Dusting for Digital Fingerprints: The Art of Forensics

“Confessions of CEOs” is a series on how business owners are changing the service landscape. Today, we’re chatting with Steve Simpson, founder of S2 Forensics, a digital forensics consultancy. He shares his secrets on how to protect your business forensically.

Digital Forensics Can Save Your Business

Why S2 Forensics?

I love to solve puzzles, and technology only makes it more fun; court cases are just another kind of mystery. You can tell a story of what a person did, where they went, and the keywords for which they were searching. People take lots of photos – selfies, photos of friends, landscapes, or any number of things.  Some even take pictures of themselves at a crime. Images have the potential to provide metadata regarding the time, date, or geo-location, indicating that they could have witnessed something or participated somehow. Evidence found on devices can exonerate or convict a person, whether the case is civil or criminal.

S2 Forensics offers the best digital forensics and computer technology support available to litigators, corporations, and government agencies. We offer a cybersecurity element that goes beyond computers or cell phones. Many of our non-technical clients want to know the nuts and bolts literally and figuratively, of the technologies they work with daily.  We put in whatever extra work is needed to explain these complex technical concepts.

Every litigation case is intriguing. It’s about helping lawyers understand technology so they can best present the case in a courtroom environment. We discuss tactics on specific examinations, testimony on the witness stand, and cross-examination of the opposing witness. We review the evidence and provide contrasting interpretations without violating people’s civil rights. It’s often about how and where we discover information that makes that evidence admissible. For example, some peer-to-peer (P2P) shared folders don’t need a warrant to be searched; if, however, a particular file is removed from the P2P shared folder, law enforcement may require a search warrant for the file.  A digital forensic analyst needs technical and legal background knowledge to do forensics right in addition to specialized skills and tools. 

What can businesses do to protect themselves?

Keep all hard drives. When a person leaves a company, the company should replace the hard drive and store the hard drive away. The hard drive may contain critical information and evidence of misuse of corporate resources. The hard drive should be kept or given to a digital forensic professional who will take a forensic image and complete a comprehensive hard drive analysis.  The hard drive mustn’t be recycled or used by another employee.  The replacement cost of a new hard drive is about $100 per 1TB of disk space.  This cost is minimal compared to the cost of litigation that may occur after someone leaves. 

If a business suspects someone internally of misconduct, any evidence you collect that may be used in legal action against a current or former employee must be collected and stored in a manner that will hold up in a court of law.  For example, a previous client had agreed to allow an employee to perform a particular project remotely.  The company issued the employee a computer with specific software expecting the employee to develop a business application.  After making zero progress on the application after several weeks, the company collected the laptop and terminated the employee.  The employee later came back to sue the company for wrongful termination.  The company requested a complete forensic analysis of the terminated employee’s computer.  The evidence on the computer showed that the former employee was using the corporate computer for hacking websites and harassing and extorting women he found on various dating websites.  After being confronted with evidence, the former employee dropped his case. 

In divorce cases, spouses often sue for child custody. Often both spouses have joint access to devices. Forensically, it’s possible to determine infidelity or other inappropriate behavior like cyberbullying, harassment, active involvement in child pornography, etc.  Using the correct tools and methods, this type of data can be uncovered and used to help make the best decisions for all involved.  While the act of searching for data may seem trivial, it requires specialized skills and tools to find the data that will stand up in court. 

What’s your #1 learning in cyber forensics to date? 

Each device stores data differently. From the outside, devices may look similar, but internally, they are as different as night and day internally. Let’s take storage media as an example; traditional computer storage technology is about 70 years old.  Because of how an operating system stores data on magnetic media, deleted data may continue to reside on the hard drive disk for an indefinite.  In contrast, solid state storage technology may not hold deleted data near as long due to garbage collection and wear leveling processes.  These processes, along with other differences between solid-state storage and magnetic media storage technologies, significantly impact the amount of deleted data that may be accessible on different devices.  Access to this deleted data may make or break any given case. 

What’s an indispensable tool you couldn’t live without?

I’m a big fan of open-source tools suited for Windows and Android devices. Many of these tools are developed by digital forensic enthusiasts and improved by digital forensic practitioners.  However, commercial and proprietary tools (those requiring paid licensing) are also important.  A professional digital forensic analyst usually has access to both types of devices.  I will usually use one to acquire or analyze evidence and use the other to verify my findings and conclusions.  I will not present my findings and conclusions for a case until both the open-source and commercial tools agree on the evidence.

What’s your philosophy?

Be hungry for learning. Technology is constantly changing, advancing, and widening its reach. I enroll in classes in my free time to better understand concepts. I found that with a strong work ethic and an ability to internalize information quickly, it’s easier to stay up to date.  Many tool vendors provide fee-based training that is usually top-notch.  Many YouTube videos offer tutorials on how to use various software tools and demonstrate evidence collection and analysis techniques.  Many excellent books can be found in college and university libraries or purchased online at a reasonable cost.    

How do you give back to the community? Why is that important?

I’ve been teaching at the college and university level since 2015.  I currently teach computer, mobile, and network forensics classes at Highline College, Central Washington University, and the University of Virginia.  Through both my professional and teaching career, I’ve aspired to help teach people the beauty and complexity of technology while also helping them understand how impactful it can be in their everyday life. While you can’t master forensics in 13 weeks, you can at least appreciate the field and continue to develop a mastery of the technology throughout your career.

To date, most of my clients have been lawyers and particularly criminal defense lawyers. As a result, some of the cases I work on can present me with a moral dilemma.  However, my job is not to determine the defendant’s guilt or innocence – that is the job of lawyers, judges, and juries.  My job is to uncover the evidence found on a computer device, determine how the evidence might have gotten there, and present my findings for use in a court of law.

What inspires you to keep going?

I’m fascinated with digital forensic technologies and how to use the technology to uncover information and develop a timeline of events.  Each case is different and might require a different and unique approach.  I find helping both my client and society very rewarding.

When all is said and done, what do you hope for S2 to achieve?

At the end of each case, I want to ensure that justice is grounded in data fairly.

S2 Forensics is a preferred partner on Beaze.

Beaze Featured on DojoLive!

Our CEO, Vivian Lim, has been invited to guest-speak at DojoLive on September 22, 2020. Each week, DojoLive brings together a broad roster of technology luminaries, business and thought leaders from a wide range of software companies and startups. Vivian will be discussing how to grow your client base during COVID (including how to avoid excessive 1:1 video meetings).

Update (September 22, 2020): Here’s the interview entitled “Networking During COVID: Don’t Leave Money on the Table“. Special thanks to Carlos Ponce and Tullio Siragusa of DojoLive for hosting!

How to Forge a Lasting Business Dynasty

“Confessions of CEOs” is a series on how business owners are changing the service landscape. Today, we’re speaking with Clyde Hamai, CEO of Hamai Appliance, an appliance and mattress retailer in Maui founded in 1970. Clyde shares his secrets on how to run a family-owned business that has lasted over three generations.

Clyde Hamai, CEO of Hamai Appliance

Why Hamai Appliance?

Hamai Appliance is the only independent retailer of appliances and mattresses in Maui. My father, Lester, started this business over 50 years ago, and I joined him a couple of months later, after I graduated from the University of Hawaii. My dad’s mission was to serve the local people with the best sales and repair service.  We still follow that mission over 50 years later.  

How have you kept the business going for 50 years across 3 generations of family?

We adapt because we want to succeed, not just survive. When we first started, Sears owned about 45% of the appliance and electronics market. Now their share is in the single digits in addition to going bankrupt on the mainland. I would have never dreamed that our competitors would be the big boxes like Home Depot and Lowes.

One of the most significant changes that we’ve made is the shift away from electronics. When Panasonic, our largest electronics provider, shifted their North America strategy away from independent dealers, we had to maintain relationships with mainland distributors. It was too costly for our business. We decided to phase out electronics altogether; it was a tough choice because our customers still wanted these products. If we hadn’t, we would have been out of business like so many other local retailers. Maui had over a dozen dealers like us, but now we are the only one left.

Despite COVID, we never closed. We received PPP and leveraged our proprietary delivery logistics employees. We empowered our delivery team to postpone delivery if they suspected risks from COVID. All of our sales personnel wear masks and clean the showroom floor to ceiling daily. If anyone of our employees tests positive for COVID, we’re prepared to shut down for 14 days. We care more about our community than we do about just profits. Disease transmission is not a joke.

What is it like to run a family-owned business?

Oh [Clyde chuckles]. Working with family isn’t always easy, but it can be incredibly rewarding. It was my dad’s dream to go into business with his sons. When he left his sales job at another store, where he had worked for over 25 years to start Hamai Appliance, he had no idea his dream would come true. My brother, Glenn, retired in 2013. I’ve been able to live that same dream. It is gratifying to hand this off to the next generation. 

Is running a family-owned business harder than running one without family?

Well, only about 30% of family-owned businesses transition into the second generation, but only 12% are viable in the third generation. A lot of this is attributed to whether or not you’ve been successful at separating work life with home life. I try very hard to keep work at the store and not take it home. I’ve discovered that it is not healthy to let the principals’ spouses get involved in running our business if the spouses aren’t actual employees. To do otherwise often results in the exploration of many touchy subjects at the company’s detriment. 

Three areas where family-run businesses can do better include:

1. Assignment of authority and respecting each other’s roles: Two of my sons and one of my nephews are each responsible for a branch of service. Everyone has to go through the correct channels to get stuff done. No one just gets to “pass go and collect $200”.

2. Crystal-clear communication: Never assume that people are on the same page. We frequently meet as a group; anyone can call that meeting. We value each other opinions and ensure that everyone is heard.

3. Maintaining respect: We are family, and we all bring different energy, strengths and ideas which can be valuable, even if the idea isn’t immediately adopted. My sons, Bryant and Garrett, and nephew Kelii, are modernizing the company technologically with their book smarts. I deliver practical advice on how to run the company since I’ve been doing it for 50 years. 

What is it like running a business in Hawaii?

It can be tough in our kind of business because we have to pay additionally for our independent ocean freight. That’s an additional 10-12% of the cost (a substantial overhead expense for any business). We overcome this in two ways. Firstly, we offer better service to our customers for all of the products we offer. Secondly, we also belong to Nationwide Marketing Group (NMG), the largest appliance and furniture buying group in North America. They help us buy products at a major discount and provide us with numerous industry-specific educational programs.  

There can also be some discrimination from businesses on the mainland. Many can’t service Hawaii, nor are they interested in flying here to grow it because of the distance. It’s still very much a challenge.

How have you kept up reliable customer service for so long?

We are the only turn-key appliance company in Maui that will sell, deliver, install and repair an appliance. We digitally track all customers’ purchases and warranties in our system, which ultimately benefits the customer in the long run by not having to manage those details independently.  Our sales team is very knowledgeable of all the brands we sell due to our manufacturer-led training programs.  

How do you give back to the community?

My father started an initiative in the community 40 years ago because he couldn’t find a single golf tournament for women. He decided to convince Panasonic to sponsor a friendly golf competition on Maui specifically for women. Every year until 2017, we’ve supplied the prizes for the Lester Hamai Memorial Golf Tournament while the participants paid the entrance fees. We donated the net proceeds to various Maui charities totalling over $90,000. We’re so pleased that the women in our community enjoy themselves at these events. Several years later, well after we had started the initiative, we realized that women are typically the chief decision-makers when it comes to appliance and mattress purchases, much like most other essential decisions in life. It’s worked out well both for the company and the community at large. The more we give, the more we receive.

Another dear initiative to our hearts includes the No Child Hungry (NCH) group. At our semi-annual Nationwide meeting, we helped pack meals for NCH. Nationwide has been supporting them for many years; they’ve packed and distributed over 1,000,000 meals and thousands of mattresses to disaster-fraught countries like Haiti. For our 50th anniversary celebration last year, we executed the program here in Hawaii to directly give back to our local community. We packed over 10,000 meals and distributed them to local organizations. We’re really excited about this program and looking forward to doing more in the future. 

What’s next for Hamai Appliance?

That’s up to my three boys. I’ve challenged them to grow our business.  I often tell them that when your name is on the door, you have to try harder. Maybe they’ll open up another store on Maui or one of the other islands.  We plan to be here for another 50 years. 

Hamai Appliance is a preferred partner on Beaze.

How to Trust and Verify at Scale

“Confessions of CEOs” is a series on how business owners are changing the service landscape. Today, we’re chatting with Ric Asselstine, CEO and founder of Geeq, a blockchain platform services firm. Ric discusses how to scale a business and the importance of trust in both people and data.

Ric Asselstine, CEO of Geeq | Photo Credit: Geeq

Why Geeq? 

Induced serendipity. A few years ago, I had been searching for a scalable blockchain solution to integrate with Terepac, a full-stack internet-of-things (IoT) technology. I read a paper called “Blockchain and the Economics of Crypto-tokens and Initial Coin Offerings” by Dr. John Conley, a Vanderbilt Economics professor, following his sabbatical from Microsoft. It turns out he had been thinking about a better approach to blockchain validation. We connected immediately. When I read John’s article, I immediately thought how bright he was and how easily he pulled simplicity out of vast complexity; most of all, I loved his sense of humour. I always look forward to reading the footnotes in his papers; like crackerjacks, he hides good things at the bottom. We’ve since developed a profound trust in one another. These days, I bring the bus, John brings the tech.

Together, we’ve created an affordable multi-blockchain platform secured by our Proof of Honesty protocol™ (PoH) ideal for protecting highly valuable enterprise data. 

How would someone go about using Geeq? 

By definition, blockchain allegedly guarantees that a particular action took place. Unlike other blockchain technologies, Geeq’s PoH truly provides that assurance.  Geeq supports all usual use cases for blockchain, including but not limited to:

– Smart cities

– Document management

– Supply chains

– Insurance 

– Micro-commerce (i.e. financial transactions involving very tiny sums of money, typically online).  

The actual use cases are limited pretty well only by the imagination. It feels like the dawn of the internet. 

By marrying our proprietary technology to a business model, we’re unleashing a new way to communicate, interact and transact at scale. The platform will manage billions, even trillions of transactions, enough for a smart city with all of its IoT devices.  No other blockchain platform comes close to that level of scale and trustworthiness, despite attempts at decentralized micropayments for several years. Our validation engine, PoH, seeks to enable the next era of decentralized business and will power a public blockchain platform, much like a car engine does. Not usually seen, but that which provides the power.

Why is trust so important?

Trust is the foundation of everything whether it’s a personal or business relationship. Our team endeavours to reinstate confidence in our fast-moving, fragmented world.  Despite the astounding evolution powered by the internet continues, trust continues to erode. Geeq is partly a response to that phenomenon, and we are working as quickly as we can.

What is the #1 lesson you’ve learned about leading the way in blockchain?

Persistence. Stick-with-it-ness. If you believe in something, or someone, you find a way to see it through.

What tool do you use every day to guarantee success at scale? 

I’ve developed a sense-making lens to focus my efforts comprised of 7 C’s: Code + Customers + Community + Compliance Creates a new Category of Commerce.  Without this organizing metaphor, it would be pretty tough to maintain focus on the pillars needed to succeed.  When I put these glasses on, things clear up pretty quickly and I’m more readily able to steer the ship.

When it’s all said and done, what do you hope Geeq to have achieved?

To be a thread that helps weave the world together.

Geeq is a preferred partner on Beaze.

3 ways to sustain a healthy sales pipeline as a service provider

In times like COVID, it can be super challenging to meet and connect with new customers. About 72% of Beaze customers found remote work to be incredibly disruptive to new business development. Below are some ways you can boost your sales pipeline volume and targeting:

Photo Credit: Charles Deluvio

1. Consider government contracts: Did you know that the US government obligates $960B in service contracts each year? There is a huge pool of opportunities across verticals including but not limited to construction, technology, wholesale, marketing, finance and staffing. Best of all, there are contracts available in all US states and these are often multi-year contracts. Beaze offers direct and real-time access to these opportunities including the exact point of contact who manages these projects. 

2. Connect with private-sector businesses outside of your network: While it’s true that word-of-mouth and referrals can be the most effective leads, these are only effective if you have a well-established network. Those who are starting cold or who are shifting their offerings are often not privy to the latest and greatest vendor contracts. Beaze connects vendors to opportunities across state lines in multiple verticals including marketing, advertising, sales, technology, property management, manufacturing and more. Best of all, Beaze does this 24/7, 365 days a year, even while you sleep. It’s great to wake up to a full pipeline.

3. Reciprocate! Refer business to win business: Businesses are 43% more likely to receive new opportunities from partners who remember you. Beaze makes it easy to refer off-target leads to colleagues and friends ensuring that you’re top of mind when interesting opportunities come around that are truly in your usual swimlane. After all, why leave money on the table?

How has your business been coping throughout COVID? We’d love to hear your comments below.

Why outsourcing services is easier than you think

Have you ever wanted so badly to have someone else take care of certain business problems but didn’t know who to turn to?

Have you ever outsourced work to a third-party vendor only to deeply regret it?

Over the last year, Beaze interviewed hundreds of businesses who failed to successfully outsource specialized managed services over the long-term. We discovered that the average amount of time to find and secure a vendor is 43 days; it’s akin to flushing $12K down the drain. It’s no wonder people just stick with who and what they know.

Keep reading to find out the 5 main reasons why firms aren’t able to achieve the kind of successful, long-term relationships with the service vendors they hope for and 4 ways on how you can avoid these traps.

Why outsourcing services can be easier than you might think | Beaze, a B2B vendor procurement marketplace
Photo Credit: Lauris Rozentals & GLK Creative Studio

1. Finding appropriate service providers worth considering. When business owners are finally willing to consider outsider help, over 68% don’t even know where to start looking for specialized help outside of their personal network. Businesses frequently rely on word-of-mouth to find experts in the appropriate fields and would often fall back on search engine results hoping to at least get contact information of service providers. Unfortunately, the recommended vendors they contact are often way out of their price range, don’t have the capacity to take on new work or are a poor cultural fit. Many customers emphasize the uniqueness of their corporate culture and complain about how incumbent vendors often disregard internal processes and pre-existing tools. It often takes at least 1 week or more just to find a starter set of vendors to consider.

2. Vetting providers for their alleged core competencies: While 93% of businesses would opt for word-of-mouth, they would still want to kick the tires on these vendors by comparing at least 2 or 3 in tandem just to be sure that the niche expertise is indeed there. These customers often rely on Google or LinkedIn searches to find alternative service providers. Over 72% of customers admit they lack either the necessary subject matter expertise to make an informed decision or bandwidth to determine whether the solution pitched is going to get the job done. Often, they cannot determine whether the price quoted is reasonable for the value to be extracted and so they are often sticker-shocked. If this happens to be their first search, they would not have any appropriate baseline by which to compare the quote received. Waiting for numerous quotes could take weeks, simply due to the amount of coordination and back-and-forth required to get to an official bid from repetitive questioning. Customers don’t know what questions to ask to even begin a meaningful screening process. As well, onboarding providers in a quick and efficient way. When service providers were engaged, 68% encountered a steep learning curve related to the internal corporate culture. This internal baggage was not really perceived during the bidding process and so would often blindside service providers.

3. Vetting providers for their ability to provide high-quality customer service. Communication responsiveness is the #2 concern with customers; any company failing to communicate within 48 hours is generally disqualified from consideration. After all, the customer could be hiring the vendor on behalf of a secondary customer. Reputation is everything and so the hiring party has much to lose. Having valid use cases is another key requirement for customers. They need to know you can do the job. Many SMB service providers do not have communication service-level agreements, i.e. deadlines by which they need to respond or resolve issues. 

4. Maintaining a productive and cordial relationship: A remarkable 42% of customers listed cultural sensitivity as being a major concern. Many found their vendors to be eventually disrespectful of the work being done by the customer’s company which led to significant strains in the relationship. 

5. Avoiding spam: In 2019 alone, US businesses spent over $20B in overhead costs caused by unwanted solicitation. This comes in the form of automated calls, email spam, cold outreach and physical mailers tossed in the recycling bin. Firms spend 11% of their work time trying to avoid these forms of communication from outside vendors and wish they could do away with them altogether.

As you can see, searching for and vetting vendors fatigues the best of us; the above challenges boil down to the following five reasons we’re all very familiar with:

  • Customers don’t know who to ask;
  • Customers don’t know where to find the right vendors;
  • Contacted vendors are too busy to respond;
  • Contacted vendors turn out to be way out of budget;
  • Contacted vendors turn out to be less than honest about their capabilities;

Fortunately, Beaze changes the service landscape in a multitude of time and cost-saving ways that benefit both customers and service providers:

1. Queuing up worthy providers who are ready to respond: Beaze requires that prospective vendors respond within 24 hours of being invited to a lead. Those that fail to meet that requirement are kicked out of consideration and immediately backfilled with another set who is ready and primed to go.

2. Having a panel of subject matter expert vendors figure out the problem space: Beaze experts narrow down the problem space in layman terms that are verifiable and comparable using suggested discussion topics collected through machine learning. Vendors are able to submit key use cases to demonstrate their capabilities in driving true return-on-investment (ROI). These use cases illustrate communication style, competency and cultural sensitivities.

3. Automatically replenishing the prospective vendor pool whenever they prove themselves unworthy: Beaze has a broad network of vendors who are ready and able jump into a conversation mid-stream and keep the conversation on track towards the conclusion; so, even when previous vendors drop out (either of their own volition or forcibly by the customer), ready and eager providers can be introduced getting themselves easily caught up.

4. Providing comparable bids with clear value propositions and price: Beaze enables providers to submit meaningful bids to address your specific project concerns in quantifiable terms so you know what you’ll receive as an outcome.

Customers on Beaze are able to find, vet and hire vendors in under 7 days (an 83% improvement). Imagine what you could do with that extra time and energy.

How do you tackle vendor procurement? We’d love to hear your comments below.

Real techies paintball in tutus

“Confessions of CEOs” is a series on how business owners are changing the service landscape. Today, we’re chatting with Vivian Lim, CEO of Beaze, a platform that provides continuous lead flow for service providers. She discusses tactics on succeeding as a visible minority, a mother and an entrepreneur in technology.

Vivian Lim, Co-Founder & CEO of Beaze

So, Why Beaze?

I’m a huge fan of entrepreneurs and their courage to strike out on their own. I enjoy building solutions that help people save time on the things they loath, so they can spend more time with the people they love. Time is the one commodity you can’t buy, so it’s essential to spend it wisely. 

Ever since I was little, my parents instilled in me the importance of controlling my destiny. Building your own company is one way of doing that. I want to be a significant part of helping others succeed if and when they decide to head down that path. An idea is only as useful as the team that executes that idea. Having paid my dues on my journey through tech, I sincerely appreciate all the intricate details accomplished by the front-line making incredible things work. Smart people are everywhere, but those who can find creative solutions and compromises in a business landscape full of obstacles are the hardest to find and retain. Beaze aspires to make this search both easy and enjoyable. 

How did you break into B2B?

I spent most of my career in enterprise, including at Microsoft and AWS. However, my last stint at Google in brand advertising was the most intriguing space I had ever seen in my career.  I had the privilege of working with Fortune 100 companies and travelled the world to see what it takes to establish and maintain a brand presence. 

That’s when it hit me. If you knew that BILLIONS of dollars spent annually on advertising came from 2% of the world’s companies and that each of them spent millions every month on ads, do you honestly think any small business owner could successfully compete? I have so many friends and acquaintances who were small business owners and struggled with bootstrapping sales. While all of them were brilliant at their specialties, they weren’t necessarily as well versed in sales, marketing and advertising. Some went belly up within a few months from lack of market presence, and it was a crushing moment for them, both financially and emotionally. I never want anyone to feel that kind of failure.

What’s your philosophy?

Those who can should. Don’t let anything stop you.

I plan and prioritize religiously. It’s important to know why you’re doing something and what the payout will be. If it’s not going to produce a big return, maybe it’s not worth doing. To get primed each day, I wake up at 5:30am and go for a jog. It’s so much easier to get stuff done in the quiet moments of the morning before the rest of the world catches up; it’s my meditation.

Tell us about how you give back and why that’s so important?

I support 22q research at UC Davis. In 2015, I lost my son to Tetrology of Fallot and DiGeorge syndrome, both rare diseases caused by a congenital heart defect from erroneous deletions on the 22nd chromosome.  I donate every year in memory of my son and all families who have been affected by 22q11.2 deletions. I was elated to hear about Jimmy Kimmel’s son who had received a successful surgical intervention. Unfortunately, my youngest daughter also has a heart defect, albeit a less severe one, and I’m thankful every day that she’s doing well. 

Dr. Tony J. Simon and the UC team are clinically addressing children’s social interactions with these disorders. In past donation years, I’ve asked them to consider gene injection therapy in utero to prevent kids from being born with the deletions entirely. I might need to wait a few years before they can embark on such a challenge.

What does success look like to you?

Enabling every family to live comfortably. Both of my parents came from lower working-class backgrounds. My parents paid for two grandparents and five siblings to emigrate to the US and raised three daughters. I consider myself very fortunate to have had parents willing to sacrifice so much so we could have such opportunity. Today, my family includes the folks at Beaze. As a team, we celebrate milestones together because enabling sales for every small business owner is merely hard work. So, to keep things interesting this past November, we went skydiving. This quarter, we’re thinking of going paintballing while wearing tutus and bee wings. It’s a COVID-friendly activity with social distancing built-in.

#battlefairy | Photo credit: Jacob Miller

What words of wisdom can you share?

1. Dream big. Every great accomplishment started as a seemingly impossible dream. 

2. Persevere. Everything can and will go wrong. Life is not fair and that’s ok. Two steps forward and one step back is still one step forward.  

3. Prove them wrong. The best payback is to live an amazing life.

Who inspires you?

There are so many great examples out there, like Anne Wojcicki from 23andMe; she’s a genomics pioneer! Among other accomplishments, her team helped to develop safer, less invasive prenatal sequencing that do not pose risks to developing fetuses. Then, there are upstarts like Elon Musk. I love how he simply doesn’t recognize commonly defined limits, and his punny humor slays me every time. 

What’s it like being a woman in technology?

It’s hard being a woman and a visible minority in technology. At conferences, I’m often mistaken as the help. The world continues to judge women of color more harshly, so it’s critical to over-prepare for everything to the Nth degree. People tend to see us as less competent than our male peers who might be at the same or lower competence level. The hardest criticism comes from other moms who think working moms favor careers over kids. 

Every working woman out in the world is an ambassador for every little girl wanting a shot at success. We have to bring our A++ game (because, you know, A is an Asian F :P). I look forward to the day half of all CEOs are working moms, and everyone considers this normal. 

What’s it like being a working parent?

It’s all about balance and multitasking. In French, we say “au fur et à mesure”. I trim the proverbial fat whenever possible and do the things that give me the most satisfaction. Presenting in a boardroom and attending my kids’ end-of-year performance are not mutually exclusive. My daughters need to know that they can have both a career and a family. I’m thankfully home a lot more these days and not just because of COVID. I help the kids with homework in between video conferences with clients. We’re all more confident and happy when we’re together. 

When all is said and done, what do you hope for Beaze to achieve?

I’d love for Beaze to enable more IPOs than any other company on earth. Bill Gates, I’m coming for you.

Those who don’t jump will never fly

3-minute read

“Beaze: Meet the Team” is a series on the team building out Beaze, a platform that provides continuous lead generation for service providers. Today, we’re chatting with Peter Alexandre, our Director of Business Development, on how to succeed while busting bias.

Peter Alexandre, Director of Business Development. Photo Credit: Beaze
Peter Alexandre, dual Gold Medalist for Long Jump and High Jump in the 1996 Canadian Championship. Photo Credit: Beaze

So, Why Beaze?

As a Haïtian, I, like many others, face a world full of inequality and prejudice. When people think of my country, they think of it as a dangerous, impoverished nation. They don’t see a country that once produced 80% of France’s external income, nor do they see a society that raised the first successful slave rebellion against Napoléon, leading to its independence. They don’t see people ready and willing to do what’s necessary to succeed.

I believe in a world where more people excel based on their potential and capabilities and have equal access to opportunity. I want to be part of a company that democratizes wealth generation.

The average annual household income in Haïti is roughly $450 USD PER YEAR (or $1.23 per day) or the cost of an iPad. A Haïti-based web developer could easily earn that in a week creating an online storefront for a mom and pop chocolate boutique in Belgium; that shop would be simultaneously getting an incredible discount compared to the average market price for web development based Europe, usually around $5-10K USD. The positive impact of this change could be life-changing for all.

Peter Alexandre, Director of Business Development at Beaze. Photo Credit: Beaze

What’s your philosophy when it comes to tech?

We need to focus on helping each other. Technology is simply a tool to leverage the amount of partnership you can maintain while still being helpful to one another; it helps us automate away the repetitive tasks that drain our motivation and resources. Technology doesn’t replace our inherent human impulse to want to connect. We get so much more done when we collaborate, and vendors can be an essential part of a business’s success.

How should businesses go about choosing vendors?

Find an ethical vendor who asks and answers the right questions. As best said by Albert Einstein, “If I only had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.” Solutions can be amazingly inexpensive and straightforward when you’ve got the right measures of success and an open mind on how to get there.

Back when virtual machines (VMs) like Docker weren’t yet the norm, I remember saving a client ~$1M. A government agency considered buying a new license to replace their current server as its hardware was aging out and took over a week to recover when it failed. I realized VMware could virtualize away this old mainframe and proceeded to exceed all expectations. It was faster than the old system, no longer dependent on obsolete hardware and even recovered in a manner of minutes. 

If this client had engaged a less honorable vendor, they might have just given the client what they wanted at face value resulting in a $1M+ billable. Instead, I gave them a long-term solution that shockingly cost them only $10K total (1% of the original cost) and that had future scalability in mind. It’s better to play the long game and earn customer trust.

Beaze intrinsically enables customers to ask the right questions from an almost endless supply of subject-matter experts. Customers can then receive more relevant and competitively valued bids in record time. 

What’s your secret to closing deals and partnerships?

Remember that customers are human, regardless of the way you interact with them. You must fulfill their emotional needs more than anything else; this means eliminating stressors (like those caused by bias, selection and repetition), then focusing on a solution in terms that they appreciate and understand. 

Beaze does this by driving the entire negotiation towards achieving a specific end goal quickly and efficiently based on merit, not aesthetics. 

How can someone deliver if they’re dealing with bias as a visible minority? 

Perform extraordinarily well. That way, people will forget about any preconceived stereotype and instead associate you with overshadowing success. While it doesn’t feel fair to be constantly held to such a high standard, it’s the situation we’ve inherited. 

Once, I had a particular sales goal at Cisco to achieve. While most of my non-minority peers would have been happy with attaining $250K in sales within a year (well within their target quota), I went the extra mile to reach $2.5M single-handedly. The entire business group was stunned because they never expected me to succeed because of my appearance. I never want my kids to think that mediocrity is ok.

In sports, success is driven by beating the records of our predecessors. Winning the Canadian Championship in track and field gave me a great sense of accomplishment and appreciation for world-class talent; it established the foundation of character necessary for me to push myself when competing alongside international business leaders. 

Customers expect a lot from their partners, and they should. You need the best talent to get ahead. Beaze allows everyone to succeed based on what vendors can do for you right now, and it evens out the playing field, so everyone gets a fair chance.

How does being a parent affect your work? 

Kids get straight to the point; they don’t carry the same baggage as adults and don’t have a filter. It’s a constant reminder to eliminate the noise and to focus on what’s important right now. 

Kids also very adaptable. My daughters’ ability and willingness to learn makes me realize that I can always go further and do more for my community.

Tell us about how you give back and why that’s so important?

I mentor several kids from different countries including Brazil and Haïti. I give them guidance on technology career paths so they can fast track their careers. It’s so rewarding to help propel them forward; I wish I had options like this when I was just getting started.

When all is said and done, what do you hope for Beaze to achieve?

I want people to be valued for their skills rather than their origin or appearance.