Paul Klee

One of my favorite moments of our two week trip to Italy was totally fortuitous. A museum in Rome called Memmo in Palazzo Ruspoli was having a retrospective on my all time favorite painter, Paul Klee.

I recall the first time I saw Klee’s work. The MOMA did a show on Klee probably fifteen years ago. The Gotham Gal and I went and I was just taken with his work. It’s a bit like Picasso and Kandinsky, but somehow it has more emotional power (for me anyway) than their works. Klee’s paintings talk to me.

I am particularly fond of the work he did in the last twenty years of his life during his time at Bauhaus and during his exile in Switzerland. The range of Klee’s work is really impressive. He paints in so many styles that it’s really impossible to categorize him. But at the same time, when you see his work, you know it immediately.

As I was doing some digging around collecting stuff for this post, I found out that the MOMA has show on Klee right now.  Cool, I’ll have to get up there to see it.

#Random Posts

Now That's A Top Ten List The Way It Should Be

If you are a Rhapsody subscriber and want to sample my top ten records of 2006, go to this playlist on Yottamusic. You’ll need to sign in with your Rhapsody account to listen.

Luke Matkins put it together and I’ve finally gotten around to blogging it.

Thanks Luke. I am particularly fond of loading up those 11 records and then playing them on shuffle. A great way to play back my soundtrack to 2006!

Note – The one record you won’t find is Stadium Arcadium. The Red Hot Chili Peppers aren’t on Rhapsody unfortunately.

#My Music#Top 10 Records 2006

Setting The Table

In 1997, right after we had moved Flatiron Partners into the neighborhood that it was named for, I was invited out to lunch by Lester Wunderman, who was on the board of Seth Godin’s company Yoyodyne with me. Lester suggested we meet at Gramercy Tavern which was half a block from our new offices. I told him that sounded great, he made the reservation, and I met him at the desired time.

Lester was already seated at our table, a choice location in one of the back rooms. I sat down and we started talking about various things. Not long after I had joined Lester, Danny Meyer came over and greeted Lester. It was clear to me at that moment that Lester was a frequent guest at Danny’s restaurants and there was a warm feeling between the two men.

Lester introduced me to Danny and suggested I take Danny’s card now that I was "in the neighborhood". I did and when I got back to work, I called The Gotham Gal and told her I had met Danny. We were big fans of his Union Square Cafe. She said, "call him and make a reservation for lunch tomorrow". I told her I didn’t have a lunch. She said, "get one". She said, "he’ll remember you tomorrow, but maybe not a month from now." I did as she suggested and the next day when I was eating with whomever I found to have lunch with me, Danny came over and greeted us like he had with Lester the day before.

That’s when I realized that Danny is the master of hospitality. I’ve been a frequent guest at his restaurants ever since.

A year or so later, Danny came calling to my office with Debbie Landau and Bill Lukashok to pitch us on joining the campaign to rebuild Madison Square Park. I shared with him the fact that the Gotham Gal and my first apartment in NYC was adjacent to the park and we used to walk by hookers and crack addicts going home each night. He nodded and walked me through the plan to fix up the park.

Around that time, Yoydoyne was sold to Yahoo! and I had a bunch of highly appreciated Yahoo! stock. The Gotham Gal and I gave some of it to Madison Square Park. Danny called me up to thank me and asked how they could sell it as it still had a legend on it. I told him how to get the legend removed. He called back about a month later, told me he’d gotten the legend off, but the stock had soared in value since they got it and he asked what he should do with it. I told him to sell it immediately. He did and the Gotham Gal and I became much bigger donors to the park than we had ever imagined. And I am rewarded for that gift every time I eat at the Shake Shack which I do regularly when its open (it closes in the winter months).

Why am I telling you all of this about Danny Meyer? Because he is a great person and for many of the same reasons, he is a a great entrepreneur. He has built restaurants that serve more than good food, they serve good feelings. And he also invests in his communities, as evidenced by the amazing work he led in the rejuvenation of Madison Square Park.

Over my vacation, I got around to finishing his new book, Setting The Table. If you are an entrepreneur, you should read this book.

It’s not your typical business book. It’s half biography/memoir and half advice on how to succeed in business. It’s nominally about the restaurant business, but it’s really about all businesses.

I’ll give you two things that stand out to me about Danny’s philosophy;

  • He rates the priority of the stakeholders in his business as follows; first employees, second customers (guests), third the community, fourth his vendors/suppliers, and fifth his investors. He figures if he gets the first four right, the fifth will take care of itself. I generally agree with that sentiment.
  • He values emotional competency higher than technical competency in his employees. Both are critical, but he says he can teach technical skills, he cannot teach attitude.

Danny takes a long term view to building his businesses. He forgoes quick gains and easy wins in favor of building sustainable institutions. And he has built a bunch of them.

I’ve gotten a bit out of the habit of constantly frequenting his restaurants. I used to eat lunch at Gramercy Tavern a lot more, for example. But after reading his book, I am eager to get back in the groove. It’s my second New Year’s Resolution (the first one is here). I am going to make it a point to eat at Danny’s restaurants a lot more in 2007.

And in case you are interested in eating at one of Danny’s restaurants (not Shake Shack), you can easily get a reservation using Open Table, where Danny is on the board. That’s how I generally do it and you’ll be surprised to see how well it works.

#VC & Technology


I’ve read all the 2007 predictions posts and they are generally good and worth reading.

But by far my favorite set of predictions comes from Bob Lefsetz. It’s mostly about the music business but there’s enough in there about tech and the web to interest anyone. I love the way Bob just calls it as he sees it, pulls no punches, and is generally right.

#My Music#VC & Technology

Jets In The Postseason!

We got the news from Jackson via a text message as we were out celebrating the new year on the streets of rome

The Jets made the playoffs in Mangini’s first year with a solid 10 and 6 record

It’s true that the Jets had a very easy schedule, but I don’t care. We made the post season!

It is already proving to be a happy new year.


2007: Happy New Year

  Happy New Year 
  Originally uploaded by jciv.

I’d like to wish everyone a happy new year. I am excited about 2007 for a bunch of reasons.

In my business endeavors I am particularly excited about the developments happening in our Union Square Ventures portfolio. We’ve been investing for a couple years and we now have a portfolio of companies, not ideas or projects. All but one of our companies are generating revenue. A couple will be profitable this year. And one, Bug Labs, will come out of "stealth mode" and show everyone what they have been up to for the past year. I am excited.

I am also excited to watch the companies left in the Flatiron portfolio continue to build what have become large and profitable businesses. Venture capital done well has a long time horizon. We get involved when its not much more than an idea. And in the best companies, we stick around for a long time. I love that.

I am less excited about what Todd Dagres called "a bubble in company formation" happening in the web space. As Todd pointed out in the WSJ debate with David Hornik, the barriers are so low to starting a web company that everyone is doing it. I heard from my oldest daughter that one of her friends who is a senior in high school may not be going to college because he’s got his web businesses to run. That may be the right decision for him, but it points out just how far reaching this web entrepreneur thing has become.

On the other hand, 2007 is going to be the "show me" year for many of the web investments made in 2005 and 2006. And I think some companies are going to come up fairly empty on their initial business plans. That should help to keep everyone focused on the reality that not every good idea turns into a good business and hopefully it will bring some rationality to what is clearly an overheated market right now.

But I don’t want to focus too much on the negatives. There are a lot of exciting new things happening, some of which I pointed to in my "2007:" posts. I hope you were able to read them.

I am really looking forward to 2007. I hope you are too.

#VC & Technology

Happy New Music Year

I am pretty excited about all the new music that is coming out shortly.

Specifically on January 23rd, two records will be released that are fantastic.

The Shins – Wincing The Night Away

Of Montreal – Hissing Fauna Are You The Destroyer

And shortly after that, there are two more great records coming out.

Modest Mouse – We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank

Sondre Lerche – Phantom Punch

Here’s one of my favorite tracks off of Phantom Punch. Happy new year in music everyone!

John Let Me Go – Sondre Lerche

#My Music

User Controlled Pages (aka What I Need From Flickr)

Scott Karp doesn’t like my use of the word "user" in my post about The End Of Page Views. Scott argues that when someone controls a page, they are not users, they are publishers and we should recognize that in our terminology. Well Scott is probably right about that. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the things I want to do with my Flickr page, my LinkedIn page, my page, my Facebook page, etc, etc.

Scott is right that I want to act like a publisher with all of these pages. I’ve been using my Flickr page a lot lately as we travel around Italy. I am publishing some, but not nearly all, of the photos I am taking. I am blogging directly from Flickr to create the blog entries on our trip. And I am paying greater attention to the comments, favorites, and views I am getting on my photos.

One of the things about being an active blogger is you get used to a certain kind of behavior. I am used to being able to track visits and page views on a daily basis. I am used getting comments emailed to me. I am used to being able to see who is linking to me. I am used to adding functionality via widgets to my page, which include the ability to see who has visited it recently. The way I do most of this is by adding code to my page.

So here is my suggestion. If you want to allow users to truly control a page, if you want them to treat the page like it is their own page, you must let them put code onto their page. If you don’t, eventually sophisticated leading edge users are going to move on. I know I will.

#VC & Technology