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Curious Provisions

Russell Fry epitomizes the idea that inspiration can be found in unlikely places. He’s a rare combination of business savvy and creative, which is why his unique speakers can be found in places like the Gansevoort Hotel and in the hands of people like Shaq & Bruno Mars. Curious Provisions boomboxes turn heads not only because they are handcrafted using rare vintage suitcases, but also because they sound dope. We spent a day in Russell’s colorful Santa Monica showroom and gained a massive amount of respect for him as he has navigated career changes, started multiple businesses, and turned his passion for music into a one-of-a-kind, culture defining product.

Stay Curious: This is an audio interview, but we transcribed it below. When turning sound to words, we do what we can to make it readable and authentic. Sometimes the two mediums may not always line up, but we figured you’d rather it make sense without all the “ums” and “likes” – Enjoy.

Boye: Alright guys, I got Russell Fry here from Curious Provisions. What’s up man? 

Russell: What’s up bro? Good to be here.

Boye: I’m stoked to catch up.

Russell: Yeah, it’s been awhile. 

Boye: It’s been a while. So, at Curious Provisions you make these amazing speakers. I think they’re so cool. Can you tell us a little about that and what you’re up to? 

Russell: Curious Provisions has been running for over four years. We turn vintage, pre 60’s luggage into one-of-a-kind, high fidelity, portable boomboxes. We have smaller hat cases from the 60’s that range anywhere from $400 – $600 and we have larger cases, 21” and up, which also have Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, etc. They’ve gone through several iterations now, but it’s our high-end, flagship product. Those go for a little over $1K up to $2,500 per product, but they’re all unique. We try to differentiate every product. It has been a lot of fun making and running the business.

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Boye: Sick! I know this isn’t the only thing you do, but what gravitated you towards making speakers out of luggage and how is it doing as a business? 

Russell: I’ve worn many different hats. I didn’t have an audio background to start off. It was just an idea that came to fruition. I used to live in New York and I worked on Wall Street. I thought that was what I wanted to do. It was purely paper chasing. Then 2008 happened. 

Boye: What did you do on Wall Street?  

Russell: I worked for Jim Cramer at thestreet.com, which is a stock jockey Website. I had some background with exchange-traded funds, and thestreet.com wanted help changing their platform from a stock jockey to implement some ETFs. I was there for a couple years and all of a sudden 2008 happened. I had to figure out what to do. It was definitely a big pivot in my life. Thankfully, I had a lot of really good friends around me, and everyone was like, “Dude, don’t take another job. You know you want to start a company.” After that, I jumped around to a few different start-ups. I actually started shooting commercials for Home Depot in North Carolina. 

Boye: That’s crazy. 

Russell: So, I started flying out to North Carolina frequently. While I was out there, I happened to meet a bunch of guys from Atlanta. We worked at this warehouse that was like The Matrix of inventory. It had anything you wanted. I could be like, ‘Load up a B-52!’ And boom, it’s there! The set is kind of where the idea came to fruition. We started thinking, ‘Hey, what if we did this with this? What if we made a boombox with a suitcase?’

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Russell: I was living in Manhattan and no fucking way could I get a warehouse where I could build inventory, build products, and be loud. So, we partnered up. None of us had an electronic background or any experience, but we started Frankensteining some products together. I don’t even know how the first few worked, frankly, but they did. We made some products, put them out there, and then people start asking, “Cool, how much is that?” I say, “$600” Ka-ching! We got a business! It went from one product to ten products to twenty products. I would bring a bunch of inventory from Atlanta out to Manhattan. I lived in SoHo and I’d walk around in the daytime trying not be the obnoxious, egregious dude playing music out loud. It’s such a fine line to walk because either you’re the asshole playing music out loud or its like, ‘Oh, that’s dope.’ So, I would walk around in SoHo playing Tribe Called Quest. Everyone in New York bops their head to that. 

Boye: With the speakers? 

Russell: Yep. I love music. I love hip hop. I felt it. So, yeah, I’d just walk around SoHo. One day this guy ran up on me and he’s looking fly as hell. He’s got a dope suit, and two girls on his arm. He goes, “Hey, I like that. How much? I’ll give you a $1,000 and my passport if you let me use that for the day.”

Boye: Woah! His passport? 

Russell: Yeah, he wanted to borrow it. I’d take his passport and when he was done we’d exchange. But, I was like, ‘No, no, no. I want to go where you’re going. Keep  your money, keep your passport. Where are we going?’ So he’s like, “Alright come on, we’ll go to my rooftop.” Next thing you know, we’re all having a good time, we’re playing music. He’s like, yeah man I work at the Gansevoort Hotel. And I’m like, ‘Cool man. You know, these would be great there.’ He says, “Yeah, they would. You know what, I’ll be in touch.” The next day he copies me on an email to the owner of Gansevoort. He’s like, “Hey, really liked meeting you. Can you come to the Gansevoort tomorrow. I’d really like you to pitch your product to the owner.”  I’m like ‘Tomorrow?’ And he’s like, “Dude, make a deck.” (laughter)

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Russell: I was like, ‘Oh shit!’ We had just started up. We were just kind of crawl walking through the process. So, he prepped me on everything. It was like: here’s the music he likes, here’s where to stand, here’s how to talk, here’s what we’re gonna do. 

Boye: In 24 hours? 

Russell: Yeah. So, I showed up prepared to go to this room to play music for the owner. Instead he’s like, “You know what, are you guys hungry? I’m starving.” We go to his restaurant and before we exchange any subtleties, we sit down and the waiter comes up to me and is like, “Oh man, that’s dope!” Because I had one of the products with me. The waiter did not know that was the owner. 

Boye: You’re in the restaurant at the Gansevoort? 

Russell: At the Gansevoort. It was a total tangent. 

Boye: And the guy you met originally worked at the Gansevoort?  

Russell: He’s the GM. 

Boye: Gotcha. 

Russell: So, we hadn’t even really said anything to each other, and the waiter is like, “Man, that is dope!” I thank him, and he goes on for another minute asking me questions. The owner is just sitting there, watching and observing. I could see him out of my peripheral. The waiter leaves and the owner says “Ok, tell me why I want this.” I give him my spiel, a quick two-minute run differentiation, buzzwords, ‘How do you how do you create a memorable experience in hotel?  Everyone’s got the same shit everywhere. These are one-of-a-kind, and no one has ever played with this.’ He doesn’t even see the numbers or anything and he goes, “Ok, we’ll do it.” 

Boye: That’s amazing.

Russell: The GM gives me those wide eyes. I’m like, alright, this is happening. 

Boye: I feel like it was that waiter! 

Russell: Exactly! I should have gone back and thanked him, but I was too high on an adrenaline rush because it was my first success for the business. And this is what really turned it into a business because it gave us a large P.O. that allowed us to get some cash flow to explore some things. It was also great product placement with affluent individuals because it’s kind of a posh hotel. 

Boye: Some lessons I’ve learned from your story: 1. You could have easily taken the $1,000 from homie and called it a day, but you thought on your feet and saw the opportunity to create that relationship which led to the beginning of the business. 2. It’s priceless when someone else advocates for your product and you can see their passion. I was even wondering why the owner asked you to pitch. He saw it moments before in the waiter.

Russell: Yep.  

Boye: It’s because it’s cool and it touches people. It’s obvious. 

Russell: Yeah. That’s how it flourished. That’s how it started. From ideation to not knowing what to do with this, and all of a sudden, out of nowhere, this opportunity comes along.

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Boye: Fast forward to today, how’s inventory? Where have you been and what do you think about everything? 

Russell: It’s been an interesting journey. After that happened I thought, ‘Okay, the sky’s the limit. Now we’re going to do hundreds of thousands of units!’ But, these are all handmade products. At the time, I had business partners and we all had different ideas. One idea was to take this to China and mass it. One was to make the highest quality, most expensive product possible. The ideas were all over the place. Eventually, I took over full control. It was a good separation that we agreed on. I bought out my partners and ran with the business. Then, Hurricane Sandy happened. I was living in New York. I had a gang of homies who were all like, “Dude, let’s go out to LA. Let’s get a mansion in LA!” It turned into 13 friends that wanted to get a spot, which then dwindled down to 4 people. I came out here and opened up an office in Santa Monica. 

Boye: Yeah. 

Russell: Luckily, I found a spot  where I can do all this. I can make loud noises. I can build stuff. I wanted to be by the beach. I was really shooting for the moon, thinking it’s got to be huge, huge, huge. Everyone who would ask about the business was like, “Are you gonna scale? How much investment do you need? You need X,Y,Z.” We did a few projects with Bruno Mars, Kascade, Shaq and some other entertainers. It got me thinking so big. Everyone kept telling me, “Scale, scale, scale.” What I learned was that wasn’t the right move. I started to understand that what I liked about this business is that it allows me to create. It allows me to build things that I like. I stopped thinking so much about needing to scale and I started looking at it from a creative standpoint. I started thinking about things I liked to make. I thought I’d make the products that I liked, I would put them out there, and I would do it in batches. So, that’s what started happening with business. Now, we build a batch of products every quarter. I’ll then try to improve the products with newer tech. We have Wi-Fi in all the bigger products now.

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Boye: That’s great. Can you talk to your speaker? 

Russell: You cannot talk to the speaker yet.

Boye: Is that something you want to do in the future?

Russell: I do. I want to be able to do a ton of things with it. The first thing I really wanted to do was put Wi-Fi in there. I could nerd out on that because it’s not easy. I didn’t want to have to use an external app. If you were listening to your playlist on Spotify, I didn’t want you to have to open up my app and connect there, and then go back to Spotify. I wanted to keep it all inside the app.  We’ve gone through so many trials and errors trying to get it to work, and by the time we got to work it was like, “Ahhh!” It was this huge epiphany.  

Boye: Yeah. 

Russell: I wanted it to be Wi-Fi compatible all over your crib. That’s where we’ve been improving the tech, and that’s what I like to do. It’s a challenge. We’re going to continue improving the tech on the product and see where it goes.

Boye: Cool. When you were talking about scale I thought I can definitely see that path. But, I also see a path where scale just means how you think about it. In this day and age, all you really need is the right partner. There’s something about what you’ve created that’s this serendipitous connection that makes the product very cultural. It’s something I know that someone like Gucci, Hermes, or even Supreme would drool all over. You think about people like Kanye and these high-end fashion designers. Have you ever thought about going that route instead of trying to produce a lot of product? 

Russell: A limited release,  joint venture kind of thing. 

Boye: Yeah. 

Russell: That’s where it’s at right now. I think if the stars were to line up…maybe I got to go back to Soho and walk the streets! (laughter)

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Russell: I think you’re definitely spot on. I think that’s that’s the exact right move for Curious Provisions. 

Boye: And all these high end companies are investing heavily into streetwear and sneaker culture. Louis Vuitton bought Supreme for $500 million. Gucci partnering with Dapper Dan. Moves like that. Anyway, one thing that you said about the process of buying out your existing Founders and discovering that not everyone was in the same place stuck out to me. I think people don’t often think about how much it takes to start a business. What was the process like for you when you were transitioning from having a ton of people stoked on a direction and then pivoting to take control? 

Russell: It was really difficult. I think we all knew and, thankfully, we had the smoothest breakup possible. We’re all still homies. But, it would take us an hour to send out a newsletter because we couldn’t agree on certain words. That part was an eye opener. All of our products are different, so if we had three different opinions on the creative direction it’s would be so tough to move the needle. It was a really good learning experience that I’ve applied to my other businesses. Frankly, I don’t like to work with other people because it allows me to execute really quickly instead of constantly re-evaluating things and never actually executing.

Boye: Because everyone needs to be heard.

“When I have an idea, I try to execute it as fast as possible.”

– Russell Fry on execution versus over evaluation.

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Russell: Yeah. I think that’s the biggest take away from that experience. When I have an idea I try to execute it as fast as possible. Then I can learn what’s not working, what someone didn’t like, or what I can improve upon versus trying to perfect something and then take it to market. 

Boye: Yeah. What are some of the other businesses you’ve started? 

Russell: I have an electronics company on Amazon. It’s really starting to flourish. I started a company called vCharged and I have another business called CXO Logistics, which is very niche in the tech world. Then I have a fun event company called Lat42. We’re doing events here once a month. I’m working on another startup called ProGPN. It’s a network company base for online gaming with like 50 nodes across the globe.

Boye: You’re a serial entrepreneur. 

Russell: Yeah, I guess. It sounds funny saying that. I just try to scratch all the itches and keep it moving.

Boye: Yeah.

Russell: I always used to hate when people were like, “Oh, is this your passion project?” when referring to Curious Provisions. I would have this knee jerk reaction like, ‘No! It’s not!’ But, it is. It really is. And it took me a while, but I have no qualms with that now. I’m super happy with the business. It makes good profit for a handmade, one-of-a-kind product. For larger products, I have to get over 35 different parts from 13 or 14 vendors. Then, I source all of that together, and build it. Then I have to test it and test it. Everything needs to be meticulous. The people who own the product are very meticulous, and I’m the same way. Especially when I have strangers paying $2,500 for something they saw online. They’ve never heard it. They’ve never touched it. That still boggles me. I’m like, ‘Wow. That’s crazy that it sells.’ 

Boye: Have you ever thought of doing a storefront? 

Russell: Yeah, I did think about doing a storefront, but the retail world now…I’m trying to stay away from that. 

Boye: Yeah, yeah, yeah. 

Russell: It’s kind of an archaic model. 

Boye: You’re almost like a street artist, in a way. You’re not making paintings, but you’re making these very creative things that people really desire.

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Russell: Hell yeah! (laughter) I’ve never looked at it like that. I’ve made so many cool relationships with customers who are all over all over the place. It’s fun, man. It’s so fun. You’ve seen one of the iterations we had a while back. Recently, we were like, ‘How do we improve it even further? Let’s put a mixer in the back. How do we put a mixer in the back?’  Thankfully, my next door neighbor has a 3D print company. I can come to him with ideas and he I can print it out for me. 

Boye: Oh, that’s cool! 

Russell: Yeah, we put a mixer in the back of this one. We call this one GOAT because it’s the greatest of all time. 

Boye: Nice. 

Russell: We’ve had performers and we’re doing some live shows here. It really creates a different vibe. People are singing and at ease when there’s a show going on. 

Boye: That’s so cool. 

Russell: I’m excited to do more products like that, implementing newer tech, and figuring out how far the rabbit hole goes. 

Boye: That’s cool man. I also think getting this in the hands of musicians would be so great. If they used it on stage, in the recording studio, or just have it around their house. 

Russell: It’s just so hard to do that when the products are one of a kind. 

Boye: Yeah. 

Russell: It’s like it’s such a knee-jerk reaction to want to do that with a mass-produced product like headphones. It’s like, ‘Oh cool, this person’s really dope and they have a huge following. Here’s a bunch!’  

Boye: Yeah 

Russell: But with these, it’s so tough. I used to have a big emotional attachment with each product. 

Boye: How long does it take you to make one?

Russell: Once everything is designed and we have all the requisite parts, two days.

Boye: Oh, that’s not bad. 

Russell: There’s actually a 24 hour process where I have to cut. I have to take everything out. I have to make the shapes correct and I have to create an enclosure inside. Then it takes 24 hours for everything to dry. The next day we can do all the electronics.

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Boye: So, we always ask what piece of advice you would give to an entrepreneur or creative who is working on something compelling and special? 

Russell: That’s such a good question. I kind of touched on it earlier. You don’t have to perfect something to take it to market. Keep it lean.  I’ve had so many close friends over the last year ask, “Man, Russ how do I do it? I want to do it!” And they have discretionary funds to make an investment. But, I think out of 18 people I tried to help last year, only 2 people did it. And they’re having a lot of success. I hate to oversimplify, but that would be my tip. If you have an idea, get it out there ASAP. Not this, “I need to raise money or it’s not right yet.” Your head always thinks it’s not perfect, but most of the time you’re going to have an audience for it. Just launch it and improve, improve, improve versus perfecting something and then it’s too late. 

“You don’t have to perfect something to take it to market…if you have an idea, get it out there asap.”

– Russell Fry on market entry strategy.

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Boye: I agree. Launching early lets you understand if you even have something of value and what to tweak in that offering.

Russell: Yeah.

Boye: It’s really interesting seeing these businesses raise a ton of money without validating products. Granted, a lot of money can help you with R&D, but your approach is smart. Awesome, man. Where can we get some Curious Provisions speakers? 

Russell: Curiousprovisions.com and we have an office in Santa Monica on 19th and Olympic. I’m here a lot, so if you’re in West LA come say hi. 

Boye: Dope 

Russell: I’m out here. 

Boye: Sick. Well, thanks for hanging, man. 

Russell: Yeah man, it’s been great. 

Both: Thanks. 

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The Kaplan Twins

Allie & Lexi Kaplan are flipping the switch on feminism & sexuality, and disrupting the traditional art scene with an unapologetic Millennial perspective. The Kaplan Twins approach situations with bravery and have cultivated a public persona to brazenly take control of their narrative. When the art world tells them, ‘not that way’ they paint their backsides and sit on the idea of ‘can’t.’ Their art is a parodical pastiche of Instagram fame, a celebration of the female form, and a cheeky commentary on celebrity culture. We had the pleasure of spending the day in their studio to watch a project come to life, and we’re excited to witness the evolution of their talents.

Stay Curious: This is an audio interview, but we transcribed it below. When turning sound to words, we do what we can to make it readable and authentic. Sometimes the two mediums may not always line up, but we figured you’d rather it make sense without all the “ums” and “likes” – Enjoy.

Boye Fajinmi: I have the Kaplan Twins here today. How are you guys doing? 

Allie Kaplan & Lexi Kaplan:  We’re good! 

Boye: I love that! Can you tell me who you are and what you’re about? 

Both: Sure. 

Allie: We’re 25 years old. We’re both artists. We go by the Kaplan Twins. 

Both: That’s our name! 

Lexi: Twin name. 

Allie: We are originally from New Jersey, so that’s why you hear the Jersey accent.

Lexi: Only sometimes. 

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Allie: Only sometimes! And we both went to NYU for art. We studied studio art. 

Lexi: Majored in painting. 

Allie: We graduated in 2015 and moved right out to LA. after we graduated. 

Boye: That’s awesome. Why’d you decide to come to LA? 

Lexi: We were both in the art scene in New York for a long time, and we felt like we wanted to be somewhere where we could disrupt the art scene. LA is still emerging. New York is set in it’s ways a little bit, and we wanted to merge art with entertainment. Out here there’s lots of entertainment. 

Allie: Throughout school we both had experiences working within the art world. I did internships. I worked at an art gallery. I worked at Christie’s for a bit. 

Lexi: I was at the New Museum. 

Allie: I think we moved out here because we wanted to see what it was about. Try something new. We started by posting photos of us and our art on social media and it kind of took off from there. I think it was really important to show who we are. 

Lexi: Not just what we do. 

Allie: Not just the art. Exactly.

“We wanted to be somewhere where we could disrupt the art scene. LA is still emerging… and we wanted to merge art with entertainment. Out here there’s lots of entertainment.”

– Lexi Kaplan on the decision to move from New York to Los Angeles.

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Boye: Gotcha. So, you’re out here you’re doing the art thing and it sounds like you guys are doing pretty well. What was the path from coming here, fish out of water, to where you are now? You’re painting pieces for a lot of really prominent people. There are a lot of artists out here living that grind and hustle. What was that like to get to where you are? 

Lexi: We definitely had that grind and hustle. 

Allie: We still do! It’s still always a hustle. 

Lexi: Yeah. When we first moved out here our studio was in a storage closet. 

Allie: It was in the basement of a garage. There were no windows.  

Lexi: It was an apartment building garage. It was underground where the trash room was. We didn’t have windows. 

Allie: There was no natural light. It was so small. 

Lexi: No air. But, we just needed a place to crank out a lot of work. I mean, we obviously created a lot of work when we were in school, but I think as soon as we moved out here we  realized– 

Allie: That if we wanted to really pursue it and go for we had to start making so much more. So, we needed a space for that. 

 Lexi: We also became super interested in celebrity culture, pop culture and social media. And I think that was obviously because we were also putting a lot of artwork on Instagram at the time. We started posting every day, building our body work, and then it just kind of grew from there. 

Boye: Yeah, it’s interesting you mention celebrity and social media. A lot of your work caters to pop culture, and a lot of your clients are celebrities like the Kardashians. 

Lexi: We fall into this circle through building our brand on Instagram. 

Allie: We definitely reach out to a lot of people. 

Lexi: We do. Khloe (Kardashian) has a denim line, Good American, which is also now activewear. I remember they reached out to us when they were just getting going, and they were like, “We really love what you guys are doing and what you stand for. We’d love to have you be a part of the brand.” And, for whatever reason, it fell through. So, Allie and I were talking one day and we said to each other– 

Allie: ‘We’re so upset this never happened. We really wanted to be a part of it. We really wanted to do it.’ 

Both: So, we reached out ourselves.  

Lexi: And we kind of just made it happen that way. We’re making a painting right now for Khloe Kardashian and Kris Jenner.

Allie: I think we should just make one for all of them. 

Lexi: For all the Kardashians? 

Allie: Yeah.

Lexi: We made Kim…we made a self-portrait of her. 

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Boye: Nice 

Lexi: She’s more than welcome to have it if she wants it! 


Lexi: But, you know, I watch the TV show. I’m a fan of theirs. You can’t really knock their hustle. I think what they do is great. So, we reached out to Khloe and said ‘We’d love to make you a painting. You can’t be afraid to just reach out. 

Allie: Right. You can’t wait for people to knock on your door. If you want something you gotta make it happen for yourself. 

Lexi: Exactly. 

Boye: Who are some other clients that you guys have dealt with?

Allie: We just did a painting for Meghan Trainor.

Lexi: We’re making one for Quavo. 

Boye: Nice! Quavo!

Allie: Migos Migos. Everytime we tell our mom about that she’s like, “Did you make a painting for Cuervo yet?” I’m like, “MOM, it’s Quavo. It’s not the tequila. It’s the guy.” 

Lexi: We’re gonna make one for Gigi Gorgeous. 

Allie: Yes. Love her. 

Lexi: Tommy Dorfman wants one. We definitely need to make him one.

“You can’t wait for people to knock on your door. If you want something you gotta make it happen for yourself.”

– Allie Kaplan on the art of the hustle.

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Allie: Yeah, it’s just about going out and meeting people and hustling. It is a lot of work, and we came out here not knowing anyone. 

Lexi: Right. I think a lot of the reason why it works, though, is because our work is tailored towards pop culture, Millennials, and what you do see on Instagram. 

Allie: It’s relatable. 

Lexi: Yeah, it’s relatable. 

Allie: They’re meme paintings. 

Lexi: We don’t want to isolate ourselves from the art world, but we also want to make art relatable to people our age who can just appreciate what we’re doing. 

Both: Even if you can’t buy it. 

Boye: That’s interesting. I’m curious, what’s your perspective on art in general today? You have different pop culture artists through the ages with Warhol, Basquiat. I’d consider Ai Wei Wei a pop culture artist, but he’s from a different country. 

Lexi: Murakami, even. 

Boye: Yeah. Do you have any thoughts on art, in general, that you want people to know about or that you’ve been thinking about lately? 

Allie: I think when people think of fine art their minds immediately go to the work itself, and it’s sometimes hard to associate the work with the creative; the person who made it. So, I think when you’re talking about Warhol, Basquiat or Keith Haring your mind can put — 

Both: A face to the name.  

Allie: I think with a lot of work now, especially in galleries, you go in there and you’re like, “Well this is cool, but who the hell made it?”  What we’re trying to do is show people who we are as much as we show them the work that we make. That’s kind of what we’re trying to change – to put a face of the artist to the name.

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Boye: That’s cool. 

Allie: We always say it’s kind of like music. Imagine if you’re going to see a concert, your favorite musician, but you’re just in the stadium. 

Lexi: You’re just listening. You don’t see them. 

Allie: If you just know the music, but you don’t know the person behind the music, you can’t connect with it on a personal level. 

Boye: Yeah, I can totally see that. One thing I’ve noticed about your art is there’s a lot of sexuality in it. I’m interested to know why and how it’s been expressing yourself in that way?

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Lexi: I think it’s just one of our ideas…we always have the social media, pop culture theme in the back of our minds, and at the end of the day, sex sells. It does and it’s the truth. 

Allie: And you see that all over Instagram. You see that everywhere. 

Lexi: Right. It’s everywhere. So, I think we kind of play into that. And because we are aware of it, we’re taking control of the narrative. And people can say whatever they want, but at the end of the day it’s just a way for us to say, “Okay, this is the narrative that were feeding into.”

Boye: What does your mom think? 

Both: Oh, mom’s a fan. 

Boye: And, your mom is your manager, right?  

Both: She is. 

Boye: What’s your mom’s name? 

Both: Amy.

Allie: Also @the_kaplan_twinsmama on Instagram. 

Boye: What’s it like with your mom being your manager? 

Lexi: It’s good sometimes and it’s bad sometimes. She does kill it for us and she is amazing because I think no one will work harder than family. 

Allie: Or yourself. The only people who are going to have your back as much as you do–

Lexi: Are you and your family. So, it just came to a point where we wanted to be in the studio every single day painting and we couldn’t do that because we would receive so many emails. We didn’t know what to do with them. 

Allie: So many opportunities, so many amazing collaborations and other artists reaching out to us– 

Lexi: We let slip through our fingers. 

Allie: Things that were really cool. We just wouldn’t have time to get everything going. We’d miss time in the studio. We’d forget to respond. 

Lexi: We’d respond on Mondays to emails, and it would take us all day. And then they’d all come back in after like ten minutes and we are like, ‘Shit, well, now we have to do it tomorrow.’ They just kept spilling over, and we didn’t really have the time. 

Allie: It was getting to be too much. 

Lexi:  So, we said, ‘Mom, would you want to just respond to our emails for us and take control?’ 

Allie: Just coordinate a little bit.

Lexi: And she did, and it’s actually the most helpful thing ever to have her. 

Allie: But it’s also very stressful because at the same time…

Lexi: Oh! I live with her so not only does she manage my schedule but she also micromanages my life. 

Allie: Your personal life.

Lexi: Yeah, everything. She’s like, “You got to get in the studio! You got to do this!” 

Allie: And we’re like, ‘I know what I have to do! You worry about what you have to do, and we’ll worry about what we have to do!’ 

Lexi: From the second I open my eyes it’s not even a, “Hi, good morning!” It’s like, “You got to do this.” And it drives me crazy! 

Boye: Sounds like a reality show. 

Both: Oh, yeah. It should be.

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Boye: I heard rumors of you guys actually filming some stuff? 

Lexi: Yeah, we’re filming right now. It’s in development so keep your fingers crossed. 

Boye: Anything you can let us know about? 

Lexi: Um…noooo we can’t really say too much. But, I mean, I would watch it.

Boye: I appreciate that. What do you have coming up next that you can talk about?  

Lexi: We are planning something for Art Basel in Miami. 

Allie: That’s every year the first week of December. We’ve been going now for how long, Lexi? 

Lexi: Like 10 years. 

Allie: Like forever. 

Lexi: Since we were babies, honestly.  

Allie: Since it started. 

Boye: Making art? 

Lexi: We were just going to enjoy. I mean we couldn’t really enjoy ‘the scene’ so much, but we did go for the art. 

Allie: Now we get to go to the parties. Now it’s fun. 

Lexi: Now it’s exhausting.

Allie: Now it’s Coachella with art. 

Lexi: It’s really exhausting. It’s non-stop. It’s work.

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Boye: I need to go! 

Both: Yeah, it’s a lot of fun. 

Boye: I feel like there are a lot of brands there.  

Lexi: Yeah I mean, I like that though. 

Allie: I think every year it’s gotten honestly less about the art and people are just like, “What parties are going on tonight? What parties are going on tomorrow night?” 

Lexi: Well, that’s cool because you have all the designers there, and then that gives us a chance to connect and collaborate, and we’d love to get into that scene too. Into that space. This year we’re with Roman Fine Art Gallery, which is in East Hampton, and also Art Angels in LA. 

Allie: We just did another show with Roman Fine Art over Fourth of July weekend in Montauk. 

Lexi: Yeah, in the Hamptons. This year there is a booth at SCOPE. It’s our first year of actually being in the art fair, so that’s super exciting. 

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Boye: Oh, wow.

Allie: We kind of missed the boat last year. We got our work in too late. But I said, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll do it next year.’ So, this year we’re doing it. 

Lexi: It’s exciting to grow up going to this fair every year, looking on the walls and thinking, ‘I really want my work to be up there one day. Why can’t I do that? I can do that. I’m going to do that.’ It’s very exciting for it to finally be a reality. We’re also working on a performance of some sort. We don’t really know yet. We’re going to do something with Stillhouse. 

Boye: Oh, cool. 

Allie: We just need to lock down a location and figure out some other little details. But we know we definitely are going to be doing something.  

Boye: Is it a new series that you’re doing? 

Allie: I think the performance will be like the “sat on your face” thing. 

Lexi: It’s where we paint each other’s butts and sit on the canvas. We want it to be interactive. We want it to be fun. Haven’t really thought of it yet, but we’ll think of something. 

Boye: I have seen that. Sitting on people’s faces. Can you tell me more about that? 

Lexi: It started out as us painting famous artist faces and then painting our butts sitting on the canvas, and then it just expanded. People kept saying to us, “Can I send you my face? Can you do this, can you do that?” 

Allie: So, we started saying, ‘Yeah, why not?’ One year someone wanted one of Donald Trump’s, so we made one of Trump.

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Boye: But, you do it in an audience, right? 

Both: Yeah, sometimes. 

Lexi: For the most part we do it for an audience, but if people want to buy them that’s always something we do. It’s just more of a performance aspect for us. We let people paint our butts sometimes. We did this really fun event with Flaunt Magazine and Diesel. There was a photo booth at the event, and people would go into the photo booth and take a photo of their face, which would then be printed out onto t-shirts. At the end of the night, we painted our butts and sat on the t-shirts and everyone loved it.  

Allie: And then you take the t-shirt home!

Boye: Wow. That’s fun. 

Lexi: It was a lot of fun. Maybe we should do that again, Allie. Have a giant paint party.  

Boye: That is actually a good idea! So, what’s your approach to the art you create? It was cool seeing you guys painting together today. Is there any sort of mantra, or anything that you live by when you’re creating pieces?

Allie: I think we just want it to be fun. We don’t really take ourselves too seriously. We just like to have a good time.  

Lexi: My mom used to always say to us — 

Both: “Life is a party. Shoot for the stars. You can be anything you want to be as long as you’re A good person.” 

Lexi: So, we grew up on that. That’s our mantra. 

Boye: That’s cool. We have a lot of people in our community who are entrepreneurs and creators themselves, and we always love to empower them. If you were to do it all over again what’s advice that you would give to yourself or someone else who is trying to get to a place where you guys are now? 

Lexi: That’s a hard one..It’s definitely a rollercoaster. Sometimes it’s up and sometimes it’s down.  Don’t be afraid of failing because it’s okay. 

Allie: You’re going to fail. 

Both: We fail. 

Lexi: We’ve failed so many times, and people just don’t see the failures all the time. They really only see when you succeed, so I would just say, don’t be afraid of the ride. Don’t be afraid to fail. The only real way that you’ll ever fail is if you don’t even try in the first place. 

Boye: That’s so true. We live in a culture where people get so paralyzed that they don’t try. And I think people thrive off of people’s failures too. 

Allie: It’s intimidating. There are so many people who will say this about you or they’ll say that about you, but you just have to clear out all of that outside noise and focus on what you want for yourself.

“Don’t be afraid of the ride. Don’t be afraid to fail. The only way that you’ll ever fail is if you don’t even try in the first place.”

– Lexi Kaplan’s advice to aspiring entrepreneurs.

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Allie: The art world might look at a lot of what we’re trying to do and be like, “Oh, these girls. They’re just looking for attention.” Or, “They’re just posting themselves on social media.” But no, it’s so much more than that. And I think there’s truly a way for the art world to shift.  Some fashion designers like Jeremy Scott, for example, have a very public persona. It’s common in fashion now, but for artists it’s not there yet. And I think it’s because the art world is like, ‘Oooooh, the art world,’ you know? 

Lexi: They should just embrace the change, honestly. I think the art world is the last creative outlet to get on board with how the world is changing in this digital sense. It just has to adapt a little bit to how younger artists are presenting themselves and presenting their artwork, and accept it. 

Boye: Do you have any tangible examples of things you feel like people have an issue with that they need to accept? 

Lexi: With us? 

Boye: With you. 

Lexi: This is so small, but we use a projector. It depends on what the painting is, but we use it for a lot of our text and our words. We also use it to get the initial outline of the image and people always get really angry with that. They’re like, “Oh, they’re not not real artists. They’re just tracing. They project. That’s cheating.” And it’s not cheating. We’re using technology.

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Allie: It’s technology! You think every single shirt you wear is hand sewn?

Lexi: Or that every single recording you listen to hasn’t been tweaked a little bit? There are different methods, and I don’t think that any one method is the only way to do something. I don’t think there’s one right way to do something. I think there are ways to approach — 

Allie: A technique. 

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Boye: For sure.

Lexi: A technique, yeah. It’s whatever makes people happy. Whatever they are good at doing. I’m the worst drawer, ever. I don’t like sketching. It’s not for me. I love painting, though.  

Boye: You guys are rubbing shoulders with celebrity culture, and the content you are creating is about and for celebrities. Do you have any thought process or idea behind what it means to be a celebrity today?  

Allie: I think it’s about being in the public eye and being able to send a message and show yourself as whoever you want. 

Lexi: And I think that’s because we have these platforms that allow us to sculpt who we want to be, in a way. Like I said, Instagram is just one of those platforms where you can tweak, brand, and put out the best version of yourself. I think everything that we see on Instagram is a brand;  whether it’s a personal brand or you’re expressing your interests. 

Allie: It’s an advertisement. 

Lexi: Exactly. So, a lot of the work that we create is just kind of absorbing what we see. But yeah, it’s kind of a crazy world. What we see on Instagram is just not real life at all. 

Boye: But you guys are good at Instagram. 

Lexi: Instagram is crazy. At the end of the day, I think we all, as humans, want a little bit of validation from something or someone. To be able to have that with the click of a button and to receive or not receive that validation…I think it drives people crazy, honestly.

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Boye: I think that culture is in for a wild ride, and you guys are at the tip of it, which is really cool. I have one more simple question. How do you tell the two of you apart? 

Lexi: Allie has these two little birthmarks on her smile lines. 

Allie: One on each side. 

Lexi: I’m going to call them moles, because you tell me I have a neck freckle. 

Allie: You do have a neck freckle! 


Allie: Those are physical differences, I guess. 

Lexi: Also, you’re like an inch taller than me. 

Allie: I am! But personality wise…

Lexi: Allie’s more outspoken. 

Allie: Aggressive. You call me bossy, but I don’t think I’m bossy. 

Lexi: Ok, you could use the word aggressive, you could use bossy. Pick what you want, they’re both the same thing. 

Allie: Well you’re definitely ruder! 


Lexi: I’m more organized. Allie is a little spacey and flakey. But, Allie, for the most part, is the one to be like, “Oh, this would be a great idea if we did a painting of this.” Then I’ll go online. I’ll find the image. I’ll put it all in Photoshop. I’ll do a mock-up and I kind of bring it to life. We’re a team!

Allie: We always say I drive the car. 

Lexi: And I navigate. Because, if we didn’t have me, we wouldn’t know where we were going. 

Allie: And if we didn’t have me we wouldn’t be able to get there! 

Lexi: Exactly!

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Boye: Well, it was great catching up, guys. I love what you’re doing. I’m excited to see the work out there, and let’s chat more soon. 

Both: Yeah, for sure!


Link: http://www.thekaplantwins.com/

Instagram: @the_kaplan_twins

14 third door v2

Opening The Third Door

Alex Banayan went rogue. He traded his predetermined path as a USC med student to embark upon an impossible journey; a quest to interview the world’s most influential and innovative thinkers and write a book about it.  

The Third Door has become an international best-seller, shedding an unprecedented light on the various keys to success that aren’t taught in schools. Alex is a fascinating presence, with an infectious passion to learn. He believes it’s our responsibility to inspire future generations to believe in possibility and embrace the unconventional. His life is proof that the road to success isn’t always linear, and we are excited to share his wisdom with you. 

Stay Curious: This is an audio interview, but we transcribed it below. When turning sound to words, we do what we can to make it readable and authentic. Sometimes the two mediums may not always line up, but we figured you’d rather it make sense without all the “ums” and “likes” – Enjoy.

Boye Fajinmi: Hey guys you’ve got Boye here with Alex Banayan, author of The Third Door,  world renowned speaker. Chillin on a nice LA afternoon.

Alex Banayan: Thank you very much for having me. I appreciate it. This is going to be fun. 

Boye: I’m excited. So, how’s it going? How have you been? 

Alex: Things have been great. I’ve been on book tour pretty much nonstop. It’s nice to be back in LA, my hometown, and spend a couple weeks re-configuring myself. 

Boye:  It’s interesting, right? It sounds like you are living a crazy life right now. So, I read the book, or I listened to the book. 

Alex: Dude, audio book is the real deal, man! 

Boye: It’s the real deal! 

Alex: Don’t knock it man. It’s just as legit.  

Boye: Yeah! I loved it. And it was great hearing you narrate. 

Alex: I poured my heart into it. 

Boye: You did a really phenomenal job. 

Alex: Thank you. 

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Boye: In your book, I get this sense of wanderlust and drive to be your better self and live your dreams…and you’re actually doing it. What’s that like? 

Alex: Thank you, that means a lot.  Any entrepreneur out there chasing their dreams can relate to this which is, on the one hand, my dream wasn’t just to put out a book. It was to embed this message into the culture of our generation. There’s so much to do and there’s no tipping point. It’s just little steps, and pushing, and trying to make this dream a reality. It’s climbing a mountain. Even though the book has been out and has become a bestseller, it’s still a grind. A fun grind, but a grind, for sure. 

Boye: Yeah. 

Alex: On the other hand, I’m so grateful. This has been my dream for 7 years. Opening my email in the morning and seeing messages from readers around the world saying it’s impacted their life…I tear up, man. This isn’t a ‘how to get rich in10 quick steps’ kind of book. This was my life. My grandma’s in the book. It’s very personal. For it to resonate with people means so much on so many levels, which is why it’s so fulfilling. 

Boye: In the in the book, it seems like you really fought to understand the right way to interview someone. Since the book has been released, where do you sit now with how you interview people?  

Alex: It’s cool because the tables have turned. For 7 years I was doing the interviews. I was interviewing Bill Gates. I was interviewing Steve Wozniak. Now that the book is out, I’m being asked the questions. It’s fun, man. 

Boye: Yeah. 

Alex: It was a big honor to be interviewed by Larry King. He’s like Michael Jordan. What he does looks easy. It is an art that he has perfected, in a way. There’s a reason Larry King is Larry King. There’s a reason Kara Swisher is Kara Swisher. There’s a reason, whether you like his politics or not, Glenn Beck is Glenn Beck. These are the best in their craft. It’s been a big honor and giant learning opportunity for me to see the way they operate. I’ve learned a ton just being in the mix with them. And you know me, I love to learn. They think I’m here to promote a book, but I’m taking notes on their styles and it’s fascinating! 

Boye: Tell me more about the people who are now trying to interview you? What’s it like now that people want to hear your story? 

Alex: It’s a giant honor. I also have a ton more empathy for the interviewee. When I was 18 I hid in a bathroom for 30 minutes to track down Tim Ferris to get an interview with him for my book. Tim is way more established. My book has only been out for six months, but I already have a ton more empathy for a human being’s bandwidth. I understand why people were telling me “no” for 99% of this journey.  You can only do so much.

Boye: Do you also have more empathy for the people trying to take your time?

Alex: I’m very cognizant of how fortunate it is to be in this position, and that’s why I don’t knock any of the hustlers out there starting their own podcast or doing their thing. But just because I understand where they’re coming from doesn’t mean I can necessarily say yes to everything. But, at the end of  the day, I get it. They’re out there trying to make a name for themselves. Trying to do good, share wisdom, help people. So, I’m grateful they ask.

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Boye: What makes you go out on tour and live this life? What is it that powers you? 

Alex: The context of how this book got started, in many ways, is what still fuels me. This started when I was a freshman in college. I don’t know if you’ve been through the ‘What do I want to do with my life’ crisis? 

Boye: Yeah. That’s another story!


Alex: Right! I’m the son of Jewish immigrants, which pretty much means that when I came out of the womb, my mom cradled me in her arms, stamped M.D. on my ass, and sent me on my way. In 3rd grade I wore scrubs to school for Halloween. In high school I went to Pre-Med summer camp. By the time I got to college, I’m the Pre-med of Pre-meds, but I remember looking at my towering stack of biology books, and feeling like they were sucking the life out of me. I began to wonder, ‘Maybe I’m not on my path. Maybe I’m on a path somebody placed me on, and I’m just rolling down.’ 

So, not only do I not know what I want to do with my life, I’ve no idea how all of the people I looked up to did it. How did Bill Gates sell his first piece of software out of his dorm room when nobody knew his name? How did Lady Gaga get her first record deal without a single hit under her belt? This is what they don’t teach you in school. I go to the library assuming there has to be a book with the answers. Eventually, I’m left empty handed. I thought, ‘Well, if no one has written the book I’m dreaming of reading, why not write it myself?’

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The hard part, I figured, was getting the money to fund this journey. I was buried in student loan debt. I was all out of bar mitzvah cash. Two months before my final exams, I see someone offering free tickets to The Price Is Right. It films near USC, and I think ‘What if I go on the show and win some money to fund this book?’ Not the most logical idea. Plus, I’d never seen a full episode of the show. I told myself it was a dumb idea, but I don’t know if you’ve ever had an idea that keeps on clawing itself back into your mind? 

Boye: Yes. 

Alex: To prove to myself that it was a bad idea, I remember opening up my notebook and writing best and worst case scenarios. There were like 20 cons. 

Boye: Yeah. 

Alex: The only pro was: maybe get enough money to fund this dream. That night I decided to pull an all nighter studying how to hack The Price Is Right. I went on the show the next day and ended up winning the whole showcase showdown. I won a sailboat, sold the sailboat, and that’s how I funded the book. 

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Boye: Yeah.

Alex: It took 2 years to track down Bill Gates. Three years to track down Lady Gaga. But over this 7 year journey, I started realizing that every single one of these people treated life, business, and success the exact same way. The analogy that came to me is that it’s like getting into a nightclub. There are always 3 ways in. There’s the first door, the main entrance, where the line curves around the block. Where 99% of people wait around hoping to get in. There’s the second door. The VIP entrance for the billionaires and celebrities. For some reason, school and society make us feel like those are the only two ways in. You either wait your turn, or you’re born into it. But, what I learned is there’s always the third door. It’s the entrance where you jump out of line, run down the alley, crack open the window, go through the kitchen. And that’s how Gates sold his first piece of software. It’s how Spielberg became the youngest director in Hollywood history. They took the third door.  So, that’s not only the title and thesis of the book, it’s also the energy I’m trying to inject into the next generation. 

Boye: It’s almost as if you took the third door yourself by creating this book. 

Alex: Yeah, it’s super meta. 

Boye: You didn’t see the path to get what you needed and you made it happen. Not many people can go from being a college student, to meeting all of these famous people, to being a best-selling author. What is the next stage of The Third Door. Is it another book? Is it expanding the platform? 

Alex: My original intention was to pack as much knowledge and wisdom into 300 pages as possible. In the book are Bill Gates’ negotiating secrets and Tim Ferris’ cold email template. Only in hindsight, can I see that the soul of this book is much deeper. The soul of this book is really about possibility. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that you can give someone all of the best tools and knowledge in the world and their life can still feel stuck. But, if you change what someone believes is possible, they’ll never be the same. Young people will always reach for the highest branch they believe is possible. It’s our jobs – schools, families, the media at large – to illuminate more branches.

Boye: Is there a particular path that you see?

Alex: The cool thing about The Third Door is that it’s an idea. The book is one medium, but there are others. There are documentaries, movies, TV, podcasts, and music. What’s amazing about the world we live in today is that there are so many ways to share an idea. To share a story. To share things that can help people. The Third Door is just getting started. 

“The soul of this book is really about possibility.”

– Alex Banayan, author of The Third Door

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Boye: If you were to write another book, who would you want to interview? 

Alex: A person who comes to mind is Barack Obama. My dad passed away two years ago. I’m Jewish, so when someone passes away there’s a week of shiva when you are surrounded by family and friends and encompassed in love. But, eventually, people have to go on with their lives. At that point I remember feeling completely empty. I remember not wanting to get out of bed, looking up at my bookshelf, and seeing Dreams of My Father. The book is inspired by Obama’s father passing away too, and his journey to understand him. And there was something about reading his words that made me feel connected to him in a way that I never had before. So, that’s who I’d want to interview. 

Boye: He definitely left a legacy, and I agree. I think he would be interesting. In the book, it’s evident that community was big for you, and you spend some time on Summit Series. Would you say that Summit has had a big impact on your life? 

Alex: Giant. Elliott Bisnow, the founder of Summit Series, changed my life. He brought me in and took me under his wing. I dropped out of college to pursue writing this book, so I don’t have a college alumni group. Summit some sort of became that. I started going to Summit Series when I was nineteen. I couldn’t be more grateful to Summit Series not only for helping with my business contacts, but also for some of my closest friends. Some of my best friends, people who were at my dad’s funeral, I met there. 

Boye: That’s special. I like to hear that. You seem laser focused on getting The Third Door into the hands of as many people as possible, which is great. I’m curious, what’s a day in the life of Alex Banayan as you go on this journey? 

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Alex: Wake up at 6 a.m. Get ready. Meditate. I’ve been meditating twice a day for the past five years, and it’s changed my life in a beautiful way. Today, I drove out to do an Entrepreneur Magazine podcast called The Playbook. Then I had a call with one of my close friends and mentors, Cal Fussman. Then I grabbed lunch by myself. You know, it’s not private jets and poppin’ bottles here! 


Then I went to a second podcast recording with a great podcast called Cat & Cloud, which is the number one coffee podcast. 

Boye: Wow. Okay. 

Alex: I love coffee. Not that I’ll drink 5 cups a day, but I appreciate any fine art. I love anyone who’s obsessed with something, whether it’s a sommelier, a world champion barista, or a car aficionado. The two hosts of the Cat & Cloud podcast are world champion baristas who have their own coffee company. They’re also very entrepreneurial, so the podcast was about achieving a dream and dealing with fear, but we also had some crazy good coffee. After that I came back for my second meditation. Now I’m here with you, man!

Boye: Wow! Three podcasts in one day. 

Alex: I’m very grateful. This morning I also had a phone call with NBC news.

Boye: Wow, okay! You’re really getting the word out there, being a personality, talking to people, and spreading The Third Door mantra in real life. 

Alex: Yeah. To me, this is the mission of this book. When I got these interviews, there was an implicit agreement that if you share your wisdom with me, I’m going to share it with the people who want it and need it. On the one hand, I’m fulfilling this promise. On the other hand, it’s a ton of fun to share something that I care so much about.

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Boye: Now that you’re getting interviewed a lot, what is one question you wish you were asked more often? 

Alex: No one asks me about my sisters, man. They’re one of my favorite parts of the book.  I’ll sometimes scroll through the Amazon reviews and I’m very grateful that the reviews are, for the most part, positive. But every now and then there’s a negative review, and I like reading those too. There was one guy recently who wrote, ‘The Third Door is not for me. I wish I knew it was more like The Alchemist than Outliers.’ And then, he ends it with, ‘I didn’t like Alex that much, but his sisters are genius.’ And I was like, ‘That’s my guy!’ It was so funny. It was my favorite one star review.  


Boye: Family is important, and it seems like you have really close ties to your family. 

Alex: Yeah, man. My sisters are amazing. 

Boye: What has inspired you to meditate? Is it your faith or do you have a faith?  

Alex: I’m Jewish. I come from an immigrant background so meditation and cocaine are pretty much in the same category to my grandmother.


The only thing worse than the two of those is therapy. Which, by the way, I’ve been going to therapy every day for the past five years, too. 

Boye: I think therapy is healthy. 

Alex: Dude, that’s like saying I think a doctor is healthy. 


Boye: Yeah. 

Alex: Therapy is super important. If you’re only going to a therapist during a divorce, or when a family member dies, that’s like going to a doctor only when your arm is cut off. 

Boye: Yeah. 

Alex: Meditation came up at Summit Series when I was 19 or 20. I was meeting all these people who were very different than the people I grew up with. 

Boye: Yeah. 

Alex: I asked these people, ‘Why are you so happy? How are you so calm?’ At least 8 out of 10 of them said, ‘I meditate.’ I initially had no interest, and then I started researching the most successful people on Earth. I noticed Ellen Degeneres talking about Transcendental Meditation. Jerry Seinfeld talks about Transcendental Meditation. Oprah Winfrey talks about it and so does Ray Dalio. I still didn’t quite buy it, but let’s say every happy person you meet said they all drink Kool-Aid for breakfast. Then, every successful person that you look up to says they also drink that same flavor of Kool-Aid for breakfast. I wasn’t convinced meditation would help me, but I thought, ‘I’ll try it for a week.’ Well, I did and it changed my life forever.

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Boye: Do you feel comfortable talking about revenue and sales of the book?

Alex: Yes, they’re doing great! Even in December when I had no book events scheduled, sales went up. I love Christmas! 


Boye: I actually got my brother your book for Christmas. 

Alex: Oh, dude! That means so much! You’re very entrepreneurial and ambitious, so it’s one thing for you to read it to help yourself. But when people, after reading the book, gift it to someone they love – a family member, a best friend, a colleague –  that’s the highest compliment. 

Boye: Yeah. I love that. He’s in high school and he’s loved it.  

Alex: I love that, man. Thank you. 

Boye: Our audience is really driven and always seeking to become a better version of themselves. What’s one piece of advice you would give to an entrepreneur whether they’re writing a book, building a business, or doing something equally compelling? 

Alex: Be kind to yourself. There’s a concept in Buddhism called maitri, and the translation is ‘loving kindness with oneself.’ Treat yourself like you would your best friend. Unconditional friendship with yourself. The very essence of our jobs is that rejection and failure are a giant part of the daily grind. And not only are we getting rejected and failing externally, we are the hardest on ourselves. And, I’ve just recently come to realize that doesn’t have to be that way. You can still want to improve, grow, and push yourself, but if you’re burning out, take a fucking walk. 

“Be kind to yourself. You’ll get to the finish line when you’re meant to get to the finish line. If you’re not there yet, the race isn’t over.”

– Alex Banayan’s advice for aspiring entrepreneurs.

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Boye: Yeah. 

Alex: Take a nap. Call it a day early. Because what’s worse than taking an afternoon off is burning out to the point where you self-sabotage your entire project.

Boye: And your health. 

Alex: Correct. Your head is spinning. You’re not looking when you cross the street and something happens. At the end of the day, it’s about being surrounded by the people you love. And yes, the impact you make is fulfilling. But, at the end of the day, you don’t get an award for not sleeping at night. 

Boye: Yeah. 

Alex: Be kind to yourself. You’ll get to the finish line when you’re meant to get to the finish line. If you’re not there yet, the race isn’t over. This is the cool thing about entrepreneurship versus athletics. You may be losing the game when the shot clock runs out. In business, you get to decide when the game is over. You can go bankrupt and say, “It’s only half-time for me.” 

Boye: I love it. Alex, thank you so much for your time. Everyone should get The Third Door. Where can we get it, follow you and learn more? 

Alex: Thank you, man. The book is available everywhere books are sold. Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kindle. If you like audiobooks its on Audible and iTunes. And, if you end up getting the book through this podcast, give me a shout on Instagram, @AlexBanayan, so I can say a giant thank you!

Boye: I love it. Alex Banayan, everyone. Thank you. 


The Magic Behind The Music

Elmo Lovano began touring as a drummer when he was only 15. He won the Warped Tour World’s Fastest Drummer Contest at 16. He’s played with acts like Skrillex, Juliette Lewis, and Miley Cyrus. Elmo is a creative genius, superstar music director, and natural born entrepreneur. What stands out most, however, is how much he cares about people. At the height of his musical career, Elmo took a huge risk switching his focus to build a tech start-up that helps fellow studio musicians connect, create, and book gigs. In just a short time, the app has seen tremendous growth, investment from Quincy Jones, and is securing its place as a digital backbone of the music industry. Jammcard is a sacred, safe network for the musicians it supports…and Elmo Lovano is the man behind it.

Stay Curious: This is an audio interview, but we transcribed it below. When turning sound to words, we do what we can to make it readable and authentic. Sometimes the two mediums may not always line up, but we figured you’d rather it make sense without all the “ums” and “likes” – Enjoy.

*Since we recorded this interview, Jammcard has blown up. Their most recent JammJam featured artists like Ice Cube, Anderson .Paak, CeeLo Green, and the funkadelic master himself, George Clinton. We couldn’t be more proud of Elmo, and are excited to share his story with you.

Boye Fajinmi: Elmo. What’s up man? 

Elmo Lovano: What up Boye? 

Boye: How you doing? 

Elmo: All is good man. 

Boye: I love it. Dude, it’s been awesome hanging out today. 

Elmo: We’ve been having fun. You got to see the office and we are at the house right now. 

Boye: Do you want to tell our listeners a little bit about yourself? 

Elmo: Hello listeners, futurists, partiers. My name is Elmo Lovano. I’m the founder of Jammcard, the music professionals network. I’m also a music professional; drummer, music director, producer, homie. Worked with a lot of artists and now I’m full-time working on my startup Jammcard, which is doing cool things and growing. I feel like it was a baby and now it’s a toddler, and it’s like running around and talking to people on its own.

Boye: I love it. 

Elmo: And yeah, so Jammcard. We have an invite-only social network for vetted music professionals. It’s kind of like LinkedIn for the music industry, but with a curated member base of legit pros.

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Boye: Nice. And it’s really been interesting to see the growth of it. I remember when I first met you, you’re like, ‘Yeah, I’m doing this thing, Jammcard.’ And you had the app, which was really cool. And now you’ve got Quincy Jones as an investor, you’re blowing up. What’s that journey been like? 

Elmo: It’s been a journey, bro. It’s #startuplife. It’s crazy. Unpredictable. It’s cool. I’m totally happy with what’s happening. The direction that it’s going, the things that are happening for the company. Everything is organic. I feel like I have spent the last year and a half responding to opportunities that have been coming in. We just raised a round because I want to flip the script and start playing offense. Once again, startup life. There’s obviously fires every day that you got to put out, but it’s still going. There’s a lot of amazing people that have been reaching out that are supportive of what we’re doing, want to collab, want to advise, want to help in any way, or want to promote. It’s amazing dude. Honestly, I am super grateful and stoked. I think what I’m most proud of is how engaged the community is and how much genuine love there is within the community. 

Boye: And are you at liberty to say how many people are using it?

Elmo: We don’t say member numbers because, since we’re invite only, we are quality over quantity. 

Boye: I understand that. 

Elmo: Yep. There we go. Future Party. So, I’ll tell you right now, we can easily facilitate anything that’s needed in the music industry. Especially since we are now in three cities, LA, Nashville, and Atlanta. In those three cities we can take care of whatever your need is, whether you are looking for musicians, producers, songwriters, managers, tour managers, production managers, studio engineers, orchestras…whatever.

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Boye: That’s amazing. 

Elmo: So, a lot of what we’re doing right now is building teams. But, what I am super proud of is that we have 48% daily active users. So, everyone’s engaged. You can’t buy that. You can’t mark a force of love on someone. I’m proud of how people are reacting, how people are authentically using it, the opportunities that are within it, the gigs that people are getting off it, and the teams that are being formed on it….if you go to #jammcard and look at what the community says or look at our App store reviews, anything you’ll find is overwhelmingly positive. 

For example, we just announced in Billboard that Quincy Jones is investing fulfilling our seed round. I was super stoked to see that when we announced, people in the Jammcard app were posting, “So stoked that Quincy’s an investor in Jammcard!” “This is huge for us, fam!” “Let’s go get this Jammcard!” And I’m like, what kind of community does this? If Quincy Jones invested in Instagram, Instagram users wouldn’t be like, “this is great for us,” you know, they’d be like, “who cares, it’s business.” So, that’s what’s amazing. The community feels that it was built for them. I treat the Jammcard app like a gift, especially right now we’re not even monetizing anything. The top tours are being booked on Jammcard right now, and we’re just like, take it, take it, take it, Congrats!

“If Quincy Jones invested in Instagram, Instagram users wouldn’t be like, ‘this is great for us!’ They’d be like, ‘who cares, it’s business.’ So, that’s what’s amazing. The community feels that it was built for them.”

– Elmo Lovano explaining the effects of a genuine, social community.

Boye: You don’t take a headhunter percentage?

Elmo: No. Right now the thing is to achieve use cases and to bring legitimate value to our members. That’s the focus. And, the first, most obvious focus was, create the app, make it usable, UI/UX, and then build the brand and the community because the community goes even further than the app. We also have five original web series which is cool because anyone can watch those since the app is closed off to just professionals. But the content is for anyone. Anyone can watch it on our Facebook, our Youtube, our Instagram. And it’s cool because it’s all the stories of our members. That’s another big thing that we’re doing and where we’re focused – showing that the people behind the stars are stars too. Showing that musicians matter, and that this is a giant market of really important people who have been neglected.

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Boye: It’s interesting you say that. I think your average person doesn’t think about the musicians behind a lot of this music. One thing I’ve noticed, though, is that producers and songwriters are becoming more of the celebrity or the star. Maybe it’s just because I love learning about these things and I live in LA, but even Benny Blanco, he’s got one of the biggest songs right now, “Eastside.” And he doesn’t sing. He produced it. It’s very interesting. 

Elmo: It’s awesome and Benny deserves it. I think it’s happening in the community too, right now. There’s a documentary coming out that a friend of ours created, shout out to Butch Spyridon, that’s coming out next year about songwriters. I forgot what the title is, but it’s something along the lines of, you don’t know these people’s names and they wrote all the songs that you love and are your anthems. 

*FYI the documentary Elmo is referring to is It All Begins with a Song: The Story of the Nashville Songwriter

Boye: You know what’s interesting though? It’s the same thing in the film industry. 

Elmo: Oh yeah. People know your ‘Spielbergs’ but besides that, you don’t know all your screenwriters. 

Boye: Right? It’s crazy. 

Elmo: Or you don’t know all your production designers that are making the most beautiful sets you’ve ever seen. 

Boye: What does Jammcard look like in the film industry? 

Elmo: Oh man, when is this coming out? That’s something I could drop on you. 

Boye: Oh snap, do it. Do it. 

Elmo: We just funded and produced our first feature documentary. Our first JammFilm. 

Boye: JammFilm.

Elmo: JammFilms. We are about to announce it, actually. We’re just finalizing some contracts and then we’re going to send the press release. And then it’s super kosher. 

Boye: Dope. So, I have a question. Why are you doing this? 

Elmo: Jammcard is, I mean, the brand itself is technology. It is events and it is content. The whole thing is the music professional community. So, there’s essentially so many voids that we haven’t been taking care of. One of them is technology because, you know, as creatives we don’t use LinkedIn. The label people may, but not musicians. And we actually don’t allow label people into Jammcard. We work with them. Like, ‘Hey, we’ll help build your team and everything.’ But this is a sacred, safe, network. That makes our community feel even more proud of it, cherish it, and it makes them feel safe. Anyway, number one – technology. We don’t have LinkedIn, we don’t have IMDb for music. The Musicians’ Union is pretty horrible. Meanwhile, we’re a lean startup that can make decisions and move fast. So there’s the tech. The content aspect is telling our members’ stories in unique ways. Our first web series is called “How I Got The Gig” and we partnered with the Grammys on it. It’s an interview series where I interview pros on how they got their big gig. We did Miles Mosley on Lauryn Hill. We did Adrian X on Drake. We did Morris Hayes on Prince. We did Victoria Theodore on Beyonce. We did Brenda Lee on Ray Charles. And what’s really cool is we got them on the front page of Grammy.com. We did Rico Nichols on Kendrick, and it’s like “Whoa, you got me on the front page of the Grammys!” Not Kendrick, Kendrick’s drummer. 

Boye: I love that.

“What I’m most proud of is how engaged the community is and how much genuine love there is within the community.”

– Elmo Lovano praising the creative community that makes up Jammcard.

Elmo: My whole thing is, you may be Kendrick’s drummer, but you still got 100,000 followers and those 100,000 people want to be you and look up to you more than they look up to Kendrick because they’re like, “I want to be that drummer.” It’s important to inspire people and to make people accessible in a safe way and to help them manage themselves. The artists have managers and agents, but all of your personnel doesn’t. Whether you’re a drummer or a tour manager or an engineer, you, 99% of the time, are representing yourself. But at the same time, you’re a creative which means you’re typically not the best businessperson. 

Boye: What was the “aha” moment? Because you’ve been drumming for years, heavily networked, and this seems to be doing really well. At what point were you like, you know what, I need to do this?  

Elmo: There were two. There was the point where I thought of it and then there was a point when I decided to build it…Because building a company, or a social network, or any of these things is hard. 

Boye: People underestimate how hard it is. 

Elmo: The moment when I thought of Jammcard was in 2008. I was throwing a weekly art and music event in Hollywood that was called Camerata. I started touring when I was 15. When I was 22, I came home and I saw that the art and music community was fragmented everywhere and there was no hub and I was like, ‘I want to make the physical hub.’ So, I made this event to be the physical hub for creatives and it ended up becoming that, which was amazing. It was a big success. I did 200 of them in a row, 200 weeks in a row. Sunday nights. Skrillex came out of there. Young the Giant, Miley Cyrus, and The Growlers came out of there. I met Christina Perri there and then ended up being her music director.

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Boye: Wait, so are you saying Skrillex and Young the Giant became famous because of your event? 

Elmo: I’m not going to say they became famous because of my event, but I will say that I gave them their first residency where they got discovered. 

Boye: Oh, that’s amazing. 

Elmo: Yeah. Young the Giant definitely. They were a Newport Beach band and they sent me their song “Cough Syrup,” which is now a huge hit. But even the demo of that song was very similar to the actual production recording. I was like, ‘This is a hit.’ They were the first residency I gave and they got signed to Roadrunner. And then Skrillex was the very last residency I gave. Deadmau5 came and saw him there. 

Boye: Remember when Skrillex was Sonny from From First to Last?

Elmo: Of course, that’s where I met Sonny. Sonny and I were on Warped Tour together when I was 18 and he was 15. 

Boye: Wow. I grew up in Minnesota and you I was one of those kids who wore the Chuck Taylors and loved all that stuff. I remember when Warped Tour came into town, Underoath was my favorite group, ever. And that year as we were walking in, these people handed us tickets and basically all we had to do was help for an hour and then we were backstage the whole day. 

Elmo: That’s awesome. 

Boye: It was. Anyway- 

Elmo: I did Warped Tour when I was 15, 16, 18 and 21, or some shit. 

Boye: Such a good idea. 

Elmo: When I was 16 I won the world’s fastest drummer competition at Warped Tour in Las Vegas. 

Boye: That is so cool. 

Elmo: Yeah, it was my first competition. I was such a little kid.

Boye: So, sorry I interrupted. You were throwing these events – 

Elmo: Throwing this event and then when the night became a success, a lot of people were meeting there and things were forming organically. Since I was the guy throwing it, a lot of people were coming to me being like, “Yo, I want a songwriter, I need a drummer, I need a bass player, or I need a manager.” I started playing matchmaker just because I love people.I love putting people together. I love collaborating. I started just doing that and whenever it worked it felt amazing because, to a creative, finding your equal, your creative partner, is the most important thing in the world. We had a lot of success cases come out of that and a lot of people make friends, and make bands, and make movies, and make whatever. While that was happening, I was like, wow, we need a digital platform for this to happen. We need a digital card so we can jam. We need a Jammcard. That was the first thought. I pitched it to my dad. My dad’s an entrepreneur. He was like, that’s great, and you should build that. But if you are, you’ve got to stop touring and you’ve got to stop making records. I was like, okay, cool well then I’m not going to do that because at the time I was 24 or so, and I really wanted to continue focusing on my drumming and my musical career, so I put it on ice. That was the Aha-thinking of it-moment 

The Aha-I’m going to make this-moment was four years later. And, I thought about it almost every day for four years as I was on tour and I was growing as a professional. When Skrillex blew up, I was drumming with him and then Christina Perri blew up, I was drumming with her, and all these other people that were coming out of Camerata – I was working with them. I’m playing arenas and I have albums charting. And I was like, oh, okay. I’m at this level as an individual, as a drummer and everything. But if I got a label to give me a budget to build a band, it would all still be built via word of mouth. So, I was like, wait a second. I was working on records with older cats who are legends and who I was so excited to work with. And I’m seeing these guys, some of them are in their 60s, grinding as hard as me, and I’m 25. But, they’ve been legends for 30 years. That ain’t right. So I was just like, holy shit. The top tier pros need Jammcard as much as the amateurs, and the college kids, and the up and comers. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It’s almost annoying how long I had been thinking about this and hadn’t built it. So I was like, ‘I want to just to attempt to build it. And if it fails, at least I tried. And I’ll never think about it again. But if it works out, well then great. I’ve been thinking about this for so long.’ That was the moment I was like, okay, I’m going to make the leap and do it. It took a lot of sacrifices. I was at the height of my career as a drummer and a music director, and I quit to build my tech startup. And I knew nothing about tech. There was a huge learning curve, but I’m a resilient dude. I’m also street smart. I didn’t go to college. I’m a self-taught drummer, even. And definitely a self-taught entrepreneur. I’m very much a dive in and figure it out guy. I had never thrown an event before I threw Camerata.

Boye: Dude, super inspiring. It’s great to see that you really felt the need because you are the demographic. A lot of times investors are passionate about finding the person that is the literal DNA of the product. Which is really cool. And you’ve also kept the events going, right? You have this thing called the JammJam. What’s that all about? 

Elmo: The JammJam is like a fucking dream world. The JammJam is one of my favorite things in the world and it has become a very valuable thing for the Jammcard community, too. The  JammJam is our members-only event. We do them at pop up locations so you never know where it’s going to be. We only send it to our Jammcard member list. We don’t do Facebook, Instagram, or any of that until post-event. We send an email out that’s like, ‘Yo, JammJam is in three days at Tower Records,’ or wherever it is. We set up all the gear in a circle facing in and then the crowd is around the perimeter directly on top of the performers. But even the crowd is all of your peers. For the last one we did in LA, we took over Capitol Records and we did Ty Dolla $ign with this 10-piece band including Mike Morris, his music director, an amazing drummer, and keyboardist. Normally, Ty’s band is just Mike and a guitarist, Matt or Chuck, but for the event, we had two drummers, two bass players, two guitars, two keyboardists, talk box, and then,Ty. So it’s like 10 piece band, JammJam, live remix at Capitol Records.

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Boye: Do you charge tickets? 

Elmo: No, it’s free to get in…if you can get in. It’s limited to our members. We also allow other strategic people that can bring value to our members. So, even though we don’t allow label people in the app, there’s always some label people at the JammJam. There are always people from Spotify, from the Recording Academy, from TheFutureParty, things like that. Which by the way, the next one you’re there, bro. 

Boye: I’m down. We should do one together. That would be tight. In fact, we were supposed to the first time we met. 

Elmo: You’re right! Yeah, that’s so crazy. Well, now it’s time. You had TheFutureParty already out and I was just stewing on Jammcard still. When I showed you the app, that was a demo. Those were our prototypes, but anyway…

Boye: But now you have an office. 

Elmo: We just got our first office which you saw. You were our first photo shoot in the office.

Boye: It’s at United Recording. 

Elmo: It’s at United Recording, which is so sick.

Boye: There’s a lot of history to that place. 

Elmo: There’s so much history in United. We’re so lucky man, that we get to be in there. It was built in the 50s by Frank Sinatra and his team. Frank Sinatra left Capitol Records, which was a huge deal when he left because he was the king of the world, definitely of Hollywood. He moved down the street, built out United and created Reprise Records. So, the first floor of United is recording studios. Studio A, Studio B and Studio D are legendary. All the rat pack stuff recorded there. Frank, Sammy, Ray Charles, Nancy Sinatra, all the way to like Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Mother’s Milk, all the way to Thriller. All the way to the new 4:44 Jay Z, and the new Drake. It’s a completely legendary studio that is genre-less. A lot of what we do at Jammcard is keeping it genre-less. So, the first floor is all those legendary studios. The second floor was Reprise, and there are five offices upstairs. OUR office was Frank Sinatra’s office.

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Boye: I didn’t know that. That’s sick!  

Elmo: I didn’t know that either. I knew the Sinatra history, but we moved into the office like two weeks ago and I was excited just because as a musician and United is my favorite studio in LA, hands down. 

Boye: I have to admit I had no idea until I was walking the halls and looking at all these photos. It’s crazy because it was kind of what you were saying, Frank Sinatra, Jay Brown and all these old guys. And then I’m like, oh, Rihanna and Jay Z and Watch the Throne. And Kanye, it’s insane. 

Elmo: It’s everything from the old classic shit to the new hip hop shit.

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Boye: It almost feels symbolic because you’re creating this new technology meets community in a place that has so much history. It’s interesting. How does it feel? 

Elmo: It’s awesome man. It’s cool. I essentially toured from age 15 to 30 and then started Jammcard. I’ve never had an office job. I’ve never had a desk, besides my studio, but that’s a different kind of desk. It’s actually been fucking with me a little bit. I’m just like, ‘Woah. I’m in an office, but it’s unbelievable.’ I have my first office, but it’s in United so it still feels like me. I love it. We’ve got a key to United. It’s amazing. You walk in and you see all the records and you just know instantly that you’re there, you know? When you walk into the lobby you picture Michael Jackson walking in. You’re just like, damn.

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Boye: Are they investors? 

Elmo: No, they’re not investors, but, we are going to be working on some projects that haven’t been announced yet. There will be collabs coming out of there. And what’s really cool is that our members are there every day. They record there. And we’re plugged in. If anyone needs anything from United, I’m like, what do you need? String section? Co-Writer? What do you need? We can get someone in here for you.

Boye: Love it. One last question. What is a piece of advice that you have for any entrepreneur or creative who wants to do something unique on their own?

Elmo: Man, I’ve learned so much on this ride. One thing that I think is super important would be if you want to create anything, resilience wins. Don’t give up, ever. You will win. But, I think a more defined piece of advice I could give is if you want to create an app, what I highly recommend you do is step one, draw all the screens yourself. Think of every single screen from the welcome screen. You download the app in the app store and you open it up for the first time. What does the user see? What do they see after? Is it a social network? Are you creating an account? What is it? Think of every single screen that you possibly can, get the product out of inside you and draw it with a ruler. Trace your phone and draw it. 

The better you have your vision, the better that you can expect it to be executed because if you’re just telling someone, I want a fitness app that does this and it takes your heart rate. If they’re a designer or a developer, they’re just going to make their interpretation of what you say unless you write out your screens and draw them all out the best you can. Step two, do not bring it to a developer yet. Bring it to a designer because development costs 10 times as much as design, and you do not need code at this point. There’s an app called InVision that you can load the files into and actually make it a clickable prototype that has no code, so you’re saving so much time. 

Boye: That’s your sales tool. 

Elmo: That’s your sales tool and you can use that to show developers. ‘Hey, this is what I want to make. Can you bring this to life?’ You can show investors, ‘Hey, this is what I want to create.` You can bring it to Quincy, you can bring it to whoever. I didn’t do that at first. I tried dev and we ended up spending three years in development creating prototypes. I could have saved a lot of time and a lot of investor cash.

“If you want to create anything, resilience wins. Don’t give up, ever. You will win.”

– Entrepreneurial advice from Elmo Lovano

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Boye: I’ve had situations where I’m like ‘Dang, that’s a hard lesson,’ but sometimes you need those. You know what I mean? 

Elmo: You need it, dude. The first three years of dev was really hard for me. And it was a giant learning curve because I didn’t know what I was doing. I was learning. But when I reflect, I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Now, I truly appreciate what we have and I’m a better manager because I had to get in dirty in order to try to fix and execute my vision. With that being said, learn from your mistakes and also learn from other’s mistakes. So, step one: draw the screens out yourself. Step two: find a designer to bring them to life and put it into InVision. 

“I didn’t know what I was doing. I was learning. But when I reflect, I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Now I truly appreciate what we have and I’m a better manager because I had to get in dirty in order to try to fix and execute my vision”

– Elmo Lovano reflecting on his journey.

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Boye: Elmo. It’s been great chatting. Where can we find you? 

Elmo: Yes. So, me personally, I’m @elmolovano. Jammcard is @jammcard. Our Instagram and our Youtube are totally popping off. If you’re listening to this and you’re a music professional, you’re a producer, you’re a writer, you’re a manager, you’re a musician, you’re whatever, and you’re a pro, you can go to jammcard.com and apply. It’s super simple. We just ask you things like who have you been working with, touring with or recording with? Are you a member of the musician’s union? Who are you? And if you’re just a music lover or music fan go to our Instagram, go to our Youtube. There’s tons of content. Or on Facebook, free content, How I Got the Gig is an amazing show. They’re now playing it in Berklee. If you want to learn how to get the gig this is straight from the horse’s mouth. We have a show called Gear Goggles where we go to band production rehearsals and show what a production rehearsal is like. We’ve done it with Kendrick’s band, Kid Cudi’s band, Tears for Fears. We just did Shakira, Lorde. We’ve done some really cool ones  where you can see behind the scenes on how their Ableton rigs work and that kind of stuff. It’s more ‘lifestyle’ than it is nerdy.

Boye: It almost sounds like a media company. 

Elmo: Oh, the Jammcard media arm is growing. So, the app, if you’re a music pro, and if you’re just a music lover, check out our content. 

Boye: Cool. Awesome man. Elmo, thanks for coming through. 

Elmo: You know it, Boye. 

Boye: Peace. 


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Machine Meets Garden

Five years ago, three friends from Minnesota realized the need for better access to real food…and JuiceBot was born. LJ Stead, Eric Ploeger, and Kamal Mohamed believe that organic should be an all-the-time convenience, not something that must be pre-packaged for affordability or cost an arm and a leg for freshness. JuiceBot vending machines are the first ever robotic juice dispensers that keep light and heat oxidation out of garden fresh fruits and vegetables for really amazing, really fresh juice at the push of a button. We had a chance to visit their office, journey to Commissary Kitchen in Downtown LA, and roll with them to a few of their kiosks, witnessing a true farm to bot experience. These guys are challenging the food industry in order to redefine how we as consumers can eat fresh.

Stay Curious: This is an audio interview, but we transcribed it below. When turning sound to words, we do what we can to make it readable and authentic. Sometimes the two mediums may not always line up, but we figured you’d rather it make sense without all the “ums” and “likes” – Enjoy.

Boye Fajinmi: Alright guys, I’ve got Kamal and LJ from JuiceBot. How are you guys doing? 

Kamal Mohamed: We’re doing really well. Thanks for having us. 

LJ Stead: Excited to be with TheFutureParty. 

Boye: Nice. Unfortunately Eric (Ploeger) couldn’t join us. He’s working hard, but I know you guys will represent well. So, who are you? Where are you from? What do you do? 

Kamal: Yeah. So, who am I? Kamal. I grew up in Minneapolis and met these guys at The University of St. Thomas, and we’ve been working on JuiceBot for a little bit over four years now. 

LJ: Yep. Myself and Kamal met in college with Eric, and we’ve been working together for the last five years to create better access to real food, whether it’s vegetables or fruit, through our vending system. 

Boye: Tell me more about the process behind JuiceBot. What does it do? 

Kamal: Yeah, essentially we’re trying to build a different platform for food. What you’ve seen up until now is a good distribution system for foods that already have a shelf life. We’re trying to figure out a different way to get food to you that doesn’t have a shelf life. Looking at raw beverages as our starting point, like cold press juice, your option before this were something that’s already pasteurized and pre-packaged sitting on a grocery store shelf or going to a juice bar which can sometimes cost between $10 and $12, and you have to go out of your way. We wanted to give you the convenience of going to get something pre-packaged, with something that’s as fresh as going to a juice bar. So, we call JuiceBot a juice bar inside of a vending machine. 

LJ: A lot of the companies before us have done a great job to create systems and distribution systems that allow us to survive, but we also need to start rethinking systems that allow us to thrive. That means having those foods available to us that allow our bodies to get vital nutrients on a daily basis at an access point that is not only localized but also available for a price that’s feasible to have more consistently in your life. 

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Boye: How’s it been going? What’s been the response? Where are you guys in the lifeline of the business? 

Kamal: Right now we only have about 20 machines, but the demand far exceeds that. Our goal is to build a model, learn from that model and put more machines in the field, not only nationally, but also internationally. We get contact on a daily basis which shows us that people are looking for something that’s healthy, but they want it in a more convenient manner, and for us convenience is not just location, but also price. I live in the Arts District in Los Angeles and at times I’m like, ‘Wow, this is right next door to me, but I don’t want to pay $20 for a salad or $20 for a cold pressed juice.’ We see that the demand is there because there are a lot of customers who are not being served, from our perspective. 

Boye: It sounds like your business has a lot of moving parts, which is really interesting. I’ve seen that you have the machine that processes payments, but you also prep the juice, vegetables, and food, and you deal with the manufacturing of the actual bot. Can you walk me through the whole process of what it takes to just get a bot in a location?

LJ: One of the really exciting parts about our business is being able to try to create this intersection between tech and food. We look at ourselves as a machine meets garden, and what that really means is making sure that we are creating these micro-distribution systems. It really starts at the farm, creating local partnerships within surrounding areas that allow us to get the freshest fruits and vegetables on a seasonal basis, creating a community within these food spaces to be able to have our prep done locally as well, and then distributing to the spaces that we have available to reach our customers where they work, sweat, play and travel. There are a lot of moving parts to be able to get that all in line, but that is one of the fun parts about our business; being able to be a part of all those different interactions. 

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Fresh fruits and vegetables squeezed into JuiceBot canisters.
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Circuitry from the original Juicebot vending machine

Boye: LJ, what do you do for the business? 

LJ: A lot of what I’m doing is trying to align with the appropriate partners, making sure that we’re bringing the right people into our business that are going to allow us to really grow. We’re looking for great personalities; hard driving people that really know where they can find themselves inside of our company. Then also finding locations. We’re working with a lot of different corporate cafes and finding different retail locations around Los Angeles. Nationally, it means we are putting ourselves in a position to be a great microphone for our brand. We’re hitting the place that our core consumer lives, or where they are currently visiting. 

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Boye: Cool. And what about you, Kamal, what’s the day-to-day for you? 

Kamal: One of my main roles is to set the vision, not only on a quarterly basis, but also for where we are going to be a year to five years from now. What I think most people don’t see, whether they’re looking at the media or at their favorite CEOs or entrepreneurs, is that it really does take a team. I think the most important thing I can do is make sure that not only do my co-founders have the resources they need, but also that anybody else we bring on has the resources that they need, so we can learn from them. We hire really smart engineers and every single day they teach me things. I feel like I’m going to engineering school. The beauty of our team is that everyone knows they can learn from somebody else. I think in order to move the bus forward, you gotta have the right people in the right seats. 

“The beauty of our team is that everyone knows they can learn from somebody else. I think, in order to move the bus forward, you gotta have the right people in the right seats.”

– Kamal Mohamed on building a successful team.

Kamal: That’s the main role that I try to fulfill on a daily basis. Outside of that, I love talking to customers. I love seeing the machines in the field and making sure that the investors also see our vision from a quarterly to a yearly basis. So, it’s supporting everybody else and also making sure that we’re staying on track to hit our goals.

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LJ: One of the fun things is that because we have such a small team we’re all really defining where we are best, making sure that we’re utilizing our talents to be able to be available for our team in those facilities. But then, we all have our own hobbies within our own business too. And we play with the weaknesses that we have to try to always get better at these different projects that we are excited about.

Boye: Startup life. Where do you see yourself in the next five years? 

Kamal: I think a lot of that will be answered through the types of questions that our team is willing to ask. For example, one of the things that we asked was ‘Why do we always have to pasteurize our food in order for it to be safe?’ We’ve looked at it historically, and asked ‘Why do we have to keep doing it that way?’ By asking the right questions, we’ve been able to get to a place where we’ve worked with inventions done at MIT, funded by DARPA, where we can look at food and see if there’s any listeria or E. coli within 30 minutes to 24 hours, whereas in the past that would take up to two weeks and it was too late. We got there by asking the right questions. So, where we are going to be five years from now is going to depend a lot on how much we’re willing to push ourselves and what type of questions we’re trying to challenge in this industry. The food industry moves slow, and we’re applying technology to it. Hopefully, five years from now we are a leader in the food industry, and we are the people who are coming in with data and are able to help out other categories within the food industry – not just juice, but also salads and other healthy foods. We could tell you, in real time, how many nutrients are in your food and why we have to prepackage things. Five years from now we, hopefully, want to be at a place where you look at us as a company that challenges a lot of the current notions and is willing to ask questions that redefine how close we can get you to the farm.

“Five years from now we want to be at a place where you look at us as a company that challenges a lot of the current notions and is willing to ask questions that redefine how close we can get you to the farm.”

– Kamal Mohamed on the company’s goal for the future.

LJ: We really want to push ourselves every day so, in five years, we’re a brand that’s truly trusted by our customer. They know that we are fighting for them, on a local level and on a larger, national governmental level. We want to make sure that we’re helping people and we’re really fostering technology to create better access to food. So, we try really hard to better ourselves and our business every single day to make sure that we are creating the standard that our customer can be really appreciative of and excited about, and will allow our company to be very transparent. Hopefully that transparency allows us to be trusted. 

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Boye: It’s interesting that you guys are starting this business around this time, right? This idea of fresh pressed juice in a vending machine at a time when the Millennial generation is not drinking soda. We’re more health conscious. I would argue to say that your average person drinks coffee, tea, sparkling water, and pressed juice, maybe some Kombucha. Have you seen anything in the response to your product that aligned in this? Do you have visions of taking over the “Coca-Colas” and “Pepsis?”

LJ: Yeah, I think that our product does really speak to the times. We are creating a solution for what we have found, right? This project came from Kamal’s entrepreneurial project, the capstone, and it really identified these little missteps within the market based on what consumers expect and want to have access to. We always want to be a part of conversations though, so we don’t look at Coca-Cola and Pepsi and say they’re an absolute we’re fighting against. We want to help them understand who we’re fighting for, and we certainly hope they fight with us. Now, if those types of groups decide that they’re fighting against what people desire and what people really want for their body, then that’s a different type of conversation, but we have found through our interactions with these different organizations that they really are trying to rewrite the ship. They are trying to look toward what customers’ expectations and intentions are, and they want to create better systems for the future. We really hope to be the type of company that can be nimble enough to allow ourselves to be mercenaries that are going out and doing that right. 

Kamal: Yeah, I mean it’s you’re either with us or you’re against us, and that’s not what JuiceBot says, that’s what the customer says. And so, the customer is saying, ‘Look, I’ve done my research and this is what I’m looking for. Are you going to serve me? Are you going to put me over profit?’ One of the biggest benefits of being a startup is that we can listen to our consumer and act quickly. We’re the little boat in the water, we’re not the big ship. And as LJ has mentioned, we look at these big ships like Pepsi and Coca-Cola and also, in a sense, I think they’re also looking for how to best serve the customer. Yes, they’re a business at the end of the day, but there are a lot of people within these companies that are trying to figure out how can we better serve the consumer. We want to find those people and say, look, we have one of the ways to do that, and if you want to fight with us then so be it. But, we don’t really see companies fighting against each other anymore. It’s more about, are you willing to listen to the consumer? Because if you don’t, you’re not really going to be around. Somebody else will come in and fill those shoes and you can’t move too slowly because before you know it, companies like Amazon will come in and fill that space. So, just think about it, ten years ago Yahoo was trying to buy Facebook. Two or three years ago, for the same price that Yahoo was trying to buy Facebook for, was how much Verizon bought Yahoo for. So companies now, even the giants, are going down in a decade. It is really important to listen to the consumer and it’s so easy to do that because they’re willing to tell you, you’re with us or you’re against us. That’s what the customers have said, especially Millennials. And we said, ‘Hey, we’re with you and we’re gonna do everything we can to be with you.’

Boye: For sure. Question – as you talk about Yahoo and Facebook, I’m seeing that a lot of these bigger organizations are actually having issues being in touch with their customers. I’m wondering, do you think that Facebook will be down in a decade? 

Kamal: I went to a talk two or three years ago at the Facebook headquarters in San Francisco and this question was posed to Zuckerberg. He said, ‘I expect Facebook to end someday.’ He said, everything comes to an end, and I think it has already served its purpose in a lot of ways, some good and some bad. Will it be here in a decade? It’s really hard for big companies to stay relevant for that long now because it’s really difficult to be everything to everybody. I think they’ve hit that peak now, and if they stay here 10 years from now, it’s going to be because they’ve divested and bought Instagrams and other startups that come into the space that better serve that niche. I think that’s the game that the big guys are playing now, whether it’s Pepsi, Coke, Facebook, they’re buying smaller niches and then letting them be as is and creating micro avenues of revenue versus this one big thing that is going to serve everybody because that’s not gonna work. 

LJ: And I think just as a business owner and as you grow larger, which I can’t imagine what that really has to feel like, but it’s hard to understand different markets so well, and I think you just have to be honest with yourself and say, I don’t understand everything. So when these larger companies think that they are the smartest people in the room, that is a key indicator of knowing that they are gone within 10 years. But if they’re willing to be honest with themselves and say we don’t know everything but we’re trying to surround ourselves by the top talent and great businesses that are connecting with people, if that’s the type of vision, that will allow you to be around for a long time. I think it’s a balance within your heart to be able to maintain that focus on a day to day basis. So it is really subject to the leaders within those companies that if they’re going to put everybody in line with that type of expectation.

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Boye: It’s definitely interesting. I agree with you guys. At the same time, I’m looking at companies like Apple and Amazon who just became the first trillion dollar companies. And it’s hard to think that those companies won’t exist in a hundred years. I actually feel that in my ‘dystopic’ imagination feel like some of these companies may become countries in the future with all their wealth and with all their power of technology and surveillance. And I agree with Zuckerberg, but it’s an interesting time we live in where really effective products can touch half the globe at the snap of a finger, which is really interesting. So question for you guys – Of all the places in the world, you’ve chosen Los Angeles, why is that? 

Kamal: It has a great intersection with a few different things. First is the fresh produce and access to produce. Ninety percent of the produce that’s distributed around the country starts here from California and a lot of it is in southern California. 

Boye: Oh really? Wow. 

Kamal: Yes. So that being said, there’s also a world of startups that are out here, similar to San Francisco but in a different way. Then lastly, the consumers are willing to be early adopters or first adopters, so between the early adopters, the access to local produce and the bed or the microcosm of startups out here, we thought that this would be a great place for us to launch from and hold to our identity.

LJ: Yeah, being from Minnesota, we really found that there’s a few different communities, whether it’s New York or LA or San Francisco, that different areas of the country really look to, to vet product. And LA really is a city that creates culture and a lot of other spaces are looking at this saying like what is next? And the people that are living in this area are really excited about being that microphone to be able to tell their friends back home what they’ve found. And so, it’s been a great spot for us to be able to Beta because we find a group of people that are very excited to kind of play with things that aren’t perfect yet because we know as a brand that we’re not done. We’re not complete, we don’t exactly know who we are, we know where we’re going though, and we love to be within a community that allows us to build and also build kind of with them and through them.

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Kamal: It’s also hard to stay relevant in LA. There are so many cool things that happen on a daily basis where if you can stay at the top of your game in LA or San Francisco or New York, then it’s sort of like training wheels to sort of expand to the rest of the country because at least you know that you have what it takes to do well in other cities. It’s very diverse. It hits, you know, all types of demographics and consumers, you learn a lot and you know, for the most part it’s pretty honest. So when they say, if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere, I think LA has definitely proven that time and time again. 

Boye: For sure. I think you hit on something earlier, LJ, when you talked about culture and I think a product like yours, I believe, makes sense. Right now, it’s how do you expand that beyond just making sense and having it really just touch the rest of the nation. I do agree that LA, even more so than New York or Austin, Chicago, all of these cultural hotspots really leads the trends. I was at an event the other day and normally they would hand out cocktails, right? Your Jack and Cokes or whatever, but they were serving pressed juice, pressed juice cocktails, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. And I thought that was so cool to be at this branded, premiere party event, and I could just get a pressed juice and that is just, that’s culture, you know what I mean? And it’s good to get to have you guys here. I’m curious, this is a startup and oftentimes people talk about what goes right, what are some hard moments that you guys have had and what did you learn from it? 

Kamal: Here’s the one advice that I have and this is advice that I want to give to myself if I could go back in time. It’s the idea of like there’s a reason why you should pick something that you love because there’s actually no easy route. There’s no easy way to do something great. It takes a lot of work. It takes a lot of blood, sweat and tears. So the only thing that keeps you in the game, especially when out of the month 28 days are really hard and two days are wins, is the fact that you actually have an intrinsic motivator. It can’t just be extrinsic, it can’t be money or a fame thing. It has to be something you really believe in. I would tell most people stick to your day job if you want to be happy, like you can actually do a nine to five, have a hobby, have weekends, but if you’re going to pick something, you gotta ask yourself, am I willing to do this seven days a week and am I willing to battle it out and lose or have little losses like, you know, 98 percent of the month, then go ahead and do it. So we moved to San Francisco, we drove uber. I think between the three of us, we’ve done 10,000 rides. That’s actually how we found our investors. We raised $3,000,000 driving Uber. We told everybody our story, I mean, we’ve had situations where I’m pitching somebody on our story and it got down to the point where we could tell our whole story in just a minute and they’re like, Oh yeah, I’ve met your co-founder LJ. It’s like we covered that city and so 

LJ: That happened all the time. That’s scary when you finally been that deep in and you’re like Wow, they’ve met Kamal and Eric.

Kamal: I mean, if you think about it, when we moved to San Francisco, we ran out of money in six months. The city of like San Francisco was wanting to shut us down because they’re like, well, your technology doesn’t fit in our current laws and so we’re fighting legislation. Our competitor Juicero raised $100,000,000. 

Boye: and they tanked 

Kamal: And they tanked. And we can get into that.

LJ: I swear we were in every single boardroom like six months after them. It was like, Hey, we’re raising this much. We just gave this group this much. How are you ever going to compete? And we’re like, just so you know, it’s not going to work.

Kamal: And we can talk about like, why we saw as to why they weren’t going to work even before we raised our capital. But I mean at that time you gotta ask yourself like, okay, you moved to San Francisco, you’re driving Uber, your competitor has $123 million dollars, California the state and the city of San Francisco want to shut you down because your technology doesn’t fit into their current laws. It feels like almost an impossible task to overcome in every different direction, whether it’s legislation or business or your current day to day. And so the fact that our team has been through that and we’ve come out at least on top for this current moment, I think is a testimony to how much of an intrinsic love and motivation we have towards this thing. And it’s a story we haven’t yet told but I think that once we have a brand and our brand actually matters, because that’s what is most important to us first, and I think once people hear this story, they’re going to understand that there’s a lot of love that goes into this product. And so when you go up to the machine and people are excited and in front of it and they try the juice and they love it, that means so much to us because we’ve put everything we’ve had in the past four years into it. That’s why it’s really important to do what you love because it’s going to be difficult. It’s going to be really hard. And if it’s not for that, you will fail. During those really difficult moments, no matter how famous you think you want to get or how much money you think you want, it won’t get you through those days. And that’s why it’s really important to pick something you love.

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LJ: You know, I think like the NFL and sports teams have such a luxury because they have seasons. Business doesn’t get to have seasons. Even though we do in board meetings say we’re going into this season or this is off season, this is the recalibration month or you know, now this is the first day of the year, we gotta step up to this moment. I think it starts with being honest with yourself on a day to day basis and then creating a team that’s willing to be honest with you because a team that’s going to be honest with themselves is going to be honest to the community that they’re creating. It is one of those things that is just a day to day struggle and it always starts with yourself and then it starts with the people that you see on a day to day basis and say, let’s just be honest together about every single thing that we’re doing right and every single thing that we’re doing wrong and let’s start checking off that list of what we can do that’s right in front of us. It’s so easy to see all these different bullet points on the wall of what you can do or should do and not always be able to just decipher what you can do in this exact moment. And so that’s my day to day struggle is just kind of seeing like, what can I do in this moment to be able to better this business and then also myself today. From the process of waking up with that type of mentality over different seasons, I’ve found that it allows me personally to be able to be a better person on the team, but also to create value within our business.

“I think it starts with being honest with yourself on a day to day basis and then creating a team that’s willing to be honest with you.”

– LJ Stead on trusting yourself and your team.

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Boye: For sure. Both good points. One thing that you were talking about Kamal made me think about what’s going on this last season with Colin Kaepernick and Nike. Just that whole believe in something so much, I’m paraphrasing, that you’re willing to sacrifice everything. Obviously he was talking about everything with the kneeling, but I feel like it applies to entrepreneurship, right? You’re sacrificing the opportunity to do that nine to five and have that freedom and that stability and be safe for all intents and purposes. 

LJ: Well, we always live by this code of chances make champions and then we don’t know where we’re going to be, it’s like trailer park or amusement park. It’s going to be one of them, but we want to make sure that we take the type of chances that put us in one of them and we can live with that as long as we’re able to understand the risks that we’re taking and at least that the risks that we’re taking are for good because there’s a lot of risks that our society needs different organizations to make in order to create better community for us all and better access for us all and we just want to be that type of group and people that are willing to step into that type of a situation.

“…there are a lot of risks that our society needs different organizations to take in order to create a better community and better access…and we just want to be that type of group.”

LJ Stead on taking chances that can affect change.

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Boye: Yeah, that’s cool. It’s cool that you guys have been together for like five years through that. I didn’t even know you guys are driving Lyfts and Ubers and that’s great. I mean, I think that’s when you really know that you what you do, right? Because you guys could easily be somewhere else, you know, doing whatever. So that’s really cool. So I always like to ask, and Kamal, I know you just kinda gave us your advice, but if you have more, our listeners are creatives and entrepreneurs that are the very people who are taking the chance. What’s one piece of advice that you have for someone who is working on something that they love? 

Kamal: I would say for me the biggest piece that’s missing, especially for millennials and sometimes you know, I reach out to people all the time for advice and sometimes people reach out to me if they’re thinking about doing a startup. And the biggest thing for me is just patience. What will happen is for whatever reason, I don’t know why we have this mindset, but it’s like I did it for a month. I did it for six months and it’s just not working. But it’s like, you gotta have a 10 year mentality, a 25 year mentality because nothing gets done in six months. So imagine if Jeff Bezos is sitting in his office like, actually I’m going to go back to Wall Street because not enough books are selling this past six months. 

Boye: You’ve got to have different worlds that you live in. 

Kamal: You gotta have this mentality where, you know, even a lot of shareholders jumped off the Amazon stock just even three to five years ago. But I think it’s really important to have the patience. First is like, do I love this thing? Like, is there anything else I’d rather be doing? No. Okay. Am I willing to do everything for it. Yes. Then from there it’s just having the patience because from the day to day it just doesn’t feel like that much. It’s the same thing as like working out or getting into shape. It’s like, yes, you’ve been to the gym for two weeks straight, but you’ve been eating bad for last two years. You’re not going to correct that in two weeks. So you’ve got to give yourself, even geniuses, whether it’s, if you look at music, for example, like all the best classical music that has stayed the test of time, none of them have been produced within the first 10 years. Let’s say it’s Mozart or anybody, they didn’t produce in their first 10 years. They had to have time to sort of give themselves the space to create and create and create and create. And then do a masterpiece, right? It doesn’t happen in six months. And so if you’ve done something and you see no fruits in six months or a year, it’s okay. That’s not the point. The point is, do you believe in this? Do you believe in this cause? Do you believe that the world needs what you’re going to give them? Yes. Stick with it and give yourself the time.

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Boye: How about you, LJ? Give us some advice. 

LJ: So one thing that we were kind of talking about today is live life like your 10 year old self is following you. And either your 10 year old self is walking around right behind you, three steps behind you being like, Yo, we’re doing it like this? Yeah, let’s do it like this. We’re living in LA, we’re making it happen. We got this happening. Or your 10 year old self is like, we have all this going on, step up. This is everything we ever wanted. Like pull it together, like make it happen. This is perfect. Like do it right. So having that kind of youthful enthusiasm but also useful criticism in your heart to say do it right, every day. That doesn’t mean it’s hard, just like make it happen. Wake up to the moment that you’re in and be appreciative of the space that you’re given. Be respectful of it and be the person that’s willing to walk into the challenges that your 10 year old self would be proud of. Your dad would be proud of. Your mom will be proud of all of, that type of stuff. I think that we all need to live more generationally and understand that we’re fighting for more. I’m a big God guy. Like you know, love God, serve people. And what it really just means to me is let’s put ourselves in a place to be able to push for more on a daily basis with the expectation that we are the type of person that can move that baton a little bit further, and we try to do that for our team all the time, like sometimes understanding you’re not the person that’s going to take it to the goal line, but just give it that little bit extra effort to be able to pass it to the person that can. And so whether that’s on your team, whether that’s just kind of generationally as a community. But to live with that expectation, that enthusiasm that we get to be here to be that person and that can be exciting. It’s a challenge. It can be scary. But we need to be excited about it.

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Boye: Sick, guys. Well, I’ve had a great time catching up and chatting and I think we’re going to call it. 

Kamal: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you so much for having us. It’s always fun coming to one of your parties and I’m always looking forward to it, so really appreciate the opportunity. We know that you spent the Friday with us and as much as we were talking about us, taking the time to work and do this project, it’s like, actually the only person that’s really putting the sacrifice is you because you’re coming through with all this equipment, you had a professional photographer come through. So we really want to thank you for, for putting us up. I really appreciate it. 

Boye: For sure man. It’s fun. Where can we find you? How do we get ahold of you guys? Where can we drink the juice? Where can we find you on Instagram? 

LJ: Yeah. So @JuiceBot, that’s our Instagram handle. You can definitely get all the updates on our different locations. We’re in the Arts District right now, we’re in Disney Animation. We have a lot of great locations that are going to be debuting here in the city pretty soon. Some pretty fun like national partnerships that we have going on as well. So that’s the best place to be able to keep updated on us. We do have JuiceBot.com too if you want to really educate yourself on a deeper level about where we are as a brand and where our technology is going.

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Kamal: And one funny story. So we used to be @JuiceBotSF and this is one of the things that LJ loves to do. He found the guy who owns @JuiceBot and the guy was getting married so we were able to buy it from him for an undisclosed amount, but he had a wedding and he needed to pay for a part of his wedding. So it happened at the right time. 

LJ: It was so funny because he lives up in kind of like San Francisco Bay area and we’ve been talking to him for about a year. Like, Yo, you got this JuiceBot handle. He’s like, yeah why do you want my JuiceBot handle? I’m like because I have this company and this is important for our branding and he’s like, but you know, JuiceBot has been my name since fifth grade. That was his nickname. And so we’ve been talking for like a year, would bring it up periodically every three months, like, hey, is there any way that we could possibly buy this? So about six months ago he was like, Yo, I’m starting to get tagged a lot and it started to get annoying and I’m like, well, so how can we help your life? What can we do to be able to get this JuiceBot handle and help your life out? He’s like alright, to be honest with you, I’m getting married and my wife doesn’t like the nickname and I would really appreciate it if you could pay for our wedding photographer and I’m just like Kamal, let’s pay for this guy’s wedding photographer and we can get our JuiceBot handle, let’s do this. So, he actually negotiated a good price with his wedding guy and we were able to get our JuiceBot handle. So it was just kind of a fun thing that allowed us to be able to have just a good connection with somebody who had been kind of holding on to like one of our batons and to have that passed off was pretty exciting. 

Boye: That’s awesome. 

Kamal: Yeah, I mean similarly our flagship spot that’s a 24/7 ATM. It’s on 826 East 3rd Street right here in the arts district. The owner, I’ve been bothering him for like four months, like, hey, that space looks empty, doesn’t call me back. Finally calls me back and says okay, we’ll think about it. You gotta just stay with it because just because somebody said no the first time doesn’t mean it’s actually a no, it’s just like maybe come back at a different date and a different time. 

Boye: Timing is everything. 

Kamal: It is. And it’s the persistence that comes with it. So it’s like, hey, we really need a machine right there, we really need this handle. We’re going to just keep asking until you get annoyed and you say yes. So that’s one way to do it. 

Boye: Last question, what’s your favorite flavor that you sell? 

Kamal: I think for me it changes, but currently it’s our smoothie. It’s so cold. It almost gives you a brain freeze. People love it. 

Boye: Nice. What flavor?

Kamal: So it has kale, spinach, raw honey, a little bit of lemon, almond milk 

Boye: Is that the apple banana one or the avocado? 

Kamal: Avocado.

Boye: I love that one. It’s delicious.

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LJ: So, we have this juice partner called Made With Love and they make this juice called Glow. It’s got some Kale, some pineapple. It’s a banger. It’s a great juice. So I am, when it comes to cold pressed juice, it’s really all things green, that’s really what you’re supposed to be focused on, something I appreciate most. And they have a great variety of how to do that right. 

Boye: All right, there’s a storm a-coming. See y’all later.


Instagram: @JuiceBot

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A Window Into Our Holographic Future

When was the first time you saw a hologram? Princess Leia pleading for Obi-Wan Kenobi’s help? Or was it via Star Trek’s Holodeck? For many of us, the idea of holograms is something out of our childhood fantasies, but for VNTANA co-founders Ashley Crowder and Ben Conway, they are a daily reality. We visited their unassuming warehouse in Van Nuys to see where all the magic happens, and to pick the brains of these young, innovative entrepreneurs who are literally building the future. 

Stay Curious: This is an audio interview, but we transcribed it below. When turning sound to words, we do what we can to make it readable and authentic. Sometimes the two mediums may not always line up, but we figured you’d rather it make sense without all the “ums” and “likes” – Enjoy.

Boye Fajinmi: Alright. I’ve got the founders of VNTANA with me. How are you guys doing? 

Ashley Crowder: Good, how are you? 

Ben Conway: Doing good.

Boye : Awesome. Do you want to tell us a little bit about what you guys have going on here and who you are? 

Ashley: Sure, I’m Ashley Crowder. I’m the Co-Founder & CEO of VNTANA. We’ve created a platform to easily create interactive holographic experiences with built-in data. 

Boye: Nice, and you? 

Ben: I’m Ben Conway. I’m the Co-Founder & COO. I just work here. 

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Boye: I’ve been tracking you guys for a little bit, and the idea of holograms in this day and age is beyond me. What made you guys decide to do this, and where do you see it all going? 

Ben: Ashley, do you want to take that?   

Ashley: Sure. Yeah,  it was kind of a crazy idea at the time. I was programming light shows for DJs for fun because that’s what I enjoyed. We really wanted to take those visual experiences to the next level and holograms was a way to do that. When we first started, Ben & I were in his parent’s garage building a hardware system to easily do holographic projection. Then, we started getting a lot of interest from brands who wanted to use it to engage consumers. At that point we officially founded VNTANA, and started building out our interactive software, which makes it easy to create any holographic experience whether it’s on our hardware, or Hololens, or Magic Leap, or other AR devices. 

Boye: That’s cool. Where does the name come from? 

Ashley: It means window in Spanish. So, the idea is we are giving a view into this other world, this other place. But there’s a lot of window companies in LA called “ventana” so we had to drop the “E” for trademark reasons. We weren’t trying to be cool. 

Ben: It’s more Hollywood that way. 

Ashley: Yeah! (laughter)

“The idea is that we are giving a view into this other world, this other place.”

– Ashley Crowder on the origin of the company name and mission.

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Boye: Pretty badass. What gave you the inspiration behind thinking a hologram was even possible to make? 

Ben: I think we had just seen it done and we knew that, theoretically, it was possible. Then we thought, well as long as someone buys it we definitely can figure it out. 

Ashley: Yeah.

Ben: And we did, but it wasn’t as straightforward as maybe we would have thought when we first started out.

Boye: Yeah, now that’s interesting because I remember growing up and watching Star Trek, and all these other things, and seeing holograms. Now it’s in real life. It’s interesting to see. So, how have people responded to, Ben as you were saying, ‘buying it’? You guys are creating holograms for other people, for activations. What’s it like as a business? 

Ben: As a business, I think it’s always about the engagement. It’s about the interactivity. What is the experience that they’re having?  That’s really what we try and focus on as a company. It’s how are fans responding if they’re serving a tennis ball to Roger Federer. How are consumers responding if they’re building their dream car before their eyes? That’s what we really care about, and that’s what our clients ultimately end up caring about. So, at the end of an activation we try and show how successful it was by showing how many smiling faces we have, and then giving them the demographic data behind all those smiling faces.

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Ashley: Yeah, the data is what’s key at the end of the day. The hologram is that wow factor that’s going to get people engaged, but while they’re engaged we’re tracking everything. So, we know their age, gender, sentiment, and product preference just by that interaction. We know who they are and we can sync that with our client’s CRM system. So, at the end of the day clients like Lexus have seen us more than double their qualified leads in all the venues we’ve done for them. It’s fun, engaging and personalized for the consumers, but the companies are seeing real bottom-line value. 

Boye: So, when you’re collecting this data is it because the consumers are putting it into a system? Or it just recognizes them? 

Ashley: The only thing they enter is their email, and that’s because they want a video of the experience because it’s super fun and engaging. Everything else is tracked passively. We have facial recognition back end, so that’s how we know your age, gender and sentiment. We can tie your sentiment to what product you’re looking at. So, you’re happier looking at a blue RX than a red LC.  We track, store and sync all of that data with the CRM, and it allows the client to follow up with you after. 

“The hologram is the wow factor that’s going to get people engaged, but while they’re engaged we’re tracking everything.”

– Ashley Crowder commenting on the capabilities of their software.

Boye: Oh, that’s interesting. That’s smart too. I feel like a lot of businesses these days monetize through data…I wouldn’t have even thought that is a revenue stream for you guys. So, where can people see the Holograms? Right now you work out of LA, but where are these things popping up? 

Ashley: We’re honestly global. For people in LA we’ve got an installation at Two Bit Circus for the hologram arcade game that’s super fun. We’re at The Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. You get a pep talk from George Halas, Joe Namath, a few famous NFL greats. We just launched Adidas by Stella McCartney in all their flagship stores – London, Paris, Tokyo, Seoul, Shanghai. We’re everywhere.

Boye: What’s it like running a global business? 

Ben: Hard.


Ashley: Exhausting, but fun. 

Ben: There’s always something new. There’s always some sort of new challenge. We never really know what tomorrow is going to bring for us. We have literally gotten calls days before events happening in Taipei. There’s this whole specialized freight division that deals with us moving things very quickly into foreign countries. So, it’s pretty wild.   

Boye: What’s day to day like for you?  

Ben: Most of the time it’s spent working with existing clients, trying to onboard new clients, and managing the team in the direction of the product. So, continuing to tweak and take that client feedback and put it directly into the product. One of the things that we love doing is iterating really quickly, so we get stuff out the door a lot faster, I think, than most other companies. We love to get feedback from clients as quickly as we can so we can keep building. 

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Boye: Cool. What about for you? What’s a day in the life? 

Ashley: I would say it’s very similar. We’re constantly doing business development and what’s exciting is talking with the client and seeing what they find most useful on the platform, what they would like the platform to do, and then translating that to the software team. I think I work a little bit closer with the software team on that, and it’s really fun to hear client needs and then translate that into a broader and more scalable software vision. As of now, we have our first client building their own content with our platform which is super exciting to see. Answering those calls from them saying, “We want to do this now! How do we do this?” It’s been exciting to see them create their own experiences on it. 

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Boye: Yeah! So, who are some of your clients? 

Ben: Adidas, Lexus, Microsoft, Intel, Nike. We’ve done work with Disney. 

Boye: Wow. 

Ashley: Also Deloitte. And a farm equipment company that needed to show how their farm equipment worked, but they couldn’t bring a cow to the conference.  


Ben: You’d be amazed at the different calls we’ve gotten over the years. 

Boye: That’s cool. So, what’s it like when you talk to these executives? They are probably wide-eyed saying, “Holograms, oh my goodness!” What’s that conversation like from the initial touch to the actual production? 

Ashley: It’s really fun and we’re always trying to get to the heart of the reason they’re calling us. Like you said, a lot of executives will say, “I want augmented reality. It’s the latest, greatest thing. We need it!” And our first question is why? What is your goal? Are you trying to increase user-generated content for social and have more online content? Are you trying to understand product preference? Are you launching a product? Do you just want PR buzz? Once we narrow that piece down, we can start brainstorming on the best experience for you to achieve those goals. 

Ben: A lot of times, holograms are just the entry point. It’s what catches people’s attention and then once they see what the software can do, and the value it can bring, that’s when the conversation, I think, gets really interesting.

“As of now, we have our first client building their own content with our platform, which is super exciting.”

– Ashley Crowder on what drives business & software development.

Boye: Gotcha. So, where do you see this going?  How long have you guys been doing this?  

Ben: Six years in August. 

Boye: Six years. So, what’s the future like?

Ben: The future is: we’re the platform for creating interactive experiences. The same way you used to have to go to a web developer to build a website, and then Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, and WordPress came along. We’re going to do that for interactive experiences. That’s what we’re doing right now; letting our clients build amazing interactive experiences for all different types of platforms. 

Boye: That’s cool. So, the Hologram that you guys have today is a big set-up. Right? You have the really huge one. How big is it? 

Ashley:  We do all different sizes. We have our life-size line, which has a few different options. It does life-size people like in our warehouse. Then we’ve got our Z displays, which are the stand alone kiosks, and now we’ve got light boxes that work really great in retail because they’re smaller. Our software is display agnostic, so the same software works across all of those displays, as well as headset AR and mobile AR. When Ben mentioned that we are going to be the WordPress of interactive experiences that includes across mixed reality platforms. 

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Boye: Gotcha. So, VR? 

Ashley: VR 

Boye: Ok, and like glasses and all that?  

Ashley: Exactly. 

Ben: We like to let the market decide what the best display will be. 

Boye: But, the computing platform is all the same?

Ashley & Ben: Correct.

Boye: Does that mean someone like a Magic Leap could create holograms for VNTANA?

Ashley: They could use our platform to power experiences on Magic Leap. 

Boye: Gotcha. Recently on Facebook, I saw this demo of this lady in China holding what looked like a fan, and it produced what felt like the most real version of a hologram I’ve ever seen. I was tripping out. What’s that technology?

Ashley: Yeah, exactly like you said, it’s a very fast-moving fan with LEDs on the blades. It’s spinning so fast that you lose the blades and you just see the LED light that is making your brain think, ‘that’s a floating hologram there.’ They’re really cool. They’re great for signage. If people want a floating hologram logo, that is the way to go. What we really focus on is that consumer engagement and data collection piece. 

Boye: Gotcha, gotcha. What’s been the hardest day for you? 

Ashley: Oh my gosh. 

Ben: (laughing) I don’t know. I don’t know if that’s something we can talk about on here. I’ll talk about a hard day that had a great ending, which was one of the first experiences we ever did. It was for Microsoft. They did a hologram concert for a bunch of influencers, and pretty much everything that could have gone wrong that day was going wrong. A truss almost came down on top of people at the venue. They sent the wrong projector lens. 

Ashley: You ran over a fire hydrant. 

Ben: I ran over a fire hydrant at six in the morning when we went to pick up the projector lens! There was a parade. We drove down the wrong side of the road for like a hundred fifty yards to avoid the parade. It was one of those days where you’re like, ‘I don’t know if this is gonna happen. I don’t think this is going to happen. I really don’t think it’s going to happen,’…And then we pulled it off! So, when we pressed play at the end of it, and the crowd went nuts. High highs and low lows that day. 

Boye:  I like that. 

Ben: Yeah 

Ashley: Yeah that that was definitely a memorable one. I think mine was probably at the at the US Open in 2015 for Mercedes.

Ben: Yeah 

Ashley: We did the Hologram of Roger Federer. You could throw him a ball and play tennis with him. 

Boye: Oh yeah! 

Ashley: I was there the whole 2 weeks with one of our developers, and there were just use cases we didn’t think of. You know, when you don’t have a lot of time to test and a lot of people to test with…Someone walked up and they didn’t have a right arm. Our software recognizes your body, and we had only programmed it for right hand, so I’m sitting there with Bork in a closet, coding to fix this. 

Boye: They had lost their arm?  

Ashley: They had lost their arm and they couldn’t do the experience. I felt awful. So, we literally fixed it on the spot, had him go back, and then he could do the experience. But, I felt terrible. 

Ben: Just a shout out to Bork for coding in the closet on several of our early gigs. #codinginthecloset.

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Boye: I asked because many people, when first starting out, really don’t understand how much goes into business. The sweat, the tears. It’s not and is never easy. So, it’s really interesting to see where you guys come from. One thing we always ask people on this podcast is for one piece of advice for entrepreneurs who are also creating their own businesses. I’m curious to know from you guys, who are paving the future, what that might be? 

Ashley: I think my advice would be in the beginning you feel like you need to bring on people with this amazing resume. Or, you need to bring in skills to your company. Which, you do, but the more important thing is that big belief in your vision and where you’re going with the company and your culture. I, today, would 100% take someone who is hardworking, willing to learn, and believes in the VNTANA vision over that perfect resume. 

Boye: Good to know. 

Ben: Mine would probably be everyday is a new day. Because sometimes with lack of sleep and over work, you can end the day feeling like, ‘I don’t know how this is going to happen.’ And some days, you wake up the next day and you’re like, ‘Alright! I can do this today!’ We still have days where I’ll get a text from Ashley and she’s just like, “We got this! We got this today!” And, you know, maybe the week before I get a text like, “Oh my God. How are we going to get this out on time?” So, everyday is a new day. 

Boye: I like that. Ashley, touching on what you were saying, I’ve heard something similar before and it’s hire for culture over skill.  As long as, obviously, they’re willing to learn, having someone that fits the vision and the brand will take your business a lot further than someone with that skill. And sometimes those people with the skill have the ego, and they don’t always work out. Have you ever been in a situation where you learned that the hard way, and you had to let someone go? 

Ashley: Yeah. We learn most things the hard way. 

Ben: I was going to say, that’s the only way to actually learn it. 

Ashley: Yeah, definitely learned that the hard way in the beginning. We’ve had to let some people go. But I think the team we have now is pretty incredible. Part of it is, some people wouldn’t be happy working here if they want that big company and they want to focus on one thing. We’re a company where a lot of people wear a lot of hats. You get pulled into different things, and that’s super exciting and fun for some people. Other people, that overwhelms them and they don’t like that. So, I think it’s a two-way street. I think we’re trying to make sure we’re hiring people who will fit in with a culture not only to help move our company forward faster, but so they’re happy here. And then everyone else is happy working with them.

Boye: Yeah. Did you guys raise a round of financing for this? 

Ashley: We raised a seed round. So, we raised a little over 2M in seed funding, and then we were able to reach profitability last year. So, we’re more than doubled every year since we started which is exciting. But we were thinking about taking on some more capital, so we’ll see.

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Boye: Take it to the next level…Before I let you go, I’m curious to understand this ecosystem. Who else is doing this and where do you see the future of interactive experiences?  

Ben: What’s kind of interesting is that so much of the ecosystem has been focused on the hardware aspect of it or heavily focused on entertainment. And so, there are a lot of conversations about trying to make hyper realistic humans, avatars of humans, and things like that. I think where we’d like to see the market go is back to some of the basics; things that will get adopted quickly. I think that’s good for everyone in the space. A lot of times, people are trying to solve really big problems or difficult challenges, but for stuff that might be 5-10 years out as opposed to asking, ‘How do we get this in the hands of people today? So, as far as where the ecosystem is right now, I think that most of consumers’ interactions with AR are probably on phone apps because there are not a lot of AR headsets that are readily available. And it’s cool that people are doing stuff like that, but I think there’s other experiences that can be happening. 

Ashley: Yeah. I agree.

“A lot of this stuff is a step up in technological innovation. It’s not necessarily a linear progression. It’ll be something else that cracks things wide open.”

Ben Conway on the evolution of technology.

Boye: Do you see a near-future where we can see 360 holograms next to us? 

Ashley: Yeah. That’s light field technology, and there are a lot of people trying to solve that really hard problem. We’re not close yet. Microsoft just opened up their volumetric studio here as we are starting to capture volumetric, capture light fields, but it’s so much data that we realistically need quantum computing to be there. We need lasers to be less expensive. We need a lot of things to happen for that to become a reality, and an everyday reality that’s affordable and feasible.

Boye: For sure. 

Ben: A lot of this stuff is a step up in technological innovation. It’s not necessarily a linear progression. It’ll be something else that cracks things wide open. 

Boye: Gotcha. 

Ashley: And we can’t wait for that! Because we’ve built this software platform to work on that as well, so we’ll still be powering those interactive 3D experiences. 

Boye: Cool. Well, I can’t wait! It was awesome talking to you guys today. Curious where can we learn more about you guys? Where can we buy some Holograms and get them integrated into what we’re doing? 

Ashley: Yeah. Check us out at our website, VNTANA.com.  No “E” as you mentioned. 


Ben: That’s V-N-T-A-N-A dot com. 

Boye: Cool. Awesome, guys.

Link: https://www.vntana.com/

Instagram: @vntanalive

Highlites TheFutureParty


Not everyone can create a successful business. Noah Lichtenstein did it just for fun. Noah is a venture capitalist by day and entrepreneur by night. He has managed to create a playful, revenue driving, side hustle; really funky glasses that project shapes when pointed toward light.  We had a chance to sit down with him and learn how he has turned his side hustle into a profitable business.

Stay Curious: This is an audio interview, but we transcribed it below. When turning sound to words, we do what we can to make it readable and authentic. Sometimes the two mediums may not always line up, but we figured you’d rather it make sense without all the “ums” and “likes” – Enjoy.

Boye Fajinmi: We’re recording. Hey guys, I have Noah here from HI-LITES, a really innovative company. Let’s begin.

Noah Lichtenstein: Alright.

Boye: Noah, how do we pronounce your last name?

Noah: Alright, it’s Lichtenstein.

Boye: Lichtenstein. Okay. And where’s that from?

Noah: I think it’s German, but an eastern European mutt.

Boye: And where are you from?

Noah: Originally from Oregon.

Boye: Oregon. Nice. What brought you down here to LA?

Noah: Well, I started up on a farm in Oregon, and made my way down to college in the Bay Area. Spent about 15 years there in the tech scene and was looking for a change of pace, so I made my way further down south to LA. Who knows, maybe it’ll be San Diego and then Mexico next. Keep moving down south.

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Boye: Nice. So, you made your way down south, and now you’ve got this really cool thing that you’re doing called HI-LITES,  but it’s not your original thing, right?

Noah: I’ve been in the tech world for a long time, so I’ve been really passionate about building and investing in tech startups. That’s my background and what I do on a day to day basis, but HI-LITES was a fun idea and a fun project that we came up with and launched about a year ago.

Boye: This is literally your side hustle.

Noah: It is my side hustle. Yes. It’s my creative outlet.

Boye: First of all, what is HI-LITES?

Noah: HI-LITES are special effects glasses that can turn any light, whether it’s a stage light or city light, into a custom shape. So, you can think of it really as very lightweight augmented reality, but without any of the wires, circuits or the cost.

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Boye: I think I’ve seen some screenshots and I’ve tried them on. It kind of feels like you’re doing drugs.

Noah: Well, you know, some people…no comment on that. Some people seem to enjoy it.

Boye: Not that I know what drugs feel like or anything like that.

Noah: Some people certainly seem to think it enhances the experience, I would say at a Burning Man… But, no, really, from young kids all the way through to adults, it’s just one of those things that brings joy and happiness to people. It’s so simple that I kind of scratch my head sometimes about how much goes into building deeply technical products. This is just incredibly simple, and it’s really fun seeing people happy and sharing that enjoyment together.

Boye: What gave you the idea to do this?

Noah: I was at a Christmas party about a year and a half ago, and I saw this little kaleidoscope toy, and I started thinking, wouldn’t that be really cool if you could turn that into glasses? You know, with all of the new lights and led displays at concerts, and with the emergence of AR and VR, I started looking into it. We actually didn’t invent this technology. We found that there was a patent for this technology that had been patented by some researchers back east almost 20 years ago. And what we decided to do was say, ‘Hey, the time is now to create something around this cool technology in this new reemergence of AR, VR, Retro is cool again, lights and visual effects at shows. So, why don’t we build a really cool brand around this old technology?’ And so, we secured the patent and went into production.

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Boye: That’s awesome. And how’s business?

Noah: Business is good. We’re a young company and this is a new experience for me. My background’s always been software. So, you go out and raise some venture capital money, you build, build, build, build, build, and eventually you launch this product to the world, and you can iterate quickly because it’s software. For me, it has been a fun challenge because we’re building a physical product – everything from supply chain to dealing with import, export, customs, direct to consumer, mixed with B2B. It’s really been a fun challenge to take my learnings from the tech world and apply it to building a consumer brand. But I guess more directly to your question, how we’re doing. I’m really excited because we finally, after a year of development, were able to launch at Coachella and had a big bang there, and now it’s just kind of off to the races.

Boye: That’s sick. I saw some photos. Some cool people were wearing those glasses.

Noah: Yeah. No endorsement officially from them, but we were very lucky that one of our activations was at Neon Carnival out at Coachella, and we did that activation with Bolthouse Productions, Neon Carnival and Wynn Nightlife. It turns out one of the paparazzi pictures that got released to the public, totally unbeknownst to us, was of Leo DiCaprio wearing them for about four hours. The next day we wake up with a little bit of a hangover from Neon Carnival and our inboxes are flooded because all of a sudden everyone’s like, what are these glasses Leo’s wearing? And it’s in Esquire, Cosmo, Time

Boye: That is so funny, especially since he’s always so incognito at all of those festivals.

Noah: Yeah, the photo that was released was basically him wearing a hoodie and, you know, super incognito with these glasses. Everyone’s like, why is he wearing 3D glasses? No, they’re not 3D glasses.

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Boye: That’s great. It sounds like business is going well. I recently read an article, I think it was in Recode, about all these new companies who aren’t raising venture capital and are doing really well and selling for a lot of money, which is like blowing everyone’s minds away. But in essence that’s true business. I guess, coming from someone like you whose main job is venture and now you’re doing this fun, cool project that’s making money. What are your thoughts? Are you going to raise a round of financing? Where do you see this all going?

Noah: I think that’s a great point you bring up and I saw that same article in Recode actually through your newsletter. So,  shout out to you guys on that one, but you know, in the venture world, it’s amazing to me how many people go out and think this is the only way to build a business. I’ve always been a big fan of people who go out and actually build a business without having to raise venture capital. You don’t raise venture capital because you have an idea, you raise it to accelerate the growth of a company and not all companies should be venture. It’s very simple. If you own 100 percent of your company and you giveaway 20, 25% in exchange for money, all of a sudden you own 75 percent of that. So, your company has to be that much bigger now in order for it to have the same amount of value to you as if you just own the whole thing. For me, this was a really fun experience because I was fortunate to self fund it, but it wasn’t something that was very capital intensive. We were able to test the market, get some initial orders without having to go really deep out of pocket and as a result, myself and my partner Mike own the entire company.

“You don’t raise venture capital because you have an idea, you raise to accelerate growth of a company.”

– Noah Lichtenstein comments on raising to grow a business.

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Boye: Amazing.

Noah: If we get to the point where we just can’t keep up with demand and we have big plans to go into retail and into more direct to consumer, certainly we’d evaluate taking on money. But really, there’s something special about somebody who goes out and does business that’s profitable. You know, one of those companies that was highlighted, Tuft & Needle, is a mattress company. And I remember actually meeting them early on when they were considering venture capital. They actually sent me a mattress.

Boye: Wait, so how’s the mattress?

Noah: It was good. It was good. I didn’t have room for it, so I gave it to my business partner and I think she still uses it in their guest bedroom. The quality was great, but more props to them because they went out and built a real business and they show that you don’t have to raise venture. You don’t have to measure your success by how much money you raised.

Boye: Yeah, one of my favorite companies to use and just to learn about is Mailchimp because they’ve created a $500 million dollar plus business in ARR and are completely bootstrapped.

Noah: It’s a fantastic product too. I use it as well and I think there’s no better story than when somebody builds a product that is funded by its sales.

Boye: Yeah, it’s perfect. But this isn’t about Mailchimp, it’s about you guys. So, what’s next for you? What’s year one, year two, three, as you go along?

Noah: One of my biggest learnings is that with hardware, the development takes so long. You have to design the product, then you have to go to the different suppliers that we use, and then there’s the shipping import, export. There’s a lot of pieces that go into dealing with physical products. And so the first year I feel like was our year of learnings and development, and now we have a product line that we’re really happy with. Now, it’s all about how we get it in front of people and out into the market. So, it’s really going out and doing deals with big brands and marketing and experiential agencies. That’s been a really good experience where we’ve been fortunate to partner with some really great brands so far. We did an activation at South by Southwest with Warner Brothers for Ready Player One.

Boye: Oh, I was there!

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Noah: Yeah, and iHeart radio. We did a bunch of activations at Coachella, and then we did EDC with Smirnoff. Our initial bread and butter is large volume orders. This is something that a brand can do to help activate their brand and create these sort of joyous, fun experiences because when somebody puts these on, it’s this magical moment of joy and then you immediately see them tap their friend on the shoulder and say, “hey, did you see this?” and the next thing you know, you’re holding up your phone. You’re taking videos and photos on Instagram or Snapchat through the lenses and then your friends see it and your stories and say, “how’d you do that?” And you can associate all this joy with your brand. We think the promotional market is a really great opportunity and we’ll continue to push that and a lot of exciting stuff coming up there. But, what I’m most excited about is some of the launches we’re going to be doing soon into direct to consumer.

Noah: And for me this is another set of new learnings where we’ve seen how powerful brands can be built, entirely online and especially on Instagram. We’re in the process of launching that direct to consumer brand and getting this fulfillment and supply chain line for that. We’re launching new kinds of fun colors, new shapes and effects. We didn’t cover this, but not only are we turning the lights into special effects, some of those examples are things like hearts or smiley faces or snowman, or you can do a Star of David for a Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah. You can also create custom shapes so you can literally turn every light you see, whether it’s a street light or a stage light into a custom shape or logo or brand or anything. That’s pretty fun.

Boye: Can you boil down a little bit more about the science and technology behind that? Without ruining your trade secrets.

Noah: There’s really no trade secrets. It’s patented and I feel pretty good about that being locked in. But the best way it was described to me by the mad scientist that we partner with, is that if you imagine a stream of water in front of you and you put your hand in it, the water bends around your hand. Light travels in a straight line from its source. When you’re looking at a stage light, that light beam is traveling in a straight line from the source to your eyeball. And so imagine putting your hand in the water and then in that light. You’re bending the light. It’s essentially the same thing but we are bending the light into a shape.

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Noah: By the way, that could be totally wrong. But we’re going to go with that one.

Boye: I was recently watching a show about how science is indistinguishable from magic. In the sense of, if we were to show someone a hundred years ago some of the things that are here now, they would think everyone’s a witch. To hear your description of that and then to see it, and it basically feels like a toy. Like I said, I’ve tried them on and they’re really fun and cool. It just boggles my mind at how people create really innovative things.

Noah: Yeah, and a lot of these things are done by accident. I was reading a story recently about some researchers at Berkeley who had accidentally created glasses that help people who are colorblind see colors they never knew existed before. It was entirely by accident. This wasn’t done by accident, but I do think that it’s pretty amazing. A lot of times, great innovation just feels like magic. For us, it’s always enjoyable when we’re putting our heads down, we’re grinding, we’re doing all this unglamorous work, packing bags and printing out collateral, but when you go to a show or you just see somebody put these on for the first time and seeing their face in that moment of joy, I think there’s no better thing then when a product can deliver joy.

“I think there’s no better thing then when a product can deliver joy.”

– Noah Lichtenstein commenting that even the mundane tasks of his business are worth the final reaction.

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Boye: For sure. And with this sort of e-commerce play that you’re about to do, bringing it to the masses, what platforms are you going to use? Are you going to lean on Instagram and sell through there? Or Amazon? What’s the strategy beyond brand partnerships to get into everyone’s hands?

Noah: Yeah, I see a couple of different channel strategies. Actually, I’d love to turn the question around and ask you, being that this is something you’re an expert in. Really, I’m just trying to meet with people who are smarter than me and who’ve done this before with so many great brands out there, and learn what the best practices are. But, certainly, Instagram we will use as a channel and we have fortunately a number of great, I hate the word influencer, but people with followings and trusted brands that really like what we’re doing and have offered to post and maybe do some collaborations. Because we can custom brand, we can use really any frame we want. So, we’re going to explore a couple partnerships with existing glass manufacturers, some collabs with different artists, musicians and things like that. And then, in terms of direct to consumer, certainly Instagram, and we’ll have a traditional e-commerce on our website, do some SEO, SEM, and then lastly, we are exploring going into traditional retail.

Boye: Oh, that’s awesome.

Noah: Yeah. I think these would be great at places like an Urban Outfitters or a Spencer’s gifts. Things like that. It’s really been a learning experience for me, but, let me pause and ask, what do you think? What should we be doing?

Boye: Yeah. I, agree with a lot of what you said. I believe it’s important to be everywhere at once when it comes to consumer products, and I believe the most powerful tool in the future for manufacturers and people with fun products is going to be Instagram. It’s going to double as a magazine, as a TV channel, and as your store front. You can imagine the lifestyle that you can create around your product, the events that people go to just as a means for people to show how to use it. And then being able to just buy it directly from Instagram, I think, is so important. And then I think Amazon, I believe they are about to be the next trillion dollar company.

Noah: It’s amazing what they do.

Boye: It’s amazing.

“A lot of times, great innovation just feels like magic.”

– Noah Lichtenstein sharing that innovative products can be created, even at times, by accident.

Noah: We actually just got the approvals to go live on Amazon, so, we’re going to go ahead. You can buy them on Amazon now, but we’re exploring the options of us doing fulfillment versus the fulfilled by Amazon. I know a lot of folks listening to this are probably saying, “Oh, this is just the basics,” but for me this has been great because it’s new for me. I love learning new skills, and it helps me make better investments in the future when I understand the inner workings.

Boye: Totally. And I think on the store partnerships front, totally 100 percent, it’s just sales. Or, you just find a guy who’s done it before and have them go and talk to all those guys.

Noah: Well, look, one of the things I love about this is because we own the entire company, we can go out and find people who can help add a lot of value and we can make them owners in the company and share in the profits. So, we’re really out there looking for folks who have a lot of great relationships, whether it’s with the “influencers” who want to promote the product on Instagram or whether it’s event producers or brands. We’re always excited to say, hey, look, let’s share in the wealth and make those intros. I know you made some great intros for us at  Coachella, and I appreciate that.

Boye: Hey happy to – anytime. You know, the people reading this, they’re all creative, they’re all driven and when they listen, I like to make sure that they’re gaining tangible value. What’s some advice that you have for entrepreneurs, especially those who are trying to create side hustles to turn into businesses?

Noah: Wow, that’s a great question. Well, first and foremost, it takes a lot more work than you will imagine. It’s funny, when I thought of this initially, I thought it’d be easy. We’ll just get this out there. People already make sunglasses and we’ll just use the same frames and ‘Oh well, all this stuff will be easy.’ There are  a million things that I wasn’t even aware of, and I was definitely naive. So, I would say one bit of advice is really map out the business plan. Not necessarily write out a business plan, but map out how you get from the start to fully into market. Think through all those steps, and then go talk to people who’ve done it before. The best resources are the people who have walked that path and made the mistakes.  I think that’s one of the reasons why, when I invest in early stage tech startups, often times I hopefully have some street credit because I’ve spent 10 years building companies from the ground up and made pretty much every mistake in the book that you can make. And I’ll make hundreds more, but hopefully I can not make the same mistake twice. So, to boil it all down, I think one practical bit of advice is to really force yourself to do the exercise of how you get from the start to launch and then stress test that, asking people, “what am I not thinking of?” Because, if I had done that initially, I would definitely have saved months and probably thousands of dollars.

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Boye: Great advice from Noah Lichtenstein, who is both an investor and company owner with a side hustle. I love it. Do you have anything else to say?

Noah: I just would love to get more feedback from people who are listening and reading this. And if folks are interested in learning more, we’re happy to send you some samples and show you some love.  And  we’ll hook anybody up who is with Boye and TheFutureParty to get some good discounts. 

Boye: Love it. Where can we find you?

Noah: We are at gethilites.com. So, H-I-L-I-T-E-S, and also on Instagram at @hi.lites. So, highlights, but with our funky spelling.

Boye: Love. HI-LITES everyone. Thank you.

Link: https://www.gethilites.com/

Instagram: @hi.lites

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You’re The Star, It’s Your Digital Identity

As we dive into the week after celebrating our nation’s independence, I can’t help but think about the conversation we had with our community just a couple weeks ago about our digital identity. If you scrolled across Snapchat, Instagram or Facebook, you’re sure to have seen a myriad of photos about the 4th of July, from your time with family on the lake to the exclusive day party you attended with your friends. Maybe even that cool new outfit you wore that totally sported the “Red, White, And Blue”. How fitting, after all, we’re all glued to our phones, and it’s our second self, our primary form of expression. Everyone in that room that evening felt the need to really understand this impact.

We had some world class speakers speak on digital identity. Our friends Brett Hyman, Tiffany Zhong & Billy Hawkins boiled down some truths on where our need to express ourselves is going. These guys are powerhouses to say the least. Brett runs an experiential agency called NVE Experience Agency. They are the definition of the experience generation as they’re pinnacle in ushering a future where experiential marketing is the most important kind of marketing. Through Brett’s leadership, they’ve nailed down the marriage of physical experiences and online expression. Billy runs Arsenic TV. They are a new women-first, upstart multi-media company that have exploded in the last couple years. Tiffany, at only 21 years of age has her own research agency called Zebra Intelligence focused on Gen Z, and before that was a venture capitalist in Silicon Valley!

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Combined these guys lead us on a winding journey. We talked about how everything online will become HQ via interactive live streaming as well as the future of digital characters like Lil Miquela. BTW, not everything is positive and even though it’s all “new”, we came to the conclusion that we’re all just the same people given new tools to tell different stories. We also covered our need to detach and step away from digital expression and the companies like Yonder and Brick who pioneer this school of thought.

My favorite learning came from a conversation a couple days later when discussing our event with a friend. It’s obvious, but what these tools and platforms have done is made us the star of our own movie. We now have our own platform to share and express ourselves in ways that people could only have dreamt just 10 years earlier. It used to be that only celebrities or accomplished people had the platform to take photos and images of themselves and distribute them to the masses, now anyone has the platform to unlock their own celebrity. Only time will tell if that’s a good thing or not. What we do know though, as far as business and creative art go, we’re in a watershed moment with lots of opportunity.

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This event was hosted at Kid In A Korner. It’s a 1 acre estate owned by mega-producer Alex Da Kid. It’s a creative wonderland of studios and awesome artists and the house is full of spectacle, so naturally it made for a great location. We’re thankful for our partnership with them. Shout out to our amazing sponsors especially Jacob Perler at Cryo Cafe. Ya’ll are up to something and we’re completely down. Stay tuned for the next one!

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CryoCafe Is Building The SoulCycle of Cryotherapy

Jacob Perler is a seasoned entrepreneur and currently CEO & Founder of CryoCafe, a new-age health & wellness centered cryotherapy lounge. It’s an unassuming escape right off of “Melrose Alley” in Los Angeles. We had a chance to sit down with him and his [partner and Cryo’s] Creative Director, Rachel Schoenbaum, to discuss what they’re building. We also had a chance to try out the treatment and can say they’re creating something special. In just a couple weeks of opening, CryoCafe has had thousands of people from executives to celebrities come and enjoy various types of cryotherapy sessions backed by their favorite musical tracks. Clients can grab a juice from the Juicebot machine, box at CruBox next door or simply hang out on the cafe-style patio. Armed with their new “#CryoCult” they’re taking Hollywood’s elite by storm, creating a community of wellness that is bound to supersede the wellness behemoths before them.

Boye Fajinmi:  So we’re recording. You guys want to introduce yourselves?

Jacob Perler:  I’m originally from New York and have been out in LA for almost four years. I’ve had my hands in a number of things. I have a history in strategy consulting for two of the top firms in the world, doing that for about seven years. I came out here and was involved in some tech startups, creative sports marketing, and have a number of other companies that I advise mostly for, but I’m excited to kick off CryoCafe.

Boye:  Awesome. What about you?

Rachel Schoenbaum:  I grew up in Virginia Beach, Virginia. I moved to California for college and got my start in fashion and music. Eventually, I kind of fell into applying the creative process I had learned from my experience in those two industries more towards brand strategy. Part of the passion-of-the-process for me is working with brands that are just getting started. Really helping them get off the ground by uncovering their vision and story, ensuring the authenticity of that story is maintained in what they present to their audience. Basically, making sure their message and what they have ideated from the get-go is digestible to their consumer. That’s how Jacob & I met and we’ve been at it ever since.

Boye:  I’m curious, what was your path to get here? It’s great to learn a little bit about you, but can you tell us more about the story from idea to this cafe?

Jacob: Yeah, absolutely. So about two years ago I met my current partner, Dr. Patrick Khaziran who is a physical therapist for hundreds of professional athletes, celebrities, and other great individuals. I have a passion for building brands, starting with business and financial modeling and actually bringing an idea into execution. Dr. Pat and I met and started talking about what he was doing with cryotherapy by bringing it into the mass market. An initial few conversations and several months of market research turned into a big passion. We knew that we could partner and build a major global force around cryo. As we started building the business, I brought on Rachel and several other strategic partners to help build the brand.

It’s been an amazing two years to get there, but it’s really step by step, right? You have the planning, the ideating of getting the branding, signing a lease, you make a commitment, you bring on partners, and all in the lean startup kind of way, which is usually applied more to tech and less brick and mortar. We just put ourselves out there and you learn as you go in, you have to be fast on your feet.

What’s been amazing and very humbling is how many people have walked through the door even in just about 10 weeks that we’ve been open. These people have an amazing experience and have a personal aspect to their body, health or lifestyle that they’re looking to improve. It’s been amazing to see that improvement from it. Some of that can be anecdotal but were seeing a lot of amazing impacts on people.

Boye: That’s awesome. And so what’s your role? Can you give us some more?

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Rachel: As I mentioned, Jake and I had worked together previously and had a great report. I was back home visiting family when he called me to talk about this amazing concept. Ironically, I used to be a patient of Dr. Pat’s and have always been extremely fond of his approach to his patients and athletes. I was excited to jump on board. Health and wellness is a really big part of my personal life. Having something that makes you feel good, something that gives you routine and stability – especially as a consultant without a normal day-to-day schedule – is vital for success. Jake brought me in as Partner and Creative Director, and we just dove right in.

We’re fast movers, we’re traveling, we’re working around the clock for ourselves. No one’s doing this for us. The mentality we had creating this brand derived from being our own target market. 

Boye:  So can you tell me more about the brand and the inspiration behind it?

Rachel:  Last year Jacob went to Tulum and I took a trip to Mykonos. We were very pulled in by the tribal vibes and multi-cultural, worldly feelings of them. We were very much inspired by our separate experiences in both of these places, both very rooted in the feeling of people coming together. Jacob and I both love symbolism, so that tribal inspiration from our travels, mixed with the message of what we want to offer our clients, was compiled into a vision that resulted in our logo.

You need to add something healthy to your lifestyle. So the circle is essentially everything, life, in perpetuity. The three lines are the three pillars of life – mind, body, and soul. The triangle symbolizes whatever mountain it is you’re trying to climb. It’s also androgynous and obviously the Yin and Yang element is the dark and the light parts within the triangle signifying our continuous journey to acquire balance. Pretty much the overall meaning is – in mind, body, and soul, whatever mountain you’re trying to climb, the path to achieve balance in life is on-going. And we (CryoCafe) are the empty space underneath, the foundation to support you in reaching whatever that acme point is at the top of your mountain. 

Boye:  That’s beautiful.

Rachel:  Thank you! I feel like the logo really blends everything together. It doesn’t matter if it’s mental, physical, emotional, sleep, pain…any kind of balance, really. That’s what life is about. The journey of acquiring balance and figuring out what that is for you. I think that our vision of the company really supports whatever that path may be for people. 

Boye: Can you tell me about this cool hashtag that you have going on?

Rachel:  The CryoCult is the membership base and community we wanted to create around this. Kind of going back to that tribal mentality Jake and I like. A lot of us are running around, hustling 24/7. We’re young! We like to have fun, but we work equally as hard, if not harder. It was important to create an experience that was cool and inviting and obviously provide a service that was beneficial, while also creating a community of people with the same “work hard play hard” lifestyle. We want to create something really personalized, something that people can get behind, become involved in, and feel incredible from.

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Boye:  Can you tell us more about the process of the actual therapy? If I’m someone who wants to be treated, how does that work?

Jacob: Yeah. Basically we have two machines in there to start and four main services. We have whole body cryo which we call the WholeFix; quick localized spot treatments that typically focus on an injured area, which is the QuickFix; extended localized spot treatments, which is the BodFix; and our very popular CryoBeauty facial, which is called the BeautyFix. Our entire experience is built to be as long or quick as you’d like. We have many clients who love the vibe and experience and are happy to hang out, which we’re totally okay with. That’s why we named it Cryo Cafe. Like a cafe, you come in and you decide what you’re in the mood for.

We’re right next to Crubox and close to a handful of other fitness studios so we cater to the active fitness community right here. If you live an active lifestyle and have unusual muscle soreness, tweak a wrist or ankle, or just need a body reboot, cryo is great for that. One thing we’re really seeing a lot of is how different everybody is and how different everyone reacts to whole body, versus localized on specific areas. Even beyond fitness, we love having all kinds of people come in who want to try it out. 

The popular CryoBeauty facial is an amazing 10-15 minute escape. It’s great in the morning to help kickstart your day, in the middle of the day to give you that much needed pick me up, and in the evening it helps close you out. 

Boye:  Most people are familiar with the chamber treatment that you were talking about, but the idea of cryo facials and the mobile machine used seems really new. Is that a competitive advantage or what’s your vision with that sort of system?

Jacob:  Great question. So it’s not new on the facial angle. The beauty element of cryotherapy is a big thing that we are looking at spearheading, but it’s been around. I think there’s a huge gap in the market for it, so the facials and beauty elements will be a big part of the business, and we’re already hearing great feedback and case studies from people. 

Rachel: A lot of people, especially women, are paying insane amounts for certain beauty or body maintenance and treatments. Taking care of your skin is one of the most important things. This is a really great additive to skin care or even to support the other treatments people may be doing. It’s a pretty holistic way to essentially preserve your skin and your body in the long term. You’re working on anti aging, you’re working on the tone and health of your skin, you’re improving your musculature. A lot of people are hunting for the best “fast fix” to spend a quick buck on. While cryo is definitely more of a progression process, its a completely natural and non-invasive full mind-body experience. I think that’s really awesome to be able to offer people this different option.

Boye:  It sounds like you guys are doing something very unique and special and almost obvious in a sense. When you look at the health and wellness space, it seems like it’s doing pretty well in different sectors from yoga to even what’s happening with Soul Cycle and Peloton. What do you feel is the future? What’s the five year plan of CryoCafe and where does it fit into this health and wellness marketplace?

Jacob:  Health and wellness is exploding. It’s one of the fastest growing industries. Through technology, media and the world of digital influence in social media, more people are getting access to information about their bodies and living healthy lifestyles. People want to live healthy and recognize that they might live long or they’re going to feel better on a daily basis. Why wouldn’t you be focused on that more in your lifestyle? I think it’s really interesting too and one of the things we see a lot in Los Angeles, rather than just going out and meeting your friends at a bar and grabbing a drink, you can also come hang out and do cryotherapy along with other things that are health and wellness related.

People are boxing together, they’re going to work out together. They’re going to Runyon Canyon together and so that’s a really exciting thing and for us with CryoCafe, we want to be right there with that. You can live your healthy lifestyle, you can meet a friend, you can even have a business meeting and you don’t necessarily need to go get a coffee or grab a drink at the bar.

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“Rather than just going out and meeting your friends at a bar and grabbing a drink, you can also come hang out and do cryotherapy along with other things that are health and wellness related”

– Jacob Perler speaking about Cryo Cafe as a center for community and wellness.

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Rachel: Or if you do, you can come here for a hangover cure in the morning! Honestly, it’s a lifesaver for us. 

Jacob: Exactly. Whatever you’re doing with your life, you can build this into it. We have people who come early in the morning, they love kick starting their day with this. It gives you a huge endorphin release and a boost of energy. We have people who come before the gym to loosen up. We have our boxing trainers over here who come in right afterwards when their wrists are all really sore. We have people who come at the end of the day just to relax and get away and then have a great night sleep afterwards because it does really help with your sleep. We have people who squeeze cryo into their workday Monday through Friday and people who come on the weekends. When we bring cryo out into the market, whether it be private events or corporate offices, we see how much people love it. We have big ambitions to grow the business outside of our stores and Los Angeles, but at the same time you have to always first focus on the task at hand. Day by day, person by person. 

Boye Fajinmi: So you guys want to really create like a lifestyle.

Rachel: Exactly.

Jacob: Absolutely. We’re set on that growing in Los Angeles and then using that to expand.

Boye Fajinmi: Jacob you’re a businessman and the lifestyle and everything sounds awesome, but I’m curious on a financial level, how big do you think this business can become?

Jacob: I think it can be massive. You know, if you look at the pure financials of it, I think many cities around the world can sustain multiple locations plus the mobile angle we’re driving. There’s no reason this can’t be at the same level of your Soul Cycles, your Equinoxes, you know, health and wellness companies that have huge footprints. We can build this into 50, 100, multiple hundreds of locations with events, popups and a lifestyle around all. I do think we can build this into something special.

Boye Fajinmi: What are the market caps of those companies? Like 100 Mil? 200 Mil?

Jacob: Yea in the 100’s of millions.

Rachel: Even just partnering with those types of companies – popping up in their waiting areas and offering treatment to their clients before or after their workouts. To be able to insert ourselves into some of these successful environments that have the same kind of mental physical bottom line is a cool thing, for both parties. 

Boye: Jacob, I know this is probably your third start up and it sounds like you’ve done a lot of different kinds of things. What are you bringing from your learnings and the wins and fails in the past?

Jacob: I think you always learn from your failures and your successes. A lot of people say you learn a lot more from the failures, but I think a lot of it is bringing the knowledge of how important brand, lifestyle and really connecting with people is, especially today with all the noise out in the market overall. We’re making sure that we’re building something that is very in tune with people. The cryo and the benefits speak for themselves and the product is amazing, but at the same time you have to get to people on that personal level and that’s one of the big things I’ve learned a lot in the last four or five years, is how to actually do that. What brands work very well and how do you replicate and design your own.

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Rachel: Yeah, I totally agree. I’d say pulling lessons from failures and celebrating successes is definitely one of our biggest collaborative strengths. Something a mentor of mine taught me that has always stuck in my mind is, you have 15 seconds to make a first impression, that’s on a personal level as well as on a professional level when creating a brand. If I see an ad for something that has beautiful typography or font on Instagram, I am clicking it. I’m not looking at the product – yet. But if the design looks cool enough to me and I am intrigued by the vibe of the brand, they’re going to get that click. So making a strong first impression is about luring people in and starting a conversation. Whether it’s just someone walking in here and asking what we are or what we’re about, that’s an impression that we as a brand have made on someone. And that impression will stick. I want to make people smile every day and I think that’s part of the brand.

Boye: So what’s been the response so far from everyone coming in?

Jacob: It’s been great. What’s crazy is the number of people that you can personally impact on such a high level. We have a lot of people that love it. We’ve probably seen 1500 people in 10 weeks who’ve walked right through this front door including celebrities, athletes, trainers, and your everyday person who wants to experience it. 

Boye: I hear a rumor about Kim Kardashian maybe.

“You have 15 seconds to make a first impression, that’s with your personal self as well as a brand.”

– Rachel Schoenbaum advocating for Cryo Cafe’s design ethos.

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Jacob: Kim & Kourtney Kardashian walked right by here. Although they haven’t come into CryoCafe yet. They did both go boxing next door and rumor has it they liked it so…one of their close friends has come in here, along with many other great people. While that’s all exciting, even more than that, you know it’s the people that no one knows about who have lupus or arthritis, back pain, whatever it is. They come in here and see a huge impact from cryo, sometimes in a session or two.

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Boye: So you guys got this off the ground and you’re inspiring other people. You’re touching people’s lives. Who in this process is someone who believed in you guys to help get this off the ground? Who really supported this and helped make it a reality?

Jacob: There’s a lot of amazing people that have been vital to everything, and obviously family is a big part of it too. But I would say a close friend and advisor, Antonio Tambunan was really the first person to put a lot of capital and a lot of time behind this. He really helped us get the idea and all the planning to market. He is a very successful entrepreneur and investor globally. He’s got businesses all over the world and he was the first person to really buy into it and believe that I could build a brand that I said I could. He’s been there every step of the way. He continues to be an integral part of this, but he’s the first one that really allowed this to take shape.

Boye: I always wonder who helps make things happen.

Jacob: It’s the people behind it and it’s actually a great point for this company. I made an early decision of having a bigger cap table, bringing on various partners who fill different roles. Some people advise, even if they aren’t involved in the day to day at all. They pick up the phone when you call and give you guidance, sometimes in much needed circumstances. To me this was really important because although I’ve been involved in other businesses, there’s a lot to this that’s very new and when you think you can build what might become a billion-dollar company, there’s a lot you don’t know and you want great people around you…

Rachel: From different industries and backgrounds.

Jacob: Having an amazing investor, advisory, and partner group around me gives me access to a lot of different intellectual capital points as needed. 

Boye: That’s great, so what’s next for you guys? Like immediately next.

“It’s the people that no one knows about who have lupus or arthritis, back pain, whatever it is. They come in here and have a huge impact from the cryotherapy treatments.”

– Jacob Perler on his customers who have seen the most major health benefits from Cryo Cafe

Jacob: Immediately next is really getting this location blowing up, having a lot of people come in here, getting our second location which opened a few days ago in Encino moving, taking the city by storm, events, partnering with different companies, having the mobile angle of the business and the pop ups really flourish and kind of doing all that simultaneously. A lot of people might say opening the second location 10 weeks after the first location is a little risky but we want to move fast. We built an amazing team. We’ve been working on this a long time, so we just really want to attack the market, at least Los Angeles right away and have everyone around digitally and personally see what we’re doing, which only will drive up the demand to expand further.

Boye: What’s the best way for your average person to find you guys to use your product. Just come in? Go to your website?

Jacob: Come into the cafe from Melrose Alley, off La Cienega and Melrose Ave. We definitely want people to come in and find us through the back alley. That’s the exclusive fun element of it. But email, call us, hit us on Instagram, which is increasingly the popular method of communication. 

Rachel: Follow us on Instagram, join the #CryoCult or slide on into our DM’s. 

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Boye: I love it. One last question, what’s the one piece of advice both of you guys have for an entrepreneur looking to build something that touches people?

Jacob: I would say build a great team around you. That’s investors, your employees, your partners, whoever it might be. You’re really only as good as the people that you’re surrounding yourself with and it’s really important to surround yourself with people that level you up, that you can help level up and who add value where you are missing or may be weaker. On top of that, I guess you would say really know your strengths and know your weaknesses and the holes that you have, you fill with other people. 

Rachel: I would tend to agree. I feel really lucky to have found that balance and respect in a business partner as well as having some amazing mentors that play a huge role in setting me straight along the way. I would also say, just find something that’s authentic to you. If you’re not working on something that you’re passionate about, that you can really dig your teeth into, then I don’t think that you can do your best work. When you’re creating a brand or business, it’s almost like you need to become it, really live and breathe it to make it thrive. That’s something I truly live by. I think Jacob and I both really live by that. Immersing yourself in all aspects of an idea and making it tick. 

Boye: Just kidding. I do have one more question. I’m curious, in a world of everyone trying to build apps, we’re seeing this renaissance in physical experiences and this seems to embody exactly that. Do you have anything to say about the experience market that you’re seeing that others may not?

Jacob: As far as the brick and mortar?

Boye: Yeah, the brick and mortar approach to the digital world.

“Find something that’s authentic to you. If you’re not working on something that feels authentic, that you can really dig your teeth into, then I don’t think that you can do your best work”

– Rachel Schoenbaum talks about only working on what you love.

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Jacob: Yeah, people will always want to go places and hang out and gravitate towards environments that they enjoy. Even in a digital world that does suck you in, whatever it might be, people will always still like to go out places. I think, it’s all about creating a great experience and vibe for people. I mean you look at Apple. They are one the best companies of all time, focused on products, and their store is welcoming and inviting, fun to hang out in for 30 minutes if you have nothing to do and you’re nearby. So I think it’s very important to build that experience. We’re living in the digital age where everyone is hooked into their technology, but we need to get out and about to experience things and enjoy life. 

Rachel: Definitely. What people are so enthralled with on their phones and on Instagram can either be consuming in a way paralyzing as they are just sitting on their phones, ir it can be inspiring and drive them to travel and go try something new. Via digital, a picture or video of an intriguing experience or something new and cool is what gets people to “go and do”. It get’s them to connect.

That’s essentially the basis of this “cafe culture”. This is not just a cafe, but it’s the culture of taking time out of your day to spend alone with yourself or with other people in a relaxing, fun, and inviting social environment.

Boye: Love it. Thanks for your time.

Jacob: Time to jump in the chamber and get your freeze on.

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Apple Will Make You Pay For Selfies

If you were born in any time other than the last 10 years, you likely remember an age when you had to actually buy a camera. In those days you could purchase a disposable camera you would turn in to Walmart to develop your photos or bulky digital cameras needing a USB cord to upload your pictures. With the dawn of the Smartphone, camera use changed and now our cameras are one of the most defining pieces of technology for the modern age. That’s why it turns heads when Apple files a patent that can disable your camera, opening the door for censorship, extra fees and abuse of power.

When you go a little deeper, Apple providing a way to curb camera use makes a lot of sense for the technology giant. Imagine a world where artists worried about a ruined live experience, like Alicia Keys and comedians like Dave Chapelle who say “no cameras allowed” are suddenly incentivized to allow camera use if their customer pays an additional 25 – 50% of their ticket price? Or what about museums? You just paid $10 to go to the Smithsonian and now, to use your camera, you have to pay another $5?!

This would be a win for special screenings in Hollywood, which currently employ companies like Yondr to keep cell phone footage from leaking at test screenings or premieres by locking your phone into their branded pouch. This Apple patent however, would allow for entities to simply leverage infrared technology to disable your phone directly.

In theory, this sounds intriguing and may actually make perfect business sense, but when you get into situations like protests, rallies, legislative meetings, and corrupt public workers, the idea of “recording disabled” sounds more violating than anything. As the camera increasingly becomes an actual tool for expression and communication, the idea of censorship treads right up against The First Amendment. The thought of “Big Brother” monitoring our data is crazy enough, and now the possibility of them deciding when and where we can use our technology is even scarier. Apple is soon to be a trillion dollar company representing a higher GDP than most countries. Do you really want to entrust your freedom of speech to any company or organization?

This is the problem inherent with the proliferation of technology. We give up more and more control in our quest for convenience and comfort until we are ultimately inconvenienced, and without freedom. We become addicted to the use of the thing we hoped to give us joy.

Phone camera censorship could actually be a big opportunity for companies like Instax or Polaroid, the latter having somewhat survived the digital photography revolution after being a film company for almost 100 years. There may be a future where the best way to capture a special moment or an injustice without censorship, payment, or hurdle is to use a Polaroid.

Apple submitted this patent in 2009 and it was granted in 2016. It’s caused a lot of private debate and conversation. Any person who leverages the phone camera, for communication or business should be paying very close attention as its implications are far reaching. This issue will likely grow as our cameras become more and more ubiquitous, and organizations want more and more control, but for now, you can enjoy your selfies.