In April 2017, I made my way across Sandy Springs in Atlanta to a house nearby the JCC (Jewish Community Center). It was an area of town I was more than a little familiar with; I’d grown up around there, my grandparents lived there, I’d gone to school around there, and holiday dinners were spent quite literally in the neighborhood. But it wasn’t a holiday get-together I was attending that afternoon—it was a small, intimate meeting with then-Congressional candidate Jon Ossoff.
There were about 40 people at the host’s house—some of them children who’d come with parents—so it wasn’t difficult to listen to Jon speak intimately about the issues which drove him; issues like healthcare, anti-corruption, job creation, equal rights, and renewable energy opportunities. After a short speech, he took whatever questions peppered the crowd, and in a unique twist of fate, ended on my question about what opportunities he saw in making Atlanta a tech-hub and destination city. He seemed to connect with my eagerness to see the city listed among Boston, San Francisco, Austin, New York, and Seattle as a major tech hub, and recognized the opportunities we had to make it so. Afterwards, we chatted a little further and exchanged numbers to continue the conversation.
Here, I need to give it up to my grandparents—and especially my grandmother—through whom I effectively met Jon and began our running discourse. She was instrumental in turning out Dunwoody residents for Jon’s 2017 campaign, a fact which he’s expressed gratitude for time and again. He even opened an email with such a sentiment later on (see below).
In June of that year, when Jon became the Democratic nominee for the special election in Georgia’s Sixth District, the energy was something we hadn’t felt since perhaps 2008. Ultimately, Jon would miss by a mere percentage point or two; perhaps meaningless to those living outside Georgia, but to those of us who grew up here, indicative of a larger change on the horizon.
The Out-of-the-Blue Email in 2018
One of the big questions thereafter was what Jon would do. Would he run for GA06 again? No—he came out as a vocal supporter of now-Congresswoman Lucy McBath. Would he run for Governor? No—he left that to Stacey Abrams and I think everyone would agree that was the right decision to make. Abrams has fundamentally changed the Georgia political landscape in ways previously unseen certainly in my lifetime. Jon seemed to step back from the spotlight a little at this time, focusing I would assume on more personal life events and future plans.
Nevertheless, he and I resumed a light dialogue after a minor time lapse. I received this email from him out of the blue in February of 2018 and subsequently scheduled a catch-up call.
The call wasn’t long; perhaps about 15-20 minutes. But then again, it didn’t need to be.
How Relationships Grow Through Long-Term Discourse
One of the key things I’ve learned through becoming an expert relationship-building and networking consultant is that it’s the substance that matters, not the time. So it doesn’t matter that our catch-up call was 15 minutes instead of two hours—and it didn’t matter that we don’t speak daily. One of the biggest misconceptions about great relationship-building is that you need to be in someone’s face 24/7 to see any long-term benefit. This is incorrect.
One of the key rules to understand in any relationship-building scenario is that people have a million things to do every day. Time is their most precious commodity followed closely by energy. Recognition of this is core to developing any sort of dialogue that is positive and authentic.
During our conversation, Jon and I discussed the normal things: his expression of gratitude for support in 2017, what my future goals might include, how I might be able to support him in the future, etc. No bombshell revelations, no hints at future runs for office. All I had on that level were my own theories. But the calls accomplished what they were supposed to; keeping the lines of communication open and indicating interest in future dialogue.
This would become our particular dance: running into and acknowledging each other, continuing our discourse, and then parting for some time until the next time.
Serendipitous Meeting in 2019 and Senate Candidacy
I would bump into Jon again in April of 2019—almost two years exactly since we first met—down at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center in Atlanta at another event. We stood again and spoke a bit about the developing political landscape in Georgia and I asked if he might run again. He demurred a little and returned our conversation to the current event, but I thought I saw a slight glimmer in his eye.
The next time I saw Jon wouldn’t be too far off, and there wouldn’t be any more question of what lay ahead. It was in September of 2019—at his official Senate campaign kickoff event. It included moving remarks from civil rights icon John Lewis, whom I was also humbled to meet before his passing last year.
Jon and I spoke only for a brief few minutes—he was swarmed by people wanting to shake his hand and take his picture (in the time before Covid)—and it was important to let him do so. But in those few minutes, our continued discourse was acknowledged, our mutual hope for Georgia articulated, and, again, an expression of gratitude on his part for support and positive words.
Throughout his 2020 Senate campaign, I saw Jon at a number of events, and watched the crowds grow larger and larger. It very quickly got to the point where the lines for pictures with him were longer than I’d ever seen them, and after he’d be whisked away on his bus to hit the next stop. But every time I was there on the side, watching him take pictures with new supporters, he never failed to acknowledge me and thank me for continued support:
“Adam, great to see you! Thank you so much for coming out. How’s your grandmother? Please give her my best. Shoot me a text and we’ll catch up when things calm down.”
2020 and Looking Forward
The friendship I’ve developed with Jon over the last few years has been unique because it must appear from the outside as arms-length, but on the inside feels—and is, I believe—much more genuine. Like I said before, you don’t need to spend hours on the phone with someone to develop a truly positive and authentic relationship. There just needs to be a mutual desire to pick up each other’s call or answer each other’s email and a mutual recognition of value. Mutual—that’s always the keyword. It’s what I tell my networking clients and associates.
Now, on the morning of Jon’s 2021 runoff election for the Senate, I find myself grateful for the somewhat unexpected way that our friendship has developed. It’s allowed me to watch his upwards trajectory and draw from it inspirational goals to emulate on my own journey.
I don’t know when next I will speak with Jon—certainly only in a moment of quiet for him after such an eventful year. But I know that it will most likely be as serendipitous as all of our previous meetings have been, a fact at which I can’t help but chuckle a little wryly.
As our friendship and dialogue continue to develop, though, I’ll always be glad I made that drive across Sandy Springs to that first intimate meeting in 2017.
Well we’re finally here — the end of 2020! Let’s all breathe a collective sigh of relief.
I don’t think anyone will be sad to see this year go. But for me, as difficult as this year was, there were still some very positive things I want to acknowledge and celebrate. As I took a look back last year and the year before, I want to take a retrospective look at some of the things I accomplished in 2020.
Perhaps one of the biggest ironies is that the year really started to pick up around September and was a mad dash until the end of December. In that time, I recorded the bulk of this year’s podcast guest spots, so you never know when good things are gonna happen!
Before I dig into all the things I did do, though, I want to take a moment to acknowledge something that didn’t happen. For the first time in 5 years, I opted not to publish a new list of “100 Awesome Independent Album and EP Releases You Probably Missed” for 2020. There were any number of reasons that I chose (not) to do this; partly because of the Covid-19 pandemic, partly because of different projects I worked on and the time commitments associated with them, and partly because my heart may possibly have not been totally in it. Sometimes we have things we need to take a step back from, and this year my “100 Independent Albums” list was one of those things.
Music is still core to my identity and brand though, and isn’t going anywhere; if you want a taste of the list, though, here’s 2019’s list, which itself includes links to all the prior ones. I hope to have the musical fire back in me in 2021, so here’s to looking forward to some phenomenal albums and EP’s next year!
So, with that, here are a few of my biggest highlights for the snafu that was 2020.
My girlfriend took me to IKEA for the first time!
Though I didn’t get my annual pic with Arlan this year, on a similar note I got to congratulate my friend Bryan Landers for joining Backstage Capital as its new partner! So that’s something. Always be celebrating others.
Was so humbled to be able to literally voice my support for my friend & ally Espree Devora on her “Women in Tech” podcast. This was a great way to start my “recording spots” for the year. (She’s since become the icon for the new Clubhouse app!). 🎙️
Started this year out with a bang! My article — “There’s Life After Failure” — was shared by my friend Bobby Umar into his network and ended up getting featured on the front page of an aggregate blog. 😮
Visited Denver, Colorado for the first time with this beautiful girl! ✈️
Denver has amazing food!
And mountains! 🏔️
Started the “I Am Vow” graffiti thing again… (I might need to write an entire article just on this alone…stay tuned…) 😉
Went skiing for the first time! I did…ok. 🎿
And Boulder has cool socks!
Back in Atlanta, had a fantastic meeting with the brilliant David Lightburn of Atlanta Ventures and the Atlanta Tech Village down at ATV (before Covid!). Looking forward to our next chat in the beginning of 2021!
Wonderful Valentine’s Day with this one — made her a collage. ❤️
I had my first call of the year with Aly Merritt. Little did I know what that zoom call would lead to!
Aly mentioned that she was working on a project and could use some help leading it. It was secret, though, for the time being.
Track captain for the Tech/Fintech track for TechStars’ inaugural Atlanta Startup Week! More on that later!
Covid-19 hit and we all began to understand that life was going to change pretty drastically for a long while.
I recognized that I may have missed my calling as a VC-inspired parody writer. Aileen Lee graciously put up with my ridiculous humor ha! 😂
Had my first virtual coffee (via Cuppa, thanks KP!) with Whit Anderson. Whit and I would spend the rest of the year building out an awesome dialogue around startups, no-code, networking, and the Atlanta tech scene!
Got retweeted by Gary V. to 2M people — my notifications subsequently blew up. 😱📈
Started celebrating Shabbat! 🕯️🕯️
The beginning of a consistent calendar of calls with Mubs — things started cooking. Mubs and I started having consistent chats — this would lead to exciting things later in the year.
The first of a year’s worth of awesome calls with my friend Dale Dupree, the master of the Sales Rebellion.
Published an article looking at why one of my posts went viral on LinkedIn. It seems that this would continue to be a theme throughout the rest of the year… 📈📈
I made my second #AdamMarxParodyProductions creation — Hunter Walk continues to put up with my humor as well. 😂
Chelsea made the best challah French toast!
Love April 19th — always a special day since Mom and Dad have the same birthday! 🎂
I started to really run my LinkedIn experiment on new strategies — with legitimate viral success! 🤔📈
Had an amazing opening call with my new friend Dr. Julie Gurner. We discussed the opportunities on LinkedIn, how to build great relationships, and possible projects together. Saw this pop up in my Twitter feed later that night and was just so humbled by the kind words! (She continues to tweet similar things and I’m so bowled over by the positivity every time she does!).
Did my first webinar, thanks to my LinkedIn friend Emmanuel Ndifor. We talked about how current students on campus could lean into social media tools to build out their networks and prepare for virtual job interviews when campuses and career centers remained closed. Discussing networking, branding, & how to build influential relationships from scratch was especially critical to helping students navigate the first steps of the job market during a time as difficult as the pandemic. 🎦
Great call with Wayne Sutton and so humbled by his kind words!
My brother turned 21 and I felt old. 🎂
Then I launched Branded Background (include link) with Mubs on Product Hunt! Out of a series of discussions that we had over zoom grew the idea that we could apply branding to all the zoom calls that people were having (and that were multiplying by the day!). I wrote about the reasoning for building it here. So we went heads-down for a week or so and kicked it out the door. It ended up doing 334 votes on Product Hunt!
We got some pretty cool traction and feedback from the Twitter and PH crowd that day! 😃🙌
Got retweeted by Product Hunt!
What really surprised us, though, was the response we got on it from the LinkedIn community.
Our final stats for the end of the day were pretty good for my first launch on Product Hunt. (We continued to rack up about another 150 votes after the initial launch day). 😉👏
Chelsea is part Cherokee, so I took her to New Echota here in Georgia — the last Cherokee capital east of the Mississippi River. Heritage is important.
Mom bought a new house and helped her move in! It’s now become our home away from home. 🏠
June was a little thin since we did our best to basically stay inside and be safe. But…moved into a new apartment! Still waiting to have our official housewarming party, but the new place is looking pretty good.
Cast my early vote in the primaries for my friend Jon Ossoff. 🗳️
Then road trip to Tulsa, OK to visit my Chelsea’s mom! We had the puppy in the back and he loves car rides. (Don’t worry, we were safe and socially distanced the whole time). 🚗
Found out that Alabama can’t decide if it allows dogs or not…
Had my first Sonic Drive-In burger ever! 🍔
Went to Joe’s Sno Shack — apparently it’s a Tulsa staple and it’s pretty damn good!
Headed down to the beach in Florida for a week away! Again, believe me that we observed social distancing pretty strictly; we drove, rented a house, brought our own food, didn’t eat out and stayed far away from everyone on the secluded beach. Was nice to have a few days outside Atlanta. 🏖️
Called on my alma mater Brandeis University to stand up for what was right. They answered in kind.
Guested on the “Digital Introverts” podcast with Godwin Chan. recording should be out early next year! 🎙️
Celebrated this gorgeous girl’s birthday! The pets were there too. 🎂
Had a great time guesting on Bob Clark’s show “The OnFire B2B Podcast” to talk about networking and branding in the B2B space! 🎙️
It was one of the highlights of my year to sit down with LinkedIn super-influencer and my dear friend Rachel Beck on her podcast to discuss topics close to my heart like mental health, diversity, empathetic relationship-building, and my own Jewish identity. 😊🎙️
We broke the hour-long discussion up into multiple bits and I was thrilled to drop the first one just before the Jewish High Holidays this year.
Voted early on Day 1!
I finally decided it was time for a chance and a new image.
Celebrated one of the anniversaries I am lucky enough to celebrate with this wonderful girlfriend. It was one year ago October 19 that we met and the rest is pretty much history. ❤️
Recorded a LIVE guest spot on Simon Squibb’s show! Had a killer time talking networking, branding, core relationship cultivation techniques, and lending some of my expertise to a startup that live-pitched Simon and me! 🎙️
Was finally able to announce the work I had been doing with TechStars since Aly Merritt brought me on in February! 😃🙌
So proud of my brother for writing his first screenplay — and letting me read it! I had a few edits, but couldn’t put it down and read the whole thing in one night — yeah, it’s that good.
The story was even the lead for that week in the FinLedger newsletter!
Joined my friend Mubs again for another launch — this time for the election! We launched HowManyPeopleVoted.com to try to keep track of the breakdown of officially counted votes in the 2020 U.S. general election. 🗳️
We started trending on Reddit! 😱
And then we got featured on the front page of Refdesk!
I was so immensely excited and humbled to work with TechStars on their inaugural Atlanta Startup Week! We ran it virtually from Nov. 9-13 and were able to pull together an amazing list of guest speakers for the Tech/Fintech track!
A couple highlights for me were seeing my mom speak on Day 1 about what it takes to have good company culture and the efforts that need to be made to keep it inclusive and respectful of everyone. Moderated by my friend Stefanie Jewett and also featuring my friend, LinkedIn influencer Elaine Jacques.
I was also able to lead my own panel and discussion, though the recording hasn’t been uploaded yet (I’ll update when it is!).
I had the pleasure of sitting down with LinkedIn influencer Cory Warfield, entrepreneur Jake Tital, and film-tech veteran Kate Atwood — all close friends of mine — to discuss what exactly it takes to build a magnetic and influential network from scratch. We drilled down into the nuances of networking, brand, what really works, and what really doesn’t, and what founders really should know about building their own networks.
And I wrapped up the week with a surprise guest spot during one of the last blocks for the event, a great talk between LinkedIn influencers Judi Fox and Dale Dupree — also people whom I’m truly inspired by — around branding, marketing, and how to build a persona that works.
My mom hung one of my paintings in her office. 🎨
And hung the other one in one of the main hallways.
I had a killer time guesting on Bob Sieger’s podcast “Coffee With Bob” after meeting him through my friend Rachel Beck. It’s true what they say: the more people you know, the more opportunities you see pop up! In fact, Bob had reached out to me after he heard my recording on Rachel’s show (as did others!), so I’m continually grateful to her for that opportunity. 🎙️
Bob and I connected immediately and it wouldn’t be our last time collaborating. 😉
Began December with a bang as I guested for the second time that week on a great cast where I could lend some value and expertise!
I had met Joey Womack through my work with TechStars on the Atlanta Startup Week (he’d also been a track captain and long been on a list of local “people to know” at the top of my list) and we had such a great conversation during the wrap-up captain meeting that he invited me to guest on his massive Goodie Nation #GivingTuesday live broadcast! 🎙️
We talked all about the best ways to build concrete relationships and I shared some of my own most unbelievable stories that Goodie Nation community members could really find actionable! He brought in so many talented guests to speak that he had to break it into two recordings lol! I guest on the first recording and come in around 5:23:15.
I came back again that week to do another video cast with my friend Bob on a very special holiday-themed live episode of “Coffee With Bob” and it was a blast meeting the other guests. Looking forward to catching up with them in the new year. 🎙️
Recorded my last guest podcast spot of 2020 with my friend & LinkedIn influencer Luke Williams on his “30 Conversations with Entrepreneurs” event and had an awesome time wrapping up the year discussing how people can begin or continue to build incredible networks in 2021. 🎙️
I’ll definitely be back for another chat on one of his casts!
Celebrated one year for the second night my girlfriend and I love to celebrate…which happens to also be my parents’ anniversary, funnily enough.
And this year they celebrated 40 years!
Took Chelsea to the Chattahoochee Nature Reserve on one of her break days to see some birds and plants. It was a great place to socially distance and she loves the outdoors!
It flurried a little in Atlanta. ❄️
One of my favorite bands Eve 6 liked one of my tweets — pretty good way to round out a tough year. 🎸
Reflecting on 2020
This was a hard year for everyone. There were a lot of challenges to overcome. But I’m grateful that at the very least I have people I love around me as I move into my 30s. Perhaps a little cliched, but that’s how I feel as this year draws to a close.
Even with this crazy pandemic, 2020 was a marathon year for me. I guested on numerous podcasts, launched multiple projects, and coordinated for a major tech event. I began building my brand around the Zero To One Networker persona and philosophy, and look forward to seeing that grow in the new year. On the personal, I formed wonderful memories with those closest to me.
As I said last year, no plan ever survives the battlefield. So while there were things I wanted to accomplish this year, I know they’re well on their way to happening next year. I’ve grown as a creator, builder, entrepreneur, and most importantly, as a person. As I move into a new decade of my life, I’m excited to see that continue!
Last year, I took a look back at some of the things that I accomplished throughout 2018. It was a simple writing, but something which really provided some fantastic perspective.
Oftentimes, it can be all too easy to lose track of the little victories which we accumulate in pursuit of our broader goals. But for me, acknowledging these smaller steps has led to an ever-growing appreciation for the bigger picture.
And so with that, here are a few of the highlights from my 2019 year.
January & February
I kicked the year off by sharpening my meme-making skills. 😂
As with the last couple years, January brought me what’s become an annual picture with my friend Arlan Hamilton — the work she’s doing with her team at Backstage Capital is something I love supporting here in Atlanta. Her talk this year was no less compelling.
I was super excited to have my friend Emily Best here in Atlanta to discuss the work she’s doing at her company Seed&Spark, and the opportunities for the Atlanta film scene.
“Three sibs” picture with our brother before he went abroad to Germany for six months!
Two of my best friends in the world formally asked me to be their best man. I could not be more thrilled and am so excited to be there to support Luke and Danielle when they get married. It seems I’ll have to go rent a tux! 🤵
I had an awesome time recording my first podcast as a guest on Tyler Wagner’s show, “The Business Blast Podcast”. We talked about music, startups & tech, my time as a music journalist, and how learning to build relationships has been key to all of it. 🎙️
Sometimes the most interesting opportunities come to you from the most serendipitous of sources. 🙃
April & May
I got retweeted by Dee Snider, the legendary lead singer of Twisted Sister! 😱
And getting retweeted by Atlanta Magazine was kinda cool too.
I was floored (and truly humbled!) to be name-dropped by Jessi Hempel during her interview with Recode. Formerly of BackChannel, Business Insider, Fortune, and Wired, and now the editor-at-large at LinkedIn, I’ve followed Jessi’s writing for a few years now, and it was some of the first material I gravitated towards upon my entrance into startups & tech. Sometimes in this business (as with everything in life, I suppose), you wonder if you’re making any sort of impact or impression. It’s moments like this that underscore the answer: yes. 😱
Go out and bring the very best value you can to people; all the rest takes care of itself.
I didn’t make it to the #PitchAtlanta event at the Atlanta Tech Village, but I did make it to the afterparty where I was introduced to the incomparable David Lightburn.
Here’s a snap of the great panel I hope to hear live next year!
The excitement continued as I became more politically active, meeting a number of rising stars. Some I took pictures with and some are people I’m quietly continuing to meet with. 🗳️
Get out there and get active!
Here I am with Georgia Senate candidate Jon Ossoff.
And here I am with Gwinett County Board of Ed Representative Everton Blair, Jr.
June & July
Went to a great 90s punk tribute show downtown with the bestie Abby (before her move to Ohio). This picture accurately captures our friendship. 🙌
I could not have been prouder of my parents — their win at the 11th Circuit (in a gender discrimination case) was cited at this year’s NELA Conference in New Orleans. Huge deal with far-reaching results. ⚖️
I met Kwam Amissah around the holiday time last year through Ruben Harris. It’s been awesome to see his growth in the tech world and exciting to hear about his current projects — here we are at Flatiron Atlanta!
(Picture taken by the incomparable Tammy Carson, whom I also met this year!) 📸
I always love it when Career Karma CEO Ruben Harris is in town and I’m able to come out to support him. He’s doing awesome things in tech and I’m super humbled to count him as a friend & ally. 🚀
I’m also continuously thrilled by the serendipity of tech — it was at this event, heading out to support Ruben, that I had the immense pleasure of meeting Charles Pridgen, a huge asset to the Atlanta tech scene. 👍
Then it was time for a break for a little while. Wheels up for a couple weeks in Europe traveling with my mom — one of my best friends in the world. ✈️
And here’s the post-flight exhaustion in the Frankfurt airport.
First stop (same day!) — historic Mainz, Germany. The medieval history nerd in me was all kinds of happy. 🇩🇪
Next day — first full day in Germany, we went to Heidelberg. 😎
We took in some amazing Jewish history in Worms. Here’s Mom going into a synagogue that is hundreds of years old.
Hopping over to France, we experienced Colmar, a town in Alsace known as “Little Venice.” 🇫🇷
We saw the Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg in France. The medieval history nerd in me continued to geek out. 🏰
I saw a hedgehog at our Airbnb and my life was complete.
We stopped in Basel, Switzerland to see the synagogue. It was closed, but the architecture is amazing. 🇨🇭
Stopped by the Jewish Museum of Switzerland in Basel before leaving the city.
Next day brought Lauterbrunnen — it’s cold in the Alps even in the summer.
We climbed the Schilthorn (ok, it was a cable car, but it was still 9744 feet up!). 🚠
Jungfrau is known as the “Top of Europe” (11,333 feet). It also means snow in the summertime. 🗻
Driving back north to Germany, we decided on a couple side-stops…
Like Vaduz, Liechtenstein! I feel like Fulton County in Atlanta is bigger than this whole country. (But it’s an awesome country!). 🇱🇮
And dinner in Bregenz, Austria. 🇦🇹
This is my Mom, the badass master scuba-diver, Columbia-trained attorney licensed in three states, mature as can be…
I wasn’t leaving Germany this time without seeing Augsburg. The historian in me demanded it.
We went to see the synagogue here. Truly one of the most gorgeous synagogue interiors I’ve ever seen. They didn’t allow pictures in the sanctuary, but I will be going back sometime in my life.
Ulm, Germany was beautiful. We took time to see some of the most popular sights.
And some of the most nondescript — here is the Holocaust Memorial behind the newly rebuilt Ulm synagogue. ✡️
Before we did dinner in the town, we had to climb the Rothenburg city walls. Here’s Mom trying to distract me from taking a good picture because she thinks she’s funny. 😂
While Josh finished his final exams, we took in the beautiful town of Bamberg.
And here’s the camera capturing my face just after she tells me a ridiculous joke. 🤦♂️
Last day before our flight home with Josh in the morning. Some wine in Frankfurt to celebrate a wonderful trip.
Back from Europe, a week of rest, and then I so enjoyed finally having the chance to meet the phenomenal Lolita Taub in person. Gorgeous view of Baltimore in the background!
Then over to Washington, D.C. to visit Shaina for her birthday. She makes funny faces.
She also made me a special keychain — “one tiny fuck” as she called it.
We hit up the Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C. to take a peek at work from David Best (who’s most well-known for his ephemeral wooden Temples at Burning Man). 🔥
And yes, we are very mature…
I did an awesome interview with entrepreneur Rich Cardona which I’m excited to post in the new year! And had the immense pleasure of meeting Allen Gannett before heading back to Atlanta.
And then dropped my second podcast recording as Mario Porecca’s guest on his fantastic show the “Ten Minute Mindset.” We talked about humor, humility, creating value, how to define a mission, and how to build relationships with people who might otherwise seem unreachable. 🎙️
Made it out to Atlanta Blockchain Week to hear about some of the great blockchain and crypto stuff happening in Atlanta tech. ⛓️
I met Jon Ossoff again at his official Senate campaign kickoff event.
And I met the legendary civil rights icon and hero Congressman John Lewis as well!
You know it’s gonna be a good month when it starts with old college friends coming to visit — thanks Esther!
October was an absolute marathon of Atlanta tech! I started the month off by landing access to the first-ever OTT Fest! The sheer number of talented film, tech, and media speakers over the multi-day event was incredible. 📽️
I finally met OTT Fest founder (and newly-minted Thea CEO!) Kate Atwood in person.
I won a Roku…from tweeting about the amazing panels… 😱🤣
Over the same day during lunch, I raced up to Google Atlanta in Midtown and was able to see my friend Antoine Woods speak at their Founders RoadMap event.
So I was able to add to my “Google guest” pass collection (I’ve now crossed off Atlanta, Seattle, and San Francisco ha).
I was super excited to serendipitously hear Stefanie Jewett speak too, and finally meet her in person as well. 😃
I was able to attend the TechStars Atlanta demo day and hear some awesome new companies pitch! 🚀
I kept up the pace by heading out to Atlanta’s Startup Battlefield.
I was excited to record my third podcast episode as a guest with Luke Williams on his show, the “Grab a Cloud” podcast. The episode drops early in 2020! 🎙️
And my fourth show as a guest, on Emily Velilla’s show, also releasing in the new year. 🎙️
Then I capped off October’s tech marathon by going down to my first Atlanta Startup Village event (thanks to Aly Merritt for the invite!).
Actually that’s a lie; October’s tech marathon was really capped off with an awesome care-package from my friends over at Shrug Capital (thanks Nick and Niv!). 📦
Could November begin any better than another amazing care-package from the incomparable Nikki DeMeré, who has become one of my closest friends and allies?
I don’t think so. 🤗
I was super excited to represent my alma mater Brandeis University at the college fair this year. Once a Bradeisian, always a Brandeisian. 😎
Back up to D.C. to spend Thanksgiving with Shaina. Can’t believe I’ve now known her for ten years. But she works for a tour company and told me some of the cool things about D.C. as we walked around. 🇺🇸
And I introduced her to her first Philz Coffee! ☕️
A day in Fredrick, Maryland with Shaina and Kate, two of my closest friends in the whole world. It was cold haha. And Kate’s son is adorable, even if he’s not interested in the picture. ❤️
Met up in D.C. with my other college friend Victoria — and I was rocking my Liechtenstein shirt.
And I started planning a short webinar with my friend Elaine Jacques — we’ll see about getting it out the door in the new year. 😉
With multiple birthdays and anniversaries, December is family time.
Met this wonderful girl a couple months back — here we are at Garden Lights at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. Chelsea made funny faces in some pictures… 😂
And we saw Hanson! The 90s kid in me was happy. 🎸
December is also friends and siblings time.
Mom couldn’t resist taking one last funny picture of me for the year. ✡️
This was a marathon year for me. I feel as if the seeds that I sometimes serendipitously planted years ago in tech and music really began to yield amazing relationships and opportunities in 2019. And I don’t see it stopping anytime soon. I can see myself continuing to write about music, tech, relationships, mental health, business, and diversity, and so much of my inspiration is drawn from dialogues I had this year.
No plan ever survives the battlefield, and 2019 was certainly no exception to that rule. But I’ve grown as a person and as an entrepreneur, and intend to keep that trajectory moving at full force as we move into the next decade.
Bring on 2020! 🚀
(And remember to look for the orange sunglasses. 😎 😉)
It may have been a bit lofty, but I am nonetheless proud of what I got done this year. I achieved some of them, and some of them I’m reinstating for next year. But life is about more than just work goals — here are some of the highlights of my 2018. 👍
I opened January with a slew of great projects. I continued writing for Crunchbase News, writing more on Spotify as they approached this April direct listing. My dad then proceeded to make a joke about the direct listing — I’m still laughing. 😂
A week later, I followed that with some interesting editing work on Andy Sparks’ new Holloway project.
January capped with a great talk from Arlan Hamilton here in Atlanta, which of course I enjoyed attending. It was great to see Arlan again and hear her backstory — “inspiring” barely begins to appropriately describe it. 🙌
Though I didn’t publish too many Minimum Viable Network pieces this year, one of the ones I’m most proud of drew heavily on my experience during Arlan’s talk. I begin to think a lot more about the power of ubiquity.
I finally said goodbye to my iPhone 4S. 📱
Remember that time at the Product Hunt party last year that Eric Willis was poking fun at me for still being the only person in tech with one? 😂😱
I snagged an invite to the Atlanta Jewish Film festival — they made me wear a tie. 😱 👔
February & March
February was slow, but in March, I took a break from Atlanta for a few days to fly up to D.C. for the gun reform march — the March for Our Lives speakers were amazing to hear in person.
My college friend and I caught some culture at the Smithsonian.
A week later, March ended on a high note when I had the pleasure of meeting Randi Zuckerberg following her talk at Georgia State. 👏
In April, I started becoming much more vocal about harassment, diversity, inclusivity, and accessibility. I’ve been a huge supporter of Backstage Capital since I learned about their mission, and I believe equally as much in the work being done by Aileen Lee, Jenny Lefcourt, and others at AllRaise.org. I’m happy to be an ally in whatever way I can and will continue to be loud about changes which need to be made. I’m similarly inspired by and have become an ardent supporter of the work that Melinda Epler & Wayne Sutton are doing with Change Catalysts (plus their partnership with Backstage is fantastic!). 🤔
I saw some of my closest college friends in New Jersey and considered leaving tech for a future in modeling. Then reality set in. 😂
Right around mid-May, I hit a wall. I was having a hard time fighting past some anxiety and depression. I was having constant conversations with some of my closest friends and supporters, to whom I will always be grateful. But I realized that conversations may not be enough, and perhaps some fresh air was in order. So I took a break from Atlanta and worked on changing my perspective.
I flew out to the Bay Area and got to see Kiki Schirr again (she also hosted me, which means she’s a special kind of saint lol). Day 1, I had lunch with my super-patient editor Alex Wilhelm and he gave me a tour of the Crunchbase offices! 👍
I finally got to meet Ken Yeung in person after many months of snarky Twitter comments. He’s just as snarky in person. 😱
I drank a lot of Philz Coffee. A lot. ☕
Coffee with Barrett Daniels, who’s become a close friend and confidant, and with Rei Wang, someone whom I think is doing fantastic work with new founders. Then got to drop by and finally meet Ruben Harris in person! 🚀
Lunch again with Adam Singer, and got to hit up his album release party! It ended up making my list of new albums this year (see below). There was a lot of snark and even more discussion about music than we normally touch on.
I meandered down to San Jose and had lunch with Poornima Vijayashanker, who’s been both a pivotal influence on my understanding of accessibility in tech, and an amazing friend. 🤗
I hit up Sacramento for some awesome hiking with college friends.
Then came some time in Chicago, where I had some awesome pizza with fellow Crunchbse News writer Jason Rowley. He’s got great taste in pizza places. 🍕
I hung out with a college friend I hadn’t seen in years.
I met Cory Warfield, who’s become a close friend and mentor, and has completely turned me on to using LinkedIn in a new way. 🙌
Got back to Atlanta just in time to go meet Emily Best— her company Seed&Spark was putting on a great event here in Atlanta. 📽
I finally met Andrea Hernandez in person at an event here in Atlanta to promote more women in tech and business. 👏
I saw the March for Our Lives speakers at their town hall here in Atlanta.
I snagged tickets to *the FINAL* Warped Tour here in Atlanta. Got to see Less Than Jake, Reel Big Fish, Simple Plan, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, Mayday Parade, August Burns Red, and The Interrupters. 🤘🎸
August & September
In September, I had the super pleasure of meeting Jim Augustine— COO of Zuckerberg Media— when Sue’s Tech Kitchen came to do their event in Atlanta. 👍
I spent a lot of time thinking about anxiety & depression, and talking about how to address these issues in a much more pointed and accepting way. I am more thankful than I could really even articulate to those of my friends— especially those in the startup/tech world— who have supported me through these challenges in my own life. To Kiki Schirr, Alex Wilhelm, Jason Rowley, Christina Warren, Nikki DeMere, Poornima Vijyashanker, Adam Singer, Espree Devora, Nick Abouzeid, Bryan Landers, Cory Warfield, and numerous others who have helped me find a more positive mindset this year, I am eternally grateful. 🤔🤗🙌
I voted early— there are big things coming in the near future for Georgia. 🗳
Halloween encouraged me to wear a tie more often ha. 😉 👔
Hit up New Jersey for Thanksgiving break and Kerry Flynn took me to an awesome bar! We talked tech, music, and going to school in Boston. 🤘
Some family time at Ellis Island. This has inspired my sister to start researching our family history and in the last few weeks, we’ve all learned things we never knew!
Then the siblings and I pretty much froze at the Statue of Liberty. 🗽
The second half of 2017 was extremely hard for me for a number of reasons and I tried to enter 2018 with a new mindset. Nothing ever goes 100% according to plan, and I had a couple stumbles this year. But I’ve grown my network, cultivated deeper relationships, tried to create as much value as I could, created new things, and became determined to live my life in a more positive way. None of these things happen overnight, but it’s all about the journey.
You’re riding high on the fumes of your supposed success, so you think you’ve won the fight.
I’m still still here—we’re still here. The “others” you so very much detest and scapegoat for problems which have nothing to do with us. Change is hard and uncomfortable, so you don’t like it. You think it would just be easier—better—to keep things as they were. Except, ironically, you don’t seem to realize or care that you were on the periphery then, too. You’ve just found another “other” to turn your frustrations to.
You think that because my skin is black/brown/olive/caramel/tan/not-white that you can intimidate me. You can’t.
You think that because I go to synagogue/mosque/temple/non-church to pray that you will make me doubt myself. You won’t.
You think that because I’m an immigrant I don’t belong here. I do. And anyway, that’s pretty self-righteous talk for someone who lives in a country of immigrants and their descendants.
You think that because I am gay/lesbian/bi/female/trans/feminist/queer that I should just shut my mouth. I won’t.
You think because many of us have different opinions and political ideologies that we can’t and won’t work together against you. We can and we will. We intend to.
And most of all, you think that if I am any of the things above, I won’t be supported by others in my fight to push forward. I am, and we have all made the decision that you won’t win in the end. Singular victories are hollow if they’re not followed by lasting legacy, and they ultimately brittle and turn to dust.
Look at Ozymandias:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
You are him, proclaiming victory when time is coming to swallow you up. The empire you seek to build will soon be in dust, so don’t get too comfortable on that pedestal you’ve built for yourself.
All this time you’ve thought we could be scared away, content to meagerly limp out, tail between our legs.
Both of my grandfathers are veterans. My mom’s father served in Korea, and my dad’s father in WWII. Every Veterans’ and Memorial Day I think about that fact. And I think about the fact that I rarely hear any stories about it.
My dad’s father passed away before I was old enough to remember him—unfortunately what I know of him is concocted through stories from my dad, uncle, and their cousins. The one thing I do know—the one thing my dad says a lot—is that he never really talked much about the war after he got back. Sure he had a few entertaining stories, but he always stuck (I’m told) to a select few. I asked my dad one time about why he thought that was, and his answer was fairly poignant: “I think he saw more over there than he really wanted to remember. I think he had to try and put it to rest.”
My mom’s father—who I’ve been lucky to grow up with—served in Korea, and though he mentions his days in the army sometimes, it’s really not very often. He’s as proud of being a veteran as anyone, but I think the same holds true for him: I think he saw more in the conflict then he really wants to remember or talk about. He’s happy to stick to his stories of funny bunkmates and captains, because that’s where he’s comfortable.
These are the things I think about on days like this; the fact that though many have served (and are currently), what they see isn’t a movie like we experience at home on TV. They see and experience things that we hope never to experience—and which they never want us to. That’s the reason they make the sacrifices they do. So today I think about those sacrifices and appreciate them as much as I possibly can. Memorial Day is fun for pool parties, cookouts, American flags—but it’s also for remembering and honoring those who aren’t here to celebrate with us.
Many nights I stay up and reflect on deep things that transpire throughout the day, and ponder meanings of ambiguous gestures by people. Tonight though, I’m thinking less about ambiguous happenings and more on specific thoughts flowing through my head. Tonight, the notions from the day are simpler to decipher.
I always go back to my belief that relationships with other people are everything. They define our lives, and open up doors for us even when we’re not necessarily looking. Talking to people, and being able to do so with relative ease, is something that I believe everyone should learn how to do, at least on some level. But people need to also learn to hear others; not just listen, but hear. Hear what other people are saying, even if you need to listen for the words between the words. Being able to read the non-verbal cues that people put out—what’s important to them, and how to augment those things with your own positivity—is one of the sure-fire ways to cultivate meaningful and mutually beneficial relationships with people. Everything else follows that.
Some nights I get to the evening hour and I’m wiped out. I’ve been writing and talking with people all day, and find my mind completely fried. The light is dimming outside, and people are settling down after dinner. And I’m alone with some thoughts.
Yet in those moments when I’m almost a zombie to the world, I find I have some of my most intriguing thought processes. It’s in those precise moments that I come to grips with the passing day, and prepare myself for the volley of thoughts which will undoubtedly bombard me before bed. Such thoughts don’t overload my mind though, surprising as that might be. I find that this particular strain of thoughts tend to be what help me to keep pushing forward.
And thus I cherish this time—and these thoughts—more than one might think. Though they take up time as I’m trying to wind my mind down, they are nonetheless soothing in their reflective qualities. For some, relaxation and reflection mean plopping down on the couch and turning off one’s mind to watch Netflix. For me though, I (ironically so) find myself most reflective and somewhat relaxed when bombarded by thoughts that seem dogged in their stubbornness. Perhaps I’m even more of an artist than I think.
So today was Mother’s Day, and though we all know it’s a day created by the greeting card companies, I still reflected on my relationship with my Mom. How lucky I am to have the supportive relationship that I do, and how fortunate I am to even be able to spend the time with her that I do. It’s easy to take good fortune for granted, but the moments that we have in life are ephemeral, and never come around again. They only live in our memories, a realization that’s sobering in itself.
My Mom is one of my heroes, and someone I model myself after in many more ways than one. We are all products of our parents, for better or worse, though in my case I’m lucky enough to say better. I talked here about how my mom shaped my love and desire for music, but I’m fortunate for much more than that. It’s in the moments when the walls seem to be closing in, and when the world seems completely upside down that I find myself the luckiest. It’s in those moments that my mom reminds me of who I am, and who I can be. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom, I love you.
With Dave Goldberg’s sad passing last night, I’ve been watching the tweets come up over Twitter as those he knew, and those he didn’t express their pain and condolences. It’s surreal that life is something fleeting, and that we go to bed (mostly) never considering the fact that the world could (and does) change drastically around us as we sleep.
It’s a nice sunny day here in Atlanta, and by all accounts was a good day when I awoke this morning. But the realization of the pain that people are in over Goldberg’s passing brings to light (for me, at least) an emotion that I try not to entertain all that often: wistfulness.
I try to keep it at bay because it feels almost like a sense of looking back; a sense of wishing that something was different in the past. Many times it’s in reference to something that was way out of my control, and thus took place as it had to. But the point remains that on days like this where the sense of change is so immediate and stark, I can’t help be entertain just a few wistful thoughts, and reflect on what they mean at their deepest cores. I imagine those closer to Dave than I was are doing and feeling similarly today. Sometimes all one can do is look to one’s support system to reassurance, and try to forge ahead, however painful it might be in the moment.