René Seifert

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

Archive for March, 2007

Tokyo: The EO University is on

The university has started officially. And it was a great day which started early, very early, with taking a ride to the famous fish market which gave me a lot of thought in terms of its structure. According to the Lonely Planet some incredible 2,200 tonnes of fish at a value of US-$ 15 mn change handy every DAY! The most exiting part to watch is the auction on the wholesale market at 5.30 am where huge Thunas are lying around where the pieces command prices up to US-$ 100,000.

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In the subsequent step in the market come the middle men who are to a large entent into packaging and distribution of the goods.

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A few retailers are there as well on the street for the bypassing crowd. The best, however, as the “value add” at the end at the chain, are the narrow tiny, narrow sushi bars for a great breakfast with raw fish and hot saki. “Kampai” (=cheers)!

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At 5 p.m. the university was kicked off with the keynote from Yoshito Hori, founder and head of Globis. Yoshito is the founding member of EO Japan and has put a lot of time and effort in developing EO in Asia overall. With respect to his business he explains to investors: “Globis is like having Stanford Business School and the VC-firm Kleiner Perkins under one roof.” He narrated the story of his own business, his major learnings as an entrepreneurs as well as the change he perceives for the booming “Nouveau Japon”.

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One of them being the perfect infrastructure that Japan boasts along with the techological edge of the country which one of our fellow EO-members from Japan has exploited to build dolls which move and talk that from 20 meters you do believe that they are real.

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Food was excellent, lots of fish, mussels and water snails.

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And after that, how it has to be, cultivated drinks where the usually very controlled Japanese as our fantastic hosts are well known to loosen up.

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And a special hello goes out to all the friends and buddies from EO like Maria and David who could not make it this time. Will try my best with posts and pictures (whole set here) to ease the pain …

Tokyo: Lost in Translation

Japan, Tokio, Hotel 4 Seasons, 4.30 am in the morning, and the jet lag allows for now sleep, blogging is a good way to kill the time before the taxi departs in half an hour for the legendary fish market.

I got told, so I was prepared, and as much as one tries to defeat this illness, everyone comes with preconceived notions which end up being – as usually – entirely wrong. One has to see it, hear it and smell it with his own senses to get the flood of impressions which a city like Tokyo will naturally bring upon. And after a presence of 16 hours, I have barely scratched the surface. Yesterday evening an overdose of impressions in East-Shinjuku. All pictures of this trip can be found on this Tokyo-set on Flickr.

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Illumination, people of most different styles crossing the street, shops with kinky articles to buy. Toilets where the usage requires something like a diploma: a pre-heated seat, a command cockpit to steer the various intensities and temperatures to autmatically rinse the back white still sitting, hot air to provide the after-drying (in German language litterally “after-drying” – LOL). And the famous “love hotels” where one can check in for 2 hours in the evening time for a price point of 3,500 Yen (around € 23).

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Compared to the strange name of a German teeny-band, this is a true “Tokio Hotel” ;-) And then there is the famous subway. I made it successfully, even with one change of trains. When surfacing, be aware of the correct of the many exits. Blow the right one, and one is half an hour away from your destination. From a few friends I got the hint to watch the movie “Lost in Translation”. And at the moment I feel exactly like that.

Indian Economist Bhagvati on the European Union

Just before my departure to the airport for Tokyo to the EO-University , I came across this interview (German language) on Spiegel.de with the famous Indian economist Jagdish Bhagwati. In his charming ways he still sees a future for Europe, but jokes around that “Europe, you will not fall asleep, will you?”

In my view, the benefits of the European integration certainly do outweigh the challenges: First and foremost, looking back “only” a thousand years in European history, a period of peace at least within the member states for the last 60 years should not be taken for granted. It’s not just the “big talk” of the flat world, but definitely much earlier the good feeling of one Europe where it makes a difference to travel and to trade with one currency. Just to name one big achievement.

On the other hand, with my overall sceptism of Germany as one of the steamboats of the EU, one sadly has to add that there are two other countries which are even more notorious underperformers: France and Italy. All three together, part of Donald Rumsfeld’s famous saying of “Old Europe”, umfortunately possess a strong political and particularly economic weight in the entire European fabric. No wonder that under such a dominant leadership of gradually market-averse members, the club has developed into a cancerous monster of over-bureaucratization which badly requires radical reforms.

Mr. Bhagvati quotes the example of over-standardization for all and everything like the size of condoms. In that context Italy must have rebelled, because they wanted them produced 1 cm longer. Maybe that’s right when I am in the country for a visit and need to buy some, but usually the Italian size rather lies in the realm of microscopic measures – LOL

Starkbier-Gaudi im Löwenbräukeller z’Minga

Des war zünftig. Des war a Gaudi. Und mir san mir. Mir samma gestern aufm Starkbier g’wesen:

– Der Munzinger
– Der Seifertinger
– Der Strahmanninger
– Die Wehrmanningerin (auch “Wehrfrau”)

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Und Bayern is schee. Da hob i gestern fei scho g’merkt dass der Inder bei der bayerischen Tradition gar nix ko. Und de der ganze Scheiß mir dera Globalisierung und dem Zeigs ko mi fei kreuzweis am Arschus lecken. Wei mir san mir. So war es, so ist es und so wird es immer sein!

Und da hamma no a paar Buidln g’macht.

… Hell of Funny …

That’s one of these stories where you don’t know if it really happened or not. Anyway, it doesn’t matter as it is very funny … Enjoy

The following is an actual question given on a University of Washington engineering mid-term. The answer was so “profound” that the Professor shared it with colleagues, and the sharing obviously hasn’t ceased…

Bonus Question: Is Hell exothermic (gives off heat) or Endothermic (absorbs heat)?

Most of the students wrote Proofs of their beliefs using Boyle’s Law, (gas cools off when it expands and heats when it is compressed) or some variant. One student, however, wrote the following:

“First, we need to know how the mass of Hell is changing in time. So we need to know the rate that souls are moving into Hell and the rate they are leaving. I think that we can safely assume that once a soul gets to Hell, it will not leave. Therefore, no souls are leaving. As for how many souls are entering Hell, let us look at the different religions that exist in the world today. Some of these religions state that if you are not a member of their religion, you will go to Hell. Since there are more than one of these religions and since people do not belong to more than one religion, we can project that all souls go to Hell. With birth and death rates as they are, we can expect the number of souls in Hell to increase exponentially.

Now, we look at the rate of change of the volume in Hell because Boyle’s Law states that in order for the temperature and pressure in Hell to stay the same, the volume of Hell has to expand as souls are added. This gives two possibilities:

1. If Hell is expanding at a slower rate than the rate at which souls enter Hell, then the temperature and pressure in Hell will increase until all Hell breaks loose.

2. Of course, if Hell is expanding at a rate faster than the increase of souls in Hell, then the temperature and pressure will drop until Hell freezes over.

So which is it?

If we accept the postulate given to me by Teresa Banyan during my Freshman year, “…that it will be a cold day in Hell before I sleep with you.”, and take into account the fact that I still have not succeeded in having sexual relations with her, then, #2 cannot be true, and thus I am sure that Hell is exothermic and will not freeze.”

This student received the only A.

Tokyo calling: Bowing for wrong weather forecast

I am sooo excited to take off to Japan on Sunday, first time in my life. And to whomever I have spoken, everybody said how different everything was from anything a Westerner has ever seen before.

The season is said to be one of the most beautiful in the year as the cherry trees are about to blossom. An event which is very important to the Japanese and an event where the weathermen in the country can prove their skills to the T with forecasting the exact period. Yet, this year, they screwed up badly quoting a computer bug, as the BBC reports. A mid-size scandal for the precision-obessed country. And the way to apologize is to bow, and the bow on TV must have been really, really deeeeeeeeeeep :-)

Sunny-Side-Up Weekend in St. Moritz

The sun was there as well, in St. Moritz, however the temperatures on Saturday and Sunday in the picturesque winter scenery were slightly lower than in Bombay the day before. It was planned to be a bigger circle of fellow members from the Swiss Chapter of EO, but it ended up being a strongly bonding weekend among few good friends of the “India Connection” in one of Europe’s most beautiful skiing-resorts.

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Actually, Vikram & Namrata Shroff had come over from Bombay for just an extended weekened and got their debut on skis and seemed to enjoy their first lessons a lot. All legs still intact, and in the evenings their hunger for good genuine Swiss food proved that they had worked hard on the slope during the day. And funnily, when we entered this restaurant Chesa Veglia at 8 pm, Claudia Schiffer, her family and a nanny just left, obviously to bring the kids to bed.

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The weather was stunning, what seems to be the norm with 322 sunny days of which St. Moritz statistically boasts each year. Here I made a picture of our two ladies (not “in da house” as usually), but “on da slope” in front of the ski-bar: Left Steffi Panzer, a schoolfriend of mine from 1st grade (!) and now head physician (radiology) at the Murnau Trauma Clinic, and at the right Anju Rupal, a good friend from the EO Chapter Switzerland. Don’t they look beautiful and cool in front of all the empty champagne bottles (which they, by the way, did not drink all alone ;-)

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Anju is an amazing person: A fast and sportive skier where I had a hard time following on the slope. I am sure that she is the best Indian, no, rather Asian on skis. And besides, a genuine socialite who conveys a unique mix of poshness, humour and warm-hearted personality.

In the nutshell, an unforgettable weekend which almost had extended unintentionally. There had been so much fresh snow last night of around 30 cm so that the outbound traffic of St. Moritz had come almost to a standstill today in the morning. Too bad that the call for duty prevailed, though …

Bombay: Guest Speaker for INSEAD-Management Training

Just sitting in the Lobby of the comfortable Taj Landsend Hotel in Bandra, a quite cool area of Maximum City Bombay and finished with a compelling session of INSEAD, a business school. Like last year in November, I was invited to speak about “Entrepreneurship in India” and give the participants, all active managers from Denmark, feedback to their business-ideas which would capitalize in one way or another on India: as a manufacturing ground, for a global delivery, taking advantage of the labor arbitrage, as sales destination or as a domestic market of its own. All the fellows were very engaged, many of them for the first time inIndia and I could see in them in restrospective my own mixed emotions when I came here for the first time.

Here a small get-together with the two INSEAD-Professors Jonathan Story (left) and Christoph Zott (right) over a well deserved beer after the event:

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Speaking about the differences in doing business, I pointed at the inverse ratio for cost of labor to cost of capital compared to the west. As labor is comparatively cheap in India, I realized that executives are by far not that efficiently organized in India like in e.g. Germany. Bluntly said: For that, in India they just hire another 30 people to get the work done. In India you are who you know. So building and maintaining your personal relationships is much more of the essence than anything else, an activity which usually does not succumb to the rules of economic efficiency. Therefore, making yourself constantly available on the phone, even in meetings, never showing any signs of disturbance when you get a call from a trusted friend in your network, is much more important than anything else. Something which is totally impossible in Germany where you go through secretaries to schedule a con-call etc. Conversely, I look with a bit of pride on the good people which I have gotten to know over the years, where I know that I can call anytime and will be welcomed warmly. This is one of the many great stories India has to tell every day.

Pick-Up Artist turned Entrepreneur “Papa” in Bangalore

The best thing of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) is obviously the people. Most of the action happens on a local chapter level, but the global umbrella organization makes sure that members have instant access to their fellow-members worldwide.

Two days back, the EO-Chapter Bangalore got an e-mail from Nick Kho, EO-member in LA, that he would be in Bangalore and happy to meet some crowd. The e-mail containing “Papa” and his company Real Social Dynamics dawned on me as a constellation I was familiar with.

Actually, one of the funniest books I read in 2005 is from Neil Strauss “The Game – Penetrating the secret Society of Pick-Up Artists (PUAs)“. Yes, you read correctly, picking-up women as a skillset. “Papa” was one of the main characters in this half documentary/half how-to guidebook. After lots of drama, lawsuits, friends turning into enemies, Papa started out his passion and his talent into a commercial enterprise providing courses (“bootcamps”) around the world for “Average Frustates Chumps” (AFCs; =PUA-lingo, gotme?! ;-) who want to approach and date women who seemed unreachable before.

Nick Kho aka “Papa” in Bangalore (in the middle) and so Atul Jalan (on the right), another super-smart fellow member and CEO of Mathan Systems, and I went out for dinner to the delicious South-Indian restaurant Karavalli.

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Papa shared a lot of stories like that he and Neil Strauss were competitors and no longer on good terms. Not really surprising for those who read the book. That “Mystery” was really the best at picking-up “in the field”, but was going regularly through personal crisis. That Nick was no longer teaching himself, but had superb hand-picked trainers who themselves have to go through a 3 months training before they get flown around the world to hold these “bootcamps” on the weekends. In an effective team of maximum 3 students per trainer, and after some theoretical introduction, they would go to bars and clubs, the trainers as superb masters in their domain would demonstrate their art, which could lead to getting a phone number from a beautiful woman (“number closing”) within minutes or even a kiss (“kiss-closing”). Then the students would receive a briefing for a task, the trainer would watch, act as helper (“wing-man”), and de-brief their students what to correct.

In order to get out of this posting without a bloody nose from my girl-friend, I would like to state clearly that I am out of “the game”, in the unlikely case I have ever been into it. Yet from a standpoint of – let’s call it – “intellectual curiosity” I find one thing both hilarious and sobering at the same time: That the fundamental drive of human life from a biological angel or the notion of romance and love from a emotional one, can be chopped into such bahavioristic patterns (to speak with the sociologist B.F. Skinner) that can be learned, continously improved and conditioned for one cause. On the other hand, and this is something that Nick confirmed, many PUAs start getting addicted to the game and become useless for any meaningful relationship.

Most ladies in da house obviously don’t like to hear about all this PUA-stuff as it might sound manipulative at best, and degrading at worst. For those, I’d like to end with a good quote from the book mentioned above: “Don’t hate the player, hate the game.”

Europe’s Finest: London calling?

Having lived in Bangalore for more than three years, I realize that I could live anywhere, because – charmingly speaking – the “challenges” of daily life appear handily managable. This sort of epiphany happened to me when I went to Cape Town over new year or to Prague one weekend ago. It seems kind of “easier” which in turn does not mean at all that I intend to turn my back on India. It’s just a perception that has matured which creates a feeling of liberalizing ease that the world is not just flat but also an endless dwell of personal choices.

Coming to Germany is nice particularly for seeing my friends, but basically this is it. For me Germany is the past, my own past. And there is no way I would come back to settle and resume living as I used to before my emigration. In my admittedly drastic views, Germany is a “failed state”, certainly not by the standards of Afghanistan or Pakistan. But still a failed state and I have personally decided once and forever that I don’t want to be a part of it.

On the other hand, there is an undeniable attachement to Europe as a cradle of culture for my own coining. And thinking of Europe as a place to live, I consistently found myself attracted to two countries: Switzerland and the UK. As long I don’t have the besoins of a pensionist, those two countries have all a person with a self-starting attitude can wish: high quality of life, functioning infrastructure, rule of law, business friendly environment and a reasonable, yet not overstated, regulatory framework. Thinking of the UK, top-of-mind intuitively comes London. And today I was recommended an article from the TImes Online which writes exacly about London’s growing appeal for world citizens.

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