Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Lead Edge Capital | Lefsetz Letter

Today’s one of those days I love my life.

I went to lunch with Daniel Glass and his wife Deborah. Daniel’s father passed a month ago. It’s his first parent to leave the planet. And you don’t know what it’s like til you’ve experienced it. You know they’re going, and then they’re gone. Forever.

We went to this restaurant Le Bilboquet, they don’t have places like this in L.A. Where all the tables are jumbled up close and the women wear skirts and the guys are all wearing suits, you can feel the hustle and bustle. Edgar Bronfman, Jr. sat next to us, and in this restaurant that’s inches away. And Daniel told me about rappers influenced by Chance, who think they can do it by themselves, but they need help, still, making a deal isn’t so easy. Then again, Daniel just sent a seven figure royalty check to Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino, so when it works, it works.

Then I hustled to this place called Convene.

But I went to the wrong one, the one that came up on Google Maps, but the real one was just a couple of blocks away, so no biggie.

To speak at the annual convention of Lead Edge Capital.

Who are they, what do they do? Hell if I know! You offer to pay, you seem to have enough money to pay, and I’m in. That’s the power of the internet, that’s the power of e-mail.

Lead Edge Capital has a billion dollars under management. That’s how I knew they wouldn’t stiff me. Entertainment companies don’t like to pay, they want you to work for free, and endless invites appear from people who say they’ll pay but think I can spend the rest of my life eating at McDonald’s. I say no much more than I say yes.

To Lead Edge Capital I said yes.

So I met the partner Nimay. Actually, I spoke with him on the phone last week. Everybody wants to prep, but I always tell them I don’t like to rehearse, I don’t want to leave the good stuff in the green room, hit me with your best shot, I’m an open book, let’s have fireworks.

But it was hard to get ahold of Nimay. Or, should I say it was hard for him to get ahold of me, because he was going to London for the day. And I know that kind of travel seems more glamorous than it is, and from New York London is about as long a flight as it is to L.A., but if you’re doing that kind of hit and run, what you’re doing must be important.

So Nimay comes from a family of doctors. His mother is one of nine, all doctors or married to one. Nimay’s two sisters are doctors. His father is a doctor.

But he’s an investor.

His parents pushed him hard in school. That’s what educated immigrants do. Immigrants who settled in an underserved community in Maryland. How did immigrants get such a bad name? They work hard, they contribute to society, but they don’t measure up to the ignorant white people who’ve been here forever? Give me a break.

So Nimay went to Harvard.

That’s the difference between finance and the entertainment business, the barrier to entry is high. And it’s not that you learn anything in school, it’s just that there’s a thin layer of the best and the brightest and they come with a CV, not all of them, but most of them. I’m not saying you have to go to the Ivy League to break through, but I am saying you have to apply yourself, do the drudgery, your social media followers won’t get you into Columbia and they’re gonna fizzle out anyway, it’s good to build a good foundation.

And then Nimay went to sell. Well, not exactly, he cold-called tech firms for a big outfit for two years, they wanted to leave no stone unturned. And sales is a great background, when Daniel Glass ran SBK Records way back when it was a prerequisite to work at the label, working retail, because that’s where the money changed hands, that’s what the business ultimately comes down to, THE TRANSACTION!

And then Nimay gets hooked up with this slightly older guy Mitchell Green, barely more than a millennial, and they start Lead Edge Capital.

And Nimay was cold-calling again.

Lead Edge Capital is a conglomeration of experienced, educated investors. Not passive people, but those who can add insight and help to the companies Lead Edge invests in. And Lead Edge specializes in late stage investments, i.e. they’re not the first. So they have positions in Uber and Spotify, and a bunch of companies yet to go public that you probably haven’t heard of. And those companies were testifying today.

Yup, the annual meeting for the investors to hear about their investments.

And this was not the shaggy west coast, everybody came in a jacket, well, almost all. That’s the entry price in New York. You can buy a Ferrari in ripped jeans in L.A., but still not in New York.

And everybody was bright.

Which is a change from entertainment.

There were women too. Once again, dressed in finery one step more formal than you’d see in L.A. One from the Netherlands, another from the U.S. talking about a real estate platform, which had $44 million of investment already, entitled Compass. And the game intrigued me, because they were playing for real, too often in Hollywood people are jive-ass jerks who want to waste your time, selling their pipe dream.

So, money is building things.

But still…sit there long enough and you yearn for the freewheeling music business.

Then again, it ain’t so freewheeling anymore. There used to be six major labels, a ton of independents, now everything’s been rolled up and opportunity is scarce. Still, a person without portfolio can triumph in music, by thinking outside the box, by force of personality.

But you can’t make that much MONEY!

Daniel Glass’s son’s girlfriend made 17k working for Morgan Stanley during the summer between her junior and senior years at Princeton. Think about that, it’s hard to turn down. It’s sad that the best and the brightest go to work in finance, but in a skewed world you can’t make that kind of money anywhere else.

And to make the really big money you’ve got to be an adventurous entrepreneur with chutzpah. Same as music.

Life is just a game.

You choose the one you want to play.

I sat next to a thirtysomething investor who quit, who was burned out, could no longer work every day in the financial sector. Whereas in music it’s hard to keep your job, few quit, the rest get squeezed out.

But it’s fun to see how the other half lives.

And, unfortunately, the world has divided into winners and losers. It’s a result of the internet, of globalization. You hate that you can’t make it in music, but you love that you can record and communicate via the internet, you can’t have it both ways. The successful acts are richer than ever before and the rest are…poor, with barely a middle class.

So how do you get ahead?

Damn hard work, there’s no other way. Hell, Edgar Bronfman, Jr. inherited his money, but lost most of it. Money is hard.

So it leaves us in a world where the poor and left out are revolting, ignorantly, believing they can jet us back to the past, but that’s impossible, you can only go forward. So decide who you want to be, don’t wake up decades later saying you took the wrong path. Not that money is the only reward, but you can’t bitch about money if you chose a hard path.

But we have to have a safety net for those left out, maybe even in a guaranteed income.

Meanwhile, you’ve got your whole life in front of you. Skills are transferable. Educate yourself. Read. Write. And if you’re like me, the doors may open on a heretofore unknown world that will be so satisfying.

My goal is to meet people in every walk of life.

I met a bunch today.

P.S. China. It’s happening. Kinda like digital photography, it was gonna eclipse film for years and didn’t, and then it did, overnight. China is a bigger market than the U.S., with sophisticated players. Alibaba has more people to reach than Amazon.

P.P.S. Speaking of Amazon, their Web Services division dominates and belief is the spike will continue. We’re only at the beginning of the interface of mobile and the cloud. Revenue is gonna rain down.

P.P.P.S. That’s the kind of stuff I learned today, with statistics to back it up, not b.s. You see the world laid out before your eyes and you say…LET’S PLAY!


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