Category Archives: Darren Herman

Trunk Club Review

Trunk Club LogoOn March 1, my father sent me an email titled, “Cool Idea.”   The email literally consisted of one link to an MSN video which highlighted a company called Trunk Club.

I’d not heard of Trunk Club before, but I had a similar idea years back.  Essentially, Trunk Club is a curated clothing service that ships specific items to your door and whatever you don’t want, you send back.  A personal style consultant works with you to define your style thru a survey and phone consultation and it goes from there.  It’s not a discount service and most price points are similar to Bloomingdales or Neiman Marcus.

I signed up for the service because of two main reasons:  1.  I live in the suburbs and my clothing selections have gone down hill since I moved out of the city full time and 2.  I don’t have as much time now to spend time shopping for clothes, even though I love doing so.

My first shipment arrived today and it included items from Bed-Stu, AG, John Varvatos, Genetic Denim, Donald J Pliner, Earnest Sewn, and Jeremy Argyle.  Some brands I’m very familiar with and others I’d not tried before.  There were 10 items and I ended up keeping 2.  I would have considered keeping 3-5 other items but they didn’t fit great.

I like the idea of Trunk Club.  It’s upscale mens clothing, digital curation, and home delivery.  Any other similar businesses out there?

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Madison Avenue Meets Sand Hill Road, kbs+p Ventures is Born

My vision since day #1 of joining this agency has been to foster relationships with early stage technology companies, as they are the rapid innovators within the market place.  The agency world has a lot to learn from them and their rapid pace inspires much of what we do.

I have begun executing on this vision with the awesome people in the agency by hosting The Media Kitchen Digital Media Venture Capital Conference (3 years in a row), Speaker Series events featuring prominent founders and VCs, Lunch & Learns with startups, and being open to the dozens of startups and VCs that reach out each year for introductions.

I recognize the value of innovation and startups within the advertising agency landscape because I grew up on that side of town.  I got my premature grey hair founding multiple startups and raising lots of Venture Capital and both losing my shirt and winning it back.  I didn’t sleep at night because I knew that our staff had families to feed and if we didn’t hit our revenue goals, we’d go hungry.  I had been on a Ramen diet for much of the early 2000s.  It’s hard to grasp being an entrepreneur when you don’t participate in the lifestyle and career choice.

Announced today is the evolution of both the agency and myself, a step towards aligning ourselves with innovation in even a greater sense of the word.  Not only will we bring startups and fantastic entrepreneurs inside our walls for advertising related opportunities, but we’ll even take it a step further and fund them as well through our new investment arm, kbs+p Ventures.  You can view the website here.

I’ll continue to lead, inspire, and execute against Chief Digital Media Officer responsibilities with the added responsibility of sourcing, analyzing, and green lighting (along with our investment committee) seed & early stage technology driven investment opportunities that provide mutual value to both the entrepreneur and to our agency at large.

There are three areas that we look for in opportunities that aren’t dissimilar to other investment arms/funds:

  1. Team:  Are we backing the best possible people who are exploring an idea thesis?  If not, what needs to be added to the team?
  2. Idea:  We like to back big ideas that can be executed against today.  If the idea is too large and is too far out in the future, then the idea isn’t for us, kbs+p Ventures.
  3. Demonstrable Traction:  We like to see momentum.  Can you demonstrate traction that you have gained with your idea?  Do you have either an open or private beta?  Demonstrable traction shows us two things:  1) the market at some level is taking to the idea and 2) it shows us that you can execute.

I’m looking forward to backing some fantastic entrepreneurs and investing alongside my friends at various funds.  We generally do not lead investment rounds and we’re complimentary to any super angel or early stage fund.

I’m excited to bring Madison Avenue and Sand Hill Road together.  It’s been way too long for this to happen and as the advertising world is becoming increasingly digital, it makes a ton of sense.

Thanks to all who supported the launch of kbs+p Ventures!

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We Are New York Tech Features a Herman

One of the sites I check out each morning is WeAreNYTech, a site which highlights different people each day that are part of the NY tech scene. Yes, it’s a little fit pumping and a little chest beating, but who doesn’t enjoy that every once in a while.

When I went to the site today, I saw a very familiar face.  A face that I grew up playing video games with, fighting around the house, traveling the USA, and getting into arguments about Rangers vs. Devils.  I also used to throw cold water on him in the shower.  Yes, my brother Kenny.  Kenny has been featured by WeAreNYTech as he’s the VP of Business Development for uber hot startup, SinglePlatform.

It’s a big day for Kenny and I couldn’t be happier for him.  He’s awesome – one of the most charismatic, kind, means-well, person you could ever meet and he’s getting some nice recognition.  He’s been known to dance on tables at clubs I hear, but he’s pretty tame most of the time.

Congrats Kenny.

-Your Proud Brother

Big Ideas vs. Distance (My Dilemma)

Ideation Dilemna

Anyone else have this dilemma?  What do you do to overcome it?

I always love traveling or working in remote coffee shops because that’s where my mind frees up.

IGA Worldwide was a brain fart of mine when I was walking thru the woods in Saratoga Springs.

Tomzy was ideated when Sherri and I was traveling to a beach location.

I spent a lot of time working on Varick Media Management while working at the Muddy Cup in New Paltz, NY.

Silicon Alley Tees Off

I’m all about getting really smart people together and talking about the goings-on in the industry (digital media).  I’ve been hosting a private golf outing for the past 3 years and changing things up a bit… read below:

Silicon Alley Tees Off
Premier Networking & Golf Invitational Tees Off on August 4

Contact:  Darren Herman
Email:  dherman at media kitchen dot tv
Twitter:  @dherman76

July 20, 2010 – (New York, NY) – The Silicon Alley Golf Invitational is set to tee off on August 4th, 2010 at Centennial Golf Club in Carmel, NY with over 30 NY based senior executives registered to play from leading venture capital, private equity, startups, digital media, and advertising & marketing services organizations.  Participants of the tournament will be playing for prizes for “Best Score,” “Worst Score,” “Closest to the Pin,” and “Longest Drive.”

“This event is a culmination of 3 years of holding private golf events for my tech/finance friends in the New York scene,” says organizer and The Media Kitchen’s (& kbs+p) Chief Digital Media Officer, Darren Herman.  “We are hoping to turn Carmel, NY into a miniature Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference for the day; as with years past, I expect lots of [business] conversation on the course and during the luncheon following the 18 holes.”

The Silicon Alley Golf Invitational is being supported by Silicon Alley companies’ AdCopy, TraffIQ, The Media Kitchen (a kbs+p company), and Varick Media Management.

The Silicon Alley Golf Invitational is not being run as a for-profit entity and all monies from sponsors and players are going into the actual execution of the event.  Any money over and above the cost of the event will be donated to charity, which is selected by the players at the event.

For additional information, please head to the official website: http://www.siliconalleygolfinvitational.com

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My Communications Preference & Schematic

I decided to do an audit of how I use different communications “devices” and their responsiveness/effectiveness for me.  This is a focus group of one and is purely subjective.

Below is the outline.  Net/net, short and rapid communications are what work for me as evidence by Text Message and Twitter DM’s.  What I also like about them is there is a “wall” around them – i.e. not everyone knows my cell and I can’t receive DM’s from everyone.

Email still ranks #1 for my preference because of the passive nature of it; I don’t respond to everything immediately so the buildup gets significant but with the addition of Sanebox, it should make my life easier.  I do claim “inbox zero” on a weekly basis however.

After reading below, are your preferences similar?  Leave a comment.

**Update** – after reading this over again, I noticed I didn’t include LinkedIn “In Mail” or Facebook messages.  I dislike both :)

Communications Schematic

Laying Low Has Been Good…

dmh6 years ago, I was in the heart of the NYC entrepreneurial scene.  It was a very quiet scene.  Charlie O’Donnell was over at Union Square getting his venture capital learnings on, Naveen was over at Sony, and Nate was building Bricabox, and Galpert hadn’t even started conquering the art world with Aviary.  To put it in perspective, there was no Twitter or even Andreesen Horowitz.  I was the founder of a nyc startup that raised the largest Series A round since 2001 and everything for the most part went swimmingly for me.

I was pretty much everywhere I could be – any entrepreneurial event or early nextNY meetup, I was there.  NY Tech Meetups were small; we could fit around a single coffee table.  I hosted my own get-togethers (aka darrenSalon) and Winetables and really tried to understand how everything in the entrepreneurial world worked from the inside out.

Lately, for the past 24 months really, I’ve been studying from the outside in.  Why?  I’ve been laying low due to spending time with my wife and son in the evenings….  I’ve not looked back and I don’t regret it.  Being out of the immediate scene allows things to fall into place and gives you enough time to chew on all of the hot new startups emerging such as Venmo, BankSimple, Tomzy (plug for my own project), Aprizi and others.

While I probably attend 1/20th (seriously) the amount of events that I used to, spending time with my now 18 month old son has been absolutely inspiring and with another one on the way (she’s coming in September), I expect another year and a half of laying low.

Does laying low feel mean that I’m disconnected from the NYC scene?  I’m not feeling as disconnected as I thought I would be but mainly that’s because I see my nyc entrepreneurial friends fairly often for breakfast or lunch but also, thru twitter, blogs and facebook, I remain connected.  If we didn’t live in a social world, maybe I’d feel out of the loop.

Because it’s Memorial Day Weekend and we give thanks to all the soldiers who are battling hard and those who have fallen – I wanted to reflect and also thank my wife who is certainly a soldier and is raising one heck of a cadet!

Thoughts on finance, marketing, and infography

Thoughts from 30000 feet on way to Mexico with Sherri. Not: these are totally random streams of thought.

…on finance
Millennials have terrible credit. Imagine if they actually paid for content, they would be even more in-debt

Non-financially minded oriented entrepreneurs lack the knowledge to decipher between gross/net revenue. Lots of companies we hear about today may have sweet top line numbers but net numbers and even operating margins are slivers.

…on marketing
Lots of chatter about giving consumers the ability to choose everything. Time and time again, consumers don’t want to be forced with telling us what they want, but would rather be inspired and select from a curated list. Case and point: apps in the iTunes store outsell their peers if try are on the recommended list, custom shirt companies who publish a few customized examples know that those examples will sell well as templates, and any retail clothing store has representatives helping shoppers shop…

…on data and infography
If business is shifting to a data driven ecosystem, the emphasis on visualization of the data in quick, actionable, and colorful ways will ultimately win. Most business folks, let alone consumers, are not SPSS nuts or Omniture junkies. Infographics are going to be key… Which leads to a potentially lucrative future career: infography design

Fantasy sports is one of the most data-driven applications for consumers in the world. I’d venture to guess that the amount of phd’s and mathematicians playing are <10%. The reason why fantasy sports have taken off is because of the visualization of realtime data. The visualizations are not complicated but are utility driven.

…on haters
Facebook and Twitter are quickly becoming very powerful companies and Google’s perch at the top may get a bit charger to accommodate these guys. Facebook and Twitter, while darlings today, will have to start to manage for mass criticism. It’s a good problem to face as it means you are on top (walmart, ford, Nike, gap) but a pain to deal with. The larger you grow, the larger the ‘hater’ volume and sentiment.

Automotive Business Opportunity – Two Season Leases

Calling all entrepreneurs and car companies…   Curious to hear what you think about this potential business idea.

Today, there are three ways to have a car:

  1. Rent (think Hertz, Avis, Thrifty, etc)
  2. Lease
  3. Buy (includes finance)

Lets focus on #2, lease as that’s generally what I do with my cars.  When you lease a car, you lease it for a defined time period (24, 36, 39, 48+ months) and then return it back to the dealer on the due date.  Fairly simple and straightforward.

What I’d like to propose is a “dealer” lease where you can lease multiple cars from a dealer but only have one (or more) out at any time.  Lets use Mercedes for example and to illustrate my point.  In the winter, I’d love to have an AWD GLK350, which is ideal for the snowy conditions of Vermont and NY.   However, in the summer, I’d love to be able to trade in my GLK350 and swap into a CLK350 convertible or similar.

Essentially pay (for example) $700/mo “lease” for 36 months and be able to change my car once or twice a year to a pre (or not) defined car/truck.

This is a headache for dealer logistics but with enough demand for both season autos, this could be really interesting and net dealers additional dollars.

This lease program isn’t for everyone as I’m sure a premium would be necessary to support this – but I think this would be interesting, no?