While routinely jogging in the spring of 1984, Ramona Pierson was struck by a drunk driver, sending her into an 18-month coma. The accident broke 104 of her bones, caused multiple forms of brain trauma, punctured holes in her lungs, required nearly 100 surgeries, and also rendered her blind. After re-learning how to speak, and learned to function in society with the aid of a seeing-eye dog, and electing to have a dangerous surgery, Pierson eventually regained her sight in one eye after 10 years.
Flash forward years later, and Pierson is now a highly sought after inventor, strategist and entrepreneur. She has created multiple extremely successful businesses and has made her mark in the world.
Pierson, 49, has been with her partner, Debra Chrapaty for 15 years having had met in New York City while she was working on her post-doc. She met Chrapaty shortly after receiving vision in one eye. The two moved to California in the mid-1990s. Pierson describes her coming out as a Lesbian as “an evolving process” because she came out “a few times.” Her first time, in high school, had a lot of negative consequences with her family, leaving her disconnected from them for almost two decades.
Later, another experience was while serving in the US Marine Corps and she was accused of being a lesbian, resulting in a formal investigation. Pierson who is now openly lesbian in all respects, feels that after meeting Chrapaty, they have both built an amazing community of friends both gay and straight.
Pierson, who is currently on her latest venture, Pierson Labs, is bringing mobile APPs that provide a seamless and easy to use interactive video technologies normally only media professional can access in order to bring interactive social media and ePublishing to the consumer in order to democratize media and information. “In addition, we are bringing Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies to the platform so the experiences of the viewers can be personalized based on filters set by the consumer,” said Pierson.
Pierson is striving to provide more resources to consumers. “Imagine the power of bringing interactive media tools to independent journalist such that they can develop collaborative publishing with rich media tools such that we can bring the voice of the people to have the same reach and power of main stream media,” she said. Her goal is to personalize each experience to the interest and modality of preference of the viewer. “In education, imagine the power of educators bringing blended learning through rich media with AI under the platform to enable personalization of the learning and user experience,” she added.
Pierson, who after four generations of developing analytics platforms with varying degrees of AI, decided that she, along with her team, needed to flip the data and bring the power of such rich media and AI tools for the users to be the producers and consumers of personalized rich media information. Pierson Labs, which is self-funding, has reduced a great number of obstacles to this point. One to the biggest challenges they are facing is accessing technical and AI talent at the pace they need to keep up with their growth. They are currently working to launch the APP’s to the general public through the iOS and Android APP stores. “I have launched other successful companies before and have a world class team who has who also have had a lot of experience bootstrapping and launching companies,” said Pierson, “so we are all veterans of what it takes to life a start-up off the ground.”
Shortly after starting Pierson Labs, Pierson joined StartOut and is currently serving as a mentor in the entrepreneurial program. “StartOut is a wonderful program that does provide mentor programs that match new business leaders with veteran business or start-up leaders, which is extremely helpful and supportive for those in the mentorship programs,” said Pierson. What Pierson appreciates the most about the organization is knowing there is a community of business leaders she can socialize with as well as use for critical feedback and support. “Being a start-up CEO can be isolating at times because of the intensity of the work and travel, thus, having a support network that "GETS" the issues without having to explain the details is extremely helpful,” she added.
StartOut recently launched their Lesbian Entrepreneur Mentoring Program. This is a program that allows the mentee to access a mentor one on one to discuss any and all business and personal issues. “It very powerful for the mentor to be able to share the wisdom of past business experiences that one can only learn through experience,” said Pierson about the program, “I have found that since financial advisors, legal advisors charge for every minute of time, CEOs and other leaders often find themselves tentative to seek their advice so they often learn hard lessons along the way.” When asked what advice she would give to up and coming LGBT entrepreneurs, Pierson said, “I would suggest they reach out to StartOut and ask to be connected with a mentor who can be their sounding board, critical friend, and connector to the right people and information.”
Pierson Labs has been growing with new employees each week since they started last February and are currently pre-revenue. Because of this and due to the company being in stealth mode, Pierson opted to keep all financial information and further company information private. In the coming 8 to 10 weeks, they will be launching a new product of which the details of said product are still under wraps. Pierson stated that every 30 days, the company will be having additional plug-ins, APPs and functionality as they build towards their ultimate vision, again, which she was unable to explain in detail at this time.
This is a monthly series highlighting a successful business within the LGBT community that has had some involvement with the StartOut organization. StartOut strives to educate, inspire and support entrepreneurs. It fosters LGBT leadership in the business community through various methods including social programming opportunities, providing role models, connecting mentors, and promoting equality.