Innovation Mentors

  • The Law: My entry point to business was the study of law at UC Berkeley. The frank truth is that I sucked at the law. But two guys at the law school kept me in the game. Sandy Kadish, renowned criminal law professor taught me that the law is well-meaning. It establishes order. It is very forgiving. He had the good instincts to pull back on the socratic reins and go easy on me, a first-year pony with a gimp. As a first-year, I was on the bubble about staying in law school as I had competing offers to be an art director at a couple of computer animation companies. One went on to make a feature about Ants and the other ended up with a jumping drafting lamp logo ~ damn you Sandy, you shoulda opened that can of lawyer’s whoop-ass on me as I woulda been ground floor at Pixar. But all roads lead to a bright future anyways so you’re forgiven. Then there’s the other guy: Jesse Choper, Dean of the School and the “God” of constitutional law. But Dean Choper was also very human. He’d occasionally sweep the library at night looking for kids to take out to eat hot dogs and talk philosophy. A Top Dog in the middle of the night on Telegraph Ave with the God of Con Law? Pretty heady stuff. He made you feel special. Smart. Seen. On campus, he called me The Artist as he knew I spent more time designing t-shirts for law reviews than doing cite checks. I was not born for the law but both of these guys embraced who I was and taught me the human side of the law.
  • Branding: For a number of years I was a hired gun at SF and LA agencies. At one of the firms, I met David Takiguchi, the best creative director I ever worked with. David is wickedly talented. He has great taste. He’s awesome with both clients and staff. A super nice guy and Hanai family to me. Eventually he left his agency and joined me as a partner in my firm. His first action was that he wanted to change us into an “Environmental Branding Firm.” I was like, “Woo-hoo! Awesome!… uh… what’s branding???” It took me years to figure out what “branding” is. I owe a lot to David for bringing the world of branding to my doorstep. The challenge of understanding it was what spurred me to create the software app, initially a brand development software. I thank David for this, sharing his family with me and the many good times and deep friendship we share.
  • Bodaciousness: one of the most influential mentors in my life was Paul Steelman. Paul is a top-drawer casino architect in Las Vegas. While he’s a brilliant architect and master planner, he’s a business genius. He’s also a silver-tongued evangelist. Paul taught me the arts of visioning ~ and selling the vision. Paul is the Pied Piper ~ he toots his pipe and everyone falls in line. He creates and executes big ideas that actually work. Pau is all about Big. Really Big. REALLY, REALLY, BIG. Iconic and bodaciously BIG. Paul’s most common critique was one simple word, “BIGGER.” Over the years I learned how to meet his bar. Paul is The Man and I’m eternally grateful for being able to be part of his flock.
  • Numbers: I first met Myron Nakata  as a client of my wife’s home-based body alignment business. He’d stay on occasion for dinner and we became good friends. Myron is very understated and humble. And while he has no clue as to what “IMHO” stands for, top-used Myron-isms begin with, “In my humble opinion…” But he’s the guy that walks softly and carries a big stick. Myron has raised the bar for me in strategic thinking. He thinks big ideas straight through to the numbers. He’s a validator and he’s practical. He’s the contractor that measures twice to cut once. He does not miss. And he’s also very giving and philanthropic ~ Myron was one of the founders of Lemonade Alley and Bizgenics Foundation. On the non-profit side, he works quietly behind the scenes never looking to be aggrandized. On the business side, I routinely seek his counsel for strategy, numbers and reality checks. Myron’s combination of skills and perspectives renders him a practical, salt-of-the-earth kind of guy. Thanks Myron for your generous heart and for grounding my bodaciousness.
  • Evangelism: I grew up eating Wally Amos Cookies. Wally is the legendary talent agent turned entrepreneur who created the gourmet cookie category. Decades later, Wally became a good friend and nonprofit partner who helped build Lemonade Alley, our nonprofit’s kid-biz challenge. Through the many press events we did together, Wally taught me how to evangelize and make a big impression.