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.


The new strategy of the tech giants in USA is to make a living of what is unique about your company and give the competitor’s key product away for free.

Google does this to Microsoft with Office, Amazon does this to Netflix with free movies for prime customers, Google does this to Facebook with Google+ which surprisingly has no ads, Google does this to Apple with Android, Google does this to Microsoft/Skype with Google Talk, Amazon does not give the Kindle Fire for free but it is going after Apple with iPad at a huge discount. Now one of the reason’s Apple continues to be the most valuable company in the world is that they don’t give anything away for free!

I belong to the tech world. But also to the real world. And the disconnect has never been greater. The tech world is one piece of good news after another. The real world is falling apart. Especially in Southern Europe where I live. But even in NYC where I am now the talk is of gloom and doom.

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.

CUPERTINO, CA - OCTOBER 20: Two new MacBook Ai...
Image by Getty Images via @daylife

You can connect Apple TV to your TV and it’s pretty good. It only costs $99 and you get iTunes, Youtube, Netflix (North America only). But if you live in Europe I find it best to connect a MacMini to your projector TV or large display and add a VPN service like Witopia so you can surf as if you are in USA and get Hulu, Pandora. There are instances when the opposite is true. When you want to Spotify for example it is best to appear in Europe. In any case once you have a MacMini connected to a large display you have the keyboard problem. You can use a long wire to cover the distance that people need to seat away from a large display, say 3 meters (sorry I hate inches feet). But a 3 meter cable is ugly and inconvenient. You can also get a Bluetooth keyboard but then you have another problem and that is that large displays work great to watch movies, TV but poorly to type or surf because the print is too small from the right movie viewing distance. So there are two solutions. One is to use an iPhone app call Remote which is great but you will still have the problem of not seeing the small print from Movie viewing distance. The other one, the one I use, is to use screen sharing. Here’s a tutorial on how to use it.

The biggest advantage to use Screen Sharing in a MacBook air is that you can have BOTH a surfing experience and a movie watching experience. You surf on your laptop but you look at Netflix or any movie platform on the large display.

If Apple TV had a keyboard I could go for it. But I find the way in which you need to input information in Apple TV horribly annoying so the MacBook Air (or any mac laptop) plus MacMini connected to your TV is the best solution.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Wifi rocks. When you are within reach nothing beats Wifi. Wimax is not around the corner, it will take years to develop, and if and when it comes it will need a new generation of devices to go along with it. And that is years away as most devices now are going Wifi. The Wifi iPod is around the corner, Wifi digital cameras as well, Playstations with Wifi are all the rage, PDA´s are mostly Wifi enabled now and so are all laptops. Now the paradox about Wifi is that every operator who has tried to build a Wifi network has failed miserably. Nobody seems to have the funds to create a Wifi national network. So coverage is uneven, and that´s the only thing that´s wrong with Wifi. How can we create a Wifi nation? That is the challenge.


Monopolies in the South Pacific

Published by MartinVarsavsky.net in General with Comments Off on Monopolies in the South Pacific

I am in the South Pacific. I have been here for two weeks. I was in New Caledonia, now I am in French Polynesia. I also think this is the longest time I have been without internet, without using a computer, without writing e mails or surfing since 1994.

New Caledonia and Tahiti belong to France, they are French Territories, to use their terminology, Territoires de Autre Mer. And in many respects they are like France, their GDP per capita is like that of France, their cars are like those of France, their bread is fortunately like that of France, but there´s however one susbtantial difference that accounts for the fact that there´s practically no internet access here and that is that France is in the European Union and the European Union forced France Telecom to compete while in New Caledonia and Tahiti there´s no competition in telecoms, and it shows. Monopoly telecom services are incredibly poor. I should know. I built Viatel to fight monopolies and being here only makes me happier that I did so. In a monopoly world mobile phone services are pathetic. In New Caledonia there was no roaming for Vodafone and even after I acquired a local sim card I found that there was no GPRR service and that sms worked received mode only (my replies appeared as sent but never arrived at their destination). In Tahiti things were only slightly better. My Vodafone Blackberry worked, but only as a GSM phone, no e mail. I could send and receive hugely expensive sms. Surprisingly when I bought a local VINI (name of the local operator number here) phone number to try it out, I could again only receive and not send international sms. And as far as the internet goes, things are awful over here.

In the French territories you can fly modern planes, you can rent boats, helicopters, drive the

Text is the technology of the past. There has to be a better way to communicate an idea than grouping a bunch of letters and words next to each other. It occurred to me that maybe it’s possible to attack one side of the problem, either just the writing side or just the reading side.
Read More

Watching TV makes you smarter, argues Steven Johnson in this article in the New York Time Magazine.
Read More

Español / English

Subscribe to e-mail bulletin:
Recent Tweets