Posts from Blogging On The Road

It’s A Wrap

The six week break I took from work is ending. The trip through Europe is over. We landed back in the US on friday night and drove up to our kids’ college yesterday for homecoming/parents weekend. It was great to see our kids (two of them) and we’ll see our oldest this afternoon. I’ve missed them terribly and I’ve missed NYC, our dog Ollie, and our bed, shower, kitchen, local coffee shop, etc, etc, etc.

Many people have asked me what the highlight of the trip was. I always give the same answer – spending every waking (and sleeping) hour with Joanne for an entire month. It’s been a long time since we did that. I think the last time was the summer after we graduated from college thirty one years ago. We are the same people who made that trip around the country, just a bit older, wiser, wealthier, and with three wonderful young adults to show for it. It’s good to know that, even if you already knew it.

The trip through Europe was fantastic. We started in Rome and finished in Paris and stopped in a bunch of places along the way. This Foursquare map/list shows the itinerary:

fall trip map

The list has 131 places on it. We visited many more than that, but I only listed the places in Foursquare that I want to remember and let others know about. I wrote a tip on every single one of them.

As you can see our major stops were Lake Como, Cote D’Azur, Provence, Barcelona, San Sebastian, Bordeaux, and Paris. Of those, I would say Provence and San Sebastian were probably my favorites. I also loved the Piedmont wine region in Italy (Alba) and the city of Bordeaux and the wine region surrounding it. The best food was in Provence and in the tapas bars in Barcelona and San Sebastian.

The most beautiful place we found ourselves in was on a boat in the middle of Lake Como and staring out into the mediterranean sea from the tip of Cap Ferrat. We mangled three languages along the way and found that english is spoken almost everywhere, particularly if you are nice about it. If you want to learn more about the trip and the places we stayed along the way, the past thirty days of blog posts on GothamGal.com will deliver all of that to you.

I turned off my out of office responder yesterday. It gave me great trepidation to do that. If you ever want to give me a gift, the thing I would most appreciate is a filter from incoming email. I was able to manage all of my email in less than 15-20 minutes a day on this entire trip. I just archived everything that came in that wasn’t from someone that I knew I needed to respond to. The out of office responder sets up that expectation and so I feel absolutely fine doing that. Now that the responder if off, I am back to drinking from a firehose and I am terrified of how that is going to feel.

I’ve never taken an extended vacation or sabbatical from my work before. So all of this is new territory for me. I believe you should take the time away from work to get some distance from it, read, learn, relax. I did all of that and feel like I got what I was looking for from the time off. But it won’t be until I’m back at work that the new perspectives will totally reveal themselves to me. I’m looking forward to that too. Then I will know for sure what this time off taught me and I am eager to find that out.

And, as always, when I figure something out, I will share it with all of you here at AVC.

Eating As A Contact Sport

We drove early this morning from Barcelona to San Sebastian. To be more accurate, the Gotham Gal drove and I sat in the passenger seat amazed at the vastness of the landscape where for large parts of the drive there was 20 to 30 kilometers between towns. It was desolate and a bit depressing for someone used to seeing a new person every ten feet in NYC.

We got to San Sebastian in time for lunch. After checking into our hotel, we walked to the beach where there were boat races going on, and then walked into the old part of town in search of lunch.

It being Sunday afternoon, the streets were mobbed.
street crowd

We found a few tapas bars that looked good and pushed our way in, and I do mean push. Eating in these bars on a sunday afternoon is a full contact sport. I was thinking I could have used some shoulder pads.

Here’s a selfie I took in one of the bars we pushed our way into.

selfie in bar

In each bar, we got a beer to split and one or two tapas.

While it was work, and we had to push and shove a few times, the payoff was well worth it.

pulpo

We got this Pulpo A La Planxta Con Membrillo in the first bar we went to.

gambas

And we got this grilled shrimp bruschetta (although they call it something slightly different here) in the second one we went to.

We are going back to the bars tomorrow night for more contact sport. I have to say it’s a lot of fun.

Video Of The Week: The Progression Of Joan Miro

We visited the Joan Miro Foundation in Barcelona today. He was an amazing artist. We spent over an hour gazing at his work and then watching a short film about him.

It made me want to know more about him and his work. So I went on YouTube and found this

We visited the Picasso Museum this afternoon so we got quite a dose of Spanish painters of the 20th Century today. It was very enjoyable.

Documenting A Trip

I’ve always liked the idea of documenting a trip, leaving breadcrumbs for others to follow, or at least consider as they are planning a similar trip. The Gotham Gal and I do it very differently but we both do it.

She writes a blog post, chock full of photos, and a few links, every day recounting the prior day’s activities. Here’s her post on the day we recently spent on Lake Como. She has written hundreds of blog posts like that (according to her archive page, she has written 357 travel posts). If you are planning a trip to South Africa, you can go to her blog, search on South Africa, Cape Town, or some other keyword and get a bunch of posts like that which you might want to read while planning your trip. You can do that sort of thing for many places in the world that she has visited, with our without me and our kids.

I like to checkin to places on Swarm, save them on Foursquare, leave tips and photos, and then add them to lists on Foursquare. I’m building one now for the trip we are taking. I’ve built lists like this for Tokyo, Paris, and many other places.

Joanne’s approach is more like a travel magazine or the travel section of a newspaper. It’s great but you have to consume it in bulk quantities. What I like about my approach is it is microchunked down to the smallest atomic unit, the place, with value added metadata (tips and photos), and then built up into lists of various sorts. It feels more like a database that I am building than a magazine.

But both of these approaches work and deliver a lot of value to travelers who might want to follow in our footsteps. And we follow others in their footsteps so what goes around comes around. We use travel magazines, travel sections of newspapers, blogs, and Foursquare to plan our trips. Last week I read online a Food and Wine article on the Piedmont wine region, and it in, I read about a restaurant called Piazza Duomo, checked it out on Foursquare, and we booked a lunch there the next day. It was a fantastic lunch, now documented in a Gotham Gal blog post and a Foursquare tip.

World Order

I’m sitting at the breakfast table while Gotham Gal does the NY Times Crossword puzzle and we are looking at this

image

That’s Lake Como.

I’m reading “the paper” on my phone and sipping coffee and enjoying the scenery.

This op-ed by Henry Kissinger in yesterday’s WSJ caught my attention.

It certainly seems true that the world order of the past 70 years is fading fast and that we are facing a search for a new world order.

Kissinger has some suggestions in his op-ed and his new book which the op-ed is an advertisement for.

I think my partner Albert’s thoughts on the changes facing society are also quite relevant to this discussion.

It is a bit strange to be reading about and thinking about all the strife and dislocation in the world in such an idyllic setting but that’s what I am doing this morning.

Fuel Efficiency

Well the photoblogging experiment yesterday was mostly a failure. I posted images I took on my phone via my phone and they came out too large and loaded too slowly. The whole point of the experiment was to see if I could post quickly and easily from my phone and avoid the laptop entirely. I was seeking efficiency and did not find it.

But one place where we have found efficiency on our trip is our car. We got this Peugeot convertible for our trip.

image

It is a stick shift and takes diesel gas. The tank was almost empty when we got it so we filled the tank at the start of our trip. That cost 85 euros (roughly $110) but we’ve driven almost 500 kilometers so far and we still have over half a tank left. So we are getting roughly 900-1000 kilometers on a tank of gas which is 500-600 miles.

I’ve never owned a diesel car and finding diesel in the US isn’t easy and with the move towards electric, I suppose diesel will never be a thing in the US.

But I’m impressed with the fuel efficiency you get with diesel. It’s kind of amazing that you can drive almost 600 miles on a single tank of gas.

Photoblogging

Several people suggested I do some photoblogging on my vacation. So here’s my first attempt. If it goes well there will be more.

We woke up to this

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And then did this

image

Then this

image

That took all of twenty seconds on my phone. Very efficient. Now back to vacation.

It’s A Wrap

The Gotham Gal ends 2013 looking into the future and thinking about how her porfolio companies will grow next year. I am similarly minded as we wrap 2013. I am excited about 2014, and in particular the big opportunities that await many of our portfolio companies. 

I/we have a view about what is coming and I tried to lay that out at LeWeb earlier this month. We continue to look for investments in companies that fit into that view of the world.

But for me, it is the development of the companies we have already invested in that is always the most interesting work. And there are a bunch of them that are poised to have very big years in 2014 so that is what I woke up thinking about today and what I am most excited about professionally.

I am also very happy to have finally wound down Flatiron Partners, our previous venture capital firm, in 2013. My partners and I continue to hold interests in a few of our remaining portfolio companies but the business of Flatiron Partners has been wound down, 17 years after we started it, and that is a great relief to me personally. 

Like the Gotham Gal, I am also thinking about our impending empty nest status. This is something the two of us have been thinking about and to some extent planning for since 2007. Raising our family has been front and center for us for almost 25 years now and that phase is coming to an end in 2014. This means we can travel more, work more and less at the same time, and be more opportunistic about our lifestyle. I am looking forward to that.

We are spending New Years in Mexico then flying back to NYC tomorrow to start 2014. I am refreshed, relaxed, and ready for 2014.

On The Beach

A belated Merry Christmas to everyone. We spent yesterday in transit and I did not have time to write a post wishing everyone season's greetings. We did our Christmas a day early on Christmas Eve (borrowing a bit from a Wilson family tradition of opening one gift on Christmas Eve) and then caught an early flight to Mexico where we are on the beach until New Year's. 

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I will be taking it easy, reading a lot, and likely writing a bit too. It is the time of year to kick back and relax and I am doing just that.

Back In Ljubljana

Back in 2008, we invested in a small team out of SeedCamp called Zemanta. They were located in Ljubljana Slovenia but I met them in London. The following summer I visited the company in its hometown along with the Gotham Gal and our son Josh. I blogged about that trip here at AVC.

In the ensuing years, the founders moved back and forth between the US and Slovenia, encountered significant visa issues, and eventually built a strong business team in NYC and SF and Seattle. So the board meetings have been held in the US for the most part over the years with a few in London as well.

The founders decided that it was time to have a board meeting in Slovenia again and I made the trip yesterday (with some delays as noted in yesterday's blog post). Last night, as we walked through the lovely center of town along the river I was reminded of that trip we made four years ago and the wonderful time we had here.

We have a few portfolio companies that were started outside of the US and where the dev and product teams are still located in the home territory but the business team has moved to the US. This is a time tested model and has certain advantages. But it is easy to focus on the business team in the US and forget about the folks back home who are actually building the stuff.

I am excited to spend a morning with the "home team" and get to see the new offices. I've learned a lot working on the Zemanta investment, most notably that entrepreneurship is alive and well in many places around the world. It's great getting out and seeing that in action.