My Journey from CEO to CTO to just being me

It's easy to get distracted by titles. I have been the CEO of a mapping startup, CTO of a book publishing company and Product Owner at a secure collaboration SaaS platform. But I've never been happier than just being, "Mash, the guy who helps people get stuff done."

Before I can tell you about that, I need to tell you about this… When I was 14 my Mom, a 5-foot tenacious Vietnamese business woman, taught me how to sew. Yes, needle-and-thread-in-a-sewing-machine-making-clothes kind of sewing.

She would drive me down to the fabric store and we would pick out cool colors and Hawaiian prints that my friends might like on their Clam-Diggers. If you don’t know what a clam-digger is, imagine going down to the beach to forage around in the shallow water for clams. If you wear pants, they will get soaked. But if you wear shorts, you’ll get cold. So clam-diggers are basically short-pants.

At 14 I didn’t want to learn how to sew clam-diggers, but I did know that my friends and I wanted to wear shorts to school and it wasn’t allowed. If only there was a way to make shorts that could pass as pants… just barely! Clam-diggers looked and felt like shorts, but were just long enough to go past my knees and would be considered pants.

We combined this idea with cool Hawaiian print fabric and extra baggy draw-strings to create my first business, selling shorts to my friends at school.

I wasn’t trying to build a business, I was just trying to help out my friends!

Fast-forward to 2008 and my Mom told me she wanted to write a book but all the publishers told her it was a bad idea and they would never publish it. So I designed an online book-authoring platform where we could all collaborate on her book. My dad joined as the editor, my brother joined and uploaded the illustrations, and we published her book using my platform. Butterfly Girl was published in May 2010 and distributed across the world with one click of a button.

I turned that SaaS into a startup and we licensed our technology to Barnes and Noble for their Nook Publishing Platform. We were acquired in 2012.

I wasn’t trying to make money, I was just trying to help my mom take on the giant publishing companies.

So now let’s get back to the beginning of this blog post. Even though I’ve worn all these titles and I’m extremely proud of the journey I’ve been on, it wasn’t until I started my most recent company, Foclarity, that I realized, I am not a title or a business. I’m just the guy who wants to help people he loves.

Over the years I’ve fallen in love with the little guy, the small business owner, the solopreneur, the startup founder and people with dreams too small for the world, but too big for them to achieve alone. So when anyone asks me what job or title I’m most proud of, it's being known as the guy who helps people get stuff done.

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