25 posts categorized "November 2013"

Birthday bits and pieces

Apologies to Doug Cornelius for borrowing the tagline he uses for his miscellanea posts.

The essential spirit for a Man About Town

Found Rittenhouse Rye!

6a01156e3d83cb970c019b01dc381b970d-580wiSince returning from Manhattan after having a Man About Town (or two) at the Gramercy Tavern, I've been on a quest to find Rittenhouse Rye in a Seattle retail liquor store.

I knew I should be able to secure it close to home, because the spirit seems to be in most bars around town. Bartenders At Manhattan on 12th, Barrio on 12th, and Matt's in the Market at Pike Place Market, have all made the cocktail for me, having the Rittenhouse in stock, though needing my instruction. (A bartender at Cannon also made something like a Man About Town for me, but, he didn't have Rittenhouse and otherwise didn't seem that open to hearing my recipe.)

At home, I've been making do with a specialty rye recommended by a knowledgeable, helpful person at Esquin. That rye was fine. But, too many notes of vanilla and caramel, and way too sweet.

Rittenhouse is the right stuff. It's spicy and sharp, and holds the sweetness of the cynar and vermouth in balance.

Every winter, I get together with a group of former employes of Who's Calling, where I served as General Counsel for two or three years. We meet next week. These guys are in for a treat, as I got a whole bottle of Rittenhouse just to make Men About Town for them.

William Kentridge show at the Metropolitan Museum

Another good reason to go back to Manhattan soon: the Metropolitan Museum is reinstalling The Refusal of Time, a 30 minute, five screen, musical performance that Helen and I saw in a train station warehouse in Kassel, Germany as part of dOCUMENTA (13).

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This piece is really extraordinary.

Cornell women's basketball

I heard from an alumni mailing that the Cornell women's basketball team was playing in a tournament at Seattle University, so Helen and I walked over to watch.

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It was great fun! I think we will do it (walk over to SU to watch basketball) again. The competitiveness and athleticism is high, but you don't have all the commercial trappings of professional sports. It was way more fun to watch the college women's teams play than I recall the few Seattle Sonics games I went to, years ago, being.

Casablanca backup

On our way home from basketball, we walked by Central Cinema and wondered why so many people were gathered around the ticket counter.

11137445895_e8f6f2d266_cWhen we got home, we got a call from a couple we'd been thinking about and hoping to see. Turns out they had gone to Central Cinema to see Casablanca, but, the projector had broken, dashing their evening plans. So the crowd at the ticket counter, that was the process of doling out refunds.

They figured they would stop by and we figured we would make them consolation cocktails.

Into the second round of Men About Town, it occured to me, we could project Casablanca and watch it just as well at home. And so we did. We used a sheet draped over a curtain rod to make a screen probably seven and a half feet square. Looked great! 

52

I turned 52 yesterday. This post ends up summarizing how I spent the day. It was a great birthday.

Picture of The Refusal of Time as installed at dOCUMENTA (13): A-C-K / Flickr.

Sign for Garrison Keillor

Good morning, and happy Thanksgiving.

I spied this handwritten sign on the gate of a shuttered Elliot BAY Bookstore a half-hour ago.

Glad the English majors are taking care of each other today.

Sign for Garrison Keillor

Bad actors, general solicitors, and other troublemakers

Big, big changes to Reg D filing requirements are potentially in the works, ranging from dire penalties for failure to file, to prefiling requirements to crimp the efficiency of Rule 506(c) offerings.

But these changes to Reg D filing requirements are in the works. They may not happen. Or, if they happen, they may be other than the changes first proposed.

8287466073_590433fbab_oMeantime, however, other changes have been implemented under Dodd-Frank and the JOBS Act, taking the form of final rules that impact day-to-day financings claiming exemption under Rule 506(b).

I'm thinking here primarily of the bad actor rule, now a part of Rule 506, and the renewed attention to general solicitation, which you want to track for purposes of reassuring yourself that you really are inside Rule 506(b) (which continues to prohibit general solicitation).

I thought it would be interesting to drive by how these changes to the law are being reflected in stock or convertible note purchase agreements.

Here's a bad actor rep and warranty from Bo Sartain - the party giving the rep here is the purchaser:

No Disqualification Events. Neither the Investor nor, to the extent it has them, any of its shareholders, members, managers, general or limited partners, directors, affiliates or executive officers (collectively with the Investor, the “Investor Covered Persons”), are subject to any Disqualification Event, except for a Disqualification Event covered by Rule 506(d)(2) or (d)(3). The Investor has exercised reasonable care to determine whether any Investor Covered Person is subject to a Disqualification Event. The purchase of the Shares by the Investor will not subject the Company to any Disqualification Event.

Pretty straightforward. A company asking an investor for such a rep may need to do more to look into whether the person is indeed a bad actor or not; but the rep doesn't hurt.

Investors, of course, may want a similar rep from the company - that the company's insiders don't include a bad actor.

And investors concerned with the risks of a 506(c) financing will ask the company for reassurance that it did not engage in general solicitation in connection with the offering (or any prior offering).

Here's an interesting rep from the model stock purchase agreement promulgated by the National Venture Capital Association. What makes it interesting is that purchaser, not the company, is giving assurances as to general solicitation:

No General Solicitation.  Neither the Purchaser, nor any of its officers, directors, employees, agents, stockholders or partners has either directly or indirectly, including, through a broker or finder (a) engaged in any general solicitation, or (b) published any advertisement in connection with the offer and sale of the Shares.

Implicit here for companies is the suggestion that, not only do you have to take care to not generally solicit, but you may also need to worry about whatever tweeting or blogging your investors might engage in during the course of the offering.

Typesetting photo: Eva-Lotta Lamm / Flickr.

Fairy tales in a Kodachrome palette

There's a great show at Photographic Center Northwest in Seattle, originally running through December 15 but I think now running through the end of the year.

It's a selection of prints from a series of photograpic narratives by Holly Andres.

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The narratives live somewhere between cinema and short story.

They feel like fairy tales.

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I haven't completely decoded how the pictures work, but I think at least part of what makes them feel like fairy tales - of a time and place both familiar and inaccesible - is the conflation of elements of the mis-en-scene from different periods that don't belong together.

Each element is contemporary and American, but from a different decade: rooms and fixtures from the '20s; clothing from the '40s or '50s; furniture from the '60s; automobiles from the '70s.

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The children read like they are from today. 

Seattle single malt

Just finished a tour of the Westland distillery in SODO in Seattle.

This new outfit is committed to producing only single malt whiskey, from malted barley (same as beer). No corn, no rye.

Seattle single malt

Scotch is my favorite spirit so of course I had to check this out.

The product I sampled and purchased is called "Deacon Seat American Single Malt Whiskey."

It's good! It won't replace Lagavulin, Laphroaig, Ardbeg, or any other single malt from the Scottish island of Islay anytime soon, but it definitely has a scotch profile. And that from being aged only two years. Joss, who led the tour, suggested that's because the casks in which the Westland whiskey was aged are new wood.

They will have a peaty whiskey available soon, using malt imported from Scotland. I'm looking forward to that.

They are a "craft distillery" under Washington law, meaning they have some restrictions on how much they can produce, and on where they can source. I take it most of the barley comes from Washington state.

Part of what made the tour fun was that there were two fellows from Sun Valley who produce spirits in Idaho, Tennessee, and California. They make gins, vodkas and bourbons, but no single malts. I think they are researching. I overheard them sharing production calculations as we wandered through the Westland distillery.

The more people making single malt, the better! Ditto English session ales.

Trick question: can a shark a million years extinct be an endangered species?

Fun post for Friday: an interview with serial entrepreneur Matt Heaton, who has just launched FossilEra, a site at which you can buy cool fossils to impress friends and yourself. And to ponder on just how late we human beings are to the terrestrial party. 

As you read this interview, keep in mind that Matt is a passionate fossil hunter himself. I believe a species of trilobite has been named after him, such is his affection for that creature noted in paleontological circles. Disclosure: I am an investor in Matt's company.

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Q: Matt, if I go to Fossil Era to buy something cool for myself, or a gift for a friend, what should I expect to spend?

A fossil can make a very interesting gift. There is something unique and appealing about being able to hold something in your hand that was alive tens of hundreds of millions of years before humans. They can be appealing to people for a large variety of reasons, the natural history aspect, the aesthetic/art aspect, or a big fossil Megalodon tooth can just look downright impressive.

We have specimens across a large variety of price ranges from $10 through several thousand. There is a pretty good selection of quality fossils under $50 for sale.

Q: How old are these fossils, and where do you get the inventory?

The fossils range from trilobites which are as old as 540 million years to things like Megalodon teeth that can be as recent as 3 million years.  To put this time range in perspective, modern humans have been on earth for only about 200,000 years.  

Inventory comes from a variety of sources.  Most of it comes from wholesale suppliers who I personally know and have collected with in the past.  Some material comes from old collections being liquidated which I either buy in mass or sell on a consignment basis.   There is also some fossils on the site which I've collected and prepared myself.  All of the material has been legally collected mostly from private leases.  You won't see material offered from BLM lands which is illegal to sell, or China where it can't be legally exported.

Q: How much time does it take to prepare each fossil? What is the process?

The preparation time is an under-appreciated aspect of fossil collecting and in many fossils preparation time represents the majority of the cost.  Many fossils when collected are still partially or even fully covered in matrix (rock) which has to be removed.  In many cases such as with most trilobites this requires tedious work under microscope using air abrasives (think miniature sand blaster) and air scribes.  Here are some examples for the site.

437-137The trilobite of the species Walliserops trifurcatus with free standing spines [pictured at top] would have been found in cross section completely encased in hard limestone.  Removing all of the rock surrounding it would have taken on the order of 40 hours of highly-skilled preparation work under microscope.  And yes, all of those spines and the trident shaped appendage on it's nose is real.

Here's another example of a trilobite from New York which I collected and prepared myself.  It includes a before and after photo of the preparation and probably took me about an hour of work under microscope.

Q: Fossil Era started as a game company, Bad Pug Games. Is this the mother of all pivots, totally random, or is there any link between the old business and the new venture?

Yes, this is a pretty interesting story.  About two years ago I developed a massively multiplayer, strategy game called Starpires purely as a hobby project.  It ended up gaining a passionate following with some very impressive player acquisition and monetization numbers.  Based off of these numbers I raised a small round of funding from local angel investors (yourself included), so that I could scale the game.

Things went great for about 6 months, with Starpires garnering some impressive player growth and revenue numbers.  Then early in the summer it hit one wall after another, primarily due to platform changes with Facebook, my primary avenue of player acquisition.  They shut off nearly all of my sources of organic players and my advertising cost per signup quadrupled in two months.  With the spike in player acquisition costs the game went from have great profit margins to being unprofitable.

I explored many other avenues for player acquisition without much success.  There was still some investor capital in the company and a revenue (quickly dwindling) stream so I decided to look for an alternative course forward.  Given the state of the free-to-play gaming industry I felt building another game was unlikely to yield a positive outcome.  I decided to do a 180 degree change in direction and pursue a business I'd been looking at for years. Fossils and paleontology has always been my passion but I was very wary of corrupting my hobby by making it a business.

After discussions with many people in the industry I got over my fears and began work on building FossilEra. I built FossilEra under the Bad Pug Games corporate structure in order to bring along the current investors and use the existing capital/revenue as seed funding.  I felt this was much more preferential outcome than simply wiping out investors, or being stuck stubbornly pursuing a line a business to the bitter end with little chance of success.

Q: Show us your favorite, moderately priced item on the site right now.

Well that depends on your definition of moderately prices.  I'm really like the cut and polished ammonite fossils we are selling from Madagascar in price ranges to $10-159  They not only are very interesting from the natural history perspective but are absolutely gorgous and display well.  

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Q: So I hear you’ve been banned by Google for trading in “endangered species.” How in the world did your pre-historic fossils get on an endangered species list?

This one really wants to make me bang my head against the desk.  Google decided to ban one of our advertising accounts because in their opinion selling Megalodon teeth violated their policy against selling endangered species.  Nevermind they've been extinct for several million years, long before the appearance of modern man on this planet.  I think someone has been watching too many fake Shark Week "documentaries"  After about a dozen  emails back and forth they still continue to stick to their claim that Megalodon is an endangered species.

Photos are copyright FossiEra.com, used here with permission.

How long should it take Facebook to give users control over their personalities?

Reference is hereby made to the post here of Saturday last, Facebook's own healthcare.gov-like debacle.

The issue before us is, how long should it take Facebook to build a control that notifes a user that her name and/or likeness has been used to endorse a product or service, and to allow that user to kill the use of her personality rights in that ad?

8480754834_888d738c9b_zTo paraphrase the Facebook spokesperson quoted in the NYTimes article prompting Saturday's post, "these things take time."

I reached out to five coders I know and highly respect, got answers from four of them, and will attribute quotes to two of them, with permission:

Dan Carleton told me that building this feature is not as complicated as, say, fixing healthcare.gov:

"So what they are talking about is adding a system where you can be notified if you appear in one of these ads, and they’re adding a preference that you can opt out of appearing in these ads, right? So they already have a generalized system for sending different kinds of notifications to users, they already have a generalized system for tracking privacy settings and opt-in and opt-out, right? So those two major components are already there. So this is just a new type of notification they need to send people that appear in one of these ads, and a new bit they need to be able to flip per person as to whether or not they want to be in one of these ads, and then they just have to propagate the value of that bit down into the ad-serving platform. It just doesn’t seem that hard. It’s mostly a matter of priority. As a feature, in terms of surface area, in terms of how big a team you would need to accomplish it, in terms of just the integration issues you have to work through, it doesn’t seem like the team would have to be that large. Maybe four people working on it for a month and a half?"

Jason Thane told me that the problem is not really a technical one:

"A company like Facebook likely has many tiers of test and measurement for any new features that end up deployed as part of their product. So, though such a feature may be simple to build from a technical perspective, the challenge probably lies in crafting the messaging and positioning within the product such that the feature won't produce the kind of resentment several of their other privacy-related features have in recent memory. That's a taller order than any specific technical hurdle."

A third friend told me he couldn't comment, given something he is working on right now for a different company.

A fourth friend told me my knowledge of what actually happens, on the ground, on Facebook, is out of date:

"I took a look around Facebook and I can't find any examples of names or likenesses being used in onsite advertising anymore. I don't see it as an option in the advertising setup anymore either. I remember this summer when I was running . . . ads you would see social information about who was playing, liking the application but I'm not seeing it anymore."

Photo: zombieite / Flickr.

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