provide you with extremely useful information about your work that no other tool can.

People were consistently saying that my products and services are excellent and have transformed their lives, but some people also mentioned that the website sucked.

I remember one email from a client that had purchased a lot of my investing and trading courses saying: “Guys you can’t have the best courses in Europe and such a crappy website, it’s really annoying”.

Although I got a bit defensive in the beginning, I now appreciate that email deeply because it helped me understand what I needed to do to scale my business. It helped me see what I refused to see.

For the next four days, I worked non-stop and didn’t even eat or sleep properly. I wanted to get it done as soon as possible. After four days, I had a new, professional website that was easy to use.

My students noticed it immediately and they thanked me for improving the website saying that it’s much better than the previous version! Why didn’t they say anything sooner? Why didn’t they tell me they were struggling with navigation? I wondered. Wait, what? Did I start listening? Suddenly, I realized that I needed feedback. No more ego from now on. Only happy customers.

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

The 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started Leading My Company are:

  1. No one is coming for you. Don’t expect support from anyone. You want to belong to the 1% of the population, right? Then why would you listen to the 99%?
  2. Don’t think that you’re smarter than anyone else. Always work on yourself, learn, adjust and improve.
  3. Success won’t happen overnight. It takes time and patience.
  4. Self-growth and entrepreneurship go hand in hand. Be the person you want to become and then success will manifest in your life.
  5. You can’t have all the answers beforehand. Take action and you’ll figure everything out along the way. Just get started!

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?

Again, just do it. Stop thinking for a while and do it. Start today. Not tomorrow. Whatever that might be, don’t get caught up in the details and worries. You will figure it all out along the way. Starting something new, something that you’ve never done before, like a business, might seem challenging in the beginning. If you combine it with the voice in your head that will do anything to prevent you from taking action, you will never get started and that idea will remain just that, an idea.

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?

Although hiring a coach or consultant is extremely beneficial for a beginner, as you will get a ton of knowledge and learn from their experience (that you don’t have yet) and speed up the process at the same time, it is not easy for anyone, especially if they are on a tight budget. Many people start a business out of desperation, they may have nothing, they can’t even afford to pay their monthly bills, so hiring an expert is impossible for them. I don’t want to discourage those people. There are many successful entrepreneurs that started from scratch, alone, with zero money and resources and they succeeded because they believed in themselves, they were committed, disciplined, and hard-working. It is possible for anyone.

In conclusion, if you can afford it, hiring a consultant will help you achieve your goals faster. If you can’t afford it, you can still start working on your own, but keep in mind that it will require more effort and time.

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 decision depends on a few factors, like the available capital that the entrepreneur has, the profit margin of their company, future growth potential, and which phase of the Business Cycle we are in. For instance, right now that the Markets are running out of liquidity and interest rates are increasing, VCs are tighter about deploying their capital.

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

Success came as a result of my caring for other people and not the opposite. My priority is and has always been helping other people, inspiring them, adding value to their lives and seeing the smile on their faces.

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. What I would really like to become a worldwide movement is catharsis. Trying to reach enlightenment and wisdom, as the ancient Greek philosophers did, can bring happiness and freedom to your life. Catharsis applies to everyone and it’s the doorway to happiness and freedom. With catharsis, anyone can live a life beyond their wildest dreams. I describe the catharsis process in detail in my book Catharsis: the reason why you are here.

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 really admire Suze Orman. She’s an extremely talented, successful and inspiring woman! Even if I had just five minutes to spend with her, I would listen carefully to what she’d have to say and keep notes.

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

Thank you so much! The time flew by so fast and I enjoyed this interview a lot!


Making Something From Nothing: Terry Ouzounelli Of Greek Entrepreneurs 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.

Makers of The Metaverse: Aneesh Kulkarni Of Strivr On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality…

Makers of The Metaverse: Aneesh Kulkarni Of Strivr On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Be bold — VR presents an opportunity for trailblazers to introduce concepts, use cases, and technology that the world has never seen before. Being creative and ambitious is key to maintaining momentum in this industry, new technology always brings challenges but also untapped potential for those brave enough to explore it.

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 Aneesh Kulkarni.

Aneesh Kulkarni is the Chief Technology Officer at Strivr, the leading platform for enterprise VR. He brings a wealth of experience in technical leadership, developing consumer and enterprise platforms for mobile web, and data applications. As the CTO of Strivr, Aneesh has been instrumental in developing Strivr’s platform, building and mentoring high-performance teams to realize Strivr’s product vision. Prior to Strivr, Aneesh served as VP of Engineering at Dremio and AppDynamics, and Director of Engineering at NetSuite.

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

I grew up in India, on the West Coast in a city called Mumbai. It’s very much like New York, being the financial capital of the country. I have a B.S in Computer Science from a university in India. I came to the United States to pursue an M.S in Computer Science. After graduate school, I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area to work at a startup. I’ve been here ever since, and have worked in multiple companies, all startups before Strivr.

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

The book that has made the most impact on me is Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, by Angela Duckworth. It resonates with my journey here in this industry as a software engineer now transitioning into a leadership role. As an engineer and a leader, one of the primary characteristics I’ve had to foster was grit. I don’t think I was necessarily born with all the talent — but I’ve worked hard to get where I am today, and this book has had a significant influence on me. If I had to pick a couple of other books that I really liked they would be Open: An Autobiography, by Andre Agassi, and Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson.

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

I’d been building enterprise software platforms for a while. The companies I’ve worked for previously developed platforms that were used by other organizations and benefited categories of use cases (i.e. business intelligence, file sharing and collaboration, application performance management, and self-service analytics for cloud data lake houses.) There was a connection between my work and its impact on people in the world, but it wasn’t a very direct connection.

In 2019, I wanted to do something very different from what I’d done before, and find a role where I could have more of a direct connection with the end-user. I was looking at a few different categories such as healthcare, fintech, and EDtech. I wanted to make a difference in industries that could benefit a lot more from technology. During that time, someone pitched me to take a look at Strivr.

I’m a big sports fan, and I was very interested in what Strivr had done for sports. The fact that VR can help someone train through “mental reps” repeatedly, reliably, and safely, was what ultimately compelled me. At Strivr, I’ve been able to draw a more direct connection between the work that I do and how it impacts people — for example, I know that what I do every day will influence thousands of employees at Walmart, Bank of America, MGM, and more in getting better at their jobs, in learning new skills, and doing it in a revolutionary new and more effective way!

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

As I mentioned earlier, what initially drew me to Strivr was its connection to sports, but I found out they were making a hard pivot into the enterprise space as I joined. Making a pivot this drastic can be risky. But it made sense and it felt like a big and audacious goal. I was still very drawn to the technology and the fact that Strivr was a category-creation company. It’s very exciting to be a part of a pioneering story of bringing VR to the mainstream. In fact, we are now working with four of the top five Fortune 100 companies, and it’s been exciting as CTO, leading research, technology, and development through this growth.

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

When I first started my career as an engineer, I sort of stumbled into engineering management, by accident. In my earlier years, the people who I worked with were my peers who I’d go out to dinner with and see movies with regularly. And then, all of a sudden — I was their manager.

This was a really hard transition. My first foray as a manager was not a success, for that one reason and many others! But having been given a second chance, I learned how to dissociate personal relationships and friendships from work relationships, which has helped me to succeed.

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

It’s difficult to answer this question because there isn’t just one person who comes to mind. It’s more of an aggregate of experiences and people that I’ve learned from over the years, starting with my parents and the work ethic they instilled when raising me and my siblings in their pursuit of excellence in their professional careers. My mother was a stay-at-home mom until me and my siblings started going to school. Once she got the time back, she went back to university to pursue a bachelor’s as well as a master’s in education before re-entering the workforce. She showed me that, with the right motivation and interest, you can really change the course of your career.

I’ve also been very inspired by my wife of twenty years. She has a very successful and high-level career too and we’ve found a great balance between her career and mine. This has taught me that a couple’s career is not a zero-sum game — it doesn’t have to be just one or the other that gets to succeed, and I’m very grateful for her help in finding that balance.

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

We recently launched our Strivr Partner Program with the goal to accelerate the at-scale adoption of VR in the enterprise. Our ecosystem joins leading providers in immersive content, software & technology, and professional services that we’ve partnered with over the last few years, such as Accenture, DDI, Pico, VMware, and many others. Through this new program, our content partners have greater access to deliver VR experiences to the enterprise workforce without having to integrate into organizations’ enterprise IT and systems. Our platform provides a Software Developer Kit (SDK) which we also launched earlier this year. The SDK will be a doorway to opportunities not only for content partners but also for developers to create and publish VR content on the Strivr platform and work directly with large enterprise customers to make a lasting impact on the global workforce.

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

  1. Creating an impact on people through technology — I’m very excited to make a difference in the world through technology. As I mentioned earlier, being able to trace my work directly to the tangible benefits it produces (i.e. in engagement, skill-building, and knowledge retention) for end users and organizations, lets me know that the work that I do has a substantial impact.
  2. Bringing new technology to the masses: I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to bring a new type of technology to a large number of employees and users. Typically, knowledge workers are the ones who get to experiment with all the new fancy tech first (i.e. new mobile applications, new computers, and hardware), while frontline workers are the last people considered. I think one of the best things that Strivr has done is to introduce VR to the masses through the enterprise, given that the frontline employee population in the Fortune 1000 is much bigger than the knowledge-worker population.
  3. The rise of the Metaverse — I’m excited to see the emergence of the Metaverse, and its potential to transform the enterprise with an immersive world to learn, train, and engage with other people. At Strivr, we believe we are serving as the bridge to the Metaverse for enterprises. I foresee the Metaverse as being an augmentation of the physical world, where we take a physical space that’s too expensive or too difficult to replicate and recreate that experience virtually for the user. Ultimately, we know that when learners train in an environment as close to the real world as possible, they have the highest chances of engagement and retention.

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. Delivering safe user experiences — A very important consideration at Strivr, is ensuring that people can experience this technology safely. With virtual experiences, we have to ensure any physical movement users do in the real world is equally matched in the virtual world, or else the end user may experience dizziness and nausea.

At Strivr, we care about the entire user experience and put a great amount of thought into where the training is going to take place. Oftentimes the companies we work with don’t have the large spaces that are required for six degrees of freedom (6DoF) experiences (i.e. experiences where users can physically move forward or backward, left or right, and up or down as they can in physical reality). We consider questions such as “Is this a 4×4 or 6×6 room?” or “Is this space better for supporting 6DoF experiences, or is it better for three degrees of freedom (3DoF) when you’re sitting in a chair or a desk so that you’re not standing up without space to move around?” Soon, pass-through and AR technology that shows the user’s real-world surroundings while in the headset should be arriving on the market to provide added visibility and safety measures.

2. Change Management — Another challenge is ensuring that organizations take the time to roll out the technology in a way that offers the best possible experience for their employees. When putting on a headset, many users are experiencing VR for the very first time. It’s a considerably different modality than they are used to compared to a phone or a tablet. This requires attention to change management practices in order to ensure that the learners understand the technology and how to get the most from the experience.

3. Content — Hardware, form factor and design, software are critical areas that are undergoing significant evolutions to deliver the most compelling, high-quality immersive experiences for users. As we get there, the quality and volume of content and applications will be critical to drive usage and mass adoption of the technology. I look towards tech like Generative AI and graphics computing platforms to accelerate the world of content development. They can help with automation content generation, improving content quality, and increasing content variety.

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

VR is playing a significant role in critical areas such as training, upskilling, and increasing knowledge retention and engagement. Because VR provides an immersive experience for employees to practice and make mistakes without real risk, it’s a phenomenal tool for both frontline and knowledge-based workers. For example, VR training has been deployed to frontline store associates and customer service representatives by companies such as Walmart, Verizon, and Sprouts to practice using new equipment and procedures or practice enacting safety protocols for scenarios such as in-store robberies, in a safe space.

VR has also been transforming the knowledge-worker sector as well, by helping companies better provide more engaging experiences for employees during the hiring process, during onboarding, and for L&D. For example Accenture created the “Nth floor virtual office” to provide a centralized place to impart its culture and values, exchange ideas, and foster collaboration in real-time. Companies are also experimenting with VR to provide potential hires with a look at what their day-to-day roles would look like before they accept the job; and help learners improve soft skills critical for success in our virtual-first workplace, such as navigating conflict and delivering feedback with empathy.

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

While very nascent in stages, VR in healthcare has seen recent spikes in startup activity and VC investment. The Great Ormond Street Hospital is a prime example of a health provider that leveraged VR to train staff on operational procedures months ahead of surgery, so that they could practice performing the task, without the risk of harming the patient.

The potential that this technology has to transform our lives is only beginning to be discovered. While each industry will ultimately use VR for different tasks, the ultimate results are the same across the board: giving learners visual, auditory, and kinesthetic cues in a fully immersive environment to bring significant improvements in performance and knowledge retention — oftentimes at a faster rate than traditional learning.

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

One of the greatest misconceptions we’ve had to break is that VR is primarily a great medium for games. While VR has been historically linked to the gaming world, it has proven itself to be an impactful L&D solution for Fortune 1000 companies and is backed by decades of research. I anticipate that what we are seeing emerge through the Metaverse, will ultimately change the perception of VR as a technology and medium both for work and for play.

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

  1. Think outside the box — VR is still a relatively nascent technology despite its long history, having gone through multiple attempts mostly focused on gaming, which wasn’t overly successful. Now, there is a new wave of interest with the kickstart of the Metaverse, which has few precedents and is accompanied by more sophisticated technology. With no precedence, being successful involves thinking out of the box and having a vision of where the technology is headed.
  2. Be bold — VR presents an opportunity for trailblazers to introduce concepts, use cases, and technology that the world has never seen before. Being creative and ambitious is key to maintaining momentum in this industry, new technology always brings challenges but also untapped potential for those brave enough to explore it.
  3. Be innovative — VR isn’t always all about the “cool stuff,” but rather the most impactful application, and how you can find that. At Strivr, we’ve found this through learning and training. Companies spend on average approximately $1,270 per worker on L&D and still find that many existing training methods today aren’t effective or are not measurable.
  4. Find applications of VR that drive adoption at scale — VR is a highly innovative new way of learning and training that amplifies engagement and cognitive retention. This is a great example of an area where organizations are willing to invest in innovative approaches to learning that will help drive retention, engagement, and upskilling. Driving that change by bringing something completely new and different, yet proven, is an example of a good application. And when deployed at scale, it can have a significant impact.
  5. Have patience & understand that success doesn’t happen overnight: I think many newcomers have an expectation that VR is going to be successful overnight. They don’t consider the arc of time it takes for new technologies to become ubiquitous. Consider mobile technologies in general and mobile phones specifically. It’s actually taken a long time for it to evolve into what it is today. The development and evolution of the hardware, firmware, software, and applications were over the span of 20+ years. I do not think it would be the same length of time for VR since it has been able to take advantage of the advancements made in hardware and design over the past 20+ years.

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 of education as a great leveler — a mechanism that allows people at large, and especially those from the poorest circumstances to succeed. But there are significant headwinds and challenges for people from these backgrounds in pursuing education. Education is expensive, and people from these backgrounds have to make choices between earning a living and pursuing an education. If I could inspire a movement, it would be one that would change education from being a commodity that is easily accessible for people with means — those with wealth, those with homes in school districts with high property prices, into being a resource that is truly and equally accessible to everybody.

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 🙂

From the general world, unrelated to technology I would like to meet Barack Obama. Transcending politics, I think he has the right balance in being empathetic, inclusive, and wanting to do good for the population, without being dogmatic.

In the world of tech, there are a few influential visionaries I’d love to spend time with. If Steve Jobs were still alive, it would be Steve Jobs, it would be Mark Zuckerberg, it would be Elon Musk. Even if I don’t agree with everything they’ve said or done, I think of these people as those that have taken insane risks the average person would never take to build products and platforms that have changed or are changing the world.

Continuing with the world of tech, I have massive respect for founders. The founders that I have worked with have a singular passion and belief in solving a hard problem and making a positive impact. I have the privilege of being able to spend time with Derek Belch, the CEO and founder at Strivr every week, and I had the privilege of doing the same with Jyoti Bansal when I was at AppDynamics.

And last but not the least, I would love to have lunch with Trevor Noah. He is my favorite comedian and his background, life story, and achievement is very inspiring.

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


Makers of The Metaverse: Aneesh Kulkarni Of Strivr 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.

Michele Zilocchi On The 5 Things You Need To Understand In Order To Successfully Invest In…

Michele Zilocchi On The 5 Things You Need To Understand In Order To Successfully Invest In Cryptocurrency

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Bitcoin is considered a risk-on store-of-value, and that is why in some market conditions it happens to have a anti-correlation when compared to Gold. This pattern was clearly visible in March 2022 where the destiny of the Russian-Ukraine war was not already clearly defined. Under that circumstances, Bitcoin price started to decrease and Gold price started to increase because it was considered as the correct safe-asset for institutions like Investment Funds, Commercial Banks and Investment Banks (and many retails that bought Gold through such institutions).

Over the past few years, the Cryptocurrency industry has been making headlines nearly every week. Many people have gotten very wealthy investing or leading the cryptocurrency industry. At the same time, many people have lost a lot investing in the industry. In addition, more people have been scrutinizing the ecological impact of crypto mining, as well as its potential facilitation of illegal activity. What is being done and what can be done to address these concerns?

In this interview series called “5 Things You Need To Understand In Order To Successfully Invest In Cryptocurrency” we are talking to leaders in the cryptocurrency industry, as well as successful investors, who share insights from their experience about how to successfully invest in Cryptocurrency.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Michele Zilocchi aka Mike Zillo.

Mike first heard of cryptocurrencies back in 2012, when he was still graduating at the M.Eng of Chemical and Process Engineering among Netherlands and Italy. He thought that cryptocurrencies were “stupid stuffs” and the guy from whom he heard talking about Bitcoin, should have focused more on getting a degree instead of doing such things. Now that guy is the CEO of one of the most important crypto-investment fund and I received my most important lesson here: being humble is free but it can cost a lot not being it.

He started his journey into the cryptocurrency space back in 2017, before the first big wave of Bitcoin, where he started trading and gaining experience into the crypto-mining field. Anyway, the mere speculation on cryptocurrencies was not satisfactory for him and that is why in 2018 he started studying and practicing to become a proficient Cryptocurrency advisor, with a focus on Companies willing to deploy their business in the cryptocurrency/Web3 space.

As a Cryptocurrency Advisor I understood that Cryptocurrency companies has the same (and even more) needs of a traditional company and that is why I decided to go deeper, increasing my expertise into Tokenomics, Product Design and Business Strategy. I have already experienced with a lot of projects the needs, the struggles and how to overcome certain difficulties. I see the term Strategy Advisory quite overwhelmed in its use today, but in my conception, covering this role is like an art: helping each team with different features, tasks and working paths, with a personal and human approach.

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 little about your backstory and how you grew up?

I am an only child and I have always been very shy, so when I was a child, I refuged myself into studying, attending different courses to improve my academic skills and lately creating soft skills quite different and unique if compared to young people from my age.

I then graduated with good grades in Chemical and Process Engineering, with a nice Experimental thesis carried out in the Netherlands. At 24 years old, before graduating, I co-founded my first start-up in the field of microalgae for nutritional purposes. I loved the microalgae field and I loved Chemical Engineering too. By the time I simply realized that it could result quite static in the mid-term and that is why while working as an engineer I successfully started free-time working for a Direct Selling company. The income from this free-time job almost overcame my Engineer salary and that is when I decided to resign from my working place, to start investing time to develop proficiency into some Business Fields.
My dream was working into a young and dynamic environment with the chance of being involved with different projects and different task. My aspiration was to become a catalyst of several evolution/transformational processes into companies, but for doing that, a lot of experience had to be achieved since motivation and theory were just a nice (and useful) starting point. And then, the cryptocurrency opportunity landed in my head and hands, and since 2017 I am grinding in the field.

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

The two movies that inspired me the most throughout the years have been “Karate Kid” and “V for Vendetta”. From Karate Kid, that I watched several times when I was a kid, I learnt that the repetition of specific tasks can lead to proficiency over time because hard work always beats talent if talent does not work hard. Besides, this movie is still inspirational to me, thanks the humbleness that Daniel-san had to prove to increase his Karate skills.
V for Vendetta, inspired me a lot when it comes to the power of dreams, the power of rebellion and the self-confidence necessary to pursue my ambitions, even if everyone and everything seems against me. Besides, from this latest, I also appreciate a lot the idea of the totalitarianism-rebellion that is something people should have always clear in mind. Totalitarianism only works until people believe in it.

Is there a particular story that inspired you to pursue your particular career path? We’d love to hear it.

The story that, over time, inspired me the most has been the one from Colonel Harland Sanders, well-known for being the Founder of KFC. He started a ferry-boat company, then he acquired a motel with his owned restaurant that were burnt to the ground. He then started the attempts to sell the fried chicken recipes but he got rejected 1009 times and later, at the age of 62, he opened the first franchise of KFC. The ability to reinvent himself plus the perseverance to face all the rejections is something that I really admire.

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, started from my very first start-up and lasted some years until I better understood it. When starting a business together with other people, they will likely take care of you until they have a common interest AND the value of the relationship can usually be measured by their share of the amount of money at stake.
I know, probably you all thought of something funnier, but once you realize this thing, everything becomes funnier because you become more able to focus yourself on the business (and being less a dreamer) and see the real purpose that drives people having an interest towards 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?

In my path, I encountered different people, that taught me different things. Anyway, when it comes to gratitude, my parents are the two most important, that have always offered help during my struggles, they allowed me to attend several different experiences and taught me the most important values about how to be an integer person, giving values to human values, ethics and so on.

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

I am currently working on different projects, all of them aimed to improve existing ecosystems or to give tools to people to exploit market conditions. I think that at the moment of writing, the most exciting projects I am currently working are two, quite different among each other. The first one is called Decentra — Accademia dei Registri Distribuiti, an Italian association conveying deep knowledge about cryptocurrencies. Thanks to the growing network and the wide technical and managerial expertise, with such structure, every crypto-project can see its birth and the development. The second project that can really impact people’s life is a fully-decentralized platform for education purposes, where content creators and Learners will be rewarded based on the quality of the participation (and the content) they will bring to the platform. Its name is Skillsbite and it is co-founded from a Polish team, where I am figuring as a Strategic Advisor for the development of the business and the integration of the Tokenomics.
If you feel you want to connect with me, make sure to get in touch through my Linkedin Profile.

Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. The cryptocurrency industry seems extremely dynamic 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.

The first one are the words: “Decentralized” and “Permissionless”: what I really enjoyed from the very beginning was this idea of the removal of central entities, changing them with democratic organizations. That is why Wallets are the real deal of cryptocurrencies and not price fluctuations!

The second is the “Tokenization of Everything”, meaning that a lot of different categories of assets can be represented with tokens, with different purposes, application and limitations.

The third one is that Bitcoin has a limited supply, making it scarcer and scarcer as the mining keeps going. More than 19 millions of bitcoin have already been minted and less than two millions are left to be minted.

What are the 3 things that concern you about the industry? Can you explain? What can be done to address those concerns?

The first one is Greed. Cryptocurrency users are greedy and they get dazzled by huge APYs without taking into consideration all the potential risks involved behind such numbers.

The second one is again Greed because people are willing to sell their soul just to get some “passive income” with cryptocurrencies without keeping in mind about the relevance of decentralization (like in ETH staking, among the other examples where now just 5 validators are controlling more than half of the voting power). To help these two kinds of greedy people, education and evidences of platforms promising miraculous results blowing up are necessary to create awareness. Promoting decentralization is more difficult since evidences come up too late, like the FTX, BlockFi, Celsius examples.

The third one is connected to regulators that can feel cryptocurrencies as a too risky asset while they were given birth to create monetary independence for people using them.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about cryptocurrency? Can you explain what you mean?

There are some myths I always explain to people, especially when talking to newcomers. The first myth I usually debunk is about Money Laundering, that if compared to Messari’s report data from 2019, every 800$ traditional dollars, only 1$ in cryptocurrencies is implicated into illicit traffics. So cryptocurrencies are actually used for illicit traffic but 800 times less than Dollar.
The second myth is about Bitcoin Volatility: VanEck recently issued a report stating that 22% of the companies listed in the S&P500 are more volatile than Bitcoin. For what concerns volatility you may all probably remember what happened when the Swiss Franc unpegged from the EUR in January 2015: a 50% price variation in a single day.
The third myth to be debunked is about Pollution and Carbon Dioxide emissions: from FAO’s data can be easily understood that disposed food has 10 times more CO2 emissions than Bitcoin and that Bitcoin network has an energy demand that is less than half of the banking system. Another myth is that people lose money with cryptocurrencies, while it’s just a matter of when they buy and sell their cryptocurrencies. Actually, this really depends on the time-span they are willing to look at for their purchase of cryptocurrencies and what coins (or s**t coins) they bought. I wrote a comprehensive Medium article on this topic and you can find it here.

How do you think cryptocurrency has the potential to help society in the future?

At first, I am totally sure that cryptocurrencies can help the society, and they are already doing it. At first, to disintermediate payments, bypassing potential restrictions of banks to work with third-world countries or other nations that are on grey/black OFAC list. But these can be just preconceptions, because there may be a lot of importers and exporters in such countries that are just willing to create an international business but they have to struggle with unnecessary bank restrictions.
Other applications are for the traceability of goods and services thanks to public blockchains that can store and notarize data.
Another advantage is the Tokenization of Everything that can create liquidity in non-liquid markets thanks to Secondary Markets, Digitization and Fractionalization. This can be really useful as a new frontier of the crowdfunding, with a potential exchange in the secondary market among Security Tokens.

Recently, more people have been scrutinizing the ecological impact of crypto mining. From your perspective, can you explain to our readers why the cryptocurrency industry is creating an environmental challenge?

Thanks for such question: it’s great to talk about it here. There are two ideas about pollution: the first one is the real pollution (hydrocarbons, heavy metals, polluting gases) and then there is Carbon Dioxide production/emissions. Cryptocurrency mining cannot pollute directly since it’s just a form of electricity consumption, so the trigger is moved to the source of energy production. Before accusing cryptocurrency-mining we should face the reality on how much sustainable is the electricity production nowadays. Anyway, recent stats from Coinshares state that about 30% of the electricity used for cryptocurrency mining comes from renewable resources. And that’s not so bad, if compared to the usual renewable energy shares for countries. For example, Italy (my birth-country) has the same share of renewable energy on the total energy produced of Cryptocurrency mining while USA are down to 12.4% according to EIA.gov .
Bitcoin yearly energy demand is less then half of the Banking ecosystem and 5% of the USA conditioned air consumption just for private uses. What is the priority? Setting the room temperature at 22°C during summer or empowering this ecosystem of distributed and democratic money?
One last thing: estimated yearly Carbon Dioxide emissions for Bitcoin mining are 95 Mega-tonnes per year while according to Mbow et al., 2019, p. 200, up to 10% of the total Greenhouse gases are created by wasted food. WASTED FOOD. I am not triggering the battle for Intensive Farming (that produces 7100Mega-tonnes/year of CO2). I am simply talking about Wasted Food. And that is huge. If we assume that 10% of products coming from Intensive farming are disposed, we are talking of 710Mega-tonnes/year of Carbon Dioxide to produce food that is then disposed. Just the “Wasted-Food-Industry” has carbon dioxide emissions 7 times higher than Bitcoin’s. Are we sure that we need to focus on Bitcoin’s emissions when there are millions of people starving around the world?

From your perspective what can be done to address or correct these concerns?

As usual, the first thing is to spread the correct information. Anyway, information should not be shared in a maximalist way. It’s ok being a Bitcoin maximalist but when it comes to information, we should try to understand the point of view of the other person that has probably some preconceptions in its mind and therefore we cannot start attacking it where if feels safe and confident. We must try to share with those people the correct information in the correct form with the correct attitude.

Recently, more people have been scrutinizing cryptocurrency’s impact on illegal activity. From your perspective, can you explain to our readers why cryptocurrency, more than fiat currency, is seen as an attractive choice for criminals?

This is another preconception that when I hold public speeches about cryptocurrency topic. Cryptocurrencies are used for illicit traffic, like any other currency is.

In 2019 Messari.io published a stats where they showed how cryptocurrency are losing the competition for illicit traffic application 800 to 1 if compared to traditional Dollar. That means that every dollar in cryptocurrencies used for illicit purposes, other 800 dollars are used.

Recent statistics from Europol made this ratio to decrease, but still in the range of 1:83–1:217. So again, cryptocurrency can be used for illicit traffics, but they are still losing the competition with traditional currencies by order of magnitudes.

From your perspective what can be done to address or correct these concerns?

I think that awareness is again the key. In order to increase it, mass medias should pay more attention to positive and constructive examples of cryptocurrencies and blockchain use cases. As of now, their main focus is on negative events, frauds and other events that contribute to dismantle the faith that people may have on these technologies because that’s what can significantly impact the size of their audience. Anyway, this is not entirely mass media’s fault. Big responsibilities are also on the shoulders of “cryptocurrency-professionals” or journalists that surf such hype waves to get some attention for themselves. To balance the polarity of these yellers, we need people that are here to BUILD and not to act just as megaphones and shouters but rather we need BUILDERS, PROJECT MANAGERS, INVENTORS. For the moment, unfortunately, some falling trees are making far more noise than a growing forest.

Ok, fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are “The 5 Things You Need To Understand In Order To Successfully Invest In Cryptocurrency?”

1 — For people considering cryptocurrencies as an investment, keep in mind that cryptocurrencies are a relatively new asset, meaning that they are still considered a high risk asset. My first purchase of cryptocurrencies, back in 2017 was 100$ because the asset was new and, to be honest, I was almost completely ignorant of what I was purchasing. So I thought to spend just 100$ because I wanted to purchase some bitcoin and to start understanding how this system works. 100$ at that time was a correct amount that was not compromising my pockets and I could “forget” about.

2 — Cryptocurrencies are a lot, much different one from the others and before following the hype, I always evaluate the project, the team, the advancement stage behind. It happened to me when I bought Algorand back at the beginning of 2020. I studied the team, the validation method, and the technology behind and that is what led me to buying Algorand and even becoming and Algorand Ambassador.

3 — Cryptocurrencies are the tip of the iceberg. Blockchain and token applications are the whole iceberg. Cryptocurrencies have been the tool to apply the Theory of Games to Blockchain validation, stimulating people with an economic incentive to validate the chain in good faith and reject malicious transactions.
I had the chance to explain these features to a webinar I held for an Italian engineering association and they got quite astonished when I mentioned all the applications for tokens, from Security Tokens to NFTs and for blockchain for the notarization of data. People usually focus on the news from the mass medias and unfortunately they do not get the full picture of the whole evolution brought here.

4 — Bitcoin is considered a risk-on store-of-value, and that is why in some market conditions it happens to have a anti-correlation when compared to Gold. This pattern was clearly visible in March 2022 where the destiny of the Russian-Ukraine war was not already clearly defined. Under that circumstances, Bitcoin price started to decrease and Gold price started to increase because it was considered as the correct safe-asset for institutions like Investment Funds, Commercial Banks and Investment Banks (and many retails that bought Gold through such institutions).

5 — Not your keys not your money. Money not used for active trading should be kept in decentralized Wallets, to HODL the cryptocurrencies in a safe place. We have all seen what happened in 2022 to FTX, BlockFi, Hodlnaut, Celsius and some more. If you are really serious on buying cryptocurrencies to create your accumulation plan and hold them for some time, you should definitely understand how Native Wallets work, what types of wallet do exist and why they are such safe for cryptocurrencies. Leaving cryptocurrencies into Exchanges is like leaving the money into the bank: it’s safe until the bank is safe. And if you do not trade such funds, use the Wallets!

What are the most common mistakes you have seen people make when they enter the industry? What can be done to avoid that?

The biggest one, is about believing in absurdly high APY and joining cryptocurrencies spread by Multi-level Marketing. High APYs are hardly sustainable and they are often carried out with a depreciation of the token (higher earnings meaning higher selling pressure). The Multi-level Marketing approach to Cryptocurrencies is quite dangerous because the buying pressure will come mainly from recruiters recruiting “ignorant” people that at the first occasion will sell their tokens. As soon as the first drop of the price or the first negative rumor will happen, a chained bearish reaction will be potentially triggered, making the price going to zero in a few hours or few days at the most.
To avoid these situation, always make your Due Diligence and evaluate what is the project or the real underlying assets of this token. Furthermore, when you are proposed a token sold by MLM, your first attitude should be skeptical. Then DYOR (Do Your Own Researches).
Another huge mistake I see people doing is panic selling when the prices drop. Bitcoin has proven that has to be treated as a long-term deal and you can see information about this into dcabtc.com .

Do you have a particular type of cryptocurrency that you are excited about? We’d love to hear why.

I am very passionate of Algorand, which I have already spent some nice words about. Algorand introduced an innovative Proof of Stake, called pure Proof of Stake, pPos. The difference from the original PoS is that with the pPoS also the small stakers can get randomly “called” to validate blocks. So, the validation committee is different every block like in the traditional PoS but with the pPoS the distribution of probability to be inserted in the validating committee has a variable that randomly choose an Algorand wallet, with no weight correlated to the number of Algorand contained into it. So in the pPoS a part of the validating committee is based on the heavy wallets, while another part is chosen in a complete casual way.
Algorand Blockchain is fast and block validation takes about three seconds and the fee for the transaction is flat to 0.001ALGO. While I am writing, Algorand is in the range of 0.30$, meaning that the commission for transacting on the Algorand Blockchain is 0.3thousanth of dollar (0.0003$). That is why Algorand Blockchain is often used for traceability purposes and I used it as well for the supply chain tracking I have done since late-2020.

What I also like a lot from Algorand Ecosystem is the team, mainly Italian (like me, lol) and its leader, Silvio Micali, who is a Professor at the MIT of Boston and he has won a Nobel prize for cryptography.

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

I am very passionate about environment and environmentally friendly technologies. Anyway, since there is already a lot in that direction I would love to create a “pat on the shoulder” movement by smiling and greeting people we encounter on the road. We are often immersed in thoughts, often worried about what is going on in our life and I think that walking here and there, smiling and greeting each other would have two different results: more positive energy spread around and second, by greeting people we recognize that someone is passing by and we are not alone on the route: we acknowledge that other people do exist and we greet them like saying “I know you are there, I notice you, I feel you”. I have already had this experience in the College where I lived when I attended the University (away from my birthplace), and it made me feeling really good! A smile can always change people’s day.

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 have to choose only one and my choice is upon Lebron James. I am a passionate basketball player and I also admire him a lot. Starting from his troubled childhood, having the guts to attend the College and then being continuously under the spotlight, having now the chance to become the All-time top scorer. I would love to talk with him to understand his mindset, how he trains himself to stay focused towards his targets without being distracted from his same targets.

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


Michele Zilocchi On The 5 Things You Need To Understand In Order To Successfully Invest In… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Remote Career Development: Brendan Griffith On How To Advance and Enhance Your Career When You Are…

Remote Career Development: Brendan Griffith On How To Advance and Enhance Your Career When You Are Working Remotely

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

FOMO — Not everyone can travel out of town or out of state to meet-up with colleagues. Instead, identify a group of professionals you’re connected with locally and schedule recurring happy hours or lunches each month.

Career development is the ongoing process of choosing, improving, developing, and advancing your career. This involves learning, making decisions, collaboration with others and knowing yourself well enough to be able to continually assess your strengths and weaknesses. This can be challenging enough when you work in an office, but what if you work remotely? How does remote work affect your career development? How do you nurture and advance your career when you are working from home and away from other colleagues? How can you help your employees do this? To address these questions, we started an interview series called “How To Advance and Enhance Your Career When You Are Working Remotely”. As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Brendan Griffith.

For nearly 12 years, Brendan has helped to create and execute integrated communications programs across a broad range of local, national and international clients. He has worked in diverse industries including professional and financial services, healthcare, manufacturing, real estate and retail, among others. While specializing in strategic media outreach and executive positioning initiatives, Brendan’s experience also includes managing corporate crises/issues, fostering improved employee communications, developing and implementing social media strategies, and providing financial communications and investor relations.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. What is your “backstory”?

I am currently a Senior Vice President at Reputation Partners, a national strategic communications and public relations firm based in the Midwest, but my backstory starts much earlier. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago before heading to Illinois State University to study public relations. After graduation, I moved back home for a year and worked at Fishman Public Relations, where I focused primarily on delivering media placements and results for national and global franchise brands. After a year and a half, I joined Reputation Partners in 2011 and ‘the rest was history.’ I initially worked in our downtown Chicago office for about six years before moving to Wisconsin and working from our Milwaukee office. Today, Milwaukee is home where I live with my wife and two-year-old daughter (and soon to be another little one joining our crew).

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

Although ‘interesting’ isn’t necessarily the right or best word to describe it, the pandemic has been one of the more impactful things to happen to my career. My wife and I were moving in March 2020 on the weekend prior to the country shutting down. I can remember leaving work not knowing I wouldn’t return to the office. Overnight, everyone was suddenly in the same situation of navigating uncertainty and figuring out how to best manage (and make things work in) this new work style/environment. The resulting hybrid model that I now experience (and so does the rest of our team at Reputation Partners) ultimately had a positive impact on my career and life, as it gives me more time with my growing family, as well as allows me to be more intentional/collaborative with my teams — whether in the office or virtual.

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

My first job out of college was working at one of the leading PR agencies that specializes in supporting national and global franchise concepts. Every Friday, a small group of us would go out to lunch together and we would brainstorm which restaurant to go to by circulating a group email earlier in the morning. If I was the one kicking-off the email thread, I would typically have some fun with it — include a meme or GIF, link to a funny video, add some sarcasm, etc. One Friday, I drafted my humorous email (the meme I chose that day was the crying James Van Der Beek from Dawnson’s Creek), quickly auto populated the email addresses of everyone in the group and hit send. The only problem with auto-populating the email is one guy in our group had the same first name as the owner/CEO of one of my clients. I was mortified when I realized the mistake, but luckily for me, the CEO had a sense of humor and simply replied with, “Thanks for the invite! Really wish I could join, but I’m out of state. Have fun!” The lesson: Everyone makes mistakes, but ALWAYS double (and even triple) check the recipient(s) and content of an email before sending.

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

One of my favorites is an Aristotle quote that says, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” I feel people confuse this with seeking perfection. That is not the case. No one is perfect and that especially applies to me. Rather, I view it as setting a bar — or a standard — for yourself that you try to repeatedly meet or exceed as often as possible. How you repeatedly act or operate — whether that is your work or how you treat people — defines you. It isn’t a one-time thing.

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

Advice is never a one-size-fits-all, but, for me, so much stems from creating a supportive and open culture and environment. Like many aspects of a company culture, it is easy for leaders to say they are advocates of these cultural characteristics, but whether they put them in to practice is another story. By creating a supportive environment, employees feel comfortable to ask curious questions, try new things and make mistakes without fear of feeling dumb or letting someone down. This allows space for employees to grow their career and ultimately thrive.

Additionally, establishing an environment where open communication and feedback is not only encouraged, but expected, empowers employees to share issues they may be facing — including factors leading to burnout. The sentiment I always convey to the teammates I manage at work is that if I don’t know something is wrong, I can’t help find a solution. Without a culture that promotes open communication, issues — big or small — aren’t raised.

Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Working remotely can be very different than working with a team that is in front of you. This provides great opportunities, but it can also create unique challenges. To begin, can you articulate for our readers a few of the main benefits and opportunities of working remotely?

  1. You can work anywhere — When all you need is a laptop, anywhere (literally, anywhere) can be your office for the day. There is an extraordinary level of freedom that comes with this. While many individuals choose between working from their home or dropping into a coffee shop or co-working space for the day, being able to work from anywhere even extends to different cities and states. Planning a long weekend trip away? Work from your AirBnB so you’re ready to kick-start the trip sooner. The possibilities are endless.
  2. Better work-life balance — There is an increased level of flexibility in working from home and/or remotely that helps create a better work-life balance. Simple things (and in some cases, simple pleasures) such as a coffee meet-up with friends; taking a break for an early afternoon walk or at-home workout; or even knocking domestic ‘chores’ off your list such as doing a load of laundry or quickly mowing the lawn are all things remote workers can accomplish on any given day. And while some might think this is cutting into typical working hours, always remember that remote workers are just reallocating the time they previously spent commuting to and from work.
  3. Increased productivity — The ability to create and work in an environment that best suits your preferences and makes you feel comfortable can drastically increase productivity. For some, this means setting up shop at a co-working space for the day, while others may prefer to put on headphones and listen to their favorite music from the comfort of their living room couch. Whatever the preference, being able to cut out distractions (and yes, this even includes colleagues randomly dropping by your office/desk just to chat — which can be nice some of the times!) and focus on your work can allow you to accomplish more in a shorter period of time, which also helps with work-life balance.

Can you articulate for our readers what the five main challenges are regarding working remotely?

Everyone is different (personality, preferences, etc.) and how one person navigates working remotely will differ from someone else. While not the only five challenges, the hurdles that come to mind especially apply to individuals who exclusively work remotely and aren’t able to take advantage of a hybrid work environment (or one where employees are able to come together on a recurring basis to meet, collaborate and socialize — as is the case with Reputation Partners).

  1. Isolation — Working by yourself all day every day can be isolating, especially on days where you might not leave the house due to a hectic schedule or inclement weather.
  2. FOMO — If you are a remote worker for a company that has a core group of employees in one or more central locations, missing out on happy hours, team lunches, etc., could give you a lingering feeling of FOMO.
  3. Zoom/Teams Fatigue — While even in-person employees have Zoom/Teams meetings throughout the day (both with internal teammates and clients/customers), if virtual meetings are the only option, fatigue will certainly settle in after looking at a video screen for several hours per day.
  4. Professional Development — Unless a company makes it a priority and is committed to the growth of its employees (or even provides financial resources to pursue professional development opportunities — that’s what Reputation Partners does), professional development can become difficult for remote employees as they may miss out on opportunities their in-person colleagues.
  5. Access — When you’re remote, more coordination and scheduling is often required to interact and meet with members of your team. This can stifle impromptu interactions and ‘access’ to colleagues, potential mentors and leaders at your organization.

Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges? Can you give a story or example for each?

  1. Isolation — Make it a priority to get out of the house (or wherever you’re working) at least once per day, and aim to grab coffee with a friend, new connection or someone in your local community a few times per month. An added bonus: By grabbing coffee or meeting up with connections, it also helps to expand your personal and professional network.
  2. FOMO — Not everyone can travel out of town or out of state to meet-up with colleagues. Instead, identify a group of professionals you’re connected with locally and schedule recurring happy hours or lunches each month.
  3. Zoom/Teams Fatigue — Sometimes it feels as if taking calls via phone (or off camera) is now frowned upon, as if meetings have always been conducted via Zoom/Teams (insert sarcasm and an eye roll). Unless the expectation has been explicitly set by a manager, consider taking some calls (if/when appropriate) via phone or off-camera and go for a walk while you talk. This is a perfect way to be productive while also grabbing a 30 minute break outside.
  4. Professional Development & Access — Whether it is one of your main managers/supervisors at work or someone you’ve identified as a mentor, make it a priority to schedule recurring meetings so you can connect with the people that are most important to you and your development. While the cadence of these meetings is up to you, aim for weekly or every other week. Also, don’t be afraid to connect with any and all individuals at your company where you might have limited interactions — it’s always better to be able to put a face to a name when working together.

Let’s talk about Career Development. Can you share a few ideas about how you can nurture and advance your career when you are working from home and away from other colleagues?

  1. Proactively Check-In — You never want to find yourself in an “out of sight, out of mind” position by working remote. While it might seem simple, proactively touching base with your account/team leads or primary manager can do wonders for your development. Specifically, it shows your teams and managers that you’re someone who is on top of things, eager to drive work/projects forward and is always ready to take on a new task/opportunity, schedule permitting. Ultimately, it shows your team that you’re dependable and trustworthy (they never wonder about the status of your work), and those are two qualities needed for a teammate to be given proper growth and development opportunities.
  2. Align Yourself with an Advocate — We all have different types of working relationships, ranging from mentors to the teammates you might go out to lunch with or vent to if you’re having a tough day (or they’re the first person you go to with a positive ‘win’). These are all advantageous, but it is just as important to identify and meaningfully connect with someone within your company who will serve as an advocate for your development and growth. Oftentimes, this is a more senior member of the team who can ensure you are given level appropriate development opportunities to try out new skills. Similarly, it might be someone who is responsible for your performance reviews and can work with you to identify your strengths and address areas of improvement — and ultimately advocates for your promotions. For some, the person they align with fits both descriptions — that’s the sweet spot.
  3. Advocate for Yourself — This is something all employees should do, but for anyone working remote, it is especially important to be your own advocate. You (and the team that supports you or works with you) will have various ‘wins’ — don’t be afraid to share those with key decisions makers within your company so it doesn’t go unnoticed. Similarly, if you’re participating in a professional development course/event/etc. that will benefit you and the work you’re able to deliver for your company, share that great news. While you should always be mindful not to overly boast, there is nothing wrong with making your teams and managers aware of the positive contributions you’re making from afar.

Can you share a few ideas about how employers or managers can help their teams with career development?

I am a firm believer in not overcomplicating things, and this applies to career development. While simple, my guidance to managers is to have every interaction with your people be meaningful and make it about them. Our days are busy and schedules can be hectic, so making the most of your time with your team is critical. Whether a scheduled regroup or an impromptu conversation, find ways to see how the individual is doing personally, check-in on how their work is going, and try to find way to share some guidance/direction surrounding something they’re dealing with professionally. This creates personal touch points (and builds camaraderie) and learning opportunities for your team. Additionally, make career development about them. Yes, an employee that continues to learn, grow and develop naturally benefits the company, but the focus needs to be on the individual — what do they want to focus on, where do they want to improve, how can you help them meet their 1/3/5-year goals? It is a false (and unrealistic) expectation that employees will be with you forever, but while they are, it should be your goal as a manager and leader to do everything possible to help someone grow.

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 not be surprised if the idea that floats around in my head exists in some capacity. Nevertheless, I would love to see a more broadly organized and impactful program that exposes disenfranchised or impoverished youth (especially at an early age such as grade school and middle school) to various career opportunities they can strive for when they get older.

Here’s a quick back story that will lend itself to this idea. When I first moved to Milwaukee, I joined Big Brothers Big Sisters and was a Big Brother for three years to two boys (8 years old and 11 years old) who lived in very low socioeconomic conditions. One day when I picked up the boys, the youngest was extremely excited because his class traveled downtown for the day to visit a local bank — he got to talk to a banker, go inside the vault, etc. Both visiting a bank and even going to downtown Milwaukee were things he had never done before. He had never had this sort of exposure, and that is common for young kids growing up in impoverished areas and environments. My wish would be to find a way to fix this. Not through a typical job/career fair, but rather through a movement that brings together youth organizations that historically reach these kids (i.e., Boys & Girls Clubs, Big Brothers Big Sisters, etc.), as well as local companies and their employees across all industries and professions (both professional and trade/skilled), to create an immersive experience that exposes young kids to all the different opportunities they can aspire to when they grow up. Sometimes opening someone’s eyes to what could be is a powerful force that instills hope and a realization that there is something more than the environment one might find themselves in.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Anyone interest in learning more can check out Reputation Partner’s website at www.reputationpartners.com or my LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/brendanjgriffith/.

Thank you so much for the time you spent doing this interview. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success.

My pleasure. Thanks for allowing me to share!


Remote Career Development: Brendan Griffith On How To Advance and Enhance Your Career When You Are… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Orville Wright Of Oh Yeah Beats On 5 Ways To Create a Wow! Customer Experience

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Every thriving business leader knows how to display transparency through the process so customers can enjoy the ride. Unexpected bumps that customers aren’t aware of only create instability in communication and reduce trust.

As part of our series about the five things a business should do to create a Wow! customer experience, I had the pleasure of interviewing Orville “OH YEAH” Wright.

Orville is trailblazing with amazing music that moves the hearts, minds, and souls of audiences. He is creating “Wow” moments after each of his products and services to the public. His well-known pride and joy is spotlighted in “THEME SONGS”.

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?

Absolutely! My story involves the desire to connect with everyone around me with talents I can truly hone continuously. As I was growing up, I observed the connections and bonds created through common interests. I was considered an outcast being one of the few children of color in my community but I stood up for kids who were bullied (my parents always told me to stand up for others), connected with other outcasts, and always helped to represent others who had struggles in society. After realizing my “calling” in music, I discovered a way to really connect with everyone that I made music for. I created a theme song for a few friends in television and film. The purpose was to highlight and showcase their contributions to communities. The purpose of these songs was merely to let them know that their good deeds were indeed seen. Often I am told to keep it going, words relayed to me in amazement. From this perspective, I determined that I wanted a defined method of having individuals seen, heard, and felt (understood) and with this model “OH YEAH” is able to provide consistency every time.

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

A funny mistake with my theme songs is when I created a theme song “100 K”. This song was highlighting a brother and friend who was just beginning to gather an audience of 10,000 followers. He is doing incredible things that move a lot of diverse communities and I knew that he would easily surpass that number. The chorus of the song includes my vocals saying “One Hundred K” but some audience members recall hearing “Honey Cakes”. The irony was that many audiences have a huge amount of admiration for this person but to hear OH YEAH say Honey Cakes would have made sense. I learned that the way I played the song back was the reason for the misperception. I had streamed the song in a low service reception area so the distortion was the reason for misguiding my articulation. I knew from that moment on the best way to have music heard when streaming was with great Wi-Fi. I think to this day, some close to the man known as “100 K” hear honey cakes.

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

I am extremely thankful for my good friend Rose Rosen, C.S.A. Rose is an incredible Casting Director who cast for “Edward Scissorhands”, the world famous 1990 film. She has also been one of the first listeners for several theme songs that I make for her audiences and songs that I create for public figures. Halloween just passed and her group asked for a theme song appropriate for the occasion. Once fully listened to, she responded back with “Another one hit out of the park!” This made me so excited that even for small projects I am still doing exceptional work. She helps me realize that my storytelling ability is extremely creative and captivating. Plus, Rose has the greatest content on YouTube, “Casting Notes”. I believe that from the first song that I created for Rose, I have been trying to level up. I mean her Theme Song “Beauty In The Art” makes me dance every time! I know that reflecting on my past works, I always want to exceed the expectations and results. To thrive for others to yell “Oh Yeah”, I will continue working hard with every theme song.

Thank you for that. Let’s now pivot to the main focus of our interview. This might be intuitive, but I think it’s helpful to specifically articulate it. In your words, can you share a few reasons why great customer service and a great customer experience is essential for success in business?

Definitely! Exceptional customer service and experience is necessary in business because it is a reflection of the owner and an owner’s core values. A few reasons I feel it is vital to reveal to the world is because it is how I connect with more like-minded individuals and brands. Demonstrating great customer value and appreciation drives an incredible supply and demand. It also creates transparency for true business practices that customers everywhere will resonate with. So often we all are familiar with a bad review and experience at an establishment. Bad reviews themselves can be traumatic to a point that potential “future” customers will not want to welcome the business. Oh Yeah Beats doesn’t worry about this because this brand is all about the customers and clients. I feel the obligation to provide service will also bringing education into the equation so each client feels empowered after our encounter (business or not). I understand their perspective as I was once a customer looking for music. Every time, I felt like just that… a customer. The business got my money and gave me just what I paid for. I wanted to give back “then some” to everyone who had any inquiry with my brand so that they would be able to empower themselves with an “OH YEAH!” I always want to enable others to exceed their own expectations also. Businesses will not be as impactful unless they provide memorable and liberating customer service to make customers happy they made the decision to take the most important step for a business.

We have all had times either in a store, or online, when we’ve had a very poor experience as a customer or user. If the importance of a good customer experience is so intuitive, and apparent, where is the disconnect? How is it that so many companies do not make this a priority?

Ironic but great segway… It is reoccurring but tragic that businesses don’t truly consider the customer beyond the customer’s money. What I mean is that companies focus on statistics of how many instead of what quality. The disconnect occurs when the customers still have questions and concerns but the businesses will not indulge in providing information to fill those voids. This is a disservice and abandonment to customers. I do believe there is a misperception of education being the gateway to the end of business interaction. Yes, it does enable others to learn how to put pieces together but it doesn’t eliminate the energy and effort along with experience required to successfully recreate. It does also create room for potential competition which is why many will choose not to empower others with customer service beyond a completed sale. What this illustrates to me is the fear of failure to stay on top when providing the same level of education to others. I find it very disappointing that businesses and individuals would rather keep others in the dark rather than shedding light on matters for true inclusion and equality. This is a definite reason real customer service is not a definite priority. Companies everywhere should do better.

Do you think that more competition helps force companies to improve the customer experience they offer? Are there other external pressures that can force a company to improve the customer experience?

100 percent do I know that more competition creates space and opportunity for more excellence from a company through customer service. Outside sources that force for better customer service include feedback reviews, audits, and also statistic reviews of personnel morale. I am certain that all of these tools can help companies determine their impact on customers whether new or returning. Audits can unveil conflicts regarding returns and refunds that can help narrate the satisfactory levels from customers. Typically, they majorly drive businesses to do better at least momentarily if not indefinitely, moving forward. Feedback reviews are excellent for drawing in larger numbers or deterring an entire crowd. Most customers are willing to pick up a pen or log on to stress their complete satisfaction or absolute disappointment. With this information, businesses will gain an understanding to improve slightly or drastically.

Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided?

Honestly, when it comes to all of my Theme Songs, I receive “Wow” every time. Every business interaction is certainly an experience that I want to be memorable and also a true collaboration. As soon as Theme Songs are delivered to clients, the amount of gratitude in an email or voicemail is so beautifully articulated, I smile and drop tears. Another song that I wrote and produced is entitled “Heart Felt”, a collaboration with a voice-over artist Giovanna Inverso-Kawaash. This song is for an Italian Filmmaker friend of mine in Hollywood. When this producer finally heard the song for the first time, I received a call and on the other end was happy crying. I feel that I accomplished covering every aspect that I wanted to highlight and also reaching the heart as a “bullseye target”. “I freaking love it” was some words shared that made me feel that I gave justice to songwriting and producing “Theme Songs”. I was destined to create music that elevates others around me.

Did that Wow! experience have any long-term ripple effects? Can you share the story?

The Oh Yeah experiences always leave long-term ripple effects with how business is conducted and how others learn to get to know people in and around their industries. A great demonstration and example is opportunity for exposure. Let’s look at the collaboration that I mentioned before with a voice-over artist. I know that this helps both of us “artists” gain more exposure across industries as much as it helps others learn how to work outside of the box. I have not seen any artists do such a thing like this form of production with individuals outside of the field. The two fields are similar though in a few instances of necessary takes to get recordings done as desired. What this also does from a money standpoint is bring the other contributors up to the table as they should be to reap the benefits of doing such a collaboration with OH YEAH. Again, I put complete intention behind informing and educating others about how they can succeed. I have seen others doing similar productions with cross-pollenating on podcasts. When the two artists I have worked with started with me, they did not know that they could be entitled to a portion of royalties. I just want everyone to win. This indeed was a “Wow!” Moment to realize they could work with me AND get a small profit out of the deal. Royalties last the lifetime of a song so talk about long-term…

Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience. Please share a story or an example for each.

1. Great business leaders know their customers beyond the business aspect.

2. Good leadership in business also knows how to exercise active listening and provide feedback during the process. There is appreciation and deeper understanding that takes place.

3. Impactful business leadership knows how to demonstrate patience. Customers get just as anxious as the business providers in hopes to receive great service, particularly when they are about to pay a decent amount of money.

4. Every thriving business leader knows how to display transparency through the process so customers can enjoy the ride. Unexpected bumps that customers aren’t aware of only create instability in communication and reduce trust.

5. Memorable business leaders know to exceed requests with a “double down”. Invest in your customer and they invest right back “ten fold”.

Are there a few things that can be done so that when a customer or client has a Wow! experience, they inspire others to reach out to you as well?

There are a million and one things that can be done when a customer has that WOW or OH YEAH! Consistently I have returning clients that pass along my name and contact email or website so that others can have the exact same experience and success. Quite often are my social media inboxes flooded with new inquiries for music. I am very appreciative for this. Another way that they pay it forward after their “Oh Yeah” moment is simply playing and paying for my music across platforms so they can always enjoy more of my gifts to the world. A great friend of mine and Superman as they like to say often shares my music on instagram stories. That is certainly gratifying in my opinion. When your work surpasses expectations and the competition, others will gladly speak out about your business. Occasionally I also have some clients plug in my info on their platforms during livestreams on Instagram and YouTube. New people are always discovering “Oh Yeah Beats”.

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. 🙂

Thank you for that compliment! I firmly believe in the power of two and exercise this daily. I hope that it sparks the mind of the next person in a day. It is simply the “pay it forward” practice but times two. Either doing two great things for one stranger or one great thing for two strangers. We never know who will cross our paths and lives so it matters most to be kind to everyone. Humility goes the longer mile and helps motivate the next person who may only need a few more steps in their particular races. I want to continue motivating everyone to help out and step up with the power of two. You will feel better afterwards, even if you are having a bad day, trust me!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I am always releasing new content on Instagram, @Ohyeahbeats

Its fun to find new ways to produce content of my next projects on instagram.

You can also find me on Twitter, @Ohyeahbeats

There is a lot of random music antidotes that I drop and I always engage with people on there. I will see you all soon!

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

Thank you from the heart! I really enjoyed contributing, inspiring, and being inspired!


Orville Wright Of Oh Yeah Beats On 5 Ways To Create a Wow! Customer Experience 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: Maxx Berkowitz On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality In

Makers of The Metaverse: Maxx Berkowitz Of NOWHERE io On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Learn new tools and know when to use them. This industry is by definition cutting edge, as a result, tools are constantly evolving and changing. Every project can bring the need for a very different skill set. I have often accepted projects that relied on software that I had never used before. It is important to be able to have a broad base of knowledge and an openness for exploration to be able to adapt and figure things out on the fly.

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 Maxx Berkowitz.

Maxx Berkowitz is the co-founder and head of product and design at NOWHERE.io, a video-on metaverse gathering and events platform. Maxx is a multidisciplinary designer and technologist with a passion for crafting digital products and experiences that improve people’s lives through intuitive elegant products and experiences. Maxx has been creating digital products and immersive XR experiences for start-ups, brands, agencies and entertainment since 2011. His work has been featured at Sundance, SXSW, Panorama Festival, and has won an Emmy for Outstanding Interactive Media.

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

I had a childhood that was different from most that prepared me for a lifelong love of learning and approaching the world differently, which I wouldn’t trade for anything. I was homeschooled until college, we considered ourselves “unschoolers”, meaning we did not follow a curriculum or use textbooks. We led a free-flowing life with the opportunity and encouragement to experiment, build, explore and learn from the world around us. For example, I became an animal tracker and wilderness survivalist, built my own kayak and stereo speakers, made skate videos, played music and spent time with and learned from people of all age groups. I was fortunate to have had a breadth of experiences that were shared with a diverse mix of people in my community. This upbringing taught me to be an autodidact, a lifelong learner, to think about things from different angles and to forge my own unique path. I went to college at Syracuse University where I earned degrees in Graphic Design and Information Management and Technology, which have positioned me well for my career.

My first job out of school was at Showtime’s print advertising department where I created key art, bus wraps and billboards posted in New York City’s Times Square. I absolutely loved this job but I felt a need to explore the world of digital. After a few months at Showtime I took a job at a digital production company called Bajibot, which really let me cut my teeth by trying out many creative mediums, from motion graphics to action script banner ads to online mini-games. I left Bajibot to strike out on my own as a freelancer with the goal of developing a fuller understanding of how production houses and top ad agencies operate while getting to work on diverse projects. After five years in the ad world, I took a position as Design Director for the early stage start-up Outernets, creating a networked system of interactive storefront windows using machine learning and computer vision. After that I went back to freelancing, now working on a mix of product design for start-ups, motion graphics, live shows, projection and interactive installations. From these experiences I realized that I wanted to focus on creating digital products and immersive experiences.

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 read Italo Calvino’s “Invisible Cities” when I was a teenager and loved the poetic tales of adventure and fantastical stories of mythic cities and cultures. It was a book I couldn’t put down. It sparked my imagination and led me to think about distant lands, the human connection, and possibilities for the future. I reread it after starting NOWHERE and, once again, I found it to be inspiring and applicable in thinking about an interconnected metaverse.

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

In 2013 I was hired to take over creative directing for the Macy’s NYC holiday windows, which gave me the experience of overseeing a high-production project. I learned what it takes to craft and direct a complex multi-faceted display that included animatronics, scenic design, animation and interactive displays. I knew after this experience that simple websites and advertising was not the direction for me, and instead I was inspired to dive into immersive experiences and emerging technology. I developed a passion for creating moments of wonder for people and rethinking how humans and machines interact. I am very grateful to have had the Macy’s opportunity as it guided me to a new and exciting direction.

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

A writer & creative director I was working with recommended that I go to a Burning Man fundraiser party in Brooklyn to meet Jon Morris and Ana Constantino from a company called The Windmill Factory (in what would become a fortuitous meeting, as they would become my NOWHERE co-founders). I showed up at this backlot party in an industrial part of Bushwick and after going through the entrance gate, I passed a painted bus with industrial art mixed with LED art and crowds of people. I found Jon and Ana, introduced myself and, after talking for a while and learning more about their company, I really wanted an opportunity to work with them. I assumed that my online advertising background would not be of much interest to them as most of their work consisted of live and interactive installation projects, but a few months later I followed up with Jon and in a moment of kismet they had just gotten an inquiry to create a pitch for a company called HEED who were looking for help creating an app with an automated After Effects pipeline to make sports content mixed with data. After helping them to create the pitch that won the bid, they hired me and I was able to work on many exciting projects, from Pixel Vortex (wireless LED mapped balloons spinning in a surround sound colorful dance experience inside or a 40’ dome) to The Infinite Hotel (a live film shoot, interactive, music and theater show) to giant screen content for AWS Berlin. Meeting Jon and Ana and getting to work with The Windmill Factory changed my life and was the break that let me transition most of my work to interactive and move away from standard websites.

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

In 2016/17 I built an interactive, dance and live music show called “birds sing a pretty song.” along with my partner, choreographer and dancer Rebecca Margolick (who later became my wife). It was the first big live interactive piece I had worked on and while we pulled off a great show I definitely tried to do too many things at once. I was playing guitar on stage and I had a stage manager running the interactive and video queues, instead of managing the queues myself or bringing a tech with us (which we later did). At one of the first shows in Vancouver, Canada, at a point in the show that’s very projection intensive, the show computer crashed and instead of the intended content, projected on the ground was the snow covered mountains of the default Mac desktop image. I noticed it immediately, but, being on stage, I couldn’t do anything about it. I just stood there trying not to look at the stage filled with mountains. After what felt like forever, we got the show back on track, most people did not notice that the snow image was a mistake (in fact I got a comment from one audience member after the show pontificating about the meaning behind the mountains, during which I just smiled and nodded). The big lessons learned from this were, 1. Make sure you have a backup plan, 2. simplicity and minimalism coupled with good execution will make your life significantly easier, and 3. If you are presenting live it is good to make your desktop background solid black and hide your desktop icons.

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?

Priscilla Gomez, who was one of the first Art Directors I worked for while I was at Bajibot and I see her as a mentor and friend. I was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work for her, she is one of the best and most thoughtful designers I know. Her leadership style, career choices and design skills have greatly influenced my own. Priscilla would trust me to take on big projects, let me make mistakes and then give me feedback that pushed me to become a better designer, all while making me feel that I owned my work (even when she would strongly guide me in a better design direction). She also inspired me to think more holistically about a project, which gave me a glimpse into UX and how design impacts usability. She also opened my eyes to a multi-faceted and immersive learning career path. I am incredibly grateful for the time we worked together and all of the advice and feedback she has given me in the years since.

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

Nowhere is all encompassing, but I’m very fortunate to have one of the best teams I’ve ever worked with building this project with us. We have an exciting new partnership with Disguise that has the potential to unlock amazing immersive and hybrid experiences. In addition to the next level of user experiences that this integration can bring, I am very interested in exploring more meaningful ways to bridge the gap between people in virtual and physical spaces, in how they can better influence each other’s experiences in meaningful ways, how they can communicate, trigger excitement, and give the feeling of presence across contexts. I think we have only scratched the surface of how dynamic and immersive the metaverse can be, and I am excited to be a part of creating the experiences of the future.

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

  1. I believe AR is about to explode. The power of devices is getting to a sweet spot with mass adoption, and wearable tech is getting close to being a viable and integrated option in our lives. I am super excited to see and explore new ways that will allow the seamless interaction of the digital and physical world around us.
  2. I’m very interested in exploring avenues of hybrid experiences that bridge the gap between a virtual and in-person audience, and how these two types of audiences will meet and feel like they’re sharing a singular experience. How well will they influence things happening in each other’s spaces? What will make a fun and interesting experience? How can the interaction be used to inspire creativity and innovation?
  3. The possibilities of where virtual art is heading is interesting to me. I look forward to seeing growth in this area that further develops the artistic experience around viewing a collection that is for sale or instead of a picture of a 3d model for an NFT’s actually get immersed in a minted world.

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. I’m nervous about web2.0 models of data mining, privacy, and targeted ads and how that can get even more subconsciously invasive in immersive experiences. I think companies need to be thinking about how they can use new, more innovative models to support their products, whether it’s web3 or memberships to avoid the deep advertising reliance and greed.
  2. As an avid outdoorsman, I am concerned that people are losing touch with the world around them and how this technology could drive us to spend even more time in virtual spaces. But I also see the potential for AR and MR to bring connection and awareness back to the physical world, whereas the current ecosystem of computers and phone screens are all encompassing and force you to look at a small screen, I have hope that more seamless technology like AR glasses may let us look up and actually be in the world while still interacting with technology. Time will tell what direction this will go and how society will shape around it, but I have hope that the people leading the charge in these industries will think more about the health and happiness of their users and community rather than solely the bottom line.
  3. From the exploration that I have done of other metaverse products since beginning NOWHERE, I have come to see bullying and bad actor behavior in many of these spaces, especially now that we’re getting more immersive, and the spaces are feeling more like real life. It is critical that we think about how we can create healthier digital public spaces that discourage this kind of negative behavior and instead encourage compassion, support and having fun. NOWHERE’s belief is anonymity will be reduced by showing people’s actual video presence and this will encourage people to use their real names which will help reduce bad actors.

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

There’s no question that AR/VR has already proved its usefulness for training purposes (pilot training, specialized construction, military, etc.), but it has not yet shown all it can do for the day to day work experience. XR has huge potential to make remote work a much more collaborative, present, and compelling experience. Instead of the ways that we have now, like taking a meeting in a flat Zoom grid, imagine having the feeling of being at your office with your colleagues working in the same room, mixing up into different breakout groups you can interact with, while overhearing someone at another desk who needs help. Think about a project manager having several groups of people working separately in one space as they drop in on each group and interact as needed without the need for calling separate meetings. AR/VR has the potential to make work so much more fun and engaging while improving efficiency, productivity, and interpersonal connection.

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

Two aspects of events going virtual or hybrid that stand out to me is access for remote audiences and the environmental benefits of reducing travel needs. Big city happenings, events, galleries, experiences etc. can now involve people in small towns and all over the world (in addition to giving remote creators an international outlet). From an environmental standpoint, we can reduce the need for air travel, one of the biggest contributors of an individual’s carbon footprint, by making spaces where compelling virtual or hybrid events are a viable alternative to in-person meetings and conferences.

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

A great deal of this technology seems complex and unapproachable at first. I have always been excited about more immersive technologies, but I was intimidated and unsure of the skills that I needed to break into this space. When I eventually started getting opportunities to work on these types of projects, I found that the transition from design into immersive technology was actually smoother and more accessible than I thought it would be. Having good design and motion sense will get you really far, plus working on collaborative projects generates supportive guidance. With the industry being so young, there is tremendous room for innovation and people who are not experts have an opportunity to make meaningful work.

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

  1. Learn new tools and know when to use them. This industry is by definition cutting edge, as a result, tools are constantly evolving and changing. Every project can bring the need for a very different skill set. I have often accepted projects that relied on software that I had never used before. It is important to be able to have a broad base of knowledge and an openness for exploration to be able to adapt and figure things out on the fly.
  2. Be comfortable with the unknown. In this field the client will often request for end results that are far from mainstream with a lot of openness or interpretation. Choose the best tools, think on your feet, and dive into the deep end of an experiment that you think will turn out cool. You have to be creative and you must thrive on coming up with new ideas to create things that have never been done before.
  3. Embrace communicating and collaborating across silos (Design, motion, 3D, developers, management, fabricators etc.). Most projects in these fields require a strong mix of different creative and technology to bring a project to reality. Depending on the project, there is a good chance you will be bringing in people from a diverse set of industries that you must collaborate and communicate with, and it can be quite challenging to keep everyone on the same page, while keeping focused on a shared vision. No matter your role, it is important to do your homework so you understand the project you are working on and the fields you’re working with. A good sense of design and a reasonable understanding of development and technology is important to be able to communicate with the whole team and to express your vision and expectations in a way that will make the entire team inspired and productive.
  4. Have confidence to interpret direction and feedback in a way that excites you and/or makes the project the best it can be. Many times the people who commission work in these fields do not fully understand what is possible, what is cheesy, or what gives a great experience to the end user. Obviously you have to understand boundaries to make a client happy, but that being said, don’t be afraid to think outside the box and be prepared to stick to your guns with a good reason when you see that you can make something great. Sometimes you have to get it made and show the client before they can see your vision come to reality.
  5. Maintain a strong network. As with many fields, your network is critical. This part of the industry is still in its nascent stages and tends to be a tight community. Word of mouth and connecting with contacts of contacts has brought my most interesting projects and collaborations. Being around people who you respect and who are living the life you want for yourself tends to rub off and inspires you to reach for greater things, and being around other creative people breeds creativity.

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. 🙂

With my passion for the outdoors and desire to make the world a better place, I have been feeling a drive to find ways to address climate change and bring people together at the same time. How can we use emerging technology to create ways for people to gather across the world in less carbon intensive ways? How can we create events, activities and communities in virtual and mixed spaces that are inspiring and engaging enough to bring awareness, drive fundraising, push for political action and make a difference in the future of our planet? How can we use our platform to bring together climate activists from around the world to strengthen their networks, their voice and their impact?

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’ve found John Palmer’s writing and musings on spatial interfaces and other technology to be eye-opening and inspiring. I would love to brainstorm with him about the future of the metaverse and new ways to interact with the world and devices around us.

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


Makers of The Metaverse: Maxx Berkowitz On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality In 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: Sarah Kallile Of Lunnie On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Be scrappy. You don’t need a polished prototype to start testing. Hack materials that are readily available to create a mockup. Share this with customers. Don’t be shy if it’s not perfect. I lovingly call the first Lunnie bra prototype a “Frankenstein bra” because it was a mashup of all sorts of materials but it enabled moms to see my vision.

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

Sarah Kallile, founder of Lunnie, is a mom of three who went through postpartum and was frustrated by the frumpy, impractical nursing bras that all moms deal with post pregnancy. With the help from other moms who are now a part of Lunnie Hive, the first-ever community led brand for postpartum moms, they tested and created the perfect postpartum nursing bras for a pretty and powerful postpartum. Sarah’s leakproof, patent-pending nursing bra sold-out at first launch and is now back and restocked!

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 the suburbs of San Francisco with my parents and older sister. As a kid, my favorite activity was playing “Sarah’s Stores”. I created an elaborate pretend franchise in my family room that consisted of a grocery store, bookstore, video rental, etc. My favorite part was making ClipArt graphics and receipts on my family’s computer (nerd alert!).

In high school, I loved English, history, and theater classes. In college, I took my love of storytelling and majored in broadcast journalism. But I discovered I didn’t want to just tell the story. I wanted to be part of the story. My first job out of college was a marketing position at an early-stage health-tech startup in San Francisco that grew from 30 to 300 employees. I loved the speed and intensity of startup life, and ended up working for several other VC-backed, health-tech startups.

I met my now-husband in San Francisco and we got married a couple years later. His job moved us to Seattle in 2013 and then to Dayton, OH in 2017. A California girl living in the middle of Ohio — believe me, I never would have guessed that for myself! I gave birth to my three beautiful daughters here (ages 4, 2, and 5 months). It was through my own experience becoming a mom that inspired me to start Lunnie in 2021.

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

“There will never be a perfect time. Just start where you are” When I had my idea to create Lunnie’s leakproof nursing bra in January 2021, the timing couldn’t have been more challenging. The pandemic was wearing on and I was a stay at home mom to a 2.5-year-old and 5-month-old with no outside help. I was in the throes of postpartum emotions myself and the pandemic compounded the feeling of isolation.

But those circumstances gave me the idea to form Lunnie as a community-led brand because I was craving meaningful interactions with other moms more than anything else. I spent my nights and weekends cranking away at my idea because I was so passionate about it.

In October 2021, I found out the surprising and happy news that I was pregnant with my third daughter! However, this pregnancy was my absolute hardest physically and I was drained everyday caring for my older two daughters and growing my business.

I continued to push, launched my business, won a major pitch competition and $50k grant, filed for two patents, and had a baby — all within four months.

There’s no denying that motherhood and being an entrepreneur is exhausting. But for me, motherhood is my superpower as an entrepreneur. My three daughters keep me motivated and put things in perspective. I’ve become a master at ruthless prioritization, being efficient, and committing to decisions. My girls are my world and I love sharing this entrepreneurship journey with them.

If you have an idea you’re passionate about, my advice is go for it. Life will always be messy and complicated. Just take the first step and see where it leads you. Then take a couple more. It will be better and more rewarding then you could have imagined.

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?

NPR’s “How I Built This” podcast has had the biggest impact on my mindset as an entrepreneur. Host Guy Raz does an amazing job interviewing diverse entrepreneurs and uncovering all the twists and turns in their journeys. Building a business is never a straight line and there’s no one way to do it.

I’ve listened to hundreds of episodes, some favorites being from Sara Blakely of Spanx and Whitney Wolfe Herd of Bumble. The common thread amongst entrepreneurs is everyone is figuring it out as they go. You don’t need (nor should have) a full-fledged 5-year-business plan to start a company. You just need the confidence to take the first step, the curiosity to learn, and the passion to keep moving forward.

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

My idea for a leakproof nursing bra came from my own experience as a breastfeeding mom. I was frustrated with my leaky, frumpy, beige nursing bra and the lack of innovative yet fashionable options available in the market. I wanted a solution that was chic yet functional. I asked friends and searched online, but I couldn’t find what I was looking for. That’s when I put on my tech marketer hat and decided to gather more data points around this problem.

I sent a survey to a diverse cohort of postpartum moms to gather their insights on nursing bras. Within two days, I received over 300 responses! 84% of moms are dissatisfied with their nursing bra and want something better. This was my lightbulb moment to build what was clearly missing in the market.

Because these survey respondents were so passionate, I knew they would be valuable in my product development process. I formed a group called the “Lunnie Hive” and invited surveyed moms to join. I recruited my own mom to help sew the very first leakproof nursing bra prototype. It was scrappy but it gave moms an idea for my vision.

I then messaged local moms and asked if they would be willing to test the bra, share photos, and provide honest critical feedback. I would drop a little pink bag containing the Lunnie bra prototype on a neighbor’s doorstep for a new mom to test. At first, it felt very odd asking neighbors for such an intimate favor. But I was blown away by how willing — and excited — moms were to be a part of the process.

A couple months into working on my idea, I was selected as a finalist in The Female Founder Collective Big Pitcher competition. I pitched my idea to some of the biggest female CEOs in the country, including Rebecca Minkoff, and won the grand prize $10k grant. Receiving this outside validation early on was the motivation I needed to keep going.

The grant money enabled me to partner with a small-batch manufacturer in Columbus, OH. Over the course of a year, I iterated and tested six prototypes before nailing the final design. By the time I launched my nursing bra in March 2022, I created an organic, loyal following of moms. This enabled me to sell out my first production run with $0 marketing spend.

In April 2022, I achieved another major business milestone by winning the University of Dayton Flyer Pitch competition and a $50k grant. This pitch competition was the culmination of 7 months, 3 rounds, and a final 30-minute presentation in front of judges (at 30 weeks pregnant, whew). This opened up more opportunities for my business to continue forward.

My Lunnie bras were completely out-of-stock over the summer which wasn’t ideal after building up so much momentum. However, it allowed for a perfectly-timed maternity leave as I gave birth to my third daughter in June. (If you want to call it that, solo entrepreneurs never really stop working!).

I restocked the Lunnie bras in October and I’m so excited for more mamas to experience the magic of a leakproof and beautiful nursing bra!

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 I first had an idea for a leakproof nursing bra, I did heavy research. I discovered two leakproof bras already on the market, but their designs were very different from my own. I searched the USPTO website to see if there were any existing patents that contained my idea. I consulted a patent attorney to make sure I truly had a unique product idea before moving forward.

Once I was confident I had a unique design, I created a compelling brand and built an authentic community. Lunnie is named after my daughters and is the first brand for postpartum mothers. There’s so much emphasis on maternity and the first nine months, but there are no brands focused solely on the unique and challenging postpartum experience. Combining a unique product and one-of-a-kind brand is Lunnie’s super power.

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.

Absolutely! I did not have a design, intimates, or manufacturing background prior to starting Lunnie. It was very daunting trying to figure out how to go from point A to point B. But I took it one step at a time and asked others for advice when I didn’t know what to do. I asked people in my network and cold reached out to other female founders who had similar products/brands.

As mentioned, I created the first prototype with the help of my mom and a couple months into working on my idea, I won the pitch competition and $10k grant. I used this money to partner with a local, small-batch manufacturer to take my prototype to a real product. It took a couple months to source the right manufacturer as most turned me away because bras are incredibly complex to make.

A year and six prototypes later, we nailed the final design. I decided to use the same small-batch manufacturer to produce my first and second production runs. Producing small-batch means the cost per unit is higher, but you’re not on the hook for producing large quantities as you are with a larger manufacturer. From a risk analysis standpoint, I decided I’d rather break even and test my product-market fit rather than invest in a huge amount of inventory upfront.

I launched my nursing bra in March 2022 and sold out with $0 marketing spend. I did this by cultivating my Lunnie Hive community over the course of a year and building up an organic following on social media. Due to the nature of breastfeeding, many of my followers no longer needed a nursing bra. However, they bought nursing bras and gift cards for friends who were expecting. Sales continued to snowball until I completely sold out of inventory.

I worked behind the scenes with a local patent lawyer to file for both utility and design patents. I received grant funding through Dayton’s Entrepreneurs’ Center to cover my legal fees. It was a very lengthy process and I ended up filing in June 2022 the same week my third daughter was born! I surprised my mom by listing both of our names on the patents as inventors. Her help creating the initial prototype was critical.

I currently sell exclusively DTC but am looking to expand to wholesale in 2023. I’m also in the process of working with a larger manufacturer to produce my third production at the same high quality but better margins. In addition, I’m working on exciting new products to add next year too!

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

These are perhaps 5 things I would advise others considering entrepreneurship to think about.

1. Ask for advice. If you don’t have people in your network who can advise you, cold reach out to other founders of aligned products/brands. Do your research. Have a specific ask. You’ll be blown away by the generosity of this community. Lunnie would not exist if it weren’t for the kindness of others sharing their advice, particularly female founders.

2. Don’t create your product in a silo.Even if you’re the consumer of your own product, you must talk to other customers. Have them test the product, give feedback on the brand, ask what could be improved. Truly LISTEN. I created the Lunnie Hive for this exact reason.

3. Be scrappy. You don’t need a polished prototype to start testing. Hack materials that are readily available to create a mockup. Share this with customers. Don’t be shy if it’s not perfect. I lovingly call the first Lunnie bra prototype a “Frankenstein bra” because it was a mashup of all sorts of materials but it enabled moms to see my vision.

4. Seek out grant opportunities. Apply for local business grant funding and enter pitch competitions. Even if you don’t win, it’s an invaluable experience to present your company and get better. Thanks to winning two major pitch competitions and funding through local entrepreneur organizations, I’ve received $100k in grants and in-kind services. These opportunities didn’t just appear — I sought them out and worked very hard to earn them.

5. Be a cheerleader for other entrepreneurs. One of the best things about being an entrepreneur is meeting other passionate entrepreneurs. I love supporting fellow small businesses and startups, whether it’s being a consumer, sharing with my networks, helping make a business connection, etc. We’re all in this together.

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. Talk to potential customers: Send surveys, have 1:1 open-ended phone interviews, understand how your product can fill a void in the market.
  2. Create a prototype: It can be super scrappy but put it out for feedback to validate or invalidate your assumptions.
  3. Implement feedback quickly: Move quickly, make mistakes, keep testing and iterating until your product is ready for launch.

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?

No, I would recommend an entrepreneur to keep the idea to themselves and try a scrappy approach. It’s tempting to have an “expert” come in, but it is costly and no one understands the product as much as the entrepreneur.

Instead of looking for development consultants, consider seeking trusted business advisors instead. My advisor Anusha Mohan, an e-commerce/apparel expert and former high school classmate of mine, has been integral to Lunnie’s success. She’s helped navigate the early stages of building the company and been my biggest cheerleader. Through my relationship with my local Dayton Entrepreneurs’ Center, I gained another amazing advisor in Katie Hill. A successful startup founder x2 herself, she has advised the infrastructure of my company and seeks grant funding. Having a solid sounding board has been crucial for my decision making and success.

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

I’ve been able to fund my company through grant money and bootstrapping. I’ve been approached by venture capitalists but am self-funding for as long as possible. Having outside capital can be a huge distraction and puts pressure on fast growth and achieving other “sexy metrics” while overlooking the fundamentals of running a sustainable business. As a founder and mother, I want to run my company — not the other way around.

It can be daunting as a founder on how much it costs to start a business. Product development, legal, branding, running a website, the list goes on. I’ve been super scrappy in finding grant opportunities and working hard to secure funding. It’s taken a ton of effort, but it allows me to retain control of my company.

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

Lunnie is reclaiming postpartum as pretty + powerful, starting with the nursing bra. There is nothing more beautiful and strong than a mother and she deserves to feel that way inside and out.

My goal for Lunnie is to provide postpartum moms with better support through thoughtfully made products with a supportive community so she doesn’t feel alone. Much of the postpartum experience comes as a surprise for new moms and it doesn’t need to be that way. Talking about postpartum — the good and the bad — needs to be normalized. I strive for Lunnie to be an authentic and supportive voice for moms.

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 a mom of three, it always bothered me how much attention is given to pregnancy yet after a mom gives birth she often is forgotten. Postpartum is a very challenging time physically, mentally, and emotionally. Moms are the real MVPs of society but they’re not treated that way. We see it play out in many facets: A one-time 6 week appointment covered by insurance post-birth, postpartum depression on the rise, a failed paid maternity leave bill, etc.

Lunnie is not only making products. We’re launching a movement to support moms who have been underserved. The stigma around postpartum and breastfeeding is stifling innovation. This leaves moms in the shadows and unprepared. The time for change is now.

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’ve always admired Sara Blakely and how she built Spanx from the ground up. She calls herself “half Einstein, half Lucille Ball” and I love that she leads her company as herself, not a stuffy corporate CEO. She is a huge inspiration to so many female founders like myself who are building solutions for women, by women. It would be a dream come true to meet her!

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


Making Something From Nothing: Sarah Kallile Of Lunnie 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.

Rachel S Ruby Of Divorce To Bliss On 5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive After A…

Rachel S. Ruby Of Divorce To Bliss On 5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive After A Divorce

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Surround yourself with people who truly support the new you and vision of your future. It is so important to have the right people in your life — those who truly love and support you. I let a few people go from my life and allowed new friends to enter who are full of life and love and provide unconditional support, and it feels amazing.

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

Rachel S. Ruby is an attorney, former certified divorce mediator and entrepreneur. Rachel’s life was turned upside-down when she divorced in midlife after almost 30 years of marriage. She has authored several books, and Divorce to Bliss is her most heartfelt book to date. It took a big journey through the dark tunnel of divorce for Ms. Ruby to find true happiness and live her best life. It is her passion and her mission to share this pathway to happiness after divorce, so that others can live their truth and find ultimate bliss.

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?

Hi! I grew up in a suburb of Los Angeles, in a warm loving family with a large extended family. My parents adopted me and my younger brother at birth and were very open, loving and caring. I had an exceptionally “normal” and happy childhood. They taught me many valuable life lessons; from my brilliant father I learned the importance of education and hard work, and from my sweet mother I learned how to connect with people, really listen and figure out what they need.

I did well in school and went on to college and law school, practiced law for a short time then married and started a family. I owned a real estate brokerage and for years taught many agents about the legalities of purchase contracts through corporate education, podcasts, live events and blogs. Writing has always been my passion and I have written several other books, magazine and newspaper articles, and many short stories. I always knew I would end up as a writer full time. My divorce provided not only that opportunity, but the catalyst for me to find my passion helping others by showing them they can live incredibly happy lives despite the trauma associated with it.

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

I wrote Divorce to Bliss as the result of my own divorce after 27 years of marriage. I had to go through a very dark tunnel to get to the beautiful light at the end, and it was absolutely worth it to get there! Prior to and during my divorce I did a LOT of deep inner work and went through a major spiritual awakening as a result. It was the most incredible thing I have ever experienced, and all the work I did on myself led to some earth-shattering truths. I started a blog at one point and came to realize that I needed to write a book to help others learn how to find the kind of happiness I had found, because divorce is a trauma and many people do not know how to start healing. It has since become my life’s purpose to help those who are stuck in victim consciousness and/or negativity as the result of divorce, so they can heal and find their happiness. I was meant to do this work and I am excited every single day to be of service to those who need me.

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

I think it is a combination of stories that is most interesting. Since I started writing the book, I have had so many people approach me, many who have said they are drawn to my energy and want to learn how to mirror it in their own lives. I have counseled many people — which is my biggest pleasure — and I love it when they tell me my story and words help them listen to their hearts.

Several women have conveyed that they were able to take my advice and make subtle changes in their lives which led to feeling more grounded and confident. They were excited to implement more tools from the book in order to see further improvements.

Sometimes all it takes is someone to listen and help guide you on starting a path toward healing and happiness. It takes hard work and courage, but it IS possible. Those who choose to stick with it are rewarded immensely, and to me those are the BEST stories.

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

It is not really a funny mistake, but like most everyone does I listened a lot to what those around me had to say — at least for a short while until I figured out that doing so was not serving me! A few friends told me I should stay married because it was “tough out there” to be single. An extreme example was a neighbor who told me that if I left my marriage God would strike me with debilitating illness. I responded that my God wants me to be happy, because it is only when we are truly happy that we can serve our purpose here — which is to serve humanity, other life forms and our planet. I shook it off and decided to politely tell others that if I wanted their advice on what to do, I would ask. Trusting my own instincts and my heart were the only way to come to the right decision for the rest of my life. A big part of that involves letting go of fear, because it can put a choke hold on making the right choices with divorce and life in general.

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

There are so many life lesson quotes I love, but here are a few that resonate at this time in my life:

I love this quote from Eckhart Tolle: “The greater part of human pain is unnecessary. It is self-created as long as the unobserved mind runs your life.” This is truth — we are the ones in control of our lives, and that means we decide whether our lives will be blissful or not, whether we will be successful (however one defines that) or not, and whether we will make a difference by acting through love in our hearts, OR conversely by letting negativity and/or fear dictate our thoughts and actions. It is all up to us to be mindful in order to steer ourselves in the right direction.

I also love this one from Carl Jung: “Who looks outside dreams. Who looks inside awakens.” This is beyond powerful, and also deep truth. Change cannot come from looking out; each of us needs to look deep within to make changes, fully loving ourselves and trusting in our intuition to guide our choices, and that is the only way to live a blissful life. This was the biggest lesson I learned going through divorce and doing deep healing work.

Another favorite is this quote from Oprah Winfrey: “What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we have.” Wow, does this resonate! For the last few years of my marriage, I was extremely unhappy, and I stopped speaking my truth — to both myself and my spouse. I know now why I did it, but the effect was that I was miserable, and that is no way to live! It brought physical pain to my body and kept me in a negative lifecycle, which is so obvious in hindsight when I look back at photos and videos of me! Life is short and everything is temporary, so we need to make the right choices to be happy — we simply MUST stand in and speak our truth in order to do so.

Last, this is a quote from my book. It sums up the importance of healing after divorce, and how to live one’s best life: “If we are to achieve bliss in this lifetime there is no time to deny ourselves that which makes us whole…we simply cannot remain stuck in mediocrity.”

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

I am currently working on my personal coaching program to help people heal from divorce so that they can lead blissful lives. I also will be doing live events down the road with this same goal in mind. There is some very exciting stuff coming soon!

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?

As I mentioned above, divorce was a huge personal journey for me. Going from the “we” to the me is not easy; whether divorce is challenging or amicable there are always so many feelings involved. I went through the gamut like everyone, and there was a lot of fear in the unknown life I was jumping into — would I be able to support myself alone? Where would I live? What would happen if I became ill or needed help in some way and had no partner? Would I ever find love again or would I spend the rest of my life alone? Once I realized that fear was guiding all those questions, and once I made the choice to LET GO of that fear, I was able to step off the proverbial cliff knowing that I would be ok. But to get to that point I had to do a lot of diving into who “me” was, what she wanted, and how she wanted life to play out for her (knowing of course that some things are out of my control). I had to get in touch with my inner child — who had been in hiding for a long time — in order to not be so serious and find lightness and laughter. These are just a few of the things I learned but they were paramount to moving forward to a beautiful life.

During this process of self-discovery, forgiveness, learning to love myself, treating my body as a temple, speaking my truth, putting me first and letting go (to name a few!), I discovered a “me” I didn’t know existed (or perhaps I did know her, but she had been buried for such a long time). She now shines a radiant light and basks in the essence of the beauty all around. She is not afraid of what may happen, because she knows in her heart that her life is blessed and that she will not only survive, but will live life to the fullest. She wants to surround herself with people who also know these things, and wants to look back at the end and know she has no regrets.

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

Oooh this is a loaded question! First of all, most people fall into a well of negativity, anger, hurt and other negative emotions that can lead them to dark places — it is important to feel all the feelings but guidance is needed here to move forward. Many will turn to food, alcohol, other substances and/or sex to try and dull the pain. It is of utmost importance to know how to start the healing process so that the caterpillar within each of us can emerge as a butterfly. That starts with learning how to rewire the mind, body and spirit.

Dating immediately after divorce is another mistake people need to understand — most importantly you cannot love another until you truly love yourself. Many people THINK they love themselves, but until they go through the healing process dating needs to be put on hold, because they will not attract the right partners. You need to learn who you are first and what you want out of the rest of your life — in other words, you need to truly embody self-love — before you can attract partners who will support the new you.

There are so many mistakes that can be made if people do not take the time to go through the process of rewiring, healing and discovery.

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

Yes, divorce can be very positive if you heal properly. In my book I talk about rewiring oneself — mind, body and spirit — in order to become whole again. This allows you to find your true happiness and live a life that is focused on that bliss. The positive result of this is that you are born again so to speak — you learn who you are as a human being and what you want from life. You learn how to trust yourself and be authentic and put YOU first, and the importance of standing in your truth and forgiving yourself, your ex-spouse and others; you learn to stop blaming and focusing on who messed up, you accept that it simply IS and that your most important job is to move on and make life incredible. You learn how blessed you are and see things from a different perspective, and you are grateful for all of it. You learn to recognize unhealthy patterns and change them, to stop being a victim and to listen to your intuition, and much more! Once I learned all of the new “tools” for a beautiful life my life started to change immensely, and I experienced the most mind-blowing awakening. I felt high, so alive, beautiful, magical, open in so many ways to life — ways in which I was previously blocked. I was full of positivity and only saw the good in everything and everyone. I started meditating daily and taking even better care of my body. I truly became a butterfly,

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?

Dating after divorce can be scary, but only if you do it before you are ready. Society and many of those who love us tell us to “get back out there,” but in my opinion that is the worst advice to give someone who just went through a divorce and has not truly healed the body, mind and spirit. Dating is magical once you have discovered who you truly are and what you want for the rest of your life — but until you have done the work and know these things dating will only bring the wrong partners to you. You cannot attract the right person into your life until you are secure in who you are NOW — the new version of yourself that is birthed after going through the trauma of divorce. There is no quick way to get there, and dating will only set you back if you have not blossomed into your best self-version.

I am very mindful of whom I date, and I am not afraid to say no to someone who doesn’t feel right to me or could compromise my self-worth, nor to someone who has a lot of red flags. I can see those red flags because I am confident and secure in myself, love myself and know my goals and desires. There are a few qualities that must exist for me to date someone, and the rest I leave to my intuition and trust my heart.

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

It’s hard to pick one thing — I feel it is a trifecta of rewiring the mind, body and spirit to align with one’s highest self. But if you twist my arm here, I will have to pick learning to truly love oneself, as that has many sub-parts and opens one to intuition and forgiveness, authenticity, truth and gratitude.

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?

1. Learn to love yourself! This is the most important thing when entering the healing process. It does not happen overnight, and it takes a lot of work — even if you think you DO love yourself already. After going through the trauma of divorce you need to learn who ME is, separate from the WE of partnership. There are many tools to use to get there, and the first step is commitment to yourself and your happiness. Once I truly knew I loved myself, after much healing and a huge spiritual awakening post-divorce, I started attracting the things into my life that I wanted and needed. I met new people who see me for who I am, my career picked up and I enjoyed it more than I had in many years, my financial situation improved, I manifested and obtained my beautiful home in the exact neighborhood I wanted, and I started writing again — which led to the birth of my book and discovering my life purpose!

2. Forgive yourself and your ex-spouse. Many people go through divorce and build up negative and even hateful feelings toward their ex-spouse. Blaming, anger, hurt, resentment and other negative feelings can lead to mental and physical ailments, as our bodies take the brunt of our suffering. This can lead to unhealthy habits like isolation, overeating, alcohol or drug consumption, and more. Learning to forgive — not only the ex-spouse but also yourself — is so cathartic, and focusing on TODAY and your future goals, instead of your past, will turn your mental and physical health around and free you from the bondage of your suffering. This is a hard lesson to learn, but I did it and only wish my ex well — just because he and I divorced does not mean he does not deserve happiness, as I cherish the beauty we shared for many years.

3. Speak your truth and trust your intuition. Learning to speak your truth will drastically change your life, as will trusting your intuition. Once you have learned to love yourself and listen to your needs and desires, intuition should start to assert itself, but there are many ways to tap into it. When I was going through my divorce and doing deep work, I realized that I had stopped speaking my truth and had not done so for a while within the relationship. It always seemed to lead to confrontations and fighting, and I was so tired of it so I simply kept things to myself. Obviously, that was not the right thing to do, and it created other issues within the broken relationship dynamic. This is why I say every divorce is the fault of both parties (except in very few cases, such as with abuse situations where the victim is controlled and terrified to leave). Part of the healing process is to recognize your own contributions to the breakdown, and oftentimes it will become clear that one did not speak their truth nor listen to intuition.

4. Let go of people, situations and circumstances that hold you back. We are conditioned from childhood to accept certain ideas, beliefs and convictions as truth, such as the idea that marriage is forever and “quitting” is a failure. These come from society, religion, and family. But we need to rewire ourselves to recognize that we do not have to live by these “rules” if they do not make us happy. This applies to people as well — if there are those in your life who bring you down and constantly infuse your life with negativity, it may be time to let them go. In order to heal from divorce and find true happiness one usually needs to do a lot of letting go.

5. Surround yourself with people who truly support the new you and vision of your future. It is so important to have the right people in your life — those who truly love and support you. I let a few people go from my life and allowed new friends to enter who are full of life and love and provide unconditional support, and it feels amazing.

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?

I think all the steps I mentioned above will help people get through the mental and emotional strains of divorce, especially having a good support network and diving into your soul to find what makes you happy. There are great online resources as well, like divorce support groups (just make sure you don’t join one where all they do is complain and share negative thoughts). Many people also seek professional help, and it is important to find the right person. It also helps to get out in nature, exercise daily, and find fun things to do (art, music, volunteering, taking classes, etc.) to meet new people, which will all help with moods and mindset as well.

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

I have a lot of transformative books to recommend — here is a short list: Letting Go by David R. Hawkins, Creative Visualization by Shakti Gawain, The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, Think Like a Monk by Jay Shetty, Breath by James Nestor, and Energy Medicine by Donna Eden. There are many more, but this is a great starting place for a healing journey. The first 3 mentions are “bibles” to healing, incredible life guides, and should be on every bookshelf, in my opinion.

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. 🙂

I would inspire people to do the work I have outlined for healing from divorce and apply it to ALL areas of their lives, so that people can learn to be happier, healthier and trust their hearts. This would enable people to live their true purpose(s) and serve others, which is the reason we are all here. We need to love ourselves so we can love others — we do not need negativity and jealousy and hatred…the world is so beautiful and if more people realized this the possibilities of what we could accomplish as a whole are mind-altering.

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

I have to pick Vishen Lakhiani, the founder of Mindvalley. I am so inspired by the incredulous project he has birthed, and it just keeps getting better. The idea of changing the way people are educated is brilliant, and so integral to healing humanity. I am a Mindvalley member and love the quests offered. I would be honored to sit down with Vishen and learn more about his journey and what inspires him. He is a person who has figured out how to live his life by so many of the same principles I utilize in my own life. The idea of helping millions of people through education — body, mind and spirit — is invaluable — just think of the effect on humankind!

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

Thank you so much for this opportunity! I am deeply grateful.


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

Let’s Expand Co-Ops: Vernon Oakes’s Big Idea That Might Change The World

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

…When you look at how coops have the ability to change the world, I would first look at that fifth principle of cooperation, which is: Education, Training and Information. This Principle is what first attracted me to co-ops. Co-ops teach its members how to run a business, how to make collective decisions, how to resolve conflict, how to read financial statements, how to save for the future, the importance of voting, etc. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character — that is the goal of true education.”

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 Vernon Oakes.

Vernon Oakes hosts the leading weekly national radio program for the U.S. cooperative community. He is General Partner in Everything.Coop Communications, LLC, a media company that promotes cooperative business models by providing education and resources specifically for under-resourced Americans and their communities.

Vernon has significant national and international experience in various business activities including finance, marketing, sales, sales forecasting, distribution and service, and systems design. He became familiar with cooperative business models as a residential property management company owner and has more than 40 years of experience in property and asset management.

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

I was living in Washington, D.C. and working full time in my property management business which I began in 1994. I believed it would be easy to secure contracts, because as I was an African-American living in Chocolate City with an MBA from Stanford University. I had management experience at the corporate level, but my competition had over forty year’ s of experience in property management. Even though I bid on five large properties in my first year, I didn’t win one bid.

I was introduced to limited equity housing co-ops, and I was able to secure management contracts with several smaller projects, as they were less attractive to larger management companies because of the low revenues generated. I was amazed at the level of competency displayed by the resident co-op members who were mostly African-American women. Their ability to make sound decisions, engage in fruitful deliberation, operate with integrity and supervise the vendors was impressive. They made extremely good decisions, and most of them had at best had a high school education.

I’ve come to understand that training is the foundation of co-ops. The fifth principle of cooperation is Education, Training and Information which is extremely important in creating successful cooperatives. I started looking at the cooperative model and got involved with the Potomac Association of Housing Cooperatives which covers DC, Maryland and Virginia. I became a member of the National Association of Housing Cooperative (NAHC) and joined the Development and Preservation Committee with two long-term cooperators, Roger Wilcox and Herb Fisher. Roger passed away a couple years ago at 97 years of age, and Herb is no longer practicing law in Chicago, but is in his 90s.

Through Roger and Herb, I learned about housing cooperatives. They continually said that if developers built housing co-ops, then people would buy them. From a marketing standpoint I understood and told them that there’s no demand for co-ops because people don’t understand them. If people knew about the benefits of co-ops, they would demand them, and developers would build them.

As the President of NAHC, I started promoting housing co-ops which led me to The Thornton’s Business Hour radio show in June of 2013. Immediately following my appearance on the show, I was offered my own show. Originally it was scheduled to run for the month of October, in recognition of National Co-op Month. That one month turned into nine years. Today we have over 300 shows on our Everything Coop webpage , on YouTube, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and SoundCloud.

How do co-ops make an impact?

To understand the impact of cooperatives we must first define what a co-op is. A co-op is a business that is owned and controlled by and for its members. In the limited equity housing co-op, the members are the residents. The residents have an equal say in the running of the cooperative, and they all receive an equal share in the profits.

The biggest impact for me is what happens at the individual level. A guest on my radio show, Dame Pauline Green, who at the time was the President of the International Cooperative Alliance, put it quite eloquently when she said, “Co-ops help people to come out of poverty with dignity”. This is because when members have a voice, control, ownership, and income, their self-worth increases.

All too often I have seen individuals — family members, friends, colleagues, students — with little to no self-worth, (particularly in the African-American and the Native American communities), because they lacked power. When communities gain power over their existence it impacts the entire planet.

In the book, Cities Building Community Wealth, by the Democracy Collaborative, there is an example of what happens when individuals are empowered. Christina, a Mexican American earned $7.00 an hour prior to joining a worker co-op. At that wage, when she worked a 40 hour week her gross pay was $280 a week. After joining the co-op, her hourly wage increased to $20.00, and she only needed to work 14 hours a week to make the same $280.00.

This additional income and hours empowered her as a single mom. She could work fewer hours, spend more time with her children. The added time with her children allowed the family to grow stronger which not only helped them but also impacted their community positively, and the planet. The Cooperative model allows everyone to benefit together. No one is pushed down because another is up.

Another example that I helped to found is Common Good Management Services, which also illustrates Dame Green’s point nicely. Millions of people live in mobile home parks in the U.S. Most parks are owned by investor-owners and the parks are regularly bought and sold, driving up the cost of living for the residents. With the help of a national network led by ROC USA , hundreds of mobile home parks have been purchased by co-ops where the residents are the member owners. Extracting mobile home parks from the investor-owned marketplace puts an immediate stop to the exploitive relationship with the investor owner. Residents are empowered to govern their community for the common good of its residents. Common Good Management Services is a community-based property management co-op designed to manage the property in a manner that serves the residents. Both the mobile home park movement and the potential of Common Good are inspiring and based on exactly what Dame Green described as the impact of cooperatives.

Which principles or philosophies are the cornerstones of cooperatives?

We will start with the cooperative values, which are: self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, quality, equity, and solidarity. I noticed that in the housing co-op meetings, decisions were made on what was best for the group. If the decision is best for the group, then each member in the group prospers together, in solidarity. Decisions are not made on what is best for one individual, because this normally means that this decision would be at the expense of somebody else. Cooperatives also believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others, which I see as the Golden Rule.

Cooperative organizations are governed by their values and principles, where the principles are guidelines by which the values are put into practice. The principles are:

1. Voluntary and Open Membership: Personal demographics don’t make any difference.

2. Democratic Member Control: One member, one vote.

3. Member Economic Participation: Must pay money to become a member and share in profit.

4. Autonomy and Independence: The co-op members must own and control the business.

5. Education, Training, and Information: continual education.

6. Cooperation among Cooperatives: Co-ops work together for the good of the members and the community

7. Concern for Community: Govern in a way to improve the community

There’s an eighth principle that different credit unions in the US have started using and that’s DEI: diversity, equity and inclusion. Some argue that you don’t need this eight principle, because the first principle states that membership is “open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.”

Unfortunately, if you take a co-op and put it into a racist society like the US, then those co-ops would probably be racist with leadership being white, particularly white men. So, having an emphasis on including everybody makes it better than just the first principle. It’s open to everybody and make sure diversity, inclusion and equity are included.

Let’s go to the father of capitalism, Adam Smith, who believed that man has natural tendency to look after self-interest, and as social creatures man has sympathy for others that have less.

Smith saw humans as creatures driven by passions and at the same time self-regulated by their ability to reason and by their capacity for sympathy.

Narcissistic individuals by definition don’t have the ability to empathize. It also seems that those persons who inherited their wealth don’t have the capacity for sympathy, as described by the French economist Thomas Piketty’s book Capitalism in the 21st Century.

How do Cooperatives have the ability to change the world?

When you look at how coops have the ability to change the world, I would first look at that fifth principle of cooperation, which is: Education, Training and Information. This Principle is what first attracted me to co-ops. Co-ops teach its members how to run a business, how to make collective decisions, how to resolve conflict, how to read financial statements, how to save for the future, the importance of voting, etc. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character — that is the goal of true education.” The character of the cooperative and its members is found in the values and principles expressed earlier.

I would turn to principle 6 and the different co-op sectors. Principle six is Cooperation Among Co-ops. There are four types of co-ops that look for ways of working together that will benefit the members and the world. The sector’s names are based on who owns and controls the business or the function of the business. The four sectors are defined below:

a) It is a Worker Co-op if the business is owned and controlled by the employees (could be any business)

b) It is a Consumer Co-op if the business is owned and controlled by the persons who use the products or services (housing co-ops, credit unions, rural electric co-ops, food co-ops, REI, a health clinic in Madison WI, and Blue Hawk Distributor are examples of consumer co-ops).

c) It is a Purchasing Co-op if the function of the business created is to Purchase products and services to afford it’s member better quality at lower prices (such as farmers, artist, and the Consumer Purchasing Alliance in DC). In the 1960s when black farmers were getting out to vote, the white stores wouldn’t sell them gas. So, these black farmers pitched in their dollars and purchased a truck, went across state lines and brought gas. To get what they needed, they formed a purchasing co-op. And all these coops formed the Federation of Southern Co-ops in 1967.

d) It is a Marketing/Producer Co-op if the function of the business created is to market and add value to the products or services of the members to get access to more markets at a better price (farmers started Cabot Creamery, Land O’Lakes, Ocean Spray and artists started Ujamaa in Pittsburgh, Zuni Pueblo in New Mexico). I was in a store in San Diego and bought some eggs from a co-op. The eggs came from Wisconsin. The farmer in Wisconsin wouldn’t have been able to get the eggs to the marketplace in San Diego on his own.

Was there a “tipping point” or some holes in the way the average business is structured that are leading more businesses toward a cooperative model?

Absolutely. I got my MBA from Stanford. In every class that I was in, decisions were made on “what’s the greatest return on investment (ROI) for the shareholder?” The focus of the company is what’s the best return; money, financial profit for the shareholder; it was not what was best for the employee. Matter of fact, there’s this antagonistic relationship between management and the employee and between the board and the employee. In a worker co-op, the focus is also on what is best for the shareholder, but the shareholder is the employee.

Look at the principles of cooperation, the first concern is for the people, the members. What’s best for the planet is second, and third is profit. Profit is important but in a capitalistic model, it is king, it is all important. Managers in the capitalistic business make decisions based on what’s best for the shareholder first, then what is best for the manager. In the capitalistic business, the top managers may make 200 times more than the average bottom salaries. Whereas in a co-op, often there are rules that the top person may not make more than 10 times of what the lowest paid workers make. This rule allows more money to be spread throughout to the employees. In the cooperative the money stays in the community, but in the capitalist business the money goes to the shareholder, who may not live in that community.

The tipping point is the capitalistic model focuses on profits. Almost totally, to the exception of everything else. And we have things like climate change. And if it keeps going that way with short term decisions based on profit, we will see continued destruction for our planet. Whereas the co-op model is for our world, for our children, and for our grandchildren.

The capitalist model has totally missed the priorities of cooperatives. That we must take care of the planet, community and the people. The capitalistic model focuses on profit for the shareholder and management. That’s the tipping point.

What is needed to lead this idea to widespread adoption?

Awareness is needed to lead to widespread adoption. We’ve been producing the Everything Co-op radio show for 9 years. It got started because the United Nations declared 2012 the year of co-op and about 300 cooperators from around the world went to the UN in November of 2011. In that gathering, it was stated multiple times that Co-ops are “the best kept secret.” In 2013, we started the radio show to let people know about co-ops. Co-ops do an extremely good job of helping their members, an excellent job providing great products and services, and an awesome job at solving community problems. However, co-ops do a terrible job at promoting the co-operative brand.

I firmly believe that we have to let people know about the cooperative brand, and if we tell them about the benefits, the impact, and the things you asked in the aforementioned questions, they will then look for co-ops to do business with. They will start co-ops and convert capitalistic businesses to worker owned co-ops. This is especially true with the baby boomers, because the baby boomers own a large percentage of the normal, capitalist businesses. As they are beginning to retire you can convert their businesses to employee ownership, then the business and profits will stay in the community.

Can you share with our readers why it is important to support cooperatives?

If you look at 100 cooperative businesses that started 5 years ago, then 80–90 percent of them are still in business today. The reasons for this are:

  1. The training that took place for one to four years before the business started,
  2. The connection with the community
  3. The excellent products and services co-op provides the community and
  4. The community problem that the cooperative solved.

If you look at 100 capitalistic businesses that started 5 years ago, about 10–20 percent of them are still in business. They ultimately fail because they don’t get the education nor the solidarity with the community. And so most fail.

If you want excellent products and services, then buy from co-ops. This helps the employees, the community, and the planet. If you’re a nurse or a home health care worker, or plumber or taxi cab driver, or lawyer, etc., you might want to connect with 4 or 5 of your co-workers and start your own cooperative. You can reach out to the cooperative community to get the training, technical support and funding needed to be successful.

What are a few cooperatives that you would encourage our readers to learn about?

Well, credit unions are co-ops. In 2012 about 150 cooperators went to talk to President Obama’s head administrators about cooperatives. There was a cooperator in the front of the room who would ask each administrator if they knew what a co-op is. Most answered “no”, then he would ask them “Do you belong to a credit union?” Most said “yes”. One person, I’m not going to say who he was or his title because he was extremely high in the administration, said that he and his family belonged to 3 different credit unions. They belonged to 3 co-ops and didn’t know they belonged to co-ops. They did understand that if they wanted to apply for a car loan or any kind of a loan then they would get a better deal at a cooperative.

The products are created by the members for the members. The credit union has to make enough money to pay for the overhead, and may want to make enough money for growth, and may make money to donate to solve community problems. Most credit unions don’t give dividends to their members but that would be another reason for cooperatives to make a profit so they can give dividends to their members.

I like the worker co-op, Equal Exchange with about 120 members/owners. They have great products including coffee, teas, bananas, and chocolates. Equal Exchange pays its farmers a fair price for the products they buy. They buy from small farmers in Africa, Asia and South America.

You can go on the US Federation of Worker Co-ops’ web page, and find worker co-ops sorted by the type of co-op in each state. You can also find a food co-op by just going to google and putting in food co-op near you. You can find different housing coops by going to the “National Association of Housing Cooperatives” at NAHC.coop. As I travel around the US in my RV, I’ve found that google is a great way for locating co-ops in the area that you are in. The National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA.coop) has been working on a software app where you can find co-ops in your area. I’m hoping they will be able to get the application out in the market soon.

How can our readers find out more and follow you on social media?

We post every week on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter; we encourage readers to follow us to stay up tp date onwho is coming on the show We also offer an option to subscribe on our website at www.everything.coop.

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


Let’s Expand Co-Ops: Vernon Oakes’s Big Idea That Might Change The World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Meet The Disruptors: L Renee Blount Of WndrHaus On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Indust

Meet The Disruptors: L. Renee Blount Of WndrHaus On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Be Bold. That was told directly to me once at a lecture. It’s something I take with me.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewingL. Renee Blount.

L. Renee Blount is a professional adventurer, athlete and creative. She’s dedicated to her work as an athlete with a camera who is making the outdoors way more inviting, fun and filled with flavor. A proud alumni of Harvard University School of Design, she is known for her infectious smile and joyous work in the outdoor space as director & photographer. She has graced the cover of Outside Magazine, featured in Gear Patrol, Nat Geo, Athleta, North Face, Patagonia and more. WndrHaus.com

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

I got my start by inviting myself when I was never invited. This has been my career path. The dozens of coffees scheduled between SF, NYC and Boston until I could land my creative and strategy jobs in innovation & design despite having two graduate degrees. I quickly recognized fancy school names may not overcome my own name, so I had to show up and prove myself. The conferences where I humbly showed up to be the notetaker but relentlessly networked. And when I shortened my name to “L.”, calls began to be returned despite applying previously. Yes — that is very real.

The same is true for the outdoors. I don’t come from money in any way. I never felt fully invited when I picked up a camera out of desire to tell stories like my own. A lot of my work sat on hard drives until tragedy. However, I always believed in my creativity, voice, ability to learn and physical capabilities. I believed in our stories and style long before it became popular.

I am an advocate for women to take big creative risks that bring joy — a calculated bet on yourself because you deserve the chance to see what can happen. We all deserve to take a risk — a big one. And the most successful individuals, take the biggest leaps. It’s something I didn’t see women in my family have the ability to do. That very ability to take a risk is often shorter for minorities and economically who may not have the same options for a fall back.

I’ve always been a creative hustler to make sure I had scholarships, so no one knew my family’s economic situation. When I graduated from Harvard, I thought I’d made it. Turns out, I had not at all. It took me 50 coffees, grit and faith to pivot from architecture to land my first big job working in NYC doing creative strategy. I was asking to be a notetaker at conferences so I could introduce myself to VPs.

At the firms, I was inspired by the CEOs I’d come across — they were gay-identifying and black working companies ideate the most out-of-this-world — NBA to J.Crew to IBM. That power of the visual led me to think, Why not me? And what happens if I can become more aligned and follow my passion projects? Rethinking the outdoor space with more joy, more flavor, more diverse faces.

I decided to take a leap of faith with a career change. I saved up a freedom fund and decided to pursue alignment. I changed coasts and followed my side hustle with the encouragement from Alain Sylvain, a CEO I looked up to and worked for. For a while, I’d take red eyes to do my creative outdoor assignments and still keep my consulting work. And then I decided to go for it. I’ve been training in climbing for the last 10 years. And in my first year photography, I’d already worked with The North Face, Arc’Teryx and Patagonia all while working full-time.

The biggest encouragement was from the black women in my family who hadn’t been allowed to take chances. It was with their cheerleading that I decided to embrace being uncomfortable due to their history of never feeling like they could for it.

When I followed my calling, within just a few months, I made magazine covers, was added to the Nat Geo Adventure Team as the only black woman ever and only the third black person ever; partnered with elite outdoor companies on campaigns and so much more.

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

Showing joy and visuals through creative directing & working directly with brands to tell new stories in a space that is not typically diverse.

Here’s are some snapshot examples:

+ Decided to remake the covers of popular outdoor publications to feature my work of adventurers and athletes of color as a provocation. The outdoor world took notice. An exercise in strategy and creativity.

+ Landed the September/October cover of Outside Magazine after my work was widely seen.

+ Hosted & produced a new video series! Pitched and co-produced a series that celebrates my loves — adventure, innovation and curiosity. The series will feature Cake (the Tesla of electric bikes), OneWheel and more. This was my first time doing any video, and I’ve gone on to do more since.

+ I’m the only black woman contributor to the Nat Geo Adventure Team and as an athlete & explorer, I’ve been pushing into expeditions. Here’s my latest crazy trip that just released with Sony!

+ Since 2020, I’ve worked with Sony and a host of brands to give cameras away to elevate talent in the outdoor space. I deeply know what it is like to have the talent and not have the best equipment. With a host of brands, I’ve been able to do $30k+ in funding for portfolio projects and give over 10 professional camera setups away with gear by spearheading the Elevation & Peak Design grants for underrepresented creatives.

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 hired my little brother to be an assistant on my first big shoot while he was early in college. Total fail. LOL. I also hadn’t been on a set before. I’d come from just doing projects on my own & didn’t know all the ins and outs. He complained the whole time and I haven’t done that since. He’s super generous, smart and bright — and he works at Meta now so it’s all good.

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?

Many, many people have had an impact on my journey. Even some who may never know it.

Susan at Ideo — “Just get in the door.” She gave me 10 minutes on a call but it was so valuable.

Toyo Ito — the Pulitzer Prize-winning architect really encouraged me not to be traditional when I spent 3 months in Tokyo while taking his architecture studio. When I got back to Harvard, I super embraced the pivot.

Caitlin Kalinowski — She’s an amazing friend and confidant. And a big deal in the tech world. Since I pivoted at Harvard into innovation & storytelling, she’s known me. We talk often and always share insights. Super brilliant and makes me feel like I’m making the right decisions creatively.

Alain Sylvain — He encouraged me that I could go out on my own. He’s another business savant and I worked for his firm in NYC. I was surprised by his revelation and confidence.

Chris Burkhard — I’m so thankful to him. Just having someone I admire like my work was a huge confidence boost. When I went to Iceland with him, I asked so many business questions. He was so open and honest.

And many more. I like highlighting these individuals because they are also very astute at business. That’s super integral for me. I took entrepreneurship business classes twice at Harvard — one at the Harvard Kennedy School and one at Harvard Business School. And thinking about opportunity costs and ROI are super important.

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

It’s a positive disruption when the status quo only exists to serve or elevate the few. For example, Patagonia reached out to me early on. I, like many, deeply very much respect their environmentalism. They are a leader and pioneer. However, I rarely, rarely ever saw myself in their materials. So, when they approached me, I told them I wasn’t privileged enough to work with them and kindly explained every reason why. The email was circulated amongst their team.

They desired more diverse content but their process only allowed for the privileged few to go out and do it. Essentially, it was built for photographers to go out on trips. And then they’ll just archive your images for weeks or years until they have a need. No one gets paid until then.

If you have less access to equipment, the trips, the people that can afford to go, etc., then how can you get supported by them? How will it not only go to the most insular circles who’ve long been able to afford it or have those connections?

They called back. Hopefully, that email opened eyes not only for me but for anyone who’s been an outsider.

It’s negative when I think it’s done without thought or intention. Or the ramifications will be ignored. Just look at FTX.

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

Be Bold. That was told directly to me once at a lecture. It’s something I take with me.

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

Out of my triumphs, the world gets to see the most incredible places illuminated with joy outside. And changing the narrative of who exists and who’s doing the most badass things makes me smile like no other.

There’s a couple endeavors — I’m building up my creative studio, WndrHaus. Beyond creative directing, concepting & photographing for amazing brands, I want to continually push as an athlete.

Up next is continuing to push that and making sure I’m on expeditions. It’s still rare to see women with cameras on expeditions teams. And women of color are even rarer.

Highlighting my creative directing, design and consulting efforts. I’ve been behind the scenes working on incredible things. Next year, I hope to amplify those efforts and talk about them.

And most importantly, there’s also altruism initiatives for outdoor inclusivity. I’m bringing back completely free experiences (such as gym takeovers) that give underserved communities the ability to try.

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

I love the Jen Sincero Badass books. They came in heavy at the right time when I knew I needed to pursue something new but felt nervous to dive in. I had started saving up to make it happen. But reading those, I felt that it was possible. They’re books of hope & affirmation that I really love and re-read passages.

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

You can’t climb a mountain if it’s smooth. You have to go over the rough spots.” -S. Adams

I love this visual. And it’s helpful for the continual climb.

“Once you know better, you can do better” is something my grandmother always repeats. And I constantly say it to myself. There’s so much that I’ve had to figure out — how to get in the door, how to get to make it when I have less resources, how to maneuver when others put me in a box, how to be first when someone like me doesn’t exist, etc. I tell myself I deserve the chance to take risk, to fail. To allow my pathway to be a gate opener so others can walk in.

I think I can be precious and perfectionist at times. But I’m here to fail forward. If I stumble, it’s okay as long as I can really learn and continually improve.

Like many, I feel like there’s still so much to learn and know. But I’m not here to be a flash in the pan. I’m endlessly curious and love being experimental. So, if I make a mistake, I can improve. And I can share that knowledge & hopefully, inspire.

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. 🙂

Reclaim & reclaim with joy. You deserve to be there especially if you haven’t been historically invited.

Making sure that you’re giving more than taking. What are you doing to replenish & nourish? Not only yourself but the community or society. When you visit a place, you can give to it by sharing that experience with others who haven’t been able to go, by volunteering, by donating to a local area. Your presence is powerful. Remember to not just take.

How can our readers follow you online?

IG: @urbanclimbr

Website: www.wndrhaus.com

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

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


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

Adam Castleton Of Startle On 5 Ways To Create a Wow! Customer Experience

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

People remember the ending too. How an interaction ends is equally memorable and should be designed accordingly. For example, hotel staff greeting a customer by name, or reducing the perceived wait time in retail with an “Occupied Wait”. Together with memorable peaks, these moments are known as the “Peak End Rule”.

As a part of our series about the five things a business should do to create a Wow! customer experience, I had the pleasure of interviewing Adam Castleton.

Adam co-founded Startle in 2012 after identifying an opportunity to haul dated background music technology into the modern, highly connected era. Previously Head of Strategy at digital agency, Rawnet, Adam has extensive technical and operational experience, working with media companies such as Discovery and ITV to deliver exceptional digital experiences for their customers.

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 started my first business at the age of six, charging my family to park on their own driveway! I soon realised that the parking sector wasn’t my passion, so since my first “proper job” in the leisure industry, my career has revolved around my passion for technology and experiences.

I’m anti “tech for tech’s sake”, so you’ll find me as far away from virtual reality as the metaverse will allow me to run! I’ve found that retail, hospitality and leisure environments provide the perfect real-life playground for using technology with intent.

There are so many opportunities to improve the atmosphere, gain efficiency and enhance the experience using technology in these spaces. And it’s exciting to think that our technology is shaping the customer experience of thousands of people each day, as they go about their lives. That’s what gets me up in the morning.

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

I’m a self-taught software developer. And while knowledge of how things work is valuable in running Startle Music today, I’ve learnt to keep my hands off the code.

In the early days of Startle, I remember attending an awards ceremony in Manchester, and corrupting an important database from my phone. We didn’t win the award, and I spent the early hours in my room restoring backups over a patchy 3G connection!

There is a valuable lesson in every mistake, and that’s my biggest ‘take away’ — to learn from every one of them, as they will arm you well in the future.

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?

From a young age, I’ve been fortunate to work alongside leaders of successful young businesses. It’s now that I value the learnings I gained from these people, whether it was how I saw them manage people, any guidance or advice they gave me, or just what I learnt from overhearing conversations about their business in the office.

With the rise of remote work, I think it’s easy to underestimate the value that can be gained from time spent in the office, with the leadership of the company that you work within. I’d say I have all my old bosses to thank for helping me get to where I am today, and I hope that I’m passing on some wisdom in the same way to the Startle team today.

Thank you for that. Let’s now pivot to the main focus of our interview. This might be intuitive, but I think it’s helpful to specifically articulate it. In your words, can you share a few reasons why great customer service and a great customer experience is essential for success in business?

In my opinion, an exceptional customer experience is as important as the product or service being sold. I intentionally use the term “exceptional” as everybody can offer a great experience if they try. It takes an exceptional experience to really stand out, and standing out is important. Here’s why:

Getting any customer to buy from you takes investment, whether that’s investing in marketing, a physical storefront or long-term building of a brand.

The customers you attract will either be ones you never see again, or loyal ones that repeat purchase from you and recommend you to others. These people will also pay more for your product, allowing you to hold your margins.

Loyal customers, referrals and higher margins become a natural byproduct if you’re consistently delivering an exceptional customer experience. Consistently delivering an exceptional customer experience is also significantly cheaper to achieve than continuously investing in ways to find new people to sell to all the time.

A transactional relationship where a product is simply purchased in exchange for money is easily forgotten. A stand-out customer experience is not.

Expectancy Theory teaches us that the way people perceive something is influenced by how they expect the experience to be. By delivering an exceptional customer experience you are influencing not only how the product you’re selling is received, but also how they will expect future interactions with your brand to be.

Not only does this earn loyalty with your customers now, it affords you some helpful forgiveness if, in the future, you do ever miss the bar.

We have all had times either in a store, or online, when we’ve had a very poor experience as a customer or user. If the importance of a good customer experience is so intuitive, and apparent, where is the disconnect? How is it that so many companies do not make this a priority?

Like an exceptional experience, bad customer experiences can be remembered too. Anyone delivering consistently poor experiences are at risk of creating an army of detractors which can be difficult to bounce back from.

I think most people would agree that the vast majority of customer experiences are pretty average. I think we naturally put too much focus on what is being sold at what price, rather than the context of how it is being sold.

This is short term thinking. This unbalanced focus may deliver earlier revenues, but as I explained, these experiences are purely transactional in nature and easily forgotten. This means that your customers are back on the market for your competitors to acquire next time around.

This cycle leads to a tendency to buy customer loyalty through loyalty schemes. But in reality, loyalty is an outcome and not something that can be bought through discounting.

Typical loyalty schemes (and discounting in general) assume that price is the main reason that customers buy from you, when in reality, we know there are other more influential soft-factors at play.

Discount schemes also create a sense of entitlement. It’s not difficult to think of an example company where you would only ever buy from with a discount code (think pizza chains), or where there has been outrage when the terms of their loyalty scheme changed (think supermarkets).

True loyalty is more forgiving, and a result of a genuine connection made between a brand and its customer. And it is something that can only be earned by consistently delivering an exceptional customer experience alongside your great, properly priced, product.

Do you think that more competition helps force companies to improve the customer experience they offer? Are there other external pressures that can force a company to improve the customer experience?

Absolutely. Pressure drives a change in behaviour, whether that pressure comes from competition, inflation, supply chain issues or a staffing crisis.

Typically I see businesses take one of two directions. The first is a short term view again, minimising costs at the expense of customer experience as an attempt of survival. The second is to invest themselves out of the situation.

Brands that take the short term view are simply extending their runway, but often, and predictably, go out of business eventually. Brands such as Toys R Us, Mothercare, Blockbuster and Debenhams are all good examples of this.

On the other hand, brands that knuckle down and invest in a great customer experience typically see more longer term success than their competition. Not only do they survive the tough times, they come out stronger on the other side.

I’m a big believer that there is opportunity in adversity, and that’s because usually the whole market is facing the same challenges as you are. You just have to navigate the adversity better than others to end up in a better position. That takes a cool head, calculated risk taking, unequivocal belief, and above all dogged persistence. That’s certainly the approach I’ve taken at Startle.

Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided?

A big part of our customer experience comes from the relentless support we provide our customers. We could certainly cut costs, scale back our support operation, and still exceed the market expectations. But our support is so impactful that we see it as an investment rather than an operational cost.

An example would be a customer calling to cancel their contract with us as they were retiring. Although this was a shame for business, we believed the human connection was much more important, so we sent them a retirement gift in the post.

Did that Wow! experience have any long-term ripple effects? Can you share the story?

This genuine act of kindness eventually became good for business when the person retiring referred us to another mutlisite operator. And from there we were able to build our reputation and client list further within the industry. It’s an example of an above-and-beyond approach to business paying off in the long term.

Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience. Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. People remember the peaks. Peaks are stand-out and unexpected moments in the customer journey. Consider your customer journey as a whole, and identify areas that you can introduce intentional peaks. Think, a random “on the house” coffee from Pret, or how Costa helps customers who have their hands full with small children by helping them carry their item to the table. These virtually free moments will create a long lasting memorable impression on your customers.
  2. People remember the ending too. How an interaction ends is equally memorable and should be designed accordingly. For example, hotel staff greeting a customer by name, or reducing the perceived wait time in retail with an “Occupied Wait”. Together with memorable peaks, these moments are known as the “Peak End Rule”.
  3. Look outside of the industry for inspiration. It’s easy to be blinkered which can lead to lost opportunities and unintentional mimicry. I think it’s best to intentionally look outside of your industry for inspiration when designing your customer experience. For example, we have an office space client using a sports fashion retailer as inspiration for their background music. Being distinctive in a sea of sameness will not only make your brand stand out, you’ll be more memorable too. This is known as the “Von Restorff Effect”.
  4. Consider the environment as a whole. A lot of thought is put into the visual merchandising of physical locations, but often the wider atmosphere is often considered in isolation (or not at all). Impactful experiences are ones where the look and feel of a space works in harmony with the sound, lighting and everything else that contributes to an atmosphere.
  5. Underpin your thinking with the principles of behavioural science. Humans are unpredictable creatures, and can often behave seemingly illogically. I’ve mentioned some behavioural principles that we use at Startle, these are established heuristics within the field of behavioural science. Instead of guess-work and wishful thinking, these heuristics can be used to design an environment and customer experience with real intent.

Are there a few things that can be done so that when a customer or client has a Wow! experience, they inspire others to reach out to you as well?

There is nothing more powerful than word-of-mouth and referrals within the industry we operate in. So we approach our customer experience in the same way that we teach our clients to, by using the principles of behavioural science to make our business and proposition stand out. This is reflected in our marketing, how we sell and how we manage client relationships.

Amazon is going to exert pressure on all of retail for the foreseeable future. New Direct-To-Consumer companies based in China are emerging that offer prices that are much cheaper than US and European brands. What would you advise retail companies and eCommerce companies, for them to be successful in the face of such strong competition?

  1. Price alone isn’t a USP, nor does it drive genuine customer loyalty. D2C brands are opening on the high street because they realise they need to make more emotional connections with customers that isn’t possible purely in an online transactional environment. Allbirds and Gymshark are two examples of this.
  2. If anything this proves that there is opportunity on the high street.
  3. With Amazon, they’re investing/testing tech (like “just walk out”) which is so expensive that retailers would never create it themselves. Let them haemorrhage cash while learning the mistakes and refine the technology. Amazon’s play is to ultimately sell the technology to retailers, not to own every shop on the high street — and that’s a long, long road which doesn’t replace excellent customer experience.

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

Over the last decade our lives have become increasingly digital. The Coronavirus pandemic made many of us realise the value of in-person interactions, whether that’s in our personal relationships, visiting a restaurant with friends, meeting in person instead of over Zoom, browsing the shops on a Sunday afternoon, or even re-realising the convenience of in-store click and collect.

I love tech, and there’s definitely a place for it in retail, but I’d love to see a movement that promotes real life, in-person experiences over making our lives increasingly digital. I’d like to see less time invested in projects like the metaverse, and more investment in real human connections.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

In that vein, I’d rather meet you for a coffee than follow me on social media, but in the meantime you can follow Startle on…

Website: https://startlemusic.com
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/startleint
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/StartleInt
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Startle_Music

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


Adam Castleton Of Startle On 5 Ways To Create a Wow! Customer Experience 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: Robert Messer Of IPTECHVIEW On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up…

The Future Is Now: Robert Messer Of IPTECHVIEW On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Do not take yourself too seriously.
Don’t believe your own press releases, and always listen to people that care.. There is always a nugget of truth in most suggestions.

As a part of our series about cutting-edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Robert Messer.

Robert Messer is the President & CEO of Dallas-based IPTECHVIEW, a 6-year-old software as a service business (VSaaS). The company is a spinoff from ABP Technology, a specialty distributor of IP technology he founded 21 years ago. Today IPTECHVIEW develops and operates a global cloud video surveillance platform. The company’s mission is to protect people, places and assets by providing visibility, smart alerts and controls.

Before these two companies in the USA, he founded and ran several technology companies in Barcelona, Spain. He immigrated to the US in 1993 and became EVP of AJ Weller Corp, Shreveport, Louisiana, a business focused on composite materials and technology improvements in heavy industry. This gave him much insight into the operations, maintenance and security of manufacturing plants and industrial facilities.

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?

After college in Germany, I lived in Spain, where I started a business reselling computers. At that time, you could only sell a computer if you created a tailor-made software solution to the customer’s needs. That got me into software development. Later I started importing computer systems, and our reseller business morphed into a distribution business. I helped other resellers with the solutions we had made. I guess I am still kind of doing the same thing today.

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

Even as a tiny business, I discovered I could sell exciting, innovative products competing with huge companies. I started ABP marketing SIP phone technology, our product was a new IP phone made by a snom a small German company. At that time, ABP was only one salesperson and one office manager, and within six months, we were selling to IBM and HP, winning business against Cisco Phones. The lesson here is David can beat Goliath. We passed a million dollars at the end of our first real business year.

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

A few years back, we started selling business security cameras. We soon realized the systems and processes people used to sell and install were too complicated and costly, and the systems needed to give users more of what they wanted.

Today’s solutions give customers solutions based on expensive servers, large disc drives units that often fail, and come with software that is hard to use. Accessing video from outside is inconvenient and insecure, installation and configuration take days, and the cost to set up and maintain is high. Many users that need surveillance are not able to buy professional solutions because they are too expensive and then end-up with cheap but ineffective consumer-grade solutions.

We wanted to make a system where customers could just buy as many cameras as they needed for their place. Pick the proper camera type for their application, have them installed and then provide access to people in these companies to start using them without needing to learn much. Intuitive software with a few built-in videos to learn the rest.

We also felt our system should be multi-site so businesses could manage all their locations, and everything should work on users existing devices, smartphones, laptops or bigger multi-screen workstations. We made all that happen and now are securing facilities and provisioning video management of security cameras in about 20 countries.

How do you think this might change the world?

We believe smart security solutions can make the world a safer place and provide extra value by enabling workflow and process improvements and quality control, plus providing videos as training tools, situational awareness, and more. Adoption always grows when the prices come down.

At IPTECHVIEW, we reduced the cost of deployment to a fraction by eliminating the need for local servers and hard discs by putting ting in the cloud. We made a system that needed just cameras or pre-configured edge-device & cloud. Without servers and software, we lowered the deployment cost. Now many things like Security cameras, video intercoms for doors, access control card readers, and more would work as soon as mounted and wired to their network.

Last we also made Video Access so easy with our cloud software that everyone within the organization can use it. Now not only the security manager or loss prevention can access the video. It is now possible to provide access to HR, the warehouse manager, and the CEO.

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

We believe there is a potential to democratize video so many stakeholders at the company can use surveillance cameras to see the space they manage or cohabit at work. Particularly in our new hybrid and WFH world, this is valuable.

A warehouse manager can “oversee” his warehouse on a day he needs to work from home. The production manager can check on process flow and more.

The concept that people are allowed to see the same workspace they can see when they are at work makes sense. In a hybrid world with few people, sometimes no one else is there on certain days. If many in the company use surveillance cameras in their day to day workflow and can see the space users move in, that would make the lonely worker feel safer. But there are always risks and downsides that need to be weighed and balanced.

How do we define privacy, and what are the lines that such open video solutions should not cross? Like always, when new technology emerges, there will be pros and cons and as a society, we will need to adapt, evaluate and regulate our new future.

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

We have become a leading supplier to service providers and shipped millions of IP Phones. We could see how the reseller business for PBXs shrunk as the centralized cloud PBXs grew. The same fate could befall our camera resellers and integrators, but it dawned on us that that was a bit different since cameras and door stations need more physical installation. We realized we could help the security installers if we provided them with their own partner-centric cloud platform for cameras to sell. We also offer to preconfigure the cameras and devices to give them the same advantages a dedicated cloud service provider would have to help them cut installation time and lower their costs.

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

The challenges are for our partners to change their habits and business model to get ready for the future. They must learn to start selling a yearly subscription instead of on-premise hardware. They need to educate their team that it is better to sell a service contract as a recurring service plan than do “Break Fix”.

The gross margin of service delivered as remote work is way better than service done locally. Especially considering the lost time and cost of transportation to and from sites. Technology partners can handle customers in a much larger geography, can do more projects with the same amount of people, and customers get much faster service at a flat service fee.

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

Today we spend a lot of time educating everyone in the market, from end-users, and enterprise companies to resellers and integrators. We are also teaching businesses how they can integrate their alarm systems with our video surveillance by simply installing a few AlarmReady cameras from IPTECHVIEW.

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

The list of people that helped us is long. I am incredibly lucky and will be forever thankful to have had a passionate team that worked on making the vision of a more partner-centric cloud video surveillance solution real.

We also were lucky to have some sizeable early adopter customers and integration partners that bet on us that reaffirmed our beliefs and commitment to the vision.

Also, friends in the world of PR, Editors in the Technology space all helped us initially with promotion when we could not afford a lot of marketing.

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

It’s a bit early for us, but we are looking forward to a time when we can do more of that.

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

  1. There is more to life than the company.
    It is very hard as a CEO to keep a work-life balance. You should reign in your passion by telling yourself you will be better if you recharge with other activities.
    The truth is that these activities become inspirational for your work.
  2. Do not take yourself too seriously.
    Don’t believe your own press releases, and always listen to people that care.. There is always a nugget of truth in most suggestions.
  3. If people dont work out in their jobs fire them soon.
    Many times I tried to be nice and find a way to make things work for people that did not fit. It ended up making life worse for both of us.
  4. Everything takes twice as long, costs twice as much, and will be half as unique, special, or cool as you thought it would be. Plan to be over budget. If things only add marginal value consider not doing them.
  5. Enjoy the simple things and have fun every day. Do not plan on ignoring life to have all the fun at the end. The end may come sooner than you thought.

This is as much about your life as it is about the lives of all that are working for you.

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. 🙂

Always be on the lookout for adding value and improving things around you. Be it to the environment, towards people you work with, your customers or the economic situation of yourself and those around you.

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

When I started my first business, I read a book that had a phrase like “If you do enough good things for others, good things will happen to you too.” We always acted that toward employees and customers, and vendors. Our principles helped us stay focused on helping our customers grow their businesses, and our success and longevity are a testimonial that the principle works. Of course, this only works for those that let themselves be helped.

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 🙂

We are too far down the road for VCs, but I would not mind finding the right strategic investors. Our business model has incredible potential, and now that we have overcome most of the technological hurdles, we are entering a phase that is process and execution centric. This may require more investment than we can bootstrap. It could be helpful to work with a partner where we could leverage certain aspects of their strength.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

The best two are:

https://www.linkedin.com/company/iptechview

https://twitter.com/iptechview

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


The Future Is Now: Robert Messer Of IPTECHVIEW 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.

Meet The Disruptors: Max Curnin Of Remaster On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

People are emotional beings and tend to tune out exposition. I love to get into the nitty-gritty of the tech and the implications of how that tech can solve real problems. However, if I don’t shape the story to the person I’m speaking with, they have no chance of being brought along for the ride.

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

Max Curnin is Co-Founder and CEO of Remaster, a blockchain-based legal tech startup. An avid NFT collector, angel investor, tech advisor and art enthusiast, Max has dedicated the last eight years to finding opportunities at the nexus of technology and creativity. Max has a B.S. in Applied Physics from the University of Miami.

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?

In the midst of the pandemic, my close friends and I discussed some of the issues that museums were facing due to a lack of admissions. We thought we could use the power of NFTs to help these institutions monetize their collections without having to de-access their works. We quickly realized that copyright ownership and artwork ownership were completely decoupled from one another. Fast forward to the NFT craze, we realized this issue was a small subset of a much larger problem facing the blockchain industry.

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

The Web3 and blockchain space is an interesting area. By and large, the whole concept of the blockchain is to disrupt centralized power structures. The industry is so new that people focus on disruption before solving real-world problems. Remaster is disrupting commerce for high-touch asset classes where transactions are dependent on many different intermediaries such as lawyers and banks. We are not removing these institutions from the process but fundamentally upgrading their ability to function in this new environment.

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 involved our first pitch. As a legal and Web3 company, we spoke with a ‘lawyer’ that specializes in NFTs. We were pitching our concept of decentralizing the Terms & Conditions associated with an NFT digital asset.

I was so caught up talking about the technical implications of our product that the investor asked me, “Who cares?” I got so flustered that I didn’t really know how to respond. Suffice to say, they did not invest, but I learned a valuable lesson. Don’t forget to answer the simplest questions. We often gloss over them, but they are the most important.

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 don’t have a mentor per se, but I am certainly in the market for one. However, there have been a number of books that I have found profound and have helped me on my path. These include:

  • Complexity by M. Mitchell Waldrop
  • Something Deeply Hidden by Sean Carroll
  • 7 Powers by Hamilton Helmer
  • Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

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 actually a great question and something I think about quite a lot. Disruption has many connotations but in tech, we’ve associated disruption with throwing away the old to make way for the new. In general, this is a very typical human conceit that associates new with better. I believe that it is crucial for us as a society to not remain sedentary and continually question the status quo. But this idea is fundamentally different than challenging for the sake of challenging.

I think disruption is a good thing when the existing power structures have become complacent and have ceased to continue to justify their very existence. Technology evolves exponentially faster than the businesses that utilize it. Capitalism is about the survival of the fittest. It’s in our DNA to challenge existing power structures. If we don’t also learn from them, then we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes.

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

  • Communication is everything

When communication is 92% behavioral, we need to recognize that information can get lost in the cloud. Recognizing behavioral cues in yourself and the person you are speaking with is the best way to see if the message is coming across.

  • Tell stories

People are emotional beings and tend to tune out exposition. I love to get into the nitty-gritty of the tech and the implications of how that tech can solve real problems. However, if I don’t shape the story to the person I’m speaking with, they have no chance of being brought along for the ride.

  • Tune out the noise

Knowing when to learn what competitors are up to can get very distracting when you’re trying to focus on your own solutions. This is a delicate balance that I have to actively work at every day.

  • Ambition doesn’t equate to resilience

As entrepreneurs with early-stage companies, we love to talk about how we are going to change the world. This level of exuberance is necessary but at the end of the day, we need to solve real problems for our clients. The best advice I got was to break this down into four key areas.

  • Make a client money
  • Save a client money
  • Keep them from getting sued
  • Enable competitive advantage
  • Take a breath

For so much of the day, we are in the thick of things and it seems like the weight of the company and everyone at it is on our shoulders. Taking a step back to gain some much-needed perspective can often be the key to getting past what can seem to be an insurmountable obstacle.

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

Remaster has built a blockchain legal protocol and various enforceability and management tools for assets in this new Web3 environment. We are currently working on some new commercialization features that can only be accomplished through this legal architecture. We are initially focusing on the ability to list and monetize IP on the blockchain.

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’s a Bankless podcast with Marc Andreessen and Chris Dixon where they discuss the parallels of the dotcom boom and bust cycle to this new internet, Web3 and the corresponding boom and bust cycle. They break down some core concepts in relation to capitalism, property and property rights.

What resonated with me is that when we are in the thick of new technologies, we sometimes forget to draw crucial parallels between the old and the new. So much of the technological revolution is grounded in the core concepts that humans have experienced for millennia. We still care about the same inalienable rights that we’ve always cared about. It’s important to showcase new technologies within this context.

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

A quote that resonates with me is from philosopher and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, “People only see what they are prepared to see.” This is something that I personally have to contend with every day. Sometimes I get so attached to a problem and a solution, that when I try to express my solution to others, it is lost. If I have not adequately communicated the steps necessary for others to see the problem, then they will not be able to see the impact of the solution.

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 encourage people to remember the third law of thermodynamics, energy of a system will eventually reach equilibrium. Too much energy on one side of a system is not sustainable. This is as true for politics, decentralization and the universe. You can’t fight with physics. The scientific method is everything. That and nuclear fusion. Let’s please devote as many resources to fusion technologies.

I would also like to encourage brands, creators and communities to embrace the next era of the internet. Web3 and the entire world of NFTs is still largely misunderstood but there is immense potential to accelerate commerce through legal infrastructure and unlock new potential.

How can our readers follow you online?

Twitter: @maxcurnin or our company page @remaster_io

Website: www.remaster.io

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


Meet The Disruptors: Max Curnin Of Remaster 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.

Agile Businesses: Edward Wilson-Smythe Of AlixPartners On How Businesses Pivot and Stay Relevant In…

Agile Businesses: Edward Wilson-Smythe Of AlixPartners On How Businesses Pivot and Stay Relevant In The Face of Disruptive Technologies

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Acknowledge and internalize that what got you here will not get you there. We need to rethink our mission, our business objectives, our customers, our partnerships and how we create value. This was a key learning from a large airport client of mine, that had historically been led by construction and government leaders, with a focus on capital projects and funding arrangements. Not surprisingly, they were the worst rated airport in their region in 2003, with the distinct ignominy of running out of deicing fluid towards the end of a northern winter. Their technology relationships were also based on turn-of-the-century models of technology being the back office. New executive leadership team that included outsiders from a range of consumer-focused industries reimagined the airport’s purpose as a preferred destination for passengers, a hub of commerce, a community for workers and a catalyst for regional growth. They worked closely with technology companies to define and implement innovations in airport operations, customer experience and transport connectivity. The airport was the best rated airport in North America in 2016–2019 as a result of these innovations.

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

Edward is a Director in the Digital Innovation practice at AlixPartners, a global management consulting firm. In this role, they help clients to harness the power of innovation to drive sustained competitiveness, superior business results and improved social outcomes by means of the definition and execution of digital innovation strategies, integrated solutions, and innovation partnerships. In their more than 20 years of experience, Edward has worked at with leading management consulting firms such as PwC and Kearney and has led digital consulting practices at Gartner, Avasant and NTT DATA. They are a prolific author and speaker on harnessing ethical innovation for the common good, Head of Research at TechPACT, an organization committed to driving equity in technology, and co-author of the Amazon bestseller Digital Singularity: A Case for Humanity.

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

I spent several years after earning my MBA not knowing what I wanted to do or what I was passionate about. While many of my contemporaries were pursuing impressive careers in consulting or finance, I was trying my hand at stand-up comedy and club promotion in Amsterdam and Toronto, while dabbling part-time in working with start-ups on strategy and funding pitches. As a result, my career was anything but planned in its infancy.

My initial work as a management consultant was in the area operations strategy and improvement, which became increasingly intertwined with technology as technology became more and more integral to business strategy and operations. This created a growing interest in technology and its impact on business, leading increasingly from the peripheries of technology decision-making to working with disruption and innovation as the core of my work in the last decade or so.

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

Did you hear about the time an MBA, a stand-up comic and a club promoter walked into a data center? No, seriously, the worst gaffe to date was at a meeting with an ecommerce startup that had hired me to prepare a prospectus to raise capital for an ecommerce transaction processing service based in the Caribbean. Part of the document contained diagrams of the physical location, architecture and connectivity of the systems, in the days when external connectivity was shown as lightning bolts. I still remember looking at one of the diagrams and exclaiming, “oh, that is great, we are showing that our data centers are waterproof because of all the hurricanes!”. Everyone stopped and looked at me, and the founder started laughing only to be joined in laughter by the others. That is how much of a newbie I was to the technology world slightly more than 20 years ago!

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

There have been many exceptional companies and professionals that I have had the good fortune of working with, but the work at Avasant with CEO Kevin Parikh was perhaps the most meaningful and impactful on my journey. We did great work consulting on technology innovation and digital transformation, and purposefully ensured that social and environmental impacts were integrated into the core of what we did. Kevin gave me a wide berth to experiment, break things and put new things together, and protected me when people threatened by change, both inside the firm and some very senior people in three very large technology companies, pressured him to remove me from my role.

The realization that it is possible to drive broader social benefits through consulting, to put people first in all decisions, and to push back against much larger incumbents based on values and principles, was an eye-opener for me. This experience has driven me to push the boundaries in reconciling growth with equality, people with profits, and economics with environment, at work and in my personal life.

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

AlixPartners has worked with clients around the world for more than forty years, helping businesses respond to challenges when everything is on the line — from urgent performance improvement to complex restructuring, from risk mitigation to accelerated transformation. Our purpose is to enable decisive, informed, and often urgent action, when it really matters.

We measure our success in real terms — by the results we deliver, not just the advice we give. We work shoulder to shoulder with our clients to ensure the work we do is completely integrated with their vision, culture and formula for success. We don’t make recommendations and walk away — we stick around until the job is done, and are accountable for a practical, sustainable outcome designed not just to help our clients succeed today, but to leave them ready to build on that success in the future.

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

Rather than a single technology, it has been a consistent and ever-accelerating parade of innovations. The common theme across these innovations, going back to the early-1990s, is that technology has moved from the periphery of the business to being critical to competitiveness and sustained profitable growth. As a result, the focus has shifted from optimizing technology costs and managing reliable services, to harnessing technology innovation to create new business models, develop better products, understand customers better and improve how customers experience our brands. An equally important trend is the need for collaboration between various technologies and between different companies in different industries to provide superior capabilities to our customers.

Being able to apply innovation to new business models and new ways of engaging customers, while at the same time creating collaborative ecosystems that can effectively mobilize these new capabilities, is what is driving disruption and determining which businesses stay relevant.

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

This is where my previous meandering and taking things as they come was turned on its head. In mid-2012, I made a deliberate decision to focus my career on defining new ways for companies and governments to understand and harness technology disruption. At that time, I was part of the Sourcing practice at Gartner, which focused on traditional IT outsourcing and offshoring strategy, contracting and execution. I worked with my team, especially a trusted colleague Rehan Qureshi (who has since gone on to leadership roles at AWS, Google and Confluent), to shift the focus on our work away from traditional sourcing topics, and into helping clients define strategies to transform their business based on new technologies.

At the start, it was something as simple as building in infrastructure and application modernization into the overall services strategy, which sounds quaint today but was radical ten years go. That evolved to working with clients to reimagine their business operations and identifying new business and technology capabilities, along with the services relationships, that would deliver the desired business outcomes. In two years, by the time I left Gartner, the vast majority of our work was related to what we now call digital transformation strategy and enablement. The rest of my career since then has continued this journey to embed technology innovation at the core of business strategy.

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

There is a very distinct 2-hour period that marked the inflection point in my journey. I was invited by Nikhil Zaveri, who was responsible for Wipro’s Analyst Relations with Gartner, to deliver a keynote and judge a competition at the Sales leadership meeting of Wipro in March 2012. This visit also included meetings with a few of their executives and their growth strategies and a meet and greet with their CEO TK Kurien. It turns out that TK and I are alumni of the same college in Delhi and had similar runs-in with authority figures as undergraduates. What was supposed to be a cursory 15-minute meeting turned into a 2-hour free flowing discussion.

At some point, still being stuck in my traditional IT services mindset, I asked, “so Wipro plans on succeeding by standardizing and automating the 70% of business processes that it can”, and TK looked at me and said matter-of-factly, “no, I am interested in differentiating on the 30% that cannot be standardized”. That led to a us scribbling down on napkins what it meant to ‘differentiate on the 30%’, including how business value is created, how technology companies can make high-margin revenues, how revenue models need to move from people to products, and how effective innovation requires a collaborative partnership with each partner having strategic and financial incentives aligned to the same set of business metrics. I walked out of that meeting as if I had a spiritual experience, with an almost missionary zeal to manifest the ideas we had discussed and scribbled down.

So, how are things going with this new direction?

In the truest meaning of the Chinese proverb, I have lived in interesting times! At one level, the progress over the last decade in driving technology innovation has been faster and more impactful than I could have imagined. Some of the concepts discussed at the meeting with TK have been formalized and even trademarked, and applied to large clients to help with complex strategy and transformation initiatives. The biggest progress has been in moving from technology being applied as an enabler of business processes to technology being seen as the driver of new business models and new ways of doing business.

The best part of the last decade has been the ability to work both in management consulting firms and a very large technology company, and advise both creators and users of technology innovation on their growth and transformation journeys. Of course, this progress has been as much because of supporting environments as despite pushback and challenges; addressing the latter has been equal parts exhilarating and exhausting.

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

Finally, we can talk about the very senior people from very large technology companies who wanted to get me out of the way! Each of these was related to me advising clients on growth strategy based on leveraging technology innovation, and large technology companies and some of their leaders being unable or unwilling to change time-worn ways of doing business that had led to success in the last two to three decades. One leader went to the trouble of writing a letter to the CEO of my client outlining not only that they were not going to compete for the business but that the partnership was so poorly structured that no technology company would do business with the company. The second leader complained to a Partner in my firm that I was giving clients bad advice that was contrary to consulting templates (developed in 2008!), which I found out about after I was inadvertently copied on an email escalation to the CEO (note to anyone driving disruptive change: legacy managers love escalations!). The third leader accused me and my firm of colluding with a competitor to disadvantage his firm, as the competitor was about to enter the partnership with my client.

The lesson from these experiences is that despite the pace of change, there are enough people in the technology industry who are reluctant to change and focused on perpetuating old ways of doing things that they are comfortable with. The heavy-handed tactics come not from a position of strength, but rather fear, since they know that their knowledge and skill set no longer are in demand outside their current firm. With this realization, I have learned to be less worried and carry on, focusing on defining tangible business value and aligning with leaders who are committed to change.

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

Articulating a vision of the desired future state, defining the principles that will guide the journey to that future state, identifying the key strategic or operational pivots that will be necessary, and giving people a clear view into how this journey impacts and benefits them. Ok, that is four roles, but in the spirit of complex run on sentences that work better on the other side of the Atlantic, can we agree to call this one concept?

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

Leaders need to go beyond clear articulation of the vision, tangible steps and benefits mentioned earlier, to purposefully create opportunities for people, and provide people with the resources and an environment where they can benefit from these opportunities. People who benefit from this process early will become the champions of change and infuse the rest the organization with enthusiasm for change.

At the same time, there will be people who are impacted negatively by change, who have trouble adapting new business models, operating models, processes, technologies or culture. It is critical to treat these people with respect and ensure that they are provided opportunities for learning new skills or taking on new roles.

Leaders also need to be cognizant of the fact that every disruptive change will have its naysayers, who will try and slow down or stop the change. Now, this may sound controversial, but sometimes the best way to address this dynamic is a deliberate, planned and well-explained separation, especially for executives or other senior leaders who are visibly impeding process. This should not be taken lightly, but I have never seen a company go through disruptive change without at least one executive parting ways for this reason.

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

Focus on the north star of the desired future state, what the business looks like when this future state is achieved, and what benefits that provides for all stakeholders.

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

The most common mistake made by businesses and leaders, including the three instances of leaders trying to stop change mentioned above, is believing that they have the ability to stop or slow down the impacts of technology innovation on their business. A related mistake is assuming that if they slow things down for long enough, the innovation will pass them by, thus taking a “this too shall pass” approach. The reality is that pace of technology change, the permeation of technology trends into the public consciousness, the impact of technology on business capabilities, and increasing competitive pressure from both traditional competitors and new business models, make this approach untenable and a recipe for failure.

A related mistake is businesses and leaders trying to apply traditional planning and execution approaches to disruptive change. For example, traditional technology initiatives executed by corporate IT departments are capital intensive, have long planning and budgeting cycles, focus on improving current processes, and take 24–36 months from start to end. This approach makes no sense in a world where technologies especially related to data, communications, experience and commerce have lifecycles of less than a year, where competition is using disruptive technologies to reimagine their businesses, and where customers expect new features and enhancements to be rapid and seamless. We are seeing a shift towards decentralized innovation planning, zero-cost gain-and-risk share partnership models and rapid release cycles that address these challenges. However, even today, this outdated thinking is the number one contributor to initiative failure, which experience shows us has been the historical outcome for two out of every three technology initiatives.

Another major mistake is focusing on technology innovation for the sake of innovation, without a clear definition of how any of this impacts the business. We see examples of companies investing in marketing automation or commerce portals or customer platforms or dynamic offers, with little consideration of how these will serve customers better or impact internal operations. Worse, businesses fall into the trap of following the herd and investing in the hype of purportedly breakthrough technologies, almost out of FOMO. Large companies have invested in blockchain, artificial intelligence and the metaverse, without a clear understanding of the concepts or a clear view into how these technologies can serve business needs. Worst of all, following the hype leads to companies ignoring immediate and tangible business benefits possible from more pedestrian approaches such decentralized data, real-time data operations, augmented reality and decisions at the edge. First mover advantage works only if the first move leads to an advantage.

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

I suppose that is a subtle message to me to stop talking in long sentences! Since you asked, here are five things, in a structured list:

  1. Acknowledge and internalize that what got you here will not get you there. We need to rethink our mission, our business objectives, our customers, our partnerships and how we create value. This was a key learning from a large airport client of mine, that had historically been led by construction and government leaders, with a focus on capital projects and funding arrangements. Not surprisingly, they were the worst rated airport in their region in 2003, with the distinct ignominy of running out of deicing fluid towards the end of a northern winter. Their technology relationships were also based on turn-of-the-century models of technology being the back office. New executive leadership team that included outsiders from a range of consumer-focused industries reimagined the airport’s purpose as a preferred destination for passengers, a hub of commerce, a community for workers and a catalyst for regional growth. They worked closely with technology companies to define and implement innovations in airport operations, customer experience and transport connectivity. The airport was the best rated airport in North America in 2016–2019 as a result of these innovations.
  2. Understand where your customers are going to be, and meet them there. Our customers are rapidly evolving in terms of priorities and desires, and we need to anticipate these changes and build organizations that are able to look 2–3 years into the future. Perhaps an example of a company that failed to evolve with their clients will illustrate this point. We were consulting a consumer goods company that is home to some of the most iconic brands but was suffering from low growth and declining margins. Their products, distribution channels and marketing were no longer in line with their customers’ needs or behaviors. Customers were moving rapidly to gaming and immersive experiences and away from physical products, purchasing online direct from the creators instead of from retailers, and relying on messaging and amplification across social media instead of traditional media. One of the responses to this was to create a television reality show on a legacy big 3 channel, with no social media plan for amplification, where people competed to create new physical products, that would be sold exclusively through a retailer, … that had already declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Talk about missing the memo!
  3. Understand how technology changes what you produce and deliver. While companies are becoming more adept at adopting innovation to improve business operations, the reality is that every company is today a technology company. The best example of this are the large automotive, industrial equipment and industrial automation companies, that are moving from selling physical assets to selling connected and automated services, whether these avionics platforms for aerospace companies, autonomous warehouse operations, predictive maintenance as a service based on committed asset uptime, enhanced in-vehicle experience or automated building condition and environment management. Equally importantly, the commercial relationships with customers are changing from large one-time capital purchases to ongoing revenues for the use of product and platforms. These companies see themselves as software companies first, and are working to define products, offerings, go-to-market approaches, and customer engagement across the lifecycle. This pivot has impacts not only on high-margin growth and competitive differentiation, but also on the valuation of these companies.
  4. Create an organization that is part of the broader innovation ecosystem. This was a lesson I learned relatively, as most of my work had been with large consulting firms that can tend to be insular. In the spring of 2014, I was invited to speak at a technology conference by Robert Brennan Hart, the founder of the Canadian Cloud Council recognized by the United Nations as a Top 70 Global Digital Leader. This event included leaders from government, large corporations, technology companies and civic society, and the potential for collaboration and exponential impact was almost immediately obvious. My previous firm NTT DATA is perhaps the best example in the world of mastering this ecosystem, being a provider of breakthrough technologies, investing $3.6bn a year in innovation, investing in early-stage companies through a venture fund, and working with clients in strategic partnerships to develop and commercialize disruptive solutions. Evidence of this approach can be seen in co-investment partnerships with energy companies for operations improvement and carbon reduction, applying artificial intelligence and robotics to improve medical care delivery, and collaboration with large automotive companies on autonomous, connected and electric vehicle development.
  5. Ensure that disruption creates benefits beyond corporate results. Disruption and transformation have been associated incredible wealth and progress for a few, and lob loss, displacement and impoverishment for the many. We have seen this in repeated innovation cycles since the 1980s, including the ongoing reset in technology firms. This dynamic has led to America losing 95% of manufacturing jobs since 1970, the increasing disparity income and wealth, and record-low levels of institutional trust. At AlixPartners, we are purposefully building considerations for social impact explicitly into the planning and execution of disruptive change. This needs to go beyond traditional outplacement support and focus on quantifying the negative social impacts of disruption, defining plans to mitigate these impacts, factoring these social costs into the business case for change. I am afraid that we are at a tipping point where large sections of our society irreparably lose faith in corporate and government leaders, and no one wants to live through what follows.

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, which is also tattooed on my right arm, is from the Bhagwad Gita and says in Sanskrit “karmanye vadhikaraste ma faleshu kadachana”, which translates roughly to “you have a right to perform actions, but not to the fruit of those actions”. These words were uttered by Lord Krishna in the context of advising Arjuna on his duties to wage war against evil, even if that meant fighting his own family.

In my life as I drive change and disruption, I interpret these to mean that I have an obligation to do what is right, without being too vested in the results or worrying about negative personal consequences. For the last part, I also take comfort from Psalms 23:4, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me”.

How can our readers further follow your work?

I post on this topic frequently on LinkedIn, and readers can check my profile at https://www.linkedin.com/in/edwardsmythe/.

In addition to my role at AlixPartners (www.alixpartners.com), I am also the Head of Research at TechPACT, an organization founded by technology leaders with a mission to reduce the digital divide and pursue representative diversity throughout the technology community by the end of the decade. The published research can be accessed at www.techpact.org.

I also contribute regularly to C-Suite Quarterly (CSQ) magazine, and my articles can be accessed at https://csq.com/profile/edward-c-wilson-smythe.

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


Agile Businesses: Edward Wilson-Smythe Of AlixPartners On How Businesses Pivot and Stay Relevant In… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Makers of The Metaverse: Joseph Crossley On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Mistakes in my world generally are not funny at all, they are disasters. Horror stories!

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 Joseph Crossley.

Joe’s work has been synonymous throughout the past decade with creative and technical advancements.

As the ​​Technical Creative Director for DCentralize, Joe not only brings a dynamic creative vision needed for an event of this kind but also a plethora of technical IP, yet to be seen in the public event space. Technically, his work in the use of advanced media techniques has seen multiple accolades, including being featured as a TEDx speaker on this very subject.

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 North Wales in the middle of the deep countryside, I got a scholarship to my school Rydal with music and my parents were horticulturists.

In 2004 after leaving school at 24 I set up a production company in Chamonix, France to fuel my love of surfing and snowboarding and to promote music concerts. Through this I found projection mapping and immersive experience.

I met my wife and moved to Australia where I founded Astral Projekt, a company focused on making media immersive in 2012.

This led me to discover the early stages of augmented reality either via projection of other forms, and took this in an academic route with the Universities of Sydney and NSW and the (now) worlds largest immersive media festival Vivid Sydney.

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?

Ahh there’s so many — Nassim Harramein at the age of 15 really changed my perception of state and reality and triggered a lifelong exploration of science and metaphysics. You can probably tell from the name of my company Astral Projekt what we were looking for in our work and effect.

I would say the most impact came from my peers in this world, initially Ben and Will from RFID really opened my mind to the possibilities of immersive media, Peter Walker (Vj Astrix.) Then the festival VIVID Sydney and Iggy Jones gave me licence to express this along with the likes of Samsung and Intel fostering new ideas through their respective creative channels.

The Cosmic Trigger’ by Robert Anton Wilson was a book a friend of mine, Hanna May, gave me which really set the position of understanding a holographic reality state and what that means for innovation in MetaV platforms. Many other titles included, along with writings of Nicola Tesla or Timothy Leary opened me up to visualisation. If anything this is my superpower and it was so native to me, it was like finding instructions to fly a jet, but I knew already. It’s been a long journey filled with influence.

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

For me the human senses of data input into our brains are so interesting. We filter out masses just to make sense of it all. The eyes and the ears provide much of the conscious bandwidth for absorbing information. In 2008 as a DJ at a show I was playing I realised that we are only getting one half of the art that could be expressed. So I switched focus to the eyes, by far the highest bandwidth data entry tool for our minds.

There is a story I would like to share, it is one from Burning Man.

In 2017 Andrew Johnstone had found me and commissioned me to develop an artwork for.

“The Man“ at Burning Man 2018. A great honor and a whole other story of how this came about.

The Piece I designed was called “I AM AI — a declaration of benevolent co-existence.”

I created a circular projection wall inside the man base, it’s the middle that gets set on fire if you don’t know, and the idea was an AI system would show you alternative landscapes and real time 3D Engine graphics based on the people walking in there. A living AI system, augmenting the landscape of Burning Man offering a different perspective of the virtual world, the theme was I-Robot and held narratives of our future AI brothers and sisters and potentialities this created.

Inside each image, media file, audio file we implanted metadata which would be searchable by any future AI looking back for the origins of itself. It was 2018 and the first google AI systems were coming online.

The implanted metadata file states as a redacted Human rights document, the fundamental principles of humanity and their need for benevolent co-existence to exist, so culture and society can emerge.

The idea was that future AI at the point of singularity would find an event, a circle of 80k people, ceremonially burning an effigy of a man, which contained an invisible AI message to it — the AI, and it only. Humans can’t read metadata without a computer. The document states what it is to be human and the aspects of benevolent co-existence as a program file, and upload which would intern formulate the origins of itself.

Larry Harvey sadly passed away during this, and we opened the creative to burners from around the world. I AM AI was one of the last things Larry and Andrew touched at Burning Man and the rest is history.

This moment allowed me to understand that creation and visioning in innovation are the vectors for an expanded reality state. Unlimited possibilities can take place in those moments. The depth data can flow and the states your mind expands to in understanding it are unparalleled.

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

Ha ha — I seem to be answering the questions before they get asked, ha ha.

I would suppose this is the most interesting question as it’s fundamental to my business.

Ok let’s get out there for a moment. My experience in Astral Projection and manifestation has led me to realise that ideas are like mail, or gifts from another place. From today I have completed 521 projects where the idea has come before the commission.

I have an idea and it’s clear and detailed, I write it down, illustrate it, make it into a 3d game, and then the phone rings or an email comes, and the person is requesting just that thing that I have been working on.

That’s the most interesting thing that still I can’t work out.

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

Mistakes in my world generally are not funny at all, they are disasters. Horror stories!

I was once on an unnamed project where we were constructing a huge industrial installation, and projection mapping it for a ride, a roller coaster.

The company running the engineering had a new smart system for hosting the files, for the metalwork which in-tern the fabricators and metalworkers were using to build from.

We were animating media in LA and Sydney for this structure also as well and some very intense positional tracking for the warp and distortion of the media. Each render was 8K res so it was a big computational grind.

The new system got the plan dates wrong, and the engineers in turn got the structure wrong, the entire build was incorrect, just based on the simplest file storing system. It wasn’t our issue (thank god) but it caused us massive issues in correcting the immersive media, and when renders take days back then it was super hardcore.

I learned back then that simple is always best in critical situations, tech can and does sometimes make life harder. It certainly did on that project.

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

Iggy Jones — a Sydney pop star creative director took me on as a visionary, he gave me carte blanche to create and ideate and it was one of the most informative moments in my life.

He asked me to design an immersive media project for the University of Sydney, with an indigenous group from the area. This was one of the hardest things to approach in Australia as this building was built on sacred land and was a place they despised.

We created a story blessing called “Our Hands — Wingara Mura — Path to the future” blessing the building with traditional techniquest through projections.

When I saw their tears it was a really powerful moment and it made me realise what augmented media can do for perception of reality.

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

It’s been a random past few months exploring the peripheries of new project ideas.

Just finished an amazing music project with a Spanish flamenco family and members of the Rolling Stones band and Tim Reice with Pino Saggliocco in New York.

It was part of the MTV VMAS in this incredible cathedral St. John the Divines. Looking at how music passes through cultures and generations. It was a huge success and the emotion was palpable, sometimes the simplest things are the most appealing.

We have been an early stage tech startup working on metaverse based tooling and aps with some amazing people, looking at human health, consumer metaverse creation, and real time AI driven media from body systems Astrl.io.

One of my favourite projects at the moment is working on how immersive media can change perception. We are heading to the great Pyramids of Giza in Egypt to enter the king’s chamber to study this.

Then there is of course Decentralize festival in the UK, and music festival operating in both real life and in the metaverse. It’s a decentralized music festival model that will redefine what it means to be part of a global music community. Dcentralize.io — This project will give ownership to the people who love live music and web3 and redefine the way festival brands approach their communities. It’s owned by the people.

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

Detached reality in its many forms has to be a front and centre conversation. Instagram and facebook alongside others has shown how reality is generally false when passed through the ego brain. The Chinese whispers essentially create false perceptions and then AR Face aps deliver these false perceptions. Distorted sense of self and body dysmorphia are real things for millennials who have grown up with this tech.

It must be the main focus of developers to ensure people don’t get lost in alternative realities.

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?

Yes we are working with Passage3D and HQinSpace on just that. Flowstate communication systems with clearance levels for data protection allow people to work from anywhere but still be contactable via a virtual tap on the shoulder.

Working in 3D in real time is a trip, designing buildings are tools collaboratively with people around the world is amazing. We will see this becoming a main part of how we interact online either socially or at work.

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

Mental health and wellbeing over AR, watch this space its coming via Astrl.io

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. 🙂

Blockchain community voting — kind of how we use DAOS but for everyday, solving homelesses to food sharing, to social community gathering. I want to see this, kind of line the notice board for your area, it can make the people the council and decentralized power.

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 🙂

Many many many — Just incase I would choose

I think for manufacturing and sheer balls of ideas it would have to be Elon Musk.

For Physics and surfing it would be Nassim Harramein.

For Art it would be James Turrel in his crater in New Mexico.

For music it would be Hanz Zimmer.

For leadership and future planning it would be Tim Cooke of Apple & Tim Sweeney of Epic both together on a Burning Man Art Car deep playa.

For Design and Architecture it’s always Zaha Hadid but she is sadly no longer with us. A lunch with her team would be amazing to discuss the fusion of media art and architectural design.

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

Thank you for having me.


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

The Future Is Now: Ben Smith Of DivideBuy On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The…

The Future Is Now: Ben Smith Of DivideBuy On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

It’s great to have a vision, to know that down the line you want to have a big house or lots of money or a fast car. I wanted all these things too. When I started my career as a chef, I wanted to become world-famous, travel the world, make crazy amounts of money and have my face on a jar of sauce on every shelf in Sainsbury’s. But if you ask me: what do I want now? I want to take my family to Disney World next year. I want to take my daughter swimming at the weekend. Down the line, the little things in life will become very, very important — so don’t disregard them.

As a part of our series about cutting-edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ben Smith.

Ben is Head of Partnerships for DivideBuy, where he builds strategic partnerships that drive DivideBuy’s Instalments-as-a-Service strategy, through ethical and affordable lending for partners. Ben has 14 years’ experience in the payments sector, having previously held roles as Strategic Partnerships Director at Worldpay and Leader of Sales Engineering at Worldpay.

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?

It’s been a long and winding road. Throughout school, all I ever wanted was to be a chef. It was my only dream in life. So, I left school and went to work full time in the industry when I turned 18.

It was great, right up to the point where I had to do the job full time. As an 18-year-old, regularly starting my shift at the same time as my friends were coming home from work was not how I wanted to live. I realised that being a chef was not for me. I still retain my love of cooking, which my wife and daughter are delighted about.

Around that time, I was also exploring another passion of mine: computers. Growing up in the early 90s, the internet was recently established, so it was a very interesting time to be involved with the technology. When I realised this passion could also become a career, I retrained as an IT Engineer.

A few years later, I was working as an IT manager when I realised that the money wasn’t in building and maintaining the IT systems: it was in selling the computer equipment. I took a segway into sales, which led me into a network communications sales role within a company called Transaction Network Services. This company moved payments around the world, essentially connecting merchants to payment processing services and to the big global payments network.

This experience was my first foray into the world of payments. After a happy five years at Transaction Network Services, I moved to a company called YESpay, which was quickly acquired by WorldPay. I spent seven years there, helping build out the proposition for an omni-channel payment gateway, developing integration partnerships and managing a team. That leads me to where I am today: building partnerships in the fintech space and working with like-minded organisations to bring products together to create great solutions.

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

Back when I worked as an IT engineer, I was employed by a firm of chartered surveyors within the insolvency sector. They sold businesses or assets of businesses that were in trouble or in administration.

On Christmas Eve, I was asked to go and value the IT infrastructure of a large business that was due to be sold. After arriving and making a list of all the IT equipment present so that I could start making valuations, I received a call from one of the company partners. They told me that the bank had decided that the business would go into administration, meaning every member of staff was being laid off — yes, on Christmas Eve. Given that none of the partners were anywhere near the office, they had to have a conversation with the whole business over the phone to let them know the sad news. I then had the difficult job of making sure that all the company’s property was left on site and things like company cars and keys were returned. It was a very difficult experience.

The experience taught me some very important things. One: that life changes very quickly, and Two: that the biggest skill you can have in your arsenal in terms of facing the world is empathy. If you can’t empathise with what’s going on in a situation, it will be very difficult for you to build partnerships or be successful in any kind of relationship management.

Even now, when I am in a difficult situation, I come back to that moment and remember that, while what I am experiencing may not be great, it could always be worse. I could be back there doing that. I will never forget the feeling of having to tell people that had worked at the company for 20 or 30 years that after Christmas, there would be no company for them to go back to.

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

At DivideBuy, there are always interesting things happening. The consumer finance industry has exploded over the last few years. It’s a fascinating area to be involved with and an exciting time for the sector. But the technology supporting this growth had been lagging behind, so the DivideBuy team took it upon themselves to bring technology solutions into the space. Having built our own platform from the ground up, we were the ideal people to do this.

DivideBuy is now in a position to evolve. We want to put responsibility and ethical behaviour at the heart of our product development. As a company that is focused on lending money to people, we know it is incredibly important that we make great decisions ourselves.

In fact, our CEO, Robert Flowers, told me a story on my first day at the company that really stuck with me. He said there are only ever really two reasons why people default on repayments when engaging with consumer finance. One: they have a life changing event that they didn’t see coming and we didn’t see coming, but which has impacted them to the point where they can’t make a repayment. Two: that we have made a poor lending decision. DivideBuy is all about building services and solutions that enable us to make good lending decisions.

In terms of the new solutions that we’re putting out into the market, the idea of Instalments as a Service, and making our platform available for others to adopt, is a relatively new proposition for the business — and one that we’re very excited about. We’re going to provide a solution that can be integrated with our partner’s platforms to provide their customers with alternative ways to pay and a seamless checkout journey. There will be more news on this over the coming weeks and months, so watch this space!

Longer term, taking our core proposition as a business and finding different routes into existing and new markets is a priority. There will be challenges, but there will be many benefits as well and we look forward to sharing more on this in due course.

How do you think this might change the world?

I wonder how many people who have set out to change the world actually accomplish it? I would argue that in comparison, those who set out to do something with less grandiose ambitions can end up changing the world because they’re able to focus better on what they do and why.

DivideBuy’s aims as a company are comparatively modest. I’ve already mentioned the importance of putting responsibility at the heart of what we do and in being ethical lenders, with regulation coming soon to help make this formalised across the industry — something which we are hugely supportive of. We also want to grow our services in the market by exploring different channels and bringing ethical behaviour to the wider consumer finance industry. Ideally, we will inspire other companies to adopt a very similar approach to ours.

That is what we focus on, and what we think will create positive change. We may not transform the world, but if we succeed, it will be a good day at the office.

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

Every year, the consumer finance industry finds new ways to make credit easier to access for more people. While it should be easy to access for everyone who needs it, it’s important that it is accessed responsibly.

I believe this responsibility is shared between the lender and the consumer. You’ve heard me mention that making good lending decisions is at the heart of what DivideBuy does every day. But flipping that around, I would also always advise consumers to make informed borrowing decisions. There has to be a shared responsibility.

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

Our operational model has always been focused on providing retailers and merchants with consumer finance solutions. Now, we’re exploring different channels and ways of taking our service out to customers. One of the reasons, I was brought into the business is because this indirect route is not only a viable solution for us, but a huge opportunity as well. My job is to find like-minded partners that we can work with to deliver this solution, but also enhance it. We want partners who can help us to add layers of value to different services and build solutions that can become something much bigger than the sum of its parts.

So, for want of a better phrase, DivideBuy’s story is an ongoing story. With a lot of change going on in the market, developing our technology and our business is a marathon rather than a sprint.

The future of this business is going to be how we evolve and stay relevant over time, while keeping our core values of responsibility and ethical behaviour at the heart of what we do and never losing sight of that.

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

We don’t want lots of partners. We want the right partners for us and our business. We want to work with people that share our values and are on the same kind of journey as us. We’re incredibly proud of what we have built so far, so it is of great importance that we continue to work with people and companies who feel the same way about where the market needs to be.

For us, it doesn’t matter if it’s a huge high street retailer that wants to take our platform and present it as their own consumer financing solution, or a payment gateway that wants to partner to develop technological solutions together. Our philosophies and visions need to align.

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

DivideBuy has been putting plans together to further scale the business, which we’ve started to do under the direction of our outstanding Head of Marketing, Scott Winstanley. He is honestly one of the most switched-on people I’ve ever met, and it’s fantastic to be able to work with him.

As a team, we’ve got some really exciting ideas about how we can bring our new propositions to market and grow in a sustainable way — with key events and social media activity in the pipeline as well as my ongoing focus on securing new partners for the company.

In a nutshell, watch this space.

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

During my time at Transaction Network Services, I worked for a man called Andy Slaughter, who now works at Mastercard. He is one of the nicest people you could ever meet and work with — apart from being an Arsenal fan, but we can forgive him for that!

Andy recruited me very early in my career when I knew very little about the payments industry. Andy has one of the best analytical minds I’ve ever come across, and he used this in his management style to question his team about the things they were doing and working on. At the beginning, as a young salesperson, I was sure that I knew everything and that there was nothing that I could be taught. So, his approach would really frustrate me, as he would continually ask me questions when I was presenting him with an opportunity: “Have you thought about this? What about the next one?”

At first, I thought he was questioning my ability to do my job well. But I soon realised that he was helping me to think differently about the things that I had done, so that I could establish for myself what has worked well and what could have been done differently. Andy got me to a point where I could analyse what I was doing, really start to think about my actions and be autonomous in my work.

To this day, my work is guided by this approach. Ultimately, what he taught me was pragmatism — which is an incredibly difficult thing to teach anybody if you’ve ever tried to do it, but he did. Andy used to refer to me as the Wayne Rooney of the sales team, as I was always running around at a million miles an hour with the danger of getting sent off. But he coached me to a point where I could channel some of that energy into productive activities.

I will always be grateful to Andy, because without him I could still be a very angry salesman with no focus or direction. He taught me a lot of very important skills that have since guided my career.

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

In 2019, I joined Slimming World. And then in early 2020, the pandemic hit, and lockdown ensued across the country.

Everybody was terrified. No one really knew what was going on. And in the first lockdown, there was also a big and negative impact on food availability. Everybody was either dependent on queuing up to enter the supermarket, or ordering what they could from a delivery service. This meant that people ended up with some really eclectic ingredients.

Given my background as a chef, I saw this as an opportunity, and started to stream what I called ‘Cook-Alongs’ on our shared group channel. As a team, we looked at how to make something healthy to eat out of the ingredients that we had, so that we didn’t need to consistently return to the bag of frozen chips.

We certainly made some interesting dishes, but the biggest result was that it bought the community back together. As a group of people that used to meet in person on a weekly, if not daily, basis, it made a huge difference to be able to come together and interact as a group again.

Together, we were able to work towards adopting a healthy lifestyle, while keeping ourselves connected and morale high. On a personal note: this experience also gave me something to focus on during that difficult time. Most importantly, we got to try some new and amazing food, with some recipes that we will never mention again!

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

  1. Not only is it okay to fail — it’s incredibly important to fail.

When I first started out in the industry, I didn’t know anything about payments. I resigned myself to ‘fake it till I made it’. This meant I ended up in some very embarrassing situations where I pretended that I knew more than I did, and it backfired. Failing in this way teaches you that it’s okay not to know everything, which is especially important for young people in sales. I strongly believe that the best thing that can happen to you early on in your career is to fail, especially when there’s consequences attached, because you won’t do it again. Most importantly, don’t let a fear of failure inhibit what you try and do. There is an upside to failure, and as long as you can take the learning on board, it can be an incredibly beneficial gift to you.

2. People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.

Using the example of Apple: sure, they make great computers, but that’s not why they do what they do. I’m sure most of us remember the “Think Different” campaign. I can think back to several situations when I have wasted time in sales pitches, talking about specific features and benefits, thinking that I will absolutely wow someone into placing an order, when in reality they rarely do. Business synergies happen when someone buys into your dream: do you believe in what they’re doing and why they’re doing it? You’ve already heard me mention responsible lending and ethical behaviour, and for me, this is why DivideBuy does what it does. We also have great consumer financing solutions for merchants, and we have indirect channels available for partners, but why we do it is the most important element of the business.

3. You don’t know what your future self wants.

At the start of my career, being a chef was all I wanted to be. But now, I wouldn’t change where I am for anything in the world. I never thought I’d be involved in the fintech and payments industry, but this wasn’t really an industry when I was growing up. However, t has since grown around me as my career has progressed. With every new generation that comes into the world of work, this development will happen again and again, so don’t be closed to it. Don’t get me wrong: it’s great to have a vision about where you want to be. My point is: don’t be blinkered to change and to new opportunities that arise, because you never know where you’ll end up.

4. The little things in life are more important than you think.

It’s great to have a vision, to know that down the line you want to have a big house or lots of money or a fast car. I wanted all these things too. When I started my career as a chef, I wanted to become world-famous, travel the world, make crazy amounts of money and have my face on a jar of sauce on every shelf in Sainsbury’s. But if you ask me: what do I want now? I want to take my family to Disney World next year. I want to take my daughter swimming at the weekend. Down the line, the little things in life will become very, very important — so don’t disregard them.

5. If you can’t change the situation, change your attitude.

We’ve all had tough times in our careers and been in situations where things don’t necessarily go the way that you want them to. In these moments, people often waste their time dreaming that they can control things that they can’t. If you can instead recognise the times when you can’t change things, you can establish exactly what actions you can take yourself to better the situation you are in. You have a responsibility to change your activities and get yourself to a point where you’re comfortable doing what you’re doing. Don’t spend time thinking that things are going to change or correct themselves — be the change you want to see in the world.

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 create something called the ‘Take a Breath’ movement.

From social media to the news agenda, we live in a world of immediacy, where everything encourages us to act now and think later. People rarely have the chance to take a breath anymore, to stop and think about the things happening in the world and what it means for the individual and their community.

So, the ‘Take a Breath’ movement would involve ideas like having zen gardens on every street corner, where you could walk in and sit for five minutes and be at peace with yourself. This would give everyone the chance to have those moments in life when they can think about what it is they want, and what the ramifications of those actions might be.

I genuinely believe that this attitude would make the world a better place. There are a lot of things that happen in the world that aren’t intended. Usually, people just don’t think things through to the point where they understand what the likely outcomes are of their actions. So, the ‘Take a Breath’ movement would go a long way to solve this problem. Get your t-shirts here!

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

There are several quotes that I could share, and they all come from Douglas Adams and his books, like ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ and Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. His books are an absolute goldmine of great quotes that have all been life lessons to me.

My favourite quote, which relates to the development of any kind of solution, service or partnership that you want to put into the world, is: “a common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely fool-proof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.”

I couldn’t tell you the amount of meetings that I’ve joined over the years with product teams who will come up with a solution and claim that it is so simple, it will just work. Inevitably, the whole idea comes crashing down before we can even get to alpha testing, because someone has pressed a button that they shouldn’t have pressed, or because they didn’t think that that we shouldn’t do that thing that was bound to be a problem. In my experience, designing things most often goes wrong when everyone has been more fixated on the design element rather than the usability element.

Another quote from Douglas Adams that has stayed with me is: “human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.”

This quote is evidently true. You see people all the time who say, ‘I know it’s never worked out before, but I’m sure I can do it that right this time’. People too often fail to learn from past mistakes and instead tell themselves: ‘everyone’s telling me this is going to be a disaster, but I know I’m right’.

The final Douglas Adams life lesson quote that I want to share is: “he attacked everything in life with a mixture of extraordinary genius and naive incompetence, and it was often difficult to tell which was which.”

In our dark and morbid moments, we all have a tendency to think about how we will be remembered when we’re no longer around. This quote inspires me because it is what I want to leave behind. For me, if this quote was something that people could say about me, I would know I have had a life well lived and had got some things right. It would also mean that people hadn’t realised that I was making it up as I was going along!

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 🙂

We’re fine, thanks!

In all seriousness, DivideBuy has some fabulous investors on board who have allowed us to build the company and hire some really great people into the business. We’ve got a strong strategy for where we want to take the business and a team of people who are committed to making it happen.

From that perspective, we’re in a very strong position as a company. While you can never have enough investors, I believe that people will naturally become interested in us the more they see us be successful as a business.

As with all these things, however, we’re always open to conversations.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I tend to use LinkedIn more than anything else, so please feel free to follow my page there at www.linkedin.com/in/bensmith77. You’ll hopefully see a mixture of genius and incredibly naive comments to keep you entertained throughout the day.

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


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

Bronwyn Smith: 5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive After A Divorce

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Allow yourself to go through the emotional stages of divorce but take care not to get stuck in any one of them. Sometimes you may have to force yourself to move to the next stage. One client was stuck in the grief stage. She had to force herself to move to the sex stage or healing stage in order to thrive. During this process be kind to yourself. Do things that make you happy, that make you feel confident, that make you feel special. Learn to be comfortable in your own skin and enjoy your own company.

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

Bronwyn is an Author, Coach and Clinical Hypnotherapist. Before starting her new career she was a Litigation Lawyer for nearly 30 years and Family Lawyer for about 20 years, working primarily with women helping them obtain a favourable property settlement. Bronwyn now coaches women who are going through a divorce helping them not just survive but thrive.

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

I grew up in Sydney Australia. I grew up in the 1970’s when women were fighting for equality, the rights we now enjoy. My mother was one of the women fighting for women’s rights, so it was instilled in us that we have a career and that we have choices. And we can have a career and a family we don’t have to choose.

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

I had loved being a Lawyer and then law no longer made my heart sing. I looked for a new career and found Marisa Peer’s Rapid Transformational Therapy, a type of Hypnotherapy, it made my heart sing and I new this was my new career. Coaching was a natural fit with RTT and it was the perfect match for me.

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

I know they want an interesting client story but I don’t have one. The most interesting thing that happened is the number of law colleagues who rang me and asked me if I was okay or if I was having a midlife crisis because I was leaving a lucrative legal career for a career in Coaching and Hypnotherapy. My happiness and loving what I do is the most important thing to me.

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

In my first year as a hypnotherapist a woman rang me and asked me to treat her husband. She told me it was urgent and asked if I could fit him in the next 48 hours as they were going overseas. I was absolutely full and didn’t have a vacancy but she insisted. So I created an appointment for him. When he arrived he told me that he didn’t want any treatment. He didn’t believe in hypnotherapy and left. I learnt to never book an appointment from anyone other than the person being treated.

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

If you can Dream It You Can Achieve It by Zig Ziglar because it reminds me that my future is always in my hands.

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

I am thinking about writing another book. This one will be for women about what to expect when going through a separation and divorce and how to thrive.

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?

I have never gone through a divorce although I have had long term relationships end. I was a Family Lawyer for about 20 years and now I am a Coach and Hypnotherapist helping people navigate divorce so that they can thrive. Between the 2 professions I’ve probably helped at least a hundred people maybe more, predominantly women, navigate their divorce. I’ve learnt that you need to be detached as well as empathetic and caring to best support and assist the person. I learnt that it was important to heal from my childhood traumas which led to me being happy in my own skin and that led to much better relationships and a happier life generally.

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

There are 8 main emotional stages people go through after divorce. One of the main mistakes people make is getting “stuck” in one of those stages. Usually where they get stuck is in anger, bitterness and grief or a combination of the three. People need to understand that these emotional stages are normal and they shouldn’t be afraid to move through them. The second mistake people make is defining themselves by the Divorce or that they are Divorced. People should be aware that Divorce is just one chapter of their life and doesn’t define them. We all have many chapters in our lives, good and bad, and divorce should be seen as just another chapter. The third mistake women primarily make is not being able to say “No” to their ex. They are so used to compromising with their ex and they forget they don’t have to compromise with them anymore, they can make decisions solely based on what suits them. I teach these women that saying “No” to their ex is ok. The fourth mistake people make is being negative about their ex-partner in front of the kids. Both parents should always respect that the other parent is the child’s mother or father. When kids hear negative comments about a parent they feel bad about themselves.

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

One positive is women can finally put themselves first. It is an opportunity for people to heal from not only the relationship but from any past traumas they may have. It is also an opportunity for them to reinvent themselves whether that be in their career or in their personal life — as I said earlier healing is one of the main areas that I see people shy away from. But they can also do simpler things like lose weight, create a new circle of friends, take up new hobbies, or spend more time on the hobbies that they love and haven’t done because life became too hectic.

They can financially reinvent themselves — climb the corporate ladder, open a business, learn about money and investments, buy their own home. So that they are financially independent. They can also choose whether or not to be in another relationship in the future. If they decide to be in a relationship in the future, what will that relationship look like. Do they want to re marry, or just live with someone. Or do they just want to date and not commit any more than that. It is a time that they can really make decisions on their future that suits them. And they should take this opportunity to sit down and really make decisions about their future. When I work with clients I help them go through the emotional stages of divorce and not get stuck. And then work with them to decide on the future they really want and how to put that into action.

A funny story I had a client that went through her divorce and property settlement. One thing her ex husband wanted was equal time with the kids which she agreed to. On the first week that he was to have the children he texted her and said he couldn’t have the kids and could she have them. She rang me in a panic not sure what to do. I said to her not to worry that I would dictate her reply. She was so relieved. I said bring up his text and hit reply, which she did. I said now type the letter “N” and now the letter “O” and hit send. She spiralled a little bit but ultimately hit the send button. He was so shocked that she had said No that the kids went to his place as planned. I reminded her that it was ok to say No to him, She didn’t have to compromise with him and accommodate him any longer. She could and should make choices that were for her benefit.

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?

Decide on the traits that you want in a partner and sometimes it is also appropriate to decide on the traits that you don’t want in a partner. Make sure that you are choosing the right partner for you rather than choosing any partner because you don’t want to be alone. Trust yourself and everything that you have learnt from any previous relationship mistakes. Enjoy the process of dating and don’t put any pressure on yourself. Have fun whilst dating. I know that sounds easier said than done but don’t take it too seriously. Get to know many people and take your time. Walk away when it doesn’t feel right because your gut instinct is usually right. Don’t lead with your business self, connect with your emotional self and lead with that — and that means you will be vulnerable and that’s ok.

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

Themselves. I think we should always be growing and learning. It makes us more interesting people. The other thing is they way they parent as they will now be co-parenting the children. Women should be open to giving their ex more time with the kids, rather than the standard every second weekend which is typical in Australia for the father. I think children should spend a significant amount of time with both parents as it benefits the kids to have a relationship with both parents. It also benefits the parents to have time to build their new life, to get to know themselves, to heal themselves and to have a life of their own that is not defined by their kids.

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?

  1. Allow yourself to go through the emotional stages of divorce but take care not to get stuck in any one of them. Sometimes you may have to force yourself to move to the next stage. One client was stuck in the grief stage. She had to force herself to move to the sex stage or healing stage in order to thrive. During this process be kind to yourself. Do things that make you happy, that make you feel confident, that make you feel special. Learn to be comfortable in your own skin and enjoy your own company.
  2. Heal from the relationship and any past trauma that you may have. People after divorce often feel that they are either Not Good Enough or Not Loveable and that is why the marriage failed. That is not true, they are good enough and they are loveable. Also if you don’t heal properly from that relationship, it is more likely than not that you will attract the same or similar partner in the future. Seek help if you need to, to deal with those feelings. During the healing stage you will change and grow, and learn a lot about yourself and that is a really good thing. That attracts change into your life and new beginnings.

Have you had a friend who introduced you to their new flame or partner and you commented “that they have a type.” That is generally not a good thing because they are attracting the same sort of partner and generally the same sort of problems or issues that they had in their marriage. And the result will also be the same. It is much better if the new partner is completely different, in a good way, than their last partner.

3. Plan your future. What exactly do you want your future to look like. What career do you want? What friendship circle do you want? What do you want in a future relationship — married, dating etc? What do you want to do in your spare time? What do you want your financial future to look like? What do you want your co-parenting to be? Sit down and make decisions in all areas of your life. Then look at how to achieve that.

It may seem daunting at the start but it is worth it. Also don’t afraid to change a plan, that’s ok too. I had one client who was working towards starting her own business. Then she got offered a plum job with a great salary and so she took the job and put the business on the backburner. That’s ok she can go back to the business in the future if she ever wants to.

4. If you can use the money from the property settlement to buy yourself (and your kids) a house. Knowing you have a roof over your head gives you security and stability. After a divorce most people say they feel like they are in a fog and have trouble making decisions. I’ve found that this is an easy decision to make and really helps clients move forward. I’ve had clients ring me up months later and thank me for steering them towards buying a property. They said having that stability had really helped them move forward.

5. Be open to your ex spending more time with the children. It is much healthier for everyone and it really is putting the kids first. One couple had an amicable divorce and the kids spent 50% of the time with each parent. The ex husband bought a house around the corner from his ex wife so the kids could easily go between the two houses. The kids didn’t have the same stress that other kids often have because they knew it was ok to have a relationship with both parents.

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?

Definitely see it as a chapter in their life rather than being defined by their divorce. If someone sees their divorce as who they are it will take a much bigger toll on their emotional and mental health, because they see themselves as a failure. That they failed in what they see as their most important relationship. The truth is that this is just one significant relationship in their life. There will be other significant relationships in their life, even if its not a life partner eg parent, child, friend and sibling. They are more likely to get stuck in the bitterness or grief stage if they are defined by their divorce. Reframe this and remember it is one chapter in your life. Your divorce does not define you as a person, it is a chapter in your life, albeit a painful chapter, that you can recover from and you can move forward to bigger and better things. And a better you.

Put yourself first including your emotional self. Be kind to yourself and give yourself time to grieve from the wounds of the marriage. So often I see people being hard on themselves and being overly critical of themselves. This is the time to learn to give yourself a break, be kind to yourself and put your needs first. Spend time doing the things you love and being with the people you love and laugh. Laughing always makes you feel better.

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

For anyone who has suffered from narcissistic abuse I would recommend Caroline Strawson’s podcast. Free Facebook Group called Divorce Society which I run with a girlfriend. It is a support group for women. A safe place where women can ask questions and find out if how they are feeling or what they are experiencing is “normal” and how other women in the group have faced and overcome challenges. My book Dream a Big Life. My Podcast “It Starts With A Dream”.

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. 🙂

The Dream Movement. Teaching people that dreaming isn’t for children, its for everyone. When you let your imagination Dream, you become inspired as well as motivated. When you live your Dream Life you have purpose, happiness and a wonderful sense of self. You also inspire others to Dream too.

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

That’s easy, Oprah Winfrey because she has had such an amazing life where she has learnt and grown. She has embraced every opportunity that has come her way. She is so inspirational and yet seems really down to earth. I would love to ask her what her Dream was and how it changed over the years. How her mindset has changed. And how she has embraced every opportunity yet still remains so down to earth.

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

Thank you that’s very kind.


Bronwyn Smith: 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.

Making Something From Nothing: Gary Paull Jr Of Gauss On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Don’t be afraid to let go of something and delegate it. There’s power in delegating tasks to those on your team, even though delegation can be difficult.

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

Gary Paull, Jr. is a Marine Corps veteran and boot-strapping entrepreneur with decades of white and blue-collar work experience under his belt. He has worked as an optical alignment technician, machine operator, project manager, and business development consultant. He launched the Gauss project in 2021 due to his passion for blockchain technology and all things Web 3.

Gauss is a curated layer 1 ecosystem, with a team of more than 20 people around the world, working towards building a more ethical and sustainable internet culture.

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 originally from Providence, RI but my family moved to Florida after my parents’ divorce. I lived in Florida until the end of high school.

I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit. When I was young, I went to work with my Dad regularly. He did a lot of odd labor jobs but he was more of a hard worker than a businessman.

I started mowing lawns when I was 10. I did this for the whole neighborhood before and after school as well as on weekends.

I also ran an Easter egg hunt in 3rd grade. I hid change in the eggs and charged an entry fee for the other kids. This was my first contest I suppose.

I started a dinosaur kids club after Jurassic Park came out. Basically, my friends and I pooled our money together to create a sort of toy co-op. This was likely my first membership service. I still have that stuff in a box somewhere.

I’ve always been fairly self-sufficient. I was the kid that took my lunch money and bought candy to sell on the bus to school. I started buying my own clothing at 13. I built an entertainment system at 15. My Dad showed me a lot of respect as a child. He knew he couldn’t take away things that he didn’t buy. My Dad taught me the value of hard work.

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

“The largest room in the world is the room for improvement.” I always believe it’s important to improve oneself and constantly learn. Learning and adapting are incredibly important.

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 Scythe Series by Neal Shusterman. It’s an interesting exploration into a possible future with the pros and cons of extreme technological advancement and advanced general intelligence. One person’s utopia is another person’s dystopia. One person could be happy living in that world while another would be horrified by it. For anything possible, there’s a diametrically opposed view. For every hero, that hero is likely someone else’s villain. That’s just the nature of us as a species.

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

First, I think good ideas come from working through a lot of bad ideas. Come up with 1000 ideas. 999 might be bad. 1 might be good. Second, execution. You can have the best ideas but without the motivation to execute them, it won’t matter. You’ll likely fail at things many, many times before you succeed. I also don’t look at failures as failures per se. I see them as learning opportunities.

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 that looking at things that others have done before you is validating. It’s not something to be discouraged. Google was not the first search engine. It’s more about the timing of that idea than whether or not someone has done it before you. Don’t concern yourself with being the first. Be the 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.

There’s no one founder’s guidebook. It’s not a straight line. It’s a roller coaster with many loops and turns. Do your own due diligence to see if your solution is being offered and if so, can you do it better? Then identify whether or not you can do it by yourself. If you need to bring on others with synergistic skills, then do that. But be confident with who you bring on board. Co-founder conflict is one of the number one business killers. Finally, talk to customers as part of the validation process.

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

1. Don’t be afraid to let go of something and delegate it. There’s power in delegating tasks to those on your team, even though delegation can be difficult.

2. You should be working harder than anyone else on your team. I believe in leading from the front.

3. Celebrate small victories. I’m still working on this. I believe it’s important to celebrate wins whenever necessary.

4. Set everyone on your team up for success. Approach this goal with genuine intent.

5. Take care of yourself. I think everyone struggles to some degree with balance. It may sound cliche but self-care is hyper-important. In 2017, I was working an event, and put in 20-hour days for 14 days in a row. It’s definitely not sustainable or healthy. Make sure you’re eating and drinking water as well as getting adequate rest.

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?

Talk to someone else who has done it or something similar. Learn from the mistakes of others before you have to make them yourself. Product and hard tech businesses can be very expensive so there needs to be some hard introspection on risk tolerance.

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?

That depends on capital availability and where they are in their cycle. If they’re early and don’t know much but have capital, then use them as a resource. Explore all available resources at your disposal. And heavily use as many free resources as possible. Google everything exhaustively.

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 think most businesses should explore bootstrapping before exploring venture capital. We’re launching our product before exploring venture capital. Try to sell the product or service to bring in money. Find customers and talk to them. If other people believe in it and are willing to give you money for it, then it should be able to attract VC money when the time is right.

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

I don’t think those two things are mutually exclusive. That is to say, I don’t think you necessarily need success to make the world a better place. You can do small things constantly to make things better for the people around you. Success makes it easier to do things on a larger scale, but all of us have the potential to make the world a better place.

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.

Focus on being decent to people. It’s a simple baseline. If everyone were just decent to one another, that would be a marked improvement in the world. It doesn’t take much to be a decent person and to do no harm to others. That would change the world. It’s really, really simple.

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.

John Doerr. He’s been around for so many of the largest impacts in tech. He had an immeasurable impact on Google, Intel, and the rest of the tech world. I feel like I could learn a great deal, even over just a single meal.

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


Making Something From Nothing: Gary Paull Jr Of Gauss 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: Tammy Ramos Of LatinaVIDA On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your…

Meet The Disruptors: Tammy Ramos Of LatinaVIDA On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

… We can look at the C-suite of most Fortune 500 companies and observe a sea of white, males wielding power and privilege. Even two, three tiers below the C-suite, we discover a significant lack of diversity. Disrupting this status quo and requiring that we do something different to get a different result, ie more women and people of color into leadership roles can be seen as a negative or a positive, depending on who you are. Women and POC would like disruption in the workplace so that they may enjoy some power and privilege. Those who currently hold all the power and privilege might see this disruption as “causing trouble.”

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

Tammy Ramos, J.D. is the Executive Director of LatinaVIDA, a nonprofit who partners with organizations to support DEI goals to equip the next generation of diverse leaders to rise to the top in their careers. Tammy is also a well sought after speaker who is known for her ability to connect, engage and inspire a broad range of audiences. Her passion is to empower women of color by building community and unity while celebrating diversity.

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 am a first generation Latina in my family to not only graduate from college and law school, but I’m also the first to graduate from high school. I’m also the first non-teen mom. My mother was a 16 year old girl who had run away from home and came back pregnant with me. My father was an illegal immigrant from Mexico who left her out of fear he’d be deported. I often say that I grew up on the other side of the tracks into a life of poverty, homelessness, abuse, neglect and great sadness. Today, I have the privilege to live on this side of the tracks. I’m eternally grateful for all those along the way in my journey to success who believed in me, inspired me, opened doors for me and basically — took a chance on me. I find myself in this career because my high calling has always been to make my life count for something — to do good in a broken world, and as the last sentence of my essay for law school admittance says, “… to be the voice, power and strength of the unheard, weak and helpless.”

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

I refuse to stand idle and not challenge those in positions of power, influence and privilege to become aware of the inequities that exist for women of color, especially Latinas. I tell them the truth. I give them the facts and the data. For example, Latinas represent 1 in 6 women in the U.S. and are projected to be 1 in 3 women by 2060. Despite Latinos being the largest ethnic demographic in the U.S., accounting for 19% of the populations, Latinos still only hold less than 4% of senior executive positions, less than 1% are held by Latinas. If the numbers don’t lie then who is lying? Wise up corporate America! Did you know that Latinos have 1.9 trillion purchasing power which will become 2.5 trillion in 2024. Latinos are the future. If you want to be competitive in your business, you need to understand the complexity and multifacetedness of the Latino community. Latinos are your future employees, customers, clients, suppliers, vendors, etc … or, maybe not for you.

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’ve made a lot of mistakes. Most were not funny. Many had to do with my lack of business acumen. With that said, my funniest mistake was being corrected when I said, “Ahha” too much in meetings. I did it because I was trying to demonstrate my attentiveness and agreement but was told it was annoying and didn’t bode well for my executive presence.

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 most important piece of advice I share often is that we need people along the way to support us in life and career. Some may be mentors, sponsors, coaches, counselors, colleagues, friends, family, professors, bosses, allies, etc. What all these people have in common is — your best interest. They want to see you happy and successful. I have been blessed to have had many lifelong believers in Tammy Ramos. One story is of my foster mom, Mary Pena. She was the leader of the Mecha Club at my high school. She saw that I had no home, no family, no hope. So, she took me in and gave me a home, family and hope. She changed the course of my life and helped me to see that there was so much more I could do and become. She inspired me and helped me apply for college where I would meet Dr. Maria Hernandezwho took a chance on me and gave me a seat in the High Potential Program at Saint Mary’s College. Dr. Hernandez has been a lifelong friend who has opened doors for me where I didn’t even know doors existed. These two women continue to build me up to continue to dream big dreams and see them come to fruition.

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?

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/disruptive

Disruptive — adjective

  • causing trouble and therefore stopping something from continuing as usual:
  • His teacher described him as a noisy, disruptive influence in class.
  • changing the traditional way that an industry operates, especially in a new and effective way:
  • disruptive technologies

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, disruptive seems to suggest that as it relates to an industry, disruption can “stop something from continuing as usual.” We can look at the C-suite of most Fortune 500 companies and observe a sea of white, males wielding power and privilege. Even two, three tiers below the C-suite, we discover a significant lack of diversity. Disrupting this status quo and requiring that we do something different to get a different result, ie more women and people of color into leadership roles can be seen as a negative or a positive, depending on who you are. Women and POC would like disruption in the workplace so that they may enjoy some power and privilege. Those who currently hold all the power and privilege might see this disruption as “causing trouble.”

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. Loretta McCracken — “Tammy honey, you have been a student of many things; become a student of God’s Word.” She told me this in a season of great marital abuse as I was contemplating divorce and felt so lost and afraid. Studying the Bible transformed how I saw myself — from a broken, lost and unloved woman of three little kids to a powerful, loved and treasured woman who had purpose.
  2. Tom Brown — “Have no little dreams; little dreams have no magic. Reach for the stars.”
  3. Mary Pena (mom) — “Everything will be ok. This too shall pass.”
  4. Judy Middendorff — “When someone gives you a compliment, just say thank you.”
  5. CLEO Leader (I can’t remember her name, but she was a black woman who inspired me to reapply to Notre Dame Law School.) When I received my acceptance, I asked her how I could ever pay her back. Her response was, “Just succeed. When you succeed, then I know I have done my work well.”

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

The older I get, now 51, the more I realize how much work still needs to be done to create equity and to close the gap for women of color. I’m only one person and I can only do so much. My goal today is to build stronger communities of women of color supporting other women of color. I am active in several organizations including How Women Lead, Women of Color in Engineering Collaborative and Notre Dame’s Hispanic Law School Association. United together — we can change the world!

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

Outside the Bible itself, the newest book that has had a huge impact on me is “The First, the Few, the Only: How Women of Color Can Redefine Power in Corporate America” by Deepa Purushothaman I have told Deepa personally how her book has nourished my soul because she tells the untold stories of women just like me. We are a part of a world designed and led by white men. It is like trying to put a square peg in a round hole. We don’t fit; we don’t belong. We try, but the harder we try, the more painful it becomes. We begin to saw off the corners of our square pegs, which scars and discards what makes us unique, powerful and wonderfully different. Before long, we can’t recognize our reflections. Today, women of color over 50 years old seem to be rediscovering who they really are, reclaiming their true identities and rebuilding their place 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?

“I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13 As a girl born into poverty, abuse, addiction, neglect and great trauma, I came to know the Lord in an orphanage at the age of 11 years old. Through the deepest, darkest traumatic and painful moments, I would repeat, “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.” Although I was helpless, I found comfort in knowing that there was someone else I could count on to give me strength.

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. 🙂

Movement — Melinda Gates would donate a large sum of money to support the career advancement of first generation Latinas in corporate America. I recently had the opportunity to be interviewed by KTVU Fox News where I shared that Latinos are the future. We are the largest ethnic demographic, accounting for 19% of the U.S. population and the fastest growing demographic in the workforce. Today, we have a purchasing power of 1.9 trillion which will become 2.5 trillion in just two years. Latinas account for 1 in 6 women in the U.S. and will become 1 in 3 by 2060 and yet Latinas still only earn 57 cents earned by white men and hold less than 1% of senior executive roles. 21% OF THE 75M MILLENNIALS IN THE USA ARE HISPANIC. They outnumber all other ethnicities combined. All of this to say that Latinos are an organization’s future customers, clients, employees, vendors, suppliers, etc. Latinas, who are the first in their families to graduate from college and have a professional career, need to support in learning how to navigate a very white, male dominated corporate America. Latinas, coming from a traditionally very humble, hard-working, family oriented and community centric culture, generally do not have the skills or knowledge to successfully advance in their careers. They need programs like LatinaVIDA’s PODER Leadership Academy that teaches developing executive presence, creating a personal brand, developing a career playbook, attracting a sponsor and overcoming impostor syndrome.

How can our readers follow you online?

Tammy Ramos

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


Meet The Disruptors: Tammy Ramos Of LatinaVIDA 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.

Remote Career Development: Robbie Gallegos Of Cyberbacker On How To Advance and Enhance Your Career…

Remote Career Development: Robbie Gallegos Of Cyberbacker On How To Advance and Enhance Your Career When You Are Working Remotely

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

I’d be happy to. To overcome the initial need for equipment, prepare ahead of time. Before even interviewing for a remote job, start saving for the tools you’ll need. In addition to a computer and headset, check company websites to see if the jobs you are pursuing mention other requirements. And don’t skimp on your equipment. It’s always best to hit the ground running with exactly what you need.

Career development is the ongoing process of choosing, improving, developing, and advancing your career. This involves learning, making decisions, collaboration with others and knowing yourself well enough to be able to continually assess your strengths and weaknesses. This can be challenging enough when you work in an office, but what if you work remotely? How does remote work affect your career development? How do you nurture and advance your career when you are working from home and away from other colleagues? How can you help your employees do this? To address these questions, we started an interview series called “How To Advance and Enhance Your Career When You Are Working Remotely”. As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Robbie Gallegos.

Robbie Gallegos is the Vice President of the Launch Division at Cyberbacker, the leading provider of virtual assistant services. In this role, she is responsible for all event management and improving franchise awareness. Gallegos has deep expertise in event management, sales, and helps others excel while working from home.

Fostering meaningful connections between colleagues are critical for successful teamwork in a remote workplace. When building remote teams, the focus should be on creating engaging activities where all employees can participate in real-time, using products that work where they work. Establishing team and 1:1 rituals can also be an effective way to combat feelings of isolation, such as a daily team stand-up or check-ins via Slack.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. What is your “backstory”?

First, I should let you know that I live and work in the Philippines. After college, I took a job working in a call center. My goal was to work without manual labor, and at the call center, I only needed my brains and mouth. After six or seven years there, I started noticing a trend toward working from home. I jumped into this space early and worked for two companies remotely. Believe it or not, I followed that with one year as a full-time performer hosting stand-up in comedy bars, so you could say I have a broad experience base — seven years at a call center, three years working from home, and one year of performing. Then, I took a role at Cyberbacker. Here in the Philippines, we recruit, vet, and train top-notch virtual assistants who can handle any task not requiring licensing, certification, or a physical presence at a fraction of the cost of on-site assistants. I’m currently leading their launch division.

During my first interview with Cyberbacker, I mentioned I was hoping for an admin role, but I think I was profiled as someone who could speak eloquently in front of people. For that reason, they started me off as a Cyber Recruiter, where I talked with real estate agents about the advantages of joining my client’s company. After three months, I shifted into the role of Headbacker. In that position, I trained and coached new virtual assistants, or Cyberbackers. We call them “Cyberbackers” because we train them to have your back. They are hired by all kinds of professionals in the US to take on tasks like web design and SEO, social media management, graphic design, video editing, phone calls, accounts receivable and payable, transaction processing and coordinating, sales, and scheduling. During my third month, I was promoted to Headbacker for the cyber recruiting division. There, I led entire teams of Cyberbackers and helped some of these recruits promote to Headbacker themselves.

Around a year later, I spotted a post from the CEO, Craig Goodlife, looking for somebody to lead Cyberbacker’s upcoming launch division. There was an instant buzz around the new role — everyone was curious about this position. As it turned out, Craig wanted someone with event-hosting experience to organize virtual grand openings for Cyberbacker’s new franchises. At the time, I’d heard the company was starting to launch franchises, but I wasn’t involved in that aspect of the company.

At the interview, I was surprised when Craig told me I was the first to apply for the position. He joked by asking me whether I was more excited about the role or the possibility of being promoted. I laughed and told him honestly that my goal was to be promoted. I explained that I had a desire to continue growing in the company. Craig’s interviews are scheduled to last 15 minutes, but we talked for nearly half an hour. I took that as a good sign and was offered the position. I completed onboarding in November of 2021.

During my first two months, I dug in and learned everything I could. I felt like I was starting from the ground up. By January, Cyberbacker formally announced that the launch division was active. Seeing my name in a press release and being introduced in dozens of meetings as the leader of this new division was surreal. It’s been a fun challenge because I’m blazing a new path. The division is entirely new, and we’re charting our course as we go.

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

That’s a very good question. Honestly, the best experience I’ve had at Cyberbacker is cultivating the skills needed to be an effective leader. I’ve been a sales coach and led teams at previous companies. I’ve led projects and issued commands, but my roles at Cyberbacker actually make me accountable for the future of the people I lead.

With this leadership, there are challenges. Just today, I ran into some difficulties implementing a new metric. When I hit an obstacle that makes me feel like giving up, I go back to what inspired me to take on this position in the first place. I remind myself that I signed on for this command and motivate myself to push forward.

I use that same logic with the people I am responsible to train. I coach them by bringing them back to their “why.” I ask them why they joined this team and want to work for Cyberbacker. I remind them of those initial goals and then ask if their goals are the same, or if they have changed.

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

My first mistake when I took on the launch division stemmed from the fact that I was feeling pretty proud of being accelerated into that role. When I became a VP at Cyberbacker, it was a big deal. The hierarchy goes: CEO, President, and then VP. There are currently only 9 VPs in the company. On top of that, I was the youngest VP because I was the first to be promoted directly from Headbacker. The other VPs went the route of director first.

One of my first projects was something we call the GPS, which stands for goals, priorities, and strategies. In this project, leaders map out their plan of action for the upcoming year. I was under the impression that I would follow Craig’s lead in this role. Since I envisioned myself running plans by Craig for his approval, I made the mistake of going into that GPS meeting without doing enough research. I brainstormed for a few hours and wrote down the first things that popped into my head. As I presented the plan to Craig, it felt like I was delivering an elementary book report in place of a graduate thesis. It was a newbie mistake.

I came away from that meeting mortified. I was sure Craig thought he’d chosen the wrong person. In fact, I could almost hear him saying, “I just hired somebody who wanted to be promoted but doesn’t have a clue what she should be doing.”

I know I’m not alone in those feelings. I recently read an article about how difficult it is to convince yourself that you have what it takes to be successful after a promotion. The story said most people feel they don’t have the skills they need for their new roles. In my experience, it was intimidating at first, but confidence came after a few months on the job.

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

In response to one of your earlier questions, I discovered the importance of always returning to your “why” as I learned to lead at Cyberbacker.

The book “Find Your Why” by Simon Sinek, David Mead, and Peter Docker has a wonderful quote about this. Sinek says, “If we want to feel an undying passion for our work, if we want to feel we are contributing to something bigger than ourselves, we all need to know our WHY.”

That lesson impacts every decision I make on the job and every conversation I have with my team. If you have a bold vision, you won’t inspire people to join you with tangible incentives. You’ll inspire them by giving them a purpose and sense of belonging.

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

To avoid burnout, you have to love what you do. Not everyone has the luxury of choosing their job. As I mentioned before, when I first came to Cyberbacker, I asked for a position in administration but was given a role as a recruiter. It wasn’t my goal, but I looked for ways to love that job.

You may not have your dream job, but you can always find something about the work that you like. Trust your instincts to discover what you enjoy about a role and then grow in those skills. For example, I was eventually profiled for the launch division because I followed my passion for entertaining and took a year to host events in comedy clubs. My advice is to find something you love about your job and lean into it.

Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Working remotely can be very different than working with a team that is in front of you. This provides great opportunities but it can also create unique challenges. To begin, can you articulate for our readers a few of the main benefits and opportunities of working remotely?

I decided to transition from working in the office to working from home to avoid the daily commute. Previously, I was working in Metro Manila and lived in Cavite, a province south of Manila. I traveled for one and a half hours just to get to the office, and my trip home could be longer than two hours if I ran into rush hour. Imagine how much of their lives so many people spend sitting in their cars! When I started working remotely, I gained four hours each day to hang out with friends, spend time with family, exercise, sleep, and relax.

I also noticed a huge dip in my expenses when I started working from home. When I worked from the office, I ate lunch with coworkers and didn’t always get to choose where we ate. Sometimes, they chose restaurants I considered pricey. When you work in an office, there are extra expenses that are out of your control. Working from home, you save money on gas, food, and your wardrobe.

In spite of all that, the biggest benefit I’ve found remote work offers is more time with family. It’s a great feeling waking up each morning to join my family for breakfast after I log out from work. Not only that, but I’m home every evening for dinner with them, too.

Can you articulate for our readers what the five main challenges are regarding working remotely?

The first challenge remote workers run into is a need for equipment. Right off the bat, home offices need a reliable computer, a high-speed internet connection, and a nice headset. Those are the three basics to get things going. If you lack one of those, remote work will be nearly impossible. As a remote employee, you need to start with top-of-the-line equipment. If you come to the job with an outdated computer and slow wi-fi, your productivity is bound to suffer. Dependable equipment can amount to an expensive investment, but it will make or break your daily success.

The second challenge remote workers face is fatigue. If you didn’t get good sleep the night before, chances are you’ll hit a lull sometime during your shift. At home, you’re working within steps of your sofa, and if you’re tired, you’ll hear your bed calling your name.

The third challenge faced by so many remote workers is background noise. It’s tough to control distractions from family members and pets, and you don’t want to be the person shouting for everyone to quiet down all the time. The walls in my house are one layer of wood. They don’t prevent much sound from getting through.

The fourth challenge for me has been power outages. Here in the Philippines, we’re in the path of all the storms from Southeast Asia. You can’t control a force of nature like a typhoon or hurricane. The time between June through December is our rainy season, and we know to expect regular Category- 1 hurricanes. We’re used to it here, but it does interrupt my work.

The final challenge for remote workers is the constant distraction from our gadgets. If you’re working with your phone beside you, you will be strangled by social media unless you find a way to stay disciplined. In my experience working in a call center or corporate world, phones are banned in the operations area. When you work from home, you can have Netflix on your iPad and Instagram scrolling on your phone. You’re the only one keeping yourself accountable.

Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges? Can you give a story or example for each?

Sure, I’d be happy to. To overcome the initial need for equipment, prepare ahead of time. Before even interviewing for a remote job, start saving for the tools you’ll need. In addition to a computer and headset, check company websites to see if the jobs you are pursuing mention other requirements. And don’t skimp on your equipment. It’s always best to hit the ground running with exactly what you need.

If you are feeling sleepy during work hours, find a sleep schedule that works with your shift and stick to it. I work the graveyard shift but don’t reset my sleep schedule on weekends. Instead of shifting to daytime in the Philippines, I sleep like I’m in the US. In my new role in the launch division, I host events on Saturdays and Sundays. Fortunately, I can stick to my sleeping pattern because those gigs are in the evenings. My advice is to establish a sleeping pattern that extends through the weekend.

To alleviate background noise, many people hang styrofoam egg crates along their office walls. It’s a common do-it-yourself soundproofing hack used by remote workers here in the Philippines. I’ve also set expectations with my family about the volume level I need during work hours, and they have adjusted. They even know it’s their job to quiet the dog down when I’m working.

To overcome power outages, I strongly suggest that remote workers have backups in place. An uninterruptible power supply, known as a UPS, gives you time to shut down your laptop and save your work. A UPS responds instantly to power failure but is not the same as a battery backup. The UPS battery system is designed to be a stopgap between your main power source and your backup power. It takes several minutes for your system to start drawing from your backup. The UPS responds instantly and then hands the load to your backup system when it’s ready. The battery on your UPS system can only handle a sustained load for a few minutes, so you’ll want a backup system on hand to take over. It’s best to unplug during an outage to protect your computer from power surges when electricity is restored, but we can’t always do that as remote workers, so have a surge protector ready.

Finally, if distractions from your devices are proving to be a challenge, the best advice I can offer is to turn them off during your work hours. Of course, part of your job involves communicating through email and social media, but that doesn’t mean you have to respond to every message in seconds. Establish specific times to check messages, so you’re not constantly getting off task.

Let’s talk about Career Development. Can you share a few ideas about how you can nurture and advance your career when you are working from home and away from other colleagues?

If you love what you do, you won’t accept mediocrity; you will always do your best. This mentality will cause you to be noticed whether you work on-site or remotely. When you catch management’s eye, make the most of that opportunity. If you are offered a task or a promotion, take it, whether you feel ready or not.

The secret is that nobody feels prepared to advance. What’s holding you back? If you don’t feel ready, relax. You will never feel ready. When you are promoted, you’ll know the specifics of the job through onboarding and on-the-job training. Take the leap. You’ll be ready when you’re there.

Can you share a few ideas about how employers or managers can help their team with career development?

If someone comes to me saying they feel ready to advance, I show them the steps that can make it happen. Next, we plan together to distribute those steps over a reasonable timeline. If they want to be promoted in six months, I show them what they need to accomplish by the end of each month. Throughout that time, I check in with them to see if they are staying on track.

If there are areas where my employees need to grow, I hope they recognize my criticism is meant for their benefit. People who are open and ready to grow listen to feedback and do what it takes to improve. Sometimes, looking at a list of everything they need to do to advance can seem overwhelming. My role as the leader is to check in on their progress. If they are not on track, I can readjust the timeline. I always try to ensure that they feel the goals are realistic. If they believe the goals are unrealistic, they won’t do what it takes to accomplish 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?

I have to start by saying thank you for that wonderful question! I would love to inspire people with something I learned from a previous supervisor. He said, “Comply before you complain.” In other words, get to work before you give feedback. Whenever I doubt a task will succeed, I remind myself to take action before saying anything negative.

In terms of our jobs, we’re tasked with responsibilities every day. The expectation is that we do our work regardless of how we feel. I believe we’d all be happier in our jobs and contribute so much more to our workplace cultures if we joined a “comply before you complain” movement.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Readers can follow me and my work through my LinkedIn.

Thank you so much for the time you spent doing this interview. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success.

My pleasure. Thanks for allowing me to share!


Remote Career Development: Robbie Gallegos Of Cyberbacker On How To Advance and Enhance Your Career… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Meet The Disruptors: Robert Day Of weAudit On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

You learn from every mistake too. I tell my team I will let go of someone for lying, with no second chance, but if you own up to the mistake, we’ll work through it and see those mistakes as an opportunity to improve our process and guardrails.

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

Robert Day is the co-founder and managing partner of weAudit.com. With more than 35 years in the financial services space, he brings a wealth of knowledge from working on the inside and behind the scenes of a “closed-door industry.” Robert is passionate about helping businesses save money, uncover unfair billing practices, and he has shared his expertise with The National Credit Association, The Credit Research Foundation, Credit Today, Coleman Research Group, and has previously been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, CNN Money, The Washington Business Journal, Business Week, to name a few.

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

I’ve tried my hand at several careers and businesses before getting my start in commercial banking. I got into banking to make my mother proud, and I got out of banking so that I wouldn’t have to tell my mother what I did day-to-day. The merchant process industry is rampant with unethical practices, and the industry had a corrosive effect on me. I felt that we were treating people like crops, and I didn’t like who I was becoming. It got to the point where I didn’t want to be anybody’s friend if my career couldn’t benefit from the relationship. If there wasn’t a buck to be made, why would I waste my time? And that’s horrible to admit.

In a moment of exasperation, a colleague and I had a conversation about the future. He floated the idea of founding a company with a mission to bring transparency to the merchant processing industry. We wanted to help people whose companies and livelihoods were being put at risk by the unethical business practices of commercial banks. That company eventually became weAudit.com.

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

As the industry leader in merchant processing auditing, we save our clients a profound amount of money from processor overbilling. For many merchants we work with, it’s like turning on a lightbulb. I recently completed an audit for a new client and we discovered that he’s getting overbilled $260,000 per year, and that’s before fixing their interchange issues. Prior to the inception of weAudit.com, processors had free reign to overbill merchants with zero recourse. Not anymore! Now merchants are in control and have the ability to manage their fees. If what we are doing to this industry is not disruptive, I cannot imagine what would be, as we have turned it upside down. Now it’s the way it should be.

Commercial bankers and merchant payment processors steal more than you think. They may not break into your house and take your wedding ring, but the amount they overcharge eats into margins and sometimes forces companies into bankruptcy, costing people their jobs and livelihood. The impact is more extensive than the theft of a wedding ring — it’s equivalent to taking away a spouse’s ring, the home, and the family’s future. And bankers believe that they operate with some moral standing because they work for a large, well-known corporation.

But unfortunately these large payment processors have a rap sheet longer than most criminals. They have received multiple fines of tens of millions, sometimes hundreds of millions of dollars. If a fine of that staggering amount doesn’t stop a company, what’s that tell you about how large the grift is?

Helping businesses avoid overbilling fees saves jobs and families, especially at small and mid-size companies that don’t have any other resources or methods to recover overbilling. We approach the business with transparency and full disclosure, something you simply don’t see in the industry. The government fails to regulate the industry effectively, and the processors operate unchecked, so we expose that. We’re the only ones who do what we 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?

To be honest, funny is not a word that comes to mind when I think about the mistakes I’ve made or our company has made. I may be too neurotic to look at any mistake without a large degree of self-criticism. We have made plenty of mistakes by trusting salespeople and signing contracts where things were promised on the phone only to learn the applications and features that were promised were a feature to come, not ones they currently have.

However, it is what gave birth to our “Love Us or Don’t Pay Us” guarantee. We want our clients to feel comfortable hiring us without worrying about the risk that they misinterpret our services or aren’t satisfied with what we do and how we do it. I believe that by offering our services without that risk, without that stress, we are doing the right thing. Signing certain contracts with a guarantee would have saved us from making some large mistakes.

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 always been interested in Steve Jobs and Elon Musk as influential business leaders.

With Steve Jobs, I loved his passion for disruption. I appreciate his refusal to accept “no” as an answer and his commitment to ensure his team was staffed with the right people to get the job done. I am someone who works their team hard, and if you can’t get it done, we can cut the conversation short because you’re not the right fit for us.

That level of candor and expectation to succeed is essential when you are creating something from scratch, when many people’s instinct is to say no simply because there is no precedent or blueprint. We had to create the vast majority of everything we’ve done from scratch. It was a hard journey, and when you try to explain it to others, they question what we do. You’re trying to use a vocabulary that doesn’t necessarily connect yet to our everyday language.

Steve Jobs was the kind of guy who never did what was already being done. This caused skepticism — if somebody could’ve gone down this path, wouldn’t they have done it already? Entrepreneurs need to constantly overcome that skepticism.

Elon Musk is also passionate about creating something new. His commitment to making the world a better place, prioritizing advancement over winning, is inspirational. For example, when he committed to making Tesla’s patented technology freely available for anyone to use, he was called crazy, but he responded by asking what is the worst thing that could happen? The worst thing meant somebody would build a better car than Tesla could, and what’s wrong with making the world a better place?

Again, entrepreneurs often face skeptics who believe we’re going down the wrong path. But we have to try the impossible to change the world.

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?

In my opinion, being disruptive is doing something new and doing it in a way that’s against what everyone gravitates towards. The status quo is the kiss of death. I always aim to innovate, operate with excellence and improve our business each year. I am constantly pushing our vendors to up their game, allowing us to improve, as well as pushing my IT team, our auditors, client services, operations. I ask them every year and even many times during the year, if we could change one thing, what would it be? I am always looking to improve. Maybe it is my DNA, but I am never happy with how things are.

We don’t get everything right this first time. But wrong is only the first step to getting it right. I don’t think anything really goes wrong if we’re learning from it and working towards getting it right. We can see the irritative nature of disruption in the music industry, where we’ve gone from 8-tracks to cassettes to CDs to the iPod. Now we watch TV on our phones. This only happened because someone knew there was a better way and they worked hard to find it, to create it! As Albert Einstein said, “Creativity is seeing what others see and thinking what no one else ever thought.” When we think of creativity we usually think of art. However, creativity is so much more and is what makes the world go around.

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

My dad gave me good advice at my son’s first birthday. The baker had made a mistake with our cake, and I was furious. My dad calmed me down by asking, “What will this matter in time? Who will remember this in a year, a month, or even a week?”

The saying “time heals all wounds” doesn’t just apply to romantic relationships; everything gets better in time. Bad business deals and business mistakes, soured friendships — you learn from it all with the benefit of time.

You learn from every mistake too. I tell my team I will let go of someone for lying, with no second chance, but if you own up to the mistake, we’ll work through it and see those mistakes as an opportunity to improve our process and guardrails.

I also have benefitted from the advice that nothing is ever as bad as you think.

And a practical lesson I’ve learned and try to teach is to never reply to an important email for 24–48 hours. You need time to digest things.

Best advice no one gave me, but advice I regularly give involves perfecting your pitch, research and professional networking. For example, when I take our teams to trade shows, I tell them to stop by every booth and learn more about every single vendor. Tell the vendor what we do and ask that vendor how they might be able to help us. Not a group effort, each one on their own. I ask them to write up a small report on what they found. Over the years, that has led to quite a few changes in how we do what we do.

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

For me, taking our message and the story of what we’re doing to the next level is about getting the word out more. I have a book coming out soon (The Great American Heist), that provides a personal account of what I’ve been through, what got us to the level of success we’ve experienced and why we’re doing what we’re doing. My hope is that the message will resonate with and have an impact on as wide an audience as possible.

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 recommend “Elon Musk” by Ashlee Vance. I can relate to the struggles Musk faced in his early days of trying to get Zip2 and x.com (which became PayPal) off the ground. He wanted everything to be perfect and better than anything that was done before, which resonates with me. He was a trailblazer, but he needed to overcome a team of people who reinforced the status quo and were constantly saying what he was trying to achieve was not possible. My first five years of building weAudit.com were full of “no” and “it can’t be done.” Reading about Musk, I felt like I was in good company, and while the average person may have thought I was crazy, it was comforting to know other industry trailblazers faced the same obstacles.

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

A favorite quote of mine relevant for our business is from the character Bigweld in Robots: “See a need — fill a need.”

And, oh boy, do we see a need! Even Senator Dick Durbin has said so, speaking about the banking industry: “Small businesses and large businesses alike are being overcharged across America by credit card companies and banks, without restraint.”

There is a need to address the massive overbilling — an issue that the senator and other politicians have acknowledged but not addressed — and there has been no one to fill that need to help merchants. That is, until we saw it and filled it.

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

I’m passionate about helping improve living conditions in Haiti. There is a lack of awareness about how dire the humanitarian issues and conditions are in Haiti, and I use my influence as much as possible to raise money for humanitarian efforts in the country and the nonprofit organization, Loving Kay Refij.

We’re in the midst of fundraising for a well, with about half of the money already raised. At the same time, we are fundraising for a mobile ultrasound to support women and prenatal health. Children often have less rights and are treated worse than we treat animals in this country. So, I do try to influence people to get involved there.

How can our readers follow you online?

Readers can follow me on LinkedIn, Twitter, and our website, weAudit.com.

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


Meet The Disruptors: Robert Day Of weAudit 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.

Andy Harrington of Presentation Profits On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public…

Andy Harrington of Presentation Profits On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Your story of why you care. Most corporates will have a slide that says, this is the name of our company; this is how long we’ve been in business. This is the list of our prestigious clients. These are the awards we’ve won. And frankly, nobody really gives a shit. But what they care about, what you should replace that with is a story of where did you come from? Why do you care about this message or topic? Why do you care about delivering this service? Why do you care about the people that you serve? Where does all that come from, your origin story of why they should trust you? And then maybe after that, you can talk about where you are today and give it some context.

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 Andy Harrington.

The UK’s answer to Tony Robbins, Andy Harrington is a world-leading expert in public speaking. A Sunday Times bestselling author with his book Passion into Profit, he has shared stages and worked with big names including Bill Clinton, Sir Richard Branson, Donald Trump and Nadja Swarovski.

He is passionate about teaching people to share their messages with the world in a way which helps their audience and increases their sales so they can build a thriving business.

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

I don’t have this big background of coming from money or anything like that. There wasn’t much money. My parents broke up when I was 13 and I had no indication it was coming. It felt like my whole world was just completely pulled from under my feet. What I thought to be true was no longer true. And so, I ended up spending a lot of time on my own, feeling lost for a long period of time.

I was quite an extrovert when I was a kid. I spent a lot of time with my dad playing sport, rough and tumble, all that kind of stuff, and then I lost it.

The introverted part of me seemed to get over developed after that, but it worked out well in the end as it meant I became a very deep thinker.

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

In essence, I went to see Tony Robbins, not for me, but for the person I was in a relationship with. She had experienced a lot of trauma in her life and was involved in a couple of big court cases where she was giving evidence for the prosecution. As a result, she broke down emotionally. I couldn’t solve it and I didn’t know how to help her.

So, I went to see Tony Robbins in America and he chose her to work with at the front room in one of his live interventions. This changed her life. I thought, “Wow, this is amazing. I wonder if I could do something like this.”

That was quickly replaced in my mind with, “Andy, you can’t do this. You can’t be like him. He’s massive. Well, his teeth are bigger than you.” And so, I didn’t do anything with it.

About six months later, we did another Tony Robbins event and I ended up doing an intervention with him. Again, I got picked out in front of thousands of people. I stared into his eyes and I remember being so emotional and filled with gratitude that he had changed our lives. I thought in that moment, ‘I’m going to do it’.

So that’s how I started teaching and training people and my content evolved over the years into teaching public speaking and presenting because that’s where I thrived.

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

Before I embarked on that career, I’d done a little bit of training for an insurance company, Churchill. The very first time I ever presented for them, there was a wonderful lady who was an Indian sales manager.

One day, talking about her sales training, I said to her, “You must be really busy doing that. Haven’t you got somebody else doing it?”

She said, “Are you volunteering?”

I said, “Well, no, but yes. I mean, if you give me some time, then I’m sure I could give it a go.”

About three months later, she comes to see me on my desk and says, “Hey, you remember that sales training. Do you still want to do it?” I said, “Okay.” And she replied, “Great. You’re on in five minutes.”

So, I found myself about five minutes later in a Churchill training suite with the flip chart, a pen and five people. And let me tell you this, five people was pretty daunting, 50 is much easier. Five is awful because they were just there to ask you questions and stuff.

I didn’t know what to do with my hands, so I was fiddling with the flip chart pen, taking the lid off, putting the lid back on. I even used it as a pen, once.

And then, unbeknownst to me, at some point, I’d obviously got ink over my hands. I looked in the mirror to see a massive black smudge of ink right in the middle of my forehead that had probably been there through most of my talk!

So, that was my first experience of delivering a talk. I went from that to speaking at arenas to tens of thousands of people. Anyone can do it if they stick at it!

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

When you’re first presenting, you tend to overjudge the audience and how they’re reacting to you.

I remember one guy who had this big frown on his face the entire time I was presenting and I thought, “Oh, he’s not very happy.”

I did the presentation and he came up to me afterwards. I was thinking, “Oh no, he’s going to tell me I’m no good or whatever.”

He’s still got the big frown his face and said, “That’s the best presentation I’ve ever heard anywhere.”

The big frown must have been his way of focusing, right?

But it’s funny how you read people and you can misinterpret some. So, I’ve learned not to do that. I’ve learnt to let people experience it the way they want to experience it. Frown or no frown!

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

As I mentioned earlier, Tony Robbins really inspired me to become who I am today. Tony Robbins once said to me, “The greatest way you can honour me is to outgrow me.”

One of the things you want to be doing as a leader is to inspire people to become better than you. The hallmark of a successful trainer, speaker or influencer is how people take on what they have been given and use it in their own unique way.

I thought it was really cool that Tony Robbins would say that. I mean, he is six foot seven, so I’m never going to outgrow him physically but I always say that to people now too.

The greatest way you can honour me is outgrow me, outshine me, out-earn me. My goal is to organically make sure that I keep improving and adapting so that my students don’t surpass me too much and that I keep on developing myself.

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

You can pretty much learn anything if you set your mind to it, providing you follow a successful process of doing it that’s been proven to work. You can achieve anything you want. The trouble is most of us get in our own way. If you believed that there is no failure, only feedback, then what would you be prepared to do? What would you be willing to try to do to move your life and the lives of others forward?

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

Well, I don’t get up every day to do my talks. I actually speak typically once a month for four days and that’s it. My whole business now is automated to the point that I don’t need to present every single day. But what gets me up and keeps me giving that message is the idea that if I were to die tomorrow, there might be people wanting to come. I think the hallmark of a successful person is the number of people that are touched or moved by your passing. We can talk about the Queen as an example of that and the outpouring of love and emotion her death inspired. That’s the real hallmark of how much difference you’ve made is how much your life passing affects other people. And I’d like to believe that if I was to pass, I’d have touched enough people’s lives that they would want to come and pay their respects and see my wife and kids and say, “Hey, he was a good, good person. Didn’t know him very well, but what I did know about him was great and that he made a difference. He touched lives. And I just want to say I’m grateful for that and I’m grateful that he was around.” So, it’s kind of that really, which sounds quite morbid.

I think it’s an important thing is to recognize that we’re not going to be here forever, and I want to leave behind a ripple effect for others, that means that my life had meaning beyond the now.

The empowering message is that what human beings can achieve is pretty remarkable. I teach people not to be afraid of the solution, but to be more afraid of the problem. Because most people are more afraid of the solution than they are of the problem because they live with the problem every single day. They live with their results they get every single day, which means they’re comfortable with those. But the solution for most people carries with it a fear of failure, rejection and hurt.

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, one of the most exciting things that we’re doing is building our Professional Speakers Academy. It’s an incredible incubator for so-called ordinary people with an extraordinary message. And what I mean by that is most of us are fairly ordinary, but we’ve had extraordinary things happen through us or to us. And those are amazing stories. Those stories show how people have coped with that and the lessons they’ve learned. That’s wisdom that we pass on to other people.

And that’s who’s dominating the speaking market today. It isn’t the person that’s climbed Mount Everest or won a gold medal or swam across the Arctic Circle. I’m sure there’s a place still for that but people don’t want to hear the metaphor of how I climbed the mountain. They instead want to be given instructions of how they climb their specific mountain, which might be the mountain of how do I overcome grief; the mountain of how do I improve and grow my business; the mountain of how do I fix this social media problem; the mountain of how do I market myself. Whatever their mountain is, what people want is real world tangible knowledge and knowhow and steps that are actually able to be implemented.

Today, the reach all of us can have is essentially unrestricted. So-called ordinary people can reach out with their message of hope and help, and truly get to their target market. This is something they couldn’t do because the only people who could reach out were people who could get on television or radio or get a newspaper to write about you. But today, all of us have that ability to reach out to those people with our message, providing you have a real message that breaks through the noise, and isn’t another voice in just the sea of sameness.

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

Yeah, I like the quote by Dr. Seuss, which is why try so hard to fit in when you’re born to stand out?

We want to fit in, of course, but that should never be at the detriment of your ability to be unique and stand out from the crowd and be an individual. Finding the balance is important. But most of us, we have such a desire to be loved, to be validated, that often we will downplay our uniqueness or we will hide our gifts, just so that we don’t rock the boat or because we want to avoid other people not liking us. And the problem is, with presenting, speaking and sharing your message and leading, you’ll always be dividing people between followers and non-followers, between fans and non-fans.

And another good quote, which I think might be a Churchill quote, is, “If you have enemies, good for you. It means you stood for something.” Which means you’ve got to have enough conviction in your own message that you don’t need other people to validate it, but you share it because you feel intrinsically it’s right, and that people who don’t agree with it, you can let them not agree with it. You don’t have to change their opinions because their opinions are just theirs. And you don’t have to change what you believe to be right.

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.

Yeah. So, first thing is, you have got to have a really good beginning. So, when you are presenting, you’ve got to have a good opening that opens up the minds of your audience, because in the beginning, their minds are closed. They’ll be sceptical and not responsive or receptive, especially if you’re not already known to people. So essentially, you’ve got to presale people on your message before you share your message. You’ve got to presale people on the why it’s important to listen to that message now and begin to open them up by answering. In essence, the first part of your content should be answering those questions of why. Why should you listen to this message? Why is this message ideally for you? Why should listen to it now? And why the hell should you listen to me?

Part number two is your story of why you care. Most corporates will have a slide that says, this is the name of our company; this is how long we’ve been in business. This is the list of our prestigious clients. These are the awards we’ve won. And frankly, nobody really gives a shit. But what they care about, what you should replace that with is a story of where did you come from? Why do you care about this message or topic? Why do you care about delivering this service? Why do you care about the people that you serve? Where does all that come from, your origin story of why they should trust you? And then maybe after that, you can talk about where you are today and give it some context.

Number three is that you’ve got to have a methodology or a framework for people to implement the advice you’re giving. You can’t just give them a series of bullet points. It can’t just be stories. There has to be a tangible method or series of steps that they can follow. Otherwise, it’s just a nice message. But what the hell do I do with that? There has to be some implementation plan.

Number four is that you’ve got to be a real presence on the platform. I say platform because it might be virtual, as much it might be physical. And that means that you’ve got to perform at a level where your message is coming through you, not from you, where you’re in flow. You need a real message. It shouldn’t just be some safe, benign message that is corporately acceptable, but something that actually gets beyond that and breaks the norm and touches hearts and minds to the point that actually people might begin to pay attention and more importantly, might begin to change. Whatever your message is, essentially, that message is calling people to a higher place of making a change and it should be a change that impacts the person, other people and the world in general to make it a better place. And if you’ve got that, then you have, in essence, a message that has good ecology to it, which is good for everyone.

And finally, while you’re teaching, you’ve got to be transforming. You can’t just teach people, otherwise they’ll know what to do, but they won’t bloody do it. So, you’ve got to transform thinking, which means transforming beliefs. So, you’ve got to figure out, what does my audience actually believe right now that’s keeping them stuck in the old paradigm or an old way of thinking? And then what you got to do is develop stories and content that actually addresses those false beliefs and begins to reframe them in a way that they believe something new. And then you’ve got to reinforce that new belief with evidence to back it up. And then, if you do that, whilst you’re teaching new things at the same time, then those new messages land and people don’t get in their own way.

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 fear of speaking in public normally happens because you believe the audience might know more than you. So, one way to overcome that is to make sure that you remind yourself of how much you know and remind yourself that the audience out there essentially wants you to succeed. But in terms of actually performing at your best; all performance at the highest level happens in a zone of high performance. So, the question really becomes, how do I access my genius? How do I access my zone of high performance? But if you look at any performing art or sport; if you carefully watch, you’ll see that all high performance happens in a state of no thinking. Because the highest level of any performance, you can’t think about the dance moves, you can’t think about the words to a song, you can’t think about that ball coming at you at 90 miles per hour — if you’re playing cricket or higher than that, if you’re playing tennis. It has to be instinctual.

And to access that state of no thinking you need to put your vision in a peripheral vision. If you watch a top basketball player, they’re bouncing the ball up and down; they’re not looking at the ball. They can see it in their peripheral vision. And so, that allows them to read the game. If you’re driving a car, you’re in peripheral vision. You are reading many, many things happening simultaneously, but you’re not actually thinking about any of them directly. That’s pure genius. Pure genius comes from doing things without thinking about doing them. And the way you trick your mind into doing that is to put them into peripheral vision. And that will open the track door to your unconscious mind because peripheral vision accesses unconscious mind thinking, which is where all of your knowledge, knowhow and instinctual experiences reside.

If you try to think about your message, if you try to put your message into words and write it down before you say it, you’re going to get completely scared. That’s not the way to do it. The best way to do it is to put your message into pictures rather than words, because a picture paints a thousand words. So, in essence, all you’re ever doing is talking into images that conjure up many, many thoughts. And the final technique you use is to use rhetorical questions. And what I mean by that is, rather than go statement, statement, statement, statement, statement, in essence, you say something you want to say and you say, now what do I mean by that statement? Because they have that question in their head, what do you mean by that? So, you say what do I mean by that, and you give a greater definition.

So you make a statement, what do I mean by that? Make another statement to answer that question, and then say, why is that important? Answer that question. And then say, but how do you do it? Then answer the how question. So, you’re only ever answering your own questions and that makes it sound conversational. The key is to ask the question rhetorically that they’re actually thinking in that very moment. And that makes them go, wow, this sounds like he’s in my head.

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 probably inspire more women to speak up and have a bigger voice. I think in leadership specifically, and this is what speaking really is, there’s a much greater need for women to have a voice than men. And if men are making all the decisions at the highest levels, men are primarily driven by testosterone, which makes them take risks and makes them want to win. Women are primarily driven by oxytocin, which makes them want to care, it makes them want to connect because it’s the love hormone — but you need both. Men provide a drive to win, to be better, to be ambitious. Women have that too, but women are primarily driven by connection. Those two together, if you have a masculine and a feminine energy, both have a strong voice, then you get sustained growth rather than a boom and bust.

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!

Yes, I’d love to have lunch with my dear little boy Aston, who didn’t make it, because he would be seven now. And I never got to speak to him, so it’d be good to hear him somehow. It’s a fantasy obviously, but I never got the chance to sit down alongside him. Just to know him as a seven-year-old, just to know how he feels and what he thinks about the world and his dad and whatever, it’d be good just to sit down and do that.

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

You can find me on https://presentation-profits.com/ or follow me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/JetSetSpeaker/

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


Andy Harrington of Presentation Profits 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.

Making Something From Nothing: Will Russell Of Russell Marketing On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Search for patents and get a provisional application for a “patent-pending status.” You then have one year to decide whether to formally file.

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

In 2017, Will launched Russell Marketing: an innovative digital agency, specializing in e-commerce launch marketing. To-date, they have generated more than $25 million in revenue for 300+ new entrepreneurs. Will has been featured on Forbes, Business Insider, Crain’s New York, StartUp Nation, and more.

In 2021, Will launched the Russell Gives Foundation, a family foundation that offers grants and mentorship to early-stage 501(c)(3) partners committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion. In November 2022, Will’s first book, Launch in 5: Take Your Idea from Lightbulb Moment to Profitable Business in Record Time, was published by Nicholas Brealey and is available on Amazon.

Prior to product launches, Will spent his early career managing launch marketing efforts for brands and websites in the media and nonprofit space. A decade of experience in launch marketing — across an array of industries, products, and for businesses of all sizes — provided Will with a unique perspective on the attributes of successful launch campaigns.

Originally from San Francisco, followed by two decades in London, and now in Austin, TX, Will holds a dual degree in Philosophy & Sociology from the University of Leeds.

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?”

While I was born in California (and live in the US now), my parents are both English and we returned to that side of the Atlantic shortly after my birth. So, my upbringing was the stereotypical English one, culminating in graduating from the University of Leeds. Soon after graduation, I decided to return to the US and pursue my own American dream, which led me to Michigan, North Carolina, California, New York, and now, finally, Texas.

Looking back, I’m not surprised at all that I pursued the route of entrepreneurship. As a child, I was stubbornly independent and hated being told what to do. While many of my friends took the conventional path of a 9-to-5 commute in central London, I knew that was never for me. I wanted to create something for myself.

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

A quote from comedian Ricky Gervais is the one that most sticks with me: ”The best advice I’ve ever received is, ‘No one else knows what they’re doing either.’”

It’s a reminder that those we look up to as “successful” aren’t special or unique. They’re just like me. They have imposter syndrome, they have doubts, and they’re simply doing the best they can with the information they have. The message I always take from that is: if they can do it, why can’t I?

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?

Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl. It’s a phenomenal book with both narrative that glues you to the page but also overarching concepts that offer a valuable perspective. If I’m feeling defeated or down, this book is my go-to.

The core message in the book is a modified version of Nietzsche’s quote: “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” Ultimately, he suggests “meaning” is subjective, fluid, and can be found in many little (and big) things. There’s not just one “meaning of life,” there are many. And, if Frankl can find meaning during his time and suffering in concentration camps during WW2, I’m reminded how fortunate I am.

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?

Launching a business is a big, intimidating thing. I’ve been there; I know what it feels like to give up the comfort of a consistent paycheck and look ahead to months of the unknown. It’s important to remember that any successful business was built by small steps, nothing is an overnight success. Look at your idea and the path to a viable business objectively. Break it up into smaller tasks and smaller timelines. Day-by-day, week-by-week, you chip away at these tasks, you meet deadlines.

Don’t look up at Mount Everest and think how impossible it seems. Just put one foot in front of the other, take it one step at a time, and one day you’ll look back astonished at how far you’ve come.

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 would argue that almost no one comes up with a completely new idea. Even an idea that seems like it’s “new” has likely been thought about by dozens of people before. Ideas are worth nothing, it’s all about being able to execute the idea successfully. And so, if someone has thought about it before (or even if they’ve pursued it), who cares? Facebook wasn’t the first social network, Google wasn’t the first search engine, and Tesla wasn’t the first electric car. If you have an idea that you truly believe to be new to the market and/or better than any other idea currently in the market, I say go for it.

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

  1. Validate the idea and prove there’s a need in the market for it.
  2. Search for patents and get a provisional application for a “patent-pending status.” You then have one year to decide whether to formally file.
  3. Create a prototype that will prove your idea can indeed function in the way you intend it to, at the price you need it to be.
  4. Get quotes from manufacturers (if you’re launching a physical product). Before moving into any form of investment, I would recommend having numbers and some form of intent from a manufacturer that they’ll be able to produce it. These days, almost all the clients we work with will be working with manufacturers in China or India.
  5. Acquire funding. This could be a product crowdfunding campaign (like Kickstarter or Indiegogo), an equity crowdfunding campaign (such as StartEngine or Wefunder), or a more traditional funding route (like angel investment or venture capital).
  6. Deliver the product. With validation, prototypes, manufacturing partners and funding in place, it’s time to get your idea into the world.
  7. Scale. It’s taken a long time to get here, but this is still only the beginning. Once you’ve gotten your first customers, the sky’s the limit. Learn from them, delight them, and add fuel to the fire.

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

I’ve described my 5 Things in this YouTube video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pt5eAwaS0gI

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

The first step is to validate that the idea is actually something people need and are willing to pay for (at the price you need to sell it to have a profitable business). Get out and put this idea in front of strangers, whether that’s online or hitting the streets and speaking to people in-person. You need to prove that there are people out there willing to buy it (that aren’t your family or friends).

If you’re pursuing an idea and you haven’t yet validated that the idea has product-market fit (aka — is something people want and will buy), stop what you’re doing. Go back. Start again and validate. Don’t waste another minute or dollar until you have data that proves the viability of your business idea.

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 to this question depends on the scale of what you’re looking to achieve and the budget you have to achieve it. Money and experts will make things move more quickly and with less mishaps. However, some people don’t have access to this kind of money or are happy to make mishaps in the name of learning. If you’re looking to start the next Apple, you’ll want to invest in help. If you’re happy with creating a product as a simple hobby, going it alone is a perfectly fine path forward.

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

Like the previous answer, this often depends on what result you’re after. If you’re looking for massive growth, very quickly, you’re going to need investment to make that happen. If you’re happy for a slow and steady path to success, I can speak from personal experience how brilliant it is to fully own your business and not have to report back to investors.

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

I used to work in the nonprofit sector and always wanted to get back there somehow. Once my business reached a level, financially, that I felt was secure, I launched the Russell Gives Foundation as a way to revisit that sector and give back. Russell Gives is a family foundation that offers grants and mentorship to early-stage 501(c)(3) organizations that focus on reducing racial inequity in the US.

I also recently published a book, Launch in 5: Take Your Idea from Lightbulb Moment to Profitable Business in Record Time (available on Amazon). So often I heard from entrepreneurs that they didn’t have the budgets to work with a launch agency like mine. My book offers up the strategies and systems to anyone looking to pursue an idea, without the high cost of hiring an agency to help with that launch.

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

A movement that focuses on empathy. I read once that many astronauts experience the “overview effect” when they first see the earth from space. It’s the sense of understanding the “big picture” and of feeling a connection among all humans. Yet, here on earth, there’s so much vitriol, hatred, and bitterness. I wish our schools would teach more empathy and I wish all of us were more empathetic. After all, we’re all in this together.

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

David Beckham. He’s not only one of England’s greatest football captains and would have some incredible stories to share about what goes on behind the scenes in professional football, but he’s also a guy that has used his work ethic and determination to get past difficult situations and flourish. In 1998, he was the scapegoat of English football and effigies of him were burned across the country. He kept his head down and kept working hard. Two years later, he was named captain. Similarly, while playing for Real Madrid, he was relegated to the youth team due to a falling out with the manager. Again, he kept his head down and worked hard. By the end of the season, he was back in the first team and played a key role in helping the team win the championship.

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


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

The Future Is Now: Sukhveer Sanghera Of Earth Wallet On How Their Technological Innovation Will…

The Future Is Now: Sukhveer Sanghera Of Earth Wallet On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Keep your focus on balance. For example, if you feel immense excitement about something, then balance it with calm thoughts. If you get lucky on an investment, then rebalance your portfolio. Extremities will bring chaos, while balance will bring peace. Trusting this can maximize your enjoyment of life over the long run.

As a part of our series about cutting-edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sukhveer Sanghera.

Sanghera is from Oakville, Canada, studied aerospace engineering in university, and spent his early career doing renewable energy research for minimum wage. It became very clear to Sanghera during this time that the incentives for the smartest people to work on real problems were not correct. Academics who dedicate their lives to researching and pushing humanity forward with real science and innovation, were being made to jump through hoops for government funding, while Wall Street and Silicon Valley executives were literally printing money off false advertising.

Sanghera decided to leave his master’s program to go into this world and try to understand how it works, and in the process helped build a dozen tech startups as the CTO across a range of industries. Sanghera helped build systems for TD Securities, Deloitte, NASA Langley, and was an early developer in both Bitcoin, Ethereum, and most recently Polkdadot, Avalanche and the Internet Computer Protocol. When Sanghera turned 30, he decided it was time to use all of his experience and go back to his origins in clean tech, to see how we can use decentralized finance, governance, and media, to shift the scale back in favor of the academics. With this in mind, Sanghera created Earth Wallet.

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 was always fascinated by how technology constantly evolved to challenge what we thought was possible. After finishing a degree in aerospace engineering, I started my career writing computational fluid dynamics software to help push the boundaries of renewable energy research. I worked alongside some of the smartest, most focused, and dedicated people in the world to help create a more abundant future by bringing the cost of clean energy down.

Though it seemed obvious to me that people would want to invest in this future, I was making minimum wage, and the research funding model was structured in a manner that required you to jump through hoops for limited government funding. On the other hand, you’d see Silicon Valley companies building chat apps funded by Wall Street for billions of dollars with what seemed to be an infinite river of cash. So, I decided to find out how our society got to such a place.

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

One day, my friends and I decided to try for the Lunar X Prize and see if launching rockets from high altitude balloons could be a feasible low cost way to reach the moon. We decided to add a GoPro to the payload, which recorded the entire ascent up to an altitude of 150,000 ft., just to see what it looked like from up there and make some cool content. With a few hundred dollars and a couple of days of planning, we managed to capture footage of Earth from space. I think it really made us realize how deeply connected we all are.

In the world of technology entrepreneurship, this experience widened my perspective. It pushed me to create a new weather balloon monitoring system for NASA, learn how our entire global banking infrastructure runs on cobalt mainframes at a major global bank, build automated auditing software for a major financial auditing firm, and join the Wild Wild West of the blockchain industry. After helping develop open source code around new blockchain protocols like Bitcoin, Dogecoin, Ethereum, Polkdadot, Avalanche, etc., I was blessed to witness the growth of a trillion dollar industry from scratch.

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

Earth Wallet is using decentralized finance, media, and governance to create new incentives for solving climate change. The way I see it, blockchains are an open source software upgrade to the world’s financial system which is meant to allocate capital to fighting problems humanity is facing. Every individual will be affected if the planet becomes uninhabitable. We’re simply giving people the tools they need to take control of their future, rather than yelling at the sky or throwing tomato soup at expensive paintings across the world.

How do you think this might change the world?

There is a saying that insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results, yet we have collectively been trying to solve climate change with the same financial markets and governance systems for half a century now. We need to trust in change. New technology can change the way we allocate capital to climate solutions. There’s both potential and hope in that sentiment.

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

Yes, S3E1. It is inevitable that financial markets and social networks will merge, as integrating the two makes humanity more efficient at allocating capital to what we deem is important in real time. However, I see many decentralized social network designs that are well suited to the past of capitalists using media to progress their self-interests, which leads to social credit scores applied to individuals. The correct way to do this is to flip the incentives on their head to instead progress our common goals. It is also critical that we do not listen to people saying we must give up our freedoms by banning the self-custody digital assets, which will completely destroy all progress being made in the industry.

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

In 2017, I was the CTO at a company building the first Ethereum protocol to tokenize securities onto the blockchain. Regulators back then had no idea what blockchain even was, yet they wanted us to put a backdoor in the code so that they had the power to freeze an individual’s assets. Around the same time, Cambridge Analytica was being exposed as the go-to tool to win the democratic elections, and the power of Facebook and Twitter’s centralized control of billions of people’s data became clear.

I saw this as essentially the same problem/solution. Governments want people to own their own media data, but they also want to control their financial data. In the information age, these are essentially the same thing- just bits of information. Both media and finance are required for self-custody of ‘digital assets.’ You can’t have one without the other.

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

Once it becomes more obvious that decentralization can be used to enable humanity to come to a global consensus in near real time, we will see fewer hurdles (especially from regulators). Widespread adoption is critical for us to tackle global issues like climate change. The same is true for democratic elections, which will continue to be rigged as long as we have centralized control of data and AI algorithms incentivized to generate ad revenue for the corporations that run them.

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

In a world of cubic zirconia being sold as diamonds, we believe in building quietly. Marketing is a tool that can be used for either good or bad. Our commitment is to bridge the gap between web2 companies and leveraging web3 technology. As such, our partners are not selected based on industry, size, or a founder’s net worth, but rather how scalable their climate solutions are.

Earth Wallet is now available on the iOS, Android, and Chrome stores, and we have launched a new initiative with trees.org to plant a tree for everyone who creates a new account and claims their NFTree seed. Early next year, we will be releasing a new protocol on Ethereum which we hope will bring all the pieces together, so be sure to claim your seed to be eligible for any early adopter rewards.

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

The Alexander Hamilton and Satoshi Nakamoto whitepapers, my professors in school, and my mother have had the most impact on me deciding to start Earth Wallet. All three have instilled in me the value of doing things right, instead of doing things fast. This used to be common sense in engineering 100 years ago, but for some reason today, the accepted norm is to ‘build fast and break things’… And yet we wonder why society is shattering around us.

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

I think the most important thing is to make sure the next generation does not give up hope that the future will be better. When I was growing up, this was never even a thought. Now when you ask kids, a shocking number of them genuinely believe that the planet they inherit will not be better than the past. If the next generation loses hope, it is one of the worst things that can happen to a society because we quite literally will not have a future at that point. So, I will continue to fight to keep the light of hope illuminated in the world.

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

  1. People appear to come from different places, but we all come from Earth. I’ve been blessed with the freedom to work and live from anywhere and have learned that generally every human is more similar than they are different. We all want the same things. The people who don’t understand this have more often just never left their bubble or are conditioned to believe otherwise by their upbringing.
  2. Keep your focus on balance. For example, if you feel immense excitement about something, then balance it with calm thoughts. If you get lucky on an investment, then rebalance your portfolio. Extremities will bring chaos, while balance will bring peace. Trusting this can maximize your enjoyment of life over the long run.
  3. In an infinite game, the only constant is change. Many people strive for perfection or a specific achievement only to finish and be left unfulfilled. This is because the universe does not play zero sum games- Only humans do.
  4. The media is run by capitalists, not the working class. There is a fairly large dissonance between the truth and what the working class is made to believe by marketers and advertisers who understand how to sell a click and a like. Always seek truth from deeper sources of knowledge like books or elders.
  5. Think first, then build. If you are building systems that could impact the lives of billions of people, please do not move fast and break things. The motto needs to be the complete opposite of what we’ve been doing if we wish to have a positive effect on the world.

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

My goal is to make it as easy as possible for everyone to be a part of solving climate change. I think it needs to be as simple as that. You can join the movement today by creating your own Earth Wallet for free.

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

“Fundamentally, nobody knows anything.” It’s common to feel imposter syndrome, especially when you’re starting out in your career or trying to do something great. But always remember that even the most historic humans breathed the same air you do today, and likely knew just as little as you do about our place in the Universe.

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 😊

I work for Earth, not VCs. I suggest they start doing the same.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Instagram: @earthwallet.io

Twitter: @EarthWallet

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

Thank you!


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

Meet The Disruptors: Shannon Goggin Of Noyo On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Stay ready so you don’t have to get ready. Opportunity is everywhere. The people who win are those who are ready to seize opportunities, create openings, and can move fast when they see something in the making.

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

Shannon Goggin is the CEO and co-founder of Noyo. Before starting Noyo, she built product at Zenefits, where she was inspired by the powerful role technology can play in improving people’s experience with their health insurance. Shannon holds a BSBA from Georgetown University and currently lives in San Francisco, where she enjoys cooking elaborate vegetarian meals.

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 am the CEO and co-founder of Noyo, an API-led benefits data platform that powers the benefits and insurance industries. We are working to make it dramatically easier to build amazing benefits experiences for people across the country.

My co-founder, Dennis Lee, and I started the company after working together at Zenefits, where we were building benefits software for small businesses. Users loved our product, but behind the scenes, it was extremely costly and difficult for us to get the right data in the right place at the right time. We started Noyo to solve the underlying data and infrastructure challenges that ultimately lead to the negative consumer experiences we’re all familiar with — expensive insurance, unexpected bills, and confusing benefits.

With Noyo, benefits data is continuously synchronized, scrubbed, unified and instantly available anywhere it’s needed. The technology unlocks new possibilities for how benefits are designed and delivered and enhancing the benefits journey for all: employees, employers, carriers, brokers, and modern benefits administration companies.

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

We see ourselves as “collaborative disruptors.” Often, when you think about disruption it’s about tearing down the old and creating the new from scratch. That way can be effective, but that’s not the approach I am leading at Noyo with our team. When trying to change an influential, monolithic industry like healthcare insurance, for example, which has 50-year-old systems in place and is connected to the bigger U.S. healthcare ecosystem, a collaborative approach was crucial.

There is so much change needed across healthcare and benefits. This change can be daunting, and it is critical to have a deep understanding of how it all works today — not just the technical systems and the digital workflow, but the economic incentives, all the different players, and how they effectively work together (or don’t).

Noyo is a benefits data platform. We offer tooling, like APIs, to help benefits administration software build better benefits experiences for their members, HR, and broker users. The API-powered technology platform we have created serves as the bridge between legacy infrastructure and modern software. So, we view ourselves as disruptors because we are paving a new way forward while working collaboratively with all the many important players.

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

When the company was just a few months old, we secured a meeting with a large potential customer. They were in San Francisco visiting several of their existing partners, and we saw it as a great opportunity to connect. We were able to get on their schedule for dinner to share our vision for connected benefits and talk about how we might work together.

It was in the early days for the company. It was just the founding team, and I think we’d each put a few thousand dollars into the company bank account to get things off the ground. We were supposed to be hosting this big, national insurance company, but when the bill came, I fumbled when I saw the check. I think they saw my face, and they were very gracious and covered the meal. We had a good laugh. It definitely protrayed just how much of a startup we were at that point, but it all worked out — we started working with them formally a short time later.

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

When I was interviewing to join Zenefits, I felt an immediate connection to my soon-to-be manager, Jason, and I knew right away that I wanted to work with him and learn from him. Near the end of my interview process, Jason asked me where I saw myself in five years. I mentioned that I might like to start a business someday. At the time, I didn’t have a clear idea what the business might do, but I felt the draw. As we worked together, he would regularly nudge me on this topic — “You are going to start a business. What are you learning right now that’s going to help you do that?”

Jason was more than a mentor to me; he was a sponsor, placing me in positions to try new things and develop and round out my skill set. When he would challenge me with a new project, he always connected it back to my goals saying something like: “You’re going to work on this project with the sales team. You haven’t been exposed to that part of the business yet, and when you start your company, you will need it.”

He helped me build on my natural strengths, while challenging me in areas I was less comfortable. He held me accountable, and helped me move from a dream mindset to a goal mindset.

Three years later, when I decided to go all in on Noyo, Jason was one of the first people I called. Again, he was right there with encouragement and support, making introductions and helping us recruit crucial early hires. His vote of confidence meant more to me than he probably realized.

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 with clear vision is a positive. Disruption for disruption’s sake, with no solution and just to knock a system or organization down, doesn’t seem wholly positive to me.

Every day is an opportunity for growth and development — of people, systems, processes, and organizations. The world is changing and the supportive systems, strategies and approaches should change with it. But change is hard for so many. I find it energizing!

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

  1. Get many points of view, and then make your own decision. If you hear the same thing three times from people you trust, though, you probably have your answer. This advice came from another mentor of mine. It’s great to get lots of opinions so you can make a considered decision. The speed at which you make decisions matters as much as the quality of the decision.
  2. Never show up alone for an important meeting. Bring a second person, even if they say nothing. I got this advice when we were just starting out. I laughed at the time, but it’s excellent advice. When the company you’re meeting with is big and established, showing up alone highlights just how small you are. Showing some bench strength is essential, especially for an early-stage startup.
  3. Stay ready so you don’t have to get ready. Opportunity is everywhere. The people who win are those who are ready to seize opportunities, create openings, and can move fast when they see something in the making.

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

We need to make it easier and more compelling for more people with fresh perspectives to join the modern connected benefits industry. The work is vital to people and population health, and the opportunity is tremendous. I am committed to cultivating an inclusive group of leaders to build the future of benefits in a way that serves everyone.

We have all seen how the way we work and live has changed dramatically. Companies are distributed across states and countries; people have different needs and priorities. All this newness underscores the need for a fresh look at how benefits are delivered, and new technology unlocks new possibilities. This requires talent from different industries and creative energy to build the future.

I am so committed to infusing new talent into the industry that I welcome anyone interested to email me at future@noyo.com. I’ll help you find your next opportunity, whether at Noyo or any of the other amazing benefits tech companies out there.

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?

Truth be told, I don’t read a lot of business books. I love reading essays. E.B. White is the writer I go back to most frequently. His writing is captivating, witty, and perceptive. He speaks plainly to the reader — no flowery language — and he draws you in with his observational style. His essay “Here Is New York” is one of my favorites, and while I haven’t lived in New York City in nearly a decade and the essay was written in 1949, it has a timeless energy and I still revisit it regularly.

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

I come back to Nelson Mandela’s quote: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” To create meaningful change, you must first believe it’s possible and then work to make it a reality. Ambitious, dedicated people have incredible power to do extraordinary things, no matter how seemingly impossible or lofty they may appear. Mistakes, failures, and missteps will happen along the way, and there will be many people who doubt if it can be done. But at the end of the day, it always seems impossible until it’s done.

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 care deeply about a lot of causes but getting our planet healthy is number one right now for me. I would mobilize people to planet-saving action.

How can our readers follow you online?

Find me on Twitter at @ShannonCGoggin and @NoyoHQ and

on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/shannongoggin/

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


Meet The Disruptors: Shannon Goggin Of Noyo 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.

Justis Kao Of Loop Media On 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Scale Your Business

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

A big vision is always important to have for the long run. But defining a hyper focus in your core business is more important to get you there. For us at Loop, our business clients are our primary focus. And their focus are their customers. We are a leading multichannel streaming video platform with one of the largest libraries that includes music videos, movie trailers, live performance and non-music entertainment content that is licensed to stream music videos directly to business venues out-of-home in the US. In addition to Loop’s 150+ expertly curated channels, Loop enables businesses to communicate promotions to their customers via a wide range of digital signage tools, and so much more. Ad-supported and at no cost to the business, Loop’s versatile, growing content platform has been built to help businesses thrive.

Startups usually start with a small cohort of close colleagues. But what happens when you add a bunch of new people into this close cohort? How do you maintain the company culture? In addition, what is needed to successfully scale a business to increase market share or to increase offerings? How can a small startup grow successfully to a midsize and then large company? To address these questions, we are talking to successful business leaders who can share stories and insights from their experiences about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Scale Your Business”. As a part of this series, we had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Justis Kao.

Justis Kao is Chief of Staff at Loop Media, Inc. He directs Loop Media’s internal communication strategies, external press efforts and oversees the staff at large for the company. A creative at heart, Kao is an entrepreneur who has carved out global success in every aspect of the traditional music industry and is conquering music tech with Loop Media.

Kao’s love of music gained him entry to the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA, where he graduated with a degree in Contemporary Writing & Production. His skills brought him to Los Angeles, CA, where he quickly found success as a live vocalist on season 1 of “The X Factor USA,” and worked with friend and songwriter Claude Kelly and artists including Rihanna, Justin Bieber and Alanis Morissette.

His network and expertise led Kao to become Creative Director at FarWest Entertainment, managing all aspects of global appearances for Quincy Jones’ first Pan-Asian girl group, BLUSH. While at FarWest, Kao eventually rose through the ranks to oversee branding, communications and operations across all global partners and offices.

Kao is based in Loop Media’s Los Angeles office in the heart of the entertainment industry, where he also runs AIM Foundation, a non-profit empowering young people to create a groundswell movement to do good, give back and affect change in their communities.

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

Thanks for having me! I was raised in Toronto, Canada in the heart of the city and began playing piano at age 6. From a very young age, music has been ingrained in my core being. At 10 years old, I had completed my formal classical piano training with an offer to study in New York and train to tour in Europe by the age of 13. Growing up in arguably, one of the most diverse and multicultural cities in the world, I was surrounded by friends from all different backgrounds, ethnicities, and cultures. My musical tastes reflected that, and I never wanted to be pigeonholed in my music career with just classical music. It was a strong foundation to start with, but I had my eyes set on Los Angeles and the music industry at large since I was very young. When I turned 17, I auditioned for Berklee College of Music which I later attended on scholarship.

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

As a young child, even though music was such an integral part of my life, I was strangely hyper-administrative and constantly focused on detail. Essentially, half-artist, half-business, all the time. I always knew I wanted to further my musical skills and abilities and follow the artist path, but at some point, transition over to the business side of things. As a young musician going the independent route, I would write by myself and then find a producer to help me cut the records in studio. I would find a venue to do a show and promote to my local fanbase and concurrently handle ticket sales, lighting design, stage production, F&B, background singers, band — you name it, I’ve probably played that role at some point in my artist career. This really set the stage for me understanding the complexities of what it took to build and put something great together. It all starts with a vision for me, but I’ve grown to understand the micro-execution needed in going from an idea to the completion of it.

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

At Loop, I was one of four from our team that started with the Company from day one. Back then, we were a small and lean team. That meant every head count that we added had to be strategic and add value right from the beginning. Of course, every start-up at that phase knows it will encounter its share of ups and downs, so the culture of the company from early on is crucial. Even if it was a more senior hire vs. a new intern, we knew we wanted a company that treated everyone equally, with respect and professionalism. Our culture today at Loop promotes excellence, integrity, a sense of urgency, built on respect and collaboration. I’m proud of what we are continuing to accomplish at Loop because of that culture we’ve been able to grow and maintain.

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

I’ll start by saying that communication, urgency and accuracy are key traits that I’ve continued to develop for myself. Early on when your role or responsibility includes other key stakeholders, the deliverables on any given project are incumbent on everyone doing their part, on time. We all know that not everything goes as planned all the time, but we can do our best to over-communicate, follow up immediately and always triple check everything. “Preparedness is the key to victory and success.”

That said, a mistake I’ve learned from is not asking enough thorough questions. The 5 w’s are key in executing efficiently and accurately.

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

I would say this is a key part to anyone’s growth in their career, in both receiving and offering it to others. Personally, I’ve taken advantage of a great mentor and role model in our CEO, Jon Niermann, who at the age of 35 became President of Disney Asia. We have now worked together for over a decade, and I’ve actively consulted with him over the years on business strategy and decisions as well as observing how someone with his pedigree and resume continues to operate with integrity and wise judgment after an illustrious corporate career. We began Loop Media years ago with the intention of starting a company that would not only operate with excellence in our product and offering, but also create and instill a culture that would constantly challenge our employees to become better and reach new heights. I think that’s where the mentorship to those that report to you become priority: Bring the right individuals with the skills needed, potential to grow, and invest deeply in them- as people, first.

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

I’ve been led by some formidable leaders in my life in various areas whether it was personal, finance, mental or professional. Way back when, I had the opportunity to work on TheXFactorUSA when it first launched. I got to watch Simon Cowell in action on a day-to-day basis. His attention to detail was unparalleled. By day three on a set of a few hundred people, he walked down the hall on stage and said “Hi Justis.” Something I’ll never forget, and always took note of.

A common thread between most of the most influential leaders in my life is communication. The ability to communicate — first by listening, then accurately understanding a situation or person before making a judgment or decision — is key to being a great leader. Always remaining level-headed and calm in tough and challenging circumstances. It’s something I’ve learned throughout my life and career. With any growing organization, there will always be conflict and problems at some point and being a great leader means that you can address those issues and provide a solution.

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

1. Hyper Focus on Core Business

A big vision is always important to have for the long run. But defining a hyper focus in your core business is more important to get you there. For us at Loop, our business clients are our primary focus. And their focus are their customers. We are a leading multichannel streaming video platform with one of the largest libraries that includes music videos, movie trailers, live performance and non-music entertainment content that is licensed to stream music videos directly to business venues out-of-home in the US. In addition to Loop’s 150+ expertly curated channels, Loop enables businesses to communicate promotions to their customers via a wide range of digital signage tools, and so much more. Ad-supported and at no cost to the business, Loop’s versatile, growing content platform has been built to help businesses thrive.

2. Human Capital

Hiring the right team is crucial. We started strong with our CEO, Jon Niermann coming from Disney and Electronic Arts Asia and then Liam McCallum (Chief Product Officer) having come as Head of Platform for Electronic Arts, Asia. As we grew, we needed to add to the management team with experts in their field. As such, we added former execs from MTV, Viacom, and Facebook. Now, years after our launch of the company, we are continuing to hire within our teams that have strong experience and resumes and not only understand the vision of Loop, but have passion for where we are headed.

3. Establish Best Practices, Processes and Protocols, and Make Them Repeatable

Having a clear, focused core business model and the right team to support now means that you need to operate with efficiency and productivity as you grow. Where we used to be able to jump on quick calls with a only a few of us is now more difficult with everyone’s schedules. Developing productive and focused team meetings within each division is key. Constant communication is vital, whether you’re using Slack, text, phone, email, etc. With my team, I start the year with an overarching focus for the coming quarters and then review with them in more detail for goals and deliverables. With any growing company, the ability to pivot and change course is always needed. That leads us back to management and leadership being able to cast and communicate the vision and executables needed whenever that happens. When launching a new initiative, test the plan that you have with the market. Get constant feedback and adjust as needed and test again.

4. Develop and Grow the Right Partnerships

I’ll use another personal music example here. When I was younger, as an artist, I wanted to do everything musically myself, because I could write, play, produce and perform. But that was limiting my creativity and my ability by missing the value that others would bring to table. The more that I collaborated with people that were great and better than myself, the more my music went to a different level. Great partners in business become just as crucial to move the business forward. The synergy between teams, coupled with strategic and experienced thought leadership and opportunities help drive initiatives forward, quicker and in a more productive manner.

5. Leverage the Partnership vs Transactional approach

I find that every single day brings new opportunities in business to choose between taking the Partnership approach, or the Transactional approach. I almost always opt for the Partnership path. What does this mean? Think about it in terms of meeting or not meeting, vs. exceeding or greatly exceeding expectations for the other party. The Partnership approach looks at the situation and seeks to understand all of the extra value–short and long term here–that can be delivered in the spirit of conveying to the other party just how much you care about them feeling heard, seen, understood and truly delighted. The transactional approach never feels great- it always feels like the box-checking effort that it is. Every once in a while, this might be the way to go; but I almost never lead with it, and especially never when it comes to any situation where my intention is to build a great relationship for the future. Any company or entity can do a one-off transaction, or even a few repeated transactions. The measurement for me is building a network of true partners to last a lifetime, in business and also personally.

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

1. Thinking that a huge investment in the start-up phase is all that you need. Of course, capital funding is crucial to every business at any point in time, but it’s definitely not the only important thing early on. Having a plan and a management team with experience, creativity and critical thinking are also key.

2. Thinking that structure can come later. Think through structure, organization and processes early on. The more you can define, the easier it will be when you actually scale.

3. Planning too far ahead. There’s a balance when it comes to leaders that are visionaries. You need to be able to see the big picture but also execute and deliver often within each quarter. Piloting projects and testing the market is a great way to see if there’s sustainability and success in the path you’re taking.

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

I think this again starts with leadership. As you grow, do you become too busy to meet new hires? Or do you make it a point to have face time right from the very beginning? Sharing your vision about how and why the company started in the first place speaks volumes to new hires, especially when it comes from the top.

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

Keeping with the communication theme, we direct a lot of our attention to regular, consistent conversations with our partners, vendors- really any and all key stakeholders. Being in the loop here with them constantly allows us to effectively be strategic in our objectives. We’re able to identify targets of intersection with our partners and then execute on those initiatives in a timely and productive manner. We find that more frequent, objective-oriented check-ins with our internal and external partners is more effective than having longer intervals of dead space in between meetings.

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

A great, experienced HR person/team.

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

I would tell people that you should never stop learning, no matter how much success you’ve achieved at that point in life. Always challenge yourself to grow and find peace in the uncomfortable seasons as it is part of the process and journey. Invest in yourself first so that you can invest in others. This is part of my personal ethos: “Aim to do good. Aim to be better than the last version of yourself. Aim to affect a little, and from there you affect a lot.”

This was truly meaningful! Thank you so much for your time and for sharing your expertise!


Justis Kao Of Loop Media On 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Scale Your Business was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Meet The Disruptors: Shay Paresh Of SHAYDE BEAUTY On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your…

Meet The Disruptors: Shay Paresh Of SHAYDE BEAUTY On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Failure always seemed unacceptable…. We grew up within an education system where failing held you back. After jumping into entrepreneurship, I quickly recognized that each wrong turn is an experiment, not the end. Learn how to fail so that failure turns into a beginning. Learn from the mistakes you identify and be better next time around.

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

Shay Paresh is the founder of SHAYDE BEAUTY, a science backed skincare line made with melanin in mind. Shay has worked to develop formulations that address the specific dermatological needs of skin of color by reducing inflammation, which can often result in dark spots and hyperpigmentation.

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 struggled with hyperpigmentation and acne scarring since my early teens. Often, the products I would use would make my hyperpigmentation worse or not help at all. They were dated, antiquated, and honestly not appealing.. I always wished there was a brand that offered products that were not only efficacious and simple to use, but also catered to my melanin skin.

During my time working in Creative Marketing at some of the worlds most established beauty brands, I saw first-hand how diversity was treated as an afterthought not just in marketing, but down to the product development process. That’s when SHAYDE BEAUTY was born. All of our products are vegan and cruelty-free, backed by science, contain clinically proven actives, and are sustainably made.

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

At SHAYDE, we’re on a mission to change the personal care ecosystem for Fitzpatrick skin types IV-VI. Less than 3% of brands in the industry cater to Fitzpatrick skin types IV-VI. Meanwhile 40% of Americans are people with skin of color and this is estimated to grow beyond 50% by 2045. While globally 80% of all people are with skin of color, most of the clinical studies, research and products on the market are not geared towards those with skin of color.

(By definition : Fitzpatrick skin types (or phototypes) — FST (or FSP) — refer to a skin tone scale developed to classify skin coloring and response to ultraviolet (UV) radiation)

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that We 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 grandmother is one of the most impressive people I know. From the time I was little, I remember her unexplainable ability to command respect and attention in a room. I can recall following her around work everyday after school and witnessing her passion for helping others. She’s always able to connect with those around her in a meaningful way with open arms and she’s able to build a community around her everywhere we go. To this day, I use her strength to fuel my own.

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 are in an age where ‘disruption’ has almost lost its meaning. However, I find disruption in all things to be imperative to change and innovation. Without change, imagine where we would be right this moment.

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

My strongest piece of advice that I have ever received is “organize or agonize”. That goes for my personal and professional life.

Another big one is that failure is ok!

Failure always seemed unacceptable…. We grew up within an education system where failing held you back. After jumping into entrepreneurship, I quickly recognized that each wrong turn is an experiment, not the end. Learn how to fail so that failure turns into a beginning. Learn from the mistakes you identify and be better next time around.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next? We’re really excited to launch globally in the near future and offer even more innovative products to those underserved by the beauty industry.

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 my all time favorite books is Shoe Dog (A Memoir by the Creator of Nike) because I felt connected to his struggles. It was a good reminder to trust your intuition, never give up, and using the resources around you to level up.

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

Find a strong support network that inspires you to keep going. Science has shown that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. It’s vital to surround yourself with the right people, personally and professionally.

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. 🙂

Set an intention and trust yourself. Don’t let others dim your light. Be able to adapt. Most importantly, just keep swimming.

How can our readers follow you online?

https://www.instagram.com/shayparesh

https://shaydebeauty.com/

https://www.instagram.com/shaydebeauty/

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


Meet The Disruptors: Shay Paresh Of SHAYDE BEAUTY 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: Scott Dancy Of Azuna Fresh On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Don’t be afraid to evolve. Shed your skin often, and you’ll always be fresh. It doesn’t mean that you change the core of your brand but revive it often. Let your consumer know that as they evolve, you will too.

As a part of our series called “Making Something From Nothing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Scott Dancy, Founder & CEO, Azuna Fresh.

A Jersey-born, take-no-prisoners entrepreneur by nature, Scott Dancy has spent his life building big ideas into big businesses. His multiple successes have spanned the corners of industry, from oil and gas to staffing, and these days he’s defying expectations in a new arena — natural household cleaning solutions. With the launch of Azuna Fresh a few years ago, Dancy aimed to reinvent how we clean and deodorize our home, using tea tree oil as a basis to create a kid and pet friendly tea tree-based gel that quite literally cleans the surrounding area of bacteria and odors. A dedicated father, he’s rarely satisfied with the status quo, juggling both parenting and product development. In the last year alone, Dancy has now expanded Azuna into multiple products, partnering with retailers and selling direct to consumer, once again building a dream out of a single idea.

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 New Jersey, and my father was always an entrepreneur. Early on in my life he owned liquor stores, but then we owned a funeral home, and we lived above that most of my childhood. I was a very good athlete, but made sure I was at least an average student, and that combination allowed me to play football at a very academic selective school — the University of Rochester. I think early on I knew that I needed a variety of skills in my life, and I didn’t want to fall back on any single talent or dream.

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

Perception is reality.

I was told this by my first business partner, and it instantly made complete sense and therefore left a lifelong impression upon me. What anyone perceives about you, your brand or your product — that is their reality. It’s critical to pay attention to how your message is being received. This really made me focus on my communication skills, and I think long and hard about how the person I am trying to reach interprets my words and actions. If I am trying to motivate someone, then I have to make sure they accurately understand what we are trying to achieve together and feel good about the reasoning. This is true in both personal and professional relationships, and in how an audience sees your brand.

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

A Man in Full, by Tom Wolfe. I read it while in my early 20’s, living in Atlanta. The book was based on a businessman in Atlanta who lived with extreme wealth and luxury. At first, I was mesmerized by how the character — Charles Croker — lived. The extravagance and power, whether real or perceived, how those two things intertwined fascinated me. But by the end of the story, by the time the truth of that whirlwind life was revealed, it was a tale about how our value is in doing the right thing. Money didn’t buy happiness or fulfillment. It can make survival and life easier, but true, authentic happiness doesn’t have a price tag. That has been a baseline for me through the best and worst times of 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?

I think the greatest obstacle often is fear. I’ve had failures, sometimes back-to-back. I remember people saying things like “just keep going buddy, you’ll get there someday” and “are you seriously going to try this again?” I’ve been a founding partner in the fastest growing staffing business in the northeast. I’ve been a co-founder of a very successful oil and gas company — but when you branch out into new spaces, if you meet with early failures, the doubts and the doubters can get to you. With my current company, Azuna, I knew I had a great brand because the product is amazing, and it works and it is affordable. Yet I had many, many people ask me what the heck I was doing, because I had no experience with a direct-to-consumer product. Maybe I was crazy, because I really didn’t know anything about how to market direct to a consumer, but I did my research, I followed brands I admired, I found people I wanted to work with — and three years later, after a lot of perseverance, we are expanding far faster than I ever expected. Fear is always the devil, and I’m glad I didn’t let it drive me off course.

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 these days that is easier than ever. The most obvious start is to try finding your product online. Try every search term that could be associated with it. Search chat rooms for the problem you are trying to solve with your product and see if solutions like yours exist. If there are similarities between what you’re trying to create and something that exists, don’t give up. It doesn’t mean it isn’t a good idea, use that to push yourself to go a step further, be even more innovative. It’s critical to check on patents so you don’t infringe on anything, but don’t be afraid to compete with a product or to improve on something.

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.

Before you do anything, you have to do your research about possible competition or similar ideas. If your idea stands up and can exceed the competition on quality and price and originality, work with a patent attorney to make sure you can hold your own in the category. The right patent attorney is critical — so call around, ask friends for those that are highly recommended and those that know your space. Then you want to find the right manufacturer — and that can be tough as well as most don’t have their own web presence. And most of all — do some focus groups, even with family or friends. Does your product have a use case? Would they buy it? What would they change? Don’t be distracted by negative feedback, use that to improve on your idea. Then create your own web presence and see if you can get some online sales traction, because no retailer is giving shelf space or time to a cold brand.

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

  1. Never dismiss any idea until you have tried it. If you have a good idea, give it the time and energy it deserves. Don’t let it fall by the wayside. Ideas have to be priorities in your business because that’s how you grow and expand.
  2. Follow the competition and what they are doing. You can’t own the category if you don’t know what the competition is doing today, and what they have announced is to come. Pay attention to their evolutions. There’s a reason the “know thy enemy, and know yourself, in a hundred battles you will never be undefeated” quote stands the test of time. It’s a battle to the top.
  3. Make sure that you are listening to your employees. They know the ins and outs of your product, your competition, and your market. That’s what you have hired them for — pay attention to what they have to say. Your great idea needs many minds to grow.
  4. Always be on top of social and consumer trends. Do your research, and know what the consumer is seeking, how they are acting, what motivates them to spend. And know what content appeals to your direct consumer — every brand is a content creator these days, don’t ignore the fact that your audience wants you to make an effort to connect with them on a personal level.
  5. Don’t be afraid to evolve. Shed your skin often, and you’ll always be fresh. It doesn’t mean that you change the core of your brand but revive it often. Let your consumer know that as they evolve, you will 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?

First try and build a prototype — that is key. You have to understand the full cost and demand for any product before it can be viable for any market. You might have the best way to catch a llama, but that doesn’t mean there is a high demand for llama catchers.

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’m a big believer in trying it on your own to start. Take it as far as the point where you don’t have the answers anymore or can’t find them, then go ahead and hire a consultant experienced in your category to take you to the next step. By all means hire a consultant to do some competitive landscape analysis if you need to — make sure you know the ins and outs of your manufacturing process and the market demand before you go too far.

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’m a self-starter, but I’m also a big thinker. I like the freedom of bootstrapping in the beginning as you figure out your product and your market, and you get to a realistic projection of your potential. Get your product out there, find out what the demand and profit possibilities are, so you can value your company accordingly and back up those claims before you open yourself up to venture capital. If you want a business you can manage on your own, you may not need that big round of funding, but if your goal is to blow it out or to sell in a few years, then by all means go after the big funding. Ask yourself how autonomous you want to be, and decide if you’re looking for 30% of a million dollars with people to answer to, or 100% of $100,000 and no one to answer to? Social platforms have also changed how we sell direct to consumers — a single campaign can take a product viral very quickly, so you have to recognize that you might need the capital to scale quickly — is that something you can manage on your own or do you want outside funding to prepare for that?

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

I’ve started, but I’m not where I want to be yet. The pandemic opened my eyes in a lot of ways to the things that we can change about our lives and our lifestyles, and it made me even more aware of the world my kids will live in. My company now, Azuna, is utilizing natural solutions like tea tree gel to solve a bacterial, indoor air pollution problem, and we’ve heard from a lot of people that it’s helped them with their own indoor air challenges. We made sure to approach our product with sustainability in mind — so recycling and refills are important options for us, and now we are moving into long-term glass containers. But all of that is far from where I want to be. I want to create an impact both via our product but also via our ability to fund solutions and organizations that are advancing care for our planet. I can’t ask my kids to be compassionate, global citizens if I’m not striving to be that myself.

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’d love to find a way to bring counseling services to underserved areas in a big way — meaning it would be easily accessible, paid for, encouraged and confidential. One day, when I sell and can allocate funding towards a need, it would be to create this pathway. I’ve witnessed firsthand many teenagers who live in violent neighborhoods, or who live with a lack of general resources, and I’ve seen them overcome because they have someone to talk to, and someone who is listening to them and giving them opportunities to break out of a negative cycle of thinking. Communication is so critical — it would give these kids a chance to express their stress and fears, and to get some guidance on how to become healthy-minded adults who can navigate a path to success.

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’d have to say Shaquille O’Neal. He’s someone who has worked so hard to find his own path to success, and he is obviously a legend in terms of his reputation on the court. But off the court, he’s done even more for communities who need it. His foundation reaches so many kids in underserved communities, and he reaches them with communication and by creating joy in their lives. He’s found a way to bring happiness and hope to people, at a time in his life when he could easily rest on his laurels. I find that deeply inspirational — his energy and effort after the buzzer to teach those around him how to win, too. That’s something I hold up every day, and would love his insights as to how he tapped into that calling within him and manifested it into the real legacy he’s created.

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


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

Makers of The Metaverse: Freddie Hickman Of Hyper SQ On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality…

Makers of The Metaverse: Freddie Hickman Of Hyper SQ On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Move forward with pace and intensity, but allow mental space to connect the dots. Have aggressive self-directed timelines, keep momentum high, but at the same time allow time to let things sink in. Sometimes the most pivotal ah-ha moments come from the times you least expected it, often when you’re not deep in work and in a relaxed state of mind.

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 Freddie Hickman.

Freddie Hickman [CEO & Co-Founder of Hyper SQ] spent half a decade at Expedia Group (the largest tech travel company in the world) across product, finance, and commercial roles. He noticed that the travel space in general is ripe for disruption, especially on the consumer discovery side. Prior to that Freddie worked at L’Oréal for 3 years helping to build out their ecommerce function.

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?

Born in London, swiftly migrated to Stockholm with my mother and started life as a fully fledged Swede (with the accent, of course). 14 years later, I returned to the UK with a music scholarship, shipping straight to boarding school — I had played the piano since the age of five, and so it seemed at the time that I was firmly within the musical path. In fact, the plan was originally to study Music at university, though one week in I realised this just wasn’t for me, so I switched over to Economics, Politics, and Music as a combined degree. University was far too much fun, so I decided to stay another year and study for a masters. Fast forward almost a decade later, and I had spent several years across a bunch of product, strategy, and commercial roles at L’Oréal and Expedia Group, before finally building the overdue courage jump ship into the startup world and building something from the ground up.

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

‘The Magic of Thinking Big,’ by David Schwartz. I’ve probably read this book about 4 or 5 times. The one thing most of us can get better at is simply thinking bigger. I’m obsessed with the concept of leverage. Virtually anything you think of now, can be thought of on a scale that is bigger, bolder, and more daring. I’d highly recommend getting stuck into that book for anyone looking to truly accomplish big things.

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 journey so far is littered with fragments of mistakes (some less humorous than others!). The hardest thing for me was having to unlearn the stuff you get taught at large companies, where I had spent most of my career up until now. Getting out of the ‘employee mindset. ’In the early months, I was looking for a software development company to help us get started before eventually migrating technology in-house. I set out and in hindsight, grossly over-analysed over 40 vendors in this beautifully formatted excel spreadsheet (that by the way, no one will ever read through apart from myself), with tons of criteria, score systems, and conditional formatting. Classic big company efforts — it looked pretty to be fair. This all felt great until my buddy asked a simple question — so have you chosen your vendor yet? Ah..

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?

Rather than a single person, I’ve got a group of crazy talented friends who have without a doubt led me to where I am today. Virtually all of them started off in either consulting or banking, but swiftly veered off and got ‘red-pilled’ into the untrodden path. Most of them are now venture-backed founders, doing incredible things. Everyone challenges each other, keeps each other accountable, and helps one another think big and bold.

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

Every ounce of my attention right now is focussed on building one thing: our Web3 startup, Hyper SQ.

We’re building the first true Explore2Earn experience that rewards people for getting out of their homes to explore the world. There is a lot of criticism today towards large tech giants and how they have optimised and designed their products to make us addicted to our phones, through carefully engineering addictive compulsion loops, making us hungry for hearts and likes. Rather than fight this, we’re taking the technical progress and turning this into a force for good — getting people out and exploring. Having worked at Expedia Group, one of the largest travel tech companies in the world, for over five years, I saw first-hand how much could be disrupted.

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?

Without a doubt for me it’s the paradigm shift in how we think about incentive structures, made possible by crypto tokens. The list of use cases is endless where the incentive structure is fundamentally flipped, whereby value is accrued to the true value creators (typically end-users, early participants, creators, developers), rather than the centralised entities. Well designed incentives, as we know, are extraordinarily powerful human motivators.

The concept of interoperability is also a fascinating one, particularly in the context of metaeverses whereby they should all be connected to each other seamlessly, along with all the assets and elements within them. That there is no ‘closed-economy’ which is the case for most games available today, for instance.

Of course, the concert of decentralisation also blatantly comes to mind. And with regard to metaverses, that there is no single point of failure nor control.

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

We’re still early in the S-Curve of adoption for these relatively new technologies. General momentum is going to matter for these industries to truly breakthrough into the mainstream. Which is also why the fact that the metaverse vision and technological progress is being controlled and led by a few large companies (several public companies, at the mercy of market conditions and investors risk appetite) is a risk in itself. Much of the mainstream adoption will also be linked to the physical hardware development — building products that are convenient and affordable for consumers.

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?

For one of my advisors we strictly use Oculus to meet for our weekly catch ups. Though the kit is still burdensome, and the graphics have a long way to go, it’s fascinating how connected it makes us feel, despite being in different continents. Your typical Zoom meeting just doesn’t get anywhere close to this. Once the hardware problem is solved, and we have more practical equipment for everyday office work, VR, AR and MR will all have a huge place in solving also the remote work problem by bringing us closer.

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

They will make us feel more connected than ever before, at a time when we are often geographically dispersed. A guilty pleasure of mine is a healthy dose of the multiplier game Warzone with my buddies. We joke to say we were the original adopters of the metaverse. Though this might not be too far off. I’ve had old friends who I hadn’t spoken to for over a decade, now become a part of life again (and in real life) as a result of gaming alone in these digitally created online worlds.

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

I noticed this all the time — the majority of people still have this idea that the metaverse/crypto/web3 industry is full of ‘degens’ (to be fair, we’re shooting ourselves in the foot here by referring ourselves to this too!). There is a sense that this is still the wild west with plenty of bad actors. The reality is some of the smartest people I know all work directly or indirectly in this space, and this pattern is becoming more apparent by the day.

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

1. Move forward with pace and intensity, but allow mental space to connect the dots. Have aggressive self-directed timelines, keep momentum high, but at the same time allow time to let things sink in. Sometimes the most pivotal ah-ha moments come from the times you least expected it, often when you’re not deep in work and in a relaxed state of mind.

2. Get to market as quickly as possible, iterate based on real feedback. Classic product 101, though often overlooked or misunderstood. What can you do today to get something to market, even if this is just a small part of your grand vision? So you can get a quick and early signal that you’re building something people actually want and will use.

3. Trust the process, and see the true potential beyond what is in front of you now. It’s just the early building blocks of what is to come. The larger the ambition the harder it will be to fight this and visualise the possibilities — the metaverse is a classic use case for this.

4. Speak to as many people as possible in this space. Everytime I speak with someone, I never regret it. Something new is learned. The ‘easier’ thing to do is to read books and continuously study. Might be slightly controversial, but I believe the most impactful and high leverage activity is just to source information directly from others. Not only will you build relationships whilst learning, but you will also often get information not publicly available.

5. Build in public. This is a hard one — the temptation is to keep things in private and wait for the big reveal. If you can get your early community of users to join you on the product development journey, you’ve already won half the battle.

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

This is going to be biassed based on what we’re building! We want to create (literal) movements of people for different causes through the power of our technology. Getting people out of their comfort zones, out of their homes, and exploring places en masse.

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

I’m torn between Elon Musk and Chris Dixon of a16z

Elon to learn how he truly operates, and to get a glimpse of how his mind works. Chris, since a huge amount of influence of what we’re building originated with his original thinking.

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


Makers of The Metaverse: Freddie Hickman Of Hyper SQ 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.

Srikrishnan Ganesan of Rocketlane On 5 Ways To Create a Wow! Customer Experience

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

A business leader needs to have their team anticipate everything that can go wrong with their customers’ experience and create a playbook to recover from those situations, thereby “wowing” the customer. So, being prepared is the single most important thing to do. I’ve heard how Amex deals with a lost credit card, not by simply blocking the card but also shipping a new one — immediately — wherever you may be — and letting you know which subscription services on the card should be changed.

As a part of our series about the five things a business should do to create a Wow! customer experience, I had the pleasure of interviewing Srikrishnan Ganesan.

Co-founder and CEO of Rocketlane, Srikrishnan Ganesan is a serial entrepreneur with a track record of leading teams. With Rocketlane, he’s focused on providing a purpose-built customer onboarding platform that shortens the client’s time to value and eliminates hit-or-miss experiences for their customers. The end goal is to deliver a collaborative, transparent and professional onboarding experience for every customer.

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’m Sri, co-founder and CEO of Rocketlane. We are a 2-year-old startup helping to provide a better way to collaborate and deliver on client-facing projects that is ten times better than the competition!

I’m a computer science engineer at heart, but I also went to business school to be able to assume other product and corporate roles. I started my career in product management and previously worked at Verizon and rediff.com.

I am excited about creating something from nothing. I figured I enjoyed the “building” part of the job — building teams, building products, building the culture, etc. So, my next move was to join a very early-stage startup and create my own company with a couple of friends in a couple of years. Our B2B SaaS startup was acquired by Freshworks™, where we learned a lot about building SaaS businesses — a lot of which we now use as we build Rocketlane.

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

In our previous startup, my sales lead would focus an entire conversation with a prospective client on one feature of our product. This singular approach appeared to promote positive interest and an intent to purchase from those prospects. But in my role as a passionate founder, I would jump in and talk about the rest of our product features the prospective client absolutely must use. This tactic forced bringing in more stakeholders and complicated the sale.

I was thinking we were not doing justice to the product without selling its complete vision and capabilities. But all I was doing was increasing the risk of losing potential clients by overwhelming them with too much information. From then on, I learned to trust my salesperson’s judgment on what resonated with the customer. And to optimize that for deal momentum instead of thinking inside-out or from the perspective of what we’ve built. You can always expand to your full vision later.

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

There are way too many people for me to thank who have helped me on all my start-up journeys. So, I cannot call out just one person here. I am super grateful to all the folks who gave me their time and feedback, made introductions, did reference checks, and looked out for me during hard times.

Here’s one story: Tony, a fellow entrepreneur who runs Tagalys, met a key leader from a large global retailer at an event we were at while running my previous startup. He felt we might be a good fit for the retailer, so he slipped me the leader’s business card. Eventually, one thing led to the other, and we got into an accelerator program through this leader and later landed a six-figure deal with them! This was just one of the small gestures that made a huge impact on our startup. There are so many people I am grateful to who made all kinds of contributions to our business.

In your words, can you share a few reasons why great customer service and a great customer experience is essential for success in business?

It is said that every good experience is shared with three others, and every bad experience is shared with ten others. If you have a turnaround/”wow” moment, you are more likely to share that. Investing in excellent customer service, customer experience, and building playbooks for your teams to follow is essential to delivering a consistent experience that creates happy customers!

We have all had times either in a store, or online, when we’ve had a very poor experience as a customer or user. If the importance of a good customer experience is so intuitive, and apparent, where is the disconnect? How is it that so many companies do not make this a priority?

Very few companies count customer support as an important “investment.” Most look at it as a cost center and try to focus on cost-cutting. On the other hand, companies like Amazon care deeply about customer service and consider it a worthwhile investment. The fact that they invested in features like “May Day” showcases how much they care about CS [Customer Support].

Do you think that more competition helps force companies to improve the customer experience they offer? Are there other external pressures that can force a company to improve the customer experience?

The competition requires you to build a DNA for delivering superlative customer experience as one of your key strengths. Customer expectations change over time, and perceptions around your brand are also impacted by CX [Customer Experience] and hence become a reason for you to improve.

Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided?

Sending thoughtful gifts to customers when things go wrong or when they are in a stressful situation is something that has helped us “wow” them. For example, we noticed a customer had a cat on one of our zoom calls, and at the right opportunity, we gifted her a cute accessory for the pet as a “thank you” to her. This helped our customers understand that we aren’t just a transactional company and that we pay attention to the small things.

Another “wow” experience is the gorgeous Indian art we presented to every speaker at our Propel event earlier this year. There was a very enthusiastic response from every speaker upon receiving the art.

Did that Wow! experience have any long-term ripple effects? Can you share the story?

The art we sent to the speakers made them curious about the significance of the art style and the depicted bird, a peacock, in Indian mythology. And they were posting about our gesture on social media. Anything you do that is thoughtful leaves your customer or partner “wowed” and helps them understand what it is like to work with you.

Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience. Please share a story or an example for each.

A business leader needs to have their team anticipate everything that can go wrong with their customers’ experience and create a playbook to recover from those situations, thereby “wowing” the customer. So, being prepared is the single most important thing to do. I’ve heard how Amex deals with a lost credit card, not by simply blocking the card but also shipping a new one — immediately — wherever you may be — and letting you know which subscription services on the card should be changed.

To create a “wow” CX, the team must simultaneously act with urgency and patience with the customer. For example, if you provide chat offerings for support, responding in under 30 seconds and not closing the chat on the customer if they are delayed, like how we message with friends, is a “wow” experience. For customers used to chat experiences that time out, providing an asynchronous experience is very appealing. So, business leaders need insights into consumer preferences and be aware of the technology to support those insights.

Creating “wow” experiences involves an element of surprise or going above and beyond. So, proactively planning these pleasant surprises and putting a playbook in place for implementing these little extras will consistently create “wow” experiences. It could be something as simple as putting the customers’ logo on their cappuccino (a partner did that for us once!) or sending a “get-well-soon” card or gift when you know a customer is sick.

Are there a few things that can be done so that when a customer or client has a Wow! experience, they inspire others to reach out to you as well?

Ask them! When you’ve just given a great experience to a customer, don’t be shy about asking them to share their experience. You can point them to a review site or even ask if you can get a quote from them. While they are enjoying the moment, make a simple ask!
Also, some experiences with that element of surprise or about recovering spectacularly from a negative situation automatically lend themselves to being stories that customers will share proactively with their network.

Amazon is going to exert pressure on all of retail for the foreseeable future. New Direct-To-Consumer companies based in China are emerging that offer prices that are much cheaper than US and European brands. What would you advise retail companies and eCommerce companies, for them to be successful in the face of such strong competition?

Brands need to create an emotional connection with their customers that can overcome the disadvantage of higher price points. They also need to demonstrate innovation that puts them ahead of the competition and helps consumers see the value behind the added cost. And if they can create consistent “wow” moments and positive shareable experiences/stories with their customers, they will give their brand an edge to win in the face of strong competition.

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. 🙂

A pay-it-forward idea: Many of us have spent a lot of energy trying to reach out to someone for their help or support and have not heard back. While we can’t do this for every person vying for our time, if you recognize someone in need of help, connect and work with them for as long as it takes to help them out as much as possible. Hopefully, someone will do this for you someday when you need a hand.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Follow me on Twitter @srikrishnang.

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


Srikrishnan Ganesan of Rocketlane On 5 Ways To Create a Wow! Customer Experience was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Brad Parks Of Morpheus Data On How To Use Digital Transformation To Take Your Company To The Next…

Brad Parks Of Morpheus Data On How To Use Digital Transformation To Take Your Company To The Next Level

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Fail faster and more often: The ability to deploy small software changes hundreds of times per day compared to once a month or once a year is what makes today’s Digital leaders great. If you can experiment, learn something, and experiment again you will inevitably deliver something that customers really value and beat the competition. This is only possible if you automate processes and break projects apart into smaller logical microservices.

As a part of our series about “How To Use Digital Transformation To Take Your Company To The Next Level”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Brad Parks.

Brad Parks is CMO at Morpheus Data. Morpheus Data is the leader in hybrid cloud application orchestration, helping hundreds of organizations in life science, pharmaceutical, financial services, and other industries unleash productivity and address IT operations skills gaps through their unified software platform. The Morpheus platform enables self-service provisioning of VMs, Containers, Clusters, and Application Stacks into any private or public cloud while staying within policy guardrails. For more information and to request a personalized platform demo, visit www.morpheusdata.com/demo

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

I grew up (and still live) in Denver, Colorado. Wanted to be a ski bum but after school realized job prospects were better in Tech so went into Software Engineering and IT Operations. After a decade working in IT as a practitioner I decided to move to the dark side and shape the products being built by IT technology vendors.

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

Not really a funny mistake but working in software development and IT means a fair amount of time troubleshooting problems which did lead me to develop a certain set of forensic discovery skills being able to analyse problems from different angles and iterate on potential solutions in a very organized way to identify which variable caused the problem. That has been a useful skill to apply to the art and science of product management and marketing.

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?

Too many to count but I am forever grateful to my parents who grew up in very modest circumstances but worked hard to get to a place where they could provide very well for my brother and I. They made sure we had a strong work ethic and an appreciation for everything we had earned.

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’ve been a fan of fantasy and science fiction since I was a little kid. I appreciate the escapism of going into a different world but also appreciate that it’s that kind of creative spirit that leads to innovation in the real world. What used to be science fiction from the mind of authors like Jules Verne is now very much real science.

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

I love our origin story and it’s one of the reasons I joined the company five years ago. We were created by a group of developers who were tasked with the digital transformation of dozens of companies within a private equity portfolio; they built a platform and set of tools to fulfil that mission. They were not thinking about how to sell something or get rich… they just wanted to get their job done. Along the way they realized large enterprises were trying to undergo the same sort of digital transformation so we turned the software platform into a company.

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

The most exciting thing that we see happening right now is actually with the market rather than the platform itself. When we first launched a number of years ago we would talk to senior leaders and large enterprises and they would love our product demonstration and agree that they wanted to improve the speed of their internal software development processes but they didn’t have the right people with the right skills to take advantage of the platform. Today, we see most of those same customers creating Platform Engineering teams who are charted with solving the very problem that we address.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion about Digital Transformation. For the benefit of our readers, can you help explain what exactly Digital Transformation means? On a practical level what does it look like to engage in a Digital Transformation?

About a decade ago we saw a major shift in market where the power of mobile devices, high speed networks, and cloud infrastructure enabled new start-ups to come out of nowhere and challenge established competitors by out innovating them and using the power of software to meet customer needs. One of the more famous examples was Netflix who was able to completely change the nature of providing entertainment and effectively put Blockbuster out of business. ‘Digital Transformation’ is a term often applied to the change that virtually every company in every industry is now going to use internally developed software innovation to improve how they engage with customers and stay competitive.

We’d love to hear about your experiences helping others with Digital Transformation. In your experience, how has Digital Transformation helped improve operations, processes and customer experiences? We’d love to hear some stories if possible.

For a long time, technology was considered a ‘back office’ function to support business operations. Digital Transformation is really a reversal of that reality where every company is in many ways a technology company using software to deliver new customer experiences. For example hotels able to track what needs their rewards members have to then simplify a customer’s travel experience from having a favourite beverage in the room to pre-setting the ideal temperature. This is all done through software development and data analytics requiring a massive amount of automation and cloud computing; the result though is revenue for the company and a best-in-class hotel stay for the customer.

Has integrating Digital Transformation been a challenging process for some companies? What are the challenges? How do you help resolve them?

True transformation is more about people and process than tools and technology. Those who try and code their way through transformation are having a challenge. You must eliminate organizational silos and change priorities plus improve the amount of trust between groups. While this is very much a people and process challenge, the right platform can unify the teams and streamline the work. Morpheus enables developers, security teams, IT, and finance all get what they need from hybrid cloud to help their organizations succeed.

Ok. Thank you. Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are “Five Ways a Company Can Use Digital Transformation To Take It To The Next Level”? Please share a story or an example for each.

Really doing Digital Transformation right is hard and it requires complete organizational alignment. It’s a fundamental shift, not a project and it cannot just be the job of a single team. With that in mind, here are 5 Ways a Company Can Take Digital Transformation To The Next Level:

  1. Embrace uncertainly: Being agile can apply to software development but also to organizations as a whole. Companies must be able to identify a minimal set of requirements with a minimum of information and then start the iteration process despite not having all the details. A problem that many companies face is the inability to move until they have all the information. In today’s world you’ll never have all the information so you need to build resiliency and rapid response into processes so you can change quickly.
  2. Get closer to customers: Digital Transformation is most often used as a term to describe the changes in how companies are interacting with their customers, both internal and external. If done right, internally developed software can completely transform the customer experience and often can result in new lines of business and profit centres for a company. This requires maniacal focus on customer experience from the outside in.
  3. Eliminate boundaries: Organizational rigidity and silos are never a good thing but they are absolutely a death sentence for any Digital Transformation initiative. Use Digital Transformation projects as an opportunity to flatten organizations and facilitate more streamlined conversations across teams. This also requires empowering people do to more at lower levels in the organization. In this way you can eliminate friction from customer to company and across teams like IT operations, security, and application development.
  4. Fail faster and more often: The ability to deploy small software changes hundreds of times per day compared to once a month or once a year is what makes today’s Digital leaders great. If you can experiment, learn something, and experiment again you will inevitably deliver something that customers really value and beat the competition. This is only possible if you automate processes and break projects apart into smaller logical microservices.
  5. Look to the fringes: Digital Transformation rarely starts at the centre or traditional cash cow for an organization. Some of the most innovative ideas come from the most unlikely of places. For those tasked with Digital Transformation it’s important to look under every rock in the organization to find new ways to interact with customers and change what value you are able to bring to those interactions.

In your opinion, how can companies best create a “culture of innovation” in order to create new competitive advantages?

  • Smaller cross-functional teams
  • Give room to experiment
  • Minimize unplanned work

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

I’m a firm believer that most problems in life can probably be addressed with some sort of life lesson illustrated in the movie The Princess Bride. One of my favourites comes from the character Inigo Montoya portrayed by Mandy Patinkin. Specifically, the Spanish swordsman has done the following:

  • Put in the work: Inigo practiced for thousands of hours to become an expert swordsman.
  • Be loyal: Inigo lives to avenge his father but also to look out for his friends.
  • Be ambidextrous: “I know something you don’t know… I am not left-handed” — Inigo is able to fight with his left hand as well as his right.

How can our readers further follow your work?

Please feel free to connect on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/brad-parks-b190464/) Also, check out the Morpheus blog at www.morpheusdata.com/blog

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


Brad Parks Of Morpheus Data On How To Use Digital Transformation To Take Your Company To The Next… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Jorge Olson Of Hempacco and Green Globe International On The Five Ways To Develop More ‘Grit’

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Sports and Exercise — Testing your body and mind in sports and exercise make you practice Grit without the consequences of failing in life. If you test yourself in basketball, soccer, boxing, or martial arts, you’re putting your body and mind under pressure and desensitizing it to pain, failure and overthinking.

As a part of our series called “Grit: The Most Overlooked Ingredient of Success” I had the pleasure of interviewing Jorge Olson.

Jorge Olson is the co-founder and CMO of two publicly traded companies, Hempacco, ticker symbol HPCO, and Green Globe International, ticker GGII. Mr. Jorge Olson was born in Tijuana, Mexico, without running water or electricity, hurdling buckets of water across a block several times per day. Now, Olson is the author of business and inspirational books, as well as an authority on consumer packaged goods, beverages, and wholesale distribution. His partners are super-entrepreneur Sandro Piancone, Cheech and Chong, James Linsey, and Rick Ross.

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?

The business path was chosen for me out of necessity, you see, when you don’t have water or electricity and you see your mother and grandmother work all day, your brain starts thinking of solutions. At first, my solution was to go to school and be a CEO. I know, a long shot for a kid growing up in Barrio Cuatro in Tijuana, but in my brain, the way out was to be a CEO. Why a CEO? Because the poles to bring electricity to the house cost $1,000 each, and I also had to pipe water in, as well as pavement for the ugly dirt street. When the minimum wage is sixty dollars per week in Mexico, I figured a CEO could make enough money to bring utilities to the house.

Besides channeling CEO energy, I also started exploring the art and science of influence, which later fueled my love affair with marketing. After I made it to VP of marketing and later CEO of software companies, I decided to go solo and pivot form corner office executive to start-up entrepreneur. My first company was a wholesale distribution and consumer goods company in San Diego with five hundred accounts, most of them convenience stores. The best practices from software, jumping into consumer goods and twenty-five years of experience prepared me to launch two public companies with my partner Sandro Piancone. They are called Green Globe International Inc., ticker symbol GGII, and Hempacco, ticker symbol HPCO. Sandro and I rang the closing bell at Nasdaq last September.

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?

Oh wow, I’ve had some interesting experiences. From growing up in a bad part of town in Tijuana, half a dozen kidnapping attempts, commuting four hours to college, and seeing my mother studying in the middle of the night at candlelight to finish her degree. I will elaborate on a more recent story, which is a pandemic story that nearly ended our idea of disrupting tobacco’s trillion-dollar industry before we even started.

My friend and co-founder Sandro Piancone and I started a brand of hemp smokables called The Real Stuff, selling CBD-rich smokables targeted at early adopters of hemp cigarettes. I developed the entire experience myself, from the box to the branding, it’s my baby. Sandro and I incorporated it under the name Hempacco and got ready to go out and visit distributors to get sales and book investor meetings for our funding. After the very first meeting, the pandemic hit and we couldn’t get any appointments, since travel was banned. We almost closed the company before it even got started.

To survive the pandemic, we decided to start selling white-label and private label hemp cigarettes, but nobody wanted to travel to our San Diego manufacturing facility to see us and see our factory. These moments are when entrepreneurs have to think out of the box. For us, we started online video marketing, and I recorded daily videos of manufacturing and product development. My main platforms were YouTube and LinkedIn — I used YouTube because of the Google keyword and ranking, and LinkedIn because C-level decision makers are active on LinkedIn. Sandro and I also invented a Hemp Expo in San Diego, and to our surprise, we got buyers to fly in and visit us. They always told us “I wanted to meet the crazy video guys in person.” Our videos were quirky, funny, and informative. This is how we survived the pandemic.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

I don’t expect things to be hard. I always keep a positive attitude. However, the road to success is often sprinkled with obstacles of all shapes and sizes. Taking HPCO and GGII public with Sandro was no exception. Mindset is key for executives and entrepreneurs, and our mindset is always to jump, dig under, and sometimes go straight through obstacles. When Sandro and I sit down to discuss all the problems and the crazy things that happen to us, we never complain. We always laugh and make a plan to overcome them.

The drive to continue when things get hard is not natural. You need to cultivate it and change your perspective on problems, business, and life. For me, it all started in my childhood. When you have to haul buckets of water more than a hundred yards multiple times per day at ten years old, you start building grit. Tough times can take you down or they can develop a drive to succeed. I’ve always felt like an underdog, especially in business. Coming to the USA as an immigrant wasn’t easy. I had to live in a self-storage, I got deported, and I even spent the night in a classroom because I didn’t have two dollars to get back home.

So how did Grit lead to your eventual success? How did Grit turn things around?

After cultivating grit for years, my businesses were a perfect outlet to unleash it. GGII and HPCO are by far both mine and Sandro’s largest undertakings. For starters, it’s not normal to have two publicly traded companies, especially when one owns the other one, as GGII is the major shareholder of HPCO.

Grit allows me to see large problems as a personal challenge and a privileged opportunity. In other words, I use perspective when using my Grit. My new problems are overcoming the public markets, naked shorts, getting funding, and increasing sales. Before, it was surviving the pandemic while staying safe. All of these problems are wonderful, especially when my old problems were getting deported, helping my mother and grandmother get out of poverty and retire, and to bring electricity and water to our rural house in Tijuana, all while staying safe from kidnappings, narcos, and violent crimes. In my mind, my current problems are a privilege, and I can’t wait to tackle new, hard problems as an entrepreneur, and as my life long calling as a missionary. My missionary work started when my mother would take me to orphanages at five years old, and now, I would like to bring shelter, clothing, and food to all of the orphanages in my home city of Tijuana.

Based on your experience, can you share your “5 Things You Need To Know To Develop More Grit”?

Here are 5 Things You Need to Know To Develop More Grit, from Jorge Olson, co-founder and CMO of Hempacco, ticker symbol HPCO, and Green Globe, ticker symbol GGII:

  1. Change your mind — Start by changing your mindset. Positivity has to be your modus operandum.
  2. Read 52 books per year — this will start changing your mindset and give you more confidence in your decisions.
  3. Sports and Exercise — Sports and exercise are some of the most important things you can do to develop grit.
  4. Develop an Exoskeleton
  5. Don’t Overthink, Just Overact

Here are some examples:

1. Change Your Mind — Start by changing your mindset, or the way you see yourself and your environment. Mindset is the way you perceive reality, so change your reality by changing your mind. How do you do this? You start by understanding that your mind is elastic and can change. Your brain is filled with webs of connections between brain cells, and they can change and mold your thinking and emotions. Let’s hack your brain by giving it new information. In the next point you’ll get one way of doing it, with books, and then with sports and exercise, but if you’re not convinced this is what you want, you’ll never change your mind. Change your mind in success and failure, money, relationships, and everything that makes you and others better. Start with language, remove “no” and “can’t” from your vocabulary. Instead, think and talk about what needs to happen to achieve the goal or idea.

2. Read 52 Boks per Year — This comes out to one book per week, and yes, you can read more than that. Is it possible to do this? Do you have time? Yes. Reading and studying is a priority and a must to achieve grit and bend your mind. The other grit developing points all depend on bending your mind to your will, and for that you need lots of information. Fortune 500 executives reed at least one book per week. The most successful entrepreneurs, artists, and the smartest people I know read at least one book per week, probably more. The other points in this exercise allow you to grow your mind, however if you have a bigger brain, you need to fill it, and waiting around for experience will not do it.

3. Sports and Exercise — Testing your body and mind in sports and exercise make you practice Grit without the consequences of failing in life. If you test yourself in basketball, soccer, boxing, or martial arts, you’re putting your body and mind under pressure and desensitizing it to pain, failure and overthinking.

4. Develop an Exoskeleton: When you want to scale your business you’ll fail multiple times, you’ll be rejected, and you’ll hit several walls. This is a normal process in scaling fast, and the faster you scale your business, the tougher you need to be. You need to develop thick skin, so think if it as turning into an exoskeleton. You can’t take things personally, and you can’t let your emotions lead the way to success. Your emotions have a place. They are the fuel that propels you forward, not the one that wants to fight back or give excuses.

5. Don’t overthink, just overact — Life is not perfect, and you shouldn’t try to be either. Accept your behavior and that of others and work with it; apply this to business and in life. I see a lot of paralysis by analysis in business and in other achievement goals like writing a book or changing jobs. In business, if you want to grow exponentially, get investors, or go public, you can’t overthink, you can’t control. You have to have a “good is good enough” attitude and move on to the next goal or problem. The great Steven King says he’s never published a book without mistakes; this single sentence helped me publish and edit more than fifteen books. I always tell potential authors “It’s not how many books you write, it’s how many you publish.” At the moment I have five unpublished books, and it drives me to do something about it.

You want to open or grow a business? Go ahead and do it, develop Grit with the steps above, and get the confidence you need to get investors and grow exponentially. Do you want to write a book or become an artist? What’s stopping you? I bet it’s all in your mind, so bend 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 you when things were tough? Can you share a story about that?

There are so many people in my life that helped me that we can chat about forever. From my mother to my wife, teachers, business partners, and friends. One of my friends would lend me money for college, another would take me home from San Diego State to Tijuana, and the list continues. However, when it comes to Grit, Christian Hoffman gave me a truckload of it in a very short amount of time. My friend and mentor Christian hired me out of Tijuana and took me to Germany, showed me work ethic, and Grit, as a matter of fact, he’s the toughest person I’ve known in my life, a larger than life six foot four German, an executive in a software company, former butcher, and business superstar. He catapulted my business career from poverty to CEO in less than a yar. How is that possible? Well, this is why he’s the man!

I met Christian in San Diego while teaching him Business in English in a language school, and we became great friends. After hanging out for a summer, he offered me a job in Germany. This was my shot, and everything else I’ve done was a result of that shot. This was not only an incredible opportunity to work, but to fulfill my lifelong dream of traveling in Europe.

“You’ll be the first one in and the last one out,” Christian told me. I did everything he asked in the business and exceeded his expectations when I came back to the USA and broke the software sales record in my first quarter. He exceeded my expectations in everything, including monetary compensation. Christian gave the shot to make my dreams come true, retire my mother and grandmother from working all day, and even allowed me to travel. To top it all off, he gave my wife and me, both working for him, brand new company cars and a company apartment in Germany, and then in Coronado and in La Jolla in San Diego.

My friend Christian died in his early fortys, a tragedy for his family. My wife and I called him one of our best friends, and sixteen years later we’re still grieving. I still get tears when thinking or talking about Christian.

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

This is the best question ever! I believe entrepreneurs have an obligation to leave the world better than how we found it. This can be making a difference in your family, company, community, and yes, why not, the world. My partner and I are serial entrepreneurs, and we’re also social entrepreneurs, we take on projects that have the potential to change the world.

Sandro and I currently run several companies, two of them are publicly traded under HPCO and GGII. Hempacco (ticker HPCO) is changing the world by disrupting tobacco’s $1 trillion industry with smoking alternatives to nicotine tobacco. We want to help tobacco smokers switch to better smoke. However, this is not the only impact. Our products are biodegradable, including the filter. Cigarette filters are some of the largest contaminants to our land and oceans. We’re a green company and want to pressure the entire industry to think before they contaminate.

Our other company, Green Globe International (ticker GGII) has the mission to help people look and feel better inside and out. We manufacture nutritional supplements and beauty products with GGII.

I feel an enormous responsibility for my employees. I want to make a difference in their life and the lives of their families. I try to be a mentor and offer a great place to work.

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

Yes, let me tell you about three different projects I’m working on:

  1. Writing books
  2. Disrupting tobacco
  3. Feel and Look

Writing Books

Writing is my calling, and I’m publishing books that can help people in all facets of their life. This includes entrepreneurship, motivation, and inspiration. I write both fiction and non-fiction books in Spanish and English. My new book is Build Your Beverage Empire, third edition, my next books are on Wholesale Distribution, Leadership, and a couple of novels.

Disrupting Tobacco’s $1 Trillion Industry

We’re Disrupting Tobacco with smoking alternatives to tobacco nicotine, and we’re doing it by manufacturing hemp cigarettes in many cannabinoids, hemp blunts, cones and tubes. We’re also Disrupting Tobacco by using all-natural and biodegradable ingredients, including the cigarette filter, as assistant filters are some of the worse contaminants in the world. We’re doing this with our company Hempacco, Co. Inc, publicly traded under ticker symbol HPCO

Feeling and Looking Good

Our new line of nutritional supplements and beauty care products will be out this month. We’re working to develop the highest quality products with top-notch ingredients, like the products you find in the most expensive department stores, but at a fraction of the cost. For example, a moisturizer that runs $150 to $250 will be available for $15 to $30.

What advice would you give to other executives or founders to help their employees to thrive?

Be kind. This is one of the most important things you can do for your business, customers, and employees. When you hire, hire kind people, and use kindness in all of your thoughts and your actions. We’re here to make a better world, and it’s not going to happen if you don’t change your employees’ lives.

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

As a child I wanted to be a missionary. I still do, however, when I asked myself this question, the same question you asked, I realized I could influence more people with my writing and speaking, like we’re doing right now. The mission is to build kind and responsible leaders because I think if we can make better leaders, we can bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people. I don’t just mean political leaders. I mean leaders inside the family, in businesses, schools, and even sports. My definition of leadership must be Karma. Leadership Karma means to think of the benefit of others before your own. Simple, but we haven’t been able to do it consistently as humans.

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

Change your mind. Start with changing your mindset, and the way to look at yourself.

When I was twenty my uncle Miguel sat me down for a quick five-minute chat that changed my perspective on life and catapulted me into a self-help phase that lasted fifteen years to complete the first phase. I’m now on my second phase.

My uncles and I were at their house ready to start our weekend carne asada or Mexican BBQ. “I’m picking up my best friend,” I told my uncle and went over to my old three-hundred-dollar car, and the car didn’t start. I tried my best with my lousy mechanical skills, but couldn’t get it to start. I started to come apart, and when I came back into the house my uncle gave me a glance and asked what happened. “The car didn’t start,” I said in my best non-upset voice. My stomach hurt, my temperature was raising, and I was thinking of twenty things that I should have done to prevent this, my anger increasing by the millisecond.

“You look terrible,” said my uncle, sit down and take a deep breath. Turns out I was pale and my demeaner was off. Now I know I used to internalize emotions, and my uncle immediately saw that there was something wrong. “The problem is not the car, you’re the problem,” he said. “Your reaction to a little adversity is extreme emotions, and you’re only twenty years old. If you think you have problems, you’re mistaken, you don’t have problems. If you continue with this attitude, you’re just not going to make it in life.”

I listened, I mean I really listened, carefully, to my uncle’s statement, and decided that minute I would not get angry and not let my emotions get the better of me. On the contrary, I decided I would always have the same level of happiness, in good times and in bad ones. This is how I started on my self help and self-development phase. I started with information. I knew I didn’t have the tools, so I read a book a day on self-help, communications, inspiration, and latter in business.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I’m very active in social media. I use it to communicate with others and share my experiences in life and in business. My handle is almost always Jorge Olson, so when you type that on your TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or YouTube you’ll find me on the spot. I use all of my social media accounts professionally, so feel free to connect on any of them, ask me questions, send me videos or business ideas.

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

You’re so welcome.


Jorge Olson Of Hempacco and Green Globe International 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: Lauren Carroll Of The Montgomery Carroll Group On How To Go From…

Making Something From Nothing: Lauren Carroll Of The Montgomery Carroll Group On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

You need to be leaning into your company full-time: If you really want it to be your career and a strong company you must devote your full attention to it.

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

Lauren Carroll, a decade and counting Senior VP and Partner of The Montgomery Carroll Group, focuses solely on residential real estate solutions. She thrives on finding her buyers the ultimate dream home and ensuring a profitable sale for her sellers. Using her refined property knowledge in a targeted area that she’s practically grown up in is one of her many strengths. Lauren exudes a strong dedication and attentiveness to all she encounters throughout the beginning to end of the home buying and selling process. With over $250 million in residential sales under her belt, she is committed to fierce negotiation and yet can easily create a level of ease to complex processes for her clientele.

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”?

During my childhood, we moved around a lot, but my mother found a wonderful school system where we established real roots in the Boston area and a community with an excellent K-8 school system. I learned early on that I loved to run track and became a state champion in the 100-meter hurdle.

As my mother remarried, I grew up with my stepfather who I got along with well. We enjoyed the same things, operated the same way, and our similar personalities allowed us to form a strong bond.

The hard work of my mother and stepfather taught me to put my best effort into everything I do. They showed me a lot about dedication and it inspired me to apply these qualities into my own business as an independent boss. I also was fortunate enough to have strong friendships, life long companions (some of which I have known since third grade) who helped shape me into the person I am today.

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

I have never forgotten this quote from my high school yearbook. “Give me a place to stand and I will move the earth” by Archimedes

Throughout my life, having to overcome challenges, and being a strong woman to succeed for my family, that quote has remained relevant for me not only today but in every opportunity I have encountered.

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?

While getting your business off the ground in the early days, this requires a lot of sacrifice, however, work-life balance has always been a priority for me. Having control over decision making and being able to support my family were my major motivaters when I started my business.

This book, Letters to a Young Entrepreneur by Ricardo Levy helped me from the start of my business development. In the early years there can be a lot of stress, and unknowns, being able to succeed and the ability to have a helpful tool such as this can give you comfort, direction, and confidence.

A lot of entrepreneurs have a saying “you don’t know what you don’t know”. This book can help gain perspective and speaking from experience, this was a guide for me from the beginning until even now.

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?

In my industry particularly, is marketing. Taking a new idea on how to promote yourself and turning it into an executed plan. It takes a lot of trial and error, and you have to be resilient when trying one of the ideas. Take feedback, make adjustments, be patient, and have the willingness to be flexible. Keep working on it even if it doesn’t produce what you want in the timeframe you had planned.

Specifically, I think forming partnerships is a good idea, but the challenge is finding the balance between personal and professional relationships if you are going into business with someone you know. You should be aware that partnerships can form even if you do not know each other well, but lines of responsibility must be clearly defined. It is important if you want to team up or partner up with someone else to communicate upfront and establish real terms before you form that bond, since once the image goes out and is not handled properly, you may have to start again on your own if it fails.

In sales or any field for that matter, having a good completely original idea can be a challenge. You need to be creative so you can set yourself apart as a leader in your competitive field. This is where setting clear terms, boundaries, and long and short-term goals can support your idea and build confidence as a leader.

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

To me, research begins on the internet. Even if your idea isn’t brand new, you should research it and look around, particularly online, to see whether it’s already been used or not.

Most businesses locally (depending on the industry) are more interested in what people are doing right around me than if it has been done before. If it has been created and established for someone in a competitive position to you, there is always a way to spin it for you. This could be achieved by changing the language, design feature, or execution timing.

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

  1. To really understand how long it will take you until you generate income: When you start your business, do you have a plan for what happens if it takes you longer than you expected to generate income?

Investment in yourself and starting your own business requires a significant amount of personal capital upfront, as well as the energy and capability to go without being paid for an unknown period of time. Everyone needs to be prepared so that they can stay calm and focused on their real goals. It is inevitable that we will spend time and energy worrying about money, but how we approach that can help us succeed.

2. You need to be leaning into your company full-time: If you really want it to be your career and a strong company you must devote your full attention to it.

It’s often that people have a good business idea that they want to try and develop in their spare time or outside of their regular job. It’s been my own experience and those of many I know that in order to really get off the ground, your startup business needs your full attention.

3. As soon as you can, hire administrative help to make your business even more successful: Many times, we take on the role of CEO, as well as other responsibilities. This can take away from meeting clients, creating new ideas, or self-promotion.

Hiring is often lower on people’s list of things to do when they are just getting started. Eventually, we develop the habit of taking on roles and responsibilities that ultimately need to be delegated to someone on your team so you can focus solely on the more important aspects of your business, whether they are building clientele or staying on top of current market trends. There are a host of things that we need to prioritize but in the long run building a strong administrative support system for yourself is imperative.

4. To consider releasing some control: Even though your business is your baby, it is wise to get advice from other resources around you and learn from them.

This leads back to the answer for my third example, and while it’s important to hire before you think it’s necessary, it is also important to listen to your instincts about the ideas you have. It is also essential to consider the advice of those you admire and who have come before you when making strategic business decisions. Reinventing the wheel is not always necessary.

5. Fake it till you make it: There is some validity to that. Many people don’t want to work with a new company that presents itself as unknowing of what it is they are doing.

It’s difficult to feel fully confident when you don’t know what you don’t know. Or every direction your business is going to take in your early years. However, projecting to the world that you know what you’re doing will help you gain success.

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?

Trial and error will happen so lean into that. Take your idea or your product and test your prototype in every possible manner. Review your product with peers, and survey groups where possible.

You may choose to invest in paying a marketing firm to run a focus group for you to help you consider every possible positive and negative outcome. Your product may seem to serve everyone or a certain group, but you should invest time and energy into knowing who you think your product will best serve.

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?

Yes, if it’s within your budget and means. It wouldn’t hurt to speak with someone who has experience in executing new ideas. It doesn’t mean that you take everything they say word for word or execute the strategy exactly as how they presented it, but I think in most situations you would be fortunate enough to hire a consultant. All it can do is gain additional perspective. I believe you should also stay true to your own gut instincts for your own business — that’s what makes it unique!

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 think this is very much a personal decision. There can be great benefits for either, but I would choose a bootstrapper. In most cases, venture capitalists take your company in the direction they want which gives them some level of control and decision making. Then again, what happens to your business can be beneficial, because the venture capitalists are willing to invest in you and can accelerate your business’s growth. There is nothing wrong with getting help if you need it.

However, I think there is a lot to say about pulling your own funds and having full decision making control. Although it may take longer, I personally feel that I will be more successful in the long run. If you are creating a business that is founded in something you love and truly believe in, creating it on your own will most likely feel more authentic and give you a greater sense of personal strength over the course of your life.

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

I believe so. The examples I can share with you are I take every opportunity to foster new agents who need guidance getting their business started. Nothing really makes me feel better than helping new agents learn the ropes, answering their questions, giving them confidence, and my opinions on their next best steps. I try to support new people in my industry because I remember how scary it can be in the beginning.

I take every client and sale I have very seriously. I try to bring as much ease into my client’s life as possible for the time period we are in high contact. I want this part of their life and this major transition to be a joyful one. My goal is to leave people knowing I was helpful, so I consider making people happy to be good for the world.

I donate to causes that are important to me. I support one particular child through an amazing nonprofit that focuses on children in certain communities that need an extra hand. My own hard work and success allow me to help people in my own community every year. Everything from donating my change balance at CVS to making food for families when one parent in my community is sick or injured. I particularly try to make small deeds of service when I am having a bad day for myself. It’s the number one thing that lifts me up. Paying it forward is an amazing way to lift the spirits of others as well as your own.

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.

Lately, I’ve been inspired by videos that I catch online of people going into grocery stores, or various shopping establishments and paying for the orders of families potentially in need. I like the concept of surprising someone you don’t know. I think it reminds us that we are all part of a larger community.

Through the work I do I am often the first introduction to a family in a new neighborhood and I wish for them to have a good experience with that. By surprising someone you don’t know with a lovely gesture, can not only make them feel good in the moment but can make their whole day. This idea can inspire people and spread love, joy, and peace in a simple, quick, and profound way.

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

Well, I love lunch so let’s go with that! This question struck me as thinking of what successful women in my own field of who I would like to pick their brain, so I’m going with Barbara Corcoran.

Arguably one of our country’s most successful real estate brokers, certainly the most famous. In my field, it’s not uncommon or challenging for women to be successful. There are no compensation inequalities that we need to overcome as much as there are in other professional fields comparatively. But it comes with its own challenges.

Running a corporation such as Barbara does take a lot of leadership skills in male-dominated fields. I would love to pick her brain about her success and failures in our business and I would love to hear about the challenges she has overcome to get where she is today.

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


Making Something From Nothing: Lauren Carroll Of The Montgomery Carroll Group On How To Go From… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Making Something From Nothing: Wanda Malhotra of ‘Crunchy Mama Box’ On How To Go From Idea To…

Making Something From Nothing: Wanda Malhotra of ‘Crunchy Mama Box’ On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Work smarter not harder. When you are struggling, reassess and make the necessary changes. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it, outsource. When you are working too hard and not getting the expected results it’s time to bring in experts and stick to what you love and do best.

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

Wanda Malhotra is the Founder of Crunchy Mama Box eco marketplace as well as a Certified Health Coach and mother of three. Wanda was born and raised in the fertile lands of Brazil, where she learned about botanicals, holistic healing, and Ayurveda which she now shares with a community of families looking to learn, cultivate and grow their commitments to better living.

Prior to starting the company, Wanda spent over 20 years in the natural cosmetic industry creating vegan and organic skincare, henna, and plant-based hair products and developing corporate wellness events. Today, Wanda uses her healthy living experience to cut through the clutter of the wellness industry and provide consumers with only consciously curated brands that truly promote a sustainable lifestyle.

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 Brazil, where I learned about botanicals from various regions in the country, including the Amazon Forest. Growing up I learned about holistic healing and Ayurveda from a young age, all of which fostered my “crunchy lifestyle”. My heritage is equal parts Italian and Indian, my Nonna Anna and my father Raj, both showed me how to take care of myself using the best of what nature provides.

Brazil is a melting pot with a mixture of cultures and traditions with immigrants from all over the world, including my own family. I was raised in a multicultural environment. I attended an American school in Brazil with students and faculty from all over the world. By being introduced to diversity from a young age, I acquired a strong desire to learn and connect with different cultures and always loved traveling to places where I can experience all of it in person. From this exposure, I learned to work with people regardless of status or race. I became more open-minded and aware of the rest of the world, which led to my desire to create an impact on our planet and communities.

Both my parents are entrepreneurs, I was able to learn from their endeavors and even more from the obstacles I so closely watched them face. I learned to adapt to change, and that mistakes can be great learning opportunities if you see them that way and keep moving forward.

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

“You never know what’s around the corner. It could be everything. Or it could be nothing. You keep putting one foot in front of the other, and then one day you look back and you’ve climbed a mountain.”

― Tom Hiddleston

I have been surprised so many times in my life that I try to keep my eyes (and ears) open. I love talking to people, I am interested in people’s experiences and learning about their story. I’ve learned invaluable lessons from conversations with people of different ages, professions, and backgrounds. You can meet someone who will share something so important for your business or your life in the most random places. You never know where your life will take you, and that is why I love to observe, listen, and be surprised by opportunities in places never expected. Networking events are great, but sometimes a visit to a small village can transform your life. I like to think back to the places I’ve been, the people I’ve met and see how they inspired me. This also motivates me to keep going, knowing there is so much more to learn and accomplish.

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 love the book Banker to the Poor by Muhammad Yunus; I’ve read it a few times. This autobiography of the world-renowned, visionary economist who came up with a simple but revolutionary solution to end world poverty — micro-credit, has kept me motivated to keep looking for different ways in which I can give back to the community and the planet. I hope that through Crunchy Mama Box I can help artisans, small businesses, and families from all over the world offering my own contribution to empower minority groups.

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?

There are so many great ideas, but whether it becomes a business or not depends on how much you believe in your ideas and how much work and time you are willing to put into making it a successful business. I’ve had business partners in the past with fantastic ideas, but if the business didn’t quickly make a profit, they were just as quick to give up and move on to something else.

The way I see it is, there comes a time when you must decide to make changes or improvements to your business to keep it going. However, giving up on what you truly believe and moving on to something that just pays the bills, will just make you frustrated and unhappy. I agree that we all want to thrive and not just strive the entire time, so to keep yourself focused on your goal, you need to really love your idea to keep yourself motivated to make it happen in one way or another. The journey can have changes but not the mission.

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?

People can have similar ideas, but if and how they execute the idea is what makes all the difference. If you dismiss an idea, it’s either because you don’t believe you can make it happen or you fear that someone can do it better (our fears can fog our vision). I have seen similar ideas transform into completely different products and in some cases geared towards different audiences. If you have an idea that you are truly passionate about, don’t dismiss it before going through the process of visualizing it already happening, doing the research and creating a business plan on how you will make it happen. Start taking action and enjoy the journey. That sounds easy, but it isn’t, that must be combined with persistence, determination, and consistent work, while believing in your abilities and always working to improve them. Ideas don’t become successful overnight, you must have patience, build the right team, stick to your values and keep on going despite the challenges you will face, while making necessary changes, always focusing on the final result you want to achieve. Try not to listen to negative opinions that sometimes come from family and friends, who although have your best interest, might let their own fears or bad experiences try to convince you your idea won’t work because theirs didn’t. We are not all the same, we do things differently, and just because it doesn’t work for one person doesn’t mean it won’t work for another. Be ready to pivot if you have to, but don’t give up on your dreams, keep going believing in the end result.

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.

If you are going to file a patent, this is the first thing you should do before reaching out to a manufacturer or a retailer to introduce your idea. My advice is to first hire an attorney to help you structure your company, file your patents and register your trademark.

The next thing is finding a good manufacturer that will embrace your idea. If your plan is to start by bootstrapping and have limited funds this might be a bit of a challenge. You have a vision of an awesome product, but you have to make it into a marketable product in terms of price and packaging. You will have to think outside the box and be open to different possibilities to make your idea viable and keep the costs down. The ideal manufacturer will be the one who understands your idea and will use their know-how and experience to help make it into a product in the most cost-effective manner.

Finding the right retailer can also be a challenge. When you launch a product, you dream of having it sold everywhere, at all your favorite retailers. Here’s another journey that must be well thought in order to achieve the desired result. You need to make sure the retailer’s audience is the right one for you or you will be just another SKU and not a best seller. You want to see your products fly off the shelves, so choosing the right retailer to start your journey is very important. Choose a retailer whose values are aligned with yours, that understands the importance of what you have to offer and how you can grow together. This collaboration is crucial to grow your brand.

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

1- Work smarter not harder. When you are struggling, reassess and make the necessary changes. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it, outsource. When you are working too hard and not getting the expected results it’s time to bring in experts and stick to what you love and do best.

2- Don’t settle for your comfort zone. This applies to work and personal relationships, just because something is familiar doesn’t mean it’s right for you.

3- Not everyone shares the same values and work ethics. I had to learn that the hard way.

4- Don’t take things personally. When you get rejected in business, take it as a way to reassess and improve your product or service. A “no” can become a “yes” later on, when the time is right or when you’ve made the necessary changes.

5- Everything is always working out for the best, open your eyes and see beyond the problems. During moments of stress sometimes you cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel. The times I’ve faced my hardest challenges, I’ve stopped to meditate, take time off, enjoy my children and spend time taking care of myself. It is when you can distance yourself from all the stress that you can see more clearly. When I was younger, I would let it take over my life to the point that I would burn out. I wouldn’t allow myself to stop, reset and then go back to figuring things out.

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?

How passionate are you about this idea?

How many more people would be passionate about it? What problem does it solve?

What feelings would this product evoke in your target audience?

Where would you see it being sold? Can you put a price on your product/service? Who would be able to afford it?

How many people and what skills would you need to create your product?

Would you need outside investment, or could it be self-funded it in the beginning?

Do as much research as you can and see if you’re still in love with your idea and the process it takes to get it to market.

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 they can hire an experienced consultant to give them guidelines on how to get started, if they are not sure where to start, that would be very helpful. Sometimes you start off well but reach a phase where you feel stuck and need an experienced consultant or mentor to help you find solutions to keep moving forward. If you are truly passionate and by now know it is a viable idea, persist even if you have to pivot a little, keeping your focus on your goals that will make your idea happen.

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 have bootstrapped all my ideas since I’ve started in business. That doesn’t mean I’m not open to looking for venture capital when the time is right for my business. If you are testing the market or want to have more control in the beginning, I recommend bootstrapping. It really depends on your business model and how you plan to scale.

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

My core value and mission are to contribute as much as I can to make the world a better place.

I am passionately committed to environmental conservation, animal protection, education, and social responsibility. I have created, volunteered, and donated to social projects in every business I have been involved in as a founder, consultant, or collaborator. As my business grows, my plan is to expand the ways in which I give back.

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 hope that through Crunchy Mama Box we can inspire a global movement that will promote sustainability, health, wellness and community. Our goal is to create a “Giving Back Chain” where together we support women-owned, minority, small, and sustainable businesses that also do their part by making clean, healthy products, and that are motivated by a cause. It’s a requirement for any brand we onboard that they also give back to charity in some capacity as Crunchy Mama Box is always thinking of customer health, the planet and others. This is our movement. Everyone giving back together, our vendors, our customers, and our team, all sharing the same mission to protect our planet and our people.

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

Before I tell you the person I would love to meet, I’d like to share that a big influence for me since I was a child was Anita Roddick. She spoke of human rights, fairtrade, and zero tolerance for animal testing. She was revolutionary at the time and very inspiring. She was one of the first to shape ethical consumerism, something very close to my heart. She is unfortunately not with us anymore.

Holly Branson, the Chief Purpose and Vision Officer of the Virgin company is someone I deeply admire. She is helping transform the business world into a force for good. I love her goal to help people who are creating solutions with a purpose, whether it is a product or a service. Her work is inspiring and is helping create an impact in the world. Having a conversation over lunch or breakfast with Holly Branson would be a dream come true for me.

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


Making Something From Nothing: Wanda Malhotra of ‘Crunchy Mama Box’ 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.

Making Something From Nothing: Ogaga Johnson On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Allow your team to fix their mistakes.

Sometimes, it is easier to do the work than explain how to do it. I realized that for my team to grow, I had to allow them to do the work and if they get it wrong, coach them to identify what went wrong and ask them to redo it.

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

Ogaga Johnson is the founder and CEO of the Ogaga Johnson Company, a Project Management Education and Consulting company that helps individuals and organizations turn their ideas to reality using Project Management techniques. She has educated and helped 5000+ professionals across 5 continents gain clarity, launch, and advance their careers in Project Management.

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

I grew up in a family of six (6) in Lagos, Nigeria. Aside from my parents’ careers, they operated various investment and business ventures to provide for me and my siblings. They valued education and gave us the best education and opportunities available. This is one of the reasons why we moved to the United Kingdom when I was a teenager.

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

“With God all things are possible” has to be my favorite. Knowing that impossibility is nothing has helped me to take bold steps and make bold moves despite fear. Whenever fear or doubts come, I remember that with God all things are possible and that motivates me to continue pressing on and breaking barriers. I remember putting this into action for the first time in secondary school. I was told that mathematics and further mathematics were difficult subjects to pass, so I told myself that I can pass and get a distinction because with God all things are possible and that’s exactly what happened.

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 has made a significant impact on me. It has and is still shaping my life. Whenever I read the Bible, I believe it, put it into action, and I see it become my reality. It’s real to me and it’s filled with wise words to live by for a fulfilling 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?

This is so true and reminds me of a popular saying by Les Brown, “the graveyard is the richest place on earth, because it is here that you will find all the hopes and dreams that were never fulfilled”

Based on my experience and that of my clients as a Project Management Consultant, I will share five (5) things to do to take an idea to launch.

1) Write the idea down:

There are so many things and responsibilities vying for our time daily. Writing your idea down and putting it in visible places helps you to remember your idea. Because if you can’t remember it, there is no way you can launch it.

2) Have a plan:

This doesn’t have to be a detailed plan. It can be very high-level such as: Brainstorm, Market research, Features, Execute, Test, and Launch.

Having a plan helps you to create a structure and timeline that you can follow to take your idea to launch.

3) Have a team:

Have a team of people you can brainstorm your ideas with and work with. It can be your partner, children, family members, and friends. Or even a consultant, coach, or mentor. Surround yourself with a team of people that are rooting for you and want you to succeed. There is always strength in numbers and safety in having many advisers.

4) It is possible

This is very important because doubts and fear will come. Imposter syndrome would make you feel like a fraud and tell you that you can’t do it. Even if the idea has been done before, there is a unique perspective you can bring to it that no one else can and that’s your unique selling point. Your mindset is very important. Believe you can do it and you will. As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.

5) Now is always the perfect time

Saying “I will start working on the idea after project A or when I’m on holiday” is not true because when that time comes, there might be something else “more” important that comes up unexpectedly. Now is the perfect time to start.

Go ahead, start working on that idea, right now.

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?

There is nothing new under the sun! Yes, someone else might have thought about your idea and even launched it. However, you are unique and can bring a unique perspective to the idea so don’t dismiss it.

Research on the internet, the great thing is that we have access to information at our fingertips via Google. Search to see if it has already been created or what similar products are out there.

However, as I said before, remember that even if it has been created, there is a unique perspective you can add to that idea that no one else has thought of. Don’t dismiss the idea.

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.

Once you have an idea, write it down.

Gather your team, doesn’t have to be a big team. A group of people you trust and want you to succeed who you can brainstorm ideas with and advise you.

Perform market research to see what’s out there and how you can make yours better or stand out.

Have a plan and include timelines, this will help you keep track of the implementation of the idea.

Market it. Identity your target audience or ideal customers and get early adopters of your idea. They would help provide feedback which is so valuable and useful to improve your product before going public

Launch it. Get it out to customers. You can decide to do a phased or full release.

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

This is an interesting question. Leading a company is a life-long learning journey. Here are my five (5) things:

1) You need a team to scale your business, you can’t do it alone.

I didn’t have a team for 2 years in my business, I didn’t realize how I was limiting my company’s growth. When I hired my first team member, I saw how much growth we had and within a year, my team grew to 7 members and so did the company revenue.

2) How to hire staff.

My first hire was a total disaster. The wrong fit skill and culture wise for my business.

3) Allow your team to fix their mistakes.

Sometimes, it is easier to do the work than explain how to do it. I realized that for my team to grow, I had to allow them to do the work and if they get it wrong, coach them to identify what went wrong and ask them to redo it.

4) Be ready to wear multiple hats.

I had to do marketing, design, customer service, accountings, everything including areas I had little knowledge of. Be ready to learn and pick up new skills.

5) Learn to be your own cheerleader.

There are many times when I wanted to give up and quit. Learn to clap for yourself and tell yourself that you are doing well.

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?

First step is to conduct a market research to understand business viability and path to invention for the product

Second, identify your stakeholders including team members you need

Next, work with the stakeholders and team to work on the product to launch including defining the product, identifying the features, plan the development, testing, providing feedback, and product release.

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

It depends on the individual. Having a coach or consultant most times helps fast-track the process and help you on the right path. If you can afford one, go for it.

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

The idea of project management never occurred to me while growing, because of the career uncertainty surrounding people who never studied professional courses such as doctors, engineers, and lawyers.

When I transitioned to project management from engineering, it was the perfect fit.

Now, I educate students and professionals about Project Management, help them launch and grow a career in Project Management with a focus on helping immigrants to launch their careers in their new countries so they can thrive and have successful careers. I also help organizations deliver results by launching their ideas or strategy.

I have been privileged to educate and help 5000+ professionals across 5 continents gain clarity, launch, and advance their careers in Project Management globally.

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.

It would be in the immigration space. People spend huge amounts (thousands and hundred thousand to immigrate) and it’s so painful to see them struggling or barely surviving in their new countries with their years of experience, expertise, and brilliance. I would like to help more professionals who are immigrants to launch their careers or businesses in their new countries without having to take up survival jobs or underemployment through mentorship, education, and job matching.

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.

That person would be Ali Abdaal because of my husband. My husband loves watching and learning from him and so do I. It’s inspiring to see how he is growing multiple successful businesses and influencing online. Also, he loves to teach, so do I and my husband. Would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with him.

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


Making Something From Nothing: Ogaga Johnson 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.

Christina Kozlov Of Plenty of Fish: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Hire the right shooters. After you’ve clearly articulated the goals, you need to ensure you have the right people to get the job done. Hiring the right people is mission critical.

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

As the Chief Marketing Officer at Plenty of Fish, Christina oversees brand, performance marketing, and public relations for one of the largest global online dating companies — impacting millions of lives. With 20-years experience in performance and brand marketing at leading consumer-facing technology companies, Christina brings a holistic approach accelerating brand momentum and measurable business results.

As vice president of global marketing at Rosetta Stone, Christina led a 50% sales growth solely through marketing, leading a 60-person global team.

While working with the Bing and MSN brands at Microsoft, Christina created a brand strategy that disrupted the category. At Expedia Group, she oversaw all aspects of Expedia.com’s $35M online advertising program.

Christina lives in Seattle and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Russian Studies from Barnard College, Columbia University, and an MBA with concentrations in Marketing and International Business from the University of Washington.

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

My career path was definitely not a straight line! I started my post-college career in international relations focusing on the former Soviet Union, primarily in educational exchange and business development. After a few years, I went back to school for my MBA. I intended to focus on international business but caught the marketing bug and ended up with a double concentration in international business and marketing.

What I love about marketing is similar to what I loved about Russian Studies — the duality. Marketing is a complex relationship between art and science. To me, you can’t have one without the other. There’s the focus on performance and attribution which attempts to be as logical and scientific as possible, yet does have some art to it. And then there’s the subjective artistry of creative that is equal parts data-driven and pure magic when done well.

All of this fueled my career through a variety of businesses and industries that I felt a connection to, but nothing quite as magical as Plenty of Fish. When you think about what business we are in, it’s helping to foster human relationships and connections — and if we’re lucky, love. What could be better?

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

I hate to say it but there are several so I will try to pick just one! My favorite was probably when I was at Expedia early on in my marketing career. Our UK office was having great success selling travel via infomercials — long form television ads. Our leadership was curious about our ability to mimic that success in the US. I was asked to drive this effort. It was a bit of a hot potato on the team but I was green enough to see it as a great opportunity to try something new. I was involved in every phase of development, completely hands on…and it failed miserably. I will never forget sitting in a conference room with our leadership team reviewing the results after the test. The performance was awful. I actually had to point out that the numbers in the deck were the actual numbers — they were not multiples of 1,000 or even 100. It was a spectacular failure and we learned so much about what did and didn’t work for the US travel market. Most importantly, I learned the value of failing. As long as you are learning quickly and applying those lessons to the next thing, failure is usually a blessing.

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

We’re a bit unique in the world of online dating. So much of social media and dating online is focused on appearances. There’s a desire to curate experiences and personas to such a degree that it’s hard to tell where the image ends and the real person starts. Plenty of Fish is all about being your real, authentic self. It’s not about creating an image that may not truly reflect who you are. We were the first online dating site to ban face filters for this reason. We are for people who want a more relaxed dating experience and to feel comfortable being themselves.

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

Of course! We are continuing to promote a more welcoming dating experience by encouraging healthier behaviors on Plenty of Fish. We launched the campaign with the Gallery of Dick Pics (https://virtualgallery.pof.com/) which brought attention to a much despised online dating behavior — the unsolicited dick pic — and we will continue to turn bad behavior on its head by promoting a more positive approach. We’ve rebranded the app and site to present a fresh modern look to our users. And we’re launching pre-match experiences to enable people to meet more naturally like in real life. Our first initiative in that vein is Cue’d Up, our interactive game that provides daters with an opportunity to get to know one another in a more relaxed and fun environment. Stay tuned for more!

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

It’s simple — I wouldn’t. Gone are the days — with a few exceptions — of brands that can afford to have brand building budgets that are evaluated solely by positive movement in brand health metrics. Now all marketing needs to demonstrate value to the bottom line. Thankfully there are some incredible attribution models out there that enable marketers to understand the value of marketing throughout the funnel — not just at the bottom. For that reason, I don’t view marketing as a world of performance and brand — it’s all marketing.

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

I love to refer back to a quote from Henry Ford to explain the importance of investing to build a strong brand: “A man who stops advertising to save money is like a man who stops a clock to save time.” It simply doesn’t work. Some brands are very lucky in that they do not need to invest a great deal to establish their brand early on. They hit the market with perfect timing and a product and brand that instantly connects. But that’s the exception and not the rule. Even those companies hit a plateau where they need to invest just to remain relevant and grow their connection with consumers. Building a brand enables a company to have a relationship with its customers such that it transcends the product. At least half of the value of Coca-Cola is brand equity. It’s a brown carbonated sweet liquid. It’s not unique. It doesn’t really do anything that another brand of brown carbonated sweet liquid couldn’t mimic. But not to its customers, because they’ve formed an emotional connection to the brand that gives the product more meaning.

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

  • Be clear on the problem you’re trying to solve with your brand. One of the most frequent questions I will ask is — what are we trying to accomplish? This question is never more important than when you are defining your brand. What value are you delivering to your customers? What is lacking in the market? What is the emotional connection that’s currently missing? If you don’t know what you are trying to solve, your brand will be built on shaky ground
  • Know thy customer. For me, this is mission critical and I cannot emphasize it enough. Invest in the research to understand your core target audience — what makes them tick, what their hopes and dreams are, what they do in their free time, how they consume media. Understand what sets them apart from other potential customers and what’s most important to them. And then understand what percentage of potential revenue they represent so you have more clarity on the business opportunity. Only once you have an in-depth understanding of your key target audience, can you start to develop the right creative, buy the right media, and create meaningful campaigns that will resonate with them. It also enables you to enhance the product in meaningful ways.

A lot of companies get this step wrong. They look at the customers that are coming to them and simply try to find more who are similar. But how do you know those are the right customers for your brand? Often those are not the people who represent a greatest value to the business and the greatest customer potential.

  • Paint the bullseye. This is the most important role for marketing leaders. If you’ve clearly outlined the end goal, what it looks like, and why it’s important, then your team will understand the opportunity and their role in attaining it. It sounds simple, but so many marketers miss this step and then wonder why things aren’t going well. Clarity is essential.
  • Hire the right shooters. After you’ve clearly articulated the goals, you need to ensure you have the right people to get the job done. Hiring the right people is mission critical.
  • Get out of their way. And then, don’t micromanage. Get the right people in place and get the heck out of their way so they can do what they do best.

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

There are a few that I truly love. I’m a huge fan of Alaska Airlines. They are user-friendly, they are IRL friendly, and their loyalty program cannot be beat. They have a clear personality that comes through.

My favorite example of a beloved brand though, is Disney. Not everyone loves Disney, and that’s ok. But they have their hooks thoroughly implanted in me. One of the most magical things about having young children is watching them learn about the world and the wonder that lights up their eyes. Walt Disney famously said that he created Disneyland so that parents and children could have fun together — essentially a place where they could all be children together and experience that magic. Disneyland embodies every bit of that to me. My daughters are now teenagers but they still love to visit Disneyland and embrace that playful magic — even with me! And when they have a bad day, they will often put on a favorite Disney movie to cheer themselves up. It renews their positivity and gives them a little magic back in their lives. We are total Disney nerds.

Replicating that is no small task but it comes down to understanding the customers and connecting with them on an emotional level. For me, Disney understands how important it is to connect with my children — at any age — and provides magical experiences to enhance that. The result is that we not only have that connection with each other as we experience the brand, but with the brand itself.

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

As I mentioned, gone are the days of measuring the success of “brand marketing” solely by brand health metrics. Those are still important, but brand efforts also need to earn their keep by having a clear role in driving the business forward. I tend to think about the levers collectively as all marketing, since they all need to work together. I don’t believe in siloing “brand” and “performance”. They need to be interconnected, and work together to drive business and brand health metrics.

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

Social media is an important channel for us. It’s a great way to connect with users on a more personal level than many other media channels. It’s also inspiring to see how users talk about and utilize the brand. What’s wonderful about social media is the feedback loop. We don’t just speak to our customers as much as we hear from them and talk with them. We have learned about a lot of beautiful love matches that people have found on Plenty of Fish this way. Our daters have shared photos and videos of their weddings and babies! It never gets old.

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

That is terribly kind of you and I don’t know if I can fully own that description. That said, I hope we can inspire a movement with Plenty of Fish’s Gallery of Dick Pics (https://virtualgallery.pof.com/) to encourage healthier and more welcoming dating behaviors. The gallery is intended to draw attention to an unwanted behavior — unsolicited nudes — and flip it on its head by showing a photo gallery of men named Richard (aka “Dicks”) to demonstrate a kinder, more friendly way to experience Dick Pics. There’s a lot of negativity in our world today. It doesn’t need to carry into dating. Dating should be fun. We want to encourage people to have more fun dating by being real and kinder to each other, not objectifying and belittling each other. A more welcoming way to date is how dating should be — and that’s what we are trying to encourage on Plenty of Fish.

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

It would be Helen Mirren: “If I could give my younger self one piece of advice, it would be to use the words ‘f*ck off’ much more frequently.”

As a woman in business, I’ve encountered many well meaning men throughout my career — and a few women — who have “encouraged” me to smile more, not be so assertive, not be direct, etc. And frankly, it’s BS. We should recognize that everyone has different strengths and gifts to bring to the table and none of us should be judging those who might not be carbon copies of ourselves. We need to focus on substance and not get distracted by the less important elements. Most women I know, regardless of their career, have encountered people attempting to tell them how to behave — often in ways that you would never hear anyone speak to a man — and it’s just nonsense. This quote reminds me that we all have permission to say “no” and forge our own path.

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

There are so many! If I had to choose one, it would be Hillary Clinton. She is the epitome of grace under pressure. She’s brilliant, accomplished, and yet has experienced such chaos and failure while handling it with aplomb and an amazing sense of humor. She exudes optimism despite her experiences. I truly admire that Phoenix quality about her.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

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

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


Christina Kozlov Of Plenty of Fish: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Meet The Disruptors: Jay Valgora Of STUDIO V On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

I don’t believe in alliterative lists or “mottos.” But I do believe words express a way of thinking.

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

Jay Valgora, FAIA, AICP, LEED AP, WEDG, is founder and principal of STUDIO V, a cutting-edge design practice dedicated to the reinvention of the 21st century city. He leads a talented group of designers creating unique buildings, public spaces, and transformative urban design, reconnecting innovative architecture with urbanism. His designs focus on the edges and gaps of cities — industrial and contaminated sites, divisive infrastructure, former urban renewal, historic and industrial artifacts, and waterfront’s potential to address climate change and reconnect communities.

Jay was born in Buffalo where the abandoned grain elevators and the industrial waterfront inspired him to become an architect. He is a graduate of Harvard and Cornell and a Fulbright Fellow to the United Kingdom. Jay advised on NYC’s Comprehensive Waterfront Plan, was appointed by the mayor to NYC’s Waterfront Management Advisory Board, headed the New York AIA Waterfront Initiative, and sits on the Advisory Board of NYC’s Urban Land Institute. Jay has lived in many cities — but he has never owned a car.

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 begins with climbing fences. I was born in the shadows of the steel mills where my father worked near Buffalo, New York.

When I was young, I would go places I wasn’t supposed to, jumping fences, and climbing barriers to explore cut off waterfronts and abandoned buildings. I was fascinated by the industrial ruins, the towering, abandoned grain elevators, and the seemingly endless industrial buildings where my father worked. I felt like you could see the curvature of the earth in them.

Buffalo is one of the greatest designed cities in America, with magnificent architecture, vast networks of world class parks, and a stunning sense of place along the great inland ocean of the Great Lakes. It’s also evolved into one of the greatest ruined cities in America with industrial decay, abandonment, red-lining, and the destruction wrought through so called urban renewal. This inspired me to become an architect to create buildings that engage the city, breathe new life into abandoned industrial structures, and public spaces that reconnect communities.

Now my work is all about breaking down fences.

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

We solve problems by making them more complex.

Most architects attempt to “solve the problem.” Given a complex problem — they immediately start to isolate complex issues, simplify them, attempting to reach one solution. After finding that solution, the architect works feverishly to convince everyone of the “right” solution and “protect” a design through the gauntlet of client’s needs, budget, and construction.

STUDIO V takes the opposite approach. To solve a problem, add layers of complexity that speak to the underlying forces that created the problem to address that but offer greater richness and meaning.

For example, our design for Empire Stores. This was a competition to transform seven magnificent 19th century coffee warehouses, abandoned for a half century on the most prominent site on the Brooklyn waterfront. The problem: rehabilitate abandoned historic buildings and convert them to commercial uses.

Instead of solving that problem — we created a new one.

The Empire warehouses were called “stores” (as in “ship’s stores”) and together, they comprised “Fortress Brooklyn,” a wall of continuous historic warehouses that originally separated upland communities from their dangerous working waterfront. We immediately made the very unusual suggestion: restore the historic buildings by cutting a hole through the middle of them.

This was a pretty non-intuitive idea, to take a ruin and repair it by cutting a hole through it. But from this way of making a problem more complex, not just “solving” it, we worked with many people to find overlapping benefits: This opening would form a sequence of public spaces to reconnect the community. It would activate the building and promote more complex programs and uses (restaurants, offices, tech showcases, a museum, a public park). It would provide authentic material to repair missing parts of the building (historic brick, timber). It would admit light and life into the heart of structures originally designed to keep coffee beans cold and dark. It would create a public realm to reconnect the community.

The bottom line: the public spaces drove traffic and created a civic realm, connecting the park and community. The commercial spaces became the most successful in Brooklyn. Funds from those spaces support the public programming of the park. Private investment rebuilt buildings that were abandoned for a half century. And Empire Stores won every architecture and civic award the city had to offer.

I like to combine things that don’t belong together- old and new, edge and center. This applies not just to architecture, but how we engage people and process: we work equally with non-profits and developers and government officials and activists. Our projects combine experimental work with huge developments. We wade into situations with intractable problems and create a culture of using design to offer new answers.

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

When I started STUDIO V, designing our own space started off as a disaster.

I founded STUDIO V sixteen years ago and asked a friend if I could rent a few desks in his office. He agreed — but then lost his lease at the last minute! Needing a new office, he found a larger space, but asked me to take half with a ten-year lease. I was terrified but there was no time, and all I wanted was just a few desks!

I took a risk and said “yes” only now we had to renovate a raw space with little time. After a very modest renovation, I didn’t have money to buy furniture and my friend offered to give me his leftovers, odds and ends of a few desks and chairs. I was lucky to hire an amazing first employee, John. He’s still a legend at STUDIO V. When John came in, the office was only partially constructed, and pieces of desks and chairs were lying on the floor. John took one look, and calmly asked for a screwdriver. He offered to put it together so he could sit down and start work.

And I always remember for years after, John said it wouldn’t have been a real startup when he showed up on day one, if he didn’t have to assemble his own desk.

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 greatest mentors come from family and a few remarkable teachers.

My father is a great influence. As a child, he took me to an original, primordial island, the size of Manhattan, covered with woods and lakes in their original unchanged state (we don’t say where, but far to the north). I return throughout my life to this vast and largely still unexplored island, now with my own children. The landscape and experiences of this special place provide a sort of touchstone of utopia that influences my work, and a counterpoint to the island metropolis of New York in which I live.

A few teachers had an outsized influence. At Harvard, I studied under Alvaro Siza, the brilliant, world-renowned architect. Siza taught me the importance of reinterpreting modernism and fusing them with a richness of spatial experience and profound humanism. At Cornell, I knew Colin Rowe who influenced generations of architects. I would sit on juries at Cornell’s first program in Rome, then walk around the ancient city while Colin made extraordinary and wild leaps of insight into the relationship of classical ideas and the modern world.

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?

Cities are our greatest work of art, and my work is all about the reinvention of cities.

But one of the most disruptive urban transformations in the history of cities was a drastic form of city reinvention called “Urban Renewal.” Urban renewal was one of the most destructive transformations of our urban environment. It destroyed entire neighborhoods, tore through them with infrastructure, and used devastating tools like red-lining and “blighting” to erase large areas of collective history.

The two historical events that most influence my work are industrialization and urban renewal. Much of my work focuses on the edges and gaps these forces left within our cities and the opportunity these sites offer today. My designs attempt to restore and reinvent sites that bear the scars of industrialization and urban renewal and invest them again with the richness of meaningful forms, public spaces, and history, to weave them back into the community.

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

I don’t believe in alliterative lists or “mottos.” But I do believe words express a way of thinking.

So here are five simple words I use every day:

“see” looking and seeing are not the same things; we look in order to “see”.

“draw” the first step to seeing — drawing is choosing, representing, seeking.

“create” the act of making starts with seeing and drawing.

“explore” making requires questioning and evaluating every choice.

“recreate” both senses: starting again and refreshing: beginning the process all over.

In a world of computers and complexity, I still draw by hand every day, working with a talented group of people and using these five simple words to infuse the process of everything we design.

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

We’ve spent years building up our practice and skills to reinvent communities and cities. Now we’re ready to reinvent ourselves.

We just purchased a small building in Manhattan a few blocks from our current space, in which we will move our Studio. Our goal is to re-make and redesign ourselves. We have to decide what will define the next stage for STUDIO V and are looking at some exciting ideas: how will we engage the street with a storefront studio? How can we create a more creative workplace? Can we create a garden for our designers?

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 listen to podcasts, go to lectures, stay up into the night talking ideas with friends and strangers. I love to read, but for “deep impact,” you’ve got to go for the stuff that transcends.

So I’ll toss out the poet Virgil, and his great work, The Georgics.

It’s the strangest thing: sort of a classical Farmer’s Almanac. It’s ostensibly about “agricultural matters” and a description of how to raise crops and livestock. But as an architect, it’s really a remarkable poem that defines a way of thinking about how we make our world. It’s a dissertation on man’s place in the world, how we make and cultivate our vision of that world, and a wild utopian and dystopian ride into our greatest aspirations, fears, and dreams.

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

As part of the disruptor vibe, I’m going to swerve from the life lesson deal, and go for something that speaks more to me. I’m talking poetry, and I see Walt Whitman as one of the first to express a truly American “voice.”

Here’s a tiny piece of the poem “Under Brooklyn Ferry,” better known as “the Sun-Down poem.” Whitman does this crazy thing; he reaches out to us from the past, from his time into our time, and literally speaks to us. And he speaks incredibly optimistically, describing the growing and exuberance of the city around him, knowing we will live and experience it as he did, and offering us a vision of the individual and the city:

Just as you feel when you look on the river and
sky, so I felt,

Just as any of you is one of a living crowd, I was
one of a crowd,

Just as you are refreshed by the gladness
of the river, and the bright flow, I was
refreshed

The poem combines so many things that I think about, all the time. The river and the city’s edge. How we are drawn to the edges of a city, temporarily leaving it and yet within it. Whitman speaks about what makes our collective experience in the city. And in an incredibly optimistic way, he fearlessly speaks to you and me, knowing we will hear him, and understand him, giving us hope and a greater sense that we are part of a collective enterprise that encompasses all of us.

It’s helpful to remember today — this is a guy who lived during a devastating time of dramatic upheaval and civil war, but he was one of our greatest unrepentant optimists.

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 offer a new riff on the building code. It would require a garden or green space, for every residence, for every person. Not a luxury — but a necessity for living.

How can our readers follow you online?

Check out our work on instagram

Even better: go see our buildings and spaces IRL

Visit Empire Stores, climb up through the public courtyard to the rooftop park, and write us a note, letting us know what you think.

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


Meet The Disruptors: Jay Valgora Of STUDIO V 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.

Ryan Niddel of MIT45 On 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Scale Your Business

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

To successfully scale your business from start up to small business it is paramount that you have established a market/message match. You need to ensure that people actually find value in your product, good, or service. I see so many early-stage business owners pushing to make products or create complicated marketing and sales systems to support a business that has not passed proof of concept yet. Early-stage businesses need to presell products to help dial in the messaging and process through the real-world experience of building the business. If no one cares about your new greatest idea or invention, then they won’t buy it and the business won’t be able to exist for long.

Startups usually start with a small cohort of close colleagues. But what happens when you add a bunch of new people into this close cohort? How do you maintain the company culture? In addition, what is needed to successfully scale a business to increase market share or to increase offerings? How can a small startup grow successfully to a midsize and then large company? To address these questions, we are talking to successful business leaders who can share stories and insights from their experiences about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Scale Your Business”. As a part of this series, we had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Ryan Niddel.

Ryan Niddel is a CEO, Board Member and Entrepreneur. He is also the leading authority on improving revenue of companies by improving EBITDA through increased operational efficiency, lean manufacturing principles and more. He has helped with the acquisition or exit of more than 11 companies while seeing their collective revenue surpass more than $237M. Niddel has successfully tripled the revenue of more than 5 companies in under 2 1/2 years adding an extra $950M in valuation to these companies.

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

I am a Midwest man at heart. I was born and raised in Ohio and still reside there today. I grew up the son of two hard-working, middle-class parents who saw tremendous value in pushing me to earn my own way for things that I found value in. This led to my first entrepreneurial journey at 10 years old, a local lawn care business. I went door to door, selling my services to our neighbors. With 4–7 lawns at $10 a piece per week, I got a taste of the good life and was hooked (tongue in cheek). This lawn care business led me to a mentorship relationship, and employment, with a local business owner who showed me what it meant to consistently strive for excellence while putting in a full and hard day’s work. I didn’t fully realize the lessons he was instilling in me, until a few years back. I will be eternally grateful for that opportunity and relationship that lasted until I was 20 years old. I eventually found myself as an affiliate manager for a startup tech company out of Akron, Ohio. Within 6 months of employment, I was able to take over as President and Chief Executive Officer while simultaneously becoming a partner. We collectively grew the company from 10,000 clients to 580,000 clients in two years’ time, before selling off the company to a competitor. Since then, I have launched 2 companies, sold one of the companies (in the CBD space), have helped 11 people exit their companies, launched a small private equity fund, and am now the CEO of MIT45.com.

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

There are two key decisions that helped get me to where I am today. Both involve investing in myself and mentorship that showed me a new way of thinking and being. The first decision was to stop lying to myself, about myself and to others. This came from the wisdom instilled upon me by Garrett J. White and his company, Wake Up Warrior. The tools that I picked up from that season of life are still some of the core pillars of my success today. The next decision was to view reality as something I am creating in every moment of everyday life, and from that space to understand that I have the ability to effortlessly change my reality at any moment. William Lam and John Madson shared that with me through their company called UPGRD which I am still currently working in.

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

I lead an initiative to create stock issuances for all the employees that are helping support the rapid and exponential growth of my company MIT45. Being able to arrive at the idea that it was best for the growth of the company to issue stock to all employees, then to figure out the ideal corporate structure that was able to minimize downside risk while maximizing the future potential, and then to work with our team to create the proper documentation, structure and administration of the issuance was amazing. All of that was trumped by being able to surprise our staff with a company wide offsite where they received their stock issuance changing their net worth forever. It was one of the best, most emotional days of my life.

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

I launched a merchant processing company focused on obscure clients. In consistent pursuit of new sales (growth), I paid little to no attention to the operations, and finances of the business. It took less than a year for me to run the business into the ground. It taught me to create simple systems of tracking and accountability inside of my businesses before I begin to truly scale the revenue. While sales are the life blood of an organization, operations and finance are the backbone.

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

Being mentored by individuals that are further down the road of business and life has allowed me to scale my current business more efficiently and effectively from $5m a year to north of $75m a year in revenue. While paying tithes to the church may certainly be important, paying tithes to the future version of myself is even more important to me. Consistently investing in mentorship and accountability is vital. Mentoring others has been a mainstay of the past 4 years of my life. I run a tight knit and exclusive virtual mentorship group each week. Being able to share lessons I have learned and skills I have obtained over my professional career, see that they are implemented, and then be able to witness others’ continued success is something I cherish each week.

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

My leadership style is a combination of Jack Welch, Ben Horowitz, Andy Grove and Bill Campbell. From Jack Welch I have taken radical candor, extreme ownership, and differentiation. These skills help establish and maintain the culture of my businesses. From Ben Horowitz I have taken the importance of hiring only A players and realizing there is ALWAYS an option. These skills help consistently level up the team that is supporting our rapid growth mission. From Andy Grove I have taken humility, removed communication barriers and focused on teaching others. These skills help me not take myself so seriously and to stop and enjoy the ride occasionally. And from Bill Campbell I have taken holding high standards and expectations while being supportive and completely transparent. These skills simply make me feel better each day. I love knowing that our company’s “high tide” is raising all our ships.

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

  1. To successfully scale your business from start up to small business it is paramount that you have established a market/message match. You need to ensure that people actually find value in your product, good, or service. I see so many early-stage business owners pushing to make products or create complicated marketing and sales systems to support a business that has not passed proof of concept yet. Early-stage businesses need to presell products to help dial in the messaging and process through the real-world experience of building the business. If no one cares about your new greatest idea or invention, then they won’t buy it and the business won’t be able to exist for long.
  2. To begin to move from early-stage small businesses to mid stage a business must dial in its numbers and centralize reporting. I see so many business owners that have crossed the $5m a year revenue hurdle still “winging it’’ when it comes to the critical numbers of their business. Tracking average order value, cost of acquisition, lifetime customer value, accounts receivable balance, cash balance, accounts payable balance and 10–12 more variables on a day-by-day basis begins to allow a business owner to feel more in control of the business and less reactionary.
  3. All businesses need to focus on tax planning and cash flow management but at a late-stage small business ($40m +) these variables become a lot more pertinent. In most businesses Payroll, COGS and Taxes are the three largest expenses. Payroll is a variable that is driven by the market and the quality of talent you wish to attract. COGS are a function of your buyer being able to navigate relationships and dialing in the best terms. Taxes on the other hand are constantly changing and the strategy to support them is always changing. An LLC of the $40m in revenue size is taxed north of 40% a C Corp is taxed around 20%. It is vital that a growing business understands that the same systems that began their growth may not be best to continue it.
  4. As businesses continue to grow into mid-market companies, acquisitions become the most effective and efficient way to grow. This is going to require knowledge of the merger and acquisition process, the ability to find good deals that can be strategically integrated into a company to increase its enterprise value while simultaneously adding profit to the bottom line. Growing from $50m to $80m can happen VERY quickly when you apply leverage to a business versus a process in a business.
  5. The mid to large market cap hurdle will require an understanding of the IPO process and the rules that govern the SEC business game. This feels like learning business all over again. SOX compliance, PCAOB audits, Q-1 and K-1 Filings and so much more. This is also where a new level of generational wealth can be created. By this point in the evolution of most businesses, the founder will have accumulated a good amount of strategic relationships that will help them navigate the waters that are uncharted.

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

Companies that are attempting to scale keep the wrong people in key seats for too long. Every year that a company experiences exponential growth, the roles, and responsibilities of team members in leadership seats (and many others) are almost entirely different than the year before. For example, the sales manager of a 5-person sales team generating $5m a year in domestic annualized revenue would have a much different skill set than the sales manager of a 30 person $100m a year global sales team. It is challenging to keep the team together through each growth season. It is the founder/CEO’s responsibility to encourage people to keep growing, investing in their growth while simultaneously realizing that roughly 20% (or less) will be able to keep up. The more painful reality of rapid growth is…many people don’t actually want to keep up.

Companies that are in midscale do not properly allocate capital towards growth initiatives. This forces them to go to market for capital infusions to continue to grow. The capital either costs them points of interest or dilution of equity. I have been guilty of this in the past. As companies scaled, I began to take larger and larger personal paydays. This had me trigger larger distributions than the business was able to afford for sustainable growth. Leaving capital in the business with a strategic plan for capital allocation is a vital requirement of ongoing sustainable growth.

Founders of rapid growth businesses do not normalize their salaries anywhere near early enough. The role of CEO for every business, in every market has a pay band that should be associated with it. This compensation should be in alignment with what the investment would be to bring in a new, highly qualified CEO. From that place you can see the true viability of the business and its ability to continue to grow. This also allows for CEOs to replace themselves once the business has grown to a point of their incompetence (which every CEO has).

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

A company can preserve its culture by infusing it throughout their hiring and onboarding process. At MIT45 we recorded B roll footage of our 6 offices and personnel interviews which showcase who we are, what we stand for and the cultural standards we adhere to. This video is part of our hiring process. There are questions inserted throughout the process to confirm that a candidate not only watched the video but would be a good fit for the culture of the business. It is also important to reaffirm that same message during the first 90 days of employment. We do that by having all new hires shadow other departments in 2-hour increments with a report on what they learned, what they have questions on, and what they believe could be improved. In addition, each employee spends 2 hours a month in a customer service role to better understand what our customers experience is when dealing with our company. This unifies everyone to the mission, vision, and values of the organization.

Many times, a key aspect of scaling your business is scaling your team’s knowledge and internal procedures. What tools or techniques have helped your teams be successful at scaling internally?

We have created a comprehensive company intranet where we share updates as well as an ever-growing knowledge base. We challenge all employees to document one new process per week, and then get it uploaded to the company intranet for review and understanding. Creating a simple level of available redundancy is paramount as a company grows. Documenting the standard operating procedures of the revenue path for the organization is a great place to start.

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

I recommend Cloverleaf to better understand their internal motivators and personality types. I recommend Lattice to better help employees see the goals of the company and the individuals that are supporting them. I recommend Voxer to keep up with real time auditory updates that impact the company or the individual. I recommend Criteria for IQ and EQ assessments to help ensure the right candidates are qualified for the right seats.

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

I would inspire a movement that shares with people that they are much more capable, much more powerful, and much more deserving of success than they could have ever imagined. All the power to create the life of your dreams resides in you at this very moment. If you tap into it, hold onto it, and own it, life is yours for the creating.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Ryanniddel.com

Rethinking Business Podcast on all platforms

Ryan Niddel on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Tik Tok, Facebook

This was truly meaningful! Thank you so much for your time and for sharing your expertise!


Ryan Niddel of MIT45 On 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Scale Your Business was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Making Something From Nothing: Richard Sharman Of GLADSTN LONDON On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Once you have launched you have to give yourself time — why? Because it takes time for your customers to understand your brand, product and to gain a level of trust before they purchase. Rarely is an idea an overnight sensation! This is important for your funding and for what you focus on after launch. Idea to launch is only one part of the journey. Running and growing your business requires more patience and money!

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

Chief Bag Carrier at Gladstn London, Richard Sharman exhibits a profound appreciation for uncompromised quality craftsmanship and a strong eye for elegant, timeless design. The iconic British brand specializes in luxe, impeccably made bags, the perfect companion for one’s daily journeys.

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 late mother, who was a strong role model for me, was told I was a lucky baby just before she was discharged early from Hospital on the grounds I cried so much! My early years consisted of growing up in a quintessential English Cotswolds village, the sort visited by many overseas tourists each year. My childhood could be best described as: study, sports, fashion and my brother, Christopher.

My younger brother, Christopher was diagnosed as mentally handicapped. Throughout my childhood I began to understand responsibility and vulnerability. My bond with him is very strong and he has always helped ground me and to appreciate the things he struggles with on a daily basis that many of us take for granted.

Reflecting on my childhood two things stood out — my passion and dedication to sport (sadly not quite as much to study) and learning to be prepared to win and lose. I learnt so much from this period of my life through achievement but also as much from my mistakes. There have been a few close calls! However from an early age I was always interested in business and set up my first little venture cleaning cars to earn some money! I also had a love for travel. I was always excited to visit new places on holiday and I have been fortunate in my career to combine business with travel and view the world. That’s where my love of bags comes from!

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

“Not everyone in life has the opportunity to be stressed by the potential to achieve exceptional things” [unattributed].

This has guided me throughout my life. Do your best with what you have and where you are. Don’t waste your talents and sit on the side-lines. Always want to play on the field. Throughout my career I have always had the confidence to back myself which has not always been easy, particularly in difficult times. If you work hard and are dedicated to your cause — whatever it is — then there is a chance you may have the opportunity to achieve exceptional things. Please don’t waste it or expect someone else to earn it for you. It’s easy to sit on the side lines in life and comment on others. It’s much more difficult and stressful to be on the field in the game. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

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

I am not a big reader or listener of podcasts. My reading and learning has always been work focused and I find it difficult to read for pleasure! My daily read has always been the Financial Times and now The Business of Fashion & Luxury Briefing. So let me choose a film! So many that have had an impact. If I have to choose one it would be Top Gun (the first one!). A film that resonated for me in many ways as I was growing up. Style, glamour, aspiration, teamwork, skill, resilience, achievement, sadness and just so amazingly cool! A great piece of entertainment for being in the game and not on the side lines.

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 diving board moment! I know I can jump (the idea) but what happens when I do (business). This is never an easy thing to do and from my own business experience it took a long time to do, perhaps to long. So how can we overcome it?

Firstly don’t beat yourself up for not doing it but ask yourself ‘do I have a passion for my idea or is it just a good idea?’. Do I want to play in the game with my idea or am I happy to be on the side lines watching someone with a similar idea? Often great ideas don’t have the passion to execute attached to them. I think that’s why we find it easier to watch someone else hesitate on the diving board rather than putting ourselves in that position. Confidence to back yourself, having the courage to say ‘I am going for this’, and if I am wrong, I will make a change and still be fine as well as a passion to find a result will give you energy to jump. Running a business is just like jumping off the diving board, it takes true character!

So I am going to do it! But before you do, have a plan and test whether it can work. The will to win should never be as great as the will to prepare to win. Ask family, friends, colleagues for advice, test your idea on them, sketch out a plan and think of as many of the things that can go wrong and ask yourself how would you overcome them. You can never plan for everything but its easier to jump in if you have thought through the worst that can happen.

Finally look after yourself mentally and keep an-open mind on the journey. Translating your idea into business is like having a child. You can take great confidence from your achievement but be as flexible as possible for what happens next. It will get passionate and personal and you will find growing your business is nurturing your child. Your passion, love for and attention to detail of what you are doing really become valuable.

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?

Never waste anything! The simplest of ideas and routine detail is often over looked. Someone else may have had the idea before you but they may not have been inspired by it or had the passion or courage to execute it. So research thoroughly even it it results in an outcome you were not expecting. So how?

I would recommend researching your idea by looking at it as problem that needs solving. The trick is to solve the problem creatively by looking at it from many angles. As if you were viewing an object by walking completely around it observing new details from different angles.

Keeping asking yourself ‘so what?’. For example, it may be nice but who needs it? What’s the benefit for the customer? Is it solving a need in society? Can it be made? Can it be communicated so people understand it? Who’s doing it now and in what form? Does the world need another? Would I use it? Do I feel a passion for it? …….That way you start to build up a 3D researched picture of your idea and where it stands. Research then take a break. Then come back to it and look at new angles and detail. Your picture will evolve to a point that gives you enough confidence to make a decision either way. For some this is very quick, for others it takes longer!

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.

There is a lot to cover here but I like to keep things simple. I think of idea to launch and the steps required in three ways — Brand; Product; Customer Journey.

Brand — Some important steps. You have to create a brand story for your idea/product and the business. Your customers need to understand who you are, what you do and the story behind you and the idea. This has to be both simple and personal. Where I see many making mistakes is thinking this is just about a brand logo and off we go!

Product — Firstly absolutely register and protect your IP and brand. My advice is to use a specialist lawyer to guide you through the process as it depends on the jurisdiction you are in but it’s a wise up-front investment. If someone else has done it before or has something similar to your idea and brand here is where you will find out before you have spent lots of dollars on production!

Sourcing a good manufacturer is trial and error and a game of patience. Allow plenty of time in your launch plan for this! Understand first which is the best country in which to manufacture. It’s not just about cost — it’s a balance with quality. That’s why I would work hard to build relationships with your shortlisted manufacturers. There is no substitute for visiting them as you have to sell your brand story to them as much as they have to sell their quality and production capability to you. If it’s not possible to visit, use technology to get to know them.

Always sample! This is where you get to see the quality and also look to improve or make changes to your idea. This is one of the most valuable steps before you commit $ to production. Finally, continue to invest in the relationship with each other. Unless you own your manufacturing capability there will always be other businesses purchasing their production time so make sure they like you and understand where your brand and business is going.

Customer Journey — The importance of seeding! Steps here are all about making visible your idea and testing it with potential customers before you launch. For example it could involve early promotion, customer groups, using the product yourself, early conversations with retailers to get their feedback. This has to be done first — it’s not ‘here is my product now buy it’!

The retailer relationship should be just like your manufacturer, it’s a partnership. Same process. Where do you want to retail first given your potential target customers? Identify a prioritised shortlist that sit comfortably with your brand and work from the top to approach them. If you don’t have any relationships with a particular retailer research who is who and contact them. If you know someone who does, ask for an introduction. Again this takes time so start in the seeding process or earlier, don’t wait until the product is finished — use your samples! If you can visit the retailer to see what similar products are being sold to understand is there a gap for your product. Be very flexible with how your product is retailed in the beginning. The retailers are taking a risk on your brand first time so be realistic and flexible with your arrangement. If your idea sells, the relationship will work and benefit both parties over time.

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

1. The conversations when things don’t work are often the most valuable — why? Because real time they can be frustrating and disheartening and test your resilience. However the result is they always encourage you or others to think differently and often through necessity come up with new ideas that work out better in the end. Learn to like these conversations!

When I first led the company everyone told me we had to do our own pop-up store. We examined it and found it was expensive and high risk. As a result of difficult economics and not being convinced of its short term value I decided a better path was to identify our preferred wholesalers and look to see if we could do a pop up with them, which we did!

2. Make risk based decisions early rather than getting excited by new things and wasting money — why? It’s very easy when you first launch your business to be told by experts or third-parties you have to do things a certain way or to a certain standard because that’s what expected if you want to compete, particularly in my case in the luxury industry. It’s also easy to spend time and money on new and exciting things the business may not need at that point in its life. If you are a small business you can get distracted, make mistakes and waste money on things you don’t really need! You will always have to accept trade-offs in your decision making so try and get in the habit of doing it early.

The investment we made in out very first website was limited. We were advised as a retailer we had to use one of the major brand platforms and on day one needed certain digital capability. As the brand has evolved this was right but not at the very beginning of our journey from launch. Our designs were still new and our brand not well known. We invested differently and built a simple site with strong visual content but limited capability to start with. It was more an on-line catalogue than a fully functioning website. A trade off we were aware off and we tried not to get distracted by a shiny new website!

3. Everything takes longer to execute than you think or you are told — why? Because as humans we like to please and often underestimate things. It’s clear in recent years we live in a world more dominated by external forces and more competition which means things may take longer to deliver than you agree to. This is really important in your business and financial planning. I have found that adding an extra 25% to timescales , costs etc is a really simply way of factoring this into the business. If it takes less time and costs less than budgeted, that’s great!

Our very first packaging order was late! We had planned it to arrive in a particular window based on a committed delivery schedule to coincide with the delivery of product. Unfortunately it arrived a month late and taught me very early to have a plan B which we did for a month until it arrived. A combination of quality and external factors led to it’s late arrival.

4. Don’t get distracted, you can’t do everything — why? Because when you launch you will be competing against others who have more or less resources than you do. It’s easy to be distracted by what others do rather than having the focus and discipline to execute your own priorities. As a leader it’s always a series of trade-offs and getting comfortable with and regularly reviewing what you are focusing on and what you are not is important for your own sanity! Some things have to be well thought-through and executed whilst others may be experiments with a different expectation and outcome.

When we first launched the business I had an idea to develop the Gladstn London Exchange where our customers could buy and sell any bags through our platform. It’s an idea we have since developed and will be launching in the future. However I tried to do this on launch alongside our core business of designing and making beautiful bags. It taught me not to get distracted and try to do to much to soon. I learnt to focus on our core business and not spread ourselves too thinly too soon.

5. Once you have launched you have to give yourself time — why? Because it takes time for your customers to understand your brand, product and to gain a level of trust before they purchase. Rarely is an idea an overnight sensation! This is important for your funding and for what you focus on after launch. Idea to launch is only one part of the journey. Running and growing your business requires more patience and money!

Having learnt this I think about the business in two ways — maintenance and momentum.

Making sure we are investing our time and money into both in differing amounts depending on where we are in the business cycle. Maintenance is continuing to run and invest in

activities that keep the business running. Momentum activities move the brand forward in new areas, collaborations, product etc.

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 only do one thing it’s this — ask yourself ‘am I inspired by the idea and do I have the passion to execute it with the help of others?’. Make a conscious decision, even if you decide not to take any further steps. Don’t just dismiss the idea because you think someone else must have thought of it before or wish you had considered it carefully when someone else does do it. In other words don’t sit on the sidelines, play on the field — however briefly — to make your decision. If you are not true to yourself at this step it will show in your future work.

If you are inspired and have the passion work at cause not affect — by this I mean set yourself some research objectives, put yourself under pressure, take some actions, be flexible rather than just waiting to see what happens. Research your idea as if it’s a problem that needs solving and keep testing your picture until you have a level of confidence or not to go further.

The previous steps very often don’t have to cost much money but they do have to involve a serious application of time and emotion. As a third step bring your passion and research together in a ‘what to do next plan’ with an idea of costs that need to be funded. Here it starts to get real for you and the idea. Can both be given the time and money to launch the idea into a product and then a business? Very often I see entrepreneurs struggle with this step. Here more than ever I would ask for help.

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

Try and strike out on your own — you can’t outsource your own individual inspiration and passion for others to own.

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

For me the answer is try both if you can. I would always start with some form of bootstrapping however small to follow my passion. You need to put some skin in the game! Even if at a minimum it’s funding yourself to take the time to really decide you want to do it and researching it carefully to underwrite the business plan and funding requirement. Having also been an investor I have seen many “conceptual” proposals with idea owners not being in the detail enough but asking for funding. Where ideas require large funds to test and refine or funds to take a business to a next level of growth, then external funding plays a very important role.

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

The answer is not enough yet and this is a good reminder that I have more I want to do. For me personally helping others learn and develop and become future leaders and entrepreneurs is very important to growth in the world. Too often the focus is on money rather than skills and human capital.

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

A growth movement — Very simply to create an accessible marketplace where people who want to develop new ideas can come and access free time and funds from business leaders around the world who can help them execute their passion. Each year business leaders with different skills and experience sign up and pledge a certain amount of their time. Those who need help can come on the platform and access it — coaching on real opportunities. A movement of new ideas to launch to help more people establish businesses and stimulate growth rather than us continuing to rely to heavily on large corporate organisations to deliver future global growth.

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

That’s a difficult question! As Chief Bag Carrier of Gladstn London it would be great to have a private breakfast or lunch with the Chief Twit — Elon Musk. Why? Because here is an individual who can teach so much & help so some many because he only plays on the field. Like any successful individual or company he divides the crowd but just imagine what we would not have had if he’d decided to sit on the sidelines. I’d also love to chat through putting a bag into space!

IG HANDLE: @GLADSTONIAN

WEB: https://www.gladstnlondon.com

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


Making Something From Nothing: Richard Sharman Of GLADSTN LONDON 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.

Author Marta Spirk On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Persistence: It will probably take you a few tries to get noticed or selected. Don’t let it wear you down. Continue believing in the power of your message and leverage your connections to expand your reach.

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 Marta Spirk.

Marta Spirk is a wife, triplet mom, TEDx speaker, author, empowerment coach & marketing strategist. She helps women simplify marketing their business with a personality-based approach that reduces overwhelm and procrastination, so they can step into VISIBILITY, CREDIBILITY & PROFIT. She does that with her podcast The Empowered Woman (over 100K downloads), The Empowered Woman: The Ultimate Roadmap to Business Success (book) and The Empowered Woman School membership and workshops.

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 and raised in Sao Paulo, Brazil, the younger of two girls. My mom was a stay-at-home mom and my dad was an engineer who then opened up his own company. We moved to a different city when I was 6 and the change prompted my mom to follow her heart in starting her own church. I grew up seeing her speak boldly to small and large groups of people and eventually, at 14, I stepped up to share my own story and message with her church. By 18, I was an integral part of the ministry, from workshop (singing and playing the keyboard) to ministering and interpreting for American preachers that would lead conferences through her church.

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

Choosing my majors was not a hard task at all — I had an easy time with languages and a natural talent for communicating my thoughts and helping others do the same. I earned a BA in Translation in Brazil (Portuguese, English and French) and a Master’s in Applied Linguistics at the University of Colorado Denver.

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

In 2016, I was blessed to give birth to triplets, Samuel, Benjamin & Gloria. This huge plot twist in my life showed me I had yet another chapter to live: start my own business. When they were only 9 months old, I joined a network marketing company and dove into the world of personal development. This opportunity opened a door for me that would eventually take me to my ultimate vision: mentoring other women entrepreneurs as a speaker, author and marketing expert. I started creating my own coaching courses and programs, launched my podcast in 2018, landed my first speaking engagement in 2019 and was featured on TV, TEDx and published my book, The Empowered Woman: The Ultimate Roadmap to Business Success.

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?

Through my journey, I’ve learned to reframe mistakes into lessons. Had I known what to do differently at any given time, I would have. I’ve accepted that I am always exactly where I need to be and have zero regrets. That said, I remember having a very abrupt close to my first keynote. I was nervous and hadn’t prepared for the close — a very rookie mistake! I literally said “And this it!” And walked off stage. Recently, I reconnected with the organizer who booked me for that presentation and shared that with her, she said she didn’t remember it and still carries some takeaways from that talk!

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 have had so many wonderful mentors, friends and supporters along the way. I am very grateful for my media coaches Christina Nicholson and Lisa Simone Richards for helping me increase my visibility. It was through their guidance that I landed my first TV segment and so many other amazing opportunities. And I can’t forget to mention my business coach, Gary Barnes, who is an international business coach, author and speaker. He was the main driver behind the growth of my business, as well as my book publishing.

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?

In simple terms: failure doesn’t exist. Everything is a stepping stone toward the next level of success. If you truly believe in your message, you will not shy away from sharing it. And if you have it in your heart to share your message on stage and through speaking, then the doors will open and you will reach heights that once were only a dream. I am proof of that: a girl from Brazil with no connections in the US, who was able to start her business from the ground up and become an on-demand speaker. You just have to start somewhere — like everybody does. Network, put yourself out there. Offer your wisdom freely and more opportunities will find you.

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 empowering message is the message that we must take responsibility for our own dreams — and success. Sure, there will be hardship and people who are unsupportive, but that should not hold us back. We all have a very important role and part in this life and it is our responsibility to own up to it, step up to it and serve the world with our God-given gifts. One of my favorite opportunities to share this very message was on TEDx. My talk is titled “The Transformational Power of Defeat” and in it, I explain how the struggles in immigrating from Brazil to the US and having triplets were also the catalysts for so many accomplishments in my life. Whatever feels like defeat can also be turned into an amazing opportunity for incredible success.

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 am currently working on a Book Club for my book The Empowered Woman as well as coaching programs for women entrepreneurs who are ready to get published and on stage to share their story and message. I have been mentoring business owners on how to craft their signature talk, land a TEDx and get featured as a guest expert on TV and am so excited to see more and more of my clients shine!

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

One of my favorite quotes that really describes my personal journey and message to the world comes from Napoleon Hill’s book, Outwitting the Devil, “Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.” I have lived it and continue to carry this wisdom with me. No matter what life throws at me, I can overcome it and believe in the blessings within the hard times.

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 Expertise: Realize you DO have knowledge on something that could benefit others, provide advice and shortcuts. This makes you valuable to people and outlets that need content.

#2 Awareness: Become aware of the opportunities out there to share your message. There are communities and outlets closer to your reach than you imagine needing content right now! Do your research.

#3 Persistence: It will probably take you a few tries to get noticed or selected. Don’t let it wear you down. Continue believing in the power of your message and leverage your connections to expand your reach.

#4 Empowerment: Find the intersection between what you can offer and what your community and outlets need. How can you make your message fit their needs?

#5 Transform: Document your journey as you start growing your speaking influence and features and learn from these experiences how to refine your craft and your message. Keep track of your personal and professional growth and don’t forget to spread gratitude along the way!

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

My favorite piece of advice I once received from a mentor was: before coming out to speak, say the prayer “Let me touch one.” At the end of the day, regardless of the size of the audience, we can only hope to touch and facilitate transformation for ONE life and that is more than enough. Remembering that it’s not about the numbers but each individual life helps keep things in perspective — our mission is bigger 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?

My hope is to inspire a movement of individual empowerment that leads to collective empowerment. Again, I want to further my message that if each of us realize how powerful we are as an individual, as a group and society we become unstoppable to create more good for future generations.

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 Jennifer Lopez. As a fellow latina entrepreneur, I have been amazed at all of her accomplishments throughout her career. @jlo

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

Yes! I am on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn. Just look for @martaspirk

I also have my podcast, The Empowered Woman on all podcast platforms.

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


Author Marta Spirk 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: Sam Speaight Of VRJam On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality…

Makers of The Metaverse: Sam Speaight Of VRJam On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

You need to be a dreamer. This is a space that’s just beginning to come of age, it’s really in such a nascent embryonic stage right now, and if you’re unable to dream big and imagine a future where this technology is going to transform the possibilities to humanity, then it’s the wrong place for you.

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 Sam Speaight.

As a leader within the technology and creative industry sectors over the last 20 years, Sam Speaight is the Founder and CEO of the immersive, virtual entertainment platform VRJam, that’s taking live performances to a new reality as it gains momentum across the music and tech industries. Following a recent $2 million round of funding, VRJam announced their Closed Beta Platform Launch, which unveiled a line up of live dance music events and innovative experiences, along with educational sessions with leaders and visionaries from the worlds of business and crypto to further engage the platform into new areas of technology. With core specializations including new business development for creative sector companies and executive management of SAAS and enterprise solutions providers, Sam also brings his extensive international experience in music touring to solidify his strong track record of entering new markets and developing projects in a range of territories including USA, Asia Pacific and the UK, as he takes the global music community into the next realms of the metaverse.

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

Sure. I grew up as a child of the 80s, immersed in computer games and also I guess more traditional names. I was a huge fantasy nerd and went right into playing Dungeons and Dragons, and this kind of gave me my first understanding of storytelling and narratives and just dreaming, I suppose. As I grew up I became more and more engaged in entertainment culture and as a young guy I was doing things like releasing records and putting on little DJ parties and gigs in weird wonderful places. All these things kind of all coalesced together into my career as it exists today.

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

The Fight Club novel by Chuck Palahniuk was really impactful for me. Always been a bit of a revolutionary thinker, and the revolutionary spirit of Fight Club really sort of polarized my thinking around sort of individual action. It had a really radical impact on the way that I view the world. I read that book at a time when my world view was really crystalizing in terms of understanding how important it was to take individual action, to try to change the world around you.

The other book that was really impacting for me was Otherland by Tad Williams, which is a series, a trilogy actually, of novels all about a future time in which virtual reality was a dominant force in society. This book had a huge impact on me and expanded my understanding of a possible future in it; even possibly considering what I do today.

Is there a particular story that inspired you to pursue a career in the X Reality industry?

I think science fiction broadly inspired my desire to get involved in the immersive content or virtual reality technology space. I’ve always been a futurist, loved to imagine the future, loved to dream about what’s possible in the space of future time and future tense, and bringing to bear solutions for manifesting that vision, a possible vision of future that was defined in some way shape or form by my own understanding of life. That’s what really led me to really want to get involved in developing technologies that can redefine the concept of reality, that allow people to in some way shape or form create their own realities.

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

In 2020, we created a virtual reality experience for Europe’s biggest music festival, Glastonbury Festival. We pulled out all the stops to create a hyper real simulation of the festival and it turned out to be the most highly attended digital music festival of all time. The experience was so realistic that you could actually hear your feet squelching in the mud as you walked around the festival. Over 4.3 million people tuned into the live stream or attended in VR and we had over 100 music and visual artists perform part of the event. Moderation was a challenge and we had to arrange teams of moderators to roam around the virtual world monitoring what was happening to police hate speech and that sort of thing. One of the people we had to ‘moderate’ was a guy in VR attempting to sell drugs by mail to other attendees in VRl! It was a bizarre moment because this is the exact same kind of antisocial behavior that a security guard might have to deal with at a real festival, only we were having to manage it in a virtual world!

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 many funny stories, which one to choose? Hahaha. The first time we took the VRJam platform, the core technology, it was a much much earlier iteration of the tech; much earlier than what exists today. There was a big technology conference in Amsterdam called IBC, the International Broadcast Conference. I had set up a solution whereby we had our technical director, who was present inside our virtual world, and this was a demo. It was basically like a live demo that was made available on the trades store. There’s a booth of one of our partners who paid for us to be there, a partner called Agora, who is still great friends with us today and still works very closely with us to this day, stemming back to 2018. I had a solution set up where we were basically giving interviews to random passers by who wanted to experience our tech, which of course had Agora solution running inside it, and making it available to everybody and anybody who wanted to understand the possibilities for the integration of video streaming into a virtual world which was what the demo was meant to show and prove. Unfortunately, I had relied on the conference wifi in order to run that solution, and it caused total chaos. I wasn’t able to communicate with my technical director, and was kinda a bit of a disaster. We managed to hobble through it, but there were some really crazy moments where I was just sprinting around the venue desperately trying to use the conference wifi to communicate with our technical director who was in an off site location, and was a horrible harrowing start to taking our technology to a public space. That’s the morale of that story, don’t ever rely on conference wifi for a tech demo.

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?

Definitely my co-founder Ivo Slivkov. Ivo is co-founder of VRJam. While I was launching the business, I met Ivo about 6 months after I’d rendered the very very first iteration of our technology which was nothing more than a half working mvp. Ivo had vastly greater experience in the tech space, as I was a bit of a newcomer to software development, and through Ivo’s tutelage, I guess you might say, in many ways through collaborating and cooperating with him I was really able to understand what it took to run a successful software company. Ivo’s had some incredible successes in his past career in the tech space, and I’ve just learned so much from him, and I continue to learn from him as a partner, as a friend to this very day.

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

Well, we’re about to launch our platform! Launching the consumer facing iteration of VRJam platform in November ’23, which is an incredible milestone for us. It represents the culmination of four years of development and a heck of a lot of blood sweat and tears from our incredible developer team. That solution is going to be a best in class product, and it’s going to enable content creators and brands to exist inside virtual worlds in ways that just haven’t been possible up until now. It’s going to redefine the way that fan experience takes place inside virtual reality and inside the metaverse, more broadly. This is something that I’m extremely personally proud of, something that is really going to set the bar in terms of a new standard for the sorts of solutions in the consumer space.

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?

HTC Vive has a headset coming to market which integrates a computer brain interface, CBI. This is going to be a virtual reality headset that allows you to control what goes on inside VR using nothing but your mind. I believe the intersection between computer brain interfaces, that is, a computer hardware solution that allows the brain to control software, and virtual reality is probably the most exciting technological development in the history of consumer tech. I think these two things coming together, that is where human beings begin to be more fully integrated with software systems, and the incredible power of virtual reality, when those two things combine, it’s going to redefine so many different things in terms of human communication, and just a broad definition of consciousness in digital space. To me it is just an incredibly exciting thing. I’m a huge fan of computer brain interface technology, and I really believe the combination of these two things can define a completely new vision of how human beings create value using software in computers.

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 guess the biggest concern is the influence of very large corporations in the space. While we’ve worked very very closely with all sorts of bluetooth tech revs, we’ve been very lucky to have the support of some of the biggest players of the global tech industry. We’re very grateful for that. I think that the traditional extractive business model can pose some very real problems inside the virtual space where you really do have people’s captive attention. I think this is something that our industry needs to be very, very, cautious about, that is, giving access to things like consumer data, and breaching privacy in the virtual reality space has a much deeper implication than the sorts of implications that you might find for instance when that same phenomena arrives in a web browser. The web browser application for those kinds of ills, those negative forces, are already terrible, but they can be magnified greatly in the virtual world, and I think we need to be careful with how we, as an industry develop this technology going forward to safeguard its awesome potential and stop it from being misused by extractive capitalism to harvest data and invade privacy. I believe that the virtual world can be a space wherein those problems are likely mitigated or reduced, and that’s the pathway we need to travel as we go forward in this industry and develop new solutions in this space.

The other problem is a big problem for a lot of folks, and it’s the potential for a sort of addiction to virtual reality experiences. Right now, the hardware isn’t really at a point where the solution or the experiences that are available in these spaces is addictive enough for it to be a serious problem, but that’s just around the corner. I believe in the next five or ten years, the realism and the depth of that realism is going to become extremely compelling and is going to really take a huge spike upward. We need to be very very careful with these solutions, not creating the same kinds we’ve seen online today with things like social media where people become so entrapped in the virtual experiences that take place inside the metaverse that they become negative. This is, again, something else that we in the industry really needs to address from the beginning. That needs to be hardwired in our software and hardware developed to ensure that we walk the path of light, not the path of darkness.

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?

Apart from the entertainment space? There are so many incredible applications for immersive technology outside the entertainment world. One of the most important ones for me personally is distance learning. There’s a fascinating thing that takes place inside an immersive experience and that is that memory retention increases by between 10–12%. Immersive experiences and immersive content create a far greater degree of memory retention then, say, book learning does. Now, this is incredibly exciting when you’re talking about distributing education solutions, particularly to less advantaged amongst us in society. I’m talking about the developing world, receiving access to education in their less advantaged communities, particularly in the global south.

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

Utilizing this type of tech to create more visceral connectivity, such as in education is a fantastic example of one of the many different places and spaces in which immersive technology can create huge benefits for society. Connective-ness, in terms of being able to have a more authentic relationship with other human beings online is another incredible opportunity for the technology space. I believe that there are a whole host of ways that the connectedness of human beings could be greatly magnified through the use of immersive tech that provides value across a whole range of different verticals, whether you’re talking about pure simple human connectedness and friendship or something as mundane as a business meeting or conference. Wherever you find a need for humans to be more connected and for there to be more authentic interaction between them, this is a space within which immersive technology can really create amazing value.

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

There’s a myth that really pervades the consumer space in virtual reality right now that says it’s the preserve of the wealthy and the elite. If you look at most of the entertainment content creators that have engaged in this space whether your talking about Marshmallow on Fortnite, or Travis Scott also on Fortnite, or perhaps some of you have had Roblox experiences with Lil Nas X, these are all really massive, minted content creators, elite-class creators and entertainment brands. What we as an industry need to get grips with is that this technology can be accessible for everyone and anyone, and this is a huge part of what VRJam is trying to do. We’re trying to provide a solution that gives access to the same kinds of tools and solutions that have been made available to these top tier content creators to anybody and everyone, to democratize access to this technology and create a way for any content creator in the world, be it game streamer or a DJ to get access to the same kind of tools that your Marshmallows and Travis Scotts and Lil Nas Xs have had access to over the last several years. We are aiming to create a way for this technology to bring value to anyone and everyone, not just the elite class.

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

A small degree of insanity, haha. Hallucinogenic optimism. When people first started talking to me about the combination of block chain technology and virtual reality being the singular solution with the potential for increasing human connectedness, everyone thought I was mad. You really need to have an incredible degree of optimism to get around the doubters and haters because there are a lot of them. You need to have the capability to really be incredibly flexible, because the industry and the technology are so fast moving. The targets for where the technology is going and where it can create value change every quarter, and you need to be incredibly agile and have the ability to rethink your business model on a whim once every couple of months. Finally, you need to be a dreamer. This is a space that’s just beginning to come of age, it’s really in such a nascent embryonic stage right now, and if you’re unable to dream big and imagine a future where this technology is going to transform the possibilities to humanity, then it’s the wrong place for you.

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

That would be a movement that is built upon the ideology that we need to understand that a collective good is a prerequisite to the individual good. Right now, society is hardwired to put the individual good first and for that to be the enabler for a collective good to manifest. We’re very lucky to live where we live. I live in a developed nation in one of the most livable cities in the world. In order for this situation, the situation that I am in to continue, there needs to be a widened understanding, a much greater understanding of the fact that there needs to be a collective approach to creating positivity and happiness for everybody in the world. The days of self indulgence, whereby the rights and needs of the individual are all that matter are very rapidly coming to an end. I believe that if we as a species don’t transform our understanding of this, and realize that for me to be good, so must everyone else, that unless that change manifests very rapidly and effectively in the near term, we’re going to face problems the like of which we have never seen before on this planet as a species, and that is a movement in part we’re trying to, we hope to, instill via what we’re doing here at VRJam. There’s a part of our corporate ideology which we call “VR Life’’, which is our charitable fund which is devoted to committing a significant part of the wealth we create through this business and project to creating solutions just like the ones I’ve mentioned, that is solutions that support the wellbeing, the happiness and the piece and positivity of the least wealthy and the least fortunate people in the world today, and if that ideology were hardwired in every major corporation in the world today, the world would be a very different place, a much happier, more beautiful more awesome place for everybody in it. That is a fundamentally important part of what I personally want to do with this business and this project, to really inspire a movement around doing good for everyone and everything on the planet, not just us.

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 person would be Ghandi, but he’s no longer here. Dead or alive? Yea, it would definitely be Ghandi. Going back to what I said a moment ago about inspiring a movement of positive change that embraces a collectivist ideology, Gandhi managed to create the single greatest manifestation of this vision in modern times. He managed to move India into a state of indepence and free India from the control of the British colonialist using a platform and movement based entirely on peace and passivity. He managed to liberate his country without firing a bullet and without any act of violence or anything like the revolution that one might usually think is needed to cause that kind of massive system change. He is, in my personal opinion, the greatest system changer of modern times, and I would love to sit him down and really understand how he achieved what he did with nothing more than peace and positivity to create that change.

Also, Satoshi Nakamoto is definitely at the top of the list. Understanding how and why he or she created cryptocurrency and the expectations that he or she had for social impact as a result of the publication of the bitcoin whitepaper is a kernel of knowledge I would truly prize!

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


Makers of The Metaverse: Sam Speaight Of VRJam 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.

Tal Zackon Of Tres On The 5 Things You Need To Understand In Order To Successfully Invest In…

Tal Zackon Of Tres On The 5 Things You Need To Understand In Order To Successfully Invest In Cryptocurrency

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Know your risk appetite. Do you know what you are getting into? Are you a trading firm who wants to create alpha by engaging in yield farming or a company simply managing its treasury that just wants to stake stable coins or ethereum for example? Or are you an individual who wants to dip your toe in the crypto waters? In that case, your risk tolerance might be a lot more conservative.

Over the past few years, the Cryptocurrency industry has been making headlines nearly every week. Many people have gotten very wealthy investing or leading the cryptocurrency industry. At the same time, many people have lost a lot investing in the industry. In addition, more people have been scrutinizing the ecological impact of crypto mining, as well as its potential facilitation of illegal activity. What is being done and what can be done to address these concerns?

In this interview series called “5 Things You Need To Understand In Order To Successfully Invest In Cryptocurrency” we are talking to leaders in the cryptocurrency industry, as well as successful investors, who share insights from their experience about how to successfully invest in Cryptocurrency.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tal Zackon.

Tal is CEO and co-founder of Tres, which launched in September 2022 as the first financial data lake for Web3 companies. Previously he led the F2 Venture Capital investment team and also served as the General Manager at The Junction. Having served as a Captain in the Israeli Special Forces, he is on the board of Combat Ventures, a non-profit organization assisting IDF veterans’ integration into the Israeli startup ecosystem.

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 little about your backstory and how you grew up?

I was born in South Africa, and partly raised there until later moving to Israel. Eventually I was recruited to the Israeli Army and served in their Special Forces for six years. That’s where I met my company co-founder Elion Lotem.

After serving, I studied business in Israel and during that time did various diplomatic projects with the Israeli government and also worked with a business intelligence company. During my third year, I joined an early stage venture capital firm called F2 Venture Capital and remained with them for four years, running the Fund’s accelerator and investing in several companies including a blockchain firm. Overall, I learned a great deal about startups during my tenure.

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

A book that really impacted me was Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. I think I read it when I was in the Army, or just before, and it changed my way of thinking about the world in terms of innovation, technology, and building something important. It made me realize that what drives the economy and the world forward is innovation and striving for excellence and hard work.

The book made me realize that I wanted to be an entrepreneur and create something that will impact the world in some positive way.

Is there a particular story that inspired you to pursue your particular career path? We’d love to hear it.

My dad was a financial advisor and built himself up with his own ten fingers, exposing me to the start up mentality and technology scene. I think that I’ve always had the need to build something; create something from nothing. And that is what pushed me forward to go and build my own company, Tres, a financial data lake for Web3 companies, along with Elion (more details are below about Tres). I also think my leadership service in the Special Forces Unit in the Israeli Army made me believe in myself and understand that anything’s possible.

As I said, my first entry was as an investor, and I got to see first-hand founders go on to build great companies. They would go from two people with an idea, and a funding presentation, and go on to grow businesses into 20, 30, 50, or 200 people and build a product. That was really inspiring to me. I felt it was time for me to stop sitting on the sidelines and watching the action happen, and become one of the players on the field.

One company I invested in while at F2 was called AVO, a grocery delivery service. When they started they had about five employees. I remember joining them one day for delivery as part of our due diligence process, and seeing the founder do the hard sweaty delivery work on his own was cool. Two years later they grew so much that they had a warehouse with 600 people — that’s the most inspiring thing I’ve seen recently from a start-up perspective.

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

I can’t really think of anything that is terribly humorous, although there I’m sure there have been funny moments and missteps on the way. I guess you could say that in the beginning it was very “garage oriented” in that we were working out of my co-founder Elion’s apartment, or other team members’ apartments in Tel Aviv.

The one thing I’ve learned is that an idea is one thing but execution is everything. If you don’t bring your idea to life and have people interact with a product — you don’t know if it’s a good idea or not. Your friends may say “oh, that’s a great concept, you should definitely go and build it,” but until you meet real life customers who will give you real feedback — you don’t really know. Is someone actually going to pay for your idea?

I guess what’s funny, in a way, is that you can have an amazing idea for a new feature as well, in a vacuum, but then when you show a client they don’t think it’s useful or relevant. What I learned is not to spend too much time on an idea until you can shop it around in the field.

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 still so much yet to come on Tres’ journey, but when I was thinking of building a company, I wasn’t quite sure exactly what that would look like yet. I was consulting with a lot of different and inspiring people and had all kinds of offers, but nothing felt quite right.

Then Elion, my co-founder and I, went for lunch and he showed me what he was working on, and what he wanted to build, which was a data platform in the crypto space. And I knew right away that it was something I wanted to help build.

For me, Elion was the perfect partner because of his skills and expertise in technology, and because we came from the same army service — so we spoke a very similar language. I knew that our values were aligned and his ambition and hard work would be invaluable.

Truthfully — I never thought I would find someone who would work as hard as I do. And suddenly I’ve got a partner who is constantly pushing and showing me what excellence and hard work really looks like.

I haven’t really been able to match him or kind of reach his levels. But he is the person who inspires me every day to be better, and that’s been a huge part of building Tres.

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

Elion and I were thrilled to launch our new company Tres recently — the first financial data lake for Web3 companies — along with a $7.6 million seed round. A data lake is essentially a large repository of data stored in a raw format, which is then used to make the data actionable for reporting, visualization, analytics and machine learning.

Nowhere is this more applicable than in the world of cryptocurrency. Web3 businesses (you can read more about Web3 here), are struggling to manage the exponential growth and complexity of financial data across digital assets. Tres’ financial platform provides an unparalleled level of visibility, monitoring, alerting and automation to Web3 finance teams and seamlessly translates high volumes of raw blockchain data into actionable information.

Tres does this by collecting and aggregating data across disparate crypto wallets, accounts and platforms, reducing the workload of manual spreadsheets — a process prone to human error — by 80%. The data is organized and enriched and allows finance teams to work with it the same way they handle fiat data, making the user experience seamless and familiar.

If you’re so inclined, you can read our press release here and our debut in TechCrunch here.

Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. The cryptocurrency industry seems extremely dynamic 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. Its massive potential — The global crypto market cap is $1.06 trillion as of August 1, 2022. Approximately $112 billion is traded in cryptocurrency per day, and there are more than 6,000 different types of cryptocurrencies. The global blockchain market is predicted to go up to $23.3 billion by 2023. At this rate, analysts forecast that the cryptocurrency market will triple in size by 2030 at a valuation of around $5 trillion.
  2. Greater mainstream adoption — Most professional investors think that crypto will become increasingly mainstream. Recently, the United States’ oldest bank, BNY Mellon, became “the first mainstream bank to offer cryptocurrencies alongside traditional products on the same platform.”
  3. Stable coins — which are “cryptocurrencies whose value is pegged, or tied, to that of another currency, commodity, or financial instrument, providing an alternative to the high volatility of the most popular cryptocurrencies.” (Investopedia) I think that stable coins are going to be a real game-changer, as they’ve already boosted mass adoption. They will enable companies to de-risk themselves while still staying part of the crypto ecosystem

What are the 3 things that concern you about the industry? Can you explain? What can be done to address those concerns?

1) The growing complexity of managing crypto assets across platforms, protocols, accounts and wallets. There’s been a movement happening in the Web3 space in the last couple of years. If you look backwards, you’ll see that most crypto operations interacted with Bitcoin or Ethereum and businesses held maybe one or two wallets. Today, with the influx of protocols and exchanges, the companies we engage with have such a large variety of endpoints where they store value and crypto assets. There is so much more diversity today, and financial management is becoming more of a challenge.

There are just so many transactions, both internally and with third party “smart contracts’ (or terms of agreement between buyer and seller). There’s just a massive influx of data for the middle, front and back office — and it is very difficult to grasp the big picture, to know the company’s net worth, and see where the money is flowing to and from. Analyzing all these financial movements is very, very difficult.

If you compare that to the Web2 world — what we have traditionally been used to — we have everything pretty much in order moving between bank accounts. It’s much easier to see what is happening.

But when it comes to the blockchain, crypto and Web3, that’s a much more technological ecosystem. It’s much more code oriented, and therefore it’s very difficult for financial teams today to get their arms around it.

Fortunately Tres makes this easy in one central dashboard in a format finance professionals are used to. We’ll take all that financial data and parse, cluster and enrich it in order to enable treasury teams — and any person in an organization — a clear visibility into their financial operations. We can leverage that data for compliance, reconciliations, audit and accounting, and also so finance teams can analyze their revenue and optimize their internal operations.

2) Scams and Security — These two concerns go hand in hand. The amount of scams that happen in the crypto universe is quite concerning and that puts the spotlight on security, or how to protect one’s crypto assets.

I think that until we clean up the industry from this mess, and have good enough tooling to help us avoid the scams and protect our assets better, we will still be regarded by many people around the world as an industry they don’t want to be part of. It’s hurting the branding and the reputation of our industry. And that is something that we have to help move forward and progress. I think the Web3 rebranding was a great idea — it signifies a fresh start.

3) The Web3/crypto Echo chamber. There are another two or three steps that we need to take in order to position Web3 as the future of finance. Most in this Web3 ecosystem are trapped in an echo chamber, and drinking our own kool aid.

There needs to be another level of accessibility, sort of like Apple Pay. Right now you can’t buy a hamburger with crypto, and you can’t order groceries or purchase a couch. Apple Pay took some time to take off but now they are ubiquitous. We still need to get there, but there is another layer of technology that needs to be built.

Circle, an investor in my company, is the primary issuer of USD Coin (USDC), which is a blockchain-based token pegged to the dollar also known as a stable coin. It is considered to be the top challenger to market leader Tether, in fact. I think they will help bring more accessibility to the ecosystem which we need.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about cryptocurrency? Can you explain what you mean?

One myth, that many people I speak to believe, is that crypto is mainly used to launder money for terrorism and drug deals. While that may happen, these same groups also do nefarious things with fiat. It’s not a rogue community, the Web3 ecosystem itself has totally changed with the type of legitimate investors, VCs, founders, engineers, finance teams and more that interact and engage in the ecosystem.

How do you think cryptocurrency has the potential to help society in the future?

A bankless society is really more of a cliche, but crypto does have the potential to optimize the financial world through capital, job creation, and technological advancement. It may be very similar to the Industrial Revolution and how it changed the world — that I do believe.

Think about something as simple as sending an invoice. If I send one in USD (US dollar) it can take two weeks for money to get into my account — or even arrive by check — if you factor in bank holidays, weekends etc. But with USDC (a crypto stablecoin), from the minute you send an invoice the money will be wired to your wallet. That’s revolutionary.

Recently, more people have been scrutinizing the ecological impact of crypto mining. From your perspective, can you explain to our readers why the cryptocurrency industry is creating an environmental challenge?

Yes, many have grown concerned about the environmental impact of “crypto mining” which can be an energy-intensive process using massive servers. But when you compare that to the environmental damage caused by airplane travel — that is much more damaging than a server helping to mine bitcoin.

From your perspective what can be done to address or correct these concerns?

Of course, the industry is still sensitive to sustainability efforts which was one of the big reasons to move towards Proof of Stake (PoS) vs Proof of Work (PoW) when validating crypto transactions on the blockchain.

There’s so much to read about that, your readers can find a lot of information about the differences with a quick search! Basically PoS requires much less energy and no special equipment.

Recently, more people have been scrutinizing cryptocurrency’s impact on illegal activity. From your perspective, can you explain to our readers why cryptocurrency, more than fiat currency, is seen as an attractive choice for criminals?

Cryptocurrency has no central authority, such as a traditional banking system — hence the term DeFi (decentralized finance) — which is the entire point. Eliminating a central bank and operating on an accessible blockchain was meant to democratize access to currency.

Digital assets are a brilliant concept, but because this money is virtual it can be more vulnerable to criminal activity and hacking — and with billions of dollars at stake, nefarious activity is almost inevitable. Bad actors can stay anonymous, route crypto around and then disappear very easily.

From your perspective what can be done to address or correct these concerns?

There is a lot of attention to this problem, and countries around the world are responding with Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Counter-Terrorist-Financing (CTF) legislation with the end-goal of Know Your Customer (KYC).

One really big story back in May was when Bitcoin blender was closed down by U.S. law enforcement for laundering money for North Korea — which is scary stuff. So you can see that serious measures are being taken to curtail rogue activity.

Ok, fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are “The 5 Things You Need To Understand In Order To Successfully Invest In Cryptocurrency?”

The information provided here is not specific investment, tax or financial advice. You should consult with a licensed professional for advice concerning your specific situation.

  1. Set a goal and have a strategy. Have a goal, and when you achieve it — know what is next. Think steps ahead, in other words. Generating as much yield as possible is not a strategy. Many experts will say it’s best not to exceed 5% or 10% of your portfolio in crypto. Pick which percentage feels comfortable to you within this range. You can’t time the market, so stick to your strategy. Don’t feel uncomfortable returning to base (hold where you are).

In Hebrew there is a saying ”a small pig eats a lot, but a big pig gets slaughtered.” You want to be a small pig.

2. Know your risk appetite. Do you know what you are getting into? Are you a trading firm who wants to create alpha by engaging in yield farming or a company simply managing its treasury that just wants to stake stable coins or ethereum for example? Or are you an individual who wants to dip your toe in the crypto waters? In that case, your risk tolerance might be a lot more conservative.

3. Do your due diligence. Investigate and look into all the opportunities carefully. Look at the website, talk to other investors, do your OWN due diligence, and don’t blindly trust the “picks” of others or any media hype.

4. Avoid fluctuation risk. If you are in a transitory position, i.e. if you are moving between coins and exited positions, try to move back to stablecoins to avoid fluctuation risk. Don’t forget to go back to your base (eg take a breather). For example, staying long on ethereum or moving back to stablecoins could be a risk averse approach.

5. “Not your keys =not your coins.” This is a very common phrase in the crypto world. If you don’t control the keys, the coins don’t really belong to you. Take Celsius as an example in which users found out they had no control over its business activity or its assets. Know who controls the coins and know what your level of access is. Will you still be in control of your own assets?

What are the most common mistakes you have seen people make when they enter the industry? What can be done to avoid that?

Believing stories about people getting rich quickly through crypto is a mistake; that is extremely rare. For every one person who gets rich, there are 100 who lose their pants.

When investing in crypto, be thoughtful, build a strategy, and do your own due diligence. Don’t make media hype guide your investment strategy. This bears repeating: always return to base periodically (i.e. stay put for a while) and don’t go down a rabbit hole of new opportunities and projects. Stay calm, know your risk appetite and don’t be afraid to cut losses.

Do you have a particular type of cryptocurrency that you are excited about? We’d love to hear why.

Aptos, the Cosmos Network, and Polygon have all received a lot of media attention (some good, some not). We are seeing an uptick in engagement, especially among builders, so I’m very excited to see the future and how things develop. I would definitely keep my eye on those.

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

I would have absolutely loved to have dined with — or even met — Nelson Mandela. I was actually born in South Africa and my parents grew up there during Apartheid. Just as it was ending, my family moved to Israel — but my roots are there and Mandela looms large over my memories.

His greatness is just super inspiring to me — he changed the lives of so many people and brought peace through compassion, love and compromise to a huge country. An exceptional leader with no comparison, in my mind, and I have no doubt that a conversation with him would have been priceless.

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


Tal Zackon Of Tres On The 5 Things You Need To Understand In Order To Successfully Invest In… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Didier Rooms Of ADD-Design On 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Scale Your Business

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Keep the door, And your mind, Open

When you are getting successful, people are starting reach out to you because they want to collaborate or wants to use your services. I never looked at experience but only at the results. Results never lie and maybe you can learn something about it.

Startups usually start with a small cohort of close colleagues. But what happens when you add a bunch of new people into this close cohort? How do you maintain the company culture? In addition, what is needed to successfully scale a business to increase market share or to increase offerings? How can a small startup grow successfully to a midsize and then large company? To address these questions, we are talking to successful business leaders who can share stories and insights from their experiences about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Scale Your Business”. As a part of this series, we had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Didier Rooms.

Didier Rooms is a serial entrepreneur with a main focus on branding — Social media and Google marketing. He has business interests in over 3 continents.

Didier Rooms has been described as a true innovator in his industries. He created a B2B matching platform “Experts at Expo” where businesses can meet during expo 2020 Dubai.

He is also founder of ADD-Design, a leading digital marketing agency based in Belgium, Europe.

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

Started with nothing.

Now just 9 years later, Serial Entrepreneur and closed business in the U.A.E. , U.S. and Europe.

He became one of the innovators by teaching the art of branding, social media and Google marketing.

Even though his recognition and success in business, his true passion is reaching out to those who dream of achieving their digital goals.

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

A key decision in my career that helped me get where I am today is visiting the U.A.E. and get inspired by the thought to be always the number 1 in everything you do.

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

In the beginning we were only selling websites and we were just one of a dozen. After endless strategic thinking I believe that we found the golden nugget, Creating an ecosystem for our clients.

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

It’s easy to start a new service but you always need to keep in mind if the new service will bring you more revenue. This was a mistake in the beginning.. We were not focussed enough on the return on investment from a single project.

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

I think it is both.. From the start of the Pandemic I met JT Foxx, he is an American business coach and has also several global businesses. Still he is coaching me and it brings me motivation and also a clear view from people that are more successful than me. I use this learnings to teach our clients and bring their mindset and also their businesses to the next level.

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

Steve Jobs is my big example. He was always trying things were nobody in believed. Innovation is key in our industry and you don’t need to copy your competition but you need to create your own path. That’s also what Apple did.

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

  1. Keep the door, And your mind, Open

When you are getting successful, people are starting reach out to you because they want to collaborate or wants to use your services. I never looked at experience but only at the results. Results never lie and maybe you can learn something about it.

2. Change Or Be Changed

Try to do a daily 5 minute strategic thinking session. You need to think about your existing work and what you think that is needed to implement in the future. If you don’t think about changing yourself or your business, your competition will overrule you.

3. A talent obsession

I believe in commitment to my clients. When we promise to deliver something, in 99% of the cases it will be delivered on time. I only attract staff with the same mindset. It’s not about education, but about the willing to succeed and do whatever it takes.

4. Nurturing talent Locally And Internationally

In our industry it is impossible to have all the knowledge locally. That’s why we started early in our scale up phase with nurturing talent from other continents. Also we are able to work the clock around because our staff is in different timezones.

5. Innovate or perish

This year we have won already 2 global innovation awards so I think innovation is in my DNA. You always need to be 8 steps ahead of your competition. If you combine this with the daily strategic thinking, I believe that this is my succes formula.

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

I see a lot of scale ups raising money, but only a few will survive after 5 years. A clear business plan with milestones can maybe help them to survive. It’s not only about raising capital and burn that money, only with dedication to your business plan you will survive.

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

There is always a single point of contact within our company. New people are getting the smaller tasks so they can prove themselves. I am standing in for the quality control before the delivery to our clients so our brand will not be impacted.

Many times, a key aspect of scaling your business is scaling your team’s knowledge and internal procedures. What tools or techniques have helped your teams be successful at scaling internally?

Write clear procedures from the intake to the delivery of a project. In most cases there is also a timeline involved.

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

monday.com and Hubspot

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

Be Decisive And Don’t look back

How can our readers further follow your work online?

https://www.linkedin.com/in/didier-rooms/

https://www.add-design.be

This was truly meaningful! Thank you so much for your time and for sharing your expertise!


Didier Rooms Of ADD-Design On 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Scale Your Business was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Philip Blows of AQRU plc On The 5 Things You Need To Understand In Order To Successfully Invest In…

Philip Blows of AQRU plc On The 5 Things You Need To Understand In Order To Successfully Invest In Cryptocurrency

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Beware of market cycles: In stocks and shares, you would expect to see in an average year a peak-to-trough drawdown of about 10% and, every five to eight years, the market would become bearish and drop around 33% on average. This has been consistent for around a hundred years and, as a free market, crypto follows a similar pattern.

Over the past few years, the Cryptocurrency industry has been making headlines nearly every week. Many people have gotten very wealthy investing or leading the cryptocurrency industry. At the same time, many people have lost a lot investing in the industry. In addition, more people have been scrutinizing the ecological impact of crypto mining, as well as its potential facilitation of illegal activity. What is being done and what can be done to address these concerns?

In this interview series called “5 Things You Need To Understand In Order To Successfully Invest In Cryptocurrency” we are talking to leaders in the cryptocurrency industry, as well as successful investors, who share insights from their experience about how to successfully invest in Cryptocurrency.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Philip Blows.

Philip Blows is CEO of AQRU plc, with more than 15 years of leadership experience in the fintech and asset management sectors where he spearheaded the scaling-up of online trading platforms at several leading companies. Philip’s previous experience includes Sales Director at Wealth Wizards, a UK robo-advice platform; Senior Foreign Exchange Adviser at Continental Capital Markets S.A; and Head of Trading at Moneycorp.

Philip holds several internationally recognised financial certifications, including an Investment Management Certificate from the CFA Institute and has been certified as a Blockchain Expert by the Blockchain Council. He is also the author of the personal finance book, The Money Triangle.

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 little about your backstory and how you grew up?

I was born in the UK, just outside London. Since a young age I had a massive interest in finance and, as a 10-year-old, I would even look for finance jobs in the local newspaper and would think of how to apply to them.

I went to university, but I didn’t do anything finance-y. I studied geology, as I had the idea of spending my time at university outside and not having to work in a classroom. But, throughout this time, I continued to be interested in finance.

So, when I left university, I went straight into a career in finance where I helped people find the best exchange rate when moving money around the world. This was around 2005, the markets were good and there was a lot to be done, so I often found myself helping people buy investment properties abroad and ensured they got the most for their money whilst doing it. However, I quickly realised that stocks and shares were something I was also interested in.

As a result, I joined a trading desk and worked there for seven or eight months until I got my lucky break: my boss and my boss’ boss left, so the company started looking for someone to run the business. I was only 21 at the time but, as I was the top salesperson and had proven to be a hard worker, I was given the chance.

After successfully running the business for a few years, I moved to a company called Moneycorp where I became Head of Trading and, after this, I started working in institutional derivatives broking at Continental Capital Markets. I then started working in a FinTech company that was developing the UK’s first online platform to provide automated financial advice. Here is when I saw how many people struggled to manage and invest their money.

This was also around the time when crypto was becoming more popular, but it was this terribly complicated arena that so many people did not understand, and I realised that there was a need for a solution that could help people invest in the crypto markets. This is why I created the crypto yield and investment app AQRU, and the reason why AQRU plc is focused on building, operating and scaling decentralised finance (DeFi) and Web3 start-ups offering services, such as crypto investment, lending and custody, that bridge the worlds of traditional and decentralised finance. The mission is to enable everyone to easily and safely participate in DeFi.

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 always liked ‘The Lean Startup’, a book in which the author, Eric Ries, uses his journey building his own business to explain how to release a new product to market and then quickly get customer feedback to support innovation and improve the solution. It’s a sort of ‘flywheel’ that goes round and round, with the companies that excel at innovating being those that can spin the flywheel the fastest.

The model in The Lean Startup was central to our strategy for the AQRU app. We initially launched AQRU as an email service through which we would use our expertise to help people generate yields in the crypto market and, every week, we would send our customers an email to update them on our progress.

Once the service was launched, we started spinning the ‘flywheel’: we would regularly approach our customers to better understand their needs, as well as to get their feedback on how we could improve our service and what they would like to see in the AQRU mobile and web app that we were developing at the time.

The AQRU app launched in December 2021, but we’re still ‘spinning the flywheel’ to ensure that we’re delivering a service that truly works for crypto investors. For instance, following the series of high-profile collapses of crypto companies earlier this year, we heard from many investors that they were frustrated with the lack of transparency of many businesses that took excessive risks with their money and, even worse, did not provide them with information on where their assets were being invested, and what the risks were.

So, as part of our flywheel, we’ve focused on showing in our AQRU app that our customers’ crypto is safe. As such, we’ve adopted a marketplace model, where investors can access a number of yield-generating solutions which have either been developed by the AQRU team or by our trusted third parties. We’ve made sure to always provide customers with detailed information on the third-party behind the yield strategy, as well as on how assets are being invested to generate returns.

Is there a particular story that inspired you to pursue your particular career path? We’d love to hear it.

In terms of what got me into finance to begin with, it was reading a book called ‘Market Wizards’ and then the sequel, ‘The New Market Wizards’, a collection of interviews with the most successful investors, hedge fund managers and traders in the world. The first version is quite old, but I find it fascinating how everyone takes different approaches to trying to make money out of the markets.

The book resonated with me because I just love being close to the action. For me, the action is helping people make money and excess returns in the market. AQRU has given me a fantastic opportunity to do this as we’re helping customers every single day to make money out of crypto. That’s why there’s nowhere else I’d rather work.

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

This is probably funny in retrospect, but not so much at the time. Very early in my career, I had just started at this new trading business and one of the senior traders on the desk took me out at lunchtime to tell me the way of the world and we had a chat over a couple of pints.

When we went back to the office, I was a little worse for wear, so I tripped on the stairs and made a massive hole in the knee of my new suit. As someone who was on very little money and had just upgraded their suit to the next level, this was quite a knock.

Previously I had this really old, horrible threadbare suit so this slapped me back down a level. This was also a lesson learned: don’t drink at lunchtime and know your limits! Good advice for all of life.

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?

Everyone needs help to succeed. I’m so fortunate to have an incredibly supportive partner in my wife, Anna. We have two amazing kids, who are a lot of work, so Anna spends her time managing our home life and keeping things running smoothly, which is a huge, huge job. Having that stability behind the scenes is something I’m incredibly grateful for, I couldn’t do it without her.

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

The most exciting new project we’ve launched recently, and one I’m really proud of, is BlockLender, a company that enables people to borrow against their crypto, and use the loan for whatever they choose. In other words, BlockLender is a way for people to make the most real-world use of their crypto, in a way that is simple and easy to understand — and true to our mission, completely transparent.

Many people who’ve been burnt in crypto have used platforms that have taken massive risks with their crypto — we’ve seen a wave of CeFi collapses over the past six months, many of which can be attributed to poor risk management. BlockLender changes that — we’ve changed the way loans are funded, meaning no unpleasant risks are being taken with our customers’ crypto. And we’re completely transparent about all our innermost workings, too.

Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. The cryptocurrency industry seems extremely dynamic 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.

Promoting finance and inclusion: One thing that we have seen, time and time again, is that the people who have the least money, or the least ability to make money, are the most under-served. There are billions of people who still don’t have a bank account, and traditional banks just aren’t set up to be able to deal with these types of individuals.

In a fully decentralised financial system, there are no barriers to entry. All you need is an internet connection to trade, send money and transfer value around the world. Crypto’s original purpose is to create a financial system for all which is something we need to hold on to.

Removing the middlemen: If you go to a bank and deposit money there, you may earn less than 1% in interest but, if you go to that same bank and then try and borrow money, you could be asked to pay around 5%. This difference is the cost of the middleman.

By using some of the more innovative borrowing, lending and yield generating tools within crypto today, there is a huge compression of those fees. Additionally, the fees that are generated go back to the community that supports the project so it’s a completely different economic model and something that’s really exciting for everyone.

Innovation: There’s been this enormous movement of incredibly talented people from traditional finance and big tech to crypto, with some big executives having even left major investment banks to come into small little crypto start-ups. I think that this growing talent pool that’s entering crypto is what is going to make it succeed, it’s impossible to throw this much brain power at an industry and not have it grow and outperform what is already in place. So, watch this space because the pace of innovation is accelerating.

What are the 3 things that concern you about the industry? Can you explain? What can be done to address those concerns?

Ill-thought out regulation: Regulation is the biggest catalyst for growth in crypto, but it is also one of its biggest threats. When we look at crypto regulation, we know that once there is a firm regulatory infrastructure in place, all the larger institutions will get involved and with them, their customers — it would be incredibly positive for the sector.

But, before we reach this point, there is going to be a big learning curve for regulators as they first need to understand crypto. Many regulatory bodies are incredibly understaffed and underfunded and, as a result, they can’t move at the pace that crypto can which means that some of the regulations that that are coming in are not particularly well-thought and don’t take into account just how different crypto is from traditional finance.

Ill-thought out regulation can affect the sector and stifle innovation, making it one of the biggest threats to the crypto sector as a whole. So, as an industry, we need to develop, and work through, industry bodies to ensure that we can continue engaging with regulators on this.

Misinformation: Everyone who has been on Twitter, TikTok, or almost any other social media platform for that matter, has seen some sort of gasping face in some thumbnail claiming to have the next crypto silver bullet, which is just bonkers.

What’s needed to help protect people from these scams, and what we’re trying to achieve at AQRU, is trusted sources of information where people can hear from those who have their best interests at heart and can help them understand crypto and the risks associated with investing in this space. Without trusted sources, people will be floundering in the dark, lost in the ether of the internet, and unfortunately, they’re going to find nothing but trouble.

Pace of adoption: A problem with big financial institutions, which I discovered previously in my career, is that even when it is blindingly obvious that something is in their best interests, they’re often too big to innovate. For example, I once sold a piece of software to an investment bank and it took them four years to sign it off so, by the time all the admin was done and the project was ready to go, the person who had originally led the initiative had left. So, at the end, a million dollars had been wasted, and the service never even launched.

If we say that blockchain is a great improvement on financial institutions’ current systems, that’s great. But it also means that financial organisations may have to rip out all of their old legacy systems, which is something that takes significant effort and coordination. Some of these big institutions won’t be able to do it, but it’ll be interesting to see if new institutions, which have such a competitive advantage because they’re able to pivot and use new technology, will force some of them to exit the market as they can no longer compete. This whole process is going to take a long time — that’s the nature of the beast.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about cryptocurrency? Can you explain what you mean?

I think one of the myths people talk about is that cryptocurrency is only used by criminals and money launderers. That’s something that you hear in the press a lot, because on the whole, the media remains very sceptical of the sector.

But that’s not what the majority of crypto is used for. Cryptocurrency is about transferring value seamlessly around the world for low cost. This can be done through tokens like Bitcoin, which is often seen as a store of value, but we’re now also seeing things like non-fungible tokens (NFTs) appear.

Everyone knows about these massively overpriced, profile picture NFTs that have got all the press. But this is not all these tokens are about. NFTs’ main use is to serve as a tool to transact and transfer value. NFTs are letting us take something we own in the physical world, break it up into a thousand pieces and sell them to other people, or collateralise them and borrow against that asset more easily than ever before. There are use cases in the real world for crypto that are transformative for everyday life, and that’s something that people need to understand.

How do you think cryptocurrency has the potential to help society in the future?

I’ve touched on this already, but crypto is reducing the barriers to entry to the financial system. Anyone with an internet connection can access blockchain technology and see value from other counter parties around the world. This changes the game for billions of people who are underserved by banks and, as a result, do not have access to basic financial services. By bringing them into a more inclusive financial system, crypto is only going to benefit everyone.

Recently, more people have been scrutinizing the ecological impact of crypto mining. From your perspective, can you explain to our readers why the cryptocurrency industry is creating an environmental challenge?

Cryptocurrency is decentralised which means that there isn’t one party keeping a record of everything. Instead, there are thousands or millions of people, all of whom participate in the security of the network and who mutually agree on who owns what. So, how does everyone agree on the correct ownership of an asset and what does this have to do with the environment?

The largest cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, uses something called ‘proof-of-work’ to do their consensus or agree on who owns what. In this methodology, you have millions of people around the world who are all trying to quickly solve equations to be able to confirm or ‘mint’ the block of transactions that have just occurred. And, for doing that, they are rewarded in Bitcoin.

As more miners try to solve the equations, the blockchain automatically increases the difficulty, but the amount of Bitcoin mined remains constant. As the equations become more difficult, miners invest in more powerful mining rigs to gain a competitive advantage, which use more and more energy. This spiralling arms race of computing power is not great for the environment.

From your perspective what can be done to address or correct these concerns?

A lot of blockchains are now looking at creating consensus models that are less carbon intensive. One of these new models is called ‘proof-of-stake’ which works like a lottery system whereby if you own a token in that blockchain, you have a ticket to the lottery. So, if your ticket is selected, you are the one who gets to confirm the transaction and you get paid a reward.

As ‘proof-of-stake’ doesn’t have all these validators out there constantly trying to solve these equations by using large amounts of processing power, this consensus model is over 99% more energy efficient than ‘proof-of-work’. As a result, we’re now seeing that some blockchains like Ethereum, which is one of the most popular public blockchains, have switched from ‘proof-of-work’ to ‘proof-of-stake’.

The move to ‘proof-of-stake’ is going to be a game changer for investors, especially institutional actors which often need to show that they have considered the environmental, social and governance impacts of their investments. And this is why Ethereum may find that it’s a bigger candidate to be held by institutions than Bitcoin.

Recently, more people have been scrutinizing cryptocurrency’s impact on illegal activity. From your perspective, can you explain to our readers why cryptocurrency, more than fiat currency, is seen as an attractive choice for criminals?

Historically, there was a lack of controls in place, and people who owned Bitcoin could send it to whomever, for whatever. The early days of crypto were tied to a notorious website called ‘Silk Road’. You could buy anything on Silk Road using Bitcoin: drugs, guns, all these sorts of things — it was the Wild West.

From your perspective what can be done to address or correct these concerns?

What we found over time is that as new people entered the market, most of the crypto has been bought with fiat. But, to do so, users must first go through a platform or business that can support with the exchange. These exchanges are required to have anti-money laundering controls in place, so it’s a completely different ballgame to how it was at the start of crypto.

Ok, fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are “The 5 Things You Need To Understand In Order To Successfully Invest In Cryptocurrency?

Beware of market cycles: In stocks and shares, you would expect to see in an average year a peak-to-trough drawdown of about 10% and, every five to eight years, the market would become bearish and drop around 33% on average. This has been consistent for around a hundred years and, as a free market, crypto follows a similar pattern.

Crypto is a highly cyclical market that seems to go in two-and-a-half to three-year waves during which there is a big build up to a peak and then a big crash. This is something that people need to be very aware of because, unlike in traditional finance where the average bear market experiences a decrease of 33%, in crypto, the average crash has been from 80% to 85% which is almost a complete wipe-out of the entire previous move.

For example, in November of last year, we saw Bitcoin reach an all-time high of around $68,000 but, since then, there has been a pullback of around 80%. While it could be argued that this decline shows that the situation might be slightly different from the 80–85% decline in price that we’ve seen before, we can still be fairly confident that, in terms of where we are in the cycle, we’re heading towards the bottom end of the range.

The trend is your friend: There’s another way of looking at this, don’t catch a falling knife. As markets crash, a lot of observers start saying ‘now’ is the time to buy and they’ll say it every time the market drops a little bit further, and further again, until everyone runs out of cash.

People investing in crypto must be disciplined and ask themselves if prices over the last few months were lower than they are today, as that means that we’re in an up-trend which is usually a catalyst for us to begin buying. Now it also works in reverse, if prices were higher before, the market is probably in a down-trend so people should probably start selling and taking off exposure. This is exactly what we’re doing at AQRU through our trend-following system, which we call AQRU Trend, that looks at the price action over the last three months to help our customers jump in at the right time.

Diversification: Crypto is a high-risk asset class. Yes, it has been one of the best performing asset classes for the last 10 years, but it should never be more than 10% to 15% of your overall portfolio. Crypto was not designed to be someone’s entire net worth, it is an alternative asset that complements a diversified portfolio, that should predominantly hold equities, property and, now that we’re seeing the markets change, maybe even bonds.

Be careful: If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. There’s no way around this, I’m afraid. When someone says that they’re making a hundred percent a month, this is probably a scam. Always do your homework before jumping in, and you’ll be fine.

Keep educating yourself: Crypto is incredibly innovative. If you invested in Bitcoin in 2008, you’ve obviously done exceptionally well but, with new investment protocols and tokens currently available in the market, you’ve probably missed some good return opportunities too. To identify the next rally on time, you must be involved in the space and always on the lookout for opportunities to learn more about it.

What are the most common mistakes you have seen people make when they enter the industry? What can be done to avoid that?

The most common mistakes are literally the opposite of what we just discussed: people jump into something simply because they heard about it on social media. The reality is that by the time a new ‘opportunity’ hits your Twitter feed, it’s probably too late and all you’re doing is buying as the people who got in early are selling to you. In other words, you’ve missed the bell and are now buying and selling at the wrong time.

Do you have a particular type of cryptocurrency that you are excited about? We’d love to hear why.

I’m going to keep this blindingly simple — Ethereum. All the innovation that we’ve seen so far in terms of reducing transaction costs and NFTs, to name a few, is reliant on the Ethereum blockchain. This means that there is an enormous potential for Ethereum to become even more widely used across the crypto and DeFi ecosystems.

Additionally, as I previously mentioned, Ethereum recently transitioned from requiring ‘proof-of-work’ to ‘proof-of-stake’, helping limit the cryptocurrency’s impact on the environment. I suspect that, in the long term, this will only make Ethereum more attractive, particularly to institutional investors who must consider the impact that their portfolio has on the environment.

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

I like the idea of paying it forward. Everyone is so caught up in their own lives and their own emotions that they can just forget how to treat other people. This is particularly obvious online where you see some people with these online personas that are highly toxic and negative.

I think this is something we need to counterbalance. So, if I could inspire a movement, I would like it to be a paying it forward initiative where people do something good or nice to someone else, either online or in-person, for no additional gain to themselves. Hopefully, this would have a ripple effect which then begets people to be nicer to each other.

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

It would have to be Under Armour’s founder, Kevin Plank. I think he’s a phenomenal businessman and a very inspiring person that has done great things for the business community in Maryland, including consciously deciding to grow Under Armour in this state even though start-ups were not particularly well-represented there.

I also think he has done a great job of building Under Armour’s employee culture. For them the business isn’t a family, it’s a sports team so it’s the job of the leadership team to cultivate an environment which gets elite performance out of the people who work for Under Armour. Kevin Plank once gave this great lecture about employee culture, where he talked about how he was hoping Under Armour would reach a billion dollars’ worth of revenue that year and said that, if they were very close by the end of December, the whole team had agreed to go out and buy shirts until they made it!

Kevin Plank’s methodology and thought patterns around creating a positive working environment where people can do their best work is something that I’ve really tried to do with AQRU and that I would like to get his thoughts on. Also, I really like that he’s a bit of a fist-bashing-on-the-table, big personality which would certainly make breakfast entertaining.

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


Philip Blows of AQRU plc On The 5 Things You Need To Understand In Order To Successfully Invest In… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Eloisa Marchesoni On 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Scale Your Business

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Don’t start selling a wide range of services but just focus your attention on what you are uniquely great at. The times of all-encompassing brands, like Toyota and Sony, have come to an end.

Startups usually start with a small cohort of close colleagues. But what happens when you add a bunch of new people into this close cohort? How do you maintain the company culture? In addition, what is needed to successfully scale a business to increase market share or to increase offerings? How can a small startup grow successfully to a midsize and then large company? To address these questions, we are talking to successful business leaders who can share stories and insights from their experiences about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Scale Your Business”. As a part of this series, we had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Eloisa Marchesoni.

Eloisa is a Tokenomics Engineer focusing on token model architecture, token macro-/micro-economics structure, crypto market simulations and gamification strategies for Web3 businesses. She is currently a partner to VCs and accelerators, while also working as an advisor to self-funded crypto startups, which she has been doing since 2016.

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

My name is Eloisa Marchesoni. I’m a 24-year-old Italian-American born in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois.

I am a crypto-entrepreneur and modern digital nomad, tokenomics expert, tech business angel, fixed passive income crypto investor, and freelance consultant. I’m also a member of numerous blockchain associations, including the newly-formed Scaramucci-backed GMI Super PAC.

When I was a student at Bocconi University in Milan, I did well but got tired of being the typical valedictorian and felt like it wasn’t what I wanted. At the time, ICOs were starting to become a thing. I had already purchased some cryptocurrencies, then waited for the ICO bubble to pop to officially start in crypto as a token model artist. It was a big pivot — I had planned on a career in management consulting with McKinsey.

Later on, I met Giacomo Arcaro and his growth hacker team. After building our skills together, we started to work on innovative management consulting following the crypto trends. I still work with him, but now I’m focusing my attention on DeFi, NFTs, and especially on projects aimed at aiding the mass adoption of blockchain technology and its applications.

The crypto world has interested me for a long time, mainly because of its potential to make our world a better place to live. I also enjoy seeing the constant growth behind a new continuous chain of innovation and efficiency backed by wonderful and diverse projects.

I was shy in the beginning. As I started gaining experience in the crypto industry around the world, I felt like the crypto world was an important part of me and my role as a young woman was overall accepted. People have always been welcoming and nobody ever took advantage of me. With crypto, I felt truly valued for my skills and ability.

That led me to public speaking. People kindly appreciated what I had to say, like specific insight into certain sectors, which I could adapt to the various geographic areas I went to and the people I spoke to. It makes me feel grateful to everything and everyone that I have credibility and growing opportunities through those public interactions.

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

Reached out to Giacomo’s team and followed them around the world, while forming my own Web3 identity. This was a great catalyst for a lot of the wonderful things happening now.

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

R&D in the Tokenomics field, uniting otherwise-isolated figures in the space.

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

Burn-out from attending too many conferences in 2019/20, and being so overwhelmed that the networking only resulted in hundreds of business cards that are still sitting somewhere in a drawer.

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

I’ve received guidance at points in my career from Tokenomics pioneers, like Lisa JY Tan and the Outlier Ventures team. I’ve also given my fair share so far to my current junior collaborators. It’s a lifelong give and take, the exchange of knowledge and skills.

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

My own style, but theories are backed by the lessons learned when studying the very ancient Bocconi management tradition. Who said tradition must be completely supplanted by Web3?

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

1. Outsource

The most successful DAO has likely 0 employees and hundreds of freelancers with high competences in their vertical.

2. Focus only on your strengths

Don’t start selling a wide range of services but just focus your attention on what you are uniquely great at. The times of all-encompassing brands, like Toyota and Sony, have come to an end.

3. Build a loyal team rather than a team of geniuses

We are witnessing an era with the highest number of resignations due to the decentralization and competitiveness within the job market. The ticket you are going to pay by having a genius team member quit at a random time (because a genius never notifies anyone!) is much higher than the profit you could ever make through their inconsistent value addition to the company.

4. Build a trusted sales network rather than hiring sneaky sellers

You never buy a product. You buy into the feeling of being able to trust the company selling the product, and nothing sells more than word of mouth. Which restaurant will you choose tonight? The 5-starred one on TripAdvisor or the one your Italian friend suggested you on WhatsApp? The second, most likely.

5. Be patient and wait for your moment

Every new day is a chance to make a new bet and your life is a beautiful casino (by the way, in Italian, a “casino” is literally a “mess,” which Web3 really got me into, since day 1 — hahah!). Every day, life airdrops you new tokens to be gambled, and all you have to do is place a bet wisely and wait for the odds to play out.

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

The first reason for failure is the Round A investment. The main reason is that the CEO is more focused on raising funds rather than expanding the business, and the other reason is that, after having secured enough funds, the adrenaline may drop and the dopamine may relax them to the point where they forget that the goal is running a successful business with the funds raised, and not going for more funds to get another adrenaline rush while screwing up the business itself.

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

Screen new hires very carefully before you choose them, through a good amount of social media background checks and, instead of an official interview, rather have a friendly chat with them, discussing more or less indirectly about their own culture and ethos. Plus, give them examples of how your team and you work and ask the prospect hires how they would have acted in times where your team was struggling with certain clients.

Do not impose culture and ethos on new hires, after you have done a poor job at screening them and they are already hired. It will not work!

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

Corporate communication is crucial. The communications model changes every three to four months. There’s media convergence, new technology, and new analytics, which affect how you need to communicate internally and externally in the company, and how people inside and outside of it will get their information.

Communicating your company’s top-level goals with the entire organization helps employees connect their everyday tasks to the bigger picture. This fosters a valuable sense of meaning in their jobs — which encourages them to contribute more.

Encourage your team members to voice their ideas, opinions, and concerns on a team communication platform of your choice, which may be the result of the combination of two or more platforms. This leads to stimulating and rich conversations which spark productivity, collaboration and innovation.

Encourage people to build their personal brands on social media by sharing the company’s thought leadership content, appearing on podcasts, and speaking at events. When you give your employees such opportunities, they feel more involved with the company and are ready to contribute more to your business success.

Before team members can innovate, they need to be informed about both internal company updates and external industry dynamics and economic developments. Using a team communications platform, as simple as a combination of Slack and Telegram, allows you to encourage your team to share articles and updates about your industry, competitors, and the economy with their colleagues. Similarly, they can share internal updates about customer challenges, successes, and so on. This knowledge will help your teammates come up with ideas and initiatives that truly reflect the needs of customers and the market.

Corporate communication is important for improving cross-departmental communication in the workplace. Innovation never happens solely within the confines of a lab. Truly profitable ideas and execution require inputs from across departments like tech, support, marketing, and sales.

When members of the organization have the means to communicate with people across departments effortlessly, they will be able to easily collaborate to discuss and refine innovation initiatives that become genuinely profitable. Productivity is all about getting more done in less time. The more productive your people are, the higher your revenue generated/employee and the lower the cost/employee.

Many collaborators will waste tons of time searching for the required information to execute specific tasks. This isn’t just the case with new hires. Anyone who’s trying to execute a process they are unfamiliar with would face this issue. However, an internal communications platform largely eliminates this problem. People can just ask their colleagues for help over the platform — in specific departmental/ topic-based ‘channels.’ Anyone who has experienced that situation before will be able to help out by providing an immediate solution.

Corporate communication encourages the practice of sharing knowledge and experiences. For example, a support or sales team member can share their unique experience with a customer. Everyone else can use that knowledge to help other customers more successfully in the future. Communication leads to better collaboration. And when people collaborate more efficiently, they get more done in less time with less friction.

Finally, companies are only as successful as the people who work there, but attracting top talent is an expensive and time-consuming process. With an employee advocacy program in place, your existing employees will be able to talk about open positions on their social networks. Instead of spending thousands of dollars on job ads, you can acquire suitable candidates through corporate communication on social media.

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

LinkedIn and Twitter to reach out, and then Telegram and Slack to onboard them into the internal corporate communications system.

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

Bring even more experts together, from directly/indirectly-related fields of Web3 and Data Science, in order to set up a one-stop not-for-profit community that offers 360-degrees due diligence on any Web3 project that is submitted by anyone, even anonymously.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

https://linktr.ee/eloisamarchesoni

This was truly meaningful! Thank you so much for your time and for sharing your expertise!


Eloisa Marchesoni On 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Scale Your Business was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Making Something From Nothing: Aimee Stoopler Of URvet Care On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Surround yourself with people that you can rely on.

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

After moving into Manhattan from Long Island, Aimee Stoopler and her husband Evan Stoopler were on the hunt for a vet for their dog Mason, a 10 year old Maltipoo, who had hurt himself jumping off the bed. The vet they found upcharged them for anti-inflammatory drugs, gave an impersonal and incorrect diagnosis, as well as poor customer service start to finish. It was then that the Stoopler’s saw an opportunity to provide New York City with the best medicine, best customer care and best customer service to the furry patient and the patient’s family.

Aimee is thrilled to be a disruptor in the animal and veterinary care space, and is having fun while doing it. The duo works hard to find the best quality Veterinarians, Specialists, Practitioners, and Client Service Representatives — and want these friendly faces to care for your pets each time you walk into a URvet Care location.

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

Growing up in a small beachtown on Long Island, NY, we lived a simple lifestyle enjoying the freedom of playing outside (with no cell phones) and only hearing moms calling us home from their porches as the sun went down. Our neighbors were our family, and our family was this small town, cut off by a small bridge from the rest of the world — even from our classmates from school. I grew up with several cats and a dog named Sandy Suki Chan, who was a Llasa Aapso.

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

“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” C.S. Lewis

I am a staunch believer that you cannot change what happened yesterday but you have the control to make today and tomorrow your power. People spend a lot of energy manifesting the past, which is a helpless situation. I believe taking the bull by the horn and creating a new energy is the best choice we can have.

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?

When I was pretty young, I watched the movie Ship of Fools (released in my birth year 1965). I reflect back and realize this movie made a profound impact on me throughout my life. For me, it has shown me not to always judge people by what I see, that people have stories — and all of these stories make up who we are, who our world is. I have always had a passion to help others, especially our elderly population and I spent a lot of time volunteering. Today I am a Board Certified Patient Advocate so that I am able to support the underserved, give a voice to people that don’t have one, and offer love and caring to those whose tanks run low. This movie really was meant to reflect all of these “broken” people that make up the world’s microcosm. It is something that we all struggle with today- to recognize the struggles of others.

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?

Taking an idea, or a feeling, you have and making it a reality is a daunting task. However, my husband and I repeatedly were faced with barriers in veterinary health care. One day, we sat in bed and really “talked” about it. Our ideas were endless and the things we had stirring in our heads were overwhelming.

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/opens its doors?

  1. Get it on paper, dream it, dream it some more, and be organized.
  2. Float the idea to others.
  3. Get money!
  4. Hire the right team- and do not make decisions too hastily.
  5. Make it legal. Get your name, your social media, everything in order!

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

  1. I really value the advice of others and the people that did this “before me.”
  2. Never react without absorbing the information first.
  3. Write every step that you took down, from Day 1.
  4. Surround yourself with people that you can rely on.
  5. DO not forget to keep in touch with friends and family.

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

Personally, I have found the speed at which marketing and advertising has moved away from the baby boomers is staggering. I have always worked within industries that required me to be in touch with digital technology, advertising and sales. Today, the information roller coaster to create the correct presence is best left up to the newbies, as for them it is second skin. There are so many different skill sets needed to “come dressed to the party” it is virtually an impossible task to strike out on your own.

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

Of course this depends on the product you are building, the cost to build an ice cream shop versus a hospital is a lot different. In the instance of URvet Care we were committed to producing medical excellence. Our standards made it necessary to raise capital.

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

There is not one day that goes by that I do not make a conscious effort to better the life of someone in my circle. It can be someone on a NYC street, a caretaker for someone, or people that work for you and with you. Creating jobs is about creating happiness, creating a culture that feels like you are part of a team and extended family. People want to feel safe, and feel like they belong. This is what I am all about.

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.

Without hesitation, I would inspire a movement of listening. People need to listen to what is being said, absorb it and act. Regarding URvet, our main focus is to provide excellent, personal, convenient and safe medicine for our pets and make the experience for our pet owners and doctors a lot less daunting, and alleviate the stress and anxiety associated with owning a new pet and treating ill ones. I have always had a passion for our elder population and providing them with attention and the resources they need to age in place with respect. As a Board Certified Patient Advocate, it is very common for my clients to have their own therapy animals, providing comfort and love.

Oftentimes, I have seen these animals need their own special attention. For instance, some clients are not able to transport their animals for care, so I started thinking of a solution with my husband. I thought “Let us try to either get transport services or have someone come to their home.” Some clients are away from their home for extended times in a hospital or a rehab, requiring friends and family to step in and help with the pets’ care. These are obstacles that are common and exist daily. Providing the solutions can alleviate so much stress and anxiety. Stress and anxiety in our elderly often gets exhibited in ways that we do not immediately recognize i.e. obstinance, depression, anger, frustration.

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 sit down and meet with Bethenny Frankel because she is a real person and an animal lover, and for me she is in my own genre. Bethenny is a doer, a helper and her BStrong initiative has caught my attention many times over. She has become a public figure and uses that platform to help and support those in need. Her personality is real, and she is direct and to the point — similar to myself. I believe she can offer input to build upon our URvet culture as we are only just getting started.

Where can we go to learn more about URvet Care?

For more on URvet Care, visit www.urvetcare.com or follow along on Instagram @urvetcare.

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


Making Something From Nothing: Aimee Stoopler Of URvet Care 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.

John James Of Strong and Sexy Fit: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Transparency is everything, to us and our customers. All of our packaging lists the product use or ingredient in its name and has all ingredients and directions on the back.

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

John James is the founder and head trainer behind the Strong and Sexy Fit Ebooks and Products. James’ passion for helping and supporting women on their fitness and health journies stems from watching his mother and sisters constantly strive to feel their most confident selves. James knew he wanted to make a difference in the culture surrounding women’s body image, confidence, and fitness and health journies. It wasn’t until he met and married his wife Ali James, that now would be the time to make a difference in this space. John James has now made it his life mission to ensure the women in his life and now across the country feel their best in their own skin, always STRONG and always SEXY. Aside from creating a fully curated line of women’s supplements he feels proud to share with his wife, James continues to share his passion for fitness, with his one-on-one fitness sessions.

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

Thank you so much for having me! My name is John James I am the founder and head trainer behind the Strong and Sexy Fit Ebooks and Supplements. My passion for helping and supporting women on their fitness and health journeys stems from growing up in a house filled with women. I was constantly watching my mother and sisters strive to feel their most confident selves and wondered how I could possibly prevent my wife and daughters one day from feeling those same feelings. With my passion for fitness and nutrition, I knew I could help make a difference in the culture surrounding women’s body image, confidence, and fitness and health journeys. This passion of mine really came to fruition when I met and married my wife Ali. My wife is the love of my life and I couldn’t imagine seeing her struggle with self confidence, that is why I poured myself into Strong and Sexy Fit. I wanted to ensure the women in my life and now women nationwide always felt their best in their own skin and knew there was someone out there cheering them on.

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

When you start a business it is really about trial and error, seeing what works for you and your customer base and where you may need to pivot. While this experience I am going to share is not so-called funny, it was an experience that completely changed the way I think and approach marketing Strong and Sexy Fit. When we first started marketing our Ebooks we used women who were in incredible shape on the covers. I quickly realized that having that fitness enthusiast or fanatic was very intimidating to a lot of our customers who are newer to the health and fitness space. If you are a beginner and looking to start your fitness journey the last thing you want to purchase is an ebook with a fitness model on the cover who is already in fantastic shape, you want to see someone like yourself, a real person on that cover whom you can identify to. The lesson I took away from this is that it is incredibly important to KNOW and cater to your customer base and create products they can see themselves using. When you genuinely know your demographic you are much more likely to close a sale.

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

Strong and Sexy Fit was not only created from personal needs but built from the passion of growing a community of strong and confident women around the world. Strong and Sexy Fit offers all types of supplements curated specifically for the female body whether your goals are lifestyle or fitness related.

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

We are always working on something new and exciting for our customers! We love to change up flavors and have special releases of products, definitely stay tuned for a possible drop… we can’t share too much as it would take some of the surprise and excitement away, but it will definitely be a sweet drop…

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

For Strong and Sexy Fit it was important to have branding that felt like something familiar, it felt like a best friend’s product they loved they wanted to share with you. Our branding is light, fresh, and inviting. All of our packaging has the type of supplement in its name allowing our customers to feel no confusion when purchasing. For advertising and marketing, we feel organic is best. We created these products to our personal standards so we love them and share them through our social channels, what we truly love to see is customers sharing their personal experiences after using Strong and Sexy Fit supplements whether it be the Greens, the hormonal balance Goddess, the pre-workout or the collagen. The best form of marketing for us has been word of mouth because the products do speak for themselves.

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

It is incredibly important to invest in your brand. The cliche, “you get out what you put into something” is a cliche for a reason, it’s true. If you invest in your brand and keep investing in it, it will grow.

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

  1. Create a brand or product you are proud to use yourself. If you believe wholeheartedly in your brand others will believe in it.
  2. Don’t take shortcuts. For example, we have a Greens powder that provides you with only the good and nutrient-packed parts of the fruit or vegetables. We also felt that it was important to use patented ingredients, only the best of the best and while they may not be as cost-efficient they were exactly what we believed in and felt our customers deserved.
  3. Transparency is everything, to us and our customers. All of our packaging lists the product use or ingredient in its name and has all ingredients and directions on the back.
  4. Be available for your customers. Something Strong and Sexy Fit offers is for our customers to email us with any questions they may have regarding product recommendations from us. We are happy to help our customers find the products that will best suit their needs.
  5. Keep your customers and or clients top of mind when bringing your product to market. You want to ensure your product can be easily understood and is marketed in a way it is relatable to your consumer. Make your packaging pop, make it stand out, and have your marketing do the same.

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

The Honest Company has done a fantastic job creating a brand that is universally trusted with something as sensitive as our little ones. One thing the Honest Company does that makes me trust them and loyal to their brand is their commitment to the continuous study of ingredients they choose to use. I think the best thing you can do to replicate that is putting conviction over profit. Prioritizing doing the right thing over the easy thing as a business owner is something I personally think will make a successful and trusted business as the Honest Company continues to do. When your customer base personally experiences the wonders your product can do and feels the transparency from you, they will be dedicated to your brand too.

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

The success of a brand-building campaign for our brand is measured by the satisfaction of our customers. When our customers see results, love the taste, and continue to share the products, we have succeeded. After all, we built this brand to contribute to the well-being of women’s lives across the country.

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

Social media plays a major role in our branding efforts as we have personally used our platforms to share Strong and Sexy Fit but also have partnered in creating products with influencers such as Tanner Mann. We created a delicious and efficient pre-workout together and wanted to share that with all of our followers.

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 reason we started Strong and Sexy Fit is the same movement we hope to keep inspiring. It is to create and continue to build a Community of strong women who feel confident in themselves, not only physically but who they are as people. A healthy body, strong mind, and happy heart can contribute so much to others’ lives and the world in ways we may not have thought possible. Strong and Sexy Fit is here to show women are powerful and can be both strong and sexy, and that there is nothing wrong with being both.

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

My mother always said, “Wish in one hand and shit in the other and see which fills up faster.” It may sound like an obscene quote but it carries a lot of weight with me. So many times in life we spend our days wishing on our goals and ambitions. Those wishes are often left unfulfilled if not met with action. I myself spent years wishing on my goals and never saw them come to fruition until I got the ball rolling and started putting in the effort. If you have a dream or a goal, chase it, put in the work, the late nights, whatever it takes to get you closer to achieving it. Nothing in your life will change or be accomplished until you change it or take active steps to accomplish it.

OR IF this is to “much” here is an alternative

My second grade teacher used to always say to me “ When the going gets tough, the tough gets going”, Often in reference to my desire to be the top accelerated reader. Although the quote was used in light context, it has lived with me every day since. Often in life we are met with adversity and challenges and those are the very times that call for us to step up to the plate and face them with dedication and courage. Owning a fitness/ supplement company during arguably the greatest supply chain challenges of modernity has come with a laundry list of issues to navigate in order to strive towards perfection and meet customer expectations. I can still hear Mrs. Rivers at times of strife encouraging me with her favorite quote!

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

I’d prefer a night out with my wife who is one of my greatest assets to my business.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

We would love it if you followed us on Instagram @strongandsexyfit

And check out our supplements at strongandsexy.fit

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

Thank you so much! I appreciate it.


John James Of Strong and Sexy Fit: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Meet The Disruptors: Ben & Stephen Joffer Of Jelly Belly Sparkling Water On The Five Things You…

Meet The Disruptors: Ben & Stephen Joffer Of Jelly Belly Sparkling Water On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Take care of yourself — For the longevity and health of the businesses we must take good care of ourselves as leaders. We prioritize our health and wellbeing so that we can be effective and execute in the business. If you don’t take the time for exercise, eating healthy and relationships then eventually you will burn out.

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

Stephen Joffer is Co-Founder of Joffer Beverage Company, and his responsibilities include sales, marketing, team building and overall strategy. Stephen lives in Southern Oregon where the company is based and enjoys fly-fishing, reading and community involvement. Previously, he was a Junior High Pastor and continues ministering in a volunteer capacity at his local church.

Ben Joffer is Co-Founder of Jelly Belly Sparkling Water specializing in corporate sales. He enjoys spending outdoor time with his wife Amy and their two daughters Reese and Mia. When he’s not making sales calls, participating in athletics or telling jokes, ben likes to spend time flyfishing Southern Oregon’s rivers. He is part of the 6th generation of the Jelly Belly Candy Company family business.

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

Stephen: Growing up in a business family, I think calculating margin was one of the first things I learned alongside my ABC’s. Living in that ecosystem you pick up terms, concepts and strategies essential to being a successful entrepreneur that I didn’t realize until I went to business school. It gave me a great foundation for my education when I studied business at Biola University in Los Angeles. Upon graduation, I worked as a middle school pastor until the idea for Jelly Belly Sparkling Water was formed. I was so eager about the idea that I was the first to quit my job and go full time into the beverage company.

Ben: I had a very strange career path leading up to this point. I was big into sports in school, where I gained a love for competition and hard work. In college, I worked for three summers guiding raft trips, where I learned to love adventure and charting a new path. After graduation, I went into Real Estate Sales for five years, which were very successful. I’m a big people person, I love meeting new people, building relationships and having fun. But when the opportunity came up to work with my family to grow the Jelly Belly brand that I love so much, I was very excited to jump right in and learn a new career. Jelly Belly has always been such a big part of my life and I’m also passionate about being healthy so creating Jelly Belly Sparkling Water is a dream come true for me.

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

The most significant differentiation between the many sparkling water brands is flavor. And so, the king of flavor will be the king of the category, and we want to take a bold approach to get there. Jelly Belly offers unique, powerful and iconic flavors that other brands do not have. We perfectly matched the flavors of our jelly beans and the taste is really unbelievable. We hear all the time “This is the best sparkling water I’ve ever had.” And who else can make flavors like Chocolate, Juicy Pear, French Vanilla, Orange Sherbet and Very Cherry. These are all iconic Jelly Belly flavors and unique to the category.

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

We made many mistakes in launching this brand, but the most obvious was that we were too conservative in our initial flavor offerings. On the advice of others, we launched the company featuring pink grapefruit, lemon-lime, and tangerine, common flavors across the industry. We then pivoted our strategy to lean into our family’s successful heritage in candy by introducing unique and innovative flavors such as Juicy Pear, French Vanilla, Orange Sherbet, Very Cherry, Watermelon and most recently Chocolate. It’s clear to us that consumers are looking for something different and unique in the category and expect that from the Jelly Belly brand.

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?

No one gets anywhere in life or business without some guidance and mentorship. We have been very blessed to have some incredible business minds within our family who’ve served as mentors. Our Father, Andy, was the genius who originally came up with the idea for flavored sparkling water and still provides his insights. During our family gathering in 2019 where we came up with the idea, he was the one who brought Jelly Belly and Sparkling Water together. Of course, my grandfather, Herm, has been an incredible help through the journey. We sat down with him for a whole weekend and drilled into the numbers. He provided valuable insights, and it was a great exercise for us to see where we stood. Now we know our financials well, which is essential to any successful entrepreneurial enterprise.

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?

First, know your industry. Know everything about it and how each step works and why companies are doing what they are doing. In our case, we are disrupting a multi-billion industry by providing a unique and superior product experience. However, we don’t need to disrupt the manufacturing or distribution process. In the manufacturing and distribution process we have taken the stance, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Once you’ve mastered the key drivers that impact your industry, you can begin to identify areas of the business that need to be optimized. Those are the focus areas where you seek to find solutions. Solutions are disruptors.

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. Quality is a word we have always used with great emotion — Our grandfather says this on a video played on every Jelly Belly factory tour. It reminds us that this is not just a business, but a passion. This has been part of our family’s DNA for generations and will remain a cornerstone of our family business.

2. Stay Focused. — Entrepreneurs are inherently curious and can sometimes get distracted. We are no different, and collectively have a thousand new ideas a day, but we understand the need to stay focused. Due to the success of Joffer Beverage, new opportunities have been brought to us from other large companies. However, we limit our involvement to stay focused. If we are spread too thin, then nothing will truly get done.

3. Hire thoroughbreds, not donkeys — This is a Dave Ramsey quote which emphasizes the importance of building a top-notch team. We have already hired a fantastic national director of sales and are continuing to build a team of other thoroughbreds throughout the business.

4. Take care of yourself — For the longevity and health of the businesses we must take good care of ourselves as leaders. We prioritize our health and wellbeing so that we can be effective and execute in the business. If you don’t take the time for exercise, eating healthy and relationships then eventually you will burn out.

5. Stay humble — If at any point we think that no one can teach us anything, then the collapse has begun. We constantly learn, listen and engage so that all of our strategy and decisions are as effective as possible. Pride will kill an organization.

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

Ben: Well as you can imagine Jelly Belly has a huge runway of flavors for us to explore. I could list at least 10 flavors right now that we’ve already successfully turned into a sparkling water… And most of them are completely unique to the Jelly Belly brand. We can’t wait to launch them.

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?

Tim Keller is a thinker from NYC whose book, “Every Good Endeavor” has provided us with a framework on how to view work in its proper place in our lives. Being entrepreneurs, it is easy for our businesses to become all consuming, almost taking over our identities. This tends to drive us to overwork and abandon other responsibilities in order to make sure the business succeeds. Hustle culture within start-ups is a prime example of this tendency. On the flip side, work is frequently degraded as a drudgery. Something to escape from as soon as possible. However, Tim’s perspective on work shows the goodness, necessity and meaning of work without allowing it to rule our lives and become our identity. I would recommend every businessperson to read this book so that they can have a wholistic view of business, work and life.

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

Don’t be an idiot. — Said by Michael Scott and Dwight Shrute in The Office. When you work with family it’s a bit of a balance. You need to be able to challenge one another and confront one another but not let anything wear down the family relationships. Humor is key to not taking ourselves so seriously during these moments, and some of the funniest business quotes to us are found in The Office, which has become a family favorite.

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

We believe that it is through business innovation that many of the great developments in society have also been created. The system we live in incentivizes and rewards those who serve their neighbors with what will make their lives easier or more enjoyable. Therefore, the thing that will do the most good for the most people is true entrepreneurship. Starting quality businesses is the most effective way to bring good to the most people.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can follow us on Instagram @jellybellysparklingwater.

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


Meet The Disruptors: Ben & Stephen Joffer Of Jelly Belly Sparkling Water On The Five Things You… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Jake Dempsey of Project Broadcast On How to Effectively Leverage The Power of Digital Marketing…

Jake Dempsey of Project Broadcast On How to Effectively Leverage The Power of Digital Marketing, PPC, & Email to Dramatically Increase Sales

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

I don’t care what anyone tells you, this is a component to any great marketing. Innovate and crush your customer’s expectations by being outright ferocious on delivering value for them. It creates great marketing material for you to then go out and tell your story. If you’re marketing someone else’s products, make sure to tell their story of how they’re crushing it on behalf of their customers.

Marketing a product or service today is easier than ever before in history. Using platforms like Facebook ads or Google ads, a company can market their product directly to people who perfectly fit the ideal client demographic, at a very low cost. Digital Marketing tools, Pay per Click ads, and email marketing can help a company dramatically increase sales. At the same time, many companies that just start exploring with digital marketing tools often see disappointing results.

In this interview series called “How to Effectively Leverage The Power of Digital Marketing, PPC, & Email to Dramatically Increase Sales”, we are talking to marketers, advertisers, brand consultants, & digital marketing gurus who can share practical ideas from their experience about how to effectively leverage the power of digital marketing, PPC, & email.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jake Dempsey, Co-founder and CEO of Project Broadcast.

Jake Dempsey is the co-founder and CEO of Project Broadcast. He has 20+ total years of software development experience, including a decade of experience working directly in the network marketing and direct sales industry. Dempsey’s primary mission is to develop and deploy bundled products and tools that help network marketing and direct sales professionals successfully scale their entrepreneurial business ventures. Prior to co-founding Project Broadcast, he served as the CEO of StarterStep LLC, a leading web and mobile app development company leveraging leading-edge technologies for clientele in multiple industries. Dempsey brings a lead engineer focus to software development in the network marketing and direct sales marketplace, with a clear understanding of how to apply agile methodologies and the technological advancements that move the needle among entrepreneurial-focused professionals.

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

Well, that’s quite a long story! I often joke with friends and family that my life is probably best suited for a TV mini-series! I’m a nerd with a less than humble upbringing that dreamed of being a surgeon. Luckily, along the way I found technology and changed the trajectory of my life forever. After decades of building software for big brands, myself and my co-founder Brian Knorr decided to solve a problem in the digital marketing space and launched Project Broadcast. It was born out of the need for our spouses to have a more meaningful and scalable way to communicate to their customers. At the time we didn’t see any tools or platforms that we felt satisfied their needs or industry at a price point that could scale to large, distributed sales forces. After one year of heads down development by our entire team, Project Broadcast was launched. We now support over 30k entrepreneurs that want to leverage the power of text marketing for their business.

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

Don’t trust your gut — trust the data! Instead of a single mistake I’ll share with you a whole strategy that creates a multitude of mistakes! Early in our growth phase we relied purely on instincts. Now, I’ll be the first to say that I believe all great businesses probably have great instincts. It’s a prerequisite for problem solving in my opinion. I remember in our early years we would build a feature or try a marketing tactic, and in the end, the conversation would be “how do we feel” about what we had done. Well, newsflash, it doesn’t matter how we feel about the approach. Later, through continued development of ourselves as entrepreneurs and business owners, we began asking more thoughtful questions. We started thinking more about what outcome we wanted to produce. With a desired outcome we would develop strategies and plays to put them to the test. But before putting a strategy in play, we would ask a simple question: “How will we measure if this is successful?” I know that may sound simple, but you would be surprised how little that question is asked. Asking yourself how you will measure the success, measuring it, then reflecting on the outcome, helps to eliminate defining success/failure purely off of the feeling the test provided. We still leverage instincts heavily as they are foundational in understanding the problem you are solving for and maintaining the ability to react quickly — so now we just make sure to layer data into that discussion. Will all your plays succeed? Heck no! But using data helps you to understand what works, and doesn’t work, objectively. And with that data, you can make better decisions on what to stop doing and what to lean into more!

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?

Let’s talk about Brian. Brian Knorr, CTO and co-founder of Project Broadcast, has been a great colleague and friend for more than two decades. In fact, it was Brian who would nudge me to “get a real job” before I ever took my first position in technology. Brian, eight years my senior, told me one day early in my career: “I know that one day I’ll work for you. I just know it.” I’ve never forgotten that, and it inspired me to push every day to be a better teammate and business owner. Twenty two years have passed since Brian and I first met. During that entire time, except for one year we don’t discuss, we’ve worked together at every company. Building software requires talent across a spectrum of skill sets. From people who are talented “at the bare metal” of the project writing code with a deep understanding of technology — to people who have a deep understanding of the customer. Brian and I have been such a great duo because the two of us represent a broad area of that spectrum, while enjoying plenty of overlap in the middle. Project Broadcast would not exist without Brian. There is no debating that fact and his continued leadership as our CTO is invaluable to our continued success.

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

At the heart of our team is a strong desire to scale and automate the success of the small entrepreneur. It is something we discuss frequently as a team. We feel that this only happens when we truly invest in the success of our customers. I remember feeling sad for our customers, because I saw that higher paid entrepreneurs were able to afford “strategists” to help them improve their business. They would pay a strategist to consult them on creating systems for their business, help with marketing strategies, and the understanding of emerging trends. As I thought more and more about our role, as it pertains to our customers, I decided we needed to provide these types of benefits for everyone. As a team, we defined what it meant for our customer to be successful. And with that, we started our Project Broadcast Customer Success Team. Whether good or bad, they have the vaguest job description in the entire company, with a simple mission to “help our customers be successful”. I was lucky to find two of these paid strategists in the marketplace and they joined Project Broadcast full-time, so that all of our customers would have access to their skills and experience. It was one of the best decisions we’ve made as a company. I get so much joy out of knowing we provide the value of in-house strategists — at no cost to our customers — so that everyone can tap into that as a resource. On a daily basis, we receive messages from our customers expressing their gratitude for providing access to our Customer Success team.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

I’m actually a believer that, ultimately, it takes only two character traits! I feel strongly that if you have both aptitude and passion you can conquer the world. Archimedes said, “Give me a lever long enough, and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.” I think passion and aptitude function as the lever and fulcrum. Aptitude, generally speaking, is the understanding of the problem domain and solution. You have to know what problem you are solving — and how you’re going to solve it in a specific way. But just knowing the problem and solution will get you nowhere. It’s all about execution. For me, passion is my motivation for getting things done. It’s the hustle that doesn’t sleep. Now, without passion, you could certainly apply your aptitude and begin the journey of solving a problem. However, without a true passion for the domain and solution, you simply won’t finish the job. Real passion is what gets you to work on the days you’d rather just sleep in. My family jokes with me constantly about working too much. I jokingly reply that I’ll retire one day — which gets an immediate response of eye rolls and laughs. They know I love what I do too much to stop. My passion for my mission is so strong that I don’t view the work I do as toil. Because there is a big difference in work and toil. The work we do at Project Broadcast empowers others to crush their business goals — and I’m addicted to empowering their success!

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

At Project Broadcast, on a product level, we feel that we should deliver on three primary objectives for our customers. 1.) Deliver the most robust marketing platform at the most affordable price. 2.) Provide deep collaboration zones for entrepreneurs and their team members. 3.) Help customers manage their customers and leads effectively. Currently, I think we knock №1 out of the park. Project Broadcast is by far the most robust and affordable text marketing platform available today. We’re hard at work improving our commitment to №2, with our new spaces feature, and we have tons more work to do there. In 2023, we’ll take a deep dive into fulfilling our commitment on №3. We have some great stuff on the horizon, and even after five years of driving value on behalf of our customers, we’re just getting started!

Ok super. Now let’s jump to the main questions of our interview. As we mentioned in the beginning, sometimes companies that just start exploring with digital marketing tools like PPC campaigns often see disappointing results.

In your opinion, what are a few of the biggest mistakes companies make when they first start out with digital marketing? If you can, please share an example for each.

I think one of the biggest mistakes people make is not knowing what problem they’re trying to solve. PPC campaigns should be targeted. But who should they be targeted to? When you define your audience, why did you pick that audience? It’s so critical to be thoughtful about who your potential customers are and where they hang out. We recently revisited this discussion internally. We launched our social media presence a while back (admittedly, we were a little late to the party) and have been driving engagement on our social platforms, as well as doing paid ad spends for well over a year — at times spending upwards of $20k a month. One of our recent discussions focused on our own efforts for our social platforms. We were working hard on Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, and TikTok. As we discussed these efforts, someone brought up a very thoughtful question: “Why are we spending time on LinkedIn? Our customers don’t hang out there.” It really made us sit up and think again about who our customers are and where they hang out. Once you establish those two answers, you can then begin to think about where you should spend ad dollars and how to target your audience more effectively.

If you could break down a very successful digital marketing campaign into a “blueprint”, what would that blueprint look like? Please share some stories or examples of your ideas.

As I said, the first step is to truly discover who you customer is and where they hang out. Once you have those two pieces of information, it’s then possible to identify what problem you can solve for them. Your marketing should be about solving a problem for someone. If your advertising doesn’t show how you solve a problem, then you’re likely not going to convert. I’d also note that before you spend anything you should determine how much a customer is worth to your business — and what you’d be willing to pay to acquire them. Knowing that figure helps you to evaluate whether you’re capturing customers in a sustainable way. For example, let’s say you determine that you’d spend $50 on acquiring a customer and your CAC for a given campaign comes out to $10. Well, if I’d be happy with $50 per acquisition, but I’m actually acquiring customers for $10, then I’m going to go figure out how to crank the dial up to 11 on my spend for that particular campaign. Conversely, if my CAC is coming in above $50, I may reallocate those dollars to a better performer, or decide to terminate that specific campaign.

Let’s talk about Pay Per Click Marketing (PPC) for a bit. In your opinion which PPC platform produces the best results to increase sales?

I think marketing should be a multi-faceted approach. It’s one of the reasons Project Broadcast exists. If your entire marketing approach is wrapped up in PPC, then you likely aren’t engaging with your audience in a meaningful way. Should you have PPC? Probably. We’ve had both great success and great failures on Meta and Google. Hulu recently launched ads, and I’ve not had time to play with their platform, but I’m intrigued by it. Same with TikTok. At Project Broadcast, we exist to empower small entrepreneurs to create conversation. We’re a huge believer in the idea that business flows out of relationships — and not the other way around. If you agree, you must make sure your strategy includes a way to truly engage your potential customer audience on multiple channels. If you really want to increase sales, and do it in a sustainable way, you have to create relationship with your customers.

Can you please share 3 things that you need to know to run a highly successful PPC campaign?

For me, it boils down to finding out who your customers are, where they hang out, and how much you’re willing to spend in acquiring them. If you don’t have a deep understanding of these three factors, you’ll likely fail with an ad spend.

Let’s now talk about email marketing for a bit. In your opinion, what are the 3 things that you need to know to run a highly successful email marketing campaign that increases sales?

Look, I’m going to sound biased here. For the most part, email has about a 20% open rate, a 15% or less read rate, and an even lower response rate. The data changes slightly from year to year, but those are the rough numbers. Conversely, texting has a 98% read rate. And the response rate from texting is also quite high — as I’ve seen stats in the 50% range. So, let’s apply some basic math here. You send 100 emails, 15 of which are read, and even less illicit a response. On the flip side, you send 100 text messages, 98% of which get read, and 50% generate a response. Texting, by far, has higher engagement than email. But what do you do with that data? Well, you use a tool like Project Broadcast, allowing you to engage with your customers in a thoughtful way that creates real relationships and loyalty. My three tips are simple -be personal in your marketing, make sure you understand the problem you’re trying to solve, and get your customer to engage with you. If you create marketing the feels individualized and personal, solves their problem, and makes them want to engage with me, then I’m your customer for life.

What are the other digital marketing tools that you are passionate about? If you can, can you share with our readers what they are and how to best leverage them?

One of my favorite digital marketing tools is actually Canva. Again, I’m here for the small entrepreneur and tools like Canva can bring the power of creating beautiful graphics with excellent typography to the fingertips of any business owner. They provide templates for social media posts, so you can get the right image, sized correctly, from a massive library of content to leverage. For the small entrepreneur it’s absolutely a must have.

Here is the main question of our series. Can you please tell us the 5 things you need to create a highly successful career as a digital marketer? Can you please share a story or example for each?

1.Know who your customer is.

If you can’t identify who your customer truly is, why even try? Spend the time. Put in the work. Don’t spend money casting a net so wide that you don’t catch the right fish.

2. Know where your customer hangs out.

This is vitally important. It’s great to know who the customer is, but we then have to make certain we know where they hang out. I don’t want to oversimplify, but if you don’t know where they hang out, you’ll spend dollars trying to capture customers in places they don’t frequent. I mean this both digitally and in a physical sense.

3. Understand what you are willing to spend to capture that customer.

Marketing involves basic economics of spend, in my opinion. In order to be successful, you have to understand what you’re willing to spend to capture a customer. You have to make sure you attribute your efforts, collect data on the effectiveness, and evaluate the spend. Reallocate funds or terminate what doesn’t work.

4. Execute ferociously on your actual product.

I don’t care what anyone tells you, this is a component to any great marketing. Innovate and crush your customer’s expectations by being outright ferocious on delivering value for them. It creates great marketing material for you to then go out and tell your story. If you’re marketing someone else’s products, make sure to tell their story of how they’re crushing it on behalf of their customers.

5. You have to truly care about the success of your customer.

This matters so much! You have to make this part of your story. It can’t just be lip service. If you truly care about the success of the customer, you also create a massive amount of content to then use for marketing. If you truly care about their success, and deliver on that premise, you can follow up by asking them to provide a testimonial quote or social shout out. Every customer is an influencer. Yes, their sphere of influence varies in size, but every last one of them has some level of influence — and you can really stretch your spend further once your customers are doing the marketing for you!

What books, podcasts, videos or other resources do you use to sharpen your marketing skills?

I recently read “Amp It Up” by Frank Slootman and I’m still digesting what I learned from the book. Ultimately, Frank talks about increasing expectations on yourself and the business in order to be more aggressive about growth. You never want to finish the race with fuel in the tank. Leave it all on the playing field. I also continue to learn that, as a leader, if your team sees you working hard, they’ll almost always find a bit more in themselves and push harder too. I’ve also always been a huge fan of Gary Vaynerchuck’s “Thank You Economy.” I think he’s spot on with his observation of business today. You have to get personal. You have to build real relationships with your customers and show them you truly care about their success. Every day at Project Broadcast, we demonstrate how we truly care about our customers. And the most beautiful thing is that they recognize it and refer others to our platform. When your business is nearly 80% referrals, you know your customers love what your providing.

Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. Here is our final ‘meaty’ question. 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. 🙂

Wow, a zinger at the end huh!? Right now, so much of my world revolves around Project Broadcast and the business owners we’re empowering. More than 95% of our user base is female. They’re small entrepreneurs (solopreneurs in most cases), oftentimes as a consultant working for a network marketing, direct sales company, or some other version of a small side-hustle. They’re using Project Broadcast to create and scale relationships to grow their business. If I were capable of starting a movement, I’d want to create something that empowers their success even further — by helping to remove many of the outdated and false stigmas associated with their chosen profession. Every day, I see them fight to overcome the former stigmas of their profession in the world. But the reality is different. While there will always be bad actors, the direct selling and network marketing profession as a whole has become much more grounded in providing an equitable outcome for everyone involved.

How can our readers further follow your work?

If you want to follow our journey at Project Broadcast, you can follow us on Instagram, and you can also find me on LinkedIn.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!


Jake Dempsey of Project Broadcast On How to Effectively Leverage The Power of Digital Marketing… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.