Video Of The Week: Gotham Gal's Talk At 99U Conference

I like the theme of The Gotham Gal’s talk earlier this year at the 99U Conference, “dream big”


Comments (Archived):

  1. Twain Twain

    I really love that the Gotham Gal anchored the entire speech with how we should live through the LENS of the lifestyle we want to aspire to.Women are constantly told by investors that they don’t “invest in lifestyle businesses.”Pinterest reflects the lifestyle of women and a lot of investors didn’t have that lens to see it. It’s also a story of perseverance and pivoting appropriately (rather than because pivoting is “cool”):*…* http://www.businessinsider….

    1. awaldstein

      I enjoyed this speech a great deal as well.Don’t get where there is anything that connects lifestyle to a specific gender though. Bars, restaurants, crafts, food goods, artisans are to me gender neutral activities.

      1. Dave Pinsen

        Some crafts are practiced more by one gender than another. E.g., knitting is more common among women, while, say, home brewing is probably more common among men.Interesting to consider how that shakes out with the new, high-end hipster food and beverage products. Guessing that’s mostly men too (e.g., Mast Brothers chocolate, which is hugely popular despite tasting like baking chocolate). But I’m not sure why.

        1. awaldstein

          dunno.Knitting is a bad example. What about yoga studios. Restaurants. Wineries. Artisanal foods. Less and less gender specific ownership and investment.Don’t have any idea what hipster food and beverage means in this context.

          1. Dave Pinsen

            Why is knitting a bad example? “Hipster” refers to the sort of artisanal foods & beverages being made in hipster enclaves in Brooklyn and elsewhere and sold at Whole Foods: Mast Brother’s Chocolate, Rick’s Pickles, etc.What % of restaurants are founded by women? Don’t restaurateurs skew male too? I don’t know about yoga studios. I do know there are some new fitness concepts created by women (e.g., Soul Cycle).

          2. awaldstein

            Hipster is such poor term honestly and not at all adopted by the consumers.I eat Ricks Pics cause they taste great, especially the sour ones. And they’ve built a brand that is loveable. Not from any enclave I know of and from LES not Brooklyn.

          3. Dave Pinsen

            SWPL might be a better term here, but of course hipster’s not adopted by consumers. Mocking terms usually aren’t.Ricks is good — as are a lot of the SWPL/craft foods. And I’m aware they’re headquartered in the LES hence the “and elsewhere” I added after Brooklyn.

          4. awaldstein

            Curious whatever motivation to mock artisans there can be from any perspective?

          5. Dave Pinsen

            It’s not the artisans being mocked, but the consumers. I walked out of Whole Foods with a $13 pint of grass-grazed ice cream recently. I mocked myself for that when I saw the receipt.

          6. awaldstein

            i’m missing this completely Dave.You are mocking yourself for supporting an artisan, an artisanal economy, for buying something delicious and healthy and as important for buying within an ethos of taste?You think artisanal goods are replete with margins? You think Whole Foods is extracting a larger that normal margin?I”m not getting this.

          7. LE

            Rick Field (of Rick’s Picks, a Joanne investment) graduated Yale and attended Philips Academy (Andover). (A really nice guy I did some work for him..) That said he could definitely be mistaken for a laid back older earthy crunchy for sure. (as opposed to me..)

        2. Twain Twain

          I kid you not, I’m currently knitting a “Heineken” cardigan. It’s sunshine nectar yellow with a cream collar.We used to home brew sweet rice win, aka saké.

          1. Dave Pinsen

            I saw some cool hats knitted to look like football helmets during a recent Monday night game.

          2. Twain Twain

            Well, there are the fantastically stylish knitted hats on and then…The ones knitted in the shape of turkeys, Viking helmets, green octopi ………And then there’s this “high fashion” homage to Monsters Inc…LOL!

      2. Twain Twain

        Not in Gotham Girl’s speech itself but there’s wider context re. the experiences of female founders she and other super-women are mentoring and trying to help.From Businessweek article in Sept 2014: “In 2009, when Amy Norman and Stella Ma started pitching investors on their San Francisco-based startup, Little Passports, both had young children and Norman was pregnant. The overwhelming majority of the investors they met with were men who wanted to know “if we were running this as a ‘lifestyle company,’” Ma recalls.”*…*…I agree with you that lifestyle services are gender-neutral (bars, restaurants, food & wine, artisanal, yoga).

    2. LE

      I really love that the Gotham Gal anchored the entire speech with how we should live through the LENS of the lifestyle we want to aspire to.Keeping in mind (as I mentioned in my other comment) that it’s also the lifestyle that your spouse wants as well (male or female). I think many young people probably don’t understand this and think it will just work out when the evidence shows that not only does it not work out but that money (generally lack of it) is one of the biggest causes of problems in marriage.

      1. Twain Twain

        So true and we see an example of a young couple understanding it takes work and then putting in the work every time Fred shares insights like this with us:”Joanne was completely different. She wanted to move to NYC, work at Macy’s and become a store manager. She knew what she wanted in life and how to get it.So I followed her to NYC. She pushed me to get a job in NYC. I did. She then pushed me to go to business school. I did….”*…They both have the success and lifestyle they worked hard TOGETHER for.In some relationships, one person doesn’t commit their fair share of the work / money / emotional support etc.In some relationships, both people are committed to doing what’s in the best interests for both of them.It’s easier to build a lifestyle and enjoy it when we meet our special someone(s).

        1. LE

          She also knew enough to assess Fred’s potential as well. And it’s quite possible he was also attracted to her and her drive. My guess, strictly a guess here, is that Joanne didn’t match the pattern of Fred’s mother. He liked that she pushed him. In the way that she did. And brought out the best in him.My daughter told me about a guy who she was supposed to go out with that is a hebrew school teacher and wants to become a scholar or something like that. (My first question was “what does he do”) Quite frankly, given that she is in NYC, and given the demands of money in today’s environment I had no problem telling her that to me that career is a non starter. [1] But I also told her not to think that if she brings home someone that earns a good living (whatever that is) that that’s some kind of auto stamp of approval. It’s not. It’s only a starting point for me. But I think she has enough going for her that she doesn’t need to disadvantage herself economically and can find someone that hits the marks on many fronts not just “I love him” (I’m jumping the gun because relationships are a slippery slope).[1] As Joan Rivers would say “get over it” if you think there is something wrong with me, for my daughter, wanting someone who earns a good living. That’s my decision I’m not thinking in terms of what someone else might think or do. And it’s not a put down of teachers, their value or how they have decided to spend their lives. I also wouldn’t want her to marry Brad Pitt or a host of other people as well. And I don’t mind telling her either. I’m not one of those “it will all work out it’s her decision” types. She doesn’t know enough to make the best decision most young people don’t.

          1. Twain Twain

            That’s hilarious and in a good way.I don’t know how old your daughter is but I can relate to how your daughter may be feeling.In my final year at university, there were 7 guys who wanted to date me:* a law student whose family was well-off;* a biomedical student whose family was also well-off;* a guy who’d graduated a few years before us who’d got a high-paying job at a Top 3 management consultancy;* one of my lecturers (30-something) who all my female classmates insisted had a mad crush on me;* three guys in my class.My mother, like you, asked, “What does he do?”Fast-forward a few years and, working as I did with all the Global Heads and senior MDs, I was surrounded by financially successful men (some single, some happily married, some looking for trophy younger wife — it happens). One or two times, guys would DELIBERATELY try to catch my attention by flashing their Rolexes in my eyeline and telling me about where exactly in Savile Row / 5th Avenue / Via Condotti in Rome they got their suits made.And do you know what?I stayed single. Did my work. Got promoted based on the quality and quantity of that work and paid for everything I still own today.Your daughter will likely meet someone fantastic but, equally, if she doesn’t just yet…..Have faith it will turn out as it’s supposed to be.

          2. LE

            some looking for trophy younger wife — it happensAs someone who remarried a person much much younger than I am I want to dispel part of the myth about that. And another reason why men might do that (other than “they can”). [1]In my particular case, there is less of what I call “baggage” and being set in someone’s ways and being “controlling”. That is a huge factor!. Way more important than looks. For example I did a small amount of dating and can tell you that it is much easier to date (and then marry) a women with no children or very young children (what I did) than it is to date someone with children that are older (and suspicious of any man “taking their mother away”). As a generality, the younger the better (with children). To my wife’s kids I am like their 2nd father because they were young when I met them. In order for that to be the case their mother would then have to be young, right? One child was 4 and one was 6. (My kids were 10 years older at the time). They welcomed me with open arms. Never questioned anything because Mom got divorced a few years before that and it was all fuzzy to them.I can’t even begin to tell you how important that is to our relationship. I was in another relationship with a women who had a daughter that was 10 and at that age she already knew I was in competition with her father. And so on.The other thing (not my situation) that probably applies to men who marry young women without children is that it’s then all about the man. Once again, to him that’s great. What is there not to like about someone who is focused on you? And not distracted by kids and their other obligations. Most people don’t end up like I was able to when dating again. Believe me I thought I’d have to marry a single women w/o kids have have kids so I wouldn’t be 2nd fiddle. Luckily I didn’t have to do that.Anyway I hope I’ve shed some additional perspective on “trophy wives”. Not all about looks or age for age sake.[1] While I’m not going to deny that it’s nice to be with someone younger for physical attraction reasons, people on the outside, from a guys perspective, might discount the other benefits of having someone younger.

          3. Twain Twain

            Thanks for adding that perspective. And the reverse likely applies — not every young woman we see with a much older guy is “looking for a Sugar Daddy” or even dating him.Sometimes, it’s simply that guys closer to her age are so absorbed in their careers that there’s no time for conversations; that or else the older man is more emotionally intelligent. She may be earning a great salary in her high-powered job.Nothing’s binary — least of all relationships and what works for each of us personally.

          4. marko calvo-cruz

            “Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.”-Will Rogers

  2. Aygun Suleyman

    Thanks for sharing. Gotham Gal’s speech has brought so much clarity to my own thinking. It is indeed difficult to get back into the dreaming mindset once you have gotten to a certain, seemingly upward trending, path in your career and a financial well-being. You try to ignore the restlessness in you that tries to tell you you might be spending your life ‘by’. Reflecting on your passion, dreams and values to see and aspire for the great destination can add a whole new dimension to your outlook. It may still tell you the path you are on is the right one, but that it is an exciting one too.

  3. jason wright

    dare to dream

  4. William Mougayar

    Totally agree that entrepreneurship can’t be taught in school, but it can be “encouraged”. Very true, yet we’re seeing entrepreneur programs springing out & I wonder about the effectiveness of what they are teaching.

  5. pointsnfigures

    This is something entrepreneurs outside of Silicon Valley need to think about. In the Valley, they do think big. They are around networks of people that succeeded with big things. Outside of the valley, it may or may not be true. But if you are going to go through the brain damage of doing a blow out software startup and raise venture capital, the only way to think is big.

    1. William Mougayar

      Not sure if it’s purely a Valley thing, but definitely startup ideas come in big and small sizes. The thing about Big ideas is to start them with small steps. But small ideas could also become Big ideas. It’s hard to tell when you’re early, but that’s something that’s going through my mind constantly as I listen to, or get exposed to dozens of startups weekly, I keep asking myself “Is this a big idea? Can it become a big idea?”

      1. awaldstein

        Good point.I like to think of it as the simplest idea that can have the greatest market impact.Making CRM useful for recruiters and connected to the social nets. Simple idea, huge marketDetoxing your body nutritionally. Simple idea by two bartenders in the lower east side that invented the $5-10B cleansing category.Bridging the last mile in connectivity.and on and on.For myself, it is about segment knowledge that enables simple to be believable as the change agent for something large.

        1. William Mougayar

          yes, and even better if you can benefit from that simple idea. Curious, did these 2 bartenders financially benefit from their idea to the extent of the idea’s potential?

          1. awaldstein

            Great NY women founded entrepreneurial success story.They were the first and spawned an industry.Anyway here is the link to the founders who sold a bunch of years ago. Nothing public but rumor is in the $28-45M range. Revenues are massive for this line btw, dwarfing yearly the buyout # by all reports.…–>It’s interesting getting to know NY a bit as an investor in the non tech sector a bit.I’m on the outside but Lianna as a founder is very much in the community of wellness entrepreneurs that bridges food, nutrition, exercise, fashion, body products, coaching, some private equity, lifestyle pubs and even an app http://www.greenhoppingapp….Many really sharp people and becoming more gender mixed all the time from predominantly women driven a few years ago.My thought on the whole sector:The Wellness Market

          2. Richard

            They executed well (direct to consumer) but what they didn’t do is Invent the cleansing category. Juice cleanses via juice bars have been around for several decades. I was told by the acquiring co that the number was 24M.

          3. awaldstein

            Thanks for the info Rich.Dunno enough to nit pick honestly. Marketing wise they are truly heroes of the sector and the brand sells like crazy.Invented it or not, I can’t think of another national brand that is equated with juice cleansing from the wellness consumer perspective like they are.

          4. Richard

            I’m a long time juicer and invested in a line of 100% organic juice bars that made its way (in 2008) into whole foods (as a station within a store) and was in negotiations with a major drug and fast causal restaurant to do the same.*Blueprint is a pasteurized product. My take was that juice after undergoing pasteurization is not Raw and really just odwalla in disguise, even if you call it high pressure pasteurization) is is still soup not juice.

          5. awaldstein

            Now I remember your background. Thanks.I won’t bore the community here with my thoughts on HPP, on Raw, on the class action suits swirling round about Raw as a claim, about enzymes and the rest.But–I also don’t drink HPP products, raw or not, they are certainly not alive and certainly the prebiotic capabilities are gone.I also know the amazing difficulty and issues around distribution of short shelf life products. Intimately actually.Call me when you get to NY and we can chat.

          6. Richard

            Will do. yep, love tech but live for health, as a polymath, as Ben Horowitz would say, I have more data than bandwidth.

          7. awaldstein

            Nice.The food biz is interesting and challenging with archaic monopolistic distribution systems especially in the perishable goods category.And most of my work is still heavily in tech.

          8. Richard

            Yep, but in the near future the monopolistic distribution network for healthy food will change and UNFI (and even WholeFoods) will become less of a factor.

          9. awaldstein

            I”m all ears especially in the perishable [email protected] if you care to share.

          10. awaldstein

            And btw, looks like in NY at least Whole Foods is launching a branded fresh juice bar in the stores.

          11. Dave Pinsen

            They already have their own juice bar in the new Paramus, NJ location. The older one in Edgewater, NJ, had a Jamba Juice instead.

          12. Richard

            Yep, I’ll tell you the “rest of the story” when we meet.

          13. LE

            With all due respect to those (not sure if this is you or not) that believe in “this type of thing” I will use this to support the idea that it’s all in their head, a placebo of sorts:…(There are other links, that’s just two with one from NYU).But that point (along the lines of placebo) doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have benefits. It it somehow makes you feel good to think it does then by all mean have the party in your brain.I’m an inveterate, and for the longest time, user of “Metamucil” which I swear by. I couldn’t tell you exactly why it works for me but it does. (It’s also way more cost effective than any small scale solution). I have, and this is the only way to put it, have “world class transit”. But I also run every single day for the longest time. I’m not going to do a test to see what creates which benefit for me.That said I’ve been on it for such a long time I really couldn’t tell you what would happen if I stopped using it.

          14. Twain Twain

            After UBS, I joined a handful of bankers from other banks to found a VC firm. One of my clients was a wellness company founded by hospital doctors and also practitioners of alternative (aka Chinese herbal) medicine. Their vision was to create Wellness Centers around the world, health software (Quantified Self before there was QS), juice bars and supplement subscription on-demand delivery.It’s interesting to see how the whole wellness and health space has developed.

          15. awaldstein

            Thanks for the share.Yes, the space has changed and so has the mass markets awareness of health.A big step in the right direction.The growth of functional medicine as mainstream is really a change agent in health care and honestly–for me personally.As an aside…I was talking to a private equity guy in Whole Foods late last night in front of the grab and go cooler where the company I invest in is sold. Found myself with an invite to talk to his partners about the space.Also sold him some product of course.Fun stuff.

        2. JamesHRH

          You and William are having a very male convo here.Closing line – dream big dream small but dream.Much more female PoV.There is a lot of crossover these days between classic gender views, and it is not like you guys are acting like Tim the Toolman Taylor…..

          1. awaldstein

            Maybe so but not my experience.I interact with quite a few women entrepreneurs and the size of their visions is certainly not what distingushes them. A smart aggressive group with creative community savvy as I’ve ever met.

          2. JamesHRH

            Not a big deal, but I think you are having a Just Because I Can I Should Dream Off…..& that is not, to me, the theme of The GG’s speech, nor is it on the 80 side of the 80/20 ledger of this topic.

        3. Russell

          Interesting comment on CRM connected with social – I’ve been looking at podio recently. have you seen anything good in the space, or is it a project you’re working on??

      2. Twain Twain

        “One small step for Man, one giant leap for Mankind.”Hundreds of years before 1969, we looked up through telescopes and dreamed big.Every single second for hundreds of years small steps were taken by many people to get that small team landed safely on the moon and then able to return equally safely.Small steps maketh the big dream a reality.

        1. William Mougayar


      3. ldouglas

        That seems to ring well with one of my favourite quotes: “A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be patched up to make it work. You have to start over, beginning with a working simple system.” – John Gall

  6. JimHirshfield

    Nice talk. I bet Gotham Gal never dreamed that she’d perform at Alice Tully Hall, a prestigious stage. She should have belted out an aria just to be able to brag about it.

    1. Richard

      That was an intimidating stage. I could feel the energy through the video!

  7. FrankHouse

    Sometimes the basics get lost in the busyness of the day to day. Your culture is not an accident. It’s built with intent. And, hire people smarter than you. Thanks for the reminder GG!

  8. Richard

    Great talk, something tells me that if Fred’s career didn’t go as well as it did, Bergdof Goodman would be a national retailer and would have been a first mover into the internet space and its CEO would have been known as the Gotham Gal.

  9. howardlindzon

    I miss Gotham

    1. jason wright

      i cycled through yesterday

  10. LE

    I watched the entire video (interrupted by some aggravating system problems in between) [1] and it was great.I will only add this very very important piece of advice that I think for obvious reasons Joanne missed talking about. [2] In order to achieve your dream you have to be in a relationship with someone who not only supports your dream but allows you to achieve your dream without bringing you down. (And vice versa obviously.)Although life contains a great deal of things that you can’t predict with relationships, it also contains things that reasonably you can predict and you need to avoid in advance. If you don’t, not only will it bring you down but you will never ever be able to achieve your dream. (Plus it’s a big drain on your health and happiness).Here’s an example, a simple example. In my first marriage my wife was only partially on board with allowing me to spend time as I saw fit to achieve my dream. There was, as a result, a great deal of aggravation and unneeded unhappiness that prevented me from getting to where I wanted to go. That’s not because I was right and she was wrong. It’s just that we shared different ideas and goals and both were with the wrong person. (She, as I am, is now with “the right person”).My second wife, the woman who I am married to now, is someone who shares the same work ethic and dreams that I do. As a result, and as only one example, she didn’t “shlep” me to synagogue this morning for a required bar mitzvah visit for our step son. She didn’t create an obligation when she knew that I’d rather be at the office working and fixing things that needed to be done. Likewise I don’t restrict her working situation and dream and don’t whine about the time that she spends at her job either. We are compatible and it works because we share the same values. She creates literally no obligation on me at all. That’s what works for me.Now if it were only as easy as I make it sound, then it would be easy. But it’s not. For one thing many people in the beginning of a relationship present themselves in one way but then change later on. It can, and is, a moving target. But a good start is at least to make sure you share the same values, work ethic and desire to be or not be around people (socialize). And forget whether you enjoy the same activities, music, entertainment and so on that tends to be meaningless since relationships are made on how you handle the bad times not the good times.[1] The aggravating system problems remind me that if everything went perfect, if each day was a perfect snow day, things would get very boring.[2] Because she hasn’t been through a divorce and is in a good marriage. And while she may know many people with problems, and somewhat realize how lucky she is, it’s a bit like not having children. You need to have them to understand what children are all about.

  11. Mariah Lichtenstern

    Very nice…Great fodder for Saturday day-dreams.

  12. Dasher

    Gotham Gal is a fun speaker with terrific sense of humor. Thanks for posting.