Monday, October 17, 2016

Sage advice from Spain's 'mastermind of startups'

Antai Venture Builder nurtures startups. Photo by Caterina Barjau, in El Pais.
Miguel Vicente was an industrial engineer with a hefty salary when he decided to throw it all overboard nine years ago and launch a coupon site.

He gave some memorable quotes that should be heeded by any entrepreneur during an interview with Daniel Verdu of Spain's prestige daily newspaper, El Pais.

"It's like the two pills in Matrix, you have two options: the blue one is for a secure paycheck at the end of the month, the support of a big group that will help you, nice vacations and weekends. And the red pill is the one for entrepreneurs: you won't have anything you had before and you won't even know if you will be around the next day. But you will be the owner of your destiny. That feeling, plus the notion that you cannot fail, makes you pull out the best of what you have inside." 
His first startup was called Lets-Bonus. He sold that and eventually he and two partners launched Wallapop, a mobile app with location technology for buying and selling second-hand goods with nearby users. It is similar to a CraigsList for Spain and has reportedly attracted more than $100 million in investment. Some speculate that its market value might be $1 billion, unicorn territory.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Newsstand owner adapts to survive media crisis

Newsstand owner Jesus Erro: Publishers are fudging their sales numbers.
PAMPLONA, Spain - Those who study the business of media tend to look at it from the perspective of journalists and publishers. But the owner of a newsstand in the heart of this provincial capital has a different point of view.

Jesus Erro, 56, has owned and operated Caprichos Books and Stationery for the past 24 years. He has seen the good times and the bad.

For the first decade or so, sales of magazines and newspapers -- about three fourths of his business -- were strong. But beginning in 2008, with the combination of the financial crisis and the Internet's impact on sales of print products, the business has gone down steadily.

Versión en español

"For small shops in this industry, it's very difficult to survive. A few years ago, when there was a favorable economic climate, everything was straightforward, more or less. You never expected to make a lot of money but you did expect to make a decent income. But now with everything that has come along -- the Internet, the economic crisis -- Pffff. We are trying to make just enough money to survive in these kinds of shops."

Friday, October 7, 2016

'Take risks, learn from mistakes,' says film-maker

Joffé spoke to several hundred students at the University of Navarra on Thursday.

Film-maker Roland Joffé has a way of leading people on a mystical meditation to find out who they are and how they will communicate with the world.

"The truth is that no one in this room actually knows where we are," he told about 400 students and professors Thursday at the University of Navarra School of Communication. "And if we don't know where we are, how on earth can we know who we are. And finding out who you are is all your journey, isn't it?

"Communication is about finding out who you are and listening to other people and finding out who they are. And that's very beautiful."

Joffé is best known for directing The Mission and The Killing FieldsBut he holds a special interest for the University of Navarra audience because he wrote and directed There Be Dragonsa film about the founder of Opus Dei and the university, St. Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer. (Our colleague Jaume Aurell was a historical adviser on the film.)

Make choices, take risks

Joffé encouraged students to take risks and learn from their mistakes, "Because that's the only way we learn. We're in a great vortex of communication. When we communicate, or when we create a film or a work of art, we can get it wrong. That's not scary, because we all make mistakes, and getting things wrong is part of the process, and listening to those who tell us we've got it wrong is an act of love."

Sunday, October 2, 2016

How a musician views piracy and streaming

In May I was in New York at an academic conference and had time to spend with my son, Patrick Breiner, a jazz saxophonist.

I wanted to hear what he had to say about the economics of the music business from his perspective. He ended up talking more about relationships than economics.

Patrick says that in the digital world, the connection between the artist and their work is intangible. So the act of downloading the work for free "doesn't feel the same as taking a physical thing from a store or a person."

"When you download content for free, at least in my experience, my relationship to that content is cheapened."

Patrick, 32, says he has downloaded lots of material for free from libraries and other sites, and never listens to it. On the other hand, the music he has bought and literally invested in -- whether from streaming services, CDs, or vinyl albums -- "I listen to all the time."