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Crowded TV Marketplace Gets Ready for Three Tech Giants


Tim Cook, the chief executive of Apple, in 2015. Two months ago, Apple tapped two well-regarded television studio heads to lead its programming efforts. Credit Andrew Burton for The New York Times

Apple has more than $1 billion budgeted for original programming, Facebook wants its own version of “Scandal” and Google is ready to spend up to $3 million per episode on a drama.

The three digital giants have signaled to Hollywood that they are serious about entering a television landscape that Netflix and Amazon shook up just a few years ago. Their arrival will make an already hypercompetitive industry even more ferocious. This year, there are expected to be more than 500 scripted TV shows, more than double the number six years ago.

Although there have been some signs that the industry’s output may plateau — cable companies like A&E and WGN have said they are getting out of the scripted television business — the entry of Apple, Facebook and Google into the fray almost guarantees that the volume of shows will continue to grow, even as viewers grapple with a glut of programming and an expanding number of streaming platforms.

With the prospect of a flood of tech money about to rush in, Hollywood has welcomed the news.

“If you ask the creative community if we’re going to be competitive, the answer is yes,” said Robert Kyncl, the chief business officer at YouTube, which is owned by Google.

Still, many in the industry are taking a believe-it-when-we-see-it approach to the new players. Netflix and Amazon have made successful forays into scripted entertainment, but some efforts by digital titans like Microsoft and Yahoo have fizzled.

Scripted television is enormously expensive, so any commitment to it must be sincere. From shooting on location to taking out insurance to paying actors, crew members, directors and writers, it is impossible to dive in without allocating plenty of cash, while also being patient enough to weather blows at a time when it is increasingly difficult to land a signature hit.

The moves also come amid a fierce arms race for content. Netflix recently poached Shonda Rhimes from ABC, whose parent company, Disney, is preparing its own stand-alone streaming services.

But Apple’s wealth and its willingness to commit resources have sent shock waves through the industry. Two months ago, the company chose Sony’s television studio heads, Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg, to lead its programming efforts.

Mr. Erlicht and Mr. Van Amburg were certainly regarded in Hollywood as talented studio executives, having shepherded hit series like “The Crown,” “The Goldbergs” and “Breaking Bad.” But their move to Apple, and their programming budget of a little more than $1 billion, has suddenly made them among the most powerful executives in television.

That budget also puts them on a par with the most elite programmers in television. FX, which makes shows like “American Horror Story” and “Fargo,” has a programming budget of around $1 billion. HBO’s budget is believed to be around $3 billion, and Netflix will spend about $6 billion on content this year.

FX’s chief executive, John Landgraf, has been outspoken about his uneasiness with the amount of money now pouring into the industry and what it will mean for competitors with smaller budgets.

“It’s like getting shot in the face with money every day,” he said at a news media event this month. “And I have no idea how much capital Apple is going to deploy, how many shows they’re going to buy.”


A still from “The Bachelor.” Facebook has indicated that it wants frothy shows like this that appeal to younger viewers. Credit Rick Rowell/ABC

Mr. Erlicht and Mr. Van Amburg started at Apple a few weeks ago. In the coming months, they are expected to hire a few dozen people as they staff up at the Culver City, Calif., offices they share with Beats Electronics, which Apple acquired for about $3 billion in 2014.

It is not clear how people will be able to watch or pay for Apple’s original programs. Without any current acquisitions, it will take at least a year for any of the company’s projects to be ready for the viewing public. The entertainment drive is also unique from Apple Music — programs like “Planet of the Apps” and “Carpool Karaoke” are currently available on the service — and it is possible that a new app will be made to stream the new original series.

Apple declined to comment for this article, but it should not be long before Mr. Erlicht and Mr. Van Amburg begin competing for projects, most likely to be made by outside studios at first. (And there are already are plenty of projects on the market, including a highly coveted new series about morning TV shows starring Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston.) With the amount of money at its disposal, Apple could easily have more than a dozen original series.

But as Apple starts to gear up, Facebook is already well on its way.

The company’s Hollywood development team is led by Mina Lefevre, previously of MTV. Facebook has told people in the industry that it is willing to spend $3 million to $4 million an episode on new programming, according to a person familiar with their plans. That kind of spending would put the company on an equal footing with many broadcast and cable networks.

And while many new entrants into scripted television want big shows with mass appeal like “Game of Thrones” or Emmy-bait like “Homeland,” Facebook has a more targeted plan.

It has indicated it wants shows that are attractive to people in their midteens up to those in their mid-30s, along the lines of frothy fare like “The Bachelor,” “Pretty Little Liars” and “Scandal.” Those shows generate plenty of talk on social media platforms, and Facebook executives are apparently dedicated to programming that they believe will ignite conversation on the social network.

Unlike Netflix, which releases all episodes of its series at once so that they can be binge-watched, Facebook is expected to release episodes on a more traditional schedule (it is unclear whether that will be once a week). Facebook also plans to have so-called mid-roll ads, or brief commercials, during episodes.

A Facebook spokeswoman declined to comment.

Facebook will soon unveil a Watch tab, where users can find the original series and other video content that will be less expensive to make.

YouTube is in the process of green-lighting series. Like Facebook, the Google-owned video site is focused mainly on series that appeal to 16- to 35-year-olds, according to a person briefed on the plans. YouTube executives have said they will spend up to $2 million an episode on a comedy, and more than $3 million on a drama, this person said.

Although Mr. Kyncl would not discuss budgets, he said the company’s efforts in scripted television were genuine. Originally, YouTube and its subscription YouTube Red channel were largely focused on creating bigger budget shows for YouTube stars.

YouTube’s ambitions are now pointed toward creating more traditional TV fare. Mr. Kyncl said the company was drawing lessons from what users on its platform search for. (The tactic is not new. Netflix has long used its vast supply of subscriber data to help inform its original programming choices). YouTube plans to put some of its shows behind a paywall, while others will be free.

YouTube recently began development on “Cobra Kai,” a “Karate Kid” comedy spinoff that got the go-ahead after executives saw how often people were searching for clips from the original movie, Mr. Kyncl said. The company gave a green light last year to the scripted dance series “Step Up” after it saw how popular dancing videos were with users.

Data searches, Mr. Kyncl said, provided a “window into the demand of Hollywood product on YouTube.”

“Why not fulfill this demand?” he said. “It makes absolute sense. It’s in the service of our users.”

The feel-good Hallmark Channel is booming in the age of Trump

August 21

A scene from the Hallmark Channel’s hit series “When Calls the Heart.” The show follows Elizabeth Thatcher, a young socialite who moves to a small Canadian frontier town in the early 1900s. (Crown Media)

There’s a very good chance that you or someone in your close circle of friends watches the Hallmark Channel.

Ratings are booming. Hallmark was the only non-news channel in the top 15 to see substantial viewership growth last year. In November and December, when Hallmark aired Christmas movies almost nonstop, the channel often ran neck-and-neck with Fox News and ESPN for the title of most-watched TV network on basic cable. Ratings are up another 9 percent so far this year, Nielsen says, and the Christmas movie marathon hasn’t even started yet.

It’s feel-good TV. There’s no sex or gore. Hallmark movies and series like “When Calls the Heart” and “Chesapeake Shores” have happy endings. The main characters do the right thing. The problems get worked out. The guy and girl, whatever their age or grumpiness level at the start, always end up together. This kind of TV has always drawn in older women, but Hallmark’s appeal isn’t limited to them anymore. Ratings are growing fast among 18- to 49-year-old women, and a growing number of men are tuning in as well. Men account for some of the jump in the Nielsen ratings, and when the channel does focus groups, increasing numbers of men say they watch with their wives.

The few culture magazines that have noticed Hallmark’s popularity surge say it’s all about production value. “The movies look more high-quality now than they used to,” pop culture site A.V. Club said earlier this year. Crown Media, which owns the Hallmark Channel, confirms it has been spending a lot more on its movies and shows lately, but better acting alone doesn’t explain the big jump in viewership and advertising dollars last year.

“The environment is undeniable contentious. We are a place you can go and feel good,” says Bill Abbott, chief executive of Crown Media.

That’s a polite way of saying more and more Americans are turning to the Hallmark Channel for relief from the daily news cycle. Hallmark is the complete opposite of the divisiveness that so many families felt during the election and President Trump’s penchant for courting controversy.

Turn on the news and you see people who can’t get along, even in the same party. Turn on Hallmark and everyone ends the show smiling. You get re-runs of “The Golden Girls” and lots of romantic films. The characters work together to save their town or store or farm.

Hallmark’s ratings have been rising for several years, but it really started surging in late 2015, right about the time the election — and the Trump phenomenon — took off. During the week of the election last year, the Hallmark Channel was the fourth-most watched channel on TV during prime time. Let that sink in. It had more prime-time viewers than MSNBC did, and it was just behind CNN and ESPN.

“We intentionally branded ourselves as the happy place,” Abbott says. Hallmark’s tagline is “the heart of TV.”

The happy formula is working. The Hallmark Channel and its sister station, Hallmark Movies and Mysteries, are doing so well that Crown Media just announced it will launch a third channel — Hallmark Drama — on Oct. 1. At a time when pundits are ready to proclaim the death of cable TV, Hallmark is starting up another old-school channel. That’s how much demand Hallmark believes there is for its family-friendly, feel-good shows.

The end of the year is Hallmark’s sweet spot — for viewers and advertising dollars. The channel will start running its Countdown to Christmas on Oct. 27, with 21 original movies that all have a holiday theme. Viewers love it. Hallmark claims more than 85 million people watched one of its channels during November and December last year. Hallmark easily won the ratings race among female viewers during the holidays and was even able to rival powerhouse channels Fox, ESPN and Nickelodeon at times for overall household viewership.

Advertisers are also flocking. Hallmark is now attracting car companies and financial firms as advertisers. That’s rare for channels that are perceived as mostly women’s networks. Hallmark is also making more of an effort to have nonwhite actors, although the company admits it has more work to do on diversity. At Upfronts, a massive convention for TV advertising where network executives gather to try to lure more dollars to their channels, Adweek noted how relaxed Hallmark executives were. While many other TV executives were trying to convince advertisers their network wasn’t dying, Hallmark just pointed to the ratings.

Hallmark is on track to surpass its stellar 2016, especially after the Christmas season. Last year, Hallmark averaged 1.1 million viewers during prime time. Viewership is already up through July, compared with the same period in 2016. With fall shaping up to be a contentious time for the United States at home and abroad, Hallmark could be the big winner.


Alaska Looks at a Nuclear Threat, and Shrugs It Off


David Chatterton, an Army veteran and co-owner of 907 Surplus in Anchorage. “If it did happen,” he said of a North Korean nuclear attack, “we would definitely be avenged.” Credit Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

ANCHORAGE — In Washington, the news that North Korea may have developed an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting Alaska set off a wave of anxiety.

But here in Alaska — already home to survivalists, end-of-the-world preppers and all-around tough cookies — the latest geopolitical hubbub is being taken in stride.

“You’ve always got to keep your edge,” said Robert Allison, 60, yanking up a sleeve to show off his United States Airborne Infantry tattoo, etched into a bicep.

More than one out of every eight adults in Alaska is, like Mr. Allison, a military veteran — the highest concentration in the nation. Another 6 percent or so of Alaskans are on active duty, or in an active-duty family.

Both numbers are a legacy of the huge Army and Air Force bases in the state, and the fact that many people who were sent here for their tours of duty never left. Proximity to the Far East is a given: Russia is 55 miles from the farthest western edge, and if you jump on a plane from Anchorage, Miami is farther away than Tokyo.

Anybody old enough to remember the Cold War, when Alaska was for decades at the front lines of national defense with an array of listening posts and ready-to-scramble air bases just across the Arctic Circle from the Soviets, also already knows the feeling of being a hot nuclear target. Some people recalled it as just something that came with the territory. You shrugged it off.


Camouflage clothing at 907 Surplus. Credit Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

“I’ve lived a good life, so if something happens, it happens,” said Gary Melven, 68, a Vietnam War veteran — United States Navy — and son of a World War II infantryman. Mr. Melven was a boy in Anchorage when the Cuban missile crisis of 1962 brought the world to the brink of nuclear war, and the famous Distant Early Warning Line radar sites of Alaska and Canada were straining for signs of incoming missiles.

“It was just background, growing up,” said Mr. Melven, the manager of Eagle Enterprises, a store south of downtown Anchorage that sells emergency survival supplies for fishing crews, pilots and outdoor enthusiasts.

“I was more interested in riding my bike,” he added.

To hang out for a few days in some of Anchorage’s military surplus and survival gear stores is to hear a lot of casual fatalism like that. People who are used to calculating risk said they saw little reason for increased alarm now from North Korea. City officials, from the mayor on down here in the state’s largest metropolitan area, have also said they were seeing little sign of panic or fuss.

“What are we going to do up here that we’re not already doing? They’re not going to evacuate Anchorage. We have more to worry about from an earthquake and tsunami,” said John Humphries, 56, a former military helicopter pilot who is now an investigator for the state medical examiner.

Mr. Humphries was shopping on a recent morning at 907 Surplus, a military supply store in a strip mall east of downtown, where a stream of men and women — many in uniform, stationed just down the street at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson — were coming by on a recent morning.

At 907 Surplus you can buy a green sniper scarf, a biochemical gas-mask canister or a pair of sub-zero-rated Army boots. Marpat Woobies, camouflage-colored wet-weather poncho liners beloved by Marines and great for backcountry Alaska, too, go for $30. But if you have to ask what they are, then you’re probably shopping in the wrong place.

The store’s co-owners, David Chatterton and Jeremy Wise — both Army veterans themselves — said they had heard little concern from their customers about North Korea. So-called preppers, mostly civilians, are part of the market in shops like theirs, but prepping — laying up emergency food, weaponry and shelter supplies — goes only so far when it comes to a potential strike by an atomic warhead.


Gary Melven, a Navy veteran and manager of Eagle Enterprises. “I’ve lived a good life,” he said, “so if something happens, it happens.” Credit Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

“They’re prepared, but you can’t really prepare for a nuclear attack,” Mr. Chatterton said.

“Totally business as usual,” added Mr. Wise, 30, who is originally from the Galveston, Tex., area and left the Army as a sergeant.

A spirit of come-what-may is helped out by a belief in the wisdom and ability of commanders and decision makers to avert a crisis, which many people in the shops expressed in interviews. Mr. Humphries, for example, said he fully believed a combination of military and diplomatic maneuvers would head things off with North Korea.

Jim Gorski, who spent 22 years as a Navy pilot, said the psychology of calculating risk is also different if you have experienced real threats in your life. He called it “the bunker question.”

If a concrete bunker is protecting your aircraft, he said, which side of the bunker do you stand on? If a bomb falls and you’re on the other side, you’re protected from the blast, but if you’re on the side where the bomb falls, you’re toast. And since you’ll never be able to predict the exact trajectory of a bomb’s fall, Mr. Gorski said, squinting into a bright afternoon sun as he walked near a downtown Anchorage park, then worrying about it becomes pointless.

“You start worrying about everything, you’ll go crazy and you won’t enjoy life,” he said.

Some Alaska residents and visitors are concerned. Marc Mueller-Stoffels, a physicist at the University of Alaska, works on energy issues — a research area that he said got some funding from the military. He said he thought Alaska was a target in the Cold War, and maybe now in the North Korean standoff, partly because of geography and the proximity to potential enemies. But he said the federal government also made the state a greater target by concentrating military research and presence there.

The importance of Alaska as a military pivot point started in World War II, when the Aleutian Islands were invaded by Japan. The soldiers and pilots who poured in here during that conflict, and the roads and bases built for them, in turn became foundations of the Cold War response in the years that followed.

“It’s a bit of self-fulfilling prophecy, since they put some more or less important military infrastructure up here,” said Mr. Mueller-Stoffels, who was taking his 11-month-old daughter, Anna, for a walk in downtown Anchorage.

Mr. Chatterton at 907 Surplus also finds comfort in the idea of justice and retribution — that assured destruction would rain down on North Korea if its leaders made such a foolish mistake as to attack. “If it did happen, we would definitely be avenged,” he said.

Jonathan Koa VRP

Jonathan Koa is SVP of Scripted Programming at Condé Nast Entertainment. He has previously worked with ABC as well as NBCUniversal Television Studios.
In the Media: 

Conde Nast Entertainment Hires ABC’s Jonathan Koa to Head Scripted Programming  |  Variety  |  November 12, 2015
Condé Nast Entertainment’s hiring spree continues, with the publishing house’s video division announcing the appointment of Jonathan Koa as senior VP of scripted programming.

Koa, who starts at CNÉ Nov. 16, previously was executive director of comedy at ABC, where he oversaw production and development of the Alphabet’s comedy series. Prior to ABC, Koa worked at NBCUniversal Television Studios, where he developed projects for numerous broadcast and cable networks including Fox’s “House,” USA Network’s “Monk” and NBC’s “Parenthood.”

In his new role at Conde Nast Entertainment, Koa will be responsible for developing and producing scripted television projects. He reports to CNÉ president Dawn Ostroff.

“Jon’s broad experience working at both a network and a studio gives him a unique perspective of a very dynamic marketplace,” Ostroff said in announcing the hire. “His extensive relationships with top talent, along with his creative instincts, will be a tremendous advantage for us in developing scripted programming from the wealth of material that comes from our magazines, digital platforms and archives.”

While at ABC, Koa worked with comedy talent including Amy Poehler, Greg Daniels, Bill Lawrence, James Burrows and Emily Kapnek.

“CNÉ has quickly become a source for unique and compelling television projects,” Koa said in a statement. “I’m looking forward to jumping into the vast archives of content and working with the iconic Condé Nast brands to develop series that really stand out.”

Prior to joining the entertainment biz, Koa worked in politics for U.S. Senators Paul Simon and Dianne Feinstein as well as the Democratic National Committee.

CNÉ has a first-look deal for scripted TV programming for both broadcast and cable at 20th Century Fox Television and currently has scripted projects set up at networks including ABC, FOX, HBO and AMC. In addition, the group has four unscripted shows in production or on the air: “Vanity Fair Confidential” for Investigation Discovery, “The Fashion Fund” and “The New Yorker Presents” for Amazon Studios, and “Geeks Who Drink” for Syfy. Additionally, CNÉ has two feature films in production, “Army of One” starring Nicolas Cage and Russell Brand, and “China: Through the Looking Glass,” which follows the creation of the Metropolitan Museum Costume Institute’s annual Gala and exhibition.

In the last few months, CNÉ has hired several execs to fill out its ranks, including Joy Marcus, former Dailymotion U.S. general manager, as G.M. of digital video.

Dwayne J. Clark VRP


Dwayne J. Clark is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Aegis Living. With more than 30 years of senior housing experience, Dwayne is nationally known for the quality of projects he manages, as well as his innovative flair. He has been involved in the development, construction and/or management of over 200 senior housing projects.

Dwayne was raised from humble beginnings by a single mom who gave him his greatest gift, the confidence that he could do anything. Those early years of Dwayne’s life led him to the tireless pursuit of running a company in a different way, with staff satisfaction being a driving force. His success in creating an outstanding company culture has been chronicled in many publications. This passion prompted him to write a book, “Help Wanted: Recruiting, Hiring and Retaining Exceptional Staff.” The book has been used for course curriculum in many leading universities. Dwayne has written two additional books about his mom and her journey with Alzheimer’s, “My Mother, My Son” and “Saturdays with G.G.” He’s currently working on his fourth book about Greatest Practices of Longevity, entitled “from Grapes to Raisins” He also writes a blog for The Huffington Post.

When Dwayne co-founded Aegis Living, his mission was to redefine an industry that had great potential but was failing in execution. He studied business models from companies known for world-class innovation, all based in Seattle: Costco, Nordstrom and Starbucks. With the knowledge gained from these companies, he grew Aegis Living from a dream to a company that has over $1.5 billion in real estate assets, over $175 million in operating revenues, over 2,000 staff members and seven projects currently under development in the Seattle area. Aegis Living is one of the most sought-after operators in the country.

Prior to forming Aegis Living, Dwayne was Executive Vice President of Sunrise Senior Living, and spent seven years with Leisure Care. Aegis Living won the prestigious Best of Assisted Living Design 2015 as awarded by Senior Housing News. Aegis Living was named the 2014 Family Business Awards Growth Award by Seattle Business Magazine for its steady rise in new business. Dwayne has been honored in numerous ways for his contribution to business, as well as to senior housing. Aegis Living has been voted “Best Company to Work For” many times by various media organizations and published employee surveys. The company is ranked the highest in the nation in the senior living industry by Glassdoor, an online employee review site. Dwayne Clark was named Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year in 2007. He was also honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award from Senior Services. He was also honored with a program at Bastyr University named the “Dwayne J. Clark Healthy Aging Program” and was granted the Bastyr University Mission Award. Aegis Living was also named Best Retirement Facility by 425 Magazine three years in a row.

Dwayne has been involved in many philanthropic ventures, including his own not-for-profit organization, the Potato Soup Foundation, which serves the needs of Aegis Living line staff and their families during times of crisis. He has also served on the boards of Seattle-based Rainier Scholars and the 5th Avenue Theatre, as well as the Young Presidents’ Organization, where he served as Chairman of the Northwest Chapter. He’s an accomplished playwright. His first play, “Seven Ways to Get There” premiered in early 2015 at Seattle’s ACT Theatre. Through his company True Productions, Clark is also producing a new documentary premiering at the 2016 Seattle International Film Festival about NBA legend Spencer Haywood entitled, “Full Court: The Spencer Haywood Story.” Dwayne Clark also owns the Seattle-based Queen Bee Café, featuring traditional English crumpets with locally-sourced products in tasty combinations. 100% of Queen Bee Café profits go to local charities.

Dwayne is married to Terese, who owned a nurse consulting practice and previously ran a luxury day spa known as Spa Agio. He has two successful children, Adam and Ashley, who both work for Aegis Living. Adam manages Aegis of Marymoor and Ashley leads philanthropic partnerships.

Twitter (472 followers):
My Mother, My Son Executive Producer, Writer
Sweetheart Deal Executive Producer 2017
8 Borders, 8 Days Executive Producer 2017
Big Sonia Executive Producer 2016
Full Court: The Spencer Haywood Story Executive Producer 2016
Gold Balls Executive Producer 2016
Seven Ways to Get There
One Leg in Heaven
In the Media:
Aegis Living Ceo’s Book About His Mother To Become Hollywood Feature Film  |  Puget Sound Business Journal  |  April 26, 2016

Dwayne Clark, founder of Redmond-based senior living system Aegis Living, will be the subject of an upcoming Hollywood feature film.

The movie will be based on his book, “My Mother, My Son — a True Story of Love, Determination and Memories … Lost.” It is a tribute to their relationship and to her influence on his life. Her picture is central in his office.

Clark’s 2012 emotional memoir is a reflection of the core of his vision and his experience in three decades in the elder-care industry. His mother, Mary Colleen Callahan Clark, whom he calls his omnipresent guiding light, died in October of 2010, after living with Parkinson’s-related dementia.

An article in “Deadline Hollywood” says: “This will mark the fourth collaboration between Winkler and E/F/O. They include Martin Scorsese’s upcoming passion project Silence which is now in post production and David Mamet adaptation Speed-The-Plow. Winkler and Jose Ruisanchez are co-writing My Mother, My Son, and Randall Emmett, George Furla and Winkler are producing. Tyler Jon Olson will co-produce.”

Needless to say, Clark is thrilled.

“I’m really excited about this,” Clark said. “My mother would be dancing a jig.”

To have cared for more than 60,000 people over a 30 year career, Clark said, many of whom have suffered from the same debilitating disease his mother did, makes this “a cherry on the top of that cake because so many more people will be aware of this disease.”

“To be able to retain creative control of the adaptation of the book is a wonderful thing,” Clark said, “and it’s all a little surreal right now.”

Dan Price VRP


[From his website]
Raised in rural Idaho, far from the closest neighbor, Dan Price started Gravity Payments from his university dorm room when he was just 19 years old. Although music was his passion growing up, Dan discovered his lifelong mission when he found many small business owners in his community were being taken advantage of by their credit card processors. He knew that wasn’t right, so he rolled up his sleeves and began disrupting the typical way business is done.

As he told Entrepreneur Magazine, “I never intended to make a lot of money, or really any. I was really upset at this industry for the way they were treating my clients, and I just wanted to blow the whole thing up.”

Dan shaped Gravity on a different set of values not normally seen in the workplace —honesty, transparency, and responsibility. These simple values have made Dan and the Gravity team a trusted name in credit card processing. Today, independent businesses across all 50 states trust Gravity to save them millions in fees and hours in frustration by making it easy and simple for them to accept payments.

It is well known that Dan is a celebrated entrepreneur, but what sets him apart is his conviction to do what he believes is right, even if it’s unpopular. His mission is to create a world where values-based companies reshape the economy, so business stops being about making the most money possible. Instead, he wants leaders to recognize that business should be about purpose, service, and making a difference. Dan believes it’s not about doing business as usual anymore, but doing business better.

Twitter (13.8K followers):
There’s Only 1 Question You’ll Ever Need to Ask to Test Your Company’s Core Values” 
By Dan Price  |  Inc.  |  June 27, 2017

Many companies proudly display their core values, but in practice those values are often just marketing. To determine whether your core values are honest or just rhetoric, ask yourself this one simple question:


If a company is not willing to sacrifice for its values, that company will make promises it cannot keep and will lose its way when times are tough. On the other hand, companies willing to sacrifice for their values will put themselves at a disadvantage in the short term. Over the long term, however, the benefits far outweigh the costs.

At Gravity, we have three core values, and each has put us at a competitive disadvantage. Our first core value is responsibility. One of the ways we operate with responsibility is we don’t pay sales commissions. This leads to fewer deals, but it helps us maintain focus on our clients’ needs instead of just our own. Oftentimes, our sales reps don’t close deals because they are focusing on current clients or mentoring other Gravity team members. Failing to pay commissions puts us at a disadvantage, but we do it because that’s our definition of responsibility.

Our second core value is creative leadership. We lived this value when we implemented a $70,000 minimum wage at Gravity. The downsides to this policy have been well documented. We increased payroll, our largest expense, and significantly increased the cost of bringing on entry-level team members. None of our competitors have these challenges. We put the company at risk for what could have been a very small upside.

Our third core value is passion for progress. Three years ago, we implemented a program of unlimited paid time off. Progress for us was for every employee to become the boss of his or her own career. The freedom generated by our new vacation policy was in line with this transformation. As a result, we can no longer force people to be in the office or keep their butt in a seat. We have to work harder to staff our departments. Managers are often frustrated with the scheduling challenges associated with this policy. Long absences are not uncommon. A strict vacation policy would alleviate many of these issues, but that would not be in line with our passion for progress.

Staying true to our values gives us purpose. It brings clarity to difficult decisions, and it attracts a strong community of individuals who value authenticity, rather than deceit. What values would you uphold even if they put you at a competitive disadvantage? Follow those values, embrace the obstacles they cause, and watch your company thrive.

About Gravity Payments:

[From their website]

We started Gravity Payments because we saw independent businesses being overcharged and underserved by their credit card processor. We knew that wasn’t right, so we decided to lower costs, be completely transparent, and provide better service for community business owners.

The only way to do business is to serve others, do more for them, and charge less. We shape everything we do by this motto. We’re here to support independent business owners and take one more worry off their back—by accepting payments, consulting on business solutions, and providing great customer service.

These values are the foundation that fuels our commitment to help independent businesses succeed:

  • CREATIVE LEADERSHIP: We inspire growth and innovation through learning and bold action.
  • PASSION FOR PROGRESS: We have an uncompromising focus on impact and excellence.
  • RESPONSIBILITY: We act with honesty, integrity, and thoughtfulness.

We created Gravity Payments because thousands of hard-working business owners were being overcharged and underserved by credit card processors. Today, we serve over 13,000 merchants across America, saving them millions in fees and hours of frustration. Though we’ve grown substantially over the years, we treat each of our clients as if they’re our first client. We are devoted to complete transparency. We don’t confuse our community business owners with credit card gibberish or hide anything in the fine print. Instead, we strive to make credit card processing as simple as possible.

We owe our values-based philosophy to our founder, Dan Price. In 2004, it was his commitment to level the payment processing playing field that launched Gravity.

Since then, Dan’s leadership has earned him Entrepreneur Magazine’s Entrepreneur of 2014, the 2014 Seattle Business CEO Excellence Award, GeekWire’s 2013 Young Entrepreneur of the Year, and the 2010 SBA National Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award presented by President Obama. His most recent bold action was the implementation of a $70,000 minimum wage to provide his team a better quality of life and improve the success of his clients.


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Seattle Company Paying $70K Salaries To Employees Expands, Workers See Housing Boom  |  KOMO News  |  June 22, 2017
The Seattle business owner who got national attention two years ago for giving all his employees at least $70,000 salaries may have a new reason to celebrate– his company, Gravity Payments, is seeing growth and his employees a “housing boom.”

“It’s been really crazy because I was here since before the announcement was made, and so kind of seeing everything happening from the announcement on has been kind of a whirlwind,” said Phillip Akhavan who is on Gravity Payment’s Merchant Relations Team.

Akhavan said after the announcement, he and his wife had their first child and also became first-time home buyers.

“We were able to push up all of our future plans,” said Akhavan. “We had help from family for a down payment, but I wouldn’t have been able to be qualified for a mortgage for a house for that much if I didn’t have a salary that could back it up.”

Akhavan is one of at least 20 of the 174 team members at Gravity Payments, a credit card processing company, who bought a home recently or will in the next few months.

“That might not sound like a large number but when you look at the actual number of people we have in our company it’s a significant portion, and the fact that it’s all happening right now is really exciting.” said Gravity’s Communications Director Ryan Pirkle.

On Wednesday afternoon, employees, who are interested in becoming homeowners, got to meet with two real estate agents at the company’s Ballard office.

“That thought didn’t cross my mind until earlier this year,” said Garrett Bucksath who started working at the company about a year ago. Bucksath, an Army veteran, moved to Seattle for the Gravity Payments job after graduating from college in North Carolina.

Bucksath is looking for a two-bedroom home, likely in the north Seattle area.

“It just seemed so far out of reach as far as just having the money to do that, being able to save up enough money to actually be able to invest into a house,” Bucksath said.

It was roughly two years ago when CEO Dan Price made the announcement he was going to offer his employees raises and give himself a pay cut. Since then, Pirkle said the company is seeing “rapid growth.” The company now processes credit cards for 18,000 small businesses, compared to 12,000 before the announcement.

As part of the growth, the company has also moved into a new office space in Ballard that’s more than twice the size of their previous location. Inside the new building, Pirkle said everything has a purpose.

“We’ve all had input into every single detail of this build-out, and so it really does feel like it’s ours,” Pirkle said.

The company is leasing two floors for office space, including one that has a “Main Street” where the conference rooms are located. On the main floor, desks are in an open area and the one thing you won’t see there are private offices — even the CEO has the same size desk as the other employees.

“Working for a company that you’re happy for and where your values are aligned that’s in my mind more important,” said Akhavan. “The fact that I can work in a place where there’s both I really feel blessed.”

Gravity Price’s Dan Price Emerges Victorious in Brother’s Suit  |  Seattle Times  |  July 12, 2016
Judge’s ruling comes after three-week trial in a suit that accused Dan Price of breaching a contract between the two brothers.

(This story was updated July 12 , 2016 to include a statement from Lucas Price.)

In a case that pitted brother against brother, Gravity Payments CEO Dan Price successfully beat back a suit brought against him by older brother and co-founder Lucas Price.

Lucas Price did not show that Dan violated Lucas’ rights as a minority shareholder, a King County judge ruled late Friday.

The ruling came after a three-week long trial in late June before King County Superior Court Judge Theresa B. Doyle.

Dan Price gained fame in 2015 for his decision to raise the minimum wage of employees at the credit-card payment processing company to $70,000 per year. The move received international attention; NBC News and The New York Times were present at the announcement.

In her 32-page decision, Doyle ruled that claims Dan Price compensated himself excessively and used his corporate credit card for personal expenses without reimbursing the company were not proved.

Doyle ordered that Dan Price’s legal fees be paid by his brother.

Lawyers for Lucas Price did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Lucas Price said he was “shocked and disappointed” in an emailed statement days after the ruling.

“I am evaluating my options,” he said.

Dan Price posted on Facebook Friday evening: “I will never take for granted the incredibly valuable role Lucas played in creating our company. I’m thankful for the opportunity to put this challenging time behind us.”

Lucas Price’s suit came to light shortly after the minimum-wage announcement, although the suit had actually been served on Dan weeks before that announcement.

The brothers started their company in 2004, and signed a contract in 2008 that gave a majority stake to Dan Price and removed Lucas Price from day-to-day responsibilities. It also set in place minority shareholder rights for Lucas.

The suit claimed that Dan Price breached the contract, claiming that Dan overpaid himself and cut Lucas out of important company decisions. Lucas sought unspecified damages, but wanted Dan to buy out his ownership shares.

“This is an unfortunate and troubling story of ego, resentment and an unwillingness of Dan Price to live with a deal he and his brother struck in 2008,” Greg Hollon, lead attorney for Lucas Price, said in both his opening and closing statement.

The defense countered that Dan Price’s compensation fell within reasonable boundaries. It said he reimbursed the company for personal expenses charged on a corporate card, and kept his brother updated when needed, all while increasing Gravity’s revenues significantly.

At one point during the trial, Dan Price said he would likely lose control of the company if forced to buy out his brother’s shares for $26 million, the assumed value.

A Company Copes With Backlash Against the Raise That Roared  |  New York Times |  July 31, 2015
Dan Price, chief of Gravity Payments, raised the annual salary floor for his employees to $70,000. Most responses were positive, but Mr. Price says that even the negative letters were valuable.

There are times when Dan Price feels as if he stumbled into the middle of the street with a flag and found himself at the head of a parade.

Three months ago, Mr. Price, 31, announced he was setting a new minimum salary of $70,000 at his Seattle credit card processing firm, Gravity Payments, and slashing his own million-dollar pay package to do it. He wasn’t thinking about the current political clamor over low wages or the growing gap between rich and poor, he said. He was just thinking of the 120 people who worked for him and, let’s be honest, a bit of free publicity. The idea struck him when a friend shared her worries about paying both her rent and student loans on a $40,000 salary. He realized a lot of his own employees earned that or less.

Yet almost overnight, a decision by one small-business man in the northwestern corner of the country became a swashbuckling blow against income inequality.

The move drew attention from around the world — including from some outspoken skeptics and conservatives like Rush Limbaugh, who smelled a socialist agenda — but most were enthusiastic. Talk show hosts lined up to interview Mr. Price. Job seekers by the thousands sent in résumés. He was called a “thought leader.” Harvard business professors flew out to conduct a case study. Third graders wrote him thank-you notes. Single women wanted to date him.

What few outsiders realized, however, was how much turmoil all the hoopla was causing at the company itself. To begin with, Gravity was simply unprepared for the onslaught of emails, Facebook posts and phone calls. The attention was thrilling, but it was also exhausting and distracting. And with so many eyes focused on the firm, some hoping to witness failure, the pressure has been intense.

More troubling, a few customers, dismayed by what they viewed as a political statement, withdrew their business. Others, anticipating a fee increase — despite repeated assurances to the contrary — also left. While dozens of new clients, inspired by Mr. Price’s announcement, were signing up, those accounts will not start paying off for at least another year. To handle the flood, he has already had to hire a dozen additional employees — now at a significantly higher cost — and is struggling to figure out whether more are needed without knowing for certain how long the bonanza will last.

Two of Mr. Price’s most valued employees quit, spurred in part by their view that it was unfair to double the pay of some new hires while the longest-serving staff members got small or no raises. Some friends and associates in Seattle’s close-knit entrepreneurial network were also piqued that Mr. Price’s action made them look stingy in front of their own employees.

Then potentially the worst blow of all: Less than two weeks after the announcement, Mr. Price’s older brother and Gravity co-founder, Lucas Price, citing longstanding differences, filed a lawsuit that potentially threatened the company’s very existence. With legal bills quickly mounting and most of his own paycheck and last year’s $2.2 million in profits plowed into the salary increases, Dan Price said, “We don’t have a margin of error to pay those legal fees.”

As Mr. Price spoke in the Gravity conference room, he could see a handful of employees setting up beach chairs in the parking lot for an impromptu meeting. The office is in Ballard, a fast-gentrifying neighborhood of Seattle that reflects the wealth gap that Mr. Price says he wants to address. Downstairs is a yoga studio, and across the street is a coffee bar where customers can sip velvet soy lattes on Adirondack-style chairs. But around the corner, beneath the elevated roadway, a homeless woman silently appeals to drivers stopped at the red light with a cardboard sign: “Plz Help.”

In his own way, Mr. Price is trying to respond to that request.

“Income inequality has been racing in the wrong direction,” he said. “I want to fight for the idea that if someone is intelligent, hard-working and does a good job, then they are entitled to live a middle-class lifestyle.”

The reaction to his salary pledge has led him to think that if his business continues to prosper, his actions could have far-reaching consequences. “The cause has expanded,” he said. “Whether I like it or not, the stakes are higher.”

On a recent weekday evening, Mr. Price confidently threaded his way through clumps of tourists and past the rows of flowers and fruits that line Pike Place Market in downtown Seattle. About 70 percent of the businesses that occupy this nearly century-old marketplace use Gravity to process their credit card payments, Mr. Price said. He started courting customers there more than 11 years ago, while still attending Seattle Pacific University, a small Christian college. He would go from stall to stall, shaking hands, scribbling down phone numbers. Early on, he signed up Pure Food Fish. The shop was a backdrop in the film “Sleepless in Seattle,” but more important, it was run by the 86-year-old Solly Amon, who inherited the pocket store from his father and is lovingly known as the “cod father.” When other merchants heard Mr. Amon trusted Dan, they did too.

“They give us tremendous service,” Mr. Amon said. He remembered an incident years ago when Mr. Price had a new credit card machine up and running within three hours after his old one died.

In addition to providing the devices and software that merchants use when a customer whips out a credit card, Gravity makes sure the money shifts securely and quickly among buyer, bank and business. In an industry dominated by global banking giants and mammoth processors, the company last year processed $6.5 billion in sales for 12,000 clients, most of them small and medium-size businesses.

Was Mr. Amon bothered by Mr. Price’s new payroll policy? “He takes care of his business, and I’ll take care of my business,” he declared.

Brian Canlis, a co-owner of his family-named restaurant, is also a client. He said he was fond of Mr. Price, but was more discomfited by his actions. Mr. Canlis is already worried about how to deal with Seattle’s new minimum wage, which rose to $11 an hour in April and is scheduled to reach $15 an hour for small businesses within five years.

The pay raise at Gravity, Mr. Canlis told Mr. Price, “makes it harder for the rest of us.”

Mr. Price winced. “It pains me to hear Brian Canlis say that,” he said later. “The last thing I would ever want to do is make a client feel uncomfortable.”

But any plan that has the potential, as Mr. Price has put it, to “set the world on fire,” is bound to make some people squirm. Leah Brajcich, who oversees sales at Gravity, fielded complaints from several customers who accused her boss of communist or socialist sympathies that would drive up their own employees’ wages and others who felt it was a public relations stunt. A few were worried that fees would rise or service would fall off. “What’s their incentive to hustle if you pay them so much?” Ms. Brajcich said they asked. Putting in 80-hour weeks after the announcement, she called the mistrustful clients, stopping by their offices or stores, and invited them to visit Gravity to see for themselves the employees’ dedication. She said she eventually lured most back.

As for other business leaders in Mr. Price’s social circle, they were split on whether he was a brilliant strategist or simply nuts. As much as they respected him, they were also disturbed. “I worry how that’s going to impact other businesses,” said Steve Duffield, the chief executive of the DACO Corporation, who met Mr. Price through the Entrepreneurs’ Organization in Seattle. “We can’t afford to do that. For most businesses, employees are the biggest expense and they need to manage those costs in order to survive.”

Roger Reynolds, a co-owner of a wealth management company, said his discussion of the pay plan with Mr. Price got heated. “My wife and I got so frustrated with him at a cocktail party, we literally left,” said Mr. Reynolds, who complained that Mr. Price unfairly accused him of measuring his self-worth solely in terms of money and trying to hold somebody else down. Everyone may have equal rights, but not equal talent or motivation, Mr. Reynolds said. “I think he’s trying to bring in some political and aspirational beliefs into the compensation structure of the workplace.”

If there was a 19th-century thinker Mr. Price drew inspiration from, it would be not Karl Marx, but Russell Conwell, the Baptist minister and Temple University founder, whose famed “Acres of Diamonds” speech fused Christianity and capitalism. “To make money honestly is to preach the Gospel,” Mr. Conwell exhorted his listeners. To get rich “is our Christian and godly duty.”

Growing up in rural southwestern Idaho, Mr. Price frequently listened to a recording of the speech on tape.

Every day he and his four brothers and one sister rose as early as 5 a.m. to recite a proverb, a psalm, a Gospel chapter and an excerpt from the Old and New Testaments. Home-schooled until he was 12 and taught to accept the Bible as the literal truth, Mr. Price also listened to the Rush Limbaugh show for three hours a day — never imagining he would one day be the subject of a rant by the host. Then it was time to help his mother with organic gardening, composting and recycling.

Like his siblings, Dan was fiercely competitive, said his father, Ron Price, and hard on himself if he didn’t come in first at Bible memorization contests, backyard football or board games like Life and Monopoly. “Dan has always been a deal maker,” said his father, who is now a management consultant.

The isolation did not prepare Mr. Price for the complex social interactions of junior high school. He was awkward, out of place. He remembered joining in when a group of children started laughing, only to later realize that he had been the target of their ridicule.

His experiences did reinforce an independent, contrarian streak even as he made a place for himself in the teenagers’ terrain. He formed a rock band and got a girlfriend. After their first hug at 17, her conservative Christian father demanded to know his intentions. The two were engaged, and they married four years later. (They divorced amicably in 2011.)

His parents instilled a sense of purpose. “We had a family mission” to glorify God, he said. The household was run as a “family business” with jobs and responsibilities carefully set out in charts and diagrams. “All my siblings hated it, but I thought it was cool,” Mr. Price said with a laugh.

Mr. Price is no longer so religious, but the values and faith he grew up on are “in my DNA,” he said. “It’s just something that’s part of me.”

He transferred that zeal to his credit card processing business, which he started out of his dorm room in 2004 with his brother Lucas, five years his senior.

He preached Main Street capitalism that promised to deliver good value, low prices and individual service. His success won him a shelf full of local business awards and even a chance to meet President Obama during National Small Business Week when he was just 25. Though he now has the shoulder-length hair and beard of a hipster, back then he looked like a baby-faced Donny Osmond and sounded like Alex P. Keaton, the eager beaver Republican played by Michael J. Fox on the 1980s sitcom “Family Ties.” He did not actively oppose Seattle’s minimum-wage increase, but a reason he urges other business owners to follow his lead on pay is to avoid more government regulation.

Mr. Price’s drive to succeed, fierce commitment to help small businesses and exacting standards attracted other business-minded idealists. Some even took pay cuts to work at Gravity. Keeping an existing client is more important than getting a new one, he decreed. Never make a caller hear more than two rings before picking up.

Nydelis Ortiz, 25, a former Peace Corps volunteer in Peru (not to mention the 2010 Miss Vermont), said she was drawn to his passion and community volunteer projects. Emery Wager, 30, a Stanford engineering graduate and a former Marine, decided to forgo applying to Harvard Business School so he could work closely with Mr. Price. (He felt vindicated when a Harvard friend who had ridiculed his decision told him Gravity’s pay scale was discussed in class.)

Maisey McMaster was also one of the believers. Now 26, she joined the company five years ago and worked her way up to financial manager, putting in long hours that left little time for her husband and extended family. “There’s a special culture,” where people “work hard and play hard,” she said. “I love everyone there.”

She helped calculate whether the firm could afford to gradually raise everyone’s salary to $70,000 over a three-year period, and was initially swept up in the excitement. But the more she thought about it, the more the details gnawed at her.

“He gave raises to people who have the least skills and are the least equipped to do the job, and the ones who were taking on the most didn’t get much of a bump,” she said. To her, a fairer proposal would have been to give smaller increases with the opportunity to earn a future raise with more experience.

A couple of days after the announcement, she decided to talk to Mr. Price.

“He treated me as if I was being selfish and only thinking about myself,” she said. “That really hurt me. I was talking about not only me, but about everyone in my position.”

Already approaching burnout from the relentless pace, she decided to quit.

The new pay scale also helped push Grant Moran, 29, Gravity’s web developer, to leave. “I had a lot of mixed emotions,” he said. His own salary was bumped up to $50,000 from $41,000 (the first stage of the raise), but the policy was nevertheless disconcerting. “Now the people who were just clocking in and out were making the same as me,” he complained. “It shackles high performers to less motivated team members.”

Mr. Moran also fretted that the extra money could over time become too enticing to give up, keeping him from his primary goal of further developing his web skills and moving to a digital company.

And the attention was vexing. “I was kind of uncomfortable and didn’t like having my wage advertised so publicly and so blatantly,” he said, echoing a sentiment of several Gravity staff members. “It changed perspectives and expectations of you, whether it’s the amount you tip on a cup of coffee that day or family and friends now calling you for a loan.”

Several employees who stayed, while exhilarated by the raises, say they now feel a lot of pressure. “Am I doing my job well enough to deserve this?” said Stephanie Brooks, 23, who joined Gravity as an administrative assistant two months before the wage increase. “I didn’t earn it.”

When Mr. Price chose $70,000 as the eventual salary floor, he was influenced by research showing that this annual income could make an enormous difference in someone’s emotional well-being by easing nagging financial stress.

He might have also considered the parable of the workers in the vineyard from the Gospel of St. Matthew, where the laborers hired at sunup were upset that their pay was the same as those who showed up right before quitting time. Early adopters and latecomers may be equally welcomed in the Kingdom of Heaven, but not necessarily in the earthly realm, where rewards are generally bestowed in paycheck form.

As for the raw feelings of friends or staff members, Mr. Price readily admits that he can be contentious, even censorious. A disagreement often comes across as a personal attack. “It’s just as painful for me as anyone else,” he said.

Mr. Price, who extolled Ms. McMaster’s talents, said he didn’t think she, Mr. Moran or even Rush Limbaugh was wrong. “There’s no perfect way to do this and no way to handle complex workplace issues that doesn’t have any downsides or trade-offs,” he said. When other entrepreneurs suggested that stock options or profit-sharing would have been a better approach, he said that’s the way capitalism works: Everyone tries to invent the best mousetrap. “I came up with the best solution I could.”

And the publicity surrounding it has generated tangible benefits. Three months before the announcement, the firm had been adding 200 clients a month. In June, 350 signed up.

That new business won’t start paying off for 12 to 18 months, however, Mr. Price said, and in the meantime, he is contending with the lawsuit brought by his brother. Lucas Price owns about 30 percent of their company, although he has not actively been involved in day-to-day operations for several years. There had been tensions between the two long before the new pay plan, and Lucas is demanding that Dan buy him out for an unspecified amount, plus damages.

Lucas, who lives in Seattle, declined to be interviewed but wrote in an email: “Dan has taken millions of dollars out of the company for himself while denying me the benefits of the ownership of my shares, and otherwise favoring his own interests as the majority shareholder over my interests.” He said his complaints predated the pay raises.

Even so, they clearly are critical to the outcome. With profits, at least in the short term, shifted to salaries, there is little left over to buy out his brother, let alone pay the legal bills or make longer-term capital improvements in the company, Dan said.

Flabbergasted when the suit arrived, Dan said he was puzzled by the accusations, saying that Lucas agreed to his $1.1 million salary and bonus package, instituted for 2012.

Family fighting over a business can be ugly and is often about more than just money. Dan conceded he may have previously given short shrift to Lucas’s contributions. “Who knows if I would have had the opportunity to build the company without him helping me out in the first couple of years?” he said.

Lucas was the best man at his wedding, and the two, close friends, often hiked, surfed and attended ballgames together. By the end, “being in business together was the worst thing for our relationship,” Dan said. After the lawsuit was filed, he said he called the rest of his family and told them to offer “unconditional love and support” to both Lucas and him. (Their younger brother Alex, 23, also works at the company.)

While it is upsetting to see two of his sons at odds, Ron Price said, “their mother and me don’t lose sleep over it. I think they’ll get it sorted out.”

Dan Price, who estimated his current net worth, including his home, at about $3 million, said he had offered to “give up everything I have personally and everything I’ll have for years to come.” A court date has been set for May.

For now, at least, Mr. Price has undoubtedly made an immediate difference in the lives of many of his employees. José Garcia, 30, who supervises an equipment team, was able to afford to move into the city and replace the worn tires on his car. Ms. Ortiz, who was briefly homeless as a child, can now visit her family in Burlington, Vt. Cody Boorman, 22, who handles operations out of his eastern Washington home, said he and his wife finally felt financially secure enough to start a family.

There have been other ripples. Mario Zahariev, who runs Pop’s Pizza & Pasta, switched to Gravity after seeing Mr. Price on the news. When he learned his monthly processing fees would drop to $900 from $1,700, Mr. Zahariev decided, “I was not going to keep the difference for myself.” He used the savings to raise the salaries of his eight employees.

Pop’s Pizza aside, Mr. Price’s plan is not easily replicated, said Nick Hanauer, a Seattle venture capitalist and an early promoter of the city’s $15 minimum wage law. Still, he noted, “These individual acts can create a new kind of perception of what’s possible and what’s righteous.” After all, he said, two years ago, no one would ever have guessed higher minimum wage laws would be catching fire in cities around the country. “Who can tell what that last thing is that catalyzes big change?”

In that sense, Mr. Price’s foray into the public debate on wages is not unlike his newfound passion of wake surfing. Cruising atop the curl of a wave created by a motorboat isn’t easy. Lean too far ahead of the swell or drift behind it and you wipe out. For the moment, he is balancing on the crest, enjoying the ride and doing his best to keep from falling off.


10 Questions With… Dan Price, Entrepreneur of 2014  |  YPO  |  January 28, 2015
What does it take to become Entrepreneur of the Year? YPO member Dan Price, CEO of Gravity Payments, received the coveted 2014 honor from Entrepreneur magazine. Learn more about his leadership style, company culture and top insights for business leaders. Price founded the company at age 19 and joined the YPO Pacific Northwest Chapter in 2013.

What does being named “Entrepreneur of the Year” mean for you as a leader? What does it say about your team?
There was a blog that wrote a critique that the award was misplaced, and I kind of agree with that. I don’t think we’ve arrived at all. I think we still have a lot more to do. In the past, I’ve been proud of the cool stuff we’ve done, but I think it’s just one-tenth of one percent of what we want to do. As a leader, this means I have a lot more pressure and a lot more to prove. Some people say an award like this would validate what they’re doing; I would say we need to do things that will validate this award.

I think what it says about my team – and our clients and those who support us – is that they care about me and Gravity. They don’t care what they get out of it, but they genuinely want us to succeed at what we’re trying to do. We have some great people, but I don’t think we’ve arrived yet. It’s a nice chance to appreciate my team, but it’s also an opportunity to look at each other and use this as a challenge to mean what we say.

When/how did you first hear about YPO? What made you want to join?
I had somewhat of an informal mentor named Dan Levine. He’s here in Seattle and he told me a lot about YPO. He was the one who first told me about all the different things he got out of being a member. It was life changing for him and he thought I would really benefit from checking it out.

You were featured in the YPO-CNBC article about the benefits of unlimited PTO. How else are you innovative or what other conventional practices would you do away with?
Our philosophy is that every single person at Gravity needs to be the CEO of themselves. Some people get confused about what that means. It means we value challenges and struggles, and we don’t want things to come easy. We want to push ourselves to do and be better. If we do that, we’ll create a company truly meant to serve others. Each individual will create an ability within themselves that will pay huge dividends for the rest of their lives. So, we’re innovative in the sense that we don’t do things the easy way. Nothing is laid out and you don’t have somebody telling you what to do. You have the opportunity to pave your own path at this company.

Our whole purpose of being in this industry is to help independent businesses accepting payments. We wanted to transform this industry that many don’t trust by giving them the best possible options and support to accept payments. We structured the whole company – including no outside financing – to accomplish that long-term goal. A lot of our clients have said, “We want more; we want to do this; we want to do that” and we know we can’t do everything for everybody, but we try to do what we can to support them. One thing we’ve done to help was setting up an alternative loan program that helps independent businesses quickly access funds. We have been able to finance over $10 million for community businesses strictly based off word-of-mouth referrals.

The other thing we do differently is that we don’t pay our salespeople commissions. That’s been since day one. Our salespeople are incentivized based on customer retention and customer satisfaction. Our competitors pay these big sales commissions which make the price to the client go way up, while making the long-term satisfaction of the client go down. This doesn’t incentivize building a long-term relationship with a client, but rather a one-and-done type of deal. Our salespeople consistently check-in, make sure everything is working, review rates, help business owners understand their statements, and even send them advice articles on how to help their business succeed. All of that has allowed Gravity to keep our clients five times longer than the industry average.

What is the most difficult leadership lesson you have learned?
I’m not sure if it’s a lesson I’ve learned, but the most difficult thing for me in terms of being a leader is that I’m very optimistic about people. I really care about people I work and interact with, and people I meet. I see potential and how great a person can be, and it results in me holding very high standards for them. I see what they’re capable of, and it’s important for me they meet that potential. More often than not it does happen, but when things get in the way and somebody doesn’t meet their potential, it’s very painful.

Complete the sentence: “If I wasn’t a business leader, I would be a…
If I wasn’t a business leader, I would want to be a part of the Gravity team. I’m committed to what we’re doing. I want to show the world that treating your clients the way you would want to be treated, and using your client’s best interest as your motivation every day, will win out over greed in the long run.

What are the top 3 challenges for today’s business leaders?
I would say number one is figuring out and being clear on your purpose: What do you most care about? How are you going to stay focused and stick with your purpose even if it’s different than what other people care about? How are you going to inspire other people to do the same inside your organization?

The second challenge is managing risk and uncertainty. The world does not work in a linear way. Things change all the time, especially when there are groups of people involved. We can wake up one day and reality is completely different. How is your company or the group that you lead going to adapt and benefit from those changes?

The third would be to accomplish the first two in a way that is going to be healthy and sustainable for you. As a leader, one of the things you are is an example. I think it’s important to lead a life that is healthy overall and encourages the people you work with to do the same.

What is one must-read book for business leaders?
A book I enjoy is called Switch by Chip and Dan Heath. It’s a book about the psychology and the science of change, and emphasizing change within people. If there is something within yourself or within your organization you’d like to change, the steps to changing it may be less intuitive than you might think.

What do you do when you’re not working? Any surprising hobbies or talents?
I enjoy doing pretty much anything. I love to snowboard, surf, hike, play soccer, and workout. I just love variety. I like to try and learn new things as much as I can.

What is the best piece of leadership advice you have received?

If you want people to trust you, the way to earn their trust is to be 100 percent honest and transparent.

How has being in YPO positively affected your business or leadership?

I’d say a big part of leadership is empathy. Being a member of YPO is nice because you have a constant practice of learning to both receive and give empathy. For me, having more empathy is one of the most powerful things I can do to improve as a leader.


Resources for LGBT friends and family


PFLAG, which supports the LGBT community and helps to educate parents, families and friends recommends the following books when a loved one comes out:

Our Children and Our Trans Loved Ones, both from PFLAG

Gender Born, Gender Made: Raising Healthy Gender-Nonconforming Children, by Diane Ehrensaft, PhD

This Is a Book for Parents of Gay Kids: A Question & Answer Guide to Everyday Life, by Dannielle Owens-Reid and Kristin Russo.

Raising My Rainbow: Adventures in Raising a Fabulous, Gender Creative Son by Lori Duron

My Son Wears Heels: One Mom’s Journey from Clueless to Kickass by Julie Tarney

Jordan Montgomery came out as gay when he was 13 years old. He and his mom open up and share the best possible response. USA TODAY

Cheryl Bloch VRP

Northern Exposure (TV) Supervising Producer 1990 – 1995
Gideon Oliver (TV) Associate Producer 1989
A Year in the Life (TV) Associate Producer 1987 – 1988
Amazing Stories (TV) Associate Producer 1987
In the Media:
‘Northern Exposure’ Team Talks Possible Revival: “We Would Love to See It”  |  Hollywood Reporter  |  June 9, 2017
The cast and creative behind cult favorite Northern Exposure reunited Friday at the ATX Television Festival in Austin, Texas, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the former CBS series’ premiere.

“I think it was five years ago,” star Rob Morrow joked.

Like most reunions in the Peak TV era, the question turned to potential revival of the quirky drama, which ran for five seasons and 110 episodes. Set in a sleepy town in Alaska, the series centered on New York City physician, Dr. Joel Fleischman (Morrow), who is sent to practice in the fictional town of Cicely to fulfill his obligation after Alaska paid for his medical education.

“Rob has been working trying to get them to do it,” co-creator Joshua Brand said. “We would love to see it because I think it is of a time but it’s also not of a time.”

In addition to Morrow’s efforts, Darren E. Burrows, who played Ed on the series, has been working to raise money for the project. “It sounds like we all want it to happen,” said Cynthia Geary, who played Shelly.

Janine Turner, who played Maggie, encouraged those in the crowd to write to Universal Television, which produced the show. “Write Universal. At least we got to get it streamed,” she said of the series, which is not currently available to stream on any platform.

The push for a potential revival harkened back to the early efforts to simply get the series on the air. Brand recalled the show’s unassuming start when it quietly launched on CBS in the summer of 1990 with an eight-episode order.

“They didn’t think anyone would watch but they had to, they had to burn off an eight-episode series,” Brand recalled of the deal between Universal Television and CBS. “The network didn’t understand the show.”

Case in point? Brand recalled one of the original names pitched for the series was Dr. Snow. “Of course, they thought it was a medical show,” Brand said with a laugh. “Rob would get on his sled and carry the serum to the sick people.”

Because of that, CBS initially refused to air the season one episode, “Aurora Borealis: A Fairy Tale for Grown-Ups,” which has since become a fan-favorite and screened for fans Friday at the start of the panel. “When the network saw it, they thought it was too weird and odd and they didn’t want to air it,” Brand said. Producers convinced them to air it as the eighth and final episode of season one and it was quickly embraced by viewers.

“Once we knew that people did like this episode we actually, my partner and I, we turned to each other and we said, ‘We can do anything we want on this show,’ and it was incredibly liberating,” Brand said. “We understood that the audience was willing to go on any ride we wanted to take them. … It opened up the whole show for us.”

While the series was certainly off the beaten path, Morrow said it continues to resonate because it appealed to a broad spectrum of viewers. “It was highbrow and lowbrow,” he said. “You could be an intellectual and like it and be an idiot and like it, and that was really rare. It certainly on the page read like nothing I had ever read.”

Because the show was hard to understand, at least by network standards, the creative team was largely left alone, according to Brand. “We were fortunate in that we were flying under the radar,” he said. “At the time, we were fortunate to sort of have to fly by the seat of our pants.”

However, that all changed once the show became a runaway hit. Brand recalled a particularly big fight over the season-two episode titled “War and Peace,” in which Morrow’s character broke the fourth wall — a creative move that “horrified” the studio, he said.

“I got into a huge fight with them because they wanted me to change it,” he said. “I said, ‘No, this is it.'”

Brand then recalled bring flown to New York for a tough meeting with executives. “They sort of told me I was a really bad boy and I either had to kiss the ring or the threat was obviously to get rid of me,” he said. “It was an explicit threat. … I loved the show and I didn’t want to leave the show, so I kissed the ring.”

However, Brand went back to Los Angeles and soon found he was “miserable” and “unhappy.” So he called his agent and told him he was done with the show. Two hours later, Brand recalled, the studio called him. “They said, ‘Here’s the deal: You can do whatever you want, but you can’t ask us for any more money,'” he said with a laugh. “And I never got another note from them again.”

WE tv Builds Scripted Division, Appoints Cheryl Bloch Senior Vice President  |  Variety  |  October 30, 2013
Though WE tv is currently known for femme-forward reality fare, the AMC Networks cabler has major plans of expanding into scripted programming, and has appointed a new exec to lead the charge.

Cheryl Bloch has been named senior vice prez of scripted programming, WE tv announced today. She will report to the net’s recently hired prez Marc Juris, and be based in AMC Networks’ Santa Monica office.

In her new post, Bloch will scout, develop and produce scripted series, working with scribes, producers and studios on all aspects of a project. Bloch previously served as a consultant to WE tv, helping the net greenlight its first scripted series, “The Divide.” The drama, written by Richard LaGravanese and co-created by La Gravanese and Tony Goldwyn, will roll out next year. She also helped build WE’s development slate of scripted projects.

Before joining WE, Bloch was senior veep at Jennilind Prods., and has served as vice prez of drama development at Fox, where she developed shows including “24” and “Boston Public.”

Tony Goldwyn VRP


Tony Goldwyn is an American actor, producer, director and political activist. He portrayed Carl Bruner in Ghost, Colonel Bagley in The Last Samurai, and the voice of the title character of the Disney animated film Tarzan. He stars in the ABC drama Scandal, as Fitzgerald Grant III, President of the United States

Agent: Risa Gertner (CAA)
Manager: Steven Nossokoff, Jason Weinberg (Untitled Entertainment)


Twitter (500K followers):
Scandal (TV)Director, Actor2012 – 2017
The Divide (TV) Creator, Writer 2014
Justified (TV) Director 2010 – 2012
Hawthorne (TV) Director 2011
Damages (TV) Director 2010
Conviction Producer, Director 2010
Dirty Sexy Money (TV) Director 2007
Private Practice (TV) Director 2007
Kidnapped (TV) Director 2007
Six Degrees (TV) Director 2007
Alibi (TV) Director 2007
Dexter (TV) Director 2006 – 2007
The Last Kiss Director 2006
Law & Order (TV) Director 2006
Grey’s Anatomy (TV) Director 2005 – 2006
The L Word (TV) Director 2004 – 2006
Without a Trace (TV) Director 2004
Someone Like You… Director 2001
A Walk on the Moon Producer, Director 1999
In the Media:
‘Scandal’s Tony Goldwyn On Tonight’s Finale, The Final Season & Trump Era  |  Deadline  |  May 18, 2017

America’s first female President of the United States has taken office and survived an assassination attempt, but Vice President Luna Vargas is dead, thanks to Jake Ballard and a now truly all-powerful Olivia Pope – and that was just the last few minutes of tonight’s two-hour Scandal Season 6 finale.
About to launch into its now confirmed seventh and final season when Scandalreturns in September, the Shonda Rhimes-created and Kerry Washington-led D.C.-based drama definitely set the table just now that the EP promised it will leave nothing on when it’s all over.

One thing that will be gone in that final season is the presidency of Fitzgerald Grant III, as the Tony Goldwyn-portrayed POTUS left the White House with ex-wife Mellie (Bellamy Young) now occupying the Oval Office. However, as tonight’s Goldwyn-directed “Transfer of Power” finale episode made clear, the real power is not with the new President Grant but newly installed WH Chief of Staff Pope.

Having handed over the reins of her crisis management firm to a pregnant Quinn (Katie Lowes), forcing the Veep to take her own life, and poised to put the formerly disgraced Cyrus Beene (Jeff Perry) in as the next VP, two-time Emmy nominee Washington’s Pope kissed Fitz goodbye, for now, and embraced what has long seemed her destiny. Add to that, the character based on real-life POTUS 41 aide Judy Smith cut her Emmy-winning Joe Morton-played father off at the pass and pressed him back into service as she reinstated the covert and dreaded B613 unit – under her command.

With all that in mind and with the end in sight with Season 7, I chatted with Goldwyn about tonight’s finale, where Fitz and Olivia go next now that he is no longer POTUS and what’s in store for the end of Scandal. The director of the feature Walk on the Moon and episodes of Dexter, Justified, several Scandals and that other Shondaland show that had a finale tonight Grey’s Anatomy, among others, big-time Hillary Clinton supporter Goldwyn also revealed how he found out the show was coming to an end, where the series fits in the era of Donald Trump and how you pull off a TV presidential inauguration.

GOLDWYN: It feels a little weird for two reasons. Number one, I got kind of used to being the president. So all good things must come to an end, but people still call me Mr. President, so that’s cool. Also it feels weird because I have no idea what function my character will serve in the show, when I’m not president anymore. Shonda obviously has something in mind for one more season. So I’m really curious to see what she’s thinking.

DEADLINE: How did you find out that next year is going to be the last season?

GOLDWYN: We just found that out last week. Shonda called us and told us as a group. I had my suspicions that that might be the case.

DEADLINE: Shonda has said for this final season that she intends to leave nothing on the table for the final season – what does that mean to you after tonight’s finale?

GOLDWYN: You know, I heard Shonda say that. I’m not sure what that means, but I trust her to her word because she has quite the imagination. I guess what I think that would mean is she’s going to push herself and her writers as hard as she can to break new ground and to do things in a way that she hasn’t done them before. You know, to keep reinventing the show and to pursue the themes of this kind of gravitational pull of power, to its inevitable conclusion, you know what I mean? She’s going to really go for it and not be on cruise control at all.

You know, she did not want the show to wind down, that’s why she’s ending it at the end of Season 7. She wanted to finish while her creative imagination was still on the rise, I think, as opposed to, “OK, well, we’re kind of done, so let’s wind things down.” That’s not what she’s interested in.

DEADLINE: It did look for a few minutes like Fitz would be moving from the Oval Office to the real center of power running B613 for next season…

GOLDWYN: Exactly, and then after signing that executive order he does an about-face because of Olivia and recognizing this ring of power that is such an important force on Scandal and such a corrupting force.

It’s something that Shonda’s really exploring, all the time. In Shonda, and all the characters are drawn to it, particularly this season. In a funny sense, Fitz, who’s had such a complicated relationship with power, is drawn into the dark side for a minute. Thinking and deluding himself that he will be different. And then with Olivia, it’s such a great twist in the finale. Olivia talks him out of it or holds a mirror up, and then she falls forward herself into it.

DEADLINE: It really sets everything up for Season 7, with Kerry’s character truly at the pinnacle of power like never before.

GOLDWYN: We’ll see what happens. I think that’s such an interesting twist that she’s now gone all-in to what can only be a pretty dark road.

DEADLINE: Speaking of that dark road maybe to come, you did double duty with the finale, directing as well as playing the outgoing POTUS. You’ve obviously directed episodes of the show before as well as a fair share of TV, but a finale is a different game, isn’t it?

GOLDWYN: Yeah, doing the finale was really cool because you are bringing all the threads together and, like you said, launching, you know, getting ready to launch into the next season. This one was particularly fun because we had just some big stuff with this whole inauguration of Mellie as President, which was a really interesting challenge. You know, I love doing things, as a director, where you create the illusion of a giant event when you have limited resources. So we created this whole inauguration, which had to look awesome and impressive, because it was the finale, and it was the inauguration of the first woman president. So that turned out pretty well, I think.

DEADLINE: Talking about the notion of the first female president being inaugurated, that didn’t happen in real life, but instead we have scandals that almost make the scandals of Scandal look trite with President Trump. As someone who was a very open and vocal supporter of Hillary Clinton in last year’s election, how does this finale feel as you play out what’s one new presidency onscreen and another reality in real life?

GOLDWYN: Shonda has said, the night after the election, the writers, they all sat down and they were like we have to completely re-conceive our season. That was because they had really anticipated that Hillary was going to win, and Scandal was going to be doing something very different. Now I don’t know what that was exactly because I wasn’t privy to that.

I do know I feel like what they’ve done now is we’re kind of a bizarre counterpoint to what’s going on in the Trump White House.

You know, we could not be more outrageous or theatrical than what’s actually happening. Yet even though Shonda’s not literally commenting on it, I feel that somehow we’re this weird alternate reality that is in reaction to what’s happening in Washington now. I don’t even know quite how to describe it, but it feels very relevant. I don’t know if it’s emotionally or with the darkness of it, but something in Scandal this year feels very much connected to what’s happening in our political reality.

DEADLINE: Do you mean like how people used to say back in the early 2000s that Martin Sheen and The West Wing almost stood as the unofficial opposition to the Bush II White House? Do you think that’s a role that Scandal is going to play in its final season, with Mellie in the White House?

GOLDWYN: I don’t think it can because we’ve already thrown down as a very different thing. We were the opposite of that before because in the Obama years, there was this unassailable kind of first couple, and so we became the alternative of that, where we were this fundamentally corrupt and crazy, chaotic, scandalous house of power. So now that we have the Trump administration, we can’t whipsaw back and have Mellie be this sort of Martin Sheen-like president, because Mellie …well, Mellie is a complicated lady, you know? She’s more like Lady Macbeth. So honestly, no, I don’t think it can be like an unofficial opposition. But I do think Shonda has a lot to say, and she finds a way to say it, and so what we do will be very connected, I think, to what’s happening in Washington.

DEADLINE: Conceived and executed before it was official that Scandalwas going to end next season, what do you think fans of the show will take away from the Season 6 finale?

GOLDWYN: What Shonda’s so brilliant at, I think, will leave the fans, after the finale, feeling both satisfied and very frustrated — particularly with what happens with Olivia and Fitz. I was really so happy about was the way that that relationship evolved in that episode. It felt, you have that beautiful ending, which is very emotional, and yet it was kind of earned, and it wasn’t sentimental or obligatory, I think. It ultimately ends in a bittersweet way, and then later with Cyrus, it ends in a very dark and disturbing way for Olivia.

DEADLINE: You mean that last line about now being the most powerful person in the world feels right for Olivia?

GOLDWYN: Yes, that’s the greatest last line. Part of what makes it great for me is wondering what is that going to cost her. So, Shonda has done this thing where you feel so satisfied that Olivia has reached the pinnacle of power, and yet you know it ain’t going to go well for her. That’s a very dangerous place to sit.

There’s great satisfaction to Mellie being the president and the first female president, and yet she’s not the most powerful person in the world. It is her lieutenant, Olivia, who has the real power. Think of this, the threat of whoever was behind this conspiracy to murder Frankie Vargas and Mellie, you know now it was Luna, but there’s still plenty of threats out there. What I’m saying is I feel like there still feels there’s plenty of danger in our world. So the audience has that sense of satisfaction and yet jeopardy and instability, and that is what I think is what makes Scandal such a satisfying show.

DEADLINE: To that end, the evolution of their relationship and that dramatic public kiss before Fitz got on the helicopter, where can things go for your character and Kerry’s Olivia now?

GOLDWYN: (laughs) First of all, I really have no idea, and I never know what Shonda’s going to do. I also don’t really enjoy speculating too much because I love being surprised by her. But since you asked, I imagine, just as people, Fitz and Olivia can’t — they can’t stay away from each other, you know? They’ve tried before and they’ve been unsuccessful, so I feel like this pull between them is going to be unavoidable. I don’t know if it’ll end up working.

My guess is that Fitz is going to move forward and try and develop his new life, starting his foundation or whatever. I suspect, having no idea, at the same time that somehow the vortex that Olivia’s going to find herself in — as Cyrus says, the most powerful person on the planet — is going to have a cost. It will cost her in some profound way, and Fitz will, I can only believe, somehow have to either have to or want to step in. Whether Olivia reaches out to him or he reaches out to her, I don’t know, but I feel like there’s another round that they need to go that’ll deepen their relationship even further. I don’t know if they should be together or not, you know, because I don’t know if the circumstances of their lives will allow that, but I know they can’t be apart.

DEADLINE: We certainly saw that in alt-reality version of things in Episode 10 of this season and Episode 100 of the series, “The Decision,” where we glimpse the outcome of things if Olivia hadn’t stolen the election for Fitz. He became a cable news host and they are married — though not so happily, it seems. What was that shift out of Scandal‘s usual narrative lane like from your perspective?

GOLDWYN: I thought it was fascinating. It was a brilliant concept to do that, and it was very illuminating because to see all of the characters, function and evolve so differently. Because of a different set of circumstances, they literally became different people, and that allowed us to see what Olivia and Fitz’s relationship would be if he wasn’t the President of the United States and she wasn’t this sort of uber-successful person with access to all levels of power.

Like you said, their relationship sort of stumbled, and then they found each other at the end of it, which was kind of beautiful, you know? What I thought was most interesting about it was even though you got to know these characters, in that circumstance, it was completely different from the way that the actual reality evolved, and I felt that it informed our understanding and our relationship, as an audience, with these characters in the Scandal reality.

DEADLINE: There’s another last year of that Scandal reality coming, but after that, for you, are we going to see you directing more post-Scandal?

GOLDWYN: Definitely a lot more directing. You know it is an interesting assignment being episodic television director. I view it as like a great workout. You come in, you have to make decisions fast, but you’re doing only part of the job that one does as a feature film director or as a show creator.

Directing Scandal I’m really, as an episodic director, servicing Shonda. I’m there to bring her ideas to life, but all the final decisions are hers, even the cut. I turn my cut over to her, and in this case it was like 20 minutes too long because she needed to see everything that was written and shot. Then she makes the final decisions about structure and what the final cut of the show’s going to be. So, you know, for me, probably in the future, I would direct more on a show that I loved like Scandal; it’s fun. But to me, the great job is either directing a feature film or being on a show where I’m also an executive producer, where I’m really involved in every stage of it. That is the most exciting.