Episodes

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Larry Armstrong joined me on Accelerate OC at a time that his industry, commercial architecture and building, is undergoing the greatest disruption and change of his multi-decade career.  It was such an engaging and compelling conversation! 

He is Chairman of Ware Malcomb, an international design firm providing planning, architecture, interior design, branding, civil engineering and building measurement services to commercial real estate and corporate clients, from its 25 office locations throughout the US, Canada, Mexico and Panama. They’ve been recognized as an Inc. 5000 fastest-growing private company and Best Firm to Work For by Zweig Group. The firm is also ranked among the top 15 architecture/engineering firms in Engineering News-Record’s Top 500 Design Firms.

Larry is a strategic visionary, accomplished architect and strong business leader. He’s been an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award winner, a multi-time OCBJ OC500 member of the most influential OC community leaders. He’s been with Ware Malcomb for over 30 years, and as CEO for over 25, as he grew firm revenue by 40x during his time as CEO.  Earlier this year he became Chairman.

Larry guest lectures at USC, Chapman and UCI, and has even given the commencement address for his alma mater, Kent State. He’s super active in the OC community across a number of leadership groups, highlighted by his role leading the United to End Homelessness campaign here, along with a couple of my prior guests. He also recently joined the CEO Leadership Alliance of OC, which we discussed on the show.

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Nick Zasowski joined me on Accelerate OC to discuss the recent rise of startup and venture studios globally. Speculation by those following the industry puts the number between 250 and 500 global studios, and Nick and I discussed the role they play, why they are important in the startup community, and some examples of studios that are thriving (many of which are friends to us at OC4).

Nick is currently the director of the Global Startup Studio Network (GSSN), where they have built a highly curated global community of Startup Studios and Venture Builders that create and invest in teams to build powerful businesses and make meaningful impact.

Nick and his team have identified and worked with dozens of studios around the world and are tracking emerging trends and sharing best practices.  It’s been a pleasure to get to know him over the last several months.

He’s a community builder, connector, encourager and supporter, which you'll clearly see in our conversation.

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David Friedman is a longtime angel investor, and he became President of Tech Coast Angels’ Orange County chapter just recently. He has a plan to increase TCA’s engagement and member base, and we talked more about that in our conversation.  

He’s also been a businessman and executive for technology, software, cloud, and service companies, with a passion for customer loyalty and building a success culture that makes employees enjoy working there. He also has developed what he calls “customer jujitsu” while helping companies bridge technology and business into an innovation mindset.

David has commercialized more than $1.5 billion in new products during his career and also worked internationally across Europe and Asia.

He builds businesses, he invests in and teaches the next generation of business leaders, and he gives back to executives and students at Camp Pendleton, UC Irvine’s Merage School of Business, and UCI Beall Applied Innovation.

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Fred Haney joined me on Accelerate OC and class was in session. He covered some important points for startups, such as what makes a fundable startup, the importance of strong management teams, and even how entrepreneurs need to understand they are competing for investment dollars.

He is a private investor and venture capitalist, as both a fund manager and individual investor. He is also an entrepreneur, as a multiple time co-founder of companies such as NovaDigm Therapeutics, Dynamic Reconfigurable Computing and PulSentry. As a VC, Fred was the founder and manager of 3i Ventures, California, a subsidiary of 3i Group, which at the time was the largest Venture Capital company in the world.  Fred has served on the board of directors of thirty private companies and four public companies. 

Fred wrote a book, The Fundable Startup, which describes strategies for giving your startup the best chance at raising capital, based on his many years of experience as investor and operator. He also founded Monday Club in the 1980s as a way to connect startups and investors, and he was a co-founder over 20 years ago of Tech Coast Angels. 

Fred has a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Carnegie Mellon University.  He has been named a “Director of the Year for Early Stage Companies” by the Forum for Corporate Directors and a “Mentor/Angel of the Year.” He’s also former radio talk show host and frequent public speaker.

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Neal Polachek is the founder of ThinkLikeAnApp, a methodology and program for companies to better anticipate the future so they can succeed today.  Neal recognized that we are increasingly using devices to help us get things done more easily and effectively, and are expecting other businesses to better recognize that in how we want to do business with them. Consumers expect authenticity, transparency and immediacy in their customer experiences, and businesses who recognize this and implement improvements will be the winners. We talked a lot about the modern consumer today, as well as how this crisis is also changing things.

Neal has been traveling the country discussing his methodology with thousands of business owners. He has a big heart for local businesses, so we’re kindred spirits in that regard, given my family business background. We go back many years, probably close to 15, when we were both in the middle of the digital disruption of local directional advertising. He was the CEO of the leading research and advisory group in the industry, and I’ve always appreciated his thoughtful and strategic views on things.

He is an advisor to many startups in the Bay Area, as well as an independent board member. He is also a UCLA Bruin, so we were certain to learn a lot from him!

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Paul O'Brien is currently the CEO of MediaTech Ventures, based in Austin. They are a leading venture development group at the intersection of media and technology. They also run an incubator called Collective, which Paul and team run as part of MediaTech. He’s also been Director of the Founder Institute Texas for the last few years. Paul also founded a group called Funded House a year and a half ago, which is designed to be a place where Venture Capital Firms connect directly with startups at their Series A or B rounds at conferences or online in virtual summits. Paul is a mentor and advisor to a number of other startup, venture and economic development organizations throughout the world as well.

Nearly 10 years ago, Paul and his family relocated to Austin from the Bay Area.  He had been part of early companies there like Yahoo, and ones that had built up and sold to companies like GoDaddy and Stubhub.

I’ve always appreciated Paul for his abundance mindset, willingness to share wisdom with and teach others, and his comfort with developing his own points of view.  He recently posted about building a startup team and thinking about it like building a family – some great content for our chat. We spoke a lot about startup ecosystems, what's worked in Austin and is still needed in the years ahead there.  There's a lot for us to learn from there to apply to Orange County!

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Derek Herrera is the founder of Spinal Singularity, a medical device company that develops products to improve lives for those with spinal injury.  He started the company in 2015 after working for another startup medical device company to learn a bit of the ropes. 

We discussed his path to becoming an entrepreneur and journey so far.Derek graduated from the Naval Academy and was a Marine Corps officer for many years.  He was shot and injured while on the battlefield in Afghanistan, and was paralyzed.  He has been a very active advocate for Marines and veterans and is on the board of several foundations.  It is amazing how many parallels his military experience and startup journey have, and his training there has been very helpful to him. 

He’s also been building community amongst medical device industry founders in the area, so we’re kindred spirits in trying to connect more people here for greater support, encouragement and advantage. Derek is exactly the type of entrepreneur we need to support, encourage and provide "unfair advantage" to for creating an innovative company here in Orange County.

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Spencer Rascoff and I had a lively conversation about many of the exciting things happening in the LA and Southern California startup community. Spencer has fully immersed himself here and is helping to build it as the next global innovation center, and I couldn't be more excited to have him here! We discussed the many advantages we have here, such as diversity of economy, creativity in abundance, and quality of life that is second to none.

He has done a lot so far in his career. He has co-founded two businesses that became household names, Zillow and Hotwire. And earlier this year he launched his latest company, dot.LA, a media company dedicated to covering and connecting L.A.’s startup world. I also hear he has at least one other new startup he’s developing, which is in stealth mode.

Spencer co-founded Zillow in 2005, had several roles, including CEO for nearly 10 years and took them public. He also led them through 15 acquisitions.  He co-wrote a best-selling book while he was there, and led a company where people loved to work, as they were often awarded for it and their culture. He also co-founded Hotwire.com and we all know that jingle. He and his team sold it to Expedia in 2003.  Prior to that he worked in private equity and investment banking.  He’s lived several lives! 

Spencer relocated back to LA a few years ago, after many years away. I’m excited that he’s back here to share his wealth of experience in building world class and industry shaping technology companies.  When you build a company that gets a single letter ticker symbol, Z, and reaches $10B market cap, people should listen. It will be fun to work with Spencer and the dot.LA team to highlight exciting developments and people here.

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It was a pleasure to welcome John Bradley Jackson to Accelerate OC. JJ, as his friends call him, is an Investor, Professor at Cal State Fullerton, Author and Startup Adviser.  He is the Director of the CSUF Center for Entrepreneurship and he’s also the Director of CSUF Startup Incubator. The CSUF Startup Incubator helps startups validate business models. JJ is a Professor at CSUF where he teaches Social Media, Entrepreneurial Marketing, Marketing Strategy, Commercializing Technology, New Venture Creation and Launch.

He is the Founder of Titan Angels, an Angel and Pre-Angel investment fund based in Orange County where they fund very early stage companies and ideas.

JJ is also Founder of The BirdDog Group, a consulting firm that specializes in helping small to medium sized firms with marketing, sales, and strategy. He’s also an Author of "Socially Close: Social Media Marketing for Small Business",​ "Déjà New Marketing: Increase Sales with Social Media, Search Marketing, E-mail Marketing, Blogs, and More"​ and "First, Best, or Different."

He is a board and advisory board member of a number of companies and area organizations, such as Junior Achievement, the SoCal committee for the Olympic Games and the LA Venture Association.

I so appreciate his can-do attitude and commitment to paying it forward to others in the community, as he works to connect, enable and help so many here.

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Nicole McMackin is currently the CEO of Irvine Technology Corporation, an award-winning Information Technology Solutions and Staffing provider with roots in Southern California. For over 20 years they have helped local and national companies with technology personnel needs, provided through their seasoned technologists, recruiters and support team.  Consistently ranked as one of Orange County’s Best Places to Work, ITC focuses on the quality of our people, commitment to customer service, and exceptional performance. ITC is also a Women Owned and Certified (WBENC).

Nicole is a leader who loves to develop others on her team and help them achieve their goals. We’re kindred spirits as we both started our careers in sales. She quickly became a top performer in her first company, and was a leader in providing staffing to a group of larger clients, as well as managing a team of account managers. Many of her clients are Fortune 300 companies.

She is also active in promoting women in technology roles, even starting a Women in Leadership CIO development program at UCLA last year. We talked about it during our conversation.

She is a SoCal native and is a graduate of the UC Irvine, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science. 

Nicole is a great example of a world-class leader here in our community, accelerating things in her industry, business and in Orange County. It was great to have her on Accelerate OC!

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