The oldest of four children in a family that lived paycheck to paycheck, Carey learned early that he needed to contribute to the family coffers if there were ever to be any extras. At age nine, he was already polishing his entrepreneurial skills, selling handmade crafts. Next came door-to-door Christmas card sales. By high school he was selling shoes, setting type for a weekly paper and changing bedpans with a cleaning crew. All these positions reinforced his already strong work ethic; they also gave him plenty of opportunity to observe generous bosses and Scrooges, hard workers and loafers. He began forming opinions about the best way to run a company.
Paying his own way, Carey earned a degree in economics. He went on to graduate school at the University of Chicago, but eventually he faced a decision: either he’d have to drop out or stop working the night jobs that paid the bills. He chose the former. It only took a few years of working the re-insurance game out in the Texas oil fields for him to decide to shove that job and start being his own boss. In 1981, he launched Sprinkool, a company that installed sprinklers on industrial rooftops to cool the spaces below.
Over the next two decades he visited sweltering factories and oven-like warehouses across the country. It gave him lots of contacts, which proved invaluable when he eventually got wind of an even better idea for cooling: large-diameter, slow-moving fans, also known as HVLS fans, for high-volume, low-speed. Realizing that the fans had real impact and real growth potential, he redirected his focus. In 1999 he sold Sprinkool, using the proceeds to start the business that would become Big Ass Fans.
Under Carey’s guidance, Big Ass Fans took off, growing an average of 30% a year, with offices across the globe. It made the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing private companies 11 consecutive years — a feat achieved by only 34 others — and expanded from industrial products to include a line of chic, silent commercial fans. When Carey learned that a man in Malaysia had created a revolutionary design for a residential fan, he brought the man and the fan into the company and turned it into a $60 million division: Haiku. And when he heard that his industrial fan customers needed better lights, he hired lighting engineers to build Big Ass Light.
Following the company’s $500 million sale, Carey founded Unorthodox Ventures, an investment firm with a radical mission compared to others. He assembled a staff experienced in everything from engineering and supply chain to marketing and customer service with the goal of providing founders far more than just money. Investors approached Carey near daily at Big Ass Fans but offered only money and little in the way of the practical advice that can help build a company long-term. It’s his goal to change that. Always outspoken and often provocative, Carey is happy to share his thoughts on how to succeed in business.
With a background in analytics and predictive modeling, Adam is not a believer in the “if you can’t convince them, confuse them” method of analytics. He believes strongly that collecting data is only the first step — interpreting and sharing it so that everyone sees the path forward is how you win in business. His monomaniacal focus on trends and numbers lets him see things others miss (which is how he landed a role running a $60-million residential ceiling fan division at age 26). In that role, he also honed a keen understanding of marketing, overseeing and implementing a $12 million marketing plan and media mix.
Today he has built a detailed due diligence model that ensures each and every investment by Unorthodox Ventures will fulfill the goal of helping partner companies achieve long-term success. Let him put his skills to work building your business.
An entrepreneur with a background in art history and biology, Anderson has a knack for appreciating and understanding the substance of things. In business, that means focusing on the whole picture — from breaking down the biggest ideas into workable processes to correcting the tiniest inefficiencies. Anderson’s experience includes international sales and continuous improvement, and she’s a self-taught quadrilingual. If your business is baroque, she has the knowledge to fix it.
An entrepreneur with a background in international sales, Brian is an expert at bringing good old American craftsmanship and engineering to the rest of the world — and vice-versa. He has built businesses from the ground up in the United States, Australia and Asia, overseeing every stage from manufacturing to marketing and sales to customer service. He knows the pitfalls experienced by many new business owners with the added challenge presented by clients with varying cultural needs and expectations. It’s a big world, so join him in navigating global channels and bring your best ideas.
An entrepreneur with a background in communications and engineering, Dan is a walking, talking diversified portfolio. His unorthodox career has included leadership positions in software development, IT, newspaper publishing, real estate and marketing communications. He began his career migrating software from Microsoft DOS to the first version of Microsoft Windows. Most recently, he led a successful marketing firm and opened his own art gallery. This wealth of experience has made him more than adept at understanding and defining the core values of any type of business — and communicating them to customers. Let Dan help you find innovative, compliant and cost-effective ways to take your company’s message to the world.
An entrepreneur with an electrical engineering background, David has parlayed his uncanny understanding of how stuff works into a successful career in product development and business management. He believes there’s no problem on the face of the planet that a liberal application of technology and resourcefulness can’t solve, and he’s more than happy to lead the charge. Let him apply his ingenuity to help build your business.
An entrepreneur with an electrical engineering and product development background, Gavin has made a career of guerilla-style R&D — that is, he’ll investigate any potential solution to a problem, no matter how far-fetched, and he’ll travel to find that solution, no matter how many miles and flights. Experienced in crowdsourcing, Gavin has spent years testing the viability of novel products, services and business approaches.
An intrapreneur with a background in product development and agricultural engineering, Jon is a master of the confusing and discoverer of the unknown. Before he entered the workforce, Jon’s studies included designing systems ranging from how to monitor soybeans during transportation in Brazil to reducing fossil fuel use in poultry houses by extracting solar heat from within their attics. His career then focused on tackling more such problems, none of which fit into an existing mold. From helping people sleep better and reducing food waste by prolonging the shelf life of fruits and vegetables, Jon aims to make things better. Join him on this adventure, and he’ll bring that same mindset to your company’s most perplexing issues.
An entrepreneur with wide-ranging experience and a determination to succeed, Lewis brings a unique perspective to Unorthodox Ventures. After growing up in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and working to help victims of its civil war, he came to America to finish college. There he quickly distinguished himself as a philomath, leader, problem-solver and financial wizard. After several years spent crushing every challenge handed to him at Big Ass Fans, Lewis is now eager to put his skills to work for you.
A seasoned storyteller with an MBA, Scott is Unorthodox Ventures’ go-to go-between, connecting the company with the public in both traditional and novel ways. As a former business journalist with more than 15 years of experience, he enjoys drawing out each entrepreneur’s unique story and looks forward to pitching yours.
With more than 25 years of business experience, Steven is an expert at guiding companies on strategic and corporate finance issues. He has executed well over 100 deals globally, representing more than $30 billion in value. Yet he loves nothing more than seeing new business concepts and encouraging innovative entrepreneurs who are trying to break the old molds. That made him the perfect fit for Unorthodox Ventures. When he is not supporting our portfolio partners, he spends his time with his family or on the road on his bike. Let him put his wisdom, enthusiasm and devil’s-in-the-details attention to work for you.
An entrepreneur with a background in sales, manufacturing and marketing, Tristan is a master at turning go-to-market strategies into gone-to-market success stories. He has experience building and managing businesses in both the United States and Australia, also having worked for many years in product development, marketing, and market research for industrial and domestic consumer products. Now a partner in Unorthodox Ventures, Tristan is looking for new and interesting businesses to help grow.
An entrepreneur with an eye for talent and a willingness to work around the clock to advance it, Yechiel excels in global marketing and brand implementation. He’s also an IT whiz. Since graduating from Israel’s prestigious Ono Academic College, Yechiel successfully led Big Ass Fans’ expansion into Israel and cultivated business relationships across Europe and Asia. He firmly believes the combination of hard work and good people moves mountains. Put him to the test with your pet peak.