July 11, 2011
SpotMe is now live! This is our latest project making it super-easy for roommates, family and friends to keep track of split bills and shared expenses. Most apps for splitting bills focus on rent calculators or managing each person's share of a transaction. In contrast, we chose to focus on providing a common view of shared bills between friends. Splitting bills and sharing expenses is a social interaction; why not make it fun and social? And most importantly, why not make it easy? From our own experience, no one likes to deal with a spreadsheet for something a quick and simple as sharing a bill among friends. Yet, today as we launch SpotMe, most people use a spreadsheet to split bills, and hate it. SpotMe aims to change this by making sharing expenses and splitting bills super quick and easy, just like sending a split bill text message from you phone. If you use SpotMe to split bills, and love it, give it the thumbs up. Rate SpotMe in the App Store or share it on Facebook.
January 29, 2011
Three-day Racing School with Skip Barber at Laguna Seca
This was an awesome experience! On the study list were: learning the racing line, getting to full throttle, trailbreaking, downshifting, skidding and correcting, as well as keeping one's eyes up at Laguna Seca's turn #8 (the Corkscrew). I highly recommended it.
August 09, 2010
Yosemite and Tahoe Vacation
I just went to Yosemite for the first time, after years of planning to go. The park is a very beautiful place indeed!
Also for the first time, I went to Lake Tahoe in the summer. Sitting on the beach at Incline Village brought back memories of sitting on the beach at the Black Sea. It was not quite the same, but close: especially with about 20 Bulgarian students hired to work at the hotel for the summer. Our little nation is all over the world these days.
August 05, 2009
Climbing the Grand Teton
I came back from an incredible adventure last week: climbing the 13,770 feet Grand Teton mountain in Wyoming. Our group took the Owen-Spalding route, after two days of training and another day of hiking up to the base camp. The trip was organized by a few Wharton alums from the class of 2006 along the lines of Wharton Leadership Ventures. In addition, we hired the services of Exum guides. Our experience with them was great, and I highly recommend them.
I hadn't thought we would be climbing vertical rock walls when I decided to join the trip. However, we did. It was hard, and an awesome experience. In fact, at one point we traversed over a 3,200 feet straight cliff. The guide told me to twist back and point down (great photo op). What was I thinking?
I will be doing this again. I appreciate now why some people get addicted to rocks and mountains.
July 14, 2008
The financing round for JAQK Cellars is closed. The wine bottling is starting this week, and the quality of the wine is amazing. It has been a privilege to work with the team at Hatch SF, and to be part of a ground-breaking concept executed to perfection. Stay tuned.
May 17, 2005
I am a bit late posting about my graduation day from Wharton a couple of weeks ago. But it is worth the post-mortem. After two years of baby, work and school, graduating from Wharton was a big relief and, I am told so, an event to feel good about. I already feel sad that I won't be seeing an awesome group of people every other week, sharing both long, 12-hour days of back-to-back lectures and too many drinks at the Old Ship (if you have not heard of this establishement, you have not missed much, but it sure has great service and cheap alcohol).
The fact that we are done hasn't yet fully sunk in. But I am certainly finding a lot more free time in my day. I also fear losing the efficiency inevitably gained from managing career, family and school all at once. Wharton Extreme, as the dean of the Wharton School called it, (the full Wharton MBA program offered without breaks and an alternate weekends over two years) was a memorable experience, which I saw as a way to test my ability to be effective at having a family and continuing to be successful professionally.
At the end of two long years, I am glad I went to business school this late in my career. The pre-requisite for Wharton is a minimum of 10 years of work experience, of which I had more at the time I started. In every class lecture there were problems I had encountered personally in my professional experience. This helped me appreciate more fully the value of both the theory and the real-world cases we studied. In a way, the program was like an extreme training camp: prior experience at our favorite sport was a must, but we all got a lot better at what we knew how to do well anyway.
In addition, one of the most valualbe benefits of the program was the quality of conversations with my classmates. I learned as much from them as I did from the lectures and professors. Pretty much everyone in our group was in middle and upper management executive positions, ranging from manager to director to CEO or CFO. Many people had major professional and financial successes behind them (of the kind often refered to as "retirement" events) as well as more than one failures. While we were in the program for the top Wharton faculty, top school brand name, and the desire to learn, I believe many of us were at Wharton this late in our careers also for an additional reason. People had been around the block enough times to appreciate that save for rare examples like Steve Jobs or Andy Grove (who came to speak to our class) being exceptional in business requires not only talent and good luck but also top training and stamina. Wharton West was outstaning in teaching the latter two.
Last but not least, the quality of teaching and the focus on analysis, quantitative reasoning and a "no bullshit" approach to solving business problems were among the most valuable aspects of the program. The Wharton faculty is outstanding.
Our graduation was at a classic venue (Herbst Theatre), followed by a classy reception (at City Hall) and a thoughtful speaker (Dave Pottruck, ex-CEO of Charles Schwab). Some of us also joined our colleagues at the full time program for the graduation ceremony in Philadelphia. Pictures coming soon...
January 24, 2005
The Photo Sharing Site That Doesn't Exist Yet
Great post by Thomas Hawk about the ideal photosharing site. I especially loved the geographic tags idea, as would anyone who likes to travel.
November 03, 2004
I heard a great interview with Rob Reich on Marketplace today Was there any moral message.
Also interesting ...
September 15, 2004
Wharton India Trip
It has been a few days since I got back from a trip to India with my classmates at Wharton West. The purpose of the trip was to get a sense if the current economic boom in India (annual GDP growth in the last year was about 7-8%) is for real. Although, I must say, hardly anything on a one week trip to India seems real. Our group met with both government officials (Dr. Abdul Kalam, the President of India and Mr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission) and CEOs at large Indian companies and Western multinationals. The companies we visited included McKinsey India, Tata Group, Reliance Infocomm, Pfizer, Sony Entertainment, IBM-Daksh, DSP Merrill Lynch, Birla Group, Hindustan Lever and a few others.
The net-net of the trip was that you can make a lot of money in India by investing cautiously -- and little at a time -- while knowing how to create profit from a small market. This sounded counter-intuitive in a country of a billion people but the reality is that still few people can afford to buy more than the absolute daily necessities. The infrastructure problems in India are still staggering, and the lacking education and basic hygiene for the masses -- quite severe.
A couple of conclusions stood out from the trip:
1. While many people hope that India is where China was 25 years ago -- with equivalent prospects -- an important difference exists between how the two countries are governed. Economic decisions in China, including the massive investment in infrastructure which was critical for the country's development in the past two decades, are made by an autocratic elite. India's democratic method of government, which is further complicated by a federation of quite autonomous states, has actually turned out to be an impediment in pushing through major economic reforms. As the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission told our group, "There is not lack of understanding of the economic priorities in this country: but to be even in a position to work on such reforms, one must take into account a very difficult political process." So, for basic infrastructure, China in fact benefitted from central planning and a forced reform. Not the case in India.
2. IT has been touted as India's miracle. It is true that the sector has grown very rapidly. Visiting companies like Datsch and Reliance Infocom felt like being in the familiar surroundings of Silicon Valley (Reliance actually felt futuristic even by U.S. standards -- or maybe this was just a marketing ploy). Yet, the whole IT sector is a tiny fraction of the Indian economy. Biotech and pharma, in fact, seemed much more likely to significantly impact to the continued growth of the Indian economy than high-tech.
3. The entrepreneurial drive is there. But not many expatriats are going back to India at this time. People are cautious and want to see how capable the government is in pushing through privatization. Nevertheless, recruiters are busy. We probably met more of them at our Wharton mixers than company executives. A good sign with a caveat: it's still a small market and a handful of companies in each industry who are hiring (and can afford) foreign-trained management.
4. You can only make money in the Indian market if you have deep understanding of it; if you are doggedly persistent and very patient. VCs are not investing in expatriats -- only local entrepreneurs. And they invest small amounts cautiously.
The memories from the trip are starting to fade but the overall impression is of a country that is both fascinating in its potential and sad in the extent of its poverty. It would be interesting to see where India is ten years from now. We had hoped to see many construction sites in Mumbai and Delhi but there weren't many of them yet... The Taj Mahal, however, is magnificent.