Fon is off to a good start in 2012. Just after announcing 5 million hotspots, I am now happy to share that we have announced our first partnership this year. It is with Netia, one of Poland’s largest telcos. Together, we will create Poland’s largest WiFi community. Netia is Poland’s most innovative telco, and we couldn’t have chosen a better partner to help us spread the Fon vision in the country.

The goal is to have over 100,000 hotspots all around Poland available by spring. As always, the new hotspots together with all of Fon’s 5 million hotspots will be open to the Fon network and of course to Netia customers. It’s always good to see the Fon network open up to so many people at the same time. Poland is a big country, with almost 25 million internet users, and there is lots of potential there.

More and more, 2012 is looking like a great year for Fon. For sure, this is the first of many more partnerships to come this year.

Twitter

Twitter I use a lot, borth for reading and producing content. Twitter is like the newswire for me, like those news summaries that appear down below on CNN (or used to because I haven’t watch TV in so long). Twitter is great for breaking news.  Also for short interactions and some fun moments.  Twitter is trying to kill DM and that is bad, they should take out the 140 character limitation in DM so you can have deeper one to one discussions.  So you can combine the public with the private.  Twitter should also not count the characters of links to give you a few more characters for the occasional moments you need them.  The URL shortener war is absurd.

 Facebook

Facebook is only about friends for me, I used to have 4000 “friends” now I have around 600.  Sorry if I erased you.  But now I know almost all of them, if not in person at least virtually pretty well. Facebook is about more private things and I use “friends only” a lot. I know Facebook is dying to make money out of me showing whatever I post to anyone to get more activity and impressions. And the same is true for a lot of Facebook users.  So I battle Facebook on that and many times I lose and I am annoyed when a friend of a friend who I don’t know appears, even though they are mostly nice I should say.  In terms of politeness Facebook wins the prize. The only non private part of Facebook that I use is groups, and those work well to liaise along themes or narrow lines. What Facebook needs to come up with is a paid version like LinkedIn and show ads for those who don’t pay.  Also Facebook attempts in advertising have been clumsy so far.  Facebook thrives at connecting people but is very poor at trying to have them buy something. I would gladly pay $7 per month to give no incentive to Facebook to spy on me to sell me ads.

Google+

I use Google+ for drafts, I have an idea and I put a first draft on Google +, I then get criticisms, comments, and I improve or modify my original idea into something deeper, I do more research on my own and then I go to my blog, generally my English blog. Google+ has great ideas and a wonderful design on mobile.  I just wish more people used it as it also has no ads.

Tumblr

Tumblr (I am an investor) I use for shorter articles, I am also aware that what comes out in my Tumblr goes on Twitter as I have them linked. Tumblr is great to discover longer form and visual content. Their discovery platform is still poor but I know it will get better.  And what you find is just beautiful. Tumblr also lacks comments but that can be both a good and a bad thing. In the one hand you stay away from trolls and keep it friendly. On the other hand, the debate always ends up in Twitter and you can miss some interesting comments. And Tumblr gets some original content creators who are mostly there or just there. In Tumblr I follow photography, science, medicine. I used to use Tumblr as a form of self expression, I still do but now I love to discover what others have to say.  There is a certain level of aesthetics and professionalism in Tumblr that is missing elsewhere.

Pinterest

Pinterest I don’t get. I see it as closer to Tumblr but kind of messy. I don’t see a lot of original content producers there. It is more kind of “look at what I found Dad”. I am a father of 5 btw and I am used to this show and tell moments.  What I don’t like about Pinterest is that it is not about creating your own content.  I think it might have an utility as an archive for your personal findings on the Internet, which can be kept private. The Android apps for Pinterest don’t let you post, just look.

Path

Path I just started using it. It is very, very visual and I use it taking advantage of the camera programs in my iPhone and my Samsung Galaxy. I use it for great shots taken with phones. Shots that are the essence of the moment I am in, like a great tweet, but visual. I know you can do much more at Path, but I don’t. The people who answer me in Path I tend to know.  They are friends.  Path is actually very, very well designed.

Flickr and Picasa

Flickr I love but I have the feeling that it’s dying. Pity because there is tons of quality photography there and I am an amateur photographer. I use Flickr for the photography I do with the Leica M9 or the Canon 5D Mark II. Lately, I’ve been trying 500px and I think it’s the modern version of what Flickr should be. Their iPad app is great. Google+ photos formerly known as Picasa I use. I like the fact that many pictures go there from my Android. They also go to iPhoto from my iPhone the same way. Both systems are good for not losing pictures even though you have to erase many. I wish they would ask you if you want to update them.

Photo Apps

I love Snapseed on the iPhone and iPad.  It is simple, very well designed and you can take great pictures to post in social networks.  Instagram I use but sometimes with pictures I took with Snapseed cause otherwise all Instagrams look alike.  They do have a great community at Instagram also made of mostly nice people.

Social Video

YouTube is another beast. In the video world I prefer Vimeo. But Youtube has huge audiences that have given millions of views to my videos so I go on placing them there in spite of the horrendous, idiotic level of commentary. I have rarely seen a smart person commenting on a video on Youtube. Dante’s inferno said “lasciate ogni speranza voi che entrate” and that is today very applicable to the level of Youtube commentary. I many times just don’t let people comment on my videos in order to avoid racism and plain idiocy. Now Vimeo is another world. Vimeo is like Tumblr in video. There is amazing quality beautiful videos there.

Foursquare and Google Maps

Foursquare is so focused on the stupid game of being a mayor of your bathroom that you sometimes forget that it’s also like a Spotify for geographical locations.  It is interesting to find good curated lists of say restaurants in South Beach Miami. The lists have been enhanced in their latest updates. I use Google Maps a lot. In any case since I invested in Dopplr and Plazes I have always believed in the social value of city exploration and I know we will accomplish more in this area.  Google and Foursquare are half way there with different solutions for similar needs.

LinkedIn

Until LinkedIn invited me to write for the site I was using it little.  Fon was using it to recruit but not me personally.  Now that my posts get so much engagement there I find that with LinkedIn I can interact with the most educated audience of any site.  At least when focused on professional endeavors.

Messenger platforms

Is messenger social media? I think it is. Skype is social by nature, and I use it either in very intimate situations or non intimate at all, like job interviews. BBM I have with two of my children who are still on Blackberry and a few other people who have not given up. Whatsapp keeps me in touch with some others who are across platforms, it is uncanny how they got away with the fact that if you have somebody’s phone number you can Whatsapp without acceptance. It makes you want to get a new phone number so ghosts from the past don’t haunt you. SMS is rare for me. Google Talk and the Google + messengers I use but rarely, with an occasional friend who loves it. MSN or Yahoo I have not used for ages. Email I do use and a lot. I like the asynchronicity of it. I like Gmail, it’s brilliant.

Blogs

Blogs other than mine are also a way to be socially active, reading, leaving comments, and I do read a bunch of blogs, the best way to see what I read is still my Netvibes public page. All the RSS feeds that were kind of killed by Twitter but not totally for me. I love the way Netvibes presents all blogs in one screen for me in my MacBook or any PC. I read many professional blogs such as the Hipertextual blogs, or GigaOm.

My Spanish and English Blogs on WordPress

I try to keep a certain quality level in those blogs.  They are me so I better look good :).  I have apps for iPhone, Blackberry, to blog from other devices but I mostly blog from my MacBook and after testing the grounds on Google + or Tumblr.

Social News

In Spanish I love Meneame, in English Reddit.  Social news work for me as the wisdom of the crowds is actually a good editor and I frequently comment.

Social Music and language learning

Those and other formerly non social activities are also getting social, certainly music with Spotify which I use a lot and even language learning with Busuu.

Languages on Social Media

In my case there’s the languages issue. I write more in English because the best content on the web is in English. Spanish even though it is spoken by a great deal of people there is little new science or radical ideas coming out in Spanish. There are some, but few. I also understand French, Italian, Portuguese and Catalan. Catalan is to languages what Path is to social networks :) French is probably the other language were some original content is found. Less so in Italian and Portuguese. I am learning German, if I really spoke German I have a sense that there would be some more original content. But Germans and Northern Europeans in general have an elite who writes in English and that is great.

Gadgets and Social Media

There is another angle to all of this and that is that many social networks are gadget specific. Path is not on the web, the iPhone is great for photography. With the iPhone for example you can be in Instagram as well and I also post on Instagram. You can then post from there to Tumblr and other networks. Not to Google + which is trying to make it all with Google products (a mistake). I use the iPhone 4S, the Samsung Galaxy SII which is amazing, the new Blackberry Bold 9900 which is still the fastest small gadget in which to write and message but poor for almost everything else, the iPad which is perfect for looking at content, not so great for producing it. And then my MacBook Pro which is perfect for typing fast, for editing video, for editing photography.

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Today, I am happy to announce that the company I started just over six years ago, Fon, has just passed the important milestone of five million hotspots.

Why is this important? Because while many have tried to build a large and global WiFi network, Fon has been the only company in the world to actually achieve this. No other network even comes close to us. Fon is everywhere, even in residential locations, where no other WiFi hotspots can be found.  Brussels, Lisbon, London and Tokyo are completely covered with Fon WiFi.

We are growing so fast, that in 2011 alone we added two million new hotspots. This year, I predict that Fon will grow its number of hotspots by at least 50 percent, so there is lots of work ahead to make sure this happens.

I am proud of Fon and its large, global WiFi network. I started this company with a goal to create a truly global WiFi community, where everyone sharing a little bit of their connection gets free WiFi anywhere in the world in return.

Every day, I feel that we’re getting closer to this goal. The WiFi revolution continues.

Published in Techcrunch 

I just spent a week in NYC. What the city did vis a vis crime reduction between the 80s and 90s it did vis a vis start ups between the 00s and the 10s. It’s a whole new tech scene here. And it’s very new.

I remember when I invested in the first round of Tumblr with John Borthwick the tech scene in NYC was minimal. And that was as recently as 2007. On this trip I visited General Assembly and it was buzzing, and they are not the only nurturing grounds for entrepreneurship, there are many as well as many start ups who are making it big.  Also what has happened in the last decade is that now Brooklyn is not a lesser cousin but an integral part of NYC as well and there are a lot of start ups and tech people who live there.  It is interesting to see how Brooklyn has made it and NJ has not considering that they are both a river crossing away, but Brooklyn has a history and beauty that is tough to compete with.

Here’s a short and random list of reasons why I believe NYC is making it:

-when you leave work you have a lot to do.

-NYC is more environmental than the life in your car Silicon Valley. The ecofootprint of a New Yorker in his high rise apartment is lower than that one of a SV techie in his house in Palo Alto.

-NYC is way more than tech.

-NYC is half way between SV and Europe and SV is in theory closer to Asia but flying times are the same.

-Bloomberg, who had his own financial internet before the internet really gets it and is promoting NYC as a tech town every week, indeed this week he was at Tumblr promoting his tech friendly policies.

NYC is now a true rival to Silicon Valley and that is great news. Chicago is also happening I hear, thanks to GroupOn, not my favorite start up but still a force. And then there is London with Spotify, Badoo and many others.  Overall I think that what happened to USA in the last few decades is happening to Silicon Valley now.  SV is still number one but in relative terms shrinking in relevance. NYC, London, Berlin, TelAviv, Tokyo, Shanghai/Beijing/Taipei, Bangalore, all valid alternative places for tech start ups.

I lived in NYC for 18 years, between 1977 and 1995.  Now when I visit I realize that I owe a lot to that city, my education, my first successful ventures.  Would I move Fon to NYC? Well we decided to open our US office there and not in SV.  But for us, the engineering talent we find in Spain would be hard to replicate in NYC.  Spain as troubled as it is, is a great place in which to have your start up.  With 47% youth unemployment and many talented young people if you have a great project you can get the engineers you need for it. It is true that Spanish work ethics are not as good as the American work ethic, but people are realizing that either they truly work or the country will sink.  And the attitude is better now than a few years ago.  So while I won’t move back to NYC for now I will go more frequently.  There are too many admirable people there!

Correction, after writing this post Daniel Ek contacted me to say that NY has become so attractive for Spotify that now they have more employees in NYC than London. I also forgot to mention that large companies like Google and now Facebook have very sizable offices in NYC.

Map showing ethnic and religious diversity amo...

Image via Wikipedia

I am Jewish and I can’t understand why attacking Iran over the threat of nuclear is a great idea. It’s not that I believe what Iran says. Of course they will develop nuclear weapons, but also Pakistan has nuclear weapons. And Pakistan is a very unstable country and we live with them and their weapons. And India, a country which most of us find easier to live with, has had to live with Pakistan, their weapons and their terrorists.

Pakistan is a country ruled by people who like us but populated by people who mostly hate us, and I don’t mean hate Jews, but the whole West, India and China. Polls show that in the mid 00s most Pakistanis liked Bin Laden as a leader. And some clearly liked him enough to give him shelter for so many years. And this is a country has nuclear weapons and we tolerate it. And Israel and maybe EU and USA are planning to go to war with Iran because they may have nuclear weapons and be where Pakistan is today. Going to war with a country because it will have nuclear weapons is hardly a way to increase world security. Why didn’t USA go to war with USSR when they developed nuclear weapons? Why didnt we go to war with North Korea whose lunatic leadership is far worse than the Iranian leadership. In each of those circumstances we estimated the cost of war to be greater than the cost of preventing nuclear proliferation. North Korea for example, could already wipe out a third of South Korea with conventional artillery, in the face of that threat, we let them go nuclear. I am sure the South Koreans would prefer another neighbor, but they do what they can given the circumstances. Even after a nuclear Iran, Israel’s situation won’t be as bad as that of South Korea at war with a nation that borders it and can destroy it with conventional and nuclear weapons and threatens to do so very frequently. Plus Iran is a threat to Israel already through its proxy armies of Hezbollah and Hamas. But Syria was partners with Iran and another serious threat to Israel under the leadership of Bashar Al Assad and look at where he is now, exterminating his own people, hated by his own people. Qaddafi said there was going to be a Middle East without Israel and we ended having a Libya without Qaddafi. I think there is enough evidence that Iran is going in the same direction. Preventive warfare is flawed. It’s a doctrine that says that because you may not like war in the future you start a war now. We squandered trillions of dollars of USA and EU money with this doctrine, and precious human lives, and achieved nothing. Anyone doubts that Saddam Hussein would have survived the Arab uprisings? If we intervene we should so so to tip the balance, not to go as an invasive force trying to conquer, police and rebuild a nation for a decade. It’s wrong and we can’t afford it.

Nuclear weapons have this weirdly positive aspect to them that their utilization is so serious, so incredibly harmful, that those who have them so far in history have stayed put. It’s as if their owners developed a deep sense of nausea just about having them. The only exception in history, is of course USA, who whether we like it or not, was the only nation brutal enough to overcome their nausea and use them. Probably because nobody had used them before and the images of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not on anyone’s minds.

I think that we should all put more hope in the people of Iran. Iran is the opposite of Pakistan, a country ruled by people who hate us but populated by people who are fed up with them and like us and our lifestyle. Every protest in Iran seems to be about people who want to be free and a government who puts them down. So we should not give these freedom seeking people who almost overthrew Ahmadinejad, a real reason to hate us. And let’s remember that under attack everyone becomes a nationalist and sides with whoever is the dictator who rules the country. From a Jewish point of view, now that the Muslim world is finally focused on their problems attacking Iran would be to go for the limelight at the worse possible moment.

We should accept that this situation is ugly, confusing, tough to deal with and there no easy answers. And for Israel attacking Iran a country of 80 million people that is twice as big as France and far away is a daunting task, nothing like the Operation Babylon of 1981. Israel, USA, EU, should continue with covert operations and other tactics that are short of war, and put all sorts of pressures to show how great life would be for all if Iran stops. But at the same time we have to learn to live with our fears, accept that Iran may go nuclear, and focus on promoting a change of leadership that is more aligned with the Iranian people and our interests.

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One of the most frequent questions I get from journalists during interviews is “how do you have time to do everything you do? You run Fon, you are an active angel investor in so many companies, you teach at Columbia University, speak at conferences, run your foundation, and on top of that you have your family, your wife, 6 children, you cycle, sail, and so on. How do you do it?”

My answer generally centers around the fact how I have a great team of managers, that they are so good and reliable, that Fon has an amazing pool of talent, I also talk about how much I delegate, and that is all true.But there is another side to this question that I have not told journalists.  I have not done it because I fear sounding obnoxious, elitist, or just weird.  But this is my blog so if I don’t do it here where else?  So here’s the other answer, the more private answer of how I have managed and manage my time.-I don’t watch TV, that alone gives me 14 years more of life for doing other things! If I watch anything it’s Netflix or Youtube, that’s where I get my TV content and movies from.  I rarely go to movie theaters and watch all movies in our home theater with the family.-I am not interested in professional sports, another activity that seems to consume endless hours of many people including most of my guy friends. The Super Bowl went unnoticed. I only watch the World Cup and that is once every four years. Not watching sports, nor commenting or talking about them, is a real time saver.-I read less books than others, I just don’t have 30 hours to devote to each one of them.  I read a lot on the net, and some magazines also short stories during flights.  But just like I practice sports much more than I watch sports (I mountain bike around 8 hours a week) I write much more than I read. I read a lot in my 20s, now it’s my time to contribute to others by writing.  Yes I did read the Steve Jobs bio, or some Nick Hornby, Martin Amis recently. But reading whole books takes too much time for me to be able to do it on a daily basis. I read when I am on vacation, when I sail. That’s when reading feels great and is a real pleasure.

-Personal grooming: many top business people spend a great deal of time selecting their clothes, getting haircuts, manicures, pedicures, massages, and all sorts of time consuming personal grooming activities. I instead sometimes cut my own hair, dress simply, wear sneakers and jeans, never wear ties or suit. My wife chooses my clothes. This alone saves me 83 minutes a day according to some estimates.

-Logistics and commute (this part is only useful for entrepreneurs): I sometimes drive, but I have a driver and while I go anywhere, I work in my car. I don’t need to look for parking. This is clearly a luxury but it is a time saving luxury. Also by design my home is 10m from my office and 20m from the airport, also near my kids schools. I pick up my kids from school every day and spend the afternoon with them. When I travel,  we have homes in New York, Paris and London.  This is partly because I don’t like to pack nor check in hotels, in those homes I find all I need.  I can go in and out quickly. I also have another special luxury which is a small private jet and therefore spend much less time at airports and travel more efficiently point to point. The Citation V increases my environmental footprint but I have built a lot of wind farms to pay for my sins

-Even though my company’s name is Fon I rarely make phone calls.  I communicate over every imaginable platform, Facebook, bbm, whatsapp, Skype, Google Talk, you name it, but phone calls are for family and friends . In business  I prefer electronic media or in person meetings.

-I don’t drink. Yes this one is a shocker but I rarely drink, if anything a glass of wine with a meal. I dislike beer and liquor. Drinking is something that consumes an incredible amount of time in the lives of other people and renders them useless for a lot of other activities for a significant percentage of their lives. Not drinking has put me in difficult positions doing business, especially in Japan.  Same with drugs, I tried many, but didn’t like any.  Cigarettes, cigars, I don’t like any drugs. Being sober at nights, on weekends, already puts me ahead of most of the population in terms of productivity.

-I rarely do business lunches and dinners and spend most meals with family and friends who I really care about. Business meetings are at the office and in the morning. I work from 9 to 2. Afternoons are for family and sports. Evenings for family and friends. My  business meetings instead are invariably short. I am always online and work online. But I don’t like to be at the office just for being at the office. When I am at Fon, my door is open and people can walk in for short meetings.  People at Fon know that I treasure my time, but they also know that I am there every time when I am really needed. Of course I do show up for emergencies, road shows or those moments of the year when I am needed all day. But that is an exception not a rule like with anyone else who does spend their afternoons at the office. Being CEO allows me that benefit. If I was anything else I would have to be at the office all day.

-I am punctual and have little patience for those who aren’t.  I don’t make others wait, I don’t wait for others. The word must have gotten around on this because we all tend to be on time. I don’t waste time waiting.

-I make social media work for me, sometimes people say, how do you get work done if you spend so much time on social media, but I use social media to take notes, like I have an idea for a business and I blog it, I share it, I work collectively with people, social media looks like a waste of time for others but it saves me time, I recruit on twitter, I brainstorm on Google+ or my blog, I work inside social media, get ideas, its a sanity check many times, crowdsourcing saves me time. When tweeting I use Tweetdeck to time my tweets so they appear at different times of the day when I am doing other things. This allows me to tweet across time zones although sometimes it angers people when they think I don’t answer and I am asleep. I also developed an Android app to listen to my social media on my bike. It’s called Radiome and it reads your social media while it plays music, it’s perfect for my bike.

-Against what many think I sleep and I sleep well, 8 hours or so. Sleeping is an important time of the day. I sleep much better with my wife than alone when I travel without her. Lately I sleep with our 5 month old baby and I still manage to sleep reasonably well because we are lucky enough to have a baby who sleeps 11 hours almost every night. She sleeps much better than my older kids and I think it’s because we adopted co sleeping.

-I go to a couple of conferences a month. What I like about conferences is sometimes the content, like at TED, but mostly the fact that I get to see a lot of people all at once there. Many think conferences are a waste of time. I find them a very efficient way to have a lot of in person meetings in the same place.

-I say no to a lot of formal invitations, events, dinners and business meetings. I see time as sailors see wind or photographers see light, as something to use, manage and shape, not as something to be a victim of, or to see go by. I rather stay at home with my wife and kids than go to some useless business meeting.

-I take a lot of vacations. Around 10 weeks a year of vacation. But only one week in which I am truly disconnected and on vacation. My other 9 weeks of vacation are devoted to family, friends, sports and meditation. Meditation in the sense of thinking deeply about some problem that I am trying to solve. Like my best ideas for work I have while on vacation. Maybe because I think my work is a vacation. Because I love what I do. This is something I can do because I am an entrepreneur, because entrepreneurs get paid for their ideas, not for their time.

And yes, I do have a great team of people who work for me and help me out and I am very, very thankful for what they do.

Flipboard makes social media look better, more visual, perfect for the iPad.  Now there are two things that I would like to see in Flipboard.  One is a blended Flipboard, a Flipboard that shows you the best from all your social media.  In my Flipboard I have Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Flickr.  I would like to be able to see a blend of all those services and not them one by one. Algorithms could decide what is the most popular pictures, news, commentary that I may want to read.  Also from Google+ once they have an API. But the other idea, which is more interesting is to turn Flipboard around and make it a product for other people.  Like I publish my Flipboard for others to see and what others then see is my production accross social media, what I put on Facebook that is public, plus my tweets, plus my Instagrams, Flickr, Tumblr, all that I publish in one place for others to see.  So instead of having to follow me on Twitter, on Facebook, Tumblr, etc I would just say follow me on Flipboard.

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