There’s Still Time to Commit to Your 2021 Health & Fitness Plan

It’s March 1st as I write this*. The year is two months in. Seems like just a moment ago it was New Year’s Day and we were all committing to our better selves for 2021 as so many of us do. It’s been a tough year for people around the world with the pandemic, work stress, crazy elections and uncertainty. Anybody would forgive you if your plan slipped.

Still, it’s March 1st. Let’s get going. There is still time to recommit to your plan to make 2021 a better year than 2020 and if predictions are right that many of us will be vaccinated by the summer and you’ll be back to a somewhat more normal life by the autumn then it’s time to be in better physical & mental shape for all that’s ahead of you.

However your year has gone, I’ve some ideas for you because all isn’t lost. A date is just a date and starting on March 5th and committing to 10 great months is just as productive as starting on January 1st. The vaccine plans are kicking in, the spread of the virus is trending down, we have our best days ahead of us — so wouldn’t it be amazing to feel even 10% better when we start seeing each other in person again?

I’ve seen all outcomes listed in the graphic above in various years of my life: weight loss, rebound, flatline and struggling. Below I have some ideas for you to consider in each scenario.

If you haven’t read it already I wrote a post on weight loss at the start of the year that had over 1 million readers. I also wrote about some of my food choices and how I supercharged my workouts. Today is the last in my series dealing with food intake / weight loss (at least for now) and I’ll shift my next few posts to my workout regimes, my gear and how I improved my nightly sleep dramatically.

I hope that if you see yourself in any of thee archetypes below you can see a plan for staying the course and having a successful 2021. And to everybody who reach out to me with success stories from this year so far — thank you. You’ve truly made my day. Nothing makes me happier than helping others with something that I personally have struggled with.

I’ll cover each of the archetypes individually but I’d like to start with a general, March 1st, let’s recommit to the year goal notes…

  • Food is the answer. If you eat healthier and in smaller portions you will lose weight, have better metabolism, sleep better, have more energy, have better concentration. End of story. I know this sounds simple. But honestly — it is. How you eat less and eat better is, of course, the hard part. But if you want a true north — that is it. Food.
  • I tell you this because many people believe that to be fit they need to exercise more. I believe in exercise. It has many benefits and combined with eating better and sleeping more are the foundations of health.
  • Many people who ramp up their workouts without getting control of what they eat end up gaining weight. It’s very hard to burn more calories than you can save by eating a balanced diet and when people workout they tend to eat more. As I like to say, “you can’t outrun the fork.”

Want some evidence?

See that big spike above? I ran 16 miles on that Saturday and biked for 90 minutes on Sunday. Yeah, I’m in pretty good fitness shape right now. But I ate pizza, sushi and chicken wings that weekend. And while this weight of course has some temporary nature to it, it took a lot of hard work to get my month back on track.

I had been trying to get my weight down to 152 while focusing on increasing muscle mass but monster workouts and eating 2,700 calories / day wasn’t cutting it.

So I took one week and decided to cut back my workouts and cut back my calories to 2,000 / day.

When I focus on the inputs the weight falls off of my and when I ramp up the workouts I feel hungrier, eat more and tend to convince myself that little cheats are ok. I can tell you that having lost 70 pounds now in 20 months … it’s the food.

  • Set an end of March goal today. Screw January. Whatever you thought you might do in January or February is irrelevant. Whatever success you had or didn’t have is irrelevant. If you’ve been successful don’t let complacency sink in. If you haven’t don’t let your lack of progress in January be an excuse for not committing now. If you’re still reading you obviously want to have a great March or you already would have clicked away.
  • If you feel comfortable telling somebody your end-of-March goal then tell them and text them every night with some form of update. It can be how your eating went that day, how your exercise went or even what your weight is if you feel comfortable. I get it if that’s out of your comfort zone. There is nothing better than having an accountability partner who will cheer you on but not let you off the hook either. If you don’t feel comfortable sharing with somebody else write the goal down somewhere that you will see it daily.
  • You can have a bad day of eating. Try not to make it two in a row. Try not to make it 2 days in one week. It’s ok to have “up days” but not “up weeks”
  • Remember that if you REALLY want to see progress, you manage what you measure. Step on the scale every morning — no matter what. If you have 4 bad days in a row at least log them. Own them. Emotionally be honest with yourself why they happened and have a plan to correct them. I have a Withings scale and it uses Wifi so it automatically updates my Apple Health, which imports into any other app with no hassles.
  • If you want good emotional help and a plan to lose weight download Noom and use it daily. If you just want to log your food download MyFitnessPal. Log everything. It’s honestly super easy. If you quickly log as you eat it takes 5 seconds. Seriously. I’ve been logging for 18 months and haven’t missed a single day. If you’re kidding yourself that it’s too much of a pain or it’s too obsessive I promise you that’s just an excuse. I’m not an OCD guy. I’m as averse to doing tasks as anybody. It’s just not that hard.

Some things that will really make life easier

  • Try your best not to eat early in the morning. Can you drink coffee and avoid eating before 10am? The later you can delay your first meal the easier it is not to over-eat during the day. This isn’t a requirement but if you can do it, it sure helps.
  • Cut off eating MUCH earlier than you’re accustomed to. I try to stop eating at 6:30pm or 7pm. Sometimes I can’t help myself and it’s later but I try my best. You will sleep better, you will digest better and you will lose more weight. Evenings are when most of the cheating happens so if you can set an absolute rule and stick to it you’re going to be much happier. “just one …” is a slippery slope.
  • Have healthy snacks sitting in your fridge or freezer. Notice I didn’t say pantry. There’s very little in the pantry that will be healthy. Energy bars are just candy bars whatever they say. Crackers, cereal, bread, chips, pretzels … not of this is real food. None of this is healthy. None of this will help you lose weight. Go to the fridge. My go to’s are things like pickles, tomatoes, cucumber, eggs, etc. I pre-buy or pre-make foods that I can grab when I’m feeling snacky. I use Territory Foods (we are an investor) and stock my fridge with low-carb 350–400 calorie whole foods.
  • My “cheats” are things like a tablespoon of peanut butter, a slice of cheddar cheese, a fudgsicle (40 calories).
  • My snacks are things like pistachios (I measure 1/2 cup, which is 160 calories) or half an avocado (120 calories). You get to know what food has in it, what it’s nutritional value is and you end up reaching for the right things and not the wrong things.
  • I stock my fridge with three SweetGreens salads / week (500 calories) that I eat as lunch or dinner. We are not an investor. I wish.

Think if it this way. If you don’t have a simple eating plan with go-to’s to grab when your hungry you’re likely to make bad decisions. It’s like a football coach on 4th and 2 with 3 minutes left in the game and you’re on your own forty down 4 points. Do you go for it or punt? You don’t want to be thinking about that under pressure. You need the playbook in advance that tells you what to do.

Now some thoughts for the various archetypes:


The picture says it all. You’ve had a great year. You might be down 5 pounds or maybe you’ve even been super compliant and your best self and have lost 15 pounds. I’ve heard from many of you. Congratulations — you must feel really fricking great. It’s a new you. Your clothes feel looser, your face looks narrower, some people have noticed and you have a spring in your step.

Still, let’s be honest. We both know you’ve been here before. Maybe once before but more likely 5 or 6 times. In fact, it was probably around this same time of the year as New Year’s motivation is powerful. And today’s success can lead to a loosening of what got you here.

This is the riskiest state of your journey. Now is the exact time to double down

The problem with hitting your first major milestone is that you start to mentally and emotionally feel you’ve earned a few cheats. The fact is you HAVE earned a few cheats. But often a couple of days of a splurge leads to your stopping to step on the scale and hold yourself accountable. A few days off the scale leads to burying the thoughts that you’re starting to gain back some weight. A few days of Mexican food and pizza and ice cream and wine and no walking or jogging or lifting and then it feels like even a small effort isn’t going to get you back on track. So you suppress the plan that got you here, remind yourself that you never were going to get to your target weight anyways and decide you’ll pick this all back up again when you’re “ready” for it.

Do not let this fucking happen to you. Again. You’ve worked too hard to get here. If you’re still in a good weight loss situation here’s one way to get focused:

  • Get out of the mindset of thinking “10 pounds is enough. I wasn’t made to get back to my college weight.” I started at 222 and always got to 205 before rebounding. I thought the best I could ever do was 195. When I hit that I set a target of 185 — my “I’ll never be that weight again” weight. When I hit that I redoubled my efforts and blew past 175 then 165 then 155. I currently weigh 150 and I’m 5'9" and wear a size 31 pants. I only started this journey 20 months ago and I’ve never starved myself or done any crash diets.
  • It’s only possible if you set goals, measure your progress and stick to your plan. I didn’t do anything more complicated than that. I had some setbacks. I had some bad weeks. But I kept watching the scale, not letting myself slip too far and I kept coming back stronger.
  • Whatever progress you’ve made already — if you’re not at your personal preferred target weight — keep going. If you think February 28th’s weight felt great — just imagine when you double your weight loss again. It’s life changing.
  • What is your end-of-March goal? What is your end of April goal? Work backwards. Set weekly targets. Draw a graph. Hold yourself accountable. No excuses. You’ve told them all to yourself before. Let’s go.


I’m not gonna lie — this is actually the hardest state to be in emotionally. When you’ve just lost weight and then regained some or all of it then it feels so demotivating. Any time you feel like you want to restart and you make a bit of progress you feel so angry that your retreading ground that you covered just 4 or 6 weeks ago (or 4 or 6 months ago).

The good news is that you actually know it can be done and you know exactly HOW to do it because you’ve done it before. You can’t beat yourself up for your slip or for your past. We have all been here — I promise you. The first few days back on a program suck really bad. After a week if you’re strict with yourself you’ll feel a glimmer of hope and see progress. So just commit to one really good week and that should get the ball rolling and the memories started.

Two weeks in will be contagious. Sure, you’ll kick yourself for having to retread old ground but — hey — at least you’ve gotten the program going again. Retreating old ground is so hard emotionally because you want to beat yourself up daily for letting yourself slip back again. Don’t go there. Move forward. You’ll revisit your old low weight if you let yourself.

You simply have to pick your most recent weight loss minimum weight and write that somewhere that you need to stare at it every day and remind yourself that you’re not quitting until you hit that number again.

Don’t worry about getting beyond that weight. You can deal with that when you get there. Just commit yourself to only three things if you’re reading this and this is your situation:

  1. Set your target goal to hit and if you can’t get there by the end of March then at least set an end-of-March interim goal
  2. Get on the scale first thing tomorrow morning and record your starting weight. Promise yourself to weigh yourself every day — no matter what. Good days and bad. Don’t let 1 bad day become 3. Don’t let 3 bad days mean you stop weighing yourself. Personal accountability is the first line of defense.
  3. Write down everything you eat. You manage what you measure. And remember that inputs matter more than workouts. A 30 minute jog will burn no more than 300–400 calories. 500 max. That’s a bagel with cream cheese or a piece of pepperoni pizza. Which is easier — running or skipping one cheat meal / day?

If you can find an accountability partner. Agree that you can message them daily. Let them know if you prefer nice / encouragement or the drill sergeant coach yelling if you cheat. Either way, be honest and be open and let them hold you to account.

Get going. You have nothing to lose. Starting March 7th is the same thing as starting on January 1st. Just an arbitrary date. But if you start on March 7th, or March 11th or March 14th … any which way — commit to having the end of March be lower than today.


You started the year in the right mental space but you never really got beyond January 6th. The chaos of that day, that week, that month and the stresses of the pandemic made it too difficult for you to start.

The truth is that I WANTED to start my weight loss journey for 20 years and I started and stopped and failed many times. In retrospect I wasn’t ready emotionally and mentally for some reason but eventually I found the focus and if I’m honest once I made some simple things into a daily habit it actually was much easier than I thought.

I recommend going back and reading my original post on how I lost weight without any gimmicks or fad diets. I put a lot of ideas into that post on how to get started, how to deal with the emotional issues around eating and an action plan of how I started.

If you’ve struggled to get started I recommend:

  • Seeing if you can figure out what you think is holding you back and whether you think you’re ready now. Weight loss is mental and emotional. The actually actions you need to take are not that complicated so it really comes down to your mind and willpower. Of course you know that but it’s easier said than done.
  • See if you can join a program like Noom or some other online program that addresses the mental aspects as well as gives you a step-by-step plan. Often times just having somebody else tell you what to do takes the guessing work out of it.
  • If you have the resources maybe consider a dietician because that’s much more important than buying a Peloton or hiring a trainer. Sure, you can do that, too. But it’s 100% a waste if you don’t focus on the food intake part.
  • If you want me to help you figure out how to get started I will. Just send me a message on Twitter @msuster and I’ll try to find a way to get you the resources you need to get started. If you know me then text me or email me. It would truly be my pleasure to help.

In the end, maybe you’re not ready now. That’s ok, too. If you’re not ready to lose weight or don’t want to that’s 100% your prerogative and nobody should judge you for that. If you do decide you want to try at some point in the future then maybe bookmark my original weight loss post and revisit it when you’re feeling more motivated or ready.


*You may have noticed the asterisk around the first sentence where I said it was March 1st. It was when I wrote that. In the middle of writing my post the power at my house went out, a transformer across the street blew up and the hill caught on fire. We raced to pack our stuff and put it in the car and prepared in case there was a forest fire. Luckily the LA winds had died down earlier that afternoon and the fire department had put it out with a couple of hours.

I hope this post didn’t ramble too much. I lost the writer’s momentum I had and had to slog it out today to finish. I’ll be back soon with my posts on how I started working out more.

There’s Still Time to Commit to Your 2021 Health & Fitness Plan was originally published in Both Sides of the Table on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Both Sides of the Table – Medium

Starting a Family Business? Avoid These 5 Mistakes in Your Continuity Plan

The following is excerpted from “The Harvard Business Review Family Business Handbook: How to Build and Sustain a Successful, Enduring Enterprise” by Josh Baron and Rob Lachenauer (Harvard Business Review Press, 2021).

It may seem counterintuitive to those who are neck deep in building their business, but if you want to build an enduring legacy to pass to the next generation, it’s never too early to start your continuity planning.

Even with good intentions, many owners find it difficult to plan their own eventual transition from the business that has become part of their identity. But delaying or poorly planning your transition can wreak havoc on the business (and the family) in the long run.

A BCG study of more than two hundred Indian family businesses found a “28-percentage-point differential in market capitalization growth between companies that had planned transitions and those that had not.” The study concludes, “An enormous amount of value is destroyed by unplanned transitions, with potentially catastrophic consequences for the business.”

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While there is no correct way to make the transition from one generation to the next, we have seen five main approaches that are likely to fail. If you identify with one—or more—of these scenarios, you are likely to be headed off the continuity cliff.

A problem patriarch or matriarch

This type of leader can’t let go. Patriarchs or matriarchs rule all aspects of their family business with an iron fist. Their hardball behavior, which led to their business success, is applied to the next generation, which finds it impossible to thrive under an iron-fisted senior leader. Because of this person’s oppressive behavior, the members of the next generation are incapable of leading the business or are so hurt by their previous experiences that they have no interest in continuing the business. Often, after the domineering leader leaves, they sell the business.

The one-size-fits-all fallacy

Governance, roles, and processes that worked brilliantly in one generation can be a disaster in the next. Even with good intentions, the senior generation can set the younger generation up for failure by maintaining rigid leadership roles without allowing the younger group to consider approaching leadership differently. Each generation brings different interests and skills to leadership—and the business itself may need different leadership skills. It’s a mistake to assume that what worked for one generation will be right for the next generation, too.

Ruling from the grave

Owners can set the rules by which the next generation will work and own the business together, often through formal vehicles like wills or trusts or through handed-down cultural expectations. The goal is often to protect what you have created and to help the next generation avoid mistakes. However, these formal approaches often backfire. Ruling from the grave removes the autonomy of the next generation to chart its course and to respond to changing circumstances. Trusts are very difficult to undo, and even cultural expectations are hard to shift.

The chosen one

Many families have a cultural tradition that even when ownership is shared, the eldest male is put in charge of the family business. Sometimes, this person is given a greater ownership stake in the company (or all of it), and sometimes the power comes from being tapped on the shoulder by the previous generation. This tradition can help avoid battles over succession, since everyone knows their role at a young age. But more often than not, we have found that designating a successor at birth causes more problems than benefits. Even if it’s not spoken aloud, everyone will recognize that the chosen successor may not be the best candidate for the job—that this person simply has the luck of being born first. This approach also places great pressure on the “chosen one.” Meanwhile, the rest of the family often feels disengaged and resentful.

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All for none, none for all

When the current owners disagree on priorities, the individuals often want to compete with each other rather than collaborate. One way this competition happens is succession by attrition. For example, a “last one standing” provision in a shareholder agreement states that if, say, a company has three shareholders and one dies, then the two remaining shareholders must buy the shares from the surviving spouse at a discounted price. If a second shareholder dies, then, again the remaining shareholder is the buyer. The last person standing now probably owns all of the business, but because the business is likely to be heavily indebted, the last person will probably need to sell, too.

Maintaining family ownership over the years is a complicated endeavor. It requires making decisions that will reverberate for years to come and that are based on imperfect information about the future (e.g., which of the next generation will be the most qualified to lead the business?). These decisions are steeped in meaning, connecting to issues of fairness (do I treat my children equally?) and identity (what do I do after I have exited from my life’s work?).

To make a good transition, you need a continuity plan that maps out the path from the current generation of ownership to the next. Though the current owners will make the final calls, the process requires cross-generational collaboration skills. Everyone needs to understand how this transition will work. Family empires are consolidated or squandered in the transfer of power to younger generations.

We can’t state this strongly enough: a planned transition is far better for both the business and the family in the long run.

The Harvard Business Review Family Business Handbook” is available now and can be purchased via

The post Starting a Family Business? Avoid These 5 Mistakes in Your Continuity Plan appeared first on StartupNation.


Spain’s ten-year plan to put startups in the economic driving seat

Spain is preparing to push forward with pro-startup legislation, having recently unveiled a big and bold transformation plan with the headline goal, by 2030, of turning the country into ‘Spain Entrepreneurial Nation’, as the slightly clumsy English translation has it.

Prime minister Pedro Sanchez took a turn on Web Summit’s stage in December to announce the introduction of the forthcoming Startup Act — and to trumpet a new role, a high commissioner, tasked with bringing off a nationwide entrepreneurial economic transformation by working with all the relevant government ministries.

The broad-brush goals for the strategy are to increase growth in startup investments; attract and retain talent; promote scalability; and inject innovation into the public sector so it can bolster and support Spain’s digital development.

The aforementioned Startup Act is the first piece of dedicated legislation for the sector — and is intended to simplify starting up in Spain, as well as bringing in tax concessions and incentives for foreign investments. So it will be something of a milestone.

Chat to local founders and there’s a litany of administrative, tax-based and fundraising pain-points they’ll quickly point to as frustrations. Wider issues seem more cultural; startups not thinking big enough, investors lacking the necessary appetite for risk, and even — among wider society — some latent suspicion of entrepreneurs. While Spain-based investors are champing at the bit for administrative reform and better stock options. Moving the needle on all that is the Spanish government’s self-appointed mission for the foreseeable future.

TechCrunch spoke to Francisco Polo, Spain’s high commissioner overseeing delivery of the entrepreneurial strategy, to get the inside track on the plan to grow the startup ecosystem and find out which bits entrepreneurs are likely to see in action first.

“The high commissioner for Spain entrepreneurial nation is a new body that’s within the presidency. So for the first time we have an institution that, from the presidency, is able to help coordinate the different ministries on one single thing: Creating the first national mission. In this case this nation mission has the goal to turn Spain into the entrepreneurial nation with the greatest social impact in history,” says Polo.

“What we do is that work of coordination with all the ministries. Basically we have a set of internal objectives. First is what we call impacts — different sets of measures that is contained in the Spain entrepreneurial nation strategy. We also work trying to get everyone together on this national mission so we work on different alliances.

“Finally, we are also very focused on helping let the people know that Spain has made a decision to become — by 2030 — this entrepreneurial nation that is going to leave no one behind. So that’s our job.”

Scaling up on the shoulders of giants

The southern European nation doesn’t attract the same level of startup investment as some of its near neighbors, including the UK, France and Germany. But in some ways Spain punches above its regional weight — with major cities like Barcelona and Madrid routinely ranked as highly attractive locations for founders, owing to relatively low costs and the pull of a Mediterranean lifestyle.

Spanish cities’ urban density, high levels of youth unemployment and a sociable culture that’s eagerly embraced digital chatter makes an attractive test-bed for consumer-facing app-based businesses — one that’s demonstrated disruptive potential over the past decade+, in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis which hit the country hard.

Local startups that have gained global attention over this period — for velocity of growth and level of ambition, at the least — include the likes of Badi, Cabify, Glovo, Jobandtalent, Red Points,, TravelPerk, Typeform and Wallapop, to name a few.

Spain’s left-leaning coalition government is now looking to pick up the startup baton in earnest, to drive a broader pro-digital shift in the economy and production base — but in a way that’s socially inclusive. The shift will be based on “an ironclad principle that we leave no one behind”, said Sanchez in December.

For this reason the slate of policy measures Sanchez’s government has distilled as necessary to support and grow the ecosystem — following a long period of consultation with private and public stakeholders — pays close attention to social impact. Hence the parallel goal of tackling a variety of gaps (territorial, gender, socio-economic, generational and so on) that might otherwise be exacerbated by a more single-minded rush to accelerate the size of the digital sector.

“We are a new generation of young people in government. I think in our generation we don’t understand creating a new innovation system or a new industrial-economic system if we are not also talking about its social impact,” says Polo. “That’s why at the basis of the model we have also designed inclusion policies. So all this strategy is aimed at closing the gender gap, the territorial gap, the socio-economic gap and the generational gap. So at the end of the day, by 2030, we have created the entrepreneurial nation with the highest social impact in history.”

There’s money on the table too: Spain will be routing a portion of the ‘Next Generation EU‘ coronavirus recovery funding it receives from the pan-EU pot into this ‘entrepreneurial’ push.

“Specifically, for 2021, the budget assigned to the different goals of the strategy — we have more than €1.5BN for the main measures that we want to start setting up. And for the period 2023 it’s over €4.5BN dedicated to the rest of the measures. So basically between 2021 and 2023 we will be setting the basis/foundations of the Spain entrepreneurial nation,” says Polo.

Execution of the strategy will be down to the relevant ministries of government — who will be enacting projects and passing legislation, as needed — but Polo’s department is there to “guide and accompany” the various arms and branches of government on that journey; aka “to help make things happen” with a startup hat on.

The national strategy envisages entrepreneurship/startup innovation as the driving force at the top of a pyramid that sits atop existing sectors of the Spanish economy — “spearheading the innovative system that we want to generate”, as Polo puts it. “We are not only focusing on innovative entrepreneurship. We are also trying to create virtuous cycles between this ecosystem and the actual driving sectors of the Spanish economy — that’s why we listed a set of ten driving sectors that represent above 60% of the GDP. And this is of utmost importance.”

The listed sectors where the government wants to concentrate and foster support — so those same sectors can leverage gains through closer working with digital innovation are: Industry; Tourism and culture; Mobility; Health; Construction and materials; Energy and ecological transition; Banking and finance; Digitalization and telecommunications; Agri-food; and Biotechnology.

“We decided we needed to make the cut at some point and we decided that putting together 60% of the GDP in Spain was a clear direction of the sectors that we could be using in order to accelerate the change that we want to see,” says Polo. “Basically what we want to shift with this model is that the innovative entrepreneurship that has been quite enclosed in the past starts working with the different driving sectors that we have in the country because they can help each other solve their different issues.

“So first, for example, for investment — what if big companies start investing more and more than they are actually doing? We accelerate also that path — into innovative entrepreneurship system. That is going to help close that gap… What if startups and scale ups in Spain work together with our international companies in order to attract and retain that talent? That is going to put us as a country in a better position.

“To me the best example is about scaling up: Because what is better than scaling up on the shoulders of giants? We have already a big number of international of world class companies that are in different markets so what is better than being able to scale up with a company that is already there, that has the knowledge and that can help you mature as a scale up in a shorter period of time. So there are a lot of virtuous cycles that we can generate and that’s why we wanted to make also a broad appeal to the different driving sectors. Because we want to let the country know that everyone is called to make this a reality.”

Lime scooters outside El Retiro Park in Madrid (Image credits: Natasha Lomas/TechCrunch)

Digital divides

Digital can itself divide, of course, as has been writ large during a global pandemic in which the development of children excluded from attending school in person can hinge on whether or not they have Internet access and computer literacy.

So the principle of entrepreneurial growth being predicated upon social inclusion looks like an important one — even if pulling off major industrial transformations which will necessitate a degree of retraining and upskilling in order to bring workers of all ages along the same path is clearly not going to be easy.

But the ten-year timeframe for ‘Spain Entrepreneurial Nation’ looks like a recognition that inclusion requires time.

The long term plan is also intended to address a common criticism of Spain’s politics being too short-termist, per Polo. “In Spain particularly it’s been a regular criticism that politics always look in the small term so this is proof that this government is also addressing the short term issues but also is preparing Spain for the future,” he says, adding: “We really believe that [presenting a long term vision is] a good thing and it’s an answer to that social demand.”

The country has also — over the last decade or so — gained a bit of a reputation for successfully challenging digital developments over specific societal impacts in Europe’s courts. Such as, in 2010, when a Spanish citizen challenged Google’s refusal to delist outdated information about him from its index — which led, in 2014, to Europe’s top court backing what’s colloquially referred to as the ‘right to be forgotten’.

Uber’s regulation-dodging was also successfully challenged by Spanish taxi associations — leading to a 2017 ruling at the highest level in Europe that Uber is a transport service (and therefore subject to local urban transport rules; not just a technology platform as the ride-hailing giant had sought to claim).

Anti-Uber (and anti-Cabify) strikes have, meanwhile, been a quasi-regular (and sometimes violent) feature of Spain’s streets — as the taxi industry has protested at a perceived lack of enforcement of the law against app-based rivals who are not competing fairly, as it sees it.

And while gig platforms (even homegrown European ones) tend to try to shrug off such protests as protectionist (and/or ‘anti-innovation’), they have oftentimes found themselves losing challenges to the legality of their models — including most recently in the UK Supreme Court (which just slapped down Uber’s classification of drivers/riders as self employed — meaning it’s liable for a slew of costs for associated benefits).

All of which is to say that the muscular sense of injustice that segments of Spanish society have willingly — and even viscerally — demonstrated when they feel unfair impacts flowing from shiny new tech tools should not be dismissed; rather it looks like people here have their finger on the pulse of what’s really important to them.

That may also explain why the government is so keen to ensure no one in Spain feels left behind as it unboxes a major packet of startup-friendly policies.

Among a package of some 50 support measures, the entrepreneurial strategy makes a reference to “smart regulation” and floats the idea of sandboxing for testing products publicly (i.e. without needing to worry about regulatory compliance first).

The idea of opening up sandboxing is popular with local gig platform Glovo. “I really believe this is key; allowing innovation to test products/services without having to go through regulatory nightmares to test. This would really drive innovation,” co-founder Sacha Michaud tells us. “This is working well in financial services but could be applied across a wide range of tech areas.”

Attracting more investment to Spain and improving stock options so that local companies can better compete to attract talent are other key priorities for him.

Michaud says he’s fully supportive of the government’s entrepreneurial strategy and the Startup Act, while not expecting immediate results on account of what he expects will be a long legislative process.

He’s less happy about the government’s in-train plan to regulate gig platforms, though — arguing that last-mile delivery is being unfairly singled out there. This reform, which is being worked on by the Ministry of Labor, has been driven by a number of legal challenges to platforms’ employment classifications of gig workers in recent years — including a loss last year for Glovo in Spain’s Supreme Court.

“In Glovo’s case [the government] are specifically looking at regulating only riders, last-mile delivery platforms — yet still allowing over an estimated 500,000 autonomous workers in logistics, services and installations to continue,” says Michaud, dubbing this “very discriminatory; affecting literally a handful of tech companies and ‘protecting’ the status quo of the traditional IBEX35 Spanish companies”.

Asked about progress on the reform of the labor law Polo says only that work is continuing. “I don’t have more transparency on the work they are doing. I have probably the same information that you have and the conversations that we have with the different companies, also the gig companies that we keep an open dialogue with,” he says.

But when pressed on whether reforming regulations to take account of tech-driven changes to how people work is an important component of the wider entrepreneurial strategy he also emphasizes that the “ultimate goal” of the national transformation plan is “to generate more and better jobs”.

“We are always inclined to try to foster the companies that generate these better and increasing new jobs,” says Polo. “And I’m sure that the different gig companies that we have in Spain — I know that they understand this ultimate goal. They understand the benefits for the company and for the country of following this path and that they are willing to transform and evolve as the country is also evolving.”

At the time of writing Barcelona is also being rocked by street protests over the jailing of rapper, Pablo Hasél, over certain social media postings — including tweets criticising police brutality — judged, by Spanish courts, to have violated its criminal code around glorifying terrorism.

Spain’s laws in this area have long been denounced as draconian and disproportionate. Including by Amnesty International — which called Hasél’s imprisonment “an excessive and disproportionate restriction on his freedom of expression”. But Polo dismisses the idea that there’s any contradiction in Spain seeking to rebrand itself as a modernizing, pro-entrepreneur nation at the same time as Spain’s courts are putting people in prison over the contents of their tweets. (Hasél is not the only artist or citizen to fall foul of this law — which has also been infamously triggered by social media jokes).

“There’s no opposition of concepts at all,” Polo argues. “Spain is one of the most robust democracies in the world and that is something that is not us who are saying it — it’s the international rankings. And we have a rule of law. And in this case it’s a very clear case of someone who went across the limits that are established in legislation because the freedom of speech has limits of the rights of other people so it’s something that has nothing to do unfortunately with freedom of speech… The reason why Pablo Hasél is in jail is because he promoted terrorism.”

Pressed further on how ‘jail time for tweets’ might look to an international audience, he reiterates a recent government statement that they do intend to reform the penal code. “There are very specific things that, yes, we want to reform. Because times have advanced,” he says, adding: “We are a more mature country than the one we were in the 1980s. And there are specific things that we want to change in the penal code — but they have nothing to do with the recent events.”

Graffiti in a Barcelona street protesting against the imprisonment of rapper, Pablo Hasél, for crimes involving freedom of speech (Image credit: Natasha Lomas/TechCrunch)

Measures to change mindsets

On the broader issue of cultural challenge — aka: how to change a national mindset to be more entrepreneurial — Polo expresses confidence in his mission. He says it’s about making sure people see the big picture and their place in the vision of the future you’re presenting to them; so they see you’re actively working to bring them along for the ride.

“This is one of the things that I feel confident about. Particularly based on my background prior to being in politics. That is helping change mindsets,” he tells TechCrunch. “In the past I was able to help tonnes of people realize that they were capable of doing things that they thought they were never capable of doing. My understanding is that in order to generate those cultural changes you need to do one thing first: That is generating a vision for the future.

“That’s why we insist so much that by 2030 Spain is going to become an entrepreneurial nation with the greatest social impact in history and that we have a plan for that… Where we take the entrepreneurship and we help them spearhead this new innovation model. We leverage all the driving sectors of the economy so we are actually building on success; on the actual success of Spain as an international economy. And that there’s something for you in that plan. That’s why we are including in the strategy at the basis of the strategy the inclusion policies in order to close the gender gap, the territorial gap, the socio-economic gap, the generational gap.

“In order to change cultures you need align people into working together towards building something that is greater than themselves and I think that with the Spain entrepreneurial nation strategy we made that first step. And this is why — and this is a parenthesis — that’s why we say the [startup] law is as important as having this strategy.”

That startup law — due to be presented shortly in draft (aka as an anteproyecto de ley) for approval by the Council of Ministers, before going to parliament for a wider debate process (and potential amendments) — is the first piece of legislation aligned with the wider strategy. It also looks set to be one of its first deliverables.

Although it’s not clear how long it will be before Spain gets its shiny new startup law. (The country’s politics has lacked consensus for years; Sanchez’s ‘progressive coalition’ was only put together after he tried and failed to get a full majority for his Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) twice in a row.)

“That’s something that is difficult to say because there are laws that have a shorter and others that have a longer period of approval,” says Polo, on the timeframe for passing the legislation. “For us the important issue here is that the startup law has a full process — so it has a full agreement on every side of the hill so it becomes robust and stable legislation for the years to come.”

This “long awaited” regulation which the ecosystem has been calling for for “years”, per Polo, will address a number of different issues — from the first legal “definition” of startup (to reflect differentiation vs other types of companies); to measures to help startups retain and attract talent.

“We need to reform stock options so that they become a tool in order to compete internationally for talent,” he says, noting that the idea is to enable Spain to compete with regimes already offered by countries elsewhere in Europe, such as the UK, France and Germany.

“Also we need to reform VISAs in order to again retain and attract that talent,” he continues. “The president also talked about incentivizing investment and having a certain degree of tax breaks — and we understand that business angels need more incentives. So we have a more ordain and logical system of investment at the pre-seed and seed stage. And many other actions — it’s the Ministry of Economy that will end up with the final text that will be passed in the Council of Ministers in the coming weeks.”

Polo cautions that the law won’t instantly fix every gripe of founders and investors in Spain. Clearly it’s going to be a marathon, not a sprint.

“That’s why we have a strategy,” he emphasizes. “I understand the interest in the startup law but I always say that as important as the startup law is the Spain entrepreneurial nation strategy. Because it’s in there where we address the big problems that we have as a country when it comes to the ecosystem. And in there we have pointed out four big challenges that we have.

“First is investment. We need to accelerate the velocity of maturity of the investment in Spain… The numbers have been growing, year after year, and they look really good. So what we want to do is to help accelerate those numbers so we are able to run faster and close the gap that we have between us and our neighbours: Basically Germany and France. That they have 4x or 5x the number of investment that we have in Spain. We really want to be in ten years in a place where Spain could be leading the investment in innovative entrepreneurship in mainland Europe.

“Second challenge: Talent. We know that in order to build the entrepreneurial nation we need all the talent that we have. So we need to develop the internal talent but we also need to attract international talent and we need to retain that talent. So that’s why we were talking about the different tools that might be included in the startup law.

“The third challenge is scaling up. We in Spain have a lot of companies that assimilate success to selling. And that’s great — it’s totally legitimate. But what we need as a country is to have an increasing percentage of companies in the future that do not think about selling as a synonym of success; but they think about buying other startups around the world. Of growing. Of scaling up. So they started building today the big companies that in the future by 2030 they will generate thousands of good quality jobs in Spain which is the ultimate goal and the bottom line of the strategy.

“And the fourth goal: Turn the political administration into an entrepreneurial administration. Meaning that the political administration, it’s more agile. That we generate a positive benchmark. And that sometimes the public sector makes the investment that not even the riskier of venture capital funds can do. Because that’s the role of the public sector; to generate this kind of visions and to put the means in in order to achieve those. So among all the challenges that we have in the ecosystem it’s something we have put together in the strategy — that is going to addressed not only with one law but with 50 different measures that we included in the Spain entrepreneurial nation strategy.”

The wider entrepreneur strategy talks about nine priority actions to be developed in the next two years via certain projects — which Polo envisages being accelerated in the near term with the help of EU coronavirus recovery funds.

He highlights a couple of priority projects: One to create a network to link entrepreneurs and policymakers with the wider ecosystem, and another to connect incubators and accelerators to build out a national support network for founders — both of which have been inspired by approaches taken in other European countries.

“Among these projects we have one — Oficina Nacional de Emprendimiento — which is deeply inspired by La French Tech in France. So we want to generate a one-stop-shop for entrepreneurs, investors and the rest of the ecosystem to access all of opportunities of collaboration between the central government, regions and CP councils in order to improve entrepreneurship in their respective areas,” says Polo.

“We have other projects like Renace — which is an acronym for Red Nacional de Centros de Emprendimiento — and in there we’ve also been inspired by the network that Portugal has that are doing such exciting things. So what we want to do is help connect the different incubators and accelerators and venture builders that we have in Spain. So they’re at first connected and we add more value — but with one particular focus: The different gaps.

“With Renace in particular we want to help close the territorial gap. Because it’s going to be very interesting to be able to work with engineers in Cáceres for a company that is based in Barcelona. Or to work with a team of designers from the Basque country for a company that is setting up in Malaga. With Renace we can help integrate the country and really talk about an entrepreneurial nation and not just cities. So Spain has the potential to build that. And there are many others issues.”

France alone spends billions annually both on R&D and on direct support for the digital sector. And even with EU funding Spain can’t hope to match the level of ‘ecosystem’ spend of richer, northern European countries. But Polo says the plan is to make the most of what it has with the resources it can marshal — hence, with the Renace project, it’s about linking up existing incubators/accelerators (and adding “a new layer of value” such as via public-private partnerships).

“When you end up reading the Spain entrepreneurial strategy you realize it’s not a billionaire plan of money that you put on the table in order to start building this Spain entrepreneurial nation,” he says. “It’s instead it’s a very robust plan in order to create that vision and putting together the different pieces that we already have — the different assets that we have as a country to start working together intelligently so we can make the best of everything that we can.”

Polo also argues that Spain is already doing well on the startup cluster front — saying it stands alone with Germany in having more than one city ranked among the top ten ‘most entrepreneurial’ in Europe, per such listings. More recently, he says, Spain has risen further up these listicles — as more of its cities have popped up in the “global competition for innovative entrepreneurship”.

“Meaning that in different places of Spain there are many cities and regions that have the hunger to become a place that is helping entrepreneurs to create this kind of economy. And we can get many more,” he suggests, pointing to Renace‘s hoped for value from a social inclusion angle.

“With Renace what we want to do is generate this network and add more value — provide services, get into public-private partnership in order to add the value of the different places that we have in the country. So let’s say that a company in Barcelona can find tonnes of engineers in a city like Cáceres. The company in Barcelona becomes more competitive because the salaries in Cáceres — if you pay them the best salary in Cáceres they could be two-thirds of the salary in Barcelona. So the company in Barcelona becomes more competitive. But also the engineers in the city of Cáceres who want to stay in the region, who want to stay with their family or to have a life-project in Cáceres they can stay. So this is an example of how we can close the territorial gap and also become really integrated startup nation in the full term of nation.”

“The ultimate goal of the Spain entrepreneurial nation strategy is turning Spain into a country that is able to avoid the effects of different crises. And particularly the effects of that we saw in 2008 when the most vulnerable jobs were destroyed overnight — and they were counted by tens of thousands. That particularly struck the young people with unemployment rates that were above 55%. The immigrants and the people over 50. We don’t want that to happen again. So there’s been a very profound reflection on what needed to happen in Spain for that to change. And the conclusion was that we needed to change the productive basis of the country,” he continues.

“That’s why we are putting together a strategy that is going to help the innovative entrepreneurship sector spearhead these new models, this new economic model for Spain. That is going to be leveraging the different driving sectors of the economy — those ten sectors that we state in the strategy — and that as it could not be differently in a 21st century strategy, and particularly a strategy designed by a new generation of politicians and trying to respond to the ambitions of the new generations that is a strategy that is not including the social impact of this phenomenon. So that’s why we are also focused on putting together inclusion policies.”

Polo won’t be drawn into naming any especially promising startups he’s encountered on his travels around Spain — referring instead to the “tonnes of super innovative companies” he says he’s sure will soon be disrupting business as usual in Spain and (the government hopes) internationally — from battery charging companies to retail disruptors working on new ways to make clothes. (“Different kinds of innovations that people can’t imagine,” is his pithy shorthand.)

“What we are trying to do every time we have an opportunity is to also promote the knowledge of these companies — and also help Spanish people and also people abroad — to know that we have everything that we need in order to succeed as a nation and become that entrepreneurial nation with the greatest social impact in history,” he adds, acknowledging that a big part of his mission is “to tell the rest of the world that we are here”.


Startups – TechCrunch

Embrace Your Business Plan for a Successful 2021

To journey without a plan or a map is simply just wandering. And wandering in business never leads to success.

We need to be constantly reevaluating our business plans, almost to a point where they become a living organism.

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Start by reflecting on your business plan:

  • Do you connect with your business plan on a soul level? This is where our passion is evident.
  • Does your business plan have your energy and voice? This is where our authenticity is clear.
  • Does your business plan connect with you emotionally? This is where our business becomes an extension of who we are.

If the answer to any of these questions is not an emphatic “yes,” it’s time for some revaluation.

Business plans should start large and grow small; they should start forecasting the future and whittle themselves down to week-by-week actionable steps. Start by developing a three-year plan, then a two-year plan, and eventually a one-year plan.

Related: Building a Monthly Business Plan

Once these are nailed down, continue to work through your one-year plan by quarter, then by month, week and day. This will give you quantitative measures for engaging the health of your business.

Keep these key features top of mind:

  • Look specifically at the quantitative aspects of your business.
  • Measure everything.
  • Execution is the number one goal, and consistency is key.
  • Take executive time to plan daily.

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We have two options: Look at last year as a trying time that we’re glad we made it through, or see it as an opportunity to grow stronger by using the coronavirus disruption as a learning experience.

2021 can be our business’ best year if we take specific, measurable and authentic steps toward that end. It all begins with reviewing, revising and reengaging your business plan. Start today and begin the adventure. Put the wandering to rest … and think big!


– Jon

The post Embrace Your Business Plan for a Successful 2021 appeared first on StartupNation.


Do I risk telling my current CTO I plan to start a company?

tl;dr: good relationship with now acquired company founder. Should I risk a heads up on my plans to start my own company in order to (1) gain more early experience, (2) build my network, and (3) ask for a more tax favorable equity exercise?

I was an early employee at a robotics startup. I've had a good relationship with our CTO/one of the founders and he always said that no matter what I end up doing he would support me.

• We were acquired 1.5 years ago for a hefty buyout, and it's allowed me to expedite my own startup plans. I've been there for 3.5 years with a 4 year equity payout schedule.

• I've been nonstop building my company in my free time <researching market/ building decks/ networking/ roadmapping/ hiring contractors, etc> and am planning to kick off hard around the end of the fall/early '22.

• During covid we haven't talked much lately, but he's said a few times in the past that he thinks I'll be a superstar, though a potentially irrational fear is that it's a positivity bias towards supporting women in STEM.

So I am debating telling him my plans early. He's been a successful exec in the past as well so he could offer some invaluable experience if I had the chance to shadow him for a few months. He could also put me in touch with some angel investors/industry professionals, and building that rapport early could be massively valuable.

Also, even though my equity vests soon, there would be a massive tax hit once I exercise it on termination. I don't know if execs have the potential to help with that, but some extension or tweaking could allow a massive savings on the order of a couple hundred thousand dollars.

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