My 83 year old Grandfather in Indianapolis maintains a Facebook profile, owns an iPhone and responds to email. He bought a Prius 12-13 years ago when most of America (myself included) didn’t yet understand the difference between a hybrid and an electric car. He owned a tool and die business that he always kept at the forefront of technology, at times buying calculators that cost more than a car would today.
Thus, when my Grandparents visited Los Angeles last summer, I had the pleasure of ordering a car from Uber to take us to breakfast. I showed Grandpa the screen of my phone. I watched his amazed reaction as the blinking car turned the corner and appeared in real life. Grandpa always insists on paying for everything and it’s a victory to make him let you pay. So I also enjoyed telling him that it billed my card directly. Voila.
On Tuesday I became angry upon discovering that the city of Los Angeles had issued cease and desist orders against Uber (and Lyft and Sidecar). I shared Grandpa’s amazement the first time I ordered an Uber car in San Franciso. It’s a joy to take a ride without some cab driver angling for me to pay in cash (or outright lying about his ability to accept a card). In fact, it’s one of the few times I have used an App where I felt like This is the Future.
At the age of 13 I attended the National Republican Convention as a member of a youth press organization. (I also believed that I was Republican – boy I had a lot to learn about life!) Most of what I heard in Houston that week I have long forgotten and much of it would deeply trouble me today. One speaker, however, had a zinger that I still remember. He said, I’m paraphrasing, that if the Democrats had their way, when the light bulb was invented they would have passed laws to protect the candle industry. Researching the truth of this statement is unnecessary. Actions like the city’s cease and desist letter against Uber (and let’s be real, Los Angeles is functionally an arm of the Democratic Party) prove the statement has some Truth. Is anyone naïve enough to believe this is really driven by concerns about safety?? We need to embrace innovation if we want to keep our majorities.
That night, I attended a mixer sponsored by the organization Tech in Motion, which occurred at Blankspaces. At the event I thought, is a tech bubble forming? First there’s a proliferation of organizations sponsoring events; second most of the attendees asked green sounding questions; third, a recruiter sponsoring the event complained to me about the difficulty of finding employees; and finally, the speaker, Alex Ross the CTO of Enplug said his company had to engage a recruiter. For a long time it felt like the Help Wanted Sign had become extinct and now at least anecdotally recruiters have a piece of the action again. It’s not related to tech per se, but my realtor friend John Iglar recently listed a home in Westwood. Two hundred fifty people came to the first open house and the sellers received 22 offers. The California DNA dates back to the Gold Rush and the boom and bust cycle feels so much more intense here. I’m ready to declare that we’re on the cusp of a boom. Get your hustle on and enjoy the ride.
Wednesday night I attended an event organized by StartOut on the subject of networking with New York Times bestselling author Keith Ferrazzi. Several years ago I read his book Never Eat Alone and recommend it to friends and colleagues. Much of Ferrazzi’s speech covered ground I already knew. However, after my earlier career working in politics, something about most networking has felt icky and phony. He said that being deliberate should not be confused with being phony or inauthentic. It’s funny how the introduction of the smallest word can cause our perception to shift. Other people reach out to me for help from time to time and it’s always deliberate, but sometimes the person cares about me and sometimes I’m just a step on their way to somewhere else. Therein lies the difference.
After Ferrazzi’s speech, I stayed and networked (after a talk about networking, you must network). I met a consultant working for one of the Big Six studios and he gave me an interesting nugget. On a movie script that he was aligned with, they sent the script to the China Film Group for approval prior to obtaining financing for its production. He said at the request of the China Film Group, they changed the villain from a person of Chinese descent to a person of Japanese descent!
Sheesh. So many things to say about this. First, if I read an article like this one, I would have understood Chinese censorship meant a film would either be shown or not shown. It’s a little disconcerting to know that groups sponsored by the Chinese government effectively use their market cloud to wield influence on the content of our films. Second, to any aspiring band, star or starlet, what outreach are you doing to foreign audiences? See this recent Fast Company article about films made because of their overseas success. Obviously these dynamics will continue to increasingly influence casting decisions. What works in Beijing may trump what plays in Peoria.
The week’s events wrapped up on Thursday night at a dinner at the Beverly Hills Hotel on the subject of the status and future trends of the German Renewables Market, hosted by the German American Chamber of Commerce. Germany’s lead in solar power generation has been covered countless times in other places, so I won’t repeat the statistics. Interestingly, the country is now grappling with new problems, chiefly that there’s an overproduction of power during the day when it’s sunny. This overproduction has caused a drop in the day rates that utilities will pay producers, such that producers now are concerned about how they can store the power.
In a recent New Yorker article Malcolm Gladwell reviewed Worldly Philosopher: The Odyssey of Albert O. Hirschman by Jeremy Adelman. The article quoted Hirschman: “Creativity always comes as a surprise to us . . . we would not consciously engage upon tasks whose success clearly requires that creativity be forthcoming. Hence, the only way in which we can bring our creative resources fully into play is by misjudging the nature of the task, by presenting it to ourselves as more routine, simple, undemanding of genuine creativity than it will turn out to be.”
In my life experience, the quote proves true and the way I see it, the Germans started by putting solar panels everywhere. They will end up designing the best energy storage devices in the world, simply because they have forced themselves to need this next.
My client, friend and all around good guy Brian VanRiper and I are hosting a gathering at my place before the formal Garcetti Inauguration. Please come and say hello.
Los Angeles, California