Successful Internet/Technology Entrepreneur, CEO and Chairman with vision, executive skills and attention to details. Ready for the next venture. Driven by the excitement of creating new products and services and changing the world while creating value for the shareholders.
Aplus.Net (formerly Abacus Computers) from 1992 to 2006
Founder, CEO, Chairman of the Board
1. Embraced the Internet early in 1995, became one of the first ISPs in San Diego and later Web Hosting Provider under the name Aplus.Net.
2. Names4ever.com – 1999
Launched one of the first Independent domain name Registrars (Names4Ever). I believe we were #4 Independent Registrar in the world. It was way before GoDaddy started as a Registrar. GoDaddy sold for $2.25 Billion in 2011.
3. PayButton.com and Rodopi Payment Gateway (RPG) – 1997
Introduced online payment gateways and serviced clients in 1997 well ahead of PayPal. PayPal sold to eBay for $1.5 Billion.
4. Web-a-Photo.com – 2002
Introduced online photo hosting services in 2002 well ahead of Picasa, Flickr, Photo bucket etc. Yahoo acquired Flickr in 2005 for $35M. Google acquired Picasa in 2004 for undisclosed amount, Photobucket was acquired by Fox Media in 2007 for $250 Million.
5. Web-a-File.com – 2002
Introduced online file storage and encryption services in 2002 well ahead of DropBox, Box, etc. This was basically “cloud” service that we didn’t call “cloud” at the time although I remember drawing so many “clouds” on the whiteboard in the boardroom. The valuation of DropBox was $10 Billion in Jan., 2014 and valuation of Box was $2 Billion in Nov., 2013 when they raised $250 M and $100 M respectively.
6. Had a vision for iPhone 5-6 years ahead of Apple, but lacked funding – 2000
Back in Year 2000 there was no widespread broadband Internet service over the air as we know it today. We were selling Internet service by Ricochet that was build on a different principle and technology, but provided decent coverage in San Diego. At the same time a pocket device emerged called iPaq, by Compaq. I noticed that iPaq has all capabilities to be a VoIP phone if mated to the Ricochet service. Met with a software company called AnnaSoft, that specialized in iPaq programming and presented the idea to them. Lack of funding prevented us from developing the first iPhone 5-6 years before Apple.
7. Launched one of the first online stores. – 1995
Back in 1995 we were selling computers, parts and accessories out of retail store in San Diego called Abacus Computers. Our major sources were Merisel and Ingram Micro. Ingram Micro had their large catalog in an electronic format on a floppy disk. The Internet has just emerged commercially at that time. I hired a freelance programmer to customize the catalog with our brand and put it online. This made us one of the first online retailers 10 years ahead of Amazon. Lack of funding prevented us from developing the online store further. We abandoned the retail activity altogether soon thereafter and bacame Internet Service Provider (ISP) and Web Hosting provider later under the brand of Aplus.Net.
8. Introducing IoT (Internet of Things) in my own real estate properties. – 2006-current
Started home automation projects in 2006 way ahead of time when the IoT term was coined and companies like Google and AT&T got involved, the first through the purchase of NExt thermostat and the latter launching “Digital Life”.
CEO experience and skills
1. Visionary (see above).
2. Full P&L responsibility for $25 M in annual revenues and $6M in annual profits.
Worked closely with key executives and board members such as Lilian Vachovsky COO, Mike Nieman VP Sales, John Martis VP Operations, Mike Howard CFO, Russ Gilman Overseas manager, Bob Degan, Board member, Mike Robski Chief Software Architect. Setup short term and long term goals and tracked the execution.
Conceived key technologies that were essential for the business and managed in-house development and implementation. Those include Rodopi billing software, Veleka IVR and Veleka CRM systems. All three were developed in house. Rodopi became so successful that we spun it off as a separate company and started selling the product to others reaching over 1,000 installations in over 60 countries on all 5 continents. Declined multimillion $ offers to buy Rodopi at the Internet peak in 2000.
Realizing the importance of the marketing for the business I was personally spearheading all marketing efforts both strategic and product marketing. Implemented telemarketing using Veleka IVR system developed in-house. Introduced technology to track marketing efforts. Extensive use of Internet marketing including CPM, CPC, Google Adwords etc.
Worked closely with VP of sales, setting up goals, strategies and receiving reports and feedback. Introduced “everyone sells” concept whereby a support person can upsell an account on the spot instead of asking the client to call their sales rep.
Provided guidance to the COO. Received regular reports and updates. Kept “the hand on the pulse” of the operations. Used technology to improve and streamline the operations and client’s experience such as Veleka IVR, Veleka CRM, Rodopi Billing Software etc. Introduced “process driven” operations whereas all major activities were driven by a formal “process”.
Introduced the “total feedback” concept whereby every client who reached up to us would be offered the opportunity to leave a feedback about the service (all lines of service and all media such as phone, e-mail, chat were covered).
Built two call centers from a scratch including planning, building, outfitting and staffing. One for sales/telemarketing and one for technical support. The call centers were spread on 3 continents (U.S., Asia, Europe) and operated 24/7 implementing Cisco’s “follow the sun” concept. Used the latest VoIP technology from Cisco, Avaya and in-house developed IVR system for predictive dialing.
8. Finance and raising capital.
Worked closely with the VP of finance and Board members to review and analyze Company Finances. Can read and understand well financial statements such as Income Statement, Balance Sheet, Cash Flow statement.
Raised capital (debt) from private investors. Familiar with the terms and mechanisms of raising capital from debt and equity investments.
9. M&A and Investment banking
Worked closely with an an outside Investment Banker for over 8 years. Analized and negotiated with several potential acquisition targets. Completed one acquisition. Sold corporate assets to Covad. Negotiated the sale of Aplus.Net with few prospective acquirers between 2002 and 2006. Finalized the sale of Aplus.Net to Catalyst Private Equity Fund of New York in 2006.
Drafted Letters of Intent, Offering Memorandums etc. Participated in due diligence on several occasions.
Familiar with the legal system in the US as well as the business law, business contracts etc. Drafted personally many contracts to be reviewed by attorneys. I was the sole point of contact and worked exclusively with outside legal councils. Went through several lawsuits as both plaintiff and defendant. Participated in mediations, arbitrations, depositions, legal conferences, settlement negotiations etc.
11. Human resources.
I do believe that good company is made of good people. I personally interviewed and hired for all key positions in the company. Reviewed hundreds of resumes. Worked with external headhunting companies. Worked with external staffing companies to fill mass low level jobs like telemarketing for example.
Directed and controlled the effort of the HR department including drafting the Corporate Handbook for employees, rules and procedures, employment contracts etc.
Chairman of the Board experience and skills.
Prepared agendas, materials and organized 10 board meetings per year on average.
2. Learned from the best.
Without previous board experience, I was fortunate to have Mr. Bob Degan on the board who served on over 10 other boards and was former executive at large technology companies such as Summa Four and Cisco.
Took guidance from the Board on strategic initiatives like leasing new offices, new key hires, launching new products, major structural changes etc.
Provided feedback to the board about corporate finances, operational results, M&A negotiations etc.
The board would hear reports and projections from key executives on a regular basis such as VP Sales, COO, VP Finance, VP operations etc.