The Truth God

imagesI have never been one for holding back.  I just have never operated that way.  Certainly as I have aged my ability to be perhaps a little more nuanced has set in but not always.

As an investor I always want to be supportive.  I also want to hear the bad with the good.  You have to.  Hearing the bad is never pretty.  It weighs on everyone and is rarely pleasant.  It just isn’t easy.

Oh there are the times of pure bliss.  A board meeting where everything comes together.  The team is on, the investors are on, the entrepreneur is brilliant and everything is rocketing upward.  Those are the times when you walk out of a meeting walking on air.

This past week I have had a few conversations that are tough.  One in particular where I was brutally honest about the brand, the presentation and it was really about personal style.  I have had a few of those conversations over the years.  Each time the person on the other end knows exactly what I am talking about.  At these times I consider myself the truth god.

It is important in the early stage world of investing to sometimes get a reality check.  Everything always seems rosy or at least you want them to be rosy but having someone be that bearer of truth from another perspective can actually be a breath of fresh air.

Sushi Tsujita

We tried to get reservations a few weeks ago.  Then we did a drive-by super early and ended up making date for a few weeks out.  The news on the street is Sushi Tsujita is the new sushi place worth checking out in town after opening this past summer.

Sushi in Los Angeles is insanely delicious.  Sugarfish is a winner every time.  Sushi Tsjuita is a very long affair, too long in fact.  There were a few memorables but as a whole it was ok.  The price range is $120-180 for three different ranges of omakase.

I will run thru the meal.  I don’t remember the types of all the sushi we were served but for whatever reason most of it was in the white fish family and very similar.  Perhaps that was what was fresh that day.

snailWe began with a clam.  Great presentation.  Tad chewy.

saladNext out was a salad that was just a few bites but really good.  Crisp, fresh and just a hint of an Asian dressing.

sashimiA plate of sashimi.

gingerTheir ginger was excellent.

whitefish Here begins the white fish

searedwhitefishAnother one

fattytunaSuper rich fatty tuna.  This was a winner

fishAnother white fish

morefishAnd another

unicaviarMy fave here…uni with roe.

bfishAnother one

clamsClam

misosoupReally delicious miso soup with a bit of “shock” white fish in it.

silverfishBraided silver fish

eelleggEel and egg

strawberryWeird tasting strawberry dessert that kind of tasted like Cool Whip.

The meal lasted almost three hours.  We were all exhausted and asked them to speed it up.  They were so nice and got things moving.  Not sure I am racing back here.  Will continue to move thru the sushi places in LA.

 

Wearables, wearables, wearables

unnamedWearable is certainly a hot topic these days.  The definition is accessories using technology.  Although there is a much bigger picture than that.

The wearable market includes anything from Fitbit to Ringly to the Apple Watch (when it is available).  Each one does different things.  Fitbit can track your activity including activity, exercise and sleep.  Ringly connects you to your phone so if your phone is somewhere deep inside your handbag and you can’t hear it ringly lights up so you know your phone is ringing.  You can program it for your own needs.  The Apple will probably do a little bit of everything.  That is one end of the market.

There is also new fabrics that are coming on to the market.  Fabrics that will change the face of military wear in regards to heat, wind and cold resistances.  There will be fabrics that block the sun from your skin.  Fabrics that have scents, that moisturize the skin, that are so pliable that you can develop unique clothing.

It is all quite fascinating to see where this is all going.  I happen to be a bigger fan of the fabrics than I am of the wearables.  Fabrics have always been changing for as long as I can remember.  Yet this time around the fabrics will take design and the word wearable to another level.

I don’t find the personal wearables all that interesting.  The look and feel of them are so incredibly personal.  What is more interesting to me is the actual middleware behind these products.  The middleware is essentially a computer software that is behind the operating systems of these wearable products focusing on specific purposes.  That is the key to all your personal data.  How far did you run, how many calories did you burn, how did you sleep, etc. and that is recorded and kept for you on your app but it is the middleware behind it that makes this work.

I believe the future is that everything you guy from a watch (costume or high end) to a costume ring or perhaps even a belt will have a small opening for you to move your data chip like you have your phone chip.  That chip will allow you to stay with the middleware company that you connect to in order to keep and track your data.  You can take it with you as you move from wearable to wearable.

I am an investor in Focus Motion and that is where I am placing my bets.

Girl Scouts and Brownies, two Woman Entrepreneurs

girlscoutsI was a Brownie and a Girl Scout.

My Mom was my brownie leader.  It was a weekly event where a bunch of young girls from 7-10 got together and did projects.  That is what I remember and not much else.  I do remember we did one campfire at the end of the year and that was pretty cool.

We moved when I was 9 from Ann Arbor Michigan to Arlington VA.  I joined the Girl Scouts at my new school.  I don’t remember why I stopped but I did at one point.  I admit I was mostly about trying to get as many badges as possible.

Needless to say selling the cookies was something I was quite good at.  So when I saw these cute girls selling their cookies the other day I had to stop and buy not one but two boxes.  I only had enough cash for two but am certainly I would have been a sucker for more if I had the cash.  Samoas have always been a fave.  They had a new one called tagalongs with chocolate and peanut butter.  One of these young ladies told me it was her favorite so I was sold.  They even have a gluten free choice now.

Each box is $5.  I know all of the funds raised goes back to the troops but to me the best lesson is learning how to sell.  Keeping track of your cookies and moving as many as possible.  Being creative on where you sell them.

These two girls chose a choice spot in front of a grocery store.  I hope they killed it.

Texting and driving

imagesThere are so many rules to driving on the road.  Do not drink and drive is the number one thing that parents say to kids when they first get behind the wheel.  MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Drivers) began in 1980 by Caroline Lightner whose 13 year old daughter was killed by a drunk driver.  They have been the forefront on educating the public about drunk driving.  Drunk driving has been cut in half since they began.  I am not a fan of the law that this group pushed through congress to move the drinking age to 21 from 18 as the long tail affects of that on college campuses have not been positive.  Yet I am a fan of sobriety checkpoints, breathalyzers and drunk driving laws.

Fast forward 30 years the landscape has changed.  People are educated on drunk driving.  There is now Uber, Lyft, Sidecar and others that has created access to hiring a driver to take you somewhere and home without ever having to get into a car after having a drink.

There is also texting.  I recently read a book called A Deadly Wandering, A Tale of Tragedy and Redemption in the Age of Attention.  An excellent book about a young man who killed two rocket scientists in Utah because he veered into the left lane when he was texting.  Every other chapter tells of the toll that accident took on him and the families of both men who were husbands and fathers in the car that he hit.  The other chapters are about the research that has been conducted for years on attention.  The effect of technology on the brain and the desire to get that text and read it.

So when our kids began to drive they already knew that they shouldn’t drink and drive.  What we drove home more than anything is don’t text and drive.  It only takes a millisecond of taking your eyes off the road and having an accident that could be tragic.

I have heard so many stories of texting tragedies on the road.  For what?  What was the importance of that message vs taking a human life or your own.  It couldn’t wait?  Maybe it is time that MADD think about adding on to their agenda.  They have educated the public in countless ways.  This issue could be worse.

I am a founder, I just got funded and I am pregnant

imgres-1More than a few times had I have founders tell me almost sheepishly that they were pregnant.  My answer is always the same, congratulations that is fantastic.

Then comes the concerns.  How should I tell my team?  Should I prepare everyone for the time I am gone?  How do I tell the board?  What should the maternity leave policy be because we don’t have one.  What what what what?

Women are having children later.  They are having children in their prime working years.  I have told countless women not to put their personal life on hold for their business life.  They will regret it.  Hundreds of years ago women were having babies while they ran the farms.  They were back bailing hay and churning butter in no time.  The content is just different.  They figured it out and we can too.

My advice to all of these women on how to tell your company, your board or the team is just state the facts plain and simple.  I am pregnant, this is when I am due and back to work.  We live in a world where our business lives blur with our personal lives.  A mother will come back to work if companies embrace them instead of punishing them.  Help families figure out childcare…one of the biggest problems in returning to work.  Let men stay home for an extended time too.  We should support families.

Women can get pregnant and have children.  That is the circle of life.  Men can not.  Being able to bring new people into the world should be a positive not a negative.  Companies should figure out how everyone can feel good about that.  If they can it will be a win win for everyone.

Smoke Oil Salt

If you are craving real honest to goodness Spanish food in LA then Smoke Oil Salt is your place.  Small and large plates that they recommend sharing.  The one thing is that anything over four people makes sharing tough.  I’d probably do it different the next time around.

oystersWe started off with a very garlicky gazpacho topped with an oyster.  I got concerned but it was really the only dish that was like that.

tomatotoastHere is what we ate.  The catalan tomato toast is delicious.  Slices of bread soaked in olive oil and then smeared with chopped tomatoes.  The bread could be a tad thinner and crispier but again I could have eaten two.

friedcodCod croquets with a citrus alioli.  Crispy light and tasty.

porkbellySlow cooked carrots that had been charred on the grill.  They could be cut with a fork.  This topped a carrot salad and carrot puree.  Really interesting combination of carrots 3 ways.

octoSmoked octopus that was super soft on the inside and crispy on the outside.  Really well done.  That came with a garden herb salad, roasted soft potatoes with a vinaigrette over that.

calmariCuttlefish that was stuffed with a bit of goat cheese, topped with a chopped parley pesto over a warm lentil salad.  This was really excellent.  The lentils were incredible.

squidpinkpastaThis was the best thing.  Short thin pieces of black ink pasta served with mussels, chorizo and a vermouth sauce.  We basically licked the bowl clean.

charWood fired artic char with an eggplant puree and a blood orange herb salad on the side.

Honestly everything was really good some excellent but I would have liked to either order more or have my own.  I felt like we were just grazing.  Could have just been my mood.

dougnutsFor dessert we did the same thing.  Tastes.  Small hot fried dough balls served with a chocolate dipping sauce.

icecremaI don’t remember exactly what this was.  A ginger cake perhaps?

flanishRice pudding with caramel and crispy pieces of sugar on top.  Again…not sure exactly.

I’d absolutely go back.  Paella on Sundays.  I just wish it wasn’t 45 minutes from where I am staying.

 

 

Could the real inventor behind Monopoly please stand up?

imgresWho hasn’t played Monopoly?  It is one of those games that truly bring out some interesting dynamics with the players around the board.  The competition, the real estate moguls, the business smarts, etc.

There has been a few articles written recently about the real inventor behind the game Monopoly was not Charles Darrow but Elizabeth Magie.  Magie was a 30 years old single woman in 1903 who was able to get a patent on what she called The Landlord’s Game.  She was an avid supporter of Henry George who was an outspoken tax reformer who wanted to keep more money in the hands of the working class.  The game was about crushing your opponents through monopolies and that the creation of wealth benefited all.  Keep in mind that at that time women rarely were approved for patents, most of them were given to their husbands.

She began to manufacturer the game and in 1935 Parker Brothers paid her a mere $500 for the patent.  The game itself explored the economic and political shifts of that day.  What is amazing is that Charles Darrow, not the inventor of the game got a friend to take the Landlords Game, reinvent the names and look and then sold the new product to Parker Brothers $7k including residuals that amassed him a fortune.

What is fascinating is that the game was intended to create wealth for all but it ended up being a game to learn about money and entrepreneurship.  Even Parker Brothers sued people over the years based on trademark law so that nobody could ever use the Monopoly Game concept without paying something to Parker Brothers.  Yet, all along the person who really invented the game was a woman and a man got credit for it.  Damn..I have seen that story before.

Lots of articles due to this book that just came out called The Monopolists:  Obsession, Fury and the Scandal Behind the World’s Favorite Board Game by Mary Pilon  I plan on reading it.  I hope that through this book that the Magie family gets what should have been coming to her all these years instead of the incredible about cash and fame that Darrow has received.

Jesse Genet, Lumi, Woman Entrepreneur

jesse3I got an email from Jesse Genet telling me that she reads my blog and is a long time entrepreneur.  Started her first business at 16 and have been going ever since.  Love that.  It is in her DNA.

Jesse grew up in the suburbs of Detroit.  Her Mom is a school teacher and her Dad is a local lawyer.  Her parents got divorced and her Mom remarried a tech developer.  She was 15 and that completely changed Jesse’s perspective of how you can lead your life.  Her step-Dad never had a job, he was an entrepreneur who worked on research and development projects.  He worked with universities and the military…and was completely independent.

When Jesse was a teenager she will tell you that she kind of had a young life crisis.  She was playing sports and decided no more.  Instead I am going to start a business.  Jesse began printing t-shirts in her basement.  She dug in with her hands and began silk-screening t-shirts.  She called the company Genet Shirts.  She was never thrilled with the level of printing.

Summer was approaching in her sophomore year of high school.  Jesse told her parents she wanted to go to Los Angeles and learn more about her business.  Her step-Dad hooked her up with his friend who was in the business.  It was incredible that this woman let her come and stay with her.  They were so supportive of Jesse’s desire to figure it out.  She got a showroom to take on her t-shirts. Not much happened but it was a learning experience.

Jesse returned for her junior year in high school to Michigan and kept the business going.  By her senior year she was done with school.  She figured out how to graduate with out actually having to go to classes at her high school.  She attended a junior college to take the classes needed to graduate high school and saved money working on her company.

She was always supposed to go to University of Michigan because her parents had paid in advance for the education.  Lots of states give residents that opportunity.  She went for orientation and thought these are not my people.  Instead Jesse got in her car, drove to LA and enrolled in the Arts College Centre of Design in Pasadena.

She studied industrial design because she needed a major.  The design center is a glorified trade school for the arts.  It was there that she met her co-founder, Stephan Angoulvant.  They began working on printing technology together.  As I said, when Jesse started silk-screening in high school she was never thrilled with the results.  She figured out the precursor to get the right results was Inkodye, a chemical used in the 1950’s.  An engineer had owned the rights to that chemical years ago who happened to live near her in Michigan.  She tracked him down and eventually wore him down and bought his rights and stock out to create Lumi.

Lumi produces an ultra-violet activated dye that can be exposed in lights like photography yet it sticks to fabrics.  After purchasing the rights Jesse and Stephan moved to the Brewery Lofts in downtown LA and started experimenting with the dye process in the bathroom.  It was the beginning of their business.  Then in 2009, they posted a Kickstarter project that helped them raise $13k to produce this new textile printing technology.

In 2011 the business really started to take off.  In 2012 they did another Kickstarter project to launch the national business.  By 2013 they got into 1500 retail stores with their print kits.  It has been a major transition moving from a 1200 square foot loft with the first Kickstarter project to now where they are located in downtown LA in a 12000 square foot space.

They were accepted into Y Combinator and decided it would be a great place to get a short lesson about the business end.  It has helped them think about their business in a different way.  People can now order custom tools, there is also the ability to up-load things to print and of course there is the retail arm.  They are slowly moving into new directions based on what their customers are looking for.  After all the customer knows best.

Really enjoyed talking with Jesse.  She has incredible drive and is certainly ambitious.  She obviously loves what she does.  I definitely plan on staying in touch.   You can see their story on the website and it is worth taking a look.  The shift in her life at 15 when her Mom got remarried made an impact.  Her passion for perfection around printing is a classic entrepreneurial move.  How can I make this what I want it to be because I know it can be better.  Impressive story.

Orange Olive Oil Cake

orangecakeI made this over the weekend.  Needed to test out our new ovens.  Conclusion…they need to be recalibrated.  I knew it was going to be the case but the only way to know is to bake something.

The cake took forever and we had to get somewhere so I just cranked up the heat.  Not the right answer but at this point the only answer.  I need to make it again when my oven works properly.

2 oranges
2⅓ cups sugar
Unsalted butter, for greasing the pan
2½ cups flour, plus more for pan
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 eggs
6 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 350.  Use a 10 inch cake pan.  Butter and line the bottom with parchment.  This recipe is from Saveur

Slice the ends of the two oranges off.  Then cut them into quarters.

In a 4 quart pot boiled 6 cups of water.  When the water is boiling add the orange pieces.  Let the water boil again.  Drain.  Do this two more times.

Now put in 4 cups of water, the orange pieces and 1 cup of sugar and set over a medium high heat.  Stir on occasion.  It takes about 30 minutes for the oranges to get soft enough that you can push a fork tine through the orange rind.  Then let it cool.

Put the flour, baking soda and baking powder into a bowl.  I mixed it with a whisk to incorporate.

In a food process, add the oranges and pulse about 12/14 times until the mixture is chunky.  Add everything else (including the rest of the sugar) except the olive oil.  Mix for about 2 minutes or until totally incorporated.  Then add in the olive oil and mix again.

Pour this into the cake pan and bake for about 40/45 minutes.

When it is cool, I made a simple sugar because I did not have any confectioners sugar on hand.  I poured that over the top and then used sea salt over the top.

For a cake that went through a variety of heat issues…it was pretty tasty.