Real name registration for Chinese domain names

I use GoDaddy.com for most of the domain names that I own. GoDaddy is not great but I have been using them for over a decade and it’s too much of a hassle to change all of my domains to another provider. This morning I was a bit annoyed with them when I received a number of emails with a reminder about activating my domains.

I didn’t buy any domains recently and I also didn’t receive any other mails from them about activating domains, so I assumed they were trying to upsell me something and I didn’t open the emails. GoDaddy is good at upselling, when you buy or renew domains you need to read the screens during their check out process carefully, otherwise you may end up with a lot more than you had wanted to buy.

Literally 6 minutes after their reminder I received another stream of emails with ‘final reminder’ in the title, which was a bit puzzling. But it did incentivize me to open the emails. Turns out that they were all about my Chinese domain names (ones that end in .cn or .com.cn). For some reason GoDaddy suddenly started complying with Chinese regulations about real name registration and now wants to see proof of who the owner of the domain is. Real name registration is not just limited to people living in China but to anybody using a Chinese domain name…

Godaddy

Because I don’t live in China I was worried that I would need to find someone to register the domain names on my behalf. But luckily for me they also accept ID copies from a few selected other countries (HK, Taiwan, Singapore, Australia, USA and Canada), so I sent GoDaddy a copy of my Canadian ID. GoDaddy warned that they will share this information with the Chinese government, but what can you do? Among others this blog uses a Chinese domain name (marc.cn) and I don’t want to lose it.

I was just wondering, suppose someone living in Europe would own a bunch of .cn domain names, would this person all of a sudden lose control of his domain names because European IDs are not accepted by GoDaddy? It seems that will be the case.

I am a bit annoyed by this whole thing, GoDaddy should have at least given its users an advance warning, and not send a reminder (which was actually a first notice and not a real reminder) and a final reminder within minutes of each other. I would not be surprised if they suddenly received a warning from China and after that immediately implemented the policy.

After reading the mails I was a bit worried that I had lost access to my blog already (the email literally said that marc.cn was not activated yet and so I could not use it for hosting a site!), but that was not the case. However, I wonder if I now need to start self-censoring my blog posts? Can China just take my domain away if they want to? I am not too worried about that, but find it all a bit strange. Maybe it’s time to start making a back-up of this blog on one of my other domains.

The case for Basic Income

Basic Income

For a while I have been planning to write about the consequences of artificial intelligence and the need for a political discussion about Basic Income. So when I saw Albert Wenger’s video on Basic Income from last week’s DLD conference I decided to spend my Sunday evening with a glass of wine and my laptop and finally get this post out.

A couple of months ago I wrote a post about autonomous vehicles. They are a good example of the coming age of robotics and artificial intelligence: technology will replace things that so far only humans can do. This won’t be just automation of low-level jobs, but also very high end jobs will be replaced soon. If you are a family doctor or even a highly specialized surgeon you may be out of a job in 10-15 years. Singularity Hub wrote about this last week:

“Though many doctors will not like this thought, any test that requires pattern recognition will ultimately be done better by a machine than by a human.

Many diseases need a pathological diagnosis, where a doctor looks at a sample of blood or tissue, to establish the exact disease: a blood test to diagnose an infection, a skin biopsy to determine if a lesion is a cancer or not and a tissue sample taken by a surgeon looking to make a diagnosis. All of these examples, and in fact all pathological diagnoses are made by a doctor using pattern recognition to determine the diagnosis.”

Some people believe that new jobs will be created when old jobs go away. Their argument is that this has always happened in the past when jobs disappeared  because of a new technology, and why would it be different this time? Well, unfortunately for them this time technology does not affect just one category of work (like in the past), but potentially most jobs that we currently have. Even newly created job categories (whatever they are) might soon be disrupted by artificial intelligence. Even many scientists don’t seem to understand that the time of linear growth is over, we are now seeing exponential change in technology, which means that humans won’t  have time to adapt. Technological change will be faster from now on.

It’s maybe hard to imagine right now, but I believe my kids will likely never have a real job (in terms of working full-time for more than one year for a company in one location). They are 6 and 8 years old right now. When they are done with university 15 years from now I believe society will have changed. Of course there are still companies, but they will have a lot less employees than nowadays.

Most of the work will be done by robots (in any form) instead of people. Take a restaurant for example, likely cooks will be replaced by robots that can cook excellent dishes and may even come up with better recipes. Don’t believe me? Next year a robot will go on sale that can cook 2000 dishes at the touch of a button. And the first cook book written by artificial intelligence is already available. Do you think you’ll be served by robots or by servers? It depends on how much you want to pay. I expect that in high-end restaurants you’ll still have human servers, but if you want a great but less expensive meal a robot may bring the food to your table and refill your wine glasses.

I can give tens of examples of how jobs will be disrupted, but I won’t do that here. I have been thinking about this for years and my conclusion is that only arts and sports will likely not be disrupted by machines, and that human service will be something that’s available only at a premium.

Is this a problem? Yes, if you look at it from today’s perspective, because everything in society is about work right now. People are expected to have jobs, that’s why most people go to school and university. Most people don’t study what they really love, but choose subjects that they can get a good job with (I don’t think any law students starts law school because he or she is passionate about it, although that may change after a while. Full disclosure, I studied law for 2 semesters next to studying economics). So the education system that we have right now will have to change.

But also people’s expectations will have to change, you can’t expect to have a full time job anymore when you finish your studies. But because most people will be without a formal job the norm will change. The social stigma of unemployment will disappear and not having a job will become a normal thing. My expectation is that most companies will transform into platforms where you can work for a few hours whenever you want. Something like Uber, where you can use your car as a taxi for a few hours per day or week to earn some extra income.

However, the biggest problem will be that people can’t survive without money. I am very worried about the transition period from full employment to almost full unemployment, a period that has started already. People need to take care of their families and will become desperate if they can’t provide for them. This will lead to social unrest and crime, and this could start much sooner than politicians are willing to acknowledge.

But there is a solution, and that is Basic Income. Over the past 2 years I have become convinced that Basic Income can solve most of these problems and can lead to a very bright future for humanity. How does it work?

For me Basic Income means that anybody, old or young, rich or poor, would get an income that would be sufficient to survive on. For Canada and the US that would be something like $1000 per person per month. Enough to have food, Internet and housing, but not much more than that. Everybody will get this, whether your have a job or not, or whether you just won the lottery or are a homeless person.

Basic Income should replace the current social system, so no unemployment payments or social security anymore, but only this monthly income. The problem with the current system is that it does not encourage you to find a job, because you will lose your benefits if you find a job. With Basic Income you’ll keep your monthly payments, so everything you earn will be on top of it.

Won’t people get lazy and just watch YouTube videos the whole day instead of looking for a job? Possibly, but that’s fine. Basic Income gives you the choice to do with your life whatever you want to do. You can find or create work so that you’ll have more to spend, but if you think the Basic Income is sufficient and you want to stay home that’s okay as well. My expectation is that most people will do something useful with their free time if they know they can survive on their Basic Income, but there will always be people who will are happy not to do anything.

As mentioned before, platforms will become the new companies. Anybody can work on one or more platforms or marketplaces at the same time to earn some additional cash and to do something that they may enjoy. Do you like cooking? Very likely platforms will come up where you can sell your home-cooked meals to others (delivery by drone anyone?). Are you good at playing piano? You can teach anybody in the world through new virtual reality platforms, with automatic payment per minute in a cryptocurrency. Do you have a boat? Others can rent it from you (with or without you as a skipper) on another platform.

That’s what the world might look like, and a Basic Income can make this happen. You have enough to live a reasonable life and have unlimited free time to do whatever you like to do. Afraid to do a start-up? With Basic Income the hurdle will be a lot lower because you will always survive if you go bankrupt.

Without Basic Income marketplaces may pay less and less (you can already see that with Uber right now), but Basic Income will give more bargaining power to workers. It may also solve the current US discussion about minimum wages. When people have enough to survive it is likely that they don’t want to work for $10 an hour anymore, so if companies like McDonalds are still around they are forced to increase their wages to get people to work for them.

Life with Basic Income will be one where people have a lot more time for themselves and where they can make choices what they want to do with it. I expect that more people will do volunteer work for example, or that they will only do work that they like to do. And people will educate themselves, they will study what they really like and use their knowledge to help others or to sell it on platforms.

My expectation is that prices for goods will fall because of robotics, so life will be a lot cheaper. Not only food and daily necessities, but also the cost of transportation. Electric vehicles will be shared and will likely cost less than 10 dollars per day for unlimited transportation. How? A basic electric car will cost $10K when it’s mass produced, will last for 5-10 years and has hardly any additional costs because of free solar power. Just do the math.

Entertainment is already mostly free because of the Internet. Videos you can find online for free on YouTube or for a small monthly fee on Netflix. All music and radio stations are available on Spotify and for books Kindle Unlimited gives you a huge collection to read. Platforms like Coursera will make education virtually free as well, so as long as you have access to Internet nobody will have to be bored anymore.

How can we pay for this? If you replace the current system in the US with a basic income system it means that the cost to implement it will be less than 10% of gross output. That is something that can be financed. However, when less people have jobs it also means that income and capital gains taxes will have to be increased. You will start paying higher taxes from the moment you earn additional income, although I would expect that a system would likely mainly affect higher income groups. For more details on this and how Basic Income can even lead to lower taxes see this article in the Huffington Post.

Possibly there will be a few companies that will get most of the revenues in the future. These are the companies that develop artificial intelligence and own the robots. I would not be surprised if corporate taxes could go up to 80-90% to make up for the job losses that they cause. I now already invest in the potential winners of the future such as Google and Amazon, they may not only be the first trillion dollar companies, but if AI takes off even the first multi-trillion dollar companies. Most other companies won’t survive, so they will have to finance the majority of the cost of Basic Income.

For most people Basic Income may sound like something out of a communist country, but it really isn’t. In a classic communist system you are told what kind of work to do and how much you get paid for it (a low amount that is similar for most people). Basic Income instead gives you the freedom to do with your life what you want to do with it.

I believe the future could be quite bright if Basic Income would be implemented. I believe that because of AI we will have a world of abundance and in such a world time is the most important thing. Because of AI we will all have more time and Basic Income will make people less afraid of automation. It will give people options: do you not like your job? Now you can walk away from it. Or even more radical, if a housewife doesn’t like her spouse her options might currently be limited because of money, but with basic income she may have the option to choose a better life.

It will take some time for politicians to wrap their heads around the idea, but I think they will eventually see the benefits it will bring to society. I am a capitalist (although a fairly liberal one), but I believe that the not-so-much-capitalist idea of Basic Income is needed to ensure a good future for anyone.

I am not yet sure how we will get there, but I hope this post will get some people thinking. Some countries are already taking a serious look at Basic Income, for example Finland and Switzerland. I expect that Europe will be the first continent where most countries will start to implement some sort of Basic Income. China might also be a good candidate, especially when the party is worried about unrest once unemployment starts going up. The US won’t be in the first group, but once it sees the results of Basic Income in other countries it may change its mind.

Obviously there is a lot more to say about Basic Income, but these are the main arguments that people should consider when thinking about this subject. I hope we will see Basic Income before mass unemployment will hit all of us.

 

I found myself on Google Streetview

I found myself on Google Streetview

On a sunny September day I was driving top down to a friend’s house when the Google Streetview camera car drove by. I totally forgot about it until just now when I came home after a short trip to Toronto, and Scott told me that Google Streetview had updated the pictures of West Vancouver.

So I did a quick search and found myself right away. Because the Google car has 360 degree cameras you can see me driving towards the Google car, but you can also see the back of my car after the Google car passes me. Google Streetview seems to get updated about every 12-18 months in this area, so until at least early 2017  you can find me at this Google Streetview link (and after that you can still scroll back in time to September 2015).

Marc in Google Streetview

Twenty years

Today it is exactly 20 years since I left The Netherlands. I moved to Stuttgart, Germany on December 31, 1995. I had lived in several other countries before that already, among others during primary school in Curaçao, during high school in the USA and as a university student in France, but always returned to live in Holland after a period of time. So I assumed I would live in Germany for 2-3 years and then move back. But that never happened.

Within 3 months after starting my first job (a management traineeship at Daimler-Benz headquarters) I got a project in Indonesia. I was involved in a SAP implementation project at the Mercedes-Benz plant south of Jakarta. The project was not very exciting but it gave me a taste of life as an expat for a multinational. 

Marc at Daimler headquarters in Stuttgart (1996)

At my desk at Daimler headquarters in 1996

So after moving back to Germany later that year and finishing my traineeship 2 projects later, I decided to focus on my new job in financial planning and controlling for a few years and to become really good at it. I wanted to make sure I would be able to get an interesting job abroad after that.  And that worked, because in 1999 I managed to land a job as financial controller for Mercedes-Benz Canada.

But before starting it I heard a similar position would become available at Daimler’s regional headquarters in Beijing, China. I had to give up my future job in Toronto in order to apply, which was a risk I was willing to take. My thinking was that I could always go back to Canada later, but that I might not choose China anymore when I would have a family (turns out I was right, although I had not really expected it). I was lucky and also managed to get the job in China (I later heard there were several other applicants), and started my career at Daimler Northeast Asia in Beijing in January 2000. Marc in China 2000

With my 4×4 Jeep Cherokee (a great car for Chinese roads) in 2000

My thinking was that I would stay in China for 3 years and then move to a different country for Mercedes-Benz, but working and living in China changed me. I quickly realized that China was going to see some major changes and I wanted to be part of that. But not in a corporate position: things move too slowly in big companies and I thought I could do a lot more things when I would strike out on my own as an entrepreneur. So when the topic of renewing my contract came up I decided to quit my job in late 2002. I then studied Mandarin Chinese at Beijing Foreign Studies University for a while, while also setting up my first (consulting) business. 

Well, 13 years after moving to Beijing I was still in China. In those years I did a couple of start-ups, moved to different places in China about 8 times, and I started a family with 2 young kids. It was time for a change again, especially because the pollution got totally out of hand. 

This time we moved to North America and we’re still in Vancouver almost 3 years later. I plan to stay here for at least another couple of years, and maybe even for a much longer period. Vancouver is an amazing place to live, maybe the best place in the world in terms of lifestyle and nature. I may go back to Holland for a few years in the future, mainly so the kids will improve their Dutch and understand Dutch culture better (they both have a Dutch passport, so I feel that’s important), although it’s unlikely I would go back for good.

One thing I learned over the past 20 years, is that I can feel at home almost anywhere. People are not that different once you get to know them better and you can make friends everywhere. I also learned that I don’t want to be in one place too long. I have travelled a lot over the past 20 years (literally hundreds of transatlantic or transpacific flights) and I realize I don’t want to be in one place for more than 4-6 weeks at a time. Change makes life more interesting.

Let’s see what 2016 will bring, Happy New Year!

A Christmas Present from Scott

First of all a Merry Christmas to all my readers! Even though I don’t blog as much as a few years ago (mainly because of Facebook), the number of readers of this blog still goes up slightly every year. This year I had over 63,000 unique visitors so far, in 2014 that was just over 56,000. The increase mainly comes from Canada, that’s now the number 3 country in terms of readers and it passed The Netherlands which is now in 4th place.

Geo overview blog users 2015

Geographic distribution of the readers of my blog

In 2015 I taught Scott the basics of computer programming. We started off with some Python during the school holidays, and after blogging about that one of my readers suggested to check out Scratch. I did so and it’s the perfectc language for kids: easy to understand, not much typing required (it’s drag and drop) and a steep learning curve that allows kids to make games in days instead of weeks or months.

Scott did a college level Scratch course over the past months, and I helped him with some of the concepts that he was not familiar with yet. For example, if you don’t know that a circle is 360 degrees it’s impossible to make a game character move left, right, up or down. Scott picked it up very quickly and started developing his own simple games right away.

He then had the idea to make a Christmas game for his school friends and after a few afternoons of trial and error he managed to come up with a fun game. I promised him to put the game on my blog as well, so here it is: https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/76626698/. It won’t work on most mobile phones because Scratch uses Flash, so give it a try on your laptop or PC.

Scott's Christmas Game

 

Screenshot of Scott’s first game

The aim of the game is for the snowman to reach the Christmas hat while avoiding the big snowflakes that fall from the sky. You start the game by clicking the green flag and you can stop by pressing the red button. You have 5 lives in total, each time a snowflake hits you or if you hit one of the walls you will lose a life. If you manage to reach the Christmas hat you will get one extra life. Once you have no lives left you lose.

Keep in mind that Scott is only 7 years old (almost 8 he would say, he will turn 8 this week), so it’s not a highly polished game and there are still some minor bugs. But I am quite proud of what he managed to make without almost any help. Enjoy the game and looking forward to your future games Scott!

I am worried

Donald Trump

I normally don’t write about politics on this blog. It doesn’t really interest me. Politics is a game to me, a game by people who are good at playing games, but not necessarily at ruling a country. I’m not a big believer in democracy anymore, I would prefer to see a country being run like a succesful multinational. Don’t elect people every 4 years, but let them grow from within into leaders that have a long-term vision, instead of only going for short-term results with slogans that sound good but have no real meaning.

That doesn’t mean that succesful business men are per definition good at leading. Some certainly are, especially ones that are decisive but can also work together with others to achieve their goals. But others, such as ones that reach their goals by being arrogant and not caring about their employees, are not the ones you want to see in power. They can be worse than the worst politicians. 

To me Donald Trump is the ulitmate example of a ‘successful’ business man who can be extremely dangerous to not only the USA, but to the whole world. This man is a bully who does not care about anyone else, probably not even his own family. That’s what made him his money and that’s fine, but those are the same traits as some of the biggest dictators in the world. I would normally be hesitant to make a comparison to Hitler, but after what Trump said this week about not allowing Muslims into the US anymore, I think a comparison might actually be justified. 

I am worried, because this guy is dangerous. The average Republican American doesn’t see it, because Trump’s dumb rhetoric is so simple that they don’t even think about his message. They want America ‘to be great again’, without understanding what that means. A great country does not close its borders, only a scared country. A great country doesn’t discrimate based on religion, especially not a country founded by people persecuted because of their religion. And a great country should be a free country, free for all to enter and free for all to leave.

I write this post after reading some of the comments on Donald Trump’s Facebook page. Reading those comments made me really worried. I know the average Joe generally doesn’t really think much about the world around him, and the comments made that very clear. His thinking is more or less emotional, based on simple messages (that’s why TV ads are so successful) and slogans that can be easily memorized and repeated. 

I am worried because Donald Trump knows that and uses the same tricks as advertisers to get these people to vote for him. He wants to become the ‘leader of the free world’, another one of these slogans mainly uttered by people who have never been outside the US. They don’t realize that the US is not a real free country anymore, and has not been like that for a very long time. If Donald would win the elections (still a big if, but one that becomes more likely now that nobody is able to stop him and the masses seem to adore him) and would indeed try to bully the rest of the world, the USA is doomed and we may end up in World War III before we realize it. 

I am worried because none of the US business leaders seems to be willing to make a stance against Donald’s racist words. There are some exceptions (Mark Zuckerberg’s note about Muslims always being welcome at Facebook being a notable one), but most companies don’t seem to care. 

I am worried because I realize that his popularity is a sign that the US population is unhappy and wants to have a better life. People are looking for scape goats (Mexicans, Muslims) and Trump delivers that to them. I see parallels with what was happening in Nazi Germany. The way Trump talks about Muslims is very similar to how Hitler talked about Jews. The masses love it without thinking about it, just like the Germans during the crisis in the 1930s. 

I am worried, because for a long time I thought that what happened in Germany would not be possible in the Western world anymore. Social media and free press would be able to stop it, but that’s not the case it seems. The debates on the Internet are tense, with many people really believing in Trump and completely defending his statements. Not as anonymous trolls, but with their full names and backgrounds on Facebook! How is it possible that people are so stupid that they don’t see what is going on? History is repeating itself and people don’t want to see it. 

The other Republican candidates should make strong statements against Trump, because if they don’t the next thing might be that he will tell people that all Muslims should be rounded up. And although that won’t happen in reality, many people may see that as a statement to take their rights into their own hands and a new civil war could start. Far fetched? Maybe, but nobody could have predicted a year ago that Donald Trump would be able to get away with his current statements about Muslims.

I am worried, and I don’t know what I can do about it. I don’t live in the USA, but that doesn’t mean I should just sit still and not say anything. If everybody would do that Trump might eventually really be elected. So at least I want to put my thoughts on virtual paper and hopefully make some people think. Of course I realize that the people who vote for Trump likely don’t have the attention span to read more than a few sentences and would never find or read this post in the first place. 

Is this a sign of the times? Real wages have gone down over the past years and that’s a trend that will only get worse. That is one reason why people are angry. Because of artificial intelligence and robotics most people will lose their jobs in the next 15 years (many people still don’t want to see this, but it’s inevitable with universal machines that get exponentially better, faster and cheaper, and won’t just do one job, but will eventually be able to do most jobs).

This will lead to mass unrest, unless visionary leaders take the helm in the US and some of the other big countries on this planet. With people like Donald Trump that won’t happen and the fact that he is so popular and gets away with racism might be a sign of what is to come. I have been contemplating a post about mass unemployment and potential solutions for a long time, maybe it’s time to sit down and write down my thoughts on those topics. They may be more relevant now already than I had realized.

I am worried.

Perfect food (and overhearing conversations) at Lorenz Adler Esszimmer

Lorenz Adler EsszimmerLast week I spent some time in Germany’s capital Berlin. I like the city, it has both great old architectural gems such as the Brandenburger Tor, the Reichstag and the Gedächtniskirche, but also brand new buildings such as the ones around Potsdamer Platz or the new German parliament. Lorenz Adler Esszimmer

The city has undergone a complete transformation since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, and it’s now often hard to know whether you are in the former East Berlin or in West Berlin. Of course there are still a lot of former communist buildings, for example along the Karl Marx Allee, but even most apartment buildings in the East have been completely renovated by now. The city feels like one city again.

Lorenz Adler EsszimmerI am a fan of very high end cuisine, the kind of restaurants that you don’t find in Vancouver. Berlin has a couple of “over-the-top” restaurants and so one night we decided to try out Lorenz Adlon Esszimmer at Unter den Linden. The restaurant has 2 Michelin stars, which guarantees you the very best food and service. Problem was that you normally can’t book a table on the day of your dinner, but with a bit of luck and some phone calls I managed the get a table at the window, looking out over the Brandenburger Tor! Lorenz Adler Esszimmer

Grace and I arrived at exactly 7 pm and it turned out we were the first guests. The Esszimmer (which is German for dining room) is a relatively small restaurant. There are just 7 tables, set in a beautiful classical setting with a fireplace and windows with great views.

We were welcomed by the head waiter and the sommelier and were given the choice of several Champagnes. To start we opted for a glass of rose Champagne. They then gave us the menu, which had the choice of either a 6-course or an 8-course tasting menu. Because we had no important plans for the next morning we decided to go for the 8-course one with 8 paired glasses of wine (at least for me, Grace stayed with Champagne).

Lorenz Adler EsszimmerBefore the 8 courses we first had 3 rounds of amuses, which gave us an indication of what was to come. Beautifully designed small dishes with amazing combinations of ingredients and aromas. Lorenz Adler Esszimmer

While we were having our amuses the restaurant slowly filled up. Most tables were just 2 people, but one table was set for 4 persons. There was also one table for a single person. Most of the guests were in their 50s and 60s, and all were well very well dressed. That’s what I like about this kind of restaurants, having dinner here is a special occasion, even for people who eat more in restaurants than at home.

Lorenz Adler EsszimmerThe 4-person table turned out to be 2 older gentlemen and 2 young good looking Thai women. A bit of a strange combination of course, but who am I to judge. They spoke English and some German among themselves, and I didn’t think much of it until I realized that the accent of the men was Dutch. I took a closer look at them and then realized that I actually knew one of the men. He was a well-known former CEO of a large public company and I actually had had a business meeting with him once. (Given that the Thai girl was not his wife I won’t mention his name here.)Lorenz Adler Esszimmer

He looked at me as well, but I think he could not place me. He certainly did not realize I was Dutch, because after a few glasses of wine the 2 businessmen switched to Dutch. They talked quite loud and I could understand everything they said. Unfortunately the topics they discussed in Dutch mainly involved their accomplishments with young women. I am not easily embarrassed, but some of the things they said I really did not want to hear. I am sure they would have never discussed these topics in either German or English in this setting. For a moment I considered walking by their table and making a remark in Dutch to show them they were not the only ones speaking that language, but in the end I just let it go. The details sure make for a nice story over beers with friends in the future (most Dutch people know his company).

Lorenz Adler EsszimmerThe dinner itself was fantastic and the wine pairings were excellent. The creations were like art on dinner plates and they tasted even better. Top chefs are really highly skilled artists! Some of the dishes reminded me a bit of Ultraviolet in Shanghai (which is still my #1 restaurant in the world). The wines were mainly European ones and there were some real gems in there. What I like is that they give you decent sized glasses and every now and then refill your glass if you really like the wine. Not every top restaurant does that, but in this price range (about EUR 700,- for 2 people) I like it if they are not stingy. Lorenz Adler Esszimmer
The only downside was that it was almost too much for me, and Grace stopped eating her full portions after 4 courses already. You actually should not eat more than a soup and a salad at lunch when you know you’ll be having a meal like this.

Lorenz Adler EsszimmerI had a fantastic evening at Lorenz Adler’s Esszimmer. The combination of the food, the wines, and the view was just perfect. Observing the Dutch business people actually added to the fun, although it was difficult to ignore their loud talking sometimes. If I would live in Berlin I would probably go here at least once a year on a special occasion. I highly recommend this restaurant if you’re a foodie and don’t mind spending a lot of money for an amazing meal in a great setting. Just make your reservations well in advance! Lorenz Adler Esszimmer

Traditional industries don’t see disruption coming

There are many well-know tech predictions that turned out to be completely wrong, and over the past week I came across a couple of new ones that (I think) totally miss their mark.

First a few of the old ones to have a good laugh:
– “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943
– “This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication.” Western Union internal memo, 1876.
– “There is practically no chance communications space satellites will be used to provide better telephone, telegraph, television or radio service inside the United States.” T.A.M. Craven, Federal Communications Commission commissioner, 1961

What they have in common is that these statements were made by people that work in the industries they make predictions about. They all fail to see that industries constantly change and that these changes also apply to their own industry. They are probably surrounded by people who don’t see these changes either, or who don’t want to see them because they can cost them their jobs.

My job consists of spotting trends and disruptive change before others and by placing bets (=making investments) based on that. I am certainly not always right and I am often too early, but I feel I have a better helicopter view of certain industries than some of the CEOs running the leading companies in those industries. Often when I read their interviews I wonder if they really live in the same world as I do. This week I read 3 articles that I totally disagreed with and that may eventually be added to the list of disastrous tech predictions.

Hilton
First one article about the hotel industry: Hilton CEO Christopher Nassetta said “I strongly do not believe that they (AirBnB) are a major threat to the core value proposition we have.” He is confident that AirBnB is not stealing his hotel guests. Right, maybe not many yet, but given that AirBnB has far more rooms than Hilton, that will likely change soon.

I have stayed in AirBnB’s over the past years instead of staying in luxury hotels. And given that AirBnB is now focusing on the business market as well, Hilton could be in for a surprise. Mr. Nassetta stated that Airbnb cannot match the amenities that Hilton hotel rooms come with, so business travelers won’t stay there. If that’s really the main differentiator (it’s not, AirBnB has better choice, is often much cheaper, and has better facilities such as kitchens and laundry) that’s easy to solve. In China the first AirBnB clones with personal concierges and chefs have launched already, I am sure the US will see this soon as well. The hotel industry won’t change overnight, but it’s a process that is unstoppable. Good luck competing Hilton!

MoneyGram
Second, the remittance industry. MoneyGram, a huge global remittance company, doesn’t see Bitcoin as a threat. Peter Ohser, the executive vice president of business development feels digital currency doesn’t pose any threat or solve pressing problems. What? Does he not talk to his customers? Does he not follow what’s happening in the real world outside of MoneyGram and Western Union?

He believes existing payment behaviors are too entrenched, and that bitcoin is unlikely to offer enough utility, because people trust paper more than data and that behavior is not going to change (my emphasis). Especially that last sentence makes clear that he is out of sync with the real world. It reminds me of Kodak, that did not believe 15 years ago that people would stop using photo cameras with film. Well, I don’t think my kids even know what paper photos look like. Disruption happens fast Mr. Ohser. Good luck competing MoneyGram!

General Motors
Third, the car industry. I started my career at Daimler-Benz (now just called Daimler). I loved the company and did not believe it would ever lose its place as one of the top companies in the world. So far they haven’t and I still like the brand, but given how slow they are with implementing new technologies I wonder if they won’t lose their place to Google, Apple or companies like Tesla. I was in a Mercedes showroom last month, and although I loved the models I would not consider buying one of their cars anymore until they would have a pure electric car with a range like Tesla’s.

Bob Lutz, former vice chairman of GM, wrote a column for Road and Track with the title ‘Is Tesla Doomed‘? It is clear that he does not see what differentiates Tesla from the traditional car companies and he gives Elon Musk some fatherly advice: Cut costs and build a small car with a hybrid drivetrain. I had to laugh at that. Because of its current investments in the Gigafactory and in the Model 3, Tesla will eventually print money. But if they would cut back costs now they would never be able to get there. The idea for a hybrid drivetrain is ridiculous, Tesla sets itself apart with its electric-only engines with a great driving range.

Next to that, Mr. Lutz compares Tesla’s showroom strategy to that of BMW in the 1970s, but totally misses that you can’t buy Tesla cars in a showroom and drive away (you order them and wait 2-3 months, or longer, so there are no inventories).

In a few hours Tesla will publish its Q3 results and they will likely show bigger losses. Not sure how the stock price will react (I believe investors expect it and it’s reflected in the current price), but I believe these losses are necessary for huge profits a few years from now. My biggest concern is that they can’t scale up production, but maybe that is something where the traditional players can help Tesla: as their future car parts suppliers! Then Tesla can focus on its software, R&D and design, just like Apple does (they don’t produce their own products either). I am long Tesla and fully believe in Elon Musk. Good luck competing General Motors!

Why is bitcoin going up again?

Bitcoin Oct. 28, 2015

I stopped following the Bitcoin price on a daily basis a couple of months ago, mainly because not much was happening to the price. I still read the analyses on the Internet and in Bitcoin chat groups on WeChat and Telegram, but I was waiting for a a big event to happen before Bitcoin would get into a major uptrend again.

That uptrend started just over a month ago, and since then the price has gone up by about 35%. Not a lot compared to the price increase 2 years ago, but very different from the boring horizontal price trend that Bitcoin has shown for most of the past year. There were 2 other rallies in February and in June/July, but this month’s price increase seems much more stable. No big up and downs, just a steady growth of 1-2% per day at much higher average volumes than we have seen since the Mt. Gox crash in early 2014.

But what caused this price increase? There was a chain of separate events over the past weeks that explains why Bitcoin is becoming more prominent again. I list the reasons below, with the most important one at the bottom.

– MMM Global Republic of Bitcoin: This is a ponzi scheme from Russia that is suddenly becoming very popular, especially in South Africa and Indonesia, but also in China. It promises people returns of 100% per month, which should be a clear sign that it’s a scam… The interesting thing is that people don’t transfer money in fiat currency anymore, but that they switched to Bitcoin. So a lot of people are starting to use Bitcoin now for the first time. I don’t think this has a big effect, but it could lead to a lot more people finding out about Bitcoin. Of course when the whole scheme eventually falls apart they will blame Bitcoin, even though the cryptocurrency has nothing to do with it.

– The European Union announced that Bitcoin is VAT-exempt, meaning that you can legally buy and sell it without having to pay tax on it, just like any other currency. This kind of news shows that governments are getting a lot closer to accepting Bitcoin as money and it gives people more confidence in the future -and the future value- of Bitcoin.

– Banks are working on private blockchains for their transfers and transactions and 25 of the world’s top banks (incl. JP Morgan, HSBC and Citi) have formed a blockchain consortium. This may seems like negative news for Bitcoin, because banks likely won’t use the Bitcoin blockchain, but I think the market sees it as a big net positive for 2 reasons. First, it’s better that they use a private blockchain than no blockchain at all, because they will learn how blockchains work and what they can be used for. And second, eventually banks will realize that public Bitcoin blockchain is far superior to any other private blockchain because it’s much more decentralized and secure. Private blockchains are a necessary step for banks to get into Bitcoin.

– Several money transfer companies that use the Bitcoin blockchain to instantly send money from one country to another have launched over the past months. I think this is the next big thing for Bitcoin, even though most people using these services won’t realize at first that their fiat currency to fiat currency transaction actually takes place over the Bitcoin blockchain. Companies to watch in this space are Abra, Coins.ph, Bitpesa and ZipZap, but many more will likely appear over the next 12 months. Banks will likely also get into this space as well, although they may not use the Bitcoin blockchain at first. If you have shares in Moneygram or Western Union it’s probably time to start selling them.

NASDAQ is launching a private shares exchanges using the blockchain. This is a clear validation of Bitcoin technology and might eventually lead to NASDAQ using the blockchain for all its transactions. That will take a while, but this announcement came a lot quicker than I had imagined.

– The most important reason for the increase, however, is China. I was just watching all transactions happening on the major exchanges in the world, and about 80% of all Bitcoin transfers took place in China. This reminds me a bit of what happened exactly 2 years ago, during Bitcoin’s first mega rally. China led that rally until the government stepped in with a warning. Bitcoin was never banned, however, and the biggest Bitcoin exchanges in the world are still in China. It seems that more people in China have (re)discovered Bitcoin and are using it either as investment or as a tool to get their assets out of the country. The recent devaluation of the Renminbi was a sea change for China’s monetary policy. It was followed by a increased capital controls, including a crack down on underground banks and money transfer agents, making it even more difficult for money to leave the country. It seems therefore likely that Chinese are now increasingly using Bitcoin to transfer money out of the country, and I believe this is what is mostly driving prices up at the moment.

I stopped speculating about the Bitcoin price a long time ago, but looking at the volumes this seems like a very healthy uptrend that may continue for a while. On the other hand, if China suddenly decides to crack down on Bitcoin (hard to do, but still possible) prices may suddenly crash back to the lower 200s. I don’t really see that happening though, so I would not bet against Bitcoin right now.

Why P2P marketplace lending is so successful

For years I have been investing in (and on) p2p lending platforms such as LendingClub, Prosper and Dianrong, and I have been writing about it on this blog (e.g. see this post from 2012). Although people were skeptical at first a lot of my friends now invest part of their savings there, simply because returns are so much better than what you can get at banks or in other debt investments.

To give you an idea, at LendingClub I have made consistently over 8% net (=after write-offs) for years. I also invest in funds that do leveraged investments in platforms, where you make 3-4% per quarter (13-16% per year). These are fairly liquid investments, so your money is not tied up for years like in most of my other investments.

In China, where I am on the board of one of the leading marketplace lenders Dianrong.com, returns can be even higher. That’s mainly because there are no other sources of capital for most borrowers. Maybe I am biased, but I feel p2p lending is much more common in China than in N-America and Europe, especially because it’s so easy to lend money through mobile apps.

I think there are a couple of reasons why marketplace lending has taken off so fast globally and why it is better than traditional bank lending. Samir Desai, founder and CEO of Funding Circle, a UK based marketplace lender gave a talk at the Lendit conference in London this week in which he focused on this. I embed a video of his speech (via avc.com) and summarize his main points below.

Why are marketplace lenders better than traditional banks:

-P2P marketplace platforms don’t need to have money on their balance sheets to lend it to consumers. It’s direct p2p lending, so the platform has no inventory. In that way platforms are truly aligned with investors, for example they can’t invest in loans themselves, so there is no incentive not to put the best loans on the platform. Next to that it leads to platform being faster and cheaper.

– Platforms are completely transparant. On most platforms data about all originated loans is available in detail. Try that with traditional banks!

– Platforms only do loan origination and many platforms focus on a certain type of loans (e.g. student loans, or loans to specific categories of people). By doing this over and over and over again, they get better and better and better at it. That leads to even higher returns for investors.

– Platforms generally give the same investment opportunities to small and large lenders. It may be easier to lend as a big player because the platforms service you better, but if you are a savvy small investors you have access to the exact same loans at most platforms.

– Platforms have no systemic risk, because the maturity of the investments is the same as the maturity of the loans. This is very different from banks where short term deposits may be used for long term loans. In case of a bank run the whole bank may fall apart because of this mismatch, as was the case with Northern Rock in 2007-2008. On a p2p platform a bankrun is impossible because there is no maturity transformation.

Conclusion: P2P or marketplace lending is far superior to bank lending, is more secure, and has higher returns because of efficiency. We will therefore see a lot more growth in this kind of lending over the next couple of years. Being a shareholder in these platforms or putting money on these platforms as a lender will continue to give investors outsized returns.

Testing Tesla’s autopilot mode

Testing the Tesla autopilot (self driving mode)

I am a big believer that the near future will be full of self-driving cars. So Tesla’s announcement this week that it would roll out its first self-driving features in a software update to its cars was super exciting.

My business partner’s wife drives a Tesla Model S P85D (the one with the insane mode, going from 0-100 km/h in just 3.1 seconds) and her car received its autopilot update on Friday morning. Because of my Facebook posts about autonomous driving they dropped by my house today to show me the autopilot’s features. Of course I made some videos and I uploaded one here on Youtube.

Once you drive over 30 km/h you can turn on autopilot (by pushing the cruise control handle twice). At that moment the car keeps on driving the same speed (like in cruise control mode), but it also starts steering for you. On the highway that works very well and the car keeps its lane and adapts its speed to other cars in the same lane.

Also passing other cars is easy, you just turn on the your signal light, then the Tesla will check if there are no cars close to you and move over to the next lane.

It start getting tricky if you get to an area with construction though. At that moment the car gets confused, gives a warning and you have to immediately take over manual control. The current version of the Autopilot software is far from ready to drive through a construction area, and that’s kind of scary.

On secondary roads it’s even worse, because many streets don’t have outside lines or the middle lines are too faded. We had quite some problems using the autopilot features on two-lane roads and one time we even started to drive into the lane with oncoming traffic! Also the autopilot doesn’t recognize stop signs (they are everywhere in Canada) and traffic lights yet…

To be fair, the software is only in beta version and you should actually keep your hands on the steering wheel at all times. If you do that you can turn on autopilot on non-highways as well, but what’s the use of autopilot software if you still have to pay attention to the road?

My conclusion after a short test drive is that this is a major step forward in the direction of autonomous vehicles, but that this software is not ready for non-highway use yet. Maybe it’s useful in traffic jams downtown, but for now I would only use it on highways. For long distance drives it’s great though. Just put your destination in the GPS, start driving and once on the highway let the car take over the controls. Keep a thumb on the steering wheel and look up regularly (e.g. to see if there is construction ahead!), but you can then start doing other things as well.

I am a bit worried that we’ll see some accidents caused by Tesla drivers using autopilot software soon. Although Tesla makes clear that you are still responsible for your car, some people may not realize its current limitations and rely too much on the car not making mistakes. The autopilot will get constantly better because the cars send feedback about road conditions to Tesla, so if you’ll wait a few weeks it will likely be much safer already.

My current cars feel suddenly very old fashioned, my next car will likely be a Tesla.

Hernia surgery

This year’s Vancouver Marathon was not the best marathon I ever ran. A week before I could still hardly walk because of an injury, so I could not participate in the 10K Vancouver Sun Run. But I still decided to do the full 42.2 km marathon the weekend after that. The result was an even worse injury (but I finished, which is the only thing that counts), however, there was more.

I think our housekeeper washed my Vibram running shoes before the race, because while at the start I felt they were suddenly too small. During the race my big toe was very painful, but I continued anyway. I will spare you the details, but about 3 weeks later I lost my complete toenail because of this. I never realized how important even a toenail can be, I could not even swim for a few weeks because of that (too much pain).

But the strangest thing was that after the marathon my lower abdomen was hurting and it looked like I had suddenly grown a big tumor during the run. Kind of scary, so I went to see a doctor a few days later. He told me that it was a hernia, something that 10% of the people develop during their life, which was a bit of a relief. This marathon had been too much for my body it seems.

I did some research and managed to get an appointment with the best hernia doctor in Vancouver, Dr. Scudamore. He told me that it was an inguinal hernia. A surgery was not immediately necessary, but that not doing it could lead to potential complications such as strangulation (cutting off the blood supply to part of the body). Because the full recovery of such a surgery would be 6 weeks I decided to postpone the operation until after the summer (I wanted to go swimming and sailing in summer), and so last night I went in for my operation.

I have always been very healthy and never had an operation before. The only time I spent some time in a hospital was when Scott and Elaine were born in Shanghai. So I looked forward to it actually, I like to learn new things and this is the best way to observe how a surgery works.

While being tied to my bed in the operation room I asked the anesthesiologist a lot of questions and looked at all the monitors and other instruments surrounding me. I was put on an IV, which I had never experienced before. I was hungry and dehydrated (I had not eaten for 20 hours when I entered the hospital), but the IV makes you feel better soon. The view from the operation room was great, on the top floor of the building with windows all around and views over the city. Too bad I could not take a selfie!

Dr. Scudamore walked into the surgery room just before 7 pm (I already had a short chat with him 30 min before the operation in which I could ask him all kinds of questions) and informed the staff of the procedure. Then the anesthesiologist put a mask with 100% oxygen over my mouth and told me I would be asleep in 20-30 seconds. Breathing was kind of hard so I closed my eyes and took deep breaths. After 30 seconds I felt I was still not asleep and opened my eyes to tell the doctor that it did not seem to work. But I was surprised to see that I was suddenly in a different room and that the clock at the end of my bed showed it was an hour later! The surgery was over already and I had not noticed anything.

I felt fine and wanted to get up, but the post operation nurse told me to stay put. I was completely awake and asked her for something to read, but that was not possible. I had to lay down for at least another 45 minutes. That was very boring, because I felt great (thanks to the IV and all the medicine in my body) and I am not used to doing nothing for 45 minutes. There was a man in the bed next to me who had also had surgery and who seemed to be doing a lot worse. I could not see him because of curtains between the beds, but I understood that they had needed a lot more medicine to bring him to sleep and he was not in good shape when he had woken up right before me.

After a very boring 45 minutes in which I asked the nurse questions about the instruments, the surgery itself (the whole operation had lasted just 35 min), and post-operation procedures, and in which I was trying to come up with improvements for patients (why not put a simple muted TV screen above the bed to at least you can watch something without moving or hang some posters on the ceiling), I was finally allowed to get up. The nurse wanted to bring in a wheelchair but I said I wanted to try to walk myself. That went fairly well, but the nurse warned me that if I would fall she may not be able to catch me. After leaving the post-operation area I was told to go to the toilet (they don’t let you go until you prove you can do that!), which was kind of weird because the whole middle part of my body was completely numb.

Then another nurse came and put me in a wheelchair. I did not see the necessity for that but wanted to go home and just obeyed. She took me to Grace’ car and with some pain I managed to get in. I thought I would sleep most of the drive back home, but I was not tired and could even tell Grace how to drive (she prefers my directions over her navigation system).

At home I decided to walk around slowly instead of lie down because I felt fine. But all of a sudden my legs felt like jello and I fell backwards on the ground. I still don’t know what happened exactly, but it was a good lesson that I may feel okay but I was not yet okay just 2 hours after the surgery.

From then on I just sat down, had a lot of clear soup and then went to bed where I read some emails, wrote a couple of text messages and tried to read a book. By 11 pm I was supposed to take new painkillers, but I felt the pain was manageable so I did not take them yet.

The night was not easy because I could only lay in one position and woke up each time I moved. I was thinking about taking painkillers at 5 AM, but in the end decided to try to get through the night without them. The result was not much sleep, but I still felt quite rested. I also had a lot of time to think about the things I experienced in the hospital and what could be improved. Especially the information flow is quite limited, if you don’t ask you just don’t hear a lot of things. Also the waiting time at the hospital before the operation was unnecessary. Why let me arrive at 3:45 pm and not start the operation until 7 PM (I was told other operations took more time than planned)? Just give me a call in advance so I could have worked 2 hours longer. A simple app could have solved this. And maybe I am different from others, but I would have liked to see pictures or video of the operation, that would be a nice memory.

It’s now 9 AM, the kids are in school and I am sitting in the living room doing emails and WeChat messages. Pain is still manageable so I still haven’t touched my painkillers. I may do so later if I want to get some sleep, but if I can handle the pain without medicine I prefer that. Actually, the pain is a lot less than I thought. Several people told me it would hurt like crazy, but it’s actually not much worse than the pain during or after a full marathon. The main difference is that after a marathon you can lie down on your bed and feel much better, here the pain is very concentrated and doesn’t really stop.

Recovery will be quite slow, it will take about 3 weeks before I can do light activities again and it will take 6 weeks for a full recovery. Biggest problem is that I can’t drive for 2 weeks (time for self-driving cars!), but I believe I should be able to beat that time if I walk around a lot instead of hang on the couch. I am in pretty decent shape, so I assume that with healthy food and drinks my body should recover a lot more quickly than the average person would. We’ll see. At least it was an interesting experience that I actually enjoyed (I realize that might sound strange), I just wish there would be a bit less pain involved.

Autonomous cars: what the near future will look like

Google prototype self-driving car

One of the things that I enjoy most is to talk about disruptive technological trends and how they will already impact our lives 5 years from now. I use this in my investment decisions, both for start-ups and for public companies.

One of the most interesting areas for me is how quickly autonomous car technology and robotics are developing. My vision on this has evolved quite a bit since I moved to Canada in 2013, especially my view on the time line in which changes will happen (within the next 4-5 years) and the effect of robotics (more positive than I originally thought).

Robotics and autonomous cars are actually the same thing, because an autonomous car is nothing more than a robot. I have predicted for years that robots will take over most of our daily tasks and that the majority of people will lose their jobs over the next 20 years. I now believe that this will go much faster, but I also believe that this does not need to lead to mass unrest if society prepares itself well for the coming changes. This post will focus on self-driving cars, I plan to write about the effect of mass unemployment later.

Autonomous cars are a good way to explain the effects of robotics to people, because most of us use cars and can understand the changes that self-driving cars will bring. Within 5 years the first completely autonomous vehicles will hit the road (in 2013 I thought it would be in 2023, now I think it will already be by 2019-2020). Many cars already have limited self-driving features and these show how far we have come over the past years.

Last month my wife bought a new car with some of these self-driving features and it’s quite interesting to try them out. Among others her car can parallel park itself or it can back into a parking spot. It is kind of scary the first time you use it, and I even braked because I thought her new car would hit the car next to us (message from the car: “please release the brake”), but once you have done it a few times you realize the car is a much better parker than most humans.

The car also has automatic brakes in case the car in front of you suddenly slows down. When I was testing her car I drove up to a stop sign where a car was waiting in front of me of me. I saw that the car would start driving because there were no other cars at the intersection, so I drove up to him quite fast. About 15 meters before the stop sign, and right at the moment the other car started driving, Grace’ car suddenly took over the controls and started braking hard while making a beeping sound. It was very strange when it happened, but it’s actually assuring that the car forces you to drive more carefully.

For me the big take away is how quickly you get used to these features. It makes driving easier and safer, and after using them a few times it feels totally normal. I think that once cars will become more autonomous we will immediately accept it and will let the car do all the driving.

It will change the way cars look and feel. I don’t believe that fully autonomous cars will need a steering wheel and pedals. Once you have given control to your car you won’t feel the need to drive yourself anymore. That’s the mistake the big car manufacturers seem to be making, most still believe that people will want cars where you can take over from the computer if needed. It reminds me of the first cars in the late 1800’s that looked like coaches, so you could still put a horse in front of the it! Google doesn’t have this bias and its autonomous vehicle prototypes are just sit-and-go, without any controls for passengers. They redesigned the concept of a car bottom-up and that may turn out to be a very smart move.

Given how much better electric cars have become over the past 3 years (Tesla cars are among the very best vehicles on the road right now) and how quickly battery technology and solar power are developing, my prediction is that the first autonomous cars will be completely electric. No more engines with moving components that need maintenance and can break down easily, but a simple but powerful battery powered car.

This will have huge implications for the car industry, because many companies are still focused on gas- or diesel-powered engines, instead of focusing all their energy on electric technology. But not just that, once autonomous vehicles become widely available, car sharing concepts will take off and the whole automotive market will collapse. Why do you need 2-3 cars per household if these cars sit in parking lots 95% of the time?

I believe that most people won’t own cars anymore but will subscribe to an Uber-like concept in which an autonomous vehicle will show up at your door whenever you need one. The number of cars will go down dramatically and if you are the operator of a parking garage you might as well start looking for a new career. Self-driving cars will park themselves outside of city centers to recharge their batteries, or more likely, immediately drive to the next person that needs a ride.

Costs will be much lower than current taxi services, because there are no human drivers involved anymore (the majority of the costs for a taxi are salaries), because cars will become much cheaper (mass-produced luxury taxis without complicated engines will probably be produced for $15-20,000, and because of their electric engines you can drive them for more kilometers than normal cars) and because they don’t need expensive gas anymore (with better solar power and batteries the variable costs of driving will go down to almost zero).

My prediction: transportation will become almost free. Hard to imagine right now what impact that will have, but for sure it will change the way we live. People might start to live further away from downtown for example. And supermarkets may disappear because ordering online will be faster and cheaper (immediate delivery, no delivery costs, and the supermarket doesn’t need expensive real estate).

Traffic jams will disappear, not necessarily because there will be less cars on the road, but mainly because autonomous cars drive more efficiently (no sudden brakes) and will communicate with each other so that traffic lights are not necessary anymore. Check out this YouTube video to understand what will happen in intersections when you only have self-driving cars: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r7_lwq3BfkY This assumes that there are no human driven cars anymore, which will not happen 5 years from now, but it will be the case in 15 years. Possibly older cars will be have to retrofitted with autonomous systems or they will not be allowed to drive during rush hour or on certain roads.

Another big advantage is that there won’t be many accidents anymore. Driving is one of the most dangerous activities, but that will change once autonomous vehicles take over. Insurance companies should take this into account, if you are a car insurer your business may go away over the next couple of years.

I am very positive about the changes that will happen in the automotive industry over the next years and the additional freedom and free time it will give many of us. It will completely disrupt some industries but it will also create a lot of new opportunities. I look forward to these changes and hope to drive (or better: be driven in) an autonomous car by 2020.

Ad blockers and 21 Inc: a major business opportunity

The 21 Bitcoin computer

Over the past days I have been closely following the ad blocking discussion. For those who did not pay too much attention to it, the issue is that Apple released iOS9 and that this version allows ad blocking apps. That means that by installing one of these apps you won’t see ads anymore.

Great, right? Well, maybe yes, because it makes the user experience better, but also maybe no, because ads are the main revenue driver for most websites on the Internet. Within a day the top paid apps in the app store were ad blocking apps, so there clearly was a big need for it.

I don’t want to go into too much detail, but it means that many websites will need a different business model if they want to survive. The current model where you are often bombarded with ads that you do not want to see or that load much more slowly than the site itself is not working. It’s the ad industries fault, because they assumed consumers could not avoid the ads. With more relevant ads, that are less annoying, load faster and don’t block part of the site, I believe people would be less inclined to download ad blockers.

I never put any ads on this blog (and never will), nor did I ever accept any paid posts, because I blog for fun and make my money in other ways. Indirectly this blog has earned me a lot more than I could have ever made with ads, however. That’s my business model, but obviously that doesn’t work for sites with high overheads.

Some websites charge monthly fees, which is a model I don’t believe in. The only paid subscription that I have is the New York Times, because their content is unique and far superior to that of most other newspaper websites. But I don’t want to pay a monthly fee for 10 to 20 blogs and media sites, so earlier this year I deleted all the ones that charge for content from my RSS reader.

I believe in a model like Blendle, where people pay for content on a per article basis. However, the model should be seamless (no ‘pay now’ button), ubiquitous (it should work on any paid website, not just a few) and you should pay less if you don’t finish reading the article. Next to that an article should be cheap, I think the Blendle articles (at on average $0.20 per article) are still too expensive.

I have talked about this for about 8 years already, but so far I have not found the business model that I am looking for. Partly because big companies like Apple (iTunes for News?) and Microsoft (Skype with its pre-paid credit would be a perfect candidate) didn’t see the market or did not want to enter it, or in the case of Google because it would hurt their main business: advertising.

But the main reason the model does not exist yet is that there was no good machine-to-machine payment tool that can automatically send and receive money. Until now that is, because yesterday 21 Inc. released the data for its upcoming “21 bitcoin computer“. This Raspberry Pi with an added black box is the first tool that can make machines talk to each other and exchange value (=bitcoin) between them. Each 21 bitcoin computer contains the full blockchain and mines bitcoin as well when you use it.

The 21 bitcoin computer is 21 Inc.’s first product, but there will be many more products to come. Their vision is that everybody will in the future own one of their devices and will automatically mine small amounts of bitcoin every day. This money can then be spent automatically on products developed with the 21 bitcoin computer.

The first use case I see for this right now is automatically paying for web content. You read an article on say The Wall Street Journal and automatically a few cents are deducted from your bitcoin wallet. You don’t need to approve it (you probably don’t even realize that you are paying) and you can never spend more than you mine, unless you add bitcoin to your wallet yourself. In case you don’t like the content and stop reading after a few seconds or if you don’t scroll to the end of the article, you’ll get a partial or full refund – all done automatically.

This will solve a big part of the current ad blocking problem, because it gives content owners a new business model. 21 Inc. could be the ad blocker of the future: turn it on and you don’t see ads, turn it off and you’ll be served ads. Anybody can monetize their own content in the future and there is a huge opportunity here for a start-up.

Although lots of people dismiss 21 Inc.’s bitcoin computer (too expensive, ugly, just a Raspberry Pi, you can’t earn money with their chip, etc.), I think they are missing the bigger picture: we finally have an Internet protocol for payments! Automatic machine-to-machine payments will lead to new business models which will change the web as we know it. It’s hard to predict the future of the Internet, but I believe automatic payments are almost as disruptive as the first webbrowser was. Changing the online ads business model will just be a first step.

Robbery at Metrotown

Today is our 10-year wedding anniversary (time flies, we were still so young during our wedding…) so I decided to take the day off and spend time with my wife. She wanted to do some shopping after bringing the kids to school, so we drove to the Metrotown mall in Burnaby, mainly because we had never been there.

We walked around inside the mall for a few minutes when we heard a loud scream behind us. My initial reaction was to ignore it, but the screaming continued. I turned around and saw an older Chinese woman laying on the ground outside the BMO bank. She seemed to be in shock and could only scream, but I noticed she was pointing in my direction.

I looked around and at that moment a big well dressed black guy with a panama hat walked by me. He carried a woman’s hand bag and walked a bit faster than normal.  I looked at him and then noticed he was the only one not paying attention to the screams. At that same moment he suddenly started running away from me, and I realized that he must have just robbed the woman and pushed her onto the ground.

I didn’t hesitate and immediately ran after him. He was quite fast but I am a decent runner so he did not manage to run far away from me. Within moments several other people followed me as well (Grace later told me about 20 people were running behind me and the thief). I shouted “stop the thief, stop the thief” and that scared the black guy, and he threw away the bag.

He probably hoped that I would stop running after him, but he was wrong. I knew that I would eventually catch up with him, these guys are generally fast at first but because I am a long distance runner I can run at a high speed much longer than they can. So I kept following him.

Problem was, the other people were not as fast as we were, so it was just me and him and some other people at least 20 meters behind us. He ran into Sears, which was virtually empty, so I screamed to the staff to stop the guy. But because he looked like a decent guy people did not immediately realize he was the criminal and let him pass.

He went around a corner, but when I rounded the corner he was suddenly gone. I first thought he may be hiding behind some racks, but then a shop assistant told me that a black guy just ran out the emergency exit. The emergency door had a sign saying that an alarm would go off if you opened it, but that was not the case so he managed to get away.

There was no point in going after him anymore, because I had no idea where he had run to, but at least the Chinese lady got her bag back. Grace was happy that I was not hurt, she had seen me running after the guy and saw from a distance that I was the only one close to him. She was quite worried that he would have a knife and stab me if I would have come too close, so seeing me safe made her quite relieved.

We were not in the mood for shopping anymore after that and left the building about 10 minutes later. By that time police cars had surrounded the mall, but I doubt that they were able to catch the guy. He was probably the only black guy in the mall, so he would have been an easy catch, but he was likely already off the premises before the police even got the call. It’s a pity, but it was a good reminder to be careful, even in shopping malls.

Raccoons

Raccoons in the garden

Lots of wildlife around our house these days: 2 weeks ago we saw 2 whales while sailing close to our home, last week a black bear visited our garden, on the weekend I had a close encounter with a deer, and tonight a family of 4 raccoons walked around our pool!

After dinner Elaine walked to the window to look at the sunset and suddenly started screaming: “Daddy, daddy, look, look, look!”. I had no idea what was going on but because she sounded shocked, I immediately ran towards her and saw a raccoon family walking on the deck next to our pool.

Raccoons in the garden

Two of them started eating some of the plants and 2 others jumped on the pool cover (I am glad we closed it!). We took a few pictures through the window, because I thought they would run away when they would hear or see us.

Raccoons in the garden

But when 3 of them had left the garden I opened the door to the garden and the last raccoon did not run at all, but turned around to look at me! I made some hissing sounds and pretended to throw something at the animal to scare it away, but instead it took a step towards me. That actually scared me a bit. The raccoon then slowly walked into the bushes and kept on observing me from there. Raccoons in the garden

It’s not the first time I see a raccoon and it’s also not the first time that raccoons don’t run away when I encounter them. I once saw a huge one at dusk while running in the woods in Stanley Park, it just looked at me like I did not belong there (probably true!). I was more scared to see him than he was to see me running by.

Raccoons in the garden

I had assumed that if you see raccoons at home and try to scare them, they would at least have the natural reaction to flee. But that seems to be a wrong assumption. Maybe they are too used to human beings? Luckily raccoons are generally not dangerous to people, although they can attack pets or damage your garden. Let’s see what wild animals will visit us next week – I heard there are coyotes on the golf course behind our house!

 

Back to school after a busy holiday

Egmont, Sunshine Coast

Egmont, Sunshine Coast, BC

On Tuesday Scott and Elaine’s summer holiday will be over after more than 2 months of vacation. They are very excited to go back to school after such a long period of time. I think they had a great holiday in which they not only had some fun trips and summer camps but during which they also learned a lot.

Sailing around Bowen Island with Val & John

Anchoring at Galbraith Beach (Bowen Island)

We didn’t have time for a long holiday this summer, mainly because I was too busy with work related activities, but we made a few short trips to the wineries in Kelowna, the Rocky Mountains (Banff & Lake Louise), Southern California (LA & San Diego, incl. Legoland and Sea World), and in British Columbia (a trip to the Sunshine Coast and several sailing trips). Quails' Gate Winery, Kelowna

Visiting a winery in Kelowna

When their holiday started in late June I made a list of things that I wanted to teach the kids during their summer break. For Elaine I put learning to swim and learning how to ride a bicycle on top of the list, for Scott it was sailing and learning a first computer language. Next to that they would practice piano every day, write their journals on a weekly basis and read books for an hour per day. Rockwater Resort, Sunshine Coast

Rockwater Resorts, Sunshine Coast, BC

Looking back most of these goals were met. Elaine is now a great swimmer, she can do breaststroke, crawl and backstroke and she has no fear at all of water. Before June she mainly swam with one inflatable armband, but now she won’t need that anymore. She hang out in our pool on most days during the holiday, next year I’ll also let her swim in the sea with me. Elaine learning how to ride a bicycle

Learning how to ride a bike with daddy

Biking took her a bit more time, but once she got the hang of it she immediately wanted to ride up and down hills! Just like with swimming she not only has no fear, but she also doesn’t see any danger. So she had a few crashes, but that’s the only way to learn. Scott has his sailing camp

Scott at his sailing camp

Scott took a sailing camp early in the holiday and there he learned to sail an Optimist on his own. He now knows the basic concepts of sailing, so when I took him out on my yacht a couple of times he enjoyed it a lot more. I even let him steer my boat sometimes, he loves it! Captain Scott

Captain Scott!

For Scott I had decided to teach him Python as his first computer language. Python is not that hard to learn (we only did the basics of course) and is a good basis for other languages. I realized soon that most of the key concepts are still quite hard for someone who just finished 1st grade (e.g. things like Boolean operators and expressions, variables, loop functions), but after several weeks of working with them he understands what they are and can work with them to write simple code. My plan is to do one lesson a week with him during the school year, and eventually to build a simple computer game with him. Bow lake & glacier

Playing on the shores of Bow Lake

The kids also loved to play piano, they normally practiced without us telling them to do so. Elaine even played at some public pianos in Vancouver during the holiday, attracting a small crowd of onlookers. Because she memorizes all her songs she can play without sheet music, which is helpful when giving a mini concert in the open air. Hitting golf balls in the backyard

Elaine learns how to play golf

The kids both wrote long journals about their holidays, describing the trips we took and the things we saw. Elaine wrote that her highlight was her visit to Legoland California in late July, she especially loved the rollercoasters (Scott not so much). Scott’s highlight was an overnight sailing trip that he took with me and my dad. We sailed in the Strait of Georgia where we saw 2 whales close to our boat (very impressive!) and then anchored for the night in a bay at Gambier Island. Nice to spend quality time withy my dad and son, and even nicer that Scott liked it so much as well. Scott read 122 books in August!

Scott’s amazing reading results for August

Scott’s main activity this summer was reading. It’s unbelievable how much he reads. He has his own Kindle with an unlimited Amazon subscription and that was the best present ever for him. I just checked the statistics on his Kindle for August and it turns out he read 122 books this month, for a total of over 10,000 pages! I used to read a lot as a kid, but this beats everything. He is an extremely fast reader and already reads books for grade 4, so he will likely have an easy time in school this year.

A bear in our garden

It has been extremely dry in British Columbia this summer, I can’t even remember the last time it rained here. The downside is that there are a lot of water restrictions now (you can’t even water your garden or wash your car anymore) and there have been many forest fires because of the drought. Also animals are affected, because there is not enough food for them high up in the mountains, and so they come down to look for it.

And that’s what happened today at our house. Our neighbour was walking her dog when she suddenly saw a bear in front of our driveway! We do get a bit of wildlife in our area, such as cougars and coyotes, but bears are very rare. Since we moved here we had not seen any, and neighours later told us that the last time a bear was spotted in our street was in 2009. 

A bear in our garden

The black bear is hardly visible below the bushes

The bear was standing below some bushes when a car drove by, and because of that it walked up our driveway. Luckily the kids were not playing outside! Or more likely, if the kids would have been playing outside the bear might not have entered our garden.

Coincidentally our housekeeper just arrived in her car and she drove up to the bear to scare it away. That didn’t really work and the bear decided to sit next to our house before walking into our neighbour’s garden.

From there the bear managed to climb over a fence onto the golf course. A woman playing golf got a good scare when she suddenly saw a bear jump onto the fairway in front of her. The bear then ran away and we have not seen it since. 

Living in Vancouver’s suburbs is certainly interesting!

Soylent, trying out the future of food!

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Many of my investments are in companies that make products or services that have the potential to change the world. It’s therefore a real pity that I never had the chance to invest in Soylent, a product that may redefine what food is. (Note: If shares should become available on secondary markets please let me know!)

Never heard of Soylent? It’s a powder that you mix with water to get a drink that has all the nutrition and vitamins you need to live healthy. It takes less than 5 minutes to make Soylent and it costs less than $10 per day! Soylent saves you time and money and makes it easy to get all the right nutrition elements that you need for a healthy life. 

I first heard about Soylent 2 years ago and found the idea intriguing. However, you could not buy the product yet at the time (it only started shipping in the US around April 2014), so I could not try it out and therefore sort of forgot about it. Every now and then I read an article (either very postive or very negative: disruptive technologies are always quite controversial and lead to lots of online discussions. Just like Bitcoin!) and I decided to order Soylent if it would become available in Canada. And indeed, a few weeks ago I read that Soylent was now for sale in my new home country, so I ordered a batch of the product.

My first shipment of Soylent arrived earlier this week and the past 3 days I lived mainly on this product. To be honest, I was a bit skeptical when I started this food experiment, mainly because I like to eat good food and I spend quite a lot of money on it. I could not imagine that a cheap powder-based drink would change the way I would eat for more than a day.

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Preparing Soylent is very easy. With your first shipment comes a big jug in which you put half a bag of Soylent powder, then you fill half the jug with water and you shake the mix for 30 seconds. You then add the remaining powder, fill up the jug with water and shake again for 30 seconds. Done! It’s best to drink Soylent chilled, so I put it in the fridge and started my new ‘diet’ the next morning during breakfast. In October bottles of Soylent will go on sale as well, meaning that you don’t need to prepare it yourself anymore.

I live fairly healthy, with lots of exercise, not too much stress, and good food (plus several vitamins and mineral supplements, based on the results of my human genome sequencing). So I assumed Soylent would not make me more healthy, it would merely make eating faster and cheaper.

I got up a bit too late and had an early meeting in my office, so I did not have a lot of time for breakfast. Normally I would have a large glass of water (I start every day with a large glass of warm water), make some yoghurt with fruit and eat some bread with jam or cheese. Now I had my glass of water as usual and then I drank a smaller glass of Soylent. I finished breakfast in less than 2 minutes and jumped in my car to drive to downtown Vancouver.

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Soylent tastes a bit like pancake batter or possibly a kind of oatmeal, not a bad taste actually. It was not something I needed to get used to, and over the past days I started to like it more and more. It was very easy to drink, it reminded me of having a milk shake, partly because it has the same texture and it came straight out of the fridge so it was very cold.

When I arrive in the office normally the first thing I do is to make myself a strong coffee. But now I did not really feel like drinking coffee, which is very strange for me. I normally drink at least 2 cups of coffee in the morning and on average about 4 cups of coffee per day. A workday does not really start until I finish my first coffee. But today I was a bit thirsty and decided to have a glass of water instead.

2 hours later I made my first coffee, and that was actually the only coffee I had that day. I wasn’t sure whether not drinking coffee was related to Soylent, but after 3 days I recognize the pattern: I only drink 1-2 cups of coffee per day now instead of 3-4, and I don’t miss it at all. I actually prefer an extra sip of Soylent instead of a coffee and the main reason I drink coffee is because I am so used to making one that I don’t really think about it.

After 2 meetings, around 11 AM, I normally get hungry and start looking for a cookie or a banana. But instead I decided to have half a glass of Soylent and my craving for other food was gone right away. And I started to really like the taste of Soylent!

Lunch was simple as well. Just a big glass of Soylent followed by a glass of water. For some reason Soylent makes me more thirsty, despite the fact that a jug of Soylent contains 1.6 liters of water. I drank my lunch while doing emails, so I did not have to stop working, saving me at least 30-45 minutes (if I don’t have a biz lunch I normally I walk out to a restaurant, buy some take-away food and eat it in my office).

I had a bit more Soylent during the afternoon and had no craving for other food at all. And even better, I felt a lot more energetic. Normally I start to get a bit sleepy after lunch, but with Soylent there was no dip at all. The next day was exactly the same, so it seems Soylent is at least part of the reason for it.

When I came home I had a normal dinner. I decided not to go cold turkey and completely stop eating food, but to just replace breakfast and lunch with Soylent (except for business lunches). At home we try to have breakfast and dinner together every day, so I don’t want to change our daily schedule by suddenly just drinking Soylent. Dinner is more than just eating to me, it’s a good time to talk about the day with the family and to listen to Scott and Elaine’s stories. That ritual won’t be changed by Soylent.

I actually realized that because dinner is now the only ‘real food’ meal of the day, I tend to enjoy the food more than I would normally. It also feels like I eat more slowly. After not chewing for most of the day it feels good to eat some solid food.

I have now been drinking most of my meals for 3 days and I am very positive. There were no side effects for me because of Soylent. If you search the Internet lots of people say that their bodies and digestive systems have to get used to Soylent during the first days, but for me that was not the case. I felt at least as healthy as usual and slept very well. I suspect that not drinking as much coffee and not eating any sugary products are important reasons for this.

As a bonus I seem to be losing weight as well. Likely because I eat less calories, especially during lunch. Also there are no snacks in between, I totally lost my cravings for something sweet or some carbs in the late morning or mid-afternoon. When I want to eat something I just take a sip of soylent.

Based on my very limited observations and based on my personal taste, I do believe there could be a huge market for Soylent. The food seems to be healthy, at least more healthy than the food that most people in the (Western) world eat. It is also relatively cheap compared to buying fresh foods: for about $10 per day you can have the equivalent of 3 meals and some snacks per day, and this price may come down further if the soylent production scales up.

And not only that, the food can also save you at least 2 hours per day, assuming you only eat Soylent. No more grocery shopping for fresh food, no more cooking dinner (and cleaning up afterward) and not spending more than a few minutes on eating the food.

I have only tried Soylent for 3 days now, but I am convinced that I will keep eating it on a semi-regular basis. Not for all my meals, but possibly a few days per week for breakfast and/or lunch. Although many hardcore Soylent users have been eating just Soylent for weeks or even months, I won’t give up good ‘real’ food for Soylent. But I could imagine that when I should be alone at home for a few days that I would eat just Soylent to save time.

Soylent is certainly not for everyone, and most people will be very skeptical at first. But over time I think more people will try it out and will realize that it can be a good partial alternative for their normal diets. It saves time, is healthy and cheap. It may even help to solve the problem of hunger in the world. Soylent is disrupting the food industry, it could very well be the future of food!

Business trip & mini-break in SoCal

Palisades Park, Santa Monica

This summer I’m too busy with work to go on a long holiday, so we’re just taking a few shorter trips. In early July we spent some days in Kelowna and Banff, and last week we did a trip to Southern California. I had accepted to speak at 2 conferences in Los Angeles so that was a good reason to bring the family along and plan some activities in between the conferences.

The Langham Huntington, Pasadena, CA

The first conference that I spoke at was the Silicon Dragon conference in Pasadena, a conference about tech and investing in China. We decided to stay in The Langham Huntington, where I stayed a couple of monts ago as well when I did 2 talks at Caltech and in Burbank. It’s a beautiful classic hotel with great service and nice views from the rooms (especially those on the backside of the hotel).

Pasadena, CA

We did a bit of sightseeing in Pasadena, which is very nice place with some older buildings and nice shops. We also took the kids to the Caltech campus close to downtown Pasadena. We’re showing the kids all world-class universities when we are in the area: for example a couple of months ago when we were in the Bay area we went to Stanford and to UC Berkeley with them. Not sure if universities will still be around when they are ready to go there in 10-12 years (also education is being disrupted!), but it’s always good when they know what the campuses of these universities look like.

Speaking at Silicon Dragon in Pasadena, CA

The Silicon Dragon conference was interesting and a good way to catch up with a lot of people (a lot of friends from my China days were there). The venture capital / dealmakers in China panel was fun to participate in and I even did an interview with CCTV (China’s main broadcaster) about investing in China and about online entertainment trends in Asia.

CCTV interview at Silicon Dragon Los Angeles

After the panel I picked up my family from the hotel and we drove 2 hours south to the Legoland Hotel in Carlsbad. We stayed there last year as well and it’s a good base when you plan to visit Legoland. However, the hotel is very much overpriced (almost $600 per night for a room without a balcony) and is super crowded in the summer months. The service is mediocre as well, it’s basically a 3-star hotel with 5-star prices. But the kids love it and that’s what count. But after last week’s experience we very likely won’t be back anymore, and certainly not in high season.

Legoland Hotel California

Legoland on the other hand was great and the kids had a fantastic time. As usual in theme parks we got VIP passes, but the park had changed the system. Last year when we visited Legoland we just got special tickets so that you did not have to wait in line at any of the attractions, but this year they changed to electronic devices. For an additional $25 per person you would have a 25% shorter waiting time, for $50 a 50% shorter waiting time and for $100 per person your waiting time was 5% of that of normal ticket buyers.

Legoland California

Pretty decent pricing (esp. compared to the price of the Legoland Hotel), because the waiting time at the most popular attractions was between 60-90 minutes. With the devices we had to wait max. 5 minutes at each attraction, and if you input the next ride while walking there you have almost no waiting time. We saved many hours of waiting because of the devices, so it was totally worth it for us.

Legoland California

Scott and Elaine both had their first rollercoaster experience in Legoland. They both liked it, but Scott felt one rollercoaster ride was sufficient for a day while Elaine was really excited and afterwards wanted to try every scary ride that we saw. Interesting to observe how different siblings can be.

Elaine's first time in a rollercoaster!

After a couple of hours we left the park and drove down to San Diego, where we had booked a suite at the Hyatt next to Sea World. The place was quite nice, with a balcony overlooking the Mission Bay marina and a (bit crowded) pool with slides for the kids.

Mission Bay, San Diego

The next morning we took a water taxi from the marina to Sea World, the quickest and easiest way to get to the park. The boat captain made a little detour to show us some seals and then dropped us off at the back entrance of Sea World. So no waiting lines to enter the park. The only problem was that we had to pick up our VIP passes at the entrance of the park, so we first had to take a walk.

Sea Lions in Mission Bay, San Diego

Sea World still had the old system where you could bypass all the lines, but because of all the negative publicity after the release of Blackfish (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8OEjYquyjcg) there were not that many lines anymore. Even at the top attractions waiting times in the middle of peak season were just 15 minutes! But the tickets were still quite useful for the shows: most of them are fully booked if you don’t come at least 15-30 minutes in advance, but with these tickets you get the best seats even if the show is full already and you can show up any time.

Sea World San Diego

After Legoland Scott and Elaine were not too impressed by Sea World’s rides, but they liked the shows a lot. The orca and dolphin shows were both quite impressive, and the one with the sea lions was a big hit with the kids as well. We left around 4 pm and took a water taxi to the hotel from the back entrance.

Sea World San Diego

In the hotel we went for a swim and then we drove along the coast to downtown San Diego. The city is very nice (I had only been there once before) and has a very relaxed feel. I especially like all the marinas, it seems like everybody has a boat in San Diego.

San Diego

After dinner we put the kids to bed and then I worked a couple of hours in the living room. Although I try to keep up with important emails during the daytime I get so many mails that there is no way I can answer all of them on my phone. Even on my laptop I can’t answer all of them anymore and these days chances are you don’t get a reply anymore if you mail me. For a long time I tried to answer all my mails but I have given up on that. So if you ever try to get in touch and don’t get an answer, just send a follow-up mail (they do get priority!).

Scott in Newport Beach

The next day we visited friends from Hong Kong in their holiday home in Newport Beach. They are both in the traditional finance industry, so we talked a bit about the latest developments in blockchain land (still one of my favorite topics) and the p2p lending world. I also took Scott to the beach, just a 2 minute stroll down the lane from their house. Many of the beaches in Southern California are wide and sandy, and the one in Newport beach was no exception. Great places to hang out and spend a lazy afternoon!

Running from Santa Monica to Venice Beach (and back)

Late in the afternoon we drove to the Fairmont Hotel in Santa Monica, a very nice hotel overlooking the Pacific. I went for a run on the beach while the kids went swimming in the ocean, and after that we had a quick dinner in downtown Santa Monica. After dinner the kids were tired and went to bed straight away, while I worked for a couple of hours.

Speaking at Keynote 2015 in Los Angeles

The next morning I got up early to drive to downtown Los Angeles for Keynote 2015, a distributed ledger conference, where I was invited to speak on investing in blockchain tech. The conference was held in the main ballroom of the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, an amazing location! In the 1920s the first Oscar award ceremonies were actually held right in this place, and the hotel had several pictures from events in those days on its walls.

Keynote2015-2

The blockchain conference was very interesting and gave me some new insights on what’s happening with bitcoin, and I enjoyed discussing the investment opportunities in blockchain technologies. The crowd was very different from the ‘old’ bitcoin conferences, where most people were very familiar with bitcoin already. At this conference I met several people from banks and other multinationals who were still new to the bitcoin world. Also a couple of speakers were pretty much anti-bitcoin, which made for some lively discussions. Thanks for organizing this Moe, it was great to be part of one of your events again.

Palisades Park, Santa Monica

The next morning I made a walk around Santa Monica before packing our suitcases and driving to the airport. I handed in my Silvercar and one of the Silvercar employees drove us to departures (great service!). We had a quick lunch in the lounge and then boarded our flight back to Vancouver. I had a fun and productive couple of days in SoCal, and the family enjoyed it as well!

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