Solar goes to Institute of Contemporary Art in LA…back it!

Solar is the future. We have put solar panels on every construction project that we are building and have gone back and added them to old projects. We should all do our part when it comes to reusable energy.

I read this morning that the Institute of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles (admission free) launched a project on Kickstarter to become the first fully solar powered museum. A museum is the perfect place to create conversations around energy and our personal carbon footprints. The project will install 206 solar panels over 12,000 square feet of roof space creating 100,000 kilowatts annually.

Saving the planet has become a conversation around our dinner table and I hope that it becomes a conversation around every dinner table. Having a museum become completely solar powered forces everyone who walks in the museum to think about energy and pushes other institutions to rethink their energy consumption. We must all be socially conscious when it comes to energy.

I backed this project the second I saw it!

Revival of Towns

Most parents would be thrilled if their kids returned to where they grew up to raise their families. How do rural states keep the kids from leaving permanently?

STEM education is a growing part of the curriculum across the country. Seeing pictures of kids in rural areas of Iowa on computers creating projects with huge smiles on their face always makes me happy. I just wonder about the job options that there will be for them at home in the future.

I have talked with a few people who are working on the redevelopment of Poughkeepsie NY or Montgomery AL. Bringing back towns that once thrived. Bringing back a local economy through housing, arts, food and education. We will see more of this as top cities become more expensive and next generations crave different cultures to raise their families.

SF investors have put so much capital into their area that they have destroyed the balance of the community. It is so expensive to live there and the homeless population has exploded. It is not a good look. How do these rural areas get large companies to create outposts so that economic prosperity can be spread across these towns?

Many are working on the revitalization of their own towns and ones that have been left in the dust. It will be interesting to watch how these areas figure out how to bring the young adults home to raise their families.

Nordstrom Comes to NYC

I am seeing these beautiful ads for Nordstrom celebrating their opening on 57th and Broadway in October. Women wearing extremely stylish clothing that is very much urban chic. Will Nordstrom create a NYC store with unique inventory or will it carry the same stuff in their suburban stores?

Department stores have long standing roots in the city such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Macy’s. Lord and Taylor has gone to WeWork. Takashimaya from Japan didn’t make it. Galleries LaFayette was very short-lived on 57th Street. Neiman-Marcus joined the list at Hudson Yards and has none of the sparkle that it once did. The store is just endless four-ways filled with nothing of interest. Forty Five Ten created this strange separation of 3 different stores on one level across from each other but at least the inventory is unique and on point. Corso Como opened up at the Seaport and although cutting edge their choice of location makes zero sense.

Physical brick and mortar retail is hurting but if the creativity is there then the people will come although location is very key. Nordstrom has been a leader with a strong family who has reinvented the store by acquiring new school concepts such as Trunk Club. They seem to understand that the world of physical retail must change to remain viable.

If the store looks as good as the advertising then I am all in. Fingers crossed.

Success?

Success is defined as the accomplishment of an aim or purpose. Everyone has their own career and personal aspirations particularly founders who are trying to hit a home run but base hits can be a win too.

In 2007, I started spending the majority of my time angel investing. 120 investments later and a few side projects has been an incredible education. I had expectations that every investment would be a win. Of course that was never going to happen but I wanted to believe that I could literally get in there and fix anything.

I am starting to see some of the investments I made pull out of the gate, sell, hit big valuations or die. Data shows that all of those factors were inevitable. Seeing founders spend 24/7 on their businesses is part of the game. I have espoused the importance of not ignoring your personal life to every founder. Go on dates, spend time with friends and family, don’t wait to have children, don’t ignore your personal life.

I had a conversation with a founder this past week who is selling the company. Everyone is getting their cash back and a bit more. Sure they wanted the company to be a huge hit out of the ballpark but it wasn’t meant to be. I said to the founder that it might not have been a huge exit but it is a success. Even if a company dies, it is just a different success.

Starting a company with an idea, building a team, raising capital, and creating something from nothing is a huge success. Very few people can do that. As an investor, I am in the business of risk. Some returns are bigger than others but in my eyes, all founders who were able to get something off the ground even though it might not become the next big thing, is a success and nobody should tell you otherwise. Success can even be found in a loss.

Crab Tostada and Pumpkin Seed Dressing

It is all about simplicity when it comes to a tostada. This crab tostada fits the bill. The pumpkin seed salad dressing is also simple and perfect for any night.

Crab Tostada

  • 1 cup of crabmeat
  • 1/2 cup of shredded napa cabbage
  • 1/2 cup jicama chopped
  • 1 haberneo chili minced
  • corn tortillas – crisped and heated on the gas stove
  • Avocados – I made a guacamole earlier for ease but sliced would be nice on top instead
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 3/4 cup vegetable/safflower oil
  • 1 canned chipotle chili in adobe sauce

The mayonnaise is key. I did not mix it into the crab but spread it over the tostada. The first one I made was so spicy I made it again. In a food processor blend the egg, lime juice, salt and ONE chipotle until thoroughly mixed. While the motor is running, slowly add the oil until it becomes creamy.

Mix the crab meat, cabbage, jicama (you can always bag this but I liked the crunchiness), chilies and salt. Take the dressed tostada, spread crab over the top, put a slice of avocado and I added two slices of pickled red onions (sliced red onions in apple cider vinegar and sugar for 10 minutes). Voila.

Pumpkin Seed Dressing

  • 1 serrano chili (seeded)
  • 1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • 1 shallot
  • 1 tbsp. flat parsley leaves
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt (more if you need it)

Put all of this in a blender or food process and that’s it. Toss over lettuce for a salad but could easily be used for shrimp cocktail too.

Clueless?

Walden Pond

I had breakfast with a friend who makes it a habit to read the local paper whenever he finds himself. I really love that. It can give you a bit of insight into where you are hanging your hat.

He shared with me this piece (below) that he read in the local East Hampton Star. He wondered if this was a spoof or real. So he called the editor, who did not pick up the phone, but quite sure this is not a spoof.

As this summer has been a lot of conversation about politics and transforming democracy around the dinner table reading this hit me between the eyes. This defines being out of touch with the world around us and perhaps startling obvious why our country is where it is today.

I just had to repost this because my mouth is still hanging open.

See below.

Walden Revisited

GUESTWORDS By David Schiff July 18, 2019

A 10,515-square-foot home inspired by the owner’s favorite book, “Walden” by Henry David Thoreau, has been listed for sale for $29 million, The Wall Street Journal reported. The house was built because the owner had been “traveling a lot and wanted a place to be very quiet and in touch with nature, out of the craziness of New York City life.”

We moved to the Hamptons last summer because we wanted to live simply, to embrace only the essentials of life.

Manhattan is so frenetic with work, dinners, deals, charity boards, parties. Our vacations aren’t relaxing either: NetJets to St. Bart’s and Aspen. It seemed that no sooner would we arrive than it was already time to leave. So when Memorial Day approached, my thoughts turned to Henry David Thoreau. Like him, I “want but little.” Where better to get in touch with nature and contemplate the meaning of life than our house in the Hamptons?

“Walden” always spoke to me. A lot of my college friends went into law or investment banking, but I marched to a “different drummer” and chose private equity. I knew I didn’t want to be one of those guys leading what Thoreau called “a life of quiet desperation.” He said “a man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.” That’s how I feel. Our house is an unassuming 10,515 square feet — noticeably smaller than those near us. We didn’t care. As Henry David put it, “Most men appear to have not considered what a house is, and . . . think that they must have such a one as their neighbors have.”

We named our home Walden. The architecture is Modernist, and it’s decorated in a contemporary-Zen style. Organic fabrics, a lot of neutrals. We really embraced simplicity. “I wanted to live . . . so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life,” Thoreau wrote.

We led a primal existence in the Hamptons. We didn’t need possessions. “Do not trouble yourself much to get new things. [People’s lives] are frittered away by details,” said Henry David. So we kept our house spare; the Warhols and Hirsts stayed in the city. We opted for Minimalism instead: Donald Judd, Richard Serra, some Ellsworth Kellys.

Embracing the austere life helped us discover what’s really important. I have a bunch of Ferraris, but didn’t even use them; I got around in my vintage Land Rover. I wasn’t trying to impress people.

We lived casually in the Hamptons. Thoreau said, “No man ever stood the lower in my estimation for having a patch in his clothes.” My sentiments exactly. Tanya went in for the ripped jeans look. (Dolce & Gabbana fits her perfectly.) I got my distressed jeans at the Ralph Lauren Country Store in East Hampton.

“Every morning was a cheerful invitation to make my life of equal simplicity, and I may say innocence, with Nature herself,” Thoreau wrote. Those words ring true. I usually had my morning coffee on the porch while looking over an Arcadian setting consisting of our gardens, manicured lawn, and pool. I’d sort of meditate while reading The Financial Times. We were into mindfulness all summer.

I realized that the less you want, the more you have. “That man is richest whose pleasures are the cheapest,” Thoreau said. I’m with him 100 percent. In the afternoons I played tennis with a pro on our court out back. If that isn’t a cheap pleasure, then I don’t know what is.

We lived a quiet, bucolic life, at peace with the natural world. Many days we didn’t even go into East Hampton. “In society you will not find health, but in nature,” said Thoreau. Since we did without a cook for the summer, our one concession to society was dining out. We ate at our regular table at Nick and Toni’s. Even Henry David Thoreau would appreciate the cuisine there.

As the days grew shorter and Labor Day rolled around, I realized the time had come to return to civilization. “Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live and could not spare any more time for that one,” H.D.T. said of his decision to leave the woods. So it was for me. My firm was in the process of acquiring a global petrochemical company, and the renovation of our penthouse in the city was complete. Somewhat reluctantly, I made my way back to society. But as I move forward in the direction of my dreams, I carry with me the imprint of austerity and self-reliance gleaned from life in the wild.

This summer, inspired by my second favorite book, “Moby-Dick,” Tanya and I are going to cruise the Mediterranean on our new yacht.

25 Years of E-commerce

Technology has been the guiding light of change for the past 25 years. Fred and I have had a front seat. Our kids participated too in how the new tools of today are completely integrated of their everyday lives. That includes certain apps and the ease of commerce.

Twenty-five years ago a small CD shop sold the first item online through a marketplace. Now you can’t exist without an e-commerce platform, web/phone presence. I remember when Net-A-Porter launched. I bought a red handbag. Then they had yet to figure out the pricing so the bag was in euros and when I saw it months later in a store, I realized that I had saved some money buying it from Europe. Now Net-A-Porter is a global business.

Where will the direct to consumer be in 10 years? The ease of global online shopping is incredible and there are too many sites out there that are terrible and probably not secure. People still want to stroll and shop but for toilet paper? How will e-commerce be integrated into the brick and mortar experiences? How will customer acquisition change in crowded spaces?

I grew up when dial changed to touchtone on the phone. Our kids grew up with iPhones. Ease of consumption be it commerce or content is on our phone. Contemplating the passage of time and how society and generations change.  So what’s next?

Medical Tourism

About 6 years ago we were in Berlin on the roof of SoundCloud’s offices overlooking the sun setting on the city having drinks and food. There were only about 50 people in the company then although my memory might not be crystal clear but I do remember an entrepreneur who was building a company on medical tourism.

I loved the whole idea but knew he had a very long way to go. The concept that you would go to the best place in the world for the surgery you needed and insurance would pay for it because the price was better there than at home. It creates global medical competition. That’s a good thing particularly because in the next decade we will see big changes with data and technology in the medical field. You could pay for the balance of your bill with bitcoin or some cryptocurrency. Economies are created.

Our country continues to cut funding to other countries like South America which is actually counterintuitive to stop the flow of immigration. Medical tourism might be small but if this can create bigger momentum perhaps that will force the hand when it comes to the cost of medicine in this country.

I did not invest in that entrepreneur but I am super curious where his business is today.

A Career Built on Filling Voids, Noor Sweid, Podcast #111

Noor Sweid is the founder of Global Ventures, a Dubai-based, growth-stage venture capital firm focusing on investing in emerging markets. She is the only Arab woman in the Middle East running a VC fund. She was also the first woman to lead an IPO in the region. Before her career in venture, Noor founded the first chain of yoga and pilates studios in the Middle East, ZenYoga which grew to become the largest chain of wellness studios in the Middle East and which she sold in 2014. Our conversation about her career and being a woman in Dubai is a rare glimpse into a growing world.

You can listen to this on iTunes here.

The Money

In the summer, the big donor money raising for candidates is a meet and greet event at houses located in vacation spots. Today there is a big fundraiser for Donald Trump in Southampton put on by Steve Ross. The Washington Post reported that tickets are priced at $100,000 for a photo opportunity and lunch, and $250,000 for the package that includes the roundtable discussion.

I never thought about Steve Ross’s political affiliations until today. He is a self-made real estate developer who has been philanthropic, owns a large chunk of the Miami Dolphins and sits at the head of his company Related that just built (and owns) Hudson Yards. He is worth about $7b.

He has invested in a variety of companies including Equinox (that includes Soul Cycle), David Chang’s food empire, Christina Tosi’s Milk Bar, Resy (bought by AMEX) and others. You can’t help but wonder if there will be a backlash from consumers and patrons when they realize that Ross is an investor in companies that they frequent. Equinox already came out with a statement.

Will this look like the quick derailment of the Whitney’s board member Warren Kanders, who was forced to resign as artists started pulling out of the Biennial. Even institutions that are now falling in line deciding to separate themselves from the Sackler Family who is under major scrutinization for creating the opiate epidemic.

Times have changed particularly for the millennials and Gen Z. Nothing is secret and soon there will be an article posted about every single investment that Steve Ross has made. What the backlash will be is yet to be determined.

I got an email from an investor today who wanted to know if entrepreneurs cared where their cash came from if they found out that it was a Russian Oligarch or a family that was involved with the Nazis years before. I don’t know about anyone else but I certainly do. I wouldn’t want to be in bed with them. Do I want to be in bed with a Trump supporter who is raising money for him….probably not.