Startup Grind LA: Inventing the Future with Robert Tercek

By Heather Martin


Startup Grind LAOn July 17th Sam Osborn, founder of Startup Grind LA, hosted an event featuring speaker Robert Tercek. Sam is totally enthusiastic yet low key with his red Startup Grind t-shirt and jeans on.  He is at the front desk of the state of the art innovation center, Cross Campus, in the heart of silicon beach in Santa Monica.


Sam is the founder and director of the Los Angeles Chapter of Startup Grind, the host of the evening’s event, which includes a whirlwind talk by Robert Tercek of Creative Visions, “a man that has been praised as one of the ‘25 Executives to Watch’ by Digital Media Wire and vilified by Industry Standard as the ‘TV Anarchist’.”1


Sam explains his passion about Startup Grind further:


Startup Grind is a global startup community designed to educate, inspire, and connect entrepreneurs. We host monthly events in more than 40 cities and 20 countries featuring successful local founders, innovators, educators and investors who share personal stories and lessons learned on the road to building great companies. I love that mission, and I wanted to bring these high quality events to the Los Angeles scene.”


Rob Tercek is the speaker for the evening’s events and once he begins it is an endless discussion of innovation and creating a new narrative that he calls “inventing the future.” The theme is clear – disruption – but the topics and breadth so omnipotent that you can almost envision Rob in a laboratory concocting a potion for the creation of a new universe.


“As entrepreneurs, you are told to focus on big problems.  And yes, there is some truth to that, but pay attention to the stories you live by,” says Rob.


“Some narratives are an excuse for inaction.”  For example the ‘free to play’ model is a really innovative and fastest growing sector of gaming, but many companies don’t participate in it because they reject the model before even trying it out.  Most industries, most people, in the words of Marshall McLuhan “drive into the future using only their rearview mirror.”2


“People,” Rob continues, “are turning information into things and things into information. This isn’t a natural organic process.  This is a designed process facilitated by computers.   People equipped with computers and broadband connections are making this incredible transformation happen.  I liken it to modern day alchemy and the transmutation of the elements:  turning the physical into information and then turning information into physical products.”  People are taking the tools and techniques from the computer industry and beginning to apply them to many other industries.


He uses an example of 3D printing, where it can potentially be used to create replacement parts for a washer or other appliance.  Another example is an experiment going on where scientists are reprogramming algae to grow jet fuel, finding a way to support another 3 billion people on this planet.


The cell phone is another perfect example. Now all the items (things) such as the alarm, calculator, camera, phone, and answering machine have been reduced to downloadable software on smartphones.  “Now, we take these apps for granted, but it took ten years for the mobile industry to figure out how to deliver software over the air in a way that consumers found easy and worthwhile.”


Heed his words, “Whatever can become information will be!” For example, streaming music versus downloading it or buying a CD; using a smartphone map app that is better and more accurate to replace the use of a Rand McNally paper map; Retail shopping versus internet.


Tesco, a British multinational grocery and general store, opened a digital store in Seoul and turned unused subway wall space into a Tesco-Homeplus-Subway-Virtual-Store-in-South-Korea-1store. They took pictures of all of their products and turned them into a virtual shelf of products where people waiting for the subway can order via cell phone and have them shipped or picked up at leisure!


When Rob launched Sony Pictures digital initiatives in online gaming, online soap operas, online game shows, broadband entertainment, interactive TV and mobile entertainment, he says, “People thought I was crazy! There was a lot of resistance! But they [Sony} were building toward that eventuality.  It’s always science fiction until it works!”


Mobile is exploding and for the first time iPad sales are growing at a much faster pace than the growth rate of iPhone sales. Sales of PCs are collapsing.  If one puts an iPad in front of a child under five, for example, they intuitively use it the way it was intended, via touch screen.  When that child walks over to the television set and tries to do the same thing yet it doesn’t work, their reaction is “[TV] broken!”


Social Media and the cloud have accelerated the pace of change.  You can convey your vision to millions of people at once in ways that are more efficient than traditional methods.  Crowdsourcing, as a subset of the social media revolution, is also transforming the way projects get funded. Kickstarter is an American-based company that provides tools to raise funds for creative projects via crowdfunding through its website. “Even before a single frame has been shot, the “Veronica Mars” movie boasts a happy ending. The month-long Kickstarter campaign to fund a movie based on the cult favorite television series wrapped Friday with a record $5.7 million raised by 91,585 backers.”3


Rob adds that “For the first time in history you can pre-sell an idea to END CONSUMERS long before you have a product.  People are launching new businesses today with zero financing, no company and no product.   They start with a customer and work their way backwards to a product.  This is an amazing reversal of an age-old business pattern.”


Rob says clearly, “entrepreneurs can use all of the free and cheap Internet tools to launch a new business without all of the fuss, planning, paperwork, expense and hassle in the past.   This accelerates their progress because it requires less time, planning effort and upfront expense.   As recently as 2007, entrepreneurs needed to demonstrate a plan for scalability to prospective investors.   Often in those days, entrepreneurs were obligated to set aside a certain amount of their Series A financing to build capacity for growth.   Today, that planning effort and expense is no longer required, because entrepreneurs can simply purchase capacity as needed on Amazon Web Services.    The main point here is that the cloud accelerates innovation because it enables entrepreneurs to focus on launching great products instead of working out the complex architectures required to support future scale.   Launch fast, get smart and iterate quickly.”


Rob concludes with “The future is easy to predict.” Just ask yourself the right questions:


  • What part of my business consists of information?
  • How can my product become a service?
  • How can I leverage the crowd?


Rob’s message is elaborate but clear. We can consciously create the future, our story about what is going to happen next, if we embrace the possibilities for the future instead of fearing them.


As for Sam, he says “I want to build a community of entrepreneurs in Los Angeles, and have Startup Grind become a resource where people don’t just come for an evening of education, but can really be inspired to execute their dream and hopefully meet people there who can be a part of it. Ultimately, I’d love to have a successful startup launched by people who met at Startup Grind.”


*Sam Osborn is a Los Angeles based producer who has created content around topics ranging from surfing and music to comedy and social media. A lifelong Californian and avid surfer and waterman, Sam holds a  master’s degree from the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and is a two-time College Television Award winner. His mantra has always been to create content that Educates, Inspires, and Entertains. For more information or future events please visit:



  2. Marshall McLuhan,





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