Dave Liu – Tech Investment Banker, CEO Advisor

Dave Liu Wall St. tech veteran

David Liu is a retired tech investment banker who now advises CEOs and makes strategic investments to support Asian content creators. A mutual friend introduced us and I was surprised to have met someone else with so many shared interests and passions, while never crossing paths!

His personal journey includes moving from China to the US and having to pay for everything on his own, including a college degree from an Ivy League university.

After seeing the long list of job openings for investment banks, he applied and made it through the rigorous hiring process to land his first Wall St. internship.

Dave learned a LOT about cultural differences and became an astute observer of people, learning what nuanced behaviors made for great success in high-powered environments.

And he continued to study and learn… 

At the pinnacle of his career as the youngest person to have made Managing Director, Dave made a seemingly crazy decision; he left after 25 years and decided to write his observations and notes as a way to share his learnings with his sons. Anyone interested in working on Wall Street will find tremendous value reading The Way of the Wall Street Warrior

About Dave Liu

Dave Liu started his investment banking career working for Goldman Sachs and then joined the fledgling investment bank, Jefferies, when it had fewer than 200 employees and an equity market capitalization of under $200 million. Jefferies was a scrappy, entrepreneurial California-based bank that was started by an ex-cattle rancher in a phone booth and dared to challenge the incumbent giants of Wall Street. Today, Jefferies is a multi-billion dollar diversified public company (NYSE:JEF).

Over almost 25 years at Jefferies, Dave progressed from the proverbial janitorial suite to Managing Director co-running all Digital Media and Internet investment banking activities. He’s  worked with hundreds of companies, including IBM, Google, Microsoft, Sony, Yahoo!, and Yelp. He’s managed all aspects of capital markets, venture capital and advisory for high growth Internet and technology companies and completed over 100 transactions for a broad range of companies in the USA, Asia and Europe. Dave’s worked on almost every conceivable type of corporate finance transaction including IPOs, follow-on offerings, convertibles, securitizations, and private company sales. Dave has seen it all.

Group 67

After retiring from investment banking, Dave entered the world of start-ups and co-founded several companies in asset management, technology, media, and entertainment. His current and past activities include:

  • CEO of Liucrative Endeavors, a merchant banking firm
  • President of La Mesa Capital, an investment firm
  • Vice Chairman of MobilityWare, one of the largest mobile, casual gaming companies in the world
  • Chairman of Reel8, a NFT marketplace
  • Board Member of Francesca’s, a leading boutique retailer
  • Board Member of TEG Live, a GRAMMY and Tony Awards winning live production company 
  • CEO Advisor to Capacity, an artificial intelligence platform
  • CEO Advisor to data.world, a leading cloud-native data catalog platform
  • CEO Advisor to Internet Brands/WebMD, a multi-billion dollar technology company
  • CEO Advisor to ProSiebenSat.1 Media, a multi-billion dollar company and one of the largest media companies in Europe
  • CEO Advisor to Vobile, a multi-billion dollar video software company
  • Investor in FIGS, a multi-billion dollar medical apparel retailer
  • Investor in Philz Coffee, an iconic coffee retailer based in Silicon Valley
  • Investor in Stampede, a movie and TV production company

Dave is also a perspiring artist and writer who is learning how to draw and write funny. He studied creative writing at the University of Pennsylvania, Sundance Institute, and The Second City. He publishes a career advice column called “Breaking Bamboo,” and a cartoon series called “The ABC Life.”

Dave is active in philanthropy and non-profit organizations. Net proceeds from his books will go towards charities helping children born with clefts, Asian Americans, and other underrepresented groups.


Will O’Neill, former Mayor Newport Beach

William O'Neill, Newport Beach

I’d never given much thought about local elected officials and how their work impacts my life until covid hit. Living in California, I learned quickly that those we voted into office were making impossibly tough decisions that directly impacted my life and that of my family’s. That’s when Will O’Neill, a partner at a local law firm and our city’s 2020 mayor, rose to the occasion and put his constituents first, leading our city’s 85k residents and 700 employees through murky and uncharted waters. 

As we reach the upper levels of management, it’s easy to wrap our identities in our careers. The long hours, the hard work, the accolades…it can all easily lead to believing that’s all you are. But time and again, my guests share the same story…there’s so much more to life than work.

Will shares that in this digital age, it’s easy to forget how simple gestures go a long way to form positive and long-lasting impressions.

So…minding your Ps and Qs matters and it’s what he seeks in potential job candidates.

I’ve never met Will O’Neill in person, but I’m so glad some listeners encouraged me to invite him as a guest on MENTOR dna. He and his colleagues on the Newport Beach city council work hard to set our policies and ensure that our laid-back beach town remains safe, special and well-managed on so many levels.   

About Will O'Neill

Will O’Neill is a Stanford-educated attorney and small businessman who has served the City for five years on the Newport Beach Finance Committee (currently Chair).  A California native, he received his BA from Stanford University where he lettered on the track and field team.  He then received his JD from U.C. Hastings College of the Law, where he was President of his class and later President of the U.C. Hastings Board of Governors (alumni association).

Will is a Partner at Ross, Wolcott, Teinert & Prout LLP, previously working at the California Supreme Court for Associate Justice Marvin Baxter (Ret.). He is also a member of the Newport Harbor Exchange Club, Director of the Transportation Corridor Agency (San Joaquin Hills), Board Member of the Association of Business Trial Lawyers, past Trustee of the Celtic Bar Association, and an active member of Mariners Church.

In 2020, Will became the youngest person to be Mayor of Newport Beach.  He renewed the Council’s focus on family-friendly community features like parks, libraries, and increased school safety.  He has also been proud to serve alongside our families with special needs by ensuring access to first-ever classes offered through our Newport Navigator and by helping the installation of an ADA swing at Coastal Peak Park (thanks to the leadership of a sixth-grade student at Newport Coast Elementary School!).

While Mayor, Will fought to reopen Newport Beach’s world-famous beaches after the Governor shut them, helped oversee Newport Beach’s successful response to COVID, and kept a steady focus on helping small businesses in the community.

Will’s wife, Jenny, is a former elementary school teacher and USC graduate. Their two children, ages 8 and 6, serve as constant inspiration to model service, integrity, and determination. 

Currently reading: The Right, The Hundred-Year War for American Conservatism – by Matthew Continetti

Damien Hobgood – ex Pro Surfer

Damien Hobgood Surfing Magazine 2013

My husband and I met former pro surfer Damien Hobgood through a mutual friend. On a whim, Damien agreed to surprise my husband for our wedding anniversary with some friends at Amor Boutique Hotel in Sayulita MX. Damien had big dreams of surfing professionally in high school, when that wasn’t even a thing. He chased that dream and surfed on the tour for 14 years, then followed that up riding big waves in the World Surf League.

We talk about the early days of pro surfing…when no one even thought it was possible to earn a living chasing waves. Damien has deeply-held convictions about integrity and being true to yourself and your family’s beliefs. As a Christian man, he learned life’s most important lessons from his mom. 

Throughout his career, he’s dealt with big brands, sponsors, and promoters, which gave him plenty of opportunities to learn about the corporate world, which he’s now taken into his career in wealth management. He continues to collaborate with brands like Salty Crew and surf-related operations like Desert Surf, an artificial wave surf park slated to open in Palm Desert in 2023.

Damien shares the many transferable lessons from sports to the corporate world. If you love surfing, are curious about what it was like growing up in that culture, or want to hear Damien’s perspective of meeting challenges head on, you’ll learn so much and more  on this interesting episode of MENTOR dna

Damien Hobgood 2022
Damien Hobgood at Freshwater Financial
Damien Hobgood on a fishing excursion with Salty Crew
Damien Hobgood on a fishing excursion
Damien Hobgood Surfing Magazine 2013

About Damien Hobgood

Damien Hobgood is a professional surfer from Satellite Beach, FL. He and identical twin brother, CJ, started surfing at a very young age as they tried to keep up with their dad past the whitewash breaks.

Damien always dreamt of being a pro surfer, even writing about it in high school, where his teacher said “You can’t do that! There isn’t such a thing!” But in fact, the pro surfing circuit was just starting and Kelly Slater was paving the path. Upon graduating high school, Damien tried to qualify for the pro tour, missing out on a spot to CJ, but that didn’t deter Damien. In fact, he prayed and made a promise to God that if he made the tour, he’d give his life to the Lord. He kept at it and qualified for the tour the following year in an incredible competition in Brazil. As he stood on an empty beach after his win, he remembered his promise to God and committed his life to Him at that point. 

Damien and CJ both surfed for Rusty and started to receive a lot of coverage in surf and mainstream media like  Surfer Magazine, USA Today and Rolling Stone.

Damien won 2000 World Championship Tour rookie of the year and was also the 2004 Quiksilver Pro Fiji Winner, 2005 Santa Catarina Pro Winner, 2006 Globe Fiji Pro Winner, 2007 Billabong Pro Tahiti Winner. He’s famous in the surfing world for holding one of the highest two-wave scores in pro surfing by scoring 19.9 out of 20 in the 2004 Quiksilver pro where he defeated Andy Irons.

Damien surfed on the  World Championship Tour for 14 years then went on to compete on the 2015 World Surf League’s Big Wave Tour. In 2019, in conjunction with a documentary about their lives “And Two If by Sea,” the WSL held an honorary Heritage Heat for Damien and CJ to compete against each other at the Hurley Tahiti Pro, a spot where they both still hold titles as the most winning professional surfers of all time. 

Damien has since retired from surfing professionally and continues to work with lifestyle brand Salty Crew. He’s also involved with DSRT Surf, a world-class wave pool resort slated to open in Palm Desert in 2023. Damien is a doting father of three beautiful children and has now transitioned his career into wealth management with Freshwater Financial in San Diego, CA.

Jeff Stotland, EVP Hudson Pacific

Jeff Stotland Hudson Pacific

When I returned to Philly for my graduate work, I was a seasoned executive assistant with deep experience answering phones, sending faxes, and managing schedules for overly-busy Disney and Sony execs. Ok, so maybe I did slightly more than that, but I was at the bottom of the totem pole and had big goals of climbing my way up.

Jeff Stotland was my classmate in business school and was the only other person with Disney experience, albeit much different than mine. We became fast friends. He and I are kindred in our entrepreneurial spirit, both having run start-up like businesses within giant companies. 

Jeff has bought and sold several companies, worked at Disney as Vice President, Strategy & Global Development, and is now Executive Vice President of Global Studios and Production Services at Hudson Pacific, a joint venture with Blackstone, the world’s largest industrial real estate owner.

He’s always been a big picture guy, moving to where the puck is headed. At Hudson Pacific, he leads a team buying up content production space which has exploded in the past several years, and we chat about the human resource crunch to produce all this content.  

He and I agree that success requires taking risks and being bold, but most of the time, people are optimizing to preserve their own jobs. 

Jeff’s always taken risks, yet he’s learned how to be more calculated in his bets. He learned a lot during his stint trying to privatize companies in Eastern Europe and operating a handful of companies he bought or started.

This episode covers a lot of ground…from working at start-ups in eastern Europe in the late 90s, to Disneyphiles, to the extreme competition for industrial real estate worldwide and the macroeconomic impacts of building production studios in cities around the world. 

About Jeff Stotland

Jeff Stotland joined Hudson Pacific in 2021 and serves as Executive Vice President, Global Studios. He leads the growth, direction and daily operations of the company’s studio portfolio.

Prior to Hudson Pacific, Stotland served as Vice President of Strategy and Global Development at Disney with a focus on the Parks, Experiences and Products segment.  In this role, he worked on a variety of new business initiatives, acquisitions, strategic planning, joint venture management and real estate development, both domestically and internationally.

Before Disney, Stotland acquired and led SEMCO Aerospace, a privately held aviation maintenance company, for more than a decade. His early career included roles at Vulcan Ventures, The Walt Disney Company and J.P. Morgan.

Stotland earned a Master of Business Administration from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and a Bachelor of Science from Northwestern University.

Pete Fader – Wharton Marketing Professor

wharton professor pete fader

I’ve always had a proclivity for marketing and curiosity for patterns. When I met marketing Professor Pete Fader, I didn’t realize what a big impact he would have on my career. At 26, he was one of the youngest professors at the Wharton School, and 10 years later had become one of the school’s favorites – teaching undergrad, MBA, and pHd students. 

His research first focused on consumer products, but then shifted into the music and entertainment industry where he served as an expert testifying on behalf of Napster in the late 90s. 

As a professor, he engages his students to really think about customers in a way that most people don’t – NOT every customer is the same. Some are far more profitable than others. So how do you lead your organization to truly understand and focus on customer centricity? Pete collaborated with some of his pHd students to help companies do just that.

With two successful data-driven businesses under his belt and 35 years at the finest business school in the world, we have much to learn from this humble leader who likely will never forget your phone number.

If you find numbers interesting, I highly recommend checking out Pete’s super duper old school site: coolnumbers.com


Apteryx from BC Comics

About Professor Pete Fader

Peter S. Fader’s expertise centers around the analysis of behavioral data to understand and forecast customer shopping/purchasing activities.

He works with firms from a wide range of industries, such as telecommunications, financial services, gaming/entertainment, retailing, and pharmaceuticals. Managerial applications focus on topics such as customer relationship management, lifetime value of the customer, and sales forecasting for new products. Much of his research highlights the consistent (but often surprising) behavioral patterns that exist across these industries and other seemingly different domains.

In addition to his various roles and responsibilities at Wharton, Professor Fader co-founded a predictive analytics firm (Zodiac) in 2015, which was sold to Nike in 2018.  He then co-founded (and continues to run) Theta Equity Partners to commercialize his more recent work on “customer-based corporate valuation.”

Fader is the author of Customer Centricity: Focus on the Right Customers for Strategic Advantage and coauthor with Sarah E. Toms of the book The Customer Centricity Playbook. He has been quoted or featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, The Washington Post, and on NPR, among other media. In 2017, Professor Fader was named by Advertising Age as one of its inaugural “25 Marketing Technology Trailblazers,” and was the only academic on the list.

Whitney Gomez

Whitney Kane Gomez

Whitney and I were in the same class in business school and reconnected when she and her husband moved within 3 miles of us fifteen years ago. Coincidentally, I went to college with her husband and our families have since spent much time together through sports and family fun. 

Whitney has a deep passion for current affairs and international business. She’s a voracious reader and  has successfully parlayed her experience at Morgan Stanley and PAAMCO into every project she touches. She’s very intentional about the projects she takes on, always stretching herself and learning something new.

She’s an inspiration to me and I really treasure her sense of confidence in everything she does. She shares her philosophy that you can have it all, just not at the same time. It’s taken me years to finally come to grips with this after a lifetime of hearing “You can be anything and have it all!!” Pragmatic thinking and careful planning have led Whitney to the successes she’s experienced in the corporate and non-profit worlds. I know that you’ll love this episode! 

Amstel Hotel in Amsterdam
Whitney's favorite hotel: Amstel Hotel in Amsterdam with a pool at canal level!

About Whitney Gomez


Whitney Kane Gomez has twenty years experience in investment research and fund marketing, and currently serves in both working and advisory capacities on a number of non-profit boards in education and healthcare. 

Whitney was a Director in PAAMCO Prisma’s Investment Strategies Group from 2008 – 2019. As a member of the leadership team, she was involved in client service, marketing and regulatory compliance. Whitney also oversaw the firm’s analyst program, media relations and external publications efforts.

Prior to joining PAAMCO in 2008, Whitney was an Executive Director at Morgan Stanley and spent ten years as an emerging markets strategist in the Fixed Income Department in New York. She covered a number of Latin American countries and was responsible for global strategy as the head of Morgan Stanley’s Fixed Income Emerging Markets Strategy team. Whitney’s research was recognized by Institutional Investor, Euromoney and LatinFinance magazines, and has been broadly quoted in publications such as the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times.

Whitney started her career at the US Department of State in the Nuclear Risk Reduction Center and later in the Office of Newly Independent States. She undertook short-term assignments for the State Department at the American embassies in Kiev, Ukraine; Chişinău, Moldova; and Yerevan, Armenia. Whitney received the U.S. Department of State Superior Honor Award for her service.

Whitney graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Richmond with a BA in Global Studies with a concentration in International Economics.  She received an MBA in Finance from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Whitney resides in Newport Beach with her husband and three children. She enjoys off-the-beaten-trail travel, reading non-fiction, and the family’s Australian Shepherd.

Braxton Woodham, Founder & President, Unfinished Labs

Braxton Woodham, Founder & President Unfinished Labs

Braxton and I started our tech careers together at USWeb/CKS, a web agency that serviced big entertainment brands like NBC, Sony Music, and so many more. In those days, teams were hand-coding websites. There weren’t any content management tools; just brute force.

Those were the early internet days and after I successfully migrated my entire team from NYC back to LA, I left to start my own consumer products company, snacki. Braxton and my paths have crossed several times since, working on projects at Sony Music Digital Ventures, Warner Home Video and Fandango.

Braxton has always  impressed me with his intellectual curiosity; always pushing the boundaries of what’s possible and why things are the way they are. He’s a naturally-gifted leader, effortlessly sitting at the center of a Venn diagram of business, tech, and philosophy. 

His passion for learning and trying new things without fear of failure is inspiring. He knows that one must fail to get to the next better idea. He’s had several successful and less-than-successful outings. And the work he’s now leading at Unfinished Labs is so clearly the culmination of all of his past work. It’s his life calling to build an open source platform so that people can control their own networks and their own data. How about that!? He believes that a global town hall shouldn’t be owned by any one person, company, platform or government. 

This is one of the most important ideas in this particular state of our world’s affairs and his work has massive geo-political implications. I encourage you to tune in to this fantastic episode as he shares his story of how he’s gotten to this point, and where he plans to go.

To learn more about Unfinished’s work, I encourage you to drop into their 2-day conference Sept 23-24, 2021 at The Shed in NYC.

Unfinished Labs’ Conference 2021 Details >>

About Braxton Woodham

Braxton Woodham, President of Unfinished Labs, formerly served as the Chief Technology and Product Officer at Fandango and was co-founder, President, and Chief Technology Officer at Sun Basket, where he continues to serve as a board member. Braxton also was co-founder and Executive Chairman at kuma.capital, a software company providing a platform and applications for systematic digital asset trading and co-founded Tap11, a real-time media analytics platform which was acquired by AVOS Systems in 2011.

Earlier, he was the CTO of InfoSpace’s mobile division where he was responsible for the infrastructure that serviced approximately three quarters of all mobile web traffic in North America. Braxton joined InfoSpace through the acquisition of Moviso, where he led the development of the V4 Digital Media Platform, which scaled by more than 100 times to generate over $1.5 billion in revenue across US, European and Australian mobile carriers.  Prior to joining Moviso / InfoSpace, Braxton served as Executive Director of Technology at Sony Music Digital Media Ventures, where he focused on new Internet initiatives including Keyhole, which was acquired by Google and relaunched as Google Earth.

Notably, Braxton served as Lead Propulsion Engineer for two Atlas missions and was a Captain in the United States Air Force. He holds a Bachelor of Engineering degree from Vanderbilt University.

Alli Warner – CMO, Beacon Pointe Advisors

Alli Warner on MENTOR dna

Alli was fresh out of college and interning at Beacon Pointe Advisors when I met her. I’d already had about 15 years of marketing, product and strategy under my belt and was highly-impressed by Alli’s curious nature and willingness to take the bull by the horns and get stuff done without having been asked. 

As I interview more C-Suite executives, there seems to be a pattern with many of them having been leaders on their high school or collegiate teams. Alli played volleyball at USC and was also a competitive horse rider. Her collaborative approach as she’s risen the ranks make her a go-to for her colleagues across the organization. 

MENTORdna with Meesh Pierce

About Alli Warner


Allison (Alli) graduated from the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California where she was captain of the Division 1, Pac-12, USC women’s volleyball team. She also received a Masters in Communication Management from the Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism at USC.  Alli joined Beacon Pointe Advisors in 2010 as an intern.  From intern to Chief Marketing Officer, Alli designed and built Beacon Pointe’s strategic plan for the marketing and communications department. Her responsibilities include brand management, digital marketing and social media, office acquisition brand integration, website oversight, marketing material design, presentation and content development including articles, podcasts and video formats, and market research, among other areas of focus.

Alli is very passionate about financial education. She is a founding member of the Beacon Pointe Women’s Advisory Institute and recently co-authored Your Dollars, Our Sense: A Fun and Simple Guide to Money Matters, an international best-selling book that has been ranked #1 in six different business and finance categories.  She also served as a past committee member for UC Irvine’s Center for Investment & Wealth Management Financial Literacy ‘LifeVest’ Summer Residential Program for four consecutive years.

Outside of the office, Alli volunteers her time working with her family’s non-profit organization that serves the military sector, The Patriots Initiative. She also enjoys being in the outdoors horseback riding, golfing, playing sand volleyball, traveling, and spending time with her family. Alli is married and lives with her husband in San Diego, California.

Dan Beldy, Venture Capitalist

Dan Beldy

There was much intrigue amongst my classmates about the veterans in our class. I mean, who didn’t want to be a Top Gun pilot?! And who was tougher, the Navy SEAL or the Army Ranger?

Dan, aka PT*, was one of those vets in my class. Just a normal guy getting an MBA while raising small children with his lovely and fun wife; all while many of us were over-served on Thursday nights at pub.  

Dan and I have spent the past 20+ years touching base on investment and business ideas, potential new ventures and board roles, and so much more. His approach is one of wanting to help and serve. He’s always making introductions and using his network to help others. He’s a true leader and I’m thrilled to have him on as MENTOR dna guest!

* Dan’s flight school buddies named him PT after the character Perfect Tommy from the 80s sci-fi comedy classic “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension”

Dan Beldy is a Partner at Canapi Ventures. Dan has spent the last 20 years in technology and finance as a venture capitalist. Previously, Dan was a managing director at Steamboat Ventures, the venture capital affiliate of The Walt Disney Company, where he led the U.S. venture team. Prior to that he was a partner at Hummer Winblad Venture Partners, the first venture firm to focus exclusively on software investments. Dan is also a founder of Airwing Ventures, and co-founder of PowerPlant Partners.

Dan has been involved with several successful companies as an investor and advisor including GoPro, Edgecast, acquired by Verizion, Vobile (HKEX:3738), Method, acquired by Ecover; upLynk, acquired by Verizon; Playdom, acquired by Disney; FreeWheel, acquired by Comcast; Greystripe, acquired by ValueClick; Employease, acquired by ADP; and Starmine, acquired by Thomson Reuters.

Earlier in his career Dan was an F/A-18 fighter pilot and instructor in the U.S. Navy, and served with the Brazilian Navy during an exchange program. Dan has a B.S. in Computer Science with distinction from the U.S. Naval Academy and an MBA from The Wharton School. He enjoys family and friends, golf, triathlons and is an avid Springsteen fan. Dan has completed 290+ carrier landings, delivered 25,000+ copies of the NY Daily News, and has completed a triathlon at Alcatraz and a marathon in Antarctica.