Evolving Electronic Recycling with Robert Tokarchyk and Paul Midzak

May 20, 2020

In this episode of Impact! with John Shegerian, John is interviewing Robert Tokarchyk and Paul Midzak, the Co-Founders of the Global ITAD Institute. The ITAD Summit provides a collaborative forum for ITADs and businesses looking to expand through hi-energy networking opportunities. The ITAD Summit is where ITAD comes to life, where ideas become energized.

John Shegerian: Welcome to another edition of The Impact podcast. I’m John Shegerian. I’m so honored to have with me today, my good friends Paul Midzak and Robert Tokarchyk. Did I get that right, Robert?

Robert Tokarchyk: Tokarchyk. Yes, it’s close.

John: Tokarchyk. Oh my gosh. Anyway, these two entrepreneurs are the co-founders of the Global Itad Institute and Summit. You can find them at www.itadsummit.com. Robert and Paul, when you started this together we became friends, but I want you to share your journeys leading up to this. What were you guys doing before you came up with this great idea? I want you to share a little bit about how you came together for your visionary idea of putting on this summit.

Robert: Yes. I got it. John, Robert here. Yes, so I’ve been involved in the software side of the business, from the recycling and the ITADsize we provide, inventory management systems to a lot of people on the ITAD space, electronics recycling space, IT reseller world. We cover a large gamut and one side of my company. That being said, we have a lot of clients around the country, the world. We’ve been providing consultative services out to various companies. We were out in, Minnesota.

Robert: I believe it was like 2018 with one of my clients then, they were very interested in setting up kind of an event, a party on one of their yachts, which their family business has a yachting company and they asked us, “Hey, can you guys put on an event, help us out with getting people out to the event?” I was like, “Yes, we could definitely get people out to the event. I’m very well-connected in the industry.” It came down to, I talked over Paul and I’m like why just throw a quick party on a boat when we could actually bring kind of the whole community together and see what we could do from an event’s standpoint. We attend a lot of events out there and I find one of the hardest things to do at these events is really to meet people and have an effective time for your employees. You spend a lot of money and you want to make sure you’re able to kind of have that great return on investment so that’s kind of how it started. The guys we were talking to, they kind of thought we were a little crazy having a conference event. We had 45 days of put this event on. We did a lot of marketing in 45 days and in about 40 to 45 days we’re able to get 220 people up from the industry. It turns out to be a really successful event.

John: When was your first event? Please share with our listeners when was the vision and your dear hatched. When did the first event happen, because I was there? It was amazing and huge. I got to speak there.

Paul Midzak: Hold on, John. You actually weren’t at the first event, you were at our second event. By the way, this isPaul Midzak. I’ve worked with Rob starting this and you were at our second event in Miami. The first event was in the summer of 18.

John: That one, okay.

Paul: By the way, a quick background on myself, I’m not really from this industry. Rob and I go way back and friends. I’m a lawyer. I’ve got a law firm. I have also a public advocacy shop down in Washington, DC. Rob called me and said, “Hey, let’s try and organize something for this ITAD industry.” I said, “What the heck is that? Who the hell is ITAD?” We researched it. We really kind of dug down into the guts of what people are doing in the ITAD space.

John: Okay.

Paul: We ran this first event out in Lake Minnetonka, basically September. This is a great time to be out in Lake Minnetonka, in Minnesota, outside of Minneapolis.

John: Right.

Paul: We expected nothing. We thought maybe a couple of companieswill come out. This is a big broker center in the United States, in the ITAD space. We had such energy and great people coming out. IBM showed up, Blanco, a lot of the bigger, usual suspects now, they showed up. They said to us, “Can you guys do this again?” And we said, “Hey, why not?” Round two John, you were our keynote speaker at our, let’s call it our first real event. That was in Miami, at the Eden Roc Hotel.

John: Right.

Paul: That’s when we really started realizing this industry is very interesting. There’s a lot of future here. There’s a lot happening with data privacy, the environment, and the supply chains. That’s really when we kind of tightened up and said, hey, we really offer something valuable to our attendees for people to learn about what’s new, what’s innovative, where is this all going, and that’s what we’re doing. We did that in Arizona. We’re going to do that in[inaudible] in California and we’re looking at international offers in Europe. We just had a little off the topic, off the line at where we’re at with Corona. Hopefully, when people are listening to this, this is all be ancienthistory.

John: Right.

Paul: We know we’re cautious about that but we’re going to continue working on making this a great program for everybody when it comes out.

John: That is wonderful. Talking a little bit about that first event that I got to go doing was your keynote, I knew you were onto something there because the energy in the room and the number of people there were just fabulous. How many people showed up for that? What was your second event, but the first event that I attended in Miami?

Robert: The event in Miami we had around 605 people come out to the event.

John: Wow.

Robert: Yes, we started with a marketing program for three months in advance. It was extremely successful. We ran it, I would say six months after the Minnesota event. So far we’ve been running the events every six months but probably we’ll move to a once-a-year format. It’s getting big enough. We want to make sure the program doesn’t grow stale and people are able to meet a network of new people so that’s kind of where we’re at with that.

John: I want to say, then I showed up to speak again. How many months later was your Arizona event, your Scottsdale event?

Robert: It was again about six months after the Miami event.

John: We went from just a regular NFL game in Miami to all of a sudden I felt like we were at the Super Bowl at Scottsdale. I mean you guys just were off the chain there. Well, I mean what happened? Was it in Miami that you guys had your aha moment, that you realized you’re onto something big, or was it literally standing in the middle of how big the event was in Scottsdale that you realized, “Wow, this is beyond whatever we dream.” How many people showed up in Scottsdale, and how big was that event?

Robert: Scottsdale we’re right around seven hundred and thirty people so we definitely had a significant bump. We knew we were onto something in Miami. I mean the buzz in the room speaking to a lot of the attendees, the exhibitors, and almost everybody has said unbelievable things about the event. They loved it.

Paul: By the way John, I don’t know if you remember this, but I do because I remember. Maybe two weeks before we really hosted the Miami event and if you saw this thing on

Netflix, The Fire Festival movie.

John: Yes, I did see that.

Paul: This kid runs an event that’s a complete farce. We were scared because we thought, “Oh man, this is gonna be tough.” We’ve got so many people. We got to make sure everything is managed. I don’t know if you remember this, but we actually had to delay your keynote and you were so gracious with us so we really appreciate that. We had to delay because the line getting into the venue was out the door. It had snaked all the way outside the lobby. We had eight people working there, working their asses off to get them through. We literally had to push it back a little. I would say around that time we had an aha moment like you said and we said, “First of all, we need a bigger venue.” Rob did a fabulous job securing that in Arizona. That’s why it really started to feel like okay, this is starting to gel, and then people have the expectation. They have an expectation that they’re going to be doing great business, which is really the feedback we’re getting. It’s so fantastic to get an email or phone call and somebody says, “You know what I closed like seven deals out of that conference.”

Robert: We even had people that were at the conference and they’re like, “Rob guess what, I just closed the deal while I’m working on the floor here.” It’s unbelievable so it’s a tremendous opportunity.

John: Well, we’re going to go into that in a second. I just want to say my team who was down in your Scottsdale event who had a booth there made over a hundred new contacts from their time at that booth those days down there. They felt it was the most valuable conference they had been to in years. Obviously, they’re coming back with me to your other conferences this year and beyond because they felt like they got more done and kind of compact amount of time than they ever did at other conferences or just working the phones and emails themselves. I could say from a first-person perspective and as an entrepreneur to an entrepreneur, huge success from our perspective, huge ROI from our perspective. I can’t recommend your conferences more. Let’s talk a bit little about the benefits. Talk a little bit about first, what is ITAD really mean? We have a lot of listeners who don’t even know what the acronym stands for or what kind of people you’re attracting. Talk a little bit about who you’re trying to get to come to your conference. Why they should come and then what are some of the benefits of being an attendee at your conference?

Paul: Sure. Well, ITAD is IT Asset Disposition and you guys are very familiar with this but for anybody who’s not familiar with that is the industry of electronic recycling has evolved over maybe the last 40 or 50 years, where the true value in these assets was in the raw materials like copper and gold and silver or whatever and extracting that, grinding that again. There’s still plenty ofmarket for that in the recycling space but now you’re looking at how many devices, IT devices that we all have. I was thinking about this the other day. I’ve got three iPads. I got two computers. We have all these data-bearing devices that we use for our work and at some point, they have an end of use for a user. If it’s the first user then it’s got to go into us. There’s still value in the asset so it goes into the secondary market. When you think of larger organizations that are buying, mobile devices for all of their employees and then they upgrade everybody. Well, those first-generation phones or laptops or servers, they still have a useful life for somebody, maybe somebody in Latin America or somebody in Africa, who knows. That life cycle continues in the disposition world. What we want to do is we want to bring together all of the folks in this supply chain. Anybody who’s dealing with the disposition, they’re taking it out as a service or they’re wiping data off of devices. Anybody who’s in that space. We’re bringing them together with this unified vision of, well, if you’re in ITAD, this is what this is where you’re going to meet people who are doing similar things, or they can help you in your supply to provide that service to companies. Rob, you’re from this space so maybe you can add to that.

Robert: Yes, so I mean with the whole ITAD space, you’re providing reverse logistics services for your large businesses. You’re pulling out assets with all the uptick and data privacy laws. You need to provide compliant reporting. You need to use proper data sanitization software where you’re wiping the hard drives. You’re providing a paper trail back to the company. You’re providing the services for the ITAD space, obviously evolved out of the electronics recycling space just from the standpoint. You’re providing a lot more services. You’re charging for your data erasure services. You’re charging for specific auditing of equipment and providing that compliance reporting back to the client. You’re providing proper electronics recycling services. Now, it’s all embodied by your R2 Certifications, your e-Stewards that are chaperoning the industry. It’s kind of ensuring that things are handled properly because before, there were really not a lot of certifications out there monitoring what’s going on with the industry. You were able to basically take equipment in, maybe erase the software, maybe not, re-sell it on E-bay. It caused a lot of problems with data privacy leaks and things like that. The IT Asset Disposition industry is obviously a very big need for the world.

John: I got it. Who is the kind of groups that should be coming to your great summit? For our listeners out there, we’ve got the co-founders Rob and Paul from the Global ITAD Institute, which you can find them at www.itadsummit.com. I’ve attended the last two ITAD summits, their amazing events. Our company is going to be attending the next summit too and I’ll be there as well. We’re electronic recyclers and we’re also a data management and data destruction company, talk a little bit about who else do you suggest should be coming to your great events.

Robert: So, right now kind of the profile of the event, the attendee profile, we have about 50% ITAD providers there. You’re going to have 10% in the corporate sector. People that are looking for new down streams from an ITAD standpoint. It’s a great place for ITAD to meet corporations looking to potentially set up a contract. We have a ton of IT resellers and brokers, so maybe about 30 to 35 percent would be about your like IT resources, your brokers. The reason why a lot of ITAD guys like coming to this event is you’re going to meet the top IT resellers, the top IT brokers in the world. You have your guys coming from anywhere in the U.S.A., anywhere from Europe. These are guys that are buying computers, paying top prices for your wholesale computer deals, and things like that. You’re able to do a lot of face-to-face with your vendors or suppliers. It’s a tremendous networking opportunity. We have this one-to-one meeting so typically if you attend the event, you’re going to set up about 20 to 25 meetings that day. You’re really able to see who’s coming to the event before you arrive. You could target exactly who you want to meet and it’s just a tremendous opportunity.

Paul: By the way, that’s another little bit of our secret sauce, John. It was another aha moment for us, too. We really kicked off this one-to-one technology. There’s a lot of meetings that do this now too, but we really focus on trying to make sure that this works. For example in Miami, I don’t know if you remember this, but you’re walking through the exhibit hall and this place was just buzzing with life and meetings because people were setting up thousands of meetings. I mean, we had 600 some people there, but there were thousands of meetings. When we kind of looked at the analytics on the backside and we said, “Oh my God, look at the interaction that’s happening here.”

Robert: Yeah, I could give you some of the metrics there. In Minnesota, we probably had about 800 meetings set up. We really didn’t have enough time to throw the event in 45 days, but in Miami with the 600 people that attended, we had over 2,700 meetings in Miami. We packed the people in this room and the room, honestly, was too small. It felt like you were inside of a stadium. Then in Scottsdale we had about the 720 to 730 range of attendees. We had over 5,000 meetings set up for that event so it’s a growing evolving thing.

John: Right. How about Fortune 500 companies and other organizations like that? Should they be coming to your conference?

Robert: Yes, I mean, we’ve had guys like Intel come out to the event, people that are handling the reverse logistics side for the companies. We had a bunch of people out of the mobile industry, RingCentral, people like that. I think it’s a good opportunity for them. They would you know if they’re dealing with a certain ITAD provider at the event. They are able to have direct face time with most likely people they’re dealing with in the ITAD space. It gives them the opportunity tomeet new providers that are kind of on the up-and-up in the industry so it gives just it’s pretty good I think for that sector.

John: There are some new trends that are happening both in electronic recycling and also the ITAD world. This whole GDPR coming to America and the issue of data destruction and data management. Can you talk a little bit about, Rob or Paul, the trend of
privacy rights rising, and the need for appropriate and responsible hardware data destruction? How that impact your conference and creates even more of a need to come to your conference to listen and learn about unique subject matters and growing trends?

Paul: Sure. GDPR was actually the second topic that we presented, we had a lawyer out of Minneapolis, in the Minnesota event that we had. GDP from the get-go, the data destruction, the data privacy, also the CCPA, this California Privacy Act, which is it looks like States. We’ve got 50 different states in the United States and fifty different privacy laws. I’ve been saying this since day one again because I have an office in Washington DC. Data privacy is one of the major issues in the next — It’s the future. I mean forget the next decade, it’s going to be about what data is on these devices that we use. Frankly, there are trade secrets, there’s personal information that you just don’t want to be shared and it’s a liability issue more so than losing a device. You lose your phone, your iPhone or your computer, you can get a new one. You’re worried about losing what’s on that phone.

John: Right.

Paul: If you’re a company and you have employees who frankly have trade secrets or there are designs on all of these devices, if you haven’t done your due diligence and wiped and you’vebeen in compliance with these regulations that are in place, you’re in for it. That’s big and it’s a growing, growing issue. Every other week we hear about some kind of abreach. Also on the backside, something’s been stolen, something is misappropriated. It’s floating around on the dark web that shouldn’t happen. You’re always going to hear about an issue of this sort at our conference because it’s a pillar of ITAD. Data privacy and data wiping is the pillar of ITAD.

John: So it’s going to be covered at your conferences this year, your two conferences and then beyond.

Paul: Absolutely.

John: Let’s talk a little bit about this year. When will your next conference be and where will it be so our listeners can know how to start getting ready to attend and sign up for your great conference coming up?

Robert: The current event is scheduled at Huntington Beach, California at the Hyatt Regency.

John: Okay.

Robert: It’s scheduled from May 27th to May 28th. Actually, I screwed that up. I was like, which holiday we’re in for?

John: What’s right before May 27th, the holiday?

Robert: It’s a holiday but it’s —

John: Memorial Day?

Robert: Memorial.

John: Don’t worry about it. Sometimes it’s not the most memorable.

Paul: You know, we don’t celebrate holidays, John. We just work all the time.

John: You’re just workers. Don’t worry about it. I got it.

Robert: I was a restart. Okay, so the event is going to be held at Huntington Beach California at the Hyatt Regency. The dates are May 27th, May 28th. It’s right after Memorial Day. I lost my train of thought here. What else are we discussing with this question?

John: We’re discussing where the event is, what the dates are, and how people can sign up for it.

Robert: I got it. I just direct them to the website, I guess.

John: Yeah.

Robert: All right, let me restart.

John: No worries. That’s the beauty of editing these things.

Paul: Take three.

John: Don’t worry about it.This is no big deal.

Robert: Okay. So the event is going to be held in Huntington Beach, California. The dates are May 27th, May 28 right after Memorial Day. If you’re interested in buying tickets, you can purchase tickets at www.itadsummit.com. Ticketsare available right now. We’re at a pre-advanced ticket special. The price right now is $550 a ticket, so if interested visit the website and purchase them.

John: Perfect. Guys, how do listeners connect with both of you if they have specific questions or concerns or want to discuss your conference with you before they sign up. How can our listeners best connect with you guys?

Robert: The best way to connect with me, Robert, you can email me at robert@itadsummit.com. If you’re interested in calling us, can you give you a phone number here for a second? I restarted that.

John: Okay, no worries. Take two.

Robert: Paul, what do you want to say for your email?

Paul: We have a catch-all email on the website, events at ITAD Summit. You can reach us directly there. We get it. We have a chat feature on the website as well. If anybody has specific questions, we’ve got one of our guys handles this and it’s very helpful because there’s always kind of questions about the specifics of how this all runs. The other thing we want we want people to consider is like you said earlier John, Fortune 500s, or any other new company in this ITADspace, we’re always interested in hearing from potential speakers as well. If there is somebody who’s interested in and has a great idea, last time we had some new stuff about blockchain and robotics and artificial intelligence. If there’s someone out there who’s doing something innovative and they want to maybe give us a little bit of a sneak peek or give us their perspective, we want to hear from them, too. There’s contact info. The best point of contact is on the website. We read these emails. We get them, we process them, so reach us there.

John: Before we have to say goodbye here, shameless plugs, anything you guys want to plug including your conference or future events. This is your time and then we’re going to sign off here.

Paul: Well, definitely first of all we appreciate that you’re taking the time to speak with us, John. We appreciate that. You’ve been with us since the beginning. This is great for us to see how this grows and the industry is growing. We will shamelessly promote all of our speakers including you John. We’re going to shamelessly promote all the attendees who come out because at the end of the day you go to an event, you meet great people and you say, “I want to do business with that person or this person.” We create that environment for people to add that to their agenda, to their annual agenda. This is our shameless plug of getting on the website, get registered. It’s going to be an incredibly productive week. I don’t make any guarantees like this, but I think with a lot of confidence you’re going to do great business if you come on out. You’re going to learn some wonderful things about the industry.

John: Well, for sure we’ve done great business at your conferences and again for people who want to find Rob or Paul, please go to www.itadsummit.com. Both of you guys are the reason I have this show you’re making a great impact on this world. You’re making a great impact on our industry. Thank you both for being my guest today on The Impact podcast. Thank you again.

Paul: Thanks, John.

Robert: Thanks, John.