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Meet Kurling Robinson of Fōkcus in Downtown

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kurling Robinson.

A venture capital person I admired when I was little, Mark Stevens of Sequoia Capital, told me that I had some good ideas but was treating them like hobbies and if I FOCUSed, they could become a great company. Fōkcus is pronounced like “focus,” and it’s spelled with “KC” in the middle to honor my first mentor, my dad, whose initials are K.C. Among the very early lessons I learned was the importance of listening.

Kurling Robinson is a co-founder, musician, and start-up visionary with over 25 years of expertise in software development and the entrepreneurship space.

Mr. Robinson’s unique path was woven by the arts (Getty), automotive (Toyota), technology (NetZero), energy (IFS), and the drive to help his fellow man. Through a formative internship at Toyota, he was exposed to their unique approach to continuous improvement. With his first start-up at age 19, he learned very early that information and responsibility go hand and hand. A common thread from his first company, Internet Productions, which connected television networks like ABC to their fans, to NetZero, a company that he helped start, which connected people to the internet and companies to a new marketplace, his focus has been to give visibility to the obscure.

Leveraging the University of Southern California, where he studied Computer Science, Mr. Robinson has facilitated many successful companies. He is most proud of his work with the Code for America project, bringing the Family Assessment Form (FAF) to the cloud. FAF allows governments to analyze big data on how individual states/provinces are dealing with teen pregnancy, suicide, and other social issues, providing insight into applying successes in other states to “help children, families, and make the world a better place.”

Helping and advising hundreds of companies, as well as establishing Technology Thursday, Mr. Robinson was selected as one of the top mentors for SCORE nationally. With the incubator through USC Viterbi, he acted as an advisor and served on the board for several companies that were funded. He is a Venture Consultant at the USC Blackstone Launchpad. In collaboration with key partners and Universities, he launched the Fōkcus platform, which uses machine learning to quickly assess entrepreneurs and match them with screened, certified business mentors.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Just at University of Southern California (USC), we have well over 250 ventures and a limited number of qualified venture consultants. I wanted to be able to help more people. As a grandson and son of pastors, I was trained very early to give back to the community.

Our tagline is “Meet your future self,” so one of our challenges is making sure we have a diverse group of mentors so that all types of entrepreneurs can easily see their future selves. Another challenge is making sure we seek out women, minorities, and veterans in particular, and provide support for their ventures.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Fōkcus – what should we know?
Fōkcus assesses entrepreneurs to intelligently match them with business mentors. Our platform is supplemented with events called “City Highlights,” which we deliberately populate with diverse entrepreneurs and mentors, making it easier for all types of entrepreneurs to meet their future selves.

Each City Highlight features one venture and approximately six mentors, including Apple Business Pros and Apple Creative Pros. Apple provides event support staff and hosts our events in the newly renovated “Town Square” retail spaces. The events take place during normal store hours in a dedicated area of the store. Each session focuses on a specific business challenge and the mentors function as an advisory board during the session. We can help with strategic, technical, creative, and operational aspects of your business.

City Highlights mentoring sessions are weekly at the Apple Store in San Diego (UTC) and Los Angeles (Century City). We’re planning to expand to San Francisco in the next few months.

We also match CEOs for one on one sessions that we call “CEO to CEO.” Being a CEO can be lonely and can be overwhelming, so having a network of people dealing with similar things can make a huge difference.

We’re proud of highlighting the innovation in our community and helping to support economic development.

With access to people who have “been there, done that,” you can face your toughest business challenges. Whether you are in ideation or coping with the very-good-problem of growth, we want to help.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
We always look for commitment, coachability, and competence in founders. We learned this principle from Paul Orlando, who has founded and operated startup accelerators on three continents. Those are the same things that are important to our success. There has to be a commitment, dedication to the vision. Being able to learn quickly and adapt is especially important for entrepreneurs, so coachability and the ability to absorb and put feedback to good use is critical. And there has to be some domain knowledge (competence).


  • Fōkcus City Highlights has no cost for the startup, but the value of each session is around $10,000.
  • Fōkcus Founders Group (FFG) is a program for early stage founders (on the verge of revenue or just achieving first sales) is a 12 week program that is $500/month for each company that participates.

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