Know When to Jump: Q&A With Olympic Silver Diving Medalist Scott Donie

Scott Donie competes in the 1992 Olympics, high above the city of Barcelona. Photo Credit: Rol Donie.

Scott Donie competes in the 1992 Olympics, high above the city of Barcelona. Photo Credit: Rol Donie.

Many people work hard at a sport they love, but few achieve worldwide success. Why are these athletes different, and what can the rest of us learn from them? Max spoke with Olympic medalist Scott Donie, a diver who won silver at the 1992 Games in Barcelona. Now the head diving coach for both men and women at New York University, Donie also runs a diving-lesson program at local swim club Asphalt Green in Manhattan. He serves as a mentor for United States Diving, as well as speaking to audiences around the country about his sport.

We asked Donie about his proudest and scariest moments as a diver, and what’s next for him.

– Many amateurs enjoy their sport but don’t feel they can take it farther. How did you get serious about diving?

One of my main motivations was always fear. I developed a severe fear of heights and water at a very young age. I still have a fear of heights!  But then when I was 8 years old three things happened that changed my life forever. The first was discovering the sport of diving. I was on the swim team at my local summer club and I didn’t like swim practice. I started sneaking out in the middle of practice to jump off the diving board. The swim coach saw what I was doing and suggested that I ask to join the diving team. The second was getting a trampoline. My brother and I had been to a friend’s house who had a trampoline and we begged our parents for one until they finally relented. It came with one condition: we had to have trampoline lessons. The next thing I knew I was on that trampoline every single day. 

The third was seeing the Olympics for the first time. It was the 1976 Olympics and I saw Bruce Jenner win the gold medal in the decathlon. I remember watching as he ran a lap around the stadium waving an American flag. I felt like he had unified our entire country and in some sense the world in that moment. I didn’t know what the Olympics were but I knew I wanted to be a part of it. From that day forward I started telling everyone that I was going to be in the Olympics for diving. Luckily I had parents who were extremely supportive and coaches who also believed in me.

– Aside from your Olympic medal, what’s your proudest diving-related moment? 

My comeback in the final season of my career. After winning the silver medal in 1992 I had a very difficult road back to the Olympics. I lost my way and became very disillusioned with everything. I suffered from severe depression and eventually I had a very public meltdown while competing at the 1993 Olympic Festival. I hadn’t been training properly and I was out of shape. In the middle of my handstand on the edge of the 10 meter platform I started to question everything. Why am I doing this? What is the point? Maybe I should do a spectacular cannonball! Of course the time to have such conversations is not while standing on your hands on the edge of a 10 meter platform. After about 40 seconds my arms pretty much gave out and I decided it was best to come down. I signaled to the referee that I was done and I walked down. I never competed again on the 10 meter. I ended up taking six months off and I got a job as a teacher. After a little time away I decided to come back to diving but to stay on the lower level of the 3 meter springboard. I was not ranked very high on this event but I worked my way up until I was among the contenders for a spot on the 1996 Olympic team. I ended up winning the Olympic trials and placing 4th at the Olympics. I am just as proud of that as I am of my season in 1992.  

– What’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened to you as a diver?

I was once asked to do a dive off a 50-foot high mast of a sailboat for a commercial. At this point in my career I was pretty comfortable with heights but climbing up the mast of a sailboat was another thing altogether. There was a stunt coordinator who had built me a tiny platform at the top of the mast. I hadn’t realized the motion of the boat would cause the mast to sway back and forth quite a bit at the top. It was terrifying. I was holding on for dear life as I swayed back and forth. When the director yelled, “Action!”  I had to time my dive correctly to make sure I wouldn’t hit the boat. After my first dive the director asked me how many times I could do it. I wanted them to get the shot so I said “I think I can do about five.” What I should have said was, “You actually want me to do that again?” 

– How do you use what you’ve learned in the pool in the rest of your life? What lessons can others learn? 

I have definitely learned a lot about fear. When I tell people that I am afraid of heights they always ask me, “How did you overcome it?” I tell them that I didn’t overcome it; I’m still afraid of heights. I felt that fear every time I climbed up to the 10 meter platform. And don’t ever ask me to join you for a hot air balloon ride! I think the key is to allow yourself to feel the fear.  Fully acknowledge it. But never let that fear stop you from doing whatever it is that you want to do. Fear is actually there to help you and protect you. If you let yourself feel it you can use it to help you sharpen your awareness and your focus. If you are completely focused on what you’re doing the fear begins to work for you instead of against you. The same lesson can be applied to nerves. The thing I miss the most about diving? Getting nervous.

In the beginning I would fight the nervousness and try to control it. That never worked for me. Then I came to understand that getting nervous was my body’s way of preparing for battle. I began to welcome the nerves and eventually I came to depend on them.    

– What’s next for you? 

We have a 9-year old daughter who keeps us pretty busy. She is into a lot of stuff and really enjoys gymnastics. She just joined the team at her gym so I will be supporting her on whatever path she chooses. I am excited to learn more about the gymnastics world as it is so directly related to diving. There is nothing a diving coach likes more than getting a student who comes from a strong background in gymnastics. I’d love to help foster better relationships between gymnastics programs and diving programs.  I’d also like to start my own club program here in Manhattan. I’d like to help make the sport of diving available to everyone.

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.

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.

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.

Skin Deep: Q&A with Charlotte’s Book Founder Robin Shobin

Robin Shobin left a Wall Street desk to become a startup founder, launching Charlotte's Book, a thinking woman's guide to beauty services.

Robin Shobin left a Wall Street desk to become a startup founder, launching Charlotte’s Book, a thinking woman’s guide to beauty services.

Beauty is visible, but a woman’s beauty rituals, and the doctors and other providers who manage them for her, are usually a secret. How is a busy professional woman to find the best places to go when she wants beauty services? Robin Shobin faced this dilemma in her work on Wall Street, where women are expected simply to look good, without ever discussing how they get that way. Her solution: leave the world of finance and launch a website, Charlotte’s Book, to showcase vetted providers, with a focus on beauty and dermatology. The site centers on New York City now but is expanding to other areas, Shobin told us.

Max Luxe spoke with Shobin about her own beauty routines and what new trends she’s seeing in skincare and wellness.

Max Luxe: Tell us why you founded Charlotte’s Book

Robin Shobin: I wanted to create a resource that spoke to busy professional women who care about looking and feeling their best. There have been so many advancements in the world of cosmetic health and wellness, and quite frankly it’s just getting very confusing not only to find the right doctor or expert, but also to learn about treatments and products. Skincare and anti-aging are the fastest-growing segments in beauty, and I wanted to create an easy to use resource for women to educate themselves and find experienced experts.

I think many of the best rely on word-of-mouth, but in an increasingly more digital and online environment, people are searching online for reviews and advice. These topics are also still quite personal and sensitive, and to be honest, many women still lie and fib about work done. It isn’t quite done to lean over to your deskmate and say, “I am thinking of getting botox.”

What’s your personal go-to list for wellness? Things you do, places you go?

It’s all about routine and you have to stick with it. Every 6 weeks I like to either get microdermabrasion or dermaplaning. I also get the Clear & Brilliant laser a few times a year. And honestly, one of the best things you can do for your skin is eat right, sleep, and maintain stress levels. I get acupunture regularly with Stephen Cohen and it is a life saver.  Almost everything that’s going on inside you shows on your skin. Your skin is your body’s largest organ and a bad diet and stress show quickly. Conversely—good diets and good habits can really give you that inner glow. I struggle from hormonal and stress breakouts when I am working myself too hard. A great acupuncture session coupled with a good night sleep can work wonders for these issues. Obviously a great skincare routine is essential, but I believe in a 360 approach. This is why we have nutritionists and other wellness experts on Charlotte’s Book.

 

If you could go on a wellness retreat, which spa or destination would you choose?

One of my favorite places is the Mii Amo Spa inside the Enchantment Resort in Sedona. You can stay inside the spa, separate from the rest of the resort. It’s inside these gorgeous red rocks where you can hike during the day. The health food is great and the spa treatments are amazing.  I love the fact that you can come out of the spa and be served perfectly delicious health food while sitting in your robe. And this is after you had a great day hiking the red rocks or relaxing at the pool drinking customized health juices. Also, cell phones don’t work, which forces you to really zone out. On my wish list is the Como Shambhala Spa in Bali.

 

How can an office-based professional sneak in wellness and beauty treatments?

Being a professional woman, you are always expected to look your best, but to never talk about it or spend time catering to it. It’s very difficult. The treatments with the least downtime that you can actually sneak in during lunch or after work are dermaplaning, microdermabrasion, and micro-current.

The professional women I know find a lot of value in booking facials with medical or private aestheticians rather than at a traditional spa or full fledged physician. These professionals are often hidden inside a doctor’s office, but to book with them, you don’t have to be a patient of the dermatologist. These aestheticians give advanced, noninvasive facials that incorporate several therapies like ultrasound, microcurrent, and LED light therapy. Patients are able to try medical-grade products with services that are just more customized and results-oriented. You can come in quickly during lunch, after work, or on a Friday afternoon for these no-frills services and come out glowing.

 

What are the big anti-aging trends you’re seeing at the moment?

Cosmetic acupuncture and topical botox products. I always get asked, ”What can I do without getting injected?” I have seen a big surge in interest in both of these areas. We are looking at some topical botox products now that are about to be on the market that are really exciting. Cosmetic acupuncture is a great treatment that works by stimulating the facial muscles.

 

What questions should you ask your dermatologist or plastic surgeon to make sure you’re receiving the procedures you need?

Don’t get “glamoured” or overwhelmed by public relations placements and “heavily circulated” doctors who have a celebrity clientele. They aren’t all as caring and won’t all give you the same attention and care.  And be aware that doctors are more specialized now, so make sure you are seeing the right person for your specific needs.  I like to ask potential doctors (1) who else is in their referral network (2) what do they consider their areas of speciality and  (3) whether they are active at industry conferences. You want to make sure your doc is at the forefront and that they are looking at all the options, not just pushing on you the equipment that they have invested in their office.  Also, check your doctor’s certifications. You would be shocked at the number of fake certifications right now. It is scary. There are literally 8 hour courses that certify one in Botox. Don’t be fooled. At Charlotte’s Book we only select dermatologists who are members of the American Academy of Dermatology and/or the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery. It sounds obvious, but you would be surprised how often this gets overlooked. You can read more about Charlotte’s Code here.

 

It’s now possible to buy machines and tools that previously were only available in doctors’ offices. Which ones do you like best?

The NuFACE Mini Facial Toning Device This tiny little FDA-cleared gadget has two spheres that deliver 335 microamps of gentle stimulation just under the sensory level, so you feel little to no sensation—and the included gel primer prevents any pinching or stinging. You can adjust the intensity to any one of the three settings at any time during treatment — although the device should not be used around the eyes or mouth.  As aesthetician Georgia Louise says, “If you can’t get in to see me, then this is the next best thing!”

The Baby Quasar: If you suffer from acne or breakouts, this portable aluminium wand uses 24 100% blue LED lights  You can spot treat a specific problem area anywhere on your body. Treat skin three to five times a week for optimal results.

 

Ideas to Watch: A Q&A With Octavian Report Founder Richard Hurowitz

The latest issue of Octavian Report.

The latest issue of Octavian Report.

What’s Max reading these days? A newsletter called The Octavian Report, which comes out with its second issue today. It’s a thinking person’s compendium of interviews and articles on the top ideas of the moment.

The magazine’s founder is Richard Hurowitz, an investor and entrepreneur who previously founded and ran Octavian Advisors, a $1.4 billion global hedge fund firm that invested in fifty countries on six continents. Published six times per year, the print-and-online publication is subscription-only ($1,050 annually).

Basis Points spoke with Hurowitz about the new magazine and the geopolitical and market trends he’s seeing.

What’s the concept behind Octavian? Why did you start the magazine? Who are your readers? 

The idea behind The Octavian Report is to provide the kind of insight and access that the world’s leading investment firms create for themselves, including concrete investment ideas and risk analysis.  It is to create a platform and community of leading experts on topics that are currently in the forefront or which we think readers should be thinking about.  It is a mix of interviews, analysis and opportunities presented in a concise format that is easily digested.    We also will offer calls, events and other forms of access to our contributors.

The magazine is not focused on breaking news, but on thoughtful analysis.  Our readers are investors, decision-makers, thought leaders and anyone interested in real ideas.  We will also cover culture, including film, books, art and history.  Our first issue included interviews with Vice President Cheney, former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, famed economist Nouriel Roubini, and Clinton Commerce Secretary Mickey Kantor, and articles by Steven Cook of the CFR, film critic Jeffrey Lyons, and best-selling historian David Nasaw, among others.

As you look at 2015, what are the biggest geopolitical stories you see playing out?

I am concerned that extremist political parties will continue to gain power and influence in Europe and potentially endanger the Eurozone by changing the current bailout framework in an unsustainable way.

I think Vladimir Putin and the continuing crisis in the Ukraine is going to be a major story.  It’s unclear how it will play out and there is a possibility of miscalculation on both sides.  The more pressure he’s under, whether from the oil price or politics, the more concerning it is and Ukraine is far more critical to Russia than to us.

The fallout from any nuclear deal with Iran is going to be a big deal as well.  The Middle East has become more and more complicated and doesn’t feel like its getting better.

Name 3 people we’re going to hear more about this year: under-appreciated world leaders, emerging power players, philanthropists, up-and-comers…

  • Matteo Renzi, prime minister of Italy, is 40 years old and Italy has become a linch-pin of the Eurozone
  • Scott Walker seems to me like he may become a serious contender for the GOP nomination or vice presidency.
  • Dr. Jim Allison, the founder of immunotherapy, will get the Nobel Prize soon.
  • I think there will also continue to be a focus on what Modi is able to accomplish in India

What are some trends you see for the world financial markets this year? 

  • Equity markets feel overheated to me in the short-term
  • I am concerned about a return to a euro crisis stemming from a sudden political changes on the Continent
  • I think more people may become interested in gold
  • The bond market feels like an accident waiting to happen, but central banks seem determined to keep rates down

In 2014 we heard frequently about economic inequality. Is there an idea that will come to the fore this year?

I don’t think concerns about income or wealth inequality are going to go away.  Ironically, most economists would say that excessive quantitative easing and increased growth in government, the policies pushed by the left, generally leads to an increase in income inequality.  Social unrest in Europe is a serious potential problem but the reform necessary does not seem to be in the making or politically tenable.

The Motorcycle Diamonds: Q&A With Private Jeweler Greg Jezarian

Jeweler Greg Jezerian and the engagement ring he ferried by motorcycle across Route 66, at the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Tx.

Jeweler Greg Jezarian and the engagement ring he ferried by motorcycle across Route 66, at the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Tx.

Anyone can walk into a jewelry shop and pick out a necklace. Only some can have jewelry created for them. That’s what Greg Jezarian, a concierge jeweler in New York City’s diamond district, does for clients around the world — when he’s not riding motorcycles or racing cars competitively. Max Luxe spoke to Jezarian about pieces he’s designed, engagement rings he’s delivered cross-country by motorcycle, and what luxury clients are buying in the jewelry market.

What’s your typical work day like?

Since I was a kid, I knew I would own my own business, and as I watched other business owners I knew I didn’t want my business to own me. I see private clients by appointment only, one on one. It’s not uncommon to have a engagement ring client in my office on a Monday, a diamond stud sale at my home office on a Tuesday and then fly to a client for a Friday wherever I’m needed. I’ve always been more of a quality over quantity person and I think that reflects in my pieces and certainly in the people who are drawn to my firm.

What is one interesting piece you’ve helped create for clients?

The prestidigitation ring, which we nicknamed the PrestoRing! At some point, a professional magician was referred to me and wanted a special engagement ring for his love. Naturally, there needed to be some sleight of hand. I hashed out some ideas and met him after a show in Boston. He chose a magnificent long and thin emerald cut diamond and gave me full control over the mounting. What I created was a ring within a ring. First it looked like a simple, hand-carved platinum band until the abracadabra moment; a slight twist of the ring revealed a hidden, flawless diamond which was concealed.

Interesting corollary to the story…I assumed someone with magical powers would be able to nail the one piece of homework I’d given and find out: I asked him to find out her finger size. It was crucial to get it perfect for an intricate ring like this. Not a chance; that was the hardest part of the job! Ultimately he ended up asking a close friend of hers for guidance.

What’s the most unusual request you’ve received from a client?

Historically, the jewelry industry in NY closes for July, so, naturally, I had a client in San Diego call with an engagement-ring build that needed to be in hand July 14. I explained how I was closing in July to cross a bucket-list item off and ride the entire length of US Route 66 on motorcycle. We brainstormed a bit and he came up with a great idea: I was to deliver the ring to him in San Diego via motorbike. This was a challenge I agreed to immediately.

I left New York City on July 1st with his ring in my motorcycle jacket pocket. His one request was that I stop at every silly roadside attraction on Route 66 and take a photo with the ring. His goal was to have hundreds of random photos of this random guy holding a ring box all over the country and he was going to show his girlfriend these photos on July 14. The last photo, of course, was he and I shaking hands, and a sign reading, “Will you marry me?”

What trends are you seeing right now in high-end jewelry?

Especially in the last few years, I’m noticing the wealthy are buying $100,000-plus investment-grade diamonds. These types of stones are known to appreciate over time, yet can be worn and enjoyed while they work for you. As I recall, one client lamented, “I wish my Bentley would do that.”

But not all of these diamonds look the part to the untrained eye. I have one client whose ear studs weigh a mere 4.00 carats total weight. What nobody knows is that each ear is holding a perfect 2.00 carat round brilliant certified D-Flawless diamond, approximately $50,000 each. Her rationale: she can be anywhere in the world and have these valuable and liquid commodities with her at all times. If there’s an emergency, she can live quite comfortably from each ear until things get sorted. Try that with a credit card.

Walking Into Inspiration: Q&A With Photographer Alexandra Huddleston

A marker along the pilgrimage route in Shikoku.

A marker along the pilgrimage route in Shikoku. (Alexandra Huddleston)

Setting off on a walking pilgrimage — a form of religious devotion common to many ancient faiths, and still practiced today — is a way to bring the spiritual and the everyday together. Photographer Alexandra Huddleston explores this dichotomy in her new book of art photographs, East or West: A Walking Journey Along Shikoku’s 88 Temple Pilgrimage. The book contains images from the famous Japanese pilgrims’ route, an 800-mile circumnavigation of the island of Shikoku.

Now based in the American Southwest, Huddleston lived around the world as a child before returning to the U.S. and graduating from Stanford, then Columbia Journalism School. Her last book, published in 2013, looked at the longstanding Islamic scholarly tradition of Timbuktu, in Mali.  Huddleston spoke with Max Luxe about her art, her influences, and her travels.

– How did you become interested in pilgrimages as a subject? 

In his best-selling book, Immortelle randonnée : Compostelle malgré moi, Jean-Christophe Rufin describes the urge to go on a pilgrimage as a viral illness that often has a long and invisible incubation period before the full range of symptoms erupt. There is some truth in this description!

I caught the pilgrimage virus in 1996 when I visited the Pyrenees as a tourist and innocently hiked some mountain trails that I learned were part of the Camino de Santiago. When I realized that I could continue for 500 miles on the same trail before eventually reaching Santiago de Compostela, I was very tempted to do just that. Instead, I continued with my vacation and went on to college. But an unspoken pact was made between myself and the trail that day: that I would return to walk that route, and I eventually did so in 2009.

My experience walking the Camino in Spain made me realize just how rich pilgrimage is as a subject: photographically, historically, culturally…

– What’s special about Japan, Shikoku, and this pilgrimage in particular? 

One of the reasons I decided to walk the Shikoku pilgrimage in Japan after I had already walked the Camino was precisely to see what was the same and what changed in a long walking pilgrimage when you changed the country, religion, and culture (but kept the walking).

In the Japanese tradition spiritual journeys are circular. This is true whether the itinerary is very individual like Basho’s Narrow Road to the Deep North or very structured like the Shikoku pilgrimage. The Shikoku pilgrimage traces the circumference of the island of Shikoku and you end where you began. There is no terminusspiritual or physical–that dominates the journey. This removal of a final goal tends to allow pilgrims to focus more on the present and the actual.

Of course, there is also the delicious seafood of Shikoku, the beauty of walking next to the coast for most of the journey, and the colorful seasonal festivals of rural Japan.

– When you take narrative photos like the ones in “East or West,” what do you look for? What else can you tell us about your practice as a photographer and photojournalist? 

When I’m photographing a project I will have an ever-growing list of themes in mind, and as I photograph I look for moments that evokes these ideas. In the case of East or West the theme that dominated my mind was quite abstract. I wanted to somehow describe the bipolar daily experience of pilgrimage that throws the pilgrim between moments of mundane physical worries and moments of sublime exaltation. In the end, no one photograph could capture this idea. Only the book as a whole could do the work: by combining a very carefully edited sequence of images and text.

As my work has evolved in the last few years–and has, in fact, moved away from traditional photojournalism–my aim has become more to show the inner truth and experience of a situation, rather than just the outer appearance. I definitely think that my experience as a pilgrim myself (and not just as someone who photographs pilgrimages) played a big part in this transformation.

Now, my approach is closer to that of an ethnographer than that of a journalist.

– Your last major project was a look at Islamic scholarly culture in Timbuktu (333 Saints). How are these books related? What do they tell us about your interests? 

In both the Timbuktu work and the pilgrimage work I am looking at ancient, mystical, religious cultures and how their traditions have survived and evolved in the 21st century. I am interested in religion in general, but I’m particularly interested in how reconnecting with traditional cultures might be able to renew and re-enchant a modern world that is too often arid, one-dimensional, and flattened by the monopoly of the material over our consciousness.

That said, I hope to photograph these subjects without falling into the common traps of naiveté, delusion, or hypocrisy!

– You’ve lived all over the world. Where would you move tomorrow if you had the chance? 

Well, although I have travelled quite a bit, much of it has been in Europe and Africa. Other than Japan and Sri Lanka, I have not worked all that much in Asia, and I would like to do so! That said, I have this habit of returning again and again to places that I’ve already been. So, if I could move tomorrow, it might just be to go back to Japan!

– What’s your next project? 

Last summer (2014) I walked a third pilgrimage: 500 miles along the Camino de Santiago again, but this time I walked one of the main French trails called the Via Podiensis. So, the first step is to start getting these new photographs in order.

The next project is in the works, but it’s still a secret…

Where to Find the Coolest Fashions: Private Trunk Shows

Candice Postel and Emilia Fanjul Pfeifler in their Drawing Room space.

Candice Postel and Emilia Fanjul Pfeifler in their Drawing Room space.

When a pair of veteran fashion publicists put together an intimate trunk-show space just off Madison Avenue on New York City’s Upper East Side, it’s not a surprise to find a selection of hard-to-find cult brands on view there. Old friends Candice Postel and Emilia Fanjul Pfeifler launched the Drawing Room earlier this year as a way to bring New Yorkers together with brands that don’t have a presence in the city. Some days there are shows, with chic neighborhood ladies browsing tall racks under sprays of flowers; other days the space is used for product launches or press events.

Max Luxe spoke to Postel about the duo’s idea.

 

-How did you both get involved with this business?

We grew up together in Palm Beach,  and always lived parallel professional lives. We both come from fashion public-relations backgrounds.  I started at Salvatore Ferragamo many moons ago and Emilia at Bottega Veneta. From there, we both opened our own boutique agencies but motherhood called and we took time to raise our children.  Now that they are a little older, we decided this was the right time to do something.  We were hosting trunk shows out of Emilia’s home and decided to turn it into a business. But The Drawing Room is so much more than just trunk shows.  Brands have hosted their press previews here as well as launched products.  The Drawing Room truly is a jewel box of a space!

 

– When you’re running a trunk show, what is your typical day like?

We both wake up super-early, get our kids ready for school and drop them off, then head to The Drawing Room.  There are days that it is so busy that we look at each other at 5:00 and ask what is for lunch!

 

A show at the Drawing Room.

A show at the Drawing Room.

– What brands have you shown? Which ones are coming up?

We try to have different kinds of brands and interesting companies all the time. For example, we did a Bespoke Week with Attolini custom women’s blazers, Devon Woodhill beautiful bespoke lockets, and Paul Renwick’s gorgeous cashmere, and we topped the show off with an amazing portrait painter, Rob Beckett. We did a week with Veronica Beard, where they designed six exclusive styles for The Drawing Room. Before everyone leaves for the winter holiday, we are doing a Basta Surf swimwear sale along with L’Etoile, a tennis and golf wear collection.

 

– What are a few high-end fashion trends you’re seeing now?

Investment pieces: an item that goes with several things in one’s closet. Not bling but something that compliments what you already have on.

 

– What’s the one most important winter item women should buy?

A fabulous coat makes a statement. The navy car coat from Veronica Beard is a no-brainer.

Chic Entertaining: Q&A With “Dinner Diaries” Author Daniel Cappello

The new book "Dinner Diaries" includes place cards, menus, and other mementos of elegant soirees.

The new book “Dinner Diaries” includes place cards, menus, and other mementos of elegant soirees.

Dinner parties are both a relic of a bygone era and the most modern way to entertain today. When author Daniel Cappello set out to document what makes a dinner party special, he turned to a selection of noted and celebrity hostesses like Ivanka Trump. Each answered a list of questions about parties, style, and hospitality in her own handwriting.

Cappello, the fashion director at Quest Magazine and a former longtime assistant editor at The New Yorker, previously wrote a book about his alma mater, Harvard, and its university cohort (The Ivy League, Assouline). Max Luxe spoke with Cappello about his new book, Dinner Diaries: Reviving the Art of the Hostess Book (Assouline)

 

– What was the inspiration for the book?  

I grew up with parents who loved entertaining, and dinner parties were a very essential part of what we did with friends and family. That tradition has certainly carried through with me. It didn’t occur to me to do a book about entertaining, though, until I happened to be hosting a dinner party one night where one of the guests (who himself is a generous and fun host) decided we ought to change up the music because he didn’t love the vibe I had chosen for the night. He started looking for where my iPod was docked so he could put on a playlist of his own, and I was appalled! I couldn’t believe someone would dare to criticize a host’s or hostess’s choice on anything, let alone try to act on changing it. Part of the joy of a dinner party, for me, at least, is to relish in someone else’s tastes for an evening. I’ve often been inspired to do something I’d never have done before just by observing other hosts.

At some point, I happened to be telling this story to my publisher, Martine Assouline (who is herself a terrific hostess), and she walked over to her very impressive bookshelf and pulled out a vintage copy of Amy Vanderbilt’s Complete Book of Etiquette. She opened it up to the section on dinner parties and asked if maybe my sense of propriety was stuck in the ’50s. Do enough people even have dinner parties anymore? Is the art of the dinner party dead? Have good manners and etiquette become antiquated? We started asking all these questions, and I told her I believed enough people still do cherish the finer details of the dinner party—and that I would poll some of my friends and acquaintances who had impressed me with their sense of style and entertaining. The result was a resounding yes—that the dinner party was very much alive, and that people still cared enough about it to document their own by keeping menus and invitations and place-card settings, or with iPhone photos or even old-school hostess books. So Martine and I set out to poll some great modern hosts and hostesses in the form of a Proust Questionnaire, and the result was this book, full of some very traditional and some very contemporary views on entertaining.

 

– Can you give us some tips for elegant home entertaining? 

Elegance is a state of mind, a state of being. Fundamentally, it’s about being true to your own sense of style. If you want to achieve truly elegant home entertaining, you have to own your own sense of style. If you’re a traditionalist and love silver candelabra and flowers and antique china and formal seating arrangements at the dining room table, your guests will feel special spending a few hours in your very traditional ways. If you’re more relaxed and prefer quirky evites, relaxed family-style buffets or passed plates around the kitchen island followed by freestyle dancing after dinner in the living room, then your guests will indulge in the fun. Whatever your style, you should command it. One of the tips I offer in the book for hostesses is that, as hostess, you are the director—so you set the tone and scene for the evening. Being confident and in command—and enjoying your own dinner party as much as your guests—is the ultimate elegance. Your guests will follow your lead and truly enjoy themselves.

 

-What did you learn while working on the book that was surprising?

Well, it’s funny. In some of the research that reached back to the days of, say, the 1950s picture-perfect housewife, there were some funny suggestions I came across. For instance, one authority back in the day told stressed-out wives to retreat to the kitchen and lie flat on their backs, against a cold kitchen floor, to regain their composure. I just imagined a beautifully coiffed housewife in a cocktail dress sneaking into the kitchen, swallowing a Valium with a vodka martini, and taking to the floor.

In truth, it’s not such a ridiculous scenario. I’ve had freak-out moments of my own hosting dinner parties, and maybe I should have gone into the kitchen and stretched out on the floor to take a few deep breaths to recover. Any host or hostess will tell you to expect the unexpected and to learn to go with the flow. One of the most formal women I interviewed for the book told about how her chef once mixed up salt and sugar in a dessert recipe. A guest took a bite and shouted out to warn everyone not to touch the dessert. She said she always has a stock of very good ice cream in the freezer for such situations. So if the flourless chocolate cake turns sour or the soufflé flops, there’s always some really delicious ice cream on hand. And who doesn’t love an indulgent ice cream for dessert?

We say that practice makes perfect, but you can’t always perfect the dinner party, so I learned a lot of fun tips from hostesses on how to turn a potentially bad situation into a fun or memorable evening.

 

– What’s the funniest anecdote from the book? 

I think the funniest—or most telling—part of the book is the response to the question about what makes for a bad guest at a dinner party. Many hostesses I polled said a drunk was a bad guest (while many others suggested a drunk made for a good guest). I suppose it depends on what kind of conversation or mood an intoxicated guest can stir up at a party. The funniest response for me, though, was when one of the participants polled said a bad guest shows up late, and a very bad guest hits on your husband!

 

– What’s your next project?

I have a few ideas for another possible book with Assouline. I have truly loved the process of working with Martine and Prosper Assouline. Their luxury-book house is celebrating its twentieth anniversary this year, and they have an amazing aesthetic for luxe books and products. I never know where our initial thoughts or conversations will eventually lead me.

I’m also in the process of researching a historical Renaissance figure to whom I may or may not be related down the ancestral line. Either way, I’m working on a book about her exciting life and times. I’m also working on a performance piece with some theatrical producers. So I’m looking back in my family history and looking inward to potentially take to the stage myself.