Brian Nolan and Michael Ugino: Grit – What it Takes to be a Successful Entrepreneur

There are so many factors that can contribute to an entrepreneur’s success. For Brian Nolan and Michael Ugino, the one factor that has proved essential for success is grit. According to Angela Duckworth, “grit is the passion and perseverance of a long term goal.”

These entrepreneurs have hit so many obstacles on their journey to build their product, maintain a team and grow their business. Virtually all their endeavors took longer than expected, and presented challenges that were painful and disheartening. Despite these obstacles, the Sellbrite team continues to thrive.

Whether you are an established business owner or an aspiring employee with a good idea, the journey of the Sellbrite entrepreneurs will inspire anyone to hold strong to their vision and keep hustling through. If you would like to learn more about Sellbrite’s story and learn about how you can improve your own personal grit, click on the video below.

“Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal that will enable you to attain the success you seek.” -Mario Andretti


Brian Nolan and Michael Ugino are co-founders of Pasadena-based Sellbrite, a SaaS platform that helps retailers build, manage and grow their multichannel ecommerce business. The two met while working together at another company in Pasadena, and instantly became friends. Brian and Mike started Sellbrite after experiencing pain points in doing their jobs at that company, and realized there was a huge opportunity in the market for a simple solution. They found themselves back in Pasadena after being funded and incubated by Idealab. Sellbrite now has a team of 17 people and an office on Green St. in Old Town.

Interested in learning more about Sellbrite, click here.

Adjoa Skinner: How to Give a Good Presentaiton

There are so many different ideas about the correct ways to give a speech.  It can all be overwhelming trying to follow the dos and don’ts of giving a good presentation.  Whether being concerned about your hand-positioning or the tone of your voice, most individuals walk into a speech with reservations and anxieties.

Adjoa Skinner walks us through a simple acronym W-A-T-E-R to help relax and rest ourselves before giving a presentation or performance.

Wait  Actualize  Thankfulness  Effort  Relax

The acronym reminds us to get some water as well.  You’re voice is your most valuable asset and water is essential for any speaker or vocalist.  Adjoa’s engaging and immersive presentation gives us guidance and techniques that inspire peace and confidence before going into a presentation.  To get the full details of the process and some helpful exercises, see the full video below.



Adjoa Skinner is a 25 year music veteran and vocal coach. Nominated by the Readers of Backstage Magazine as one of the top 5 vocal coaches in Los Angeles in 2016. Adjoa has been the vocal coach of Katherine McCormick of “So You Think You Can Dance”, Bryce Soderberg of the band “Lifehouse” as well as numerous other rising stars. Skinner’s additional honors include: 100 Best Live Acts to Watch in 2013 by Music Connection Magazine, Top Female Performer and Highest over all score in the in the Socal Live Acoustic Music Competition.


For information and to check out her music go to:


Local to Los Angeles and interested in attending Friday Morning Coffee meet up or similar events? Click here for a schedule.



Social Media Panel Discussion at Apple


The discussion, called “Extending Your Brand On Social Media,” featured a panel of social media experts from top companies of various sizes, including Senior Brand Manager Peyton Moore, who also moderated the panel, and Director of Strategy Nicole Rohrer from Echo-Factory; Malcolm Gray, who handles digital marketing at the global leader in entertainment and ticketing, Live Nation; Paul Meyers, director of digital and social media marketing at Pabst Brewing Company; Taryn Rothstein, creator of the popular lifestyle city guide, Pasadena Charm; Tara Cunningham, who manages partnerships and business development at the Venice-based social software developer, Epoxy; and Jonathan Jordan, business specialist at the Apple Store.


Mind Control APIs and the future and ethics of persuasive machines


Mind control has gone from sci-fi to API. Now AI in the cloud adjust mathematical parameters and cause fitness enthusiasts in real life to run more and diet better. A high-five here – an optimization there – we now share a world with increasingly intelligent machines designed to shape our behavior. How the heck did we get here?! In this surreal present, human behavior is an engineering problem. So is it time to panic? Or time to celebrate? Is this new generation of tools a harbinger of dystopia or the latest in a legacy of public health and thriving?

At Dopamine Labs we’ve built the world’s first API that helps apps hack users’ habits. By optimizing positive reinforcement we help apps keep users engaged, retained, and thriving. Here I explore how we all got to a world of persuasive machines, what role my team and I are playing in setting the tone for the field, and what’s coming next.


Ramsay Brown is an mad scientist, creative technologist, and co-founder of Dopamine Labs in Venice, California ( He uses design, neuroscience, and code to explore the interface of humans and our increasingly intelligent machines. Ramsay’s enthralled by the reciprocal causality between humans and machines, and the implications of their ever poorly-defined boundary. The Modernist conviction that we can build our way to greater human thriving drives his work and play. When he’s not making APIs, he and his co-founder are making IPAs.

Patterns of Fundraising from the Perspective of an Investor


Scaling and growing a company is about recognizing patterns. This is especially true when it comes to fundraising no matter whether you are seeking early stage venture or growth capital to scale and win your market. Gaining insight into the patterns as seen by an active career investor can provide valuable insight for any entrepreneur into the frameworks they are using to gauge their success.

Building and scaling a company successfully is about the decisions you make as an entrepreneur.  What informs those decisions is experience, frameworks to tackle tough issues, and the pattern matching around the game of growing an idea to a  feature to a product to a company.  Entrepreneurs should be seeking these frameworks wherever they can find them, and after 20 years in Venture Capital through terrific successful investments and wipeouts, Jim has a few to share.  Whether it is thoughts on a great fundraising pitch, how to think about product and team, or how to hack the all expensive go to market, the questions entrepreneurs ask is the most important function.  Of course it all comes together when a company is raising money, and that is where Jim will focus his thoughts on the patterns of success.

Currently Jim is a managing Director with March Capital, a $240MM Tech focused venture fund that is headquartered in Santa Monica, but that invests globally.  He focuses early stage but does growth investing as well.  Practice areas include B2B marketplaces, consumer internet and Enterprise Software.


A successful and experienced early stage venture investor in enterprise and consumer technology, Jim Armstrong has established himself as a leading investor based in Southern California. Jim has over 20 years of technology investment experience, and has generated multiple large exits through IPOs or mergers and acquisitions from companies he either incubated or participated as the first institutional investor.

What innovation means at JPL


NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, managed by Caltech and based in Pasadena, is well known for being on the cutting edge of space exploration. So what keeps JPL in this pole position? A key part of the answer is innovation: both in what we do and in how we do it. In conceiving the missions we will attempt in the next decade, we make a deliberate effort to ‘swing for the fences’, but in doing so there is a lot of careful preparation and forethought. We may swing for the fences, but we carefully check our bat is properly oiled and finely balanced, we use a brand new, unblemished baseball, and make sure that the fences are freshly painted too.

In JPL’s Innovation Foundry, we help JPL’s creative workforce and our collaborators conceive of and mature ideas for new space missions. Different tools and methods are employed depending on the maturity of the concept. The end goal is to fly the mission, so we assist teams in making compelling arguments as to why their particular mission should go forward at this moment in time. This process has resulted in many exciting JPL missions such as the Asteroid Retrieval Mission and our next mission to Mars – Insight. Further illustrative examples will be provided during the presentation.

Dr. Anthony Freeman is the manager of the Innovation Foundry – JPL’s incubator for new ideas – at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Formerly, he was the program manager of the Earth System Science Formulation office, which resulted in several new projects at JPL. Dr. Freeman received the B.Sc. (Hons.) degree in Mathematics and a Ph. D. in Astrophysics, both from the University of Manchester (formerly UMIST).

Dr. Freeman joined JPL in 1987 as a member of technical staff in the Radar Science and Engineering section and was responsible for the end-to-end calibration of the SIR-C imaging radar mission, and formulation of the LightSAR instrument. He subsequently managed the Mission and Systems Architecture section at JPL. His technical interests include the architecture of innovative space missions, especially novel radar observing systems and techniques.

He taught the class on ‘Remote Sensing Systems from Space’ at USC from 2003 to 2012 and now teaches Aerospace Engineering (with a focus on nanosats), Systems Engineering and Program Management at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

Technology defining a new world of storytelling


“Viewer” is no longer a passive term, welcome to the new world of storytelling.


As our technology advances, so does our ability to tell stories in innovative and meaningful ways. These stories connect with the audience on previously unreachable levels – by giving the viewers the agency to affect what they see and hear. Leaning in and participating creates a new relationship between the engaged audience and the narratives. Our seamless technology is ushering in the evolution of storytelling with content that is shaped by those who watch, participate, and respond. “Viewer” is no longer a passive term, welcome to the new world of storytelling.


As Executive Creative Director at Interlude, Shane wrote and created award-winning projects for artists and brands such as CeeLo Green and CocaCola, and is currently working on Interlude’s first VR project, set to launch in 2016. Shane’s background highlights his passion for different and immersive content; Exploding Kittens, which he created and produced, is the game with the highest number of Kickstarter backers to date. At Xbox Entertainment Studios, he worked on original interactive Movies and TV shows for the Xbox gaming console. Prior to that, amongst other things, he co-founded Edoc Laundry, the first interactive clothing brand, where hidden messages and codes in the clothing unlocked murder mystery video content online, and Funtini, where he developed top mobile hits for Marvel & Disney.

how tech is propelling entertainment

A look at tech and entertainment — and how the merger of the two has

manifested itself in different ways (i.e. MCNs (multi-channel networks) on

YouTube, publications like Smashd that examine tech and culture, and even

the Hollywood studio system looking at virtual reality as a future for

film). What VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality) could bring to

the table for entertainment, the arts, politics, and advertising.

Lori Kozlowski is a writer, editor, and media executive in

Los Angeles. She has worked at the intersection of tech, art, and

entertainment, exploring how tech is changing culture.

She is producing a VR film series, which examines social justice and human

rights issues. She co-founded the tech and culture publication Smashd at

music management firm Atom Factory. Prior to Atom Factory, she was an

editor and columnist for Forbes, covering tech, startups, and

entrepreneurs. Before Forbes, she was a senior editor at the Los Angeles

Times, overseeing digital strategy, mobile, and emerging platforms.


The Ups and Downs of a VC-backed Start-up

“Founding to Exit – The Ups and Downs of a VC-backed Start-up”

Tracy will provide the story behind

·  Founding the company in the late ‘90s at Idealab

·  Raising $ pre- and post- bubbles

·  Restructuring and profitability

·  Re-capping and pivoting the business

·  The Exit ups and downs


Tracy Randall is a technology-focused entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience in consumer products, retail, e-commerce and B2B platforms. Currently, she is advising a number of early stage technology businesses in LA.

Tracy was the CEO and co-Founder of, a B2B2C e-commerce business founded in 1998 with Idealab. Target acquired in 2013.

Prior to, Tracy worked at Disney, where she led the Business Development and Operational efforts in bringing Disney’s retail presence online.  Prior to The Disney Store Online, Tracy led the Technology and Business Operations efforts for The Disney Store’s retail expansion into Australia and Singapore. Tracy began her career in management consulting at Accenture (formerly Anderson Consulting) and is an Engineering graduate from the University of Illinois.