Now that I’m in the last stages of my PhD I’m looking back at who made this possible. Obviously there are many people and institutions, to many of them I can tell them personally, as individuals or representatives of the organizations. However, there is an institution that is hard to thank, however you maybe part of this. That is the European Union. Without the structural funds of the European Union, the project I’m part of would have not be created. Therefore I want to say thank you European Union! Most of the readers here come from outside the EU, I hope they don’t mind to read this.  I will let the future judge if my PhD project (including research, publishing, collaborating and teaching) has been a good investment or not.

Ok, and also thank you to Denmark! Even if sometimes don’t get along with the EU :)

This morning I attended the funeral of Henrik*, a friend of the family. He is Danish and we met him when he started going out with our good friend Isabel. They dated a couple of years and last summer they got married. He, like his wife, was a superb economist. Henrik graduated from one of the best, if not the best business school in Scandinavia. He successfully worked in a major trading company, but having in his genes the potential to be a highly successful entrepreneur, he started his own company with the support of some friends. He was the managing director, and work hard hours for the business to take off. A few months ago, we invited them for dinner, but only she could come, he stayed working.

This week he committed suicide. He left letters with kind words to his family and wife. He assured them it was not their fault, that he loved them and knew they loved him, but that he could not take it anymore.

As today was his funeral, I could say many good things about him, but honestly, he was a good man. I though he loved a lot our friend Isabel.

This is a very personal story, that I’m sharing here. But I feel I have to write about it. As this blog is about economic geography, local development and entrepreneurship, many times I have talked about the complexity of this issues. Recently I added a post about how hard it is to be an entrepreneur. Some will say, that they have never said it was easy. I say, policy makers and academic gurus, should not only avoid to say “it’s easy” (even though many times they imply it), they should clearly say that it is usually really hard.

Probably Henrik did not took his life because of his occupation, but because of a mix of reasons beyond our comprehension. However, knowing a little the situation, his entrepreneurial edge seems to have played a role in this tragic situation.

This experience today, should remind each of us the challenges of entrepreneurship. Something, that sometimes researchers, and probably everybody, forget.

Rest in Peace, brother.

*The names have been changed for privacy considerations.

image via Vanity Fair

Much media reports economists saying, “the economy is going to be good”, or “the economy is going to be bad”. There is of course a relationship of the political agenda of the outlet, to have a line towards more positive or negative. I find that both of the economic predictions are mostly right. Because for some the economy does good, and for others does not really improve. And this is what I find that the media does not report it too much on it. That is: inequality.

One person who says it clearly, is Berkeley professor Robert Reich. In his predictions of the economy for 2011, he asseverated

“If you’re referring to profits of big corporations and Wall Street, next year is likely to be a good one. But if you’re referring to average American workers, far from good.”

Similar thing is happening in many places, and the media usually puts together countries, states, provinces (and rarely cities), and they say: “the economy has grown (or decreased 1%)”, but they do not say where and who wins or looses this 1% of the economy. It actually it should not be that hard to introduce some coeficients like the Gini index, or even better some type of Human Development Index. I’ve also heard in the news how Sarkozy, it’s trying to do some alternative socioeconomic indexes, “different than the Anglo-Saxon”. I think it should interesting to look at some of them.

I have also noticed that there is an increasing discussion about inequality among bloggers, not corporate outlets but even in some places like The Economist or Vanity Fair. In fact, I have recently tagged with #inequality 10 or 15 articles in my twitter.

This is a couple of paragraphs which won’t fit in the paper I’m finishing but I think is cool to put it online, and won’t fit in twitter :)


In the last decades, consultants have been taken a more relevant place. In the 1959, there were consultants who designed the mammoth downtown renewal project. Outsourcing to “professionals” is something widely used in the nation, but Vallejo massively uses them. As the ViceMayor said after loosing a close vote against the renovation of the firefighters contracts, “I’m going to say something many here won’t like: The elephant in the room is that the City is run by consultants” (Gomes, 2010)

(…)

In acquiring external knowledge many cities, especially in the US, rely on consultants. The city management of Vallejo, as many others, openly confirmed that they prefer to hire contractors instead of offering city jobs because it is cheaper for the municipality budget. While it is important for cities to obtain knowledge from outside, the case study of Vallejo has shown, that they should be careful not to trust any sole architect, economist, lawyer, arbitrator, planner or academic. Local officials should also contrast information from different groups, which does not necessarily have to be highly paid, or even paid as they can be volunteers concerned about their city or city region.

Just browsing the news during lunch I see the conservative American radio-tv commentator Glenn Beck, apologizing or something he said. This picture is shown in the article:

I focus in the poster behind this gentleman. Entrepreneurship it says, and then two hands trying to grab or magically making float a light bulb.

I have the impression that this is a promotion of the classical idea of Entrepreneurship. The 1000 times repeated mantra that anyone can have an idea, work hard and become rich. The proof is the thousands of individuals who have done it.

Light bulb is a popularly known icon for an idea. This was “coined” by Alva Edison. I mean, I don’t think that anyone took a picture with a light bulb before him :)

We all have seen this picture below. And perhaps listened to the stories of how patience he was. How he tried his experiments over and over… Persistence is the key ingredient to success…. bla, bla, bla…

They have put in our mind the idea of Edison working in his lab, coming up with something that we all admire. Sure, he was a genius, but he was not alone.

Successful entrepreneurship is about working with people. Even though Edison is alone in the pictures, there should have been a picture of many. He had a strong network of people who provided valuable ideas, not only for the light bulb, but many other inventions. See for example the article in Wikipedia: Edison Pioneers.

Entrepreneurship is not about individualism. I thought that, but I was wrong. Ideas are good, but are worthless until someone get things done. That is an entrepreneur. But entrepreneurship lives within a system. And if we want economic development, and progress we need the right socioeconomic innovation system. An environment, that I would say in most of the times it’s not necessarily accord to the ideas aired by Beck.

I come from a family of entrepreneurs, some firms did ok but the majority failed. I know how the lives of these people are, because it was mine. The vast majority (for example in the US, every year 2 million Americans start their own business) is a bad life. It really breaks my heart to see people buying the story of a successful individual, and just keep trying day after day, without the right network. Let’s not encourage wrong ideas about entrepreneurship.

So, Mr. Beck, I really like this promotion of entrepreneurship. But maybe you could have, instead of two hands reaching the light bulb, maybe a diverse team holding it…

The last post of Ed Glaeser on The Daily Show, was the post #100 of this blog. My first post was shortly after I started my Phd on April 2008, and I was not really sure if it was going to be worth it. To don’t consume too much time, I intended to write a couple of paragraphs once a week or every two weeks. More or less I have achieved it. That was almost 3 years ago, and now I’m wrapping up the PhD project. On this post I would like to reflect how this blog and its 100 posts has helped me on my PhD studies.

First, it helped me to train the skills of organizing ideas and write about them. In the beginning of my PhD I was complaining with one of my Phd fellows, Christian Byrge, of how overwhelmed I was about all the readings I had to go over. He then told me, that I should focus on writing. He told me something like: “We already have a bachelor and masters, and have some ideas on our heads. If we read everything that we are supposed to read, we will never finish.” The ideal situation for a Phd candidate is to be writing academic papers, but any scholar knows that this requires a lot to publish a first paper. Why not practicing “publishing” in a blog? You can keep a popular language that appeals not academic readers and the truth is that it’s fun, and yes, as a non English speaking native, I can make mistakes without worrying too much.

There are also two more areas that have have been benefited with this blog. These are the two goals I had when I started it. One was to have a network of people who are interested in the subjects of my Phd studies. I have done that indeed. With academics, researchers, practitioners, authors and last but not least, people from other grounds that have helped my work. I have also enjoyed to find other PhD students from whom I can have common feelings. This has been enhanced by microblogging with Twitter (@carlos9900).

The other goal I had was to create something that people may find interesting. With humility I think I have done so too. Since I started the website it has received nearly 10,000 visits. Knowing that people find it interesting enough to read it makes me really happy. Also people had left 140 comments and many of them have helped me to see things from other point of view.

In all, writing this 101 posts has been a nice experience. I suppose I will finish it when I get my degree, I will finish this project. Thank you for reading.

If you have problems wathing the video, just click on his name.

Ed Glaeser was last night at The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. A comedy show based on news that I always find funny. I started watching it when I went to study to the US in 2003, a that time I was surprised how they criticize the Bush administration. Anyways, yesterday Glaeser went to the show, one of the economists I like to follow. So Ed Glaeser and Jon Stewart, a perfect mix. He was promoting his very interesting book “Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier and Happier” Penguin. I think it’s a book I’d like to read. See today’s book review at The Economist. I would say his approached looked a little bit like Richard Florida’s love for urban areas, and that’s great we need many more guys supporting the concept of the cities from different points of view

I was surprised how young he is. I always pictured him as a 60 yeard old guy.

Here it is a podcast of Ed Glaeser in Freakonomics: Why Cities Rock. From February 18. I really liked it. I didn’t like some stuff, but I enjoyed the idea of building up in San Francisco Bay Area.