The importance of engagement

imgresPeople love sharing good news but not surprising that they don’t love sharing the bad news.  As a founder, you have to be able to share it all.  You also have to learn how to be transparent and engaging with the investors around you that want to help.

When I make a commitment to a company as an investor, I am also giving my time.  Each investment is different based on who else is involved in the company and the changes as the company grows.  There are times when I get frustrated with founders who I feel as though I need to hunt and peck to get any information from them.

I have also seen when everything is “great”.  There is no way that everything is “great”.  Then you find out things are “bad” with little time to spare.  It is frustrating for everyone on both sides of the fence.

I love the emails I get when a founder says “here is the good and here is the bad and here are the asks”.  To start your company off that way creates transparency for everyone from the very onset.  You end up hearing from the investors who want to be of help because those are the ones that response to those emails.  You can then figure out who to engage.

Once you take capital there becomes other players in the mix.  Opening up to the capital about what’s really going on is much better than holding those cards too tight.  You would be surprised how many potholes you can avoid with some early stage investors.

Looking back in tech time

imgresFred wrote about the life cycle of tech companies earlier this week.  It was a conversation we were all talking about over the weekend.  It was not surprising to see Yahoo become part of another company vs. a stand-alone business.  It is part of the cycle.

There is a point where a bunch of companies begin their lives in the same space and although each are slightly different they are competitors of one another.  Over the course of growth some get funding to move forward while others just die.  The really strong ideas that prove that they are worthy businesses by filling voids or needs in the market grow and survive.  At one point a few might join forces through a buy out or others remain stand-alone entities and perhaps go public but in the end there is usually one company through that cycle left standing.

We are seeing it in several verticals right now.  Sometimes it happen super quick and other times it takes a long time.  The one that is really interesting to track right now is transportation such as Uber, Lyft and others and to prove my point this week Hailo and My Taxi combined forces.

Going back to the 90’s there was Geocities.  Geocities was the first social network.  The competitors at that time were Tripod and Angelfire.  That was a time when there were ISP’s such as  Lycos, Alta Vista, Netscape (which began as Mosaic) and AOL.  Geocities was purchased by Yahoo for $3b at the peak of the dotcom bubble in the late 90’s.

Flatiron Partners was an investor in Geocities.  Flatiron Partners, that no longer exists today, began as a VC partnership between Fred and Jerry Colonna.  When Geocities sold it changed our lives in so many ways.

Not sure what companies will survive the next 20 years and what companies will change the lives of many people but what is to be noted is that Geocities for all its glory no longer exists today (except as a web hosting service in Japan).

Virginia’s

I was told as we were leaving Virginia’s by the owner that I had a reservation last December that I cancelled and he was glad I finally got there.  I must have read a great review, made a reservation and couldn’t make it so we cancelled.  I am really glad we finally got there.

Lots of restaurant opening in the east village area between 9-14, C/D.  The spaces are probably still well priced. Virginia’s did a nice job with the space.  Two rooms, airy, big windows in front and a small bar in the back.

uniI could have ordered a variety of things on the menu for dinner.  That is always a good sign.  We started with the toast of the day from the bar.  This was off the charts.  Crispy toast with warm spicy merguez sausage slathered over the top with dollops of uni on top and thinly sliced piece of fennel.  What a combo of flavors.  Wow, wow!

sushiMy first course was a hamachi crudo served with plums, thinly sliced cucumbers and a light yuzu sauce.  Perfect summer dish.

cauliflowerFred had the caramelized cauliflower, smoked pine nuts, clothbound cheddar and speck.  This dish could be served all year long and could even have it as a side.

hangerI really liked the presentations on the main dishes.  They were also just the right amount of food.  Hanger steak served with grilled spring onions and fingerling potatoes.

porkchopI had the pork.  One pork chop, sliced perfectly over a polenta topped with corn and fava beans all over a light pork jus.

asparagusWe had some grilled asparagus on the side with smoked hollandaise sauce.

sorrelThis dessert is really creative and so good.  Frozen sorrel souffle over strawberries and creme fraiche.

Love this place.  I will be back this fall for sure!

 

Saying No

imgresI reached out to someone this past week for someone who thought she would be the perfect fit for a particular board.  She probably would be but she had the wherewithal to say no.  I applaud her for that.

Saying no is so much more difficult than saying yes.  Yet the problem with saying yes again and again becomes overwhelming to your time and space.  I have no doubt overextended myself time and time again.  It creeps up on you and then all of a sudden you can’t breath.  It is not a pretty place to be and it is not productive for the people you said yes to because you aren’t doing them any favors either.

Deals come into my box all week long.  I look at them all and most of the time say thank you but no.  I have been asked to participate in many events but again take a look and politely say no most of the time.  I could go on and on but now saying no feels even better than saying yes.  If I say yes, I am fully committed not quasi-committed and feeling overwhelmed.

A founder that I am invested in recently just said no to an opportunity that I thought could be worthy.  He knew it but he just couldn’t commit, he had to stay focused on the moment and that would have just been one more thing to add to his plate that he couldn’t take on.  My answer to him was “bravo” for saying no.

I wish I had learned to say no years ago.  It is a skill that needs to be learned very very early on.  For me, it has been a game changer.

 

 

Freek’s Mill

I came into the city this week after being out at the beach working for the summer.  My daughter moved apartments and I came in to help make the shift.  Of course we had to eat so on Monday night we dined at Speedy Romeo in Clinton Hill where I have been a few times.  Great spot, really good food and of yummy pizzas.  Tuesday night we went to Freek’s Mill.

Freek’s Mill is named after an actual 18th century mill operated in Gowanus when the canal was rich with oysters vs toxic waste.  The architecture of the restaurant is beautiful.  A mixture of materials with dark and light greys creating a “new” more modern look in Brooklyn.  There are two rooms, big windows and a small bar.  Really great vibe.  My picture above doesn’t give the place justice.

freeksThe menu is constantly changing.  There are small places and big places but everything is meant for sharing.  No gratuity and they tell you that is reflected in the prices.  I have said this before I am a bit over the share thing.  You end up having multiple bites of different plates so the chef can show their large breadth of talents.  No doubt the chef at Freek’s has a lot of talent but I’m just over the small plate.  Reality is you could easily get away with ordering a starter and a main here but not sure they’d recommend it.

oystersWe began with the oysters.  Wood roasted oysters with bread crumbs and lemon.  Simple presentation and delicious.

stratecI really liked what they did with this dish.  Essentially pulled burratta wrapped around basil, almonds, serrano ham and basil.  They referred to this as straciatella which is an Italian soup containing eggs and cheese.

lambLamb shwarma tartare mixed with cucumber, cabbage and a red/white sauce and toasty hot pita chips.  We saw lamb tartare on another menu this week so my guess we will see more of this popping up on restaurant menus.

saladSimple baby lettuce salad with pickles vegetables and shaved grana cheese.

blossomsLove seeing squash blossoms hit the menus this time of the year.  Zucchini blossoms stuffed with mozzarella deep fried with a nice crust over a tomato basil sauce.

wineI liked how they served the white wine.  Pouring it out of the bottle into a carafe that sits inside an ice bucket.  Easy for the table and just a nice touch.

porkRoasted pull pork jowl that was super crusty on the outside served over a mustard with pickled radishes and ramps. Here is a perfect example of a “large dish”.  We each had a small piece (there were four of us) and so it was just a taste where we all just nodded our heads and said this is really interesting and good.  It was a try vs a meal.

pastaRabbit ragu over pappardelle with guanciale and ricotta.  Really good and light.

beansMy least favorite was the beans.  Charred pole beans with a tomato vinaigrette, oregano and pecorino.

roastvegThis was really interesting.  BBQ Kohlrabi over grits and greens.  I really liked this.

cevicheStriped bass ceviche with cherries, chilis and a swatch of avocado.  Nice presentation.

peachFor dessert we had a peach cobbler with bourbon ice cream but it was really more of a peach pie.

raspberrybreadRaspberry bread pudding with whipped creme fraiche.

Lots of flavors, beautiful space and really glad we were able to get in before the mad rush come fall.

Michelle Obama Karaoke

I am really going to miss the Obama’s in the White House.  I just love Michelle.  She’s the coolest first lady this country has ever had…hands down.

The Godfather

imgres-1I was at a friends house for dinner and wandered into his den.  He has a wall of books.  I pulled out The Godfather. I said that I had never read the book.  Everyone at the dinner who had read the book chimed in that it was one of the best books ever.  Well the movie is certainly one of the finest ever made so it would make sense that the book is excellent.

I picked up the book and finished it in a few days.  It is probably the first time I have read a book after seeing the movie not before.  Doing it this way gives you a little peek into how the screenplay was written for The Godfather.

The book is fantastic.  I am so glad I read it.  If you were looking for something to dive into for some stellar summer reading sometimes reaching back in time makes sense.

 

#BUILTBYGIRLS Challenge

#BBG Challenge CTANot surprising that I am a HUGE fan of BBG, Built by Girls, the venture fund of Susan Lyne and her sidekick Nisha Dua.  BBG is an early stage fund committed to investing in female founders.

This is not the first year of the #BUILTBYGIRLS Challenge but this year, they are taking the Challenge all the way to the White House collaborating with Michelle Obama and the Let Girls Learn initiative on a brand new competition track focused on global girls’ education.

The #BUILTBYGIRLS Challenge is a pitch competition for tech projects built by girls, and judged by girls—which officially opens for submissions on Tuesday, July 19th.

Girls aged 15-18 with an interest in tech can win the opportunity to pitch a project in front of tech moguls and change makers during a live Pitch Day in San Francisco – and the weekend of a lifetime.

If they’re selected as a winner, they’ll get funding and mentorship to take their project to the next level.

There are two tracks of the competition:

    • Let Girls Build Track: for girls who want to use tech to help girls around the world get an education – in support of Michelle’ Obama’s Let Girls Learn
    • Future Founders Track: for girls building a technology product that has potential to succeed in the business world.

Technology is the great accelerator—it’s the single biggest supercharger that will fuel passion and drive success at a moment in time where everyone is talking about girls in STEM.  This challenge recognizes that code is just the beginning – there are countless opportunities for a career powered by technology. We need to equip today’s young woman to be leaders in the world of tech through internships, workshops, competitions and online content.

I believe that the world will be #BUILTBYGIRLS. Young women who understand the power of technology, who are ever curious, who grab opportunity – who we can help be ahead of the game.

Help get the word out using info below.  The more girls we get the better.

  • Tweet: Using tech to change the world or build a business? Enter the #BUILTBYGIRLS Challenge—for girls, judged by girls bit.ly/29WZd1B

  • Instagram: Using tech to build a killer business? Want to use tech to help girls around the world get an education? @michelleobama @builtbygirls and @aol_inc want your BIG ideas. Enter the #BUILTBYGIRLS Challenge—for girls, judged by girls.

I am such a huge fan of what BBG is doing and partnering with the White House is powerful.  I particularly love that Michelle Obama is taking on this initiative….and I hope we can keep her focused after she leaves the White House on what BBG (myself included) believes in which is making sure that young women have ever opportunity available to them and these days that begins with understanding and engaging in technology.

 

Fig Tart

figThis is one of those recipes that was a complete disaster but somehow I fixed and it all came out ok.

I used pre-made puff pastry.  Making it is a serious ordeal and the pre-made frozen is quite good so when I use puff pastry that’s what I get.

The concept was using a pistachio base for the figs to bake into.  I found a recipe on line that needed doctoring although I figured that out in the oven.

1 cup butter (should have been 1/2 cup)

1 cup sugar

4 eggs

2 cups ground almonds (should have been 3)

2 tbsp. flour (probably should have been 1/2 cup)

1/2 cup chopped pistachios

Mix all of this together.

I formed the pie and baked at 350 for about 20 minutes.  The dough was lined with parchment paper and then filled with beans.  Once the edges started to brown I took the beans and parchment paper out.  I then coated the bottom of the pie with the nut mixture.  I should have let the pie crust really cook on the bottom first.  Then I put the figs in.

About 20 minutes of baking time it was obvious this nut mixture was not going to set.  I took it out, mixed the figs around and out and scooped a lot of the mixture out and then replaced the figs and set it back in the oven.  Having less nut mixture worked but not totally.  The ends were starting to brown so I wrapped tinfoil around the pie and let the middle continue to bake.  I saw the middle start to puff and thought that was a good sign.  All and all the pie probably stayed in the oven for almost an hour.  Once I was confident that the dough was completely cooked I took the pie out of the oven to cool.

I served this pie with drizzled honey and fresh ricotta.  It was actually pretty good but what a disaster.  One of those things that the longer you bake the more you can doctor a disaster.

Liddabit Sweets

static-circleup-com.s3.amazonawsI was introduced to the female founders of Liddabit Sweets and wrote about their journey.  I knew their product already just by watching new items pop-up in the food industry in the NYC area. The products are delicious and worth every bite.

I met with the founders because I do have a soft spot in my heart for people starting food businesses particularly ones where I have tasted their wares.  I was upfront that I was happy to talk and perhaps be of help through advice or a friendly ear but I wasn’t going to invest.  Wrong.

After we met them I couldn’t stop thinking about what they had built and where they were going to take the business.  They learned a lot over the last couple of years and now it was time to really build the business.  Look at every product and understand the margins, figure out where the products should they be sitting in a big box store vs selling their products online (you can do both), and how to narrow down the line and move into other sizes based on all of that knowledge. Impressive and focused.

And so…I made the investment leap.  Three women who each have different roles in the company but what is more unique is that they make their own products which I really like.  If you have any interest in this, check out their info on Circle-Up.  They are raising capital right now and I am thrilled to be part of this sweet team.