Beyond Work
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Beyond Work

Hugs Will Never Be the Same

Beyond Work with Founder and Investor Danielle Strachman

This is the second in a series looking at how founders and innovators work from home during the global pandemic of Coranavirus. In this interview, I changed focus from London to Oakland, California where I spoke to founder and investor Danielle Strachman.

is the co-founder and General Partner at and co-founder of Innovations Academy. She was part of the founding team of The Thiel Fellowship where she worked with many now well-known founders including and .

Previous to her work with Peter Thiel, Danielle founded and directed Innovations Academy in San Diego, a K-8 charter school serving four hundred students, with a focus on student-led project based learning and other alternative programs.

Oakland, California.

What is your current WFH setup?

I have a guest room/art room/co-founder room (when he’s here in the Bay Area) that I’ve been using as my primary work area. I can sit on the daybed like a couch, and use the book shelf as a standing desk so I can move around a bit. I have two cats, Meera and Tulip, and I’ve setup a cat bed in this room so my “co-workers” can hang with me too :)

What does a typical day look like for you right now?

I’ve been working from home, in some fashion, for almost 20 years but it’s only usually been a couple days a week or I’m often going to meetings outside my office or home. Obviously this time is very different.

We are giving out grants for coronavirus-related projects, so today has been: 8:30am — 12pm all grant s.

I took a short break for lunch, scroll Twitter in between meetings and while I eat to keep up to date on what is happening in the world.

This afternoon is more of the same plus a Zoom with my co-founder to go over investment deals we need to make decisions on, and we talked to a potential portfolio company and got to know the team today.

Tonight I will do a Zoom with a group of friends to see how people are holding up and I will do a live Zoom yoga session.

How has Coronavirus impacted your life/work?

My frequency of WFH has skyrocketed. We are giving out grants for coronavirus. As a venture fund, we need to stay on top of what is happening in the market so that we can best support our companies, so we’re trying to stay educated hour by hour. It’s been a pretty intense few weeks and there is more to come.

One thing I am positive on is that this time period can be used as a major reset for the world. Work, education, how we spend time with each other, all of it is getting a major shift. And I’m excited to see people trying things they’ve never tried before like working from home, online learning, home-schooling, and even little things now I’m getting to take fitness classes around the globe with teachers I love but could never get to a live class with. On Instagram, I did a dance session with 2,000+ people, that was wild! I’ve never been to a dance party so big! I am excited to check out what is happening in the music and art world too. And we’re all cooking at home which I think is great!

What productivity tips have you found useful whilst working from home?

1. I use to send asynchronous videos to stay connected but not have to do Zooms all the time.

2. , I use this for face to face meetings.

3. Hamama is a product that I grow my own greens in at home. I have used them for almost two years and love the product so much that I became an investor.

4. Go between Zoom and phone. I find too many video calls is tough on the body. I like to pace and move around.

5. Put your pants on! I had a music teacher in high school who always said that “Looking good is feeling good” and he’s right. Get dressed in the morning and put on real clothes, if you like makeup, do makeup, etc.

6. Go for a walk in the middle of the day if you can. I need to do this more myself. I’m trying to start my day with some yoga, walk in the middle of the day, maybe some push ups here and there in between meetings too, and ending the day with movement also.

What five books would you recommend during this time at home?

I seem to love any book that starts with the title, “The Art of….” I think I love books about people and their craft and the “how to” information.

  1. When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chodron. Pema is an American Buddhist nun. I read her book a few years ago when I was going through a very hard time. I figure, “Oh, this is by a woman, it will be flowy and delightful to read, she will bring some nurturing.” Nope, Pema is the most badass Buddhist I’ve ever read. She is no bones and straight forward, when you’re in the muck, you better really be with it because that is the only way through. “Sticking with that uncertainty, getting the knack of relaxing in the midst of chaos, learning not to panic — this is the spiritual path.” “When things fall apart and we’re on the verge of we know not what, the test for each of us is to stay on that brink and not concretize.”
  2. The Art of Asking: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help by . The audiobook of this is fantastic. I’d recommend it over the book and Amanda Palmer is the narrator. During a time like this, it’s great to read about others going through struggles and creatively making it through. She went from being a broke performer in Harvard Square to being an internationally recognized artist, musician, and activist.
  3. How to Talk so Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. With so many families sheltering in place and quarantining together, the home is a more stressful place. Faber and Mazlish wrote a classic and easy read on how to communication and keep your cool. This book’s title is deceiving, it’s not just about kids, it’s how we communicate with all humans. A great read!
  4. His Dark Materials Trilogy by Phillip Pullman. While we’re all stuck — instead, why not enter a fantasy world full of adventure across the world and through different dimensions? Wonderful world building, character development, and plot. Technically this is young adult fiction, but I’ve never met an adult who didn’t love it. A great out loud read with the family too!
  5. Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat and Wendy MacNaughton. We’re all cooking a ton right now, so you might as well up your game! Plus the illustrations are delightful. This isn’t a cookbook with just recipes — though there are recipes, this is the how to make anything delicious. Read and put the first chapter to use and your tastebuds will thank you wildly. I loved cooking before this book and this instantly made me a better one.

When this is all over, what will the opportunities look like?

Like I said before, this is going to be an opportunity for a total reset on all areas of life. I’m also curious about how regulatory changes will take place since we can’t wait years for approval when people need medical help now. Anything you do or look at, think “What could that look like in six months?” It will likely be very different.

I also think that we will find more meaning in human connection and touch. In my neighborhood, the houses are close together and you try not to look inside someone’s windows out of courtesy. Last night, my roommate and I made eye contact with our neighbor and his family, and started waving enthusiastically.

Hugs will never be the same —I can’t wait for more warm embraces.

Follow Danielle on Twitter at .

1517 fund



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Danielle Newnham

Host of Danielle Newnham Podcast — interviews with tech founders and innovators. Writer. Author. Recovering Founder.