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Friday, March 21, 2008

Ten reasons to live in Dominica

Some people dont understand why I love Dominica so I will give ten reasons why despite all the things I dont like, I still remain. Of course as they dissapear I will update :-)

1. The pace, or lack thereof. If you dont understand, stand up in grand central Station in NY or Victoria Station in London and watch people run around like headless chickens to be packed into trains like sardines. Voluntary madness. And they consider that normal. Well normal is strolling and not feeling obliged to walk fast.

2. The food. Simple and without fanfare. Who care about dining al fresco when you do that everyday. Who cares about descriptions such as a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, or a collage of greens and all the bs you get on these menus in the so called first world. And now even in some caribbean countries, poor mimic people that they are. People really do giggle about it when they are being honest.

3. The water. A simple thing. River water, pipe water, just water...abundant, though less so than ever i remember but still more than most places. And it does taste different. And in this case different is better.

4. The air. Unpolluted, and fresh. Soon to possibly to have a slight tinge of oil refinery added. But still...worth being here for.

5. Familiarity. its a personal reason. I like the fact that I call and get my fish just like that fresh from the sea. I like that I know the people I encounter. yes the downside is claustrophobia of sorts and everyone being in your business, bt after is a small island with not much going on.

6. The weather. I hate winter. Honesly I wasnt built for that biting cold that I willingly subjected myself to for 12 years. I am sorry, but winter fashion and frequent nookie sn enough to justify that season.

7.The innuendo of life. This need explaining. In dominica you could met your local pastor in a quiet spot literally talking off the pants of a young lady and then unashamedly experience the same person in a fire and brimstone speech next day. Dominica has an almost daily occurence of comedy, some unfortunately rooted in hypocrisy but much of it is just pure innocence translated into reality. Our signs for example are classic examples of that.

8. Carnival. Can explain it. Just do it.

9. Proximity. Just down the road in the US or UK often translates to a 30 min to and hours drive. Just down the road here is a drive that could be walked in ten minutes. I love it. I am done work and at home in ten minutes.

10. Irreverence. The lack of unnecessary airs and graces. take it from me. People in big countries have to put up with so much fake bs in their average day that its almost understanable when they go on these mass shootouts. Frustration builds up over time. Everyone has to be tolerant of each other no mater how they feel etc. In the meantime you literally see people imploding. here in Dominica a man offends another man and the anatomy of his mother comes into full view via words. They then meet next day and life goes on. there is something unhealthily healthy about that.

Add to my list if you have any.

A few thoughts

We now have social tourism from venezuela. Poor venezuelans get to come to Dominica to have a holiday via direct flights into the Nature Isle. Might be a way to placate those restless Chavistas about their socialist revolution and get some people to justify the new venezuela to dominica flights. Somehow i am yet to understand the benfit to the actual Dominican but I am sure it will come in a ruling party communique.

And yes....I know...there is no poverty in our new economic powerhouse. After all we just gave 90,000 dollars to Liberia on request from the IMF. Yes the IMF. Remember them ? That evil group of hegemonists as described by that new organisation called Alba which condemns the IMF (hawk...spit). We truly embrace the 'urgency of now' in Dominica.

This leads me to Tony Astaphan, lawyer and political advisor to the ruling party (this sounds better than government and it is actually what it is). Tony gets alot of stick because his family is rich and he is seen as a champagne socialist. Of course Tony is more than ideology. He is also a successful lawyer who works for the Antigua, Kittitian, St lucian, vincentian Labour parties (many of them have since gone from ruling to merely waiting). Tony has obviously worked out that ideology without money makes you something like a walking Cuba (liable to end up dreaming of being exploited just for the freedom of it all). I would say I admire Tony's ability to appear to be a political player. I am more reminded of those slick Mafia lawyers who all the other lawyers hate because they make more money and who still get the best 'other' work. Some could do worse than study his career approach.

Barack Obama and religion. I must say Obamas church / religion thing disturbs me. Black people for generations have been stupefied by religion. I dont believe Barack Obama is, but I do believe that he has studied the reach of religion which is even more dangerous. At times his speeches seem like sermons grabbing at the hearts and minds of the listeners. Makes me think that this guy has managed to make a whole heap of unbelievers at least pay tithe, which is why his fundraising is so successful. Between the three remaining options though I see little home for countries like ours, except that our politicians will get more chances for photo opps.

In Dominica the use of the church to legitimise people who are dirtier than the hell that most people are supposed to avoid, is well...almost religious in execution. The gathering union between church and state in Dominica is a bad bad sign. Unlike the US which has secularity drummed into the lives of its citizens, Dominica has a range of crackpots who would love to have the ability to use Government as a pulpit. Because of the belief system of people here, there is nothing more dangerous than a politician playing the God card. Their level of accountability can be nil and they will still succeed.

Lastly....Its great to be in Dominica. Its green, its sunny, its beautiful and the social tourists havnt started squatting here yet. Viva la Revolucion.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Follow the money

There is no doubt that the Caribbean is a serious challenge for an entrepeneur. Given that our laissez faire culture and the size of our markets do not usually encourage venture confidence you have to ask, why bother ?

The other issue is that there is no such thing as angel investing or VC funding in the Caribbean. Sure, some people list themselves as being VC funds but none of those Trinidadian based or Barbados based orgs are really entrepeneurial focussed. Had a chance to deal with one recently and the company had an aversion to a face to face meeting and gave no criteria as to what would encourage them to invest.

In another life I was a due diligence specialist for ICG Internet Capital Group. I was actually the CTO of one of their seed companies, Breakaway Solutions, in the UK, and spent time doing due diligence on people like Inreon in Switzerland, CargoBiz in Germany, FOL in Leicester (Farming online).

Now you wont hear of any of those companies today. They have all gone under. Of course ICG is still there, whilst all the people who used to work for these companies and the entrepeneurs who set them up, are gone.

The story is that banks and vc companies take calculated risks, but their rebound factor is high. Entrepeneurs dont have that luxury most of the time.

While I was at BWAY, the stock went up to as high as 178 bucks. We had 1000 plus employees at one point. The wasteage was incredible. I remember staying in the Old Colonial Inn in Concord , Mass, with FOL, a venture which was something of a reverse online auction system being built to operate as an online B2B venture. It tanked of course.

Many of the US colleagues went on to form Greenbeacon GreenBeacon Solutions and they are increasingly successful. The strange thing is that Breakaway had some of the brightest people I knew.

The gist of this blog entry is that life is a risk and the inability of Caribbean institutions to think beyond their nose might be one of the reasons why young people are literally being bred to run away.

The worst part of this is that it isnt worth the while for most VC's to do DD on the Caribbean. New large scale ventures in the Caribbean are few and far between. Digicel perhaps ? After that everything else is a first world outpost with a Caribbean representative.

Our impression of ourselves is not good. Its Liat Airlines. How do you expect people like CFSC and DFL Caribbean to take any risks in any enterprise.

Monday, March 03, 2008

One at a time

So far 2008 has been interesting. Starting a charity / trust foundation has gone well so far. The people contacted have all agreed and we are almost there. Its going to be interesting to see what we can achieve.

Business has been very interesting. Our free publication, The Tip, is moving overseas. It never caught on among the corporate public but it was very popular locally in Dominica with by far the widest circulation. Funny but true :-) Anyway it was a labour of love and at the end of the day love and business are pretty bad mixes. It was an interesting experiment here though and shows how the business community thinks. Note to self: Next time launch it through a 'front', preferably a white American.

Still havent joined the DAIC. Havent seen one single reason why we should. They are the local chamber of commerce.

Started two new ventures. I swear that a masochistic streak runs through me and my colleagues. Its an unusual thing but I personally do not fear failure. In fact you could almost say I live in the eye of the breeze of failure. Its a great rush. I guess its because I have failed and recovered. Maybe in a few years time I'll get tired of this.

Watching this Venezuela thing very closely.