Belize: the next Costa Rica

Long known by scuba divers the world over for its coral reef, the second largest in the world, and for the blue hole, Belize is coming onto its own.

Five hours from New York, with English as the primary language and the dollar essentially the local currency (the country has a fixed exchange rate – $1 USD = $2 Belize Dollars), it’s extremely convenient for American travelers from the East Coast or the South. When the airport runway gets extended in the coming years it will become even more accessible.

When visiting Belize, be sure to split the trip in two parts. Spend a few days in San Pedro, also called La Isla Bonita made famous by the Madonna song, the island off the coast of the mainland. Enjoy the richness of the marine life – swim with sharks and rays, sail, kite surf and jet ski. I will be the first admit that San Pedro is not extremely pretty – it’s barely one foot above water with small constructions everywhere – but it has its charm and the quality of the water is second to none! I recommend you stay at the Belize Yacht Club.

Then spend a few days in the Cayo district either at the Francis Ford Coppola estate or at Chaa Creek an eco-tourist lodge. From there you can explore Mayan ruins, kayak, hike, bike, canopee, explore caves and much much more! Be sure to stop at the Belize zoo on the way there or back.

In many ways Belize reminds me of Costa Rica 15 years ago when it was only known by adventure travelers. Since then Costa Rica has been fully developed – you can’t find a tract of land greater than 1,000 acres. That said Costa Rica has retained most of its charm and still ranks as one of my favorite destinations in the world.

In my last two trip to Belize, I became so enamored with the country that I considered buying a 100,000 acre tract of land there – a 15 mile by 13 mile property including 15 miles of beach front. I eventually decided to pass on the opportunity because it’s far from my core expertise and I am too busy with OLX to oversee the preservation and development of a property that size (managing park rangers, negotiating a tax deal with the government, etc.).

From the pictures of the first trip you can clearly see the sharks and a lot of the wildlife. Most impressive of all, after a 2 hour expedition inside a cave we saw Mayan vases and remains from human sacrifices in 900 AD! We were the 25th people in the cave and came just after a National Geographic Explorer team. From the pictures of the second trip you can see the amazing ruins of Caracol and the waterfalls of the Five Sisters lodge near the Francis Ford Coppola estate.

When all is said and done, if you decide to buy a condo in San Pedro, visit Century 21 Isla Bonita and buy the Sands Villas!

For full disclosure, I am an investor in Belize Yacht Club, Century 21 La Isla Bonita and in the Sands Villas 🙂

Inside Man is slick!

The premise did not seem that appealing and the previews were not very good, but it’s actually a great movie. It’s well written, fast paced, well acted and tons of fun. Clive Owens is awesome in this movie. I guessed what was being stolen in the bank in the first few minutes of the movie, but it did not matter, I enjoyed the ride all the way! Highly recommended.

Communication Philosophy: Part 2

In my previous post on the topic, I decided I was going to speak more openly about what I am actively doing. Recently, I found myself venturing off the topic of entrepreneurship as I talked about labor reform in France and immigration in the U.S.

Upon reflection, this blog is musings of an entrepreneur and not specifically musings on entrepreneurship. For the coming weeks I will blog more frequently on a large variety of topics, mixing shorter postings with the longer analytical pieces that I have historically written.

More Great Entrepreneurship Quotes

The entrepreneur always searches for change, responds to it, and exploits it as an opportunity.
Peter F. Drucker

I wanted to be an editor or a journalist, I wasn’t really interested in being an entrepreneur, but I soon found I had to become an entrepreneur in order to keep my magazine going.
Richard Branson

When I finished school, I took my entire life savings – $5,000 – and invested it in a business. I was young. I was inexperienced. But I was an entrepreneur, and I was proud. And in six weeks, I was broke.
Mark Warner

My success was due to good luck, hard work, and support and advice from friends and mentors. But most importantly, it depended on me to keep trying after I had failed.
Mark Warner

Immigration and the lump of labor fallacy

I have been appalled recently by the low quality of the debate on immigration from politicians throughout the political spectrum. Immigration defenders have claimed that immigrants do jobs Americans don’t – as if cities with few immigrants did not have garbage men. Immigration critics have said that immigrants steal American jobs. They seem to believe that the number of jobs in the economy is fixed and that one person must be getting the job at the expense of the other.

This is the lump of labor fallacy – the number of jobs in the economy is not fixed! By coming to a country immigrants increase the supply of labor and hence reduce wages. In turn, cheaper labor increases the potential return to employers to build new factories or expand their operations. In so doing, they create extra demand for workers.

The Mariel boatlift where 125,000 Cubans ended up in Miami between April 15 and October 31, 1980 provides an interesting opportunity to study the impact of a large number of immigrants on a city. A study by David Card of Berkeley showed no increase in the unemployment rate in Miami over the time period of the assimilation of the immigrants in the labor force. The Miami economy responded to influx of new labor by creating jobs to take advantage of that labor.

Inversely, when French politicians mandated a 35 hour work-week believing it would mean that companies would need more people to keep the total hours worked constant thus reducing unemployment – companies decreased the overall number of hours worked. Unemployment did not decrease.

That is not to say that immigration does not potentially have potential negative impact on certain segments of the population. Over the past 25 years wage equality has decreased in the U.S. and immigration could be partly to blame. Immigrants to the U.S. are mostly low-skilled and thus potentially pushing down the relative wages of low-skilled Americans.

David Card compared wage trends in cities with lots of immigrants such as Los Angeles, with those in places with only a few, such as Indianapolis. If immigration had a big effect on relative pay, you would expect this to be reflected in differences between wage trends. Mr. Card’s research suggests that immigrants had no significant effect on low-skilled workers’ pay. Mr. Card also tested the idea that perhaps low-skilled natives leave cities with lots of immigrants rather than compete with them for jobs, so that immigration indirectly pushes up the supply of low-skilled workers elsewhere and pushes down their wages but found no evidence that it does.

Given my personal value judgment in favor of equality of opportunity and my admiration for those willing to bear the huge fixed costs of immigration – leaving their family behind, coming to a new culture in an uncertain environment – to pursue the American dream in the land of opportunity, I am happy that empirical evidence disproves the claims that immigration is negative for this country.

For full disclosure, I am an immigrant on an H1B visa and David Card was my thesis advisor at Princeton 🙂

The cat is out of the bag, the curtains have been pulled :)

As made explicit by my April 1 “press releases,” I am now co-CEO of OLX ( and Chairman of Allmydata.

I will shortly describe why those companies and ask for the community’s feedback in terms of how best bring them to critical mass, what feature set to include, etc.

In the meantime, download and install Allmydata, register with OLX, put listings, DIGG the OLX story and send me all your feedback to make the products the best they can be!

Thanks for everything!

Allmydata Announces Worldwide Predictive Data Storage and Partnerships with Google, Dell and Microsoft

San Francisco CA – Apr. 1, 2006

In a joint statement, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), Dell (NASDAQ:DELL), Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), and privately held Allmydata announced today the availability of a seamless, global data grid to be built into all hardware, software, and services in combination with predictive data storage and retrieval algorithms licensed from Allmydata.

With the goal of “Providing you with your data before you want it”, both Dell and HP computers will be assembled with the new Google G-drive, a device providing both storage and connectivity to other storage nodes, accessed through Microsoft’s new “Backed-Up” Vista operating system.

“By continually enhancing your data stored on the G-drive, Google-search will provide users with new documents instantly and seamlessly from anywhere” said Google’s founder Sergey Brin. “Making the consumer and business user’s life easier is always at the forefront of our minds. By not only providing worldwide access to your data, but actually providing more data itself, Microsoft takes storage and retrieval to a new level and removes the need for user input altogether.” said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. “We have painstakingly researched millions of users and their documents, images, and videos. Our patented algorithms of data generation are statistically proved to match the user’s next step, whether it is giving you the next picture you were about to take, touching up your Monday Powerpoint presentation for you, or just drafting a quick email to your mom, Allmydata aims to make data storage and retrieval safe, reliable, and worry-free.” said Allmydata CTO Peter Secor from an undisclosed location.

Users are encouraged to try out the new global storage grid from Allmydata to prepare themselves for the storage revolution.

About Allmydata
Allmydata, Inc. provides on-line data storage and retrieval services that are accessible from anywhere, anytime. It was founded by Fabrice Grinda in 2004 after several crashed hard-drives, and is headquartered in San Francisco, California.

About Google
Google, Inc. provides Web search and online advertising services on the Internet. It offers advertising solutions and global Internet search solutions through its Web site, and Intranet solutions via an enterprise search appliance. Google was co-founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin in 1998, is headquartered in Mountain View, California.

About Dell
Dell, Inc. and its subsidiaries engage in the design, development, manufacture, marketing, sale, and support of various computer systems and services to customers worldwide. The company’s products and services enable customers to build their information technology and Internet infrastructures. The company was founded in 1984 by Michael Dell as Dell Computer Corporation and changed its name to Dell, Inc. in 2003. Dell is headquartered in Round Rock, Texas.

About Microsoft
Microsoft Corporation engages in the development, manufacture, license, and support of software products for various computing devices worldwide. Microsoft was founded in 1975 by William H. Gates III. The company is headquartered in Redmond, Washington.

OLX acquires eBay and Craigslist

Saturday April 1, 2006, 8:00 am ET

NEW YORK – Apr. 1, 2006 – OLX, the new leader in online classifieds and auctions, announced today that it acquired eBay and Craigslist.

eBay and Craigslist will be immediately renamed OLX. “Craigslist’s number one mission has always been to provide a public service to its community. Working with OLX serves that mission as it brings a slew of great new features to our community with the continued commitment to be free for consumers” said Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist. “eBay’s and Craigslist’s user bases will allow us to provide unrivaled liquidity in all the major categories” said Fabrice Grinda, co-CEO of OLX.

eBay and Craigslist users will get access to OLX unique features including:

  • A city, neighborhood and zip code database so we can cover an entire country and not just pre-selected cities
  • A distance field allowing you to see postings within a certain range of your zip code in the countries where it is possible
  • Ability to post items in virtual worlds (e.g.; SecondLife)
  • Ability to include videos and pictures in listings
  • Ajax WYSIWYG editor for richer listings
  • Ability to comment on listings to create a stronger community
  • Advanced search allowing searches at variable regional settings
  • Auction and Buy It Now options and a rating system for the For Sale category
  • Ability to post listings in any language in any country
  • Ability to view the site in any country in any language
  • Global reach
  • Mobile version

Users are encouraged to try out OLX now at in anticipation of all the great features they will be receiving in the near future.

About OLX, Inc.

Founded in 2006, OLX offers a new generation of classified and auction service providing a more local service on a global level. OLX includes classified listings for jobs, housing, goods and services, personals, events and community, plus a wide variety of discussion forums. OLX is based in New York and has offices in Buenos Aires. OLX is a privately held company. For more information, visit

About eBay Inc.

Founded in 1995, eBay pioneers communities built on commerce, sustained by trust, and inspired by opportunity. eBay enables ecommerce on a local, national and international basis with an array of websites – including the eBay Marketplace, PayPal, Skype, Kijiji, and – that bring together millions of buyers and sellers every day.

About craigslist

Founded in 1995 by Craig Newmark, craigslist is widely known as an archetype of online community – a democratic, trustworthy, and efficient platform for fulfilling basic human needs, as guided by real world communities worldwide. craigslist includes classified listings for jobs, housing, goods and services, personals, events, and community, plus a wide variety of discussion forums.

France or the Imaginary World :)

There is something highly ironic about seeing hundreds of thousands of students in France demonstrate against the CPE “contrat de première embauche”, a more flexible labor contract for those under the age of 26 with more flexible redundancy rules for two years after which full job protection kicks in.

In the past student demonstrations have been a force for social change (e.g.; 1968 demonstrations); however, now the students are demonstrating to preserve the status quo. The revolutionaries have become conservative! It would be partly understandable if the status quo was worth preserving, but a society that has 23% unemployment rate for people below the age of 26 and unemployment rate as high as 50% for the youth in the urban ghettos “les banlieues” is not creating opportunity for its people and itself!

By fighting the CPE, most students believe they are fighting against institutionalizing insecurity and to preserve the full time job for life that rightfully awaits them upon graduation. Unfortunately, the ideal of the “job for life” that the students are fighting for is an illusion that has not existed in decades whose mirage survives only in certain parts of the public sector. In a competitive environment where companies continually adjust to demand and changing conditions, expecting them to have a fixed labor size is incongruous. Even Japan had to shed its policy during the deflationary period of the 1990s.

As a result, the students are really demonstrating to preserve an extremely unjust society where the insiders – those who get jobs – are protected at the expense of a large numbers of outsiders who can’t get jobs.

That is not to say that the CPE cannot be criticized. The, unelected, prime minister pushed it by decree without parliamentary debate – a highly undemocratic process that gives the impression that the idea would not stand debate and scrutiny. If anything it’s about time France had a real debate about where it is and where it is going.

Moreover, in its own way, the CPE continues to entrench a two speed society – those with temporary flexible contacts and those with the traditional protected contacts. This may not give a great incentive for employers to give traditional full time contracts once the two year CPE is over. Wholesale liberalization and moving to “at will” employment for everyone would be far more effective, but suggesting that in France is a sure way of getting stoned.

That is not to say France should ditch its attachment to social equity. Each society should make the moral and value judgment to select the amount of social equity it seeks to have. France would likely preserve its more redistributive choices than the U.S. However don’t sacrifice efficiency on the altar of fake equality and ideology!