Entrepreneur and venture capitalist Leonard Brody spoke with King David head of school Russ Klein about soccer, history, business, education and the pandemic at the Golden Threads Gala on May 13. (PR photo)
Entrepreneur Leonard Brody was the featured speaker at King David High School’s Golden Threads Gala on May 13, which attracted 600-plus viewers. The event raised more than $350,000 for the school from community donors in both live (via video stream) and silent auctions.
Hailed in the financial media for his innovative approach to thinking about management, Brody, who helped found the news site NowPublic, is an award-winning entrepreneur, venture capitalist and two-time Emmy Award nominee. He has raised hundreds of millions of dollars in start-up capital, taken a company to a $6 billion market capitalization at its initial public offering, and been involved in several other companies. Brody is also the co-author of two bestselling books, Innovation Nation: Canadian Leadership from Jurassic Park to Java and Everything I Needed to Know About Business … I Learned from a Canadian.
Before introducing Brody, King David head of school Russ Klein read through the speaker’s extensive curriculum vitae, calling it “one of the most impressive bios I have ever read.” The first question of the wide-ranging interview, though, had to do with Brody’s forays into owning professional sports teams.
“It sounds more glamorous than it is,” said Brody, who has been involved with European soccer clubs for almost 20 years and co-owner of the Coventry City Football Club for 10. “Coventry has arguably been one of the most challenging turnarounds in English football and we got promoted last season into the Championship League, and it looks like we will stay there next season. This is a big accomplishment for us. It’s been fun.”
Upon hearing of this success, Klein suggested Brody consider assisting the Vancouver Canucks, but then turned to more serious matters, asking about what Brody calls “pushing the reset button.”
Brody discussed historical cycles, beginning at the start of the Industrial Revolution, in about 1760. During several periods since then, something has triggered a reset, whether it be disease or war. Each of these cycles, said Brody, including our present circumstance, creates a “forced reality” and the question becomes “what is the behaviour that is going to stick?” It is a question “everyone on the planet is thinking about.”
The conversation then veered to the concept of “successful failure” in terms of what companies promise to the market and what they deliver. In Brody’s view, many sectors are “grossly over-promising” and “half-delivering” on their products. If a company can only attain half of its promise, it is, in Brody’s view, ahead of the market as a whole. Using the example of Tesla, he cited the company’s history of “overshooting a mark, creating a vision and taking customers with it” towards a higher-end goal.
On Klein’s question of whether post-secondary education is still necessary, Brody responded, “If you want to create a generation of profit-centric, money-hungry idiots, then, yes, you can avoid university.” However, he added, if you want to create a society of good citizens with critical thinking skills and the ability to be independent adults, then university education is still essential.
Brody himself holds a bachelor of arts (honours) from Queen’s University and a law degree from Osgoode Hall at York University; he is a graduate of the Private Equity Program at the Harvard Business School.
The last discussion point was the pandemic, which Brody deemed “one of the most well-managed human traumas ever.” While not discounting the tragedy inflicted on those who have fallen victim to the disease, Brody stated that we should emerge from this stage with “an unprecedented economic growth pattern.”
Currently, Brody is writing a new book in partnership with Forbes magazine, entitled The Great Re:Write, based on the successful documentary series he and Forbes produced – which has had an audience of more than seven million in the past year.
The Golden Thread Gala: Connecting Generations celebrated the community that nurtures King David High School, inspires the next generation of leaders, and was rooted in the appreciation of Jewish values and traditions. The inaugural gala highlighted a story of success told through generations, with education as the “golden thread weaving our past to our Jewish future.”
Live auction items included a “be head of the school day” for one lucky student, a set of Forevermark Black Label earrings, dinner with Russ and Deborah Klein, and a Nuevo Vallarta vacation package. Meanwhile, dozens of items, from paintings to cosmetics, weekend getaways to vintage B.C. wines, were available in the silent auction.
Emceeing the event was comedian Ivan Decker, a frequent guest on TV talk shows around North America, on Netflix and on CBC’s The Debaters. Media executive Howard Blank, past president and chair of Variety British Columbia and vice-president of the B.C. Entertainment Hall of Fame, was the auctioneer.
Sam Margolishas written for the Globe and Mail, the National Post, UPI and MSNBC.
Leonard Brody talks about The Great Rewrite at the Jewish Family Services Innovators Lunch April 24. (Rhonda Dent Photography)
Sitting in the JFS client base are this community’s greatest and most hopeful assets,” said Jewish Family Services Innovators Lunch keynote speaker Leonard Brody. Donating to JFS is not charity, he said, but rather an investment with high returns.
The 600-plus attendees at the JFS’s main annual fundraising event obviously agreed. At press time, more than $350,000 had been raised for the agency’s work, and donations were still coming in, making this year’s lunch the most successful Innovators yet.
Event co-chairs Shannon Ezekiel and Candice Stein Thal welcomed those gathered at the Hyatt Regency Vancouver on April 24, and gave a brief overview of the JFS and of the organization’s new logo and look, which, they said, “inspired the theme for this year’s lunch: ‘Uplifting Lives.’”
Rabbi Jonathan Infeld of Congregation Beth Israel, who is the Rabbinical Association of Vancouver representative on the JFS board, did the blessing over the bread. “This week’s biblical portion is Acharei Mot-Kedoshim,” he said. “Kedoshim is really the essence of why we are here – ‘You shalt be holy,’ the portion begins, and then it gives us a litany of laws in which we are able to bring holiness into this world. A number of those laws do not ask, but demand, that we take care of those who are in need. And one of those laws in particular demands that we feed those who are hungry. Many of us here are hoping to make a difference in this world. We are here, maybe with the idea in mind of a business connection, but, really, the essence of what the JFS is all about is bringing holiness into this world by helping those who are in need.”
After a video, which told the stories of three individuals who were helped by JFS in some way, JFS board chair Bill Kaplan said a few words, stressing that, “most importantly, our volunteers and staff treat our clients with a respect and warmth that uplifts them, makes them feel part of the community and, if you ever visited, you’ll see, it becomes a social highlight for their week.”
All of the lunch guests were given a bag full of items – including some packaged food, toiletries, a poncho and gloves – and asked to give it to someone on their way to work or to a JFS client. The bags were packed by more than 80 kids and their families at Beth Israel a few weeks earlier.
Among those who Ezekiel and Stein Thal thanked were the event’s corporate sponsorship committee, chaired by Audrey Chan; the more than 40 sponsors at the lunch, who had “helped contribute over $183,500 … a record in sponsorship for this event”; the 28 table families; day-of-event chair Dr. Sherry Wise; and JFS’s Maya Dimapilis and her team. The lunch was co-presented by the Diamond Foundation, Austeville Properties Ltd. and Shay Keil; Neil and Michelle Pollock matched every new or increased portion of a donation raised through the lunch, up to $25,000, which was dedicated for the Jewish Food Bank.
JFS executive director Richard Fruchter spoke about JFS, its history and the expanding services it provides. It is because of this growth in the demand for JFS’s services, he said, that “it became important for us to be more visible in the community and tell our story to a much wider audience …. we’ve updated our logo and our name to reflect that. Our logo is a simple, elegant symbol – it conveys the warmth and heart of what we do here at Jewish Family Services.”
“For me, this is not just an amazing lunch with a marquee speaker,” said Keil before he introduced Brody. “It’s an opportunity for me to stand before you and proudly announce my support of the Jewish Family Services, and to thank the army of staff and volunteers … [for their] work in the community.”
Brody’s talk was on The Great Rewrite, a book he is creating with Forbes Magazine, based on a documentary series they produced. “Really what we’re doing this morning,” said the entrepreneur, venture capitalist and author when he took to the stage, “is talking about an evolution, an evolution in us, in our human story.”
Based on about a decade’s worth of research, he said, The Great Rewrite began with the question, “How is this moment in time different? We’ve been through a lot of innovation cycles, from the web and mobile, and now entering into AI and robotics… Is this vast amount of change that we’re all experiencing … substantively different from anything we’ve been through before? Is this a fourth industrial revolution?”
Humanity is “literally rewriting this planet from the ground up,” he said, arguing that we are currently undergoing “pretty much the largest institutional shift in the history of our species.”
The co-founder of four companies, Brody said, “The concept of this rewrite has nothing to do, for me, with just theory – it started as a theory but it’s really what we do and what I do every day for a living at CAA [Creative Artists Agency].”
Before looking at what we can expect in the next 730 days – the next two years – Brody explained how we, the humans of today, are nothing like the people of 100 years ago. For example, he said, the average person now lives 2.7 times longer and is three to four inches taller; the rate of poverty has been reduced from 90% in 1900 to 10% now, literacy increased from 12% to 85% and access to basic education risen from 17% to 86%. We are also “living in the lowest point of human death [caused by any factor] since we could record it, since 1400,” he said, and “the average human being living on this planet works about half the number of hours than someone living in 1900.”
We are fundamentally different people now, said Brody, and herein lies the challenge. “The houses we built don’t fit the people who live here any more,” he said. “We built institutions – I’m talking about all the institutions that govern your life, education, government, religion, work, the family unit – they are all going through massive pressure points today because they are structures based on assumptions, often technological, some patriarchal, that are just no longer true.”
So, he said, “The whole essence of this rewrite is you are living in the disconnect between the people we have become, the technological tools available to us today and the failure of our institutions to keep pace with that.”
One of the reasons for this, he explained, is “inversion.” Most of our institutions are organized as pyramids, with, for example, a head of state or religious figure at the top; however, the internet has flipped this power structure. Up to the mid-1990s, all the methods of communication, from radio to the telephone, had limited reach and were regulated by government, he said, but, with the internet, it “was the first time where millions of people could speak with millions of other people with virtually no hit on their disposable income” and where it was “impossible for governments to regulate.”
With respect to the internet, said Brody, “the average North American spends two-thirds of their working day in their virtual identity and not their physical one. The average Canadian, by the way, spends 63% of their time with close friends and family in their virtual identity and not their physical one, meaning not face-to-face. So, the virtual form of yourself is now the predominant human form, not the physical.”
And our behaviours are different online than in person. “You do things in your virtual identity that you would never dream of in your physical and vice versa,” he said. For example, the average internet user is four times more trusting than they are in person. He illustrated this using a question he asked his 83-year-old uncle: “When your children were babies, would you post their baby pictures on the lamp posts in your neighbourhood?” The response was an emphatic no. “So, then, why do you post hundreds of photographs of your granddaughter on Facebook and Flickr, which is a globally open, searchable and highly manipulated light post, and his face just went totally blank.”
As for how the internet has changed our institutions, Brody gave the example of marriage. As of the end of 2017, he said, “two-thirds of all new marriages in the Western world originated online” – and, for those who met their spouse online, the likelihood of divorce is 15 to 20% less. “The algorithms on these dating sites work from a data perspective,” he said. And, connected to the institution of marriage, he noted that, in the 2016 census, about 40% of Canadian adults reported themselves as living alone, while, in 1955, that statistic was four percent.
Brody went on to explain what CAA was doing in the field of entertainment with virtual reality and how, “in the next decade, roughly 30% of all ‘live’ entertainment will come from performers who are no longer living. You will take your children to go watch the Beatles and Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley – in fact, the Elvis tour has just begun; the estate just signed off on it.”
Currently, there are up to three-and-a-half billion people on the internet, he said, and, over the next two years, another billion people will join. This new billion will be “one of the most significant economic events in human history, if not the most significant,” he said, noting the amount of money to be made from e-commerce.
This coming two-year period, he added, “is the very beginning of a long journey in the rewrite of currency.” He said that traditional wealth generators, such as home ownership and the stock market, will not be profitable in the future, so currency “will become the new stock.”
Brody spoke about the fact that we’re about a decade away from creating machines able to think for themselves, and how computers can now create, for example, a Rembrandt painting that can fool the computers that detect fraud at top auction houses. “The reason I share that with you,” he said, “is because the very thing that makes us human is art. And, once machines begin to make art, you get a very clear indication of how different this world is going to be, and very clearly that we are on a path where humans may no longer be the predominant species on this planet. So, we have very important decisions to make in the next decade about how we regulate the ethics of artificial intelligence.”
He concluded, “Why are we talking about The Great Rewrite and the rewrite of this planet at a JFS Innovators Lunch? There are two specific reasons. The first is this massive shift in institutional power that’s coming…. And the second has to do with math, pure math; in particular, the number 70. Why 70? According to StatsCan, 70% of all charitable donations in this country come from primary donors – 70% come from a small group that make up the vast majority of the donations. So, I started to do a little bit of digging and I brought in my friends and partners at Forbes to help me out on it. It turns out, if you look through the Forbes millionaire and billionaire list, which many Canadians sit on, it turns out that … 70% of that [primary donors] group came from nothing” and could have been clients of an organization like JFS at one point in their lives.
“Benevolence and charity were the wrong lens” with which to look at giving, Brody said. “The right lens was investment. If it’s true, which it is, that the vast majority of donations to charitable causes in this country … and the vast majority of those individuals [who are giving] were, at some point in their lives, disadvantaged and downtrodden, then the math and the investment is very simple. An investment made in JFS today has the greatest statistical likelihood of identifying the next pillars in this community and the next great funders.”
Entrepreneur, venture capitalist, author and media visionary Leonard Brody is the keynote speaker at this year’s JFS Innovators Lunch April 24. (photo from JFS Vancouver
On Tuesday, April 24, Jewish Family Services (JFS) will be hosting its annual Innovators Lunch. The event, which encourages people to think as innovators and uplift lives to bring about meaningful and lasting social change, raises essential funds that go directly to serve JFS clients, programs and services. It has attracted more than 600 people in each of its 14 years.
This year, the keynote speaker is Leonard Brody, chair of Creative Labs, a joint-venture with Creative Artists Agency, the largest sport and entertainment agency in the world. He and his team are building new ventures and companies for some of the biggest celebrities and sports personalities in the world. He acts as principal in several venture capital funds throughout the world, and is behind the financing and creation of dozens of start-up companies every year. He is also one of the owners of Coventry City Football Club in England.
The award-winning entrepreneur, venture capitalist, bestselling author and two-time Emmy nominated media visionary has been called “a controversial leader of the new world order.” His upcoming book, in partnership with Forbes Magazine, is The Great Rewrite. In it, he addresses the rapid pace of change, innovation and disruption brought about by the internet and how to respond to its profound changes on our social and economic ways of life.
“Everything we do, from how we speak, how we buy, how we employ people, is being rewritten,” he told JFS. “The internet is the first time in our history where millions of people can speak directly to millions of other people at little cost, no regulation; the first time in our species that we have owned our communication at mass scale on a global level. The tools for innovation are nothing, the playing field is now level.”
Wherein lies the controversy? Brody argues that the resulting change in communication is “a massive disconnect between the institutions we’ve created and the people we’ve become.” He contends that it is the largest level of institutional shift in human history.
“Our world is inverted,” he explained. “We are fundamentally different than the people we were 100 years ago.” The institutions that run society are traditionally top down, he said. Take, for example, politics, with a prime minister at the top and the people at the bottom. Once the internet became ubiquitous, the power pyramids started to flip, or invert.
The pace can be disorienting, and Brody seeks to raise the level of our dialogue and provide a useful framework for action that people can look to and use. Through concrete stories, he provides many answers, ultimately offering a playbook on how we can engage in the world that’s being rewritten around us.
For tickets to JFS’s Innovators Lunch on April 24 at the Hyatt Regency Vancouver, visit jfsvancouver.ca/innovators. There is a limited number available, so book your space early.
Participants in last year’s Inclusion Journey at the Knesset in Jerusalem, in front of Marc Chagall’s painting “The Exodus.” (photo from JCC inclusion services)
The Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver is part of the international network of Jewish communities celebrating persons with disabilities throughout the month of February. And, on Feb. 6, the entire community is invited to Share the Journey: An Evening of Inspiration, which will feature the screening of My Hero Brother, selected as the leading film for Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month. The event will also include remarks from the Hon. Shane Simpson, the provincial minister of social development and poverty reduction, and a slideshow and presentation by Leamore Cohen, coordinator of the JCC’s inclusion services, about the trip they led to Israel last year.
Many traditions exist within the Jewish community, and we must all work to ensure the accessibility of these traditions for all members of the community. It is within this context that the JCC’s inclusion services led the first-ever Canadian JCC diverse-ability and advocacy Inclusion Journey to Israel, with the support of the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver, the Gesher Chai Committee and community donors.
Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month reminds us of the importance of cultural connections, inclusive community and accessibility in all traditions and for all people. For its part, the JCC’s inclusion services has organized a number of awareness and visibility initiatives throughout February, including a Ronald McDonald House volunteer initiative with the JCC’s youth programs on Feb. 4 and a “Challa-Luyah” challah bake for the Jewish Food Bank with Axis Vancouver on Feb. 8.
Starting the month’s activities off is the Feb. 6, 6:30 p.m., screening at the Rothstein Theatre. For young Israeli adults, traveling after military service is a right of passage, and My Hero Brother emphasizes that such a right must be available for all young people. In drawing a parallel between local experiences and those highlighted in the film, the JCC hopes to bring attention to the abilities of all persons when community works together.
– JCC inclusion services
The Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver-organized Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration is the community’s biggest gathering of the year, and the committee, led by Pam Wolfman, has booked two Israeli performers to help us celebrate Israel’s 70th anniversary: Shlomi Shaban and Ninet Tayeb.
Shaban is performing at the upcoming Red Sea Jazz Festival, where he is described as having “the ability to create buoyant virtuoso harmony between classical music, rock and pop…. His characteristic straightforward sense of humour frequently moves on a fine line between black tie concert halls and sweaty smoky rock-n-roll stages.”
Tayeb was the winner of Kochav Nolad (Israeli Idol). Music critic Garreth Browne saw her perform in New York and wrote, “it’s safe to say that the entire audience was fixated and almost hypnotized by her presence.”
– Courtesy of Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver
The Jewish Family Services’ 2018 Innovators Lunch guest speaker will be Leonard Brody. The award-winning entrepreneur, venture capitalist and bestselling author is co-founder and executive chair of Creative Labs, a joint venture with the largest sports and entertainment agency in the world, CAA in Los Angeles. His group is responsible for building new ventures for some of CAA’s most important film, TV and sports celebrities. He also happens to be a community member in Vancouver.
Brody will be talking about The Great Re-Write, his upcoming book in partnership with Forbes magazine, which addresses this unique social and economic moment in history. With rapid social and structural changes have come many challenges for communities, but also opportunities. How do we make the most of this time to invest in our community, uplift society as a whole and ensure we don’t leave people behind? He’ll encourage people to think as innovators to bring about meaningful and lasting social change.