Category: Uncategorized

Local Golf – Two Chicago Favorites

Golf1

Benjamin Barrone is an avid golfer from Chicago, Illinois.  He likes to spend his summers playing local Chicago area golf courses.  Professionally, Benjamin (Ben) Barone is a finance and accounting professional who recently helped Vital Proteins, a Chicago-based startup, achieve their Series A financing through an equity infusion from CAVU Ventures.

Mr. Barrone is mostly a “weekend warrior” and plays all of the Chicagoland area on public courses.  His current favorites are Heritage Bluffs and Ravisloe, though for different reasons.  Ben describes himself as a strong putter and is at his best from inside 125 yards.  While also being a long hitter, Mr. Barrone would be the first to admit that he is less than straight off the tee and struggles to find fairways.

This type of game plays well at Heritage Bluffs, which offers more generous fairways and lacks steep penalties for an errant tee shot.  Additionally, many holes allow a golfer to miss on one side of the hole without a significant penalty.  Because Ben is able to work the ball both directions, he can frequently take the trouble out of play and score fairly well at Heritage Bluffs.

Ravisloe, meanwhile, does not offer this generosity off the tee.  As errant golf shot off the tee will result in a bogey or worse more often than not.  As a result, Benjamin Barrone says he does not score as well here and really needs to bring his best off the tee to get in position.  Even then, the greens at Ravisloe are typically of Donald Ross designs and have severe slopes that make 2-putting difficult.  Ben says he enjoys the challenge and the fact that there “is nowhere for your game to hide”.

Though he carries a handicap in the mid single digits Mr. Barrone says he hasn’t yet broken 80 at Ravisloe.  In 2018 he says he plans to work diligently to find a “go to fairway finder” off the tee to help break through this barrier.

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Meditation and Mindfulness

Benjamin (Ben) Barrone is a finance and accounting professional, most recently Director of Finance for Vital Proteins  Vital Proteins is a Chicago based ingestible collagen company.  Mr. Barrone recently helped Vital Proteins secure Series A financing in his role as the company.  In his spare time Benjamin Barrone enjoys practicing meditation.  He began this practice over two years ago and enjoys mediation to incorporate more mindfulness and awareness in everyday life.

The following are a few simple mediation tips to help with beginning your own practice.  These tips aren’t aimed at helping you to become an expert … they should help you get started and keep going. You don’t have to implement them all at once — try a few, come back to this article, try one or two more.

  • Sit for just two minutes. This will seem ridiculously easy, to just meditate for two minutes. That’s perfect. Start with just two minutes a day for a week. If that goes well, increase by another two minutes and do that for a week. If all goes well, by increasing just a little at a time, you’ll be meditating for 10 minutes a day in the 2nd month, which is amazing! But start small first.
  • Do it first thing each morning. It’s easy to say, “I’ll meditate every day,” but then forget to do it. Instead, set a reminder for every morning when you get up, and put a note that says “meditate” somewhere where you’ll see it.
  • Don’t get caught up in the how — just do. Most people worry about where to sit, how to sit, what cushion to use … this is all nice, but it’s not that important to get started. Start just by sitting on a chair, or on your couch. Or on your bed. If you’re comfortable on the ground, sit cross-legged. It’s just for two minutes at first anyway, so just sit. Later you can worry about optimizing it so you’ll be comfortable for longer, but in the beginning it doesn’t matter much, just sit somewhere quiet and comfortable.
  • Check in with how you’re feeling. As you first settle into your meditation session, simply check to see how you’re feeling. How does your body feel? What is the quality of your mind? Busy? Tired? Anxious? See whatever you’re bringing to this meditation session as completely OK.
  • Count your breaths. Now that you’re settled in, turn your attention to your breath. Just place the attention on your breath as it comes in, and follow it through your nose all the way down to your lungs. Try counting “one” as you take in the first breath, then “two” as you breathe out. Repeat this to the count of 10, then start again at one.
  • Come back when you wander. Your mind will wander. This is an almost absolute certainty. There’s no problem with that. When you notice your mind wandering, smile, and simply gently return to your breath. Count “one” again, and start over. You might feel a little frustration, but it’s perfectly OK to not stay focused, we all do it. This is the practice, and you won’t be good at it for a little while.
  • Develop a loving attitude. When you notice thoughts and feelings arising during meditation, as they will, look at them with a friendly attitude. See them as friends, not intruders or enemies. They are a part of you, though not all of you. Be friendly and not harsh.

 

How to Fix a Slice

Benjamin Barrone is an accounting and finance professional in Chicago, Illinois.  Mr. Barone worked in public accounting as an auditor for nearly five years before continuing his career in the private sector.  Most recently, he served as Director of Finance for Vital Proteins, a startup in Chicago that sells ingestible collagen products.  In addition to his passion for helping startups Benjamin (Ben) Barrone also enjoys spending the summer months golfing.  Ben prefers a right-to-left shot shape (draw) and offers the following tips for fixing a slice.

The number one influence on the shape of a golf shot is the swing path coming into the golf ball on the downswing.  An outside-to-inside swing path, sometimes referred to as “coming over the top” promoted a left-to-right ballflight.  When it is pronounced, it produces the dreaded “slice”.  A slice not only causes the ball to move further from the intended target – it also takes away significant distance from the shot.

A golf swing with similar swing speeds but different swing paths can have enormous differences in distance.  For example, a slight draw with a driver at a swing speed of 100 mph may result in a drive of approximately 260 yards.  A drive with the same swing speed, but with a pronounced slice, may barely reach 200 yards if the slice is severe.

Benjamin Barone offers the following tips which may be useful in combating the dreaded slice.  Think of these as individual swing thoughts or tips to try, rather than trying all at once, and see what works:

  1. Take the club back on the outside, to allow room to “drop it down” to the inside on the downswing.
  2. Keep your head behind the ball at impact.
  3. Ensure you aren’t finishing your swing with your weight on your toes.
  4. Move the ball back in your stance – this makes it easier to avoid “reaching for the ball”
  5. Trust the loft of the club to get the ball airborne – no need to “lift” it up.
  6. Swing from the inside-out

Hope this is helpful – hit em’ straight!

White Wines of Alsace

Benjamin Barrone is an accounting and finance professional in Chicago, IL.  He most recently served as Director of Finance for Vital Proteins.  In that capacity, he helped build the accounting and finance department and secure Series A financing.  Benjamin (Ben) Barrone is passionate about helping startup ventures grow and scale their business.  Another passion is food.  Mr. Barrone enjoys a wide variety of foods from around the world and is especially interested in the cross-cultural Alsace region located in France and sharing a border with Germany.  Alsace is also widely-recognized for their spectacular wines – mostly whites.  Riesling, in particular, thrives here.  Known for a dry style with racy acidity, some of the best examples worldwide hail from the Alsace region of France.

Riesling is one of the superstars of the world of white wine and one of the four finest varieties grown in the northeastern French region of Alsace. But what makes it so special?

In terms of flavour, Alsatian rieslings are mostly elegant and dry, with floral hints and plenty of fruitiness, and mildly spicy. They are always mouthwatering and remarkably food-friendly wines, and the finest are capable of developing great complexity.

In Alsace, it is the long, dry summers that bring out the citrus, stone-fruit and floral characters of the riesling grape, while the various soil types in and around the villages with the finest terroirs lend a distinct spicy and mineral freshness.

Age also influences the wine’s flavour and aroma. Over time, a sophisticated, complex and honeyed bouquet develops, unequalled by any other grape variety, drawing riesling aficionados like bees to pollen.

So what do you need to know about Alsace riesling? Here’s a primer.

AOC Alsace Riesling

The most accessible and affordable expressions of the grape are sold as AOC Alsace Riesling. These everyday wines go well with simple dishes such as charcuterie, goat cheeses, onion tart, smoked fish and poultry.

They are produced right across the region by family estates large and small as well as in co-operative wineries which rank among the finest in France. Try Le Côte de Rouffach de Muré, an organic wine from the hillsides of the Rouffach region made by  the Muré family, who have been wine producers for 12 generations.

AOC Alsace Grand Cru Riesling

The Vosges mountains to the east of the region provide shelter from moist west winds and it is here, on the higher protected slopes, that the classic examples of Alsatian rieslings are grown. These Grand Cru vineyards are subject to laws that stipulate higher levels of ripeness and lower yields (fewer grapes per vine) in order to ensure higher quality wines.

In the granite soils around the villages of Turckheim and Kientzheim, and in the clay soils around Riquewihr, you can find some really glorious Grand Cru rieslings.

These richer, more intense wines deserve to be matched with extra-special cuisine. In the summer months you could serve them with a smörgåsbord of dishes, from cold meats such as roast lamb and chicken to salad niçoise or tabbouleh. In winter, Alsace Grand Cru Riesling is a fine choice for roast chicken, turkey or goose. And it’s a terrific choice for the Christmas table and with seafood dishes.

Perversely, some of the very finest Alsace rieslings are sold not as Grand Cru but under the name of the specific vineyard or “clos” in which they grow. In such cases, the price usually reflects the wine’s exquisite quality. Again, from the Muré family of Rouufach, the Clos Saint Landelin de Muré is a biodynamic wine a delicate nose, fresh palate and strong fruit flavours of lime and apricot.

Chemex Coffee Brewing

Benjamin Barrone is a Finance and Accounting Professional located in Chicago, IL.  Mr. Barrone recently helped Vital Proteins, a Chicago-based startup, secure a Series A financing round.  Recently, Benjamin (Ben) Barrone has became interested in brewing great coffee.  Here are some tips and tricks Ben has found to start your day off right with an excellent cup.

First, it is important to have the right tools.  Ben recommends using a scale, burr grinder, Chemex, and a proper filter such as these:

Next, freshness of the roasted coffee beans is of the utmost importance.  It is ideal to brew your coffee within one week of roasting.  However, if that is not possible – the fresher the better.  Mr. Barrone recently began ordering from a subscription service such as Craft Coffee (https://www.craftcoffee.com).  However, Ben also likes to purchase freshly ground coffee at local Chicago roasters such as Intelligentsia (https://www.intelligentsiacoffee.com) and Dark Matter (https://www.darkmattercoffee.com).

Brewing strength is a matter of personal taste. Generally, sticking to a water-to-coffee ratio of 15:1 to 18:1 will yield good results.  Benjamin Barrone’s preference is 16:1.  

Step One: Heat the water in your 1.2 liter kettle and bring to a boil.

Step Two: Grind your coffee with a burr grinder and determine how much coffee you’ll use based on how many cups of coffee you’re making. For a full container (on the eight cup model), try starting with 4 coffee scoops and adjust as necessary.

Step Three: Place a filter in your Chemex (with the three layer side of the filter facing the spout) and pour a little hot water to wet the filter. This warms the glass and removes any paper taste from the filter. Dump out this water. Note: because you just used water from your kettle, you’ll have less than 40 ounces to brew. If you’d like, you can fill the kettle back up and bring to a quick boil again. Or, you’ll have just slightly less coffee if you don’t refill. 

Step Four: Add your coffee grounds onto the pre-moistened filter.

Step Five: Pour just enough water to fully saturate the grounds and let the coffee expand and bloom for 30-45 seconds.

Step Six: Pour your water in a slow, circular fashion until you’ve filled the top nearly full (about a half inch below the top). As the water starts to drain, continue adding more water until your kettle is empty (if you’re using an eight cup Chemex), or until you’ve reached just below the wood handle.

Step Seven: Once your Chemex is full, remove the filter and grounds and enjoy your freshly brewed cup of coffee.

Series A Financing

Benjamin Barrone is a Finance and Accounting Professional located in Chicago, IL.  Mr. Barrone recently helped Vital Proteins, a Chicago-based startup, secure a Series A financing round.  In his capacity as Director of Finance Benjamin (Ben) Barrone led the efforts from Vital Proteins from start-to-finish in the venture capital funding process including:
  • Strategic Partner Selection – engaged in company pitch, bid solicitation thru term sheets, and final selection based on qualitative and quantitative factors
  • Term Sheet Negotiation – including favorable valuation, waterfall distribution, board control, investor blocking rights, and incentive equity plan
  • Due Diligence – primary contact for anything finance-related including Quality of Earnings review by independent CPA firm and complete dataroom ownership
  • Disclosure Schedule – led coordination, compilation, drafting, editing, for all company disclosures with respect to representation and warranties in final purchase agreement including dataroom maintenance
  • Legal Review – including fine points of final agreements such as definition of “knowledge”, materiality qualifiers and threshold(s), distribution rights, and budget approval/control
  • Closing – tirelessly pushed deal to finish line, coordinating resources of CEO, attorneys (both sides), Senior Leadership Team, VC Investors, accountants, bankers, and consultants.
This was the first external financing for Vital Proteins, having bypassed earlier needs through cash flow generated from operations and internal funding.  A Series A financing round can be summarized as follows:

Series A: Scaling the product and getting to a business model. (AKA getting to true product/market fit)

  • Purpose: With a series A you typically have figured out your product/userbase, and need capital to:
  • Figure out or scale distribution. Your users may love your product, but you have not yet optimized all the ways to build a userbase.
  • Scale geographically or across verticals. You have a product that works in one market (e.g. it works in the Bay Area), and you want to adapt it to other markets (lets launch it across the US or globally).
  • Figure out a business model. If you are a consumer internet company, you may be getting lots of users, but may not have a clear business model that is working at this point (see e.g. Instagram).
  • Amounts: Used to be $2m-$15million with a median of $3-$7 million.  Series A amounts have gone up dramatically recently to more of a $7-15million raise being typical.
  • Recent examples: Uber(cab) raising from Benchmark, Instagram’s raise from Benchmark
  • Who invests: Your traditional venture funds (Sequoia, A16Z, Benchmark, Accel, Greylock, Battery, CRV, Matrix etc etc.). lead these rounds, leading to a pretty different dynamic relative to a seed round (more on this in another post).  Angels may co-invest with VCs in the A, but they have no power to set the pricing or impact any aspect of the round.

Patio Garden 2017

After experiencing great success with growing tomatoes on his patio in 2016, Benjamin Barrone is seeking out new varieties and methods of growing tomatoes over the summer of 2017.

While, Mr. Barrone’s favorite varieties tend to be larger-fruited heirlooms, he is expanding his garden to include hybrids and various “cherry” tomatoes this year too.  In total, his garden will include 13 different varieties of tomatoes in all shapes, sizes, and colors.  When asked about the mix, Benjamin Barrone indicated that he likes to have a wide variety in order to increase the visual appeal on the plate.

In addition to tomatoes, Benjamin will be trying out three new varieties of basil.  After experiencing frustrating results in 2016 with basil plants he is hoping the new varieties take better to the growing conditions on his south-facing patio.

Another first for 2017 for Mr. Barrone will be various lettuces.  He is experimenting with a “salad bowl” containing two types of kale, rainbow chard and red leaf lettuce.  Lastly, some chives and cilantro remain from last year’s plantings and have been re-planted in a large pot together.