Rank #1: Lori Seal - CEO, Blytheco
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.
Oct 31 2019
Rank #2: Peter Polydor - Founder of Eureka Building & Eureka Hub; President of Ergo Holdings
Peter Polydor is the founder of Eureka Building and Eureka Hub, a 3-acre event, office and creative campus that many of our community has enjoyed and visited in the last 6 years since it opened. Peter’s vision was to support the startup community here with it, and it has. Eurekafest is an annual celebration of entrepreneurship that is one of the few can’t miss events in Orange County.
Peter joined me for our first remote conversation on Accelerate OC, in front of an audience of several dozen of our friends - this one at the OC4 Venture Studio in Costa Mesa.
Peter is also the President of Ergo Holdings, an investment group focused on Property, Technology, Workspaces and Diversified Investments in the US and Canada. Peter is an honorary professor, a venture capitalist and real estate investor. And he started out at one of the few local venture funds based in Orange County, Sail Venture Partners, where he quickly rose through the ranks in his few years there.
He’s been a fast-mover for a long time, winning awards like Power 30 under 30 and the Greek 40 under 40. He’s built companies and a successful investment firm. He has strong ties and experience here in Orange County, and also a perspective we can learn from as he's spent considerable time in an innovative global city, Toronto. We talked about those similarities and differences in our conversation as well.
Jan 03 2020
Rank #3: Neel Grover - Founder & CEO of Indi
Neel Grover is currently the founder and CEO of Indi, a software as a service video platform to help brands engage their customers and enable "individual commerce" (where the name Indi comes from). He shared more about Indi and how the opportunity came to him in our conversation. Before Indi he was CEO for a couple well-known e-commerce companies, Bluefly and Buy.com, and he’s been a board member for several other companies and advisor to both companies and private equity firms.
Neel started his career as an attorney, and we talked about his transition from elite firm, Brobeck, to the tech startup world, and he always felt like he'd go into the business world.
Neel has also been in Orange County for awhile, and graduated from UC Irvine, where he played on the tennis team. He's still an elite level competitive tennis player. Neel is a great example of a world-class leader raised here in our back yard.
Dec 20 2019
Rank #4: Michael Sawitz - Fast Start Studio
Michael has been an active member of the tech community here for many years as an investors, advisor, mentor, coach, cheerleader and entrepreneur. He has been one of the most active and available people to startup entrepreneurs in Orange County. He started the business incubator Fast Start Studio in 2012, which we talk a lot about on this episode.
He’s active with Tech Coast Venture Network, TIE Orange County, Cal State Fullerton’s Center for Entrepreneurship, and he now teaches there as well as at Irvine Valley College.
Before all of that he was a super successful entrepreneur as the founder of AIM Mail Centers, which he started, grew and ran for 25 years before selling it in 2011.
Michael is an amazing guy and inspires me every time we meet.
Sep 05 2019
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Rank #5: Nick Kovacevich - Co-founder, Chairman & CEO of KushCo Holdings
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.
Nov 09 2019
Rank #6: Lori Torres - Founder & CEO of Parcel Pending
It was a lot of fun to welcome Lori Torres to Accelerate OC to share her amazing journey with Parcel Pending, a company she founded in 2013. She was the founding CEO and remains in the role today, and I could hardly imagine anyone else ever replacing her!
Lori grew the company to over 150 people and thousands of customers around North America. She sold the company in January of this year to Neopost, a global company based in Paris. Prior to Parcel Pending she was an executive at The Irvine Company, where she oversaw a huge apartment portfolio. Lori had a very successful career in commercial real estate before becoming an entrepreneur.
Lori also has a great story in that she raised a significant amount of her early investment from a group of local investors, particularly folks in Tech Coast Angels here. They were greatly rewarded when she sold the company! Lori and Parcel Pending are a great example of a local entrepreneur and local investors working together to build a great company and achieve a great outcome. And hopefully they’re now reinvesting here in Orange County in the next generation of entrepreneurs.
Lori learned a ton through this process, as she’s shared with me, and she also had a lot of help along the way, which she talked about during our conversation. She’s also continued to grow Parcel Pending post-acquisition, so we talked a bit about life inside a bigger company after an acquisition.
She’s a great example of a world-class leader here in our community, accelerating things in her industry, her business and in Orange County.
Dec 18 2019
Rank #7: Carson Lappetito - President of Sunwest Bank
It was very timely to have my friend, Carson Lappetito, on the show. He is currently the President of Sunwest Bank, an OC-based business bank started 50 years ago by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs. Sunwest is active in Orange County and works with businesses from startups to multi-national corporations. Carson is also innovative in how he thinks about technology in the banking industry and even rolled out an online application for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) ahead of almost every other bank in the country. We discussed that as well as how the bank is responding to the current COVID19 crisis.
Carson is a banker, and also an entrepreneur, and I laugh since often those 2 things seem to run counter to each other. He’s worked in a variety of roles with numerous financial institutions. He is also an investor in other businesses and was part of a hedge fund focused on investment opportunities in the financial services industry. We’re both transplants to Orange County with our Economics degrees, so we’re kindred spirits there, but he’s way smarter - he also studied Political Science and got a minor in Mandarin.
We covered a lot of ground around fintech innovation, banking, the economy and the current stimulus program. Enjoy!
Apr 15 2020
Rank #8: Sean Conrad, CEO of Internet Marketing Association (IMA)
Sean is the CEO of the Internet Marketing Association or IMA, which since 2001 has been one of the largest organizations for professionals across business disciplines in marketing, creative and development, and has been an active network, with over 1 million members!
Sean is also a principal at Epic Insurance Brokers, where he provides business insurance products and consulting, while also helping to foster a culture that’s been recognized as a best place to work both regionally and across the insurance industry.
He’s also a founding member of the International Executive Council, which came out of IMA’s roots and has attracted an amazing group of leaders who share passion for tech innovation and their personal and professional growth around it.
I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Sean this past year, and appreciate his passion for entrepreneurship, innovation and making Orange County a leader in those areas. Through his work at IMA and IEC, he’s definitely doing his part to Accelerate OC.
Sep 12 2019
Rank #9: Beckham Thomas - Founder / CEO of Dealer Credit Resources
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.
Oct 15 2019
Rank #10: Cary Breese - co-founder, CEO at NowRx
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.
Oct 23 2019
Rank #11: Dan Rodrigues - Founder, CEO of Kareo
Dan Rodrigues brought so much wisdom and perspective to our discussion today. I loved how reflective he was on his entrepreneurial journey. To share a bit about Dan –
He founded and is the CEO of Kareo, a SaaS company here in Irvine in the health care industry. Kareo is providing a kind of "medical office in the cloud" for independent physician practices. He and his team have over 50,000 customers in every state and have grown rapidly over their history.
Dan has raised over $100M in capital and has over 600 employees at Kareo. He recently added a well-known entrepreneur to his board of directors, Travis Kalanick, the founder of Uber.
I’ve had the privilege of knowing Dan for over 10 years and we’ve talked a lot about the company and his personal journey over the years. He certainly shared a lot of that in this conversation, and I hope the listeners appreciate how open he was with them.
Before Kareo, Dan founded or co-founded a couple other companies. He began his career at a couple well-known software and Internet companies, Visio and Real Networks, after he graduated from UCLA. Go Bruins!
Dan is a cheerleader for Orange County and has built a big family (5 kids) while building Kareo, so he’s super busy! And so is his amazing wife, Kate!
Dan's words of wisdom at the end were 3 things: "You've got to love what you do, and where you do it. (that's how you'll persevere through the challenges you'll face) You really have to be honest with yourself about the opportunity, and your true north star to believe in. And you have to have the tenacity and resilience to overcome. (often the entrepreneur gives up on the business instead of working through it). With those 3 things, you can be successful." Great perspective and advice, Dan!
Sep 08 2019
Rank #12: Grant Van Cleve - CEO Buy It Installed; Chairman Tech Coast Angels
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.
Oct 17 2019
Rank #13: Dan Heinfeld - President of LPA
Dan Heinfeld is currently the President of LPA, a leading national architecture firm, and he has been there for over 30 years. He leads their design and sustainability initiatives as well. LPA has more than 400 people in 6 offices in California and Texas. Their Orange County office, in Irvine, is right in the middle of one of the "innovation" areas here - University Research Park - and right next to Acorns, CloudVirga, Ready at Dawn, and the Beall Center for Applied Innovation at UCI, to name a few of his neighbors.
Dan is an architect with a strong sense of duty to leave a lasting impact on the built environment and has been focused on sustainability long before others did, combining that with design excellence. LPA has one of the largest portfolios of LEED certified projects in the US and has earned hundreds of awards for their designs.
LPA has led the way in adopting energy reduction and efficiency in their buildings, even creating their own Irvine office as a living laboratory for design, redevelopment and energy reduction. Dan was the recipient of the 2018 President’s Award from the American Institute of Architects-Orange County chapter in recognition of his contribution to local architecture.
Dan clearly leads by example with his innovative spirit. And while I tend to focus on innovation here in Orange County in areas like software, technology has infiltrated architecture in so many ways that I bet I can’t even appreciate. Dan and I talked about that and how technologically savvy today's talent is in his business. He is another great example of a world-class leader here in our community, accelerating things in his industry, his business and in Orange County.
Dec 05 2019
Rank #14: Kurt Johnson - Founder / CEO of FreightPop
Kurt Johnson is currently the founder and CEO of FreightPop, a cloud-based software that makes logistics simple. They give one login for all transportation management, including inbound and outbound freight management across all different freight types.
Kurt is a grizzled startup veteran, with six startups. He’s gone from his garage to $100M in revenue. He’s had 2 two exits and two acquisitions. He’s received the E&Y entrepreneur of the year award. And he tells me that with FreightPop, this is his last one. And to him, his most important. He founded Horizon Technology over 20 years ago in his garage and did PC refurbishing and parts distribution, and guided the company to twenty years of consistent growth and profitability. He also reached $100M in revenue with it, as I mentioned earlier.
Kurt is passionate about building an inspiring culture and builds an environment of opportunity and engagement. He’s created an employee Hopes & Dreams program, he requires all new staff to complete our ten-week leadership training class and gives all employees paid time off to volunteer in their community.
He’s also a smart guy and learner, having graduated college with high honors and recently taking a data science class at UC Irvine. There was so much to learn from this conversation!
Dec 04 2019
Rank #15: Andy Fathollahi - Founder/CEO of The Kanvas Company; Founder/Chairman of Incipio Group
Andy Fathollahi joined me on the show and immediately delved into the reality of being a founder and longtime entrepreneur. He’s a serial one and done it here in Orange County. He foundedIncipio here over 20 years ago and is still Chairman of its Board. He’s also founder and CEO of his latest venture, The Kanvas Company.He is currently the founder and CEO of the Kanvas Company, a cannabis technology company. We talked a lot about how to start and build a second company after a super successful one, with different perspective, culture and lifestyle goals, as well as how to attract the right kind of people today. As example, Andy has instituted a 4-day work week.
Prior to Kanvas he was founder and CEO of Incipio Group, which he started and grew here super successfully, until selling a majority of it to private equity in 2016.
Andy was a great guest and shared a lot about the challenges of being an entrepreneur and the different perspectives he's had as time has gone on in his journey. I loved his views on himself and what he'd advise others, based on his 25 year old self, 35 year old self and 45 year old self. Similarly we both have had a hard time taking off time in between adventures!
Feb 05 2020
Rank #16: Peter Nguyen - founder, CEO of Ad Exchange Group
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!
Nov 01 2019
Rank #17: Andrew Lyon - Founding Dean, Fowler Engineering School at Chapman
Andrew Lyon joined the Accelerate OC show and was a great guest and fun conversation. He is the founding Dean of the new Dale & Sarah Ann Fowler School of Engineering at Chapman University here in Orange County. It’s super exciting to add a new engineering school here in Orange County, and especially at Chapman, which does everything in such a world class way.
Andrew had been the Dean of the College of Science & Technology there for several years, so this new engineering school is an expansion of the STEM work where Andrew is so passionate.
Andrew is also an entrepreneur, as the co-founder of a couple companies in the biomedical and therapeutics markets. He’s active in our community as well as a board member of both OCTANe and the Beckman foundation.
Andrew spent several years in another innovation ecosystem, Atlanta, as chair of the chemistry and biochemistry school at Georgia Tech, a world-class institution.
He has great energy and excitement about Orange County as a destination for engineers to be trained, work, start companies and live and thrive.
Listen to Andrew's tip to students to think about where they're going and how they're going to get there - "process over product." Great perspective!
Sep 07 2019
Rank #18: Shawn Wehan - Co-founder / CEO, Givsum
Shawn was one of my most energetic guests. He is the co-counder and CEO of Givsum, a startup helping charities and service clubs to embrace the digital age. He’s getting good traction and has an ambitious vision for the company, which we talked about in this episode.
Prior to Givsum, Shawn co-founded Future Leaders of Our Community here in Orange County, which he built into an organization that connected thousands of young professionals with each other and inspired them to get involved with many OC non-profits. This work was very important to uncovering the opportunity for Givsum.
Shawn has a Masters in Divinity & Theology and was a pastor for a number of years earlier in his career, before the entrepreneurial fire led him to start Givsum. He also has a background and undergraduate degree in radio broadcasting, so, in reality, he should be the one leading the discussion, instead of me. He also has a great podcast series called American Philanthropy that you should check out.
Shawn is living the mantra of doing well by doing good, and is also one of the scrappiest entrepreneurs I’ve ever met. We always have a lot to talk about! He is also committed to building his company here in Orange County and has tapped into some great local talent. I'm excited to be an investor in his company, and supporting his efforts to Accelerate OC.
Sep 11 2019
Rank #19: Scott Hamilton, CEO of Executive Next Practices Institute (ENPI)
Scott Hamilton is the President and CEO of Executive Next Practices Institute, which he started here and over the last 10 years has provided advisory and thought leadership to thousands of senior executives around the globe. ENPI is a partner with universities such at UC Beall Applied Innovation, Pepperdine, and ASU, research organization Gallup, and corporate members in over 2000 companies.
Scott is also a board member for many other for-profit and non-profit companies. He’s also CEO of Nextworks Strategy, which provides innovation programs to align organizations and leadership teams for peak performance and revenue growth.
Prior to founding or getting involved in these organizations he was a successful practitioner as an executive at DirecTV, Nestle, Amerisource Bergen and Honeywell.
Scott has been super committed to and active in Orange County for many years, and ENPI has helped raise the knowledge and capability of many of our local business leaders. He does a great job of bringing business leaders in our community together. I had a great time at one of his recent events on corporate governance, where I participated in a mock board meeting. He is a great example of an innovative Orange County leader.
Sep 13 2019
Rank #20: Charles Antis - Founder & CEO of Antis Roofing & Waterproofing
Charles Antis possesses energy and passion like few people I've ever met. It just makes me want to hang out with him more. We spoke about his leadership and life philosophies, his company and its mission and purpose, and the amazing other work he’s doing in Orange County.
He is the founder and CEO of Antis Roofing and Waterproofing, a company he founded here in Orange County over 30 years ago. Charles describes them as "a shepherd in the community, purposed by helping healthy families to have safe, dry homes." He has firmly embraced and lives by the principle of doing well by doing good. We talked a lot about that in our conversation.
Charles is super involved in our community outside of his company. He’s on the board of Ronald McDonald House, Habitat for Humanity, an advisor to OneOC, and the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) For the last 10 years Antis has donated every roof installation of every home built by Habitat here in the county.
What I’ve seen from Charles as well in the innovator’s mindset. He’s constantly learning, trying and thinking about what more he can do or impact. It’s inspiring. He’s taken what many might consider a boring business and elevated it to the top of its game nationally, and been recognized for it. He says what he thinks and shares what he believes.
One of the things that struck me when we met at his office was how cool it was. I felt like I might be in a tech startup. We spoke about why he did that – for most of my crowd you’d never expect that from an old school business like roofing.
He’s also embraced social media to share his impact with the community, we discussed the open, authentic life and sharing it with others.
Jan 20 2020