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Monetizing the AI Revolution: Strategies for Success

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Show Notes

Welcome to the Executive Connect Podcast. In today’s episode, Melissa Aarskaug and her guest Salena Accardo discussed effective monetization strategies for AI in various industries, emphasizing the importance of key performance indicators, usage metering, and hyper personalization. They also highlighted the need for organizations to establish governance structures that align with their values and risk tolerance and discussed the importance of balancing productivity and compliance when integrating AI in the workplace.

Key Takeaways:

0:00 – Introduction

  • Melissa introduces Salena Accardo, Vice President and Founding Practice Leader at Gartner’s Executive Advisory Services, to discuss strategies for monetizing AI across industries.

1:11 – Effective Strategies for Monetizing AI

  • Discussion about the complementary nature of AI, highlighting its potential to enhance efficiency and effectiveness in various operations.
  • Key strategies include establishing clear key performance indicators, implementing usage metering, improving quoting and pricing accuracy, forecasting demand, and modernizing billing practices.
  • Examples like Microsoft’s integration of OpenAI into Bing showcase the power of hyper-personalization in driving ad revenue and consumer engagement.

4:13 – Risks Associated with AI Deployments

  • Discussion of the lack of regulation surrounding AI and the potential risks associated with data consumption and privacy.
  • Organizations are advised to develop robust governance structures based on their comfort levels with data sharing and compliance with national regulations.

7:51 – Utilizing AI like ChatGPT

  • An exploration of practical applications of AI tools such as ChatGPT in enhancing grammar, writing, and customer support experiences.
  • Examples from companies like Tesla and Cardinal Health demonstrate AI’s role in revolutionizing consumer interactions and support systems.

11:00 – Shaping Behavior and Preferences with AI

  • AI’s focus on hyper-personalization is predicted to streamline consumer experiences, saving time and increasing engagement.
  • Examples from streaming services like Netflix illustrate the impact of AI in delivering tailored content and minimizing decision fatigue.

15:18 – Compliance and Regulatory Considerations

  • Why organizations should align their AI usage with national regulations and compliance standards, especially in handling sensitive data like personally identifiable information (PII).

17:24 – Metrics Tied to AI Productivity

  • While effectiveness metrics are prevalent, productivity metrics are still evolving, with preliminary data indicating AI’s efficacy in education and lesson planning.

19:36 – AI Tools for Personal and Professional Use

  • Grammarly, ChatGPT, Socratic, and Chegg are recommended for enhancing productivity and educational experiences.
  • AI-powered tools can assist with tasks ranging from time management to recipe searching, offering personalized solutions for everyday challenges.

21:52 – Advice for Employees and Individuals

  • Embrace AI with an exploratory mindset, seeking out tools that address specific challenges in both professional and personal contexts.
  • Stay open-minded and receptive to the transformative potential of AI in improving efficiency and effectiveness in daily life.
  • By leveraging AI technologies responsibly and adaptively, individuals and organizations can unlock new opportunities for growth and innovation in an increasingly digitized world.

Guest Bio:

Salena Accardo is a seasoned business executive and technology expert renowned for her prowess in fostering the growth and optimization of both public and private enterprises. With a wealth of experience under her belt, Salena has been instrumental in guiding organizations towards international expansion, diversification into new product verticals, and achieving remarkable enhancements in gross margins, sometimes reaching an impressive 50%.

Having collaborated with multi-billion-dollar global corporations as well as smaller, privately held firms (with revenues below $100 million), Salena has spearheaded multi-million-dollar systems integrations, forged strategic partnerships on domestic and international fronts, and broadened product portfolios. These endeavors have consistently yielded tangible results, including enhanced organizational efficiency, augmented gross revenue, and bolstered EBITDA for the entities she has served.

www.linkedin.com/in/salenaaccardo

About Melissa Aarskaug:

I’m an energetic executive with 15+ years of experience steering companies to new heights of growth and scale. An engineer at heart (I started my career as an engineering manager on one of the world’s largest concrete bridges), I’ve become a trusted leader and business builder in the technology and cybersecurity space.

Transcript

Salena Accardo 00:00
You know, the purpose of AI is to be smarter, to be more efficient, to be more effective. And that’s hyper personalization. If you have a Netflix subscription, the personalizations have gotten better and better. And that’s because of AI technology in there. What does that do? Right? It saves you time from like just scrolling their vast content network. And that’s honestly what made streaming so palatable for the masses is because it is a time saver. It is a continuous flow of information. And that’s what we’re seeing with with AI is giving us continuous flow of information that’s perfectly suited for us.

Narrator 00:41
Welcome to the Executive Connect Podcast, a show for the new generation of leaders. Join Melissa Aarskaug as she speaks to a wide variety of guests that bring new insights into leadership, prosperity, and personal growth. While no one has all the answers, by building a community of open minded and engaged leaders, we hope to give you the tools you need to help you find your own path to success.

Melissa Aarskaug 01:11
Welcome to the Executive Connect Podcast. I’m thrilled to have Salena Accardo here today to speak with us on AI. Salena is the Vice President and founding practice leader in Gartner’s Executive Advisory Services, where she is responsible for $100 million in recurring revenue and the P&L. She has also worked at Accenture, AIG, BMC Software. Welcome, Salena .

Salena Accardo 01:42
Thanks so much. Thanks for having me.

Melissa Aarskaug 01:46
One of my favorite subjects to talk about is AI. I’m thrilled to just get started with talking about the monetization of AI. Can you discuss some of the effective strategies and monetizing AI in various industries?

Salena Accardo 02:02
Yeah, absolutely. So, you know, AI, is this hugely, it’s not a disruptive technology, right? AI is a complementary technology, it’s going to it’s making everything we do and do it more effective and more efficiently. So people stand to make a lot of money by implementing AI technologies. An effective strategies for utilizing AI in order to monetize it is first and foremost, you need to have some key performance indicators in place, right? So how are you going to actually use it is really, really important. So, you know, I always recommend to people, usage metering is really important. So how much has your usage increased by implementing AI LLM? And you know, how, how much more precise has your quoting and pricing gotten for your organization, and then forecasting demand of usage for your, for your system, and then you know, just your modern billing practices. So various ways that you’re seeing from a consumer standpoint, though, you know, from monetizing AI is, is really, you know, I guess one of the best known ones is, is being right, Microsoft purchased open AI and implemented it into their platform into the Bing search engine. And what that did was it allowed a hyper personalization aspects come into place, and most people don’t realize this. Bing will now take your information that you put in and that you type in for your search and the things that you’re interested in. And it will start hyper focusing, not only making the surface results more precise, but will start hyper focusing some of those banner ads that you have across the top right, so that way, your immersion is that much more specific and time savings. And that’s a huge monetization play. Because if they have the right ads coming your way, you’re more than likely going to purchase the product that’s coming there. We’re gonna get ad revenue from that. And it just keeps paying it forward.

Melissa Aarskaug 04:11
Yeah, I love all those pop ups that I get in at it’s true because we’re all guilty of clicking on ads that are, you know, tailored to us. I am absolutely guilty of it myself. And so I although I do appreciate it too, right. It saves me from searching for things and so it’s both ways, you know, I love it because I’m getting what I need, but then I’m also like, do I really need those things that they’re popping up and reminded me as well. So you know, another side to AI I think of like cyber risk and governance and compliance are really hot topics right now, along with, you know, monetizing AI. So from your point perspective, what are some common risks associated with AI deployments? And how can organizations mitigate them? When they’re, you know, going through those those migrations?

Salena Accardo 05:14
Yeah so a couple of things. So first and foremost, I think the key thing around AI, right? It’s a complementary technology again. So it’s not well regulated yet. Meaning that, you know, we don’t know what we don’t know about AI. So if you have a data rich environment of your organization that produces a lot of data, understand that while you may be pulling data from AI, like it’s also consuming your data. So, you know, how much of your IP Do you want to give up? And, you know, how much risk are you comfortable with? And then from a consumer standpoint, how much of your personal information are you comfortable giving up, we don’t have frameworks in place yet, because the technology is so new to opt out. On personalization, I mean, those are more static type of data requests. So in terms of, you know, risks and governance, like one of the best ways, I think, to devise your governance structures, one, understand what your, what you are comfortable sharing. So think about it from what you’re comfortable sharing first, and you can devise your governance structure from that aspect. Like we don’t want it to go on these systems, or we don’t want to be allowing certain types of requests to come through, right, because again, it’s, it’s, it’s a pool, but it’s also a consumption at the same time, too, because it’s making the engine smarter. That’s how machine language works. The other thing, too, is if you’re in, you know, it’s based on where you’re located, whether you’re international or your domestic understanding, what are some of the governmental regulations that are in place, and I think, like, you know, there’s Biden’s framework that he just put in place for AI security, and he put together a committee, but really understanding some of that China has won. And so understanding those and how your business plays into that, is is a good way to determine what are the what’s the risk framework to put in place?

Melissa Aarskaug 07:14
You know, well said, kind of pivoting gears a little bit. And, you know, moving on to more consumer use of AI, I know that I don’t think there’s a week that’s gone by recently, where I’m not asked by a CIO or somebody that’s curious about Chat GPT, like, how can we leverage these AI tools to enhance, you know, not only employee experiences, but customer experiences? Do you have any thoughts on how organizations can use AI like, Chat GPT.

Salena Accardo 07:51
Yeah, so trance TV is actually a very wonderful product, like I use it personally all the time to, like, when I’m wondering about stuff, and it’s, it gives you much more precise interaction and Google. The other thing, I think, from a consumer standpoint, is, it really does help with grammar and writing. So you know, when I’m, when I’m creating emails, or you know, documents, whether it’s personal or professional, you know, I run it through tracks, he shoots up a lot. So like, you know, how would you say, so, and not only does it help me write, it then makes me smarter, because I’m seeing the usage and, you know, the type of grammar is using and then how it’s explaining things. And so it makes me a better a better writer. So, you know, so those are some really basic uses of chat GPT, if you need to update your resume or anything like that, right. It can give you some really great examples and help you with that. The other thing I really liked, like, it’s an innovative AI applicant, like consumer companies that have utilized chat GTP or use it as the backbone for you know, their AI powered support is like Tesla. So like when you know, Tesla is probably the epitome of of smart design and innovative technologies. While you know, when you go to Tesla’s website, or you need to log in and speak with someone, you’re actually talking with a bot, that base created, you know, from AI, and same thing with Cardinal Health. So when you’re actually you know, going out to Cardinal Health to want to find the right doctors, the right health care providers that fits your plan that’s not going to you know, Cardinal Health is implemented AI into their platform. So these are all like really, really great uses of it from a consumer support standpoint.

Melissa Aarskaug 09:46
Yeah, I’m seeing that a lot right now is there’s bots on every website, whether it’s an exercise app, like you said, or Tesla I do see a lot of you know, quick help with AI instead of calling in and waiting and being transferred people are trying to organize calls better or, you know, help get people to the right people using AI. So that’s I love that I didn’t even realize Tesla was doing that as much. You know, I think of like, how it’s shaping people’s preferences and, and how people are using it, I think I heard a statistic. And I don’t know if this is correct, but 70% of the of the US population is using AI in some fashion, whether it’s chat GPT, or they’re using it at their company. And so when I think of AI, I’m wondering like, how it’s going to be evolving, like, even just this year, this year, typically, in tech, we talk like, you know, one to five years, but AI seems to be evolving so much faster than, you know, since I’ve been in tech. So any, like, how do you see it shaping behavior, preferences, and maybe challenges that go along with that?

Salena Accardo 11:00
So I think from a consumer standpoint, what we’re gonna see is because AI is really going to focus in on hyper personalization, you know, from a marketing standpoint, there’s nine touch points with a customer generally, in the marketing lifecycle, and that’s with any product, any service, right? Well, you know, the purpose of AI is is is to is to be smarter, to be more efficient to be more effective. And that’s hyper personalization. So, I mean, as you can see, like, if you have a Netflix subscription, which I think just about everybody in the free world does, you know, the personalization, so I’ve gotten better and better. And that’s because of AI technology in there. And what does that do? Right? It saves you time from like, just scrolling their vast content network. Well think about if you can get that level of personalization. In everything that you’re doing, think about how much time you’re saving. I mean, I kind of liken this to what what I saw kind of emerge with in media with streaming services, right. One of the beauty of streaming services is they don’t have commercials, right? That was one of the vast beauties. Like, I have a 19 year old son. And a couple of years ago when he was a teenager and still at home, not in college yet. I had gotten a Hulu subscription. And I gotten the Hulu subscription through my phone provider. So it actually did have commercial breaks, right? So it wasn’t straight streaming. And that was free through my through my, my son, my son provider. Well, he turned around without me knowing and upgraded it to the non commercial version, which was like $60 a month. And so I see this show up, and I’m like, Whoa, what is this? I’m not paying $60 a month for Hulu. And and I asked him, I said did you did you change? And he was like, Yeah, because I can’t handle commercials mom. That just wastes my time. And that’s kind of one that hit me that like oh my gosh, the generation our generation currently have our kids, you know, the Gen Z’s and Gen alphas they don’t know what it’s like to wait to see something. And and that’s honestly, what made streaming so palatable for the masses is because it is a time saver it is, you know, it does it is a continuous flow of information. And that’s what we’re seeing with with AI is giving us continuous flow of information that’s perfectly suited for us. Right? Like, how fabulous would it be to go to Amazon? And yeah, you still got your search bar up there. So you can find whatever you want. But based on your last browsing history, and it’s very accurate, like this is what you bought in the last 30 days, and you’re likely to need refills on it. This is what, you know, this is some of the content you’ve absorbed from Amazon Prime. And you know, here’s some stuff that’s very similar, and it’s not in disparate locations. So that’s all on your personal, your personal portal.

Melissa Aarskaug 13:51
Yeah, it’s convenient, right? It’s convenient, because it’s, it’s a lot of like you mentioned a lot of cycles to remember, I may be out of a prescription or you know, shampoo or whatever you get every 30 days. And it’s, you know, in our busy lives, sometimes we tend to forget those kinds of things. And it is amazing to use those tools that can remind us when we’re off doing more important things I know I heard recently at a conference I went to where some of the employees at this hotel were inputting, you know, please help me craft a apology to Jane Doe at 123 Main Street about how we did X, Y and Zed. So I know it’s really great to use the tool. But also, it’s really important to make sure we’re aware of the information we’re telling the AI tool to do and the private, you know, PII data that we’re putting into it, because there are some, you know, issues with privacy when we put, you know, our pertinent information into some of these tools. So how do you Think that ways, you know, into, you know, the advancement of AI in businesses like educating their people on how to and what to put in, you know, these tools, any thoughts on how, from a compliance and regulatory standpoint from PII data?

Salena Accardo 15:18
Yeah, so I think that’s really gonna depend on the organization and what, what they do in terms of, like, if they’re, if they’re national, or if they’re international, first and foremost, right, because the privacy laws differ throughout throughout the world. And there’s lots of compliances in place that you have to abide by, if you do writing if you do work, if you know if you’re selling products or goods in, in international markets, because other countries do have stronger PII restrictions than we do in the US, right. And so, you know, what I’m seeing a lot of times are organizations are first and foremost, if they don’t have a handle on it, that they’re locking the use of AI in the corporation. So they’re not going to have that. But then to again, it goes back to what I was saying earlier, like, you have to understand which national regulations touch the business that you’re in. So if you’re an international company, you do business with China, you do business in the United States, you need to understand what they’re stating, as the minimal regulatory policy, and then you need to follow that, right? Don’t try to reinvent a wheel, because you might be missing something. Additionally, until you’re sure, AI is not going anywhere, and you’re not going to miss the bandwagon if you don’t jump on it this year. Right. Now, I could be saying something different in five years, right? Because it is a rapidly expanding and changing technology. But there’s something to be said for people who observe and then go into play, right, you can learn from others mistakes instead of making the mistake yourself.

Melissa Aarskaug 17:01
Yeah, absolutely. I, you know, I, I’ve been hearing different metrics about how businesses are using AI, we’re able to, you know, catch more of this or, you know, give our employees and our back in their day. Have you heard any, like specific metrics tied to AI and productivity in the workplace?

Salena Accardo 17:23
In terms of productivity? No, not yet. And I’ve heard more effectiveness metrics, like I was giving you the example. And I think education is one of the really big ones, right? I’ve heard, you know, that students have become, you know, when there been some pilot studies across, you know, some K to 12 schools that are utilizing AI tools like Socratic, and you know, Check to help the students and not be like, and not be a no, no, you can’t use it, but actually utilizing them to help them prepare better. And we’ve heard, you know, there is, there is data, preliminary data to support that they are effective users, they’re effective suppliers of, you know, quality, quality information to students. So and that’s what we want, right? I mean, we’re educating our students, we want to make them smarter, we want to make them more effective. And so utilizing AI, in those in that type of arena, I think can be very, very beneficial. And that’s where I’m hearing some of those more effectiveness metrics. In terms of productivity metrics. I know some teachers personally, who have experimented with utilizing AI like chat GPT, or even Bing, right, just putting it into the Bing search bar, to help them refine their lesson plans. And they have found that immensely helpful, and put in some really creative things to help engage the students. And so that’s, you know, because it’s, you’re literally taken into account probably 50,000 brains, right, versus two brains or three brains. So I would think that that would be a strong effectiveness or productivity metric because you know, one of the things I have some close friends that are teachers and they tell me like lesson planning is probably like the the longtail under a day.

Melissa Aarskaug 19:17
Yeah, now, I’m curious which one do you think is the best for those type of things? So if you want it, let’s say you want to clean up you know, you’re writing 1,000 word article and you want to make sure your grammar is right, or maybe expanding it to 1,200 words. Is there one that you go to typically?

Salena Accardo 19:36
So one that I I’ve used typically, and my kids use it a lot because of school, and everything is Grammarly, right, Grammarly because that’s also embedded in most Microsoft applications or it embeds easily with Microsoft applications. Most kids are writing on word. It would like it not Grammarly. It doesn’t write out your your information for You have to write it and then it will improve it. I find for business business facing information. Like if you just wanted to do like an email and you’re not quite sure how to word it, you know, chat GPT kind of fun to ask like, how do I how do I write this and make me sound empathetic? If you’re not a naturally empathetic person, right? Or, you know, how do I sound directive or, you know, like, I’ve played around with stuff like that. And Chat GPT popped out some pretty cool stuff, like some pretty cool concise emails that sound the way I want them to sound not the way I personally would say it. And then, you know, another one that can be really helpful to help kids think further. And I know it’s kind of big in schools is Socratic, and, and then check tags and other big ones. So

Melissa Aarskaug 20:51
Yeah, I gotta do I keep saying, I’m going to take one question and ask all the top five tools and see what what responses I get, it’d be it kind of be a neat experience to take the same question and plug it into different tools and see what kind of content it Yeah, you know, outputs. And I keep saying I’m going to do that. And I haven’t done it yet. So it is on my to do list to try one question. And see how it comes out. I’m just kind of two questions. Two final questions. One, maybe the top ways that an employee could use AI, from your perspective, and then just maybe secondly be like, how can just, you know, regular people, moms, people that are, you know, looking to find a good cookie recipe, how can just outside of the workday, how can people use AI on their day to day kind of a&b?

Salena Accardo 21:52
Yeah, so how can employees use AI? Because it again, it is so new, honestly, I would I would use it for an exploratory manner. What are some of the things that you just deal with on a day to day basis that you need some assistance with? So some people have trouble managing everything they have to do in their day? And so you see lots of productivity tools and apps that are out there, right. So there’s like one called motion, and that’s AI powered. And it’s about like, helping you get your, your calendar all in order and everything. But you know, you could also just ask Chat GPT what, you know, what are some ways that I can, you know, improve my time and my day and see what it comes back with? Like, again, so it’s exploratory, figuring out the right way to ask the question to get the answer you’re seeking. And then from what was the second question?

Melissa Aarskaug 22:47
Um, so just from your work, like, an employee, and then your day to day personal life?

Salena Accardo 22:54
Yeah. And so then from, from a personal life perspective, like, what are those things that you’re really interested in, that you just don’t have a lot of time for? You know, like, I know, I’m, I like to cook, I really do. But I don’t have a ton of time to cook. And so I’m always trying to find the best recipes, but I’m also time constrained. So you know, I’ve done Google search, especially like in 2020. Okay, what is a good 35 minute meal that I can prepare for my family? And, you know, I found a website called 35 minute meals or 30 minute meals, and, you know, they had recipes in there, that I did follow, but that was they were the best. I mean, they were good. And, but So, chat, GPT because of the sheer power of the network that it has, and all the nodes that it’s it has basically spidering out like literally asking it that question I could get I feel more confident in the search results it’s going to give me because it’s likely going to give me a recipe that should take me 35 minutes, but it might not be from a website that says 35 Minute Meals.

Melissa Aarskaug 23:56
Yeah, I agree. I’ve used it so many times for recipes, because you never know, like, are people paying to you know, to get their stuff boosted to the top or is it really that great of a recipe? Right?

Salena Accardo 24:09
Right. And, and the the positive side right now, I haven’t seen that. I have to be honest, I have to do a little digging and see him in chat GPT if they if if they do that, right. But we know with you know, most blogs and most search engine results right? You can pay to play because they have figured out ways to monetize that technology since we’re still in the infancy stages of of AI I don’t quite know if consumer facing AI. Has that embedded in it? I don’t think it does yet.

Melissa Aarskaug 24:45
Yeah, exactly. I haven’t looked at myself either. Ah, any final thoughts or anything that you want to leave with the listeners before we close out?

Salena Accardo 24:56
You know, I guess just really be open minded like this can be a real benefit in our day to day lives. And it’s not you know, I’ve been in emerging technologies, my entire career, which has spanned over 25 years. You know, and this is honestly the most robust, most exciting technology I’ve seen come to bear. So I think we’re gonna see a lot of really good things coming up. And I’m excited. I’m excited for what it could do, because I don’t know about you. But being a working mom and wife, you know, I’m always pressed for time. And things I can do to make my day more efficient, efficient and effective are at the top of my list. And so if I can utilize technology to do so then I’m right there for it.

Melissa Aarskaug 25:42
You nailed that. I think that’s the number one reason I use AI is more efficiency and more productivity in my day. And I think that’s what I’m looking for, like he said, is faster ways to make food faster ways to get places faster ways to do things, so I can have more time in my day to do the things that I never get to do on my to do lists. In closing, Selena, thank you, first of all, thank you so much for being here. I appreciate you. I appreciate your time. And then share with our listeners. How do we get in touch with you? Is there a way that our listeners can connect with you if they something resonated with them here today?

Salena Accardo 26:26
Yeah, absolutely. So I am on LinkedIn, Salena Accardo. Just send me a message and I’m happy to accept it. And if you want to have a conversation, I’m always open for those. I’m always looking to network and discuss things openly with other like minded professionals. So absolutely. Salena Accardo. And I do I do follow the Executive Connect Blog myself. So hopefully, I’ll be you know, coming across some other some other listeners in some of the chats on there.

Melissa Aarskaug 26:56
Yes, absolutely. Thank you so much for being here today. And that’s the executive connect podcast.

Narrator 27:05
You’ve been listening to the Executive Connect Podcast. If you have questions or ideas on how to bring leadership to the next level, email us at executiveconnectpodcast@gmail.com And don’t forget to subscribe so you can pitch every new episode. Until next time

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Bryan Hancock Headshot — Founder of Integrity Development

Bryan Hancock

Founder of Integrity Development

Integrity Development

Executive Biography

Bryan Hancock has been managing real estate investments—and overseeing development and construction projects—for nearly two decades. He has deep roots in Austin, Texas, and comprehensive knowledge of the opportunities and challenges in this fast-growing market.

Through his development and syndication companies, which he built from the ground up, Bryan has developed 50+ urban infill projects and managed $25M in real estate sales with approximately 35% return on investment at the project level. He also co-founded two private equity funds.

Bryan brings in-depth industry awareness, sharp business acumen, and extensive in-the-trenches experience to his work as co-founder and principal of Integrity Development. He partners with a team of professionals and industry experts (many have been involved in Austin real estate for 40+ years) to identify value-added and opportunistic investments that protect capital and reduce risk for lenders—while delivering outsized returns for investors.

Earlier, Bryan founded and directed Inner 10 Development, a residential development firm focused on Austin’s top zip codes and surrounding communities, and H2i, LLC, a real estate syndication company. He steered these organizations for 17+ years, overseeing the acquisition, buildout, and sale of single-family and multifamily properties, including a 350-unit urban infill joint-venture project.

Bryan was successful in delivering strong returns while minimizing risk for bankers and investors by taking a targeted, data-driven approach to opportunity analysis, due diligence, and strategic decision-making. He zeroed in on potential risks and developed proactive mitigation strategies to protect and grow investments.

Concurrent with his work at Inner 10 Development and H2i, Bryan established Gentry Lending Group, a private-equity debt fund. He also served on the board of Bullseye Capital Real Property Opportunity Fund. These experiences provided Bryan with a grasp of both investor and banker viewpoints, including an understanding of risk and liability on the lending side. This aspect of his background continues to shape his real estate decisions to this day.

There is another unique aspect to Bryan’s career—a corporate history that differentiates him from other investors and developers in this field. Bryan has built organizations, controlled multimillion-dollar projects, and supported billion-dollar programs for some of the world’s largest companies: Lockheed Martin, Microsoft, Dell, CACI, and Charles Schwab. He managed teams and vendors in the US, China, France, and India, and often balanced up to 10 projects at a time. He was trusted with a Top Secret Security Clearance from the United States government.

A business-savvy leader and lifelong learner, Bryan holds an MBA in Finance and Entrepreneurship from Texas Christian University and a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin.

Bryan founded the Wealth Investment Network, co-founded RealStarter (a crowdfunding platform for real estate investors), and was a member of the Urban Land Institute and Central Texas Angel Network. He has been a guest speaker at 20+ national events, including conferences and meetups through the Information Management Network (IMN), SXSW, Rice University, Bay Area Real Estate Summit, Soho Loft Conference, Texas Entrepreneur Network, and many others.

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Melissa Aarskaug Headshot — Founder of Executive Connect

Melissa Aarskaug

Founder of Executive Connect

Senior Executive, Board Member & Advisor

Vice President of Business Development
Bulletproof, a GLI company

Executive Biography

Melissa Aarskaug is a global executive and business leader at the forefront of the technology/cybersecurity industry. She shapes strategy, leads teams, and partners with Fortune 500 companies and other enterprise clients to protect their organizations from risk and noncompliance—while improving operations and accelerating growth.

For 15+ years, Melissa has taken the reins to propel organizations to the next level of performance. By combining business acumen and revenue optimization with the sharp mind of an engineer, she uncovers and seizes opportunities for profitable growth in the US and around the world.

Melissa has established a distinguished career with Gaming Laboratories International (GLI), where she is a key member of the senior executive team. Throughout her tenure, she has assembled teams, developed new markets, and influenced P&L impact, ultimately positioning GLI as the #1 provider of testing, certification, and cybersecurity services to the global gaming and lottery space.

After achieving this feat—a big win for GLI and game-changer for clients worldwide—Melissa steered both GLI and Bulletproof (acquired by GLI in 2016) into untapped verticals: finance, government, healthcare, higher education, hospitality, and retail. An enthusiastic, knowledgeable growth driver who cultivates partnerships and rallies teams, she led GLI/Bulletproof to dominate these markets as well.

Before joining GLI, Melissa shaped and executed strategy as Vice President of Business Operations for LV Investments, where she built and optimized a portfolio of commercial and industrial properties. Earlier, in a very different role as Project Engineering Manager for Fisher Industries, she directed and mobilized a team of 550 employees and contractors to develop the world’s largest concrete bridge. Previously, she headed a major engineering project for Pacific Mechanical Corporation.

A curious, lifelong learner, Melissa holds dual Bachelor of Science degrees in Civil and Environmental Engineering with minors including Business and Mathematics. She is a Karrass Master Negotiator and C4 Executive Coach who actively pursues ongoing education and inspiration as a member of Chief, Austin Technology Council, Austin Women in Technology, and Toastmasters International. In addition to her own personal and professional development, Melissa is committed to helping other people thrive both inside and outside of the workplace. She actively mentors and empowers team members at GLI/Bulletproof, and is an executive leader and coach for Global Gaming Women. She founded Young Nonprofit Professionals Network (YNPN) Austin and is a current or past board member of many organizations, including Emerging Leaders in Gaming, Ballet Austin, Texas School for the Blind & Visually Impaired, the Society of Women Engineers, and the American Society of Civil Engineers. She has been a Junior League volunteer in Austin, Las Vegas, and Reno for 15+ years.

Throughout her career, Melissa has inspired individuals, teams, and entire organizations to think differently about innovation, cybersecurity, leadership, and business development. She was honored as one of the “Emerging Leaders in Gaming: 40 Under 40” and she continues to share her ideas and expertise through publications, podcasts, webinars, and presentations.

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This is the Executive Connect

A show for the new generation of leaders. Join us as we discover unconventional leadership strategies not traditionally associated with executive roles. Our guests include upper-level C-Suite executives charting new ways to grow their organizations, successful entrepreneurs changing the way the world does business, and experts and thought leaders from fields outside of Corporate America that can bring new insights into leadership, prosperity, and personal growth – all while connecting on a human level. No one has all the answers – but by building a community of open-minded and engaged leaders we hope to give you the tools you need to help you find your own path to success.