René Seifert

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

Archive for October, 2007

Lucky Day: Lufthansa First Class-Upgrade

In German there is the saying: "Des einen Freud, des anderen Leid", which would in my personal case last night translate into "Bad luck for Air France, good luck for me". Usually, pretty much at the same day, both Lufthansa and Air France operate their daily flights from Bangalore to Frankfurt and Paris respectively. But due to the aircrew strike of Air France, the French carrier has not been flying for four days in a row with the consequence that Lufthansa is taking as many as possible Air France-passengers on board. With another consequence that the plane is getting full-full and passengers are getting moved across classes. So I hardly could believe my eyes when I received that desirable red boarding pass at the check-in counter:

Lufthansa First Class Ticket

Well, well, I can't complain: The trip was very comfortable when you have a full bed with pillow and blanket for a 9 hours night-flight which leaves at 3.20 in the morning. Sitting on the short upper deck of a huge Jumbo Jet provides an almost intimate experience. Moreover, with a service that does not leave any wishes open: caviar, champagne, small bites and big meals of delicacies along with a selection of the most exclusive wines do make you feel like the Queen of England. At least for the duration of the flight.

I enjoyed the experience unconditionally, but only because this upgrade came for free. I once inquired what a regular First Class ticket for the route would cost: EUR 6,000 for a return flight. Puh. That's a lot of money which buys a lot of nights in very good hotels along with excellent dinners in superb restaurants – down there on the ground. Unless ever becoming super-super-rich, I doubt that I would ever start thinking of putting this money on the table. Then it's really more rewarding giving away to some worthwhile charity like OLPC and still enjoying a decent and financially care-free life.

One more thing I am really looking forward to: Singapore Airlines started this week the first commercial routing with the new twin-floor Airbus A 380 from Singapore to Sydney. Now the biggest and most modern passenger aircraft in the world. And, guess what, I am going to Sydney over New Year and will take exactly that plane. That will be cool and I will be happily posting here – how it is to fly in the A 380-coach class :-)

Bangalore Oktoberfest 2007

Just came bak in my Lederhos'n, the traditional Bavarian dress which I took all the way from Munich to San Francisco to have it ready for today. And like last year, it was really fun. There is certainly not a lack of the bizarre and the trash-factor in this, especially when – contrary to Bavarian non-talk Oktoberfest-tradition, the India organizer started lauding and talking endlessly. So the Indian guy was full of praise for Erwin Huber, the Bavarian finance minister who became head of the ruling party CSU. To be precise: Mr. Huber was not here, but the speaker displayed a higher level of obedience than the members of the CSU themselves back home in Bavaria – and that is really quite an achievement ;-)

The funny part was when the original Bavarian band from Reisbach came in. Playing brass instruments, at first.

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

But later on the had their coming out that they were in fact a rock band in disguise, really playing the hard stuff well and making the crowd go pretty happy. Here a picture of my good friend Christian Karner any myself holding our mugs of – well – Indian Kingfisher beer.

Bangalore Oktoberfest - Karneringer & Seifertinger

Here are some more pics in the entire set.  

Half around the World in 20 Hours: India & Web 2.0

After 20 hours onboard 2 turbulent flights I just made it from San Francisco to Bangalore. The good thing is always that temperatures never disappoint here in South-India. 22 degrees at midnight is something not to take for granted. So I feel like bringing the good vibes with me which I had the last week in the U.S. and especially I was till yesterday noon enjoying sunny California at Pier 39 in San Francisco with a beautiful view on Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge.

San Francisco_21

Having plenty of time on the flight I reviewed parts my notes and documents from the Web 2.0 Summit and thought how the latest learnings relate to India.

  • India is growing strongly in terms of internet usage, like whole Asia is as this slide from Morgan Stanley shows (entire presentation for download here). The country has even moved up one place and lies now ahead of the U.K.

TMT-Update_Morgan-Stanley

  • All big VC-firms from the Valley have already made inroads, either by setting up shop like Kleiner Perkins who are invested in Naukri or like Sequoia who made the so far unsual move in the industry to acquire Westbridge Capital from KP Balaraj, a fellow EO member of mine in Bangalore, and renamed it, well, Sequioa India .
  • However, from rather anecdotal evidence than from profound research, Indian online users have broadly populated services like Facebook or GMail. Given the the non-existent language barrier for the current online-population this does not come by big surprise. It will be interesting to see what sort of web applications come for those Indians who are not in the (minority) 140 mn English-speaking bracket of a 1.05 bn nation.
  • Even more so when it comes to accessing the web via the more 200+ mn mobile handsets (growing at a rate of 5 mn per month!) and see the usage explode on a scale of unprecedented magnitude.
  • At the same time, to be straighforward, the nature of homegrown Web 2.0-services in India is not overly sophisticated. The high-end concepts of particularly usability have not yet percolated through the domestic community of internet entrepreneurs and developers.
  • Sometimes I get requests from German companies with respect to my company Level 360 to outsource development in Web 2.0 domain in the start-up phase. With my next question "How many people do you need?" and the subsequent answer "2-3" I can happily bury the plan after 30 seconds. For an offshoring assignment to India such a headcount is entirely, completely and uttely sub-scale. I wrote about this phenomenon already here. Also, given my last point, it is not just a matter of missing quantity which makes the plan unviable, but also a lack of quality where a product responsible dearly requires input on the concept-level though the technical lense.

    The last thing in an internet start-up you want to do is document each and every tiny little function on the hightest level of abstraction. This will kill you and take out any momentum which is critical in the initial stage. Hence, my clear recommendation: Develop at home, hire a good CTO who sets the course and who can manage e.g. capable software engineering-students at equally reasonable rates. When your company got traction and you need a bunch of at least 8 people, come back to me and I will happily help find the right partner.

I hope to observe the Indian market a bit more in the future and come up with more posts on that exciting subject where my bets are clearly geared towards this huge mobile opportunity.

Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco

Exciting days at the Summit, unfortunately also jetlag and waking up at 3.45 am. On the other hand the discussions and the people here are really exciting and rewarding. Yesterday, we crashed into a company party, as in the "old times" in teh Valley plenty of food and drinks. (Is this the best indicator that we're in a bubble? ;-)

My picture set of the event is here. All my posts so far are in German on the eLAB-Blog here. My favorite pic is from Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and founder of Facebook, in a conversation with John Battelle, with his typically infamous footwear.  

Web 2.0-Summit07-051

1st Class T.I.I.: The guilty Cripple

It dawned on me today that there was still something from India when I was riding the S-Bahn in Munich and the voice announced: "Marienplatz, please disembark on the right side. Passengers with 'mobility impediment' disembark on the left side." I always get a grin on my face about these obviously overly-overly political correct expressions. And then I remembered: There was still something from India where things tend to be outspoken in a much more explicit way (but not in sex, to just make sure we are talking about the same thing.)

This little something was an advertisement which greets all passengers in Udaipur (Indian State of Rajasthan) when then walk from the Tarmac into the small terminal of the airport. Right above the counter for pre-paid taxis, here it is. One of the best T.I.I.'s ("This is India") I have ever some across. If you want big-size, click here.

Udaipur Airport Advertisement

Apart from the very unique design, the selection and allocation of graphical elements, the content is king. Please turn the attention first to the right side where this poor guy is crawling on the floor looking pretty miserable. Already the sub-title "before operation" reminds me of these commonly used weight-loss "before-after" pictures. And indeed on the right side there is "after operation". But the hammer comes in the alleged quotation of the person: "I was a burden on my family […,] I am now a source of support." Yep. As Winston Churchill used to say: "When you are going through hell, keep going." Haha. By the way, there are so many subtle messages hidden in this billboard. So note how the fellow is just in his underwear in stage one on the floor and how neat and presentable he looks "after operation". 

Now let's turn our attention to the left where Diana Haiden is holding the hand of the young boy. (By the way, if you google the name, the correct spelling is "Diana Heyden"; but never mind.) Well, Diana Heyden is – as quoted beneath her 'testimonial' – "Miss Word". Wow. I didn't know that there was a "Miss Word". Could be something like an election for the best looking writer-chick. But no, you might have guessed already, it's JAFT (=just another f*** typo). For reference, here she is: Diana Heyden, Miss World of 1997. Olé, olé.

All in all, an advertisement which has been carefully crafted with all ingredients of successful and widely respected communication instruments. When I run (or should I better say "crawl") my next marketing campaign, this creative director is for sure on my team. High Five!

Sunny Sunday

Hanging around in the office a bit to prepare the week to come. Will have to get a series of things done this week as on Tuesday (16th), I'll be traveling to San Francisco for the Web 2.0 Summit. The good thing for today: I am in my Lederhosen and about to depart for the last day of a phenomenal Oktoberfest 2007. 

Impressions from Udaipur

A bit in a hurry, between work and Oktoberfest I wanted to share a few pictures from the incredible weekend in Udaipur in Rajasthan. Here is the entire set on Flickr with almost 200 pics. It was a bit of exhausting with 2 night flights in four days, but it was more than worth it. Seeing my friends from EO Bangalore in such a relaxed environment was a perfect opportunity for bonding. And Udaipur as a city is magnificient, especially with its lake and the famous Taj Palace Hotel in it.

Udaipur_031

The second evening on Sunday was particularly memorable as it was an Indian ethnic night in the colourful tradition of Rajasthan, including an amazing dance performance.

Udaipur_146

As I usually get caned for such pictures from my girl-friend, I just pray to the Lord that she gets the irony of that one where I am lying spread out like the Maharaja of Udaipur with his harem ;-)

Udaipur_141

And that one is really funny. On Monday, in the honorable Times of India , me sitting in Rajasthan and looking at the title page, the photo story with "HIGH SPIRITS" covering Oliver Kahn football-god and his girl friend Verena in the traditional Bavarian dress on the, well, here we are again: Oktoberfest. (Here is the picture in full resolution.)

Udaipur_156

Hilarious, because that's like the bracket for my Udaipur breakout: The Oktoberfest where I came from and the Oktoberfest where am going to, almost like Sansara, the eternal Hindu cycle of birth and rebirth. And the Oktoberfest where I'll be in approximately one hour again. Cheers & Prost :-)