What is a Tech Entrepreneur and ARE YOU ONE???

I am back with a vengeance – talking about my passion: Tech Entrepreneurship

In today’s video I cover the basic questions – what is a Tech Entrepreneur, and are YOU ONE?

What are the traits of a Tech Entrepreneur and what should you know going in? Watch to find out!

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20 Years A Tech Entrepreneur

It’s time to get back on track!

I’m coming up to 20 years as a tech entrepreneur. That means founding or co-founding startups. Some worked, some didn’t. Watch this into to me and subscribe to get new videos where I will go over the entrepreneurs journey and how you can create your own successful business! Be in for the long haul.

Read about my first company – Speirtech – here: https://bwnews.pr/3kiLCk3

Read the Forbes.com article about me here: https://bit.ly/35CdNq1

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Your Mother or Your Life

I have been a ‘Permanent Resident’ (at least that’s what my visa says) of Japan for 7 years. I pay tax here, I pay social security here. This is the only country on earth where I have a home and health care. My business is here.

But in the eyes of the Japanese government, I am suddenly undesirable. My ability to have free movement is restricted. This is because of a new ruling during these times of Covid19 that says that ‘foreigners’ – regardless of whether they are Permanent Resident (PR) Visa holders or not – are not allowed to re-enter Japan if they leave.

At the present time, even by the Japanese government’s own number, there are 200,000(!) foreign PRs stuck outside of Japan. The tales you can easily find online are shocking. Even though they are not allowed re-entry into Japan – where they have jobs, spouses, children, houses – they are legally required to pay social security (which can only be paid from within Japan) or face legal repercussions. Some have inevitably lost their jobs, having been stuck outside of Japan for 4 months now. Some have lost their homes or apartments. 

On the other side, some are also facing deportation from the country they are stuck in. But deportation to where? Japan will not let them in – even though this is their legal home. If these people are put on a plane to Japan, once they land they are refused entry and sent back to….no one knows.

To be clear, these people are not facing a quarantine upon arrival. They face a ban on entry. They are sent back. There are verified stories of foreign spouses arriving in Japan with their Japanese spouse and children and the foreigner not being allowed entry while the wife and children are.

Japanese citizens are free to come and go as they please. They face no legal measures to even make them quarantine upon arrival. In Japan there is no legal basis to control the population, so no lockdowns have ever happened. Yet foreign RESIDENTS are seen as a threat.

It is worth restating that we are not talking about foreign tourists. We are talking about RESIDENTS.

Aside from the personal disruption and devastation, the impacts are being felt economically. If a company has it’s Asian headquarters here invariably they will have foreign workers. If those workers happened to be outside of Japan on April 2nd, when this ban went into place, they cannot return. Because of the uncertainty that this ban his instilled in the business community, foreign companies are starting to leave Japan. Several prominent media and service companies have already started to shift to Hong Kong or Singapore as a more secure (Hong Kong! More secure than Japan!) place to do business.

For me, there is a personal toll: my 88-year-old mother lives alone in Canada. Normally I visit her 3 times a year and spend 6 weeks at a time there, giving her assistance and company. Because of this ban, I cannot go because I do not know if I would EVER be let back into Japan. And I have no health care coverage in Canada, so what happens if I get sick? I cannot be repatriated to Japan, my legal place of residence.

Japan is one of the few countries on earth – and the ONLY G7 country – to have such a ban in place. Not even New Zealand – famous for their measures during Covid19 – stopped Permanent Residents from re-entering.

I would call on the foreign press, and foreign governments, to try to exert some pressure on Japan to change this ruling. At the very least a ban on Japanese tourists should be put in place, as they pose an imminent health risk – they can travel freely, even to high-infection-rate areas – and then arrive in your country. 98% of the population in Japan is Japanese Nationals (one of the highest ratios in the world), yet the other 2% is seen as a threat to disease. If I travel to Canada with my Japanese wife, she would be allowed re-entry to Japan where I would not, despite the fact that we would have been exposed to the same environments while outside Japan.

There is no excuse for what Japan is doing here, this is shameful, disgraceful, and immoral. The only reason that they are banning foreign residents from entering Japan from countries where Japanese nationals are allowed to go is xenophobia. This is a disgusting political maneuver from the Japanese government to show its populations that it’s doing something. There isn’t a rational and scientific reason to do that for the so-called prevention against the virus since the protocol used for the Japanese nationals coming back to Japan could have been EQUALLY applied for the foreign residents.

Countries will have to seriously reconsider the relations they have not only with China but also Japan. Those countries are just not trustable and they operate without any respect for mutual agreements. Japanese residents in Canada are treated fairly and equally, and the least we can ask is reciprocity from Japan. But they are not civilized enough to understand that apparently and always operate for their own benefits when they need to do so violating mutual trust. It’s enough to give them a free pass.

I love living in Japan. I love the Japanese people. But their government sees me as something not worth having (though worth taking money from) and it has ever so slightly soured my feelings towards this country. Hopefully, they will take action soon to not just remove this ban but legally ensure that it doesn’t ever happen again. I call on the nations and media of the world to highlight this situation. 200,000 people would be grateful.

Why the death of Anthony Bourdain should mean something to you

The last article I wrote on here was about how the death of Anthony Bourdain should mean nothing to you. In a sense I was wrong.

The article was written as a (perhaps knee-jerk) reaction to all the posts I was reading about how the death of the TV Chef would leave a hole in their life. This, experience tells us, is probably going to be untrue. For a moment you may worry that there will be no new shows of Bourdain’s. Maybe you will binge watch old ones. But someone else will come along to fill your time, if that was what you are worried about.

At the time of his death, I had literally never heard of Bourdain. I don’t live in America. I am not American. I do not watch a lot of American reality TV. But in the weeks and months since his death I’ve read a lot about Bourdain and this article is about why his death should mean something to you.

Bourdain (it seems) was a restless traveler. A troubled person with an immense appetite for life. If his death – and life – are to mean anything it should be not that all of a sudden there is one less TV show in the world but that all of a sudden there is one less explorer. One less person looking to understand the peoples of this earth. One less person not driven to isolate himself but – even against his shy nature – to embrace the world.

I ask of you – what are you doing to honour the death of this man you mourn? Are you getting out of your comfort zone? Seeing more of the world – and not from the deck of a cruise ship? Talking to more peoples of the world – even the ones who you can only communicate to in gestures?

Recently I spent 6 weeks living in a remote Maori village in New Zealand. It was an exchange, of sorts. I was there to spark ideas about using the internet for autonomy and they were there – perhaps unbeknownst to them – to spark my heart and soul back into reality. Away from the myopic focus on my business to a more holistic – and whole – view of what this world can offer me and what little I can to give back to it.

I’d like to think that a small, shot-glass, sized amount of the spirit of Anthony Bourdain has crept into me.

I am grateful he was in the world, not as a maker of TV shows but as an example of living. That he couldn’t take it any more should not be a detterent to those of us left behind.

Why the death of Anthony Bourdain should mean nothing to you

This article is in no way a comment on Anthony Bourdain.
I love food and love cooking and love travel. I’d never seen (or even heard of) Anthony Bourdain until an alert came across my phone from the BBC that he was dead. And that apparently he had committed suicide.
I read some things about him and he seems interesting enough and I might go back and read and watch more. And I think it is incredibly sad when someone reaches a level of ‘success’ that he seems to have reached and still feels that life is worth living.
Like with the death of Robin Williams I wonder what the knock-on on effect will be – the whole “if he doesn’t see the point, what about someone like me”?
And that is why I am here to say that the life and death of Anthony Bourdain mean nothing to you. Bourdain had his own life, lived his own way. His level of outward success might inspire you to follow your own path to a level of success, but it should not make you feel that whatever gains you have made have been for nothing because he felt he could not go on, despite his successes. You do not walk in his shoes, suffer his demons, attain his successes. That was all him.
What you can do is more important because it is within your own life. No matter how many awards Bourdain received, you still had to get out of bed in the morning and do whatever you do. No matter how many times Bourdain faltered, it takes nothing away from the accomplishments you’ve had. The times that you’ve shone, be it in a small or a big way.
This is the dirty underbelly of celebrity – when someone raised so high by society is not ripped down but of their own volition ends their life we are left with this void. The whys. This is why you can’t let your self-worth or your happiness depend on the two-dimensional representation of another human being. We might – will – never really know what was going on inside Bourdain’s head. And there is no reason why we should.
You can make your own successes. You can conquer your own demons. You may use others as inspiration but never use them as a measuring stick to decide if your own life measured up.
I have nothing but sympathy for those around Bourdain, his friends, and family – including his girlfriend Asia Argento, whom I met briefly years ago. When someone in your life commits suicide it is a tragedy.
But please, just remember, Bourdain was not in your life.

Customer Service – How to infuriate your customers

A great way to infuriate your customers is to send them form letters that hint that you could answer them, but really you can’t be bothered and that they are just generic “actors” you meet along the way to making lots of money.

We only, usually, contact customer service when something goes wrong. It is exactly at this point a company can choose to make you feel like a person or a number.

Imagine that you take your kid to the hospital. They’re sick. The doctors wheel them away and return a few hours later saying, “sorry, your child died”. Horrible, right? Your reaction would probably be to ask “what happened?”.

Imagine the doctor’s reply is something like “in children, there can be various causes of disease or trauma. Some of these diseases, or traumas, may not be able to be resolved. In some cases, the end result of this is that the child dies. We, as doctors, do everything we can to help the child. Just because the child died does not mean there was a problem with the child. Or that in future, if you bring in other children, they will die.”

That doesn’t answer your question, does it? That any human being would think this answers the question is madness.

Yet, this is exactly the kind of customer service I received from Western Union. Yes, people sometimes still have to send money by Western Union to reach remote parts of the world. I tried to do this. I created a transfer online and paid by credit card. Some hours later I received this email

Dear PHILIP SMY,

Money Transfer Control Number [MTCN] is: xxxx

We have received your order, however, we regret we are unable to process your transaction at this time. Unfortunately, your order has not been authorized by Western Union and we are unable to complete your money transfer.

If you feel this action is in error or have further questions as to why your transaction was declined, please contact us by email at customerservice@westernunion.com, by phone at 800 336 4597, or visit a Western Union Agent location.

You can find an Agent location on www.westernunion.ca.

Thank you for using Western Union!

First of all “if you feel this action is in error”…well… no kidding. I asked for a transfer and you said no. Of COURSE I think it’s an error.

Second, my god, I hate when people say something like “Thanks for using Western Union” when in fact it was a complete balls up! “Thanks for visiting the hospital!”

So, of course, I asked for details. That’s when they hit me with the “your child died, but that doesn’t mean anything” response.

Dear Phil Smy

We would like to extend our most sincere apologies for the inconvenience this matter has caused you.

Please be informed that sending money has to go through the verification process. You may have been able to send money before to the same person and location but this does not guarantee that all of your transactions will automatically go through. Please note that every transaction is being reviewed in a case to case basis. It is the system that decides whether the transaction is approved or declined. Moreover, your transaction being declined doesn’t also mean that you are being blocked from using our service. You can try sending the money again but straight approval is not a guarantee.

We understand your concern and frustration, we must mention that after a customer requests a transaction online, the transaction is sent to a risk engine. Based on defined rules, the risk engine automatically declines risky transactions, approves genuine transactions and refers some transactions to our Digital Review Team for manual reviews and customer interviews (if needed) by phone. In some instances, our risk engine cannot make decisions by itself. Your transaction was being under review by our Digital Review Team, unfortunately they determine to cancel it. To protect our customers we have strict security measures in place for online payments. We recommend you to resend the transaction and be aware that a live representative can be calling you shortly to complete the validation process or you can contact us immediately after you sent the money transfer to check the status of the same.

Please do not hesitate to contact us as soon as possible so we further assist you. Your kindly comprehension and patience is highly appreciated.

Our customer care team is dedicated in providing you with assistance you need and can be contacted 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We can be reached at our toll free number 1-800-325-6000 or email us directly at customercare@westernunion.com.

Sincerely,

Western Union Customer Care

That is a lot of writing to say “we didn’t do it”. There is no “reason” in there. Yes, there are possible reasons. But no reason in my case. I wasn’t asking for a paper I am researching. I want to know about MY CASE.

Also, come on Western Union, can’t you write proper English? “Your kindly comprehension”….what?! And “unfortunately they determine to cancel it.” This was in the past, so, I think you mean “determined”.

This kind of customer service is further proof that companies just don’t get it. Western Union, of all people, should be doing everything humanly possible to keep customers happy. They are a measure of last resort – this is the age of PayPal and cryptocurrency!

Treat your customers like people. Listen to their questions and actually answer them. It’s not rocket science. If you “don’t have the resources” to do this then why do you “have the resources” to take on new customers. Customers are not ATMs, there to give you money. They are people trying to solve a problem by using your services.

My Year In Crypto #2 – Crypto Confusion

In this episode, you can literally watch my brain spinning as I try to understand a fundamental concept – what is the relationship between the “white paper” of a cryptocurrency and the “coin” of that currency that you buy on an exchange.

The white paper I refer to is the one for “EOS” a supposedly exciting coin and good investment opportunity.

Interested in trading CryptoCurrency yourself? Next episode I will discuss opening accounts…but one exchange I highly recommend is BiNance!

My Year in Crypto #1 – What is Crypto Currency?

I’d heard about it. I’d ignored it. I looked into BitCoin in 2010! I’d even mined, but thought it was too slow and at the time it was worth nothing. It was like doing SETI.

Even as late as last year friends asked me if it was a good investment and I had to honestly say I had no idea.
Some people say now it’s too late. But, I’ve made a career of being late to the party, so I’m going to spend 2018 looking at and investing in, crypto currency. Every month I will invest at least $500 of my own money into different AltCoins. So that’s about $6000 for the year. Let’s see if crypto can beat my regular stock investments, in which last year I made 29.4%.
I am a buy and hold kind of guy, so I don’t envision me getting into day trading – I’m also too busy to do that!
I hope you’ll follow along and watch me either lose $6000 or gain and learn about this exciting investment area.
But before I start on that adventure I thought I’d prepare a little background
So what is CryptoCurrency and what is BitCoin – the grand-daddy of them all?
Back in 2008 BitCoin was announced. Its intention was to succeed where others had failed. Namely, in creating an alternative to government-backed cash. This was not the first time it had been tried, and you could argue that even PayPal was an attempt at this. But, the difference that BitCoin held was the decentralized nature of it. It was peer to peer sharing. It was the BitTorrent, the Napster, of money. BitCoin, and all AltCoins/CryptoCurrencies are simply abstract representations of value. Like your bank account. Your bank account is not a little pile of money in the corner of a building somewhere. Your bank account is rows in a database. The only person who really knows what is in your bank account is your bank.
So to that extent, BitCoin is no different. Except that BitCoin’s database is something called the BlockChain, which is a decentralized database of ALL transactions having to do with BitCoin. So everyone knows how much money is in your bank account. It can’t be fudged or faked because all these records are spread across the world, reconciled and confirmed through strong cryptographic means.
So whereas the bank can go in and change your records, with BlockChain currencies – CryptoCurrencies – that is impossible.
CryptoCurrencies have 5 transactional differences over the current cash system:
  1. Irreversible: After confirmation, a transaction can‘t be reversed. By nobody. And nobody means nobody. Not you, not your bank, not the president of the United States, not Satoshi, the unknown inventor of bitcoin, not some BitCoin miner in Guangzhou. Nobody. If you send money, you send it. Period. No one can help you, if you sent your funds to a scammer or if a hacker stole them from your computer. There is no safety net.
  2. Pseudonymous: Neither transactions nor accounts are connected to real-world identities. You receive Bitcoins on so-called addresses, which are randomly seeming chains of around 30 characters. While it is usually possible to analyze the transaction flow, it is not necessarily possible to connect the real world identity of users with those addresses. — This is an area I am curious about as it seems that if you give someone your address they should be able to search the blockchain for your “bank balance”.
  3. Global: Transaction are propagated nearly instantly in the network and are cryptographically confirmed over time. Since they happen in a global network of computers they are completely indifferent of your physical location. It doesn‘t matter if I send Bitcoin to my neighbour or to someone on the other side of the world. Ironically, this way of doing it is actually the area of concern that has opened up the whole AltCoin market, as they often offer faster and cheaper ways to confirm the transactions.
  4. Secure: Cryptocurrency funds are locked in a public key cryptography system. Only the owner of the private key can send cryptocurrency. Strong cryptography and the magic of big numbers makes it impossible to break this scheme. A Bitcoin address is more secure than Kim Jong Un’s stash of candy bars.
  5. Permissionless: You don‘t have to ask anybody to use cryptocurrency. It‘s just a software that everybody can download for free. After you installed it, you can receive and send Bitcoins or other cryptocurrencies. No one can prevent you. There is no gatekeeper.
Also, a key monetary difference is that most (if not all) cryptocurrencies are limited in their supply. Unlike cash, which can be printed willy-nilly (ask someone in Zimbabwe!), the technology limits the number of AltCoins that will ever be available.
I’m not going to get into all the technical details behind all this. It’s not totally relevant to us as investors at this point in time.
People talk of BitCoin being a bubble, one who’s time has already passed. That may or may not be true for BitCoin as a commodity, but I think that the concept of CryptoCurrency is here to stay. It is a technologically-backed paradigm shift. We can see a clear evolution towards it – from PayPal to mobile payment systems like mPesa. To call the whole thing a bubble or a fad is akin to back 100 years ago when the horse and buggy industry said that the automobile was a fad. Personally, I can already see that BitCoin, specifically, will not be used as a standardized payment method. The transaction costs are too high. BitCoin is more like gold – a way to store value. Other AltCoins have come along and have a much better chance at being a cash substitute. But more on that in other videos.
In short – a CryptoCurrency is any “value exchange” ledger based on a decentralized cryptographic system.
So that’s it. In the next video I’ll show you how to invest in AltCoins and what I’ve already invested in.
I am not asking for you to pay to follow me, and I’m not saying what I will do will be of any value to copy. I’m not starting a “AltCoin” investment newsletter. I am an experienced investor, and experienced in tech startups. But I’m not going to sell you the idea that I have cracked the way to make money in CryptoCurrency.
If you want to join in on the fun, leave some comments below with your investment ideas. And let’s learn together.

Oh Canada.

It never ceases to amaze me how Canada, and Canadians, have permitted the corporations and politicians to weight the laws in favour of corporate greed over human requirements.
 
25 years ago Philip Howard published his great book “The Death of Common Sense: How Law Is Suffocating America“. Reading it at the time I took some small comfort that Canada was not that way. I left Canada 20 years ago, and returning now for extended stays I see that in fact Common Sense has truly up and died in Canada as well.
Canada was charmed and bullied by corporations and politicians alike, all in the name of progress. And now we are left with the hostile, uncaring, faceless “press 1 for poor service, press 2 for worse service” culture that everyone bemoans.
 
Complaining to your friends is good. Complaining to the organisations better. Organising opposition is best. But already the law is so heavily on the side of companies that opposition becomes risky. From independent milk producers risking jail to home power enthusiasts, Canada has become a bizarre place that touts it’s freedom while cowering in the corner.
 
Yes, it is worse in <insert country of choice>, but just because next door you get poked with a stick in both eyes doesn’t mean that getting poked with a stick in one eye at home is something to be proud of.

Customer Service…the hint is in the name

For most of the year I live in Japan. Japan has some of the best customer service I’ve experienced in my time and travels on this great Earth of ours.

But, I also spend a lot of time in my native Canada. Canada has this reputation of being peopled by “nice” people, and they treat everyone so “nice”. This is an illusion that we, as Canadians, love to believe in. But, the truth is, Customer Service in Canada is pretty poor.

Here’s my experience from today.

I thought I’d treat myself to a movie. Last week I did the same. Hey, it’s cheap on Tuesdays down at the local Cineplex. Last week I had the whole Canadian experience: bought myself a Tim Horton‘s donut and coffee and went to the movies. I sat in the lobby of the Cineplex, drank a little coffee, exchanged some pleasantries with the “nice” staff and then went in, complete with coffee, to catch Baby Driver. Nice!

This week I thought I’d repeat the experience. I went to Tim Horton’s got my coffee and cookie and headed to the Cineplex. So pleased was I at last week’s experience I even had signed up for their “Scene” card!

But, like a scene from Lord of the Rings, I was greeted by the gatekeeper. A troll that informed me that I had a choice to make: the coffee or the movie. I explained that last week I took the coffee in with me. The gatekeeper said that was impossible as they have a strict “no outside drinks” policy.

Customer Service Tip #1: never call the customer a liar. Even if you are sure they are (btw I wasn’t lying)

I said “OK, I’ve already got my coffee so I’ll refund the ticket”. Gatekeeper said ok and sent me to the ticket desk. Times are tough for the Cineplex because they seemingly can’t afford to have any staff. There was no one at the ticket desk. I had to go to the concession counter (where a group of rather rotund staff were snacking). After waiting in line so that customers could get their food and drink I was served. A senior member of staff had to come over to do the refund. I once again explained the situation. He shrugged.

It was here they missed a trick: they could have said, ok, last week was a mistake but since you’re already here and have a coffee just go in. But please know that normally we don’t allow in outside food and drink.

Customer Service Tip #2: if the customer wants something that costs you nothing, give it to them.

The manager then proceeded to take this wonderful opportunity to TRAIN THE JUNIOR STAFF. It took forrreeevveerrrr to get the refund.

I left the cinema, coffee in hand, and tweeted the following:

After doing some other things, I got back home. I had a response to my tweet!

I find Twitter to be the best medium to contact customer support. I was happy! Maybe I would get some recognition of the situation. Well done Cineplex!

Customer Service Tip #3: The customer wants to be acknowledged

So I sent a DM back with the details.

I thought they would say sorry and do something that costs them close to nothing: credit my scene card with a movie visit (note: not give a free movie) and push me 1 movie closer to the Buy 10 get 1 free. In other words, give me a 10th of a movie – which on a Tuesday would be worth 59 cents!

See Customer Service Tip #2, above.

Here’s there response:

Hi Phil, Thanks for getting back with additional information! We sincerely apologize as your recent visit with us was not satisfactory. We do have a strict outside food policy that all of our theatre locations have to abide by. We apologize for the miscommunication during your recent visits and have forwarded your concerns to the theatre management team for coaching purposes, as we do not want a situation such as this to ever reoccur in the future. Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

I was shocked. I didn’t tweet as a way of helping them update their employee handbook!

I responded:

Your definition and mine of strict is different I guess because employees don’t seem to be informed of this ‘strict’ policy consistently.
I appreciate that as a potential customer my time is of literally no value to you (as you have demonstrated) but a goodwill gesture that would cost cineplex nothing would have gone a long way.

Shall we step back a minute and look at this policy?

All of us know why this policy is in place.

It is not to protect the cinemas from damage – Cineplex are more than happy for you to take THEIR food and drink into the cinema. The policy is in place to force you into buying food and drink from their concession stand. Given time I’m sure Cineplex could come up with other reasons – perhaps to prevent you from bringing in alcohol, though presumably you would smuggle alcohol in, not carry it openly and as they don’t search you on the way in its not an effective rule for that.

So we all know. It’s a rule to make them more money. It does nothing for you, the customer.

Customer Service Tip #4: If your policies aren’t a legal requirement or making things better for the customer, you should start to question those policies.

I know what some of you will say. Wow, Phil, this is a real First World Problem. Boo hoo, you couldn’t take your coffee into your afternoon matinee.

But that is not, in fact, the point. I don’t think it is a First World Problem.

The idea of good customer service should not be something we’re grateful for. It should be the standard operating procedure for companies. How did we get to the stage where we sit and take it (and grumble about it) and then go into work and dish it out? It has become ‘normal’ to get crap service. We used to complain when we got bad service, now we are amazed when we get good.

We accept (but bemoan) Robocalls. Misleading advertising for financial products. Fear based drug pushing on TV. Rude and inattentive staff in banks. Defective merchandise at the big box store.

It is days like today and experiences like this that make me shake my head and pity the state of things in the True North Strong and Free. We might be a kinder, gentler nation, but we are being preyed upon by corporations who see us as simply sheep to be sheared and then slaughtered (and if you think I’m exaggerating as someone who was pitched a reverse mortgage and then lost their house).

Ok. Rant over.

At least I got my Tim Horton’s coffee*

 

 

 

*(another myth Canadians love to believe: Tim Horton’s is Canadian. It’s not. Your money goes to a faceless Brazilian corporation. Sorry, Canada.)