French President Emmanuel Macron’s vow to make France a ‘start-up nation’ amid the uncertainty over Brexit is raising the question of whether Paris could supplant London as the capital of European tech. Since his election, Macron has wooed tech entrepreneurs with a string of initiatives in the form of lavish tax breaks, subsidies, and credits for research. In March 2018, he promised to invest €1.5 billion into artificial intelligence research through 2022. Some of these initiatives, in addition to Macron’s dynamism, have lured British tech companies who are looking to gain a foothold in Europe.

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Welcome to Mayo615’s Odyssey to France and the first of our Tuesday weekly updates. We invite you to subscribe to our YouTube Channel and follow our weekly updates. In this Week One update we will focus on my first Big Idea, and how I achieved it.  I will also discuss my three most important key takeaways from that experience. We hope that you find this video helpful in achieving your own Big Ideas and goals. So here we go.

I want to return to France to give back my experience, skills, and technical knowledge to the country of my heritage. France’s industrial economy is in the doldrums, but new policies are stimulating innovation, the key to economic growth and productivity, and technology industry leaders in France with strong technology industry backgrounds are looking to contribute to this new economy in France. I want to join them and give back.

Years ago now Google quietly announced its “Loon Balloon Project” in New Zealand. The objective was to launch high altitude balloons that could potentially float over areas of the globe that did not yet have Internet access. The tech press predicted that the idea was “loony” indeed, though some called it “crazy cool.” Google has since also dabbled with the idea of low earth orbit satellites to achieve the same goal. With the rise of SpaceX, this seems an even more interesting technological approach, though other firms in the 1990s lost large amounts of money and failed.  A modest aerospace company and a subsidiary of Airbus in Toulouse France is manufacturing low-orbit internet access satellites, hoping to launch as many as 650 such satellites. The idea that is captivating me is the potential for space-based Internet access to potentially provide an alternative to growing political and corporate control and Balkanization of the Internet.

Five years ago, I wrote a post on this blog disparaging the state of the Internet of Things/home automation market as a “Tower of Proprietary Babble.” Vendors of many different home and industrial product offerings were literally speaking different languages, making their products inoperable with other complementary products from other vendors.  The market was being constrained by its immaturity and a failure to grasp the importance of open standards. A 2017 Verizon report concluded that “an absence of industry-wide standards…represented greater than 50% of executives concerns about IoT. Today I can report that finally, the solutions and technologies are beginning to come together, albeit still slowly. 

NOTE: My original post, originally published in January 2013, continues to be one of the most viewed on the site.  Android and Apple have enjoyed an estimated 98% market share between the two, and many of my earlier projections regarding this market appear to have been borne out. However, the smartphone market has now matured to the point that it is at a strategic inflection point which has major implications for the future of this market and the major competitors. The rapid maturation of the smartphone market should have been foreseen: the rise of domestic Chinese competition combined with the predictable end of the Western consumer fascination with “the next smartphone”

Over five years ago now, March 11, 2013, I published this mayo615 blog post on the Alberta bitumen bubble, and the budgetary problems facing Alberta Premier Alison Redford, and the federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty at that time, both of whom were surprisingly candid about the prospect for ongoing long-term budgetary problems for both the Alberta and Canadian national economies. Fast forward five years to today and the situation has essentially worsened dramatically.  The current Alberta Premier Rachel Notley is facing another massive budget deficit, just as Alison Redford predicted years ago, and was forced to call a new election. My most glaring observation is that despite years of rhetoric and arm-waving, almost nothing has changed. Meanwhile, the Canadian economy is on the precipice of a predicted global economic downturn which could easily become a global financial contagion.

I was very interested yesterday to read the article in the Globe & Mail by University of Toronto Professor Richard Florida, and Ian Hathaway, Research Director for the Center for  American Entrepreneurship, and Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute. The article by Florida and Hathaway draws the same conclusions as my research, providing even more precise data to support their disturbing conclusions. It is not hard to find many additional articles on these issues.  Ironically, also yesterday, a LinkedIn connection shared a post by Sciences, Innovation, and Economic Development Canada with a very upbeat, positive assessment of venture capital for startups in Canada. This is the essence of the problem. Since I came to Canada years ago now, I have seen a pollyannaish state of denial about the true situation for entrepreneurship, immigration policy, and the lack of “smart” venture capital for Canadian startups. No amount of counter-evidence has changed this mistaken rosy outlook. Without a recognition of these problems, nothing will change. 

At its inception, Uber touted itself as a shining example of the “sharing economy” described by Jeremy Rifkin, in this now famous book, The Third Industrial Revolution. As time has passed the reality has been radically at odds with a sharing economy.  Among the many issues that have emerged has been the legacy of Uber’s ugly corporate culture, secret apps used to confound regulators, and to intimidate journalists, a Justice Department investigation of illegal practices, including 200 Uber employees conspiring together to attack Lyft’s operations. The proverbial chickens have come home to roost, as municipalities around the world have begun to regain control of transportation policy within their jurisdictions, and the inflated valuations of these unicorns begin to deflate.