Scattered Chronicle of the last Eight Weeks

There is a reason why I have been silent for the past eight weeks. Not that I am presumptuous enough to think anyone noticed that, but sometimes I remember this is my way not to loose touch with the rest of the world about what’s happening to me, not to mention the fact that my kids one day could potentially wonder what dad was doing beside coming and going with his trolley. (as a side point, I think the noise of the luggage wheels entering the house and getting out will probably be the most remembered sound related to Dad they will ever have).

To start with, we did run two great FinTechStage events in May, Milan and Amsterdam (which explain why April was quietly upgrading to an hectic time, because – of course – shit happens and you need to deal wit it). We can safely say both events were successful, from what we could gather from the partners, the sponsors, the audience and the speakers. On thing we have to do better is find a smart way not to loose all the good content FTS is bringing to the different eco-systems.

I will shamelessly point you guys to an amazing post my friend Daniel Gusev (who spoke in Amsterdam) wrote about the event, and I can only be grateful for being so exhaustive and thoughtful in creating this.

We do have ideas on how to capture the fil rouge of all the events we do, and build services around it, and you will hear about it very soon.

I also spent a week in San Francisco (beginning of May) with everyone at Omidyar, in my first ON Summit.

Amazing experience: I went there thinking I would be amongst the very few knowing only a handful of people, and realised there the organisation has grown so much in the last twelve months that at least three dozens of people were there for the first time as well! I am very humbled to be part of such a group, not only because of the mission we share, but most importantly because it s constant reminder – for me – of a different way of building businesses, empowering people, both with for profit and not for profit initiatives, and it was overwhelming as well to realise the spectrum of activities ON is involved with, some of which really triggered a whole new world.

Let me give you an example: I discovered what the Property Rights division does. To be fair, as well WHAT Property Rights even means. Had no idea that over a billion people are concerned by the fact that there is no proper and factual record of their properties (land, houses, etc) with all the terrible consequences that such a matter has on their lives. ON is amongst the few organisations in the planet investing resources and research power to tackle this global issue, where of course technology has a great role to play (think of drones to assess land perimeters, etc).

Immediately after that, I spoke both at the CGAP annual meeting and et ICT Spring Luxembourg, two events fortunately for me overlapping each other but making these three days particularly intense, especially because  in the case of the CGAP event (CGAP is an Independent policy and research center dedicated to advancing financial access for the world’s poor) I discovered a whole new network of organisations driven by the same mission (make the world a better place, for lack of a better definition).

It does not happen very often I go to a conference where I don’t know a single speaker, and almost never where I don’t meet someone I have seen before in other place. Well, this time – no doubt – was an exception on all of it.

Another important part of last weeks activity flipped around the work ON is doing in defining an investment thesis on Digital Identity and what it s called the Me2B space. A simple way to explain the latter is how can we put the user (the customer, everyone of us, in other words) in control of his own data and find new economics around the sharing of these data with potential suppliers of services that de facto – today – are getting it for free. I am writing this post from London, where we are visiting a number of players in this space and craft the right strategy around it.

Lastly, I am writing a book,(yes, a book)  in Italian, about FinTech, that will be part of a collection produced by the Bocconi University (I think, this is what I have been told). I am just mentioning it as this is what definitely filled up all the little spare time I usually take to write my posts. Book is almost over, only two chapters remaining, will hopefully tell you more before the really summer starts. Summer starts the day I go to Sestri Levante, of course, before then it s just normal busy time in a short sleeves black t-shirt instead of long ones!

Stay tuned




The unbearable lightness of being … everywhere

I have been writing – here – about the false myth of the fancy frequent traveller life and I want to explore it a bit further in this post, knowing there will be few people understanding it quite well.

I am in Singapore at the moment, third of five days on site, and looking forward to go back to Geneva for quality time with my kids. So, my mind is constantly projected on the next location, actually looking forward to it, but most importantly – and this is the tricky thing – unconsciously saving energy for my next move, especially because I am mindful of the fact that there will be some twelve more places I am required to be in the next five weeks.

What are  the consequences of this ?

1- a profound feeling of not fully enjoy the present moment, in terms of not ‘exploring’ enough. Comfort zone is what preserves your energy the most, and it s easy to understand it would be much easier to switch on your adventurous mind if I had fewer opportunities to visit so many places

2- the opportunity to maintain your network despite its scattered geography. This when you find time to keep in touch, consistently, with the people who match your willingness to stay in touch, and in my case I am fortunate to say there are quite a few

3- the line between being switched on or off is very thin, not to say non existent. The direct impact is that you tend to think everyone else should be on the same page, and the mismatch on expectations sometimes gets heavy to bear. I think I extensively talked about it in my previous post as well.

4- when you stay only few days in a remote (but repeated enough) location, especially with an hectic schedule, there are a limited number of unscheduled catch up you can make, and because of jetlag can afford, simply, sometimes. This can generate frustration on both sides, when it s just a matter of survival, more often than not.

5- talking about survival patterns, these change a lot. My biggest fear is actually to get a simple cold, that can turn your travel schedule in hell. Back to the “enjoy the moment” theme, is difficult to make yourself understood when you just want to get enough sleep, or not drink too much, or whatever behaviour against most of people concept of “fun” can be. Be resilient is an asset you can’t neglect, for sure.

6-  you are a slave of speed. And your judgement gets clouded sometimes. Funny, sometimes the more I get involved, the more I am fearing to miss out. It is only a perception, but with a very precise collateral damage: am i Living the present moment?

So much for a FinTech blog 😉

Stay tuned


Thoughts from a frequent traveller…

I have not counted exactly yet, but I think I must be on my plane number 150 this year, especially if we count as well the Eurostar trips to London, which are like planes but on rails, for the sake of this discussion.

I am writing this post on a prolific 11.45 hours long trip from London to Mexico City, premium economy, have left this morning 10am from Brussels, then to London by plane, then stayed 3 hours inside the plane because of a technical problem they discovered only after everyone was in.

It will be a 18 hours long trip all together, with 7 hours jetlag, arriving in Mexico 4am Brussels time and not sure I will be able to sleep unless I keep writing during the whole trip now 🙂

I will add to this that I was in Geneva for the long weekend (until yesterday) with the kids and a flu and last week I did Brussels, London and Madrid before taking my flu to Geneva. I am supposed to come back in 5 days, but I will try to shorten and enjoy a weekend home, basically some “me” time (which I prefer to spend in my place).

I have been doing this for the past 7 years roughly, with different styles and support around me (now for example I am reimbursing my own expenses as the company I own pays for it).

Let me give you a couple of perspectives that I am sure will resonate with my globetrotter friends and maybe will inspire some thought to the less lounge-devoted folks.

  • Travelling all the time – no matter if you flight First Class or Ryanair – sucks. No matter if you lie down or if you are seated for 12 hours, your body will send the bill with sleepless nights, if you are not lucky enough to get used to it. Not to mention you need some discipline to save your body from Junk and Lounge food, free alcohol and snacks all over the places
  • Not anybody can travel all the time. If you are stressed by nature, thrive for planning, unable to work on the move and able to live most of the time with far less options that the average human being, travel A LOT will kill you. If your instinct would tell you to be at the airport 3 hours before each flight, if you are unable to carry hand baggage only even for a five days trip (therefore wait at the baggage delivery once arrived) or if it takes 90 minutes to choose a place to stay because you want 36 criteria to be met, your travel life will be hell (and sad, endless, utterly unproductive)
  • Especially if you live alone, travelling all the time makes the scheduling of a two dates appointment with your dentist more stressful than a trip to Guatemala to someone who has never taken an intercontinental flight. You know what is one of my biggest logistic issues? Being home the right days to put down the garbage bags. Took two fines already. Now my PA does it, as well as buying that bulb for the living room that ceased to function one month ago
  • If you can’t cope with working literally EVERYWHERE and/or you are not a bit of a geek, travel all the time is a nightmare. And utterly expensive.

You have to be able to do payments, conference calls (managing multi time zones) scan, fax, send international courier get a local data plan, spend local money, retrieve data and information about your work from everywhere and at all time. You are not obliged to, but if you do it only from the quietness of your hotel room, you will NEVER sleep (or you will be just unproductive).

  • Travelling all the time means having a real hard time in disconnecting (and truly rest), not because you don’t want to, but because its very difficult to come off the everything everywhere anytime mind-set.
  • With very few exceptions (me being one of them luckily), the social life of a real frequent traveller sucks. It sucks not because it does not exist, but most of the times because you DON’T CHOOSE. You are stuck in work dinners, or best-case scenario visiting alone a place you have never been (I don’t do this, personally). Actually most of the time you opt for saving your energy for your next trip.
  • Unless you have unlimited budget, you need to acquire a bit of experience if you want to balance comfort, price and effectiveness in your frequent travels. There is no PA who can help you (again, unless you don’t care about how much money you spend in this case a 10 yo kid can organise any trip as long as he knows the basic geography 🙂

When you plan to change 4 countries in the same week, a detail in the logistic can optimise what really, psychologically, kills most of the frequent travellers : the in between time. Nothing like 2 hours in the US Immigration after a long flight, or an unexpected 3 hours delay in a connection in a place with (or with a ticket without) lounge access, looking for the only plug in the whole gate because your phone is down and you can’t even work.

There is more, I will invite my travellers friend to contribute, will be fun to see their reactions, will tag a few so they can contribute.

DF sky landing… Just at the end of this epic trip…


Stay tuned