Categories
Politics

6 ways to defend your freedom in hard times

A few of my friends called me out because I raised the alarm with my previous post of freedom. They said I didn’t offer any specific solutions about how to defend your freedom in democratic regimes.

This only works if you have elected officials representing your best interests. The more fragile the democracy, the less power we have as individuals to influence things.

Reach out to your immediate community and friends

Before taking more extreme measures or committing to more time, reach out to your friends and immediate community and assess the situation. See if others feel the same way. It’s easier to find support, and take the next steps as a group. There’s so many ways to connect and organize nowadays, so I won’t get into that. Email / phone numbers are usually a good idea to have, in case you need to move people off social networks and onto other channels.

Privately reach out to your representative

You’re living in a democracy, so you elect people to represent you at local, regional and national level. Find out who your representative is and start reaching out to them and express your concerns. Do it in a calm, articulate way and be respectful. Ask for help and show that you are not alone in feeling that your freedom is being threatened.

If they don’t respond, use public channels, like Social Media, to continue reaching out to them until they take notice. Here being more that a handful of people helps a lot. Interject existing social conversations and prevent them from carrying out their comms plans while ignoring you.

Look at how existing grassroots organizations do this. Learn from activists.

Gather public support

While you are working on the official outreach, it can be a good idea to start a petition. This is a good way to get your voice heard and get like-minded people to rally together. It will amplify your impact beyond your friends and family group. This is the place where there’s strength in numbers.

At this point, you should consider starting a group/newsletter/community, so you can better organize people that feel their freedom is threatened. This will enable you to take coordinated action, managed decision making, keep people informed of latest progress.

Find existing communities that defend freedom and democracy

It’s also a good idea to get in touch with non-profits that defend democracy and can help you defend your freedom. Thankfully, we have a lot of these in the US. They can help you connect with people with similar concerns, have experience battling abuse on this topic and have tools that you can’t easily access.

Take visible action consistently

It takes time and commitment to defend your freedom. You need to have a cadence of staging protests on visible properties/channels, petitions, press coverage, legal action and other tools your local non-profit can help with.

You need to keep doing it for a significant period of time – weeks or months, or until the threat is removed. People will stop abusive action if they are called out and there is consequence – either reputational, political, or, if the legal framework permits, constitutional.

Celebrate victories with your network

This is a very important step. Celebrate every new supporter, new piece of coverage or reply from your representatives. If you manage to get legal wins, celebrate those too. Keep spirits up during hard times by doing this consistently.

These are just a few ways you can start protecting your freedom. If you feel this will put you or your family in immediate danger, try to rally a bigger support group before going out on your own. Stay safe and stay free.

Photo by Katie Rodriguez on Unsplash

Categories
Change Management Politics

Freedom in the time of COVID-19

For the first time in decades, our freedom is under threat again. This time, it’s not even a human-made one, but a virus that’s infecting people at an accelerated rate.

Governments around the world have hit their big, red panic buttons. They have stopped tourism, travel, closed borders altogether and have severely restricted freedom of movement. Some have gone as far as enacting military orders and curfews.

History all over again

While some think this is justified by the imminent danger of a pandemic, I can’t but see how much power decision-makers are harboring over everyone. A part of the population is begging government to intervene because they can’t self-organize.

People fail to remember the 30s, which gave rise to nationalist regimes and eventually WWII. That was a time of economic crunch, much like we will have in the upcoming years.

People also fail to remember or ignore what communism did in Eastern Europe and other places in the world. There, up until 1989, the government and their cronies dictated who could do what, when, how much you could buy and from where, what to think, do, publish, travel etc. Retrospectives with and for those who lived through those times might help with remembering all of this.

I hope this time we’ll look back and not allow narrow-minded, aggressive leaders to pit country vs country based on COVID-19 responses, quarantine measures and numbers of infections.

So yeah, it’s going to get worse before it gets better. We’ll remember the freedom of 1990 – 2020 fondly, when we could travel to most countries around the world and there were little restrictions in place.

The next 10-15 years will be interesting to watch, with the world becoming an increasingly divided place – even with the coronavirus pandemic solved by vaccines.

The price of freedom

Let’s talk about freedom for a bit. Do you value freedom, or would you rather be safe?

If you don’t value freedom, then close this window and go back and wait further instructions from Big Brother.

If you do value it, have you ever asked yourself what is the price you’d pay to defend that freedom? Or the price you pay for having it?

I have. I will always prefer a system that recommends and allows people to decide for themselves over an oppressive, overstepping leadership that uses guns to dictate policies. Think about it, they tell you it’s temporary. Then elections come and those get postponed. They might cancel elections altogether, to avoid the risk of contamination. This is in spite of the fact that we have tools and technologies to vote online – with face recognition, fingerprinting and document verification with liveness checks. Would you then defend your freedom?

Something to think about while in shelter-in-place vs military orders to stay in your houses, depending on your country. Think about your governments and decision makers. Do they deserve to be given power again or if you much rather give that power to better people?

Stop cheering for imposed restrictions, cheer for people freely electing to protect others. These imposers are only gaining confidence every day that they can take a little more freedom, and people will still be ok with it.

Photo by Toni Lluch on Unsplash

Categories
Politics Startups Venture Capital

“I’m sorry I’m not rich enough to try to get rich”: Accredited Investor status in the US

I’m getting ready to invest my first real money into a company and a team I believe in a lot. I’ve dabbled in venture capital with Republic and with ICOs, but up until now my tickets have been small, like money you would spend on a trip or a nicer dinner.

I wanted to share my learnings from this process and show, in simple words, that non-accredited investors can get in on early stage ventures.

For those who don’t know, the US is probably one of the most protective countries when it comes to capital and investment. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regulates very strictly what investors and entrepreneurs can and can’t do when it comes to raising money, offering investment opportunities and funding.

Here’s the Investopedia definition of an accredited investor:

An accredited investor is a person or a business entity who is allowed to deal in securities that may not be registered with financial authorities. They are entitled to such privileged access if they satisfy one (or more) requirements regarding income, net worth, asset size, governance status or professional experience. The term is used by the SEC to refer to investors who are financially sophisticated and have a reduced need for the protection provided by regulatory disclosure filings. 

Sometimes, these regulations feel like they are too strict.

For example, if you’re a high earning individual, with ample savings, a diversified portfolio of assets – stock, SAFE notes, real estate, REITs, private equity via JOBS act, that’s not enough to be qualified as an accredited investor.

To become accredited, you have to do one of the following:

  • have an income of more than $200,000/year (single) or $300,000 (married, filing jointly) for two years in a row
  • have a net worth of over $1M (excluding your primary residence)

While I understand some people might need to be protected from themselves, and be stopped from investing in scams / con artists, I can’t understand why the thresholds are so strict. If you make $190,000 / $290,000 or are worth $900,000, you still don’t qualify, even though by all means you can be as sophisticated, or even more sophisticated than someone who, for example, inherited most of their net worth that’s over $1M. That’s not really fair, is it?

Fortunately, the JOBS Act, more specifically Rule 506(b), allows companies to raise money from non-accredited investors, under special conditions, and with, in my opinion, normal disclosures, per the SEC:

If non-accredited investors are participating in the offering, the company conducting the offering:

– must give any non-accredited investors disclosure documents that generally contain the same type of information as provided in registered offerings

– must give any non-accredited investors financial statement information specified in Rule 506 and

– should be available to answer questions from prospective purchasers who are non-accredited investors

Lawyers and inexperienced entrepreneurs will be reluctant to include non-accredited investors in funding rounds, but you can push back using these facts. The website I linked under the Rule 506(b) has more information on the type of offerings that companies can put forward and accept non-accredited investors on their cap table. It’s not impossible now, it’s just hard (still) to understand the rules.

So next time you want to invest and you get push back, instead of saying I’m sorry I’m not rich enough, refer people to the JOBS Act and the Rule 506(b). This way you can access early stage ventures and potentially make 100x returns. Or you can lose all your money, since early stage investing is extremely risky. But at least you have the freedom to choose.

Photo by You X Ventures on Unsplash

Categories
Blockchain Politics

Of all things, local British Pounds carry lessons for crypto and the circular economy

If you’re wondering what a local British Pound is, you’re not alone. I was like that too, before my friend pointed them out to me. After a little more research, I found that these are called complementary currencies and they are by no means new or rare. Just peculiar. Here’s what they actually are:

A “complementary” currency is a type of quasi-monetary exchange medium that is intended to function as a complement to (rather than an alternative to) standard national currencies. (Costanza, Robert et al., “Complementary Currencies as a Method to Improve Local Sustainable Economic Welfare”, University of Vermont, Draft, 12 December 2003.)

For those who still don’t understand what they are, complementary currencies are like baseball cards or game tokens. They are valuable and tradable in certain mediums and within a certain group – be it interest-based or medium-based. If you try and trade them outside of the system, they are not valuable, but can be converted to more traditional currency, when in contact with the right buyer.

In some case, the buyer can be the issuing authority, in others it can be another community member or someone who would like to gain access to the community and would like to pay their way in.

In 2004, according to the same source I quoted the definition from, there were about 500 complementary currencies in circulation and historically there have been about 4000 issued to that date. If they were to redo the study today, they would find that cryptocurrencies and tokens fit this description to a large extent.

These complementary currencies have the following interesting and relevant characteristics to the blockchain world:

  • Convertibility: while they are sometimes tradable for national currency (fiat), this exposes them to the risk of run on the bank, but this feature increases adoption.
  • Commodity-backed: increases security, but reduces participation due to lack of convertibility.
  • Acceptance: it is increased if people can buy goods and services they need with the said currency – like taxes, food, beverages, rent etc. Pretty much like the circular economy I described in an earlier post.
  • Operational costs: some of these currencies carry a fee for the issuer, to cover operational costs, like printing and securing, network operations etc.
  • Taxing: here some have been deemed taxable, some not, by design. Up to each state and community to decide.

 

Complementary currencies were introduced as a means of storing and increasing the value and wealth of a certain community. This resembles what the crypto community is trying to achieve with utility tokens and it struck me that not once have I heard a comparison of this system to what ICOs / Token Sales are trying to achieve. While there is less geographical limitation today, compared to the attempts in previous centuries, the abstract characteristics of the currencies remain surprisingly similar.

What’s even more surprising is the lack of information at the very top of political decision making, where no lobbyists or politicians have compared crypto to these complementary currencies. They have chosen, consciously or unconsciously, to see them as competing currencies, not as complementary. That presumably makes them an easier target for stronger regulations.

Both cryptocurrencies and complementary currencies as a greater category face the following barriers for adoption:

  1. Lack of acceptance (catch 22)
  2. Lack of credibility (issuer)
  3. High transaction costs (issuer)
  4. Unsustainable operational cost (issuer / community)

 

The problems we’re facing in the crypto world today are not new. We just have to read more, understand more and find precedents where others made it work, show them to the world, apply them and use them in conversations with the ever-present nay-sayers.

I’ll leave you at the end with this study on British local pounds.

Categories
Politics

Those who want the EU to fall apart are idiots

I have travelled in almost all the European Union countries and have worked so far in 2 of them. Either for pleasure or for business, every trip was natural and easy to do, borders are open to us with a simple passport or national ID card. It’s fast and it’s cheap to do it.

Romania, my home country, only acceded as a member on January 1st 2007, after a long and arduous journey, missed deadlines, disappointment and defeat. I was the unlucky local generation, the last to graduate from high school without being able to travel freely in Europe. We had no idea and no means to think about studying abroad and for travels you’d have had to deal with embassies and consulates, pay visa fees and queue at the other travellers gates. It made vacationing abroad a rare exception, reserved for the wealthy few – some economic criminals, them and their entire families – as it was to be proven in the next 7-8 years.

793px-Romania_EU.svg

 

photo credits: Wikimedia.com

For each country that acceded, the EU brought three things: a foreseeable end for corruption, economic growth via aid – EU funding on strategic verticals and horizontals and foreign direct investment. What’s more, at least now, from empiric observations, I can see that we do not hate each other as much as we did after WWII (understandable, as you were expected to kill or be killed).

It’s now easier than ever to roam around the continent, do business and relocate altogether in other countries, a mix of opportunities that only broaden ones perspectives and make them inevitably more tolerant, open, progressive and kind. You simply cannot wage war against a country where you have friends and you can collute with them once your ruling regimes become antagonizing in order to stop them (street protests, social media, advocacy, lobby, activism).

The EU is the best mechanism found so far to keep countries like Germany, France, Britain or the nordics from trying to claim power with the use of force. Sure, they now play the economic and social game, but that’s at least without bloodshed. Just imagine how easy it would be to conquer or influence easter countries to fall under Soviet rule again or under any kind of promise of a belonging without the EU. Imagine trade with permits and taxes and hurdles that add 30-50% to the prices, what that would do to inflation, to standards of living. Maybe inflation is the endgame for some, but i consider them irresponsible, throwing an entire continent into a death-spin to align their charts and forecasts.

We are living the european dream right now and more and more countries, starting with the UK and their irresponsible politicians, are threatening to wake us up in the most brutal manner: by dismantling what our grandparents fought for – peace and unity.

Categories
Politics

Painful democracy

IMG_8545This weekend, just like two weeks before, I waited patiently for hours to vote, a right our parents fought for 25 years ago. In London tens of thousands of people, most of them calm, smiling, queued with us in the hope of a better future back home, where they still have family members, friends, businesses. I didn’t get the chance to do it though, unfortunately, after waiting for 10 hours.

When is the last time you queued for 10 hours to exercise your right?

This sad, sad moment reminded me of a story about communism that my parents and grandparents used to tell me. I was born in 87, when times were very hard. They told me that they used to go and queue to get food – eggs, milk, meat (which was a rare treat). Electricity and hot water were scarce and we used the stove to keep warm when heating was cut too. That was painful communism.

Today we don’t have to queue for food anymore, but for something else. We have to queue for the power to change a system that has driven us out of our hometowns, out of our country in search of a better future. Why would a democratic system cause its citizens so much pain, so many hours wasted for tens of thousands of people.

We switched the painful communism with painful democracy – a pain to vote, a pain to travel, to do business and to be happy. I hope this weekend is a step to put an end to this. And i hope the next MCV report will reflect the poor state of the nation and its institutions. Events like this, voting queues, should not be possible in 2014, European Union.

Along side the poor deployment from the organizers(Government), there is one more notable mention. I am ashamed that some people who call themselves patriots and Romanians disrupted the peace and quiet of Kensington and resorted to shouting, verbal violence and raised the tension in the peaceful queue. There were agitators, people that were there just to anger the others, not to vote or anything else. They are the representation on the uncivilised side of Romania and none of us should ever encourage them.

I distance myself from these agitators and disrupters and I ask you, the non-Romanian reader, to see beyond this uncivilized representation of nationalism and take a good look at us, the silent, numerous and mannered group that are part of your communities in the EU and all over the world. We are the victims of the painful democracy back home.