Emergent International Payment Systems, a Fresnel Portfolio company, worked with marketing-services agency Blue Creative Group to launch a new responsive website to help share its groundbreaking business model with prospective partners. The company offers unique solutions to the unbanked and underbanked populations of sub-Saharan Africa and beyond. “Emergent creates new business opportunities by building local relationships and applying technologies that add convenience and security,” says Tom Thies, cofounder and partner of The Fresnel Companies. “This website will help lay the groundwork to start those conversations and create connections.” Emergent worked with Blue to create a site structure that captures the essence of the business. See the site and learn more about Emergent International Payments at emergentpayments.com.
Terry Reeves is an Expert-in-Residence for The Fresnel Companies and is an entrepreneur who focuses on applying technology to businesses to solve problems, helping to make them more efficient and effective, and evolving them from players to market leaders. This is a pertinent mission that applies to everything we do at Fresnel each and every day.
“We bring in Experts-in-Residence who each have a unique outlook on business,” says Tom Thies, partner of The Fresnel Companies. “The idea of using technology to improve efficiency may not sound particularly groundbreaking, but when Terry Reeves takes on a new business challenge, he doesn’t just throw the latest technology at it, he applies principles he’s learned to build value through efficient operation. It’s these ideas that make Enterprise Optimization work, sharing success across the whole portfolio.”
Terry Reeves brings a strong foundation to everything he does. His grandfather was an entrepreneur and started his own business. Terry started learning from him at an early age, and his grandfather’s teachings and his guiding hand and those of his friends have informed many of the decisions throughout Terry’s career and life. The men were part of The Order of the Arrow, the honor society of the Boy Scouts of America, and served on the council of that organization, and they were men with a wealth of knowledge and history of building character. “When you can take those things that are provided to you and actually absorb them, it’s amazing how you can lean back on them for the rest of your life,” Terry says. “They have had a great impact on my own decision-making skills, both in my personal life and also when it comes to business.”
Terry started Elite Discovery, a business that focuses primarily on the legal market and corporate legal, and consults on how to handle electronically stored information (ESI) during a lawsuit. Elite works with outside counsel, corporate legal teams, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Department of Justice to manage all the communications and product information to support a suit or an investigation.
Terry is certified in forensic investigations and he’s a forensic passware certified examiner (PCE) expert. Over the last 18 years, Elite Discovery has received 95 different awards for managed services, contract attorney review, database hosting, and from magazines like Texas Lawyer and National Law Journal, particularly in Texas, but the company also is a national presence. Because of how the business has evolved in that time, Terry has grown Elite by appealing to clients open to working with service providers outside their immediate geographic area, and so he’s been able to expand the reach and have revenue growth over the last few years.
“If you can utilize analytics in a manner to help your client be more efficient and more profitable so they can use their resources in other areas, it can help a company take a leading role in the market,” Terry says.
It became apparent to Terry that his understanding of applied technology would help him succeed beyond the legal space.
So he went green, but not in the way one might expect: He got involved with a business that installs artificial turf and putting greens. He saw an opportunity for an existing business that is profitable and sustainable, but the company lacked leadership and didn’t utilize technology. Terry brought some workflow management and analytics and added a little bit of insight into how to understand profitability, understand marketing, and understand how to connect the dots and communicate to their crews. With a little more efficiency, they had more resources and the ability to take on more jobs without adding more overhead. “We’re able to take that same philosophy, and then just replicate it,” Terry says. “We found something that works that we can document and replicate. It goes right along with Fresnel’s ideas.”
Terry also recently started a breathalyzer company in Texas. Blowfish Interlock provides a device that people have installed in their car when they get charged with driving under the influence. They breathe into the device to allow the car to start. Using the device is monitored carefully by the courts, but it’s a logistical hassle for people trying to abide by their sentences. Terry saw all these companies in the space selling themselves on cheap this and discount that. Instead he brought technology to bear on the problem with software that allows the users to sign up, directs them to a service center to get the devices installed in their cars, and provides up-to-the-minute, real-time reporting to the courts.
“I don’t think it’s about going in and trying to recreate the wheel, when you find a business and an entrepreneur, they have something that already fits a need,” Terry says. “They have a business model that’s already profitable, and they have the passion behind that story. You can work together to take all of that and put it into a tool or an engine to help connect the dots faster or in a more efficient manner. They can focus in on what they’re good at, and it’s a win-win for both sides.”
Terry indeed is a key resource to Fresnel and is representative of our philosophy of creating a deep bench of complementary talent that can ensure we continue to create value across our portfolio and drive results for our investors.
Fresnel portfolio company VXP Radio Network, a recognized leader in the in-store audio market, is completing a comprehensive rebranding in celebration of the company’s 10th anniversary. Our partners and VXP managers realized that there is a much better way to offer instore audio that goes beyond just supplying background music as a service in the grocery vertical space.
As part of this bold initiative, VXP Radio Network has been renamed Tring Live Media to reflect a more uplifting identity and the evolution of our technology. Tring is focused on reinventing how consumers engage within the brick-and-mortar environment by enhancing the customer experience while simultaneously making them more valuable customers for our current and future retail partners.
Incorporating security-focused technology from partner company Cipherium, we’ll be able to better couple with the Point of Sale systems of individual stores to deliver predictive analytics and programmatic ad solutions within the brick-and-mortar environment.
A key differentiator is that our solution is designed to deliver product lift in specific categories for our advertisers and retail partners. By rolling out the new technology, ROI is quantifiable at the point of sale. And our head and heart approach also incorporates an enhanced entertainment experience within each outlet, from better music, custom content produced by the Blue Creative Group, and custom-developed radio solutions for each retailer.
“There are certainly in-store audio solutions out there, but Tring is not just another in-store audio company,” says Andrew Casson. “We’re at the crossroads of entertainment, customer engagement, data analytics, and retail sales. It may sound complex at first, but our sales message is simple: we create sales lift and create revenue-share opportunities for our clients. Having the data to shape how we engage customers within the retail environment is a game changer.”
Researching on how to evolve a market with a better technology solution is at the heart of what Fresnel does and how we approach every investment. Going into 2020 Q1, we’re excited to work with our existing client base, expanding this key grocery business, and driving media sales into these partner channels. With this firm foundation in place, as part of our value-creation plan, Tring Live Media will then move into other vertical markets including outdoor recreation, equine, marine, and arts and crafts.
A new name, new technology, and a new year are powering one of Fresnel’s most exciting endeavors full steam ahead. We look forward to sharing all the latest news and evolution with you as they roll out. Stay tuned!
Brett Guarrero is an Expert-in-Residence for The Fresnel Companies and is an industrial engineer, inventor, and consultant whose experience melds technology and management theory to optimize results.
“Our Experts-in-Residence are a key part of our Enterprise Optimization strategy,” says Andrew Casson, founder and managing partner of The Fresnel Companies. “They each bring a unique set of skills and an outlook that can provide immediate benefits to our portfolio companies. Brett has a proven record of creating opportunities for new technology through communication, education, motivation, and the integration of collaborative team-building methods. His engineering background helps him build consensus among teams to share a complete understanding of the goals at hand. Simultaneously, he seeks opportunities to cross-pollinate with other portfolio companies, a key aspect of Enterprise Optimization.”
Brett owns BPG, LLC, an interdisciplinary engineering and consulting firm located in Broomfield, Colorado. BPG specializes in energy-system assessments, design, and project management. Brett is also co-founder of Enzo USA, Inc., an energy system supply company, also headquartered in Broomfield. Enzo manufactures custom thermal management products for a range of industrial, institutional, and energy clients. Their products include custom pre-insulated utility enclosures, wall assemblies, tanks, and containment piping products.
He holds degrees in industrial engineering, finance, and marketing, with math and physics minors. He also holds a Master of Science in Management, with an emphasis on leading technical teams, as well as many certifications surrounding energy management.
One reason Brett enjoys his role as an Expert-in-Residence with Fresnel is that he combines his education, professional and life experience, and global travel with his innate ability to create simple, but unique solutions for technical challenges. While Brett has brought his thought leadership to numerous companies as an employee and consultant, this Expert in Residence enjoys combining the full depth of his technical expertise with the ability to know his audience and explore all possible solutions.
Brett started his career in the family’s tool and die business, developing a fascination for watching products emerge from a chunk of metal and learning how those little products, assembled correctly, created full machines. He’s invented and patented products, and helped others patent their products. Hooked on systems theory, Brett found he could analyze the benefits of integrating new technology and look at it against the backdrop of a market, while also considering the finance side of the equation. These skills let him offer helpful insight to technology companies under the Fresnel umbrella.
“I think one of the really interesting steps in the patenting process is the landscape,” he says. “Where does your product fit into the global landscape? And, how many resources does it make sense to put behind it, based on the potential revenue of this really cool gee-whiz product?” He understands the software and tools that help companies get to those decision points and enjoys getting to know the ownership.
Since Brett has been through it, he’s felt the lumps and pains of pursuing his own patents and getting product to market. “I think you can help people more if you have experience doing the thing that you’re coaching them on,” he says. “You get a sense, for better or for worse, if they’re ready to let go of their baby—their invention. And you can help them along to say, Is it the right time?” Anyone who has been a part of momentous decisions regarding investment, product development, and company growth knows this is a key aspect to the decision.
The people with whom Brett interacts—CEOs, CFOs, and COOs—generally stay really busy keeping their companies afloat. They’re also busy with their investment pool, and they have a family life as well. Brett adds value by coming in and reviewing the landscape, helping them to think critically about the things that need to be solved first. “I often assist by first identifying and defining the ‘research question,’” he says. “It’s that thing you know, or want solved, but haven’t yet carved out of the stone.” In an effort to keep stakeholders involved and focused on the organization’s purpose, Brett communicates, integrates, and continually revisits the goals and priorities of the company. This key strength is what Brett brings to the discussion as an Expert-in-Residence.
His experience has taught him that, to get a point across to a group of people with many different learning styles, it is often necessary to teach people precisely the look and feel of how their daily work results in what is most useful for the whole company. The diverse companies he encounters within the Fresnel portfolio benefit from his agile style. “Teaching this is second nature to me,” he says. “I am able to teach nearly any topic to nearly any audience.” His résumé backs this up, showing he has taught technology to previously incarcerated adult women enrolled in an associate degree program, electromechanical assembly process and J-standards soldering to personnel serving customers including NASA, nuclear medicine, and the military, and business process system improvement techniques to CEOs and boards of directors.
He’s excited to work with The Fresnel Companies, chiefly because the variety of projects is so diverse. The work as an Expert-in-Residence allows him to amplify his effect by letting him work with multiple companies, with their management and their ideas, helping them develop their systems and scale up their production effectively.
Perhaps the most appealing aspect of The Fresnel Companies to Brett is the idea of looking for the synergies that could exist between the portfolio companies, spotting opportunities and capitalizing on them, in ways that benefit everyone involved. “Some people do Sudoku or puzzles, and some people look for connection opportunities,” Brett says. “Joseph Jaworski wrote a fun little book called Synchronicity that describes a cubic centimeter of opportunity—every day this little, pea-size thing is floating around. And it’s up to us to find it.”
William Gomez is CEO of Cipherium, a Fresnel portfolio company with a creative approach to cryptography that takes a look at what tools are available, then assimilates each of their best features strategically. Here he offers three insights into cybersecurity.
1. Understanding hackers is the best way to beat them. “Hackers flow like water, and they take the path of least resistance,” Gomez says. “One method we use to keep them out is encryption, but it can be very insecure if we use weak passwords. A ‘brute force’ program is a tool that hackers use to try to break the encryption key, which is the password that encrypted it in the first place: Basically the program tries to guess the password used to encrypt the file. The human-level password is the weak point: a kid’s name or a dog’s name and a date of birth is going to be easier to break than a randomly generated 64-character string of numbers, upper- and lower-case letters, and symbols.”
2. Hackers like big targets. “Many companies have been hacked and reported massive losses of consumer data in the last few years—companies such as Equifax, Target, and Yahoo,” he says. “They became targets because they centralized the data, storing it all in one place that they considered secure. By putting all that sensitive data in one place, they each created a honeypot, and each was much too valuable for the hackers to resist.”
3. The world as a whole has figured out that decentralization is one way to beat hackers, but there are ways to improve on it. “Cipherium is licensing some of its patented technology to HarborX, which employs two patent-pending technologies to secure crypto-currency transactions: It uses a decentralized dynamic authentication network, and a decentralized private key management technology,” Gomez explains. “Crypto currency operates on a cryptographic infrastructure where the user will have a public key, for example a Bitcoin address, which links to a private key that remains private. HarborX takes that private key, shreds it into pieces, encrypts each piece, then stores them on different computers on a network of nodes. Assuming everything of value is stored separately across multiple computers—serving as nodes across a network. Bitcoin has been operating for over 10 years now and has never been hacked. It’s a triumph of both blockchain technology and cryptography. HarborX takes elements that make Bitcoin successful, like the decentralized nature, and deploys it on the most critical part of every blockchain—the private key. By decentralizing that private key using Cipherium’s patent-pending technology, and splitting it into pieces, encrypting it, and sending the parts off separately to be stored in a thousand computers, it becomes too much work for hackers. Cybersecurity is all gamesmanship. It’s learning the methods of your opponent, and figuring out ways to beat them that they never imagined. It’s the ideas that beat the hackers.”
Emergent Payments, a portfolio company in the The Fresnel
Companies, is having a busy midyear push in support of its City of
Kolwezi-branded re-loadable Visa card and payments platform. The city
government in Kolwezi in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has passed
legislation that will incentivize and ultimately require companies in mining
and other local industries to utilize the designed platform for future payments
of taxes, licenses and fees. This is a tremendous opportunity for Emergent that
culminated in August, as it co-hosted, alongside the city government, over 100
corporate partners within the region to describe the benefits of our secure
electronic-payments infrastructure. The entire program, which Emergent has
branded as the “E-Pay Certified City” makes Kolwezi one of the first major
cities in sub-Saharan Africa to convert its payment infrastructure to
electronic payments. Other cities are beginning to contact Emergent for more
information about our company and capabilities. To see a video regarding the
launch of the Emergent Payments card, please click here.
Blue Creative Group has partnered with Venuetize, a technology platform for smart space solutions that lets visitors capitalizes on mobile technology to enrich their experience. Blue Creative Group, a marketing-services agency in the portfolio of The Fresnel Companies, is helping Venuetize tell its story to potential clients with enhanced digital and video content. But it’s more than that. Because Blue Creative Group seeks to elevate relationships by looking for connections across a broad and diverse client base, the services Venuetize offers in its mobile platform will fit a range of programs, enhancing and improving the guest experience at stadiums and arenas, urban entertainment districts, and events.
“Venuetize improves the journey of event visitors from the moment they leave their homes to the end of the night when they pull into the driveway,” says Andy Hawk, partner at Blue Creative Group and senior VP for client strategy. “The full integration of their ticket can assist every step of the way, from route-planning to seamlessly locating their seats to finding the right snacks and concessions along the way. Blue clients are already considering innovative ways to make the most of these services.” Venuetize offers custom solutions, so the innovation fits the task at hand. And because the platform is centered on the fan experience, the simplified access to information and services is a natural fit for many business models.
The Fresnel Companies offers management ideas and assistance to its portfolio companies as part of its Enterprise Optimization strategy and the insight and wisdom of its Experts-in-Residence play a key part in the success. One such expert is Don Koscheka, a seasoned strategist in both information technology and business. He is currently a principal at Salt Brook Solutions. Previously, he was General Manager of the technology firm BlueMetal Architects, Inc., in New York, and a leader at Microsoft Corporation for 17 years in both consulting and technical marketing roles, where he consistently used a strategic approach to delivered multimillion-dollar revenue increases.
Don has a broad understanding of computer and device technology, everything from hardware to software. “What I like to do most is look at potential problems or potential solutions, using lateral thinking to figure out how to apply that to the real world,” he says. “The kind of thinking I like to do is take all the facts and put them on the table, to see what the relationships are between them, and see how technology can be applied to, quite bluntly, monetize those relationships.”
As a partner in a managed-services IT consulting firm, Don worked with his partners to develop a plan that would set their company apart. A cornerstone of Don’s strategy is to do real research, and listen to the insights that the data provides. “Customers told us about their experiences. Talking to customers and talking to clients, listening is really important,” Don says. “For example, clients say, ‘I hate when I get nickeled and dimed—if I call to ask simple question, I get a bill. What kind of relationship is that?’ What we heard is that customers want one-stop shopping and they want one price. And it turns out they’re willing to pay a little bit more for that.” The partners listened to the customers’ needs and focused on the relationship.
Don takes the same tack when he advises managers whose companies are in The Fresnel Companies portfolio: Listen to what the data is saying. This advice can be invaluable for companies that are built on the foundation of a great idea, but sometimes may need some help in finding out how to make it really work in the market.
“That’s what most technology people get wrong,” Don says. “They fall in love with the technology. Don’t solve a problem that you think is a problem, solve the problem that the general public thinks is the problem.”