WTF?

By the numbers: The poll by Lean In, founded by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, found that 36% of men say they’ve purposefully avoided mentoring or socializing with a woman because they were “nervous about how it would look.”

Reading this just pisses me off. I mean WTF? All numbers are fungible. Meaning that I have zero idea who was part of the poll but my guess is the majority of people are in the SF tech industry.

What kind of culture are we creating out there?  A society of one gender dimensional thinkers who are afraid of what?  Getting caught or not knowing how to behave?  Look at what just happened in Alabama and other states that are turning back women’s rights and making the underserved communities even worse. Take away the rights of women’s bodies so they will have more children who will grow up in poverty and put a drain on the system where we can control you? Not mentoring women might be a stretch in putting it in the same bucket but I am going to make that stretch.

Those men who are afraid to mentor women should realize that a world where we are all equal to each other is a better world. Are you afraid that you can’t control your sexual urges? What are you scared of? One on one meetings where it could be he said she said? Then for god sakes have mentorship meetings with others present if that is a better comfort zone but do not stop mentoring each other. Figure it out.

Men, just like women, should be standing on the rooftops and saying enough is enough. Women are finally rising up in bigger numbers and we are not going to take this shit anymore. More women in office, more women as CEO’s, more women founders, more females in power with a heftier wallet than their male counterparts will eventually change the dynamics. At one point, not that far in the future, our country will be predominantly brown, black, Asian, Latino and not white and women will have more control of the cash. The data is there.

There will be a comeuppance when women control the world and 36% of them decide that they feel uncomfortable mentoring men and start passing bills that force men of a certain age to have a vasectomy and take away their viagra. Just you wait.

Hope is not a Strategy

It was only amount of time but the shift to getting profitable seems to be taking place in all start-ups. Of course it takes capital to grow quickly but if the capital dried up tomorrow, can you become profitable and still grow? Make sure that is always in your back pocket is what investors are beginning to say. It is about time.

Fred’s first entry into the VC world was working at Euclid Partners. One of the partners, Bliss McCrum, who had a host of simple quotes to describe situations. One of them is “Hope is not a Strategy”.

When I worked in retail, the importance of thinking on your feet daily to turn the products was the key to success. Out with the old and in with the new is the simple rules of retail. Hopefully you make money on each transaction and turn it quickly. There were some managers that were either lazy or just paralyzed into believing that the new item that came in would be the key to saving the business without working at daily change. Hope is just not a strategy.

There are a lot of really good businesses out there that are not venture backable but founders continue to want to believe that they are. There are a lot of founders who are hoping to get acquired. Many who have been promised money that has yet to show up. Many out there that believe ad revenue will come back next week. Many of these things might come to fruition but you have to believe that none of them will.

It is the founders who are willing to make change quickly, listen to the market, be realistic about their cash, hustle to profitability so they can own their destiny, figure out an exit if need be and most important be proactive because I will say it again, hope is not a strategy.

Whitney Biennial and Cultural Leadership

We went to the opening night of the Whitney Biennial with friends who have been in the art world their entire careers. We met them before they were married, both involved in the growth of individual galleries until they opened one themselves, closed it and chose other career directions in this art world. We don’t see them enough but what a perfect duo to go to the Whitney opening with.

None of us could get over how many people were at the opening. Is it the rise of the art industry? These days there are so many events to pay attention to in the industry from museum and gallery openings to art fairs and of course social media which gives artists their own platform. It is overwhelming.

Almost half of the 75 chosen pieces are from female artists, and half are artists of color. It is about time. As the co-creators of this event, Jane Panetta and Rujeko Hockley have a tremendous amount of power to choose from the hundreds of artists that they have seen to be given the honor of being represented in the Biennial.

Is the art amazing? Is that art pushing boundaries? Is the art representative of what is happening in the world now? Is the making a statement? Is it just not that interesting? Are they showing new artists who have yet to make their impact a chance to show the world their work? I could go on and on and some of the answers are yes and some are no but overall the event is an overview of art being made today and although skewed to the curators eyes, it is worth seeing.

Underlying this show is the protests against the Vice Chair of the Whitney, Warren Kanders, who is also the Chairman, CEO and owner of Safariland Group, the largest manufacturer in the world of body armor, guns, and other gear for law enforcement. It is worth taking a look at the website to understand the artistic rage.

The Guggenheim recently ceased from taking donations from the Sackler family. The Sacklers have been the leading distribution and manufacturing center for opiates in this country. They ran a killer PR campaign (no pun intended) and through that they were able to rope people into using their products, particularly in low income areas, knowing that they were highly addictive. We will see lawsuits pile up against the Sacklers in the years to come. They have already made a few financial deals out of court because what they did was illegal. I wrote a post called “Who Do You Want to be in Bed With” in April and that gives a bit more insight into the Sacklers.

What Kanders did was not illegal but it does bring up a whole other set of issues. Certainly if Kanders is impeding the Whitney to collect artists then he should leave. Most importantly this is creating an essential conversation around giving back. Giving back can disguise a lot of ill wills. Think about the leaders of Exxon who knowingly kept doing what they were doing even though their analysis was that they were creating havoc on our globe. Or the leaders of Phillip Morris who knew that cigarettes gave you lung cancer and other ailments but greed outweighed social responsibility. Society has begun to look at all those leaders differently. They do not want to necessarily be associated with people who have become billionaires on products that kill. Safariland’s products are being used on our border, they are being used by the Israeli’s and Palestinians to wreak havoc on each other and more than likely are being used in Syria too. Governments that for all intensive purposes need to buy those products to protect their countries but does that make Kanders held accountable for the end use of those products?

Since the Guggenheim’s decision (and the MET and Tate) to not take tainted money, how long will it take other cultural institutions to begin having those conversations at the board level to make similar decisions. Their patrons should be asking them to do so. Should organizations be asking donors how they have made their money? Patrons, just like consumers, can make their own personal impact by not supporting those institutions or buying their products. Each person banded with others can make a huge difference. We need to think harder about who we want our cultural institutions to represent.

Lots of Signs out there

I think circularly. Unfortunately I sometimes talk that way too so if you don’t know me well I am not always easy to follow.

There are a lot of signs out there that I am seeing. What it means is that change is happening, subtly but soon change creeps up to be the norm.

Let’s start with the art world. Older collectors collect very differently than their younger counterparts regardless if they have the same capital. Consumer products, even Vodka, are giving back a percentage of their proceeds to non-profit organizations. Major organizations both private and non-profit that put on annual events to raise capital are having a harder time selling their tables at those super high prices. High-end residential real estate is waning and there is an abundance of it. Companies are over-valued in the private sector until the public market creates reality and prices plummet. The economy is being built on paper. And of course there is huge amounts of debt. The realization is beginning to take place that start-up companies should not all be valued at the same price.

There are more subtle observations that I see and talk about in conversation. Yes, the art of the conversation but what will happen I am not sure. It points to the post I wrote this week about the cultural non-profit organizations that there is a shift as the millennials get older, Generation Z grows up and they begin to make their impact on how our lives and the importance they put behind equality and compassion of their fellow person.

Change is subtly happening and the impact will be in our face before we know it.

Town & Country Philanthropic Summit

I attended the Town & Country Philanthropic Summit this past week. My friend has been the forefront of this event for the past few years. There are a morning of panels around people who have rolled up their sleeves and got involved in making a difference. The panels were The Parent’s Crusade, Climate Control, Mentorship, Obligations of Wealthy and Corporate Responsibility, The Opioid Crisis, Ending Childhood Hunger in America and Philanthropy as a Family Value.

The first panel made the biggest impact on me. Ava DuVernay (just love her and what she is doing) wrote, produced and directed a movie called When They See Us that Netflix will release on May 31st. It is a movie about the Central Park 5 who were exonerated of a brutal crime that they did not commit. Bill Keller, the Founding Editor in Chief of the Marshall Project moderated a panel that Ava sat on with the Central Park 5.

Each of these men were either 14 or 15 when they were arrested. The majority of them did not even know each other. These men lost their innocence and they were innocent. They were convicted in the public eye before they even went to court. 30 years later, the discovery of withholding evidence and forced confessions is still happening in our country. The entire system needs a complete overhaul. There are men, mostly black men, sitting in our prisons for decades, for crimes that if they were committed by a white man with money, they would not be in prison.

These men served anywhere from 7-14 years. The mark it made is evident on all of them. Raymond Santana loved fashion at 14, he now lives in Atlanta with a teenage daughter, and said he is still trying to find his way at 44. Anton McCray is married with 6 children. He said he is still struggling. Yusef Salaam has committed his life to advocating for people that are pushed to false confessions. He sits on the board of the Innocence Project. He is married with ten children. Korey Wise went to the prison voluntarily to support his friend Yusef and 42 hours later he was coerced into a false statement and spend 14 years in Rikers. A chance encounter with Matias Reyes, at the Auburn Correctional Facility, the convicted murdered confessed to the Central Park crime. DNA evidence proved that Reyes was the single rapist. Kevin Richardson played trumpet and bball before going to prison. He is now married with two children.

Anton spoke up about the hatred he has against those people who took a part of his life. They were depicted as animals, a wolf pack, in over 400 articles in the first two weeks after the rape. His anger was on display where as Korey barely spoke. The impact it has made on all of them is evident in the short panel. They are all damaged. It is injustice and unfortunately it happens every day to mostly African American men in our country.

Money Comes in Many Shapes and Sizes

In the past few months, I have heard more than a handful of stories about financial commitments made that never showed up. What is shocking is many of these commitments have been made from funds that have yet to raise their own capital. They are not insignificant amounts of money.

The founders, most who are going through this the first time, believe that the commitments are real and then stop fund raising. Time passes and then the truth comes out. Well, it is going to take a few months because we actually don’t have the capital yet. How do you think employees would react to founders not being able to make payroll because they just have yet to raise the capital to pay them?

It is not just LP’s doing this to companies but LP’s doing this in funds to funds. I know of one LP who had signed documents with a founder for $1.5m and decided not to wire. What do you do but scream, scale down and regroup. Are these people just bad players who have zero idea how to behave or do they just not care as long as they can remain in the game?

I went to an event the other night with only founders around the table. We talked about the importance of good capital. How truly good investors can be game-changing for your company. They get it, they have been there, they understand the game and their advice is priceless. You don’t know how good that is until you get that.

Certainly if you need capital, you take it where you find it but do your research. If the investor isn’t a known entity, don’t stop raising capital until you have the money in the bank. I do believe in what goes around comes around. Play the game the way it is supposed to be played and that means do not hand out cash when your pocketbook is empty.

Funding Non-Profits Will Change

Perhaps it is my age, how I think and because I have spent decades in the start-up world but I fear for the future of large non-profit institutions in our country such as museums, libraries and parks.

Some of these verticals are publicly funded while others are only privately funded. Those public funds are slowly dwindling and will not be as robust as they have in the past. Budgets are constantly changing and the private philanthropic sector will eventually be run by a different generation who want to see change and engagement differently than the last generation.

This past week I spent some time at a large institution learning about the organization. I was curious about the budget, the size of the board, the money they need to raise privately every year to survive but most of all I wanted to know how they were thinking about the future.

This is not the first conversation I have had with leaders in large non-profit institutions in the culture world. They are all sitting on massive assets from content to real estate. Why are they not capturing every email that visits, why are they not capturing what each individual is looking at or reading when it comes to the library? That is important data. Why are they not figuring out how to share their assets with the world through books, content and on-line communities. Why aren’t they figuring out how to create multiple events that pull people in from all over to listen to speakers, create conversation, engage in something unique? Why aren’t they making sure that everyone who touches the organization feels connected to it? Why aren’t they thinking about what is necessary to keep growing with the future and being able to pay the bills with creative commerce that fits with the mission instead of the ways of the past? Why aren’t they creating restaurants inside of them? Why aren’t they creating more kids and family activities?

Ok, enough already. I continue to point to the MET who couldn’t raise enough capital to make a budget one year and they had to cut the staff in half. They had to rethink their operation. Certainly they can exist with less as most of these organizations are too big to fail but they could be oh so much more.

This is an issue that nobody is really talking about but my gut is that this is eventually going to be a bigger issue when the tides of expectations around philanthropic capital and public budgets shift dramatically. I have to ask where are all the boards on this? Why aren’t they pushing for more leadership and change?

Designing a New Kind of Coverage, Ashley Hunter, HM Risk Group, Podcast #104

Ashley M. Hunter is the president of HM Risk Group, an international insurance, reinsurance and risk management brokerage that specializes in reproductive health coverage. Ashley has had an inspiring career of going from studying violin to becoming a major player in reinventing the landscape of medical insurance coverage for the reproductive technology industry.

You can listen to it on iTunes here.

Motherhood

Motherhood is defined as the state or experience of having or raising a child.

I didn’t give much thought to what motherhood would be like when we had children. I was 29 and had it in my head that I wanted to have our first child by the time I was 30. As luck would have it, I got pregnant pretty much on the first try. I was amazed that after years of making sure I did not get pregnant that I got pregnant so quick.

I came from 3 and wanted to have 3. As my brother says, I wanted to replicate my childhood but create a very different dynamic than the one I grew up in. I wanted to raise them to feel empowered to do anything they wanted to do or be, to be kind, to be curious, to be thoughtful, to be a good friend, to be capable of figuring anything out, to be passionate about the arts, books, and music, to love food, cook, throw a dinner party, think out of the box and above everything be independent and confident in themselves.

Being a mother to them has been my greatest joy in the world. The years when they were younger, from the toddler days to the pre-teens to the full on teens all had their own set of challenges but that joy was always present. Putting our children first and figuring out how to integrate motherhood into my own career is one of the hardest things to do but was my number one goal.

All of our kids are now adults, in their 20’s, figuring out their own paths. They are always the forefront of my mind. I cherish our relationships. Mother’s Day is celebrating Mom’s around the world but today I celebrate my children because the gift they have given me is to be their Mom.