You’ve Got the SOUL-ution

Young organizations tend to have clear cultures and good-enough workflow practices. These things tend to sprout from the founders and early hires. As these organizations scale into hyper-growth companies, chaos and confusion often ensue. Cultures become unconscious and contradictory and workflow practices descend into endless fire drills.

Hyper-growth organizations that sustain through scale create conscious cultures that align essence with operations and address excesses and blind spots on a regular basis. These efforts require both collective conversations and individual support. Regular all-hands meetings about culture allow for course corrections and targeted individual coaching delivers just-in-time skills for leaders.


David Shechtman is a talented coach, speaker, and facilitator. His experience includes leading change projects, facilitating in-depth leadership seminars, and coaching C-level executives.

David’s experience includes two decades of work in training & development, organizational consulting, and executive coaching. His experience includes work in financial services, high tech, healthcare, automotive, and travel & hospitality. Specific clients include Slack, Collective Health, Tile, Coursera, Northwestern Mutual, ADP, DaVita, Virtuoso, and the Entrepreneurs’ Organization.

David’s main focus is helping clients transform challenges into victories. His clients work in high growth, high challenge environments that require real-time learning and bold action. David helps his clients navigate difficult circumstances, identify golden learning opportunities, and establish straight-forward action plans for success. His expertise comes from over a decade of studying the art and science of behavior change.

David’s education includes a Master of Science in Organization Development from Pepperdine University. He also has taught Organization and Strategy Consulting at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business. David is a regular presenter at the Organization Development Network annual conference


How I became the owner of an $8m business with only $10k to start

Adaobi Gwacham shares her story of she became the Owner/Operator of the Chick-fil-A in Pasadena. She was 1 of 30,000 applicants, and had only $10,000 to start… but she managed to build a successful branch through an effective culture that lead to the acquisition – and retention – of great talent.

Listen to the podcast here or on iTunes here.


Adaobi Gwacham was born in Nigeria and was introduced to Chick-fil-A in 2004 when she started working at the Chino Hills location. She quickly rose into leadership positions and began to pursue Chick-fil-A as a life-long career. After receiving her Business Management degree from California Baptist University, she moved to Atlanta, Georgia to work at the Chick-fil-A home office. This led to her involvement in the opening of more than 100 new Restaurants nationwide. Adaobi’s ultimate goal was to become a Chick-fil-A Operator in California and that dream came to fruition in 2014 when she was selected to be the Owner/Operator of the Pasadena location.

From Startup to Exit: Lessons Learned

Pat Holmes was founding VP Technology of a company which over 20 years went from zero to 4,300+ employees & $750M annual revenue, went public, was bought by a larger public company, and then bought again and taken private! This talk presents highlights and important lessons learned. For an online resume of the presenter’s background, go to


Pat Holmes ( ) was founding VP Technology for IPC Healthcare (NASDAQ:IPCM), a leading national, venture-capital backed, healthcare group practice. Over 17 years, Pat helped IPCM scale from zero to over 4,300 employees in 28 states, 7M annual patient visits, and $750M annual revenue. Pat helped IPCM go public in 2008, and helped lead the integration into a larger public company when IPCM was purchased by TeamHealth (NYSE:TMH) for $1.6B in 2015.  Pat is a technologist with hands-on technical skills & experience in problem-solving, data analysis, programming, application design, software architecture, system design, business process design, and technical management. Previously, Pat managed software development for nine years for an Inc. 500 company that sold computerized accounting and management systems into the printing industry.

Pat Holmes is an active angel investor and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Pasadena Angels. Other leadership roles and community involvement include: President of the Los Angeles Oracle Users Group 1997-2009, President of the GE Healthcare Centricity Group Management Large Users Group 2009-2015, Tournament of Roses 1993-present, Pasadena Breakfast Forum 2005-present (Chair 2011, Secretary/Treasurer 2008-2014), Walden School of Pasadena Advisory Board 2009-2014, University of La Verne College of Arts & Sciences Dean’s Advisory Committee 2013-2014, South Pasadena High School Assistant Wrestling Coach 1986-1996.

Pat Holmes lives in Pasadena with his wife Sylvia, who is a local social, community, and urban environmental activist, and their three daughters. Pat is also an avid Ultimate Frisbee player and season ticketholder for Los Angeles’ own professional Ultimate team, the Los Angeles Aviators: . Pat’s first computer was a Tandy/Radio Shack TRS-80 Model III, with the optional floppy disk drives.

Twitter handle: pdholmes1

Speaker email:

“My First Rodeo”: Campaign Reflections & Insights

After more than 20 years of active public service in the community as a volunteer (including as a co-founder of Innovate Pasadena) earlier this year, Andy Wilson ran for elected office for the first time. Disconnects between expectation and reality were much greater than anticipated (fake news transpires at the local level!). Was it naivety? Or has the modern political process changed dramatically in the last couple years?

In his talk, Andy will reflect on the many lessons learned his “first rodeo.” Specifically, he will share insights on how to run a successful campaign while staying above the unsavory tactics that are unfortunately commonplace. Also, new channels and for local political engagement and better strategies to connect with the electorate with be discussed.

Listen to the podcast here or on iTunes here.


Andy Wilson is a serial entrepreneur having led, founded or invested in almost two dozen Southern California high tech start-ups. He has a long history of service with local not-for-profits including leadership roles at Pasadena Heritage, Pacific Oaks College, the Gamble House and SteamCODERS. Andy is a co-founder and board member of Innovate Pasadena, which is dedicated to advancing the east side of Los Angeles as a vibrant innovation community. He is a frequent speaker on the role of innovation to create high paying local jobs with the goal of enhancing quality of life in our community.

Andy has extensive volunteer experience with the City of Pasadena including service on the Planning Commission, Design Commission, Urban Forestry Advisory Commission and the Pasadena Center Operating Committee. He just completed a two year appointment as the District 7 City Council member and was recently elected to a full four year term after a contentious election. Andy currently serves on both the Municipal Services Committee and the Economic Development and Technology Committee of the City.

Andy holds a degree in engineering with honors from Dartmouth College and an MBA from Harvard Business School. He is a graduate of Leadership Pasadena and has completed advanced certificate programs at Columbia University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Northwestern Kellogg School of Business. He and his wife Liz can often be seen walking with their school aged boys (Spencer & Dylan) and rescue dog (Gandalf) in Madison Heights, their home for 20 years.

John Keatly presents: Fin Tech in 2017 – Are the Fins Circling?

With LendingClub’s and OnDeck’s stocks in the bargain bin and mass layoffs at Avant and Prosper, are Fin Tech’s best days behind it? Or is this the beginning of Fin Tech 2.0?


John Keatley is the Co-Founder and CEO of Scratch Financial, a point-of-sale lender that aims to help merchants increase sales and help consumers quickly and easily obtain low cost financing for high ticket price items. Scratch is initially focused on the veterinary care segment with plans to expand to other verticals in the near future. Scratch takes the sophisticated underwriting and competitive pricing of online lending and puts it where consumers need it most – in the checkout aisle.

Before launching Scratch, John was CFO at Klarna, a European “unicorn” startup that provides short-term consumer financing and payment processing for ecommerce. While at Klarna, John secured over $150 million of private equity to fund Klarna’s rapid growth and international expansion.

Prior to Klarna, John was CFO of Pasadena-based Green Dot Corporation, the leading provider of prepaid debit cards and related services in the U.S. John helped grow the business from startup phase to over $500 million of revenue and led Green Dot’s IPO in 2010 that valued the company at $1.5 billion. John has also been an Engagement Manager at McKinsey and Company where he was a member of the FIG (financial institutions group) practice.

John assists startup companies in Los Angeles and Stockholm, Sweden as an active advisor and angel investor. He received an MBA from Harvard and an AB in Physics from Princeton University.

How Women Can Succeed in the Workplace

How Women Can Succeed in the Workplace (Despite Having “Female Brains”) takes a frank and honest approach to examining what women are doing to hold ourselves back in the workplace, and how we can compete on a playing field designed by men to reward their achievements.

Using relevant studies in evolutionary biology, anthropology and sociology, as well as examples from her life as a securities lawyer, investment banker, Internet executive and screenwriter, Valerie Alexander explains the evolution of the “gendered” brain and the corporate structure, showcasing and dissecting areas where women’s natural tendencies prevent us from succeeding in male-designed workplaces.

How Women Can Succeed in the Workplace tackles a difficult subject with candor, humor and confidence — and two of those traits are actually welcome in the workplace!

Listen to the podcast here or on iTunes here.


Valerie Alexander is a speaker, author and entrepreneur. She is the CEO of Goalkeeper Media, a tech start-up that builds communication bots to amplify happiness. As a speaker, she works with companies and organizations seeking to grow and succeed by making happiness a priority in the workplace and ensuring that female professionals advance and thrive.

Her books on Happiness, Success, and Success for Women ( can be found on, and she owns the U.S. Registered trademark on the phrase, “…as a Second Language” for self-help, personal growth, self-esteem and motivation.

Valerie has also worked as a screenwriter and film director, a corporate securities lawyer, an investment banker, and the VP of Business Development for two internet start-ups. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their ill-mannered German Shepherd, Pepper.


5 Hi-Profit Secrets from a Hi-Profit Guy

Red is great for lipstick and the sole of your stilettos  – not so much for your balance sheets and bank accounts. The path to profitability can often be seemingly endless, snarled, and plagued with fender-benders and traffic jams – but it doesn’t have to be mysterious or lonely. And while every brand forges its own unique path, there are five markers that guide the way for them all.

This session will cover the 5 steps all direct to consumer brands must take as they navigate their way towards the black:

1) Product Development & Category Expansion

2) Inventory Planning & Allocation

3) Sales Channels, Marketing & Analytics

4) Financial Plans, People Plan & Operations

5) Funding & Pace of Growth

They say it’s the journey that matters, but when we’re talking about profitability, it’s the destination that makes or breaks a brand.

Listen to the podcast here or on iTunes here.


Drew Koven is Managing Director of LDR Ventures, an LA based Venture Capital group that works with early stage fashion and consumer lifestyle brands to incubate, operate and grow with a clear path to profitability. LDR focuses on Fashion and Footwear, Food, Health & Beauty, eCommerce, Omnichannel Retail, Fashion Tech & Retail Tech. Notable investments include: Thrive Market, sweetgreen, Fame & Partners and Bow & Drape. They embrace diversity, impact, inclusion and female founders. LDR is opening an incubator in Los Angeles this summer to address the specific needs of fashion and consumer brands and has recently launched a podcast called The BizFix.

An entrepreneur and intrapreneur, Drew was formerly CEO of The Beach People, a home fashion Company his team took global, achieving 5000% growth, which he sold. His executive leadership roles include: Vice President of Omnichannel retail and eCommerce for Guess Jeans, President of eCommerce and Customer Experience for Steve Madden Shoes, CMO/CDO for Melissa & Doug Toys and CMO of FreshDirect, the online grocer. As a leader and culture builder, he has experienced very low single digit turnover with his teams and mantra of “People Before Profits.”

Drew was awarded as a Top 25 Retailer by Apparel Magazine, Top 3 Mobile Marketer by Mobile Marketer Magazine, Boston Business Hall of Fame Inductee, Virgin Atlantic Entrepreneur of the Year, a 40 under 40 recipient and is an Advisory Board Member of Apparel Magazine. He has his finger on the pulse of today’s global retail environment and the ins-and-outs of starting and growing businesses. He is married with two sons and lives in Los Angeles.


How to Future Proof your Tech Stack

Optimizing your tech stack with key products is essential for business operations and productivity. This talk will cover essential elements and tips for success:

1. Expect Google to lead on computing, storage, and network.

2. Don’t build a configuration server, instead use Google sheets.

3. Not sure who is gonna win the cloud war? Remember docker and kuberbetes.

4. Tensorflow adoption curve can help you meet your AI needs.

Listen to the podcast here or on iTunes here.


Darian Hickman studied Computer Science at Johns Hopkins University and then served as a Marine.  While engaged in an enterprise software career over the last 17 years, he has enjoyed creative projects like building, acting, and teaching entrepreneurship overseas.  Some of Darian’s personal interests include hang-gliding, kiteboarding, and staying active with CrossFit.



The Evolution of Twitter

We will take a look at how twitter has evolved over the last 11 years, from 140 Characters to a Live Streaming Platform.

Listen to the podcast here or on iTunes here.


Alexa Alianiello is based in Los Angeles and serves as an Account Executive to Media & Entertainment clients at Twitter. In her 5 years at the social media company, she has worked closely with​ ​many of the major movie studios and TV networks on​ ​innovative ways to market a movie or TV show on Twitter.​ ​Alexa was one of the first sales hires in Twitter’s New York office and also​ ​had the opportunity to start Twitter’s offices in Miami and Mexico City.

Prior to Twitter,​ ​Alexa earned her BA at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York. She enjoys a home-cooked meal from her Italian family and has likely been to more Phish shows than you.


The Roller Coaster Ride to 40 Million Monthly Users

An honest discussion of the realities of a journey of a of a 5 time successful entrepreneur whose company – Ranker – now reaches 40 million people monthly and is solidly profitable with over 60 employees. Benson will take us through his self-funded beginnings to early angel rounds (partly secured in Pasadena), and funding from “name” VCs like Lowercase, Draper, and Wavemaker, and will discuss not just the success but also the many pitfalls even an experienced entrepreneur faced.

With all his prior success, Benson still did plenty of things wrong in the process of starting Ranker and had to work with less than ideal resources to survive, and eventually thrive. Benson will discuss the challenges of the tech world where massive changes are happening year-over-year and how even disruptive businesses can find themselves quickly disrupted. He will explain how to navigate hype vs reality with investors, and the Silicon Valley investor mentality vs everywhere else, among other topics.

Listen to the podcast here or on iTunes here.



Clark Benson is the founder and CEO of Ranker, the leading digital media company for opinion-based, crowd-sourced rankings on just about everything. Launched in 2009, Ranker is Benson’s fifth startup. Ranker creates editorial lists to vote on about virtually every topic, and the 40 million+ monthly audience’s opinions shape the rankings. Prior to Ranker, Benson’s company, eCrush, an early social network for teens, was bought by Hearst Corporation in 2006. Benson lives in the Hollywood Hills with his wife and young twins.