I am a social media addict and I quit for a month. Here’s my story.

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Originally published on Medium on August 8th, 2016

ad·dic·tion əˈdikSH(ə)n/ (noun): a brain disease characterized by compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli, despite adverse consequences.

A few months ago, I was completely overwhelmed. My brain felt like it was on overdrive and I was having difficulty processing tasks and information. There were just too many inputs bombarding my brain. Too many meetings and events. Too many emails. Too many articles. Too many apps. Too many social media feeds. I couldn’t keep up and stay focused. I had reached a tipping point. Something needed to change. I knew I badly needed to reduce clutter and distractions from my daily routine. Several days after this realization, I began to track how I spent my time and paid close attention to those activities which caused stress and anxiety.

A week into this exercise, a number of things became abundantly clear. I was spending at least two to three hours a day on social media. Anytime I had a free moment, I’d reach for my phone to engage on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. I’d often feel guilty because this time rarely felt productive and fulfilling. I also realized that more time in social media led to more digital clutter (articles to read, people to engage, companies to track). There was always a sense of FOMO (fear of missing out) gnawing at me so I was constantly checking my feeds throughout the day. It also occurred to me these apps took me out of the present moment. I’d constantly be thinking about my next post, stopping to capture that perfect picture, or ignoring whoever I was with. Worst of all, I realized social media was a vehicle to feed my ego, escape reality and flood my brain with quick bursts of dopamine.

Studies have shown the negative effects of excessive social media exposure and usage. This blog post does a nice job summarizing some of the early research conducted. Here are some of the findings presented. In November 2013, as many as 350 million people were addicted to just Facebook.Additionally, a group of researchers discovered a clear relationship between extreme social media usage and mental health issues such as depression.There also seems to be a direct correlation between social media and anxiety. According to a survey conducted by the University of Salford, 51% of users surveyed thought Facebook and Twitter had ‘changed their lives,’ for the worse. 45% responded by saying they feel ‘worried or uncomfortable’ when they cannot access social media. Furthermore, another study discovered that 73% of people panic if their smartphone is misplaced. My experience and the data illustrate we’re becoming slaves to our devices and social networks.

Once all of these stark realizations set in, I made the decision to detox from all forms of social media for the month of July. Cold turkey. I promised myself that I would stay away from any app that had a social feed. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Swarm, Strava, etc. were all off limits. I knew removing this clutter from my life wouldn’t be easy and would likely be stressful but I’d have more time to myself and a greater peace of mind. Several hours later, I deleted every social app off my iPhone. I then went to those sites on my desktop browser and logged out of each service. I had crossed the point of no return. I was finally disconnected from the social web.

Not surprisingly, the first few days were a challenge mentally. I had feelings of loneliness, boredom, mild depression and FOMO. A bunch of questions raced through my head. What are people talking about and sharing? What posts, articles and companies am I missing? Who is trying to get in touch with me? How am I going to be effective at work? It was evident that I had become heavily dependent upon social networks for information, interaction and self-validation. There was suddenly a big void in my daily routine. That first weekend, I felt disconnected from the rest of the world and had no clue what was going on outside of my little bubble. I was on an island. While my brain was craving that sweet burst of dopamine from online interactions, I continued to remind myself that these withdrawals would likely subside after the first week.

I even noticed some unexpected behaviors during the initial withdrawal phase. For example, I tried to rationalize why I should still be able to use certain apps like Strava to track my workouts. I also found myself reaching for my phone at least a dozen times daily to post an article, a picture or a specific thought. That behavior was clearly hardwired in me. I also began to notice that I stopped taking photos because I couldn’t share them. My news consumption also shifted. I began to rely upon traditional media sites and aggregators for such as The NY Times, Wall Street Journal, Nuzzel, Hacker News, Launch.co and Techmeme. Most surprisingly, I no longer wanted or felt the need to use my phone because I couldn’t engage online with my friends and followers. My iPhone quickly morphed from a personal device to a work device. The shift I experienced was fascinating.

A week into the experiment, my anxiety and old behaviors began to slowly fade. Even though I was disconnected, I was enjoying the reduced stress and clutter in my life. While I was still on edge, I didn’t mind the void because my world was noticeably slowing down. Additionally, I still had the urge to post and engage online but the cravings weren’t nearly as strong. My FOMO was still present because information is a currency in technology and venture capital, but I didn’t let it get the best of me. I began to rely upon more in person conversations and phone calls to stay on top of work and the venture market. During this period, I gained confidence that life without social media was possible and could be both enjoyable and productive.

When I reached the fifteen-day mark, I had noticed a profound change. I was much more present. My anxiety completely disappeared. I stopped thinking in tweets and visualizing photos to post. I had developed a fresher mind. I stopped comparing myself to others. I no longer felt the desire to reach for my phone throughout the day. In fact, my phone usage decreased by more than fifty percent. I went from taking a few dozen photos each day to none. The phone no longer was a crutch for my boredom. I was becoming more productive and focused with my time. During the second week, I also noticed that I was usually two to three days behind on big national headlines but didn’t seem to care. I was late to hear about movements such as Black Lives Matter and Pokemon Go. Frankly, the FOMO I had experienced only weeks ago was now virtually gone. I was embracing my transformation and enjoying my new mental state.

One morning in the third week of July, I had a major breakthrough. While meditating in Washington Square Park it suddenly occurred to me that I no longer needed others to validate my ideas, pictures, things I read because the validation was coming from within. In that moment, I felt completely free from my dependence upon social media to help me feel smart, witty, creative, etc. Additionally, all of the clutter, negative emotions and old behaviors no longer weighed me down. I had finally reached the outcome I was hoping to achieve when I decided to experience life without being tethered to social networks.

Studies suggest it takes twenty-eight days to start and break a habit. Based on my experience over the last month, I think there’s some validity to that claim. Even though I had undergone positive and unexpected changes throughout July, I missed engaging online with friends, sharing ideas and discovering new content. As the end of July approached, I was excited but a bit anxious jump back into products like Twitter and Instagram. I contemplated the following questions. What if I just remained disconnected? How do I introduce these apps back into my life? How do I use them in a healthy manner going forward? Should I use them at all? Can I control it?Despite some hesitation, I was ready to start over, give it a try and develop healthier habits.

On August 1st, I dipped my toe in the water and downloaded Twitter. I decided to start slowly and evaluate how I felt after a few days. As soon as I opened the app, the feed was both overwhelming and intoxicating. I was amazed by the speed of information (and reminded how many people hate Trump). I was bombarded with articles, ideas, quotes, images and infographics. Interestingly, I consumed more information within the first ten minutes than the previous few days. It was exhilarating. Three days later, I reinstalled Instagram and recalled how much I enjoy sharing photos and seeing other people share their lives. Twenty-four hours later, I posted my first photo of a sunset in Santa Monica. I felt connected to the world once again.

Since my social media detox ended, I’ve been trying to build good habits and moderate my usage but still find myself reverting to old behavior. I’ve avoided spending large chunks of my time within the apps but find myself checking Twitter during brief pauses throughout the day. I’ve also tried to set limits on how often I tweet or post a picture. Despite these protocols and the very best intentions, I caught myself falling back into old behaviors over the last few days. Not only was I taking more photos but I also found myself checking my phone when I was tired and bored. Just like the old days. Perhaps my social media detox didn’t change me as much as I thought it would. Perhaps I’m no longer enlightened. Perhaps I’m just a social animal and can’t resist connecting with others online.

Despite my rocky relationship social media, these products have brought me a tremendous amount of pleasure, entertainment and utility over the years. They’ve helped me forge new relationships and maintain old friendships. They’ve enabled me to be effective at work and access an endless amount of information. They’ve even helped me grow through self-expression and exploration. It’s hard to ignore the impact that it has had on my life and career. In closing, my social media detox has taught me a tremendous amount about myself and human behavior. The process has been a good reminder moderation is necessary for a happy life and behavior change isn’t always as easy as it seems.

My wife is a founder. Here’s how she has helped me become a better investor.

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I am a VC. My wife is a founder. When I walk into our apartment at the end of each day, my role morphs from investor to husband but I also become a motivational coach, sounding board and sometimes even a punching bag. There’s virtually no barrier separating my life from entrepreneurship. It’s a constant. I have a completely unfiltered view into the life of an entrepreneur. I see the wins, the losses and everything in between. This situation has helped me gain a deeper appreciation for entrepreneurs and the daily battles they endure and sacrifices they make.

Nearly four years ago, Eliza started The Sill after struggling to decorate our home with plants. The online options felt antiquated, uninspiring and purely transactional. The offline options weren’t any better. Plus they required serious plant knowledge and a fair amount of manual labor. As someone who always enjoyed plants and spent her career in branding, Eliza noticed that plants were effectively a commodity and that no modern brand spoke to millennials who wanted more greenery in their lives. Despite plants being a multi-billion dollar category, virtually none of the options took a design oriented and customer centric approach. Sensing a gap in the market, she decided to quit her job at Living Proof, start The Sill, and raise some cash on Kickstarter.

Fast forward four years, The Sill now delivers plants to apartments all over Manhattan and Brooklyn, operates a retail shop in the Lower East Side, services large corporate accounts like WeWork and Google, and ships nationwide. While the company’s first office was a tiny, rent-free space in Chinatown, it’s now headquartered in a 10,000 square foot industrial facility in Maplewood, New Jersey. Magazines, blogs and other media outlets have taken notice. The Sill has been featured in just about every major publication including Dwell, Better Home & Gardens, Forbes, Vogue and Refinery29. Most importantly, Eliza has built and groomed a dedicated and passionate team who truly believes in building a category-defining company. They’re like a family.

All of this has been accomplished with blood, sweat, tears and lots of dirt under her fingernails. Literally. The Sill remains bootstrapped and 100% employee owned. In this day and age, when the default seems to be shacking up with cofounders and raising large seed rounds, Eliza decided to travel the path less taken. Single founder. No investors. She, her partner and team, have built The Sill brick by brick. Every dollar The Sill has made has been reinvested in the business so it can continue to grow and thrive.

As you can probably tell I’m super proud of Eliza and The Sill. And for good reason. I have a front row seat into the life of a female founder. Not the watered down stories we all read in blogs but the real stuff. I see the stratospheric highs and deep lows. I’ve see how hard she works. Seven days a week. Three hundred and sixty five days a year. I see how much she cares about delivering an amazing experience to all of her customers, especially when they are unsatisfied. It’s clear that building a successful brand takes an insane amount focus, passion and dedication. The customers always need to come first. There are no shortcuts or overnight successes. In fact, Eliza acknowledges The Sill will be at least a decade-long endeavor.

I witness it all. Running payroll late at night. Taking calls and sending emails at all hours – even while on our vacations. Balancing the books at month end. Being treated differently by suppliers and partners because she’s a woman. Waking up at the crack of dawn to receive a truckload of plants. Creating and sending proposals to clients. Working all weekend to help at the store or a photoshoot at the office. Having an employee quit a few days before a big project. Feeling like the task list is never ending. Dealing with employee matters such as hiring and firing. Losing key clients. Worrying about running out of cash. Crying at the end of the day because some times she feels alone and that it’s just really fucking difficult. There’s very little romance when it comes to being an entrepreneur. From my vantage point, it’s a gut wrenching roller coaster ride.

Many people assume that I advise The Sill given my day job and my relationships. Honestly, I stay out of Eliza’s way. I don’t review financial models. I don’t provide criticism when I disagree with a decision. I don’t dig into business processes. I even restrain myself from pointing out bugs on the website. I realized very early on that The Sill is Eliza’s company, not mine. My job as her husband and best friend is to be present, listen and provide emotional support. I only offer advice and feedback when asked for it. I don’t give her a hard time for working too much. Sure, there are times when I disagree. But I bite my tongue, because putting my ego aside and being there for her is more important for our relationship and the company.

Over the last four years, my advice to Eliza has stayed the same. I tell her to keep on doing what she’s doing. To show up every morning and never give up. To have faith that everything is going to work out. To build a sustainable business so she can control her own destiny. To intensely focus on delivering a great product, experience and brand that her customers love. To believe in herself and her team. To live in the future rather than the past. To move swift when something isn’t working. As I am writing this, I realize most (if not all) founders could benefit from these words of encouragement from those who are invested emotionally and financially.

What has all of this this taught me and how has it helped me become a better investor? This experience has given me an insane amount of empathy for founders and has humbled me in more ways than I can describe here. My biggest learning in all of this is the impact of listening and supporting over fixing and controlling. That’s what entrepreneurs need more than anything. While I’m fortunate to work with dozens of incredibly talented and creative founders at RRE, Eliza is by far the most important entrepreneur that I work with and learn from. Being married to a founder can be frustrating and challenging at times, but it’s also incredibly fulfilling and exciting. This experience has made me a better husband and investor many times over.

A bunch of VCs went on a retreat. Here’s what happened.

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This past weekend I had the good fortune of participating in the first RebootVC Bootcamp. For those of you who don’t know Reboot, it’s a values-driven organization led by Jerry Colonna that primarily helps founders and their teams deal with the constant ups and downs of startup life. At the most fundamental level, Reboot is a personal development company that offers bootcamps, executive coaching, 360 reviews and a variety of other programs to help leaders discover their true selves. Reboot also publishes useful and powerful content including a phenomenal podcast hosted by Jerry. I can’t say enough great things about this organization, its team, and their mission.

This formula is the essence of Reboot:


Jerry and Brad Feld, a Partner at Foundry Group and Co-f0under of Techstars, decided to run a bit of an experiment. Instead of facilitating a boot camp for founders, they tailored a program designed specifically for venture investors. Jerry and Brad have over forty years of combined investment experience. They’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly. Most importantly, they deeply care about the startup ecosystem and believe in paying it forward. When they’re in a room together the discussion is always authentic, insightful and inspirational.

Over the weekend, sixteen investors from funds of all sizes and both coasts descended on Boulder, CO to speak openly about our challenges and to learn how to improve our interactions with our portfolio companies and the founders we work with. Jerry and Brad worked closely with the group to help us uncover our authentic leadership styles and provided practical skills for managing the array of feelings that can be triggered as we navigate the startup ecosystem. The goal of the weekend was to help each of us become the best board member, investor, supporter that we can possibly be.

A few days have passed since the retreat ended and I’m still processing the experience because I found it powerful both personally and professionally. I learned a tremendous amount about myself and the other participants. This was extremely useful for me because I’ve found that investors rarely open up to one another about work, life and everything in between. Throughout the weekend, I was able to recognize that many of the things that I wrestle with as a board member and an investor are quite common. Just as important, I gained more empathy for entrepreneurs and their daily struggles.

As I look back on the weekend, there are many teachings and lessons that I brought back to New York with me.

  1. When your inner and outer self aren’t in sync, it creates personal dissonance that results in being afraid, feeling unsafe, etc..
  2. If you ask a founder how you can help, it means you haven’t been listening close enough. Be fully present.
  3. Being a great board member or investor isn’t about having all the answers and fixing things. Don’t underestimate the power of listening and supporting.
  4. There’s tremendous power in the question, “How are you?” Show you care. Find out what’s really going on. Be human.
  5. Many people, including founders and investors, are dealing with things such as depression, anxiety, imposter syndrome, addiction, etc.. People in the startup community are human…not super human.
  6. Before making a significant decision, visualize the result and impact on your life. In other words, “try on” your decision each morning or night. Act it out. Write it down. Internalize it.
  7. The human soul is resilient and can recover from nearly anything including massive failures and personal adversity.
  8. We’re all learning on the job and no one has all the answers.
  9. Don’t rely too heavily on “playbooks.” You should always question them and / or throw them out the window.
  10. Having a beginner’s mind is a beautiful perspective because it enables continuous fresh thinking.
  11. Don’t hide from your shadow qualities. Instead, learn to shed light on and embrace them.
  12. Be mindful of the pronouns that you use (e.g. you, I, our, etc.) in discussions with founders and partners. There’s a big difference between “I’m sorry” and “How are you doing?”
  13. Sometimes it’s easy to blame changing industry dynamics, the macro environment, and other actors when things aren’t going well. When you find yourself doing this, take a look in the mirror.
  14. Journaling is a wonderful and powerful tool that can extract ideas and emotions.
  15. Finding work / life balance is critical to maintaining healthy relationships and overall wellbeing.
  16. Every firm is a direct extension of the partners and values. Seek to build a firm that you are proud of and would want to work for.

As you can probably see from these learnings, the bootcamp went deep and had a profound effect on me. I should note that I’m speaking on behalf of myself and not the entire group. These are my conclusions based on the experience that I had. I recognize that everyone sees the world in a unique lens and brings a different perspective to the table.

In closing, I’d like to extend a heartfelt thank you to Jerry, Brad and the rest of the participants for creating and embracing such an open and safe space. It was a truly magical weekend. I have no doubt that many of the participants will be co-investing together and positively impacting the startup community for many years to come. If you’re a founder looking for a mindful investor, I highly recommend you seek out any of the Reboot participants. They’re all special individuals who truly care about being great partners, building quality firms and impacting the world. In fact, I believe this crew represents the future of the venture industry because they’re guided by their values and their hearts.

Investing with a new purpose

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Several weeks ago, I was hanging out with Lindsay Ullman of Sidewalk Labsand we were talking about some of the companies I’ve backed at RRE andLerer Hippeau Ventures. She paused at one of them and asked, “Do you believe this company is good for the world?” Candidly, I was caught off guard. I wasn’t expecting such a direct question and didn’t consider it much when I was making the initial investment. I didn’t know what to say.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve thought about my conversation with Lindsay at least a dozen times. Her question forced me to be honest with myself about the reasons why I funded this startup, and the rationale behind some of my other investments too. I realized that my investment philosophy had been slowly changing for some time, and our conversation was a kind of tipping point. I finally arrived at the following conclusion: If a company doesn’t solve a worthy problem and make the world a better place, then I have no business investing in it.

That’s a big statement, I know. But this isn’t just another watered-down plug for “impact investing” or an attempt to make myself feel better about being a VC. This is what I believe, and I think it’s important to explain why I feel a responsibility to invest in companies that solve worthy problems and why I believe that doing so can make the world a better place and drive returns.

The longer I spend in the venture business, the more I realize that investors are in a unique position to help create the future. Let’s be honest. The large majority of VCs don’t perform the hard work that founders do on a daily basis. We don’t sacrifice years of life on a single company, and we don’t deserve the credit for successful outcomes. That’s just a fact. Where we do play a role is in deciding what gets funded. For better or for worse, that’s in our control. We’re enablers and supporters of change. I’ve come to believe that we have an ethical and moral responsibility to be supporters of positive change.

If I’m completely honest with myself, I’ve invested in some companies without seriously considering whether they actually make life on earth better. Those days are over. Starting today and going forward, I will not hear a pitch or make an investment unless I truly believe the effort is improving the world. While applying this filter will help me say no much faster and save time for founders and myself, that’s not really the point. And while I can only make so many new investments each year, that’s not the point either.

The point is that I genuinely believe values-led investors are better investors and values-driven investments drive superior returns. And personally, I feel a responsibility to search for companies aligned with my values and worthy of my time. What follows obviously isn’t a complete list of worthy problems that need to be solved, but these are some categories that are important to humans across the planet. It’s impossible to predict which problems innovation will solve next, so it’s critical for me to keep an open mind, but these are a few categories that matter to me as an investor:

1. Life extension: Products, services, and digital therapies that improve our health and extend our lives.

2. Self-expression: Products that enable us to create, express ourselves openly and be heard.

3. Productivity / automation: Apps and services that enable us to reallocate our time to more meaningful activities.

4. Financial flexibility: Services that enable financial freedom by helping us earn, save, borrow and protect money.

5. Sustainability: Apps, services and hardware that support the conservation of resources and production of renewable energy.

6. Mobility: Apps, services and vehicles that enable cost-effective, reliable and high scale mass transportation.

7. Brain boosters: Apps, services, hardware and institutions that educate and enrich the mind.

8. Food: Software, services and products that make it possible to feed and nourish billions cost effectively and efficiently.

9. Decentralization: Services and platforms that cut out a middleman or central authority.

10. Shelter and housing: Software, services and hardware that provide access to more affordable housing.

11. Exploration: Services and products that enable us to experience the world and discover new places.

12. Connectivity: Services that provide affordable and ubiquitous access to the Internet.

13. Diversity: Founders and companies that level the playing field.

14. Saftey: Apps and hardware that help reduce injuries and deaths.

As I explore these themes and meet with individual companies solving specific problems, I’ll ultimately be forced to decide which few companies I’d like to partner with on. Of course, my decisions will inevitably be based on a number of factors. But now and going forward, first among those factors must be values.

I know that all sounds good in theory, but how about in practice? Let’s be honest about one more thing: VCs are in the business of making money for limited partners. We have to invest in companies that we think will make money, and stay away from ones that we fear won’t. That’s my job and I’m okay with that. Why? Because I really believe that in looking for founders and companies focused on solving real problems and making the world a better place, I’ll find massive companies that generate outsized financial returns. While making money and making a difference are too often seen as being in conflict, they don’t have to be. My job—today, tomorrow, and as long as I’m in this business—is to look for companies committed to doing both.

(Thanks to my colleague Cooper Zelnick for reviewing this post.)

The lesson money couldn’t buy

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It was a warm spring morning in 1992. At the time, I was a pudgy and hyperactive seventh grader at Swampscott Middle School. The bell had just sounded and I was slowly meandering to my next class when my best friend, Josh Grab, intercepted me in front of the principal’s office. For some reason I can’t recall, he got in my face and began to push my buttons. I tried to continue on my way but Josh wouldn’t let up. He was relentless. He went on and on and on. After about three minutes, I had finally reached my tipping point and lost control.

In a flash, everything went white. Before I even knew what was happening, I turned around, made a fist and swung my arm with every ounce of energy I had in me. Instead of taking my frustration out on Josh, which I totally should have, I struck a plexiglass art display containing a chaos pendulum built by students at M.I.T. It was a perfect strike. As soon as my tightly clenched fist hit the display, I heard a crack and felt the large object buckle under the force of my haymaker. Within a second, I knew that I had broken something. Thankfully, it wasn’t my hand but then I realized it was an even worse outcome. The large plexiglass case splintered and one of the large panes split in half. The damage had been done. The severity of my stupid behavior hit home when I came to my senses and realized a group of my classmates were suddenly gathering in front of the principal’s office to witness my carnage.

Before I knew what hit me, I heard a loud voice coming down the hallway demanding that I get into the principal’s office immediately. I slowly glanced towards this commanding voice and realized that I was in deep shit. Mr. Andrake, my science teacher and the person responsible for the chaos pendulum, took me by the arm and led me into our vice principal’s office. I nervously sat down and faced Mr. Adrake. He was irate and couldn’t control his anger. He demanded that I solve the mess I created. He also gave me a preview of my punishment: weeks of detention and perhaps even a suspension. Deep down inside I was freaking out and felt hopeless. I was shrinking and the walls were closing in on me.

All of a sudden, an idea popped into my head. What if I offer them money so they can have the plexiglass display repaired? I reasoned, “the school will likely need to hire someone to fix the display before they send it back to M.I.T. I’ll pay for it.” My thirteen-year-old brain thought that seemed like a reasonable and logical solution so I reached deep into my pocket, fished around, pulled out a crinkled $10 bill and slid it on the table towards Mr. Andrake. I sighed, “Take this money as a downpayment. I can go home and get some of my savings so we can repair the mess I made.” He then got very serious, looked at me with disgust and said, “See Schlafman. That’s the problem with you. You just think you can throw money at a problem and it will go away. That’s not how real life works. You need to fix your own problems. No one is going to resolve this situation but yourself.”

Over the next two weeks, I figured out how to clean up the mess I created. I disassembled the display, took precise measurements, purchased several panes of plexiglass, cut them to the right dimensions, smoothed the edges and reassembled everything. After two weeks of problem solving, hard work and attention to detail, the chaos pendulum was finally back in its display case without a scratch. Life was back to normal. To this day, I’m convinced that M.I.T had no clue anything had happened to their science project. Money didn’t fix the problem. I did.

Nearly twenty-five years have passed since that day but I still look back on that experience with a tremendous amount of gratitude and pride rather than shame and embarrassment. I was fortunate to learn at a very young age that money will never solve your problems. Instead, you need to take ownership, roll up your sleeves and just figure it out. Mr. Andrake could have easily suspended me or thrown me in detention for a month but I wouldn’t have walked away a better human. In closing, I’d like us all to take a moment and celebrate all our teachers in life. Through their selfless and tireless work they help all of us become better people both inside and outside the classroom.

What I read in 2015

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Last holiday season, I shared my first annual reading list which was an overview of all the books I devoured in 2014. I’ve always been a big advocate for lifelong learning so I’m constantly trying to practice what I preach by reading one or two books at any given time. There’s no question it’s a big commitment but the investment pays off in so many ways. I find reading helps me go deeper in my work as a VC, develop greater self awareness, build historical perspective, and most importantly escape from the world. I’ve always believed that buying (and reading!) books is by far the best and most rewarding investment that anyone can make in themselves.

Many of the titles on the 2015 list were recommended by close friends, colleagues, Twitter followers and my wife. The topics ranged from innovation to healthcare, history, science fiction and urban planning. As you’ll see, I devoted a considerable amount of time learning about addiction since I decided to get sober in 2015 and led an extensive research project on the topic. Not only was I interested in the science of addiction but also the war on drugs, the rehab industry and new approaches to treatment.

I found going deep into one subject was useful because I was able to develop a new expertise. This reinforces the belief that one doesn’t need to spend thousands of dollars on a degree in order to become dangerous on a subject. I was able to develop deep knowledge on addiction by spending $100 on Amazon and talking with a dozen experts that I met online. All that said, I highly recommend this approach if you would like to immerse yourself in a subject that you’re passionate or curious about. As 2016 approaches, I plan to follow suit and select a new topic. Right now the leading candidates are genomics and integral theory (Ken Wilbur).

With all that being said, I’m excited to share my 2015 reading list with you. I’ve bolded the titles which I believe were the highlights. I’m always open to discussing any of these whether you’ve read them or you’re just searching for a recommendation. Additionally, I’m always looking for new recommendations so I’d love to know which books moved you this year. You can always email me at schlaf55@gmail.com or message me on Twitter @schlaf. Happy exploring and reading!

  1. Chasing The Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs, Johann Hari (Link)
  2. In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction, Gabor Mate (Link)
  3. All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr (Link)
  4. The Rise of Superman, Steven Kotler (Link)
  5. Predictable Revenue, Aaron Ross (Link)
  6. Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson (Link)
  7. Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America’s Greatest Tragedy, David Sheff (Link)
  8. The Wright Brothers, David McCullough (Link)
  9. My Promised Land, The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel, Ari Shavit (Link)
  10. The Biology of Desire: Why Addition Is Not a Disease, Marc Lewis (Link)
  11. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee (Link)
  12. May Cause Miracles, Gabrielle Bernstein (Link)
  13. Integral Recovery: A Revolutionary Approach to the Treatment of Alcoholism and Addiction, John Dupuy (Link)
  14. The Innovator’s Dilemma, Clayton Christensen (Link)
  15. Ready Player One, Earnest Cline (Link)
  16. The Martian Andy Weir (Link)
  17. Man’s Search for Meaning Viktor Frankl (Link)
  18. Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free, Cory Doctorow (Link)
  19. The Lean Startup, Eric Reis (Link)
  20. Rewired: A Bold New Approach to Addiction and Recovery, Erica Spiegelman (Link)
  21. Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, Atul Gawande (Link)
  22. Only the Paranoid Survive: How to Exploit the Crisis Points That Challenge Every Company, Andy Grove (Link)
  23. City on a Grid: How New York Became New York, Gerard Koeppel (Link)

Introducing RRE’s New Director of Platform

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Over the summer RRE kicked off a search for a Director of Platform. After reviewing hundreds of resumes and meeting with more than a dozen candidates, we were fortunate to find a candidate with deep operational chops, a innate passion for the startup ecosystem, a strong willingness to help founders and a super positive, team-first attitude. This candidate also demonstrated tremendous hustle, drive and raw emotional intelligence that our founders and partners deserve and expect in this role. With that being said, I’m incredibly excited to welcome Maria Palma to the RRE family and community.

Maria brings a wealth of operations, strategy and business development experience to the RRE community. Prior to RRE, Maria, was Executive Director of Business Development and Chief of Staff at NYC-based Eyeview. There she was involved in numerous aspects of the business including strategy, partnerships, and revenue to name a few. Before she joined Eyeview, Maria received her MBA at Harvard Business School, where she found her passion for working with early stage entrepreneurs. She kickstarted her career at General Electric in their prestigious Operations Leadership Program and Global Supply Chain Group. Not only does she have a wonderful mix of business experience but she also has an engineering degree from University of Wisconsin-Madison. We believe this blend of skills will greatly benefit RRE’s founders, portfolio executives and partners in the community.   

Maria will be tasked with building the RRE platform, growing our community and expanding our presence in the NYC ecosystem and beyond. She outlined an ambitious blueprint that supports RRE’s founders across five key dimensions – infrastructure, community, business development, best practices and talent. There’s certainly a lot of work ahead but Maria is up for the challenge and already hard at work. Please join me in welcoming Maria to the RRE family! We couldn’t be more thrilled to have her supporting and adding value to our founders and their companies.