2014: An Epic Year!

January 22, 2015

Like in 2013, I spent most of 2014 living with the consequences of the life changing decisions I made in late 2012 (2012: A Transition to New Beginnings!) of leaving OLX (Why I am leaving OLX) and radically simplifying my life (The Very Big Downgrade). However, with the benefit of 2013’s experience and repeated iteration, I started tweaking my life choices (Update on the Very Big Downgrade) culminating with the decision to partially rematerialize in 2015.

In 2014, I still traveled too much with frequent trips between Kiev, Bucharest, Zurich, London, Paris, Oslo, San Francisco, New York and Cabarete. It’s still nonetheless much improved from a flight duration and time difference perspective from the OLX days. Moreover, I was able to spend over a month in row in New York and Cabarete a few times. I now hope to both spend more consecutive days in New York, San Francisco and Cabarete, to travel less to Ukraine and Romania and to be able to spend more time in the same apartment or house.

Cabarete has successfully become the de-facto meeting place twice a year for all my friends and family – around my birthday in August and for New Year. To my horror, bewilderment and utter astonishment I turned 40 this year. While that is truly incomprehensible to me, I was surrounded by 40 friends and family and we had a blast.

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Spending time in Cabarete allowed me to continue playing sports with gusto, only tempered by a tendinitis and left knee injury late in the season. I went heli-skiing at Mica in January and continued to work on my kiting skills. I also went on a fun trip to the Galapagos with Otilia.

 
On a sad note, I bid farewell to Harvard, my beloved yellow lab and extraordinary ball of spastic insanity.

 
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On the professional side, Jose and I pursued a hybrid venture builder and investor model. We continued to support Beepi’s growth as the company is off to a great start and recently raised $60 million.

Unfortunately I am still waiting for the permits to start building out La Boca, my project in Cabarete. In the meantime, Read More →

FIAF Interview

I was interviewed by Jean-Christian Agid for the FIAF event last December. We talked about everything and anything: the nature of entrepreneurship, life philosophy, the importance of culture in our lives and much more.

You can read the full interview at: http://www.fabricegrinda.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/9e303284f06de2733b196c96ab3e3242.pdf

Great Interview with La Tribune

La Tribune just published an interview where we discuss the nature of entrepreneurship, the necessity of failing in order to succeed and my current thinking about marketplaces.

It’s a very flattering article, but what I liked best about it was how extraordinarily well written it is.

French speakers can enjoy it at: http://www.latribune.fr/blogs/la-tribune-des-expats/20150105trib2ed37484a/fabrice-grinda-l-entrepreneur-comme-homme-eclaire.html

2014 Investment Year in Review

December 31, 2014

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FIAF Pilier d’Or Acceptance Speech

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It was an honor to be awarded the Pilier d’Or by the FIAF on December 5 at the Plaza. Receiving the award was the culmination of an extraordinary year. In the FIAF’s words: “The Pilier d’Or recognizes a leading business figure, diplomat or philanthropist for outstanding contributions to the French-American community.” I was really surprised to be given the award. It’s historically been given to captains of industry. Last year’s winner was Carlos Ghosn, the CEO of Nissan-Renault. I am humbled that they chose a relatively young Internet entrepreneur.

It was a privilege to be introduced by my good friend Jeremy Levine. Jeremy is amazing. He was in the office next to mine at McKinsey and was the lead investor and board member at OLX. Beyond being brilliant, modest and an all-around great guy, he’s probably one of the most successful, if not the most successful VCs of the past 10 years.

Giving the acceptance speech made me reminisce on what it took to get there. Reading the one line version of my biography “Princeton, McKinsey, Zingy, OLX and investor in Alibaba & Brightroll” might make you think it was a long string of uninterrupted success, but far from it. My first startup failed. 12 years ago, I was essentially bankrupt, living in the office off of Ramen and fresh water. Most of my angel investments failed. Worse I witnessed the failures before the successes because it takes a lot longer to build a successful company, than to fail. Even OLX took years and multiple strategic pivots to get right. This award is as much a tribute to grit, tenacity, perseverance and good fortune as anything and I am truly grateful for how things turned out!

Watch Jeremy’s introduction and my acceptance speech:

As usual the First Round Capital parody video is amazing!

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Somehow, they keep getting better and better every year. I really would love to create something similar for our portfolio companies.

In the meantime enjoy and remember: it’s all about that burn :)
 

Fun interview on BFMTV

I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Sabrina Quagliozzi on BFMTV. In this two part interview we covered both my year in review and discussed the latest trends in the Internet startup world.

My apologies to non-French speakers.


Les stratégies d'investissement d'un Business… by BFMBUSINESS


Le coup de projecteur sur les tendances et les… by BFMBUSINESS

How Technology Could Help Fight Income Inequality

I have had the pleasure of meeting professor Tyler Cowen a few times and always left my meetings impressed by his intellect. He writes the popular economics blog: Marginal Revolution.

He just wrote a great article for the New York Times on how technology could help fight income inequality. He specifically focuses on the potential decrease in health care and education costs that automated diagnostic systems and online education could bring. He also speculates that general worker productivity could increase as computers become simpler allowing more people to work with them. China and India might also start generating new ideas particularly targeting their large number of low income individuals, thus providing new solutions for the West’s low income individuals.

In many way his article is reminiscent of my case for optimism and I find his arguments compelling and convincing. It is well worth the read: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/07/upshot/how-technology-could-help-fight-income-inequality.html

 
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2014 Holiday Gadget Gift Guide

December 3, 2014

It’s that time of the year again, so I am sharing my recommendations for all gadget lovers of the world to be happy this holiday season!

TV: Vizio E700i-B3

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4K TVs may seem like they are all the rage right now, but the reality is that they are not currently worth it. There is very little 4K content available. The Xbox One & PS4 are not powerful enough to play games in that resolution. In fact many of the 4K TVs have lower image quality than their 1080p equivalent. The 70” Vizio P702ui-B3 which sells for $2,649 has lower image quality than the Vizio M702i-B3 which sells for $1,699. Instead get a bigger TV with a great image quality. Right now on a weighted average basis of quality and size for the price nothing beats the Vizio E700i-B3. It’s a 70” LED TV that sells for $1,299 on Amazon!

If you really want to experience the future, get the LG 55EC9300. It uses OLED technology which does not require a backlight giving it deep blacks and making it extremely thin. It also has the best picture quality of any TV I have ever seen. Of course at $3,499 for a 55” TV it’s super expensive, but it’s the first reasonably affordable OLED TV and a harbinger of things to come!
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Sound Bar: Sony HT-CT770

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The Sony HT-CT770 is the perfect complement for your new TV. I always hated the messiness of sound systems which require cables and speakers everywhere. I longed for a simpler, more elegant solution. For years I tested sound bars, but found them lacking. They never matched the cinematic sound of proper sound systems. The Sony HC-CT770 has now confounded that and I can’t imagine going back!

 
Headphones: Sennheiser RS 170

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You also need the Sennheiser RS 170 wireless headphones to go along with your new sound system and your new TV. The sound quality is awesome and they allow you to watch movies or play video games without annoying your wife.

They are “closed” and thus shut out ambient noise. You can even watch a movie while others in the Read More →

Silicon Cabarete MVP

November 20, 2014

It is common knowledge that it’s unwise to fight Russia in the winter. As such, I have been trying to convince my programmers in Ukraine (and Romania) to move to Cabarete. The setting and quality of life are extraordinary in Cabarete. Besides, I would much rather fly to Cabarete for in person meetings and have everyone on New York’s time zone, rather than have to deal with a 7 hour time difference and flying 11 hours on Ukrainian Airlines several times a year.

To help sway them, I decided to build a really contemporary office center whose design is inspired by WeWork and Neuehouse, but adapted for the Caribbean and integrated in nature. The idea is not only to house the developers for my projects, but also to offer great co-working space in Cabarete open to all entrepreneurs around the world. Living in Cabarete can cost as little as $1500 per month with everything included. This is a great combination for entrepreneurs who are short on cash and want to be close to New York for potential meetings with investors and clients.

The project is called Silicon Cabarete and is part of a playground I am building at La Boca.

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Sadly things in the offline world don’t move nearly as fast as in the online world. I bought the land two years ago and am still impatiently waiting for the permits. As entrepreneurs we know that we don’t start with the final product, but rather build an MVP (minimum viable product) and launch an alpha, then beta product. I decided to do the same here and to already start the process of moving programmers here in more a humble setting.

Quite appropriately, I transformed the garage at Embocca where I am staying in Cabarete into a small open space. I already had 8 team members come visit for a few weeks.

The bottom floor in the picture below is said “garage”.

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The team seems to have had a great time and we were the most productive we’ve ever been.

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I suppose the view from the office did not hurt.

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Various locations became fun work spaces with Bagheera clearly becoming a productive member of the team.

We got to Read More →