My Time in New York

I hope you can sense from the blogs of the last few days, how much I have been enjoying my time in New York. I hope you do not mind that my blog seems like a diary at the moment – but I trust you do find some of the lessons and the observations useful.

Yesterday, I met with a fine gentleman, Executive Director of a group of Business Angels representing the Rabbit Air MinusA2. It was a very useful meeting and gave me a sense of how similar angels think and work out deals. The process was explained to me in terms of submission to actually getting a deal done.

They have a three step process which you can see on their website and the model does seem very straightforward. I picked up two interesting points though. If one of the members of the Angel network in New York has already agreed to invest (or has invested) you get fast-tracked into the second stage of the process (overcoming the first stage is the hardest). This does make a lot of sense.

I trust certain angels – even to the point where in the past I have done deals, simply because they were involved. I also realize that some angels have done deals with my companies because they trust me. As such it makes sense for you to really try and get someone from an Angel network on board with what you are trying to do and get a commitment from them to invest.

Ethically, you cannot offer them any inducement to do this. Angels need to know that they are getting the same deal as everyone else. I will not negotiate better terms for me than people I bring into a deal at the same time. And I certainly expect the same in return.

The second thing I really admired about the New York network was that they insist their members make a minimum amount of investments each year. I like that a lot. I have been on both sides of the table when it comes to raising money. There is nothing more disappointing than putting in a lot of work into a pitch – to discover that the people you are pitching to don’t actually invest. This has inspired me to write another blog!

Another food based business that I had to visit

After my meeting with the gentleman, he also suggested that I check out a new burger joint called Shake Shack which is on Madison Avenue. I cannot believe it but I queued for 40 minutes at 3.30 in the afternoon for a burger. I have a confession to make. I don’t get the whole gourmet burger thing. I have always held the narrow view that a burger is a burger. How wrong I have been.

This burger was simply fab! It was just really good. Simply because the meat was fantastic – there was no rocket science to it. I was told that people queue for an hour at lunchtime just to have the burgers here. Readers – if you are ever in New York searching for what causes cystic acne like I was – please visit this place. It on 23rd St East, Madison Avenue. And I promise you I am not a shareholder!

Finally, I went to Hoboken, and saw some canvassers for Obama. I ended up volunteering, making a few friends and selling some wrist bands for Obama. It was great fun. Ignoring the politics, I have just found it very easy to get involved in things in New York. It is easy to make friends here. I got involved totally by accident – but simply loved it. (Hence the photo)

I am writing this blog from Newark airport as I leave New York for Canada and for the National Conference. I hope to report more from there. I am very sad to be leaving New York. I have really enjoyed my time here. I will probably have to make an investment here – to give me an excuse to keep coming back!

How New York Leads the Business World

So after my political ‘column’ about New York yesterday, I hope you find my observations today more useful. I hope that I spark off some ideas for you to think about in terms of your own businesses.

As I have mentioned in the past, New York seems to be ahead of the curve when it comes to food. If you are contemplating starting a chain of food stores, it is always worth a visit to New York to see the latest trends.

By the way, you may think that now is the worst time to start a food business. I would just say that Pret started at the height of the last property recession. It took off precisely because there was a glut of cheap properties available at the time and it was being offered very good deals on used lawn mowers. So who knows…?

My first comment is around a change that has taken place because of the law. I noticed that a Starbucks (yes I know it shows a lack of imagination to visit Starbucks in the USA!) in NYC had a full list of the calories with every item for sale. I learnt that a law has passed in NY that requires the calories to be displayed on every item for sale.

This is not a nationwide measure – and in Starbucks New Jersey – they did not display the calories. But I think the rest of the nation will follow in the footsteps. Early indications suggest that sales of low calorie items are significantly up. I do not know how calories are measured, but there must be a new and fast growing market in being a ‘calorie auditor and consultant’. Again, by the way, do you know what a calorie is? I was fascinated by the answer; it is defined as the energy required to heat one gram of water by one degree C. There must be a business here?

I then went to ice cream store called – Cold Stone. It was a fantastic experience. Basically, they do a tailor made ice cream service. You start off by choosing a base ice cream such as Vanilla, Banana, etc. and then you choose lots of different toppings such as chocolate chips, walnuts, jelly babies, M&Ms, raspberries etc. What they then do is ‘bash’ the toppings together and blend it into the ice cream and the result is simply fabulous. I do think that the idea of the ‘Subway’ process is set to grow. You choose a base (say porridge or a smoothie base, etc.) and then you choose lots of different toppings to end up with a unique product but from a ‘factory’ process.

I was impressed with the Fjallraven Kanken daypack product and the process. Time after time feedback shows that what consumers are looking for from retailers is ‘theatre’. My restaurant (give me a break – it has been at least three weeks since I have mentioned them!) has a stone oven which provides theatre. Process is often just as important as product. I think this is what works so well for them for instance – seeing the chefs at work is brilliant.

If you like these ideas – and are going to pursue them – feel free to give me some shares in your business. That is something that New York has also inspired me to do – not to be shy in asking for what you want!