Monday, October 6, 2014

Chris Ovitz Launches Workpop - Job Board for Hourly-Wage Workers

Michael Ovitz - Workpop startup of Chris Ovitz
Many job seekers use LinkedIn to find work, but what online resources exist for the hourly-wage worker?  Michael Ovitz's son Chris Ovitz has launched Workpop, a site designed just for the 76 million people in the United States who work for hourly wages and often don't have detailed resumes or work histories online.  

Ovitz and co-founder Reed Shaffner maintain that dropping off resumes by foot wherever a 'We Are Hiring' sign is displayed is outdated and ineffective - and the VC world apparently agrees:  Workpop closed a $7 million Series A funding round led by Trinity Ventures, following an initial seed round of $900,000 in April 2014 that included investments from SV Angel, Box Group, Obvious Ventures, Cornerstone OnDemand, Slow Ventures, Ironfire Capital, Plus Capital, Joe Lonsdale (a partner at Formation 8), Lee Linden (Facebook), Dennis Phelps (IVP), and Aaron Levie (chief executive of Box Inc).   

Workpop is a free service benefitting both employees and employers in several ways.  For workers, in addition to a much easier place to find potential work, they also receive anonymous feedback from employers who reject their applications, a response when a job they applied for has been filled, and advice on what successful applicants who got the jobs they wanted had that they didn’t, such as specific skills.  In addition, a job applicant will see a photograph of the hiring manager and a response rate (similar to AirBnb).

For employers, the service matches jobs to a pool of strong applicants less likely to quit quickly, as well as tools for background checks.

Co-CEOs, both Ovitz and Shaffner are veterans to the online startup world.  Ovitz is the co-founder of Viddy, a social video startup while Shaffner is a former Zynga executive.   The founding team also includes CTO Benjamin Berman and Director of Product Henry Jay Yu.

Friday, September 12, 2014

How Andreessen Horowitz Is Disrupting Silicon Valley

Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz - Michael Ovitz
Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz of Silicon Valley VC firm Andreessen Horowitz
Peter Sim's recent Medium article How Andreessen Horowitz Is Disrupting Silicon Valley is an insightful look at the ways the Silicon Valley venture capital firm distinguishes itself from the competition "thanks to some combination of brilliant salesmanship and marketing — a new model that is highly differentiated, ...more creative and more entrepreneur-friendly than the traditional venture capital firm model."

In discussing the unique aspects of A.H., the article explores the relationship between the firm and the model originated by Michael Ovitz at CAA:

"When Andreessen and Horowitz came together in 2009 to start a firm after their time together at Opsware, they focused on recreating a talent management model like the one pioneered by Michael Ovitz, the founder of Creative Artists Agency. Akin to CAA, yet unlike traditional venture capital firms, A.H. employs dozens of people whose job it is build relationships with people who can help Andreessen Horowitz companies. In Hollywood, Ovitz’s model of talent management, agents spend a great deal of time building up their clients and developing their talents; the focus is on using relationships to advance the talent’s best interests. A.H. puts that model into motion to support all that it does to source, develop, and support entrepreneurial ventures."

Much of Horowitz's philosophy is captured in his recent book The Hard Thing about Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers, "well-received by everyone from Silicon Valley entrepreneurs to The Economist magazine."  In May Ovitz hosted a party at his Beverly Hills estate celebrating the new book - read the full coverage here.  Guests included MC Hammer, Nas, Kanye West, and many others.

Read the entire Medium article, How Andreessen Horowitz Is Disrupting Silicon Valley

Monday, September 8, 2014

Ghostbusters Cast Looks Back

Harold Ramis, Ivan Reitman, Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd 

Esquire Magazine's recent An Oral History of Ghostbusters reunited the entire cast to reminisce about the film, including Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ivan ReitmanSigourney Weaver and the late Harold Ramis, as well as Michael Ovitz and other industry executives who helped make the classic comedy.  The article is highly entertaining and contains a number of previously unknown insights from the film's production.  We've included a few excerpts below, starting with Aykroyd's original conception of the script:

DAN AYKROYD: In about 1981, I read an article on quantum physics and parapsychology in The Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research. And it was like, bang--that’s it. It was also a combination of my family’s history--my great-grandfather was an Edwardian spiritualist, and my mother claims she saw an apparition of my great-great-grandparents while nursing me-and watching films like the Bowery BoysGhost Chasers and Bob Hope’s The Ghost Breakers. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great to update the ghost movies from the ’40s?”

Dan Aykroyd
Originally I was writing it for me, Eddie Murphy, and John Belushi, and I was about a third of the way through. On a beautiful March day, I was writing a line for John when the phone rang and it was Bernie Brillstein. He told me that John had died in the Chateau Marmont. I finished the script with Bill Murray in mind.

BERNIE BRILLSTEIN: Dan came to my office with this whole scheme about three fellows who chase ghosts. He even had a sketch of the Marshmallow Man.

AYKROYD: They were like vacuum cleaner or elevator repairmen, or firemen. The idea was to have them blend into the urban landscape. Calling a Ghostbuster was just like getting rats removed.

MICHAEL OVITZ: Dan and Bernie got me the script just as I was going to London. I read it on the plane, and I was laughing so hard that it was embarrassing.

In another section, Ovitz talks about Murray and Aykroyd's extreme popularity in New York City:

OVITZ: Bill is like the Mayor of New York. He knew every doorman and everyone in every restaurant. He would go to an ATM machine, get a couple thousand dollars’ worth of small bills, and pass them out to homeless people as we walked down the street.

RAMIS: Bill and Dan were just legendary in the city. People would open restaurants for us two hours before they were supposed to, or they’d keep them open two hours after they were supposed to close. Suddenly, New York felt like a small town to me.

ERNIE HUDSON: Cab drivers would just stop in the middle of the street and jump out of their cars because they were huge fans of his. It was funny to see the way people responded to Bill, especially women.

AYKROYD: I think we all grabbed a few crinkles just from the enjoyment of seeing what walked around in the wake of Bill Murray. Women were falling, I mean, I had to help them into taxis. We actually had to escape on police bikes one night.

WEAVER: Bill was kind of expected to come up with brilliant things that weren’t in the script, like day after day after day. Ivan would say, “All right, Bill, we need something here.” And there would be like a hundred of us waiting around, and Bill would just come in and do something. It was absolutely effortless. The one I remember clearly is when we come into my apartment for the first time and there was a piano next to the door. He plays it and says, “They hate that.”

Check out the entire interview in the Esquire Magazine article, An Oral History of Ghostbusters

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Tamara Mellon Takes on NYC Retail

Michael Ovitz and Tamara Mellon
Tamara Mellon has been keeping busy since the 2013 launch of her fashion line of the same name. The former president and co-founder of Jimmy Choo, Mellon is no newcomer to the fashion world, and has made a splash with everything from her innovative legging boots to her disruptive 'buy today, wear tomorrow' approach to releasing new styles.

If you live in New York City, Mellon will be hosting her first ever sample sale at 260 5th Street in Manhattan from Sept. 4-7 (yes tomorrow!).  According to WWD, we can expect to see a pop-up shop for her brand somewhere in New York City as early as the next month.  "The pop-up could be used as the testing ground for a full store—the paper also states that Mellon wants a freestanding retail store in New York early next year. Where that store will be is anyone's guess at the moment."

Mellon's approach to releasing her line is meant to disrupt the current fashion business model, where six months pass before collections presented on the runway are available in stores.  "I got so sick of having to buy clothes in the wrong season," she says in this interview, "I don't want to think about spring and summer clothes in February, and I don't really want to buy a winter coat right now. It all started, really, when shows went online. The customer and the world have moved forward, but the fashion industry hasn't moved forward. It hasn't really thought about how to keep up with the consumer. When I started going to shows in the early nineties, when I was at British Vogue, nobody could see the clothes except the buyers and the press, and then the customer saw it when it came out in the magazine and the stores. Now, you have a show, it's on, and as a consumer, I can look at those pictures for six months before the product gets into the store. When it finally does get there, I feel like it's been overexposed. There's sort of a fatigue to it. By the time it's in the stores, she's already seen the next collection, so she wants that. I want to create that excitement for the customer again, and also put clothes in the right season: what you want to wear when you want to wear it."

For this reason the brand is largely available through the digital marketplace at and other online retailers, with a series of freestanding brick and mortar stores planned for key flagship markets.  We'll keep you posted here when new stores pop up!

Read the entire article, Tamara Mellon Is Ready to Take On New York City Retail

Check out Tamara's fashion line, including the Fall 2014 season, at

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

NFL Return to Los Angeles Gathering Steam

Magic Johnson shakes hands with Cowboy's QB Tony Romo at Raiders-Cowboys practice
"It would make a beautiful stadium," Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones replied when asked about the model Hollywood mogul Michael Ovitz proposed for a re-imagined Los Angeles NFL venue.  Jones and Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis were present at Tuesday's joint football practice in Oxnard, CA along with Magic Johnson (once represented by Ovitz) and even Tommy Lasorda, sitting at a sideline-chair in a VIP area.

"I think for the first time, I truly believe we're going to get a team. Finally," Johnson said Tuesday to Yahoo Sports. "Everybody is on board. The city is on board. The business community is on board. The NFL is on board. Finally we have momentum. In the next couple years, at least in the next 24 months, I think one team will be coming. I don't know what team that will be, but I believe in the next two years we'll have a team." 

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Raiders owner Mark Davis chat at practice
Jones, Davis and Ovitz spoke with reporters after the practice about the possibility of an NFL return to the southland.  "Jones spoke of his deep relationship with Davis, and his high esteem for a Los Angeles stadium model that Ovitz conducted and its viability to house an NFL franchise...  Jones waxed nostalgic about Ovitz's stadium model, which cost "seven figures" to produce. He and Ovitz joked that model remains "the only stadium anyone is playing (football) in."

Moving a team to L.A. makes sense financially for the NFL, which could potentially transition a lower revenue generating franchise into one of the top markets in the country, creating greater profits for the leagues' revenue sharing.  The NFL has returned to every city it has vacated in the modern era (Oakland, Baltimore, St. Louis, Cleveland and Houston) except Los Angeles, which has been without an NFL team longer than any of its predecessors.

Jones' reference to Ovitz's stadium model refers to a series of proposals in the late 90s at several potential sites working in collaboration with the NFL, ranging from a fully re-imagined Coliseum at Exposition Park to a site in the current L.A. Galaxy's home of Carson, CA.  Then, as now, the NFL was buzzing at the ambition and passion Ovitz brought to the project.

"The Coliseum at Exposition Park"

"We're talking Central Park here and a unique recreation environment with the stadium standing as a monument in the middle," said an NFL official given a preview of Ovitz's plans. "It just blew everyone away."

The design for the Coliseum blended "the architectural look of the Roman Colosseum, used as the model for the L.A. Coliseum when it was built in the 1920s, with a touch of Hollywood--a frosted glass rim that would be lit at night."

"The 68,000-seat stadium, which could expand to 92,000 for Super Bowls, would include two end-zone glass towers to house lavish luxury boxes; two reflecting pools; a picnic area; patches of grass in front of more than 200 luxury suites; 15,000 club seats; and a misting system to keep fans cool. Fountains would spurt water when a touchdown is scored.

But what may be most eye-catching about the design is its approach to parking. If built, the park around the stadium would be greener because the new parking structures would be covered with grass and trees. That new green space would be several stories above the ground; beneath it would be 27,091 parking spaces, more than enough to satisfy the NFL."

We'll continue to keep you posted here as we hear more.  Meanwhile read the entire CBS Sports article, Possible Raiders move to Los Angeles is gathering steam

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Hamasaku helps kick off the 2014 Los Angeles Times Taste festival of food

Michael Ovitz's Hamasaku featured at L.A. Times Taste
Michael Ovitz's renowned sushi restaurant Hamasaku helps kick off the 2014 Los Angeles Times Taste festival of food scheduled for Labor Day weekend with a Friday night VIP opening night party along with featured chefs and food from other great restaurants including Girasol, Guelaguetza, Sotto, Plan Check, Phorage, Sushi Roku, Waterloo & City and others.

Taste runs from Friday Aug. 29 through Sunday Aug. 31 and includes five culinary events L.A. food lovers are not going to want to miss, ranging from cooking demonstrations by famous chefs (including James Beard Chef of the Year Nancy Silverton, esteemed pastry chef Karen Hatfield from Hatfield’s, and rising star Bruce Kalman from Union Pasadena).

Tickets for the Friday night VIP party are $150; tickets for the other events range from $100 to $125, with a $25 discount for L.A. Times subscribers.

If you miss Taste, hopefully you'll get a chance to visit Ovitz's Hamasaku, considered one of the best sushi restaurants in Los Angeles.  Located in an inconspicuous strip mall on Santa Monica Blvd., the restaurant features a refined fusion menu orchestrated by executive chef Wonny Lee and head sushi chef, Yoya Takahashi, complemented by the legendary off-menu celebrity roles that made the restaurant a favorite lunch spot for Hollywood's dealmakers.  In addition to the food the walls are decorated with carefully curated pieces from Ovitz’s private art collection.
Read the entire article, It's all happening at The Times' Taste over Labor Day weekend