I recently had a chance to test Modu, a small mobile phone that acts like the intelligent core of several modular mobile devices. Please take time to see the Modu link before you go on reading this because otherwise it is hard to imagine based on a text description alone. Users will be able to slip their modu into a variety of modu jackets, stylishly designed phone enclosures, or into modu mates, devices like video players, navigation systems or digital cameras.

Modu is a new approach trying to solve the eternal dilemma: should I use an all-in-one device like the iPhone or a standalone device for each feature I need? While the first is more efficient, economical and practical, best results always come from using a dedicated device. If you look for the best iPod experience, with gigs of storage, use an iPod; if you want to take great pictures, get a proper digital camera; if you need to do some serious mobile email work, get a Blackberry; and if you need navigation with turn-by-turn directions, the best solution is a proper GPS you can fit in your car. Still you can use an iPhone to do all this and more with decent results and the comfort of fitting it in your pocket.

Modu takes a different approach. The modu phone can be plugged into jackets that make it into an MP3 player, a GPS system, or a digital camera. You keep a single smart part of the system and add the physical and software interface that best fits the function it needs to accomplish. This is a very smart approach, one that convinced many investors and potential customers. Modu raised $58M in 2008 from VC funds and investors from the mobile industry and several mobile network operators have already committed to selling modu phones, including Telecom Italia, Beeline (Russia) and Cellcom (Israel).

Founder and CEO Dov Moran, inventor of the USB Flash drive, started modu in 2007 in Israel, after selling his previous company, msystems, to SanDisk in 2006 for $1.6 billion.

Thanks Pietro for your help with this article.

While print media organizations worldwide are trying to figure out how to make money online, facing declining revenues and a shrinking audience for their print editions, a startup based in Chicago is going the opposite direction, aggregating blog posts and user-generated content from the Internet and publishing it via print.

The Printed Blog, founded by Joshua Karp a few months ago, is something similar to a printed, localized Digg – the selection of content is done by readers who vote the best local news. They plan to publish hundreds of highly-localized editions based on what each community declares is important to them. The papers will be distributed to neighborhood pickup points twice a day, and will include reader comments.

This startup seems to believe there will be always space for printed media. It’s just the model that needs to change to adapt to the Web 2.0 era, bringing personalized and highly relevant news to a comfortable and familiar medium, good old paper.

While I recently cancelled all my newspaper subscriptions, a tough decision I made after I realized I get all my news online, I still think paper is the most comfortable medium to read your news (until ebook readers like Amazon’s Kindle will get better and cheaper).

The Printed Blog’s business model is the usual free newspaper model, giving out newspapers for free while making money attracting local advertisers and selling classified ads. The Printed Blog won’t have to pay for editors, thanks to a revenue sharing agreement with blog authors, but will still have to support costs for printing and distribution. We’ll see if enough advertisers will be attracted by the opportunity to address a hyper-local audience and make this innovative model profitable.

HAVANA, CUBA - JANUARY 21:  In this handout im...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Yesterday I had lunch Fernando Sulichin, a pretty successful Argentine movie producer. Here is his   filmography in IMDB. During our brunch I found out that Fernando Sulichin has made a career among other things out of producing movies based on interviews with an unusual collections of world leaders. Indeed during lunch Fernando told me that over the last year he had met with Rafael Correa, Cristina Kirchner, Evo Morales, Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro and Ahmadinejad.  In the majority of cases these meetings took place as part of interviews together with Oliver Stone and Sean Penn. As those leaders happen to be a group that I particularly dislike and as we are both Argentine Jewish you can imagine that our discussion was intense. The high point was when Fernando told me he had seen Ahmadinejad more than 10 times in his life and described him as a “humble” person. I think it is relevant to state that both Fernando and I are Jewish as many of these presidents have expressed negative opinions towards Jews, starting with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who finances two armies, Hezbollah and Hamas whose stated objective is not a home for the Palestinians which I greatly support but the destruction of the State of Israel. Moreover Ahmadinejad questions the holocaust (today is Holocaust Memorial Day), is in favour of other Islamists of women’s dilapidation and denies the existence of homosexuality in Iran.

Now I am not saying that we didn’t agree on anything with Fernando as there were many areas in which surprisingly, we thought alike. When we spoke about Bush’s 8 year government we agreed that his politics were bad for world peace and increased confrontations between anti-north American troops and the USA. We also agreed that Iran´s policies towards women and gays are repugnant. We agreed that it is true that Latin American leaders many times confront ruthless multinational corporations that have been accused of bribing. We also agreed that Israel itself was too aggressive and its invasions of Lebanon and the Gaza strip could turn out to be counter productive even for Israel´s objectives of self preservation. It is interesting that while Fernando frequently meets with enemies of Israel he does not hide the fact that he is Jewish and is in favor of the survival of the State of Israel.

But where we strongly disagreed is that Fernando truly believes that Hugo Chavez is a democrat just because he won the election. I instead insisted that democracy should be understood from the bottom up, democracy it is not just an election but the distribution of power throughout society: independent legislators, independent judges, honest mayors and governors, cities and state legislatures, freedom of the press. I was appalled when Fernando argued that the Venezuelan regime was akin to that of Norway. I was also very surprised when Fernando argued that we can be tolerant with corruption of the leaders he frequently visits as all presidents steal while in government. I said that I did not believe that Aznar or Zapatero, to name two Spanish presidents had Swiss bank accounts where they deposited the money they stole while in government while I was almost sure that his favorite global leaders did have them.

Having said all this it was a very interesting lunch and I guess the world can only be a better place if we not all agree. And in the end we were both hopeful that Obama and Hillary Clinton together are maybe able to pull off a miracle here and a new relationship develops between left wing Latin America, the Muslim World and USA.

This performance was remarkable, amazing, unique. Beardyman the famous beatboxer got together on stage with one of the world´s top violinists, Hillary Hahn. The result is in this video. Enjoy.

With no discredit to all the great tech conferences in Europe, including Le Web, SIME, MMF, Google and Zeitgeist – DLD is simply the best. DLD is fun, a perfect combination of content, networking and entertainment. You have to give credit to the Germans. They are the best organized people in Europe. And, it shows in this event where every single detail seems to be thought out – from the custom made espressi to the Mercedes 450HP that take you around everywhere you want to go. Flawless.

So here are some pictures from my conversation with Rene Oberman CEO of DT and of the Hispanic Internet Panel that I moderated (the links contain the live blogging that went on)

And here´s a simple video that I made with some moments. The end at the speaker´s lounge in which Joichi Ito, David Kirkpatrick, Mark Zuckerberg and my son Tom appear is in Spanish

Here´s a Valleywag article on Skipping Davos that I found interesting. Other years most in the DLD crowd went straight to Davos, this year some went home or headed for TED.

I am at a panel at DLD with the vague name of telling stories. There is Fernando Sulichin the Argentine film maker in a weird panel blend with my friend Loic LeMeur and Valleywag feeder Julia Allison. The first comment on this panel is that people whose life is on the Internet seem to live in a separate world from people whose life is in the movie industry even though they both tell stories. Bloggers like Loic and Julia and myself, we tell stories, and so does Fernando when he makes a movie, and so do people who write books. But the way we tell these stories is fundamentally different. When bloggers speak, people reply. When movie directors film, people watch. Fernando has a depth in talking about subjects that Loic and Julia don´t have because you can tell that Fernando has TIME in his life and Loic and Julia do not. Fernando is not on Twitter, Fernando is not checking his friends updates on Facebook, Fernando is not on Netvibes with a million blogs. Fernando´s next story is the life of Jesus as a revolutionary with Tim Robbins acting in it. I don´t even know Fernando, but I sometimes get the feeling that people who want to tell a good story, in depth, should not be on the Internet more than an hour per day.

I am at the session that discusses the migration away from paper. Michael Arrington refuses to disclose his own revenues and financial information. The Guardian says that 20% of their revenues come from online. 100 million pounds. And they are more transparent. Tyler Brule Monocle refuses to talk about revenues.

Michael Arrington says it is absurd to start a new print publication. He does not read anything in paper. Michael Arrington says the last standing newspaper will be the New York Times.

Carolyn McCall says that paper maybe not sustainable in the future cause paper is expensive and limited but so far it gives The Guardian most of the material they use for online publications. Carolyn also rightly says that the biggest problem of advertising online is an unlimited supply of inventory compared to paper.

Tyler Brule says that if the other choice to starting a new printed mag in Europe was to start a new airline. If it´s a joke it´s a good one.

Arrington says that print media has a hard time with office space and software developers competing with open source and blogging from your home but Arrington is getting sued cause he is accused of running a business from his home which in his condo is seemingly illegal. My comment: in Europe it would be the state not your condo cause you are supposed to provide certain accomodations for employees of a business that your home may not offer.

Arrington says that there´s a new breed of people who sit in between bloggers and the general public and are those who recommend blog posts on twitter, friendfeed, etc.

Yesterday Nina and I flew to Essaouira. It was great flight to pilot because we flew alongside the snowed Atlas mountains. At Essaouira, a beautiful Moroccan town in the Atlantic coast I was surprised to find out that at some point the city was 40% Jewish. Doing some research, I found these two Wikipedia articles that I link to. One is about Essaouira itself and the other is about the history of Moroccan Jews.

Modern Essaouira has a fusion French Moroccan flavor that works beautifully. There are some negatives, especially how dirty the beach is. It is surprising that with the high level of unemployment in Morocco they don´t clean the beach of plastic debris. The issue of uncollected garbage seems to have something to do with a lack of education of the people of Essaouira who throw garbage around as they walk. Interestingly, compared to my native Argentina (a country that ranks high on cleanliness), where crime is very common, Morocco seem to be mostly crime free at least as far as tourists are concerned. Coming from Latin America, I find that Morocco, and India for that matter, are a proof that poverty, inequality and unemployment do not necessarily lead to crime. In general I think that tolerance to crime or pollution are cultural issues and not clearly related to economic conditions. Morocco seems to be a country where people and places are extremely clean from the door in but that the moment you step outside, the area is seen as nobody´s property and then it is also seen as there for all to abuse. The strongest example I have seen of this is the entrance to one of the best hotels in Marrakesh, The Villa des Orangiers. The hotel exterior looks like a shanty town. The interior is one of the nicest I have ever seen.

But environmental issues aside, Essaouira is a magical place that I want to return to. The people are very nice (except when you try to take a picture of them which I still need to understand why), the food is great and the light and the landscape is unbelievable. We had a day of passing clouds and the different tones of off whites and blues made the whole experience memorable. The combination of Marrakesh, Essaouira by the sea and the Atlas Mountains makes this part of the world a must in the itinerary of the global traveler.

Nina and I arrived this afternoon in Marrakech, less than a two hour flight from Madrid. As you can see from our pictures Morocco maybe close to Spain but culturally it is pretty removed. Marrakech looks much more like Damascus, than say, Malaga which is much closer. While these days of the Gaza war have been tough for those in the conflict and also rocky in my Spanish and English blogs where a lot of disagreement took place I felt that these pictures would be a good counterpoint. And I do recommend to my readers to come to Marrakesh, especially at this time of the year, the weather is perfect, during the day it is around 18 degrees, very sunny, and there are such few tourists!

Here´s a slide show on Marrakesh

This December I finished my entrepreneurship class, which I have been teaching for 11 years at the IE Business School, and it was without a doubt the toughest one I’ve ever had to give. How am I supposed to inspire students to go out and get funding in this market if businesses like Apple and Dell, which generate cash – which have a lot of cash and profit – are seeing their shares hit rock bottom?

Dell’s situation is incredible. A business with more than 20 years of experience that has just earned $700 million this past quarter, with an invoice of $55 billion throughout the world, with no debt and, on the contrary, $10 billion in the bank, is somehow worth only $20 billion: $10 billion more than the cash it has on hand. Right now, the market is only betting against Michael Dell, whom I consider to be one of the best entrepreneurs in the world. Practically the same thing is happening to Apple: it has only $24 billion dollars in cash. If the markets don’t have faith in Steve Jobs or Michael Dell, how in the world are they going to have faith in a recent IE graduate? Right now it’s almost impossible to get anything financed, so teaching entrepreneurship is like giving ocean navigation classes… in Kansas.

Although it’s something that can be learned, that knowledge simply can’t be put to use in these conditions. But I did what I could: I tried to give them the best ideas, to tell them the anecdotes that could best inspire these future entrepreneurs. I tried to be positive, but without straying too far from reality. But it is hard, very hard, to teach entrepreneurship in the current conditions. Especially to students that dipped into their savings or went into debt in order to be able to pay for the Masters offered by IE and get started on something that is almost impossible to finance. Okay. Digg, Facebookand the Huffington Post have managed to obtain funds. Maybe it’s not impossible, but it’s much more difficult. At any rate, whoever manages to grow when there is such little water available…will become king of the desert.

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