René Seifert

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

Archive for November, 2009

TED India with Inspiration for Profit and Non-Profit

Even after a week of TED India, I feel the inspiration of this unique event still hasn’t left its grip on me. On the weekend, there came via e-mail the request from the TED-team to rate the event, it took me some 10 minutes in all various categories and questions, but the last one was certainly the most important. Besides all the dissecting of single aspects of the event, the holistic question was “How would you rate your overall TED India experience?” On the given scale I gave it the best marks with “off the charts”. This applied for the venue, the Infosys Campus in Mysore, as well.

The Infosys Campus in Mysore

(All pictures of the event, here on my Flickr-set.)

What makes this event so fundamentally unique is the mix of phenomenal speakers in a broad array of disciplines combined with an extremely open discussion culture with the attendees, around 1,000. In terms of the latter: The norm is to just sit down e.g. at lunch or before a session and start a conversation with the people left and right of you. Every time, I felt it was interesting what they had to say, moreover the conversation was characterized by mutual curiosity. The topics started mostly with “what do you do” (without the sales-pitch to it) or “where do you come from”. A phenomenal review of the event which speaks from my heart here at GodInChief from my dear friend Vishal Gondal.

TEDIndia: Day 1 - Vishal Gondal & Rene Seifert

For instance during the last night at the party, I spoke to a PhD in biology who has been running a field study in South India how to reconcile the two apparently contradicting systems of wildlife conservation and that of agriculture for the neighbouring farmers. (There seems to be one …)

Plenty of such exciting conversations on how to lift the life of the underprivileged, especially through grass-root-projects which create some self-sustaining momentum. Those can have an approach of “one person at a time” to scalable models. A brief update at this point on our own charity “Wipro Netbooks for Vatsalya”: We are optimizing tiny little bits and pieces. Being an anal German we bought some buttons from felt which we installed below the table-legs to stop them rock, got some pillows for the chairs so that the very little girls would not have to have their arms at the level of their ears to reach the keyboard.

In fact, it was Petra who who took care of it during her and her husband’s Jürgen visit to Bangalore in the last weeks. Jürgen with his IT-network expertise installed a new, more robust WiFi-router which is better suited to serve 12 concurrent connections. Last, but not least: This month, the computer training started with an experienced female teacher twice a week.

Also, I would not like to withhold the official “thanking letter” from Shashi in the name of the institution.

Thanking Letter Vatsalya

What TED’s inspiration taught me or at least recalled to keep in consideration: If you do business for profit, there is always some higher calling beyond the P&L. Go out, find this mission and inspire your employees, your customers and all your other stakeholders with it. Your following will be manifold.

When you are doing well, there is ample of space of doing good. Go and understand what is what you do best in your organization. Find a way to apply a tiny portion of time and resources from it. Find a way to transfer this abilily in order to enable those who need this little kick-start before they can get lifted on their own.

That’s something I have just embodied in a recent business plan. In one year down the line I will have to be measured by my actions resulting from the easy part called words.

TED India: First Impressions from Mysore

It’s been some 6 hours that I arrived at Infosys’ Campus in Mysore, the venue for the TED India conference. The campus is out of this world, when going through the gate “you are leaving the Indian sector” and it appears as neat as Disney World – although the Infosysians roaming around are way smarter ;-)

Obviously, I am no conference newbie. But every event has its own culture and my experience has been to look and watch in the first place, keep a bit of a low profile to understand the dos and don’ts and then fully immersing into the action. So far my first impression has been fantastic. You just start a conversation with anybody on where they come from, what they do or what interests them. What is a good thing – and I hate anything else – that the conversations are genuinely personal and nobody tries to “sell” himself, lest any product or service.

I guess one little anecdote illustrates my point quite well: When I took the bus back from the opening party to the campus, there was a slim Indian gentleman sitting there. I asked politely if the chair was vacant, he confirmed politely and we introduced each other by name: “Rama – René”. He made an extremely humble, maybe even slightly shy impression to me, and we started to talk in a real curious two-way conversation. After 3 minutes or so it turned out that this gentleman was Vilayanur Ramachandran, one of the leading neuroscientists of the world. He told me about his studies of the human brain with his approach to learn from deviant behaviour in a systematic way about the brain function and arrive to general conclusions for the ‘normal’ case. Rama held a talk today in the pre-conference programme; and here he is in a TED-talk of 2007.

We came then to some older studies of his where he looked at the function of humour which he explained in an amazing way of cultural evolution. But then we didn’t stay too long too theoretical and started to exchange hilarious jokes. One of them which the Professor told me is the sort of jokes I usually tell and I had to promise not spread it by giving “credit” to him. Promised.

As I mentioned Twitter, Rama said that he was registered, but didn’t understand if he had to admit people who follow him, what was public and what not. This was of course my little moment of glory where I could share my experience with the microblogging service and explain all open points. So my initial take: TED is predominantly about good, mutual conversations where a pinch of humour doesn’t do any harm either.

An amazing first evening, and I am really really looking forward to tomorrow, with Day 1 of the conference program. By the way, the entire Day 1 will be broadcast live online.

Howard Seifendale in Goa: “Die Arme”

OMG, Dirk, “The Schornsteiniger”, did it again. He produced another episode of “Howard Seifendale” from our footage material in Goa. Here, Seifendale makes the case about “Die Arme und die Würde von die Reiche” :-)

If you happen to find this funny, feel free to join Howard Seifendale’s Fanpage on Facebook, too.

My personal Farewell: Michael Jackson’s „This is It“

It was a movie I just had to see. So I took the opportunity during my journey through Switzerland for a cinema-adventure last night in Zürich’s newly built Siehlcity. Watching „This is It“ was a bit of my personal farewell for an artist I had always adored throughout my youth and whom I came closer at one occasion than I ever thought.

It was in 1998 that I was head of marketing of Bavaria’s popular radio station Bayern 3 and Michael Jackson was about to come to town. Young and creative as our station used to be, we sat together and cooked up an idea how to make this visit very special – both for Michael and ourselves. So we came up with the „Michael Jackson Welcome Party“ in front of the Hotel Bayerischer Hof where MJ always used to stay. At that time my boss, now a good friend of mine, Rainer Tief spearheaded the initiative, my role lay in proper execution. As we announced this „party“ on-air, reaching more than a million listeners a day, we rightly expected a huge turn-out, so we had to organize everything to the T.

I negotiated with the City of Munich to circumnavigate a streetcar whose rails went straight through the venue, have sufficient police in place, make the hotel management comfortable with the idea (which they were not at all in the beginning), organize a broadcasting van and get our brand-banners and promotion teams in place. We did not get any commitment from MJ’s management about his involvement, so the square crammed with fans and us radio-guys just stood there and waited.

Then all of a sudden a motorcade rolled up, Michael jumped out of his black limousine, visibly delighted about this warm welcome, when our Bavarian brass band started to play one of his great hits. Michael Jackson has a blast, he wouldn’t stop parading the little sealed-off area for his security up and down, shake hands with his fans. He passed my location in maybe one meter distance and I was surprised that he was taller than he looked on TV and not surprised that his face in close-up looked like a mask.

My colleagues and me were all in arms about this gig, Michael went up to his room when he suddenly demanded a microphone in order to speak to his fans. We were well prepared, let the management hand him over a mic with the logo of our station when Michael appeared on the window and asked „stop the filthy press from spreading all these lies.“ This came at a time when the rumours of having inappropriate contact with underage boys started to spread.

Be it as it was, this is not the moment to be apologetic or raise accusations. I believe everything in this matter has been said. Certainly, if you take the time to watch the very worthwhile interview-documentary „Living with Michael Jackson“ (part 1 to 9 on YouTube), one can’t resist he impression that MJ was a complete weirdo who till his end never left Neverland Ranch – as a metaphor for constructing his own little dream world which did not bear much resemblance with reality.

Yet, as an artist I saw him twice live in concert in my native town Munich. Before and after I have never witnessed a singer, dancer, performer and entertainer like him who would create a „reality distortion field“ during his two hour show and leave the audience in a collective state of awe. His last appearance in „This is It“ gives you a glimpse of his undiminished abilities.

I had to remind myself every little now and then during the movie that this man dancing and singing on stage was 50 years old. In spite of his age and 10 years of concert-pause, he expelled the same grace and elegance in his dance-moves as he did when I saw the video „Billie Jean“ for the first time. Interesting also to see how MJ treated his team with a lot of respect and himself with uncompromising, humble perfectionism

This footage material from his rehearsal, which was never supposed to see the light of day to this extent, is an amazing last legacy of the greatest entertainers I will have witnessed in my lifetime. With „This is It“ the final curtain falls not just on the star and the human being behind the „King of Pop“, but for me personally marks a dignified good-bye to someone I have grown-up with.

RiP, Michael.