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Category Archives: Society

Politic vs. Entrepreneurship

A thought came to my mind today thinking about the US Presidential Election this year (2016) and the French Presidential Election next year (2017):

In English

Politic: vote for ideas endlessly argued by teams in talking shops. Entrepreneurship: invest in and back teams capable to execute their ideas.

In French

Politique: voter pour des idées palabrées par des équipes. Entreprenariat: investir et soutenir dans des équipes capables d’exécuter leurs idées.

 

If only we could vote for people that are capable of acting rather than for people that appear good at talking…

Sell Driving Cars – Business Trips

One subject has monopolized my thoughts since the CES 2015: using Sell Driving Cars (“SDC”) to enhance business trips.

The energy in Vegas during the CES 2015 was truly inspiring, firstly I strongly felt that SDC were in many minds – getting closer to consumers -, and secondly I got to discuss about Business Trips in general as friends and their clients were attending the CES.

By thinking about SDC and discussing business trips logistics, I had a “ah-ha!” moment about how SDC could reshape the way business trips are done.

From the top of my head, the recent SDC announcements that should reshape habits / products / logistics / services / businesses / industries / sectors / cities, are:

  • Redefining habits for commutes and long car travels: Mercedes showing off a SDC “Living room car”, Audi travelling by SDC to the CES from SF to LV, and a Delphi SDC used from coast to coast in the US
  • Enhancing products: Tesla developing software updates Over The Air for its Model S to give it semi SDC capabilities
  • Reshaping services by developing Self Driving Cabs / Taxis: Uber getting into SDC by opening a Research Facility in Pittsburgh and hiring the former head of Google Maps
  • Revolutionizing the transport and delivery industries: Amazon pushing hard on prepping its delivery drones; SDC can deliver goods (e.g. automated pizzas delivery, drones delivery, etc…)
  • Reinventing and improving cities: The University of Michigan developing a research test facility for SDC – among others to enhance interactions with pedestrians

However, the topic that I have not read articles about is: SDC applied to Business Trips. Therefore, I thought I would take a crack at it and think aloud on this blog post.

When I discuss business trips with friends and colleagues, the recurring main question is: “How do I make sure, whatever the mean of transportation, to have mobile reception and data access to get calls and emails done while away from the office?” Therefore, I believe this is the order of preference for transportation: cab or black car > train > flight (although now most have Wi-Fi) > driving (as you are not supposed to drive and use a phone / internet device at the same time).

While getting a black car or a cab to bring you across town make sense, does it make sense to get a cab to drive you across a county or a state, where most likely the same driver will have to wait for you to bring you back to your far away point of origin? I do not believe so; actually, neither do my friends or colleagues that end up renting cars to drive to their meetings and then back home.

That back and forth driving, behind the wheel, therefore almost entirely “offline’, for 1h / 1h30+ a way, do not make much sense to me. It is very inefficient in many ways. I am very hopeful that SDC will fix that.

The most obvious inefficiencies are:

  • Aren’t employees supposed to add value while on the job? Being behind the wheel stuck in traffic jam or for a while on a high way is not adding value to the employee nor to the employer
  • Insurance wise, it can be very risky and expensive for companies if something were to happen to an employee while driving on a business trip

As soon as SDC will be a reality, I believe SDC will completely redefine business trips, potentially having employees choosing SDC over rail. Instead of ordering a black car or renting a car, employees will order a SDC that will come pick them up to drive them to their destination, close or far.

The benefits are as follows:

  • SDC are considered safer than human maneuvered cars, therefore they could lower insurance premiums
  • Employees can be on the phone or online at all times as they are not driving
  • Non-public / confidential data will not be leaked when passengers on planes or trains overhear private conversations or oversea your work on your computer / tablet or phone
  • Driving can be tiring and stressful; employees could rest and relax ahead of a long day with counterparts
  • If planning a “no need to fly” business trip, there should not be a need to use 3 different forms of transportation as when you take a cab / car service or your own car to the train station, then hop on a train, to then again at the arrival train station most likely take again a cab / car service; this twice considering the return trip – therefore with an SDC, no transportation changes, no waiting time at a train station, etc…
  • A driver does not need to be stuck waiting to drive the employee(s) back to their point of origin(s)
  • The means of transportation can be optimized (e.g. a SDC can do the first leg while another can do the return) by algorithms taking into account multi factors: fuel / battery range, demand / offer, storage needed for the business trip (bringing goods in, leaving without them), overnight stays, etc…
  • If a SDC breaks down during a business trip, say flat tire, another one could be dispatched right away if it would arrive before the flat tire would be fixed, hence saving time on the unexpected delay
  • People that do not have a driver’s license could consider business trips by themselves; the same applies to 18 to 25 year old working young adults, old enough to work yet too young to be allowed to rent a car while on a business trip
  • Employees with jobs relying heavily on transportation and driving, would not be penalized anymore at work for having their driving license suspended while driving during their private time
  • Added supervision for corporations as it will deter employees from misusing company benefits as well as it would translate into cost savings

Some concerns could be:

  • Employers could potentially track their employees every moves during business trips made by SDC, hence a loss of privacy for employees
  • Employees driving a lot for a living might almost not be scared anymore to lose their driving licenses for a while as a SDC would take care of the driving

Over the past few months if not few years, when we have read that Google X was working on SDC, we all got curious. When few months ago, news broke that Uber wants to develop SDC to no longer just get their fee of ~30% of a black car fare but the whole 100%, we all thought it does make sense for the future development of the company. Now that recent reports have put the spotlight on Apple SDC push, as they seem to have poached many engineers from Auto Makers and from battery manufacturers specialized in electric vehicles, we all got a reality check from the $700bn+ company! SDCs are posed to arrive sooner rather than later and in a big fashion, as Tech giants are all over it!

Business trips could be changed in a big way, all for the better.

 

Interesting readings:

– RE/Code “Automakers in the Driver’s Seat as Car Tech Dominates CES” (http://recode.net/2015/01/08/automakers-in-the-drivers-seat-as-car-tech-dominates-ces/)

– IEEE Spectrum “Self-driving Cars Will Be $87 Billion Market by 2030” (http://spectrum.ieee.org/cars-that-think/transportation/self-driving/self-driving-cars-market-2030)

 

 

 

US Cable Cord Cutting!

Coming from Europe, something struck me when I used to work in TMT M&A in the US: Cable Cord Cutting phenomenon in the country.
In Europe we do have Cable providers, but they are not as strong as in the US as people can get 20+ channels for free with just a roof aerial.
With the development of broadband internet, Cable Cord Cutting has been a rising in the US (as well as Netflix share price!).

Here are two interesting recent articles on the subject:
http://buzz.money.cnn.com/2013/10/29/cable-satellite-cord-cutting/
http://www.forbes.com/sites/amadoudiallo/2013/10/16/how-to-cut-the-cord-cable-tv/

When my American friends tell me about their TV experience or when I stay in the US, I hear the same thing, which South Park summarized quite well in this video:

Combining Current Technologies to Make our Pedestrian Life Better/Safer

Lets talk about health and technologies. Not Life-Science, but what new telecommunication technologies can do for our health. For sure there is a lot done by new technologies already:

This is all great, however it is not responding to some problems such as new technologies creating health problems. One example I have recently been readying about:
Serious Injuries Have Tripled Among Walkers Wearing Headphones. This study from Injury Prevention reported by the WebMD article, explains how people listening to their iPlayers, lose consciousness of their environment and can get in dangerous situations at pedestrian crossings for instance.
Most people listening to their iPlayers in a public environment, want to be in their “Bubbles”, listening to their own music, not the Gym music, not the Subway loud noises, not the side-walk loud conversations. I think the Walkman then Discman and now MP3 players have been and are great in that sense, as they allow you to listen to music and audiobooks everywhere and at any time, to get you to relax and take a break from the outside world, if you need to. 

Now going back to the study, the conclusion says “The use of headphones with handheld devices may pose a safety risk to pedestrians, especially in environments with moving vehicles”. Lets say this is only at street crossing. How could this be fixed? 

Here is what I thought about it while reading the article as I believe this problem created by a new technology (iPlayers having becoming cheaper and mainstream) can be fixed by new technologies:

 

  • It is a question of location near a pedestrian crossing. Solution would be to pause or reduce the music volume while crossing in order to 1) make the pedestrian notice there is a crossing, and 2) make the pedestrian aware it has to “step out of its Bubble” for 3 seconds while crossing. The technology already exists to make your Smartphone / iPlayer react intelligently to your environment. For instance, this can be done through Aware Wining App “Locale”. As explained by the makers on the website: “With Locale, you create situations specifying conditions under which your phone’s settings should change”.
  • It is a question of telecommunication between the Smartphone or the iPlayer and the Traffic Signal / Sign at the crossing of 2 streets / roads. The solution would come from technologies such as Wifi, Bluetooth, RFID or NFC. Technology such as NFC, “Near Field” technology, is specific to millimetres communications, therefore maybe too short. Bluetooth and Wifi might need a password or identification process. However I am sure it is possible to have a Smartphone or iPlayer scanning for Wifi or Bluetooth signals with a specific meaning, not requiring any identification, which would just be a recognition process to identify the proximity of a street / road crossing. If there was a need of identification, I am thinking EAP-SIM for Wifi for instance. The best solution would probably come from RFID and its application to highway electronic toll collection. I experienced it in Portugal at high speed. If you can do it at 120km/h (65 mph), for sure you can do something fairly similar in a street at pedestrian pace.
  • It is a question of long lasting battery as Wifi / Bluetooth / RFID communications would need to be switched on at least during the entire time while in the streets. The solution comes from manufacturers current efforts to enhance their batteries technologies. Samsung is looking at it and Motorola has came back to the market with a solution, the DROID RAZR MAXX: 3,300 mAh battery in a 8.99 mm body for 145 grams (as a reference, the infamous iPhone 4S has a 1,432mAh battery in a 9.3 mm body for 140 grams).

 

I believe software, hardware and physics concerns are not problematic in this “Serious Injuries Have Tripled Among Walkers Wearing Headphones” problem as pointed out just above. Therefore manufacturers, smartphone designers, programmers, mayors, and whomever can do something about it, just do something to save lives. 

If you don’t do it to save people lives, at least do it to save Apple customers! More than 300 millions iPods and about 170 millions iPhones sold. That’s a lot of Pedestrians and Rollerskaters!

 

Switch from iOs to Android, big commitment issue?

It has been 25 months since I switched from an HTC Kaiser on Windows Mobile 6.5 to an iPhone 3GS. At the time I was not sure about the ‘all touch screen’ keyboard and the fact that iOS is close not allowing to install what ever I would find useful.
1 week after I never looked back. 

I started to like my new iPhone 3GS pretty quickly. It is a great phone, lighter than the Kaiser, thin and easy to hold, wide touch screen, smooth UI, etc…
I did not jump on the iPhone 4 last year as I had a 24 months contract and as I thought about taking the Android path as I am a big user of all Google services: gmail for personal emails, gmail for the email account linked to this blog, shared calendars with friends, Docs, gMaps, Translate, Google Voice while I was in the US (hopefully coming soon to Europe), Local. I am looking forward to having Navigation as well (why paying for TomTom when Google does it for free?). 

Last year, neither the Nexus S or Galaxy S made me switch. I always saw the iPhone 4 better than those 2. 

Now there is a whole new game: iPhone 4S vs Samsung Galaxy S II / Google Nexus Prime. 

In my view the S II is above the 4S (it would need an entire post to explain why), while the Nexus Prime will be a beast putting the bar even higher (if GSM Arena leaks are true). I am just waiting for the 19th of October to be convinced. Google I know you can do it. 

Having said all this, this morning I kind of thought about Android: what if it feels too different from my easy to use iOS 4.2, what if even being ‘more open’ it takes me longer to get what I need done, what if I get confused with all these widget panels that are supposed to summarize the data I need from the Apps.
Then I thought about purchase decisions of the various smartphones: iOS vs. Android is like MACs vs. PCs or like… well that’s the point, nothing else. 

For most consumers thinking about switching from PCs to MACs, it has always been a problem of being used to PCs at home and at work. Switching to the Apple side is a drastic change.
Here I am now, facing the dilemma of switching from iOS to Android, fearing to be too used and dependent on iOS.
I thought about other consumption habits which would prevent to switch from one ‘platform’ to another. I don’t see any:

  • Cars: any car in any country is the same, your own habits don’t have to change. Automatic or Manual. You buy a new car or rent one, it is easy to manoeuvre, blinkers on the left, radio in the centre, etc… And it is not a question of brands despite strong oppositions: being used to a Mercedes, you’ll ride a BMW very easily. Same things with bikes, motorcycles, boats (motor or sails), etc…
  • Home Telephones: 12 keys, plus 1 red and 1 green. That’s all you need, in any country.
  • Radio / TV: looking for a radio station or a TV channel is pretty much the same from one equipment to another. Up and Down or 9 keys on the remote.
  • Lift, bus, taxi, subway: your own habits from France are going to be the same in Los Angeles or Berlin.
  • Kitchen: microwaves are the same everywhere, fridges as well, and ovens sort of the same.
  • Laundry: a washing machine, despite some being over sophisticated, are the same, fill in, powder/gel, program, on, 45 minutes, done.

 

I am pushing it strongly on some points on purpose. If you have a Sony Bravia TV and then want to switch to a Pioneer, or a Samsung washing machine to a Whirlpool, it is just a question of new specs, not habits. 

But when it comes to computers or smartphones, all of us are now divided in 2 groups. Switching from one side to the other means thinking about it soundly and changing a lots of things:

  • Interface habits such as shortcuts, layout, etc…
  • Re-buying softwares & apps
  • Change equipment and accessories

 

I might certainly get the Nexus Prime to try Android out as I always wanted. I will make my own judgments and then if I don’t like it, I’ll get an iPhone 5, which should be a major game changer given Apple’s usual product cycles.

Barcelona 2.0

I lived in Barcelona as a kid, from 1990 to 1993. I only have good memories of this period. I love the city, I love the culture, I love the people.
I lived there as my mother was transferred there for work. She asked to be transferred there because as a kid she lived there. It is a family thing.
And talking about family, my godmother is half french, half catalan, half spanish, and half andorran. Yes 4 halves, long story!
Therefore I have history there, friends as well as family.
Barcelona is that great city where I grew up, where I went back to do my Master of Science in 2006, and a fun place where to enjoy life.
However, I never saw it as a big digital media place.
Now that I spent a year in New York, I can compare the 2 cities. They are many things they have in common

  • The sea / the Ocean (only rivers in Paris / London)
  • Cheap cab rides
  • Easy access to the airport (compared to nightmare London or Paris)
  • Fast commute from 1 side of the city to the other – out of rush hours (take notes London!)
  • Bars, restaurants and lounges open late at night (Take notes again London!)
  • Fashion
  • Media
  • Savings banks
  • World top business schools (ESADE & IESE / Columbia and NYU)
  • Sport clubs dedication and rivalries (FC Barcelona vs RCD Espanyol / NY Giants vs NY Jets; NY Yankees vs NY Mets)
  • Big Telecom Media or Tech events: for instance Mobile World Congress 2012 for Barcelona, while New York has Web 2.0 Expo
  • Startup communities growing

 

And this is the point that interests me the most here, digital media startup communities. For instance, New York City has Gilt Group, Barcelona has Privalia; Barcelona has Groupalia, New York City has big offices for Google Offers, Groupon or LivingSocial. Having said that, I must state that Privalia and Groupalia are owned by the same people.
I did some researches recently, which led me to discover Nauta Capital, a Venture Capital fund as Union Square Ventures, Index Ventures, Accel Partners and so on… It is established in Barcelona and Boston. It is also an investor in Privalia and Groupalia.
The connection can also be seen on political angles: NYC Mayor Bloomberg wants to foster entrepreneurship and innovation in the city that never sleeps (read NYC Venture Connect to see events in NYC for that matter). For Barcelona, local authorities also want to help entrepreneurs to establish their new businesses in the Catalan capital, check Barcelona Net Activa.
Good reading on the Barcelona 2.0 subject:
Wired.co.uk August 2011
Old but interesting TechnoCalifornia blog post from 2009