Eric Yuan / Founder of Zoom Communications: Make Products that Make the Customer Happy

Eric Yuan has been deeply involved with engineering since the 90’s with a knack for innovation and collaboration. He was one of the founding engineers and VP of engineering at WebEx for over a decade. Interestingly enough, Eric and his team of engineers laid the foundation for SaaS web conferencing technology almost by accident. In the early years, WebEx was originally a custom development shop until one of the co-founders felt productivity would improve if they monitored the engineers via video conference. This sparked the idea that other companies would benefit from such a concept as well and thus the pivot to web conferencing occurred.

WebEx became the market leader in Web Conferencing and later got acquired by Cisco for $3.2 B.   After the acquisition, Eric stayed on as head of WebEx Engineering.   He realized that in order for WebEx technology to evolve, it would have to be re-engineered from scratch which was something that his upper management would not allow.  Frustrated, Eric left Cisco and started Zoom..

Despite competition from a plethora of web conferencing solutions (Cisco, Microsoft, Citrix), Eric fearlessly began to develop a new solution. As Eric enlightens, “Startups [and smaller companies] are much better for building up individual products. In larger companies, it’s a little bit harder.”

His team of over 100 engineers worked around the clock for 2 1/2 years in developing Zoom’s video conference platform.  Since their launch, Zoom has achieved unicorn status and has a valuation over $1 B. In explaining the success of Zoom, Eric declares, “You can be successful if you make a product that makes a customer happy even in a crowded market.”

You can watch the full interview with Eric here.

Christopher Johnson / Rapid Brands: Fear vs. Faith

Chris Johnson is an accomplished entrepreneur founding Rapid Products and the Johnson Group Inc.   With his roots firmly grounded in Sacramento, Chris grew up with a diverse duo of family members. His mother was a small-business owner consulting for major corporations and his father was a senior special agent for the Federal Government.  At the age of 16, Chris started down the entrepreneurial road and started a teen dance club and held the first event at Dante’s where he hosted 400 local high school students.

While in college, Chris developed the idea for the Rapid Ramen Cooker when he accidently cooked the perfect bowl of Ramen in the Microwave.  Chris dedicated his time and efforts to creating the ideal ramen cooker; it was his questions that connected him to the right people. He knew what he could do himself and creating a prototype was not one of them. His attorney actually referred him to a group of students at Chico State and they produced the first working prototype. Later, he landed a deal with Walmart and was highlighted on KCRA News. Eventually this attracted enough demand where he was able to successfully pitch it on Shark Tank where he successfully negotiated an offer from Mark Cuban.  Rapid Ramen (now called Rapid Brands) has grown into a full line of microwave cookware with sales at estimated $100 M.

Fear vs. Faith

His advice to entrepreneurs is to know the difference between fear and faith.   Fear is that you’ll be a failure.  Faith is that you’ll be a success.  What they do have in common? Neither has occurred so Chris encourages entrepreneurs to embrace faith and to to not allow fear to dominate your life. Don’t even think about fear.

If you would like to hear more nuggets of entrepreneurial wisdom from Chris, you can view his entire interview with Startup Grind Sacramento here.

Howard Love: The Original Business Plan Never Works!

Howard Love is a startup legend founding or co-founding a total of 15 companies since 1985. Some of his most notable enterprises have been LoveToKnow, PageWise, and Flex Jobs. He recently released his new book, “The Startup J Curve” that stresses the importance of agility and willingness to follow through with change.

No time for reading? Fine! Watch the video interview by clicking here now! 

While attending Colgate University, him and his partner changed the school’s computer network to a trading system. It evolved into a technical analysis and software charting package for users of the original IBM PC. They made an okay name for themselves and later got involved in software development tools. After moving to Silicon Valley, they named the tool “Zap” and sold them in abundance. By 1996, their original charting package eventually merged with Roguewave Software and provided him with enough funds to start angel investing.

“The Original Business Plan Never Works…But that’s Okay!”

At the time, Angel investing was frowned upon and lacked structure. Him and his venture partner decided to be a lot more hands on with entrepreneurs by partnering up and offering additional support. Howard would launch startups with any candidate he thought had potential. They may polish the original idea, provide substantial funding, and even lead the first round. Howard values the character of individuals he works with because he believes the team is most important. Funding will come and go and the the idea constantly changes. Your team members on the other hand, will stay the same which is why it’s important that everyone’s compatible for the long-term.

6 Phases of the Startup J Curve: “Create, Release, Morph, Model, Scale, Harvest”

In his 35 years of entrepreneurship, Howard understands that startups either evolve or die. Many successful startups take time to eventually reach their peak and  popular “overnight success stories” such as Twitter and Groupon he feels are a misconception. Howard admires the efforts of startups creating a solid business plan but looks more for the ability to pitch their idea. What he looks for in a business pitch is the team’s resourcefulness; are they able to do a lot with a little? He also wants a sharp and open mind, ambition, passion along with an undeniable energy that can sustain the growth process. Above all, he feels that you have to like the individuals on a personal level before even considering investing time let alone money into their venture.

If you want to get more in depth with the most helpful entrepreneur insight available, watch the full interview now! 

By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014.  Follow Rich on Twitter at@ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.

Margaret Mackenzie Empowering Female Entrepreneurs: Seeing is Believing

Margaret Mackenzie was interviewed at Startup Grind Sacramento at the Urban Hive last September and enlighten the audience with well-needed entrepreneurial wisdom. Currently serving an executive role in Astia, Margaret also consults several early-stage startups with a specialty in finance, IT and artificial intelligence. She served as CFO at Paymo (now Boku) and JustInvesting along with being CEO to 3 financial market corporations. Her focus has been identity, digital/mobile transactions, and FinTech.

Born in Stockton and raised in Sacramento, Margaret founded her first startup named Paymo with the model that customers would be charged for their digital transactions on their phones rather than their credit/debit cards. Feeling that the idea was ahead of its time for the states, she raised most of the funding in the UK where it was already being practiced. In order to effectively acquire a user base, they targeted online and mobile gamers who were mostly too young to own a Visa but old enough to have a cell phone.

“If you can bring women up to the level of equality in business relations, we would add $25 trillion to the global economy.”

She co-founded Astia in 2008 as a nonprofit in San Francisco providing networks and capital to women who are managing or involved with high growth tech startups. After seeing the clear challenges for women to raise funds in the industry, she was compelled to help make it easier. Not only did it make sense morally, but from a financial standpoint, she feels that women can contribute a lot to the global economy but are largely underfunded. Astia offers free and low-cost services to female entrepreneurs and now have offices in Silicon Valley, Boston, London and more. She discussed how female entrepreneurs tend to underestimate their qualifications in favor of a man. This hinders the amount of examples that young women look up to and gain confidence in their abilities.  In regards to the value of programs that promote women and minorities, Margaret commented:

“Regardless of your gender or color, in order to believe it, you have to see it.”

Despite the obvious and not so apparent reasons why women struggle in the tech industry, Margaret understood that the difficulties of an entrepreneur remain gender neutral. The grueling task of working for little to no pay along with constantly trying to beat the odds are true regardless of your reproductive organs. She also emphasized the importance of a team and how significant it is for the well-being of a company.

Y Combinator COO Qasar Younis Discusses Entrepreneurship

Qasar Younis was interviewed at Startup Grind Sacramento and share how he has climbed the ranks of the entrepreneurial ladder. He is the CEO of Y Combinator (YC), an organization that provides seed funding for startups while linking them with potential investors and acquirers. Qasar reached success through Talkbin that was originally backed by YC before being acquired by Google 10 months later. He than became Google’s product lead for business facing product and has assisted dozens of entrepreneurs turn their ideas into a reality via YC.

Growing up in the rural environment of Pakistan and migrating to Michigan in the 80’s, Qasar’s initial background was in the automobile industry and virtually everything engineering-related. After leaving automotive in the early 2000’s, he gained skills in software and mechanical engineering ultimately attaining an MBA from Harvard. With a new focus, he launched a startup with a group of friends called Camisa in Chicago, Illinois. The business model was nearly identical to TeeSpring where users can sell and submit T-shirt designs via crowdfunding. Unfortunately, Camisa never reached the desired level of success and Qasar learned a lot from this failure.

“The Market Doesn’t Care about Your Vision.”

Qasar felt that his team was not well-balanced and he was trying to play a role that didn’t match his skillsets. In addition, not being in Silicon Valley severely hindered their degree of exposure. Camisa’s vision was not timed properly for the market to be attracted to what they were offering. This 3rd point is key because as entrepreneurs, it’s real easy to get wrapped up in our vision. However, he believes that building a successful business is based on supply and demand. If what you’re supplying isn’t demanded by the marketplace; the chances of success is zero to none. Once Camisa went down, him and his partner moved to Silicon Valley and zoned in on their soon-to-be success; Talkbin.

“If You’re Serious About your Brand, You Can’t do it Part-time.”

Qasar mapped out that he had exactly a year to put together a team, create a product and find funding. This led to entering the YC startup incubator where he received countless hours of mentoring and investment prospects. Although funding was an important element to the equation, it was the insight from YC supporters that he contributed most to his success. Less than a year later, Google randomly spotted them on the radar, recognized that his vision aligned with theirs and was immediately acquired.

You can view the full interview with Qasar here.

By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014.  Follow Rich on Twitter at @ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.

Mark Haney Reminds Entrepreneurs to be a Rock Star!

Mark Haney

Mark Haney of Haney Business Ventures has founded or co-founded over 20 businesses with a focus on community-based values by offering opportunities for entrepreneurs and military veterans. He is a board member on the Sacramento Entrepreneurs’ Organization and Allegiant Giving Corporation which all are dedicated to strengthen the entrepreneurial spirit of its region. Mark initially launched a successful video distribution company that expanded into a security/surveillance provider grossing over an annual $200 million with hundreds of employees. He also hosts a weekly radio broadcast, Entrepreneurs Unlimited which covers an array of topics related to entrepreneurship, business, startups and more. In a recent interview with Startup Grind Sacramento, Mark discussed his entrepreneurial journey.

Born and raised in Roseville, CA, Mark started out by attaining tons of beta VCR players for the low and eventually opened up a chain of 14 video supply stores throughout the region. Once the video industry went down, they pivoted into security cameras and targeted video installers through telemarketing campaigns. They were hit hard during the 2008 housing collapse and made a successful exit 2 years later.

“My Friends, Family And Community; As they Succeed I Succeed.”

Shortly after, Mark shifted gears into more of a philanthropic approach by launching Allegiant Giving focused on the ‘heroes of today and the leaders of tomorrow.’ In his mind, the heroes were vets coming back from war and the leaders were aspiring entrepreneurs filled with drive and ambition. One of his first veteran projects was the creation of a wheelchair for a veteran amputee that allowed him to go off roading and resembled the looks of an army tank. His efforts with the vast community of entrepreneurs has allowed him to get involved with real estate, limo services and of course security surveillance systems.

“When I’m Looking for Business Partners, I’m Looking for Rockstars.”

Mark says he’s very selective who he partners with because he needs people that are going to make others move and take action. If you don’t have the attitude of a rockstar, such as the lead singer of a band, he’s uncertain whether a partnership would be mutually beneficial. More importantly, Mark emphasizes that everyone possesses natural skills that should be capitalized on rather than trying to balance out the responsibilities of an entire company. It’s a common trap for entrepreneurs to take on more roles than needed in the name of saving money. However, he says we can’t do everything alone and learning skills you’re not naturally apt at can waste a lot of time and actually cause you to lose money in the long run. He finds it much more effective to form a well-balanced team that each can offer their own unique gifts to contribute to company objectives.

“So Often we do Things we Hate…But Keep an Open Mind to Where your Weaknesses and Strengths Are.”

The full interview with Mark can be viewed here.

By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014.  Follow Rich on Twitter at@ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.

 

Startup Lessons from Garage Ventures Bill Reichert

Silicon Valley icon Bill Reichert from Garage Technology Ventures recently spoke at Startup Grind Sacramento and offered some invaluable insight. With over 20 years as an entrepreneur and two public companies, Bill’s resume is quite impressive.

Originally from Chicago, Bill grew up spending quality time with his grandfather who exposed him to the adventurous world of entrepreneurship. He was in Silicon Valley when the PC was first released and arguably ran one of the first app development firms in United States history, which was apparently amazingly successful but eventually “crashed and burned.” In 1992, Bill and his buddy helped save a failing organization called “The Learning Company,” which later became the first business they took public for $60 million. Later down the line, the Learning Company was sold to Mattel for $3.6 billion. Ouch!  Bill eventually stopped kicking himself for selling too early and learned the ingredients to achieve success years later at the National Venture Capital Conference with Peter Lynch.

“I only invest in companies that even a complete idiot can run.”

This statement hit home for Bill, making him simplify his approach and become cautious with ventures that seem overly complex. When he looks for investments, he wants startups that have novel technology, a sustainable competitive advantage, and can make a significant impact in its designated sector.

Take for example Voke VR that “utilizes a synchronized multiple point-of-view stereoscopic panoramic camera system” technology. They’ve partnered with the Sacramento  Kings to enable mobile users in the stands or at home to receive an advanced VR spectacle without the bulky headset. The audience is able to pause, rewind and review the action from virtually any angle on the court.

When asked about ways for entrepreneurs to receive funding, his response was surprising:

“The best way to receive funding for your startup is to get endorsements from bigger companies for validation and reach out to venture capital sources.”

Bill firmly believes that by following these simple words of advice, you will be “head and shoulders” above your typical startup seeking that almighty dollar. Of course, you will most likely still need to meet the criteria that he mentioned when looking for a potential investment (i.e. novel technology, etc.).

Watch the full interview with Bill Reichert at Startup Grind Sacramento here.

By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014.  Follow Rich on Twitter at @ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.

Kevin Nagle: Have Passion & Obsession

Kevin Nagle was able to swing by a Startup Grind Sacramento and enlighten us with some heartwarming tales of his past that contributed to the man he is today. Co-Founder of Envision Pharmaceuticals and Co-owner of the Sacramento Kings, Kevin gained recognition as Sacramento’s Executive of the Year. He’s also one of the lead investor in Sacramento Republic FC and on the board of Moneta Ventures; the Sacramento region’s biggest early phase venture fund.

Kevin Nagle speaking Startup Grind Sacramento

Born in Minnesota and raised in Long Beach, CA by a single mother in “borderline poverty,” Kevin’s ambitious attitude took shape at the age of only 6 years old. With his father out of the picture, he would collect golf balls from a nearby golf course and sell them to golfers in need. He had a plethora of jobs that he claimed all built character and humility. Kevin even recalls ducking out of sight when the popular kids would be his customers working weekends at Jack in the Box. As Kevin grew older, his entrepreneurial spirit would sharpen. He discussed how he strategically maximized profits from his older sister’s paper route and that laid the foundation for his future empire.

Entrepreneur Rule #1: “Have Passion & Obsession”

On the path to becoming a successful entrepreneur, Kevin says that a passionate attitude is mandatory. A personal example of how he demonstrated passion was early in his career. At the time he was working in corporate America making over $500 k / year with a grip of stock options. However, these perks did not fill the void in his heart and he abruptly quit shortly after entering a 3 year employment deal. He has had passion for every endeavor he embarked on which in most cases, required to make sacrifices. Still, he understood the importance of “diversifying your lifestyle” and always made it to his family’s special events.

Entrepreneur Rule #2: “Carving the market, Staking your Claim…And Thinking of the Next Generation”

Kevin’s medical background started in the pharmaceutical management benefit services where he sold his own Integrated Pharmaceutical Services (IPS) for $200 million that eventually turned into CVS Caremark. During the week of 9/11, there was limited airfare and he was stuck in Las Vegas planning for the next generation. Comparing his approach to Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire, Kevin wrote a white paper outlining the vision and how his firm would be disruptive, transparent and compete with the big players on Wall Street. The early days of Envision aimed at bringing transparency to their customers and had a concept so disruptive that bigger companies falsely claimed their business models were identical to that of Envisions. Fortunately, his organization was well-capitalized and able to sustain the competition for 2 years but suffered severe losses. Refusing to throw in the towel, Kevin stuck the course and by focusing on his target market of senior citizens increased his revenue from $5 million to $78 million within a year.

Entrepreneur Rule #3: “Biggest Deal Killer is not Being Over Prepared”.

Kevin reminded us of the competitive overzealous nature of today’s market. Being able to articulate your idea in a clean and concise manner is so important to at least getting your foot in the door. He used Costco as an example and how they only allow startups 8 minutes to pitch the business idea and determine whether or not it should be on their store shelves. Therefore, Kevin firmly believes that every aspiring entrepreneur should constantly “shine their deck” and make it presentable to anyone under any circumstances. This aligns with his core principles of passion and obsession and how that will catapult you into a heightened degree of success.

Watch the full video interview for material not mentioned in this article!

By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014.  Follow Rich on Twitter at@ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.

Apple Keynote Conference 2016: Apple Reveals iPhone 7 and Wireless Earbuds

On September 7, Apple hosted their 9th annual Keynote Conference at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco. Although newer versions of the iPhone and Apple Watch were shown for the first time, this year’s event was a little different. Instead of introducing state of the art innovations, Apple showed some additional features they’ve added to existing products. Moreover, these features weren’t anything extraordinary but new for Apple nonetheless.

Image Source: i.ytimg.com

Apple Music & the App Store

Apple CEO Tim Cook expressed his passion for music and the important role it has played in the brand’s development saying that they now have 17 million paid subscribers on their own Apple Music. They plan on partnering with more musicians this year as well. They announced its collaboration with Nintendo and will have classic games such as Super Mario and Battle Toads available on the App Store. Awesome! Its ‘ConnectED’ Program improved ‘iWork’ introducing real-time collaboration so users can work on numerous docs and presentations simultaneously. By doing so, Apple will now rival competing products such as the Google Chromebook and hope to gain a solid presence in productivity/educational environments.

Image Source: cdn1.tekrevue.com

iPhone 7 & the iPhone 7 Plus

The designs of the new iPhone 7 and 7 Plus is virtually the same as their 2 previous models with one discrete addition. The iPhone 7 does not have an aux port because it only accepts wireless earbuds called ‘Airpods.’ Therefore, the lack of aux abilities is more of an exclusion than an addition. Its updated processors grant longer battery life whether at home or on the go. In addition, its internal stereo system has been improved for crisp audio playback. They’ve also made them water resistant and adjusted the home button for force sensitivity.  Last but not least, they’ve upgraded to a dual-lens camera system that enhances its already pristine picture quality. The price for the iPhone 7 is a little less at $649 in comparison to the 7 Plus at $769. Preorders will start on September 9th.

Image Source: 1reddrop

Apple Watch Series 2

The Apple Watch has updated features most beneficial for athletes and particularly swimmers. The new models are now swim-resistant, integrated swim workouts into its system and even repel water while swimming. It also has a built in GPS and comes with their new hiking app ‘View Ranger.’ Additionally, they partnered with Nike to create an exclusive Apple Watch with a cool running band design. Pokémon Go is now available for the watch as well. Lastly, its brighter display and faster processors tally it up to the asking rates of $269-$369 available September 9th for preorder.

Image Source: A Blog to Watch 

By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014.  Follow Rich on Twitter at@ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.

Apptology CTO Gary Dalal Speaks at TEDx 2015

 

On December 6, 2015, Apptology CTO, Gary Dalal, spoke at TEDxWalledCity in New Delhi. His talk was about the importance and power of peoples’ contacts. He describes a person’s contacts as that person’s treasury.  Gary developed LinkLadder to help users tap into the power of people’s contacts and their contacts’ network. LinkLadder can help the user to both search for contacts and get discovered.

By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014.  Follow Rich on Twitter at@ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.