Posts from musings

There is a movement going on

images-3One of the best things about summer is that as a family we do a lot of hanging.  People laugh when I say we don’t leave our beach house but it is basically the truth.  The house becomes an endless vacation to unwind and talk.  The kids bring their friends, we have big dinners, drink lots of wine, read a lot of books and many discussions around culture, politics, books, business and more.

This weekend someone brought up what is happening in the Los Angeles art world.  The art world in Los Angeles is burgeoning.  It is a combination of things.  Cost of space, growth of the downtown area, new opportunities and with that a community of young artists is built.  There is also the ability for many to pursue their dreams without coming from a family with deep pockets.  You can figure out how to make it work through the shared economy.  You can get funded through Kickstarter, you can rent out your place on Airbnb for a few nights to make your monthly nut work, you can become a part-time driver for multiple companies and then there is always the classic waiter/waitress/bartender job but that isn’t the only thing anymore.

That conversation turned into  that we all see that there is a movement afoot.  It isn’t only with the arts.  It is with food.  It is with music.  It is with new companies.  It is with non-profits.  It is with everything.  People are ready for change.  It could be the long tail of the banking industry disaster, it could be the advent of technology, it could be the knee jerk reaction to hovering helicopter parents who pushed their kids to be something that did not necessarily fit with who they are.  Whatever it is we are definitely living in a time where change is happening.

You can see it in the political arena too.  Gay marriage has been legalized.  Weed is slowly becoming legal in every state.  The confederate flag came down.  People are calling out police for behavior once swept under the carpet.  Women are calling out sexual assaults on campus and pointing directly to the ones that did it without fear.  Going to college is changing based on the overwhelming debt that people have to take on.  We saw the MFA’s at USC protest, walk out and perhaps the closing of the program.  GW just announced no more SAT or ACT’s needed to apply and other schools have come before them.  We are seeing people of all ages come out and support Bernie Sanders on one side and Donald Trump on the other.  That is a reaction from nasty politics where money has taken over our system.  It isn’t so much about the people but about politicans staying in power and the people with the deepest pockets making that happen to benefit their own agendas.  People have had enough and with that comes a change in behavior.

You can’t have a movement without history.  We discussed what is happening with McDonalds.  For the first time in the history they are closing more stores than opening them.  How J. Crew is losing market share and profits.  How this generation would rather buy from Amazon Prime than walk in the store for a pair of sneakers.  How everyone in our house under 30 is reading from paperbacks vs kindles.

Bottom line…there is a movement and I am looking forward to see where this all goes.  Let’s hope gun control is leading this movement towards change.

ROI of women

imagesI have read many articles about the impact of women in businesses, women-led businesses and of course women in general.  Someone asked me the other day if change is afoot.  I said if we are having the conversation then something is happening.  We weren’t even talking about the frustration of women entrepreneurs and women in business a decade ago like we are today.

The frustrations can be the same as men when growing a business but not when it comes to raising capital or someone being dismissive about taking time out for a family, or getting pregnant or the sexual comments that get made time and time again in a meeting.  As an optimist I feeling good about the future of women in business.

I have said several times that when more women take a company public, sell their companies and become household names because of that, things will change.  There are plenty of women entrepreneurs coming up the pike who are going to get there and that will change everything for the next generation of women.

One woman that I invested in a few years ago who is an incredibly determined driven entrepreneur sent me this information yesterday.  It is really interesting and also not surprising.  More than anything it was good to see written by someone in black and white by someone who is an analyst.  The information is below.

Women’s Growing Economic Influence

U.S. women accounted for about 47% of total hours worked but only 42% of wages earned in 2013. Despite this, women influenced approximately 80% of U.S. consumer spending in 2013, suggesting nearly a 2x multiplier of earnings vs. purchasing power.  Women’s earnings in the US economy have been growing faster than men’s for the past decade and this trend should continue for the foreseeable future because it is being driven by several trends, including:

  • Since 1960, women’s participation in the work force has grown from 35% to 53%.
  • Women’s wage gap narrowed from 62% of men’s pay in 1979 to 82% in 2013.
  • The disparity between college educated women and men has widened, with 44% of women 18-25 versus 38% of men attending college. College graduates in the US earn $2.1MM over their lifetime, nearly double the $1.1MM earned by the average high school graduate.
  • Women are having fewer children, later in life, which keeps them in the full time labor force longer.
  • Women’s life expectancies are elongating, reaching 81 years in 2013, 5 years longer than men’s.


Because men in many households turn their paychecks over to women to spend, 80% of women state that they are the primary decision maker for “most” or “all” purchasing decisions. According to a 2013 study, women in the US accounted for 89%-93% of spending in the following categories:

  • 93% of Food Decisions
  • 93% of OTC Pharmaceuticals Decision
  • 92% of Vacations
  • 91% of New Home Purchases
  • 89% of Bank Accounts


Investment Implications

We are buyers of companies that focus on products and services that target women, especially online time-saving applications. We are most optimistic about social and mobile online alternatives.  In our coverage universe, investment ideas from this work include:

  1. Since 2002, women have spent 25% more money in 14% less time, aided by online shopping. This bodes well for online shopping solutions like RATE and TRIP.
  2. Women spend more time on social media, and their purchase decisions are highly influenced by their friends. This elevates the value of social sites. We recommend FB.
  3. Women use mobile devices more than men, so companies with mostly mobile revenue, like P and FB, should garner more upside as women’s purchasing power grows.
  4. Proliferating screens make women harder to reach for advertisers. This should increase the value of NLSN, SCOR and RENT because they measure audiences and find women.
  5. Women are aging, which increases demand for financial services like RATE.


what’s up with the tattoos?

imagesGrowing up I rarely saw a tattoo but these days they seem to be everywhere.  Tattoos began as a way for sailors to avoid being forced into the British Royal navy following the American revolution.  Over the last decade it appears like tattoos have become a part of todays pop culture.  When I see an NBA player without one it takes me a few moments to figure out why they look different than everyone else.  It is because that person is free of ink.

The millennials love the tattoos.  Everyone these days is trying to establish their personal brand and a tattoo is part of ones identity.  It is part of their own personal path.  I am fascinated with it particularly what those tattoos will represent when these people turn 90.

The other day I saw this guy (maybe late 20’s early 30’s) driving his bicycle in lower Manhattan.  He looked a bit like the actor Adam Driver.  He had on no helmut (which is another insanity), he had a heavy lock draped around his body and had a bunch of tattoos.  A few on his shoulders, one on each calf (which you can only see in the summer with shorts) and perhaps more.  I started wondering as I have many times before “what’s up with the tattoos”?

Then a few days later I was with Emily and I commented on the tattoos.  I asked her the same question I have been asking myself.  “What’s up with the tattoos”?  Her answer was really interesting.  Maybe it is about rebellion.  There isn’t much to rebel against these days.  Sure this generation is living their lives differently than I grew up.  They are more creative, they are trying to find places to work where they are happy, they are starting their own companies, they are by and large supported by their families not necessarily financially but in spirit, their has not been any major upheaval in their lives except for possibly college debt.  Gay marriage has become legal and weed isn’t far behind.  The confederate flag has come down in a relatively calm manner compared to other times in history.

Getting a tattoo is a personal mark that puts permanent ink on your body that is only representative of your own desires.  It is a unique statement about yourself.  Curious what others think.


Kate Lee asked Emily and me to write letters to each other for a series of posts that they are doing at the Medium.  I like the concept of how the Medium is curating at the same time being an open platform for self publishers.  If you missed the piece we it is.

Dear Mom: How Do You Find a Mentor?

Dear Mom,

I’m writing to you as I lay on my bed in what to me feels like my high school bedroom. In front of me is a bulletin board wall covered with photographs of me and my high school friends and images that I cut out from magazines when I was 16. Behind me are boxes filled with belongings that I collected throughout my time in college. In less than a month I’ll be moving out of your and Dad’s house in Manhattan and into an apartment of my own in Brooklyn. I’ll also start looking for my first job.

Having just completed my undergraduate degree, I can now reflect back on my past few years at college. My studies in sociology and English were incredibly fulfilling, and in my last year, I put a lot of time and energy into writing a thesis, which in the end was extremely rewarding. Not only did I develop intellectually, but I also formed meaningful relationships with my peers and professors that allowed me to grow socially as well as emotionally.

I’m lucky to feel so satisfied with my college experience, for that satisfaction has allowed me to feel ready for what’s next. What exactly is next, I don’t know.

I have some ideas about the kinds of jobs I’m interested in and which companies I might want to work for. I’ve always been interested in food, I love to write, and I am fascinated by the ways in which technology has allowed us to think more strategically about where and what to eat. I am aware of what skills I possess. I know that I am extremely organized and good at project management. I’m mostly interested in working at a dynamic, creative organization and believe I can handle many different roles and responsibilities.

I am surrounded by people, including you, Dad, my older sister, many of your friends, and many of my own friends, that inspire me to think and achieve on a daily basis. I’m thankful to have so many people in my life that I love and respect, and to whom I can look for guidance.

Yet I feel like I’m at a point where there’s another kind of relationship from which I could really benefit, one which would allow me to gain the kind of useful insight and invaluable advice that will impact me significantly over the course of my career.

I’m about to embark on a journey that could be rocky to begin with, or maybe even delightfully smooth, but either way, there’s a long road ahead of me. Once you were young and professionally naive like myself, but now you are a successful and established investor who acts as a mentor to many. So I’m wondering, how will I know when I meet someone who would make a good mentor for me? Or, more importantly, what makes a good mentor?

Love, Emily

How to Find a Mentor

And why having a role model is just as important

Dear Emily,

Every night I pass your room on the way to mine. It’s strange knowing that in a few weeks, that room will be an empty shell, left only with items that are part of your past. You are now officially an adult. I feel insanely lucky that I got to watch you grow up and be part of your journey. We raised you to be an independent person, to grow wings and fly. Now the time has come.On one hand, it is bittersweet, yet on the other, I am so excited for you to move into your own place and begin your adult life.

I remember when I graduated from college. Your dad, whom I have now been with since our sophomore year in college (crazy!), and I moved to New York City to start our adult life. We each had a job in hand before showing up in New York. I was to start in the Macy’s training program. It was different then. Every large company came to interview us on campus. People had fewer choices, and most of our friends all had jobs when we graduated. The knowledge of what you could do was limited by where you’d gone to college or how you grew up. Now, people have so many more options and actually know about all the opportunities out there.

We graduated, went on an eight-week cross-country trip in a Toyota Celica, landed in New York, found an apartment, created a space that was ours, and began our next chapter. We felt excited, scared, thrilled, and uncertain all at the same time — just as I am sure you are feeling right now.

You ask about how will you meet someone who will be a good mentor, and what makes them a good mentor.

Mentors are important. But so are role models. Role models are not talked about as much as mentors, but the reality is that role models can make a bigger impact.

As you embark upon your career, I want you to think about that first. Role models are people you can look up to, someone you might aspire to be like. Their impact can only be felt by you. They make you think about your internal goals — the things you might want to share with a mentor.

I had a few women role models early in my career. The first woman I looked up to ran the store where I was a sales manager in Kings Plaza, Brooklyn. She was sharp and tough and commanded respect. I liked how she conducted herself as a straight shooter, and it was obvious that she was well-respected throughout the organization. She wasn’t so much a mentor, but someone I aspired to be like.

The next woman I worked for was very similar, yet she took me under her wing. At this point, I was an assistant store manager for Macy’s in New Rochelle, and she ran the store. She gave me advice on how to look at the businesses I was running, how to manage the people who worked for me, and how to navigate the company (which was heavily dominated by men at the top), and she made sure I was taken care of after she got promoted.

She wanted to pave the way for me, and that was empowering. She was a mentor for a short time but not for long. She moved up into the higher chains of command, out of New Rochelle and back to New York City. We didn’t have email then, or texting, and people didn’t stay in touch like they do today. After she got promoted, someone else came in to fill her role. He was great to work for, but it had been unique working for a woman who was not only a role model but a mentor at the same time — particularly when there were fewer women at the top and more women at the bottom. Being able to learn from a woman at the top who really cared about my success was a gift.

There was another woman I worked for who was a terrible person. She was mean, she couldn’t have cared less if I succeeded, and she was selfish and not my advocate. She was an “anti-role model” — she showed me what not to be. The only reason I stuck it out for a year was because I was learning about the back end of the manufacturing business, and I knew that was invaluable.

I kept my head down, listened, and figured out how to grow my own business inside hers. She never gave me advice, she never taught me one thing, she never even asked how my weekend was. She did not have one social grace. It was like working for a cold tyrant. I was so miserable and stressed that the whole experience took a toll on my face. I developed adult acne. Nobody should have to go through that.

I tell you all three of these stories because each impacted me along my journey.

I was able to work under women that I respected and others that I did not. It helped me become the person I wanted to be — not only in my career, but in my life. They were all role models, some good and some bad.

Mentorship is a word that is tossed around a lot these days. It wasn’t something that people talked about when I started my career. There is this belief that one of the things that you must do when you begin your career is find a mentor. I don’t agree. If people want true one-on-one guidance to help them navigate the world, they should find a good shrink, just like most entrepreneurs see a coach as their business starts to take off. I am a huge fan of that. It can helps people get rid of personal baggage and become better leaders. Mentorship is different. It is something that should happen organically, with someone who finds an interest in you as much as you find an interest in them.

A mentor can be someone older and wiser, or occasionally, it can even be a peer. If you find someone who is older, who you really enjoyed talking to and getting advice, then shoot them an email afterwards and thank them. Begin to engage them by asking their advice on something else that comes along. If it feels natural, then ask if you can get on their calendar for lunch or coffee. It is just like building a friendship.

As for your peer, it might be someone in the same industry as you. You start to build a new friendship or have lunch or coffee during the week. That relationship is built around career talk.

Generally peer mentorship goes both ways, which is invaluable, because you are going through the same thing together and can rely on each other for advice. Later in your career you may even find mentorship from someone younger than you. I see people now who are older but want some transparency into how to code, or into how new technologies work. Younger people can help.

A mentor is someone who can help you think through the stumbling blocks along the way. Someone who can also be your cheerleader. Someone who wants to see you succeed. Someone who is happy to analyze situations with you and give you advice to get to the other side. Someone who has opened the door to you to begin a friendship around your career.

Sometimes that person reveals themselves to you over time, and then all of a sudden you realize that they are your mentor. It makes them feel as great about giving advice as you feel about getting it.

There is a woman you met recently, in Los Angeles, whom I met later on at a party. She thought you were amazing. She said to me, “I want to hang with Emily.” You liked her, too. She has had an interesting career. She is 15 years older than you. If you emailed her and asked her for some advice through this process of finding a job, she would probably be thrilled to do it. When you start to talk to a company more seriously about taking a job, just ask her if you could get on her calendar for a phone call and say you’d love some advice and wonder if she’d be willing to give you some. You are trying to make some decisions, you really enjoyed talking to her when you met, and was hoping she’d be willing to take some time out to talk again.

She could become your mentor without you realizing it. That is how it should happen — organically. If she said she is super busy right now, that is OK. Then she is not your person.

I have always been open to helping others think about their careers. As an angel investor in over 85 companies and counting — where 75 percent of the entrepreneurs are women — I have become a mentor to every person I invest in. I am closer to some than others, yet I make myself available to every one of them and let them know I am there to support them. These relationships did not happen organically, but I work to make sure they know that they can call on me anytime.

There is one woman whom I consider myself a mentor to, and I consider her just as much a mentor to me. She reads my blog. That is how we met. She emailed me asking for some advice about her career. I emailed her back. She took the advice and it paid off. She emailed me letting me know. I was thrilled for her. She wanted to meet for lunch, so we did. Over the years, not only have I have met with her, given her advice on how to negotiate a raise over two days of an email exchange, helped her to think about her future, and applauded her successes, but we have become friends. She has taught me a thing or two about the business she is in as well, and that makes for a great relationship.

You have great insights about people. You will know when to connect with that right person to help you on your journey. You will know who’s a good role model and who’s not. I am confident that you will find your own path and surround yourself with good, smart, caring people.

I am your mentor for life, and hopefully a role model too. I can’t think of anyone else I’d rather be a mentor to, except, of course, your brother and sister.


What is it like to be the only woman in the room?

imagesKate Lee, at the Medium, asked me to write for a new series “Letters to my Mother/Daughter”. Emily and I are doing one together.  Very cool idea.  In her email there was also a future topic to be covered….what is it like to be the only woman in the room?

I have been the only woman in the room more than a several times.  In the past few months it has happened more than a handful of times.  I am greeted with open arms but I wonder if I have changed the room at all.  As I have gotten older I find it to be less of a challenge to be heard but more of a responsibility to be the leader in the room.  Essentially to show that I know my shit.

There is something intimidating to most women sitting in a room full of men who supposedly know about everything.  The reality is that they don’t.  They might be more comfortable in those meetings because they are confident in those rooms.   What I have discovered over the years is just became they appear to be confident doesn’t mean that they know what’s going on.

I always sat at the table like everyone else but in the past I probably listened more than I spoke.  I learned a long time ago not to start my sentence in those meetings with “I think” but to jump in with my comments instead.  Be articulate, be bold and show pure confidence and no fear. You are in the meeting because you deserve to be there not because they asked a token woman.  If you can shift your thoughts to that it makes all the difference in the world.

For whatever reason, DNA, lessons from my parents, I never felt intimated in that environment.  I remember being in an executive session with all men and one of them came up with an absurd financial decision that would hurt the organization for years to come.  I was the only one in the room who said that it was not a wise move.  He was insanely condescending to me about how I did not understand what he was saying. He attempted to describe it again but slower like I would better understand it.  I fired back.  I got what he was saying but here is what I am saying that this thinking is irresponsible.  He was very ruffled and ended up resigning from that committee the next day.  Guess I made my point.

The other day I was in an investor meeting and I was the only woman in the room.  It actually made me chuckle.  I asked questions, I prodded, I understood what was being talked about.  I spoke more than anyone in the room.  Towards the end one of the men piped up and asked me…what exactly do you do?  It made me laugh to myself even more.

I have been the only woman in the room more than I care to be.  By setting my own agenda and being bold I hope to open the door for more women to come flooding into those meetings with me.  That would be the best thing that could happen.  More women change the conversation.

More thoughts on how to help women navigate their careers

images-1We all know that being a woman in any field comes with their own set of issues.  The legal and banking industry is super tough.  Having a family and trying to continue on with the same amount of hours and pressure from your male counterparts is not easy.  I am pretty sure that most women entering into these fields are a bit blindsided until they get there.  I might be speaking out of turn but that is the feedback I have got from the women I have talked to over the years.

Someone I have known for awhile through our kids school reached out to me to talk about what is next for her and her friend.  Both super smart successful lawyers.  They wanted to bounce some ideas off of me.  We began to talk about angel investing, education, politics and many of the areas that they might be interested in.

Then we began to talk about how tough is it for women in their field.  Who were their mentors?  Did they have any?  Were they mentoring any young women coming up the ranks?  I asked them “How can you both help women in your field navigate their careers”?  More important, is that an area that they would be interested in.

I suggested that they start with the law schools that they went to.  Think of a stump speech about the realities of being a woman in the field of law and what to expect.  Does anybody really talk about that?How can they help the next generation of women going in to law create a community for themselves to lean on?  Those sharp elbows were so unattractive when they came up the ladder.  Can that change?  Change never happens inside it always happens outside.  Does it make sense for women to spend a few years at an established law firm learning the ropes and then going out on their own?  How hard is it to have children and raise a family as a power lawyer?  The conversation flowed.

In the end, I hope that they think about being the voice for the next generation of women lawyers.  The importance of community for all women in any business is to have mentors, peers and community to talk to.  People who can support them, cheer for them and to give good advice.  Walking away from law after all those years is a waste.  Go back and make an impact on the next generation.  What a great way to give back.

Happy 4th of July

imgresSummer is here.  Time to relax.  Read books.  See family and friends.  Have a BBQ.  Bake a cake.  Enjoy the 4th.  Watch fireworks. Celebrate our freedom.

What’s next?

imagesOver the last couple of years I have met with many women who are my age and are thinking about a new career.  The good news is that these women want to do something meaningful that is not in the non-profit arena.  I am not dismissing the importance of philanthropic work but for some reason women tend to gravitate towards that vs the profit world once they start to make career changes.  They want to sit on those boards and make a difference.  I believe there are other ways to make a difference.

I have told this story several times but not in writing.  Years ago I spoke at an event for about 100 women. Most of these women came out of the banking and legal arena.  Afterwards two women came up and said “we want to do what you are doing.”  They followed up and we got together to talk.  They had both been financially successful in their own right and were looking to put their capital to work by angel investing.  This was music to my ears.

I talked to them about two deals I had currently committed to and still needed capital.  They were concerned that they did not know anything about the business.  I started to ask them questions. Ends up that when you are our age that you know a lot more than you realize.  Experience is worth a lot.  They got excited and started to ask a million questions from what is a note and how does it work to what percentage would they own of the business.  Once they started to wrap their arms around what it meant to invest in a start-up at the early stages they began to hem and haw.

Hem and hawing is understood.  When will we make our money back, will we make our money back, what kind of returns will we really get, etc., etc.  I finally said to them, “how much money did you spend on your holiday vacation this year”?  That was the “aha” moment.  The amount of money they were putting into these two companies in total was probably a bit less than what they have spent on their vacations.  I followed up with you are making an impact in a women entrepreneurs business.  You will help her grow her business.  You will learn about the start-up world.  Most important you will feel empowered that you were able to do this.  You will be making a difference.

They both pulled the trigger and have done almost a dozen deals with me since.  They now they have a whole crew of women who also want to do what they are doing.  I am going to put together a breakfast this fall and invite them all.  I want each of them to understand the process.  What they are investing in and why.  How they should think about it.  I don’t want to be responsible for their dollars or decisions.  I want each of them to feel empowered to do their own investing.  This is going to be fun.


Fear, reality and the imposter syndrome

imgres-2David Noel interviewed me at Soundcloud when I was in Berlin for an event that they put on called #Role Models.  I was excited to be asked.  The house was packed and about 70% of the people there were women.

After David and I spoke for awhile he opened it up to questions.  One woman asked me a question about fear.  How do you deal with fear?  Fear is a very powerful feeling.  It can come out of nowhere.  I can be connected to so many things.  Fear of heights, fear of amusement park rides, fear of failure, fear of commitment.  The list is endless.

It was a simple question and a great question.  I paused to think about it.  My first thought is what is she afraid of.  My answer was simple.  The only person that knows that you have fear is yourself.  You have to figure out that issue but when you go into the world do not show your fear.  Show strength.  It might take a lot to muster that up but that fear is your own making.  It is in your own head.  To not think that everyone else around you who is faking it until they make it doesn’t have fear you are kidding yourself.  Take that deep breath when you enter the room and when you leave it. When you go out and talk to the world keep that fear in check and overtime you realize that you had nothing to fear.  It was just your own baggage.

Fast forward to the next day I spoke at another event, this time women only, at the American Embassy in Berlin.  Someone brought up the imposter syndrome.  Something that many women have.  Imposter syndrome is described as something where people have feelings of inadequacy although the opposite is usually true.  There is this internal fear that they will be discovered that they actually know nothing and are not worthy of being in the job, the conversation or whatever it is.  It is a lot like fear.

I ended up having this very long conversation with my son about insecurities.  I told him that in many ways I have finally come into myself without feeling the imposter syndrome.  I have had that imposter syndrome for a very long time.  He refers to me as a rock so he couldn’t believe that I felt that way.  As he puts it, I am killing it right now.

I explained to him, just like I said to the woman at Soundcloud, what you see is not always what someone feels inside.  The key is figuring out that feeling from early on because the importance of feeling you belong at the table is just as important as sitting at it.  At the end of the day, fear is a real thing.  So is anxiety, depression and everything else that is indescribable but lives in your own head.  Much of it comes with your DNA.  Figuring out how to work past those feelings are not easy but you are the only person who is aware of them.  Nobody else.  Remember that.  Also, work on making your head healthy.

FDR said the most eloquent thing about fear.  “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”   He was spot on.

Equal Rights for everyone

slide_436062_5714050_freeI was getting in a cab in Paris when I found out that the Supreme Court passed marriage equality nationwide.  I started to cry.  I was seriously overcome with emotion.  We are finally moving forward as a nation from gay rights to healthcare to the slow evolution of legalizing weed to taking down the Confederate flag and that says something about where our nation is going.  I hope that gun control is next.

IMG_8031My daughter sent me this.  The numbers are staggering.  Let’s hope that there is a movement afoot and this is just the beginnings of change in our country.

I am celebrating this past week but we have to remember there is still a journey ahead of us.