Archive for May, 2020

A letter to my son from the depths of isolation

Posted on May 17, 2020. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Dear Odysseus,

When you were 1 year old the world changed. Your mom and I packed up our shit into the car and drove you away from home to a place where we could be without being around others. We chased you around the house for 13 hours a day, splitting the duties of your development and learning and our respective professional lives. We were able to plant seeds, hang a humming bird feeder, set up a swing, import books and toys, but you developed thinking that mom and me were the only two people in the world who you could hug. Your grandparents got to know you through the pane of an iphone and you had but two physical witnesses of each great milestone that came to be. It was winter when we left, and stayed winter way longer than would have been ideal. Caring for you without any help was simultaneously the most amazing and impossible pursuit imaginable. We figured out a routine that worked for you and came up short for each of us, which of course was the correct optimization. You’d get up in the morning, I’d scoop you from your crib, and drop you down into the covers surrounding mom in the big bed. We’d cuddle as a family, forgetting for 10 minutes that the world, and we, were suffering. That may sound strange for you, given that we had food to eat, health, money, and a place to stay away from the epicenter, but it was a time where everyone suffered, irregardless of their security or context. Many suffered much more deeply than us, but all suffering was valid nonetheless.

When our isolation started, your mom and I had a sobering conversation, where we agreed that she would pause some of her professional pursuits to care for you while I worked. The virus came at a time where my job supported us financially and hers did not. It was a crude heuristic, that certainly did not capture the nuance of the sacrifice, but it was the best one we had. From 9AM to 4PM every day, your mom committed deeply to helping you understand the world, your voice, your physicality, and life. You walked in nature every single day. Your mom talks to trees, and she taught you to do the same. You cried when you saw a tree get trimmed, and learned to point out the trail markers before we could even find them. We built a world for you where our friends were birds and bugs and deer and chipmunks…but we couldn’t give you time with other kids. We felt so sad about that, and it was hard to know if and when and why that might change.

At 4PM, my last meeting would end, and your mom would come and drop you in my lap for the evening. She did the best she could to keep up with her work in the 3 hours a day she had before your bedtime. Something we learned quickly was that neither of us would feel satisfied with the time we had to pursue our work. I tried my best to be present with you during our time together. I read you every book in our house at least 500 times. We crawled and walked and wrestled and built…it felt repetitive to me, but you never seemed to notice. There were moments where I snuck an email here and there while you picnicked with Bear and Superman, but I always felt bad doing so. Your mom was better about that than me. She found a plane of perfect presence with you…and I admired her for it. Most nights I had the honor of feeding and bathing you. While the bathtub filled, I’d throw you down on the big bed and let you jump around and laugh. This tended to be my favorite time of day with you.

With pajamas on, I’d take you downstairs to do sing along with mom before bed. We’d turn down the lights in the living room and sing Blackbird by the Beatles. Once you were down for the night, mom and I would do our best to cook something for ourselves and be with each other…that was easier some days than others. We’d oscillate between connectedness and disconnectedness…doing our best to reset together when the stress and strain got to one of us. We were lucky…we had the kind of love that gets your through a time like this…but it was still harder than normal to maintain appreciation for it.

Some nights, we just gave in and allowed ourselves to retreat back into our brightly lit screens…catching up where we left off in work or grasping at social connection in the only form it was available. I learned after about a month not to read about the virus right before bed. We carved out date nights, to escape the screens. Of course, we had nowhere to go, but your mom liked dressing up anyway, and we’d cook and talk to each other and maybe drink a beer or two.

Life became something between treading water and living. Days were long and weeks were short and largely blurred together. For the most part we were happy…we had you, and each other, and that was so much. I kept waiting for tears to come…but they never did. And then one day…something happened and we got in the car and went home and you made friends, and we hugged our parents, and our city awoke from its prolonged coma. I can’t tell you what happened or when, because it hasn’t happened yet, but you will learn that your dad is an optimist, and I know you are reading this from a better moment.

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On Board Service

Posted on May 5, 2020. Filed under: Uncategorized |

One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about the past 10 or so months at Pace has been my service on the board of an unannounced company in our portfolio. The vast majority of my board experience over my career has been in the CEO seat with institutional investors from firms like General Catalyst and Softbank serving on my boards. Although I probably led 50+ investments during my time at Lerer, in most cases, as seed investors, we did not take board seats with an investment. Now sitting in the institutional investor seat and serving on someone else’s board, I have a different level of empathy for the job. I think one of the absolute privileges of board service is profound alignment. I don’t want anything except what’s best for the company. There’s nothing for myself outside of that desire. I think I’d be there philosophically regardless, but it doesn’t hurt that what’s best for the company is best for me…i’ve internalized deeply that my success is hitched to the wagon of a CEO and group of people I believe in.

Service as I see it is not directive. I sync with the CEO every 2 weeks and I never come with an agenda of things I think should happen. I do way more listening than talking and my only goal is to help the CEO make the best decision possible on any given topic. When I have product or tactical ideas, I am sure to preface with “feel free to throw this away or tell me it’s stupid.” When I interview a candidate on the company’s behalf, I debrief with inputs not conclusions. The CEO of this company is a better CEO than I ever was. I expect that to be the case for every founder I support. The best decisions and best outcomes for the company are going to come from him and his leadership team…I want to be a foil, inspiration, food for thought, emotional support, ethical support, but decidedly not a decision maker. Sure in the realm of governance and management team construction, there are moments that will call for more assertion, but almost every other decision that might float up to the board, I tend to redirect back through the eyes and mind of the CEO. I don’t want to be persuasive, I want to be illuminating. Success is listening and widening the aperture of the team’s thinking, if only to discard and zoom back in narrowly.

I was very clear with the CEO prior to our investment: “You don’t pick me on your board to tell you how to do it. If you want that level of applied contribution there are better people. You can hire for applied value. You pick me for trusted counsel, and that is something you can’t hire for.” I believe that in my role as a board member, if I can help world class founders be and decide at their best, everything else in our model at Pace falls into place. So far so good.

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    I’m a NYC based investor and entrepreneur. I've started a few companies and a venture capital firm. You can email me at (p.s. i don’t use spell check…deal with it)


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