Food and Drink Archive

Spring Cleaning

It's been a rough 2009 so far, at least for my health. Between the cold that wouldn't leave for nearly two months, some pretty severe sleep deprivation, and more stress than usual, I've turned to comfort foods and comfort wine a bit more than I probably should. Author-Sarah would hardly care about a few extra pounds. I am, after all, in my 30s and married. Isn't that when we're all allowed to get fat?

But on-camera Sarah has to care. About a week ago, I decided to go back to what's always helped me slim down and feel happier before: The South Beach Diet and a few hours a week sweating on the elliptical listening to loud rock music. But no sooner did I Twitter something about these plans, then a trove of friends all told me I should try a juice cleanse instead.

I had one initial objection: That just sounds way too California. I already do Pilates three times a week and eat more tofu than I do red meat. I have to keep true to some of my Memphis roots, or they may not let me back in for BBQ-fest.

As I did more research on BluePrint Cleanse-- the company that everyone from Julia Allison to Michael Arrington have gone to for cleansing needs-- there were a few other red flags.

Yeah, so like I Said, OpenTable Is Gussying up for an IPO...

Earlier this month I made my feelings about OpenTable abundantly clear, and as I said then, the reason the company is most likely anxious to get all those unused dining checks off its books is because it's gussying up its financials to go public. Of course, I thought the company would wait until the market recovered. Nope, they filed today, which means OpenTable is either very optimistic about a turnaround in 2009 or really needs some cash.

Since flaming the company, I've had a few conversations with people who really do love it, find it useful and have not had my issues. (Although most everyone I've talked to agrees the dining rewards program is lame, at best.) Still, should OpenTable price, I don't think this is a stock you want to own for the following five reasons:

1. Did I mention it's 2009? Have you seen the markets?

2. OpenTable is essentially a local business. They have to conquer territory market-by-market, restaurant-by-restaurant. Local is one of the hardest and most expensive things to do well. It's also one of the only things that the Internet doesn't particularly make easier. Just look at Craigslist: The gods of local. The site's traffic is still dominated by a few big cities. Local hits tipping points and network effects but only in each city. There is traditionally no national tipping point for locally-oriented businesses. In other words, a restaurant in Memphis isn't going to do something because a restaurant in New York finds it valuable.

3. Margins. Imagine that! OpenTable isn't very profitable selling software-as-a-service. That's because it's a very expensive business model to scale, as I've detailed at length here. In short: The software doesn't sell itself, subscription revenues are monthly and steady, but lower in dollar amount and customers can cancel at any time. Such is the pay-as-you-go business model. You can build a huge business here as Salesforce.com has proven. Unfortunately, it's really the only one who has proven that. Even Netsuite, who I'm very bullish on, has struggled with profitability.

4. Restaurants are going to be closing and cutting corners as the recession wears on-- that can't be good for revenue growth. When fewer people are coming in your doors, do you need to pay for a reservation service?

5. The online travel agency effect. I could be way off here, but a lot of San Francisco restaurants just take reservations on their own sites, eschewing OpenTable. They don't want to pay the fees, and why should they when building and maintaining a Web site isn't exactly hard in this day and age? OpenTable may have brought restaurants into the online age, the way sites like Expedia and Travelocity did for the airlines, but increasingly vendors hate middlemen. Especially middlemen who control the customer relationship and take a cut of the proceeds. A lot of restaurants will still want to outsource, of course, but I think it's a risk when it comes to growth.

To OpenTable's credit, they reached out to me after that nasty early January post, and I was supposed to have a sit down with CEO Jeff Jordan. That's not happening now thanks to the quiet period! But I look forward to talking to him when he can talk again. OpenTable has always been ostrich-like when it comes to media so maybe there's something I'm missing here. I'm always open to someone changing my mind, as Tony Hsieh knows!

World Economic Forum: Red (Lobster) Alert!

So just in case we hadn't mentioned it, Sarah and I went to Las Vegas this weekend. Contrary to popular opinion, Vegas is not just all bright lights and people running amok, fueled by whatever vice happens to engage them at that moment. It is, in fact, the perfect place to sit down and have an international, in-depth dialogue about our current economic status. No, not the Merrill Lynch buy-out, not the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy crisis, or even the U.S. government's proposed $700 billion dollar bailout, but the food-to-price ratio of the lobster salad at Spago. Robert Loch, the "Hugh Hefner" of the London tech scene as he is known, takes a minute out of his schedule this weekend to discuss his thoughts... (and because he is British, and very irate, be forewarned that the following contains some choice expletives) Bon appetit!


Robert Loch on Intercontinental Food Economics from sarah lacy on Vimeo.

Wish I Was at Alex's Now....

Hello, readers. I have to admit I'm a little beat from the last event-and-emotion-filled week. We just landed in Vegas not to long ago and fortified with a light meal and a few mimosas I'm trying to work through the amazing backlog of Memphis footage and videos. Annoyingly, I'm not poolside. Too hard to read the screen. What a nerd I've become!!

Speaking of, I kinda wish I was at Alex's right now. What's Alex's? Watch this. PS: at one point one of the ladies yell, "THIS GONNA BE ON THE YOUTUBE???" Unfortunately you can't hear it in the recording. But just trust me on this one.


So Good It Hurts from sarah lacy on Vimeo.

UGBT: Keynote Angst? Done. Moving On.

The next emotional milestone (and a tiny one in comparison to Austin and the keynote) is going back to my hometown. I'm doing an event for Memphis entrepreneurs and Barney DuBois-- the man who told me I would be a journalist way back in my high school days and the publisher of my first gig, The Memphis Business Journal-- is doing my introduction tonight. I'm pretty unemotional, but I might tear up.

Also my hometown paper wrote about the event and -- I kid you not-- it was the first time my parents realized there was a controversy about the Zuckerberg keynote. That made me happy. Yes, they also had it clipped out and put it on the fridge. Bear in mind, I do not have gushing parents. This is highly unusual. They would only read what I wrote for BusinessWeek if I mailed them a copy with the page marked. (Also, I realized this morning that my father's uncanny ability to turn on the dishwasher the second I get in the shower has also persisted through time and space. Despite the shock of cold water with an eye-full of soap, it's nice to know there's an oasis of sameness in my ever-changing world.)

Tomorrow we take off for Vegas -- Blogworld!!!!! This was a late night Gnomedex addition to the tour, at the request of Mr. Brian Solis. We're signing books poolside at the TechSet party and only have about 20 so come and get 'em! $20 each. We will be grateful to stop lugging them around. Turns out books are heavy and cumbersome to travel with- Duh! Guess that's why the Kindle is almost a $1 billion business, right?

Saturday night, Tony Hsieh of Zappos -- sorry, ZAPPOS!-- and I are co-hosting a party at a very, very awesome spot that's a last minute Twitter surprise. So follow Tony or me if you want the deets! It's open to anyone and we'd love to see you there!! Tony knows how to party and Vegas is his turf so you do NOT want to miss this.

Then, Sunday night we come back to Memphis, just in time for a talk at my alma mater, Rhodes College, on Monday. That's incredibly weird. Typically your family and the people you grew up with are the ones who convince you you're not actually a big deal at all.

I've been saying for the last year that the incredibly life-changing year I've had was at some point going to hit me, and it's sort of hitting me this trip, between returning to Austin, doing my first big keynote, and now this hometown stuff. Anyway, below is a video Olivia and I shot after the keynote. We celebrated by going to a snooty restaurant Olivia worked at last year. She didn't have the greatest experience so we figured since I was going back and facing fears and stuff this trip, she should too.

Yeah, yeah, we'll get back to reporting on business soon. Again, just indulge us this month!


Post Keynote Confessions from sarah lacy on Vimeo.

UGBT Boston: New Englanders, Come Out to Play

We've landed in Boston finally- narrowly avoiding a Hurricane Ike spin-off tornado in our connecting city, thanks in part to a renegade pilot that is now one of my personal heroes. Gotta love that salty, go-get-em spirit. Speaking of, did I mention Sarah Lacy is here in Boston?

She's keynoting at the Taleo Worldwide conference on Wednesday, but we can't spend the whole duration of Sarah's FIRST-EVER visit to Boston standing beneath a powerpoint presentation. So, we want all you natives to stop by the UGBT event tonight at the Good Life Bar! Of course, there will be books and T-shirts for sale, and Sarah will lovingly sign any and all copies. (Three books gets you a free shirt and the holidays are coming up....just sayin'.)

Special thanks to Gradon Tripp, Rich Dibona, and Rebecca Corliss for their organizational prowess. You're all wicked awesome.


So, Yesterday Pretty Much Sucked. from sarah lacy on Vimeo.

LA Book Events: July 8!

As you know, I've already given up being a good daughter or a good friend who actually, say, calls people, stays in touch, etc. For a while, my blog and twitter were serving the purpose for me, but I've sadly dropped the ball on that too. I just got an email from my very understanding mother that read:

"Sometimes I can tell from the blog what is  happening,  I don't see anything about moving.  Did I miss it?  Is painting the red bedroom connected with moving? About needing a personal assistant--how about one less direction to be going in? Busy.  Busy."

Wow. When my Mom doesn't even know that we moved into our first house things are bad! At the very least, I need to blog more! (More on the assistant in a moment...)

First things first: I wanted to tell those of you who don't know I'll be at two events in Los Angeles tomorrow, July 8. One is at Yahoo in Santa Monica at 4:30 in the Building E Training Room, followed by beer and wine and book signing for all. It's open to the public-- details here. There are free books for the first 50 people, but anyone who has a copy and would like me to sign it is welcome to bring it!

The second event I'm somewhat crashing. It's Mixergy's Drinks 2.0 and Andrew Warner is going to interview me on camera about the book and other stuff. No books on sale at the event, but as always if you bring one I'll be more than happy to sign it! More info here. Sounds like it'll be a packed house!!

Hope to meet loads of you there!

Portland Twitter Meet-Up Resounding Success!

OK, it'd be generous to call it a "handful" of people who showed up with just 30 minutes notice. But we still had a great time, with great conversation about the Web and entrepreneurship and where it's all going. It convinced me to absolutely do this in every city I go to from now on, so watch out Twitter because your city could be next! Speaking of, I'm loving all the responses from the Sarah Lacy User Generated Book Tour idea. DC seems to be getting the most love to date...

Here's a photo of me and Portlander John Weiss at the meetup last night. He got a signed book and a free drink! Your chance in your city coming soon...

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Tonight's Social Web Experiment: Portland Meet-up

I know I don't have the same juice as Tony "Twitter king" Hsieh of Zappos, but I'm doing a very impromptu Portland meet up at Ron Tom in 30 minutes. Just Twittered it. Anyone who shows up with my book gets a signature and a free drink! Photos on the blog tomorrow. Perhaps of just me and my husband and our friends if no one shows!

Photos from My Party!

First from Valleywag's nice (shocker!) post about it. Second, from sarahlacy.com on flickr. More on the way!

I'm stunned everyone looks so great given how hot and sweaty it was! A few teasers down below from my brilliant personal photographer Geoffrey Ellis (aka Mr. Lacy). Me signing through throngs of people, then two guys working on being "good" Evan Williams of Blogger and Twitter and Jay Adelson of Equinix, Digg and Revision3. (Although people tell me the "Once You're Lucky" cupcakes were tastier...) Again, my friend Johanna did an amazing job on this party for a shoe-string budget. All you people should hire her!

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Part insightful analysis of what ails Silicon Valley and part madcap journey to far flung hubs of aspiration and innovation, Sarah Lacy takes us around the world in 180 pages to find the fascinating people who are creating the new wealth in a new world of start ups and ventures that America ought to be paying a lot more attention to.
Brilliant. Crazy. Cocky.

New Book

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.

Excerpt »

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Srah Lacy

Sarah Lacy is an award-winning reporter who has covered high-growth entrepreneurship for more than fifteen years. She is the founder, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of PandoDaily.com, the site-of-record for the startup ecosystem. She lives in San Francisco.

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