Following our mission of approaching Entrepreneurship and Innovation from different points of view, we are happy to post our first interview with an investor: Miguel Valls, co-founder and CEO at Dadata Capital, an Investment Management company that oversees and manages a number of investments in public and private markets worldwide, and specializes in Technology and Life Sciences early stage startups. Miguel has also been an entrepreneur for many years and is the Development Chair of San Francisco-Barcelona Sister City initiative.

If you are currently looking for private funding and/or would like to better understand what investors actually need to know to fund an idea, we encourage you to continue reading.

Getting in touch with an investor

Which is the best way to contact an investor?

What differentiates great entrepreneurs from the others is that great entrepreneurs are responsible for their actions. They don’t wait for things to happen but they make them happen. Great entrepreneurs are persistent and fight until the end. If they want to contact you they will find their way.

Which information do you expect during the first contact?

An entrepreneur should be able to explain her idea in one page, as well as she should be able to explain it in a 30-sec pitch. Otherwise she has a problem. A one-page should be enough for me to know what I need to know to decide whether I will dedicate more time to that opportunity.

What does motivate an investor to fund an idea?

What kind of (market or solution) proofs do you expect from the founders, to feel comfortable investing in an early stage startup?

stock-footage-creative-business-team-presenting-architectural-plans-hipster-office-discussing-new-ideas70% of the investment decision is based on the team. I don’t need a business plan to know if I am interested in a project. Obviously if you need to invest an important amount of capital on an established company, you may need a finished product, a business plan, some actual revenue, etc. But, during the first moments of a startup, when founders are conceptualizing first ideas and the market vision, there is no need of any of these. What is needed is a great team.

We only invest in fields we know well, because otherwise, it is very difficult to foresee successful market adoption. If you know the market and you have a great team, [that does not guarantee success but] at least you feel more comfortable because you start from a less risky position. 

I always insist that it’s very important for an investor to have been an entrepreneur in the past. Before being an entrepreneur I was an investment banker. And it was great, but I didn’t know anything about startups until I founded my first company. Now, that allows me to better perceive the potential of opportunities and teams that I meet.


Discounted cashflows, multiples… Do they even make sense for early stage startups?

Early stage startups valuation is more an art than a science. The value of a company depends on the market, the problem you are trying to solve, the team and, behind all that, the technology that you might have. But a startup is not a company. A startup becomes a company. And some people try to apply discounted cashflows and other valuation methodologies which, although valid for companies, are not necessary valid for startups. And they require you to have a business plan, when you don’t even have a product!

Un_dollar_usThe way we do valuations in Spain and Europe is disturbing: valuations are too low. One of the main issues we have in Europe is that most of the investors have not previously been entrepreneurs, and that is terrible, because they don’t have the capability to understand the projects, and to take enough risk. As a consequence, we find more copycats than we should, because the investor feels more comfortable investing in projects that somebody else has already done in the past [thus he perceives a lower risk].

I am investor of disruptive projects. And sometimes, when I present that kind of projects here (Europe), investors don’t want to take part of it because of the high level of risk… I wonder myself, what is the role of investors then?

What happens after investing?

We are not passive investors; I don’t want to invest in a company to which I cannot bring value. To do that I better invest in financial markets, which are faster and more liquid. As investors, we (Dadata Capital) get involved in the project as cofounders. We obviously don’t take part of the day-to-day operations of the company, but we get highly involved with the company (i.e general strategy, financial strategy, business development, partnerships, corporate development, helping the CEO, etc…). Investment usually brings a position in the Advisory Board or the Board of Directors.

Some investors think that when they put the money, their job is done. When we put the money, our work actually begins.

And what about exit strategies?

We are not opportunistic and don’t buy and sell in the short term. We look for and work with the company to grow. As a reference, 3 to 5 years is already a long term in the tech world.

Investment strategy

Startups, poker and financial markets have one thing in common: you have to build a position. In the first investment (which is the riskiest), you invest 10. In the following round there is less risk, so you put 10 more. In the third round, even less risky, you put 10 more. Your position now is 30; you have built your position over time, andnot all at once in the beginning. Somehow, you reduce the risk as you move forward. There are investors, however, who invest 30 in the first round and after that don’t want to invest more because they have already done it. What I mean is that in order to reduce risk, strategy is important.

Finally, in your words, what does being an entrepreneur mean?

pill blue red 2 - 2In Matrix movie, Morpheo offers 2 pills to Neo, the red pill and the blue pill. Take the blue pill and you will continue in your corporate world, in your easy life, doing what you do and believing what you want to believe. Take the red pill, and things will change, they will get harder, you are going to suffer and work harder but you will own your own destiny. You will make your own decisions: this is the advantage of being an entrepreneur.

About Miguel Valls and Dadata Capital Investment profile

I have been entrepreneur for 15 years and investor for 7-8 years. I co-founded Dadata Capital (headquartered in San Francisco) in 2006.

Dadata Capital is an investment vehicle, not a fund, so we don’t take 3rd party capital; we only operate with our own private capital. In Silicon Valley, that belongs to a model called ‘Super Business Angels’.

From 2006 to the end of 2012 there has been a reduction of the number of Silicon Valley operating VCs from 2000 to 200, approximately. But the total volume of investment has increased. They have concentrated and they usually make investments of 500 M$ – 700 M$ – 1B$… with possibly minimum tickets of 10M$. Doing such an investment in early stage startups would be too risky, so that gap has been covered by Business Angels. Before, BA invested 250K$, maybe 500K$, maximum 1M$. But now, BA have covered a gap that before belonged to VCs, between 3M$ to 5M$. We [Business Angles] do so by joining together several investment vehicles (one of which is ours, Dadata Capital). That way, BA cover seed and early stages, and VCs cover from round A (from 10M€) onwards.

Dadata Capital has 20 investee companies. We invest in what we know well: software platforms; in sectors like Genomics, Internet, or Smart cities (specifically Smart Mobility).

I like disruptive projects, but above all, I like projects which aim to change the world and help to have a better world.

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Start ups Funding

Courtesy of Funders & Founders

A hypothetical startup will get about $15,000 from family and friends, about $200,000 from an angel investor three months later, and about $2 Million from a VC another six months later. If all goes well. See how funding works in this infographic:

how funding works splitting the equity infographic

First, let’s figure out why we are talking about funding as something you need to do. This is not a given. The opposite of funding is “bootstrapping,” the process of funding a startup through your own savings. There are a few companies that bootstrapped for a while until taking investment, like MailChimp and AirBnB.

If you know the basics of how funding works, skim to the end. In this article I am giving the easiest to understand explanation of the process. Let’s start with the basics.

Every time you get funding, you give up a piece of your company. The more funding you get, the more company you give up. That ‘piece of company’ is ‘equity.’ Everyone you give it to becomes a co-owner of your company.

Splitting the Pie

The basic idea behind equity is the splitting of a pie. When you start something, your pie is really small. You have a 100% of a really small, bite-size pie. When you take outside investment and your company grows, your pie becomes bigger. Your slice of the bigger pie will be bigger than your initial bite-size pie.

When Google went public, Larry and Sergey had about 15% of the pie, each. But that 15% was a small slice of a really big pie.

Funding Stages

Let’s look at how a hypothetical startup would get funding.

Idea stage

At first it is just you. You are pretty brilliant, and out of the many ideas you have had, you finally decide that this is the one. You start working on it. The moment you started working, you started creating value. That value will translate into equity later, but since you own 100% of it now, and you are the only person in your still unregistered company, you are not even thinking about equity yet.

Co-Founder Stage

As you start to transform your idea into a physical prototype you realize that it is taking you longer (it almost always does.) You know you could really use another person’s skills. So you look for a co-founder. You find someone who is both enthusiastic and smart. You work together for a couple of days on your idea, and you see that she is adding a lot of value. So you offer them to become a co-founder. But you can’t pay her any money (and if you could, she would become an employee, not a co-founder), so you offer equity in exchange for work (sweat equity.) But how much should you give? 20% – too little? 40%? After all it is YOUR idea that even made this startup happen. But then you realize that your startup is worth practically nothing at this point, and your co-founder is taking a huge risk on it. You also realize that since she will do half of the work, she should get the same as you – 50%. Otherwise, she might be less motivated than you. A true partnership is based on respect. Respect is based on fairness. Anything less than fairness will fall apart eventually. And you want this thing to last. So you give your co-founder 50%.

Soon you realize that the two of you have been eating Ramen noodles three times a day. You need funding. You would prefer to go straight to a VC, but so far you don’t think you have enough of a working product to show, so you start looking at other options.

The Family and Friends Round: You think of putting an ad in the newspaper saying, “Startup investment opportunity.” But your lawyer friend tells you that would violate securities laws. Now you are a “private company,” and asking for money from “the public,” that is people you don’t know would be a “public solicitation,” which is illegal for private companies. So who can you take money from?

  1. Accredited investors – People who either have $1 Million in the bank or make $200,000 annually. They are the “sophisticated investors” – that is people who the government thinks are smart enough to decide whether to invest in an ultra-risky company, like yours. What if you don’t know anyone with $1 Million? You are in luck, because there is an exception – friends and family.
  2. Family and Friends – Even if your family and friends are not as rich as an investor,  you can still accept their cash. That is what you decide to do, since your co-founder has a rich uncle. You give him 5% of the company in exchange for $15,000 cash. Now you can afford room and ramen for another 6 months while building your prototype.

Registering the Company

To give uncle the 5%, you registered the company, either though an online service like LegalZoom ($400), or through a lawyer friend (0$-$2,000). You issued some common stock, gave 5% to uncle and set aside 20% for your future employees – that is the ‘option pool.’ (You did this because 1. Future investors will want an option pool;, 2. That stock is safe from you and your co-founders doing anything with it.)

The Angel Round

With uncle’s cash in pocket and 6 months before it runs out, you realize that you need to start looking for your next funding source right now. If you run out of money, your startup dies. So you look at the options:

  1. Incubators, accelerators, and “excubators” – these places often provide cash, working space, and advisors. The cash is tight – about $25,000 (for 5 to 10% of the company.) Some advisors are better than cash, like Paul Graham at Y Combinator.
  2. Angels – in 2013 (Q1) the average angel round was $600,000 (from the HALO report). That’s the good news. The bad news is that angels were giving that money to companies that they valued at $2.5 million. So, now you have to ask if you are worth $2.5 million. How do you know? Make your best case.  Let’s say it is still early days for you, and your working prototype is not that far along. You find an angel who looks at what you have and thinks that it is worth $1 million. He agrees to invest $200,000.

Now let’s count what percentage of the company you will give to the angel. Not 20%. We have to add the ‘pre-money valuation’ (how much the company is worth before new money comes in) and the investment

$1,000,000 + $200,000=              $1,200,000  post-money valuation

(Think of it like this, first you take the money, then you give the shares. If you gave the shares before you added the angel’s investment, you would be dividing what was there before the angel joined. )

Now divide the investment by the post-money valuation $200,000/$1,200,000=1/6= 16.7%

The angel gets 16.7% of the company, or 1/6.

How Funding Works - Cutting the Pie

What about you, your co-founder and uncle? How much do you have left? All of your stakes will be diluted by 1/6. (See the infographic.)

Is dilution bad? No, because your pie is getting bigger with each investment. But, yes, dilution is bad, because you are losing control of your company. So what should you do? Take investment only when it is necessary. Only take money from people you respect. (There are other ways, like buying shares back from employees or the public, but that is further down the road.)

Venture Capital Round

Finally, you have built your first version and you have traction with users. You approach VCs. How much can VCs give you?   They invest north of $500,000. Let’s say the VC values what you have now at $4 million. Again, that is your pre-money valuation. He says he wants to invest $2 Million. The math is the same as in the angel round. The VC gets 33.3% of your company. Now it’s his company, too, though.

Your first VC round is your series A. Now you can go on to have series B,C – at some point either of the three things will happen to you. Either you will run out of funding and no one will want to invest, so you die. Or, you get enough funding to build something a bigger company wants to buy, and they acquire you. Or, you do so well that, after many rounds of funding, you decide to go public.

Why Companies Go Public?

There are two basic reasons. Technically an IPO is just another way to raise money, but this time from millions of regular people. Through an IPO a company can sell stocks on the stock market and anyone can buy them. Since anyone can buy you can likely sell a lot of stock right away rather than go to individual investors and ask them to invest. So it sounds like an easier way to get money.

There is another reason to IPO. All those people who have invested in your company so far, including you, are holding the so-called ‘restricted stock’ – basically this is stock that you can’t simply go and sell for cash. Why? Because this is stock of a company that has not been so-to-say “verified by the government,” which is what the IPO process does. Unless the government sees your IPO paperwork, you might as well be selling snake oil, for all people know. So, the government thinks it is not safe to let regular people to invest in such companies. (Of course, that automatically precludes the poor from making high-return investments. But that is another story.) The people who have invested so far want to finally convert or sell their restricted stock and get cash or unrestricted stock, which is almost as good as cash. This is a liquidity event – when what you have becomes easily convertible into cash.

There is another group of people that really want you to IPO. The investment bankers, like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, to name the most famous ones. They will give you a call and ask to be your lead underwriter – the bank that prepares your IPO paperwork and calls up wealthy clients to sell them your stock.  Why are the bankers so eager? Because they get 7% of all the money you raise in the IPO. In this infographic your startup raised $235,000,000 in the IPO – 7% of that is about $16.5 million (for two or three weeks of work for a team of 12 bankers). As you see, it is a win-win for all.

Being an Early Employee at a Startup

Last but not least, some of your “sweat equity” investors were the early employees who took stock in exchange for working at low salaries and living with the risk that your startup might fold. At the IPO it is their cash-out day.

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The Spanish VC industry has one big problem: it doesn’t exist

Courtesy of Alex Barrera and TECH EU

Spain is home to a number of VC firms, of all shapes and sizes. The only problem is, they don’t seem to do a lot of deals, and the rounds are typically small. On a positive note: change is underway.

Entrepreneurship has become more trendy in Spain – that’s a fact.

fresh law meant to attract entrepreneurs, a local Dragon’s Den, a TV program showcasing new startups, another highlighting individual entrepreneurs, or inventions made in Spain, and a new one about to go live … you can almost feel the perception of about small businesses and their founders changing throughout the country.

The question beckons, though: is Spain riding the entrepreneurship bubble as hard as it did the real estate one?

A look at the numbers

According to a recent report by Telefonica on the Accelerator and Incubator’s ecosystem,  Spain has had a massive influx of new startup programs in the past few years.

To be precise, Spain has 38 programs (versus Germany’s 31 or France’s 35). Such a scale isn’t supported by the country’s GDP, pointing out a more-than-probable bubble.


Telefonica Accelerators Report


Despite all the excitement and growth, one has to wonder whether the venture capital firms in Spain are up to the task, or lagging behind. I get asked this question quite often, and people get surprised when I tell them that there isn’t really a VC industry in Spain.

Yes, maybe I’m being too extreme, but it’s hard to argue with cold, hard data. The truth is, a quick glance at the 2012 numbers paints a pretty clear picture.

Spain saw 348 VC operations accounting for 158.8 million euros in 2012. Yeah, you read that right – that means an average operation of around 456,000 euros. Per deal. And that’s counting all industries, including foreign investments.

If we just stick to startups and exclude big deals in biotech, nanotech, etc. we’re talking about a mere 69.8 million euros. If we look at the deals tracked by Loogic, we get a similar number of 52 million euros in 2012.


Spanish VC 2010-2012


If we compare the total volume achieved in 2012 with the ones reported in Q3 of 2013 across all European regions, the difference is astounding. The Nordic region moved the same amount of money in one quarter than was invested in Spain in all of 2012.


Q2 2013 European investment


As you see, that hardly qualifies as an industry – it’s really more like a club of VCs.

One interesting development is the new wave of investments coming from accelerators like Wayra,Mola or Plug & Play. They join ‘older’ accelerators like SeedRocket, and have been spearheading the Spanish accelerator trend that accounted for roughly 9.7 million euros in investments in 2012.

Overall, most of the investments landed in Madrid (37.7 million euros) and Catalonia (27.1 million euros), with Valencia completing the top 3 (9.1 million euros).

Interestingly, Madrid accounted for 60 operations, compared to 114 in Barcelona. We should note that the average financing round in Barcelona is half the size of your typical round in Madrid, which is partly explained by the fact that Barcelona tends to have much younger startups, while Madrid probably attracts larger series B rounds for more mature companies.

Charting the landscape

We dug a little deeper and checked the current status of the top VC funds in Spain.

The three most active funds during 2013 have been, without a doubt, Cabiedes & Partners (~13 deals),Kibo Ventures (~10 deals) and Caixa Capital Risc (~10 deals).

Granted, most of those deals were co-investments, and they move in the seed round space with sizes ranging from 200,000 to 1 million euros. Very rarely do you see funds in Spain investing on their own, and the ones that have done it, haven’t fared too well so far.

A close runner-up this year is Active Venture Partners, which has done an outstanding job in the past few years and tends to do bigger rounds (1 million euros or more) than most Spanish VCs.

They also just had a new exit with Golden Gecko (bought by DMI) and saw a couple more last year (one of them was BuyVIP). We’re keeping a close eye on Chris and his team because they will likely be a major player in 2014.

Another interesting new player with deep pockets is Seaya Ventures, which came onto the radar this year and has already done four deals, totalling 20 million euros in investments already.

On a second plane you can find Faraday Venture PartnersBonsai Venture CapitalVitamina K Venture CapitalNauta CapitalFundación José Manuel Entrecanales and Inveready Technology Investment Group, all with two to three deals this year. It’s interesting to note that the Fundación José Manuel Entrecanales is increasingly getting in on general startups and not just cleantech companies like they did in the past, which is great for the ecosystem.

On a third plane, you can find the likes of Adara Ventures and Highgrowth, which are barely doing new deals. Most of their activity is doing follow-on rounds for existing portfolio companies at this point.

Finally, there are a bunch of other VCs that appear to be in limbo – Axon Partners Group decided toinvest in India while hiding their deadpooled companies (at least three that I could find) in Spain, so go figure.

Bullnet Gestión has no more funds after depleting their two funds, Bullnet Capital I and II, and it’s trying to get some exits going. Mobius Corporate Venture Capital, meanwhile, doesn’t have a functional website anymore, while Inicap went under.

There are a bunch of other players making small investments, ranging from business angel networks to small funds like Big Sur VenturesSidkapDigital Assets Deployment (DAD), VentureCap SCR, etc. but I wanted to focus on the biggest and most active, which as you can see, are few and far between.

Notable trends

There are some interesting trends at play that are worth talking about.

The first one is that more and more European funds are looking for promising startups in Spain, while most Spanish VCs are focusing locally. A mix of regulatory issues and tax exemptions forces them to invest a certain percentage of their funds in Spanish companies.

The only two Spanish funds actively pursuing investments outside of Spain are Nauta Capital and Kibo Ventures. The former VC firm’s general partner, Carles Ferrer, comments:

“There are very few funds that have a defined and tested strategy for internationalization and follow-up of their portfolio companies across different geographies. [...] We’re trying to replicate what Israel has done wonderfully for years, where companies have automatic access to leading markets (US) from the very beginning.”

Meanwhile, non-Spanish investment firms are increasingly looking to get in on the action: Sunstone Capital recently invested in TybaNine Point Capital in TypeformIntel Capital in IndisysGGV Capital in AlienVault, and so on. Some of them are even adding Spaniard to their ranks, like the recent addition ofMarc Ingla to Mangrove Capital Partners, where he will focus on opportunities in emerging in areas such as gaming, e-commerce, financial services, media content and messaging with a bias towards Latin countries.

This isn’t necessarily a brand new trend: last year, we also saw international funds pouring money in Spain, including Index Ventures (Fon, Privalia and Groupalia), Balderton Capital (Abiquo), Highland Capital (Privalia), Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (AlienVault) and Sequoia Capital (Chartboost).

In terms of exits, 2012 was quite good for Spain. This year, we’re also seeing some exits (United Internet bought ArsysSkyscanner bought FoggGroupon bought BlinkSymantec bought Password bank) etc.

This indicates that, slowly but surely, things are starting to happen in Spain. There are some local buy-outs worth mentioning as well: Offerum, the deal clone (and third player apart from Groupalia and Groupon Spain) recently acquired both Planeo and Destiny, which means they’re aggregating verticals as part of its expansion (or survival?) strategy.

On round sizes and internationalization

The rounds we’re seeing are still quite small. Seed rounds range from 100,000 to 200,000 euros, while series A rounds are between 500,000 – 1 million euros. Spain needs more risk-taking and bigger seed, Series A and B rounds before we can really speak of a serious VC industry in Spain.

Small rounds take too much time from the startups and they barely allow them to compete in larger markets like the US or Europe at large. If we want bigger wins, we’re gonna need bigger bets.

Another, perhaps non-surprising trend is the fact that most of the new rounds being raised in 2012 and 2013 are being used to expand the businesses elsewhere.

I’ve been a big believer that Spain never had a big enough tech market to start with, but the economic crisis has made my point for me, and it’s forcing almost everyone to look for business abroad. The interesting thing is that, while some years ago, the expansion was LatAm, there seems to be an increasing number of Spanish startups focusing on UK, Germany and France.

Coincidentally, I think LatAm was always a harder region for even Spanish-speaking entrepreneurs to conquer than key European markets.

Carles Ferrer (Nauta Capital) concurs:

“We should make our startups global as soon as possible. We need to add first-rate international members to the team from day one, have a much better international look and feel, combine local operations with global ones from the inception, and to make the companies seem global in each of the countries they operate in. [...] The success of our international Spanish ventures have a very positive impact for the next round of startups.”

Finally, a new mega fund from ICO is probably going to change the landscape. The Spanish government is finalizing the red tape before launchg a 1.2 billion-euro fund that should have a massive impact on several of the Spanish top VC funds.

The new super fund is probably a response to all the criticism about Spain not supporting startups. In true Spanish fashion, they’re cloning, or at least trying to, the Israeli VC strategy from several decades ago by creating a mega-fund to invest in smaller funds.

Some investors remain skeptical, however. Cedric Kutlu, who heads Internet & Mobile investments at Kibo Ventures, says:

“Only a portion of that fund will will be attributed to VCs. If well-disciplined investment fund managers with relevant experience with technology startups are selected, then this will definitely give a good boost to the Spanish tech scene. In any case and generally speaking, promoting entrepreneurship and injecting capital to get the wheel turn faster is very positive news for the evolution of the Spanish ecosystem as a whole.”

Meanwhile, the corporates haven’t been sitting idle and have been pushing large funds that have ended up in many of the current active Spanish VCs. Kutlu (Kibo Ventures) comments:

“It’s interesting to see Spain being part of the recent growth in Corporate VC with initiatives such as Amerigo (strategic investments in selected funds) and Wayra (14 accelerators worldwide with already close to 300 investments in seed-stage startups) by Telefonica, BBVA ventures (100 million dollars fund for financial technology startups), Innovation foundation of Bankinter with its seed capital program, and Fitalent (5 million euros fund) by Everis.

I wouldn’t be surprised if we see more of these being developed by the large and leading corporations of Spain.”

Closing note

All in all, the Spanish VC industry is tiny, but at least new tastes are being developed. More and more companies are thinking global, forcing local VCs to shift their strategy.

Carles Ferrer (Nauta Capital) says:

“Spain still has a very recent and short VC track record if you compare it with other geographies like UK or US. The industry, which started pretty much centered around small seed funds, has seen a major change since the 90s.

Some funds have grown in total size and venture rounds as well as in number of investment stages they operate at, something that’s very important for follow-up rounds of growth companies. At the same time, top international investors are pouring money on Spanish startups, which is crucial. All in all, we’re seeing exciting developments, although slower than it should be.

We need to promote big and relevant exits in critical sectors so that everyone is more conscious; entrepreneurs, investors and strategic acquirers. I’m sure that we’ll see important advances on this during the next 2 to 3 years.”

True enough – we’re moving towards a more mature VC landscape in Spain, but I also share his frustration on the speed of that change.

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M.O.D. empieza en BCN


La ciudad de Barcelona ha presentado hoy de la mano del Alcalde Trias el proyecto MOTIT ( ). La movilidad bajo demanda ( M.O.D.) se pone en marcha en un proyecto pionero a nivel mundial impulsado por Going Green, Nektria, Creafutur y el Ayuntamiento de la ciudad Condal.

La Economía colaborativa penetra a través del sharing 2.0 de vehículos eléctricos en el ecosistema de la ciudad y va a revolucionar la forma en la que nos movemos, ayudando a reducir el numero de vehículos privados, las emisiones de CO2 y generando datos el tiempo real muy valiosos para todos los agentes implicados.

Felicidades por una iniciativa emprendedora de primer nivel.


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Similar Worlds

Courtesy of NASA and The Atlantic ( )

742617main_Kepler62e_4x3_946-710.jpgArtist’s rendering of Kepler-62e (NASA)

The Kepler Space Telescope has been in orbit looking for planets around other stars since 2009, and it’s started to find some startlingly interesting solar systems out there.

Today, the Kepler team announced the discovery of star system Kepler 62, a group of five planets circling a red star, two of which may be capable of supporting life. That doubles the number of Earth-like planets in the habitable zone that Kepler has confirmed in the cosmos. And they’re the smallest, and therefore closest to Earth size, that astronomers have detected. The system is 1,200 light years away.

This is remarkably exciting. Not only do we know about two more Earth-like planets out there, but they’re in the same solar system! That sent at least one scientist into the kind of reverie that I’ve been having since I heard the news.

“Imagine looking through a telescope to see another world with life just a few million miles from your own, or having the capability to travel between them on regular basis,” Kepler team member Dimitar Sasselov of Harvard told New Scientist. “I can’t think of a more powerful motivation to become a space-faring society.”

kepler 62.jpg

While scientists have found that our galaxy is teeming with planets, it takes longer to detect planets that take a long time to orbit their suns. That’s because Kepler detects planets when they pass in front of their stars. If a planet takes a couple hundred Earth-days to go around its sun, the scientists need several years to gather several transits, as they’re known.

NASA’s Bill Borucki, the mission’s principal scientific investigator and a tireless proponent of this misson for years, was understandably excited about the discoveries.

“The detection and confirmation of planets is an enormously collaborative effort of talent and resources, and requires expertise from across the scientific community to produce these tremendous results,” Borucki said in a NASA release. “Kepler has brought a resurgence of astronomical discoveries and we are making excellent progress toward determining if planets like ours are the exception or the rule.”

The search for planets like our own is one of the science’s most exciting frontiers, and after years of waiting for the discovery of Earth-like planets, we’re finally getting them. This one was published in the journal Science. It’s also worth noting that Borucki’s team announced another planetary system surrounding a star like our own that harbors one Earth-like planet. It was a big day for those awaiting news of other planets capable of supporting life.

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A European Solution to the Eurozone’s Problem

Courtesy of George Soros and Project Syndicate

My objective in coming here today is to discuss the euro crisis. I think you will all agree that the crisis is far from resolved. It has already caused tremendous damage both financially and politically and taken an extensive human toll as well. It has transformed the European Union into something radically different from what was originally intended. The European Union was meant to be a voluntary association of equal states but the crisis has turned it into a creditor/debtor relationship from which there is no easy escape. The creditors stand to lose large sums of money should a member state exit the union, yet debtors are subjected to policies that deepen their depression, aggravate their debt burden and perpetuate their subordinate status.

This has created political tensions as demonstrated by the stalemate in Italy. A majority is now opposed to the euro and the trend is growing. There is a real danger that the euro will destroy the European Union. A disorderly disintegration would leave Europe worse off than it was when the bold experiment of creating a European Union was begun. That would be a tragedy of historic proportions. It can be prevented but it can be prevented only with Germany’s leadership. Germany didn’t seek to occupy a dominant position and has been reluctant to accept the responsibilities and liabilities that go with it. That’s one of the reasons for the crisis. But willingly or not, Germany is in the driver’s seat and that is what brings me here.

What caused the crisis? And how can Europe escape from it? These are the two questions I want to answer. The first question is extremely complicated. The euro crisis has both a political and a financial dimension. And the financial dimension has at least three components: a sovereign debt crisis and a banking crisis, as well as divergences in competitiveness. The various aspects are interconnected, making the situation so complicated that it boggles the mind. In my view it cannot be properly understood without realizing the crucial role that mistakes and misconceptions have played in creating it. The crisis is almost entirely self-inflicted. It has the quality of a nightmare.

By contrast, the answer to the second question is extremely simple. Once we have gained a proper understanding of the problems the solution practically suggests itself.

I shall attribute a large share of the responsibility to Germany. But I want to make it clear in advance that I am not blaming Germany. Whoever was in charge would have made similar mistakes. I can say from personal experience that nobody could have understood the problems in all their complexity at the time they arose.

I realize that I risk antagonizing you by putting the responsibility on Germany. But only Germany can put things right. I am a great believer in the European Union and I don’t want to see it destroyed. I also care about the immense and unnecessary human suffering that the crisis is causing and I want to do whatever I can to mitigate it. My perspective is very different from the views prevailing in Germany. I hope that by offering you a different interpretation I may get you to reconsider your policies before they do more damage. That is my goal in coming here.

The European Union was a bold project that fired many people’s imagination, including mine. I regarded the European Union as the embodiment of an open society – a voluntary association of equal states who surrendered part of their sovereignty for the common good. The European Union had five large and a number of small member states and they all subscribed to the principles of democracy, individual freedom, human rights and the rule of law. No nation or nationality occupied a dominant position.

The process of integration was spearheaded by a small group of far sighted statesmen who recognized that perfection was unattainable and practiced what Karl Popper called piecemeal social engineering. They set themselves limited objectives and firm timelines and then mobilized the political will for a small step forward, knowing full well that when they achieved it, it will prove inadequate and require a further step. The process fed on its own success, very much like a boom-bust sequence in financial markets. That is how the Coal and Steel Community was gradually transformed into the European Union, step by step.

France and Germany used to be in the forefront of the effort. When the Soviet empire started to disintegrate, Germany’s leaders realized that reunification was possible only in the context of a more united Europe and they were prepared to make considerable sacrifices to achieve it. When it came to bargaining, they were willing to contribute a little more and take a little less than the others, thereby facilitating agreement. At that time, German statesmen used to proclaim that Germany has no

independent foreign policy, only a European one. This led to a dramatic acceleration of the process. It culminated with the reunification of Germany in 1990 and the signing of the Maastricht Treaty in 1992. That was followed by a period of consolidation which lasted until the financial crisis of 2007-8.

Unfortunately, the Maastricht Treaty was fundamentally flawed. The architects of the euro recognized that it was an incomplete construct: a currency union without a political union. They had reason to believe, however, that when the need arose, the political will could be mobilized to take the next step forward. After all, that was how the process of integration had worked until then.

But the euro had many other defects, which went unrecognized. For instance, the Maastricht Treaty took it for granted that only the public sector could produce chronic deficits because the private sector would always correct its own excesses. The financial crisis of 2007-8 proved that wrong. The fatal defect was that by creating an independent central bank, member countries became indebted in a currency they did not control. This exposed them to the risk of default.

Developed countries outside a currency union have no reason to default; they can always print money. Their currency may depreciate in value, but the risk of default doesn’t arise. By contrast, third world countries that have to borrow in a foreign currency like the dollar run the risk of default. To make matters worse, such countries are exposed to bear raids. In short, the euro relegated what is now called the periphery to the status of third world countries.

Prior to the financial crisis of 2007-8 both the authorities and the financial markets ignored this feature of the euro. When the euro was introduced, government bonds were treated as riskless. The regulators didn’t require commercial banks to set aside any equity capital, and the European Central Bank discounted all government bonds on equal terms. This created a perverse incentive for commercial banks to accumulate the bonds of the weaker member countries in order to earn a few extra basis points. As a result interest rate differentials practically disappeared.

The convergence of interest rates caused a divergence in economic performance. The so-called periphery countries, Spain and Ireland foremost among them, enjoyed real estate, investment and consumption booms that made them less competitive, while Germany, weighed down by the cost of reunification, engaged in far-reaching labor market and other structural reforms that made it more competitive.

In the week following the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, the global financial markets literally collapsed and had to be put on artificial life support. This required substituting sovereign credit, backed by taxpayers’ money, for the credit of the financial institutions whose standing was impaired.

That would have been the moment to take the next step forward towards fiscal and political union but the political will was lacking. Germany, weighed down by the costs of reunification, was no longer in the forefront of integration. Chancellor Merkel read public opinion correctly when she declared that each country should look after its own financial institutions individually instead of the European Union doing it collectively. In retrospect that was the first step in a process of disintegration.

It took financial markets more than a year to realize the implications of Chancellor Merkel’s declaration, demonstrating that they too operate with far-from-perfect knowledge. Only at the end of 2009, when the extent of the Greek deficit was revealed, did the markets realize that a Eurozone country could actually default. But then they raised risk premiums on all the weaker countries with a vengeance. This rendered commercial banks, whose balance sheets were loaded with those bonds, potentially insolvent and that created both a sovereign debt and a banking crisis – the two are linked together like Siamese twins.

There is a close parallel between the euro crisis and the international banking crisis of 1982. Then the IMF and the international banking authorities saved the international banking system by lending just enough money to the heavily indebted countries to enable them to avoid default but at the cost of pushing them into a lasting depression. Latin America suffered a lost decade.

Today Germany is playing the same role as the IMF did then. The setting differs, but the effect is the same. The creditors are in effect shifting the whole burden of adjustment on to the debtor countries. Please note how the terms “center” and “periphery” have crept into usage almost unnoticed, although in political terms it is obviously inappropriate to describe Italy and Spain as the periphery of the European Union. In effect, however, the euro has turned them into third world countries over-indebted in a foreign currency.

Just as in the 1980’s, all the blame and burden is falling on the “periphery” and the responsibility of the “center” remains unacknowledged. The periphery countries are criticized for their lack of fiscal discipline and work ethic, but there is more to it than that. Admittedly the periphery countries need to make structural reforms, just as Germany did after reunification. But to deny that the euro itself has some structural problems that need to be corrected is to ignore the root cause of the euro crisis. Yet that is what is happening.

In this context the German word “Schuld” plays a key role. As you know it means both debt and guilt. This has made it natural or “selbstverständlich” for German public opinion to blame the heavily indebted countries for their misfortune. The fact that Greece blatantly broke the rules has helped to support this attitude. But other countries like Spain and Ireland had played by the rules; indeed Spain used to be held up as a paragon of virtue. Clearly, the faults are systemic and the misfortunes of the heavily indebted countries are largely caused by the rules that govern the euro. That is the point I should like to drive home today.

In my opinion, the “Schuld” of the “center” is even greater today than it was in the banking crisis of 1982. It may have been politically acceptable in 1982 to inflict austerity on less developed countries in order to save the international financial system; but doing the same within the Eurozone cannot be reconciled with the European Union as a voluntary association of equal states. There is an unresolved conflict between what is dictated by financial necessity and what is politically acceptable. That is the point the recent Italian elections should have driven home.

The burden of responsibility for the Maastricht Treaty falls mainly on France and Germany; for the course of events since the outbreak of the crisis on Germany alone, because the crisis put Germany into the driver’s seat. This has created two problems. One is political, the other financial. It is the combination of the two that has rendered the situation so intractable.

The political problem is that Germany did not seek the dominant position into which it has been thrust and it is unwilling to accept the obligations and liabilities that go with it. Germany understandably doesn’t want to be the “deep pocket” for the euro. So it extends just enough support to avoid default but nothing more, and as soon as the pressure from the financial markets abates it seeks to tighten the conditions on which the support is given.

The financial problem is that Germany is imposing the wrong policies on the Eurozone. Austerity doesn’t work. You cannot shrink the debt burden by shrinking the budget deficit. The debt burden is a ratio between the accumulated debt and the GDP, both expressed in nominal terms. And in conditions of inadequate demand, budget cuts cause a more than proportionate reduction in the GDP – in technical terms the so-called fiscal multiplier is greater than one.

The German public finds this difficult to understand. The fiscal and structural reforms undertaken by the Schroeder government worked in 2006; why shouldn’t they work for the Eurozone a few years later? The answer is that austerity in a single country works by increasing its exports and reducing imports. When everybody is doing the same thing it simply doesn’t work: it is clearly impossible for all members of the Eurozone to improve their balance of trade with one another.

The euro crisis reached a climax last summer. Financial markets started to anticipate a possible breakup and risk premiums reached unsustainable levels. As a last resort, Chancellor Merkel endorsed the President of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, against her own nominee, Jens Weidmann. And Draghi rose to the occasion. He declared that the ECB would do “whatever it takes” to protect the euro and backed it up by introducing first the LTRO and then the OMT. Financial markets were reassured and embarked on a powerful relief rally. But the jubilation was premature. As soon as the pressure from the financial markets abated, Germany started to whittle down the promises it had made at the height of the crisis.

In the bailout of Cyprus, Germany went too far. In order to minimize the cost of the bailout it insisted on bailing in bank depositors. This was premature. If it had happened after a banking union had been established and the banks recapitalized, it might have been a healthy reform. But it came at a time when the banking system was breaking up into national silos and remained very vulnerable. What happened in Cyprus undermined the business model of European banks, which relies heavily on deposits. Until then the authorities had gone out of their way to protect depositors. Cyprus has changed that. Attention is focused on the devastating impact of the rescue on Cyprus but the impact on the banking system is far more important. Banks will have to pay risk premiums that will fall more heavily on weaker banks and the banks of weaker countries. The insidious link between the cost of sovereign debt and bank debt will be reinforced and a banking union that would reestablish a more level playing field will become even more difficult to attain. Without access to credit on equal terms the periphery countries cannot possibly escape from the trap in which they are caught.

Chancellor Merkel would have liked to put the euro crisis on ice at least until after the elections, but it is back in force with a vengeance. The German public may be unaware of this because Cyprus was a tremendous political victory for Chancellor Merkel. No country will dare to challenge her will. Moreover, Germany itself remains relatively unaffected by the deepening depression that is enveloping the Eurozone. I expect, however, that by the time of the elections Germany will also be in recession. That is because the monetary policy pursued by the Eurozone is out of sync with the other major

currencies. The others are engaged in quantitative easing. The Bank of Japan was the last holdout but it changed sides recently. A weaker Yen coupled with the weakness in Europe is bound to affect Germany’s exports.

If my analysis is correct, a solution practically suggests itself. It can be summed up in one word: Eurobonds. If countries that abide by the Fiscal Compact were allowed but not required to convert their entire existing stock of government debt into Eurobonds, the positive impact would be little short of the miraculous. The danger of default would disappear and so would the risk premiums. The balance sheets of banks would receive an immediate boost and so would the budgets of the heavily indebted countries because it would cost them less to service their existing stock of government debt. Italy, for instance, would save up to four percent of its GDP. Its budget would move into surplus and instead of austerity, there would be room for some fiscal stimulus. The economy would grow and the debt ratio would fall. Most of the seemingly intractable problems would vanish into thin air. Only the divergences in competitiveness would remain unresolved. Individual countries would still need structural reforms, but the main structural defect of the euro would be cured. It would be truly like waking from a nightmare.

Germany is opposed to Eurobonds on the grounds that once they are introduced there can be no assurance that the so-called periphery countries would not break the rules once again. I believe these fears are misplaced. In accordance with the Fiscal Compact member countries would be allowed to issue new Eurobonds only to replace maturing ones; after five years the debts outstanding would be gradually reduced to 60% of GDP. If a member country ran up additional debts it would have to borrow in its own name. Having to pay stiff risk premiums would be a powerful inducement to stay in compliance. Admittedly the Fiscal Compact needs some modifications to ensure that the penalties for non-compliance are automatic, prompt and not too severe to be credible; but a tighter Fiscal Compact would practically eliminate the risk of default.

Eurobonds would compare favorably with the bonds of US, UK and Japan in the financial markets. Admittedly, Germany would have to pay more on its own debt than it does today but the exceptionally low yields on Bunds is a symptom of the disease that plagues the periphery. The indirect benefit Germany would derive from the recovery of the periphery would far outweigh the additional cost incurred on its own national debt.

There are also widespread fears that Eurobonds would ruin Germany’s credit rating. Eurobonds are often compared with the Marshall Plan. The argument goes that the Marshall Plan cost only a few percentage points of America’s GDP while Eurobonds would cost a multiple of Germany’s GDP. That argument is comparing apples with oranges. The Marshall Plan was an actual expenditure while Eurobonds would involve a guarantee that will never be called upon.

Guarantees have a peculiar character: the more convincing they are, the less they are likely to be invoked. The US never had to pay off the debt it incurred when it converted the debt of individual states into Federal obligations. Germany has been willing to do only the minimum; that is why it had to keep escalating its commitments and is incurring actual losses.

To be sure, Eurobonds are not a panacea. The boost derived from Eurobonds may not be sufficient to ensure recovery. Additional fiscal and/or monetary stimulus may be needed – but having such a problem would be a luxury. More troubling is that Eurobonds do not eliminate divergences in competitiveness. Individual countries would still need to undertake structural reforms. Those that fail to do so would turn into permanent pockets of poverty and dependency similar to the ones that persist in many rich countries. They would survive on limited support from European Structural Funds and remittances. The European Union would also need a banking union to make credit available on equal terms in every country. The Cyprus rescue made these needs more acute by making the playing field more uneven. But Germany accepting Eurobonds would totally change the political atmosphere and facilitate the needed reforms.

Unfortunately, Germany is adamantly opposed to Eurobonds. Since Chancellor Merkel vetoed Eurobonds, the arguments I have put forward here have not even been considered. People don’t realize that agreeing to Eurobonds would be much less costly than doing only the minimum to preserve the euro.

It is up to Germany to decide whether it is willing to authorize Eurobonds or not. But it has no right to prevent the heavily indebted countries from escaping their misery by banding together and issuing Eurobonds. In other words, if Germany is opposed to Eurobonds it should consider leaving the euro and letting the others introduce them.

This exercise would yield a surprising result: Eurobonds issued by a Eurozone that excludes Germany would still compare favorably with those of the U.S., UK and Japan. The net debt of these three countries as a proportion of their GDP is actually higher than that of the Eurozone excluding Germany.

Let me explain why. Since all the accumulated debt is denominated in euros, it makes all the difference which country remains in charge of the euro. If Germany left, the euro would depreciate. The debtor countries would regain their competitiveness. Their debt would diminish in real terms and, if they issued Eurobonds, the threat of default would disappear. Their debt would suddenly become sustainable. Most of the burden of adjustment would fall on the countries that left the euro. Their exports would become less competitive and they would encounter stiff competition from the euro area in their home markets. They would also incur losses on their claims and investments denominated in euro. That would include the Target2 balances, unless the losses were shared as part of an amicable parting of ways.

The extent of their losses would depend on the extent of the depreciation; therefore they would have an interest in keeping the depreciation within bounds. After initial dislocations, the eventual outcome would fulfill John Maynard Keynes’ dream of an international currency system in which both creditors and debtors share responsibility for maintaining stability. And Europe would escape the looming depression.

By contrast, if Italy left, its euro-denominated debt burden would become unsustainable and it would have to be restructured. This would plunge the rest of Europe and the rest of the world into an uncontrollable financial meltdown. The collapse of the Euro would likely lead to the disorderly disintegration of the European Union and Europe would be left worse off than it had been when it embarked on the noble experiment of creating a European Union. So, if anyone must leave it should be Germany, not Italy.

There is a strong case for Germany to make a definitive choice whether to accept Eurobonds or to leave the euro. That is the case I came here to argue. The trouble is that Germany has not been put to the choice, and it has another alternative at its disposal: it can continue along the current course, always doing the minimum to preserve the euro, but nothing more. If my analysis is correct that is not the best alternative even for Germany, except perhaps in the very near term. Nevertheless, that is Chancellor Merkel’s preferred choice, at least until after the elections.

I reflected long and hard whether I should present my case now or wait until after the elections. In the end I decided to go ahead, based on two considerations. One is that events have their own dynamics and the crisis is likely to become more acute even before the elections. The Cyprus rescue proved me right. The other is that my interpretation of events is so radically different from the one that prevails in Germany that it will take time for it to sink in and the sooner I start the better.

Let me sum up my argument. I contend that Europe would be better off if Germany decided between accepting Eurobonds and leaving the euro than if it continued on its current course of doing the minimum to hold the euro together. That holds true whether Germany chose Eurobonds or exit; and it holds true not only for Europe but also for Germany, except perhaps in the very near term.

Which of the two alternatives is better for Germany is less clear-cut. Only the German electorate is qualified to decide. If a referendum were called today the euro skeptics would win hands down. But more intensive consideration could change people’s mind. They would discover that authorizing Eurobonds would actually benefit Germany and the cost of leaving the euro has been greatly understated.

To state my own views, my first preference is for Eurobonds; my second for Germany leaving the euro. Either choice is infinitely better than not making a choice and perpetuating the crisis. Worst of all would be for a debtor country, like Italy, to leave the euro because it would lead to the disorderly dissolution of the European Union.

I have made some surprising assertions; notably how well Eurobonds could work even without Germany. My pro-European friends simply cannot believe it. They can’t imagine a euro without Germany. I think they are conflating the euro with the European Union. The two are not identical. The European Union is the goal and the euro is a means to an end. Therefore the euro ought not to be allowed to destroy the European Union.

But I may be too rational in my analysis. The European Union is conflated with the euro not only in popular narratives but also in law. Consequently the European Union may not survive Germany leaving the euro. In that case we must all do what we can to persuade the German public to abandon some of its most ingrained prejudices and misconceptions and accept Eurobonds.

I should like to end by emphasizing how important the European Union is not only for Europe, but for the world. The EU was meant to be the embodiment of the principles of open society. That means that perfect knowledge is unattainable. Nobody is free of prejudices and misconceptions; nobody should be blamed for having made mistakes. The blame or Schuld begins only when a mistake or misconception is identified but not corrected. That is when the principles on which the European Union was built are violated. It is in that spirit that Germany should agree to Eurobonds and save the European Union.


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Spanish debt

Bloomberg :

The Reserve Fund of Social Security in 2012 increased their holdings of Spanish debt to 97% of total assets, up from 90% who had in late 2011.

Over 70% of purchases are recorded in the second half of 2012, according to Bloomberg points, after the critical moment when ECB President Mario Draghi, undertook to do “whatever it takes” to defend the euro. A message that helped ease the constraints and helped drive Spanish debt.

In 2007, the money invested in financial assets were divided fairly (50%) between Spanish debt and foreign debt, but this proportion began to change in 2008.

In September 2012, for the first time in history the government had to dip into the reserve fund to pay the payroll to pensioners. A total of 3,063 million euros were drawn from this instrument, to which were added to the 3,530 million in November Moncloa needed to fund the pension increases.

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Chipre : Corralito

Cortesía de Gurus Mundi

A nadie se le debería escapar que lo ocurrido en Chipre puede ser el camino a seguir en el resto de la periferia, y por tanto deberíamos interesarnos muy mucho por los detalles (residencia preferida del diablo) de ese corralito/confiscación. Una de las preocupaciones, obsesiones más bien diría yo, que deberían tener los inversores periféricos en estos momentos, es la de saber si se han afectado en Chipre todos los saldos depositados en los bancos, o por el contrario se ha confiscado solamente el dinero (un porcentaje real aún por calcular) que ha entrado efectivamente en sus balances.

Sin embargo resulta curioso ver y leer cómo prácticamente nadie se plantea hacer esa distinción entre dinero invertido en los productos de los bancos chipriotas (IPFs/depósitos y demás productos de inversión de los propios bancos), e inversiones en productos de terceros para los que los bancos actúan simplemente de meros depositarios y por tanto esas inversiones no entran en el balance contable del sistema bancario (fondos de inversión externos, acciones cotizadas, fondos de private equity, etc.). Pero esa diferenciación es clave a la hora de asumir el riesgo de que nos confisquen nuestros ahorros parcial o totalmente, o que se respeten íntegramente una vez concluído el corralito y los inversores puedan de nuevo hacer circular su dinero a donde deseen. Porque el corralito es esencialmente un bloqueo, pero lo que merma nuestra riqueza es la confiscación, conversión, etc. que se realice con nuestro dinero durante dicho bloqueo, como ya explicamos en “El Corralito empieza hoy“.Y si nuestras inversiones están realizadas fuera del balance de los bancos (aunque repito, estén depositadas en él), sólo sufriremos un bloqueo temporal, pero no una confiscación o afectación de su valor. Al menos siempre que las autoridades financieras respeten mínimamente el rigor contable y legislativo, porque el Eurogrupo y la Troika son capaces de saltarse a la torera cualquier norma de la contabilidad y/o legislación internacional, si con ello apagan alguno de los múltiples fuegos que nos/les rodean.

Pero toreos aparte, la pregunta el millón que debería hacerse todo inversor en estos momentos es: ¿Se han confiscado en Chipre también los activos invertidos en fondos de inversión, acciones, etc. que están fuera del balance de los bancos chipriotas? La respuesta es NO. Esa es la información que nos llega de primera mano, a través de dos gestoras de fondos de inversión de Moscú, una de las cuales es propiedad de un banco ruso, que tuvo ayer mismo una reunión informativa con su filial en Chipre para tratar éste y otros temas candentes.

Llegados a este punto debemos hacernos al menos dos preguntas más:

  1. ¿Debe este hecho (que se hayan respetado los activos depositados en los bancos chipriotas pero fuera de sus respectivos balances contables) hacernos sentir más seguros y confiados si nuestras inversiones están correctamente asignadas a activos que estén fuera del balance de nuestros respectivos bancos?
  2. ¿Es eso suficiente para preservar nuestro patrimonio?

Respondiendo a la primera, a priori sí, pero con toda la prudencia y cuarentena del mundo, porque lo que nos jugamos es algo tan importante como nuestro dinero, o sea, el futuro bienestar o malestar de nuestra Familia. Y toda precaución es poca, muy poca, porque la inseguridad jurídica de la UE es galopante, de auténtica república bananera.

Y respondiendo a la segunda, no, no es suficiente. Es decir, que deberíamos invertir en activos que estén fuera de los balances bancarios, pero haciéndolo (depositando dichos activos) en bancos en el extranjero, y no siendo el titular de nuestros activos un residente español, sino un vehículo financiero no perteneciente a la periferia europea. Por ejemplo, una cartera de inversiones en fondos de terceros depositada en un banco luxemburgués, alemán, suizo, etc. cuyo titular no sea un residente español sino un seguro o sociedad con entidad jurídica de esos países que están fuera del riesgo periférico.

Tomar todas estas medidas de seguridad no está al alcance de todos, obviamente. Pero con el asesoramiento adecuado está al alcance de muchos más de los que podría parecer. A partir de 250.000′-€ podemos encontrar ya vehículos luxemburgueses que protegen el patrimonio al darle titularidad luxemburguesa (no residente en España), y a la vez difieren la tributación como si de cualquier sicav o fondo de inversión traspasable se tratase, pero con diversas ventajas adicionales.

El pequeño ahorrador que no alcance esos 250.000, puede igualmente gestionar sus inversiones en activos fuera del balance bancario y depositándolos en bancos en el extranjero. Es cierto que esas carteras estarían en riesgo de confiscación si políticamente se decidiese afectar a todas las cuentas europeas de titularidad de residente español, y que ante eso debería añadirse el vehículo de inversión que le diese a la cartera una titularidad no residente en España, como hemos dicho antes. Pero por ejemplo en el caso chipriota, habrían sido ya suficientes para evitar la confiscación, dado que allí y por el momento, sólo se han afectado las cuentas con inversiones dentro del balance de los bancos (depósitos, etc), y ello sólo dentro de las fronteras de Chipre.

Las decisiones sobre el alcance de las medidas que se inflijan a la población en cada acción posterior que podamos sufrir en la Eurozona, dependerán del volumen de dinero que se pueda incautar en cada caso, y si ese volumen es suficiente o no para tapar el agujero financiero en cuestión. Si la mayoría de la población mantiene ingenuamente su dinero dentro de los balances de los bancos de su propio país (como ha sido en el caso de Chipre), con una afectación mayor o menor sobre los depósitos bancarios nacionales, habrá suficiente. Si no es así, se se irá más allá, y se afectará también a los activos fuera de balance bancario depositados en los bancos nacionales. Y si con ellos tampoco hay suficiente, porque la población ha tomado las medidas oportunas con anterioridad, incluso también a nivel europeo (o en orden inverso, primero dentro del balance a nivel europeo y por último afectar a los activos fuera de balance a nivel nacional e internacional). Pero afectar a cuentas en el extranjero, con titularidad no residente en el país afectado por la confiscación, y con inversiones fuera del balance del banco depositario, es hoy por hoy impensable.

¿Es un buen síntoma que en Chipre se hayan respetado los activos depositados en bancos del país, los cuales estén invertidos fuera de sus balances contables? Sí, pero no tanto por ser una muestra de respeto al rigor contable y la legalidad internacional, no. Más bien ha sido fruto de pillar a chipriotas y rusos por sorpresa, confiando en que papá BCE rescataría a esos bancos quebrados chipriotas -lo cual al fin y al cabo no deja de ser una pincelada de justicia, puesto que perderán su dinero los más incautos que confiaron su dinero a bancos insolventes-. En Chipre no ha hecho falta ir más allá, simplemente porque con esta medida han confiscado ya lo suficiente. Pero, como decía aquel, si en el próximo corralito hay que ir más allá en la confiscación, no os quepa la menor duda de que si hay que ir, se irá.

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Start ups en España


Founder & Chief investment Officer at DADATA Capital yDevelopment Chair San Francisco – Barcelona Sister Citites Committee durante su intervención en la inauguración de la aceleradora linktoGrowUp.

 ¿Cuál es la principal diferencia entre las start-ups de EEUU y las de nuestro país?

Los emprendedores de Silicon Valley sobre todo piensan a nivel global, a diferencia de los de aquí que suelen pensar más a nivel local.

¿Qué valores aportan los emprendedores de aquí al ecosistema mundial de start-ups?

Del mismo modo que cualquier emprendedor de otro país, los emprendedores de España se caracterizan por generar creatividad, innovación y crear puestos de trabajo, que ahora mismo, es lo más importante. Se generan más puestos de trabajo con las pequeñas y medianas empresas que en cualquier otro tipo de empresa y esto hoy en día es esencial.

¿En qué tipo de empresas se está inviertiendo actualmente en Silicon Valley? ¿Cuáles son los sectores de más éxito a nivel de inversión?

Esto realmente es una moda, pero los sectores en que más se está invirtiendo ahora son en software, social media, apps para la prevención de enfermedades, plataformas para mejorar las expectativas de vida, plataformas para digitalizar la información médica y sobre todo se ha dejado de invertir en hardware que a pasado a un segundo nivel porque es muy intensivo en capital.  Se está inviertiendo en sectores que son poco intensivos de capital.

¿Cuánto hace falta para que en España se alcance el nivel de inversión que alcanzan las start-ups de EEUU ?

Probablemente el tiempo que necesitan los emprendedores de éxito para convertirse en inversores, porque son los únicos que saben valorar las cosas de verdad. Sé que no es una respuesta muy políticamente correcta pero es la verdad.

¿Cuál es el camino para que las start-ups de aquí puedan acceder a capital en EEUU?

Primero hay que hacer los deberes, que son cumplir todos requisitos para ir a EEUU: tenir un buen equipo profesional, ser creativo e innovador -el copycat no sirve en Silicon Valley-, tener protegida la tecnología, a nivel de patentes o a través de otro sistema y tener una mentalidad global de cambiar el mundo.

Después de Silicon Valley, ¿cuál sería el siguiente centro neurálgico donde invertirías?

Bueno, yo invierto en España, porque es mi país y porque creo que hay mucho capital emprendedor. Creo que España es un país de futuro por varias razones, una de ellas es que contamos con las infraestructuras y contamos con una calidad de vida y un posicionamiento geográfico ideal para atraer talento. Le falta el desarrollo de la industria del capital del riesgo y el desarrollo y la sofisticación de los inversores, pero esto es debido simplemente a falta de tiempo.


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Seremos el Mercado Alemán de los 20

Cortesía de Gurus Mundi

La mayoría de empresarios, empleados, parados e incluso funcionarios de este país se preguntan hasta cuándo va a durar esta crisis, esta agonía para el Estado del Bienestar que azota a las economías domésticas y empresariales de forma aguda y persistente. Pero me temo que la respuesta no coincide con las esperanzas de la población español.

Y es que ante un escenario como el actual y un horizonte tan negro, que la población en general tome conciencia del desierto que le queda por cruzar, posiblemente resulte de poca ayuda. ¿De qué serviría que millones de personas se conciencien de que su futuro será aún peor que su presente durante muchos años? Qué utilidad tiene que los jubilados sepan con antelación que sus hijos van a tener que delinquir para alimentar a sus nietos, que el único puesto de trabajo que aún mantiene una familia va a desaparecer, que las condiciones de vida de las familias hoy austeras se convertirán próximamente en miserables y marginales, o que el empresario no va a poder seguir aguantando las pérdidas, y que la ruina de la compañía se llevará por delante el bienestar futuro de su familia, antaño acomodada.

No sirve de nada que nuestra clase media o media-alta tome conciencia de que su estatus morirá de sed e inanición en el desierto que tenemos ante nosotros. Tan sólo produciría una aceleración del proceso y un deterioro social aún mayor. Quizá podríamos compararlo con el hándicap que nos supondría conocer detalles de desgracias futuras, por ejemplo saber cuándo vamos a morir, o a qué edad sufriremos cáncer o un accidente. A veces de poco sirve conocer la desdicha futura, si va a ser inevitable. Podemos sacar provecho de saber que el futuro es incierto e incluso que el futuro será favorable, pero no siempre nos ayudará saber que nos espera la tragedia. Mantener la esperanza nos ayuda, eso lo saben bien los religiosos, incluso cuando no hay motivos objetivos para el optimismo, y dicha esperanza es fruto de la mera ignorancia.

Nuestro Estado del Bienestar vive en la permanente esperanza de la recuperación desde hace ya varios años. Desde los esperpénticos brotes verdes hasta las previsiones macroeconómicas tozuda y sistemáticamente erróneas. Pero ello no significa que estemos cerca de ninguna mejoría. Los planes de quienes pueden decidir cuándo se debe producir esta reactivación económica en la periferia de la Eurozona son otros. Y es que son el BCE y Alemania (con el permiso del resto de economías influyentes del planeta, como China, EE.UU. etc.) quienes decidirán cuándo países como el nuestro han purgado sus excesos lo suficiente. Cuándo nuestro endeudamiento se ha desapalancado lo suficiente, nuestros sueldos se han bajado hasta niveles competitivos, nuestros presupuestos públicos se han encogido y equilibrado bastante, nuestros bancos se sostienen por sí sólos, o nuestros inmuebles han caído hasta precios asequibles para los depauperados bolsillos de nuestra sociedad. Y para todo ello, obviamente, aún faltan muchos años de travesía del desierto.

La receta del Vicepresidente Económico de la UE, Olli Rehn, es diáfana: “El estímulo fiscal para España no es la respuesta“. Rehn adviertió la pasada semana, en un discurso pronunciado en Varsovia, que los países periféricos con elevado endeudamiento no pueden permitirse el lujo de tomar medidas contracíclicas. Las prioridades para estos países son aún la estabilización de los balances de sus bancos (en referencia específica a España) y evitar que la presión de los Mercados se haga insoportable (letal).

Para que los Mercados sigan dándonos vida, el fuego que hay que tratar de sofocar con prioridad absoluta es el del déficit público. ¿Por qué es éste el fuego prioritario que debemos apagar? Pues muy fácil, porque nadie en Europa está dispuesto a rescatar ni a España ni a Italia. Y hoy por hoy el único que nos mantiene vivos, aunque a un sólo paso del precipicio o default, es Mr. Market, a quien le importa muchísimo si las cuentas del país cuadran o no, como no podría ser de otro modo. Por tanto, la receta europea para la periferia es seguir encogiendo el gasto público y aumentando la presión fiscal, para que el déficit no espante a nuestro único salvador.

La traducción de todo esto viene a ser que el enfermo está tan, tan, tan grave, que lo que hay que hacer por el momento es evitar que se muera por un paro cardiorespiratorio o por un fallo multiorgánico. Y más adelante, cuando el riesgo de muerte inminente -default, ruptura de la Eurozona o rescate masivo periférico(?)- se haya reducido, ya le trataremos sus enfermedades por orden de gravedad. Rehn lo dice bien claro, no estamos en condiciones de permitirnos reducir impuestos para reactivar nuestra economía, ni de tomar ninguna otra medida contracíclica, sencillamente porque estamos casi desahuciados y no tenemos tiempo. Nos estamos muriendo y, unsorprendentemente aún confiado Mr. Market repleto de inversores institucionales desorientados por el New Normal, no nos va a medicar ni a intubar, porque su función es precisamente la contraria. No olvidemos que los carroñeros son una parte esencial e higiénica de la cadena de la vida, y también de la Economía, porque reciclan los deshechos de los débiles y enfermos que quedan en el camino, para la reutilización de los recursos. Cruel, sí, pero salubre. Por tanto, o cuadramos nuestras cuentas a la desesperada o Mr. Market nos desahuciará y la Eurozona estallará en pedazos.

Probablemente Alemania y la Troika confíen en que la sociedad periférica, en esta generación educada en el bienestar, soporte las penurias del desierto con disturbios moderados. Al fin y al cabo estamos hablando de españoles e italianos básicamente (Portugal y Grecia pesan mucho menos), con un nivel de formación y tejido social muchísimo más resistente que el existente por ejemplo en latinoamérica o en África. Y eso es lo que nos va a hacer, nos está ya haciendo, admirablemente resilientes y dignos ante un empobrecimiento brutal, que generaría mucha más violencia callejera y delincuencia generalizada en cualquier sociedad a medio alfabetizar. Probablemente por eso la Europa del Norte confía en que nuestra sociedad educada y ex-rica del sur aguante el chaparrón, sin generar primaveras periféricas que desahuciarían el proyecto europeo de un plumazo. Como ya advertimos hace 4 años, el tejido social no podrá sobrevivir mucho más tiempo a este desierto sin graves disturbios, porque aún no se intuye su final, y estamos paliando temporalmente la zozobra sólo a base de esperanza e inercias del extinto Estado del Bienestar.

Este parece ser el plan, si se le puede llamar así, trazado por el corazón centroeuropeo y sus economías dominantes. Y si conseguimos sobrevivir a este desierto en el que nos abandona Alemania, el futuro podrá volver a ser de una Europa tal y como la conocemos. Pero ojo, estamos hablando de que la periferia vuelva a crecer con fuerza dentro de una generación, porque la actual se va a perder, está ya perdida aunque no seamos conscientes de ello. Y para volver a emerger tardaremos quizá dos décadas desde que la deuda colapsó nuestra economía, ya hace más de un lustro. Los españoles estamos pasando de ser nuevos ricos a ser los pobres de siempre, purgando y sufriendo hasta que llegue nuestra segunda oportunidad. Y Alemania esperará paciente y atenta a nuestro deterioro, porque ese mercado creciente de 250 millones de consumidores de clase media que necesita su economía está hoy en barbecho, pagando sus excesos y preperando el que va a ser de nuevo el gran mercado para Alemania en los años 20, pero esta vez del s. XXI.

El Norte y su fortaleza económica escribe el guión, y el depauperado Sur lo suscribe y lo sufre aplicadamente desde la ignorancia. Así se está escribiendo la Historia de Europa. Las guerras de antaño parece que afortunadamente dejan paso a batallas financieras, de competitividad y de flujos económicos. Y para seguir formando parte de la Eurozona, a los latinos nos toca perder aún muchas batallas durante años. La periferia de la Eurozona será perdedora, o no será. Y es que de otro modo quizá pudiéramos ser dueños de nuestro propio destino, pero no en la Eurozona conocida. Aviso a navegantes e inversores para los próximos lustros.

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