A Privacy Checkup

From data that we freely give up to private companies like Facebook, Google, Snapchat, Amazon, to data brokers and ad networks that track us around the internet, not to mention government surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden, most of our most personal data is being collected by many different entities. Like any tool, data can be used for both good and bad. And companies that store our data can be hacked to embarrass us, just like politicians and tech people have been recently.

I operate online as if everything I do will be public some day: my search history, my texts, Facebook messages, location data. I think about what data I’m freely giving away to data companies and weigh whether the benefit is big enough to give up privacy. Most people don’t even think about this bargain.

I recognize that anyone who really wants to get my data can probably do it. But I like to make myself a smaller target.

I urge you to take some of these steps to minimize your personal data exposure. Here’s my personal security checkup:

Continue reading…

My 2016

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Ever since I started writing here, I’ve done a year end post summarizing what I’ve done in the past year. These posts are mostly for me, so that I can look back and remember what I did, what I was thinking and what was important to me each year. Previous versions (2000s200920102011201220132014, 2015). Here’s what I did in 2016.

2016 followed on from 2015’s main two themes: focus and growth. In 2015, I started the process of eliminating distractions from Magma Partners and Andes Property and in 2016 I focused even more. I took Derek Sivers’ mantra of Hell Yeah! or No! that I started to implement at the end of 2015 to heart and said no to things that I wasn’t 100% excited about.

I not only implemented this framework for deciding to invest in new Magma portfolio companies, but also for speaking engagements, events, press opportunities, writing opportunities and more. Along the same lines, Tim Urban’s Your Life in Weeks helped me revalidate that time is my most precious resource. Thanks Derek and Tim.

I spent ~5 months in Chile, ~1 in other Latin American countries and the rest in the US. 6 months is the most I’ve spent in the US since 2010. It was good to be back more than a few months per year and I really enjoyed getting back to doing more business in the US. It was also great to see my family and friends more than I have for the past few years. My Mom finished a book project she’d been working on for multiple years and I was happy to be able to help her get it designed, edited and printed. Continue reading…

It’s Harder & More Expensive to Start a Startup & Break Through

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Most people say entrepreneurship and startups are the best way for people to be useful in the age of AI and automation. If we have more entrepreneurs, they say, we can innovate our way out of our jobs crisis. Entrepreneurship is definitely the way forward for some people. But not most.

Conventional wisdom is that it’s never been easier, cheaper and faster to start a startup and break through. With advances in computing power, open source software, Amazon hosting, development frameworks and online communities, the thinking goes, it’s much cheaper, faster and easier to start a startup and break through.

I’m pretty convinced conventional wisdom is wrong. Continue reading…

The Developing World Will Offer Better Quality of Life than the US and Europe

The half life of a skill is 10 years and rapidly falling. AI is here. Government policies of low interest rates, threats of tariffs and burying our heads in the sand are incentivizing automation and job destruction as fast as possible. That’s the story in the developed world.

What about the developing world? In places like Latin America, most industries are unchanged. Amazon hasn’t disrupted most markets, and big, old, incumbents are still in control. Retailers see little need to compete. Banks have little online competition. Most large companies are way behind US companies in efficiency and implementation of AI/Automation technology. Business owners don’t feel threatened from competitors, so they see little need to innovate.

Many publicly traded companies’ inventory control system is still minimum wage workers taking notes on a clipboard and then calling in the numbers from the warehouse. Some companies are becoming more efficient because of the commodity bust of 2014-2016, but most are way behind. Things are changing in the developing world, but not nearly at the pace of the US. Because the pace of change is slower, it will be better to live in developing world than in the US or Europe for a higher percentage of the population. Continue reading…