Tag: Spain

10 Questions the Government should be Asking Itself in the 21st Century

 

“Are we prepared to face the new technology that’s springing up?”

We all know that most government thinking is relatively “short-term”. They know that their legislation may only last for four years, and instead of wanting to lay the foundation toward building a great country, they aim for the highest number of ribbons and gold stars with their eyes on reelection.

The big question remains: What is the real role of a government? The obvious answer would be “to run the country in the best possible way to assure that the majority of its citizens have the highest quality of life possible”.

A good leader should really have this keyword etched in stone: “anticipate”. The majority of the problems in Spain nowadays have stemmed from a lack of foresight, of vision, or worse yet, a lack of knowledge. It’s what in the past we used to simply call “having no idea”.

So, what’s done is done. We weren’t able to anticipate the housing bubble, we have been blind to the cracks in the banking sector, the corruption, academic failure, pollution, evictions, and the list goes on. Yet here and now, in 2016, is there really not a single person from any of the political parties that’s seeing the incredible technological change that is taking place? Are we really the few and far between that realize what’s steadily approaching?

Politicians are so blind that they can’t see that within 15 years our society won’t look anything like the model that we know today. Don’t they see the evolution of robotics, of communication, of e-business, of biotech?

They don’t ask themselves how these changes will influence businesses, taxes, culture, or the longevity of citizens. The solution to the problems that we will have in 15 years must be thought out now, not in 15 years. Anticipation and foresight helps us avoid drastic consequences. Of course, not just anybody can simply foresee what will happen in 15 years.

Aside from tackling the current problems in Spain created in years past (the deficit, unemployment, pensions, etc.), here i will also present 10 little questions that the next president of our government should really ask himself.

1. Technology Dependence

How dependent on technology are we? And I’m especially referring to the technologies that the majority of Spanish citizens use and that could grow over the course of the next few years: telecommunications, energy systems, robotics, Internet, etc.

Technology dependence is indicative of the type of country that we will be in the upcoming years, something incredibly important when digital information and digital businesses completely dominate the social landscape.

2. Training

Are we really training our youth to be innovators and to be able to develop business models based around technology? Training is key, and programming and technology competence and knowledge really must be compulsory subjects in school.

3. Our GDP

In the next few years will we be capable of generating at least 15% of our GDP in digital form or based on technology-based businesses? We will be capable of innovating and exporting new business models to instil an image of a “digital” Spain?

4. Taxes

If technology is allowing business to reside wherever they want from a taxation point of view and they can develop their businesses globally, how are we going to stop a few companies from monopolizing certain services in our country while paying taxes somewhere else?

5. Pensions

The tendency in biotechnology is to help us live longer, and it’s no joke. Quite the opposite, the reality could be that in 10-15 years we have the ability to live to be 120 or 130 years old. How is this going to influence our current pension model? What must we do now to compensate for new demographic map that’s going to be created in the next 15 years?

6. Employment

What type of employment will be needed in 15 years? How will we compensate for the automation of certain jobs? You don’t have to be a genius to realize that the profiles of workers are changing. Not only are more tech-laden backgrounds more demanded, but we must also keep in mind that robots will be replacing workers in many cases. A robot doesn’t get sick, doesn’t take vacation, it has a clear price tag and profitability margin for the company and ends up being much cheaper than a human. Anybody who thinks this is science fiction needs a reality check. Robotics is about to take off in many sectors outside of the typical industry, retail, warehouses, and homes.

If we add up the unemployment that will be produced by this to the growth of the population and its longevity we end up with a substantial problem to deal with.

7. Climate Change

How will climate change influence our society and our economy? It’s a huge problem, yet we continue to bury our head in the ground like an ostrich to avoid seeing the true seriousness of the problem and the catastrophic consequences that will be brought about. Think climate refugees, water shortages, agricultural planning, and more.

8. Commerce

How will ecommerce influence our consumer model and our SMEs? Ecommerce still only accounts for a relatively small percentage of our consumer volume, but its growth means that in 15 years it will be a much bigger piece of the pie in terms of our purchasing models.

One of the clearest examples of the evolution of ecommerce has taken place in China and how they have changed their consumer models in the past 5 years. In Spain we don’t have an Amazon, we don’t have a Taobao, and not even a Zalando. There are no ecommerce giants in Spain planning for themselves. Zara could be one, but it is too specialized in only one sector. I hope that El Corte Inglés is realizing that their future could be robotizing 40% of the staff at their points of sale and becoming an ecommerce giant in Spain.

9. Banking

What consequences will digital banking bring about? The digitalization of banking services has its pros and cons. On the plus side, there will be reduced costs for the banks since clients themselves will be able carry out a large portion of banking services themselves.

So far so good, but how will we avoid giants like Amazon, Google, or Facebook from entering into the digital banking scene? For younger people, Google is a thousand times more well known, robust, and trustworthy than BBVA. I am completely convinced that if Google decided to offer a basic service for personal money management tomorrow, thousands of young adults would line up to keep their savings with Google instead of with a Spanish bank.

10. Energy

What influence will the changes to our energy models that are being developed have? It’s clear that oil is not the option of the future, but not because we don’t have it. Rather, it’s the pollution and contamination. If electric energy is going to be our main source, what kind of demand will there be in 15 years? Are electric companies planning for this future demand and are they making the right investments and creating the necessary solutions?

I understand that it is no easy task. My personal advice to the future president of Spain would be to keep an open mind and to surround him or herself with knowledgeable people who have an eye on the future. They must let money and private investment flow into technology innovation and into business and production models. Real, aggressive, and simple tax incentives must be offered to investors that want to invest in technology in Spain. Innovation should become one of the four main pillars of the country. We must design a country thinking about the future that is to come and not only about our present situation.

Our children should not suffer the consequences of us not thinking about their future.

The Future of Politics and Social Networks

 

“The challenge is using geolocation for a more targeted effect.”

One of the things that was left quite clear after these most recent local elections was that knowing how leverage the power of social networks means capturing more votes.

Newspapers and TV used to be the top dogs in terms of social influence; the so-called fourth estate could completely change the political climate, but that is changing. The Internet has not only connected all of its users, but it has also provided ways to directly influence said users, and even more so, in a very personal and individual way. This has led to a new model of understanding just how to present oneself and what they want to sell or do.

Although the press and TV continue to be quite powerful, platforms like Facebook and Twitter can both sink one’s political image or launch them into stardom since both methods of social influence, digital and traditional, feed off of each other. However, we must understand the concept of virality and social influence as a double edged sword, especially with platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

How to target the message?

Let’s call this new technique for social influence digital social influence (DSI) to be able to focus on the social influence achieved by these digital means. I believe the user profile is very different in regards to DSI than with traditional forms of social influence. DSI is faster, more agile, and above all, more volatile. Users are influenced by social media to be more active web consumers.

Current social networks have become so global that when you write something or intend for a message to go viral, you have almost no control over who it will reach. Being able to isolate the information you send to a specific group of people is quite complex because you are limiting the number of followers or the number of users that would help viralize the message. With current social networks, it would be quite difficult for a political party to create a specifically targeted campaign by controlling the message they wanted to transmit depending on where the audience was located.

How can one single message have an influential effect on Madrid’s Salamanca neighborhood while simultaneously having a different message for a working-class neighborhood in Huelva using digital media? This may be facilitated in politics since each town typically has its own representative from each party who can locally target the exact message they wish to transmit. Yet, without a doubt, there is a great challenge in using a digital system to deliver news and information in a much more localized way.

Localization is the future

Facebook and Twitter enable each political party to create pages representing each town or each representative in regards to the municipality they are trying to reach, but they cannot assure that the party’s followers or readers are from that specific area that they are trying to influence.

The ideal situation for a political party would be the ability to know the needs of each neighborhood and each district, the ability to send a message to each resident of each neighborhood with personalized proposals based on their own needs. The only way to be able to do something to this regard is by using smartphones and geolocating each user to know exactly which neighborhood they are located in.

Digital social influence is a complex topic that will continue to evolve with the new technologies and the new digital marketing techniques that come along with them. We have to accept the fact that more and more, digital social influence helps us to sell as a business, or to triumph as a leader. Personally, I believe that geolocation-based localization is the future of DSI.

An ambitious project

Being aware of that fact, our incubator is about to launch a pilot project that operates by geolocating news and information with the end goal of having a means of targeted social influence capable of functioning at the neighborhood level, by postal code or even by street, throughout the whole world. This will enable us to send localized information and news to any neighborhood in any city on the globe.

I’ve always believed that the information you find most interesting is that which happens near you, in your city, to your neighbors, about your job and your company. Mapping that information and geolocating the news allows us to better understand each neighborhood, and of course, gives us a direct, locally targeted channel through which to reach those residents. I am convinced that this project will evolve into an excellent platform for delivering any and all information that a town or residential area might be interested in and, in doing so, offer very valuable information to each user.

Our pilot program will take shape in Madrid and if we see positive results it will expand into the rest of Spain and Latin America. We aim to be the first Spanish-born social media network capable of reaching and having an impact in many countries throughout the world. It is an ambitious project, and a gradual process, since we must grow neighborhood by neighborhood, but one that we feel is both necessary and useful.

Ciudadanos’ Silicon Valley – Can we convert Spain into a Startup Nation?

 

One of the star proposals from Ciudadanos, one of Spain’s prominent political parties, in order to revamp Spain’s production model is to convert the country into the Silicon Valley of Europe. Personally, and based on my experience, I believe it’s one of the best paths to changing the situation of this country. That said, I also believe that saying it is one thing, and that doing it is quite another. And, moreover, if it can be done with only a piece of legislation.

At least there is a political party putting a change of course on the table, since the reality of technology is creating two types of countries: those that adapt, and those that don’t. We often hear talks about the importance of innovation in our country from the majority of the political parties, but I fear that they all fall quite short when it comes to understanding the real significance of innovation.

With things being the way they are, I would like to look at some pros and cons that the measures Ciudadanos is thinking about taking would entail, in the case that they are not done well or if certain socio-economic aspects of Spain are not taken into account. The first thing we must analyze is what kind of raw material we are working with in Spain.

In fact, I keep hearing about how amazingly prepared and educated our university graduates are, about the boom in entrepreneurship, and about the talent being wasted. Yet I don’t completely agree with that because running a technological incubator, I can tell you that as much as I want to, it’s not easy to find professionals that measure up. In Spain, it is truly difficult to find good people, possibly because many of them leave the country for better opportunities. It’s not like you whistle and 100 educated, qualified, and dedicated engineers come running.

A change in mentality

The first step is creating excitement. The reality is that we are a country focused more on the likes of TV personality Belén Esteban and football player Cristiano Ronaldo than on Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs, a reality that we must accept if we want to have some influence on the next generation. Our successful entrepreneurs are more well-known and highly valued outside of our country than within it. Here they are not rock stars or celebrities going on TV programs, yet this is exactly how we need to be seeing and valuing these young entrepreneurs. This is the first seed to be planted in order for innovation, creativity, entrepreneurship, and technology-related businesses to prosper in Spain.

A clear example of the social influence we are seeing is how cooks have turned into chefs in Spain. Some 20 years ago being a cook was not exactly a dream job and few aspired to have a future in the kitchen. However, famous Spanish chefs like Ferran Adriá, Joan Roca, Martín Berasategui, and plenty more have figured out how to lay the foundation to changing the concept of a cook and to bring that concept beyond the traditional views. Nowadays, there is real business created in the kitchen and with these chefs.

The youth look to take after their icons, and if we really want them to become successful entrepreneurs, we need to show them truly successful entrepreneurs to serve as their guides.

The second step is training. Universities themselves should be the breeding ground for our entrepreneurs, promoting competitiveness among students, stimulating excellence, and above all, adapting the training to real market needs. Many of the universities in our country have become obsolete because what they teach is by and large useless, heavy on the theory and leaving out the practical part.

Furthermore, the scholarship system is focused on students’ grades and not on their capacity to create or generate business. There are real geniuses that get bad grades simply because they don’t feel challenged or stimulated.

Israel as an example

The third step towards creating a country that can thrive on innovation is investment, because not only are we lacking funds, but on top of that we are at a loss for where and how to invest it. The big problem that we have had in Spain is that those with money to manage don’t have any idea as to where to invest it for it to be effective from a technological point of view.

A good model is that of Israel, who with a population of just over 8 million, is pumping out successful entrepreneurs like a well-oiled machine. It’s with good reason that they call it the Startup Nation. Much of the technology that we use has been thought up and developed in their universities and by their entrepreneurs, and their secret stems from investing 4.7% of their GDP to promote and create startups to maintain their position as a worldwide technology leader.

Although in Israel’s case it is their own government putting forth the funds, it is not the government who decides where to invest it, but rather the specialized incubators that analyze which projects money should be put into. In other words, it is left to the experts to evaluate where and what to invest in based on the agreed upon desired outcomes. Not only do they incubate companies, but they also stay onboard during the growth and maturation process, injecting more financing when necessary, to assure that promising projects don’t get stuck in the mud.

In Spain, it is easy to get ahold of 50,000 or 10,000 euros to get a project started, but the truly complicated part is managing to get funding for the second or third phase. This means that many entrepreneurs end of spending their hard-earned savings or their compensations on projects destined to die despite being great projects, simply for not having enough financial muscle behind them. Therefore, knowing how to invest well and giving the money to people who really understand the market and who stay with those projects and entrepreneurs during the whole business creation process is the key to generating value in our country.

It’s not all money

The fourth step would be explaining what exactly an entrepreneur is. An entrepreneur is not somebody who makes a killing in two years. An entrepreneur doesn’t look for the easy money, but rather to create and to innovate even if that doesn’t mean striking gold. Many of the young professionals I talk to who are meddling with becoming entrepreneurs talk about their hopes of creating something and having Google come knocking to buy it. I always recommend that they steer away from their millionaire dreams, work hard on their projects in order to live well off of what they have created, and add value to the country. This is what being an entrepreneur really means.

Just like private investors, entrepreneurs must know that innovating sometimes means losing money because innovating does not always mean having commercial success.

The fifth and final step is being patriotic. We like things from the outside more than from inside our own country, and if we want to sell something to the rest of the world we must first buy it ourselves and defend it tooth and nail. It is useless to create something in this country while we buy everything being sold to us from the outside. We must be more patriotic and learn how to sell ourselves better.

If Spain’s Ciudadanos is able to popularize entrepreneurship amongst young people, to create true entrepreneurs, with depth and not the Hollywood type, and they can create a new model for training and channel the funds to actually be effective and useful to innovative companies and projects, they will create the foundation upon which Spain can truly become a Startup Nation.