Shifting mentally

I am always moving forward.  I have been since I came out of the womb.  Not sure if it had to do with wanting to get out from underneath the people who raised me although I am giving that a lot of thought to that these days.  There has always been this fire inside me that needs to climb every mountain that crosses my path.  It appears that looking back there have been many mountains that I have come in contact with and scaled.  I am well aware of that.  I got to the point where I did not want to climb every mountain.  It was pure exhaustion that got me to that realization.  Yet I had to understand the part of me that never allowed me to unpack my climbing gear.

I have written about slowing down every fall, post the summer relaxation period, for the past few years.  I definitely want to be ahead of the curve and work on many projects but at a difference pace.  Over the past year, I have learned to do this and feel confident at the same time.   It feels insanely refreshing.  I am enjoying the gig I have built for myself in different ways and that is pretty sweet.  I get to meet amazing people and be engaged intellectually at a pretty high level.  I get to make a difference in other lives and that is really important to me. I get to make an impact on the economy by creating jobs and businesses among other things.

Our time in Los Angeles is coming to an end in the next few weeks.  I am really looking forward to returning to my hometown of NYC.  There has been a paradigm shift in my thinking.  I am not necessarily moving in a different direction but am evolving in a new direction and it really feels fantastic.

The Ecosystem of Expertise

Over the last decade, we have seen start-ups change industries, take out middle-people and in many ways create efficiencies through technology.  It is the next generation of thinkers re-tooling verticals that are ripe for change.  What has become more and more apparent as these start-ups begin to mature and shift market share is that many of them have built businesses on their own expertise that has helped consumers and companies.

New brands that sell directly to consumers have side-stepped the retail stores as the only avenue to peddle their product.  It has made a dramatic impact on the companies revenues and margins.  They are all scrambling from Macy’s to Sears to Whole Foods to look at their organizations from bottom up.  How can they become more efficient and continue to bring in the customer?  Perhaps Amazon will be the new leader in this space and show them all how it is done in 2020 and beyond.

I am invested in several start-ups that are creating businesses that help other businesses eliminate an entire division that oversaw something because they can hire an outside company to be that expert and in turn be more profitable and efficient doing that.   That is a win-win for everyone.

We are just beginning to see the many companies built 5 years ago start to get serious traction that results in consumer behavior shifts.  Although 92% of products are still bought in store vs online and that will start to accelerate in the years to come from 8% purchased online to 50%.  Companies that operate with a smaller staff of people and overhead because of the expert companies that they can hire for a particular job.  New brands at the grocery store are starting to grab a lot more of the shelf space than they had 5 years ago.

And of course there is more but these subtle shifts are happening at a bird’s eye view and we are not that far from an onslaught.

 

Little Sister and Kerry James Marshall at the MOCA

There are very few things left on the LA list that we didn’t get to but the good news is that there is always next year.  I really wanted to get to the MOCA to see the Kerry James Marshall exhibit even though I went to see it three times at the Breuer in NYC.

Going back to see this exhibit in the post of our Presidential election makes it even more powerful.  It was also interesting to see how differently curated the exhibit was at the MOCA vs the Breuer with the exact same pieces.  I actually preferred MOCA as the pairings of the pieces in each room seemed to make more sense and pack a bigger punch.  This piece that represents the 60’s, speaks to everyone that it might have been quite a time but it isn’t over.

This is one of the first pieces in the exhibit that sets the tone.  Marshall painted this piece in 1986.  This piece including the many he painted between 1980-86 represent his reaction to reading Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man.  Those eyes are visible yet nothing else is.

We stopped in Little Sister to have lunch.  I wish that Little Sister was on the west side because the food here is fantastic.  The sweet, sour, spicy flavors of Vietnam pack a powerful punch.  Each dish had perfect balance.  We had three dishes.   Beer keeps the fire of the food at bay.

Imperial roll filled with shrimp, crab, pork, taro root and glass noodles inside a light crispy covering.  Take some of those crushed peanuts, chile sauce, a roll and wrap it up in the lettuce before taking a bite.

Salad of thinly sliced cabbages, mango, onion, and cucumber mixed with cashews and a lemongrass-cilantro dressing with large charred shrimp on the side.  I could eat this every day.

Spicy deep fried lemongrass chicken pieces mixed with slices of jalapeno and cilantro.  If you wanted to get involved you can pick up each piece and gnaw the bones.  The combination of flavors are perfectly balanced.  You get the full on punch of the lemongrass with the spice of the chiles and the crunch of the chicken.  Wow.

The afternoon was classic LA…get the car washed before heading home.

 

Tracy DiNunzio, Tradesy, From Learning to Closing, podcast

On episode #18 of Positively Gotham Gal, we talk with Tracy DiNunzio, Founder and CEO of Tradesy, an online platform where women can buy and sell from their own closets. Tracy’s scrappy approach to success is both tenacious and endearing — a great inspiration story for anyone in need of a swift kick in the pants in the start- up world.

Walking the neighborhood in LA

We have been taking Sunday afternoon walks with Ollie.  In general, he is a pretty lazy dog and is quite happy to lounge around on the couch but we all need our exercise.

The trees, the gardens, the look of each house in Venice is so unique.  Everyone is wearing their vibe in their front lawn.

The palm trees are pretty epic.

The color of the trees and the size is too.

Not sure what is happening in this house.  Something with the flags.

You don’t see jade trees like this on the East Coast.

A small garden with chairs

Next to the neighborhood library.

Incredible cactus.

More cactus

Colorful plants.

There are so many amazing homes and so many quirky homes.  I am going to miss our Sunday walks.

Fixing Government

We have had more than a few conversations about this at the dining room table over the past year.  The Trump budget is destructive to many of the fundamentals of our culture but how do we keep those programs that are so important and have a healthy balance sheet?  Non-profits can have healthy balance sheets too.

The concept of trickle-down economics doesn’t work for any of the people who are supposed to get the trickle.  It just works for the top.  Elected officials are by most accounts career politicians.  They are most interested in getting re-elected and passing bills that help their constituents although these days we are seeing more interest in just staying in power.

One of the many reasons I am so sorry that Mike Bloomberg did not run for the job of President is that after 3 terms of being the Mayor of NYC he understands Government budgets and he also understands business budgets.  They are very different things and few people really get both.  The only constant is the word budget.  Those of you that believe Trump gets it too are wrong as this is a man who bankrupted his own company four times and US banks refused to give him any more debt.  Says something right there.

Slash and burn is not the answer.  Careful thought to each program from how it is managed, where the money is going and that includes military and everything in between is needed.  Technology and infrastructure which includes our roads and the way our Government is run, from a bottom-up approach is what is needed.

When companies are purchased that are bleeding cash and not making the impact that they could be making, the owners (sometimes it is new owners) take a look at every aspect of the business and make the appropriate decisions to keep the culture yet make it profitable.

Perhaps I am being naive but our elected officials need to be able to not have knee jerk reactions based on who is in power but to take a long look at how our Government operates in a smart way.  Bloomberg is the only person I know who is capable of that.  I so wish that there was a few people who fall under this category.

Almost 20 years ago, Fred and I attended an intimate event of around 15 people in the tech world and 20 senators including the Clintons.  It was a dinner roundtable discussion about what we cared about and how our “new” community could obviously become more involved in politics.  Fred talked about the same thing we are talking about today, smart immigrants to come here and work in our companies and the insanity of our immigrantion policies.  I talked about education as I was chairing MOUSE at the time.  I remember hearing more than a few Senators talk about how they can make the changes today yet nobody was talking about the long tail.  It was about keeping their jobs, aka keeping them in power.  I brought up that nobody in their jobs makes a decision that will be the right ones for the long run and that is the problem with Government.  Not sure they wanted to hear that but this table of young people in a new industry were extremely “un-political” in their suggestions.

In the past few weeks, I have thought a lot about that dinner.  If the people sitting around that table had made the smart decisions vs the decisions that kept them in power (aka treading water) then perhaps our country would be in a very different position today.  Everything is short-term in Government.  It is too bad we don’t have a leader who thinks about the long view.

Traditions

I can’t help thinking about the traditions that bind us during this time in our country that is so divided.  I have been taught to not be prejudice and because of that I do not understand people who are.  Every culture celebrates different holidays, makes different food, reads different books to their children, celebrates different holidays and has different traditions.  When schools have diverse populations, children get to experience each other’s ways and hopefully embrace them openly.

I am not sure what grade this happened but I believe it was around 3rd grade, our kids were supposed to bring in a dish that was from their families tradition.  It was great hearing each of them go through that time and try to decide which was just the right dish that represents their family.  It could be the kugel at Yom Kippur, it could be the stuffing we make every single year or the cranberry chutney, it could be the brisket, it could be the charoses from Passover.  Some of these dishes began with my Grandmother.

People marry and create new cultures for their families particularly when two people from different places unite.  An Iranian with an Irish person, a Jew with an Italian, a Korean with a German, etc.  Our country is not that old and many of us still consider our roots be from our countries or our religions.   This is what makes America so great.  The myriad of people who live in a very large place.

The desire for some (and of course our President) to close our borders or to discriminate against others through hatred (vandalizing a Jewish cemetery or bomb scares and more) is so beyond my understanding.  I do understand how we got here.  We got here through greed.  I am just beyond comprehension on the anger and dismissal of ones who don’t look like themselves.  What is really unfortunate is that the people who voted towards hatred and prejudice are the ones that are going to be hurt the worst.

How do we mold gentrification into good for all?

Over the last decade, we have seen cities transform in good ways and certainly questionable ways too.  We have witnessed urbanization not only in America but other countries as the millennials have flocked to cities.  They have transformed neighborhoods by creating economies for new stores, restaurants, and services.  They have also put pressure on the public school education system to step up their game.  The good news is that many neighborhoods that were in decay have rebounded to be safe places for people to live.  The bad news is what happens to the people who can no longer afford to live there.

Many people have moved into urban areas because they embrace the diversity of a city and want their neighborhoods to remain diverse but with gentrification, neighborhoods begin to look a bit like a one-dimensional suburb and that is bad.

How do we mold gentrification into good for all?  I have read a few articles about cities in upstate NY such as Newburgh where a new generation is moving there because it is affordable and there is an opportunity to make a difference.  For instance, I read about a couple who took over a dilapidated house, rebuilt it and planted an incredible food garden in the backyard to share with their neighbors.  We are seeing that in Detroit too.

It is wonderful to see those city neighborhoods that have fallen on hard times have a fresh set of eyes move in, embrace their neighbors and perhaps bring light to the next generation living on those blocks.  How do we create laws, tax breaks or incentives to ensure that the diversification of the neighborhoods grow and then stay intact?  Wouldn’t the perfect neighborhood be where the mixture of races, religions, socioeconomic means remain together so that the children can grow up together in the same school systems and learn from each other’s different family values.

As a country, we have drawn a very deep line in the sand in regards to haves and have-nots, red vs blue, conservative vs liberal, religious vs atheist, straight vs gay, feminist vs anti-feminist, etc.   As our cities are changing and gentrification is taking place, we should take this opportunity at the state level (at least the states that care about this vs ones like South Dakota) to think creatively around using this change that comes from people for the good of the future.

 

Clue

There is a great article in the New Yorker about Ida Tin, the founder of Clue.  As more women, like Ida, rise to the top of the start-up world, the conversations and willingness to invest in ventures like Clue will change.

Even how I was introduced to Ida says something.  In the fall of 2013, my daughter Jessica was living at home before moving into her apartment, and she showed me the Clue app.  Told me she loved it and was turning all her friends on to it.  That was the first thing that struck me.  There are many of these period tracking apps out there but she zeroed in on this one so I knew that there had to be something there.

That particular day I met with a few VC’s who all asked me if I had heard of or seen Clue.  That maybe it was for me because she was a woman.  First of all, I invest in businesses I believe in and make a conscious decision to back women but it is as if every VC thinks if a founder is female even though they would not touch the business, they think we will send it to Joanne.  So over the course of one day, I heard about Ida from more than a few people and it was my daughter who really got me interested.

I connected with Ida and we skyped for an hour.  She is located in Berlin.  I was beyond impressed with her and the vision she set forth.  I invested and I believe I was one of the first to say yes.  Fast forward, I spent a lot of time with Ida and Hans (her co-founder) over the next few years.

I usually don’t touch areas that are super crowded but the reality is that Ida was the only female founder in a crowded area of period trackers.  Sometimes a woman at the helm makes the most sense based on the product and in this case, it makes absolute sense.

It has been frustrating for Ida and plenty of other women I know and have invested in to get the other side of the table (mostly men) to invest in their businesses.  I am talking about businesses that have traction, ample sales, and solid month over month growth.  The frustration level for all of them is high particularly when they see their male counterparts get funded with less proven data but perhaps more bravado.

I do feel that we are seeing a shift.  There might be a lot of bro-cultures out there in some of the start-ups that have growth to be quite large but there is a lot of companies like Clue that are flying under the media radar that are going to be big winners.  Those winners will be the key to change when it comes to investments, gender diversity, females at the helm and more in the years to come.   I am seeing it and it is about time.

And did I mention that Ida has had two children while building her company?

Alexis Maybank, Changing Direction Can Be A Good Thing, Podcast

This week’s conversation features Alexis Maybank, Co-Founder & CEO of Project September, the first entirely visual shopping platform. Alexis lets us in on her previous experience as the Co-founder of the luxury e-commerce site, Gilt, and how she let changes in consumer behavior, and new ideas, influence her in a positive way to start her latest venture.