Alan Patricof, Microcredit, Trickle Up and Equity Investments in Developing Countries

Last night, I had the pleasure of listening to Alan Patricof speak on Entrepreneurship in Africa at the Core Club. As you are probably aware, microcredit has been one of the success stories of development in the past decade allowing extremely impoverished people to engage in self-employment. Alan made a compelling case for why microcredit is great, but not enough.

On the low end, he presented the work of Trickle Up ( Trickle Up provides grants of $100 and business training to help people launch micro enterprises. They work with the extreme poor who live on less than $1 per day and are unable to obtain micro loans, usually because the financial institutions are not yet operating where they are located. Tricke Up has mostly been focusing on Mali where it is making a substantial impact.

Alan made an even more impassioned speech in favor of equity financing in Africa. As he pointed out, almost all the capital available in Africa is debt financing. There is also a growing private equity business in Africa, but no real venture capital funds making equity investments in early stage businesses. Debt financing, given the need to pay interest in the short term, limits entrepreneurs to businesses with immediate sales, and misses many of the more scalable, employment and wealth generating ideas. To change this, he is creating a $45 million fund, funded by foundations at this stage (given the below market expected rate of return).

I hope his investments succeed!

Read Richard Dawkins The Selfish Gene

Having read and enjoyed Richard Dawkins The God Delusion, I decided to check out the book that made him famous. It’s interesting to see that many of the themes from The God Delusion are already addressed (if only in passing) such as the illusion of design – and this 30 years before Intelligent Design became “relevant”.

His rethinking of Darwinism is enlightening. I loved his debunking that animals act “for the good of the species”. I also loved his breaking down of the basic reproductive unit to the meme. As a conscious entity, it’s hard to accept that we are arguably puppets serving the reproductive desires of our memes, and that this very consciousness is just another trait to increase this reproductive potential, but the arguments and evidence are compelling.

You can buy the book at:

Xbox 360 vs PS3: it’s all about the games!

As many of you know, I have been a fan of the Xbox 360 for some time (see Report from the video game wars and Great game setup), but last week I bought a PS3!

With the recent price cut, the $399 40 Gb PS3 is an amazing deal. For $399 you get a Blu-ray player, built in wifi and free online playing. The equivalent would actually be more expensive on the Xbox – it’s $94 for the wifi connector, $179 for the HD-DVD player (not to mention it’s not as nicely integrated) and $59.99 per year for Xbox Live Gold.

Out of the box the PS3 looks good, there is no power adapter – it’s built into the console which is a huge improvement on the humongous power adapter of the Xbox 360 – and it’s quieter than the Xbox 360. On the negative side, the first thing it does is download a patch which takes forever to download and install. Once that was done, it ran smoothly. As a cinephile, I love the Blu-ray player which nicely complements the HD DVD player I already have for all the movies that are not available in both formats.

All that said, I only bought the PS3 because it finally has a game I really wanted to play: Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. It’s a third person adventure/action game which is probably best described as “Indiana Jones meets Gears of War.” It’s single player only with no coop, but it’s tons of fun.

Unfortunately for Sony, Drake’s Fortune is the only exclusive PS3 game I truly wanted to play. The Xbox 360 still has many more great exclusive games: Gears of War, Halo 3, Bioshock, Mass Effect. Most of the games available on both consoles come out first on the Xbox such as Oblivion IV and The Orange Box. Finally, with multiplayer working better on the Xbox and as more of my friends have Xboxes, I buy the multiplayer games available on both, such as Call of Duty 4, only on the Xbox 360.


The Xbox 360 is still the better console for most hard core gamers with a stronger line up of games and a cheaper entry price. However, with the new lower price point and new games, Sony is finally back in the race.

It’s going to be interesting to watch the battle over the next few years. The competition can only be good for gamers. At the very least, I hope Microsoft will embed wifi in the console and drop the Xbox live fee.

The Esky LAMA RC Helicopter is a lot of fun

As the holidays are approaching, I am compelled to offer a few gift ideas 🙂

I had never flown a remote controlled helicopter before. The Esky LAMA comes pre-built and ready to fly out of the box. It’s fun, stable, easy to learn to fly and incredibly cheap at $69!

You can buy it at:

Advertising on Facebook and MySpace: the “Grinda Hypothesis”

In a recent post, Facebook: the next Google?, I expressed skepticism on the value of Facebook given the nature of advertising there.

A year ago, I expressed similar doubts on the advertising on MySpace to a friend. He coined my analysis the “Grinda Hypothesis”: if you put an ad near a hot girl on MySpace, nobody will see it, let alone click on it.

I would generalize the hypothesis to be: if the advertising you see is not related to what you are actually doing, you are unlikely to notice it and click on it.

As I am only looking at what my friends are up to on Facebook or whether I can find a hot, interesting single girl on MySpace, I doubt they can ever display an ad I will be interested in even with the most sophisticated analysis of my profile and site activity.

Conversely, this is why search marketing is so powerful. The ads are directly related to what I am looking for.

To test the hypothesis, we tried advertising on Facebook for OLX with dismal results so far. We are using a higher CPC than we pay on Google and we just can’t get anyone to click on the ads!

Fred Wilson seems to be having similar problems with his Facebook ad. See:

Einat Wilf, Danny Gillerman and Israel

I had the pleasure of listening to my good friend Einat Wilf ( speak on the future of Israeli politics at Danny Gillerman’s house last night. She is ever the brilliant orator and made an impassioned speech on the continuing importance of politics and a plea for the next generation to participate in the political process. She then gave eloquent and well thought through answers on a variety of topics ranging from the potential separation of Church and State in Israel to the importance of conscription.

Watch Rome!

I just watched the two seasons of HBO’s Rome on DVD and absolutely adored it. I am biased as I am a huge Roman history aficionado and Octavian (Augustus) has always been my role model/idol.

Their depiction of Roman life – the social mores, the politics and daily life – are exactly how I envisioned them to be. The story is well known, but its telling is extremely well done and the intrigue is fascinating.

Capitalism and Democracy

I recently came across an article entitled “How Capitalism is Killing Democracy” by Robert Reich. The article is an adaptation from his book “Supercapitalism: The Transformation of Business, Democracy and Every Day Life”.

He argues that while capitalism and democracy seemingly went hand in hand for most of the 20th century, the link has been broken by the rise of an undemocratic, but capitalistic China and by growing income inequality.

I could not disagree more on almost every point!

  1. Capitalism leads to greater freedom.
  2. Capitalism is dependent on the respect of property rights, the dissemination of information and the rule of law. As such, capitalism has not only made China much richer in the past two decades but a lot more liberal than it has ever been. Foreigners and the press essentially have the right to move around. There are thousands of local newspapers who now criticize corruption, cover ups, etc.

  3. Capitalism leads to greater individual wealth which in turn leads to demands for democracy.
  4. Capitalism can exist without democracy as it has in China for the past two decades. It also coexisted with dictatorships for long periods of time in South Korea and Taiwan. As Maslow pointed out, political freedom is usually not at the top of people’s priorities when they are struggling to feed themselves. However, as people meet their basic requirements in health, lodging and food, they strive for higher level aspirations and start to worry about political freedom.

    Moreover, as a middle class emerges that has a lot to lose from arbitrary rulings and confiscations, it starts clamoring for representation. I suspect that over time, the ever growing middle class in China will demand greater political representation. Baby steps in that direction are already appearing with the welcoming of entrepreneurs and businessmen in the communist party.

    South Korea and Taiwan have shown how countries can transition relatively peacefully to democracy as they become wealthier. I hope that the same will happen in China in the coming decades, though I am aware of the risks of internal conflict given the diverse ethnic and linguistic differences in the country, not to mention the old guard’s desire to retain its power.

  5. Income inequality is not the issue: in country income inequality has increased, but global income inequality and quality of life inequality have greatly decreased. The real issue is equality of opportunity.
  6. In the last 15 years in-country income inequality has increased dramatically. However over the same period of time, global income inequality has sharply decreased as GDP per capita has grown faster in developing countries than the developed world. China alone has taken over 400 million people out of poverty. Yet China has gone from being one of the most equal countries in the world to one of the most unequal. However, few would argue against the benefits of its prosperity.

    Moreover, quality of life inequality, measured in terms of life expectancy, life satisfaction, height, leisure and consumption patterns, has narrowed dramatically as the gains of the lower classes have been far greater than those experienced by the population as a whole.

    The more relevant finding is that inequality is acceptable if there is social mobility. On that account many countries are failing. Around the world, including in the US, elites are entrenching themselves, public education systems are not serving the needs of the lower classes and opportunities for them to climb up the social ladder are disappearing. However, those are not innate flaws of capitalism but rather specific failings in the way public school systems are run and labor markets regulated which can be addressed with the proper policies.

Capitalism is not the enemy of democracy, quite the contrary, it is its emissary and will lead most undemocratic countries down the path of liberty and democracy.

OLX Partners with Fotolog to Bring Free Classifieds to Millions of Users around the World

One of the ways OLX has grown has been by partnering with other sites to run their classifieds channel. This strategy has proven successful because OLX is rather good at monetizing traffic. When you look at the distribution of Google revenues, a small percentage of searches account for the bulk of the revenues. The car, jobs, real estate and general merchandise searches are particularly successful. Given that those are some of the categories that OLX focuses on, the site generates much higher average eCPMs than the average site, especially internationally.

This provides an opportunity for a win-win partnership with partners: we monetize their traffic well, offer their users a great service, take away all the hassles of customer service, scam/spam control and localization while giving them the bulk of the revenues generated.

Our first large partnership was with Friendster ( and we now run the classifieds channel for Fotolog ( Fotolog is huge with over 3.5 billion page views per month, its geographic footprint nicely aligns with that of OLX and its communal spirit also aligns with the free, local and community oriented focus of OLX.

Great game setup / best plasma TV on the market

As it is clearly unbearable to have to split the screen with friends for games of Halo, Call of Duty and Gears of War, I decided to install 3 plasma TVs side by side in my bedroom, each with its own Xbox 360 🙂

As part of the process, I extensively researched all of the TV options on the market. The Samsung FP-T5884 provides by far the best price/performance ratio on the market: 58” screen, 1080p, 1920*1080 resolution, 3 HDMI slots and a 15,000:1 contrast ratio for $3,100 including shipping!

I also bought a 63” Samsung FP-T6374 to join the 50” Panasonic I already had. I bought the two Samsungs from I highly recommend them: the price is low, they are friendly, and the TV was delivered 2 days after I ordered it with free shipping!

Most importantly, the gaming experience is gaming to none!

Non sequitur: I hope Call of Duty 4 is going to be great (it’s coming out today)!

The pitfalls of marrying an entrepreneur

The Financial Times just ran a very interesting article on the pitfalls of marrying an entrepreneur.

As they point out:

  • We want to conquer the world and are willing to sacrifice almost everything, including our relationships, to the altar of success.
  • We want to be challenged in life and will not settle for anything.
  • We have a tendency to overpower, or at least try to dominate relationships and when it happens we get bored and break up.

This sounds exactly like my dating life 🙂