Friday I spent the day squiring around the top brass from Koppert Biological
Systems, the world's largest supplier of predatory insects and bumblebees for greenhouse pollination. Based in the Netherlands, the company was founded in about 1967 by Mr. Koppert who had trouble with bugs in his greenhouse cucumbers.
He didn't want to use chemicals like everyone else, so he began researching and found predatory mites. He released them and they solved the problem biologically. His neighbors were so impressed they asked him if he could get them some. That's how the multi-million dollar company was formed. Now run by the third generation, the company is moving into soil microbials as well.
Koppert ships biologicals to more than 50 countries. I asked them what was the hardest country to deal with, and they said China. In the ensuing discussion about China, these top business folks said that throughout Europe shops are taking Alibaba (Chinese competitor to Amazon) transactions due to the number of Chinese tourists. As China gains economic momentum, it is beginning to dominate the tourism industry in many countries.
These fellows said that the climate for lending money to entrepreneurs in China is better than any country in the world. Is it because they have better banks? No. Is it because they have more capital? No. Is it because they have more people? No. It's because their culture has no presumption of privacy and personal space.
We Americans are cultish about protecting our privacy and keeping our space. Travel on a bus or train in the orient and you'll be bumped and smothered to the point of screaming "Assault!" in the U.S. This means that Alibaba, for example, and all social media, including facial recognition cameras that are mounted on nearly every corner of the country, are tracking everyone.
And all this tracking is public. It's available to business, to government to almost anyone. So if I want a loan, I just enter my name and the amount I want with a rudimentary business idea and it goes into an algorithm that measures risk. In short order--sometimes minutes--the loan is approved or rejected. No bank loan officers. No signing quintuplicate disclosure and hold harmless forms.
The reason this is possible is because anyone with capital can access the database that tracks all your friends, all your travel, all your purchases, all your entertainment, all your savings. AND NOBODY CARES! Think of the time and effort Americans spend protecting their privacy; now imagine if all that were released on entrepreneurial endeavors. No wonder China is spinning circles around the world.
I'm not suggesting we should quit thinking about privacy. But I do find it fascinating how such a paradigm difference translates into capital access and entrepreneurial possibilities. Remember the business book titled something like "It's Not the Big that Eat the Small, It's the Fast that Eat the Slow?" This whole idea sure changes the speed of trust and business development.
It made me wonder, what about me would really hurt if someone knew about it? I've decided not much. If I have nothing to hide, who cares about privacy?
What about you would actually harm you if you divulged it to the public?