the future of the grocery store

imgresThere was a short period of time when I was growing up that someone actually delivered milk to our back porch.  It did not last long but looking back that was pretty cool yet from a business perspective it is expensive and labor intensive.  Quickly afterward we purchased our dairy needs at the Giant, our local market.

I was in LA for a few days and saw that Gelson’s finally opened up their new big store on Lincoln.  I asked my brother and sister-in-law how it was.  They both replied, really big and empty of people.  So what is the future for grocery stores?

In NYC we are seeing grocery chains shut down but the reality for us is that I have shifted our shopping substantially over the past decade.  We buy all our meats from the butcher.  We buy all our vegetables and fruits from the vegetable/fruit market or the Greenmarket.  We get our breads from the baker.  The eggs can be bought at the butcher.  The ice cream comes from Phin & Phebes.  Truth is the only thing we get at the market is milk, yogurt and butter.  Very European way of shopping.

A few things will take place.  Groceries will get better at local products and understanding their consumer.  How Good, a company I am invested in, is working with stores to understand their data better and in turn be more profitable.  Groceries will have to get on the delivery bandwagon like a Blue Apron.  Many are using Instacart now but the costs are extremely high.  They will also have to create more online functions so that people can order and have everything ready to pick up when they swing by.

Grocery chains need to get creative.  The Lobster Place in Chelsea Market is a multi-faceted store.  You can buy your fish to bring home but you can also sit down and have a meal.  They don’t leave a square footage of that store unused.  They could do cooking classes in the evening.  Think about how when Barnes and Noble turned their bookstores into community places where people could eat, buy books, talk and collaborate.  They didn’t pivot again into the next but that concept could be an interesting one in groceries.  Appealing to the local community.

Food as an industry has made significant changes over the past decade from delivery services of ready made food to creating your own healthy menus to pre-chopped food with a recipe to make at home.  People want efficiency and they want to know what they are putting in their bodies.

There is a lot more competition in the grocery world.  The marketshare for large chains is dwindling.  Their demise creates a lot of wasted food.  I see opportunities all over the place.  Grocery in in the midst of a massive reinvention.  I really do believe that the grocery world will look a lot different in 5 years than it does today.


Podcast….Alien stories that make America great

imgresSomeone who reads this blog sent their podcast to me.

They recently launched a podcast, Not an Alien, to highlight people’s immigration experiences in the US.  It is the fabric of our country and it is their way of sharing people’s stories and in turn educating those who listen.
The have posted an interview a day for the last 20 days, and plan to continue to do so until the election, after that they will scale back to once a week.  It is a pure labor of love as the people behind this podcast have full time jobs.  This podcast is done by a married couple.  Neelu, the wife, came to the US as a college student, stayed on a work visa, and got her green card after they married in 2013 so this is certainly a passion project.
Here‘s the first interview, which Neelu and her husband, Tom, did together.  I really love the concept and passion behind these human “alien” stories.

My wife, my husband

imagesThis has happened to me a few times and I have overheard it a few times.

I was getting off the plane from Los Angeles this week and listened to the two women next to me talk as we exited the plane.  They were not traveling together.  One was in her mid-late 60s and the other was in her 40’s.  They discovered that they were both connecting flights through JFK to Italy.  One was going to Milan, first time, and other parts of Italy.  The older woman was taking her annual pilgrimage to Florence where she has family.  The older woman was incredibly engaging about this woman’s first time to Italy.  Then she said we go once a year for 3-4 weeks but unfortunately my wife couldn’t make it this year so I am going solo to see the family.

I looked up at this woman, who as I said is probably in her late 60’s, and she seemed so happy and comfortable in her skin.  I have heard this many times from women who mention their wives or men who mention their husbands.  I always think, as I did standing next to these women, how great it is for this woman to be completely out of the closet and comfortable talking to a random person about her wife.  Years ago many people would have been uncomfortable with a comment like that coming from a gay person but today it is accepted.  It is a law.

Considering what a shit show this election is something like this really does make me continue to have faith in this country.  We have our issues but we always seem to move forward in the right direction.  Change always wins.

Will this election create a whole new generation of different politicians?

imgresWe keep reading about the impact that this election has made on children.  Anything from children lashing out at others to calling someone out in a racist way.  We hear kids feeling unsettling about the election.  Kids who say that if they bullied someone like Trump has that they would end up in the Principals office.  I have heard it from parents and I have read it in multiple places.  Makes you wonder what the effect this election is having on kids.

Here is what I hope.  This generation of 7th graders who are discussing politics in history class will go on to be wiser, better people who rise up above the fray and hopefully some will go into politics and behave as a politician should.  Honest to the people, more transparency in their Government (as much as you can), willing to work with the other side, putting the people you represent first vs the power that you yield by staying in office. Rethinking how politics should work in this country for generations to come.  Bringing civility back to politics.  Taking a full on down/up look at how money is behind politics from helping people win to favors.  Creating term limits so that the impact is made in doses not wielding power for eternity.  I am not so sure politics should be a life long career when you hold an office.

Enough said.  I am a believer when we get to the bottom of something then change comes.  As a country we are incredibly entrepreneurial and we are always evolving.  I believe in the future of this country and more than anything I believe in the next generations ability to always fix the mistakes of the last.  That is what keeps our country humming.

Bullet Points to your own confidence

imgres-1I was interviewed this past week for a podcast with feminism being the theme.  She is just starting to get her ducks in a row interviewing people and getting everything read before launching.  She asked me a question that nobody has ever asked.  Why was it that I feel comfortable and equal in a room of men because many women do not feel that way.  They fall back on the imposter syndrome and sometimes get ruffled in those meetings.

I thought about it and more than likely it comes from my father and how he treated me as a child.  My sister feels the same confidence in a room of men.  It doesn’t phase either of us. Regardless that air of confidence in those situations has served me well.  Men either love me or hate me and some women find me intimidating but I have tried to understand that about myself.  I have tried to instill that in the women that I work with yet recently I have been wondering more about where does that come from.

The interviewer asked me what kind of advice would I give to women in these situations.  I told her that every woman should write down a list of their own successes and use it as a tool to remind themselves what they have accomplished in their lives.  Everyone has their own journey.  Everyone has their own successes.  Everyone should feel great about what they have done because those notches in your cap were created only by you.  So when they walk into a room and feel unsure or not powerful they should think about those bullet points and say to themselves I am accomplished and I know my shit.  Maybe that would help get rid of all of our imposter syndromes.

Visiting Ricks Picks

I don’t get out enough to the companies offices.  It is something that I should do more but the reality is that I not a VC but an angel and if I spent time doing that then I wouldn’t be doing what I should be doing which is helping founders in other ways vs getting down into the meat of the team.  When I do go out and meet the team it is bonus and I always leave wishing I did more of that.

rickI went out to Rick of Ricks Picks new office recently.  Got his new card.

rickdeskI love how Rick’s ever growing collection of wooden stamps.

ricksclosetThe collection of products in the open closet.

awardsAwards won over the years.

ricksdeskJust seeing where Rick spends his day.

sweetpotatoesWe walked over to Robertas for lunch before I made my way back to the office.  This was a twice baked and mashed white sweet potato with chives, guacamole and runny eggs.  I am still thinking about this dish.

soupA hearty split pea soup.

pizzaOf course a pizza of the moment.  Fall greens tossed in lemon and olive oil over a white pizza.  So delicious.

Really glad I went….

The 13th Amendment Ava DuVernay documentary

imgresWhen I was seven years old I lived in Ann Arbor Michigan.  I had two best friends, one was Beth, a girl whose parents were practicing Christian Scientists.  The other was Robin, an African American girl.   I don’t recall much of that time except my Mom ran the brownie troop and both Robin and Beth were part of the troop.  We talked about political issues around the kitchen table so I do remember we discussed Christian Scientists and being black in America.  It was 1968.

Those years were turbulent years for our country.  Lots of change was trying to take place, there was a push/pull from social past with the social future.  My parents went to Chicago to march.  They were liberal and believed that we are all created equal.  They believed in change.

There were different times of my life when I went deep in reading about black history from Invisible Man to James Baldwin and everything in between.  I have gone deep again reading more than a handful of books this year.  I have always thought that our nation has done wrong by the black community.  Through prejudices  and our own system we have destroyed generations of black families from being able to succeed.  Succeed means living in communities that are safe, where families are home to put a meal on the table, where jobs are abundant and a misdemeanor doesn’t put someone in jail for decades and life is just good.

In high school there were only a handful of black families who lived in our community.  There was also a low income housing area where the majority of black families lived. The kids from there were part of the community but in many ways they were not.  They felt disconnected and kept a certain distance.  What I always remember is although there were black kids that came from both economic sides of the fence in our community when it came to graduation day they all sat and stood together united.  It made an impact on me. 

Life has not been easy for a many black families.  Why?  Go watch the 13th.  It is a documentary that should be mandatory for every 6th grader in this country.  It is on Netflix and take time out to go watch it.  The movie shows how our country, our lawmakers, our Presidents have used racism to systemically incarcerate young black men for no other reason but to continue a new form of slavery for corporate Americas pockets.

The movie is powerful.  The people DuVernay interviews are leaders in the black community.  It has taken generations but there are now more black people in this country who are at the top of many industries.  These smart respected educated individuals tell their people’s history in a way that you would hope that everyone will take pause.  We are seeing racism rear an incredibly ugly head in this election straight out of Trump’s mouth and it is vile and unacceptable

Through social media we now see racism on the streets getting a daily glimpse into how this community has been treated for as long as they can remember and others have been blind to.  That is why I am hopeful that we are at a turning point in regards to law enforcement in the black community as well as equality for everyone. 

 DuVernay has let the cat out of the bag and I would hope through her and others that change will come….as it is long over due.

the importance of rest

imagesThere has been so much written about the importance of sleep and that includes vacation for ones health.  It is also important for ones brain.

I see so many founders never take a breath.  Their minds are racing around their businesses.  Nothing else comes between them and their business.  I get it.  There is fear of failure and fear of missing out.  The reality is that taking off time, taking a nap, having a solid nights sleep makes all the difference in the world.

Granted we are at a different stage of our lives but after taking off last week (although we are never fully off) we have both come back with a whole new attitude.  New ideas, better frame of mind and a serious attitude adjustment.

I definitely wake up with the carpe diem attitude every day but when I sleep or rest or take time off it is amazing how much more gets done.


Old school ways do not work anymore

imgresPerhaps I live too much in the future but there seems to be this push/pull between a new world and an old world in so many different aspects of business.

I could go on and on about the retail space.  I have written about this countless times.  The concept of buying the same merchandise as everyone else and then marking it down to draw in the customer stopped working quite awhile ago.  It is time for a new look, a new concept and a total overhaul of department stores.  Thinking that maybe tomorrow will be better is not a good look.

There is a reason that people are drawn to more authentic blogs or podcasts.  They aren’t perceived as tools to draw in people.  The concept of branding is well known so if you want to draw in a customer than you have to be clever.  Celebrities are big pulls but are they going to be as strong as real people, entrepreneurs, who have figured out to gain an audience over the next few years?

Sponsorships.  Old school thoughts on branding companies names to large organizations vs spreading it out to small meaningful opportunities.  Might be harder to execute on but perhaps that is a new way of thinking that could be worthy too.

Just like styles change from clothing to interior design, the thought process around businesses that are no longer working or doing the same thing that they have done for the past 10 plus years has to change too…otherwise they will die.

The future is here with new customers, new engagement, new priorities, new likes, new styles, new everything.  It happens every new generation.  We are full on in the midst of the newest generation and it will all change again in ten years.  That is reality.  Sometimes what is old is new again and sometimes it is not.  Change is good.  It keeps everyone on their toes.

Anything can change

imgres-2Farms are changing as better machines are built and they too get on the technology bandwagon.  Jobs that used to take 40 people all day long to do now only takes 10.  It is bad for those 30 people but it is good for farms.  The farms end up with better margins and are becoming more efficient.

I invested in a company called Full Harvest.  The concept is smart as they help farms save money by bringing their excess surplus of food to market.  That would be about 20 billion pounds of product that just goes to waste for multiple reasons.  What Full Harvest is doing is a win win for everyone.

These concepts that I am seeing in this industry isn’t so much about technology as the majority of the start-ups in this area aren’t building machinery but it is about bringing new minds to an old business.  A next generation is looking at the farming industry from down/up.  How can we change the waste in the farms to be not only socially responsible but financially solvent.

I have always been a fan of hiring people with skill sets that can be applied to any vertical.  It isn’t so much that they have spent years in a space but they understand what they don’t know which can change standard practices on its head.  That is how I view Full Harvest.

I hope to see more companies like this coming in my pipeline that are really helping old businesses become new again.