LeWeb 2013 Interview of Arnaud Montebourg

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Loic Lemeur asked Jeff Clavier and me to react to Arnaud Montebourg’s presentation at LeWeb and ask him a few questions. I suggested France might adopt some measures that would make the economy more efficient, while preserving the French progressive social model, but I fear he misunderstood the question.

It’s a pity given that France has so much potential: a talented, creative and productive labor force, a reasonably large market, good entrepreneurs and angels. There is a real opportunity for France to take a page from the Nordic countries: capitalizing the retirement system, promoting labor market flexibility by eliminating work contracts “CDI” and moving to at will employment, eliminating the regulatory requirements for companies above 50 employees that push most small companies to want to remain small, indexing the retirement age with life expectancy, and much more. All this can be done while actively helping the needy, which France actually does not do a very good job at, especially for minorities who live in “les banlieues.”

In fact given France’s centralization it’s in a better position than most to even go a step further and take a page from Estonia to introduce online medical records for everyone and online access to homework assignments, grades, attendance records, etc. for all K-12 students.

His suggestion that innovation should only be allowed if it does not disrupt existing industries shows how unaware he is of how innovation actually works. He supports passing a law requiring preventing Uber drivers from picking up passengers less than 15 minutes after they are called. Imagine how ridiculous it would be for a car to show up within 5 minutes, and having to wait another 10 minutes before being allowed to get in. All that to protect a cosseted taxi monopoly. As he made clear, he feels the incumbents have to be protected from the innovators. The worst part is that he is sincere and means well, but as I pointed out to him: the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

At least it was fun translating for him at the end. His answer had the merit of being precise and well-constructed. Next time instead of interviewing him, I think I should be given equal time to debate him, in French to avoid misunderstandings.

Fun interview at LeWeb 2013

December 11, 2013

I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Philippe Guerrier whom I had the pleasure of knowing during the crazy Internet bubble days of the late 1990s. We talked about what I have been up to since I left OLX earlier this year.

Business Code: Ces Francais qui ont conquis New York

December 5, 2013

I had the pleasure of being followed for a few days by Business Code who decided to share my New York adventures with budding entrepreneurs in France. It also illustrates my life post The Very Big Downgrade and the activities I like to do for fun.

You can watch my section of the show below:

Good karma

December 4, 2013

I found a wallet on the floor in the Promenade des Anglais this Sunday. I was thinking of giving it to a cop, but felt the owner would not get it back in a timely and hassle-free fashion. The wallet was full: driver’s license, health insurance, credit cards, etc.

I looked the guy’s name up on Facebook but found way too many results – none of which looked like the guy. I added his city of birth, but the results did not match either. I messaged a few just in case.

I started going through his receipts, many of which were for the day of, but they did not appear all that useful. I considered calling his bank, when I realized he had a keycard for Hotel Ibis and a receipt for that hotel. I figured he might have checked out, but that they would know his contact information. I called the Hotel Ibis in Nice, but they had never heard of him. Upon further investigation, I realized there was also a Hotel Ibis at the airport. I called them and found out he was still checked in. I gave them my number and offered to drop off the wallet.

Five minutes later the guy called me and told me he was still on the Promenade. We met up, he called me his savior; and for a fleeting moment I felt like Sherlock Holmes after a successful mission :)

Office 365 Home Premium is the way to go if you are in the market for Microsoft Office

December 3, 2013

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For $99.99 per year you get the access to the full Office suite including Outlook, Publisher and Access. You get access to the latest version. You can install the software on 5 PCs or Macs and 5 mobile devices. In case you are on the road you can use Office on Demand that allows you to run Office apps on any computer with an Internet connection without needing to install the full Office suite.

This compares to $219.99 for Office Home & Business 2013 that you can only install on 1 PC, does not include Office on Demand or Publisher and Access and that you will probably want to upgrade in a few years anyway.

If you are in the market for Microsoft Office, Office 365 Home Premium is the no brainer choice.

2013 Holiday Gadget Gift Guide

November 25, 2013

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!

Video Games: Lots of Great Choices!

There are so many great games that came out this year that I am making several recommendations, organized by genre.

  • Third Person Action Adventure: Grand Theft Auto V, Tomb Raider, The Last of Us and Assassin’s Creed IV

This category was by far the best represented this year and the one I spent the most time playing. I finished Grand Theft Auto V, Tomb Raider and The Last of Us (the last two on “Hard”) and just started Assassins Creed IV. All four games are amazing in their own right and highly recommended.

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If you could only get one (which I don’t recommend), I would opt for Grand Theft Auto V. It’s the most innovative game in the genre. It has a huge, beautiful open world. You can play three independent protagonists and switch on the fly between them. It has a huge assortment of activities and the missions are exhilarating. The characters are complex and interesting (though completely psychotic) and the interplay between them is a lot of fun.

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That’s not to sell short the other games. Lara Croft’s origin story of how she went from being an unsure academic to adventurer extraordinaire is fantastic. The story is believable and Lara’s character is rich and nuanced. The setting is befitting the story and is extraordinarily rich in detail and history. The game also balances beautifully exploration with action.

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The Last of Us takes the Playstation 3 to its gorgeous limits. The story is extremely rich and shows how the downfall of civilization redefines moral boundaries. The characters are deep and interesting. The gameplay is flexible as you can often choose between stealthy or violent approaches. The atmosphere is suffocating and despairing. The story drags you in as you read letters from people who have long since disappeared, while keeping aware of how fragile your existence is given that you are always low on ammo. The ending, while controversial, is also fascinating as it is possibly the only way Joel can save the last remnants of his humanity. Read More →

If you travel internationally switch to T-Mobile

November 24, 2013

I was an AT&T Wireless customers for years. They had worse reception in New York than Verizon but significantly better global roaming agreements. Given that I spend most of the year on the road, international coverage is essential for me. AT&T also has somewhat faster LTE speeds than Verizon in the US so I could not complain.

However, despite maxing out on all international voice and data packages, my phone bill routinely exceeded $1,500 and was never below $1,000. Since I switched to T-Mobile, my bill has never exceeded $200 and is usually significantly cheaper than that.

T-Mobile’s Simple Choice plans cost $50-$70 depending on how much US data you need (500Mb for $50, 2.5Gb for $60, and unlimited for $70). You also get unlimited voice and texting in the US. More importantly on all those plans you get:

  • Unlimited international text messages
  • Unlimited international 2G data (typically Edge)
  • Voice calls for $0.20 / minute while roaming internationally
  • 500Mb of high speed data for 2 weeks for $50

This works in most countries around the world including India, Pakistan, all of Europe and the Dominican Republic. The only country I travel to that is not covered is The Bahamas.

If like me you find yourself in far-flung places T-Mobile is the way to go.

Henry Blodget’s Slides on the Future of Digital: 2013 are a must read

I have had the privilege to see Henry do his “Mary Meeker” impersonation as he effectively flies through 200 slides in less than 1 hour and it’s very impressive. He is articulate, clear and to the point.

His new report on the current trends is fantastic. In brief:

  • Half the world is online
  • Smartphone penetration is increasing rapidly globally, especially in emerging markets
  • Android is the clear platform winner
  • People are consuming media and doing transactions on multiple screens with smartphones and tablets taking share away from PCs and the web
  • The rise of mobile is helping create new opportunities, but you should be “mobile, too” rather than “mobile only”
  • TV revenues have not been displaced yet, but may be next on the list as eyeballs move to other platforms
  • Wearable and the Internet of things are the next big thing

Read all the slides at: http://www.businessinsider.com/the-future-of-digital-2013-2013-11?op=1

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Notes on the future of humanity based on Matt Ridley’s book The Rational Optimist

November 3, 2013

By Otilia Aionesei

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Humans tend to be very optimistic about their individual lives – for instance we buy lottery tickets, but we are fundamentally pessimistic about the future of the world. The sensationalist press plays a crucial role in enhancing our pessimism. Bad news simply sells more, so a conflict in the Middle East or an oil spill will more likely make the headlines than a recent development in medicine.

We often seem to forget the extraordinary achievements the human race has made in the last century. In our lifetime, food per capita and life expectancy both increased by one third, while income per capita is up three fold. Child mortality is down two thirds, and global inequality is falling at an unprecedented rate. Moreover, we live in the safest and most peaceful times in history. Torture, for example, used to be a spectators sport in Medieval Europe, but today it is unimaginable in most parts of the world.

You most likely heard of the imminent danger of running out of natural resources, forgetting that we live on a green, abundant planet, covered in water. Ridley argues that dramatic technological innovation will help us use our resources more efficiently and sustain ourselves for many generations to come. The recent developments in fracking, solar energy, and water desalinization are only a few examples.

Ridley’s Rational Optimist is a reminder of how fortunate we are. We, humans, are the only race that experiences prosperity. This happens because we are capable of engaging in exchange of ideas and specialization – the division of labor for mutual gains. Furthermore, specialization encourages innovation. Our ideas are cumulative, they come together and they mate, producing other ideas and furthering progress. Ridely beautifully calls our brains the “mating minds”. Take as an example the device you are reading this post on. It is a result of the collective intelligence of thousands of inventors, engineers, and workers from all over the world. If you are using an Apple device you can turn it over and read on its back “Designed by Apple in California. Assembled in China”. This is exactly what makes humans special, and what will sustain future progress – our unique ability to engage in the division of labor and innovate. Isaac Newton wrote in a letter to Robert Hooke once: “If I have seen a Read More →