Clifford R. Kurtzman, Ph.D.
Favorite quote: “If I have seen further it is by standing on ye sholders of Giants.”
–Sir Isaac Newton, in a letter to Robert Hooke, 1676.
My name is Cliff Kurtzman, and this is my story — my chance to tell you a bit about myself and how and why the “dominoes” of my life have fallen in such a way as to lead us to connect at this exact time and place.
This year I started a new venture called The Domino Principle. Through The Domino Principle blog, I address how “dominoes” — disruptive world events, as well as the actions of those close to us — provide us with challenges that are often outside of our direct control. Unless we take appropriate actions, such challenges can lead to a cascade of crushing consequences for ourselves, our families, and our businesses.
My ten “Domino Principles” provide a framework for anticipating and reacting to such challenges in a manner that allows us to take control of our lives and businesses, navigate the present, and shape an exceptional future — showing us how to thrive and flourish by understanding how events happening today will impact our lives tomorrow.
I launched The Domino Principle in 2015 by building on my experiences in seeing technology trends in the world before they became widely realized, figuring out how they would impact our lives and then creating businesses that leveraged those trends ahead of many others.
From Then to Now: Yes, I Really am a Rocket Scientist
When I was nine years old, Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon, and I had set out to try to follow in his footsteps. Armstrong’s “giant leap for mankind” had given me a sense of vision that since has guided my career towards an opening up of those frontiers new to me. I had grown up in West Los Angeles, and I went on to earn a Bachelor of Science degree (1981), summa cum laude, in Aerospace Engineering from the University of California at Los Angeles.
The next new frontier for me was at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where I obtained a Master of Science (1984) and a Doctor of Philosophy (1988) degree in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering. In the summer of 1983, I participated in and contributed to the NASA-ASEE Summer Faculty Program held at the NASA Ames Research Center on “Autonomy and the Human Element in Space.”
New frontiers in my field of study at that time meant Houston, so college was followed by six years at Space Industries International, Inc., an entrepreneurial start-up focused on decreasing the costs and increasing the commercial potential of working in space. At Space Industries, I had had the exceptional opportunity to work with much of the team that had led the design of the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and Space Shuttle spacecraft. In a variety of both technical and business development roles at the company, I worked on several commercial spacecraft programs, and acted as one of the lead developers for an innovative spacecraft mission control center (shown at right). During the time that I had been involved with the company, Space Industries had expanded from 33 to 2,700 people, through both growth and merger. You can read about many of the important business lessons I learned from my days at Space Industries in my article: Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: What I Learned from Max Faget and Joe Allen.
From My Place to Yours: Speaking to Business Groups
I have enjoyed engaging in person with business groups through the years, giving presentations, keynotes and workshops across the United States along with speaking excursions to Canada, Brazil, Israel, Japan, Netherlands, Germany, and to Norway.
“Your presentation to ING was so well received last year that we would like to invite you to speak to another group of our general management.”
— Simon H. van Otichem, ING Group, The Netherlands
“Thanks again for inviting me to your speaking engagement on Wednesday. I truly enjoyed it. I now understand why people pay you so much money to come and speak. You did a great job.”
— Gary Remy, CEO, Bizopia (PS… I’m not really that expensive!)
From Rocket Science to “Rock it” Science: MyCityRocks
My interests both in social networking and in how the Internet can help shape new types of virtual communities led me to found MyCityRocks in 2005, a social engagement venture designed to help people have fun, give back to their communities, and represent their pride and spirit in their part of the world. The company continues to operate a very successful online ticket marketplace called the MyCityRocks Ticket Exchange. For those looking for the very best seats to a concert, theatre or sporting event around the world, or seeking tickets to an event that is sold out at the box office, the MyCityRocks Ticket Exchange nearly always has tickets available, so that those who we care about will never suffer the disappointment of not getting great seats to an event that they want to see.
Under my leadership, the company has realized more than $33 million in sales since 2007, and I was recognized by the Houston chapter of the Entrepreneurs Organization as Entrepreneur of the Year for my work in achieving exceptional growth for MyCityRocks. The company also received the 2011 Enterprise Award For Community Service, and the “Most Promising I.T. and Web 2.0 Company” award from the Rice Alliance I.T. and Web 2.0 Venture Forum.
From Outer Space to Cyberspace: The Tenagra Corporation
In early 1994, the first company that I founded, The Tenagra Corporation, joined the NASA Johnson Technology Commercialization Center, an incubator designed to help entrepreneurial companies spin NASA technology out into the commercial sector. NASA was one of the very first organizations in the world to use the Internet to tell its story to the public, and I quickly realized that businesses would soon be leveraging the power of the Internet to communicate their mission out to customers. Tenagra thus became the first online marketing and web development agency in Houston, and one of the very first in the world. Tenagra supported a diverse client base including such notable organizations such as IBM, ING Group, Compaq, Unisys, EDS, Shell Chemical, NetIQ, US West, and Dynegy.
We built the first Internet web site to provide real-time information transmitted from orbit by a commercial spacecraft, and the first commercial on-line presence for Harley-Davidson, which led to my being profiled as part of the 24 Hours in Cyberspace project. We achieved international press coverage for Tenagra’s online activities, and I became known as one of the founders of the emerging Internet marketing industry, interviewed by and/or quoted in publications such as The New York Times, Internet World, Success, FORTUNE, Information Week, Washington Technology, the Houston Chronicle, the Houston Business Journal, and Interactive PR. I also served as founder and moderator for the Online Advertising Discussion List — for many years, the Internet’s leading online forum for the discussion of online advertising, public relations and publicity.
My role at Tenagra also included designing the corporate mission, staffing the organization and its management, marketing the company, developing media relationships, creating financing strategies, acquiring clients, and, in 1998, performing the acquisition and integration of Internet Publicity Services, an online public relations firm, based in the State of Washington.
In 2001, I received the “Texas eComm Ten Award” from the Texas Electronic Commerce Association, recognizing me as one of ten Texans behind the many facets of eCommerce driving the State’s business and economy. Tenagra also received the Blue Chip Enterprise Award from Mass Mutual and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce recognizing inspirational achievement in business. Also in 2001, Tenagra had been named to the Houston 100, distinguishing the company for its sales growth over the period of 1998-2000, and to the Fast Tech 50, citing the company as one of the fastest growing technology businesses in Houston from 1999 to 2000. I also served as a founding member of the board of directors for the Association of Internet Professionals (AIP), an international society for the Internet professional services industry.
From Apprentice to Master: The Year 2000 Information Center
Master Yoda once said… “Always two there are, no more, no less. A master and an apprentice.” If that is the case, then Peter de Jager was the Master under whom I apprenticed.
In 1995, change management consultant Peter de Jager and I created an online venture called The Year 2000 Information Center. This ground-breaking venture really brought home how the Internet could be rapidly used to build a global community within the IT industry that brought together people with a problem to be solved (IT users) with people who had solutions (IT vendors). The venture effected change on a worldwide basis, playing a substantive role in enabling others to take the actions necessary to fix their software and prevent billions of dollars in damages that would otherwise have occurred. This venture also became one of the biggest success stories in advertising supported Internet publishing. For my part in this venture, Razor Magazine profiled me in a February 2005 article as one of eighteen “newsmakers and shakers who witnessed some of the most defining moments of the past 40 years.”
Tennis, Management Consulting, and EO…
More than 20 years ago, I started (and still continue to publish) the very first tennis publication on the Internet — The Tennis Server. It is really more of a hobby than a business, but it has given me the opportunity to sit down with and interview Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova, among many others, and for a lifetime tennis enthusiast like me, that is the equivalent of heaven!
In 2003, I founded ADASTRO Incorporated, a consulting practice that applied the principles of “Rocket Science” to work with CEO’s undertaking significant corporate transformation and value enhancement projects. Over time, ADASTRO has evolved to become the business entity that manages the operations of my publishing ventures, including Tennis Server and The Domino Principle.
I have served as a member and director of the Houston chapter of the Entrepreneurs Organization (EO), as both Communications Chair and Community Outreach Chair. As a Regional Communications Director for the Entrepreneurs Organization, I also served as coach and guide to business leaders serving as Communications Chairs for EO Chapters across the western USA.
It really made my day when a former employee recently sent me this graphic on the right and told me it reminded her of what it was like to work for me! It showed she really understood why I do things the way I do.
And a bit about me personally…
I choose to live my life with a belief system centered on love, curiosity, and striving to become a better person, and the perspective that spiritual enlightenment comes from sharing these things with those whom I love, while continually seeking to gain a deep and undistorted understanding of the universe that we live in.
I have an awesome daughter. She is my dive-buddy and a dancer extraordinaire. She is currently a pre-med neuroscience major in college in Atlanta.
I would characterize myself as being precise, deliberate, intuitive, introverted, empathic, creative, and thoughtful. I have faith and confidence in my strengths, and believe I am capable of achieving great things. I am not afraid to reach for the stars, and I am not afraid to fail, as long as I can turn my experiences into learning opportunities.
I spend as much of my life as I can finding beauty in the world and having adventures. I have traveled the world extensively. I take great joy in having created businesses that I find extraordinarily fun (most of the time) and intellectually challenging, and that I can operate from my laptop from most anywhere in the world.
I find that I am nearly always happy if I can accomplish six simple things each and every day… 1) Get some exercise; 2) Learn something new; 3) Have an adventure; 4) Do something productive that makes the world a better place; 5) Spoil someone who I love; and 6) Spoil myself.
I have great appreciation for outstanding cuisine and wine, and am a fairly decent amateur chef. Music and attending concerts are a frequent pastime. I love the outdoors and my favorite sports and exercise activities include tennis, running, gym, hiking, scuba (Rescue Diver certified), surfing, water skiing, and snow skiing.
I navigate life seeing a spectrum of possible tomorrows for myself and for mankind. This gives me the power to choose and shape the future. And I do.
And finally, and most importantly, I believe that nothing in the world is more powerful than true love.
Use This Form To Contact Cliff Kurtzman:
2323 Clear Lake City Blvd.
Houston, TX 77062
Phone: +1 281-480-6300