Digital infopreneur demonstrates online earnings potential

World of Warcraft almost caused Peng Joon to flunk out of university. It also, he claims, helped him to make more than US$10 million in revenue.

Eleven years ago, Mr Joon, a 31-year-old Malaysian, was left with $53,000 of debt after getting a government scholarship to study economics at the UK’s Warwick university. After he just scraped through with 42 per cent, the authorities demanded their money back.

He blames the online role-playing game for his near-failure, saying he was spending too much time on it instead of studying – about 2,300 hours total, he estimates.

Back home and working a “dead-end job” that paid just $300 a month, he says he realised it would take him 23 years to pay off his debts. He Googled “how to make money online” and bought several courses that purported to explain how, before realising they were all recommending selling a product.

So he turned to what he knew, writing a 32-page World of Warcraft e-book guide to sell online.

It took nine months to make his first $7 sale. Buoyed by success, he raised the price to $37 and started making $900 a month from the guide – three times what he made from his day job.

“That was when I took what I did with World of Warcraft and scaled it up to many different niche markets,” he says, “from forex to teeth whitening to investing to other gaming markets.”

Today Mr Joon also makes money out of how to make ­money online, and says he is “recognised as the authority” on selling digital products on the web.

The Malaysian “infopreneur” (his term for someone like himself, who sells information products) founded the marketing firm Smobble, which now has 11 other staff, to develop dig­ital products and run live events to teach others how to do the same. Based in Malaysia, Smobble has built a phenomenal 527 websites to date.

In 2009, for example, Mr Joon created a guide to the Facebook game Farmville, which raked in $1.3 million in just a few months. “I didn’t even play the game,” he admits. “My friend told me how she would wake up in the middle of the night to harvest her strawberries and spent real money on the game.”

This month Mr Joon will be telling his story to the National Achievers Congress in Dubai, alongside the Rich Dad Poor Dad author Robert Kiyosaki and the Ulti­mo lingerie founder and baroness Michelle Mone. Previous speakers have included Bill Clinton and Sir Richard Branson.

“One of the biggest myths when it comes to building an online business and running it is that you need to be a programmer, designer, coder, writer or even an expert,” he says. “I still don’t know how to write a single line of code. It’s not about building websites.”

Mr Joon says you can build a website in 10 minutes yourself today, while a decade ago you would have had to hire a developer and pay a good $10,000. Instead, the key to a profitable product is marketing, he says – promoting and targeting traffic with digital techniques such as search engine optimisation and online ads.

“Having a successful online business is not just about building a website to sell products,” he adds. “There are a tonne of beautiful-looking sites that have never made a cent. It’s all about marketing, branding, posi­tioning. Those are the skills that pay the bills.”

Then, he says, you need to automate all your systems and processes so you’re not needed every day – “so you work on the business, rather than in the business”.

But he says the idea of a four-hour work week, as suggested by his fellow online entrepreneur and self-help guru Tim Ferriss within a similar framework of online selling and automation, is a “myth”.

“I can tell you that all of the top marketers who have made it are the hardest workers in the industry,” he says. “Those images of people with a laptop by the beach, sipping on drinks with plastic straw hats, are selling you the dream. To be an overnight success requires many late nights.

“I have no fixed work hours. Work does not feel like work to me. There is no difference, whether it’s a weekday, weekend or public holiday.”

Here in the Middle East, entrepreneurship is “flourishing”, Mr Joon thinks, thanks to high levels of unemployment, which are forcing young people to find alternative ways of working.

“More than 25 per cent of 15 to 24-year-olds in the region are believed to be unemployed. As a result, they are turning to technology to address the issue and the lack of opportunity drives them to build something on their own,” he says.

And that’s the “beauty” of starting an online business, he adds. “Anyone can do it.”

The National Achievers Congress Festival will take place at Arena Al Badia in Dubai on 18 and 19 November. Tickets cost from $395

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JP Morgan's banking manager believes in hard work

Banking may often feel like a men’s club, but not for Tara Smyth, who manages a team of more than 40 bankers and wealth advisers around the Middle East for JP Morgan Private Bank.

Ms Smyth, who is based in Geneva, Switzerland, was made the managing director and head of the Middle East market for the bank this summer, having headed the region’s investment team since 2013.

JP Morgan Private Bank has an 80-year history in the region, with clients across the Gulf and in Egypt and Lebanon, and manages US$425 billion globally.

The financial institution only deals with investors with at least $10 million in investable assets, and Ms Smyth says her team helps them to build a diverse portfolio, get credit, plan their estate and inter-generational wealth transfer and even assist with their philanthropic needs.

A “very large percentage” of clients are from merchant families, she says.

Last year there were 610,000 high net worth individuals – or HNWIs, who hold liquid assets worth more than $1m – in the Middle East, according to the latest World Wealth Report, which is co-published by Merrill Lynch and Capgemini. Combined, they were worth $2.3 trillion.

There is a clear need for women to work in the wealth management niche. Statistically, women control more than a quarter of the world’s wealth and act as the primary investing decision-maker in two-thirds of households, according to a 2014 report from the US think tank the Center for Talent Innovation – what it calls the “power of the purse”.

Ms Smyth says that many of her clients in the region will bring their daughters to meetings. “They are interested for them to meet a woman in business,” she says. “They encourage them to ask questions and participate.

“Wealth should survive generations, so it is important to have the next generation well educated – not necessarily to manage the portfolio, but to know the right questions to ask when they meet private bankers.”

But according to stockbroker Pershing, only 30 per cent of investment advisers are women.

So in the week hundreds of delegates gathered in Dubai at the Women in Leadership Economic Forum to support and embrace female leadership, how did Ms Smyth make it in this man’s world?

She has worked for JP Morgan since 2000, from London to New York to Geneva, 12 years within the JP Morgan Private Bank, and says that while so many people move from organisation to organisation today, longevity in a business can really help your career.

“Hard work gets you wherever you want to be,” she says. “As you develop a reputation with a firm over a long time, you build relationships and, as people take on more responsibility and appreciate your hard work, they bring you with them. Maybe the person you used to sit next to becomes important.”

In her time at JP Morgan, Ms Smyth says she has had “strong support” from many senior people, including some women. One of her mentors, she says, became the chief executive of the US private bank.

Ms Smyth, who is Irish but speaks with a strong American accent after nine years in New York (“it had a heavy influence on me”), says that although the world will experience “some more subdued growth in the next two to three years”, the opportunity for wealth growth in the Middle East is “far more substantial” than many other countries because of its young and growing population.

The banker says Middle East clients may consider themselves conservative, but that they actually “embrace risk” more than traditional US-based clients. “An 8 per cent return might be conservative for them, which might be aggressive for a US investor. They think about returns and benchmark differently,” she explains.

Often she is dealing with clients who have banked with the firm for 40 years and are into the third generation of family business – something she says is “more unusual” in the developed world these days, particularly the US (although also still common in Latin America).

“The family unit is often much larger in the Middle East, but at the same time those families work together and are focused on trying to make sure it is sustainable through generations,” she adds. “In a country like Kuwait, which was invaded, families are very conscious that it is important to have money in a safe haven such as Switzerland.”

Obviously one thing the Middle East team at the private bank does not have to handle for its clients is tax – a refreshing situation that Ms Smyth confesses is “very nice”.

“Many times, people will make a decision that is not the right decision, so as not to pay capital gains,” she says. “To make a decision for its own merit makes it a lot simpler.”

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Book review: A tool to help marketers climb the corporate ladder

Fewer than half of marketers are happy with the level they have reached in their careers, according to surveys carried out for the book The 12 Powers of a Marketing Leader.

This failure is mostly because of a trust gap, according to the authors. As so much of marketing deals with the future, its leaders tend to be seen as less credible than their peers, who are talking in today’s solid operational or finance numbers.

The authors – Thomas Barta, a former McKinsey partner with 20 years of marketing experience, and his mentor Patrick Barwise, an author and London Business School emeritus professor – stress that this is a leadership book for marketers rather than a marketing book.

The lessons are based on what the authors claim is the largest global study conducted on marketing leadership: Barta surveyed a global sample of 1,200 senior marketers and then tapped into a database of 67,000 appraisals of chief marketing officers (CMOs) by their superiors, co-workers and direct reports.

What it found was that although 71 per cent of marketers thought their business impact was high, only 44 per cent were satisfied with where their career path had taken them. Worse still, their bosses are least likely to promote them out of all their direct reports.

“Despite endlessly saying they want to be more customer-foc­used, many firms don’t have a marketer in the top team,” the authors say. “Too few CMOs make it to CEO, and marketers’ reputation with CEOs is mixed.

“Many marketers are great at doing marketing,” they add – pointing to operational tasks such as brand communications and social media, “but their efforts aren’t always translated into internal influence and stellar careers”.

To lead in marketing, they say, marketers need to increase their influence in their business, to find the sweet spot between the customer’s needs and the company’s needs.

The very first table in the book summarises in a handy pocket-sized form the 12 powers and their effect on a marketer’s career. Canny marketers will focus in on those that have the biggest effect on their own career, rather than the business.

Published by McGraw-Hill Education last month, The 12 Powers of a Marketing Leader is available in hardback from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Q&A:

Patrick Barwise, the co-author and emeritus professor of management and marketing at London Business School, tells Suzanne Locke more about The 12 Powers of a Marketing Leader:

You say marketers should change their language – how?

Use the language that’s right for the people you’re trying to communicate with. In the case of customers, don’t talk about “unique selling propositions”, talk about things meaningful and important to them. Inside the organisation, particularly at a senior level, ultimately that means financial language. Avoid marketing jargon such as “brand equity” – talk about making the brand more relevant or friendly.

Any case studies that spring to mind?

News Corp Australia’s marketing director, Ed Smith (who led the introduction of paid newspaper content on The Australian in 2010). He showed that persistence is hugely important, walking the walk again and again with colleagues to get acceptance for his strategy. And Simon Kang [who took charge of LG’s appliances business in the US in early 2000, when US awareness of LG was minimal]. He was a finance guy sent to the US, probably expecting he would not achieve much, like his predecessors. He got the LG logo up in Times Square.

You say personality doesn’t make a difference – really?

We measured CMOs against the standard Big Five personality traits: openness to experience, dependability and self-discipline, extroversion, agreeableness and emotional resilience. They explained that only 3 per cent of senior marketers’ business impact and 9 per cent of their career success. We’re not saying personality doesn’t matter at all, but most competent marketers have it in themselves to become effective and successful leaders. But your main job is as a leader. Don’t use personality as an excuse.

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Book review: A tool to help markets climb the corporate ladder

Fewer than half of marketers are happy with the level they have reached in their careers, according to surveys carried out for the book The 12 Powers Of A Marketing Leader.

This failure is mostly because of a trust gap, according to the authors. As so much of marketing deals with the future, its leaders tend to be seen as less credible than their peers, who are talking in today’s solid operational or finance numbers.

The authors – Thomas Barta, a former McKinsey partner with 20 years of marketing experience, and his mentor Patrick Barwise, an author and London Business School emeritus professor – stress that this is a leadership book for marketers rather than a marketing book.

The lessons are based on what the authors claim is the largest global study conducted on marketing leadership: Barta surveyed a global sample of 1,200 senior marketers and then tapped into a database of 67,000 appraisals of chief marketing officers (CMOs) by their superiors, co-workers and direct reports.

What it found was that, although 71 per cent of marketers thought their business impact was high, only 44 per cent were satisfied with where their career path had taken them. Worse still, their bosses are least likely to promote them out of all their direct reports.

“Despite endlessly saying they want to be more customer-focused, many firms don’t have a marketer in the top team,” the authors say. “Too few CMOs make it to CEO, and marketers’ reputation with CEOs is mixed.

“Many marketers are great at doing marketing,” they add – pointing to operational tasks such as brand communications and social media, “but their efforts aren’t always translated into internal influence and stellar careers”.

To lead in marketing, they say, marketers need to increase their influence in their business, to find the sweet spot between the customer’s needs and the company’s needs.

The very first table in the book summarises in a handy pocket-sized form the 12 powers and their effect on a marketer’s career. Canny marketers will focus in on those that have the biggest effect on their own career rather than the business.

Published by McGraw-Hill Education last month, The 12 Powers Of A Marketing Leader is available in hardback from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Q&A:

Patrick Barwise, the co-author and emeritus professor of management and marketing at London Business School, tells Suzanne Locke more about The 12 Powers Of A Marketing Leader:

You say marketers should change their language – how?

Use the language that’s right for the people you’re trying to communicate with. In the case of customers, don’t talk about “unique selling propositions”, talk about things meaningful and important to them. Inside the organisation, particularly at a senior level, ultimately that means financial language. Avoid marketing jargon such as “brand equity” – talk about making the brand more relevant or friendly.

Any case studies that spring to mind?

News Corp Australia’s marketing director, Ed Smith [who led the introduction of paid newspaper content on The Australian in 2010]. He showed that persistence is hugely important, walking the walk again and again with colleagues to get acceptance for his strategy. And Simon Kang [who took charge of LG’s appliances business in the US in early 2000, when US awareness of LG was minimal]. He was a finance guy sent to the US, probably expecting he would not achieve much, like his predecessors. He got the LG logo up in Times Square.

You say personality doesn’t make a difference – really?

We measured CMOs against the standard Big Five personality traits: openness to experience, dependability and self-discipline, extroversion, agreeableness and emotional resilience. They explained only three per cent of senior marketers’ business impact and nine per cent of their career success. We’re not saying personality doesn’t matter at all, but most competent marketers have it in themselves to become effective and successful leaders. But your main job is as a leader. Don’t use personality as an excuse.

business@thenational.ae

Follow The National’s Business section on Twitter

Book review: A tool to help marketers climb the corporate ladder

Fewer than half of marketers are happy with the level they have reached in their careers, according to surveys carried out for the book The 12 Powers of a Marketing Leader.

This failure is mostly because of a trust gap, according to the authors. As so much of marketing deals with the future, its leaders tend to be seen as less credible than their peers, who are talking in today’s solid operational or finance numbers.

The authors – Thomas Barta, a former McKinsey partner with 20 years of marketing experience, and his mentor Patrick Barwise, an author and London Business School emeritus professor – stress that this is a leadership book for marketers rather than a marketing book.

The lessons are based on what the authors claim is the largest global study conducted on marketing leadership: Barta surveyed a global sample of 1,200 senior marketers and then tapped into a database of 67,000 appraisals of chief marketing officers (CMOs) by their superiors, co-workers and direct reports.

What it found was that although 71 per cent of marketers thought their business impact was high, only 44 per cent were satisfied with where their career path had taken them. Worse still, their bosses are least likely to promote them out of all their direct reports.

“Despite endlessly saying they want to be more customer-foc­used, many firms don’t have a marketer in the top team,” the authors say. “Too few CMOs make it to CEO, and marketers’ reputation with CEOs is mixed.

“Many marketers are great at doing marketing,” they add – pointing to operational tasks such as brand communications and social media, “but their efforts aren’t always translated into internal influence and stellar careers”.

To lead in marketing, they say, marketers need to increase their influence in their business, to find the sweet spot between the customer’s needs and the company’s needs.

The very first table in the book summarises in a handy pocket-sized form the 12 powers and their effect on a marketer’s career. Canny marketers will focus in on those that have the biggest effect on their own career, rather than the business.

Published by McGraw-Hill Education last month, The 12 Powers of a Marketing Leader is available in hardback from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Q&A:

Patrick Barwise, the co-author and emeritus professor of management and marketing at London Business School, tells Suzanne Locke more about The 12 Powers of a Marketing Leader:

You say marketers should change their language – how?

Use the language that’s right for the people you’re trying to communicate with. In the case of customers, don’t talk about “unique selling propositions”, talk about things meaningful and important to them. Inside the organisation, particularly at a senior level, ultimately that means financial language. Avoid marketing jargon such as “brand equity” – talk about making the brand more relevant or friendly.

Any case studies that spring to mind?

News Corp Australia’s marketing director, Ed Smith (who led the introduction of paid newspaper content on The Australian in 2010). He showed that persistence is hugely important, walking the walk again and again with colleagues to get acceptance for his strategy. And Simon Kang [who took charge of LG’s appliances business in the US in early 2000, when US awareness of LG was minimal]. He was a finance guy sent to the US, probably expecting he would not achieve much, like his predecessors. He got the LG logo up in Times Square.

You say personality doesn’t make a difference – really?

We measured CMOs against the standard Big Five personality traits: openness to experience, dependability and self-discipline, extroversion, agreeableness and emotional resilience. They explained that only 3 per cent of senior marketers’ business impact and 9 per cent of their career success. We’re not saying personality doesn’t matter at all, but most competent marketers have it in themselves to become effective and successful leaders. But your main job is as a leader. Don’t use personality as an excuse.

business@thenational.ae

Follow The National’s Business section on Twitter

Book review: A tool to help marketers climb the corporate ladder

Fewer than half of marketers are happy with the level they have reached in their careers, according to surveys carried out for the book The 12 Powers of a Marketing Leader.

This failure is mostly because of a trust gap, according to the authors. As so much of marketing deals with the future, its leaders tend to be seen as less credible than their peers, who are talking in today’s solid operational or finance numbers.

The authors – Thomas Barta, a former McKinsey partner with 20 years of marketing experience, and his mentor Patrick Barwise, an author and London Business School emeritus professor – stress that this is a leadership book for marketers rather than a marketing book.

The lessons are based on what the authors claim is the largest global study conducted on marketing leadership: Barta surveyed a global sample of 1,200 senior marketers and then tapped into a database of 67,000 appraisals of chief marketing officers (CMOs) by their superiors, co-workers and direct reports.

What it found was that although 71 per cent of marketers thought their business impact was high, only 44 per cent were satisfied with where their career path had taken them. Worse still, their bosses are least likely to promote them out of all their direct reports.

“Despite endlessly saying they want to be more customer-foc­used, many firms don’t have a marketer in the top team,” the authors say. “Too few CMOs make it to CEO, and marketers’ reputation with CEOs is mixed.

“Many marketers are great at doing marketing,” they add – pointing to operational tasks such as brand communications and social media, “but their efforts aren’t always translated into internal influence and stellar careers”.

To lead in marketing, they say, marketers need to increase their influence in their business, to find the sweet spot between the customer’s needs and the company’s needs.

The very first table in the book summarises in a handy pocket-sized form the 12 powers and their effect on a marketer’s career. Canny marketers will focus in on those that have the biggest effect on their own career, rather than the business.

Published by McGraw-Hill Education last month, The 12 Powers of a Marketing Leader is available in hardback from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Q&A:

Patrick Barwise, the co-author and emeritus professor of management and marketing at London Business School, tells Suzanne Locke more about The 12 Powers of a Marketing Leader:

You say marketers should change their language – how?

Use the language that’s right for the people you’re trying to communicate with. In the case of customers, don’t talk about “unique selling propositions”, talk about things meaningful and important to them. Inside the organisation, particularly at a senior level, ultimately that means financial language. Avoid marketing jargon such as “brand equity” – talk about making the brand more relevant or friendly.

Any case studies that spring to mind?

News Corp Australia’s marketing director, Ed Smith (who led the introduction of paid newspaper content on The Australian in 2010). He showed that persistence is hugely important, walking the walk again and again with colleagues to get acceptance for his strategy. And Simon Kang [who took charge of LG’s appliances business in the US in early 2000, when US awareness of LG was minimal]. He was a finance guy sent to the US, probably expecting he would not achieve much, like his predecessors. He got the LG logo up in Times Square.

You say personality doesn’t make a difference – really?

We measured CMOs against the standard Big Five personality traits: openness to experience, dependability and self-discipline, extroversion, agreeableness and emotional resilience. They explained that only 3 per cent of senior marketers’ business impact and 9 per cent of their career success. We’re not saying personality doesn’t matter at all, but most competent marketers have it in themselves to become effective and successful leaders. But your main job is as a leader. Don’t use personality as an excuse.

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Big-scale benefits: when small businesses of the same feather flock together

While conglomerates are well known in the business world, you may be not as familiar with an “agglomerate”.

In urban economics, agglomeration describes the benefits that firms obtain by locating near each other. Singapore-based private equity firm Unity Group has used the concept of agglomeration to create a new way of financing and setting up international collectives of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

And they do mean SMEs, not start-ups. “Defining yourself as a start-up destroys credibility. It says you’re just an idea,” says partner Callum Laing, who is head of Asia for the group. “Anyone I know who is successfully doing business describes themselves as a business owner, even if they started the business yesterday. They will explain that they have 10 years of experience or 40 years in total in the management team.”

Unity Group’s first agglomerate is The Marketing Group plc (the agglomerate parent is usually made a UK plc for legal and tax reasons), which brings together 19 companies.

Now the concept could be heading here. Unity Group also plans to set up some 10 more agglomerates in the next year. Each will be industry-specific – including technology, finance, childcare and fitness and health – but geographically diverse. Mr Laing recently visited Dubai looking for promising additions to the groups.

So how does it work?

Listing publicly four months ago with four companies in the fold, The Marketing Group (TMG) has since added another 15 to the family. Profits, says Mr Laing, have gone from €1.4 million (Dh5.6m) to €12.5m.

Small businesses swap out their private stock for public shares in the agglomerate and become significant shareholders in the parent business.

Each business in an agglomerate continues to run autonomously – and without any say in how the other firms are run.

“This is a collaborative IPO with a vested interest and amazing synergies,” says Mr Laing. He stresses that it is nothing like a roll-up, where functions like sales and finance are consolidated.

“The problem with a roll-up is you buy a company because you like it then you try to tell it how to run itself. Coming from an entrepreneurial background, we think the best people to run small businesses are small business owners and their teams.”

There are major advantages for the owners, says Laurent Verrier, chief executive and founder of Singapore-based social media firm One9ninety, now part of TMG.

“The financial risk is less overall. It unlocks the value of the SMEs that are part of TMG: the listing brought liquidity to the businesses. And the founders get more sleep. Liquidity transforms everything.”

Agglomeration puts SMEs on a level playing field with big businesses, says Mr Laing, and solves their common problem of scale.

It allows a small business to present itself as being part of a “US$100 million global entity, with 50 different businesses in 50 countries”, he says – and then it can go after big contracts.

This model also helps to attract senior staff who may otherwise be put off by a risky small business, he adds. They can be offered stock options in a publicly listed company, rather than private equity.

Unity Group takes a share of about 15 per cent of every publicly listed vehicle it sets up.

It will source companies to form and add to the agglomerates it manages, doing the due diligence and legalities.

“We offer a fair price for each company,” Mr Laing says. “We look at global valuations for similar ones. They’re not selling, after all – they’re keeping control and swapping shares.”

TMG was listed on Nasdaq First North in Stockholm, Sweden, in June. The market was chosen because “it is the most liquid market in the world”, says Mr Laing, “with a very high volume of trading after listing”.

TMG has a “pretty strong foothold” in Asia, Europe and the east and west coasts of the US, says Mr Verrier. “Adding the Middle East would definitely fill a gap in our geographical foothold and capabilities,” he adds.

“We are also incubating a couple of technology companies which would greatly benefit from a partner’s support to go to market in the Middle East.”

Prem Ramachandran, managing director of UAE-based White Water Public Relations, says while the SME segment significantly contributes to the UAE’s GDP, it is important for them to perform and stay ahead.

“Agglomeration can definitely help them consolidate their business and scale up,” he says.

Businesses looking to join a Unity Group agglomerate must be solvent and earning around $3m or more in revenue, or $500,000 net profit. “We like well-established companies run by grown-ups,” Mr Laing adds.

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Productivity goes up when the smartphone goes down

When photographer and filmmaker Wouter Kingma decided to take a week-long “digital pause” in the desert, he didn’t realise it would take him five of the seven days to unplug from his busy daily life.

“We all get so stuck in the digital rat race, it’s nice to disconnect,” says the 41-year-old Dutchman, a Dubai resident for 14 years

For two years running he has taken a week off from the digital world, heading out to camp, hike, run, write and think in either Liwa or the Hajar Mountains. He has no contact with anyone in that time, not even his wife or two sons, ages six and four, and just a satellite phone for company in case of emergencies.

“It takes time to switch off – a few days to disengage,” he admits. “But you get the best ideas when you’re out in the wilderness.”

His thoughts back up new research from the global cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab, which shows we are 26 per cent more productive without our smartphones, even as we become almost entirely reliant on them for calendars, reminders and notes.

The experiment, conducted on 95 people ages 19 to 56 at the universities of Würzburg in Germany and Nottingham-Trent in the UK, found that concentration test results were lowest when the participant had a smartphone on the desk.

Results got better with each layer of distance – in their pocket or locked in a drawer, up to 26 per cent better when removed from the room altogether.

“Our findings indicate that it is the absence, rather than the presence, of a smartphone that improves concentration,” says Astrid Carolus from the University of Würzburg.

“Instead of expecting constant access to their smartphones, employee productivity may be improved if they have dedicated ‘smartphone-free’ time,” advises Aman Manzoor, consumer sales director of Kaspersky Lab Middle East.

“One way of doing this is to enforce meeting rules – no distractions such as smartphones or unnecessary use of computers – in the normal work environment.”

Mr Kingma, who has filmed his trips as documentaries, intends to carry on with a hardcore digital detox every year. “You always come out better than the way you went in,” he adds.

Q&A:

My smartphone helps me keep on top of everything – why is that a problem?

Previous research by Kaspersky Lab found that the trend of looking up information prevented people from building up long-term memories. In a survey of 6,000 adults across Europe, it found that users could no longer recall critical phone numbers – because, it suggests, we are handing over responsibility for remembering to our devices. Like the “pensieve” memory bowl in Harry Potter, more than half of young users said their smartphone contains almost everything they need to know or recall. It also found that typing notes into a phone during meetings lowered the level of understanding of what was happening.

So millennials can’t remember phone numbers?

The Dubai-based freelance digital marketing specialist Nasreen Abdulla, 29, says that today she can only remember the 25 phone numbers she memorised when she was young – plus her husband’s mobile number. “Everything is on the phone; it obviously makes our brain very lazy,” she admits. “We don’t have to remember numbers, routes; we don’t even have to remember our schedules.”

What’s the alternative to a digital detox?

“I have noticed that if I pick up my phone, it is harder for me to put it down,” says Ms Abdulla. “So nowadays I try to not pick it up at all.” Instead of a full detox, she goes hands-free when she can: she puts away her phone when her children, ages four and six, are around and puts her phone on silent between 4pm and 8pm. “I try to be present and to make every memory count.”

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Book review: The future is bright and robots are inevitable

The “futurist” who advised Steven Spielberg for Minority Report – the 2002 sci-fi movie that predicted the touch-and-swipe screens we now take for granted – is someone to listen to when it comes to our future. And what a future this author predicts.

In The Inevitable, Kevin ­Kelly, the co-founder of Wired magazine, takes us through 12 technological forces that he believes will shape the next 30 years. These are laid out as a series of verbs, such as “becoming” (where machines upgrade themselves to avoid obsolescence) and “accessing” (from the cloud, rather than old-fashioned owning).

The three trends he considers particularly significant are artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality and tracking.

Today we have hints of AI in assistants like the iPhone’s Siri, he says, but soon robo-doctors will examine X-rays as well as humans and robo-lawyers will scan legal evidence faster than any paralegal – just as human pilots now fly an airplane for less than seven minutes of any flight.

Virtual reality will lead us from the internet of information to the internet of experiences through mixed reality, the author says, using augmented layers of virtual reality over real life.

And anything that can be tracked will be tracked. We already willingly carry a surveillance product in our pocket, aka the smartphone, Kelly says, and stepping into a world of virtual reality will enable the tracking of our entire behaviour.

Kelly, 64, is still Wired’s “senior maverick”, and also cofounded The Rosetta Project, an archive of all languages, and the All Species Foundation, a non-profit organisation cataloguing every species on the planet.

As one of the patriarchs of Silicon Valley, his words carry weight – but they also conform to Silicon Valley’s view that technology is nothing but great.

Not all change will be welcomed, Kelly accepts. Entire occupations and livelihoods will disappear – probably 70 per cent of today’s jobs. “By 2050 most truck drivers won’t be human,” he says. “Since truck driving is currently the most common occupation in the US, this is a big deal.”

But while our first impulse to the “extreme technology surging forward” may be to push back, it is all simply inevitable, says Kelly. Resistance is futile.

Q&A

Any exciting new gadgets coming?

Kelly predicts “cognified” laundry – clothes that tell the washing machine how they want to be washed – as well as intelligent toys as smart as pets and virtual dressing rooms to show how clothes will look on you, based on accurate measurements of every shape and curve. He sees a world where we use virtual reality goggles instead of a set of computer screens in the office, and have a virtual version of our international colleagues sitting next to us. And we will all have mach­ines at home that test us daily to give us personalised doses of medicine.

What can we expect of the web in 2050?

The web will have “become something new, as different from the web today as the first web was from TV”, says ­Kelly. It will come to resemble a presence rather than a place, a cyberspace; a “low-level, constant presence”, like electricity, always around us, always on.

Are the robots taking over?

This is a race with the mach­ines, not against the machines, Kelly emphasises. (But yes, we “need to let the robots take over”.) AIs will not get so smart that they enslave us, he assures. Instead there will be a convergence of humans plus mach­ines, leading to a “complex interdependence”.

Is it too late to join the party?

No, indeed not. “Right now, today, in 2016 is the best time to start up,” says Kelly. “There has never been a better day in the whole history of the world to invent something.”

The Inevitable, published this summer by Viking and Penguin Random House, is available for $18.04 from Amazon.com.

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Rich Dad, Poor Dad author spells out the importance of financial education

Schools teach children how to become employees, says Rich Dad, Poor Dad author Robert Kiyo­saki – and if they want to turn children into entrepreneurs instead, they need to give lessons in money, investing and debt.

The 69-year-old American, from Hawaii, published Rich Dad, Poor Dad in 1997, about lessons he learnt from his “rich dad” mentor (his childhood friend’s father) as opposed to his own “poor dad”, although it has never been proven “rich dad” exists and the author will not name him.

Those lessons were mostly about how to generate passive income through sage investments – in his case, real estate. He divides people into employees and the self-employed, who make active income, and business owners and investors, who make passive income.

Kiyosaki has written 25 other books (including two co-authored with Donald Trump), selling 27 million copies; his wife Kim has also written Rich Woman. Today he is worth US$80 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

In November he will be a keynote speaker at the National Achievers Congress in Dubai, along with the Ultimo lingerie founder Michelle Mone. Previous speakers have included Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and Richard Branson.

Although he has a college degree, he dropped out of an MBA programme after taking a three-day real estate course – partly because he feels students can learn more outside a traditional classroom.

“The school system and what it teaches supports graduates moving into jobs versus life as an entrepreneur,” he says. “It trains them for specific roles as specialists versus generalist, who will work for someone else’s business.

“If a school’s goal is to ‘graduate’ entrepreneurs, the school will teach the students about money and investing, global markets, debt and building a team.”

He adds that financial education is how we prepare for whatever the future holds. “Most crucial is an understanding of how money works and the vocabulary – the language – of money. You can hire an accountant, but an entrepreneur must know the basics of accounting and understand cash flow.”

Indeed, Kiyosaki goes further in advising that would-be entrepreneurs are “often better served” by an apprenticeship with, or being mentored by, a successful entrepreneur (“someone who has actually done what they want to do”) than by getting a college degree.

“This experiential education often outpaces the more formal, structured university education,” he says.

A helicopter gunship pilot in the Vietnam war and one-time Xerox salesman, Kiyosaki’s first business created the first Velcro and nylon surfer wallet. His second licensed T-shirts, hats and the like for heavy metal bands including Judas Priest and Motley Crue. Both businesses went bankrupt, leaving him owing $850,000 to the banks.

But he bounced back and, after taking that three-day real estate course and ditching his MBA, he dipped his toe in the property waters, buying his first investment property in 1973 – an $18,000, one-bedroom apartment in Hawaii, for which he put the $2,000 deposit on his credit card.

He says he has bought about 40 per cent of his total property portfolio since the latest real estate downturn; his most recent purchase was a 1,600-unit complex for $80 million. He never puts his own money into buying property, always financing them like a “rich dad”.

“Great investors will craft an investment that will deliver both cash flow – that’s king – and capital gains,” he says. “I invest for cash flow – but well-managed and well-maintained properties that were ‘bought right’, financed creatively, in growth areas often delivering a capital gain.”

Since the recession, the rich are growing richer and the poor poorer, Kiyosaki counsels. And as far back as 2002, he has been predicting the worst market collapse in history coming this year. He recently wrote that Brexit was “proof of this coming flood”.

This collapse, he believes, will be triggered by tens of millions of baby boomers retiring this year and beginning to withdraw their pensions, rocking the stock markets. He also foretells that the bubble will burst this year in China; when the country stops foreign imports, he warns, a world crash will follow.

For individuals, he says the best preparation against losing their money in another recession is “financial education” and “understanding the language of money, how global markets can impact you and diversification across multiple asset classes”.

So if the markets are crashing, should people look to the traditional alternative, gold? Kiyo­saki, who has invested in sev­eral precious metal mines, from silver in Argentina to copper in Canada, says he uses gold and silver “more as a hedge than an investment”.

But he refuses to be drawn as to whether now is the time to buy gold. “I don’t make recommendations: I simply share what I do and why,” he says.

“There are several investment plays that a person can take advantage of when interest rates are low – and I expect that the markets will become more, not less, volatile in the months ahead,” he cautions.

Running internationally since 1992, the National Achievers Congress Festival will take place at Arena Al Badia in Dubai on November 18 and 19. Tickets cost from US$395

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