Privacy projects, solutionism & surveillance capitalism, books.

Hello friends & network,

  1. I launched a couple of projects to grow the privacy-friendly network: (1) a list of privacy-friendly products; and (2) a newsletter with “privacy jobs.” Sign up.

  2. I’ve been reading books to better understand the impact the ubiquitous use of tracking (and surveillance) will have on human nature and our own well-being. That is work in progress. I am sharing more below. If that is of your interest, let’s chat:, or reply to this email.

You receive this newsletter because we met, chatted, offline or online, at some point in the past. I send this newsletter every 2-3 months with updates on what I do, learn and read with the aim of engaging in conversation. You can unsubscribe at the bottom.


I put together a list of privacy-friendly products:

A weekly digest of privacy jobs in your mailbox:


the digital age, solutionism and surveillance capitalism

Hedge: A Greater Safety Net for the Entrepreneurial Age by Nicolas Colin.

“Tech,” “The Internet,” “startups” are often analysed as a standalone event in history, by their own protagonists, claiming that those movements are a “revolution” and that “this time is different.” Nicolas Colin puts the digital age in perspective with 100+ years of political, economic and social developments in the US (and Europe) and tells the story of how the last 30 years of digital developments fit along.

Colin also explains why our current social and economic policies are unfit for the digital age; he proposes new models, and rebukes solutionist models such as Universal Basic Income — definition of ‘solutionism’ in the next book review.

To Save Everything, Click Here by Evgeny Morozov.

Morozov coined the term “solutionismin the technology space.

Solutionism is when a simplistic (technological) solution is naively brought to fix an presumed, misunderstood, complex and barely undefined problem.

Full explanation from Morozov:

“I borrow this unabashedly pejorative term [“solutionism”] from the world of architecture and urban planning, where it has come to refer to an unhealthy preoccupation which sexy, monumental, and narrow-minded solutions—the kind of stuff that wows audiences at TED Conferences—to problems that are extremely complex, fluid, and contentious. These are the kinds of problems that, on careful examination, do not have to be defined in the singular and all-encompassing ways that “solutionists” have defined them; what’s contentious, then, is not their proposed solution but their very definition of the problem itself. Design theorist Michael Dobbins has it right: solutionism presumes rather than investigates the problems that it is trying to solve, reaching “for the answer before the questions have been fully asked.” How problems are composed matters every bit as much as how problems are resolved.”

Morozov’s book is a critic of Silicon Valley; worth reading especially if you have been soaking in Silicon Valley’s ideology of “fixing” and “disrupting'“ all industries.

My next read is from an author that further investigates the impact of the digital age on human nature:

The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff.

I just started that book; but there is one sentence that reflects what I think:

The impact of surveillance capitalism will be “as significant a threat to human nature in the 21st century as industrial capitalism was to the natural world in the 19th and 20th’.”

Definition of surveillance capitalism:

“Surveillance capitalism is the process of commodifying personal data with the core purpose of profit-making”

Zuboff also makes the case that a feature of surveillance capitalism is its capacity to operate an apparatus for data collection in a subversive and deceptive manner that is unseen, or unknown, and totally ignored by most people.

More on surveillance capitalism in the next newsletter. If the above is of your interest, let’s chat:, or reply to this email.

other books

From Third World to First: Singapore and the Asian Economic Boom by Lee Kuan Yew.

The story of how LKY built a country. From Scratch. With no natural resources. On a tiny island. In 30 years. I am still reading that one.

Journey Under the Midnight Sun (白夜行, Byakuyakō) by Keigo Higashino.

This book is like a TV show, Twin Peaks style. The story was originally serialized in 25 stories from January 1997 to January 1999 in the monthly Japanese novel magazine Subaru. Now it is packed in a book and ready to be taken in one single shot. The thriller takes place in Osaka, involves a multitude of characters each more intriguing that the other. The story navigates through layers of the Japanese’s social order and systems. That was fascinating.

How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert.

The story of Scott Adams himself where he explains how to turn three skills you are just ‘good at’ into an expertise. An easy read useful for “generalist” trying to define their expertise.

Un Peuple de Promeneur by Alexandre Romanès.

I am fascinated by the relations gypsys have with time, ownership, and space. Millennials (and digital nomads) often question their relationship with time, ownership and space (home) too; they want to own their schedule, don’t own a house and move around. Can we learn from gypsys?

Quote from Romanès’ writings:

“Everything you don’t give away, is lost.”


From Paris.

Ps I curated a list of 30+ books I learnt from; suggest to people from time to time. Take a look here.

10 days in silence: vipassana meditation, books as a default activity

Sign up is here / Unsubscribe at the bottom
On the web: Twitter - LinkedIn - About me - Writings

Hello friends and network.

🧘🏽 I started the year by a 10-day meditation course in silence. I am sharing answers to Frequently Asked Questions about this introspection.

📚 I’m working to make “reading books” my default activity. Below is a list of books I’m reading, finished or dropped.

☝️What was your favorite book read of 2019? Mine was Barbarian Days by William Finnegan. Share yours here. I will put together a list of 2019’s favorite books in my next newsletter.

🚉 I will be in Paris this week, then Barcelona for IAM conference “explor[ing] the futures of the internet(s),” and back to Paris again; then later Berlin and London. Give me a shout if you are in: Paris, Barcelona, Berlin and London.

💊 “Location-tracking dietary supplements” will be distributed at IAM conference to explore life post-privacy. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

10 days in silence: vipassana meditation

This blog post was also published on

What is “vipassana”?

I thought vipassana was a “silence retreat” at first. A centre where I would spend 10 days, in silence, doing some mediation.

I went because a friend told me the retreat helped her focus on what matters in her life and get rid of the noise.

It turns out those 10 days are a meditation course. Silence, or noble silence more precisely, is a requisite for this course. This course is teaching vipassana mediation technique.

What is noble silence?

Noble silence is a silence of body, voice and mind.

Silence of body means that you can’t stretch, run or do yoga. You can’t communicate with other by glances or gestures. Eye contact isn't authorized. Nothing. You can’t even lay down outdoors; that’s a distraction to others. If you do so, a Dhamma server (i.e. a volunteer assisting in running the course) will kindly tell you off accompanied by a namaste 🙏 . Silence of body restricts your activity to:

  • walk at a slow pace;

  • eat — facing a wall;

  • seat;

  • stand;

  • brush your teeth, wash your body;

  • lay down on a bed, sleep;

  • meditate.

Silence of voice is pretty straightforward. No talking. No use of your voice. That is actually the easiest, I found.

Silence of mind means that you should limit activities that distract your practice. That means no listening to music, reading or writing. Be present. Remain in silence. A few of us even got told off because we were starring at monkeys roaming around trees. There was a display for this:

“kindly do not pay attention to animals, they disturb your practice.”

In the park where we could stroll, there was also this display which I quite liked:

“Walk alone”

Silence of mind is the toughest of all silences. You are on your own. You are going wherever your thoughts will take you. There is no way to stop. Until the end.

Train you mind to focus

We live in continuous partial attention. We scan the world so we can remain “connected”. We fear of missing out. We lost some of our ability to focus. Some exercise I did during the course trainned my mind to focus. One exercise for instance was to focus on one square centimeter of my body for an hour or two.

Another exercise forced us not to change sitting position for an hour. That's “sitting with strong determination.”


First I thought not reading would be annoying. I thought I would get bored.

It turns out I didn’t have much time to wander.

Dhamma servers hit the gong at 4 am. First meditation session kicks in at 4.30 am, for 2 hours straight. Then comes breakfast with chanting blasting throughout the centre. Once breakfast is over, it’s rest time until 8 am. I would go to my room get some rest before the next meditation session from 8 to 11 am. 11 am is lunch time; last meal of the day. I did semi-fasting throughout the vipassana; that wasn’t hard surprisingly. The 12 to 1 pm break was a chance to stroll in the sun and warm up. There was no heaters at the meditation centre and temperatures were between 7 and 19 degrees Celsius. Standing in the sun - and heat - were luxury. Everyone would stand in the sun to get stimulated by the sunbeam. At time they would be 30 to 50 people standing like sunflowers facing the sun until the end of midday break.

At 1 pm everyone went back to meditate in their rooms, in the hall or in their cells*. There were 3 mediation sessions followed by an hour break at 5 pm. This break was the last chance to catch sun rays before another meditation session from 6 to 7 pm. Still, in noble silence. Always. 7 pm to 8.30 pm was a bit of a break for our minds. We watched a video on the theory of vipassana/Dhamma, in silence. The day would end by 1/2 hour meditation session before heading to our rooms at 9 pm.


Nothing fancy here. 10 square meters. A piece of wooden plank with a 5 centimeter mattress. A toilet, a sink and a tap. No hot water in the room. Hot water was available at a communal tap between 7 and 8 am, only.


As a “new student” (i.e. first-time vipassana student), you get to meditate in the meditation hall, and in your room when allowed by teachers. That is pretty much it, except for a couple of days where your get access to your own private cell. The name is explicit, that’s a 1 by 1.5 meter secluded space. No windows. There is only a squared cushion on the floor for you to sit, and meditate. The only one distraction you have is the light switch.

“Old students” (i.e. returning student) got access to a dedicated cell for the whole duration of a course.


In noble silence everyone is alike.

There were 200 men and about 80 women. There were no mixing authorised at all. Men and women took the course in separated sections of the centre.

Wildness in the meditation centre

There were peacocks living within and around the centre. They would stroll in the alleys, hang on trees, walls, roofs or on the pagoda as if they worked to check they territory. A hoard of monkeys would swing by once a day to feed themselves in trees on the hills overlooking the meditation centre. Those animals were quite a distraction. Dhamma servers worked to have us respect noble silence. Silence of mind.



Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl; “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Cosmos by Michel Onfray. At school we were taught the history of the world though the life of humans. In Cosmos, Onfray tells the story of our world though the means of time, life, animals, the cosmos and sublimity.

The Power of Now by Ekart Tolle. I read this book for the first time 3 years ago. All I could remember from my first read was that our mind constantly takes us back to the past and into the future. Tolle argues that we should focus on being present. There is a lot more packed in this book so I am picking it up again.


The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. I picked up that book because I read that it’s a remedy against procrastination. Maybe. I found the dialogue and attitude of characters to be a lesson on humility, humanity and eloquence.

The Alchimist by Paulo Coelho. A story conveying some wisdom and moral about one’s life goal. I found the message of this book embellished and over-simplified by Coelho’s parable.

King Kong Theory by Virginie Despentes. In her essay Despentes tells the story of her own experience being raped, working in prostitution and in the porn industry to expose preconceptions about sex, gender and woman place in society. We don’t hear enough of such point of views and stories in mass media.

Submission by Michel Houellebecq. Through the rather decadent life a university professor the reader witnesses 2022 France presidential election when a newly formed Islamic party, Muslim Brotherhood, win the election and Islamic law is instituted.


On Writing by Stephen King; I picked up that book since I am interested in the craft of writing. While the advice of King are useful, particulary for fiction writers, nothing beats the essays of Paul Graham on writing: Writing, Briefly and How to Write Usefully. I also enjoyed taking the exercise Julia Cameron provides in her book The Artist’s Way, those helps readers form the habit of writing.

[On my book shelve]

Letters From a Stoic by Seneca; Hedge by Nicolas Colin; Journey to the End of the Night by Louis-Ferdinand Céline; Brave New World by Aldous Huxley; When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro

Thank you for reading/scrolling.


Romain Aubert - Why you don't need personas, Google's disingenuous blog post, how to dodge facial recognition, Barbarian Days

Hey friends,

1/ As part of some work on product marketing, I’ve been debating whether creating personas was the right thing to define product positioning and messaging.

It turns out that it is not.

I am explaining why.

2/ In a blog post, Google disingenuously outlines how to “building a private web;” I comment on why Google’s rhetoric is misleading.

3/ Reading and music

Have a good skim through/read.

A Snickers box back in the days

A Snickers box back in the days

We don't care about personas.

I was working on defining positioning and messaging for a product. The team and I thought we needed to understand who our personas were in order to move forward with defining positioning and messaging.

There were some hesitations in doing so: “What’s next? What do we do once we have description(s) of our persona(s). How is it going to help us on next steps for product development?”

We decided not to go for personas.

Below is why.

Why sticking to persona might mislead you in your product positioning and messaging strategy

If you sell Snickers, you don’t care to know that your target persona is 35 years old, has a degree in marketing, likes peanuts, chocolate and caramel, and has an active lifestyle.

Those are attributes and they might mislead you:

“We learned early the outcome a person wants is much more important than the person themselves. Knowing it’s a 37-year-old’s hands on the keyboard rarely changes how you design your product to deliver their outcome.”– Intercom’s team.

The jobs-to-be-done methodology stipulates that those attributes don’t help you understand why this person bought a Snickers:

“Personas look at roles and attributes. Jobs-to-be-Done looks at situations and motivations. Personas explain who people are and what people do. But they never fully explain why people do something. And why people do things is far more important.”

You want to know what “job” people “hire” your product for.

You want to know what their motivations are, as opposed to what their attributes are.

Back to our Snickers example:

Snickers’ consumer did not buy a Snickers because they are 35 years old, have a degree in marketing, like peanuts, chocolate and caramel, and have an active lifestyle.

They bought a snicker because they were on the go, in between meals, and needed to satisfy hunger.

Personas might mislead you when creating your acquisition strategies as you might be totally omitting what job people hire your product for as you focus solely on who they are.

“Personas artificially break apart audiences. And critically, they artificially limit your product’s audience by focusing on attributes rather than motivations and outcomes. — Intercom’s team”

Thanks to Daphni community and friends for sharing this framework with me.

Sources & more reading and watching:

Article: Intercom on Jobs-to-be-Done

Jobs-to-be-Done helps you understand the real job customers are using your product for


Article: Know Your Customers’ “Jobs to Be Done” by HBR

Is innovation inherently a hit-or-miss endeavor? Not if you understand why customers make the choices they do.


Video: Jobs to be Done: from Doubter to Believer by Sian Townsend at Front 2016 in Salt Lake City, Utah

Sian Townsend, Director of Research at Intercom, describes what the Jobs to be Done (JTBD) technique is, how it can be used to design products, and presents …

Comments on Google's disingenuous blog post:"Building a private web"

How Google wants to keep controlling the web

Google published a blog post on how they wish to make the web more private. I find the blog post disingenuous and misleading. Below are my comments on some of the statements Google team makes.

“Privacy is paramount to us, in everything we do.”

How can privacy be “paramount” to Google when the essence of their business model is to leverage personal data to maximize revenues from advertising.

“set of open standards”

Read: “set new constraints so all players have to do our way and we can remain in control.” This has nothing to do with “open.”

“Technology that publishers and advertisers use to make advertising even more relevant to people”

“Relevant” means targeted. That means getting people to spend more money by clicking on targeted ads. That is it. Academic research shows that targeting advertising can change the way people think and behave.

“blocking cookies without another way to deliver relevant ads significantly reduces publishers’ primary means of funding, which jeopardizes the future of the vibrant web.”

“Vibrant web” — read: a “free” web where people are products at the mercy of advertisers. Google is the master of advertising. A free web is a web where people pay for products.

A free web is a web where people pay for products. Definition of free: not under the control or in the power of another; If you give up privacy, you give up power: read Privacy is Power by Carissa Véliz.

“We want to find a solution that both really protects user privacy and also helps content remain freely accessible on the web.”

“we will work with the web community to develop new standards that advance privacy,”

How can google have people’s best interest at mind when their core business model is to leverage personal data to increase advertising revenue?

“we’ve started sharing our preliminary ideas for a Privacy Sandbox - a secure environment for personalization that also protects user privacy.”

Personalisation and privacy are oxymoron. There can be no personalisation if privacy there is.

Definition of privacy: “the state or condition of being free from being observed or disturbed by other people”– Oxford dictionary.

How can there be personalisation if there can be no observation of people?

“Some ideas include new approaches to ensure that ads continue to be relevant for users,”

Read: “Some ideas include new approaches to ensure that [Google and advertisers continue to make money]”

“user data shared with websites and advertisers would be minimized by anonymously aggregating user information,”

If data is anonymized, it can be de anonymized.

“We look forward to getting feedback on this approach from the web platform community, including other browsers, publishers, and their advertising partners.”

  • publishers = Google’s clients.

  • advertising partners = Google’s clients.

Jonathan Mayer and Arvind Narayanan beautifully highlight the dichotomy in their deconstruction of Google’s “open web” by quoting Shoshana Zuboff’s The Age of Surveillance Capitalism:

“Demanding privacy from surveillance capitalists or lobbying for an end to commercial surveillance on the internet is like asking old Henry Ford to make each Model T by hand. It’s like asking a giraffe to shorten its neck, or a cow to give up chewing. These demands are existential threats that violate the basic mechanisms of the entity’s survival.”

From the World Wide Web

  • Spotify started by giving you easy access to music, now they wants to access location of all your family members (link).

  • Facebook, Amazon, Google and Apple have been over using the word “privacy” for marketing purpose:

“Privacy is in danger of becoming a marketing term. Like artificial intelligence & machine learning, there is the possibility that it becomes another word tech firms need to promise users they’re thinking about – even if how it is actually being used remains largely unknown.”– Andrew Griffin, The Telegraph

  • Privacy International, an NGO, exposed 5 menstruation apps that have been sharing their users’ most intimate data about their sexual lives with Facebook and others (link:)

“If you have unprotected sex, MIA [a menstruation app] will tell you what to do. And share it with Facebook and others.”

  • Facebook is investing $1 billion into social housing (link.)

  • If the (police of the) city where you live is starting to use facial recognition, here is your anti facial recognition mask by Ewa Nowak:

Ewa Nowak - Incognito

Ewa Nowak - Incognito

  • Google has reached a milestone in quantum computing by solving a problem that would take a classical computer an impractically long amount of time (link.)

Books I enjoyed

  • Barbarian Days, a surfing life by William Finnegan. I was surprised to see this book recommended by non-surfers, that is what caught my attention. As one of its critics mentioned, the language used is breathtaking. An hymn to freedom and humility.

  • Never Split The Difference by Chris Voss. Although the book is marketed to business peeps as a negotiation manual, I found insights about how to converse with others whether it be about friendships, relationships, family or work matters.

  • Le Grand Marin by Catherine Poulain. The account of woman set to work in the man-dominated deep-sea fishing industry in Alaska in the 80’s.

  • A Voyage For Madmen by Peter Nichols. The daunting stories of nine men who set for the first single-handed circumnavigate sailing race in 1968.

  • Les Others (magazine). They are doing a great job at repackaging your mum & dad’s 3-hour Sunday hike into a 2-day adventurous bivouac.


Betti - Heleh Dan Dan (Bandari)

Betti - Heleh Dan Dan (Bandari)

This newsletter is an excuse to start a conversation. If you hit reply, I will hit reply.


from Asia

By Romain Aubert

“The role of the organiser is to create power for others” — Saul Alinsky

Tweet Share

If you don't want these updates anymore, please unsubscribe here

If you were forwarded this newsletter and you like it, you can subscribe here

Powered by Revue

From my laptop.

Romain Aubert - #7: Blockchain France, Why Startups Fail, "Human Tech" Conferences, Replacing Facebook with (Tiny) Newsletters & /now

I was in France recently, below is a non-exhaustive list of what’s happening there in blockchain; also some other comments on “human tech” conferences, Facebook versus newsletters. I am in New York City for the next few weeks. Ping me if you are in town!


France Blockchain Ecosystem

🚧 Blockchain projects that raised equity

Acinq – working on the scalability of bitcoin protocol, lightning network; raised USD 1.7 million from Serena Capital

Embleema – a protocol to manage health data; raised USD 3.7 million from Techstars, Pharamgest

Ledger – hardware wallet; raised USD 88 million from Draper, Xange, Cathay Innovation, Samsung, Cap Horn.

Spot – cryptocurrency portfolio & market tracking app; raised USD 1.2 million from Kima Ventures

Stratumn – platform to develop enterprise-level blockchain applications; raised USD 9.7 million from BNP Paribas, Otium

Coinhouse – a marketplace to buy and sell crypto; raised USD 2.8 million from Xange, Consensys

Woleet – Timestamping & Electronic signature; raised EUR 1 million

Liquid Share – post negotiation trading platform; raised from Euronext, Societe Generale

Iznes – plaftorm to invest in funds; raised from a few asset managers

Utocat – invest in SMEs ; raised USD 2.6 million from Leap Venture, BPI France

Paymium – exchange; raised EUR 1 million from Kima Ventures, Newfund

MoneyTrack – protocol for directed money; raised from Truffle Capital

Sorare – marketplace for football crypto goods; raised from Kima Ventures, Consensys, Seedcamp

⚡# ICOs in France

  • 18 according to AMF (French SEC)

  • 16 (French team + ICO domiciled in France between 2014-18) according to Avolta Partners

Check out Avolta’s presentation: ICOs 2014-2018

Avolta's ICOs 2014-2018

Avolta's ICOs 2014-2018

💵 Venture Capitalists investing in crypto/blockchain projects

  • Serena Capital

  • Kima Ventures

  • Korelya Capital

  • Xange

  • Cathay Innovation

  • Truffle Capital

  • Otium Ventures

Also – Bpifrance (France’s public investment bank) invested a total of EUR 9 million via grants (no equity).

👛 2 Cryptocurrencies in the top 100

  • Ark, founder: Francois-Xavier Thoorens; marketcap (as of May 20th, 2019): USD 63 million

  • Tezos, founder: Arthur Breitman; marketcap (as of May 20th, 2019): USD 1.1 billion

📛 Conferences

  • EthCC (Ethereum Community Conference). This is the go-to community-driven conference in France for crypto. 1500 attendees. Organised by Asseth (see below)

  • Others: CryptoMondays Paris, Paris Blockchain Week

🌎 Non-profits & associations

  • La Chaintech – consortium of organisations lobbying for blockchain technology

  • Le Cercle du Coin – promotion of adoption of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies

  • Asseth – promotion and education of Ethereum blockchain and organiser of EthCC (Ethereum Community Paris)

  • CryptoFR – a forum and a Slack group gathering 1500 people

  • FD2A French Digital Asset Association – promotion and lobbying for investments in crypto assets

👩‍🚀 People

  • Eric Larchevêque & Pascal Gauthier, Ledger

  • Arthur Breitman, Tezos

  • Francois-Xavier Thoorens, Ark

  • Pierre-Marie Padiou, Acinq

  • Ambre Soubiran, Kaiko

  • Nicolas Louvet, Coinhouse

  • Jerome de Tychey, Asseth, Consensys

  • Claire Balva, Blockchain Partner

  • Frédéric Montagnon, LGO markets

  • Corentin Denoeud, Blockchain studio

  • Gilles Fedak, Iexec

  • Xavier Laversiere, ECAN

  • Jérémie Waquier, Alyra

  • Cyril Bertrand, Xange

  • Ken Timsit, Consensys

🚢 Institutions & Corporates




If it’s not going to be completely and utterly decentralized, it doesn’t need a blockchain.

11:45 PM - 29 Jan 2019

Kudos to Ivan de Delastours, blockchain lead at BPI, for helping me put together this list; also thanks to Simon Polrot and Brian O'Hagan

You can share the above information on blockchain in France via

Replacing Facebook with (tiny) newsletters

I replaced Facebook with newsletters – incl. this one – and also many others tiny newsletters (i.e. some < than 15 people). I thought I was wasting time on Facebook and also working for free. I found myself “liking” items instead of engaging conversations, tagging instead of saying: “Hey, how are you? This might be of interest because…” or “Please let me introduce you to [insert name]” or something else. I don’t know. I left. I replaced my newsfeed’s “announcements” with emails and a bunch of mailing lists:

  • reading buddies – about 20 people I share reading suggestions with

  • Paris’ buddies – when I need a couch to crash in the French capital (same for other cities.)

  • Happy New Year friends list – where I share my intentions and thoughts for the new year

  • China list – with all my prime China contacts for work (and same for other countries/cities)

  • and some other lists, plenty.

At least when I send emails, I don’t find myself chasing “social rewards” i.e. likes or shares, but engaging in conversation. Emails feel healthier.

One more advantage: there is no algorithm. Emails rely on SMTP protocol, not on some mark-said-he-wants-to-connect-the-world algorithm. I just want to message some of my friends, not 2.2 billion people. If I send an email to you, you get it – and most likely read it. You might even reply :) There is no centralized platform playing middle man. We do not need that.

For those who FOMO deleting Facebook:

  • I still have friends;

  • they call me directly when they organise events, if they want to invite me;

  • I still catch my friends when traveling concurrently to the same place;

  • I reclaimed 183 hours per year (30min/day)

I understand some people don’t have the freedom of deleting Facebook e.g. running ads for their business.

I use Groups in Contact app on Mac to manage those other newsletters.

Why Startups Fail

I saw a presentation recently where the speaker claimed:

“One of the top 5 reasons for startups to fail is: competition.”

The truth is:

Paul Graham


Someone wondered how startups fail. In most cases, because they don't make something people want. That can happen by (a) failing to ship, (b) shipping but never getting any growth, or (c) mediocre growth combined with high expenses.

10:10 AM - 28 Feb 2019

“Competition” is the work of VCs. They always ask founders about competition because that is their homework, as investors, to pick the winner. That does not mean the losers die because of the winners – or competition.

Below are 18 reasons why startups fails by Paul Graham:

  1. single founder

  2. bad location

  3. marginal niche

  4. derivative idea

  5. obstinacy

  6. hiring bad programmers

  7. choosing the wrong platform

  8. slowness in launching

  9. launching too early

  10. having no specific user in mind

  11. raising too little money

  12. spending too much

  13. raising too much money

  14. poor investor management

  15. sacrificing users to (supposed) profit

  16. not wanting to get your hands dirty

  17. fighting between founders

  18. a half-hearted effort

And here is the full article (spoiler: competition is not part of the list)


“What are you doing now/these days?”

I get this question pretty often, so here it is: my /now, inspired by the /now movement (H/T Arnaud Bonzom.)

  • running global acquisition campaigns for a B2B platform;

  • creating a strategy to grow lead acquisition thru content by leveraging on a community of 4500+ web developers partially contributors;

  • creating content, PR, and acquisition strategy for a B2C app;

  • networking, Paris lately, New York City now;

  • writing this newsletter (I’m aiming for monthly but only manage to do bi monthly!)

  • asking my friend to ditch WhatsApp and switch to Signal app

  • reading a book on Information Architecture and a.nother Le Carré novel

  • living off a 31L hand luggage (and it is fine)

  • taking less calls, doing more conversations via emails

  • saying “no” to invitations when it is not a “hell yeah!”

  • watching Tracks documentary on ARTE’s Youtube channel


If you are interested in Singapore startup ecosystem, check out this mapping

I had the chance to lunch with New Internet Labs (and Blockstack) founder Larry Salibra who is building a browser for Web3 since no one is defending your digital rights on Web2.

For now, you can use Jumbo if you want to prevent Facebook, Google, Tinder and others from misusing your data.

If you feel like you are not productive enough, find a “focusmate”, someone to watch/stalk you.

Here is short list of conferences in Europe I would like to attend:




conference that cares about “ethics” and “humans.” What prompted me to look for those conferences/movement is a conversation between Joi Ito (MIT Lab Director) and Nicola Danaylov. They argue Silicon Valley, i.e. Capital + Technology, is not enough; actually, it might even be going the wrong direction. The two protagonists claim that Capital, Technology + ETHICS is needed.

That is a visual from “Computer Grrrls” exhibition at Gaité Lirique in Paris (H/T Thibaut Thomas). The exhibition depicts the roles of woman in the development of computer sciences.

And a “tech opera” song by Nadja Buttendorf (add subtitles if you don’t speak German):

Robotron - a tech opera STAFFEL 01 VORSPANN

Robotron - a tech opera STAFFEL 01 VORSPANN


That band was playing the other night:

Ruby Haunt - Hurt ( Full Album Stream )

Ruby Haunt - Hurt ( Full Album Stream )

And him:

Paul White - Returning

Paul White - Returning

I am in NYC for the next few weeks. Let me know if you are around.

If you hit reply, I’ll hit reply.


By Romain Aubert

“The role of the organiser is to create power for others” — Saul Alinsky

Tweet Share

If you don't want these updates anymore, please unsubscribe here

If you were forwarded this newsletter and you like it, you can subscribe here

Powered by Revue

From my laptop.

Romain Aubert - Issue #6

I just spent 9 weeks in Lisbon for a coding boot camp. First time I went to Lisbon was for Web Summit a few years ago. My takeaway from that first trip was a saying from a local a politician: “[Portugal] does not claim to be a Startup Nation. We told founders “come to Portugal,” see if you like it, you will have to go to the US for markets, to UK to raise money, and hire talents from abroad.”

People stayed for the lifestyle.

The government has been very pro active and launched a bunch of initiatives (incl. Open Data) to promote Portugal has a place for startups. I believe government can’t be leader — only feeders (if you haven’t read Startup Communities from Brad Feld, here is a collection of 24 quotes — that was one of the most useful book I read while writing a report on La French Tech for the French government.)

Local startups have found markets abroad. They had too. Founders I talked to listed the following as their markets (no specific order): US, Brazil, Germany, Spain and the UK (although some uncertainty moving forward because of Brexit.) France was not part of the list. I asked why. The answer: “too French.” 🥖😂

Portugal’s notable startups: Talkdesk (contact center software), Farfetch (fashion e commerce), Feedzai (financial crime);

There are 2 VCs in Portugal (excl. gov funds): Indico Capital (10+ investments, just closed a fund of €40 million) and Armilar (around since 2000, 40+ investments, €250 million AUM.)

Lisbon is becoming an increasingly trendy place for “digital nomads” to stop by. The city is walk-able, mostly sunny, there are a few coffee shops to work from, and surf. People come from the laid back southern European lifestyle.

Web Summit lead the movement of making Lisbon attractive — “Lisbon brand equity.”

Notable event beside Web Summit: “LIS” for Lisbon Investment Summit in June this year.

Techstars is opening an accelerator with Semapa, an industrial group operating in the paper, energy and cement sectors.

Lisbon is not necessarily the center of Portugal’s ecosystem. None of the 10+ investment of Indico Capital are in Lisbon.

Some large European companies like Revolut, Daimler, Wolkswagen, Zalando are picking Portugal to locate “tech centres.” “Google is coming as well.”

Salary for a junior developer is around EUR 20,000.

Some people I met: Stephan Morais (partner, Indico Capital), Andreia Campos (founder Gleam sold to Farfetch), Garpard Marcelin and Bruno Antunes Luis (Gaspard + Bruno), Pedro Oliveira (founder, Landing Jobs), Shannon and Emily (Le Wagon Lisbon), Mariana Barbosa (journalist, author), Mario Mouraz (Ambassador Sandbox, founder Climbers), James Muscat (Moviin.) Thanks.


Most of what I learnt on Growth I learnt from Brian Balfour’s blog. He writes infrequently and released a blog post on how to build process to maximize “product launch.”

Some wisdom from Naval for all corporates and other centralized organisations launching “their” blockchains:



If it’s not going to be completely and utterly decentralized, it doesn’t need a blockchain.

11:45 PM - 29 Jan 2019

In case you’ve missed it, Western nations have been worrying about Huawei selling 5G network with backdoor. Huawei CFO was arrested in Canada and Chinese are retaliating; they arrested a former Canadian diplomat under no charge. He has been detained since then. There also some thriller-like story of startup getting in the Huawei sting + they have cool design:

I spend some time working in China for the French state. Below are the three challenges coming up for Europe.

  1. how to deal with data of European citizens on Chinese servers? (I asked Danish Ambassador to Technology;)

  2. how can Europe deal with investments in technology (from China) when EU entrepreneurs need exits?

  3. how can startups compete in Europe when Chinese counterparts don’t play with the same rule (i.e. unregulated market)?

Further insight on Privacy and our most valuable asset: personal data.

Naval released a podcast. I am listening right now. If you don’t know Naval. Read this (3 min.)

You don’t need to build a product to launch a business. Here are tools you can use.

Back in December I was in Iran and met with some Bitcoin miners. Interestingly, cryptocurrencies could help Iran economies connect with the World since they’ve been banned from SWIFT international payment in 2012, and under sanctions since 1979.

Mark Zuckerberg announced a new vision for a “privacy-focused” social network. My full comment here.

Romain Aubert


“Private” does not necessarily mean “privacy”. A private conversation between 2 individuals can have no privacy, if Facebook collects metadata.

1:39 AM - 7 Mar 2019

For those who are thinking about doing a coding boot camp. I’ve documented my journey:

Romain Aubert


👋 I started a 9-week coding bootcamp mid-Jan. Learning HTML, CSS, Bootstrap, JavaScript ES2015,
SQL, git, GitHub, Heroku and Ruby on Rails 🖥️🔰 . I'll document the rest of the program. Let's start with day 14 right now 😊:
cc @dizzda @kytwb @UX_hugo @pascualin

11:08 PM - 31 Jan 2019

Also, when was the last time you got bored by Matthieu Bodin


Night Jasmine


Be a window
in a world full of mirrors

12:31 PM - 1 Feb 2019

Books I've read this month

John Le Carré, The spy who came in from the cold

Michel Houellebecq, La carte et le Territoire

Nir Yal, Hooked

Next stop: Paris. Ping me if you are in town.

If you hit reply, I’ll hit reply.


By Romain Aubert

“The role of the organiser is to create power for others” — Saul Alinsky

Tweet Share

If you don't want these updates anymore, please unsubscribe here

If you were forwarded this newsletter and you like it, you can subscribe here

Powered by Revue

From my laptop.

Loading more posts…