Fred Wilson

Wes and Hadar’s Excellent Adventure

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Many more people participated in one or more of the activities I’m about to list. Only Wes and I enjoyed every single one of them, hence the accurate title. πŸ™‚

Wes flew up on Thursday morning and I picked him up at Newark Airport. We headed straight to the city and met Lois and two friends for lunch at Westville. We met there at 11:30am because the place is tiny and fills up fast. Only one of the five of us had ever eaten there, so it was a new experience for the three four of us. The food was fantastic! I had the Caesar Salad with grilled chicken. Here are pics of three of the dishes, starting with mine:

Caesar Salad

Caesar Salad

Greek Salad

Greek Salad

Hot Dogs

Hot Dogs

After lunch, Lois, Wes and I relaxed and caught up with work/email, etc. Then we headed for our night at the Highline Ballroom to see our favorite group, Girlyman. That evening was covered extensively in this post.

The next morning, after breakfast, we headed up to the house. Wes had never seen it. We logged on there and all did our own thing until lunch. After lunch, Wes and I headed to see the new Star Trek movie. Lois was intending to come as well, but we had a problem with the dampers again, and she called the HVAC people and waited for an emergency technician to arrive. Sorry Lois!

Wes Hadar Living Room

Wes Hadar Living Room

Wes and I both enjoyed the movie. I would be lying if I said it was great in any way (other than the special effects, which were stunning), but it’s action-packed, moves at a very quick pace, is an inventive story, etc. I agree with the comments I had heard about the movie before I saw it, that you don’t need to be a trekkie to appreciate the movie, but that it pays homage to the original in so many ways that it’s extra satisfying to a real trekkie. Kudos to JJ Abrams and the entire creative staff of the movie for pulling off that difficult balancing act!

When we got home, we both logged on again, andΒ  I finally got the blog post about Girlyman published. We then headed for dinner at a Chinese restaurant in Tarrytown (that we had never eaten at before). It wasn’t our original destination for dinner, but the two places we wanted to eat at were 30+ minute waits (you know, in this economy, where supposedly no one can afford to eat out any longer…). We were quite disappointed in our meals, so this place won’t be visited again by us. Oh well…

After dinner, we walked 200 feet to our real destination for the evening, Tarrytown Music Hall. We had 10th row seats to see Steven Wright, one of my all-time favorite standup comics. This was my first time seeing him live, but I’ve been a fan ever since he burst on the scene (probably longer ago than many of you are alive). πŸ˜‰

Steven Wright

Steven Wright

As is typical of most shows at Tarrytown Music Hall, he didn’t come on the stage until 8:25pm (scheduled time, 8pm). It’s annoying, but otherwise, we really love Tarrytown Music Hall. He was fantastic. He did his routine non-stop for 85 minutes.

For those of you don’t know, he’s the king of dead-pan one liners. For the most part, they are based on word play. He never (OK, rarely) smiles, except for specific effect. In other words, his own jokes don’t appear to make him laugh (and that works really well for his type of material). He only told one vulgar joke, and I’d bet that none of the kids that were in the audience had a clue that it was vulgar!

He used the F-word perhaps 10 times, so in general, his act is pretty clean. He speaks softly, so the audience trained themselves (incredibly quickly) to come to a dead silence seconds after laughing hysterically, for fear of missing the next joke!

Here are but two (of hundreds of) examples of the style of humor that no one masters quite like Steven Wright:

I have a friend who has a stained glass eye.

24-Hour Banking. I don’t have that kind of time.

No two jokes are connected. Topics fly all over the place. It’s really funny to hear delayed laughter around you, when you realize that people are trying hard to process a joke, and finally get it, a few seconds too late. πŸ˜‰

We had a great time there. Afterward, we drove back to the city and watched a bit of Conan O’Brien in his new gig as host of the Tonight Show. I also watched the first two nights on Hulu, and I think Conan is doing a marvelous job in his new time slot. Congrats Conan!

On Saturday, after breakfast and the obligatory emailing, Wes and I met Laura in the lobby and went on one of my patented long walks up the East River. It was the nicest day of 2009 in NYC (so far), and our walk was spectacular in every regard. It took us two hours and 10 minutes, and we loved every second of it (or at least I did!).

After a shower, Wes, Laura, Lois and I grabbed a cab and headed to Five Napkin Burger for lunch. None of us had ever been there before. So, what made me pick it for lunch? I subscribe to Fred Wilson’s blog (one of the top VC’s in NYC) and read every one of his posts religiously. He often writes about his wife, who blogs under the moniker The Gotham Gal. For whatever reason, I had never clicked through to her site.

The other day, Fred blogged that The Gothan Gal had updated the design of her site, and he was very pleased with the result. That’s the first time I clicked through. I liked her writing style and started reading a bunch of her posts. Then I came to this one about Five Napkin Burger! I decided to give it a shot. I’m very glad I did, as all four of us really enjoyed our burgers (all different kinds). Mine was an Italian Turkey Burger. Yum!

From there, the four of us walked back to Times Square, and went to see Angels and Demons. Thoroughly enjoyable. Substantially better movie than The DaVinci Code. We walked back to the apartment after that.

While I caught up on some email, Laura and Wes walked the few blocks to Red Mango and picked up frozen yogurt for a light dinner for the four of us. It was my first taste of it, and I liked it a lot. Chris (Laura’s husband), who was at the dentist while we were lunching and enjoying Angels and Demons, joined us for dinner, which he picked up for himself from the brand new Just Salad a block away from the apartment.

After dinner, the five of us grabbed two cabs and went to see the show Altar Boys at New World Stages. New World Stages is a fantastic space/building, a block off Broadway, that houses seven smaller theaters (Altar Boyz can seat 363 people). All of the shows are quirky (or at least have very quirky and provocative titles and posters). Wes picked this one.

Altar Boyz

Altar Boyz

Wes, Lois and I really loved the show. I caught Laura and Chris chuckling a few times, but I suspect (strongly) that they didn’t like it as much as the rest of us did. It’s very borderline whether any audience member will consider the show one of the following:

  1. Irreverent, but still uplifting and respectful of Christianity
  2. Blasphemous
  3. Some mixture of the two

Personally, I choose #1, with no hesitation, though I have no trouble accepting and understanding that many people could legitimately believe #2 is more accurate. Without a doubt, it’s blasphemous in it’s caricature of Boy Bands. But, in getting you to laugh at that, I believe it still very effectively gets across a message of the best of Christianity’s teachings. It turns out that Laura and her family made the show a birthday present for Lois, and Lois loved and appreciated every second of it!

Thanks M&M’s. πŸ˜‰

We walked home from the show. When we reached the apartment building, I made the scandalous suggestion that Wes and I go across the street to my favorite Mexican restaurant, El Rio Grande, for a nightcap. Laura and Chris decided to join us as well. Technically, the outside was closed already, but we’re regulars there, and they were kind enough to sneak us in. The inside was still officially open, but it was the most beautiful night, so we were glad to sit outside.

Three of us enjoyed frozen margaritas, and the fourth wisely picked a Banana Pinata for dessert, that the rest of us got to taste (and swoon over!). We then sat on our deck for another 40 minutes, soaking in the remainder of a perfect day.

This morning, we dropped Wes off at Newark Airport and headed down for our usual road trip down I95. Memories of a perfect weekend (uh, I mean, excellent adventure) still linger!

Wes, thanks so much for making the trek up from NC to spend such quality time with us! πŸ™‚

Roundabout Discovery of Scorpions

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Technically, this entire post should really be a comment on someone else’s blog (you’ll find out which blog and post in a minute). Given how wordy I always am (this will be no exception), I couldn’t bring myself to even find out if I would be allowed to post such a big comment…

For sure, it wouldn’t be fair to his readers, who want to interact with him, to be taken in an entirely different direction by me.

Buried in this post about watching video podcasts on my iPod Nano was a mention of my dinner at Grand Central Station. Dinner that night was with Jamie Thingelstad (there, I’ve outed you Jamie). Jamie was the CTO of the first company I ever invested in (BigCharts), sold to Marketwatch, which was sold to Dow Jones, which was last week sold to News Corp.

Jamie still works there (though he left for a bit in between). Jamie brought along Jim Bernard who is the general manager for Marketwatch (now under News Corp’s control). Jim joined BigCharts more than a year after I invested, and I had not met him before that dinner, because we sold it to Marketwatch 14 months after my investment.

At dinner, we discussed a very wide range of topics. Among them was blogging (all three of us blog at least semi-regularly). While I’m a VC by profession (coming up on my 10 year anniversary of my first investment in two months!), I only blog about personal stuff.

Jamie mentioned that I should check out Fred Wilson’s blog (at the moment, the site loads very slowly on my very fast Verizon FiOS link, so have some patience, it’s definitely worth it!). This morning, as a follow-up, Jamie sent me an email with the link to Fred’s blog (obviously, he wanted to make sure that I read it) πŸ˜‰ and to Jim’s as well (linked above).

Trusting Jamie on nearly all matters (the one notable exception is his failed attempt to convert me to a Mac user) πŸ˜‰ I happily clicked over to Fred’s blog to take a peek. I have known of Fred for a very long time (from his Flatiron Ventures days), being a fellow New York based VC, but have never run into him directly.

The top post on Fred’s blog today (it might not be by the time you read this) is about giving in order to receive. It’s a wonderful thought, and there are some thoughtful comments on it as well, that are worth reading. That said, while I completely agree with the sentiment, and I practice it in all things every single day, in my personal experience, it doesn’t apply as well to the world of VCs as it appears to have worked for Fred.

For a quick disclaimer, you can read the testimonials on my site (they are ancient, as I haven’t bothered to update them in years), to know that I am not a vulture capitalist, and I truly care about and try to work very closely with my portfolio companies. I put in more personal sweat and blood than most people I know, as does my wife and partner, Lois.

My experience is that many (perhaps even the majority) of entrepreneurs aren’t all that interested in advice. That’s too harsh. They are interested in hearing it, so that they can have the appearance of a rounded view, but they became entrepreneurs because they knew best, and by golly, until they fail, they are going to do it their way. This doesn’t make them bad people, just stubborn, and sometimes, assuming ill-motives to advice givers, even when obviously undeserved.

Even that’s not the real reason for this long comment on Fred’s post. πŸ˜‰

As you can tell from my tag cloud, the two things I post about most often are Poker (I don’t write anything interesting, so if you’re a poker fan, don’t bother looking for advice, I just summarize my personal results to keep myself honest) and Music. Music (in particular live shows) have become a passion (bordering on obsession) for Lois and me over the past few years.

So, while reading through the giving to receive post and the associated comments, I see that John Maloney posted a link to the following YouTube video of the Scorpions. Given my penchant for Music, I clicked on it before reading the remaining comments (which I came back to later). I immediately liked what I saw/heard. I then watched another dozen videos by them and liked every one of them.

Then the big surprise. I see a video called Rock Me Like A Hurricane (performed by the Scorpions). I am plenty old enough to know that song really well. Obviously, not well enough to know it was by the Scorpions. πŸ™ In fact, I would have (foolishly) guessed that it was someone like Van Halen.

So I am now officially a Scorpions fan, and definitely want to see them live. I just checked their site for tour dates, and they just finished up a swing in India. Missed them by that much

I am also now officially a fan of Fred Wilson’s blog (the rest of the posts are interesting as well!), and I have now subscribed to it as well.

Thanks to Jamie for (unwittingly) introducing me to the Scorpions (and, oh yes, to Fred’s blog as well). πŸ˜‰

Of course, this brings Fred’s original post topic into clear view. I gave money to Jamie’s company, BigCharts, and through Jamie, I received the link to Fred’s blog, which led to the discovery of the Scorpions. Cool! πŸ™‚