Category Archives: Investing

Episode 61: The challenges of scaling a technology group



What are the challenges of scaling your technology company or your technology group in a technology driven company? Lessons learned from the front line. Beyond slogans, fads and beautiful articles written by smart people from top consulting companies.

In this brief presentation, Israel Ben-Ishai will share with you what he learned from many years of experience scaling technology groups as a leader and from the last five years as a consultant, coach, and mentor.

Some of the questions Israel will attempt to answer are:
– How does one take the initial innovation and market success to the next phase of operational success?
– How do you scale your organization, technology, processes, and people?
– How do the great agile principles, and mindset scale when you grow at today’s high speed and confront some of the business realities?

Bio:

Israel is a Mentor, Coach, and advisor to leaders in technology and technology-driven companies and their investors.

After a long career as an engineer, engineering manager, and technology executive Israel decided to dedicate his energy and knowledge to mentoring new generations of technology leaders and consulting with growth companies and their investors.

Israel’s has many years of successful experience in people development and scaling organizations in the software industry.
In addition to his vast engineering experience, he embarked on a coach training program with the Coaching Training Institute (CTI).
Israel is now a mentor and a coach to leaders in small and large companies and advises CEO’s CTO’s and CPO’s on scaling their organization and developing their people to adjust and be successful as the company grows.

In his advisory capacity, he undertakes interim part-time roles as CTO/ VP of Engineering and helps organizations set up and scale their organization and hire key leaders. Israel holds a Dottore degree in Electronics Engineering from the Politecnico di Milano, Milan, Italy and completed extensive Executive Management training at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario. He is also a Certified Professional Engineer in Ontario, Canada.


Episode 58: 3D printing a Colony on Mars



As humanity moves closer to our vision to settle the moon, and then Mars, the ability to generate critical infrastructure “on site” in space becomes increasingly important for cost control, timelines and safety. 3D printing with indigenous Mars materials in an autonomous robotic way, before humans set foot on Mars may be the key. My team has been participating in the NASA Centennial Challenge to 3D print a Mars Habitat for the past 3 years to develop this concept and technology.

In this presentation I will first illustrate how our adventures started from the garage, while being unfunded and understaffed. We borrowed key hardware components, including a pasta machine that substituted for a clay printer extruder and a 10 foot robotic arm, from industry and academic partners. We even generated our own Mars regolith simulant based on volcanic basalt rocks we handpicked in Northern Israel.

Despite many challenges, ranging from limited access to materials, short deadlines, and zero dollars in funding, we were able to print the first physical deliverable, which significantly outperformed the NASA required minimum in initial mechanical testing. In delivering the second physical deliverable, we struggled with optimizing the curing time and heat exposure to the printing nozzle. However, we overcame operational challenges, recruited new team members from around the world, and increased the printing accuracy.

The BubbleBase team was recently “adopted” by Caltech, in a strategic move to enhance our US presence and increase manpower working on the project, especially in the field of robotics and autonomy. The talk will elaborate on additional challenges currently facing the team, including: merging teams from different disciplines and cultures, technology challenges in material science, robotics and civil engineering, funding requirements, and operational challenges. It will conclude with the team’s plans for the future (on Earth, and on Mars) and how you can follow our work and get involved in the project.

Bio:

Helen Wexler is an award winning “ArchiTech,” positioned at the intersection of architecture and technology. She is the founder of Caltech-BubbleBase, an aerospace project developing technology to 3D print and robotically assemble housing on Mars for the NASA Centennial Challenge. She has served as architect in leading New York and Austria based firms before becoming a technology analyst in the VC industry.

Helen was previously Director of the The Jnext Hi-Tech & Entrepreneurship Program at the Jerusalem Development Authority, where she oversaw the emerging tech ecosystem of Israel’s capital city, while innovating economic development policy. Ms. Wexler holds a degree in Architecture from the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design where she is Lecturer on “Technology Paradigms in Architecture.” She is a graduate of the MEET MIT Computer Science Program and Israel Academy of Arts and Sciences (outstanding honors). Helen was named to Forbes Israel 30 under 30 list and has recently completed the International Space Studies Program as an Ilan Ramon Scholarship Fellow.


Episode 56: From Carmen Sandiego to Vroman’s: Why I Write Fiction for less than Minimum Wage



For much of his life, Ken Goldstein was the consummate Silicon Valley insider. In the 1990s, he worked at Brøderbund Software, in charge of all things related to the Carmen Sandiego franchise of computer games. When Brøderbund was acquired by its rival in 1998, Ken moved to Disney Online where under the mentorship of Michael Eisner, his team launched Toontown and the entertainment giant’s other early forays into interactive online entertainment.

In 2006, Ken took the reins as CEO & Chairman of Shop.com, a comparison shopping marketplace with a patented single cart checkout solution backed by Bill Gates, Amazon.com, Yahoo and Oak Investment Partners. In 2010, Shop.com was acquired by Market America where the marketplace continues to thrive.

Then Ken returned to his true passion: writing. With a nod to social realism, he set out to paint the world of technology madness in authentic fiction. His first novel, This Is Rage, was published in 2013 and optioned for Broadway. His second book, Endless Encores, was published in 2015. His third book: From Nothing: A Novel of Technology, Bar Music, and Redemption, releases on June 12, 2018.

Ken will talk about his new book, his time in and out of Silicon Valley, his experience running some of the most beloved properties in online entertainment, and share some of the key school-of-hard-knocks lessons that made him both a successful tech executive, and later on a successful author. Feel free to ask him really awkward questions about what it’s like to survive in the unforgiving worlds of literature and technology. Hint: technology is way easier!

Vroman’s Bookstore will be on site with all of Ken’s books available for purchase.

About the author:

Ken Goldstein advises start-ups and established companies on brands, creative talent, e-commerce, and digital media strategy. He publishes the business blog CorporateIntel.us and is currently chairman of the board at ThriftBooks Global and Good Men Media. Previously he served as Chairman & CEO of SHOP.COM, Executive Vice President & Managing Director of Disney Online, and VP/Executive Publisher of Entertainment & Education for Broderbund Software. Ken is the author of three novels all published by The Story Plant.

About the new book:

“From Nothing: A Novel of Technology, Bar Music, and Redemption” is the story of an entrepreneur who finds himself in an awful fix and ducks into his previous life as a musician in hopes of waiting out the war. It doesn’t work. The book’s protagonist can no more escape his present than he can remake his past. What he can do is try to hold onto his values, his belief in what matters to him, and figure out how to start over again in a world that says it believes in innovation but only seems to reward the outcomes of success that are entirely unpredictable.

Victor Selo had blown up his life. A wannabe rock star turned tech savant, he’d wagered his Silicon Valley executive position on a corporate inside straight and lost. Having security escort him out of the building was the bestthing that happened to him that day. The rest left him in the hospital, broken, broke, and with no prospects.

That’s when a shadowy stranger with questionable motives came with an offer: a chance to get his life back – and better – if he simply cooperates. It would require becoming invisible for a while, but he would be hiding in the spotlight, playing guitar in a Vegas cover band. Reluctantly, Victor accepts and begins an odyssey he never could have imagined. One that involves a charismatic lead singer who owns the stage but aspires to own an Elvis wedding chapel, a mesmerizing woman who can play anything on her keyboards and can really play with Victor’s head, and two specters from his old life offering competing devil’s bargains. Suddenly, multiple futures are opening up in front of Victor – each comes with potentially catastrophic risk…


Episode 53: Interview with Vince Major & Jorge Garcia of Alpha Token.



This is the first episode of a new segment for the Friday Coffee Meet-Up Podcast. I’ll be interviewing tech start ups in Pasadena and around the Los Angeles area. In this inaugural episode I spoke with Pasadena start up Alpha Token about how they’re creating a brand new ecosystem for content creators powered by a new cryptocurrency.


Episode 51: Stars Aligning: How Southern California Could Be the Next Great Tech Ecosystem



As a twenty year veteran of the SoCal tech/start-up ecosystem, Andy brings a thoughtful perspective about SoCal’s journey to becoming a vibrant tech hub. In his new role as the first executive director of the Alliance for SoCal Innovation ( http://www.alliancesocal.org/ ) Andy is chartered with helping accelerate SoCal’s ascendancy to becoming the world’s next great tech ecosystem. He will share a comprehensive assessment and key insights based on a newly published report by Boston Consulting Group commissioned by the Alliance for Southern California Innovation (full written report at https://www.bcg.com/publications/2018/stars-aligning-southern-california-next-great-tech-ecoysystem.aspx ). Learn about how SoCal stacks-up, where we are doing well, where we need help and the role for organizations like the Alliance and Innovate Pasadena to “bend the curve” on this vital effort to create start-ups, quality jobs and address key challenges facing society.

Bio:

Andy Wilson

Executive Director

Alliance for SoCal Innovation

Andy is a leader in the Southern Californian innovation ecosystem and has started, led or invested in more than two dozen tech start-ups. In addition to leading the Alliance (www.alliancesocal.org (http://www.alliancesocal.org/)) as Executive Director, he serves on the City Council for the City of Pasadena and he is a founder of Innovate Pasadena (www.innovatepasadena.org(http://www.innovatepasadena.org/)), which is dedicated to advancing the Eastside of Los Angeles as a vibrant innovation center for deep tech.

Previously, as founder of Momentum Ventures, an early stage tech accelerator and venture fund, he personally led more than a half dozen SoCal tech start-ups and invested in almost a dozen others. He previously held senior executive roles (President, SVP Product, CIO, COO) at Overture Services/Yahoo!, RiverOne, Bowne & Co and RR Donnelley & Sons. He has extensive board experience in not-for-profit and community organizations such as Pacific Oaks College, Pasadena Heritage and STEAMCODERS. He is on the board or an advisor to a number of tech firms including Virtualitics, Expanse3D, Vincente Capital and Bryce Capital. He is a regular speaker at entrepreneurs’ events and business schools and was named one of the 50 Most Innovative Men in the San Gabriel Valley. Andy holds an engineering degree with honors from Dartmouth College and received his MBA with a concentration in operations and technology management from Harvard Business School.


Episode 48: The Future of Virtual Reality



Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One film portrays a future world in which VR is at the core of everything society does.

While much of the venture funding for VR from a couple of years seems to be fading, a myriad of startups continue to push forward with incredible innovations in haptics, visual headsets, motion systems, AI, even scent dispensing, which will soon reach a tipping point for the next wave of VR. Creators and story-tellers in the meantime are pushing the boundaries of the medium, starting to find audiences and develop viable business models, as evidenced by the first-ever seven-figure acquisition of a VR short film at Sundance this year.

What does the future of VR look like five years from now? What roles will emerging technologies, creators and storytellers, social networks, media companies and studios play? What are the viable business models that are emerging for content creators?

Join me for a peek at the promises and perils of what VR might become, why you should care, and how you can be part of the “second wave” of this medium, whether you are a technologist, artist, storyteller, or investor.

Bio

Jeffrey Travis is the founder and CEO of Positron, a virtual reality technology studio. He created the world’s first full-motion haptic virtual reality chair, Voyager®. His company introduced the world’s first motion VR cinema to debut The Mummy VR experience starring Tom Cruise for Universal Studios. The Voyager platform has been experienced at events around the world such as Sundance Film Festival and ComicCon, and embraced by the world’s top VR creators. It has has been used by studios such as Warner Bros, Disney, Sony, and IMAX. Voyager chairs will be coming soon to theaters, cinemas, hotels, airport lounges, and offices.

Jeffrey is also a filmmaker and engineer. He grew up in Argentina and currently lives in Montrose, California.

Twitter handles: @jeffreytravis. @gopositron


Episode 46: The Future of Blockchain Beyond Cryptocurrencies



This is a must have talk for technology business leaders looking into the future of blockchain for your organization. We will go beyond the cryptocurrency use case and ICO’s to understand what’s current and next on the roadmap for blockchain. Features and properties of the blockchain ecosystem will be discussed by looking at various platforms.

Bio

Hung Q. Tran, is a 22 years technology veteran who builds and oversees world class engineering teams to design, create, strategize, produce, launch and release groundbreaking products, applications and software. Mr. Tran formerly lead Machinima Inc. as founding CTO, a digital video entertainment network acquired by Warner Brothers Digital. Mr. Tran works on an AML/KYC compliant version of Bitcoin, and is currently leading The Change Group, LLC., a new company focused on blockchain as its President and CEO.

LinkedIn: http://linkedin.com/in/hungtran


Episode 43: Authentic Storytelling



Ryan Williams, the author of The Influencer Economy: How to Launch Your Idea, Share it With the World, and Thrive in the Digital Age, has built an actionable framework for telling better business and personal stories. His storytelling structure is a new approach for crafting and scripting your 3 authentic stories to tell in any room, anytime, to anyone.

Los Angeles-based author Ryan Williams teaches his step-by-step guide to telling your authentic brand story. He instructs how to build a core community around your idea, collaborate with key influencers to grow your base, and build a brand that changes the world. For the last three years, Ryan interviewed over 100 influencers who have built culture-changing online such as: Seth Godin, Brad Feld, Derek Sivers, Troy Carter, Jemele Hill and many others. His authentic storytelling framework helps brands, leaders, and companies anchor their brand stories, grow their influence, and thrive in the digital age.

Bio

About Ryan: Ryan Williams is an author, keynote speaker, and former stand-up comedian. He authored the book, The Influencer Economy, a top-seller on Amazon. In his book, he teaches readers how to launch their stories, collaborate with influencers, and thrive in the digital age. For more book info, visit theinfluencerbook.com (http://theinfluencerbook.com/). Ryan’s work and writing has been featured in Inc. Magazine, Huffington Post, The Observer, Success Magazine, Business Insider, Social Media Examiner, and USA Today. On his podcast, also titled The Influence Economy, Ryan has interviewed over 100 influencers who have successfully built ideas online, including Seth Godin, Willie Geist, Derek Sivers, Troy Carter, Jemele Hill and many others. You can listen to his show at www.influencereconomy.com (http://www.influencereconomy.com/).

Ryan was an early team member at social media marketing firm, DigiSynd (acquired by Disney for $16 million), and Machinima.com (acquired by Warner Bros. for $100 million). He has given keynote talks and led panels at SXSW, VidCon, TIE-Con Canada, & Google. He’s also lectured classes at Vanderbilt University, City University of London, USC and Loyola Marymount.

 


Episode 42: Women in Blockchain



Blockchain is poised to become one of the seminal developments in technology, and some talented women are leading the way in adapting blockchain technology across a wide array of industries.

Blockchain spending is expected to grow 81.2% annual from 2016 – 2021. $945 million was spent on blockchain solutions in 2017, with the spending expected to skyrocket to $2.1 billion this year. Women in Blockchain and Crypto want to enable women to thrive in the booming blockchain space by growing our network of like-minded women to create opportunities for networking, education, and professional advancement in the blockchain space.

Two female leaders in blockchain will give a presentation on the current landscape of blockchain, the applications of blockchain technology across a variety of industries, and also discuss their own projects including putting AI on the Project PAI blockchain and exploring uses for blockchain in healthcare.

Bios:

Sho Guo

Sho Guo is the VP of Marketing and Partnerships at ObEN, an artificial intelligence company developing Personal Artificial Intelligence (PAI), a 3D intelligent avatar that looks, talks and behaves uniquely like its human counterpart. ObEN is an early adopter of Project PAI, a fully decentralized blockchain based network designed to give people trackable ownership and management rights to their PAI. Prior to ObEN, Sho was the Director of International Marketing for Caesars Entertainment and spent 5 years working in television and production, including work on the Beijing Olympics for NBC. Sho is an Emmy award winner with an MBA from UCLA Anderson, B.S. in Management Science and B.A. in Film from UC San Diego.

Stacy Jain

Stacy Jain is a Director of Strategy and Program Execution at Kaiser Permanente, one of America’s largest and most innovative integrated health care providers. An experienced executive consultant with a demonstrated history of delivering large, complex healthcare systems and programs in the hospital & health care industry, Stacy has continuously driven business solutions via technological innovations along with her exceptional leadership in building trusting partnerships across multi-disciplines. Previously she has worked with other healthcare organizations such as Dignity Health, Catholic Healthcare West, and L.A. Care Health Plan. Part of her current mission is to execute an agile transformation strategy to enable the business to quickly adapt, make investments at the right places and to improve speed to market. With more than 15+ years in defining, shaping and evolving the delivery of patient care, she has a relentless passion to stretch and advance digital healthcare, especially in mental/behavioral health care.

Stacy has recently been looking at applications of blockchain in healthcare with an emphasis on security, medical record sharing and humanistic information economy. Stacy is also working on building women-led communities in AI and blockchain. Her goal is to build communities in the Los Angeles area which would empower more women to participate in the blockchain industry.

Twitter Handles: @ObenMe @ProjectPAI

Speaker emails:

Sho Guo: sho@oben.com

Stacy Jain: Stacy.Jain@gmail.com


Episode 41: The Death of Innovation



Over the course of my career in both fortune 500 companies and start-ups, I’ve had the privilege of working on a few special, innovative teams that disrupted markets. I’ll talk about some of my favorite innovations and their origin stories. In each of these stories, I hope to highlight how fragile a new great idea can be and how in each case they almost didn’t happen. That way we are all better equipped recognize them and come to the rescue.

Bio

Rob Kent is CEO of First Wave Partners, where he actively invests in, manages, and consults tech and med-tech start-ups. Rob considers himself an “inventor’s best friend,” bringing significant development, finance, supply-chain, and distribution expertise to a business plan. He is the first to admit that he rarely has a good idea, but loves to help make good ideas great. He is currently shepherding two companies to market, a stem cell harvesting company Synova Life Sciences, and a clean-energy company Power Hero.

Previously Rob was CEO of O2 Concepts, a start-up medical device manufacturer of portable oxygen equipment. Rob and his team disrupted the industry by launching the first connected portable oxygen devices in a partnership with Verizon. This allowed caregivers to monitor equipment location and patient compliance, and propelled O2 Concepts to 5X growth in three years.

Prior to that he’s led sales and operations teams of over 200 people and operating budgets of over $40M, launched over 10 complex Medical Devices through FDA and European approval, and building out sales and operations teams in start-up and high growth environments.