interview

Episode 004: Ask Questions, Read, And Write with Anora McGaha

Anora McGaha is the eldest daughter of a US diplomat & Arabist and a half Italian mother whose father was an Italian diplomat, and whose grandfather was an expat in Panama. When she learned she was a global nomad and read about it in 1992 at the age of 34 it was as profound a moment in her life as the ugly duckling's story of discovering he was actually a swan. 

Anora has lived in too many countries to count in the Middle East, Italy and East Asia. She spent four years in French schools and two years in Chinese universities, and studied Arabic, Italian, Latin, Spanish and Mandarin Chinese.

After a twenty year corporate career in financial related analysis, she shifted into marketing communications and in 2008 began intensive immersion in blogging, social media and Internet marketing. She founded an international online magazine by and about women writers and writing, as well as a journal called When Women Waken. She is a social media manager and internet publicist for small businesses and does websites and internet coaching.

She has one son who is half Chinese, and speaks Mandarin Chinese, who just graduated from law school. Her husband is half Japanese, and was raised in the military, so also a TCK.

Be sure to follow her on Twitter, LinkedIn, her personal website and/or check out her online magazine.

 

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What Third Culture Kids Can Learn About Entrepreneurship with Matt Chambers of Loxo

One of the skills I feel like Third Culture Kids and Global Nomads are best suited for because of the constant change involved, need to adapt to many different situations and the ability to deal with a diverse group of people with unique personalities. Today's conversation is with Matt Chambers, Founder of a Software As a Service (SaaS) Company based in Denver called Loxo.

 

Tayo Rockson: Can you talk a little bit about your self and how you got to where you are today?

Matt Chambers: Absolutely.  First off thanks for having me; it’s a pleasure to be part of this impressive community you’ve built.

TR: Thank you!

MC: You are welcome! To answer your question, I’m the founder and CEO of Loxo, an early stage SaaS startup based out of Denver.  This is officially my second company, although my first foray was ill conceived at the ripe age of 24.

At the time I wrote a traditional business plan for an Action Sports and Media company called Life Style. I meticulously planned for months; albeit the way they teach in traditional academia and business schools. When the “business plan” was complete, I took out a home equity loan after coming to terms that raising money from my family wasn’t an option and before the ink dried I looked myself in the mirror and realized I didn’t have a clue what I was doing.  I couldn’t risk my house.  I decided a more prudent path was to find the smartest tech entrepreneurs I could surround myself around, work my ass off and effectively earn my PhD in entrepreneurship and that’s just what I did. 

On a personal level - I’m a small town guy, from humble beginnings.   

My father was the hardest working person I’ve ever come across and still is to this day.  He’s been a custom homebuilder for 40 years.  He instilled the values that shape the core of who I am today.  A strong work ethic and guiding principles of integrity, taking pride in world-class craftsmanship and always doing what’s right when nobody is looking.  My mother was a sign language interpreter and social worker.  She helped kids with special needs, worked with the deaf-blind and handicapped.

My upbringing was central to the person I am, but also at the crux of what drives me.   

TR: Why do you feel like the start up culture was something that you identified with so much?

MC: I think it was less about consciously identifying with the startup culture, and more the fact that it seemed as if the universe pulled me into it.  When I was a junior in college, I decided to take advantage of a study abroad program in Australia.

During my trip, I was able to do some soul searching to figure out what I wanted to do with my life.  Before I knew it, I was writing a business plan and from that point forward I started spending my free time self educating; learning about startups, reading every business book I could get my hands on and how the hell I find that secret path to becoming successful.  Now that I look back, I never made a conscience decision to be an entrepreneur – but I took that first step.

Startups epitomize everything I love and gravitate towards.  Being passionate and relentless towards a goal, kazien, continuous innovation, and leading an unproven concept with limited resources in a hyper competitive and constantly evolving environment.  Even small victories that come to life with a team in this climate are extremely gratifying.   The ping pong tables, kegs, flip-flops and long boards are a major bonus, but the cultural aspect that resonates with me the most is seeing the passion at the grassroots level - the young people who are so hungry to succeed they risk everything; surrounded by amazing mentors in an ecosystem of like minded individuals.   

TR: You used to be at Qualvu. That's where we met when I was an account manager for Keystone Learning Systems. When did you know that you wanted to venture out on your own and start Loxo?

MC: I knew before I ever started.  The funny thing was I joined the CEO as the first employee to help build the pitch deck a couple months before he had the seed round to pay me.  I jumped at the opportunity even though I had no clue how pathetic that first paycheck would be.  It didn’t matter because I recognized the opportunity to earn my PhD in entrepreneurship on someone else’s dime.  I told him one day I’m going to start my own company; I need to be ready when that day comes. 

As the business grew I pushed myself to learn as much as possible during each phase.  I spent as much time reading and researching, as I did executing.  Very rarely in a startup someone has the answer for you, so I developed an approach to creative problem solving to just figure it out.  I also always had this feeling in the back of my mind that I needed to prepare myself so when the day came I wouldn’t let my team and employees down, which was a huge motivator. 

As Qualvu grew to over 100 people, we raised anther round and launched an office in EMEA we started to transition into company building phase – the culture went through some drastic changes. I really struggled with accepting certain inevitabilities and at the time didn’t understand how common they were in venture funded tech companies.

My loyalty and fear of taking the leap kept me around much longer than I should have stayed but another thing I think is in the entrepreneurial mindset is timing.  Knowing when the optimal timing is to make a key decision.  It’s not just about making the right decision, but making the right decision at the right time.

TR: Can you talk about Loxo and why you feel there is a need in the marketplace for your solution?

MC: Loxo is a SaaS platform, we are building the next generation ATS – “The talent intelligence platform”. 

The hiring model is broken, and there is no effective solution to identify the best possible candidates for any given job opportunity.  Conversely, there is no effective online personalized career resource.

Loxo will enable our customers to find the best possible mutual match for any given career opportunity. 

By the way, I’m sure you’re wondering…Loxo means representative trajectory in Greek.  I thought it perfectly depicted the concept of accelerating one’s career path.

TR: Funny enough yes I was! Haha thanks for the enlightenment. So what would you say is your long term vision?

MC: My long-term vision is ultimately to help ambitious people reach their greatest potential.  That is what burns at my heart and is my passion. In order to put a viable business model around that vision I had to do a lot of customer development and competitive analysis to identify the opportunity first, then figure out the strategy to increase the probability of success while driving towards that vision.   

There are literally hundreds of traditional Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS).  There is little differentiation at the top, and the “innovations” in the industry are focused on social job board sharing.  There has been a dramatic dip in the reliance of job boards.  Companies and recruiters pay a lot of money and get abysmal results, while companies struggle to find good people.

Loxo is creating an industry-leading platform by helping our customers be significantly more successful.   In the process we think it will help evolve the hiring model.

TR: Awesome! I think you are really hitting on something that we need to fix and I can't wait to see where it goes!

MC: Thank you very much!

TR: Anytime! So what is one piece of advice you can give to young entrepreneurs and job seekers today?

MC: Be true to yourself and you will never fail.  I think the pressure for budding entrepreneurs or anyone in life is to succumb to the tendency to let the people around you shape who you become, how you act and the path you ultimately take.  If you ever want to have a say in where you end up, let alone your vision – you need to have the courage to forge your own path and not worry about what anyone else thinks.  Figure out where you want to go, and take your time to decide when you will stop at nothing to be successful; the day you cross that line you have to be prepared to do whatever it takes to reach your first key milestone.  If you’re not going to stick with it, don’t start until you are ready because it’s not an easy road. If you don’t leave any other option and refuse to quit, more than likely you’ll end up seeing a version of your goal come to fruition.

TR: What or who is your biggest inspiration and why?

MC: My grandmother.  She is the rock and example for our entire family.  She grew up in the great depression on a farm in Montana with 12 siblings, put herself through med school, and raised a family on her own after her husband passed away when my father was young.  She epitomizes integrity and what character means – to do what is right when nobody else is looking.  I think that is extremely rare in society today, and she’s set an example that has spanned multiple generations.  She has no clue how much we all look up to her.  She is 92 and still sharp as a tack.

TR: Digital, mobile, and content marketing are three of the biggest buzzwords right now. How do you think these three can be used by software companies to optimize their bottom line position?

MC: At the end of the day, those buzz words are core elements of a business model.  Channels, content, and communicating that content to targeted segments.  Content Marketing is fundamental for communicating with your target audience in the digital landscape.

We are at the greatest time in history to leverage online channels and social networks to reach an audience at the speed and scope never before possible.  Why would you start a brick and mortar business when you could spin up an app with the potential to reach hundreds of millions of people, with a lower cost and shorter learning curve?  That’s why there is a buzz!

Looking at it from the other end of the spectrum towards the Enterprise, the shift to embrace these mediums has forced traditional businesses to reconsider their entire models, or face extinction.  This is mind-blowing.  Look at Blockbuster vs. Netflix, or even what Wal-Mart is doing with offering online delivery to try and stay out ahead of Amazon’s upcoming food delivery service.  Or MOOCS and the emerging Developer Boot camps that churn out 30 students every 120 days with graduates getting offers for $70k vs. a 4 year graduate at the leading Universities with a degree outside of the demand curve struggling to find work. 

Every sector in the economy is now online or in transition and trying to reach the constituents wherever they are on demand, which happens to be mobile. 

There is too much information and it’s difficult to measure the ROI. Identify key influencers, deliver the right message, and optimize the message to the highest yielding people that can help drive the bottom line. 5 years ago, none of this was possible at the price point and level it is today; I can’t imagine where we are going to be 5 years from now.

So to me, digital and mobile are really just platforms or channels that allow business to deliver their value proposition to their audience.  Optimize that and your bottom line will benefit.

TR: What are you currently working on and where can we find you now?

MC: My entire focus is on building a world class SaaS platform that is measured by the degree to which customers use it and refer it to others.  Loxo is in a white-hot market space; I’m learning so much every day, I’m surrounding myself around an incredible team, a special entrepreneurial think-tank group, passionate advisors and a growing community at the new Industry space in Denver, which has some names you may have heard of such as Google and Uber ;)…please swing in and visit anytime. 

Thanks so much for the invitation to chat Tayo!  Keep doing what you are doing and if I can ever be a helpful resource for any of your audience don’t hesitate to reach out.   

TR: You are most certainly welcome and it is my absolute pleasure!




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Interview With Ambassador Tal Edgars

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Today’s interview is with H.E.Dr. Ambassador Tal Edgars. Ambassador Edgars is the President, Founder and Group Chairman of GGKAfrica, GBSH Consult, Edgars International, Tal Edgars Media Franchise, Poetry over Music Network, and an author of several books. Some of his many awards include the Strategy Meritus Award 2012, the 2011 Yahoo Voices Visionary of the Year, and the Who’s Who’s Historical Award in 2009. He sits as an African Justice Foundation Honorary Advisor & Member to Board of Advisors under Cherie Blair CBE, QC, Global Strategic Advisor to the African Women Entrepreneurship Programme under Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Executive Director to Sandown Corporate UK, ProDiverse Legal Nigeria. Mentor on board the Outside Counsel and Everwise San Francisco in which his role involves inter-alia the promotion of dialogue and partnership building for sustainable development with governments, the international community and other major key stakeholders. His personal and business sphere of influence includes Presidents and Heads of States across several continents to whom he provides confidential strategic advisory services. In addition to being the Global Ambassador to the Nation Builders International in Yaoundé and UN MDG Task force Cameroon & Security Council, he holds a Doctorate in Strategic Foresight, Diplomacy & Security Intelligence.

Tayo Rockson:  First of all, it is an honor to be interviewing you right now Ambassador Tal Edgars.

Ambassador Edgars: The pleasure is mine. I’m happy to do it.

TR: Now you are a man of many talents. I am going through your list of accomplishments now and they could honestly fill this page. Why don't you tell me who Ambassador Edgars is? How would you describe your self and what is your story?

Ambassador Edgars: Thank you Tayo. First and foremost I consider myself a global change agent who transforms mindsets into the potential we have in business, government and personal capacity. I am truly fascinated by what Africa offers and what it can do but unless we start actioning the pervading dynamics in our political, social and economic pillars then we suffer the result. I am a champion for alternative leadership which is firmly rooted in the youth and building their capacities to understand what the future for Africa which is the next frontier holds for them. Above all I am all about mentoring and inspiring others into unlocking their potential.

TR: Great, love it. Going back to some of your accomplishments, I noticed that you do a bit of everything from working with Sub Saharan countries to brand strategy to consulting, what is your goal in life? Take over the world? Haha

Ambassador Edgars: A bit of everything is a bit too much Tayo (laughs). My goal in life is to use my position and capacity to empower others but also becoming a solution to what we all can do. There lies acres of diamonds under everyone’s feet and my goal is to show them how to mine them. In doing so, I hope to encourage them to become leaders and not followers.

TR: What is the best way not to fall into the "Jack of All Trade" trap? By this mean how can one build so many skill sets and abilities while simultaneously mastering them?

Ambassador Edgars: I believe that there can never be a “Jack of All Trades”. Simply, one must be introspective and identify how their current roles go with skills they offer. That way they build a strong connection of how each role brings specific advantage to the industry.

TR: Agreed. Being a fellow African I especially admire your commitment to growth in Sub Saharan Africa; what would you say is the biggest hindrance to growth there now?

Ambassador Edgars:  Sub Saharan Africa has come a long way and even with each upcoming threat to growth. What you must admit is that we have all learnt and are using those problems to suit up to new solutions.  Most countries are showing signs of economic progress, reflecting the implementation of better economic policies and structural reforms. These countries have successfully cut domestic and external financial imbalances, enhancing economic efficiency. They have given greater priority to public spending on health care, education, and other basic social services. In addition, there has been a growing movement toward more open and participatory forms of government that encourage cooperation between the state and civil society.

Several underlying factors can affect the rate of output change. Key among these are the rate of investment, increase in the size of the workforce, and changes in economic policies. A country's macroeconomic policies will affect its growth performance through their impact on certain economic variables.

For example, a high rate of inflation is generally harmful to growth because it raises the cost of borrowing and thus lowers the rate of capital investment; but at low, single-digit levels of inflation, the likelihood of such a trade-off between inflation and growth is minimal. At the same time, highly variable inflation makes it difficult and costly to forecast accurately costs and profits, and hence investors and entrepreneurs may be reluctant to undertake new projects. Likewise, given that financial resources in the form of domestic savings and foreign grants and loans are limited, a larger budget deficit will mean that more of those limited resources must be devoted to financing the budget deficit. Fewer resources will thus be available for the private sector. If the fiscal deficit increases to an unsustainable level, private investors' perception of country risk is likely to become increasingly negative and hurt private investment.

Finally, outward-oriented trade policies are conducive to faster growth because they promote competition, encourage learning-by-doing, improve access to trade opportunities, and raise the efficiency of resource allocation.

The evidence for sub-Saharan Africa suggests that the recent economic recovery was underpinned by a positive economic environment influenced.

TR:  That was very deep and insightful. I am going to transition into a lighter topic here as this interview comes to a close. With your position as an Ambassador, you must speak a lot of languages. How many do you speak?

Ambassador Edgars: To be honest I have not been keeping track but I speak fluently 12 languages 

TR:  12?! WOW!

Ambassador Edgars: Yes and still counting.

TR:  Very impressive!

Ambassador Edgars: Thank you very much

TR:  So it can't be all work for you, what do you do to unwind?

Ambassador Edgars: I exercise body, mind and soul frequently so as to keep at ease with all that I do. I read a lot. Engage with intellectuals when I can. I spend time with my kids and give back by mentoring others. Also I love good old music Tayo.

TR:  Haha you can’t go wrong with that! When it is all said and done, how do you want to be remembered?

Ambassador Edgars: That is a very good question. I want to be remembered as the man who did not stand by to effect change but believed that together with others he could effect change regardless of the condition and so evidently lived by the saying “Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.” ― Shannon L. Alder

TR:  Love it! If you could give a younger version of yourself any piece of advice, what would it be and why?

Ambassador Edgars: I think I would tell a younger version of me… Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. Most times when you have been through the cycle of the business world you get to second guess your next move not knowing that sometimes the light is worth the candle. I usually tell a person the best test to know that your idea is great is when it scares the hell out of everyone. Watch the likes of Steve Jobs, Michael Dell, Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg. The list is endless. Their initial thoughts on what they were building might have sounded close to sheer madness.

Also I would not tell the younger me to not wait to change the world but start by changing that which is within your reach. 

TR:  Fantastic! What are you working on now and where can we find out about what's next for you? 

Ambassador Edgars: Well Tayo as you asked earlier I refer back to "am working on taking over the world" (laughs). Anyway to find out more on what I am working on find me on www.linkedin.com/in/taledgars/ orhttps://twitter.com/TalEdgars or www.gbshconsult.com

 

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Juan David Aristizabal Ospina: A Colombian Social Entrepreneur With A Vision To Change The World

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Juan David Aristizabal Ospina is a 24 year-old social entrepreneur who was increasingly fed up with how the Colombian media sensationalized violence and corruption instead of highlighting the positive things Colombians were doing. He then created Buena Nota which is a platform that highlights social entrepreneurs and Colombian citizens doing positive things and raising awareness about social problems that need to be fixed. He is essentially creating a movement for positive change in his country. He has also been recognized by Forbes as one of the top 30 under 30 year old social entrepreneurs. He has a pretty fascinating story as you can see below:

Tayo Rockson: What is your story? How did you get to where you are today? 

Juan David Aristizabal Ospina: Three experiences greatly influenced me to become a difference maker. The first experience occurred when I visited my grandfather's farm as a boy. I used to ask him why I could go to school but others couldn't remembering the time I had spent with farmers and their families growing up. I asked because I did not understand what the difference between me and the farmers was. So as a seven-year-old boy, I decided that I wanted to tell their stories. I jotted down notes, recorded their stories, and then took them to my school to be published in the school newspaper. My proposal was rejected, but I did not give up. Since my plan with the school did not work, I got a group of students in my school to gather stories of other workers in the community and we eventually managed to successfully publish 30 stories in the school newspaper, including those about the farmers I had written earlier.

The second influential experience came from lessons that my parents taught me. My mother is an artist and my father is an engineer —a very strange mix— but they each instilled in me different, but valuable perspectives and skills. They always asked me one particular question that stuck in my mind for good and that was "how are you going to serve the world?” This question has driven me to not be content with the status quo in society. As a result of this, I do not see being young as a weakness, and I told myself that I would not stop until real, widespread change has occurred.

The third experience that shaped who I am occurred when I was 13 years old. At school one day, the principal called me down to his office to tell me that one of my best friends was tragically killed by a gang. This event had an enormous impact on my life. When things like this happen, I believe that everyone has three possible ways to react. They can put on their headphones and block out the world, seek revenge, or use the experience to be a difference maker. What I decided to do was turn my fear into hope and strive to do that for others as well by helping them make a positive impact in their communities.

TR: Wow! Quite the story. I especially love how you turned that negative event into a positive experience for yourself. 

JDAO: Thank you. I really appreciate your kind words.

TR: You are very welcome. Your experiences obviously led you to venture out on your own and start Buena Nota. I am curious; when you hear the word entrepreneurship, what do you think of?

JDAO: Doing something that shakes and changes the world.

TR: You know I have been posing that question to other entrepreneurs for a while now and I have to say that I have never heard that response before. I love it! 

JDAO: Thank you Tayo!

TR: So with your journey as an entrepreneur, what are the essential skills you have found crucial to know?

JDAO: Three things.

Listening: It is very important to listen, you have to  be able to listen to communities, sponsors, and customers. Also you have to be able to listen for problems. An entrepreneur/leader has to be able to connect with people and a great way to do so is by listening.

Do! Be a go getter. You have to follow your dreams. “Dreams without actions are delusions”

Surround yourself with a team and by that I mean create and have a team of people that are better/more skilled than you in several areas.

TR: Why do you think it is important to give back?

JDAO: I believe that the world and life should be about seeing the best in others, when you see the best in other people, you see the best in yourself. I believe when you give back, you are giving the best of yourself. You are sharing your talents, and for me that is a necessary ingredient to having a successful life. 

TR: What advice do you have for other fellow young entrepreneurs out there?

JDAO: Just be yourself, work hard everyday and be grateful.

You can also follow Juan on Twitter.

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