Tracy DiNunzio, Tradesy, From Learning to Closing, podcast

On episode #18 of Positively Gotham Gal, we talk with Tracy DiNunzio, Founder and CEO of Tradesy, an online platform where women can buy and sell from their own closets. Tracy’s scrappy approach to success is both tenacious and endearing — a great inspiration story for anyone in need of a swift kick in the pants in the start- up world.

Walking the neighborhood in LA

We have been taking Sunday afternoon walks with Ollie.  In general, he is a pretty lazy dog and is quite happy to lounge around on the couch but we all need our exercise.

The trees, the gardens, the look of each house in Venice is so unique.  Everyone is wearing their vibe in their front lawn.

The palm trees are pretty epic.

The color of the trees and the size is too.

Not sure what is happening in this house.  Something with the flags.

You don’t see jade trees like this on the East Coast.

A small garden with chairs

Next to the neighborhood library.

Incredible cactus.

More cactus

Colorful plants.

There are so many amazing homes and so many quirky homes.  I am going to miss our Sunday walks.

Fixing Government

We have had more than a few conversations about this at the dining room table over the past year.  The Trump budget is destructive to many of the fundamentals of our culture but how do we keep those programs that are so important and have a healthy balance sheet?  Non-profits can have healthy balance sheets too.

The concept of trickle-down economics doesn’t work for any of the people who are supposed to get the trickle.  It just works for the top.  Elected officials are by most accounts career politicians.  They are most interested in getting re-elected and passing bills that help their constituents although these days we are seeing more interest in just staying in power.

One of the many reasons I am so sorry that Mike Bloomberg did not run for the job of President is that after 3 terms of being the Mayor of NYC he understands Government budgets and he also understands business budgets.  They are very different things and few people really get both.  The only constant is the word budget.  Those of you that believe Trump gets it too are wrong as this is a man who bankrupted his own company four times and US banks refused to give him any more debt.  Says something right there.

Slash and burn is not the answer.  Careful thought to each program from how it is managed, where the money is going and that includes military and everything in between is needed.  Technology and infrastructure which includes our roads and the way our Government is run, from a bottom-up approach is what is needed.

When companies are purchased that are bleeding cash and not making the impact that they could be making, the owners (sometimes it is new owners) take a look at every aspect of the business and make the appropriate decisions to keep the culture yet make it profitable.

Perhaps I am being naive but our elected officials need to be able to not have knee jerk reactions based on who is in power but to take a long look at how our Government operates in a smart way.  Bloomberg is the only person I know who is capable of that.  I so wish that there was a few people who fall under this category.

Almost 20 years ago, Fred and I attended an intimate event of around 15 people in the tech world and 20 senators including the Clintons.  It was a dinner roundtable discussion about what we cared about and how our “new” community could obviously become more involved in politics.  Fred talked about the same thing we are talking about today, smart immigrants to come here and work in our companies and the insanity of our immigrantion policies.  I talked about education as I was chairing MOUSE at the time.  I remember hearing more than a few Senators talk about how they can make the changes today yet nobody was talking about the long tail.  It was about keeping their jobs, aka keeping them in power.  I brought up that nobody in their jobs makes a decision that will be the right ones for the long run and that is the problem with Government.  Not sure they wanted to hear that but this table of young people in a new industry were extremely “un-political” in their suggestions.

In the past few weeks, I have thought a lot about that dinner.  If the people sitting around that table had made the smart decisions vs the decisions that kept them in power (aka treading water) then perhaps our country would be in a very different position today.  Everything is short-term in Government.  It is too bad we don’t have a leader who thinks about the long view.

Traditions

I can’t help thinking about the traditions that bind us during this time in our country that is so divided.  I have been taught to not be prejudice and because of that I do not understand people who are.  Every culture celebrates different holidays, makes different food, reads different books to their children, celebrates different holidays and has different traditions.  When schools have diverse populations, children get to experience each other’s ways and hopefully embrace them openly.

I am not sure what grade this happened but I believe it was around 3rd grade, our kids were supposed to bring in a dish that was from their families tradition.  It was great hearing each of them go through that time and try to decide which was just the right dish that represents their family.  It could be the kugel at Yom Kippur, it could be the stuffing we make every single year or the cranberry chutney, it could be the brisket, it could be the charoses from Passover.  Some of these dishes began with my Grandmother.

People marry and create new cultures for their families particularly when two people from different places unite.  An Iranian with an Irish person, a Jew with an Italian, a Korean with a German, etc.  Our country is not that old and many of us still consider our roots be from our countries or our religions.   This is what makes America so great.  The myriad of people who live in a very large place.

The desire for some (and of course our President) to close our borders or to discriminate against others through hatred (vandalizing a Jewish cemetery or bomb scares and more) is so beyond my understanding.  I do understand how we got here.  We got here through greed.  I am just beyond comprehension on the anger and dismissal of ones who don’t look like themselves.  What is really unfortunate is that the people who voted towards hatred and prejudice are the ones that are going to be hurt the worst.

How do we mold gentrification into good for all?

Over the last decade, we have seen cities transform in good ways and certainly questionable ways too.  We have witnessed urbanization not only in America but other countries as the millennials have flocked to cities.  They have transformed neighborhoods by creating economies for new stores, restaurants, and services.  They have also put pressure on the public school education system to step up their game.  The good news is that many neighborhoods that were in decay have rebounded to be safe places for people to live.  The bad news is what happens to the people who can no longer afford to live there.

Many people have moved into urban areas because they embrace the diversity of a city and want their neighborhoods to remain diverse but with gentrification, neighborhoods begin to look a bit like a one-dimensional suburb and that is bad.

How do we mold gentrification into good for all?  I have read a few articles about cities in upstate NY such as Newburgh where a new generation is moving there because it is affordable and there is an opportunity to make a difference.  For instance, I read about a couple who took over a dilapidated house, rebuilt it and planted an incredible food garden in the backyard to share with their neighbors.  We are seeing that in Detroit too.

It is wonderful to see those city neighborhoods that have fallen on hard times have a fresh set of eyes move in, embrace their neighbors and perhaps bring light to the next generation living on those blocks.  How do we create laws, tax breaks or incentives to ensure that the diversification of the neighborhoods grow and then stay intact?  Wouldn’t the perfect neighborhood be where the mixture of races, religions, socioeconomic means remain together so that the children can grow up together in the same school systems and learn from each other’s different family values.

As a country, we have drawn a very deep line in the sand in regards to haves and have-nots, red vs blue, conservative vs liberal, religious vs atheist, straight vs gay, feminist vs anti-feminist, etc.   As our cities are changing and gentrification is taking place, we should take this opportunity at the state level (at least the states that care about this vs ones like South Dakota) to think creatively around using this change that comes from people for the good of the future.

 

Clue

There is a great article in the New Yorker about Ida Tin, the founder of Clue.  As more women, like Ida, rise to the top of the start-up world, the conversations and willingness to invest in ventures like Clue will change.

Even how I was introduced to Ida says something.  In the fall of 2013, my daughter Jessica was living at home before moving into her apartment, and she showed me the Clue app.  Told me she loved it and was turning all her friends on to it.  That was the first thing that struck me.  There are many of these period tracking apps out there but she zeroed in on this one so I knew that there had to be something there.

That particular day I met with a few VC’s who all asked me if I had heard of or seen Clue.  That maybe it was for me because she was a woman.  First of all, I invest in businesses I believe in and make a conscious decision to back women but it is as if every VC thinks if a founder is female even though they would not touch the business, they think we will send it to Joanne.  So over the course of one day, I heard about Ida from more than a few people and it was my daughter who really got me interested.

I connected with Ida and we skyped for an hour.  She is located in Berlin.  I was beyond impressed with her and the vision she set forth.  I invested and I believe I was one of the first to say yes.  Fast forward, I spent a lot of time with Ida and Hans (her co-founder) over the next few years.

I usually don’t touch areas that are super crowded but the reality is that Ida was the only female founder in a crowded area of period trackers.  Sometimes a woman at the helm makes the most sense based on the product and in this case, it makes absolute sense.

It has been frustrating for Ida and plenty of other women I know and have invested in to get the other side of the table (mostly men) to invest in their businesses.  I am talking about businesses that have traction, ample sales, and solid month over month growth.  The frustration level for all of them is high particularly when they see their male counterparts get funded with less proven data but perhaps more bravado.

I do feel that we are seeing a shift.  There might be a lot of bro-cultures out there in some of the start-ups that have growth to be quite large but there is a lot of companies like Clue that are flying under the media radar that are going to be big winners.  Those winners will be the key to change when it comes to investments, gender diversity, females at the helm and more in the years to come.   I am seeing it and it is about time.

And did I mention that Ida has had two children while building her company?

Alexis Maybank, Changing Direction Can Be A Good Thing, Podcast

This week’s conversation features Alexis Maybank, Co-Founder & CEO of Project September, the first entirely visual shopping platform. Alexis lets us in on her previous experience as the Co-founder of the luxury e-commerce site, Gilt, and how she let changes in consumer behavior, and new ideas, influence her in a positive way to start her latest venture.

Exploring LA

We have met so many great people from writing blogs for the last 14 years.  Kind of remarkable how many years that this medium has become part of my life.

I posted over a month ago about the annual LA Contemporary Art show in Venice.  A reader reached out mentioning to me that his girlfriend happened to be represented by one of the galleries.  Small world or perhaps not surprising that his girlfriend is an artist who we have collected.  He suggested we all get together for lunch while we are in LA and go see her studio.  Sounded like a fantastic plan.

We met at P.Y.T. for brunch/lunch downtown.  The owners of this place also own several others up and down Main Street.  Light airy restaurant with a nice vibe.  Fred hit up the pancakes, lemon ricotta with a coconut butter and maple syrup over the top.

I went for the chef’s salad of the day…aka the entire farmers market.  Really delicious.

Afterward, we went over to Vanessa Prager’s studio in Boyle Heights.  It is truly a treat meeting an artist that we have collected and will continue to collect.  In our early days as collectors we met many of the artists of the work we purchased but as time passed it became harder to do so.  It is insightful hearing the artist talk about their work, their process and how they themselves have evolved.  Just like I am curious about an entrepreneur’s journey, I feel the same way about an artist.   Vanessa started out drawing.

Love the cart of paints.

A great studio with a small backyard and an upstairs loft allowing for a soaring ceiling.  Pretty great space.

I just love this new body of work.

Her other pieces that look very different from wherever you are standing.  I can see the face in this piece.

We made our way back to the westside stopping at M+B on the way home to see an installation of Hannah Whitaker’s work. The wall into the gallery is filled with honeysuckle.  It is everywhere now and the smell is intoxicating. It is her second exhibition with the gallery.  An analog work mixed with film, cut-outs, and sketches.

It is Whitaker’s second exhibition with the gallery.  An analog work mixed with film, cut-outs, and sketches.

This is another of her pieces.

Hit up the movie The Salesman that evening before stopping for a late dinner at Bottlefish for a round of oysters.

Such a great day although I admit I am hankering to return to NYC but looking at the 20-degree temperature there is keeping me here for a few more weeks.

the importance of supporting the art and other institutions

The first glance of Trump’s budget is pure destruction on the multitude of humane organizations we support as taxpayers.  The organizations from Planned Parenthood to Meals on Wheels to the National Endowment of the Arts and there are more.  Its is not only disturbing but telling of the man who we call our President. Keep in mind how much the cost to taxpayers for him to go back and forth to Florida every weekend and keep his wife in NYC which is more than some of the budgets of the organizations he wants to slash.  He and his cronies actually believe that this is the way to create a strong nation.  Every man/woman for themselves with zero support from the Government and the bonus is you get to pay less taxes!  I do not believe in this theology.

I believe in supporting any organization that is creating an opportunity for everyone.  Particularly, I  believe that a world without art and that includes literary to music is vacuous.  I also believe in supporting educational institutions where they embrace intellectual practices that do not necessarily bring in economic capital such as philosophy. Britain supports these organization and they do it the best.  I have always thought as our nation matures we will look like Britain one day so perhaps there is hope.

A nation that doesn’t support these institutions will lose out on what fuels our culture.  Perhaps art will still be made but it won’t be giving an opportunity to people who don’t have the financial support to pursue something that might be deep in their DNA.  Because a nation without art or a nation without literature or a nation without physical art from paintings to photography to sculpture to streaming video or a nation without helping our elderly eat or a nation without affordable or even free healthcare for all or a nation without housing for those in need or a nation without philosophers and intellects is not a nation I want to be living in.

It all starts at the top

There was an article in the Sunday Review of the NYTimes around education reform.  The gist of the article is that in order to fix schools, start with the Principal.  Something so obvious has been ignored for years but this type of thinking is starting to change among educators and local Government around the public school system.

I have been through several schools in the years from my days at MOUSE to going to visit Charter Schools to our own children’s school where I sat on the board.   There is no doubt that the Principal is the lead on how the school is managed from top down.

This type of thinking can also be applied to start-ups.  Cultures, management, and organization begin with the founder.  It is the founder who sets the tone from the employee handbook to collaboration between each department to gender diversity to mentorship.

Years ago I was at a 50th birthday party literally weeks after the collapse of Bear Stearns.  It was days before the 2008 Presidential election.  The anxiety and disdain for banks such as Goldman Sachs, Chase and others was written about on every front page.  This event had many CEO’s of financial organizations there.  Keep in mind this event was a costume party so I actually had zero idea who was who and truthfully even if they hadn’t been in costume I wouldn’t have known.

I was seated next to one of the most powerful bankers in the city.  Who knew?  We began to talk about the upcoming election.  His view was a bit different than mine.  He believed that it didn’t really make any difference if it was McCain or Obama.  I was curious how he could vote for a man who called Google “The Google”.   He said it didn’t make any difference because his team could run the country.  I pointed out that we just had a President who let Cheney (his assistant essentially) run the country and look how that turned out.  The reality is that Government, like companies, start at the top, like a fish that starts stinking from the head.   I mentioned that as well and to this day I am pretty sure nobody has ever spoken to that man like I did.  Perhaps he found it refreshing but I doubt it.  Fred got a good chuckle out of the whole thing.

We are seeing companies such as Uber with serious gender culture issues and we have President who tells lie after lie.   Cultures come from the top.  The issues inside Uber began with the founder.  Trump’s cabinet is full of liars because he embraces that behavior.  Schools that succeed point directly to the Principal.

If you are ever wondering where does anything start…it starts at the top.