Yesterday I spent three and a half hours brainstorming on how to turn Spain around with presidential candidate Alfredo Rubalcaba. He understands that the answer to unemployment is entrepreneurship. I appreciated that he listened carefully to my ideas for increasing employment. Spain has the highest unemployment rates of all OECD nations (20%) and this problem was the focus of our meeting.
Spanish citizens have 3 choices this November. To go with Rajoy, to go with Rubalcaba, or to vote for lesser parties and hope one day they become meaningful actors in Spanish politics. What I decided to do is to promote one simple and I believe powerful idea to grow employment to both Rajoy and Rubalcaba. I started with Rubalcaba today, the candidates with less chances to win. The plan is that during 2012 the Spanish government does not demand that companies pay social charges for all employees hired beyond the level of employment they had in 2011. It is an incentive to grow employment, to promote new and increased hiring only for 2012. It’s a jump start for the economy. The idea is explained in Spanish below. I believe this measure will make the difference that may make entrepreneurs start businesses and grow existing businesses. Rubalcaba reacted well to it and said his economists would study it.
I know most Spaniards believe there is no hope that Rubalcaba will get us out of the crisis. Most Spaniards however also believe that there is little hope that his rival Rajoy will get us out of the crisis. But personally I believe that there’s nothing that is so wrong with Spain that cannot be fixed by what is right in Spain. I am more optimistic than most.
On Rubalcaba himself I can say, after having met Felipe Gonzalez, Aznar, Zapatero, Rajoy and him, that he is different from the other politicians. He is the only one trained as a scientist and educator. He is more of an administrator and thinker. He is a Chemistry professor and it shows. Would I wish Spain had other choices for President? Of course I would. I recently met with embattled David Cameron and in spite of his dubious choice of friends and poor handling of the riots he is a more impressive global leader. I never met Angela Merkel but I got a sense from what I see about her that Rubalcaba is more like her in terms of personality. But a government is not just a president, it’s a president and a team. And even though I find Rajoy an unimpressive candidate I could still end up favoring if he announces a better team than Rubalcaba before the election.
Now Rubalcaba speaks English and that is more than can be said about anyone else who’s run this country. In the end a President has to be the number one promoter of the country. Both Rajoy and Rubalcaba are Spanish characters not particularly appealing to foreign leaders or investors. None of them are like Jordi Pujol for example who was amazing at promoting Catalunya around the world. But between the two, Rubalcaba is slightly better as he can communicate without an interpreter and is more aware of what makes a country succeed in a globalized world. Rubalcaba seems a pragmatist, a person willing to try and fail hoping to get policies right in the end. I identify with that. People expect politicians to get things right but if in business being successful involves being right only slightly more frequently than being wrong I don’t see why decision making should be different in politics. In general when I confronted Rubalcaba with obvious mistakes of the Socialist Party, like the Ley Sinde, he did not try to defend the indefensible. Indeed he agreed to my proposal of bringing some of the tech entrepreneurs who were heavily involved in the 15M movement that brought millions out to the street protesting against the incompetence of all politicians himself included. In that sense he is very different from dogmatic Aznar who still thinks that invading Iraq was a great plan.
What really and concretely happened to this country is that it went from building 800K new homes a year to building 100K and around 12% of the labor force ended up unemployed. That explains 80% of what is wrong here. The rest of the industries were hurt in this crisis but not as badly as the construction industry. Spain can be turned around if we focus on growing the rest of the economy. So far what happened here is that the growth of Spain was fake, based on increasing debt and not sustainable sectors of the economy. My plan promotes employment in whatever sector may end up hiring without having government try to guess exactly how to grow the economy.
I am happy that Rubalcaba said he would have an economist specialized in tax revenues study my plan. Common sense tells me that my plan is a net revenue generator for the government from day one. Why?
Because it only applies to new employees and only on businesses that increase their work force compared to 2011.
Because there is a pool of 5 million unemployed and net job increases must come to a great percentage from this pool.
Because government stops paying the unemployed the moment they join a business and this produces immediate savings.
Because even if the government does not immediately get social charges they will get social charges over time and anyone making financial projections on tax revenue collections will have this into account. As a result rating agencies will see positive trends on tax collections and ratings will improve, this will lower the cost of borrowing for Spain. Shirking the debt premium produces enormous savings.
Because as soon as somebody is employed this person starts consuming and pay VAT and all sort of consumption taxes, gasoline etc that help tax revenues.
Because my plan provides an opportunity for the millions in Spain who work illegally to negotiate a transition to legality that will cost nothing to the employer during the first year and some will emerge from the underground economy in a way similar to a tax amnesty. It is an attack on the underground economy based on incentives that could be more successful than the failed Socialist Party plan based on increased fines that was put in place.
Now one way in which this plan would cost the government money is if ONLY those employers who were going to hire anyway hire, nobody else is attracted by the incentive and then the government loses 2 and a half years of social charges and some severance packages. But from an informal survey to my entrepreneur friends and the question, would you start a business or grow a business further if during 2012 you don’t have to pay social charges and if the business fails you don’t have to pay severance packages the answer from everyone was a resounding yes.
Note: if you feel that this article lacks content you are right While with Rubalcaba I agreed not to disclose a lot of the ideas that were part of the brainstorming.
Talking to my friend, a military expert, I learned that fighters with real pilots will be rare in the future. That most air battles will be fought with drones. So instead of “the best pilots”, in the future what the air force will need, is amazing video game players to guide drones. Indeed use of drones is already common in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq. Now what surprised me was to find out that drone operators are suffering from more war stress syndrome than real pilots, a lot of it is from the thought of killing innocent people. As bad as it sounds I think this is good news. It shows humanity in them. I think that pilots are stressed enough but when they kill they are also at risk, so maybe they have less remorse. Pilots are like toreros, they have the upper hand, but they can also die. Drone operators are like toreros outside the arena. They just zap the bull.
Personally I don’t share other people’s fascination with high tech war. I know there are bad people out there, Osama Bin Laden and others who want us dead and if they could they would nuke us. But I also know that in the last 10 years we have lost the moral high ground that we had after 9-11, we have committed a lot of atrocities, and if anything there are more terrorists now than there were 10 years ago. And as excited as some people may be with drones I think they make us in USA and EU look like terrorists. Moreover we armed Osama with Sting missiles and we suffer for it. These drones will sooner or later be used by Hamas, Hezbollah, and war will escalate much further.
- In Pakistan, drone strike kills 4 (cnn.com)
- Drone strike kills six in Pakistan (cnn.com)
- Deadly robots in the sky (theglobeandmail.com)
At Fon, we are currently designing the retail box of the new Fonera SIMPL. We already sold over 1 million of these wifi routers wholesale to mobile operators. We will soon go retail with this product in Europe and the USA.
Now what we would like to do is to illustrate one side of the box with a comic strip that explains what Fon is in something like 6 squares and in English. We are offering a €300 appreciation prize to the fonero who draws the comic strip that makes it to the box.
So what is Fon? It’s in our web site. Some say, “you share a little WiFi at home and you roam the world for free”. Basically, a Fonera SIMPL is an 802.11n router (connects faster and farther than wireless g) that allows users to connect to WiFi themselves via an encrypted and secure SSID (WiFi signal), but that also has the unique capability to create a second FON SSID that allows people who live nearby or pass by your home to connect to your router and use a small portion of your bandwidth. In exchange for opening a second SSID, you get two major benefits, one is free global WiFi roaming at well over a million hotspots around the world, and the second is that you can make money selling WiFi passes in the Fon network to those who do not have a Fonera (fon router), and therefore do not share their home WiFi, and so have to pay to connect when they find your signal. You keep half of the money and Fon keeps half. Notice that you are selling access to the whole network not just to your router. Another benefit of the Fonera SIMPL is that it auto-connects to iPhone and Android smartphones.
Ideas? Somebody suggested a comic strip telling the story of a lonely WiFi user who had no friends with his conventional WiFi router until he got a Fonera router and then had lots of friends and traveled the world connecting for free. Somebody else added that now he has money and travels the world (clearly a joke as very few make the kind of money you would need for a trip, though many do make enough to subsidize the cost of their broadband). We are open to any ideas that describe the benefits of Fon in a comic strip. Please send your proposals to email@example.com.
update: we already have one that we are likely to use.
I have spent the last two days showing the Fonera 2.0n to key opinion makers in the Valley and with a few exceptions I found a clear generational divide. To people over 40, my contemporaries, the key feature of the new Fonera, namely its ability to upload and download is mostly uninteresting. Older people seem to send and receive few large files from the Internet. People in their 20s however want one. They spend an incredible amount of time uploading to YouTube, Facebook, and to some extent Flickr and Picasa. More important they spend and even greater amount of time downloading from Bit Torrent sites, Megaupload, Rapidshare and they know what it is to wait and wait for content to download. For older people the only feature that they find interesting is converting 3G to WiFi (some spoke about using it for the kids in the van) and backing up their files. For many of them the feature that we are working on that will allow you to ask your computer to download torrents via Twitter and to be notified when they are done, was irrelevant. Because of my age, I should be on the group that finds the Fonera uninteresting. But I live in a country, Spain, in which we pay a tax on hard drives and digital memories of all kinds and then we are allowed to download whatever we want for personal use. Moreover I also download paid and free content. And as you can see in this blog, especially in the Spanish version, I also upload. There are tons of videos that I send to YouTube. As I switch to HD, at 100MB per minute of video content trying to reach Youtube, the waiting during uploading is exasperating. Instead with the Fonera 2.0n I send the video over WiFi to the Fonera 2.0n and go to work, in a few hours it is in Youtube.
So just like I had the idea for while Fon searching for WiFi in Paris in late ’05, I got the idea for the Fonera 2.0n a year later while trying to free up my laptop from doing tedious tasks that required me to wait at home such as uploading and downloading. In general I would say that I design products that I like to use. And thanks to the amazing team of developers we have at Fon, they happen. But from what I have seen my products are unfortunately not for my generation. Still so long as there are people who are willing to buy them why should I care if they are not in their 40s?
Last night at the Village Pub in Silicon Valley (Woodside, CA), we launched the Fonera 2.0n WiFi router – available for sale in Europe (€79) on September 15th and in the US ($99) on October 15th. The Fonera 2.0n is similar to the Fonera 2.0g but has a much more powerful processor and is built around the 802.11n standard which means that it has greater range, bandwidth and speed than its predecessor. The launch was attended by 30 of the most important bloggers, Twitterers and news organizations in the world, including The New York Times and The Economist.
Thanks to Loic Le Meur and Geraldine who organised a great event.
Here is the full press release.
A few pictures below. You can also see nice pics of the dinner @briansolis
Martin Varsavsky + Nina Wiegand – FON
Loic Le Meur + Geraldine Le Meur – Seesmic
Bernardo Hernandez – Google
Michael Arrington – TechCrunch
Seth Sternberg – Meebo
Gabe Rivera – TechMeme
Dave McLure – Founders Fund
Jeremiah Owyang – Forrester
Brian Solis – Future Works
Joanna Rees – VSPCapital + John Hamm
Ariel Pohler – Textmarks
Jeff Clavier – SoftTechVC + Babette Clavier
Dave Morin – Facebook
Brittany Bohnet – Google
Randi Zuckerberg – Facebook
Louis Gray – louisgray.com
Jack Dorsey – Twitter
Jennifer Leggio – ZDNet
Robert Scoble – RackSpace
Erik Lammerding – Apple
Paul Boutin – New York Times
Troy Wolverton – San Jose Mercury News
Martin Giles – The Economist
ijustine – Twitter star
@veronica – another Twitter star
It is unacceptable to go on sending planes over the ocean without position trackers, real time weather information, ground based support and no satellite phones. It is wrong that in emergency situations pilots can only communicate with, say, Cape Verde control and not with their own airline, or even plane makers such as Boeing or Airbus. It is absurd that we don’t know where planes are when they fly over the ocean and even when they are on the ground we only know it within a few miles range but not exactly where they are because radars are