Making Life Events Clearer through the Prism (of Experience)

“Confessions of CEOs” is a series on how business owners are changing the service landscape. Today, we’re speaking with Peter Tran, CEO of PrismTech Inc., a business-to-consumer (B2C) schedule aggregation SaaS platform. Peter discusses the importance of personalization as a driver of success from product design to team building.

Peter Tran, founder of PrismTech | Beaze, a vendor procurement marketplace for consumer businesses
Peter Tran, founder of PrismTech | Photo Credit: PrismTech

Why Prism?

Consumers struggle with scheduling and often use upwards of 4 apps in an attempt to reconcile conflicts. Most technology provides access to scheduling individual events, yet we have to manage those events to stay in sync with our friends and families. What if there was a single platform that will allow you to stay connected to everyone regardless of the preferred scheduler without the pain of time-consuming reconciliation? 

Prism is a real-time interactive schedule manager that aggregates multiple calendar apps. Just as a prism takes in a spectrum of color and combines it into a single white light, we take in a broad range of communication platforms and consolidate them into a single source of truth. We marry your social, professional, and personal schedule into a single silo of information. Instead of digging around for info on whether you’re going to miss out on events, you can make the most out of your life.

How did you come up with this idea?

I observed my friends nearly miss their daughter’s long-awaited volleyball tournament due to scheduling misfires. It would have killed them to miss such a critical event despite having spent multiple days frustratingly trying to balance both of their work schedules with her academic and extracurricular activities. 

The truth is that many people struggle with schedule management; frankly, paper calendars just don’t cut it anymore. 

How have you built your fantastic team?

As the founder of this company, it’s my mission to make sure that we find the best talent. Our company culture is driven by:

Trustworthiness. The truth is, it’s not always about performance, even though the whole world puts a track record at the top of the list. The longevity of the relationship that you have with a team member is driven by trust. It’s this type of longevity (or lack thereof) that makes or breaks a startup. You need to ask yourself, ‘Should we trust this person when we’re in a bind?’ because as a founder, you’re going to find yourself in a lot of binds. 

Passion. It’s not an easy thing to work on a startup. You’re not getting paid what you could, but you’re working on a dream. You need team members who believe in your product. It’s impossible to think of new designs or innovative approaches if you hate your job, and anyone who doesn’t have a genuine passion will end up hating their job at some point.

Furthermore, we have an open-door policy with all of our executives. Any employees can reach out to anyone at any time for assistance.

Having a supportive human resources (HR) structure built around addressing disruptive life events (such as COVID) and continued career growth helps to minimize office politics (which we all know can easily destroy the social fabric of the company). For example, if John Doe starts at the company today, John will be a different person in 3 months; we have to find out what it will take to make John successful in this ever-changing environment. Great companies take the time to understand their employees as individuals and nurture that relationship at the highest level of culture building. 

What have been your top learnings around scheduling?

Build to unify, not segregate. Many applications are selfishly designed to only cater to the host and not the consumer. For example, Vietnam is creating Gapo, an alternative to Facebook. If some people like Gapo and still want to remain on Facebook, either they or their friends or both will have to spend more time jumping between these two apps to access information. Prism conforms to what people consider comfortable and convenient; we innovate by unifying simultaneous access to both applications.

Scheduling cannot be successful in a vacuum; it implicitly requires scenarios around sharing and accessibility. 

Who have been the biggest fans of Prism? 

We have many customers who have been our advocates; two, in particular, come to mind.

Manhattan Walking Tour has a presence in 3 different states. When their customers book a tour guide, they stress out spending too much time looking for information than enjoying the tour itself. These customers are showing us that traditional scheduling tools in the market today offer too many limitations and are causing indecisiveness, cognitive dissonance, and mental stress. Their feedback was instrumental in introducing new features like image sharing and event discussion to Prism.

True Buddha Foundation is fully transitioning all of its internal and external operations over to Prism. They have thousands of chapters all over the world, with over 5 million followers. Their current processes have limitations, which is causing a gap in communications and impacting their ability to organize their events more effectively.

How does Prism give back to the community? What impact have you had to date?

Recently, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been a lot of small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMB) impacted negatively all over the world. We recognized how important these businesses are and those who are struggling daily trying to make ends meet. 

PrismTech is happy to announce that we will provide every single SMB with credits to advertise on our platform at no cost. We want to help businesses gain the right exposure to bounce back post-quarantine.  

When everything is said and done, what do you hope for Prism to achieve? 

Create seamless, meaningful connections between consumers and the brands, products, and companies they love. 

PrismTech is a preferred partner on Beaze.

Helping the homeless is cool; A-Rod and Russell Wilson are pitching in too.

3-minute read

“Confessions of CEOs” is a series on how business owners are changing the service landscape. Today, we’re chatting with Krishnan Iyer, CEO of Humanize Homelessness, a non-profit that tackles homelessness alongside business owners. He’s even got Alex Rodriguez and Russell Wilson backing him via their company, TruFusion.

Krishnan Iyer, CEO of Humanize Homelessness | Photo Credit: Humanize Homelessness. Beaze, a B2B vendor procurement marketplace.
Krishnan Iyer, CEO of Humanize Homelessness | Photo Credit: Humanize Homelessness

So, why Humanize Homelessness (HH)?

I spent 15 years at Microsoft; while I learned a lot and helped enterprises, I didn’t want to wait until retirement to have an impact on my community. I wanted to do something more meaningful, and that’s when I turned to this non-profit. 

How did you break into the non-profit space?

The universe was giving me multiple signs that played into this decision. Mostly, however, I saw a steady rise in the number of people panhandling on the East Side. Unlike other places in the world, we have good water, good roads and good opportunities. Later, I realized that many of us in the community were taking these virtues for granted. As an Asian person, I observe other Asians being generous and compassionate with their own blood-related families and friends. The only difference is how big is that circle and whether the community at large is included. I really would love for the rest of the Asian community to do the right thing and more importantly, be seen as doing the right thing. Many are looking to help the homeless; I just wanted to make it easy. That’s HH’s mission.

Who inspired you to keep going in this charitable direction?

My mom. Her ability to adapt to a new environment, be open to learning a new way of life, and to selflessly contribute to our family and community is amazing. For example, it’s a hugely disruptive thing to move to the US from India in your 60s; most parents won’t do that. Through her actions, she taught me that the durability of happiness in one’s life comes from helping others, not oneself.

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

Our organization has several programs.

The “Back On Your Feet” program uses yoga, meditation and breathing techniques learned directly from the Krishnamacharya Yoga school to help people approach stressful situations with a calm, mindful approach. Rather than suppress or ignore feelings, we teach others to observe and note them resulting in better mental focus and physical well-being. HH will be partnering with TruFusion (a high-end fitness club) and WeWork at Lincoln Square to fundraise in early 2020. TruFusion is graciously donating their space to HH and the donors, while WeWork provides marketing. TruFusion’s owners, Russell Wilson (Seattle Seahawks) and Alex Rodriguez (Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers, New York Yankees), are funnelling 100% of proceeds through HH for King County homeless shelters programs.

Alex Rodriguez (TruFusion, center) and Jennifer Lopez with the family. Photo credit: Alex Rodriguez. Beaze, a B2B vendor procurement marketplace.
Alex Rodriguez (TruFusion, center) and Jennifer Lopez with the family. Photo credit: Alex Rodriguez

The “Meet a Recruiter” program helps both the homeless as well as employers establish a mutual understanding on what it takes to help transition homeless folks into more permanent and regular employment. Our partner Pro Sports Club (a state-of-the-art wellness center) has engaged their recruiting team with HH to implement our “Trauma-Informed Employment” playbooks on facilitating a transition into employment. For example, say an unhoused victim who was accustomed to being violated regularly (like through physical assault) physically bumps into a fellow co-worker accidentally at the office; she may respond more strongly than expected at a workplace and be subsequently fired for a seeming overreaction. A trauma-informed employer will understand and offer more constructive support. We’re thrilled that their CEO, Dick Knight, has taken a real interest in being a great neighbor in the community and becoming an HH champion.

Russell Wilson (TruFusion, Right) & Ciara | Photo Credit: Instagram Beaze, a B2B vendor procurement marketplace.
Russell Wilson (TruFusion, Right) & Ciara | Photo Credit: Instagram

The “Know Your Neighbor” program addresses changing people’s perception about those without homes. Often, when people see unhoused folks, they presume them to be a problem or a project that needs work; they portray them as an alcoholic, having a communicable disease and being a general burden on society, rather than a living, breathing person with feelings and intelligence. When people give, there typically is an inherent power imbalance between givers and receivers that we are not aware of.

Would you accept underwear from a stranger if they offered to you for free? Probably not, but if you had no choice, you’d likely feel pretty bad accepting it. A giver is in a position of control since they have the resources; the recipient sometimes may not be in a position to say no and so will begrudgingly accept that gift. The recipient avoids displeasing the donor for fear of not having any gift at all in the future. We help break barriers by treating the homeless like valued members of the community and accepting them as they are. We celebrate community festivals like Christmas, Diwali and Chinese New Year with them instead of around or away from them but also in a secular way. 

Pro Sports Club. Photo Credit: Redtri

Once, during Purim (a Jewish holiday), a rabbi and his volunteers came to a family day center Bethlehem shelter to explain the origins of this festival. There was a homeless man, pacing back and forth nervously much to the chagrin of petrified shelter attendants. It turns out he was a veteran who defended our country and just wanted to ask a clarifying question. People were so scared and defensive about him being dangerous that it never occurred to them that he just wanted to ask an innocuous yet relevant question. It’s clear that we need to have more understanding with this share of people who have lived through some pretty horrifying circumstances.

What words of wisdom can you share?

Understanding the difference between urgent versus important. In the for-profit space, it’s easier to decide what’s important and have the support to focus on it. In a non-profit, urgent things like addressing health or injury will popup and will derail important initiatives, which is the RIGHT call. 

Develop patience when working with the non-profits: It’s important to exercise patience and flexibility in helping organizations that are under-resourced and overstretched. 

Be open to all kinds of opinions around homelessness: It’s equally, if not more important, to realize that social issues like homelessness can be polarizing. Some folks have preconceived notions about victims of homelessness that they are in this state because they did drugs or didn’t work hard. Often, life circumstances aren’t so black and white. 

Having realistic expectations about what non-profits can do. Asking people to solve hard problems with little to no money is a real challenge. We ask that the world be more understanding about non-profits who aren’t moving the needle as fast or as significantly as for-profit initiatives and encourage rather than chastise those who are willing to offer their superpowers at a deep discount.

How many champions do you have in the community?

Too many to count but not enough to accomplish everything we want. 🙂

Seriously though, we’re honored and privileged to have the support of folks like:

Waggener Edstrom (the same PR firm as Microsoft)

Wilson Sonsini Goodrich Rosati

– Paccar

King County Council establishing a social responsibility recognition program;

Bellevue City Council who is helping us deduplicate and coordinate efforts across other homeless initiatives;

Shelters around the area (incl. Congregation for the Homeless, Sophia Way, Friends of Youth, Acres of Diamond) who are helping us to identify gaps in our programs so we can address pressing issues.

What are some indispensable tools you can’t live without?

Tech-wise, we live on the full Microsoft Office 365 stack as well as Azure. Process-wise, we’ve brought enterprise best practices like standups, prioritization, objectives and key results (OKRs) to track progress. Non-profits need even more structure and direction than for-profit businesses since our resources are even more constrained.

What’s it like being a working parent?

As parents, we can’t do everything. Thankfully, our kids see and appreciate the challenges we undertake. They also understand the cost of living and that things like education and comfort don’t come easily. They see what hard work looks like, and it incentivizes them to work outside and help out at home, whether it is bussing tables, doing laundry or simply cleaning their own rooms. 

I’m so grateful to have such a supportive spouse. We both work and we tag-team the home duties together, whether it’s for the kids or for our ageing parents. Just this month, my wife’s dad turned 80; she went back to India while I watched the kids at home and took video conferences remotely. I love how we’re both able to take care of our businesses and still be a family. We live in times where both spouses need to work together and support each other in finding meaning, contribution and value while dealing with the challenge of raising children and supporting our elders.

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

For everyone to treat each other with the respect they deserve.

Humanize Homelessness is a preferred partner on Beaze Beta.

Business: Keeping it in the family

2-minute read

“Confessions of CEOs” is a series on how business owners are changing the service landscape. Today, we’re chatting with David and Jennifer Pfahert, CEOs of Silent Stream Media, a video production agency, on how great family values translate to great business practices.

David & Jennifer Pfahlert of Silent Stream Media. Photo Credit: Beaze, a B2B vendor procurement marketplace
From left to right: David & Jennifer Pfahlert of Silent Stream Media. Photo Credit: Beaze

So, why Silent Stream Media?

David: Media is in my blood. My grandfather started his own illustration company, where my father was the director, and my uncle was one of the graphic artists. I had my hand in all avenues of media content. Both my grandfather and father had taught me the business ropes while my uncle guided me with his vast artistic knowledge. What I have seen with raising my children is that they don’t teach you how to be entrepreneurs in school. They inform you mainly how to work for someone else. You don’t get “out of the box” ideas or experience even only remotely what it takes to own your own business. You need drive and passion as well as continually evolving with the times.

Jennifer: My passion has been with the interworkings of a social/psychological aspects of media and how it connects and tells a story with the community. At university, I worked three jobs and went to classes and managed to stay in touch with my friends and family by documenting my life on social media. With this stream of using many technologic devices, I can start conversations, let my family know what I’m up to and keeping up with the latest trends.    

Who inspired you?

David: My mom. She managed a household while obtaining a master’s degree and working. She’s now retired as a Microsoft executive. I look up to my mom and hope that one day I could look back and achieve just as much as her.   

What is your biggest claim to fame?

David: I had started multiple businesses, including one in audio engineering where I had the pleasure of working with celebrities such as Incubus, Hootie and the Blowfish, and Tori Amos. Working with such high profile clients meant managing a super strict schedule and high expectations.

What is your secret to success as a working couple?

David: Listen, divide and conquer based on our mutual strengths. She works on social media and engagements, and I focus on the design and fresh content. 

Jennifer: Being present and not focusing on financial gain. If your heart is in the right place, then everything will fall into place. The universe will provide what you need, and that will provide intention.  

What important lesson would you want others to take away?

David: It doesn’t matter where you’re currently at, what matters is that you’ve started. Make sure you’re 110% passionate about what you’re doing and that you can do it 16 hours a day.  

Jennifer: Teamwork and preparation are also essential in managing your business. You need to know who to call before things go south and have your resources lined up (from plan A to Z). Partners should include your local chamber of commerce, banks, insurance and legal. You never know what life is going to throw at you. We also partner with talented folks like LogoUNLTD.com and Qivugraphics.com; they’re both amazing at creating luxe marketing swag which is a must-have in our line of business. 

What non-profits do you back up and why is it important?

David: Having two dogs of our own, we support a non-profit called Homeward Pet in Woodinville. In 2018, they adopted out 1,754 cats and dogs and that number historically grows exponentially every year. In the past, we had a rescue of our own and have found Homeward Pet in-line to our beliefs. We had the opportunity to help this organization by doing an event for them and raising funds to sponsor dogs and also helped in finding current adopters.  

When all is said and done, what do you hope for Silent Stream Media to achieve?  

Jennifer: We want to foster connections between real people and businesses. We’ll keep making marketing solutions accessible to all local businesses, not just big brand corporations through education, creation and coaching.

Silent Stream Media is a preferred partner on Beaze Beta.

How to go from writing ringtone apps to getting Series-A funded

3-minute read

“Confessions of CEOs” is a series on how business owners are changing the service landscape. Today, we’re chatting with Martin Mao, co-founder and CEO of Chronosphere, a big data monitoring solution targeting large enterprise. He’s taken time out to share how to get Series-A funded and then succeed as a VC-backed entrepreneur.

Martin Mao, CEO of Chronosphere. Photo Credit: Beaze, a B2B vendor procurement platform for service providers.
Martin Mao, CEO of Chronosphere. Photo Credit: Beaze

So, Why Chronosphere?

I was working with my co-founder Rob Skillington at Uber pre-IPO on M3, an open-source distributed metrics platform. We figured out that most platforms available on the market at the time were unable to scale cost-effectively nor reliably. So, we decided to build it ourselves piece-by-piece and we shared it with the world while doing so. From there, we realized that most enterprises are just as demanding as Uber when it comes to metrics and that they needed better monitoring and overall reliability. That was how Chronosphere was born. 

Wait, is that an Aussie accent we detect?

Yeah, I was born in Shanghai but I grew up in Sydney, Australia. Growing up in Australia was great. They have beautiful beaches and walking trails and everyone is so laid back over there. It’s also a very multicultural country, so growing up there teaches you to be accepting and to treat everyone equally.

How did you break into software?

My first foray into software was a high school programming competition. I had no idea how to write code, but my friend did and he needed someone to help him figure out some of the algorithms. He ended up teaching me how to code and we ended up winning a scholarship to study Software Engineering at the local university.

Then, back in 2008, near the end of my college studies, Apple finally launched the iPhone in Australia. It was a massive deal to me because I could write an app, publish it and then reach millions of people around the world. It was so different; I decided to write a bunch. One app that was memorable for me was the one I wrote to generate ringtones. It would take a song from iTunes and create a ringtone. Being a poor student, it seemed ridiculous to pay for a song twice (once for the song itself, the second time for a shortened ringtone version).

What was it like getting funded by a VC?

Exhilarating yet terrifying. Rob and I knew we had to do something because of the traction M3 was receiving in open source. The real question was, could we build a real business around open-source technology that didn’t just end up as enterprise support? We wanted to retain our ability to innovate and so wanted to focus on building the perfect product for the needs of many. It took four to five months to complete market research in order to see that there was a genuine gap in the market. We wanted to differentiate ourselves and ensure we delivered a product that enterprises would care about – one that was not only more scalable, performant and reliable, but also more cost-efficient than our competitors.

We ended up with a 60-80 page business plan (which in retrospect was probably overkill). I don’t think many VCs expect such extensive research for an early-stage company, but it was more to convince ourselves we were making a good bet rather than to convince them. We didn’t have the budget to purchase market research, so we were leveraging the research our competitors have published as well as public documentation such as S-1 filings.

We started by raising a small pre-seed round with a few independent angel investors, before raising a Series-A led by Greylock when we needed to expand the team.

How has it been pursuing enterprise customers?

Surprisingly good. Our customers have been quite supportive of the product and company we’re trying to build. They know we’re still early, but the differentiators are valuable enough that they decide to switch over from competitor products. The fact that we have solved the problem before at Uber definitely helps as the customers are not just buying a monitoring product, but also the experience and expertise of the team.

Any key lessons learned up until now?

1. Business plans change. Our original plan doesn’t even closely resemble what we’re doing now. Our financials and projections went out of the window after a month or so of starting. We don’t regret doing it though, it was good to go through the exercise and while we knew the plan would change, all the competitor and market research remains valid.

2. Only talk to VCs when you’re ready. When a few major VC firms first contacted us, we were not prepared and so came off as “rookies”. It’s better to hold off on those conversations until you are ready.

3. Use the time before competitors know about you wisely. Once they understand what you’re doing, they’re going to react, so it’s critical to figure out your differentiators and how your product is going to compete before you announce anything.

Have there been any partners to help you get to where you are today?

Yes, it’s been a very pleasant surprise to see how supportive the tech start-up industry has and continues to be. Some of our best partners have been our pre-seed investors: one has been our primary recruiting resource while others have given valuable insights and advice. 

They have also introduced us to other founders, who have been very helpful as well. Most of these folks are super busy but will take the time to help. Many of them view it as paying it forward for the help they received when they were getting started.

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

For the last ten years, I’ve been supporting ChildFund Australia. This organization works to reduce poverty for children in developing communities in countries including Uganda and Kenya. When you donate, they distribute those funds to support the whole community surrounding that child. I’ve been sponsoring a boy named Ashiraf since he was six years old. This organization is important because it gives people an opportunity to give back in such a direct way that isn’t as possible with many other organizations.

What words of wisdom can you share?

Fire yourself whenever possible. By this, I mean always prioritize; if any given task is taking up more than 20 hours of your time per week, it’s time to start looking for someone smarter and more suited to that task than you. As an entrepreneur, your to-do list is perpetually growing and you need to constantly shuffle things around knowing that many tasks won’t get the attention it requires. Find the right people to help you so that things don’t just get dropped on the ground. 

Also, make sure you have a great support network. For me, I’m most grateful for my wife, Wendi. I couldn’t possibly be doing a startup without a supportive partner like her. She’s taking care of 3 kids – our firstborn, our pup Pepper and me. 🙂 Because of her, I’m able to survive the entrepreneur life and co-lead the organization’s brilliant team with Rob. 

What’s it like being a working parent?

I’m more sleep-deprived than I’ve ever been before 🙂 It’s tough juggling a start-up and a newborn child because there is even less time and even more things to do, but it’s worth it. Again, it wouldn’t be possible without a great support network and when I’m at home, I prioritize time with my family above all else. 

Being in the internet age, everything we say or do can live on the internet forever as a record of us, a record that our children and grandchildren will use someday to learn more about us. This reminds me to set the best example I can for my son every day. I also want him to see that there are many paths and choices in one’s career and that you don’t have to follow the traditional 9-5 path taken by the majority of people.

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

Chronosphere has so much potential – we’ve put together a fantastic team and we’re building game-changing software that has already been proven at the largest scales in the world. I hope we continue to execute and fulfill that potential by delivering products that make an impact on enterprises and help run with greater reliability as they scale up.

Chronosphere is a preferred partner on Beaze Beta.

The best marksman is sometimes an Asian mom

3-minute read

Beaze: Meet the Team is a series on the respective individuals building out Beaze, a vendor procurement marketplace that replaces traditional advertising. Today, we’re chatting with Joanna Hamai, our Chief Operating Officer (COO), on navigating the business landscape as a military veteran, mother and visible minority.

Joanna Hamai, COO of Beaze | Photo Credit: Beaze

So, why Beaze?

Historically, I’ve always sought out projects that have both a creative and practical side. I also love the idea of helping the business community at large and meeting new business owners. It’s important to find new and interesting ways to stop wasting time and money, especially when it comes to vendor procurement.

How did you break into tech?

Way back in high school, I took an animation course. At the time, that class’ professor had a mysterious way of disappearing into his office for long periods of time; no one knew what he was up to in there. I also had an annoying lab partner, Kyle. To keep things interesting, I decided to focus the plot of my animation sequence on what the teacher was possibly doing in his office. In my mind, he was sunbathing; then, when Kyle came to him looking for help, alien visitors captured him for their own research purposes. The professor adored the fact that Kyle got kidnapped in the kit. Kyle decided his animation would be of me getting run over by a lawnmower. You win some, you lose some.

What is it about technology that inspires you?

Simple technology, done well, can save lives.

While deployed in Iraq, the front vehicle in our convoy had broken down while under fire. Our super-high tech MTS (movement tracking system satellite technology) was on that vehicle but we had to keep the convoy moving towards the nearest marine base while minimizing additional civilian casualties. We had a choice of trying to save our MTS and risk the lives of those civilians or blow up the truck with the MTS and stick with old-school communication, i.e. the walkie-talkies. We decided in favor of the latter and were able to make it safely out of that town. It was the right call because without the walkie-talkies we wouldn’t have been able to coordinate across the convoy.

What’s your philosophy?

1. Work your hardest even when no one is looking. That way, you can live your life with no regrets.

2. Be prepared for anything. If your ducks aren’t in a row, you don’t have the capacity to help others.

My dad raised my sister and I as a single-parent who then turned to my grandmother for additional support.  It was very hard growing up in a strict household of an immigrant family. I was expected to get straight A’s, cook and clean at home and translate everything for my grandmother.  Serving in the US Army also drilled into me the importance of integrity, honor and again, hard work.

Wait, does that mean you speak another language?

Yes, I’m fluent in Korean. I was also a translator in Fort Lewis.

What does success look like to you?

I like when things go smoothly and to completion. It’s important to prepare for any possible detour. I wear many hats that require different skill sets and it can be hard to focus if I’m thinking about other tasks. So, every morning, I go through the laundry list of things we need to tackle. I ruthlessly cut out the ones that aren’t urgent or impactful. Then, I get to work. Luckily, I also have a great team with me to help me work through problems and tackle them from different angles. Sometimes when I get blocked, I just context-switch for a while, let my subconscious do some of the heavy lifting and come back to the problem with fresh eyes. I also like a good plan B comprised of smart, competent consultants for those occasional peak demand times. Good vendor partnerships are hard to come by; I work every day to build out more.

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.

What’s most important to you?

Compassion towards others. 

Other people, often complete strangers, helped me get to where I am today. When I had first left Hawaii after joining the military, I was switching to Ohio to attend Kent State University in the dead of winter. I was grossly unprepared for this, there was 3 feet of snow on the ground and I was basically wearing flip-flops and shorts. This military recruiter graciously picked me up at the airport and took me shopping for a hooded parka and boots so I wouldn’t die of frostbite. Then, while I was living at the school campus, my unit was actually 2 hours away by driving and I had no transportation. This major who happened to live near my company, drove me to and from campus almost every month for a year out of his own generosity. During this time, he also invited me to his home with his 2 kids and his wife to stay for the weekend. It was like having an adoptive family.

I want to pay it forward to small business owners everywhere so they can have some shelter in the storm.

What’s it like being a minority-visible minority woman with a career?

It’s been really humbling. I had to work twice as hard as the men in my military intelligence battalion to be accepted.  I always volunteered to do extra duty or training or another certification which is why I’m certified to drive all kinds of vehicles, including buses, 18-wheelers, humvees, 2-tons – basically, everything short of a tank. As a sergeant, I gave safety briefings on weapons and taught marksmanship. Like when you’re holding a rocket launcher, it’s important to say “Back blast area all clear!”, which is also a nice euphemism for flatulence (in addition to just fitting in with the crowd).

It empowers me to know that at that time I could change the perception of women in the military for a few people. People are often surprised that an Asian woman like me could’ve possibly served. I relish when their jaws drop upon hearing about my experience.

Seems like being in the military changed you.

There is comradery with being a veteran that doesn’t translate with civilians. 

Being a veteran, there are values that everyone upholds and experiences that everyone went through. For example, the portrayal of drill sergeants in basic training comes off as ridiculous, aggressive and stereotypical for the benefit of their own amusement at the belittlement of a trainee; in reality, however, it teaches new recruits real-life survival skills. I saw a new recruit being yelled at to not jump but he jumped anyway. He then unluckily acquired the exclusive attention of 3 drill sergeants who were yelling at him so ferociously, spit was flying in all directions. Most of us couldn’t help but laugh (and then wound up doing hundreds of pushups as well).

Also, since my tour in Iraq, I still check my shoes for giant camel spiders.

Camel spiders. Photo Credit: US Military

What’s it like being a working parent?

Being a mom has actually made me stronger. Without my son, I wouldn’t have taken a risk in changing careers. He’s helped me put into perspective what’s important.  He motivates me to do better so that I can be a role model for him in the future. I want him to see the value of hard work and to be smart and thoughtful about it.  

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

I work with a wildlife animal shelter named PAWS located in Lynnwood, WA.  I rehabilitate injured/sick animals (including triage, vaccination, giving fluids) and educate new foster parents. Inexperienced foster parents often don’t know how to deal with traumatized animals in their homes, especially when the animals have already acclimated to the shelter. I help answer any questions that might come up and provide additional medical attention whenever necessary.

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

I just want the underdog businesses to prevail.

When radical giving means choosing off the dollar menu

3-minute read

“Confessions of CEOs” is a series on how business owners are changing the service landscape. Today, we’re chatting with Peter Kim, CEO of Odigo Realty, a residential and commercial realty vendor about his vision for a better world.

Odigo Realty, a Beaze realty vendor serving Seattle, Kirkland, Bellevue.
From Left to Right: Kaela Servais, Peter Kim, Ozzy Servais of Odigo Realty. Photo Credit: Beaze

So, Why Odigo?

We have two main goals. The first, to be the most trusted realty vendor team in the NW. The second, to be radically generous. By radical, we mean giving above and beyond what most would consider as acceptably benevolent. We derive the most joy and energy from serving others, but most importantly, those who are marginalized and those who serve our community with the same open heart. For example, we reimbursed our client, a retired pastor, his closing fees in full simply because he had spent a lifetime sacrificing on behalf of his congregation. While we were, of course, elated that he became a happy client, we felt privileged to reward a great member of our community. To us, that’s priceless.

How did you break into real estate?

For me, real estate was a bittersweet accident career-wise. I was in college and only one quarter away from graduating. I got a call from the Hawaii State Police Department informing me that my brother died while swimming. Torn by this, I stopped going to school and took over my brother’s short sale realty company; that’s where I started learning about the real estate arena from his business partners. From there, I joined one of the biggest vendor teams in the Northwest. During my transition, I was terrified. I had so little money; I could barely put gas in my car. I couldn’t get any new customers for the life of me. My fantastic mentor Anton helped me to focus my energies on developing my clientele base and securing homes under contract. Eventually, I began running our Kirkland branch with his help. I then decided to start my own real estate company. I closed over $10 million in volume in my first year. In 2017, our team closed a total of $55 million, which is in the top 1% nationally.

Today, we’re still helping realty customers with the same due diligence and passion. We’ve helped one particular client buy a multifamily property in Marysville that was a slam dunk cashflow-wise. He now wants us to help him buy as many as he can get his hands on as he knows this will be his most stable income in retirement.

Any juicy secrets to share about real estate?

You can invest even with little capital and average credit. We can show you how. 

What’s your philosophy?

Become the trendsetter. Don’t keep wishing the world was a certain way. Instead, be the one who sparks the change you want. If you want people to be more kind, be kind to others. If you don’t like the epidemic of loneliness in America, then reach out to people and be a good friend to them. We believe change starts with you.

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

I‘ve been helping the homeless for about a decade now and even started a non-profit called Baby Steps Ministry in 2012. It’s an organization that builds friendships and trust with homeless people. We empower them to take the small steps on their own that will restore their confidence and rebuild their lives. Was it tough? Absolutely! I’ve given to the point where I brought a homeless friend to a McDonald’s and had to pick and choose from the dollar menu because I ran out of money. Friends and family have commended me for what I do, yet what people don’t realize is the amount of vitality and delight it gives me to serve others. I’ve always been a 10/10 on the happiness scale for a long time now. I’m a 100% believer that although it may seem entirely antithetical for “getting ahead” in this world, I believe radical generosity will come back 100-fold in your life, business, relationships, and most importantly, your being. To me, success is about loving the people around us.

What words of wisdom can you share?

The day you think you’ve become wise, you’re a fool. Wisdom is endless; pride comes before the fall. Stay humble and hungry for knowledge.

Who inspires you?

Francis Chan, a pastor in California and a best-selling author. He lives a lifestyle of unparalleled generosity despite having a tumultuous childhood. He’s given away over $2M of his income to organizations that rescue sex slaves in foreign countries. He has seven kids and lived in a mobile home until deciding recently to become a full-time missionary.

What’s it like being a visible minority in business?

Asian males aren’t portrayed as driven and self-sufficient in the media but rather as timid and weak. I remember one of my associates, who was an experienced agent in real estate at the time, was demeaning me at the office and trivializing my work as a realty vendor. Although I can’t prove that it was because of my Asian background, I felt it was a significant factor in it. His tune changed for the better once he saw my performance, which was only on the up and up. Despite having low self-confidence initially, I had to appear even-keeled and confident to survive. As time went on, I realized exuding high confidence can overcome many barriers.

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

We want everyone to have a shot at true financial freedom. Long-term residual income is 100% possible through realty investing.

Odigo is a preferred residential and commercial realty vendor on Beaze Beta.