Tag Archives: portfolio

Tech Coast Angels “Volunteering 2016”

For Summer 2016, I am volunteering for the Tech Coast Angels. Specifically, I am on the committee to bring aboard some local food companies to have a booth and sample their products.

The Tech Coast Angels

Tech Coast Angels (TCA) is the largest angel investor group in the U.S., and has been fueling the growth of innovative companies and entrepreneurs in Southern California since 1997. TCA identifies, mentors and funds early stage companies to help get their ideas to market. The TCA has over 300 members that are experienced CEOs, senior executives, current and former entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and other professionals. Members not only invest but frequently serve on boards and assist companies with relationships, strategy, supply chain, team building and additional fundraising.

TCA members have invested over $180 million in more than 300 companies and have helped attract more than $1.6 billion in additional capital/follow-on rounds, mostly from venture capital firms. In 2014 alone, TCA invested over $16 million in 60 companies; in 2015 the total was $13.5 million in 58 companies. In fact, the most recent Halo Report rated TCA as #2 nationally in number of funded deals. A recent analysis by CB Insights ranked TCA #1 out of 370 angel groups on “Network Centrality” and #5 overall in “Investor Mosaic.”

Basically, the Tech Coast Angels are unique in the amount of funding and level of involvement they provide young companies. They are the quickest way to $1M in funding.

My Involvement

I’m a new volunteer to the Tech Coast Angels.

Annually, they have an event called the John G. Watson Quick Pitch Competition. There they invite entrepreneurs of the community to pitch their businesses and win money. Often times they are approached by members of the TCA for additional investments. That’s really cool. So, when they needed a volunteer, I was happy to join the team.

I am on the committee to bring aboard some local food companies to have a booth and sample their products. I think it’s very important that the TCA interact with local and growing companies. I am not getting paid.

My Experience I Bring

I have worked with several angel investors in Las Vegas Nevada to grow a fund and perform due diligence on companies. I did so as a way to help my fellow entrepreneur students at the University of Nevada. I’m proud to say I’ve helped several companies get funded and gained experience in fundraising.

Why Did I Get Involved with the Tech Coast Angels?

I got involved with the TCA because I know that supporting the startup community is in line with what I believe in, what I do, and what I have experience in.

I believe  businesses exist to solve a problem and provide employment. When the 2008 recession hit I saw a lot of people desperate for work and that cause became my mission. I wanted to help people find work by helping them start businesses.

I’m a generalist so I’ve worked in many roles to support young companies. I’ve learned that no entrepreneur is born knowing everything, there’s always something to do, and I wanted to be helpful and useful.

Startup and small businesses are the backbone of America. They generate the most new jobs each year vs. larger and older firms.  By helping young companies grow, I help people get jobs.

What Do I Get Out of Volunteering for the Tech Coast Angels?

I hope by working hard to complete the goals of the Tech Coast Angels’ John G. Watson Quick Pitch Competition committee I grow a stronger personal network, build friendships, make business contacts, and have fun. I do want to benefit from the relationships I make.

I want to keep my skills sharp. What I’m doing is essentially business development and a core skill for any businessman. This is an opportunity for me to develop and hone my abilities, while benefitting the startup community. It’s a win-win scenario.

Are You A Company I’ve Tried to Reach?

Wow! I’m happy you read this far. Yes, I want to help you. You’re also helping me, but you’re also helping you. Help me to help you to help the startup community. Email me back! Juan@Prestartable.com.

And as I mentioned, I’m not getting paid to volunteer.

Koreaners “Strategy and Growth 2016”


Koreaners.com is a startup company that provides products and services to the growing expat community in South Korea. Many expats are Americans that decide to teach English. 180,000 people have registered English as their first language. Company products include: job postings, resume database, immigration information, tour guide matching, community forums, event marketing, consulting, podcast and blog. Paramount to Koreaners is the branding strategy as the premiere source of information, services, and products to expats in Korea.

Unique Opportunity

Koreaners provided a unique opportunity due to its transient, but growing target market, a well-connected founder, and the technologically savvy but economically weak competition.


There are 136,000+ Americans registered as non-tourists in South Korea and 30,000 are American military. This American demographic provides a unique challenge and opportunity because although the number of expats is growing, they are transient and nomadic. This means few expats live in Korea long enough to be fluent in the language to help assist new expats. Korean is a difficult language to learn, so many expats rely on English translated websites, which are not as numerous as they are the USA. Web companies with unique business models can be designed to address the needs of this demographic. Koreaners is positioning itself to be the go to source for expat information, products, and services.

Well-connected founder

Most expat businesses in Korea are started by expats without deep connections to the culture or country. This disconnect exposes the inability of expat founders to navigate legal caveats or effectively expand influence in the business community. Without deep connections, the forging of key business partnerships becomes a hurdle few can overcome.

Weak competition

Competitors exist and are profitable, which means there is an opportunity to siphon much of the revenue streams. Competitors are not scaling fast enough and are leaving an opening for more agile startups to overtake market control.

Initial Information

Before I started with Koreaners I had some first hand knowledge regarding its status. This information allowed me to decide that the project was at an early enough point where I could make a solid impact.

Some information I was given before I decided to start:

Current Status

Regenerating the Website — by 5th March

Host the Language exchange workshop — by 10th Feb — building the community to gain an insight from expats about their needs and Koreners. Aiming at launch the expats pubs and coffee shop for expats in near future.

Setting up the lineup Team for Tourism and Travel application for expats in Korea.

Theme and details are already designated. So To accelerate the business Koreners Tourism and Travelling App Team is attending the Competition hosted by the government in April to get funds of 1billion won.


Koreners needs to gain insights and more feedback from expats point of view.

Wide range of interaction is required from various activities and communities hosted by expats -R/D more information for expats and input those info into the site.

Bri and I. Koreaners is currently located in the Rehoboth Startup Incubator in Gangnam, South Korea. I knew I could make a deep impact in a short amount of time.
Founder, Brian Chung and I in our first team photo. Koreaners is currently located in the Rehoboth Startup Incubator in Gangnam, South Korea. I knew I could make a deep impact in a short amount of time.


The challenges of being on the ground floor of this startup were poor web design, undefined brand, lack of clear product offering, and disconnect with the technology team.

Web 1.0 Website

Initially the website was not beautiful. This was due to several issues. Regardless, the website was characterized as Web 1.0. It looked very static and did not update content enough to generate return visits. Navigation and user interface was not up to par with startup standards that rely on beautiful, careful design. Because the website is the main storefront of the business it’s important that it conveys a message that it is a reputable and trustworthy business.

Koreners version 1.0.
Koreners version 1.0.

Undefined Brand

There were several variations of a Koreaners (Koreners) logo and slogan. Each version was strewn across the Internet. If a user or potential customer were to come across one logo they would be hard pressed to associate the company with another logo. It’s like have multiple faces for the same person. Without a clearly defined and singular logo, customers are unable to hold a consistent view of the brand.

This logo has a big “KOR” inside an arrow and “enters” in a different font adjacent to it.
This logo has a globe with Korea centered in the middle.
This logo was used for circular profile pictures such as spreaker.com (podcast) or youtube.com (testimonials). The fingers twisted around each other were meant to represent friendship. The colors are red, dark blue, teal and white. The colors do not look great together.

In the beginning, much of the direction of the online marketing was in disarray. The logo was never the same design, never the same color, and never the same shape. The name of the brand from February 2016 to June 2016 was actually Koreners, which often got confused with the word “coroners.” The brand was also self-centered. The pictures posted to the Facebook page were always about what the company did, what features the company had, and why the company was better. All we did was talk about us and that needed to change. We needed to focus on the customer and get the social part down in social media.

Facebook page 1.0. This page had the finger twist logo, which is hard to understand in a small profile picture thumbnail. The help banner is confusing because it says “Help for twitter foreigners.” Not even going there.
The majority of Facebook page photos posted were of the Koreners logo. This appears self-centered and may have attributed to the lack of community engagement.
Twitter had the finger twist logo and banner we did not use anywhere else.

Youtube had the Help banner.

Spreaker podcast had the nger twist logo.

Branding is what defines a company and distinguishes it from its competitors. If you’re a startup your brand is unknown, unproven, or inexperienced. Koreaners had the trifecta and its name at the time (Koreners).

Lack of clear product offering

The goal of Koreaners is to provide products and services to all the expats that are living or going to live in Korea. Jokingly, the slogan was for a time “Koreaners, we do everything for every expat.” It’s difficult to distinguish why your products or services are better than your competitors when you cannot back that up well. We were saying that we were doing everything better, but intuitively that’s impossible. No one can be great at doing everything for everyone.

Much of the strategy for startups is gleaned from the Lean Startup, which was developed by Steve Blank (later Eric Ries). It’s difficult to create a MVP (Minimum Viable Product) when your goal is to not create an MVP. I would later fully understand that this goal was due to the unique culture of Korean business.

Disconnect with technology team

The business strategy and marketing team were physically separated from the technology team. The two teams were not even in the same building. If there was a feature or user interface issue there was a long delay before the issue would reach the technology team.

Deciding on a Strategy

Initially I considered heavily one of my important views on startups. That view is: you either innovate on technology, marketing, or price. Because the core team had a stronger background in business strategy and the technology team was not big or fast, I decided we should innovate on our marketing. We would have to make a conscious effort to know that the website couldn’t get much better and that it may always have a poor user interface. Many businesses are able to thrive without the latest technology embedded into their online storefront. We would establish our core value in our ability to market incredibly well. This would require us to throw most of our resources to marketing and branding strategy. I ignored innovating on price because with a strong brand you can afford to charge a premium.

The next four months would be characterized with many one on one meetings with different team members to determine the company’s direction and strengths.

Cleaning up the branding

I took the initiative and scheduled a day to outline the issues with our online brand. I created a Power Point presentation and painstakingly detailed where our message was inconsistent or too self-centered. I emphasized the importance that we focus on the customer. We needed to have a defined logo, a defined color and defined font. The social media voice I proposed was that of a friend giving fun and informative advice, but not sarcastic or immature. We needed a slogan. What was important to me was that this meeting not be one-sided. What was important to me was that we began a dialogue so we as a team could get behind a common strategy. I made that clear in the beginning and allowed others to take the floor when needed.

The Final K. Company was still named Koreners. A battle was won, but the war was far from over.
The Final K. Company was still named Koreners. A battle was won, but the war was far from over.

Logo K expat portal

My effort paid off because after that meeting we all agreed on a singular logo for profile pictures, to focus on the customer and less on ourselves, the need to define what we do, a slogan, and a strategy to drive all our social media accounts to the website.  Additionally, this meeting sparked a culture of collective brainstorming. It was the first time we all were in the same room to practice brainstorming together in a time controlled and collaborative environment. This would become an invaluable practice that we would repeat several times in the coming months.

Strategy Branding Brainstorming Sessions and Collaboration

When the team asked me to lead all future brainstorming sessions I relished the opportunity. I’ve been here before. I naturally like ideas. That’s why I like startups so much. I believe everyone has something valuable to say, you just need to give him or her what they need to get the best ideas out of them. Sometimes they need to know that they won’t be criticized, so you declare that at the beginning. Say, “This is a brainstorming session, let’s get all ideas out on paper without criticism and then we’ll filter out the ideas we all think are best.”

The board room of Rehoboth with a white board. The canvas of brainstorming.
The board room of Rehoboth with a white board. The canvas of brainstorming.

One session was to consider our branding and who our customer was. I lead an exercise using the white board where we eliminated certain expats. We eliminated English as a second language expats, which were a substantial amount of migrant labor workers. We also eliminated Russian expats. In the end we concluded that our main customers were either tourists or American expats.  The question then became what do they need? I then drew a diagram of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs and asked questions. I asked, “Does our customer have a need to survive?” Of course.” Do they need food?” Yes. “Do they need love?” Yes. But one of those two, food or love is more immediate and more important. We were able to successfully choose a campaign strategy that focused on food by using this hierarchy.

Cleaning up the marketing

I introduced regularly scheduled posts: Marketing Monday, Opportunity Tuesday, How to Wednesday, Travel Thursday, and Five Things to do Friday. This resulted in our most marketable posts on Facebook with the most engagement and shares. Each week our numbers grew and in one month doubled traffic and is still growing.


I would help grow the team as well as grow revenue.

Growing the Team

Because I was employee #2, it was important that the team grow. I interviewed every new member and based on our needs created recommendations. We grew from a team of three to a team of seven and many contractors for content.

Revenue Growth

In the final weeks of my tenure with Koreaners the company was in a position to generate revenue. Revenue increased 400% and is still growing.

Social Media Growth

Most substantially, Facebook page likes increased by over 133%. This was important because this was our key metric for this early stage of the launch. The strategy was to shift more into bringing these fans over to the website, but only after they were more familiar with us on their terms through social media.

We increased our presence in print media as well.
We increased our presence in print media as well. See additional article here.
G20 is one of the major magazines for business and news in Gangnam, Seoul, South Korea.
G20 is one of the major magazines for business and news in Gangnam, Seoul, South Korea.

Facebook likes in February, 2016: 2,245

Facebook page likes in June, 2016: 5,250

Twitter followers in March, 2016: 0

Twitter followers in June, 2016: 50

Instagram followers in May, 2016: 0

Instagram followers in June, 2016: 130

Words of Appreciation

On my last day. Williams, the two receptionist ladies, Brian, and myself.
On my last day. Williams, the two receptionist ladies, Brian, and myself.

On my last day the team all wrote me kind letters.

I am writing this letter to appreciate all your kind & effort & passion into the work for the last few months.

I believe you are such an amazing person with many strong ability in many areas as well… it has been great honor to work with you and I am really looking forward to see you again!

Brian, Koreaners Partner

Personally, it was such an honor to have worked with you in the Koreaners Team. You have such a suave demeanor that I truly admired.

I wanna thank you for allowing us to tap into your intellect. You’ve got such fine brains that any organization will find difficult to reject. Such an asset you’ve been to building this brand. I hope that, we shall continually keep in touch and collaborate on some projects in the future. Keep up with your smiles. We are a family for life.

Williams Nana Kyei

I wish you all the best and I hope you find a way to come back to Korea.


Final Thoughts on Koreaners

To date, this has been one of my more fulfilling positions. I was able to take a leadership role and design the strategy that would set up the business for growth. I considered three paths: innovation in technology, innovation in marketing, or innovation in price. I chose innovation in marketing. This decision was made because of my assessment of the team’s capable background in business.

Over the next four months I would lead one on one meetings and team meetings to develop and drive the strategy. I lead team meetings to exploit the company’s core competency (marketing), a strategy to drive growth through content and viral marketing, the brand voice, and the brand identity. Because of my work we were able to gain incredible recognition with our target market and have the phones ringing for more of our services, thus generating revenue growth of 400% and growing. I implemented a regularly schedule blogging strategy as well as trained the bloggers on their writing. The result was an increase in unique page visits from numbers in the hundreds to numbers in the thousands per month. I implemented collaborative team meetings that fostered team building and idea generation. This resulted in a more cohesive team that could count on one another to deliver their best work. I implemented analytics analysis to gain insight into what brought about our waves of increased visitors. This resulted in the emphasis on blogging, videos, and writing for specific audiences. Those audiences were namely tourist and expats (distinguishable from K-pop fans or Korean migrant workers).

I believe the team was a unique mix of business and art that allowed for a synergy of ideas. What made the company even more satisfying was the open communication between each team member. We were all allowed to express opinions and trust that we wouldn’t squash anyone’s voice.

People work very hard in Korea. The standard is to work overtime every day. Although contracts may explicitly state working hours are from from 9am to 5pm, it is common place that employees do not punch out until 9pm or later. They are not compensated extra for the overtime. Although our company didn’t require this of us, I felt the sense of urgency that Korean culture imparts and it instilled a sense of competitiveness and drive in me. I always think now that in order to stay competitive, you got to keep up with Korea!

I walk away knowing I have a few good friends in a country where a few good friends are rare. I relish at the thought of future business partnerships in between Korea and the USA.

Justmeans.com “Editorial Team 2009-2011”

2009-2011: I was a member of the editor team for Justmeans.com.


Justmeans.com at the time was a startup media company that promoted CSR Corporate Sustainable Responsibility. Its main audience was and still is CSR managers at major corporations. A few major companies included Campbell Soup, Timberland, Coca-Cola, Intel, and the World Wildlife Federation.  Justmeans provided information, market research, and a community to allow companies to engage and promote sustainable ideas that increased the triple bottom line: people, planet, and profit. Justmeans.com was acquired in 2011 by 3BL Media.

2009 Justmeans front page.
2009 Justmeans front page.
2010 Justmeans front page.
2010 Justmeans front page.
2011 Justmeans front page.
2011 Justmeans front page.


The audience was college educated, corporate managers of sustainability and renewable energy strategy and public relations, as well as consumers of green living.

Justmeans target audience
Audience: College educated, corporate managers of sustainability and renewable energy strategy and public relations, as well as consumers of green living.

Search Engine Optimization

An important aspect of the strategy of Justmeans was Search Engine Optimization (SEO). The strategy was to create well written content at regular intervals distributed through an extensive network of external blogs. This strategy would allow Justmeans.com to enjoy a readership of 2 million per month. It was important to the management team that written content be entertaining, insightful, and targeted for keywords. The keywords I was responsible for were “climate change” and “energy.”

Justmeans.com is an online community and publisher of news about corporate social responsibility, sustainability, energy, health, education, technology and innovation. We are a one-stop information source for business professionals, executives, journalists, bloggers, academics and news organizations who are engaged with and interested in our subject areas. Justmeans editorial, blogs and videos are researched, produced and edited by journalism professionals and serve as an authoritative source of news. Access to all levels of Justmeans’ content is free of charge.
Justmeans.com is an online community and publisher of news about corporate social responsibility, sustainability, energy, health, education, technology and innovation. We are a one-stop information source for business professionals, executives, journalists, bloggers, academics and news organizations who are engaged with and interested in our subject areas. Justmeans editorial, blogs and videos are researched, produced and edited by journalism professionals and serve as an authoritative source of news. Access to all levels of Justmeans’ content is free of charge.
Justmeans had over 250,000 followers.
Justmeans had over 250,000 followers.

Each post was purposely several hundred words in length, no more and no less, to allow for readers to consume content within a few minutes. A combination of word length, strategic key word placement, and key word frequency were used to exploit algorithms of the popular search engine, Google Search.

Linking content with previous works was also important to this SEO strategy. If I was to write a piece about solar energy and I referred other renewable technologies such as wind energy or geothermal, I would make sure that those key words “wind energy” or “geothermal” were hyperlinked to my own blog posts regarding “wind energy” or “geothermal,” respectively. This ensured that the reader was provided with as much information as possible and as many opportunities as possible to consume and engage with my content.


Prior to joining the online editorial team, the main content for this startup was characterized by typical blogging in the first person. Much of the content was opinion pieces regarding personal views and anecdotes. When I joined the team I brought a unique style of writing that was characterized by a more objective view of current events and hard facts. I also would provide citations of content and academic research using American Psychological Association (APA) style citations to increase the legitimacy of the facts that I wrote about. Occasionally, I would write more creative pieces that related the issues of energy, environment and climate change with popular culture to allow readers a variety of posts. Because of the successful popularity of my writing style, the management team would request all other writers to follow my lead. Since then, the entire strategy of Justmeans has turned into a objective online news network.


Late night discussion of the content strategy with a Co-Founder of Justmeans.
Late night discussion of the content strategy with a Co-Founder of Justmeans. It was imperative that the team communicate regularly.


The Content Management System (CMS) of Justmeans was developed with a WordPress backend. Over my 18 months writing regularly for Justmeans, I was able to fully master the WordPress platform and would later launch several WordPress based websites. My most latest projects are: Prestartable.com as well as ResRover.com. Additionally, I utilized professional and academic tools such as Skim PDF Reader. Skim allowed me to more efficiently analyze my source material and organize my thoughts.  I used the professional database software, DevonThink Pro Office, to organize the articles that I read so that as my database grew my expertise grew and this would assist in creating better informed writing. I read over 150 articles and books to support my work. I used OmniOutliner to organize my post schedule and strategize a concerted effort to educate readers.  Each month I had a certain theme, for example month one was to go over the Human Factors of Climate Change and months two and three were about Climate Change Policy.

Wordpress Backend for Justmeans
WordPress Backend for Justmeans.
OmniOutliner organization Justmeans
Seven months of posts were scheduled well in advance of their posting date using OmniOutliner.
Professional database Devonthink Pro Office was used to organize research, facts, notes, and final drafts.
Professional database Devonthink Pro Office was used to organize research, facts, notes, and final drafts.

Previous Strategy vs. Introduced Strategy

An example of the previous strategy of blogging, before me joining Justmeans: 


Blog Entry by Justmeans in Environment and Climate Change

September 3, 2009 – 12:04am

Last night my I went to a friend’s house for a casual game of poker. I’m not much of a cards player but the ‘guys night’ appeal didn’t sound so bad—just telling jokes and having a few beers with buddies is typically a good time.

We played Texas no limit hold’em. Its pretty much straightforward poker but with some shared cards and no limit on betting, which means that anyone can raise of stakes of a hand very quickly.

I’m quite risk-averse and conservative, which inevitably makes me a bad poker player. Rather than going ‘all in’ (betting everything that I have on just one hand), I tend to bet in small increments and fold whenever the stakes get too high.

As I pursued my conservative strategy throughout the night, I slowly but surely realized the problem with it. I won and lost small increments of money, which kept my bank pretty much where it was from the start. But as other people lost all of their money or made huge amounts of money, having what I started with wasn’t so impressive. I mean, I was still in the game hours after we began, but the others that remained had huge amounts of money. Their ability to out-bid me and scare me off of perfectly good bets meant that I would inevitably lose. I didn’t really realize this until the very end, when I became hopelessly overpowered and eventually (many hours later) lost.

Thinking back on it, my strategy was pretty bad. I spent hours working on incremental gains but as a result inevitably lost. I could have won perhaps if I had gone ‘all in’ on a few hands from the start but I was too conservative to do it. If I had lost those early hands, I could have retired to the sofa with the others. If I had won I could have walked away with some money. But my approach doomed me to a long and losing poker night.

If you are, for some reason, keenly interested in what I did last night, then this post is done. But if you’re interested in climate change, then stay with me as I explain how my poker match ties in.

What I realized this morning is that my approach to climate change and sustainability, and probably many others’, resembles my strategy in poker a lot. I buy green here an there, I do my part when I can, I change my thermostat a few degrees, and I try not to fly as much. I adopt an risk-averse and conservative approach.

An excerpt of one of my first blog post to the Justmeans.com website:


Blog Entry by Juan Carlo Pascua in Environment and Climate Change

October 28, 2009 – 8:04pm

Energy is synonymous with wealth. The more energy a country uses, the wealthier a country has to be. More energy use means more carbon emissions (leading to global warming), but it also means more economic growth: food, goods, and jobs. Few countries stand to grow in the next few decades as much as India.

Energy is tied to growth. Ten years ago 1 billion Indians lacked access to electricity, now it is closer to 400 million. India’s energy consumption is growing. A fight for more energy use is a fight against poverty; energy increases will produce more food, transport more kids to schools, transport more people to work, and transport more food to markets. Yet, as of 2003, India’s power usage was 70% from coal- the greatest polluting fuel we have to burn.

Energy in India is inherently tied to coal. Asking India not to delve into their vast coal supply is asking India not to fight poverty. As of January 4, 2009 there remained 267 billion tons of coal within India’s borders. That resource could power 78 billion US households in one year. However, India cannot go blindly following the path of developed countries. It has a unique opportunity for sustainable growth that isn’t curtailed by an out of date infrastructure- a roadblock to other nations trying convert to renewable energy….

Writing Process

At the core of my writing process was research. I did more to cultivate a good pipeline of interesting facts and figures from credible sources. I thoroughly understood the subject matter. Then I would write and rewrite. My process is basically making sure that the blogs are data driven. At the same time I made sure the writing had enough key words.

Successfully on the first page, first result

If you went to the google search bar and typed in “Climate change and avatar” you would see the first search result was the one I wrote for SEO optimization.

If you went to the google search bar and typed in “Climate change and avatar” you would see the first search result was the one I wrote for SEO optimization.
My SEO optimized post for keywords “Climate Change” and “Avatar” appears first on Google Search.

This was the moment I understood the power of SEO writing.

One of my best SEO moments was when I discovered I had achieved the top search result for the Google Search: "climate change and avatar."
One of my best SEO moments was when I discovered I had achieved the top search result for the Google Search: “climate change and avatar.”

Writer Popularity

I was one of the most popular writers. The average writer was able to garner 200 or so views per blog post, but I was able to gather 500 up to 2,500 views per blog post.

Article and Blog Count

In total, I wrote over 113 blog posts, which included the external blog.

My editor profile can be found here. The external blog that feeds to Justmeans can be found here.

Final Thoughts on Justmeans

My experience working with Justmeans.com, the editorial staff and co-founders was immensely influential in my career. Being able to read and research renewable energy, sustainability, environment, and climate change issues provided me with lasting knowledge of the subject matter. I was given an opportunity to hone my writing to be concise and directed at a specific audience and submit high quality work at a high pace. I had an insider view of the SEO strategy of an online media startup company that managed to successfully exit and get bought. I consider my time with Justmeans.com one of the most influential times of my career and an experience I am grateful for.

Grantz Ventures “Manager 2011-2013”

Grantz Ventures

Grantz Ventures is the umbrella corporation of several businesses including merchant services, online media sales, security, web technology licensing, and online marketing. The merchant services company processes over $50 Million of transactions in a year. The online media sales company revenues in the millions of dollars.

Like any small, but lucrative business there are many required operational tasks to be performed in the day to day operations of the company.The challenge is to keep all the plates spinning, maintain or increase revenue, get everyone paid on time, and customer service.  Looking forward is important in developing a strategy for long term health, success, and growth of the company.

The Many Hats of a Small Business

The many hats of a small business include: General manager, marketing manager, copywriter, customer service, data manager, transactions, IT, technology, hiring, training, sales, etc. Each member of a small business can’t just wear two hats.

A few titles that can be passed around in a small business: CEO, CFO, CTO, CIO, CMO. Some business owners are all five.

Operations: Lessons Learned

Always on Mentality

I developed an “Always on mentality.” You needed to be ready for whatever happened because the strangest things would happen. A part of that the always on mentality is to always be available via phone, text, and email.  Being a part of operations included servicing equipment when parts should fail. For many businesses, they make the majority of their sales for the day during only a few windows of time in the day. If their payment system went down, that could close business for the day. Guaranteeing 24/7 service relieves the stress of cash flow concerns. But you can’t just say you’ll be there eventually in 24/7 the promise is to be there in a reasonable amount of time.

Remote Teams

To manage remote teams it is important to have the right strategies and technologies in place. The standard toolbox I learned was texting, phone calling, and email. I never hesitated to contact a team member as soon as I needed because chances are one team member cannot talk right now, but at least I put the ball in their court. Making myself available via Skype for a quick message was good for quick check ins.

Pick Up the Phone Right Sway

When you’re a small business, one of your greatest selling points is superior and local customer service. One way to prove that is true is to pick as the phone when a customer, client, or vendor calls and remind them that your service is not a touchtone phone robot. Calling for service and getting fast answers from an actual person is very reassuring to the customer.

Another reason to pick up right away is to ensure that the team could rely on each other during a dilemma. One time a minor glitch had occurred with our equipment and I was sent out into the field to deal with it. Each piece of equipment varied enough that minor setting changes could stop the client’s cashflow indefinitely. So I called our service technician over the phone and he walked me through the servicing steps. I didn’t have to wait and that looked extremely professional with the client.

Customer Service: Lessons Learned

Immediate Follow Up and Constant Status Updates

If you have a customer issue, message the customer as soon as possible. Do not wait longer than an hour. If the issue will take a lot of time then update them of the situation even if there has been no change in status. This lets the customer know that they are important and that you’re doing your best to help them. If you had to err on the side of communicating too little or communicating too much, choose to communicate too much. When a negative experience occurs for a customer they may be thinking of all the ways they can leave a bad review, but by over communicating with them you give yourself a chance to prove you can make things right.

Calming Down a Vendor

There was a time when we were trying to get a new credit card account going with a third party vendor. My CEO was fed up with the process and had some cross words with the rep on the phone. He handed the phone over to me and said, “I’m fed up, you deal with this.” I picked up the phone and said, “Hello, Steve?” Steve was clearly rattled and speaking quickly and frustratingly. Steve told me how offended he was and how good he was at his job. He didn’t like the disrespect he had felt. I made sure to listen to his concerns and address them back to him. “So you don’t like that you were disrespected… Okay, I’m sorry about that we’re just a little frustrated here on our end. It’s been almost three weeks and we’re counting on you.” I was of course interrupted repeatedly, but I let Steve finish every time he started back up again. I actually said, “Let’s all just take a breathe and take a step back. We’re on the same side here.” I wanted to make sure that he knew I was on his side and he could trust at me, at the least,  to be fair. I praised his work, because clearly we weren’t always easy to work with. In the end, Steve thanked me and the relationship was good from then on because he got us a new account shortly after.

Administration: Lessons Learned

Weekly Meeting

It was important to have a weekly meeting to refocus our efforts. Meetings were weekly even if team members were in different time zones or having vacations. Everyone was responsible for a key metric for their responsibilities, such as number of new users, followers on twitter, revenue, and project progress. Maintaining a consistent day and time of the week was equally as important.

Sales: Lessons Learned

Pick up the phone

At Grantz Ventures was the first time I ever picked up a phone for sales. It sounds simple to just pick up the phone, but it wasn’t always that easy. Now I know to just let go of what you hope for the conversation and remember that you’re just talking to a human being on the other end. If you’re really genuine and trying to be helpful, you can’t go wrong.

Sales Process/Pipeline

I learned that sales is not an event, it is a process. It starts with the initial call, then an in person meeting, and then eventually a close. It has a beginning, middle, and an end. Understanding this can help you succeed. You need to understand that you need a lot of prospects in the beginning then as they proceed forward through the sales process some may buy and some may not. Different steps of the sales process can inform you that maybe you’re choosing the wrong prospects or maybe it’s you as a salesperson that needs to improve your delivery of your value proposition.

Financials: Lessons Learned

Prepare Business Plan

I wrote a business plan to help get as a special account for the finance department. I learned that business plans are important when applying to loans and new bank accounts. Writing these quickly and concisely helped push the process much faster meaning.

Human Resources: Lessons Learned

Some Hiring Tips

Print out your candidates resume ahead of time to take notes. When you’re across the table from an interviewee, write down your notes in a way that is ineligible to them but readable to you. That way if there is a note that reflects negatively upon them or positively, they don’t know.  Do so on their resume.  That way you have the information to review with the rest of the hiring team.

Marketing: Lessons Learned

Community Growth

For a web company, your users are the product. You must develop your user base in order to get more output from them. You have to listen to concerns, address issues, and be as transparent as you can without divulging too much information.


I wrote a 25 page ebook that outlined the buying strategy a prospective client should use. This taught me the power of inbound marketing. By having a reference that a prospective client found useful we were able to establish expertise, build trust, and start a conversation.

Special Events

It’s important to reward your community leaders. Fancy dinners and extravagant trips were built into the marketing strategy.


Have physical promotional items to give out to reward customers. This helps you spread awareness of your brand as well as gives people something to share about on social media.

Final Thoughts on Grantz Ventures

This was a career changing position for me. I am grateful for the opportunity to have interfaced with hundreds of business owners directly to provide service to them as well as get to know their business first hand. I learned what it takes to succeed as a small business and it isn’t an easy feat. You need to be always on.

*This is one of the posts I will continually update as I remember events and reminisce situations. Some lessons I leave out because they are that valuable not to share.

How I Decided To Join a Surf Company in San Diego

Might as well go back to the beginning, way back.

It was the last moment of my high school life and no, I didn’t get the girl. The school hosts a massive party in the school gym to prevent teenage drinking. The party began at 7pm, but when night became day, my story begins. I always do this in raffles: I look around and annoyingly convince everyone that I am the winner.  The raffle’s third prize were gift certificates to Oscar’s Restaurant. Not me. The second prize, a TV, went to my friend Katie to take to college. As I looked down at my ticket I began to not care. I continued to gawk at my friends that I had the winning ticket. This time, for the first time, I was right.


In my hands I had a grey smallish sleeping bag-like thingy that contained a surfboard inside. Too tired, I was not very appreciative. I was bombarded with offers to sell and would have had it not been for Kevin Derikson telling me it was worth a lot more than one Benjamin. I actually thought he was lying. Looking back now this invaluable gift changed my life forever. The next three months I had choked on gallons of seawater being crushed by baby waves at La Jolla. The first time I had ventured alone I did not even have wax on. Yes, the surf gods were mighty embarrassed. My first real wave was a six second left 200 yards north of the pier on the last day before I headed to college.


By shear luck I ended up in Las Vegas a million miles away from the closest beach. The situation was Tattooine – crooks and outlaws reigned, and it was alway dry and boring. Having developed some engineering skills I proposed a project to bring surfing to this desert region. In 2012, my team won first place for the Ninth Island Wave Pool design.

The 9th Island Wave Pool removes the barriers of high-cost, long travel time and distance, and Great White Sharks. It facilitates the unforgettable joy of surfing for both the very young and the old that may not have the strength to swim into the roughest ocean conditions. Utilizing precision hydrofoils, rail acceleration, and unique geometric design of the retaining walls and floors the 9th Island Wave Pool aims to provide a two meter tall surfing wave that can vary in size and power. The circular Wave Pool is also designed for a minimal electrical energy requirement proving its sustainability and marketability to operating companies. The 9th Island Wave Pool: sustainable, commercially marketable, and entirely unforgettable.

8 News NOW

Bold move to ask for $15 Million to morning viewers. Challenge accepted.

I would spend the next couple years pitching the idea to angel investors in Las Vegas. I may have gotten over my head, but overhead surf is the dream, right? Go big or go lay on the beach. Part of my networking would land me with a group I work with today, the Mountain West Tech Accelerator. Over there I continued to work with startups and angel investors basically selling ideas for money. It’s been a blast, but home is calling. I am passionate about surfing. So passionate I would spend the rest of my life finding a way to put a real wave in the desert. But the heart wants what the heart wants. If I can be in San Diego, work, and be able to surf, any company to me is a surf company.

And that is how I decided to join a surf company.