The Benefits of Turning 50 (or any Age!)

I turned 50 in September and it surprised me how it got into my head in the two weeks leading up to it. Everyone joked about being on the backside of life, service dogs and other cliches. On thing they all had in common were that they had negative connatations and played to the notion that the best has passed and now it was just decline.

This is no different, in many ways, to how people may (unintentionally) make entrepreneurs feel about their venture. It won't work, look at the challenges, burning money, why isn't anyone buying, you're a CEO?, etc.  It all comes down to how you frame your life and your journey. Below is one of many positive takes on turning 50. Hell, I would argue that you can create a similar list for any age and frame it as an opportunity to reinvent, to realize your freedom of choices, be inspired, have courage, etc. Life is a series of Hero's Journeys...50 is not the only one!  So, seize the day (or Birthday) as the case may be and don't let those influences around let you think small or feel small.

        From YourTango, The Top 10 Benefits of Turning 50
        "Turning 50 is a new chapter in your life so make it count! 

Michelle Obama has turned 50, and now the nation is talking about this magical age. Is it over the hill or the peak of life? The benefits of turning 50 can outweigh the negatives if you look for them. And I looked! Here are 10 perks of reaching the half-century mark. 

  1. Wisdom. At this point of life, you've had 5 decades of experiences. Hopefully you have gained perspective, insight and wisdom. Many 50 year olds begin to share this wisdom verbally with children or write a book to reach a larger audience. The question is…do the youth of today pay attention or will they have to suffer the hard lessons personally? Regardless of the answer, share your wisdom anyhow!
  2. Freedom. Many parents who turn 50 are finding themselves with an empty nest. They now have the opportunity to plan their days to do what they wish instead of being a taxi service, maid, chef, laundress, and general manager of the family schedule. Now, you have the option to have a simple dinner, a tidy house, and more free time to plan your own activities! It's all about you now.
  3. Inspiration. Due to your increased wisdom and freedom, you may feel inspired to resume a career, switch jobs, knock off items on your bucket list, take a class to learn something new, write a book, champion
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The 15 Year Tech Cycle: Boom in the Night Now?

"If you can see it, it isn't the revolution." -- Steve Jurvetson

I wrote the following post in Nov, 2008. It demonstrated two things. 1) Tech and the stock market have a little dance they do...tech has roughly a 15 year cycle and the stock market has roughly a 7-8 year one and 2) tech is non-linear...just as FB/social was about to take off, many thought cleantech was going to be the next bellweather sector. If you can see it, it isn't the revolution.

I wrote in June 2008 that I thought the venture/market cycle was coming to an end and this one in Nov 2008. Today, lot of people are going to cash and getting nervous about the market this year. Fortune 500's are cutting ad spending for Q1 (some significantly) and I recently spoke to two elder ladies in a hotel lobby who were "short the market". Also, more VC money was invested in 2014 than any year since 2000. So, while I believe in the 15 year tech cycle (e.g. things go boom in the night in the coming year), with this many people looking for it, it seldom hits. That said, probably not a good time to aggressively put money out and a good time to get your house in order. I'll revisit as the year progresses...the IPO market vs. last private round valuations is a key metric to monitor.

From Nov, 2008:

"As the bad news keeps pouring in, a lot of people are wondering what we can expect in the coming years. Additionally, everyone is trying to figure out what hope exists. Well, I'll give two thoughts on this (briefly).

First, the world of technology is driven by two factors: the laws of exponentials and the Black Swan. Progress does not occur linearly but exponentially. We can expect to see changes the magnitude of the past 100 years in just the next 20 years. This means a lot of people are going to a) be really busy and b) be dramatically better off. These changes will come from places you can't predict (Black Swans). Market crashes and negative developments are not the only unexpected six sigma events.

Second, markets run in roughly 7 years cycles and technology in 15 year waves. Vacuum tubes to main frames to mini-computers (DEC) to PC's (Apple/Microsoft) to the Internet. The next wave, then, should start in 2010-11 and hit full force in 2015-16. Many in the business (us, Kleiner, etc) feel this will be in Cleantech. The energy market is 10-20x the IT market. We are not talking about billion dollar markets but trillion dollar ones. There will be a lot of casualties

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The Key Israeli Story: StartUp Nation

Larger Post coming...without appreciating the context (yesterday's post), it is hard to fully grasp the origin nor significance of the tech renaissance that is taking place in Israel.  One has to see it to fully appreciate it. Much like Boston and Silicon Valley had its origins in military R&D and culture, Israel's tech ecosystem also comes out of this. It has had innovation after innovation emerge from its advanced defense work. For example, ICQ (not AOL messenger) launched instant messaging onto the world and originally came from te Israeli Defense Force's internal uses. Same with voicemail and many other innovations. Israel has some of the world's best minds in Big Data, IT security software, messenging, telecom infrastructure, etc.  A lot of this is described in the book, Start-Up Nation by Dan Senor and Saul Singer. Some of the numbers are eye-popping...one start-up per 2,000 people in the country for example. Necessity is the mother of invention.

Equally important is the Israeli resilience & tolerance for risk.  This is at the heart of the entrepreneurship.  When living in the charged environment discussed yesterday, you can't help but to grow up with a DNA that accepts risk/change's role in life and embraces the necessity of innovation.

I have to run to Tel Aviv's accelerator, SOSA (their equivalent to Chicago's 1871). More to come.

Up Close & Personal with Middle East Conflict

Today was one of the most memorable days of my life. Things in the Middle East got very real today. We spent the entire day on copters flying South to Gaza with the Israeli Defense Force and then North to Golan/Syria and Lebanon with Israel's "Wolf Blitzer".  We were 10 seconds away from Gaza's Hamas mortar batteries as well as 200 yards from Hezbollah's missile arsenals in Lebanon. We also looked out over Syria's massive civil war from the Golan Heights.
 
Region on Fire: My summary takeaway is that there is seismic change going on in the Middle East across nearly every country. Most of the countries in the Middle East (Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, etc) were created arbitrarily by the British and French who took nomad (and warring) tribes and drew nation-state boundries around them (a concept foreign to them).  Each is now in the process of splintering apart into its Shiite, Sunni, Christian, etc sub-factions. The only thing that held these entities together were brutal dictators who used force/terror to bottle the 1700 year old genie (when Sunni & Shiites first split). Syria is splintering, Lebanon is getting bold, Gaza re-arms, Iraq is fracturing, the Palastinians are slow rolling and Iran races to go nuclear (while funding many of Shiite terrorist activities around). Israel sits in the middle, growing more resolute to take action while Europe prepares to impose its will on Israel and the US sits bewildered. It feels like something is going to go bang in the night coming up.
 
Breakfast w/the General: We started the day with bfast with Major General Amos Yadlin, the former head of the Israeli intelligence operations. He commented that much of the conflict is being driven by Sunnis vs Shiites vs secularists, especially their extreme branches. As a result, unnatural alliances are forming. Arabs vs Arabs, Arabs vs Israelis, Arabs with the west and against the west. Billionaires in Saudi Arabia funded initial ISIS activities but now, as ISIS has grown more radical, they have pulled back as ISIS condemns the Saudi secular rule. Hamas is in Gaza and Egypt is at war with fellow Arabs and allied with Israel. Hezbollah fights ISIS in Syria (terror organization vs terror organization). 
 
He commented that the region is struggling to find a form of government that both is consistent with its history/culture and yet brings it economic strength & political stability. It has tried monarchies, dictatorships, socialism, capitalism and now, the extreme factions are pulling it towards religious Islamic rule (unfortunately back into the dark ages).
 
Iron Dome Command Visit: We drove down to Palmachim military air base & the Iron Dome battery to see what few get
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Stunning Day in Jerusalem…Day 1

Quite the first day…cultural day in Jerusalem (minus our guide saying “all schools have cancelled trips to Jerusalem given events this week…”).   Landed at 8:30am and off to the races. We visited the Old City where we walked through the four quarters, touched the marble Jesus was supposedly laid on (post Cross) and the cave he was supposedly laid, all encompassed in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. While being in the heart of all the unrest you see on CNN, you feel amazingly safe...more so than parts of many major US cities.  Crossing streets being the most risky times :)
 
Intriguing dinner with two of Israel’s top journalists who gave us their take on the region & country while we stared out the patio at the old City. The context was almost surreal as we spoke and I was literally looking out at the infamous Security Wall and the intersection of four cultures in the Old City. You could feel the energy of all this history and intersection. Pretty wild.
 
After dinner blew me away. We went to see the City of David's tunnels…wasn’t certain what to expect. I assumed this would be the minor part of the trip and looked forward to the Wailing Wall.  I was wrong.  We toured the excavations of the City of David that were just discovered in the past 5 years (used to be under a parking garage of all places).  Sitting underneath parked cars had sat 3,800 years worth of layered remains from 18 different civilizations stacked on top of each other (Persian, Roman, Jewish, etc).  They also found letters with seals from actual messengers mentioned in the Old Testament (Jeremiah). This is significant because it foots with the Bible, indicating that the Israeli’s did live in Palestine first (however, doubt will solve the Mideast crisis :)   They then took us down to tunnels from 560 bc that ran up from the City to the “Temple Mount” at the top of the Hill.  It still had pottery and ash marks from when the Romans drove the last Israelis out in 70 AD and people literally took their belongings and fled. Romans smoked the tunnels as they tried to escape.
 
We ended the night at the Wailing Wall. I have one of these in my office when dealing with portfolio companies!
 
The Former "Parking Garage"...3,800 years/18 different civilizations stacked on top of each other...!
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Flow, Secret to Happiness

Those who know me well, know that I am a big fan of Mihaly (formerly UoC) and his work on Flow (TED Talk: Flow, Secret to Happiness).  He has been on the forefront of work around positive psychology, researching "experts", 10000 hour rule, Happiness/Achievement/Creativity and much more.

Csikszentmihalyi also found that intrinsically motivated people were more likely to be goal-directed and enjoy challenges that would lead to an increase in overall happiness. Great quote from him below. The following framework is at the heart of his work, around aligning Challenge and Skill Level. His work is a must read including (Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience)

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“A person can make himself happy, or miserable, regardless of what is actually happening ‘outside,’ just by changing the contents of consciousness. We all know individuals who can transform hopeless situations into challenges to be overcome, just through the force of their personalities. This ability to persevere despite obstacles and setbacks is the quality people most admire in others, and justly so; it is probably the most important trait not only for succeeding in life, but for enjoying it as well. To develop this trait, one must find ways to order consciousness so as to be in control of feelings and thoughts. It is best not to expect shortcuts will do the trick.
“                                        - Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Bitcoins: Full of Sound and Fury…

...signifying nothing.

I published this about 7 weeks ago when pricing was around $1,000. With the Mt. Gox implosion, there has been a strong pull back in the market. Eventually, there will be a more defined need/place in the ecosystem for Bitcoin. This recent episode illustrates that there are an array of components, security & circuit breakers necessary for this to be a more widely accepted currency. It is just the beginning of a series of market unjulations as well as catalyst for much needed infrastructure enhancement.

"Anyone watching Bitcoin's meteoric rise in price has to wonder what is going on. Despite all of the trappings of crypto modern technology, everyone has to remember that it behaves according to the laws of all markets (supply and demand).

Supply is capped at 21m coins, and as the global supply gets closer to this, growth in supply slows significantly. So, there is not significant spikes in supply.

Demand on the other hand, has both traditional currency use and an increasing amount of "momentum" speculative buying. Like any market, as people see the price rise, others jump in with the hopes of riches, driving the price higher...rinse and repeat and you hit bubble town. Supply is capped and demand does not.

When does it pop? Who knows but it unwinds exactly the same way it has for 5,000 years. A segment sells hard. It is an illiquid market and buyers start to dry up as the price drops and fear replaces greed. If something fundamental like a global equity crash hits or governments ban it outright, who knows where the bottom goes.

The issue is the very nature of its libertarian beauty. There is no lender of last resort, no market makers and no "too big to fail" government intervention. In 1987 and 2008, without this circuit breaker, we'd be in the Dark Ages again. People getting in today are bullish but nervous given the rise (when has an asset rising 9x in a short period of time not led to significant correction...could go to 100x before it blows or just 10x).

Have you wondered why there are so many positive, get into the pool, "there is Gold in them hills" articles? If I own Bitcoins, getting a ton of others coming in will drive the price through the roof. This is what happened in the 1920's and led to the Blue Sky laws, etc to mollify stock price manipulation.

I think the world government's printing presses have created a widespread interest in currency alternatives. However, Bitcoins have issues with being illiquid, having a nascent market infrastructure, no regulation on behavior (1800's style pump & dump manipulation), no circuit breakers and

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From the Seeds of Despair Come Greatness

"I'm sorry, there's nothing more we can do."

I was always envious and impressed with one of my former entrepreneurs, David Linn. After HBS, he managed to arrange to play professional soccer during the summer (Chicago Fire) and work at McKinsey the rest of the year. He was our top deal guy at Centerpost and has an effusive energy and presence that makes you want to be involved with him & whatever he is doing. We were disappointed when he left Centerpost to go to New York and be with his fiancee, his soul mate but we were happy for him. Fast forward 9 years and imagine my surprise to see him on the stage of the Social Innovation Summit. My heart sank as I heard him talk about how his now wife came down with a rare sarcoma and, after 7 years of fighting, died in 2011.

But David is an amazing guy, a force of nature. As many incredible people have done, he took the pain, the sadness and the setback and redirected them towards making a difference. You see, for all of us, from the seeds of despair come greatness. For every setback and tragedy brings with it an energy, a yin to despair's yang. It can propel us to new heights to right unstoppable wrongs. To make the world a better place, whether through a business, a cause, a friendship or just a hug. As Buddha said, there will always be pain or disappointment but there does not need to be suffering.  Where are you going to point your immense talent & potential to make the world a better place?

As I said in my earlier blog post this year, I vowed to give back more. David created Cycle for Survival in partnership with Equinox and Sloan Kettering to raise money for rare cancer research (total 50% of deaths). They have raised over $30m in the last couple of years and every dollar goes directly to researchers. So, inspired by David's awesome response to life, David Rosen & I set up our Team Pritzker for Cycle for Survival on Feb 8th. If any of you are moved to support the cause, please go to the TEAM PRITZKER CYCLE PAGE. The McCall's are dividing and conquering...my daughter, Avery, will be David R in Chicago and I'll be part of our LA office effort (you can donate to either team).

In closing, I wanted to add a link to David's blog about turning 40 and How to Dance After Losing It All. He made the video below with his wife on her 40th in 2010. Don't forget to dance.

Millennials: Rightly Up-ending the Apple Cart

“When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” 
― Haruki MurakamiKafka on the Shore

While the Boomer's bemoan (wrongly) Millennial's lack of work ethic, narcissism and lack of respect for seniority, there is a sea of change coming that corporations and start-ups alike need to fully appreciate. Millennial's aren't buying into the status quo, whether it be traditional corporate structures, incentive systems or goals. They have been honed since youth to achieve yet at the same time, have watched the ways of the boomers sink the economy into a hole. They have been asked to do more sooner (on the achievement track by 6th or 7th grade) yet now find traditional jobs harder to find and not consistent with their upbringing. So, yes guys, they are going to play by a different set of rules and, given they'll be a majority of the workforce within 10 years, you better get on the wagon.

Recently, Deloitte ran a Millennial survey to better understand their fastest growing employee segment. The findings are very interesting. Here is a link to it Deloitte Touche's CEO post on Their Millennial Survey.  It reinforces many of the themes we've heard in the past.

What I find striking about this post is that it is the first time I've seen a Fortune 100 CEO lay out why it is important to change, even turn on its head, how we (and they) manage people. Just as we moved from Organizational man through several iterations to the Knowledge Worker, we are now morphing into Millennial Man (or Woman).

At our annual Pritzker Group CEO summit, we held a panel on Managing Millennials with the wise sage, Kevin O'Connor (founder/ex-CEO Doubleclick) whose employees are all Millennials and the Millennial wunderkind, Rishi Shah (Context Media) & Emerson Spartz (Spartz Media). and the takeaways were consistent: mission/purpose in their firms, their jobs and their tasks are critical; they demand a meritocracy over seniority; they are very interested in professional development and ongoing self-improvement; they want more frequent feedback & affirmation; they are open to measured & action oriented criticism but not good with harsh/blunt commentary.  Intelligence is not what you know but where to find it (Internet generation)
 
The Deloitte study & others have a lot more details. However, the key thing to take away here is that all of our corporate & entrepreneurial cultures, incentive systems, goals, focus on mission, etc are going to need to be revisited and improved on. While more difficult to manage, I applaud their demand that jobs should be more than hierachical contracts where you are told to
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How Many People Have You Impacted This Year?

As another year draws to a close, I increasingly ask myself the core question: How many people's lives have I helped to make better? Not enough. As I begin to draft my New Year's Resolutions and Goals, I'm going to push myself to get outside of my comfort zone and stretch in helping others in a larger way. Take a look at this great Upworthy video of the late Paul Walker's group, Reach Out World Wide. Be The Change You Want to See in 2014. Thanks Paul…  (for those having issues with the playback, here is the original YouTube link,..because of the soundtrack in the video, I think YouTube/Zefer may be blocking some viewings)