Tag Archives: vacation

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.



Ava and Dad

Trading the Work Grid for the Family Grid

This past week, I took my family to the Outerbanks for a beach vacation.  It was actually the first time my two kids flew on an airplane and it was quite the experience (they did well, FYI).

I made it a point to be “off the work grid.”  While I uploaded some Instagram photos and updated Facebook every now and then, I did less work this vacation than on any of my previous ones.

While I was off the “work” grid, I was on the “family” grid.  It felt amazing – bonding with my kids and wife and some other family and friends who came down with us.

I traded in emails, meetings, vendor pitches, startup pitches, subways, commutes, business lunches for Candyland, donuts, trolley rides, and sandcastles.  The associated smiles were priceless.

I urge any and all of you to shut off every now and again.  I’m juiced and charged and ready for what lies ahead for the remainder of 2012.

Going Big but Staying Local

This week, I’ve taken the family to West Hampton to relax and reset.  We’re all excited to be together and this is David’s first vacation.  With me is a signed copy of Chris Anderson’s Free and look forward to reading it.

While I’m out here, I’m spending lots of time thinking about the local space.  This space has scared most venture capitalists as many have gotten burned by entrepreneurs who couldn’t figure it out.  I think it has huge opportunity and apparently so does AOL and the Huffington Post based on recent announcements that they have made.

I’ve been tracking a company for a bit over a year now who is starting to make some waves in the local space and am becoming a formal adviser to the company.  I’ll be posting about them probably sometime this week.  In a nutshell, these guys move into small to midsize market with feet on the street and within 3 months, have dozens of paying customers all advertising on a local website that ranks extremely high in search engines.  As once daily newspapers are moving to once weekly or defunct in each of these markets, small business advertisers need ways to advertise and we look to capture that.

Additionally, Sherri and I have been talking about seeding a startup that will be the Last.fm or Pandora for real estate.  My thesis about the market is that there is no lack of listings online, but there is a total lack of discovery about where to vacation, where to move, etc.  I think we’d like to figure that space out.  Anyone else trying this space?  I’ve done some research and haven’t found anyone.

If you are thinking local, lets chat.

Thursday Afternoon Update

As many of you know, I’m down in North Carolina on a little R&R (vacation) and have spent quite a bit of time catching up with family, friends, and my RSS feeds.  There are a few things I’d like to address with this post:

  • Contact Form – If you have tried contacting me through the “contact form” on this blog and didn’t get a response, please try submitting again.  I realized that my mail-que was building and we had to delete all contact form responses.  The form has been fully updated and is hosted by a 3rd party so that I will receive all inquiries.
  • FutureMeme.org – Last night, I soft launched FutureMeme.org, a project (not a business) to get many thought leaders to participate and write-in their predictions.   There is a wish list of folks we’d like to have participate but YOU should participate as well.  Check it out.
  • Outerbanks Pics – I uploaded some of our NC pictures to Flickr.  I love the pic of the BBQ sandwich.  Sherri has been blogging about our trip over on HermanWeb.

Back in NYC on Monday…

Greetings from Sand Hill

Sand Hill PicMost readers of this blog know that Sand Hill Road is hub for many venture capital firms in California. I’m spending the week down at Sand Hill Lane, in North Carolina with family and friends. Blogging may be light during this time, but I’m in the midst of reading a few books that many of us would find interesting and will blog about them.

Here are some pics from the first day.

It's Almost Ski Season…

SkiFor those of you who really know me, I love to get away on winter weekends and travel to Vermont.  Sherri and I took our first step this weekend by solidifying a sloapside condo rental at one of my favorite Vermont mountains, Bromley.  We’ll be heading up in December, January, February, and March.  If you happen to be up in southern Vermont during that time, let me know.

While not the toughest or largest mountain in Vermont, Bromley is the Vermonter’s mountain with it’s sister mountain, Stratton, about 15 minutes away.

Skiing isn’t the only thing I do in Vermont… I spend quite a bit of time reflecting on the year and getting away from the hustle of Manhattan.  Usually, I have longer blog posts when I come back because I can analyze things better.

Our first trip up is scheduled for late December… and I’m already excited!  Time to go get the skis tuned-up.