Thank You C.A. Webb & NEVCA

Aug 21

In: Entrepreneurship, Technology and VC

(C.A. Webb rockin’ it at the 2014 NEVYs)

I’m writing to thank C.A. Webb and the New England Venture Capital Association (NEVCA). I’ve been on the Board, and now, I will be rolling off next month. Timing works well, as I will be starting a term as a Trustee at The Roxbury Latin School.

At Kepha, we have a policy of getting each other’s OK before getting involved with non-Kepha work. VCs are often asked to get involved, which is a good thing, but over time may have too many commitments, which can be a bad for our entrepreneurs and LPs in our view. My POV is that the most precious resource a VC has is not capital but, instead, is his/her time.

So, we have a transparent view into each other’s extracurriculars, and ask each other to limit our involvement to just a few things at a time and consider term limits. My partners were OK with my being on the Board, provided there was a two-year limit.

Hard to believe that time has gone by so quickly! I was happy to help bring to town speakers such as Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, Foundry’s Brad Feld and First Round’s Josh Kopelman.  C.A. and I also helped kick off a “coffee with a VC series,” which was fun to do.

But, above all, it has been really fun to see C.A. have such an impact on the local start-up scene. She is talented, dynamic and passionate. If you get to know her, she is an incredibly strong, optimistic and resilient executive.

Thank you, C.A.!  Hard to believe our dinner at Craigie on Main with Curt Nickisch was so long ago.  Will never forget when you, Michael and I celebrated your daughter’s birth over live blues and raw oysters. Been great to work with you, and I’m so honored to call you my friend.

Why I Cook

Aug 17

In: Family life, Food

A friend’s 10 year-old daughter asked me: “So, why do you cook?” She was under the impression that only females cooked. I told her that I liked to cook, that it is healthier and more cost-effective than eating out all the time.

All that is true. I really do like to cook. But, I also feel that I have to. Let me explain.

I’m making oven-baked bacon this Sunday morning, as I have this old-school view that it is awesome when my children awaken to the aroma of bacon. For Sunday Dinner, I will be cooking a braised main dish (recipe here, but I substitute beef chuck, which is more lean).

I like to braise throughout the fall and winter. This weekend, the temp and humidity have fallen, and there’s a chill in the morning air. It will rain this afternoon. So, a dish that will gently simmer and infuse the kitchen with the scents of beef, rosemary, tomatoes and cinnamon feels like a good call.

But, I also cook because I think I should. I’m a parent to both genders, and I tell my children that domestic duties are the responsibilities of all (previous blog post here). Every marriage dynamic is different. Every couple has to work out a list of chores and who does what.

But, I do think there’s power in showing children that both parents can do all sorts of chores. It’s been said that parenting is more about showing rather than telling. I suspect my children subconsciously will pattern their own marriages and households based on what they saw in our home. And, I hope sons and daughters don’t think that cooking is “a woman’s job.”

It’s fine to have specialized labor. But, I think it’s important to be explicit about these things rather than getting lulled into traditional gender roles. We need to be mindful also of what we are signalling to our children. It’s one reason why I’ve started helping with the laundry. I didn’t want my children assuming it was “a woman’s job.”

So, that’s why I cook.

Outings with Our Children

Aug 16

In: Family life, Personal

(From NortheastHikes.com)

My wife is away this weekend with one of our children. They’re hiking part of the N.H. Appalachian Trail and will be staying overnight at one of the evening huts. Up top is a view that they’re likely to have from Mt. Webster. I hope they have a good time.

Meanwhile, I’m at home with the other children. It’s a quiet Saturday so far. One of our teenagers slept until 12 noon. I’m cool with that.  The sports and rigorous academic schedules will ramp up in just two weeks. Two children are painting their toenails. I’m looking up fly-tying instructional videos and just got back from the gym and grocery shopping.

Frankly, it feels great to having nothing scheduled, other than prepping dinner. If I’m feeling motivated, I’ll start the laundry today rather than tomorrow.

I think an individual outing with each child is necessary and fun. Going fly-fishing with me has been a rite of passage for our children, and I have a standing calendar event every other weekend to take one of our children out for lunch. We try various sports, from tennis to squash to golf to cycling. We’ve gone candle-pin bowling at Sacco’s Bowl Haven (now, a great Flatbreads Pizza location). I recently went to a concert, to see Hillsong, with one of our children. We occasionally cook together.

I remember well “Family Game Night.” When our children were all quite young, we’d devote a Saturday evening to a board game. I’d cook burgers and hot dogs, and we’d play a board game on the floor in the family room. Very fun.

We also try to travel. Every spring break, my wife and I trade off and bring our children on a trip. Last time, I took them to NYC. One year, my wife took them to visit the Bay area.

What we’ve learned is that each child has his/her own preferred activity. We think it’s important that they try different things and see what works for them. And, it is fun to engage in an activity as a family and on parent-child outings. Sometimes, it’s important to stop parenting and just build a relationship with a child.

It is so cliché, but children grow so quickly. As a friend says, the days feel long but the years feel short. I have great children. I’m so very proud of the person that each of them has become. They look out for each other.

I hope they one day will look back fondly on these special activities and moments with each parent. I love each of them so very much.

The A21 Campaign & Christine Caine

Aug 15

In: Music, Personal, Social justice

If you grew up on government funding, in one of the poorest parts of your country, the odds are against you. If you’re taught at an early age that a woman’s role is tied strictly to home life, then you may shrink back. And, if you were sexually abused for 12 years by four different men, you have much to overcome, perhaps, too much.

Well, Christine Caine has overcome all that. I heard her speak last night, and it was one of the most powerful talks I’ve ever heard. One of my children and I last night went to see Hillsong, who are touring in the U.S. In between the music, Christine spoke. It was riveting, raw and eye-opening.

With much effort and grace, Christine started the A21 Campaign, which fights human trafficking. I think it’s tremendously awesome that someone who was sexually abused has transformed such a horrific experience into good. Christine has made her life’s work an organization that combats the buying, selling and shipping of human beings. She fights slavery.

A video of Christine, explaining A21′s work, is up top (or, click here).

Thank you, Christine, for coming all the way from Australia to Boston. It was great to hear your talk!

Living in the Moment

Aug 12

In: Brain hacking, Fly fishing

I read with great interest Brad Feld’s post today on his personal reactions to Robin Williams’ death. As you know, Brad and his team at Foundry are super-successful VCs. And, Brad lives a very transparent and authentic life, sharing through his blog his conundrums, problems, joys and victories. It is direct, raw and super-interesting prose that I think helps many people.

I’m writing this because I really admire Brad for writing about the sadness he feels today and the emotions that Robin Williams’ suicide has invoked within him.  I’ve written in the past that “pain = suffering x resistance.” Suffering becomes painful if you deny its existence, hide it with drugs/alcohol/etc., or run away. You’re much better off acknowledging whatever suffering exists. You accept, and thereby, live in that moment.

In the past, I did a very good job of absorbing myself in work. I’ve written in the past that everyone has a drug of choice. Work was, and sometimes is, still mine. I used work frankly to escape the parts of my life that I didn’t like. And, that’s why work after a while became extreme drudgery for many years.

Now that I’m more aware of this, I really enjoy work. I still work long hours, but I’m enjoying the journey of it all. I’m trying to enjoy the moment, the right now, rather than always planning for tomorrow (cf. Matthew 6:34).

This weekend, I went fly fishing at an awesome fishing lodge (a video is up top or click here). I serendipitously met a wise soul, who has visited there for many decades and strives to live in the moment. I call him The Trout Whisperer. A casual hello at breakfast led to a very intense two-hour conversation about fly fishing tips, during which we swapped our respective “top secret” strategies, the writings of Hemingway, and the allure of being in a river.

Regarding fly fishing, he described the long drives to the lodge and the moments in the river as something very restorative, meditative and spiritual. He said that when he started to fly fish, his goal was to catch a single fish (fly fishing has a very long learning curve). Then, it was to catch as many fish as possible. Then, his goal became to catch many monster trout. He has accomplished all that.

Now, he is pushing the age of 70, and his goals are different. He just wants to “enjoy the moment.” When he gets to the river, he delays his fishing. He instead sits on the bank and quietly observes the surroundings for 30 to 40 minutes. He soaks in the scene. He sees what the trout are doing. Then, he fishes. In a short period of time, he lands a lot of really big fish. The Trout Whisperer fishes with intent and with calmness. He calls it “the Zen of fly fishing.”

So, live in the moment. The current moment may be happy or tragic, interesting or banal. But, accept it and immerse yourself in it. Amazingly, you’ll find a lot of meaning unfold in those moments. When you’re not so busy resisting the moment, you’ll pick up on a lot more.