Posts from Blogging On The Road

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.

The Joys Of Business Travel

I took the overnight flight from JFK to CDG Paris. We arrived an hour late and even though we rushed through the maze of terminals that is CDG, we got to the gate a minute or two before the departure time and were told we could not get on the plane to Ljubljana. To make matters worse there is only one direct flight from CDG to Ljubljana each day and that was the flight we were on. It was painful to watch it fold up the stairs and back away without us on it.

So now we are in the gate awaiting a flight to Frankfurt where will will attempt to race across the airport and catch a connecting flight to Ljubljana from that airport.

Anyone who does a significant amount of business travel has had this sort of thing happen to them multiple times. I used to let it stress me out. Now I am pretty zen about it.

If we miss our connecting flight in Frankfurt I may be in need of restaurant recommendations in Frankfurt.

Down Time

The Gotham Gal and I took this weekend off and flew down to the Bahamas to see some friends who have a house down here. From the time we landed on friday to the time we return to NYC later today, I have largely been off email. With the exception of writing this post and posting the video yesterday, I have been off of my laptop. I used my phone to text/kik with my kids and use the golf course's android app to figure out distances.

Down time is great. I should figure out how to make it a bigger part of my life. My friend Brad Feld and his wife Amy take regular weeks off the grid. I can see why that works for them.

For the past twenty years, I have been in a zone where I work all the time. It has allowed me to stay on top of things and help build two venture capital firms. While I don't take meetings or go to the office or travel on the weekends, I work a lot on saturday and sunday. The same is true of our family vacations. I find a few hours every morning and in the afternoons where I can do calls, do email, and stay on top of things.

Taking a couple days off and a view like this certainly makee me wonder how much longer I can and should keep up that kind of lifestyle.

Bahamas photo

Headed Home

Fun Friday: Secluded Getaways

We are staying at a Ryokan in the woods on a river and it is beautiful and peaceful and about as far away from NYC and work as can be. We had dinner in robes last night and slept on tatami mats. And I’ve been reading more and writing less. All of which is a very good thing for me and our family. I will upload a photo of this place if I can get a decent internet connection. That in and of itself is a feature and not a bug of this place.

ryokan

So in the spirit of fun friday, where do you all go to find seclusion, peace, and solitude? Post a picture with your comment if you can.

Jet Lag

It's 3am in the morning and I'm wide awake in a hotel room in Tokyo, having slept for about five hours. My head is pounding because I haven't had coffee in 30 hours. I'm fixing myself an espresso and getting out my Nexus 7 for some reading. Emily suggested I read A Visit From The Goon Squad so that's first up on my vacation reading list.

I struggle with jet lag. Whenever I talk to someone who travels frequently to Asia or some other far off destination, I always ask them how they deal with it. Most tell me drugs, which I refuse to take. I don't want to go there.

When our family traveled to Australia a few years ago, I was so knocked out by the jet lag that I felt physically ill for the first couple days of our trip. I think I'm in much better shape on this trip, but it's still a struggle for me to get out of my circadian rhythm and into another one.

The jet lag advice I have taken is to sleep as much on airplanes as possible. That makes sense to me but I don't sleep well on planes. I got about four hours on the thirteen hour flight from NYC to Tokyo. The Gotham Gal and the girls barely slept on the plane and I think they are doing better with the jet lag than I am. So I am questioning that advice a bit right now.

So, what do all of you in the AVC community have to advise me on this one? I'd like to get better at it because I love traveling to far flung parts of the world and plan to do a lot more of it in the coming years.

Scoot Networks – A New Way To Get Around SF

When I come to SF, I generally don't rent a car. I've used cabs and more recently Uber to get around. But many times I just walk from meeting to meeting around SOMA where most of the tech companies are.

This week I tried something different. The Gotham Gal is a seed investor in a company called Scoot Networks who has launched a service that is best described as "zipcar for scooters." My colleague Nick and I rented scooters yesterday and used them to get back and forth to our meetings. I have my scooter until tonight when I am going to return it.

Here's a photo of me on a Scoot:

Fred on a scoot

The scooter is electric and very light. It is only 50 cc. It has enough speed and acceleration to get around SOMA easily. It is not as powerful as the 150 cc Vespa I ride around NYC, but I was totally comfortable on it and it worked great for me yesterday.

Your phone is your "key". You join Scoot Networks and use their web app (native apps are coming). You place your phone in a bracket on the handlebar and connect an iPhone or USB connector and that turns the bike on and off.

Android on scooter

Then you can drive around from meeting to meeting, parking the bike on the street.

Scooter in street

Scoot Networks is currently only operating in San Francisco, but they are planning a larger rollout in the future once they get San Francisco working well. If you like to ride a scooter and travel to SF frequently, I suggest you give it a try. I am really enjoying it.

Feature Friday: Mobile Data Usage Tracking

Sometimes an app can be a feature that is missing from the OS, or a feature that isn't well implemented in the OS. Flashlight apps are a great example.

Another example are apps that track mobile data usage. If you have unlimited mobile data, you might not care how much mobile data you are using. That's my behavior when I am at home.

But when I travel, I am either using a prepaid mobile data card (which is what I am doing now – 1GB for 48 krone/$8US), or using a mobile roaming package from my US carrier (my wife and kids are on a 800MB roaming plan from ATT Mobile).

In either case, it is critical to know how much mobile data you are consuming, per day, per week, per trip, and per plan term.

My favorite app to do this is called My Data Manager and it is free and available for iOS and for Android.

My Data Manager has three tabs to show you how much data you are consuming on your carriers's mobile data network, how much data you are consuming by roaming on other networks, and how much data your are consuming on wifi. It also shows you what apps are consuming the most data for each tab.

You can set up your mobile plans in the app so you can see how you are doing for the current plan term.

I have been in europe since Monday morning (four days now) and I have consumed 128MB on my prepaid 1GB danish sim and I have consumed 155MB on wifi. I haven't had to roam since I have a local data sim. My wife and kids have similar data usage except that they are all roaming on other data networks and are well within their 800MB cap.

If you have a cap on your mobile data usage or if you are roaming on other data networks, I highly recommend getting My Data Manager to keep track. Mobile data is expensive when you go off plan or above plan. Keeping track gives you peace of mind and that's a valuable thing.