Looking back at 2007, looking forward to 2008

While 2006 was a year of transition with the break after Zingy and the creation of OLX, 2007 was a year of consolidation. I put my disagreement with the acquirer of Zingy behind me. I made two new Internet investments. OLX continued to grow slowly but surely – we now have over 80 employees and are present in 40 countries in 12 languages.

I continued to travel far and wide for OLX and hope that there will be less business travel in 2008. On the personal side, my life has been more boring, though I did manage to go heli-skiing in British Columbia, kite boarding in Cabarete (Dominican Republic) and hiking, biking and rafting in Costa Rica. I am also continuing to (very slowly) work on my tennis game, open mindedness, patience and humility.

The best books I read in 2007:

My best blog posts in 2007 were:

I predict 2008 will be a year of slow growth:

  • It will continue to be too early to tell whether OLX will be a success or not – given the non viral nature of online classifieds, this project is going to take years.
  • Two of my Internet investments will enter the Alexa top 50 – one is Badongo.com, the other I will talk about when the investment officially closes in January 2008.
  • One of my investments is likely to fail.

I have not yet decided whether I will be foolhardy enough to make predictions on the global economy and the US election. Stay tuned 🙂

Happy New Year!

The End of Inequality

As I wrote in a recent article (Capitalism and Democracy), despite decreases in global inequality because of economic growth in South East Asia, in-country income inequality has been rising. However, this analysis of inequality is misleading as income inequality is less relevant to well being than real consumption inequality.

Interestingly, inequality in life satisfaction has been shrinking in OECD countries suggesting that the quality of life across the income scale is becoming more similar. Inequality has narrowed dramatically in height, life expectancy and leisure. As William Robert Fogel, a Nobel Prize winning economist put it: “In every measure that we have bearing on the standard of living … the gains of the lower classes have been far greater than those experienced by the population as a whole.

Differences in material goods have also declined dramatically. For instance, despite huge differences in prices for various types of cars, air travel or refrigerators, the difference in the actual services rendered is rather small – and nothing relative to the difference between having the good or service and not having it. Today 70% of Americans below the poverty line have at least one car!

Over time the consumption pattern of the less fortunate has become very similar to that of the wealthy. This compression is the predictable result of innovation in production and distribution that push new technologies down the price scale incredibly fast.

As entrepreneurs we sometimes make vast fortunes and widen the income gap but in so doing, we produce ever higher quality goods at ever lower prices reducing inequality where it matters most!

In other words, income inequality no longer matters!

American Gangster is worth seeing

The movie is good, not great. It’s extremely well done and acted. However, given that it’s directed by Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down), I expected to be completely wowed – by maybe I am holding him to impossible standards. I should not complain too much: I was thoroughly entertained.

Despite opening with a bang – the movie has to establish Denzel Washington as a bad guy – the beginning is slow and long. I would have cut most of Russell Crowe’s back story with his wife – the character is so clear cut that the nuances don’t seem to add much. However, somehow the movie grows on you and you start caring about the characters. By the end, the pace has dramatically quickened and you can’t wait to see what happens next! I definitely recommend seeing the movie.

As a brief non sequitur: it’s one of the few movies where the two nemesis share almost no screen time together. In fact for most of the movie, they don’t know of the existence of the other. While the concept of two enemies never jousting in person would seem counter intuitive, it was extremely well done and effective!

Interesting quote on love

“I have stressed the fact that the beloved person is a substitute for the ideal ego. Two people who love each other are interchanging their ego ideals. That they love each other means they love the ideal of themselves in the other one. There would be no love on earth if this phantom were not there. We fall in love because we cannot attain the image that is our better self and the best of our self. From this concept it is obvious that love itself is only possible on a certain cultural level or after a certain phase in the development of the personality has been reached. The creation of an ego ideal itself marks human progress. When people are entirely satisfied with their actual selves, love is impossible. The transfer of the ego ideal to a person is the most characteristic trait of love.” – Theodor Reik “Of love and lust”

OLX Invests in Edeng, One of China's Leading Free Online Classifieds Site

In a recent post, I explained how one of the ways that OLX has grown was to partner with other sites to run their classifieds channel (http://www.fabricegrinda.com/?p=256). The other way has been through acquisitions.

We acquired Mundoanuncio in October 2006 to establish ourselves in the Hispanic market. We just invested in Edeng establish ourselves in China.

It’s still too early to tell whether OLX will be a success, but both strategies are seemingly working well.

New York is the place to be :)

I live in New York even though I work on the Internet. That decision has always been for personal reasons. To maximize business opportunities, I should arguably be in San Francisco.

However, it seems that New York is going through an Internet revival with the ever growing number of events: Tech Meetup, Lunch 2.0, The Founders Roundtable, etc. and the emergence of Silicon Alley Insider (www.alleyinsider.com).

Silicon Alley Insider was created by Kevin Ryan and Dwight Merriman of DoubleClick fame. It covers the New York digital business community and is becoming increasingly influential. Its Silicon Alley 100 report on the 100 most influential people in the digital community in New York has been generating a lot of buzz (www.alleyinsider.com/sa100/).

Check out the OLX application on Facebook

We thought it would be cool to let users display their listings on their profile page and use OLX without ever having to leave Facebook.

Given that OLX is functional rather than viral and fun, I don’t expect the application to be a huge success, but it’s a nice to have for all our users.

You can see the items I am selling on my profile page. Feel free to friend me.


It is the formidable character of the species to routinely seek the improbable, the difficult, even the impossible, as a source of pleasure and self-justification. Who would try to write poems, or novels, or paint pictures unless he is an optimist.
Lionel Tiger

The essence of optimism is that it takes no account of the present, but it is a source of inspiration, of vitality and hope where others have resigned; it enables a man to hold his head high, to claim the future for himself and not to abandon it to his enemy.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer