If Anderee Berengian had stayed on the path he and his family intended him to take, the CEO of Irvine-based Cie Digital Labs would have never ended up in business. His professional future was set: graduate from UCLA with a degree in biochemistry, work in research labs and eventually get a PhD.
Berengian soon found himself unsatisfied with this trajectory and decided to take a step back. He chose business school at USC, and went on to become a successful investor, board member and even found time to go back and get his PhD.
Now Berengian oversees one of the most innovative startups in LA. Founded in 1998, Cie Digital Labs is a hybrid interactive development firm and startup studio. For Berengian, CDL's diverse set of tools isn't just appealing from an investment perspective, it's something he can personally identify with.
What is the biggest challenge you faced in your career?
Reinventing my path. I graduated with a biochemistry degree from UCLA and worked in research labs. Even though I had a clear path of where I was going, I decided to take a step back and challenge myself to transition into business by getting my MBA at USC.
I wanted to be in a fast-paced environment where I could see immediate results from my hard work and I was willing to take that step back to get onto a sharper career growth trajectory in the long run.
The transition proved difficult, but I overcame it by leveraging the only common skill I had from my days as a researcher: data analysis. I started with this skill and built on top of it to learn the business, the process and the product of a new company.
Even though science and business are completely different, I believe they both involve a great deal of innovation, analysis, problem-solving and continuous improvement; all of which we use at CDL.
How have you grown personally and professionally since founding CDL?
Since starting CDL, I have developed a more balanced point of view. In a company like this there are many different perspectives and personalities. Previously, I was used to working with investors that have the same type of mindset and come from similar backgrounds. I’ve learned how to work closely with a wide variety of individuals and to help create consensus across the team.
Coming on board was a bit of a reality check that has helped me reflect on how I could potentially do something better. I’ve tapped into my creativity more, which has complimented my business acumen in analysis, business development and closing-the-deal. I have conversations with the UX and design teams so that I have an understanding of where they get their inspiration and their way of thinking which gives me more exposure and appreciation for creativity.
I’ve also had more influence at Cie Digital Labs than I did before as an investor. Here I am directly responsible for operations and the success of the company rather than investing in a company, advising from time to time, and waiting on the outcome.
Who are you inspired by?
I’m inspired by a visionary, Bill Gross, the founder of Idea Labs. He started over 150 companies and many of them are extremely successful. Gross is strategic, methodical and quantitative in the way he thinks. It’s inspiring the way he tries to solve big problems in the world, some of which no other person has realized was a problem to begin with. That is what we do at Cie Digital Labs: be innovative and have the vision to solve big problems, not just brainstorm ideas.
What advice would you give to an 18-year-old you?
Remove the fear. Don’t be afraid to take risks and go with your gut. If you need to make a change or do something new, just do it and it will play itself out. There was a time I was fearful of what the future held and I would overanalyze and overthink possibilities. Today I’d tell myself to not be afraid and to take the chance.
Why do you love Los Angeles?
I love the diversity of LA, especially the diversity in different disciplines that come together. There are a lot of innovative people with clever and impactful ideas. The variety is inspiring and is what has fueled LA’s progress and innovation.
The weather isn’t so bad either.
Images via Cie Digital Labs.