The Land Where Unicorns Roam

Two majestic unicorns in an enchanted forest

In a dream, I traveled 20 years into the future and I landed in a piece of the earth where unicorns roam. No, I am not talking about some fairy tale type of land where strange horse-looking animals fly. I am talking about an awe-inspiring place for an entrepreneur where the unicorns are billion dollar companies with innovative technologies that are changing the world.

As the legend goes, it started with one company that was acquired for more than $1 B by a US Fortune 500 company. Everyone thought that it was a fluke. And then there were more (2 to 4 companies having a valuation exceeding $1 B in any given year). When people realized that amongst these unicorns, there were several smaller innovative companies they started to call this land ‘The Silicon Valley of the Caribbean” and some dubbed it “Silicon-H”.

Yes, the place where unicorns roam is none other than Haiti. It’s true none of these unicorns have yet to appear. More than a belief, I know they will come into existence 20 years or less from now. I’ve seen these unicorns in the determination, creativity, persistence and the hunger for success from our millennials. When I look at these young entrepreneurs, I see the founders, CEOS, and CXOs of these future companies.

The question is why would anyone be surprised that Haiti would be a country where unicorns roam. After all, we are a country of entrepreneurs. This is a country where people have to create their own employment by necessity because there is a lack of good paying jobs. My inspiration as an entrepreneur was my mother who told me that she would whip water to turn it into butter to feed me if she had to. Truth be told, while even as a young child I knew there are many times that the poor woman had no clue where our next meal would come from, she always came through. In a flat world, we should encourage and expect that Haitian entrepreneurs would develop goods and services that they will sell to the larger market that is the entire world!

To create the environment for these unicorns to birth, policymakers and other actors must embrace the dream. It is true that we have a high illiteracy rate in Haiti. What’s also true is that we have a high percentage of college educated members of our population for which we need to create good paying jobs or give them the tools to create such jobs. We can have policies and programs in infrastructure, manufacturing, agriculture to create jobs for those with less skills AND at the same time have policies and programs that leverage the part of our workforce that is well educated, smart and innovative. The two are not exclusive.

I am encouraged by President Jovenel Moise’s goal to create an incubator center in Haiti. This is a good step. I hope this will not be an isolated policy initiative and instead will be part of a coordinated policy program to seed a tech culture in Haiti.

A key aspect of the approach is to encourage Haitian entrepreneurs to produce for the broader world market. Haitians are also 100% world citizens and can develop solutions to address the needs of their brethren who are outside of Haiti. While we have about 11 million people in Haiti, there are more than 7 billion people elsewhere in the world.

I ask all my fellow entrepreneurs both in Haiti and the Diaspora, policymakers, business leaders, philanthropists to be a cause in the matter: Let the unicorns that are roaming the country materialize sooner rather than later.

June 18, 2017 at 2:22 pm 1 comment

Success is Now!

successisnow  I write this blog entry for my friends and families whom I’ve seen struggle as they chase something thinner than thin air called success.

The idea for most people is that success lives in the future. It is what you will gain – the big house, nice car; position – the big promotion, being in the C suite, and fame or network – the friends and connections you will have in influential positions. I want to emphasize that for most people, all these ‘things’ are in the future, that is, these are what you will have or will be in the future.

Here is an idea that may seem radical: That success is not in the future, but rather lives here, in present tense. You can be successful right now. You don’t have to postpone anything. The decision to succeed now can lead to you having or be all that you want to be.

One of the ways that success can be defined is as follows:

A successful person is someone who has made the commitment NOT to give up on goals. No matter what the obstacles, that person will push through. If this person falls 777 times, the natural reaction is to just get back up. That is a successful person.

I have yet to see anyone with this kind of attitude fail

Being successful involves adopting the attitudes, belief systems, and values of successful people. The person who does this is bound to achieve desired life goals.

Note that the definition above says nothing about what you have or where you are in life. I know of friends and family members in their 40s and 50s who are nostalgic about their 20s and what they could have accomplished. They see themselves as failures because they are not where they want to be. Consider this idea: That in the next 5 years, some people in their 20s will accomplish goals that people in their 40’s previously gave up on. So what’s the difference between people in their 40s and 50s who have given up on their dreams, and those 20 somethings who will attain those levels of achievement? Those in their 40s and 50s likely have more experience, more education, and larger networks.

Some achieve their goals with their efforts fueled by fear of failure. The fear to fail can be a powerful catalyst, pushing you to work so hard to avoid it. However, based on my experience this type of success could come at a high cost to personal relationships and health. There are no guarantees that the failure a person tries to avoid will lead to reaching the goal. However, there is no doubt in my mind that fear has a negative effect on the fearful and those around him. On the other hand, pursuing your goals from the position that you are already successful (because you have what it takes!) will serve as fuel and make the journey more enjoyable. Such an approach provides the confidence and the mental fortitude needed to overcome challenges that will come your way.

Success involves making a powerful choice in the present tense—now! That choice can propel you forward and sustain you for whatever goals that you have set out to accomplish. Wherever you are in your journey, take the challenge today– choose that from now you are successful!

November 1, 2016 at 8:19 pm 1 comment

Why Entrepreneurs Take Risks

Biggest risk Mark Zuckenberg quote

There is a high rate of failure for businesses. The statistics I have seen say as much as 90% of businesses fail in the first year (1). If this is so, then why would an entrepreneur believe it’s possible to be in the minority of enterprises that will succeed? Explanations that I have heard range from entrepreneurs must be delusional, to ‘they have the means’ to afford failure.

The rest of this blog will debunk the former (we all know that entrepreneurs are delusional). As for the latter, I won’t even spend much time addressing it, given that so many entrepreneurs have risked everything they own to start a business knowing there are no parents with deep pockets or trust funds to the rescue if they fail.

Of course, from an entrepreneurial standpoint, going into business is the very rational thing to do. Let me share with you some reasons that hard core entrepreneurs start businesses and what non-entrepreneurs can learn from it.

1)      The risks are not that bad

If you consider that entrepreneurship is a journey, the risks are not that bad. In fact, the probability of success for an entrepreneur who has committed to the journey is 100%. Let me explain.

Suppose, you were given a coin with the following attributes: a) the coin lands Heads (success) 10% the first time you flip it, and b) on subsequent flips you can learn from your mistakes and improve the probability of success considerably. It is unfair to compare entrepreneurship to the rolling of dice. Most entrepreneurs learn from their first mistakes and improve their success rates on the next go round.

Before, I quit my full-time job to engage heart and soul into running my own venture, one of the best ideas I was given was that “entrepreneurship is a journey” and I should engage in it with no thoughts of turning back.

Lesson for non-entrepreneurs: Overestimating risk and underestimating future gains

I believe that by nature, human beings tend to overestimate the risk of losing what they have, and at the same time, underestimate the potential for future gains. This is probably why many put their money in the bank instead of investing in the stock market where history would indicate they are likely to achieve higher returns. Some don’t even put money in a 401(k) when they could get a guaranteed 100% return with an employer match. One of the attributes of entrepreneurs is that they are able to assess risk better than the average person.

Question: Are you evaluating risk properly?

2)      Entrepreneurs are not afraid of losing immaterial assets

One of the reasons that people are afraid of going into business is the fear of what they might lose: Reputation – what would their friends think or say about them, or tangible assets such as money or the nice house in the suburbs. I call all of these immaterial assets. For entrepreneurs, their main asset is themselves and not the things they have.

So as long as there are humans and there are problems to be solved, an entrepreneur will create solutions for which people are willing to pay. Even if humans were able to solve all their problems, I am convinced that there will be entrepreneurs who would convince some to pay for problems that are inexistent but could materialize in the future.

Lesson for non-entrepreneurs: You are your greatest asset. Just like an entrepreneur, for all humans, their asset is not what they have; it is the person who created those assets in the first place. Are you spending time increasing the value of your assets through learning, meditating, going to retreats, keeping yourself in top condition both mentally and physically?

3)      Entrepreneurs live their lives

There is no job advertisement for entrepreneurs. By definition, entrepreneurs are passionate about their ventures. They believe they were created to be entrepreneurs. The fact that they take the paths less traveled doesn’t bother them. What other people think is not going to stop entrepreneurs for doing what they love to do. There is a reason why many entrepreneurs leave very good jobs even when a promotion is imminent.

Before I started SciMetrika, I had an older friend who had a great job at IBM. He had an MBA with a technical background which was rare in those days. He believed that he would rise up quickly to the top. Deep in his heart, he wanted to be an entrepreneur and start his own business. The nice house and good pay kept him from ever following his passion. I knew I did not want to end up that way which is why I started SciMetrika in my early 30s.

Entrepreneurs would rather risk failure, living the life that was meant for them, rather than being successful doing a 9-to-5 job. (Of course, the greatest failure is to lose your soul and not be who you are meant to be.)

Lesson for non-entrepreneurs: Live your life with no regret. Deep inside, you have a passion and calling. Follow your passion and don’t let excuses like people, money, age (too young or too old) or background (education/race) stand in your way.

(1) Neil Patel. 90% Of Startups Fail: Here’s What You Need To Know About The 10%. Forbes Magazine; January 16, 2015. Accessed online on August 15, 2015 at http://www.forbes.com/sites/neilpatel/2015/01/16/90-of-startups-will-fail-heres-what-you-need-to-know-about-the-10/

April 3, 2016 at 9:33 pm Leave a comment

Who I Am

 

Who I am

 I know who I am not:
I am not the things I have

I am not the nice house in the suburbs

I am not my education

I am not my accomplishments

I am not the accolades or criticism

I am not my personal or professional network

I am not my friends

I am not even my wonderful family

 

So who am I?

 These may give a glimpse of who I am:

My commitments

My beliefs

My value systems

How I love

Who I love

How I treat other people

 

Nothing above is exactly who I am

 

This much I know

I am a part of every human

Every human is part of who I am

I am part of the Big I am

The Big I am is a part of me

i am

 

 

March 26, 2016 at 10:35 am Leave a comment

Birdman Movie–What you are Not

birdman-click

The movie Birdman is my absolute favorite for Oscar wins. To me, this is what cinematographic art is about. In a way, it’s a trivial story. However, it’s masterfully put in a script, well directed with great acting to captivate the audience. I like this movie because it makes us think about a topic that is of great interest to me, that is who we really are.

No, the movie doesn’t tell us who we are. Rather it tells us who we are not as in this clip:

Here is what we are not:
• We are not our career
• We are not the businesses we create
• We are not past failures
• We are not past successes
• We are not what we think of ourselves (what we think of ourselves can be affected by ego, what others think of ourselves, past failures or past success)
• We are not what others think of ourselves (Another memorable quote from the movie: “A thing is a thing, not what is said of that thing”.)
• We are not our demons (Clearly, the protagonist was a schizophrenic. That doesn’t define him either)

So, who are we?

I believe we are or can be:
• Who we decide to create, free from the burden of the past, our current circumstances, the judgment of others, our disappointments, fears or failure of being inadequate. We can create something on a blank new canvas that we are strongly passionate about. I think human beings are defined by how they live their beliefs, values and attitudes. What are your beliefs, values and attitudes?
• Imagine that you are an instrument part of a huge orchestra called the human race. The instrument maker created you to play a specific role. The music that you play cannot be reproduced by anyone else. Are you playing your role in that cycle of life? In other words, we each have an optimum representing who we are at our best. We should strive to be that.

February 22, 2015 at 1:26 pm Leave a comment

Annum Perdidi?

An approach to having a successful year…

It was reported that the emperor Titus would say he had wasted a day (diem perdidi) if he felt he did not accomplish enough during that day. As a consciencous emperor, a wasted day meant he did not grant enough favors. As we get toward the end of 2013, perhaps a better question to ask is “Annum perdidi?” or was it a wasted year or year of failure?

First of all, what does it mean for the year to have been a failure? For most people, this means looking at the list of goals, what was achieved and what wasn’t. I imagine that most people have a scoring system and weighting system in their minds and some goals such as getting a promotion carry more weights than others. I can’t argue with setting up goals specially SMART ones (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant and Time bound). The only problem is that by the time one waits for the year to be over, it might be too late. In my belief, only a minority of people takes time to set goals and of that minority, few take the time to monitor frequently enough how they are doing on these goals.

Here is another approach to reaching your goals

  1. First, if you don’t have one set an overarching goal for your life. Ideally, it would be something that you are passionate about. If you’re an emperor like Titus, the overarching goal might be something like “to be an emperor who stands for justice for all”, “to be an emperor who brings prosperity” or “to be an emperor who brings peace”. I think every human has something that they are best at and humanity needs them to contribute that talent to the rest of the world no matter how many other people have the same talent. Typically, what they are best at is a combination of talent (they are more skilled at it than most people) and passion. In other words, if you could sum up in one sentence what you want your life to be about, what would it be? (I will write a post on this topic because it is very important)
  2. Live every day, what you want to be. Let your annual goals be directly relevant to who you want to be
  3. Every day, take stock of how you are doing. In other words like Titus ask “Diem Perdidi?”

 A day is too precious to waste. Living the life that you want every day is the best way to avoid having a wasted year.

December 26, 2013 at 10:02 am Leave a comment

The faith of the bird…

“The faith of the bird is not in the branch; but in its wings” Author Unknown

Imagine a bird on a branch; clearly the concern is not in the branch and what might happen to it. It seems obvious that the faith of the bird is not in how strong the branch might be but rather in its ability to react even if something happened to the branch.

Strangely enough for us human beings, we want to put our faith in the branch or external circumstances. There are so many things that we cannot control such as the economy, what happens in our job, people who decide to depart our life. However, we can control how we flap our “wing”; that is how we respond to these circumstances.

I’ve often been accused of being overly optimistic even in the face of adversity. To the point that I think, some close to me – family, friends and business associates – may have questioned if I am genuine or in touch with reality. What is my reality? It is that I have faith that whatever the problem or circumstances, we control the outcome by having the right plan and executing on that plan. It is not what has happened to us but what we do in response to what has happened that matters.

Talking about reality, one of the problems that we have as humans is that when we are faced with problems, we lack perspective. So many individuals are driven to despair when in fact their problems would seem trivial compared to those faced by others. Some of the questions that I often ask myself when facing adversity in business and in personal life are:

•Have others faced similar problems in the past?
•What did they do to resolve that problem or issue?
•What can Iearn from their success or failure?
•Can I pattern my response after their approach?

What I have come to realize is that in most cases, it is not the sickness that kills the patient but the lack of medicine. What leads to the fall of individuals and companies are not the external problems they face but the lack of medicine or bad medicine (lack of solutions or the wrong solutions).

My approach to life is to:

a)Confront whatever problem as it is without any sugar coating,
b)Understand the brutal facts of the situation,
c)Make sure that there is a plan A, B and even C to resolve it.

This approach is why the following quote is one of my favorites:

“You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end –which you can never afford to lose –with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they may be.”
-Admiral Jim Stockdale

July 1, 2013 at 10:13 am 1 comment

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