Category Archives: tech

Episode 69: Raising VC for “Deep Tech” Startups in Southern California



Embark Ventures is a pre-seed and seed stage fund focused on “deep
tech” – companies with proprietary and highly defensible technology
that is a strong competitive barrier. Particularly interested in
cyber-security, robotics, advanced manufacturing, materials, and
bio/med tech but open to other opportunities that have a highly
technical/proprietary core. We invest early (generally first
institutional round) with check sizes between $250k and $1M typically.
Most of our companies are pre-product, and our goal is to get them to
first customer/revenue on our round of financing. Will discuss the
Southern California eco-system for “deep tech” startups and bridging
the gap between R&D and engineering

BIO:

Peter Lee is the Founding Managing Partner at Embark Ventures, a seed
stage venture capital fund based in Los Angeles focused on “deep tech”
companies in industries such as robotics, advanced manufacturing, and
cybersecurity. Prior to entering venture capital, he was the VP of
Product at a venture backed startup in the digital media space. Peter
was a manager with McKinsey and also worked as a product manager at
Microsoft. Peter earned his BS and MS at MIT, and an MBA from Harvard
Business School.

https://twitter.com/ptlee


Episode 67: From Intrapreneur to Entrepreneur



Jeff began his career at IBM. After 3 uneventful years, he moved to Google to help launch the Google Apps (now GSuite) business. After running the Education team for 4 years and growing the business to 70% market share, he transitioned to help launch the Chromebook product line and drove the go-to-market strategy.

But 6 years and 2 major launches were at Google was enough. Following this 6-year stint helping launch new businesses at Google, he joined other Xooglers to help launch Upstart the first lending platform to leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning to price credit and automate the borrowing process. He is now leading Powered by Upstart, Upstart’s new white label offering for banks.

The transition from employee to intrapreneur to entrepreneur may seem daunting – but it’s easier than you think. Come hear about Jeff’s story and the lessons you can take away from his experiences.

Bio:

Jeff joined Upstart after spending 6 years at Google. He launched and built the Google Apps for Education business, growing market share from zero to almost 70% in its first four years. Jeff spearheaded marketing efforts for Google Apps in Global 2000 accounts and led sales, business development, and go-to-market strategy for the launch of Chrome devices in the education and enterprise sectors. He spent several years in direct sales at IBM, always exceeding quota, and was a founding engineer and led UI developer at SSB Technologies. Jeff holds a BS in Computer Systems Engineering from Stanford University.
Twitter: @jkeltner


Episode 66: Ghosted



People often dream of moving on from their corporate job to start their own “thing”. This often includes the hope that they can do something better for the world then what they are doing for the corporation. We will cover the good, bad and ugh-ly of making the transition from the corporate world to making a difference through social entrepreneurship.

Bio:

Sean has been active entrepreneur in both his corporate and personnel life. After graduating from Rice University with a Master’s degree in Entrepreneurship he came to LA to start a unique journey. Since early in his career from working with Simpson’s and Butterfinger to being a professional entertainer he is always on a path less traveled.
He has worked in various start-ups including Great Domains (the original seller of .com as real estate), a Joint Venture around world’s largest ring tone retailer, to innovative roles in corporations such as VeriSign where he helped establish the first global enterprise messaging platform.

The sale of these companies has generated 10’s of millions of dollars. During this time Sean became a “dog” person. He says it just happens you don’t know when, but you know it happened.

Each year 31% of adoptable animals in the US are euthanized. He had volunteered with various animal welfare groups and saw an opportunity to bring his skills to bear in helping save more animals.

In 2015, he started My Buddy’s Place, a new software company with a very simple business model with an initial focus on rescue dogs, but a very big idea: help rescue become more efficient through an easy to use platform that helps all the people that care for these animals throughout their lives.
The company has continued to innovate and now offers a marketplace where pet parents can shop a curated selection of premium, healthy and natural brands, with 6% of their purchase going directly to a non-profit rescue or shelter of their choice. They can help save animals in need just by taking care of your own. With thousands of animals saved through the platform and the highest donation rate in the industry the goal of making a difference in lives of rescue animals and the people who love them is alive and well.

#ShopforGood, @mybuddysmarketplace (Instagram)


Episode 64: Venture Capital – What they look for in funding a startup



Find out what venture capitalists look for in a startup and what makes a company fundable. One size does not fit all! Will also cover alternative funding sources and why venture capital isn’t right for many types of businesses.

Bio:

John Waller is a partner at Okapi Venture Capital. Okapi is a local, early stage, tech venture fund. Prior to joining Okapi, he co-founded such companies as Resume.com (acquired by Adecco S.A.) and 24/7 Real Media (NASDAQ: TFSM), and was CEO for X1 Technologies, Managing Director of New Ventures Group for Idealab, and Strategic Development and M&A for Mattel. He is also the founder and Managing Director of Green Thumb Ventures.


Episode 62: Workplace Happiness is Your Best Business Strategy



According to Gallup, American employers lose $450-550 billion a year by failing to create positive corporate cultures that foster accomplishment, autonomy and appreciation in the workplace.

Employee Unhappiness leads to:
• Higher turnover
• Excessive absenteeism
• Poor customer service
• Theft
• Workplace bullying and violence
• Increased workers compensation claims
• More on-the-job injuries

…and a myriad of outcomes that have no line item in the budget, but still reduce productivity throughout the workplace. Engagement, job satisfaction and worker happiness matter to the bottom line.

This talk will give employees and managers the skills to create a positive work environment through simple adjustments and practices anyone can do, no matter the workplace. Whether in an office, a hospital, a restaurant, classroom or construction site, these techniques work!

In the U.S., the average loss due to unhappiness and disengagement is $3,500 per employee per year. When it comes to happiness, is your workplace above or below average? Can you afford to let it stay that way? Make happiness a priority in your workplace today, and reap the rewards tomorrow.

Bio:

Valerie Alexander is a renowned expert on happiness and inclusion. She is the founder and CEO of Goalkeeper, a tech company that builds micro-social platforms to amplify happiness, whose first product is Super Happy Couples. Valerie is the author of the Amazon #1 seller, Happiness as a Second Language and a nationally recognized speaker on the topics of personal happiness, happiness in the workplace, and the advancement of women. Prior to her current work, Valerie was a securities lawyer, an investment banker, a V.P. of Business Development for two companies, and a screenwriter and film director. She can be found at SpeakHappiness.com and invites everyone to watch her TED talk, Why We Must Train Our Brains to Expect the Unexpected.

https://twitter.com/speakhappiness, #SpeakHappiness


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 59: Digital Democracy and our “Digitzenship”



People believed that new technology would increase efficiency, productivity, and human capability while generally driving down cost, waste and poverty. Politically, many hoped the success of technological development would ultimately promote the values of democracy empowering both the companies and individuals within. Unfortunately, the contrary has taken place, as the “citizens” of this digital society more accurately resemble undocumented residents with trivial influence on culture and policy. These digital dwellers are internet users at the mercy of despotic powers who exercise their control though products, services, and technologies.The data generated by digital dwellers is being taken away and sold to the highest bidder without compensating its owners. It is the despotic digital powers that pray upon the dwellers, completely stripping away their individual, political, and economic liberties. The monopolized platforms and products continue to oppress and consume the digital world by coercing the digital dwellers into apathy. Personal freedom, privacy, and value are consistently being deprived as many decisions are made in the name of us, despite us. However, there is a common theme of rebellious objection that we have seen throughout the history of societal development. In the digital society this theme is exemplified in a call for decentralization. In a decentralized digital economy, we shall only profit from our own digital assets. We shall be in complete control of our digital assets without losing any value to negotiation, time, or bias. It is imperative to recognize that we have arrived at a crucial breaking point that will either liberate or further oppress our digital freedom. We must acknowledge the esoteric threats posed by the system and its congruence with the despotic powers that control the usage and environment of technology. Fellow Digitzens, it falls upon our shoulders to uphold these rights and fight against any form of centralization or despotism that comes from any organism, living or nonliving.

Bio:

Wallace Lynch is a Serial entrepreneur, seasoned tech-media expert, startup community connector, associate professor, and economist. Founder and Chief Economist of Alpha Token, HSHub, MenuMeet, JianyueApp; Cofounder of Svinsight, SVACE. Columbia University Ph.D.

Twitter handle @AlphaToken_ATK
relevant #hastags: #blockchain, #digitzen, #creator, #content, #content economy, #youtuber, #influencer, #crypto, #cryptocurrenty, #student, #digitaldemocracy


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 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