May 2, 2023 BACK
This month, after a brief summary of the companies presenting on Wednesday, we have just one article, a profile of past President Terry Kay.
Presenting This Month:
SimGraphics Engineering Corporation, with Richard Parker, CEO
IronWall360, with Ron Zayas, CEO
Link Labs, with Bob Proctor, CEO
Featured in this issue:
Terry Kay, Pasadena Angels Past President
Startups Presenting Wednesday,
COMPANY: Evitado Technologies
CEO/Founder: Andrew Moakes, CEO
Location: South Pasadena, CA
We create autonomous interactive cartoons from well-known IP (e.g.: Nintendo's Mario), providing a new way for consumers to engage with brands. SimGraphics has spent the last four years combining elements of AI with our 30 years of animated character performance to create a "Directable AI" system that can deliver 1:1 interactions with consumers anywhere in the world. We want to build and scale the cloud infrastructure to capitalize on the entertainment, education, and brand advertising markets.
CEO/Founder: Ron Zayas, CEO
Location: Orange, CA
We protect the online privacy of police officers, judges and elected officials by removing their personal information from online sources and database. We are the largest company in our space.
COMPANY: Link Labss
CEO/Founder: Bob Proctor, CEO
Location: Annapolis, MD
Link Labs is the global leader in IoT location services technology, providing real-time enterprise asset visibility for manufacturing and logistics operations. We solve enterprise asset visibility, seamlessly indoors and out, with unprecedented location accuracy (up to 30-cm accuracy), lowest cost in all respects, massive use case extensibility, and comprehensive enterprise-grade capabilities. Our customers use the AirFinder platform to drive additional revenue through higher production throughput, reduce costs, and drive compliance.
Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before
Terry Kay, past president of Pasadena Angels.
“If you’re not stepping into the unknown - the mystery - why bother lifting your feet"
You might know Terry from zoom calls with the 10th fairway of Oakmont Country Club in the backdrop in Glendale, CA. But his story starts in Ovid, NY, which sits between two Finger Lakes that never freeze and is where Terry Kay grew up. Back then, children in rural America grew up working from the moment they could walk. His uncle’s nearby farm was where he carried milk and fed the animals. Terry’s parents were school teachers, and they ensured that Terry grew up planning for college and playing an instrument. By the third grade he was playing the piano and the saxophone.
During college in upstate New York, Terry had a couple months of educational hiatus, so he moved to Manhattan to sleep in his brother’s attic and drive a cab. In those days, cabbies just circulated scanning for raised arms, veering across traffic to pick up fares and navigating by memory across one of the world’s busiest cities. If that seems a bit daring for a rural kid, hang in there. It gets wilder.
At RIT, he covered his room and board by being a resident advisor. And three times a week he rose at 4:00am to make 100 lbs of donut dough so he would have enough money to ski at Bristol, NY. Of course he was in a rock band, which was strategic for meeting girls. Observing the dearth of bass players, Terry practiced 3 hrs per day in high school to earn a spot with a legit band that played in bars all over town in Rochester. Also, while in college, he studied enough accounting to graduate.
The band worked out pretty well, but after graduation, the lead guitarist moved to Denver. Terry figured that was as good as any plan, so he packed his JBL L100 speakers into a rusty ‘69 Impala and drove cross country with an ankle that he had crushed skiing. He had several solid career CPA offers in Denver, but a better adventure came with the accounting practice of James Daggs in Aspen, so he spent six months using his accounting skills in pursuit of a living. But, as soon as the snow began to fall in November, Terry walked into James’ office and said, “Umm…” to which James said, “Yeah, I know. I was hoping it wouldn’t happen to you.”
During ski season, Terry worked in a ski shop from 7:00 am until 10. Then he hit the slopes mid-day. He checked in ski equipment late afternoons, and then drove a cab until 1:00 am, after which he cleaned restaurants. After a year in the coke capital of the US, he thought: “Hmmm… Maybe one more year.”
“Life is about showing up.”
Then he got more serious and went to Colorado State University for a Masters in real estate and finance. There he met Stan West playing tennis, and when Stan moved back to California to run a company, he promised Terry a job upon graduation from CSU. But the job offer was slow to materialize, so Terry started exploring opportunities in Houston. Oil and gas were booming, and Terry was just finishing his Master’s degree, but he was slowed by a case of mono. Just days before departing for Houston and weeks after he should have finished his Masters Thesis (no, there is not a statistically reliable inverse correlation between precious metals and the equity markets), Stan came through with the job offer, and Terry redirected to California. If not for a virus, Terry might be speaking with an east Texas drawl, y’all, and he might be hailing from the other Pasadena: Pasadena, Texas.
After working at Stan’s company for a while, Terry was a computer consultant for a couple years. He programmed computers and wrote user manuals by day, but his personal time was dedicated to self-improvement. He worked from 8 - 5 to survive, but after that to thrive. He took Dale Carnegie courses near the airport on Monday nights, when his friends were watching Monday Night Football. After a couple courses, he was asked to be a teaching assistant. He sought out practically every personal growth seminar and workshop in LA to explore his potential in every dimension. And, I mean almost every dimension. After hours, Terry immersed himself in everything from Improv to Jazz Dance and Shamanism to Toastmasters.
The Journey Continues - Into the Upper Amazon.
“Don’t die with your song inside you.”
All this self-improvement focus was driven by a deep desire not to settle, not to be limited by fear or a lack of effort. Terry knew that he wanted financial freedom, and he knew that he would have to work hard and take risks, and that he would need a partner who would be willing to take risks with him. Where do you find a woman who is willing to take on life’s greatest fears (including marrying him)?
He joined Toastmasters in the South Bay with enthusiasm. On Saturday October 8, 1988, he woke up early for a regional competition. He was tired from a long week (and possibly also hung over), but he dragged himself to the meeting for the dreaded Table Topics improv competition. His group went first, and then he had to sit through hours of speeches to hear the results. Around noon they announced the winners; Terry had won the Table Topics competition. As he was leaving the building, trophy in hand, he stopped mid stride in the doorway and reminded himself that he wasn’t there for “that” trophy. He turned around and went back in.
He had noticed the woman who had been the Table Topics Master. Jeanie was striking, and Terry was there to meet someone - her. She was surrounded by a throng of petitioners, but Terry got in line. By the time he got to the front, he had steeled himself to leverage the hundreds of hours of determination to confront fears and reach for the prize. “Would you like to go for a bike ride on the Strand?” he asked. Hmmm … probably not. Fortunately, for the rest of the story, she changed her mind.
From left to right: Terry, his wife Jeanie Kay, Conner Wisdorf (his son-in-law), Charlotte Kay (his daughter), Lucy Doyle (granddaughter), Lydia Kay (daughter), and Patrick Doyle (his son-in-law)
"Everything is incomplete upon creation, and obsolete upon completion."
Terry joined Fun and Profit (F&P) at the end of the 1980s. It was a tiny marketing firm that had a big contract with the City of Hope for fundraising coupons. The name reflected the motto: “Personal growth and financial well-being,” which erased the line between work and play. It was where crazies with karaoke machines and boundary-stretching exercises invented new marketing concepts to overcome False Evidence Appearing Real (FEAR).
One such innovation was the rebate bundling program (CashBack) with Alpha Beta that promised customers the ability to submit all their rebates in one batch. Instead of the tedious process of clipping one proof of purchase, saving the receipt, filling out a form and using a stamp, the consumer bundled lots of rebates into one submission and got a sizable check in return. F&P pioneered the program… and lost A LOT of money.
“It’s not the force of the gale, it’s the set of the sail that determines your direction in life.”
With the small staff of F&P, Terry sat at the table while his friend and partner Norman, understanding that they were almost completely ruined. If they were to have any hope of making some changes to the program and rescuing the company, Norman would have to take out a full value second on his home. He was staking everything - his home, his business, his future - on this team. It was palpable. Terry watched his friend push all his chips to the middle - the moment was seared into his memory.
The second iteration went better, as they sorted out the substantial complications. They signed up Long’s Drugs and some other chains. And after “10 short years” of proving themselves, Sam’s Club came calling. Walmart’s new big box format was looking for an edge in their rivalry with Costco, and F&P’s CashBack book was that angle. That was when they achieved full liftoff. F&P later sold to Young America, a huge fulfillment house in Minnesota with its own zip code.
"When you step off the road and into the forest, if there's already a path, it's not your path."
Terry isn’t someone who shrinks from adventure. No, Terry sprints after adventure and tracks it down like a bounty hunter. While at F&P, Terry met some people who were working with a shaman from the upper Amazon. Shamanism is the world’s oldest religion - no belief systems, no dogma - just pure experience while creating moments of awe and beauty to engender love for self, others and the world. Despite being an Episcopalian from Glendale, Terry opened himself up to what the tribes, ceremonies and teaching plants had, and still have to offer. Note to Captain Kirk - outer space is not the final frontier.
"Art is love made visible"
In the 1990s, Terry and Jeanie enjoyed a Shakespearian play at a run-down, converted Masonic Temple in Glendale. Terry was intrigued and reached out to Geoff Elliot and Julia Rodriguez-Elliot, two entrepreneurial artists with Masters in Fine Arts from San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theatre.
In Terry’s judgment, they were the real deal, but their theater company, A Noise Within, was underfunded and practically homeless. He promised them that they’d get a permanent home… somehow. They created a board of directors and made Terry the Chairman, where he labored for the next 11 years.
Terry started a fundraiser for a permanent home and hired a capital campaign advisor who suggested that Pasadena is more of an arts town. Patron and mayor of Pasadena Bill Bogaard helped find a property in east Pasadena, and everything was looking good as they passed the halfway point in their $16M fundraising campaign in 2008. Then, the market crashed, fundraising got very difficult, and some experts suggested ANW should find a Plan B. Terry refused to give up (don’t always listen to the experts), but he didn’t refuse to adapt to the circumstances. They trimmed their plans a bit and redoubled their efforts. By 2013 A Noise Within had a beautiful, new 33,000 square foot 325 seat theater with rehearsal halls and offices on Foothill Blvd in Pasadena.
"You can measure your success by the good citizens that appreciate and support your efforts - and validate it by the rascals that don’t."
Terry and Jeanie lived in La Canada, where they raised their two daughters, Lydia and Charlotte, both of whom played softball. At the time, girls softball in La Canada was rolled up under the boys baseball league, and got far less than its fair share of attention and funding. As a consequence, some of the better players decamped for Pasadena or La Crescenta leagues, and the summer all star tournaments were beat-downs for the La Canada girls.
Some of the parents decided it was past time for Softball to get proper representation, starting with its own board of directors, and Terry was recruited to build a board and be league commissioner. But, unlike business or performing arts, girls softball was seriously cutthroat.
La Canada being … well La Canada - brimming with doctors and lawyers - need we say more - who will stop at nothing to make sure that their kids’ teams are stacked with talent, the parents were the biggest challenge. Terry and the board members defined their mission as “striking a balance between recreation and competition while upleveling the skill of every girl.” There were many seemingly reasonable requests to allow girls to be on the same team in order to facilitate carpooling. But, often those requests were from the parents of the best players. Turning them down made Terry unpopular in some circles.
While he canceled requests for favoritism with one hand, Terry penned “thank yous” with the other. He included more parents in the league and formalized the processes for everything, making transparency a priority. Terry made a lot of amendments to the rulebook, and some enemies, but also some committed families and grateful girls.
Pretty quickly things started to change. Within a year, the flow of talent out of La Canada started to slow and then reverse. That year, they didn’t lose by the mercy rule in the regional tournament. The next year they actually won a game. In Terry’s last year as Commissioner the 14 and under team won the state softball tournament.
"Behind the doors of fear are most likely the greatest treasures you'll ever find."
When he turned 50, Terry got serious about his physical health. As with everything, he strategized: he needed strength, balance and flexibility to stay healthy and injury-free. He started yoga at the YMCA in La Canada 4X per week. Every time he went to yoga, he passed the glass-walled dance room at the Y where the ladies were doing pretty cool jazz routines. “You should join us, Terry! We need a guy,” Julie Markowitz would entreat him regularly.
“Be willing to be wrong all the time”
The thing with Terry is: once an idea lodges in his head, it’s eventually going to have its way. A decade earlier someone suggested that he take an improv class. He put it off as long as he could, but the idea had the reins. Eventually he had to succumb, first to 8 weeks of Improv 101, culminating with a show, and then to Improv 201, also culminating with a show - as well as 101 sketch writing. And, the thing about Improv is that, for beginners, it can have moments of brilliance, but it will definitely have moments of sheer terror. You have to be comfortable being wrong all the time.
And then there’s Jazz dance. It took five years for him to cross the threshold into the aquarium of the Jazz dance studio, where a very clear glass wall separated him from most of the dance critics. Initially, he was not great. But the most vocal critic was inside himself, and he definitively explained to Terry that he was bad at every aspect. Terry negotiated with this ultimate critic: back off for a year so that I can have enough experience to make an informed decision. His critic relented, but not without some lapses.
Terry took several classes a week at the Y, and to catch up, he followed the class once a week to the Lineage dance studio in Pasadena. He was immediately impressed with Lineage, and their mission of helping everyone connect through the arts. Not only is Terry still dancing to jazz, he’s now the President of the Lineage board of directors.
That led to Flamenco, his latest immersion project - yes, Kevin Herzberg - you will get your show.
All That Jazz
“Entrepreneur - from 14th Century French verb - Entreprendre - To Do Something”
Terry is also a past president of the Pasadena Angels. (One gets the sense that if the position weren’t already taken, he’d also be leading his Episcopal church instead of just being Treasurer or Stewardship leader.) Angel investing has a special place for Terry, as entrepreneurs are ultimate risk takers. Entrepreneurship is a journey into the unknown - clouded with uncertainty where you will be wrong more often than not. But, Terry’s OK with being wrong sometimes. In his experience, it’s behind the door of fear that we find our greatest treasures, from ephemeral table topics trophy to the love of a lifetime.
April '23: Irrigreen (Shane Dyer) and Mandy Wang
March: EventHub (Michael Bleau) and Don Hall
Feb: Everyset (EB, Ebrahim Bhaiji) and Richard Chino
Nov '22: Cactivate (Wentao Xiao) and Gene Stein
Oct: C360 Technologies (Evan Wimer) and Kenji Funahashi
Sep: Woody Sears (Autio) and Mike Krebs
Jul: Open Sesame (Steve Lyons) and James Schaefer
Jun: HavenLock (Alex Bertelli) and Anil Jha
May: Discotech (Ian Chen) and Gary Awad
Apr: Sashee Chandran, Seatrec and Susan Marki
Mar: Yezin Taha, Spine Align and Jamie Bennett
Feb: Phoenix Gonzalez, Repurpose and Marcus Filipovich
Jan: Ksenia Yudina, BeTheBeast and Larry Uhl
Nov '21: Roy LaManna, TotSquad and John Keatley
Oct: Dr. Chorom Pak of LynxBio and former president Al Schneider
Sep: Luk Network, Brandon Cavalier and Nancy Dandridge
Jul: Electrum, Jose Gomez and Julie Pantiskas
Jun: Ready, Set, Food, Dr. Mirianas Chachisvilis and Joseph Pitruzzelli
May: MagicLinks, Christopher Hussain and Janice Orlando
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We hope you enjoyed this edition of the Pasadena Angels Monthly Newsletter. Any suggestions for future pieces, questions or comments? Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dave de Csepel
Chairman, Pasadena Angels