It's a rare moment of calm in my house.
The house is clean, and dinner is chopped, prepped and marinating in the fridge. My husband is asleep in the livingroom. My new baby is fed and changed and sleeping in his car seat on the table next to my laptop. My cats -- who have been in lockdown because they lunge at the baby whenever he cries-- are peacefully coiled at my feet. They are miraculously angst-free for the first time in weeks. And also for the first time in weeks, no one has called or emailed to ask me whether I'm staying at TechCrunch or to tell me whether I should stay or go. And in China, it's well into the weekend, so the endless flood of urgent emails about Disrupt Beijing has slowed too.
People really don't believe I'm taking time off with the baby. I get several emails a day that start out, "Congrats on the baby...." and continue with a story pitch. You guys aren't helping my work-a-holic tendencies.
It's probably no surprise that the last few weeks have been a bit of a rollercoaster for me between work and home: The Crunchfund was announced on my baby's due date, and the day before he was born I was walking around the mall trying to induce labor, texting with Mike as decisions that would forever change TechCrunch were going down in real time.
I've made a point of not getting into the public debate of everything, and I don't plan to now either. Except to say the two biggest things I miss being on maternity leave are breaking stories with Mike and laughing in my office with Paul. It's sad-- for me-- that neither of those will resume when I go back to work in January. But I'm happy to see good news for each of them today: Paul is starting a new company and Mike has finally launched his new personal blog.
As for me, I really am taking the rest of the year off to bond with my baby. How could I ignore this face?
...There are a few caveats to that, of course. Disrupt Beijing is in a matter of weeks. It's something I spent two years convincing Mike and Heather TechCrunch should do, and I've spent the last six months begging, bartering and pleading to put together an amazing lineup of Western and Eastern entrepreneurs and VCs as speakers and judges. Even though I raced to get the agenda locked before the baby came, there's still a million details floating around. And, yes, I am going to China to emcee the conference in late October, despite one VC who bet me $100 I would throw it all away once the baby came.
I also have a single coming out on the Byliner imprint in the next month or so. I wrote it in my spare time during the last few months of my pregnancy. You know, when I wasn't working a full time job, flying between four continents to promote my last book, planning a conference in China and hiring an editorial team there, and growing a human being. The due date for the single was the same as my due date for the baby. I filed it the morning after, as early labor was already starting.
The single is an extended thought-piece about one of the more popular TechCrunch posts I've written since I've been on staff. The first person to guess which post I'm referring to will get a free copy once it comes out.
I'm excited to see how it does. I've written before about how bullish I am about what Byliner is doing for longform journalism. And since the baby has likely put off my writing a third book for another year or so, I'm hoping an imprint like Byliner will be a good way for me to scratch the constant itch to do projects longer and more in-depth than a blog allows.
(Note: Shortly after writing that paragraph, baby started crying, cats freaked, all hell broke loose...)
My first book had a rather non-traditional book tour. It was a sprawling, spazzy user-generated affair where I weedled some money out of the publishers, matched it with my own and hit the road to go visit entrepreneurs and social media enthusiasts in fifteen different cities, doing about three events per city. I picked those cities based not on anything qualatative, but based on feedback I got over social media to the question, "Where should I go?"
We did a lot of corporate events, but most of them were held in bars, drinking and talking entrepreneurship until the wee hours. Attendance ranged from thirteen people at one event to more than five hundred at another, and collectively I met thousands of entrepreneurs I may have never heard of in the Silicon Valley echochamber.
What I loved most about this tour was the other conversations that pulling like minded group of geeks together spawned. I'm most honored that the Big Omaha conference grew out of it-- and I'm happy that I'm going back to speak at that event this month.
But return trips to Omaha and my hometown of Memphis aside, this time around book promotion is different. And that reflects not only the very different book I've written, but also how much this book-- considered a reckless gamble when I started it more than two years ago-- has changed me.
The biggest difference: It's an entirely sober tour since I'm carrying precious baby cargo. See also the lack of strappy heels and waist-hugging dresses. (Before picture to your right coming into my SF party for "Once You're Lucky"; I don't even know that I have one from this book's launch party. But trust me, that dress is now in a space bag under the bed to make room in the closet for maternity wear.)
I'm not complaining about any of those. I'm always surprised at the look of horror on someone's face when I say, "Look at me! I'm HUGE!" and the "Oh, no, no, no....you're not..." back-pedal. I know women have conditioned men NEVER to tell us we look "huge" but at least for me, that's not an insult for the next five months. I am reveling in it. I've never been more proud of how I look.
Another big difference: People are actually paying me to show up, rather than just indulging me. Most of this "book tour" -- if you could even call it that-- are just paid speaking gigs from places as diverse as Colombus, Ohio to Lagos, Nigeria. And there's a limit on how many I can do, because unlike the last time around I have a full time job and I can only travel during the second trimester. I'm pretty much booked-solid as you can see here. But I'll likely pick up some more dates after November.
I was deeply terrified of public speaking during my last book tour. Almost pathologically so. But as I've written before, the experience of reporting this new book, spending forty weeks in megacities, slums, villages and in more than one dicey situation has totally reshaped my relationship with fear. It's made me a zen mother-to-be, because I've seen what most pregnant women around the world go through. News flash: We have it very easy. This tour's catch-phrase should be: I'm pregnant, not disabled.
And of course, this tour is fittingly international. The most exciting destination is the one I'm going to next: Nigeria. Nigeria was on the short list of countries I didn't get to during the book's reporting that I really, really wanted to get to, so I was ecstatic when my speaking agents called with a perfectly good excuse to get on a plane and go.
It's our first family vacation, as I'm taking not only the baby but Mr. Lacy too. We're spending an extra week in Nigeria to see the country and do some reporting. If you're as fascinated as I am with this 150-million person nation that's mostly known in the West for 419 scams, stay tuned here and to TechCrunch for my thoughts and experiences. And since Mr. Lacy is coming, expect some amazing photos.
I'm about one-third of the way through my 18-month death-march around the world seeking its best entrepreneurs, or as I call it in polite conversation, work on my new book. It's time for a break. Aside from a few day trips here or there I'm sticking in San Francisco for the next six weeks where I'll try to be a better blogger for TechCrunch, a more reliable columnist for BusinessWeek and get more actual writing on the book banged out. I'm going to keep working on learning Portuguese and Mandarin. I'm going to cook dinner for my husband. I'm going to reintroduce myself to my much-stood-up Pilates trainer. And I may even attempt to have a social life again.
I feel mixed about it. Most of me is screaming out for a break from 20-hour flights, endless meetings and the frustration that comes with interviewing someone from a totally different culture, who is frequently speaking a totally different language. (See photo to the right-- just moments before a speaking gig. See sadder photo below. Human rights groups are investigating.) On Thursday as I was packing up to leave my hotel in London, scouring for every stray sock or earring, wondering what I'd leave behind this time (sunglasses as it turned out), and hoping I'd allotted enough time for customs, security and the like-- I had a crushing feeling of I desperately, desperately need a month off!
But as I reflect on everything I've seen and experienced during the 10 weeks I've spent in Israel, Rwanda, China and London, another part of me can't wait to get back on the road. When I set out to write this book, I didn't totally know what I was getting into, aside from the hope that it'd be important and the certainty that it'd be life-changing on a personal level. The first few months I felt a bit lost and concerned, but now, six months in, it's coming together. I've written several thousand words, discovered stories so dramatic they could be made into films and the big macro themes of book are shaping themselves in my head every day. The book is becoming less of an epidsodic travel narrative and more of a, well, book. As much work as there is ahead, I know now I've got something, and that's a huge relief. (See photo to below taken in a happier, more rested moment. Although note my sad, tired computer is missing an "R" key.)
So as I pause for a bit, I wanted to thank everyone who's made the whole thing possible thus far: Dan Nova for introducing me to Rwanda, Roi Carthy and Orli Yakuel for being my den mothers in Israel, Tom Limongello for, well, everything in China, and Paul Carr for being my unofficial personal assistant in London, while Rachel Bremer set me up with some of the most impressive companies I've seen in the UK to date. Huge thanks also to Endeavor-- the experts in emerging world entrepreneurship, and to BusinessWeek and TechCrunch for being endlessly supportive of this suicide-mission. And, of course, Olivia for taking care of the kitties in my absence, and Mr. Lacy for somehow putting up with all of this.
After the break, I'll finish the year with Brazil, China, India, and back to Israel. As always, let me know anyone I must meet.
[PHOTO CREDITS: Ayelett Noff, JD Lasica, Craig Newmark]
As loyal readers know I’ve been spending quite a bit of the last few months quietly working on some pretty radical and exciting career changes. I’ve already blogged about my role shifting at Yahoo's TechTicker, and the fact that I’m cutting out almost all conferences this year. I'm finally able to talk about the last two pieces of news today, and you’ll see why it was crucial for me to make a little more time in my schedule.
The first one is something I’ve been working towards since December 2007: I’ve finally closed my next book deal. Before I tell you about it, let me step back and say that the experience of writing “Once You’re Lucky, Twice You’re Good” was probably the most exhilarating and challenging thing I’ve ever done in my life. I knew I wanted to do another book, but I was worried that anything would pale in comparison.
Business reporters are rarely in the middle of something that’s also a mass cultural movement, the way Web 2.0 was. And it’s even rarer to be the reporter in the middle of that trend early-on, with near-unfettered access. The book was also the culmination of ten years of covering startups and the Web, with so many of the themes of the book coming out of articles I’d written week-after-week and conversations at endless breakfasts, lunches and dinners with investors, coders and nearly everyone who makes up the Valley ecosystem. I worked hard, but I was also in the right place at the right time, and I didn’t think it was possible that I’d find another book that I could be that passionate about again.
Then, a month after finally turning it into my publishers in 2007, I was sitting on a beach in Mexico and my next idea hit me. (My husband may never take me on vacation again.)
The new book is about global entrepreneurship. What I don’t mean by that is globalization or social entrepreneurship. It’s the story of real, ambitious, risk-taking entrepreneurs in emerging markets around the world who are taking advantage of the turmoil all around them to build huge businesses, the Western venture capital money that’s trying to invest in them, and the cultural chasm the two are, so far, having a hard time crossing. To tell this story right, I’m going to spend between 30-40 weeks on the ground in Israel, China, India, Africa and Mexico/South America over the next year and a half. If you follow me on Twitter, you know I've actually already started. It works out to roughly 2-3 weeks at a time overseas, followed by 2-3 weeks here, and a few months with no travel here and there for sanity. My publisher is John Wiley & Sons and, yes, I was border-line insane to try to sell a book in this market. Huge thanks to them for believing in the project so much, and my agent, Daniel Greenberg, for pulling off the impossible once again.
I’ll still keep a foot firmly planted in Silicon Valley—after all, it’s an integral part of this story, too. And I’ll still write my Valley Girl column for BusinessWeek and do three-to-four interviews per month plus my daily Valley Buzz post for TechTicker. I’ll also still appear on NBC’s Press:Here during the weeks that I’m in town.
So, to sum up, we've got a column, I'm hosting one show, commuting an hour to be a regular guest on another and traveling around the world to write a book…is that enough to keep me busy? Hardly. That’s why I’m also announcing that I’ll have an ongoing gig with TechCrunch. Actually, Michael Arrington already did. Given my other responsibilities, I won't be there everyday, but I’ll be writing two-to-five posts per week, likely a lot on the weekends, a lot on airplanes and a lot from the road. You're better off sending announcements about your latest product launch wherever it is you send them now, because I’ll be focusing on analysis of the business of Silicon Valley, emerging markets and the collision between them.
While I've been working on pulling the book together for more than a year, no one is more surprised than I am at the TechCrunch announcement. You should have seen the Cheshire cat "I won" grin on Michael Arrington's face when we finished negotiating it all. He and I have had an ongoing Abbot-and-Costello routine about how I'd never write there because I was too busy and liked writing on this site too much.
But when I filled in for him in February, my thoughts changed. Trolls aside, I was blown away by the level of engagement and love for that blog among entrepreneurs around the world. It's not just a blog about Silicon Valley and Web 2.0. Subscribing to newspapers or business magazines doesn't really mean you read them. (Ask the tall plastic-wrapped stack in my hallway.) But TechCrunch readers read every single thing on that site, chew it up, digest it, spit it out and talk to their friends about it. It seemed the perfect place to write about what I was seeing on the road as the book unfolds, because I'm well aware I can't write this book alone. It needs a community. After all, a world of entrepreneurs is a pretty big topic.
I'm not killing SarahLacy.com. I'll be cross-posting my TechCrunch stuff here, linking to BusinessWeek and Yahoo stuff, and writing more personal posts about my experiences on the road as I travel. And yes, we'll have FlipCam footage.
I said in an interview late last year that my next book would be "stupidly ambitious" and I think I've delivered on that promise. I hope you enjoy the journey as much as I know I will.
Just wanted to say a quick blog hai. Things have been nuts for me lately, and now that I'm officially off Michael Arrington-duty, I am trying to dig out of a swamp of logistical things I've been putting off for weeks. Like, getting emails working on my BlackBerry and getting AT&T out here to fix my phone line so I can do radio interviews and have my TiVo back. I'm very proud I finally found time to call the bank and let them know it was indeed me in Africa logging onto my account, not some fraudster, so I can finally pay my bills online again. My various bill collectors are probably glad too. (Yes, I do need a new assistant. I know.)
Long time readers might remember that I'm neurotic and goal-obsessed enough that I not only make a very well thought-out list of New Years Resolutions, but every month I grade myself on how well I do. In January I scored a lousy 61 out of 100. In February I upped that to a 72, partially because i scored higher on the "Be Nicer to Mr. Lacy" category. I'm up to a C-student!
Speaking of goals, I should have some cool news soon. In the meantime, here's the coverage I did for TechCrunch in February, a link to the last two Press:Here shows I was on, my latest ValleyGirl column on unsexy but profitable eNewsletters, and, below, a few segments on gadgets I did with BusinessWeek review honcho Steve Wildstrom for TechTicker last week.
I am still lusting after the Palm Pre more than any other gadget, but the Kindle 2 is a close second. With all the international travel I'm doing these days Bose Noise Reduction Headsets are a close third. And Mr. Lacy and I have been close to caving on a huge new flat panel for more than a year, but we're taking Mr. Wildstrom's advice in clip #2 below instead. Not that we can afford any of these indulgences. Oh to be back in pre-recession days!
Why? That's not important. What's important is that I'm fully-- FULLY-- vaccinated. I've also got anti-malarials and cipro. I won't be blogging or Twittering much while I'm gone, so enjoy this little farewell video shot from the floor of the San Francisco Department of Health. When I get back, it's TechCrunch time!
BTW: this is what my arms felt like the next day. Wait for it...
I mentioned back in December that several big changes were brewing for me in 2009. A big one was Olivia’s leaving (although she didn't really go anywhere; she just no longer has to do what I say...) and one small one was my new gig as a regular contributor on Press:Here (Yes, mom, real tv!) There are two more very exciting new projects I can’t yet share; I hope to be able to in February. But today, I can finally talk about one big change that’s 90% exciting and 10% sad.
My role with TechTicker is going to be changing next month. Instead of spending three days a week co-hosting the show from Yahoo’s studios, I’m relinquishing my tenuous hold of the co-hosting reins to Aaron Task and Henry Blodget who’ve been far better at being the daily force behind TechTicker than I ever could with all my other commitments and insane travel schedule.
Instead, I’m going to focus on bigger interviews and more produced “Tales of the Valley” documentary-style pieces for TechTicker, and hopefully, elsewhere on Yahoo too. These pieces take longer to schedule and produce so expect less of me on camera. In fact, yesterday was my last Monday morning 5 a.m. trek down. But I’ll continue doing my (mostly) daily “Valley Buzz” column for the site, and at least a few studio days per month. (Attn Paul Kedrosky and others: You’re not done with me yet!)
Why this is 90% exciting is obvious: I’ve always been the kind of reporter who is happier out of the office reporting unique stories or talking to fascinating people, not weighing in on the day-to-day news. Also the cinematic eye of my amazing cameraman and editor, Brad Williams, is frankly wasted just pointing a robotic camera at me every day. We will get to invest more in stories, and TechTicker gets more of what we do really well.
It also gives me far more flexibility. For most of the last 16 months or so I’ve woken up at 5 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, commuted an hour to Sunnyvale and spent all day booking, shooting and editing, then frequently come home to late nights of source meetings, events, or work for my BusinessWeek column. And all too frequently the days in between were spent traveling to speaking gigs, conferences or book tour events. In fact, last week, one of the baristas at the Yahoo coffee bar accused me of not really having a home in SF, just spending my life going from Yahoo to the airport then back to Yahoo. That wasn’t far from the truth in 2008. Frankly, it took a serious toll on my health, my marriage and friendships, and from time-to-time the quality of the work I was producing for Yahoo and BusinessWeek, and of course, my own blog, which was neglected most of all.
Launching and co-hosting TechTicker has been an amazing experience that has challenged me, excited me, frustrated me and most of all given me a huge appreciation for how hard the video medium is to do well. It was a great change from being heads-down on one huge project, like I was in 2006 and 2007 with the book. But it’s not really my strength. I’m not going to be the Maria Bartiromo of online news, and frankly, I never wanted to be. (Although this piece gave me *huge* amounts of respect for her.) I want to be someone who can work across mediums, continually inspired and challenged by the differences between them. This move will also give me the chance to work more closely on stories with my amazing executive producer Diane Galligan who always makes my pieces better. The chance to learn from her was one of the main reasons I took the job at TechTicker in the first place.
All that said, the move is also tinged with some sadness. I really love the crew that I work with at TechTicker, and Yahoo is—believe it or not—a fun place to go to three-days-week. And with the economic crisis of the last year, being on camera daily has forced me to stay up to date on the latest national news, that doesn’t always permeate the Valley ecosystem. I’ve learned so much about the economy and the markets from Henry, Aaron and regular guests like Paul Kedrosky. Now, I hope the ability to focus on telling fewer stories really well will help me teach our millions of viewers more about Silicon Valley, which is, after all, the reason I took the job in the first place and the reason I was hired.
On the jump are a few of my favorite interviews and Tales of the Valley pieces we did early in the year before the studio grind took over. Hope it whets your appetite for what’s to come! Also in the comments, feel free to leave your ideas of a dream segment or guest.
It's another one of those up-early-because-I-can't-sleep-but-yay!-the-house-is- quiet-enough-to-blog mornings. The reason I'm up too early is because I was horribly ill last night from taking the pill form of the Typhoid vaccine. I'd felt so bad-ass that I'd found a way to avoid the Typhoid shot several days ago. Now, I'm dreading the fact that I have three more to take this week and wondering if the shot might have been a better option. Hint: When they say drink several large glasses of water; they mean it. Every bit of moisture seems to be sapped from my body. I can barely even blink without my eyelids sticking! (TMI?)
All the vaccines signify a change in my travel plans for 2009. While I'm having to be coy on exactly what they are, let's say there's a significant project or two brewing that's going to involve some extended international travel. While some of the projects are new, the growing obsession with studying entrepreneurship around the world isn't.
I grew up in a family of seven with parents who are teachers; we had no money for international travel. When I got my first reporter job for $21,000 a year-- I wasn't exactly flush with funds either. More than ten years of being a beat reporter with two weeks vacation hasn't helped matters. So ever since I quit BusinessWeek to write my book, I've been making up for all that lost travel time. Last year, I went to Israel, Cannes, London (twice) and Mexico, but the bulk of my traveling was my 15-city-book tour.
That book tour was amazing, but exhausting. Part of what made it so exhausting was that I was wedging tons of small trips into my already packed schedule. So I'd wake up at 5 a.m., go shoot at Yahoo all day, hop on a plane to, say, Omaha, go to a late night tweet up, get up for a few more events the next day, stay out talking to entrepreneurs until 2 a.m., wake up at 4 a.m. for a flight home, write a BusinessWeek column on the plane, then race into Yahoo to shoot more. I'm not exaggerating.
So this year, as my job switches from book promotion back to reporting, my new travel plan is focus, especially because most of my travel is self-funded. I am only doing two types of trips: Ones where there is a very specific reporting ROI-- where I am following a specific, amazing story that has not been written-- or ones with a more literal ROI-- ie, where I'm getting paid to speak to support the former travel.
This means, I'm cutting out most conferences. It's a hard call, because conferences are fun. I'm sad watching via Twitter right now as all my friends arrive in Munich for DLD while I suffer through mini-Typhoid fever on my couch. But I can't be on the road as much as I was in 2008, for the sake of sanity, health, my marriage and my work and that means something has to go. And if I study my travel in 2008, I got way more out of trips where I filled my time meeting with new people without all the distraction and noise of a conference around us. Conferences are great for connecting with people and deepening relationships with people I already know. But increasingly I don't meet a lot of great new sources at them, and I don't get great new stories ideas. By definition, being at an event with a hundred other reporters keeps you in the echo-chamber.
That was the reason I reluctantly skipped Le Web in December. And why I'm on my couch, not in Munich right now. It also means I won't be attending SXSW; I'll be in another country instead. If you read my BusinessWeek columns you know I never attend Ted, and this year is no different. I will still attend AllThingsD and The Lobby (assuming there is a third Lobby), but those are two of the only ones set in stone on my calendar.
So you won't be getting conference circuit news, fun videos and photos here in 2009. But you will (eventually) get genuinely new and different stories that could never come out of a conference. Some of those will appear on the blog, some may appear in my BusinessWeek column, and some you won't read about for quite a while. But I'm pretty sure you also won't read about them anywhere else. And that sort of makes the Typhoid stomach-ache worthwhile.
An unforgettable portrait of the emerging world's entrepreneurial dynamos Brilliant, Crazy, Cocky is the story about that top 1% of people who do more to change their worlds through greed and ambition than politicians, NGOs and nonprofits ever can. This new breed of self-starter is taking local turmoil and turning it into opportunities, making millions, creating thousands of jobs and changing the face of modern entrepreneurship at the same time. To tell this story, Lacy spent forty weeks traveling through Asia, South America and Africa hunting down the most impressive up-and-comers the developed world has never heard of....yet.
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