COVID19, The Tiger King and Zoom Happy Hours

These are unchartered waters.

I don’t think anyone could have imagined that 2020 would have unfolded with the worse pandemic of our lifetime causing the highest level of unemployment since the Great Depression.

Prior to COVID19, I think most people felt that things were good but there was something off.  The world just felt out of balance.  Insane politics, trade wars with China, 19 years of war in the Middle East, and a growing economic divide between the haves and the have notes.

None of that seems important right now. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you are, or how much money you have, COVID19 is the great equalizer.

At the heart of the current pandemic is a total failure and underestimation of the actual virus.  The United States, grossly ignored intelligence from China and other places in Asia that initially indicated that this virus was real, deadly and highly contagious.  In fact, President Trump’s early, cavalier messaging likely set the wrong tone for many Americans and lulled people into a false sense of security.  Then the President refused to follow the guidance of the Pentagon and top health officials when it was recommended he issue a “Shelter in Place” order 3 weeks ago for the entire Nation.  He had the executive powers, but simply chickened out and failed to act.  This has resulted in Governors and Mayors having to make State and City decisions that in many places have been too slow.

These errors are now likely going to result in many more deaths and a much longer and lasting adverse impact on the economy.

Economically, this will create a permanent shift in consumer behavior.  People have begun to understand the power of Direct-to-Consumer.  Our little company, Greensbury Market, sold more in the month of March than ever before.  Restaurants and bars have been absolutely crushed.  Massage therapists, personal trainers, hairstylists, etc are all struggling to figure out how to make ends meet.  And while the government stimulus is a nice gesture, it is unlikely that its enough to help many of these people.  They also need forbearance for their mortgage payment, rent, credit cards, etc.

While all of these aforementioned comments outline a fairly dire situation, let’s focus on the positives.

First and foremost, families are home, together and spending valuable time together.  While homeschooling, cooking, and cleaning don’t always sound like fun, it is a blessing to have this time to focus on genuine connections.

Second, Zoom and Facetime are allowing people to connect no matter how far apart they may be.  I’ve been doing Pilates via Facetime, I did Shabbat with my community in NYC via Zoom and I’ve been to countless birthday parties and happy hours also hosted on Zoom.

Third, the young are reaching out and engaging their elders. I am encouraged how people are making an effort to check on their Aunts, Uncles, Grandparents and make sure they are well.  They definitely appreciate it.

Fourth, people are re-evaluating who and what is really important in life.  This period of Shelter in Place is a good time to meditate and reflect on what matters.

Last, I am really happy to see the way communities and neighbors are pulling together.  From getting groceries for the elderly woman at the end of the street to families going on daily walks and saying hello to their neighbors (6 feet away).  It makes me feel like there is hope for our future.

I’d like to acknowledge all the health care workers, first responders, and volunteers who are battling this virus every day on the frontlines.  We do appreciate all that you do, the risks and the emotional pain you are enduring.

Let’s stay positive.  Call that person you’ve been thinking about but haven’t reached out to.  Try and do something productive every day.

Remember, we will get through this.  What matters is how we live on the other side.

Much love.

COVID19, The Tiger King and Zoom Happy Hours

The Little Things Matter

Yesterday, I shared a simple but amazingly effective rule to bring a smile into every encounter.  And I am very happy so many people acknowledged how much they agree.

I am constantly reminded about how we can all do little things in our daily life to make a difference.

Today is recycling day in Austin.  This means that everyone has their brown trash bin, blue recycle bin and green compost bin.

It might seem like a lot of work to separate YOUR trash.  But its YOUR responsibility.

In Austin, the biggest bin is the Blue recycle bin.  This is by design.  The more we recycle the better for everyone and our planet.

Many people complain about the compost bin.  It might smell or get gross and sticky.  The city of Austin actually provides instructions on how to fill it properly (hint: the key is cardboard and yard scraps on the bottom) and also how to clean it with baking soda etc.

In our house, we’ve fully embraced the minimizing our trash footprint in the brown bin.

Yes, it takes more time cleaning up after dinner, but in the long run, if everybody spent the time to sort their trash, the world would be a better, cleaner, greener place.

So next time you go to put something in the trash, take an extra minute and see if you can sort YOUR trash, recycling, and compost.

The Little Things Matter

A Simple Smile

Sometimes in today’s world its hard to be positive and happy.

If you live in the United States, the news is a constant feed of bipartisan politics, natural disasters, gun violence, the opioid crisis and a massive divided between the haves and have nots.

Around the world, we see economies struggling, increasing tensions in the Middle East, continuing climate destabilization, and people fighting for independence in Hong Kong and across the globe.

But for us to change our environment, we all need to make small changes in how we live and conduct ourselves.   These changes might focus on being more mindful, meditating, eating healthier, exercising more or all of the above.

Yesterday, Angie and I were trying to teach Elvis and Scout how to be more present and engaged, especially around adults and all the new people they are meeting now that we are living in Austin.

I was reminded of a very simple rule from the Dalai Lama:

If you want to be greeted with a smile, then smile when you meet someone.

It’s really amazing how this little behavior, can have such a big effect.  Imagine if everyone you encountered today, smiled and said “Hi, how are you?”

On this Monday morning, smile.

It can make a world of difference.

A Simple Smile

The Ethics of WeWork

This week Fred Wilson wrote a very timely post on Hair on a Deal.

In his post, he discusses the current challenges facing WeWork and their IPO.

Today, the Wall Street Journal wrote an article ‘This Is Not the Way Everybody Behaves.’ How Adam Neumann’s Over-the-Top Style Built WeWork.  I almost feel like the writer had access to my draft blog post.

When I think of WeWork, I think of Adam Neumann, a founder who has been amazing at articulating a vision, but unfortunately, he also has a broken moral and ethical compass.  And here’s why:

(1)  the WeWork has raised a total of $12.8 billion –  a staggering amount of capital considering Facebook only raised $2.8 billion prior to their IPO.

(2) with the exception of some secondary offerings, he has returned ZERO to his investors while personally cashing out over $700 million.

(3) he has used the company to fund his own personal interest and hobbies unrelated to his core business such as Laird Superfood, Wavegardens surfing wave-pool, a private elementary school and the purchase of a $60 million Gulfstream G650 for travel.

(4) there are countless disclosures of conflicts of interest, with Neumann selling the trademark “we” back to the company, signing leases with buildings he has partial ownership, and other entanglements with family members.

(5) WeWork uses a multi-class share structure, giving the CEO unchecked control.

And then on top of it all, Neumann raised money from Softbank at a $47 billion valuation and is now struggling to IPO in the $15-$18 billion range.

All this for a company that doesn’t own or make anything – especially not a profit.

The problem here is that somehow this behavior has been tolerated.  And I think it really shines a light on what I never want to see entrepreneurs do.

In fact, a friend from a very large real estate family told me that he thinks WeWork is essentially Neumann’s legal Ponzi scheme. He essentially negotiates long term liabilities with property owners at extremely discounted rates.  Then he puts a little paint, glass, and furniture and rents them to startups and companies who don’t want the responsibility or commitment of a real lease.  Then WeWork does this over and over and in most cases multiple locations in the same city with incentives for members to move to new locations.  The landlords have a long term receivable but really no protection if WeWork walks out and goes to another location.  And Neumann has convinced investors that this is a transformative model – although, beyond some brand recognition for the WeWork name, there is nothing unique or defensible.  There is revenue but no profit.  Oh, and did I mention the guy at the top has walked away with $700 million and flys around on a private jet that investors paid for.

This isn’t right.  Entrepreneurs should not aspire to this.

I hope someone holds Adam Neumann accountable.

The Ethics of WeWork

Synapse expands TSA effort to two more airports in US

Synapse is excited to announce are participation in the Transportation Security Administration Innovative Task Force’s IDEA program.  As part of this program, TSA is deploying Synapse’s Syntech ONE technology at passenger screening checkpoint at Phoenix Sky Harbor and Las Vegas McCarren International airports.  Syntech ONE will be used to screen real passenger carry-on items and providing automated detection of key prohibited items and weapons.  Here is a link to the press release on the program.

https://www.prweb.com/releases/syntech_one_demonstrates_at_two_u_s_airports/prweb16530216.htm

Synapse expands TSA effort to two more airports in US

Election Day

One of our most important rights in this country is the right to vote.

It’s the cornerstone of our democracy and thus so important that every citizen make an effort to cast their ballot.

Whether you like or dislike the current state of affairs, you have today as an opportunity to share your voice.

Make sure you vote.

 

 

Election Day

Trying Times

These are trying times.

People are more polarized than they have ever been.

Some amazing humans are focused on bringing awareness to the fact that many people around the world and in the US are not treated equally.

Other more aggressive extremists beat the drum of defeated and outdated ideologies represented by the Nazi and Confederate flags.

This continues with the backdrop of the #MeToo movement and a backlash of white male privilege.  This is now on public display in the most ridiculous supreme court confirmation process to date.

On the positive, people are awakening.  There are so many awesome groups focused on spreading a message of love, community, forgiveness, and public service.  Meditation, veganism, and socially responsible behavior are on the rise and likely at an all-time high.

But as has happened since the beginning of time, we must evolve.  Just because something was acceptable in the past, doesn’t mean it has a place in the future.

We should be excited that technology and innovation are now approaching a place where we can provide food, water, and shelter to all people.

But we need to wake up and figure out that our community is all other living creatures.

The lines of hatred, racism, and religious conflict that have divided us must come to a peaceful end.

Trying Times

Fly on the wall

Sometimes it’s nice to be a fly on the wall.

To observe, rather than talk.

To watch a team grow and develop their own style and processes.

This morning I randomly decided to walk into the conference room while one of our hyper-growth teams held a meeting on hiring. I thought it was great that nobody said a word, allowing me to sit quietly off to the side.

Then I was even more excited to hear about the myriad of exceptionally qualified candidates to help us expand into several new regions.

But what really impressed me was the team dynamic and how the various constituents evaluated the candidates.  They listened to each other, weighed the inputs and swiftly determined how to proceed.

In the end, I shared a few points for them to consider and we all went about our day.

This makes me proud.

 

Fly on the wall

To Health and Wellness

On this Yom Kippur reflection, I wanted to share some basic thoughts to a happier and healthy life.

First, be grateful for every day on this magical plant.  We all know family, friends, neighbors, soldiers who have left this world far too young.   You have a finite number of days, so be kind and make them count.

Second, love.  Love your family.  Love your neighbor.  Love your enemy.   Because it is only through love that we will find peace.

Third, health.  It’s more important than wealth, so focus on it.  You are not going to die tomorrow, but let us all try and make better decisions each day and hopefully, you realize what makes you feel good.

Fourth, balance. This is the one I personally struggle with the most.  Everyone wants to have fun and feel good, but you can’t party every day.  If you have a big weekend, then have a big week of eating healthy, going to the gym or enjoying your favorite class (yoga, cross fit, pilates, barre, boot camp, etc)

Fifth, mindfulness. For me, this means making sure every day I step on a yoga mat and play my Native Indian flute.  This allows me to have a daily practice of meditation, breathing, alignment, and stillness.

So there you have it.  Some five simple words that help me be a happier and healthier Brad.

Much love and hugs.

To Health and Wellness

Scout Ventures is hiring an associate!

Scout Ventures is looking for a rock star associate to join our team. This is an exciting and unique opportunity to work directly with the investment team and become intimately involved in the day-to-day operations of the firm. The position will have exposure to the entire deal process from origination and due-diligence through deal structuring and post-investment portfolio management. The ideal candidate is an independent thinking, self-starting, scrappy hustler who has superior analytical skills and is well organized. This is someone who has 2-3 years of experience ideally in a startup, consulting firm, investment bank or other venture firms. Compensation will depend on the specific person and their experience, but will certainly be market competitive.

Candidate Responsibilities Include:

  • Identify and research new markets and technologies
  • Work with the Investment team to identify and develop an investment thesis
  • Identify top investment prospects
  • Model financials and cap tables
  • Contribute to due diligence processes (e.g. industry research, market mapping/sizing, financial analysis, and other data gathering). Synthesize information to draft investment memorandums
  • Update and maintain proprietary investment software system and database
  • Assist in the execution of critical back‐office infrastructure projects

Ideal candidates should have the following characteristics:

  • Entrepreneurial and positive personality, including comfort working in both structured and unstructured environments
  • Highly motivated, self-starter with the ability to work both independently and within a team context
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills
  • Strong core analytic toolset; financial analysis and modeling skills, and the ability to interpret data and provide relevant insights
  • A desire to learn and ability to think outside the box
  • Strong interpersonal and organizational skills, and ability to manage multiple task and priorities concurrently
  • Exceptional analytical and critical thinking skills
  • Proven ability to self-motivate and direct your own work
  • Demonstrated passion for technology and innovation

This is a two to three-year role with potential career track for exceptional candidates.

Interested candidates should send CVs and cover letters to jobs@scoutventures.com

Scout Ventures is hiring an associate!