Starting Early in Social Enterprise: Q&A With Resolution Project Chair Oliver Libby

The Resolution ProjectJust as entrepreneurship is now becoming increasingly attractive to younger and younger people, social enterprise is increasingly a goal of college students. Max Luxe spoke to one of the founders of the nonprofit Resolution Project, a program that identifies and funds undergraduates who want to start a socially-conscious project. Oliver Libby, the co-founder and managing director at consulting firm Hatzimemos / Libby in New York City, is the chair and co-founder of Resolution. Libby talked to us about the innovative ways the Resolution Fellows are trying to change the world and how the project is helping them get there.

Max: What is the story behind the Resolution Project?

Oliver Libby: The co-founders of the Resolution Project, Howard Levine and George Tsiatis and myself, we used to run a big Model United Nations conference at Harvard. There was always a keynote speaker up there saying, “You guys are the future and some day you’ll make the world a better place,” but implicit in that was: not yet. It took us a few years after graduation to get our heads around this. We decided to build an alumni network around World MUN in 2007 and 2008. We even ran a mini-case competition because we heard from these students that they had ideas that could change the world but no one was giving them the resources to do it.

We were just blown away. We said, we have to come back to this conference and fund these ideas. We also have to give these students the resources an emerging social CEO would need.

The model hasn’t changed. With youth summits, we run a Social Venture Challenge that plugs right into the existing summit. It gives us an amazingly diverse group of students. We do this about eight times a year. They win a Resolution Fellowship and get assigned mentors for two years minimum. They get access to partners, peers, advisors, anything you would need to get a social venture off the group. We now have 220 fellows in 54 countries and 25 states. Those people have helped around 350,000 beneficiaries.

– Do these social enterprises become careers for the students?

We only have six years of data, but a couple dozen of the 130 that have started will be scalable full-time work for their founders to go the distance. The vast majority had impact, worked, and may not have been scalable but were a worthwhile pursuit. Every single fellow who has gotten the fellowship has started something that helped people. We don’t take equity from our students. This is a youth development program, not a social venture capital firm.

– Why fund students?

We could have found other charities to support, and we do support other charities regularly. There’s a very interesting dynamic here. There’s a grave need for a social responsibility project and business model in communities around the world. More importantly there’s this phenomenon of students who want to start changing the world. Who is out there helping them really get started at that early stage? Being enrolled in a college of some kind — we’re not just talking about Ivy League schools here, it’s students from all around the world — you are old enough to run a venture, you can open a bank account and travel on your own, but you are not so formed that it won’t change your life.

There are a lot of places that do bits and pieces of what we do, but Resolution is all of those things on an open-ended basis for a young social entrepreneur at the earliest stage. We don’t fund anything that has received prior funding.

They must go to one of the conferences. It’s tens of thousands of people who attend these conferences every year. Some of the conferences are Harvard World Model UN, the Youth Assembly at the UN, the Clinton Global Initiative University, and we’re starting a competition with the One Young World Summit in Bangkok in November. Plus four to five more. We’ve got kids whose first plane ride was to come to that conference.

– Can you share a few success stories?

Annie Ryu has a venture called Global Village Fruit. Annie travelled to India when she was at Harvard and saw jackfruit rotting on the side of the street. She asked what they were and was told, people don’t really want to use them around here. She did some research and there were a number of cool products that can be made from jackfruit, including flour and a meat substitute (which is pretty awesome). Annie started a company that empowers small farmers in India and Sri Lanka, employs about 40 people in the packaging plant that she has in India, and sells at Whole Foods and other places. She has raised $1 million in funding. That’s a social business, structured as a for-profit. She started it after she was a Fellow in 2012.

We also have a young man named Derrius Quarles, born in Chicago, whose father was killed and whose mother went to jail. He was resigned to not go to college, but a teacher in high school told him he should go. He raised $1 million in scholarships, went to Morehouse, did well there, and created a venture called Million Dollar Scholar, a web platform and educational product that helps underprivileged students like himself to unlock scholarships. He has served thousands of people so far and has raised several million dollars in scholarships for them. He’s now at the University of Pennsylvania.

– What’s next for the Resolution Project?

We’re focused on three key things: we’re strengthening our own infrastructure. We have a staff of five  now, raising money to build the program. We’re deepening the fellowship, with 60 to 70 new fellows coming in every year. We’re adding training materials and enhancing training for our mentors. Resolution was very conscious of having real impact evaluation metrics. Now we’re in a position to talk about the impact numbers and enhance the visibility of our fellows.

Of Slope and Screen: Q&A With The Banff Mountain Film Festival’s Tour Coordinator

NA_Ad Slick-vert colWhen winter is on the horizon, we at Max start anticipating one of our favorite film festivals of the year: the Banff Mountain Film Festival. Kicking off in the Canadian national park known for its ski slopes, the festival has toured the world for the last 3 decades, visiting 450 locations and seating 400,000 viewers. (Team Max has attended the tour screenings annually in 3 cities over 15 years.)

Max Luxe spoke with Suzanne White, the program coordinator for the festival’s world tour, about life in a ski resort and which films she likes best.

As you gear up for this year’s festival, what are you most excited about? 

I’m excited to share another amazing lineup of speakers, books, music and film with the festival goers. I’m especially excited to see how many great films could be on our World Tour and our Radical Reels tour. This seems like a banner year for great mountain films.

What are a few of your favorite films that have won at recent Banff Festivals? 

Last year, a film called Tashi and The Monk won Best Film for Mountain Culture and it went out on the World Tour. It’s a wonderful story about the life at an orphanage high in the Himalayas and it really touched everyone who saw it. Crossing the Ice was another stand out film from the past couple of years. It’s got adventure, friendship and humor all rolled into one big snowball.

What’s changed about festival-winning films over the years? 

The technology with which the filmmakers capture their stories has certainly changed, but the stories themselves haven’t changed. The films still have the same heart, courage and humor as they always have.

What’s your favorite thing about Banff itself? What sport do you most like to do there?

Banff is an exceptional place to live if you like being outdoors. Climbing, hiking, mountain biking, road biking, camping and paddling are all the summer activities available to you. In the winter, more climbing, mountaineering, all types of skiing and watching great films are the best things to do! My favorites are mountain biking and skiing.

If you could visit another mountain location, where would it be? 

I would love to visit Patagonia. The mountains there are so different than other mountain ranges I’ve visited.

5 Reasons to Offer a Financial-Planning Benefit to Employees

Max recently announced a partnership with human-resources firm Questis to make Max membership available to companies using Questis to provide benefits to employees. We asked our friends at Questis to tell us why companies should think about employees’ finances.


By Anthony Del Porto

When employees have personal-finance benefits through their companies, they don't have to bring their financial issues to work.

When employees have personal-finance benefits through their companies, they don’t have to bring their financial issues to work.

Employers need to be serious these days to attract and keep employees. Most benefits offered today are commonplace, so they don’t set employers apart: medical plans, dental plans, vision plans, and transit passes are all typical. Now employers are looking at financial planning benefits such as those offered by Questis as a way to not only attract employees, but also improve their performance at work as well. Here are five reasons why.

  1. Solve employees’ financial problems

American workers are in a rough place financially. 76% live paycheck to paycheck, 46% have less than $800 set aside for emergency funds, and 31% have zero money saved for retirement. It’s not that employees don’t have options or benefits available to help us, but it can be hard to properly prioritize where to put money. Financial planning benefits provide the guidance needed to tackle this widespread issue.

2. Reduce work-time distractions related to personal finance

The distractions of personal finance issues greatly reduce productivity in the workplace. Financial stress affects people negatively, much like any other stress. It becomes hard to concentrate on the work at hand if employees are worried about overdue bills, college savings, and retirement. All of this stress adds up. If a financial-planning benefit is available to clean up staffers’ finances, they don’t have to bring those issues to work. On the other hand, what if the employees suffering from this stress were able to get some help. Mentorship from a group who knew exactly how to help those with personal finance issues? If this is YOU. You may want to head over to https://www.teachmepersonalfinance.com/ for more information to see where you can SAVE some cash.

3. Compound the power of better financial habits by starting early

Too few employees have an emergency fund. If they save $10,000 in an interest-bearing savings account that earns 1%, rather than the average 0.09%, they will earn $100 by the end of the year. This is just one small change that can make a big difference. By looking over an employee’s entire financial profile, even more money-saving and money-generating ideas can be found. With the proper assistance, each employee can figure out how much money he or she will need for retirement and start taking the proper steps now to get there. The earlier one gets started saving in the right ways, the less one will have to put in on a monthly basis — or the earlier one can retire.

4. Lighten HR’s load

When employees approach HR with their financial questions, it puts an unfair burden on HR, which typically isn’t equipped to handle it. Bringing in a financial-planning service gives HR a place to refer employees to get the best advice. This is particularly valuable when employees are faced with more complicated options than usual, like a pension buyout plan.

5. Provide accountability

Though the options available for employees’ finances can be complicated, the steps required to make the correct changes are usually fairly easy. Everyone just needs a little push. Having a financial planning benefit means that will not only will employees be guided to do what is best, but also someone will check back to make sure they are doing it. Sometimes taking the first step to tackle something as daunting as a retirement plan looks scarier than it is, so having someone who knows exactly what to do is crucial.

Traveling in Style: 4 Luxury Travel Blogs We Love

Wendy Perrin's blog showcases interesting places and smart ways to get there.

Wendy Perrin’s blog showcases interesting places and smart ways to travel.

What do you do with all the extra interest – found money – that you earn from your Max membership? Many Max members put it toward their travel itineraries. We’ve put together a list of our favorite luxury travel blogs and sites.

Wendy Perrin’s Blog
Travel expert Wendy Perrin — you know her from her years at Conde Nast Traveler — shares her experiences and those of her husband and kids on this blog. Aimed at families who want to travel in style with a twist, Wendy’s blog spotlights destinations you hadn’t considered and other tips from travel pros: “Would You Take the Plunge Into an Icelandic Volcano?” Wendy’s team of writers and photography contributors also gives you the inside scoop on adventures that look too crazy to try: “I Can’t Believe We Did This: Mountain Climbing in Whistler.” The blog is a smart traveler’s guide to issues such as what to do in Barcelona and the best places to go in September.

Equitrekking

Bringing a new dimension to luxury travel is Equitrekking, which discusses horse-related travel of all kinds. Darley Newman, a rider and journalist who hosts the Equitrekking TV series, blogs about trends in equestrian excursions, from Assateague Island in Maryland and Virginia, famous for its herds of wild horses, to the Dublin Horse Show. Max Luxe did a Q&A with Darley on what she’s seeing on horseback, including Botswana riding safaris. Whether or not you have experience riding, a trip by horse can be a fun and novel way to see the world.

Luxe City Guides
We love these petite and chic city guides, which fulfill their promise of telling it like it is about the some of the world’s most interesting places. Not only do they tell you where to go, they tell you where not to go, which is often more valuable. You can buy or download the guides or get the app, but the site also features takeaways like where to shop in Miami for hot shoes (Del Toro) or how best to see the Great Wall of China: “Its status as one of the 7 new wonders of the world (and its sheer magnificence) means this stone fortress is a must see… But it doesn’t mean you have to put up with busloads of yelping tourists and queueing with the hordes to climb the endless steps.” This signature tone — like a snarky but always in-the-know friend — imbues Luxe’s work. If you typically reach out to your besties for this kind of advice, Luxe is a site for you.

Monocle Travel
The luxury-lifestyle magazine Monocle has a line of paper travel guides which get you from city to city with verve. Online, the site also offers quick takes on individual destinations to read or download. In Aspen, for instance, Monocle tells you where to buy unique boots (Kemo Sabe) and offers advice on restaurants by occasion, including “Leisurely breakfast,” “Lunch on piste,” or “Big dinner with friends” (Matsuhisa, naturally). Each destination has five “Essentials,” the top things to know, and an archive of related magazine articles, posts, and podcasts from Monocle.

Innovation in New York City: Q&A with Maria Gotsch

Maria Gotsch heads the Partnership Fund for New York City.

Maria Gotsch heads the Partnership Fund for New York City.

Innovation is the engine of economic growth, but some cities do better than others in cultivating it. New York City, the largest city in the U.S. and its financial capital, has a strong record in some areas of innovation and is running hard to build up others. This is due in part to a vibrant startup culture, with help from both private and city-government-backed programs and infrastructure.

Max recently completed the Fintech Innovation Lab, a selective 12-week accelerator program for financial technology startups run by the Partnership Fund for New York City and Accenture. We spoke with Maria Gotsch, the Partnership Fund’s president and CEO and a former investment banker, about innovation in New York City, what trends she’s seeing, and where the city’s tech scene will go next. (By virtue of its sponsorship of the FinTech Innovation Lab, the Partnership Fund holds warrants in Six Trees Capital LLC, the company that operates MaxMyInterest.)

Max: How is New York’s tech sector doing?

Maria Gotsch: The tech sector in New York City is in its 20th year. Before that there was not much tech as measured by venture dollars invested. You had the bubble of 1999-2000 and then a big dropoff in deals. In the last decade you’ve had a nice steady increase in venture dollars invested, a fivefold increase over last decade from $1 billion to $5 Billion in 2014. In number of deals, we went from 100 to 350 by 2014.

Silicon Valley is still three times the size of anywhere else in the country, but New York City in 2014 was even with Boston in venture dollars invested. If you take biotech out to make it more apples to apples, then New York is pretty significantly higher than Boston.

 

What’s new in innovation in New York City?

We are looking at digital manufacturing. That’s the combination of software and production processes like 3D printers, laser cutters, and CNC machines. It’s related to sensors, robots, and microchips. A couple of trends are making this a very interesting space. The cost of these physical machines has dropped significantly. These were big machines that were behind corporate walls; now they are less expensive so individual designers can use them. Cloud computing has also helped with faster iteration and collaboration.

And crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. A company in New York called Canary raised money from Indiegogo to build its first prototype [of a home-security system]. That’s helped spur a lot of innovation because individuals or small companies can raise money. Some of the manufacturing that was done in China, it’s starting to make sense to bring that back to where the consumers are.

New York City has been a leading center of companies in this space, including Quirky, Makerbot (which was sold), Shapeway, and Kickstarter. Our fund has made some investments to support the underlying infrastructure in this area. We provided a loan to Shapeway for a production facility in Long Island City. There are also new labs in the Brooklyn Navy Yard which are still under construction and will open next year with software, hardware, and equipment for people to use. We’re hoping it will make sense for some of them to do that first batch production here. We think that’s a very exciting area in New York because it plays to the strength of software and design here. We are in the process of figuring out what our next steps should be in supporting the growth of this sector.

 

What is the Partnership Fund up to in digital health, another of your focus areas?

At the federal level, there was the Bush initiative for digitizing health records, then Obamacare. Now, in New York, there is a big redesign of the Medicaid medical system. Some of the financial risks of patients’ heathcare is being shifted to providers. There are 5 million Medicaid patients in New York. These were all moved to a “health home.” The home has to help them manage their care for chronic diseases, make sure follow up happens, recommend diet, and keep track of medicine. Those diseases that can be managed are managed with early intervention. This has led the hospitals to look for new technologies that they can adopt.

We work with 20 providers. They are interested in patient engagement, workflow management, and care coordination. The hospitals select the companies [in the Partnership Fund’s startup accelerator] and do mentoring. Our first class included Curator, for secure messaging within a hospital that raised a series B [venture funding round] this year. They developed a product to track hospital readmissions across a region.

Our partner is the New York E-Heath Collaborative. They are working on a patient portal for all your records. They have all the hospital systems connected. The network is called the State Health Information Network for New York and known as SHIN-NY.

 

What is missing here in New York City?

Part of what [the new campus for] Cornell-Technion is addressing is deep and robust engineering expertise. Look at Silicon Valley: it’s anchored by deep, prominent engineering schools. Until Cornell-Technion, New York City did not have an engineering school with that depth. None of our programs were at the scale of MIT or CalTech. Bringing a world-class engineering school to NYC will be additive because it’s something we were lacking. A lot of what happened in New York was applied tech, not core tech. Columbia is also building a new engineering campus and NYU is making a big investment to expand their engineering program with a new building in Brooklyn for urban engineering.

As biology moves into other sectors like IT and sensors, there are very interesting possibilities for New York. We also have a new genome center here.

 

And what could other cities and regions learn from New York?

Endeavor did a report mapping the digital media sector in New York and how it grew. It focused on the relationships between entrepreneurs and how they supported the next generation. If you’re starting de novo, you want to get entrepreneurs involved. You can see the ripple effects. That’s really powerful.

Optimize Even More: Apps We Love

New parking apps allow you to toss the keys to a valet without worrying about where to park your car.

New parking apps allow you to toss the keys to a valet without worrying about where to park your car.

Here at Max, we’re constantly on the lookout for ways to make the most of everything. These days, it’s easier, due to the proliferation of new companies that have sprung up to address inefficiencies in people’s lives.

We’re excited about these new hacks that allow people to save time and effort.

 

Parking

Everyone hates to park in the city, no matter what city you’re in. Parallel parking is a nightmare, finding a spot can leave you circling the block, and garages may feel unsafe. And if you’re running late, you have a bigger problem.

Now a bevy of new parking services has begun serving frustrated drivers in major urban areas around the country. It’s the inverse of Uber: instead of using your smartphone to order a chauffeured car, you’re driving yourself and smartphoning up a parking valet.

How it works: use an app like Luxe Valet, Zirx, and Valet Anywhere to call for a valet. When you arrive at your destination, the valet will appear and drive your car away. Where to? Somewhere safe, but you don’t care — you’re on to your meeting or dinner reservation. Some of the services will even fill up your tank or perform other maintenance tasks for you while you’re parked. When you’re ready to leave, the valet will meet you outside with your car. You can do on-demand or monthly parking, a boon in places like Manhattan where garages are both expensive and inconvenient.

Babysitting + Driving

Being a parent is about trying to be in more than one place at the same time. Even parents who have flexible work schedules find themselves dealing with complicated logistics when it comes to taking little Sally to diving practice when her brother Sam has a band competition across town. Many families have nannies, housekeepers, or babysitters who look after the children, but these caregivers often don’t drive, or don’t have a car. Hiring someone just to drive the children around works, but it’s complex.

Now a team of hardcore tech veterans who are also working mothers in Los Angeles has launched a service, HopSkipDrive, that solves this problem. They provide qualified, background-checked babysitters in a car. The sitter will pick up your kids at school, sign them out, strap them into a booster seat, drive them to tennis lessons, and sign them in. The service plugs the gap between activities, especially for children who are old enough to stay alone at drop-off classes or practices but too young to travel alone.

Dog Walking

Finding a trustworthy person to walk your dog while you’re at work or away is tough for dog owners. And when you need someone at the last minute, you’re really in trouble. But you can’t always leave work to rush home when your dog needs you. What to do?

Now there’s Wag, an on-demand dog-walking app. Take it as a given that dog owners want to line up walkers from their phones. Now assume that your phone gets you access to vetted, insured, bonded, and trained dog walkers. The company will provide a lockbox so the walker can get into your house (or you can have your doorman let him or her in), and the walker will send you updates so you can track your dog’s progress. Want to know what the dog did along the way? That’s on the app, too — as much information as you like. For now, the service is available in San Francisco and Los Angeles, with plans to expand to other cities.

You don’t need an app to walk your dog — if you have the time to do it yourself. Wag’s genius is in making it easier to pair up dog owners and dog walkers. (We at Max got to know Wag because some of our owners are also investors in a fund that has invested in Wag.)

What Not to Miss in Dubai and Ras al-Khaimah

Dubai's skyline.

Dubai’s skyline.

Dubai, the Arab world’s financial hub, is also a high-end destination attracting a growing number of world travelers. The tiny Persian Gulf city-state promises a luxury urban vacation between the desert and the beach. Home to an ever-increasing number of tall towers and over-the-top developments, Dubai is a destination for royalty, celebrities, and travelers seeking architectural fantasies and unique experiences. Nearby Ras al-Khaimah has yet to make it onto many itineraries, but it provides a rare look into Bedouin culture in an upscale oasis setting.

We asked a friend of Max Luxe to fill us in on the highlights from her travels in these Gulf destinations.

Dubai:

Dubai’s skyline is iconic, including as it does the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower. From the Atlantis The Palm hotel on the Palm’s manmade resort island, visitors can take in the panorama. Atlantis itself is a luxury waterpark resort, a cousin to the Bahamas showplace of the same name. Other high-end hotels include the Jumeirah Beach Hotel, which also boasts a waterpark. The Burj al-Arab, known as the world’s first seven-star hotel, is also situated on its own specially-constructed island and was designed to look like a sailing ship.

The view from the top of the Burj Khalifa.

The view from the top of the Burj Khalifa.

Dubai Creek, which splits the city in two, is where visitors can find dhows, an authentic form of Arab trading vessel that still supplies a small fraction of the emirate’s now huge volume of port traffic. The Dhow Wharfage is the place to see the boats in action as they take on freight; visitors can also get a tour of one of the boats or ride on one that’s been repurposed as a harbor-cruise ship. Little remains of old-time Dubai’s economy, and the dhows are one reminder of the city’s origins as a desert trading outpost.

Barrels of spices at a spice vendor's shop.

Barrels of spices at a spice vendor’s shop.

Shopping is one of Dubai’s major draws. Two enormous malls, the Dubai Mall and the Mall of the Emirates, offer nearly every luxury brand, including brands that don’t typically have their own boutiques in other countries. Shoppers can also go skiing and ice skating — a novelty in the middle of the desert — as well as visit an aquarium within the complex.

DSC_0996

The Bastakia Mosque in old Dubai.

To step back in time, visit one of Dubai’s market districts that hearken back to early trading days. In the Bastakia Quarter, where Persian merchants built homes with distinctive wind-towers for cooling, shops and galleries set on winding alleyways sell spices and art. The souks are street markets where haggling is expected; visit the well-known Gold Souk for stalls piled high with jewelry.

From the observatory at the top of the Burj Khalifa, the view is unparalleled. A museum explains how the tower was constructed, answering visitors’ questions about how one can build safely on sand. The tower complex’s fountain show, in the mall at the building’s base, is also well-attended.

For cultural appreciation, stop in at the Jumeriah Mosque, the only mosque in Dubai that non-Muslims can visit. (Be sure to dress appropriately.) Also visit Majlis Ghorfat Um Al-Sheef, a former sheikh’s summer home in the Jumeirah district that’s been restored to glory with a beautiful garden.

Ras al-Khaimah:

Bedouin-style villas with infinity pools at the Banyan Tree resort.

Bedouin-style villas with infinity pools at the Banyan Tree resort.

A smaller member of the United Arab Emirates, Ras al-Khaimah is a short drive from Dubai. Its low profile among tourists makes it a perfect place to see the desert, our correspondent notes. One place to find quiet relaxation is the Banyan Tree Ras al-Khaimah Beach resort, where the tented suites offer an opulent take on traditional Bedouin life. While in the emirate, make sure to take a camel ride, go off-roading on the sand dunes, or try your hand at sand-boarding.

 

 

Passion Investing, The Smart Way

Classic cars are becoming more important to collectors.

Classic cars are becoming more important to collectors.

Investing in art and collectibles is both deeply personal and generational. That’s why the hot collecting categories shift by decades, according to experts who spoke at a Private Asset Management Magazine panel held at the Lambs Club in New York City in May.

Advice for collectors: start by getting the planning right, said Chris Schumacher, director and client relationship manager at Geller & Company, a wealth advisory firm based in New York City. Talk to estate attorneys, and decide what insurance is needed for assets. Plan out cash needs for the next year, two years, and five years, to avoid being forced to sell off assets for liquidity. For art, think about which museums might wish to acquire or be the recipient of your artworks.

It might be worth looking at hiring a family CFO, or an outsourced service such as Geller provides, to manage the household’s human resources as well as your collections, Schumacher said.

Acquiring art takes considerable due diligence, especially to avoid fraud, said Ronni Davidowitz, head of New York’s trusts and estates practice at the law firm Katten, Muchin, Rosenman LLP. She recommends independent appraisals of all artwork.

Keeping track of your art and other collections is key if you want your heirs to understand what they are inheriting. They’ll have to pay taxes 9 months after your death, making it important to plan for those payments in advance. On an ongoing basis, they will also need to pay for the collection’s upkeep and insurance, which requires them to have the same level of passion for the art that you have, Davidowitz said. She suggests thinking carefully about how to divide your collections among your children and heirs, to minimize a “legacy of disharmony.”

Where some investors run into difficulty is in lending their collections to museums and galleries to increase its provenance. The works’ value likely will rise after a show at a major institution, but transporting artwork carries risk, as does storing or repairing it, said Diane Giles, Northeast business development executive at insurer Marsh Private Client Services. The biggest losses to art collections are not theft or fire — both of which represent 13% of losses — but rather damage due to transit, at 53%. Improper installation — hanging a valuable work over a smoky fireplace, failing to bolt an outdoor sculpture to the ground — is also a major cause of loss, she said. Giles recommends using reputable fine-art shipping companies to move art, and making sure to store art correctly: away from flood zones, in temperature-controlled settings.

The new generation of collectors, Giles says, are moving away from Old Master paintings, brown-wood furniture, and silver, and into vintage 60’s muscle cars, watches, and wine — especially in China, where wine has become a major asset class. The highest-flying sectors of collectibles have outperformed the S&P 500 over the last five years, she says, driven higher by a limited supply as collectors gravitate toward flashy items.

Because of the booming market for art of all kinds — today there are 268 art fairs around the world, compared to 69 several years ago, said Michelle Impey, assistant vice president and fine art director at ACE Private Risk Services — it’s possible to acquire a focused, well-thought-out collection in nearly anything. But be sure you know what it’s worth, she cautioned: one out of four investors with $5 million or more of investable assets has never updated the insured value of their collections.

That’s a problem when assets appreciate rapidly. Fancy colored diamonds, for instance, rose 155% in value between 2006 and 2014, compared to 62% for white diamonds.

Heirs don’t always know what they are inheriting, and they may not realize how valuable it is. Impey noted the example of a Calder necklace bought by chance at a flea market for $15 that was later sold at auction for $260,000.

They also may not know how to take care of the collections they now own. Installation hardware has a lifespan, and copper wire can become brittle and break, causing framed works to fall right off the wall.

And wherever the work is hung, Impey said, make sure to know who has access to the collection. About half of art thefts are in private residences — and the FBI says 80% of those are inside jobs, Impey said.

The Investment Idea Marketplace: Q&A With Harvest CEO Peter Hans

 

Harvest LogoInvestors are looking for ideas. That’s how one earns investment returns. But only the best-quality ideas matter — the others are just noise.

The world of marketplaces, where sellers and buyers meet without middlemen, ought to be a good place for those with money to invest to find others who have thoughts on where to invest. Two-year-old Harvest Exchange Corp. was set up to connect investors to ideas.

Max spoke with the marketplace’s founder and CEO, Peter Hans, about why investors need a place to share ideas, how the asset-management industry is consolidating, and what cool new things he’s seen recently.

 

Max: Tell us Harvest’s story.

Peter Hans: Harvest was founded in 2012 and we launched the platform in the fourth quarter of 2013.  We’re headquartered in Houston, Tex. and have an office in New York City.  Harvest’s user base is predominantly sophisticated, high net worth, accredited, and professional investors who use Harvest to both ‘discover’ and ‘be discovered.’  There are north of 5,000 investment firms, made up of tens of thousands of investors, managing over $5 trillion in assets, who have combined to share over 75,000 pieces of unique investment content.  This content is accessed by over 125,000 unique investors within Harvest, and far more externally.  Harvest users and firms are in over 150 countries, roughly 70% of which are in North America.

 

 

  • What problems is Harvest solving?

Harvest is dedicated to reducing inefficiencies and costs inherent across the investment industry business model. Harvest is taking a very unique approach to an old problem by leveraging technology and the power of quality, branded, crowd-sourced thought leadership to build an in-market network of investor “buyers” and “sellers.”  The top quality, curated content improves investor information access and product discovery, which promotes an organic environment of scalable, targeted, and regulatory compliant brand enhancement and reverse inquiry marketing.

While Harvest has features and functionality consistent with other ‘social networks,’ Harvest’s philosophy is different.  Social networks help people to interact and engage with their existing networks, however Harvest helps investors leverage the collective expertise to grow their networks and knowledge base.  Harvest aims to be the marketplace for investors, not the social network, and I feel that’s an important distinction.

 

 

  • What are some trends you are seeing in the markets? What do you expect will become important trends in the second half of the year?

The asset management industry is ever evolving, though I think the most interesting trend centers around consolidation and growth.  The large firms, whether on the sell or buy-side, continue to get larger while the boutiques will either be acquired or accept the official transition to a boutique/regional player.  I am seeing this clearly play out in firm’s marketing budgets and strategies as the larger, global firms, are increasingly investing time and resources in achieving a more scalable and data-driven growth plan.  It will be very interesting to see where the line in the sand is drawn and how smaller firms evolve their approach to client education, acquisition, communication and retention.

Marketplaces have helped to revolutionize other industries, both for the benefit of the buyer and seller, and we are in the very early innings of how this can be applied to the investment industry.  We are still a ways off from a full cultural adoption but it’s very clear to me, and to Harvest users, that there is substantial benefit in the approach.

 

 

  • What’s the coolest new thing you’ve seen recently?

Interesting question.  I’ve recently become familiar with Clearserve, which offers private banking clients and ultra-high-net-worth investors access to robust data aggregation for the purposes of enhanced reporting, risk exposure, and analytics.  Like harvest, Clearserve is also focused on solving an age-old industry pain point, and I think they are doing it very effectively.

I also think vertically integrated marketplace platforms like Fundrise are interesting, and potentially very powerful.  Fundrise has tackled a difficult-to-obtain asset class — commercial real estate– and made it available to accredited investors through the creation of tracking securities.  Platforms like this are very difficult to build as it’s reliant on access to deal flow, and the subsequent growth of buyers.  That said, Fundrise has done an amazing job of growing and improving both the platform and offerings in the face of these inherent challenges.

 

 

  • Looking ahead to the rest of 2015, what do your members think will happen in the markets?

Harvest users are very diverse in asset class and strategy, as well as in macro viewpoints.  The best thing to do would be to discover those investors that you are interested in tracking, based on their expertise and knowledge, and receive notifications when their viewpoints are shared.

From Family Business to Powerhouse Company

The University of British Columbia's Sauder School of Business, in Vancouver, where the Business Families Centre is based.

The University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business, in Vancouver, where the Business Families Centre is based.

The term “family business” conjures up a mom-and-pop store, perhaps a small factory or farm, where teens spend their summers working and all the executives are related. But beyond their ownership structures, successful family businesses are learning to move past their roots while keeping their values. Max spoke with experts at the Business Families Centre at the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business in Vancouver about how families jumpstart innovation within enterprises.

 

Max:  What are the top 3 issues facing successful family businesses today?

Chira Perla, Program Director: Every family enterprise is unique, so this is actually a challenging question to answer.  I think the two overarching issues facing successful family enterprises remain transitions (and by this, I mean everything from succession or sale to the changing roles of family members within the management and ownership of the business) and governance (formal or informal, in the business, among the owners, and in the family).  These issues seem to be common and constant, regardless of the size of the organization, stage of ownership, or level of complexity.

 

What differences are you seeing in terms of second-generation family executives today compared to a generation ago?

Wendy Sage-Hayward, adjunct professor and family-business consultant: Automation.  Next-generation leaders are very comfortable with technology and therefore are using it in various ways to bring their family businesses into the 21st century (accounting systems, outsourcing warehousing and shipping, sales, customer relationship management software). They are also using social media for marketing and sales.

There are different areas of innovation that family businesses are taking advantage of.

Products/services: Families are funding peripheral start-up businesses for next generational family members. This is promoting entrepreneurialism as well as growing the family’s social and financial capital.

Family governance: Some families I work with are using Skype, Google Hangout or the like to hold family meetings when geographical distances keep them apart.

Technology: one family business I know is using 3D printers to create model products for their clients to view prior to manufacturing.

 

What are some new trends you’re seeing in family businesses, in terms of how they’re managing their enterprises or handling succession?

Perla: Initially, most of the families that accessed the BFC’s programming and resources were simply trying to develop a common vocabulary and understand the unique dynamics at play.  Many of these families were starting to consider the transition of the business, and realized that they needed tools and strategies to effectively deal with the intersecting roles of the family, the business, and ownership.

Now, as more business families are educating themselves and becoming quite savvy on family enterprise basics, we’re finding that they are seeking our help and support on more complex topics, such as advanced issues in governance, improving business acumen to better engage with professional advisors, intrapreneurship, and legacy building through family philanthropy.   On the whole, there is considerable buzz in the space on the topic of next (or rising) generation leadership, with much more attention being paid towards that generation’s identification, role, and training.  Finally, I’d say that today’s family firms generally recognize that succession is a process rather than an event, and are planning accordingly,