Yuval Bar-Zemer was a music student in Israel who made his way to New York one summer to work with a friend, painting offices and getting his mind blown by the jazz scene in the Village. From there, he soon ended up in LA where he became an electrician and eventually, a developer.
“When I was young, I had sense of opportunity and a sense of fearlessness,” Yuval told me as I sat in his loft in the Toy Building in downtown LA. “The worst case scenario of failure was meaningless. To a certain degree, I use the same concept today though I have more to lose. But though I’ve created assets and wealth, in my head I’m a restless risk-taker. If it feels right, I’ll just do it.”
The pathway from electrician to electrical contractor to developer was surprisingly rapid. But Yuval separated himself from his peers by really striving to create a community (How many developers do you know that actually live in their buildings?).
Now 52, one of the pioneering developers in DTLA has added label owner to his title. “A friend says, ‘There is this wonderful girl with a wonderful voice, and I think she could be a great jazz singer,’ ” Yuval says. “I listened to her, and we decided to make a record.”
A relentless entrepreneur since he arrived from Israel with no plans other than playing the saxophone, Yuval credits his business life with keeping him fresh and focused. And believes his entrepreneurial spirit will be behind his longevity: “It forces you to answer real questions, and provides the type of tools that are around until the day you die. People who are entrepreneurs, they never check out suddenly. As long as the body and head are functioning, they will continue forever.”
I like it. The mind hungry for the next big thing doesn’t have time to look back or slow down. At one point in our conversation for Ageist, Yuval leaned in, “We should have a manual for the 20-year-olds,” he said, and laughed. “Just read it. And have a shortcut.”