Making Waves at C-Level
Michael Smerklo is the Co-Founder and Managing Director of Austin-based venture capital firm Next Coast Ventures. NCV provides early-stage capital to high-growth startups in ‘Next Coast’ markets, using macro trends and themes to guide their investment strategy.
Michael has been in the technology industry for almost 20 years as an operator, investor and board member/advisor. Michael currently sits on the board of NCV portfolio companies Tenfold, Navegate, LeanDNA and AlertMedia. He serves as a board observer for NCV portfolio companies EverlyWell, Stoplight and Cloverpop. Previously, he served on the board of OnRamp (acquired in July 2018) as well as SPS Commerce (NASDAQ: SPSC).  
Prior to founding NCV, Michael was an investor and advisor to emerging growth companies in Silicon Valley and Austin, Texas from 2014-2015 via his personal entity, True North Ventures LLC. From 2003 to 2014, Michael served as CEO (and Chairman from 2008-­2015) of ServiceSource International, a company he acquired via a search fund, at a time when the company had one office, 35 employees and a few million dollars in revenue. Under Michael’s direction, ServiceSource grew from a groundbreaking idea into a publicly-traded company that is the market leader in Recurring Revenue Management (NASDAQ: SREV). Michael was named Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year® Award Finalist in Northern California in 2010. Michael retired as CEO in 2014 and from the Chairman role in 2015 as part of his planned relocation to Austin.

Prior to ServiceSource, Michael was an early employee at Loudcloud (renamed Opsware), working closely with Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz in Business Development. He previously worked at Morgan Stanley (Silicon Valley Technology Investment Banking), Lehman Brothers (M&A) and Ernst & Young (Audit, CPA). 
Michael received his MBA from the Kellogg School at Northwestern (with distinction) and a BS in Accounting from the Miami University (Ohio). Michael is an active member of Young President Organization (YPO) in Silicon Valley. He is also an active blogger, focused on the Entrepreneur’s Journey, on his personal site
Direct download: CTED_437.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:30am EDT

Most surveys show that the New Year's Resolutions we set are abandoned by the end of February.  People set goals, and then the routines of their life set in and we fall into the same path we have been walking for a long time.
Thom Singer believes in goal setting and New Year's Resolutions.  While he knows that most people never do much with working long toward their goals, for those who do, it can be magical.  But it is not about reaching to goal, the success in in the progress you make along the way.
As humans, we like the idea of a "fresh start".  This is why birthdays, anniversaries, and New Year's Day are such a big deal.  We get to move ahead with a new path. We get excited about that potential, but potential is not a solution.  Potential does not equal results. The key here is "performance".
In observing peak performers, Thom Singer has seen a pattern. There are things people do who reach come closer to reaching their potential, than those who are stuck in a rut (Thom believes that you never really reach your potential, as once you climb a mountain you find bigger mountains to climb).  Peak performers keep trying and they enjoy the journey.
Peak performers take action.  Many people feel they are coming up short, and those are often the same people doing the same routine day after day. Those who are achieving more are not static in their actions.
What Peak Performers Do:
1. Peak performers "Try New Things" and pivot off actions that are not working.
2. Peak performers take ownership of their life.
3. Peak performers set goals.
4. Peak performers are not sidelined by doubt and fear
5. Peak performers connect with people and show gratitude
6. Peak performers believe in themselves.
Check out episode 436 of the "Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do" podcast.  If you like this episode, please share it on social media or with your friends.
Direct download: CTED_436.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:00am EDT

Let’s Talk Funny
Nothing is less funny than a podcast interview about comedy.  Episode 435 is an interview with comedian motivational speaker Garrison Wynn. This conversation covers a lot of ground about his career and what makes things funny.
Garrison got into stand up comedy early, and it has impacted his whole career. He has seen a lot of things between the world of comedy, the Fortune 500, and the speaking business.   
Nine months after his first open mic he was earning a living as a comic.
Today he is a professional keynote speaker.  On this episode we dive deep into comedy. Garrison has had a very interesting career path, and he is very open in this interview.
It is hard to find funny in some rooms.  You need the right environment to get the humor to connect with the audience. Most people, even when they are funny, do not realize what makes them funny. There are many things that go into making humor work.
About Garrison Wynn
Garrison helps people make the jump from being great at what they do to developing the qualities it takes to be consistently chosen for the job. He gets them to understand why their products, services, or leadership styles-or those of their competitors-are selected. As he says, “If the world agreed on what’s best, everybody would choose the best and nothing else would be considered. Decision making doesn’t work that way.” His presentations help people become more influential regardless of circumstances.
With talents that established him as a Fortune 500 leader and professional stand-up comedian, Garrison Wynn, CSP, fuses comic timing and research to deliver motivational business expertise.
For 20 years, he has given keynote presentations to clients (such as American Express, Wells Fargo, Oracle and NASA) at corporate and association events. He is the author of the Amazon bestseller The Real Truth about Success, the Amazon #1 bestseller The Cowbell Principle, has been a weekly contributor to the Washington Post and featured Forbes and Inc. Magazines.
In his teens he debuted the world’s first video gaming system (Odyssey) with baseball legend Hank Aaron and as a young man spent 6 years touring comedy clubs with the top names in the business. He went on to become the youngest department head in a Fortune 500 company’s history where he researched and designed processes for 38 company locations nationwide and developed & marketed products still being sold in 30 countries.
Garrison Wynn can be booked through your favorite speakers bureau or directly at
Check out his first interview on Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do from August 2016.
About Thom Singer
Thom Singer is the host of the “Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do” podcast.  He is also a motivational keynote speaker and professional master of ceremonies.  Thom took up stand up comedy at age 51 and began visiting comedy clubs, bars and coffee shops for open mic nights all over the country.
While he is not a comedian, he as become a student of humor.  He does not put jokes into his keynote speeches, he has learned that comedy is the best teacher of timing and audience engagement.
Direct download: CTED_435.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:57am EDT

Leaders must have followers. You cannot set up to set the pace if the other people behind you don't care what you think and do not respect you.

To be a good leader, you must begin by leading yourself in a direction of more success. 

Thom Singer takes this episode of the "Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do" podcast into the explorations of self leadership.

If you are living as a fraud, others may not know it... but you are very award. People cannot lead self if they are out of sync with their own soul. You may be acting bigger than reality, or selling yourself short. Either way, if you are not honest with yourself, you will bounce around lost for a long time.

Confidence is important, but over confidence or under-confidence are a fine line away. 

How you communicate with others will impact your ability to lead, but also you ability to self lead. If others are always mis-understanding you and your intentions, then you are probably not internally clear as to who you are and what you are trying to accomplish. 

The best leaders want to always be learning and growing ("those of you listening to his podcast are clearly good leaders, as you come here to learn and grow").

Be aware of who you are is hard, and often even harder for younger people. We spend a lot of time doing what we think is expected of us in our lives and careers. Somewhere around age 35 most people come to be aware of who they are (the good stuff and the bad stuff). That awareness allows you to be honest about your intentions and motivations. The games you have to play in relationships lessen, since you no longer are hiding your true self (from others of from yourself).

Becoming less judgmental of others is a big part of knowing your own strengths and weaknesses. 

To lead yourself you have to define your goals. Having goals make it easy to navigate the tough decisions we all face daily. 

Knowing your purpose is key. This is not some trendy "Know your why" statement, but instead a clarifying point where you realize that when you know your purpose in every interaction with others, you make a difference. This is how you leave a legacy.

And in the end, the person who masters great self leadership will have influence on others. Followers line up for the leader who knows about their purpose and can clearly communicate that message. 

Listen to episode 434 and share it with a friend.


Thom Singer is a motivational keynote speaker and professional master of ceremonies / emcee. If you are planning a meeting, call Thom to discover if the is the right fit to have a meaningful impact on your conference.

Direct download: CTED_43428R29.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:30am EDT

Zach Benson is one of the standouts in the world of influencer marketing. A TEDx speaker, social-media trainer for international brands like The Four Seasons, Ritz Carlton, and ViceRoy, and past participant on “So You Think You Can Dance,” Benson doesn’t just manage his own Instagram network of millions; he’s also the founder of Assistagram, where he’s guiding other influencers and Fortune 500 companies into social-media success.
Lastly, he is the founder of 6 Figure Dancer Academy, where he teaches other dancers the exact step-by-step system that he used to create a profitable 6-figure dancing business, traveling the world.
What you probably don’t know is that Benson’s childhood resembled something far closer to outright failure than the kind of wins he has experienced today.
At only 4 months old, Benson, who was born in South Korea, was adopted by his parents in the States, where he was taken home to Des Moines, Iowa. Benson was one of the very few Asian kids in his school.
Benson was bullied and abused by his peers in school due to his ethnicity. On top of looking different, he sounded different too. Benson was diagnosed with a speech impediment and was placed in speech therapy classes. And to top it off, Benson was diagnosed with ADHD and consistently found himself getting in trouble at school.
With this type of background, many people would assume that these were the characteristics of somebody who was headed down a dark road. Many of us have never had to face daily battles against racism, learning impairments, or even the inability to talk properly, but a combination of all three seems unthinkable.
Like anything, though, change is a series of small steps, starting with one foot in front of the other. Benson told me how he implemented this in his own life.

For a man who was bullied, judged, and ostracised, it would seem human to simply give up,but Benson did not. Instead, he focused on moving the meter forward every day.

With this type of mentality, it makes it easier to silence that voice in your head that whispers all of your shortcomings to you. By being persistent and showing up every day to work towards your goals, you can overcome some incredible obstacles like Benson has. There is no barrier to your success.

Ask Yourself These Questions

“Should I do it?
Can I do it?
Do I want to do it?
For Benson, success is in the execution of the ideas and not in the ideation. “There are many of us who wait for the right moment when in reality that moment does not exist,” Benson said.
We feel that if we wait long enough, everything is just going to be perfect. Well, waiting means sitting and hoping. Accomplishing means getting up and chasing what is yours. Be curious in life and be open to venture off the perfect path and discover what is not visible to most.
By supplying yourself with answers to these three questions and immediately acting upon opportunities, you set yourself apart from almost all of your competitors and peers who spend their time wishing for the right moment.
These questions allow Benson to keep his internal compass focused so that even if he ventures off in a new direction, it aligns with who he is. Benson has shown us that whatever impairment you have in front of you can always be overturned with consistent progress and the ability to take action.
“The past is the past, the only thing you can do is learn from your mistakes. In my experience, it’s the ones that make the most mistakes and actually learn from them that grow the fastest,” said Benson.
Make mistakes, learn, and suck it up.  
Yes, life is hard. You must confront the brutal facts of reality that life is hard but things will get better in the future if you keep working and developing yourself and comparing yourself to your best self, you will become the person you want to be in future,” says Benson.
This is the type of advice we all need to hear at some point in time.
To follow more of Zach’s incredible journey and what he stands for you can visit his personal site, Assistagram, and connect with him on Facebook
Check out episode 433 of "Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do" and hear more from Zach Benson.
Direct download: CTED_433.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:05am EDT

The same efforts and same agenda will not produce new results.

No matter what industry you work in, the guess is that you, your employees, your products and services, your vendors, and your customers are all caught up in the same routines. 

It happens in all industries. Thom Singer wrote an article for the February 2019 "Meeting Professionals Magazine" titled TRY NEW THINGS (page 30) about how one of his clients totally re-thought their opening general session. 

For decades this group, like most associations, had an opening business session that included a famous keynote speaker. But in 2018 they wanted to try something new. No Keynote. (As a keynote speaker himself, Thom does not advocate for killing off the keynote! Ha). 

Instead, they created a 2 1/2 hours general session that focused on the brilliance of their members, sponsors, and other industry VIPs. They hired Thom to help facilitate the session, and got hundreds of people to engage and share best practices instead of sitting by and listening.

It was a huge success, but it was not without risk. They had to get buy in from the attendees in advance to ensure that all stake holders were on the same page. If it had not worked out, they needed people to be positive about the concept of trying new things.

Thom also shares in this episode two other clients who wanted to shake up their conference with new experience driven ideas. 

But this is not just about the meetings industry. Everyone should be looking for ways to have more experiential interactions with customers, prospects, vendors, employees, etc.....

Check out episode 432 of "Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do" and see if you are inspired to try something new.

Direct download: CTED_432.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:23pm EDT

This episode is co-produced with the Austin Technology Council, the regions largest tech industry organization who empower members by using insights, resources, and connections their members need to succeed and thrive". 
Rob Kaczmarek is the managing director for projekt202. Rob has a love and passion for introducing innovation and transforming experiences Globally. He has an entrepreneurial background launching two global technology companies and a service company aimed at transforming peoples’ experience with technology. With a background firmly rooted in Computer Science he has spent his career bringing innovation to challenging markets and worked with the likes of Apple, Intel, Microsoft, Amazon, Formula 1, Roush Yates, McLaren, BMW, GE, Rolls Royce and numerous others to implement technology into the engineering and retail industries.

With over 15 years perfecting our approach, projekt202 has the experience, teams, skills and scale to deliver sophisticated software solutions that improve any and all touchpoints across the user journey.

projekt202 is the leader in applying experience strategy and observational insights to the development of mobile, cloud, web and workplace software. The company is actively redefining the user experience (UX) and changing the ways people interact with technology around the world. Recognized by industry analysts for setting the standard for the way modern businesses develop software, projekt202 builds emotionally rich, resonant solutions that enable customers and end users to fully realize technology’s potential in today’s connected world.

Check out episode 431 of the “Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do” podcast as Rob has a powerful conversation, with host Thom Singer, about entrepreneurship, business success, and the Austin tech scene.

Direct download: CTED_431.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:27am EDT

James S. Fell, MA, MBA, has bylines in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, the Guardian, TIME Magazine, and many other publications. His blog,, has millions of readers and he is the author of two books: The Holy Sh!t Moment: How Lasting Change Can Happen in an Instant (St. Martin’s Press, 2019), and Lose it Right: A Brutally Honest 3-Stage Program to Help You Get Fit and Lose Weight Without Losing Your Mind (Random House Canada, 2014).

The Holy Shit Moment Book

After years of helping people change, James Fell had a sudden insight about sudden insight: significant life change doesn’t often come from just putting one foot in front of the other, carefully observing and altering habits, slogging through baby steps toward new behavior. Rather, the research reveals that serious life turnaround usually happens in a moment, with a flash of inspiration. Epiphany arrives like a lightning strike, rapidly shifting the recipient of such enlightenment onto a new path that creates a better life.

Motivational psychology has traditionally focused on slow and steady―gradual improvement over time to reach a desired goal, whether it’s weight loss, career change, battling addiction, or success in relationships. We’ve been told since toddlerhood that the tortoise beats the hare. But, through compelling science and powerful stories, James Fell shows us that the hare has the edge; overwhelming desire can be awakened fast and furiously. When you learn to become attuned to that sensation of sudden awakening, a new path can be followed almost effortlessly, because it feels like destiny.

Everyone has the ability to experience the lightning strike. The Holy Sh!t Moment will teach you how to create a life-changing epiphany and go directly from intention to action.

Check out episode 430 of "Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do" to hear James Fell share how to create change.

Direct download: CTED_430.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:10pm EDT

Episode 429 of "Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do" features a return visit to the show from Phil Gerbyshak. Phil and Thom Singer candidly discuss issues around the intersection of sales, marketing, and technology, and spend a lot of time unpacking the power of using LinkedIn. 

Phil Gerbyshak is Connected

Phil has interviewed Tom Peters, Sally Helgesen, Seth Godin, Tim Sanders, Carol Roth, Bob Burg and a host of other great people.
Phil is an active member of the National Speakers Association (NSA) and has spoken at many of the regional chapter meetings on social selling and the power of connecting the right way on social media.
Phil has been featured on the cover of Speaker Magazine, and also frequently contributes articles.
When he’s not traveling, Phil does a weekly show on social media called #SocialChatter on Facebook Live here. It’s unscripted, unedited, real and raw.

Phil Gerbyshak is Wired

Phil is a technology geek who is always trying the latest and greatest tools so you don’t have to. He’s kicked the tires for you and can recommend the right tool for your needs and budget, whether it’s scheduling social media posts, livestreaming, transcribing, video editing, etc.
Phil has been recognized as the Best of BeLive (livestreaming platform) by Ross Brand and Rachel Moore.
Check out Tuesday Tool Day with Phil on his blog to learn about what’s new and hot.

Phil Gerbyshak is Experienced

Phil Gerbyshak is a former vice president of information technology at a full-service financial services company, where he and his team were responsible for supporting over 100 applications used by advisors, investment bankers, research analysts and support staff.
Phil also worked as a director of social strategy for a compliance software vendor focused on the financial services vertical where he coached, consulted and trained customers and prospects on integrating social media and social selling into their daily sales practices.
Currently, Phil presents programs, trains, and coaches sales organizations and small business owners on sales and marketing strategies, optimizing their use of technology and social media.
Phil Gerbyshak has written 5 books, more than 2,500 articles, and has been quoted in The Wall Street JournalDaily Globe and MailFinancial TimesInvestor’s Business DailyInc. and many other publications.
Phil lives in Tampa, Florida where he spends his free time reading business books, listening to podcasts, and playing pinball.
Direct download: CTED_429.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:38pm EDT