Career Summary

(Click company name for more details!)

Current

PegasusAblon Properties, LLC
– Since 2007, I’ve been in Dallas working for PegasusAblon Properties, a real estate investor and developer. Real estate happens to be an industry in great turmoil, which makes it fascinating beyond measure.

Previous

Orbik Corporation
– Great 3 year intro to technology, design, ecommerce, web. Worked as a project manager and consultant. Involved in over $1 million of project work.

Soapfire
– Technology spin out of project with Orbik. Intro to the world of enterprise sales, web-based software, collaboration space, product management, company forming/execution

Brio Power Products
– Intro to building a sales organization on a rapid timetable. Also project owner of internal CRM/business management software.

IT24/GreasedRadio
– Lots of individual consulting work with IT24 and various local companies. Meanwhile spent ~1 year doing in depth research for GreasedRadio. Media, mobile, online, advertising, radio, music spaces

Mobile Evolution
– Marketing guy and more in this mobile startup

Orbik Corporation (1999-2002) back to top

I worked with Orbik from mid 1999 through the end of 2002. Orbik was a Web and software development agency. We worked on projects for Fortune 500’s and for venture-backed startups. I served as a project manager, client interface, and consultant. I was a key contributor in forming proposals, statements of work, and contracts. Projects ranged from $5,000 – $200,000. Marketing-oriented projects included Web sites and CD-ROM work. Product-oriented projects were Web-based and software applications.

At Orbik, we were constantly working with interdisciplinary teams both in our company and with our clients. Orbik also developed a concept loosely similar to Citysearch during the early part of my career there. I worked with the founders to develop the business plan, conduct market research, and present it to investors. While at Orbik, I also was involved with all of the essential operations of the business including hiring and contracting talent; finding and selling clients; and dealing with the day to day operations including bookkeeping and office management.

Over the course of my time at Orbik, we were engaged in over $1 million of client work, but I decided the business wasn’t going to be able to grow the way we had envisioned, particularly because the types of services we were offering were not in demand after 9/11.

Soapfire (2003-2004) back to top

I started Soapfire with a partner I met through Orbik. We licensed some technology we had developed for a client, StudioRD, while working for Orbik. The technology was a web-based collaboration tool for customizing private planes. Not only is this industry significant on its own, we felt our solution would be extensible to various other design and design/build niche industries. This was a time when team collaboration between multiple organizations through the Web was first starting to gain traction.

I orchestrated the founding of the business, working with a core team, as well as numerous contractors. I negotiated the agreements with StudioRD to secure necessary IP rights, despite having limited financial resources. We negotiated a royalty agreement, support agreement, and several other components of the deal to make it fly.

The product itself was VERY innovative for the time. It was based on a lightweight Web-client and server architecture (using XML-RPC, a protocol to allow such solutions, similar to SOAP, the Microsoft standard implementation). My partner was the developer/CTO. I was deeply involved in developing the requirements, roadmap, and design solutions for the product.

On the sales and marketing front, I developed relationships with “lighthouse” customers including L-3 Communications, Calixas (a yacht manufacturer), Associated Air, and several others. These relationships were dependent on maintaining strong ties with individuals within StudioRD and building new connections within these targets. Because the industry was (and remains) very political, this was challenging. My objective during this period was to lay groundwork for establishing relationships I knew would require year-long and multiyear business development cycles. Work included tradeshows nationally, traveling to client sites, maintaining phone and email relationships, ‘demo-ing’ our product…basically doing everything we could to get, and keep, our foot in the door.

Meanwhile, we began an early branding effort. Soapfire (named in reference to SOAP, a protocol, and firewall, as in secure) was temporary. What we wanted was Tribal, to reference the multi-party collaboration we were enabling. We made due with Tribalfire, hoping we would progress with funding. With this brand, we developed collateral including a basic Web site, several sales sheets, and company overview. The software was an enterprise product, but web-based, so we were targeting a $100,000-250,000 annual contract price for the average client.

Of course, our plans were contingent on raising outside capital. To bootstrap while bringing all this together, we did consulting work. Fortunately, we had one client whom we counted on for much of our billable work. This client, Bingo Books, was also a startup and we did a lot of their initial product development work as well, which was the development of a series of bilingual education products on CD-ROM. In all our billable engagements, I was the primary client contact, managed all the proposals, contracts, pricing, and the projects themselves. Particularly with Bingo Books, I was heavily involved in solution development as well.

We couldn’t secure outside capital. Looking back, there are things I would have done differently, but I did gain priceless experience developing the business plan, marketing plan, financials, and presentation — and finding and pitching investors. Because this was a seed stage opportunity, we had trouble finding an audience in a brutal tech market.

Brio Power Products (2004-2005) back to top

My tenure at Brio was a result of my discussions with the founder of Calixas, the yacht company. He concurrently started Brio and asked that I join him. The company had decent initial funding and I began with a contract assignment. During this assignment, he and I led a very small team in developing the entire business. This was very interesting to me because Brio was a sales organization and I wanted to gain experience in this area, especially from a building and management perspective.

Brio was built to be a sales distribution channel for power quality products, which are, in very simple terms, surge protectors for entire buildings. What he (Montie Twining) wanted to do was build a direct sales force to market these products. So we developed everything to enable that– licensing the product, creating institutional knowledge, laying out a sales process, developing a branding package, developing a CRM (using an offshore team), hiring, and training a sales force. Once the initial development was complete, I switched into a Director of Marketing role, which broke down into two key jobs: acting as a liaison between the corporate office and our 25 reps, and continuing to develop our marketing program to support them.

The company had some modest early success, but sales uptake did not meet projections. Montie soon decided to switch to a distribution model selling through electricians and electrical warehouses. This left little for me to do, as it became more or less a pass-through business.

IT24/GreasedRadio (2005) back to top

At this point, perhaps I should have been burned out on startups, but I was not done. I hooked up with the founder/owner of IT24, who was the offshore development partner we used at Brio. Really, it’s limiting to describe the software we developed at Brio as a CRM. It was the software for our entire business, built on .NET. Since I was the primary point for all of that, including the requirements and solution development on the client side, I felt comfortable exploring a relationship with IT24.

IT24’s primary operations are in Pakistan, with the owner in Houston. We first engaged with some marketing projects. The business relied almost exclusively on referrals to the owner and we decided to do some work to give him a bigger platform to grow. We agreed this would be a temporary assignment, but I enjoyed putting their marketing together and introducing them to some of the development houses in Austin. This work set IT24 on course to begin focusing on developing solutions that could be packaged for future clients, instead of relying on a project-to-project model. IT24 has stayed the course with this as a long-term path.

While consulting with IT24, and a few local companies, I also began research on another new venture. GreasedRadio was based on a simple thought: what if I could make an instantaneous buying decision based on anything I heard on the radio? This might ring truer today than ever, now that the trends in direct response marketing are booming; now that mobile radio and TV are a true reality; and now that almost every traditional media company has a serious hand in the interactive space, and vice versa.

I felt GreasedRadio would be an excellent seed venture to capitalize on these trends in the 2008-2010 timeframe. I did extensive (extensive) research in all the relevant industries: advertising, radio, music, market data, and mobile. I started to develop a broad network of local talent that might be able and interested in contribution. I made direct contact with several executives at companies including ClearChannel, Nielsen, and quite a few mobile solution companies. It was a thrilling experience.

It is difficult to capture all that I learned while working on GreasedRadio. Obviously, I was researching a gigantic venture, and I was comfortable knowing the concept was bigger than I was. I developed smaller-size venture concepts based on this research, but ultimately, I couldn’t find the right partners to join me to make it happen.

Mobile Evolution (2006) back to top

I was attracted to Mobile Evolution because I had done quite a bit of mobile research with the GreasedRadio project. I knew that the mobile data application space was an emerging market and felt I could add value in it. Mobile Evolution was founded to provide credit card processing through mobile phones. The company was a year old and had secured a reasonable amount of angel capital. It appeared well positioned for a venture investment. Needless to say, that did not happen.

Through the Mobile Evolution experience, however, I was able to learn a great deal and am very thankful for it. I only learned later that the company was not quite as well off as I had initially thought. Again, I quickly assumed most of the marketing responsibilities. (Primary contact with marketing partners including Intuit and a major wireless reseller. Positioning overhaul, re-brand, offering adjustments, trade show marketing, web site overhaul.) I also helped restructure the business plan, including a whole new set of financials. The original CTO stepped in temporarily as CEO at the request of the board, and together we recruited Bill Morrow, founder of Grande Communications, onto the board and secured a bridge round of financing of ~$250k.

For all the progress we made, we couldn’t get to the next level. All told the company spent a little over $1 million, with less than $40,000 in hard marketing dollars (i.e. actual spend, not time, collateral development, management etc). I mention this because in all sincerity we had made disproportionate progress to our spend, (as confirmed with several entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and even investment bankers who were not involved in the company). We were able to sign up around 500 customers and ran over $1 million in transactions through our system. The angel group burned out, as did most of the team by the end of the year. Of course, this is the time we really needed to sweat it out, recruit some senior talent, and find a way to capitalize on our progress.

PegasusAblonback to top

Mike Ablon, PegasusAblon Properties’ Founder and Managing Partner, is in his “prime” and it’s an utter privilege to be a part of his team. He founded the firm roughly three years ago and hit the ground running with multiple investments in the greater DFW market.

Our approach to real estate is a cross between analytical and creative.

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