[quote style=”boxed”]First, create realistic goals that can be defined and tracked. Second, it’s important to remember that nobody, CEO or otherwise, is an island, and you’re only as strong as the rest of your team. Be sure to ask for and listen to advice from everyone in your organization.[/quote]
Neil Alpert is the CEO and a Director of LaserLock Technologies, Inc. In his capacity as CEO, Mr. Alpert is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of the company as well as its vision for the future. His background spans over a decade of management experience in the political, non-profit and business sectors.
From 2011 to 2012 Mr. Alpert served as President of The Kiawah Group, a boutique government relations and development firm specializing in fundraising, advocacy, non-profit consulting and global representation.
Prior to 2011 Mr. Alpert served as Special Assistant to the Chairman of the Republican National Committee. In his role as Special Assistant, Mr. Alpert orchestrated a nationwide political outreach campaign targeting over 100 congressional districts. In addition, the campaign helped inspire the largest Congressional seat change since 1948 and the largest for any midterm election since the 1938 midterm elections.
Prior to joining the Republican National Committee, Mr. Alpert served in a number of capacities in the non-profit world ranging from National Campaign Director at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) to working with Plácido Domingo and the Washington National Opera. He also worked with health-focused organizations such as the Red Cross and the American Cancer Society.
Mr. Alpert’s management experience ranges from managing small teams of just four employees to teams as large as 100+. In each situation, Mr. Alpert’s leadership and vision has led to significant increases in productivity and output.
Mr. Alpert is involved with a number of charities and most recently served on the Board of Directors for the Armed Forces Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing comfort and solace to members of the military. He also sits on the Board of Advisors for the Institute of World Politics, a graduate school focused on supplying professional education in statecraft, national security and international affairs.
What is LaserLock Technologies focused on right now?
LaserLock Technologies produces security solutions that fight counterfeiting, protect brands, and safeguard people’s identities. Right now, we’re directing our focus on pharmaceuticals, gambling and identity protection, and we approach each industry differently.
People often think that the issues regarding fake pharmaceuticals are mostly concentrated in third world nations, and that’s mostly true due to limited resources and access to biometric technology. However, if only 0.001% of the four billion prescriptions filled in the United States every year were compromised, that still amounts to 40,000 potentially deadly prescriptions. Placing easily distinguishable anti-counterfeiting marks on drug labels would allow consumers to discern whether their drugs were real. We could drastically reduce, even eliminate, the counterfeit pharmaceutical market in the U.S., and make significant reductions in the developing countries as well.
Gambling is different, but nonetheless an essential area of our business. For about a decade, we provided the gambling industry with a covert technology that authenticated the chips moving in and out of casinos. The recent legalization of online gambling in Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware has increased demand for solutions that verify the age, legal jurisdiction and identity of gamblers. We successfully completed testing for the expansion of VerifyMe™, our online gambling multi-factor authentication platform. This will allow us to protect casinos from fraudulent players, as well as the players themselves who often use the same password on their ATM, garage access codes or various websites.
Lastly, we know that the identity protection business is not only vast (Department of Justice estimates at least four million U.S. bank accounts are compromised each year due to identity theft), but the market is also crowded and competitive. We look at it through a slightly different lens and focus on ensuring that an individual’s documents, such as driver’s license or passport, are authentic. We have partnered with American Banknote Corporation, or ABnote, who are the best in the field and by combining their production capabilities with our anti-counterfeiting technology, we believe the partnership is a homerun in identity protection.
What is your strategic vision for the future of LaserLock?
Counterfeiting and identity theft have become global problems that affect us all. By 2015, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) predicts counterfeiting will reach a global value of over $1.7 trillion, or two percent of the world’s total economic output. We don’t want people to die from counterfeit medicines, foods or beverages. We don’t want people fooled by thieves and charlatans. We don’t want governments held hostage by terrorists and organized crime. We don’t want a woman to discover that her first designer handbag, paid for with hard earned money, is actually a worthless counterfeit. We are working on a technology that enables every consumer to be an “anti-counterfeiter” by simply using items they currently possess, like their smartphone.
How do you make money?
People sometimes confuse us for an ink company since we started out with the creation of anti-counterfeiting pigments, but we’ve strategically moved away from the ink space. LaserLock generates revenue by licensing our technology and charging small royalties on every item that is protected by our technology.
What does your typical day look like?
2013 was the first year that we really saw LaserLock change from an R&D company to a sales driven solutions company, and as such, I’m not sure that we have fallen into the “typical day” groove yet. Regardless, I start my day with an iced green tea from Starbucks and a copy of “Good Morning LaserLock,” a daily email blast containing articles that are relevant to our industry, created in-house and shared amongst all of our employees. After that, it usually starts with a business development meeting, followed by a technology discussion led by our CTO. It’s anyone’s guess after that, but a majority of my day is usually spent interacting with existing customers and prospects. There is one constant though – I have the opportunity to work with an amazingly talented staff and learn from our Board of Directors, all of whom could not be smarter or more actively engaged.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Anyone who has been involved in a small business will probably say that the best model is a collaborative one, and I couldn’t agree more. We believe in a lot of whiteboards and brainstorming. Our brainstorms include everyone, from our tech people to our sales, marketing and PR people and more. We look at an idea from every angle, poking and plugging holes until we can’t find any more. Once the idea has legs, I like to utilize the collective wisdom of our Board to help fine tune it and develop a go-to-market strategy.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Rather than describe what excites me, I’ll share what keeps me up at night. In 2007, New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said that counterfeiting is “virtually all profit and it isn’t funding anything good. It is a threat to democracy and a threat to the rule of law.” Following the arrests of a counterfeit and smuggling ring this past May, Kelly again expressed concern because “similar schemes have been used in the past to help fund terrorist organizations.”
Everyday we go to work thinking about not only how we can help save lives by protecting pharmaceutical companies, but also what we create at LaserLock that will have an impact on all of us. What excites me (even if it’s not a trend) is that we are making a difference.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I don’t know that I’ve ever had a bad job. Even when I’ve done something that I haven’t enjoyed, I’m able to look back on it to see what I’ve learned. When we’re young we intend to follow a path in life, but as we grow older we start to better understand how every experience, on and off of the path, helps to mature, teach and make us who we are.
How have you helped LaserLock evolve over the years, and would you have done anything differently?
Our founder, Norman Gardner, laid an amazing foundation from which I have been able to build upon. Our Board of Directors has provided my team and I with the tools and opportunities to succeed. Everyday I try to guide everyone here to incubate successes, and at the end of everyday I reflect on what I would have done differently; I take those lessons and use them to guide me the following day.
As a business leader, what can you recommend to other leaders who are in the same situation?
First, create realistic goals that can be defined and tracked. Second, it’s important to remember that nobody, CEO or otherwise, is an island, and you’re only as strong as the rest of your team. Be sure to ask for and listen to advice from everyone in your organization. When your staff and Board of Directors work together as a single, efficient unit, you’ll start producing results. Mistakes in a young company are bound to happen, so it’s best to accept, fix and don’t repeat. Or else you’ll be too busy fixing new problems.
Describe one challenge that LaserLock addresses, and how you help to overcome it.
Counterfeiting is a problem that spans many industries, and tackling such a global issue isn’t easy. We’ve found success by breaking down the problem into sectors and carefully picking only as many fights as we can handle in a few areas at a time.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
One of the best business ideas I’ve heard of in a while is the Hyperloop Alpha Design proposed by Elon Musk, the serial entrepreneur best known as the co-founder of Tesla Motors and PayPal.
Personally, I think it’d be a great idea to require registrants to share one of their original ideas rather than pay a fee to gain entry to a business or industry conference. Entrepreneurs often hold ideas close to their chest, so this is a creative way to leverage their knowledge and promote the use of information sharing among industry professionals. I know that I’d attend a conference like that if it gave me the opportunity to share ideas for the greater good of entrepreneurism.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
This may sound a bit promotional, but it’s my strongest belief. The proliferation of fake pharmaceuticals is a problem that is rarely discussed; yet people are dying from it. It’s due to those who are motivated by financial greed, and driven by high access and low costs. If companies like ours banded together with pharmaceutical companies, foundations and government entities to solve the problem of fake or tainted pharmaceuticals, I believe we really could change the world.
Tell us something about you that very few people know.
My Meema (grandmother) and I have probably seen over 100 Broadway shows together.
What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
There’s little time in my day to check into the news, so I keep The Drudge Report and Twitter up and follow as many reporters as I can. I wind up beating most of my friends to the good stories that way anyway. And since I’m in the process of updating my condo, I’ve been spending way too much time recently on the Restoration Hardware website.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Every day, data, requests, emails and phone calls come flying at us at a frenetic rate and I find that if I don’t keep track of everything, too many issues fall through the cracks. Read The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande and you’ll realize how important a list really is.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
@BillGates because he is changing the world, @ApoloOhno because you have to have someone cool on your Twitter feed, and @SteveCase because he’s leading the charge for entrepreneurship.
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
My young assistant, Nick, came back from a beach vacation recently where he got a lot of sun. He tends to look in the mirror quite often so my first thought was that he didn’t go away to the beach and got sunburnt, but instead went away for a quick Botox treatment (to which I was very wrong, he was at the beach). I wound up laughing for about three days.
Who is your hero?
My parents who are the best resources I have, but above all, my grandfather. He passed away when I was younger, but I’ve rarely, if ever, met anyone who doesn’t say that he was one of the smartest and hardest working people they have ever met. He made sure I would be able to graduate debt free, so he is not only my hero, but he also gave me one of the greatest gifts I could ever receive – an education.
What would Michael do?
The Chairman of our Board, Michael Sonnenreich, has not only been my friend, but also a mentor for a long time. I know that if I am doing something he would do professionally, more often than not, it will turn out to be the right decision.
What would my parents do?
Most of my best ideas have resulted from discussions with my parents. Much of my foundation comes from what I soaked up at the kitchen table as a child. They are the best role models I could ask for, so I regularly ask myself, “What would Mom and Dad do?”
LaserLock Technologies on Twitter: @LaserLockTech
LaserLock Technologies Publically traded as OTC:LLTI
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.