The Games We Play

Rolling-dice-006Years ago I went to meet someone who was an investor.  He did not invest in the spaces that I invest in but this one investment was a crossover and our mutual friend thought we should meet.  And so we did.

I remember that I felt like we were circling each other when I got into the office.  It was like we were about to start sparring but it was intellectual sparring.  He essentially began to tell me about how smart he was, the deals he had done, how he went about them, how it all works.  There was zero humility there.  I sat there listening and acknowledging as the thought went through my head “if you want to play this game I can play this game too”.  So I pumped up my chest and began to talk about my world in the same vein.  I call this game my dick is bigger than your dick.  It is a game that women rarely play.

There is no doubt that I am playing in the boys sandbox.  When only 4.4% of active VC’s are women that says something.  I am not a VC but my involvement and many of the things that I do to engage the companies I have invested in is similar to the way VC’s operate.  After all, I have been sitting on the sidelines for many years being involved in the backend through my husband.  There was a learning curve getting into the investment business and I am still learning every day but the curve was not as steep as it would have been if when I made my first investment and did not know the different between preferred and common stock.

There is a competition in the investment world that nobody really talks about but it is there in black and white.  Did you see this deal?  I am in that deal.  They are killers.  It is going to be my best deal.  Oh I saw that deal, you invested in them?  Hmm.  I was in that deal last week that got acquired.  I made a killing.  I was able to get out now and sell my shares, so smart of me.  I don’t need to go on but you get the point.  It is the same game, my dick is bigger than your dick.

Here is the thing, I really don’t like the game but I can play the game.  I am extremely competitive.  I do not like to lose.  I also find myself playing that game when I find myself in a room of men investors.  I always walk away thinking to myself “why did you have to behave like that”?  It is probably better to say nothing at all and just smile.  More than likely it is all my age old insecurities coming out.  I don’t like the way this game makes me feel in in the post.

On the other hand, I am glad that the game was played at the end of the year.  Gives me a lot to think about when it comes to taking some time off and mentally preparing for the year ahead.  My biggest wish that is in 2015 there are more lone women investors who I work with.  We probably play a different game but at least I find the game has more humility.

David Toutain, Paris

Although we have come and gone I have to post one more meal we had in Paris.  I don’t want to forget the meal and I don’t want to forget and come back.  The restaurant is David Toutain.  The chef is Toutain who has spent time at some of the top restaurants around the globe.  This is his first restaurant.

room

The restaurant is sparse yet elegant.  Reminds me of Danish design.  Organic, natural, simple and warm.  There is a small upstairs mezzanine where we sat and overlooked the main dining room.

menu

The menu is simple.  Either you order a wine tasting with the courses or not.  Also you can order how many courses you want.  We opted for the smaller meal although there are several added additions that come with it so the meal is long yet those are the only decisions you need to make.

salsify

You begin with roasted salsify roots.  The insides have become soft like a mashed potato.  Dip that in the white chocolate cream to intensify the flavor.  A wonderful starter to the meal.

beets

The next starter is from beets.  A crispy chip made from beets formed in a roll and then stuffed with a beet cream.  It is quite delicious and should be eaten in one bite.  I always wonder how many times someone had to work on this before they got it right.

truffles

There were truffles available that evening for another course.  We decided we had to try them so we opted for one dish split among the three of us.  It was definitely the call.

eggs

An egg stuffed with soft egg cream with a hint of cumin and tiny vegetables.  On the side is a small piece of bread to be dipped into the egg.  This was off the charts.

salmonSimply cured salmon that your fork just slid through served over a mixture of green sauces to dip your salmon into.  There was this one crispy piece on the top, I can’t remember what it was but I do remember it was one of the best parts of this dish.

bread:chipsWhat’s a restaurant in Paris without bread?  Warm light rolls served with a lightly salted butter.  There were also crispy crackers that had a hint of fennel in them.  It was more of a course than anything else because by the time the next course came we had finished everything.

foiegrasSimply poached foie gras alongside small super creamy potato gnocchi’s that were out of this world.  This was served in a very light yet rich consomme.

risotto eel

This was our truffle course.  It was a risotto that was made mostly from vegetables and very little rice.  Quite different and not as heavy.  Like a celery root.  Shaved white truffles on top.  The perfect amount.  I think if we had each had a full portion bowl of this we would have not been able to eat another bite.

whitefis

The fish course.  Lightly poached white fish served with a mixture of different creams too and small sweet potato bites on the side.

eel

This was amazing.  Three small bite sized piece of roasted eel sitting in a dark Asian flavored sauce.  Really different and divine.

pork

The meat course was pork.  Same concept again.  A deconstructed place with a small piece of meat served with just a few vegetables and different sauces so that every bite was good yet different.  The portions were perfect and the flavors intensified as the meal progressed.

cream

The first dessert was a very rich cream like a vanilla mousse.

crackerchocolateThe second dessert was savory made into sweet.  The chips were from a root vegetable.  I wish I could remember the different flavors but unfortunately at this point it was a blur.

lemon:chocolateLast out was the simple treats that they send you off with.  Small warm lemon muffins that were light airy tart yet sweet.  Loved these.  There was also a chocolate truffle with a tiny nut inside.

All and all the dinner was delicious.  Chef’s choice which I do like on occasion.  The attention to detail was obvious and we left feeling just perfect.  I’d really like to come back here.  It is definitely a place to treat yourself when you are in Paris.

Hello Clue, Ida Tin

I was at Le Web last week for the very beginning of the conference but wasn’t able to stay past that.  I was super excited that Ida Tin, the co-founder of Hello Clue was going to be on stage to talk about why she built Hello Clue and her vision. There are handfuls of period trackers but this can be more than a period tracker.

Let’s say you start your period and you begin tracking that on your app.  You continue to track your body from then on through your life.  See a world when you won’t need the pill but can know 100% when to get pregnant and not get pregnant through this app.  It will be your contraception.  Then you can track your pregnancy.  That will be helpful because the data will be there for your next pregnancy.  You can share it with your doctor.  You can share it with your Mom, your husband, your partner.  When your pregnancy is over you go back to tracking your period.  Eventually periods end and you begin to go into menopause.  Track it.  This is data for you, data for your doctor and also data for your daughters who want to know about how your cycle works.  It is a woman’s own personal health app.  It makes sense for a woman to build this business.

Here is Ida’s talk.  Short and powerful.

Cornell Entrepreneur Summit 2014

I was asked to speak at the first annual Cornell Entrepreneur Summit.  It was a big success.  The event took place in the New York Times building and the auditorium there is a really great place to have an event.  The speeches over the course of the day were all roughly 20-30 minutes.  Scott Belsky was the moderator so if your speech didn’t take up the full 30 minutes he came in and asked some questions that came in from the audience up on the screen behind the speaker.

I spoke about women entrepreneurs and why I believe that the next revolution will be run by women.  It is a speech I do hope to make again.  If you get a chance it is worth watching all the talks.  I particularly loved the one from Hamdi Ulikaya, the entrepreneur behind Chobani yogurt.  His passion about yogurt and entrepreneurship is inspiring.

JOANNE WILSON – Gotham Gal from Eship@Cornell on Vimeo.

Ratapoli du Faubourg, Paris

ratapol

Every time we travel I do try and find a restaurant that specializes in fish.  Ratapoli du Faubourg is that place.  Many of the restaurants in Paris we have been going to of late as in the 10th.  Still affordable rent.  The menu consists of a mixture of small plates so you can choose how many you want.  We opted to split a handful of them.  We sat in the back and Fred watched the chef prepare the meals coming out of the kitchen.  Quite good.  I’d go back here anytime.

horseradishbeet

They started us off with a small bowl of a beet horseradish pate with a savory whipped cream.  Wow.

oysters

Oysters from Normandy had been delivered that morning.  They are always out of this world.  Plump and briny.  Just like we like them.

scallops

Raw scallops topped with half of a black grape crushed nuts, greens and a hint of lemon.

foie gras

Foie gras is always a must in Paris.  This was served with a berry jelly on the side.

octo

Slices of octopus over a bed of thinly sliced fennel and celery.  Nice and refreshing.

razorclams

Razor clams that might have been the best I have ever had them.  Roasted and sweet.

roastedfish

A roasted white fish served with bok choy.

chocolate

We watched this dessert come out of the kitchen and decided we had to try it ourselves.  Woah.  A scoop of chocolate mousse with a piece of a light brownie cake.  Dollops of whipped cream on the side all topped with hazelnuts.  Out of this world.

Loved this place.  All the waiters wore blue and white sailor shirts too.  Super simple with plenty to choose from.

Flea Market in Paris

flea

I have been going out to the flea markets in Paris for years.  The prices have gone up, up, up, up.  I still believe all good vintage goes to die in Paris.  There is amazing jewelry, modern furniture, ceramics, etc.  You can always haggle with the vendors like we did.  The key is going to the right spots all located at the Saint-Ouen Flea market

l'eclaireurThe places I like to go to are on Rue de Rosiers.  Habitat 1964 was our first stop.  It probably is quite the rocking area when the weather gets warmer.  This is a design/fashion concept between vintage Conran furniture and retailer l’Éclaireur.  I am a big fan of L’Eclaireur as they have several shops in Paris, each different.  This is a photo of inside the L’Eclaireur shop.

habitat196This is inside Habitat.  In this industrial complex there is also a Buvette to get something to eat or drink and a taco truck.  I hate to use the word Brooklynized but that is exactly what it feels like.  A very hip happening place with a bit of grit.  Only open on weekends and holidays.

serpette:paulbert

Down the street are the other worthwhile markets.  Serpette, Paul Bert and Dauphine.  We hit up Serpette and Paul Bert.

tabeThere are mixtures of old and new.  This was a very cool desk.

painting

A painting.

bluebowl

This vendor had incredible ceramics at very expensive prices but well worth it.

tablebathroomThought about this table.

feet

Picked up these feet.

lunchfleaThis restaurant is sitting inside the middle of the market providing food for all the vendors.  It is like the local cafeteria and they deliver to everyone.

statueThis statue is actually an outdoor bird cage.

A great morning.  Cold but fun.  Fred said we should have just rented a van and filled it up.  There is always next time.

Pirouette, Paris

pirouette

A lot has changed in Paris over the past decade.  One thing in particular is the slew of young chefs who are leaving after working in the kitchens of the top places such at Le Meurice or Bouloud in NYC and then opening up their own place.  It wasn’t that this didn’t happen in the past but it did not happen as quickly.  The chef at Pirouette, Tomy Gousset did just that.

Pirouette is located in the back end of Les Halles.  The place has a soaring ceiling with an intimate feeling in light greys and browns.  Dinner is 36 euros.

celery root

They started us off with a small bowl of celery root soup very similar to a vichyssoise.  In the middle of the bowl was a thinly sliced red beet and a roasted piece of celery root.  Then they poured the soup perfectly over the top just letting the beet shine through.

pastatrffle

We both started with pastas.  The portion control in Europe is perfect.  You never walk away stuffed.  I had the fregola sarda mixed with chopped celery, butternut squash and white truffles on top.  The crunch of those tiny fregolas (they are like Israeli couscous) mixed with the chopped vegetables was delicious.

gnocchi

Fred had the gnocchi cooked with spinach butter, smoked haddock and walnuts.  Quite creative.

guineahen

For a main course I had the guinea fowl.  Covered in tiny seeds over a mixture of roasted roots.  Some had been pureed and others remained whole.  Fred had the scallops.

cheese

For dessert we both tried something different.  Fred went with the cheese.  Two slices of cheese that looked like thin slices of pie covered with a black cherry jam and spices.  Very rich.

ricepudding

I had rice pudding.  Something I never have but absolutely enjoy.  This was mixed with a salted caramel and caramelized hazelnuts set in the pudding.  There was an extra small glass on the side of more just in case you just wanted a few more nuts.

Nice night.  Good food.  We walked some of the way home but December tends to be a bit chilly here.  At one point we jumped into the Metro and made our way back home.

Equity vs Income

11110134-largeRecently a variety of companies that I am invested in have been interviewing some really amazing people who are currently working in companies where they make a solid salary.  They have responsibility, they are leaders in the company but they do not have equity so they are just hired help.

Making that entrepreneurial leap is a tough one but if you are an entrepreneur with a burning passion to start something it isn’t as scary as it sounds because you just have to do it.  If you are making that leap into a start-up making less than what you are currently making with equity making up for some of your income plus some well that is more difficult.

I left Macy’s when it went from a public trading company to a privately held company because I got zero equity.  I would have happily taken equity in the company that I grew in the garment center but it wasn’t the norm so instead of got a lot of cash.  It worked for me because it paid for our life but if I had been given equity I would have probably made a lot more and I would have had a different feeling of ownership.

There is a clear difference between people who are willing to take that leap of faith that they are part of something that is going to grow into something big.  They have to be willing to take that leap that they might make less cash but the equity will more than make up for that.  If the company succeeds it would have been the right call.  If the company fails then perhaps it was the wrong call but putting that kind of experience under your hat can never be taken away.  That is why the people who work up in the start-up world all have a little bit of that risk taking gene in their DNA.

I have been disappointed with people we thought were going to take a job in a company that I am invested in and then at the last minute turned it down for a counter-offer from their current companies but in the end I do believe that things happen for a reason.  Those people were missing the understanding of being an owner in something vs just an employee.

Personally I’d try to take more equity any day.

Bones and L’Affable

We were back in Paris this week with a brief hop over to Berlin in the middle.  This particular trip is quite nice to return to hold haunts with no agenda.

We had dinner at L’Affable and Bones again.  I think this is my fourth time to Bones which is up there with one of my top places to eat.  Here are some highlights from both places.

tartarel'affable

I had this amazing white fish carpaccio at L’Affable.

bones

One of the nicest things about Bones besides the fantastic vibe and incredible food is that your decision making is minor.  You choose from two entrees and everything else is part of the meal.  You do get to decide on dessert vs cheese so one other decision to made.  I love that.  Do not shy away from the bread at Bones.  It is utterly delicious.

sashimi bones

We began with a plate of thinly sliced house-made charcuterie.  This came next, hamachi sashimi with a lemon cream.  Over the top.

oystersbones

We each got an oyster that had a celery citron flavor on top.

musselsAlso a very spicy Moroccan flavored smoked mussel.

Will most definitely be returning to both of these restaurants again and again.