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Tech Confidential (Part Two)
Edited by Nan Wiener and Jenna Scatena | Photo: Mark Zingarelli | September 20, 2012
THE DRUG-DELIVERY GUY, 28
HELPING THEM SMOKE THEIR WAY TO A SERIES-A
The tech clients I like best are the ones who smoke while they code. They get an idea of what they want to do, and then smoke to get into this groove and flow right through it. (If they’re designing something from scratch, though, it’ll probably be a disaster.) The guys who smoke while they’re coding are going to want Indica. Sativa is more energetic and gets your mind spinning, and people usually associate that with all-night coding.
The ones who want to party, that’s different. Usually it’s after a big launch. They’ll go out “skiing” for a week or so [ie., bingeing on coke]. I have some programmers who are crazy into drugs and who organize their whole day around it. They’ll do all their work in front of a computer super-early in the morning, so they can have the rest of the day and night to be stoned. You wouldn’t expect it from some of them just by looking at them.
THE FEMALE VC, 34
A LITTLE SLICE OF MAD MEN, CIRCA 2012
Sometimes I get the comment “So I’m not sure how technical you are, but...” I have a technical degree, so if you’d Googled me, you’d know. In the back of my mind I wonder, is this something they’d say to a man?
In emails, people sometimes think I’m the admin person. They’ll say, “Can you schedule me for a meeting with so-and-so at such-and-such a time?” But in person, they figure out pretty quickly that I’m the one they’re asking for money. And people are remarkably polite when they’re asking you for money.
Some people think you’re more inclined to want to hear about fashion startups or makeup startups. But the flip side of that is, fashion and makeup are huge—so if they assume it’s just for women, they’re the ones missing out. I believe that moms are a huge market too, and things like maternity clothes could really sell. But my bosses were kind of like, eh.
THE VC-BACKED RESTAURATEUR, 40
WHERE INVESTORS GET TO BE ROCK STARS
Forget about the returns; tech guys invest in restaurants because it makes them look good. They can woo potential partners—a young entrepreneur they’re courting, a woman they want to impress, whatever. It’s a currency to them.
But it’s not all vanity. Of course they care about getting their money back, but what they really care about is winning. The amount of money they expect from a restaurant investment is, as my husband would say, “mice nuts.” I’ve got one investor who has never even cashed a distribution check. Never. We’re very proud of being able to send him his $15,000. But compared to the checks that he’s used to receiving, it’s like “Oh, look at this cute little $15,000 check. Ha, ha, ha.” It’s more about picking the right horse and looking smart.
Then again, tech investors demand a lot of personal attention. They want the staff to make a fuss over them—get special treatment, feel like a rock star. So we keep extensive notes about each of our investors at the host stand, with photos of all of them—and their families, their bosses, their assistants. We know this person likes bread at the table when he arrives. That person wants to make sure his guests have champagne. And this person, we put a gin and tonic in his hand the minute he walks in the door. Preferences, dates, aff airs. His wife’s name, his kids’ names, his mistress’s name, the name of whatever you call the little boy he might like to hang out with (more common in San Francisco than you might think). Yeah, everything.
I’m willing to go to these lengths because our investors are crucial to what we do: If they’ve spent a career advising companies and making them very successful, it’s just in their DNA to do the same for me. They’re always quick to say, “This person you hired is fantastic; she took great care of me. Don’t lose her.” I have their loyalty—they won’t leave me for the next supermodel who blows into town. They’ll be strong customers for as long as I have restaurants. Well, at least as long as I don’t fuck it up.
THE INSTA-RICH ENTREPRENEUR, 25
DUMPED HIS GIRLFRIEND, BOUGHT A SPORTS CAR, WRITING A WILL
I sold my startup this year for seven figures, and my position at the company that bought us is the first actual employment I've ever had. First thing, I wanted a bigger apartment. When I first started working in Silicon Valley eight years ago, I lived in a hostel in the Tenderloin for about a month. Then I moved to an apartment with several roommates. So basically I’ve lived in a small place with a bunch of people since I was 21. Now that I have some capital, it’s time to get a really, really nice place. And my dream car is on its way. Think Lamborghini, Ferrari.
I’m single—sad story there. I was with an amazing girl for three years, but I started my company about one year into the relationship, and a lot of things went wrong, primarily as a result of the business. It took so much out of me. It was my singular focus all along, and we ultimately broke up over that. So I finally have the opportunity to go on some dates. It’s interesting getting back in the game. I’ll take someone to a high-end restaurant and a really nice bar afterward. Definitely somewhere I know the management, so I can get my special treatment. I’m not worried about the gold diggers—I can tell when someone’s gold digging.
I also had to start thinking about writing a will. I should probably have insurance and put all my cash in a trust fund. I’m just trying to figure out who I should trust my money and business to: lawyers, accountants, business managers. But it’s a good problem to have.