Mike DeSon

Chief Operating Officer
Delphi Display Systems, Inc.
Los Angeles Technology
Member Since: 2012

I really appreciate the “unvarnished” feedback.  No holds-barred, to the point, and always on topic.


How to Beat China in the Race to 5G
Quite the brouhaha has erupted since Axios released an anonymous report written by a National Security team member who recommended that the federal government pay for and build a single, 5G wireless network to counter China spying on phone calls – and to enable a secure pathway for new technologies like self-driving cars and virtual reality, and even “true AI-enhanced networked combat.” The memo went on to state this federally-financed “moonshot” project could resemble that of the 1950s-era national interstate system. What it could have referenced was an even earlier “moonshot” project that the government helped finance: the Transcontinental Railroad, in the 1850s… Read more…


How does your business time management compare to Tech CEOs?
Guest blog by Dave Berkus: “Often, I am asked by young CEOs how much time should be devoted to various types of tasks by a good CEO in a small, growing enterprise.” Read more…


Storyboarding the “Movie” that will Shape Your Business in 2018
Guest blog by Bob Kelley, CEO of ABL Organization: “Storyboards can help us pre-visualize how our ‘movie’ [business] will unfold. As business leaders, we shape the scenes, through the development and delivery of products and services, which create valuable experiences for those we serve.” Read more…


What Makes for a “Top CEO” in America?
Most of the “Best CEOs in America” run tech companies, according to Comparably.com, a compensation, culture and career monitoring website that recently surveyed the “sentiment” of employees of companies, large and small, where employees anonymously rated the “2017 Best CEOs.” Read more…


Four Laws Enabling Telemedicine to be Better, Faster & Cheaper
Moore’s Law, Cooper’s Law, Butter’s Law of Photonics, and Nielsen’s Law of Internet Bandwidth: The net result of all these Laws is that we can hold great video conversations on our phones or computers with our friends, family, coworkers (around the world), and our doctors. Read more…


Google’s Digital Skills Initiative – Closing Today’s Education Gap
Just yesterday, I had a conversation with a frustrated parent trying to compute the ROI on his daughter’s first college choice for a “soft science” degree. He just couldn’t make economic sense out of upwards of $80,000 a year at USC (for tuition, books, lodging, and sorority) – with no tuition support, vs. less than half that for “a good UC school.” In the finish, he voted with his wallet, and she’s going to UCSB. Increasingly, parents – and even some students – are realizing four years spent studying “what they love,” is preparing them for a job as a Starbucks barista. And it’s tough to pay off multi-hundred-thousand-dollar student loans when Glassdoor.com reported last year that baristas at Starbucks typically earn an average of $9.43 an hour. But, Google will soon be investing $1 Billion over the next five years to help students – of all ages – through their National Digital Skills Initiative. Read more…


Evacuate! Preparing for the Unexpected
Ironically, yesterday at ABL, just as we were discussing the topic of this week’s Silicon Valley Healthcare Round Table – “Emergency! How You Deal with the Unexpected,” I received a text from 911/Orange County Emergency Services: “Evacuate.” Outside, while the billowing orange smoke was pretty convincing that the inferno in northeastern Orange County was impacting somebody, it hadn’t occurred to me, until I got the call around 2 o’clock, that it could be me. Read more…


DRONES: The Silver Lining in This Year’s Hurricane Season
The only good news to come out this year’s devastating hurricane season is that drones work. Whether it’s to spot people in distress, or inspect damaged property for FEMA or insurance companies, drones are flying over and into places humans simply can’t access quickly, let alone safely. Read more…


Steve Jobs’ Gift to the World: The “Smart” Revolution
When I first visited China, 12 years ago, I was stunned to see a man carrying a pole across his shoulders dangling two loaded baskets – just a block off The Bund, in the shadow of Shanghai’s skyscrapers. So last week, walking down the main street of Lhasa, Tibet, I was a little less surprised to see a man carrying a similar burden. But, this time, he stopped to pull his smartphone out of his pocket and make a call. Then, at the “Yogurt Festival” celebration at Norbulingka (the Dalai Lama’s Summer Palace), thousands of Tibetans streamed through the grounds – most of whom wore traditional dress, augmented with their smartphones.

Traveling through several ASEAN countries over the past nine days, it strikes me that, with the introduction of the iPhone 10 years ago, Steve Jobs unleashed a Global “Smart” Revolution: connecting, educating, and entertaining people in even the poorest countries. Read more…


How Artificial Intelligence is Making Healthcare Smarter
Earlier this month, ABL’s San Francisco Healthcare Executive Members took a deep dive into an “AI wading pool” to discover how Artificial Intelligence is already impacting consumers – and how healthcare companies (responsible for nearly 20% of the nation’s GDP) can start jumping on the AI bandwagon, too. Our tutor was Haje Jan Kamps, a featured Techcrunch contributor, serial entrepreneur, and the “father of Emily,” LifeFolder’s chatbot.

While Memorial Sloan Kettering, The Mayo Clinic, and Great Britain’s National Health Service are leading the charge to use artificial intelligence solutions, understanding how AI, machine learning, and natural language processing can impact the “ordinary” healthcare entity hasn’t been a priority for most healthcare CEOs. Read more…


Onshoring: ‘Made by Americans’ Resonating in the Tech Sector
For years technology businesses have been outsourcing and offshoring “back office” operations. In fact, the offshore services industry is expected to grow 8% annually for the next five years, but that will be down from its 15% annual growth rate during the last five. One of the reasons for the change in direction is a lowering payroll differential: 10 years ago an American software developer cost five to seven times as much as an Indian developer. Now, it’s estimated, the gap has shrunk to two times. For example, the standard billing rate for the engineers who work for Rural Sourcing is $60 to $70 an hour, compared with those who earn $30 to $35 in India, according to Monty Hamily, CEO of the onshorer.

But, cost isn’t the sole driver of this new trend. According to Steve Lohr, the author of a recent New York Times article that profiles a number of these young American onshoring companies, another factor is the energy and money pouring into websites and mobile app development; and determining that there’s “value in having developers in the same time zone, or at least on the same continent.” As René Lacerte, CEO of Bill.com and recent convert to onshoring has found, the headaches of navigating time zones, cultures and language often outweighed the cost savings. Read more…


Estonia: New Tech in the Old World
Tourists are transported into “the Old World” as they amble down the charming cobblestone streets of Tallinn, Estonia – few suspecting that they’re in the capital of the world’s most technologically sophisticated country.

When the Republic of Estonia declared its independence from the USSR, in 1991, citizens were waiting 10 years for a landline phone. So, with independence, the country had to reboot from zero, according to a Fortune feature. The Baltic country’s first Prime Minister, Mart Laar – who was 32 at the time, helped establish the foundation needed to bring the country into the digital age, starting with their youth: by 1998, all schools were online. Today, first graders are taught to program, and by the third grade, some are starting their own digital companies. By 2000, Estonia became the first nation to declare internet access a “basic human right.” Today, their 1.3 million residents enjoy the world’s fastest – and free – broadband, and more startups per capita than any other country.  Read more…


Trump’s Latest APPRENTICE Awaits YOUR Job Opening
Several years ago, one of our technology Members who actually manufactures in Los Angeles County lamented that she couldn’t find any machinists. America had become so skilled in off-shoring, that the country – at least Southern California – no longer had any of these skilled laborers available for hire. But that workforce deficit may soon be about to change.

The CEO in Chief just signed an Executive Order to, in President Trump’s words, “expand apprenticeships and vocational training to help all Americans find a rewarding career, earn a great living, and support themselves and their families, and love going to work in the morning.” He goes on to explain that “we’re empowering these companies, these unions, industry groups, federal agencies to go out and create new apprenticeships for millions of our citizens. Apprenticeships place students into great jobs without the crippling debt of traditional four-year college degrees. Instead, apprentices earn while they learn. . . Today’s apprentices will construct the roads and bridges that move our citizens, they will bend the metal and steel that shape our cities, and they will pioneer the new technology that drives our commerce.”  Read more…


How Tech Is Helping Tech CEOs Conquer Their Summer Reading Lists
As tech CEOs throughout the land prepare for their summer vacations, a concurrent ritual is selecting and packing “good reads.” Ah, but which ones? This year, thanks to two Tech CEOs, resolving that dilemma will be much easier.

The first Tech CEO author you’ve heard of: Bill Gates. OK, technically Bill’s no longer a Tech CEO, but even the youngest millennial who can spell Microsoft knows that he has been; plus, he’s still on Microsoft’s Board and is a Technology Advisor there. The second is Chris Dyer, the founder and CEO of PeopleG2 (and a long-time and amazingly accomplished ABL Organization Tech Member). Chris is also a SCRUM Master, which partially explains how he can run a very successful human capital due diligence service, host the weekly TalentTalk Radio Show, lead two monthly Book Clubs (from which his recommendations emanate), be an outstanding presenter, and fit in time to write The Power of Company Culture (more on that later).  Read more…


How to Protect Your Data in the Ransomware Era
Last week, the WannaCry global ransomware attacks reportedly affected nearly 300,000 computers across more than 150 countries, and, according to Quartz, made medical care inaccessible in England, shut down factories in Japan, and ultimately may have created billions of dollars in losses. And the bad news may not be over yet – given that the Shadow Brokers have even more hacking tools, stolen from the US National Security Agency, available to unleash havoc on computers and systems everywhere, now is the time to really ensure your systems and computer-use policies are really locked down.

In response to this international cyber emergency, our Member Oli Thordarson, CEO of Alvaka Networks, added this important post to his blog to share with any employee who has access to a computer on your system:  Read more…



Creating more valuable Value Propositions
If Geoffrey Moore wasn’t the first person to write about the high-value associated with “Value Propositions” in his 2006 classic, Crossing the Chasm, he certainly familiarized a new generation with their power – particularly when communicating with your target audience via a webpage or app. As Tor Gronsund summarized in his article, “7 Proven Templates for Writing Value Propositions That Work,” Moore’s Template goes like this:

  • For __________ (target customer)
  • Who _________ (statement of the need or opportunity)
  • Our (product/service name) is _________ (product category)
  • That (statement of benefit) ____________.
Tor goes on to illustrate a “standard” Value Proposition using this formula: For non-technical marketers who struggle to find return on investment in social media, our product is a web-based analytics software that translates engagement metrics into actionable revenue metrics.”  Read more…


How’s ABL different from Vistage?

Among the most frequently asked questions we hear at the Adaptive Business Leaders Organization (ABL) is, “How is an ABL CEO roundtable forum different from a Vistage group?” (Variations on this theme include “How are you different from YPO,” “…The Alliance of CEOs,” and seemingly dozens of other “networking” groups.)
The answer is FOCUS. Frankly, not all “contacts” that one makes while “networking” are equal, nor is the quality of their business advice. The better another person understands your industry and its unique competitive, operational, and regulatory ecosystem, the more specific and valuable their executive insights, guidance, and referrals can be. Read more …

The New Hot Source for Techies: Coding Schools

It’s official: when The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, LinkedIn, and Lifehacker/Australia are all extolling the virtues of Code-School Boot Camps, there’s got to be something to it. In Monday’s Journal, Christopher Mims introduced us to TD’s recent boot camp hire, Heron Ziegel. Digging deeper on LinkedIn, Heron had already displayed a number of “go-getter” traits: completing her last two years of high school while enrolled in community college, being a junior at Virginia Commonwealth University, and a freelance graphic designer for five years – all by age 23. But it wasn’t enough; that’s when she enrolled in Zip Code Wilmington, where she learned JavaScript, Java, Git, HTML and CSS, and “how to problem solve in test-based coding, and team-based development.” Combining her new-found skills with her already proven chutzpah, 24-year-old Heron is now an AVP/IT Data Analyst at TD Bank. As she shared with Mims, “I can honestly say that six months ago I had no idea I would be in this industry.” But, it’s a safe bet she knew she didn’t want to continue being a struggling artist. Heron isn’t unique among the nearly 18,000 students who graduated last year from 91 full-time boot camps, now in 71 cities throughout the U.S. According to Fortune, women make up an average 40% of graduates. Read more…

Another boot camp grad is Siena Aguayo, who graduated from Oberlin College with a Bachelor’s in East Asian Studies and English, in 2010, and from the all-women Hackbright Academy in 2013. (San Francisco-based Hackbright runs a “10-week accelerated software development program designed to help women become awesome programmers.”) Siena was quoted in Lifehacker/Australia’s feature on code schools, saying: “Once I started working [at Indiegogo], I was put on our iOS team, which was a stack I had no experience with (iOS is programmed in Objective-C and Hackbright had taught me Python, and programming mobile apps has a different set of challenges than programming for the web). But, I had proved that I could learn a ton in 10 weeks and was prepared to do it again – I was part of the team that shipped our first iOS app in July . . . and then dove right in to do it again for Android, which shipped in December. I’m now working on our web site, writing mostly Angular and Rails, so I’ve basically completely changed my tech stack every six months. There’s only so much you can learn in a 10-week boot camp, but the important thing is that you prove you can pick up new technologies quickly, which is an essential skill for a software engineer, since the landscape changes all the time.”

Some boot camps are as tough to get into as a top-tier college. For example, Zip Code Wilmington, from which Heron graduated, has a 12% acceptance rate – but charges about 5% of a name-brand university’s tuition (at around $11,450). For tech employers bemoaning the current dearth of motivated millennials available to fill their vacancies, code school alumni placement offices may be a great place to start trolling for aspiring programmers who’ve already proven that they’re motivated, adaptive, and self-starters.

MIMI GRANT’S POST: February 1, 2017
Highlights of Top Tech Trends: Era of the Thinking Machines

For the 14th year, preeminent investor, author, and futurist, Dave Berkus, headlined the ABL Organization’s Top Tech Trends event – this year focusing on the “Era of the Thinking Machines”. Joining Dave as presenters were Big Data and Predictive Analytics expert Marshall Toplansky and ABL’s CEO Bob Kelley. Presented here are just ten highlight slides from among the 182 slides the trio projected. Yet, for many of us, this mini-deck captures both the opportunities and threats that the Era of Thinking Machines portends.

First, Dave Berkus shared with the audience that the NEW Industrial Revolution (composed of Robotics, New Labor Economy, and Additive Manufacturing) will likely lead to robots performing approximately 50% of manufacturing tasks by 2025 – up from 10% today (according to Merrill Lynch Global Research 2016). More impressive, the University of Oxford predicts that 47% of U.S. jobs could be computerized within two decades. Further, it will be technically feasible to automate 78% of predictable physical work (light welding and food preparation) and 25% of unpredictable physical work (like construction), according to McKinsey Insights 2016. And, as reported at the Davos Conference: 5 million jobs will be lost in the next five years, and 2 million new jobs created, thanks to robotics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, additive manufacturing, biotech and genetics.

Following Dave’s presentation of what could be considered either a utopian or dystopian picture of the future, Bob Kelley discussed how Thinking Machines Could Reshape Your Business & Jobs in the Community – thanks to driverless cars, industrial robots and cobots, robotic babysitters, and “tugs” that deliver medications, lab tests, and bedding throughout hospitals. He also considered how tools for Just-in-Time Learning, like those created to train a nation of “Rosies” how to rivet during World War II, could be deployed, particularly by tapping the power of Augmented Reality to assist them in rapidly mastering new skills.

Then Marshall Toplansky wrapped up the session by depicting how businesses are currently using Artificial Intelligence to make money, and what the economic value of the “disruption impact” is estimated to be by 2025, including: 240 million knowledge worker jobs eliminated globally, $9 trillion expected in labor cost savings from knowledge workers (like “spreadsheet jockeys”), and $8 trillion in manufacturing jobs (according to Accenture and Bank of America/ Merrill Lynch reports in FT 9/30/16). And last, Marshall presented an example of how value is added with analytics “interpreting” data – using an example of inferring nuance in language from what the computer spits out, to what analytics found; the result being that savvy investors, for example, could pounce on that enhanced predictive “intelligence” in real time.

As the event concluded, each of the five Round Tables discussed how this “Era of Thinking Machines” is already impacting their businesses, and how they’re preparing to use more of it – from clinical decision support, to routing and prioritizing human deployment, to which bills to pay first. And final thoughts: a spirited discussion on how we’ll be able to productively use and enjoy the coming 20-hour work week!

MIMI GRANT’S POST: September 27, 2016
Clinton & Trump Debate Cyber Warfare

Somewhere there’s a 400-pound hacker sitting in bed in his pajamas feeling pretty maligned. Because during the Presidential Debate’s section on “Cyber Warfare,” while Hillary Clinton named Russia as our country’s greatest cyber threat, Donald Trump implied the field was wide open to any number of countries, including a 400-pound hacker in bed. But so far no one has come forward suggesting that the hack of 500 million Yahoo accounts – the largest known breach of user accounts to date – was engineered by an obese geek, rather a “state-sponsored actor.”

As Hillary said in the debate, “cyber warfare is one of the big challenges facing the next president.” She continued, listing as additional cyber threats: “independent hacking groups motivated by profit, and state actors attempting to probe the files of government agencies, corporations and individuals.” Hillary elaborated by placing the blame for hacking the Democratic National Committee’s servers squarely on Russia, inferring it was associated with Trump’s “relationship” with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

At least neither of the debaters plans to sit “idly by” allowing more websites and personal email to be hacked. After all, as Trump said, since we developed the Internet, we can’t allow ISIS to use it against us. Now it will be interesting to watch what either of the candidates actually do, once in the White House, to restrict social media-savvy terrorists – including those within our borders – from continuing to radicalize their readers and followers.

[Photo credit: CNN.com]

MIMI GRANT’S POST: August 30, 2016
Going for the Gold (you can spend) in Greater LA

The Olympics may be over in Rio, but teens – and their parents – looking for where to invest their time and cash for college, need look no further than Greater LA’s job market. In recent months, several sources have revealed which careers are reaping the greatest rewards. And, to take a career hint from Willy Sutton: go where the money is.

According to a recent post on Monster.com (in conjunction with PayScale), out of the top 25 job titles offered in LA, nine had “information,” “technology” (or both), “engineering,” “software,” or “(software) architect” in their name. More to the point: two of the top six did: CIO, CTO. And what job title paid more than CEO, President, or COO? Chief Information Officer – at $219,400

But, it doesn’t stop there – CNBC and Forbes recently ran the Glassdoor.com report about who makes the Big Bucks in Greater LA. While reporting median salaries – so the results appear slightly lower on the pay scale than Monster’s post, 11 of the Top 15 jobs required STEM skills, including #1: Solutions Architect at $130,000. Other techy job titles included: 3-D artist, Systems Analyst, and Test Engineer (all $80K), Applications and Mechanical Engineers ($80,500 and $80,640), Research Scientist ($82K), Process and Electrical Engineers ($84K and $84,500), UX Designer ($92,500), and Software Engineer ($95K). (BTW, their “Attorney,” coming in at $125K, probably does not represent what your attorney is taking home.)

So what’s the lesson here? If you’re after the highest economic ROI on your investment of years of education and cash, don’t go into economics. There are tech companies across the globe, let alone in the southland, that are demanding those tech skills – and are willing to pay big bucks for them!

[Photo credit: http://riordan.wikia.com/wiki/Los_Angeles]

MIMI GRANT’S POST: August 30, 2016
Going for the Gold (you can spend) in Greater LA

The Olympics may be over in Rio, but teens – and their parents – looking for where to invest their time and cash for college, need look no further than Greater LA’s job market. In recent months, several sources have revealed which careers are reaping the greatest rewards. And, to take a career hint from Willy Sutton: go where the money is.

According to a recent post on Monster.com (in conjunction with PayScale), out of the top 25 job titles offered in LA, nine had “information,” “technology” (or both), “engineering,” “software,” or “(software) architect” in their name. More to the point: two of the top six did: CIO, CTO. And what job title paid more than CEO, President, or COO? Chief Information Officer – at $219,400

But, it doesn’t stop there – CNBC and Forbes recently ran the Glassdoor.com report about who makes the Big Bucks in Greater LA. While reporting median salaries – so the results appear slightly lower on the pay scale than Monster’s post, 11 of the Top 15 jobs required STEM skills, including #1: Solutions Architect at $130,000. Other techy job titles included: 3-D artist, Systems Analyst, and Test Engineer (all $80K), Applications and Mechanical Engineers ($80,500 and $80,640), Research Scientist ($82K), Process and Electrical Engineers ($84K and $84,500), UX Designer ($92,500), and Software Engineer ($95K). (BTW, their “Attorney,” coming in at $125K, probably does not represent what your attorney is taking home.)

So what’s the lesson here? If you’re after the highest economic ROI on your investment of years of education and cash, don’t go into economics. There are tech companies across the globe, let alone in the southland, that are demanding those tech skills – and are willing to pay big bucks for them!

[Photo credit: http://riordan.wikia.com/wiki/Los_Angeles]

MIMI GRANT’S POST: August 2, 2016
The Brave New Bioelectronic World is Coming Soon

What do you get when you team Google with a 150-year-old pharma giant? Galvani Bioelectronics, and a $700 million investment. The newco is the result of a partnership between Verily Life Sciences, Alphabet Inc.’s life sciences unit, and GlaxoSmithKline PLC, currently best known for their medicines, vaccines, and consumer healthcare products. But that could change as Galvani will be using bioelectronics to fight diseases by targeting electrical signals in the body. With a fusion of technologies that blurs the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres, bioelectronics aims to tackle chronic diseases using high-tech devices that combine biology, software, and hardware.

Not totally new, GSK presented their work with biosensors at SXSW last year. Yet, Kris Famm, the GSK scientist who’s been appointed president of the newco joint venture, believes “this is almost the epicenter of convergence because the technology is not only helping you to monitor a disease, but it is also actually the therapy.”

And, GSK is not the only pioneer in this arena. According to a Wall Street Journal feature, U.S. biotech firms Setpoint Medical and EnteroMedics have already shown the early benefits of using bioelectronics both to address inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and dampen appetite in the obese. Already Medtronic’s PillCam camera-in-a-pill provides an alternative to colonoscopies; Proteus Digital Technology is working with pharma companies on pills with embedded microchips that measure drug usage; and manufacturers of lung treatments are developing smart inhalers. And over two years ago, Alphabet teamed with another Big Pharma, Novartis, to create a smart contact lens with an embedded glucose sensor to monitor diabetes. Alphabet is also playing the field with Sanofi, where they have a diabetes deal, and with Biogen, where they’re studying the progression of multiple sclerosis.

Reading the demographic tea leaves, Apple and Samsung Electronics are also trying to find health-related applications for a new wave of wearables. Among the benefits of tracking devices is real-time feedback on how patients are doing, which could be increasingly important information – particularly in a Value-Based reimbursement environment – for the health plans and physicians responsible for their patients’ health status.

Over a year ago, a a feature in Discover magazine, entitled “Tiny Electronic Implants Treat Arthritis, Diabetes and Obesity,” discussed bioelectronic implants that are designed to sit on or near nerve bundles, where they modulate the electrical impulses that travel between our brain and our organs, regulating everything from heart function to body movement. These new devices, most of which are in their early stages and have yet to be FDA approved, alter how specific nerves fire to modulate organ function, which in turn aims to treat ailments as diverse as sleep apnea, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, obesity, and hypertension.

Among the medical devices that electrically stimulate tissues that have emerged into the medical mainstream in recent decades are Cochlear implants that help the hearing impaired by stimulating neurons in the brain’s auditory cortex. Meanwhile, deep brain stimulation improves mobility for those with Parkinson’s disease by delivering electrical pulses that inhibit abnormal nerve signals. And, people with paraplegia can control their bladder through sacral nerve stimulation that facilitates communication between the bladder and brain. Second Sight uses electrodes to stimulate the retina, partially restoring sight. And a research team in Ohio implanted an electrode in a paralyzed man’s brain, connecting it to a sleeve on his wrist, effectively allowing him to move his hand with only his thoughts.

Some researchers envision combination treatments, part pharmaceutical and part bioelectronics. These would be pills that dissolve into particles in the body, while an external power source using magnetic fields remotely directs the particles to different nerves – ultimately eliminating the need for surgical implants. Ideally, these bioelectronic pills will be on the market as a cure for cancer and Alzheimer’s disease so that millions of Baby Boomers will still be able to take advantage of them.

At that point, no doubt physicians – or their avatars – will be able to adjust device “dosages” via the Internet, as easily as they can track how many steps their patients are taking today. Truly it’s going to be a brave, new and wonderful bioelectronic world.

[Illustration credit: http://www.gsk.com/en-gb/behind-the-science/innovation/bioelectronics-at-sxsw-2016/]

MIMI GRANT’S POST: July 6, 2016
Calling All Tech Innovators Whose Apps & Solutions Are Lowering the Cost of Healthcare

This year, for the 17th time, the ABL Organization is searching nationally for companies whose products and approaches are lowering the cost of quality care to honor with the 2016 ABBY Awards. In recent years, most of the ABBY Finalists (and Winners) presented their mHealth, telemedicine, and range of Health IT applications whose use is improving the patient experience and clinical outcomes, while reducing costs. So if you or a company you’d recommend are ABBY worthy, now’s the time to let ABL know.

While technology has long improved the lives of Americans with better, faster, and frequently cheaper solutions, healthcare was initially slow to adopt high tech – preferring traditional high-touch solutions. But even in 1999, the first ABBY Award winners (then as now, selected by the audience’s secret ballots) were MemorialCare, which introduced a mag-striped card for their patients with some key information to ease check-ins; it wasn’t a personal EHR, but it was a start. Blue Shield also won that year for MyLifePath.com – a sophisticated search tool that enabled their members to find their personal benefits, along with information on diseases, community providers, and drugs. And, OptiScan‘s early work on a non-invasive glucose sensor system also garnered an ABBY. (While the audience still selects the ABBY Winners from among nine Finalist presenters, today’s nominees must prove that their product or service is actually on the market chalking up impressive clinical outcomes and saving patients directly and/or “the healthcare system” money.)

In 2000, the CEO of HealthAllies.com, Andy Slavitt, took home an ABBY for his membership-discount program. United liked it so much, they bought it – and hired him for their Optum team, which the government appreciated so much (after rescuing healthcare.gov from its troubled debut) that Andy is now the Acting Administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. In 2004, Silverado Senior Living and InTouch Health submitted a dual entry for their “approach” of using a robot which allowed their headquarters-based geri-psych physician to make “room calls” on Silverado’s cognitively impaired patients located in sites throughout their system. More recent winners have included telemedicine providers Doctor On Demand (2014) and Teladoc (2011); and last year, CNS Response (now MYnd Analytics), which allows psychiatrists to tap their extensive database to prescribe the right medication the first time (rather than through trial-and-error), took home an ABBY.

So, if you are aware of a company whose innovative technology is providing what CMS now calls “better care, smarter spending,” nominate them here (by July 12). And if your company – or division – has developed an app, health IT, or medtech solution that is reducing the cost of quality care, nominate your company here (by July 19). With all the exciting new ways of providing higher quality care at lower cost being developed in incubators, garages, on the floors of hospitals, and in corporate skunk works, we’ll be looking forward to their presentations, and celebrating with another group of innovators at the 2016 Innovations in HealthcareTM ABBY Awards on October 26th, so hold the date now!

MIMI GRANT’S POST: May 24, 2016
How Amazon’s Enabling “The Great Enrichment” of its 12,000 Warehouse Workers

Amazon recently announced that they’ll soon open their seventh California fulfillment center – where hourly workers will pick, pack, and ship smaller items out of their 1.1 million-square-foot center. Amazon also noted that among the benefits these and their other 12,000+ full-time hourly California associates receive is “Career Choice,” a program that pre-pays up to 95% of tuition for courses related to in-demand fields, regardless of whether or not the skills are relevant to a career at Amazon. Up for the challenge, since the program’s launch, employees have begun pursuing degrees in game design, visual communications, IT programming, and more. Truly these employees will be “enriched” with the addition of their newfound skills – and so will society.

This is, in part, what Deirdre McCloskey, PhD, a distinguished University of Illinois at Chicago professor emerita and author of Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World, expounded on in a major feature in Saturday’s The Wall Street Journal: “How the West (and the Rest) Got Rich.” The liberally-minded and prolific author (one of whose 15 previous books, Crossing: A Memoir, was about her own transition from living as “Donald” for her first 53 years) leverages her background in history and communications, as well as economics, in the feature. As the sub-heading of the article proclaims: “The Great Enrichment of the past two centuries has one primary source: the liberation of ordinary people to pursue their dreams of economic betterment.” And enriched we are, according to McCloskey: Americans earn on average $130 a day, compared to China, where the average citizen earns $20 a day – or the global average of $33 a day. To put it in perspective, just 200 years ago, in the U.S., we were earning $3 a day – and were earning that now global average of $33/day as recently as 1940, with a quality (and quantity) of life that was far inferior to what we enjoy today. How this “Great Enrichment” occurred over the past 200 years, according to McCloskey quoting Matt Ridley in his book, The Rational Optimist, was “ideas started having sex” – with invention after invention coming about, enriching our lives, and GDP in the process.

McCloskey believes that the past 200 years enabled “The Great Enrichment” due to our liberation – because “Liberated people, it turns out, are ingenious,” coupled with equality of race and gender. Blend this philosophy with one of Jeff Bezos’ (quoted in Subbu Murthy’s “Insight” in ABL Technology Online), “Think long term 5-7 years,” and a pattern of long-term investment in people emerges. No doubt, some of those 12,000 hourly workers in the Amazon warehouses who are taking advantage of the company’s “Career Choice” program, are going to imagine – and create – new ways to ship us our Prime deliveries even faster and cheaper, because they’ll be merging their hands-on experience at work with the new skills picked up in the classes they’re taking for “in-demand fields,” many of which will enable Amazon to serve their customers even better. It’s exciting to think just how much further this combination of liberation, equality, and ideation can take us – and the rest of the world – where, thanks to broadband, smart phones, and a universal hunger for a better life, we might actually achieve a universal “Great Enrichment.”

[Photo Credit: Storefronts along Hudson Street in New York City, circa 1860 to 1900. PHOTO: FOTOSEARCH/GETTY IMAGES; published in The Wall Street Journal, May 21, 2016]

MIMI GRANT’S POST: April 12, 2016
What “The Money” Wants Now

In early January, in the midst of planning ABL’s 11th Meet the Money event, we began questioning our decision to hold the first such event since 2010. You may recall, that’s when The Wall Street Journal reported companies failing to reach their private valuations following their 2015 IPOs, and limited investors in hot Silicon Valley VC funds started marking down the value of their “unicorn” investments.

Turns out we were right to go forward with the event for two reasons: First, in spite of the mark-downs in early January, three months later the Journal reported that “Venture-capital firms are raising money at the highest rate in more than 15 years . . . With the quarter nearly over, U.S. venture funds have collected about $13 billion, which would be the largest total since the dot-com boom in 2000.” Secondly, unlike at any of our 10 previous Meet the Money events, we discovered – and they presented – a whole new range of Investors: Incubators and multi-staged Private Equity funds.

Thanks to the wizardry of Chesney Communications, Bob Chesney captured video highlights of the entire Meet the Money: What Investors Want Now event here, including: Barry Didato, the Chief Investment Officer of The Innovation Institute (and host of the event), sharing how their fund is investing in innovations that can be used by the nonprofit hospital systems founders (and funders) of the Institute. OCTANe’s CEO Bill Carpou, explaining that Orange County’s principal accelerator is now launching its first niche fund: Visionary Ventures, which will focus on funding ophthalmic innovations. Meanwhile, Tom Giles, Frost Data Capital‘s General Partner for Healthcare, is creating one of the largest ecosystems of related Big Data startups in the world focused on healthcare. Mark McWilliams, CEO of Medipacs, and Scott Hutchinson, with StoneCreek Capital, walk us though their strategic planning approach for Medipacs’ Series C – and what it’s taken to grow the company from tech transfer startup to clinicals in the tough area of medtech. At the later stage of the financing spectrum, John Lanier, a Partner with Excellere Partners, and Ed Gibson, CEO of Gibson Investment Group, Inc., discuss how they’ve taken existing companies to the next level – and next exit. After hearing from “the Money,” the entire Investor Panel gave Dirk Soenksen, CEO of Ceresti Health, an opportunity to take a dip in the “dolphin tank,” sharing helpful and cautionary insights in response to his “pitch” for Series B financing for Ceresti’s solution for improving both the Alzheimer’s patient’s experience and that of their family caregivers.

The enthusiastic response from the event’s audience, composed of Members representing eight of ABL’s nine Round Tables, was the final vindication of our decision to go forward with the event. And while none of the Investors’ companies even existed in 1983, when we held our first Meet the Money, one thing surprisingly hadn’t changed: virtually everyone in the audience wore a suit!

MIMI GRANT’S POST: March 1, 2016
Ex Machina: How a VFX David
Upset 4 Goliaths to Win an Oscar

What did blockbusters Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, and The Revenant all have in common this year? After wowing movie goers with their Visual Effects, they all lost to a low-budget ($15 million) British independent film, Ex Machina, in the VFX category at this year’s Academy Awards.

Ex Machina is the story about the ultimate Turing Test, which takes place in the ultimate smart home, owned by a super rich Tech CEO – who shares his 5-star mountain retreat for a week with an employee tasked to determine just how real his AI creation is. A techie’s dream (or nightmare, as the film progresses), Ex Machina was also nominated for its (very) original screenplay.

Both of the human stars don’t hold a candle to Ava, the AI humanoid, whose face, hands, and feet are played by Alicia Vikander, and whose body was composed primarily of metal, wires, mesh, plastic, and a few blue and white lights. Each scene with Ava in it was “shot” three times: once with Alicia in a gray metallic body suit, a second with no one in the room for the length of the scene (that way, since much of Ava is transparent, when you “see through her,” you’re seeing an empty room behind her), and the third was in post-production. In “post,” most of Alicia was painted out, the background “restored” behind her, then, body-tracking her performance, animation data drove the action with the replacement, 3D-printed “key robotic parts” and CG elements. Amazing creativity was deployed to speed the filming (it was shot in six weeks), without using green screens and other tricks of the Visual Effects trade. Many more details are online, including a “Making of Ava” featurette.

The Best British Film of the Year Awardee only brought in $36.9 million in its worldwide box office, and today Amazon Prime members can watch it for free. But, if you’re in the market for the latest sci-fi classic, Ex Machina – and Ava – are certainly worth viewing.

MIMI GRANT’S POST: February 17, 2016
The Ransom Note Read Round the World

Ransomware attacks are becoming Big Business. The Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center hack (reported in ABL Technology Online as the lead Trend) is just the latest widely reported attack: other recent hacks have sidelined the computer systems at the Lincolnshire County Council in England and Israel’s Electricity Authority regulatory body. But the Hollywood Pres attack appears to be unique in the amount of the ransom it’s demanding: $3.6 million.

We’ve come a long way from the first known ransomware, written and disseminated on floppy discs in the pre-Internet days of 1989 by Joseph Popp, PhD (a Harvard-trained evolutionary biologist). According to Wikipedia, his “AIDS” trojan, which triggered a payload claiming that the user’s license to use a certain piece of software had expired, encrypted file names on the hard drive, and required the user to pay $189 to unlock the system. Since then, ransomware has become increasingly sophisticated, much easier to disseminate (thanks to email and the Internet), and more expensive to disable.

The CryptoLocker ransomware – which first appeared in September of 2013, demanded $2300, if payment wasn’t made within three days of infection. It took the U.S. Department of Justice nine months to shut that operation down, but only after at least $3 million had been extorted. A year later, in June 2015, the FBI reported that nearly 1000 victims had contacted the Bureau’s Internet Crime Complaint Center to report infections by the Cryptowall ransomware trojan, with estimated losses of over $18 million. Even police departments have been reported to pay ransoms, just to get their systems restored.

But the Hollywood Pres hack demonstrates the downside of succumbing to the easy way out: paying the extortionist’s demand. As Troy Gill, manager of security research at AppRiver says: “the only reason these thieves keep perpetrating these attacks is because people are paying them. If all of the victims stopped paying ransoms, they wouldn’t have a successful business model, whose core objective is to steal your money.”

The best ransomware defense that security experts advise: 

  • Backup your files – and keep them offline and offsite (stored away from potentially infected computers)
  • Vigilantly update your software and hardware with recommended patches and security updates
  • Since your system’s only as strong as the least sophisticated employee who has access to it: drill them on identifying – and not opening – phishing emails
  • Only give employees access to the files, folders, and drives necessary to do their work
  • Disconnect a potentially infected computer from the network immediately
  • Have installed and regularly run malware detection software
  • Have access to a dedicated cyber-defense team

With appreciation to ABL Members Todd Stout, President of FirstWatch, and Oli Thordarson, CEO of Alvaka Networks, for providing additional material for this post, and to Oli for what the actual ransom message looks like.

Please add your own recommendations for how to defend your systems from being hacked and your company (and others) from being extorted!

MIMI GRANT’S POST: February 2, 2016
Berkus Hits Another ‘Top Tech Trends’ Out of the Park

For the 13th time since 1998, Dave “Mr. Trend” Berkus presented a tour de force presentation of Top Tech Trends to his ABL audience on January 27th. With four over-arching trends (IT, energy, life science, and the new industrial revolution in manufacturing), Dave did a deep-dive into 10 major trends that will drive business – and our lives – in the next seven years. In this Introduction to Dave’s presentation (thanks to the video magic of Bob Chesney, CEO of Chesney Communications), this first segment of Trends lays out several in/famous prognostications over the past 100+ years – including a few that have come amazingly close to predicting where technology has taken us today. To help the audience of Technology and Healthcare CEOs “think strategically to capitalize on this transformation,” in addition to his 10 Trends, Dave posed some challenging questions that the participants later discussed in their Round Tables, following a 2-hour presentation and Q&A period. The audience also had time to grapple with which of the Trends would likely have the greatest impact on their businesses – and what they planned to do about it.

Here are Dave’s 10 Trends: 

  1. Everywhere Connectivity
  2. Smart Everything (IoT)
  3. Biotechnology Helps, Heals, Fuels & Feeds the World*
  4. Robotics, New Labor Economy, & Additive Manufacturing
  5. Sharing Disrupts Service Economy
  6. Security vs. Convenience
  7. BIG Data – becomes Useful & Actionable
  8. Tech Lives in the Cloud
  9. The World Embraces CLEANTECH
  10. Consumer Electronics Trends: Virtual Reality Headsets Everywhere, & more
    *Joining Dave on the Stage for this section was André de Fusco, CEO of Cynvenio Biosystems, Inc.


Berkus2One of the greatest benefits for fans of Dave’s nearly-annual Trends events is that it provides us with a framework into which to “place” most of the Trends that are driving our emerging world, and economy. For example, in this issue of ABL Technology Online, we report that “Data Scientists Have the Hottest Job in America” – with 10 of the Top 25 Jobs in Tech (Trend 4). And, BIG Data is enabling “Nielsen to Monitor Facebook and Twitter” as they measure and analyze social media authorship, engagement, reach, and demographics (Trend 7). And, importantly, “Growth of Mixed Reality to Change Communication, Collaboration & the Workplace,” thanks to the ubiquity of Virtual (and Augmented) Reality (Trend 10).

As you reflect on Dave’s 10 Trends, the references mentioned above, and other articles and experiences you’re encountering, take a few minutes to think about:

  • Which of these Trends will have the greatest impact on my business? And,
  • What am I going to do about it?
MIMI GRANT’S POST: January 19, 2016
Get Ready for a HITECH Silver Rush!

In the midst of the Great Recession, the government announced it would be rapidly investing in “shovel ready projects.” Turns out that while highways weren’t exactly ready to go, Healthcare IT solutions that could “promote the adoption and meaningful use of health information technology” were. So the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act was signed into law on February 17, 2009, as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. According to The Washington Post, “as $36.5 billion [was spent] to create a nationwide network of electronic health records (EHRs). “The gold rush that ensued lined the shovels of EHR vendors and providers alike with government funds – as long as they could attest to their EHR’s “meaningful use.” In fact, over time, three stages of Meaningful Use were envisioned to prove providers were “using certified EHR technology in ways that can be measured significantly in quality and in quantity.” Stage 1 began in 2011, and was modified in 2015; Stage 2 began in 2014, and was also modified last year. And while Stage 3 was set to begin in 2017, at last week’s JP Morgan Conference, Acting CMS Administrator Andy Slavitt said, “The meaningful use program as it has existed will now be effectively over and replaced with something better.”

In his blog post, Slavitt continued that “providers will be able to customize their goals so tech companies can build around the individual practice needs, not the needs of the government. Technology must be user-centered and support physicians, not distract them.” He added this will be aided “by leveling the technology playing field for start-ups and new entrants. We are requiring open APIs in order that the physician desktop can be opened up and move away from the lock that early EHR decisions placed on physician organizations to allow apps, analytic tools, and connected technologies to get data in and out of an EHR securely.”

He also stressed that CMS is “deadly serious about interoperability. And technology companies that look for ways to practice ‘data blocking’ in opposition to new regulations will find that it won’t be tolerated.” (Hmmm, EPIC are you listening?)

Today, thanks to the government’s nudge (and money) to finance their purchases, 80% of all hospitals and physicians have EHRs. But, with Slavitt’s encouragement, a “silver rush” – if not another shovel-ready gold rush – is bound to ensue as bright-eyed techies develop and bring open API systems to market that are both user-centric and physician supportive. Get your APIs, picks and shovels ready now!

[photo credit: http://www.blog.providentmetals.com/facts-and-history/how-the-comstock-silver-lode-changed-mining-forever.htm]

MIMI GRANT’S POST: January 5, 2016
CES: Now the “Cars & Technology Show”

For years the largest computers in our homes have been sitting in our garages. And, this year, the world’s largest trade show backers made their name change (if not the show’s) official – from Consumer Electronics Association to Consumer Technology Association. (You’ve got to give them credit for being adaptive business leaders; this is their fourth new name since their founding, in 1924, as the Radio Manufacturers Association.)

Obviously, this is the year CES has expanded way beyond flat screens and tablets. Just looking at the headlines pouring out from Las Vegas, you’d think they’re hosting the Detroit Auto Show:

Carmakers Set to Grab Spotlight at International CES (New York Times)
At CES, self-driving cars, auto gadgets grab spotlight (Detroit Free Press)
CES preview: Auto players offer a glimpse of the future (Automotive News)
And, as pictured:
Mysterious Faraday unveils super-powered electric concept car (USA Today)

But, my favorite story emerging from CES is the news that General Motors is investing half a billion dollars into Uber-rival Lyft (giving it a $5.5B post-money valuation). More than money, the companies are creating an “Autonomous On-Demand Network.” Blending GM’s Autonomous Vehicle (AV) technology with Lyft’s ride-matching, routing, and payment technology, a future vision appears: in need of a lift, you tap a few keys on your mobile, and a driverless Lyft car (by GM, of course) comes to you to take you to your destination. Once there, a few more keystrokes either tell it to wait (for an additional fee), or it will drive itself to the closest, most likely spot for its next customer. Even in the shorter term, while AVs wend their way through the regulatory hurdles ahead, Lyft’s human drivers will undoubtedly be encouraged to purchase new GM cars (at “special” GM Financial rates); and GM may well consider getting in the “Zipcar” rental business, tapping Lyft’s matching/ routing/ payment technology – for both freelance (but “pre-qualified”) Lyft drivers, or – potentially, ordinary folks like us.

GM isn’t the only investor anticipating that the app/ride-share company will someday be Lyfting their earnings. Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal bin Adbuaziz al Saud (Al-Waleed Bin Talal, for short) was among those in the latest financing round. With a net worth of $26.1 billion (last year – about half of GM’s current market cap), the Prince put in another $100 million, so his Kingdom Holding Company (and affiliates) are now up to a quarter of a billion stake. Given his family’s history in the oil business, these days (with oil closing at $36.76 a barrel on Monday), being in a business that consumes cheap oil, rather than produces it, may well be a safer bet.

[photo credit: The Financial Times, 1/5/16]

MIMI GRANT’S POST: November 10, 2015
If One’s OK, a “Hybrid” Could Be Even Better

Webster defines hybrids as “something that is formed by combining two or more things.” In many cases those “things” are concepts that allow for a smoother transition from what’s known and embraced to the unknown – and sometimes, unimagined. Consider the “horseless carriage.” In an era in which, as Henry Ford famously said, “If I’d asked people what they wanted, they’d have said faster horses,” a “carriage” without horses made for a smoother transition than jumping to a car.

And people could more readily accept a box with ice, in the advent of the first “iceboxes.” Much later, once movies were etched into discs that could survive the USPS, and could be ordered over the Internet: Netflix.


But, today, hybrids are taking on new meaning, as cars, like the Prius, are powered with both gas and electricity. And even buildings are becoming “hybrid”-powered, too. It was recently announced that The Irvine Company intends to create a “fleet” of hybrid-electric buildings which will use the same battery pack Tesla uses on its cars on 24 office buildings. While energy from SoCal Edison’s grid will continue to power the buildings much of the time, the battery systems will be used to offload peak daytime energy use, and keep the lights on during power failures (or brown outs).

In a totally different field – materials science, laser cutting, water jetting, 3D printing, and other technologies are beginning to combine into hybrid machines to create “smarter materials.” According to Skylar Tibbets, director at MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab, we are pushing limits of materials to get functionality we’ve never seen.

And, finally, hybridization comes to amalgamating technology (apps) with cost-conscious/ convenience-seeking customers, and an available market of flexible-schedule/ gig-seeking drivers, taskers, and couriers. The result is Uber, TaskRabbit, Prime Now, Luxe valets, and a host of other “hybrids” that have been formed by combining two or more disparate products or capabilities with a market increasingly ready to adopt innovative solutions – often to solve problems or meet needs they didn’t even know they had.

What’s your favorite example?

MIMI GRANT’S POST: October 27, 2015
Is there a (sensitive) robot in your future?
Nearly a year and a half ago, amid much PR fanfare, Softbank’s CEO and Sprint chairman, Masayoshi Son, announced that his subsidiary Aldebaran Robotics’ “Pepper” robot would be available in U.S. Sprint stores – for about two grand. No toy, this bot had microphones and proximity sensors to detect its surroundings, was equipped with Wi-Fi and a 10.1-inch touch display, could understand 4,500 Japanese words and the tone in which the words were spoken in an effort to interpret mood.

While SoftBank started using the robots at its own retail stores last year for customer service – and some have been sold to Japanese hotels, as “greeters,” few have made their way to the States. With one notable exception: IBM. .


Wall Street Journal writer Amir Mizroch reports that “IBM has been equipping robots with its Watson supercomputer artificial-intelligence software to teach them about human behavior by mirroring people’s body language and facial expressions” – not just their words.


According to Mizroch, the Pepper robots IBM is working with are “equipped with embedded video cameras, microphones and speakers, and have a variety of movable elements to them, like exaggerated eyes whose iris color can be manipulated to represent different emotional states.” Also, “Watson’s ‘sentiment analysis’ software helps to interpret the subject, tone and feeling of the conversation it is having with the human, and instructs the robot to perform the appropriate gesture for the situation – like nodding its head.”

Given IBM’s goal to produce robots that interact more naturally with humans, possibly in customer-support roles, it’s easy to imagine that Pepper will stay cool while an incensed customer screams at him about his defective purchase. And will mutter soothing phrases like, “I understand; tell me more about that.”

IBM’s CTO Robert High believes, “With a robot we think we create a truly three-dimensional experience, perhaps even a four-dimensional experience if you add in the other aspects of facial expressions.”

While I’d prefer to hold out for the “at your command” bot in Robot & Frank, no doubt there are near-term opportunities to use a Pepper in a variety of roles.

How would you use a robot like Pepper in your company?

(Photo credit:  The Japan Times)


MIMI GRANT’S POST: October 13, 2015
5 Reasons LA’s The Place for Tech
Not since movie director-aviator-entrepreneur Howard Hughes flew his Spruce Goose into the Long Beach sunset, has the City of the Angels been such a hotbed for blending tech talent with LA’s super/natural resources.
And while tech giants and startups alike battle each other in “The Valley,” there are five reasons why LA’s picking up traction in the race to ideate, build, and launch technologies that will change our lives:

1. Great Infrastructure. Howard was no dummy, and the rest of the aerospace establishment that built major installations from Long Beach to the (San Fernando) Valley, also appreciated the great weather for testing their air – and later – spacecraft. Fast-forward 70 years or so, and you have an aeronautics infrastructure which left a legacy deep enough to attract Elon Musk to plant his SpaceX in the South Bay, not up north. Beyond aeronautics, Hollywood has provided an outstanding launch pad for interactive developers, and gamers like Activision, Blizzard, and Electronic Arts, as revenues from games have overtaken box office.


2. Smart Money. As investor Arteen Arabshahi recently wrote for TechCrunch: “in 2014 alone, companies based in Greater LA raised more than $3 billion, saw more than $5 billion realized capital across over 80 exits and became the fastest growing startup region in the U.S. Elon Musk’s billion-dollar raise for SpaceX in January 2015 is further proof that the southland is attracting funds. Also, thanks to the world’s largest angel fund, Tech Coast Angels, over 275 SoCal startups have raised more than $150 million – with over $1.5 billion in additional capital/ follow-on rounds, mostly from venture capital firms, since TCA’s founding in 1997.


3. Great mentors. Arabshahi continues, saying that “We should look to Cornerstone OnDemand as a great example of a company who has grown in L.A. and is now helping to grow L.A. through their investments, accelerator and annual conference for the community.” Cornerstone CEO (and ABL Member) Adam Miller has been a major driver of the “Silicon Beach” scene, attracting talent from around the world, and hosting over 1500 attendees at its annual “Convergence” conference. Great institutions, like UCLA, USC, and more, also provide forums where successful grads frequently return to mentor current students, while organizations, like ABL, provide peer-mentoring, focused on helping more established tech CEOs grow great companies.


4. Two Hubs, not One. While Silicon Beach (Santa Monica, Playa Vista, the Westside) gets a lot of press, increasingly the lofts in a gentrifying Downtown LA, are also attracting techies. Surprisingly, while LA is often maligned for its gridlock, Metro is providing a palette-full of colored lines (red, blue, green, yellow, purple), that are linking outposts of Greater LA, making commuting a lot easier. Besides, you can always ride your bike on the beach and, increasingly, on bike-safe streets, in both Downtown and the Westside.

5. Great weather. Let’s face it, there’s a reason the motion picture industry grew up in Hollywood. Charlie Chaplin used to film his movies on the streets of this burgeoning community because he rarely was rained out. Today, according to Current Results, Downtown LA has an average of 292 sunny days every year – and while the LAX/beach cities area only has 263, there truly is something magical about looking out the 42nd floor window of a Downtown office tower, over the swaying palm trees below and the Hollywood sign in the distance – to clear your head, before getting back to work on a technology that will change our lives.

(Photo courtesy of www.telegraph.co.uk)


MIMI GRANT’S POST: September 29, 2015
Welcome to the Instant Gratification Generation
 And, frankly, regardless of age, we’re all in it.
After rolling out “Prime Now” from London to Manhattan, Seattle to Miami, and Chicago to Dallas, Amazon has now launched its “free delivery in 2-hours” (and $7.99 within 1-hour) service to “select” Los Angeles and Orange County zip codes. But if you’re within 25 miles of Silicon Beach and the Spectrum, there’s an excellent chance you’re “in the zone.” Amazon boasts they’re including a vast array of products among the “tens of thousands” they’re stocking in their three Prime Now hubs in LA and one in The OC. Must-have-it-now categories include gifts, household essentials, beauty, home décor, electronics, sports & fitness, outdoor – and indoor – recreation, kids, babies, and pets.
According to GeekWire, they’re also delivering from stores like Sprouts Farmers Market, Bristol Farms, Sprinkles Cupcakes, Fresh & Easy, Erewhon Organic Grocer, and 99 Ranch Market – to supplement the array of frozen and refrigerated foods, snacks, “pantry basics,” and beverages also available. No wonder they can easily accommodate the reportedly most popular items ordered in Seattle: paper towels, organic milk, string cheese, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream – and booze. Alas, in the Greater LA market, a search for beer turns up a DIY “Mr. Beer Premium Gold Edition Home Brewing Craft Beer Kit;” for wine, “BigMouth Inc’s Ultimate Wine Bottle Glass;” and for liquor, a “Bormioli Rocco Selecta 7-Piece Whiskey Gift Set.”

According to Robert B. Reich in his recent New York Times opinion piece, “Amazon is now the first stop for almost a third of all American consumers seeking to buy anything.” And, I’m no exception; earlier today, when I shopped at Amazon for an RFID-blocking card case, among the options was one I could have had in hand within an hour. (But since I preferred another model, I’ll have to cool my heels until 8 pm tomorrow.) And, even Amazon sleeps. Its “dedicated teams of people” only deliver between 8 am and midnight, but 7 days a week. And Uber-like, you can track how much further they have to travel – and you have to wait for them – to deliver your goodies.

So far, over half a million impatient shoppers have downloaded the Prime Now Apple and Android apps. And,although Prime Now requires a Prime membership ($99/year to get free shipping and other perks) and orders over $30 to qualify for 1- or 2-hour delivery, according to Amazon: for a limited time only you can get “$20 off a Prime Now order of $50 or more w/promo code LATRYNOW.” (If you’re not in LA/OC, but in one of Amazon’s other Prime Now markets: “new customers – get $20 off your first order of $50 or more by entering TRYITNOW at checkout.”) According to the reviews on Amazon.com, Prime Now has two failings. One, you can only tip in advance –  when you place your order. And two, at least so far, Luddites need not apply. Prime Now is only available on a smart phone or iPad; not on a Kindle, nor a computer, nor laptop. Hmm, maybe there is an age bias after all.
MIMI GRANT’S POST: September 15, 2015
Tech Comes to the World’s Second Oldest Profession
According to Movoto’s humorous look at the history of real estate, the first “transaction” was when Alexander the Great “acquired” Persia in 334 BC. But, way before Alexander was “in the market,” in Genesis, the Bible recounts that around 1500 BCE, Joseph “bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh” – no doubt getting a fantastic deal on it due to the era’s Great Recession brought on by a major famine. So what does real estate have to do with technology? Not much – until very recently.

In the mid-1980’s (before joining the ABL Organization’s predecessor company), I was a commercial real estate broker. And given the broker’s exam was the toughest I’ve ever taken, I’ve diligently put in my 45 hours every four years since then, taking the required courses to retain my license. But this year is different. In addition to the perennial classes on contracts, finance, the mortgage process, and the latest categories of individuals you can’t discriminate against (figure no one), there are a number of classes that are pure 21st Century: “Contract Law on E-Signatures,” “California Ethical and Effective Online Advertising,” and, of course, “Advocating for Short Sale Clients.”


Thanks to mobile technology, the ubiquity of computers and tablets, email, and ESIGN legislation (that allows for documents to be electronically signed), the days of spending hours in a real estate or brokerage office signing piles of documents are coming to an end. Of course, all parties have to agree to this level of e-communication, but with that approval “in hand,” you may never see your agent or broker again. That said, with cyber security threats abounding, it’s a good idea to ensure the e-signature on the dotted line is your signature, using programs like DocuSign. (Already 90% of the Fortune 500 are using e-signature programs and apps.)


In this era of “virtual brokers,” way beyond knowing how to take a listing, stage, and hold an Open House, today’s agent must also be social media savvy, with houses having their own Facebook pages, blogs, digital communities, YouTube video tours, Pinterest ads, and even live-streaming open houses. Of course, you just can’t use potentially discriminatory phrases like “family friendly” in the print or voice-over copy. Joseph and Alexander – or even a behind-the-times agent from the ’90’s – wouldn’t recognize how much “the market” has changed!