Category Archives: media

Episode 39: Pasadena Startups: Past, Present and Future

Talk a walk down memory lane with Gene as he tells stories of Pasadena Startups Past, Present and Future.

I am the Forrest Gump of Internet – I have worked in the worked with some of the pioneers and innovators all with origin stories to Pasadena: GoTo, Overture, Yahoo, YP, Chegg, WhatsApp, Tinder, Google Adword/AdSense/Photos, Sellbrite. So come take a seat on the bench and listen to my story. Pasadena tech is like a box of chocolates – you’ll never know what you’re gonna get.


Gene is a software veteran and Internet executive known for his expertise in mobile, social, cloud, Big Data, search marketing and eCommerce. He is currently VP of Engineering at a eCommerce SaaS startup in Pasadena. Before that he was CTO of a Ruby/Node and DevOps-as-a-Service boutique development shop. He was the CTO of a $100M Consumer Mobile and Domain Monetization company. Before that he was Director of Engineering at Chegg, an online network for college students that offers assistance with homework, course selection and textbook rentals. He was also Executive Director of AT&T Interactive, building and leading teams for YP Mobile, Data Systems and He also served as Director of Engineering at Yahoo Search Marketing/Overture where he built large-scale search marketing platforms. Gene is currently a on Board of Directors for Innovate Pasadena, a mentor for Mucker Labs, as well as advisor to mobile startups. Gene is a frequent speaker at tech industry events and has received numerous industry awards. He graduated Magna cum Laude with a B.S. in Biochemistry from the University of California, Los Angeles and lives in San Marino with a very supportive wife Jacki and 3 kids.

Episode 38: Where the future demands will be for jobs and what skills will be most needed

Some of the topics addressed will be why technical skills and programming are necessary for all majors. The importance of including goal achievement in higher education. Creating the right environment for learning and moving education toward a solution based model as opposed to subject based.


Dr. Tao founded the Institute for Innovation and Economic Development and was Director of the school of Computing and Design at California State University, Monterey Bay. Under his leadership, the school grew to have over a thousand students, 50 faculty, staff and researchers, receiving multi-million dollars of funding annually from public and private sources, including a $43 million dollars funding to construct the Gambord/BIT building on campus.

Supported by Economic Development Administration of United States, the Institute for Innovation and Economic Development serves the Greater Monterey Bay region by providing a venue for innovative ideas, the commercial transfer of research and technology, and a support network for start-ups and entrepreneurs. Many companies that supported by the Institute grow to be successful ventures.

Dr. Tao teaches and conducts research in computer engineering, innovation, e-learning and globalization. He has published numerous papers and articles in innovation, high-tech entrepreneurship, educational technology, globalization, medical image processing and higher education. He often speaks at international conferences on global technology, innovation and education issues. He also serves as judges at many business plan competitions.

Episode 32: Adventures in STEAM

STEAM:CODERS, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, teaches underrepresented and underserved K-12 students the fundamentals of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM). Students engage in a variety of STEAM-related classes (i.e., Coding and Robotics) and field trips that allow students to learn directly from professionals – scientists, engineers and artists – and see technology first-hand. Our goal is to unlock each student’s potential for continued learning and future success, providing them with attainable pathways to academic and career pathways. We focus on developing their logic, creative thinking and problem-solving skills. Opportunity + Imagination = Innovation.


Raymond Ealy, Executive Director, founded STEAM:CODERS in July 2014. The organization was a spin-off from the Gamma Zeta Boule Foundation’s award-winning L.A.M.P. Mentor Program, based in Pasadena, CA. Ealy helped create the L.A.M.P. Mentor Program (L.A.M.P. – Leadership, Achievement, Management and Professionalism) in 2007, to provide soft skill training for underserved and underrepresented high school boys who wanted to attend and graduate from college. The L.A.M.P. Mentor Program students attend and have graduated from schools across the country (i.e., Harvard, UCLA, Amherst, UC Berkeley, Morehouse College, University of Michigan, Marist College, Loyola Marymount, Hampton University, American University, among many others).

STEAM;CODERS was created to address the demand for STEM (and STEAM) training for disadvantaged K-12 youth. STEAM:CODERS has served over 2500 students, since inception. Students have been introduced to the STEAM-related fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math. The program teaches logic, critical thinking and problem solving, providing attainable pathways for academic and career success. STEAM:CODERS focuses on underserved and underrepresented students of color, who attend Title 1 schools and reside in low-income households. Access to instruction, curricula and equipment, expands their skill sets and increases their exposure to industries and careers that may not be within their vision (i.e., coding, robotics, art and design).

Ealy has over 25 years of management experience in financial services, the nonprofit and retail sectors. Past positions have included management roles with Bank of America, Countrywide Financial Services, Security Pacific Bank, and Wells Fargo Bank. Ealy currently serves on the following Boards: Innovate Pasadena, La Salle High School Board of Regents (Pasadena, CA)  and LA’s BEST Advisory Board (Los Angeles, CA). Previous board affiliations include the Pasadena Community Foundation and the Gamma Zeta Boule Foundation. He received a B.A. from Florida State University.

Episode 31: Who is this TED guy anyway? And what the heck is TEDx?

The TED tagline is “ideas worth spreading,” but if you want to be one of their speakers or lead one of their events, you need to know how to make your idea stand out from the rest. As the Executive Director of TEDxPasadena, TEDxPasadenaWomen and TEDxPasadenaSalon, and as an attendee at TEDSummit in Banff, Canada, Heather Heimerl Brunold has worked with countless TEDx speakers and curators. Join this lively, interactive conversation designed to identify ways to systematically tackle this dream, step by step.


TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). In the spirit of “ideas worth spreading,” TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TED Talk videos and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized. (Subject to certain rules and regulations.)

TEDxPasadenaWomen seeks to transform the local conversation surrounding equity and access for women and girls, providing a launch pad for the cross-pollination of ideas and expertise between industries, socio-economic groups, ages, and life experiences. We believe strongly in fostering learning, inspiration and wonder — by nurturing relationships that begin though conversations at our yearly conference, but then deepen throughout the year at our monthly TEDxPasadenaSalons. We serve, engage, and empower underserved communities, regardless of gender, including women, girls, people of color, and the LGBTQ communities. Our brand collaborates with members, speakers, and community partners from all over the San Gabriel and San Fernando Valleys (and beyond) to positively impact business and community relationships, cooperative partnerships, public policy, knowledge, civic structures and political systems.

The goal of our annual conference (held this year at the Huntington Library on Saturday, September 30th) is to come together as a community of bright minds with diverse interests, to share discourse inspired by live TEDx talks that are idea-focused and cover a wide range of subjects. We hope the community gathering will foster learning, inspiration and wonder – and which will provoke conversations that matter.


Heather Heimerl Brunold has been a thought leader in education, specializing in adolescent development and family/school dynamics, for more than two decades, but after completing her doctorate in education from the University of Southern California, Heather became passionate about utilizing her talents as an educator to impact the greater community. Feeling she could positively influence her community’s approach to how we learn, Heather established Words2Action, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to engage learners, leaders and educators – through spoken word and tangible action – in a united effort to change the world, one idea at a time. Heather is by her nature a helper, healer and teacher. Her passion for learning and her love of relationship building are the reasons she enjoys serving TEDxPasadenaWomen as the Executive Director/Licensee.

Episode 30: The New Internet: A Social Movement Disguised as Technology

A New Internet age is upon us. Fueled by blockchain technology, this shift will catalyze the greatest reallocation of value in human history.

Blockchains are a shared record keeping system. Transactions are recorded in a way that’s transparent, immutable, and decentralized. Blockchains aren’t governed by a central authority. The record is maintained by a distributed network of independent users.

The New Internet will enable the building of applications that reinvent the way in which we assign, transact, and capture value.


Jason Robert is Co-Founder & CEO of HelloSugoi, an event ticketing platform. His company leverages the Ethereum blockchain to reduce ticket fees, manage the secondary market, and eliminate fraud. Jason oversees the company’s operations, drives product development, and formulates marketing strategy. Jason spent 4 years as a Creative at Apple. He’s also an accomplished multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and producer. Jason has composed songs at BMG Production Music for high-profile TV shows on NBC, CBS, FOX, Netflix, and Showtime. He’s also released several albums as Lost Midas on the Tru Thoughts label to critical acclaim by the BBC and NPR.

Episode 29: Future of Personal AI + Pasadena as a start-up location

AI is everywhere: AI driving cars. AI replacing doctors. AI writing music. Taxing robots. AI is taking over the world. By tying our data profiles to artificial intelligence, we can breathe life into our personal information and turn them into our very own 3D avatars; avatars that depict our identical likeness and can perform tasks as our representative. ObEN is developing Personal Artificial Intelligence (PAI), a 3D digital twin avatar that looks, talks, sings and thinks uniquely like its human counterpart. ObEN is also the leading developer for Project PAI, a fully decentralized block-chain based network designed to give people trackable ownership and management rights to their intelligent data profiles, or their PAI. In this talk, you will learn more about what role Personal Artificial Intelligence will play in our future lives.

Most AI companies are based out of Silicon Valley, however, ObEN decided to make Pasadena its home. One of the most common questions ObEN gets is: “Why Pasadena? Why not Silicon Valley?” In this talk, you will find out the critical role location plays in determining if a startup can build a team, raise an initial round of financing, get off the ground, compete in the marketplace, and survive.


Nikhil Jain is co-founder and CEO of ObEN, an artificial intelligence company based in Pasadena. Prior to ObEN, Nikhil spent five years at Kaiser Permanente after which he founded two startups, Up and Running Software and OnGreen. Nikhil has an MBA from University of Southern California and a Bachelors in Electrical Engineering. Learn more at

ObEN is an AI company that develops Personal Artificial Intelligence, a 3D digital avatar that looks, talks, sings and thinks uniquely like its human counterpart. ObEN was cofounded by Nikhil Jain and Adam Zheng in 2014 with the belief that every person in the world should have their own AI-driven virtual copy which can do things on behalf of the human for which he/she might not have the time or the capability. Nikhil and Adam started the company based on their personal experiences when their kids missed them as they were traveling on business and wished they could leave a virtual copy of themselves behind.

ObEN is based out of Idealab in Pasadena, CA. All technology is developed in-house and is patented. It currently has a team of 35+ of which almost 70% have PhDs and other advanced degrees from top schools such as Caltech, Berkeley, MIT, Princeton, USC and UCLA. ObEN has raised $13.8 million to date in Series A funding from top investors including Tencent, Softbank Korea and HTC.

List of other investors and partners can be found here:

Episode 28: William Hung from American Idol fame: From Obscurity to Prosperity

Are you looking to make your own unique impact in the world? How do you find your unique identity? If you want to improve sales and be more successful with your business, then you are in for a treat! William’s presentation will show how you can:

– Break their mental barriers to success
– Build your business by following your true passion
– Embrace your identity and stop worrying about the perceptions of people around you


From his experience working in the entertainment industry and overcoming rejection, William Hung learned the importance of perseverance to make dreams become reality. After American Idol, he appeared on Extra, Ellen, Jay Leno, Jimmy Kimmel Live, to name a few. He also recorded 3 albums for KOCH records and his first album, “Inspiration”, was the #1 independent album on Billboards! Also, he appeared on numerous commercials, including AT & T,, and Jack in the Box. His fans celebrate the impact he has on their lives.He now hopes to help YOU maximize your potential and wants YOU to achieve YOUR dreams as an inspirational speaker. Audiences include business groups, associations, and conferences.


Twitter handle: @wh53

Speaker email:

Episode 22: The Evolution of Twitter

We will take a look at how twitter has evolved over the last 11 years, from 140 Characters to a Live Streaming Platform.


Alexa is based in Los Angeles and serves as an Account Executive to Media & Entertainment clients at Twitter. In her 5 years at the social media company, she has worked closely with​ ​many of the major movie studios and TV networks on​ ​innovative ways to market a movie or TV show on Twitter.​ ​Alexa was one of the first sales hires in Twitter’s New York office and also​ ​had the opportunity to start Twitter’s offices in Miami and Mexico City.
Prior to Twitter,​ ​Alexa earned her BA at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York. She enjoys a home-cooked meal from her Italian family and has likely been to more Phish shows than you.

Episode 21: The Roller Coaster Ride to 40 Million Monthly Users

An honest discussion of the realities of a journey of a of a 5 time successful entrepreneur whose company – Ranker – now reaches 40 million people monthly and is solidly profitable with over 60 employees. Benson will take us through his self-funded beginnings to early angel rounds (partly secured in Pasadena), and funding from “name” VCs like Lowercase, Draper, and Wavemaker, and will discuss not just the success but also the many pitfalls even an experienced entrepreneur faced.

With all his prior success, Benson still did plenty of things wrong in the process of starting Ranker and had to work with less than ideal resources to survive, and eventually thrive. Benson will discuss the challenges of the tech world where massive changes are happening year-over-year and how even disruptive businesses can find themselves quickly disrupted. He will explain how to navigate hype vs reality with investors, and the Silicon Valley investor mentality vs everywhere else, among other topics.



Clark Benson is the founder and CEO of Ranker, the leading digital media company for opinion-based, crowd-sourced rankings on just about everything. Launched in 2009, Ranker is Benson’s fifth startup. Ranker creates editorial lists to vote on about virtually every topic, and the 40 million+ monthly audience’s opinions shape the rankings. Prior to Ranker, Benson’s company, eCrush, an early social network for teens, was bought by Hearst Corporation in 2006. Benson lives in the Hollywood Hills with his wife and young twins.

Episode18: Doing Business in the Face of Growing Uncertainty

Our technology, business models, geo-politics and a not too distant inter-planetary (inter-reality) life are all growing in complexity and uncertainty. The age old profit-wage correlation is one of the many lagging indicators that most of our ways of economically and socially operating no longer hold as they did. Volatility creeps up in most facets of our lives at whiplash pace. And there’s no going back. In this talk we will cover what we think are the require tools to thrive in uncertainty and what we think is a new form of worldwide literacy that must be developed: Computational Literacy.

Computational Literacy is a new set of skills that combines data science, algorithmic thinking, AI/Machine Learning enhanced pattern recognition and probability assessments. The ingredients are all there for every person on earth to become literate in a computational perception. The complexity of data sets and the relationships between time, people, resources and economics have grown beyond any Newtonian model of the world or our most basic sensory apparatus. That is, no single human using only their common 5 senses and little elbow grease has the capacity to assess many important decisions on a daily basis – everyone, and especially businesses, need to develop a new literacy that unlocks much larger data sets and much more robust probability assessments of possible outcomes.

This talk will cover the functional definition of Computational Literacy, make a case for its relevance through examples and showcase the already available tools and devices to make anyone, particularly a business person, fully computer literate. There will be live interactive examples using real world phenomena and real world data.


Russ is a co-founder of Case Zero (, a machine-learning data platform that automates market and product development for startups and SMB companies. He is a 17 year veteran of consumer internet and large scale data intelligence platforms. He has started several companies. He has been part of a successful IPO as well as a handful of private acquisitions. He has led several large distributed technical, product and marketing teams.

– Currently a mentor for TechStars Austin, providing strategic guidance to start-ups and TechStars managing director

– Serving as advisor and technical strategist for Thisway Global and Smarter Sorting Inc.

– In 2013, Russell and his wife founded Acton Academy Venice Beach,  a k-12 alternative education school focused learner driven education

– Named “Top 100 IT Executive” by ComputerWorld Magazine for his work at where he led the creation of and managed the team and tech for the world’s largest, most sophisticated automotive industry data platform

– Deep relationships with executives at Facebook, Experian, Neustar, Hortonworks, Wolfram Research and many other large data and media firms

– Has given several talks at conferences like LeadsCon, Hadoop World and Semantic Web World as a recognized expert in large scale data platforms

– Past presentation videos: Data is the Only Marketplace  |  Behind The TrueCar Data Platform

– 2016 included talks at Google HQ and Hadoop World Business Track

– Has held business, technical, product management and BI leadership positions at Wolfram|Alpha, TrueCar, IAC/Citysearch, Grind Networks and several large internet content companies. He has a track record of intense business intelligence driven decision drive by the enthusiasm of an entrepreneur and the patience of an investor

– Previous strategy and execution engagements include Hachette Filipacchi Media, Alpha Media Group, Vizio,, Carney Inc, Sony DADC and more

– In late 2015 Russell Retired from TrueCar and launched a successful visual and fine arts career. In his first year he held 3 exhibitions, wrote a book, sold 74 paintings and continues to produce art on a daily basis. His upcoming work will be seen in Portland, OR in association with Vertigo Productions in April 2017. His art and philosophy can be found at . Additional writing and essays on technology and culture can be found at  (a bit of an older blog)

Russell has run all aspects of a media and awareness strategy and execution – both as a first party operator and as a third party consultant. Additionally he has helped create several large scale search engines, social media platforms and analytics platforms currently in use by hundreds of millions of people.

Twitter: @un1crom