The Future of Communication Technology: Jay Myers of ISI On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up How We Connect and Communicate With Each Other

Don’t Take Your Eye off the Ball

If you’re committed to taking chances and changing the world, don’t get distracted by investors, talk about mergers and acquisitions, or the value of your business. Focus on creating that change. Your business’s value is not based on what you think it’s worth, but on what someone is willing to pay for its success.


The telephone totally revolutionized the way we could communicate with people all over the world. But then came email and took it to the next level. And then came text messaging. And then came video calls. And so on…What’s next? What’s just around the corner?

In this interview series, called ‘The Future Of Communication Technology’ we are interviewing leaders of tech or telecom companies who are helping to develop emerging communication technologies and the next generation of how we communicate and connect with each other.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jay B. Myers, an entrepreneur, author, mentor, and the former Founder/CEO of Interactive Solutions, Inc. (ISI), a firm that specializes in videoconferencing, distance learning, telemedicine and audio-visual sales and support. With a background in sales, and a heart for entrepreneurship, Jay and his team grew ISI to a $25 million company before selling it in 2018. Since then, Jay has spent his time mentoring other entrepreneurs about the ins and outs of business ownership. Jay will be releasing his third book, Rounding Third and Heading for Home, this spring.

When not writing, Jay spends his time sharing advice and anecdotes of his career to business schools and professional organizations, mentoring young entrepreneurs, spending time with family, and catching a Memphis Tigers baseball game whenever possible.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Istarted my career in corporate sales selling printing equipment and then years later selling copier-duplicators for Eastman Kodak. My first introduction into technology was when I joined Hewlett Packard in the late 80’s and sold mini-computers. It was at that time that I recognized that there was a lot of opportunity in the tech industry which lead me to accepting the position as the data products manager for a regional telecom company. That company introduced me to videoconferencing in mid 1990 which changed my life and career forever. In December 1995 I was fired from my job (on my 39th birthday) and struggled for several months to support my wife and two children. With my back against the wall I made the decision to go out on my own and subsequently started Interactive Solutions(ISI) in March 1996. I started ISI primarily to earn a living and feed my family but I also was passionate in my belief that videoconferencing was going to change not only the business world but education(distance learning) and healthcare(telemedicine) as well. Fortunately my instincts were right!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

When ISI had been in business for about 3 months I got a very unexpected call at my office. The person at the other end of the call identified himself as Kemmons Wilson. At first I really thought one of my friends was playing a prank on me. And i thought to myself..sure, Kemmons Wilson, the business legend who started Holiday Inns was interested in talking to me about videoconferencing… Really? When I took a deep breath and verified it really was him we arranged a video demonstration the next day. Although he didn’t buy anything he did give me some priceless encouragement as he was leaving.. He told me “You hang in there..you’re going to make some money with this business” Well as a practicing Catholic i thought the Pope had just blessed me! And it turned out that once again Mr. Wilson was right!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I started my business (ISI) three months after I was fired from my job as the director of videoconferencing for a regional telecom company. I put my heart and soul into building the video business for this company and grew the revenue for my department to $5m when the technology was still in its infancy.. After I was fired, I not only felt betrayed by the telecom company I was angry that they had been put into such a difficult and vulnerable position And all of this happened a few weeks before Christmas! I remember my father giving me some priceless advice at the time that I still think about almost everyday. He told me that he understood that sometimes life is just not fair and that I had a good reason to be angry at my former employer. But he followed up with “if you want your company to be successful you need to get control of your emotions and recognize “that people don’t like dealing with angry people”..” they like dealing with people who have a positive attitude and project optimism about their company’s goods and services etc.” That advice proved to be not just be a business lesson but a valuable life lesson as well.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

When I was working for Eastman Kodak I met a man named Jim Murphy who was the manager of copier services at FedEx . Jim was one of those hard nosed, demanding type of customers but I could tell down deep he really had a heart of gold. At the time i was really struggling and had lost my confidence which was a bad place to be as a salesman Thanks to Jim’s encouragement and support my career at Kodak finally took off. I learned so much about business and life from him. Among his “pearls of wisdom” include 1) Always know your numbers whether it be in dealing with contract negotiations, pricing options, sales commissions, revenue/ profit totals etc. 2) Its ok to trust but always verify! 3) Don’t take no’s from people who can’t say yes 4) Look at every job you have as an opportunity to improve your skill set that can help advance your career in the future.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I feel that by bringing leading edge technology to rural areas for education and healthcare we were bettering people’s lives. People in small towns all across the MId South had access to specialized healthcare and educational support that they never had before. To me it was never about just making money but more importantly improving people’s lives and leaving our mark on rural communities for years to come . Also, I have to say I always took a lot of pride in my 50+ employees who grew their careers with ISI. So many of my employees joined ISI when they were single and lived in apartments and years later got married, bought homes and had children.. ISI truly was one big family! Through the years I have to say that it also gratified me that my employees had enough confidence in both me and ISI to invest in their future. You cannot put a dollar value on that! FYI- I never felt burdened by the pressure of having to support so many employees.. In fact I was inspired by the challenge to be an even better leader each and every day and successfully guide them into the future.

Ok wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about the cutting edge communication tech that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

ISI was one of the first purveyors of video conferencing equipment in offices. The ability to meet with remote offices or international partners via video conferencing to host meetings without physical limitations means that people can progress in every way. More efficiency, better communication, and a chance to be as “in-person” as possible without a doubt has shaped the world of communication.

What’s next? More one-to-one connection. Zoom is already allowing video backgrounds and AI-based filters. Collaboration tools will become more mainstream and go beyond a simple chat function. We’re not meeting about the work anymore, we’re meeting to get work done Also, .Companies like PEXIP are leading the way for cross platform connectivity as well as integration with healthcare EMR platforms like EPIC.

How do you think this might change the world?

The explosive growth of video connectivity is going to force so many businesses, schools, hospitals etc. to rethink what the workplace really needs to look like. I think there is going to be a big change in the commercial real estate market and that the days of building or leasing large offices is mostly over with. I do think there will be more hybrid environments in the future with people working in both their office and from home. I also think technology providers who focus on “at home” solutions have a massive opportunity for growth.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

The biggest drawback to the widespread deployment of remote connectivity and videoconferencing solutions is that while it helps solve the problem of slowing down the spread of COVID 19 and has allowed companies to keep doing business, it has also created a lot of serious isolation issues. For a lot of people working from home has the potential to be psychologically damaging for many years to come. One of the dynamics of working in an office is not just doing the job but getting to know people better by socializing, coffee breaks, lunches etc.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

Certainly the pandemic has been the biggest tipping point for widespread adoption of videoconferencing technology. I myself have been in the industry for over 30 years and I can safely say that NONE of us ever imagined that the day would come that videoconferencing would be so widely deployed and that it would be viewed as a NECESSITY and not a LUXURY. It is also very gratifying to see vendors like Zoom go from being a novelty a few years ago to becoming a household name today. The same can be said for telehealth with so many doctors and physicians conducting virtual versus in person office visits in light of the pandemic. That being said I hate that it took a pandemic for people to start realizing that videoconferencing is not only a great tool that saves time and money and increases productivity but truly does represent a better way to work.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

There needs to be more vendors that offer video meeting and calling platform solutions in order for organizations to simplify dynamic video collaboration at scale making it possible to schedule and host meetings instantly on any device. Cloud based videoconferencing solutions need to be infinitely scalable. It is also important to be able to add capacities as an organization’s needs change with no need for multiple deployments or complex licensing. There needs to be more vendors who provide a flexible scalable video conference platform that enables interoperability between video conference systems including Zoom, Cisco, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts Meet & Skype for Business as well.

The pandemic has changed so many things about the way we behave. One of them of course, is how we work and how we communicate in our work. How do you think your innovation might be able to address the new needs that have arisen as a result of the pandemic?

If I could have shared my crystal ball vision with others, this is exactly what I had in mind when video communication was being developed. The ability to connect regardless of location, to work together, and to get a bit closer to that in-person collaboration than a conference call ever could.

As we’ve all been stuck in our homes, apartments, or remote locations, video conferencing has proven to be necessity, to facilitate human interaction. From family calls, keeping in touch with friends, or keeping work moving, video conferencing has been front and center.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Don’t Take Your Eye off the Ball

If you’re committed to taking chances and changing the world, don’t get distracted by investors, talk about mergers and acquisitions, or the value of your business. Focus on creating that change. Your business’s value is not based on what you think it’s worth, but on what someone is willing to pay for its success.

2. We All Need a Mentor

Mentors have background knowledge, and more importantly experience, to understand your journey and help you see things from a different angle. There’s great value in listening to someone who has been there, done that. Seek out a mentor you trust, and when the time is right, pay it forward and become a mentor to others.

3. Don’t Burn Bridges

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from my career is that you never know where people will end up in the future and when your paths may cross again. Don’t burn bridges for a few moments of selfish gain. Your reputation is your biggest asset in business.

4. Reinvent your Business Before it’s Too Late

A successful company can never rest on its laurels. If you’re too afraid to grow or evolve, you’re telling your employees and colleagues that you’ve had enough success. The result is being left behind. Focus on the future, listen to what your customers want, and don’t be afraid to fail.

5. Customer Service can Make or Break Your Business

Your Customer Service sets the tone for your brand, and business reputation. Consider the resources invested in keeping clients happy versus gaining new ones, and build your reputation based in loyalty to your customer base.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Human connection and the understanding that relationships are the most valuable — with ourselves, with our colleagues, and with our family and friends. I’ve learned great life lessons through relationships and mentors that can’t be learned in business school.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

My new book Rounding Third and Heading for Home is available in eBook format now, and will be published in June 2021. More information can be found at www.JayMyersCEO.com

Thank you so much for the time you spent doing this interview. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success.


About The Interviewer: David Liu is the founder and CEO of Deltapath, an award-winning unified communications company that liberates organizations from the barriers of effective communication. Liu is known for his visionary leadership, organic growth strategies, and future-forward technology. Liu is highly committed to achieving a greater purpose with technology. Liu’s business insights are regularly featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, Tech Crunch, and more.

The Future of Communication Technology: Vytenis Pakėnas of isLucid On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up How We Connect and Communicate With Each Other

isLucid is a super exciting product together with the team we are building now. isLucid enables people within conference calls to capture verbally arranged details with the help of transcription and instantly create action items — tasks, meeting minutes items, etc. Within already existing project management tools. We bring transparency, enable people to be more effective within their communication, and most important — let people focus on the conversation instead of taking tasks (and losing focus from active listening, discussion and fully understanding another party).

To do that we connect the best Machine Learning practices with the modern interface. Now we operate on Microsoft Teams environment and have plans to introduce our product to more widely accepted video conferencing tools. All activities and functionalities are targeted to help end-users have better clarity on commitments made during the conference call and the potential impact of those.


The telephone totally revolutionized the way we could communicate with people all over the world. But then came email and took it to the next level. And then came text messaging. And then came video calls. And so on…What’s next? What’s just around the corner?

In this interview series, called ‘The Future Of Communication Technology’ we are interviewing leaders of tech or telecom companies who are helping to develop emerging communication technologies and the next generation of how we communicate and connect with each other.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Vytenis Pakėnas.

Vytenis Pakėnas, during his 15 years in the IT industry, was helping companies from Start-Ups to Enterprises in Europe to benefit from various processes of digitalization and transformation. With his latest venture, Vytenis focuses on communication, speech, and AI technologies to improve productivity within remote teams and help manage expectations among the stakeholders. Vytenis is always willing to share his knowledge on IT best practices, which can be introduced to the more “standard” businesses and innovation brought by advancing tech.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

For as long as I remember, I loved to create stuff — Lego buildings, paper planes with metal engines that could never lift off no matter the number of batteries I was adding (laughing), or the first small computer programs on Turbo Pascal. It was easy for me to decide to stay in the IT industry. Especially due to my family’s support and the opportunity to take risks, explore and find myself.

Professional career started in the PM role, and quickly I grew to a PO position where I was responsible for multiple product development. Bridging IT and non-IT people was always my thing. Soon with my colleague from NGO, we started a new company that grew to the biggest marketplace of handmade items in Lithuania. With a terrible business model. A really terrible one. ☺

These lessons quickly enabled us to create an IT company providing web development services. We helped shape ideas and build digital products for offline businesses, bringing new product development for various clients, including corporates like Tele2, Bonnier Publications Group, and more. Due to our small and ambitious team, a need to work remotely, adapt, take the best practices, improve, sell and repeat the process was always here. We had multiple iterations of Digital Transformation inside. We helped a lot of businesses to get change and finally our company was acquired.

After some reflection, I understood what I want to do — to bring clear, easy to understand — lucid communication to remote teams. That’s how my new venture — Lucid Agreements and its first product isLucid was born. With COVID-19, 90% of our communication became fully digital. This transformation brought us the opportunity to help capture every detail we share for the task we create. Many standard businesses are now playing and adopting Agile principles and Tools, mainly used in IT before. IsLucid on MS Teams captures what was said (transcribes), helps identify action items, and creates those as tasks in existing PM tools. Also generates meeting minutes.

Now 99% of my time goes to listen to the client’s needs actively and shaping the product, so in this time of “forced digital transformation” businesses and people would benefit the most. At the same moment transforming our own company too.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

There were so many things that happened that it is super hard to choose one. But let’s get back in time to 2006. I was raised in a middle-class family in Central Europe, Lithuania. Was on my last year in high school before going to university and plaid already for a few years text-based online strategy game NukeZone. These days gaming was not cool and was considered a waste of time. Yet I enjoyed it a lot.

A clan member shared a job ad — the biggest telco provider in Lithuania was looking for a news administrator. It was a summertime position I applied for and was invited for an interview. Not sure if any part of my experience playing online strategy and doing personal small web projects appeared relevant to them, or if they had no other candidates. But I got the job. So that’s me — sleeping in the house my family was building back then to secure it from potential theft, then walking at 5–6 AM to home to get in front of my computer and making decisions about what site visitors will read (mostly accepting all, lol).

Another passion I had was electronic music. One of the icons back in the days was doing a gig in Lithuania. And brave underqualified me asked my supervisors if I can present myself to gig organizers as a news reporter. It took some time and that’s me — a 19 years old boy who was doing simple HTML and enjoyed online games sitting in front of the superstar DJ — DJ Tiesto. I will not pretend I was the smartest reporter in the audience. I wasn’t even a real reporter. But then I understood one thing which followed me throughout my professional career.

I must take chances and only by doing this, I can advance my career at a fast pace. These changes will require time, energy, effort, sacrifices of other things. And will reward from time to time greatly. Only if the chance is taken. And till this day I occasionally find time to listen to the good old Trance. ☺

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“The graveyards are full of people the world could not do without”. This quote is like an onion with lots of layers. It sends a message about personal health, about priorities in personal life. It also indicates the need for processes and joint motivators (values, mission, purpose) to keep people moving. It shows that we need to react quickly as we never know when the end will come. Finally, it is a reminder to seek meaning in everything you do. Because it can be the last thing you did…

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Recognizing people is important and a thing I could do more. Without recognition, they cannot know what a big part of your life they do. I want to recognize all the support provided to me by my family. I know seeing a husband, a father not enough at home is hard. And this personal time debt I have to the family could kill all the activities I am doing. Yet I am really thankful for the space provided by my wife and my son who accept that father loves “doing programmatic robots”.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Sharing knowledge and empowering others is the biggest contribution I can think of doing myself these days. To do that, I participate in the Woman Go Tech project which encourages women to explore opportunities within the Tech community. Within the mentorship program, it brings me a chance to dedicate some of the time to help others jumping into digital life.

I also like helping people develop themselves in early career life. People development is not a widely recognized activity, especially in the business world, yet it is super rewarding. Dedicating time, bringing opportunities, encouraging people to take on those, and later on, following up on their careers — it really inspires me. And, hopefully, this little contribution makes the world a better place.

Ok wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about the cutting edge communication tech that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

isLucid is a super exciting product together with the team we are building now. isLucid enables people within conference calls to capture verbally arranged details with the help of transcription and instantly create action items — tasks, meeting minutes items, etc. Within already existing project management tools. We bring transparency, enable people to be more effective within their communication, and most important — let people focus on the conversation instead of taking tasks (and losing focus from active listening, discussion and fully understanding another party).

To do that we connect the best Machine Learning practices with the modern interface. Now we operate on Microsoft Teams environment and have plans to introduce our product to more widely accepted video conferencing tools. All activities and functionalities are targeted to help end-users have better clarity on commitments made during the conference call and the potential impact of those.

How do you think this might change the world?

It is already changing. From our users, we hear that isLucid is already changing some of the habits for remote teams. Now, when 90% of the communication happens over digital channels, we bring peace of mind for capturing notes. Users are delighted and less stressed during the conversation if they forgot to note something and after the conversation, if a task was successfully delegated.

Our long-term vision wraps around the idea that people with the assistance of AI will be capable of making evidence-based decisions on the go. We believe that there is not always enough time to analyze all the environment and make smart decisions as long as we don’t get needed assistance. AI brings this capacity to analyze information, context and helps to make better decisions and do follow-ups on those.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

With the increased usage of videoconferencing and no physical presence, identity theft will be a big thing. In not regulated environments (think of joining a conversation with a random email) deepfakes create a threat of almost any kind of misuse of data, decisions made and more dangerous activities involved. Can you imagine somebody pretending to be you in a call with your client? Using your voice, your phrase is rendered to tell that your company has changed its bank account and from today invoice should be paid to an account, operated by hackers? I not only can but already know how it could be done.

Another sensitive topic is the ethics of AI. When you think about it — it’s just a set of rules which were learned based on the user’s input. It involves all the pre-justice, all stereotypes we have. Also, it affects the decisions we are making. There is always a threat that we will have a huge gap in terms of gender, social background, bias in the company, and so on. To close this gap it will be even harder as AI might not get any kind of feedback about the experiments, about the impact of those. And how could it, if even ourselves we do not reflect much? These are hard questions on which industry should focus now (and some of the companies are focusing). Without answers to the questions, we will have improved life due to better statistics. Not the groundbreaking environment change for the good. ☺

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

Before doing DoneDeal Today (an early version of isLucid) I owned a development house that was acquired. Before, during, and after the acquisition with my co-founder of that company we were discussing what could have led to the better outcome. And we identified the main problem — following up on verbally made agreements and all the details that were decided. The tipping point was my understanding that there is a technology for voice to text which I use daily. Just I never used it in my business environment as it was too hard to use. Once I understood technology is here, it took many months to “make friends with it” so it could solve this simple pain point I had — capturing important details and ensuring that those are not lost. This was the AHA! Moment.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

Sales and communication. To spread our technology, we need to communicate with our potential users — to explain why they need our technology, how life will be easier with our technology and what are the benefits. To do that, we communicate via social media channels, via mail, and also articles help us to spread the message to an even wider audience. In addition, our sales team is doing a wonderful job which yet we need to scale.

Will to automate. There are many “old school” businesses that think that they don’t need any advanced technologies. They just like things the way they are. We need to help these businesses understand the benefits and opportunities brought with COVID-19 and educate them. We are already doing some of these activities and plans to expand on those.

The pandemic has changed so many things about the way we behave. One of them of course, is how we work and how we communicate in our work. How do you think your innovation might be able to address the new needs that have arisen as a result of the pandemic?

With COVID-19, we face a real lockdown. It means that we are forced to have full digital communication. With this online communication, there comes a lot of challenges. For example, if you are using online communication tools like MS Teams and you’re having an online team meeting, it is hard to concentrate on the topic being discussed because you also have to take notes. Manual note-taking, clarifications on tasks, spending time on creating warp-up emails could be a real headache. With isLucid, you forget about that — you can only focus on what matters the most — communication.

Another change coming into play is us understanding that we don’t need as much traveling as we needed before. A business meeting? A project kick-off? Challenges in the middle of it? All now is handled online. With tools enabling to work effectively, with methodologies transformed and applied to the current environment (who remembers bringing an assistant to the meeting to take notes?), with AI supporting decision-making process isLucid helps to be more effective and therefore have less stress within the online-first environment.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  • Investors love good news, and they can handle bad news, but they will not tolerate surprises. It’s critical to communicate early and with transparency on what is expected, especially if it is bad news.
  • Finding qualified and professional people is hard. If you’ve ever tried hiring new employees, then you probably know how hard it is to find high-quality candidates. If you want to hire the people you need who will do the quality of work you desire, you may need to change how you approach the recruiting process.
  • Research is cheap and it is a great way to start. You’re not going to succeed at business without doing market research. How else are you going to find out if there will be any kind of demand for your idea, who will want to buy it, the size of the market not to mention how you’re positioned relative to competitors?
  • It’s not only about the money. If you’re starting your new project just for money, most likely that it will fail or you’ll be unmotivated for the rest of the time. Money is great and it comes as an additional resource but you should also focus on other things — the value you bring to the stakeholders: final customers, your team, and all the people you can serve.
  • It’s important to empower your team. Many organizations have been trying to shift from a model of authoritarian leadership to a model of worker empowerment. Empowerment is an active process. It involves coaching or teaching team members to self-serve, to become adaptive, to make decisions, and to use less of their managers’ time on things that really don’t require their managers’ attention.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Read a sci-fi book and brainstorm how it could become reality. Really, there are so many inspiring ideas already shared by the novelists. If we could just join our efforts, the great ideas put on the paper would come to reality faster. And except for travel faster than light, I cannot think of many things we, as a society, are not capable of creating now.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Readers can find us (isLucid) on social media (FB, LinkedIn, Twitter) to follow what we have done, get some tips and hear new things about project management, work efficiency, and communication. Also, they can subscribe to our website www.islucid.com to stay in touch and get valuable information. Last but not least check our applications in Microsoft Appsource.

To reach me out personally just ping me on LinkedIn or Twitter.

Thank you so much for the time you spent doing this interview. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success.


About The Interviewer: David Liu is the founder and CEO of Deltapath, an award-winning unified communications company that liberates organizations from the barriers of effective communication. Liu is known for his visionary leadership, organic growth strategies, and future-forward technology. Liu is highly committed to achieving a greater purpose with technology. Liu’s business insights are regularly featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, Tech Crunch, and more.

Ro Kalonaros of Omnicom Group: How To Communicate With Your Team Effectively Even If You Are Rarely In The Same Physical Space

I work in a creative industry and creativity definitely benefits from getting people together in a room to properly convey the energy around their ideas and get into the weeds to workshop them. Our work is to connect our clients more closely to their consumers, to create deeply personal human experiences, and so that human connection in the conception of those ideas and in selling them to a client are definitely more robust when you’re in-person.

And then it’s those impromptu interactions in the day-to-day, those chances you get to actually check in on someone and see how they’re doing, to bounce an idea off of someone, to have serendipitous experiences that remind you why you work somewhere and why you’re so connected to the mission of the company.


We are living in a new world in which offices are becoming obsolete. How can teams effectively communicate if they are never together? Zoom and Slack are excellent tools, but they don’t replicate all the advantages of being together. What strategies, tools and techniques work to be a highly effective communicator, even if you are not in the same space?

In this interview series, we are interviewing business leaders who share the strategies, tools and techniques they use to effectively and efficiently communicate with their team who may be spread out across the world. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewingRo Kalonaros.

Ro brings Omnicom’s culture to life across the global holding company and leads content for OMC Hive, Omnicom’s internal knowledge-sharing platform, designed to provide key business and cultural intelligence for 200+ agencies and 70,000+ employees within the Omnicom Global network. You can hear from Ro as a cohost on Adweek’s newest podcast, Marketer Momentum, and at conferences and events as a speaker on topics like workplace culture, mentorship, and more. She is a triathlete, bookworm, and former punk rocker. Ask her about olive oil.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Igraduated college and dove headfirst into the publishing industry as it was going through massive transformation. As part of a scrappy digital editorial team during the advent of social media, I had my hands in stories from beginning to end, from writing to editing to video production to social. When the magazine was sold, I took my social skills to the startup world, where I learned how to manage global teams and think like an entrepreneur. I left to get an informal education in advertising and marketing at Omnicom, working at the global holding company level, first in bringing innovation to our agencies, and now by building culture and experience for the network.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I used to moonlight as the lead singer of a surf punk band. About a year ago, I got a message from the drummer of the band saying, “I think I’m getting work emails from you…” Turns out she started working as a producer at one of our agencies! I continue to marvel at how small the world really is. A person from one area of your life can appear in another area in the blink of an eye, which speaks to the need to be really deliberate about your relationships.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I always come back to this Italian proverb: “When the game is over, the king and the pawn go back in the same box.”

Where I sit in my company, I have to interface with employees at every level and from every discipline. I look to learn from the most junior folks just as much as I look to learn from the C-suite. I treat everyone I meet with the same level of respect. There is no room for ego if you want to grow and get better and smarter. You should never feel like you are above anyone, because you’ll only limit yourself.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I’m endlessly grateful to my boss, Peter Sherman. In my previous position, I worked with him on a few projects and he was kind enough to keep in touch and check in after, whether it was work-related or chatting about music. When it was time for him to extend his team, he saw my value and pulled me up to join. I am beyond grateful that he not only champions my ideas, but gives me the floor to present them.

Ok wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. The pandemic has changed so many things about the way we behave. One of them of course, is how we work and how we communicate in our work. Many teams have started working remotely. Working remotely can be very different than working with a team that is in front of you. This provides great opportunity but it can also create unique challenges. To begin, can you articulate for our readers a few of the main benefits of having a team physically together?

I work in a creative industry and creativity definitely benefits from getting people together in a room to properly convey the energy around their ideas and get into the weeds to workshop them. Our work is to connect our clients more closely to their consumers, to create deeply personal human experiences, and so that human connection in the conception of those ideas and in selling them to a client are definitely more robust when you’re in-person.

And then it’s those impromptu interactions in the day-to-day, those chances you get to actually check in on someone and see how they’re doing, to bounce an idea off of someone, to have serendipitous experiences that remind you why you work somewhere and why you’re so connected to the mission of the company.

On the flip side, can you articulate for our readers a few of the main challenges that arise when a team is not in the same space?

Culture suffers in a completely remote working environment. You have to remember, most of our teams have had a working relationship and built up trust and camaraderie through shared experience in a physical environment. For new folks on a team, it’s difficult to adjust into that and build the same level of relationships and access to information.

In a remote world, people also become siloed. It’s important for people to understand how their team and their department fits into the larger structure and mission of the organization, and in a remote working environment it’s easy to forget other departments even exist. In the days of the office, you could chat with Dan from L&D about what he was working on and float an idea on a training module your team would find useful. Now you have to actively seek those opportunities out.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges? What are your “5 Things You Need To Know To Communicate With Your Team Effectively Even If You Are Rarely In The Same Physical Space ? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Be deliberate about creating shared human experiences: Take a class or attend a virtual event with your team. Celebrate accomplishments together. Create something as a collective. This is the best way to replicate those bonds you make in the physical world.
  2. Be purposeful with communication: We have to democratize access to information and be extremely thoughtful about how we communicate and the cadence of that communication. Junior employees, women, and people of color are often left out of important conversations, so be diligent about being inclusive in your communications. When you email after hours and it’s not urgent, include “For tomorrow” or “No response needed” in the subject line.
  3. Make culture the responsibility of every single employee: Culture is as much bottom-up as it is top-down. The more people invest and contribute, the more they feel connected to their work and their teammates.
  4. Connect your communications outlets: When your communications are disparate it becomes overwhelming and difficult to track. Things start to slip through the cracks. Create frameworks and templates for your communication processes. What gets sent over email vs. instant message? Where are files accessed and how are they organized? Make sure it connects in a way that is intuitive and accessible to all team members.
  5. Listen: Ask people how they absorb information best. Understand what processes work for them. Dig into what motivates them and what excites them. This is how you will take your team from good to great. Make your team’s day-to-day easier so they can focus on doing their best work.

One way we’re bringing all of this to life is through our internal knowledge-sharing platform. Through this platform, we are able to share case studies, research, and resources across teams; recognize our employees for their work and accomplishments; and celebrate our purpose and diversity. It allows our people to both give and take in a really meaningful way that connects them to their colleagues and the vision of the company. People are eager to contribute and learn.

Has your company experienced communication challenges with your workforce working from home during the pandemic? For example, does your company allow employees to use their own cell phones or do they use the company’s phone lines for work? Can you share any other issues that came up?

We were fortunate to have already been in the process of adopting Microsoft Teams when COVID-19 hit, but it had to be fast-tracked. The biggest challenge was getting everyone educated on how to most effectively use it, especially as new features continue to roll out every day. What we found most helpful was creating frameworks and templates we could lift and tweak from team to team.

Let’s zoom in a bit. Many tools have been developed to help teams coordinate and communicate with each other. In your personal experiences which tools have been most effective in helping to replicate the benefits of being together in the same space?

Microsoft Teams has been the most helpful because of how integrated all of the functionality is. You can go from chatting to video conferencing to collaboratively working on a document seamlessly. Quirky additions like the ability to have a meeting in a fishbowl add a little lightness and levity to a more informal meeting. While features like whiteboard have a long way to go, they’re definitely useful.

If you could design the perfect communication feature or system to help your business, what would it be?

The ability to project ourselves into a meeting room via a hologram Star Wars-style!

My particular expertise and interest is in Unified Communications. Has the pandemic changed the need or appeal for unified communications technology requirements? Can you explain?

I just went on and on about Microsoft Teams, so I fully agree with the need for unified communications technology. What’s been even more powerful is the ability to integrate our own proprietary knowledge-sharing platform into Microsoft Teams. It’s been a game-changer to join these two technologies to create something custom to our organization.

The technology is rapidly evolving and new tools like VR, AR, and Mixed Reality are being developed to help bring remote teams together in a shared virtual space. Is there any technology coming down the pipeline that excites you?

I could definitely see VR/AR/MR being useful. It won’t solve the challenge of those impromptu moments, but I can see it being extremely useful for global teams to build camaraderie so that when they are finally all in the same room in a physical world, they can really hit the ground running.

Is there a part of this future vision that concerns you? Can you explain?

We are humans. We need physical interaction and human experiences. We need to find the correct balance between physical and virtual — I don’t see it as being one or the other, but a really purposeful combination of the two. There need to be safeguards in place to combat the always-on nature of remote working. Burnout is very real right now and mental health is more at risk than ever. As we approach the future of work, we need to build with these tensions at the forefront.

So far we have discussed communication within a team. How has the pandemic changed the way you interact and engage your customers? How much of your interactions have moved to digital such as chatbots, messaging apps, phone, or video calls?

Our customers are huge global corporations and brands. Some of them are already asking us to meet in person again. It goes back to that camaraderie and trust and the presentation of creative ideas. Connections are created with emotion and empathy, both of which are much stronger in a physical setting. That being said, we have found creative ways to engage over video! It’s forced us to think outside the box and find new ways to communicate our personality and unique value.

In my experience, one of the trickiest parts of working with a remote team is giving honest feedback, in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. If someone is in front of you much of the nuance can be picked up in facial expressions and body language. But not when someone is remote. Can you give a few suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote team member?

Always give this feedback with the video on. Try to limit distractions as much as possible so you can give your full focus to this person. And start the conversation with empathy. Really inquire about what is going on with that person and how they’re doing. Ask about their challenges and frustrations and then try to tailor your feedback as solutions to those challenges and frustrations.

Can you give any specific ideas about how to create a sense of camaraderie and team cohesion when you are not physically together?

Have more fun. Find opportunities for playfulness in your meetings. Start with a game or a song. When people present, encourage them to make it interactive and find ways for the audience to participate. It’s easy to tune out when you’re not actively engaging, even when you genuinely want to focus, so involving everyone keeps people present and makes the experience much richer.

Schedule 5 or 10-minute check-ins that function as ‘water cooler’ conversations. Ask what’s inspiring someone or what’s exciting them, both in and out of work. Find out what they did over the weekend. These moments create trust and empathy.

Ok wonderful. We are nearly done. Here is our last “meaty” question. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Find someone who has the same passion as you but is different in every other way and mentor them. Give a shot to someone who may have been overlooked. Really listen to them. It’s an opportunity for both of you to expand and grow.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn! I love when people start conversations in the comments.

Thank you so much for the time you spent doing this interview. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success.


About The Interviewer: David Liu is the founder and CEO of Deltapath, an award-winning unified communications company that liberates organizations from the barriers of effective communication. Liu is known for his visionary leadership, organic growth strategies, and future-forward technology. Liu is highly committed to achieving a greater purpose with technology. Liu’s business insights are regularly featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, Tech Crunch, and more.

The Future of Communication Technology: Chris Marsh of VyprVPN On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up How We Connect and Communicate With Each Other

VyprVPN is a personal VPN product that encrypts internet connections to secure them. It allows users to mask their true IP address and geolocation, and to access a free and open internet from anywhere in the world.

When it comes to communications technologies, VyprVPN is instrumental in providing encryption on top of the other communications technologies people use. Our mission as a company, then, is to make sure it’s safe for people to communicate online. Whether communicating via video conferencing, messaging, email, or any other channel, we are committed to providing people with the tools to protect themselves online and maintain control over their information and internet experience. We help people by allowing them to rest easy knowing their connection is encrypted and thus secure.


The telephone totally revolutionized the way we could communicate with people all over the world. But then came email and took it to the next level. And then came text messaging. And then came video calls. And so on…What’s next? What’s just around the corner?

In this interview series, called ‘The Future Of Communication Technology’ we are interviewing leaders of tech or telecom companies who are helping to develop emerging communication technologies and the next generation of how we communicate and connect with each other.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Christopher Marsh, a highly accomplished Technology Executive with extensive experience providing strategic vision and leadership to dynamic global companies. He has an impressive history of building agile, technology-enabled organizations with a record of developing integrated strategies for the implementation of B2C and B2B solutions and the deployment of global projects.

Currently Christopher is the Vice President of Technology for Powerhouse Management leading IT Operations, Business Intelligence and Software Development for all Powerhouse brands, including Powerhouse Management, Data Foundry, Giganews, Golden Frog, and Texas.net. During his tenure, Christopher has built a growth-minded Technology organization and consistently guided the team to develop strategies to improve operational processes, deliver cost savings, and drive customer experience.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Igrew up in a technology family. My father worked in the oil industry as an Automation Specialist where he designed automation systems for oil platforms. As a result I’ve had my hands in technologies since I was young; I started working with technology even before I got my driver’s license! Solving problems through technology has always come naturally to me, and I knew it this what I wanted to do since I was a kid.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

About 13 years ago, after attending an in-person Tech class, I was offered a job teaching classes to others. I decided to leave traditional IT and transitioned from management and technology-related roles to become a teacher. Although this was something I never imagined I’d do, it actually became a passion of mine. To teach you have to become a true expert and deeply understand what you’re teaching, which both drove me to get better at and pushed me to learn a broader range of specialties. The experience proved invaluable when I made the transition back into the corporate world.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“You can never make everyone happy.”

A major life lesson I’ve learned is that no matter how well you do, there will always be someone, somewhere, that is not happy with you. The reality of life is that you cannot make everyone happy all the time. But you can also never give up, and must strive to make things better and improve. It’s important to do the best you can and keep pushing forward for the rest of the people in the world you can make happy.

A personal example of this is something that happened while I was teaching. One day, one of my students approached me and told me I was the worst instructor she ever had. Despite having a 99% pass and satisfaction rate in my classes and a roomful of happy, engaged, and certified students, this individual was highly displeased. I had to learn from this, and it pushed me to grow and find a better way to reach my audience. I accepted that it’s impossible to make every single person happy; instead I focused my energies on the others. Most importantly, this experience taught me that it’s ok to fail sometimes.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My dad helped me to achieve success more than any other person in my life. He was a hard worker and made sacrifices to provide his family with a good life. I always looked up to him, and as I got older I began to understand his choices better, too. I learned my work ethic from my dad, for which I am truly grateful.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I believe strongly that our collective power as a group produces the best quality work. The absolute best decisions I’ve ever seen made — and the best products I’ve seen created — came from groups of people rather than individuals. I push this idea through my teams and the colleagues I work with, imparting that if you do things the best you can, with a positive attitude, and try to help people along the way, you will be in the best place possible.

I’ve used my success and leadership roles to lead by example, to mentor team members and to illustrate the power of positive collaboration. I spend as much time as I can helping people grow, both as individuals and within their careers.

Ok wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about cutting edge communication tech that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

VyprVPN is a personal VPN product that encrypts internet connections to secure them. It allows users to mask their true IP address and geolocation, and to access a free and open internet from anywhere in the world.

When it comes to communications technologies, VyprVPN is instrumental in providing encryption on top of the other communications technologies people use. Our mission as a company, then, is to make sure it’s safe for people to communicate online. Whether communicating via video conferencing, messaging, email, or any other channel, we are committed to providing people with the tools to protect themselves online and maintain control over their information and internet experience. We help people by allowing them to rest easy knowing their connection is encrypted and thus secure.

How do you think this might change the world?

The increasing adoption of VPNs and their continually-advancing technology means VPNs are in a position to change the world of communications as we know it. With so much of our lives taking place online I believe VPNs will eventually become ubiquitous; a tool for every type of internet user each time they connect. This use will provide new levels of privacy for the population. VPN technology also has the ability to change the world in terms of keeping people connected despite censorship efforts. At times of political unrest or conflict internet services are often disrupted, and VPNs allow people to bypass blocks and stay connected. This is a truly powerful capability that will shape our future.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

Black Mirror is an interesting show to say the least. It will make any viewer think of things they hadn’t previously considered. If anything, the show demonstrates the importance of protecting your information and your online activity. It shows how your private information and technology can then be used by others to turn a profit or to do harm.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

Honestly, I think most people have been oblivious to how much of their personal information is online and is actively being used by others for gain. Things like selling your information, using your information to better target you with ads online, and identity theft are commonplace. The possibilities are endless.

As time goes on, more and more information is being reported about the organizations profiting off user data, but overall the capabilities of bad actors are not well understood by the general public. I think the “tipping point” was the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal. To see that Facebook had all this information and they were sharing with others was a wakeup call for everyone. You really must think about how powerful your information can be in the hands of the wrong people.

I mean think about it a little…Google…Facebook…. Twitter…. Instagram. They know very detailed information about us. Who we spend our time with, who we are in relationships with, where we eat, what we eat, where we travel, who we travel with, who our children are, and even what schools they attend.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

I think consumers need to better understand how their data is being collected and how it can be used by others. There just isn’t enough information out there that is readily available and easy to understand. On the other hand, I believe we also need more education about how to protect yourself using a VPN and other security tools, such as antivirus software, secure browsers, and firewalls.

The pandemic has changed so many things about the way we behave. One of them of course, is how we work and how we communicate in our work. How do you think your innovation might be able to address the new needs that have arisen as a result of the pandemic?

The pandemic has shifted much of our lives online. From work to school, to happy hour to shopping, more activities than ever now take place on the internet. With all this activity comes increased risks to privacy and security — and an increased need for online protection. While a VPN has always been an important tool, now more than ever it’s becoming a must-have for all internet users and has expanded beyond just the privacy-conscious. VPNs are positioned to keep people private and safe, and to allow people to stay in touch and continue with life both in and outside their homes.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. It’s ok to say “I don’t know”

We aren’t born into this word knowing everything, and no matter how hard we try over the course of our life we will never know everything. It took me a long time to understand that I don’t have to have the answer immediately all the time. I really learned this when I was teaching. I got to meet many different technologists that used the same technologies in many different ways. This always led to the inevitable “Can I ask you a question?” between classes. I quickly learned that even though I knew the technology, I didn’t know how to manage it under every circumstance. I always used the whiteboard to track these questions in a “parking lot” section of the board. I would write questions down that I didn’t know the answer to. Then I would try to figure out the answer.

This translates to many different situations I find myself in today. From one-on-one meetings, to leadership meetings, and all meetings in between. “I don’t know, but I’ll find out and get back to you” goes a long way.

2. Welcome tough conversations.

Tough conversations are important and necessary. These conversations are what allow you to move forward quickly. Whether you are receiving critical feedback or giving critical feedback, tough conversations provide the opportunity for growth.

3. It’s OK to fail.

There is no doubt that you learn a lot from success. However, I think there is even more to learn from failure. We learn what we did wrong, what we need to not do again and what we should continue doing that was successful. I generally try to live by the “fail fast” methodology. It’s better to take two steps forward and one step back than it is to not move at all.

4. Do what you love.

This is a point that is overstated however cannot be stressed enough. Take the time to figure out what you love, what keeps your wheels spinning, and do it. Your greatest success is excelling at a career for which you have a deep-rooted passion.

5. Surround yourself with people smarter than you.

The most effective way to continue to grow and develop is to seek out and learn from those that are smarter than you. If you allow yourself to be humble and surround yourself with people that you can continue to learn from, consequentially you will thrive.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 😊

I would work to reduce divisiveness in our country and reduce the polarization that exists. This polarization prevents us from working together and collaborating to make things better for everyone. How can we move quickly in the right direction as one if we are trying to get to separate destinations?

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can follow me personally on LinkedIn and keep updated on what VyprVPN is doing on our company website.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


About The Interviewer: David Liu is the founder and CEO of Deltapath, an award-winning unified communications company that liberates organizations from the barriers of effective communication. Liu is known for his visionary leadership, organic growth strategies, and future-forward technology. Liu is highly committed to achieving a greater purpose with technology. Liu’s business insights are regularly featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, Tech Crunch, and more.

The Future of Communication Technology: Maxim Ivanov of Aimprosoft On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up How We Connect and Communicate With Each Other

Besides the need for SaaS, we saw the market insight in the simply deployed solution. We’ve been working under the asynchronous communication channel for business communication for enterprises, putting the data transmission security predominant. It’s called Aimchat.

Companies go through the hassle, but all ingenious is simple: you just got to think strategically rather than complicate. Aimchat solves a big challenge in a simple way. It is open-source, which means no backdoors. It matters for those who are obsessed with the issue of security and privacy.


The telephone totally revolutionized the way we could communicate with people all over the world. But then came email and took it to the next level. And then came text messaging. And then came video calls. And so on…What’s next? What’s just around the corner?

In this interview series, called ‘The Future Of Communication Technology’ we are interviewing leaders of tech or telecom companies who are helping to develop emerging communication technologies and the next generation of how we communicate and connect with each other.

As part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Maxim Ivanov, CEO & Co-Founder of Aimprosoft, a Ukrainian software development company, one of the leading technology providers according to Clutch rating for 2020. In his role, Maxim leads the company helping businesses in retail, eCommerce, automotive, telecom, healthcare, real estate, education, manufacturing, and other domains to succeed in attaining their business goals due to innovative software solutions.

Having a Master’s Degree in Computer Science and strategic vision, he helps SMB and enterprises profit faster based on his belief that technology is the best communication means in business. Maxim is trying to be helpful to the community by sharing valuable industry insights within the media space.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Sport helps many to develop a sense of purpose, a thirst for victory, to become the best, and I did it because I liked it, which is probably why I do everything in my life, so that I take pleasure in it, and as a result, I get what I like.

I’ve been helping to improve communication from business to business for over 20 years, 15 of which while leading my own company Aimprosoft. It is not an easy job when you always have to be at the peak of innovation to do everything of the highest caliber to deliver the goods.

I grew up in the most beautiful city Kharkiv of the most beautiful country Ukraine being around the spirit of survival with not so easy historical events as I would want. If there were not so many obstacles in my life associated with gaining my first professional experience and the first steps in my career, maybe I would not have become what I have become. I seized a single opportunity to start back at the break of the сenturies. Feeling progress in meaningful work motivated me early in my professional areas and continues to excite me today.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

As I mentioned, since childhood I have been involved in a lot of sports, in different types: skating, cross-country and mountain skiing, cycling, ping pong, swimming, many things turned out well, but I’ve never gone to professional sports as well as I’ve never taken myself as an entrepreneur too much seriously.

This is a paradox: favoring individual sports, I’ve never seen myself as a sole proprietor. I created my own “aim” team but did it together with my business partner Igor. In such a way, our entrepreneurial partnership opened me up that moving together with associates can bring more fascinating things.

I wasn’t in search of someone. It came naturally when Igor hired me for my first position as a Java developer. Now the two of us take the helm of Aimprosoft, building a business that demonstrates two heads are better than one.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Where there is a will, there’s a way” to me this proverb is always to date. It’s about the tenacity of purpose. Our life requires creative productivity every day, whether it’s working tasks or day-to-day matters. I’m just reminding myself of these words to ignite my emotions and fuel my motivation.

Sure, self-doubt is common to everyone. Getting rid of it helps me manage ebbing motivation and intensify the desire to achieve something. I set my mind to cope with tasks, and I do it moving forward. I even catch sight of how people surrounding me follow my example of behavior through the progress and setbacks of the work. You know, it’s inspiring, really.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My wife, Marina. “Marina,” in this case, is my safe place to renew energy resources. We got married right after graduating college; she is a steady source of inspiration and backing, she has been still close from the very beginning, and I am very grateful to her for being in my life. Far beyond her love and faith, I owe a lot to her. She is next to me during the most extreme adventures and the most profound grief.

She understands me like no one else, but she does not understand anything about my topic)) That is one more thing that keeps us close.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Youth is the future potential of society.

Young Ukrainians live in a society in which creating sustainable career opportunities is complex. Entrepreneurs are responsible for motivating for work the young generation and giving an impetus to the career. We created a Trainee Program for young people studying at colleges to support their willingness to bring value from the early years. After a mentor course of theory and practice into the ratio of 20 to 80, trainees get a deep immersion into live programming tasks.

I sincerely believe when you have succeeded in something, you can share a piece of it by mentoring and helping the upcoming generation in their first job. You know how incredible these guys are! They learn on the fly despite everybody talking about their absent-mindedness, passivity, and lack of ambition.

An increase in psychological pressure due to cultural life complications now entails the need for a more competent distribution of time and effort. My personal task by mentoring is to create the next generation of critical thinkers turning into conscious doers.

Ok wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about the cutting edge communication tech that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

We’ve seen how people have been increasingly called upon the emerging communication technologies to get connected for the last year. During my entrepreneurship, I’ve been observing a massive shift in communication, both private and business.

You know, cutting edge does not always mean nano-, neuro-, or other consonant phrase-baits catching our attention in concern of something futuristic. The future of communication technology goes far beyond the technology itself. It means changing, first of all, the communication concept. An apt example of it is the pandemic-hyping free-flowing conversation via Clubhouse. Until we go over all the possible communication methods in social networks and messengers, not saturate with them, we won’t be ready for digital telepathy.

I will not tell you anything new by saying that a communication style akin to social networks is actively used in business. Often, entrepreneurs themselves are the initiators of emerging products having data and market insights.

Besides the need for SaaS, we saw the market insight in the simply deployed solution. We’ve been working under the asynchronous communication channel for business communication for enterprises, putting the data transmission security predominant. It’s called Aimchat.

Companies go through the hassle, but all ingenious is simple: you just got to think strategically rather than complicate. Aimchat solves a big challenge in a simple way. It is open-source, which means no backdoors. It matters for those who are obsessed with the issue of security and privacy.

How do you think this might change the world?

Technology has gone too far, take it from me, the person who actually creates these very technologies. It affects the culture of communication, going far beyond the familiar live conversation pulling out our society from its natural evolution forever.

Tech-dependent communication engenders new habits in a person. Instead of the previously usual mode of waiting and patience, a lightning-quick response from the interlocutor becomes natural. If earlier we were not lazy to go to the telegraph office, send a telegram to invite for a call, now we dream by one thought in our heads to provoke the interlocutor’s response. Look, indefatigable Elon came up with the idea of ​​sticking a chip into the neocortex of the human brain. Doing it is half the battle, but how to control it?

You know, creating the technology of future communication, a human is in a race to unravel the essence of existence or beat the laws of the universe. Evolving, man has found a way to solve an incredible number of his problems — with the help of technology.

We are on the cusp of technological telepathy. To communicate with the power of thought, for example, colossal expenditures of energy are required. Responsible for this will be our large and voracious brain that consumes a quarter of the energy of the human body. Am I personally ready for this? It’s obvious for me to say “yes.” If we use technology, we will be able to escalate contactless communication without violence to the body quickly. At the same time, we still have spheres of life to apply straightforward solutions to cope with global problems.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

Oh, that’s a tough question.

Of course, it is fantastic that we would keep everything in the head and live free of devices one day. The thing that hits me there is if technology enables us someday to reach each other via “brain to brain communication,” will this not be a total violation of personal boundaries when we do not have a single opportunity to stay alone? Seamless communication in the future means a violation of our privacy, don’t you think so?

A flip side of the matter is that increasing information volume, both private and business, floats away into the network. Social media algorithms know a lot more about us than we know ourselves. My point is we should keep things in the middle here. We are more vulnerable than we think. People should take responsibility for their mind control and digital hygiene.

Talking about business, there are some things that you can’t grasp with your brains: business intelligence, for example. In cases when you need to process a large amount of data and analyze it, you need to bring graphics into a human-readable form to make certain decisions, you can’t rely on your brain only. I’m highlighting two concerns related to technology usage: seamlessness and privacy. When comes the first, the second is violated.

2020 threw us into technology’s arms. Yes, due to alternative communication methods, many of us really survived and didn’t go crazy being isolated. However, if we go beyond and let our fears push ourselves around, we can forget that we are human with souls.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

Business communicates by documents. The central part of our work is delivering solutions to streamline business relationships. Our customers are our drivers most of all.

The business information leaves your side and is used by third parties uncontrollably. The idea to deliver messenger for large enterprises that put data transmission security at the forefront was born in an environment full of corporate chatting. At that time, there were no similar solutions that allowed us to have a controlled information space. Our guys made an application for themselves and then got carried away, so we decided to get down to business more seriously.

Data transmission channels are encrypted there as well as access to the server that is severely restricted also. So, you set up the application on your local server and have total control of your data. Our parallel data science division already has good groundwork, and the day is not far off when the guys will surprise me with new business communication opportunities.

Clients often inquire about the data protection of their business from threats of information breaches. I adhere to the same opinion. And by my own example, I wanted to show a simple way of how to do this.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

Leadership consciousness and awareness of technological advances.

Here we should take into account the upcoming generation. Today’s youth are tomorrow’s leaders. Sharing their thoughts via social networks, they form a fundamentally different conception of privacy than people of my generation. They will project their way of thinking when coming to run a company.

Sure, oral messaging is still the most controllable way of communication. Humanity started to invent trackable solutions to record messages, which was caused by oblivion, distrust, lies, willing to save heritage, and we wanted to communicate across generations. Communication is one of the essential parts of socialization and even survival in the world. With technologies here to stay, we are able to coordinate communication at scale, and it’s really great.

We must mentor young people, get them on the right track, and instill eternal values ​​to our children, helping our society evolve while preserving heritage.

The pandemic has changed so many things about the way we behave. One of them of course is how we work and how we communicate in our work. How do you think your innovation might be able to address the new needs that have arisen as a result of the pandemic?

I should think so! Since early 2020 a need for simple and secure corporate messaging solutions that can help shift online quickly to reach each other is on the hype. Thus, Aimchat can help you tune up corporate communication.

Speaking about communication by documents, I have something on the issue also. According to our study, a lot of healthcare businesses still rely on a paper-based document workflow as the primary communication form. Electronic document management can significantly speed up communication between doctors and patients that is more relevant than ever given the rise of an online messaging style. Technologies give quick access to information when needed, cataloging, processing information, and obtaining statistical data, reliability in storage, information, roughly speaking, will not burn.

Later, personalization in customer communication will become the main driving force behind marketing. Companies have to invest in analytics to lead the trend, as I’ve accentuated, and be able to work with data now.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

1. It is necessary to delegate. You know, when you were able to create your own, it is very intimate for you, and no one can do your job better than you. You want to sit on two chairs, and the business grows, and the responsibilities accumulate. Hence, at one point, we stopped keeping up with the company’s growth rates. Here I realized that the time has come for delegation, and it turns out there are PMs, Scrum Masters, HRs, marketers, sales specialists who can do it more professionally than me, having only two hands. They became my complementary hands and bright minds. You can’t create strong leadership without delegating a part of your responsibilities. Now we keep the first-class hierarchy of team leads and the open door policy at the same time for everyone.

2. That I want to quit. Many times. Because being a CEO means that more often, you will be approached with a problem than with the phrase “Maxim, we did it and succeeded.” When your team members come to you day after day and your day consists of the fact that you have to sort out something regularly. It was not easy for me, young and not ready enough to withstand such a pressing pile of problems, but I am not timid and am not used to giving up. I learned how to bend around trees going down a steep hill on a snowboard and extended this skill to the business.

3. The work will take too long. Many people think that being CEO in an IT company means taking a vacation at any time, driving cool cars, having business trips, VIP lunches, and getting unlimited money flows. No, guys. Being a CEO is, first of all, a huge responsibility that goes beyond being solely responsible for yourself. Once you get down to business, you must fulfill obligations to clients, employees, set everything up, and react to time changes opportunely. This is far from an 8-hour working day. In my case, this is more than half of my life. If someone had told me before I started, I would not have believed, maybe even answered that it would be different for me. During the past 15 years, I have had to revise my business time, and again, the IT industry itself implies the fastest pace that needs to be kept. Am I satisfied? Rather yes than no. Nothing in my life will give me more pleasure than what I do.

4. Start organizing processes within the company early. It’s funny to say that we were engaged in helping clients save people from routine tasks from the very beginning, giving them more time for creativity. When we started, I was concerned about delivering the work on time and completing the client’s tasks as accurately as possible. Together with my partner, we engaged great developers, released projects one by one, sometimes forgetting to even have lunch. Building processes seemed to be, in my opinion, a monotonous and infinitely long task that can be postponed because we are already coping with it, I thought. Funny thing, we put the foot in it ourselves.

We started with the one that affects the business results the most. I realized how vital effective communication is, be it verbal or non-verbal, to hear and be heard.

5. I need to analyze a company’s activities more to be more successful. If you let everything take its course, get carried away only with successful cases, you can lose your business. Focusing on victories alone inspires and motivates, but don’t forget about bottlenecks. Based on my experience, the CEO position assumes 80% of the time to analyze performance. When we implement automation systems for our clients, I emphasize our PMs have to ping them up regarding the analysis of implementation results. I got burned when I overlooked it in my business. Now I’m very particular about it in Aimprosoft and taking care of the clients as well.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Sport. I am for a healthy lifestyle, that’s why we at Aimprosoft promote sports and provide sports activities for employees in the network of fitness clubs. Some time ago, we even had yoga in the office gym. Mainly girls went there, and even one Java developer who meditated and did asanas in the morning. Ping-Pong is a must-have to balance the consequences of a sedentary lifestyle. Many aimprosofters were even keen on tournaments within the company, which definitely had a good effect on productivity. I love sports, and none of my vacations have looked like a couch potato rest throughout my life.

I would recommend changing and trying different activities to diversify the experience, get new experiences for the body and brain. You can afford a pack of chips, but this day, you must definitely go in for sports)) More often, ventilate your rooms and clear your heads!

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can reach me on Linkedin @MaximIvanov, where I share my opinions and insights on B2B-related topics, and check out our blog aimprosoft.com/blog/ with stories on business and technology.

Thank you so much for the time you spent doing this interview. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success.


About The Interviewer: David Liu is the founder and CEO of Deltapath, an award-winning unified communications company that liberates organizations from the barriers of effective communication. Liu is known for his visionary leadership, organic growth strategies, and future-forward technology. Liu is highly committed to achieving a greater purpose with technology. Liu’s business insights are regularly featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, Tech Crunch, and more.

The Future of Communication Technology: Jeff Laxson of VidDay On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up How We Connect and Communicate With Each Other

Even before the pandemic there was a need for digital interaction. People lead busy lives or live in different cities. And now, the rise of video calls and video messages are revolutionizing human digital interaction.

For example, social media promises to make us more connected. But that’s not really true. Saying “HBD” on someone’s Facebook wall to wish them a happy birthday has become acceptable… and so empty.

VidDay is getting people to snap out of this message-writing-coma. Unlike a video call, having a video recording creates a keepsake — a memory to relive. Your friends and family said some beautiful things to you that you can rewatch. You can see how they look and hear how they talk years from now. It’s like an archive of your friends and family.


The telephone totally revolutionized the way we could communicate with people all over the world. But then came email and took it to the next level. And then came text messaging. And then came video calls. And so on…What’s next? What’s just around the corner?

In this interview series, called ‘The Future Of Communication Technology’ we are interviewing leaders of tech or telecom companies who are helping to develop emerging communication technologies and the next generation of how we communicate and connect with each other.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jeff Laxson.

Jeff is the Co-founder and Creative Director at VidDay, the video gift startup that has helped more than 1 million people connect with surprise video gifts.

As he’s seen VidDay grow in popularity, Jeff has noted one major key point about communication: it’s evolving. We progressed from paper greeting cards to eCards, and now he believes video cards will be a big part of our future.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Sure! I grew up with a condition called Hemophilia. My blood doesn’t clot properly, which means that injuries are often much worse than they should be.

Being a Hemophiliac led me to calmer activities as a kid, like drawing. My love for art ultimately paved the way for my career as a graphic designer. It was perfect. I get paid to be creative, plus it’s something I can do even when I’m injured.

I worked as a designer at a marketing agency for 10 years, where I sharpened my design skills and learned to approach projects with a marketing lens. But there was always a part of me interested in building a business.

When Denis Devigne, Co-founder at VidDay, approached me in 2015 with his idea for VidDay, I was intrigued.

I loved the idea of building something wholesome to make so many people happy, and knew I could help develop the business and the brand with everything I’ve learned as a designer.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

We sent a VidDay to an astronaut living on the International Space Station!

The astronaut spent the holiday season away from friends and family for the first time. We were able to work with the family to create a very special VidDay full of heartwarming messages from their family, friends, and even a surprise video message from their idol, Marvel actor Idris Elba.

It was a surreal feeling seeing a reaction video of the astronaut watching their VidDay while floating in zero gravity. Having created something that made it up to the International Space Station to make an astronaut happy is by far the most exciting and heartwarming story of my career.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

That would be a quote from Jocko Willink: “Discipline equals freedom.”

Jocko used to be a Commander of the SEAL Task Unit Bruiser, who now focuses on teaching leadership principles.

No matter what you create in life, the first draft will never be good. And in that case, the second or third either. I would often bring work home and continue to iterate solutions off the clock without being paid. I saw it as an investment in myself, in developing my skills.

Treating every project with this mentality takes discipline. It meant missing some parties with friends or get-togethers with family. But it eventually brought me freedom. It opened doors for me. I was able to be more selective in the projects I took on, and make the jump from employee to business owner.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

That would be my old Creative Director and mentor, Colin Whitney. More than just design, he taught me how to be authentic in a professional setting, and build an effective creative team.

Colin had a natural intuition on cultivating a positive work culture. He was the model of what it’s like to be a true leader.

Being a good leader can be difficult in a fast-paced environment, but it’s the most critical skill to master. To this day, as VidDay continues to grow its team, I often think to myself, “What would Colin do?”

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

My team and I are working hard at building a company that’s good for people and the planet — to be a positive force in the world.

The videos we make at VidDay make people feel closer to their friends and family. We’re giving people a platform to express their love and appreciation.

Plus, we look for other ways to make a more significant impact. We plant a tree for every video sold. We make Get Well Videos for free to help support people going through a difficult time. All while giving people a way to provide an eco-friendly gift.

Ok wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about the cutting edge communication tech that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

We’re seeing a shift in how humans are communicating. But why use video instead of just writing a message?

One study estimated that 93 percent of the interpretation of human communication is significantly influenced by body language, attitude, and tone. 7 percent relies solely on the actual words used.

It’s so much more impactful seeing and hearing someone talk.

When the world went into lockdown and forced to find new ways to communicate, there was this sudden mass-adoption of video. A video would be all we had if we wanted to see each other.

And we’ve noticed a change in response from asking people to record video messages. People are contributing like it’s part of everyday life now. We’ve been able to break through video-recording-anxiety and into a more meaningful way to connect digitally.

How do you think this might change the world?

Even before the pandemic there was a need for digital interaction. People lead busy lives or live in different cities. And now, the rise of video calls and video messages are revolutionizing human digital interaction.

For example, social media promises to make us more connected. But that’s not really true. Saying “HBD” on someone’s Facebook wall to wish them a happy birthday has become acceptable… and so empty.

VidDay is getting people to snap out of this message-writing-coma.

Unlike a video call, having a video recording creates a keepsake — a memory to relive. Your friends and family said some beautiful things to you that you can rewatch. You can see how they look and hear how they talk years from now.

It’s like an archive of your friends and family.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

VidDay is so wholesome, so it’s difficult to imagine a scenario of it turning dark, but let’s try.

Imagine a scenario where a person has friends who they’ve met online. They’ve never met in person. Everything is digital now.

Every year, they make a VidDay to celebrate their birthday. They get to see and hear them say kind words, and it’s become a tradition.

Here’s the dark twist… little do they know that these ‘friends’ aren’t real. Each friend is a different avatar that a major corporation has created to build a more personal connection with them. Since people often buy products their friends recommend, they use their avatar to sell products.

In the end, the main character discovers the reality and is left perplexed. The person has grown to love these “friends” and needs to decide whether or not to continue this false reality because they bring happiness to their life.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

The pandemic has been the tipping point that has triggered the widespread adoption of video recording.

We always knew that things were heading in this direction, but we would have never guessed that a pandemic would dramatically accelerate this.

Smartphones are getting better and better, and with that, video content. Internet browsers are more able to handle large file sharing. And the market share for online greeting cards is increasing every year.

The icing on the cake was combining these aspects and provoking tears of joy. That’s when we knew we had something worth sharing.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

Our customers are our biggest cheerleaders. There is still some skepticism around video gifts and how complex this can be, but the more our customers share their own stories, the easier it will be to change the conversation around this.

Part of the reason why VidDay grew in popularity was because of how easy the platform is to use. You don’t need to download an app, have any editing skills, or go through the trouble or collecting multiple pieces of content yourself.

The more we can communicate how easy video gifts are to create, and the incredible impact they have on recipients, the more widespread these will become.

The pandemic has changed so many things about the way we behave. One of them of course is how we work and how we communicate in our work. How do you think your innovation might be able to address the new needs that have arisen as a result of the pandemic?

As we gain lots of benefits from working from home comfortably, we start to disconnect from that warm team feeling we get from an office.

No more watercooler talks, eating lunches together, or after-work beers… in person at least. We can continue to do all these things with video calls.

When it comes to celebrating special occasions in the office, we can ditch the greeting card that gets passed around and make a VidDay video. Instead of having a card filled with written messages, we get to see and hear our co-workers and colleagues wish their best.

It becomes a time-capsule of your job — a memory of the people who worked with you.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

1. It can be lonely.

I’m fortunate to have a supportive team to go along this journey with me. But even with that, being an entrepreneur can take over your life and leave relationships suffering at times.

2. Being busy is not a metric for success.

Someone can be working 80 hours a week and not accomplish anything of substance if they’re working on the wrong things. Having a proper strategy and prioritizing tasks is critical for productivity.

3. It’s going to take time.

I thought that we would build an app, and it would immediately take the world by storm. It’s been a humbling experience as I realized that creating something of value is very much a long game.

4. If you build it, it doesn’t mean they will come.

Telling the world about what you’ve built is just as important as building. It’s essential to put time into what you’re creating while simultaneously putting time into the brand and marketing.

5. Get enough sleep (most of the time).

Getting the right amount of sleep is vital for staying productive. At a certain point, there’s no use staying up extra late if the work starts to suffer.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I want people to rethink gifts. I love it when people opt-in for experiences instead of things.

People have enough stuff. When the gift is experience-based, it builds a stronger connection with the recipient. And at its core, that’s the whole point of the gesture.

With experiences, you make a memory, and memories are what’s truly important in life.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

There are few ways to stay up-to-date with me and VidDay.

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/jeff-laxson

Website: www.vidday.com

Instagram @ ViddayGift

Facebook @ ViddayGift

Twitter @ ViddayGift

Thank you so much for the time you spent doing this interview. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success.


About The Interviewer: David Liu is the founder and CEO of Deltapath, an award-winning unified communications company that liberates organizations from the barriers of effective communication. Liu is known for his visionary leadership, organic growth strategies, and future-forward technology. Liu is highly committed to achieving a greater purpose with technology. Liu’s business insights are regularly featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, Tech Crunch, and more.

The Future of Communication Technology: Bratton Riley of Citibot On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up How We Connect and Communicate With Each Other

Citibot is a leading provider of interactive chat solutions for local governments to use for efficient and effective communication and civic change. Using smart text messaging and web chat technology, Citibot helps residents get answers to questions, make service requests, send personalized messages and receive notifications.

By making it easier for citizens to have more more meaningful connections with government, they will become more participatory and build those relationships of trust. The beauty of technology is to make it simpler to have those conversations via automation so they can happen at scale.


The telephone totally revolutionized the way we could communicate with people all over the world. But then came email and took it to the next level. And then came text messaging. And then came video calls. And so on…What’s next? What’s just around the corner?

In this interview series, called ‘The Future Of Communication Technology’ we are interviewing leaders of tech or telecom companies who are helping to develop emerging communication technologies and the next generation of how we communicate and connect with each other.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Bratton Riley, founder/CEO of Citibot, a writer, speaker and champion for equitable government engagement. His mission is to create innovative technology powered by artificial intelligence and educate and inspire government leaders to transform the way they engage residents and connect with their communities.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Iwas fortunate to be brought up in a family committed to public service. My father, Joseph Riley, was the mayor of Charleston, South Carolina for 40 years, so I had a front-row seat to the issues facing local government, and the barriers that exist for resident communication.

Much like my father, I hold a firm belief that local government should be accessible to all residents and in order to best serve the public, it is essential to give a voice to all and encourage diverse perspectives. It was through this principle that Citibot was formed in 2016.

I saw an opportunity to help local government better serve residents by breaking down the barriers of inclusion and leveraging communications technology to modernize the customer service experience.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

As I’m sure a lot of business leaders can attest, the COVID pandemic has reinvented the way we engage with our customers, and in many cases, even the products we offer.

One of the most meaningful moments of my career was just recently, when we helped a government leader use Citibot technology as a force for good. Brownsville, Texas was launching a vaccine clinic and needed to quickly get 1700 text messages out to people who had signed up for the vaccine to alert them that it would be available the next day. We jumped in, got it done, and the clinic was successful — with 2,000 vaccinations in one day! Seeing the immediate results and the power of technology in such an important way was an amazing experience.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Cities and governments have one of the greatest privileges possible, and that’s their relationship with the people.”

There are no shortcuts to building relationships of trust with all aspects of a community. You have to do the work and show you care. That’s part of what we’re trying to do with Citibot — to make it easier to build those relationships and help them grow.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I’m eternally grateful for my father’s leadership and for paving the path that ultimately led me to create Citibot. My father, Joseph Riley, was a civil rights leader at a time when you didn’t have many white male deep Southerners fighting for the cause of equal rights. He didn’t cut corners and he never settled for anything that wasn’t excellent. He put his heart and soul into the job and into every citizen. His work in the public space has inspired me to address a similar mission through a technology lens.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Citibot is a mission-driven company, and our mission is to build trust between governments and residents through accessible chat communications. There’s a lot of talk with the digital divide, especially around broadband access. There isn’t a lot of talk about the digital divide in terms of access to our American institutions. We believe that government should be accessible to all, regardless of age or socio-economic status.

Ok wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about the cutting edge communication tech that you are working on? How do you think that will help people? How do you think this might change the world?

Citibot is a leading provider of interactive chat solutions for local governments to use for efficient and effective communication and civic change. Using smart text messaging and web chat technology, Citibot helps residents get answers to questions, make service requests, send personalized messages and receive notifications.

By making it easier for citizens to have more more meaningful connections with government, they will become more participatory and build those relationships of trust. The beauty of technology is to make it simpler to have those conversations via automation so they can happen at scale.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

At the end of the day, a bot is a bot, it’s not a human. So while you might not have that 1:1 human connection with chatbot technology, that lack of interpersonal connection is overcome by the ability of the citizen to get what they need fast, get that instant gratification that government cares about them and have a good communication experience.

There is a misconception that bots are replacing humans. In most cases, bots are increasing job satisfaction in the customer service space as people are doing less menial work and are able to focus on more meaningful work as a result. And, customers are spending less time on hold, are able to access information 24/7 and more easily get what they need.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

The emergence of chatbot technology was the lightbulb moment for me. It was the key to scaling and leveraging accessible communication channels like text messaging, messenger apps and the web and applying it to the customer service space that very much needed an upgrade.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

In the government space in particular, what is needed is more openness for faster acceptance of new technology. It is going to take governments overcoming their fear of failure and evolving to celebrate risk-taking internally. The innovative government leaders are encouraging their teams to fail as an opportunity to learn and improve. The business sector has evolved in this regard and the government sector hasn’t. Another important factor in adoption is streamlining procurement processes. The CARES Act helped expedite procurement processes. Government leaders need to take those lessons learned and reinvent the way they acquire new technology in the future.

The pandemic has changed so many things about the way we behave. One of them of course, is how we work and how we communicate in our work. How do you think your innovation might be able to address the new needs that have arisen as a result of the pandemic?

Customer service is a 24/7 need. Chatbot technology helps local governments scale their customer service and be able to absorb the surges in call volumes that have emerged as a result of the pandemic. In addition, proactive outreach is going to be critical in supporting residents who want to get the COVID vaccine. Another way we’ve helped governments adapt to this new virtual world is by creating a line queue application to control access to public buildings amid occupancy restrictions.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. It’s harder than you think. As much as people told me that the government sector moves slowly, I didn’t fully realize it until we started having those direct conversations.
  2. Hockey stick revenue growth is a myth. Those projections are always wrong. Your investors are sophisticated enough to know that, so you should be too.
  3. Optimism needs to be tempered by realism, particularly as it relates to goal setting.
  4. Hire to your weaknesses. Figure out where your gaps lie and fill those gaps with amazing people and support them.
  5. When something good happens, make sure you celebrate it! Entrepreneurship is such a roller coaster ride, enjoy the small and large wins.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I’m on a mission to inspire a movement to help government leaders eradicate their fear of failure. That is the biggest impediment to growth and opportunity for all people from all walks of life, regardless of the government institution.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

I welcome them to connect on LinkedIn and follow Citibot at https://www.citibot.io/. Let’s create a movement!

Thank you so much for the time you spent doing this interview. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success.


About The Interviewer: David Liu is the founder and CEO of Deltapath, an award-winning unified communications company that liberates organizations from the barriers of effective communication. Liu is known for his visionary leadership, organic growth strategies, and future-forward technology. Liu is highly committed to achieving a greater purpose with technology. Liu’s business insights are regularly featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, Tech Crunch, and more.

The Future of Communication Technology: Zach Klempf of Selly Automotive On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up How We Connect and Communicate With Each Other

Our system can literally give small business owners — busy used car dealership owners — hours of their day back. More than that: Our CRM can act as if they have a virtual assistant, focused entirely on communication and quick outreach to customers in their pipeline.

It’ll keep internet leads engaged with the dealership even when the sales staff is on the lot working with customers. We’re here to help dealers send consistent messaging, too, which will ultimately improve the user experience; no misspellings or unprofessional messaging. Our system is loaded with templates for easy use.


The telephone totally revolutionized the way we could communicate with people all over the world. But then came email and took it to the next level. And then came text messaging. And then came video calls. And so on… What’s next? What’s just around the corner?

In this interview series, called ‘The Future Of Communication Technology’ we are interviewing leaders of tech or telecom companies who are helping to develop emerging communication technologies and the next generation of how we communicate and connect with each other.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Zach Klempf, founder and CEO of Selly Automotive which is an auto dealer vertical focused CRM and communication software startup based out of San Francisco which serves hundreds of dealerships in the US and Canada. Zach sped through school, including time at Emory University, before applying to accelerator programs and going through cohort 4 of Blue Startups. Now, in addition to running his company, Zach hosts a top 100 automotive podcast (iTunes US) and travels the nation providing education workshops to used car dealership state associations.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

ZK: I’ve taken the path less traveled for most of my life. I dropped out of high school in 11th grade, received my GED, and did two years of community college in a year and a half. After that, I transferred to Emory University. By doing so, I saved over $100K in tuition costs and graduated years ahead of my high school peers. When I got to Emory, when I wasn’t in school, I was working at a car dealership. That’s where I discovered the opportunity that led to my company Selly Automotive.

I noticed that the technology the dealership used to run their business was outdated. There wasn’t buy-in from the sales team either to use the technology that the dealership had, or to upgrade to a more efficient system. As I saw this, I was also starting to figure out what I should do after graduation. I ended up moving out to Silicon Valley and working for a SaaS startup while putting together an MVP version of the idea that later became Selly.

I then needed to figure out how to take Selly to the next level. I applied to accelerator programs, got into a couple, and chose Blue Startups in Hawaii. They’re run by Henk Rogers, the guy behind Tetris. After graduating from their program, I got a lot of feedback about our standalone CRM app. We were then able to build it out into a full-scale dealership platform and raise capital from angel investors as well as Blue Ventures. We’ve built Selly up, brick by brick, and now we’re global: We have physical offices in the United States and in the Philippines.

In addition to running Selly, I’ve established myself as a thought leader in the used car industry. I have contributed over a hundred articles to auto trade outlets, I host an industry focused podcast, and I’ve spoken at tons conferences where I educate dealership management about technology and marketing to millennials and Gen Z.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

ZK: When I got accepted into the Blue Startup program, I had to leave everything behind. I had to leave my job. I had to put my whole condo into a small storage unit and then moved out to Hawaii for the program.

A lot of people think that living in Hawaii is glamorous. However, it’s definitely not all sunny beaches; I probably saw the beach two or three times over a four-month accelerator program. I was working 80+ hour weeks to get things off the ground. Think of the Blue Start Ups program like — a targeted, accelerated MBA, specifically for startups. You’re taught about financing, marketing, public speaking, investor relations, everything!

I went from college to a year in Silicon Valley to being the CEO of a startup. Blue Startups armed me with instrumental knowledge and really helped me take Selly from a back-of-the-napkin idea into an essential part of hundreds of dealerships across the US and Canada.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?

ZK: Tony Hsieh, an American entrepreneur and Zappos Founder, once said: “Happiness is really just about four things. Perceived control, perceived progress, connectedness — or the number and depth of your relationships; and vision, or being part of something bigger than yourself.”

Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

ZK: Perception plays a big role in your reality. As a startup founder you may see distracting news of other startups being acquired, raising huge rounds of funding on Tech Crunch. However, it’s important to remember that all of that’s just perception.

For many of the under-30 crowd, we’re caught up in this idea of comparison among peers, of competition that can be toxic. I work hard to control my perception, to focus on what I’m doing, and not let others dictate how I feel or what I do. I also enjoy that Selly’s mission allows me to participate in a community far bigger than just myself.

The entrepreneur’s life can also be a lonely one. Prioritizing my relationships has also kept me sane through a lot of testing times.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?

ZK: Blue Startups was instrumental in getting Selly to where it is today. When I came into Blue Startups, I was in my early twenties. I’d only been out of school for a year or so. Suddenly, I was part of a close-knit accelerator program. There were a few people at Blue Startup that were mentors to me, including Jeff Kraatz, a close advisor to Selly, and Ryne Sitar, who went on to become the VP of Product and Co-founder at Selly; he was introduced to me through Jeff.

Can you share a story about that?

ZK: Blue Startups was the first investor in Selly. Chenoa Farnsworth, the managing director, Henk Rogers, and the rest of the Blue Start Ups team helped us get off the ground. They helped us navigate financing, company building, and coached me with public speaking which at first, I was a little intimidated by. Now, I’ve spoken before huge audiences over five hundred attendees, and I have Blue Startups to thank for that.

Another helpful part of Blue Startups was the access to network and community. Not only do you have access to the founders in your class or cohort, but you also have access to the entire community of Blue Startups companies for mentorship and networking. We still connect, help each other, talk shop on Slack, and guide each other through the challenging situations.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

ZK: From a business standpoint, we’re providing dealerships with a system to manage all of their communication in one place. This constitutes a massive upgrade from pen and paper which many were using before. It adds efficiency, it allows them to run leaner with lower overhead, and it gives them back hours of their time back through automation.

Increased competition like Carvana are putting a lot of pressure on more traditional dealerships to make the shift to digital retail. At Selly, we’re doing our part to keep smaller dealerships in the game; many of these are staples in their communities and do a lot of good contrary to negative stereotypes of used car dealerships.

From a community standpoint, we’re educating dealers all over the nation from multiple generations on how they can more efficiently run their business through technology. We created guides, best practices, and other helpful information for dealers as well as state associations.

Okay wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about the cutting edge communication tech that you are working on?

ZK: The Selly platform manages communication and a dealer’s workflow. That includes texting, email, 3rd party leads, inbound and outbound calls — you name it.

Think about a typical car dealership — a small, often family-owned business. The people who work there wear multiple hats. They have limited time to be tethered to a desktop computer. We’re simplifying a lot of their communication through our smart automated technology.

For example, we’ve noticed that texting has become a big deal with dealerships post pandemic. Data shows us that texts are often a better way to communicate than emails — they’re more consistently read. Smaller auto dealers don’t have a lot of time to monitor inbound communication — and they don’t want their sales staff using their personal phones (that can get unsafe or non- TCPA compliant very quickly). One of the things we offer is a smart, automated texting solution. This makes the average car dealer’s day much, much easier: The system knows about inventory being in-stock versus out of stock. If a lead comes in after-hours a different response will be sent than during normal business hours. We have tons of pre-loaded templates for common conversations like a credit app. It is set-it-and-forget-it as well!

How do you think that will help people?

ZK: Our system can literally give small business owners — busy used car dealership owners — hours of their day back. More than that: Our CRM can act as if they have a virtual assistant, focused entirely on communication and quick outreach to customers in their pipeline.

It’ll keep internet leads engaged with the dealership even when the sales staff is on the lot working with customers. We’re here to help dealers send consistent messaging, too, which will ultimately improve the user experience; no misspellings or unprofessional messaging. Our system is loaded with templates for easy use.

How do you think this might change the world?

ZK: Think about the biggest complaints on the customer side of a used car dealership transaction. A customer might complain that the buying experience might take too long; that they have to talk to too many people; that they have to re-explain their story too often; that they have a shifting experience.

With our CRM, we help soothe that customer pain. We offer a centralized communication system that will remember relevant customer information, so no matter who a customer may be speaking with, the staff will be fully in-the-know. With Selly, dealerships can offer consumers a fully-managed experience.

Nobody likes getting autoresponders that don’t fit. We don’t do that. We’ve worked to give dealerships better options with our smart automated technology.

Keeping ‘Black Mirror’ in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

ZK: An important part of the auto industry is always going to be that personal experience. If a salesperson is helping a customer in the dealership, we need to think quick on our feet sometimes: as customers often completely change their mind on the floor on what they want to purchase.

If we’re thinking about Black Mirror, AI-gone-wrong scenarios, I think we’re offering a good alternative. We’re not substituting human, personal salesmanship with an AI front.

There are always going to be personal situations in the car-buying experience — for example, poor credit issues — that AI cannot (or should not) handle. Those require a human touch. We’re not changing that. We’re just leveraging technology to allow salespeople to spend more time with people and less time on updating tasks and records in a software product.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough?

ZK: I’ve always been interested in software, even from age 19, working in the dealership which had constantly-crashing, early ’90s looking legacy automotive technology. I was navigating its issues. I just knew I could do better. And — because I was in the industry, because I understood the workflow — I knew that I was the person to build that company with founder market fit.

Can you tell us that story?

ZK: I was full-time at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, as I was working at the dealership — I just had this feeling that I needed to work on technology for automotive. I was fielding multiple offers for other opportunities, mainly in the finance and even went as far as taking the Series 63 and 7, but something in me was ready to invest in this dealership software idea.

I packed everything I had into a 2-door Mustang coupe and moved out to the Bay area. I hired a developer while working for another software company to build our first version. After I put our first build on the app store, to my surprise, we got a lot of interest (and helpful feedback). It was then that we knew that we’d hit on something really helpful for car sales- something worth pursuing.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

ZK: Right now, our focus is on hiring full stack developers, growing our customer success team, and scaling.

In terms of industry adoption, we’re prioritizing education. Most car dealerships don’t have a CRM. We’re here to help them realize why they need a CRM — and why our product can add a lot of value to their dealership and ultimately help sell more cars.

The pandemic has changed so many things about the way we behave. One of them of course, is how we work and how we communicate in our work. How do you think your innovation might be able to address the new needs that have arisen as a result of the pandemic?

ZK: A lot of used car dealership software is still legacy and desktop-based. We offer a cloud-based alternative and mobile apps that — as we’ve all learned over the last year — are crucial for uninterrupted, high-quality, and easy access to work during wide-scale events. Our tech can be used on-the-go, when a salesperson is working remotely — and we incorporate legacy, desktop-based integrations with our system so we complement solutions dealers already use.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview: What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? ( Please share a story or example for each.)

ZK:

1 . Really, really think about the composition of your core team from the very beginning.

I know that it’s very common in the startup world for two friends with similar skillsets to go in on a venture together. That might seem like a great idea, but you need to have different skillsets — more comprehensive ones — in order to build something successful.

For example, if you’re building a SaaS product, you’re going to need someone on your team who understands the innate architecture of technology like the back of their hand. Ultimately, your core team should be able to get your company off the ground to hit early milestones with minimal overhead.

2. Work hard to set up good cross-departmental communication — and then overcommunicate.

We have offices in San Francisco as well as Manila and a global team. Over time, as we’ve grown, we’ve learned the importance of having multiple modes and methods of communication, particularly post pandemic.

We’ve made some mistakes in the past because of miscommunication (or not communicating well enough at all). I think, going back, I’d be sure to very proactively set up great systems for cross-departmental communication.

Especially since I became a manager in my early 20s, I think I didn’t go in with a strong understanding of the different ways people communicate. When you’re working with people who naturally communicate in different ways — engineers as opposed to salespeople, for example — miscommunication can happen without anyone realizing!

Set up internal communication infrastructure, overcommunicate, learn how your people need to hear and take in information: It’ll save you a lot of trouble in the long run.

3. Set achievable, accessible action items rather than one large, broad goal.

As I was first going about setting up my startup, I tended to think in terms of huge goals that would really push the needle for our business growth and development. Each goal was dramatic. Each one was exciting. And, in retrospect, each goal was way, way too general and broad.

I think a better approach is to focus on smaller, bite-sized goals that add up to your bigger projects and initiatives. You can schedule them out more easily; you can be more flexible about them, if need be; and, with more specific, strategic, smaller goals, you can often have more practical approaches that translate more easily to effective daily action.

4. Fire early.

This is counterintuitive, but sometimes you just have to fire early rather than drag out the process. If an employee doesn’t seem to be working out for your company within their first few weeks or month on the job, it’s often better for everyone involved to take decisive action rather than allowing a subpar situation to continue.

Real change is tough for a lot of people, and, particularly in the intense startup world, you often need to find just the right person with just the right skill set and passion for the job. If the candidate you find and hire isn’t that person, it’s okay to admit that — and, it’s often better for both parties involved.

5. Invest in a quality attorney.

This might also be less-common advice, but it’s worth thinking about: When you’re first organizing and setting up your startup, get good legal help. Not just a friend-of-a-friend: A good lawyer, with qualifications and experience working with the nuance of startup and Delaware C Corps, stock options, amounts other common start up legal topics.

There are a lot of logistics that go into proper startup formation. From incorporating correctly to making sure your initial 83b documents are in order, your finances are set up well, and any intellectual property you have is firmly protected: These are all foundational actions that you don’t want to have to question down the line. A high-quality attorney will be an investment, but your security and peace of mind will be worth it. Try and find a way to make the finances work: You’ll thank yourself later.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger!

ZK: Removing ageism from success. A lot of us have this idea that innovation and success are for the under 30 categories. I find that limiting, and strongly believe everyone has their own path and there is no right or wrong age to start a company. You don’t have to strike gold before 30.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

ZK: Readers can find me on Twitter @ZachKlempf; I also host the Used Car Dealer Podcast, available on all major podcast networks.

Thank you so much for the time you spent doing this interview. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success.


About The Interviewer: David Liu is the founder and CEO of Deltapath, an award-winning unified communications company that liberates organizations from the barriers of effective communication. Liu is known for his visionary leadership, organic growth strategies, and future-forward technology. Liu is highly committed to achieving a greater purpose with technology. Liu’s business insights are regularly featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, Tech Crunch, and more.

The Future Is Now: Tana Rulkova of PourMyBeer On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up How We Drink In Restaurants

It will make drink service in bigger organizations such as universities, libraries, office spaces or even movie theaters much more efficient and, of course, also much more fun for the people enjoying the self-pour fun! On top of that, operators will see increased sales in two ways. First, with self-pour technology, customers tend to sample (drink more = spend more), and second, operators won’t require as many staff members to run the show, which simplifies operations.


As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Táňa Rulkova.

Táňa, a daughter of a pub owner, was born and raised in the Czech Republic, the country with the highest beer consumption per capita in the World. This gives her a unique understanding and appreciation for what goes into running a successful Pub as well as mature understanding of the different styles of beers. Táňa has lived in the U.S. for the past seven years, but spent the first five exploring and hiking the Pacific Northwest, where she focused on becoming a digital marketing ninja while studying at Bellevue College. While earning her degree she also competed in marketing competitions that resulted in her team being crowned National Champs. While in college, she worked as a bartender, event manager, and even quality assurance tester at Microsoft. She now holds the title as Senior Marketing Manager for PourMyBeer, the leading self-pour beverage system with 7,000 self-pour taps in service in over 270 locations around the world supporting large brands like Buffalo Wild Wings, Caesars Entertainment, and Whole Foods. She is fluent in 5 languages — Czech, English, Slovak, Polish & Spanish.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Iam from the Czech Republic, one of the countries with the highest consumption of beer per capita. Also, my father owned a bar when I was growing up. I helped run the show and quickly became fond of the hospitality industry. On top of that, when I was in college, I needed jobs with flexible hours to accommodate my school schedule, so I started to work as a party planner and barback, which I enjoyed as well. I knew that once I finished up my degree in Digital Marketing, I wanted to find something in the hospitality industry. Initially, my goal was to find a bigger brewery where I could lead the marketing efforts, but I accidentally ran into a Craigslist ad posted by PourMyBeer. They were looking for a Marketing Manager, and the rest is history.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

It was March when COVID hit the US hard, as I’m sure most people would agree. I was so grateful that just a few months before the pandemic, I rejected a role with another much bigger company that offered me a significantly higher salary, as I watched them lay off many employees as soon as the pandemic started. With PourMyBeer, not only was I able to keep my job and not watch my colleagues get laid off, but I could show my leadership and try to keep the team glued together. I also came up with several ideas to keep myself more occupied, such as creating our Self-Pour University for people who are new to the hospitality industry and opening up their self-serve beverage business from scratch. Our University provides all the resources from A-Z to get going. Besides that, I also started organizing regular Fireside chats with our most successful customers so we could share tips with those that were feeling overwhelmed with the changes caused by the pandemic. Working on all that kept me quite busy, not to mention, now I feel much more prepared to open my own self-pour brewery one day. That is definitely the plan, although not for several years from now.

Can you tell us about the Cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

Since PourMyBeer was recently invested in by Coca-Cola European Partners, we are working on developing a technology that will focus on all types of beverages. Currently (and that is partially due to its name), PourMyBeer is often used only for alcoholic beverages — mainly beer, wine, and cocktails, now also more for seltzers, sake, and other more unique drinks. However, I only know of a few establishments that use PourMyBeer technology for soda and other non-alcoholic beverages, so that is next for us. We are working on a sister product, called PourMyBeverage, and its liquid agnostic in its name, making it much easier for schools, offices/corporate campuses, and other places to implement. We are also working on self-pour technology that will allow for an entirely touchless experience, such as RFID technology in a cup! Stay tuned.

How do you think this might change the world?

It will make drink service in bigger organizations such as universities, libraries, office spaces or even movie theaters much more efficient and, of course, also much more fun for the people enjoying the self-pour fun! On top of that, operators will see increased sales in two ways. First, with self-pour technology, customers tend to sample (drink more = spend more), and second, operators won’t require as many staff members to run the show, which simplifies operations.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

Absolutely. I used to work as a bartender and I love people, so I can’t stress enough how important it is to utilize the power of self-pour technology in combination with beverage wall ambassadors, or at least a waiter/waitress who is always around to help. We did NOT create this revolutionary tech to replace humans. The most successful PourMyBeer family members (this is what we call our customers) have beverage wall assistants, or as my team likes to call them, beer ambassadors. These beer ambassadors are craft beer enthusiasts who hang out around the beverage wall and ensure that all the self-pour first-timers know how to pour their beer properly or learn something about beers or other drinks. Not to mention, these days, the beverage wall ambassadors also make sure that the wall gets sanitized properly and everyone remains safe.

The potential drawback of our awesome tech could be seeing fewer and fewer bartenders. Nevertheless, PourMyBeer is not here to replace all the hardworking waiters and bartenders out there. We are simply providing a different experience than what you get at a traditional bar. Self-pour technology offers a tasting journey. One of our favorite PourMyBeer family members, District Brew Yards, located in Chicago, has an amazing concept going! They are quite unique as they are a no-tipping facility, pay their staff fair wages, and they always have several beer ambassadors around, ready to educate all the craft beer enthusiasts on what might be the best beer for them. This venue is phenomenal! It is four craft breweries under one roof — a real paradise for adults. So if you ever find yourself in Chicago, make sure to put this special spot on your list!

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

Yes. I was once on-site visiting a customer that runs their establishment with almost no staff, and while they are very profitable, I quickly learned that their patrons were hungry to learn more about beers and loved it when I shared some of my beer geekiness with them. They asked me if I worked there, and I said I did not, but explained that I was a PourMyBeer team member. They told me their experience would have been much better if there was someone like me around to help them with their decision on what to taste next. They also said they would most likely end up drinking more, and frankly, this is what we continue to see at our most successful locations. Those that have at least one staff member around to encourage patrons to try something new and help them out if it’s their first time experiencing self-pour tech, tend to have the highest consumption per visitor, thus the highest beverage sales.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

I think we are close, particularly now with COVID and all the staffing challenges that operators are facing, changed consumer expectations, and decreased capacity regulations. The main thing we need is for people to get a better understanding of self-pour technology. It is not just another cold machine. It is a unique experience, and I like to call it a tasting journey. No matter how fast and efficient self-pour tech is, you always need a human to at least check your ID and connect a PourMyBeer card to your credit card so you can start drinking. Someone also needs to reauthorize the limit once when you hit your allowed serving, but as I mentioned above, hopefully, that someone will be there for much more than just that and provide some level of human interaction, too.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

I can’t call this innovative, but content marketing has been working very well for us. Blog posts on creating a COVID strategy and gated checklists for reopening have brought a great amount of traffic, as well as interest in self-pour tech, our way. Another effective way we communicate is through videos. This video is from our PourMyBeer family member Beasts & Brews, and in just a few months, it has hit over 20K views! For a small company like ours, that is huge! There certainly are big things ahead of us, and I am proud we get to lead the self-pour revolution!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

So true! It is hard to choose only one person, so aside from those non-surprising ones such as my parents, I would have to say my boss, Josh Goodman. He gave me the chance to become a Marketing Manager and fully build our marketing department from the ground up. Two and half years ago, I interviewed with Josh in a cool startup incubator in Chicago called 1871, where PourMyBeer was based at the time. I was freshly out of college and barely had a few marketing internships below my belt, so interviewing for this position was a bit of an overreach. However, since I am hardworking and love being in charge, I wanted to at least try for the opportunity to do something much more senior level than I was at the time. Luckily for me, Josh trusted his gut and chose me over many other candidates who I am sure were much more experienced than I was back then. Along the way, there have been many moments when I could come to him and share something as a friend. He is not only an awesome boss but a great human being who makes PourMyBeer a fantastic company to be a part of.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I love animals and always had one growing up. When I moved to Chicago, I started volunteering in a local animal shelter since I could not have a pet of my own due to frequent traveling. Besides cleaning and socializing the animals, I helped with several marketing projects such as video creations and charity events. I also started fostering animals, and thanks to my use of social media, I have managed to find several of them their forever homes. Now, I foster dogs that have slightly tricky behaviors, and as soon as they find a permanent home, I get a new furry friend. My current love ball is this Rottie mix. Not only does this hugely enrich my life, but it also allows me to use my marketing skills (mostly social media) for something greater than just helping to sell some awesome self-pour beer tech.

Also, as a company, we have provided several donations to local animal shelters and we will continue to do so as we grow! I am very excited about that!

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

What an interesting question!

  1. Working for a startup is NOT going to be a 40-hour work week.

I’m someone who likes to get things done. Throughout high school and college, I was an A student, and receiving a B was not acceptable for me. This was a challenging personality trait when working for a startup that didn’t have the resources to hire more people to run everything properly. Having to wear a lot of hats by myself, from organizing trade shows, maintaining and building our website, creating video content, all the way to designing our sales literature, was impossible to ace in 40 hours a week. I spent an unhealthy amount of hours in our office the first year, but I have to say that things have gotten much better. Not only have we grown as a company and I now have help from many amazing and talented people, but I have also gotten us to where I wanted it to be. Things are only going to get better from here!

2. We don’t really do much marketing yet.

I joined the team under the impression that PourMyBeer already had some good marketing collateral in place, but shortly after I came on board, I learned that the sales team barely had a few very basic pieces to use, which made their job much more challenging. So, there was a lot of work that needed to be done. Nevertheless, this goes back to the point above, working for a startup is not going to be 40 hours a week if you want to get things done well and frankly, I would not have it any other way! This was a fun challenge which allowed me to embrace many different areas of marketing. It also feels great to know that our sales team is now properly equipped.

3. We just got our website recreated for a “great price”!

Without naming the company here, I do have to say that when it comes to website development, and honestly, investing in technology (this goes for PourMyBeer, too) in general, going with the cheaper option is going to hurt you in the end. I came on board just when we got this “new” website handed to us. While some of it looked good on the surface, it was a wild mess of countless plugins and spaghetti code on the backend and it took a lot of work to get it to where it is today and even now, there is still a lot more work to be done.

4. You will get to work with some truly inspirational doers from all over the world!

Most of the PourMyBeer family members come from areas completely unrelated to the hospitality industry — from veterans (woot, woot!), ad men, and music producers to financial advisors and marketers like me! I love and admire people who don’t sit around, but rather push themselves to chase their dreams. I am honored to work with so many amazing people who turned their dreams into reality. Seeing PourMyBeer play a role in their success only gets me more inspired to openup my own self-pour brewery down the road.

5. You should start training your liver as you will be required to drink when working on-site with customers.

I can’t complain about this one, but it would have been good to know what was coming, so I would start training more. Honestly, all our testimonials and case studies would not be as detailed and sincere if there was not some “tasting” involved before their creation.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would call it the “heroism movement” and would love for everyone to participate. The premise is to be a hero for someone every day. It does not have to be a new person every time, as sometimes you are helping a family member, friend, or colleague get through something that takes a while. However, the ultimate goal is to at least once a day set your selfishness aside and provide a helping hand to someone else. It is an easy and relatively fast habit to create. I have been doing this for years. Sometimes it’s silly things like staying on a work call with a colleague longer to ensure you got their back or simply returning a shopping cart for someone who looks exhausted and would have to walk across the entire parking lot. Whether you send a few dollars to an interesting GoFundMe or help out at your local animal shelter, there are so many things we can all be doing. Show those around that you care and in a magical way, you will feel the care back! So, let’s all hop on the “heroism movement” today — I promise it feels amazing!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

It’s honestly hard to choose just one, but a quote that continues to resonate with me year after year, spoken by Thomas Edison, is, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Luckily, I don’t usually have to try 10,000 ways when trying to solve an issue, but the core of this quote for me is that as long as you are working on the solution, it is already a success in progress. This goes well beyond just solving a problem at work. It applies to life and one’s happiness. Throughout life, we take many routes and some of them don’t turn out to be the best for us, but those that don’t work are ultimately what leads us to finding the right path, success, and happiness.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

The recent pandemic has accelerated the need and trend toward technological innovation for the hospitality industry to provide safe dining experiences and simplified operations, especially now when high-quality staff are hard to find and hard to keep due to the current instability in the industry. Thus, it comes as no surprise that PourMyBeer has seen a large spike in interest from businesses of all kinds. Particularly, restaurants, bars, and breweries see increased sales and decreased operational costs, not to mention, self-pour tech is a unique and fun differentiator! If you are interested in partnering up with the market leader of this revolutionary tech, we are your crew! Not only do we have the most self-pour taps on the market, but unlike other self-pour tech providers, we have never been replaced by another company. I will cheer for that!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

My favorite social media platform is Reddit, but I don’t contribute much. I mainly just enjoy my favorite subreddits. The best way to connect with me is on LinkedIn, which I check daily, or follow my adventures on Instagram. I’m always glad to meet new people!

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

Thank you so much for having me, this was a great experience!


About The Interviewer: David Liu is the founder and CEO of Deltapath, an award-winning unified communications company that liberates organizations from the barriers of effective communication. Liu is known for his visionary leadership, organic growth strategies, and future-forward technology. Liu is highly committed to achieving a greater purpose with technology. Liu’s business insights are regularly featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, Tech Crunch, and more.

The Future of Communication Technology: Allan Sutherland of In-telligent On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up How We Connect and Communicate With Each Other

Starting a business is hard. As a rule, people aren’t going to line up to buy your product or service. Developing something that they will buy is just the first step, you then have to get them excited about the product or service and build a sense of urgency. Even the person that builds the “best mouse trap” still has to convince people that it is actually “the best,” that it is “worth” the price, AND that they need it. We developed an amazing tool for connecting people during an emergency. Since no one had ever developed anything like this before, we had to educate “the world” that we could do it, prove to them that we could do it and then make it a priority for them to need the product. All of this takes time, commitment and perseverance.


The telephone totally revolutionized the way we could communicate with people all over the world. But then came email and took it to the next level. And then came text messaging. And then came video calls. And so on…What’s next? What’s just around the corner?

In this interview series, called ‘The Future Of Communication Technology’ we are interviewing leaders of tech or telecom companies who are helping to develop emerging communication technologies and the next generation of how we communicate and connect with each other.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Allan Sutherland, founder, CEO, and President of In-telligent LLC, a software as a service (SaaS) technology company that offers lifesaving personal safety and emergency communications platforms. Realizing that current communication platforms are inadequate following the tragic 9/11 and London bombing events, he saw the need for a radical change and decided to use his knowledge and experience to build a technology that could save lives. He established In-telligent in 2015, where he and the company strive to connect and keep people safer and better informed during emergencies. A successful business executive with over 20 years of experience on a global scale, Allan’s wealth of knowledge allows him to accurately depict what the next generation of communication will look like. As a leader of a SaaS company delivering telecommunications technology, he’s well equipped about how consumers will communicate with each other in the near future.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

After a 20+ year career as a senior officer in one of the largest manufacturing companies in the world, I wanted to take the lessons that I had learned and create a business that would truly benefit others. I grew up in a small farming town in the middle of Illinois with a curiosity around problem-solving, electronics and technology, at a time when the biggest advance in personal computing was the release of the Apple Macintosh! Over the decades since, I have traveled around the world meeting with hundreds of people in dozens of countries. Through these travels and interactions, I learned that we are all connected through the common goal to improve the lives of our friends and family. Keeping them safer and better informed during times of crisis is just one of these essential needs. Personally, I have first-hand experience with enough of these instances to know how important and frustrating it can be to try and reach someone urgently. Believing that others felt the same, I started In-telligent to solve this problem.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

After working for about 10 years in a consulting firm and feeling very confident in my abilities, I found myself in a conference room during the first month of employment at a new company with my boss, the CFO and the CEO. Using all my good listening and participation skills honed from a decade of consulting experience, I thought that I was participating, taking notes and nodding my head at all the right times. Being the “low man” on the totem pole, I was naturally assigned some follow-ups for completion later that day. Wanting to make sure that I did a great job in the eyes of the CEO, I vowed to get and deliver the answer quickly.

After about an hour or so, I had figured out the answer but was having problems getting it to “look right” when printed. Knowing that this was going to the CEO and CFO, I wanted to make sure it looked perfect! To my horror, the CEO showed up in my office while I was trying to print-out the answer and asked if I had the answer yet. I explained that I did, but was having trouble printing it out. This seemed to frustrate him even more and he asked again, “Do you have the darn answer?” I said, “Yes, but I can’t get it to print properly.” He took my pad of paper and asked me to write it down, to which I did immediately. He ripped off the portion of the page with the answer, looked at it and then said, “Good. Now do something else!”

This was my first lesson in understanding the Pareto Principle — ie, 20% effort generates 80+% of the solution. In this instance, he didn’t care about how fancy the answer was presented, he just wanted the answer. Me spending time “getting the presentation perfect” was simply a waste of my time and frustration to him for the delay.

This story was also important because it reminded me to remember that we are doing our work for others. As such, we need to understand what is important to them. I wanted to give him the answer in a beautiful presentation. All he wanted was the answer.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I have been at this for a while, so I have a couple:

In an important meeting many years ago, I heard my then-CEO say: “Good leaders, take responsibility; bad leaders, place blame.” Of course, it isn’t always the CEO’s fault for the actions of others, but it does highlight the responsibility that vests with leadership. Leadership is more than a title. It is a responsibility that shapes each thought and each action. Leaders do not get a “day off” or stop being a “leader” for a few hours.

In another important meeting many years ago, I was reminded of this fact with a simple comment: “If you want to be a leader, lead. If not, then someone else will be the leader. The choice is yours.” As you have already guessed, I chose to lead.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Most of us learn very quickly that the CEO’s view, approach, and ethics drive the company. I won’t point to any one specific person, but I have been lucky enough to learn from two amazing CEOs and a few not so amazing CEOs. I found that the main difference was how they made me feel about myself and my contributions. CEOs that helped me to feel valued and valued my contributions, instilled respect and admiration.

As the head of my own company, I want to ensure that our people feel respected and valued where their contributions are appreciated and thoughts/ideas encouraged. No one can do this alone. To be successful, you have to have an incredible product, an amazing team and a lot of luck. The CEO is just a component of that amazing team!

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Not sure that it qualifies as “bringing goodness to the world” but through In-telligent we are hoping to improve the human condition, reduce anxiety in stressful situations, and connect people better during these challenging times. Our hope is that through our technology and platform we can better support people in moments of need and keep them alerted and aware of any timely situations and keep them out of harm’s way.

Ok wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about the cutting edge communication tech that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

We make it possible to get your important messages noticed immediately. Essentially, we provide our users peace of mind where they know that, if a message is important, they will be alerted immediately. A parent knowing that their child’s school can send an emergency message that gets their attention if anything happens provides peace of mind to that parent. Similarly, a local police department with the ability to instantly alert school principals of danger, allowing them to put their schools into lock-down to keep the students and faculty safe, could be the difference between life and tragedy.

How do you think this might change the world?

We each have our mobile devices with us 24x7x365. To this end, I remember seeing a post recently talking about how most of us would grab our mobile phones during an emergency first before anything else. This sets up the expectation that we are “always” available and reachable by others. However, because of the proliferation of push notifications, most of us switch our mobile phones to “silent” or “do not disturb” to avoid being distracted during the day. When we do this, we create a “communication blackout” that makes it nearly impossible to get someone’s attention urgently. This is where In-telligent comes into the picture. We allow authorities and important people in the user’s life to send them messages that will get around these notification settings, ensuring that important and urgent messages are noticed immediately. Being the first company to figure out how to do this on iOS and Android devices, we have to educate users that this ability is even possible. Once we do, we are certain that our approach to urgent and emergency messages will become the standard everywhere.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

I am not sure that I see a “Black Mirror” drawback with our technology, but I do see instances where our technology could be used for mischief. Imagine a disgruntled manager that sends out an emergency message when no emergency actually exists, similar to what happened in Hawaii in 2018. In that instance, people actually thought that a nuclear missile was headed to them and that they were minutes away from certain death. Thankfully, it was a false alarm. However, it does demonstrate the power of the technology. People planning to do bad things could use our technology to keep their co-conspirators aware of time-sensitive changes, assisting towards a “successful” outcome at the same time that one friend is alerting another of a wonderful life event (such as a promotion or pregnancy). We can’t keep mischief from occurring, but we can work to ensure that our product is used for good purposes.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

This one is easy: when we figured out how to make our technology work on iPhones! Never before had a private company figured out how to make an iPhone make noise when set to “silent mode” — whether the app was open or closed, and even if the iPhone was awake or asleep. Figuring this out took perseverance, ingenuity, technical competence, overall confidence, and a lot of coffee!

Problem-solving starts with the belief that a solution exists and then crafting a path from the problem to the solution. As it relates to the silent settings on an iPhone, all Apple developers were under the impression that it simply was not possible to get around these settings. They held to the belief that it had been tried unsuccessfully in the past and that it was futile to try again. Not being a developer, I wasn’t constrained by this thinking. Instead, I was able to quiz our team of developers to see what was possible and what wasn’t through learning and trial and error. While this took some time, like carefully peeling an onion, eventually we started making headway until eventually, we were able to do something that no one else had ever been able to do. After that, we switched from coffee to scotch!

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

As mentioned above, we have a big challenge ahead of us because we have to educate the public that it is possible to do what we can do. Being the first company to bring this technology to the world, very few people know about our feature. When they hear about it, they love it. We just have to get the world out — everywhere!

The pandemic has changed so many things about the way we behave. One of them of course, is how we work and how we communicate in our work. How do you think your innovation might be able to address the new needs that have arisen as a result of the pandemic?

Remote working and social distancing are here to stay. Video calling and working from home in casual wear are now staples in our daily lives. Unfortunately, this means that the “water cooler” conversations, gatherings in the kitchen and impromptu happy hours are potentially a thing of the past. While we are dealing with these new “norms,” the importance of reaching out and successfully connecting is even more critical than ever before. Further, while it seems somewhat contradictory, giving someone the ability to “unplug” while still remaining available for important interruptions is becoming even more important to a person’s mental health. Our technology helps in both instances along with dozens of others.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Starting a business is hard. As a rule, people aren’t going to line up to buy your product or service. Developing something that they will buy is just the first step, you then have to get them excited about the product or service and build a sense of urgency. Even the person that builds the “best mouse trap” still has to convince people that it is actually “the best,” that it is “worth” the price, AND that they need it. We developed an amazing tool for connecting people during an emergency. Since no one had ever developed anything like this before, we had to educate “the world” that we could do it, prove to them that we could do it and then make it a priority for them to need the product. All of this takes time, commitment and perseverance.
  2. No one will love your idea more than you. This is your “baby,” your “brainchild,” and something that you developed from the ether. You will live it 24x7x365. You will mold it and nurture it. You will defend it against all attacks. If you aren’t willing to commit, you will not succeed.
  3. Build a great team. No one can do this on their own. None of us have all the skills necessary to build a successful business around a cool/innovative product or service. Each team member should enhance the group’s overall skillset and, most importantly, make your life easier. You know what you need. Find the right people, trust them and let them flourish.
  4. Stay focused. It is extremely easy to get distracted. One client/customer wants “red” and another wants “blue.” Talking to the development team, they say it is easy to create both, so now you have “red” and “blue” widgets. Then a potential customer says that they would like “black” and you are back to the development team. After a while, you are making every color possible and experiencing major and significant efficiency issues. Further, your client support team is managing a massive number of client requests and your marketing and sales team has to sell in markets that they don’t know, just because you are making certain widgets. Remember the Pareto Principle — 80+% of your customers will buy less than 20% of your products. As such, get rid of the other 80% of your products and dramatically increase your effectiveness and efficiency.
  5. Remember to enjoy the journey. At 2:00 AM when you still need to process payroll as well as finish a sales presentation in the morning, it is often difficult to find “joy.” When you are balancing daily cash collections against your operating expenses and capital commitments, it is stressful and slightly overwhelming. When a key employee asks to take a week off to “recharge” a few days before an important presentation leaving you to pick up the pieces, you might reconsider why you started this business in the first place. There is no doubt that there are going to be dark moments. Thomas Edison failed hundreds of times when creating the electric lightbulb until he succeeded. Don’t expect it to work perfectly the first time. Remember that you are doing something worth doing! You are fighting the good fight! A famous existential quote states, “You have given your life for this moment, was it worth it?” The answer is “Yes” — whether you win or lose, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you try with all your heart, learn along the way and enjoy the journey.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would love for people to listen to each other better. So many times, we filter what we hear into something that is different than what the person said. We embellish, we interpret and we modify. What we don’t do enough is truly listen.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

By going to my LinkedIn page, In-telligent.com and following our social media channels here:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook

Thank you so much for the time you spent doing this interview. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success.


About The Interviewer: David Liu is the founder and CEO of Deltapath, an award-winning unified communications company that liberates organizations from the barriers of effective communication. Liu is known for his visionary leadership, organic growth strategies, and future-forward technology. Liu is highly committed to achieving a greater purpose with technology. Liu’s business insights are regularly featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, Tech Crunch, and more.