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Archive for the ‘me’ Category

the return of egg-phobia

Posted by andreaitis on February 21, 2009

quail eggs with bacon

quail eggs with bacon. might as well yell 'fire' or 'shark' or 'marilyn manson.'

i’ve been meaning to post this picture.  actually, i’ve been meaning to update this blog.   but i suppose if i had lots of time to post pictures and update the blog then the startup thing would maybe not be doing so well.

so, here i am, insomniac’d after finishing a draft of the board mtg deck…finally, finally posting this picture.  it’s from december, when we had our first official true/slant festivus lunch.  there were 9 of us, total: 4 on staff, the new guy who was just about to start, and 4 contractors.  in case you want to play along, here’s the invite i sent out:

on thursday, 12/18 please come and dine
at 12:45 — we should be on time
we’ll have tapas and maybe…maybe some wine
(i’m not really sure since we’re on a tight dime)
at Boqueria we’ll be festive and fine
don’t worry, we won’t be speaking in rhyme
but we will celebrate how our lives intertwine
and toast to all things true/slant divine

so off we went to Boqueria for tapas and wine in the afternoon.  of course, we had a surprise quick visit from one of our investors just before the lunch.  that’s always good.  not only are we cutting out in the afternoon, but we’re going to have a pseudo-holiday party.  excellent timing.  we got to show the investors just how we’re managing the startup schedule and the funding.   high5.

anyway, back to the picture.  i don’t like eggs.  not in the i-don’t-mind-them kind of way.  i reaallly do not like them.  so much so that a friend once put a nekked hard-boiled egg on my computer keyboard as a “joke.”   funny it was not.  i still remember the quaking shock and fear when i walked in and saw that slippery slimy smelly shiny e-g-g casually resting on my keyboard.  i’d say i’m exaggerating but i’m not so much.  gloved removal and disinfectant was involved.

so when the quail eggs with bacon were served, we had to capture the moment.  i was very brave and allowed them on the table near me.  and i’m pretty sure the yolks followed my every move.  but i survived.  because that’s what it takes to make it in the startup world.

egg-free updates to come:  union square office one day, the (shoe)box office the next…

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panel’ing

Posted by andreaitis on January 16, 2009

i participated in a panel this past week on the future of news and information.   it was my first public outing as a true/slant’r, and i have to admit i was a bit rusty.  all those high school theater performances and still, i get nervous.  a good warmup, though, for what’s to come.   david berkowitz has a  roundup of my  session.

mostly, i thought we barely covered the tip of the tech iceberg.  no one talked about twitter or google reader or iphones or other non-traditional methods for consuming news.    there’s a news generation gap: the people who get up in the cold, dark morning and pad down to the cold, dark front porch to bring in the newspaper … and the people who roll over, reach for the mobile phone and scroll through the news  while under the still- warm covers.   how do we close that gap?  that would have been an interesting discussion.

public speaking in this day and age is practically a contact sport  you are instantly analyzed, judged,  pummeled and (if lucky) applauded, all at the whim of wifi and mobile devices.  it makes it that much more challenging.   so next time, i’m definitely bringing my notes with me to calm my nerves.  and maybe a  small flask.  ;-j

i did wander through the harvard club after the panel.  prittee, prittee good.  and i was accosted by a man in the coat check area who was looking for a female ceo for his relationship-fixer-upper startup.  at first i thought he was waiting to meet someone in particular.  but no, it seems he was hanging out in the harvard club just hoping to meet a woman who might want to be  ceo of an alleged startup.  i guess all you need on your resume is estrogen.  any takers?

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the magnetic fields of dreams

Posted by andreaitis on October 27, 2008

i know, i know.  not all that original a title.  i can see stephin merritt giving me that flat, dry, unswerving stare.  which he actually did on sunday night at the magnetic fields show.  f’real.

i was sitting in the front row thanks to (ridiculously cheap) ebay tix, and stephin merritt was no more than 20 feet from me.   and, um, he shushed me.   !!!!   i whispered ONE word to my date — literally, a single whisper of a word — and stephin merritt looked at me, put his finger to his lips and oh-so-quietly shhhh’d me.   in a nice sardonic way, actually.   but that brings me to a little known merritt fact: he’s got hyperacusis.   any sound louder than normal begins to “feed back” in his head.  that’s why he wears earplugs when he performs, and why he doesn’t like applause.

a review of the show here.  i was happy to see them live, to revel in the pointed and poignant misery they so lovingly harmonize.   found some videos from earlier shows on the tour — a few of my favorite moments:

papa was a rodeo

the book of love

all dressed up in dreams

give me back my dreams

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today is the day i met fred wilson

Posted by andreaitis on October 23, 2008

really.  i did.   and it happened through happenstance.

we attended the New Business Models for News Summit today at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.  the program, in its second year, is organized by jeff jarvis and had an all-star turnout.   andrew heyward, craig newmark, jay rosen,  larry kramer … so many others and … fred wilson.  but, it wasn’t just that fred wilson was attending the summit.  oh, no … fred wilson was also the leader of my break-out session.  yep.

all through the strange happenings of happenstance.

so, here it is.  i get to meet fred wilson.  and, it’s weird.  because, as it turns out, the moral of today’s story is this:  social media = social awkwardness.

let me explain.   i keep up with the must-read industry blogs.  including fred’s blog, avc.com.   i follow the usual culprits on twitter.  including fred wilson.    between blog posts and twitter, you get to know someone. the music they like.  the sports teams they follow.  their perspectives and opinions.  the things that make them happy and the things that drive them up the wall.

these social media mechanisms create an intimacy with people you have never met.  i know stowe boyd wakes up every day and twitters ‘good morning edgelings.’   i know jeff jarvis was working on his book while on the acela train.   and i know fred wilson has currently been on an okkervil river kick.

so i know stuff about fred wilson.   and as i was about to meet him, i felt like maybe i’d rather not.   that meeting him after i already ‘know’ him was some strange social shift, going in reverse from personal to impersonal.

and let me be clear: i am not the socially awkward type.  i am typically the one who puts people at ease.  after all, i spent years convincing people to spill their guts on national television.

but the flow of social media meanderings – publicly available, open to all – creates this sense of intimacy.  our tech version of the celebrity syndrome, i suppose.   in our world, though, we have no paparazzi.  we control the flow of information.  it is, in many ways, a social experiment: what goes out, what comes back, what evolves…

and my little experiment still leads me here:  social media = social awkwardness.

the panel led by fred wilson was great – an active, open, lively discussion.  the meeting of fred wilson was okay.  slight to moderate awkwardness.   on my part, at least.   i really don’t know him well enough to gauge what he thought.   we’ll see if he swings by to check out our prototype.  i hope so.  i’d kind of like a do-over.

socially yours –
andrea

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inside a startup, looking out

Posted by andreaitis on October 22, 2008

as the money’s melting down, we’ve seen post after post from venture capitalists.

smart people, with a particular perspective . . . from fred wilson to tom evslin to alan patricof.

they are the fairy godfathers for many an internet story.  but now, with the economy dipping and diving, some of those tales are looking grim.   (or, uh, grimm.)

the view is a bit different from the inside.  when we officially started on july 1,  we were truly starting up from scratch — no product, no site, just the rough rock of an idea we were anxious and excited to polish.  and we set about doing just that.

then, almost four months later, the markets went mad.  and we knew we needed to do something.  here’s what we did, our startup steps for keeping dollars and sense:

1. pay attention
what happens outside affects you inside.  the economy matters, for your product and your audience.  do not ignore what’s happening.  we thought about what we’re building, and how it would play in a good economy and a bad one.  we thought about adjustments we might need to make, and the associated costs and efforts. we’re big on back-up plans.

2. show me the money
repeat after me: i am running a business.  i am running a business.
now figure out if – when – how that business will make money or provide an equivalent value in a lopsided economy.  we looked at our potential revenue sources, and estimated high and low scenarios.  the more information we have, the better equipped we’ll be to roll with whatever happens.

3. stretch
update your operating plan and budget.  if you don’t have one, do one now.   n-o-w.   we have some initial funding, and decided we’d like it to last through (at least) december ’09.   so we went through the budget, line by line, and made adjustments.  we spent money on a very good biz dev/finance guy in order to do this.  money well spent, in our opinion, with an eye on long term survival.  we know what we need to do, we’re comfortable with the changes and we did it all in a week or so.  we also reviewed it with our investors, to get their input and support.

4. scrimp AND spend
sure, you’ll need to hire contractors instead of staff.  and maybe you’ll have to let some people go.  or you’ll hold off on a particular product feature or partnership for a bit, or closely evaluate open source tech (we are big into open source).  but spend where it makes the most sense, where you’ll get the biggest bang for your bucks.  be objective and unemotional when making those decisions.  think about the greater good, not your particular pet project.  we have a solid core team of 4, and we will invest our time and energy (and our investors’ money) in our product.  we know the experience we want to create, and we are unified in our pursuit.  which leads me to. . .

5. focus
stay focused.  that’s it.  know what you need to do, and do it.  do not get distracted.  do not panic.

oh, and use common sense.  lots of it.

we are aware, but not scared.  we know when we’ll need to go for a second round of funding, and we’re doing all we can to be smartly positioned.  there are, of course, plenty of unknowns (including how the advertising market will be impacted).  we keep up, we think, we talk and we plan.  and we do.  we are launching phase 1 of our alpha next week.

as always, we are appropriately anxious.

sensibly yours –

andrea

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startup’ing, month 3.5

Posted by andreaitis on October 12, 2008

we had our first board meeting this month.  it’s sort of like meeting the boyfriend’s parents: you want them to think you’re smart and together; you want them to be impressed; you want them to respect the real you (not just the polished-up you standing before them); and, while it’s not absolutely necessary, part of you does want them to like you.  really like you.

oh, and you want them to be comfortable giving you some space, to let you find your way through the relationship all the while knowing they’re right there should you have a question or need some sage advice.

yeah.  like that.

so how did it go, you ask?  if the board meeting was the dancing with the stars finale, we would’ve strutted away with the disco ball trophy.   BUT… it was one board meeting.  and early on.  so heads will not swell and egos will remain checked and the ‘we did it!’ dance will not be done again for quite some time.  still, it was nice to get the positive feedback and encouragement.  and to know that i am, indeed, the powerpoint princess.

some other highlights: we got a server.  yep, a real live we’re-building-this-thing server.  i named him, of course.  yes, it’s a him.  jock whitney.  meet jock whitney, our server.  cute, huh?  and no i’m not going to explain jock whitney.  r’member when the world wide internets used to be called the information superhighway?!  take a drive, clive.  ;-p

what else. . . oh yeah, i left the key to the ladies room IN the ladies room a total of four times.  which means i am now acquainted with everyone in our hallway.  of course, they all know me as the kooky girl who knocks on their door to borrow a ladies room key to retrieve a ladies room key,  but whatev.   it’s not such a picnic for me, either.

and, finally, the fred wilson watch 2008 continues.  no actual in-person sightings yet. . .but i am still on the case, dignity (somewhat) intact.

startup’ingly yours,
andrea

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the boys are back in town

Posted by andreaitis on October 2, 2008

steve dunleavy

dunleavy's pompadour flashback

so, i crashed steve dunleavy’s retirement party.  to be more exact, i instigated and led the crashing of the party.   my a current affair friends and i showed up and waltzed in as if we belonged.  which, of course, we did.

we had heard it was a closed party with tight security, only for the select few new york post staffers.  how can that be, we thought?  that was the most un-dunleavy of parties ever.  so in true tabloid form we showed up uninvited and managed to get ourselves inside.

and there, inside the bourbon street grille, it was like a tabloid time warp: rupert murdoch, maury povich and connie chung,  cristina’s court executive producer (and recent emmy winner) peter brennan, star magazine executive editor barry levine,  tabloid baby burt kearns, and so many more.

dunleavy was in his element.  drink in one hand, cigarette in another, more like the dunleavy we all remember so well.  and i did what i was unable to do when i saw him in penn station: i kissed his cheek, gave him a hug,  and wished him well.   he was happy, the center of attention, holding court and telling stories as the cigarette smoke swirled up and away, as that long tonight faded into tomorrow.

dunleavy: so you think you can dance (he does and he can).  watch part of the video tribute…

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steve dunleavy

Posted by andreaitis on September 30, 2008

nobody does tabloid better than steve dunleavy.   he’s equally aussie and new yorker, an old-school street reporter who would dig his heels into a story, kick it around and then polish it up with clever phrasing and pure passion.  he always imagined ending his career while out on a story (or a bar stool), but that’s not the way this story goes.  his health is failing, and so tomorrow night he closes up shop with a party in his honor.

i met steve in the very early days of fox television’s a current affair.  i was young – still in college – and i worked with him for close to 10 years.   everyone has an opinion of dunleavy and, more likely, a colorful story.  let’s be clear: most of those stories are true.  i certainly have my share, one of which involves his perpetually loose tooth and the airplane glue he was going to use to keep it in place until i reminded him that  he was a fire-breathing cigarette smoker and the glue — yeah, flammable.

another time i showed up on a sunday for a shoot and could not find him anywhere.  the crew was there, it was time to go and still…no dunleavy.  i checked the lobby, the corner deli, even called across the road (translation: the racing club bar, our other office).  still no steve.  by now the crew is loaded up and waiting in the car and we’re running late.  finally, i spin around in the office in exasperation and…there he is.  sitting upright, asleep in a chair.  he was there the entire time and i simply didn’t see him.  i woke him up and off we went.  a typical sunday shoot.

i remember him savagely hacking away at his typewriter, the way he could rattle off a standup in a single take, and his sheer joy at landing a story and beating the competition.   i remember him spending a couple of days with robert downey jr.  to “teach” him how to be a tabloid reporter for his role in natural born killers.  it was pretty funny, watching dunleavy trying to act like he was not acting like a tabloid reporter.  and robert downey jr. nailed it, too.  there’s a lot of exaggerated steve in his performance.

some strange things have happened to me lately.  i recently spoke with a couple of friends about dunleavy.  a few days later, i was rushing through penn station to catch a train.  out of the corner of my eye i see something, a familiar flash.  thirty seconds earlier or later and i wouldn’t have seen him, but it’s steve dunleavy walking toward the escalator that leads up to the street.   still … it wasn’t quite dunleavy.  the man i saw looked the same — grey pants, blue sportcoat with brass buttons, crisp white shirt and blue and red striped tie — except, he was not the same.  he moved slowly, carefully, a cross between a shuffle and a glide.   his skin sallow, his face and eyes…vacant.  it was literally like seeing a ghost.  i watched him go, but did not move to say hello.  i didn’t want to see him that way, to have that in my memory of him.  i wanted to remember the man who would do a quick soft shoe or salsa dance, who had a big hacking laugh, who could zero in on the heart of a story and charm his way into any interview.

when i worked with dunleavy, we did stories on elvis, oj, leona helmsley, colombian drug lord pablo escobar…and we even helped free a wrongly convicted teenager.  he was hard-working and loyal to a fault.  in fact, rupert murdoch may be the only person he was completely faithful to in his entire life.

so steve dunleavy deserves a party, a send-off in style while he is here to enjoy it.  it will be as much for everyone else as it is for him.  steve dunleavy was many things, to be sure…but i knew him to be generous, kind and respectful. and the next time i see him i may still pause, but i will give him a kiss on the cheek and we will reminisce about the first time i met him and how i really screwed up and almost got fired.

which is a story for another time.

dunleavy on objectivity vs. fairness:

dunleavy on the elements of a story:

dunleavy does rhyming slang:

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catching signals that sound in the dark

Posted by andreaitis on September 26, 2008

a day of powerpointing, prepping the deck for our first board meeting.   went to the hype machine, typed in  neutral milk hotel and listened over and over and over again.  literally for hours.  was going to  post some covers (the mountain goats, dresden dolls, jesse lacey, colin meloy) but really … nothing beats this.  jeff mangum playing at r.e.m. designer chris bilheimer’s birthday party in 1998.

i am listening to hear where you are.

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fred wilson watch

Posted by andreaitis on September 20, 2008

i have not yet orchestrated the accidental bump-in.

and, shockingly, i haven’t even wandered up to fred’s floor to scope out the union square ventures office situation.  i deserve some kinda medal for all the restraint i’m exerting.  not to mention the embarrassment i’m not causing the rest of the company (all 3 of them).   unless they’re reading this, of course.

anyway, i just know the chance meeting with fred wilson will happen soon.
two close calls must mean something:

1.  i saw the back of his partner brad burnham’s head as he was leaving the building.
here’s a picture of brad burnham from the front, so you can imagine what he looked like from the back.

b. i saw this twitter message from fred:

60 minutes away from meeting fred wilson

60 minutes away from meeting fred wilson

i was at taralucci’s exactly one hour after fred wilson.

at that very same spot.  and it’s small, so i was probably even standing exactly where he stood.  ‘course, i was getting gelato instead of espresso.  but still!!!  surely this is a sign.  of what, i’m not sure, but a sign nonetheless.

so i asked lewis, our ceo, what he would say to fred wilson if he happened to see him in the elevator.  a possible scenario, requiring an actual elevator pitch.

“what would you say?” i asked.

“why do you ask me these things?” he answered.

and then, after the obligatory eye-rolling (which, yes, i get a lot),  he proceeded to give me the pitch.  it was good, and definitely do-able in 13 floors.

and now i know fred’s not a shine deli kinda guy.

the fred wilson watch 2008 continues…

unabashedly yours,
andrea

ps – i wonder if anyone ever calls him freddy.

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