Sam Zaid – Founder & CEO, Getaround

Sam is an engineer and entrepreneur. He is founder & CEO at Getaround, the leading marketplace empowering people to instantly rent and drive great cars shared by other people in their city. Getaround has raised over $400M in venture capital from top investors including SoftBank, Menlo Ventures, Braemar Energy Ventures, Toyota Motor Corporation, and Shanghai Auto.

Prior to Getaround, Sam founded Apption, an enterprise software consultancy, and 360pi, the leading retail price intelligence platform that was acquired by MarketTrack and Vista Equity in 2016.

Sam holds numerous patents and inventions, is an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year, a Microsoft Code Award winner, and a Goldman Sachs Most Intriguing Entrepreneur. He studied Engineering Physics at Queen’s University in Canada and is a graduate of the Singularity University Graduate Studies Program at NASA Ames, where he received the Google Scholarship.

How did the concept for Getaround come about?
We imagined the world when all cars are connected and self-driving—from there we realized the future of transportation is a world where all cars are shared.

How was the first year in business?
It took us 12 months to secure our first insurance partner so you could say it was a slow start!

What was your marketing strategy?
We launched the world’s first hourly rentable Tesla Roadster in 2011. That got the word out and then we executed multiple marketing strategies and tactics.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
The company grew very quickly initially. In 2014, we refocused around our connected car hardware technology called Getaround Connect® which enables an end-to-end instant experience enabling our customers to download the app, signup instantly, reserve instantly, and unlock the car instantly—all through the Getaround app. As we perfected that model, we reverted back into hypergrowth mode.

How do you define success?
Making an impact on the world.

What is the key to success?
Focus, hard work, resourcefulness, precision, and creativity.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
Don’t bet against exponential technology trends.

What are some quotes that you live by?
I don’t live by quotes but if I had to quote someone, it would be Frank Herbert (below):

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

What are some of your favorite books?
What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School by Mark McCormack, and Dune by Frank Herbert.

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
There have been many of those—but being only weeks away from running out of cash was definitely a dark moment I remember vividly.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
You have to get used to adversity as the norm if you want to be an entrepreneur. If you believe in yourself and your team’s creative ingenuity, you’ll find a way through it.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs? 
Entrepreneurship will force you to confront the weaknesses that you’re likely unwilling to admit you have—just be ready for a lot of hard lessons.

Michael Garrity – Co-Founder & CEO, Financeit

Michael has spent most of the last 15 years devoted to driving growth in businesses dedicated to innovation in financial services. Prior to co-founding Financeit, Michael was the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at epost, a world leader in the electronic bill presentment and payment industry. Michael was responsible for leading the team that built the epost customer network which grew to include every major Canadian financial institution, over 100 of Canada’s largest companies, and over 3 million online users. Previous to this role, Michael was on the founding team of an Ottawa-based Internet startup creating online enterprise solutions, on the launch team of a successful Ontario Labour Sponsored Investment Fund, and was a management consultant with a Washington, DC based systems integration firm. Michael also served as a Legislative and Special Assistant to a number of Members of Parliament at the House of Commons in Ottawa. Michael attended both the University of Manitoba and Carleton University and holds a B.A. in Political Science and Economics.

How did the concept for Financeit come about?
In 2008, I founded CommunityLend, a peer-to-peer lending platform that connected individuals who needed a loan with the appropriate resources in an eBay-like exchange. After identifying a market shift, I pivoted the company using the same principals but focusing on merchant partners and financial institutions, leading to the inception of Financeit in January of 2011.

How was the first year in business?
The first year of Financeit was both exciting and terrifying. We had just gone through three trying years with CommunityLend and the pivot meant we had a sunny destination on the horizon but a lot of hard work and a lot of lessons to overcome to get there. Overall, it was the first year in a new lease on life for our business; our shareholders saw the potential in moving the company in a new direction which meant more market acceptance; a refreshing change to say the least.

What was your marketing strategy?
“Talk to everyone.” When you’re getting off the ground, our marketing strategy was less about developing strategy and more about our network. We wanted to talk to as many people as we could on any given day. Being a B2B company, we called on everyone. We reached out to enormous companies, that at that time, wouldn’t give us the time of day, but our marketing strategy was to continue getting out there to understand where market acceptance was going to happen for us.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
During the first few years, we were growing by 200% each year but you have to remember that growing 200% from a small number, was still a small number in absolute terms.

How do you define success?
Success to me is hearing from our customers that we’re making a difference in their business. If they sign on with Financeit, and implement our platform into their everyday business, they should definitely see the needle move. Hearing our customers tell us that we’ve helped increase their close rates, transaction size, and created efficiencies in their business – that’s how we know we’re doing something right. It really comes down to their success representing our success.

What is the key to success?
Following my above response, it’s about being obsessed with moving that needle forward for your customers.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
Persistence pays off.

What are some quotes that you live by? 
A personal one that I learnt from my father and I think it works for both business and personal life is, “You are who you are for others”, meaning that you can only measure yourself against the impact you make on the people around you – your friends, children, wife, family, employees, customers, etc.

What are some of your favorite books?
The Unbearable Lightness of Being – Milan Kundera
Not Wanted on the Voyage – Timothy Findley
Sheltering Sky – Paul Bowles

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
At the beginning of our life, when we were getting the company off the ground, and I was the only person backing the company financially, we had a deal with a venture capitalist in Canada who was going to invest in the company and the deal got pulled on a Friday afternoon two months before we knew we would be out of funds to support the business. The situation left us in a scramble, but ultimately, we put together another deal in the next couple months and grinded our way up from there.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
A focus on the end goal. The end goal is to build a meaningful international company in our space, that solves mission critical problems for clients. I have never built something from scratch like I am working towards now. I respect those who have done it and I continue to strive to be one of them.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
This will be the single hardest and best thing you will ever do.

Shane Evans – Founder & CEO, Massage Heights

Shane Evans is co-founder and president of Massage Heights, an international franchise company founded in San Antonio, Texas, in 2004.

Massage Heights’ vision is to elevate the lives of the people they touch. Massage Heights provides a heightened service experience to the Guests and Members of its retail spa-like Retreats, a purposeful, values-based employment opportunity for over 5,000 Team Members and a proven business proposition that Franchisees can be proud of in a space where the sky is the limit!

Massage Heights retail locations provide professional, quality, therapeutic massage, and skincare services in an upscale environment through an affordable membership model.

While Shane’s day-to-day responsibilities are leading the franchise company, she is also the co-owner of several Massage Heights retail locations; co-owner of the supply chain, Summit Franchise Supply, LLC; co-owner of The Gents Place Franchising, an ultra-premium men’s lifestyle and grooming club; and is on the Board of Directors of the Massage Heights Family Fund, which she passionately co-founded as a crisis relief resource for Massage Heights franchisees’ team members nationwide after her appearance on Undercover Boss in December 2013.

Shane is a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO) and serves on the local chapter’s Board of Directors as the Learning Officer. She’s also active in the International Franchise Association (IFA), including several IFA committees such as the Franchise Relations Committee and Women in Franchising Committee.

Shane is married to Massage Heights co-founder Wayne Evans and they have three daughters — Kayci, Wesli and Braydi.

Tell me about your early career.
I started out working in the health club industry, which is where I learned to refine my customer service skills, sales skills and got my initial management and leadership experience. My next job was in medical sales for a company that manufactured and distributed medical supplies where I would visit doctor’s offices regularly to detail doctors about the devices. The job required personal motivation and accountability due to the nature of the position and the territory. I learned how to develop and nurture relationships and also how to handle rejection without taking it personally. It just encouraged me to find better ways to get to the referral source and to be diligent in my pursuit of reaching goals.

How did the concept for Massage Heights come about?
At the age of 19, I hurt my lower back and ended up laying flat on the floor for a week with my feet up on a chair. I was miserable. A similar kind of back pain would occur about once a year. After going to the chiropractor many times, I realized that my visits were making the pain worse. One year, I decided to get a massage instead and felt better in a day or two and realized the immediate benefits. I started to get massage therapy but not too often because it was expensive at spas and hotels and the less expensive places were not reliable nor professional. I knew I wasn’t the only one who would benefit from an affordable, convenient, and professional massage therapy option, so I sought out to come up with a more costly solution.

A family road trip to Sedona, Arizona really helped the idea of Massage Heights go into motion. Being in the car for days significantly increased my back pain, so my husband scheduled a massage for me in spa of a international brand hotel and unfortunately, I didn’t have a good experience. The negative experience coupled with the high price point at the hotel inspired me to look into membership-based massage therapy options and after doing many visits and research, we weren’t able to identify a single company that stood out so we completed our business plan which we had started in the car ride home from Arizona and started Massage Heights four months later.

How was the first year in business?
It was hard. We didn’t have a lot of money and cashed out on stocks, our 401K, the Texas Tomorrow Fund we had established for college tuition for our kids, along with any additional savings we had. In the beginning, we would buy the least expensive massage lotion at the grocery store which was also used by one of the local massage schools and therapist liked, but the point is that it was inexpensive as we were watching all of our costs. We would purchase essential supplies such as toilet paper or cleaning supplies on an as-needed basis, no big expenses with bulk products. We had no money to spare so we had to go day by day.

As business really kicked off, we were making money and were able to start building our second Retreat about nine months after we opened the first. The local community kept asking when we would open a Retreat near them and at that point we realized people were utilizing massage therapy for reasons surpassing a day at the spa. We realized we were truly elevating lives and the momentum continued to build. We needed to expand and do it quickly.

What was your marketing strategy?
You’ll often hear me say that I don’t believe we would have been as successful if we started the business anywhere other than San Antonio. Your roots are so important when starting a new venture and with that, a lot of our initial efforts were guerrilla-marketing techniques. We really counted on the friends and family in our community. We leaned on inexpensive tactics in the beginning such as putting flyers on cars, placing door hangers in local housing communities, direct mail campaigns, and word of mouth. The Internet barely existed back then. Of course we had a website, but that held very little weight in 2004. We established a strong referral program amongst new Members and also formed relationships with local doctors and chiropractors to have them refer their patients to us.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
We opened the doors to our first Retreat in 2004 and the second location in 2005, just 9 months after the first. Two years later, we started franchising. By 2007, we had grown to 10 locations in and around the San Antonio and Austin areas and the next step naturally was to start franchising the brand on a national level and our growth has been substantial but strategic ever since.

How do you define success?
Success for me is defined by the success of others. If our franchisees are successful, then that means we, the franchisor are successful. If our franchisees are successful then we are a successful brand with scalability and sustainability. We’ve seen our franchisees reinvest in the franchise over the years as they’ve been able to surpass their personal and professional goals and that is super exciting and really rewarding.

The whole concept of Massage Heights was founded to help people live their lives better and that stems further than solely our consumers. It is my hope that all of our team members can go to work every day and do what they love in an environment where they feel cherished and appreciated. The franchise model allows franchisees to live out their dream of business ownership, but most importantly, it should help them realize their personal aspirations and the reasons they first walked through our doors. People don’t buy a franchise just to make a living; they are looking for something more fulfilling. Whether that is to control their own destiny, have freedom in their business, or to determine their hours and spend more time with their families, we have the flexibility to allow that to happen. Seeing other people’s dreams come to fruition is a true testament to success in my eyes.

What is the key to success?
Diligence. Too many people stop when it gets hard but it is vital to keep moving forward. Have a plan. Follow the plan. Pivot when needed. Never give up.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
Talk less, listen more, but do ask questions; lots and lots of relevant questions. The only bad questions are the ones that weren’t asked.

What are some quotes that you live by?
“Culture is what culture does.” – Shane Evans

“Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” – Richard Branson

“So long as there is breath in me, that long will I persist. For I know one of the principles of success – if I persist long enough, I will win.” – Og Mandino

“Begin each day with the blueprint of your deepest values firmly in mind then when challenges come, make decisions based on those values.” – Stephen Covey

“Its not who you are that holds you back, it’s who you think you’re not.” – Unknown

“When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.” – Henry Ford

What are some of your favorite books?
The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz is a great book about a company that has experienced challenges and how to come out of them. A few additional of my favorites are Good To Great by Jim Collins, Start With Why by Simon Sinek and many of the books by author Brené Brown.

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
There is a consistency in the toughest days I’ve gone through as an entrepreneur. The days are the challenging ones when I feel like I am not enough and question whether or not I have not done enough to help enough people. I tend to take it personally when someone is struggling. The question “Are we as an organization doing enough of the right things to help all stakeholders realize success, inclusive of our corporate team members, our franchise partners, and the 5000 people our franchisees employ in our nationwide Retreats who are the heartbeat of our brand?” tends to arise and it helps me step outside of the day-to-day and strategize on ways to improve.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
Having the responsibility that so many people rely on me. There are more than 5,000 people that work for Massage Heights and there has been millions of dollars invested into this company by our franchise partners. Each of these individuals, along with my family and loved ones, and our HQ team, rely on me every single day to be a good leader. The responsibility to get up and continue leading for them, to help them realize their personal goals and dream, is the fuel to my fire and the reason I keep moving forward.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
It may be cliché, but the advice I give is to “Just Do It”. Once you come up with an idea for a new business, start making it become a reality. Create a plan and bounce your idea off of as many people as you can. From my experience, you will truly be surprised with how many people want to provide beneficial feedback or even be a part of the process. Lastly, search for a mentor that will not only help develop your idea, but also help grow yourself as an individual.

Anders Gustafsson – CEO, Zebra Technologies

Anders Gustafsson became chief executive officer and a director of Zebra on September 4, 2007. Prior to joining Zebra Technologies, Mr. Gustafsson served as CEO of Spirent Communications plc, a publicly-traded telecommunications company.

At Spirent, Mr. Gustafsson redirected that company’s growth strategy, divested non-core operations, integrated historic acquisitions, and streamlined the organization to realize significant cost savings. Prior to Spirent, he was senior executive vice president, global business operations, of Tellabs, Inc. While at Tellabs, Mr. Gustafsson also served as president, Tellabs International, as well as president, global sales, and vice president and general manager, Europe, Middle East and Africa. Earlier in his career, he held executive positions with Motorola and Network Equipment Technologies. Mr. Gustafsson has an MBA from the Harvard Graduate School of Business and a Master of Science in electrical engineering from Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden. He was a Fulbright Scholar and received numerous fellowships and scholarships for academic excellence.

How did the concept for Zebra come about?
With a capital investment of $1,000 back in February 1969, engineers Ed Kaplan and Gary Cless, both in their mid-to-late 20s and employed by Teletype Corp, started their own part-time venture called Data Specialties Inc. (DSI), engaged on consulting and other small projects. Most notably, they developed a tape punch to record transactions at the point of sale (POS). By July 1969, they had an order for 500 POS paper tape punches.

What was your marketing strategy?
DSI featured its first two products in print ads that showcased the customer benefits of the products and low cost. Trade shows also proved successful to demonstrate products directly to potential customers.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
By 1975, the company’s sales grew to $500,000 based on its paper tape solution. In 1982, DSI created the first barcode printer, changing its focus to specialty, on-demand labeling and ticketing systems. That year, company sales exceeded $5 million. And in 1986, DSI changed its name to Zebra Technologies, aligned with its introduction of the world’s first thermal printer for on-demand barcode labeling (picture the stripes in the barcode).

How do you define success?
A strong vision that engages customers and ultimately delivers good performance.

What is the key to success?
The keys to success are the 4 Rs – results, reciprocity, risk, and resilience.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
I have a truly international view. I grew up in Sweden, traveled extensively, and lived in Asia. My greatest lesson involves embracing diversity – listen carefully – lots of cultural differences but lots of commonalities!
A) Perspective on culture is very relevant to role as CEO (especially when bringing two corporate cultures together)
B) Create and share a VISION that all stakeholders can rally around

What are some quotes that you live by?
“The definition of luck is when preparation meets opportunity.”

What are some of your favorite books?
I enjoy reading biographies (e.g. Steve Jobs), business books (Satya Nadella’s Hit Refresh) and mystery books (Graham Greene).

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
The tougher days are when you are working hard but can’t catch a break – things just aren’t falling your way. This is when you need the resilience to stay the course.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
I deeply believe in our vision and strategy and a fear of failure.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Stay close to your customers. Be prepared to pivot and adjust strategy as needed. And again, tap into a deep reservoir of resilience.

Taro Fukuyama – Co-Founder & CEO, Fond

Taro co-founded Fond (formerly AnyPerk) in 2012 and serves as the Chief Executive Officer. Born and raised in Tokyo, Taro is a Y Combinator graduate and part of the first Japanese team ever to be admitted into the program. He studied Law at Keio University in Tokyo and was named one of Business Insider’s “Silicon Valley 100: The Coolest People in Tech Right Now”. And yes, he helped found Fond in a Taco Bell parking lot.

How did the concept for Fond come about?
When I moved from Japan to San Francisco, I was shocked to hear that employees change their jobs every two years. In Japan, where I grew up, people tend to stay at their employers for their entire careers. The difference between the Japanese and U.S. markets really piqued my interest and that led me to do an in-depth study of the market. One of the most startling stats I came across showed that two-thirds of employees in the U.S. are either somewhat or totally disengaged at work. This finding motivated me to solve this challenge by building a company to help companies engage better with their employees.

How was the first year in business?
Like most start-ups, our first year in business (2012) was pretty scrappy. To gain initial client traction, we utilized our investor network for referrals and introductions. The corporate discounts business is a marketplace model that required that we scale both customers and perk providers. So we targeted each one of these groups to attract them to our platform to create a vibrant experience for buyers and sellers. Within no time, we were reaching out to literally 1,000 potential customers and perk providers every day until we got enough traction to launch a viable marketplace.

What was your marketing strategy?
We knew that we had one chance to earn our customers’ loyalty so we focused on customer satisfaction. This ended up being a core component of our marketing strategy. Marketplaces are classic “chicken and egg” constructs; once we’ve achieved a critical mass of active customers, the aggregate demand they represent would enable us to attract more and better perk providers to the platform. Having more perk providers on the platform made it easier to attract more customers. That form of network effect really helped us grow.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
The business took off quickly and in no time we were experiencing growing pains. I remember at one point we didn’t have enough meeting rooms, and the team had to make client calls in hallways, stairwells, and even in the bathrooms!

How do you define success?
Our success is when, after our solution is implemented, employees of our customers find their companies to be greater places to work for than before Fond entered the picture.

What is the key to success?
Keep learning and challenging yourself to grow in order to accomplish your goals.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
What you wish to accomplish is more important than what you are actually able to accomplish today. In other words, don’t limit your dreams based on what you feel capable of doing today. Dream big, work hard, and you’ll find that your skills will expand to meet the challenge.

What are some quotes that you live by?
“Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

What are some of your favorite books?
The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni, The Effective Executive by Peter F Drucker, and Drive by Daniel Pink.

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
During our initial period, we were a Y Combinator accelerator company. One day, the Y Combinator founder, Paul Graham told us we were the worst startup in the batch, among sixty-five other startups. Our ideas were not working and I could not speak English as well as I do today. Paul and I joke about it today, but that was one of the toughest days we’ve had.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
When facing adversity, I’ve found that staying as close as possible to our customers is the best medicine. When I hear from them how they have improved their employees’ engagement by using our products, it always energizes me and gives me the extra impetus to work our way through whatever challenging situation we’re facing.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Always be vulnerable. As long as you are open to feedback, there will always be people around you who will help you move forward.