Posted by: Dr Pano Kroko | October 9, 2015

Cronyism and Corruption are the bane of our Democracy

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“Men (and Women) who look upon themselves born to reign,

and others to obey — soon grow insolent;

their minds are early poisoned by importance;

and the world they act in differs so materially from the world at large,

that they have but little opportunity of knowing its true interests,

and when they succeed to the government,

they are frequently the most ignorant and unfit of anyone,

throughout the world.”

–Thomas Paine

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Dr Kroko


Maybe Term Limits are in order for all elected representatives in Congress and Senate?

Posted by: Dr Pano Kroko | October 7, 2015

StartUp Funding Success

I’ve graduated 14 StartUps this last month through the American Angels Seattle StartUp Weekend and now groom them for a Venture Capital Roadshow to Silicon Valley…

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We’ll only take seven CEOs and a few of their team members down there — but we are hot to trot, and keen to get them Funded upstream from institutional investors. Easy as pie. Right?

And so now we recruit the Sandhill Road VCs to invite the ones to get the first dibs on our fresh NorthWest Tech StartUp companies….

Last time down there we had a perfect score passing all seven Cos on to the right VC experienced hands. Still there is plenty of work that needs to happen between now and then, to get these teams in anything resembling funded company shape. It’s steep hike because these young CEOs and their fresh Startups need to built their rocket and fill it up with rocket fuel, as they get readied for exponential growth.

I teach Innovation, but I also teach about the rigours of Angel and Venture Capital too, and most importantly about proper Business building. Business processes are rather important along with business leadership and product fit. But having good IP trumps all that because Innovation is now the core engine of both the StartUp economy and the world economy. And as it turns out, Technology is the driving force behind the innovation… and He who controls Technology simply “prints money” and thus controls the world.

Yet that Innovation includes the basic Angel Funding that allows for the Intellectual Property building process that StartUps rely upon. Mind you the recent article on Forbes that clearly states that up to 90% of a StartUp Company’s value is tied up and exclusively related on the startup’s IP can be seen as validation for my Angel investments that are always directed to spending the first draft on securing good legal support through top Lawyers for securing patents, trademarks, and copyrights.

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That’s how you create Great Dividends and that is my Angel investment practice and you know what — it works.

I’ve been doing it for twenty years and only now Forbes comes out with the article that makes this a Harvard Business School Case…  I’ve been doing General Financial Innovation, FinTech and VentureTech as well for so long that now it feels like driving. And there is no better way to teach Innovation than by practicing it, because practice creates habits and the method of it makes our system fairly excellent if not almost perfect.

And as always with all things and time — Venture Capital changes as the nature of Ventures changes. StartUps change, and so do the Angel Investors. Styles of Investment, size of tranches, and Startup funding cycles change. The time ascendancy of Capital raising changes too. CEOs change and so do the Investors. Companies pivot, Angel Funds pivot, StartUps pivot, VCs pivot. We all pivot and change each and every day… but none changes as much as Angels.

We change fast and furiously because we are the first responders. We are at the forefront, and we bleed profusely when the companies we invest into die off en-mass. Even Banking Investors change and when they fail the government steps in to bail them out. But Angels have no bailout facility like Banks have. So we’ve got to persevere. And the further revelation here is that Investment demands change too, whether it goes up or down. Investment principles change as well. Value investing is all about accommodating change and promoting this over time through Innovation. Today Innovation is the biggest driver of Business Growth and Technology across the world. What is that but change itself?

The illusion of stability is far greater than the living reality of StartUp Funding out there…

Yet there are solid principles in Innovation and Funding Change and these constitute the Funding Circle we often talk about: So we make it official, and we extend a formal invitation to all of our teams by inviting them to the discussion, and we Start it up by focusing on Early Stage Investment Funding. We start our discussion with Angel Funding and the necessity of this but then we open it up with an inroad to the VC market.

So my VC friends need to tell me about their availability for our next Road Show down to Silicon Valley by RSVPing here:

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Following this past month’s Accelerator Innovation Master Class in Seattle — there are a few questions that we brought up and that will get everyone thinking and now we want to give everyone a chance to speak their mind. The point of this effort, is to make sure that every stakeholder in the group contributes towards the success of the enterprise.

People write books about Venture Capital as if these principles are chiseled in stone, or as if they remain unchanged for ever. Yet principle remains. Change is the only CONSTANT we can count on.

And the proof is in the pudding. Here is an example: Twitter’s latest travails. In this latest round of leadership change Jack Dorsey came up on top again after a sinister back room battle. I keep tabs on Twitter because this one company was originally created in my Innovation Master Class Weekend in Stanford University back in the day. And so many years later after a few starts and restarts it got it’s IPO and became a darling for 15 minutes or so. Yet now it lost it’s way again. Is jack going to lead them out of the woods?

I don’t think so.

Knowing what I know the chances are that he is not confident enough to do this and that is why he keeps his other job on Square — to be able to jump ship when things go South. As they inevitably will…

This other deal, we’ll discuss, is about an early funding deal that epitomizes the changes taking hold of the venture industry today. Am seeing this from the same vantage point as both the CEO and the successful Venture Investor — because we are both n alignment with those who have a well developed sense of the urgency of NOW. As the old saw goes: When they pass around the plate with the cookies — take two… And especially take what you need to keep your energy levels up. That’s what capital for the Startups is. Rocket Fuel. Energy Boost. So those with the GOOD SENSE to grab the OPPORTUNITY at present. These are the only CEOs, Angels, and Venture Investors, worth hanging around with. Truly these are the only ones who are able to win.

And win big. This is what they do: Here is what the Startup CEO said: “We weren’t in fundraising mode — but there was strong outside interest with minimal dilution, and we felt like it was the right move for our Startup business.”

Today the term ‘fundraising mode’ has truly become almost non-existent, while ‘strong outside interest’ or the lack thereof, is now the de facto discussion of every Startup Company Board meeting.
And while each company and each deal are vastly different, one thing has become increasingly clear: The formal funding round is dead.

Investors and founders used to wait until a company was 3–6 months away from cash-out, before engaging in a formal fundraising process. Naturally that put a lot less stress on the investors who had their timetables ready to go when the burn rate was approaching flame-out. But with capital sloshing around in Silicon Valley and with VC competition ready for a brawl and a bar fight — the competition intensifies.  With richer data available for both successes and failures, and with greater market volatility attracting all talented StartUps — the traditional funding process has been crushed and thrown away in the circular file.

The sequence of StartUp funding rounds has now fundamentally changed towards the always-on model. This is Good. And Bad… Yet for good companies out there the timing of fundraising couldn’t be better.

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Even though the Burn Rates that traditionally have been the key to all of our StartUps have now become an unreliable measurement tool of Success, this still remains the main yardstick because companies are unsteady on their projected expenditures and the accounting thereof, with so many sudden acceleration opportunities, that bring on huge demands on their checkbooks…

Our StartUp portfolio Companies increasingly stop timing, their funding rounds, considering the time to Zero, after estimating a fixed date for their burn out, and instead they build plans towards certain goals, and raise cash by responding to opportunities as they come. This means that they focus on sales, and support from the marketplace, but it doesn’t mean they take whatever cash is going running in the street. Nor do they accept any external funding regardless of quality of the principals involved.

This in turn has vastly changed the way Venture Capital firms operate as a response to the changes in the way StartUps operate. And here is what is driving this, and what should founders be doing to respond to the changing climate in Ten soundbites that can be executed daily to have Success with Investors and keep the StartUp humming right along: 1) Address their long term needs in a Business Funding Plan… 2) Adjust for the increasingly blinding Speed of change… 3) Don’t matter if none of these rounds were in the plan… 4) StartUps should be aware that they must be far more agile in their hunt for funding.
5) Venture Capital is trying to play catch up and is thus becoming more proactive… 6) Constant Growth now matters more than ever… 7) Passionate Conviction matters more than ever… 8) Be open — Take the call, but be wary… 9) Manage to Goals, Milestones, & KPIs, not to a flame-out timetables… 10) Flame outs occur to all…

A key reason for the end of the formal funding round timetable, is that venture capitalists are in the hunter mode due to the slosh in the Capital Markets. The increased amounts of capital available in early stage technology markets, means that investors just don’t have the luxury of being able to sit and wait for rounds to come to them.

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Got to do the Hustle…

On top of this, the vastly increased amounts of public data around every company means investors are now armed with the tools to form a view about a company before receiving a formal pitch. In the past, we relied on NDA-protected, broker designed pitch deck to understand how a company is doing…

Now our CRM allows us to instantly see the number of employees, social traction, and progress in multiple distribution channels, whether App Store, Github or beyond; well before speaking to a company, allowing us to be much more proactive in our approach.

The focus of founders has changed too. The cost of building most types of product has fallen dramatically, meaning that execution is now the key competitive advantage. The best measure of successful execution is growth in both revenues and margins. As soon as a company finds a way to sustainably grow these metrics, it doesn’t make sense to wait until your planned funding period and risk losing your differentiator. Instead the current market of cheap money means that founders want to throw fuel on the fire as soon as possible.

In an increasingly competitive world, there is no time for rumination. This does not mean that investors should shoot from the hip, but thumb-twiddlers will be left behind. We have more data on markets and companies than ever before, and the ability to do much more granular due diligence. But if we do approach a company to discuss investment, we know we can’t then waste their time by taking months to come to a final decision.

The heat is on: indecision is fatal. “Killing-It” in a deal means something entirely different today, than what it meant yesterday.

So, if the old-school funding round is dead and buried, how can founders make this work to their advantage?

One of the favourite Investor questions of days gone by, asked by the Men of Old, was: “How many months of runway does this capital give you?”

That’s a fair question — but it doesn’t mean much in a world where growth is king, and money grows on trees. Today, the size of your Runway simply matters far less than yesterday…

The question that entrepreneurs should be asked isn’t about runway, but instead: where does your current capital get you? What metrics do you care about hitting with the capital you have? “I have enough money to last six months” is a far less useful or powerful statement than “I have enough money to get me to XXX, MAUs, MRR, or EBITDA.”

While managing cash and burn, will keep you alive — you’ll still be a zombie unless you manage to grow as well.

In the same way that investors are becoming more transparent, companies have to be too. There is no point in NDAs or no-number teasers in a world where tools like Mattermark & CBInsights, are scraping mentions of your business on twitter daily. Even when things aren’t going well, it will build confidence in you as a manager and leader if you are open with potential investors on current metrics and your goals.

Dr Kroko


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In a more proactive investor world, you’re going to have to deal with far more inbound emails and calls from your Investors, from their financial advisors, their CPAs, their auditors, their employees, and also from all other prospective investors… And while you don’t want to waste time talking to everyone, you should simply use all automated ways like podcasting, and BBS and other smart ways to keep people informed without spending much time and energy on the task, because You’ve got a job to do and thai is to deliver the Value and growth they all seek to make their investment worth their while…

So it’s a catch22 situation. The more time you spend haldholding — the less time you’ve got to execute. And vice versa. So find a way to reach many people with one action. See how I go One to Many:

Do something like this because it is a simple approach to keep current investors happy and get new ones all the time. This is the way to run your investors circle like a Group of Fans. Treat them to frequent and regular ‘investor updates’ and events, emails to a list of warm contacts, and personal public meetings that are enthusiastic public Love fests. By doing so, you cultivate your public image while also building bridges, and a group of informed investors to call Your own. And this method of public outreach, grows the very public group of the people that you can call upon when you hit your growth metrics, and you have a perfect excuse to ask for follow on capital, and thus see who is really supportive of your nascent startup in advance. Keeping investors informed is the only way to raise quickly the next round and get back to executing on your business plan while you are carving out and following your very own road plan.

This also means you’ve got to be able to say No. Say no often and defriend a bunch of dead weight. It means that you can push off the hanger-on investors, who will always hang around, trying to be your friend, by telling you how excited they are — but they never really help you out, nor pull the trigger on an investment.

Lose the Losers. As a matter of fact it’s Good To Lose them quickly… Fire their ass.

Time wasted on this lot is never recovered.

Focus on the movers and shakers only.

Posted by: Dr Pano Kroko | October 3, 2015

Biotech Capital in 5 simple steps

The landscape for Biotechnology funding in the United States has never been better…

Yet it has never been worse either…

Here are both stories for You.

It’s no secret that the Biotechnology industry has seen rapid growth in venture capital investment in recent years, and the chart below shows quarterly funding activity for the industry from Q1 2008 to Q2 2015:

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The rise in funding can be generally attributed to a favorable exit environment for investment, due to five major factors.
1) It is generally believed that big Pharma is looking to restock its dated pipeline of blockbuster drugs and is looking for the best candidate companies to acquire.
2) Naturally the IPO environment for promising clinical stage biotechs, when not shut due to macro market concerns, has been extremely favorable to StartUp Biotech firms.         3) The FDA approval process has become far more flexible and the time to approval has been significantly shortened thus allowing for the StartUps to finally have a chance at accelerated development still congruent with the burn rates of VC funding within the lifecycle of the 7 year Funds.                                                           4) Biotechnology companies continued advances in information technology, big data, IoT, and Cellular therapies with genome sequencing — prove that the industry has a bright future ahead of it.
5) Angel Investor interest in Biotech has increased massively and that makes for an easy inroad to the VC institutional investors table…

Dr Kroko

Posted by: Dr Pano Kroko | October 3, 2015


Fluchthelfers = Flighthelpers…

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The meaning of the phrase “refugee crisis” in Europe can be hard to grasp — until you see the photographs.

A Syrian toddler, dead on a Turkish beach, after the boat in which his family was attempting to flee to Europe capsized at sea. Desperate families crowding a Hungarian train station, their children sleeping on floors and sidewalks, fearing Hungary will intern them in sinister-sounding “camps.” Greek tourism towns filling with tents and with humanitarian workers, to accommodate the rickety boats of refugees that arrive daily at the shores.

Today, more than 19 million people have been forced to flee their home countries because of war, persecution, and oppression, and every day an estimated 42,500 more join them. Many, though far from all, of them head for Europe, which is why the crisis there can appear most acute.

There are two layers to this crisis and why it has grown so dire. The first is the sometimes-overlapping web of wars and crises that has forced millions of people from their homes in the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, and elsewhere — and that has opened, ever so slightly, a previously closed route to Europe.

The second, and less-discussed, is the increasingly anti-refugee politics in Western and other wealthy countries that are best suited to take them. People in those countries, insecure and fearful over the effects of immigration, preoccupied with vague but long-held ideas about national identity, are driving nativist, populist politics, and thus policies that contribute to the crisis.

The result is that at a time when more people than ever need help, wealthy countries are more reluctant to help them — putting thousands or millions of innocent refugee families in peril.

The biggest driver of the crisis by far is Syria. Four million people, nearly a fifth of Syria’s population, have fled the country since the war began in 2011.

It’s not hard to understand why Syrians are fleeing. Bashar al-Assad’s regime has targeted civilians ruthlessly, including with chemical weapons and barrel bombs; ISIS has subjected Syrians to murder, torture, crucifixion, sexual slavery, and other appalling atrocities; and other groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra have tortured and killed Syrians as well.

Most of these Syrian refugees have ended up in underfunded and crowded camps in neighboring countries. But seeing little future for their families in the camps, and knowing they may never be able to return home, many have decided to set out on the dangerous and uncertain journey for a better life in Europe.

But it’s not just Syria. Older, longer-running conflicts have displaced, for instance, 1.1 million refugees from Somalia and 2.59 million from Afghanistan.

Political and sectarian repression in other countries has contributed as well. Many families in Eritrea, for example, are fleeing the dictatorship there that is sometimes called Africa’s own North Korea. In Myanmar, a Muslim minority group known as the Rohingya has endured brutal violence and ethnic cleansing, sometimes with the tacit support of the Myanmar government or even at the hands of government forces themselves. Fleeing Rohingya made headlines in recent months after thousands became stranded at sea, marooned in dangerous boats because neighboring countries refused to take them in.

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Meanwhile, in Central America, gang violence and lawlessness made thousands of families so desperate for their children’s safety that they sent those children on a perilous journey north toward what they hoped would be safety in the United States. Many of their futures remain uncertain.

To be sure, there are also many economic migrants who travel to wealthy countries in search of better opportunities for themselves and their families. But their presence doesn’t erase the desperate need of refugees who make the difficult decision to flee with their families, risking drowning in the Mediterranean or dying on the roads because the terrifying dangers of the journey are still preferable to what they face if they stay behind.

As you can see, these crises sending refugees fleeing for safety are not all necessarily related, and indeed many are totally distinct. But the global refugee crisis is more than just a collection of these individual humanitarian disasters. There are a few common elements tying much of them together. One of them is the Arab Spring, the wave of anti-government protests that hit the Middle East in 2011.

For years, the EU kept refugees out of sight and out of mind by paying Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi’s government to intercept and turn back migrants that were heading for Europe.

Qaddafi was something like Europe’s bouncer, helping to keep the potentially significant number of African migrants and refugees from ever reaching the continent. His methods were terrible: Libya imprisoned migrants in camps where rape and torture were widespread. But Europe was happy to have someone else worrying about the problem.

But then came the Arab Spring. In 2011, Libyans rose up against Qaddafi, Europe and the US eventually intervened, and with Qaddafi’s regime gone, Libya collapsed into chaos. Though the journey through Libya remained dangerous, it was also suddenly open, making it easier for both refugees and economic migrants from across Africa to use the country’s shores as a launching pad for the cross-Mediterranean journey to Europe.

At the same time, the Arab Spring also helped lead to Syria’s war, and to conflict in Yemen, and eventually to the rise of ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Of course, none of this caused the exodus of refugees from, say, Afghanistan or Myanmar, but the Arab Spring was perhaps the largest single spark of the ongoing, global refugee crisis.

As the crisis has grown, and particularly as more refugees have left camps in places such as Jordan or Myanmar and set out for wealthier countries, the crisis has also become far more difficult to ignore.

It is not merely a matter of swelling numbers of people in far-off refugee camps — although that is happening too, and the camps are in crisis — but of desperate families reaching the shores and borders of Europe.

There are a few reasons that refugees have become more willing to brave the journey to Europe (or to Australia, in the case of some Southeast Asian refugees; or to the US, in the case of Central American refugees). The first is that the crises in their home countries have simply become too dangerous to tolerate. Another is that while many initially fled into camps, those camps have become dangerous as well, and offer little future for families who may spend years there.

This summer, the European Union, United States, and Kuwait respectively pledged $1.2 billion, $507 million, and $500 million for aid to refugees. That’s good, but it’s still far short of the $5.5 billion in aid that the UN says is needed for these refugees, as well as another $2.9 billion for displaced Syrians within Syria. As a result, the camps are often crowded and undersupplied, which leaves the people who live in them cold, hungry, and subject to the ravages of disease.

In the meantime, other crises have opened previously closed routes, for example through Libya. And as the numbers of these refugees have grown, so have the often exploitative smuggling networks that lead the journeys, often for exorbitantly high fees, in dangerous conditions, and with little regard for the safety of their charges.

And so hundreds of thousands of refugees have made their way to Europe, with most crossing the Mediterranean in rickety boats and rubber dinghies. Those boats are barely seaworthy, so tragedies are frequent: UNHCR estimates that 2,500 people have died just this summer while attempting to make the crossing.

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That influx to wealthy countries makes the crisis seem, for those countries, far more immediate and extreme. When children die in Syria, that rarely grabs the developed world’s attention — sadly, and unjustly, it has come to seem routine. But when they die in the back of trucks in Austria, or in the Mediterranean while trying to reach Greece, that feels much harder to ignore.

Rich countries, in their efforts to deter refugees from reaching their shores, have actively avoided policies that would make the journeys less dangerous, and thus contributed to the danger. Last fall, for instance, the UK cut funding for the Mare Nostrum search-and-rescue operations that saved an estimated 150,000 people in one year, saying the rescues encouraged more people to make the crossing. The Italian government ended the operation in November. Since then, it has been replaced by the EU’s far more limited Frontex program, which only patrols within 30 miles of the border, and does not have a search-and-rescue mission.

The result, predictably, has been deadly: An estimated 2,500 people have already died so far this summer. This is not an accident. It is the result of European policy meant to keep out refugees.

Within Europe, countries are also trying to restrict refugees from getting to or staying within their borders. Hungary has erected a razor-wire fence along its border with Serbia in an effort to prevent refugees from crossing into Europe over land. It also announced new laws that will make it a crime to damage the fence or cross it, and will make illegal border crossing punishable by up to three years in prison. The Hungarian government also shut down train service to Germany in an apparent effort to discourage refugees from using Hungary as a transit country on their way to seek asylum there.

And Austria has now introduced checks along its internal border with the rest of Europe to search for refugees and other immigrants being smuggled into the country. Although the government claims that the checks are a humanitarian measure intended to prevent tragedies like the recent deaths of 71 people who suffocated in the back of a smuggler’s truck, critics have charged that they constitute a violation of the EU’s open-border policy.

Australia, meanwhile, has gone to great lengths to prevent so-called “boat people” from reaching its shores, including imprisoning them in abusive detention centers on remote pacific islands, and shipping them off to Cambodia.

In North America, the US has stepped up enforcement efforts after last year’s child migrant crisis, including sending aid to Central American countries in exchange for efforts to keep children from making the journey to the United States. As with Europe and with other right countries, the whole idea is to keep refugees from showing up in the first place — even though these efforts never solve, or often even address, the underlying crises that cause the refugees in the first place.

For years, the world’s wealthiest countries have, for the most part, steadfastly refused to accept more than the barest possible minimum of the world’s refugees. As a result, now that the crisis is growing out of control, there is no plan in place to handle it, and no agreement on how the burdens should be shared.

The European Union is particularly ill-suited to this. In theory, the EU is supposed to handle refugees collectively, to act sort of like a unified country in the way that, say, the US collectively takes responsibility for refugees who show up in Arizona, rather than making Arizona carry the entire burden. But in practice, most EU member states don’t want to take their fair share, and EU rules mean they don’t technically have to. As a result, the majority of incoming refugees are stuck in the same two or three countries, which quickly became overwhelmed. That is bad for those countries and bad for the refugees.

Part of how this happens is a European Union rule called the Dublin Regulation, which requires refugees to stay in the first European country they arrive in until their asylum claims are processed. In theory, this rule is a way to prevent applicants from “orbiting” the EU by filing application after application in different countries until one of them finally gets approved. But in practice, it’s a rule that has trapped thousands of refugees in Greece and Italy, simply because those countries are the easiest ones to reach by boat across the Mediterranean. And it’s a rule that many EU countries exploit in order to push much of the burden of handling refugees onto these two countries.

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The results have been disastrous. Doctors Without Borders’ Stathis Kyroussis described the current refugee crisis in Greece as the worst he has ever seen: “I have worked in many refugee camps before, in Yemen, Malawi, and Angola. But here on the island of Kos, this is the first time in my life that I have seen people so totally abandoned.” According to Human Rights Watch, the Greek reception centers, where arriving refugees are held, lack sufficient food and health care, and are so severely unsanitary and chronically overcrowded that the conditions in them may amount to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment under international law.

European countries could, and in theory should, accept many of these refugees into their own borders. This would be much better for the refugees, and also healthier for the EU, whose ideals of burden-sharing have been strained nearly to the breaking point by the migrant and refugee influx. But most EU nations are instead acting selfishly to keep refugees out.

Germany, to its credit, recently agreed to suspend application of the Dublin Regulation for Syrian refugees, who will now be permitted to apply for asylum directly in Germany. But the rest of Europe has largely failed to follow Germany’s moral leadership. And while there are now small signs that might be changing — on Friday the UK announced vague plans to accept “thousands” of Syrian refugees — there is as yet no unified EU response, and thus Europe’s status quo remains unfriendly to refugees.

The United States, for its part, has largely ignored the crisis. Thus far it has resettled only 1,434 Syrian refugees, and has pledged to take only a few thousand more. The entire US refugee resettlement program is capped at 70,000 refugees globally — a cap that has remained the same for years, despite the growing crisis.

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That problem would be much easier to solve if it were just a question of money. Europe is wealthy, and so are Australia and the United States. There is no doubt that we could bear the costs of resettling and sheltering the refugees who need help, even with their growing numbers. And in the long run, such a program would likely pay for itself: Immigration tends to be a net economic positive for immigrants and their new home countries alike.

But the problem isn’t really about money. Rather, the challenge is about overcoming the domestic political forces that drive nativism, right-wing populism, and anti-immigration policies. The political forces are complex, but they often come down to an anxiety about change.

Taking in large numbers of refugees requires accepting that those refugees might bring changes to a nation’s identity or culture. That is of course often a very good thing: Refugees have been enriching their host countries for generations, improving everything from their snack foods to their scientific discoveries. But accepting them means accepting changes that can feel scary. As Max Fisher wrote, taking in large numbers of refugees means having to modify, ever so slightly, your vision of what your town and neighborhood look like, and having to widen the definition of your community’s culture.

And therein lies the real problem: This crisis has arisen at a time when many people in wealthy countries already feel tremendously threatened by immigration, and by the idea that their towns, communities, and cultures are changing in ways that feel uncomfortable or scary.

That is especially acute within the EU, partly because economic duress has led to the growth of right-wing, populist anti-EU parties that are also anti-immigration, and partly because internal migration within the EU has already heightened populist anxieties about foreigners. And here in the US, Donald Trump has ridden a wave of anti-immigrant sentiment to the top of the polls in the GOP presidential primary, which just goes to show how strong those feelings have become.

Political scientist Deborah Schildkraut, who studies immigration and national identity, told me in July that this kind of anti-immigrant populism is often driven by a deep sense of insecurity over demographic change.

Here in the United States, for instance, studies have found that when Americans are shown headlines about the country becoming a majority-minority nation, that makes them more conservative on a host of issues, including those not related to migration. That has fueled Donald Trump’s dizzying rise in popularity this year: As Dara Lind writes, the appeal of his anti-immigrant demagoguery is at root not about jobs or economics, but about fear.

One study found that white Americans are far more comfortable with the idea of immigrants who are like them — for instance, those who are white or Christian, or who come from a European country that feels culturally similar to the US — than with those who do not share their religion, ethnic origin, or cultural background.

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In Europe, similar insecurities have driven the rise of anti-immigrant parties and policies. In the UK, where a recent poll found that an astonishing 67 percent of people thought the government should deploy the army to keep immigrants from crossing into the UK through the Channel Tunnel, the polling outfit YouGov concluded recently that “when we think of immigration as an issue, we link it to government failure, economic insecurity and Britain’s decline from greatness.” UK Foreign Minister Philip Hammond claimed in August that migrants from Africa were a threat to Europe’s “standard of living and social infrastructure.”

On Thursday, Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban defended his government’s harsh treatment of refugees by explicitly calling them a threat to Europe’s Christian identity. “We shouldn’t forget that the people who are coming here grew up in a different religion and represent a completely different culture. Most are not Christian, but Muslim,” he said. “Or is it not worrying that Europe’s Christian culture is already barely able to maintain its own set of Christian values?”

The truth, of course, is that it would never have been possible to freeze any country’s “culture” or “values” in a fixed status quo. Whatever policies Europe has on refugees and migration, culture and social norms there will continue changing, as they always have. But that is part of what often drives the desperation of anti-immigration politics, how they can be so inhumane: Even if they take in zero refugees, they are fighting a losing war.

Unwilling to face this reality, a number of Western countries have taken the attitude that they can ignore the crisis and make it somebody else’s responsibility. The UK wants France to keep refugees away from the UK. France wants Italy to keep refugees away from France. Italy, like Greece, wants the rest of Europe to take its refugees. But pretty much all of Europe agrees that Turkey, which has the largest refugee population on Earth, many of them Syrian, should be handling it.

The United States, for its part, has the resources to resettle more people and a resettlement program with the expertise to do so, but has thus far preferred to ignore its responsibility to the global community, secure in the knowledge that the vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean will keep refugees from forcing the matter by showing up unannounced.

With the rare exception of Germany, each country is trying to push the burden on somebody else, which means nobody is actually trying to handle the crisis, which means the crisis is getting worse all the time.

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But the crisis is already here. The desperate refugees have to go somewhere. Leaving them to die under barrel bombs, or be persecuted by dictatorships, or to live out their lives for a generation or more in packed refugee camps in Jordan or Turkey or Kos is not a real option, but it’s the option that the world is trying to choose. That’s a failed strategy. And it is simply too high a price to pay to soothe our own insecurities…

On September 2, Ole Seidenberg flicked on the morning news in Berlin and saw an image he still can’t get out of his head: a police officer holding the tiny, limp body of a 3-year-old Syrian refugee who had washed up on a Turkish beach while trying to flee by boat to Greece. The photo of the dead boy has since become the most famous symbol of Europe’s ongoing refugee crisis.

Seidenberg thought of his own 4-year-old daughter and quickly canceled a holiday in the countryside that he and his wife had planned. Instead, the 32-year-old social entrepreneur decided to take a very different trip: He drove out of Germany, through Austria, and into Hungary to pick up refugees and ferry them back to his home country, a move that would help them gain asylum.

Seidenberg is one of at least 100 Germans who call themselves “Fluchthelfer,” which roughly translates as “escape helpers.” The term has a unique historical resonance in this country. During World War II, German Fluchthelfer helped Jews escape and hide from the Nazis. During the Cold War, they helped East Germans who were trying to escape the communist regime and flee to the West.

Modern-day Fluchthelfer, for their part, are creating an underground railroad to move refugees around Europe — and help those trying to escape war-torn countries like Iraq and Syria gain asylum.

The movement has arisen in reaction to a controversial European Union law called the Dublin Regulation, which states that asylum seekers must have their refugee claims processed in the countries in which they first arrive in Europe.

The law was originally meant to keep immigrants from circulating the continent, applying for asylum in many different countries. But amid the current crisis, with thousands fleeing from Afghanistan, Syria, and Libya every day, it means that refugees crowd into just a handful of countries: Those who travel via boat tend to end up in Italy and Greece, and those who travel overland through the Balkans tend to turn up in Hungary.

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The pile-up has created all sorts of roadblocks for the refugees. Italy and Greece have become so overwhelmed by applicants, immigration officials can’t keep up. Meanwhile, the right-wing government in Hungary has become openly hostile to immigrants, refusing asylum claims and placing immigrants into chainlink pens with inhumane conditions. And because of the Dublin Regulation, refugees can’t pass through Greece, Italy, or Hungary and make it to countries with more generous asylum policies and shorter processing times, like Germany or Sweden.

Critics say the Dublin Regulation is fundamentally flawed: It puts an undue burden on just a few countries, and it means the fates of desperate refugees are determined by accidents of geography. So that’s where the escape helpers come in. If, say, the Fluchthelfer can sneak people from Hungary into Germany, the asylum seekers could have a better chance at gaining refugee status in Europe.

The catch is that this type of human smuggling — though volunteer and unpaid — is obviously illegal, flouting both the Dublin Regulation and human trafficking laws. But escape helpers view what they’re doing as a form of civil disobedience. And despite its illicit nature, the underground railroad remains broadly popular in Germany.

“At the moment, there’s a lot of acceptance in society for Fluchthelfer,” said Max (not his real name) a volunteer with the Peng Collective, an activist group that has helped organize and coordinate more than 100 volunteer escape helpers like Seidenberg. Wearing a blue hoodie and black jeans at Peng’s headquarters, an old factory in a Turkish neighborhood in Berlin, Max explained that he has already driven five groups of refugees across European borders into Germany, and he’ll continue to do so until asylum seekers have the same freedom of movement as other Europeans.

“All the escape-helping movements in the past have been illegal,” he said. “But they were justified in the books of history afterward.”

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Ole Seidenberg’s first “escape helper” journey began on September 4. With a friend, he rented a silver Volkswagen Sharan, and left Berlin at night, driving through the Czech Republic and Slovakia to reach Hungary by Saturday morning.

Nothing went as planned. Little did they realize that right as they were driving, European countries were already in the middle of changing the already confusing rules around refugees — a perfect illustration of just how fluid the situation is.

Their original plan was to go to the Keleti train station in Budapest, Hungary, a major transit hub for Europe where immigrants had been arriving from the Middle East. The station had become a “de facto modern refugee camp,” and thousands of asylum seekers had been stranded there for days. The far-right government, led by Prime Minister Viktor Orban, had ordered police officials to bar asylum seekers from getting on trains, even closing down the station at one point. Seidenberg hoped to pick up a refugee family and smuggle them back to Germany.

But that night, an unexpected twist occurred. German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that she was temporarily loosening her country’s immigration laws: Any Syrian refugees who made it into Germany could apply for asylum. They wouldn’t be deported back to the European country where they’d first arrived. In response, the Hungarian government sent 100 buses to the train station to clear out the asylum seekers and bring them to the Austrian border, where they could then move on to Germany.

By the time they reached the train station — which Seidenberg said smelled like urine and sweat — thousands of refugees had already been loaded onto the buses bound for the border. It seemed like the underground railroad was no longer needed, at least for the refugees at Keleti station.

At that point, the two ran into a pair of Berlin-based computer hackers who were also in Budapest as escape helpers. One of the hackers, Alex (not his real name), told Vox that he had been checking Twitter and trying to figure out where they might be needed. They heard that an area about 31 miles from the Austrian-Hungarian border had become a hotspot, and that if they drove through the countryside toward the border from Budapest, they would find refugees looking for a ride.

The group drove their two cars through Budapest’s streets and on to the refugee hotspot. As they neared the border, Alex said, they saw hundreds of refugees, along with a handful of cars opening their doors. When Seidenberg opened the doors of his Volkswagen, a family from Iraq tried to get in. The car was so full that Seidenberg’s friend had to get out and wait while Seidenberg drove the family to the border.

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By 1 am, after ferrying several groups of refugees back and forth — a small effort to make an inhumanely rough refugee journey a little easier — Seidenberg, his friend, and the two Berlin hackers reunited at a gas station on the Austrian side of the Hungarian border. They wanted to figure out their next steps.

There, they spotted a family carrying a bunch of plastic bags, seemingly left behind. The family, originally from Aleppo, Syria, was hesitant to accept a lift. They had just paid 500 euros to traffickers who left them at the gas station in the middle of the night, and were wary of further strangers. “They thought we must be traffickers ourselves,” said Seidenberg. “Why would we appear in the middle of the night in the gas station?”

After a tense negotiation, Seidenberg and his friend agreed to drive three men and three children to Frankfurt. Alex and his driving partner took another three adults who were headed to northern Germany.

In Seidenberg’s car, the refugees fell asleep within 10 minutes. “They were completely exhausted,” Seidenberg says. “They were on their legs 17 days. They had lived in Turkey [in a refugee camp] for 10 months.” From Turkey, they had traveled by boat to Greece and from Greece to Macedonia, Serbia, then Hungary. Seidenberg wondered how they could trust him enough to just fall asleep in his car, but he soon realized that they were so tired, they had no other choice.

Seidenberg also learned that the Syrians were more of a de facto family that had formed in a refugee camp in Turkey than blood relatives. There were three men and three children — 6, 10, and 11 years old. Two of the men were friends, and the other man said he was the uncle of the three children. The hope was that if the kids got asylum in Europe, they could bring their mother over. The man’s own children were with his sister in Turkey. “They have no idea what’s going to happen.”

“We drove through the night, scared, because there were so many police at every gas station,” Seidenberg said. After all, the escape helpers were risking serious consequences. In Austria, they could be fined for smuggling people in this fashion. In Hungary, they could face up to four years in jail. In Germany, they were risking up to 10 years of prison time under trafficking laws.

“It’s funny how you feel criminal although you’re not doing something bad,” Seidenberg said. If he was caught, he planned to negotiate. “I would say, ‘Look, read the news. Do you know what Merkel did?'” He felt confident that he’d be heard out. “How could they put us into jail for helping to drive people?”

And if he did get caught? “Even if I were to be put in jail in Hungary, it’d be such a big thing for the press,” Seidenberg said. “Humans helping humans to do what it is their right is to do: seek asylum in another country instead of just the country they reach first.” He added, “The Dublin Agreement is absurd.”

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By Sunday at about 10 in the morning, Seidenberg and the refugees had arrived in Frankfurt. They drove to a Syrian relative’s home, and together ate a breakfast of eggs, feta cheese, and flatbread, and drank many cups of black tea.

Seidenberg has kept in touch with the group of refugees, and learned that they’re now getting their paperwork together to apply for immigration in Germany. “One of them sends me WhatsApp voice recordings all the time to say hello and let me know how he’s doing. It’s really cute,” he says. One of the Syrian refugees will also come to Berlin to spend Christmas with Seidenberg and his family.

About a week after the drive, Merkel reinstated border controls around Germany — the refugee influx had already become too overwhelming. Hungary, meanwhile, had erected a razor-wire fence at the border with Serbia to seal the country from foreigners coming in from the Middle East through the Balkans.

That means the escape helpers have become even busier. “Hungary is closing their borders more and more; there are more controls on the Austrian-Hungarian border,” said Seidenberg. But the escape helpers adapt to these changes, often communicating over encrypted messages. “As the refugees’ routes change, so do the routes of the escape helpers. It’s not going to end.”

What happens next isn’t clear. How will Europe deal with the 19 million people seeking safety and better prospects? Will other European countries follow Germany’s lead and try to be more welcoming?

The situation will only become more dire during the winter, worsening what is already Europe’s most urgent immigration emergency since World War II.

“People are going into the streets, protesting [against accepting more refugees]. They are afraid that with [these refugees] it won’t be their Germany anymore,” Seidenberg said. “But if you go there and meet those people, it washes away anything that could make that anxiety real. These people just left their countries. They need help. Everything else — that they are Muslim, that they come from a different country — it’s not important. You don’t organize a process and then help.”

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First, we have to have empathy and help, and then get organized to help some more…



“Any harm done to the environment is harm to humanity”
-Pope Francis speaking at the United Nations

Pope Francis addressed the largest gathering of world leaders to ever converge in the United Nations headquarters in Manhattan New York today, where he put climate action at the heart of his call for social justice, sustainable development and global peace.

Speaking before the Pope’s address at the UN General Assembly, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Pope Francis’ visit to the US will inspire the global community to act on climate to “ensure a life of dignity for all”. He said: “Like the United Nations, you are driven by passion to help others.” Pointing to the pope’s recent speeches on economic development and the environment, he said: “Your visit coincides with the Agenda to Adopt the UN Sustainable Development Goals, but that is no coincidence.

Climate change is a principal challenge facing the world. This message is critical as we head toward Paris in December.”

In his address which was watched live around the world, Pope Francis called to improve the imbalance of power to tackle climate change, due its impact on the world’s most vulnerable. “We human beings are part of the environment and believe in communion with it. And the environment itself has ethical limits which humans must actively acknowledge and respect.”

He continued…: “Any harm done to the environment is harm to humanity.”

“Every living creature has an intrinsic value its existence, its life, its beauty and its dependence with other creatures. We Christians together with the other monotheistic religions, believe the universe is the fruit of a loving decision by the Creator, who permits man respectfully to use creation for the good of his fellow men and for the glory of the Creator; but man is not authorized to abuse it, must less he is authorized to destroy it.

“In all religions the environment is fundamental good. Misuse and destruction of the environment are also accommodated by a relentless process of exclusion. A selfish and boundless thirst for power and material and prosperity leads to other misuse of available natural resources and the exclusion of the weak and disadvantaged.”

Pope Francis stressed the importance of the UN SDGs and the upcoming global climate talks in Paris, COP21. “Adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the world summit which opens today is an important sign of hope. I am confident that the Paris conference on climate change will secure fundamental and effective agreements. Solemn commitments however, are not enough even though they are a necessary step toward solutions.

“Concrete steps and immediate measures for preserving and improving the natural environment and thus putting an end as quickly as possible to the phenomenon of social and economic exclusion. The ecological crisis and the large-scale destruction of biodiversity, can threaten the very existence of the human species.”

The pope concluded by affirming that human development “must continue to rise on the foundation of respect for the sacredness of every human life.”

Dr Kroko


Seems that Francis connects with people and Peoples from all walks of Life.

And in return, people applaud Pope as being far more human than all of his predecessors because he is a humble person, and as such far more able to relate with others.

“Pope Francis “gets” Climate Change and Humanity’s need to pivot in order to survive… as a species. After all he has been a Chemist in his youth; and as a Scientist He is able to know the difference between Scientific Truth and Falsehood.

He can make also the connections that so many people either deliberately omit or unwittingly overlook, because he can see the patterns, and is also able to connect the dots between faith and life, between economy and ecology, and especially between poverty and pollution.

That’s why what he says matters greatly, and that’s why what he says hurts the feelings of the wrongdoers…

Posted by: Dr Pano Kroko | September 24, 2015

“God bless America” –Pope Francis

Washington is a deeply spiritual city today…

Who would have thought?

Maybe it’s all because of this guy Francis showing up…

Indeed Pope Francis not only came to Washington but he opened his speech to Congress by describing himself as a “son of this great continent” joined in a common purpose with America.

Pope Francis is calling for a “delicate balance” in fighting religious extremism to ensure that fundamental freedoms aren’t trampled at the same time.

He says in his speech to Congress that “no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism.”

He says religious, intellectual and individual freedoms must be safeguarded, while at the same time, combatting violence perpetrated in the name of religion.

The pope cautioned us against simplistically breaking the world into camps of good and evil.

Francis expressed deep concern about the slaughter of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East at the hands of Islamic extremists, fearing that the Christian presence itself within the region is risk. We already know that he has dispatched “Papal Envoys” to Iraq and Syria, with money and other forms of assistance to help refugees in their time of need.

Pope Francis is urging all the US Congress members — and the United States as a whole — not to be afraid of immigrants, but to welcome them as fellow human beings.

He says people are not things that can be discarded just because they are troublesome…

Francis admonition comes as the upcoming US Presidential race is roiled by questions about immigration from Mexico and Latin America amongst the GOP, and the nation is weighing how many migrants to accept from the refugees fleeing the wars of the Middle East… that were started by the invasion of Iraq.

The son of Italian immigrants to Argentina himself, Francis noted that the United States was founded by immigrants, that many lawmakers are descended from foreigners, and that this generation must not “turn their back on our neighbors.”

His plea: “Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated.”

Speaking to Congress, Pope Francis called for an end to the death penalty in the U.S. and across the world.

Francis says that every life is sacred and society can only benefit from rehabilitating those convicted of crimes.

The Pope noted that US bishops have renewed their call to abolish capital punishment, knowing that idea is unpopular, with many American politicians.

The Pope did not specifically mention abortion — a particularly contentious issue in Congress at the moment that threatens to force the shutdown of the US government next week, but the sanctity of Life was all over his speech.

Still, his remarks referred to the Catholic church’s opposition to abortion. He urged lawmakers and all Americans to “protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.”

Pope Francis has used his speech to Congress to express sympathy for American Indians for their “turbulent and violent” early contacts with arriving Europeans. But he says it is hard to judge past actions by today’s standards.

Francis did not specifically use the term American Indians. He said the rights of “those who were here long before us” were not always respected.

He says that “for those people and their nations,” he wants to express his highest esteem and appreciation.

Francis has been criticized by some Native Americans for his decision to canonize an 18th century missionary, Junipero Serra, on Wednesday. Indigenous groups say Serra was part of the violent colonizing machine that wiped out indigenous populations. Francis has defended Serra in the past as a great Evangelist who protected indigenous peoples from the abuses of colonizers.

Pope Francis is demanding an end to the arms trade, delivering a tough message to a country that is the world’s largest exporter of weapons and wars.

Speaking before Congress, the pope asked “why weapons are being sold to people who intend only to inflict suffering on innocents.” He said: “Sadly, the answer as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood.”

Francis has in the past denounced weapons makers and dealers as “the root of evil” and questioned how weapons manufacturers can call themselves Christian.

Francis has, however, said that it is legitimate to use military force against an “unjust aggression” such as the attacks by Islamic extremists against Christian and other religious minorities, in both Syria and Iraq.

Pope Francis is lamenting that the very basis of marriage and family life today is being put into question — an allusion to gay marriage in a country that recently legalized same-sex marriage across the land.

Speaking before Congress in the first-ever papal address, Francis said the family today is “threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without.”

While Francis has shown great openness to gays as individuals, he has staunchly upheld the church teaching that marriage is a union between man and woman.

Sitting in front of Francis for his speech was John Roberts, chief justice of the Supreme Court, which legalized gay marriage across the country.

Francis is also scheduled to speak in greater depth about the threats to families at a big church rally in Philadelphia later this week.

Pope Francis has taken his call for action on climate change to Congress. In his address to lawmakers, Francis urged a “courageous and responsible effort” to avert the most serious effects of what he called the “environmental deterioration caused by human activity.”

Francis says he’s convinced that working together, nations can make a difference to slow global warming. He says the US and “this Congress” have an important role to play. Now, he says, is the time for a “culture of care.”

From the balcony of the US Capitol, Pope Francis asked a crowd of tens of thousands to pray for him.

It’s a plea he traditionally makes. But this time, speaking in Spanish, he added a line to acknowledge that not everyone in the crowd was Christian, much less a believer.

Through a translator, the pontiff said: “If among you there are some who don’t believe or who cannot pray, I ask that you send good wishes my way.”

After his speech to Congress, the pope walked onto a balcony of the Capitol and greeted the throngs with “Buenos Dias.”

He expressed gratitude for their presence and asked God to bless “the most important ones here — children.”

Francis ended his remarks in English, saying:

“Thank you very much and God bless America.”


All in all the full transcript of Pope Francis speech is here bellow:

” Dear Friends,

I am most grateful for your invitation to address this Joint Session of Congress in “the land of the free and the home of the brave”. I would like to think that the reason for this is that I too am a son of this great continent, from which we have all received so much and toward which we share a common responsibility.

Each son or daughter of a given country has a mission, a personal and social responsibility. Your own responsibility as members of Congress is to enable this country, by your legislative activity, to grow as a nation. You are the face of its people, their representatives. You are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good, for this is the chief aim of all politics. A political society endures when it seeks, as a vocation, to satisfy common needs by stimulating the growth of all its members, especially those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk. Legislative activity is always based on care for the people. To this you have been invited, called and convened by those who elected you.

Yours is a work which makes me reflect in two ways on the figure of Moses. On the one hand, the patriarch and lawgiver of the people of Israel symbolizes the need of peoples to keep alive their sense of unity by means of just legislation. On the other, the figure of Moses leads us directly to God and thus to the transcendent dignity of the human being. Moses provides us with a good synthesis of your work: you are asked to protect, by means of the law, the image and likeness fashioned by God on every human face.

Today I would like not only to address you, but through you the entire people of the United States. Here, together with their representatives, I would like to take this opportunity to dialogue with the many thousands of men and women who strive each day to do an honest day’s work, to bring home their daily bread, to save money and –one step at a time – to build a better life for their families. These are men and women who are not concerned simply with paying their taxes, but in their own quiet way sustain the life of society. They generate solidarity by their actions, and they create organizations which offer a helping hand to those most in need.

I would also like to enter into dialogue with the many elderly persons who are a storehouse of wisdom forged by experience, and who seek in many ways, especially through volunteer work, to share their stories and their insights. I know that many of them are retired, but still active; they keep working to build up this land. I also want to dialogue with all those young people who are working to realize their great and noble aspirations, who are not led astray by facile proposals, and who face difficult situations, often as a result of immaturity on the part of many adults. I wish to dialogue with all of you, and I would like to do so through the historical memory of your people.

My visit takes place at a time when men and women of good will are marking the anniversaries of several great Americans. The complexities of history and the reality of human weakness notwithstanding, these men and women, for all their many differences and limitations, were able by hard work and self- sacrifice – some at the cost of their lives – to build a better future. They shaped fundamental values which will endure forever in the spirit of the American people. A people with this spirit can live through many crises, tensions and conflicts, while always finding the resources to move forward, and to do so with dignity. These men and women offer us a way of seeing and interpreting reality. In honoring their memory, we are inspired, even amid conflicts, and in the here and now of each day, to draw upon our deepest cultural reserves.

I would like to mention four of these Americans: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton.

This year marks the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, the guardian of liberty, who labored tirelessly that “this nation, under God, [might] have a new birth of freedom”. Building a future of freedom requires love of the common good and cooperation in a spirit of subsidiarity and solidarity.

All of us are quite aware of, and deeply worried by, the disturbing social and political situation of the world today. Our world is increasingly a place of violent conflict, hatred and brutal atrocities, committed even in the name of God and of religion. We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism. This means that we must be especially attentive to every type of fundamentalism, whether religious or of any other kind. A delicate balance is required to combat violence perpetrated in the name of a religion, an ideology or an economic system, while also safeguarding religious freedom, intellectual freedom and individual freedoms. But there is another temptation which we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners. The contemporary world, with its open wounds which affect so many of our brothers and sisters, demands that we confront every form of polarization which would divide it into these two camps. We know that in the attempt to be freed of the enemy without, we can be tempted to feed the enemy within. To imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place. That is something which you, as a people, reject.

Our response must instead be one of hope and healing, of peace and justice. We are asked to summon the courage and the intelligence to resolve today’s many geopolitical and economic crises. Even in the developed world, the effects of unjust structures and actions are all too apparent. Our efforts must aim at restoring hope, righting wrongs, maintaining commitments, and thus promoting the well-being of individuals and of peoples. We must move forward together, as one, in a renewed spirit of fraternity and solidarity, cooperating generously for the common good.

The challenges facing us today call for a renewal of that spirit of cooperation, which has accomplished so much good throughout the history of the United States. The complexity, the gravity and the urgency of these challenges demand that we pool our resources and talents, and resolve to support one another, with respect for our differences and our convictions of conscience.

In this land, the various religious denominations have greatly contributed to building and strengthening society. It is important that today, as in the past, the voice of faith continue to be heard, for it is a voice of fraternity and love, which tries to bring out the best in each person and in each society. Such cooperation is a powerful resource in the battle to eliminate new global forms of slavery, born of grave injustices which can be overcome only through new policies and new forms of social consensus.

Here I think of the political history of the United States, where democracy is deeply rooted in the mind of the American people. All political activity must serve and promote the good of the human person and be based on respect for his or her dignity. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” (Declaration of Independence, 4 July 1776). If politics must truly be at the service of the human person, it follows that it cannot be a slave to the economy and finance. Politics is, instead, an expression of our compelling need to live as one, in order to build as one the greatest common good: that of a community which sacrifices particular interests in order to share, in justice and peace, its goods, its interests, its social life. I do not underestimate the difficulty that this involves, but I encourage you in this effort.

Here too I think of the march which Martin Luther King led from Selma to Montgomery fifty years ago as part of the campaign to fulfill his “dream” of full civil and political rights for African Americans. That dream continues to inspire us all. I am happy that America continues to be, for many, a land of “dreams”. Dreams which lead to action, to participation, to commitment. Dreams which awaken what is deepest and truest in the life of a people.

In recent centuries, millions of people came to this land to pursue their dream of building a future in freedom. We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners. I say this to you as the son of immigrants, knowing that so many of you are also descended from immigrants. Tragically, the rights of those who were here long before us were not always respected. For those peoples and their nations, from the heart of American democracy, I wish to reaffirm my highest esteem and appreciation. Those first contacts were often turbulent and violent, but it is difficult to judge the past by the criteria of the present. Nonetheless, when the stranger in our midst appeals to us, we must not repeat the sins and the errors of the past. We must resolve now to live as nobly and as justly as possible, as we educate new generations not to turn their back on our “neighbors” and everything around us. Building a nation calls us to recognize that we must constantly relate to others, rejecting a mindset of hostility in order to adopt one of reciprocal subsidiarity, in a constant effort to do our best. I am confident that we can do this.

Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War. This presents us with great challenges and many hard decisions. On this continent, too, thousands of persons are led to travel north in search of a better life for themselves and for their loved ones, in search of greater opportunities. Is this not what we want for our own children? We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation. To respond in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal. We need to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome. Let us remember the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Mt 7:12).

This Rule points us in a clear direction. Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated. Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves. Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves. In a word, if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities. The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us. The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.

This conviction has led me, from the beginning of my ministry, to advocate at different levels for the global abolition of the death penalty. I am convinced that this way is the best, since every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes. Recently my brother bishops here in the United States renewed their call for the abolition of the death penalty. Not only do I support them, but I also offer encouragement to all those who are convinced that a just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation.

In these times when social concerns are so important, I cannot fail to mention the Servant of God Dorothy Day, who founded the Catholic Worker Movement. Her social activism, her passion for justice and for the cause of the oppressed, were inspired by the Gospel, her faith, and the example of the saints.

How much progress has been made in this area in so many parts of the world! How much has been done in these first years of the third millennium to raise people out of extreme poverty! I know that you share my conviction that much more still needs to be done, and that in times of crisis and economic hardship a spirit of global solidarity must not be lost. At the same time I would encourage you to keep in mind all those people around us who are trapped in a cycle of poverty. They too need to be given hope. The fight against poverty and hunger must be fought constantly and on many fronts, especially in its causes. I know that many Americans today, as in the past, are working to deal with this problem.

It goes without saying that part of this great effort is the creation and distribution of wealth. The right use of natural resources, the proper application of technology and the harnessing of the spirit of enterprise are essential elements of an economy which seeks to be modern, inclusive and sustainable. “Business is a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving the world. It can be a fruitful source of prosperity for the area in which it operates, especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good” (Laudato Si’, 129). This common good also includes the earth, a central theme of the encyclical which I recently wrote in order to “enter into dialogue with all people about our common home” (ibid., 3). “We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all” (ibid., 14).

In Laudato Si’, I call for a courageous and responsible effort to “redirect our steps” (ibid., 61), and to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity. I am convinced that we can make a difference and I have no doubt that the United States – and this Congress – have an important role to play. Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a “culture of care” (ibid., 231) and “an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature” (ibid., 139). “We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology” (ibid., 112); “to devise intelligent ways of… developing and limiting our power” (ibid., 78); and to put technology “at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral” (ibid., 112). In this regard, I am confident that America’s outstanding academic and research institutions can make a vital contribution in the years ahead.

A century ago, at the beginning of the Great War, which Pope Benedict XV termed a “pointless slaughter”, another notable American was born: the Cistercian monk Thomas Merton. He remains a source of spiritual inspiration and a guide for many people. In his autobiography he wrote: “I came into the world. Free by nature, in the image of God, I was nevertheless the prisoner of my own violence and my own selfishness, in the image of the world into which I was born. That world was the picture of Hell, full of men like myself, loving God, and yet hating him; born to love him, living instead in fear of hopeless self-contradictory hungers”. Merton was above all a man of prayer, a thinker who challenged the certitudes of his time and opened new horizons for souls and for the Church. He was also a man of dialogue, a promoter of peace between peoples and religions.

From this perspective of dialogue, I would like to recognize the efforts made in recent months to help overcome historic differences linked to painful episodes of the past. It is my duty to build bridges and to help all men and women, in any way possible, to do the same. When countries which have been at odds resume the path of dialogue – a dialogue which may have been interrupted for the most legitimate of reasons – new opportunities open up for all. This has required, and requires, courage and daring, which is not the same as irresponsibility. A good political leader is one who, with the interests of all in mind, seizes the moment in a spirit of openness and pragmatism. A good political leader always opts to initiate processes rather than possessing spaces (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 222-223).

Being at the service of dialogue and peace also means being truly determined to minimize and, in the long term, to end the many armed conflicts throughout our world. Here we have to ask ourselves: Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade.

Three sons and a daughter of this land, four individuals and four dreams: Lincoln, liberty; Martin Luther King, liberty in plurality and non-exclusion; Dorothy Day, social justice and the rights of persons; and Thomas Merton, the capacity for dialogue and openness to God.

Four representatives of the American people.

I will end my visit to your country in Philadelphia, where I will take part in the World Meeting of Families. It is my wish that throughout my visit the family should be a recurrent theme. How essential the family has been to the building of this country! And how worthy it remains of our support and encouragement! Yet I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without. Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family. I can only reiterate the importance and, above all, the richness and the beauty of family life.

In particular, I would like to call attention to those family members who are the most vulnerable, the young. For many of them, a future filled with countless possibilities beckons, yet so many others seem disoriented and aimless, trapped in a hopeless maze of violence, abuse and despair. Their problems are our problems. We cannot avoid them. We need to face them together, to talk about them and to seek effective solutions rather than getting bogged down in discussions. At the risk of oversimplifying, we might say that we live in a culture which pressures young people not to start a family, because they lack possibilities for the future. Yet this same culture presents others with so many options that they too are dissuaded from starting a family.

A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as Lincoln did, when it fosters a culture which enables people to “dream” of full rights for all their brothers and sisters, as Martin Luther King sought to do; when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed, as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work, the fruit of a faith which becomes dialogue and sows peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton.

In these remarks I have sought to present some of the richness of your cultural heritage, of the spirit of the American people. It is my desire that this spirit continue to develop and grow, so that as many young people as possible can inherit and dwell in a land which has inspired so many people to dream.

God bless America ”

–Pope Francis


This is the most empathic speech I’ve heard in recent memory and full of Compassion. No wonder 2,5 Billion CHristians of all stripes, colours, and hues, like and love Francis above and beyond their own religious Leaders and hierarchy. Maybe because this Pope is full of empathy and compassion in all of his doings and sayings.

And also because he speaks towards a greater Cause. He seeks to cause change in our behaviour. And he seeks to motivate people to act upon the important matters we face together as Humanity. Yet in order to motivate People to action on several fronts, Pope Francis takes great care to empathize with his American audience in his historic speech to a joint session of the United States of America, government & Congress on this day.

Francis being the leader of 1.2 billion Roman Catholics is pretty far along the road to shape their own efforts and leading his people in a certain direction — but here he speaks to everybody… He speaks to all the Christians, to all the Peoples, and all the people out there, regardless of faith, creed, or colouration.

Even if you have not been paying attention to this “Pope of the People,” who lives in a guesthouse instead of a the Papal palace inside the Vatican and who shelters refugees in the Holy See, and often eats sharing food with the poor and homeless — You must have seen how this man always shows humble grace, compassion, and humility. Having a humble heart is essential for all of us even before getting up to speak to an audience — but for this Pope the main tool at his disposal is empathy. This is crucial because the Pope as the Speaker seeks to connect fully knowing that He isn’t the hero who will bring his vision to life. Clearly the audience is the hero, and as in this case the audience is the Parliament of the most powerful nation on Earth — he seeks to motivate them to the Good. Still the Pope like a good shepherd, and the speaker, plays the role of the mentor who counsels his audience on how to best heed the call to Righteousness and Positive Change.

Francis began his speech by affirming and empowering each segment of his audience to fully embody their roles as heroes. He first addresses the audience directly before him – Congress – by saying: “You are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good, for this is the chief aim of all politics … To this you have been invited, called and convened by those who elected you.”

He also acknowledges all of the other American audiences out there, that are sure to be listening to his message: Those who “strive each day to do an honest day’s work,” the elderly “who are a storehouse of wisdom forged by experience,” and the young “who are working to realize their great and noble aspirations, who are not led astray by facile proposals.” In describing each of these audience segments, Francis is trying to imagine, as much as he can, what it’s like to live their lives. He’s speaking as if in their voices, putting on their values, their dreams, and their concerns about America.

After acknowledging the unique perspectives of each person in his audience, Francis unites these segments by showing his personal love and enthusiasm for the common beliefs that they all share. His very first line gets a round of applause from Congress when he uses the phrase all Americans cherish: “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” He continues to speak in Americans’ language by referring throughout the speech to “the American dream” and “God bless America.” He also demonstrates his personal connection to America, saying, “I would like to think that the reason for this is that I, too, am a son of this great continent” – meaning North and South America – “from which we have all received so much and toward which we share a common responsibility.”

Born and raised in Argentina, today’s Pope Francis shows his respect for the values of a culture that’s foreign to his own and draws similarities between the two by saying, “I wish to dialogue with all of you, and I would like to do so through the historical memory of your people.”
After conveying reverence for American beliefs, Francis mentioned key American figures in history who heeded the call to make those beliefs reality. He addressed the need to overcome the polarization and divisions within our nation today by talking about Abraham Lincoln. But he did it in a way that allowed the audience to make their own connections between the past and the present.

Calling up Lincoln in his audience’s minds, Francis next spoke against “the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners.” In doing this, he echoed this passage in Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address where Lincoln spoke of the two sides of the Civil War, and how each saw themselves as righteous: “Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other … The prayers of both could not be answered.”

Francis continued to emulate Lincoln’s ideas when he warns his audience of falling into these old patterns: “We know that in the attempt to be freed of the enemy without, we can be tempted to feed the enemy within.” Without explicitly calling out Lincoln’s words or the Civil War, Francis allows the audience to connect the dots. This serves as a sober warning to the dangers of divisiveness if left unchecked.

Next, Francis talked about “the American dream” through the lens of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech and his fight for civil rights. He went on to connect this significant moment in American history with an issue that his audience still wrestles with today—immigration. Echoing King’s spirit, he counseled his audience to work in the same spirit: “Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves. Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves. In a word, if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities.”

Francis continued with his last two mentions of historical figures, Dorothy Day, and Thomas Merton. He mentioned Day, the founder of the Catholic worker movement during the Great Depression, in order to talk not only about the impact of economic realities on human beings but also on the environment. And he talked about Merton as a model “man of dialogue, a promoter of peace between peoples and religions, on the need for dialogue between nations.”

By deeply engaging with his audience’s history and culture, Pope Francis showed his audience that he “got” them – that he understood what makes them speak up and what they fight for. By showing his respect for and understanding of his audience’s values, his audience felt comfortable listening to him. They were more open to the possibility of putting on new perspectives and moving towards a new vision of the future.

Methinks that this Pope Francis “gets” the American people even better than their own leaders do.

Fancy that…

Dr Pano


All in all a very unusual day of Spiritual Peace in Washington.

Let’s pray that it will last…

Posted by: Dr Pano Kroko | September 23, 2015

Living the Angel Life

Angel Capital allocation is a tricky thing…

So when You wake up energised and excited about tackling challenges and getting a bunch of StartUps off the ground — this is a sign that you are optimistic, excited about living, the Angel Life.

And maybe You can even have the Fun of your life.

Fun is useful because when you’re curious enough to actively explore life — that is when you’re finding the Great StartUps and having fun in Life…

And it’s the old saw that when You go exploring your world — You invariably find things…

So, by being positive in your efforts, nothing is impossible or off limits, for You.

And at the end of the day, it is the Angels that find the Startups and shape them to what we want — that makes the funds productive. It is not the StartUps that lead the way. It’s the dog that leads the tail and not the other way around.

Of course many times the tail wags the dog — but an Angel has to think that it’s a little more complicated than that.

And if you are an old hand and You’ve been doing early stage StartUp Company Finance for a while — you know that you’ve got always to follow a few simple rules.


First is to keep in mind that few things matter more for the Selection Process of target StartUp companies, than the Team…

That is until it’s time for the next stage investments, where the focus is on scaling up and reiterating the product and service that the startup companies sell for money.

And when time rolls around to fund them again — then, you need to be evaluating all over again, and re-choosing. Rechoosing the best teams, the best innovators, and the best Leaders, amongst our stable of Startups.

Because we can always pass the babies on to the VCs, and the institutional investors downstream. It’s like throwing the small fry into the stream. But it is the good ones that you’ve got to keep…

And we do this always by simply getting to pick the best CEOs, the best teams, and the best StartUps, in a complex maneuver we call “the Dance”. It is a fun dance, but its also an intelligence test, and an exercise to see if the Startup Teams understand disruptive innovation over the Long life of the StartUp.

And for us to have our Founders, StartUp Teams, and all our CEOs, pass this Innovation test, — it is truly a complex tango move.

And when You are dancing with the best founders by picking top of Class StartUps advancing from the best Science and Technology can offer us — then you have to build the best StartUp Teams out there too. And to do that, You’ve got to be agile and always thinking on your feet.

And this is what we focus on because everything else is just a data input. Things like raising Funds, managing the Funds, managing the deal flow and the IRRs, and even M&A of the StartUps, or clearing out the burnouts — are all just inputs…

Of course You need enough deal flow of good companies that are not going to flame out, but you also need to consider getting the best founders to work with you, regardless of the specific company they are pulling for at the moment. Am saying this because this Angel Business game is a People Game.

But deal flow alone doesn’t get founders to come work with you. Reputation and Support schemes, along with high IQ and pattern matching are far more important. But so are the matrix of investments, and the network of Founders in your stable. Everything else is just a filter. 

Plenty of high-IQ Angels just do Due Diligence to death, and plenty more just criticize A+ deals to death. Similarly plenty of super high-IQ Angels stay on in their StartUps way past their prime, instead of graduating the Startups to the Institutional Investors. Plenty of Angels fvck up deals that could have been saved, but in the end, you still have to find a way to pick the StartUps well to begin with.

Choose your dancing partner carefully. is is the most important thing. Period.

So at the end of the day, like most service businesses — it’s mostly about the individual.

If that’s so … how does a “great” Angel can help?

Here are a few intelligent ways:

Built the Brand:  Individual brands matter too (e.g., far more people knew Mark Suster than the name of his firm before it was Upfront), but having both a firm brand + an individual brand does help.  Why?  Just like anything else… respected brands are a very imperfect sign of quality, but they are a sign.  Given how many new (albeit smaller) funds have been created lately, one could argue that while important, brand is pretty overstated, or at least, over obsessed on.

Institute Democratic and Collective Decision Making.  There is so much risk in early-stage.  Keeping folks out of trouble, or even more importantly, helping them make the call, can help.  Usually though this only hurts. It’s very rarely done well. But in theory it could be.

Institute Collective “Closing”. Done right, having 3-4 partners tell a founder they really want them or not — really does work.  The non-sponsors may play a trivial role post-funding, but having a few VCs tell you they love you, especially if they are “known” VCs … does kinda work.

Find ways to Better Optimize the Angel Fund. Most Angels only allocate 30-40% of their fund to seed, first draw, and first checks, into start-ups. The majority goes into the subsequent rounds. Yet most Angels don’t do a great job of optimizing how they invest in later rounds, which often are at much higher valuations — because they think that they can’t compete with the VCs out there…

Doing this right can have a very large impact on returns.

Doing it wrong not only directly depresses returns, but it forces you to live prudently.

And learn to not be afraid to lose out because there will be other trains coming down the railroad pike…

So learn to not be afraid to miss out. You can always get on the next train if you miss this locomotive.

Also it’s vital to get used to say No to any other good deals that shows up on your door but doesn’t fit on your lap.

And don’t be afraid that you could have missed out the best rides out there. More trains are coming your way always.

FOMO or FOLO is not a good advise.

You could always have gotten more great StartUps into the fund but who cares?

FOMO is a tragedy.




Keep that in mind the next time someone wants to push you…

And especially if that ‘someone” pushing to do an iffy deal, is yourself.

We’ve all been there…



Posted by: Dr Pano Kroko | September 17, 2015

Sovereign Debt Is Just Another Asset Class to Go Boom in the Night….

Seven years ago on September 15, 2008, one of the oldest investment banks in America filed for bankruptcy.

Lehman Brothers was started by a Christian family of fiscally smart Entrepreneurs who had recently migrated to the United States from old Europe, around the mid-1800s. At that time Europe was going through a severe Economic crisis brought about by flagrant disregard of economic principles by the various central European governments… who blossomed after the end of the Napoleonic wars, and the death of Napoleon himself in 1821.

In 1837 Queen Victoria came to the throne in England, Yet in the rest of Europe there was no stability to be found anywhere.

Revolutionary movements in Europe fought for independence from the various authoritarian imperial powers and the crumbling AustroHungarian empire was the most fiscally irresponsible followed closely by the Ottoman empire in their pursuit of destroying their Treasury through spending for their militaries and foreign campaign adventures. The weaknesses of the old European empires were exploited by the independence movements and the most resolute of them vied to create new countries. Bavaria became a republic in 1818.

It was at that time that the Balkans erupted in revolts against their imperial masters and thus new nations were born like Serbia and Greece amongst others after 1821.

In 1837 Hungary split from Austria and this signals the end of the AustroHungarian empire because of financial collapse reasons.

War was brooding all over… since it always follows financial ruin closely.

It was certainly a good time to leave Europe if you were far sighted and had a family to feed, grow, and to get the kids educated.

So the Lehman brothers left the old Austrohungarian empire and their ancestral roots behind and struck for the new World.

Once they arrived in the shores of America, they headed inland and settled in the South. They started out in business as many other merchant pioneers, with a simple general store in Montgomery, Alabama. Yet soon enough they shifted gears, and turned their attention to King Cotton. This being the abundant cotton grown in the fertile lands of the Mississippi that led the general trade of the area.

Their early cotton gin machines were well engineered and soon enough the Lehman Bros, grew in stature and gained some financial muscle in the cotton industry. In time they grew to become one of the dominant cotton traders in the country, exporting cotton and shipping goods all over. Business was good and their strong box filled with cash that they often lend to others at a small interest.

Selective of their borrowers, they managed to preserve their capital, and to grow their wealth. This led them to get into full time investment banking, by taking stakes in other folks’ enterprises. Smart and careful of observing patterns and the trends of Commerce — they pivoted again going upstream into full fledged finance. Soon enough they became dominant in that trade as well.

Eventually they became one of the largest financial firms in the country.

In a few decades they were one of the few dominant Financial players in the world…

Lehman Brothers grew out of trade, commerce, and wide banking, into Investment Banking practice and Arbitrage.

They became known as the Investment Banker to the world. And rightly so because the Lehman Brothers firm was so thoroughly globally networked, and invested in banking and financial relationships, deep into the fabric of the World’s Economic System, and their inputs were so large — that when they went bust seven years ago, they nearly dragged down the entire world’s financial system with them.

And that’s when the Federal Reserve and the US government stepped in with trillion dollar taxpayer-funded bailouts, interest rate cuts, and quantitative easing. The FED put out the fires and rebuilt the Economy and the Banking System along everything else that was burning up. That act alone took a lot of guts and plenty of financial “water” to put out the fires…

Yet back then it was a different world. Today the FED is the big gorilla in the room and we only have the QE to remind us of the bullet we dodged and some countries have had their whole Sovereign debt asset class down in the shitter. Look at the European periphery like Greece, Italy & Spain, look at Russia, and maybe Japan and China… too.

Still back in the time of the Lehman Bros collapse days, the US government’s total debt was ‘only’ $9.6 trillion. Today it’s over $18 trillion… and once they raise the debt ceiling, which is inevitable, the debt will rise overnight to over $19 trillion — that is double in seven years.

The FED in 2008 was also quite different.

The entirety of its balance sheet was just $924 billion. And the total of its reserves and capital amounted to $40 billion, roughly 4.3% of its total assets.

Today the Fed’s balance sheet has ballooned to $4.5 trillion, nearly 5x as large. Yet its total capital has collapsed to just 1.3% of total assets. And falling.

This is a hugely important figure– think of it like the Fed’s “net worth”.

The Fed, just like anyone else, needs to have a positive net worth, i.e. the value of the Fed’s assets needs to exceed their liabilities.

In the Fed’s case, its liabilities are all the trillions of dollars in currency units that they’ve created, known as ‘Federal Reserve Notes’.

And its assets are things like US government bonds.

Over the last several years during its multiple quantitative easing programs, the Fed has essentially created trillions of Federal Reserve Notes (i.e. ‘money’) and used those funds to buy US government bonds.

In conjuring all that new money out of thin air, they created about $3.5 trillion worth of liabilities, which were offset by the $3.5 trillion worth of bonds they purchased.

In total, the Fed’s “net worth” hardly budged. And as a percentage of their total assets, their net worth really tanked.

This is known as leverage. And by any definition, the Fed is highly, dangerously leveraged.

In fact, when Lehman Brothers went under in 2008, its total capital was 3% of its balance sheet. The Fed’s is less than half of that.

Now, today the Fed is meeting to discuss the question– to raise, or not to raise interest rates?

And when I looked at the numbers, I realized something interesting is about to happen.

The universal law of bond markets is quite simple: bond prices and interest rates move inversely to one another.

In other words, when interest rates go up, bond prices go down.

Think about it like this: let’s say the prevailing interest rate in the marketplace is 5%, and I have a bond that pays 5%.

Right now if I wanted to sell it, my bond is worth $100.

But then tomorrow morning the Fed decides to raise interest rates from 5% to 10%. Yet my bond still pays 5%. Is it still worth $100?

No chance! Why would anyone pay me the same price for a 5% bond, when now they can go down the street and get 10%?

The only way I can sell my bond is if I drastically slash the price.

That’s what happens when interest rates go up– the value of existing bonds goes down.

Now think about the Fed. They’re sitting on $4.5 TRILLION worth of existing bonds, most of which they purchased when interest rates were basically zero.

So what happens if the Fed raises rates? The market value of their entire bond portfolio will fall.

And given the razor-thin capital the Fed has in reserve, they can only afford a tiny 1.3% loss on their bond portfolio before they too become insolvent.

So the grand irony of today’s Fed meeting is that by raising interest rates, the Federal Reserve will be creating its own insolvency.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, pretty much sums up the absurdity of our financial system.

With a balance sheet so over-leveraged, the Fed effectively has no policy tools left to fight a major crisis.

They have no room to lower interest rates (they’re already at zero!) and if they raise interest rates, the Fed becomes insolvent.

It’s amazing.

And what’s even more amazing is that the US is being viewed as the ‘safe haven’ right now.

In many instances the dollar has hit ALL-TIME highs against other currencies in this misguided view that the US is the safe place to be right now.

The actual data, on the other hand, tells a completely different story.

The US isn’t the safe haven. The Fed isn’t the safe haven.

But looking around the world, Japan isn’t a safe haven either.

China sure as hell isn’t a safe haven. Europe isn’t a safe haven. And even Switzerland has negative interest rates.

We may be approaching a bifurcation point very rapidly where if the world realizes that the US dollar is in the same boat, there will be absolutely no safety anywhere in the traditional financial system.

Dr Kroko


And of course the Fed is sitting on $4.5 TRILLION worth of existing bonds, and with a balance sheet so over-leveraged, the Fed effectively has not many active policy tools left to fight a major crisis.

But it has the marginal profits of it’s QE to spend…

Yet since they have no room to lower interest rates, and they presumably know that if they raise interest rates, the Fed itself becomes insolvent — we don’t expect much in the way of action or reaction besides continued QE as warranted.

So all is quiet on the FED front…

And that should remain that way.

Now more good news are expected as they are arriving daily. Our good Fortune holds…

Our deficit is getting really down to zero and maybe we can get a handle on our debt too now that it has scaled the 17,824,071,380,733.82 mark of September 2014.

Did you know you can actually look up the figures of the Treasury itself?

Indeed here it is:

This is what we have to deal with, because our Freedom depends on having a strong balance sheet and that still remains our number one priority.

It’s really basic: Produce more, export more, and borrow less.

Freedom from Debt is Liberty itself.

Posted by: Dr Pano Kroko | September 16, 2015

Ten Steps To Built a DIY Great Company…

Do you like Do It Yourself projects?

Do you like building things?

Do you really want to built a Company?

What about building a Great Company?

Do you want to work for a Great Company?

Do you want to create a Great Company that others love too?

If Yes is your answer to any of the above simple questions — then this is for you.

So, here’s how to built a Great Company in Ten [10] simple steps:

Great companies have great products and services. Things that answer real needs and solve real problems in the lives of people. If your company has that — your main problems are solved. Focus on that as your number One priority.

Great companies keep their hiring standards tight. They make candidates work hard to join the ranks by meeting strict criteria that center around intelligence and previous experience and by undergoing an arduous interview process. Great talent that is happy and creatively rewarded, has an uncanny ability of attracting other talent. Don’t forget we live in a Social Media World. That effort to attract top talent and weeding out the bad apples, is key along with the sharing of the company’s equity justly through generous stock options that share the wealth, the upside, and widely attract talent. Always do this, and whether your company is public, or private, and pre-IPO, a rising stock price attracts all new-comers, and performs like the best hiring agent, C-level headhunter, and Executive retention magnet.

Great companies are profitable and growing by offering a good product and service that people want to use, and further want to pay folding money to acquire. If you have that then the markets take notice of you and reward you with valuable equity. Stock options share the wealth and attract talent, but they are also the leading indicator of your funding success. Always, whether public or private, and pre-IPO, a rising stock price attracts all new comers and performs like a hiring and retention magnet. But beyond that, only thriving companies can promise you a future with career mobility and the potential of increased financial rewards, that when you actually reach the public markets, you become a wealthy participant in an exhilarating ride. Don’t forget money is just a measure of success yardstick and nothing more than that.

Great companies have business processes that allow all the Team members to be valued and to contribute towards a great positive and mutually beneficial outcome. Getting everybody to contribute and weeding out the undesirables from the valued team members is the key here. The ones who remain are the real A-team and their contributions to building product, company, and culture, collectively — constitute the Holy Grail of Great Company Creation.

5) IP:
Only great Intellectual Property allows people to get a level playing field with adequate time license to ply their trade undisturbed for a few years in order to create generous wealth for all concerned. IP protection grants us property rights that allows us to operate in a way that will be innovative and generally forward looking without compromises. And the resultant wealth creates a virtuous cycle effect because it allows us to do further research and development, in order to create better and better products and services.

Follow your passion and make work a play. Further enhance the atmosphere by employing the most passionate people you can find about the process you do. Then have everyone at liberty to have fun at work. Do this and that actin alone launches a virtuous cycle. The best team attracts the best team, and winning often leads to more winning. It’s a ride that you and your people will never want to get off. Indeed, one of the most intoxicating things a company can say to a potential employee, is: “Join us for the ride of your life.”

Great companies demonstrate a real commitment to continuous learning. No lip service. These companies invest in the development of their people through classes, training programs, and off-site experiences, all sending the message that the organization is eager to facilitate a steady path to personal growth.

Great companies are meritocracies. Pay and promotions are tightly linked to performance, and rigorous appraisal systems consistently make people aware of where they stand. As at every company, the people you know and the school you went to might help get you in the door. But after that, it’s all about results. People with brains, self-confidence, and competitive spirit are always attracted to such environments.

9) RISK:
Great companies not only allow people to take risks but also celebrate those who do. And they don’t shoot those who try but fail. As with meritocracies, a culture of risk-taking attracts exactly the kind of creative, bold employees companies want and need in a global marketplace where innovation is the single best defense against unrelenting cost competition.

Great companies understand that what is good for society is also good for business. Gender, race, and nationality are never limitations; everyone’s ideas matter. Preferred employers are diverse and global in their outlook and environmentally sensitive in their practices. They offer flexibility in work schedules to those who earn it with performance. In a word, great companies are enlightened.

Let’s do this now and along the way “We Just Might Change The World” in ways great and small.

Dr Kroko


So make these Ten Panoisms yours, since I love giving my software away, as Open Source Wisdom, and maybe You can make them your Mantra too and built a great company to boot.

And if you want to built a Great Company under my tutelage and command — join me here in Seattle this Weekend:


Join up with the American Angels here:  because then we will be able to connect so you can participate with me, in our StartUp Weekends when they get to your City. Mainly because this year we’ll have a few more StartUp Weekend Innovation Accelerators taking place in San Francisco, in New York, in Shanghai, in Beijing, and in London as well.

Posted by: Dr Pano Kroko | September 13, 2015

Innovation in Seattle and beyond…

Birds of a feather fly together…

Innovators band all around and create change in any business, community, or society.

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Angels fly high and so should You.

To help you in your flight-path we have the team for you:

And we always fly in some type of evolving formation like the Canadian geese covering long distances with a rotating leading flyer… That’s our leading edge. That’s our process.

And as they say in business that you should think big, we instead choose to fly far, because in my experience, thinking startup small is a better choice, and only when small and agile you can take off and really be able to fly.
Start up small and beautiful in a way that you can fly your StartUp company slated to change the world is a great first choice for anybody out of University or out of any kind of holding pen…

Join a StartUp and then you can pretty much write your own ticket and design your Life as you see fit from then on.

Just remember to aim high… when flying and to follow the sun. So join up now:

Invent, Innovate, Create, and Fly High…

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And there is no better time to do this than today because there is plenty of space for major disruption, since we’ve come to know that more than 96% of the 1965 Fortune 1000 large companies have died off. The great corporate extinction of the dinosaurs has already occurred in case anyone hasn’t noticed. And it is now time for smaller more agile species of scampering businesses to evolve and take their place.

So be ready to grow in place of the large herbivores because as the large T-Rexs are falling down all around us, fifty years on from the moment of asteroid impact back in 1965 — almost all of the biggest dinosaurs who apparently failed to adapt, to a changing climate and instead stuck to their own steady-same command and control systems which no longer serves anybody perished. So they died off, if only to prove that staying the course, is not a long term sustainable business strategy anymore.

So when you consider your Future maybe you are considering to join a Big Fortune 1000 company today or if you are thinking you need to get an MBA or an advanced masters degree to get that big job — best start recalibrating your data and begin thinking anew.

Start thinking again because it might be best to join or start a StartUp company under my tutelage and creative Strategic Innovation initiatives:

Join the move out of Serenghetti…

Join us as we seek to built Innovation and Progress:

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Do this but be careful, and make sure to take your Heart Meds, because our StartUps are peculiarly STRONG, and offer exhilarating rides that can lead to either a Heart Attack or a Glad Attack. Startups are like Heroin. You get addicted and you like it. Startups will give you all the thrill of a ride better than sex. They’ll give you goosebumps, and they’ll give you pain. They’ll keep you hungry, thirsty, and leave you horny. All that and more but at least they will teach you to conquer the seven deadly sins, and bring you toe curling orgasmic experiences to boot. All that, along with some scary socks-off kinds of terror, and mind blowing orgasms, in the midst of tons of other cheap thrills and creative exercises.

What’s not to like?

So… come along and Live a little.

Go ahead and make my day, by signing up and starting a StartUp:

But do this only if you like roller-coaster rides and all the cheap thrills described above…

Come start a StartUp though only if you like Innovation that solves critical problems.
Start a StartUp if you like incredible career experiences.
Start a StartUp if you want your Business to teach you Life and not the other way around.

Come to think of it, Startups are also very efficient mechanisms that help the World at large by helping you expand your knowledge, by teaching you responsibility, and by giving you the tools and the know-how to do any type of business and attack any kind of big problem head on.

Come-to-think-of-it, getting involved with StartUps will teach you SUCCESS.

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Nothing teaches you how to to succeed, despite yourself, like a StartUp. Am saying this only because we can teach you to succeed despite your imagined and appearing “Real” personal issues, and despite your perceived business challenges, so that we can help you fall forward and fail as many as you can stand up…

The secret is to fail and not to be judged for it. Fail and fail many times and yet still remain vibrantly alive, so that You can pick yourself up each and every time and jump back in the “cage” to fight on. You’ll learn to literally pick yourself up by the bootstraps, and get your wiped-out ass, off the ground. Then You’ll learn to dust yourself off, put on your white hat, and jump on your high horse to ride off, and try again.

That’s the kind of cowboy you’ll become, because StartUps will teach you to start Doing Real Work for a change, and maybe just do it for pocket change, and some chow for you and for your horse. You’ll be paid from the petty cash drawer but You won’t mind that… since you’ll be riding under the big sky wrestling with tigers, shooting off your six-shooter, and rounding up cattle. Methinks you’ll like it because the feeling you get when you work for a startup is rather hard to describe and in some respects, it’s a little like taking the red pill and getting ejected from the Matrix, and the boredom of today’s lifestyle and getting on a Wild West adventure.

Mind you — you will learn lots of stuff too, and your head will swell to disproportional status because everything you do in a startup makes a difference. So go ahead and get a new and far bigger hat for your new head — since you are no longer stilted in your old head-binders. And you can cut your umbilical cord finally and let go of your security blanket too, because you are no longer surrounded by the safety holding pen, nor are you living in Big Mamma’s house anymore. Big Mamma corporations can stifle you because you’re a small cog in a large machine, and you don’t even know who the hell you are, let alone if your work makes any difference to you or anybody else for that matter…

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Instead of this lost inside “The Lost World” feeling — when you step in a small Startup you are going to instantly be an IMPORTANT PERSON. Mainly because in a startup, everything you do will contribute to the ultimate success or failure of the business and everybody knows everybody else — so you best start acting like a VIP from the get-go.

Liberty is a big part of it because leaving a large organization and heading to a startup is always a liberating experience since in the early days it’s like every piece of code you write and contribute is making a huge difference.

Startups actually push you to identify and focus on what’s absolutely critical, forcing you to think more creatively about how you approach projects and create value. And best of all, you’ll often get to see results first-hand and share in the rewards and glory. You’ll learn to perform triage and save the day like a super-hero.

StartUps get you to think about Learning and drive you to assume the Responsibility to put all your learnings to use right aways. You’ll get to learn how to be scrappy like “scrappy the dog” or the runt puppy to be exact…
You’ll learn to survive on thin air, and to keep running your car on gas-fumes alone. You’ll learn to cross deserts without water, and in short you’ll learn more in your first couple of months working in a startup than you’ll do in ten years of large company professional career. The reason for this is that everyone in a startup is expected to wear multiple hats. A startup forces you to adopt new skills and responsibilities to make up for the small-sized David using a slingshot against the giant Goliath all the while engaged in the huge challenge of fighting off dinosaurs while building a freakin fighter jet to prosecute a war and conquer an empire for yourself…

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Think that’s small?

Think again, because working in a Startup you’ll get your actual MBA in three months without having to pay any fees to any high fallutin MBA school or having to attend boring classes offered from professors who have never built a business even if they had to save their lives. Being inside startups, brings the fastest learning this side of the world that leads to immense responsibility and multiple opportunities to utilize talent and knowledge. All of this will translate into powerful and important executive positions in the business world, meaning that you’ll have much more to offer as an individual, particularly when it comes time to move on, or even start your own business.

And move-on you will do because Startups Do or Die. And in some cases they both Do & Die, since they are most often acquired by larger entities and then you become an instant executive in a large conglomerate. Not the best of fates but the stock options get to be insta-liquid and you can cash out anytime you want. Then you’ve got some mullah to start your own gig. And surely most StartUppers are serial and repeat offenders. They offend the large organization that acquired them and they are tossed out “willingly” with the golden parachute and they go on happily to start the next one.

Start — Exit — Repeat

Repeat at will because in between you might want to spot trends and invest in other people’s plays as an Angel and thus vicariously support the ecosystem until you are ready to  throw your hat in the ring again.

StartUps offer the only path that gives you the opportunity to shape the Culture Around You, in ways that you’ll be most proud of. For example you can built a culture where talented people come together and make work fun again because passionate work doesn’t feel like work. There’s nothing more rewarding than feeling excited about waking up to ride, walk, bike, or transit into the office in the morning, in order to tackle the next big challenge the world has thrown your way…

You will find that a lot in startups; and then you’ll even get to shape the whole culture around you. And if you are lucky — once in a Lifetime you might get to really really change the world. Not n the mundane way most StartUps talk about changing the world but in a real way. Like in providing wireless internet and getting to call it Wi-Fi instead of 802.11agdbfec or some other engineering IEEE alphanumerical insanity….

How Fun is that.

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Contrast this to the new MBA graduating class entering a huge organization and stepping into a predetermined culture, set-in-stone, with existing rigid practices, inalterable customs and old people’s values. Values like attaching scanned documents to emails instead of cloud links… And that is the least of your problems when working inside large dinosaurs, whereas when you join a startup, it often means that you can directly contribute to the creation of the business culture, and the growth of the business, by offering ideas, valuable contributions, and by executing practices that can get ingrained as best practices and thus help shape the working philosophy of the company and employee culture — long term.

Plus that when working in an Environment of Innovation the creative types, thrive and this is the most rewarding thing about startups for the ones not yet “flattened” by corporate drudgery, life choices, or lack of imagination. In a creative StartUp, you get to disrupt any old industry that stands in your way — and you get paid to do just that. So if this is what you find yourself doing for your day job when you start working with a team of people that are highly passionate and enthusiastic — then why not be a “Pirate” today in your own StartUp. It’s addictive and rewarding because this StartUp lifestyle becomes second nature and can spark inspiration and innovation on every level of the company — so much so, that nobody wants to join the “Navy” anymore and this will lead to truly innovative ideas and developments that can help the business stand out against competitors in the greater industry that you are already disrupting massively.

But even if you are not normally creatively imaginative, disruptive, or innovative — being part of an entrepreneurial team of a StartUp will somehow make a “Pirate” out of you and in my mind that is the best way to learn how to innovate, and solve Big problems because entrepreneurs are the Great Problem Solvers out there. And they are also pretty good teachers as people to learn from — since they first identify a problem and then go head-on to find a new efficient way to solve it. If you just want to observe them you’ll see that they can teach You by doing… and you just need to practice careful observation and methodical iteration.

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This will come to be rather useful when you are starting Your Own Venture, since joining a startup gives you the opportunity to start learning what it takes to be your own boss, all the while making personal and financial sacrifices willingly, since startups pay you back multitudes in various economic and non economic bottomlines. They ocasionaly pay you back in equity and share options that are worth billions, but most often than not — they pay you back in opportunities and knowledge, because they teach you how to take charge of your own life-path, career, and venture.

So if you’re toying with the idea of solving a big problem, slaying a monster, or just one day being your own boss — working in a startup is the ideal place to educate yourself on how to set goals, execute strategies, take your product to market and implement strong business operations. Do that because You will also be required to take on executive & administrative business tasks, which will actually equip you with greater business know-how.

You learn that there are lots of details in any enterprise, and if You have to find a niche in the market, solve a giant disruptive problem, or just name the company, design a logo, find co-founders, teammates, office space, legal entity, find a banking relationship, seek Angel and Venture Capital, select an insurance carrier, and make partnerships, set up bitcoin machines, and attend to the myriad of thousands of business activities that one takes for granted in a larger company — you not only become master of all trades, but You are able to see the bigger picture as well.

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There is a Startup lesson in all of this, and I think that is to never underestimate the power of working for a startup organisation, because Startups will equip you with very valuable learnings, hands-on training with the tools of enterprise and with plenty of experience in growing your skills, knowledge, and even executive responsibilities rapidly.

And that’s something that’s very difficult to come by in a medium or large sized organization.

So if you want to be part of a great StartUp — come join our American Angels Accelerator in Seattle.

You’ll become a CEO, StartUp Founder or Co-Founder right away.

So come taste the Victory in a StartUp created next Weekend in Seattle, and later on, in many places across the US.

San Francisco and Portland in October.

Bosston and New York in November.

LA and Miami in December.

And then we’ll circle back to Europe and Asia too…


Dr Pano


Catch us if you can ;-)

You might earn something…

And you might learn something too.

Here is your once in a Lifetime chance:

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Come Become a Leader here and now:

Life Sciences Accelerator StartUp Weekend @ WeWork in Pioneer Square Seattle

Saturday, Sep 19, 2015, 9:00 AM

138 Angels Attending

Check out this Meetup →

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