Bad Websites

For whatever reason, regardless of calling them, walking it through on the phone, starting again and again from scratch, I have been frozen from Telecharge’s website.  It is incomprehensible to me that large companies who do millions in revenue and are the leaders in their space can have a shitty website.  There are plenty of websites that I can point to that are miserable experiences starting with the Government from the federal to state.  My guess is once these companies are bought or go public, they just stop in their tracks.  Fandango, great company, site and mobile interface are sub-par.  Then there are the sites when you have to allow flash.  Makes me believe that nobody has upgraded the site in at least 8 years.

I am just ranting because every time I go to buy a theater ticket and have to use Telecharge, I realize that I am screwed because I am going to have to either pray that there is another site to use or I have to pick up the phone and talk to someone which is so not necessary.  These days, customer service needs to flow to every single part of the business and that includes mobile, web and a human on the other end.  What drives me even crazier is when Telecharge emails me because I have not completed the purchase.  No shit I have not completed the purchase because your website sucks and you have blocked me out and can’t figure out how to help me.

Every Vote Counts

Every Vote Counts is a grassroots movement from college chapters across the country…so far they are up working on 23 campuses.

It is a student-led, nonpartisan organization dedicated to increasing voter turnout nationwide and expanding voter access.  They are trying to address voter apathy, voter suppression, and lack of voter access through three channels: voter engagement, legislative advocacy, and civic education.

I applaud the voices, protests and college activism across the country but what is mind-blowing is many of them do not make it to the polls.  In 2014, more than 12 million young registered voters stayed home.  It isn’t just about voter registration it is about getting out to VOTE!

We are all so insanely privileged to cast our vote.  Every vote counts, every voice counts and if it didn’t they wouldn’t be attempting voter suppression in some states to make sure that minorities don’t get to vote.

Spread the word far and wide…get every person you know who is over 18 to register and complete the process by getting out to vote.

Different Generations of Men?

Women’s experiences are so completely different than men’s.  How women see the world or how we react to a situation is directly tied to our own past experiences.  Those experiences started as a young child.  If we really want to have equality at every level, we need to start at the beginning.

Each generation of men and women look at the world through a different lens.  What one person deems acceptable another deems utterly astonishing.

For some reason, I have been thinking a lot about past experiences and how they made an impact on me and how I reacted to them.  There is one particular event that took place over a decade ago that made it to the top of my mind recently.  It says something about different generations of men.

I went to a dinner to celebrate the closing of funding for a company.  They are nice things to do particularly at the Series A round.  I was a bit under the weather at that dinner because I had some minor surgery the day before so not sure I was completely there.

One of the largest investor, who by the way never got involved with the company one iota, asked me if I was going to write a book about my husband.  Someone else had just done that who he knew, second marriage and the first wife wrote a novel around her husband’s life and it was quite controversial.  A million things went through my mind.  First being that he was certainly being dismissive about my own personal investing as if it was just a hobby, frivolous, doing it for my husband.  Second, we were having steak and my first thought was do I just ignore him or do I take the steak knife and lean over the table and stab him through the chest.  I decided the stabbing probably wasn’t a good thing.

The founder was shocked by the entire interaction.  Fast forward, the company grew and the financial outcome was a win-win for everyone involved.  There is a lot of history here but the investor gave me huge credit for my involvement that he went on to invest in other companies that I am involved with.  He really gave me the nod.

Did I earn my respect or was it always there?  Was that behavior just one of a particular generation of men?  Not that it makes it ok but it is worth noting.  Time has passed and my own personal confidence has risen way above that type of fray but perhaps because of the me-too voices, this evening has made its way up to the forefront of my thoughts vs the deep hard drive of my brain.

Different times, different conversations and hopefully more acknowledgment and respect than stupidity that isn’t mean-hearted but just unaware.

I am hoping this is our future

I posted Amy McGrath’s campaign this past summer.  She’s in it to win it and so are all these other badass women.  I am hoping this is our future.

Sometimes all you need is a good cry

I read an article in Japan last week that the country is trying to push people to cry to relieve stress.  I am a huge fan of a good cry.

We are trained at an early age to not cry.  Why?  I hear people say, “don’t cry, it will be ok”.  What they should say is “cry all you want, it will make you feel much better.”

I read that in Japan they are creating opportunities for people to cry from movies to books to music.  The stress of the day to day world gets to all of us.  Everyone reacts differently to stress.  Some seem to be able to soldier through while others crumble.  Some act like all is well and good but internally they are a mess and that mess starts to raise its ugly head in different ways when you keep all the stress inside.

Crying should not be considered a form of weakness but something to make you feel better.  It can relieve stress, lower your blood pressure, remove toxins from the body and gives you a feeling of relief.

I read an article that Neuroscientist Dr. William H. Frey II, Ph.D., founder and co-director of the Alzheimer’s Research Center at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota, has spent over 20 years studying crying and tears.

According to Frey, “Crying is not only a human response to sorrow and frustration, but it’s also a healthy one.” It is a natural way to reduce emotional stress that, if left unchecked, can have negative physical effects on the body, including increased risk of cardiovascular disease and other stress-related disorders.

After spending a week in Japan, I found that the Japanese that we came across were tightly wired, followed rules and were aiming to please.  Perhaps that is a cultural thing and then I came across the article about the powers that be in Japan pushing the concept of crying to children and the workplace.  I really love it.

So perhaps this week everyone should listen to some music that they find incredibly moving and let the tears flow or read a book that speaks to your emotions and tear up or go see a real weeper of a film and have a good sob.  Trust me, you will feel fantastic afterward.

 

Sears

We all saw it coming.  Sears was plummeting towards bankruptcy and last week it finally happened.  Overladen with debt that had been leveraged way too high to service the payment.  There are so many factors here from poor management, private equity games and lack of innovation.  At one point, Sears was the great American store.

Very similar to Amazon, Sears changed the way American’s shopped.  They began with a catalog so everyone could order what they needed (just without the internet) and have it delivered to their door.  They even delivered pre-fab houses at costs that made it affordable for most people to have a roof over their head.  I am 99% sure that the Craftsman Home we have in Venice, CA is an off the shelf Sears and Roebuck home.  It still stands today although it is in need of some major work to make sure it will be standing in another 100 years.

I have been thinking about my shopping experiences with Sears over the decades.  Sears was the anchor store at Montgomery Mall in MD where I spent my teenage years.  We would always stop at Sears for records, clothes, a new dishwasher and anything else we needed.  I remember when they partnered with a few designers and created pop-up stores inside the teen section.  Cutting edge stuff.

For some reason, I had my father’s Sear’s credit card.  There was a store near Simmons College where I went to school on the backside of a defunct building.  They only carried appliances in there.  My father was not very forthcoming with any help except he did pay my tuition so I went into Sears one day and bought myself a refrigerator and a few other items because it was the only card I had of his and the bill went to him.

Doing business with Sears when I was running a company in the garment center was a big score.  I finally broke in with a jacket that the buyer was willing to give me an order for 1800 units to see what it would do.  The jacket hit the racks and had a 25% sell-through immediately.  The buyer was thrilled.  She told me that she needed to get back into the jacket asap and was going to send me over an order that afternoon.  We could work on the fabric allocations based on that order.  Sometime in the mid-afternoon, a fax came in (yep a fax) and we could see it was coming from Sears based on the area code.  The order was for just over $1m dollars on one jacket.  It was huge.  It completely changed the trajectory of the company.  Sears had that type of buying power.

On on hand, it is sad to see Sears close their doors as I can’t imagine that it is going to do anything but that regardless of them trying to come back.  They have already sold off the majority of the assets and what is left is the real estate.  The brand changed American but now we are in another time, a new zeitgeist.

High-end retail stores with handheld service with highly curated merchandise continue to work.  Massive brands like the Gap that have become commodities and don’t really need multiple retail stores anymore.  Retail is going through a major change.  People will shop in stores, as I saw plenty in Japan packed to the gills, but the question is what is going to keep them coming back and who are the creatives of this next retail movement that will make this happen?  It certainly is not the leaders behind Sears.

When did Angel investing become a commodity?

I really starting angel investing about 20 years ago.  My good friend started his second company and not only did I invest, but I also got on the board.  Now, that is not the norm but that is how I began.  Fast forward and over 120 investments later, I built a portfolio around a thesis and rolled up my sleeves with the intent of making investing a full-time job.  I wanted to put capital into the start-up world with the intention of making an impact and in turn making returns on my investments.

There is a lot I have learned over the years.  The biggest frustration has always been getting behind something I believe in with a small check.  When 3-4 companies launch in one space, it is the one that gets the most capital behind it from an institutional investor that make it seem like that one will be the winner.  It isn’t a foregone conclusion but it does make it more difficult to raise capital for the underdogs.  I happen to like underdogs.  Although remember, nothing is a success until it exits and success is relative.  If the company took money in at too high a valuation, to begin with, a successful exit does not equate successful payback for the investors.

In 2010, Angel List launched.  I never got excited about the platform for the simple reason that I do not want someone to follow my investment without doing their own personal diligence and making up their own mind.  I always felt that investing was not something to be taken lightly, regardless of the rate of failures vs success and just investing besides me or taking a piece of a company where I get pro-rata rights when the companies are worth more so that I can keep an added piece of free ownership on top of that never sat well with me.  I get that many do not have the deal flow and this is one way to get it but if you want it, you can find it, you just have to work it.  In hindsight maybe it would have helped me get the funding I needed/wanted for the companies I got behind but it wasn’t how I wanted to play the game.

Everyone seems to be getting into the investing space even if the companies are ridiculously overvalued when they begin.  Can someone explain to me why an idea, 2 co-founders, a deck and the beginnings of a business without a real product yet is worth $7m?

Fast forward, this past week something popped into my box called an Investor Premium Program. The concept is that you pay a yearly subscription of $2500 to get deal flow.  They do the work for you so due diligence, collaboration with other investors and pre-screening is made available for you.  All you have to do is pay the annual fee and then of course invest.

Just to note, not everything goes up, plenty goes down and more is going to go down in the years to come probably sooner than later.  After reading about this subscription opportunity to deal flow, I asked myself the question “when did angel investing become a commodity”?  I truly believe we will all find out, it isn’t.

Confidence Should Be Applauded

I finally got around to reading the essay Laura Bennett wrote on her conversation with Kara Swisher.  Kara talked about the bad bosses and the good bosses she had over the years.  She laments that she was always confident and knew even at a young age that she was smarter than everyone else in the room and in the long run, she would surpass all the guys she was working for.

If you have ever met Kara, and I have, I am not surprised by any of this and I do hope that there are more women with this type of attitude who are coming up the ranks now.  She saw the unfair treatment of others and called it out.  She didn’t put up with bullshit.  She stuck to her guns and what worked for her.  That confidence put bad players back on their heels and unfortunately went elsewhere to pick on someone else to gratify their own ego and power.  We are seeing many of those types of players find themselves in situations where the crowd, more voices like Kara, call out that behavior to the point where many of those once powerful men are finding themselves with their platform pulled out from underneath them.  It is about time.

As women, we need to champion each other and applaud women, like Kara, who even at a young age of 21, who had her eye on leadership and success.  Nothing was going to stop her and she has the swagger to pull it off.

I think about my generation and my peers today.  Sometimes I think I am a 57-year-old living inside a 35-year-old head.  That has its pros and cons.  Many women at my age stopped working at one point to have children or sat back in their careers instead of putting their foot on the gas.  I do believe because of technology that things are changing and we are finding that men also want to think about their careers differently.  We can all be better balanced in life and the opportunities are beginning to exist for everyone based on what they want out of their careers regardless if you are a man or a woman.  It is heading that way.

My first job at Macy’s I was placed as the cosmetic manager in Kings Plaza Brooklyn.  I was a bull in a china shop, similar to Kara but in a completely different industry.  I did not follow the rules.  I was sassy, arrogant and expected myself to go places.  In this job, I worked for a woman who oversaw a third of the store.  I really was clueless about how to play politics and keep her informed.  I just did what I did and I happened to do it extremely well.  She came from a conservative Italian family and once she got pregnant, she never worked again.  One day, she pulled me in the head of HR’s office, another woman who I had very little respect for, and sat me down.  They told me that I was too aggressive to be in the retail industry.  I was flabbergasted.  I asked them what industry they think I should be in?  What was it that they wanted me to do?  They honestly gave me little to go with and when I left the office I knew what they were saying but thought that was how I was supposed to behave. I also knew that they did not know how to deal with a woman like me.  If I was a man, there is no way in hell that conversation would have taken place.

Instead of sitting back, I walked directly into the office of the women who ran the store.  She was one tough cookie, insanely smart, took no prisoners and went on to have an incredible career.  I told her what the two women had told me, that I was too aggressive and wasn’t sure what to do with that information.  She told me to soldier on and just keep them better informed on my day to day management of the business through memos but otherwise, she basically said, fuck them.  Fast forward 30 years, I met this woman for a coffee and of all the people she had working for her those years, she remembered me.  Made me realize that she saw something in me that others did not, and what is the worst is that other women tried to pull me down.

I wonder if I had been a man, what my career would have been like?  I see the men around me who are my age, and their patriarchy is always there.  Their bonds with other men are different than with women when it comes to talking business.  Sometimes I find it irksome and others time I just let it side off my back.  I am from a different generation.  My hope is that of all the women events, women conversations, women investments and everything else I have done over the years will have made an impact so that more women can act like Kara Swisher did when she entered the workforce and not have any pushback but an acknowledgment that this woman is going to go far and we should support her, get behind her and help her get as far as she wants to get from every person in the room, particularly the women.