The Swedish serial entrepreneur Johan Staël von Holstein has made Singapore his new home since a few years back. He hopes he will be able to stay on, now seeing Singapore as the country with the “smartest politicians in the whole world” and as splendid for business start-ups.
Johan thinks Singapore is the one place in the world really understanding the need for supporting entrepreneurs. Not that he intends to initiate any more start-ups from scratch himself though, but rather help others.
Second best thing to love
The outspoken Swede has for decades been a strong advocate for innovations and entrepreneurship and mostly in relation to IT and new media. And often he has seen little understanding and action from politicians and governments.
And, also being a charismatic and well-known speaker, he often sees politicians as the key to the problem – or the solution – while the entrepreneurs are the fulfillers; those generating all tax revenue and being the ones behind all businesses.
Among the milestones so far he started Icon Medialab, which succeeded, says his CV, in fundamentally changing the entrepreneurial climate in Sweden. Further he started IQube, an incubator with ambition to create the world’s best infrastructure and ecosystem for entrepreneurs in early stages.
“Entrepreneurship is the second best beautiful thing to love,” he said at the Designing Asia 2.0 gathering of the leading innovation network in Asia, arranged by Qi Global.
Enslaved by 2.0 technologies
Still, while calling for increased support for the entrepreneurs he is at the same time urging for legislation in the Internet era.
And he has some relevant issues to share which directly and indirectly should be of concern to all us.
What is on his mind now is genuine concern for where things are heading: we are totally enslaved by 2.0 technology companies, Johan let the audience know in Singapore back in October, representing the technology industry.
The evolvement of technology is going to continue being absolutely exponential for innovations, and entrepreneurs can solve all the problems the planet is facing. Breaking the monopolies, enabling all individuals getting access to these software would allow everyone to participate in the entrepreneurial frenzy.
However, he highlighted a fundamental concern relating to privacy, ownership and control of the individual’s digital assets.
Facebook is a concern? Yes.
“90 per cent of all my communication today takes place via Facebook, and 90 per cent of what I do there is work-related. And 90 per cent of all people I know and another 4000 I am connected with are on Facebook – how could I leave that? I have no choice! They have digitally enslaved me.”
“People are forced to accept this and be stuck in these structures. And as long as you keep these technologies away from the individual – we can taste them but cannot access them to utilize to our own advantage and do what we want. We are completely in their hands,” he explains to ScandAsia.
In Johan’s mind, one’s own combined experiences, interests and skills should be controlled by the individual – and not be owned by Facebook or anybody else.
Each and one of us should have our own, if you like, cube.
“Privacy isn’t going to be dead for a long time. I hope. And why is this so important? I am no consumer – I am a person. I consume maybe 10 seconds a day. It’s about my memory, tastes, photos and my relations. I am giving away my brain to corporate institutions as they please. And this is going to be so bad that ‘1984’ is going to look like nothing. Like when the brand says they own their customers. But if I own you and all the value you create is mine – then it is slavery!”
“As a result of how the financial and political markets wrongly views entrepreneurship in a wider perspective, the engineers have built something that assimilates a gigantic Soviet, where everything is monopolistic, where you have one search engine, everybody is treated as part of the masses, treating us all alike etc.,” Johan paints the picture.
Legislate against monopolies
The uncontrolled world of Internet is the source of the problem – where most content and info today is either for free or controlled by monopolies.
“A new understanding must come that we have let go of the most important thing which has happened to mankind in the past 150 years, which is the Internet breakthrough; there is not anything else so drastic – both positively and negatively. But it’s taking place under completely chaotic forms, where politicians and law makers are two steps behind, and allow digital slavery just as politicians and kings and emperors allowed slavery for thousands of years.”
“Entrepreneurs build the world but thanks to politicians and lawyers. Therefore the liberals are wrong in saying: no politicians should interfere and all should be Laissez-faire.”
So Internet entrepreneurs have become like dictators running monopolies?
Yes, but – and this is very important – Jan Stenbeck, my big idol, once told me: ’As every true entrepreneur I want to break monopolies’. That’s what he made most money on. And then he said: ‘And as every true entrepreneur I want to build my own’. Entrepreneurs are the most beautiful people on earth as they are creating all jobs in the world but they are no better humans than anybody else – they want to maximize their self-interest. Therefore one must also regulate them or automatically get these monopolies,” says the entrepreneur and compares with how strong politicians eventually imposed legislation to forbid smoking in public places.
“The politicians inability makes that the engineers do with Internet what they are doing – and not because of ill will but because not understanding the consequences. And those who should are our leaders voted to take care of and protect us, and the law-making institutions.”
Lack of soul and passion
And the idea that everything should be for free on the Internet is a catastrophe to Johan.
“Put away that incentive to earn money in order make everything free – how will it then end? If I take my combined knowledge and experience and pack it as information and put it on the Internet and the info is for free – then information and knowledge is useless.”
“If we live in societies with such realities – no wonder Europe and the U.S are falling apart like a house of cards!”
Then Johan highlights another fundamental problem; a system error with the banking world. And if anyone should have experience in this it is Johan himself.
“Practicality all companies are today owned by the pension funds, which are the workers’ savings. And the result is that companies are no longer owned by entrepreneurs, so there is no soul or passion behind it to grow larger and stronger and profitable, Instead short-term ideals run wild in the hands of greedy bankers. Meanwhile entrepreneurs, the real heroes in the society, find it very difficult to get any capital for their company start-ups, the only ones who can are companies associated with banks.”
Micro payment online the magic formula
This reality, combined with the idea of things for free online – and it all becomes quite serious. Who will start the new businesses to generate the needed taxation?
Johan has little hope that politicians will solve it for us, but he is nevertheless optimistic: “entrepreneurs love problems!”
Worldwide regulation to protect privacy and broadly introducing micro payment systems for the Internet he is convinced would lead to exponential growth. The solution is a micro payment system where each individual gets the ability to have an own platform.
(Then, counting the days to the downfall of the powerful banking system, as we know it, would really start.)
If it would become standard to pay with a simple click, say 20 pennies, to read this story online, for sure one would do it, believes Johan.
“The VISA online cost per transaction is 43 cent on a dollar. That makes it impossible for you and me to charge 20 pennies for our stories. You must break the VISA monopoly and create something new. And the only way to do that is by giving back the responsibility to the individual. That’s the future!”
This could even be a remedy for very high unemployment: The unemployed youth in European countries stay at home surfing and they are super savvy Internet users, believes Johan.
“Should they get their freedom back from Facebook, and a micro payment sum, a majority of them could become entrepreneurs within social media and make a living and come up with ways to make money, for instance by giving services to those who does not fully understand the technologies.”
“Those who would benefit the most from setting free all individuals within social media and giving them opportunities to make money on their knowledge and experiences, is this whole gigantic group of unemployed.”
The instant this becomes reality it connects the physical and digital societies into one and there are exponential business opportunities and ideas. So it’s just a matter of breaking away from the boring things where one does not thrive and staking on a good idea one would like to fulfil, he believes.
Food for thought and a lot to digest…
Johan’s talk at the Qi gathering can be viewed online at the Qi website.
Footnote: Johan is no longer involved in the Singapore-based MyCube and he declined to comment on it.