European Straits
European Straits
The Billionaire Raj w/ James Crabtree. A Long Week in the USA. Jack Ma and the CCP. Protectionism Back in Style.

The Billionaire Raj w/ James Crabtree. A Long Week in the USA. Jack Ma and the CCP. Protectionism Back in Style.

The Agenda 👇

Today I’m sharing the second episode of the podcast series syndicated with my wife Laetitia Vitaud’s Building Bridges and our French-speaking media operation Nouveau Départ: a conversation between Laetitia and James Crabtree, author of the landmark book The Billionaire Raj 🇮🇳

Frequent readers of this newsletter will remember that I chronicled James’s book in a past edition about What’s Happening in India? The same focus on the rise of Indian tech is present in this podcast, alongside many other topics such as how the pandemic has impacted India and life in Singapore, where James lives with his family.

I’m all the more eager to share this conversation as my relationship with James was initiated more than one year ago when I visited Singapore, all thanks to our mutual friend (and James’s former colleague at the Financial Times) John Thornhill, and our very first conversation was on exactly the same topics: the rise of India, life and Singapore, and Asia in general on the global stage.

Please listen to the podcast by clicking on the player above 🎧👆 (or downloading it into your favorite podcast app), then share it, and let me know what you think!

🇺🇸 A Reading List on America

The polls had barely closed on Tuesday when it was already clear that while Donald Trump may end up being defeated, there wouldn’t be an overwhelming victory for Joe Biden. This quickly led to a cottage industry of “What’s going on in America” op-eds, which, of course, didn’t do much to really clarify the situation.

However, that doesn’t mean that insights aren’t available. So I went back into my Evernote to resurface a few of my favorite articles and books that I feel provide the most insight not only on the American psyche, but also the political realignments that are sweeping through the world as it passes into the Entrepreneurial Age.

From Polish populism to small-town America to global geopolitics, I think there’s not only something for everyone in the list, but also that they are sources that are extremely complementary. And at the very least, they can provide a deeper dive than we’re accustomed to getting from our daily Twitter feed (although I have enjoyed the joyscrolling that started once the race was called for Biden on Saturday).

Find it all in A Reading List on America 📖 

🌎 What Becomes of America (and the World)

History is full of crises and rebirths; one of the lingering questions from the 2008 crisis has been what, exactly, happened to the rebirth? Despite the recovery of global stocks, lingering resentments and the sensation of stagnation and missed opportunities abound.

One theory is that Barack Obama came along too early in the cycle, and thus was unable to be the truly reconstructive figure that the crisis required. That lack of true reconstruction explains the ability that Donald Trump exhibited in driving further wedges between people, both in the United States and around the globe.

Now, with Joe Biden having won the election, the question remains: Could he become the reconstructive figure that a crisis calls for? No one would accuse him of being a radical, certainly; but then again, that label wouldn’t have been affixed to FDR in 1932, either.

I delve into what history says about what comes next in What Becomes of America (and the World) 🤔

🐜 Jack Ma’s Future  

I’ve spent quite a bit of time lately thinking and writing about IPOs, as have many others. We all see how IPOs act as a powerful part of a healthy entrepreneurial ecosystem, providing liquidity and rewarding everyone from founders and investors to employees and even pensioners. As such, the planned Ant Financial IPO, which was on track to be the biggest of all time, was highly anticipated.

But apparently the CCP has a different take on things. Following Ant co-founder Jack Ma’s speech calling for an overhaul of China’s financial system, the IPO was halted, a move that for now appears to be indefinite. For those of us who dream of having tech giants such as Ant emerge from our local geographies, it’s a development that’s nothing less than astounding.

Still, like so much that happens in China it’s difficult for outsiders to know exactly what is going on or what the future holds. But given the CCP’s grip over policy throughout the country, it’s clear that they won’t allow anything, whether a popular entrepreneurial figure or the biggest IPO ever, to derail their strategy for China’s development.

I discuss all this and point to some insightful resources in Jack Ma’s Future🔮

🛡 You’re The Protectionist!

There are many uncertainties in today’s economic and political forecasts, but one trend is quite clear: protectionism is back. Countries around the world are rewriting the rules of global trade, both in terms of specific country-to-country relationships (such as the US vs. France, playing out in big tech vs. big wine) and in more general positions (China’s actions to encourage its industrial development).

But while the rising tide of protectionism may be clearly visible, the reasons behind it are much more muddled—even, and perhaps especially, for the countries installing these new policies. There are a few with a clear-eyed view of why protectionism can help their economies; but there are many doing it either in response to longstanding geopolitical relationships or simply because everyone else is doing it.

As the history of economic development tells us, those latter two reasons are not advisable. Successful trade policies are always the result of an accurate understanding of where one’s industrial capacities lie, and so many countries today are fooled by memories of or wishes regarding their country’s place in the world.

I look at some countries that are seeing clearly and some that are headed down the wrong path in You’re The Protectionist!😤

Sounds interesting? Subscribe to European Straits and let me know what you think!

⚠️ It would be difficult to find any business on the planet that hasn’t been affected by COVID-19, and my firm The Family is no different. As early as last March, we saw that moving 100% online was a necessity, as the large in-person events we’ve had over the past 7 years aren’t going to be possible anytime soon. But moving 100% online is also an opportunity to truly expand to become an entity that boosts startups no matter where they’re located.

  • In particular, we realized that today, contrary to back in 2013 when Alice, Oussama and I founded the firm, we now have access to top-notch investors from around the globe, meaning that the fundamental requirement for having a successful Demo Day is now in place.

  • In this context, we’re working toward the first batch that will go through the new, improved, 100% online version of The Family. And to count that down, me and my fellow directors (Alice, Oussama, Balthazar and Mathias) are writing a daily newsletter, where each day one of us relates a startup lesson that we’ve gleaned over the past years.

  • We’ll send 5 editions a week (one by each of us) over the course of 7 weeks—that is, until Christmas 🌲 If you’ve already received the first two editions, great! If you haven’t, you can read them (and subscribe) at The Family Substack

From Is Trump Still in the Flow? (September 2020):  

The flow has very much to do with people wanting to get rid of Trump and his erratic approach to the presidency. This is how I interpret Biden winning the Democratic nomination: US voters are just exhausted; they don’t aspire to Elizabeth Warren’s grand plans or Bernie Sanders’s socialist revolution as much as to simply turning the page and seeing Trump gone.

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From Normandy, France 🇫🇷