Honoring innovation, leadership, spirit
Since 1986, EY has celebrated the entrepreneurial spirit of men and women who have followed and achieved their dreams. These leaders have changed the lives of countless others by building their businesses and giving back to their communities. Their passion, vision and persistence stand as a testament to their dedication.
The EY Entrepreneur Of The Year® Program was founded to recognize these dynamic leaders and to build an influential community of innovative entrepreneurs. Each year, EY hosts celebrations in 25 U.S. cities to highlight the hard work and dedication of the regional finalists. Their energy and strategic vision have turned their dreams into reality. They are applauded for taking the road less traveled to launch new companies, open new markets and fuel job growth.
Congratulations to all the finalists and winners for their achievements, their perseverance and their unwavering commitment to success in the marketplace.
EY Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2015 Greater Los Angeles
BUSINESS SERVICES Shiva Rajagopalan, Seven Lakes Technologies | Namit Malhotra, Prime Focus | Tony Safoian, SADA Systems Inc.
CONSUMER SERVICES Harrison Tang, Spokeo | Bryce Maddock and Jaspar Weir, TaskUs | Matthew Johnson and Nathan Johnson, TruConnect
EMERGING Elise Wetzel and Richard Wetzel, Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza | Michael Dubin, Dollar Shave Club | Melissa Kieling, PackIt
HEALTH CARE SERVICES Dr. Philip Pumerantz, Western University of Health Sciences | David Allerby, Tyner Brenneman-Slay and Ryan Iwamoto, 24Hr HomeCare | Dr. James Glinn, Jr., Movement for Life
MARKETING & ADVERTISING Jeff Green and Dave Pickles, The Trade Desk | Steve Yi, MediaAlpha | Mark Douglas, SteelHouse Inc.
MEDIA & ENTERTAINMENT Chris DeWolfe, SGN | Walter Driver, Scopely | Stephanie Horbaczewski, StyleHaul
REAL ESTATE John Kilroy, Kilroy Realty Corporation | Jeffrey J. Knyal, Landmark Dividend LLC | Joseph Derhake, Partner Engineering and Science, Inc.
RETAIL & HOSPITALITY Mike Karanikolas and Michael Mente, REVOLVE | John Tomich, Onestop Internet | Matt Marquis, Pacifica Hotel Company
Seven Lakes Technologies
Shiva Rajagopalan was working at Chevron in 2007 as a lead data architect when he noticed a number of inefficiencies across the oil and gas industry. He found there was a vacuum in technology and software available to the mid-cap and small-cap segment in the space. Most had very outdated underlying technology with poor usability and integration.
Furthermore, the younger generation of the oil and gas workforce was ready for a technological upgrade. Seeing the opportunity, Rajagopalan exited Chevron for a project at LINN Energy. His expertise and vision impressed executives at LINN, and before long he had the urge to branch out on his own.
In 2009, Seven Lakes Technologies was born. The most significant obstacle within the industry was convincing large, multibillion-dollar corporations to go with a fledgling startup versus long-time incumbents. Rajagopalan’s charismatic personality and persistence, along with success stories with earlier customers, helped him overcome those obstacles.
Today, Seven Lakes is a 28-client company with an aggressive vision to get 100 customers by the end of the year. The business model involved a two-fold approach of understanding the people, process and technology gaps in the industry, and hiring top talent, allowing them to flourish in a supportive environment, encouraging bottom-up innovation and creativity.
To differentiate, Rajagopalan, CEO, adopted an agile method of software development to ensure that customers got what they ordered in a fraction of the time and cost compared to larger competitors. The company also uses the latest technologies such as tablets for field data capture and configurable workflow solutions, which are made to be configurable by the customer, for the customer.
The vision of Seven Lakes is to bring the oil and gas industry into the 21st century by helping customers transform into collaborative, nimble and analytics-driven companies using the latest technology that is easy to deploy, use, support and upgrade.
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Founder, Global CEO and Executive Chairman
The Prime Focus story began in 1995, with 18-year-old Namit Malhotra and a garage in Mumbai, India. The grandson of a Bollywood cinematographer, and the son of a film producer, Malhotra had identified a significant technology gap between Bollywood and Hollywood. The original business strategy with the formation of Prime Focus in 1997 was to bridge that gap — to become the company that would bring a western level of creative and technological sophistication to the domestic Indian film market.
Between 2006 and 2007 Malhotra expanded Prime Focus from two studios in Mumbai to 14 studios around the globe, raising capital through an IPO and subsequently acquiring and reinvigorating a number of financially unstable western companies in the media and entertainment industry. Then the recession hit. Malhotra, the company’s founder, global CEO and executive chairman, initiated a global branding initiative to bring his companies and services under a common banner, and shepherded two innovative new service offerings to market.
Using the downturn to his advantage, Malhotra led Prime Focus to emerge in 2010 as the first company in the world to convert a full Hollywood feature film from 2-D to 3-D for theatrical release, and the company’s CLEAR platform became utilized by clients such as Warner Bros., 21st Century Fox, The Associated Press, HBO and MTV.
The culmination of this independent thinking came in 2014 with the acquisition of tier one visual effects house, Double Negative, one of the top three companies in its field. Malhotra also consolidated the company in India, acquiring local competitor Reliance MediaWorks, and ownership of film restoration company Lowry Digital, which include a stake in US VFX house, Digital Domain.
Malhotra engineered a transformative deal that led to Prime Focus becoming the world’s largest independent media services company.
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CEO and President
SADA Systems Inc.
Tony Safoian, CEO and president of SADA Systems Inc., has always been progressive in his vision for the technology industry, especially in the burgeoning area of cloud computing. This vision spearheaded SADA’s investment in the cloud when the technology was only just beginning to emerge in the marketplace.
SADA entered the cloud market formally in February 2007 when it became one of the first Google Apps partners in the world. This initiative would become the impetus for SADA’s continued growth into a full service IT and cloud solutions company offering innovative, customized solutions to integrate businesses across all sectors.
Under Safoian’s leadership, SADA grew its service offerings by adding Microsoft cloud solutions, despite the fact it was a direct competitor of Google. Taking this risk had its pitfalls. Safoian, however, has managed to provide competitive solutions while delivering on partner expectations, resulting in multiple accreditations and awards, including being named the 2013 North America Partner of the Year for Google Maps and Google Apps for Government, as well as the 2014 Microsoft U.S. Education Cloud Productivity Partner of the Year.
Safoian continually shapes SADA’s priorities by placing sound engineering at the core of the business model, coupled by exceptional customer support services. This model focuses on constant innovation through the development and implementation of new solutions, offerings and related services for recurring business.
Under Safoian’s guidance, SADA has differentiated itself from other key industry players by proactively addressing a rapidly evolving market across enterprise, SMB, government and education sectors, while anticipating the needs of its customers.
SADA continues to make its mark in the field of cloud computing, which is quickly becoming the technological standard under which enterprise organizations operate. Safoian plans to further SADA’s growth by expanding the company’s current model and geographic locations.
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Co-founder and CEO
Never one to be complacent, Harrison Tang is always focused on a vision to do something bigger tomorrow than what he is doing today. After introducing YapperNut, a Skype mouse/phone, in 2005, he followed that up by co-founding Spokeo in 2006.
Almost 10 years later, Spokeo, a people search service, boasts more than 20 million visitors a month and is helping thousands of individuals and small businesses research and reconnect. The company’s service has helped democratize data and provide access to it for the common person.
Approximately 8 percent of online searches are first and last names. After Facebook’s domination deemed aggregators unnecessary, Tang pivoted Spokeo into a premium social search engine in 2008 and achieved profitability shortly afterward. In 2010, the company went all-in on a full-featured people search engine and it paid off.
Along with scaling the business, Tang and his team have focused heavily on innovation. With a vision to serve all possible aspects of people search, they launched celebrity semantic search in 2011, business search in 2012, criminal record search in 2013, historical record search in 2014, and a family social network, family.me, in 2015.
Harrison believes that the only way for a business to survive is to innovate, and through Spokeo he has excelled at doing so. In a world where opinions about digital privacy are highly varied, under Tang’s leadership as CEO, Spokeo has managed not only to stay afloat, but to flourish. Between 2012 and 2014, the company experienced a major increase in revenue and its employee count. This massive growth shows that Tang is not intimidated by risks or challenges, but instead uses them to spur innovation.
Tang’s experience has encompassed major growth and considerable challenges alike, but in the face of these, he remains focused on his vision and has refused to become complacent.
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Co-founder and CEO
Co-founder and President
Professionally, Bryce Maddock and Jaspar Weir built high standards into the conceptualization and launch of TaskUs, a provider of outsourced customer care and back office support to growth companies.
The duo co-founded TaskUs in 2008 as a virtual personal assistant company designed to help busy professionals offload administrative tasks to virtual assistants. Maddock and Weir quickly realized that their virtual personal assistant concept was less lucrative than providing services to growing companies that often needed to outsource critical, but time-consuming business processes.
While there are definite similarities in the way that TaskUs and other business process outsourcing companies operate, the competitive differentiation is based on customer segment and approach. In the traditional BPO model, productivity and efficiency trump the customer experience, as large outsourcing companies tend to focus on preserving margins. These corporations have massive headcounts characterized by heavy turnover with environments that do not support a corporate culture or engaged workforce. The emphasis on profitability and lack of culture combine to reduce quality for clients, and leads to minimal client account support.
At TaskUs, Maddock, CEO, and Weir, president, have focused on developing a customer-centric approach that allows clients to scale effectively through having a partner with expertise in building customer contact and back office operations. In sharp contrast to traditional BPOs, TaskUs’ model does not emphasize proprietary technology or process, but rather emphasizes building process and technology calibrated to the individual clients’ needs.
Maddock and Weir have contributed to the creation, development and management of a company that has grown its workforce significantly from 2008 to today. TaskUs has achieved its year-over-year revenue growth and has built an enviable portfolio of clients that include well-known companies such as Uber, Groupon, LinkedIn, Tinder and Whisper.
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Co-CEO and Chairman
In 2006, twin brothers Matthew and Nathan Johnson acquired Telscape Communications, rebranding the company as TruConnect. The brothers invested millions of dollars of their own capital on an equal basis with a private equity firm, each serving on the board of directors and Nathan assuming the title of chairman.
In 2009, facing the economic downturn and a significant decline in their telecommunications business, the Johnson’s decided to take full control of the company and chart a new course. As a result, the brothers assumed the titles of co-CEO to take full operational and board control of the business.
Adapting and reinvigorating TruConnect’s business multiple times since 2009 to meet market demands brought individual sets of challenges — from a series of financial difficulties and employee restructurings to negotiating acquisitions and facilitating rapid expansion. Each challenge, however, has strengthened the Johnson’s resolve to build a market-leading company.
In 2012, TruConnect acquired Dallas-based Sage Telecom in a move to build the company’s overall telecommunications offering beyond California by gaining access to more than 250,000 customers in 11 states. While the brothers now had a much larger platform to build from, the new combined entity was still predominately a wireline business continuing to experience line losses each month.
In an effort to reinvent the larger enterprise, the brothers launched a new company in 2012 called TruConnect Mobile, which focused on providing unique prepaid mobile data offerings to the underserved market. Ultimately, this startup won a bidding process with Wal-Mart and laid the foundation for building a new company, new brand and new offerings with national appeal.
In January 2015, the company restructured its full range of wireless and wireline offerings and rebranded the parent company under the TruConnect brand. Today, TruConnect remains focused on the development of new and innovative solutions for the underserved markets.
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Co-founder and Co-CEO
Co-founder and Co-CEO
Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza
Working together, husband and wife Co-founders and Co-CEOs Richard and Elise Wetzel set out to create a modern day pizza restaurant serving artisanal quality pizza that was both fast and affordable. In 2011, they sketched out their plan on the back of a Chipotle napkin, and Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza was born.
Using an interactive assembly-line format, Blaze Pizza lets guests co-create their own pizza. Pizzas are then sent to a blazing hot open-flame oven, ready to eat in just 180 seconds. It’s food served fast, but with an experience that’s differentiated from traditional fast food.
From the beginning, the Wetzels envisioned a concept that would ignite change. Today, Blaze Pizza is committed to its chef-driven recipes, casually hip design and outstanding hospitality. Blaze Pizza is currently opening a new restaurant every six days and has locations in the metro areas of Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Miami and Washington, D.C. The Wetzels believe that Blaze Pizza could have close to 1,000 locations by 2020.
From its inception, the Wetzel’s set out to create a company with a modern culture — one that engages, inspires and reflects the values of its guests, employees and franchise partners. Early on, they teamed up with critically acclaimed chef Brad Kent, not for the prestige, but for the integrity of the food, and formed an executive team of restaurant veterans to build an organization that would enable the company to reach its full potential.
Core to its culture is Blaze Pizza’s unconventional approach that believes in harnessing the power of the individual. From the larger-than-life wall graphics to a team member dress code policy that celebrates individuality, Blaze challenges itself and its guests to “take the wheel” and to “make your mark.”
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Founder and CEO
Dollar Shave Club
When Michael Dubin decided to enter the men’s razors market, one of the oldest undisrupted markets with huge incumbents, he knew that a David and Goliath scenario was waiting for him. Despite the possible challenges ahead, he firmly believed that the men’s grooming space would benefit from a better, more convenient option, and that a company like Dollar Shave Club would resonate with men.
Dubin founded Dollar Shave Club in March 2012 because he saw — and personally felt — men’s frustration with the price and experience of buying razors at stores. Guys had to track down the clerk to unlock the razor case, only to pay exorbitant prices. Dubin knew that the frustration was widespread.
He quit his job and invested his savings into the new venture, launching it from his apartment. He set out to solve a problem with a simple club offering — a monthly shipment of quality razors purchased online.
A portion of the money Dubin put into Dollar Shave Club went towards creating the now famous YouTube video, which launched the business and has been viewed nearly 20 million times. At launch, Dollar Shave Club garnered 12,000 orders placed in the first 48 hours.
Dubin, the company’s CEO, corralled his team, and together they began filling each order and building the company that would become what it is today. In the three years since launch, Dubin’s commitment to disrupt a multibillion-dollar industry is paying off.
Dollar Shave Club now owns 10-plus-percent of the U.S. men’s cartridge market and has effectively changed the industry, forcing major legacy brands to follow Dubin’s lead. Today, Dollar Shave Club has a substantial and loyal member base, and has launched a lineup of additional grooming products in an effort to own and service the men’s bathroom.
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Co-founder and CEO
After packing her children’s lunches for more than a decade, Melissa Kieling became frustrated with how insulated bags failed to keep meals cool and safe for long periods of time. So, she took matters into her own hands and invented a lunch bag with a freezable gel lining that kept food and drinks cool for 10 hours.
Kieling co-founded PackIt five years ago on the premise that families should get more from their coolers. While the concept of her freezable, foldable lunch bag was well received, its appearance wasn’t distinguished enough — it looked like every other lunch cooler on the market. Buyers expressed concern that consumers wouldn’t understand how unique the product was.
Getting major retailers to take a chance on an unproven product in a crowded category required serious ingenuity on Kieling’s part. Rather than lobby major retailers right away, Kieling decided to take her product to the real players in the market — kids who eat lunches and the parents who pack them.
In 2011, Kieling strategically invested in a targeted marketing campaign on all the biggest children’s TV networks. Not only did it educate consumers about the PackIt concept, but it was also a calculated means of reaching retail buyers’ children. In addition to jump-starting sales, the initiative built widespread brand recognition and garnered the attention of coveted buyers.
The success of the campaign was the single biggest factor in getting PackIt into major retailers, where PackIt is currently the No. 1 lunch bag. In six short years, PackIt’s technology has disrupted an entire industry and reinvented coolers across the globe causing the CEO to expand into three additional lunch accessories, plus products for shopping, picnic/beach, wine and baby.
These efforts have legitimized the brand in the marketplace and persuaded retailers to purchase goods on a greater scale.
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Health Care Services
Dr. Philip Pumerantz
Western University of Health Sciences
Dr. Philip Pumerantz is a U.S. Army veteran, holder of bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in history and education from the University of Connecticut, and a long-time educator. These accomplishments are what ultimately caught the attention of a small group of osteopathic physicians in California who were on the hunt for a leader.
On Labor Day 1977, the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific was born, and Pumerantz became its founding president. The first class of osteopathic medical students, 36 in all, was admitted in October 1978.
Despite a host of hurdles including newly proposed anti-osteopathy legislation, demands of accrediting bodies and resistance from local businessmen who wanted retail firms, not a nonprofit school, at the location, Pumerantz and his allies acquired a former J.C. Penney building to go along with their first small office. They built classrooms, offices and an anatomy lab. Still, the entire campus comprised only a few thousand square feet, with a handful of students, support staff and faculty.
Today, Western University of Health Sciences, which COMP became in 1996, sits on more than 22 acres in downtown Pomona, and is home to nine colleges: COMP, Allied Health Professions, Pharmacy, Graduate Nursing, Veterinary Medicine, Dental Medicine, Optometry, Podiatric Medicine and the Graduate College of Biomedical Sciences. A second campus, known as COMP-Northwest, opened in 2011 in Oregon.
The campuses combined have more than 3,900 students enrolled in the 2014-2015 academic year. Alumni from all programs surpassed the 11,000 mark with the May 2014 commencement. Pumerantz is now the third-longest-tenured university president of all the doctoral degree-awarding institutions in the country, at more than 36 years.
It’s all been made possible by The WesternU Way — inspiration, energy and entrepreneurial spirit joining forces with the university’s humanistic mission of educating tomorrow’s healers to be compassionate, caring and technically proficient.
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Co-founder and CEO
Co-founder and COO
Co-founder and CMO
The idea behind creating a home care company that combined the professionalism of a nationwide corporation and the personal touch of a small business came from its founders’ years of experience in the home care industry, during which it became clear that there were aspects of the industry that could be improved. 24Hr HomeCare opened its doors in 2008, providing professional caregiving services.
Starting the company was tough, however. The U.S. Small Business Administration advised the three co-founders, David Allerby, CEO, Tyner Brenneman-Slay, COO and Ryan Iwamoto, CMO, not to start a business of any sort because of poor economic conditions. Despite these factors, the three made the decision to leave their stable workplace and put their savings towards establishing 24Hr HomeCare.
Many long-standing home care companies had well-established relationships with hospitals, assisted living facilities and senior care centers, becoming an integral part of the patient care cycle. As newcomers to the industry, the company worked to build relationships with health care personnel within these organizations to secure 24Hr HomeCare a spot as the alternate home care company.
Opportunities would come when established home care partners were unable to provide quality caregiving services. Time after time, 24Hr HomeCare was able to deliver quality home care experiences, eventually replacing these health care organizations’ existing partners.
24Hr HomeCare sustains creativity through regular internal competitions that are conducive to the exchange of ideas. Each of the company’s 12 offices create a video promoting a new service offering or way of improving business processes, and every quarter, the winning branch receives funds to build out its idea and standardize it across the company.
24Hr HomeCare’s processes for creating systematic innovation has led to award-winning customer service, a 24-hour availability, an extensive caregiver recruitment procedure and unique specialty training programs for caregivers.
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Dr. James Glinn, Jr.
Movement for Life
In January 1999, Dr. James Glinn, Jr. founded what is now known as Movement for Life with a credit card cash advance check and a family loan he used to buy a small physical therapy practice in San Luis Obispo. The early days required that Glinn develop an innovative plan to be successful in a competitive area with many established physical therapy practices.
To grow in this competitive environment, he developed a business strategy believing that the right people working together would be able to take on far more responsibility when expectations and training were clear and rewards were meaningful. In a field where health care providers are sometimes mocked for a narrow scope of abilities, he saw far more potential with a focused and forward-looking team.
His model was and remains simple. Each location has a director who is compensated with a nominal base pay (less than 50 percent of the average compensation of a new graduate physical therapist) with a bonus of 40 percent of the profits for their location.
Glinn has made sure to reinvest in the company to keep organic growth going, building a robust employee profit sharing plan, and most recently, implementing the Movement For Life Employee Stock Ownership Plan, making the company the largest employee owned entity of its kind in several distinct categories.
Today, Movement For Life utilizes its unique model for sharing risk and reward among a group of like-minded and innovative practitioners and business experts.
Through an active team of professionals in the fields of athletic training, physical therapy, exercise physiology and personal training, Movement for Life has formulated and executed unique programs for the performance, prevention, maintenance and rehabilitation of movement-related challenges and goals.
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Marketing & Advertising
Co-founder and CEO
Co-founder and CTO
The Trade Desk
Two years after Jeff Green sold his first company, AdECN, to Microsoft in 2007, he faced a choice — live well climbing the corporate ladder or forge out on his own once again. Green chose the latter, and together with Dave Pickles, the two turned their focus toward developing the emerging market of advertising technology.
Green saw this as a launching pad to further grow efficiencies and improvements in how media is bought and sold. When he met Pickles, who would become Green’s co-founder and CTO at The Trade Desk, he realized he had found a comrade in that mission.
When Green and Pickles founded The Trade Desk, a global advertising technology platform, their vision for the future of advertising was a world where every format — TV, billboards, print, digital — was bought and sold through the efficiency of technological platforms. They called for the end to the fax machine insertion order that was once a standard for doing business in advertising.
Many on the sell side have taken their words as a call to arms to modernize their own approaches. With the belief that advertising will move to programmatic buying and selling, Green, CEO, and Pickles have taken a pure platform approach where they invite mature agencies and emerging technology providers to build their businesses on The Trade Desk.
It is also their belief that building 1,000 businesses on the promise of the platform will yield greater long-term results than selling a few hundred customers on the current state of affairs. In this long-view approach, they have diversified their own business offerings without having to hire a massive sales force or accounts team.
The Trade Desk has proven its model works, and businesses are building their model on the company’s advice.
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Co-founder and CEO
Steve Yi fundamentally believes that transparency and fairness create the most efficient transactional paradigm within a business. Unfortunately, this was not, and is not, the prevailing sentiment in the online lead generation industry that his company, MediaAlpha, is so rapidly disrupting.
Yi co-founded MediaAlpha in early 2011, as the insurance comparison website QuoteLab.com, with only two advertisers — GEICO and Nationwide. In mid-2012, the founders came up with the idea of leveraging the company’s advertising platform and building a fully transparent, real-time programmatic advertising exchange.
The new MediaAlpha would completely disrupt the inefficient, opaque ad networks that were dominating insurance lead generation. After six months of due diligence and negotiations, the company secured commitments from Esurance and All Web Leads as its first participants, and in early 2013, MediaAlpha Exchange launched.
While initially dwarfed by insurance ad networks from Bankrate, QuinStreet and Vantage Media, insurance advertisers and publishers quickly embraced the greater efficiency and transparency offered by MediaAlpha’s programmatic advertising platform. With Yi as CEO, the company quickly grew to become larger than all three incumbents combined in the insurance segment.
MediaAlpha is now the dominant market leader with more than 75 insurance advertisers, 85 publishers, and an estimated 65 percent market share. Two of the three major ad networks now source a majority of their outside inventory from MediaAlpha.
Most importantly, MediaAlpha spawned a new generation of ad networks that now build businesses directly on the company’s platform. MediaAlpha’s roster of advertisers includes some of the largest and most sophisticated online marketers. For a majority of these insurance advertisers, MediaAlpha is now either the largest or second largest performance-based marketing channel, behind only Google.
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CEO and President
Mark Douglas is a self-taught HTML coder. While building eHarmony’s technologies, Douglas thought about how he could bring its model to the rest of the marketing industry and fix what he felt was broken in online advertising.
Online ads were boring and marketers had to settle on not knowing where their budget was going. He knew he could change the way ads were built and increase the velocity without sacrificing the creative. He could make online ads dynamic, with carousels and video background — all with a simple code.
So he left his job and started writing code out of his apartment while he recruited his team. Douglas then founded SteelHouse Inc. in 2010 to deliver a marketing platform unlike anything available in the industry. As its CEO and president, Douglas built SteelHouse with veteran direct marketers and engineers from eHarmony, E*TRADE, Oracle and the Rubicon Project.
Designed by marketers, SteelHouse’s CANVAS, a data-driven marketing platform, gave marketers control of campaigns at every level. More control meant better performance. The SteelHouse business model has scaled to create game-changing technology. Not only has the company automated how ads are served, it has re-engineered how they are built, and who is targeted.
With CANVAS, marketers have unprecedented visibility into their audience. SteelHouse’s platform gathers first-party data in real time, using a proprietary Smarter Pixel that allows marketers to target specific audience segments with relevant offers immediately. Once they know who to target, marketers can set campaign priority, escalation, A/B testing, measure the true lift with control groups and get superior analytics all in one place.
SteelHouse will soon be launching an industry first Creative Ad Builder and a complete redesign of its marketing platform. CANVAS will be the first creative platform that puts the power of creating and editing dynamic, rich media ads in the hands of marketers.
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Media & Entertainment
As the pioneer behind MySpace, Chris DeWolfe established many of the commonplace social media mechanics that define today’s digital generation. He now applies that knowledge — gained from his entrepreneurial journey — toward his breakout success in the mobile gaming industry under his new venture, SGN.
As DeWolfe prepared to exit MySpace in 2009, he assembled his comprehensive vision for a new mobile games enterprise with risk-averse technology strategies. SGN (Social Gaming Network), a cross-platform mobile game developer, was co-founded by DeWolfe because he foresaw a tremendous opportunity in mobile games as an emerging medium for connected entertainment.
Leveraging key lessons learned from factors that impacted MySpace’s lifespan, such as fragmentation of too many development programs simultaneously, he applied a critical focus toward developing a new methodology to avoid reliance on one individual platform.
SGN’s first technological effort focused on building a platform on which a game is developed once and then published on multiple platforms with one set of programming. This patent-pending platform, MasterKey, empowers the studio to deliver a seamless game play experience regardless of the device. With social media integration and interactive features inherent in its popular titles, SGN connects players with friends, creates a competitive aspect to game play and makes the experience immersive and personalized.
SGN also leverages its online game network, Mindjolt, as a research and discovery ground, serving as a real-time incubator for the team to identify and implement next- generation game play mechanics.
As CEO, DeWolfe has steadily built SGN to become a top, privately held mobile games studio. As these companies grow, so has a major shift in how consumers spend. Today, the mobile gaming industry earns more total revenue than the entire traditional gaming industry. In 2015 and beyond, DeWolfe intends to pursue expanded entertainment, talent and branded partnerships for future game development.
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Co-founder and CEO
Scopely, founded in 2011 by serial entrepreneur and CEO Walter Driver, is a leading publisher of free-to-play games on mobile and tablet devices. After seeing the macro trends in technology pointing to 2 billion smartphones by 2015 and the average American touching their smartphone 150 times a day, Scopely was built to capture a portion of that market and has launched four consecutive No. 1 games on the iPhone and seen more than 35 million people use its products.
Scopely is the first entertainment network to focus on interactive experiences on touchscreen devices, earning it the nickname “the HBO of mobile games” by industry observers. Its innovative business model in the games space works with a distributed network of the world’s elite game developers and focuses on building industry leading distribution and monetization technology for free-to-play games.
Nearly all of the leading free-to-play game companies in the western world develop and publish their own games. Scopely is unique in the fact that it is agnostic about its economic relationship with game developers, whether it is a first-, second- or third-party relationship. This approach leads to more innovation and specialization because Scopely can leverage the creativity of independent teams all over the world rather than relying on the expertise of its full-time employees.
Scopely partners with developers and oversees brand and performance marketing, analytics, ad serving and ad sales, business development and strategic partnerships, licensing, localization, quality assurance, community management, customer support, CRM and more, while the developers focus on building and refining the game experience. Scopely then publishes the product to its large network of registered users and shares revenue with the developer.
Driver and his team plan to create original, mobile-first intellectual property that can become other forms of media, such as television and film.
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CEO and President
After graduate school, Stephanie Horbaczewski went on to become the director of marketing at Saks Fifth Avenue. After reading an article about how Ashton Kutcher and Jason Goldberg were making short form videos for brands in 2009, she boarded a plane to Los Angeles with the dream of building a large-scale video platform that connects brands with targeted audiences.
Eventually, she partnered with Allen and Aaron Debevoise of Machinima and founded StyleHaul, a fashion and beauty network on YouTube providing multiplatform marketing solutions that reach the female demographic via video and social programming, in 2011. Horbaczewski put everything financially, emotionally and physically into starting StyleHaul, and empowers her team to explore unanswered or unasked questions to drive innovation.
While StyleHaul started with a dominant position on YouTube, Horbaczewski is leading the way for platform diversification to make StyleHaul a trailblazer across all social platforms where brands have the opportunity to engage with targeted audiences in a native environment.
Today, the CEO and president has led her company to more than 200 million network subscribers on YouTube with more than 5,000 content creators and 72 million monthly unique viewers. The company has more than 1 billion monthly video views and nearly four times the engagement of any other YouTube network.
StyleHaul has mastered closing the purchase funnel, allowing brands to track ROI via engagement metrics such as comments, likes, shares and favorites through to the purchase of products. In addition, StyleHaul has redefined the way agencies and brands value and purchase branded content by expanding the depth of data, like the concept of engagement, and the pricing and packaging of content at scale to make media budgets an available source of funding.
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CEO, Chairman and President
Kilroy Realty Corporation
At the core of John Kilroy’s success is a love for competition, passion for design and a deep belief in innovation. An internationally recognized sailor and skipper, his accomplishments have required determination and endurance, vigilance and dexterity, a well-designed vessel and crew, the ability to see opportunity in uncertainty and a willingness to act quickly on emerging developments.
Kilroy brings all of these skills to Kilroy Realty Corporation as its CEO, chairman and president, where in 34 years he has taken the company public, doubled its workforce and grown its value. He succeeds in business just as he does in sailing — by excelling through design, managing through downturns, taking advantage of good conditions and assembling an exemplary team.
Rather than pursue a traditional model, Kilroy approaches business development as an organically evolving process. For example, from 2005 to 2007, he employed a cost-effective, “bulldozer-free” repositioning approach, maintaining the company’s existing properties, enhancing surrounding neighborhoods and improving quality of life for tenants. These kinds of sustainable strategies have helped Kilroy ride out market turbulence, turning a down market into an opportunity for innovation.
After the recession, Kilroy was one of the first companies on the West Coast to expand into some of the strongest markets in the country, including Hollywood, San Francisco and Seattle. In the past five years of the market’s rebound, Kilroy assumed more risk by acquiring strategic properties at below replacement cost and selling nonstrategic assets in order to finance more value-creating developments, which tripled Kilroy’s enterprise value.
From central decisions like design, location and amenities, to providing great customer service to tenants and service providers alike, Kilroy takes an active role in the success of each project. Employing smart strategies through his well-coordinated team, he has sailed this former family business into the modern age.
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Jeffrey J. Knyal
Landmark Dividend LLC
Over the past 25 years, Jeffrey J. Knyal founded four successful companies and pioneered three distinct industries. Over the years, however, a lot had happened in his life, and in an attempt to turn things around he founded Landmark Dividend LLC, a ground lease transactions company, in February 2010.
After raising startup funding, Knyal, Landmark’s CEO, made 30 job offers to the same crew he had to let go at his former company. All 30 accepted his offer and came to work for Landmark.
The original ideas for Landmark, a company that provides value, capital and liquidity to owners of ground leases for cellular towers, billboards and alternative energy infrastructure, were sourced by three primary strategies. The first was a tenant rental reduction program Knyal designed for AT&T Wireless in 2002. This was the first program of its kind where ground leases could be purchased from a property owner and the lease payment reduced through an amendment benefiting the tenant.
The second strategy was that leases could be pooled and sold to investors through financial structures realizing a significant markup. The third strategy tapped into the capital available through its community of family offices.
Landmark was the first company to purchase ground leases under billboards, wind turbines, solar farms and fiber easements, all of which helped the company complete its IPO in November 2014. There have been numerous internal improvements made at Landmark, including a paperless workflow environment, 360-degree monitoring of all system actions and Pic2Lead, where photographs of cellular towers are sent to an offshore team in India and scrubbed of the property owner’s name and contact data.
Knyal plans to take his business global, and has recently opened an office in Sydney, and is conducting business in Canada and Puerto Rico.
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Partner Engineering and Science, Inc.
Following in his father’s footsteps, Joseph Derhake pursued a career in engineering. He settled into civil engineering and environmental due diligence where he quickly advanced as a professional consulting engineer.
In 2007, after establishing his reputation in the industry, Derhake realized that there was growing demand for better physical risk management in the real estate market. So, along with seven of his colleagues, Derhake founded Partner Engineering and Science, Inc.
As CEO, Derhake’s determination to succeed combined with his entrepreneurial spirit and intrinsic disposition for leadership quickly grew the concept to the success it is today — Partner is the largest provider of engineering and environmental due diligence services in the country.
Being tied to the commercial real estate industry, Partner’s founding at the beginning of the market crash was at a rather precarious time as both clients and competitors were forced to downsize. Nevertheless, Derhake was able to grow the company’s team and client base rapidly, securing prominent national clients such as Citibank, JP Morgan Chase, Credit Suisse and Bank of America within its first year.
In addition to organic growth, Partner has been involved with a number of key acquisitions. Within the first few years of Partner’s founding, Derhake purchased US Reports and LandAmerica Assessment Corporation, transactions that helped catapult Partner to the top of the due diligence industry. In 2013, Partner acquired the civil engineering and design firm Birdsall Services Group.
Through these acquisitions Derhake has added talented professionals and multiservice expertise to Partner. In recent years, Derhake and his technical executive team have continued to expand Partner beyond its core due diligence services into new business sectors to provide turnkey technical services for all stages of a real estate asset. Today, Partner is rapidly becoming the market leader within what has long been a fractured industry.
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Retail & Hospitality
Co-owner and Co-CEO
Co-owner and Co-CEO
With backgrounds in tech, Web development and business finance, Mike Karanikolas and Michael Mente saw an opportunity to create a groundbreaking online shopping experience. REVOLVE was established in 2003 by the co-owners and co-CEOs during the dot-com boom.
At that time, the fashion industry doubted the viability of e-commerce and no one was providing an online destination for premium, multi-brand fashion, combined with great service. In just 10 years, however, Mente and Karanikolas turned a small website selling a handful of brands into a growing company stocking more than 500 men’s and women’s fashion brands, shipping to customers in more than 150 countries.
By 2013, both REVOLVE and the company’s second division, FORWARD by Elyse Walker, which was unveiled in 2012, were on a hypergrowth track. REVOLVE was started with the intent of seeking out the most sought-after fashion brands and bringing them to a singular, online destination. While the company launched with a handful of established brands, REVOLVE has since introduced an array of new and emerging designers to an international customer.
This carefully curated mix of brands and products is at the center of REVOLVE’s and FORWARD’s philosophy, and is what sets the business apart from competitors. There is minimal designer and product overlap with other retailers in the space making the company unique.
In 2015, REVOLVE and FORWARD will continue to build on year-over-year growth by adding to the division’s respective designer rosters. REVOLVE aims to strengthen its foothold in key growth markets overseas by deepening marketing activities and developing localized content. With 40 percent of all traffic coming from mobile, both businesses will focus on developing its user experience across all mobile platforms.
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Co-founder and CEO
Co-founder and CEO John Tomich’s vision and determination have helped Onestop Internet weather both volatile economic circumstances and significant shifts in the apparel and digital spaces. Tomich’s ability to demonstrate Onestop Internet’s appeal to targeted clients helped the company scale at pivotal moments in its infancy.
Onestop Internet, which builds and manages fully-integrated digital commerce channels for brands and retailers on an outsourced, revenue-share basis, was founded in 2004 with a single client. Onestop provided this client customer service, e-commerce technology, photography, creative design and online marketing services.
The client was capital constrained, so Onestop agreed on a revenue share, commission structure as compensation for the services, which was unique considering most e-commerce agencies operate on a work-for-hire, time and materials basis. This first client provided Onestop with the cash flow to hire staff, lease its own warehouse space and expand the business.
The Internet retail industry continues to grow year after year. Within it, the company ensures it continually innovates its technology and service offerings to keep up with industry trends. The company believes that e-commerce operations, operational efficiencies, technological innovation and synchronized scaling can all be achieved with a shared infrastructure and a knowledgeable partner.
Onestop’s data warehousing and business intelligence offering is a strong differentiator from competitive in-house solutions. Additionally, Onestop has a strong leadership position with apparel, accessory and footwear brands. Potential growth drivers for Onestop include international expansion, omnichannel innovation and supply chain optimization, as well as possible M&A activity to accelerate scale and growth.
Above all else, Tomich recognizes the importance of assembling and maintaining a talented team by creating a fun, dynamic and educational workplace. The Onestop headquarters is an environment that is designed to inspire employee creativity and development.
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CEO and President
Pacifica Hotel Company
Matt Marquis joined his father at Pacifica Real Estate Group in 1997. After a few years working side-by-side with his father and other partners in the business, Marquis decided to separate from the Pacific Real Estate Group and set out on his own.
In 2000, Invest West Financial Corporation became the new Marquis family company, along with Pacifica Hotels Company. IWFC had been in existence since 1970 and has a storied history in the investment of operation companies and real estate investments for private investors.
When Marquis got involved, Pacifica Hotels owned and operated approximately 15 hotels and 10 commercial properties, along with three operating companies. During the past 15 years, Marquis has grown Pacifica Hotels through its new holding company, Marquis Diversified Enterprises, into a leading boutique hotel company with almost 30 hotel properties in its portfolio. The family business that was once focused on investment placement of private equity money is now a full-service real estate and hotel company.
As CEO and president of Pacifica Hotels, Marquis has developed a strategy in the hospitality industry of providing a unique experience to travelers. The company is successful in providing unusually high returns to its investors by offering hotel guests a four- and five-star experience at a three- and four-star cost.
In recent years, Marquis and his brother undertook the challenge to revamp the Pacifica portfolio of coastal properties to a much more contemporary and boutique design. With this vision in mind, Pacifica Design Group was relaunched and began producing innovative and cutting-edge design on new and existing portfolio properties to maximize profitability in each marketplace.
The results were an increase in average daily rates of 25 to 35 percent. Marquis also championed a realignment of the business’s operating entities and those of its asset investment companies.
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* Prior award recipient ** Prior award recipient and national finalist
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