The Future of Communication Technology: Shane Neman of Neman Ventures On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up How We Connect and Communicate With Each Other

Now more than ever Americans are looking to save however they can, especially when it comes to healthcare. 411Rx directly addresses those needs by providing them help in finding their meds for the best price using an easy Chatbot. It’s as simple as that.


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 interviewingShane Neman.

Shane prides himself on being a problem solver and a consummate optimist which are traits that have been significant advantages in his life as a serial entrepreneur. His experience and expertise in business span many industries from technology and telecommunications to real estate and hospitality. After earning a computer science degree from NYU, Shane started three tech startups (two of them — EZ Texting and JoonBug — were acquired) with hundreds of employees and tens of thousands of customers. He’s a prolific backer of startups and late stage companies including Impossible Foods, Convoy, Prose, and Universal Standard, Apostrophe, MeetMindful, MapAnything, VinePair, TeamFlow, Hyperice, ResiDesk and many more. Shane’s also a real estate investor and developer who owns more than two dozen large-scale properties across the U.S. ranging from commercial shopping and industrial centers to residential buildings.


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 fascinated early on by the application of computers to biology and medicine which led me to pursue a degree in Computer Science and Pre-Med at New York University. Following a summer internship at the NASA biology labs at JFK Space Center, I enrolled at NYU Medical School. With the Internet boom of the late 90’s unfolding around me I couldn’t resist jumping on the bandwagon and working for an Internet startup. I left Medical school and took a position as lead developer of NYC-based Convey, one of the first blogging systems for publishers — long before the word “blog” even existed.

Shortly thereafter, I gathered a number of my close high school and college buddies to start our own Internet venture. Offyx was born and it was a web portal designed to deliver applications through the cloud using Citrix technology. It was our attempt to leverage computing and eliminate the need for IT staff for SMBs. As it turned out, Offyx was too early to market but the experience taught me what I needed to know to move forward with confidence to my next venture.

In a pre-Facebook, MySpace and EventBrite era I founded JoonBug: a suite of software solutions that married all aspects of the offline events world with the digital world. I spent the next eight years building the company to $25 million-plus in annual revenues and over 75 employees.

We were first to market with technologies such as online photo purchasing and social sharing, exhaustive event databases, location-specific email newsletters, and e-ticketing systems. We also delved into large-scale event production, executing over 300 events annually, with over 100,000 total attendees.

In 2006 as the efficacy of email marketing newsletters began to diminish, I had the idea of reaching consumers through SMS on their mobile devices as a more potent alternative. This marked the birth of EZ Texting; a SaaS SMS communications platform (think Constant Contact or MailChimp for texting) that I designed and built to enable businesses to affordably and easily market to consumers via SMS.

For the next two years I simultaneously headed JoonBug and EZ Texting until I sold JoonBug to a long-standing competitor and channeled all of my attention to EZ Texting.

By 2012 EZ Texting had amassed over 50,000 customers and annual revenues in the seven figures. In 2013 EZ Texting was acquired by CallFire — a cloud communications company — with the help of Morgan Stanley, Investor Growth Capital, and Multiplier Capital.

A few years following the acquisition I left EZ Texting and began Neman Ventures, where I mainly focus on building my own startups and investing in Venture Capital, Real Estate, and Hospitality.

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

I hit a few major catastrophic moments a few years into growing EZ Texting. At one point our service was blocked by T-Mobile from messaging their subscribers which essentially rendered our platform useless. To put things into perspective: Imagine trying to sell a cell phone which can’t call or text anyone who’s phone number is on T-Mobile. It was a “David and Goliath” situation for me because I had unsuccessfully tried all diplomatic means to get through the bureaucracy of a multi-billion-dollar company which saw my company as a pion. I quickly realized that I was in an urgent do-or-die situation and started my search for the best telecommunications litigation lawyer (who I potentially couldn’t even afford). Thankfully I found one in Washington DC, home of the FCC. My attorney, Mike Hazzard Esq, was able to file an emergency injunction in NY Federal Court for me that finally settled the situation and brought our service fully back live and we were able to survive despite being bruised and battered by losing a lot of customers. EZ Texting is now the largest SMS platform for SMBs in the US. Albeit that didn’t come to fruition without a ton of sleepless all-nighters, a heavy unaffordable legal bill, and the emotional roller-coaster ride that puts extreme skydiving to shame.

Since then, I have had many more instances where I hit rocky roads in both my personal and business life, but from this experience, and many more like it, I have been able to get through them more with more confidence and peace of mind.

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

“Get comfortable being uncomfortable”.

It’s the tagline that I live my life by and I even printed on a label stuck to the bottom of my monitor as a constant reminder! Being an entrepreneur or a startup founder is mostly glamourized by our culture and the media. But in reality, it’s the most unglamourous and sucky career path you can choose. It’s much easier to work for someone else and leave work behind after punching out a 5pm. Being successful at running your business is a 24/7 endeavor that permeates every aspect of your life from your health, to your personal relationships and your family. You will find yourself doing things that you never thought you would have to do, and many times they are things that you absolutely hate to do or that you are not good at. The key is coming to terms with this and understanding that being uncomfortable is part of the process. It will never go away. You can get better and better at emotionally handling the inevitable unease that awaits you, but nevertheless it’s always tough to get through. If you can build the emotional fortitude and mindset to always put yourself in uncomfortable situations then your odds of being successful and growing as a person tilt in your favor. I’m always looking forward to my next struggle: whether it’s starting a new venture, investing in a new asset class that I am not familiar with, or trying a new diet and workout plan. I know it’s going to either fail and lead me to my next opportunity or pleasantly surprise me with another success.

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 unequivocally owe everything I am and have to my parents. Their work-ethic and attention to family and community is something that I have strived to emulate in my own life. My parents were Persian Jews who immigrated to NY in the late 70s during the Iranian revolution. It was about a month before I was born and they had to flee and seek asylum in a hurry to escape so they left their country and upper-middle class life with just one suitcase and a few hundred dollars in their pocket. My father was an architect and had gone to school for almost 8 years to become one of the leading ones in Tehran and my mother was an English tutor as she had gone to boarding school in London. When they arrived in Brooklyn, NY they didn’t really know anyone until my grandparents and other family were able to flee too and escape and join them. But somehow, they managed to find a place to live and pivot their careers. My father would have had to go back to school and start all over again if he wanted to work as an architect again — something they couldn’t afford to do. Instead, they decided to create their own clothing line since my dad was great at design and my mom could help him make the clothes. They started their hustle and the struggle was super hard and real for them. My father would spend his nights designing and helping my mom make clothes and then he would spend his days going door to door to various boutiques in NYC trying to get orders. Slowly and with a lot of hard work and luck they were able to open their own boutique a few years later and we were able to move to a larger 1-bedroom apartment in Queens and then years later to a nice suburb called Great Neck. They had created a mini clothing factory in the basement of our suburban house and I would often find myself falling asleep down there listening to the boombox they had going with Persian music while they worked until 3am and would eventually carry me back to my bed in the early morning.

When I turned 13 my father developed stomach cancer and within 2 months passed at the age of 44. It was a tragic loss for my entire family, especially my mom. She was only in her early 30s and completely devastated. She had to not only contend with losing the one true love of her life, but also somehow mastermind a plan to raise me and provide for us since she obviously couldn’t handle the clothing business without him. All while being a young woman who had been unbearably sick with renal and autoimmune disease for more than half her life and having no more than a spotty high school education because of her sickness (she was the first child to ever receive a kidney transplant at the age of 12 in the US). She began to work and built her life again; she turned an impossible situation into a miracle. Single handedly and despite all odds, she faced her challenges and raised me and put me through college at NYU.

While I was in my junior year in college, she suffered a massive stroke that left her paralyzed on the left side of her body, requiring her to get a 5th kidney transplant and hospitalized for almost 2 years. She was only 38 years old. Most people would have totally given up on life, but my mom dusted herself off as soon as she regained her strength, and went to several more years of rehab every day. She learned to walk again and became self-sufficient to the point that she would drive, live on her own, and work every day with even more fierceness and passion than before. She was a brilliant and super successful business woman who would often leave her peers in awe by out-working and outwitting them.

Throughout all this time I can NEVER remember a single instance where my mother complained or was bitter about her problems. She always was thankful and hopeful that things would become better through hard work, determination and the grace of God. Despite being knocked down time and time and time again, she would get back up with a smile, thank God, and work towards a better future. Witnessing all of this revealed to me the secret of life that she knew all too well; to win you must learn to accept your circumstances and change yourself to overcome adversity.

Another great lesson my mother taught me was to truly believe in yourself and dream big. I attended NYU Medical School and after the first semester I realized that I didn’t want to become a doctor but instead I wanted to start a software technology business. After she already paid for the first year’s tuition, she looked at me and without hesitation said, “My love, just go and do it. I know I am going to read about you in the newspapers and you will become famous internationally.” The next day I never went back to class and never looked back. Her progressiveness and cheerleading gave me the courage to follow my passion and succeed without fear.

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

I believe the best and most difficult way to bring goodness into this world is by raising smart, compassionate, caring and emotionally intelligent children. Being a parent has been absolutely the hardest job I’ve had, but it’s also the most important one if you believe in giving back. You know the quote “Charity starts at home?” Well, it rings true for every parent since your children will become the legacy you leave in the world. If you are charitable to your kids with your love, time, compassion and unwavering commitment to teach them ethics, manners, and how to be a good person then I believe you have done more for the world than potentially donating millions of dollars to even the worthiest of causes.

With that in mind, for the last seven years (that’s how old my eldest child is) I have been dedicated to prioritizing and reserving my time for my children and family. When I am creating my schedule for the next week or month, I first block out the times that that would give me the best quality time with them; whether that’s in the mornings, after school or during their school breaks. Next comes anything I have to do for my health or wellness, like workouts and doctor visits (so I can stick around long enough to enjoy my kids when they’re adults too). Only after that do I then start booking business meetings, calls and quiet time to read and work on different projects. I still manage to get most of my work done, but it has definitely come at a cost of giving up great business opportunities that have come across my desk. Although these ventures would certainly bring me great financial success, they would also require giving up my time with my kids and wife which I value as priceless.

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?

In September of 2020 I launched 411Rx ,which is the first ever intelligent Chatbot prescription drug price comparison and saving tool, in an effort to help all American consumers find the best priced prescription drugs at their favorite local or online pharmacies. 411Rx makes finding the best priced pharmacies and receiving prescription coupons for up to 85% off as simple as chatting online with a friend. The service allows any US based consumer to get great savings in three simple steps:

1. Tell Us Your Meds.

Have a quick chat with us about your prescriptions on the 411Rx Web Chat, RCS Chatbot or Smartphone App.

2. Get the Best Prices & Coupons.

Prescription med prices are different at each pharmacy. 411Rx’s Chatbot finds you the best savings and coupons for your meds.

3. Show Your Coupon & Save.

Show your free coupon to the Pharmacist when you pick up your meds or use them with any of your favorite online pharmacies — up to 85% with or without insurance!

What’s most interesting about 411Rx is not the webchat or app version, but the RCS version, which is what we are mostly focused on. RCS (Rich Communications Services) enhances the built-in SMS messaging on Android phones (which constitute the majority of the smartphones in use today across the globe). iPhone owners already enjoy iMessage which allows you to do things like sending read receipts, high resolution images and videos, and see typing bubbles when someone is replying when messaging with other iPhone owners. RCS is Android’s version of iMessage which theoretically should work across all new Android version handsets and there are rumors it will be compatible with iMessage … eventually.

While this might not seem like a big deal, it’s a huge leap forward for the hundreds of millions of users who are stuck using the 160-character limit imposed by traditional SMS. Yes, I know there are things like What’s App and Telegram but SMS is the one and only built-in messaging app that is pre-installed on every phone and more widely used than any other communications app. It’s frictionless, easy to use, and doesn’t require an internet connection — all you need is cell reception and it even works on one bar!

RCS also allows for the use of Chatbots through the Android messaging app. That means that you can directly message with your favorite businesses like your bank or your go-to clothing brands and do things like place orders, get customer service, return items, check your balance — all without having to place a call or wait on hold! iMessage already has this and they call it “Business Chat” with large companies like Fidelity participating. RCS has only started to roll out on certain carriers and on only a limited model of handsets.

Currently the 411Rx RCS Chatbot is live on some versions of Samsung Galaxy Android phones on T-Mobile and will launch on AT&T, Verizon, and Tracfone throughout the course of 2021 which will expose our Chatbot to tens of millions of subscribers. We’ll also be included in the Chatbot directories on AT&T and other carriers as they roll out, which makes our service as well as others, much more discoverable. It’s definitely an exciting time and I am looking forward to the challenges ahead!

How do you think this might change the world?

I am not sure if it will change the whole world but we are starting with just the USA, where spending on prescription drugs continues to be one of the fastest-growing healthcare costs facing Americans. Factors that have driven the increase in prescription drug spending include increased use of disease-preventative and quality-of-life enhancing drugs by patients, direct marketing to patients by pharmaceutical companies, usage changes to newer, higher-cost drugs, and price increases by manufacturers. Also because customers choose a local retailer for their prescription drug needs without knowing if there are better deals available at other nearby retailers, they fail to take advantage of promotions and coupons for prescription drugs, either because they are unaware of such discounts, unable to find them, or lack time to search for them. The need for cost savings has also been exacerbated by COVID-19 and the devastating economic impact it has had on all Americans.

Customers would like the convenience of being able to quickly use their smartphone or other mobile device to find the nearest prescription drug retailer at the most competitive price available. There is a huge need for automated bots that interact with consumers in real-time to quickly and conveniently obtain the most competitively priced prescription drugs at their local retailers. That is why all the major US Carriers such as Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile are enabling our 411Rx Chatbot on Android based phones through RCS technology, which will allow consumers to easily chat through their built-in text messaging app on their phone with no app download or web browser needed.

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

I can’t think of any drawbacks to Chatbot technology other than perhaps larger companies somehow relying on them too much to interact with their customers. There’s nothing that can substitute for real human interaction and it’s the only thing that builds relationships and trust. Companies may lose sight of that and try to have bots take over for all of their customer interactions which I think is the wrong direction to go towards. Most of the time you just want to get some simple info quickly and that’s great for a bot or app to handle. But sometimes you need a real human to help you with the complex and emotional issue you are facing.

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

My good friend and colleague Alykan Govani, who is the CEO of AirFind recently moved to Miami a few years ago from NYC. We had worked together extensively during EZ Texting and this gave us a chance to work together on new projects. I was at his office just catching up and he showed me the new RCS Chatbot directory that was just launched on AT&T. There were only two or three chatbots available in beta at that time but I spent a few hours playing with them and was fascinated by the possibilities that laid ahead. What had started as a friendly personal catchup lunch turned into a new business brainstorming session within a few hours. For the next several days we racked our brains coming up with a list of different ideas for chatbots until Aly had to use his RxSaver app to go get a coupon for a prescription he needed to pick up and that’s when he frantically called me with the idea for 411Rx. I got to work the next week prototyping and coding the alpha version. Within 4 months we had a working beta version ready for launch and we have been enhancing the product every day since then.

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

The only thing we need is time. Carriers and handset makers are notoriously slow at rolling out new technology but the good news is that the ball has already started rolling and I believe that in a few years RCS will be widely available on all carriers and Android phones. Once that happens, I think Apple will also adopt the technology therein making it ubiquitous and available on all phones. Also, as consumers start to interact with Chatbots more often I believe they will prefer them over apps that perhaps perform a similar function. It’s arguably easier and more intuitive to have a natural language conversation than use an app interface to get the info or service you need.

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?

Now more than ever Americans are looking to save however they can, especially when it comes to healthcare. 411Rx directly addresses those needs by providing them help in finding their meds for the best price using an easy Chatbot. It’s as simple as that.

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 Anything Personally

I stole this one from the book “The Four Agreements’’ by Miguel Ruiz. It’s one of the four principles that the book is founded on that help you lead a more enjoyable and happy life. I read it for the first time about 8 years ago and it had such a profound impact on my psyche, that I make it a point to re-read it every year when the new year rolls around. When I was a young entrepreneur, I would take everything that was said to me to heart. It didn’t matter who was saying it, but if it was any sort of criticism, I would spend hours perpetually over-analyzing and thinking about it and oftentimes lose a whole night of sleep.

For example, when I started EZ Texting in 2005, a lot of my friends and colleagues would tell me that my idea was crap and that SMS was old technology and I should be focusing on things like in-app messaging or a messaging app. I even had one of my own family members laugh at me after showing them the beta version of the software I created and I told her I was going to charge 5 cents per text message for businesses to use it. She chuckled and said I should go and focus on big money instead of pennies if I wanted to become successful. Even though I didn’t end up listening to any of them, I did spend a lot of time and energy doubting myself and worrying about what others thought of me and my business. It took a lot of practice, experience, and a magical book like the “Four Agreements’’ to help me overcome that struggle. In the end, they were all wrong! SMS usage continues to grow at a rate of 20% a year and has the largest read and open rates that far exceed any other communications channel currently available.

2. It’s Risky Business

For the past few years, the majority of my time has been dedicated to thinking about risk and how to control or leverage it to the maximum extent possible. When I was just starting out, I was assessing risk using my gut and not taking into consideration that there are many things that I don’t know that I don’t know! That led to a lot of bad decision making. However now (after several years of intense studying, reading, watching, and obsessing about this subject), my approach to assessing and thinking about risk has significantly changed.

Now that I am older (44) and run my own Venture fund called Neman Ventures, I am naturally much more careful and risk averse unless I can find an asymmetrical business deal where the upside risk is much more than the downside risk. Through studying others that are gifted at gauging risk and my own experiences, it’s become more and more obvious to me that the only way to manage risk (and more importantly be successful at it), is the ability to do several things well including:

– Remove your emotions from the equation (this has been the hardest challenge for me to overcome and I am still struggling with it!). In many instances learning to control your emotions is even more important than being smart and working hard.

– Be alright with saying “No” to most opportunities if they don’t meet your risk profile/tolerance — no matter how exciting and full of potential it might be. Remember the quote: “The more you know, the less you diversify.” I’d rather have a handful of winners in a small concentrated but well thought out and risk profiled portfolio than a huge unmanageable portfolio of investments or deals that would likely not even give me the same returns.

– Don’t be fooled by the outcomes of your decisions. Don’t become overconfident just because you made a good investment or decision, since it might have more to do with luck than your ability. On the other hand, don’t become too hesitant to take another risk on a deal where the odds are in your favor just because you were burned on a similar deal before.

– Always leave chips on the table to be able to recover if you are wrong — i.e. Don’t go totally “ALL IN” — ever!

3. Shut Up and Breathe!

In March of 2020 when the pandemic first began, I was home alone and like everyone else I was worrying all the time and on the verge of a freaking total meltdown. To top it off, I’ve had debilitating chronic back-pain for the past few years that naturally flared up. I tried to get my mind off things by watching some Netflix and came across an episode of GOOP dedicated to Wim Hof. I watched with skepticism as he showed his breathing technique and made bold claims that it can cure pain and reduce inflammation in your body. But at that time, I had both nothing to lose and nothing better to do so I downloaded his guided breathing app and gave it a shot. After the first 10-minute session, I felt good for the next hour so I decided to try it for the next week. I dedicated 15 minutes per day to breath work right after I woke up. By the end of the week, and to my amazement, my back was 90% percent better! I hadn’t felt this good in many years despite all the different therapies I spent tons of time (and money) trying to cure myself with. By the end of one month, I was completely better and since then I haven’t missed one day of breathing!

The Wim Hof Method of Breathing fixed my back but what I began to notice is that I was more energized, more focused, less anxious, and generally nicer! With that came better judgment and more success in both my personal and business life. I was also enjoying working a lot more and not dreading my endless to-do list. I don’t think it matters which breathing technique you do, but it’s important to learn how to quiet your mind if you want to be successful and even more importantly, if you want to be happy. If you can manage your breath you can manage your mind and life.

4. Power = Compounding

Everyone knows Warren Buffet’s rule about the power of compounding and allowing your investments to do their job over long periods of time. If you had simply bought the S&P Index 20 years ago and closed your eyes you would have some serious cash now. The same thing can be said about every business experience you may have, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a success or a failure since they both compound to give you the tools you need for your next challenge. Every hardship I have ever endured seemed like a dooms-day scenario to me at the time, and even for a while after. But eventually (and perhaps years or decades later) I was able to use the lessons I learned from those hardships to my advantage in new opportunities that I became involved with.

Remember the story I told you earlier about almost losing my business and suing T-Mobile? What I left out was that about two years prior I went through another large lawsuit where EZ Texting was the defendant. Litigation is the worst thing on earth to go through and is akin to corporate terrorism. It was the first serious lawsuit I had been involved with and so I was terrified. Yet, without getting into the technical details, after the previous lawsuit was settled some of the information and rulings from it became key to our case against T-Mobile! Ironically when I was going through the T-Mobile lawsuit, I was thankful that I had gone through the previous one even though it was the most torturous experience I had been through at the time.

5. Success <> Happiness

Alright this is so cliché! But unless it was most likely true, it wouldn’t be one, right? If you are like me and you have ants in your pants, and are always looking to hit your next goal, please don’t forget to enjoy the ride. All that comes at the end of achieving that goal is a fleeting moment of happiness, followed by setting yourself another goal! True happiness is learning to enjoy the ride and not necessarily the achievement of the goal. Namaste!

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 became plant-based about 4 years ago after my son was born and my wife decided to start an alkaline diet to lose the baby weight. We took the journey together and it has positively changed my health, blood sugar, cholesterol, weight, mood and appearance that I could never imagine going back to eating animals. I think if we globally changed to plant-based or mostly plant-based eating, it would solve our dire obesity epidemic which drives the world’s leading causes of chronic diseases and subsequent mortality rates, financial ruin from rising healthcare costs, and leave us in a much more sustainable environment.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

I post everything on Instagram and My Blog

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: Inbar Yagur of Keywee On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up How We Connect and Communicate With Each Other

I head up marketing at Keywee, where we’ve been building a Marketing Language Platform that helps marketing and sales teams understand and optimize the words they use to deliver business results across websites, social channels, email, and ads. Trained on tens of millions of marketing messages, Keywee can generate effective text built for any channel or audience, optimized for conversion and engagement. Keywee not only saves marketing teams time by generating text, it can predict performance in advance, eliminating the need for costly A/B testing, ensuring maximum impact. One of the hardest things a marketer has to do is write. I’ve been trained in every form of writing imaginable, I’ve taught writing in the past, and yet, there’s nothing I hate more than a blank screen with a blinking cursor. Keywee helps marketers by not only generating effective copy — getting rid of that blank screen — but also by helping marketers choose the right message at the right time to maximize performance.


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 Inbar Yagur, Head of Marketing at Keywee, is an accomplished marketing executive with over 10 years of experience in content marketing, ad tech, and marketing technology. She is a public speaker and thought leader, having been included as a featured speaker at conferences like Content Marketing World, and has placed bylines and featured commentary in several marketing and publishing trade publications like Pubexec, ClickZ, Marketing Land, and Content Marketing Institute.

Previously, Inbar served as Director of Marketing at Ozcode and Vice President of Marketing at TrenDemon, a content marketing optimization and attribution platform. She also spent five years at Taboola, where she built the groundwork for Taboola’s “Creative Shop” and wrote the rulebook for creating content that converts on native advertising channels.

Inbar began her career as a filmmaker after completing a B.A. in Film and Media Arts from Temple University in Philadelphia, and a master’s degree in Directing from the American Film Institute Conservatory. She is also a professional member of the G-CMO Forum, an exclusive community of Israel’s top CMOs from global companies.


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?

Ispent the better part of my 20’s studying film. I got my BA in Film and Media Arts from Temple University and went on to get an MFA in Film Directing from the American Film Institute (AFI) Conservatory. I’m very proud of the work I did, but it touched on a lot of heavy topics. I won a handful of awards, but by the time I moved back to Israel at the age of 27 I was absolutely burned out and I felt like I lost my passion. I stayed in the film industry for a couple more years but quickly found myself drawn to the world of content marketing. That eventually led me to Taboola where I saw it grow from a company of 60 people to a unicorn that’s about to IPO. At Taboola, I developed a passion for public speaking and knowledge sharing. I had the opportunity to fly around the world to run workshops and lectures, teaching marketers how to succeed in Native Advertising. Today, I head up marketing at Keywee, which is building a ground-breaking product for marketers to generate and optimize their messages using AI. It’s an absolutely thrilling experience to be a part of this innovative space.

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

When I was at Taboola, we decided to take one of my workshops “on the road.” As a working mom, I try to keep my time away as short and efficient as possible. As a result, I had probably the craziest travel week I’ve ever had or will have. Leaving home from Tel Aviv, I made stops in Newark, Washington DC, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and then returned to Tel Aviv. That’s eight flights in seven days. I only slept in an actual room for five out of those seven days. I somehow managed to have six client meetings and three breakfast workshops during that time, and capped it all off by seeing my favorite podcast, at the time, live at the Hollywood Improv. Needless to say, when I finally got home I slept like a baby.

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

“You only know what you know when you know it.” I actually had this epiphany after dealing with a complicated medical issue over the course of a couple of years, but I find it to be incredibly relevant to everything I do. One of the hardest things about making any decision is the fear of regret. It’s easy in hindsight to say, “If I’d known that one little thing at the time I would have acted differently, and then all of this other stuff wouldn’t have happened…” There is nothing easier than beating yourself up over a decision that you’ve made, and that can often get in the way when you’re facing challenges in your life, be them personal or professional. But the thing is — you need to make the decision that is best for you given everything that you know now. You can’t blame yourself in hindsight because you only had partial information. When I’m about to make a hard decision, and I start worrying about what will happen, I remind myself: “You only know what you know when you know it.” Then I take a deep breath and jump — no regrets.

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?

This may be a bit cliche’, but that person is my husband. I think it’s very common for working moms to bear most of the burden when it comes to kids and day-to-day responsibilities. A lot of ink has also been spilled on the silent “emotional labor” that mothers do. I am incredibly lucky to be married to a man who is a TRUE partner. He’s an amazing father, of course, but beyond that, he doesn’t only pull his weight, he does it in a way that is supportive and empowering to me. He doesn’t just do the work, he does his share of the emotional labor, and that gives me space to fully pursue my career while raising kids who feel loved and cared for, whether it’s by their mother or their father. In a perfect world, this type of partnership would be the norm, but I recognize that it isn’t, and I’m grateful that this is the way it is in my home.

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

Not nearly enough in the past, but this year has really changed that. I know how fortunate I am to have financial stability during this time, and I’ve been making an effort to donate and give back to the community where I can.

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?

I head up marketing at Keywee, where we’ve been building a Marketing Language Platform that helps marketing and sales teams understand and optimize the words they use to deliver business results across websites, social channels, email, and ads. Trained on tens of millions of marketing messages, Keywee can generate effective text built for any channel or audience, optimized for conversion and engagement. Keywee not only saves marketing teams time by generating text, it can predict performance in advance, eliminating the need for costly A/B testing, ensuring maximum impact. One of the hardest things a marketer has to do is write. I’ve been trained in every form of writing imaginable, I’ve taught writing in the past, and yet, there’s nothing I hate more than a blank screen with a blinking cursor. Keywee helps marketers by not only generating effective copy — getting rid of that blank screen — but also by helping marketers choose the right message at the right time to maximize performance.

How do you think this might change the world?

In general, Natural Language Generation has made leaps and bounds in the last couple of years — we see it everywhere, and we already use it in places without even noticing it. Just think about how many tools you use today that automatically complete sentences you start to write. It’s already changing the world. The problem with AI being able to generate unlimited amounts of text is that you still need a way to sift through it and find the messages that are most likely to be effective. The decision process there is akin to finding a needle in a haystack. That’s what sets Keywee apart — we not only generate the text, we evaluate it and help marketers make better choices. This will, of course, make their lives easier, and it will also help ensure that the right people see the right message at the right time and place. I think marketing is at its best when a user meets a product that helps them or brings them joy. We are so inundated with it, though, that it’s easy to get lost in the noise. Keywee helps marketers overcome that noise and find the users that will really benefit from their products.

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

I think that it’s crucial to use this technology as a helping hand and not as an autonomous machine. Relying fully on AI to craft your messages will create a feedback loop that will end in irrelevance. Natural Language AI is trained on things that people have written, and people are a critical component to keeping that technology honest. If AI is trained text that’s written by AI, it will inevitably stop being an effective way to communicate with people. So keeping the human element in the mix is crucial to keeping the AI effective.

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

Marketing has changed dramatically over the past few years. Specifically, social media has become a critical channel to promote products and services. And as social media grew as a marketing platform, the rules began to change. Words — which ones you use and how you use them — became crucial to building and engaging an audience. It’s become such a huge challenge, to the point where, as a marketer, it’s hard to keep up and wrap your head around it. Using AI to understand an audience and what works for that audience became an obvious need in the industry. It offers a way to truly empower marketers with the right language so that they can get the most out of their campaigns while avoiding mistakes and pitfalls.

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

I think the biggest blocker is that people don’t truly understand what AI is. Most people hear “AI” and immediately go to Skynet, The Matrix, and 100 other pop culture references. Admittedly, I did too. It took coming to Keywee to truly open my eyes. AI is not this out-of-control, all-knowing, all-powerful force. It’s not meant to replace people, it’s meant to empower them. This is especially true when it comes to AI that generates text. You can generate thousands of messages, you can use our technology to sift through those messages and pick the best ones, but you’re still the gatekeeper. You have to be. So now something that took you three hours and cost you thousands of dollars to test will take you only five minutes and cost far less. But you’re still the mediator, you still make the final decision. It’s really easy for marketers to forget that at the other end of their messages is another human being that’s making a decision to connect with their product. A human touch is crucial to facilitate that connection. The AI is there to help, not to replace, that human touch.

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?

When the pandemic hit, everything went digital overnight. A transformation was already in the works, but the pandemic accelerated that transformation. For a lot of people (me included!) the world was reduced to 4 walls and a screen. That immediate change created an unfathomable amount of new content, new experiences, and new products. There was already so much white noise before, now that has exponentially increased. It’s crucial to find ways to stand out from the crowd and connect to the right people. I fully believe Keywee’s platform is a powerful tool to cut through that white noise.

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. If something scares you, don’t avoid it, lean into it. This is something I’ve really started practicing lately, and it’s 100% the result of what I’ve learned from Yaniv Makover, Keywee’s CEO. When I was starting to build a plan for marketing our platform I would object to some of his ideas, not because there was a true reason to object, but because I was afraid to tackle certain challenges because they were unknowns” He told me to make a list of what the marketing team needs, and if any of those things scare me because I don’t know enough about them, to state it plainly. We need to do X, Y, and Z. What’s the priority of each of them, and how scary is it to do them? The second I started acknowledging the fear, it stopped being frightening. Now, I look back at my career before Keywee and clearly see places where I fell short not because I was incapable, but because I was avoiding things that scared me.
  2. You’re getting paid to have an opinion. It’s really easy to get complacent and agree with people because that’s the path of least resistance. Going with the flow is always easier than disagreeing. Launching a new product is an incredibly high-pressure situation. Because of that, it can be easy to sit back and agree with people just to avoid confrontation. A few months ago I was finding myself at odds with some of the strategies the company was testing. But on the other hand, I wasn’t actually saying anything about it. It took a couple of heated conversations for me to realize that I wasn’t expressing my concern properly and openly. I sat down with a colleague and he reminded me that I wasn’t hired to agree with everyone. I was hired to have an opinion. They could have hired someone with a fraction of my experience to smile and nod along. They hired me because my experience has given me strong opinions. That’s a good thing, not a bad thing.
  3. Trying 100 things and failing at all of them is better than not trying. Bringing a new product to market takes a lot of trial and error. At the end of the day, no one has actually done the exact thing that we’re doing now. There’s no playbook for bringing this product to market. We’re writing the playbook. So all we can do is try, try, and try some more. We went through a bunch of iterations of our marketing funnel over the course of a few months. Some things worked better than others, and there were plenty of strategies that didn’t work at all. We tested, pivoted, and tested again. Each one of those tests had things we could learn from, and informed everything we did afterward. So our biggest failures were also our most valuable lessons.
  4. You need to own your $#!t. There are always dependencies in everything you do. The product team can’t innovate without feedback from customer success. The sales team can’t sell without the marketing team bringing in leads. But if the sales team isn’t doing well, it can’t just blame the marketing team. If my team isn’t hitting our goals I can’t blame the product team. You never have control over every outcome. It’s always a team effort. But the worst thing you can possibly do is sit back, throw your hands up and pass the buck. When something’s not working, the first thing I ask myself is “how is this your fault, and what can you do to fix it?”. If you need another team to do something different, you need to communicate it and push for it. No one else will do it for you.
  5. The best way to market to people is to empower them with knowledge. At the end of the day, everybody wants to know more, be better, and do better. Great marketing happens when people trust you, and people trust you when you give them value. When you work to empower them to do better. One of my favorite things to do as a marketer is speaking at conferences because I see that feedback immediately. I never sell Keywee’s product when I speak. What I do is share what we’ve learned that will help make marketers be better at their jobs. I want the person to come away from that session feeling like they learned something that they can put into practice whether they buy Keywee or don’t. If a person is taking time out of their day to listen to you, read your blog post, or interact with your website, you need to acknowledge that time, and it’s your responsibility to make sure it’s time well spent. If you respect your audience and give them value, they will respect and value you back.

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. 🙂

One thing that’s happened during the pandemic is that I’ve realized the importance of our immediate vicinity. I always used to be the mom that volunteered to bring napkins and forks to the class potluck. I was “too busy” and dreaded any sort of active participation. This year, seeing the incredibly positive support system our local community has been, I’ve been saying “yes” much more. Raising my hand and volunteering for more. I always dread it before I do it, and then once I do, I’m happy and grateful that I said “yes”. That’s what I’d challenge people to do — when an opportunity to help or contribute comes around, just say “yes”!

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Check out keywee.co for product updates. @gokeywee is a great way to see what the company is up to. I’m more of a linkedin person, my profile there is Inbar (Gilboa) Yagur | LinkedIn.

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: Nigel Cannings of Intelligent Voice On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up How We Connect and Communicate With Each Other

A few years ago, long before anyone thought about lockdowns, I had an idea for an Augmented Reality (“AR”) meeting room which could be driven entirely by voice, so that people did not need to be tethered to a camera for meetings, but could still be “present”, with an avatar that actually reacted based on what people were saying. Using AR means that you could actually place the other people in the room in a chair opposite you in a natural environment. It seemed a bit science fiction at the time, but now that we are all stuck at home, this type of interaction, without the need to be tied to a camera, could be crucial.


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 Nigel Cannings, CTO at Intelligent Voice. He has over 25 years’ experience in both Law and Technology, is the founder of Intelligent Voice Ltd and a pioneer in all things voice. Nigel is also a regular speaker at industry events not limited to NVIDIA, IBM, HPE and AI Financial Summits.


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?

My guilty secret is that I started life as a lawyer in the early 90s. My dad sold the first ever personal computers in Europe through his Byte Shop chain in 1978, and I had always wanted to follow in his footsteps, so I walked into his office at the age of 18 in 1987, and told him that I wanted to become a businessman (80’s speak for an entrepreneur). He swore at me for the first time in his life and told me that I had no idea how hard it was, and to go get a proper job: If I wanted to run my own business, come back to him after that. Fast forward 17 years. I had gone to university, become a lawyer, and ended up running the legal team in Europe for what was then one of the world’s largest software companies. I’d made good money out of share options, so I left my job and walked back into his office and said “Right, I’m ready.” His response was one of bafflement and confusion. He had no recollection at all of that seminal moment in my life — He had just wanted me out of his office!

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

I’ve done a huge amount of travelling in the last 20 years, much of it to the US, and so a lot of the best stories come from those trips: Certainly my karaoke skills have improved immensely over the years. Probably my best and worst was meeting Tim Witherspoon, Muhammad Ali’s sparring partner, on a plane when he was on the way to Ali’s funeral. We talked, I got a great photo with him, and I was totally psyched to meet him. The only problem was, at the time, I didn’t have a clue who he was! All I knew was that the attendants on the plane were making real fuss of him, so I had to go over and say hello (it was a very empty flight!)

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

Richard Branson said “There are no quick wins in business — it takes years to become an overnight success.” — I know of few people who start their own businesses who don’t find this out the hard way: I certainly did. When you are employed and getting a salary every month, you have no idea what goes on behind the scenes to make sure that it happens, particularly in a small or medium-sized company. Going out on your own will cost you money, can cost you friendships, and can even cost you family. It can crush your mental health, and none of this is helped by the “unicorn” culture where we see one or two companies achieve billion dollar status as if your inability to do that is failure. Or as Professor Scott Galloway put it “The worst advice given to young people is … follow your passion. What utter bullshit. If someone tells you to follow your passion, that means they’re already rich. …”

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’ve already spoken about my dad once, and I’m going to have to do it again. He spent 50 years in business making a lot of the mistakes it’s possible to make, and so I have leaned heavily on him for advice in running my own business. Doesn’t mean I have always listened, but it’s helped me work out when my gut is right, rather than just inexperienced.

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

Life is about cause and effect: I’m not one for big gestures, instead I try to look at every decision I make and think “How would I feel to be on the receiving end of that?”. I try to be fair in my dealings with other people. It doesn’t always mean people agree that I am being fair, but I try hard to weigh up all sides before I act. I also try very hard to give a leg up to people who otherwise might not get a chance. As a company, we work very closely with the University of East London, and look to help sponsor and encourage students from diverse economic and ethnic backgrounds. The government runs an excellent Knowledge Transfer Partnership programme to help bridge the gap between academia and industry, and to encourage young academics to skill up for the real world. Of the 800 currently operating now across the entire UK, we have two.

Can you tell us about the cutting edge communication tech that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

A few years ago, long before anyone thought about lockdowns, I had an idea for an Augmented Reality (“AR”) meeting room which could be driven entirely by voice, so that people did not need to be tethered to a camera for meetings, but could still be “present”, with an avatar that actually reacted based on what people were saying. Using AR means that you could actually place the other people in the room in a chair opposite you in a natural environment. It seemed a bit science fiction at the time, but now that we are all stuck at home, this type of interaction, without the need to be tied to a camera, could be crucial.

How do you think this might change the world?

We’re never going back to work in the way we did previously. And as the term “Zoom Fatigue” quickly entered popular culture not long after lockdown, clearly the way we are doing online meetings is just not working. I think this technology could give us all of the benefits of being present in a meeting, without a lot of the drawbacks of sitting in front of a camera, while still allowing us to interact in what for us is a familiar space.

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

At the extreme, maybe we should be worried about people being replaced by their virtual equivalents and no-one noticing! With generative language models getting better and better, and “deepfake” audio cloning now a reality, who knows who is hiding behind the avatar? Seriously, though, we need to make sure that this doesn’t lead to excessive surveillance of the workforce: We can use AI as a means of making meetings more productive (eg meeting notes or real-time knowledge mining), but it is really too easy to start to measure how much people say, or how they say it, and draw incorrect conclusions about their value and contributions. I’m not a fan of how slavishly we are allowing “Sales Enablement” tools to make decisions about our workforces, and think we need to look hard at how we apply the technology

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

I was getting a bit sick of spending my life on an airplane. I am very much an “in-person” person, so I like to meet people face-to-face and get to know them. The relationship you develop over the phone or on a video conference is not as deep as when you sit face-to-face with someone, and the best deals I have done over the years are with people I have got to know by meeting them. I wasn’t looking to replace the face-to-face, just find a middle ground where I could interact a lot more naturally with people, without the need to travel 6,000 miles every time I wanted to do so.

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

Money, obviously. We have got so used to not paying for anything that gaining widespread adoption of any new technology means that you have to give an awful lot of it away to get people to pay for it. You only have to look at the massive imbalance of free and paid users on Zoom to see that. Also, the hardware needs to come on a little more, so that AR glasses are more within the reach of ordinary people. AR works well on a phone, but the headset devices that you need to wear to do immersive AR are really too cumbersome for everyday use.

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’ve already touched on this to a degree. We’re going to be working from home a lot, and it will be a long time until we travel for business the way we did. In fact, the airlines are going to have to have a massive rethink about a model that relies on filling a plane with a few super expensive tickets to fund the rest of the trip (as someone who has spent his career trying to find reasonably priced long-distance travel, I will welcome that!). So the idea of giving people a more natural 3D interaction with other people in a way that doesn’t smack of playing Doom in the 90s will, I think, replace the whole way we use Teams and Zoom today.

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 going to take a lot longer than you thought: I often joke that I am in year 13 of my 3 year plan. Somewhere I have a copy of the original business plan, and I seem to remember that it promised the first desert island by 2012. Building a successful business can take a long time, but if it’s the right business, it is worth following it through.
  2. It is going to cost you a lot more than you thought: The “you” is the important thing. Businesses don’t run on thin air, they need cash. Unusually we built the Intelligent Voice business without bringing in external investors, so we have sunk a lot of our own cash into the business, especially when times have been lean. But this has meant we have kept control of the company while if we had taken in outside investment, we might have failed, or have been diluted down to nothing. So before you start, think about what you are willing to invest, and also what allowing other people to invest in your place means to your control of your own destiny.
  3. Your vision is a lot more obvious to you than it is to others: This in a sense is the distillation of the first two points. It was totally obvious to me in 2008/9 when I first looked at the market that banks, post-crash, needed much more automation in their surveillance, and that the voice channel was the one that was the hardest to monitor using electronic means (and therefore the most open to abuse). It took until 2013 to persuade someone to actually install a holistic monitoring system using speech recognition technology (a world first), and then almost another 5 years to land a truly global opportunity, almost 10 years after I had first had the idea. I have a whole series of slides starting back to 2015 saying “2015 is the Year of Voice”, then “2016 is the Year of Voice” and so on. It was only in about 2020 that people actually really started to get it, certainly in the enterprise market.
  4. Make it pretty: I do not have an artistic bone in my body. But I like to build things. So I have always been a function over form sort of person. Back when we had desks at work, mine was covered in an array of hastily soldered together Heath Robinson inventions, and as anyone who works with me will tell you, I code in exactly the same way, 10% inspiration, 90% bulldozer. It was only when we released Myna last year, and employed proper graphic design on the front end that I realised something powerful (and probably obvious). It doesn’t matter how good your product is, people’s first reaction is always visual first, and features second. Of course it needs the features too, but whatever you build, don’t forget to build in beauty
  5. Stick to what you know: The grass is always greener. You are stuck in a job, and you have to get out. You hate your boss and feel you just can’t work for anyone else. Often the right time to start your own business. Honestly, this is not the time to decide to build a better cat flap. Yes, of course, we see the billionaires who dropped out of college and started a business seemingly on a whim, or someone who rented airbeds who parlayed that into a $31B company. But they are the exception. I always said I would never sell to lawyers, having been one for almost 5 years, but in the end it was my legal background that made the company successful in trader surveillance and litigation support. It pains me to say it, but apart from the lucky ones, for most of us, it’s always better to stick to what you know.

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. 🙂

Much as I would like to reintroduce hat wearing for men, that has little social benefit apart from to Milliners. From personal experience, I would want us to be able to properly explore the mental health issues that people face in their lives, some from organic causes (such as being bipolar) and others from terrible situations or loss. I know that with a destigmatisation of mental illness, and proper funding to deal with it, we would save thousands of lives every year and improve the lives of millions of others. And I’m particularly aiming this at men, who are so much more likely to suffer in silence. We need celebrities, influencers, business people, teachers, anyone whose life *looks* great from the outside to come forward and talk about their struggles, and how they cope with it (or don’t). Not at a “look at me, look how great I am” way, but being honest, and offering what helps get them through the day. If someone can come up with a catchy name for the movement, I’ll be first in line to spill the beans.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

I don’t Tweet, but I am active on LinkedIn, where you can usually see my latest news, blogs and publications at www.linkedin.com/in/nigelcannings — For the more academically minded, my Google Scholar page is here: https://scholar.google.co.uk/citations?user=zHL1sngAAAAJ&hl=en

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: Kevin Strauss of Uchi On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up How We Connect and Communicate With Each Other

Uchi is a social app for connecting authentically with those who matter most to you. It is not a social media but rather a Q&A platform for having deeper, more substantive conversations, about topics, big and small, from our database of questions. The more we know and understand each other, as people, the more likely we are to care for them and they us. Uchi, in Japanese, means ‘in-group” or inner circle and those are the people who have the greatest influence in your life. If you struggle to connect, love, and feel like you belong with your in-group then it hurts, deeply. The pain we experience is not physical or mental but emotional. The human brain cannot distinguish between physical pain and emotional pain. It just knows, “I’m in pain so do something about it right now!” In the absence of connecting authentically we turn to behaviors in an attempt to ease our pain as soon as possible. The more extreme the behavior the deeper the emotional pain. It’s not a matter of how smart or “accomplished” you are. It’s more a matter of how valued and loved you feel. Uchi helps people connect by guiding and facilitating real conversations, in just a few minutes here and there throughout your days, so you can experience deeper connections.


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 Kevin Strauss who believes people yearn to feel closer to others. Not to everyone but to the people who matter most to us. He believes we long to be heard and valued because then we know we matter and that makes us happy. Kevin is the Founder and CEO of Uchi, a social app dedicated to helping people connect authentically by making conversations easy and fun. Kevin is an expert problem solver and has earned 75+ patents and 10+ publications in spine, psychology, and human behavior. Uchi is his approach to help strengthen relationships and reduce destructive behaviors. When not working, Kevin enjoys expedition backpacking, ballroom dancing, and is a 19-year, Ironman Triathlete and Coach.


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?

Thank you for including me in your series and I’m excited to share, what I believe, is an “outside the box” approach to communication and more specifically, connection. My backstory has to do with problem solving, having ideas, and making them a reality. I have my dad to thank for this because throughout my childhood, I was his “little helper”. My dad was always fixing or building something, with me there to help, and it seemed like he never ran out of ideas from restoring a 1968 Mustang convertible, to adding a garage and sunroom to the house, to fixing the tubes of our TV in the 1970s, to the dishwasher, washing machine, and anything else. In school, I enjoyed math and science and learned to be quite mechanical from my dad. I was also fascinated by the human body. I chose to major in mechanical engineering and then earned my masters in biomedical engineering. Most of my career has focused on medical device research and development where I’ve combined my education and life experiences to solve some really tough problems. I attribute my success to approaching a problem from a completely different angle and by asking “Why?” as many times as needed until I feel like I’ve identified the true root issue. I’ve found that once the root cause is identified the solutions are typically quite simple. So far, this has led to more than 75 patents and also publishing research in four different industries including spine, infection control, psychology, and human behavior. I am not a genius and if you knew my college GPA you may think I was quite inept. However, I’m really good at understanding a problem of interest, applying what I’ve learned, wherever I happened to learn it, and figuring out a simple way to solve it. Ever since I was a teenager, I would ponder, “Why do people do what they do?”, including myself. After asking “Why?” for nearly 20 years, I feel like I’ve identified the root of most behaviors and it boils down to our Emotional Health which is different from Mental Health and Emotional Intelligence. My backstory is really a culmination of piecing together all different aspects of my life from childhood, to school, to work to hobbies such as triathlon, backpacking, and rock climbing.

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

One of my favorite stories happened during my first career job as a Product Development Engineer working on total hip replacement implants and instruments. Our company had purchased a hip implant design idea for $3 million and it was my job to bring this design to market. One critical step is mechanically testing the implant for strength and longevity. Unfortunately, the implant kept failing even though we followed all of the standards for manufacturing, quality, and testing. The inventor insisted we were doing something wrong but everything I did proved to be correct. After more than a year of investigation, from theoretical to physical, it was clear to me the design was flawed yet the inventor refused to accept fault and tried to have me fired. On a happenstance, I received a picture of the original test setup the inventor used to test his design and prove its efficacy and it looked peculiar to me. I compared the picture to the industry standard and noticed it was setup backwards. To verify, I ran the physical testing according to a “backward” setup and sure enough, it passed the test. The inventor had been testing his design incorrectly and that is why it passed. When tested correctly, according to standard, it failed. Then came the moment of truth, the project had been moving forward in all other areas and it was the day before the first, live patient, surgery where the device would be implanted. The president of our company held a meeting to discuss the project and determine if we would move forward. Every department head was in attendance, about 20 people, including me and my boss. After a lot of discussion, and my presentation of piles of data, it was time to vote. As we went around the room, every person, including the president and vice president of the company, voted YES to go ahead with the surgery. I voted NO and my boss supported me because the evidence was clear the implant design was not up to standard. I was a 24-year-old, entry-level engineer disagreeing with all of my superiors with decades of knowledge and experience. Even at that age, I valued honesty and integrity, and I could do nothing else but be true to my convictions. Ultimately, it was decided NOT to do the surgery and the hip implant was never sold commercially. Ironically, the device was to be called “The Integrity Hip” implant. This has been the precedent for my career and life and I will always be true to it.

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

My favorite quote is one I actually coined which is, “No matter what you’re doing in life you can always improve.” This is a mantra I’ve followed for a long time and it has served me well. I believe in a growth mindset and always learning from my past, good and bad. I do not believe in perfection but always striving to be a little better than the last time… without making myself bonkers, in the process.

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?

Earlier I shared the incredible influence my dad has been in my life. The same is true for the love and support from my mom. I could easily list dozens of other people who positively impacted me throughout my life like my boss from that first job. A person of great influence was my boss Steve Lane, PhD, who I worked with at Amron Corporation (no longer in business). Steve and I were a two-man team working on NIH funded SBIR (Small Business for Innovative Research) grants mostly dealing with behavior modification. A lot of my work was designing never before conceived sensors and writing lots of software code to collect and process real-time data in order to deliver pre-recorded voice instructions, to people, based on algorithmic decisions. All too often, I would be stuck and truly believe the problem could not be solved. Time and again, I’d report this to Steve and he’d say, “You’ll figure it out.” It infuriated me but his confidence and belief in me never wavered. Note, this wasn’t me just giving up easily. These were problems I struggled with for days or weeks! And time and again, I’d somehow solve the problem. It’s incredible what you can do when someone else truly believes in you and gives you that love and emotional support, no matter what. He could have easily taken an authoritarian, hard-driving, no compassion approach but he didn’t. To this day, because of that relationship, it’s the best place I’ve ever worked, hands down. Steve’s belief in me helped me to truly believe in myself. That was also when I began regularly quoting the movie, The Cutting Edge (1992), (and I paraphrase) “when you’re at the bottom of the barrel of ideas then find another barrel” and so I do.

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

My career has been dedicated to helping make the lives of others better or even save lives, indirectly. It’s incredibly rewarding and I’m happy to say our work has truly made a difference from helping people walk again with total joint replacements to reducing the spread of infection, saving lives and money, to the many lives improved with the spinal implants I’ve contributed to designing. In October 2020, I learned that a spinal pedicle screw project that I helped get “unstuck” in April 2005 was implanted for the 1,000,000th time. Hundreds of thousands of people, around the world, are living a better quality of life because of the work I and others have done, together.

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?

I believe people yearn to feel closer to others. Not to everyone but to the people who matter most to us. I believe we long to be heard and valued because then we know we matter and that makes us happy. Happy people do good things and are less destructive to themselves and others. The closer and happier we are the better our behaviors and our world will be. I do not believe humanity has much trouble communicating but we desperately struggle to connect. I do not believe we need more tools to disseminate information but we need help sharing our true thoughts and feelings with others and being truly heard and understood by those people. Further, sharing our perspective with strangers is nice but it does not nurture us at that deeper emotional level we need because the risk of rejection from a stranger doesn’t really impact us. However, being emotionally rejected by someone who matters to you, a parent, child, teacher, boss, etc. has a significant effect on your emotional health. Connection nurtures emotional health and that drives your behavior more than anything else. The more constructive, and less destructive, our behaviors, the better our world.

Uchi is a social app for connecting authentically with those who matter most to you. It is not a social media but rather a Q&A platform for having deeper, more substantive conversations, about topics, big and small, from our database of questions. The more we know and understand each other, as people, the more likely we are to care for them and they us. Uchi, in Japanese, means ‘in-group” or inner circle and those are the people who have the greatest influence in your life. If you struggle to connect, love, and feel like you belong with your in-group then it hurts, deeply. The pain we experience is not physical or mental but emotional. The human brain cannot distinguish between physical pain and emotional pain. It just knows, “I’m in pain so do something about it right now!” In the absence of connecting authentically we turn to behaviors in an attempt to ease our pain as soon as possible. The more extreme the behavior the deeper the emotional pain. It’s not a matter of how smart or “accomplished” you are. It’s more a matter of how valued and loved you feel. Uchi helps people connect by guiding and facilitating real conversations, in just a few minutes here and there throughout your days, so you can experience deeper connections.

How do you think this might change the world?

A person’s behavior is driven more by their state of emotional health (ability to give and receive love, connection, and belonging) than their mental health (ability to focus, concentrate, think clearly, and perform cognitive tasks). This is why an “intelligent” person can behave in a horribly destructive way. They’re not crazy. They’re simply attempting to ease their emotional pain. The more connected we are, with our uchi, the stronger our emotional health and the less our pain. With less emotional pain there is less need to try and compensate with destructive behaviors (e.g., drugs, alcohol, food, eating disorders, bullying, gun violence, depression, suicide, anxiety, etc.) or extremely constructive behaviors (e.g., work, sports such as triathlon, marathon, CrossFit, “success”, money, status, etc.). With less destructive behaviors there are more constructive behaviors and the world benefits. Ultimately, our vision at Uchi is a world at peace because every person truly believes they matter.

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

Even with the best of intentions people can find a way to use technology destructively. Uchi is a very private platform whereby anything you share there is only accessible to your Uchi friends (50 maximum). Further, your Uchi friends can only read your answers to questions or comments if they’ve already answered that same question. Afterall, how can two people connect if they’re both not sharing comparably? And people tend to answer the question at-hand and rarely stray from the topics. Still, given the privacy level of the app, and given we currently do not read or monitor what is being shared, among your uchi, a person can write whatever they want. Therefore, if destructive conversations are occurring, we are not aware. However, unlike social media, what you share is not publicly available or easily spread beyond just your uchi.

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

Indeed, there was a tipping point to Uchi! In December of 2001, I was watching an episode of the TV show Boston Public where the principal’s daughter was now attending his school and they were arguing like crazy. All I could think of was, “if you would just say what you’re really thinking and truly feeling then you would have no conflict.” I thought about my relationships with family and friends and how little conflict I had because I typically share how I really feel. I also thought about how close and connected I’d become with friends, just from email conversations, and who I’d only met in person 1–2 times. It occurred to me that sometimes the written word is even more powerful than the spoken word and oftentimes it is a lot easier to share your true self through writing versus speaking. We also know, from centuries of data, that two people can share a profoundly deep connection and relationship just from trading letters and not seeing or speaking with each other for months or years (think war time). The problem is we’re really not sharing our true selves mostly because we’ve been conditioned not to through shame, judgement, degradation, neglect, or some other form of emotional rejection. We’re shutting each other down, emotionally, and it hurts. Then, we try to ease that pain through our behaviors which ends up creating a negative feedback loop. All of this understanding wasn’t realized while watching the TV show but intuitively, I knew it then, and the idea for the app (website back in 2001) was conceived. I thought that if I could create a medium where people could share their true selves, with a small group of people, then they’d feel more connected and happier. To help get the conversations going we’d provide some fun and insightful questions to answer and discuss.

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

This is a great question and one I’ve struggled with a lot. The short answer is more people need to try Uchi and give it a chance to have a positive impact on their life. Uchi is not a “quick fix” but the rewards can be felt within 1–2 weeks and last if you stick with it. We’ve even published research on this! One of the greatest challenges is overcoming a person’s deeply rooted emotional pain which they’re already avoiding, through their behaviors, like the plague. But since they’re avoiding it, they aren’t making it better hence the negative feedback loop. It is similar to exercise and gym memberships. We all know it’s good for our physical health yet only 16% of Americans belong to a gym (which is not required to be physically fit as there are other means) and of those only 2–3% visit their gym weekly. As soon as the word “emotion” or “relationship help” is mentioned people run the other way. It’s similar to how triggered people get when you mention visiting family for Thanksgiving and how anxious many of us become around the holidays. Are we afraid of a physical confrontation? No. We’re more likely to be afraid of being hurt, again, emotionally. What’s so great about Uchi is there are no wrong answers to questions because you’re only sharing your perspective and hearing others. Just being heard, without interruption, shame, or judgement, goes a long way toward bringing people closer together and feeling happy. The goal here is to flip the polarity and switch to a positive feedback loop. As one father wrote, “Thank you so much for this platform. My 12-year-old daughter has not spoken to my ex-wife in over a year and within a week of using Uchi they’ve started talking again.” Just knowing you’ll be heard makes a huge difference in your life. When you nurture your uchi, and each person nurture’s theirs, the happiness can spread fast!

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?

We already know from the research that 88% of workplaces are toxic in some way and 75% of people quit their job because of their boss. Again, are we afraid of being punched in the face at work? Is it a physical threat? No. Are we mentally incapacitated and unable to do our job as an engineer, marketer, financier, or in production? No. The greatest threat in the workplace is the poor relationships and subsequently poor emotional health. Every employee, including the CEO, just wants to be heard and valued because then we know we matter. Uchi is a platform for getting to know each other, as people, on a slightly deeper level than typical conversations. The better we know each other the more likely we are to care, listen, negotiate, and compromise. It works in the family, the workplace, schools, and more. As Rita Pierson said in her TED Talk, “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.” and the same is true in the workplace. Uchi is an incredible tool to help truly team build because it’s a chance to nurture relationships, a little at a time, on a daily basis. A one-day “team building retreat” rarely has any lasting effect. As fun as those events are, relationships aren’t built in a day. Since Uchi is 100% online and asynchronous, it works for organizations no matter where their employees are located, worldwide. Even before the pandemic, people were struggling to have real connections. The pandemic only exacerbated an already failing system.

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.)

I feel like I learn a new lesson everyday but a few definitely stand out.

  1. Have a few sales or know exactly where your sales are coming from before you begin solidifying anything in your business. The Field Of Dreams idea that “if you build it, they will come” has certainly never been true for me. When I first built Uchi’s predecessor, FamilyeJournal.com, it was months before the first sale was made and barely trickled in after that. It’s impossible to run a business without sales. The pandemic is proof of that.
  2. There’s a lot more to having a successful business than a great product. Uchi works, if you use it regularly and as intended. It can truly change your life and those you love for the better. But you’ve got to have the infrastructure, a way to reach your audience, an audience that is interested and willing to take action, charisma in sharing your message and vision, and above all people around you who will support you and help spread your vision.
  3. A clearly identified audience. This is similar to the first two lessons but a critical matter in and of itself. Something I’ve struggled with all along is I see Uchi as applicable to infinite audiences and when you’re considering everything then you’re focusing on nothing. If you struggle to focus then your audience will struggle to identify that you can help them. Not to mention, it really helps if your audience is your customer. For example, while Uchi’s mission is to help strengthen relationships, often the default assumption is family relationships. While this is true, Uchi is free for the general public so, in the beginning, this market will not be a big revenue generator. However, schools and businesses can use Uchi as a tool to the benefit of their students and employees, respectively, and their organization, as a whole. But schools and businesses aren’t typically focused on strengthening relationships as a top priority and more often, it’s an “afterthought” and considered a “soft skill”. In reality, relationships are the foundation of everything in life and one of our basic human needs just like air, water, sleep, food, and shelter. If this isn’t clear, think about how much sleep and food you’ve skipped when a romantic or family relationship has fallen apart or you’re not getting along with someone at work.
  4. Think twice, three, or four times before starting a venture in a market especially if most people are not even aware of the problem you solve. I’ve spent nearly 20 years understanding the difference between mental health and emotional health and while Uchi complements the entire mental health industry they often seem to be the last group of people open to a new idea. So many people think they’d be the first to use a tool like Uchi, and I agree, but the opposite has been true. When part of your job is to educate the world about a whole new subject area and a different way of thinking and approaching a problem and then to get them to use your product or service as an approach it simply adds a lot of extra work, to say the least. In contrast, opening a yoga studio is a well-known and established business venture. While it may not be easy, at least people know exactly what it is, why it helps them, and how it works.
  5. Bootstrapping is hard, even beyond the business. When you’re bootstrapping a business and getting started by yourself then you’re also bootstrapping your life. It seems like everything goes on hold until you’re making enough money to first finance your business and then pay yourself an income. It would be wonderful to have investors but that has tradeoffs too. The point is, from the beginning, have a detailed understanding of your revenue and budget and be extra generous when it comes to marketing and sales. Murphy’s Rule always seems to apply here and it requires 2–3x more marketing dollars than your most conservative estimates. Building a product is easy compared to branding, marketing and converting a prospect into a customer… or perhaps that’s just my forte.

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. 🙂

Without a doubt, I would like to inspire The Uchi Connection Movement (UCM). Here’s the idea… as I said before, uchi, in Japanese, means in-group. So, if each person nurtures their in-group, emotionally, and each of those people nurtures their inner circle, then the movement spreads fast because each inner circle has overlapping members. When each person feels heard and understood and knows they matter then their behaviors will naturally be less destructive and more constructive. If we can each make an effort not to shame, judge, degrade, or neglect those who matter most to us then those people will experience less emotional pain for which they are compelled to compensate for through their behaviors. Less pain means less destruction. More love and connection means happier people and more constructive behaviors. The more constructive we are, as a species, the better our world will be. World peace truly is possible especially when we address the root issue rather than the myriad of symptoms. Peace. Love. Connect.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

uchiconnection.com

https://www.linkedin.com/in/kevinstrauss/

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: Spotify’s Sukriti Chadha On How Their Technological Innovations Will Shake Up How We Connect and Communicate With Each Other

I believe the future of communication will be an inclusive one, where people have access to multimodal input and output methods. What this means is, people have the flexibility to convey information in one form, and receive it in another, based on convenience and physical ability. For example, we might see more use of augmented, mixed and virtual reality in everyday interactions, for instance, to share a common virtual space during chats or games.

Smartphones, virtual assistants and other ambient technology will be the first interfaces for these new capabilities given their existing adoption. I am helping shape an inclusive future with implementation of best practices, automated testing, and embedding digital inclusion in the product life cycle for emerging technology. At work, my focus at the moment is on automated testing for accessibility on mobile apps. On a broader level, through involvement with organizations such as W3C, MDN and XRAccess, I work on guidelines, policy and techniques to include accessibility as a first principle, instead of an afterthought.


As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sukriti Chadha.

Sukriti is the product manager for accessibility and mobile developer experience at Spotify, and an Invited Expert at the W3C WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) group and the Mobile Accessibility Task Force that create industry guidelines for accessible web and mobile applications. She also serves on Mozilla’s MDN Product Advisory Board, and as a member of XR Access and Teach Access.

Prior to Spotify, Sukriti was an Android developer at Yahoo, before leading product management for the Yahoo Finance mobile application. During this time, she grew the mobile user base by 40% and led the cross-platform initiative that allows users to link their trading accounts (Fidelity, Etrade etc.). At Yahoo, she built and patented a new way of making data visualization accessible to people with vision loss, and open sourced the mobile solution.

Sukriti moved to Lookout Mountain, Tennessee from New York during the pandemic. She is writing a book that will help organizations address accessibility at scale. In her free time, can be found flying small planes or practicing yoga.

She graduated from Princeton University with a degree in Electrical Engineering, and a minor in Finance.


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 born and raised in New Delhi, India and grew up bilingual in a Hindu family, while attending Catholic school. Having exposure to different perspectives from an early age helped me embrace diversity of thought and expression.

As a child, I enjoyed applied Physics, Math and learning how technology and innovation shapes the world around us. That is why I chose a liberal arts education that combined Electrical Engineering and Economics. At Princeton, I was fortunate to be surrounded by entrepreneurial peers and professors who reaffirmed my interest in technology.

I am now a product manager, which means I work at the intersection of engineering, design, user research and business. Having a few years of engineering experience has helped me understand how products are built first hand, and the challenges of one of the most important stakeholders I work with.

My work in accessibility is an extension of my overall mission of using technology to level the playing field, and to making access to information and tools available for all.

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

I had a brief stint as a software consultant, where I was assigned a few mundane, repetitive tasks for a project. I wrote a program to automate that work, and shared it with the team lead. I thought that would lead to more interesting assignments, but instead, I was told that the business model was to charge for time consultants spent, which I had now shortened. That was the moment I decided that it was time to move on. It also gave me a chance to reevaluate the career path and impact I wanted to have, before making a transition.

I took a month to train as a yoga teacher in Hawaii. In addition to giving me clarity on where I wanted to focus my attention, I was introduced to meditation, which is now a core part of my life.

Given the reach, adoption and financial accessibility of the Android platform, developing apps on it seemed like a great way of positively impacting the most number of people. Before applying for developer roles, I taught myself Android development on weekends and evenings, and built a portfolio of seven applications. Mobile as an industry remains one of the most exciting growth areas in tech and I am glad that I chose this path early in my career.

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

The one I try to live by comes from the Bhagavad Gita, a Hindu scripture. It roughly translates to “You have the right to perform your prescribed duties, but you are not entitled to the fruits of your actions. Never consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities, nor be attached to inaction.

It reminds me to focus on the present and what is important now, instead of worrying too much about the result. It is also a humbling reminder of the number of factors outside of one’s effort that contribute to the “fruits.” It helps me to not identify with my successes or my failures, only with how I performed.

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 many friends, colleagues and mentors have gone out of their way to support and encourage me over the years. Since I moved to the US at 18, home has been a somewhat elusive concept, but I now feel fortunate enough to have two because of the love and acceptance in both places.

The one person I would name is my mother. She is a brilliant teacher, writer, my moral compass and biggest cheerleader. I owe the fact that I constantly explore new interests to her and my dad, who made sure that I was exposed to the widest possible range of activities growing up.

They shared most responsibilities equally in a pretty gender normative society, which is why I had the privilege of growing up, never questioning my ability or role based on anything other than hard work.

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

I would use the word influence instead of success. I believe that talent is universal, but opportunity and access are not. Most everything I do is in service of increasing access to opportunity for people who are overlooked and underserved. That includes my job as a PM, and participation in accessibility/ policy work.

One specific problem I identified while working on product inclusion is that software teams tend to be sets of homogenous, like-minded people. This leads to design and development of products for a limited audience reflective of that group’s experiences.

For the past five years, I have volunteered with Pursuit, a nonprofit that helps people from nontraditional backgrounds break into tech careers. I teach workshops, conduct mock interviews and mentor fellows starting first jobs in technology to help bring more diverse perspectives to the table.

During the pandemic, I have had the chance to mentor high school students on assistive technology projects for their peers with autism. I also joined the boards of Plan of Georgia and the Women’s Entrepreneurial Opportunity Project to help rethink their work as in-person nonprofits in a remote-first world.

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?

When we think about communication, we think of communication with other people. In a technology-driven world, especially now that most interactions are happening remotely, we first need to communicate with our devices and environments before we can communicate with others. This applies to consumption of information, the ability to create content, and to be able to effectively participate in a remote workforce.

Telephone, email, text, video calls and other forms of communication technology have leveraged different modalities of input and reception available to humans. All of these methods were in their own ways exclusive to people with certain disabilities. For example, video chat and phone calls are severely limiting for those with speech impairments.

I believe the future of communication will be an inclusive one, where people have access to multimodal input and output methods. What this means is, people have the flexibility to convey information in one form, and receive it in another, based on convenience and physical ability. For example, we might see more use of augmented, mixed and virtual reality in everyday interactions, for instance, to share a common virtual space during chats or games.

Smartphones, virtual assistants and other ambient technology will be the first interfaces for these new capabilities given their existing adoption. I am helping shape an inclusive future with implementation of best practices, automated testing, and embedding digital inclusion in the product life cycle for emerging technology. At work, my focus at the moment is on automated testing for accessibility on mobile apps. On a broader level, through involvement with organizations such as W3C, MDN and XRAccess, I work on guidelines, policy and techniques to include accessibility as a first principle, instead of an afterthought.

How do you think this might change the world?

Over 1 billion people in the world have some form of disability. I think when 15% of the world’s population is able to more fully participate in the digital economy, the world will be a much better and sustainable place.

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

Great tools often make great weapons. Whenever there are more ways to access, or interact with a system, it opens more possibilities of abuse.

With richer mobile experiences, and ambient technology such as virtual assistants, that enable multimodal interactions, it will be important to account for data security and privacy depending on the person’s environment and sensitivity of the information in question.

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

A year into my role as an Android developer at Yahoo Finance, my dad lost vision in one of his eyes due to diabetic retinopathy. That was when I started thinking about how people with vision loss use everyday products. I used my phone without looking at it, relying only on the screen reader for 3 weeks. That was when I discovered how far we need to go as an industry to make truly usable products for people with disabilities.

My first project in accessibility was building financial charts accessible to blind users, with music, haptics and speech synthesis. That solution was launched and open sourced about a year ago for use cases beyond finance.

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

Because VR, AR, multimodal interactions on phones are relatively new technologies, there aren’t many established standards or best practices. It will need collaboration between researchers, academics, computer scientists and product designers who can design solutions that are born inclusive. More importantly, it will require engagement with people with disabilities so they can contribute to products that they will be using.

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?

What was already challenging for people with disabilities, has become even more difficult during the pandemic. There have been numerous reports on how students in special education programs, and people with disabilities who relied on in-person jobs for livelihood have disproportionately suffered during the pandemic.

Educating developers and setting standards for product teams on building inclusive products, innovative interactions, automated testing, and incorporating best practices through standards will address these problems at a much broader, systemic scale than any one solution.

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. Building software is more about people than about systems

When I first formally transitioned to a PM role from engineering, I faced challenges balancing my interest in still being part of technical decisions, and the need to take a step back to focus on the bigger picture. I was managing my time poorly, and was inhibiting the engineering team’s growth and my trust in them by trying to do what they are better at, instead of focusing all my time and attention on giving them the tools and understanding of user needs, to help them do their work i.e. focusing on the people. After I consciously made that choice, both the team and I were more effective and we did some amazing work together.

2. How to gauge an employer

The amount of interesting work, team dynamics and quality of product you will ship at a company or team can be inferred by studying the culture around failure. If teams are too afraid to fail, they will likely not take risks and only ever make incremental improvements, if at all. That can work for a while, but I learned that I felt most energized and motivated in environments where there is clear accountability, and the focus is to learn and grow. It is a question I ask all my interviewers to gauge whether I would enjoy working for their team.

3. So what? What’s next?

As a developer, I found gratification in the amount of code I wrote and all the new features I shipped. As a product manager, I started asking a different question — so what? So what if we shipped that feature? Was it useful for the intended user? If not, what did we learn? What’s next? What did I miss? How do we do better? Can we delete some of it?

4. Being the best at something doesn’t mean you’re good at it

One of my mentors, JBQ, who is a mobile architect once said being the best at something doesn’t always mean you’re good at it. Those words have since stuck with me. This is especially true for less explored fields, or innovative solutions that might be the best to exist, and yet not the best for the audience they are designed for. I think about this often, and it inspires me to constantly learn and evolve professionally and personally.

5. Nonviolent communication

I wish someone had introduced me to Marshall Rosenberg’s work when I started. It is a great way to approach communication at work and personally.

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. 🙂

To introduce accessibility and inclusive product development concepts to students in computer science, product design, human computer interaction, digital marketing and tech-adjacent fields. Currently, by the time product teams get acquainted with even the most basics of accessibility, it requires unlearning years of training and habits that don’t account for mainstream use cases.

It could also work if basic training is part of orientation and bootcamps so it’s top of mind for people entering the workforce. In the 2020 WebAim accessibility report, 98% of the top 1 million websites failed basic accessibility checks. The best way to lay the foundation for a more inclusive tech ecosystem scalably is with education and awareness early on in the learning process.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

I am pretty active on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/sukriti-chadha/) and Clubhouse the moment.

Besides that, I regularly speak at conferences such as CSUN, GAAD and Product Management Conferences.

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: LyNea Bell On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up How We Connect and Communicate With Each Other

In a nutshell user can get a private based search experience with fast and relevant data results. We give users the knowledge they need to restore their privacy when searching on the internet. So we are an alternative private based search engine that will revolutionize the world by allowing people to take back their privacy. Another key point is that we provide fast and relevant data that is not superseded by ads to get the users attention first.


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 LyNea Bell.

Born and raised in Seattle Washington, LyNea Bell attended Griffin Business College where she studied Computer Programming. She continued her studies at University of Phoenix-SC with an emphasis on Business/Corporate Communications. After receiving her degree, she began her professional career working for fortune 500 companies while doubling behind the scenes learning the ins and outs of the entertainment business. It wasn’t long before the savvy corporate exec switched lanes landing a position at Media Artist Group, where she worked as a Talent Agent & product endorsement specialist partnering with Sheila Legette VP of Talent. Three years later, she moved to 90210 talent as Head of the Comedy Department, Theatrical & Literary Agent before deciding to open her own agency. The Bell Hall Talent aka BH Talent, a full-service agency representing talent in television, film, comedy, voice overs, commercials, print & literary and music artists. The agency quickly began making its independent footprint in Hollywood. Bell is a member of the Television Academy, SAG, Women in film, the JTC List and Women of Color Unite. To learn more, visit www.BHTalent.com


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 a bit of anomaly you could say. I actually graduated high School when I was 16 years old. Then I went on to get an associate’s degree in Computer programming. I guess you can say this was the precursor to where we are now. I’ve always been fond of coding and tinkering when it came to programming, but then I decided to shift gears and moved into real estate and then finally parked my career vehicle as a Talent Agent opening my own Talent Agency.

Can you share the most fascinating story that happened to you since you began your career.

The most interesting part was to see it actually take form. Since the vision was given to me in 2006, I my heart of hearts I knew there was a concept but not necessarily able to see the visual idea. Once I got with the engineers, they were literally able to take my thoughts and formulate them into actual code. And when I saw it begin to appear on the screen, I can honestly say it brought tears to my eyes.

Please give us your favorite life lesson quote, and can you share how it was relevant in your life.

“Do you, be you, and just shine” has become my life lesson quote. I had to learn to not worry about what other people thought, and I had to learn how to get out of my own way to be able to do what I believe by stepping into a realm that is not usually occupied by my community especially by women in general. And I did all of this while being me and continuing to shine.

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

There’s no way I could name just one, there have been many that have grabbed onto and ran with the vision. I can say that the engineers have given of themselves selflessly to create what I could only see in the forefront of my mind. Beyond that the team was put together so seamlessly that I have to give credit to my God above and I am grateful for every piece that keeps this vehicle going. Finally, my family and friends support has been immeasurable. On those nights when I needed to be encouraged or to hear that voice say I can do it, or you are on the right track they were always there.

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

I have been the type of person that honestly believes in my life quote. I love to see people do what they are called to do, be who they are genuinely created to be, and to create opportunities for them to shine. With this belief I’ve learned how to find talent and become a master delegator. This allows people to find their groove and be given the freedom to be great.

Can you tell us about the cutting-edge communication tech that you are working on, and how do you think it will help people?

In a nutshell user can get a private based search experience with fast and relevant data results. We give users the knowledge they need to restore their privacy when searching on the internet. So we are an alternative private based search engine that will revolutionize the world by allowing people to take back their privacy. Another key point is that we provide fast and relevant data that is not superseded by ads to get the users attention first.

How do you think this might change the world.

More people will be aware of their privacy and will now have a choice.

Keeping black mirror in mind can you see any drawbacks of this technology that people should think about.

There is literally no footprint, no capitalizing on your information, and no forced marketing when it comes to what you search for. At this point I can not see anything that would cause reservations or drawbacks for the user.

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

Keeping in mind this vision first came to me in 2006. I look at it now and I can say thank you COVID, no thank you COVID. I am probably one of millions that COVID slowed things down long enough for me to reach back into the vision shelf. I finally had time to focus on things that were pushed to the side and one was my bible.

Can you tell us that story.

Being home alone for eight months I reached back into studying the Word and was slowly reminded of the search engine. I was inspired all over again and decided to relinquish my will for what I believed God was calling me to do.

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

We need this information shared so that more users know they have an option available. This is the reason why we appreciate platforms like yours allowing us to share our platform, but most of all our story.

How do you think your innovation might be able to address the new needs that have arisen from the results of the pandemic?

Based on the already daunting job of trying to protect our privacy from would be hackers. Since the Pandemic more and more people are using the internet for work, school, and leisure. Predators are now working overtime to find ways to get information and use it to steal identity, funds, and are targeting our children. With our search engine it makes it almost impossible for hackers to get in, but even more operate in manners that cause people to lose everything they have.

What are the five things I wish someone would have told me before I started:

1. Don’t listen to the naysayers. Your vision is bigger than you.

2. That the knowledge and wisdom is out there, you just have reach out.

3. Step out on faith and believe in the vision you’ve been given.

4. Don’t take no for an answer, what you have inside you will take you a long way.

5. It’s okay to be the first to do it.

Why?

Each of these answers why for me, because if I had known all of this I would have started earlier.

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.

We created a private based search engine, and our movement is #takebackyourprivacy. This movement brings good because most people don’t even realize how much they’ve given up when they click that little box, and that we have given an open invitation to those using our information in very predatory and unsafe manners. We want people to remember what it was like to have the freedom of choice and to feel safe again while on the internet.

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: Shadi Ireifej of VetTriage On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up How We Connect and Communicate With Each Other

For both security and customization reasons, we created our own software to make VetTriage possible. We designed the software like an electronic medical record. We have recording capabilities. We can send files and documents via the software, and we can do so much more. This helps people by virtue of the fact that they can get peace of mind from a veterinarian anytime, from anywhere on the globe, for any species.

Additionally, we will help veterinary staff and clinics: increased revenue and increased hiring potential while minimizing compassion fatigue and workplace-culture toxicity, decreasing client wait-times, saving money for rescue organizations, avoiding frustrating and potentially dangerous self-diagnoses from websites and social media forums, and so much more.


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 Shadi J. Ireifej DVM DACVS who graduated from the State University of New York at Binghamton where he received his Bachelor of Science degree in Biology (2001, Magna cum laude). He then attended Cornell University where he received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree (2006, DVM).

After completing his studies at Cornell, Dr. Ireifej participated in an intense one-year small animal medicine and surgery rotating internship at Angel Animal Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts (2007), followed by two rigorous one-year small animal surgical internships at Long Island Veterinary Specialists (LIVS) in Plainview, New York (2009).

Dr. Ireifej achieved his board certification in small animal surgery by completing a three-year small animal surgery residency at LIVS (2012), and subsequently became a Diplomat for the American College of Veterinary Surgeons (DACVS). After operating for almost 10 years at LIVS, Dr. Ireifej elected for warmer weather, and transplanted to Las Vegas, Nevada in 2016.

In Las Vegas, Dr. Ireifej became a staff surgeon at Las Vegas Veterinary Specialty Center (LVVSC). In 2017, he began flying across the United States, performing surgeries at a number of emergency and specialty hospitals in need of surgical assistance. This was followed by a Chief of Surgery position at United Veterinary Specialty and Emergency in Silicon Valley, California. Managing their three locations, Dr. Ireifej and his team successfully cared for dogs and cats in the Campbell, Mountain View, and San Jose areas.

In 2018, Dr. Ireifej joined TrueCare for Pets in the Los Angeles, California area as Chief of Specialty, where he was instrumental in morphing the after-hours and weekend emergency hospital to a successful 24/7 emergency and multi-specialty veterinary hospital. While the size of the hospital tripled, Dr. Ireifej instituted hospital-wide protocols, managed the surgery, internal medicine, and oncology departments, and became a leading force on social media platforms.

In 2020, Dr. Ireifej changed gears in his already illustrious career, finding a novel and state-of-the-art means of reaching concerned pet owners and their ill pets worldwide, VetTriage. Dr. Ireifej currently serves as their Chief Medical Officer.

Shadi has been published in scientific and medical journals, and enjoys lecturing to a variety of audiences. He is known for being a positive and energetic force, both professionally and personally.


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 almost 15 years of being in the field of veterinary medicine, in the classic or traditional sense, and having practiced in almost every sphere there is within the profession, I wanted to change gears. Fortunately, I suppose, the pandemic coincided with an idea I had for many years: veterinary telemedicine. I immediately launched VetTriage in early 2020.

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

To most, the majority of my professional career is interesting. To me and my colleagues in the field, however, transitioning from a board certified surgeon to a televeterinarian and spearheading a movement in veterinary telemedicine is my most interesting story. It is the culmination of many, many years of training in medicine and business, as well as tackling the profound inherent problems in the field that most are completely unaware of. Additionally, this is the first business I have launched on my own, in a veterinary space that has been previously unexplored, but which involves many, many layers in order to succeed.

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

“Where must we go, we who wander this wasteland, in search of our better selves,” reads the final title card of the 2015 film, Mad Max: Fury Road. It’s a quote from The First History of Man, a fictional book that exists within the Mad Max universe.

I have spent the vast majority of my entire childhood and adult life in academia, focused on a path that is all too common in veterinary medicine: a board certified veterinary surgeon. Almost 15 years later, I am now working from home, hiring televeterinarians, lobbying for new legislation, changing the veterinary culture, and spearheading a telehealth movement in my field. That quote speaks to me because after thinking I had been working towards one goal, it turned out that I may have been prepping myself for an entirely different goal, unknowingly.

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?

There are so many. But I have to focus on three people, two from my early life, and one from later in my life. The former are my parents. They gave me the breathing room to explore a profession that is largely unpopular in my culture and make my own path, while allowing me to deal with the consequences of those decisions. They are always supportive and inquisitive, but never intrusive.

The latter is Dr. Dominic Marino. Beyond teaching me everything I know with regards to surgery, he taught me the business side of veterinary medicine, the managerial skills I need to run the show, the legal side of the profession, and, perhaps most importantly, to think outside the box and fight tooth and nail for what you want professionally.

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

VetTriage brings professional, compassionate, and experienced veterinary advice to concerned owners of animals and pets globally: folks who have financial limitations, geographic restrictions, or are in quarantine due to COVID with pets who are aggressive, large, or prone to stress; those with health or emotional issues whose veterinary clinics are booked for weeks or months, and emergency veterinary hospitals with 4 to over 8-hour wait times; those seeking a second or third veterinary opinion, and more are now able to receive veterinary advice from a location of their choosing anytime, any day, for any species, anywhere in the world. That is literally a veterinarian’s dream come true when it comes to bringing goodness to the world.

Additionally, we are improving a progressively toxic culture in the veterinary field. Veterinarians and veterinary staff are overworked, pets cannot possibly get the individual care they need, and clients cannot get the individual attention they need. Wait times to see a veterinarian are impractical, costs for veterinary care are rising, and more and more clients are self-diagnosing their pets online. Our current telemedicine legislation is strangulating, antiquated, and slow to keep up with changing times. Our shelters are overpopulated, and euthanasias are astronomical in number. These are only some of the many problems associated with the profession that are causing young veterinarians to abandon their careers, clients to angrily post negative reviews online, animals to suffer or die, and so much more. VetTriage is at least one major, plausible, effective, and seamless solution to these issues.

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?

For both security and customization reasons, we created our own software to make VetTriage possible. We designed the software like an electronic medical record. We have recording capabilities. We can send files and documents via the software, and we can do so much more. This helps people by virtue of the fact that they can get peace of mind from a veterinarian anytime, from anywhere on the globe, for any species.

Additionally, we will help veterinary staff and clinics: increased revenue and increased hiring potential while minimizing compassion fatigue and workplace-culture toxicity, decreasing client wait-times, saving money for rescue organizations, avoiding frustrating and potentially dangerous self-diagnoses from websites and social media forums, and so much more.

How do you think this might change the world?

By helping countless animals globally who would not be able to receive veterinary care otherwise, improving the overall culture of the veterinary profession, and continuing to use the latest technological advancements to further advance veterinary care.

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

Pet owners need to be on the lookout for copycats. VetTriage is the only one of its kind as of this point in time, and is veterinary owned and operated, which is also not found elsewhere. This means that pets, clients, and the veterinary community are kept in mind — culturally, ethically, and professionally. This also means that a gold standard of care is practiced: upholding medical ethics and the latest medical research is incorporated into the business model. Those who care less about the individual client and pet, and more about the bottom line, are potential sources of bad and dangerous information for pet owners. Do your research. Investigate who owns other seemingly similar companies, who is actually on their staff, and what their online reviews look like before committing to trusting them with advice for your sick pet.

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

I had enough with the inherent and apparently acceptable cultural toxicity in the field. After devoting my entire life to it, and seeing how this profession operates on a day-to-day basis as well as over many years on the whole, I became very discouraged. You can see the same thing happening to new doctor graduates of veterinary school and to veterinary support staff, especially the veterinary technicians. Additionally, clients need a resource for getting peace of mind regarding their pet’s ailments during times where veterinarians are booked for weeks or months, ER hospitals have hours and hours of wait-times, and the verifiability of the information online is in question.

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

I need the pet population and veterinary medical community to become educated on veterinary telemedicine, with a special focus on the company or companies that will meet all the gold standard criteria. VetTriage is the only veterinary telehealth company that meets those standards, as biased as that may seem. I am also the most experienced televeterinarian in history, dare I say it. Education and awareness are key to improving all the problems inherent with the field, and to increasing veterinary access to folks around the globe, in every aspect of the animal industry.

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?

VetTriage is literally based on these “new normals”. Appointments, leaving your home or work place, stressing your pet during the commute to the veterinarian, looking for an available veterinarian, and so forth, are a thing of the past with veterinary telemedicine. We can prioritize animals who are ill or hurt in the clinic setting, give safe and effective advice over any electronic device, and replace online searches and self-diagnosing. We can save rescue groups thousands of dollars and, in turn, save millions of lives. All of these mentioned benefits, and those unmentioned, tie-in and connect to every negative that exists in the profession.

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. The ramp up of any business will have ebbs and flows. Just when you think you are skyrocketing, things pull back unexpectedly, and then ramp up again. Our numbers doubled every month for the first few months since our launch. Then they plateaued for several months. The concerning moment occurred in January 2021, where by week three, it appeared that we would not even reach the numbers of the plateaued months. Suddenly the last week skyrocketed as a surge of veterinary clinics partnered with VetTriage. This rejuvenated the company and we’ve been beyond back on track ever since.
  2. Customer service is different in a “retail” environment, and takes more patience and compromise. With online ratings and opinions being so commonplace, there appears to be a balance between maintaining a firm stance on our viewpoint during a rare client dispute, and letting go of that stance to avoid negativity and blowback on social media platforms. We rely heavily on such platforms to spread the word about VetTriage as well as making positive feedback public. Thankfully these occurrences are super rare, but will undoubtedly become more common as the company grows.
  3. Ideas come much faster than the execution of them. This is the most frustrating realization. As a surgeon and naturally passionate person, I am also apparently impatient. Once I realize an amazing idea, or new technology or update to add to VetTriage, I not only desire it immediately, but I want it yesterday! It takes a large team to make VetTriage successful, and that means working with everyone else’s timetables and abilities, which will not always match my own.
  4. Running a 24/7 operating business really does mean you as the owner will be working 24/7 for the initial stages. We offer a novel service based on convenience and healthcare. Emergencies strike at anytime and typically, time is of the utmost importance. Emergencies are by definition time-sensitive. Because of these basic realizations, and because our company is completely dependent on human beings answering concerned pet parent’s calls, 24/7 means exactly that. I have had many consecutive nights where sleep was broken or did not exist. Then the daytime arrives, where meetings, blogs, journalist interviews, podcast interviews, and many other scheduled tasks still have to occur. As you would imagine, this takes a heavy toll on you mentally and physically.
  5. Staff are key to the success of a business and a good business owner wants to see them succeed. However, you have to remember they aren’t a business owner and will never have the same passion and buy-in as you, the owner, and that is perfectly fine, but hard to accept at first. This is especially true with a 24/7 business model. You would like your staff to invest in it the way you, as an owner, have invested in it. But I realized, from their point of view, that they want to make money and have a certain quality of life, all the while feeling good about the work they put in. This is not the same as the founder and owner. I have to live and breathe VetTriage. Their own passion and dedication will never rival, nor should it rival, my own. Even though I would really like it to.

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. 🙂

We are currently spearheading a movement in veterinary telehealth. This touches on everything from allowing doctors to prescribe medications all the way to redefining how our laws see companion animals. We have a panel of medical professionals on the human side that are willing to go to bat for veterinary telemedicine when the time comes. We are also undergoing lobbying efforts to change these antiquated laws that govern and limit what veterinary telemedicine can do for pet owners and their pets. One and a half million animals are euthanized each year; this should be viewed as a crisis that is long overdue for a viable solution. I believe veterinary telehealth will not only be a key player in changing those numbers, but a jumping-off point for bigger things to come. Welcome to the future.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

http://www.vettriage.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/televeterinarian

YouTube: Dr. Shadi Ireifej

YouTube: VetTriage

Instagram: @vettriage

Instagram: @dr.shadi.ireifej

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

Thank you. I would be more than happy to do this again.


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: Pete Erickson of Modev On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up How We Connect and Communicate With Each Other

Our flagship event and network of properties is called VOICE, which focuses on voice-tech, AI, conversational interfaces such as chatbots, avatars and audio interfaces. Most people now have a voice assistant in their homes and almost all have them activated on their smartphones. This new interface is at the forefront of multiple technology platforms, including but not limited to Smartspeakers, Televisions, Laptops/Desktops, Smartphones, Appliances, Cars/Trucks, Wearables, AR/VR and more. We can speak at 150 words per minute and type about 40 words per minute, even much less than that on small devices. Therefore, speaking vs. typing reduces friction and time. There are so many other benefits across use cases and industries, including Healthcare, Retail, Transportation and Banking which are all making major transformations to add voice/chat/AI interfaces.


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 Pete Erickson, Founder and CEO of Modev.

As founder and CEO of Modev, Pete Erickson believes that human connection is vital in the era of digital transformation. Over the past decade he has turned that belief into a mission of finding creative ways to bring the tech industry together. Under Pete’s leadership, Modev organizes some of the world’s top events, including VOICE Summit, VOICE Global and VOICE Talks with more than 100,000 attendees annually. Modev is a global team of more than 40 creatives, marketers and producers.

Pete contributes regularly to national news outlets, including NPR, CBS, NBC. He serves as the on-air “Tech Expert” for Fox 5 DC where he provides commentary on technology news that impacts consumers.

Modev is based in Arlington, Va. where Pete resides with his wife, two kids, and dog Maisey.


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?

I’m the fifth child in a family of ten, so organizing events with a lot of people and moving parts comes natural to me. I was always attracted to leadership roles in school, coached teams and organized large social events in my 20’s and 30’s. In 2008 I moved from my hometown of Seattle to the Washington, DC-area to marry my now wife Sabrina. It was after this move, and finding myself seeking my next career, that I decided to turn my natural desire for community into a vocation. Today, I am thrilled to be a success story. It all started with a single Meetup with 12 developers on January 21, 2009 that later grew into a global organization with more than 150,000 attendees to our events and conferences over the years.

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

I got my first big break at the age of 18. I was already a programmer and could write my own games for the Apple II computer. Costco had opened its very first store in Seattle in 1984 and because I was “good at computers” I was hired to run their IBM-based cash register, which meant I arrived at the warehouse at 5 a.m., downloaded all the updated pricing data from a mainframe, and then programmed that data into each register in time for the store opening. This was a hugely influential job for me at a young age as I witnessed firsthand as Costco disrupted the supply chain for the grocery industry which ended up revolutionizing shopping across the U.S. I worked for Costco for five years through college and still value that experience and the relationships that I built with many of the company’s founders. Costco was more than a store, it was a community of staff and customers that shared a common belief and love of the experience. This stuck with me.

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

I love the book the “Four Agreements” and the first agreement is “Don’t make assumptions.” I love this quote and try to live my life by it in my personal and professional relationships. It really helps us take care not to react by what we think we might know, because most of the time, we are wrong.

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?

Yes, after moving from Seattle to Washington, DC, I was in search of the local tech community and quickly realized there was a need to start one around the fast-growing iTunes app store. This led me to start Modev, which at the time was a mobile developer Meetup. I also started an app developer contest series called “Disruptathon,” where a tech attorney Sanjay Beri who was in attendance at that first event called me the next day to tell me how he loved the event and wanted to help me grow the series and Modev. He had also moved to the DC-area from Seattle, so we had a shared love of the Northwest and common sporting teams. Sanjay’s law firm became one of our most important early sponsors, and he helped me establish my LLC and continued to act as my guiding counsel until his untimely death in January 2021 at the age of 42. Sanjay was a dedicated supporter and became one of the best friends I would meet through Modev. Most recently, we worked on some of our most important legal contract and Intellectual Property initiatives. The last time we spoke was about business matters in December. Sanjay shared that his 10-year battle with cancer had taken a bit of a bad turn, but he believed he would get through it. Sadly, he couldn’t and today I count my blessings that Sanjay attended one of my early events and took me under his wing to ensure I was successful in my new city.

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

Community building is a worthy pursuit and we have an opportunity to leverage our positions to improve society in many ways. Here are some ways I’ve leveraged the platform I’ve built to improve lives:

We offer “no-questions-asked scholarships” to every paid event we produce. This initiative resulted in thousands of scholarships over the past several years with recipients receiving access to skills training, jobs, and more importantly, a sense of belonging to everyone who wishes to attend our events.

We have scheduled multiple keynote talks from speakers of all abilities, ages and gender to ensure all voices are represented. Here are a few examples:

Tommy Sheedy was just 11 years old when we invited him to provide the closing keynote at our 2012 ModevEast event.

Christina Mallon is a designer, who lost the use of her arms due to ALS, delivered a moving keynote at VOICE 2019. My late mother died of ALS and I felt like having Christina’s voice was important to talk about inclusive design.

We invited the Bruce Street School for the deaf to attend VOICE Summit and gave scholarships to all of their students and their teachers. During our keynote session, after some welcome words, the students were able to meet the Mayor of Newark, Ras Baraka. This powerful moment watching the kids light up was one of the highlights of my career. The room of more than 1,000 attendees all stood and gave the kids a round of deaf applause by waving their hands for the kids at the table.

We also had a deaf developer for Prudential Financial, Thomas Chappell lead one of our keynotes at VOICE in addition to this panel titled “What if you don’t have a voice.”

We featured blind developer Sina Barham as the closing keynote at our 2019 Spinnaker Summit to help developers understand the importance of writing their code for all users.

Today, I am on the board of advisors for Women in Voice, a global non-profit that was started by a scholarship recipient to our 2018 VOICE Summit. It’s one of my great joys to give back and help others build strong communities of belonging.

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?

Our flagship event and network of properties is called VOICE, which focuses on voice-tech, AI, conversational interfaces such as chatbots, avatars and audio interfaces. Most people now have a voice assistant in their homes and almost all have them activated on their smartphones. This new interface is at the forefront of multiple technology platforms, including but not limited to Smartspeakers, Televisions, Laptops/Desktops, Smartphones, Appliances, Cars/Trucks, Wearables, AR/VR and more. We can speak at 150 words per minute and type about 40 words per minute, even much less than that on small devices. Therefore, speaking vs. typing reduces friction and time. There are so many other benefits across use cases and industries, including Healthcare, Retail, Transportation and Banking which are all making major transformations to add voice/chat/AI interfaces.

How do you think this might change the world?

There’s an immediate accessibility benefit to voice tech. Our “VOICE Talks” show alone has featured many guests attesting to the benefits and the democratization of access via voice. But there are also countless examples of how voice is changing the way we interact with our devices, applications and each other.

Healthcare benefits across multiple areas with a voice interface — how providers record their care sessions, how patients can ask for assistance, how such interfaces can help provide diagnostics and more.

The audio interface with devices such as wearables, headphones, AR/VR devices is going to drive these technologies and revolutionize gaming, entertainment, navigation, commerce and more.

My in laws are in their 80’s and can easily drop in on any of their kids and grandkids via Amazon Alexa. Google Assistant also has an easy communication interface between family, friends and workmates.

Driving is now safer through voice interfaces as drivers are not distracted by looking down at buttons and nobs.

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

One of the big challenge areas of this technology is unintended bias in our AI algorithms. We can already see this when our device in the kitchen can’t hear my wife sometimes and it’s very frustrating for her. But there are far more challenging areas such as what a device can record in a home and whether that data can be accessed in a legal proceeding. We all have recorders wherever there is a voice interface and this opens the door to many privacy challenges as well. These are all going to be major policy areas in the years ahead.

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

In 2011, we held a Meetup for developers to talk about the new iPhone feature called “Siri”. While Siri was not available for developers to leverage in their apps, one of our Meetups was focused on the ways that a voice interface could help improve user experience in their apps. This Meetup stayed with me and when Amazon released Alexa in 2015 and prepared for an API, I was fortunate enough to be called on by them to help drive the product’s go-to- market strategy. I knew that developers would be hungry to get access to a voice-first interface and produced one of the very first developer workshops for Alexa in 2016. We would then go on to conduct a 10-city training tour in 2017 with training for about 2,000 developers, designers, publishers and brands how to build an Amazon Alexa Skill. We knew the interest was there and we hit that tipping point in 2017 which allowed us to launch our VOICE Summit in the summer of 2018, where we expected 1,500 and gathered close to 3,000. In 2019 attendance would grow to 4,500.

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

Widespread adoption of voice-tech is already there. Our goal is to ensure a healthy industry that’s inclusive and building technology for all.

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 big innovation for us in the face of the pandemic is VOICE Talks. Instead of simply creating a virtual event, we created a new multi-segment talk show. Again, we were expecting about 1000 registrations for the first event and we ended up hitting 13,000. We would go on to garner more than 100,000 email subscribers by year end and we’re now delivering 10 more episodes in 2021 and we launched a version of the show in India.

This show addresses the needs in the market to grow and engage with the global ecosystem in a way that’s interesting and fun for the community. A talk show has ended up making this possible in a unique way.

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. The business of community building

I wish I knew more about how sponsorships work early on. I would’ve been able to raise more funds to scale our events and hired more staff to help me out. I did almost every job in the early years and likely could have scaled much more quickly with a better understanding of funding events.

2. Inclusion is the top priority in community building

When we started in 2009 the priorities of accessibility, gender balance, inclusion and racial equity were not front of mind. But I wish we’d gotten ahead of this sooner as it’s now what drives our community initiatives but I can look back and see that this also would’ve really helped us grow while also healing an industry that has a poor track record in these areas.

3. Remote first

We moved to an entirely remote organization in 2015 and this helped us tremendously as we were able to find specialists from around the world who love community building. I wish we’d started as a remote first organization out of the gate, this would’ve really helped me with some of the early challenges we faced.

4. Remove ambiguity through clear contracts.

One area that is a challenge for leaders, especially with smaller teams is that we have to balance between managing teams and holding accountability and being an important part of that team with a good working relationship. What I’ve found is that high goals and critical but so is ensuring a supportive culture that allows for failure but also provides clear expectations. Our contracts with our staff are all very clear, well documented in terms of the job, expectations and deliverables. These contracts allow us to agree in advance on shared goals and know when things aren’t a great fit and we move on as professionals. It took me years to get this right.

5. Keep clean books always

For the first several years of running Modev, I barely managed the books and it was a mess. I am proud that as of about five years ago our Quickbooks are now probably as good or better than most in our industry. We account for every piece of revenue and expense with proper classes and other details. We close out the books each month and answer any questions outstanding. We can now run reports at any time on our business and spot trends or see where we need to focus. This really helps with taxes, our banking relationships and more. Mostly, peace of mind.

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 am fascinated by the notion of “Accessible First” design. Modev was launched during the “Mobile First” movement and VOICE is living in the “Voice First” era. However, there’s another frontier that I call “Accessible First” design where any physical or digital product should be designed with accessibility in mind first. A great example of this is a shoe that was just released by Nike with accessibility in mind, see the FlyEase here that was assisted in its design by Christina Mallon, the keynote speaker that I cited above from VOICE 2019.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

See our show page for VOICE Talks here. Also please follow me at LinkedIn and 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.

The Future of Communication Technology: Paul Shain of Singlewire Software On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up How We Connect and Communicate With Each Other

Singlewire Software operates in the emergency and mass notification space, developing a communication software called InformaCast. This emerging area is focused on keeping people safe and informed of all major events that happen in a workplace, a school, or a public venue. The key to our software is “speed and reach”. We reach many different endpoints, both on network and mobile. Our on-network devices include IP Phones, digital signage, laptops, desktops, and more recently, collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams and Webex. In an emergency, we tell our clients, reach your people as quickly as possible on as many devices as possible to insure they get critical alerts. The sooner people are aware of a situation, the quicker they can take action to get out of harm’s way. Our software enables organizations to share information quickly and easily so they can help their people when they need it most.


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 Paul Shain.

Paul is the CEO and President of Singlewire Software, developers of InformaCast, a leading mass notification system. Based out of Madison, Wisconsin, Paul and his team are focused on providing cutting-edge communication solutions that keep people safe and informed.


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 began my career in the investment business, serving as Managing Director and Director of Research for Robert W. Baird & Co., Inc., a regional investment banking firm headquartered in Milwaukee. My focus there was on the Information Technology Services space. From there I became President and CEO of Madison-based Berbee Information Networks Corporation, a wholly-owned subsidiary of CDW Corporation, which CDW acquired in October 2006. At CDW I was Senior Vice President and Executive Committee Member, before becoming President and CEO of Singlewire in 2009.

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

On the third day of my career as an investment analyst, I was scheduled to join my boss on a company visit to General Mills to meet with the Chairman and CEO. I had prepared for the visit but was instructed that my role was to listen and take notes. On the morning of the visit, my boss came down with the flu, and was unable to attend. He told me to go do the meeting alone. This taught me the lesson of being prepared for any possibility — as things can change and you might need to be in charge. I was prepared for that meeting and it went off without a hitch.

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

“The best managers are chameleons”. A mentor shared this vision with me when I first became a manager. He taught me that everyone reacts to management inputs differently, and your job is to figure that out and lead each person that reports to you in the way they best respond. This piece of advice has served me well as I have led different organizations.

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?

At a very young age (28) I was put into a leadership role, taking over a department of 50 people, where I was the youngest by far. The confidence that was placed in me was not well received by others that felt they had put the time in and deserved the promotion. The CEO who promoted me wanted to change the culture and performance of the department and told me that I had complete authority to do what I needed. That confidence placed in me allowed me to excel in my first leadership role and taught me the value of a having a vision, communicating that vision, and then enabling the execution of that vision.

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

I give both my time and philanthropy to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where I attended. Higher education was a game changer for me personally, so providing scholarships and my time to help others is where I focus my efforts. Our company also takes part in a number of philanthropic efforts including running a collection to help feed the less fortunate during the holidays, sponsoring gifts for families of cancer patients around Christmas, and sponsoring events that support the next generation of software developers.

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?

Singlewire Software operates in the emergency and mass notification space, developing a communication software called InformaCast. This emerging area is focused on keeping people safe and informed of all major events that happen in a workplace, a school, or a public venue. The key to our software is “speed and reach”. We reach many different endpoints, both on network and mobile. Our on-network devices include IP Phones, digital signage, laptops, desktops, and more recently, collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams and Webex. In an emergency, we tell our clients, reach your people as quickly as possible on as many devices as possible to insure they get critical alerts. The sooner people are aware of a situation, the quicker they can take action to get out of harm’s way. Our software enables organizations to share information quickly and easily so they can help their people when they need it most.

How do you think this might change the world?

Most CEO’s list their most valuable asset as their people, and that’s the guiding principle that informs the development of our software. If you can keep people safe by keeping them informed, you can minimize risk, reduce downtime, and keep operations running as smoothly as possible. As technology continues to evolve, so do the capabilities of our software. We’re adding more options for monitoring, reporting, and integration to create a dynamic tool that addresses the communication and safety needs of any organization no matter what kind of situation they may face. Bad things happen all the time, but how organizations react and instruct people during a crisis makes a big difference as to the outcome.

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

In our eyes there are more drawbacks to not having this technology. More information is always better in dealing with unplanned events. Giving people that information in the most usable way possible is a good business strategy. All businesses have a duty of care responsibility, so having tools to accomplish this makes good business sense.

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

The events of Sept. 11 led to an awareness among many organizations that they did not have the tools or procedures in place to easily communicate safety information with everyone at a moment’s notice. We received a request from a government agency that had tried, and failed, to evacuate all of their people from their facilities. They needed a solution that was easy to use and could reach all of their desk phones with live audio pages without bring down the phone system. This led to the creation of the first iteration of our InformaCast solution, which allowed organizations to send live audio pages throughout their facilities. Since then, safety concerns have only grown more prominent and that has influenced the further development of InformaCast into a full-fledged mass notification system.

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

Awareness is our biggest challenge. Most organizations know that they need to be able to communicate with their people in the event of an emergency. However, most don’t realize they that they already own much of the infrastructure (network, IP phones, digital signage, etc.) to build a comprehensive solution that only needs our software added on the backend to bring everything together. Too often, we see complex, inefficient systems that are cobbled together using multiple communication tools. We offer a single solution for organizations to leverage technology they already own, connect it all, and simplify their emergency communication plan to get information in. front of people quickly.

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?

We have seen a wider adoption of tools like ours for general communication regarding the pandemic. Because InformaCast can reach people on mobile and on-premises devices, it has been ideal for organizations that have to keep their people informed about shifting to remote work environments and providing other health and safety updates as recommendations and guidelines have shifted. Moving forward, the task of keeping people informed will be more challenging as a hybrid work environment becomes more widely adopted, meaning organization leaders may not know for sure about whether people are working from home or in an office. So, we see the need to be able to reach people on many different devices (especially on network) and via collaboration tools only increasing.

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 be afraid to take risk. (People are more risk averse than is warranted in most situations.)
  2. Surround yourself with exceptional people, but realize that if you “work with Einstein, you have to put up with the hair.” (Understand the unique perspectives of each person on your team, and welcome different thoughts.)
  3. Live a healthy life. (Health and time are both scarce resources.)
  4. Work smart. (Have a process for decision making to insure you spend your time on the most important tasks and decisions.)
  5. Be organized.

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. :-).

Enable people to have economic prosperity through hard work. Guide all government programs to create economic growth, creating good jobs that allow people to succeed. The entitlement mentality that is emerging in this country will have dire consequences in the future.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

We update the Singlewire Software blog on a regular basis highlighting new product features, commentary on timely topics, and guidance on best practices for communicating during emergencies. You can also follow our social channels on Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

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: Forest Key of Voodle On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up How We Connect and Communicate With Each Other

The idea of remote/distributed teams has so many appealing positives: the ability to hire more diverse teams, lower cost of living by not cramming everyone into dense urban centers for certain jobs, less time commuting and consuming scarce carbon resources, time to better balance personal/work trade-offs. The pandemic forced many companies into remote-work modalities without time to think through how to be great at it! While many companies will try to return to something like the “pre-covid way” of dense office environments, I believe the cat is out-of-the-bag and we will see steady, meaningful, permanent trends towards much more distributed and remote modalities of teams working. Some 100% remote, some flex, some occasional. But the need for “better ways for teams to collaborate and communicate and get work done” is going to be a Trillion $$ category of software over the next decade.


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 interviewingForest Key.

Forest is a serial entrepreneur with a 30 year passion for innovation in video platforms. Previously founder+CEO of hospitality marketing SaaS provider buuteeq (acquired by Booking Holdings) and visual effects software tools innovator Puffin Designs (acquired by Pinnacle Systems). He was a founding partner of China based UX design and development studio for OTT video applications Redsafi (acquired by Objectiva), and the founder CEO of Pixvana which spent 4 years developing a VR video platform before pivoting to create Voodle. He was previously the GM of business development in the Server and Tools division of Microsoft and director of product planning and marketing for .NET platforms and tools. As a founding team member of both the Silverlight and Macromedia Flash video teams he worked in the boiler room of early internet video infrastructure from 2003–2010 which powered the first wave of consumer video apps including Youtube and Netflix.


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?

I’m a bay area California native who grew up with a serial-entrepreneurial step-father as an impactful mentor — he had natural food stores, construction and home design companies, and adventure tourism businesses in various cities as we moved to throughout Chile and California during my childhood. I attended Palo Alto Highschool and was very active on the school newspaper in the late 1980s — a really disruptive period where digital publishing, video editing, and multimedia technologies were just emerging. I went to UCLA with the intent to study film and work in traditional Hollywood/cinema, but through a series of pivots I ended up becoming a “storytelling technology entrepreneur” now on my 5th company as a founder. My first job out of school was at George Lucas’ visual effects studio working on Star Wars and other features, and each successive job and company I’ve worked at has in some way incorporated my technical chops in media tech, with my passion for storytelling (mostly in software applications as opposed to in film/television).

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

An “interesting”/good story starts by knowing your audience and several different “interesting” stories come to mind regarding working with technology, understanding end-users, building high performing teams and working with diverse people… but in this case, I’m going to choose an entrepreneurial fund-raising anecdote because I think it will be of interest to this audience.

“It’s not always about you” is an important lesson that I learned and like to share with other CEOs who have been through the grind of pitching lots of investors and most-often being told “no”. Founders deeply invest themselves into each and every pitch and when hearing “no”, it always feels like a knife to the gut. I would often spend hours rehashing the meetings and conversations that lead up to the rejection, and think through the scenarios with myself at the center of the decision-making process: what could I have said, what did they think of my idea/business, what else were they thinking about, why did they invest in that other company but not mine?

For my hotel-saas software company buuteeq we had been talking to a great VC at length, nearly a dozen meetings over 18 months, and we were really bummed when they passed on our deal… AND, the same week, they invested in a company *very* similar to ours, but in another industry that was much smaller and (I felt) less interesting economically than ours. I’ll anonymize to protect those involved and to not be mean — let’s say it was a “buuteeq for chefs”, where the “chefs” category is a global opportunity of $10b, and hospitality/hotels is a $500b market. I probably spent 5 hours going over it in my head — ”why did they like the chef business more than ours, it is a small market?”, “did they have a better pitch”, “did they not like me”, “is our market traction not as impressive”… etc.

Well: I eventually found out that one of the 5 partners at the firm was having a really hard year and was suffering from mental-health/depression challenges. He hadn’t been showing up to the office, hadn’t been excited about any deals, hadn’t been participating as needed as a general partner. BUT, he suddenly was showing a spark and was coming back to life because the “chef” business was a passion of his — he was going to restaurants, hanging out with top-chefs, happy… So, the partners at the firm had decided to make an investment in the chef business, as a kind of “therapy play” to revitalize a member of the team.

Here I was thinking through the rejection as being centered around me, and factors I could control. When, it had NOTHING to do with me, my business, the market, or even financial logic. “It’s not always about you” are words to live by as you deal with rejection — take the “no”, spend 5 minutes feeling sorry for yourself, and move on to the next 10 pitches. You can’t control how others will think of your pitch, and ultimately, they get many, many more investment decisions WRONG, than they do right. It’s a numbers game for them, and you. #wordstolivebywhengettingrejectedbyavc

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

A board director/mentor of my first company once told me: “Forest, as a first time 27-year-old CEO you are making every mistake in the book. But you only make the mistake once.” In the moment I first heard this my heart sank as I thought I was being given a reprimand, but as he walked me through the feedback I came to understand it was a high-complement. To this day, it is one of the most impactful and important compliments I’ve ever received. Making mistakes is not a problem per se — in fact, in most endeavors in life being willing to make mistakes is a superpower, because it is the fastest way to gather data/signal, learn, and then iterate. The key is to not make the SAME mistakes, which doesn’t add additional value. I jump into most things in life excited to make mistakes and learn from them. When I have, I try to live up to the high standard of not repeating my mistakes.

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 have a rich pantheon of life mentors that have been the scaffolding for me to achieve my heights so choosing just one feels a bit like a “Sophie’s Choice”. I was very fortunate to attend 3 years of high school in one place (after a lot of disruption/moving-about earlier in life) and at Palo Alto Highschool I had a supremely influential teacher and life mentor named Esther Wojcicki. “Woj” as she is known is an incredible educator and a bit of a celebrity educator (google her: she has 100s of former students telling stories about her as I am here). I was very involved in her journalism curriculum and ended up being editor of the school newspaper. In her classroom and through her herculean personal involvement and advocacy for me as a young person, I developed strong communication and leadership skills, familiarity and comfort with taking risks and learning through failure, as well as the space in which to act-out in unhealthy teenager ways while trusting/knowing that she would not give up on me. At that time in my life, I really needed an adult I admired and trusted to see/hear me. When I see those meme posters about “those footsteps in the sand were when you were being carried by the spirit”… that seems to be Woj’s superpower for *many* of her students.

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

I would like to tell you that my broadest impact on the world has been in the products that I’ve been a part of building that have changed the experience of users in positive ways. For example, I was among a couple of dozen key folks that brought Flash/Silverlight video capabilities to the ecosystem that ushered in video-on-the-web and directly led to Youtube and Netflix and the 100s of millions or billions of people watching video on their phones/screens.

But I’d call that “impact”, not success. As for success, I consider “how many people had a conversation with me that positively influenced them in their pursuit of their goals and aspirations”. Just as my many mentors spent coffee-chats with me sharing their personal narratives, I’ve strived to avail myself liberally to meet with almost anyone that seeks me out for conversations and interactions on any subject where I can be of use. In the last 20 years that has usually meant young entrepreneurs where I have shared my story, anecdotes of failure, lessons learned, and as much as possible emotional transparency. Sometimes it might just be travel trips to Chile or China (where I have lived and have great tips!), or fundraising tips, or anything where my “wisdom” from experience can be passed along.

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?

My colleagues and I are building Voodle, a “short-asynchronous-video collaboration app for teams that work together”. The idea for Voodle came to me while traveling in China where I noticed a preponderance of people out and about looking at their phones watching vertical video, way back in 2019 (TikTok was big in China already). I reflected that an increasing portion of all of our social communication is achieved through images, video, memes, emojis, etc. aka “graphical” messages — messages such as “look what I’m doing”, “look who I’m with”, “look what I’m eating”… these messages are human-face centric and shot on mobile cameras, often the selfie-camera. These visual stories we tell each other over social apps and messaging platforms like Snap, Instagram, WhatsApp, iMessage are very empathetic, transparent, casual, and effective/powerful in short bursts of time. Yet, at work, we still nearly universally communicate through text and documents, with more structured norms inherited from the time of written letters through the post-office. We think short-video-forward messaging and collaboration has a place in the workflow of remote teams in particular: teams need to drive connection amongst team members and a sense of alignment, something that is very hard to achieve with only Slack + Zoom meetings.

How do you think this might change the world?

I think we fit into the larger trend of “the future of work” that was brought on and accelerated by the COVID pandemic. The idea of remote/distributed teams has so many appealing positives: the ability to hire more diverse teams, lower cost of living by not cramming everyone into dense urban centers for certain jobs, less time commuting and consuming scarce carbon resources, time to better balance personal/work trade-offs. The pandemic forced many companies into remote-work modalities without time to think through how to be great at it! While many companies will try to return to something like the “pre-covid way” of dense office environments, I believe the cat is out-of-the-bag and we will see steady, meaningful, permanent trends towards much more distributed and remote modalities of teams working. Some 100% remote, some flex, some occasional. But the need for “better ways for teams to collaborate and communicate and get work done” is going to be a Trillion $$ category of software over the next decade.

Within that market opportunity, we are dialed-in to how to give individuals a sense of being connected, seen and heard by their peers, and building confidence and understanding towards “alignment”. Alignment is that “aha” moment after sometimes hours of meetings on zoom and dozens of slack back-and-forths, where you feel “ok, I get it, I understand what you think, you understand what I think, and we’ve decided together what WE think and now let’s go do the work”. That is a really expensive part of all collaboration, and it needs more human empathy than can be achieved in slack and zoom. We think Voodle can have magic powers in this endeavor.

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

I’m a huge fan of the show and believe you can use the formula of the dystopian near-future to lambast and lampoon just about ANY human habit or societal resource. While the show focuses on “technology-dystopias”, you could make equally terrifying episodes about, say, food: the obesity epidemic, alcohol and tobacco addiction, the negative impact of cattle production on greenhouse gases and water utilization, mutant farmed fish! I’m currently reading a Kurt Vonnegut book called Player Piano — he was writing about machine AI replacing humans and creating a dystopian society in the mid-1950s! Yes, machines have replaced human beings in the labor force in dramatic ways and that has presented some challenges (as Vonnegut wrote) — but I’m mostly an optimist about technology and see the positive potential for software like Voodle to help humans feel more empathy towards each other.

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

[I think I covered this in my earlier setup about my trip to China but here’s some more] I think the “inception” idea is that consumers will communicate at work like they currently do socially outside of work. That’s inevitable. So that’s the starting point. But the “tipping point” is yet to come — that will be the moment where we get the product features dialed in just right, and users that try the product adopt it in higher volumes and with greater frequency than we have yet to identify. We are on the “product-market-fit” tipping point… hard work, but I’m glad that’s hard as that means it is not obvious, and figuring that out will be worth the challenges to get there.

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

It’s early, Voodle is introducing drastically different ways for teams to express themselves to each other and it will take time. Slack didn’t just appear out of nowhere: it is the baby of 20+ years of a trend towards short-messages on T9 keyboards on phones, the growth of AIM and ICQ messaging, the emergence of Twitter and “Twitter at work” apps like Yammer, and then the “Slack” format that is itself still in the early stages of replacing email. The good news is about 4 billion users are using selfie-cameras at this point. A 40-year-old might think “no way, I would never talk to people at work with short-videos”… just as surely as a 40-year-old in 1990 might never have thought they’d use email in their lifetimes. These sea-changes of tech happen fast once certain inflection points are hit, and I believe short-video-at-work will happen very quickly because it has ALREADY happened socially. Short-video messages will jump from “look at the food I’m eating in Thailand” to “hey I just had a great idea for the marketing campaign” and “I just met with an account that I think we can win” and “hey, welcome Trish to the team, so glad you decided to join our company”.

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?

In 2019 consumers generated billions of selfie-videos for social interactions and human connection, so we think it is a foregone conclusion that short-videos will emerge in a meaningful way in @work interactions, especially given the dramatic shifts to hybrid-remote work environments that will follow the pandemic. The empathy and transparency of selfie-videos generates trust and “social capital” between colleagues and collaborators, helping teams feel connected and aligned. Zoom and Slack simply can’t replace all the 1:1 coffee chats, lunches, casual hallway conversations, business trips, customer visits, morale and team building events, or the ever-present eye-contact and body-language cues. The coming decade will be the “future-of-work” decade for communication and collaboration tools — what exists in the market today is wholly unsatisfactory, and we expect dozens of innovative new tools to emerge to meet the many needs of remote-first workforces.

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. Jaws is just a movie!
    I saw jaws when I was 6, in a movie theater big screen, with my 8-year-old brother. It scared me forever and I have an irrational fear of the ocean (for that matter, any body of water). Irrational fears are the lesson. Leaning-in, not away, from these fears is how you overcome and master/grow from the experience. Took me longer than it should have to learn this, so there it is — it’s just a movie, pass it along!
  2. Papillon got through it, so can you!
    I read the biography-fiction story of french prisoner Papillon who spent years in a penal colony including hard time in solitary confinement for long periods. “It can always be much, much worse” is one take-away (it was horrible for him), but “with mental fortitude, a positive outlook, and patience — you can live through a lot of bad times” is the zen-take-away that has served me well and I try to pass that along to others to help them endure tough circumstances in their own lives.
  3. Listen to others. No, really, LISTEN
    For decades I’ve heard about the power of listening. For decades I nodded my head in “yes, I understand”. It took me until just recently to begin to comprehend just how powerful *really* listening to others can be. It is a mixture of hearing, listening, and actively *reflecting* to the person you are listening to, that you HAVE listened. A skill I am planning to get much better at in the next decade!
  4. Know what you don’t know.
    In the logical framework (think of a 2×2 grid), you can categorize everything there is to know as either being (1) things you know, (2) things you don’t know, and (3) things you DONT know that you know, and (4) things you DONT know that you DONT know. The most power in this framework comes from individually reflecting on it and thinking about self-awareness. Hint: focus on mastering #4 — the other’s are relatively easy.
  5. Go to China!
    Just like in the movie Looper where the man from the future who has time-traveled to the present keeps telling Bruce Willis’ character “trust me, I’m from the FUTURE… go to China”, a life-highlight for me was the opportunity to live in Beijing with my family for 2 years while I was working for Microsoft, and I try to pass along to everyone that hasn’t yet been = you should visit China! China is an *amazing* country: its people/culture/food are lovely, their spirit bright and full of transcendent optimism after a pretty horrible early-to-mid-late 20th century. See for yourself… spend 2 weeks, it will really open your eyes and you will understand the 21st century and what lays ahead.

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’ve read about and thought about the idea that if an alien civilization arrived on earth and they said “take me to your leaders” what they might expect is for us to take them to a wheat field. By some logic, the most successful species on the planet (and whom are collectively really in charge and running the show), are the crops that have “domesticated” us to help them grow and replicate their DNA. While humorous, it does challenge us to think about our place on the planet — as a species, we are really stewards of the entire ecosystem. Every living thing on the planet is a distant-cousin relation to one great-great-great micro-organism. Certainly, as homo sapiens, we are one big family (there is no such thing as race, and language/religion are very small, recent variations in the grander scheme). This is the queendom-earth and we are perhaps the most adept species to be stewards. Our self-interests should drive us to take better care of each other, and the planet.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

www.forestkey.com

twitter.com/forestkey

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.