James Slusser has over twenty-five years’ experience as both a business leader and a consultant working with senior executive teams in the Americas, Europe, and Asia.
He has held senior leadership positions in a number of global marketing service, retail, and publishing companies and has worked in a wide range of industries including telecommunications, retail, financial services, automotive, agriculture, the performing arts, pharmaceuticals, and consumer products.
He has served as a senior advisor to both multinational corporations and start-ups, helping to craft corporate strategies, define marketing strategies, and improve organizational effectiveness.
in 2017 he founded Kurkuma and currently provides Web3 + iOS Development, Cryptocurrency Coaching, and Marketing + Operations Consulting
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Transcript
Kc Chohan:
Welcome ladies and gentlemen, to another episode of the CEO story, brought to you by together. CFOs. Thank you
so much together, CFO, for the sponsorship of the podcast. And if you’re looking to reduce your Taxable income to
single digits or eliminate capital gains. You can check out together CFO by hitting the link below. But for now
I’d like to introduce our main guest, which is James Slusser. He is the founder of Kurkuma. And that’s
a web three development services company, and also specializes in crypto currency, coaching, sorry for butchering
the name, James, but how are you doing.
James Slusser 4:11
Well, thank you. Thank you. Very happy to be here.
Kc Chohan 4:13
Fantastic. So why don’t we just stop by. Giving a quick introduction about yourself and Kakuma. And then we can
dig into your CEO journey.
James Slusser 4:24
Sure. So Kakuma was founded by me maybe five years ago. I want to say. And I want to have a software development
company that would allow me to basically just code wherever in the world. I happen to be. So we offer. Web three
and iOS software development services. I also offer cryptocurrency coaching, trading training. Or I’m an educator
in that space. And then I still will do some occasional marketing and operations consulting that sort of falls
into my lap from earlier in my career. But primary focus of Curcuma is what three software developers.
Kc Chohan 5:05
Fantastic. So for the people who don’t know what that is, Can you give us. A quick description of what web three
means in tangible English.
James Slusser 5:15
Absolutely. So it went through. Sort of the new term and the latest iteration of what’s going on in the internet.
If you’ll think back to like web one was probably around the.com area. When Amazon and all the other things very
first started. Web two was kind of money. Commerce came into the play and some other developments happen, but all
of the, all of the stuff that you’re doing. On the internet today, primarily. All of that data is owned by the
company who’s providing that service. All of your Facebook data is owned by Facebook. All of your Twitter data is
on by Twitter. And what theory is all about decentralizing, all of that. And so it’s a very new field, but it’s a
very exciting field. It feels because I’ve been around a while. It feels very much like the original.com area. Dot
com era. And it’s a very exciting time for me. And that’s why I’m in that area today.
Kc Chohan 6:05
Fantastic. So if I’m understanding it correctly, Is web 3.4, similar to what Bitcoin is doing for currency and
decentralizing currency. Is web three. Doing the same with inflammation against the corporate giants that control
the masses of information that’s out there.
James Slusser 6:22
Right. We won’t go too deep today. There’s opportunities for these large corporate giants to use blockchain
technology to help their businesses. But the ethos of web three is really decentralizing that data and allowing
you to own that data and to determine where to use it.
Kc Chohan 6:38
Perfect. No, that’s. That makes a lot of sense. And it really helps because, you know, in the news recently
there’s been things like Cambridge Analytica that have got this vast amount of debt. And honors build these
avatars and then just pump us with information, whether that’s true information, false information, and it’s an in
between that then serves their agenda rather than helps us as individuals.
James Slusser 7:04
Sure. Is selling the data. And they’re earning the revenue and you don’t get anything from that. So, Let’s change
that. So
Kc Chohan 7:11
let’s rewind a little bit. You you a very seasoned and very experienced in many things, but you didn’t become that
a little bit night. So why don’t we wind back the years and share a little bit about how it all started for you
and. And then originally in accountant. Right.
James Slusser 7:29
Absolutely. Absolutely. Okay. So in a nutshell, Born and raised a finance guy, went to school for finance and
business management. Originally many moons ago, I thought I wanted to be a Wolf of wall street, stockbroker. But
anyhow. Got my degree in finance worked in finance for the first third of my career. If you will. Shifted into ecommerce and operations. When e-commerce was a brand new thing. And really enjoyed that phase of it. And then the
last third of my career has probably been, it has been in marketing. I shifted again and went into marketing.
Which was interesting because that’s not what I was, you know, I wasn’t, I didn’t have a degree in that, but I,
you, I learned a lot about marketing and sort of just, I landed there through my experience.
I’ve had seen level jobs in, I’ve been a chief marketing officer. I’ve been a chief operating officer at. Some
technology companies and some smaller startups. I done my own startups in the past. That didn’t do particularly
well, but I loved the experience. And then. In 2017, I was living in Hong Kong at the time, and I knew that I
thought I was going to retire in a couple of years. But I had also always wanted to learn how to code. It was kind
of the one thing that I didn’t know how to do. I knew that six year olds were having coding in their curriculums
in schools. And I was like, okay, they can do it. I can probably do it. So it took me a while. Self-taught iOS.
Built some iOS apps and did that for five years to really, really enjoy
Kc Chohan 9:03
the driver because there’s many different things going on here. There’s a lot of right brain left brain
activities. And to go from the finance guy. Into marketing or e-commerce is a big shift initially, right? Because.
That’s. Completely different. Everything that you’d been taught previously. And for people that are stuck, that
I’ll try to pivot into a different industry. What was going on. At that point in time that made you shift. And
then how did you execute that shift?
James Slusser 9:33
So to shift from finance into e-commerce that literally fell into my lap. I was working for a large company in New
York city. At the time you have purely financial role. And this e-commerce opportunity came up. They approached me
and I explained to the interview, but I didn’t know about that side of it. And they said, look, we’re really. Like
that you’ve got the numbers background. We think you’re going to be able to learn the other piece of it. And so,
and I’m extremely curious and I always want to continue learning. And I was very, I’ve always been a tech nerd and
I was very excited about where the internet could go because it was so, so new at that time.
And so I had done e-com. I guess I had done e-commerce. At the, at the, kind of in my finance role, we, we were
doing it on our services. So I knew enough to talk about it. But I was offered the role in e-commerce. It was sort
of a direct to consumer role. For an online retailer that had physical stores, catalog, business and website, and.
Kc Chohan 10:36
Down a little bit then.
What I’m hearing is you have. Some vertical involvement in not industry. And the skill set. So the skillset was
one of being able to understand numbers, being curious and problem solve, and really, and then. The employers saw
that in you, but you’ve had these really good qualities. On that it would be really easy transition or a
relatively easy transition into. Learning this one other piece. That matched up to your skill set to get to that
end outcome. Does that sound right?
James Slusser 11:12
Correct? Correct.
Kc Chohan 11:14
So I think for the people listening. A lot has to be said about that is looking at. What type of qualities that
you have as an individual, what are you good at? What are you capable of? Where can you get results? And then if
there’s a vertical, it’s similar enough to that off. Adjacent enough that you could add that to yourself to help
them open up more opportunities. I think that’s the way I would break it down.
Got it.
James Slusser 11:42
Yes.
Kc Chohan 11:42
Okay, makes sense. I’ll continue on. So then from e-commerce. You went into more of the web. iOS programming.
James Slusser 11:52
No for me. From from e-commerce. I went into the marketing world.
Kc Chohan 11:56
Okay.
James Slusser 11:57
And that specifically happened because. Someone that I had known previously in my career had changed jobs and they
contacted me and wanted me to kind of take this role on. And when I was interviewing for the role, I very quickly
realized that it was a sales and marketing role. And that was one skill that I did not have ticked off in the box
in my career. And I had a dot a drive and a desire to increase my level of responsibility wherever I was. And I
knew that I needed to, I needed to add that in order to be a well-rounded executive. The sales aspect of it
absolutely terrified me at first, but I knew I needed to be able to do it. Sorry. So. I bit the bullet and jumped
in and thankfully it worked out.
Kc Chohan 12:44
That’s really important to know because you know, I’m a finance guy, my background’s in accountancy. And when I
started my own company, I had the same thing. I was really scared. Hey, how do I learn sales and marketing? Like.
I’m good at crunching numbers. I. I can analyze trends, but speaking to someone and then we’re super high ticket
as well. So not just to sell a thousand or $10,000 product, but to sell hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of
one product or service is it’s very different. So how did you. One back yourself because that’s a big step, right?
You’re taking a big position on going into the unknown. One thing I’m picking up from me. The conversation is that
you’ve always had this curiosity and this willingness to learn and improve and get better. So why do you think.
That comes from, because I think that’s a really key, important trip that’s followed you around.
James Slusser 13:40
I don’t know that I can put my finger on it, but I’ve always been curious. And to this day, I’m curious. I think
I’m always going to be curious. It’s a
Kc Chohan 13:48
really, really good trait to have because it feeds into constant improvement. And getting better every. Every
single live. Cause you just curious and you’re like, oh, what about this? And what about this? It just connects
all the dots. So let’s go back to the sales role that how did you go about excelling in that new environment and
letting that new skill and Lennon it quickly?
James Slusser 14:12
So, I guess I was exposed to some very brief training. Like any new person is when they enter a new role, but I
really relied on. My network of people that work in those types of roles. I asked, I asked for help. That’s
consistent throughout my career is. You know, when I, when I have a problem in general, when I have a problem that
I cannot solve. I will try. Fail. Get mad. Maybe feel sorry for myself for a day. And then try again, and if I
still can’t solve it, I will ask for help.
Kc Chohan 14:48
So. It says it all right. I think all grit people realize when they need help. We, you know what you know, and you
also know what you don’t know, and that’s where network comes in. Mentorship comes in and just generally being
able to put your hand up, put your ego to one side and just say, Hey, I’m struggling with this. Has anyone been
through it? Or can anyone help guide me? Not that you necessarily have to take all of the guidance, but if you
take one or two nuggets from each person that you’re asked. You’ll definitely have a much more robust solution at
the end of that.
James Slusser 15:21
Yeah, I agree. A hundred percent.
Kc Chohan 15:23
So let’s talk about network then, because that kind of pivots us into, how did you build a good network around you
or a support team around you that when you needed help and support, you could reach out to them and get really
good advice to help XL. Korea.
James Slusser 15:41
So I spend a significant amount of my time. Maintaining my network. And what I mean by that building and
maintaining my network. And what I mean by that is way early in my career. And again, I think someone recommended
that I do this. I meant. Like a supervisor or a boss or someone I respected at the time told me to do this. And so
I did it. And whenever I went to any industry function or any business meeting or anything, I would gather. Not a
million business cards, but business cards from the people that have actually had some interaction breaths where I
shook their hand or looked them in the eye or something like that. And then I always followed up with them. I
would send them an email the next day. I would. You. You know, whenever LinkedIn was around, I would connect with
them on LinkedIn. And I didn’t. Typically, I didn’t have anything specific to ask of them. I didn’t have a need.
It was just to establish a relationship then. And I don’t do this for every person because there’s not enough
hours in the day, but if possible I would have a face-to-face meeting or a coffee or a lunch or whatever. And just
get to know them a little bit, get to know a little bit about these people. I would keep. Brief brief notes on
that. So I could remember.
And then I would follow up with them periodically. Maybe every six months, maybe once a year, maybe more
frequently, depending on the relationship, but just to touch base and say, Hey, where are you? What’s new with
you. Here’s what.
And what I have found after building that network over time. And it takes time obviously, but the network. Has
served me better than I could ever possibly imagine. So when I had, when I, so back to earlier, when I needed
help, I would ask for help. And. A ton of people would come back and help me. And I was shocked the first time it
happened. I couldn’t believe people were willing to do that, but they will wear. And I similarly give back as much
as I can.
Kc Chohan 17:40
So the few things that really good points I want is to be in an environment to meet new people. Cause if you
didn’t go to any of those events or shake people’s hands, you wouldn’t have been in the room to then be able to
follow up. But once you’re going to these events and you’re meeting people, Is to. Actually have a conversation
with those look, I’ve been in the room and just beat in one call and I look it at the call that. You’ve got to be
interacting with people. You’ve got to connect with them. Not everybody, obviously. You’re not going to remember
everybody, but just take enough cards. And then I think the key, another key point is the follow-up. Is shouldn’t
them an email? Being of service, I’ll be in a value and not wanting something from them straight away, but just
really getting to know who they are. And what they do. I’m being genuine about it and not kind of having an
ulterior motive. I think people see through that very quickly. And then you really smart. You said you took notes,
right? Because you’re not going to remember this random person from six months ago that you only met at one event
all for lunch. So having good notes so that you’ve got something to reference back to, and then ultimately making
a database of, Hey, I met Peter, he was in web development. It could be a good resource. We could partner. We
could cross refer. And then when the question comes up and you need help in that area, you’ve got a catalog, got
indexed in a way that can help you. Reach out to the right network and kind of keep cultivating, not like you
said. On on a monthly or quarterly basis, if it’s just a quick text or an email, but just letting them know that
you’re around and. That you, that really, that you’re not forgotten.
James Slusser 19:17
Right, because I would say like the bulk of my network. We would call me and say, Hey, do you know someone who can
do X? Or what do you know about this company? Or what do you know about whatever? And I didn’t know anything about
it, but I knew somebody that did. And I would say, look, Joe, here’s Mary, go have a coffee. And I would introduce
the two of them. Joe here’s Mary Mary, who is Joe. Talk to each other, figure it out. And
Kc Chohan 19:40
that’s really, really powerful. So one of the groups that I’m part of is entrepreneurs organization, and they do a
great job of that. In terms of the so many members in the community, in the local chapter, but then also
nationally and then also internationally. So. You’re going to reach out to someone. If you want a local law or the
other side of the world, that’s got some form of expertise in what you’re looking for. And it’s kind of a
fraternity for adults is the way I see it. So it’s, it’s really good strong network and there’s plenty of other
networks out there that do similar things. So definitely recommend looking at. Research in what would be a good
fit for, for you listeners out there and I’m going to join one of them and see how that can help you. So, James,
let’s transition into now starting your own company and working for yourself. And making that transition from
being a high-paid corporate executive to work in slowly be yourself. How was that transition and how did all that
come about?
James Slusser 20:40
Sure. So I have enough gray in my beard to tell the world that I’ve been around the block up enough. But in the, I
want to say in the early two thousands in the U S. There was a fairly big recession at the time. And everybody got
laid off. Everybody that I knew got laid off and the people that had their jobs were claiming to them for dear
life. And I couldn’t get a job to save my life. I interviewed like a madman. I networked like a madman and I
probably went. A year without working and I was freaked out. And I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. And then.
During that time periodically, I would have people come to me and say, Hey, why don’t you do this consulting gig
for me? And I had zero interest in doing consulting work. I had the history and the comfort of a big corporate
paycheck and big corporate benefits. And that’s what I knew and that’s where I was comfortable. And I didn’t want
to do anything else. But then after enough time pass and I couldn’t find a full-time job, ironically, I had five
different people contact me within a two week period and said, will you do this contract work for me? And I
thought, you know what? Maybe the universe is trying to tell me something, so let’s give it a shot. I set up my
first LLC. I had enough work from these five jobs to last about six months. And I thought that’s going to give me
enough time to see if I enjoy this or not. If I do, I’ll do more biz dev and grow the consulting business. If I
don’t, I’ll go back and do a corporate gig and we’ll see what happens. And so that’s how my first. Consultancy was
born. And it was interesting and fun and hard. But that’s where it started. That’s
Kc Chohan 22:23
fantastic. And then how did it evolve from there? So that then was the first five that kind of got the ball
rolling. After let’s say the six month mark. Where you instantly in love with having that flexibility and freedom
of working for yourself, or will you still,
James Slusser 22:38
oh, I hate it regularly.
Kc Chohan 22:41
Yeah, how did it go?
James Slusser 22:42
I really disliked looking for new work, but luckily the network that I am, so fondly speaking have really served
me well and people would throw me jobs here and there. But the real answer is after about, I can’t remember the
full timing, but I think after about a year of doing that full time, I was married at the time. My first marriage
and my husband came in and said, Hey, I have an opportunity to work overseas. Do you want to go? I’m like sure.
And so we moved overseas. I kind of put the consulting gig on hold. I continued to wrap up the work that I had,
but my network through LinkedIn allowed me to land a job overseas without ever even having been there. And that
turned into one of my CMO jobs. Interestingly enough. That’s
Kc Chohan 23:32
crazy. It’s just like, go with the punches. I love how you’re a very free spirit in that regard. Why. You’re
willing and able to step up or into a different. Industry or avenue or angle and just kind of roll with it. What
are some of the ways you’ve managed to deal with those changes? Because there’s been a lot of them, whether that’s
changing industry, changing profession, changing location. And then again, recently you moved again. Well, it’s a
San Diego, but. How do you. Deal with or cope with all of those changes and adopt.
James Slusser 24:10
I think a lot of that just depends on your own individual personality. And I probably couldn’t have predicted it
before I actually had to do it, but for me, because I’ve traveled extensively and I’ve moved extensively. I love
it. I love wherever I go. Everybody always asks me. What’s the favorite place you’ve ever lived in the world. And
I can’t name one because whenever I go anywhere, I know I’m there for a limited time. I really make an effort to
know the local people, to appreciate the local environment that. And the culture of it at that time. Cause that’s
never going to change. I mean, that’s going to change. And just enjoy. Wherever I am as much as I can for the time
that I’m going to be there, because one day I’m not going to be there. And so I want to be able to look back
fondly.
Kc Chohan 24:53
Yeah, like that, it’s kind of being present in the moment and making the most of each situation as it presents
itself. Rather than being too close minded or too rigid. So as we look to wrap up, how can people reach out to
you? I’ll get in contact with you.
James Slusser 25:10
Best way to contact me is on Twitter. You can reach my company Curcuma at, at Kerr Kuma. Ko. K U R K U. I Macio.
Or my personal is at J Slusser, J S L U S S E R. Either one works fine.
Kc Chohan 25:25
Got it. And we’ll put the links just below that so that everyone can get an easy time. Visiting your website led
in a little bit more about web 3.0. And crypto trading. So James, thank you so much for being a guest. And sharing
your story.
James Slusser 25:40
Thank you so much.
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