How I f*cked up my screwed up project idea

Mis amigos de los FuckUpNights acaban de celebrar sus dos años de éxito en f*cking up. Ya están presentes haste en mi nativo Alemania: esta semana se publicó un artículo en Spiegel Online.

Los fracasos siguen siendo un tema que no se habla. Verboten. No importa si estás sacando adelante un start-up, te inventas un proyecto en el mundo del desarrollo, y hasta en la política es muy mal visto de cambiar tu opinión. Para una selección de fracasos, revisen este Libro del Fracaso. Espectacular. Y como me perdí la fiesta en la Cd de México la semana pasada, comparto aquí un fracaso personal:

verboten stencil


Solemos decir que las mejores ideas emergen de un par de tragos entre amigos, o bien, un par de chelas entre compas. Justamente fue lo que pasó cuando estuvimos un par de amigos (aquí un shout-out para Tobias sin quién no hubiera habido nuestros Stammtische) trabajando en una tarde lluviosa de otoño en Berlín. Nos reuníamos para compartir nuestras experiencias de proyectos en desarrollo que usaban las últimas tecnologías, las mapas de geolocalización, los mensajes de texto, los pagos móviles.

Después de un par de cervezas, la plática se volvió más honesta. Rápidamente llegamos de contar de nuestros planes ambiciosos, a contar lo que realmente pasaba, y, seamos sinceros, cómo fracasamos.

Fue ahí cuando se me ocurrió por que no crear un blog con todas estas ideas, y, por que no, hasta un evento para compartir las mejores. La plataforma se llamaría

Del dicho al hecho, esta misma noche registré el url y me fue a dormir contento.

Al otro día me levanté pensando en los próximos pasos. Un mensaje para invitar a amigos en compartir sus proyectos y tecnologías fracasados, coordinarme con un amigo a crear el sitio.

A la semana, todavía no había hecho nada de todo esto. Fue una semana especialmente ocupada en el trabajo. Al mes, me dije que ahora si lo iba a comenzar.

Al año, me dí cuenta que alguien había tenido una idea parecida y creado un evento llamado Failfare que invitaba a profesionales en Washington DC de contar su experiencia con fracasos. ¿Suena conocido? Ahora, tres años más tarde, los FuckUpNights, con un nombre aún más cool, están tomando el mundo.

No hay nada mejor de generar ideas que un par de chelas. Pero para hacerlas realidad, hay que estar sobrio. Si no, se quedan para contarlas durante los FuckUpNights.

Democratizing financing: Crowdfunding in Mexico

Crossposted from the FOMIN blog

The great potential of crowdfunding in Mexico attracted more than 100 people to a recent launch event for the first detailed analysis of this emerging financing model for entrepreneurs, soon-to-be entrepreneurs, small businesses, artists such as filmmakers and musicians, and even people interested in social development. The premise of this kind of collective fundraising via online platforms is anything but modest: Democratize financing so that anyone with a great idea can implement it. Can it fulfill this promise?

The event, organized by the MIF with support from the Institute of Entrepreneurship in Mexico at the Ministry of Economy, gave me every reason to believe so.

Crowdfunding in Mexico is just over two years old. I remember when we held our first workshop on crowdfunding last year in Washington D.C., the first platforms throughout Latin America were only starting to pop up.

Now, as the report on Crowdfunding in Mexico we launched at the event shows, the market is maturing and already looks more like this:

A group of five platforms,, and, have joined forces to create the Mexican Association for Crowdfunding in order to promote and defend the interests of this growing industry and establish best practices to protect their clients in running crowdfunding platforms.

Of course, developing a new financing model, born out of the increase in the use of social media by the wider population, has its challenges. A regulatory framework and clear regulations that address the activities need to be established. Tackling risks that come with the use of the Internet as a business platform is in the common interest of many stakeholders, banks as well as crowdfunding platforms.

But the success stories are convincingly beautiful. From the platforms that are part of the Mexican Crowdfunding Association alone, 140 projects and companies have been successful in financing themselves, about 44% of those published.

One of them is Tania Ortiz, who launched a campaign via Idea.Me to seek funding for her newly formed fashion accessories business, TANgerine. Now, her latest collection can be seen on the streets of the hippest neighborhoods in Mexico City. (More success stories here).

The private sector has discovered the potential of crowdfunding as well. For example, Leo Schlesinger, CEO of the wood products company Masisa, has collaborated with the portal Fondeadora.Mx to launch #MasisaDetona, a project to engage young entrepreneurs to produce innovative and sustainable products. More than 200,000 joined the Facebook group alone.

Finally, looking at the percentage of women businesses in venture capital and crowdfunding confirms that crowdfunding can indeed democratize. While only about 4% of businesses that receive venture capital in the US are women-owned, 40% of successful crowdfunded businesses have women at the helm.

These experiences and the energy and enthusiasm of the platforms and organizations that we met here, make me believe that exciting times are to come.

What do you think? Have you participated in crowdfunding yet, either as a funder or seeker of funds? Will crowdfunding fulfill its expectations? Let me know in the comments section below!

remittances fuel solar energy

A couple of months ago, digging out my French, reading Tamar Ben Jelloun’s beautiful Partir on the way, I headed to Haiti to document a project of the MIF together with my colleague and friend Jimmy Chalk (browse through his other work here). I have posted some of my pictures, and the video is now ready.

About the life of the development community in Haiti has been written a lot (lately my colleague Nara, and Nora Schenkel). During the week in Haiti I peeled off only a few of the so many layers of life and culture of these proud people. Too few to talk, and form an opinion. But I can say that I loved the freshly painted, colorful walls of hair salons, the braids of school kids, the solar-powered street lights, the Kreol radio transmission of the Champions League semifinals – problem, problem, problem – and the people crowding around the tv’s at the market. But I couldn’t close my eyes observing that everything was being sold in the streets out of necessity, loose medicaments, cloths, pieces of fruit, the need for SUV’s to drive the streets, and no lightening up at night. So much potential, and a long way to go.

Working in Haiti was challenging, but also very gratifying thanks to the wonderful people that supported the little project, and with whom I could work with, Claud, our translator from Kreol to English, to the staff at SogeXpress, who were incredibly helpful in every little detail, of course our project partners at ArcFinance, especially Yara, and last but not least the stars of the film.

Anti-corruption day

9 December is also international Anti-corruption Day. Transparency International’s national chapters have organised a multitude of events to commemorate, raise the awareness for the need to tackle corruption, and invite everyone to join events such as cartoon exhibitions in Bangladesh and awarding anti-corruption fighters in Sri Lanka. More information on 9 December and events by chapters can be found here.

Transparency International also launched the 2008 Bribe Payers Index today, exposing the degree to which companies of the leading exporting nations are likely to engage in bribery when doing business abroad.

Also, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has initiated the campaign: “Your No Counts”. I post the campaign slogan in Arabic, as I am in Morocco currently.

And here’s the video to the campaign. Have a look:


Working in Rabat

As I have been telling you all the other things that I am doing here so far, let me tell you a little bit on what I am working on these days in Rabat and what is something like my day-to-day. Both equally important bits to understanding as you might well imagine.

Here I am working for Transparency International’s national chapter Transparency Maroc. The chapter also runs the Observatoire de la Corruption, a project that, in short, monitors national news stories on corruption to identify key areas where the national integrity system fails, and makes recommendations on how corruption in different sectors can be tackled. My main tasks until now have been mostly related to the Observatoire, but also included preparations for the upcoming launch of the national Advocacy and Legal Advice Centre, a centre “providing assistance to witnesses and victims of corruption and provide valuable information about corruption hotspots to drive the advocacy efforts of the anti-corruption movement”. See more detailed information here. For the launch, I am working on the communications strategy.

I don’t really have daily tasks and do mostly individual projects, as well as learn how different a national chapter of Transparency International is structured and works. While there is a surprising amount of awareness and understanding for the need and benefits of professional communications, there are still some  issues that remain to be done. So I am engaged in rather conceptual work, as well as a couple of little things where I can help out, for example with preparing an interactive cd-rom presentation for journalists.

my desk and view

my desk and view

So, a normal day starts with getting up at 8am and getting to the office at 9am, pretty much as I do in Berlin too. Only the way to work is shorter, about 2-3 minutes walking, about two blocks and I am there. When the sun is shining, I stand a couple of minutes standing in the sun before crossing the street. Lately, this moment of my day has turned out to be a little difficult, as it’s been cloudy, cold and rainy. Lunch is around 1pm (as everyone else does), but we don’t have lunch together, so either I go to one of the many places close by to have some French fries and a sandwich, a tajine (to be explained in a later post on the culinary delights), or couscous, on Fridays, or sometimes I pass by the flat to have lunch with Saâd, my room-mate and volunteer for Transparency Maroc. And back home around 6pm or a little later, but usually not as late as in Berlin.

To finish this little post, here’s my working space, an empty table, in a white room. A lot of space for re-thinking approaches.

That’s because the offices have just been moved into and will host the ALAC starting in January, as well as the Observatoire.