Category Archives: Start Ups

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 54: The First $250 Million – A Case Study in Branding, Failures & Self-Confidence



Over the past decade, three of Echo-Factory’s clients have achieved more than $250 million in growth. The agency’s founder and CEO, Mike Schaffer, will look at the role branding, marketing and advertising played in each company’s growth.

Intuition suggests that what works in one marketplace won’t work in another. But while all three of these companies operated in very different spaces, their success can be traced to a shared, closely-related set of decisions made by their founders and leaders. Mike’s talk will cover those decisions and how they can be applied to any company looking to achieve rapid growth.

BIO:

Mike Schaffer founded Echo-Factory in 2008. In less than two years, the company had grown into a diversified and award-winning full service agency. Today, Echo-Factory is designed to work as an in-house marketing department for clients who are ready to commit to significant, rapid growth. Echo-Factory works with a range of clients, specializing in the consumer goods, clean tech, healthcare and aerospace markets. Mike is also an organizer for Friday Coffee Meeutp, an advisor to LA CleanTech’s portfolio companies and a regular contributor to CSQ magazine on the topics of branding and marketing.

Linked In: https://www.linkedin.com/in/michael-schaffer-98518213/

Twitter: @echofactory


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 52: Mentor, Advisor or Coach? What’s the Difference and Which One Is Right for You.



In the world of advice giving, how do we know we are getting something valuable? Often, our ability to move forward or level-up professionally requires assistance, but we aren’t always sure what kind of help we need. Pressure, stress, new frontiers and blind-spots influence our judgment and ability to make distinctions among service providers. It is important when engaging in new professional relationships we take some basic steps to prevent misfires and misunderstandings.

In this session, senior leadership consultant and executive coach, Dan Stover, will offer tips and guidance in choosing wisely in our engagement in professional service relationships. In his decade of providing mental health crisis intervention, emotional intelligence and leadership development services, Dan will share with Innovate Pasadena the most important considerations when it comes to finding the right help.

Bio

Dan Stover is the Senior Consultant and Manager of the Los Angeles office of Integrated Leadership Systems. His work as an executive coach and organizational consultant for entrepreneurs, mid-market and publicly traded companies increases profitability through emotionally intelligent leadership and business unit alignment.

He was born and raised in rural Ohio, lives in downtown Los Angeles and has three degrees. He is deeply passionate about mental health, community development and nature conservation. He spends his free time indulging the arts and the outdoors.


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 50: Coffee with the Mayor



Description: While Pasadena is consistently named one of the best cities to live year after year, City leaders also want to make it a great place to work. Mayor Terry Tornek and City Manager Steve Mermell will be stopping by on May 4th to check-in with Pasadena’s innovators and talk about the latest developments and initiatives happening in Pasadena. But, they’ll also want to hear from you! This is your chance to engage with local officials and share your thoughts on ways the City can make Pasadena even more attractive for business and talent.

Bio: Terry Tornek

Terry Tornek was born and raised in New York City and moved to Pasadena from Massachusetts in 1982 to accept the position of Planning Director. He was hired because of his history of neighborhood improvement and historic preservation while serving as Planning Director of Springfield, Mass. He also served as a member of the Springfield City Council. Terry was Pasadena’s Planning Director for 3 years and helped to rewrite the Zoning Ordinance, the General Plan and establish the redevelopment plan for Old Pasadena. After leaving city government, Terry built a career in real estate as a developer and manager of residential & commercial properties all over Southern California.

He remained active in Pasadena affairs through his 20 year service as a Board Member of Pasadena Neighborhood Housing Services, a non-profit organization devoted to affordable housing in Northwest Pasadena.

In 2005, Sid Tyler appointed Terry to the Planning Commission. He also served as a member of the Design Commission. He was elected to represent District 7 on the City Council in April, 2009, was reelected in 2013 and was then elected as Mayor in April, 2015.

Mayor Tornek serves as Chairman of the Finance Committee, is a member of the Municipal Services, Public Safety, and Legislative Policy Committees, is the City Council appointee to the Fire and Police Retirement Board, is Pasadena’s representative to the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments, and is President of the Burbank Airport Authority. He is deeply involved in the City’s financial planning, affordable housing and the City’s planning and development decision-making process. Terry graduated from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School with a degree in Public and International Affairs. He also earned a Master of Science in Urban Planning from Columbia University’s School of Architecture. He served in the Army National Guard and Reserves for 6 years. Terry and his wife Maria have been married for 50 years. They have 3 children and 7 grandchildren.

Bio: Steve Mermell

Steve Mermell was appointed City Manager by unanimous vote of the City Council and assumed his duties February 15, 2016. As City Manager he is the Chief Administrative Officer of the City and is charged with supervising, coordinating, and administering the various functions of the City. He has direct responsibility for all departments, divisions, and offices of the City with the exception of the City Attorney/Prosecutor and City Clerk which are separately appointed by the City Council.


Episode 49: 13 Questions to Help You Cut Out Small Talk and Build Genuine Connections



Topic: 13 Questions to Help You Cut Out Small Talk and Build Genuine Connections

Tom Amestoy, Founder & CEO of Focus Out, talks about the missed opportunities to genuinely connect with others when we engage in “small talk.” Scientific studies have revealed that the types of conversations we have truly impact our wellbeing. These findings show that the good life is social and conversationally deep rather than isolated and superficial. Tom will tell us about groups that have banned small talk to great effect. He will offer tips on how to host such an event and will share 13 questions to start great conversations that lead to deep and genuine connections.

Bio

In 2011, Tom left a 19-year sales career for a national print manufacturer to become Director, Business Development at InnerWorkings (NSDQ: INWK), a global marketing services agency that disrupts his former industry. He quickly realized he needed to network in a new way and connect at a different level than he previously had. He found he was faking it as he was floating through rooms full of people gathered to network. He decided that there was a better way and along with his cofounder, he created Focus Out with the intention of facilitating genuine connections between businesspeople who could help each other without expecting anything in return.

Focus Out (www.focusout.co) was the first “other-focused,” pro-social business membership organization in Pasadena. The organization now has 6 chapters from Burbank to Claremont, with plans to expand to DTLA, OC, the South Bay and anywhere else networking is broken.

There are plenty of other fascinating things about Tom and he is excited to help you genuinely connect with him to find out.

Twitter: @TomAmestoy

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/thomas-amestoy-abb8093

tom.amestoy@focusout.co

thomas.amestoy@inwk.com


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 47: Why hardware hacking is more compelling than a fancy Cambridge degree



Alex will recount his exciting story about becoming one of the most talented young hardware developers in the world, and why his pursuing his passion for building hardware was more compelling than earning a degree from one of the finest universities in the world. He will share his perspective on the value of a degree from a top university, and how he sees his own path forward as both compelling and logical. Alex is part of a growing movement made famous by prominent venture capitalist Peter Thiel with his Thiel fellowships which give $100,000 to young people who want to build new things instead of sitting in a classroom — “College can be good for learning about what’s been done before, but it can also discourage you from doing something new.”

Bio

Alex Williams is a young maker from the UK who has spent the last decade working on hardware projects, from assembling a first generation home desktop printer aged 10 to more recently developing complex electromechanical hardware platforms. His latest hardware project, the open-source underwater glider, won the 2017 Hackaday prize. At the beginning of the year he started at the University of Cambridge, UK, however he dropped out after a few weeks of study to pursue real world hardware development.


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