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Personalities

How This Tech CEO is Conquering the Impossible One Step at a Time

For Barry Nalls, it wasn’t his ice climbing adventures that stimulated his inspirational speeches. Instead, it was his speeches that got him climbing.
By Sofia Krusmark |
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Courtesy of Barry Nalls
After launching his first startup in 2000, serial entrepreneur, Barry D. Nalls went on to found VYBRANZ and co-found AERnano Inc., both of which focus on reducing company expenses and driving up profits. Despite not knowing much about mountaineering, Nalls found himself using it as a metaphor in a yearly motivational speech he gave employees.

Looking to add more tension to his talks, Nalls put aside the ropes and harnesses he typically used for his presentations and made a phone call. Tom Whittaker was the first disabled man in the world to summit Mount Everest.

After watching his documentary, Nalls invited him to lead a four-day training focused on team-building; Whittaker returned the favor by taking Nalls on his first outdoor climb—a 1,000-foot nighttime ascent in the wilderness of Arizona. “After that, I was hooked,” Nalls says.

LEFT TO RIGHT After three days of climbing, Nalls prepares to head down the frozen canyon.; After three days of climbing, Nalls prepares to head down the frozen canyon.


Five years later, he picked up ice climbing. The passion has taken him to peaks all over the world, from climbing up the famous ice walls near Ouray, Colorado to Mount Kilimanjaro—a climb he nearly didn’t complete after his body shut down 1,000 yards from the summit.

“My body let me take 21 steps. That’s it,” he recalls. So that’s how he finished—21 steps at a time.

Everyone in a company will always have different skill sets, abilities, and goals, Nalls says. “It’s all about making their 21 steps. So, I let them set their own goals, then I ask, ‘Now, what are you going to do and what can you do to accomplish that?’”

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