Soraya Darabi: A day in the life of an angel investor and startup advisor

What am I working on: I’ve spent the last six years angel investing and my companies are doing quite well. That portfolio became more enticing for me not only for investing but advising on marketing and growth strategies. As an advisor, I am a subject matter expert that a startup can turn to for help on a variety of topics.

Today I woke up at 6 am. I take a shower, take my dog for a walk around the block, and get to the gym by 7 am. My dog is an Australian Shepherd named Pepé.

My morning ritual includes lighting candles. I like to start the day off with CALM. I am trying to work more mediation into my life. Right now I do 10 minutes. For breakfast I make a hard-boiled egg and avocado.

I start working whenever my first breakfast meeting is, usually at 8:30 am. Today I met with a founder to discuss projects in our domain and introduced him to a potential CFO candidate. I listen to his needs to help him grow.

My biggest challenge is time management. I never seem to accurately figure out travel time between meetings. It’s never as perfect as I’d like. I’m either early or late. I don’t use an assistant because I have not had great luck with them. I tried a virtual assistant as well and it didn’t schedule meetings as I’d like. I stick to Google calendar and a little bit of Sunrise.

I celebrated my friend Adam Grant’s launch of his new book “Originals” – my favorite book of the year. I love that it’s a practical way to gain insights about how original creators come to exist and how to apply more practical applications to your day – and [I love] the way he makes me think. He uses out of the box examples of successful entrepreneurs who didn’t necessarily quit their jobs from day one but hedged their bets in the beginning.

Did you go all in when you started Zady? When I first started Zady I was consulting and advising startups. I went all in but with knowing enough to back the project and that it wasn’t unstable. We didn’t hire more people than we needed. We had just three people our entire first year.

What I love most about my work is… I love that I can travel and meet extraordinary people and work with founders who are purpose driven and purposeful.

My favorite part of the day is when I get an hour or two to myself to drink some tea (English Breakfast) and power through my inbox. As much as my job requires me to be an extrovert I cherish the moments of quite solitude.

Are you a closet introvert? I think there are tons of closet introverts. It is important to see into both sides of your character. Everyone is binary.

Do you get back to Minnesota much? I was just in Minnesota about a month ago for a good friend’s wedding. I love going to Minnesota in the summer, walking around the lakes, and kayaking on the St. Croix river.

Least favorite part of the day – My high heels breaking on the street. It feels like a classic “Sex and the City” moment. I didn’t think that happens in life but it does.

I love it when I spontaneously get a note from a founder that we’ve accomplished something we’ve been working on together – maybe a new hire, maybe a new investor that we worked hard to land, maybe as simple as finding new office space for a team. To know that the work we are doing is impactful is a great feeling.

I wish I had an office in four cities. I do love the fact that my office is in Dumbo, Brooklyn, but sometimes I find it really rewarding to spend a week in San Francisco, not a rushed two days where I have to cram as much in as I can. A luxury would be having real office space in New York, Boston, San Francisco, and Los Angeles – the four cities I travel to most often.

Recently I invested in a coworking company that will launch later this year and address many of the limitations I have seen in coworking spaces.

Culture begins with space. My favorite quote is by chief culture officer Charles Eames. “Eventually, everything connects.”

Culture is about the quality that is created and how people adapt well and enjoy that atmosphere. Homepolish focuses on how color and texture make people feel a certain way when they walk into space.

New York culture does not work like Google. We have health care, technology, media, and fashion. It is an amalgamation of all of those things.

Something that surprised me was… Spotify’s new releases is one of my favorite tabs to check out – I work long hours – until 11pm - and music gets me through the day. I also like Hype Machine.

Favorite song right nowWet, All the ways

I want to recognize my friend Sheel from NEA venture capital firm. He helps me to stretch my mind and reminds me why VC was attractive to begin with – the power to help companies that are audacious and game-changing. He helps me look for companies that have the greatest potential on impact. He has a good soul. 

How do you commute? I take City Bike to work when the weather is nice; the subway in New York; in San Francisco I rely on LYFT. I prefer it over Uber. When I meet drivers who drive for both they say they like the culture of Lyft better. Lyft treats them well and pays them more. That’s something I want to support.

For lunch I typically have a salad if I’m being good and a panini if I’m being bad. I recently went back to being a pescatarian. At Dumbo Kitchen there is a yummy salad that combines the taste for fish and greens.

A personal activity I do just for myself is yoga. I go to Yoga to the People in New York and San Francisco. I like the music they play; the teachers are really accessible; I like doing it with big groups and going by myself; and it’s affordable.

How much do you sleep? My friends joke that I’m like an old lady. I can fall asleep just about anywhere – including at weddings and in movies I’ve been waiting two months to see. I typically sleep from 11 pm to 6:30 am. I believe in the power of a 20-minute power nap. If I could have a cot in my office, I would. That will happen soon enough.

I most enjoyed spending time with my sister. She’s my best friend in the world and also the greatest caretaker for my dog who ever existed. We like to take Pepé for a walk and grab coffee.

For dinner I try to cook. When I first moved to New York, I ate out six nights a week. Now that I’m an adult and have lived here for 10 years I like to cook more. A typical dinner is making stir fry in a wok and using my bamboo steamer. I like to go to the market with my mom to get groceries.

I am often at work dinners. So much of my job is building relationships with others – bankers, recruiters, investors. My business is predicated on relationships so that means lots of group dinners and I enjoy that, too.

Today I felt exhausted because I got off a red-eye and went straight to the office. I don’t’ recommend it but it had to be done.

My favorite technology that I used today is the app Anchor (radio by the people). I love podcasts – I listen to four hours of podcasts a day – Gimlet Media’s Startup and Reply All; and Radio Lab.

Glamsquad saved the day; they came over and quickly did a blow out at 7 am so I could go directly to the office.

I am inspired by Ted Talks – Al Gore’s talk on climate change; Adam grant’s book, “Originals;” the founders with whom I work – a gentleman who started Casper – a mattress for better sleep; and the team at Contently (creative talent).

I get to meet so many cool people in my job and I’m hugely addicted to it.

One strategy I use to make my time more effective is I schedule myself to focus only on my inbox. I unsubscribe to spam very quickly. I have pre-populated responses to emails I receive most frequently saved in the notes section on my computer so I can respond quickly and politely.

I make a lot of lists – typed out. I haven’t found an app that works better for me. My list is in four categories – health, work, personal (making a reservation to take my mom to The Color Purple on Saturday), finance.

I am passionate about podcasts! We are in the golden age of podcasts with quality audio that people want to hear. I worked in media for 10 years before moving into tech and I’ve always been passionate about how it’s evolving and that includes social media. Social entrepreneurs use their voice to make change like Sweet Green. They started as a salad business and then created a concert series called Sweet Life with huge bands and a concert festival. It makes customers happy and stands for something.

Something I wanted to get done but didn’t get to do was I wanted to take paint and retouch five walls in my living room and bathroom – things that get left to TaskRabbit that I wish I could do myself. Right now I am currently working on one thing a week to make my apartment nicer. Waking up to a beautiful apartment brings lots of joy.

A dream I am currently focused on fulfilling is… One day I’d like to own a Blu Home – a beautiful mid-century modern home in the Hudson Valley in New York.

We’ll look at lady porn on Pinterest, hold innovation workshops outside, cook together, bake bread – that’s the dream.

I have friends who have something similar now – Little Ghent Farm owned by Richard and Mimi – where I go to attend workshops, see animals, take long hikes, cook with Mimi. Richard used to work in advertising and brings together people from all fields of life.

I can’t live without coffee, tea, caffeine. As a journalist at the New York Times, I learned to drink it like water. It’s the fuel that keeps me going. That and a good playlist. I am obsessed with music. For working out I use Spotify playlists. There is a new site called Dexter. It allows you to create your own app. I am amalgamating all the soul cycle playlists on Spotify and bringing them together into one list on Dexter.

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Soraya Darabi is an angel investor and startup advisor. She is the co-founder of Zady, a mission-driven content and commerce brand described best as "The Whole Foods of Fashion." Zady creates and sells stylish, timeless, sustainably produced apparel and tells the story of each product, down to the raw materials.

Soraya began her career as Manager of Digital Partnerships and Social Media at The New York Times, where she kept her finger on the pulse of today's ever-changing digital landscape. While at The Times, she positioned the global news leader on social networks such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, partnered with startups large and small, and established award winning campaigns. Following her tenure at The Times, she served as Product Lead for drop.io, an online collaboration service (acquired by Facebook). She went on to co-found the application Foodspotting, named by Apple and Wired Magazine as an “App of the Year” (acquired by Open Table).

Soraya has been featured on the cover of Fast Company Magazine's “Most Creative People in Business” issue, on the cover of Brandweek’s "Digital” issue for her work in new media and entrepreneurship. She was named an Inc Magazine "30 Under 30" (2012) and a Fortune Magazine "40 under 40" (2015). She sat on the digital board of General Electric, and continues to advise C-suite executives in companies ranging from Disney to Time Inc. to GSMA on their digital / mobile / community strategies. She is a World Economic Forum "Young Global Leader" and a mentor to Tech Stars New York.

Soraya is an early stage investor in brands born online and next generation media companies, including: Contently, Reserve, GlamSquad, Casper, Brit & Co, Laxmi, Refresh, Hullabalu.

She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Georgetown University and today lives in Brooklyn Heights, New York.

Connect with her on Twitter.