Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Michael Voltaggio Co-Hosts The Travel Channel's Breaking Borders

Michael Ovitz's business partner Michael Voltaggio with co-host Mariana Van Zeller
Michael Ovitz's business partner and Top Chef winner Michael Voltaggio has had a lot going on of late.  His critically acclaimed Melrose restaurant ink. (voted 'Best New Restaurant in America' by GQ in 2012) and ink.sack, the sandwich shop a few doors down, both continue to do great business, so much so that he recently opened a second ink.sack location inside LAX's Tom Bradley International Terminal.

If that wasn't ambitious enough, Voltaggio is now co-hosting The Travel Channel's Breaking Borders along with journalist Mariana Van Zeller.  The premise of Breaking Borders is to gather people together from all sides of a conflict zone, have them break bread together and explore the issues that divide them.

"For each location, I arrived with just my bag of knives and a vague idea of some of the most traditional foods from the region," Voltaggio said in the release. "I started from scratch buying every ingredient on the ground and constructing my interpretation of the local cuisine. I put 100 percent of myself into cooking every meal. It was an honor to sit at the table and hear the stories."

The series opener will feature a visit to the West Bank and will bring together "two families of Jewish settlers, a Palestinian bookstore owner, a Palestinian guide and the general director of a pro-two-state-solution group". Subsequent episodes will be set in Cambodia, Northern Ireland and Cairo, among other places.  

Check out more info on the Travel Channel's Breaking Borders.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Nikki Rocco Retires from Universal

Nikki Rocco's early career highlights included Universal's Cape Fear 
Nikki Rocco, a 'game changer' of the film industry, has retired from Universal Pictures as President of Distribution, "a post she held for 19 years as part of a 47-year run with the studio that began at age 17."  In the book 'Women Who Run the Show', Rocco recounts one of the first turning points in her career: a private screening of Cape Fear with director Martin Scorsese and his then-agent, Michael Ovitz.

"I was a new senior VP when [then-Universal President] Sid Sheinberg invited me to a screening in New York and afterwards to join him with Marty and Michael Ovitz to discuss how to release the film.  I was thrilled.  Ovitz leaned across the table and asked me how I'd release the film."

"'Around this time,' I said, 'early November before Thanksgiving to get the word out, to launch it...'  That release strategy turned out to be what we did.  My plan did not sit well with the man running the division at the time; he was unhappy I'd been invited to the screening.  But I knew it was a turning point in my career."

The release turned out to be Rocco's birthday, November 13.

“I did my homework with Cape Fear,” Rocco recalls. “I had my competitive studio calendar and was prepared for that trip. It felt like a fall movie, and the best time was a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving, which just happened to be my birthday.” 

Cape Fear opened unopposed by any wide releases in November 1991, making $10.3M and a final total of $79.1M.  Rocco went on to release films during what was then thought of as less than optimal times - the dead zone before Memorial Day weekend, early November, etc. - and proved through many successes that 'if you build it, they will come.'

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Forbes Business Leaders: Gurjeet Singh, Co-Founder and CEO, Ayasdi

Gurjeet Singh, Co-Founder and CEO, Ayasdi
"It isn’t every day that the former head of Walt Disney, Michael Ovitz, shows up at your front door, check in hand, asking to invest in your early stage start up. But, that’s exactly what happened to Gurjeet Singh in early 2012. Ovitz had learned that Gurjeet and two other math Ph.Ds from Stanford were on the verge of changing the way the world uses complex data to solve its most pressing problems."

Forbes recent profile of Gurjeet Singh, Co-Founder and CEO of Ayasdi details how the company has raised nearly $45 million from investors who "share Ovitz’ enthusiasm", such as Khosla Ventures, GE Venture, Citi Ventures, IVP and Floodgate, as well as the fascinating path Singh himself undertook to create the company, already "growing fast with more than 80 employees and blue- chip clients from the likes of GE, Merck, Citigroup, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Mount Sinai Hospital."

"It all started in 2005 when Gurjeet had left his native India to conquer his “fear of not knowing enough math” for the United States to pursue an academic career in mathematics. He gained admittance to the Ph.D program at Stanford, where he would become the mentee of professor, Gunnar Carlsson. Gurjeet earned his Ph.D from Stanford in Computational Mathematics after finishing his dissertation in just three short months. The time between his Master’s Degree and his Ph.D was 18 months, a record that still stands in the Mathematics Department of Stanford.  During this period, Gunnar was becoming world-renowned for his ground breaking research in Topological Data Analysis (TDA). TDA is an applied form of topology, the field of mathematics that studies shape."

The application of Topological Data Analysis to today's data has far reaching implications.  According to Singh, while "90% of the world’s data has been generated in the last two years alone, yet only 1% of that data has been analyzed. The data that lie within gene sequences, sensor data, customer records, and electronic medical files may indeed offer up the secrets to curing cancer, enabling retailers to engage more meaningfully with customers, keeping machines running constantly and creating better outcomes for patients and hospitals alike."

Monday, December 22, 2014

Spring Mobile App Making Waves in Fashion

Michael Ovitz is among backers of the mobile app Spring, introduced in August to much fanfare due to an investor list that included Ovitz, Andrew Rosen, Aaron Levie, as well as funds Groupe ArnaultFounder Collective, Google Ventures, SV Angel and many others.  

'A mobile-only (as opposed to web first) platform, it bills itself as “a mobile marketplace for the consumer to interact directly with a brand” (that from Alan Tisch, a founder). This translates effectively as a mobile mall built on the concession model: Designers can post pictures of whatever they want to sell on the site — their offering and their presentation are effectively their own choices — and users then buy or like them or share them.  Or “spring” for them! Get it?'

In addition to narrowing the gap between when fashion appears on the runway and is available in stores,  Spring also takes out the pain of purchasing.  "We killed the shopping cart," says Tisch. Instead, users swipe below an item to buy it. After filling out credit card and shipping information just one time within the app, all that stands between them and an impulse purchase is the touch of a button.

Read more about Spring in the NY Times and Style Magazine.

A significant investor in tech, in 2010 Ovitz launched Venture Capital fund Broad Beach Ventures where he is among a select group of angels. Investments thus far have included Medium, Palantir, Klout, Blend Labs, HipSwap, Factual, and more. Ovitz is also advisor to a number of Silicon Valley VC firms, including Andreessen Horowitz, Thrive Capital, and Formation 8

Monday, December 15, 2014

Michael Voltaggio opens Ink.Sack at LAX

Ink.Sack's turkey melt and Cuban sandwich

Michael Ovitz's business partner chef Michael Voltaggio is opening a new Ink.Sack (his sandwich place located next to his critically-acclaimed Melrose Avenue restaurant Ink.) at none other than LAX airport, according to this recent article in Los Angeles Magazine.

"In some terminals, terror is the $12 sandwich. You know the type: damp bread, wilted lettuce, a mustard packet if you’re lucky. Ink.Sack corrects this egregious error with an array of creative handhelds from Michael Voltaggio and Co. for half the price. Their Spicy Tuna comes garnished with Sriracha mayo and nori flakes. The Spanish Godfather proffers a pile of prosciutto, chorizo, and Manchego. There’s a $4.69 veggie banh mi. The black carry-away lunch sack completes the fancy-casual vibe."

Check out the new Ink.Sack the next time your flight is delayed at LAX!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Celebs and Artists Attend Art Basel Miami Beach

Michael Ovitz and girlfriend Tamara Mellon were at Art Basel Miami Beach this week, attending the annual seated dinner hosted by the real estate mogul Aby Rosen and his wife, Samantha Boardman in the Dutch restaurant at Mr. Rosen’s W Hotel.  

Celebrities and artists at the event included Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Owen Wilson, Alex RodriguezVera WangTommy HilfigerPeter Marino, Heidi Klum and Vito Schnabel, Paris and Nicky Hilton, Kim Kardashian and more, according to this New York Times article.

"After the dinner, the crowd moved to The Wall for the Dom PĂ©rignon-hosted after party Metamorphosis, where Alex Dellal, Stavros Niarchos, and Vito Schnabel traded art talk art for dancing on tables and drinking loads of champagne."  

Sounds like fun!

Art Basel Miami Beach started in 2002 as an offshoot of the annual international contemporary art fair founded in 1970 and held every June in Basel, Switzerland

Read more coverage on Art Basel Miami Beach in Business Insider and The New York Times.