The next food revolution

We are in the midst of the next food revolution.

With Walmart now selling organic, the "eat organic" revolution of the 1970's (or thereabouts) is now normative behavior.

The next food revolution is all about eating fresh, local, seasonal produce. Some organic revolutionaries now actually prefer fresh, local, seasonal but conventionally grown produce to shipped from across the world organic. The focus on produce is now extended to eating simple: choosing to eat things that "grandma would recognize as food" or things that have less than five ingredients, all of which are foods, and none of which are corn derivatives. Michael Pollan wrote a long essay in the NY Times about this last month (which I blogged on here).

The word revolution connotes turning over, but also just turning, like a wheel... and by extension like a fly-wheel. I can feel the flywheel of this revolution turning faster and faster when I starting reading about these issues in the most unlikely of places: LifeHacker.

LifeHacker describes itself as "your own personal early adopter" and is focused on "simple and totally life-altering tips and tricks for managing your information and time". Imagine my surprise when I found the following posts on LifeHacker in the last few days.

I like to think these are small signs of a growing conciousness for a wider audience of being mindful about what we eat and where it comes from. Deciding to eat local, seasonal foods, for whatever reason, ends being good for the individual and good for many other reasons too.

The doyen of VC bloggers, Brad Feld, posted something relevant a year ago on Board Meeting Food. He notes that 98% of board meeting food is terrible (he uses another word), and calls for healthier, more interesting food. This is equally relevant for meetings and events in communal settings as it is in business settings.

We should be researching and publishing food and meal options for corporate and communal settings that are relevant for different areas of the country and different seasons which fulfill all our needs for good, wholesome food. Anyone up for the challenge?


VC:VC Rising Tides, Ebbing Tides

"A rising tide lifts all boats" is a famous aphorism, much loved by observers of the financial markets, and duly applied by everyone to everything.

However, some folks beg to differ. A rising tide lifts all boats and so swamps the effect of the hard work of some of those boat crews. If the public markets are doing great, then a mutual fund manager who returns good results will be harder to distinguish from a manager who is letting the underlying tide do the work. Similarly, in the VC world, if startups find it easy to get to a fabulous acquisition or IPO (1999 anyone?), then a top VC fund is harder to distinguish from a fund willing to write checks to any entrepreneur who walks in the door. In fact, even the draw of big VC returns creates a rising tide that some say helps sink boats. Bill Helman is the Boston VC most notable for speaking out in these terms currently (see his quote in this article), and he follows in the footsteps of Ted Dintersmith of CRV and Paul Ferri of Matrix.

This all came into focus for me when I recently read this quote, attributed to Warren Buffett, "It's only when the tide goes out that you learn who's been swimming naked".

For top-tier mutual funds and VCs (same job, different markets), it is when the tide goes out that their performance shines. At such times most boats are sinking with the ebbing tide, or in these terms, the naked swimmers are revealed. However, the properly clad top performers still turn in rising results, which are distinctively the result of their own work (or at least self-made luck, I admit), and the value of investing with the smart money is shown.

My VC:VC posts compare the venture capital world with the venture cycling world of bikes and non-profits. What impact do the tides have over here? A non-profit with a strong and loyal donor base will not be left standing naked when the tide goes out, however well all charities do when it is rising. What makes a strong and loyal donor base is strong emotional resonance, great performance, or blind habit. Many people write the same check to the same charities each year (blind habit) and don't really focus on the why's or the how's. Emotional resonance is strong for many charities, especially the alma mater university, or the family synagogue or church.

Great performance is a fairly recent concern for donors and non-profits. Peter Drucker was one of the leading business thinkers to apply his discipline to the non-profit world. Jim Collins is another (see my posting on his contribution). Over time, as wealth has shifted to entrepreneurial business leaders, their metrics and performance focus is brought to bear to their charitable activities as well. For example, the Sage of Omaha (the very same Warren Buffett of naked swimmer fame) held back on his philanthropy until he found a cause that measured and prized great performance, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

I am not so tuned in to the timing of the tides in philanthropic giving, but there does seem to be a general trend towards measuring outcomes, and hence measuring performance, rather than just feel-good giving. At some stage performance measurement will lead to performance based giving, and then we will get to see who has been swimming naked.

One last piece of advice, on my VC:VC theme ... don't ride a bike in a rising tide.

Why it's called "Windows"

It's called Windows, because thats what you want to throw your computer out of when it misbehaves (too regularly).

And Blogspot has that name because when it redistributes posts from last fall just because you edit the tags, you want to throw it in the bog (see entry on khazi).

Thanks for your patience ... and we will now get back to the present.

VC:VC On-demand

In the venture capital world, "on-demand" means what it means when your cable company offers you video-on-demand. You look at a list of movies or tv shows and can start to watch them at any time - no more being a slave to the schedule. This sounds similar to what you get with Tivo (and all video recorders), which provides the same opportunity for shows/movies you have recorded from the scheduled offerings. However, even more than Tivo, video-on-demand provides access to programs that you didn't know you wanted to watch at the time they were scheduled (or programs from the back-catalog, never usually broadcast at all).

This is not a new phenomenon ... hotel rooms are an example of accomodation "on-demand", and restaurants are about food "on-demand" (and here's a thought for the oldest profession, providing on-demand services for millenia).

However, many important facets of our life have not been available on-demand, and venture capitalists are piling in to invest in them. One example is ZipCar, where for a monthly membership fee you can have access to a car by the hour or by the day. These ZipCars "live" in parking spots around the community, certainly not too far away from home if you live in a city, and through clever technology you bypass all the rental car hassle to use a car just the times you need one.

In the software world, the new on-demand paradigm arrived with a company called "" (whose motto is "Success on demand"). This company pioneered the notion of a specific kind of software, used by companies, can be made available on-demand without any of the hassle of buying and installing a big enterprise software application. allows any company (or sole proprietor) to log on to the internet, create an account and start keeping track of all their sales activity in a rich, sophisticated database. Since, in the "old days" buying such software was a 12-18 month affair for a large company, the notion of being up and running in hours or days with an integrated setup is amazing. Now many other companies are offering software on-demand (including a few of in the Sigma portfolio), from managing websites to shared "virtual" workspaces where you can securely share and collaborate on documents with colleagues from around the world.

One turn of this wheel has been Amazon's amazing (the pun, at last) offer of computing power and storage "on demand". If I want to run software that needs lots of powerful computers and large amounts of computer disk storage, I no longer have to buy them, or even rent them by the month. I can now use Amazon's compute and storage facilities "on demand", send software and data back and forth on the internet, and pay just for what I use.

Since this is a VC:VC post, comparing my venture capital life with my venture cycling life, what on earth can be on-demand about the latter.

I understand that in The Netherlands, at one stage (if not currently) there was a ZipCar like service for bikes on-demand. How about: I can get on my bike and go anywhere I want on-demand... if only that were true (especially after this week's ice storm), and of course it is just as true about a car trip.

However, I was prompted to write this after reading this great posting at about the author's fresh-local-organic-food-on-demand lifestyle. We all think the produce section is (fresh)-(local)-(organic)-food-on-demand, but Naf Hanau's article shows the way it's really done. I won't steal his thunder - just go and read the article - and his choices and opportunities are less than practical for most of us, but it doesn't hurt to be reminded of the possibilities.

(Disclosure: is a blog about Jews and Food sponsored by Hazon, on whose board I sit.)


Blogosphere and Realosphere

The blogosphere (think "world of blogs") does interconnect with the real world (realosphere?) from time to time.

For example, Matt Volpi commented on a recent posting of mine. He is obviously in the tech community (based on his blog comment) and as I followed his line of thought (and checked his profile), I found he is also a Newton resident. As a result, he and I got together for coffee yesterday morning and discovered several other connections we have in common. I know this is common for prolific and well-known bloggers (think Brad Feld), but it is nice to know it works in the niches of the blogosphere as well.

Pure intra-blogosphere synchronicity also comes up (probably more often). Paul Levy (CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center) writes an excellent blog and today I found the latest posting to be about Allegra Goodman's recent book Intuition. Those of you who know me or have read my blogger profile know I am a big fan of Allegra's writing. We are also lucky to count Allegra and her family as our friends (so there is a small realosphere component to this as well, I suppose).

Idan Raichel in Boston

Back in the fall, I was a little envious of Jacob Ner David who talked about taking his son to a Hadag Nachash concert in Jerusalem.

Last week, we got to catch up with a little taste of Israel here in Boston, with a wonderful concert by The Idan Raichel Project (warning, loud music on website).

Idan Raichel's music (and band) is a mixture of many strands of Israeli life emphasizing traditions from Africa and Arabia in particular. He is a modest performer, letting the vocalists and his musicians take most of the limelight. However, as they arrived on stage, it was clear who was the hero, with people yelling from the audience "I love you, Idan".

The music is catchy and moody all at once, mostly Hebrew and Amharic (from Ethiopia) and other languages mixed in. The band are all young and beautiful, and the voices exquisite. The percussionist is particularly hypnotising when he plays drum like instruments that float in water. He plays them at various heights in the water to conjure many notes and sounds interspersed with the sound of water splashing, slapping and falling.

At least one of the band's songs has been adopted by an Israeli folk-dance choreographer who has created a fabulous couples' dance that my daughter and one of her friends dance together wonderfully.

If you have a chance to listen to music by The Idan Raichel Project you are in for a treat.

Looking for any chance to name-drop, the only other band I know of with a similar Project name is The Alan Parsons Project, and Dorit's cousin Eric Woolfson was one of the two principals in that great collaboration.