We recently got back from a few family trips, which is why you haven’t heard from me for a while – we spent 2 weeks in Greece, visiting family and roaming around, then 4 days at the Grand Canyon, hiking and generally sightseeing. Great time was had by all and I made some interesting observations en route:
Greece is not as bad as it looks: We noticed that there were very few American tourists in Greece, probably all scared off by all of the negative press around what has been happening there. Things seemed pretty calm when we were there, although there was one night when we walked past an array of Greek police shock troops who were specifically policing a particular area as it was the anniversary of a killing in that area. Business seemed to be booming, prices were down from the last time we were there 2 years ago, although the people themselves told a different tale.
Pretty much everyone we talked to agreed that the days of profligate spending were over and that it was time to pay the price. Greece is a perfect example of government gone wild, running for years and years with no restraints. The civil service grows huge on the back of the taxpayers, which are getting fewer and fewer every year, either due to their businesses shutting down or them switching to the underground economy. Those who have made the switch are doing well, I met business people and entrepreneurs who are doing just fine, as long as they don’t have to be beholden to the state. It’s an extension of an idea I had a while back – as the state gets more expensive and less relevant, people will opt-out of dealing with the state and you end up with two countries – one of people who follow the state and look for government solutions doggedly, and the other who try to minimize all of their dealings with the state.
Of course, the latter is doing much, much better, despite the attempts of the state to tears them down. You see the future of America in Greece, where success if punished, great success double so, lest things seem unfair.
Its a perfect case study of how the more government you have, the less successful you are. Greece desperately needs tax-free and low-regulation economic zones in order for young people to decide to create startups and jumpstart the economy. It’s not like the Greeks are not industrious, they have simply gotten so used to be taken care of, that they have forgotten that work sometimes equals success more often than sitting on your ass collecting from the state.
I met an amazing entrepreneur there who immediately started talking to me about his startup idea – I’m researching it now and hope to go into a joint venture with him shortly. It’s not that the desire is not there – its just that the barriers are so high. Despite that – there are many success stories you just don’t hear about.
Seems to me that there is great opportunity in Greece for startups and entrepreneurship – but until the government gets out of the way, the barriers to startups flourishing there is still a very tall one. You have to think, as an investor and possible entrepreneur, would you go to and invest in a startup in Greece right now? There are many other countries higher on the list.
However, they did make one interesting move recently to attract investors – they have one of the lowest cost resident visas in the world. Probably early days yet, but it might be worth a look – Greece will turnaround, the question is when.
Grand Canyon: Awesome views & hike – terrible food! – One of the things about the Grand Canyon that I didn’t realize was how remote it is from everywhere. We flew into Phoenix and drove 3 plus hours to get there – I was told that it would have been about the same from Vegas. We passed through Flagstaff on the way and that town seemed like a microcosm of hipsterness (the Simpsons did a hilarious sendup of ex-Portlanders “invading” a town and making it all trendy, only to move on when it got too trendy) like I’m assuming other places who have been invaded by ex-Californians fleeing from the state thinking it had already been “played out” (like Austin, Portland, Seattle etc) – Flagstaff seemed a cool town, would have liked to spend more time there – I sensed there was some startup energy there as well.
Once we got the the Grand Canyon, we were greeted with fantastic scenery and great hikes, but the food was absolutely awful, both inside and outside the park. Inside the park, all of the concessions were likely handed to a single company and according to the reviews, uniformly bad across the board, no matter if you were buying a pizza or dining in the upscale “El Tovar”. The nearest town, Tusayan, was no better. The closest analogy was that you were eating airport food – the nearest town was an hours drive away so the places in Tusayan seemed to compete against each other for the most mediocre. I guess location, in some cases, is still important.
It’s an interesting mindset that one can let the quality of a product drop once you have a captive audience to purchase that product. If you ask me, this is an interesting opportunity – if you parachuted into a place like Tusayan, and I’ll bet that there are probably a lot of places like that, where the remoteness of the location allows the businesses to serve sub-par products, change a few of those parameters and you can clean up. Provide a better service to a semi-captive group and you should be flooded with customers. Customer loyalty is not as much of factor anymore.
Once we left Tusayan, and the choices got broader, the food got better: perfect example of competition breeding excellence: a captive group of customers to a small group of businesses trends to poorer product, while a freer moving, larger competitive base creates better product. Gotta love capitalism.
BTW, we didn’t visit many of these places at all – it was their Yelp reviews which gave us the go/nogo indications. So once again, social media and crowdsourcing can kill your business, or let it flourish.