Kevin Warnock

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Peet’s Coffee & Tea, Inc. (NASDAQ: PEET) to be aquired for approximately USD $1,000,000,000

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I just learned that Peet’s Coffee & Tea is to be acquired for about a billion US dollars.


I feel a modest connection to this news because I used to date a barista that worked at the 3419 California Street branch of Peet’s Coffee in San Francisco.

I have lost touch with Muire Dougherty, but this news that Peet’s will soon be acquired for a cool billion dollars made me think of her, and the positive influence that she had on my life.

Cooley LLP does legal work for Peet’s Coffee.

I used to work at Cooley while I was dating Dougherty. I don’t know if Cooley represented Peet’s back then or not.

I learned about this pending acquisition from Cooley’s Facebook status update. The update was brief, so I don’t know if Cooley advised Peet’s on this transaction, but knowing what I know of Cooley, they likely did.

Here’s the Peet’s press release, for posterity:

Peet’s Coffee & Tea, Inc. to Be Acquired by Joh. A. Benckiser for $73.50 Per Share in Cash

Peet’s to Become Private in a Transaction Valued at $1 Billion

EMERYVILLE, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)– Peet’s Coffee & Tea, Inc. (NASDAQ: PEET) and Joh. A. Benckiser (“JAB”) today announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement under which JAB will acquire Peet’s for $73.50 per share in cash, or a total of approximately $1 billion. The agreement, which has been unanimously approved by the Peet’s Board of Directors, represents a premium of approximately 29% over Peet’s closing stock price on July 20, 2012.

At the close of the transaction, Peet’s will be privately owned and will continue to be operated by the company’s current management team and employees. Peet’s Coffee & Tea, founded in Berkeley, CA in 1966 by Alfred Peet, will remain based in the San Francisco Bay Area, with its home office in Emeryville and its LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold Certified roast-to-order facility in Alameda.

“We are very excited about this next chapter in Peet’s rich history,” said Patrick O’Dea, President and CEO of Peet’s. “Over many years we’ve demonstrated an unyielding commitment to craft coffees and teas of uncompromised quality. This commitment is what has distinguished the Peet’s brand among all others and will continue to guide us as we go forward.”

Jean-Michel Valette, Chairman of the Board of Peet’s, added, “In my experience it is rare to find a company and a brand as special as Peet’s. We are pleased that JAB recognizes this and that Peet’s existing shareholders will be rewarded with significant value.”

“At JAB, we are committed to owning and investing in companies with strong, premier-quality brands and great people whose values we share,” said Bart Becht, Chairman of JAB. “Peet’s is just such a company and we look forward to preserving the company’s culture and core values, while supporting management’s vision for future growth.”

In addition to JAB, BDT Capital, a Chicago-based merchant bank that provides long-term private capital and advice to closely held companies, is participating in this transaction as an advisor and minority investor.

The transaction, which is structured as a one-step merger with Peet’s as the surviving corporation, is not subject to a financing condition and is expected to close in approximately three months, subject to customary closing conditions, including receipt of shareholder and regulatory approvals. The transaction requires the affirmative vote of holders of a majority of the company’s outstanding shares, which will be sought at a special meeting of shareholders.

Citigroup is serving as exclusive financial advisor to Peet’s in connection with this transaction and has delivered a fairness opinion to the Board of Directors of Peet’s. Cooley LLP is acting as Peet’s legal advisor. Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP is acting as legal advisor to JAB in this transaction. Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC and BDT & Company are serving as financial advisors to JAB.

In light of today’s announcement, Peet’s will not be holding a conference call to discuss its second quarter fiscal 2012 results.

About Peet’s

Peet’s Coffee & Tea, Inc. (NASDAQ: PEET) is the premier specialty coffee and tea company in the United States. The company was founded in 1966 in Berkeley, Calif. by Alfred Peet. Peet was an early tea authority who later became widely recognized as the grandfather of specialty coffee in the U.S. Today, Peet’s Coffee & Tea offers superior quality coffees and teas in multiple forms, by sourcing the best quality coffee beans and tea leaves in the world, adhering to strict high-quality and taste standards, and controlling product quality through its unique direct store delivery selling and merchandising system. Peet’s is committed to strategically growing its business through many channels while maintaining the extraordinary quality of its coffees and teas. For more information about Peet’s Coffee & Tea, Inc., visit

About Joh. A. Benckiser

Joh. A. Benckiser is a privately held group focused on long term investments in premium brands in the broader consumer goods category. The group’s portfolio includes a majority stake in Coty Inc., a global leader in beauty, a minority stake in Reckitt Benckiser Group PLC, a global leader in health, hygiene and home products, and a minority investment in D.E Master Blenders 1753. The group also owns Labelux, a luxury goods company with brands such as Jimmy Choo, Bally and Belstaff. The assets of the group are overseen by three senior partners: Peter Harf, Bart Becht and Olivier Goudet.

About BDT Capital Partners

BDT Capital Partners provides family-owned and entrepreneurially led companies with long-term capital, solutions-based advice and access to an extensive network of world-class family businesses. Based in Chicago, BDT Capital Partners is a merchant bank structured to provide advice and capital that address the unique needs of closely held businesses. The firm has a $3 billion investment fund as well as an investor base with the ability to co-invest significant additional capital. Through its advisory business, BDT & Company works with family businesses to pursue their long-term strategic and financial objectives.

Cautionary Statement Regarding Forward-Looking Statements

This press release contains forward-looking statements. Statements that are not historical facts, including statements about beliefs or expectations, are forward-looking statements. These statements are based on plans, estimates and projections at the time Peet’s makes the statements, and readers should not place undue reliance on them. In some cases, readers can identify forward-looking statements by the use of forward-looking terms such as “may,” “will,” “should, “expect,” “intend,” “plan,” “anticipate,” “believe,” “estimate,” “predict,” “potential,” or “continue” or the negative of these terms or other comparable terms. Forward-looking statements involve inherent risks and uncertainties, and the Company cautions readers that a number of important factors could cause actual results to differ materially from those contained in any such forward-looking statement. Factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those described in this press release include, among others: uncertainties as to the timing of the acquisition; the possibility that competing offers will be made; the possibility that various closing conditions for the acquisition may not be satisfied or waived, including that a governmental entity may prohibit or refuse to grant approval for the consummation of the acquisition; general economic and business conditions; and other factors. Additional risks are described in the Company’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended January 1, 2012 and its subsequently filed reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”). Readers are cautioned not to place undue reliance on the forward-looking statements included in this press release, which speak only as of the date hereof. The Company does not undertake to update any of these statements in light of new information or future events.

Additional Information and Where to Find It

In connection with the proposed merger, Peet’s Coffee & Tea, Inc. will prepare a proxy statement to be filed with the SEC. When completed, a definitive proxy statement and a form of proxy will be mailed to the shareholders of the Company. THE COMPANY’S SHAREHOLDERS ARE URGED TO READ THE PROXY STATEMENT REGARDING THE PROPOSED MERGER BECAUSE IT WILL CONTAIN IMPORTANT INFORMATION. The Company’s shareholders will be able to obtain, without charge, a copy of the proxy statement (when available) and other relevant documents filed with the SEC from the SEC’s website at The Company’s shareholders will also be able to obtain, without charge, a copy of the proxy statement and other relevant documents (when available) by directing a request by mail or telephone to Peet’s, 1400 Park Avenue, Emeryville, CA 94608, attention: Investor Relations or by calling (510) 594-2100.

The Company and its directors and officers may be deemed to be participants in the solicitation of proxies from the Company’s shareholders with respect to the proposed merger. Information about the Company’s directors and executive officers and their ownership of the Company’s common stock is set forth in the proxy statement for the Company’s 2012 Annual Meeting of Shareholders, which was filed with the SEC on April 2, 2012 and will be set forth in the proxy statement regarding the proposed merger. Shareholders may obtain additional information regarding the interests of the Company and its directors and executive officers in the proposed merger, which may be different than those of the Company’s shareholders generally, by reading the proxy statement and other relevant documents regarding the proposed merger, when filed with the SEC.

Peet’s Media Contacts:

Sard Verbinnen & Co
Paul Kranhold, 415-618-8750
John Christiansen, 415-618-8750


Peet’s Investor Contact:

Seanna Allen, 510-594-2196


JAB Media Contacts:

Abernathy MacGregor Group
Chuck Burgess, 212-371-5999
Tom Johnson, 212-371-5999


BDT Capital Partners Media Contact:
Jennifer Dunne, 312-660-7314

Source: Peet’s Coffee & Tea, Inc.

News Provided by Acquire Media


(Disclosure: Cooley is legal counsel to my current Internet company.)

Written by Kevin Warnock

July 23rd, 2012 at 3:02 pm

University of California Berkeley student Henry Treadway died May 8, 2012

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Henry Treadway vigil, May 11, 2012, UC Berkeley campus, photo by Anda Chu

Henry Treadway vigil, May 11, 2012, UC Berkeley campus, photo by Anda Chu of the San Jose Mercury News

University of California Berkeley student Henry Treadway died May 8, 2012. The death is being investigated as a suicide. Apparently, Treadway fell from a window in the dormitory building where he lived.

Treadway was a sophomore. He touched a lot of people. The Facebook page set up to invite people to attend a memorial vigil for Treadway gathered over 3,957 RSVPs out of 3,992 invited, as you can see in the Facebook screenshot I captured and have included below.

It’s always sad when someone takes their own life, especially when the person is smart, productive and well liked.

This is the second suicide that I’ve learned of in two days. I didn’t know either of the individuals, but both made me reflect on the subject of suicide.

I learned about Treadway’s death on Facebook via a Wall posting by my friend Cindy Lu. I met Lu last year when she helped organize the inaugural startup pitch competition Made for China.

I have been very close with someone who has told me that in the past they have  considered suicide. This person is also smart, productive and well liked, and although I am no longer in touch with them, it would shatter my heart if I were to learn that they took their own life. It would probably take me years to fully recover, for I would wonder if I should have told anyone what I knew, while there would have perhaps been time to do something to prevent it.

I do not know who reads this blog, for the most part. I do not know if the friends and family of the person I am writing about above read this blog. Since I don’t know, I am not disclosing even the gender of the person, to protect their identity. What I know is sensitive, and while I did not promise discretion to this person, I feel that they assumed I would be discrete, and that they want me to continue to be discrete, indefinitely.

Henry Treadway Facebook candlelight vigil invite

Henry Treadway Facebook candlelight vigil invite. Screenshot from Facebook, May 19, 2012 at 7:40PM PT.

If the person I write about is reading this, please do not take your own life! Despite our distance, I still care for you, and I know many others do as well. Everything you consider broken can be fixed — even the things that are broken that you don’t know are broken can be fixed. Life is worth living. Life is to be cherished and celebrated.

Do not assume you know who I am writing about. It could be any of hundreds of people that I have cared about over my lifetime. But if you’ve considered taking your own life, even if you don’t know me, you are welcome to think I am writing about you in particular.

The other person that I just learned apparently took their own life is Andrew Fluegelman. Fluegelman disappeared in 1986, and it’s presumed he killed himself by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge, although his body was never located. I wrote a blog post on May 20, 2012 about Flugelman because I attended May 18, 2012 the Annual Andrew Fluegelman Awards Gala honoring outstanding students, student-athletes & foster parents. This was a moving event, and I am friends with Stuart Sweetow, a videographer that made the May 18th Gala particularly special. Read the post for details.

Here are some more links to stories about Henry Treadway:

Henry Treadway aka sfkicks Gone Far Too Soon – Rest in peace

Hundreds Mourn El Cerrito Native at UC Berkeley Vigil

Student Falls From Unit 2 Dorm Window Tweets about Henry Treadway

Friends and Family Remember Henry Treadway, UC Berkeley Sophomore

Vigil For UC Berkeley Sophomore

I extend my sympathies to the friends and family of Henry Treadway. From what I learned preparing this post, Henry was deeply loved and appreciated by those around him. May his memory remain bright in your hearts and minds. If an investigation concludes his death was not self inflicted, then I pray those responsible will soon be brought to justice. No matter the cause of death, Henry’s memory will endure.

Written by Kevin Warnock

May 23rd, 2012 at 5:00 am

How to date a hippy chick

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Hippie guitarists 2010 sidewalk chalk Flood Grand Rapids June 13, 2010. Photo by Flickr user stevendepolo. Commercial use permitted.

Hippie guitarists 2010 sidewalk chalk Flood Grand Rapids June 13, 2010. Photo by Flickr user stevendepolo. Commercial use permitted.

How to date a hippy chick is a funny blog post I discovered the other day when I was trying to figure out how I am going to get a group of people together to go on a road trip with me in my bus conversion.

I hope to travel around California for a month or longer this year, and I definitely do not want to go on the road alone. I did that when I drove my bus conversion to New York City, New York from San Francisco, California in 2002. My girlfriend at the time, Marisha Pecci, couldn’t go with me because she was working full time. Even though I had an Internet connection, via satellite, on my bus conversion, life on the road alone was lonely and boring.

I am 100% certain that I can find 2 or 3 people to go with me, provided I am open to traveling with people outside my normal circle of friends.

I am 100% open to broadening my circle of friends. I have made so many new friends simply by renting out my extra bedrooms in my four bedroom San Francisco house.

When I think about the kind of person that can just take off for a month and might want to live in a bus, my mind drifted over to Haight Street and its hippies.

Hippy couple. Photo by Flickr user Emi PhotoArt.

Hippy couple. Photo by Flickr user Emi PhotoArt.

The hippies I see lounging on Haight Street, which is walking distance from my house, appear to have time for such trips, and they are likely to think my bus conversion is the coolest thing they’ve ever seen with wheels.

There will be four bunk beds and the master bedroom with a full size bed for me, so technically I have room for six including myself if I can find a girlfriend in time. I’m not sure that six is the right number though, as the water supply will run out in mere days with that many people taking showers. But water may be found at every Flying J fuel station, for free, so I am not going to reduce the number if I identify five compatible souls.

It will be an adventure to remember.

The Green Tortoise adventure travel company I believe packs dozens of people on board their buses, and there are many more bunks on their vehicles. Having six people on a 40 foot bus would viewed as the height of luxury by Green Tortoise customers.

If you read Tyler O’Donnnell’s How to date a hippy chick post, you’ll see O’Donnell specifically requires that one own a bus! So I am already part way there should I decide to date a hippy chick. Yes, I probably come across as a serious business person on this blog, but I have more in common with hippies in general than you might guess. I used to be a punk rocker when I was younger, and that experience was formative.

O’Donnell first point from his presumably somewhat tongue-in-cheek blog post:

“Become an artist. No hippy chick is going to get with you if you are a “conformist” suit with a job that involves numbers. Hippies hate numbers! From what I can tell, hippy girls thrive on things that appear unique. I would recommend getting your brain into one or all of the following artistic mediums: drawing, painting, feces smearing, writing or photography.

Other things to keep in mind?

Educate yourself on festivals like burning man and make your own clothes. You might also want to consider gaging your ears. Numerous studies show fornication rates go up drastically after getting this upgrade. It is also a good idea to get tight jeans and then cut them off at the knees…. keep in mind that although you may feel ridiculous, it is imperative to hold yourself with an aura of prestige and superiority. Even if you really aren’t better than anyone else, you must deep down believe you are. This attitude will fuel long conversations with hippy girls about how ignorant everyone else is.”

I am a current fan of the tiny house movement, which I suspect lots of hippies identify with since a central course of action in the tiny house movement is to live in smaller homes to avoid the all consuming work needed to support life in a large McMansion style house.

In essence, I already live in a tiny house since I share my 2,000 square foot home with five other people. That’s just 333 square feet per person.

Life is good.

Written by Kevin Warnock

February 23rd, 2012 at 1:58 pm

Zimman’s sells sumptuous fabrics at fair prices

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Fabric for sale at Zimman's of Lynn, Massachusetts, USA. Picture from

Fabric for sale at Zimman's of Lynn, Massachusetts, USA. Picture from

The last time I worked for others, I worked for Jeff Zimman, Susan Philpot and Hank Barry.

I was at Cooley, LLP, a powerhouse law firm in Silicon Valley.

Zimman chaired the Document Automation Committee at Cooley, the entity to which I reported in my role as Computer Aided Lawyering Project Leader.

Jeff Zimman is currently the Chair of Posit Science, Inc., which produces software to help build and maintain cognitive function. Listeners to KQED public radio in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I live, are familiar with Posit Science because this software is always one of the gifts one may select if one becomes a financial sponsor of that radio station. I love KQED, by the way, and I listen to it almost every day. You may sponsor KQED online at this link.

Even though I have known Zimman for a majority of my professional life, I know little about him as a person. I know the basics – that he’s married to architect Ken Ruebush, the brother of my friend Susan Ruebush. I know Jeff Zimman used to be an investment banker at Lazard before co-founding Posit Science. I know Jeff Zimman used to be a newspaper reporter before he went to law school.

Thanks to Facebook, a currently well known social networking website based in Silicon Valley, I now know something new about Jeff Zimman.

Jeff Zimman’s grandfather Morris Zimman 103 years ago founded a treasure of a retail store named Zimman’s. This store is so lush, sumptuous and glorious that articles have been written about it. Gushing articles so colorful that they make one want to make a special trip to Zimman’s just wander the isles and touch the products.

What does Zimman’s sell? Here’s how their website explains it:

“Zimman’s offers one of the largest selections of decorative fabrics and passementerie, combined with a wonderful assortment of premium furnishings, exquisite accessories, lighting, rugs and custom products.

Located in Lynn, Massachusetts, Zimman’s is the country’s leading fine fabric, furniture, lighting and decorative accessories destination.”

Before today, I had never heard the word passementerie. This is what WikipediA has to say initially about passementerie:

“Passementerie or passementarie is the art of making elaborate trimmings or edgings (in French, passements) of applied braid, gold or silver cord, embroidery, colored silk, or beads for clothing or furnishings.

Styles of passementerie include the tassel, fringes (applied, as opposed to integral), ornamental cords, galloons, pompons, rosettes, and gimps as other forms. Tassels, pompons, and rosettes are point ornaments, and the others are linear ornaments.”

Zimman’s sells fabric.

Perhaps the nicest fabric I have ever seen — have a look at the photograph above.

The only store I can compare it to in the Bay Area is Britex Fabrics. But Britex is a premium priced emporium located in costly Union Square retail space. Prices at Britex are sky high such that it’s a turnoff to even browse.

Zimman’s by choice is located next to a 99-cent discount store, so their rent is affordable. The savings are passed on to customers, which results in Zimman’s being both affordable and magical at the same time.

It’s as if Neiman Marcus moved into a Costco and reused the same shelving to sells its luxury goods. Prices could drop dramatically if they didn’t have to support the exceptionally luxurious stores that they’re famous for.

Michael Zimman, current owner of Zimman's

Michael Zimman, current owner of Zimman's

Here’s what Michael Zimman, Jeff Zimman’s brother, has to say about the store he now rus:

“It’s an unlikely spot for this type of business to evolve,” agrees owner Michael Zimman, grandson of the store’s founder, Morris Zimman. “But it works for us. You need a lot of space, which we have, and we’ve been doing it for 103 years, so we’ve developed a broad reputation.”

Jeanne OBrien Coffey writes:

“With arguably the largest selection of textiles on the East Coast, if not in the country, and a carefully curated array of furniture and decorative items, Zimman’s has become a destination business, surviving the changing landscape of retail by smart specialization and unbeatable prices.

Stepping into Zimman’s can be a daunting proposition. With about 40,000 square feet—nearly an acre—of shopping spread over three floors, some customers, especially those seeking textiles, may not know where to start. After all, Zimman’s has at least 25,000 bolts of fabric in house—but who’s counting? “It might be 50,000. It might be 100,000. We don’t stop to count,” Michael Zimman says. “But that’s part of what makes us unique. We’re for people who want to step back into the way things were and have an experience of shopping in an emporium, putting their hands on textiles and furniture… It’s a throwback, and people really love it.””

I do wonder after reading Coffey’s article if Jeff Zimman also spent a lot of time at Zimman’s while he was growing up, like his brother Michael did. Coffey writes:

“Zimman’s dedication to the old ways has deep roots; Michael learned the business at his grandfather Morris Zimman’s knee. Morris opened the store in 1909, and Michael says he cannot remember a time when he wasn’t involved in the business. In fact, if he wanted to see his father, who worked from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. six days a week, he had to go to the store. While in the second grade, Michael would take the bus from the family’s home in Marblehead to swim at the Boys’ Club on Lynn Commons. After swimming, Zimman would wend his way through back alleys and residential neighborhoods in the waning afternoon light to get to his father’s store for a ride home.”

It is highly unusual for a lawyer to found a company. Jeff Zimman is certainly an entrepreneur. Posit Science is not an easy kind of company to start. They raised tens of millions of dollars in venture capital. They have world renowned scientists like Michael M. Merzenich, PhD on the team (see Merzenich’s extensive WikiPediA entry here). What Jeff Zimman has accomplished makes my head spin compared to what I have done in the software field.

I suspect that it is extremely likely that Jeff Zimman was profoundly influenced by his grandfather Morris Zimman, the founder of Zimman’s. Watching his grandfather build and operate a successful business had to help inspire him to leave the relative tranquility of lawyering and banking to become a startup founder. I run into Zimman only about yearly, but I will ask him about this connection the next time I see him.

Finally, a fun fact near to my heart — Zimman’s used to advertise on the sides of city transit buses. There is an animated graphic that plays as soon as you arrive at the Zimman’s website that shows the bus ‘driving’ from right to left across the top of the website. I was able to capture the bus in a screen shot after a few tries with Snag It screen capture software. Here is the result. As my readers know, I am a huge fan of buses, and I own a bus even larger than the one below, although now it’s a motorhome.

Zimman's home page with bus. Graphic from

Zimman's home page with bus. Graphic from

A conversation with Janet D. Rowley

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Janet D Rowley of University of Chicago. Photograph via University of Chicago.

Janet D Rowley

I went to elementary, middle and high school with Roger Rowley, now the Director of The Prichard Art Gallery at the University of Idaho. My mother Martha Warnock always told me what a smart mother he had. I remember this even from when I was a young child. My mother was a professor at the University of Chicago at the time, as was Janet Rowley, Roger’s mother.

Janet Rowley comes up in conversation with my mother even now, because Rowley has been recently featured in two publications my mother reads regularly, The New Yorker and The New York Times.

The New York Times article was published in the print edition February 8, 2011. Sadly, I didn’t properly file my original paper version of the very long and fascinating New Yorker article, and I can’t find it via the search mechanism at that magazine’s website, or via Google. I believe I have the article at my house, and if and when I find it, I’ll scan it and amend this post, because it was captivating.

My mother thinks Janet Rowley will win a Nobel Prize. Given what I’ve read about her, I’d say that’s likely.

I wonder if I perhaps met her when I was at Lab School with her son Roger. I remember Roger Rowley well and sat next to him at dinner at my high school reunion ten and a half years ago.

[Note: Roger Rowley wrote to me shortly after I posted the above text letting me know that the Internet address for The Prichard Art Gallery has been updated. Please visit the Prichard Art Gallery here instead of via the link above in the first sentence. January 7, 2012 @ 5:20pm PST.]

Written by Kevin Warnock

January 7th, 2012 at 12:51 pm

A picture of me with Ilya Zhitomirskiy that I didn’t know existed until two days ago

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Kevin Warnock, Ilya Zhitomirskiy, Matthew Wise, Grant Ricketts, ___ and Andreas Sæbjørnsen, March 3, 2011

Kevin Warnock, Ilya Zhitomirskiy, Matthew Wise, Grant Ricketts, ___ and Andreas Sæbjørnsen, March 3, 2011

Last Friday, November 18, 2011, I attended a memorial service for Ilya Zhitomirskiy. I wrote a blog post about the service.

In that post I mentioned I had met Zhitomirskiy once, at a party at the offices of CloudFlare, the red hot website performance and security startup that just won the Wall Street Journal’s Innovation Award in the Network and Internet Technologies category. After my memorial post, a friend of mine that read the post sent me the above photograph from that party. As you can see, I’m standing there on the left next to Zhitomirskiy.

I just had to post the picture here because it’s such a great picture.

My friends Matthew Wise, Grant Ricketts and Andreas Sæbjørnsen are also in the picture.

Written by Kevin Warnock

November 23rd, 2011 at 5:00 am

Memorial service for Ilya Zhitomirskiy, co-founder of the start-up social network Diaspora*

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ilya Zhitomirskiy - 1989-2011

ilya Zhitomirskiy - 1989-2011

Tonight I attended a public memorial service in San Francisco, California USA for Ilya Zhitomirskiy, co-founder of the start-up social network Diaspora*. The service was held at McAvoy O’Hara mortuary at 4545 Geary Boulevard. I took the picture below of McAvoy O’Hara as I was departing.

Ilya Zhitomirskiy died Saturday, November 12, 2011 at his home in San Francisco. The preceding link is to his lengthy obituary in the New York Times newspaper, a testamant to Zhitomirskiy’s influence. Such coverage is remarkable for someone whose idea that made them famous has not officially launched yet. Such coverage is remarkable for someone just 22 years old at their passing.

I met Zhitomirskiy only once, and I don’t remember the meeting except in the vaguest sense. My friend Matthew Wise introduced me to Zhitomirskiy at an office warming party for CloudFlare, which I wrote about here at the time. Wise reminded me two days ago at his Foods Startup event that he had introduced me. I recall that Wise had mentioned Diaspora* at the CloudFlare party. I had heard of Diaspora* back then, but I didn’t appreciate the significance of meeting one of the co-founders because I wasn’t aware how much attention the project had already garnered.

With that introduction you might wonder why I went to the man’s memorial service. On a group hike some weeks back I had a long and interesting conversation with Bobby Fishkin. Fishkin was a good friend of Zhitomirskiy, and yesterday Fishkin sent out a broadcast email to his connections inviting them to attend Zhitomirskiy’s memorial, which was described as ‘open to all.’ Fishkin can write a moving email, and his text was so descriptive and colorful that I decided to attend. In part, Fishkin wrote:

“He was a visionary and revolutionary. He approached the world out of love and then used a profoundly gifted analytical mind to approach what could be done based on that love to circumvent all the forces of the world that would otherwise get between us and those we love. He founded Diaspora to achieve this. But more than this, he sought solutions to global challenges and gave us all further confidence to speak our truth.”

How could I not attend the memorial after an introduction so uplifting?

I am glad that I did attend, as this was the most moving and thought provoking memorial I have yet attended.

It made me cry many times and I wasn’t even Zhitomirskiy’s friend.

Over 100 of Zhitomirskiy’s friends were in the room, and I estimate 20 of them came to the podium to share their memories. I feel like I learned the essence of who Ilya Zhitomirskiy was in the course of this memorial. I wish I had gotten to know him better, as he seemed like a remarkable thinker.

A recurring theme his friends recounted was that Zhitomirskiy kept extensive to-do lists on Post-It notes on how to change and improve the world. He collected these notes on one of those skewers pointing in the air that restaurants stick their filled receipts upon. These notes and lists apparantly are so profound that one of his friends collected them and made a website dedicated to just displaying Zhitomirskiy’s to-do lists.

Zhitomirskiy talked of slaying metaphorical dragons frequently, I learned.

He dreamed of traveling the world as a public speaker, and longed for a way to have such travel and talking paid for. I have that in common with him…

He talked too much, but in a way that mesmerized his friends. One of his most ardent friends, Elizabeth Stark (I didn’t learn her last name, and it seemed the wrong place to ask), an instructor at Stanford University, described passionately how she could stay up until 5am talking with Zhitomirskiy, and that such conversations seemed to just fly by they were so engrossing. I got the distinct impression that Elizabeth is a very smart woman, and she looked to be 10 years older than Zhitomirskiy. He must have been quite an impressive guy to keep her attention until nearly sunrise.

His friends over and over promised Zhitomirskiy that they would work hard in life to help finish his to-do list. They said Zhitomirskiy lived by a code where he advised keeping good company and making outrageous demands of them. He was known for his epic (sic) parties, and for his intense drive to introduce people to each other at said parties. He even started a website themed around these parties, but I couldn’t find a working site at the domain name mentioned, or

Zhitomirskiy’s passing brought so many of those in attendance to tears. They clearly and dramatically loved him. His friends and family I hope will take tremendous comfort that Ilya Zhitomirskiy so profoundly touched so many impressive people. The whole room seemed to be filled with impressive and thoughtful people. One Asian woman who spoke at the podium had only known Zhitomirskiy for a month, yet her remarks were insightful and lovely. I meant to tell her so after, but she was engrossed in a conversation and I didn’t want to interrupt her.

It’s so sad when a bright light goes out too soon. I reflect on my own life at times like these. I pledge to redouble my efforts to help others and bring more happiness and good to the world. Thank you Ilya Zhitomirskiy for the inspiration you gave me to write about you and reflect on your short yet meaningful life.

I predict your influence Ilya Zhitomirskiy will remain upon the globe for many moons. May you rest in peace.

McAvoy O'Hara funeral home, 4545 Geary Blvd San Francisco, CA 94118 - November 18, 2011, 7:55PM PT

McAvoy O'Hara funeral home, 4545 Geary Blvd San Francisco, CA 94118 - November 18, 2011, 7:55PM PT

PS – I particularly invite Zhitomirskiy’s friends to introduce themselves to me by sending me a message or friending me on Facebook here. I’d like to learn more about your friend, and I’d like to know you as well, as it appears he kept quite good company from what I saw this evening.

[Additional: I added this November 24, 2011. After I wrote the above post, a friend of mine sent me a picture taken March 3, 2011. The picture is from the CloudFlare party I mention above, and it shows me with Ilya and four others. It’s a great picture, so I posted it to my blog here.]

[Additional: I added this February 9, 2012. I added the last name of Elizabeth to this post, as I found out her last name.]

Written by Kevin Warnock

November 18th, 2011 at 10:14 pm

Micheal Traynor was really nice to me

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I just read a nice tribute to Michael Traynor, an attorney I was friends with when I worked at Cooley LLP years ago. I haven’t thought much about Traynor since I left Cooley in 1994, but today I was reviewing profiles on Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, looking for entries about people I know personally.

Micheal Traynor, past president of American Law Institute

Micheal Traynor, past president of American Law Institute

Traynor’s father Roger Traynor has a Wikipedia entry, and Micheal is mentioned in that entry. I knew Traynor was an important attorney when I was at Cooley, but I don’t think I realized that his father had been Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court from 1964-1970.

Micheal Traynor was extremely nice to me. His office was about 40 feet from my first office at Cooley, on the 20th floor of One Maritime Plaza in San Francisco, California. Later, I moved to the 19th floor.

Traynor was aware of the political storms I navigated before I prevailed and got a special promotion and an attendant committee of partners to report to. He offered multiple times to intervene on my behalf with the powers in charge. I never took him up on his offer, as I had others like Tony Gilbert helping me and it didn’t seem kind to involve Traynor.

I knew Traynor for almost five years, and he would always say hello to me, and I always felt like he was my friend and that he approved of the work I was passionate about at Cooley, which was encoding the expertise of lawyers into document assembly software so that less experienced attorneys could create documents that incorporated Cooley’s best thinking on a topic.

Until today I didn’t know Traynor was president of the American Law Institute.

I’m not surprised.

Written by Kevin Warnock

July 5th, 2011 at 8:15 pm

Naked Suits unveiling

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Naked Suits unveiling party June 25, 2011 - Adisa Banjoko, Ming Chang, (guest) Kevin Warnock, Judy Hoang.

Naked Suits unveiling party June 25, 2011 - Adisa Banjoko, Ming Chang, (guest) Kevin Warnock, Judy Hoang.

On April 27, 2011 I was a judge for the Made for China Entrepreneurial Pitch Competition and Startup Fair at University of California at Berkeley.

This was a fun evening, and I made some new friends, including Ming Chang, CEO of Naked Suits.

Liu Nan had earlier arranged for me to be a judge. I met Nan at the Berkeley Entrepreneurs Forum about six months ago, and we stayed in touch.

I love judging business plan competitions.

The winner of the Made for China event is a fascinating company with the provocative name Naked Suits. Here’s a video of the team receiving their first place prize at the actual competition. They win at 5 minute marker in the video. (You can see me in the far lower right at the 5:45 marker, taking a picture with my iPhone.)

Naked Suits is a clever name.

The Naked Suits idea is that their suits are so breathable, lightweight and durable that you feel as if you’re not wearing anything at all.

While their website doesn’t say so, I understand they are using fabric that is made with nanotechnology so that it repels water and most stain causing substances.

At the unveiling, Chang set up a testing station with fabric swatches and bottles of Two Buck Chuck, the famous red wine sold by Germany’s Trader Joe’s grocery store.

I personally poured an entire glass of red wine over a Naked fabric swatch and the fabric did not get stained. The wine rolled off and the fabric remained dry once I dusted the droplet balls of wine off the fabric. None of the wine balls absorbed into the fabric. I was impressed, and that’s why I’m writing this post.

I don’t wear a suit more than about twice a year. I will put on a suit for a wedding or funeral, but I never wear a suit for work or for a date. I’m much more into sports jackets and jeans for all but the most formal occasions. So I’m not likely to buy a Naked Suit, at least until they come out with a line of sports jackets.

The suits are nice.

They are handmade in Shanghai, China without fusing, a kind of heat activated glue used on many suits.

There is red piping along the inside lining that just pops visually. It’s very eye catching, and when someone catches a glimpse of the inside of a jacket, this red bead should signal that this is a costly and luxurious product. I’ve never seen such an eye catching detail on the inside of a men’s suit jacket before, and I have looked at a lot of suits over the years. I used to wear a suit five days a week when I worked at Cooley as a programmer.

Naked Suits are a bargain at USD $695. Handmade suits usually cost a lot more. I wish Naked Suits the best of success with their exciting venture. In all my years of judging business plan competitions, I have never seen a team attempt to enter the hotly competative fashion industry. Chang and his team show a flair for the dramatic, so I like their chances. Check out the flyer they put together for their Naked Suits unveiling. This looks like it could have been produced by an established fashion brand. I’m a photographer and I like it.

Naked Suits advertisement, June 25, 2011

Naked Suits advertisement, June 25, 2011

The picture at the top of this post shows me with three members of the Naked Suits team.

Written by Kevin Warnock

July 5th, 2011 at 6:19 pm

I built my first aquaponics system – you’ll never guess where it is

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Aquaponics system in front of City Hall, San Jose, California USA, May 20, 2011

Aquaponics system in front of City Hall, San Jose, California USA, May 20, 2011

I’ve written about my friend Kevin Casey a few times before (January 7, 2011January 9, 2011 and January 11, 2011). I met him in 2007 when he was one of the student organizers for the University of California Berkeley Business Plan Competition. I was a judge and financial sponsor for that competition, so we had plenty of opportunities to talk. We became friends on Facebook, and when he started posting status updates about his startup New Avenue, Inc., I got back in touch with him.

Kevin staged the ribbon cutting for his first house on January 8th, 2011. Soon after, the city of San Jose, California contacted Kevin and asked that he construct a custom house for a 9 month exhibit of green technologies called the San Jose Green Vision Clean Energy Showcase. This exhibit opened this month, in May, 2011. The location is directly across the street from the sparkling City Hall of San Jose.

Here’s the PDF brochure that San Jose is distributing about its Clean Energy Showcase.

Ever since I contacted Kevin in late 2010, I have been talking his ear off about my ideas for shipping container based green housing. One of the parts to my grand plans is to make it practical for residents to grow food at home. The most exciting and productive way to grow food in limited space with limited water is to raise fish and vegetables in symbiotic harmony. This technique is widely known by the word ‘aquaponics.’

Kevin approached me and asked if I’d like to set up a small demonstration aquaponics system on the front porch of his New Avenue demo green home. I jumped at the chance, as this gives me a great excuse to learn more about this and help a friend at the same time. Aquaponics is really popular in Australia, which is in the midst of an 11 year draught. Aquaponics systems use 1/10th the water required to grow vegetables in dirt. Since the world is ‘running out’ of fresh water, it makes sense to learn more about a system that makes such efficient use of water.

I put together a system with off the shelf parts I selected and modified personally. The result doesn’t look bad, but doesn’t look like a commercial polished product either. I am happy with the result for my first system. I used a wire shelf rack from Costco as the frame. I was concerned that infants could drown in a system that didn’t fully cover the water tank, so by setting the height of the first shelf to just over the height of the water tank, I eliminated that risk. You can see this safety feature in the picture above.

The water aerator and the timer are located in an exterior grade water resistant steel junction box fastened to the rear shelf. From there, the system is connected to a GFCI outdoor outlet on the rear of the house. While you can’t see it in the picture because I hadn’t installed it yet, the fish are fed automatically each day via a timed automatic fish feeder.

The vegetable bed is flooded with a foot of water from the fish tank 24 times a day. The flood/drain cycle takes about 18 minutes, and starts on the top of each hour. The pump consumes just 18 watts during a 15 minute per hour fill cycle. The extra 3 minutes is the time it takes for the growing bed to drain back into the fish tank.

The vegetable roots cleanse the water. Since the vegetables get all the water they can absorb, they grow faster than in dirt, up to 600% faster. The fish also grow faster than normal because they get so much clean and well aerated water. It’s a true win/win scenario. The main inputs are fish food and water to replace what is lost to transpiration and evaporation. On occasion, there are tiny inputs of a teaspoon or so of fluid to adjust the pH to keep everything happy. I understand that this is needed primarily during the first 6 weeks of operation, before the healthy bacteria have established themselves in the clay beads that the plants grow in.

I am no expert, but I’m learning a lot, and I appreciate the opportunity to learn on such a public stage. I’ve already met two people that have seen my system and want one of their own!

To learn more, read Backyard Aquaponics Magazine.

Special thanks to Sylvia Berstein, Founder and CEO of The Aquaponic Source, who helped me set up my first system and sold me some of the key parts. Her store is located in Boulder, Colorado, USA.

Written by Kevin Warnock

May 22nd, 2011 at 7:59 pm