Posts from musings

To Los Angeles we go

images-2As always we plan in advance.  About three years ago we started discussing how great it would be to spend our winters in Los Angeles, CA when the kids had flown the coop.

I was born in Los Angeles.  Our entire family has ties back to LA from an internship I did there for a semester in college (that Fred came along with me for and postponed his thesis) to my sister living there for four years to my Grandmother who lived in Laguna to my brother and sister-in-law who moved to LA over 10 years ago to raise their daughters.  We have spent lots of time in LA.  I always feel at home the second I get off the plane.

So making a decision to spend an extended period of time in Los Angeles was an easy one.  The time has come.  Fred and I will be in LA as of next week.  My idea was to not come back to NYC until the temperatures gets above 50 degrees.  Not sure we will get there but we will make our way back to the east coast sometime in early April.

What’s great about what we do is that all we need to do is bring a phone, a computer and we can continue doing what we do.  And so…life won’t change except we will be a bit warmer this winter.

 

The Right Investors

images-3Telling people to get the right investors is something that everyone wants so that advice is not exactly earth shattering.  I have been thinking a lot about who is the right investor for each company as they raise funds for the next round as the company begins to grow.

This past week I spent time with many of the companies that I have invested in.  One is in the education space.  Their vision is one where working with universities and colleges will be essential down the line  It would make a lot of sense to bring in an investor who really knows and understands the education space.  They know the players and are fully aware of how the education space works.

I also spent some time with a company in the animation space.  They are working on a variety of things and I honestly had no idea the right advice to give but I did know who would.  I connected them and it will help the company as they move forward.  Their next investor might be well suited if they are in that space.

Another company that plays in several spaces from hard goods to media to product might be best suited to an investor that is not your typical institutional VC.

We are deep in the throes of a time when so many companies are being built in pretty much every single vertical imaginable.  Bringing on an expert (who is an investor) in each space is a tremendous asset.  Many of the really large VC firms have multiple divisions from biotech to enterprise to commerce and that is great.  Yet there are so many investors out there that are arms of large companies in a particular space or investors such as myself that can be of help to companies as they navigate the waters of the vertical that they are trying to break into and change.

The good news is that the investor pool has truly expanded and there are the right investors out there for each company.  You just have to look for them and you should.

Community College

images-1The data shows that education makes a difference.  People who graduate college do financially better and continue to get better at each level of education.

Costs, debt, real world skills (aka computer programming), MOOCs and other things will change education in the decades to come.

The importance of a community college education will change too.  I was blown away when Obama came out with his college education plan to extend our education system through the community colleges. It is brilliant.  I know that we are not a socialist country where their students can go for free until they graduate college and sometime even all the way through a MBA or a law degree but there is something to be said for that.  Everything is about education.  Just look at the majority of killings in the Middle East that are directly targeting education facilities and the education elite.

Obama is thinking about the future of our work force competing in the global world that we live in today.  Maybe it will give many who can’t even get through high school a reason to hit that milestone first.  He is giving many an opportunity to actually get a college education.  If students do well in those two years they can take those two years under their belt and even get into a four year school and leave without the massive debt that can be incurred in four years.

Republicans do not believe in anything where Government has to pay for this.  They’d prefer the privatization of everything.  The GOP’s desire to not spend money on our education system, not spend money on the infrastructure of our country (roads, bridges, tunnels, etc) but to spend money on a Keystone pipeline because they say it will create jobs is bullshit.  It is old school thinking.  Let’s make the groups that fund our elections happy and it will be good for all.  Really?

Elon Musk has changed the world with the Tesla.  Every other car maker is beginning to roll our the same concept.  What other amazing products will come from this innovation?  Smaller batteries, cleaner ways to fuel the world.  Maybe we won’t have to rely on oil but hey why should we be forward thinkers?

Yes the Democrats do the same damn thing as the Republicans when it comes to supporting the hand that feeds them.  Ok..I am getting off topic.  Can’t help myself.

It is a breath of fresh air to hear Obama actually be a leader by making changes that will be about changing the future.  He is leaving his mark on history.  Bravo.  I love the idea of our Government making community college available for all and I’d be happy to pay more taxes for it.

the knee jerk culture

imagesWhen I was in college the drinking age changed from 18 to 21, state by state, literally over a few month period.  I remember hoping that the state of Massachusetts wouldn’t move in that direction too but alas it did.  So instead of going off to college where I could legally drink I was pushed to party in private or at least hold on to my fake ID.

Fast forward, these laws have been in effect for over 30 years.  It began with MADD and then the Federal Government decided that in order to push states in the direction of changing the drinking age was to withhold federal highway funds for their state if they did not change the law to 18.  This was all a knee jerk reaction to drunken driving fatalities.

It is easier to just force legislation quickly instead of a long term education about drunken driving.  Think about how successful the campaign against smoking has been.  Education came and the fatalities have ebbed.  Now we have another fatality hitting our streets, text driving.  There will always be something and it always comes down to education.

This week I heard about a kid that went to sleep and never woke up.  This is not the first time I have heard this.  It is a tragedy that is so incredibly upsetting and tragic that it is hard to even wrap your head around.  A young person just starting out in their life.  Each time it has been a combination of pharmaceutical drugs and alcohol.

I had been thinking about the agreement that UVA made with fraternities this past week.  There must be at least 3 sober fraternity members at each fraternity party to monitor behavior.  Alcohol punches and beer in kegs will be banned.  Guest lists will be enforced.  A monitor will hold the keys to bedrooms to guard against sexual assaults.  Is this educating people or just a knee jerk reaction to the sexual assaults tied to bad boy behavior and excessive drinking?

The binge drinking, the abuse of alcohol and other drugs do not take place in Europe to the degree that they do in the US.  Drinking a glass of wine at dinner is part of their culture.  It isn’t about letting it rip.

In the last few decades the rise of pharmaceutical drugs have taken the college campuses by storm.  They are easy to get and abuse.  The cocktail of pills, alcohol and weed is deadly.  What will be the knee jerk reaction to that?  Are we creating a culture where it is not OK to do anything until you are 21?  Do we really believe that if you prolong drinking until that age that perhaps you will be more mature to have a glass of wine?  I honestly do not get it.  You can vote and be drafted to go to war but you can’t have a glass of wine.  Do legislators realize by doing this that the reaction is if we can’t drink we can at least get high on a pill. Again, it is all about education that should be early just like sex ed.

We are finally making gay marriage legal.  We are slowly regulating weed by state.  On college campuses we are returning to something that I can only compare to prohibition.  I hope UVA realizes that the partying will just start to happen somewhere else.  The social world will leave the fraternities, plain and simple.  Kid who are in college will drink.  Kids in college will smoke weed.  Kids in college will take drugs.  Nobody knows when someone takes a pharmaceutical pill and that will be impossible to monitor.

It all comes down to education.  UVA is one of the best universities in the world.  It might be in a primarily conservative state but this latest policy is a total knee jerk reaction to recreational abuse.  At what point will a Dean of a University of  Senator or a Governor start thinking about the long term.  How do we teach young adults to engage in recreational activities responsibly vs. holding the keys to the castle.  Guess what…there is always a castle without a key.

Culture shift

images-1We had many conversations this past week while we slid into the vacation state of mind.  One of them that kept coming up was culture.  Culture has many definitions but what we were talking about was the culture of large organizations, changes that need to be made, and the movement that is afoot.

The movement that is afoot is that companies realize that they can not survive unless they change their culture for women.  As more and more companies are started across each vertical there are more opportunities for women to take jobs in companies that are supportive of women from equal pay to family leave.  Large companies can not survive if they are male dominated.  Bottom line there needs to more females at the top making decisions.

We have seen an attitude shift in regards to embracing the needs that women have in their careers might be different than their male counterparts.  Women should be applauded and embraced vs creating an atmosphere where at one point the ability for women to climb up the corporate ladder becomes unattainable.

As companies wake up there is something else shifting which is the way millennials work.  They have been influenced by the start-up generation. Two-thirds are interested in being an entrepreneur.  Their 20’s are more about experiencing a variety of different jobs until perhaps finding the right path.  If I saw a resume of someone who was around 29 who had been working at one company all of their 20’s it would actually be a red flag.   That’s a tough one for a large company.

Large companies need and want people to stay for so many years.  Each individual is an investment in the future.  So as much as smart large companies realize that they need to change their cultures for the next generation (including being technologically savvy) they need to figure out how to possibly outsource or have more flexibility for the entry level jobs so that people want to stay and grow.  I still do believe that once people start to begin to have families that they will have a desire and need to get a weekly paycheck but they also want to be happy.  Happiness for the millennials is first and foremost.

We know that change must come from large corporations from the board room down to the mail room and the good news is that many of these companies do too.  Yet what I really wonder is how many of these huge corporations will be around or as big as they are today ten years from now.

 

Ringing in 2015

imgresHope everyone is taking a day off to relax, ponder about the year ahead.

Happy 2015!

Changing priorities

images-2My friend said this about something not related to me but it over vacation and it really stuck with me.  Changing priorities.

On the eve of a new year I am thinking a lot about changing priorities.  When it comes to year after year I actually think of September as the start of my new year but for a variety of reasons I am going to think about Jan 1 this year.

My sister says that every fall I come up with boundaries for myself so I can take it down a notch but I should keep in mind who is setting those boundaries as they slide down into an abyss.

This fall has been the beginnings of change for me.  We took a month long trip to acknowledge that we are now empty nesters.  Since then I have worked insanely hard, maybe harder than ever.  I enjoy the work, I love that I have tons of flexibility and there is obviously some pressing need to prove myself to me.  I am quite aware of the baggage trailing behind.
Back to the question, how do you change the priorities?  Life is always about balance no matter where you are.  Funny thing is I do not think my priorities are off.  I might just live like by the quote from Massimo Vignelli “One life is too short for doing everything.”

One thing I do know is that when I am in NYC I go full speed.  It is why I love this town.  As I get older it gets harder to maintain that.  That much I realize.  Maybe the movement from place to place for longer extended periods of time will help me so I am working on that this year.  Time in NYC, time in LA, time at the beach, and traveling too.

I am sure that there is a long list of things I need to do to slow it down and that is where my head is at.  Why aren’t there 30 hours in a day?  I am really excited about 2015.  I think this is the year I might just figure it all out.  I am sure my sister will get a big chuckle out of that.

Happy 2015 everyone!

Slow and steady wins the race

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????People ask me all the time if women entrepreneurs are better entrepreneurs than their male counterparts.  It is actually a ridiculous question but I do see a difference.  I actually see the difference with people who seem to have a harder time raising capital.  Perhaps it is that experience that makes them committed to succeed at an entirely different level or perhaps that is the type of people I love to back.

I read the obituaries every day.  I think I started doing that sometime in my late 20’s.  The NYTimes highlights some people I know and others who I have never heard of.  Each of them have always led impressive lives.

J. Robert Beyster died this past week.  He was one of the largest defense contractors.  He had an amazing company philosophy.  There was this quote in the obituary that made me put these thoughts into a blog post.

In his 2007 book, “The SAIC Solution: How We Built an $8 Billion Employee-Owned Technology Company,” Dr. Beyster wrote: “I have found that employees are more patient investors than the public. They are willing to wait longer for returns because they want a good place to work. They allow the company to invest in long-term growth and not just short-term gains.”

Maybe I am patient as an investor but I do believe that companies need to and take time to grow.  Capital is certainly needed but I see too many investors expecting returns too soon.  Each company is different, each trajectory is different, each culture and each company takes its own path.  Growing a solid foundation to grow the company on is important vs just pushing for constant growth without making sure that the blocks are not set in place.  I think of building a house of cards.  If there isn’t a solid structure at the base the building will never get built.  Although some fall apart half way through and others make it to the top.

The importance of a great team, an entrepreneurial visionary and a great group of investors who can sit around a table discussing the future without pushing too quickly can be positive.  Sometimes it isn’t but that is why each company is different.

Women are great at building those foundations before moving on to the next level.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t but I will take slow and steady any day over unrealistic fly by the pants expectations.

Women Entrepreneurs

we_can_do_it__by_abranime-d7atri5The woman entrepreneur posts have slowed down a bit.  I used to do them every Monday but I have found that they are the hardest posts that I write.  Hard in regards to time and thought.   I have been at it now for 5 years.

I don’t see myself continuing to do this every Monday but hopefully a few Mondays a month.  Just when I think it is time to move on from this I get inspired.  Every single time I speak to one of the amazing Women Entrepreneurs I am constantly blown away by their stories, their lives, their energy and their drive.

What is clear to me is that 2014 has been a big year for women.  There is still a long road ahead but I hear from and talk to more and more women entrepreneurs now than 5 years ago.  They are each building their own companies in a variety of verticals.  I do believe that as more women start companies, more women create cultures that are supportive of women and families and more women build large companies we will begin to see a shift in regards to equal opportunities.  Equal opportunity is a broad term and when I say it I think about funding, hiring and respect for what they bring to the table.  I certainly hope that in 2015 we will see a shift.

January 2015 will be the 5th year of the Women’s Entrepreneur Festival.  I know that there has been a long tail to that event.  It is not only about women entrepreneurs but it is also about connecting to other women who are experiencing the same thing.  That women who are forging their own opportunities can connect with others who are in the same state of mind.  That is powerful.

Over the past 8 +years I have supported 45 women by making investments in their companies, their dreams.  I am pretty proud of that.
It is something that I will continue to do in 2015.  I will continue the posts too.  Not as frequently but it just seems that although the posts take time they have also become easier because more women entrepreneurs have realized that not only is it a viable career path it is one they crave.