Greek Statistics – A marriage of an illusion to a futility

Paradox

Today’s topic is about money, tax measures, calculations and statistics. The leader of the Greek opposition party gave a speech  in Salonica (Thessalonica)  a months ago about the economic pledges of his party which Syriza has calculated at about 11 billions euros.  Immediately the government replied that these measures would cost 18 billion euros – a 7 billion euro difference so who is giving us the “real” story? . Every new government in Greece says that the previous numbers produced by the previous government are “lies” and the situation is even “more difficult” than is anticipated. This is one indication of how we handle or mishandle statistics.

All statisticians know that there are lies, big lies and statistics. However statistics married with the Greek politicians is a fatal mistake. It is not just miscalculation and wrong statistics and not “just a story”. A story usually has some sensible and logical assumptions and an achievable end result. Greek government statistics are always a science fiction genre.  Greek government statistics is a paradox. Like a white house coloured black. Like mother Teresa married to Putin. It is a marriage of an illusion to futility.

It is the right time to stop this situation and come up with solutions. As a member of the Greek Statistical Society I propose the establishment of a truly independent organization that would do just one thing

It would be responsible for collecting and publishing statistics related to the economy, population and society at a national level so there will not be any dispute. This Statistics Authority would be an independent body, directly accountable to the Parliament.

What is so different from today’s Greek statistical authority?

If there is a change in how the work is done, the only words that will remain untouched are “statistical authority”. The existing statistical authority is so corrupt and dependent on the Greek government that their statistical figures are not even worth to be printed on paper.

Why will the proposed statistical authority be more reliable ?

  1. The head of this authority should be a person of foreign nationality with an international career and leader in at least one of the international statistical associations.
  2. This authority should not be funded by the Greek government but by the European Union.
  3. It should be overseen by Eurostat.
  4. The authority will provide online and make available to anyone all related summarized and anonymized  datasets so that anybody can run the models,numbers ,calculations and statistics again.

We are sure that this will be a final solution to this ongoing local problem.

* Καταναλώστε Yπεύθυνα – my most recent talk given this month at HAU Toastmasters.

 

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“Being Cheap” – the wrong path for the Greek tech ecosystem.

cheap

I hear many opinions and stories according to which Greece has many more economical software developers, designers and technical professionals than many other mature tech ecosystems. Many argue that this is our competitive advantage and we can leverage it, in order to produce successful starts ups successful businesses and successful companies.I will analyze what the limitations are with this type of mentality.

1) It doesn’t matter how fast you’re going if you are headed in the wrong direction.

We all know that the main cost of a  software related startup, is mainly the cost for human resources. The biggest portion of the budget in today’s tech startup companies goes to technical people . However as we know, a startup is a temporary organization formed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model. Having great technical people, can sometimes make you move quickly in the wrong direction.  You might forget that the essence of business is not only to move fast but mainly to move in the right business direction.

Why might you forget that?

Because you get very excited by the product and less by the product – market fit. You are excited and not realizing that you have reached a local maximum.

 2) Startups do not need only technical talent.

A startup needs mainly technical talent. However it also needs  great operations people, salespersons , marketers , product managers etc. Without them we cannot build a company. Without them we would always have to sell successful products to foreign companies and this will weaken the Greek ecosystem. It will happen because most of our successful teams will migrate to London, US,  Berlin , Tel Aviv etc.

 

3) Having more runaway for the same money doesn’t guarantee successful taking off

Self Explanatory

 

4)  Sometimes smaller teams can do the same and even better job of much bigger teams

This is the idea that smarter, more agile teams can be more productive, efficient and effective than  much bigger ones. In order for this to happen, technical people also need soft skills. I think that soft skills are not a competitive – advantage of the Greek technical talent.  I don’t mean that our technical people do not have soft skills but I am saying that soft skills are not their strong point.

To summarize, I don’t argue that having economical technical talent is not a good start for playing ball ( positioning the Greek startup ecosystem ). It is an advantage when we are producing tech products. However, as we all know, producing a tech product is one thing,whereas making this a successful product, a successful business and a successful  company, is another thing. There is a limitation with this mentality when we are dealing with innovative and growth companies. So, I propose to use our advantages , play with them and at the same time be thoughtful about their limitations.

Software revolution, the new industrial revolution !

Monemvasia - Greece

Monemvasia – Greece

This is one of my talks. The inspiration came from this post .The duration was 5-6 minutes so I had little time only for the basics.

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

Last week a great event took place. Facebook acquired Whatsapp an application for sending text messages from mobiles. The cost was 19 billions. Yes 19 billions not 19 millions but 19 billions. To have a perspective of this amazing deal let’s compare it in a different context.

The GDP of Greece is 250 billions Euros.
This is the market capitalization of some other well-known companies
American Airlines – $12.3B
Campbell Soup – $13.6
Expedia -$10.2B
Harley-Davidson – $14.1B
Hertz – $11.5B
Marriott International – $15.4B
Ryanair – $15.5B
Starwood Hotels & Resorts – $14.9B
Tiffany & Co. – $11.4B
Whole Foods Market – $19.3B
Xerox – $13.2B

Even microsoft paid only 6 billions to buy Nokia. Nokia was a company with 101,982 people across 120 countries.I produced out of these numbers an amazing number. Each and every employee in whatsapp produced 172 millions dollars each year he worked in this company. This means around 100.000 dollars each hour an employee worked in this company.However I am not here to talk about Whatsapp. I am here to talk about Software and how Software is eating the world. Let’s see how some industries got disrupted by software during the last decade.

Hotels industry – Booking.com , Expedia, etc
Communication industry – Skype is the largest communication provider company in the world
Apple and Google – 2 software companies have the majority of market in smartphones.
Books – kindle from amazon. Ibook from Apple
TV, Movies, Shows- Youtube,torrents,Netflix
and many many other examples

There is not an aspect of our lives that hasn’t changed because of technology. There is not a single sector that hasn’t been affected by the rise of software industry. We are dealing with a new industrial revolution. The means of this revolution is again the machinery under a different form. Instead of machines we have now software. Software can automate nearly all the information flow in every industry. And also takes a big chunk of the revenues.

This is very very good. We all share every day the advantages of technology.For example we can all upload a video from Youtube or watch something for free. We can all find a cheap hotel or a cheap flight. We can all communicate through skype with people all over the world.We can all buy any book from amazon or any item from ebay.
We all know very well the progress and the benefits of technology. However we must also understand what that progress means to employment. There are millions of jobs that are automated because of the rise of software. There are millions of jobs that are lost every year. What was actually a job for 10000 people it is now a job for a team of 3-4 people. Kodak had hundred of thousands of employees around the world. Instagram has only 20-40 of them. There were thousands of people working in small travel agencies around athens, now there are only 3-4 online travel agencies.

We are seeing the same shift everywhere.We are seeing a tremendous shift in the productivity of people.

“We are not the only people that see now as something similar to the Industrial Revolution with regard to job and social disruption, secular unemployment and rapid adoption of new technologies. What is new this time is that it is happening in every country, every imaginable political regime, every place at the same time. The Industrial Revolution burned through countries slowly: Great Britain first, then Europe, then the US, etc. Here it is all playing out everywhere at the same time. If software is eating the world, it is eating it at the pace of a World War Z Zombie! […] I don’t know what’s going to happen. Nobody does. We need to just keep innovating for a better outcome.
Source: http://techcrunch.com/2014/02/15/vcs-on-inequality-unemployment-and-our-uncertain-future/

What will happen when there is a true artificial intelligence. For example when software can do any job. A Software to be a Journalist ,a marketer,a politician,a software developer,a salesperson,a carpenter ?

I can think one solution. The purpose of the machine is to free us so that we do something more meaningful. To have a better life – work balance , to make drudgery unnecessary. We must allow the software to achieve it’s purpose. Help our society live in a better world. Otherwise we will live in a state of self-frustration.
The state of self-frustration is that we have allowed technology from a servant to our society to become a master and we have become servants to the technology.

I believe that the producers must share the benefits of this technology with the rest of the society.They must share the profits with the rest of the society. This is also beneficial for the producers because without people’s money software companies will not have any future of making profits. Nothing can be done without a middle class capable to purchase the products and services these companies offer. Companies wouldn’t only have profits they would not even have revenues. I am not arguing for communism here. I don’t believe in ideologies . I am just saying the simple truth. Machines and software exist to assist the purpose of society. We are not here in this life to maximize the efficiency of machines but the happiness of the whole society.

This is the best alternative if we want a more advanced society. A more equal society. It is good for the people , it is good for the rich people, it is good for the middle class, it is good for the poor and it is good for the software producers.

The alternative is again a new industrial revolution and then a new social revolution that will change the way modern capitalism works. I am sure that either way we are going to see a dramatic shift in labour market around the world. We are technologically in 21st century but psychologically in 17th century. We can change that and live in harmony within this new industrial revolution.

The emperor paid 19 billions to buy an empty shirt :-)

the_emperors_new_clothes

Facebook spent 19 billions to buy Whatsapp -an SMS application

The emperor spent 19 billions to buy an empty shirt

It must be obvious… that there is a contradiction in wanting to be perfectly secure in a universe whose very nature is momentariness and fluidity. – Alan Watts

IBM – Microsoft – Google – Facebook want to keep their position in a fluid universe, in a fluid market. This flexible and fluid market made them emperors in the first place. When they reach the top  they want to change the laws of universe, market fundamentals.

However if we’ve been in Mark shoes we might have done  exactly the same. So let’s laugh with Mark, with ourselves, with human patterns, with human behaviour,with human nature.

Thales the first Greek Philosopher was also Entrepreneur

thales

We are in 500 bc in Miletus which is an ancient city in the western coast of Anatolia . A man called Thales is a philosopher. Philosophy at these days is a very new area of knowledge. Every new knowledge area of these days has to be very practical. The practical impact of this new knowledge in the city-state was the main concern.

He was often walking in the city looking at the stars, at the planets and observing the sky in general because he was a mathematician interested in geometry and the movement of the stars and the planets.This habit sometimes had an undesirable result. He would often fall into potholes. These incidents became the anecdotes of his town and fellow citizens were thinking that philosophy was only good for reflection, thinking, contemplation and had no practical outcome.

Thales wanted to show to his fellow citizens that philosophy can change the way somebody lives. Philosophy is the way we choose to live our everyday life, philosophy is another level of consciousness. A consciousness that can help us live happier in the society. It was easy for Thales to find a practical solution to the problem.

Thales was a good meteorologist and was able to forecast the weather.  Taking advantage of this skill, he managed to gain some considerable profit. He invested in olive presses at low-cost when olive presses were out of season . However this was part of his plan, he forecast excellent weather and better than expected production. When the time came and the peasants needed to use the olive presses, they paid much more that Thales had paid for them, due to increased demand. His intention was to show to others that philosophy was as useful as any other skill and a good profit was the best way to have people’s attention.
Aristotle explains that Thales purpose by doing this was not to get rich but to prove to his fellow citizens that philosophy could be useful, contrary to what they believed. Thales proved that it was easy for philosophers to get rich if they chose so but this was not the point.

What can we learn from Thales?
As an entrepreneur I find this story very inspiring. I consider Thales to have a very creative and flexible mind. Not only he was a philosopher but also a brilliant mathematician, astronomer and generally a man who proved that circumstances don’t matter. The only thing that matters is state of being. This is the essence of philosophy for me. Life is meaningless, this means that every situation, every material, every second does not have any meaning, we provide it’s meaning. We used to borrow the meaning from our culture, society, family, friends, education etc. This is not our own life, this is not our own meaning of life, this is not our own way of life. So philosophy teach us to create our own meaning, our own way of looking life, our own way of experiencing and finally to become just ourselves and one with the rest of the universe. So Thales is a big inspiration because he was the example of man who has one foot in the sky but the other on earth and this is a practical example for everyone.