Something That Lasts Forever May Be Bad For Business, But It’s Important To Me

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.

About 30 years ago, a very good friend gave me a #89 Floris 8-inch wooden shaving bowl with a Vulfix Pure Bristle for my birthday. At the time I was a traditional Gillette or Schick shaving cream guy and happily so. But just for kicks I decided to try a new experience, no doubt nostalgically remembering my father’s lathering up during my youth.

Over the years I have gradually become addicted to my daily ritual – wetting the brush, taking the cover off the wood box, and swishing the brush around in the bowl to generate lather. Well, 30 years later, I am still totally committed to brush and lather (except of course when I am traveling).

But a strange thing has occurred in my psyche. While the wooden bowl is now a bit weathered from water that inevitably seeps into the wood, each day I pause to stare at it to see how much soap remains.

While I can clearly see that over the years the soap has retreated, first around the center, which now has over a 1-inch wood base showing, and the sides as well have gradually receded, but the bowl is essentially still in its prime. And I have become totally fixated on the fact that the bowl has become an old and trusted friend that will be a lifetime companion. Actuarily speaking, there will be enough soap to last my lifetime and then some.

I ask myself: what else do I hold in my material possessions that is used or consumed daily that will be with me forever? Certainly not my tooth paste or shampoo or a myriad of other items we use in our daily life. And of course there are TVs, radios, and desktop printers which can last a long time but eventually break, inevitably wear out by usage or design and through planned obsolescence or are displaced by new technology. (OK, for those who know me I do have three cars over 50 years old but they all have been restored and are in constant need of repair and anyway not used daily – not the same!) And there are clothes which seem to last forever but inevitably go out of fashion or develop holes or frayed edges.

Besides our spouse and families, to have one item in our possession that lingers for a lifetime is comforting. At one point in time one could have said silverware or fine china lasted forever but the fact of the matter is that no one uses them anymore. They gather dust in closets and are only brought out for significant occasions. Another item that traditionally might have fallen into the ‘friend forever’ category would have been an older windup or even self-winding watch but, even here, the new Apple and Samsung watches as well as mobile phones are rapidly replacing a former mainstay.

So perhaps you can understand the warm feeling I hold for my shaving bowl, which truly will last a lifetime, won’t break, doesn’t become obsolete or go out of style, doesn’t get used up and will be with me forever – no matter when forever is.

I have on several occasions shopped and searched to find a similar bowl to give as a gift to one of my sons or friends. Sadly, Floris and other brands have realized the same thing that I have discovered. Something that lasts a lifetime is bad for business. Perhaps as a consequence they no longer make a bowl more than two inches wide. I am a venture capitalist, but in this instance, in its thirst to boost profits, capitalism has denied others the permanent pleasures of my wooden bowl.

Recently I have been trying to understand just what is it about this rather pedestrian object that I have come to identify with so closely? Perhaps like man’s best friend, it accepts me and my ritual unconditionally. It never disappoints me. When I wake up I look forward to my daily shave first thing in the morning. I am not a particularly spiritual person but somehow I do feel as though my bowl has become an almost-sacred object. How would I feel if my bowl were to break or somehow disappear? It is a bit embarrassing to admit but I believe life would be diminished in some strange but not insignificant way.

In the decades ahead I look forward to a serious contemplation about the meaning of this strange object which perhaps is best illustrated by Citizen Kane’s Rosebud or Cyrano’s plume. What worldly possession will I identify with in my final moments? It is simply a bowl “unblemished and unbent” that came to identify me.

Alan Patricof

Co-Founder & Managing Director • New York, NY

Alan Patricof is the founder and managing director of Greycroft LLC. A longtime innovator and advocate for venture capital, Alan entered the industry in its formative days with the creation of Patricof & Co. Ventures Inc., a predecessor to Apax Partners – today, one of the world’s leading private equity firms with $41 billion under management. He stepped back from the daily administration and operational aspects of Apax Partners, LP in 2004 to concentrate on a group of small venture deals on its behalf.  In 2006, he founded Greycroft Partners, a venture capital firm, to invest in leading early and expansion stage investments in digital media.  With offices in New York and Los Angeles, Greycroft is currently investing from its fourth Fund as well as its Growth Fund, and has $800MM under management.

With a 40-plus year career in venture capital, Alan has been instrumental in growing the venture capital field from a base of high net-worth individuals to its position today with broad institutional backing, as well as playing a key role in the essential legislative initiatives that have guided its evolution. He has helped build and foster the growth of numerous major global companies, including, among others, America Online, Office Depot, Cadence Systems, Cellular Communications, Inc., Apple Computer, FORE Systems, NTL, IntraLinks, and Audible. He was also a founder and chairman of the board of New York magazine, which later acquired the Village Voice and New West magazine.

Alan is active in the New York and Washington communities.  He is a board member of the Finance Committee of Northside Center for Child Development in Harlem and the Board of Overseers of Columbia School of Business.  He is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.  In October 2013, he was appointed as a Member of the President’s Global Development Council by Barack Obama.  From 2007 to 2012, he served two terms on the board of Millennium Challenge Corporation, having been appointed by Presidents Bush and Obama respectively.  From 1993 to 1995, he served as Chairman of the White House Conference on Small Business Commission in The Clinton Administration.  In addition, he is a former board member of TechnoServe, Trickle Up Program, Global Advisory Board of Endeavor, Applied Sciences NYC Advisory Board, and the Initiative for Global Development (IGD) Leadership Council. He is currently an advisor to Disney’s Accelerator Program.

Alan holds a BS in Finance from Ohio State University and an MBA from Columbia University Graduate School of Business. He is married to his wife Susan for over forty years; he has three children and seven grandchildren.

This is the new normal in venture capital