Creative Marketing of Dollar Shave Club – Alec Brownstein

Alec Brownstein joined Dollar Shave Club as Creative Marketing Director in 2013 just a few years after his Google Ad Experiment video went viral in 2010 (If you haven’t seen that video, you definitely should watch it on youtube). A key idea behind the Google Ad Experiment video that got a ton of attention online was that it was only $6 and it made a huge impact. Alec talked about how you don’t need a huge budget to make a good impression and reach a lot of people.

Alec shared a number of hilarious Dollar Shave Club commercials that have been successful in building the brand reputation while still being entertaining. The main idea he discussed was that each one of their commercial ideas is built around finding an underlying truth about their product or their competition. For entertainment they take that truth and then exaggerate it to make a memorable impression. While we laugh at the video, the key underlying truth sticks with the audience and resonates with them to some extent.

His advice to us as marketers is to find a truth people care about and explain it simply. He explained that if we find it’s too hard to explain, it probably is not a good enough simple truth. Alec went on to talk about how to make their product different they give surprise and delight moments for the users. This might be something to read, small messages, or good packaging, but it all contributes towards having a deeper connection with their consumers than just shaving.

Alec talked about how he thinks ads aren’t funny or pleasant because companies tend to cram too many points into one commercial. By focusing too much on the company objectives, the consumer experience can be ignored in the process.

To see these ideas in action, look up some dollar shave club commercials and become a customer!

How a startup can deal with corporate knockoffs with Sarath Malepati


Sarath Malepati through personal experience shared with us some wisdom and insights into strategically protecting IP to further the success of your business. His work has focused on projects that will improve the human condition and is a firm believer in the open source concept and collaboration in order to improve society as a whole. That said, he has experienced and dealt with first hand the importance of being careful who you are talking with and how to setup mechanisms to safeguard your ideas. He shared with us the importance of being vigilant in the early stages of your idea, and to not assume that larger companies are not potentially a threat to the success of your business.

His strongest advice was around the importance of establishing your IP strategy before market deployment. He explained that this strategy needs to consider your goals, risks, and should involve good IP council. He mentioned how it was important to know what levers are at your disposal before releasing your idea into the market, and to try and stay below the radar while pursuing early customers.

He encouraged the group that throughout this process you have to maintain self-discipline while being patient and focusing on the long term. He stressed the importance of remembering that no one knows your product better than you, and to keep your focus on customers, not competitors.

Good thoughts from someone that has been through the trials of IP protection first-hand!

Robotics and Entrepreneurship – Lessons Learned with Paolo Prijanian

Paolo Prijanian has been through a number of trials and tests in his years of work in cutting-edge consumer robotics. Paolo first shared with us a number of ways robotics are being used now and a few ideas as to what directions the industry will be headed – Roomba vacuum cleaners, robotic lawn mowers, self-driving John Deere tractors, robotic surgery, drones, automated warehouses, and of course the self-driving car to name a few. Paolo’s background was being a professor at USC, working at JPL in robotics, then eventually convincing himself to move ahead with an opportunity to develop “Evolution Robotics” with Bill Gross at Idealab. Developing this type of technology was extremely expensive and Paolo shared the ongoing struggle of keeping costs down  to achieve profitability, while simultaneously inventing cutting edge technologies that had never been used. Paolo shared that this was a significant shift from working at JPL where there was significantly more budgetary freedom in creating new technologies.

Paolo explained how his robotics technology was used in a number of diverse platforms for companies including Sony and Sharper Image on various projects. Paolo shared how throughout the years they always made it a point to try new things often and fail quickly to improve the technology faster rather then spending excessive time stuck in the planning phase. With each technology he learned and adapted their products to better serve the consumer market with the ongoing opposing forces of new technology and low-costs.

Paolo shared a number of challenges in his work including products failing outside of his control. He shared the difficulty of integrating cutting edge robotics technology to consumer products, but ultimately depending on the success of that commercial product in which his technology was utilized. As these products were new technologies themselves, he found that the consumer market was not mature enough as adoption was generally slow to new robotic products in the market.

In 2010, Paolo’s work with evolution robotics released “Mint” the self-mapping vacuum robot which did extremely well in consumer markets. This caught the attention of competitor “iRobot”, which eventually bought Evolution Robotics in 2012.

Paolo’s newest project is with a firm called, “Embodied” whose goal is to make the world a better place through robotics. Their website can be found using the link below!

Game for your Life – Gamificatio­n Trends & Innovation with Chris Gore

Chris Gore, with joke-infused fashion, shared stories with Friday Coffee Meetup (FCM) about his success, methods, and ideas of how to write-books and market yourself successfully. Chris shared about the popularity of Pokémon Go and how it didn’t come with any instructions. Pokémon Go went viral and was adopted by countless people despite not coming within any instruction manual. We had to discover and figure it out as we played. This concept has been central in Chris’ career and success as he has “figured out” his own path to success as a writer, comedian, and speaker.

The idea of writing a book is in-sanely intimidating, but Chris shared how to help discipline himself he awarded himself “mini-rewards” after achieving small goals. He shared how breaking large tasks into these bite-size pieces with rewards, is a great way to motivate and discipline ourselves. He also shared the amount many of us write in one week between e-mails, social media, etc., is roughly the same amount as a full-book!

Chris shared how the benefits of writing books go beyond the book itself and passive income but is a distinguisher to you as a person and creates a number of additional opportunities for you as an innovator and expert in your field.

Chris talked about how he typically spends around 6 months building an extremely detailed outline of his book, then about 2 months of actual writing. His prime writing hours are early in the morning (often before the sun is up), for around 3 hours. Beyond 3 hours he talked about how the quality/quantity of work tends to decline. Chris shared how a great way to start thinking about a new book idea is to write the summary paragraph that is on the back cover of the book.

Other helpful resources Chris recommended: Use, and listen to audio books. Chris recommended looking up Stephen King’s top 10 recommended audio books list to start!

The Q&A provided a broad range of questions (to say the least) ranging from creative liberties as a comedian to pricing margins and building a strong social media foundation!

The Trials and Successes of a SaaS startup with Dr Alex Backer

On Friday morning Alex shared with us a collection of stories and lessons learned from his own journey creating and developing “QLess”.  Below is a recap written by Brandon Burroughs.

            Alex was born and raised in Argentina, and while he was accepted into both MIT and Harvard early in his College career, his early college years were spent in Argentina. With some helpful pushes from his family, he eventually decided to attend MIT. Even though he was beyond the “late enrollee” period, they accepted him and he began pursuing his degree at MIT. This acceptance process beyond the late enrollee period illustrated one his first points that we shouldn’t always accept rules as they are given, but we should look beyond always “following the rules”. This was the first of 19 lessons Alex passed on. A summarized version of the others are below (But you should really watch the video to get the character and feeling behind the stories!).

Lesson 2: Never say no to an invitation to give a talk. You never know where it will take you and who you will meet.

Lesson 3: Don’t take money from anyone you wouldn’t take from your children. Don’t trust people just because they have the funding you are looking for. You are the best defender of your business so don’t trust too easily. Keep an advisory board that you trust.

Lesson 4: Create products you want to use. Alex shared how the idea of QLess came to him while waiting in line at Knott’s Berry Farm. The idea occurred to him that waiting in line is a huge waste of time, and he had a solution that would revolutionize the way many businesses and government entities are now addressing this problem.

Lesson 5: Don’t assume someone must have done it before. If you have an idea, pursue it!

Lesson 6: Starting a company is hard work. Make it worthwhile. Alex shared that the average American spends 2 years waiting in a line. The goal of his solution is to literally save years of peoples’ lives.

Lesson 7: Diversify until you have a winner. You never know which client/idea/project is going to be the right one so give yourself options.

Lesson 8: Go global. Don’t limit yourself to a local/regional market. If your idea is good, take advantage of the global reach that is now available.

Lesson 9: Whoever said it’s hard for startups to go after government customers? Some of QLess best clients are government entities, so don’t count them out of your potential customer base.

Lesson 10: It’s seldom too late. Alex shared the story of how they were late on a tight deadline and decided that the best option was to fly one of the sales reps out to hand-deliver the contract on-time. While it was an additional expense with no guaranteed return, they got the contract which would not have happened had they settled for, “we’re too late”.

Lesson 11: You’re never too small (Even for Texas). Even though Alex’ company was small at the time, their solution was a great fit for the state of Texas.

Lesson 12: Not too small to be crowned the best in America. Size doesn’t matter of the solution and execution is right.

Lesson 13: Put the company before yourself. Alex shared how for the success of the company he had to go without a salary for 8 years. While everyone doesn’t have that ability, the concept and follow-through of putting the company first is huge!

Lesson 14: Invest in redundancy: Alex shared how he wished he had shared more company knowledge within the organization among the staff. When a key employee transitioned out of the company, they were left in a position of lacking important company knowledge because there was not diversified knowledge share for that specific role.

Lesson 15: How to replace anyone: Use LinkedIn to target “people like” the candidates you are searching for!

Lesson 16: A lost deal is simply a deal waiting to be won. Patience and persistence pays off so don’t give up too early!

Lesson 17: Build tech that even non techies want to use. Usability for all consumer segments is crucial to enable mass adoption.

Lesson 18: You can do anything remotely. The SaaS industry has a huge advantage of being accessible from anywhere. Use this to your advantage in reaching new prospective clients and servicing existing clients!


Lastly, Alex shared with us Lesson 19- a poem entitled, “Don’t Quit” encouraging persistence and drive behind the challenges we face. QLess has had amazing success with 2,000% app download growth over the years and it has already eliminated 2,000 years of waiting in line. His story of success and persistence is absolutely an inspiration!




Ryan Williams: Reinventing Your Career in the Influencer Economy

Reinventing your career is a daunting task. You cannot afford to wait to be hired by the right company, nor can you wait for the perfect job to find you. The modern professional needs to take charge by “laddering-up” their career to launch their own business idea, build their influencer network, and thrive as an expert in their business field.

In The Influencer Economy book, Ryan Williams teaches his three step business launch framework, complete with lessons and actions for anyone to reinvent their career. He offers insights into how to launch a passion project, grow an online business, and take any entrepreneurial company to new heights.

To learn more about Ryan’s story and the process to be successful in the influencer economy, see the video below.


Ryan Williams is a media strategist and professional speaker who coaches executives and entrepreneurs in how to reinvent their careers. He is a former Media Relations Manager at Disney, and Director of Marketing at and In early 2014 he launched his Apple “new and noteworthy” podcast, Stories from The Influencer Economy and in 2016 published his book “The Influencer Economy.” He currently runs his own consulting business and lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two girls.




Click here to purchase The Influencer Economy on Amazon.

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.