A Beautiful Conversation with a #Goodman: CEO, Co-Founder of OPKIX-C. Lawrence Greaves
Having the opportunity to speak with C. Lawrence Greaves was an honor. He is brilliant and successful but also very grounded and humble. If you are looking for any advice when it comes to balancing family life and your professional life, you should seek out Mr. Greaves. Everything starts with a thought or an idea; however, Lawrence is making them into reality. If that’s not inspiring, I don’t know what is -.Shruti Sadana
Tell us about your background.
The only corporate experience that I had was in investment banking in the U.K. where I worked in financial deal structuring. I relocated to Southern California to marry the love of my life. She was from America, but I met her in England back in 2004. So by 2005, I had relocated to the U.S. and went through a pretty grueling six months interning with a company.
After the end of those six months, I was still no closer to making any money. I was racking up credit card debt and had about four hundred dollars when I first came to the country. After that internship ended, I was fortunate enough, I took all those skills that I learned with one of the original partners from the company, and we started our own business doing the same thing. That business was ultimately acquired when I was twenty-three years old. So we went through a situation where we were struggling continually and working hard all at the time and with the support of a great lady in your life, you can imagine what we went on and achieved.
We had some fortunate circumstances. Part of that acquisition--I was put onto the management team of a substantial national consulting firm. That’s where I started cutting my teeth on doing M&A transactions, financing, and management turnarounds. That was the nature of the work, and after almost three years of doing that and getting great exposure to big companies, I decided to start my own business.
Just before I turned twenty-six, I started a business called ETONIEN doing the same thing as well with myself and one other business partner. Over the course of the next seven years, we ended up hiring about eight hundred people.
It was the same concept--we would parachute into the emerging globe and tech companies. We would provide everything from management support, financing, M & A, and advisory services. By about my mid-twenties, I had been successful enough to be exposed to about three hundred transactions with different companies that we supported. Ultimately, I started getting hired myself onto boards of companies, one of which became a winner and a huge success. Even in my twenties, I was exposed to things that most people wished they could get into themselves; and, I was being paid to be there.
Flash forward to 2015, I had been investing pretty heavily in private companies. The majority of which were tech, hardware, or software focused businesses. I decided in 2016 to go ahead and sell my half of the company (ETONIEN). That was about the same time I had invested in OPKIX. I had planned on retiring around thirty-two or thirty-three but ended up meeting the guys with this concept of this small, beautiful, wearable camera.
Frankly, I had exposure to other types of camera technologies, but this just seemed like an incredible opportunity and a game changer. I make my financial decisions as all smart people do alongside my wife. I went home after I met with the execs and asked my wife “What do you think of this concept?”
She said, “This is the game changer you have been looking for”
and I asked her “What is it specifically about this idea that resonates with you?” She replied with: “The idea of being able to be present in a moment while capturing the moment.” That did it for me.
That’s my background and what led me up to all of this. At the same time, I said: “I would also love to be the CEO and help lead you to be a billion-dollar brand.”
The initial inspiration did not come from me. Our co-founder and president (OPKIX) Shahin Amirpour came up with the concept. He has a background where he engages with the biggest celebrity names in the world as a party planner. He had a roster of friends and network that was just amazing. One of the first guys that he introduced me to that was also considering in investing in OPKIX and helping make it into the brand it is today is a gentleman by the name of Bob McKnight. He’s the founder of the brand called Quiksilver which is a surf and apparel brand that went on to be almost two billion dollars in revenue.
I met with Bob, and the two of us made a collective decision and had an impactful meeting together with Shahin that we were going to invest in the business. The concept included wearing a camera that looks aesthetically pleasing, and no one has ever done it before. The inspiration came in January 2016. The initial idea was the same look and feel of a camera, but it was wired into a smartphone so it would plug in like a set of headphones.
I thought why not do this as a wireless version. That’s when we started building a team, started innovating, and white-boarding out the concept of how a wireless camera can be that small, that powerful and that functional. That was the beginning of the journey. That’s where we started building our global team of advisors, ambassadors, employees, contractors and so on.
It seems like sales are doing well!
It did sell out immediately. There is a genuine need and desire for something like this, but I think what we are trying to create is not competitive with other wearable cameras out there. We look at this as a blue sky opportunity. It has to be about lifestyle. What about those other beautiful moments of your life? We seem to be the generation of people that love documenting their lives. It is an excellent opportunity to make videos social.
Ok, I have to ask, If you could have cocktails with anyone living or dead to celebrate your success who would it be, what would you drink and what would be your first topic of conversation?
Does it have to be just one person? I would pick three people: Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, and Richard Branson. I would drink--I don’t drink any hard alcohol. I love wine, and the wine would be a 1982 Chateau Lafite Rothschild. The topic of discussion would be everything that other great people have achieved and failed in and get advice from them in any way that I can. I am continually seeking out information from people smarter and better than me.
There is an abundance of those great people involved in OPKIX as well. Even though I can’t do it with those three people except for Richard Branson, I’ll hope for that one (laughs)--we have such an incredible roster of board members, investors, and our ambassador roster is genuinely outstanding (Steve Howey, Sarah Shahi, and many more). We have such a paradigm in the way that we have built this business.
We believe in our ambassador model and our influencers being able to provide solidities for a new product to help customers get engaged and become aware. The celebrities themselves have become our investors. These are the people that get paid massive endorsement deals, and they pay us. That is such a unique and blessed opportunity to have: these bright and brilliant people who see the same need we do and want to get behind it.
It’s a pretty simple answer, and then it’s the most truthful and passionate answer I can give you. If I’m not working to provide an incredible life and opportunity for my friends, investors, or advisors, I’m always with my family. I’m with my wife or with my two children. They are the absolute center of my universe--they keep me grounded with all the love and support you can imagine. We love to get out and spend time by the ocean, go fishing, ride around on the scooters in the neighborhood, and we go to church every weekend. It’s because we think that it’s essential to have faith in your life, but I think it’s also because our kids love eating doughnuts after the church service. (Laughs)
If there was a movie about your life, which actor would you cast to play you? What would the title of the film be?
I think it would probably be Christian Bale. He’s got a pretty incredible depth of character, and you see him in so many different types of roles. I’ve seen so many different parts of my own life where I have evolved and grown as a person. I think it would require someone with that type of a skill set to portray all the different aspects of my life accurately. As far as a title, I would probably have to call it The Journey of the Impossible.
I want to do a movie with Steve Howey, and he could play me, but no one would buy that I’m 6’3,’’ and in perfect shape like him, so I think Christian is closer in height to me but probably not physique wise (laughs).
You should build a cast and make a movie (laughs).
I would love it. Steve is indeed a great friend of mine, and I’m so fortunate to know both him and his wife.
It seems like you guys make a great team and it’s apparent that there is a friendship there and a connection professionally and personally.
I appreciate you saying that. I feel like since the moment I met Steve; it’s been a whirlwind of going from getting to know each other and going deep pretty quickly. I think we have about seventy or seventy-one different celebrities who are involved. They range from actors, musicians, dancers, makeup artists, NFL players, and athletes. Every single one of them has given me the opportunity to do what I love and provided me the capsule of their network and resources. Every one of them has given me that same dynamic that you have seen with Steve and me--that ability to engage in such a meaningful level with people that you could only dream of getting access too. I feel so blessed, fortunate, and grateful for what we have done and for what’s to come with this incredible group of people.
You’re successful, smart and must be a role model for many! What advice and tips would you give to someone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
I would probably say that success and all those things are a moving target professionally. I was asked to speak at an event recently, and I said to anyone who is an aspiring entrepreneur, “always be surrounded by people better than you.” Never try to take the limelight. I think too often nowadays, you can find young founders with great ideas, but they don’t have a truly well-rounded skill set in all the facets of operations, fundraising, marketing, and so on.
My best advice is to find people better than you, empower them, support them and love them. Be surrounded by people that love you, have family that you can count on and talk too. Always have people that are honest and will give you a “gut” check. There is one thing about “success” where you will get many people that will tell you what you want to hear. So I think the better way for me to answer this question is--how do I behave every day? I wake up early, spend time with my family, get to the office early, I work hard, and I lead from the front. I don’t look at myself as a lieutenant who provides commands. I look at myself as someone who does and asks others to follow--not just support but exceed. My ultimate goal in this world is to build more entrepreneurs and would love nothing more for them to succeed way beyond even my world of expectations for myself. That’s my goal in any leadership or advisory role.
Every single one of us has hit a bump in the road or struggled when it comes to achieving our goals. However, persistence, determination and believing in yourself is crucial. Can you talk about a time where you felt discouraged? How did you overcome that?
I think there is a misconception that being successful or doing well puts you in a different category. I would tend to suggest that it can create more problems. I can’t tell you how many times a day I have a challenge that seems impossible. I can pinpoint and explicitly tell you with the journey of OPKIX, having sat down with people that are trailblazers in this industry and some cases competitors who have said: “you will never do it." What you’re trying to create technologically is not possible.
There isn’t a way you can engineer this.” I remember specifically having met with a huge camera company in Silicon Valley and receiving that news. It was a sink or swim moment for me professionally especially with my investment and the amount of time I spent with OPKIX. It was about early 2017--to digress just briefly, we had been fortunate enough to hire a lead engineer who has his undergrad, masters, and Ph.D. from MIT who went on to win a Guinness World Record for the smallest camera design.
I’m also proud to say he’s a great friend of mine now. We ended up sitting down in Utah where he rented a small private room at a public library out of all places--very glamorous (laughs).
There was a whiteboard, and I sat there with him and my other business partner, and like all good entrepreneurs, I said: “we are not leaving this room until we work out how to make this work (laughs).” There is no such thing as “this cannot be done.” It’s just about how much it is going to cost us and how long it’s going to take. So we sat there and white boarded between the three of us and we came up with the underlying technology for the two camera systems. They can attach and record on a device that weighs 11.8 grams in high definition and stereo surround sound for fifteen to twenty minutes.
We designed it, and we did it together. We immediately left that room with white boarded sketches, iPhone pictures that we had taken and sent it off to our attorneys. Do I face challenges like that every day? No, not always that large but I can assure you that when it comes to running a business, every single thing is a challenge and if you face it correctly you can turn it into an achievement.
Ultimately, that’s the difference between a startup that doesn’t make it and these billion-dollar brands that we all admire and acquire their products. The numbers are mind-boggling. We’re fans of many of these large tech brands, and I think we do the same as them. We don’t have an engineer tell us what is possible. We design the impossible and then work out how to engineer it.
So when that group of people told you that making this product is “impossible,” you went on and proved them wrong (laughs).
I have no desire to prove anyone wrong. That’s not any part of my daily motivation. My mindset is always “prove myself and my teammates right.” That’s all I want to do. It’s about proving our concept and not disapproving someone else’s advice. Advice is worth what you pay for it which is typically zero dollars.
Ok, with all said and done the mantra you live by is?
My mantra is pretty straightforward. Family first and never give up. If I’m not with my family, I’m doing something to provide for them. Once I have provided enough for my extended family my main focus is always to give away as much as possible. Both my wife and I have created a family trust here where any amount of potential success that would come with OPKIX—we have already designated any of the proceeds of that to go towards a foundation. We want to focus on giving that money over the course of the rest of our lives.
What’s next for you?
I would love to thank you for giving me an opportunity and a voice for our brand. We have a huge event coming which is the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. We are going to be presenting there and also have some incredible meetings lined up. There is going to be a press release, and we will be announcing our hard launch date to the world. I want to share that we are all beyond excited. We have been going through a lot of testing, validation, and getting the product in our hands before it goes out to the consumers. All I can say is that I can’t wait to see what the world does with our product. We have designed OPKIX to capture the moments you live in all while living in the moments you capture.
Keep up with C.Lawrence Greaves