We don’t need politicians, we need entrepreneurs

This morning, I was listening to Jean-Marc Ayrault, the French prime minister, speaking at the Assembly. Note that I don’t care if he’s from the left or the right. I look at him as a leader for France. 

He gave his speech, and I just realized one thing: we don’t need politicians, we need entrepeneurs.

1- An entrepeneur is accountable for every action they take. It fails. It succeeds. But at the end of the day, they’re responsible for it. They accept failure as long as they learn. And they’re humble in success as they know it’s probably short term before the next storm comes up. If the entrepreneur doesn’t succeed, they have to go. There is no period of time where they protected. Politicians are not accountable. They just try to survive for the number of years they are in power. It’s rare to see a prime minister fired these days. And they never, ever, accept failure. 

2- Entrepreneurs know they have to try many different things. And they do. That’s because they can accept failures, and they know failures can be turned into success. Politicians, because of 1/, always try to take the approach of the hail mary, which results in no progress. 

3- Entrepeneurs don’t blame others. You’re dealt with a situation. It doesn’t matter that much why something happened, you have to deal with the situation, and focus your effort on improving it, learning from it, and move on. Ayrault this morning spent most of his time blaming the previous government. If you do that as a CEO, you’re fired. You have that job because people think you can improve things. Blaming others is already a way to find excuses for not delivering what you’re supposed to. 

4- Entrepreneurs don’t lie to their employees. If you do, they won’t trust you and that’s just the end. When I hire people, I always tell them it’s going to be avery bumpy road with high risks and zero guarantees (if they join, you know they’re motivated!). We always set expectations lower. Politicians, mainly because they need to be elected and most people just want to believe anything they’re being told, spend most of their time lying. Vote for me and you will never see A, B or C. 

5- Entrepeneurs delegate. The role of an entrepeneur is to hire the right people and let them do their thing. They want as little control on top, and as much independence at the bottom to let people innovate. Politicians want the opposite. Control at the top. It is even more true with folks who are in favor of high state intervention. 

6- Entrepreneurs believe in meritocracy. Politicians believe in votes. One will always try to do the right thing for the society and the people involved, the other will do what’s right for them personally. 

This would never happen because we have politicians, who believe more in old fashion ideas than concrete actions, but imagine if we could have a prime minister (or minister of economy) in France that says:

– Ouch, that crisis is huge. We’re going to have to go through very tough times. It’s nobody’s fault, it’s everywhere in the world. We have to deal with it. 

– The solution is to make sure everybody has a job – job creation and work is the top priority 

– As a result, we’re going to make sure France creates 500,000 new companies in the next 3 years, and become the center of innovation of Europe. 

– To do this, we’ll make it super easy to 
a) invest in France – we’re calling to all worldwide investors to spend their money in France, 0% tax for investments > $250K per company. => this is where the president will spend his time, campaigning investors to put their money in France. 
b) create your company – 15 minutes online form to create a company and close it. => this is the #1 prio for the administration.
c) hire people – 10% employer tax only
d) allow universities to invest in projects to turn them into companies, make money and reinvest it to offer better education to our children. 
e) allow folks subject to the 75% tax over $1M to invest that money in early stage companies instead of paying tax 
f) give companies tax credits (to the equivalent of 6 months of unemployement that would have been received by the employee) if they hire folks who have been unemployed for more than 1 year and keep them in the job for at least 1 year. 

– I don’t know if this will succeed, but it’s worth trying. We should have created 50,000 companies in year 1. 250,000 in year 2. 500,000 total in year 3. If i don’t reach those goals, you can vote me out.





Entrepreneurship in France – bye bye

I love France. It’s the country where I’m born, and I’m extremely proud of many of the values it carries. At the same time, in the past months, I’m very sad to see what I think paves the way for a huge catastrophy if not the biggest collapse of modern times. I don’t think France will still be able to afford its way of life within the next 10 years. 

In France, in the past 20 years 80% of the jobs created were created by “PME”, small and medium businesses. Not the big national companies. Small and dynamic companies, created by entrepreneurs who thought they could change the world. 

So in a world where employment is the key to everything (btw, when someone has a job, they can have a family, a house, a decent life, and as a result, spend less time thinking how they can make a bomb to blast a school), why wouldn’t you try as hard as possible to get every single person to create their own business, and create jobs? France is doing the exact opposite. Making it as hard as possible for everyone to create a business, grow it, and make money to reinvest in other businesses. 

The latest of all, a new taxes for capital gain at the incredible rate of 60% (instead of the current 32.5%). Yes. 60%. So basically, as an entrepreneur, you put all you have in your business, your savings and everything, and if you’re one of the 10 who don’t lose everything, you then have to give 60% of what you’re going to make to the government. This is even before the ISF, which basically takes over 1% every year of your capital and also different from a new tax of 75% over $1M. 

France is sending a clear signal: don’t try to start a business and be successful. We won’t let you do that. But stay at home and jobless and we’ll help you. 

Worse, it also sends a very clear message to investors: “don’t invest in France, we don’t want your money to pay for jobs”. Why would someone take huge risks to invest in a startup if it is to give away more than half of the potential gains. This new tax doubles the risk taken by investors. We didn’t really need that. We need more investors. Why not make it super easy and profitable for them to invest?

At this rate, we’ll see less and less PME and less and less jobs. We’ll also see less and less wealthy investors invest in companies based in France. This will translate directly in less jobs, more jobless people, less taxes revenues, and that’s when things get nasty. 

This is not about being from the right or left wing. This is about being for jobs. 

Hollande’s message by going on vacation

When I saw Francois Hollande go on vacation for more than 2 weeks 2 months after becoming French president, I was really surprised. 

Why would you go on vacation when you’re the leader of the country while a) the country is about to get into a recession and b) there is a huge crisis in Syria that definitely could do with some international support. 

Why would you go on vacation a few months after taking a job. A normal employee doesn’t always have that luxury, and you can’t really be tired of doing the job you dreamt of for so many years just after a few weeks. 

It just stroke me as really weird. And yesterday evening, I had a discussion with a friend of mine. His interpretation was actually really interesting. Hollande is a smart man, he probably doesn’t do things withtout thinking about them. He went on vacation because he wanted to send a signal to people. It’s a reinforcement of the French way of living.

His message basically is: in France, we go on vacation during the summer for at least 2 weeks. Everybody does. Look, even the French president in one of most crucial times of the country goes on vacation. 

The same way the government is now making sure employees don’t spend extra time at work (even if it means paying them less), they want to show that you should on vacation, no matter what. 

How to taste whisky

I think this is one of the best video ever made

The Benefits of Bilingualism

SPEAKING two languages rather than just one has obvious practical benefits in an increasingly globalized world. But in recent years, scientists have begun to show that the advantages of bilingualism are even more fundamental than being able to converse with a wider range of people. Being bilingual, it turns out, makes you smarter. It can have a profound effect on your brain, improving cognitive skills not related to language and even shielding against dementia in old age.

This view of bilingualism is remarkably different from the understanding of bilingualism through much of the 20th century. Researchers, educators and policy makers long considered a second language to be an interference, cognitively speaking, that hindered a child’s academic and intellectual development.

They were not wrong about the interference: there is ample evidence that in a bilingual’s brain both language systems are active even when he is using only one language, thus creating situations in which one system obstructs the other. But this interference, researchers are finding out, isn’t so much a handicap as a blessing in disguise. It forces the brain to resolve internal conflict, giving the mind a workout that strengthens its cognitive muscles.

Bilinguals, for instance, seem to be more adept than monolinguals at solving certain kinds of mental puzzles. In a 2004 study by the psychologists Ellen Bialystok and Michelle Martin-Rhee, bilingual and monolingual preschoolers were asked to sort blue circles and red squares presented on a computer screen into two digital bins — one marked with a blue square and the other marked with a red circle.

In the first task, the children had to sort the shapes by color, placing blue circles in the bin marked with the blue square and red squares in the bin marked with the red circle. Both groups did this with comparable ease. Next, the children were asked to sort by shape, which was more challenging because it required placing the images in a bin marked with a conflicting color. The bilinguals were quicker at performing this task.

The collective evidence from a number of such studies suggests that the bilingual experience improves the brain’s so-called executive function — a command system that directs the attention processes that we use for planning, solving problems and performing various other mentally demanding tasks. These processes include ignoring distractions to stay focused, switching attention willfully from one thing to another and holding information in mind — like remembering a sequence of directions while driving.

Why does the tussle between two simultaneously active language systems improve these aspects of cognition? Until recently, researchers thought the bilingual advantage stemmed primarily from an ability for inhibition that was honed by the exercise of suppressing one language system: this suppression, it was thought, would help train the bilingual mind to ignore distractions in other contexts. But that explanation increasingly appears to be inadequate, since studies have shown that bilinguals perform better than monolinguals even at tasks that do not require inhibition, like threading a line through an ascending series of numbers scattered randomly on a page.

The key difference between bilinguals and monolinguals may be more basic: a heightened ability to monitor the environment. “Bilinguals have to switch languages quite often — you may talk to your father in one language and to your mother in another language,” says Albert Costa, a researcher at the University of Pompeu Fabra in Spain. “It requires keeping track of changes around you in the same way that we monitor our surroundings when driving.” In a study comparing German-Italian bilinguals with Italian monolinguals on monitoring tasks, Mr. Costa and his colleagues found that the bilingual subjects not only performed better, but they also did so with less activity in parts of the brain involved in monitoring, indicating that they were more efficient at it.

The bilingual experience appears to influence the brain from infancy to old age (and there is reason to believe that it may also apply to those who learn a second language later in life).

In a 2009 study led by Agnes Kovacs of the International School for Advanced Studies in Trieste, Italy, 7-month-old babies exposed to two languages from birth were compared with peers raised with one language. In an initial set of trials, the infants were presented with an audio cue and then shown a puppet on one side of a screen. Both infant groups learned to look at that side of the screen in anticipation of the puppet. But in a later set of trials, when the puppet began appearing on the opposite side of the screen, the babies exposed to a bilingual environment quickly learned to switch their anticipatory gaze in the new direction while the other babies did not.

Bilingualism’s effects also extend into the twilight years. In a recent study of 44 elderly Spanish-English bilinguals, scientists led by the neuropsychologist Tamar Gollan of the University of California, San Diego, found that individuals with a higher degree of bilingualism — measured through a comparative evaluation of proficiency in each language — were more resistant than others to the onset of dementia and other symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease: the higher the degree of bilingualism, the later the age of onset.

Nobody ever doubted the power of language. But who would have imagined that the words we hear and the sentences we speak might be leaving such a deep imprint?

Yudhijit Bhattacharjee is a staff writer at Science.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: March 25, 2012

The Gray Matter column on bilingualism last Sunday misspelled the name of a university in Spain. It is Pompeu Fabra, not Pompea Fabra.

Great article on the NYT. 🙂