For 30 years, EY has celebrated the entrepreneurial spirit of men and women pursuing innovation and entrepreneurial excellence in their businesses, their teams and their communities. We are excited to announce that this year, the program is honoring 15 “best-in-class” companies from some of Orange County and Inland Empire’s most deserving entrepreneurs.
The blood, sweat and passion they’ve poured into their businesses and the triumphs they’ve achieved stand as a testament to the role they play as visionaries, leaders and innovators. EY founded the Entrepreneur Of The Year® Awards Program to recognize their passion for excellence, to celebrate their legacy, and to build an influential and innovative community of peers.
We have gathered here tonight and in 24 other cities around the U.S. throughout the month of June to welcome the men and women who are award recipients into EY’s entrepreneurial Hall of Fame and to toast their commitment to succeed. We applaud them for launching their companies, disrupting their industries and fueling job growth.
Join me in celebrating their achievements, their perseverance and their tireless pursuit of business excellence. ●
TECHNOLOGY (WINNER) Stuart McClure, Cylance Inc. | (FINALIST) George Kurtz, CrowdStrike (FINALIST) Jeff Erle, MobilityWare, Inc. FINANCIAL SERVICES (WINNER) Patricia Arvielo and Rick Arvielo, New American Funding | (FINALIST) Steven Sugarman and Jeffrey Seabold, Banc of California | (FINALIST) Michael Purcell, Global Cash Card | HEALTH & EDUCATION (WINNER) Dr. Andrew Abraham, Orgain, Inc. | (FINALIST) Lane Rankin, Illuminate Education, Inc. | (FINALIST) Brian Meshkin, Proove Biosciences, Inc. | PROFESSIONAL SERVICES (WINNER) Darin Anderson, Salas O’Brien | (FINALIST) Maria Thompson,Agile Sourcing Partners Dan Rodrigques, Kareo, Inc. | BUSINESS SERVICES (WINNER) Jerome Fink and David Kim, The Bascom Group, LLC | (FINALIST) Gary Moore, American Technologies, Inc. | (FINALIST) Jeffrey Coats, Autobytel Inc.
Here are the 2016 Entrepreneurs Of The Year for Orange County
President and CEO
Cylance Inc.’s formation came after President and CEO Stuart McClure gave a speech on cybersecurity, which he had done many times since his book, “Hacking Exposed,” became the best-selling IT security book of all time. Many at his speeches would ask what he did to protect his computer. In considering his answer, he realized he didn’t trust any security technology because it was all reactive — it only knew something was bad if it had seen it before, which meant there were already victims out there. So he set out to develop a program based on proactive protection. His first prototype proved to be twice as effective as the industry average — it is now up to 99 percent efficacy with .001 percent rate of false positives — and that earned Cylance immediate attention.
Part of the company’s success can be attributed to it’s successful sales team, but that hasn’t always been the case. The company initially hired a sales team that knew how to sell, but did not completely understand what was being sold. McClure put in place a different kind of sales team made up of curious, inquisitive and interested people. They are hungry go-getters who always ask themselves what they can do better.
Cylance’s culture of openness allows it to identify and address issues rapidly and effectively. Its skip-level management program ensures that all employees have a voice and will be heard. Skip-level management at Cylance means that if you go to your manager with a problem and your manager does not or cannot solve it, you have not only a right, but an obligation, to go above him or her. McClure is no exception. Any employee at the company is welcome to speak with the board of directors with no approvals required. ●
As the co-founder, president and CEO of CrowdStrike, George Kurtz leads by example, demonstrating his get-it-done attitude while on a mission to protect his clients by providing high-quality internet security solutions at a reasonable price.
When Kurtz left McAfee five years ago to start CrowdStrike, his goal was to disrupt the old model of on-premise cybersecurity solutions and introduce a less expensive, faster, scalable, cloud-based protection that was preventative. Today, CrowdStrike is considered a market leader in cloud-based cybersecurity solutions, and Kurtz is leading the team to achieve more success in the international landscape.
Having been in the internet security industry for nearly 20 years, Kurtz knew the cloud-based service that CrowdStrike offers was unheard of when the firm first started. The biggest challenge then was to find the first customers. He and his team started small and built a good reputation, which helped the company land big-name clients.
Still, with an increasing number of companies offering cybersecurity services, differentiation and brand recognition are key. To get its name out, Kurtz has increased the firm’s focus on marketing, hiring a chief marketing officer to institute a strategic marketing plan. CrowdStrike is also leveraging its close relationship with some of its big-name clients to gain word-of-mouth momentum.
Product innovation, however, is the reason CrowdStrike has been successful. The company claims to be the first to move internet security solutions to a cloud-based platform. Kurtz recognized that he could marry the cost effective, scalable capabilities of a cloud-based model to the constantly growing cybersecurity needs of companies and governmental organizations around the world. For his efforts, Time Magazine named Kurtz one of its Visionaries for Security in December 2015, and MIT named CrowdStrike one of the world’s most disruptive software companies in 2013. ●
The gaming industry relies heavily on brand presence. As a gaming studio, however, MobilityWare, Inc.’s end users are unaware of the work conducted on the back end to produce an engaging product or game.
Instead, CEO Jeff Erle focuses on two sets of people — customers and employees.
In order to outperform copycat firms within the industry, Erle creates unique differentiating factors for each game and always keeps in mind the tens of millions of end users who enjoy the mobile games produced by MobilityWare.
Erle has developed a customer service center for these end users and retained the ability to “skip forward” through advertisements, even though this is MobilityWare’s primary source of revenue.
Erle also considers employee retention a key performance metric. Since his arrival in 2013, MobilityWare has only lost three employees and one of those retired.
Along with loyalty, he seeks to build high performance teams. According to Erle, creating a high performing team is based on four stages: testing, infighting, getting organized and, eventually, high performance. Through this framework, Erle can recognize key issues that occur when developing teams and be better equipped to deal with team breakdowns.
The office environment is based on collaboration, teamwork and flexibility. Every six weeks, Erle holds a town hall meeting, which all employees are required to attend to learn about the state of the business and its operations.
MobilityWare is founded upon four pillars: evolving the firm’s brand, maintaining revenue growth, developing more intellectual property and enhancing human capital. Unfortunately, IP is difficult to protect within this industry, so Erle recognized the important of having a diversified portfolio of games, rather than focusing solely on one successful game.
Another aspect of MobilityWare’s originality and innovation are exemplified by marketing on new platforms, such as Apple Watch and Apple TV. ●
President Patricia Arvielo and CEO Rick Arvielo lead by example, with strong, consistent leadership at New American Funding.
During the financial crisis, the mortgage industry suffered, but NAF came through almost unscathed — buying back only one loan. NAF never had substantial layoffs, because rather than chasing the higher-earning subprime loans, the Arvielos stuck to their conservative principles.
When the market slowed, however, the two didn’t take a paycheck for 18 months.
The co-founders are extremely active politically, which demonstrates their long-term approach to business. They decided to encourage their employees to get involved as well. In just one week, NAF employees contributed more to an advocacy campaign, through the Mortgage Bankers Association Political Action Committee, than any single company in the history of MORPAC.
Also, NAF has the highest percentage of mortgages to minorities in the country, an initiative Patricia has been heavily involved in. The company itself has a high percentage of minority and women employees.
The largest growth has come through the Hispanic demographic, but NAF launched the New American Dream project as well — to help African-Americans obtain homeownership.
Neither Rick nor Patricia earned a college degree. They’ve made their way by working hard and doing what is right. They instill that same philosophy in the company’s culture.
Your race or sex doesn’t matter, or if you have a degree or not, NAF looks for character. They can teach hard skills. For example, Rick met a young man who had been washing dishes at Chronic Taco for 12 years. He worked hard but lacked direction; he is now employed at NAF.
The company also has a policy, NAF360, where you must service others with respect regardless of who they are. Culture is more important than profit, and the Arvielos have let top sales people go because they weren’t willing to follow that. ●
Co-founder and CEO
Co-founder and Chief Lending Officer
Banc of California
A mutually supportive relationship has been established at the Banc of California since CEO Steven Sugarman and Chief Lending Officer Jeffrey Seabold founded the company.
When the co-founders first had the idea of building the bank, California’s economy was still recovering from the Great Recession. The first challenge was the risk of betting against the market. Sugarman and Seabold were able to leverage their relationships as fund managers and secure strategic partnerships with local banks for initial investments, and find the right bank to build their vision on.
A key turning point for the bank was the restructuring of the company’s leadership team and governance. In late 2012, before Sugarman took on the position of CEO, there had been several turnovers in the executive team, mostly because of a loss in vision — many of the members were not comfortable with the co-founder’s aggressive growth plan, and the company was in need of strategic alignment. The board agreed to take a long-term investment view in the bank and put Sugarman and Seabold in a position to pursue an aggressive growth plan.
The decision realigned the focus of the company and the financial results have been strong. Banc of California has been exceeding analyst’s estimates for each of eight quarter since 2013 — the growth can be seen in areas such as earnings and assets. The collage of acquired local community banks has grown to become a diversified financial services firm offering expertise in commercial banking, institutional banking, community banking and private banking. Most of that growth has come during Sugarman’s and Seabold’s tenure as members in the executive team.
The co-founders have cultivated a team that has a strong entrepreneurial culture of accountability and creativity with a decentralized structure that gives each group the freedom to control their own destinies. ●
Founder, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer
Global Cash Card
As founder, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Global Cash Card, Michael Purcell has overcome many personal and professional obstacles to achieve the success he has accomplished today. Demonstrating perseverance and leadership, his dedication and total faith in his business has led him to realize success, placing his company among the leaders of the growing multibillion-dollar paycard industry.
Purcell’s vision, innovation, flexibility and proprietary software have helped the company establish a remarkable client base. Building long-term client relationships by gaining their trust, Global Cash Card has achieved a 99.9 percent client retention rate.
While he’s successful today, Purcell had a rough start. The company’s feasibility and even its legality were regularly questioned. But he continued to move forward despite the naysayers, believing that his endeavor would eventually pay off. He sold his home to keep the business afloat and didn’t take home a paycheck for more than three years.
Early on, the existing technology did not provide the flexibility and innovation Purcell had envisioned. As the technology improved, he was able to develop proprietary software for Global Cash Card. The innovative software serves client needs with its flexibility, allowing clients to make requested changes on the fly. For example, the company helped one commercial client quickly turnaround a virtual wallet program that allowed the client’s employees to go paperless. The company has also implemented solutions such as geo fraud protect, self-serve direct deposit and swipe your way for extra pay.
Innovation has been a cornerstone for Global Cash Cards, and the company is always looking to be on the leading edge to improve the experience for its cardholders. This has helped the company win multiple quality and innovation awards.
To reward its customers, Global Cash Cards has quarterly car giveaways, and last year gave back $240,000 to cardholders. ●
Dr. Andrew Abraham, CEO of Orgain, Inc., was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a form of tissue cancer, as a teenager. During his treatment and recovery, Abraham went down to 100 pounds, so his doctor suggested he take Ensure.
He gained weight but felt sick and lethargic. Abraham began reading books on nutrition and unsuccessfully sought a more natural replacement.
Abraham used his knowledge to make his own shakes with all natural ingredients. He discovered that he felt much better and regained his energy.
A few years later, Abraham was the chief resident at Kaiser, focused on providing patients with alternatives to prescriptions, like a list of his shake ingredients. But he noticed that people rarely went through the effort.
Abraham knew his calling wasn’t practicing medicine but bringing to market the first organic, ready-to-drink nutritional shake.
After hiring food scientists and going through dozens of formulations, he found himself with a breakthrough product and no packaging. Abraham attended the Natural Foods Expo in Anaheim, California, and met a buyer from Whole Foods.
Scrambling to source ingredients and get the product made, the product started selling with zero marketing. Abraham was the only employee for the first four years, handling procurement, contracts, supply chain, shipping, etc.
Growing the 7-year-old company wasn’t without difficulty. A couple years into the business, Orgain hit a cash flow struggle. It had expanded too quickly and some stores demanded higher than average free fills. After rebounding, Abraham became more strategic.
Orgain also strategically acquired select talent from a rival company in the protein market.
Today, the company’s products are sold in North America, Asia and Oceania after being picked up as a Costco global product.
Orgain routinely provides free products, whether to children in need of nourishment or people battling cancer. Abraham also works with various charitable organizations. ●
Founder and CEO
Illuminate Education, Inc.
Illuminate Education, Inc. uses data and technology to help teachers and administrators make better decisions to improve students’ learning experiences and ultimately improve their lives. Illuminate integrates multiple education data systems into one so that school administrators and educators only need to go to one system for all of their needs. The product is open source so that developers can continue to add on to it and improve it to benefit the users.
Lane Rankin, founder and CEO, understands the educational system. He began his career teaching eighth-grade math, then became a school administrator, county administrator and full-time university lecturer. One of the main challenges that he has faced in developing the company is convincing the deeply rooted educational culture to embrace change by moving to a product that can serve as an all-inclusive system that can handle all data in the education environment. He and his team continue to work to convince school districts to uproot their traditional ways of doing things to more effectively teach the students and meet their individual needs.
Rankin has developed a unique culture at Illuminate Education, and wants to instill in his employees the same passion for the business that he has. He gives them the opportunity to impact the community by allowing each employee to volunteer 40 hours of paid time during the year at a nonprofit organization. He has rewarded employees by giving half of the company’s profits to employees and provides an all-inclusive benefits package for both employees and their families.
Believing that the success of his company lies with his employees, Rankin utilizes a flat organizational structure where all his employees play an equal part in the decision-making process. He empowers his employees to make their own decisions and come up with their own ideas. ●
Proove Biosciences Inc.
As an innovative thinker, Proove Biosciences Inc.’s CEO Brian Meshkin has accomplished what few others have even dreamt — building a successful, profitable molecular diagnostics company offering cutting-edge DNA test results without raising outside capital.
While a natural risk taker, Meshkin also believes in “failing fast and failing cheap” and that the path to success is often paved with little failures. With Proove’s hyper growth, Meshkin’s high standards usually fall victim to the constraints of time and money. But he inspires those around him to see potential, and to work hard to realize the mission of the organization.
Even before his younger teenage years when his best friend’s traumatic death spurred him to lobby to pass the nationally recognized bicycle helmet law, Meshkin learned the value of hard work and determination from his father.
While working for pharmaceutical companies, Meshkin began to understand that medical treatment decisions are rarely based on factual or predictive data, but rather imperfect on-the-spot judgments. He unsuccessfully tried to convince his company to pursue this.
Proove was founded in 2009 with his family’s blessing. Having spent most of his personal finances on a previous business venture, Meshkin decided to not raise capital until he was certain Proove could become profitable.
Leaning on his pharmaceutical experience, he designed a business model focused on innovation, profitability and patient care, in order to develop his first algorithm to produce his predictive pain test.
By 2011, Meshkin had exhausted his financial resources and decided to move his family to California, where most of his initial customers lived. His wife put her law career on hold and the family lived out of suitcases, while Meshkin worked 20-hour days.
He hired his first employee in 2011 and the company has grown exponentially since. ●
As CEO of Salas O’Brien, Darin Anderson exudes a passion for employee empowerment through establishing an open environment centered on accountability, honesty and transparency.
Salas O’Brien is an independent, employee-owned and renowned organization that prides itself on being an “engineer’s engineering firm” and delivering highly innovative energy solutions.
Anderson joined the firm in 2006. Upon his arrival, he realized the need to push Salas O’Brien outside its comfort zone and expand its client base outside of California.
Anderson successfully cultivated a new culture, emphasizing the need to grow client relationships. This proved challenging, as Anderson had to convince the engineer-owners to take risks and broaden their horizons to realize diversification was necessary to reach new goals.
Anderson credits his open communication skills for helping engage the employee shareholders and motivate the next generation to see the potential success.
Salas O’Brien recruits heavily from the universities of current employees, which has proved successful.
Additionally, the firm continues to increase its bandwidth by selectively acquiring firms with a similar management mindset and culture based around empowerment, ownership and integrity. Anderson meets personally with each potential target to ensure this.
With the growing demand for clean energy and power generation, Salas O’Brien designs and builds highly technical and innovative solutions. The majority of clients are government entities with large campuses, such as universities and city centers, looking to generate their own power on campus.
Also, Salas O’Brien has not had an errors and omission claim, professional liability claim or lawsuit for any project, ever. ●
President and CEO
Agile Sourcing Partners
As president and CEO of Agile Sourcing Partners, Maria Thompson is spearheading the push for inclusiveness of minority women in the gas and electric utilities industries. With a management team that consists of more than 75 percent women — more than 50 percent of her employees are minorities — she believes that developing highly skilled and diverse professionals will both empower her own employees and initiate change in a male-dominated industry.
Her firm offers many opportunities for staff to develop professionally through regional and national trade seminars, mentorship programs, sit-in lectures, scholarships, internships and public speaking engagements.
Thompson’s vision is to build long-term partnerships by integrating her management teams with those of her customers to understand their unique needs. These relationships allow both Agile Sourcing Partners and its customers to develop their management teams through business-to-business mentorships. This has enabled the company to expand into various specialized services for the gas and electric industries, leverage each partner’s strengths to develop her own management team, and provide her partners and customers competitive solutions for their supply chain and distribution needs.
Thompson has maintained long-term contracts with some of the largest utilities companies in the nation. During the economic downturn of 2008, she was able to manage these relationships with limited staffing and very low margins, which is a testament to her ability to adapt and thrive in unstable financial surroundings. To avoid becoming too dependent on just a few large utility companies, Thompson attended technical seminars and consulted with various municipalities, traffic and construction companies. This enabled her to expand her operations to more than six locations across the U.S. and also grow her team.
Through these efforts, Thompson has grown Agile Sourcing Partners from a one-woman service and distribution firm to a highly diverse and innovative procurement, workforce and project management service organization. ●
Founder and CEO
Founder and CEO Dan Rodrigues started his first company while still in college and eventually went on to other entrepreneurial endeavors, including a technology-based consulting business.
Through his consulting business, he realized that the medical billing industry was using outdated and inefficient technology. So, over the past 10 years, Rodrigues has used his leadership, management and entrepreneurial skills to start and grow Kareo, Inc., which helps small independent doctors manage their practices.
Health care records are constantly changing. Rodrigues has employed his problem-solving skills to help Kareo migrate from client servers to cloud technology, go from standalone solutions to integrated platforms and become compliant with new code standards.
Kareo also has been through its share of obstacles, such as an investor being unable to meet his financial commitment. Rodrigues had to let almost the entire staff go, except for seven key employees, and he stopped taking a salary.
During this survival phase, Rodrigues knew there was a market for his idea; he just needed to make it past the hard times. He says this is where he really had to dig deep to persevere and have the tenacity to keep going.
Another challenge cropped up when he implemented Kareo’s first call center in Costa Rica. The employee turnover was horrendous. Nearly half of those hired would leave within the first month. Rodrigues discovered that in Costa Rica there was a history of large companies moving their call centers overnight, with no prior notice, for monetary reasons.
The cutthroat nature of the business led workers to feel underappreciated. To counteract this, Rodrigues traveled to Costa Rica to interact with his employees and make sure the call center’s culture was strong.
Rodrigues is one of the few CEOs to invest equally in his people offshores and in the U.S. ●
The Bascom Group, LLC
In the modern day real estate investment world that demands hard work combined with a relaxed corporate atmosphere, Managing Partners Jerome Fink and David Kim seem to have the perfect recipe at The Bascom Group, LLC.
For more than 20 years, the smaller real estate investment fund has maintained a level of success and consistency. Since 1996, Bascom has invested in more than 270 communities, withstood multiple economic downturns and cultivated more than 160 interns into seasoned professionals with high-value experience.
Fink and Kim have created a unique corporate approach that enables them to attract lower-cost employees through their internship program, while simultaneously forming long-lasting relationships.
With lower overhead because of their intern workforce, their working capital is free to participate in a higher number of deals. Kim describes this approach as a way to get a well-rounded feel for the type of transactions happening in the current market, as well as interact with a greater number of capital partners.
They want to execute as many deals as possible with the attitude that one good transaction will make up for eight subpar deals — and this is an approach they have stuck with.
It is extremely uncommon for interns to have access to upper management and get to see such a level of detail. Fink and Kim see interns as regular employees who are empowered to make decisions and participate in meetings, as if they were seasoned executives.
Bascom has been recognized as an incubator for MBAs, young professionals and graduate students. Fink and Kim believe if an intern transforms into an employee, he or she has had an excellent experience as they begin a career with Bascom. If an intern decides to move on to an alternative area in real estate, they have secured a future business partner. ●
American Technologies, Inc.
Gary Moore, president of American Technologies, Inc., is an entrepreneur, humble business leader and risk taker. When he started the environmental remediation and restoration company as a storefront operation with three employees, he had no savings, a family of five and was unable to qualify for a loan, so he launched the business with a home equity line of credit. He went many months without paying himself to ensure his employees were paid first.
Today, American Technologies has grown to serve customers nationally and internationally with 18 locations across the U.S. In addition to asbestos abatement, the company now offers building construction, fire and water damage restoration, and health care contamination.
American Technologies is set apart by its use of state-of-the-art equipment, which makes the company more competitive. For instance, Moore developed hydrogen peroxide equipment that sanitizes and disinfects equipment and surfaces in hospitals. He hired a doctor to better understand the requirements of cleaning medical equipment and hospitals from someone who uses the equipment. This development was put to the test when, after the Ebola virus was discovered in Dallas, news reporters sent American Technologies their equipment to be cleaned and sanitized.
Moore sees his family business model as a competitive edge. Employees have a stake in the business, which encourages energy and enthusiasm. They feel pride in the company and enjoy being part of the family culture. Moore’s three sons have worked in the business since they were in high school. They currently have management roles in the company and have helped attracted young talent.
Many of Moore’s employees have been with the company for a long time. He provides career advancement and opportunities for all employees, and ensures that all technicians have training and continuing professional education to stay current with industry certifications. ●
President and CEO
Autobytel Inc., under the leadership of Jeffrey Coats, has made a comeback in the automotive industry. The company was on the brink of obsolescence in the mid-2000s. It had suffered a tremendous dip in sales from 2006 to 2007, hitting a record low. The board considered selling the company as it was on the brink of bankruptcy.
When Coats stepped in as president and CEO in 2008, he acquired an expert search engine marketing organization to drive highly qualified, in-market automotive consumer traffic to the company’s industry partners, all but eliminating Autobytel’s reliance on leads from low-quality third party providers.
After acquiring a mobile technology company, Autobytel developed a texting platform for dealers to enable them to communicate with customers in the manner they prefer — safely and compliantly. The company also invested in next generation video chat technology to create virtual showrooms for dealer websites, with co-browsing capabilities that allow dealers to do virtual walk-arounds with consumers online.
In addition, Autobytel acquired an exclusive pay-per-click advertising marketplace that enables dealers and manufacturers to engage new consumers with targeted online offers that drill down to the actual makes and models of interest, and a person’s specific geographic location. This high-quality traffic is routed directly to the company’s industry partners, with Autobytel recognizing revenue for each ad click.
Coats also led the company through acquisitions of Autobytel’s two largest competitors — AutoUSA and Dealix — increasing Autobytel’s footprint in the industry, expanding its manufacturer and dealer base, and ultimately increasing revenues.
Through these and other moves, Autobytel has achieved 18 consecutive quarters of profitability. The company’s revenues are at record levels, its stock is trading at 10-year highs, it has successfully expanded its product offerings and client bases, and it is consistently recognized in the industry for its award-winning products and services. ●
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