René Seifert

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

Archive for January, 2009

Pictures from my DLD Panels

Here we are, with the media bits rolling in from Tuesday. First, here we are ready-steady-go from the first panel which was “E-Commerce”

DLD 2009: TES with "my" E-Commerce Panel

From left to right: Klaas Kersting (Co-Founder & CEO of Gameforge), René Seifert (guess that must be me), Friedrich von Scanzoni (Managing Director Holidaycheck), Felix Haas (Co-Founder and CEO of Amiando), Tobias Flaitz (Head of Strategic Business BurdaDigital), Christian Heitmeyer (Co-Founder and CEO of Brands4Friends).

And then we had for the second panel right after: “Mobile”

DLD 2009: TES with "my" Mobile Panel

From left to right: René Seifert, Holger Knöpke (Senior Vice President of Product Definition & Provisioning at T-Mobile International), Tobias Flaitz (Head of Strategic Business BurdaDigital), Charlie Schick (Editor-in-Chief on Nokia Conversations), Avi Schechter (Co-Founder and CEO of Fring), Geraldine Wilson (CEO of Truphone) and Gerhard Thomas (CEO of BurdaDigital).

Yep, this for the records and as a living legacy for the future generations to come ;-)

DLD 2009: “New Realities” meet “Old Excellence”

DLD 2009 - New RealitiesAnother 3 days of DLD 2009 are over and I still feel primed by all the inspiration from this event which I consider the finest of its sort in Europe. I also explained here on video after being asked :-) The subject "New Realities" couldn't be selected better given the global gravity of circumstance we are currently in.

What impresses me every time anew at DLD is the consistency how the organizers carry its top-level theme through all the bits and pieces of the conference-experience. Overall, the panels were phenomenal, with a few people's intellect and speed of thought being in particular astounding like Marissa Meyer from Google, Max Levchin from Slide, Carlos Bhola from Celsius Capital and Mark Zuckerberg from Facebook. Mark was announced as the "surprise guest" as the very end, came, sat 3 feet away from me – unassuming and down-to-earth in the speakers' lounge – before going out on stage for his interview with David Kirkpatrick. 

DLD 2009: Forum

What in my feeling makes DLD stand out from other conferences is the ability to bring a true community to life: the event management is perfect, yet not clinically polished. Conferences in Germany in particular tend to be stiff. In that regard an international crowd brings in a relaxing element. But above all, with the inclusion of lifestyle and arts, both on the panels as well as throughout the conference area, the organizers manage to set the tone for a warm, informal and approachable setting. Here, by the way, the pictures I took from the conference. 

DLD 2009

On another note I am aware that this year human drama took place as the number of participants was almost reduced by half. I received countless requests from people "if I couldn't do something" for them to get in since they saw me on the speakers' list. I would have loved, but this was beyond my control. On the other hand, I have to admit, that perhaps this very reduction of size contributed to a more intimate and personal atmosphere which allowed for easy approaching of anybody you wanted to talk to. In that respect, it reminded me of Clay Shirkey's explanation in his book "Here comes Everybody" that the perceived group cohesion is negatively correlated with its size. 

Aenne Burda Award

Just on one critical note: The co-chairman Yossi Vardi is an amazing person, appears to be a genuine good-heart, made it in life and is fully entitled to display both his deserved independence and extroverted personality. Yet his appearance as the moderator of a high-calibre panel with Chad Hurley (YouTube), Samir Arora (Glam) and Mitchell Baker (Mozilla Foundation) was a disaster. If there is nothing left than having the audience do the "tarzan cry" and ignoring his guests on stage, then there is something going wrong. But here's the video, so go ahead and form your own opinion. 

Yesterday afternoon, in a new format called DLD-TES (technology enables success) by Burda Digital I had the honour to moderate the two sessions about E-Commerce and Mobile. The first one was the easier one as it was fairly straightforward to build a common thread along the four panellists where technology makes a difference in their strategies. Mobile is a hell of complex issue where we had to spend half of the time not just describing what each of the panelists' companies do from a tech-standpoint, but also explain where and how the panelists' companies are intertwined (a lot in fact, I swear). Overall, I had a good feeling on both panels and the feedback so far was also ok. From what I heard, the sessions have been taped on video. Once I get ahold of the URLs, I will happily share them here. 

Thanks at this point to the organizers to make this event happen again where "New Realities" met "Old Excellence" of DLD. Thanks in particular to Marcel and Steffi (picture below), Rupert and Heiko as well as Tobias. 

Marcel Reichart & Steffi Czerny at DLD  2009

Delhi: Cool Capital, Cool Crowd

Wow, just came back to my hotel from the start of our EO Regional Integration Event (RIE) which began casually in Delhi's F-Bar. I am almost speechless as what I saw there was almost a Western place: Cool, affluent and liberal.

I must explain: In spite of all the buzz about the "rise of India", this country is still hails very conservative values. Just look at Bangalore's night-life which has been relegated to non-existence with everything shutting down at 11.30. And if it wasn't for the Viren Partys which are "ok", it would be a complete disaster. 

But what I saw in Delhi tonight was totally different: Women dressed up really-really sexy, being quite liberal to have their boy friends around and even – I can't remember that seeing ever in India – kissing (tongue included, to be precise) with them openly publicly on the dance-floor. Not worth mentioning in a club in London, Berlin or Bangkok, but a sensation for India. And altogether a really cool crowd "in da club".

Looking out from the cab at India's capital at night, it does exhale charm and dignity with its monuments, governmental buildings and colonial remnants. After 26/11 (the attacks on Mumbai), security has been beefed up also here, with police, military and para-military all over the place. 5 star hotels have armed guards and run tight controls on cars and guests who intend to enter. The residence of the Prime Minister of India looks like a fortress. 

No doubt, after what has happened, necessary measures. In spite of all that, India's capital possesses a progressive charm unlike any other city on this vast subcontinent. 

Busy preparing for DLD Moderation

Temperature-wise, it makes quite a change: Last week in Lapland at -32° C I could not have thought of stepping out in shorts and T-shirt and enjoy it like I did yesterday on my terrace in Bangalore. Unfortunately there is not too much time to hang out in the sun as I have quite a tight travel schedule in the next days. 

Tomorrow, it's going to Delhi for the "Regional Integration Event" (=RIE 2009), a congregation of all Indian Chapters of the Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO). These events used to be always a blast in terms of enthusiasm, bonding, speakers, learning and fun. Last year it happened in Bombay, to be precise in the lately heroic Taj Mahal Hotel (see my blog post here). 

Unfortunately, I will only be able to stay for the whole Saturday and leave one day earlier, as my bed for the night to Sunday will be in LH 761 Delhi to Frankfurt in order to make it on time at 2 pm for the opening of the DLD. In my view the finest conference of Digital, Lifestyle and Design in Europe, featuring digital innovation in a broader context of science and culture. 

Like last year around the subject of "India", I will have the honour this year to moderate two panels within the newly created format "Technology enables Success" which will take place on Tuesday afternoon. "My" two panels revolve around mobile and e-commerce, whereby we will focus on the critical role of technology as a strategic differentiator for business. The good thing for the audience is that I am not alone, but will have four distinguished thought leaders on each panel from big incumbent players to new start-up which intend to disrupt the current landscape – guess what, by technology.

So the preparation these panels besides day-to-day business is keeping me quite busy. As I learned from old school moderation of 10 years in radio: Lots of preparation allows for lots of spontaneity. So I am siphoning through the CVs of the panelists, calling each and every one up for a small up-front chat, reading up on their companies and piece by piece formulating questions and ultimately some common thread to spin a meaningful conversation on stage. 

Moreover, besides all the facts, atmosphere is essential: Relaxing the situation from the very beginning with everyone involved. That's something one could really obeserve from the new U.S. president during his campaign which got a name I really like: "No drama Obama" :-)

Experiences: How to tackle arctic Conditions at minus 32° C

New challenges bear new solutions. It's no different when the outside temperatures strike -32° C like today. A few experiences after almost a week in the arctic cold of Levi in Lapland (Finland): 

Frozen Lake at Levi

  • Clear sky almost always means darn cold temperatures, clouds tend to contain the air and make it feelingly warmer. 
  • There is no such thing as "just going out" and putting on clothes. Dressing becomes a procedure which has to be done with diligence. Layer by layer, to the point where it becomes unbearable in the warm hotel room and just right when you step out. Any hole, any gap have to be hermetically closed. The cold will just creep in otherwise. So dressing is more like putting on the gear for diving or feeling like an astronaut. 
  • Moving outside is a good idea, the more briskly the better – then it gets pleasantly warm, yet never really hot. The reward for a 16 km cross-country skiing, partly uphill, with a view on the sun in a flat angle looks like this. The snow on the pristine slope gets coloured red, something I have never seen before.
  • High Noon with flat Sun and red Snow on Levi Mountain

  • Trivial things become a problem: Accidentally breathing into the direction of your camera immediately deposits ice on the its lens, the warm inner side of the gloves will get it away, however leave some stains. Yet, better that nothing. 
  • Driving on a snow-mobile like today puts even higher challenges for clothing: Imagine sitting on a motorbike while your body is moving with 100 km/h at times through air which is -32 degrees cold. The dressing there brought me seven layers on the upper body, an overall over all other clothes and the necessary balaclava make you look as if you were part of an anti-terror operation.
  • Preparing with frost-proof Clothes for the Snowmobile

  • Driving the snowmobile is great fun, incredible how fast these vehicles accelerate over snow and ice. The handholds and the throttle are heated, but it takes a while till the effect kicks in and till then the cold air at the hands in spite of the gloves (they were my weak-point in the clothing) made me almost go mad. My right thumb almost three hours afterwards is still recovering. 
  • Ice-Fishing in Lapland

  • In the hut for warming up at the lake, the owner lit a fire where our group immediately followed an archaic human drive to gather around it. It felt wonderful till it became burning hot if one stayed too long to close to the fire, while just two meters away from the fire everything was started to freeze like my balaclava which was lying on the wooden bench. In the hut we might have brought the temperature "up" to estimated minus 8 degrees.
  • Some outside activities require the bare naked hands, like putting on the maggots as bait on the hook for ice-fishing (where by the way you have a plastic "ice spoon" to clear the hole every 15 minutes before it starts to close again from ice.) Knowing that you have to use your naked hands makes you very deliberate in this suddenly very scarce resource of your hands. You think of each and every step you can do with your gloves and you do so, before you actually take your gloves off. Then you have approximately two minutes before the hands become numb and useless, where everything you long for is putting them back into the gloves. (No catch of fish today, it must have been to cold for them as well …)
  • Ice-Fishing in Lapland

Although all these points appear just like a accumulation of hardships, this stay in Lapland at arctic winter is still one of the best experiences in my life. Just because it pushes the envelope further in an area which is so far completely new territory. Ultimately, local people have been living here since humanity was traced. If they can survive, I will to. At least I will do everything to learn from them how it works.

Through the Artic Wilderness with the Husky-Team

How many layers of clothes can you put on before you get a heat-stroke? Quite a bit as I experienced today in my room of Hotel K5 in Levi (Lapland). Two T-Shirts as underwear, one sport-sweater, one pull-over from wool, one wind-breaker from Goretex plus finally the thick yellow winter anorak. So far only for the upper part of the body before you start to sweat anywhere inside which makes you run outside. Yet inside is different from outside, and outside it had minus -28 degrees Celsius for where we were going and where this sort of clothing was just right to feel comfortable.

Break for man and animal on Husky Safari

On a safari through the arctic snow, standing on a sledge, being part of a "team", one driver per sledge and 4 to 6 six hyper-energetic huskies in the front. Before we started, I took a little video in the kennel of our tour organizer from Snow Riders. The huskies had been resting three days and couldn't wait till the rope holding the sledge was released from the tree.

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Being part of the team as the driver is not really difficult, but it requires more than just standing passively on the back. The brake is very important, especially in the beginning when the dogs have the highest power, but also the task requires to balance the vehicle gently into the curve. These amazing and overly friendly creatures are doing what they love most: running. While they run, they occasionally also shit, pee and yes, it stinks. But for the first time – in spite of being an urban child who was annoyed when I stepped into dog shit – I felt it was totally normal. By contrast, I owed the animals respect for their apparently endless stamina and their discipline to carry on to the right direction.

A view I will never forget in my life appeared when we left the snow-covered woods onto a plane where the flat hanging sun at high noon was showing its face.

Husky Safari through the artic Winter in Lapland (Finland)

Juha Laine, the owner of Snow Riders (in the picture above) is a big Fin with a big heart. There is nothing more beautiful than interacting with people who love doing what they do, and Juha is exactly such a person. He adores his dogs, each of his 42 in the kennel has a name and he know each and every one's character, strengths and weaknesses which determines how he puts a team together.

Ultimately, there is a hierarchy among the dogs where "leaders" emerge who are not shy to run in front of the other dogs of the "class" and who get therefore attached to the very top. When the team goes the same route, the dogs know from the smell into which direction to go without major commands. And not to forget, just how beautiful they are:

Break for man and animal on Husky Safari

Halfway of our 22 km tour we stopped at a hut where Juha lit a fire inside where we might have brought the temperature to something above zero, drank hot chocolate and ate Finburgers which were warmed in aluminum at the right edge the open fire. 

Break for man and animal on Husky Safari: In the Hut

Driving back to the kennel with some experience on the sledge was a relatively easy ride, especially as it went downhill and I had to step slightly on the brake to keep a reasonable pace. In the kennel itself, there was a female husky (="a bitch") which had just two weeks ago given birth to six puppies. Tiny and cute, they had just opened their eyes a few days ago and one could hardly believe that in half a year they would start training to become such relentless runners under hefty conditions. (Unfortunately due to the cold, the batteries of both my cameras were completely depleted, so unfortunately no pics of the dog-babies).

The entire picture set of the stay in Lapland so far is here (more to come) and when you plan your trip to Lapland, don't miss out on a husky tour with Snow Riders and Juha; promised that it will be a once-in-a-lifetime-experience. 

GREETINGS FROM MEXICO: SUCCESS AROUND

Well, well, this is not spam. But still to good to be true, so I thought I have to share that here. The gentleman connected via XING and then shot this mail to me briefly afterwards. I am quoting it verbatim, I just made name and company anonymous ("XYZ").

++++++++++++++++++

Title: GREETINGS FROM MEXICO

greetings from mexico. I am distributor www.xyzxyz.com company is a company interested in the nutritional and financial dasearrollo. I wish that checks the page is a great opportunity. The company has 6 months to start operations in India and will be a very successful happy to show you a team.Czech page and comunicate this way to tell how you can join the company.

I have planned to go to Bangalore to live in developing this business. I want to meet you. SUCCESS AROUND.

XYZ XYZXYZ

++++++++++++++++++

In case you ever want to do business with me as well, keep these three things in mind how we'll proceed:

1. I wish that czech page.

2. I want to meet you.

3. SUCCESS AROUND.

Pretty easy, isn't it :-)

Excellent Health Check-Up at Koramangala Clinic (Bangalore)

What I experienced yesterday at Apollo Koramangala Clinic is the best what India has to offer, one of those increasing experiences I have labelled “NCA”: neat – clean – affordable.

As I haven’t been to the doctor for a few years (luckily I didn’t have to, apart from the medicals for my pilot license), I decided to do a full check-up. From a positively perceived reputation for the owner Apollo in combination with googling, I found the package “comprehensive health check-up”. I showed up yesterday morning at 9 am, had fasted for the first blood test, went for ECG, lung volume check, breast X-Ray, ultrasound scan of liver, stomach and kidneys by a radiologist and got some yummy Idli with Sambar as South Indian breakfast. After a little break I proceeded to the urologist (the examination was harmless :-), physiotherapist and to the second blood test (now with the metabolism at work after breakfast). Went back to the office at 12.30 pm.

Came back for the second round in the late afternoon at 5.30 pm, the test results were already prepared, got called to the consultation with the general physician who did a thorough anamneses, looked over my lab-values: so far ok, just cholesterol marginally elevated. (No wonder after the sins of Christmas overeating like lately in Awtar, Dubai.) Next was the cardiologist with the Doppler-Test for bloodstream around the heart, EKG in quiet position as well as on the treadmill. For the final I spoke to the dietician on nutrition advice, went out and home at 7.15 p.m.

Besides of all the details and steps I underwent, I found the clinic very well organized, I got regularly communicated where I was in the process and what was next for me to be expected. Two doctors whom I kept in particularly good memory: the general physician Dr. Prethi and the cardiologist Dr. Nagami, two ladies who were extremely knowledgeable, also from the scientific standpoint of their profession, very focussed on the issue as well as its follow-up and at the same time approachable by answering patiently each of my annoying “I want to know it all”-questions and not lacking some warm sublime Indian humour.

If you come from Germany like I do, then medicine doesn’t have a price tag. This is very unfortunate because you end up paying much more anyway though mandatory contributions to an inflated apparatus of public health. Of course I am privately health insured which jumps in soon as the cost of treatment is above a certain threshold. Since then, I started to look at the cost of medicine as a service and develop a certain sensitivity to price. From the perspective of a for-profit organization like Apollo Clinic it means that my payment must not only cover their cost, but also yield some reasonable margin.

And? And? What do you guess did this whole health check-up cost (payable up-front in cash or via credit card)? I found that completely unbelievable: Rs. 5,350 which corresponds at the current exchange rate EUR 79 (seventy nine only). I am sure had I done the same in Germany, I would have paid at least 15 times the amount and I wouldn’t expect treatment to be any better.

My summary for Apollo’s Koramangala Clinic: Outstanding quality, high competence, very well run, with lot of care for the detail (e.g. smoothing music concept in the building) and no frills (who needs them, I am not in a spa) taken together allows for such a price which is even for Indian standards reasonable. Comparison: You can easily blow that money at wining & dinner for two in one of Bangalore’s high-flying restaurants.

The only thing where I believe the clinic could improve is the first point of contact on the phone: Yes, friendly, answering every question, but this exactly can fall short when I don’t even know what to actually ask. So a bit more of “consultative sales” from the supplier’s perspective would provide the entire picture of what is to come and certainly thereby increase the “conversion rate” of customers taking a positive decision to show-up.

Many companies not just in India, but all over could take an example for such a well executed concept of “NCA”.

Watched the Movie “Outsourced” in Bangalore

Took a break from work and went out for a little stroll through Bangalore, the mood is different on Sundays than during weekdays. For one, it's more crowded, yet less hectic. People have time for shopping and in economically challenging times even more so for just for window shopping.

Brigade Road in Bangalore in Twilight

So I saw many couples walking hand-in-hand, but also the usual scenes from India with men walking hand in hand. I have gotten so much used to that view in the last 5 years that I didn't even realize until my comrade Dirk was killing himself laughing during his India-visit.

Ya, ya, T.I.I. (=This is India), and also this billboard for Levi's. 

Brigade Road in Bangalore in Twilight

Explaining such a picture to some new visitors to India has proven to me one of the most difficult pieces as it runs with the biggest possible contradiction. On the scale from 1 to 10 in rating India's openness to talk about sex in public, I'll give it a straight 1. There is hardly any more prudish country in the world. Yet, in a layer that is so far away from reality that it is impossible to conceive, almost everything goes. Take Bollywood where you have beautiful, sexy half naked woman dancing under the rain-machine.

But you will never see any Indian woman walking with a short skirt in the streets. That's why I call Bollywood "fiction of fiction" as even in a obviously fictional setting, reality gets skewed to a point where there is sufficient attachment to create recognition with the world, but then moves beyond it where it tickles unspoken desires that are too removed to be ever satisfied. So it doesn't pose any danger to existing norm and order. 

Then, finally after a long time of failed intentions, I watched the movie Outsourced. I really enjoyed it a lot as it packs all the possible cultural shocks that India has to offer into a lovely story. The American manager Todd has to outsource his procurement-centre to India, goes through all the Western struggles before he not only finds his peace with India, but even a likening of her people. Even more so as he falls in love with Asha, a young lady he has been training in the call-centre. Here is the trailer:

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Unlike the movie Darjeeling Limited which i liked a lot, yet had to label non-Indian, Outsourced comes as close to Indian reality as it can get. Just to get two minor things right: There are not too many "Ahsas" around in call-centres who would engage in any (hidden) relationship with their supervisor and Auntie would never ask a visitor if he was homosexual. (See above "prudish", and by the way Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code prohibits "carnal intercourse against the order of nature".)

Minor things hardly worth mentioning. I believe that for those who have been to India already, the movie will provide a very rich context and bring many memories back. For those who haven't, watching the movie might create the desire to have onself "outsourced" to the subcontinent – at least for a limited time during holiday.

Come, come all, Mother India with 1 billion opportunities is eagerly awaiting you :-)