Summer Salads of 2018 and more

Sometimes my recall on each summer has to do with a drink or a food dish or the bathing suit I wore.  I happen to be drinking a Vodka Martini this summer.  Last summer it was all about tequila.  The summer before it was into my own version of a Vodka Negroni.  This summer there are two salads that I have made a few times and I plan on making them again before the season winds down.

Peaches, Tomatoes, and Burrata with Hot Sauce.  Cut up a platter with tomatoes, peaches (or nectarines), burrata and a few bunches of chopped up basil.  Drizzle over the top a mixture of 2 tbsp. oil oil, 2 tbsp. hot sauce (I used Frank’s), 2 tsp. unseasoned rice vinegar, 2 tsp. honey and kosher salt. Simply summer.

Greens, snap peas, green beans and peas make up the base of the salad.  The dressing is a mixture of 1/2 cup buttermilk, 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1 medium shallot minced, 1 tsp. Dijon mustard, 1/4 tsp. kosher salt, 1 tsp. red wine vinegar and 1/2 cup chopped chives.  Again, simply summer.

Adam Perry Lang and the Perfect Prime Rib from Ozersky.TV on Vimeo.

We also made Adam Perry Lang’s prime rib on the grill.  Again, simple and delicious.  After all, summer is all about the grill and simple salads.

Airport Security

It seems utterly unfathomable that at one point we were able to just walk through the airport and go meet someone at the gate.  Those were the days.

This past week we went on a quick trip to Berkeley for our niece’s wedding.  Going through security was the worst.  I had my son’s bag because he was meeting us at the airport and the TSA person made me downsize to only going thru with two bags.  As she said, those are the rules.  Really?  No flexibility, no understanding, and inconsistency as I have only heard the two bag deal one other time.

The TSA is like the new post office.  A hired workforce that seems insanely unhappy and just follows the rules.  USPS employed over half a million people in 2017.  The numbers are decreasing as the industry of mail has changed.  Revenue was almost $70b in 2017 decreasing almost $2b from the year before.  More than likely that decline will continue.  The TSA has a budget of almost $8b with almost 50,000 security officers.  Obviously, USPS has more employees but they are both Government agencies who employ a large workforce that could be dramatically changed with technology.

Technology will certainly change the workplace in the years to come but as I stood there in that miserable line at the airport I thought there has to be a better way.  No doubt the technology is available to scan everyone through at the front door without us even knowing and without the lines and random checking.  It could be so much more fluid but where would that money come from?  Just noting that LA is putting full body scans into the public transportation system so the technology is available.

Our roads need fixing, our urban transportation systems are falling apart and antiquated, the education system has been bled dry, our healthcare system is laden with costs and our support of our Veterans is abysmal so I suspect fixing the torturous TSA systems in place at the airport are far from the top of the list.  Yet, as one of the richest countries in the world, how do we fix these things?  How do we move us forward using technology as the platform to get us there?  Cutting taxes when we are in desperate need of an upgraded infrastructure makes zero sense.

All I see at the TSA is misery and stagnation.  There just has to be a better way.

A Few Days in SF/Berkeley

The last time I was in SF was a quick in/out for an event where I was nominated for an award.  I thought if I won and didn’t show up that I’d look like a total asshole.  Ends up I didn’t win and my 24-hour jaunt was for naught.  It is an area of the country where I spend little time if any.  My friend told me that I should add to my sig file a line that says consciously never goes to the Bay area.  I wouldn’t go that far but I always feel like a fish out of water when I am there.

This jaunt was for our niece’s wedding.  She got married in the Tilden Park which is an absolutely breathtaking place.  Here is a photo of me en route to the wedding.  Prior to the event, we did get to do a few things in and around the area.

First stop was Viks Chaat for a late lunch.  The food is legit.  I had a Chicken Tandoori for lunch that also came with a few things on the side.  So good.

We also split a bunch of items.  The Sev Puri was my favorite.

The next day we went to Chez Panisse for lunch.  The last time I was at Chez Panisse was 35 years ago.  Chez Panisse has been open since 1971.  The impact that Alice Waters has made starts with the fact that you can now buy Arugula in every grocery store in America.  Nothing has changed even the decor and of course the farm to table commitment.  The food is simple and a page right out of new French cooking. I had the tomato salad.  Sliced tomatoes and cucumber with a spring of watercress dressed with a shallot dressing.

Roasted wild salmon with flat beans and potatoes.  Simple and good.

We split all the desserts available but the cardamon cake was my fave.  Dense yet soft with subtle flavors.

The other thing we did besides the wedding and family activities was to go SFMoma.  The museum went through a major renovation and reopened in 2016.  The Magritte Show is the current exhibit.  I wish I had more time to really see the show.  Most of the show focused on his work from 1940-1960.  It is the simplicity of his work that I love.

This is called the Human Condition (Le Condition Humaine).  There were a handful of pieces with this theme of seeing the landscape through the artist’s eye.

The Condition of Light had a variety of pieces of homes where the only illumination was a light.  So beautiful.

The best piece in the museum was an Arthur Jafa film called Love is the Message, The Message is Death.  It is an extremely powerful 10-minute film of a string of very short online videos circulated mostly from phones highlighting African-American’s racial profiling to police brutality.  The piece is interspersed with African American athletes, performers, civil rights leaders and artists paired with Kayne West’s Ultralight Beam for music as the backdrop.  I am still thinking about this piece.

As we left SFMoma my daughter who got their earlier than I did told me that the museum doesn’t have discounts for students.  She is a graduate student and so is her boyfriend, both connected to the arts.  The tickets for both of them to get in and see the Magritte show (an extra cost) is $33 a person. In a city where the homeless are everywhere and housing is one of the most expensive places in the US, the museum backs up the culture of the city.  No discounts for students.

Art is an important medium for everyone, to help open our minds to thinking differently.  It should be the mission of every cultural institution to make sure everyone can walk in that door.   SFMoma is doing a disserve to those that can not afford to walk in the door and have access to art.

Shame on SFMoma, although the chances that I return to SF in the near future are slim, I certainly won’t be running back to SFMoma.

Never Compromise

Over the years many people have asked the same question, “What do you look for in the people you invest in”?  I have given that a lot of thought as it is important to understand your own instincts.  Those instincts include a love for risk-taking and being involved in building things.

Years ago I had a steel Lego block made for Fred that is engraved with the words “because we love to build”.  Why?  It comes down to never compromising.  Always striving to push for more.

Perhaps that is innate or perhaps it is nurture but neither of us has ever settled for what the world gave us.  We have passed that down to our children.  Think differently, don’t compromise, challenge yourself, don’t just accept things for what they are.  Go out into the world and make it yours.

That is how we have lived our lives and that is the founders I am drawn to.  There is something exhilarating about people who don’t just accept the life that they were given.  I have used the word survivors to describe the founders I have invested in but it is more than that, it is people who never compromise for the status quo.  They believe that nothing is standard and they go about setting their own rules.

That thought process is intellectually challenging.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t but you always move forward with another layer of experience that makes you see the world differently at each step.  Never compromise is a motto that challenges me daily, and it works.

Episode 70: Giving a Local Brand National Reach – Pam Wasserstein, New York Magazine

Pam Wasserstein is the CEO of New York Media, leading the premium content company on an ambitious expansion in several areas, including video, branded content, live events and e-commerce, while growing audience and revenue at core brands New York, Vulture, the Cut, Daily Intelligencer, Grub Street, Select All and the Strategist. Before becoming the CEO, Wasserstein served as co-chair and head of strategy. Pam and I talked about what took her from working as a lawyer to being the top dog of a media empire.

Here is the link in iTunes.

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

Many many summers ago I stumbled upon the perfect chocolate chip cookie.  I have been making this recipe for easily over a decade.  Tastes evolve and I wanted to just soften up the cookie.  Make the middle a bit softer with the edges perfectly crisp.  I made a batch this week and added one ingredient that gave me what I was looking for, baking powder.  This recipe is enough for a big crowd or a large cookie jar filled for the week depending on how many sweet tooths come through the door.

4 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature

1 cup white sugar

2 cups light brown sugar

4 1/2 cups flour

2 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. kosher salt

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tbsp. vanilla

2 egg yolks at room temperature

2 eggs at room temperature

3 bags of chocolate chips (mix it up with chopped chocolate from a bar)

I use a standing mixer for this and a paddle attachment.  Preheat the oven to 350.

Mix together the butter until really smooth (a few minutes).  Add in both sugars and whip until thoroughly incorporated and even smoother.  Really important to get these ingredients whipped until smooth.

In a separate bowl mix together the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt) with a whisk.

Add the vanilla to the butter mixture and continue mixing.  Add each egg separately mixing in between.  Do the same with each egg yolk.  All of these ingredients should be thoroughly mixed in.

Add 1/3 of the flour mixture, then mix and continue with the rest of the flour until everything is mixed in.

I also put this in the fridge for a few hours before baking.  Overnight would be even better.  It definitely makes a difference.

Add the chocolate and mix.  I use the paddle to mix in the chocolate chips because then they disperse evenly through the dough.

Use an ice cream scooper to make the cookies even.  On a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, drop the cookies about an inch apart.  Usually, about 12 cookies fit on a cookie sheet.  Bake until browned, about 12-14 minutes.

Voila.  Perfect cookie.

Poke Around First

I read on Twitter that an article in Forbes this past week noted me as one of the top 50 Angels based on investment volume and successful exits.  The information in that particular article, written by someone who supposedly wrote a best-selling book about fundraising, was incorrect.  Did I receive a call asking to verify how many investments I made, no.  Is the actual information available with a little bit of digging, yes.

Today, more than ever, fake news is not acceptable.  The term fake news is used to define deliberate misinformation, crude exaggerations of the truth and illegitimate information.  These days, it is easy to just find one source on the net, and essentially push out false data in the hunt for eyeballs. Forbes is a contributor network, a shadow of its former self, so not entirely sure if anyone is actually doing any fact-checking.  Based on the article I was in, I would say no they are not.  Yet this speaks to a bigger problem.

I consistently get cold emails from founders looking for advice or capital.  Many of them do not take the time to do their research.  Founders who have companies that are directly competing with a company I already have an investment in.  I ask myself every single time, did these people even look at my investments to see that I am already deep in the space?  Are they doing their research or just sending out blind, easy to copy and paste emails from a list that they made for themselves late at night?  I am pretty sure it is the latter because it is so damn easy to do.

I actually got an email from someone in Executive Recruiting from one of the largest companies in the world, which we all use every day, to speak to me about a job as a Director of a new initiative.  Seriously?  Just to add to that, the job was in the Bay Area.  The person was hunting on LinkedIn but obviously went no farther than that.  It is no different than getting emails through LinkedIn when there is no question that the person did not take it upon themselves to launch a separate browser and do a little diligence.  For the record, I do not correspond on LinkedIn.

Perhaps it is the ease of information.  Perhaps it is pure laziness.  Whatever it is, do yourself a favor, and poke around a little before writing blindly because, in my book, this type of behavior isn’t going to get you anywhere….and it is definitely not a good look.

How to Create Engaging Links

We all know the data around video.  Video is sticky, period.  Matt Singer, the co-founder of Videolicious recently posted an article on mastering engaging video.  Videolicious customers include Verizon, IBM, Associated Press, SAP and other large enterprise companies.  In full transparency, I am an investor in Videolicious and sit on the board.  His article is below and we certainly understand the value of video as a sales tool.  A worthy read.  This one is for people on LinkedIn.

Energy and body language truly matter

Psychologist Albert Mehrabian famously studied modes of communication. His research concluded that 7% of a message is given through words, 38% through tone, and 55% through body language. In any context, it’s worth focusing on your body language—it conveys the majority of your message.

But on LinkedIn, it’s even more important. Videos on LinkedIn start off playing silently, so sometimes the only message your viewers are taking in is the body language you’re exhibiting.

Your domain expertise + breaking news = your video topics

The LinkedIn news feed favors content that is relevant in the moment. So when brainstorming ideas for a video post, responding to newsworthy information is a great place to start. Then, to build your brand, speak about the information through the lens of your specific expertise. For example, if a large company announces a new information security product and you work in a related IT space, you might discuss how this new product may change the industry based on your own experiences working with customers.

Raising your game with better videos

Once you practice getting comfortable with being on camera and your intelligent, value-added messaging is ready to go, you can use a number of techniques to make your video more engaging, professional, and effective.

  • Brevity is key: Talking for too long is a turn-off. Keep the video updates less than 90 seconds long.
  • Vary the shot: Sometimes it’s easy to create engaging visuals if you’re at a conference or out in the field. You can also incorporate your company’s product or marketing footage. But avoid a single shot just of your face, as it can be boring to watch and thus less effective. And when filming your face, raise the camera up and try to record at a slightly downward angle to avoid an awkward up-your-nose look.
  • Leverage text: Because LinkedIn videos play silently by default, there’s an opportunity to draw in viewers with some text, even if it’s just at the beginning. If you are looking for an example to model after, refer to the many text-heavy viral videos on Facebook.
  • Try special guests: Interacting with another person is a great way to amplify positive body language and create visual engagement in a natural way. It also means that, if you both post the video, your audience will be bigger.

If you are scared of being on camera, you’re not alone. Plenty of psychological studies document this common phobia. But getting comfortable with video is no different from gaining in-person networking skills: It takes a leap of confidence, it gets easier with practice, and the payoff can be huge.

Matt Singer is CEO of Videolicious.


Industry Changes

A friend of ours was talking about the empty big box stores flooding the city and of course other parts of the US.  He asked the question that many are asking “who is going to fill those spaces”?

People still leave their homes to shop and explore but many times the items that they end up purchasing don’t come home in a shopping bag but are delivered by UPS during the week to their front door.  What kind of experiences that make money will draw people to stores?

I have long thought about shopping experiences that draw me in.  They are either highly curated stores that I can discover such as Colette (sadly closed) or The Story (recently sold to Macy’s).  Others that I shop in carry exactly what I want and I have a relationship with them.  These all have intimate settings.  Will there be stores that carry everything for the family including art, classes, restaurants and a concierge to fill those big spaces?  Maybe but not enough to fill all those empty storefronts.

Bottom line is retailers have to make enough of a profit to rent the spaces and bring home some cash otherwise it doesn’t work.  Eventually, rents will come down as supply-demand is the backbone of all economies.  Over time, new brands and new thought leaders will be the face of these empty storefronts with new concepts.

Technology has touched every industry.  People still long for getting out of their homes, socializing through experiences and that includes going to a museum, seeing a movie or shopping.  That isn’t going to change.  What is going to change is how we shop, where we shop and what the experience is going to be like.  It will change the number of jobs needed to run these new shops, the rent, the lease, what is sold and the entire experience.  That is the long tail of e-commerce as much as it is changing for a new generation.

Motivate Monday

This week’s Motivate Monday is a for-sure favorite episode of mine: Episode 10, Your First Step Needs to Be Your Best Step, with Karen Cahn, founder of iFundWomen. If you haven’t listened to this episode recently, it’s definitely worth a re-visit — my conversation with Karen is full of great tips for fundraising and attracting investors.

You can listen to it here on iTunes.