Tens days in Liguria

For a few weeks now I have started to think about leaving the company I started in December 1998. I still remember the long brainstorming that came up with the name “NetCentrex” (which I didn’t like, but kept after I discarded all other possibilities and Christophe Chausson, a finance consultant, told me ‘Revolution’ was too aggressive), the first logo and speechmark “services on demand”, convincing Bernard Jannes (and his wife  ) and our first employee Guillaume Widmer to join the project, the endless talks with France Telecom to get my IPRs back, the roadshows…
It will be 9 years exactly in a few weeks. NetCentrex is now part of the bigger Comverse group, which started to enter a financial turmoil soon after the acquisition in May 2006.

Together with Benedetta and the two kids, we just spent 10 days driving through the French riviera and down the cost of Liguria all the way to Carrara, stopping at Bed&Breakfasts. This was more than an ordinary vacation, we are thinking of living in Italy for a couple years so Alexandre & Avril can become truly bilingual, and starting to look for the right spot. This would go with abandoning some of the comfort we have in Paris, mainly the excellent healthcare. Alexandre school lately wasn’t too impressive, with a teacher who keeps changing based on orders from her imperial highness The Inspector and the cryptic bureaucracy rules of the French public education, so perhaps it is a good time.
Liguria is close to Benedetta’s family and of course has a fantastic climate, but no place is perfect. We got a few samples: buying Mozarella in the popular COOP supermarket and being given a stale one (this is our second attempt to buy Mozarella in Italy, the last one was in Napoli… also stale, we need to learn  ). Our second “charm” B&B was also quite surprising, as “charm” stood for two rooms under the roof (an intimate place… inclusive of the other hosts passionate italian intimacy), no way to stay in the bathroom without bending, a self-made balcony on the rooftop… plus over 32 50 cm high steps with a steep slope to get to the house, and no parking. A fantastic view on the sea for those willing to take the risk, but not quite what we expected with two kids.
In Italy we will need to learn to be flexible, as nothing works quite the way you expect it, and everything depends on your ability to be smart, avoid tricks, deploy ‘charms’. Italy is very individualistic, as the strong network of small businesses demonstrates. Success, even in the bigger firms, relies on individual talents perhaps more than anywhere else.

These 10 days with the family helped me realize in contrast how far away I am the rest of the time. My mileage report from Air France last week shows 52 flights in less than a year, and I am flying many other airlines. In fact since the return of vacations, I already made a conference in London, and I am writing this on my way to Japan, flying somewhere North of Vladivostok.

Emotionally, I hate the idea of leaving behind all those who worked with me for many years and, for some of them, who became my friends. I feel bad for all the customers who I always felt I was responsible for. But all considered I don’t find a valid rational reason to stay. With NetCentrex I always wanted to create ‘something living’, autonomous, self-sustaining. This has been the case for a few years now, financially, and with the acquisition by Comverse somewhere the ombilic was cut. Unavoidably I guess, the new subsidiary of Comverse is taking directions that I wouldn’t have taken. I can still influence through my new position as CTO of Comverse, but it is getting harder every day, and the struggle of Comverse group itself isn’t helping.

In parallel, although I still do not have any substantial time to work on it, I feel that the Socracy project is calling me in a way that I will not be able to resist. Pretty much the same as NetCentrex 9 years back, inclusive of the name brainstorming. NetCentrex was a great adventure but I knew it was only a project limited in time, linked with the advent of VoIP as a mainstream technology. Socracy can only be a never ending effort. For some time I wondered what was driving my motivation in this new project where I had nothing to gain financially (quite the contrary as it is likely to require substantial funding). I think that, compared to NetCentrex, Socracy is much more into ‘real-life’. Working on NetCentrex, learning and developing a complex technology, implied some alienation away from real-life. Working on Socracy can bring me back into ‘real-life’.

After the business trip to Japan, another one is planned to Cape Town for a week. For the first time I’ll bring the whole family with me, extending by a week. More time to be with them and think of the best way to get back to my family and ‘real-life’.