My team is away for Thanksgiving holiday so Kera & I are handling the desk today and tomorrow. Well, my buddy Alek called in a favor to shoot a video for Neil Patrick Harris. I used a 5d with smallHD monitor to shoot a vintage theater scene (no audio) with Neil & his kids Harper & Gideon. This is an internal video so it will not be released but it was fun to get some BTS b-roll and timelapse of our 3 hours together.
Pivotal Labs hosted another great Meetup while I was in town for PodShare, this time it was a fireside chat with David Hornik (partner at August Capital) and Eric Zimits (partner at Granite Ventures). Ironically, and I was telling Ryan this at the onset of the night, that same day I had a meeting with Bob Dana of TripShare – who was the speaker I met at Pivotal the last month I was in town.
Okay okay, now on to the BEST OF from the chat:
David said that venture capital is an industry of innovation that will never die. It is engaging and ever changing. We are buying tech futures. You can buy wheat or corn but if you invest in the best tech, you are buying the future. There is always some new piece in tech that will surprise and excite you.
Eric sees cycles come and go. Silicon valley has a handful of people that stir things up, then it’s a race to who gets more; as a result rents increase/traffic thickens and then…#$#@! the rug is pulled out right under them and we go back to having a handful of people in the industry again. It’s a cycle. Everyone always thinks “it’ll be different this time” but that’s not the case.
Best Quote of the Night:
— StartupKid (@ElvinaBeck) November 22, 2013
How do you figure who will be great a entrepreneur?
David: You spend time with the person to understand how they perceive risks, if they admit that they don’t know all the answers etc. – VCs look for data that will excite them and want to spend the next decade with that founder.
Eric: It starts with an idea – let’s talk. People who are willing to learn and adapt and take insight do well.
David: You have to get in front of a VC that is ready to invest. They aren’t always investing! Sometimes VCs are fighting fires. Get yourself out there & network. Bootstrap and demonstrate a real success in the market. The goal should be to meet people who can help build the business and get them excited.
Over 13 years, I never funded an unsolicited business plan. You are better off sending an email through someone who already knows me. That intro creates a connection.
THINGS THAT SUGGEST NAIVETY:
David: Don’t out a slide in your deck with an exit option! There are only so many ways to exit and we already know all of them.
Don’t put a valuation on your company! Valuation will be decided by the marketplace, not you.
Eric: Hall of Shame pitches include prickly people who don’t respond well to questions. It is VC’s jobs to ask questions but some co-founders are defensive and that is off-putting. You have to be open to debate, honest & transparent, because we are all getting the boat. Be self aware and listen.
WHAT CAN BE EXPECTED FROM VCs:
David: You don’t want your VC to run your business, you want someone thoughtful, helpful and invested in what YOU are doing. VCs should let you run your business and we provide the introductions.
Eric: VCs know that if investors own too much of your company that you won’t be motivated.
THEN & NOW:
David:The number of firms that can raise money is smaller but ton of money is trying to invest into ventures! So there are fewer firms but larger funds. Today, the venture industry is a personal industry & we want to be involved with a small number of investments like $300m with 6 investors versus $1b fund where the VC hires people to help the startup grow their business. That is increasingly en vogue. Those are unconventional scenarios in today’s market, and we’ll see what happens but that is what’s happening now.
Eric: VCs are willing to test and adopt. Take internet privacy. Everyone is being mined and tracked but if there was an equal alternative option that did not invade privacy, would you switch? We can’t stay that Google is huge and it will stay on top forever because look at IBM and Microsoft – they were just as big once and fell from that title.
Check out David’s AWESOME Venture Blog
Today was an adventure! I took the 10:40am ferry from SF to Sausalito and was picked up by a tall charismatic guy named Barney.
A real estate developer that dropped out of high school to start supporting his family with wages from the local grocery store and gym, Barney Aldridge has lived in Napa Valley his entire life and started buying real estate 30 years ago after working in the mortgage business. He smiles warmly and number crunches aggressively. His demeanor is welcoming and he is an idea-driven adventure seeker.
The Barlow was a land development project turned town, that I call him the mayor of. He demolished most of the buildings on this 220,000-square-foot property, built streets, and got tenants like Yerba Mate, a brewery and 3 wine makers to home base here. Remember Sub Zero from Shark Tank? They serve ice cream at The Barlow.
There is a Whole Foods-esque grocery store and Sebastopol’s actual downtown sits at the foot of his property. Barney opened this past June, but there is already bustle on street. Barney’s big project is to get a boutique hotel on his property. And PodShare
Barney got approval from the city on one of the buildings, but after walking around campus with my video camera, I fell for Barlow’s centerpiece property below. The sun hit it just right and you can’t miss this building on the main street as you drive or walk by. There are two floor to ceiling garage doors, inviting to both people and airflow to come through the space.
PodShare -being the intersection of social travel, design & technology – wants the sunshine, foot traffic and attention. Though I thought PodShare #2 would open in a big city, with the Barlow, we could offer affordable radically inclusive housing to a cost prohibitive market. All of the Napa wine country hotels are very expensive! If PodShare offered pods + desks, then San Francisconites could take the direct flight over and get a few days away from the bustle of the city. I encouraged Barney to consider providing Barlow-wide free WIFI because across from this perspective PodShare is a beautiful patch of grass that people, laptops and sunshine could unwind in.
We shall see what happens, and the best part is that we can develop SF PodShare simultaneously…and Barney would bring so much experience to the table!
Dan Hill sold his London based competitor Crashpadder to Airbnb and came along for the ride! Tonight, at the new headquarters – which, by the way is an “airy” (get it?) 4 level glass structure with a convertible roof – he gave a talk on Predictive Price Technology.
I am not an engineer but I have been through a lot of airbnb iterations since my first listing in 2009. I was amazed at the automation capability around price suggestion for hosts. For me, back in the day, I tested each price point manually:
Wilshire Corridor penthouse:
I really wanted to stick it to the high brow geezers at my building’s HOA so I rented the second bedroom in my condo for $65/night until they caught on and said that I was a “security threat.” I attended their board meeting and said that until I can screen the guests of every condo owner in the building, they have no right to parent my liberties. Well of course that didn’t end up well.
Lacy Street, Downtown LA
Finally I was away from old people and amongst fellow creatives. I had a loft that I paid $2200 for and an understanding building owner, the late great Jerry Schneiderman.
I rented an air bed for $30, a bed in a private room for $50 or the entire 2 bedroom loft for $200 in Downtown LA (I would sleep at a friend’s).
“Wow! This is a legitimate income generator and instead of traveling, travel comes to me!”
Jerry owned a centrally located live/work building in Hollywood that I could rent solely for overnight rentals. I got a lease for $1500 for 600 sq ft. apartment, furnished it from the “best of” craigslist (including a king size murphy bed that I build with Juan) and posted it for $100/night to get a bunch of reviews and then settled on $130/night. That was my sweet price spot to get atleast 20 out of 30 nights booked. I liked that. I created a website and facebook page with the slogan “WHY PAY DOUBLE AT THE W?” which was across the street. My occupancy was so high that I got another apartment, and then another and then another. By the way, my price was right, I had a ton of reviews but really, the market was not as competitive on airbnb in 2011 yet. Today, there are a LOT of options.
So I went from housekeeping/concierge to managing a team! But I wasn’t happy. After doing this for years I thought that running airbnb like a hotel taught me a lot about the industry and traveler psychology but I lost the co-living/social traveler experience. I was prepped to manage a hotel, I wasn’t disrupting. Then one hot shower connected the dots. PodShare. Why are people, especially solo travelers, visiting new cities in 4 walled rooms? They go to bars to meet people or use social apps to connect. Doesn’t it make sense to co-exist with like-minded travelers? It became my job to curate this experience for travelers, for Podestrians.
I called Jerry and 2 weeks later inked a 3-year lease on a 1200 sq ft 14ft storefront on Cosmo Street. My big hearted father helped me build the pods with a team. February 2012, I had my business license and doors were open for $35/night + tax! Affordable, centrally located and socially conducive – this is a new brand of co-shares. A social network with a physical address. Year 2 the price went up to $45/night + tax because the demand was high. My team is trained to create a profile or story on each guest, we send out handwritten thank-you cards, and our favorite quotes that the Podestrians leave behind are made into T-shirts!
This has been an amazing 2 years with over 2,000 Podestrians and I hope for another 20 years with 20,000 more.
So it’s in the pricing people. Think radical inclusion and real human experiences. Your place may be worth a lot to you, but I subscribe to 2 mottos in housing: “Something is better than nothing” and “never say no” (unless they aren’t safe/sane).
I shot the Women 2.0 conference at the Bellagio in Las Vegas
Here is what I took away from Tina Sharkey:
- Lean Startup: just put it out there and iterate based on user feedback
- Phil’s coffee doesn’t sell coffee but a cup of love. LA people wait for bus, New Yorkers walk into the street catching the bus. A brand doesn’t express itself like a friend’s recommendation.
- What’s your story? In 6 words, unlock your story.
- Art of the Narrative: @ Baby Center, the most talked about feature is how baby’s size is compared to size of fruits like “we’re 2 tangerines.” Capture narrative to give people currency. You are selling a commodity item but how? Instead of 404 Google says, “oops” or “Sorry Mate” like a voice or narrative of someone who cares.
- Yelp, Apple Store, Amazon, Trip Advisor etc. = the crowd that was there before us helps us make decisions.
- Social Factor: you really like me group hugs! Posting a photo isn’t a big deal, it’s when people like it. Retweets feel good. “Others are giving me a huge and appreciate.” Instagram gets 9,000 likes a second. Flickr posts photos but doesn’t engage in the same way. Publishers need audiences and they give you validation.
- Surprise & Delight Factor: everyone wants to feel VIP. Zappos tweets that you’re a VIP now and ships shoes overnight if they can get it on a plane faster than advertised. Pandora sends recommendations, like having your own DJ that wants you to feel happy. Google’s “I’m feeling lucky/trendy” to recommend by vertical.
BEST QUOTE OF THE DAY:
— StartupKid (@ElvinaBeck) November 15, 2013
- Focus on reception not conception. How will the product be received?
- Unlock emotional not just functional (Lulu has a hidden message inside the sweater)
- Design for validation
- Design for usefulness & smiles.
- Lawrence Adams, Vice President, Forest Perkins, and co-author ofHotel Design, Planning and Development
- Ted Brumleve, Director, Technical Services, Dolce Hotels & Resorts
Christopher Ostapovicz, Vice President, Asset Management, Host Hotels & Resorts
Pamela S. Parsons, Senior Vice President, Forest Perkins
Larry Traxler, Senior Vice President, Global Design Services, Hilton Hotels Corp.
Eco-tourism 4 C’s
The coolest overnight stay option in Africa is the Mobile setup, where a guest is shifting locations. A mobile crew sets up camp in advance, driving 8 hours ahead of the guest. The guest lands in the evening & camps. This is a true experience African wilderness experience.
Commerce, Conservation (Tourism is feeding the people who are empowered to protect the animals from poachers. Don’t cut down trees, build it into design), Community (business drives encouragement of education, schools & construction of libraries. The community builds & create a hospitality school to train the next generation.), Culture (embracing local culture & exposing children to wildlife in order to teach them to protect them). The people in this community make $200/yr but in order to monitor a rhino it costs $750/day.
Urban Resort themes by Hilton
Room as a spa. Use of local materials creating metaphorical connection to the idea of the place you are visiting. Floating seating on pool for restaurant.
What’s your market? See pic
Home Stay /Extended Stay Projects that are multi-branding:
LA Live – courtyard @ residence Inn is being built there. PROs: Looking at different customer segments. 30% reduction in costs. Don’t need 2 housekeeping depts. = operating efficiencies such as sharing 1 pool, 1 facility to maintain, 1 gym, same sales team. That’s a significant savings. CONs: brand confusion – so there needs to be a different check in, entrance, and circulation. If one hotel serves a free breakfast, they don’t want other hotel guests eating it. There is cross circulation if back house cross guest circulates.
Let’s see if they make it work:
An interesting example of none related brands in 1 space: Starwood (extended stay) meets Fairfield inn (economy stay) in a dual branded property. There is also an example of multi brands in the same building such as a regular sized guest room as 1 brand & the suites being a totally different brand.
PODSHARE connection!! Imagine if the Hilton hotel wanted to have the ground level as pods with suites above, since hotel guests prefer upper floors but Podestrians enjoy the common Joe/Jane ground level access.
Today is Avril’s album release! We had a long day of setting up & shooting the press junket on the 48th floor of this beautttiffuuuulll hotel. We rented a 4bank & 2 Diva 400′s from Adorama to light Avril. The interviewer was off camera except for FUSE who brought in their house and 2 cameras
After the last journalist (I lost count) it was time to get silly for Av TV before bedtime (Good Morning America tomorrow)
I am proud to have worked on such a beautiful song/collaboration for Christina & the Brooklyn based musicians A Great Big World. This is one of those “anything can happen” stories where an artist puts their heart into something and just let’s it out into the universe. He is very fortunate to have Christina’s support, but the simplicity of the melody and the honest lyrics is what got him there.
Christina sung it on The Voice with such heart:
After much statistical preparation, I have completed my pitch video for PodShare #2!
“Social Travel.” It’s a buzz word, sure, but it’s also at the core of an exciting trend in the way people are interacting with one another across the country and around the globe. Companies like AirBnB (more than 10 million bookings since its launch in 2008), Lyft (more than 100,000 active users this year alone) and WeWork (16 co-working spaces in major cities across the country) have begun to clearly define niches in the peer-to-peer, social marketplace. But no company has brought the social travel concept to the overnight hospitality market. No company, that is, other than PodShare.
PodShare Hollywood, our first location, opened in February 2012 and has maintained profitable operations and an annual occupancy rate of 92% (the national average is 60%). This custom built, centrally located and affordable concept is staking a claim in the share economy.
Let’s take our pods on the road like Lyft, into people’s hearts like AirBnB and onto desks like WeWork.
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