Archive for January, 2013
I write this blog post today, January 31, 2013, with sadness.
Jody Sherman, a rambunctious, ambitious and complex entrepreneur, husband, investor and mentor, died Monday, January 27, 2013. I learned about Sherman’s passing on Tuesday, the day after, and I had trouble sleeping that night.
Jody Sherman’s death moved me.
I learned about Sherman’s death from my friends on Facebook.
Much has been written about Jody Sherman this week, and I understand why.
Jody Sherman was simply a character — a very memorable and lovable character.
My association with Sherman was brief yet meaningful and intense.
In late 1998 or early 1999, I was gearing up to raise money for Document Automation Systems, LLC, my startup at the time. I later renamed it Hotpaper.com, Inc.
I met Jody Sherman by chance.
Jody Sherman was the seller.
At the time he worked at BuyDirect, an earlier e-commerce pioneer that would later be sold for USD $140M. Sherman’s office was on the waterfront near Pier 39 in San Francisco, California, USA.
My Internet company was tiny, but I had an impressive customer list — Coca Cola, Intel and the US Marine Corps, among dozens of similarly well known organizations. My company’s revenue was tiny, but I had big plans for growth.
I was sitting in Sherman’s office getting ready to hand him the cash for the stylish stereo deck, shown above.
In his office, Sherman appeared to be working at an energetic pace, doing deals for his employer, where he was vice president of business development.
Sherman asked me what I did, and that query prompted me to give my well oiled elevator pitch. At the time, I had no idea who Sherman was — I had not typed his name into Alta Vista, the dominate search engine of the day.
While I was still pitching, Sherman tapped his keyboard and visited my company’s website and drafted a document from a template. Hotpaper was the first LegalZoom or RocketLawyer. Hotpaper created legal documents by asking users questions to then build a custom document on the server, in Microsoft Word format.
Talk about my company quickly dominated the rest of my few minutes with Sherman that day, yet I did pay for and collect the Bang and Olufsen deck for Lin.
Later, Sherman offered to help me raise financing to expand my company. He suggested I raise USD $500,000, which he said he would help me raise by getting ten of his friends to put in $50,000 each.
Sherman drove a BMW Z3 at the time, and I vividly remember him picking me up at my office at The Russ Building in San Francisco so I could introduce him to my lawyer Eric Jensen, in Palo Alto. I had never been in a Z3 and I was impressed — Sherman had a flair about him to be sure.
I concluded that Sherman was likely correct when he confidently said he could round up ten of his friends to allow my company to close a $500K angel round.
I never closed that round, because Sherman asked for a finder’s fee that I found objectionable — he asked for ‘non diluting’ stock among other things. I was shocked when he fell silent for several long seconds, got up and walked out of my office without a word when I asked him about the non diluting stock he was asking for. Sherman was the first and only person to walk out of a meeting with me. It rattled me.
Even though no transaction happened, I am still grateful to have met Jody Sherman, for he spurred me to greater accomplishment.
This agitation I felt in retrospect was fantastic for me.
I was mad Sherman had walked out on my deal.
I wanted to show Sherman that I was a talented entrepreneur. I wanted to show my (now late) friend Stan Pasternak, who rented my company an office in his suite, and who saw Sherman walk out on me, that I was a talented entrepreneur.
In June, 1999, my company closed a $2M round from two venture capital firms and some angels. The only fee I paid was to attend a ‘meet an venture capitalist’ event put on in part by my friend Tom Cervantez, which cost me $75. I met Redleaf Venture Management venture capitalist Robert von Goeben there, and he introduced me to Bob Bozeman, the partner at Angel Investors LP that agreed to put in 5% of the round.
Sherman deserved to profit from his advice and expertise. Had he asked for common stock with standard vesting terms, instead of what he asked for, I probably would have brought him on board as an advisor, since he represented the best chance I had at the time to get my company funded.
I still don’t know why Sherman didn’t negotiate with me instead of walking out, and sadly, now, I will never know.
I should point out that Sherman did well by walking out, because the investors I ultimately raised money from lost most of their money they invested in Hotpaper in the aftermath of the Internet bust in 2000, after I sold Hotpaper.
I wrote this post to give Jody Sherman credit for his small but important role in my life.
I knew him perhaps a month, from start to finish, yet Jody Sherman moved me to write this post a dozen years later.
It has been reported that Jody Sherman took his own life. I feel so bad for Sherman and his wife, family, employees and friends.
Life as a startup CEO is extremely challenging. There are unbelievable highs and lows, far more dramatic than what I experienced as an employee, and I’ve had some interesting experiences as an employee, including getting suspended for insubordination and laid off because my job was eliminated.
Sherman raised millions of dollars for his latest Internet company EcoMom. The pressure must have been intense, particularly because it appears lots of the money came from his wealthy and connected friends. I know nothing of the details of the pressures Sherman was under at work or elsewhere.
Depression is an insidious illness, because it can cripple.
One could argue that I suffer from depression, and that’s why I am not running a company or doing anything substantial in life right now, despite my having days of tremendous enthusiasm to change the world. Overall, I am happy and optimistic, but when I consider my age and that I haven’t started a family yet, I am sad. I worry my time for a family has already irrevocably passed.
Don’t worry though, I am not going to kill myself.
I have been close to people that suffer from depression, and in one case, I had to cut ties so as not to risk substantive harm to myself, the situation got so intense. Sherman’s widow Kerri must be feeling crushing pain, and my heart goes out to her, even though I have never met her.
When I learn of a suicide by someone I knew, even if only in passing, like Ilya Zhitomirskiy, I get emotional and have trouble sleeping. I battle with myself over what, if anything, I should do about the people I know that are depressed. Should I tell their parents? Should I tell their close friends? Should I mind my own business? Should I speak to the people themselves, even those I cut contact with? I have cut contact with many people, especially in the last six months, as I continue to recreate myself into a more vibrant contributing citizen, but by doing so, my burden over what to do increases.
Mark Suster, a partner at the venture capital firm GRP Partners knew Jody Sherman well, and two days ago, on January 29, 2013, Suster wrote on his great blog an amazing goodbye to Sherman. Suster colorfully describes Sherman just how I remember him — as shown here from Suster’s goodby post:
“I remember when we met years ago. I think Michael Kantor introduced us. You were pitching me an online business selling other people’s baby food. I told you what a dumb idea it was.
You came back. You had a new plan. You had renegotiated your way out of that agreement. Now you wanted to merge with a broader-based business and sell all products. You got to keep the name of the new company – ecomom. You were so proud of that name and what it stood for. You wanted good in the world.
And in turn the world wanted good for you. But the world made you fight for it. And I did, too.
I told you to go away again, you crazy, wiry, non-stop pitching fool.
What? You back again? Who let you in here? Oh, you want to tell me about how your business is now scaling? You have repeat orders and high gross margins? Go away, I say! It’s mom stuff. We didn’t do so well in that category in the past.
Review your deck? Ok, Jody. You sure do push the envelope. But I kinda like your chutzpah. Sure, bro. Come on in. But … could you button up the shirt a couple more notches when you come to my office? I think you might have scared a few folks last time. Ha, just kidding. No, seriously. Just one more button.
Wow. Your deck looks great. Are those growth numbers real? Impressive. No. No I can’t meet for breakfast. I don’t think we can fund in that category, Jody.
Ok. I’ll have the egg-white burrito. I have to eat something healthy around you or I’ll feel guilty. Is it true that you have 3% body fat? I know, I know. I shouldn’t eat the carbs. But this is Lemon Moon – at least we know it’s healthy.
Fine. Fine. I’ll write you an angel check, then. As long as you promise to stop pitching me! Yes, Jody. I really believe in you. I always did. But when I got home and I told my wife that I had just committed $25,000 that she should just consider it a mitzvah. I didn’t so much want to see a baby products company make money as I wanted to see you succeed. You had some magic dust.
Ok, Jody. We have to have a heart-to-heart. You gotta stop pitching Sand Hill Road VCs. Look at their entrepreneurs – they are 28, computer programmers and they went to Harvard or Stanford. Now go look in a mirror. You have “weird hair.” Yes. weird hair. My cousin calls it JewFro. And you have it. And instead of hiding it you wear it Kramer style just to scare people. I think you like looking at them looking at you. Don’t you? Focus on raising money from outsiders. From people eschewed by the typical system. Raise money from underdogs like you.
You told me that was some of the most honest and best advice you had ever gotten. That most people were too scared to say that to you. And raise money you did. Millions of it.”
Suster simply brought Jody Sherman to life with this above passage, so much so that tears came to my eyes as I write this.
Jody Sherman was a hustler and a good soul. I can only imagine how many thousands of entrepreneurs he helped over his 47 years of exciting life. I pray that he rests in peace, and that his loved ones find comfort in the outpouring of sweet thoughts that have been expressed since his too early death.
Life is so precious and short.
Please do not take your own life, dear readers.
Last week I was doing some research on my first Internet company, Hotpaper.com, Inc. I discovered a report I had never seen before, from PrivCo Media, LLC. According to PrivCo’s report, I sold my company for USD $11,750,000.00, which is more than I knew. The published price was $10M, but I always knew the actual price was technically higher because the acquiring company didn’t cancel the stock options of my employees. I never really found out the exact value of that part of the compensation, since I left the company soon after the deal closed, and I never went hunting for the number.
This evening, January 21, 2013, I had the great pleasure to tour the brand new SFJAZZ Center, at 201 Franklin Street in San Francisco, California USA.
The SFJAZZ Center is an ambitious center to advance jazz music.
I think the corner of Franklin Street and Fell Street is an outstanding location for the Center — it’s in the trendy and safe Hayes Valley neighborhood, and it’s just two blocks from the Van Ness MUNI station and Market Street.
There was a ribbon cutting ceremony in the morning, which I missed.
I went to one of the official tours, in the evening. Attendees got to roam around the facility and admire the building, constructed in 2011 and 2012 to be the new dedicated home for SFJAZZ.
The formal part of the evening featured prepared remarks by Randall Kline, the Executive Artistic Director and Founder of SFJAZZ.
Rebeca Mauleón, the Director of Education, also spoke.
The SFJAZZ High School All-Stars performed in the large music hall, named the Robert N. Miner Auditorium, which features steeply set seats designed to allow the musicians to see the faces of the audience members. This Auditorium also features a glass wall that looks out onto the busy street, which will drum up interest in the performances because passersby will be able to catch a glimpse for free as they walk or drive past. I’ve always thought it is good marketing for martial arts studios and dance studios to have large glass windows at street level. SFJAZZ Center is taking a page out of their public relations book, and I predict good things will happen as a result of doing so.
I was exceptionally impressed with the High School All-Stars. I introduced myself to the members and invited them to read my blog.
I was given a lushly produced magazine/program for SFJAZZ during the tour this evening. SFJAZZ Founder Randall Kline had this to say, on page 7:
Welcome to the first season
After 30 years of presenting music in a variety of rented venues throughout the Bay, it is with great joy we begin our first season in our new home, the SFJAZZ Center. It is the first freestanding building for jazz in the country — designed, from concept to concert hall, to create an enhanced setting for experiencing what the esteemed jazz write Whitney Balliett calls “the sound of surprise.”
The SFJAZZ Center is home for all that we do: concerts, education programs for adults and youth, our award-winning SFJAZZ High School All-Star Ensembles, the world-renowned SFJAZZ Collective, and the new SFJAZZ Monday Night Community Band.
Over our three decades, SFJAZZ has grown to become a vital part of the cultural fabric of San Francisco. And in the broader context of the jazz, we have been recognized as one of the top presenters in the world — helping to place San Francisco, with its rich jazz history, among the vanguard of cities where this American-born art form can be best heard.
Kline continued his remarks — I have not typed all of them here — and concluded with:
Jazz has a home in San Francisco. The first season begins. See you at the Center!
Executive Artistic Director and Founder
The new Center shows a lot of promise. I am intrigued, so I plan to return soon to the Center to see a show.
I took the pictures that accompany this post with my Canon 5D Mark II camera. I uploaded these images at full resolution of 21 megapixels. Click on them to see the full size versions.
Today was a busy day in the United States of America.
- The country celebrated the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. with a federal holiday.
- It was inauguration day for US President Barack Obama, who began his second term yesterday.
- The SFJAZZ Center officially opened its doors.
[Edit on January 23, 2013 — I added two names to the caption of the group photo of the All-Stars, above, once I got the correct spellings.]
I got a ‘free’ flu shot today that I wasn’t expecting to be free, courtesy of my high deductable Anthem Blue Cross health insurance
I have the Smart Sense 5000 health insurance plan from Anthem Blue Cross of California. This plan has a USD $5,000 deductible, which I chose as the most cost effective way for me to get comprehensive health care should I get sick. Since I am so healthy, I benefit from agreeing to such a high deductible.
I was shocked and pleasantly surprised today when I went to Walgreens to purchase a flu shot and learned that I get a free flu shot because I have this Blue Cross policy. I thought having a high deductible meant I didn’t get anything for ‘free.’ I didn’t even ask for a free shot, and only because the clerk thought to type my name into her computer did she learn I qualify for a free shot.
I normally consider Walgreens to be an over priced store best patronized only for incidentals when Target is too far away, but today I am pleased with Walgreens.
The flu kills hundreds of thousands of people per year, far more than guns and terrorists. Most everyone should get a flu shot. If you have insurance, the shot may be at no additional cost to you. Go get one!
Video January 2, 2013 of the final minutes of The Exploratorium science museum at The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, California USA
Two days ago, on Wednesday, January 2, 2013, I captured high definition video of the official public closing of The Exploratorium science museum at 3601 Lyon Street at The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, California USA. Today I present that video, without editing other than concatenating the files together in the order I shot them.
This blog post complements the post I wrote yesterday, The final day at The Exploratorium science museum at The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, California – January 2, 2013, where I presented 24 of the still photographs I took at the closing, including the image above of the Palace of Fine Arts after magic hour but before dark. It takes time to compress and upload video, and the video I present today was not done yesterday, thus this second post.
The final day at The Exploratorium science museum at The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, California – January 2, 2013
Earlier today I took an emotional trip down memory lane by photographing the world famous Exploratorium science museum during its final hour at its building at The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, California USA. On Friday, April 12, 2013, the Exploratorium opens at its new location at Pier 15, on the historic waterfront north of Market Street and near the Ferry Building in San Francisco. Pier 15 is served by historic restored street cars that stop in front, so I predict that many more people will visit, since the original location is rather difficult to access, and parking in particular is a nightmare.
If invited by the Exploratorium staff, for example after they discover this post, I will cover the opening event on this blog, and I will photograph it with the same quality technique I used for the photographs that accompany this post. If not invited, I will wait for a free admission day to visit.
I used my Canon 5D Mark II camera for these pictures. I uploaded the pictures at full camera resolution of 21 megapixels. Click on them to see them at full size. I used a tripod for many of the shots, and since it’s so dark inside the Exploratorium, many of the pictures were made with time exposures of up to 8 seconds. That accounts for the blurred people in some of the shots. I like that the blurring suggests lots of busy activity at the museum, which is definitely true. The tripod shots were taken at ISO 100, so the image quality is outstanding. The handheld shots were taken at ISO settings as high as 6,400, and the quality suffers. I should have brought a flash so that I could have taken more photographs of visitors experiencing the exhibits.
I love and admire The Exploratorium museum above all others. The Exploratorium teaches visitors about the world we all live in, and it does it in such an engaging and fun way that visitors keep coming back, over decades. The exterior wall of the large gift shop was covered with sweet notes from visitors, and these note cards were grouped by decade. Even the 1970s section had over 100 cards on it.
The Exploratorium opened in 1969.
The Exploratorium has exhibits that seed the imagination, so this museum helps human kind progress. I think The Exploratorium is more effective at seeding the imagination than even the traditional great museums of the world such as The Louvre.
I almost missed this special day, and had it not been for the website Funcheap San Francisco which lists free or inexpensive ways to have fun in my favorite city. I subscribe to the site’s Facebook page, and a status update to that page alerted me to the final day I am covering here.
Here below is a sequence of photographs that give you a tour of this large museum space, starting and the front, then moving to the upper deck level, and finally showing the back of the museum from the deck.
Now I will show you some of the exhibits. Note that no admission was charged today, so there were more visitors than normal. I only had one hour to take still pictures and video, so I was rushed.
As I was leaving, I picked up a free poster advertising the new location for the museum, which will be Pier 15 on the San Francisco waterfront, downtown, near the Ferry Building.
After the gates were closed, there was a private party, with speakers thanking those assembled.
I set up my tripod outside the front door and posed for a self portrait to memorialize this memorable day.
On my way back to my car, which I parked many blocks away, I set up my tripod one last time to take this ‘magic hour’ photograph of The Palace of Fine Arts.
Note that the Exploratorium posted a sign at the entrance warning visitors that pictures and video would be captured by many people today, and that some of the material would be published.
I will miss this original location. It’s industrial and gritty and feels authentic. Outside by the adjoining Palace of Fine Arts, the location is truly beautiful. I fear that the new location will be too new, sparkly and flashy, and that the glitz will remove the charm that permeates the original.
Here are the WordPress ‘views’ for this blog for 2012:
January 2012 – 8,566
February 2012 – 10,321
March 2012 – 14,383
April 2012 – 12,520
May 2012 – 11,610
June 2012 – 9,753
July 2012 – 11,113
August 2012 -10,938
September 2012 – 11,698
October 2012 – 13,429
November 2012 -11,910
December 2012 – 11,579
Total for 2012 – 137,820
Average per day – 378.59
This graph doesn’t tell the full story, however. I wrote frequently during the earlier part of the year, and infrequently toward the end of the year. The traffic didn’t drop off much even though I wrote less, so had I been writing frequently, I believe the traffic would have gone up considerably.