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.

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.

The zen of self-employment through franchising

“Confessions of CEOs” is a series on how business leaders are changing the service landscape. Today we’re speaking with Jeff Levy, franchisee and business coach at The Entrepreneur’s Source (TES), a resource network for people who want to own their own franchise business. He shares his secrets about how to achieve lifestyle and income zen through self-employment and franchises, even through COVID-19.

Jeff Levy, Business Coach at The Entrepreneur's Source (ES). Beaze, a vendor procurement marketplace for franchises.
Jeff Levy, Business Coach at The Entrepreneur’s Source (TES) | Photo Credit: Jeff Levy

Why The Entrepreneur’s Source (TES)?

TES helps people who want to own their own business, but don’t know how to start. We are not in the “brokerage” category; our main objective is not to sell companies or franchises. We focus on our clients and their respective lifestyle dreams. Based on our clients’ objectives, albeit income, lifestyle, wealth or equity, we coach them on how to evaluate specific franchise business options and how to start operations. I am very proud to have personally helped over 350 people start businesses during my 18 years as a coach.

Many of the people that I work with are out of a job for one reason or another. Perhaps they wanted to change, or were discriminated against, or were downsized.  Often I get to work with young couples disenchanted with a lifestyle associated with corporate America. What binds my clients together is that they are looking for a safe place to learn and explore small business ownership.

It’s enjoyable and rewarding for me to help people launch a business; I love building meaningful relationships with these individuals and sharing their excitement!

What’s the best go-to industry for franchises?

There isn’t one, but our most active franchise categories tend to be in health and beauty, such as hair salons and gymnasiums. It all depends on the person and what they are trying to accomplish. One franchise can be the perfect fit for one person but a terrible fit for another. You need to think about what you’re good at, what kind of hours you want to work, and what type of income and equity goals you want to make before you can choose a path. The experience of my coaching usually lasts 2-6 months and may or may not result in a franchise award.

What kind of businesses have you helped launch?

It’s a comprehensive spectrum as franchising covers over 80 industries and is always expanding with new concepts. Recent franchise placements this year include coin-operated laundries, outdoor lighting, remote IT managed services and a variety of senior care businesses.  Typically, my clients choose a company that they would never have thought of themselves. There is no perfect business; there are only businesses that, through your hard work and vision, can be made great for your own lifestyle needs. When asked, what is an excellent franchise, it ultimately depends on what is right for the individual.

What is something everyone should know about client acquisition?

People need to be respectful and thankful for those that send referrals. My client acquisition strategy comes from being a substantial contributor to the business community including the Small Business Administration (SBA), SCORE, and the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC). I’ve lectured on a variety of topics that help guide others to make an informed jump into business.

For me, I’ve learned that each client is thinking of making a significant life change – I learned that I need to give those people every possible effort to support them in that endeavor. “Never sell, always coach” which has helped me become a better listener.

What have you learned about franchises that you wish you had known when you first started?

It is better to have a predictable, successful business that supported my life goals than it was to dream about controlling my fate but never doing anything about it. Franchising, and the experience of learning and exploring options, can be life-changing.

What’s the #1 mistake you see franchises owners make? 

It usually takes more than one thing to undermine or fail at a franchise business. If I were to name one, it would be when a person does not become a student and follower of the franchise system in which they invested. Learning new things can be uncomfortable. The solution, look to the people who have successfully developed and own franchises in the same system. Follow what they did and only try to improve once you have mastered the basics.

What’s your mantra?

“You can get everything in life you want if you help others get what they want” per Dale Carnegie. Franchising is a wonderous area to explore because, with proper coaching, you can learn a significant amount about a business model before making the jump.

How do you give back to the community and why is that so important?

Through luck or circumstance, I have had the good fortune of varied and productive life experience in business. My experiences include buying and selling companies, partnerships, raising capital, taking a company public and of course, franchises. I feel like it’s my responsibility to coach, mentor and teach what I have learned. I was recently Chairman Of the Board at the SU Entrepreneurship Center, currently Chairman Of the Board of the Bellevue Business Roundtable and a past President of The Executive Network of Seattle. I taught entrepreneurship at Seattle Central College for three years based on a book I co-authored; the class is still ongoing. I also teach at King County library systems and several affiliates of the SBA. Whew. I’m grateful to have accumulated a lot of practical experience that can be shared and save my clients from making mistakes.

Any advice for business owners or potential business owners during crises like the COVID-19 pandemic?

New owners need to make sure they have a robust financial plan with enough capital to extend the runway through and beyond the current crisis. As long as we have our health, this pandemic (like any other challenge) will end. Even though we have had a late start in some areas of the country, the local government in Washington continues to amaze us. On the plus side, people are at home with more time to contemplate, so now is the time for researching and planning if you’re thinking about starting a business. 

A new business owner has to have a vision and a belief in a brighter future and enough of a financial runway. Existing owners may be challenged if they haven’t planned for contingencies such as this. Fortunately, some wonderful federal programs emerging that will help existing business owners weather the storm. Owners should get a hold of an SBA affiliate, such as a SCORE counsellor, immediately to better understand what programs are available to help them over the next 3-6 months. I’ve been a volunteer mentor there for years, and I still learn a great deal from other mentors who bring their own industry experience.

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

To leave a legacy in the business community that creates many jobs and financial security for all.

The Entrepreneur’s Source is a preferred partner on Beaze.

Washington State COVID Measures & Relief for Small Business

Beaze is wholly committed to the support of small to medium-sized businesses.

Below are the latest set of small business coronavirus (COVID-19) relief resources recently published by the State of WA. We’ll continue to publish updates as they become available across the US.

Small Business Administration

COVID loans – https://www.sba.gov/page/coronavirus-covid-19-small-business-guidance-loan-resources

Economic Injury Disaster Loanshttps://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/

WA Department of Revenue (DOR)

Business Relief During COVID-19 Pandemic – https://dor.wa.gov/about/business-relief-during-covid-19-pandemic

WA Tax Relief – https://dor.wa.gov/taxrelief 

WA Department of Health (DOH) – https://www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/Coronavirus

WA Employment Security Department (ESD) 

Unemployment Benefits https://esd.wa.gov/newsroom/covid-19

Paid Family and Medical Leave program https://paidleave.wa.gov/

Layoff Assistance https://www.esd.wa.gov/newsroom/layoffassistance

WA Insurance Commissioner

www.insurance.wa.gov

WA Department of Commerce

Emergency Housing Grant – https://www.commerce.wa.gov/serving-communities/homelessness/

Beauty is in the eye of the person who can buy it

“Confessions of CEOs” is a series on how business owners are changing the service landscape. Today, we’re chatting with Niccolò Filippo Veneri Savoia, CEO of Look Lateral, a financial blockchain ecosystem that authenticates, values, and acquires art in real-time. He shares his secrets on building wealth through art as an asset class, possibly even through COVID-19.

Niccolò Filippo Veneri Savoia, CEO of Look Lateral. Beaze, a vendor procurement marketplace.
Niccolò Filippo Veneri Savoia, CEO of Look Lateral. Photo Credit: Look Lateral

Why Look Lateral?

In 2012, I had wanted to replace the artwork in my kitchen, so I went online to see what I could find, and I found almost nothing. When I did, I couldn’t be sure I would be getting the real thing or a counterfeit. I spoke with 300 gallery owners, and only 50% of them had a website, never mind e-commerce. There was no easy way to purchase top-quality authenticated international art online. At the time, the renowned art critic, journalist and my mother, Mariagrazia Savoia, spearheaded Look Lateral as a magazine for art, design, and fashion. When I became CEO in 2013, I decided to push the company towards e-commerce in a way that guarantees art provenance, and this meant creating a hyper-curated marketplace for art leveraging blockchain. 

Art is not only one of the most critical aspects of each nation’s history; rather, it also represents an essential asset class. There are $1.75 trillion art assets; this market is likely to grow to $2.2 trillion within three years. However, the market size is only 60 billion, and the transactions always involve the same few people. There is a considerable gap between the art market and the rest of the world.

What are the barriers to the art market and how does Look Lateral overcome them? 

Currently, there are three: lack of transparency, illiquidity, and lack of accessibility. Look Lateral addresses these problems by creating an ecosystem that identifies, documents ownership, and creates a market share for every art piece in question.  Our system tackles these issues in four ways:

1) Item identification: Our proprietary adhesive label, which is easily and safely applied to the back of a work of art or directly onto its certificate of authenticity. It is reliable and thin; it can’t be transferred to a different work of art, and it can’t be replicated or cloned. Every tag is unique. It’s crazy that this doesn’t exist right now. 

2) Provenance (i.e. a well-documented record of ownership). We record important information and opinions of the artwork to our blockchain, and we have a reward mechanism to incentivize players to record these things. We record if the artworks are in museums, record exhibitions, experts, the conditions of artwork, and so on.

3) Price indexing: This minimizes pricing error. Our methodology creates the index to price the artwork based on transactional data.

4) Fractional Marketplace of Art (FIMART): Our marketplace supports the trading of art assets, whether it is a fraction of the artwork or financial derivatives or the whole piece. Only artworks that are tagged, have information on ownership in our databases, and are priced by us may be listed in our marketplace. A centralized trading platform like this increases the number of potential buyers and increases the liquidity of the art market.

How can people maintain their wealth through art as an asset class?

According to experts such as those from Le Commerce, art represents a stable investment asset that offers an average annual return of 4.6% even during times of instability such as during political unrest or viral crises. This is especially true if there were art derivatives, art indexes and art lending. 

If you look at Deloitte and other reports, 10% of art owners would need a loan using art as collateral. These art owners include the top 1000 museums in the world, the top 1000 galleries, foundations, institutions, corporations, governments, etc. These entities are stable and solvent. There is a potential market of at least $175 billion.

The time is now, and it’s even more compelling because of COVID-19 and the possible next crisis.  Many of those entities will need loans or monetization as soon as possible. And art is even more attractive during a financial and global crisis, as one of the best refuge and safe asset class.

How does art as an investment vehicle help further culture? 

It’s a more scalable way to support museums and galleries. Museums, as an example, are not allowed to sell more than 20% of a given art piece (else they lose their non-profit status and are then categorized as for-profit galleries. During times like coronavirus, many of these establishments could shut down permanently due to enforced government closures if they don’t find alternative ways to monetize their assets within a reasonable timeframe. It would be a real loss if people were no longer able to appreciate the masterpieces of artistic leadership and history.

What drove your passion for art culture?

My father and my mother have always tried to bring me to museums, exhibitions, and openings. Some fond memories as a child include “The Celeste Galleria”  in Palazzo Te, “Phillippe Parreno”  at Palais de Tokyo in Paris, and “Tino Siegel”  at the Guggenheim. As my mother was a journalist in fashion and design, I could always “breathe” culture in my everyday life since I was a kid. At that time, I didn’t understand how influential culture was. It was only in retrospect that I realized its significance. Something that has stuck with me throughout the years was “Know the history so you can understand the present and think about the future.”  

How have you built your team?

I started with people I knew, who were in turn, connected to the key industries I was seeking. Then, when I identified the skills that I needed, I tried to add some of the best people in the world for that skill. For example, we have Piers Armstrong, the VP of Marketing at Amazon as our business advisor. As our analytics and finance advisor, we have Antonio Mele, a Professor of Finance at the Swiss Finance Institute based in Lugano (USI), who also spent a decade as Professor of Finance at the London School of Economics and Political Science. 

Who’s been an integral part of growing the business?

We’re big fans of Certilogo (a leader in product authentication), or Artnet (a leader in art sales). We’re elated that they’re working on such an innovative project with us. We also have partners like Orrick, financial institutions and banks who back us with their reputation and stability.

What words of wisdom can you share?

The most important thing is to be resilient. Always find people that don’t believe in you or there will be problems on your journey. Make sure all the people around you will play their role but also advocate value. You will need to test and then stress test every single part of the business. You will need to have people verify the solution you have made. We overcame obstacles and prevailed, and to build something like the ecosystem we have, you need to develop a multilayer product. If you don’t have that, you won’t be able to execute a viable product.  

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

We want LookLateral to be the financial on-ramp to art culture as a prominent asset class, whether it’s paintings, wristwatches or film.

Look Lateral is a preferred partner on Beaze.