Thursday, April 26, 2012

Business and business development in Bonaire

I found my 'home' in Bonaire: Central Hotel Bonaire.

Right in town, new and clean and affordable. Makes it a lot easier to develop business in Bonaire.
Key words: hospitality, tourism, real estate development, nature, heritage, art, research, feasibility study, business plan, strategy and innovation.

The engagement was to do a quick scan of the overall cost-of-living in Bonaire.

Finding innovation and learnings in Africa and the Kilimanjaro

Some time ago I called someone's bluff and ended up in Africa and on top of the Kilimanjaro. 

I learnt of and started paying attention to the opportunities in Africa. I also realized there is a lot we in Curacao and the Caribbean can learn from Africa, in any case from Tanzania:

1. Impressive eco-lodges in Tanzania. One of them was the 'execution' of the artist's impression of a 140-room hotel and retail development in Curacao I had written a business plan for about a month earlier.  The boulders in the picture below are the wall of the restaurant. 

2. Since I am writing a book on innovations in small states and how to monetize those, I was especially interested in Zanzibar, which is also a small state with a population of less than 1.5 milllion. Like Curacao's capital Willemstad, it's capital is also on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Knowledge workers in small states share the common fact that they have had to found creative solutions because of limited resources. Hence, they have innovated.

3. What a global world! My cousin (an catholic econometrist living in Holland) and our guide Omary (a Tanzanian moslim who had barely finished secondary school), were both 27 years of , fans of Manchester United, Rihanna, some 'Reggaeton artist, who I, of course don't know. Omary also knew the Beach Boy's Kokomo song "Aruba, Jamaica, Bahama... ."
Here Bob Marley's "One Love" greets us when arriving in Zanzibar.

4. In Zanzibar we went to a street festival. Soup and sugar cane juice were served in a regular plastic bowl and glass glass, which you had to return afterwards. Green and sustainable!

4. The Tanzanian guides were excellent. This is our safarai guide Omary, who besides Swahili, speaks English and had learnt himself French. His book was a few handwritten pages of French words and sentences he once learnt.

5. Most of all I am impressed that someone had such good marketing skills to get so many people to want to summit the Kilimanjaro. In our case, we were neither hikers, had never slept in a sleeping bag, let alone a tent, for seven days, out in the middle of nowhere.

I plan to go back to Africa, not as a tourist, but as a volunteer or a consultant. Volunteer, that was the bluff.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Find your innovation!

‘How COULD I innovate?’, he shouts. ‘I work in a small country, in a terrible hospital, where there is no money for anything. I can’t finance any research myself because the government pays me late for my services. On the other hand, my colleagues in Holland……..’
‘But, I bet that BECAUSE you live in a small country and work in a terrible hospital, you have found creative ways to keep your patients alive with limited resources.’, I suggest.
 ‘Sure thing’, he says, still mad. ‘I HAVE to.’ 
‘So, you have innovated,’ I respond. ‘If you have found a way to produce the same results with fewer resources, i.e. more efficiently, that’s an innovation.
His face lit up. ‘We must talk about this further.’

This introduction is the continuation of that discussion. Then I will ask you to stay after the key note speaker’s talk. We will then open the floor for interaction and ask how the Chamber of Commerce or others can help you monetize, capitalize on your innovation.

By the way, the notion that ‘you have innovated if you have found a way to produce the same results with fewer resources, i.e. more efficiently’ is from a theory called Blue OceanStrategy. The authors also assert that it is even better ‘If that efficient solution is also better suited to the needs of your client (because of market size, complexity, climate, gender, ethnicity, etc.).’

So, the question is not whether you have you innovated, but where.  Please allow me to share some thoughts that might inspire you:

  • I did not tell the doctor that there are 200 countries in the world. Holland and the US are among the 10 richest. Simplified: 190 countries, 95% of all countries cannot financially afford many of the Dutch or American innovations in health care, or many other areas.

  •  Even if they can afford it, for a great many countries these innovations are unsuitable, because they are too complex, because there is not enough local talent to implement them, etc. Sounds familiar?

  •  A few weeks ago someone told me. ‘My health-related service is targeted to older people, of the average age and income of cruise tourists. I can do the whole thing before they leave the island. I promote it online.’…Of course. Last year 400,000 cruise tourists visited Curacao. 

  • Then there is “One Laptop per Child”. Up to now the program is mostly available in large low income countries. If we can develop a good program to introduce this in Curacao, we would be the first middle income, small country to do so. Don’t you think other small middle income countries would be interested? ‘Scale’ is a challenge for them too.

  • CHUKKACaribbean, from Jamaica. They have zip lines and other adventure travel tours (ATV’s) in three countries. Do YOU have an innovative touristic attraction that can be implemented in another island? There are some 30 Caribbean islands receiving over 20 million stay-over tourists each year. On the other side of the world, there are yet more touristic tropical islands…

  •   Fresh Water. You know that fresh water will be a challenge everywhere. If you Google (in English) about gardening in dry climates or harvesting rainwater, most solutions, websites, blogs, come from Australia and New Zealand. We ALSO live in a dry climate. If you are an engineer, landscape designer, etc. have you discovered a marketable solution to deal with this? 

  • I have a friend who is a nutritionist. She specializes in weight loss and has her own ‘program’. She said: “I am at a loss when I get clients who eat traditional local food. Because, I don’t have a lot of ideas with guiambo, yuka, chayote, etc. My education included regular potatoes, strawberries, brussel sprouts, etc. I ask you: Have you seen ANY weight loss program based on tropical fruits and vegetables? By the way:  40% of the world lives in the tropics! By 2060, 60% will because older people like warmer climates. 

  • Black women spend 5 times more on hair care than White women. Most of our products come from the US. Is there any large global brand for Black women living in hot climates? There are 800 million people living in ‘tropical’ Africa. Yes, some people laugh when I mention Africa. It IS the one undiscovered continent in the world, full of opportunities. The Trini’s are laying a major oil pipeline there, funded by an international organization.

  • Of course you can choose an innovation that covers the whole world. But what would be your competitive advantage in knowledge and experience?  Some years ago, when the Jazz Festival was still at Brievengat, an American music entrepreneur told me: ‘Yes, she is a great singer. But, she should sing another genre. There are thousands of equally great voices in the world that sing popular tunes. Breaking through will be impossible.’ Izaline Calister and Emphrem J’s success are not a just luck.

  • There is one BIG exception, that perhaps confirms the rule. Technology!  Today’s keynote speaker, Clark Russel, is the CEO of an IT company. There are global opportunities for internet games, all kinds of apps, etc.,  IF we focus on using the internet productively, rather than consumptively. Last Sunday, a saw Jane McGonical, a games developer, speak on CNN’s The Next List  about the games she is making to improve health… She had a serious brain injury and developed games that have helped her. 

That was the first part. Find your innovation! In the next post, how do you monetize your innovation, i.e. capitalize on it?

In case you are wondering, there are about 200 countries in the world. Of these, 56 are small states with fewer than 1.5 million people. There are 33 small dependent territories and 125 islands with a population smaller than 1.5 million. Only 240 cities in the world have more than 1.5 million people.

Speech delivered at the Curacao Chamber of Commerce's Services Lunch Seminar, April 17, 2012.