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An American Dream and the hard life of an entrepreneur

In the early 90's my employer, the phone company in California spent over $50000.00 to send me to get certified to be a Systems and Application Developer, specializing in mainframe. This, after I paid for my own college education.

A couple of years later, the phone company wanted to trim its staff and offered 'early out' packages. I took this since I could easily find contract work as a Systems consultant. I soon found and did temporary contract work for Wells Fargo Bank,  Charles Schwab, The GAP and also the phone company.

In the 90's, more and more H1B foreign workers started to come in to the U.S. There was no transparency in what they were earning. American workers had to compete against their salaries. American companies started massively outsourcing work as well. 

Late 90's, because I could no longer compete with outsourcing and H1B workers, I decided to become an entrepreneur. I sold my house in San Francisco and used the profit to finance my new company in Europe (France). It is with this company that I invented a system. We filed patent applications in 2001/2002. In 2002, the Ministry of Finance and Economy in France also gave our company a grant of almost 500.000,00 euros (EUCLID project) to showcase the proof of concept for this system. This pilot program of my system was used by cardholders in French Polynesia with great success. In 2005, USPTO awarded a patent for the patent application that was filed in 2001.

Today (10 years later), we have not been able to convince a bank to implement my system and I have been looking for temporary work contracts for many months now, but haven't been successful. We now know that it's not because the system will not work. And it is certainly not because the banks don't see the value in offering it to their cardholders. 

These very same banks and card companies (Mastercard/Orbiscom) have copied my system. This news was quite surprising since MC’s lawyer has been in communication with our lawyer in the U.S, last quarter of 2009. What about the patent, you might ask? That's a subject of another blog and it might remind you of a 'telenovela'. But I will have to tell the story in my next blog. 

Like many americans, I have paid for my education. I also relied on the equity that I cashed out from selling my home to invest on my own company and my system. So far, 'Goliath' banks have copied it.

Many Americans used their home equities to finance their business operations and to finance their children’s education. My story is not unique. There are other americans who started their own businesses because of the same reasons.

What is going on in the U.S. as far as politics, economy and business is truly scary. The U.S. embraced globalization but failed to manage its effects. I have not heard about any worthwhile solution for our joblessness problem in the U.S., not even from Pres. Obama. 2009 was a great year for America's TBTF banks but one can observe a worrisome american diaspora in the economic sense. Americans have paid dearly for globalization.

What is a bit promising is the grassroots campaign in the U.S. to move money into community banks and credit unions. Pres. Obama also wants to channel more money to fund businesses. Perhaps the change will come from our Main Street's grassroots campaigns.

I'm not whining if that's what you think. I just think that my story needs to be told. I love my home country and I identify more with Main Street than Wall Street. I certainly hope that our politicians will find lasting solutions for our economy.


Comments: (5)

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 03 February, 2010, 23:54Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

It is a tale often told. That is why I laugh whenever any predictably curious cat makes a comment like:

29/01/2010 01:48:38 Stephen Wilson, Lockstep Group - Sydney added: "Stand the test of time"?  First Dean's solution needs to stand the test of public scrutiny.

It is clearly a sign of naivety. What value would it add to my product to have such a persons 'endorsement'. $0. Potential costs of premature exposure - $B.

A patent is only worth what you can pay to defend it and the opposition is both well-heeled and perhaps generally well aware of enterpreneur's financial capacity. Having your patent published is like showing your bare end and it doesn't take someone as smart at the inventor to change a few details and get a patent for a very similar process. Too many inventors run around showing their business to anyone they can get to look. That approach is fraught with pitfalls.

But for the grace of god (or my own intellect) I would have been seeking a large second round of roll-out financing, just as my investors were hit by the rather predictable crisis and the fall-out.

Timing and target is everything.

I am fond of a little slow deep breathing now and then, and lets face it - the market and the players are so predictable that there are plenty of opportunities to make ends meet while you choose your moment (and significantly improve your product).


A Finextra member
A Finextra member 04 February, 2010, 09:30Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Hi Dean,

Thank you for your comment. I do understand your protectiveness but thats what a well-written patent will do for you - protect your invention.

I worked very closely with the new york patent law firm to make my claims as broad as possible (also their recommendation) so that it would be difficult to go around it. And indeed they can't. I would be the first one to go around it, if it is possible.


Mastercard / ORBISCOM (InControl / ORBIS’ patents) : 7571142, 7567934, 7433845, 7136835, 6636833 cannot claim the setting of the ACTUAL card account limits (which mine does). In fact, all of their patents refer to temporary and limited use virtual numbers which can be controlled. 

But there is more to tell about my patent - in another blog and I promise that it will be a good read.



A Finextra member
A Finextra member 07 February, 2010, 07:44Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

I just received an email from a previous colleague who I worked with in the phone company in 1994. He told me that he no longer works with the phone company. He said that 6 years ago, his entire dept was off-shored to India, so they all took jobs with another dept which was 55 miles outside of SF. With this move, he actually went back to writing code (he was a proj mgr before).

Then 3 years ago, this entire dept (over 500 people) were transferred to an outsourcing / off-shoring company, Amdocs. So, they are all now Amdocs employees and are viewed as temporary contractors. The layoffs and resignations have been constant, and they have trained the people hired in India to replace them, so their days are numbered.

President Obama, I am here in France but I am pained by what I hear and read about. Are you listening? 

French companies are also outsourcing more and more. Temporary contract rates are worse than pitiful (150 - 200 euros per day) and job requirements usually require a mix of skills that no single person can fulfill, ergo outsource it to a company. It's just a matter of time until severe joblessness will be felt here in France unless President Sarkosy will do something.

Chris Barry
Chris Barry - V2 Innovations - Raleigh 09 February, 2010, 22:32Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Sorry to hear about your struggles, keep positive! However, I think the comments and your story really highlights the fact that the white collar workforce is going through the same shift that the blue collar workforce went through 20 to 30 years ago in the United States.

There are many interesting predictions for the future of the modern workforce and I personally believe that companies will begin shifting towards video conferencing and home based work arrangements as the technology becomes more and more efficient and cost effective. I also believe there will be a reconfiguring of pay scale as a result of these changes due to business overhead being reduced and companies using that capital for business opportunities versus paying for employees based in high cost work areas. 

The corporate world will likely also place more emphasis on the highest quality lowest cost worker which could be geographically located anywhere in the world. Competition for jobs will basically go global - and the question will be if the US labor force can compete? Smaller player entrepreneurs like you will also play a big part in saving local economies and local workforces.


A Finextra member
A Finextra member 11 February, 2010, 13:38Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Chris, thank you for your comment. I recognize that outsourcing and offshoring are very sensitive topics. You mentioned blue collar, now white collar. Is there any other kind of collar than blue and white?

"Competition for jobs will basically go global."  This started happening 20 years ago and No, the U.S. labor force can not compete.

Without giving any thought to long-term economic effects, competition which usually means operating on the least cost possible to maximize profits can only result to the massive displacement and joblessness of local workers.

Companies might indeed maximize their profits. While they do this, an unrelenting downward pressure on the real income of consumers also happens. In the end, less consumer spending power will also negatively impact these companies.  It should not have taken many years to realize this was happening but the availability and usage of credit masked the diminishing real income of american consumers. So what we see here is that unmanaged globalization is tantamount to 'biting the hand that feeds you'.

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