Current professional focus
- Start-up entrepreneur. Founded, co-founded, or assisted others to found well over 100 businesses in a dozen industries for over 40 years. Deeply experienced in all aspects of start-up entrepreneurship including marketing, finance, accounting, taxes, law, and personnel.
- Web product and project manager / owner including ideation, research, conceptual framework design, business model and process design and engineering, market testing.
- User experience design including user interface design, interaction design, and related disciplines and front-end development.
Web application development – platform model
Co-founder, SV Startup Lab, Santa Clara, Silicon Valley, CA, 2012 to present is a small Web product development company focused on ideation to early development stage Internet platform model solutions for significant opportunities in business (non-enterprise) and consumer markets. No client product development. Currently developing a couple of new products, re-developing an older product, and designing a half dozen new Web products for future development. The strategy is to develop minimum viable products, market test, and if they achieve significant market traction then sell to well-funded teams for the growth stage. All ideation, planning, design, project management, front-end development, and market testing done in-house. Back-end coding in-house and by freelance contractors.
Previous businesses and employers
Web application development – lifestyle products
Co-founder, Intiri, Inc., Santa Clara, Silicon Valley, CA, 1999 – 2011. Developed a couple of Web products and market tested. Relied on search engine optimization, SEO, for user acquisition which was a mistake that wasted several years. One product, a platform marketplace, grew at up to 25% per month visitor traffic and page views but each year Google changed their filters and killed the traffic. Abandoned SEO and prepared for a new strategy with SV Startup Lab in 2012.
Also developed a couple of prototypes for a project that was put on the back burner until the technology catches up with the vision. The product, a collaborative design platform for the home remodeling industry, is ready for development. Extensive study and research developed numerous skills for Web application development and for Internet business model design and engineering.
Remodeling store chain feasibility prototype
CEO and co-founder with wife, International Trade Services, Inc., Vladivostok, Seattle, Anchorage, 1995 – 1998. Four investors. The goal was to develop a chain of small remodeling stores across Russia. Developed a prototype store in Russia but project abandoned due to adverse business environment issues in Russia. Exported from Seattle, imported into Russia, construction materials, tools, interior furnishings, lighting, decor, tools, and hardware. Setup supply chain, transportation logistics by truck, air, and ship, customs clearing, foreign market study and analysis, foreign sales. Large investors available for this project but didn’t take their money after determining that the risk was too high.
Pivoted in 1998 to the emerging Web, studied Internet and Web technologies at Microsoft, moved to California in 1999 to work on Web solutions for major shelter industry problems.
Remodeling contractor and interior design
President and co-owner with wife, Amerikanski Remont, Vladivostok, Russia, 1996 – 1997. Designed, planned, and built in severe conditions with a lack of heat in winter (the ocean was frozen), daily water and power shortages, Mafia threats and constant security concerns, complex and challenging supply and logistics issues, and very high inflation. Construction, marketing, payroll of 10 Russians, accounting, taxes, legal compliance (the Communist version of Civil Law), Foreign Corrupt Practices Act challenges. Survived, which is better than many business people did in Russia at this time.
Developed this business as a lab rat to test the market for the above retail stores project. Only one major remodel completed, a mall-quality store, as Russia began to block imports of needed materials. Abandoned due to Russia’s developing import restrictions and failure to follow their own foreign investment laws.
Deloitte & Touche, Vladivostok, Russia, office founder and managing director, involved in privatization issues, international finance, taxation, 1994 – 1995. Hired due to reputation for starting businesses in challenging circumstances. Worked with a few large enterprises, foreign investors, provincial governors, and emerging entrepreneurs. Built-out the office with electricity, telephone system, and plumbing alone. Terminated when D&T finally figured out that they didn’t have the resources, markets, or senior management skills for multiple offices in Russia. Moscow management team also terminated along with all satellite offices. Delighted to be rid of D&T and quickly pivoted to a feasibility study and prototyping for a chain of remodeling stores across Russia (see above).Creatively and successfully trained a Russian staff of 15 in audit and tax consulting from scratch with few resources and extremely small budget provided by D&T. All staff went on to successful careers and businesses. Developed a large region-wide economic development plan and feasibility study with Russian Far East governors. Survived in a harsh business environment and climate as Russians were trying to sort out what comes after the Soviet Union. Successfully avoided the office being ransacked by tax police commandos or Mafia as happened to competitor Price Waterhouse. Worked in severe conditions with a lack of heat (interior temperature less than 40F in winter), water and power shortages, poor food availability, Mafia threats and constant security concerns, and 2500% annual inflation.
James M Preston, CPA, owner, a small local firm in Anchorage, Alaska, specializing in accounting and taxes for entrepreneurs (Alaskan and Russian), business planning, business valuation, litigation support (last case was the Exxon Valdez spill), feasibility studies in Alaska and Russia, startup funding, help found and grow over 100 businesses in various industries, brought a food processing company to IPO as outside CFO, 1982 – 1994. 2 to 5 employees.There were two founding goals: 1) Put all work processes on desktop computers and 2) create a lifestyle business that allowed world travel and Alaskan adventures. Exceeded both goals. The first goal was highly innovative thinking in 1982 and few businesses were using desktop computers for anything. Used firm as a lab for creating innovative business processes and desktop computing software for about a dozen industries. This IP is part of most business software now. Sold firm in order to work for Deloitte & Touche starting offices in Russia. Memberships: American Society of Certified Public Accountants, Alaska Society of CPA’s, American Society of Appraisers – Business Valuation Associate Member.
KPMG (then Peat, Marwick, Mitchell), Anchorage, Alaska, staff accountant in audit and senior accountant in tax, 1979 – 1982. Left to start own firm and do the R&D necessary to bring desktop computing to public accounting and other industries. Successfully prototyped personal computing power at KPMG but they were not interested at the time. When they finally figured it out they went the wrong direction with Apple products then had to change to IBM compatible.
Adjunct professor (accounting and business planning)
University of Alaska Anchorage, 1984 – 1986. Quit because it was boring and the pay was awful.
Oil spill cleanup
Founder and president, Spill Response Corporation, Anchorage, Alaska. A short-lived effort to contract with Exxon to clean the Exxon Valdez oil spill, March – May 1989. Quickly formed a company with four investors to respond to the spill. Politically supported by the US Forest Service, Coast Guard, and local governments due to years of Jim’s work with them on various issues in Prince William Sound. Secured critical resources such as containment boom around the world, the only warehouse in the oiled zone, and US Navy skimmers through Rotary connections. Unfortunately the oil washed into the Gulf of Alaska and was beyond anyone’s ability to catch it so the project was abandoned. Didn’t want to clean rocks which was the next response stage.
Underground pipeline construction
No titles, Preston Pipelines, Inc., Silicon Valley, California. Co-built this company with father during the challenging 1970’s (two recessions, high inflation, two oil crises) to one of California’s largest in the industry and nationally known, skills include project management, supervision, heavy equipment operation, mechanic, truck driving, surveying, finance, 1974 – 1979. Also a full-time accounting student at San Jose State University. Overworked, got sick and by age 28 five doctors recommended a major lifestyle change or die young. Moved to Alaska as a CPA and recovered from stress. Also left because personal vision for the company, compete with Bechtel, was not possible with my father. Wrong partner to build an international company.
Mel Cottons Sporting Goods, San Jose, and Skis & Such, Los Altos, 1974 – 1976. College jobs during winters. Helped set up Skis & Such and considered part owner. Left to focus more on Preston Pipelines.
Overhead power line construction
Apprentice lineman Pacific Gas & Electric Company, General Construction division, 1972 – 1974. Left to attend college. Great company and job but not intellectual enough to be interesting long term. Also studied law during this time.
Sub-foreman, lift truck driver, National Can Corporation, cannery warehouse, 1969 – 1972, 1974. Good after-high school job with time off in the winter for ski bumming but needed to find a better career.
Landscaping, septic system repair
Self-employed landscaper beginning at age 10, 1961 – 1969, 1974 – 1976 occasional. Left this to join father at Preston Pipelines as it began to grow.
- Ongoing study in dozens of disciplines – well beyond MBA level.
- BS Business Administration (Accounting) 3.5/4.0 GPA (while building Preston Pipelines, Inc), San Jose State University, 1977 – 1979.
- AS Business Administration, 3.8/4.0 GPA, West Valley College, Saratoga, CA 1974 – 1977.
- Law – 2 years of 3 year correspondence course, 1972 – 1974. Dropped out to attend college full time and never got around to returning.
- Partial MS Business Valuation – completed most of this pioneering American Society of Appraisers sponsored program until the program was discontinued.
Previous professional societies
- American Society of CPA’s
- Alaska Society of CPA’s
- American Society of Appraisers – associate in business valuation
Previous civic activities
- Rotary – Anchorage, Vladivostok, Seattle, civic projects worldwide, 1983 – 1998. A leader in expanding the Alaska and Yukon Rotary district across Russia to the Ural Mountains of Europe. Anchorage East club treasurer, Vladivostok V.P.
- Prince William Sound Association – founder, diverse user group with recreation and various other projects, 1982 – 1989. Quit to focus on rebuilding CPA firm from the effects of the massive Oil States Recession in the late 80’s.
- Alaska Reparatory Theater – board treasurer, 1988 – 1989. Joined the board as the theater was failing. Planned a successful shutdown that paid all creditors.
- Anchor Foster Care Association – co-founder, foster parent for teens, Anchorage, 1983 – 1986. Loved this but foster care didn’t work out for former wife.
- Junior Achievement advisor and sponsor – Anchorage, 1981 – 1985. Worked with bright teens to help them form and operate tiny businesses. All years we earned Company of the Year.
- United Farmworkers (Caesar Chavez) – organizer, Washington State, 1969 – 1970. Designed a new strategy for the grape boycott that seemed to push Big Agriculture to agree to unionize and provide various health and safety benefits to farmworkers. Organized small farmers to be supportive (they were never a problem). Left to return to fruit cannery warehousing job. Worked with Gov. Jerry Brown subsequently to bring major farmworker health and safety laws to the big agriculture, the first in the nation.
- Worked with California governor Jerry Brown on the nation’s first farmworker legislation.
- Worked directly with President Richard Nixon on the 18 year old vote / 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. 1969 – 70.
- Drug Crisis Intervention – co-founder, San Jose, 1967 – 1969. Co-founded and developed call center that saved lives. Also handled suicides and an interesting assortment of other calls.
- High School teacher’s aide – American government (taught the class), history, girls P.E., San Jose, 1967 – 1969.
- Boy Scouts – troop co-founder at age 11, New Almaden, CA, 1962 – 1966. This rural troop lasted until 1989.