Category Archive: Global Views

Jan 27

Developing Markets: The Fortune to Be Found in Africa

  Last week, Morgan Stanley’s New York Environment and Social Forum hosted an event focused on analyzing the investment opportunities found in Africa. The open panel discussion was led by two prominent figures in this field: Margot Brandenburg of the Rockefeller foundation and Jeffrey Leonard of the Global Environment Fund. Their discussion covered a wide …

Continue reading »

Dec 30

What Defines A Good Entrepreneur: How the Entrepreneurial Finance Lab is Revolutionizing Global Entrepreneurship

Last month I was speaking with an old friend, Esther, about global entrepreneurship in developing countries. Having worked previously in microfinance, I thought I knew a great deal about how entrepreneurship was being fostered by banks abroad.  It was at this point in the conversation that she asked me if I was familiar with the …

Continue reading »

Nov 17

The Middle East Minute: The Forces At Work Behind the Turmoil

  The past month in the Middle East has seen a flurry of conflicts that is unprecedented even for that region. In Syria, dozens of civilians are being extinguished daily by a tyrannical regime. Israel has re-engaged its tactical killing of Palestinians and thus another Gaza conflict seems under way. In Egypt, the Musri administration …

Continue reading »


The 2400 Square Foot Dilemma: Why Most Companies Miss the Global Bull’s-Eye


Last night at MIT I had the pleasure of attending the lecture of Vijay Mahajan, an accomplished marketing professor at the University of Texas Austin and the former dean of the Indian School of Business. Mr Mahajan has spent much of the last decade researching Africa and the Middle East. The result of his research provides a fascinating window into the current reality of global business and commerce.


How Many “Developed” Countries Exist? The GDP Per Capita Dilemma


Mr. Mahajan has stated that a common definition used for developed countries is a minimum GDP per capita of $10,000 dollars. This list includes the US, the UK, Japan, Germany and other global economic giants.  The more surprising element lies in the vast majority of countries that fail to qualify under this definition. Mr. Mahajan states that 86% of the world’s countries have a GDP per capita of under $10,000 dollars.  The list that includes the 86% of overall countries is actually projected to grow over the upcoming years.


The 14% Marketing To The World of the 86%


What has happened in the world of Global commerce is a stark inability of many mega corporations to successfully integrate and enter emerging and developed markets. Companies are unable to understand what and how to market their products abroad. Many look at Africa, India and the Middle East as potentially lucrative markets but with no standard formula of success.


Professor Mahajan’s argument is that this stems from the inability of developed nations like the US to look past their 2,400 square foot syndrome.  The 2,400 square foot syndrome refers to the size of the average house in America. What the professor is referring to is the American mentality to perceive market issues and problems from a global perspective. Products marketed and sold abroad are not addressing the general needs and wants of the greater local populations. Many Indians and Africans live in tight quarters and cannot afford the space, let alone the price of many foreign products.


Another problem compounding the issue of global business is the inability of companies to distribute and sell their products across a foreign country. Unlike the US that has 82% of their residents found in urban centers, India has 70% of their population located in rural areas.  No product can reach the masses in Africa and India simply by entering the main city.


The Argument For Inclusive Growth


According to his studies, Professor Mahajan feels that there are two primary indicators that lead to investing in a country: the informal economy (what percentage of the economy operates in a shadow economy), and what percentage of the economy consumer spending controls. In the US, consumer spending accounts for seventy percent of the total economy. Highly chronicled BRIC countries like India are closer to fifty percent, with China at thirty seven percent. What we do not anticipate is the large percentage of consumer spending dictating the economics in Africa. If we were to aggregate the economies of all the African nations we would find that African consumer spending accounts for over fifty percent of the total economy. With a middle class of nearly sixty million there is a real opportunity to market and create inclusive growth economies in Africa.  If investors understood and entrepreneurs focused on this, the world as a whole would profit.


These companies that target the middle class in Africa and the Middle East with relevant need- based products can create opportunities for many. These companies can help elevate the communities and overall economies of these nations. This is a great formula for both individual and overall economic and entrepreneurship success.


What It Takes To Succeed Abroad


According to Professor Mahajan, requirements for success include  “a deeper focus on taking the market to the people and a real understanding of what lies beneath the economic numbers.”  We must rid ourselves of our standard learned business preconceptions. A wealth of opportunities exists, but in order to capture these opportunities our global mindset must change to create relevant, meaningful and value adding products to the greater world.


Wag the Dog: Why The Latest Anti-Islam Movie is a Vehicle of Distraction

A couple of weeks ago I had the distinct privilege of going to see Murhaf Jouejati, at Harvard. During his talk, Mr. Jouejati informed the general public of the dire straits and consequences of the war in Syria. What became very clear during this discussion was the lack of concrete international intervention and the bloody future months of innocent killing that lie ahead. Innocent civilians and refugees are being murdered ruthlessly and the world silently watches.


Why Syria is Different From the Rest of The Middle East


Syria has become the focal point of attention and dissension for the global super powers and an unfortunate victim of poor timing and placement. Russia, still seething from foreign military intervention in Libya has run a full court press supporting and backing the current Syrian regime.  For Russia, Syria represents a last stronghold in the Middle East and an important trading partner.  Over the last year the Syrian government has placed a considerable amount of money in buying Russian-made arms and defense weapons. China and Iran hold similar trade and political agendas for their alliance with the current regime.


The European Union is in flux and unable to handle any more crisis’s and America is in the midst of a pivotal presidential election. All this leaves the Syrian people with no hope for positive foreign intervention and a speedy resolution. The crises will continue and become more secular as thousands lose their life trying to gain freedom.


The Role of The Inflammatory Movie In All This


Recently a movie purportedly produced by a former criminal portraying the profit Mohammed as a womanizer, bastard and power monger was produced and translated into Arabic. This movie is a low-brow production and mix of different scenes meant to outrage and incite hatred on both ends of the spectrum. While this has caused a wave of protests, violence and unfortunate deaths across the Arab world recently, the movie was actually launched in June and only translated to Arabic around the time of September 11th.


The timing of the translation and the protests seem to be a well-timed plan of a greater organization that has nothing to do with the common Arab. This seems to aid certain organizations and countries while deflecting the attention from a greater issue at hand.


Wag the Dog Forget The Syrian


The Syrian people have been lost in the noise of what is commonly referred to as a wag the dog strategy. The biggest beneficiaries of this movement are precisely the enemies of the Syrian revolution. Arabs are portrayed as highly unstable individuals unable to manage with free civil liberties. Their backlash reaction shows them to be a blood-thirsty culture that hates the West and needs to be tightly controlled. Russia and Iran can point to Libya and Tunisia as examples of what happens when Western intervention helps oust a West friendly Dictator.  Even Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is using the movie to push his own platforms. Mr. Netanyahu sees the protests as a case study for what can occur when Middle Eastern countries are given too much leeway.

incendiary movie. Countries like Russia, China, Iran and Israel continue to push their own platforms. This movie has helped and aided their cause, serving as a vehicle for frustration and diversion while successfully diverting the world’s awareness and attention from the continuing Syrian genocide.


Aug 19

Its All Greek To Me: Why Greece Could Be A Microcosm Of The Entire World

  As the world economy continues to try to move forward, many countries across the Eurozone seem to be sinking or stuck in neutral. Countries like Greece, Spain and Portugal are responsible for their situation due to the fiscal irresponsibility they have shown over the past decade. In the last year we are increasingly seeing …

Continue reading »


Why the Super PAC is the PAC-Man of True Democracy

In a world teetering on an economic collapse, one can never truly breathe easy. The November US presidential elections hold a glimmer of hope for many across the world. By knowing what president will reside over the next four years, investors and companies alike can better predict what kind of market legislation lies ahead.  A domino effect will occur as finally many of the financial strategies that are currently being held up in fear of an unknown future are executed.


Usually one can take solace in knowing the future of the markets will be dictated by the will of the collective spirit of the people. Part of this belief is the understanding that the elected officials represent the will of the people. While, legal lobbying has always been present from the inception of the US, this presidential election will mark the first time the super PAC will be present. The super PAC allows an uncapped level of private wealth to enter into campaign funds.


Carte Blanche for the President


With a super PAC in place the private interests will become the center of each candidate’s decision-making process. As long as the candidates cater to their collective campaign cronies, there can be no harm in any of their decisions. This leads to a dangerous precedent where democracy and liberal free flowing capitalism is greatly hindered.


Campaign stuffers like the Koch brothers and others will continue to get their platforms across at any cost. These platforms come at a cost of the social welfare as many of the so-called benefactors are not moderates and are out on their own personal mission. This mission does not correlate with the social good of the country.


Wheels in Motion: Why the 99% should be afraid


The President and his cabinet are already seeing the effects of this super PAC.  Mitt Romney has raised more campaign funds than many thought was possible during this time period.  While current President Obama has not necessarily lived up to peoples’ expectations, a future with Mitt could turn the US’s international standing and economy into an irreversible tailspin. The same Mitt who was once an underdog now is seen more and more as a potential primetime candidate.


Mitt could be the first lab rat of the new super PAC and its effects. Mr. Romney is a candidate willing to be a pawn of the super PAC benefactors. All believers in social democracy as a check and balance should be wary this November. What may start as a great market recovery, could be the start of a new and dangerous brand of politics.

Jul 23

The Growing Alternate View on the Emerging and Developing Markets

  In our current economic times we are experiencing an unprecedented global recession in Europe and the US. The focus on these markets has dominated the headlines for the last two years, and will do so in the near future.  What has truly been overlooked is the alternative business models and companies that have found …

Continue reading »


Life, Love, Sports and Politics: How Football Represents More than Just a Game In Europe

I will never forget getting my education on La Liga when I came to Spain. As a naïve foreigner I thought of rooting for the team closest to the region I was living in.  At the time I was living in Alicante and the closest team was Valencia. I became one of the few Valencia fans in the whole city of Alicante.


Apparently my enthusiasm and support of Valencia was foolish. The majority of the city was rooting for Real Madrid as any proper Alicantino would never be caught dead rooting for Valencia and what their team represented. I quickly came to realize that behind each team and fan base there was a larger political and hidden spirit. Soon I was able to map the teams and what each supposedly represented, but this was just the beginning of my education in the real game of football.


Remnants of Forgotten Glory


In the midst of one of the worst financial crises that the Eurozone has seen, the current Euro Cup has provided a stage for the best and worst that Europe has to offer.  As most former European empires have lost their glory the Euro Cup is a chance for all these countries to recapture a bit of that magic of yesteryear. Equal parts sport, pride and politics: the Euro Cup is a fascinating sociological study of the European content


The Thoroughbreds


Italy, Germany and France have consistently fared well in the tournament and in the midst of this financial crisis are looking to reemerge as winners. A win at the Euro Cup would mean a great deal in restoring national pride and patriotism despite the current economy.


You’re My Only Hope


Countries like Spain, Portugal and Greece are living under the stress of high unemployment, and the possibility of a complete economic collapse. For them the Euro Cup represents a chance to maintain at least one part of their storied past. All three countries are known for their bevvy of world athletes, brilliant and sometimes befuddling play.


A win at the Euro cup would in the very least bring joy and a sense of relief that these countrymen can’t find in any other facet of their daily lives.


For the love of the Queen and the Crown


Perennial under-performers England look to finally capture the one crown that has eluded them. The stress and frustrations of the country are always dumped fairly or unfairly on the national team and their results. No country would like to win this cup more than England, to restore a long-suffering nations many defeats and to honor its long-standing Queen on her diamond jubilee.


The New Iron Curtain


Russia, Ukraine, the Czech Republic and Poland are finally emerging as global economies after many years of soviet rule. This tournament is a showcase for them to show the world that they are back on the center stage. A win for these countries would not only restore national pride but could provide the impetus for more progress and development.


In Russia’s case the team is also fighting an internal battle among its fans as protests about the recent elections in the country have spilled over to the Euro Cup and protests have surrounded the team throughout their games. A win may help unite the country or at least prove to be a welcome distraction.


The Best is Yet to Come


In the second week of the cup the story lines and the moods of nations are changing by the moment. Only time will tell who the winner will be and what their overall effect will have. It would, however, take a true novice to think that the Euro Cup is just a game with no political and national repercussions.


From space and back entrepreneurship and innovation thoughts from a serial successful entrepreneur

Last week at the MIT Innovation symposium I had the pleasure of hearing Alexander Galintsky speak. Mr. Galintsky is a well known international entrepreneur and inventor. His career has included involvement in such day to day inventions like wi-fi and the vpn network, to space technology and software during the soviet years.


Having a varied background and an ability to succeed regardless of the government and its structure, Alexander has a unique view on entrepreneurship and innovation. In addition to being an entrepreneur and inventor, he also is an active venture capitalist running Almaz funds. Below are some of the key points one can take away from his talk.


Its not the prettiest plan that necessarily wins


While there is a lot of focus in business schools about creating the perfect business and execution plan, this can be of limited value in a true business environment. The keys to succeeding lie in the ability to take any plan ugly or pretty and execute it in a way that allows it to grow and succeed.


Even the least attractive business plans can morph to be successful depending on their execution and their will and motivation to adapt as needed.


Being a little crazy is a good thing


Friedrich Nietzsche stated that it takes chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.   Mr. Galintsky applies this idea directly when making hiring and funding decisions. In his opinion normal people are not the entrepreneurs and the innovators in the worldwide community. In order to succeed as an entrepreneur or innovator, you have to have a little bit of craziness in your heart and soul. This craziness can help guide and fuel an entrepreneur to greatness.


Ahead of the curve not always a good thing


We are always taught from a very young age to be ahead of the curve in our thinking and our actions. The one thing we are not taught is how far ahead of that curve we should be.  Alexander described how several times in his career, his ideas and their applications have come well before the market was ready to adopt them. This led to several ideas initial commercial failure.


It is always a needed key to understand what the market is ready to accept and adopt before launching your venture. Always understand what your customers are capable of adopting and structure your plans around this.


Company has to grow from every aspect


Many times a concept can catch on like wildfire and the resulting success is a positive boost to the company. Nonetheless, with this success, many times a subsequent lack of focus and uniform growth occurs.  Companies and startups can lose their balance and become uneven giants.


This happens more than most companies like to admit and can be a primary reason for a troubling future. Startups need to be very careful to grow accordingly from every aspect to avoid this potential pitfall.


Nothing beats blood, sweat and tears


It is always good to read case studies, understand risks and know the historic keys to a successful venture. This however, will never replace the actual learning you will get from starting your own venture and growing through your own mistakes.


Every founding team will make their share of mistakes. These mistakes are what give a company their depth of learning and their understanding of how to move forward. There is no substitute for personal experience.


It is Mr. Galintsky’s personal experience and resulting business acumen that has enabled him to remain a frontline global entrepreneur, from the soviet times till today.




Older posts «