Kato, Marciano Foundation and Kismet

Sometimes creative food works and sometimes it doesn’t but most of the time you just have to give the chef the nod.  We had dinner at Kato this past week.  It is located in a random strip mall in LA with no sign and the windows are blocked out with a white glaze.  The place has been open for two years.  Space is sparse and there is no liquor license.  You can’t open liquor on the premises so BYOB is worthless unless of course, you want to head out the door when nobody is looking and take a swig.  They do serve a delicious tea which seemed to work.

The menu is a set so you get what you get.  There were some highs and some lows but the creativity is impressive.  The highlights were a crispy rice square with brown butter and uni.  This combination of flavor and textures were amazing and the whole thing almost melted in your mouth.

A fried chicken wing stuffed with mushrooms and ginger.  You weren’t expecting that from the way it looks.

Creamy porridge topped with a steamed egg and bacon washed buns for dipping.  So clever.  The rest of the meal was good but those were my three faves.  There was a pineapple bun that was stuffed with foie gras that had a combo of sweet and savory so they served it at the end of the savory portion of the meal before moving into sweet but it was so rich, I wish it was earlier on.

We returned to the Marciano Foundation to see the Olafur Elliason Reality Projector installation.  You have to get tickets although free of charge as they want to set the cadence of people coming through there.  I have to say it is really nice because the place just isn’t that busy so it gives you space to really enjoy the work.  It is a site-specific piece created with light and glass that creates this fully immersive experience in one huge room with color and movement.  It is definitely worth seeing.

The foundation is housed in a Scottish Rite Masonic Temple built in 1961.  It is amazing.  The large backfire stairs show how this building was built with poured concrete.  It is like a rock.  Looking from the mezzanine there is an installation from Alex Israel who painted a historic mural that portrays Los Angeles.  It is called Valet Parking.  It is amazing.

Upstairs are the galleries and most of the artists I have never heard of before which makes the whole experience really intriguing.  Marciano collected these works and now sharing it with the public.  We get to see the work in this big expansive space that couldn’t be more perfect to show art.

That evening we went to Nomad for a drink.  Having just opened downtown, I really wanted to get there before we leave.  The menu is the same as NYC so drinks were all we needed.  The renovated space is beautiful.  This building was built in 1920 as the Bank of Italy.  I had to capture the ceiling overlooking the space.  They have made a nod to the old with the space and it is quite beautiful.

Dinner was at Kismet.  Another beautiful space.  Warm soft light woods hold the place from the floor to crawling up the walls for the banquettes.  It is all about simplicity.  The vibe is similar to Jon and Vinny’s and they have taken some cues from them as well (note the owners of Jon and Vinny’s are partners with the two women behind Kismet).  Restaurants need a new paradigm to survive and making sure that you turn the tables quickly while still making the experience tops is what they have figured out.  Not the greatest if you want to make a night of it but the food and experience are so good that you leave happy and want to come back so the concept works.  Someone (or them) need to come up with a great bar or something next door to extend the evening.

This place defines LA and millennials down to the orange wines, the small plates and the unique mixture of clean fresh food to share.  Marinated mussels with pickled shallots, currants, and parsley.  Plump perfect mussels with just a hint of flavors were so simple and so delicious.

Fried cauliflower with a caper yogurt.

Lamb belly fell apart like butter mixed with a crispy roasted cabbage with carob and Meyer lemon.

Dessert was incredible.  Honey yogurt with crispy filo cracker.  We went home very happy.


We are moving into a world where the amount of data we are generating is becoming the star in the decisions we are making.  Netflix is making content based on what people are telling them they want to watch.  Politicians rely on data for what the people want to hear.  Products are being created based on data.  Need I go on?

I read somewhere that 90% of the data that we rely on has been created over the last two years.  Bloomberg did the research and came to the conclusion that he could not win the Presidential race.  Looking at who did win, I wonder if the data was actually correct.

I recently met with a founder who has a really smart idea in the food space.  His partner was someone who had never been in the trenches of the food space so he did a deep dive into the data.  He kept repeating the data back to me as if there was no room for error.  He came up with the valuation of the company (and more) based on data. He had it all planned so perfectly based on all his research but I didn’t agree with his analysis because my expectations were based on my experiences which are personal data points.

My brother and I were talking about this.  He said, “people are not as predictable as we think”.  I couldn’t agree more.  I love data but it is one point among many and sometimes even though all the data is pointing in one direction does not mean that it will end according to plan.

I want to believe that content could be made based on data but on top of that are real people with creative minds and we all know it isn’t that easy to just make good content.  There have been politicians who have come out of nowhere because they decided to run regardless of all the data pointing in a different direction and lo and behold, they won.

Data is great but it is not the end all be all.


There is something about being scrappy, and hopefully as a founder, once scrappy, always scrappy.  I have seen too many decks and have had too many calls where founders tell me that for their seed round they are raising $1.5-2m and of course with that, they believe their valuation to be something that seems out of range considering that this money is getting them to actually prove the model.

I believe that nothing is standard as long as you have legal documents to back you up but there are some realities to how much should be raised at the beginning of a company.  First round, after some friends and family, should be in the range of $500-750k, next round should be in the range of $1-1.5m, next round $2-3m and then things can really bust out after that.  Each of these rounds gives you the ability to grow and be smart.  Too much capital in a business isn’t always a good thing.

Building a business takes discipline.  How many engineers do you need, how many sales people do you need, how much is the rent, how big is the marketing budget, what is the cost to acquire customers, does PR make sense and when, is it time to bring on someone to run HR, and so forth.  Each time you raise money, it is important to get back to the drawing table about costs.

I have seen companies take on more money than they needed because someone was willing to give it to them at the valuation they wanted too.  Each time, fiscal responsibility blew out the door.  These companies either failed or found themselves in down rounds because they needed more cash and they had not built the value with cash that they had.

It is becoming easier every day to build a company from scratch with less capital.  Be smart, be scrappy and if you can, stay that way forever by being disciplined about cash.

A belated note on International Women’s Day

I couldn’t help but ask myself on International Women’s Day the question is there an International Men’s Day?  The answer is, yes.  It was conceived in Trinidad and Tobago around unifying the country for qualifying in soccer’s world cup.  It has evolved since then.  International Women’s Day began in 1909 with the idea of promoting equal rights for women.  We are still marching for equal rights more than 100 years later.

There are many women communities sprouting up across the globe.  It is clear that the issues women have to deal with are global issues from wanting equal pay, to having to care for their children, to having to care for their parents, to celebrating holidays, to passing on traditions, to having big aspirations and more.  We are all hoping to be the last generation where sexual harassment ceases to exist and the starting now there is equal pay for the same job and we get the same amount of equity as our male peers, and a place where we can be anything we want to be without prejudice.

I went to a female event on International Women’s Day.  The speaker grew up in Romania and was quite funny about the different expectations between women here and there.  She was wearing a sleeveless fitted black leather dress.  She told us that she was thinking about what she was going to wear that night and realized that she shouldn’t wear pants but wear something that made her feel like the woman she is.  We all wear what we feel comfortable in but she noted that she wished that if we could all go back in time, she wished that Hillary Clinton never wore a pants suit but wore a dress every single day because we have been taught that we need to be like a man to succeed.  We don’t and I would add we shouldn’t.  Women should have their own path and behave like the person they are, period.

She pushed the audience to write down what we were afraid of?  What were our fears?  What are you afraid of fulfilling noting that dreams without action are the worst.  Life doesn’t come with a handbook.  She suggested that you should drop goals if you aren’t going to fulfill them.

While I was sitting there listening to her speak with authority and bravado around women just getting out there to build empires, be fulfilled and find their own identities, I wondered about the men that I know and would they sit through something like this with the need to be empowered.  I am not sure they would.  Women are different beings and it is time that we are all embrace each other for what makes us different in the work world.

I am wildly enthusiastic about the women founders that I have financially supported and even the many that I have not.  They are all forging out with their own handbooks, their own strength, and their own agenda….and many of them wear dresses….and pants

Who else will file for Bankruptcy in 2018?

We are sitting in the middle of changing times.  Technology has fueled the start-up world from mid-90’s until now.  There was a bit of a misstep during the mortgage crisis but the ones that survived came back stronger than ever with plenty of new companies in every vertical planting seeds.  Many of these companies have changed the way we live our lives.  One of them is Amazon.

Toys R Us announced this past week that they are closing 180 or more stores.  Physically those stores have a huge amount of space.  What happens to those spaces?  What happens to the people who own those properties that have leveraged them over the years because the rent is paying for the loans they took against the properties?

This was bound to happen.  Amazon has changed the way we shop for everything.  The long tail of Amazon is that new brands have sprouted up and they understand that they need to sell directly to the consumer without having a brick and mortar space.  Brick and mortar is an added bonus as the brand grows but it is not the end all be all.

On the other hand, because of technology, there is a burgeoning reaction to the digital age where people want to engage with the old world ways from being a bartender to opening up a barbershop to becoming a cobbler to making furniture or even crafting new beers.

I have walked through empty open-air malls in LA and wonder about what to do with this real estate because clearly, these stores will go out of business at this rate.  To mourn for the Toys R Us is worthless, they had a nice 75-year run, and that is something that any company would love to have.  Perhaps they just didn’t see the future coming because there is no doubt that we will see more companies of a different era close their doors and go bankrupt in 2018.

How will malls become the new meccas again?  So many ideas.  What comes next is the opportunity that excites me.

There Are No Shortcuts, Courtney Gould, SmartyPants Vitamins, Podcast#57

Courtney Nichols Gould is the Co-Founder/Co-CEO of SmartyPants Vitamins, the leading maker of premium comprehensive supplements, committed to bringing more health to more people every day. Courtney got her start working as an apprentice to the board of directors at GM, and went on to work as the COO for numerous tech and web startup companies before embarking on her own entrepreneurial venture. Courtney and I talked about a ton of great topics, listen carefully if you’re interested in a crash course in CPG companies and raising capital the smart way.

Social Media

We can all debate the pros and cons of social media but the one thing that I love is the connection.  Each of the channels I use is different connections.  I only use text, Twitter, and Instagram.

There is one text app that the family uses as a group and I don’t talk to or follow anyone else on it so when I get pinged from that app, I know it is from the family which I love.  I only use text message for people that I have relationships with.  I am able to have rapid fire convos with people that I want to talk to from friends and founders.  I really don’t like it when someone texts me that I don’t know.  I hate it when someone calls me who I don’t have a relationship with. Email is for that.

Twitter is my media feed.  What is happening in the world, what people are writing about, what is trending in the world and supposed important information that I need to keep my head filled with nonsense.

Last is Instagram.  There are so many things I love about Instagram.  I follow people in the design world from architecture to art, people and restaurants in the food world, and people and designers in the fashion world.  Things I am interested in.  The best is being able to see what my friends are up.  I am literally watching a few friends kids grow up.  I see where people are eating and what they are seeing that is of interest to them.  I saw a good friend got engaged.  The platform makes me feel more connected than less connected.  It is like the new water cooler and it works for me.

Being in LA, we find ourselves entrenched where we are, but I can stay connected and feel part of the program when I am not in NYC or anywhere else.  I like it.

Driving, driving, driving…

The biggest downside of LA is the driving.  It is easier to just stay in your neighborhood but I so do love to explore.  So after running the weekend errands, we headed downtown.  Today we chose Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast for our entertainment.  He is so good.  He takes you on a journey about the overlooked and misunderstood pieces of history that he finds fascinating.  I think we listened to 5 of them….gives you an idea of how much we drove.

Our first stop was Hauser & Wirth.  Their gallery down in the arts center of LA has transformed the entire area.  Every time we go down there, there seems to be more development.  They had an installation of Mark Bradford’s work, a local LA artist.  It is really hard to capture the depth of these pieces in photos.

I really loved this piece too.

There is a new shop of editions that is definitely worth stopping in.  Also another exhibit of Geta Bratescu.

On our way over to Geffen we stopped in VHILS, to see the first solo show of Alexandra Farto.  The show is about globalized development.  This is of LA.

I also loved these carved concrete pieces.

At the Geffen, MOCA museum.  An installation of Adrian Villa Rojas, a site-specific exhibit that feels apocalyptic.  Not my thing.

We were in Koreatown, so we went to Shin-Sen-Guni, where we stood in line for awhile before getting 2 seats for a bowl of rich pork broth ramen.

I had to take a picture of what the man next to me was doing to prepare for his ramen.  Lots of fresh garlic that will kill the taste of the delicious soup.  Alas, to each its own.

We went to another exhibit (next weeks post) but didn’t realize we needed to get tickets beforehand, so instead, we made our way over to M & B Gallery to see the Matthew Brandt show.  I like to go see shows of artists we have collected to see how they evolve and perhaps think about buying something new.  His work has really changed since first buying his work a few years back.  His medium is photography.  These pieces are materials that are used to clean the press after the prints are made.  He took them and embroidered on them.

This one is a dip-tich that is etched and reflective of nature.  Hard to photograph.

One last stop was at Von Lintel gallery to see Christiane Feser’s work.  Big fan.

We went home and took a BIG nap before making our way out for the evening later that night.

The Kids: The Children of LGBTQ Parents in the USA

I am not exactly sure where I read about this book but the topic drew me in.  When our kids were in K-12, the school had an annual event called Love Makes A Family.  It was always one of my favorite community events.  Kids would write about their families and pair it with a photo and each of these stories would be hung on the walls throughout the school.  Their school embraced and accepted everyone and anyone period and that is one of the main things that I always applauded.  Kids embraced their sexuality from a young age and everyone around them embraced it too.

Gabriela Herman shares the stories and photos of children who grew up with gay parents by creating this book, The Kids: The Children of LGBTQ Parents in the USA.  Just like all of us, they each have different stories about their families.  Some of them had their parents come out later, some of them never felt comfortable, others were insanely comfortable and some identified as gay themselves.  Everyone’s perspective is completely different as it is for every child.

I will read their stories again and again.  It is an extremely powerful book and I just love it.

Schindler and Neutra

Rudolph Schindler and Richard Neutra, two renown architects of the 20th Century, were both born and educated in Austria and made their way to Los Angeles, both to work with Frank Lloyd Wright, where they individually left their mark.  At one point, Schindler, Neutra and their wives and children all lived on King Street, a house that Schindler built and still stands today.  I went to see it this past week.  Two architects with large egos should not live together and history shows that these two had a massive falling out and then went on to create work that inspires anyone interested in architecture and together (although very much apart) literally define mid-century modern.

The Schindler house was built in 1925.  If you are over 6’2″ you would have to keep your head down while wandering through the house.  The house is a mixture of concrete, wood, glass and feels like it was built for being on a large Indian plain.  In 1925, it probably was.

There a handful of rooms.  Each brings in light through glass openings on the walls.

He also brought light in from a skylight.

The bathroom could have been made today.  Solid concrete and efficient like European homes.

Loved the fireplace that sits inside and outside.

The staircase is super narrow.

Then of course there are the gardens.  The place needs some serious tender loving care.  If you aren’t careful, you could fall through a floor or catch a piece of wood and tear off an entire slat.  Hopefully there are some preservationists making sure that the house survives another 100 years.

Afterward we drove over to Silver Lake and stopped in to Botanica for lunch.  If you had to create what a restaurant should look like in LA, this would be it.  Light, airy, happy and of course a backyard and a vegan menu.  I had the mezze, a little bit of a few vegetable dishes with hummus and delicious bread.

The cookies, particularly the oatmeal, was really good too.  A really sweet spot.

Next stop, Neutra.  In 1932, Neutra built a home for his family across from the Silver Lake reservoir.  He lived for three decades until there was a fire and then his son rebuilt the home and he continued to live there until his death in 1970.  You can now visit that property.  Up the road from the house is a colony (aka development) he built of 10 Japanese influenced homes.  People purchased a home and had a choice of upgrades (like today) if they wanted to pay extra for them.  These houses sit today just as they did when they were built in the 1960’s.

Lucky for us, we were introduced to someone who lives in one of those homes that he purchased 24 years ago.  It is basically in its original state although he redid the kitchen yet kept the fronts of the cabinets and it looks as if nothing had been touched.  He has the original plan books that shows each fixture and keep in mind everything was hand-drawn.  He also has the marketing materials framed and hung on the house which are beautiful drawings with colored pencils.  The details in the house are incredible from the cantilevered fireplace to the long wide balconies to the bookshelves.  It is an architectures dream.

I did not take any photos inside although I did want to but after all, it was this families home, but I keep thinking about what we saw and how lucky we were to peek inside and get a serious full-blown tour from a lover of Neutra.  I guess I would put myself in the category too.