Writing

Welcome to my blog where I write about personal development, entrepreneurship and my expiriences travelling the world. 

Smarter, Faster, Better

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Smarter, Faster, Better is a book written by Charles Duhigg. The book explores the science of productivity, which attempts to figure out the best uses of our energy, intellect, and time as we try to seize the most meaningful rewards with the least wasted effort. Smarter, Faster, Better explores 8 topic areas but this post will only look at four of them: motivation, focus, goal setting and decision making.

The first topic is motivation and how to self-motivate and stay motivated. Motivation is important because according to scientific studies, people who know how to self-motivate, earn more money than their peers, report higher levels of happiness, and say that they are more satisfied with their families, jobs, and lives. Luckily, scientists also state that motivation is very much like a skill that can be learned and honed. For example, when people believe that they are in control, they tend to work harder and push themselves more. They also tend to live longer and report higher confidence and capacity to overcome setbacks. One way to prove that we are in control is by making decisions. No matter how small, each choice that we make reinforces our perception of being in control and self-efficacy and triggers motivation. Destiny can also be influenced by choices, which is known as the locus of control. People with an internal locus of control will generally praise or blame themselves for their success or failures. And this is a good thing because having an internal locus of control has been linked with higher self-motivation and social maturity and less stress and depression. In contrast, people with an external locus of control, tend to avoid taking ownership of their actions. 

Little hacks to be more motivated:

  1. Transform chores into choices because every time you make a small decision it gives you a sense of control. 
  2. Take ownership of your life by having an internal locus of control and praising or blaming yourself for your success and failures. 
  3. If you want to start something hard, just take the firsts steps towards doing it, no matter how small they are.
  4. It becomes easier when our tasks are affirmations of our deeper values and goals. Explain to yourself why a choice matters. Ask yourself WHY and force your mind to see the bigger picture if you want to be more motivated.

The second topic is focus and how to improve our concentration span and skills. Technology and automation have started to dominate our lives but scientific studies prove that it has come at the cost of our attention spans, which has plumbed along the way. Therefore, more and more people are struggling in staying focused. The book tackles how to avoid being in a cognitive tunneling, which appears when people become overly focused on whatever is in front of their eyes. This is the feeling that often happens when taking an exam, driving or listening to a boss in a meeting. The issue is that once we are in a cognitive tunnel, we lose our ability to direct our focus and instead, we latch on to the easiest and most obvious stimulus, which is often at the cost of common sense. For example, if you are in a meeting and the CEO suddenly asks for your opinion, your mind will snap from passive listening to active involvement and it can trigger a cognitive tunnel by prompting you to say something you’ll regret. Think about a situation where this has happened to you…. The best way to avoid being in a cognitive tunnel is by building mental stories that create a vision in our head, which our subconscious will recognize. This can be done by developing the habit of telling ourselves stories in which we learn to sharpen where our attention goes. Narrate your life as you are living it and you’ll encode those experiences deeper into your brain. Another great practice is to create if scenarios for future events and run them through your head. Overall, to become more productive we must be in a proactive mindset and take firm control of our attention, we must build mental models that put us firmly in charge. The key is to force yourself to think.

Little hacks to be more focused: 

  1. Visualize what you are about to do in greater detail. Envision what will happen. What will occur first? What are the potential obstacles? How will you overcome them?  If we tell ourselves stories, we can avoid cognitive tunnels because we have a vision in our head that our subconscious will recognize and act on.
  2. During your morning commute, visualize your day and force yourself to envision it.
  3. Tell yourself stories about your life as it takes place. For example, when you are sitting at a meeting or at a lunch describe it to yourself. 
  4. Run if scenarios through your head to understand how you would react in given situations.

The third topic is goal setting and how to best use SMART goals, which are defined as goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-constrained. SMART goals work extremely good because they force people to translate vague aspirations into concrete plans. However, due to their nature, the use of SMART goals unconsciously forces us to focus on short-term objectives rather than on more ambitious plans. Therefore, Charles Duhigg introduces the idea that they should be paired with stretch goals, which are very ambitious aims that people would generally laugh at and consider more a dream than a goal. However, research has proven that forcing people to commit to ambitious, out of reach objectives is a way for people to be more innovative and productive. Thus, the best way to write down goals and commit to them is to have a set of smart goals that are paired up with another set of stretch goals. For example, in my case, I could pair writing articles for the blog (SMART goal) with writing a book (Stretch goal) or looking for a full-time job upon graduation (SMART goal) with starting my own company (Stretch goal). 

Little hacks to set better goals:

  1. Use SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic & Time Constraint.
  2. Pair SMART goals with unrealistic goals known as stretch goals because it will help you to stay motivated and be more productive. 

The fourth topic is decision making and how to better forecast the future and make decisions accordingly. Decision making is crucial because many of our most important decisions are no more than attempts to forecast the future. However, forecasting its a hard and terrifying process because it forces us to confront an unknown future. The fact that we only live in one reality and that confronting the future forces us to think about numerous possibilities it’s scary because it makes us think about things we hope that never come true. To make good decisions we must be very good at predicting the future, which only works if we start off with the right assumptions. The way to make this happen is by making sure that we are exposed to a full spectrum of experiences because our assumptions are based on what we have experienced. However, our memories are bias and we are more likely to remember the successes than the failures. As a result, we predict successful outcomes way too often. Many successful people spend an enormous amount of time seeking for information on failures. For example, the best entrepreneurs are obsessed on spending time around people who complain about their failures because it provides them an opportunity to learn about failure in a world that promotes the contrary as  most of us try to avoid thinking about our failures. Calibrating your assumptions requires learning from both the accomplished and the humbled. We must see the future as multiple possibilities rather than a determined outcome and identify what you know and what you don’t know as we try to predict which choice gives the best odds. The people who make the best choices are the ones who work the hardest to envision various futures, write it down and then ask themselves which ones are most likely and why. 

Little hacks to make better decisions: 

  1. Build a foundation for having good assumptions by being exposed to a wide range of experiences.
  2. Take time to read and talk with those who did not succeed. What happened? 
  3. Work hard to envision the future as multiple possibilities even if this includes thinking about negative outcomes. 

If you liked this article, I recommend that to purchase the book or follow Charles Duhigg on Twitter. For another quick insight into the book, you can listen to his appearance in The Art of Charm, which also happens to be one of my favorite podcast.  

Co-Living Spaces & The Mid-Term Rental Market

The mid-term rental market (3 to 12 months lease) in large cosmopolitan areas such as New York City, San Francisco or London sucks. There are tremendous opportunities to those who successfully simplify the process by making it as seamless as booking an Airbnb or buying a plane ticket on Kayak.com. This article advocates in favor of simplifying the process of renting an apartment by lowering the barriers to access it and making it more affordable and flexible for the tenants.

There are many solutions aiming to ease the pain of renting an apartment by making it a seamless process as renting an Airbnb or obtaining a new credit card. Currently, customers are using Craiglist, Facebook groups, a group of new startups offering month to month subleases or apartments, co-living spaces, micro-apartments and even Airbnb are currently solving the pain.

However, I feel particularly attracted to two kinds of solutions. First, the ones that aim to solve the problem from a real estate perspective by building a co-living space or creating furnish month to month micro-apartments. Second, the ones that are developing platforms that connect landlords and tenants in a seamless and more transparent way. This article will discuss the kind of solutions that solve the problem from a real estate perspective. 

The concept of shared living spaces is far from a revelation. Collegiate institutions in the United States have been cramping its students in dorms for at least a century, and Gandhi believed so strongly in the power of the ashram that he thought it was the only viable way to maintain a harmonious Indian subcontinent. Co-living as an industry seeking to ride the wave of the rapidly developing sharing economy is a relatively new phenomenon. There is a tremendous market opportunity to those who successfully simplify the process of renting an apartment in a city by lowering the barriers to access it, making it more affordable and providing flexibility to the tenants. Co-living spaces, micro-apartments and furnished month to month rentals are starting to ease this pain. 

The trend is supported by the fact that the number of 18 to 35 year-olds living as roommates had almost doubled in the last 30 years as The Guardian shows:

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The co-living industry seeks to appeal to the millennial population by building a community environment that empowers the people living in it. Co-living spaces, which are dorms for young adults, are disrupting rental markets by bringing affordability and flexibility in a community driven environment. Co-living spaces seek to attract students, young professionals, international tenants studying or working abroad, and other millennials seeking shelter in cosmopolitan areas. There is a whole industry in NYC already succeeding and led by WeLive, Common and Ollie. The high barriers to entry the market have prevented an earlier disruption and are proving to be a great competitive advantage for the current market players. 

There is a great opportunity to build affordable living spaces at great downtown locations in cities that have become extremely expensive. I can only speak for the markets that I've personally experienced, which are NY, SFO and London. In those markets, I see a tremendous runway ahead for those who can successfully build living spaces with great looks and at a below than market price rent while enabling people to connect with like-minded individuals.

The most important is to make  the rental process a seamless experience like renting an Airbnb or buying a plane ticket because above all it is clear that moving to NYC, SFO or London currently sucks.

This is how I see the problem being solved in NYC:

Making it a lot cheaper. Renting an apartment in NYC is very, very expensive. And requires a tremendous out of the pocket expense because you need to pay brokers fee, security deposit, first and last month rent and furnish the place. If you’ve been through it, you know what I mean: it sucks. Subleases have been around for a long time and are currently the closest way this problem is being solved but they are not the same. It needs to be located in a good downtown location, either close to a transit hub or in a trendy neighborhood (i.e.: Lower East Side) and must look and feel good. No need for a guarantor or proof of income, no need to pay the whole year upfront for non-US residents without guarantors. No need for a social security number to set up electricity (ConEdison), no hustle for setting up the internet connection, no need to purchase and assemble furniture, thus reducing the expenditure and giving the tenant the flexibility to move to a new place. Book an apartment just with your credit card, making it a seamless experience like renting an Airbnb or buying a plane ticket online. Providing month to month commitments that enable people to have an alternative to one-year leases and giving them with the flexibility and empowerment to move around the world. In a community driven environment, that empowers people to meet like-minded individuals and provides them with a sense of belonging.

Lastly, as we see more and more players entering the market I must re-emphasize that I do believe that it is still a good time to enter it in NYC (even the current RE market prices) because it is not easy to get supply into the market (i.e. financing, permits, construction). I envision a future where co-living spaces make up a major share of the residential buildings and I currently see supply growing at a much slower rate than the market demand for them.

Landing an Internship in the US

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As the Spring semester approaches its end, I want to take some time to reflect on what I’ve learnt during this past recruiting season because I feel that I’ve grown a lot both in a professional and in a personal level and that my experience can be useful to others going through the same process in the future.

Myself, I am an international student living in the States and attending NYU where I am currently a junior pursuing a bachelor of science in Real Estate. I strongly believe that both my position as international student with an F-1 visa and my condition as Hispanic (although others can see me as white European -And I consider myself Mediterranean) have stood on my way as challenges to obtaining a top tier internship. 

The following are some lessons I’ve learn after more than forty interviews and a handful more applications for summer internships at leading companies in the banking, real estate and technology sectors.

1. Quality over quantity

Sending applications for the sake of just sending them is stupid and not worth your time. Instead of applying to every opportunity you see on your school’s career site and other career sites, devote your time to getting to know people. Figure out what really interests you by attending info sessions, going on coffee chats, reaching out to current employees or former interns. Build relationships with this people, you’ll be surprised how likely people are to help you out. Once you’ve established a certain number of relationship aim for career opportunities within those companies. 

2. Build up experience

The junior year internship is regarded as the most important step to landing a full time job after college. However, in order to get a top internship in the Banking or Technology sectors, your experience must be priorly built. So if you are going into Investment Banking, be sure to have worked priorly in a bank for a minor division (ie: Wealth Management) or at least have some sort of experience in the industry by for example interning for a Hedge Fund during your sophomore year. The hardest part about this is that in order to be an excellent candidate you must figure out during your freshman year what direction you want to take in order to build the right experience that lands you an internship. 

3. Culture must be a fit

It took me a very long time to understand culture. In fact, until I landed my internship with Airbnb for this coming summer, I wasn’t sure what culture really meant but it is now clear to me that culture is primordial when determining wether to hire or not a candidate. Not only your experience must be in line with the company you are applying to but also you must culturally fit in it. The best way to be right about culture is to read it on the companies site and get to know people in the company but nothing bets the feeling you get after interviewing with them and meeting 4, 5 or 6 people on their team.

4. Practice makes perfection

Confidence cannot be faked and you are likely to not kill the first interview you show up for. Therefore, having interviewed before its likely to improve your chances to do a good interview. You’ll get nervous and feel challenged, which is absolutely normal and only by showing up to interview after interview you’ll build up the confidence to be able to display who you truly are when the right opportunity comes across. 

I wish I had known this in Freshman year because I would had drafted my career path a bit differently, which would had saved me a lot of time and frustrations. However, I understand that some things can only be learnt through experience and I am extremely grateful how things have worked out and excited to be joining Airbnb this summer in San Francisco as a Real Estate intern.

Airbnb Intern 2016

5 Apps that Transformed my life

A rainy September night in the Fall of 2015 was a turning point in my life. My roommate had just landed a full time job at Google after finishing an internship with Twitter. As an individual who thrives when surrounded by success, I spent that night thinking of what I could do to step up my game. Patience was the answer, the work I was doing on my journey would eventually pay off but that September night I turned to the App store in search of new Apps - I was looking for a framework to implement routines into my life.

The following apps, helped me become calmer, smarter, fitter and more organized. They eventually turned into automatic behavior patterns that I activate when using my phone instead of losing myself in a world of news and social media. I realized that there are so many apps out there that can positively impact your life and I want to use this article to share 5 apps that really transformed my day to day life.

1. Headspace 

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Headspace has transformed my life more than any other app before by helping me integrate meditation into my day to day- having meditated 60 times in the past 119 days. It taught me to meditate through its different guided meditations and helped me stay on track with its progress tracker. Its very well designed user interface make implementing the habit of meditation an easy task. 

2. Evernote

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Notes, pictures, recordings - Evernote is the best digital version of the traditional Moleskin notebook. Perfect synchronization between devices, clearness and easiness to use. You know that you can never go wrong when using Evernote.   

3. 7 Minutes Workout 

The only app on the list that I do not use on a day to day basis but only because I am a gym rat. Great workout that gets me sweating after 1 lap -which only takes 7 minutes. I used it a lot when traveling but I feel that it could also be used to get into working out. Jack Dorsey has publicly recognized that he is a 7 minutes workout daily user, nothing else has to be said...

4. Blinkist

The most expensive subscription of the list and the only one that I wouldn't necessary tell you to download because it sucks until you get into it. 15 minutes summaries in audio and text form of the best books in personal development, economics and current world affairs. Great for the current fast paced world we live in, highlights is that it synchronizes with Evernote. Not so good: $80 per year. 

5. Elevate 

The latest edition to my routine. Elevate feels like an app I should have had when I was studying for my SATs. Brain training made fun but also competitive-  language, speaking, memory, math, vocabulary. If I wasn't a college student who's mentally challenged on a daily basis I think this would be a number one app on my list to keep my mind sharp. 

My First 20 Hours with Bitcoin

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Back in 2013, Josh Kaufman wrote a best-selling book: “The first 20 hours: How to learn anything fast” in which he challenges research that suggests that it takes 10,000 hours to master a new skill. And demonstrates that 20 hours is all it takes to learn the basics of almost any new skill. I decided to apply his theory on the learning of bitcoin. Although, I am a firm believer of the 10,000 hours rule when it comes to becoming a world class master. I believe that a mere basis of anything can be learnt after a few productive hours. I think that entrepreneurs should aim to identify problems and gaps in today’s world and how to solve them. Therefore, I was instantaneously attracted to the first 20 hours rule and its presented shortcuts.

On September 25th 2015, I purchased my firsts bitcoins through a seamless purchase process. But as I spent time learning about bitcoins and the landscape of opportunities and applications that came with it, my mind was blown. Not only did I learn about bitcoins, but also about other cryptocurrencies, smart contracts and most importantly the blockchain (also known as Shared Ledger Technology or simply “shared databases”) and its applications. I discovered a whole range of disruptions that are already taking place, which will revolutionize the world in the coming years. This post, shares the facts and ideas that I found most interesting during my first 20 hours studying and researching about bitcoin, the blockchain and its potential applications.  

All the bitcoins in the world are worth around $4.8B

What is bitcoin?

Bitcoin is a digital currency that is created and held electronically. Originated in 2009 by a software developer called Satoshi Nakamoto, the system is based on mathematical proof. Bitcoin is independent of any central authority and is instantly transferred electronically with very low transaction fees. 

Where you buy bitcoins and how much they cost?

There are many websites that allow you to purchase bitcoins just like you can purchase stocks or currencies. The price of bitcoin is determined by supply and demand and when people refer to their cost they are referring to its exchange price (for example: BTC to USD).  

The bitcoin protocol. 

The bitcoin protocol (aka rules that make bitcoin work) says that only 21 million bitcoins can ever be created -so far only 14 million bitcoin have been mined-. Bitcoins are generated by miners who solve mathematical problems to prove the veracity of transactions. Miners decode a group of transactions every 10 minutes, for which they are rewarded some bitcoins and allow the network to function. 

I used Coinbase -A bitcoin trading platform- to set up a wallet. Directly from the mobile app on my IPhone, I linked my bank account to Coinbase and funded it with dollars. Then, just like in any other trading platform, I opened an order to purchase bitcoins at a price of $236.35 per bitcoin. Immediately, I received a confirmation and notice that it would take a week for the bitcoins to show up on my account. On the date of delivery, I received 10.05 bitcoins and was charged a transaction fee of $23.76 by Coinbase. Now it was time to study and research about bitcoin. The first I discovered was that the main event isn’t bitcoin but using the blockchain to disrupt other industries (including wall street). The key disruptive component of bitcoin is in its protocol and its called the blockchain, which basically is a way to store information. This article explains why it is so powerful and why I believe that the price of bitcoin will increase in value over the coming months. 

“Bitcoins are opening up a space that will create a revolution like the personal computers did in the 1970’s or the internet did in the 1990’s” - Tim Draper, VC 

The power of the blockchain

The bitcoin blockchain is a stack list of all the bitcoin transactions in history. Every 10 minutes, a new block containing new transactions is added to the blockchain. This happens after proof of work -verifying that the transaction in the block are legit- is conducted by the bitcoin miners -who solve complex math problems to verify the transactions and prevent the blockchain from being copied-. Miners, who operate in mining pools to maximize their efforts, are rewarded with bitcoins when they are the first ones to verify a set of transactions and add a new block to the blockchain. In the early days of bitcoins, many writers made analogies between bitcoin miners and the gold rush that took place in the 19th century. However, these days are gone because mining isn’t no longer that profitable.

"A blockchain is just a confusing name for a shared data base"

Differently from a traditional database that is stored by one master member,  blockchains are not only hold by one but by all the members of a network. It is a shared database between all the members of a network -known as nodes, which are connecting points or redistributing points-. The blockchain is made of blocks that once proofed legitimate are added to the chain. It is said to be decentralized because all nodes hold a complete or partial copy of the blockchain instead of having a master node holding the entire database.  

Storing transactions in one automatically, shared database could eliminate the need for complicated procedures and clearinghouse that are now used to make sure banks have their records in sync -which will no longer be needed-. 

Another major application is seen with traditional stock and bond transactions, which today take three business days to fully settle -before the assets are available in the buyer’s account and the money in the seller’s pocket-. Those transactions are logged by an intermediary. However, the collective ledger has the power to record them with out the need of that intermediary because assets can be send very quickly (almost in real time) with out any chance of the transaction being reversed.  

Another use of the block chain could be smart contracts -programs that automatically detect when assets get transferred-. For example, allowing interest payments, dividends or escrow arrangements to be automated. Smart contracts could also allow us to verify the history of assets. For example allowing us to verify all the events that have happened in a piece of real estate or the authenticity of a diamond and its precedence- which we could use to determine wether it is a blood diamond or not-. 

Bitcoin is not the only cryptocurrency out there. In fact, dozens of electronic currencies now exist and multiple reports indicate that banks have been developing their own cryptocurrencies based on the bitcoin protocol. Therefore, bitcoin its just the first cryptocurrency to go mainstream of many more that we will see in the coming years. 

 

Bitcoins will increase in value over the next 6 months

I am betting that in a short to mid term period the value of bitcoins will increase in value. I purchased my firsts bitcoins at a price of $236.35 per bitcoin and I believe that over the next 6 months their value will significantly rise due to the following events. 

Europe has regulated bitcoin as a commodity making them exempt of VAT. The price of bitcoin is determined by basic supply and demand of the currency. As bitcoin become regulated in more countries, this will incentivize people to purchase them and therefore increase their demand. However, it will all depend on the speed that the regulative process takes. 

We have just seen a correction in the stock market, which is going through a high volatility period dragged by the crisis in emerging markets and commodities. I believe that this aided with new regulations will create an inflow of money towards bitcoins. I do not think that there will be a lot of people betting on them but given their low market cap in absolute terms (about $3B) I do think that the volatility can positively affect bitcoin as money flows into them with investors searching to store value somewhere else than the stock market.  

There has been a large number of bitcoin startups funded by Venture Capitals. Those companies -showered with VC money- are building products for the bitcoin ecosystem. I believe that as bitcoin applications become more seamless and bitcoin e-commerce solutions get accepted by more online stores, the number of people using bitcoins will increase. It will all depend on the success of the products the companies roll out. As more people use bitcoin, its demand will increase and this will push its price up. 

This being said, I do believe that bitcoin is a highly speculative asset to own and I do not advice anyone to bet more that they can afford to lose on them. However, I will like to conclude this article taking a bet that bitcoins will find an stable price in the range of $300 to $400 in the near months (early 2016). 


E-Sports (aka Competitive Gaming) are real and a massive industry

August 24th 2013, the League of Legends final sells/sold out the LA’s Staple Center in less than an hour. Resale tickets inflate/inflated to the hundreds of dollars, becoming instantly available in Stub Hub. The expectations and excitement of the competition is huge and fans struggle to purchase tickets. On the day of the competition, 40,000 plus seats were sold out at the Staples Centre in Los Angeles. More than 27 Million viewers logged in to live stream the League of Legend Championship. You would think that LOL is a pseudonym for a basketball game or a fighting event, but the reality is that it is an E-Sport. The athletes are neither footballers nor fighters, but video-game players in their early 20’s, wearing huge headsets and drinking extra large cans of energy drinks. The industry is no longer just a niche market, the reality is that E-Sports is a real concept with a massive market that is rapidly growing. Fans gather around to watch and support their favorite teams as cyber athletes compete for astronomic tournament prices. 

What are E-Sports?

 E-Sports are multiplayer video game competitions between professional players, aka competitive gaming. The most popular are real-time online strategies or multiplayer fighting video games such as League of Legends, Dota II or Starcraft. Cyber athletes play individually or in teams, in what are moderate length games, with an approximate duration of 1 to 2 hours. Meanwhile, fans gather around and urge on their favorite players with excitement. As you can observe,  the only difference between E-sports and the more traditional sports today, is the longevity of the latter and that the e-sports doesn't require athletes, but cyber athletes; people competing using machines, being tested more on their cognitive skills than their physical abilities. Currently, competitive gaming hasestablished popularity in South Korea and other South Asian countries. The competitive gaming market is rapidly growing in Europe and America as well. However there are also curious cases like Japan, where the demand for competitive gaming is not met, due to hefty regulations in the country.

The rise of professional cyber athletes

 The first video game tournament took place almost 20 years ago. Some say that the time for E-Sports has arrived, a fact that corroborated with market data, shows E-Sports as the fastest growing sport with a 30% expected global growth over the next five years. When annualized, these figures hit double digits in certain markets. Professional video game players are no different from traditional sports athletes in the sense that they make money from tournament prizes, team salaries and sponsorships. Competitions happen individually or in teams and fans gather both physically and online to watch their favorite players compete against each other. Not surprisingly, given the nature of video games, most fans log in online to stream matches-with certain tournaments averaging more than 100k viewers per week on midweek tournaments-. In addition, people gather in stadiums to see major events and log onto youtube to watch the best highlights. In the eyes of their fans, professional cyber athletes are heroes and in South Korea some of them have attained the status of being national celebrities.   

  • 205 Million People watched E-Sports during 2014 (data source: Newzoo)

  • $612M E-Sports 2015 expected global revenue

  • 21% Expected annual growth rate for E-Sports in North America & Europe for the next five years

Pipelines of revenue?

No different than any other traditional sport. Players get paid through tournament prizes, team salaries and sponsorships. For entrepreneurs, opportunities are rising in the field ranging from licensing competitions, offering paid streaming service, selling tickets, distributing merchandise oreven displaying online ads. In particular, online streaming has become a great source of revenue for business in the competitive gaming industry. Therefore, the pipelines of revenue are similar to other revenue streams found in more conventional sports but with the unique trait that E-Sports viewers are extremely appealing to advertising due to their unique demographics. 

But WAIT; who watches E-Sports?

If you are not familiar with the demand, you can take a guess, but it is likely that you will be wrong. Forget the traditional stereotype of a gamer as a young, single, male living in a basement (most likely in his parents house). No doubt the E-Sports audience is young, but at the same time it is global, diverse and aspiring.  This demand has been attracting major sponsors brands such as Coke, Nissan or Red Bull that are already betting hard on this being one of the next big sports out there. For the US supporters, in terms of gender, the distribution is pretty even with 6 out of 10 being males and 4 being females. Additionally, approximately 60% of the viewers are between the ages of 21 and 35, which makes the audience extremely appealing to advertisers as the average age of the followers for other sports has been in an upward trend over the last years. 

e-sports demographics

But will E-Sports really become a thing?

Many of us wonder whether E-Sports will ever manage to have the same size of other more popular sports such as soccer or basketball. Even the question of whether we will see an Olympic Games for E-Sports or include them in the current olympics arises. The only real answers is that time will tell but as of now E-Sports are big, rapidly growing and on the path to become huge.

My bets are that over the next years with the implementation of virtual reality into the video game industry, E-Sports are only set to go uphill. Big brands such as Coke, Nissan or Red Bull are betting on them and regular midweek tournaments are already attracting more than 100k online viewers. In fact, the League of Legends 2013 final introduced at the beginning of this article had more viewers than some of the most well known traditional sports in the world such as the Masters, the NBA Finals or the World Series. The number of viewers that E-Sports are attracting, can be better understood by observing the graph below published earlier this year by ESPN.

e-sports viewers

The question whether or not e-sports will manage to become a popular and revenue generating sport is being raised by many. Not only sponsors are betting hard on competitive gaming but also tech giants such as Amazon who have acquired Twitch.tv (with over 100M unique visitors and is the largest streaming service for video games) for over $1B in 2014. Bets are on and only time will tell whether E-Sports eventually become a major entertainment source and in what form they do so.

 

Bibliography:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/insertcoin/2013/08/24/league-of-legends-finals-sells-out-las-staples-center-in-an-hour/

http://espn.go.com/espn/story/_/id/13059210/esports-massive-industry-growing 

http://na.lolesports.com

http://www.vice.com/en_uk/video/esports-part-one

Notes on Financial Freedom

financial freedom
“Schools focus on scholastic and professional skills, but not on financial skills.” - Robert T. Kiyosaki

The following article comprises of my notes and takeouts from Rich Dad, Poor Dad; a book written by Robert T.Kiyosaki that aims to teach people how to escape the corporate trap and find financial freedom by becoming independent of a salary. The main point of this article is to start saving early by spending less than what you make and investing what’s left on income producing assets. Under no means does this article aims to sell an easy path to financial freedom or richness but instead,  provides different tips that everyone can apply to improve their financial situation and get closer to achieving an ultimate financial freedom from a salary.

The quote that opens this article by Robert T. Kiyosaki, makes reference to the financial illiteracy presented among many, even after they complete undergraduate and/or graduate education. Our current school system does not teach people about personal finance. Through his book, he emphasizes on the importance of always having fun when learning the vocabulary of investing and building your asset column. I found this important because you must always have fun with it. Sometimes you will win and sometimes you’ll learn. But have fun because if not, you will end up quitting. As a matter of fact, most people never win because they are afraid of losing. 

Lesson 1: Don’t Work For Money

“The poor and the middle class work for money. The rich have money work for them” 
  • You must accumulate income producing assets through your life. If you want to be rich buy income producing assets, do not buy liabilities. 

  • Opportunities come and go, you must be able to make quick decisions. Do not involve your emotions because you will always have emotions of fear and greed. By not letting your emotions control your thinking; you will be able to delay your reactions and think more rationally. 

Lesson 2: Learn Financial Literacy

“Intelligence solves problems and produces money. Money without financial intelligence is money soon gone”
  • Your financial IQ is really important if accumulating wealth is one of your goals in life. You must learn about accounting, investing, law and have an understanding of the markets.

  • Its not about how much money you make but how much money you keep. Wealth is a person’s ability to survive if you stopped working today.

Lesson 3: Mind Your Own Business

“The rich focus on their asset columns while everyone else focuses on their income statements”
  • You must differentiate between your profession and your business. The first, has to do with your vocation and is most likely related to what you studied in university. The second, is going to be your source of income. 

  • You must build a portfolio of assets that you love because otherwise you won’t take care of them. Such income producing assets are anything that has value, produces income or appreciates. It consists of (but is not restricted to) the following: businesses that do not require your presence, stocks, bonds, income generating real estate (not your house), notes and royalties from intellectual property. 

Lesson 4: Taxes & Power of Corporations

Use a corporation to protect yourself and pay lower taxes.  

Lesson 5: Invent money

“Often in the real world, it’s not the smart who get ahead, but the bold.” 
  • In today’s economy, wealth is in information and the person who has the most timely information owns the wealth.

  • Be an investor who creates money by learning to put the different pieces of a business opportunity together. This consists of three major steps: find an opportunity that other missed; raise money and organize people.

Lesson 6: Work to learn - Don’t work for money

“You want to know a little about a lot”
  • Today’s education has a great degree of focus on specialization. It is recommendable to learn a little bit of everything because this will allow you to skip the corporate rat trap and become knowledgable about the different areas that encompass a business. 

  • It is highly recommendable for young people to seek work in which they will learn the most as appose to earning the most.

The different ideas on this post are taken from Rich Dad Poor Dad written by Robert T. Kiyosaki. I recommend that you purchase the book if you have enjoyed this article because he really has a point on financial freedom. You can learn more about him: http://www.richdad.com/

 

Anyone can build an amazing website. Let me tell you how

With this post I want to prove that anyone with little knowledge about the internet ecosystem and no previous coding experience can build an amazing website. This is possible as Squarespace-7 has the tools that enable almost anyone to create a super cool site. Also, I want to provide some insights and four great tips on how to best utilize the platform based on my previous experience.

Squarespace provides the tools to build a good looking site, with just a few hours of work ,to anyone with little or no previous coding experience. It all depends on the complexity of the site you are trying to build but basically, anyone who is already part of the internet ecosystem can build a website within an afternoon of work after just a few hours of understanding the different options that the platform provides. I first used Squarespace in February 2014 to create a simple site. And then came back to it in May 2015 to find a new highly improved platform that is easier, cleaner and much more intuitive than any other of the two platforms I’ve used in the past -Wix and Wordpress- that now seem obsolete and rudimental compared to the Squarespace platform. 

I truly believe that as Squarespace keeps evolving it will mark a before and an after in website development because everyone with a computer will be able to create a website and have a good online presence without requiring any coding skills. Squarespace provides awesome templates that can easily be edited and customized to fit the parameters that the person building the website is looking for. With great tools to help anyone from small businesses, to freelancers, to those looking to create an e-commerce site; the company is leading the way on opening website development to everyone as the tools they provide make it as easy as creating a blog or making a Facebook page. However, what is surprising about Squarespace and must be remarked, is not the low degree of complexity required to create a site -because other platforms have also achieved this in the past- but how good the sites created with the platform look.

The platform has done a tremendous job with design by creating unique templates. But it must be said that the sites built with Squarespace do not only look good but also perform well. The platform provides some basic tools to monitor traffic and blogs allow people to subscribe, comment and have a great built in publishing tool. However, what I am most surprised about is E-Commerce because the built in tools are just amazing. It allows anyone to set up an online store, sell stuff, record inventory and interact with customers in a really efficient and easy way. I believe that opening the doors on the creation of amazing e-commerce websites can have a large impact on society as more and more merchants are able to set up great looking, functional online stores. The big challenge for merchants will be to attract customers into their website as driving traffic to a site is not easy and can be extremely costly. Selling through Ebay or Amazon is currently the best solution for merchants because buyers are already in the ecosystem. However, as a consumer I must admit that I feel overwhelmed by the number of options I have when shopping in one of the two big giants. This raises the question; will squarespace be able to create an e-commerce ecosystem that attracts enough customers?

Aside from e-commerce, Squarespace is empowering small business owners to open their doors online at almost no cost. This is amazing. Given my experience on using the platform, I would like to use this post to provide some advice and insides on how to best utilise it:

1. Fast Prototyping: Building a page with Squarespace has become so simple that it is important to build and receive feedback as quickly as possible -if possible, seek customer feedback as it is the best type to get-. Utilize the received feedback to re-build the site with the proposed changes.  Do this multiple times through the process of building the website and create a feedback loop to maximize how others understand and see your site.

2. Before customising a template understand its functionalities: At first, I made the error of not spending enough time navigating the template that I had chosen. Make sure to understand how all the pages in your chosen template look and the different objects that can be added to truly make good use of it.   

3. Forget complex sketching by hand: Go directly to edit and play around with the platform and your chosen template. It is so easy to create and re-make a draft that you shouldn’t devote any time to sketching the site other than its’ basic structure.

4. Make use of the Squarespace resources: Especially with E-Commerce but also with SEO or blogs, Squarespace provides awesome free tutorials that I thoroughly recommend in order to truly enhance the experience with the platform.

 

Please do not hesitate in reaching out to me if you have any questions. As I have gained experience with the platform, it would be my pleasure to help others create awesome sites. You can see the two sites that I have built with the platform in the following links:

www.barcelonahomes.com

www.esteve.co

**Disclaimer, I am not affiliated in any way nor receiving any compensation from Squarespace nor any other company for writing this post.

How I learnt the importance of motivation

 

“A satisfactory life is a win. Success is not a present. You must work for it." 

 

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In the following article, the firsts three paragraphs aim to explain through concepts and personal connections the importance of being motivated. And the last four points are recommendations by Dr. Fuster to stay motivated. If you dont have time jump directly to four last points.

When I was a kid, I used to believe that life was a cycle in which I fluctuated between different stages. Some days I felt happy but other days I felt like the world was falling apart. I remember sitting down in my moms apartment and creating what I called El Cercle de la Vida The Life Cycle as I sought for an explanation of my changing mood. At the time, I had a black Moleskin notebook and one day I draw a cycle that resembled the graph of a highly volatile security. The y-axis represented my level of happiness and the x-axis symbolized time. Later, the graph evolved and it became what I called The Cycle. It portrayed the different feelings that I had over time. I referred back to it for a period, as it was a tool that helped me explain how I felt at a given moment. It made sense that it was not possible to always be on top of my shit and the cycle was a great graphical way to represent it. Eventually, I stopped using the cycle because like many other good habits in life, it slipped away. Time passed and I forgot about the cycle But last summer I read El Cercle de la motivacio by Valenti Fuster and the cycle came back to my life.

Dr. Fuster presents life as a cycle in which we move between four different stages: satisfaction, passivity, motivation and frustration. The book focuses on the motivation part of the cycle because he thinks - and I strongly agree - that being motivated is necessary in order to happily find our place in the world. We must act when we are satisfied to prevent our satisfaction from slipping away - which as a Spaniard can be hard to understand because I have grown up in a culture that advocates in favor of putting the minimum effort into things. However, I strongly agree with the idea that we must be motivated in order to be happy and feel complete. Following, I want to share my process of learning such an important way of living life.

I always failed at following the crowd. Growing up, I had an obsession with being different; I hated to fit in. And most of the time I was the outlier. Eventually, I moved to the States to attend boarding school Westtown - a Quaker school in the middle of PA. It was a big change, I never adjusted to their way of life but I received a religious education that taught me the importance of spirituality. Back then, the cycle was an important part of me and I focused my motivation on being accepted to a top tier university, which eventually happened. Simultaneously, I aimed to make big bucks and as I returned from boarding school I promoted parties in Barcelona. I was in the motivation stage of the cycle but as time passed and I achieved my goals I settled down into the passivity stage.

Eventually, I slacked because I had forgotten my goals and as I lacked a purpose in life; I went from the passivity stage to the frustration part of the cycle. From there, it took me 18 months to get fully back into the motivation part of the cycle. Currently, I am working to stay satisfied and striving to experience new things that help me discover my vocation and what I want to devote my life to. I now understand that it is fine to lack goals or a purpose in life but it is not okay not to search for them. Therefore, we must always be in the motivation stage of the cycle and strive to become better every day. The following 4 tips are given by Dr. Valenti Fuster with the aim to help you always stay in the motivation stage of your cycle. 

 

1. Time for Reflexion: 

If we dont think how we live; we will soon think how we are living."

    •       Set 15 minutes aside everyday to think about your priorities and put your agenda in order. During that time, consider your best options and evaluate the different paths that you can take to reach your goals. 

    •       Run away from the noise that the crowd generates because it allows you to focus on your own path. Do this by practicing reflection, to avoid running around like a headless chicken.

 

2. Talent to Discover:

Choose a job that you are passionate about and you will not have to work a day in your life."

    •       Find an equilibrium between your opportunities and talents. Everyone has an inner talent. And you must strive to discover your vocation and devote your time to it. If you arent sure about your vocation, try new things. Do not settle until you find your vocation. 

    •       Non-Profit work can be extremely helpful in helping you figure out what you want in life and what your vocation is. Be sure to devote some of your free time to it.

 

3. Transmit Optimism: 

Giving up is not an option. Just keep going.

    •       Surround yourself with optimistic people and listen to their advice. At the same time, feed others with optimism and guidance. You must be optimistic to stay motivated. The journey is hard and life is not an easy one to tackle but positivity enables the best of you to come out.

    •       Being able to adapt in different situations is key. Everything can be overcome, just fight for it but keep in mind that out of suffering the strongest souls have merged The most massive character are seared with tears.

 

4. Mentorship 

Without acceptance, it is impossible to win. Seek for help during the hard times."

    •       Life is a group project and alone you wont get too far. It is essential to find a mentor that gives you advice. Also, seek for advice because whatever you are going through, you are not the first one. Someone has gone a similar path before and the voice of experience can be really helpful when figuring out the right direction to take.

    •       Share what you learn with others. Your knowledge will be valuable to someone else. Also, it will make you happy to give back as it is equally important as receiving.

8 Tips for the perfect apprenticeship

“ Do not think what is hard for you to master is humanly impossible; and if it is humanly impossible, consider it to be within your reach” Marcus Aurelius 

The term apprenticeship was conceived during the Middle Age, a time period when family businesses were expanding and in need of a skilled workforce. That time marks the beginning of today's internships as the firsts forms of practical training appeared. Back in the day, masters devoted from 5 to 7 years training their naïve apprentices with their techniques, who then became masters after passing an “exam". Today, as society is more complex than ever in history and the need for complex skills has sky rocketed, the process to acquire skills has adapted. However, I think that it can be useful to look at the apprenticeship process of many masters during the middle age, the industrial revolution and this last century as a way of drawing tips on how to acquire and master complex skills, which are in so much need in todays economy. 

Mastering a skill  is one of the best investments one can do because it is the ultimate commodity that will pay dividends for decades. Firstly, you must select one skill to master because it increases the size of the frontal lobe in the brain and hardwires connections that prepare the brain for mastering future skills. It is a painful process. You must build mental strength to move beyond these firsts stages and ultimately achieve mastery. Secondly, you must use a proactive learning method and transform your mind and character to the person who you ultimately aim to become. Humans have the longest infancy of all mammals and during childhood, we develop learning habits based in the passive absorption of information that must be adapted through a more critical approach as we grow up. Mastering a skill is a long process, good things take time, be patient.

The tips given in this post, are drawn from Robert Green’s work in his book called Mastery where he studies the apprenticeship process of successful masters and presents different strategies that each person can use to tailor and craft their own road. The 8 tips presented are drawn from the stories of some of the most prominent masters in history. Be aware that there are no exact rules to achieve mastery and that in today’s world it can be done in many ways but its generally the result of combining graduate school and practice.

 

1. Value Learning Over Money

Choose the internship opportunity that allows you to best acquire and develop skills and not one with a fat paycheck. Do not make the mistake to gear your learning years towards pleasing and impressing the right people. Instead devote this years to acquire and master skills that will pay you dividends for a long time. Also, use this opportunity to learn how to get by with little money and make the most of your youthful energy.

2. Keep Expanding Your Horizon

Add dimensions to your world, explore the unknown and try new things without settling. The reality is that no one will really help nor give you direction. Struggle against limitations and expose yourself to the world because this will expand your mind and force yourself into new circles and challenges. You must use this stage as a process of self discovery. 

3. Revert to a feeling of inferiority

As we learn and grow up, the human mind uncosciently closes off to new ideas, which has the detrimental effect of decreasing our learning capabilities. In order to acquire new skills as an adult, it is a good idea to reverse to a children’s sense of inferiority because it gives humans the hunger to learn.  

4. Trust the Process 

The process will be hard. You must visualize the future and have faith in it, with the aim to avoid frustration and be mentally strong to not quit. Trusting that it will happen will allow the natural learning process to move forward and everything else will fall into place

5. Move Toward resistance and Pain

Develop a strong discipline and a sense of criticism that allows you to become your own critic. Practice your weakest skills and ultimately develop a resistance practice by going against your natural tendencies when it comes to practice. 

6. Apprentince yourself in failure

There are two kinds of failure. The first one results from never trying. The second one happens when you try and fail. Make sure that you fail because you tried it out and not because you missed on the opportunity. 

7. Combine the “theory” and the “practice"

Make sure to find an equilibrium between the concepts and the practical knowledge as you apply what you have learnt through your formal education and you face new challenges and opportunities.  

8. Detach from emotions

Try to detach yourself from emotions with the aim to be able to analyze with perspective the events in your life. Do not make the mistake of spending too much time engaged with emotional issues because it inhibits your capabilities to reflect and learn from past experiences. 

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What every 20 something should know

It has been over a year since I turned 20. Leaving my mom’s house and settling down abroad has challenged me in ways that I could never have imagined. Your 20’s are equivalent to becoming “a grown up” but this is not an overnight process; it is rather a long journey. Throughout this last year, two readings have really helped me figure things out and better understand my doubts and in this post I want to share what I found to be most relevant on them.   

 

The first reading, is a blog entry by Mark Manson titled “What I learnt in my 20’s” ; interestingly, this article was published the same day I turned 20. I remember sitting on my couch and reading it over and over again. You can find the full article at: www.markmanson.net/surviving-my-20s#.vunqsz:EhEZ ; but these are my take outs from the reading:

1. Fail early and often: Time is your best asset because it grants you the opportunity to take risks and make big mistakes. Chances are this is the period of your life when you have the least to lose. Utilize it by taking risks and making unpredictable decisions, like moving to a new city, changing industries or backpacking around the world. Because you are not held back by the financial responsibilities that come with later adulthood nor a rigid family structure, use this flexibility to your advantage.  

 2. No one knows what the hell they're doing and it’s fine. Contrary to what society teaches you, it’s fine to work only to your best guess. Take this time to explore and discover what you truly like. Use your early twenties to find your passions because it will never be easier to try new things.

3. The world doesn't care about you. And it’s fine. No one puts it better than David Foster when he says: "You'll stop worrying what others think about you when you realize how seldom they do”.   

4. The sum of the little things matters much more than the big things. Overnight success only happens in movies. Big things are only accomplished as a result of thousands of little things that must happen silently over long periods of time. Consistency is the key to mastery and no one says it better than Malcom Gladwell as he explains the 10,000 hours rule - you need at least 10,000 hours of practice to start becoming good at something-. 

5. Your parents are people too. And chances are that growing up you will realize that they might have screwed up sometimes. Perhaps the first duty of adulthood is the acknowledgment, acceptance and forgiveness of one’s parent’s flaws. Take advantage of their time on earth and become friends with them.

 

The second reading is a book by Meg Jay titled "The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter--And How to Make the Most of Them".  It is an easy quick reading that I highly recommend to anyone in his or her early twenties. The book is divided between three main sections: work, love and the brain and the body. Also, it includes tons of advice on how to approach your twenties since most of the events that will determine your life are most likely to happen during this decade. Live life with a perspective and always remember why you are doing what you are doing. When things fall appart, calm yourself down and realize that at the end your options are limited to no more than 5 or 6. Take negativity away from life, stop complaining and always think what you would do if you don’t win the lottery and not vice versa.   

 

Work

" Adults don't merge. They're made."

1. Identity Capital is your collection of personal assets - investments that you make on yourself. It is divided between those that go on the resume (languages, computer skills...) – your hard assets - and those that don't (public speaking, social skills...) – your soft assets. Claim your interest and talents and work from early on to develop both your hard and soft assets. Invest in yourself for what you might want to do next.

 2. Put your foot early in the work place because 2/3 of salary growth takes place during the first decade. Also, twenty somethings that don't feel anxious and incompetent at work are usually overconfident or/and underemployed. 

 3. Weak Ties are those people that you hardly know, but they are the ones who can have a larger impact on your life. Don't be afraid to reach out to weak ties or even unknowns. The Franklin Effect - named after Benjamin Franklin - states that if weak ties do you a favor, they inevitably start to like you. 

 

Love

“Traveling in a third-world country is the closest thing there is to being married and raising kids. You have glorious hikes and perfect days on the beach. You go on adventures you would never try, or enjoy, alone. But you also can't get away from each other. Everything is unfamiliar. Money is tight or you get robbed. Someone gets sick or sunburned. You get bored. It is harder than you expected, but you are glad you didn't just sit home.”

1. Do not settle until 25.

2. Picking your family. Your family needs to work in the here and now and in the there and then, because getting divorced is a lot worse. Make coherent decisions and ensure that you travel across a third world country with your future partner before settling down.

3. "People love those who are like themselves”. I strongly recommend that you read “Influence” by Robert Cialdini because it provides a clear understanding of the laws of attraction. 

 

The Brain and the Body

"Life can only be understood backwards but it must be lived forward."

1. The frontal Lobe of the brain is responsible for reason and judgment. It is the part of the brain that regulates emotional impulses and where rational thoughts are balanced. This region matures through the early 20’s. You should aim to control your emotions and handle bad days on your own. 

2. The twenties are the time to acquire technical and sophisticated skills needed in many careers today because you'll never be able to learn knew things so quickly ever again. Devote this time to learn technical skills.

3. You become what you do and hear everyday. It is time to get busy, to explore out of your comfort zone because this is the period of your life that will most shape your personality and the person you’ll become.

 

The opportunities I see in Cuba

This year the US will be lifting an over 50 year embargo on Cuba. Last March, I had the opportunity to travel across Cuba for 10 days and I found this small 11 million people island in the Caribbean to be marvelous. As the US embargo on Cuba goes, tremendous business opportunities lay ahead on the island and I believe that the last generation of American companies will capitalize on them.

In the first quarter of 2015, tourism in l'Havana increased by 15%. And this is only the beginning because as Americans are allowed in the island, tourism is set to sky rock.  However, not everything looks great in a country where the average salary is $20 and only one fourth of the population has internet access. It is clear that Cuba has a long journey to go. 

Surprisingly, an american, Mark Zuckerberg, could have the key to power Cuba's change. Under his initiative internet.org, he could catalyze the process of connecting the country to the internet and create the perfect conditions for the following four companies to enter the island.   

1. Xiaomi, as people gain access to the internet, they will have to buy devices and Xiaomi is best positioned to be the company selling smart phones in Cuba.

2. Google, Xiaomi is powered by Android. And android is owned by Google.

3. Uber, Cuba is popular for its "maquinas"-a more archaic version of Uber Pool- and 70's taxis. And I believe Uber will be able to organize and capitalize on them. Especially, among tourist and expats.   

4. Airbnb, Cuba is highly populated by "casas particulares" where people rent bedrooms of their homes to tourists. Airbnb has the opportunity and the challenge to become a leading service in the island.

Following, is a little video that Quique made during our trip to Cuba:

May 7th 2015

After a while, I have decided to finally start this blog. It has been over a year of thinking wether or not I should have a way of sharing with the world my expiriences and leanings in life. Today, and after a reflexive evening, I have decided to follow the Chinese proverb that says: "The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now." And start my own blog. Through this blog, I aim to create a collection of writings, photos and videos that narrate my learnings as I grow and reflect my journey as I discover the world.

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