‘El coronavirus no afectará a la economía’ me dijeron los economistas.
They laughed at me because of the start-up ideas I proposed on a technology company.
Recently i’ve been having to deal with people from all ages laughing at my face and the ideas and thoughts I come up with. I am starting to think it’s my fault. And I want you to tell whether I’m crazy or they’re crazy. Let’s get to it.
First of all, pardon me for my English and for any faults I commit in this text, I’m practicing with this writings and they are not perfect. Okay, now to the story.
I’m 21 years old and about to finish my degree in economics this year, I will be done before the summer. Because of this, I already started searching for a job, since an economics degree is not so much (even though I studied for four years) and I wanted to find out which opportunities and problems I have when trying to find a job in this area. So, in order to make people take this whole thing seriously I prepared my LinkedIn, updated my curriculum and did some photos for my profile (still have to work on that a bit). After that I felt prepared and started to get in the mindset of looking for job, when somebody talked to me on LinkedIn asking for my number for a job interview in Paris. I was thrilled, did the thing and didn’t get it, but that is a story for another day. They told me I didn’t fit in with the profile they were looking for.
Before getting into the real story you should know that I am a crazy, I read like a madman and get instinctively interested in everything, from technology to biology to economics to sociology to geopolitics to basically everything. I started reading the magazine called TheEconomist a year ago, and haven’t stopped since. The magazine gets to my mail post every Tuesday creating a beautiful pick of stress in my mind, because I have to fit in my scheduled the reading of those sixty pages of important and interesting and amazing information. Meanwhile, in order no to die, I have to go to class every sad shitty morning, read two or three books at the same time in different languages and around different topics, prepare some poetry for the open mic and do some climbing in the meantime. I know, it sounds really fake, I realized it as I was writing. But is the truth, and since in this article I don’t have any need to hide parts of myself in order to be under people’s expectations as to what an economist has to be like, I will tell the truth and nothing but the truth. So I do all this things while trying to retain as much information as I can, which normally means remembering about ten percent of all the information I get into my mind. Is sad but is the only way I know I can get at least that ten percent, by doing so much, and I like it. That is an area where I think I still can improve, changing quantity for quality of retained information. But let’s move on, I don’t want to bore you so soon.
Now that has been my life for the past seven months, and in the middle of all this turmoil is when I got the phone interview for Paris, where they told me I didn’t fit in the company. Time went by and another opportunity rose up last month. Again through LinkedIn, they contacted me and told me they were looking for people like me in a big company here in Spain. This company specializes in providing services to big businesses and banks, from accountant services to risk and portfolio management and advisement.
So. I was obviously excited, this is a really big company and it seemed like I could learn a lot in this place if they were willing to take me in. In order to get the job, one has to go through a group interview where the recruiter takes notes and decides. If you pass that interview, you then have a personal interview with someone from the team you will work with.
I went to Madrid to do the group interview, I was all dressed up in a really warm and uncomfortable suit, which by the way fitted me perfectly and actually felt good and important in it, and went to the interview. When I got there I realized this thing was more important than I had thought. We were only seven, they took us to, lets say, the 40th floor of a huge tower and put us into a small conference room right there with everybody else who was working and making money. All the candidates were perfectly dressed up, they all had done some sort of Erasmus or time studying abroad, spoke perfect english and looked really smart. This people had studied statistic, mathematics and they were really into ‘Big Data’ ( I don’t believe them now, I bet they said it because it’s a cool word, but they couldn’t in a million years explain to you what that technology consist of), or they had done the double degree of Law and Business Management or they had studied in England or things like this. All very impressive. I was impressed by these people okay?, I was like ‘okay so this is really going to be interesting, let’s see what you all got’. I was motivated, for real, honestly almost happy to be surrounded by intelligent people.
This story is taking me longer than I thought. Way longer than I thought, I am getting bored myself. But let’s finish.
So, we are there all together and they tell us that we have to do an activity in groups of three and four (we were seven, two groups), we have to create a startup and defend it. We had to talk about the social objective, the market niche we were going to cover, the consumer, the money we would need to make it happen and how much were we going to charge the consumer or client. First, they gave five minutes to individually think of a startup idea, then we had to put the ideas in common, decide on one of them and develop the whole thing as I said, in order to defend it after in a presentation.
To the point. Before getting to this interview, I had already looked online, in forums and places like that and saw that this was one of the possibilities of the things they could ask us in a group interview. Because I new that, the night before I started to think about what interesting startups we could create, because I thought it was intelligent to think this beforehand, instead of having to come up with brilliant ideas in a conference room in the 40th floor of a huge tower in the center of Madrid. So that night I came up with some ideas while I was trying to sleep, and wrote them down on my phone. The next day I went to the interview and that was exactly the task they asked us to do. So again, I was thrilled, I was motivated, I was surrounded by intelligent people and I had prepared perfectly for the interview. Then, during the five minutes they gave us, I wrote the two best ideas I had thought of for the startup and some thoughts on how to pursue and defend them. The time to put them in common arrived, and I started by sharing mine, and here is where the wired part begins.
This is probably the longest read you have done on Medium. It’s the same for me, I am really tired, but we have to continue.
Now to the ideas I had and here is where I want your thoughts. The ideas weren’t superradical, but I think they were radical enough so that the recruiter taking notes and asking us questions wouldn’t know what to say, but be impressed and curious. The first idea was making a company that only worked with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and that provided the many services a company like this can provide. It wasn’t mine (and I told them), I stole it from Bill Gates. He was asked in an interview ‘what would be the start-up you would create if your were young in our modern times?’ and he answered that definitely something related with AI. I took his idea and though that we could make a company like that in Spain, take all the programmers in the country by paying them what they deserve to get pay, have them work together and provide services for business, from Big Data processing to marketing to medicine with AI, and sell all those services that the AI those better to the companies. This idea was the only one I had thought of presenting to these people. I showed it to them and they were thrilled, they loved it, they thought it was a really good idea. Then the rest of them presented their ideas. They were all shit. I don’t know how to say it in a more respectful way. They simply weren’t startups and they weren’t ideas, they were companies that already existed and not even in small or growing markets, but out in the open for every person in this country to know and realize immediately that they already existed. One was creating something like Netflix and then also buying the football league and more sports competitions, which clearly already Movistar does and all this other huge companies do and fight for it with immense amount of money. Another one was to create a thing that was exactly the same as the bike service that cities already provide with the public bikes but more expensive and weird, and the last one was so similar to another company that already was in the open air market that I don’t even remember. So I was respectful, I listened, I asked questions, but was ultimately sure they were going to pick my AI option, since it was the only one with some potential. I want to be clear I wasn’t like ‘yeah, they will pick mine, I win’. I was just like ‘okay, your ideas are not so good, I had advantage because I already thought about this, let’s all share the advantage that I’ve given us, and let’s all benefit from this good idea’. That was the attitude with which I approached this next step of deciding which of those ideas to choose.
To my total surprise, after having heard all of the ideas and when we were in the process of debating which one to choose, they started coming up with reasons to not do my AI startup, and I was caught so off guard, that I could just listened to the stupidities they were saying, but could not answer immediately, since I didn’t wanted it to become a battle or a serious discussion, but at the same time didn’t know how to answer and defend my idea without having all that become one hell of a battle. So I stayed quiet and looked at them while they said that my idea didn’t had a niche, or that it was to difficult and confusing to make. And I kept listening while they said that the city bike idea was good, that we could do something with that. After some minutes of shock, and having lost that one first and brutal battle against stupidity and lack of knowledge, I realized I had to do something before they decided to choose the idea of the bike, and so I came back to reality and said that, before they choose the bike idea, which I was completely fine with, let me present you the other idea I thought of last night. And there I was, telling them about an app we could make for people to get a qualification as a roommate. My idea was simple, when I move to a flat or when I go to live to another city, the most difficult thing is the uncertainty of not knowing who you are going to be living with. The result is normally that you end up living with someone who doesn’t take responsibility for anything and gives you problems and there is no coordination and no maturity and all this things that cause a great deal of stress and anxiousness. I present them with this idea and they all smiled and said that is was a great idea, a thing they also did with my previous idea, and not with any idea form the three of them. And then again, they started complaining, saying it had no nich and that is was bad because your were ratting people. Well as you can imagine I disconnected, since battling wasn’t worth it. But come on, you really are saying to me that you don’t want to rate people, when you were all on instagram and facebook and twitter before the interview giving likes and dislikes. Come on, please. How sad is all this nonsense. I went on like nothing happened, we did the bike idea, I proposed some components to the idea of the bike trying to make it a little bit different from the service that already existed, they took them, but the two recruiters who listened to us and asked us questions couldn’t help it and finally said ‘but isn’t this thing like BiciMad, the service that already provides the city council of the city? And one of my peers answered without really being able to say no.
By the way, it turns out that the app that I proposed already existed! And is growing fast and is still small and so the recruiters probably didn’t knew about it. So yeah, just so you know, it would have been also a good idea. Oh! and the business I proposed about AI and selling the know-how to businesses? It is exactly what does this company we were trying work for! They have the same business concept but in another market! Just so you know.
And that was almost it. The other group presented an even worst idea, to this day I am not sure what it was about. After all this nightmare was finished, they started telling us about the company and a woman entered the room, expert and experienced from one of the groups where we were potentially going to work. She was there to answered any questions we had about the job. She was in the risk management team, and I asked a question. And I was shocked again. And I’m going depressed just by having to remember all this again.
All the people in the room where statisticians and mathematicians, this sort of people that are limited to numbers, and can’t get any conclusions or can’t think without a final number in a paper as the result of some oversimplified formulas about how the economies work. I understand their work, I know and recognize their importance and many times find myself using their numbers and formulas to simplify things that are sometimes too complicated. If I need a number for something super complex and seemingly unpredictable, they will get it. They put conditions here and there, take suppositions of human beings behaving rationally over here, and they get a beautiful number, that more or less seems to be okay and reasonable. So I understand the need for numbers, I use them, but I don’t think you can get the entire picture of reality and of the economy only with them. They help to analyze reality, but they are not enough, since you have to take into account irrationality, human behavior and human sociology, human behavior as an individual and human behavior in groups. Humans take decisions, and some of this decisions are consider irrational decisions by economists, whereas if you were to ask a psychologist, he or she could explain to you the reasons for that human being taking that irrational decision. What I am trying to say is that I believe human beings are more complex than what economists can put into formulas, and that this is what interests me deeply. How to predict the unpredictable, how to deal with irrationality, how to deal with animal-human behavior, and how do this firms that have to give numbers to the future of the economy give numbers to this part of more complex human behavior. That was the question I asked to this expert, I wanted to know how they deal with irrational, with situations in which the economy does not follow the models created for it. And to finalize my question, I gave the example closer to reality that we are dealing with right now. I asked, how do you deal with something like coronavirus, which is resulting in panic and disinformation, and has already caused the emptiness of cities like Shanghai, with 24,2 million people?.
Well, just imagine for a moment what happened. She almost laughed at me. She smiled, with a condescending smile that hurt me like a bullet right in the brain, and said that they don’t do those analysis. She said that they did had some other department in the company in charge of macroeconomics and things that affect countries and regions, but that those type of events weren’t analyze by them because it didn’t affect the (by the way, country-size) companies they worked for, and that in that company they worked on demand, they worked and did only those things that the company ask them for. Both things shocked me, that she said so blatantly that they didn’t had any intention of looking at coronavirus because they supposed those things don’t have any impact on the companies they served (which is not true, this companies are big and market driven enough so that they will suffer at least something), and that they worked only on demand of what they were asked for, so working only passively and not actively. I would think they worked actively on things they weren’t asked for but rather predicting what they are going to be asked for and having the product or the service already built up for when the clients asked them for it.
I won’t write any more, only to say that the coronavirus will have a deeper impact than SARS, the previous virus that spread in China, but when this economy wasn’t so integrated in the global economy. In China, production lines have been stopped, more and more people are not going to work on the fear of infection. Chinese consumption and production has plummeted, and the panic is spreading to nearby countries and all over the world. The DW writes ‘The outbreak of the coronavirus is meanwhile rippling through the global manufacturing supply chains, affecting especially the car industry. The world’s fifth-largest carmaker, Hyundai, for example said on Wednesday it had to close all its car factories in South Korea because it had been running out of components made in China. The carmaker is short on supplies of engine wire harness, and said is was looking for a new supplier.’ Just so you know. And that is the peak of the iceberg. You just have to read this article to realize how big of a deal this is:
So yeah, there are going to be consequences for everybody, and she has the balls to tell me that the companies they work for, which are IBEX companies, are not going to get hurt and that is simply a macroeconomic problem. I am laughing right now at the thought of the situation, this companies asking this woman how in the world don’t they already have a report on how the coronavirus is going to affect them.
The reality is that I am not laughing, I am rather sad, since seeing how people in this top companies behave in such an incomprehensible prepotent manner is sad, deeply sad. I hope there is some people above them that are smart, honest, true learners, and that someday I will be able to work with them and learn from them, because the only thing I learned the other day is that there is stupid and ignorant people even in the top floors of the biggest companies, with three careers and a lot of numbers and titles to show under the arm in a beautiful and expensive and full of shit briefcase.
If you have read all the way through this never ending story, thank you.
If you are curious to know who the fuck am I, this is my beloved and useless LinkedIn: