Category Archives: Networking

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.

Bio:

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 www.jain.ai.

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: https://oben.me/press/


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

Bio:

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, AskJeeves.com, 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: info@williamhung.net


Episode 27: Chick-Fil-A: “How I became the owner of an $8m business with only $10k to start”



Adaobi shares her story of she became the Owner/Operator of the Chick-fil-A in Pasadena. She was 1 of 30,000 applicants, and had only $10,000 to start… but she managed to build a successful branch through an effective culture that lead to the acquisition – and retention – of great talent.

Bio:

Adaobi was born in Nigeria and was introduced to Chick-fil-A in 2004 when she started working at the Chino Hills location. She quickly rose into leadership positions and began to pursue Chick-fil-A as a life-long career. After receiving her Business Management degree from California Baptist University, she moved to Atlanta, Georgia to work at the Chick-fil-A home office. This led to her involvement in the opening of more than 100 new Restaurants nationwide. Adaobi’s ultimate goal was to become a Chick-fil-A Operator in California and that dream came to fruition in 2014 when she was selected to be the Owner/Operator of the Pasadena location.


Episode26: “My First Rodeo”: Campaign Reflections & Insights



After more than 20 years of active public service in the community as a volunteer (including as a co-founder of Innovate Pasadena) earlier this year, Andy Wilson ran for elected office for the first time. Disconnects between expectation and reality were much greater than anticipated (fake news transpires at the local level!). Was it naivety? Or has the modern political process changed dramatically in the last couple years?

In his talk, Andy will reflect on the many lessons learned his “first rodeo.” Specifically, he will share insights on how to run a successful campaign while staying above the unsavory tactics that are unfortunately commonplace. Also, new channels and for local political engagement and better strategies to connect with the electorate with be discussed.

Bio:

Andy Wilson is a serial entrepreneur having led, founded or invested in almost two dozen Southern California high tech start-ups. He has a long history of service with local not-for-profits including leadership roles at Pasadena Heritage, Pacific Oaks College, the Gamble House and SteamCODERS.  Andy is a co-founder and board member of Innovate Pasadena, which is dedicated to advancing the east side of Los Angeles as a vibrant innovation community. He is a frequent speaker on the role of innovation to create high paying local jobs with the goal of enhancing quality of life in our community.

Andy has extensive volunteer experience with the City of Pasadena including service on the Planning Commission, Design Commission, Urban Forestry Advisory Commission and the Pasadena Center Operating Committee. He just completed a two year appointment as the District 7 City Council member and was recently elected to a full four year term after a contentious election.  Andy currently serves on both the Municipal Services Committee and the Economic Development and Technology Committee of the City.

Andy holds a degree in engineering with honors from Dartmouth College and an MBA from Harvard Business School.  He is a graduate of Leadership Pasadena and has completed advanced certificate programs at Columbia University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Northwestern Kellogg School of Business.  He and his wife Liz can often be seen walking with their school aged boys (Spencer & Dylan) and rescue dog (Gandalf) in Madison Heights, their home for 20 years.


Episode 25: How Women Can Succeed in the Workplace



How Women Can Succeed in the Workplace (Despite Having “Female Brains”) takes a frank and honest approach to examining what women are doing to hold ourselves back in the workplace, and how we can compete on a playing field designed by men to reward their achievements.

Using relevant studies in evolutionary biology, anthropology and sociology, as well as examples from her life as a securities lawyer, investment banker, Internet executive and screenwriter, Valerie Alexander explains the evolution of the “gendered” brain and the corporate structure, showcasing and dissecting areas where women’s natural tendencies prevent us from succeeding in male-designed workplaces.

How Women Can Succeed in the Workplace tackles a difficult subject with candor, humor and confidence — and two of those traits are actually welcome in the workplace!

Bio:

Valerie Alexander is a speaker, author and entrepreneur. She is the CEO of Goalkeeper Media, a tech start-up that builds communication bots to amplify happiness. As a speaker, she works with companies and organizations seeking to grow and succeed by making happiness a priority in the workplace and ensuring that female professionals advance and thrive.

Her books on Happiness, Success, and Success for Women can be found on Amazon.com, and she owns the U.S. Registered trademark on the phrase, “…as a Second Language” for self-help, personal growth, self-esteem and motivation.

Valerie has also worked as a screenwriter and film director, a corporate securities lawyer, an investment banker, and the VP of Business Development for two internet start-ups.  She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their ill-mannered German Shepherd, Pepper.


Episode 24: 5 Hi-Profit Secrets from a Hi-Profit Guy



Red is great for lipstick and the sole of your stilettos  – not so much for your balance sheets and bank accounts. The path to profitability can often be seemingly endless, snarled, and plagued with fender-benders and traffic jams – but it doesn’t have to be mysterious or lonely. And while every brand forges its own unique path, there are five markers that guide the way for them all.

This session will cover the 5 steps all direct to consumer brands must take as they navigate their way towards the black:

1) Product Development & Category Expansion

2) Inventory Planning & Allocation

3) Sales Channels, Marketing & Analytics

4) Financial Plans, People Plan & Operations

5) Funding & Pace of Growth

They say it’s the journey that matters, but when we’re talking about profitability, it’s the destination that makes or breaks a brand.

Bio:

Drew Koven is Managing Director of LDR Ventures, an LA based Venture Capital group that works with early stage fashion and consumer lifestyle brands to incubate, operate and grow with a clear path to profitability. LDR focuses on Fashion and Footwear, Food, Health & Beauty, eCommerce, Omnichannel Retail, Fashion Tech & Retail Tech. Notable investments include: Thrive Market, sweetgreen, Fame & Partners and Bow & Drape. They embrace diversity, impact, inclusion and female founders. LDR is opening an incubator in Los Angeles this summer to address the specific needs of fashion and consumer brands and has recently launched a podcast called The BizFix.

An entrepreneur and intrapreneur, Drew was formerly CEO of The Beach People, a home fashion Company his team took global, achieving 5000% growth, which he sold. His executive leadership roles include: Vice President of Omnichannel retail and eCommerce for Guess Jeans, President of eCommerce and Customer Experience for Steve Madden Shoes, CMO/CDO for Melissa & Doug Toys and CMO of FreshDirect, the online grocer. As a leader and culture builder, he has experienced very low single digit turnover with his teams and mantra of “People Before Profits.”

Drew was awarded as a Top 25 Retailer by Apparel Magazine, Top 3 Mobile Marketer by Mobile Marketer Magazine, Boston Business Hall of Fame Inductee, Virgin Atlantic Entrepreneur of the Year, a 40 under 40 recipient and is an Advisory Board Member of Apparel Magazine. He has his finger on the pulse of today’s global retail environment and the ins-and-outs of starting and growing businesses. He is married with two sons and lives in Los Angeles.


Episode 23: How to Future Proof your Tech Stack



Optimizing your tech stack with key products is essential for business operations and productivity. This talk will cover essential elements and tips for success:

1. Expect Google to lead on computing, storage, and network.

2. Don’t build a configuration server, instead use Google sheets.

3. Not sure who is gonna win the cloud war? Remember docker and kuberbetes.

4. Tensorflow adoption curve can help you meet your AI needs.

 

Bio:

Darian studied Computer Science at Johns Hopkins University and then served as a Marine.  While engaged in an enterprise software career over the last 17 years, he has enjoyed creative projects like building VillagetheGame.com, acting, and teaching entrepreneurship overseas.  Some of Darian’s personal interests include hang-gliding, kiteboarding, and staying active with CrossFit.


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.

Bio:

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.

 

Bio:

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.


Episode 20: Business, Risk and Pants-Free Mindfulness



A few years ago, most of us would have thought of “sensory deprivation” as some kind of unique torture experience. But Jim Hefner saw an opportunity for both personal, and business growth, all sans pantalon. Jim will share his experience discovering floating, and turning that discovery into creating the world’s largest sensory depravation center in Pasadena.

After a lifetime of using business to fuel his passions, Jim found himself at the center of a seismic life shift in which opportunity, fatherhood, and mindfulness coalesced. The result was Just Float, the world’s largest and most advanced float center. Since his very first float, Jim has been convinced that floating is a powerful tool for mindfulness and healing, and his journey has placed him in contact with a diverse and committed community of people who are out to prove it.

This journey has been marked by intensely stressful, risk-filled and sometimes overwhelmingly dark moments. But through a lifetime of survival, business experience, outdoor adventure, and inner exploration, Jim has found himself uniquely poised to not only revolutionize an industry, but to profoundly re-shape himself as well.

Bio:

Jim Hefner is co-founder and visionary of the world’s largest float center, Just Float, located in Pasadena, CA.  He is also a fledgling psycho-naut, serial entrepreneur, MBA, adventure athlete, husband and father, who also happens to be rabid about floating and creating the perfect float environment. Throughout his life, he’s been drawn to hobbies and experiences that require perfect commitment to the moment. Whether on a sheer rock face, a mountain bike, a wave, or in a float tank, what matters most to him is the sacred experience of flow, of absolute attention, and freedom from the noise of everyday life.

 

Twitter:  @justfloat