Scratch

We went to a gala for Scratch two weeks ago where Fred was honored for his impact on computer science in the education system of NYC by creating CSNYC.   Scratch was built at MIT.  It is a free platform where you can create games, interactive stories, and animations to be shared with the community.  It is the foundation for learning to code, it is the gateway drug for the next generation of computer scientists and much more.

The traction on Scratch over the past decade looks like a hockey stick.  What excited me was seeing that Scratch is a global tool that gets young minds thinking about solving problems through technology.

Millions of people around the globe are using Scratch.  It is used in 150 countries and available in 40 languages. These open community tools also connect us to others making the world a flatter place.  Particularly in times like these where we are seeing this elected US Government cut programs that help others around the globe become educated and healthy.  That money creates stability around the globe with the hope that by supporting education and healthcare in third world countries, each generation will become more economically stable.  I believe those soft costs are important and it is disheartening to see those budgets be made null and void.

Going to the Scratch gala made me feel positive that when the world seems to be going crazy, I see organizations like this that are essentially creating change at a grass roots level.  Those grass root movements are putting the power in the people’s hands and this tool is really about the future because Scratch is mostly a product of the youth.

This letter was sent to Mitch Resnick, the genius behind Scratch, from a ten-year-old.  It really says it all.

Making our way through the art around NYC

Over the last two weeks, we have made a minor plunge into the seeing some art around the city.  First stop was the Photography show at the Pier.  Perhaps it was the torrential like weather but I found the space insanely depressing.  The Photo Show in Paris is so exciting but this felt very old.  There is a mixture of old photos and new but nothing got me excited.  This did catch my eye.

This was depressing.

We went early on a Sunday morning to see the Whitney Biennial.  I have been to them all over the years.  There were a few interesting things but all and all I found the whole installation disappointing.  There have been years where I have walked out and although the art was in my face, it stuck with me.  I want to be engaged and mesmerized with cutting edge work that is making a statement and pushing me to think.  Unfortunately, that did not happen here. I like the work from Celeste Dupuy-Spencer that shows our lives today.

Henry Taylor is another artist that I know and like.

I thought the most amazing piece was the stained glass window by Raúl de Nieves.

Made our way through Chelsea the following week.  Sue Williams, who I have been following for years, at 303 Gallery.

The must see is Alice Neel at Zwirner.  More galleries are creating shows that are similar to museums.  Neel painted portraits of friends and family in NYC.  These portraits are amazing.  Two Girls, 1954

Benjamin, 1976.

Evan Holloway at Paul Cooper Gallery.

Olafur Eliasson at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery.  I am such a fan.  These pieces are wild.  Bent metal through mirrors.  This is the front.

Here is how it is constructed in the back.

Upstairs is this room with a light hanging in the middle.  When the light is off the room the circles are black and gray.

When the light comes up, the circles are a variety of colors.  Makes a statement about opening your eyes to a diverse, happier world.

Nice to be back in my town.

Passover and rituals

This week is Passover.  We had our yearly dinner last night with all the trappings of years past.  I really love these family holidays.  They seem to become more important to me the older I get.  It is the connection of the past with the future, the getting together of everyone and sharing a meal and a ritual.  There is something soothing knowing that the meal will be the same, the service will be the same yet the observations of the past year changes.

Every year I make brisket (although this year I changed up the recipe – gasp!), the same cake my Grandmother used to make, chicken soup and matzo balls and macaroons.  This year I tried a new macaroon recipe.  It is the winner.  Here it is.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Combine the coconut, condensed milk, and vanilla in a large bowl. Whip the egg whites and salt on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until they make medium-firm peaks. Carefully fold the egg whites into the coconut mixture.

Drop the batter onto sheet pans lined with parchment paper using either a 2″ diameter ice cream scoop ( I really like the ice cream scoop method) or a tablespoon. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown. Cool and serve.

Then take melt a good chocolate (not Nestles because it is too waxy).  Dip the macaroons in the chocolate and dry on parchment paper.  Insanely good.

We Couldn’t NOT Do It, Joanna McFarland, Hop Skip Drive, Podcast

Co-Founder & CEO of HopSkipDrive, Joanna McFarland, chats with us about how all roads led to quitting her job and diving into the startup world with the idea of creating a safe and dependable ride service for kids. Joanna shares her interesting career path, one in which she leveraged her fears and uncertainties into success — making it a point to explore and understand anything that intimidated or confounded her. Joanna’s measured approach to risk taking is certainly one to take a few pointers from.

When to get on the radar?

Time and time again many companies talk about when does it make sense to do PR and what should it look like.  PR is a wide net.  It can run the gamut from media to founders being on panels or one-on-one interviews.  I have seen companies get so much press without enough in the back end to support the PR and then others where the PR was great for business.

There is definitely a balance.  If you have something to report, besides closing a round which I have yet to understand the importance of that, then by all means figure out the right audience that should be hearing the news.  Certainly, as companies become larger, it is important for the founders to get out there be it on panels and speaking to audiences about what their company does and perhaps discussing the reality of start-up world.

More than a handful of companies have done an excellent job of promoting themselves without anything tangible in the background.  It goes under the heading that you can have a shitty product with a killer sales team you can win all day long but if you have a fantastic product with a shitty sales team you can easily lose.  Everything is about balance.

Someone gave me the advice a long time ago that if you are asked to be on a panel, make sure that you believe the other people on the panel are better than you.  You want to be on panels that elevate your game.  Sports analogies work here…think about playing doubles in tennis.

There is not a handbook about when to be in the media, when to begin doing panels, went to start sharing your story to others about building your company, when to get out from under the radar, etc.  Each decision should be thoughtful around message and timing.  You want to get something out of those times you leave your desk.  And as your company becomes more successful, particularly for women, there is the importance of being the role model for the next generation of female founders who feel more empowered because they can see clearly that another woman figured it out.

The reality of building a business

New coming founders to the start-up world focus on the supposed successful businesses.  They focus on the others getting funded when they don’t even get their business model.  They read all the bravado through their Twitter feed.  They see millions of dollars going into businesses that might have terrible cultures and wonder why it is so hard for them.  They are fearful that they will let their investors and everyone around them down.  They are worried that they will run out of cash.  They are afraid to let the product out of the door because it isn’t perfect.  They worry about the wrong hire.  And of course, there is more.

On one hand we read about the “success” of companies such as Quirky, Zenefits and Uber where the bravado of the founder closes round after round at higher and higher valuations.  Then we watch them start to fail for a variety of reason including bad management and bad culture.  Those companies create this false sense of what success is supposed to look like for the founders in the weeds who are up all night.  There is also the last group of YCombinator companies that just graduated and are already valued at $12-15M.  Really?

There is a big disconnect between that is real and what isn’t.  Here is what is real.  Investors back people they believe in.  They except lots of shit to happen, that is the reality of building a business.  I want to hear more about the many companies that are being built that are managed well, have great gender balanced cultures, are profitable or on the edge of becoming profitable, that have incredible products and more.  Maybe there could be a twitter feed just for them?

 

Beauty and the Beast

When the kids were young, Disney was run by Michael Eisner.  He looked at the assets that Disney owned and engaged a whole new generation of Disney devotees.  It was brilliant.  Snow White, Pinocchio, and others were now available on DVD.  They also created a few new movies such as Lion King and Beauty and the Beast. Not only could you buy the videos that had special release dates, there were stuffed animals, pajamas, and other items so that if you wanted to you could have an entire bedroom done in the Lion King motif.

Fast forward, Disney is now taking all those assets and creating new movies that are in 3D mixed with actors and animation.  We will get to watch them all again and Disney is adding a new group of fans to their base.

When the kids were young, I am pretty sure I saw Beauty and the Beast at least 50 times….and I loved it.  I went to see the new and improved version of Beauty and the Beast this weekend starring Emma Watson.  Of course, I went with my girls.  I bumped into someone I knew there who was with her Grandchildren.  Her Grandaughter, who was maybe 5,  told me she had seen the video and was beyond excited to see the film.  Absolutely adorable.

I loved the film.  Classic Disney feel good flick.  Certainly, a more updated version that is politically correct and that is good for the next generation of kids watching these movies.  Hats off to Disney.  If I had the DVD, I might just be inclined to watch it again and again and again…

#EqualPayDay

It is mind boggling to me that today, in 2017, that men and women are not paid equally for the same job.  Although we have a sexist in the White House, it is important for all of us to make sure that everyone is paid equally.  There is no doubt that everyone comes to the table with a different set of experiences and expertise and one should be paid for that but it should be in line with your peers.

I have heard countless stories from women where they have found out that the man reporting to them is making more than them.  That a man who has less experience than a woman is at a higher salary and a higher level job.  That a woman feels that they have to sneak out the backdoor to see their kid play a soccer game but a man brags about going to their kids soccer game during the work week.  It is up to all of us to create a level playing field, period.

In my first job, I got an offer and a salary and just said thanks while doing the silent happy dance on the other end of the phone.  Fast forward, I found out that everyone in my training program was being paid a range of salaries and the reality was that I had more experience in that field than anyone in the room when I walked in the door.  I should have been making the top of the range and I wasn’t.

Fast forward several years, I took a job with a company and six months later I found out I was pregnant.  I had made a major impact there and said I would return under the conditions of renegotiating my entire salary.  I returned and was rewarded what I deserved.

I look at the female founders who are funded mostly at lower valuations, with less capital and give up more equity although the data still points to that the ROI on companies that have women at the helm is higher.  

People should be paid for what they are worth, their companies should be valued based on what they are worth and women should expect to be paid the same amount that their male counterparts are who have the same experiences.   Ask for what you deserve and if you don’t get it then you won’t be happy being there.  At this point of the game, it is utterly ridiculous that women are still fighting for equal pay.

Linda Ong, A Brand is an Ideology, Podcast

Linda Ong, branding powerhouse & Chief Culture Officer of Civic Entertainment Group, sat down with me this week to chat about how her own “mish-mash” of cultural identities informed her career — one in which she’s created cultural identities for companies and media networks alike. Linda breaks down how she approaches the building of a brand identity with her own clients, and her insights are not to be missed!

#EarthMatch, Month 3, Campaign for Earthjustice

This month Fred, Brad, Amy, Albert and Susan after a variety of conversations have zeroed in on raising money this month for Earthjustice.   It isn’t easy to figure out what organization we should be highlighting each month to raise money and awareness around because our current Government seems bent on destroying progress.  It is a bit like playing the game whack-a-mole.

Our environment is at the top of the pyramid.  The data is clearly there around global warming that holding big companies accountable to treat our environment with care has a positive affect and creates jobs.  Rolling back on car emissions, coal mining on public lands, drilling for oil in the ocean instead of creating incentives for electric cars and new energies such as solar.

Earthjustice says “our earth needs a good lawyer” and that is exactly what they do.  They provide that legal backbone to make a healthy world.

I am excited about supporting this months cause.  I hope you can give too.  We are doing the match at Crowdrise.  This is the place to donate and then please tweet this out so we can create a groundswell of support this month for Earthjustice.

Here is what you do.

  1. Go to our EarthMatch page on Crowdrise and give any amount (minimum is $10).
  2. After you complete the donation, tweet your donation out on the post donation page. That will register it for our match.
  3. If you don’t use Twitter, you can forward your email receipt by following the instructions on the post donation page. Tweeting is much better though as it will amplify the campaign.

I just donated to #EarthMatch on @crowdrise. Friends – donate to @Earthjustice at https://www.crowdrise.com/EJMatch and have your donation doubled