Posts from musings

Don’t stay home too long

imagesSomeone told me the other day that 70% of millennial women are thinking that they do not want to have children for a variety of reasons including their desire to have a career first.  Then on the other hand something like 35% of male millennials are interested in staying home for a period of time to raise their family.  Having it all is impossible at least at the same time.  Something gives and from those statistics it sounds like the millennials are acutely aware of that.

Our daughter Emily just handed in her thesis.  The title is Life Sequencing: A Viable Solution to Work-Life Conflict for High-Achieving Women.  What came across loud and clear is a few things.  The lack of childcare options is certainly one. That many of these high-achieving women end up marrying someone who is in the same socio-economic bracket and because of that they can make a decision to stay at home.  That is the piece I continue to think about.

When I meet women and men I often ask a bit about their backgrounds.  What does your Dad do?  What does your Mom do?  Where did you grow up?  A huge percentage of the people I see came from families where the Mom stayed home and raised the kids.  A tough job and no doubt commendable.  I did it for awhile and it was one of the best decisions I ever made.  Yet many of these women never went back to work for a variety of reasons.

I remember when our kids were young we would go down to DC and visit my Mom.  My Mom had several careers.  The kids would go visit here at her office.  She was an entrepreneur.  It was obvious that she ran the place.  I always left thinking how great it was that our kids especially our daughters saw that my Mom had built her own company and worked hard.  I also used to tell our daughters that you must figure out how to be an entrepreneur or do something where you can freelance so when it comes time to have kids that you will be able to continue working in some capacity to keep your intellectual curiosity going and kids don’t stay small forever.

Mothers are role models for their children.  Telling your daughters to go to the best schools, excel in school, be the best, do anything you want to do when you took off to raise them and never went back to work is not setting an example.  It is saying that at one point you can jump off the train and not get back on.  Then history repeats itself.  How do we break this cycle?  Certainly having more men get off the train would be a step in the right direction.

I hope that the next generation of parents both opt to stay home in some capacity.  If you get off the train for a little bit then get back on.  Trains don’t hang out in the station for long.  Those role models are essential to the future for women leaders in the workplace.

What will big businesses look like in 10 years?

imgresThere was a time when big businesses started acquiring and building verticals that made them huge organizations.  General Electric was one of them.  GE was founded by Thomas Edison and one of the first companies ever traded on the Dow.  Fast forward 118 years it is fascinating to read about the acquisitions that GE has made.  Starting out as a company about electrical properties it has an investment, transportation, healthcare, oil and gas, home and business solutions, aviation, and global research vehicle.  Due to many of the regulations that have been put into place after the last financial crisis, GE has opted to get out of the banking business.

I was talking to a someone the other day who told me that Goldman Sachs is having a hard time hiring kids out of school.  There was a time when recent undergrads and grad students flocked to the jobs at Goldman Sachs but no longer.  Another company that was founded in 1869 and evolved into one of the largest global investment banks in the world.  Will regulations and lack of interest in the next generation to work there change the empire?

Then I saw a business that wanted to change schools with a new curriculum that would turn every person into an entrepreneur.  Where are the artists, the writers, the teachers?

We are entering a new world.  The new college graduates that I speak to want to be part of the new technology economy.   They want to do something that makes them happy.  They want to be able to make a difference in the world.  The jobs are shifting and will continue to shift in the next decade.  More people will graduate with computer science degrees.  Technology will take us to places that we are just starting to think about.  Soon every business will have been disrupted by technology.  A huge percentage of the population will be a freelance worker.

I can’t help but wonder what will these big businesses that have been the economic backbone of our economy for hundreds of years look like in a mere decade?

Salary negotiations?

imgresReddit made an announcement that they would ban all salary negotiations because women do not negotiate as well as men.

There are so many issues with this.  It is a pure knee jerk reaction to seeing women make less than their male peers.  I understand that but isn’t educating people more to the point.

Here is what I would propose.  After hiring someone I would hope that there would be a 3 month follow-up in regards to their performance, culture fit, etc.  That would be the time to say, guess what, you are making this much less than all of your peers.  We think you are terrific but you negotiated for less than what you are worth.  Here is how we are going to help you become a better negotiator and more confident in your skills.  We are going to let you meet with a few coaches and decide which one you think you want to work with.  You will meet with that coach once a week for the next few months to learn how to become a better negotiator, leader, employee, etc.

The shift in the workplace would be significant.  Educating people to hone their skills is a bonus.  It isn’t a union.  It is totalitarian.  It isn’t benefitting women.  It is demoralizing.

Those employees who no longer have to negotiate their salary aren’t learning anything.  How can these people then move forward with their careers without having learned that part of the game.  You can fix those salaries by giving the poor negotiators increases to the same level as their peers but do it with the caveat of having to learn a skill for the next time they have to negotiate something.  That next time could be negotiating a deal for the company with outside clients.

It is a competitive world out there.   Learn how to compete.

 

the one that got away

imgresI was at a dinner this past week with a group of angel investors.  A really great group of people.  Most of them were entrepreneurs before they became investors so their outlook is interesting.

We went around the table and introduced ourselves, talked a bit about what we are interested in and then were to talk about the one that got away.  The investment that we should not have passed on.

I am not one to dwell on the past.  I have been asked in interviews the classic question which is “if you could change something about your past or have done something differently what would that be?”  I am so not a fan of this question because who knows where my head was at then.  Why I made the decision I did.  I just know that at that time it made sense.  Just like investments that I choose not to participate in or opt not to meet with there is a reason for it.  Timing is everything.

What I talked about instead was the investment that was a huge failure and how much I learned from the experience.  That is significant.  You learn a lot more about your failures than you do about your successes.  I think about those failures much more than the successes.  Successes tend to be the perfect storm.  A great entrepreneur, a great idea, a great group of investors, a great team and perfect timing.  I know of many companies who have had incredible success and I am not sure how some of them actually succeeded.

When companies fail there is tons to learn.  I learn so much each time I make a mistake.  I get better from those missteps.  I can look back and think about why I made that investment, what I missed, why I chose to ignore the red flag, what could have been done to perhaps help the company go in a different direction.  More than likely it is about recognizing more and that brings value to me and hopefully my investments.

Testing Meats

brisketI made brisket last night for Passover.  I usually order a brisket from Dicksons but instead ordered one from the new butcher down the street, El Colmado.  We ended up not getting the full amount that I wanted so we picked up a second piece of meat at Citarella.  I figured it would be great to do a little taste test.

I should have taken a picture of the raw meat.  The different is huge.  The one from El Colmado was beautiful.  A healthy piece of meat that has been treated with care without added hormones and more than likely grass fed.  Citarella’s meat doesn’t look like that.

I started buying meat from local butchers almost a decade ago.  Now I wouldn’t buy anywhere else unless I had no choice.  Particularly after last night’s taste test.  The difference between the two meats was not only obvious to the eye it was obvious to the taste.  Those meats were the same size.  They cooked in the oven at 225 in a sauce for 10 hours in the same pot.  The meat from El Colmado was perfect.  Tasty, falling apart, had absorbed the sauce and was delicious.  The Citarella meat would have needed to cook another 10 hours to capture that and even then it would not have been the same thing.

It wasn’t like I didn’t expect these results but seeing them and tasting them really drives the issue home.  If you are going to eat meat, buy it from a local butcher who sources the meat from grass fed quality farms that don’t administer hormones or antibiotics at any point in the life of the animal.  The difference is incredible.

If you haven’t figured out which is which from the photo the meat on the left is from El Colmado and the meat on the right is from Citarella.

 

Cities that I love

Since we just spent three months in LA I must note the things that I love about LA.

imgresEach place we spend long periods of time in have special places in my heart that make me yearn to return.  Paris, well it is the architecture, the bakeries, the museums, the restaurants, the walking and the light.
Los Angeles.  The sushi is off the charts.  Tacos are everywhere.  The sunshine is abundant.  Valet parking is pretty sweet.  Salads are better in LA for some reason. Weed is always a bonus considering it is state grown.
More than anything I feel really at home in LA (and Paris funny enough).  But at the end of the day NYC is the place I feel the most at home.

Back to NYC

The last few months in LA have been fantastic.  We have made new friends, we have connected with old friends, we got to spend a lot of time with my brother and sister-in-law and their kids.  The weather has been well…what can I say.

Life here is easier.  It is nice to spend a few months differently.  We both miss NYC.  Like when a good vacation starts to wind down, I always think if I have to stay one more day I will be bummed.  It is just time to go home.  I miss the beat of the street, the pounding of the sidewalk, the latest and greatest, the art, the restaurants, the stores and the edge.

Yet being out here has changed the way I think about the day to day work life.  It is healthy to take a birds eye view and get out of the weeds on occasion.

When we drive back into the city we used to play the Genesis song Back in N.Y.C. from the album The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway.  I might have to crank up the song on my head phones when our plane lands back in the town that I call my home.

I see faces and traces of home back in New York City!
Aha
So you think I’m a tough kid? Is that what you heard?
Yeah, well I like to see some action and it gets into my blood…

Transformation

imgresI had a conversation with a very good friend of mine the other day about transformation.  Transformation is defined as the operation of changing.  That is a pretty broad description as it can be about a handful of variables.  Companies go through transformations when their original business plan changes or when they go from 5 employees to 20 to 200.  Homes go through transformations when a new family moves in or a room is redone or even a couch is moved.  Getting your hair cut in a new way is a transformation.

I could go on and on about transformation.  More than likely that conversation helped me think about how my life has transformed over the past decade.  It has taken on another level of transformation since becoming empty nesters this past September.  Over the past ten years as I shifted into a new career, one that I have created and built without a clear path except the desire to do something that I love has been transformative.  In many ways only over the last six months have I felt that I have come into myself.  I know longer feel like I need to reassess my balance but just enjoy the path I am on.  If things change then I can transform into something else.  That is empowering.

We are living a bi-coastal existence that is transformative into itself.  Our relationships with our children have changed into the next stage because they are adults.  All of this feels so good.

I heard Fred tell someone that I do four things well maybe more.  I write a daily blog, I invest in start-ups and get involved, I put on a festival every year and I am slowly building a real estate empire on the side.  All of these things happened over the past decade.  It sounds like crazy that someone could do all that (and there is more) but for me it works.  It has been a transformative decade.

Having that conversation with my friend continues to ramble around my head.  The importance of this conversation is really to think about where you are and how do you get to where you want to be.  You have to work at it but sometimes you are just working away and all of a sudden you look up and you realize that you have transformed.  You have made a dramatic change or even a subtle change.  I have always loved change.  Perhaps that is why I am kind of obsessed with transformation.

Tradition

imgresTradition is well so traditional.  I don’t consider myself a traditional person at all but there is something about traditions.  Traditions can be anything from making sure that you never change the Thanksgiving meal to making brisket every year at Rosh Hashanah to wearing the same shirt to the Jet game every Sunday.

Recently my niece had her bat mitzvah.  I did not have a bat mitzvah but for many reasons we decided that our children should each have one.  Watching each of them go through the process at 13 years was incredible.  Between all the homework, the friends, the sports, their day to day lives they also had to prepare and study to be a bat mitzvah.  There is something about the process that is empowering.

My brother talked about the tradition of Jews doing this for thousands of years and it really stuck with me.  It forces each 13 year old to learn how to speak and read Hebrew (essentially that was their only language thousands of years ago).  Then you have to get up in front of the entire community and prove that you can read and of course sing in Hebrew.

We are reformed Jews so our connection is more about who we are not so much about going to synagogue.  Yet as I get older and go to these events I do realize the importance of tradition.  Carrying that torch from generation to generation is important.  I am not sure that all three of our kids are thrilled that we “forced” them to do a bat/bar mitzvah but in hindsight I believe as they get older they will truly see the value.

As Teyve spoke and sang about it on Fiddler on the Roof….tradition also keeps rattling around my brain.

High Valuations?

imgresI have a thesis and it is strictly around how much money I put in at the beginning, the amount I want to own of the company and that is directly connected to the valuation or cap.

I am about to go on a rant.

10 years ago the valuations were very different.  In the past decade I’d say on average the first round of most of the companies I invested in had a $3 – 5 million cap.  Considering that the entrepreneur had spent some serious time building out the company, gaining traction, flushing out the product, etc. I was ok with that valuation.  I figure if we all believed that the potential was there that it was ok to start at this price.

Fast forward.  In the past week I have talked to more entrepreneurs that are raising rounds post their “friends and family” of $300-500K with new valuations at $6.5-8m.  Keep in mind the majority of friends and family rounds have no cap on them. Companies are saying that they need $2m now not $750K but a bigger chunk of cash to grow.  Really?  There is something to be said for being scrappy with $750 and proving out the model before going in for the big check.

Who is pushing up these valuations?  Accelerators and egos.  I can’t decide what is worse.  The insane valuations that means that the next valuation will be bigger, the expectations are much higher and the exit needs to be bigger and bigger and bigger.  Or the swagger and cockiness of some of the entrepreneurs who are getting feedback from investors who are telling them that they should definitely raise that much.  I know what happens.  I have been in those movies.  Many investors say definitely and do nothing.  They don’t write the check, they don’t move forward and then that entrepreneur has to rethink the raise, the people they are talking to and everything else.  The entrepreneurs then come back with their tail between their legs.  The first step is important and when you have little traction, a barely proven product and really zero revenue then the valuation should reflect that.

Maybe I am just talking to some of the wrong entrepreneurs.  It isn’t about the amount you think your company is worth today it is about what you make it worth. I would be applauding an entrepreneur that started low, raised enough that allowed them 18 month runway, did it again and figured out the model to the point that their valuation then reflected what they had built.  I have always said if the company is proving itself there will always be an investor.  Now I fear that you don’t even have to prove yourself to find an investor.  Is that a bubble?  I am not so sure but it is certainly not a good thing.

How do these companies get to the valuation with very little in hand?  I just don’t get it and I am pretty sure I never will.