René Seifert

Entrepreneur, Global Citizen, Flat World, Internet, Web 2.0, Innovation, Start-Up

Archive for May, 2006

3M’s Seven Pillars of Innovation

In my daily RSS-reading session for the morning, I came across something from Business Week Online about Innovation, one of my favourite issues as with all its dynamics it is an fascinating constant which keeps the wheel of a company and a whole economy turning. In this article, the manufacturing conglomerate 3M reveals the seven principles of its ongoing innovative culture. You might not know 3M? But I’m sure you know one of their most famous products: The handy litle yellow post-its. Now they got something new based on the same principle: Post-it Picture Paper.

IDG-CEO McGovern: “We will launch a $150 mn venture fund in India”

After returning to Bangalore, I went to attend with excitement yesterday’s TiE-event with Patrick J. McGovern, founder and CEO of the worldwide IDG-Group.

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It was quite funny to meet the gentleman as IDG is for me personally a special household name. In my first employment after graduation as an assistant to the publisher at the vmm verlag in Augsburg, which used to be part of the Vogel Media Group (“Chip”), we always looked with respect and awe at the competition of the huge and powerful IDG-Group. And yesterday Patrick explained how it all started at his young age as an technical editor at MIT, how he landed his first project by getting $270 k from 9 clients which actually was the first and only external capital IDG has taken ever since. Unassuming in his ways, and expectedly a very articulate speaker, he outlined the further growth of IDG also thanks to its carefully nurtured corporate culture, its early internationalization strategy, particularly the entry into the Chinese market. Today, IDG boasts 26 trade- and 15 consumer publications there amounting to an annual turnover of US-$ 80mn with a profit of $29 mn. It felt a bit that in a charming way he intended to create some peer-pressure on his Indian audience to show that what can be done in China, can be done in India, too.

Especially, when he went to describe how successful IDG has been with its venture capital fund in China with $550 mn under management and 25 professionals in 5 cities. Its track record is absolutely stunning with an average IRR of 47 % over the last years.

Mr. McGovern would not be Mr. McGovern if he had not brought with him a clear entrepreneurial message for the Indian market: “We will launch a $150 mn venture fund in India in technology related investments. And I would like to invite you entrepreneurs here to send me me your business proposals if you are having some exciting ventures at hand.” I asked Patrick if he could specify what exactly he meant by “technology related investments.” He explained that the investments would range in these major fields:

– Value Added Services for mobile, network and IT-infrastructure
– Enterprise Software
– Internet and E-Commerce (where IDG has been hugely successful in China)
– on the sideline: biotech investments

Overall he said: “We will proceed on an opportunistic basis in the A-funding round, but first and foremost answer the key question: ‘Are the people from the investee company good people?'” At this stage IDG will provide the liquid assets for the fund fully from internal sources, but might open at a later stage for external limited investors.

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The Indian VC environment is definitely heating up. The big bang, also an entire novelty in the VC market, was effectively Sequoia Capital’s take-over of Westbridge Capital. From inside sources I got to know the rationale contained both a defensive and an offensive stragegy. Defensive in the sense, than India-focused Westbridge had observed that increasingly huge US-funds were entering India where it might be difficult to compete with. Offensive in the sense, that Westbridge can now focus fully on looking at suitable investments and govern them to value addition till the exit without using resources for the fund raising itself. For that part, Sequoia has more than enough in its war chest. Like my (undisclosed) source mentioned: “They are so reputed that they are rather into fund-rejection” ;-)

Overall for IDG certainly the right time to move into the Indian market, especially given its proven success story in such ventures from China. Patrick outlined that the initial set-up would consist of 4 general partners and 8 support staff and they were just in the phase of hiring and putting the team together.

One participant in the room asked where Patrick had his constant energy and drive to still run his business in such an active manner. I really liked the authenticity of his response: “I really love what I am doing. And there is so much still ahead. IDG is now in 85 countries, and the United Nations has acknowledged 190. So you see that there is still some way to go.”

In Transit back to Bangalore

After a week of work in the “enjoy the silence”-mode in Rovinj, yesterday had an very inspiring dinner with Ralph Schonenbach, CEO of Trestle Group in Zurich, an offshore outsourcing consultancy. We exchanged our experience and challenges in that field and it always shows: You are not alone. As usually, one of the major challenges is not just initiating an offshore relationship, but effectively governing it with all that comes along with quality assurance etc.

Just touched down in Munich, before proceeding to Bangalore tomorrow morning. On Monday evening, Patrick J. McGovern,
Founder and Chairman of International Data Group (IDG) will be guest at an event of the organization “The Indus Entrepreneur” (TiE) where even I got admitted as a say, semi-Indus Entrepreneur :-) This gentleman will be really a great gig as he has overseen IDG’s launch of more than 300 magazines and newspapers in 85 countries, including such globally recognized titles as Computerworld, InfoWorld, Macworld, Network World, CIO and PC World. Will try to post something here about this event.

Apart from that, I wanted to share some amazing pictures. In my nerdy ways I am rather stingy with expressions like these, but somehow it was really making a long dream come true: Flying with a little plane over the beautiful coast of Croatia. So last Wednesday, Nenad Delic from Delicair and me took off from the little grass strip of Medulin in a Cessna 172 with the callsign 9A-DNB in Southern direction:

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After a right turn we set our course over the island group of Brioni, further to my home town Rovinj which looks so amazingly beautiful from the air with the islands Katarina and Crveni Otok (Red Island) in the background:

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Further north towards Porec, then turned east over the Istian peninsula, climbing to 4000 ft in order to safely cross mount Ucka. The view to which you get exposed then in the Kvarner Bay with the city of Rijeka at the left is absolutely breathtaking:

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After a small overflight of the Island Cres, we basically headed back via a little overflight of the ancient Colosseum of Pula and landed safely back on our grass strip of Medulin. Without exaggeration, an unforgettable tour whose impressions still follow me in an energetic way even a few days later.

Stealth-Mode in Rovinj

All I ever wanted
All I ever needed
Is here in my arms
Words are very unnecessary
They can only do harm

Enjoy the silence

I am sure you know these lyrics if you hear the melody with it. They are from Depeche Mode’s phantastic song “Enjoy the Silence”. Who or what is “in my arms” is certainly not subject of the conversation here :-), however the reason for my “silence” the last week has been that, well, we are working on something. “We” in that context are some smart folks and me (hoping to get smart through them :-). “Something” is a service which can help making the internet an ubiquitious commodity as much as electricity or water, and on top provide some beneficial connectivity among those who use it.

Rovinj

That’s why I came to Rovinj, a pittoresque fishermen’s village in Nothern Croatia, the homeland of my mother, so to speak “my motherland”. People often ask me: “Where do you actually feel at home?”. My standard response is to quote the Latin proverb: “Ubi bene, ibi patria.” – Where it is good, there is your home. Being a bit more precise and using some sort of inverted selection, then I can rule out Germany as being my “home”, although I was born and grew up there, lived there for around 30 years. Yet, I feel a bit emotionally detached from that country. India, yes, I definitely like, it’s a great country where I feel deeply inspired by the dynamics happening at the moment. Also, I could definitely imagine living on for a longer time in there. But to call it a “home” would be again overstreched.

Croatia, whose language I obviously speak fluently, is something which could become at least a “home” with all the deep-rooted emotional anchoring. Especially, when I come to Rovinj where people have known me for 30 years, there is such an honest and genuine friendlyness as well as warm-heartedness, that it is somehow this feeling of “coming home”. Especially here, where I had studied for my “Abitur” 16 years back, and started to learn for my pilot license 4 years back. So there are great memories, and there is great inspiration.

So back to the topic: As we are going through iteration and iteration to refine the service we are working on, I am somehow hoping for the magic kiss of inspiration from the Spirit of Rovinj. Glad to share more in 3 to 4 weeks on what we are working on. Till then, we are in the how you’d call it today “Stealth Mode”. I will post as much as I can, as much as the time allows. Apart from that: Enjoy the Silence.

About Couples and Stags ONLY

This weekend will be full of work, never mind, to follow-up on the outcome of last week’s India tour. Weather is hot as usually, and I am preparing myself again for a brief Germany trip, flying out the night from Sunday to Monday. Everyone in Germany I talk to or exchange e-mails is totally upbeat as the weather seems to have finally turned into spring with temperatures in the upper 20s. Looking forward to my Munich beergardens.

Thanks for all the comments, especially and for me rather unexpectedly, the “Tuscon Verve” aka “Bangalore Gansta Rapper Club” has created some attraction. First, to clarify, no it’s not dangerous to go there. All da fellas in da house are brodas on one world, yo. Second, very sharp obervation: Where are the girls on all the pics? Ok, I tell you how it goes in Bangalore: Usually clubs would not even let in guys without a female companion. The exact wording in Bangalore from the doorman for this: “Couples only, no stags allowed”. From the linguistic standpoint it is mandatory that the “only” stand behind the noun it refers to. “Only” especially in South India is used in way more contexts than in British or American English so that when you come to India first you think: “What the hell are these guys obsessed with ‘only’?” Other example: Instead of saying about someone e.g. “She has a lot of money” I heard already “She has money only.” Or you ask someone: “Where are you from” – “I am from the Bangalore only”. Or: Instead of “I just came in.” you hear “I came in only.” Hilarious, isn’t it.

Ok, but back to the topic: As we were Western “Stags” (what a hilarious expression “only” :-), we would enjoy some sort of positive discrimination, or would one call it even affirmative action. I don’t know – only. Anyway, so we where let it and headed straight for the dancefloor, but no way to enter: A guard standing at the entry repeated the phrase which Indian guys get to hear at the door: “Couples only, no stags allowed on the dancefloor.” No expection. No positive discrimination. No affirmative action. Damn. Only.

Well, and so the story goes, that all the chicks alone do gather on the dancefloor, some with their boyfriends or whatsoever which necessarly renders an area where all the guys would amass. Yo, yo, I wanna hear you say: “German stag-brodahood in da House – only!”

Delhi, Bombay, Bangalore: Mission accomplished

It was a dense, intense and allover great trip, clearly business but including the best what India has to offer for the sightseeing part. We arrived in Delhi on Saturday morning directly after a convenient 7 hours flight straight from Munich. “We” in this case were Stephan Roppel who is in charge for corporate strategy at the Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck and Andreas von Buchwaldt, Partner at OC&C Strategy Consultants and myself.

Somehow I thought I’ll make a close real-time photo documentation out of the whole trip. See the entire set here on my Flickr account.

Sunday we headed toward the most beutiful building which all of us three had ever seen. The Taj Mahal in Agra. Monday we had meetings in Delhi, where Tobias Schulz-Isenbeck joined who is the Head of M&A at Holtzbrinck, here on the pic with Ravi Singh, CEO of Macmillan Publishing Services.

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Tuesday in my favourite Indian city Bombay (Mumbai) at the Arabian Sea.

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See us here departing early in the morning from unparalled beautiful Taj Mahal Hotel directly at the Gateway of India.
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Wednesday and Thursday, we had further appointsments and good discussions in Bangalore. In the evening on Wednesday, before Tobias had to leave for Germany, I took him around MG Road and here on Brigade Road, the “5th Avenue of Bangalore”:

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(I can assure that he was the only one with a tie during our walk :-) Obviously, I have a hard time substantially discussing here what the trip was about. What I can say is that Holtzbrinck, although deliberately quite unknown by its brand, holds significant stakes in publishing companies around the world and is already through Macmillan, hence Macmillan India employing 3,000 plus people, strongly established in this great country on the subcontinent. And the opportunities seem extremly exciting, given the current market dynamics. I will be more than happy to share more in case things have materialized here on my blog some weeks and months ahead.

One funny thing to mention, related to group dynamics when three to four guys hang out so closely knit on such a trip: We started giving each other alias names and we started to address each other like that. And it goes like that: Stephan’s pseudonym has been for some time already “First Admiral” (=”Großadmiral”), Andreas von Buchwaldt was “The Baron”, Tobias Schulz-Isenbeck became “The Senator” and myself war “The Sir”. Silly, isn’t it, was 40 degrees of heat do to your brain … :-)

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Yesterday night, I went with Stephan for farewell to “Tuscsan Verge”, on daytime a boutique and at nighttime a club with Thursdays the “Hip Hop”-event where all the Bangalore gangsta rappers hang around. Hence, on the last day of the trip we finally found where we belong. See here “German Brainpower in da House”:

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The Week in Delhi and around

Finally the time to write a few lines from the magnificient Hilton Trident Hotel in Gurgaon after three very dense, intense but even more fulfilling days. (All the pictures so far and all more coming up can be found here in my Flickr-Set.)

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Before we deep-dived into work, Stephan Roppel (Holtzbrinck Publishers), Andreas von Buchwaldt (OC&C Strategy Consultants) and I arrived after an overnight nonstop flight from Munich in Delhi on Satuday morning.

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It was our all first time to Delhi and we we, well, overwhelmed by the heat at around 43° C. We went to as much as we could in one day as possible.

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Here the Palace of the President of India:

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Yesterday, Sunday, we took the train to Agra to see the most beautiful building I have ever seen so far: The Taj Mahal.

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And it looks even differently at sunset:

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Today then the not less dense and intense working week with our series of meeting began and we just finsished half an hour back with dinner at the hotel where Tobias Schulz-Isenbeck (Holtzbrinck Publishers) joined. Big thanks to Ravi Singh, CEO of Macmillan Publishing Services (MPS) for hosting us and sharing with us really the best what India has to offer.

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