So I'm a terrible blogger... but, if I'm going to keep this up, I need to just keep writing. There's a part of you, when you fall behind, that thinks, "Well, I'm already behind, so I'll just put if off more." I don't want to be that guy.
So last weekend, I had a fantastic time at the Downtown Boathouse. www.downtownboathouse.org
I went down both Saturday and Sunday mornings. They have free kayaking on the Hudson by Pier 26 (Canal Street)... its so cool and the people who volunteer are so nice. I think the best part of it is that the kayakers are so excited over the novelty of the whole thing. They come out and they've had such a good time. They're thanking you for volunteering and helping to make their experience possible. Its great to be around people when they're in such a good mood... kinda rubs off on you. I think I'd like to make it a point of going every Saturday and Sunday in the mornings. Anyway... I'll be at DTUT tonight and blog more later...
Ok, so I'll break from the California catchup to report on the present moment. Its another bizzare night of people watching at DTUT. First off, on my way here, I watched a couple part ways after a date at the doorstep of the women's apartment building. I overheard her say, "Do you want to come up or are you tired?" Please woman... he either wants to come up or he's a unic. Funny enough, he didn't actually go up. I wanted to turn around and smack that guy on the back of the head and say, "Dude... what are you doing???" He was kind of a dorky guy, too... not likely to get this opportunity in the near term from what I can tell. Ah well. Now I'm at the cafe... with my back to the woman singing and playing guitar. She sounds ok, but she has the most ridiculously bland lyrics I've ever heard. She was singing some nonsense about being in Paris before... total dribble. There are three foreigners at the table, and a couple. I'm at the head. The foreigners--I can't tell if they're all together. The girl across from me is a fox... she's talking to a guy... they have accents, but I can't tell what kind, b/c of this guitarist drolling on about an apron. The girl with them, who chimes in every now and then is typing away on a laptop. She's quite unattractive... in fact, its like a spectrum of physical appearence. The guy, in the middle, is pretty non-descript. I keep trying to catch the girl across from me with some eye contact, but she's really enthralled in this accented conversation with the other two. Ah well.
I had a great meeting the other day with a Regis alumni. I ran the alumni database again for publishing people, and I came up with a guy who was a CFO for a publishing company. He rang me after I e-mailed him and was willing to stop in the GM office to chat. Turns out that it was his last day at this firm--he was going to be working out on Long Island in a different industry. Fantastic timing. Anyway, he gave me some great advice about getting my name out and associating it with my topic before I push harder on the actual book itself. He said my problem was that I was trying to write a good book, which isn't the way to get one published. So anyway, I went to a great website that he suggested would help me find some ways to get my thoughts on the subject into the media: www.mediabistro.com. Its got lots of really helpful articles about how to freelance for different magazines. They're also doing an event that would give me a chance to pitch to some literary agents that I signed up for. Also, from that, I found a site for the Young Professionals of New York City. Its like a professional society for young people in their 20's... interesting stuff. I signed up... they do lots of social and career events in the city and seem to have a good member base. I'll keep you posted on how that goes. Anyway... I need to go scouring the internet for writing opportunities related to career development. More on California and my new baseball team later...
OK.. So this is waaaaaaay overdue and its not even done, but I've been so busy the last two weeks. I'll write more this week, and catch everyone up on baseball, GM softball's first game, and the rest of my life... for now, here's the first half of the California trip... I'm such a bad blogger.
So I’m writing this blog on a plane coming back to New York from San Francisco. I definitely need to recap what has been an exciting and productive trip to the West Coast. In fact, I was so busy, this is the first opportunity I’ve had to write about it and I had been there since Sunday.
I left Sunday afternoon after doing the MS Walk and going out to lunch for Deirg’s birthday. Probably the most amusing part of this story has to do with the rental car that I got while out there. First off, let me give you a little background surrounding the car. Charles (my boss) and I had meetings to go to on Tuesday and Wednesday, so we planned on sharing the car while out there because we would be travelling together. I went a day early to hang out with some friends from high school, so it was up to me to get the car. Upon realizing last week that I would be out there first, and that he would have to travel in whatever I was going to rent, Charles says to me, “Oh… wait. You’re probably going to rent some kind of guido car aren’t you?” Admittedly, I did rent a Mustang convertible (in spite of the GM only policy) when I went to ILPA last year. “Oh no, we’re not having any of that. Get a Caddy.” So Maddy makes the reservation and I’m all signed up to get a DeVille, which has its own Pimp My Ride quality to it, so I didn’t entirely mind. (especially when you drive around blasting some of the XM techno stations.)
So I get to the rental place at 7:45 (10:45 NY time) and I’m pretty tired. They tell me to go to spot K-9 to get a white DeVille. I go to the spot, throw my stuff in the car and drive out, but not before stopping at the get so the guy can check my car and my contract. So I’m driving along and the whole time I’m thinking, “Wow, this is pretty chintzy interior for a Caddilac. I can’t believe anyone pays fifty grand for this thing.” So I get to the hotel and the valet parks it in the garage downstairs. PS… I really hate the whole valet concept, as well as the coat check concept. Maybe my tastes and service expectations having grown up in Brooklyn are too low brow, but the idea that I have to give someone two bucks for something that I can very easily do myself is ridiculous. Its like a little tax for having a car or a coat. Plus, with the car and the hotel, I’m someone who finds themselves coming in and out several times in a day, making the valet proposition pretty expensive. Anyway… upon getting a second wind, I called up Pastore, who I went to Regis with and is now at Stanford Law, to see if he wanted to hang out. He invited me over to the campus and so I went downstairs to get the car. The valet pulls up in a big white Buick. Amused at how he could easily confuse the two cars, I pretty smugly laugh and say, “Umm.. wrong car. I have a Caddy.” The valet looks at me like I have three heads and says, “Sir… this is definitely the car you drove up in.” So I look and there’s the little Avis keychain and the newspaper that was on the front seat. It was definitely the car I drove in. I couldn’t believe it.
What makes this so unbelievable is the sequence of events that made this possible. One, is the fact that it was on my mind that I was getting a Caddy, and so how I ever walked up to that spot and didn’t notice that there was a Buick Park Avenue sitting in the spot is beyond me. And its not like I don’t know cars. I just went to the car show last week, and I’m a GM employee for crying out loud. Ok, so maybe I can chalk that up to jet lag. The real surprise is how I even got out of the parking lot with the car. I definitely had a contract for a Caddy, and my contract definitely didn’t match the car I was driving. So what exactly did that guy in the little booth check? I mean… he looked at the contract, and looked at the car, but that’s all he did was look. There was definitely no reading and certainly no cognition on his part. (Nice.. we’re landing in a half hour. Jeff Barman is also on the plane with me, btw… he’s out like a light.) Then, on top of that, not once when I was ripping on the crappy interior did it occur to me that I wasn’t actually in a Caddy. Amazing and extrordinarily embarrassing. I must have looked like a complete idiot to that valet.
So, Monday morning, I head back to the airport to switch the cars. Problem solved. Interior: Much nicer. J After calling in to my group’s Monday morning meeting, I went for a run on the Stanford campus. I don’t think I’ve seen so many people biking around in one place. It was kind of nice—definitely very different than I’m used to. Lately, I’ve had the growing sense that I should be going somewhere that is different—that I should mix it up a little bit from what I’m used to, which is why I’m leaning towards Stanford over a Northwestern or Harvard. Granted I haven’t even taken the GMATs yet, but, well, failure is not an option.
For lunch, I went out with Valarie Cooper and Alissa Douglas from CM Capital. I met Valarie at ILPA in Toronto. She’s one of the many great people I’ve met through ILPA. I don’t know if its buy side people, private equity people, or maybe just my own discerning aura, but I seem to meet a lot of really nice people in this industry. Even some, albeit some, of the investment bankers I’ve met have been somewhat reasonable human beings. She’s been icredibly helpful, and she introduced me to Alissa, who is an analyst at CM that just graduated from Stanford. We talked on the phone previously and she told me all about her decision process and the application. Both were highly amused by the Buick Story.
That night, I went to the Giants-Padres game at SBC park with Pastore and Christ Cutul. It was a bit drizzly, but otherwise, it was great. We got tix six rows up from the field down the left field like—about 90 feet from Barry Bonds. Barry also lauched a homer off David Wells to top it off. Its so funny how, when you’re watching two teams you don’t really care about, your main interest becomes padding your fantasy baseball stats. I was happy that Bonds hit another home run, but not so happy that it came off of Boomer. At the end of the game, it was 4-1 going into the 9th and Matt Herges get totally screwed out of a save. He gets two outs and puts a guy on. All of the sudden, there’s activity in the bullpen. What?? This guy is your closer, why is anyone warming? Where’s the confidence? Marquis Grissom boots a shallow fly ball that would have ended the inning. Two more hits and Herges is gone, all with two outs. How's he supposed to gain any confidence if he looks out onto the OF grass (which is where bullpen is) and sees two guys up throwing. Once you put your closer in, you leave him in. He should be the last man out of the bullpen. Case closed. I was pissed.
Anyway, Tuesday was extremely hectic. We had five meetings set up, and I ran Charles ragged. He said he didn’t get much sleep the night before, and Tuesday nearly killed him. First, we went to breakfast at Il Forniao, which I suppose is the center of all activity in Palo Alto. It was at that point that I realized that I was grossly overdressed. I don’t think anyone has a tie within a 50 mile radius of that place. Oh well. Our first meeting was at Mayfield Partners, a top tier firm that we would definitely like to work with in some capacity, whether we are doing deals with them or as an LP in their fund. One of our other GPs made an introduction for us, so we were lucky to meet one of the main guys there, Kevin Fong as well as their CFO. These are the guys that backed 3Com, Citrix, Amgen, etc. It looks like they have a good core there, as two of the main guys are still there, and a partner at Focus said that there’s a third that is a great up and comer. I thought the meeting went well. Charles did most of the speaking, obviously. In fact, I was pretty lucky to be at the meeting at all, as private equity analysts go. At 24, GM gets me into a lot of things that not a lot of other analysts my age get exposed to. Kevin was a lot more like I conceptualized VCs to be than most of the people I’ve met. He had trendy spiked up hair and an electronic notepad on the back of his laptop. You could just tell he was all about the technology. I think if you’re investing in this stuff, you have to be playing with it on your own time as well, which is why I think Steve Jobs has such a great handle on what consumers will go for at this point in time.
Mayfield had a couple of deals that they suggested we take a look at, because of our connection to GM. In fact, we’ve seen a lot of deals over the past few years from people wanting inroads into the corporation. Because of that, we’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to make those connections, not just for companies we invest in, but for ourselves, so we can get a window on how a huge enterprise spends its technology dollar.
After Mayfield, we went to visit DotEdu, a seed stage fund recommended to us by David Hornick from August. That was a very different experience—no marble floors at this place. This was a bare bones office with dry erase boards full of ideas. Now I felt even more out of place in a suit. Their story was an interesting one and Charles finally got his Google question answered. The partners of this fund had great inroads into west coast university technologies, and one of the parters even taught the Google guys when they were grad students. Charles wanted to know who really drove the success of that company and how much of factor the two VC’s, Kleiner and Sequioa, were, and how they got into the company. I don’t want to give the answer here, but let’s just say this team’s insights made us think that we really discovered an opportunity going forward. One notable quote from the meeting came from Naval Ravikant, who used to work with David at August. He said that it has become so much less expensive to fund a great technology partner—between acquiring talent, outsourcing programming, manufacturing, etc—that he said that most funds are too large based on what companies really need in terms of financing.
For lunch, I finally got to meet up with David Hornick. David and I had exchanged a few comments on the blog that he writes along with a few other VCs: www.ventureblog.com, and he was nice enough to agree to come out to lunch with me and Charles. Should you ever meet him, you need to get him to recite scenes from The Princess Bride. I don’t know how that’s useful in the VC world, but who cares. Anyway, he’s a very down to earth guy and should prove to be a reasonable voice in this bizzare little world VCs have put together. I hope he succeeds in finding his blowout deal.
To be continued…
The Jesuit Outcasts are now in sole possession of first place in the Bubba Strike's Back Fantasy Baseball League. All is now right with the world.
So it looks like, in the real world, I'll be joining a baseball team afterall. The Bisons disbanded, because the coach was a flake and just dropped the ball with the whole team. So I e-mailed the commish and the following exchange occurred:
Its Charlie O'Donnell... I came down to your batting practice and you recommended me for Nelson's team. That turned out to be a disappointment. After two practices, he seemed to give up and he's not going to have a team. Its a shame too, because it seemed like he had a few pitchers and infielders who could play... maybe a few guys to build a team around. I called him up and his answer was, "Guys aren't calling me back." That didn't make any sense, because it seemed like the crew he had at the practices was pretty enthusiastic... I think he just decided he didn't want to coach. So now, I'm back to square one. Are there any other teams in this league still looking for players? After the two practices, I got pretty excited about playing again, so you can imagine how frustrating this is now. Let me know if you have any more leads?
Then I get this e-mail:
Charlie my name is Joseph Fastaia and I am the manager for the Brooklyn Dodgers that plays in the UBBL league. Gerard forwarded your email to me and I was interested in what you said. I have a team of 13 players right now. I am looking for 4 more guys. I have 1 trying out tonight infact. I can tell you right now, you want to play ball, that's all I need to hear for people to be on my team. I do not care if they are not the greatest, if they love to play, that's good enough for me. I am so cocky that I believe I will bring the best I can out of that person and give them new heights for the game. If you are interested you can email me back and we can set up a date for me to look at you as well as tell you more about my team.
Here's my info:
I turning 25 in July work in midtown and live in the city, but my job is very flexible and I have car, so I can almost guarantee that I can make most, if not all, the games. Actually, I can drive into Brooklyn tomorrow morning if that works for you, but I have to be somewhere at 12. Then, I'm in San Fran from Sunday until Wednesday and I'm free after that.
Baseballwise, I catch and play outfield. I have a good arm, but with some accuracy issues, which is the only reason I don't pitch. At the plate, I'm basically a contact #2 type hitter... not too much pop, just line drives and walks, but we'll see how that plays out in practice. I'm definately not a flashy player, but I'm good over the long run. The one thing I can guarantee is that I can outhustle any guy you have on your team. Call my cell if you'd like to meet up tomorrow morning somewhere. If not, I'll have to meet you later next week or next weekend.
You gotta love that... Throwing down the gauntlet: " I can guarantee is that I can outhustle any guy you have on your team."
I love your spunk. I have not met you but I can tell you I would like you to be on my team. There is one problem about tomorrow I have to work, but I am having a practice next Friday the 23rd at 5pm at Marine Park. Your age is right around ours. We are a bunch a guys that want to play just like you, that's why I feel your a prefect fit for this team. Position wise, I need a catcher but outfield is already filled up because everyone on my team can play everywhere. So more then likely your going to catch, but play other positions because its going to be hard to have everyone down at once. The price is 360. Jersey is included, plus umpire fees and registration. Baseball pants and hats your on your own because I feel you gotta feel right in them and instead of buying a whole bunch of cheap ones that everyone does not feel good in. Once you pay, you pay and that's it. I look forward from hearing from you and like I said before 4 more guys I want and I see you as one of them and you will love this team because we have fun and we will win.
You hear that, folks... I got spunk. Spunk me, baby. So now, I'm a Dodger.
I think one of the most useful skills I've developed over my lifetime is the ability to wake up early--like ridiculously early. This morning, I walked out of my house at 6AM to come to work, and now, at 7:10, I've been pounding away, running reports, spreadsheets, etc. for our veture review. I'm the ultimate last minute guy, and I can't tell you how many times in college that I would wake up at 6 to finish papers for 9:30 classes. I'd much rather do that than stay up late. When I stay up late, with each passing minute, I get slower and slower. Often times in school, I would quit at midnight and then just wake up six hours later to do something, fully refreshed and that much more efficient.
That's why I think this whole Stanford thing will work out with GM. (Should I actually get in for next year.) I really think I can work from 6-9 on GM stuff each day, coordinating with NY time, and get a lot done, and not interrupt my grad work. Maybe I'm smoking dope, but I just can't conceive of a situation where I can't put in 15-20 hours a week doing something else. In fact, I think I'll need to, because I need distraction. I had a great conversation with an analyst from CM Capital the other day about Stanford and grad school in general. She said first term was really time consuming, but that's about the only point where she didn't have a lot of extra time to do other things, and a lot of that was because of classes she should have worked to pass out of like statistics. We'll see, I suppose.