René Seifert

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

Archive for the 'Europe' Category

Fantastic Flight Impressions from the Cockpit

Didn’t want to miss out on sharing some great videos from Sardinia three weeks ago with us three pilots Thomas Leiber (“The Leibertinger”), Felix Haas (“The Haasinger”) and myself (=”The Seifertinger) in Thomas’ plane, a beautiful Diamond D-40.

San Teodoro: Airfield

Yep, that’s The Leibertinger, just after heroically landing in San Teodoro (Sardinia) on a short grass field. If you listen to the sound, you would hear the flight director in its robot-like voice repeat: “Warning! Terrain-Terrain!”. That’s because the Garmin GPS system doesn’t know about such small airfields and believes that you’re just about to ram the aircraft straight into the ground. But it went better than that :-)

For take-off we had done lots of calculation if the length of the runway would be sufficient based on our weight, temperature and height of the grass and even defined a point to abort the take-off if we had not reached at least 50 knots. Here The Haasinger was Pilot-in-Command and did a phenomenal job in accelerating the plane, lifting it off effectively using the ground effect, accelerating further before assuming a stable climb.

This one, however, is by far my favourite. The Leibertinger again in command, me sitting to his right side (but all credit & glory to him, he did it all). This was a small airstrip some 800 meters above mean sea level in the mountains of Sardinia, no living soul around. It was clear to us that the length of the runway could be just enough for landing, but not way to get the plane up in the air, especially due to the trees just at the end of the runway. Still, we didn’t want to miss out on that one, so we did a thing in between called “touch & go”.

Kudos. The trees below, the plane above. Exactly how it should be, and never mind the margin between the two.

Global Russia Business Meeting 2011 in Cyprus

Traditions require pursuit. So when Frank Richter from Horasis is inviting to one of his legendary “Global Business Meetings”, the best option is simply to show up and receive a stimulating update on the state of the globalized world. This times it was the Global Russia Business Meeting 2011, last year I attended in Ljubljana, this year in happened to take place in Limassol (Cyprus).

As it was the first time to this island for me, I decided to come two days earlier and do a little bit of sightseeing, mainly into the surprisingly high mountains up to 1,900 meters …

IMG_0446

… as well as trying out the local cuisine which is famous for its “Meze”. Shared dishes which keep on coming in endless numbers and makes. Apparently, me including, every foreigner on his first time consistently commits the same mistake: Eating too much in the beginning and then facing complete paralysis when more and even more food is arriving to the table.

IMG_2333

The Island-Republic has been for decades an attractive destination for Russian tourists and investors alike: The single biggest source of Foreign Direct Investment (FTD) into Russia comes due to favourable holding- and taxation structures indeed from Cyprus.

Our hosts were enormously hospitable who made our stay a truly memorable experience. During the gala dinner on Sunday evening, the President of the Republic of Cyprus, Mr. Dimitris Christofias welcomed us …

IMG_0477

… after which inspiring and funny conversations with other attendees extended way after midnight.

On Monday, in fact the major day of the event, there were a couple of “all hands” plenary sessions with CEOs and ministers of state as well a plenty of parallel “break out-sessions” for a more intimate exchange. Like last year in Madrid for the India-Meeting, I had the honour to moderate a session about “Creating Innovation Capacity” with eight distinguished participants on the panel.

IMG_0505

In the nutshell, a couple of issues pertaining to Russia:

  • Assumptions from foreign businesspeople that Russia is operating like a Western country are strongly overstretched; one needs to know how to navigate the system with all its intricacies.
  • Political regulation changes frequently, and not always for the better.
  • Russia has strengths in R&D, yet deficits in devising products and services out of this, also with sub-standard abilities downstream when it comes to marketing and sales.
  • Russia’s strongest GDP-driver, natural resources, is both a salvation as it is a curse: It lacks the necessary “eco-systems” (benchmark: Silicon Valley) to allow other truly innovative sectors to emerge in order to contribute to a better diversification of the economy.
  • Russia possesses a healthy self-awareness about its strengths and weaknesses and has set up a variety of private and public initiatives to foster exchange to gain best practices.

This appears to be especially true after the financial crisis where the government is listening better than ever to entrepreneurs how to be serious about the necessary implementation of change.

Thanks Frank for once again putting a great program with inspiring people together, hope to see to see you soon at one of the subsequent events.

And on a personal note: Thanks to Davor, from Les Clefs d’Or– Concierge from LeMeridien in Limassol who helped me within 18 hours print my forgotten business cards and held some true insider tips for the best local dining in the area ready. “Hvala vam ljepa na vasoj pomoci, Davore”, – who originally hails from Bosnia and with whom I proudly conversed in our mother tongue Serbo-Croatian. That’s globalization at its best as it comes with the touch of home … :-)

New Venture: MillionMiles Media launches aMillionLives.com

For more than half a year I have been really busy creating something new. Today, I am proud to announce that I started a new venture MillonMiles Media Ltd. and we just went live with our really cool flagship site aMillionLives.com. And, yes, we have a Facebook Fanpage, too, where I like if you like ;-) In case you want to read our „official press release“, it’s here for download.

aMillionLives.com

Let me explain here on my blog in a bit more of a conversational tone what we are up to. We are global publishing network writing stuff that matters for our life, in particular the various lives of each of us. You might be familiar with Edward de Bono’s concept of the various hats we should put on during decision making. Similarly, on a broader perspective in one’s life somebody might be a teacher by profession, have a family with a lovely wife raising two kids. But there is more to life than the obvious on the surface: This human being might be an avid guitar player, enjoys going for a hike in the mountains and really love his food. That same person will find help, advise and entertainment for his various lives like in a magazine as a teacher, spouse, parent, musician, naturelover and foodie. Check out our overview of all the lives we are writing for.

aMillionLives.com

Here’s the deal with „global“ for our publishing network. I’ve been living and working in various continents for the last years where I dare to say that I have a fairly good understanding how to assemble a business that brings together the best pieces from each part of the world. Our company is incorporated in London (U.K.), a big chunk of our operation runs out of Bangalore (India) with an international team, the design for aMillionLives.com has been done in Poland, our writers hail from India, the Philippines. Our users as we know from our logfiles appreciate our content from all over the world, the U.S. running with 60 % at the forefront.

aMillionLives.com

Where does the name MillionMiles Media (MMM) come from? Two simple explanations: I was looking, no surprise, for something that sounds somehow cool and has „Media“ at the end. If you check out every freaking word on this earth in combination with „Media“ at the end, the domain is taken by some filthy domain-grabber. So extending the query to two prefix-words, landed me with MMM. Second, I liked it because last year with all my travelling I had crossed the mark of a million miles in my frequent flyer programme.

aMillionLives.com

Yep, that’s my news of the day. Happy about every feedback, good or bad, sympathetic or just pathetic. If you like our Fanpage on Facebook or moreover, place a link from your blog or site to aMillionLives.com, I’ll include you in my evening prayers – hands duly folded. Promised.

From Zürich: Mid-Life Support Systems

Hi Friends,

Really speechless about your attention for my 40th birthday today. As I don’t think I can do justice to each and every of you so say “thank you”, here’s my little video message from Zurich (Switzerland) – a perfect place for a middle aged man to find the necessary support systems.

Thanks again and hope to see you soon, best
René

Lufthansa Customer Care – The Rift between West and East

The shifting economic power from west to east is a favourite theme sung by observers of globalization. The most often quoted reasons in favour of the east: demography (young) and growth (high). I would like to add from my own experience another critical one: attitude (great).

I’d like to illustrate this on a small example which happened yesterday during boarding with Lufthansa in Frankfurt. My purpose is both to use this public display as part of a complain which I have filed, but also as an illustration of a broader picture which I see emerging.

When I arrived to my boarding gate B23 for my flight LH 754 from Frankfurt to Bangalore yesterday on February 04th 2011 via direct transfer from Zurich, I requested at the boarding gate an upgrade from Economy to Business Class thanks to my abundance of miles in the Miles & More programme. The German tall guy behind the counter, let’s call him by his initials E.H. said „Yes, if you have miles.“ He went to his computer, went through the menu and replied: „Sorry, it doesn’t work, your ticket class doesn’t allow for an upgrade.“ End of the story – for him. I retorted that I didn’t believe this was accurate, as I had upgraded myself successfully on the TO-sector.

Lufthansa A321 (D-AIR)

I grabbed my mobile phone, called my always super-duper-customer-oriented Lufthansa-agent Vignesh Mohan in Bangalore who has been immaculately serving me in the last 3 years. He immediately picked up and explained to him the problem, he replied that he believed, too, the ticket was upgradable, but he would cross-check in the system and call me back.

Time was running out as I was the last passenger at the gate, the German guy and his female German colleague didn’t bother to even look at not to mention look after me once. Vignesh being Vignesh kept his promise, called me back after 2 minutes from India and confirmed: “The ticket is upgradable.”

What came next is really the point for my anger and the illustration of the different attitudes. I was polite and relaxed, went over to Mr. E.H. with my phone and said kind of: „I have Vignesh on the phone, your Lufthansa colleague from Bangalore, I suggest you both talk to each other in airline-lingo with all your ticket-codes to sort things out.“ He again wouldn’t even look at me, lest try to find any solution. Instead his female colleague stepped up to me and said in a super-annoyed way: “Well, it doesn’t work this way, we would have to call the ticket counter.” – Expectedly my response was: “And why don’t you do it?” She went on with: “Next time be a bit earlier with your upgrade request.” I turned back to E.H. and asked him why he wouldn’t talk to his colleague in India. Brief answer: “I in general don’t talk on a mobile phone.” Wow, that’s a rare mix of impressive and progressive.

Contrast that with Vignesh who was still on my ear and grasped the full sense of urgency of the situation and said: “René, give me a couple of minutes, I’ll sort things out from India.” I don’t know what Vignesh did, but magically after minutes the upgrade went through as smooth as silk. All fine, but I really got annoyed by this pathetic behaviour from the German Lufthansa team and announced that I would complain against him and asked for his name. He wouldn’t even have the balls to tell me, so I had to bent over and read it from his name plate. The grand final of the scene were his good bye-words: “But I just want to let you know that I am not the responsible load manager.” Bingo. This says it all: Zero attitude translates to zero responsibility which translates to zero civilized behaviour.

I do not even want to stretch the terms “customer orientation” too far and I don’t even intend to play my black card being a HON Circle member. This is just not a manner to behave. And being an entrepreneur I am safe to state into Lufthansa’s direction that you simply don’t want anybody like E.H. doing any customer-facing jobs. This was not his one time-failure, it’s an attitude problem and he’ll never get it.

Compare that to Vignesh’s attitude and action, and I am happy to conclude that we need more of the Vigneshs being allowed to play a much stronger role on the global economic stage and replace the E.H.s ideally yesterday. And please nobody tell me that this was – prominent German term – “unsozial”, i.e. not in line with social considerations.

Picture Source: Flickr.com / Andres Rueda

Global India Business Meeting 2010 in Madrid

Horasis and its founder Frank-Jürgen Richter are really coming to ever new heights with its format of “Global X Business Meeting”. Take “X” as a placeholder for China, India, Russia and soon Arab, too. The concept is brilliant: Create a platform for political and economic leaders for a specific country, let them fly out of their cocoon for 2 days in a completely different continent and blend them with political and economic leaders from the host country. For the recent Global Russia Business Meeting that host country was Slovenia (in Ljubljana), last for last year’s Global India Business Meeting it was Germany (Munich) and for this year it was Spain in its magnificent capital of Madrid. (All pictures of the event here on this set.)

Global India Business Meeting 2010 in Madrid

This year’s top participants from India were the Union Minister of Commerce, Anand Sharma, who spoke about his country’s resilience to weather the storm of the global economic crisis, aspiring to a double digit GDP-growth and acknowledging the requirement build stronger ties to Europe. As a reference to his hosts Mr. Sharma mentioned in particular Spain whose trade volume with India ranks only 43.

Anand Sharma, India Minister of Commerce

From the Spanish side, the Crown Prince Felipe gave himself the honour to speak. As someone who has rather reservations to monarchy, I was honestly surprised not to see some smug royal retard, but a highly educated, soft-spoken and down-to-earth guy who is very well able to play his constitutional and social role in such a setting very well.

Felipe, Prince of Asturias, Spanish Crown Prince

I had the pleasure to moderate panel on a topic which is personally very dear to me: Innovation. In particular “Driving the Future: India’s Technology Pioneers – India’s IT and other technology firms are emerging as global players in their own right. What areas are they pioneering in and how do they compete in world markets?” The participants had a lot to share from their experience:

  • Dinesh Dhamija, former Founder and CEO of ebookers.com, now Founder and Chairman, Copper Beech Group, United Kingdom
  • Sachin Dev Duggal, Chairman, Nivio, India
  • Naeem Ghauri, Co-Founder, NetSol Technologies, Pakistan & United Kingdom
  • Clas Neumann, President, SAP Labs India, Germany
  • Jeff Heenan Jalil, Head – Wipro Technologies, Europe, Wipro, India
  • Glenn Proellochs, Chief Executive Officer, Travelpaper.com, Switzerland
  • Sudhir Sethi, Chairman, IDG Ventures India Advisors India
  • Sudhakar Shenoy, Chairman, IMC, USA

Global India Business Meeting 2010 in Madrid

This format of a so called “board room dialogue” in an intimate setting allows for a true conversation among the panellists where the “audience” blends seamlessly in. Three main conclusions on innovation that I’d to summarize here:

  • IT-Innovation in India has multiple dimensions. It’s not just about the classic Western understanding of filing a patent for some say cutting edge laser-thing. It’s often process innovation: Just think of the 1 million resumés (!) that Infosys is getting every year to fill 12,000 positions, you need to handle that somehow. Or business innovation with a particular focus on the price point, see for example the world-class rate of 0.5 US-Cent per minute on Indian mobile operators.

  • Bigger organisations like SAP or Wipro can only innovate of their culture embodies constant change whereby their organizational frameworks act like a stable meta-layer for innovation.

  • India is not good at everything, should and often does recognize both its strengths and weaknesses. For instance anything around User Interface can be done with a company in the Silicon Valley much better. The conclusion here: In times where you can assemble easily global sourcing chains, also from the Indian perspective applies: Do what you can do best and outsource the rest :-)

After all the inspiring discussions over the day, we headed off for a cocktail reception to the beautiful Jardines de Cecilio Rodriguez where Mr. Peacock was greeting us with his evergreen mating-show.

Global India Business Meeting 2010 in Madrid

Last but not least, thanks a lot to Frank for once again putting such an awesome Horasis-event together.

Global India Business Meeting 2010 in Madrid

Global India Meeting in Munich: Reception and Gala Dinner

It’s been an honour to participate a new high-calibre event about India, the Global India Business Meeting. Even more so as the event takes place in my hometown Munich which is on top of that highlighting India’s State of Karnataka in whose capital Bangalore I have been living for the last 5 years. Somehow my little personal „globalisation delivered“. The organizer is Horasis („The Global Visions Company“) chaired by Frank Richter whom I met for the first time some 9 months back for a breakfast in the legendary Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai.

Frank Richter, CEO Horasis and Host

The quality of conversations was stunning yesterday during the reception an Munich’s Residence, followed by a gala dinner in the “Emperor’s Hall”. (Here‘s the entire picture set on Flickr from last night’s event. )

Gala Dinner in the "Emperor's Hall" at the Residence

In his dinner speech Anand Sharma, the Indian Minister for Commerce and Industry, pointed out how far we’ve come with globalization where India in the meanwhile is investing more in Germany than Germany in India with 123 Indian companies being present in Germany.

Gala Dinner in the "Emperor's Hall" at the Residence

At the same time he emphasized the challenge of his country to produce inclusive growth where the 7 % GDP increment would benefit also the majority of people in his country who are still living at the poverty line. Mr. Sharma made it a point to transcend this necessity to all countries in the world that are facing similar fundamentals as India.

During dinner I had a mind-tickling conversation with my table-neighbour Gunjan Sinha, serial entrepreneur from India who has been living in the Silicon Valley for the last 20 years.

Gunjan Sinha, my table neighbour at Gala Dinner

His latest company Metric Stream is into providing a software-solution that allows for a 360-degree bottom-up approach in risk management for companies. So we spoke a lot about my currently favourite topics of the predictable, the unpredictable, the Black Swan (beneficial or catastrophic) and how little even big companies are nowadays are able to think, let alone act within these categories.

During coffee I talked to Infosys’ CEO Kris Gopalakrishnan about the recession and how it’s impacting his company (“it been tougher but we are still hiring”) and about his predecessor Nandan Nilekani’s move into the Indian Government to introduce the digital National Identity Card. “That hasn’t been easy for us, but given the importance of the cause for the nation, it is the right decision”, Mr. Gopalakrishnan said. Here a picture at the end of the evening with him, my friend Suhas Gopinath from Bangalore and me (no, I am not standing on anything ;-)

Kris Gopalakrishnan, Rene Seifert and Suhas Gopinath

MenorcaTechTalk: Lasting Impressions from the Farm

Back in India, the mental dust has settled after those four days of amazing conversations on Martin Varsavky’s farm for the MenorcaTechTalk. Besides being hyper-inspiring with plenty of take-away value to be put into action, I found it at least as interesting as a sort of „social experiment“.

Menorcatechtalk: Day 2 ending

Bring around 60 fantastic people together on a farm, have almost no structure (apart from the „official“ 4-hour session on Friday afternoon), have bikes and a quad ready for usage, let people hang out on the pool, take them on the sailing boat and see what happens.

Menorcatechtalk: On the Boat

Even more so, put people – who would usually stay in chic hotels – and have them share a simple but honest room and then see what happens.

Menorcatechtalk: Shared Room

Interestingly, much more than if you met the same people over the same period of time on a conference where you get conversations of the type “I am the XYZ from soandso and we are the number 1 in thisandthat). In Menorca, it was quite different, because people open up in a completely new way on the personal level, which then also transcends to the “professional conversations”, or even more so, makes the distinction between the two obsolete. (By the way, my entire picture-set under Creative Commons-license here on Flickr.)

Menorcatechtalk: Open Session

On another note, the event confirmed my discovery that dressing-down is directly proportional to better results in a team-setting. (Maybe investment bankers should also relax and start coming in shorts and flip-flops to work to prevent them from final extinction …) Martin is in that context clearly “leading by example” himself with our host’s take on the event on his blog.

Menorcatechtalk: Open Session

It certainly helped that this brief formal part allowed every participant who wished to give a maximum 5 minute-talk which had to conclude with a tangible problem. This kind of anchoring allowed the other participants afterwards to start a meaningful conversation about how to solve the problem whereby the communication usually took extremely interesting and unpredicted routes.

Picture courtesy of Rodrigo SEPÚLVEDA SCHULZ

I introduced my latest project “OLPC for the Vatsalya-Orphanage” asking for sharing of experience how to structure charity in general as well as best practises in fundraising, performance-metrics and how to avoid the traps of diluting focus and/or as over-investing. Very concretely, I got three very interesting contacts referred where I started to interact with. (And by the way, two days back, I was able to close the round of funding.)

One of the most mind-blowing presentations came from Isaac Shpantzer who presented a new technology, which allows for the transmission of broadband internet via laser. Yes, laser. The concept: A laser-beam in the blue spectrum (therefore also suitable during daylight) is beamed vertically into the sky and carries the digital information where the 1s and 0s are transformed through some “language” into light.

Menorcatechtalk: Open Session

Because of the earth’s atmosphere, the laser beam begins to scatter. Now: Whoever is located in the line of sight of the upper part of the laser (where it scatters) and has a signaling-device installed e.g. behind his window is able to exchange data. The technology is fully bi-directional and allows for a dedicated bandwidth per household of up to 100 MBit/sec. If only 50 % of this concept became feasible at reasonable economics, I bet that it will fundamentally impact the backend-infrastructure of internet-connectivity.

Besides such food for thought, the food for real was absolutely stunning with an ever changing variety of dishes over the days. (I could still kick myself that I had to leave too early on Sunday and miss the Asado.) But for sure, I got a fair share of this paella:

Menorcatechtalk: La Paella

Thank you very much Martin and Nina, for your kind invitation and putting this event with lasting impressions together. The atmosphere, the networking, the fun and especially the bonding were unparalleled. Thanks also to Matias and Eva for the perfect organization and their ever-sunny-mood for – as a Germany proverb goes – “herding a sack of fleas”.

OLPC for Vatsalya: Only EUR 431 missing

Your support has been absolutely overwhelming, over the weekend additional donations have led to an overall commitment of EUR 2369 from the total of EUR 2800 we are aiming at. This went way faster than I would have ever dreamt of. Here is the latest list of donors, with the detailed overview here.

Juri Reisner
Martin Wunsch
Rene Seifert
Malte und Tina Krüger
Fabian Seyfried
Dirk Schornstein
Petra Rautenberg and Jürgen Kock
Andreas Hörr
Sascha Mladenovic
Paul Fritze
Simone Bayer
Michael Munz
Alexander and Michaela Erlmeier
Lukasz Gadowski
Nils and Anita Rauterberg
Jan Poerschmann

Thank you very much indeed for this. Stunning I find also that 90 % of these commitments come from social media-communication via blog, Facebook and Twitter. The nature of such concerted action displays three things: That the future of young girls in an orphanage in Bangalore can reach out to a influential number of people without the use of “classic media”, that the same channels empower us to take immediate action and last but not least, we can feel being part of a joint cause.

So here we are with just another EUR 431 missing, in case anybody would like to participate, drop me a mail at rene.seifert (at) gmail.com and I’ll add you to the donors’ list.

18 hours later: OLPC for Vatsalya and half way there

I feel indeep deeply touched by your overwhelming support, far beyond what I would have dreamed of. In a fast intermittently connected world the good news propagated to me through Facebook, Twitter (and Mail) when I disembarked the plane 1.5 hours later on Menorca Airport after I had posted the start of the charity project from Madrid. And not even 18 hours later we are almost half way there. From the targeted EUR 2,800 we have already committed EUR 1,370. Here is the list of the generous donors in chronological order:

Juri Reisner
Martin Wunsch
Rene Seifert
Malte und Tina Krüger
Fabian Seyfried
Dirk Schornstein
Petra Rautenberg und Jürgen Kock
Andreas Hörr
Sascha Mladenovic

Here on this Google-Spreadshirt I will keep an realtime and public update about the donations made. Thank you so much for all your support. I will get back to you within 2 to 3 weeks on the operational issues of money transfer and the next steps to follow. Till then, feel free to spread the word, I will also do so today till Sunday on Martin Varsavsky’s and Nina Wiegand’s Menorca Techtalk.

Next Page »