Tag Archives: english

I’m Ramon Suarez, and this is how I work

Ramon Suarez, Coworking Entrepreneur & Tech Startup PromoterOne of my reference blogs, LifeHacker, has launched an initiative to get more people to share how they work, a series that they have been doing for some time with known startup & Internet people. Hopefully there will be some good tips here for others like me that are continuously looking to hack their lives to make them better.

For those that do not know me, I’ve had an eclectic professional experience working as a journalist, producer, political adviser, marketer, and entrepreneur. The links among all these positions have been communication and the thrill of new challenges.

How I work

Location: Betacowork Coworking Brussels
Current gig: Founder of Betacowork, promoter of the Belgian tech startup ecosystem through Betagroup, Startups.be, Global Entrepreneurship Week Belgium, and others. I’m also an international correspondent for the Spanish leading blog about tech startups,  Loogic.com.
Current mobile device:  Samsung Galaxy Note II

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As you can see, I use folders to access my most used apps in the homescreen.
Current computer:  Dell Latitude E5430 and an old HP Pavilion DM3, both running Ubuntu Linux and on 128GB SSD disks.
One word that best describes how you work: Connector

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

Boomerang for Gmail: My lifesaver. I’m terrible at remembering the emails that I have to follow up on or that have not yet been answered. With Boomerang I get automatic reminders when I choose to if the emails have not been answered or when I want to take action on them. When I don’t want to see and email I just boomerang it for the future, so I can work on it when it suits me.

Buffer: Most of my posting is done through Buffer. I go through hundreds of articles and interesting pieces of information everyday, usually in bursts (like when I’m riding the metro.) Buffer makes it better for the people that follow me on social media by spacing those posts so that they don’t come out all together. It improves my life by making it very easy and fast to share to my choice of networks depending on the content that I

Google Apps For Business: Gmail, Calendar, Contacts and Drive. Everything synced and available from any computer I’m working on. Plus with the Business account I get phone and email support from Google. I only sync my Google Drive files with one computer using InSync. I’ve had a horrible experience with Dropbox as a client and after testing other alternatives InSync is what works best.

Multiple inboxes for Gmail: I have tried many different strategies to work with my inbox, and the one that works for me is Unread/Read. My real inbox and To Do folder is unread emails. With multiple inboxes I have a selection of tabs with especific searches, but the most important for me is always Unread. Bold messages work for me, flags don’t. Boomerang adds the functionality I need. Everything is filtered and classified as automatically as possible.

RSSDemon: I read all my RSS feeds on my mobile phone, usually when I’m commuting on public transportation and in quiet/boring times of the day. To get more relevant news, I filter my sources through Yahoo Pipes. The day I find an Android RSS app that allows me to filter keywords and that has a similar interface I will probably switch and stop using Pipes (I have to update the pipes through my computer.)

My Logitech mouse: I use a gamers mouse at work and it is great for my arm thanks to its shape. With other mice I had pain in my shoulder and elbow.

What’s your workspace like?

A structured mess. Things are in their right place and I need to see what I have to do/act upon.if you move my papers around or put something on top of what I need to see I will forget about it and not notice until it is probably too late.

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What’s your best time-saving trick?

No alarms or notifications for email or on my screen. If anything is urgent I am sure I will get a call. I’m very good at ignoring alerts on my mobile phone.

What’s your favorite to-do list manager?

AnyDo for Android.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without?

None.

What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?

I would not know, I don’t like to compare myself to others. I just try to do well what I do.

What are you currently reading?

I read 4 to 5 novels a month, mostly when I go to bed and on weekends. They help me sleep better and forget about work to rest. I’m currently reading The Birth House by Amy McKay.

On the learning side I’m working with MySQL Developers Library to become more literate and self sufficient.

What do you listen to while you work?

Nothing. The coworking space is mostly quiet and I used to work in an editorial department for magazine publications. I prefer peoples’ noise to music.

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?

An extrovert that needs time with himself to charge up.

What’s your sleep routine like?

Go to bed, start reading a novel, fall asleep.

Fill in the blank: I’d love to see Ash Maurya answer these same questions.

As a thought and practice leader in Lean Startups, I would really like to learn more about how he works with his team and on a daily basis.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Rest and treat yourself to compensate for all the hardwork.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I get a lot of help and good tips from my coworkers. Working at home sucks. Join a coworking space even if it is just for a few hours a week: it will make your professional and personal life better.

Startups.be the one stop shop for Belgian startups looking for support

Startups.be logo

If you follow me on Twitter or any other social media account, I’m one of the founders and board members of Startups.be. It is an initiative I’ve been involved in for over a year, but only recently have we created the non profit organization. (Yes, I know it is hard to follow up on all the things I do, but you can always check my LinkedIn to have an idea.)

The purpose of Startups.be is twofold:

  • To help tech starters in Belgium to find help according to their needs, stage of growth and geographic location. It will be the one stop shop to find help and be redirected toward the right organizations.
  • To bring together all the entities that are working to help tech entrepreneurs in the country. There’s already 40 and we are working on bringing more people in.

The role of Startups.be is that of a facilitator, not a substitute.

We are currently working on the website, but you can already signup with your startup to be included in the online directory of Belgian startups and to access more services as they are implemented.

My colleague and driving force behind Startups.be, Karen Boers, was recently interviewed in Trends Tendances to present the project:

Both the Betagroup and Betacowork are members of Startups.be, and so are westartup, idealabs, Webmission, iMinds, ABE, AWT, and many others. The list is growing, and as you can see there are a lot of different sizes, types of organizations, private & public… Some, don’t even exist as an organization! If you want to join, just get in touch with Karen.

The board of directors is composed of entrepreneurs from the three regions: Peter Hinssen, Alain Heureux, Antoine Perdaens, Jurgen Ingels, Sylvie Irzi, and myself. Karen Boers is the Managing Director.

I was driven to the very first meeting of the project by Leo Exter, one of the main pillars of tech entrepreneurship in Belgium,  founder of westartup.eu, and my partner in bringing Startup Weekend to Brussels.

What I’ve liked from the begining is the willingness to work together, to overcome the regional compartmentalization of the country.

Some of the first actions where the Startups.be day, with a lot of organizations giving workshops and value to the starters, and the stand at LeWeb. Both were awesome :)

We are currently working on organizing the next events, so keep an eye on the Startups.be calendar.

Brands, learn about your audience’s personality with Whit.li

This year I had the chance to catch up  with Andy Gillentine and Jack Holt, cofounders of Whit.li, to see what had happened since the Whit.li API was released. It allowed to check compatibility of two people based on the analysis of their social media profiles, and the target companies to use this service where collaborative consumption sites like AirBnB. The talks with the participants then and the follow up meetings taught them that the people who were really interested were brands, advertising and media companies. They wanted to understand more deeply who are the people engaging with their brand. The Whit.li team also learned that implementing an API is very difficult for large companies, because of their decision making process. So they decided to build a marketing application that uses social data to do market research for companies.

So they decided to change the product based on the technology they had already developed and they now segment the followers of brands based on five personality traits (Daring, Sophisticated, Wholesome, Rugged, and Reliable) and add information about each character, for example the TV shows that they like. This is where the magic of Whit.li is: you have a personality segmentation that allows you to tailor the advertising placement and content based on the personality of your target audience, not just their age, gender, education, etc.

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I’m sick and tired of getting absurd advertisements about cars and sports of which I could not care less (among many others), while I may be even receptive to the ads if they are more daring and funny, not just based on old missconceptions about gender. So I look forward to this kind of innovations that focus on me to give me a better experience.

Media planners, market researches, and product developers are the people that will use Whit.li and we all will, hopefuly, be receiving better advertising based on the tool, and with it more useful information.

whit.li-dashboard-2

The tool allows them to see an evolution, not just a picture in a particular time. Compared to other tools like Radian6 , Whit.li tells you about your followers, not just what they are saying about you. You can also track the effectiveness of your campaign by seing if you’ve managed to grow the character trait of your followers.

All the analysis is based on your Twitter interactions, and it needs to have at least to have 5000 followers. After all the changes done by Facebook, they are able to do a lot less than last year, but applications will work. This platform risk is not something that they are scared of with Twitter, but it could always come.

For SXSW they have released at the brand application, where you can see the segments of followers of your brand and your competitors.

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LDLC-Pro has broken my computer and blames it on me #fail

I’ve been unlucky enough to start buying at LDLC-Pro my IT material. They had a good reputation and based on it I went ahead and bought a computer, plus an extra SSD disc for another computer, plus some other stuff. It took them a bit longer than expected to deliver, but I was in no hurry so no big deal.

Then my SSD disc failed, and you know how it is: catastrophic. No way of having access to your data so you have to reinstall everything again from scratch and pray that all the important data was synced to the cloud before it died. I sent it to them and could not get a replacement because they did not have it on stock, so they credited my account and I bought a new one. All OK, except that their system is rather complicated and manual instead of deducting your reimbursement automatically from your next buys.

OK, so I was unlucky with one product, it may happen… And then my computer started failing. After spending some time trying to find the source of the problem I discovered that there was a problem with the memory.

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I called their support and they told me to run the tests on each memory stick. I did and both were bad. This meant, in their own words, that there was something wrong with the computer and that I had to send it back to them for repair.

So I wrapped my computer in bubble wrap, added paper balls for extra protection and to keep it away from the cardboard and I sent it to them. And this is where things start to get weird.

They received the computer on Friday January 25, but they did not acknowledge receipt.

B-post-reception-colis-ldlc

I called on Thursday January 31 to check, it was weird not to have the receipt. So I talked with one of the agents that confirmed that it was weird that I did not get a receipt and that everything was in order. The computer had undergone some checking and was to go on more extensive testing.

And then on Friday February 1, one week after they received the computer, I finally get the confirmation as if the computer had arrived on February 1.

Immediately after this they sent another email with pictures of the damage that they had done and trying to blame it on me.

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They also sent me a picture of the open box.

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I may be poor sighted, but I don’t see anything wrong with it, just a box that has been opened. How come there are no pictures of the box before opening if it was battered?

Basically they refused to repair my computer and have sent it back (I don’t know how it will arrive) without honoring the warranty and, on top of it, having broken it while on repair.

So one of this days I will receive a computer with a broken case, probably a broken screen, the two bad memory sticks I already had, and the mother board with the defect that caused the problem in the memory sticks.

If it wasn’t for the call I made on Thursday to check they could have pulled it out, but I know my computer was received OK. I sent a detailed email to them, but they ignored it. I spoke with them today and they said that the box arrived in an awful condition, I don’t see that in any of the photos they’ve sent.

This is what really happened:

  1. They received the package without issues.
  2. One of their technicians dropped it.
  3. They decided to blame it on me and not honor the warranty. Easy way out.

What happens now? I will have to buy a new computer – somewhere else – and see if I can use some of the pieces left for projects at the Hacker Space Brussels, if there’s anything else that can be salvaged. Unfortunately there’s nothing I can realistically do to defend my rights. All that is left is to recommend everybody I know to beware and never buy anything from them. It has started with the people that recommended them: we trust each other because we give each other good advice, and if things are not good we just talk to update our knowledge.

TL; DR: Don’t ever buy anything from LDLC-Pro, they are not trustworthy and their products have a lot of defects.

Update 05/02/2013: Thanks to your support sharing this post in social media, I got the email of the CEO of LDLC and have already sent him a message explaining what happened.

Update 2 05/02/2013: got the reply from the CEO of LDLC. An email in the same line as his customer service but more agressive. Bad news for the clients, bad news for the future of the company.

Update 06/02/2013: got another email from the CEO. Let’s just say that he did not use the nicest language, but they will reimburse me. Thanks for your help!

Update 21/02/2013: The money arrived to my account on Feb. 8. Again, thanks for your help!

How can market signals contribute to public startup funding?

Coinvest-by-ramonsuarez-piggybanks

The EU Commission has invited me to participate in a series of very interesting discussions about how to help tech entrepreneurs in the EU. The conversations have been very interesting and have given me the opportunity to exchange with entrepreneurs, universities, public and private organizations, and experts that support the development of startups in Europe.

One of the things that we discussed is how should to ensure that public funding on early stage startups does not bias the market, incentivising “good” ideas that nobody really cares about and ignoring others that are more needed.

My proposal, shared by other participants, is to follow market signals, so that it is the market that chooses and the public sector only reenforces those choices.

But the question is, which market signals?

Coinvesting is a good way to follow the market lead, but it should be investment from private investors, not from guarantee funds or banks (there are already mechanisms for that). They have a higher commitment to the success of the company, after all they’ve bet some of their own money in it. 

The selection of the startups by a group of investors and entrepreneurs to participate in accelerator programs is also a good signal. They usually invest based on the quality of the team of people joining. It is not a school, they have very limited seats available and they work hard to help the startups grow quick. They have some skin in the choice (but are not fully committed.) The equity parts of these programmes are usually passive, they don’t take part in the . They just wait for 5 or more years for a possible exit or buyout. To really make a difference they should also put their own money in the startups, commit themselves, not just distribute somebody else’s funds.

These are some example of accelerator programs and of a public investment scheme to promote web entrepreneurship. 

  • Enterprise Ireland: €50 000 for new startups and €250 000 in coinvestment, companies have to setup shop in Ireland and 10% of the company goes to EI. 
  • Y-combinator: acts as a fund on top of accelerating a very select group of startups. Investments of up to US$80 000 for the next batch in exchange of 2-10% participation. 
  • TechStars: US$18 000 to the selected participant startups plus a convertible loan of US$100 000, in exchange of +- 6% equity.
  • Wayra: US$ 50 000 in exchange of 5-10% of the equity.

Sales would be too tricky to take into consideration, with a lot of different schemes and most of the startups would be to early in their development to have any sales at all. 

In my view, it would be even more interesting to incentivate the investment with a tax-shelter for early stage investment. There are already mechanisms like this in France and the UK where what the tax-shelters are doing is taking out part of the risk. One way to do this could be to create a European fund that would give part of the money back in case of a failure, but the investment has to fall within the scope and be registered when it is done, not after.

How would you do it?

Thank you Jean !

Half-attendees-betagroup-37-ka

Yesterday was a bitter-sweet night for all of us. On one part we had the first demo day of the Betagroup, with almost 1200 signups and over 700 attendees. The place was packed and the startups doing the demos where very busy pitching.

At the same time Leo Exter was running a Betainvest event upstairs, with 30 investors an 10 startups pitching for funds.

And then Jean dropped the bomb

Jean Derely got on an improvised stage to thank the sponsors and go through all the things that have happened in the last 4 years, and then proceeded to drop the bomb: Jean will no longer run the Betagroup.

I cannot say it was a surprise for me or the other members of the Betagroup team (we had been working on his decision for about a month), but it was still a sad moment for me.

The impact of Jean Derely and the Betagroup

Heart-and-sould-of-the-belgian

Without Jean and the Betagroup I would have never become who I am in Brussels and the startup ecosystem. I don’t think I would even be the same person, nor have reached my current level of happiness. If I’ve ended up organizing so many events and opening a coworking space in Brussels it is part thanks to Jean, to his motivation and to the vibe he’s managed to transmit. He’s sparked the will to organize things and to make them happen in a lot of us; he’s promoted and helped numerous events and groups to get going, to launch and to do what they love; he’s shown the example to follow, doing what we love, working hard, making it happen.

Jean is the heart and soul of our tech startup ecosystem. He’s not the only one that has created or is running events to promote tech entrepreneurship in Belgium, but he’s had the biggest impact of all. Jean has always focused on bringing value to the startups and obsessed about making things happen, with his own money and with his work to raise funding for the Betagroup, to provide for all those free events for entrepreneurs and professionals.

I still remember when I discovered the Betagroup and before attended my first event (number 3 of 37 so far, without counting all the seminars, workshops and conferences) I contacted Juanito who was running a Hispanic social network in the USA and had moved back to Belgium. He wanted to have an American style event to shake things a little and meet other like minded people. With the help of some of his friends he started setting up a dinner to discuss it and then moved to the ULB to host a growing community. I think that back then we were 80 or so, but for the next event it was already 100 and it has kept on growing. Today there are over 5500 people in our community of tech startup lovers. Thanks to Jean we are changing the world, starting with Brussels.

Why Jean is stepping down

The Betagroup has always strived to help startups grow, and one of its successes is Woorank, Jean’s own startup. In the last two years Boris Demaria and have grown Woorank into a profitable business, without external capital and to a 13 person strong team. He’s managed to turn his own dream into a reality. Woorank is growing fast and Jean needs to concentrate on this opportunity. 

What changes for you

Nothing.

The Betagroup will continue on operating just like it does now. I’ve taken over most of Jean’s role running the Betagroup and will be working with two great people that have already proven their value, namely Julie Foulon and Leo Exter

Julie will continue organizing the big events of the Betagroups, our pitch slams and demo days.

Leo will continue running the Betainvest, our investor club where we try to help investors and startups meet each other and heat up the market.

I will continue running the coworking space and will be more involved in the running of the Betagroup together with the other founders of the non-profit: Olivier Belenger and Julien Meganck

Jean has made sure that his parting did not hinder the Betagroup.

What you should do

Send Jean a message, by email, Twitter, blog, sms, through the Betagroup’s contact form, by post, in person when you see him… No matter how, but tell him about the positive impact he’s had on you, your company, your community. Thank him for this 4 years of hard work and support. It is the least we can do.

Organize your own event or join the organization of an existing event. We build the ecosystem together. The more you participate the better, bigger and useful it gets. Let’s make sure that no matter who moves along with life the ecosystem keeps on growing and growing faster all the time.

Thank you Jean !

With all my heart.

PeerReach: find and understand social media influencers

PeerReach is a tool to find the influencers in a topic, language and geographic area. But it does more than help you find them, it helps you understand their main areas of interest and influence in each one of them.

You probably thought of other tools that are stablished in the market- like Klout, PeerIndex and Kredly- that already do something similar. These competitors are focused on their ranking number and are not so good in defining the right areas of interest and influence.

When I first saw my profile in PeerReach and those of a couple friends I was impacted by the quality and relevance of their categorization.

The service is free for regular users, and business (marketing agencies, communication professionals, etc.) can pay for an API to integrate PeerReach with their own tools.

 

Nico Schoonderwoerd is the cofounder of an international team directed from Amsterdam. They have recently raised €250 000.

 

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