NCA Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Technology Infrastructure



Robert J. Pera

CEO, founder and chairman

Ubiquiti Networks


As a child in the Bay Area, Robert J. Pera was inspired by the entrepreneurs and companies that grew the Silicon Valley to what it is today. From an early age, Pera exhibited a keen interest in emerging technologies, and before completing high school was running his own computer consulting company.

Years later, in 2003, Pera’s entrepreneurial spirit led him to quit his job at Apple, liquidate his equity and max out his credit cards to work on his own ideas. He rented a small office where he worked and lived, creating Ubiquiti Networks from the ground up.

As CEO and chairman, Pera created the multinational company dedicated to building network communication platforms for everyone, everywhere. His vision is to serve the under-networked by making innovative technology available at disruptive price points.

Within the first year of operations, Pera had his designs that were used in Ubiquiti’s products copied. To avoid further intellectual property theft, he integrated both hardware and software across a single proprietary platform. However, the company still combats counterfeit schemes to this day.

In October 2011, Ubiquiti went public, and the company lives true to Pera’s original vision, with more than 10 million devices currently deployed in more than 180 countries.

Pera personally recruits and interviews the engineers at Ubiquiti, helping them maximize their potential by fostering an environment of independence and freedom of thought. He also still spends time in the lab.

Ubiquiti has no direct sales force, relying on its customers to spread the word and distributors and resellers across the globe. This lowers costs and allows the company to focus on the innovative design process and true customer needs.

Pera believes Ubiquiti is just getting started diversifying into other technologies, including pursuits into microwave backhaul, machine-to-machine networking, video surveillance, and advanced routing and switching.

Pera also is the majority owner of the Memphis Grizzlies NBA team.

How to reach: Ubiquiti Networks,

Published in Northern California

NCA Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Advertising Technology



Bill Demas

President and CEO

Turn, Inc.


When President and CEO Bill Demas started with Turn, Inc. in 2008, there were 35 employees. Fast-forward five years, and the company is expected to have a workforce of 350 and gross revenue of more than $350 million by the end of 2013.

Demas felt it was important to change the company’s strategy from a service provider to a platform provider. So, in 2009, he gave a speech — known as the “burn your boats” speech — asking employees for the dedication to do whatever it took to accomplish their goals.

As a result of this strategy shift and complete employee buy-in, Turn has a win rate of 90 percent over Google and successfully secured the business of five of the top six major advertising companies. He credits the success to being able to create products that fit the market, rather than vice versa.

Today, the company leverages big data from various sources to help marketers target their most valuable audience on any digital device. It was among the first to work on demand side platforms and data management platforms.

Demas enjoys working side-by-side with his employees, priding himself on being open and available. His office is a cube with a normal nametag, off to the side of one of the conference rooms. On a given day he can go from speaking with coders to sales calls.

He also believes that the team is greater than the sum of the parts. In order to maintain the teamwork environment, Demas let an employee go who accounted for 10 percent of the company’s revenue.

He stays involved in the hiring process with human resources reporting directly to him because people are the most important factor in growing a business. Demas feels the health of any organization can be checked by how close its employees are. He likes to ask, “Are you making a best friend at work?”

How to reach: Turn, Inc.,

Published in Northern California

NCA Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year




Burton Goldfield

President and CEO



Burton Goldfield is more excited than most to go to work. As president and CEO of TriNet, his company cultivates HR partnerships that enable entrepreneurs to solve many of the world’s most challenging problems.

From a CEO passionate about creating a delicious meat substitute for vegetarians to another leading a design revolution, TriNet gets to be a part of their success.

Under Goldfield’s leadership, TriNet, a human professional employment organization, quadrupled its revenues, increased its human capital 260 percent, and successfully acquired and integrated three companies — all within five years.

Goldfield had 25 years of experience when he sought out TriNet in 2008 as an opportunity where he could mold a team and see a company past acquisition.

As CEO, Goldfield faced one of his biggest hurdles in convincing the TriNet team to have bigger goals of “changing the world.” To be consistent and repetitive in his messages, he used all-hands meetings, podcasts and broadcasted town meetings to involve everyone.

Goldfield hires individuals with strong core values who can be mentored and grow into great leaders and contributors. He believes turmoil is the best judge of character. When he lost 90 percent of his worth in the dot-com bust of the 1990s, his core values drove him to pick himself back up.

So, when TriNet integrated its acquisitions, Goldfield chose to retain management because he believed they were the best equipped at their job. It was a challenge, though. He had to update them on TriNet’s vision, learning that you cannot force people to believe in an idea they are not receptive to.

Goldfield also takes a special interest in companies that focus on social betterment, such as Prolong Pharmaceuticals, which created a “blood substitute” to treat disorders and cut health care costs.

In addition, the company established TriNet Cares, designed to foster leadership and colleague engagement through volunteer opportunities, charitable giving and green initiatives.

How to reach: TriNet,

Published in Northern California

NCA Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year


Award recipient


Lyndon Rive

CEO and co-founder



SolarCity, with Lyndon Rive at the lead as CEO and co-founder, is positioning itself to transform the energy industry, including going through an IPO in December 2012.

Unlike traditional utility companies with little competition as the cost of supplying energy keeps escalating, SolarCity offers consumers a choice about the source of their energy.

Rive is a serial entrepreneur. He started his first business in South Africa when he was 17. Eventually he immigrated to the United States and founded SolarCity with his brother, Peter Rive, in 2006.

They were consistently receiving advice to get into manufacturing solar panels. However, the brothers observed the real chasm that existed with the lack of access of affordable solar power for the average homeowner.

The company’s aim is to replace dirty, expensive energy with cheaper, clean energy by investing in the infrastructure at individual homes and businesses. SolarCity provides and installs solar panels and equipment to customers free of charge. Customers pay only for the energy they use, at a rate less than the electricity they receive from utility companies.

Rive sees SolarCity’s management team as split between offense and defense. He leads the offense, those with sales and marketing backgrounds as well as experts from the energy industry. The defensive team, which focuses on operations, solar technology and the R&D, is lead by Rive’s brother.

Through stock options employees become invested in the success of the company as part owners. SolarCity has grown from a company of two employees to more than 3,000. About eight people are hired each day, and the company production demands dictate that nearly twice that number is needed to keep up with their growth rates.

Additionally, the company has been responsive to catastrophic events around the world, helping install emergency systems after the BP oil spill, the 2011 tsunami that hit Japan and Superstorm Sandy.

How to reach: SolarCity,

Published in Northern California

NCA Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Life Sciences



Jeffrey Dunn

President and CEO



In 2008, Jeffrey Dunn founded his seventh company SI-BONE Inc., which developed an innovative, less surgically invasive implant to treat patients with sacroiliac joint pain.

As president and CEO of SI-BONE, Dunn and his team work to train health care providers to diagnosis sacroiliac joint pain and to offer health providers an alternative and less invasive way to treat that pain.

He works to change the lives of his patients, many of who have been confined to a wheelchair for years. His passion and persistence has helped him recruit 125 employees.

When Dunn first started SI-BONE, he did not know if the implant would functionally work or if people would be interested. He spent nine months working at home with no pay to start up the business.

He had to learn what works and what didn’t work with the physician-training program. At one point, one of his people told him that the company had just hired 25 distributors, and it could implode with the costs and the uncertainty of sales. Dunn replied, “Let’s just be brave together,” which has become a common saying at the company.

The company has a no vacation policy, which allows employees to take as many vacation days they would like after they work details out with their respective managers. This demonstrates Dunn’s trust in his people to keep themselves accountable for finishing their work. He also sets large goals for his teams to give his people the opportunity to think big and achieve big dreams.

Every six months, Dunn also invites his managers and vice presidents to gather in a meeting and share their concerns and problems.

The core of what SI-BONE does is help people, and Dunn works to see that patients come before financial motive. The company funds academic research that will help advance the knowledge and diagnosis of sacroiliac joint pain.

How to reach: SI-BONE, Inc.,

Published in Northern California

NCA Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Retail and Consumer Products



Dr. Katie Rodan, Dr. Kathy Fields


Rodan + Fields Dermatologists


Drs. Katie Rodan and Kathy Fields began their careers with a do-it-yourself attitude and have maintained that spirit in all their ventures.

They met while carrying out their dermatology residencies and became fast friends. One of their professors advised them to “find a hobby within dermatology.” After joining separate private practices, they both noticed that the biggest problem their patients faced was acne. With no effective solutions on the market, the doctors decided to create their own treatment: Proactiv Solution.

Although the doctors were struggling to make it financially so soon after finishing medical school, they invested what little they had. Following the advice of the CEO of Neutrogena, they started selling their product through infomercials, and it has become one of the most successful over-the-counter acne solutions in history.

After the major success of Proactiv, Rodan and Fields weren’t satisfied. In 2002, they created a suite of solutions for sun-damaged skin, anti-aging, spotting and other common skin issues under a new company — Rodan + Fields Dermatologists — to sell these proprietary formulations.

The doctors originally sold their company to Estee Lauder but later decided their products required a more technical and personal selling process given their prescriptive nature. So, in 2007, they bought the company back and implemented a direct-selling model.

With a new marketing model, such as a short video explaining the product uses that is distributed via an app to all the company’s consultants, R+F has been built into a very successful company in a short time. The 30,000 consultants are provided their own websites and have their entire businesses set up online.

Like many other successful entrepreneurs, the biggest challenge R+F faces is the pace of its own growth. Business has doubled in each of the past three years. The company recently signed a new office lease to triple its space, and the doctors are working to maintain the culture.

How to reach: Rodan + Fields Dermatologists,

Published in Northern California

NCA Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Platform Technology

Award recipient


Gurbaksh Chahal

CEO and founder



Gurbaksh Chahal, CEO and founder of RadiumOne, is a 30-year-old veteran entrepreneur and social tolerance activist. Prior to RadiumOne, Gurbaksh founded two previous companies, ClickAgents and BlueLithium, which sold for $40 million and $300 million, respectively. He started his first company at 16 when he dropped out of high school.

In 2009, Chahal started working on RadiumOne, an advertising platform that adapts to today’s real-time, programmatic landscape. Within three years, he built the company to 250 employees.

RadiumOne is changing the face of online advertising through a unique combination of programmatic buying, proprietary data, patent-pending intelligence algorithms and multi-channel capabilities. Despite the increasingly crowded market landscape, the company has grown at an incredible pace with offices in San Francisco, New York, Chicago and London.

The company’s social advertising platform enables advertisers to instantly target and connect with customers who show real time interest in their brand. Each month, RadiumOne’s social sharing products engage with 700 million unique consumers and monitor more than 10 billion sharing events.

The company’s hashtag targeting is a recent innovation that enables advertisers to leverage and monetize their earned media, making paid media smarter and more effective.

With each new venture, Gurbaksh has identified a discrepancy in the advertising industry and addressed it with innovative solutions. His keen technical eye has played an integral role in redefining the way big brands approach their advertising strategies.

Chahal’s biggest interest outside of work is philanthropy. He was inspired by the deadly shooting of Sikh community members in Wisconsin and founded the BeProud foundation with a mission of ending hate. He wanted started to raise awareness about hate crimes, inspiring unity, tolerance and acceptance by leveraging the most powerful mediums of influence — television and social media.

He’s also the author of a bestselling book, “The Dream,” about his entrepreneurial journey.

How to reach: RadiumOne,

Published in Northern California

NCA Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year




Mike Sechrist



Elena Whorton




Can you imagine not being able to get a sick family member or a loved one the right medical treatment or for that family member to wait for hours for transportation to arrive because their ambulance was diverted to a 911 call? With two decades as paramedics, Elena Whorton and her business partner Mike Sechrist believed they could make a difference.

Without any formal business background or education, after obtaining $100,000 in seed money, the two started ProTransport-1 in 2000 with Sechrist as CEO and Whorton as president.

Traditional ambulance operating companies mostly only respond to dispatch requests from 911. As a result, many patients with non-emergency medical situations can be deprived of a timely response, not to mention a “human touch” toward caregiving.

Today, the company is a leading inter-facility transportation for non-emergency patients, and works to improve patient experiences and hospital bed monitoring systems. It employs 700 people with a fleet of 120 fully-medically equipped ambulances across California.

The two helped create a new industry that is now worth $15 billion. Hospitals were very much in need for this type of transport and a massive influx of players entered the market.

The key distinguishing factor of ProTransport-1 is its outstanding customer service. During the on-boarding process, employees are not only rigorously trained to handle emergency medical situations but also are provided sound guidance on how to treat all patients with genuine care. For example, each employee is given a $50 annual allowance should they want to purchase gifts for the patients, many of whom are elderly with no family.

The 15-minute ambulance ride for some senior customers is often the most enjoyable part of their day. Wharton encourages her employees to listen and share their stories in an employee newsletter she is launching.

Wharton and Sechrist also realized emergency medical technicians rarely receive feedback from those they save, so they established a mechanism to allow this.

How to reach: ProTransport-1,

Published in Northern California

NCA Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Retail and Consumer Products

Award recipient


Neil Grimmer

CEO and co-founder

Plum Organics


As CEO and co-founder of Plum Organics, Neil Grimmer created one of the leading suppliers in the national organic baby food market. The idea began when he and his wife had their first baby girl and were struggling with so few healthy organic options for little ones.

Grimmer’s design for babies’ and children’s food in pouches changed the face of children’s food, a market with little innovation for more than 40 years, and ultimately led to the creation of Plum in 2007.

The company had poor performance during the first few years, but Grimmer believed in his vision so completely his energy persuaded his backers to continue. Also, at the time of the launch spouted baby food pouches were so novel that Plum had to buy the necessary production equipment and install it in the U.S. manufacturer’s facilities.

Today, the company has more than 100 employees. Plum products are offered in about 15,000 stores in the U.S. and United Kingdom with plans to expand to new markets in Europe, Australia and Asia.

Grimmer and his team listen to feedback from parents and consumers to create new recipes and products, recently launching a line of products for older children.

Grimmer’s passion and energy are contagious. Known as “Chief Daddy-O,” he knows his team by name, often popping into meetings to offer support and ideas.

He leads what he describes as a “three bottom-line business” — people, planet and profit.

As part of responsible business, the company created the Full Effect program, with the idea that through healthy nutrition children can achieve their full potential. The Super Smoothie was created for children who lack nutrition on a daily basis and is made of core recognizable ingredients. Plum donates about 500,000 Super Smoothies annually.

As a triathlon athlete, Grimmer also has used Plum baby pouches for rapid nutrition in his training and realizes this may provide another avenue for the company.

How to reach: Plum Organics,

Published in Northern California

NCA Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Life Sciences



Maky Zanganeh, D.D.S.


Pharmacyclics, Inc.


Pharmacyclics, Inc. focuses on the treatment of several cancers and immune mediated diseases, and developed a cancer drug that allows patients through a daily pill to treat their disease without the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation.

COO Maky Zanganeh has been a guiding force at Pharmacyclics since 2008. In her tenure, Pharmacyclics has been transformed with a drug that has now entered into several phase three trials.

Given this success and the company’s meteoric growth — a market cap of $5.7 billion and hiring three people per day — Zanganeh learned to make quick decisions while applying personal judgment and convictions.

In 2004, Zanganeh personally invested in the company. At that time the stock price was approximately $14. By 2008, the stock dropped to 57 cents. Many would have written off the investment, but Zanganeh had so much faith that she joined the company as vice president of business development.

It wasn’t her first trying situation — she lived through the Iranian Revolution that split her family into different countries after emigration.

When she came to Pharmacyclics, the company had spent more than $300 million on its former lead drug candidate. It was difficult to admit failure and start on a largely new and unproven compound.

However, once management learned the results of the first clinical trial, the company needed to find a partner so the new drug could be available across multiple oncology disease groups more quickly.

Zanganeh examined more 100 deals to find a collaboration that would fit best for the company — leading to a deal with Johnson & Johnson that was heralded as one of the best of 2011.

It was during the deal’s due diligence that Zanganeh flew back and forth from France every couple of days, since her son had been hospitalized. Her dedication to helping people is evident, whether it is her son or one of the countless patients that a new treatment will benefit.

How to reach: Pharmacyclics, Inc.,

Published in Northern California