Episodes

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Mike is the Regional Director of the Orange County and Inland Empire Small Business Development Center Network, which assists aspiring entrepreneurs and current business owners throughout Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside Counties.  Before this role he was the director of an SBDC office in Long Beach for 5 years.

He has been and is a business owner and entrepreneur himself. He started with a Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory store in LA, and then opened a second location in Long Beach, eventually employing 20 people including managers at both locations.  He eventually sold the LA store and took minority position in several other locations.  He has the retail bug, though, as he has another store in Long Beach now called Sugar Daddies Sweet Shoppe.  We had a good discussion about starting as a franchisee and then developing his own brand.

Mike is an entrepreneur, working with other entrepreneurs, and managing a critical support system that our government provides to small businesses here.  He sees so much activity that I was excited to hear his important perspective and input. I learned a lot about trends in small businesses in Orange County.

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Lawrence Greaves is both an entrepreneur and investor, as well as a board advisor. Prior to being an entrepreneur he had roles in boutique advisory firms and large national consulting firms, advising on a number of large international M&A transactions.

Lawrence invested in and co-founded OPKIX in 2016. He is the CEO and on the Board today.  OPKIX makes the smartest, smallest, simplest, and most powerful little cameras and camera accessories, and as Lawrence described it, it's changing consumer habits for capturing life's moments by allowing people to be in those moments (and not looking at them through their phones).

Prior to OPKIX, he co-founded a company in 2008 and then went on to sell his 50% share of the company about 10 years later.  It was a leading provider of contract CFOs and other technical finance and accounting professionals and they opened offices all across the U.S.

Lawrence is also passionate about philanthropy as well as investing in other businesses.  We covered some of those projects and initiatives as well.

OPKIX recently won a prestigious OCTANe High Tech Award for Best Technology Innovation in a Consumer Product, and he's committed to building the company and making the products here in Orange County.  He's a great cheerleader for all the great things happening and people making it happen here in our backyard.

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Don DiCostanzo has a really cool current company, Pedego, which is also his passion. That's clear in how he talks about it. 

Don is the co-founder and CEO of Pedego® Electric Bikes, the number 1 electric bike brand in the United States, according to Navigant Research. They are sold at more than 100 Pedego-branded stores in the United States, plus in Canada and Europe. The bikes have electric motors that help riders over hills and through headwinds, and traveling up to 60 miles on a single battery charge.

The company was founded here in 2008.  I love their tagline - “Hello, Fun!”  And you’ll love the many celebrities on his website who have and love his bikes.

Don is a serial entrepreneur – he founded and invested in another company, bringpro in 2014; he also has another company in the equestrian space with his daughter. Before that he was the CEO of Zak Products and worked with auto dealers for over 5 years, and he was the president of Wynn Oil Company, an 80 year old company in the automotive industry.  

Don and I also share a life experience.  We were both presidents of our fraternities in college, a job I still consider as one of the hardest I’ve ever had.  Don's energy and enthusiasm are infectious - he's a great cheerleader for Orange County and an inspiration to other entrepreneurs and aspiring ones here.

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Nick Kovacevich is the Co-founder, Chairman, and CEO of KushCo Holdings, a publicly-traded company providing ancillary products and services to businesses operating in various industries, including legal cannabis and CBD. It was formerly known as Kush Bottles.

Nick became CEO 5 years ago and has grown the business dramatically – from under $2M to nearly $150M in sales and the team from less than 12 to more than 250 people, as well as diversified the business into five categories and operations in multiple states and countries.  For a non-tech company, that is still tech company growth rates!

Prior to KushCo, he helped co-found another successful company here, BigRentz, a leader in online commercial equipment rental.  He remains on their board today.  He also has a number of other business holdings.

I have to note that he was captain of his college basketball team at Southwest Baptist University, which was a dream I always had growing up in Indiana, playing basketball.  He was also a great student there, graduating with high distinction. 

Like prior guests at Accelerate OC, I think he was born an entrepreneur.  He had his first business shortly after college, joining a friend (and now longtime business partner) in one called Pack My Dorm, which they successfully sold in 2010.

With KushCo, Nick has become an expert on the cannabis industry, and he speaks and writes about it often in mainstream media and at events. We had a good discussion about the value of developing industry expertise as an entrepreneur.

Nick and his team have a front row seat in the evolving and fast-growing cannabis industry. No matter how you feel about it, it's an exciting and dynamic industry with a lot of change in it.

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Peter Nguyen is the founder and CEO of Ad Exchange Group, based in Irvine. It is a leading direct-to-consumer digital performance-based agency, reaching $100M in revenue in less than 2 years in business.  Both Peter and the company have received many awards for growth and entrepreneurship from people like Inc. Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, Ernst & Young, and the Orange County Business Journal.

He’s also the founder and CEO of Push Innovation, a leading logistics and service provider to direct-to-consumer brands.  Push has over 100 employees and ships tens of thousands of products every day.  Another of his ventures, Chargeback360, is also growing rapidly.

I'll speculate and say that Peter was born an entrepreneur, as he started a web design and development firm while he was still in college in Florida many years ago.  He’s started a number of businesses, including an educational one to help others launch their own product or service online. Baylor University adopted it as a class and it's been a student favorite there for many years.  He’s been here in Orange County for about 10 years and has done business all over the world.

Enjoy some amazing stories, perspective, wisdom and advice from Peter!

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Lori Seal has an amazing story, incredible leadership philosophies and such thoughtful perspectives on life, business and people.

She is currently CEO of Blytheco, a leading national reseller of software that she took over from the founder, Steve Blythe, at the beginning of this year.  He had been CEO for almost 40 years, and he hand-picked Lori! Prior to that she was the company’s COO for 6 ½ years. 

Lori was also a longtime executive at Sage, an enterprise software company here, so she’s been in software and technology longer than many of our audience members have been.  She has a lot of wisdom to share from her years there in a number of various roles.

In between Sage and Blytheco, Lori had her entrepreneur experience for a year and a half, leading an e-commerce SaaS and services provider.  We had many good conversations during that season.

Lori is one of the most enlightened leaders I know here.  She’s so caring about her people and shares her gratitude with them every day, and she’s committed to helping each person be their best and reach their highest potential.  I see her developing each person into the hero of his/her own story.  There is so much to learn from her in this conversation.

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On this episode of Accelerate OC, we get to hear from Cary Breese and his journey from software engineer to insurance company executive to tech startup CEO, and his current venture, NowRx.

Cary is currently the co-founder and CEO of NowRx, a tech startup in the pharmacy experience industry.  Using improved logistics, intelligence and analytics, the company is saving the health care industry cost and improving patient adherence to prescriptions.  NowRx opened its first pharmacy in Northern California, yet is led by a team from Orange County.  Their latest one is about to open here.

Prior to NowRx, he was CEO at Genie DB which went after Amazon Web Services in the DB as a service (DBaaS) space.  He was also an executive at several insurance businesses, including a marine one he acquired out of a larger financial services firm.  He began his career at Lockheed Martin as a software engineer.

We met several years ago when we were both in the middle of navigating our respective startups and I really enjoyed our conversations. 

Cary is also a community guy here in Orange County and has been involved in youth sports and mentoring other entrepreneurs.  He is the model for the type of innovator we need many more of here – making things happen in his business and in the community.

Our conversation went fairly deeply into fundraising for startups and particularly, equity crowdfunding, which has been a key part of the NowRx fundraising formula so far, and it's been quite successful.  They are currently raising their Series B on SeedInvest, a leading equity crowdfunding platform.

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I was super excited to have my friend Grant Van Cleve join the conversation on Accelerate OC. We got to hear about his amazing journey and he shared his wisdom about both investing in startups and leading one, as well as his thoughts on Orange County as an innovation community. 

Grant is currently the CEO of Buy It Installed, an exciting and fast-growing company that automates the process of getting a professional installer to a consumer around a purchase that requires it.  In our conversation he shared how he got involved.

He’s also the Chairman of the Board of Governors of Tech Coast Angels (TCA), the premier angel investor group in the country, with over 400 members in the 5 Southern California chapters.  Formerly he was the president of the Orange County TCA chapter, and he’s been a super active investor, in which I’d actually say active is an understatement!  How many investments, boards and advisor roles he’s managing is incredible.

Grant is an inspiration to many of us here who are working to build a more inclusive, open and connected innovation community in Orange County.  Grant lives that way every day and his leadership is so authentic. I always feel like the group or conversation is better and enriched when he’s a part of it.

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Beckham Thomas is the Founder and CEO of Dealer Credit Resources, a Software as a Service business in the commercial equipment financing industry.  Think about a small business buying a truck or piece of equipment for their office, that they’d like to get payment terms to break up the cost, usually from the dealer or manufacturer.  It's a trillion dollar per year market in the US - yes, it's that big!

Beckham started the company last year after continuously seeing the need from the market.  He’s been a partner in a commercial lending business here for a number of years.  Beckham has also been an entrepreneur and investor in other ventures, which have helped shape how he looks at building businesses.  As example he’s a partner in a fast-growing restaurant chain here, Sessions West Coast Deli.

He’s an over-achiever: he’s currently getting an executive MBA at Wharton, and he already has a law degree and his pilot’s license. Beckham, is there anything you can’t do?!?

Beckham is an Orange County native and is committed to building an innovative, disruptive and purpose-driven company here.  He’s a great example of an entrepreneur making it happen in Orange County.

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Fauad was most recently the CEO of Bonti, a biotech startup that he co-founded in 2015 in an area of biologics where he saw a key need.  He was right, as the company had great success and was acquired by Allergan about a year ago.  Before Bonti, he was an executive at Allergan in biologics development and manufacturing.

He’s had a very successful career in biopharmaceuticals, and was at both Baxter and Regeneron before Allergan.  Fauad has developed quite a reputation as an innovator and leader in the industry, and he’s already at work on his next venture, Ornovi, which he’s going to build here in Orange County.

He’s currently on the board at Biopharm, as well as OCTANe. He is a great example of an entrepreneur driving innovation and making it happen in Orange County.

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