Today's Entrepreneur: Ken Chester

Kristin Karaoglu · January 6, 2012 · Short URL:

No. 1 mistake: To create businesses not out ones' passion, but out desire for increased wealth

Today's Entrepreneur is Ken Chester, Co-Founder and the CEO of CultureMesh. According to his VEQ, Ken is a through leader and is good at product and marketting management.

Vator’s community is the home to entrepreneurs who embrace their passion and follow their dreams. Our profiles allow members to express themselves by sharing their interests, lessons learned, as well as bits and pieces of their roller-coaster journey.

These profiles give entrepreneurs an opportunity to showcase themselves and tell their story. So if you are an entrepreneur, a serial entrepreneur, or even an aspiring entrepreneur, we'd like to hear from you.

I am a(n):

Companies I've founded or co-founded:
CultureMesh, Refugee/Immigrant Young-Adult Neighbor (RYAN),

If you are an entrepreneur, why?
I want to change the world.

My favorite startups:
Airbnb, Crowdrise

What's most frustrating and rewarding about entrepreneurship/innovation?
The chance to transform how the world works and better peoples' lives is amazing, yet not without huge struggles and hurdles while striving toward that goal.

What's the No. 1 mistake entrepreneurs make?
The number 1 mistake that entrepreneurs make is to create businesses not out ones' passion, but out of one's desire for increased wealth. Passion drives the most successful businesses.

What are the top three lessons you've learned as an entrepreneur?
1. Be Flexible: things don't always go according to schedule
2. Be Persistent, but not stubborn
3. Follow your dreams

(Want to be profiled? Just fill out your Vator profile and we'll find you! Or you can email

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Kristin Karaoglu

Woman of many skills: Database System Engineer; SplashX event producer; Author of Startup Teams

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CultureMesh, LLC, seeks to establish itself as the standalone platform for crossing cultures, borders, and language barriers through direct engagement between institutions and linguistically diverse customers via language-location categorized content.

*Prototype screenshots can be found in "Video/documents"

Business model

Within the CultureMesh platform, users are first required select their native language and country they are visiting (e.g. Arabic language -> USA) and, optionally, locality and interest data (Arabic language -> USA -> higher ed options -> metro Chicago). Using the choices above, the user would be presented with Arabic-language videos, advertising, and other content geared toward study in Chicago.

In regard to commercialization, the University of Illinois - Chicago, for instance, might upload videos in Chinese, Korean, and Hindi for topics such as "why to choose a liberal arts college", using a product placement strategy, or they might directly advertise their school in these languages. In the same fashion, Verizon Wireless might, as a business user, produce how-to videos, direct ads, promotions, and other materials in multiple languages. They could chose to advertise nationally / internationally in a given language (Hindi-speaking, in Canada) or locally (Korean speaking in Los Angeles), with a myriad of categories for tagging content.

The site is therefore not only a commercial advertising platform to reach diverse customers, but also a groundbreaking resource for individuals to function effectively in a new land, via localized content and pages in their own languages.

Competitive advantage

Up to the current time, there has been no financially sustainable model to reach out to linguistically diverse customers who are outside their country of origin, and more importantly, in a minority language environment, through video and other methods. For instance, to pay for a Chinese-language ad on either national or local US TV, when targeting a niche market, would perhaps be an inefficient use of an advertising budget. Admittedly, one could post videos to Youku or Tudou (Chinese Youtube equivalents), but these sites have no language-location categorization system, making it impossible for an American business to specifically target Chinese speakers in the US, for instance.

Or, consider Groupon, using the same reference language. This company has localized sites in many overseas markets, including, Groupon's Chinese-language site, targeted at Mainland China.

What about Chinese living in San Francisco, however? There is currently no multilingual Groupon-esque site geared toward the US market! On the flip side, when considering Americans working or studying in China, you have the same problem, as Gaopeng is only available in Chinese. This applies to any combination of languages ​​and locations. However, with the CultureMesh system, sales, promotions, and other deals can be tailored to any language group at any location.


Case Study 1
Julie wants to study abroad in Spain, but her university charges US tuition rates for course credit that is much cheaper at the Spanish host institution. So, Julie logs on to CultureMesh, selects "English" the language and "Spain" as the country she'll be visiting. Under the category of "Higher Education", she finds that Universidad Autónoma de Madrid has uploaded an English-language campus tour and information about how to directly enroll in classes. Julie is able to bypass her university's study abroad office and saves thousands of dollars.


Case Study 2
The Hnem family from Burma is adjusting to life in the United States and is directed to CultureMesh by a local refugee resettlement agency. After selecting Burmese language -> USA -> San Francisco, they find a Burmese-language video from budget carrier, Metro PCS about how to set up a phone contract and a daily deal coupon geared toward the Burmese population at a nearby Asian foods market.
Market Analysis
Institution/business-level clients will define the primary market, starting with large- to medium-size organizations and filtering down to smaller, local organizations. Michigan State University might want to advertise globally and in multiple languages, while the local Lake Trust Credit Union might conserve advertising dollars by engaging with local Spanish speakers, for instance. To encourage broad access across a variety of languages, however, we offset costs by reducing our advertising fees when institutions upload content in a new language.

The secondary market, to be expanded upon in Phase 2, is defined by the individual end-users. These are the people who use our free platform to cross over linguistic, cultural, and international boundaries to live, work, study, or do business abroad in today’s global environment. With regard to the revenue stream, we plan to implement methods by which individual end-users could directly purchase goods and services from the institution-level clients – this service would be in addition to the current ability for sales, promotions, and other deals to be offered by institutions.

Current trends in international education, transnational cooperation, and global business show rapid growth within this sector, with projected expansion over the next five to ten years. In nearly every country and major metropolitan area, for instance, we have identified numerous potential institution-level clients, from their existing international recruiting efforts and/or presence at major expos or conventions (i.e. National Association of International Educators NAFSA Conference). From our market research in Spain alone, we have already compiled a list of 43 higher education institutions seeking new pathways toward international engagement.

MA, Speech & Language Pathology, Michigan State University, 2010
-Founder & Executive Director, Refugee/Immigrant Young-Adult Neighbor (RYAN)
•RYAN is a 501(c)(3) charitable corporation which continues to launch innovative programs to boost college enrollment and graduation rates among first generation young-adult refugees and immigrants (
-Owner & Operator, NewBusinessOPT, LLC
•NewBusinessOPT is a Michigan-based consultancy assisting international students who wish to pursue post-graduation entrepreneurial ventures (
MA, Economics, Central Michigan University, 2009
-Adjunct Professor of Economics, Grand Rapids Community College
-Temporary Associate Underwriter, Leading regional financial institution
-4th place overall out of approximately 254,000 participants ($50,000 prize winner) in the summer 2008 CNBC Million Dollar Portfolio Challenge
-Web Designer and Programmer, (Sole Proprietorship)
•Contract with design companies, ad agencies, and in-house marketing departments to promote products and services by helping them to produce and plan integrated campaigns consisting of print, multimedia, and the Web
•Integrate ASP or PHP server-side code to add intelligent and useful site functions
-Competed in the 2011 Techority 48 Hour Game Challenge, utilizing Ansca’s Corona API to create the “Coconut Moon” iPhone game
-Made the “New and Noteworthy” list in the iTunes store




Ken Chester

Joined Vator on

Cross-Cultural Social Entrepreneur, Founder of CultureMesh, LLC & Refugee/Immigrant Young-Adult Neighbor (RYAN).