Category Archives: Darren Herman

Impact15, Twitchcon, and more

It has been a busy month since my last post here.  I’m en-route to Las Vegas to speak at the Internet Marketing Association’s Impact15.  I’ve never been to an IMA event before so have no expectations but the speaker lineup looks fairly solid and I met my wife in Vegas (and she’s coming too)… so how bad could it be?

At Impact15, I’ll be doing a fireside chat with The Buddy Group CEO/founder, Pete Deutschman, a friend and partner of Mozilla.  He’ll be interviewing me about Mozilla’s role in the content and advertising space and how putting the users first will lead to better results for marketers and users alike.

On Saturday, I’ll be heading up to San Francisco to Twitchcon.  As many of you know, I was in the video game industry from 2004-2007 while we built IGA Worldwide.  Between then and now, the entire video game industry has blossomed and it’s expanded tremendously.  I have an angel investment in a company who is showing at the event (StageTEN).  They help any broadcaster (especially eSports) have a full digital production studio at their fingertips:  incorporating multiple feeds, polling, text-in, etc.  Everything.

If you are going to be at Impact15 or Twitchcon, would love to say hi.  I will be back in NYC next week.

Two posts you should read:

We are 3 clicks away from an oh shit moment for the web and Dear Abby, I don’t mind advertising but I do mind tracking

Busy Week Ahead

This has been a busy couple of weeks.  Last week was the Silicon Alley Tennis Invitational (part of Silicon Alley Sports) in which we hosted about 40 Silicon Alley execs up in Westchester County and played some tennis, was treated to a surprise guest Patrick McEnroe, and networked with each other.

This week, we’re doing some press briefings for some upcoming launches and have the below scheduled.  Hopefully I’ll be bumping into you at these events.

Wednesday (5/20) is Luma Partners’ Digital Media Summit in which I’ll be delivering a talk around user agency in advertising.  I’ll also be at the event in the afternoon to chat with those who would like to sit down and talk.

Thursday (5/21) is Dmexco NYC inaugural get-together and we’ll be there giving talks about putting the user front and center and giving some insights for the future of advertising.

Looking forward to seeing you this week.


2015 Silicon Alley Sports

Silicon Alley Sports LogoBack in January, I wrote about Silicon Alley Sports and expanding our Silicon Alley Golf Invitational to also include a second event called the Silicon Alley Tennis Invitational.  We’ve been hard at work securing locations, hospitality, and logistics and we’re super excited to announce our lineup.

In 2015, I expect 150+ Silicon Alley based entrepreneurs, digital media executives, venture capitalists, angel investors and ecosystem supporters (i.e. advertising agency, brands, M&A folk, etc) to come out and participate.

First, we cannot make any of this happen without amazing sponsors who allow us to maintain a reasonable event price.  The 2015 Silicon Alley Sports sponsor roster welcomes back MDC Partners, SpongecellPubmaticBusiness Instincts Group, Sonobi, and welcomes newcomer Adzerk.  There is still 1-2 spots available and we’re in talks with a couple of companies.  If you are interested, contact us here.

The details for the events are below:
Silicon Alley Tennis Invitational (SATI)- May 14, 2015 at an exclusive tennis club in Westchester County, NY about 28 miles from Grand Central Terminal.  Tickets go on sale in early March and will be initially released to our past SAGI attendees and qualified folks who have inquired.

Silicon Alley Golf Invitational (SAGI)- September 10, 2015 at America’s oldest golf club (1888) and founding member of the USGA, about 21 miles from Grand Central Terminal.  Tickets go on sale in late May and will be initially released to past players of the event.  This will be our 11th year of the Silicon Alley Golf Invitational.

There will be a cocktail party in Manhattan this summer for all attendees of both SATI and SAGI.  We’ve historically held this on the beautiful patio of MDC Partners which overlooks Central Park.  If you’ve purchased a ticket to one of these events, you’ll receive an invite.

Who should attend a Silicon Alley Sports event?   There is a robust FAQ listed here but I’ll review  a few things in this post.

Who should attend?  Our primary audience for Silicon Alley Sports events are entrepreneurs, c-level digital media executives, venture capitalists, angel investors, and ecosystem supporters as defined above.  We are invite only in order to maintain the level of attendees and if you believe you should be invited, please contact us.

Is this a mens only event?  Absolutely positively not.  We don’t have as many women participate as we’d ultimately like and we’re looking to change this.  We welcome all men and women equally.

How competitive are the sports?  There are some really good players – some scratch golfers, some USTA/NTRP rated 5.5 players however that’s not what is most important.  Our events are meant to be fun and welcoming, not super intensively competitive.  If you plan on bringing your conditioning coach to the event, it’s probably the wrong event for you.  I will say however that you must be able to hit a golf ball or keep a ball on the court in tennis.

What’s the donation/charity component?  We donate all proceeds of the events (revenue – costs = proceeds) at the end of the year to charities.  Historically, we’ve donated to Charity:Water, Venture for America, Robin Hood, and Make-A-Wish Foundation and we’ll continue to explore different charities over time.  Our goal is to have impact in the world and help people in need.

Who is the media partner for Silicon Alley Sports?  We’re not sure yet and are beginning to talk to different companies.  If you are interested in covering our events or working with us in some capacity please reach out here.

I hope to see you at the events!

Play well.  Do good.

Manchester Vermont – Our Winter Kingdom

Let me start off by providing some context about myself and family. We come to Manchester, Vermont for weekends and holidays during the winter as we live in Westchester County, NY. I’ve been coming up here ever since college and now with young children (6, 4), we are increasing our frequency. This post should answer lots of questions that I normally receive about this Manchester – restaurants, food, skiing, lodging, etc. Hope it helps you!


Manchester is about 3 1/4 to 3 1/2 hours from our home in Westchester County. We take the Taconic straight to 90 and then up Vermont 7. Very simple and straight forward drive – though via the Taconic there are no rest-stops. If you have children who like to stretch their legs or have issues holding their bladder, the i87 might be a better route to select.

What I like most about the drive is that it’s fairly peaceful. There aren’t a ton of buildings or homes along the highway so you pretty much get a ton of foliage and mountain views. The Taconic is known for it’s law enforcement presence so I recommend downloading Waze on your mobile device and watching for/logging the police presence. This is by no means perfect – but it has helped me a couple of times when I didn’t expect a police officer to be present and I was driving a couple of miles above the speed limit.

Ski Mountains

We typically stay in the town of Manchester, VT. There are many bordering towns but we prefer it here because of its proximity to pretty much everything – shopping, restaurants, grocery stores, etc. Manchester is not the most remote of towns because of this – so if you are looking for a completely remote escape, then check a town or two over.

If you are coming up in the Winter, then chances are pretty good that you like to ski or board. You’ve got three immediate options for skiing – Bromley, Stratton and Magic Mountain. From our home in Manchester, Bromley is 15 minutes and Stratton & Magic are 25 . All are super accessible and on most days, you can see all three from each resort.  Okemo, Mt. Snow, and Killington are also relatively close but take more like 50, 60, and 75 mins respectively from Manchester. Having all of these mountains close is a major plus, IMHO.  If you are up here for a week or so, you can have variety in the mountains you ski. You are not stuck at any one mountain and can get to plenty of good mountains centrally from Manchester.


My wife and I love staying at The Reluctant Panther when traveling sans children which is self proclaimed as a fine luxury small hotel. They have one of my favorite rooms which features a fireplace in the middle of the room. Next door to The Reluctant Panther (just west of it) is The Equinox Hotel – probably the most famous of all here. The Equinox is a mini-city in itself with condos, the hotel, different schools (Falconry, Land Rover Driving Experience, etc) and is a big draw. My wife and I have never had a good experience with The Equinox when we’ve stayed in the past so we prefer to stay elsewhere… but many friends have stayed there and enjoy it.

We have children now so we’ve been renting homes. We’ve rented everything from 1800 sq. foot barns to 5500 sq. foot luxury homes. This season, we rented on the larger side as we’ve been up a lot and had friends and family join us up here. We’ve had a ton of luck with VRBO and Airbnb. Mid-size modern homes rent from $650-1500 per night which might seem like a lot but divide the amount of bedrooms of the home and you can figure out what the approximate hotel room rate would be.

Just driving around Manchester this winter, we’ve found a ton of homes for sale – and many of these homes need updating. If you are like us and into the modern or contemporary modern aesthetic – there are few selections to pick from. If you are looking for a home to purchase and like the traditional Vermont look… then this is certainly a buyers market.

Food, Restaurants

There are two main grocery stores in Manchester: Price Chopper and Shaw’s. Both are perfectly fine – I believe the Shaw’s is a bit bigger than the Price Chopper. My children like the Red Box movie/game dispenser at the Shaw’s which allows us to rent a film by the day for a very low price. We usually eat breakfast at home on ski days and bring some snacks for the lodge. This is where the grocery stores come in handy and we stock up for the weekend or week whenever we come up. (Dad pro tip: Let the kids pick the cereal)

We enjoy a consistent set of restaurants – but note, restaurants can be super crowded during holiday times and I highly recommend you make reservations months in advance. It’s always easy to change reservations but it’s hard to make them in a time crunch. Some of the restaurants here are on OpenTable… but not all. Restaurants are a most booked during Christmas Week and New Years.

We bring our children to all of the below restaurants. We don’t have a nanny or babysitter up here so the kids accompany us virtually everywhere… so family friendly for the most part. Here are our regular places:

  • Mulligans – bar/pub food. Very solid and low key. Lunch + Dinner.
  • The Perfect Wife – *exception to no kids. Most upscale of all. Fancy menu, but good. Dinner.
  • The Other Woman – the tavern next to The Perfect Wife (same owners). Kids love it. We love it and always come. Dinner.
  • Brasserie L’Oustau – excellent french brasserie. On the fancy side. Not overly kid friendly but we certainly take them here. In the location of one of our previously favorite restaurants, Laneys. Dinner.
  • Firetower Restaurant – at Stratton Mountain. Eclectic menu but solid. Kids welcome. Bar scene too. Dinner.
  • Up for Breakfast – one of our favorite spots for breakfast. Cash & check only. Fills up quickly and is small.
  • Nippers Cafe – at the Stamford Motel – don’t let looks throw you off. Had great dinner and breakfast here. Breakfast/Dinner.
  • Bobs Diner – it’s exactly how it looks and sounds. Super old school diner that does what it needs to do. A lot of food and a tiny bit of grease. On way to Bromley/Stratton/Magic so makes it easy to stop in before a long ski day.
  • Jake’s Cafe & Tavern – located in Londonderry. Best nachos we’ve had in town. Super well priced. Kid friendly. Breakfast and Dinner.
  • The Reluctant Panther Inn Dining Room – *not ideal for kids (if they even allow). One of the more formal dining rooms but great food. Good for date night and if you are staying at the inn.
  • Cilantro – It’s a local version of Chipotle – but solid. Braised beef is amazing. Super kid friendly.  In the heart of Manchester but also a small hut close to Bromley and Stratton.
  • Spiral Press Cafe – it’s not just a coffee shop! The soups and sandwiches/panninis are really good and it’s a super comfortable atmosphere.
  • Maplefields – looks like a gas station, which it is… but go inside and find the varieties of coffee and freshly baked goods.  Delicious.  Perfect for a recharge or snack on the way to the mountains.

If you like ice cream, make sure to stop by the local Stewarts gas stations. Yes, gas stations. The ice cream bar is phenomenal and Stewarts has been long known for their ice cream.


We love Bromley, the sun mountain, the only mountain in the area that faces the sun most of the day. Trust me – the sun feels good when its beating down. Bromley isn’t the biggest, isn’t the most vertical, isn’t the most plush, nor the highest rated. Bromley is Bromley and that’s what we love about it. Bromley is a bit more laid back and chill than Stratton and isn’t about “the scene.” Bromley has a great lodge – and by great – simple and old school. It probably could use a renovation but then it would lose it’s old school aura which is what makes it special. The food in the lodge is mediocre-lodge-expensive as you could imagine (I think a coffee is $3) but it is what it is. The mountain is divided approximately 30/30/30 between green, blue and black trails and has one high speed quad to the summit (from the base). There are lift lines during holidays but the lines tend to be in the afternoons. Pro tip: use the singles line as much as you can in order to get the most amount of runs in.

Snowboarding is allowed (and taught) at Bromley but apparently it’s decreasing in popularity. I was riding up with an instructor recently and he mentioned that the glade skiing and side-mountain skiing is of the rage. Bromley supports this and apparently has a ton of terrain that’s set aside.

The ski instruction at Bromley is really good. Our kids never skied before this season and my son is now on blue trails and my daughter is doing well on the magic carpet. We gave our kids private lessons pretty much each day we were up here this season – a luxury we could afford – but gets pricey. If you get a chance, request Harold Meehan for your children. He’s been incredible to us and we’ve spent a ton of time with him this season and our children really adore him.

One of the recent additions to Bromley which appeal to us is the valet. We buy a seasons pass as we use it often – but pretty much each weekend and holiday week – you drive up to the front and drop off your car. The attendants (Alec and co) help take the skis out of the car and really make life easier. Highly recommended. I think it’s $25/day if you don’t have season passes.

I don’t ski, what else is there to do?

You’re in luck. Manchester has a ton of outlet shopping (not sure if you get good deals but my wife thinks so) and even has a small movie theater (Village Picture Show) with two screens. The Northshire Bookstore is the oldest bookstore in the north east and is a great place to also take children. If you are into the spa thing, check out the Equinox and other large inns.  You could also go ice skating, snow shoeing, and snow mobiling.  I mentioned the Land Rover Driving Experience above and that’s something I love doing with family and friends who come up – no matter the weather conditions.

The larger movie theater and bowling alley are in Bennington which is a 30 minute drive from Manchester. On rest-days or foul weather days these come in super handy.

It’s a Magical Place

We love it up here – and what I’ve written here only cracks the surface. We’re still exploring new places to eat and play throughout the region. If you’re heading up – let us know, maybe we’ll be here and can grab some Magic Hat #9 together.

My journey in becoming a Mozillian

I decided to try out Medium this morning while traveling back from #mozlandia.  You can view the original post here.

I have also pasted the post below (minus the cute picture of part of the team).

My 365 day journey of becoming a Mozillian

My name is Darren Herman and I’m the Vice President of Content Services at Mozilla. I can be found at @dherman76 on Twitter. This is the first time I’m telling this story publicly and the first time my team is seeing it. I am blessed to work with such an amazing group of individuals and hope you can all relate to the below.

Today is just after my one year anniversary at Mozilla, but only now do I feel like I could consider myself a Mozillian. Maybe other Mozillians won’t consider me one yet, but at least I’m on my way. As I fly back from #mozlandia, our official all-Mozilla meeting in Portland, I have begun to reflect on this.


I remember back to my first day on the job in Mountain View that it felt amazing to be a Mozillian. At that time, I did not realize that I was not a Mozillian but I was just a new employee at Mozilla who was just starting the journey to become a Mozillian.


My past year has been turbulent, exciting, devastating, inspiring, unbalanced, curious, stressful, and amazing. I never thought you could group those words in the same sentence but those were all emotions I felt over the past year.

The majority of the senior executive team that I interviewed with and which hired me are now gone. The inspiring technologist and inventor of Javascript who many of us came to work for unfortunately left… Scary in my eyes.

One of my most intense moments of emotions was when I felt a sense of inspiration and excitement when I took the stage at the IAB Leadership Summit back in February to talk about Mozilla’s intentions within the advertising ecosystem. The talk at the conference was well received and I was in my glory moment.

Maybe an hour after I walked off stage, the reality of my new role set in to Mozilla. Mozillians, the community, and many users erupted at me, almost like the human immune system reacting with a toxin. My flight back to New York from the IAB Summit was filled with dozens of emails with our communications team to figure out how to calm a storm I created. Mozilla getting into advertising? No fucking way.

In my head I was thinking to myself… I came to Mozilla to evolve the advertising industry and content space but what I’m trying to do is constantly rejected? WTF. Why am I here? And more so, I left one of the best roles on Madison Avenue thanks to the generosity of my former employer for this?

I received threats from our community. I received flaming emails. I received a lot of resistance.

It was time to re-evaluate my time at Mozilla so I did. I went to my coach, my wife, my brother, my father, and my mentors and we chatted. Per their feedback and my decision process, I quietly resigned and I continued an old conversation with a pre-IPO hot company to take a c-level role doing things I had former comfort in and with a leader who I respect more than 99% of people I’ve ever met.

By the end of this December, my plan was to exit Mozilla and start in 2015 at the new opportunity.

But something funny happened to me on the way to Mountain View for the 10th Anniversary of Firefox.

In the weeks leading up to the 10th Anniversary, my work life at Mozilla started to change a bit. My team had grown from back in February and we’d shipped code. We’d launched Tiles with some commercial partners and landed the Interest Dashboard in the AMO. In an engineering culture this is the holy grail, much more than talking about something or even showing mockups. We shipped code. We fucking shipped code.

I’m not going to say that we got all the respect in the world inside of Mozilla, but I started getting less hate mail, the tweets became positive, and the community became super curious.

I also began talking different. It’s weird to say that and it was something I never realized earlier this year. I used words that were second nature to me but not second nature to Mozilla. I used words that scared people. Hint: don’t ever say synergy. I tweaked my vocabulary. Had I done this for my talk at the IAB Leadership Summit, I would have probably had 90% less issues, but hindsight is 20/20.

My team, which is probably the smallest (but growing) inside of Mozilla, started to snowball. We were knocking off bugs. We got momentum in the press. Our talks with commercial partners for selling advertising tiles was beyond well received. There was real hope in all of our eyes that we could begin to change this ecosystem.

At around 6am PST on November 10, I walked into the Mountain View office for the big 10th Anniversary celebration with anticipation that this would be my last time in Mozilla Mountain View but all of the emotions from above started to hit me.

I texted my absolutely amazing wife and said that it was bittersweet that I was leaving Mozilla now as the hard part was probably mostly behind us. I’d resigned a month or so earlier but I actually now might want to stay.

I was given 5–10 minutes during our celebration to talk about what Content Services was doing in front of all Mozillians. Hundreds of Mozilla employees were physically present and others were connected over our Vidyo conference system. I asked my team to join me on “stage” (no real stage) as I went thru a slide deck of some of the products we’d launched and landed and for the first time, we got an applause; what I interpreted to be a real-one. After the talk was over, Mozillians that I had never met before came up to me and said things like: I can’t believe you’re still here but we’re lucky to have you, I now get what you’re trying to do and holy shit it’s cool, and we know this was a hard year for your team and you but hang in there.

It felt good. So good that I went into my transition meeting later in the day and the meeting lasted less than 5 minutes. I decided to stay at Mozilla and Chris Beard, our CEO gave me a second chance and vouched his support.

Fast forward. #mozlandia

I believe it was Chris who had the genius idea to bring 1200–1300 Mozilla employees to Portland this past week. We had a rough year, collectively due to management changes, etc, and thought that bringing us all together would strengthen our bonds and get us aligned for 2015.

A few things clicked for me at #mozlandia that make me feel like a Mozillian.

  1. I gave a presentation to all of Mozilla on the big stage one morning and there was applause and laughs. I had the most dangerous subject (advertising) and showed a disruptive path forward that was received.
  2. I met many different teams over the course of the week and proved I was human. So I think. I shared a beer with people who had called me out on Twitter earlier in the year and while we probably aren’t best drinking buddies yet, we didn’t kill each other either. We listened to each other and had constructive conversations.
  3. I saw the passion in my teams eyes about what we’re aiming to tackle which is monumental and not easy. But the passion is there and we are all aligned.

I feel stronger than ever that Mozilla is an amazing place. We have a real mission that’s not encumbered by another person, investor, shareholder, or partners priority. Our mission is probably as true and noble as one could be.

It took me a year to truly understand this and I’m still learning each day. If you are reading this and witnessed this all happening over the last 365 days, I thank you for your support. Thank you for showing me the Mozilla way. Thank you for continuing to nurture me into the culture.

Showing is worth more than talking. Watch our code. It’s open. And fucking amazing. Get ready. I’m excited for 2015.

2014 Silicon Alley Golf Invitational

Ten years ago I setup a golf game for founders of technology companies in New York.  We played at a semi-public course in Westchester County.  There were four of us.  The next year, we each invited another founder; there were eight of us.  And since, it’s grown.  Founders and executives of digital media startups, venture capitalists, marketers, agencies, all coming together to network + play golf.   No agenda, no nothing.  Just good times.   As seen in WSJ, Business Insider, Betabeat, and more.

I call this event the Silicon Alley Golf Invitational.  And it’s back for 2014.  Our ten year anniversary.  June 9 in Westchester County, NY.

If you are interested in playing, sponsoring, or inquiring for press, please use this form.

For those who have played in the past, you’ll receive a formal invitation over the next 3 weeks as we get together the sponsors and logistics.   For those who have never played in the tournament before, please inquire at the link above (or here).

A huge shoutout to previous sponsors Slyce, Spongecell, Buzzfeed, 33 Across, MediaOcean, PulsePoint, Varick Media Management, MDC Partners, kbs+, and Solve Media.

Time to dust those clubs off and hit the driving range!


Opening Night of DMB Tour – You Want to Go?

I’m super excited as during this time of year the Dave Matthews Band releases their tour dates.  I’m a huge fan of the band and have been to my fair share of shows.  I have never seen the band play in Texas which is where their opening night is.  So, I want to change that.

On May 16, they are playing about 40 miles north of Houston, Texas.  Since Houston is very easily accessible via many airlines, I’m planning on going to the show.  It’ll be a tour opening show, an entirely new set (2 sets, both acoustic and electric), and a new venue for me.

I figure I’d fly down the morning of the 16th, get settled into the hotel and drive up the venue for the show.   Post-show, drive back down, sleep, and head back to NYC the next day.

Ideally, we’re all responsible for buying our PIT tickets which we’d probably need to go thru Stubhub or somewhere similar.  Tickets will go on public onsale in a month or two.   Won’t be cheap but should be a fantastic show.

Not a cheap trip, but I certainly want to go.  One of those bucket-list shows.
Ping me if you are interested in going.

Goodbye 2013, Welcoming 2014

2013 in all of its glory was a transition year for me.  While I left the MDC Partners/kbs+/The Media Kitchen family and joined Mozilla only a couple weeks ago (Dec-2013), it was in planning for quite some time.  The new role at Mozilla has been fantastic and the Mozillians have been unbelievably welcoming, so the transition has been relatively easy to make.  The only part of the role so far that takes a lot of time getting used to is the amount of video (vidyo) chats that we have every day… I just am not used to it.

While I can reminisce all day long about 2013, I’d rather look forward to 2014.

Business-wise, I have to onramp my Mozilla knowledge quickly and get to specific goals that will allow me to prioritize my meetings and relationships.
Personal-wise, I am excited to watch my kids continue their growth into their own personalities.
I also want to hit a DMB show at the Gorge and bring my kids to a show at SPAC (my expectation is that DMB will play over the summer).

And of course, the Silicon Alley Golf Invitational will be back in 2014 celebrating it’s 10th Year.

2014 is going to be a true business challenge year.  I look forward to incorporating as many of you into this challenge as possible to help fulfill our goals and mission in a mutually beneficial way.

I’ll be pretty much off the grid until early January.  Have a happy and healthy.

I’m Thankful For the Past 6 Years… and Looking Ahead

Next week is Thanksgiving here in the USA and we’re about to get a ton of blog posts about how everyone is thankful about something.  All of the blog posts are important (and I’ve written them in the past) but they all come out at the exact same time (they dilute themselves) so I thought I’d jump the crowd and release mine this week… just ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.

This time of year is special to me as it’s my anniversary of working at The Media Kitchen and kbs+.  I celebrated my 6th anniversary of being on the agency side of the fence… a side of the fence that I never-ever-in-a-million-years thought I would have joined back in 2007.  It’s been just over half a decade here and it’s been absolutely amazing.

In the past 6 years, we’ve witnessed the birth of iOS App Store, WhatsApp, iPad, Instagram, Vine, Kik, Bitcoin, FourSquare, Buzzfeed, Nike Fuel Band, Makerbot, Tesla, and many other companies and technologies.  It’s amazing to think that the “app” culture for phones really did not exist before….   A lot can change in 6 years.  Now 40+ billion apps have been downloaded from Apple’s AppStore.

Here at The Media Kitchen and kbs+, a lot has changed too.  New clients, new faces on the leadership team, lots of amazing chefs (staff) around the office and our ever evolving end product… our thinking and output.  Agencies can talk about technologies all they want, but at the end of the day, they are in a service business and the staff is what delivers the product and builds and maintains relationships.

I am thankful for all of this.  I am thankful for Barry taking a chance and hiring me with having no previous agency experience.  I am thankful for being given the latitude by Miles and David of MDC Partners to co-create Varick Media Management (agency trading desk), Lori’s vision for greenlighting kbs+ Ventures (corporate investment arm for marketing + advertising technologies), the Digital Media Venture Capital Conference (featuring Union Square Ventures, Spark Capital, First Round Capital, Greycroft, DFJ Gotham, IA Ventures, and many others), book Creative Entrepreneurship along with colleague Taylor Davidson, the Ventures Fellows curriculum and class, and countless other initiatives.

For those who have read up on MDC Partners, and know their tagline, “Where Great Talent Lives,” I can say firsthand that it’s completely true.  The talent that MDC employs isn’t about pushing paper or making operations move faster but rather having a vision for the future.  It’s a vision that I added my two cents into and helped mold for the organization.  The stock is up 15x it’s low and is trading at an all-time high today.  I’m happy for them and to participate in this ride.

The past 6 years have been absolutely wonderful and have challenged me in a million ways.

But going into December, that is all going to change for me.

I am officially leaving The Media Kitchen and kbs+ to pursue a whole new world.  This was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made and one that I’ve been working with my leadership team for a bit of time now to ensure a smooth transition.  November 27, 2013 will be my last day here at TMK’s 160 Varick Street location and I want to thank you, my teams, my partners, and my clients for an absolutely amazing 6 years.  I also want to thank my family, namely my wife Sherri for helping me with this extremely hard decision.

I can still be reached at dherman at mediakitchen dot tv until the 27th.  I will continue to blog, tweet, and partner.  One of the only differences is that I’ll be checking in at a new location.

Observations from 2 Weeks in South Africa

safariI just came back from spending the past 2 weeks in South Africa as my father has not been back in roughly 35 years.  For those unfamiliar, my father and his entire family are from Johannesburg (or Jo-Burg as they call it).  He is the youngest of his family and has a twin brother, an older brother, and two twin sisters; it’s a large family to say the least.  I’ve got 20 first cousins and out of all of them, I am the first American born and Kenny, my brother, is the second.  As my dad likes to say, I’m the first Yankee in the family.

After 35 years of not being back, things changed.  We noticed this first when showing my children the street my father grew up on a few years back using Google Earth.  His once childhood home is now an entire apartment complex.  The down-the-street gas station is now a sprawling strip mall.   All of this is expected as the country has grown tremendously and only recently (within 20 years) freed itself of Apartheid.

We traveled thru Johannesburg, a safari in Manyeleti (southeast corner of Kruger National Park), Cape Town and Stellenbosch.  My folks stayed a few extra days and did the Garden Route drive.   I noticed a few things re: technology + marketing and thought I’d share.

1.  Ubiquitous Connectivity:  No matter where we were traveling, we pretty much had Vodacom or similar service to our mobile devices.  While I did not use the service (my iPhone is not unlocked), I theoretically had access.  The infrastructure in South Africa for mobile service is pretty solid and even in the safari, I had access.  I remember my phone ringing while being on a game drive in the middle of the ManyeletiI barely get cell signal in the basement of our home in Westchester County!  Go figure.

2.  Where Were All the Phones??  We walked around a few shopping malls and saw no less than 3-4 cellphone stores per mall.  That’s a lot.  But, unlike NYC, most cellphones were in people’s pockets while they were walking rather than in their fingers and in front of their noses.  The culture wasn’t about being on the cellphone at all times, but rather having the phone purely as a utility to compliment whatever someone was doing.  Maybe this is because of the rate plan structures but it was certainly noticeable.  The Samsung phones seemed to have large share of market (when we got to see people holding their phones).

3.  Safety with Credit Cards I actually felt safer using my credit card in SA than I do in NYC.  When you want to pay with your credit card, the waiter brings over a small device that scans your card at the table in front of you and your card never, ever, ever leaves your sight.  Contrast this to the USA where your credit card might be out of your sight for 3-5 minutes while the waiter charges your card and does whatever else with it (scans it, copies it, etc).  I know there are some edge technologies that are being tested where you don’t need to even take out your credit card but this has not hit South Africa yet, at least based on what I saw there.

4.  Coca Cola signs  Seemed like Coca-Cola was the universal sign for business/commerce.   While walking thru District 6 in the townships, if a shanty had a Coca Cola sign, it didn’t necessarily sell coke but rather sold *something.*  You knew walking by that the shanty was selling some good/service/product, not necessarily coke.  Some interesting branding for Coke!

Over the next week or so, I’ll be posting our official pictures but they are still sitting on our SD Card.  A few simple pics can be found on my Instagram feed.

It’s good to be back!  Oh, and I didn’t tweet once the entire time and strangely didn’t miss it.  Though I did scan the twitter headlines whenever I had access to wifi.

Random tidbit from trip:  50 Cent (and his entourage) was on our flight down to Johannesburg and Busta Rhymes (entourage as well) was on our flight back.  I didn’t feel it was appropriate to bring up my Dave Matthews Band music with them.